Monthly Archives: May 2017

Finally, A Little Adventure.

As predicted, this holiday weekend has been pretty much a washout. Pretty much, but not totally. I spent Saturday and Sunday watching the weather, hearing that storms were just an hour or two away, only for them to never really come. Well, overnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, they came, so much so that I missed the gym on Sunday. But the daytime – nothing. Still, better to err of the side of caution; getting caught miles into the wilderness during a thunderstorm is a little too much adventure, even for me.

East Brow, Signal Mountain - click for larger

East Brow, Signal Mountain – click for larger

Monday, however, I decided to take my chances, even though the prognosticators were still calling for heavy weather. Thanks to the tech, it looked like I could sneak in a short morning ride, and that’s exactly what I did. At 20 miles, not a very long one, but the scenery absolutely made up for the lack of distance.

Falling Water Falls - click for larger

Falling Water Falls – click for larger

This is a ride I’ve really been looking forward to. For one thing, and most obviously, the scenery. And I had mapped a route I’d never been on before, on foot or on wheels, and those are always my favorites. Additionally, there’s a big empty spot in the Master Adventure Map (now updated) that needed to be filled, and this ride would accomplish that. You’ll recall I was going to make a run for Falling Water Falls a few weeks back, via Big Fork Road, but got turned back by a pack of angry dogs. So, I decided to come at it from a different direction – parking at the very familiar Signal Point trailhead, and riding through the Palisades along the east brow of Signal Mountain to reach the falls, basically coming at them from the other direction, and primarily on surface streets. Most of the roads are pretty sleepy anyway, but on a holiday, almost no traffic to contend with on the 12-mile ride to the falls.

Falling Water Falls was spectacular – better than I expected. However, the falls aren’t readily visible from the brow. The only way to really see them is to grab ahold of something (in my case, a tree) and swing out over the bluff, more than 110′ above the canyon floor. I can’t stress this enough: don’t try to do this. It was foolishly dangerous, especially since I was by myself. Had I gone over – which I could have easily done (and evidently, many others have), I’m not sure anyone would have ever found me. Now, the photos I got were worth it, but seriously, unless you’ve got exceptional skills, don’t do it – I’d rather you steal my pics and claim them as yours than have you splattered all over the canyon floor. (Addendum: After reflecting on it, hanging out over the bluff was really, incredibly dangerous and even more stupid. Don’t do it.) On a side note, I’ve read you can hike up to the base of the falls from below, but you have to make your own trail. I think I’ll be doing that soon.

the top of the falls, where the water goes over the side - click for larger

the top of the falls, where the water goes over the side – click for larger

So, following the falls, a pretty quick 8 miles back to Signal Point. Anyone who’s trekked with me knows I hate to backtrack – I prefer the whole adventure to be a loop whenever possible, so that I can see new things. I did have to backtrack about 2 miles (the falls are at the end of a dead-end loop), but then I diverted up to the main highway, and then off the highway through Old Town Signal Mountain – the less time on a busy highway, the better. This was uneventful and pretty fast going – my total time was a little over 3 hours, but about 30 minutes of that was spent talking to people at Signal Point.

As always, a map:

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

So, not the longest, not the most challenging, the weather was mediocre, but still, an awesome adventure, and Falling Water Falls was absolutely worth the trip. I don’t usually revisit places I’ve already been to, but I’d like to go back on a sunny day. As great as it was in the overcast, on a bluebird day, I’m sure it would be spectacular. If you’re thinking about going (via car), there are exactly 4 parking spaces at the trailhead, so get there early. Then it’s about a half-mile easy hike down to the falls proper – but like I said, don’t stare death in the face and laugh as I seem to do from time to time.

Oh, and Amazon? I warned you that you’d see me flexing the plastic over the weekend. Now get my stuff to me!

Link:
Falling Water Falls Photo Album on Facebook

It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.

25kMother Nature just doesn’t like me. A long weekend, not much work to do (for once), and it’s supposed to suck. I had a long, moderately dangerous hike planned for today, which I intended to get in before storms rolled in late this afternoon. Then I look at the weather prior to the gym this morning, and the forecast has changed, with some storms late morning, more early afternoon. Ugh. The last thing I want is to be 10 miles deep in the woods, crossing treacherous ravines and creeks, and get caught in a thunderstorm. Oh, well, there’s yard work to be done (before the storms), and maybe the early arrival means tomorrow’s forecast will be better. Fingers crossed. I want this hike, and I also have a good bike ride sketched out – hopefully, I can do one or the other. Or both.

But there is good news – I crossed 25,000 miles on my Fitbit. I’m quickly rolling up on my 4th anniversary of tracking my steps, and really, 25K miles is just amazing. Ditto over 37 million steps. Sheesh, no wonder I’m tired.

pb3To keep me going at the gym this morning, I started watching Logan. So far, it’s awesome, but I’m only about halfway through it. I wanted to see it at the theater, but I haven’t been to a film at an actual theater in ages, because reasons. In addition, my new PowerBeats3 are great – the PowerBeats2 I had finally broke (I think from the constant drenching in sweat), and I only wear the full-size BeatsSolo when I want to blast my brain. I think I might be able to super-glue to 2s back to a useable condition, but I had been wanting to upgrade to the 3s, anyway. Yeah, yeah – any excuse to shop. And speaking of that, since the weather is going to be crap, I guess my friends at Amazon will see me flexing my plastic today. “I love the smell of commerce in the morning!” – Brodie.

Stinging Nettles.

While that sounds like a band name – and an awesome one at that (dibs!) – it’s not. It’s a plant. A plant that stings. A plants that stings that I’m now familiar with. I’ll circle back to that, and I’ll try to limit my “Feed me, Seymour!” references.

You’ll recall that a few weeks back, I said I was done with hiking for the season following the T-Wall hike, and then I ended up taking the Little Soddy Gorge South hike, because the weather had cooled. Well, following the Little Soddy Gorge hike, I’ve been reading more about that area, and decided to squeeze just one more trek in, to Imodium Falls, which is part of the Three Gorges Segment of the Cumberland Trail. Today’s segment, officially the Possum Creek Gorge segment, is the middle segment of the Three Gorges, and had a host of challenges, but was worth it.

I went in just after 7:00 AM, following my normal early morning gym-time, and after the 30-mile drive to Heiss Mountain Road off Highway 111 near Dunlap. The trail itself is pretty aggressive, with lots of ascents and descents covering two gorges (Big Possum Creek & Little Possum Creek). However, there are numerous waterfalls on the trail, including my goal, Little Possum Creek Falls, known to the kayakers that go over it as Imodium Falls. Surprisingly, with all the recent rainfall, there wasn’t much water coming over – I’ve seen pictures with much more water, but it would be a tough hike had there been more immediately-recent heavy rain. As it was, the trail was somewhat hazardous, with slippery, loose rocks and other obstacles, and the falls itself is 6 miles in. There’s also a moderately treacherous hike down to the bottom of the falls, but totally worth it.

Imodium Falls - click for larger

Imodium Falls – click for larger

After the falls, I continued north. I had hoped to make it all the way to the Retro-Hughes trailhead, but with severe weather scheduled to move in, I decided to turn back after 7.25 miles, at the aptly-named concrete bridge. This was about 2.5 miles from the end of the trail, but that would have added 5 miles to the trek (it’s just under 10 miles from one trailhead to the other), and at pace I was maintaining because of the terrain, probably 3 more hours. That would have put me back at the starting point well past the forecast of storms, so for once, I decided to err on the side of caution.

Little Possum Creek Bridge - click for larger

Little Possum Creek Bridge – click for larger

In addition to falls, bluffs and other ‘aina, there are two amazing bridges on the trail, the 60′ long Big Possum Creek Bridge, and the 70’ long Little Possum Creek Bridge. The level of effort it took to build these is nothing short of amazing, lugging all the materials, tools, etc miles into the woods by hand. Just carrying my 30-pound pack was tedious – I can’t imagine what it was like carrying in all the heavy building materials. Still, if I hear of any projects like this in the future, you can bet I’ll volunteer.

Big Possum Creek Bridge (left) and Little Possum Creek Bridge (right)

Big Possum Creek Bridge (left) and Little Possum Creek Bridge (right)

Couldn't resist. I tried, really.

Couldn’t resist. I tried, really.

So, Stinging Nettles. On the way back out, with probably 5 miles to go, I evidently brushed against some. I thought it was just a run-of-the-mill sticker bush, and didn’t think much about it, until 2 or 3 minutes later, when my whole leg felt like it was on fire (unsurprisingly, that’s something I’m familiar with). The plant has toxic venom similar to a bee sting, which I’m mildly allergic to, so this was basically like 100 bee stings, and it was excruciating. I wasn’t even sure what had happened (a hiker I ran into later on the trail told me that’s what it was), I just knew I hurt – badly – was getting flushed, rapid heartbeat, all that. I rinsed it with water, and found some antiseptic wipes and alcohol prep wipes in my trusty first aid kit, and that pretty much did the trick. The wipes pulled out most of the barbs, but it slowed my return pace to a crawl. I was already banged up (I twisted my ankle about 2 miles in, and about 5 miles in, tripped and landed flat on my face [don’t worry, I’m still pretty]). So, the last few miles out were grueling. The temperature had climbed into the 80s, and I was just shredded. In fact, back at Little Possum Creek – the last significant body of water, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead – I dunked my hat in the water and put it on, which helped bring my temp back down. Made it the rest of the way with no more issues, but it was tough. Really tough. I burned almost 7000 calories total, and probably lost 5 pounds.

ct

So, a couple of lessons learned: first, always have a well-equipped first-aid kit. I need to get better antiseptic wipes than the ones that came with the kit, but what I had at least worked. Really, having a first-aid kit, and knowing how to use it, is critical. I had no phone service for most of the hike, so there was no one to depend on except for me (because this was a solo trek). Super important. Second, never underestimate the heat. Starting temp was in the 60s, and I knew it was going to get into the 80s, but combined with the high humidity and a 30-pound pack, it was really tough going. I carried in 80 ounces of water, and drank all of it (except for the few ounces I poured on my leg). Really, I should have taken one more bottle. Third, carry swimming apparel. I came oh-so close to taking a skinny-dip, because I was so hot. But really, no one wants to see that.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

My data wound up a little spotty – I lost connectivity with Endomondo while deep in the gorges, which is not unusual – but I was so deep (evidently), I even lost the satellite with my Suunto. That’s never happened before. Might be time to change the battery in it.

Now, even though I say I’m done for the season, that’s subject to change. If there’s a cool weekend in the near future, I’d like to do Soddy Creek Gorge North, and its 100′ suspension bridge. This is the segment in between yesterday’s and the one a few weeks ago. Gotta keep filing in the Master Adventure Map (this hike is located at the extreme northeast corner of the map). Or it may just be pedals and paddles throughout the summer – I already have several of those planned. As long as I keep moving, I’m cool.

Link:
Possum Creek Gorge/Imodium Falls Hike Photo Album on Facebook

Ménage à Activités

This weekend, I was all over the place – literally. Obviously, a couple hours at the gym Saturday and Sunday morning; no news there. I did, however, get a nifty Mother’s Day activity award on my Apple Watch – I guess Silicon Valley thinks I’m an awesome (and fit) mom. Huzzah.

I was standing in Alabama and Georgia when I took this.

I was standing in Alabama and Georgia when I took this, and in Eastern time and Central time.

Following the gym on Saturday, things got active. Loaded up my gear, and headed out for (hopefully) a three-state, two-activity adventure. Even though the weather was a little spotty, I decided to take another run at the TGA; this is where the state boundaries of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama meet. You’ll recall I tried this trek a few weeks back, but Mother Nature wasn’t having any of it, so I didn’t make it all the way. Saturday, however, despite strong winds, very strong currents and 2 – 3 foot waves on the open water, success. Anyway, there are only 38 such places in the US, where 3 or more state boundaries meet on land (there are 23 others in water). The most famous is Four Corners, where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado meet – I may have to add this to the bucket list.

dangerThe TGA monument itself is rather understated, and is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. In fact, if you weren’t looking for it, you may walk right by it. To get to it, I paddled across the lake (I put in at a different ramp than last time), and straight across the dangerous waters near the dam into Nickajack Cove (the big red flashing “DANGER” sign was unnerving – because of the recent rains, the spillways were open, and the currents were powerful – but you know, just like I told the guy on ABC, “Danger is my business!” – Spicoli). Stopped at the Batcave, of course, and explored the boardwalk that leads to a viewing area for the cave, then found a passable landing spot in Barton Hollow, and hiked in. It’s only about 1/2 mile, following State Line Road and passing State Line Cemetery (follow the link for a cool video, courtesy of the Cemetery Detective) before going into the woods. There’s a trail, but not much of one – this is way off the beaten path, so finding the marker was a little tricky.

click for larger

click for larger

Interestingly, the monument, and the entire border, is in the wrong place. The border is supposed to be on the 35th parallel, but it’s actually about a mile too far to the south, because of the surveying equipment used 200 years ago to draw the original line. So, there’s the recognized border, and the actual border, and along with that is a big legal dispute between the states. If the border was where it was supposed to be, it would be in the middle of the lake, and would give Georgia to ability to pump millions and millions of gallons of water to thirsty Atlanta. This will most likely eventually end up in the Supreme Court, but it’s unlikely such an established border would ever be moved, because of the precedent it would establish. On the History Channel’s How The States Got Their Shapes, host Brian Unger (also Always Sunny‘s lawyer and foe to The Gang), gets into this – there’s a clip on YouTube, right here. The whole episode goes into more detail, including hitting golf balls into the lake from the Georgia side of the line.

Anyway, once there, that’s pretty much it. Most of the land here is private property, and I guess the landowners just tolerate the occasional lookie-loos that want to see the marker; but, no more exploring in this area (other than looking around the 100+ year old headstones at the cemetery) – just back in the boat, and onward across the lake for more adventure. And adventure there was! Found an awesome water cave I was able to get the boat down into – super creepy, dark, but really cool; not suitable for claustrophobics, though.

cave

…I mean, of course I’m going to explore a cave if I find one. Or anything else. This is what it’s all about – finding interesting and unusual things, and throwing caution to the wind. Following the cave, more exploring on the lake, and landing at a few spots to have a look around. By now, the sun was coming out and the wind and waves had subsided, so it was just a relaxing paddle back to the launch. All together, 11 miles, and an awesome paddle.

the outdoorsy look - click for larger

the outdoorsy look – click for larger

But this wasn’t the end of the adventure. Because I was in the vicinity, I took a side trip to hike the Little Cedar Mountain Trail. This is just a short, 4-mile trail; not one I’d necessarily seek out, because it’s so short, but since I had to drive right by the trailhead, I decided to go ahead and do it – and while 4 miles is really nothing to me, it was after a strenuous 11-mile paddle, so it did take some effort.

the view from the top of the bluffs; you can see I-24 crossing the lake on the left - click for larger

the view from the top of the bluffs; you can see I-24 crossing the lake on the left – click for larger

The trail itself is directly above the cave I explored in the boat earlier, and is nice, for a nature walk category of trails. Not especially challenging, and only a couple of overlooks, but still, I’m glad I did it.

And the map:

Now, this was just Saturday. Sunday, a whole different adventure…

…in the form of a bike ride. I had already hiked and paddled, so it was time for the 3rd of my favorite activities. I decided to explore Big Fork – it’s near where I live, and I’ve always heard you could actually get all the way to Signal Mountain via this rugged and remote route. Didn’t quite make it – more on that in a sec.

This was the first ride I’ve taken since the 100-mile Century Ride in November, and my legs immediately felt it (plus, it was “leg day” at the gym). Gonna have to get my riding muscles back into condition, obviously. Now, most of the riding I do is on reasonable smooth surfaces, despite having an awesome mountain bike. Not this time. The paved highway gave way to a bumpy paved road, which gave way to gravel, then sand (!), then just rocks and dirt. Very technical, but quite fun. Some spectacular views along the bluffs, as well – these are the same bluffs from the mountain lion-infested West Brow hike I took back in April, just further north along Walden’s Ridge.

looking west into the Sequatchie Valley - click for larger

looking west into the Sequatchie Valley – click for larger

Unfortunately, there were some *ahem* locals hanging out at the bluffs, doing what locals do – drinkin’, shootin’, raisin’ hell. At 8:00 in the morning. So, only a couple of quick pics, so that I could get out before I was noticed – people in this area don’t take kindly to strangers, especially of the long-haired hippie variety dressed like an Australian’s nightmare (I was wearing my awesome Primal 80’s-style jersey, along with my standard-issue spandex bike shorts). There was a highly-publicized triple homicide here in the 80s, that was a result of a local landowner not liking people crossing from public land onto his, and I didn’t want to be a statistic, and not wanting my phone, camera, bike or body tossed over the bluff, I beat a quick retreat.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

Then it kinda went off the rails. After riding different parts of the “road”, doing a little exploring, I headed for Taft Highway on Signal Mountain, with the goal of riding to Falling Water Falls, about another 10 miles away. About 1/4 mile from the highway, 3 very large, very aggressive dogs came out of nowhere, and were not happy to see me, and that’s putting it mildly. Being a “dog person”, I know a dog’s body language, and their language was definitely “We’re going to eat your face”. Had I been on pavement, I could have probably blown by them, and if it was just one dog, I might not have been intimidated. But this was uphill, on loose rocks and gravel, with 3 dogs that were at least as big as my 120-pound Blackjack. On top of all of that, my legs were cramping from the tough ride, so I really had no choice but to turn back – and they still chased me for a good 1/2 mile, but at least it was downhill. Then I had to run the gauntlet past the locals – because I knew where they were, I planned on scooting by quickly and quietly, when of course my Endomondo GPS nag yelled out my current stats, breaking the quiet of the forest. Still, no issues, and made it back to the starting point unscathed. Only a 14-mile ride, which is nothing for me, but the excitement made up for the lack of distance.

So, a great weekend of adventures, and now I have to figure out what’s next. I still want to go to Falling Water Falls, I have several paddles I want to take, and I intend to ride my bike from Coolidge Park to Cloudland Canyon. Still a couple of hikes I need to get in, as well. I think it’s going to be a pretty good summer.

Link:
The TGA Photo Album on Facebook

Saturday, In the Park.

click for Endomondo data

click for Endomondo data

Slartibartfast: Best laid plans of mice.
Arthur: And men?
Slartibartfast: What?
Arthur: Best laid plans of mice and men.
Slartibartfast: Oh. No, I don’t think men had much to do with it.

Yeah, so sometimes, things go off the rails. Best laid plans (of mice, men, whichever). To that end, no extreme adventures this weekend (because reasons). I did at least get in a good 12-mile walk on Saturday, along with some major-purchase shopping. And – for better or worse – a stop at Maple Street Biscuit. Haven’t been there in awhile, and after that carb-fest, I know why. Still made the gym (Saturday and Sunday; Sunday, had the whole place to myself for my entire session – awesome). And the walk was pretty great – I’ve never actually walked the route I took; I’ve ridden it many, many times, but walking it revealed even more interesting things, especially art & architecture. I’m fascinated by the stories an old building has to tell – if those walls could talk. So, the epic hike I was hoping to take has been postponed – I’ll shoot for next weekend, weather permitting. Or I may take another run at the TGA, if Mother Nature allows it. Also, I’m getting my bike ready for riding season. My MTB is great, but I’m now looking at road bikes, as well. Many of the rides I take require a MTB, but if I’m going to beat my personal best 100-mile ride, a light, fast road bike may be necessary. Sure, I don’t need two $3000 bikes, but I also don’t need 50 guitars – and here we are. Anyway, over 100,000 steps, just on Saturday/Sunday – not too shabby.

I’m getting re-focused at the gym. Alternating upper and lower body, and really hitting it hard. Because of the chilly weather, I donned my CW-X Stabilyx Tights, which really do help with my wonky knees. Expensive, but so worth it. Same with the Kutting Weight Sauna Shirt – holy cow, does that make me sweat it out. I’ve got my eye on some Newton Sir Issac shoes, as well. As much as I love my (many, many pairs of) Brooks shoes, the Boca AT II shoes have become my go-to gym/running shoes, so I might as well pick up another pair. Feel good, look good.

Point is, gotta keep working hard at the gym. Who do I have to impress? No one, that’s who – well, no one but me. And if I’m going to do several races over the summer, as well as set personal bests on the bike and in the boat, I’ve got to be ready. Yeah, I know you’re thinking, “How much more ready do you need to be?” – and the answer would be, plenty. I’ll always keep pushing harder, lifting heavier, running farther – while most people (especially in my *cough* age bracket) are just sitting on their asses, I’m out there crushing it – and it shows. I think. Probably. At least I feel pretty flippin’ good.

Slartibartfast: Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what’s actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, “Hang the sense of it,” and keep yourself busy. I’d much rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: Ah, no. Well, that’s where it all falls down, of course.

Adventure Is Where You Find It.

Not really much going on. Mother Nature has been on a bender, so that’s put the kibosh on having too many adventures, but I plan on making up for that this weekend. I have a much-anticipated hike planned, so as long as the weather cooperates, I should have a cool new segment for the Master Map (which I’ve continued to add to, and is just awesome). So, watch this space.

click for larger

click for larger

I did get out on the river last night, though – just a quick 5-mile paddle on the North Shore. The river is still high and running very fast (so fast, in fact, when paddling downstream, I set a new personal best speed record). It was a bit of a tough paddle, and by the time I got out, the clouds started rolling in – still, it was nice to get out, even if just for a couple of hours.

Because of all the recent rains, the water was really, really high. I went back to the cave I explored 2 weeks ago, and it was almost completely under water – not even a beach to land on…

2 weeks ago, inside the cave looking out - click for larger

2 weeks ago, inside the cave looking out – click for larger

…which shows just how high the water was. I fully intend to go back with proper gear, and spelunk as deep as I can into it (which probably isn’t far) – 2 weeks ago, it was just an impromptu stop, as really was the whole paddle, so I wasn’t really prepared to ascend into a deep, dark cave. As for last night, high water…

last night, no place to even land - click for larger

last night, no place to even land – click for larger

…and somewhat dangerous. Wasn’t as bad as the Bat Cave paddle, though, and I can handle myself on the water pretty well. The upside, of course, is that the strong currents converted to a 1200-calorie burn. Worth it.

click for Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for Endomondo data, or Movescount data

And as for this weekend, I have a hike planned (because the weather will still be cool) that’s going to run at least 10 miles, maybe 20. Who knows, I may even shoot for a personal best of over 21 miles; just depends on the terrain. Nonetheless, check back over the weekend, and we’ll see how it goes. Should be a really good one, as long as Mother Nature minds her manners.