NEWS

RVs Need Support Points Too

September 18, 2011 Ashland, Oregon

Well yesterday started out well. We spent the night at the trailhead and were told by John and Eric to expect Sam some time between 8 and 10 a.m. A few minutes after we had woken up and were savoring the final few minutes of warmth in our sleeping bags, we heard a knock on the door.  A man named Ben from Ashland had seen the article about Sam in the local newspaper and came to catch a glimpse of him arriving at the support point. We told him that unfortunately he hadn’t come in yet, but he was welcome to wait with us. He said no thanks, but gave us twenty dollars and wished us luck.

A little bit later, after we’d pulled ourselves out of bed to make scrambled eggs and coffee. A woman named Marilyn pulled up, also hoping to catch a glimpse of Sam. She said he had heard about Sam in the local newspaper article as well as an NPR interview that just aired. Being a bit of a runner herself, she was helping out at a 100-mile race that was going on in the area. She also had to leave to help out with the race, but wished Sam the best.

Marilyn and John

Finally we heard a hearty “GOOD MORNING!” from the woods as Sam cruised in around 9:30 a.m., cheery and energetic. As he sat outside the RV soaking his feet and reading the article that was just published about him, another car pulled up, and a man came out to watch this strange little routine. As it turned out, the man owned a lodge down the road called Callahan’s. The lodge welcomes PCT thru-hikers who often camp on the lodge’s front lawn and are treated to free breakfast.

Good Morning!

While we often receive support via Facebook, the film crew’s blog or Sam’s blog, run by the talented Eric DePalo, the physical manifestation of support right outside our RVs was truly heartwarming. When we are on the road, it is difficult to stay connected to the world that exists beyond the stretch of road or trail in front of us, and oftentimes our only way of reaching out is through the Internet, wherever can we find it. Posting pictures and blog updates into cyperspace doesn’t always confirm that people are watching or listening, and while we have tons of AMAZING support from our friends and families, there is something gratifying about receiving support from complete strangers; it shows that they are purely interested in Sam’s cause. It completely reinforces the fact that what we’re doing is special, and maybe even a little influential. Furthermore, it is such a testament to the kind of people who offer food and shelter to thru-hikers and provide support complete strangers in endeavors that they mutually believe in.

The kind owner of Callahan's Lodge

Because of our visitors, the morning had an upbeat tone to it, and Sam, who got a solid 5 or 6 hours of sleep the night before, seemed relatively well-rested and cheery. To add to our good fortune, there was a road that paralleled the portion of the PCT around Mount Ashland that Sam would be hiking that day. For us, this meant that we could drive ahead and plan our shots, instead of racing Sam on foot to a remote area outside of walkie range or something equally frustrating. It also guaranteed plenty of Sam footage, which we never take for granted.  On top of Mount Ashland, we set up our equipment and waited with binoculars and walkie-talkies for a few hours. After some entertaining, albeit disturbing, banter between some deer hunters, we captured Sam emerging from the trees, and slowly drove RV down the road, as he nimbly made his way through a rocky meadow. We agreed to stop where the PCT crossed the road, so he could take a break and talk with us.

Mount Ashland

Sam and a beer

We sat on the dusty road, in the shade of our RV and offered Sam a beer and some candy. Beer, yes, candy, no thank you, he is so sick of chocolate and peanut butter. We talked about how Sam was so close to the California border, yet despite this achievement; he is not yet halfway finished with the entire run. Sam began talking about fighting off naps, the persistent rocks in between his toes, and his struggle to find motivation at this point in the game. We tried to keep the conversation light, talking about the classic, Not Another Teen Movie, but the talk inevitably steered back to how many more miles he had to do, and how tired he was. In these moments, it is really difficult to say the right thing and try and boost Sam’s mood. Sam encounters challenges that I can’t even relate to, so it’s dumb to say, “almost there buddy” or “it’s ONLY 1700 more miles, it’ll be over before you know it.” I’m slowly discovering that the best way to support him is by staying positive, joking around, and just giving him lots of food. At that point I just have to remind myself that Sam agreed to do this and all we can do is give him high fives at the edge of the trail. We did just that and told him we’d see him in California. In a flashback, the theme from Gilligan’s Island would be playing, a three-hour tour…we’ll see you in California…

Throughout this trip, we are concerned about Sam breaking down. When he is late, we’re concerned that he is injured and needs help. We never think, however, that the trusty old RV that we rely on to get us from support point to support point would be the one to break down. But it did. Whomp whomp. Guess we won’t see Sam in California. That’s right, our flashy, brand new RV (with hardwood floors!) decided to break down in the most dramatic way right in front of the inspection line at the California border. What an attention-whore. Not one to a let a little single-mode-of-transportation breakdown get in the way, I whipped up some mac n’ cheese, since it was dinnertime, and we ate. On the side of the road. At the California border. After dinner, we were towed to the nearest impound lot, where we were locked in, and spent the night. No worries, Marion and I watched an episode of Sex and the City, and fell fast asleep.

A three hour tour...

The next day, a mechanic arrived, told us to turn on the engine, and then to immediately turn it off. The clunking metal sound I told myself I was imagining actually turned out to be the sound of a busted engine. Dunzo. So now we’re in a hotel enjoying Internet, hot showers, TV, and above all, our own beds! With sheets! A new RV will be delivered to us from San Francisco and soon we will be on our merry way. To make matters slightly more complicated, as our RV was dying a slow, painful death, Sam’s Support Director, John was rushed to the ER with a nasty case of shingles. Brought on by the immense stress of keeping Sam safe and supported, John had to be on an IV drip for the past 24 hours and is now going home to San Francisco for a week to recover. While we will miss John and his wise words, I am confident that Eric can handle double duty for a few days.  As we wait in the hotel room for the new RV to arrive, I will savor the last few hours of Internet, and take one more shower. Given these past few days, who know what will happen next, so it’s best to prepare for anything.

RV Fail

 

Hopefully headed for California tonight,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran

 

P.S. Check out the article about Sam in the Ashland Newspaper :

http://www.dailytidings.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20110916%2FNEWS02%2F109160304%2F-1%2FNEWSMAP

and the NPR interview:

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/17/140557579/runner-takes-on-record-breaking-mission-for-mom

 

The Waiting Game

September 17, 2011 The only constant on this trip is unpredictability. While we know that Sam is headed south on the PCT (hopefully), we can never exactly pinpoint where he is going to be and when. We use the “Sam Factor,” I mentioned in a previous blog post, which is a combination of his pace depending on day or night, the type of terrain, and nowadays, how tired he seemed starting out that day. This calculation gives us a window of opportunity to capture him in motion, but all these factors are pretty shaky making the margin of error pretty big (thank god I took statistics in high school, thanks Dr. Mikhail!).

Devil's Peak

So, two days ago, the morning after Sam’s portion around Crater Lake, we calculated that he would be at Devil’s Peak in the Sky Lake’s Wilderness around 1p.m. that day. Crater Lake, a 25 mile day, which was light for him (and unfathomable for normal people) was supposed to be one of his easiest days, but the crowd of tourists and paved road paralleling the trail proved to be extremely distracting for Sam. He says that this actually turned out to be one of the most challenging days and was mentally exhausting. Predicting that Sam might be starting a little later than he planned, we aimed to be at the top of Devil’s Peak by 11 or 12, giving us ample time to scout out the best place to shoot.

 

 

The 7-mile hike to Devil’s Peak was uneventful, yet beautiful as always and we enjoyed the part of the trail that took us across a field of rocks that were flat and brittle making it sound like we were walking across hundreds of ceramic bowls and cups. We reached our destination in 3 hours, just before 11 a.m. set up our equipment, and began to wait. Devil’s Peak is a rocky ridge comprised of these same brittle rocks, which are stacked on top of each other like thin bricks. We soon discovered that these thin flat rocks, when thrown off the ridge, shatter dramatically, providing endless entertainment. Every now and then, a thru-hiker would walk by, either amused or horrified as Ben and Jeff caused a mini rockslide.  The rock-throwing/waiting carried on until around 2 o’clock, when a cold fog steadily rolled in. Still no sign of Sam, and we were picking up a Spanish speaking couple on our walkie instead. We decided to get footage of the area, and if he didn’t arrive by 3, we would hike down.

Wonder what we were talking about

Throwing rocks

As 3 o’clock approached, the wind picked up and visibility turned bad. We wrote a message for Sam on a rock with a sharpie, left him some mini Reeses and granola bars and hiked down. Half an hour later, we heard Sam on the walkie saying he had reached the beginning of the ridge. We were too far away at this point and continued down. Later, Sam said that he reached our message at around 4:30 and by that point it was really cold and raining. So because we didn’t have foul weather gear, we had made the right decision to leave.

The view before the weather got bad

 

Sorry Sam!

Back in our RV a few hours later, Marion cooked a pot of chili, as we parked in a restaurant parking lot of a ghost town, and tried to pick up a wireless signal. It had been a long day and my sore hips and knees felt like our 14-mile hike had yielded disappointing results.  As I tend to do now, I thought about how this would only be a fraction of Sam’s day, and while I am comforted by steaming chili and a plastic cup of wine, Sam often has to stop and sleep only for a few hours right on the trail. Sam arrived at the support point later that night refocused and determined to spend more nights on the trail and less in the RV. He believes that being deliberately uncomfortable will maintain his motivation and deter distractions. Now that we are close to the California border, and almost halfway, it’s important now more than ever keep sight of this goal.

 

Until next time,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran

 

The Oregon Trail

September 15, 2011 After a brief whirlwind trip back to Los Angeles for a few days, we are now back on the trail, the Oregon Trail!  Like our ancestors before us (except for mine who stayed firmly put in New England, close to the boat), who bravely packed their possessions, acquired a covered wagon, and ventured across our majestic country stopping along the way to hunt buffalo, and caulk their wagon across many rivers in their path (never ford the river, it’s always too deep!) Yes, like our brave predecessors, we packed up our hard drives, computers, and plenty of extra underwear, rented an RV, stocked up at Wal-Mart, and made our way to the magical land of Oregon.

Pumice Desert

We spent our first night spent restlessly at a Motel 6, complete with not one, but two room services orders. Needless to say, our crew was anxious to get to the trail, meet up with John and Eric, and catch up on what we had missed in the past week. Turns out, due to forest fires, Sam had to take several detours from the PCT, which often meant he had to run along the road. Obviously, this had not been a scenic route and we were all looking forward to the portion that wraps around Crater Lake, which Sam would tackle the next day. Several beers later that night, we all admitted that we had missed each other dearly, and our film crew was happy to be back under the shade of the Itasca’s pullout awning.

Always prepared, they even sleep like this

 

Sam finally gets to enjoy a foot bath

 

The infamous feet

 

The next day at Crater Lake, we drove ahead in our RV to scout out optimal shooting locations, marveling at the natural gem. Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S., was once a volcano that imploded. The volcano, which collapsed in on itself, carved out this deep body of water, its expansiveness only exaggerated by 500 feet of cliffs surrounding it. The day we were there, the lake, a rich blue, was completely smooth, and perfectly mirrored white fluffy clouds overhead. After taking many pictures, that won’t do it justice, we found a spot along the trail that would yield the best results, and sat down to wait for the inevitable Sam.

Crater Lake

 

Cliffs

 

Don't look down

For some reason, the next few hours of waiting have become the most surreal part of this adventure so far. It was the combination of sitting in folding chairs in an arid and dusty field, camera and walkie-talkie in each hand, the smoke of the Oregon wildfires billowing in the distance, and the presence of the prehistoric and unfathomable lake behind me, that induced deep reflection on the string of events that led me to this field, and my role as a cog working for Sam the steam engine.

Das crew

 

Eric takes in the view

Wildfires a-blazin'

Sam arrived around 4 p.m., along with Chloe, joining him on this stretch, and we were able to capture shot after shot of him winding around the lake. Ben even managed to balance his camera on the window of our RV, as I drove slowly alongside Sam, trying to ignore the honks of angry tourist cars behind us.  We filmed Sam and Chloe arriving at the end of the Crater Lake portion, and noted the drastic physical and mental haze that had settled around Sam. Earlier that day, we had woken up and walked onto the PCT trail to anticipate Sam’s arrival. Chloe, who had driven through the night and arrived a 4 that morning, ran ahead to meet him. After a few minutes of waiting, cameras poised, two beautiful blonds emerged from the trees, bouncing and happy. Sam looked straight at our camera and did a little heel click as he went by, as if he was Charlie who had just found the golden ticket.

Sam and Chloe arrive, with the wildfire in the distance

Yet now, Sam walked towards us, shoulders slumped and head down, barely able to carry a conversation, let alone his light daypack. Fatigue had crept in, and even penetrated Sam’s mental state. I think we all felt relieved to know that he was almost done for the day.

Doin' work

 

A picture taken by Bigfoot

As always, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, we said our goodbyes and drove to the next trailhead where we would hike in and meet Sam on Devil’s Peak, allowing ample time to wait, in case Sam hit the snooze button a few times. As we drove away, Shakira blasting and eager to enjoy our beer and stir fry, I looked back at the color of the red sky, a result of the wildfire that had now faded into a cloud on the horizon.

 

Until next time,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran