The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Operation Scotland: TGOC 2009

Every year, around the second Friday in May, 300 people embark from the west coast of Scotland with the intend of reaching the other side of the country within 14 days, all under their own power.

This year, The Great Outdoors Challenge (TGOC) will start on Friday, May 8th. Having started in 1980, the 2009 Challenge will be the 30th. In celebration, Roger Smith (Challenge Coordinator) and the Challenge Control have upped the limited number of participants to 380. In addition to the physical challenges involved with walking some 200 miles, participants must also plan their own route and supplies. Unlike the States, where hikers need to stay on designated trails to avoid trespassing, Scots Law protects walkers with the Land Reform Act of 2003, allowing them the freedom to roam as a public right. Because of this, Scotland has less a system of national trails and more a loose system of paved, gravel, dirt, and single/double-track paths. This presents the need for TGO challengers, especially those not from Scotland or familiar with the terrain, to spend months pouring over maps, planning and re-planning routes before the submission deadlines at the end of January and February.

With my nine Landranger maps from the UK's Ordinance Survey, I've spent the last three weeks meticulously looking them over, planning both my Main route as well as my Foul Weather Alternative (FWA) route. The progress I make will be uploaded to Google Maps under the user name grun0177. The direct link is here.

Currently, I am on semester break from college. Tomorrow I start work full time for the next three weeks, at which point I will return to Duluth and to college. With a loose schedule and classes on only two days of the week this coming semester, I will hopefully have ample time to finalize my plans for this trip, as well as ample opportunities to spend some four-day weekends out getting physically ready.

If all goes well, in five months I will be boarding a plan for Scotland.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Hiking With the Lake; From Canada to Two Harbors

On Saturday, May 17th, 2008, I embarked on my first major backpacking trip. The trip featured all 205 miles of Minnesota's Superior Hiking Trail. Hiking the first 10 days by myself and the last three with a few of my relatives, I thru-hiked the trail in 13 days with an average of 18 miles per day solo and 9 miles per day in the group.

Here's a quick recap I wrote shortly after returning home:

"Over two weeks ago, I left everything and everyone that I knew to seclude myself on the North Shore of Lake Superior. After a short car ride up the highway, I walked away from my family, not more than a stone's throw away from the Canadian border.

I set out walking not to commune with nature or to contact my inner self. I left for 14 days to find what drives us as individuals, as a society, and as humans.

The reality of my acts became apparent before the first day was out. The trip had been in 'proposal' mode pretty much up until the moment I started walking. It hit me within the first few hours the severity of the situations I had willingly exposed myself to. While I pride myself on my knowledge, I lack the ability to control the elements, and those were my biggest risks.

My second night nearly brought disatser. The pump filter I was using to clean my drinking water broke into several pieces. With the knowledge that the filter was beyond repair, I used my two emergency iodine tablets to clean two liters of water. I officially had no way to obtain more drinking water, as any and all groundwater could contain deadly Guardia bacteria or an even worse Crypto cysts. With the realization that I was 22 miles outside of Grand Marais, I woke at 5 am the third day and moved about as fast as I could to get into Grand Marais before the shops closed. I then opted to buy a chlorine dioxide solution called Aqua Mira, which is similiar to the process used to clean water in large city centers.

Without much human cantact, nor much to do, I decided to turn inwards and stretch the physical bounds of my body. Carrying 14 pounds of gear, plus 4 days of food (8 pounds) and 4 liters of water (8.8 pounds) at any given time, I woke at sun-up and hiked until the sun went down or until I fell down. Days four, five, six, and seven brought 23, 24, 26, and 20 miles, respectively. By days eight, I was 32 miles, or about a day and a half ahead of where I had planned to be. With this, I slowed to a mere 17 miles a day, and coasted into Split Rock Lighthouse State Park 24 hours before I was supposed to. On day 12, after a full day of zero miles, I left Split Rock once more in the company of my Mother, her husband Paul, and his duaghter Andrea. from there, we crawled a mere 9 miles a day for three days until we reached Two Harbors, offically walking 206 miles of trail, and 235 miles of total distance.

I learned that it is not nature that sets us free, it is ironically civilization. Human Enginuity is not an un-natural thing. We were granted the ability to manipulate, to create, and even to destroy at our own free will. We have the ability to eliminate risk and random chance from our existance. It takes, I guess, the partial removal of this gift to truly understand its full value. We take for granted the things that we define as normal. The ability to communicate with anyone at anytime. The ability to move and travel faster than our physical bodies can take us.

While time may be a concept of nature, it is certainly an invention of man. Hour, minutes, seconds, weeks...they mean nothing to the world outside humans. Time is a label we have placed on our day-to-day lives based the the solar movements. Nature cares not what time humans say it is. It has free reign to snow in May, to be 70 in January, and to hold back the morning light a few extra moments if it sees fit. While part of nature, humans are not considered in the grand scheme of things. Our planet does not rely on us, we rely on our planet. At any point it could shift slighlty and wipe a town or city out of existance with a tornado, or pour tons of gallons of rain on someones special wedding day. nature does not care what we plan to do or actually do. It is independent of us, while we are fully dependent on it.

Two weeks of solitude has not changed who I am at heart, it has merely effected the glass through which I see the world. The world is not a Human place, the world is not ours to dominate. Nature, and only nature, holds the true power and control over the happenings of this planet."

In addition to recaps such as above, I recorded the trip with the help of my trusty Flip Video camcorder. The documentary is in 3 parts, totally about 28 minutes. The video itself is pretty rough, as the idea to create a documentary was a last minute decision. Basically, the video will guide you through the experiences and situations I went through. It might be hand to have a coy of the guidebook at hand if you own one, or visit the SHTA website (link above) for online maps.

Note: The quality of the embedded videos is not so great. If you watch them on YouTube (keyword Shawn Grund) you can switch them to high quality.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Welcome to Walking Adventures!

Walking Adventures is a new start-up blog by me, Shawn Grund. I'm a 21 year-old college student and am currently studying Communications, Mathematics, and Theatre at the University of Minnesota - Duluth. On top of my coursework, I work for Kirby Student Center Technology on campus as an A/V tech, I'm a research assistant in the Communications Department under Dr. Ryan Goei, and I also serve on the College of Liberal Arts Technology Advisory Committee.

I grew up in the south suburbs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Having been a product of public schooling my whole life, I made the choice to continue my education at a public university. This is a strict contrast to almost all public figures we see on a day-to-day basis. The media are filled with people from affluent families who went Ivy League, just like their parents. I feel that the public school system in the States takes more heat and criticism than it deserves. People all over the country tell our lawmakers that the schools are not working for them, that more needs to be done to guarantee the youth an education. What people need to realize is that an education is not given to you merely by attendance. You have to want to learn, you have to need to learn, you have to be motivated to learn. If you do not apply yourself in you education, what can you hope to apply yourself to? The pursuit of knowledge is considered one of the primary goals of humankind. We constantly pursue knowledge, attempting to understand, to know, or to comprehend. In all my studies in public school, I have applied myself to the fullest extent. The ultimate quest for me is NOT to get good grades and graduate college to get a good job (although that is A goal). The main goal for me is to fundamentally understand and to pursue full comprehension. My goal in life is to be living proof that public schools work, but only if the student is willing and wanting to learn.

In this blog you will find The Travels Of One Man; Me. This blog will entail all the adventures I take in life, most of which will at least incorporate my love for the outdoors.

For me, technology represents the pinnacle of human engineering and modernization, and this is one of the reasons I choose to pursue it. Some would say that backpacking and hiking represent the exact opposite. This...primitive...idea of human survival, of relying on only nature for survival. Many people connect hiking with pre-technological days, and therefor see no need for these outdoor adventures nor a use for modern technology when hiking.

This kind of thinking leads to those weekend "camping trips" where people who generally wouldn't be caught dead away from modern cities take these "roughing it" trips to see what they're made of and to 'survive' or 'outlast' nature. This thinking, however, severally misinterprets the point. We are always surviving nature, even while I sit here in my apartment. After all, what is technology if not a way to better cope with he adversity the world throws at us?

Hiking is not about the destination, surviving nature, the summit of that mountain, or reaching the other coast. Hiking is all about the 'getting there.' Its about each view you encounter, every step up the side of that mountain, and every bit of the path you walk before you reach the end. Hiking is no longer a hobby for me; Hiking is a way of life. Hiking is the fundamental idea that there are vistas and landscapes out there that beg to be viewed, mountains that beg to be climbed, valleys that beg to be crossed, and paths that beg to be conceived. From all my education, I have discerned a few things:

1) Humans are nomadic. We were meant to go where the food and water are and in fact thrive where environmental circumstances are best.

2) Human Innovation has impacted our nomadic ways, but have not eliminated them. The technologies and ideas we produce help us to make our lot better by improving our situation and bring the things we need for survival to us. Regardless, we are still nomadic beings. We still travel in search of better circumstances, and will always be trying to find a better place for our family.

For me, hiking is no different than every day living, except I get to see and do many new and amazing things. Backpacking to me is about seeing the wonders of our God-created Earth while retaining my human identity and mobility. I fully take advantage of everything I have learned that might befit me in the back country, and use any technology I can create or find in an effort to heighten my WALKING ADVENTURES.