Do It While You’re Young



There are 162 days left in my 20’s. That dreadful number that is ever so looming to those that feel life is passing by at a rate too fast for comfort. Somehow the thought of becoming old without feeling accomplished or in some sense an aid to society is a frightful one. When you’re a teenager you cant wait to get older. When you’re in your twenties you have the world figured out and nothing can stop you. What happens when you’re 30? 40? 50? 60?? jesus.. slow down..Time and again, whenever I happen to fall into the position of storyteller, recalling my last few years of traveling and the adventures in which i have been so lucky to experience the same comments are made by those around me.

“Do it while you’re young”

This usually coming from the mouth of a mid thirties mother of 3 or the”successful” business man who has spent the last year saving for the vacation of their dreams in key west florida where they have met me, the basic “non-successful” boat  mate. Personally I’ve strayed away from the straight line path that society has set up for us all. School, college, graduation, career, marriage, house, kids, retirement. That’s one path that works very well for some, but for those of us that need something else, perhaps a bit more fulfilling, there are endless options. I refuse to “do it while I’m young”. In fact I will “do it” as long as “it” makes me happy.

“I wish i could do something like that”

You can.

The point is, I have made a conscious effort to focus on what makes me happy. Rather than money and things, I’m determined to find happiness in other ways. That will continue with me until the day I die. Not just while i’m young. Not once i retire..

Now and always now.

I recently looked up the top regrets of those who are dying and it hit pretty close to home.

1.   I wish I had lived my own life rather than how society taught me to live.
2.   I wish I discovered my purpose earlier.
3.   I wish I had taken more risks.
4.   I wish I’d allowed myself to love.
5.   I wish I had touched more lives and inspired more people.


As my grandfather packed away the remaining supplies he’d need for his thru hike of the Appalachian trail, my grandmother couldn’t be more excited. “Take your time”, she said. After fifty-some odd years of marriage (odd to say the least) she was ready for some alone time. My grandfather, Herbert Newton Lape, was preparing to hike the entire 2,178 miles of the Appalachian trail from northern Georgia to Maine. Him and another older friend of his would attempt to hike through 14 states, across countless numbers of beautiful landscapes, in the snow, rain and heat, camping the whole time in small lightweight tents carrying everything they needed on their backs for six months. This was a feat for anyone, needless to say a couple of old dudes. Family and friends alike made jokes and easily doubted the impossible task ahead of them. As a teenager in the middle of high school hearing this, my first thought was “there is no way!” immediately followed by “i didn’t know a thing like that even existed” and finally “one day…….”

As my grandpa, better known as Herbie, set out with his good friend from Springer mountain Georgia with high hopes and more gear than they knew what to do with, eyes much bigger than their stomachs, looking ahead at the next 6-7 months and over 2,000 miles ahead of them, the rain started. The cold rain lasted the entire day. Wet hair, cold wet face, wet hands, wet jacket, wet shirt from the sweat and condensation building under his rain jacket, wet shorts, wet shoes, wet socks, wet feet. Even in a perfect world the first day is a tough one, but the rain can ruin your life. As the rain fell they continued. As the pain grew they pushed on. 50 pound of weight on their backs, uncomfortable due to the weather and a bug now dug into their brains, “was this a mistake?”. They made it to their shelter and dropped their packs, set up their sleeping bags and called it a night early.

day 2 rain.

day 3 rain. Enough rain to drive anyone insane. This is definitely not the way to start this beautiful adventure he had planned in his head all this time. As my grandfather and his traveling partner reluctantly rose from their sleep and out of the comfort of their warm sleeping bags, they packed their things and headed back out into the wild, wet as it might be. At this point the blisters have started. Silver dollar blisters on the heels of his feet from the backs of his shoes rubbing, tiny little blisters forming between his toes, chaffing from the constant rubbing between his legs, shoulder straps digging in to his shoulders and now the constant thought of a warm shower with a bed and a hot meal has creeped into his balding grey head. WINE! its been three days now since a glass of wine. He might even miss my grandmother who at this point is probably having the time of her life. The creek water he had filtered earlier that day was not cutting it. The peanut butter protein bar he had for lunch was not what he wanted. Mentally he was done.


A man sitting in a solid white van had yelled towards Herbies direction as he stumbled up out of the woods into the road crossing that would eventually lead into the town of hiawassee.


“Yea, get me the hell outta here.” he replied as he hopped into the van.


I woke up the first day of spring 2010 with a colony of butterflies throwing a rager in my stomach. My grandpa, dad, and myself had stayed the night in a little hotel outside Amicalola state park after driving down from Ohio. I was to start my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in an hour with two generations of my family sending me off into the woods to live alone and hike for 6 months. The pressure was off. I only had to make it 3 days and I would have out hiked any member of my family that was ever attempted to thru hike the Appalachian trail. “goodbye Jase, i love you” my dad said. “See you in a couple days” my grandpa said with a wink, and i was off. I didn’t turn around. I was scared, excited and nervous but i knew this was something i wanted. An hour later I realized I left my water container in the car.

day 2 sunny.

day 3 gorgeous. I had gotten lucky. beautiful weather had propelled me through the first few days and i was in high spirits. As i pulled out of the woods and onto the first road crossing a voice from the left shouted “HEY KID, NEED A RIDE TO TOWN?” I couldn’t believe it. It had to have been the same guy in the same white van that my grandpa got a ride from years ago. “NO I’M GOOD, THANK YOU!”, I replied, and walked the remaining few steps my grandpa missed all the way to Maine.

Herbert Newton Lape. My grandpa. A legend in my eyes and an inspiration to this thing i call a life. Without his “failed attempt” at the Appalachian Trail, who knows where I’d be and what I’d be doing. However, because of that decision to drop everything and hike a seemingly endless trail without knowing the ultimate outcome, I was inspired to change my life. I would eventually go on to thru hike the entire Appalachian trail, bicycle around the united states 7,000 miles and canoe the entire length of the Mississippi river, among countless other life choices that were in some way inspired by one mans choice.

thank you,



Journal excerpts from Pacific Crest Trail

This past summer I spent some time on the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail which winds from Mexico to Canada. I’ve decided to post two journal entries from this adventure here, enjoy.



           Sometime in June in the desert        

  Well here I am, off the trail. I hitched to Warner Springs with Michelle Wilson, a mail driver who acted surprised when she picked me up. “I thought all you guys were through the desert by now!” she said. “I’ve decided to book it to the Sierra.” I told her. After a hitch back towards Julian with a horseshoe maker I’ve found myself sitting behind Julian Pie Company at a picnic bench. Tomorrow morning I need a hitch to Ramona in order to catch a few buses and trains to Lancaster where I can get a bus that will take me twenty four miles from Kennedy Meadows; the accepted ending of the desert and beginning of the South Sierra Wilderness. For now I am bumming with nothing but my backpack and two bloody feet. Fortunately gas stations sell liquor here in the great state of California so I picked up a half pint of Fireball to get me through the night. I should have picked up a full pint.

A few moments ago a helicopter was circling above me. My first thought was, “Oh shit, lost hiker!”, “rattlesnake?”. Turns out there was an accident up the road. The copter landed not forty yards from where I sit, sending my thermarest across the parking lot and launching dust into the atmosphere. From the distance the dust mixed with light from the general store and it looked as if the mountain in the background was on fire. This was my first thought, I said “here we go, this whole place is about to go up.” Is it sick that I wish there had been a fire? A rescue team shoved a wrapped up figure into the rear of the helicopter and as quickly as it happened it was over. It lifted once again scattering dust so thick I could feel it on the tip of my tongue. A girl with a backpack and a stuffed animal walked away from the scene and sat on the step of the store. She almost looked like a PCT hiker, but then again it seems so far a lot of people in Cali look like hikers. I walked to her and stuttered as I asked if she was OK. She said yes and didn’t seem to want to talk. I walked back to my table and here I am, about to swig some more Fireball, hoping no one shows up and that this adventure keeps moving in a safe direction.

A drunk woman at the gas station earlier asked me, “What makes people want to do that? Walk through the desert in the middle of summer!” I struggled to find a profound answer for her. “I have no idea.” I said. I guess we would have to look at the context of my situation. But we didn’t have time for that. She was nice enough to wish that she could give me a ride. She said, “Just stand over there, some pretty girl will pick you up in no time.” They hurried off with their twelver of Steel Reserve to fuck somewhere on the mountain behind us and I am still here smoking cigarettes and drinking alone at a picnic table behind some dumpsters in the dark.


Kennedy Meadows

I made it to Kennedy Meadows the day before Independence Day. Took the bus from Lancaster. Lancaster was as sad and depressing as I expected. Stayed at Knights Motel right next door to an In And Out, I took a pill, did laundry, made two trips to In And Out and watched a Back To The Future marathon. It was wonderful. The Eastern Sierra Transit bus left at 2:00pm, it took us up through the desert towards Mojave. At a Mojave gas station a guy named Dave boarded the bus and I overheard him telling the driver he needed to get to Kennedy Meadows. I gave him a fist bump. Dave is a taller, older dude in his late 40s. He lives near San Francisco where he works as a bike mechanic. He told me how a man left him a bag of cans while he was waiting at the Mojave bus stop. “I suppose it’s time to shave.” he said. “Nah,” I replied, “those cans coulda paid for your fair man!”

When the bus dropped us off we were very much in the middle of nowhere and I cursed. “We’re still in the fuckin desert!” It was maybe 110 degrees and we needed to walk twenty four miles straight up. Fortunately I was able to hitch with a nice Singaporean couple who planned on doing a section to Yosemite. Although I’m pretty sure they are gonna die out here. His girlfriend was shocked to find out there would be no cell service for some time. This is where my adventure begins, here at Kennedy Meadows. I met Hal 9000 and Lawless. Hal started on the first and Lawless at Campo. The next day would be July 4th and we decided to take a zero together and hike out the next day, just to soak everything in before enjoying the 200 miles of desolation ahead of us.

blog posttepee

This was maybe the strangest 4th of July I’ve ever had. It started waking up in a teepee in the dirt with faint sounds of the Grateful Dead coming in through the tattered brown canvas. I knew I had to get up because at noon there would be a parade coming up the hill. In a town like this, pop. 200, you never want to miss a parade. I sat at a table up high on the side deck of the general store overlooking the last of the chapparells rolling over the hills in the south. Hal was with me, also Dave, Lawless and Caitlin (Lawless’ trail girlfriend who seems to have been following him in her car up the trail ever since Deep Creek hot spring) and Ted Glazinski, not to be confused with Ted Kazinski, of who our Ted had never heard of. The parade consisted of three or four tractors and several off road vehicles being driven by children a bit too young to be operating heavy machinery. Some guy showed up in a single seat go kart with his dog. We drank at that table and ate burgers for several hours before piling in Caitlyn’s white 2015 Lexus and heading to Grumpy Bears.


We were told by the owner of this tiny bar/restaurant there would be live music and great food. We pulled up and a rainstorm began surrounding us. We shot-gunned Tecate in front of a sign that said, “No alcohol in parking lot!” This was our first disrespectful hippie action. In the bar we sensed a cold vibe. Like maybe we had just crashed someone’s family reunion. People mostly looked at us with disgusted faces, a few men in the corner put their Stetsons back on and left through the back door. I knew nothing good could happen here, especially after noticing the way Lawless’ mouth can run. After a few beers we were on the porch sharing a cigarette. An older local woman with short grey hair joined us and was listening to Lawless tell a story about a group of Japanese soldiers who continued to fight in a forest in the pacific for years after the war had ended. Another local joined us, she was a bit overweight and had short black hair shaved up on one side. She interrupted Lawless several times until he had had enough. “Would you just shut the fuck up for a minute?” he told her in his New York accent. She quickly retreated indoors. “Just wait you guys, in just a minute some cowboy motherfucker is going to peek his head out here and try to start shit.” he said. “Yeah, how much you wanna bet he’ll be wearing a cowboy hat and some kinda American flag shirt.” I said. Lawless continued and right on beat the door creaked open. Here is our guy, sure enough wearing a hat and tucked in sleeveless flag shirt. He was short but projected the energy that he could throw a mean punch. “Is there a problem out here?” he asked, a little red in the face and obnoxiously dominant. Lawless diffused the situation like an expert. He returned back to the bar clearly fuming over what had happened for the rest of the hour. We had a few more out of the trunk of Caitlyn’s car, we were leaning on the railing leading to the front door when our friend shows up again. This time looking even more like an angry dog. He shoves me and my headband falls out of my hair. Hal, Dave and I back off, he keeps coming at us ready to bite, yelling and smelling like liquor. “Get!” he says, “Get off this property, down to the road and take a left!” We laughed a bit, not sure if he was giving us directions or still trying to fight. The storm had cleared and now a wonderful sun was turning the mountains a bright and comfortable red. He is being shadowed by the owner of the bar and we are not sure if he is trying to fight as well or is there to make sure sharp objects stay in everyone’s pockets. He starts sprinting towards us and we take off, effectively running us out of town. I look back once more and seven or eight other angry looking people are on the front porch with arms crossed staring. Here we are running and laughing when Hal struggles for a breath, “Dude, whatabout Lawless?” We knew he was still inside and there would be a problem. We sneak back through the brush around back and try to signal him with our headlamps. Lawless comes out the front door and we continue to lie there in the sand. “Hey, there’s the other one” someone yells in a slurred country accent. “Hey boys, ya’ll seen my friends?” Lawless asks. “Yeah, your cocksuckin friends went that way.” says our proud cowboy buddy. Lawless cups his hands and yells, “Hey, cocksuckers where are ya!” Fortunately he got out with his girls help, she dragged him by the arm to her car and shoved him inside. She picked us up and drove us back to camp. That night Lawless and his girl got in a fight, it sounded very much like he punched her in the face. He packed up and I set up my tent for her. Next morning we all had breakfast together as if nothing had happened. Hal, Lawless and I hit the trail. It was the last time I saw Dave.


A quick positive mention of the restaurant industry.


           I have worked on and off as a busser, waiter and bartender since 2008 and perhaps it is time I admit something I am proud of. There is a distinct high in restaurant work, an eventual sense of belonging, the moment you realize you are not a disposable asset just as the kitchen erupts in a panic. Food is spilling out the window and managers are screaming for runners and threatening to fire anyone leaving the kitchen without a plate in their hand.  There is a state which I think most long term waiters must reach at least briefly where at this moment of chaos and dissonance they find a special sort of clarity. There are five tables out in the dining room which have all listed a series of things they supposedly need and the only way to remember which items are to be delivered where in this environment of sweaty over-worked and occasionally rude and bitter employees is to isolate this calmness. Sometimes it involves focusing on a single floor tile so intensely you begin to understand you are fundamentally no different than the burnt bread crumbs in the grout all the while the other waitstaff crowd their way into the expo window so tightly it becomes impossible to see the stinky food being slid through the window. I imagine it is a varying degree of the same sort of calmness and accuracy a surgeon must find when something unexpected happens during a surgery. Now, this may seem like an unfair comparison but I will say this, there is quite a bit of job security that comes with being able to stand and act like a normal person in the expo window when the whole kitchen is burning down.


We waitstaff have a luxury the surgeon will never have, the ability to just not care. Amazing things happen when you do not care about your job. It is in many ways the most liberating feeling next to maybe paying off all your student loan or credit card debt. We do not deal with anyones lives or personal finances. We bring you your food, you shut up and eat it, then you give us money, and for the ones who when we make a mistake act as if we sold them on a bad investment, they are mostly lost individuals who will likely never make it to retirement anyway. I know there are many positives to being passionate about a career and dedicating yourself to a trade but these past several years I’ve spent post college in the restaurant industry have allowed me to essentially do whatever I want. It goes without saying I do not have a family to support, but what I also do not have is a career where I have spent so many countless dedicated hours that quitting now would seem like a tremendous waste of effort and life.

So with all this said, I have 68 more days left here in Key West, 45 more shifts at the restaurant and roughly 400 more hours bringing people food before I fly for Portugal and ride a bike for a very long time.