Monthly Archives: October 2017

Just Tricks, No Treats.

Halloween 1989, Honolulu Hawaii

Halloween 1989, Honolulu Hawaii

Halloween in Honolulu is a big deal. It’s almost like Mardi Gras – people are really into it; I suspect because it breaks up the monotony of Island Life. You know, wearing Reyn Spooner aloha shirts and board shorts every day.

In 1989, for the office festivities, I dressed up as my boss, Lonnie. At the time, I was still active duty military, but Lonnie was a civilian – back then, there just weren’t a lot of genius-level computer guys in uniform, so amongst the nerds, there was a mixture of military and civilians pushing the ones and zeros. Now, Lonnie was very well known among the various agencies at the PJKK (Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana’ole Federal Building, now just the Prince Kūhiō Federal Building; where my office was). This was not only because he pretty much ran the systems in the 14th District; he was also super, super friendly, and despite being from Boston, he had made Hawai’i his home, and embraced the culture (and taught me to do so, as well). My costume was perfect, if I do say so myself. Grayed my hair, had a pager, giant cell phone (this was 1989, after all), keys and calculator on my belt, plus a pocket protector that was maxed out on implements, a copy of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Boston magazine, and I bought the most polyester pants and nerd shirt I could find. it was perfect, and my colleagues, both in my agency and throughout the PJKK got a huge chuckle out of it. Now, Lonnie was on vacation back in Boston during this time, so he didn’t get to see it, but when he returned and saw photos on the bulletin board, he actually thought it was him, and couldn’t remember being in the pictures. So, yeah, he got the joke, and appreciated the homage. That’s the kind of guy he was – never took things too seriously, and could always laugh at himself. One of the many things I learned from him.

As time went by, he became more than just my boss – he became my mentor, and more importantly, my friend. When I first moved to Hawai’i, I had no desire to be a computer nerd. None. But Lonnie showed me that the nerds would inherit the earth, and sure enough, he was right (not to mention it’s where the money is). After I moved to DC, our paths crossed occasionally at various IT conferences, and my career had taken me to the same level as he was, and he was clearly proud of what I had accomplished. I owe a lot of my success to Lonnie. Good guy, great mentor, and great friend. It’s been a number of years since we last spoke – that’s how life works; people drift apart.

I found out yesterday that Lonnie passed away at the age of 77. I am completely crushed (not to mention anti-social right now). Thanks for everything, Lonnie – I owe you more than I could ever express.

Since I'm talking about Halloween in Hawaii, this is 1988. Look closely - no, not at me. Yep, that's her. Frick, this was 29 years ago.

Since I’m talking about Halloween in Hawaii, this is 1988. Look closely – no, not at me. Yep. Frick, this was 29 years ago. I feel very old right now.

Mountain Goats and Trails.

Today, the much-anticipated Mountain Goat Trail pedal (where, ironically, I saw no mountain goats). I’ve been wanting to do this since I first read about the MGT, and even though the trail is nowhere near complete, it was a great. Of course, Mother Nature thumbed her nose at me again, with freezing temperatures and sleet up on the plateau – but still, an awesome pedal. There’s only a 5ish mile segment opened between Monteagle and Sewanee right now; when it’s complete, it’ll be almost 40 miles one-way, from Cowan (west of Sewanee) to Palmer (east of Tracy City/Gruetli-Laager). Of course I’ll be riding that.

FTG (following the gym; I might as well start abbreviating that), I loaded up the bike for the first Jeep-cycling adventure, despite it obviously being much, much colder than the prognosticators forecasted. No biggie – I’ve ridden in cold before. However, because of the heavy rain on Saturday, I decided to stop at Foster Falls first, because it’s right on the way.


It did not disappoint.

After that, on to Monteagle, also on the Cumberland Plateau – so, yeah, the elevation was not going to bring any warmer weather. About 30 degrees when I headed out to explore the town. It’s a small town, with not much to see, especially on a cold, sleety day. I’m sure in warmer weather, it’s more interesting. After about 6 miles in the town, I hit the MGT, and headed for the University of the South in Sewanee, a little over 5 miles away.

the Mountain Goat Trail - click for larger

the Mountain Goat Trail – click for larger

The trail is great. Paved, reasonably flat, winding through woods and crossing roads several times. After the quick ride down the trail, a spin up to the University in search of coffee (success!) and compelling scenery, in the form of an old cemetery. I love old cemeteries, and this one was as interesting as the State Line Cemetery I visited on the TGA paddle. Headstones dating back to the 19th century, with loads of history. I’ll need to go back on a warmer day and explore more.

Following the ride back to the trailhead in Monteagle – you guessed it – shopping. Conveniently, Mountain Outfitters is located right at the trailhead. Surprisingly, I bought nothing – not even shoes – but it’s good to know there is a great outfitter near what will be many future adventures.

Hines Pond - click for larger

Hines Pond – click for larger

After reloading everything, a little scouting for future adventures. There are several parks and trailheads along the mountain highway back to Tracy City. I suspect I’ll be visiting this area quite often over the winter, and when I get my new tires and wheels installed on the Jeep (ETA, Wednesday!), I’ll be able to explore the more remote areas. This is what it’s all about – I’m going to be able to go on adventures I thought were out of reach.

On a side note, the bike rack on the Jeep did great. I was a little nervous about strapping my expensive MTB to the back of the Jeep, especially for a pretty long drive through the mountains. It did really well, though – money well spent. Yeah, I’m sure I could pull the front wheel off and stuff the thing in the back, but that just seems like a hassle. I haven’t mentioned this, but in addition to the back seats folding down (probably the only action they’ll ever see)(!), the front passenger seat also folds flat, so I can carry a decent amount of stuff, if I need to. The bike carrier itself is capable of holding two bikes, but I’ve only installed the hardware to carry one, because, hi, have we met?

As always, a map (and the Master Adventure Map has been updated):

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Because of the cold weather, Endomondo was spotty on recording the trek (30-degree temps, plus the phone strapped to the front of the bike equals a wind chill of probably between 0 and 10 degrees), and I forgot to start the Suunto watch for Movescount until about a mile and a half in – but I still got a good map, and that’s what matters.

700-days-sm
In other fitness-related news, despite the cold weather and rain on Saturday, I hit my 700th consecutive day making all my numbers on the AppleWatch (and my 100th week hitting all the goals). No one is more surprised than I am – not so much that I’ve hit my numbers for 700 straight days, but that I haven’t lost the watch, forgot to charge it, forgot to put it on, whatever. So, about 30 more days, and that’ll be 2 straight years. The next badge isn’t until 1000 days (not consecutive; just total – but I’m going to shoot for consecutive); I should hit that sometime next July. Plus, I hit 42 million steps on my Fitbit today, so there’s that.

So, despite Saturday being a complete washout, Sunday more than made up for it. Mother Nature may smack me around and try to kill me to death from time-to-time, but not enough to keep me pinned to the sofa. Life’s too short for that. Y’know?

Link:
Mountain Goat Trail Photo Album on Facebook

Two for…Saturday.

Sycamore Falls - click for larger

Sycamore Falls – click for larger


This weekend, I hit the trails, with a vengeance. A two-fer, in fact. Saturday morning, very early, made the trek north to Tracy City, and the South Cumberland State Park for a long, challenging hike on Fiery Gizzard. This was at the north end of the Foster Falls section I explored last weekend, but all part of the same area. Super, super challenging hike – one of the toughest I’ve been on, but the scenery was worth it. Centuries-old hemlock trees, 2 amazing overlooks, and at least a half-dozen waterfalls along the upper and lower loops of the trail. So much scenery, it’s hard to adequately justify it all in words – let’s just say it was full-blown Mother Nature, and was well worth the complete exhaustion I felt after the hour drive, and the 15.5-mile, 500-foot elevation shift trek.

In addition to several impressive waterfalls, there are two amazing overlooks: Werner Point and Raven’s Point. I intended to find Raven’s Point, but Werner Point was an unexpected surprise; it wasn’t listed on my trail map.

The view from Werner Point - click for larger

The view from Werner Point – click for much larger panorama

Werner Point in particular was just breathtaking. The view from the top of the rim looked down on Fiery Gizzard Creek, and what would be the return leg of the hike, following a really rugged 500-foot descent into the gorge. As I said, worth it.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

The hike started out on the relatively easy Grundy Forest Day loop at the trailhead in Tracy City, and after a little exploring and photographing waterfalls along the creek, the path ascended to the Dog Loop Trail, which followed the canyon rim, and led to multiple waterfalls and the two aforementioned overlooks. After Raven’s Point (where I saw no ravens), a near straight-down descent into the canyon itself. My map indicated that this was a strenuous segment, and the map wasn’t joking. Miles and miles of jumping rock-to-rock, which was compounded in difficulty by my fully-loaded pack. Eventually, the trail reconnect with where I had been early in the morning, and after following it back towards the trailhead, I decided to do the other half of the Day Loop to get back to the Jeep. As is usually the case in these deep canyons, I had some connectivity issues with Endomondo and the Suunto watch, but my phone’s battery life was great, since I had the battery replaced in preparation for this adventure. I met a lot of people on the trail, as well – I probably passed at least 50 or 60 other hikers, most in varying degrees of exhaustion, and all but a handful woefully unprepared for such a tough hike.

Even after 15.5 miles on Fiery Gizzard, I was not done. The plan all along was to return to Denny Cove, where I stopped last weekend, but didn’t explore. Not this time – I explored the entire trail.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Denny Cove isn’t a long trail – only about 2 miles. The 3/4 mile to the bluff is relatively easy, and watching the climbers on the wall was awesome. However, the remaining trek to Hemlock Falls was mostly pretty rugged, especially the last half-mile or so, and especially after having already done 15.5 miles on Fiery Gizzard. Nonetheless, as the sun was starting to get low on the horizon, I made this as well. Hemlock Falls was worth the trek, but I’ll probably go back one day when I have more time to actually go off-trail and explore the falls in more detail.

Hemlock Falls at Denny Cove - click for larger

Hemlock Falls at Denny Cove – click for larger

So, 15.5 miles on Fiery Gizzard, and 4 miles at Denny Cove, for a total of 19.5 miles in about 10 hours – plus driving time, and the side stop at Foster Falls, which was probably good for an additional (unlogged) half-mile. And this was just Saturday.

The Walnut Street Bridge - click for larger

The Walnut Street Bridge – click for larger

Sunday, my first actual ride on the motorbike since getting it out of the shop. The weather was somewhat threatening, so not a particularly long or adventurous ride, but still, a nice little spin to the North Shore (and a stop at the Stone Cup for a coffee), and some puttering around downtown. Not as much as I wanted to ride, but the combination of weather and still being pretty shredded from the hike won out. Maybe Mother Nature will behave, and I can do a ride with some distance next weekend. We’ll see – but c’mon, Mother Nature, after all the times you’ve tried to kill me lately, I think you kinda owe me one.

Link:
Fiery Gizzard/Denny Cove Photo Album on Facebook

Back in Black.

blackforks-622Yep, kids, I finally got the motorbike back. Only took a month – sheesh. But it was worth it – the new black forks look great, and it’s purring like a kitten. With any luck, I’ll be able to saddle up this weekend, and find a nice, twisty mountain road somewhere. That’ll probably be Sunday; I’m planning on hiking (somewhere) on Saturday. So, one month, and about 700 of my American dollars later, and I can hang out with the cool kids again.

Over the winter, I intend to do a few more things with the bike. New pipes will be first – black ones. I also intend to “black out” most of the silver components. Now, the forks needed to be replaced anyway, because the silver finish had worn off, so that’s probably the biggest component. I looked into replacing them a few years ago; I’m glad I waited, since black ones became standard. In fact, the newer models are mostly black, and that’s what I’m going to change on mine. The alternator cover, saddle mounts, speedometer bezel and a few other things. Why Honda didn’t just make them back in the first place is beyond me.

My Phantom...

My Phantom…


...and the newer, blacked-out model.

…and the newer, blacked-out model.

The only thing I’m not sure of is the heads (part of the engine, right below the gas tank). Pulling the heads would be a major chore; probably more complicated than I want to tackle, and more expensive than I want to pay. We’ll see. But the other stuff – especially the pipes – should make the thing look really cool, and let’s face it, I need all the help there I can get. In the meantime, I probably should stop watching all those motorcycle crash videos on YouTube.

Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls, Part II

A long way down - click for larger

A long way down – click for larger

Not a huge amount of adventure this weekend, but some. There’s just so much other stuff going on – not really worth getting into – but I was still able to explore a little bit. In this case, Foster Falls, in the South Cumberland State Park. I’ve heard about this, had friends invite me out there, but never actually done it. I don’t know what I was waiting for – it was spectacular, and mile-for-mile, some of the best scenery I’ve seen.

It was a short hike – only about 5.5 miles circumnavigating the falls and the Fiery Gizzard Trail; just not enough time to explore much more (but I’m hoping to go back next weekend for a more intense trek – or maybe on my bike, since it’s 13 miles one-way). Got to the trailhead before sunup, and just piddled around until it was light enough to hit the trail. First stop, the overlook above Foster Falls – only about 100 yards from the trailhead. Hey, don’t put the cool stuff first! That’s like Van Halen opening for your local Journey cover band. Make us work for it, Mother Nature. But following the overlook, a somewhat challenging hike down into the ravine to the base of the falls. This was amazing, and I’m already looking forward to going back next summer so I can swim in the lagoon right to the bottom of the falls.

Foster Falls - click for much larger

Foster Falls – click for much larger

Following that, back up the “Climber’s Loop” to the top of the western rim, and a great view from well above the falls (the photo at the top, where I was – again – hanging over the side of the bluff; not the first time I’ve done this, probably won’t be the last). A little bit farther, and back to the trailhead. The loop was only about 3 miles, so I decided to explore the campground and surrounding area, just to add some steps and see what there was to see. So, all together, only 5.5 miles, but a really good 5.5 miles.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Following Foster Falls, a few side trips. I checked out Denny Cove – near Foster Falls – which has it’s own trails and a waterfall (didn’t explore the trail, just found the trailhead for future reference); Ketner’s Mill; and the Haley Road entrance to the PCSF. The last time I was here, it was about halfway through a (at the time, personal best) 21-mile hike. Thanks to the Jeep, I explored the road a little bit; I’ll go back once my better wheels/tires are on the Jeep, and I’ll probably add skid plates, as well, because rocks.

No walking this time, kids.

No walking this time, kids.

So, not my usual crazy amount of adventure, but still, adventure, all the same. No complaints.

Maximum capacity: 2 pups.

Maximum capacity: 2 pups.

However, there was still Sunday, which brought the first real trip with the boys in the new car. Not a long one; just a quick trip down to our regular stomping grounds on the North Shore. The 7 Bridges Marathon was going on, so there were people and activities everywhere, and I think the boys were excited to be out for their first real adventure of the fall. They did just great on the drive – the back of the Jeep is so much different than the backseat of the truck; they have room to move around, so they have to kinda figure out what they most comfortable spots are while the vehicle is moving. And they did; it just took them a few minutes to get settled. Once they were, no problem. I’m thrilled – the ability to take the boys with me was one of the big deciding factors in what kind of car to buy (along with the ability to carry my kayaks and/or my bike; 4 wheel drive; and fuel economy). I think there are going to be some good times had this fall for me and the boys.

Link:
Foster Falls/Fiery Gizzzard Hike Photo Album on Facebook

Laurel-Snow.

waiting for the gate to open - click for larger

waiting for the gate to open – click for larger

This weekend, a real adventure, and the first one in the Jeep. I did go on a hike last weekend, but it was more of a preparatory hike, to kick off hiking season. But this weekend, a grueling, 14.5 mile hike in the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area, and it did not disappoint.

Richland Mine - click for larger

Richland Mine – click for larger

After (finally) getting into the SNA at 8:00 AM (after a couple hours at the gym, as usual, and an hour drive north), I had a chat with the caretaker who opened the gate. He warned of a bear roaming the area, a mountain lion, and a…bigfoot. Seriously. He said he had seen it himself. Hmm, and me all out of Jack Links Beef Jerky. I’ve already had run-ins with a mountain lion and a bear, but no Bigfeet. Anyway, I headed up the trail to the first stop, the abandoned Richland Mine. I’ve been here before, but never entered. It’s incredibly dangerous to go in, so of course, I had to do it. Not far, maybe just 100 feet, but still, very compelling.

Following the mine, further up the trail to the old Dayton Reservoir. A hundred years ago, this supplied water to the city of Dayton, and there is a large iron water pipe that follows the trail, still somewhat visible. The pipe itself no longer carries water – it has been disconnected from the dam. The early 20th century engineering is pretty impressive, though. The water behind the dam was very low; no water coming over the top as I’ve seen in pictures (you can see the water coming over the top in this video; not mine). So, of course, this allowed me to walk completely across the top of the dam to the other side of Henderson/Richland Creek. Lots of boulder-hopping and other obstacles, but really, very cool.

The next obstacle – there used to be a 50′ steel bridge crossing Laurel Creek. It is no longer there.

taken in January 2013 - click for larger

taken in January 2013 – click for larger

The Laurel Creek Bridge was evidently taken out by a large tree several years ago. For awhile, the remnants remained, but it has finally been cleared, and a new bridge is in the planning stages. What this meant for me, however, was crossing the creek the old-fashioned way – hopping rock-to-rock. With the water low, it was no big deal, but when the water level rises, it’ll be a chore. Nonetheless, a relatively easy crossing, then onto the Snow Falls Segment of the CT, across the 3-section 150′ bridge over Henderson Creek, and heading up the bluff face to the top of the ridge. Somehow, I got off-trail going up the ridge – with the bridge out, this is a seldom-used trail, so it was tough to follow in places. However, knowing I needed to get to the top of the ridge, I just kept going up until I eventually picked up the trail. I very nearly turned back, but I’m glad I didn’t – the view from Buzzard Point was spectacular, and well worth the so-far arduous hike.

Buzzard Point - click for larger

Buzzard Point – click for larger

From Buzzard Point, you could basically see forever; Dayton, the lake, and the mountains beyond. One of the best views I’ve ever had on my adventures. Strangely, it appears there was a wedding up here recently – there was a homemade altar, hay bales arranged like pews, flowers, and some very dangerous homemade steps and a bridge leading out to point (see my FB album for more pics). I guess it would be a great place for a wedding, as long as Mother Nature cooperated (which means if it was me, I’d get struck by lightning).

After Buzzard Point, a few more miles to the ultimate goal, Snow Falls. Even with the limited amount of water flowing, Snow Falls was impressive; it must really be something when the water is moving more. It took some doing, but through a mixture of luck and skill, I was able to get right to the falls to snap some photos.

Snow Falls - click for larger

Snow Falls – click for larger

Leaving Snow Falls was a little bit tougher. There is no one trail – there are numerous trails that lead all around the falls, so I ended up circling a couple of times before I found my way out. Ironically, after looking at my Movescount map, i saw that there was a neighborhood only maybe 500 feet through the woods – so while it felt like I was in a very remote area, turns out, I wasn’t. The lack of cell signal here made using Google maps off-limits, but, as has happened in the past, stopping, looking and thinking saved the day, and I found my way back to trail the led back down the bluffs.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

So, 14.5 miles round-trip. A very, very tough hike, but very gratifying. I intend to go back – maybe even next weekend – to do the Laurel Falls segment. It splits off just past the no-longer-there 50′ bridge, but it’s a much easier hike (I went there back in 2013). I’ll push past Laurel Falls, though, to head up to Bryan Overlook – from my topographic maps, it doesn’t look like that will be too hard; and certainly not 14.5 miles worth of trekking. Speaking of mapping, I lost connectivity with Endomondo and Movescount both at various points throughout the trek in the gorges, which isn’t that unusual (and Endomondo shows a few miles less, as it always does when I lose connectivity). I still got some pretty decent maps, though, which will make a great addition to the Master Adventure Map. Hiking season is really just kicking off for me, and with the new Jeep, I hope to have some great adventures this fall. Next, Laurel Falls – after that, who knows where my boots will take me?

Link:
Laurel-Snow Hike Photo Album on Facebook