The Appalachian Trail and Skyland, Virginia

Skyland, Virginia is a town untouched by time where the peacefulness of rolling farm land combined with beautiful hills and lovely trees provides a gorgeous landscape. Entering the town is like stepping back into the time of old farmhouses and wooden bridges with friendly people walking the streets and squirrels scurrying from tree to tree. This is a place for true historians to visit because they will find themselves on the same paths as Stonewall Jackson if they take one of the numerous civil war tours. This land has felt all the extremes of life, from the devastating civil war to the fantastic and serene mountain life.

The life of a civil war soldier can be relived while overlooking the Shenandoah National Park and gazing across the horizon from the peaks to the nation’s capital just 75 miles away. Leaving Skyland, the drive on Skyline Drive travels along the crest of the mountains through the woods and past spectacular vistas. This drive includes 75 panoramic views. A stop at the Big Meadow Campground with herds of deer grazing around will allow a look at the beautiful waterfalls and the dogwood in bloom. Hiking around this campground is awesome with each trail offering something exciting, maybe even a close look at a bear near Bearfence Mountain.

This area is the greatest place for hiking. Any of the 500 miles of trails can be accessed via the Appalachian Trail, the main trail that all the others branch off of. Hiking on the Appalachian will be the experience of a lifetime with the wonder of the wilderness all around and breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley including the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Blue Ridge is the eastern range of the Appalachian Mountains including the highest mountains in the eastern United States. The trees truly are blue because of the isoprenes released from the trees themselves. Within the Blue Ridge area are two national parks: Shenandoah National Park in the north, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a long scenic highway connecting the two parks along the ridge crest lines of the Appalachian Trail.

One of the popular places to stay in the area is The Skyland Resort, a lovely mountaintop resort originally called Stoney Man Camp, which is located in Luray in Shenandoah National Park. This resort sits close to Skyline Drive’s highest point and has a lodge with restaurant, cabins, and row houses, all with great views of the park. There are numerous other popular accommodations in the area such as the Big Meadows Lodge, which was named after a large meadow in the area and is a registered historic landmark. This natural stone lodge with its cabins and suites is on Skyline Drive and has family-friendly food in the Spottswood Dining Room. Also available are cozy cabins in a quiet natural setting at the Lewis Mountain Cabins. These cabins have rustic charm and are also a registered landmark located on Skyline Drive and situated close to natural wildlife in a wooded setting.

David Rainoshek, Creator of Juice Feasting – Share His Journey to Health and a Raw Food Diet

Kevin: Welcome everyone here, I am with David Rainoshek and he’s going to tell you a little bit about himself. David, welcome.

David: Thanks a lot, it’s so great to be here.

Kevin: I’m so thrilled about this. What we’re going to talk about today, we’re going to talk about juice feasting, we’re going to talk about all the things that you’ve done. But first I just want to give everyone an idea, why don’t you tell me a little bit about where you came from and how you are, what you’re doing now.

David: Yeah, I grew up in the city of Houston, so I contributed to the some of the pollution that was there and ate the standard American diet, growing up, and played a lot sports. When I was in middle school I got pretty sick and got acid reflux, but I didn’t know it. I just thought I was a hungry boy. So I just kept eating food. And kept on playing state- ranked tennis all the way through high school and walked the Appalachian trail in 1999 shortly after college. And when I came back my cholesterol level was 270 and out on the trail you’re walking like 8, 10, 12 hours a day, 45 pounds on your back through the mountains, 15-20 miles and you come into town, you eat whatever you want and so it was ice cream, pizza, subway sandwiches, you name it. When I came back I was still at the weight that I was when I left, but my internal environment was completely different. And three weeks after the trail, I crashed. I mean absolutely crashed. And it felt like I was having a heart attack.

For the next three years I was really sick. I tried to figure out what was going on and I couldn’t figure it out. It was like, “I eat vegetarian, I eat an organic vegetarian diet. I should be doing OK.” And I wasn’t OK, I was a basket case. I had pain in my chest and I had pain in my shoulders and I could hardly move around. I spent about 50,000 bucks on medical bills and long story short I met a guy who I told about my symptoms and he said, “You need to eat raw food.” And I said, “OK, I’ll do anything.”

So the next morning I got up and I had squash and zucchini and some carrots for breakfast. And I ate that, and after about three weeks I felt better, all my symptoms were gone, after $50,000 in I applied to Gabriel Cousens’ Master’s program in Live Food Nutrition and I did that and the rest is history. We’re going to talk about all that today.

Kevin: When you went in and you had those carrots and you had the zucchini for breakfast, had you been doing that before or was this a new thing for you?

David: No, I had not been having breakfast for years, because my stomach hurt so bad in the morning. I mean, that was my biggest symptom, was that I had acid reflux disease, so my stomach hurt so bad I pretty much had to wait in the morning until I was hungry and then I could eat. So when I got up that morning and I had that I said, “This is an odd experience, I’m actually having breakfast.” And it took about a week or so, and the agitation that I felt every morning of my life, went. And that was because I was dehydrated. The diet I was eating was toxic and it was dehydrating and making me feel bad. I’m a generally a really happy guy, so waking up agitated every morning since I was about five or six years old, was really hard on me growing up and I kind of had to keep it to myself. As I got older I said, “Well, I just can’t talk to anybody then. I just need to kind of have my orange juice and wait, and then all of a sudden I’ll start to feel better.” And waking up and feeling happy and joyous for the first time in all those years, was amazing. I thought, “Well, this can’t continue.” And the next morning it happened, and the next morning and I’ve never woken up agitated again. So, raw food really turned things around for me.

Kevin: What made you go to get the cholesterol test?

David: Well, I was feeling really bad, so I had all my blood work done. I had loads of blood work.. I mean I had 150 different ways, I had my blood looked at, stool samples, x-rays, MRI’s, you name it. I mean I really went through the gamut trying to figure out what was going on with my body. I just didn’t really have a holistic perspective on my health yet.

Kevin: Right.

David: And so I thought, well my shoulders hurt so maybe it’s my broken clavicle from my mountain bike accident in college. So they did an MRI there and did an unnecessary surgery and found that it healed up just fine. And then I couldn’t identify the difference between my stomach and intestinal tract and my bowel. I didn’t even have that kind of self knowledge yet. I mean, unbelievable. But I didn’t. And a lot of us don’t until we really start to look at our food choices and start to see how everything that we eat affects out body. So, it took me getting to the part of the spectrum of diet where you have live foods, for me to start to key in to all of that.

Kevin: Right. And when you took that approach, when you went to get the blood test, did you start to, I mean, did you go to a holistic practitioner, or did you just go to a doctor and say, “I need blood work?”

David: Yeah, I went to a place in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is definitely more holistic. And they had a compounding pharmacy there, so they could make very specific supplements for you and things like that. And they brought me more strongly into a vegetarian paradigm, which is OK. And we could talk about the spectrum of diet if you want, the spectrum of diet goes from fast-food, to Standard American, to vegetarian…no, fast-food, Standard American, whole foods, vegetarian, vegan, and then raw vegan. Plant-based is what we are calling this a lot now. And so depending on what your illness is, that will determine how far up the spectrum of diet you will need to go to heal that situation. So, for me, having had acid reflux since I was in middle school, and all the activity that I did, and all the meat that I ate when I was in high school, the place in my health that I got to required that I move beyond vegetarian to a raw vegan diet to heal the issues that I had.

Kevin: So let’s talk about that paradigm that you talked about. So Standard American Diet is first, or fast- food Standard American Diet, and then on the other side you have the raw vegan. What is the goal,? I mean, is the goal, if it’s on a paradigm like that is the goal 100% raw vegan or is it somewhere along the line or is it just optimal health? What’s the deal?

David: Yeah, the goal is health. And your health is going to improve as you move up the spectrum of diet. And there’s a lot of factors that play in, but one thing that is really important to understand, and I didn’t really fully get this until just a few months ago, is that the spectrum of diet actually is a stages progression. And if you’re in a westernized society and you’ve been exposed to a Standard American Diet, or a fast-food diet, you’re kind of down there at that part of the spectrum of diet. It’s going to take a while for you to move back up.

Now, I’ve been reading a lot of Ken Wilbur, so those of you out there who know who Ken Wilbur is, Ken talks a lot about stages-progressions. But, if you’re at a lower stage, you can get a peak experience of a higher stage. Meaning a peak experience, or a kind of a peak experience of it. But you’re still going to have to go back down, and actually recapture those earlier stages and make sure that you’ve squarely centered on them, experienced it, gotten the benefits, gotten tired of it and then moved on to the next place when you’re physically and emotionally ready for it.

So, I see that definitely in my life. I was definitely a fast-food and Standard American, more a Standard American than anything. And then I moved into whole foods when I got into college. Then, “Maybe I’m getting screwed here, I’m not really getting everything out of that white pasta that I thought I was getting, or that candy bar or whatever. So I need whole foods and I really don’t want pesticides in my food anymore.” So I moved into organic. After I squarely hit organic whole foods then I moved into vegetarian. “OK, maybe I don’t want meat any more, maybe I don’t want to damage the environment. I see what that’s doing to my health, I really don’t want that. I see where that’s going. I don’t want to go down that road.” So, vegetarian. And then you realize, “OK, I’ve kind of gotten the benefits of not eating meat anymore, but that dairy, and the soy and the wheat aren’t really helping so much, so I’m going to have to limit those things.” And so you move up to vegan. And when you squarely hit on vegan, and you’ve realized all those benefits, you’re like, “You know I’m cooking all my food, and the Max Planck Institute says I’m destroying half of my protein and a lot of the phyto-nutrients, dehydrating my food and all kinds of things by cooking it. That doesn’t sound so good, I think I want better than that. I want more nutrients in my food. I want to eat less food and get more out of it.” And so you move up to raw vegan.

Jameth Sheridan and I were talking about this the other day. And Jameth is the head of Health Force Nutritionals that makes Vitamineral Green. And Jameth and I were talking about the spectrum of diet because I put in a few chapters for a book we’re doing for the International Living Food Summit. And he was saying, “It’s really important to understand the importance of vegan, because if you don’t capture vegan right before you move up to raw foods, if you fall off raw foods you’re falling way back to Standard American.” So you really need to know how to access those really healthy whole foods, vegan, whole foods vegan cuisine, and if you don’t know how to do that, you’re going to fall off pretty badly. And when you fall back from raw foods into pizza and candy bars and white pasta and stuff like that, you’re really going to feel it. And that’s an education too, and that’s fine, but it’s creating more suffering than is really necessary, I think.

The Appalachian Trail: Eleven Years Later

Backpacks on and ready to go, the three of us faced the camera and my mother snapped some pictures. No, it was not the first day of school. We, my dad, my sister and myself, were about to embark on a four-day hike on the Appalachian Trail. Four days? The words kept echoing in my mind. I was excited for the trip, but now reality was starting to hit me. I had been on camping overnights with the Cub Scouts, but never a trip like this. The Appalachian Trail runs from Maine to Georgia; we were going to hike the Maryland portion in its entirety – 36 miles!

Today, I am an Adventure Guide at Terrapin Adventures, where I guide backpacking tours frequently. I am a big hiker, and have hiked the Appalachian Trail many times and in various states. But, each time I remember my very first experience, the hike that spurred my interest in outdoor recreation, ten years old on a four-day 36 mile hiking trip…

Before I could protest and back out, we were on the trail. Carrying 50 pounds on my back was tough, but my dad encouraged me by explaining that we would just be traveling five miles at a time. I could handle that! My sister and I complained about the blisters our boots were giving us, but we made it to the shelter our goal for the day. But, when we arrived there we still had energy flowing. The next shelter was just another five miles away, and so we decided to continue. We were having a fun time, and we were still psyched about the idea of a four-day hike. But, soon the sun was going down, and the shelter was nowhere in sight. So, we found a flat spot on the side of the trail and set up camp. For dinner we had freeze-dried meals (so much food packed in such a small bag!) Then we played cards by flashlight, and crawled into our sleeping bags.

The next morning, we were ready to conquer the next ten miles of trail. As we hiked, we talked The conversation was light as we considered recent T.V. shows and what mom was doing at home without us. We would stop from time to time to hydrate and eat some GORP – good old raisins and peanuts. We finally reached the next campground, and we were exhausted from the long 10-mile hike We made freeze dried spaghetti, which was nasty and ended up in the garbage. And, like the night before, we played a round of hearts before going to bed.

“We are going to the Washington Monument,” my father explained as we ate our oatmeal the next morning. (Of course I thought this meant we were hiking to DC. But I soon learned that the Washington Monument is actually located in Boonsboro, Maryland, a wonderful place to behold.) As we journeyed onward, we would stop to view the beauty of Western Maryland, or to make sure the bug creeping up our leg wasn’t a tick. But, we kept trekking to our destination. We passed a through-hiker that told us that we were not to far. Though, a through-hiker who came all the way from Florida would think that anything was close considering where he came from.

A long time later we finally came across the Washington Monument. We found a nearby picnic table, and oh, did that first can of coke taste good! (Over the next 11 years I would return to this place and remember the majesty of the monument the very first time I saw it. I will always have an affinity for the Washington Monument State Park.)

After a while we put our packs back on and set out on the trail again. We fell into a good rhythm and before we knew it were at the next shelter. We set up camp, made dinner (better than the spaghetti the night before) and played cards. And then we heard a weird rustling sound. Bear! Bear! Bear! It was going to burst through the tent and eat us! I stayed quiet, as directed. But it seemed that the bear knew what I was thinking. The rustling noise now moved toward the back of our tent. I sat there holding my breath praying it would go away. And then… PURR… it was not a bear after all. It was a cat! And that is when my dad whipped out his handy trail guide, and read to us that this was a frequent phenomenon. Cats frequently visited the campsite hoping that hikers would share their food. Phew!

After my heart rate returned to normal, we had some fun with the cat, and then settled in our sleeping bags for we knew that the next day was to be our last. We woke the next morning well rested and ready to trek to our final destination, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We continued our journey discussing all that had occurred in the past three days. Wow, this was going to make a good story to share with my friends! We soon came close to the road and got off the Appalachian Trail and headed toward the train tracks, and finally we reached the bridge stretching from Maryland to West Virginia. We did it! Four days, many slices of moleskin, bad spaghetti, and a wild animal – almost. We hiked a total of 36 miles from northern Maryland to West Virginia.

Now, eleven years later I am 21 years old and a lover of the outdoors. Sometimes I wonder why so many people do not take advantage and enjoy the nature that surrounds them. Perhaps if they had hiked the Appalachian Trail as a kid, this would not be the case. I recognize that this trip was not just fun; it was a learning experience. I learned (with my parents encouragement) that I could accomplish great things. I learned the power of sheer will and motivation. And, I learned to appreciate nature.

If you are a parent, I hope you will consider taking your child on a hiking/camping trip. Spend time with them and create memories that will last a lifetime. Encourage your children to spend time outdoors, and teach them to appreciate their surroundings. Show them what they can accomplish. (Trust me, without my parents pushing me, I would have never thought of going on a 36 mile hike, and I certainly would not have succeeded in many of the grand endeavors I have had since then. Thanks Mom and Dad!)