2020 Goal: The Appalachian Trail

(Not my photograph)

For years I have wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT for short). I kept putting it off for a thousand different reasons. I finally decided 2020 would be my year. I turn 30 in May, so what better way to celebrate and finally do something I have wanted for so long. Sadly I do not have enough time off from work to do a full thru-hike (thru-hike: to hike the entire trail in one calendar year). Instead of once again putting it off for hopes of having more time in the future, I decided to go ahead and hike as far as I have time for.  Depending on how things turn out, I will have roughly 108 days to hike over the summer.

I would rather hike some of the trail when I have the time then never get the chance to hike any of it. So approximately on May 9th-ish, I will leave to hike as far as possible before having to return to work in September. Whatever is left of the trail will then be hiked in the future whenever I can. Even if it is just a few miles here and there over long weekends or breaks. I will slowly but surely complete the entire trail, no matter how long it takes me.

There have been so many people who have called me crazy or flat out said I would never make it. Who knows, maybe I won’t make it, but how will I ever know if I never try? I will not let the doubters keep me from attempting my dream. There are a lot of reasons people don’t complete the trail: injuries, family obligations, finances, decide trail life is not for them, etc… These are only a few of the bigger reasons but everyone has their reasons to hike and their reasons to stop.

Besides dreaming of hiking the AT for years, I have a few other reasons to help keep me going. My life has not gone according to my original plans of getting a career, getting married and starting a family and everything else people want in life. I let my health problems, depression, and many other things destroy my life. I never started that career and along with turning 30 this year, my divorce will also be finalized. Not exactly where I saw myself at age 30. I have been slowly trying to figure out this new life path I am on. It is very rocky and I have no idea what the future holds, but one thing that has remained is my love of hiking and dreams of the AT. So this summer I will take an adventure and walk hundreds of miles on a beautiful trail to gain a new perspective of life and hopefully find some much needed peace.

The thing about wanting to hike long distances for months is you have to plan accordingly (not exactly more strong suit). Many people don’t think about the difficulties you face before even getting out on the trail. For one thing, hiking the AT is actually rather expensive. How expensive can living in the woods for months be? Very expensive indeed. Just because I will be living on the trail over the summer does not mean I get to stop paying my bills at home. I will not be making any income on the trail, however rent for my apartment will still be due on the first of the month, car insurance, phone bills, student loans, and all other bills are still due regardless of where I am. Then there is all the gear, food and other resources needed along the way. Needless to say, I have been trying to save up for this for a long time.

The proper gear is incredibly important and an expensive investment. Without the right gear you are setting yourself up for failure. I have been trying to buy as much of my gear on sales from REI as I possibly can. I highly recommend using REI for your hiking and camping needs (they also have other outdoor sports equipment as well). REI has an incredible return policy for all of their stuff. I have already bought and returned two pairs of hiking shoes because I can’t find the right ones for me. As long as the tread is still good, you can return them up to a year. As I am slowly testing out my gear I am able to return any of it for up to a year. This really helps make sure you find exactly what you need. They also offer some really great sales throughout the year.

I have been slowly buying my gear over the past year. Tent, sleeping bag, sleep pad, clothes, etc… There is a lot of thought and research that goes into gear purchases. The weight of the items is incredibly important. You have to fit everything into your backpack and carry it for X-miles over a few months. Every ounce of an item really adds up. The lighter the gear, the more expensive it is too. So I have been trying to find a balance with price and weight of my gear. I can’t afford the top of the line, the lightest gear possible but I am trying to cut weight were I can. 

I have already been called crazy for wanting to bring my Cannon XS on the trail. I love photography and if I am going to be walking the trail, I am bringing my camera. Yes, it will be a heavier base weight for my pack, but I am willing to do it. I want to really experience the trail, I don’t want to rush miles just to have the highest mileage per day. Maybe if I was doing a full thruhike I would feel differently, but since I won’t be able to, I want to take in all the views and really experience everything. For me, this means bringing my camera and taking photographs along the way. There is a term on the trail called ‘Hike Your Own Hike.’. That is exactly what I plan to do. I will hike my own hike with my camera and hopefully have some awesome pictures to show people when I get back.

A good info graphic on the AT.

I am honestly not worried about the hiking part of the trail. It is the camping I am worried about. I love to hiking. I enjoy camping but I am what you would consider an amateur. So while I will be training for the hiking aspect, I will definitely be practicing my camping skills more. Practicing speed setting up/taking down my tent so when it is pouring I can do it in as little time as possible. Practicing using my camp stove and water filtration techniques.

Once I dial in all of my gear, I plan on writing a gear blog. I will explain everything I chose and why. It will not only be a good way to share with everyone, but also a good way for me to compile everything to see if I missed anything or could cut some things.

Various boxes of gear I have ordered from REI. Some things I have kept, others I have returned. Still trying to find the right gear. Once everything is dialed in I will do an updated picture of everything together.

Also over the next few months some blogs will be about my training for the AT. I will be doing various practice hikes with and without gear to get myself more in trail shape. I will write about how things went and what I learned.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

~Still debated who actually said this.

(Regardless of who actually said this, it resonates with my goals)

Long Island Photo Journal

This is my Long Island winter 2019 trip in 15 photographs.

The links to my photographs will also be available if you would like to see more of my work or purchase anything.

‘Fire Island Sunset’
‘Purple Sand Beach’
‘Fire Island Lighthouse in BW’
‘Fire Island Lighthouse’
‘Lighthouse Spiral Stairs BW’
‘Captree State Park Pier Silhouetted’
‘Driftwood on Trumans Beach in BW’
‘Pebbly and Shell Beach’
‘Orient Point Lighthouse BW’
‘Tree Down on an Orient Beach’
‘Greenport Docks’
‘Fire Fighter’
‘Fire Fighter Life Preserver’
‘Morning Call at Sunset’

These were fifteen of my favorite photographs I took while on my adventures in Long Island. Hope you enjoyed them as well.

Getting Started in the Art World

It has been a struggle to get my work seen by the public. I started by putting all my work on the FineArtAmerica site. This was a good first step. I learned a lot from other artists on there. I progressed in to social media platforms by sharing my work on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and a Facebook group I created for my work. Using the hashtags and tagging people on these platforms has helped me share my work with more and more people. It’s not only about getting your work seen, it is also about learning the market. What are people looking at? Which of my work seems to get more traffic?

While still working on my online presence, I have started trying to get myself into arts/craft shows too. This has been rather difficult. My area is a pretty tough market. Shows can only accept so many applicants and since I am new, I am low on the list. I did not let this deter me from trying though. I was able to get into three local shows and split a booth with family in Florida for a holiday show down there.

My first little set up at a local art show. Only one 6ft table was allowed for this little show, so I set up what I could.

The start up costs of doing shows is also something to overcome. Until now, all my stuff had been digital and if anything sold, the FineArtAmerica site took care of printing and shipping the products (which is why I only made a few dollars per sale). To have a booth at a show means I have to have physical products to show and sell. Along with the products you need things like a tent, tables, table cloths, ways to display your products, and a means for taking payments. Some of those are one time costs (tents, tables, etc..). Others can be recurring costs. I decided to stick with matted 8x10s and 11x14s. My recurring costs are the matting supplies and any of the photographs I want to sell. Then there are the frames to consider if I wanted to frame some. You also have to pay for your spot in the show, I have seen anywhere from $20 to $150 for a spot. All these costs adds up very fast.

This was my set up for my first tent booth. Was able to fit two 6ft tables and still have my large canvas on display.
(Pictures taken before it began to pour all day)

I have also learned a great deal from my four shows.

  • A good tent is important, especially in bad weather. My second show basically had a monsoon the entire day. I had a river running through my tent but the roof and walls held up. Very minimal drips. My products stayed safe and dry.
  • How you display your products will have an affect on your sales. If they can’t easily browse your work they will most likely wander away. This is still something I am trying to figure out. I need to work on a way to hang my stuff in the tent.
  • Taking credit cards is essential. People don’t carry around a lot of cash now days. They want the ease of a quick purchase.
  • Make sure if you can’t get electricity to your booth you have ample ways to charge your phone and card readers. Get external batteries, I usually stock up on them on Black Friday and Cyber Monday or other sales days. You can never have enough.
  • Bring a long outside extension cord and surge protector. You never know if you’ll end up near an electricity source you didn’t know about. This could help you keep your things charged and even add lightning to your setup if you wanted.
  • Take constructive criticism. Other show members, artists, and clients will say what is on their minds. They are not trying to be mean. Learn from what they say. Maybe you need to consider a new set up? Price adjustments? More of a product? Etc…
  • The day might not go according to plan. Bad weather- did you set up hold? No people traffic- was this to the show itself or just your booth? No sales- why? Layout not according to plan- what could you have done better? Were any of these things you could have controlled? If yes, what will your plan be in the future? Use everything as a learning experience.
A table set up I had at another small art show. The one table limits at shows are difficult but do-able if you get crafty enough.

I have sold a few things at each show. The market is tough for me because I have to rely on the people who like my work actually having the wall space to want to purchase things. I get a lot of great feedback but I only sell a few things each show. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful to have sold anything. I just need to work on having more versatile products. On my FineArtAmerica site I do pretty well with selling mugs and occasional tote bags. I just don’t know how to create those products myself and still be profitable after sales. I don’t necessarily want to bulk buy because that usually means one photograph on multiple mugs and/or totes. I would rather have a variety of styles to sell. This is something I am still pondering on. If anyone has any knowledge on this front I would be grateful.

This show I had the use of an 8ft table and had room to have my large canvas up behind it.

I learned recently that my efforts of trying to get my work noticed has paid off some. A local restaurant, Trophy Tap +Table, wants to sponsor me for March’s First Friday. This is an event held on the first Friday of each month. Local businesses and galleries sponsor a local artist for the month. On First Friday the participating businesses will have little events featuring their sponsored artists. Most participating businesses will offer beverages and have specials (specialty menu items or discounts on items) for the night to entice the public to walk from location to location viewing the artwork and giving business to the local downtown businesses. This is a wonderful way for the public to both support their local businesses and artists.

I am so grateful for Trophy to give me a chance in March. I am frantically trying to decide what pieces I want to display on their walls for a month. Do I do a cohesive gallery or do I bring a mix to show my range? I am leaning more towards a range of work so people can see a variety of what I do and maybe even see something they think would look good on their walls. It’s a very tough call. Will gladly take other people’s opinions on this.

Getting started in the art world has been incredibly challenging and though I still have a very long way to go and a lot to learn, I am very excited and proud of what I have accomplished so far.

If you would like to follow me on any of my social media platforms:

Top 10 Photographs taken in 2019

I would like to share my ten favorite photographs I took in 2019. I chose five colored and five black and white photographs. The link to each of the photographs will be available as well.

Five Colored Photographs:

‘Sunshine Through the Sunflower’

‘The Bean 4’

‘Lone Tree Seen in a Pasture’

‘Fall on the Parkway’

‘Raleigh Under a Pergola’


Five Black and White Photographs:

‘A Lonely Foggy Mountain in BW’

‘Industrial Stairs Going Down’

‘Good Morning Sunflower in BW’

‘A Ship’s Bow Over Chicago’

‘Window of Andrew-Duncan House Monochrome’


The Conclusion to the Land of no Sweet Tea

The Trip Home:

The trip back home was mostly uneventful, lots of traffic as other holiday travelers made their way home. I did get a chance to stop at one of the giant service centers (rest stops) on the New Jersey Turnpike. We made a stop at the Molly Pitcher service center. It has a full service gas station (in New Jersey they pump your gas for you), a little Starbucks truck outside serving coffees along with a full Starbucks inside. The inside of the center reminded me of an airport terminal. Bathrooms, gift shops, and a rather large food court. Was a nice place to stop and stretch your legs. I got a fresh Auntie Anns pretzel for the road, and it was yummy.

Conclusion on trip:

  • No Sweet tea unless you buy bottled from the store. A travesty for someone like myself who relies on their caffeine fixes from sweet tea and not coffee
  • Crazy drivers… Besides the reckless speeding all over the place, I also saw turn lanes being used as passing lanes… Not just once, but multiple times a day. They would just zoom around traffic using the turn lanes and on a few of those occasions I almost witnessed head on collisions as they then had to swerve to not hit the poor sap actually trying to use the turn lane how it’s intended.
  • Unfriendly people in public. I am not saying every person I met was unfriendly but while out on trails I’d say a little ’hi’ to people passing by and they would give this look that clearly said ‘why the hell are you talking to me?’ In the South, you usually find people more cheerful and happy to say hi to people in passing. I clearly gave myself away as a tourist.
  • Basic bagels. I am sorry but there was absolutely no difference in the bagels. Maybe the New York City bagels are actually different? Otherwise I really do not understand the hype around the NY bagels.
  • Bialy are amazing. I will be trying to order them from Amazon or something to get them back home.
  • Really cool, unique beaches. Purple sand, pebbly and/or boulders. Just a cool experience. I really enjoyed seeing so many different beaches.

Overall, I had an amazing time. It was such a wonderful experience getting to explore so many new places and trying new foods. I hope to make it back one day in a warmer season to really experience Long Island life. Maybe one day I will get to venture in to New York City as well. I only saw a small portion of a large state, I look forward to one day returning and getting to continue my adventures.

After I go through my hundreds of photographs I took on my Canon T7, I will do a little photograph gallery of my favorite shots of my trip. A recap in photographs.

The Land of no Sweet Tea: Day 8

Woke up early to grab breakfast before exploring some beaches. Our plan was to head to the little restaurant at the Orient ferry docks. When we got there we realized Cross of Sound Deli was closed for the season. I knew some things would be closed for the winter but I was honestly surprised the deli was. I figured since there is always steady ferry traffic right there that they would be open year round. I was mistaken.

Two of the places we were going to explore were in that area so we just decided to skip breakfast for the time being. The first stop was a little local unnamed rock beach. Kind of out of the way so there’s a chance if you didn’t already know about it, you wouldn’t know it’s there. I really enjoyed this beach. It was not only pebbly, it also had large boulders as well. Between the pebbles, boulders, and a large washed up tree, this made for a cool beach to explore. Very different from any beaches I am familiar with. I enjoyed taking pictures here.

Local unnamed beach.

Next we went to the Orient Beach State Park. This too was a pebbly beach but it had more beach front than any of the other beaches I had seen. According to their website the beach front offers 45,000 feet of frontage. I was told during season its the local swimming beach and usually packed. I imagine you would want chairs here, laying out on a towel would be very uncomfortable with pebbles under you. This park had a lot to offer other than swimming. There are little trails through a rare maritime forests, grills and picnic tables, playgrounds and much more. It’s a great park for bird watchers and water sports enthusiasts.

After exploring the beaches of Orient we went in to Greenport to get brunch. We stopped in a nice little dinner named The Crazy Bean. There were a lot of yummy sounding options on the menu but I went with the pancake quesadillas. The quesadillas were two thin pancakes with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and cheddar cheese between them with Vermont maple syrup, made to look like a breakfast quesadillas. I had a holiday special iced latte with dark chocolate, butterscotch, and peanut butter in it. It was all very delicious.

Pancake Quesadillas and Grinch Iced Latte

After brunch we went on a nice walk around Greenport. This time I walked more around the water front and docks. The weather was really nice and it was such a beautiful place to walk around for the day.

I really enjoyed the docks. Especially seeing the different types of ships coming and going. The old New York Fire Department’s ship the ‘Fire Fighter’ was docked there. Sadly during the winter you can’t take tours of it but you can still see it sitting at the docks. A very cool ship filled with so much history of protecting New York harbor. She officially came in to service as Engine 57 of the NYFD on November 16, 1938. Still in service after 61 years, Fire Fighter held an incredible roll in the after math of 9/11. She helped pump water to help supply much needed water to the recovery efforts at ground zero. So many of the fire engines, water mains, and hydrants were damaged she was pumping at max capacity for almost three weeks straight. In doing so she damaged herself. Her port engine was barely functional after burning through its cylinder rings and all four of her pumps were breaking down as well. After an overhaul and much servicing, Fire Fighter returned to service. In 2009, she assisted in the rescue of the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549. After 72 years in service, Fire Fighter went out of service on December 7, 2010. She is the only fireboat to have received the Gallant Ship Award. She fought over 50 major fires in her time. She is now owned by the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum and sits at the docks of Greenport, New York.

NYFD fireboat, ‘Fire Fighter’

For dinner we stopped in Emilio’s Italian restaurant. A little Italian restaurant serving up your usual Italian eats. I got the spaghetti with olive oil and garlic. This came with some bread and a little salad. The food was good and a nice way to end the trip to the Orient/Greenport area.

On the trip back to East Islip we made a quick stop at a giant Osprey sculpture. This sculpture used to stand in Greenport Harbor but was moved to Peconic back in 2011. Known as ‘Morning Call,’ this Osprey sculpture was made from the fallen beams of 9/11. Truly a magnificent piece of art. I wish I could have seen it over the harbor but it was still dramatic in the park, especially with the sunset behind it.

Morning Call,’ An Osprey sculpture made from the fallen beams of 9/11

Thank you for joining me on my Long Island adventures. The next blog will be my final conclusions on my trip.

The Land of no Sweet Tea: Day 7

Today we drove out to Orient, on the Northeastern tip of Long Island. Before taking the hour and a half drive, I decided to try a different bagel place to see if they hold the key to the magical New York bagels. This time I went to Stuff-a-Bagel. I ordered a blueberry bagel with a little bit of cream cheese. I was given a bagel with half a brick of cream cheese on it. Once again I had to scrape off and waste a lot of cream cheese. The blueberry bagel was good, but still no different than any other bagel I have had. My only conclusion is that New Yorkers think their bagels are better because they can’t taste them over the mass amounts of cream cheese on them.

On the way out to Orient we passed by a sign advertising ‘The Big Duck’ in Flanders, New York. Obviously you cannot pass up seeing a big duck. So we detoured to the duck. No regrets, it did not disappoint. In my head I was picturing a large yellow duck, however it is a large white duck. The duck was festively decorated for the holiday season with some nice garland. The gift shop inside the duck was closed but I peeked in the door window and they were selling an assortment of duck related trinkets. I would have gotten a magnet or mug if the shop had been open. If you are ever in the area it is worth a look. There is also a nice field area behind it with some picnic tables to enjoy a nice picnic by the big duck.

The Big Duck
Flanders, New York

Once in Orient area we stopped at Trumans Beach. This was a very pebbly beach. Little pebble dunes and uneven surfaces everywhere. The beach was pretty but very difficult to walk on. Definitely not a beach you could lay out in the sun on. You would need some form of chairs to be comfortable.

Historical marker of Trumans Beach.

The next stop was Orient Point where you can get great views of the Orient Point Lighthouse. This is a 45-foot black and white stripped lighthouse on a little reef island off the tip of Orient Point. The lighthouse started being used in 1899, with just a steady red light on top. In 1900, the fifth-order lens was upgraded to a brighter fourth-order lens. A blower siren and fog signal were added over the next few years as well. The black and white look was given to the lighthouse in the late 1980s, before that it was a bland brown color and said to resemble a coffee pot. In 1988, the old Fresnel lens was updated to a modern optic lens.

Orient Point Lighthouse
(Phone Camera Quality)

After leaving Orient Point we drove through the little hamlet of Orient. Orient has that cute small town feel to it. The 2010 census reported the population as 743 people. Originally Orient was called Poquatuck by the original land owners, Indians part of the Algonkian nation. In 1661, the Englishmen who began landing in the area called it Oysterpond. It wasn’t until 1836, it became known as Orient.

After driving through Orient we headed into Greenport. The village of Greenport has a little more happening than the quieter Orient area. Greenport also had multiple names before it became Greenport officially in 1831. Its history is rich with whaling and ship building. Greenport really became a booming area after the Long Island Railroad arrived in 1844. Local farmers were now able to ship their crops out to a wider market.

Forbes magazine named Greenport one of the prettiest towns in the United States. I haven’t experienced Greenport in season but I can say, even in winter it is a beautiful place to be. Lots of charming little stores and places to eat along the water.

After taking a little walking tour of the area we stopped in to get some dinner at a little Japanese restaurant called Sakura. I ordered the shrimp hibatchi. It came with clear soup and a ginger salad. I was disappointed in the clear soup, usually I love the simplicity of warm broth with mushrooms. However, Sakura’s broth tasted fishy to me. I do not care for fish so I passed on my soup and moved on to the salad. The little salad was tasty. The shrimp hibatchi was also very good. It came with fried rice and some vegetables. Overall was nothing exceptional but was still yummy.

It was a successful first day in the area. Tomorrow we are going to explore more of the beaches in the area and more of Greenport. Stay tuned for more explorations of the Orient/Greenport areas.