By Jack Messerly
With so many Apogee trips in so many different amazing places in the world, writing the blog can provide a fantastic opportunity to learn more about some of the National Parks, small towns, mountain ranges, and community service programs that our groups explore and work with. So, to further educate myself, and hopefully some of you, too, enjoy some Fun Facts about each of our trips. *Please note that some facts are more relevant/interesting/fun than others…
Side Note: Congratulations to former Apogee leader Ally Bolger (NE Support ’12, Pacific Coast ’13, America Coast to Coast ’14, Alps Explorer ’15), she got married today!
Skip to a Specific Trip: MCJ, CI, NEMC, CSA, MCCE, DEXA, DEXB, VM, CRLS, CMCA, CMCB, CQA, CQB, MSA, NWXA, NWXB, PCA, PCB, SHX, AXA, AXB, ACC1, ACC2
It was an exciting week for Casey & Will’s MCJers – complete with hiking and biking through Acadia National Park, sea kayaking along Maine’s coast, serving the community at a local food shelf, and a final celebration last night in Portland. (Fun Fact: Portland is the US’ closest transatlantic port to Europe!) This morning, they bid each other farewell (for now!) and tonight, they’ll sleep soundly in their own beds.
It was a short, but eventful day for Ben & Rachel’s band of bikers, as they enjoyed about 15 miles of riding along the Cape. We received some photos post-press yesterday of a pizza dinner and a beautiful sunset dip in the ocean. Fun Fact: The 14 lighthouses on Cape Cod are more than any other county in the country!
For their first full day together as a team, what could be better than team-building on a high-low ropes course? Jack & Olivia’s NEMCers worked together to conquer all sorts of different challenges before making their way towards New Hampshire’s White Mountains for the next five days. Fun Fact: the White Mountain National Forest covers over 1,100 square miles, so our NEMCers have some work to do…
Working with local students through the program Reach for Success, Matthew & Emma’s CSA squad spent the morning cleaning up and painting this beautiful mural pictured below. Afterwards, they goggled and flippered-up to snorkel around the gorgeous blue waters. Fun Fact: Reach for Success was founded in 2006 to serve the youth in Vieques and is still going strong today, including providing scholarships and financial support to students in Puerto Rico.
Our Maine Coast College Essayists continued to work on their essays this morning – though they prefer to refer to them as “stories” – with Jack, Jane, and Jaed. They’ve been finalizing idea development and starting to write and edit. Their plans to adventure to a nearby mountain were cancelled due to weather, so they took the opportunity to explore Freeport, ME, including the flagship LL Bean store. Fun Fact: Founded in 1912 by outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean, the LL Bean in Freeport is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!
Clark & Addie’s DEX Alpha team paddled back to the mainland today to complete the sea kayaking portion of their trip, and they’re stoked to start hiking. Today they resupplied en route to Acadia National Park, where they’ll spend a few exciting days exploring some of the Park’s most beautiful hikes.
Austin & Celeste’s band of DEX Bravos packed up and picked up the Appalachian Trail for a three day backcountry stint. Surrounded by Maine’s wilderness, they’re carrying all of the food and gear they’ll need for the next few days. Fun Fact: In addition to covering 14 states, the Appalachian Trail is marked with approximately 165,000 white blazes (i.e. trail-markers).
The weather held off for our Vermonsters today, and they enjoyed a dry 8 mile ride to the bike ferry which boated them across Lake Champlain to Grand Isle, VT. That ride also included a mile or two along the causeway – a stretch of land right through the lake. They polished off their remaining miles and, after a brief pit stop at an apple cider donut shop, cruised into camp on Grand Isle. Fun Fact: Lake Champlain is 120 miles long and 12 miles wide at its widest – and 400 feet at it’s deepest!
This morning, Anna & Connor’s CRLS gang explored a beautiful waterfall with a natural water slide (action shots below). Afterwards, they hit the books; we’ve heard very positive reports of their immersive Spanish classes thus far. Fun Fact: Spanish is the third most used language in the world, it’s the official language for more than 20 countries, and there are nearly 400 million Spanish-speakers in the world.
Fun Fact: Calaveras Big Trees State Park is home to over 1,100 mature giant sequoias, so it’s certainly aptly named (the latter clause is actually a Fun Opinion). Today our CMC Alphas laced up their boots for a pre-backcountry hike among these huge trees. Word is, the entire group combined won’t be able to reach around some of the biggest trees…
Our CMC Bravo team spent their second day in the Tuolumne Meadows region of Yosemite National Park today. Fun Fact: In the late 19th century, over 15,000 sheep pastured in the Tuolumne Meadows and seriously endangered the sensitive alpine flora – naturalist John Muir referred to them as “hoofed locusts.” Today, our CMC team is much more likely to come across marmots or deer, however. No pictures while the gang is in the backcountry, unfortunately.
Sam & Liana’s CQ Alpha squad crushed an impressive 43 miles today, much of which was uphill. They made it safely into camp in Greenville, ME, and if that wasn’t impressive enough, they were into camp before noon! That’s earned them a day of the saddles tomorrow. Fun Fact: Greenville is situated on the southern trip of Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine, which is also the source of the Kennebec River, which they’ll experience in full tomorrow!
CQ Bravo cruised into Dexter, ME today after 35 miles of rolling Maine hills. Fun Fact: Dexter celebrated its bicentennial last year; it was incorporated in 1816, which was four years before Maine became a state. They’re making great headway up through the Great State of Maine – and in the next few days in particular, they’ll really experience some of northern Maine’s beauty.
Emily & Nicholas’ Montana Dream Team spent the day volunteering with Glacier National Park Rangers, helping pull invasive knapweeds with a gorgeous backdrop. Fun Fact: The Continental Divide and Northern Divide converge in Glacier NP at the Triple Divide Peak, which means this point sends water to the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans.
After an epic backcountry expedition in the North Cascades, the NWXA crew is back to civilization. Fun Fact: The North Cascades National Park includes more plant species than any other park in the country!
Today marks day one of six into the Olympic National Park backcountry for Sean & Arie’s NWX Bravo squad. We’ll be without pictures for the next few days, so we’ll have to use our imagination; hint: think beautiful mountains and colorful wildflowers. Fun Fact: The Hoh Rain Forest, on the Olympic Peninsula, receives 12 feet of annual rainfall.
In addition to plenty of nutritious food this morning, PC Alpha supplemented their first meal of the day with a healthy serving of “eating hills for breakfast,” in the words of leaders Grace & Ryan. Pictured below is the gang after conquering the four mile hill of Leggett Mountain, feeling good. It was a big 60-miler today, but they’ll rest and explore the cute coastal town of Mendocino tomorrow. Fun Fact: The name Mendocino comes from Cape Mendocino, which honors Antonio de Mendoza, a famous Spanish navigator.
Miles & Emma led their crew about 50 hilly miles today, passing through the Avenue of the Giants and following the Eel River. They made great time and were able to check out both the ice cream shack and the swimming hole near their campsite with all their extra time. Fun Fact: The Immortal Tree, located along the Avenue of the Giants, is over 950 years old and about 250 feet tall – but, it used to be close to 300 feet tall before a lightning strike removed the top 45 feet.
With the West High Way complete, Sam & Max’s intrepid trekkers moved onto their next challenge: The Great Glen Way. Today was a 13 mile stretch, described as a “gentle lakeside trek” – but gentle is a relevant term, I suppose, when you’re hiking a half marathon! Fun Fact: A 19 year-old University student, Alina Warren, swam the entirety of the Great Glen Way in 2012.
Dave & Isa’s AX Alpha team left the comfort of their Italian rifugio this morning and trekked through the valley called Val Veny. Fun Fact: Val Veny was formed by the Miage and Breneva Glaciers, and it’s also in this valley that the classic Italian mountaineering route to the top of Mont Blanc begins. Tomorrow, they’ll rest up and explore Courmayeur before the final push of the Tour du Mont Blanc!
How is possible to make the epic mountains of the Tour Du Mont Blanc more beautiful? AX Bravo’s solution was to wake up at the crack of dawn for a sunrise hike, and we can confirm that their hypothesis was correct. And, in true sunrise hike fashion, a picturesque nap (aka Apogee Napogee) was had by all. They’re inside their third and final rifugio of the TMB tonight – Fun Fact: the views from their bedroom gaze upon the 1,000 year-old Pré de Bard glacier.
Two words: Desert Day. One of the most iconic days of the cross-country journey, ACC1 finished their 94 miles before 1 PM. It was hot and hilly, but at this point in their journey, they’re ready for anything. We didn’t get an exact count, but you can rest assured that many gallons of water and Gatorade were consumed. Fun Fact: San Bernardino County, CA, where ACC1 is staying tonight, covers almost three million acres, making it the largest county in the country.
ACC2 completed the final century ride of their summer today, cruising into Wenden, AZ just a hair under 110 miles in total. Wowza! Fun (but not surprising) Fact 1: the Arizona trout is only found in Arizona. Fun Fact 2: The amount of copper on the roof of the Capitol building in Pheonix is equivalent to 4,800,000 pennies.