Monthly Archives: June 2017

Improv!

Sometimes, the difference between a successful adventure and a less-than-successful adventure is the ability to adapt and improvise. This happens to me. Often.

...and if you get the reference, I love you and want to buy you shiny things.

…and if you get the reference, I love you and want to buy you shiny things.

Take Sunday. I had a pretty awesome paddle planned, with the intention of putting in a Sterchi Farm, then paddling upstream past the airport and hopefully to Brainerd Road. Research indicated it was 8.5 miles one-way, but on the creek, not on open water as the previous weekends, so no problem, right?

Improv!

Putting in a Sterchi Farm was a breeze, thanks in no small part to the new kayak wheels. I’ve seen people using these before, but my testosterone-slash-ego always dictated I would never need such a contraption. Fully loaded, my boat weighs more than 60 pounds, but, hey, I’m the King of the Gym – I don’t need no stinking wheels. Well, after the long put in at Voldemort Park a few weeks ago, I acquiesced, and not a minute too soon. The put-in at Sterchi Farm is at least a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you know they say “laziness is the mother of invention” (well, I say that, anyway), and really, it was great. Practically a stroll to the water.

Let's roll!

Let’s roll!

So, I put in, and headed up the creek. Recent rains was making the water move fast, but I’ve been in fast water before. The beauty of going upstream in fast water is the knowledge that the return leg will be with the current, and will be speedy and easy. However, as the creek winds upstream, it gets narrower, and therefore, faster. Much faster. But even that isn’t insurmountable for a skilled paddler. But when you mix in a bunch or railroad trestles and other bridges, the water not only becomes fast, but dangerous. Actual whitewater. Not Deliverance-level whitewater, but still, a lot of churn and boil which a big, heavy touring boat like mine isn’t designed for. Nonetheless, I made it past 3 or 4 trestles, each harder than the last. The last one I made it past, I just barely made it past – I had to paddle as hard as possible, and it still took a good 10 minutes to go maybe 100 feet. At that point, I realized I may have to improvise, knowing what was ahead.

lightfoot-millLightfoot Mill Road, at about 2.5 miles into the paddle, is an obstacle course that’s more maddening than reading the YouTube comments section for Gangnam Style. Five sets of bridge trestles, spanning a couple hundred feet, and a 6th one, about 50 yards further upstream (not pictured). As the water flows downstream, each trestle churns the water a little more, so by the time it passes the fifth one (Lightfoot Mill Road itself), the water is like what you’d see in a typhoon. I was only able to make it within maybe a hundred yards of the first trestle, when it became clear that even a jet-ski would have trouble getting through. See, it’s not just the trestles and the water, it’s the rocks. Lots of rocks. And because of all the recent rains, the creek was lousy with debris, mostly tree limbs. Regardless, I tried, paddling hard, dodging rocks and limbs (and it was raining – yay), but it was not meant to be (I would later encounter other kayakers who tried to get through; none of them were able to, so I didn’t feel as defeated). Not the first time None Shall Pass, and it won’t be the last, I’m sure.

This is where the improvisation skills come into play. Turning back was a no-brainer (and really, the only choice, because portaging [carrying the boat over land to avoid obstacles] here wasn’t possible), but that would mean only 5 miles total; barely worth getting out of bed for. The wider creek in the area I put in wasn’t too bad, and even though I’ve paddled it before, I decided to pass the put-in, and head for the open water of the river.

Heading back downstream, going under Highway 58/Bonny Oaks, and the bridge on the Sterchi Farm/South Chick Creek Greenway.

Heading back downstream, going under Highway 58/Bonny Oaks, and the bridge on the Sterchi Farm/South Chick Creek Greenway.

Surprisingly, the river wasn’t moving too quickly (I would soon see that the spillways on the dam weren’t open). So, a straight shot across the river, to Lupton City Park – I’ve walked here, but never paddled. Landed at the boat ramp to stretch and take stock, and decided to power up the river towards the dam. Even though the spillways weren’t open, it’s still upstream, so there’s still current. I’ve never paddled further north than South Chick, so this would be an opportunity to see new stuff, as well as fill in another section of the Master Adventure Map. I made it past Dupont Parkway (the bridge over the river) and to within maybe 3/4 of a mile to the dam – by the time I got that close, as expected, the water was getting quite a bit faster, and at 10 miles, I was getting tired. So, I turned around, and headed back.

Chickamauga Dam and the Thrasher Bridge

Chickamauga Dam and the Thrasher Bridge

The paddle back was uneventful. I let the river current carry me back to the creek (for the most part), then paddled the couple of miles upstream back to Sterchi Farm. While it wasn’t the paddle I wanted to take, it was still a good one. I intend to try it again – hopefully, when we have a period of no rain for a few weeks (which will happen), I can make another run at it. All together, 14.2 miles – that’s worth getting out of bed for.

And, of course, the map:

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

Link:
Sterchi Farm/South Chick Creek Paddle Photo Album on Facebook

Nerd Mode Enabled.

Sadly, there’s been a death in the family. Jennifer, the square-headed mistress, my TV, went tango-uniform (if you don’t know what that means, Google). Or, to quote Mr. Praline: “He’s not pinin’! He’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! He’s expired and gone to meet his maker! He’s a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He’s off the twig! He’s kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!”

OK, he, she, parrot, whatever. Anyway, Jennifer is no more. And quite frankly, good riddance – Jennifer sucked. Wouldn’t keep the right time, wouldn’t remember my Netflix password, wouldn’t do a lot of stuff.

So, now there’s Heather. Heather is awesome.

tv-small

It’s amazing how fast tech moves. The new one is 4K UHD, built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora – all the stuff I care about. Just being able to connect my Beats to the thing (for when I’m on the Bowflex) is cool. But in doing my research, I discovered I’m way behind the home automation curve – and that’s ironic, because I used to love tinkering with the tech. So, to get my nerd cred back (the Parrot Sketch notwithstanding), I also ordered an Echo Dot and a Logitech Harmony Companion. Evidently, you can go full on lazy-mode by adding these devices, and control everything via Alexa; that is, by yelling at it to make it do what you want. Basically, the Echo handles the voice interfacing, and then communicates with the Harmony, which then controls the devices – any device that has IR (remote control) capabilities. So, in theory, I’ll be able to control Heather, the cable box and DVR functions, even my ceiling fan (which is wireless, of course), all by voice. Additionally, the Harmony app works on my phone and my other many screens, so I can control devices that way, as well. Assuming it works as I’ve read it does, it should be cool. We’ll see – the Echo will be here tomorrow, the Harmony, the first of the week. I think I’m also going to pick up a couple of those Wi-Fi enabled, color-changing light bulbs, just for laughs.

I’m sure there’s all sorts of things I haven’t considered yet. Presumably, I’ll be able to tie it all to my Apple Watch and do Cool Things. The Bowflex has Wi-Fi, so I might be able to do something interesting with that. I’ve been wanting to add a Wi-Fi camera (or two) out in Dogville, so I can see what’s up with the pups; I’ll have to look at that. And with the new A/C system, it might be worth adding a smart thermostat, all controlled by Alexa. Yeah, I’m going to get my nerd on. And it’s all Heather’s fault.

Go, Pro.

As promised, I got around to processing my GoPro video from the Raccoon Mountain ride on Saturday. Nothing fancy, just pedaling around the reservoir on the road, although I did get up to about 30 MPH coming down that last hill after the turnoff – not bad on a MTB. I thought I recorded some on the trails, as well, but I guess I didn’t press the button fully or something. No matter – I was mostly just experimenting, anyway. As much as I spent on the GoPro and all the related accessories, I really need to use it more. To that end I’m trying to come up with a kayak mount I like; GoPro sells suction cup mounts, but I don’t trust that – one whack with the paddle, and my expensive camera will go in the drink. Gotta figure out a more permanent mounting method. I’ll come up with something.

So, here’s 5 minutes of what, to most people, will be kinda boring. You get what you pay for.

Ironically, the below video showed up in my newsfeed this morning – I remember seeing these guys on the trails, and they’re far more grindcore than I am. Still, it’s cool to be able to actually recognize where they are. They went down Live Wire 1 & Live Wire 2, which goes all the way to the bottom of the mountain (and clearly, is fast). My next time out there, I’ll park at the bottom of the mountain and come up Live Wire – which will be grueling – then circle the reservoir, and go back down High Voltage. It’ll be nothing like what these guys were doing (although it appears they only rode down; not up – I’ll do both); I’m really more of a tourist, and I don’t want to splatter all over the trail like the one rider did at the 7:00 minute mark. I’m fearless, but not foolish; I know how far my skills go. Still, I’ll probably do a little bit like what they were doing.

Skull Island, Sans Kong; or The Return of Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish II: Blinky’s Revenge

"Bliiiinky..."

“Bliiiinky…”

Well, as planned, I put the boat in the water first thing this morning. Just like last weekend, even after a big Saturday, I still wanted to get out on Sunday and enjoy moderately-decent weather and not a lot of work to do. I’m still not fully recovered from The Incident; in fact, I feel a little worse today than I did yesterday – but I’m not just gonna sit around. So, just before 7 AM (and after the gym, of course), I put in at Chester Frost Park and headed north, with the goal of making it to Skull Island, about 7 miles upstream, and on the other side of the lake.

As always, coming out of Dallas Bay was choppy. Don’t know why it’s always like that – something to do with the underwater topology or something. It reminds me of the Molokai Channel between O’ahu and Maui, which was like walking through a doorway from relatively calm seas into 10′ waves. Nonetheless, after clearing the channel at Dallas Island, a nice, uneventful paddle north, past the nuclear power plant (and I was – obviously – closer this time than last weekend; but I still didn’t see Blinky, the Three-Eyed Fish) and onward to Skull Island. Despite its creepy name, Skull Island is just a little campground, and gets its name because, if you’re imaginative, it’s shaped like a skull. Kinda. Turns out, it’s not a hoity-toity campground; there were no quarter-million dollar RVs like at Chester Frost; it was mostly tents, pop-ups, and the faint sound of “Dueling Banjos”.

"Poison, poison, tasty fish."

“Poison, poison, tasty fish.”

By the time I got there, the weather started to turn, so I didn’t really get to explore the island or its neighbors – the last thing I wanted was to get caught out in a thunderstorm, so I made the decision to get back to Chester Frost, post-haste. As the weather turned, the water got pretty choppy (but not as bad as the TGA paddle), so it was a little slow going. And, naturally, by the time I was about halfway back, it started to clear. The winds were still up, and there was still quite a bit of chop, but at least the immediate threat of thunderstorms had passed, so it was a relaxing paddle back to the dock.

All together, just under 14 miles round-trip, in right at 4.5 hours. Awesome upper-body workout, as well. Plus, I filled in a blank section on the Master Adventure Map – with this paddle, I’ve done the entire lake from Chickamauga dam up to Soddy Lake; right at 60 miles total. Add that to the other paddles that I’ve logged, and I’m at 204 miles total (plus 411 miles hiking [235 miles this year alone!] and 1358 miles cycling). That’s a lot of activity.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Now, I have to figure out what I’m going to get into next weekend – almost certainly a bike ride and probably a paddle, but I want to see something new. Or several something new. Suggestions?

Happy Trails.

visitorcenterWell, despite Mother Nature trying to murderdeathkill me the other day, I was able to get on the bike. In fact, I did much more than I originally planned to – my original plan being based on my unfamiliarity with the area I was riding, and my uncertainty as to whether I was going to be physically able to do, well, anything. Turns out, I was. Still not 100% – I’d say I’m maybe 75% – but as hoped, I was at the gym, then on the road, then on the trail.

I rolled in to Raccoon Mountain right at 6:30, which is when the gate opens. A quick drive around the reservoir, and parking at Laurel Point. It’s quite nice here; clean facilities and other amenities. A pleasant surprise. Anyway, I decided the best plan of attack would be to circumnavigate the reservoir on the road that encircles it – I road-ride all the time, so there’s no challenge in that, but I wasn’t sure after the aforementioned incident with Mother Nature that I would be able to ride far. That, and I just wanted to get a feel for the area, since I’d never been here before. Turns out, this was exactly the right plan. Got warmed up, got the bike checked out, and got familiar with my surroundings. And scenery! Several nice stops, including the Visitor Center and its awesome views.

So, an 8-mile loop on pavement back to my starting point, and I decided I was good to go on the trails. Now, the trails around Laurel Point (and a few other places) look like Chinese stereo instructions on the map, but they make more sense once you’re actually on the trail itself; in fact, not once did I get lost or turned around. If you’ll refer to the map down below, basically, I went counter-clockwise around the reservoir (because of one-way streets), then clockwise on the trails. First, the Tennessee River Gorge Trail, and on to Megawatt (I’m told one of the more challenging trails). Right at the end of Megawatt, I found myself about 100′ below the Visitor Center I had visited earlier on the road portion of the trek, and got an awesome view of the T-Wall (which I hiked back in April) across the river from where I was. There had been a deep fog over the river all morning, and it was just starting to lift, and looked amazing.

the T-Wall peeking out of the fog - click for much larger

the T-Wall peeking out of the fog – click for much larger

Seeing the T-Wall from this perspective was one of my primary goals, since I’ve been up on it several times. In fact, I would have been content to end the ride here, but I felt pretty good, so I decided to press on to the Grindstone Trail. This is rated as moderately easy, and it was. After that, it got a little more technical on the connector to the East Rim, but not bad – and by this point, I was sure I was going to make a second complete look around the reservoir. A quick stop at the East Rim lookout, then on to Electric Avenue, with is mostly downhill, then back to Laurel Point, where I began. All together, 21 miles – 8 on the road, 13 on the trails. I am super-pleased with how it turned out, and that I was able to press on to do it. Oh, and the good news, I think my front shocks/forks are finally fixed – I bounced around a lot, and no issues. Yay!

click for larger (including satellite imagery), or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger (including satellite imagery), or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

For once, I ran the GoPro during some of the ride, so I should have some cool video to post, once I get around to processing it. Keep an eye out for that. All-n-all, an awesome adventure, but it sounds like Mother Nature is going to play nice tomorrow, so there may be more to see here. Stay tuned!

Links:
Raccoon Mountain Ride Photo Album on Facebook

Four Years and 80 Pounds Ago.

Yesterday was my 4th anniversary with FitBit, and I celebrated with Mother Nature trying to kill me. Again. First, the numbers:

4anniversary-622

That averages out to 26219 steps per day; 17.31 miles per day; and 4189 calories burned per day. Compared to last year, I’ve upped my daily average of steps and miles, and stayed consistent on calories burned; compared to 2015, all numbers are significantly up, which is indicative of refocusing my efforts. Now, I just have to keep at it. Forever, I guess.

But I’m not keeping at it today. No gym, but maybe I’ll get on the Bowflex. We’ll see. As I said, Mother Nature came at me with a vengeance yesterday. You’ll recall from the whole Stinging Nettles incident, I’m somewhat allergic to bee stings, and as it turns out, some plants. Well, early yesterday, I decided to knock out some mowing first thing in the morning, and almost immediately, I was stung right in the face by…something. Something big. I didn’t see it, so I’m not sure what it was, and that leads me to believe it was probably a scorpion (which has happened to me before, and that’s what the stinger looked like). Right in my pretty face. So, as I do, I used my benzocaine topical treatment, and immediately went into full-blown anaphylactic shock. Near-paralysis, cardiac issues, semi-consciousness – it was…unpleasant. And really, that’s putting it mildly. I’m more-or-less OK now, just extremely wiped out (hence skipping the gym), but at the time, it was frightening. You know if I’m even considering calling an ambulance, it’s a big deal (ultimately, I didn’t, though – just tried to stay calm and let it pass, which it eventually did). What I think happened was that I inhaled/absorbed/something some of the benzocaine, since I was applying it on my face (and I used two of them, because the sting hurt so badly), because I didn’t hit the floor until after the treatment. I guess lesson learned – if I get stung in my pretty face again, I’ll just suffer through it. I am, however, going to research other treatments, but if this had happened 10 miles deep in the woods, the end result would probably have been less good, especially considering I was face-down on the floor for a good hour. Duly noted, Mother Nature.

Hopefully, I’ll still be able to ride tomorrow. I’ve really been looking forward to hitting Raccoon Mountain for the first time. Miles and miles of trails, and the views should be pretty good, as well. I guess that’ll be a game-day decision, but hopefully, if I take it easy today, I’ll be ready for a good ride.

click for larger - courtesy of SORBA

click for larger – courtesy of SORBA

Because I’m not sure if my front shocks/forks are fixed (I picked my bike up a couple of days ago), I’m going to hopefully avoid the more technical trails this time out – my goal will just be to circumnavigate the reservoir on top of the mountain. Depending on how long that takes – and how I feel – I may then explore some of the side trails. I’m just going to wing it.

Come at me, Mother Nature – I’m not afraid of you.

Records Were Meant to Be Broken.

Saturday: A Bridge NOT Too Far

So, I’m walking down a remote, gravel-y road, having shattered my personal best hiking distance. I’m at 24.5 miles, and now I’m just trying to add some distance, because that’s what I do. My feet are killing me, my 40-pound, full-loaded pack feels like it weighs 100 pounds, and there’s an out-of-place minivan coming towards me, flashing its lights, arms waving, trying to get my attention. The driver (and his wife) pull up beside me, eyes wide.

Me: “Hey, how’s it going?”
Them: “We just saw a huge black bear, just off the road in the woods, about 100 yards ahead. And he’s watching you.”

Frick.

I’ll circle back to the bear in a minute, but yeah, I destroyed my previous-personal-best hike (which was 21 miles, and it was important to me to break this record). Unless you just can’t wait until the end, the final tally was 26 miles. Basically, I hiked a marathon. More miles than I would have thought possible, especially fully-loaded on a rigorous, sometimes dangerous, new-to-me trail. And, of course, this was a solo hike. Not too long ago, someone made a snarky comment to me about always wanting to do stuff alone – well, that’s just not true. I just don’t know anyone who can do the kind of mileage I do, and I’m certainly not going to drag an unwilling participant into an adventure they aren’t capable of completing. Oh, sure, it would be safer (and probably more fun) to do these types of things with actual people, but there just aren’t many out there with my level of endurance, skill, or desire to push boundaries. So, I guess that’ll always be the dream.

Big Soddy Creek Bridge - click for larger

Big Soddy Creek Bridge – click for larger

You’ll recall that back in April, I hiked Soddy Creek Gorge South, but fell short of my goal of finding the allegedly-impressive Big Soddy Creek Bridge, because the trail had been obfuscated by recent wildfires. I was 10 miles in on the trail, and only a mile or two from where my map said the bridge was, but was forced to turn back (and in hindsight, probably just as well, because the terrain around the bridge turned out to be tough – really tough – and I’m just not sure I could have done it then). Well, not this time. This time, I came in from the north, on the aptly-named Soddy Creek Gorge North segment of the CT, and to make a looong story short, at about 10.5 miles in, success. This was after starting out at sunup from the Heiss Mountain Road trailhead, and moving pretty quickly over the first 5 or 6 miles, which was reasonably flat and fairly easy. But as the trail wound down into the gorge, the going got much tougher.

my new friends

my new friends

Surprisingly, at about mile 8, I came across some kids. Like, maybe 15ish years old, plus Little Brother. Emma, Emma & Julie. I won’t say that they were lost, but I won’t say they weren’t lost. They were also looking for the bridge, and had come in on a much shorter, locally-known unofficial trail. No map, no water, no…nothing. Anyway, I gave them the run-down of where they were in relation to the bridge, how to get back out, blah, blah. They tagged along with me to the bridge – I think they had that moment of “Oh, crap” when they were unsure of where they were, so they were happy to follow someone who appeared to know what was what. After the bridge – which is, indeed, hugely impressive (read the interesting details about the construction of the bridge here) – my new friends headed back, and I continued on to the next bridge at Deep Creek.

Big Soddy Creek Bridge - click for much larger

Big Soddy Creek Bridge – click for much larger

Deep Creek Bridge wasn’t nearly as impressive; maybe 30 feet long, and more of a standard wood trail bridge. But it is in the middle of flippin’ nowhere – the level of effort required to get the materials back there is mind-boggling. And getting down to the bridge in the first place was not easy – Deep Creek is just that – deep. And dangerous. And even though my legs were feeling it, nothing would make me turn around now.

Deep Creek Bridge - click for larger

Deep Creek Bridge – click for larger

After successfully crossing Deep Creek (without my pack – I took it off here so I could scramble up and down the rocks easier; it’s not like there was anyone out there to steal it), I climbed back out of the ravine, and came to the point I turned around at the last time, which was my ultimate goal. So, just a matter of climbing back down to Deep Creek, collecting my gear, heading back to the Big Soddy Creek Bridge, and back towards to trailhead, with a little bit of side-trail exploring, just to add to my mileage. And that’s kinda where it went south with the bear. I had gone past my starting point, down this old road (being generous in the description); I knew this road dead-ended, but it looked like it would add a good 3 or 4 miles to the trek, and I was on a pretty good adrenaline surge, having already beaten my record. I’ve never really considered walking up on a bear, even though I did walk up on a mountain lion not too long ago. What’s a little frightening about the whole thing is that if the guy in the minivan hadn’t warned me, I would have absolutely walked right up on him, and who knows how that would have turned out (and needless to say, I immediately turned back, and walking pretty quickly back to the trailhead). After 20+ miles hiking, there’s no way I could have outrun him, and I don’t know if Madelyn (my machete) would have been much help. He may not have cared about me. Or he may have eaten my face. Lesson learned for the next deep-woods hike: be prepared for anything. Guess I need to get some bear repellant.

Now, a word about Endomondo and Movescount. Both of them really struggled with the remoteness and terrain. Endomondo – on my phone – was able to record the entire route, but drastically lost distance (which is what it does when there’s no service – it can extrapolate the route, but not always the numbers). Movescount – on my awesome Suunto watch – got all the numbers, but had a hard time keeping track of the route. When it looses the satellite, it just draws a straight line from the point it lost connectivity to the time it regains it; that’s just how it works. And in these deep ravines, connectivity was a serious issue – I had no cell service for most of the trek. So, I had to merge data from both of these utilities to make a map that was accurate, but if you look at the actual data, it’s a little kludgy. That’s tech for you.

click for larger, or kludgy Endomondo data or kludgy Movescount data

click for larger, or kludgy Endomondo data or kludgy Movescount data

…and if you think that’s all I accomplished this weekend, you don’t know me very well.

timing is everything - click for larger

timing is everything – click for larger

Sunday: Blinky, The Three-Eyed Fish

Amazingly, after 9 hours in the woods Saturday, I was ready to go again on Sunday. I guess a lot of this is because the weather has been so iffy lately, having a full weekend of clear skies and no rain in the forecast was too hard to resist.

With that in mind, I loaded up the boat, and right after gym, headed to the next area of the map I’ve been researching, which is the Soddy Creek/Soddy Lake area. This is the same Soddy Creek I crossed on the Big Soddy Creek Bridge on Saturday, just a few miles downstream, so I thought it would be a cool bookend to come at it from another direction. Satellite imagery indicated I wouldn’t be able too get far up the creek, but there’s plenty more to explore in the area (which I’ve never paddled before).

So, I put in just after sunup at Voldemort Park (AKA, She Who Shall Not Be Named Park). Nice park, good boat ramp. A quick couple of miles up the lake to the confluence of Soddy Creek and Soddy Lake, under Dayton Pike, then under Highway 27. As expected, didn’t make it far up the creek, because the water shallowed, and stagnation, bugs, snakes, etc made me decide not to get out and walk upstream. Still, I made it farther upstream than the satellite imagery indicated I would; I suspect the satellite image was taken during a dry period.

Below, you can see the relationship between the lake paddle, and the hikes in the mountains. The green trail is where I hiked Saturday, the blue trail I hiked a few weeks ago, and the red trail is the paddle. I love seeing how everything interrelates, which is part of the reason I do all this mapping. You can see all of it, and so much more, on the Master Adventure Map.

click for larger

click for larger

Anyway, after exploring the creek, I decided to set out for the main part of Chickamauga Lake, with goal of making it as far as the nuclear power plant. No real reason; I just do better if I have a specific milestone in mind, and in planning the trip, this seemed like a good turnaround point. A pretty uneventful paddle, but lots of wildlife, boaters, and things to see. I did, indeed, make it as far as the nuclear plant – this is probably the closest I’ve ever been to it, but in hindsight, I probably would’ve gotten better photos had I paddled another mile or so downstream. No matter, there’s lots more lake – I’ll come at it from the south at some point, and I’ve already found what I think will be a good put-in point for my next adventure in the area. Still, it’s a pretty impressive engineering feat, especially considering it was designed and built some 40 years ago. I guess they knew what they were doing; I saw no evidence of Blinky, The Three-Eyed Fish, no Godzillas, nothing pop culture would have you believe existed around atom-splitting facilities.

click for larger

click for larger

Following that, just a matter of paddling back upstream. I took a less direct route, exploring some of the side tributaries, viaducts, and a quick stop at Steve’s Landing. By the time I got back to Voldemort Park, a new personal best: 16.3 miles in about 6 hours.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data – because I wasn’t in deep canyons or out in the middle of nowhere, the data was good

Between the hike, the paddle and my usual gym-time, I burned over 13000 calories just on Saturday/Sunday. That’s how you stay fit, kids. And I know I’ve said “this is the last hike of the season”, but this time, I think it is. Getting too hot, there are ticks, bugs, snakes…and bears. So now, it’s cycling and paddling, until cool weather returns late in the fall. I may still go on a short hike here or there, but I can’t see beating 26 miles, especially in the heat and humidity of summer. So, time to put the boots away, and dig out the spandex. Who am I kidding? The spandex never gets put away.

Links:
Soddy Creek Gorge Hike Photo Album on Facebook
Soddy Lake Paddle Photo Album on Facebook

Bike & Boots.

Another exciting two-activity adventure weekend, two great gym sessions (although that’s not really news), 38 million steps crossed – no moss grows on me. But I’m pretty wiped out now.

This was the only view I got of the falls, from about a mile away on Levi Road.

This was the only view I got of the falls, from about a mile away on Levi Road.

Saturday, I decided to make a run at the base of Falling Water Falls on my bike, following my awesome (and dangerous) Memorial Day ride to the top of the falls. Started early – sunrise – at Red Bank HS, and wound my way out through Mountain Creek Road to the Falling Water community. Long story short, there was no trail to the falls to be found. The Falling Water Natural Area runs from the falls right down to Levi Road, but only spans a couple hundred yards of the road frontage, and despite riding back and forth several times, I could find no trail, especially not one I could get the bike on. So, I guess I’m going to shelve this trek until winter, when there’s less greenery and undergrowth. I’ll get there, it just may take a little doing.

So, I decided to press on – no real agenda beyond Falling Water, so I just explored. I wound up out at Montlake Road and the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge Natural Area; I’ve hiked here numerous times in the past, out to the blue hole several miles up the creek. I was surprised to see there’s an actual, usable parking lot at the trailhead now – it used to be a small, tight area with boulders and trees around the perimeter and the in the center. Now, it’s a wide-open gravel lot – I hate to see the nature pushed back, but at least parking will no longer be an issue. Anyway, I had nice chats with several groups of hikers (surprised, I think, to see someone on a MTB), then rode the actual trail about a mile, to where it splits to cross the creek to the blue hole, or heads up on to the bluffs. Neither path was really suitable for biking, so this was my turnaround point – but I think if there’s a cool weekend soon, I’ll hike up the bluffs; I’ve never done this hike, and I’m always looking for new places to explore.

North Chickamauga Creek - click for larger

North Chickamauga Creek – click for larger

Following the gorge, I started to head back, but made the decision to take a different, longer route. Because I’m trying to get my “cycling legs” back into condition (in anticipation of several longer rides this summer), I wanted to add some miles – so, up the dangerously narrow, twisty and steep Thrasher Pike, to Gann Road, to Boy Scout Road. This was tough – lots of up-and-down, no shoulders, but luckily, not much traffic once I got off of Thrasher. Regardless, not a ride for the squeamish. Anyway, from Boy Scout Road, across Highway 153, picked up Old Dayton Pike to Dayton Boulevard, to Browntown Road, and back at the school. A good 33.6 miles.

click for much larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for much larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

Following the ride, I dropped the bike off at the shop for a good going-over (long rides this summer, remember), and I also checked out some road bikes. Found one I really liked – car first, then another bike.

Sunday, hiking. As has been normal lately, the weather was threatening, so I decided to forego the long Soddy Creek Gorge North hike I’ve been wanting to take. It’s starting to get hot out, so this 16-plus mile hike may have to wait. We’ll see. Therefore, something different – I decided to get back on the CT at Suck Creek, but to purposely go off-trail on top of the ridge to test my nav skills, and see new stuff.

There wasn’t a great deal of scenery, but it was challenging. For starters, with the threat of weather, I started before sunrise. The CT here is extremely steep and treacherous; more so in the dark. By the time I was at my “off-trail” point (the northernmost part of this segment), there was enough light to see, so I headed into the deep forest. No trails, no markers, just my skills. Surprisingly, I didn’t get lost or turned around, and found the old logging road I’ve seen on my maps. A few miles up the logging road, and the rain started, so I decided to go ahead and turn back. I had crossed a gas pipeline right-of-way (the same one I’ve crossed and walked on at the PCSF, but further away), so I knew if I followed it, it would lead me back to the highway. While it was probably easier than navigating back to the CT, I had to go straight down the gorge, over 400 feet in elevation. But, better down than back up, and with that in mind, rather than trekking up the other side to the highway, I switched to my water shoes, and followed the creek (which runs parallel to the highway) for a mile or so. Really tough, slow going, and it was still raining off and on. Eventually, I got to a point where I thought I could climb out of the gorge to the highway – only about 200 feet in elevation at this point – and from there, just a quick two or three miles back down the highway to the starting point. All together, 8.25 miles. Not a long hike by distance, but it took almost 5 hours, slogging through the creek and going up and down the ridges. Plus, no trails = slow going. Still, an awesome adventure.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

In hindsight, I wish I had pushed further north – my goal was to get in the vicinity of the Big Fork Ride, but erring on the side of caution was probably the right move. When it comes to hiking, cycling or kayaking (or anything else, really), I’m pretty fearless – but the thought of getting caught miles from the car in a thunderstorm just doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe I’ll revisit this some day, but for now, at least I accomplished something pretty cool and challenging. The off-trail left me pretty scratched and banged up, so I guess my days as a Mr. Hot Legs competitor are over, but that’s the price you pay for adventure.

Because of all the recent activity, I’ve dramatically updated and improved the Master Activity Map (PDF). In addition to adding the actual activities, I’ve added road markers, landmarks, all sorts of stuff. Creating this thing has been a pain, but it’s pretty awesome to see just how much trekking and exploring I’ve done.

Link:
Red Bank to Montlake Ride Photo Album on Facebook

Back on the Wagon.

For about the past 3 weeks, I’ve been more-or-less off keto. I had hit another plateau, which is not unusual when your body fat percentage gets low – dropping those last few percentage points is really, really hard. So, I’ve read that a small reset – that is, allowing carbs back in your diet for a short period – can re-start fat burning. Whether or not this is true, I do not know, but I intend to find out. Now, I didn’t go nuts – I went from 20 – 30g carbs/day to around 200g/day, which is still less than half what a person with my metrics and level of activity is allowed (based on the USDA’s Dietary Reference Intakes), and it wasn’t anything good – no Pop-Tarts, Oreos or anything like that, just oatmeal, bananas and other things I normally avoid. But starting today, it’s back to less that 20g/day, so I’m bracing for the return of the keto flu. Ugh, maybe it won’t be too bad this time, but I’m already feeling fuzzy. Nonetheless, Day One has been a success:

macros-jun1

Just over 6g/net of carbs for today – that’s definitely a NSV. Macros were pretty good, but I need some more fat – I’ll have to work on that tomorrow. Now, Fitbit’s macro percentages don’t take into account fiber and net carbs as they should (remember, fiber offsets carbs), but if you apply the formula I came up with:

(c – f) * 4 / TC

…where c equals grams of carbs, f equals grams of fiber, and TC equals total calories, then my carb percentage is right at 2%, which is awesome, the goal being under 3% per day. I know I’m not going to see overnight results, but if I can keep on that track for a month or so, I should definitely see some changes. Fingers crossed.

the 1000 consecutive days badge is taunting me.

the 1000 consecutive days badge is taunting me.

I closed out May with another perfect month on the Apple Watch; that’s 18 in a row, and 550 straight days hitting my numbers. The picture above are all the “awards” I’ve gotten with the watch – holiday awards, calories burned multipliers, consecutive days, months and so on. So, basically, since December of 2015, I’ve been perfect. I’m thinking about picking up the newer Apple Watch 2 – it’s actually water-proof (the 1 is “water resistant”) and it has onboard GPS, whereas the 1 pairs with the GPS on the phone. We’ll see – they are a little on the pricey side, and I’m close to a decision on the new car.

Opinions?

Opinions?

In other shopping news, my mighty chainsaw broke. Specifically, the safety handle – the thing that keeps you from cutting your leg off – broke. Now, I’m pretty sure I could just disable that safety mechanism, but I kinda like my stems the way they are.

...that is, attached and vascular.

…that is, attached and vascular.

But I had chainsawing that I needed to do, so I picked up a new one. A bigger one. Mighty Chainsaw II. I’ve already wreaked havoc on a few trees and stumps, and at least took care of what I needed to take care of. I have one really big tree I need to take down, right next to Dogland I built last summer – I’m working up to that. I’ll have to drop it in the exact right spot in order to not take out the fence – but I think me & Mighty Chainsaw II can handle it. I intend to order parts to fix the other one, but it’s quite a bit smaller, and really not good for some of the big trees I deal with – so, it’ll just be a back up. Assuming I can fix it. And I can fix just about anything. I’m pretty handy to have around; just ask…well, just take my word for it.

all I need now is a hockey mask.

all I need now is a hockey mask.

This weekend, I’m hoping to take a run at the base of Falling Water Falls. I have a route mapped out to cycle to the general vicinity, and when I get there, I’ll decide if I can ride/push my bike through the woods to get to it. It’s really a scouting trip; I don’t expect to make it to the falls on Saturday, but if I can just find the area, figure out where to park and so on, then I can go back Sunday. Who knows, though – it’s only a mile or so in the woods, but there’s no clear trail. I’ll just have to see how it looks when I get there. Stay tuned.