In 2007 my father, Dennis Blake, was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, Amyloidosis. After years of battling the disease, the correct diagnosis was finally given less then a week before he passed. Amyloidosis is a rare blood disease that can affect one or more organs when abnormal deposits of the amyloid protein are produced. It is debilitating and life threatening. The disease meant nothing to my family weeks before we first heard the word, and then it defined the rest of our lives. It is only in the last 25 years that physicians have started to understand the disease. I have been hiking the Appalachian trail for a little more then a month. Hiking 8 to 12 hours a day, I have had plenty of time to think of my father and what kind of differences I could make in his name. I would love to make this epic adventure about more then myself. The amyloidosis foundation's mission is to increase education and awareness in hopes that it will lead to earlier diagnosis and improved treatment. My goal is to raise $1,000 in the name of my father. I have roughly 200 miles left. Just one penny per mile adds up to $20 when I complete the trail of 2,000 miles. If anybody would like to donate a small amount per every mile I complete, then I am confident that I can reach my goal. Here are the directions and the page link for the donations: Check "In memory of" and add my father's name "Dennis Blake"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sunrise at Logan International

Almost home!

The End

Entering the "100 mile wilderness" last Wednesday afternoon, Bluegrass, Squirrel, Wolfpack and I were feeling excited. Spirits were high. The next five days thru the remote Maine woods was no "victory lap" like I was expecting. Big climbs the first two days up Barren mountain, chairback, west peak, hay mountain, and white cap. Beautiful mountains but we were most interested in the first glimpse of Katahdin from Fourth Mountain. The mountain appeared as little more then a speck but there was a moment of silence as we viewed it for the first time. As the miles passed the mountain grew. Every glimpse of the peak warranted a respectful moment of pause.
The hiking was tougher then expected. After Whitecap mt. the terrain leveled out. The trail led us around numerous crystal clear lakes, cascading streams and bogs. The scenery was amazing but the trail was often covered in rocks and roots. I hung my boot on a root friday and fell harder then I have the entire 2000 mile trip. Landing flat on my stomach with the weight of my pack driving me into the root mat. I was lucky to escape with a sore knee.
We cranked out two consecutive 30 mile days Friday and Saturday. The hard days, sun up to sun down, wore me out. Saturday evening as the sun was setting Blue, Wolf and I were enjoying a view of Kahtadin from rainbow ledges when we heard some branches breaking in the distance. A moose and her calf were grazing on the same blueberries we were just picking. It was a great reward to get our first moose sighting in front of katahdin at the end of a long day. The final 3 miles to camp should have been painful but I was floating on air. Only 21 miles left. Sundays 13 mile hike led us to the base of Katahdin. Now, within striking distance my anticipation was growing. The weather forecast was not working with us. 100 percent chance of rain for summit day. I think I can speak for everyone who has made it this far, a little bit of rain won't stop me. Baxter Park Rangers rated the day a class 2, meaning "not recommend for above tree line hiking." as we left the birches lean to Monday morning to make the final push, the rain that had been pounding all night finally relented. Lucky as usual! My smile grew with every step I took. The first mile was a gradual ascent past the swollen waters of Kahtadin stream. The next section was a stone staircase that stretched 1/2 mile. My legs were feeling great and we hiked with purpose. The trail turned into a rushing stream 2 miles in. We moved quickly thru the flash flood, climbing rocks and avoiding the rushing water the best we could. At 4000 ft. We broke tree line. surrounded by clouds and a cold wind blowing at our backs we continued up. Hand over hand climbing thru a boulderfield on a completely exposed ridge. Occasionally a cloud would push past revealing a views of the rocky, narrow ridge ahead. Difficult climbing over two miles until we popped into "table lands." the gentle sloping alpine zone was scattered with rocks everywhere. Walking past Thoreau's Spring spurting clear mountain water. We didn't waste time filling up. The summit was less then a mile away. It felt like the longest mile of my life. I constantly scanned the horizon for signs of the summit. As a steep pitch came into view the clouds parted and the wooden sign of katahdin was there. My heart beating, mind racing, I slowed my pace. Yes, slowed....taking in every moment, reflecting on my journey. Blue reached the sign first, touching the sign silently. Then it was mine. Indescribable feeling. 2181 miles trekking across rugged country towards this spot. A moment of reflection, palm against the sign, and then the biggest smile to ever grace my pretty face and a scream of celebration. There was pure joy on everyones face. It was the happiest group of haggard dirty men you could ever imagine. And just like that the journey was complete....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flying in style!

A fitting end to an epic adventure. Chuck "Deer Pimp" Johnson flew in and picked Blue and I up in the Arrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

21 miles to go!

View of Katahdin from Rainbow Ledges. The word excited doesn't really do it justice. After 2 consecutive 30 mile days, tomorrow we will coast into the Birches Lean-to and set up camp at the base of Katahdin.

36 miles to go!

16 mile line of sight distance to Katahdin!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


85 miles out and my first view of the beast. It's the farthest blue speck in the middle

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Final Run

Bluegrass, Squirrel, Wolfpack and I arrived in Monson, ME on Monday. This is the last stop. Last resupply. Last time I'll wash filthy hiker cloths in a coin operated Laundromat, the last time I will have to pick up my food bag and wonder, "can I survive on this for 5 days?" I've been living in the woods now for more then 5 months, carrying the barest essentials, hiking toward Mt. Katahdin and now all that stands between us is the 100 mile wilderness.
If my writing seems disjointed it's because I am disjointed. My sister asked me how I felt being so close to finishing. Honestly I can't wrap my head around it. I feel excited, happy, sad, relieved, accomplished. I've experienced some of the toughest challenges, purest and loneliest moments of my life out here. I've learned more about myself and my life then I ever could have working a nine to five job for "the man." i have raised money for a cause that is close to me and my family's heart. I've learned what's most important to me and perhaps even better what isn't important. I've swam in glacier lakes, gathered my drinking water from fresh mountain streams, slept in places you wouldn't dream of lying your head and met some of the most interesting people I could have imagined. I've experienced small town America from the deep south to far north and climbed so many beautiful mountains I can't remember all there names. I've walked into towns, stinking with hiker funk and been greeted by people amazed at my journey, berated with questions and congratulated for all I've accomplished. Every winter for the past five years, I've gone into the library and searched for books about the trail. I've tried to imagine how I could make this dream possible. Every spring the same thing happened. I gave up on my dream. Dismissed it as impossible, irresponsible. But six months ago with no job and a general dislike of my life up to that point I took the leap. Sabertooth's willingness to leave his good job and follow our crazy dream certainly helped and my family's unwavering encouragement. And just like that I was on the Appalachian trail. The long journey has brought me to Maine. On more then one occasion I didn't think I would make it. More then once, I was tired and ready to go home. But I persisted and in no small part due to encouragement from home. So how does it feel? As I sit in a kayak on a crystal clear lake in Maine, loons diving all around me, enjoying my last "zero" day, I feel damn lucky. Thankful for all I have. Eager to return home and work hard at new goals. Hopeful I can always stay focused on the things that are truly important in life.
And now, I make one final trip into the woods, marching towards Katahdin.

Bad day...

Less then two weeks from the completion of my trip Blue, Squirrel, wolfpack and I had a first hand experience of a life lost. While hiking around Flagstaff lake Friday morning squirrel was just out of sight when a man fell to the ground in front of him. Blue and squirrel were on him in less then 30 seconds. They found a man in his 50s lying face down just off the trail. Wolfpack dialed 911 and Blue checked his vitals. No less then a minute after arriving Blue watched as the man took his last breath. Blue started chest compressions and I rotated with him. We were all silent. Everyone hoping to see signs of life. There were none. Less then a mile from Long Falls Dam rd. it still took paramedics over an hour to arrive. There was no question that the man was gone. We filled out witness reports, debated the cause of death, wondered if he had a family and then had to walk away. Never did we think we would watch a mans life slip away that morning. It was disturbing to say the least. As we hiked on that day I think we all wished we could have done something more.
As we put miles behind us, gradually we began to get to know "Open Mike." He was a south bounder (started from Katadin, heading to Georgia) and as we reached shelters he stayed at we read his log entries. Each entry was upbeat and positive. He finished one entry with, "it's a great day to be alive." We met many people who camped with him and even shared beers with him. Everyone talked of his positive attitude and friendly nature. It became clear to us that Mike died doing what he loved and took no day for granted. I think he reminded us of ourselves and however cliche it is, the fragility of life.