All Caught Up

What a great feeling it is to be all caught up with our video projects—a feeling we rarely get to experience! We’ve been traveling, editing and hiking like crazy, and by God’s grace, we have delivered 11 videos to some awesome causes around the world. But before we share videos with you, we wanted to give you an update on what we’ve been up to since our last blogpost.

House Renovations

In July, our kitchen got fully demoed. Everything was ripped out so there was literally nothing in the kitchen anymore. No cabinets, no countertops, no kitchen sink, no appliances… literally just the walls were left. Actually some of the walls got taken out too! Needless to say, we haven’t been able to stay at our house for two months since there’s no way for us to cook or store or food (we even sold the refrigerator). While everything was ripped out, we enlisted the help of Jordan’s dad to help us paint (again). We painted the entire first level of the house— the kitchen, dining room and sunroom. Just after we purchased the house in March, the three of us painted the second and third levels— the living room, bedrooms and bathrooms, so at this point we’ve painted every square inch of the interior. Along with the ultra white paint on the sheetrock, knotty pine paneling and brick fireplace, we’ve had a lot of lights installed on the first level. These two things have done wonders to brighten up the once dark space, not to mention the super light-colored natural maple custom cabinets, white quartz countertops, and matching maple hardwood floors, which have all been installed in the last week, and we moved back in our house today! The only thing that remains is our white subway tile backsplash and our maple floating shelves and our kitchen renovation will finally be DONE! We cannot wait! Below are some before and almost after photos, which we have Cassie’s brother to thank for casting the vision for this renovation, which we could NOT have done without his incredible design talent.

Work & Travel

Thankfully, we’ve been traveling a good chunk of the time we’ve been kicked out of our house due to the ongoing renovations. We’ve made two trips to Pinehurst to do more filming for FirstHealth. One of the film trips was great timing too because it spanned over Cassie’s mom’s birthday, which meant we got to celebrate together with presents, a car wash, dinner and a movie. We enjoyed a long weekend in the mountains for Cassie’s family vacation where we got to escape the heat and enjoy lots of day trips hiking with the whole family. We had a project in the Czech Republic where we documented a Christian basketball camp in one of the least religious societies in Europe. The day after we got back from the Czech Republic, we bought a car and then two days later put it to the test for a two-day drive to Vermont so that we could thru-hike the Long Trail, which goes the entire length of Vermont from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. In the midst of the kitchen renovations and lots of traveling for film projects, this time alone (yet together) in the woods was so needed. When we finished the trail, we drove back feeling refreshed with a renewed creativity and incredible productivity to finish all the video projects that were once looming over our heads. We are quite proud of the stories we had the honor of capturing and we are so excited to share many of them with you in this update!

And finally, VIDEOS!

A Raleigh church member reflects on all that God has done in and through her on a humble mission trip to help with a local Christian church’s Vacation Bible School in Cartago, Costa Rica.

A Christian church in Cartago, Costa Rica works to revitalize faith in a Catholic society, transforming the lives of people, one soul at a time.

When the Independent Christian Church of Pelhřimov partnered with a Raleigh-based church, Providence Baptist Church, to bring a basketball camp to the town, it also opened a door to Christ in the Czech Republic, one of the least religious societies in Europe.

Three Americans, including a former UNC-Chapel Hill college basketball player, reflect on their mission trip to Pelhřimov, Czech Republic, where they help bring a basketball camp and Christ to the town.

And for those of you interested in our hike…

The Long Trail is 273 miles long and extends the entire length of Vermont. When we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail last year from Maine to Georgia, we already did the 100-mile southern portion of the Long Trail where for the two trails become one and the same. When we were thru-hiking the AT and we saw the sign pointing to the part where the Long Trail splits away from the AT, we said to each other, “we should come back to finish that sometime soon.” (See photo below from last year)

One thing you may or may not know about us is, if we say something, we do it. We asked some Vermonters when the best time was to hike the Long Trail, and when they said August, the Long Trail was penciled into our calendar for 2019. For our thru-hike of the AT, we didn’t train at all, we figured we had four to five months of hiking to get us into shape. But for the LT in Vermont, we were only doing a 173 mile stretch of trail, which we planned on taking us 10 days or less. That didn’t leave us much time to get into shape, so we trained by hiking with our full pack weight on and by running. Sure it helped a little, but there are no mountains in Wilmington so when we hit the most rugged part of the Long Trail in the northern part of Vermont, each climb was a struggle. For one, the terrain was much more difficult than we expected. There were a lot of parts of trail that were unwalkable— meaning that we had to climb or use ladders and ropes to get up or down. There were lots of boulders and rocks (all so slippery), overgrown trail, roots and mud, but we experienced terrific weather with no rain (just a couple overnight rains that cleared up by morning). It was physically so hard, but we enjoyed the reward of each clear view we got of the Green Mountains. By God’s grace, we were able to hike 20 miles each day, completing the 173 miles in 8 and a half days. We went northbound, completing our thru-hike at a small monument that marks the Canadian border. A grass-cut firebreak is all that separates Vermont and Canada — the mountains continue but the Long Trail ends. And just like when we summited Springer Mountain in Georgia, our thru-hike was completed. But there’s always another trail, and the next one in our sights is the Mountains-to-Sea trail that goes the entire width of North Carolina, from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outerbanks — winding 1,200 miles in all. We’ll save that one for next year, though.

For now, we’ll leave you with photos from our thru-hike completing the Long Trail in Vermont. Enjoy the tough journey without leaving your seat!

On the Horizon

Just as we’ve nearly finished our long-awaited renovation and are all caught up with projects, we are gearing up for back to back projects through the end of the month. We’ll be filming more videos in Pinehurst for FirstHealth and then head straight to the mountains of North Carolina to film New Wineskins’ Global Mission Conference where more than a thousand missional Anglicans serving around the world come together every three years – to celebrate, to reconnect, to learn and grow, and to hear God’s call afresh for their next season of ministry. We’re excited for the plethora of stateside projects we’ve had this year, and we are hoping to maybe even see the beginnings of fall foliage while we’re in the Blue Ridge Mountains to remind us of our southbound experience last year on the Appalachian Trail.

On the Go

Hello, friends, it’s been a while.

Since our last email, we’ve been on assignment in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand, Pinehurst, North Carolina (twice), NYC (twice), Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cartago, Costa Rica. Ahead, we’re gearing up for Cassie’s family vacation in the mountains of North Carolina (what used to be an annual occurrence but since our life of travels has made that impossible for the past four years), more filming in Pinehurst, a project in the Czech Republic, and a kitchen renovation.

A magical sun halo sighting in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

As far as our work goes, we’ve been extremely busy filming and editing for some really awesome causes. In April, our trip to New York was in partnership with a church in Red Hook, a neighborhood/housing project in Brooklyn. We accompanied a North Carolina-based church that supports Redemption Church that helped the one-year old church plant to put on a MASSIVE Easter Egg Hunt. Pastor Edwin is a Brooklyn native and has the heart to reach “the hipster and the hood”, so their Easter Egg Hunt was a big outreach amidst these two contrasting but coexisting populations. The help of a team of people from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh made it possible for Redemption Church to show Christ’s love in tangible ways by serving food, offering games, arts and crafts, a photo booth, and thousands of candy-stuffed Easter eggs to the community surrounding them.  Below is one of the two videos we produced from the trip, which includes an incredible testimony from a Red Hook native.

From New York, we flew to Thailand to work with a different Providence team just outside of Bangkok. Our main project was filming a summer camp for local high schoolers, but we were introduced to the bigger story of a medical clinic run by a team of church planters on a mission to reach the people of Thailand. Below are both videos we produced from this trip.

From Bangkok we flew to Chiang Mai to work a second year in a row with Cornerstone Counseling Foundation. They had some really creative ideas for the videos we’d be working on this trip. The first video we did was more of a departure from the more documentary style that we typically produce, allowing us to plan and script scenes to illustrate a Thai native’s poetic story of transformation through counseling. We’re really happy with how it turned out, but Cornerstone tells us that it’s even better if you actually understand Thai because of how beautiful the words are. Regardless, there are subtitles, so watch it and be refreshed!

The second video we produced for Cornerstone was a vision casting video for their capital campaign they are running to raise funds for expanding their Thai counseling ministry for Thai nationals. We’ve heard and seen how counseling can literally save lives, repair marriages, renew people’s passion for their calling, and transform broken people into wholeness through Christ. It’s something we’ve become really passionate about and we encourage you to donate to this great cause!

Closer to home, we’ve been continuing to work on a several videos with the Foundation of FirstHealth Hospital in Pinehurst, NC, and the project has become a huge blessing for us. What started as a request for a couple videos has grown into two separate projects, one of which could give us enough work to fill up the rest of the year on its own. Most of the videos we’ll be producing in the future are for their internal staff, so we won’t be sharing them with you, but below are a couple of other videos we produced for their efforts in building a new comprehensive cancer center, which we’re excited to share.

Actually, we’ve made a big lifestyle change in response to our project with FirstHealth. As we listened to the stories of two grateful patients for one of those internal video projects, we were surprised to hear testimonies of how these people got off all kinds of medication they had been prescribed for decades — all by changing their diet. Their doctor prescribes a reading list to her patients, all books and documentaries that promote a whole foods plant-based diet. We were amazed at the results these patients told us about, so we looked into ourselves, and after watching the Forks Over Knives documentary (which also is a book, website, cookbook, etc.), we were convinced. Although we don’t have any health problems, we felt that the research that backed the diet, which is basically vegan, was overwhelming and hard to deny. We’re six weeks in and are still figuring things out, but in the little time we’ve been advocating this lifestyle change, God has arranged us to meet other fellow vegans and vegetarians and provided us with cooks while on assignment overseas that not only cater to our preferences, but enjoy doing it! That said, it’s definitely much easier when we’re cooking at home… well, except for the fact that we’re in the middle of a kitchen renovation.

When we returned home from our projects in New York, Mexico and Costa Rica (just in time for Fourth of July), we walked back into our half-demolished kitchen. Before we left, Jordan began the demolition by ripping out a couple walls and an electrician did some rewiring and installed recessed lights, other light fixtures and switches while we were gone. The next steps are pulling out the existing cabinets, countertops and appliances and pulling out the flooring. We have less than a week to complete the rest of the demolition, all while working on editing everything from our last filming trips, before we take off again for more filming in Pinehurst, a short vacation with Cassie’s family and a project in the Czech Republic. While we’re gone the rest of the month, our carpenter will be working on putting everything back together and the next time we come back from our travels, we’ll hopefully be walking into a renovated kitchen that just needs a few finishing touches.

Regardless of the ongoing construction, we’ve hosted lots of family and friends — something that we’ve been given the opportunity to do since our house purchase. After four and a half years of being a guest in other peoples’ homes, it’s been nice to return the favor. We like to think we’ve perfected how to be good guests, but we’re still figuring out how to be good hosts! Since we got our keys three months ago (though we’ve been away on assignment for about half that time), we’ve hosted 16 overnight guests. Jordan’s parents (who live 20 minutes away) have helped us tremendously helping us paint the entire inside of the house, lending us tools to tame our overgrown bushes, and keeping our vegetable garden, herb garden and house plants alive while we travel for weeks at a time with not a drop of rain (until we return, which is usually the pattern).

We look forward to sharing the videos from our projects in Mexico and Costa Rica in the future, but we’ll leave you with some photos from our very short vacation between projects in the Yucatan Peninsula. We rented a car (for $2 a day!) to navigate to some incredible sights. We wandered around the mind-blowing ruins of Chichén Itzá (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), swam in several cenotes (cavelike sinkholes) that dot the Yucatan, toured more Mayan ruins in Tulum built to the edge of cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea and kayaked in the crystal clear waters of the Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar (and got caught in rainstorms multiple times!). Below, enjoy the visual vacation without the heat of the Yucatan!

2018 Year in Review

It’s hard to believe it has already been more than one month since we summited Springer Mountain in Georgia and completed our 2,200-mile sabbatical thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Time has flown by as we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and multiple birthdays with family, but overall the transition off the trail has been surprisingly easy for us. We heard from other people that we would be “weird” after the trail (we probably already were), or that we would have trouble sleeping indoors in a bed (ridiculous, we sleep like rocks), or that we might experience post-trail depression, but that hasn’t happened (probably because we weren’t trying to escape from our everyday lives and actually really love what we do). We mostly feel more aware and grateful for all the little comforts of the modern world that we live in.

If there is any drawback that we’ve noticed since coming off the trail, it’s how many distractions exist and how easily we can be distracted from what matters most. While we were hiking it was easy to be praying for extended periods of time throughout the day, but it can be hard to carve out that time off the trail. Continual prayer is just one of the many habits we developed while hiking that we have tried to adopt into our lives off the trail. Another more obvious one would be staying fit — hiking close to 30 miles a day became a breeze, stopping not because we were tired but only because we ran out of hours in the day. We were in the best shape of our lives by far and didn’t want to lose that physical ability and endurance just because our hike was over, so we’ve taken up trail running, easily jogging six miles a day. Another habit we wanted to continue was waking up early. Although we’re no longer waking up at 4:30am like when we were on the trail, we do enjoy getting up before the sun to see the sunrise and enjoy the stillness of the early morning that seems so much more peaceful than any other time of the day.

In addition to the habits we formed, there are also a lot of “life lessons” that we learned on the trail that we hope to apply to how we live, and we will list a few of those later in the post along with our plans for the future, which we prayed a lot about while on the trail, but we should probably just get right to the photos. After all, Jordan did carry our professional DSLR for the entire trail (hence his trail name: “Canon”) and took thousands of photos! We’ve narrowed the pictures down a bit, and they are organized by state for your viewing below.

MAINE

Maine was definitely the hardest part of the trail for us. Maybe that’s because we were just starting out and were still getting our trail legs, but looking back now we still think that Maine was the hardest terrain on the entire trail. For south-bounders (“SOBOs”) like us, the starting point of our 2,200-mile hike is at the northernmost terminus of the Appalachian Trail: the summit of Mt. Katahdin. On June 19, 2018, we scrambled up this mountain, climbing more than hiking, and pulling ourselves up the occasional iron bar bolted into the boulders. At the summit, we braved the freezing 35-mile-per-hour sustained winds for a couple minutes before turning around and hiking down, officially starting our thru-hike. Immediately following this intimidating mountain is the 100 Mile Wilderness, the longest section of trail that doesn’t cross any roads, go near a town or show any signs of civilization. When we weren’t tripping on the root-covered trail and falling flat on our faces multiple times a day, we were hiking straight up mountains with no switchbacks and climbing up and over rocky trail and rock-slab mountains. We also experienced record high temps during a national heat wave.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

With the hardest state out of the way, we were excited to enter the second state of 14, which we found out was the second-hardest state on the AT. We felt that Southern Maine prepared us for the White Mountains, and although these mountains were much higher in elevation, we didn’t feel that they were as hard as the mountains we’d climbed in Maine. Even with Cassie’s worsening foot injury, we pressed on to summit Mt. Washington on a beautiful clear day knowing that bad weather was forecasted the following day. Good thing we did because the next day when we were safely sheltered in the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Lakes of the Clouds Hut, Mt. Washington Observatory clocked 70-mile-per-hour sustained winds with gusts close to 100 mph. Mt. Washington proudly claims the world’s worst weather, and still holds the record for the highest measured wind speeds not involved with a tropical cyclone with a recorded windspeed of 231 miles per hour. Once the winds subsided, we hiked through and tented in 24-hours of pouring rain, and the next day got off the trail for Cassie to recover from her foot injury, which we thought at that point was tendonitis but turned out to be bone bruise. We had to take two weeks off before Cassie was able to continue hiking, at which point we re-entered the White Mountains at the road crossing where we had left off with restored hope that we were going to see this trail through to the end. While we were on Franconia Ridge, the clouds suddenly cleared and we got great views of the White Mountains. We were so high in elevation that we even spotted a plane flying BELOW us! The end of the trail in New Hampshire was through our first trail town, Hanover, home of Dartmouth College. It was quite odd, but invigorating, to hike on the white-blazed trail through a city center, following the blazes on sidewalks and telephone poles. We couldn’t help ourselves taking our breaks at coffee shops, pizza parlors and bakeries before hiking out of Hanover, New Hampshire and into Norwich, Vermont a couple miles further.

VERMONT

We were SO excited about entering Vermont, our third state on the AT. We began referring to Vermont as “the Promise Land” because it marked the end of the hardest parts of the trail for us. On a bridge over the Connecticut River, we crossed the state line leaving New Hampshire behind and looking forward to Vermont, where we were told is where the most trail magic happens. We hit trail magic right away in Vermont as we passed mailbox after mailbox with offerings for thru-hikers: homemade banana bread, watermelon slices, Cokes and candy. We even got lodged by trail angels, once at a church, in a couple’s home, and in a barn on a very rainy night. We enjoyed the Green Mountains and dairy farms of Vermont so much that we want to return to finish the northern half of The Long Trail, since the AT coincides with it for 100 of its 272 miles, but we could have done without so much mud! The boot-sucking mud is so notorious there that hikers refer to the state as “Vermud.”

MASSACHUSETTS

Our all-time favorite single day on the trail was in Massachusetts. We woke up at 3am and began hiking in the dark with our headlamps lighting the way as we climbed up Massachusetts’ highest mountain: Mt. Greylock. At the summit of the highest peak in sight, we waited for what turned out to be a breathtaking sunrise. After nature’s incredible light show, we were treated to breakfast in the fancy lodge on the summit by some lodge guests who we met watching the sunrise, and we sipped on fresh coffee and enjoyed an array of homemade cookies and muffins in the warmth of the lodge. Once we descended the mountain, we stopped by a trailside restaurant for deli sandwiches and subs as well as a massive banana split. The trail then re-entered the woods and by evening we reached the the second trail town of the day in Dalton where we found a trail angel who offered to let us tent in his backyard, along with at least seven other tents. This gentleman has been hosting hikers for three decades, and even fed us a fried chicken dinner that night and donuts and coffee for breakfast the next morning. Other highlights in Massachusetts were Upper Goose Pond’s red cabin where a full-time caretaker cooks a pancake breakfast and the many instances of trail magic where Jordan received beer!

CONNECTICUT

In Connecticut, we enjoyed the long riverside walks, but not so much the hot road walks. One day while hiking, Cassie said, “You know what kind of trail magic I’d love: if someone would just let us sit in their car with the air-conditioning on.” A day later as we were profusely sweating on another road walk on a 90-degree day, a van pulled over. It was trail angel Lisa who goes by Jaguar Paw. She rolled down the window and said, “Today I’m offering a strange form of trail magic: a ride in an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned grocery store.” It’s amazing how God provides! Even though we didn’t need a thing, we jumped in the car for brief relief from the relentless heat. Later we decided to take Lisa up on her offer to shower at her house, borrow some dress clothes, accompany her to a delicious Mexican restaurant and then camp in her yard.

NEW YORK

New York was like a mini Maine with rugged rocky peaks and aptly-named sections like “the lemon squeezer”, where the white blazes lead you into a one-foot-wide crack between two boulders. Of course, there were blue-blazed trails pointing to the “easy way” bypasses, but we couldn’t take those, of course, as we were strictly following the official white-blazed AT. One of our worst days on the trail was hiking up Bear Mountain, not because it was a hard mountain to climb, but because it was so touristy! The summit was crowded on Labor Day weekend with people dressed in their Sunday best since you can drive to the top and see New York City in the distance. Drenched in sweat after hiking 23 miles at that point in the day, we hiked on barely even stopping at the top.