a 15 mile hike on a spoonfull of peanut butter.

This is the story about how my buddy Justin and I almost died on the Appalachian Trail. I know a lot of stories can be blown up and exaggerated, but what I’m about to tell you is the raw truth nothing more.

Background: My buddy Justin and I set out in 2007 to hike the Appalachian Trail. (This runs from the state of Georgia all the way to the state of Maine, over 2,000 miles). At this point we had been on the trail for about a month and a half, probably somewhere around North Carolina/Tennessee area. We were feeling pretty good, gaining experience (this was our first major hike), meeting new people,etc…..things were looking up.

We had just hitched a ride into town to get some resupplies for the next week out on the trail. The idea is to buy what you can carry for about a week until you make it to the next town. We bought our standbys: pasta, instant oatmeal, tuna packets and peanut butter. We were set for another week, or at least we thought….

And the story: With each passing day we ate the food off our backs until we got to our last day of food. Up to this point there had been a town about every 6 or 7 days walk on the trail so we were expecting to be close. When we looked at our guidebook, we saw that he next town was another 48 miles away! At the pace we were hiking, that was about three and half days walk.

So there we were with one day’s supply of food and three days walk to our next re-ration. Crap.

To say neither Justin nor myself are good at planning things out would be the understatement of the century. We stared at each other in disbelief.  “What now?”, we thought. There really wasn’t much of an option. We simply had to keep going. We decided that we would take those last three meals we had and split them up over the next two days and hike the last day on fumes.

The only photo we took during that time. You can just see the complete exhaustion in our faces

So we kept walking… and walking… and walking. Walking 16 miles a day is hard enough. Hiking 16 miles a day on less than 500 calories for two days and then nothing at all for a third day is suicidal. And it’s not like we could have just called someone. We were miles from nowhere, deep in the Appalachian wilderness.

As painful as it was, we finally made it to the last day. We had about 15 miles left on the trail, and then we would still have to hitch a ride into town (another 3 miles down the road)! Over the two previous days we had done well to ration and had managed to save ourselves each one spoon full of peanut butter (approximately 80 calories) for that final day.

We ate it (the worst breakfast ever I might add) and started hiking. A few hours went by and we started feeling the hunger more than we had the last two days combined. I’m not just talking about being hungry; I’m talking about feeling my body breaking down physically, my brain functions and thought process shutting down. I’m talking about delirious to the point of almost collapsing right there in the middle of the trail. The only thing that kept us going was knowing that when we got into town there would be an all you can eat buffet waiting for us. (We read it in our guidebook the previous night). Every time one of us just couldn’t even get up from break to put our pack on, the other would entice him with all you can eat steak and ribs, potatoes and green beans, fresh baked bread and chocolate cake for dessert. It was all we had just to keep moving forward. (We would’ve killed for a Hungry Hikers meal!)

Now, if this doesn’t sound challenging or life threatening enough, try adding into the mix a lack of water for the last 4 miles of the walk. Yeah that’s right we got within 4 miles of the road that would take us into town and ran out of water. I thought to myself it’s over…..were not gonna make it. We took our packs off and sat there for a long while just sitting not talking, not even really thinking, just staring off into space.

I still wonder how long we might have sat there in the woods had it not been for this day hiker. She came marching by all happy with smiles and smelling of fresh laundry detergent. “hey guys, how’s it going?” she asked seeing we were on the verge of death. “you guys through hikers?” At first we we thought she might be a mirage. “you wouldn’t happen to have any food or water on you would ya?” was the only thing I could think to say. To our surprise, she pulled out a couple power bars and a bottle of water. We told her we’d pay $20.00 for all of it. She threw us a, don’t be ridiculous, look and said “just take it; you guys look like you need it more than I do”. And wasn’t that the truth…

Needless to say we finally made it to town… and yes, we made it to that all you can eat buffet. Let me tell you, that restaurant lost money on us that day. We sat there, no joke, for like three hours just eating and drinking and eating some more. It was like I was tasting food and drink for the first time ever in my entire life. I never wanted to leave.

I’ve heard plenty of “Trail Angel” stories out on the AT, but to this day that day-hiker was the purest definition of a trail angel. Without her it’s hard to say if I’d be around to even write this story.

In case you didn’t know, we want to make a crazy movie out of our kayaking expedition AND raise environmental awareness at the same time! Help us make our dream a reality by supporting our project (and get something cool in return!)

To learn more about our expedition and get all the latest updates, follow us on Twitter and check out the Expedition Mississippi Facebook Page!

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FAQ Part II — How we’re funding the expedition!

Here’s the second part of the FAQ, enjoy!

Q: Have you guys ever done anything like this before?

A: Well, kind of. We’ve both gone on outdoor adventure trips (ie, the Appalachian Trail) – but never a large kayaking trip. We just have a bit of recreational kayaking experience, but not a whole lot.

Q: How can you guys afford to go on a 2 month kayaking expedition?

Yes, Matt is eating a stick of butter.

We won’t have a ton of expenses since we’re trying to do this as cheaply as possible. No fancy hotel rooms for us, just sleeping in a tent! Our main expenses will be food, a good videocamera, and a couple decent paddles. However, that’s still going to cost something. We will be using kickstarter.com to fund the majority of the project.

Q: Huh… what’s kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Here’s how it works in a nutshell: you pledge a certain amount of money to our project and get a cool gift(s) in return. The greater the amount, the bigger the prize(s).

We haven’t worked out the exact prizes and price points yet, but just to give you an idea…. maybe $5 = a postcard sent from our trip, $15 = a digital copy of our film, $25 = something larger, etc.  We’re also thinking of some higher tier gifts, like a phone call from us on the trip, signed paraphernalia, or a few seconds of air-time on the video where we say/do whatever you want.

Finally, we’re planning on launching the kickstarter project on April 14 — save the date! We’ll post more details about it soon…

UPDATE: We’ve now launched!! Help us make our dream a reality by supporting our project (and get something cool in return!)

To learn more about our expedition and get the latest updates, follow us on Twitter and check out the Expedition Mississippi Facebook Page!

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A New Member? + Paddling for a Purpose

The last couple days have been HUUUUUUGE for us!! And I mean HUGE. So many things have been happening recently, I obviously had to blog about it now to fill you in. Things are really moving fast, faster than we ever anticipated… but that’s a good thing 🙂

Here’s the latest news…

1. Matt’s brother, Daniel Lowers, might be joining the expedition! Daniel also isn’t a kayaking expert, but he’s done these kinds of adventures before. For instance, he went with Matt on a roadtrip across the US in an old VW Van. How they made it across the country and back in that hunk-of-junk… I’ll never know. In fact, it literally broke down 6 times during the trip…but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, we really hope Daniel can take part, but it depends on the financial situation. 2 month expeditions certainly aren’t cheap. Keep your fingers crossed for him!!

2. We now are giving back to the community even more!

From the beginning, we wanted to “raise awareness about the need to preserve the Mississippi River and its surrounding wildlife” (as quoted from our Facebook Page. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a clear plan of what to do. Now that’s changed.

We’ve just teamed up with two amazing organizations: Leave No Trace and Paddle4Peace.

Leave No Trace: promotes “Outdoor Ethics”. In other words, they teach people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. By doing this, we can maintain the beauty (and access to) natural land. They’re the perfect organization to help us raise environmental awareness.

Another primary goal of ours was to inspire self of confidence in our audience…that if WE can do this, with very little experience, YOU can do something like this too (see earlier post). The following organization does that for kids (they’re also working for peace, as the name suggests).

Paddle4Peace: Founded by a group of athletes, they paddle to help groups that actively work to foster peace around the world. They’re also developing a kids paddling program to help raise a child’s sense of self-worth and confidence, as well as to keep them outside and on the water.

Besides mentioning these organizations whenever possible (including our video), we’ve got something else in the works too —

Matt and Daniel are going to make and sell survival bracelets (y’know, the ones made out of para-cord) to raise money for the organizations above AND help finance our project. They’ll be selling them before the trip in Bloomington, IN, and throughout the trip in cities along the river.

Help us make our dream a reality by supporting our project (and get something cool in return!)

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To learn more about our expedition and get all the latest updates, follow us on Twitter and check out the Expedition Mississippi Facebook Page!

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FAQ About Expedition Mississippi — Part 1


Q: When are you guys leaving?

A: We don’t have the exact date set, but we’re thinking of beginning the kayaking expedition sometime in the first week of June. It may seem far off, but we still have tons of planning and ground-work to do before then!

Q: Where are you leaving from and how far you will go?

A: This is an easy one to answer. We’ll be leaving from a small tributary near Matt’s place in Bloomington, Indiana (see map –>). This will lead into the Wabash River, which will later take us to the great Mississippi. From there, it’s a straight (and long) shot all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico!

Q: What are you doing to prepare for the trip?

A: Right now, the main thing we’re doing is telling as many people as possible, whether that be in person, or on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a ton of work – we’ve been putting 4 to 5 hours into this on average every day! It will all be worth it in the end though.

We also need to get in physical shape for the trip. Matt is hitting the gym in Bloomington, Indiana. I, on the other hand don’t belong to a gym. Instead, I’m working out at a local playground! You may laugh, but they have everything there…a pull-up bar, parallel bars for dips, and more. And it’s all F-R-E-E. Sure, I may get some weird looks from parents, but it’s all good…

Finally, we also want to get some basic kayak safety training before the trip. Kudos to Bryan Hansel, a kayaking instructor & photographer, for the reminder. We are looking into taking a class in the Chicago area. More details on this coming soon…

There are still a few more questions to answer, like “Have you guys ever done anything like this before?”, and “How can you afford to go on this trip?”…but those will be answered in Part 2 of our FAQ! So stay tuned…

UPDATE: Part 2 of the FAQ is now up

Help us make our dream a reality by supporting our project (and get something cool in return!)

To learn more about our expedition and get all the latest updates, follow us on Twitter and check out the Expedition Mississippi Facebook Page!

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Budget Travel Misadventure in Prague

The famous John Lennon Wall, which Lennon supposedly graffitied as a student.

Besides adventure travel, Matt and I also enjoy budget travel. This means going somewhere on a ridiculously tiny budget, and still having the time of your life. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’d like to tell you about our couchsurfing* trip to Prague last year.

[*For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it’s where someone lets you sleep in their apartment for a couple nights free of charge.]

Matt was visiting me in Hamburg, Germany, and we wanted to make a short, budget-friendly trip to a new country. We looked through ads posted on ride-sharing websites, and found the cheapest one possible.  Hamburg to Prague for only 20 Euros? It was a done deal.

Our driver, Jeff, who went by “J” (does the name Jeff really need to be abbreviated?), was a computer software programmer. Normally that would be fine, except that J liked his job so much that he described us the intricacies of it for the entire 7 hour journey.

When J finally dropped us off, it was well past midnight. Matt and I were already exhausted from nodding our heads and pretending to be interested in his tech-babble.  At that point, all we wanted was find a bed and pass out for the next 10 hours. But as we soon found out, we were in store for something quite different.

As we climbed the stairs of the apartment building, we heard loud, techno music coming from above. Could it possibly be the place we were staying at? Yes. Our couchsurfing host had coincidentally decided to throw a HUGE PARTY that very night. Even though we were dead tired, we had little choice but to go with it.

Some random party-goer let us in. Our couchsurfing host, Tim, was nowhere to be seen. After asking about 20 people (okay, maybe it was more like 5, but it seemed like 20), we were finally directed to a room at the end of the hall. The door was closed, so we knocked. No one answered. After knocking a couple more times, Matt decided to crack open the door. Well. Boy was that a mistake!! Tim was…uhh…busy. I’d rather not go into any further detail, but suffice to say that on an awkwardness scale from 1-10, it was probably an 11.

We were so embarrassed we even considered leaving. But it was 12:30 at night, we were in a new city (–correction, new country!), with little money and no idea where we were. In the end, we really had no option but to suck it up and stay.

We headed back to the main party room, attempted at making small talk with a few of the other guests, and tried to look like we fit in. A couple beers were thrust into our hands, and a large group screamed “cheers!” in Czech. The last thing we felt like doing was drinking, but after what we’d just witnessed…we would’ve done just about anything to take our minds off it.

Besides, with the party just getting started, we weren’t going to be able to sleep for a while anyway. One beer led to two, two to three, three to four…etc. The last thing I remember is sometime early the next morning (it must have been 5 or 6 am), Tim threw us a blanket. He only had one, so there was a brief struggle. Matt won, so I laid my sweatshirt over myself instead. We both did our best to get comfortable on Tim’s hard-wood floor, and soon fell into an uneasy sleep…

The story is turning out to be longer than I thought, so TO BE CONTINUED….

>>To stay up to date on our current adventure, follow us on Twitter  or check out our Facebook Page.

Unfortunately we didn’t take any photos that night, but we took plenty walking around the next day…

This guy didn’t blink once.   

(below) My creepy “I can show you the worlllld” pose.      (above) Flesh eating fish are apparently a form of skin therapy.

(below) Look at this and try not to laugh.

In case you didn’t know, we want to make a crazy movie out of our kayaking expedition AND raise environmental awareness at the same time! Help us make our dream a reality by supporting our project (and get something cool in return!)

Categories: Bios and background | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why would you want to watch our video?

Some people have been asking, “why would people watch this?? Is it just a video of you guys kayaking down the river?”

The short answer: NO.

That’s been done before, and by professionals (with film crews!) with way more experience than us.*

And THAT’S the whole point.

The fact that we’re both inexperienced kayakers, going on such a crazy expedition should make this video ridiculously awesome! I (Jordan) have kayaked maybe twice in my life, for about an hour or two. Matt has kayaked a handful of times for a fun afternoon. That’s it. Seriously.

Keeping that in mind, I’m willing to bet we’ll encounter more than our fair share of misadventures, problems and hilarious/difficult/challenging situations. The film will focus on us overcoming these obstacles.

Matt encounters a monsterous, evil lizard while hiking the AT. Look at the fear in his eyes!

And that leads to another point. We’re also doing this to show you that if WE can do it, with practically no kayaking experience, YOU can do it. Or any sort of adventure for that matter.

I think the question should really be… Who WOULDN’T want to watch this video?!

Help us make our dream a reality by supporting our project (and get something cool in return!)

 

You can follow the adventure here:

Twitter

Expedition Mississippi Facebook Page

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*NOTE*  – There’s nothing wrong with pros making a high quality film documenting their journey. In fact, they’re often really fun and exciting to watch. (It’s just a different genre than what we’re going for). For example, see this video of Dave Cornthwaite. He set a world record by completing the 2404 miles of the Mississippi river all by stand up paddling! We have so much respect for this guy.

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