Category Archives: Endomondo

Routes tracked with Endomondo

The Human Peepshow That Is My Life.

Don’t mind this post. I’m just tinkering. I used to be super into webcams, since the days of the JenniCam. For whatever reason, I decided to see if it was still possible to take a webcam and dump an image up to the site automagically. I have an oldish webcam laying about, and I still know how to make the ones and zeros bend to my will, so, let’s see what we have…


Well, look at that. Not that anyone particularly wants to sit here and see what I’m doing all day, but hey, you never know. Now I just have to decide if/how much I want to leave it running. We’ll see – and I’ll try to spare you any full frontal nudity. No one wants to see that.

The Logitech QuickCam; my weapon of choice in the 90s.

It occurred to me that I have a trove of old webcam pics from the mid/late 90s. Back then, I had a wildly popular personal website – this was in the days before every company, dumbass and President had a site, and obviously well before social media (although I did write a plug-in that allowed me to stream live video to *ack* MySpace when it bowed), and I had numerous webcams running around the house and at work. I was popular by default – kinda like my real life now; that is, if you were bored, lonely or horny, you came to see me; otherwise, you found something else – or someone else – to occupy your time. Back then, I guess there just weren’t that many choices (on the internet, that is), unless you wanted to see a bunch of animated gifs on Geocities. Anyway, just for larfs and posterity, I pulled a few old images. At the time, because the internet was mostly dialup, the images were small, the resolution was shitty – but still, cutting edge at the time. Now we just carry around a device in our pocket that allows us to look at pictures of cats, and tell people they’re assholes any time we like. Trust me, I know.

So, this:

Living room cam. Me and 3 girls. The 90s were awesome.

The cam in my office/music room.

Living room cam. That hair, tho.

I don’t ever remember her name – she’s sitting pretty close, though, and I think giving me the signals.

Office cam – that is, the cam at work. It was always a hoot watching the cleaning people after hours.

Power broker.

Oh, look, I cut my hair. That’s the Pentagon out the window, across the river.

I even rigged up a mobile cam using a laptop and a cellular modem – a really big deal in the nineties. This is roaring up the Jersey Turnpike heading to NYC and on to Boston.

When I needed privacy, Cartman took over.

My sweet Bengal cat, Kalani.

In the office/music room.

I suspect I was reading music off the computer, trying to learn a new tune.

Now, her name I remember.

Rock star.

Good times. I guess. Never let it be said I wasn’t a trailblazer. A kooky, weird trailblazer.


In other news, I finally finished with the electricity in the barn. Had to wire a new outlet with a surge suppressor, and add in additional lighting on the “BMW side” of the barn, so I can tinker with that bike without it being so dark on that side. In addition, I added a pair of new Battery Tender devices. I had 2 already; one that I alternated between the Phantom and the BMW, and one in my big tool shed for the tractor (which is actually one that I bought a year ago as a gift-that-was-never-given [I seem to have a lot of those]). So, now, each bike has one, which means each bike will be ready to go in the winter, and I added a port outside the barn for the car(s), and I have the one for the tractor. No more dead batteries!

I also ordered a new wet/dry ShopVac for the barn. I have one now, but it’s kinda big, and I wanted a smaller one, not only for keeping the barn tidy, but for cleaning the Jeep. I don’t really need two of them, though, so I guess I’ll give the old one away, just to get it gone. Yeah, I have a lot of tools – but I always have projects I want to tackle; nothing worse that starting something and never bothering to finish it, and that means in addition to having the knowhow and the motivation, having the proper tools. Someone just told me the other day how much they liked my stone work I did in the kitchen last year, and that makes it worth it – I’ll take any flattery I can get, especially since I get so dang little of it. Handy, man.

In other other news, I just learned that Endomondo is shutting down. Endomondo was the first mapping software I used years ago to map hikes, bikes, paddles, etc using my iPhone. It was…OK. Because it depended on my phone, the GPS was never that great, which is why I switched to the Suunto Ambit 3 GPS watch, and then the Suunto Spartan GPS watch (and have I mentioned I bought my 3rd Apple Watch a few weeks ago? Sheesh, I’m a nerd.). The Suuntos are so much better at mapping since they’re purpose-built just for that, and Endomondo kinda went downhill after being bought by UA a few years back. So, doesn’t affect me – I don’t even link to my old Endomondo data any longer – but still, RIP. I know what it’s like to be obsolete.

Free Churro.

I’m kinda over this. But I guess I at least need to periodically add something here for the lookie-loos, or just so the rabid fanbase (and that’s a l’il joke) doesn’t think I finally stepped in front of a swifty-moving bus. So, here it is. Ta-f*cking-da.

floppyI guess what matters right now is a somewhat dramatic revamp to the Master Adventure Map. Because most of my recent adventuring has been far-flung, I had to significantly expand the adventure radius (more about those adventures below). This was a time-consuming, colossal pain in My Huge Fat Ass™. Additionally, I broke Photoshop. The map is now so huge, it exceeds Photoshop’s max file size, which is 2GB. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s about 3000 floppy disks. And if you’re keeping score at home, and you’re an annoying millennial, a floppy disk is what computers used to use to store stuff – imagine if someone 3D printed a “Save” icon. While I’m blowing your mind with the cutting edge tech, once upon a time, digital cameras used to use floppy disks. You could get 40 whole pictures on the Star Trek-like Sony Mavica, so, y’know, you wouldn’t be able to take an Instagram pic of every Chipotle burrito you ate.

Anyway, the map needed to be updated, and now it has been, Photoshop’s file size limitation be damned (pro tip: if you have a huge PSD file that exceeds the 2GB limit, create a plain blank layer in a single color and put on top of the other layers, then save – that will make the Bridge thumbnail a single color, which will cut the filesize almost in half. To work on the file, just make that layer invisible. You can also rasterize text and other smart objects, providing you don’t need to edit them in the future. Your welcome.).


So, adventures. Some cool stuff, I guess, although I’m not sure if any of it was particularly mind-blowing. Took the motorbike out for a pair of really long rides; 75ish miles up to the hang-gliding park (because I’m looking for a new adventure in the Department of Death-Defying) and 125 miles out to Hooterville, Bugtussle, and points north. No reason, just because I felt like it. Longest ride ever on this bike, and it did great. (Movescount data)

click for larger

click for larger

I’m kinda digging these long motorbike rides. It’s not like being in the Jeep – it’s just me, the bike and the wind. No GPS, no radio, no nothing. It’s very…centering. Of course, it’s kinda cool to group up with a random rider here or there. I’m not big on these large group rides I read about – just like hiking or mountain biking or whatever, when you get more than 2 or 3 people together, there always seems to be issues. But having a rider roll roll up behind me for a few miles is cool. I’m already planning my ride for this weekend (Mother Nature permitting) – should be another good one.

In other adventuring, there was a long hike at Fall Creek Falls; my first ever, which was somewhat profound. Only about 90 minutes away, yet I had never been here before. More specifically, was never taken as a kid. 7 year old me would have loved it. Or 12 year old me. Or whatever. Nonetheless, it was good hiking (Movescount data), and I’m glad I finally went. There’s plenty more to see there, so I’m sure I’ll be back (and the park’s extreme location to the north was one of the main reasons I had to expand the Master Adventure Map; originally, the map only went as far north as Savage Gulf).


Some other hiking, as well. Long hikes at Foster Falls (Movescount data) and Hemlock Falls at Denny Cove (Movescount data), as well as a very challenging hike at Laurel-Snow. I had already done the Snow Falls segment (last year), so this time, it was Laurel Falls (Movescount data), and up and over the bluff face to the Bryan Overlook. One of the toughest hikes I’ve ever done. And, as usual, stupid, dangerous stuff I really shouldn’t be doing. Don’t care. Recent very heavy rains made the waterfalls particularly impressive and the trails incredibly slippery and technical. A couple of the off-trail excursions – well, let’s just say I shouldn’t do sh*t like that. Because *splat*. Hiking in the mountains has always been one of my favorite activities, but I can think of better places to be; I think I could adjust to flat terrain, especially if a beach was involved. Among other things.


Oh, and I also finally did the complete Enterprise South Equestrian Trail (Movescount data). You’ll recall that I did some of the trail a while back, but I went back and did the whole thing, to the tune of 16 miles. It wasn’t an especially compelling hike, but I’m glad I knocked it out; one less thing for the bucket list, which is good, because that sand is running out quickly.

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click for larger

I’ve also been working on the Jeep, as usual. Replaced the chrome grille and hood badge with black ones, added front off-road lights, added bright-ass yellow brake caliper covers (which look amazing). I’ve got wheel spacers on order and a few other tricks up my sleeves. Awesome.

jeep-622

I still haven’t made my run on the Dragon. The weather has been lousy, and when the weather’s been good, there has been other things in the way. That window is closing quickly – the motorcycle resort closes for the season in November. We’ll see. I did hear that another person was killed on the road there this past weekend (Update: make that two. Sigh.). Is the Universe trying to tell me something? Dunno. Don’t care. Plus, I need to get some cool Killboy photos while I’m up there. Probably not in a bikini – you’re welcome.

killboy

There’s more. In the world of Fitbit, I’m over 53 million steps, and coming up on 35000 miles. I’m at 1045 consecutive days on my AppleWatch, and my 3-year AW anniversary is just about a month away. The leaves are falling, autumn is in the air, and another summer has come and gone, and – well – you know the rest of that. Doesn’t matter; it is what it is. Next summer will be different. One way or another.

Links:
Tree Toppers Flight Park Motorbike Ride Photo Album on Facebook
Fall Creek Falls Photo Album on Facebook
Foster Falls – Denny Cove – Hemlock Falls Photo Album on Facebook
Laurel Falls Photo Album on Facebook

Tag-A-Long.

Once more, time has slipped away from me. Just too flippin’ busy. Work, adventuring, planning for adventuring, standing in the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart sobbing – the usual. I mean, have you seen those giant Crunch Berries? What about chocolate Frosted Flakes? Frick.

1000There’s been a ton of things happening, and not all of it is sh*t. Probably the most significant is that I finally earned my 1000 badge on my AppleWatch. Yeah, I know – who cares? Just me. But it was a big deal to me. I guess that shows some level of commitment or something. First, I crossed 50 million steps on my Fitbit by my 5-year FB anniversary in June (and FYI, I’m closing in on 52 million now), and now, this. The 1000 day badge is the highest badge the AppleWatch awards, so I guess I’m King of the AppleWatch Fiefdom now – I need to get a sash. That said, as of today, I’m at 992 consecutive days hitting my numbers, so, next Friday, I guess I really will be done. I’ll still go to the gym and what-not, but I think my crazy-ass fitness journey will be coming to an end – which means I’ll probably get run over by a truck.

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click for larger

In fact, I’m actively trying to get run over by a truck. That’s right, I found a trailer for the motorbike, which means I’m ready for my run on the Dragon. Well, almost. I have some rear-facing lights to install on the Jeep, and some running lights to install on the trailer, and all sorts of stuff ordered for the trip, but I’m ready. It’s mostly gonna be up to Mother Nature at this point. But really, I’m just thrilled – the trailer is motorbike-specific; a Kendon Single Stand-Up, and it’s plenty for my bike, without being too much. Pricey, yes, but worth it. So, I’ve installed the OEM trailer hitch and wiring on the Jeep, I’ve done all the work I’ve done on the motorbike, and now I have a trailer, all leading up to one of the most exciting (and dangerous) adventures I’ve been on. Can’t wait. My “dry run” loading the motorbike and driving around with it went perfectly, so brace yourself Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort, because I’m coming.


I’ve actually been kinda training for the ride, as well. Yes, you can train for a motorbike ride – basically, that consists of just getting used to being in the saddle for an extended period and dealing with your ass going to sleep. Or whatever. So, in this case, my training took me to Russell Cave National Monument, down across the Alabama state line. Great ride; about 90 miles round trip, with some fast roads, and some Hooterville-like back roads…


…it wasn’t all sunshine and farts, though – or at least sunshine. The downside to riding a bike is you never know what Mother Nature is gonna throw at you. So, you can be just bopping along in the sun, and suddenly, you’re soaked.


Life of a motorbike jockey. This was actually the first time – ever – I’ve had this bike in the rain, and she did great. Wouldn’t be my first choice, riding in the rain, that is, but at least I know the bike is up for the challenge. Oh, and those jeans? Those are Joe Rocket Accelerator jeans. Kevlar reinforced, internal pockets for knee armor, zippered pockets, reflective stripes. Designed for the motorbike. More expensive than my awesome Calvins, but at least if i go down, I’ll have some protection.

There’s been other stuff, as well, because of course there has been. Last weekend, I crammed more adventure into 2 days than I have in a long time. Saturday, I put the boat in the water, and returned to the Harrison Bay for paddling the old ruins, and hiking on Patten Island and the Bay Point Loop Trail.

It was an awesome day of adventure; 12 miles paddling, with about 1.5 miles in the middle on Patten Island, and then a 5 mile hike. It’s been a while since I did a two-sport day, and this was perfect – a new trail, another island to explore, and perfect weather. And wildlife.


But that was just half the adventure. Sunday, another two-fer, but this time it was mountain biking and hiking, both in new places.

First up, about 8 miles on the mountain bike trails at Booker T. Washington State Park. I grew up near here, and I’ve landed my kayak here in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to the park, and I certainly have never bicycled it. Not a lot of trails, and not super-technical, but still, a nice little ride to start the day.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

After that, a trip to the nearby Summit Knobs Equestrian Trails. I visited the trailhead a few weeks ago on my Enterprise South MTB Ride, but I didn’t actually go on the trail, since bikes are verboten (heh, get it? ESNP is part of VW, which is German – ah, never mind. And, “Klink, I need to be in Brussels in ze morning!”). Aaaanyway, the equestrian trail is about 16 miles R/T, but by afternoon and after an MTB ride, it was too flippin’ hot to do the whole thing. Still, 6 miles; not too shabby.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

So, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s a long motorbike ride (partly in the rain), a new trailer, 2 hikes, a paddle and a pedal, plus getting the motorbike ready for the Big Adventure. And earning my 1000 badge on the Apple Watch. Therefore, when someone asks you “Who’s the most active person you know?”, you know what to tell them. Right? Right.

Links:
Russell Cave Motorbike Ride Photo Album on Facebook
Harrison Bay Paddle & Hike Photo Album on Facebook
Booker T. MTB Ride & Equestrian Trail Hike Photo Album on Facebook

Déjà Vu All Over Again.

Yesterday, I intended to go fly at one of my favorite spots, Insurance Bluffs. The last time I flew there, I got some great footage, but spring had not yet sprung, so everything was still gray and yucky. Now that the greenery has returned, I wanted to get some new film (why do we call it that?), but it wasn’t meant to be – the entire back side of the PCSF was closed for some reason. Oh, bother. I could have walked back to the bluffs (only vehicle traffic was forbidden), but I wasn’t properly equipped for a 10-mile hike – no pack, only a little water (and I’ve done that hike before). So, I decided to hike a little elsewhere – there are a few short roads and trails I want to explore, and since I couldn’t go fly, I went with that. Nothing long or dangerous enough that I’d need my gear.

Anyway, in hiking Sheep Rock, I came to a stand of massive pine trees in a flat, open area that very much reminded me of the aptly-named Pine Island in Florida, where I spent a lot of time growing up. It was uncanny how much this area resembled Florida, almost as if the Universe was trying to tell me something. I’m listening, OK?

Sheep Rock on my maps is a loop. No more. For whatever reason, it’s been broken up into two roads that don’t connect, which I now know because I walked both of them. Not a particular exciting or challenging hike, but it fills in another section of the Master Adventure Map.

Following that, a little driving around on the trails, just to see what there was to see, and to scout some future hiking/flying/biking locations. The little Jeep handled the trails quite well, including pulling off a nice wheel stand on one of the more rugged trails.

Wheel stand!

Wheel stand!

The weekend wasn’t a total loss, though – Saturday, I got in some amazing flying. First, a long hike in and around Edwards Point, which is one of the places I’d really been looking forward to flying.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Now, I’ve done Edwards Point before – in fact, one of the best hikes I ever went on was here on a foggy day years ago. Another time, I got caught in a wildfire, and had to take the long, long way back around to the trailhead. So, to make this one different, after the fully-loaded 2.5-mile hike in (and flying!), I decided to follow one of the Jeep trails to see where it led (in the hopes I could bring the Jeep down here some day). Eventually, my map and compass indicated that I wasn’t going to meet back up with the trail as I hoped, so I decided to really challenge myself, and go off-trail. Basically, just going through the woods in the direction of the trail I wanted to intersect with. Clearly, I was able to find my way out, but it was tough. My legs are cut to ribbons from the thorns, and my path took me to a point about 200 feet above the trail, with no clear route down. So, I had to follow the ridge for a little ways, then actually climb down the ridge – with no ropes or climbing gear – to get back on the trail. An awesome challenge – but my legs are shredded.


But the flying was worth it! Unfortunately, there were some campers on the Point, so I didn’t exactly get to do the flying I wanted to, but I got some good footage, nonetheless. Equally sad, there was trash everywhere. I’m going to go back in a few weeks and try again, and take trash bags to clean up the mess. That area should be pristine, not littered with empty beer cans from the locals. C’mon, people – don’t be dicks.

That wasn’t all, though. After Edwards Point, I decided to head to nearby Falling Water Falls. You’ll recall that the last time I was there (on my bike), I did one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done on a trail, and I’m still surprised I didn’t end up all dead. And all in the interest of some good photos. Not this time – this time, because I was going to fly, there was no need to hang over the side. And footage – just wow. It speaks for itself.


I want to go back and fly more here. When I dropped down in front of the waterfall, I lost the GPS signal, which kinda freaked me out (the prospect of my super-expensive toy flying into the falls and crashing to the rocks below, y’know). So, in my excitement and/or nervousness, my cinematography wasn’t that great. Now that I know what to expect, I can plan it out better when I return. Plus, I saw people far up above the falls; therefore, there must be a trail there, which I intend to find.

There’s been other stuff going on, as well. Another trip to Huntsville (but no hiking; weather), a great flight at Snooper’s Rock, and I’m crushing my numbers on the Fitbit. As of now, I’m at 49.5 million steps, so it looks like I’ll hit my goal of 50 million by my 5-year anniversary in June. I’m also in the home stretch on the Apple Watch; less than 100 days to go to hit 1000 consecutive days hitting my goals. I also scouted Enterprise South and Bauxite for mountain biking, and took a trip to Cleveland to walk the greenway. I got the dashcam hardwired into the Jeep (and it’s amazing), and hopefully, I’ll be getting the motorbike out of the shop this week. I guess it’s going to be a busy summer – watch this space.


Link:
Edwards Point Photo Album on Facebook
ESNP, Bauxite & Cleveland Photo Album on Facebook

Savage Gulf III – the Gulfening.

The Universe is fickle. You get a great day of weather, then you get badly injured on the trail. It happens. Happened to me, in fact. Clearly, I survived, but a little worse for the wear.

So, it was the Collins Gulf section of Savage Gulf. The is the centermost section of the SNA; you’ll recall I did the Greeter Falls/Stone Door section 2 weeks ago, and the Savage Falls/South Rim section last winter. The reason I hadn’t done this one yet was I hadn’t been able to find out much about it – there is lots of discussion about Greeter Falls, Savage Falls and the Stone Door, and I made the assumption that because there was limited discussion about Collins Gulf – despite there being two waterfalls labeled on the official trail map – this trail must not be that special. How wrong I was.

Suter Falls - click for larger

Suter Falls – click for larger


The first stop was Suter Falls, and it was completely unexpected. Coming around the trail, which leads through a natural amphitheater, there’s a small-ish waterfall, which I thought was Suter Falls. It wasn’t. Winding around the inside of the amphitheater, suddenly, there it was. A high waterfall, a swinging bridge across the river, real grandeur. Of course, I scampered around on the rocks and ledges, and really explored the area.

Horsepound Falls - click for larger

Horsepound Falls – click for larger

A few miles up the trail, Horsepound Falls. Completely different than the previous waterfall. For starters, the approach was from above, versus below. Additionally, there was far more water pouring over, and not quite the same height. Surprising, since they are both on the same river, just a couple of miles apart. Still, a spectacular waterfall.

Then, things kinda went off the rails, as they usually do for me. Climbing further down into the gorge, I took a tumble. It was early, so the trail was still slippery, and sure enough, I went down. And wrecked my knee. You know how your knee joint goes mostly backwards, and maybe a little forwards? Mine went sideways. About 45 degrees. It was gruesome. And painful. I thought I had broken it at first, and just sat there – an isolated trail, no cell signal, no other hikers, just me and the ‘aina. So, I broke out my first aid – a disposable chemical ice pack and an Ace bandage and mended myself. As you might expect, I decided to press on – I was about 4 miles in, and I expected the whole hike to be 10ish miles, so going forward wasn’t that much farther than going backwards.

Wrong move, dummy.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or wonky Endomondo data or Movescount data

I won’t keep you in suspense. 17 miles. The whole trek was 17 miles, meaning I hiked – with a 40 pound pack – almost 13 miles on a busted knee from down in a gorge, to the upper rim of the same gorge, across several creeks, a 2-mile boulder field, blah, blah. Now, it was totally worth it, but I woefully underestimated the distance. Still, I’m glad I persevered. It’s a character thing. Quit and turn back, or push on? I’m not a quitter.

There was plenty of other cool and interesting stuff. Schwoon Spring was quite a surprise – just a little sign that pointed to the Spring about a mile off-trail (up the side of the Gorge, natch). Now, I’ve seen springs before. Generally, no big thing, but since I was there, I decided to go check it out. I’m so glad I did. The spring itself is huge – hundreds of gallons of water a second. And it’s inside a massive cave.

...and of course, I had to go in. click for larger

…and of course, I had to go in. click for lager

Following Schwoon Spring (hobbling?), there was the largest swinging bridge across the river at Sawmill Campground, and just past that, the turnaround point to head back south along the rim. This was mostly uneventful, but some nice overlooks. Towards the end, another huge suspension bridge, then 2 miles of boulders to get back near the trailhead.

click for larger

click for larger

Now, there are still two significant sections of Savage Gulf that I intend to explore. The North Rim, which will overlap part of the Day Loop trail I did last winter, and the Connector trail from the Stone Door back to the Sawmill Campground, which will be an “out and back”. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to explore these trails, and then I can move on to the next area. I think I even know where I’m going to go. Did you know there’s a herd of wild elk located in the south? I’m going to go find them.

Link:
Savage Gulf III Photo Album on Facebook

Long Branch.

421962I put up some crazy numbers last week, and even crossed over 44 million steps (and it only took me 18 days to add another million steps to my totals). This may have been my best week ever; I’m not sure, and I’m not really motivated enough to dig through all my stats to see. Nonetheless, great numbers. I’m not sure I can keep up this pace for long, but if I can, I might just hit my 50 million step goal by June. We’ll see.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Ironically, my worst numbers day was Sunday, but that was by far the most challenging overall day for me, in the form of a mountain bike ride on Lookout Mountain. I decided to knock out another major section of 5 Points; specifically, 5 Points to the Nickajack Trailhead via the appropriately-named Long Branch Trail. Only 21.5 miles round-trip, but it was brutal. Just brutal. I started at 5 Points at sunup, under cold, damp and gray weather, and took the Peace Can Trail into the woods to the northernmost end of the Cloudland Connector Trail. This is the same trail I took last weekend, but headed north by northeast (sorry, Cary Grant) this time. Crossed the highway, and picked up the Long Branch Trail. Now, I’m not a real “hardcore” mountain biker, but I am skilled – still, this trail was challenging. 500 feet in elevation shift, crossing Long Branch Creek back and forth several times (so, wet feet) – just super-tough, especially in the less-than-favorable conditions. A little sunshine would have helped take the chill off – it was about 40 degrees – but I was layered up nicely, so I never really got too cold.
one of several bridges crossing Long Branch - click for larger

one of several bridges crossing Long Branch (that’s a horse crossing on the left) – click for larger

Anyway, after the long trip on Long Branch, I exited the end of the “official” 5 Points/Cloudland Connector section, and continued north on the highway to Rock Creek Road. No real reason; this was just the route I planned. From there, back across the highway to Mt. Olive Road and south on Vulcan Road, looping around back to the highway. I kinda thought once I was back on the highway, it would just be a breezy 4 or 5 miles back to the trailhead. Not true. About 2 miles of this route was uphill – tough uphill. When you’re driving, you don’t really think about/appreciate how steep roads can be; when you’re pedaling, it becomes painfully clear. Still, no choice but to do it, and do it I did. All told, about 10 miles on the trails, and 11.5 miles on the road. A good ride, and probably my last in this area. There are still trails at 5 Points, but these are primarily short mountain biking trails; no more long routes like this one.

Because I’m (clearly) fascinated by maps, I’ve composited the 3 recent bike rides in this area onto one satellite-imagery map. There’s this ride, as well as last weekend’s Cloudland Canyon ride, and the Lula Lake ride I took back in November. This is just the southern end of Lookout Mountain; I’ve done lots of exploring on the northern end, in the form of bike rides and hiking – this is all visible on the Master Adventure Map.

click for larger

click for larger

So, what’s next? I don’t really know. There’s still a lot of ground to cover (on foot) at Savage Gulf, and I’d like to do a highway bike ride up in the Foster Falls area. And, as warmer weather (hopefully) rapidly approaches, I plan on taking as many motorbike trips as possible. Life is friggin’ short, and it’s getting shorter every second. Got to get out there and live it.

Link:
Long Branch Trail Photo Album on Facebook

A Little Cold Never Hurt Anyone.

At the Ascalon Trailhead - click for larger

At the Ascalon Trailhead – click for larger

…but a lot of cold can wreck you, and can be extremely dangerous if you’re not prepared for it. And I would know. All week, I’ve been planning my first mountain bike ride at 5 Points, in the Cloudland Canyon/Rising Fawn area of southern Lookout Mountain in Georgia. I’ve heard lots of my MTB friends talk about the trails here, but I’ve never personally ridden them. After finding the trailhead (pretty much by accident) during the Cloudland Canyon dual hike a couple weeks back, I decided it was time to hit it. Now, the prognosticators indicated it would be in the 30s in the morning, rising into the 50s by afternoon.

They were…incorrect.

When I arrived at the main 5 Points Trailhead at sunup (gym, after, natch), it was 19 degrees. Nineteen. Nonetheless, I was committed to hitting the trails – I didn’t drive an hour just to bail because it wasn’t Speedo weather. So, I layered up (I had on 19 articles of clothing – I would have been unstoppable at strip poker)(try to contain your disappointment), and headed up through the aptly-named 5 Points to the Cloudland Connector Trail; a fairly easy multi-use trail that leads all the way to Cloudland Canyon. An uneventful but challenging ride about 7 miles through the woods via the Ascalon Trailhead to the southeast end of Cloudland Canyon State Park. But cold. Did I mention it was cold? Have you seen those National Geographic photos of climbers on Everest with icicles hanging off their faces? Yeah, that. It was so cold my water bottle on the bike froze. Good times.

Cloudland Canyon West Rim - click for larger

Cloudland Canyon West Rim – click for larger

At least it was sunny, and by the time I made it to the West Rim parking lot, I felt pretty good. Temps still in the 20s, but really, not that bad, and the park was deserted, because only a crazy person would be out there in that weather. It just goes to show that it’s all about preparation, kids. So, from the West Rim, I rode the entire park, from one end to the other, and then exited down the abandoned road that leads to Sunset Drive on the western side of Lookout Mountain.


Then, just an easy – but long – ride back to the trailhead, via the highways on Lookout Mountain. The route I took looped back around past the main entrance of Cloudland Canyon park, so I stopped in the Visitor’s Center because a ranger I spoke with earlier told me they had coffee. The last time i was here, the Visitor’s Center was closed because it was early, but I found it’s actually quite nice – not only did they have coffee (which was free – just a suggested donation)(that I gladly made), they have souvenirs, food, drinks, etc. A bag of trail mix with my coffee and a calorie-laden Duncan Donuts vanilla coffee drink for later on the road was just what I needed to get my second wind.

Cloudland Canyon Visitor's Center, AKA The Happiest Place on Earth (at the time) - click for larger

Cloudland Canyon Visitor’s Center, AKA The Happiest Place on Earth (at the time) – click for larger

Anyway, it took a while to get back to 5 Points; the highways are very hilly, so there was some pushing the bike, since the cold was causing my legs to cramp up. Leg cramps can be completely debilitating when riding, making every pump excruciating, so I was trying to alter my activities to keep my legs stretched out. In fact, although the entire adventure was just under 30 miles, I’d say it was about 10 miles of actual mountain biking, 15 miles on the streets, and 5 miles walking/pushing. Good full-body workout, I guess.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data (more accurate)

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data (more accurate)

Of course, the Master Adventure Map has been updated, and the thing is just getting bigger and bigger as my exploring spreads farther away from home base. Thanks to the Jeep, I’m covering a lot more ground now, and really getting out there (in fact, I had to put last weekend’s Monte Sano adventure in a box on the map, because it’s so far away). Eventually, the map is going to get larger than Photoshop’s max file size – but just like when I’m exploring, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

And now, because I’m obviously very sick, I’m going to crawl under the electric blanket. For about a week.

Links:
5 Points Mountain Bike Ride Photo Album on Facebook
Monte Sano Hike Photo Album on Facebook

Dangerboy.

So, this was one of those days where things just kinda went off the rails. For starters, this whole time change thing. Can we just be done with this? Stupid farmers. Threw off my sleep schedule, and now it’s going to get dark about 3 in the afternoon. Depressing winter weather is officially here – even if it was 75 degrees today. If it’s gonna be winter, can we at least get some snow, so I can have some fun in the Adventure Buggy? Please?

Foster Falls - click for larger

Foster Falls – click for larger

Aaanyway, I had this whole hike planned out. I’ve done Foster Falls, and I’ve done the adjacent Fiery Gizzard to the northwest. The Fiery Gizzard Trail runs through this whole area, so the plan today was to do the middle section – 16 miles R/T – that connect the two. Went to the gym, and pointed myself towards Tracy City about 5:30 AM, since it would be light earlier (OK, I guess there is one upside to the time change). Because of the distance, I intended to move somewhat quickly – 16 miles would still take a good 7 or 8 hours. Then, Murphy. At about mile 3, I rolled my ankle. Badly. Luckily (I guess?), this was just before the steep, slippery descent into the gorge – so, I decided not to go down on wet rocks and one gimpy ankle. See, it’s not just down, it’s back up the other side. And then the whole thing again on the way back. But rather than simply turning around and heading to the trailhead, I looked at my maps, and saw there were several old logging roads about a half-mile through the woods. I love going off-trail, when it’s reasonably safe, but these logging roads – this is where danger lives. Bears and mountain lions both frequent these types of areas, so vigilance is required – both my previous bear and mountain lion encounters have occurred on exactly this kind of terrain. Luckily, no carnivores found, but I walked up on about a half-dozen deer – they didn’t bolt until I was maybe 20 yards away. They were being very still as I approached, and I didn’t see them until they ran, and yeah, that gave me a good, but brief, startle. Following that excitement, I crossed a cool old logging bridge across Little Gizzard Creek (see photos of all the bridges on Facebook), and then continued to the highway, which turned out to be 3 miles away.

From there, about 2.5 miles back to the Foster Falls trailhead. By the time I got back, my ankle felt a little bit better, so I stopped at the Adventure Buggy and dumped off my gear, with the intention of a quick hike up the power line right-of-way next to the falls. Well, one thing kinda led to another, and after winding up *back* at the highway, I once more headed back to Foster Falls, but decided to cut through the woods on a trail I found. This trail led back to the power line, and to another, unmarked trail which meandered towards the bluffs downstream of Foster Falls.

overlook-622This is one of the great things about going off-trail; you never know what you’ll find. In this case, I found an old, abandoned overlook which looked down on Little Gizzard Creek. Super rickety, totally unsafe, so of course I went out on it. And after that, and old trail that led back to the falls. I guess this was the original trail down to the base, before a better one was constructed. It was really, really tough going (especially on a bad stem), but totally worth it. And once i made it to the bottom of the gorge, I rock-skipped off-trail to the very base of Foster Falls (where the picture at the top was taken). I am, indeed, Dangerboy.

After all of this, just a quick hike back up to the top, following the “official” trail, easy-peasy. So, I didn’t make my 16 miles, and I didn’t fill in all the gap between the two previously-hiked trails, but I did log some good miles, saw some cool stuff, and lived up to my trail name. I guess that can be considered a success. Actually, as long as I don’t get killed on one of my adventures, that’s good enough. And y’know, even if I do, that’s cool, as well – I’d much rather get killed on a bluff, on the motorbike, on a trail or on the water than on the sofa. To that end, I’m in the planning stages of something stupid dangerous; the less you know, the happier you’ll be.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

To put everything in perspective, I composited my recent activities in the area onto one satellite map. This is today’s hike, my previous Foster Falls hike, the Fiery Gizzard & Denny Cove hikes, and the Monteagle to Sewanee Mountain Goat Trail bike ride. I’m sure there will be more to come here – I think I even know what my next trek will be – watch this space.

South Cumberland Adventures - click for larger

South Cumberland Adventures – click for larger

Link:
Foster Falls/Fiery Gizzard/Highway 41 Hike Photo Album on Facebook

The Adventure Buggy.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t often have what I would consider a “perfect day”, but today was pretty friggin’ close. A two-state, two-activity adventure, a new friend, and some stunning scenery.

The Adventure Buggy - click for larger

The Adventure Buggy – click for larger

Before I get into that, I (finally) received the new wheels/tires for the Jeep. They look great, but more importantly, the off-road tires (BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2, if you care)(which you don’t) will allow me to get to more remote trailheads, mountain bike trails, kayak put-ins, etc – not to mention, if we ever get snow again, I won’t have to skip the gym. Priorities, right? Bonus: the tire pressure sensors (which display the tire pressure of each tire on the onboard computer) were detected/linked with no re-programming or anything. That’s some real James Bond sh*t right there. On the truck, if one of the tires looks low, I have to get out my trusty pressure gauge and test the thing. Like an animal.

So, to put them to the test, after the gym this morning (natch), I rolled up to Lookout Mountain in the foggy, pre-dawn hours. The goal: Sunset Rock and Lula Lake. Stunningly, I’ve never been to either (although I did stop at the Sunset Rock trailhead on my Coolidge Park-to-Rock City mountain bike ride a couple years ago). No more. It was actually still dark when I got to the Sunset Rock trailhead, and (amazingly) I loitered around the parking lot until there was enough light to see the trail. It was crazy foggy and super slippery, so going over the side of the mountain in the dark I decided would kinda put the kibosh on the capering. Discretion is the greater part of scaredy-catness – or something like that. Right? Right.

The hike wound up being more than I planned, because of course it did. Following Sunset Rock, I decided to explore a little bit of the trail (Lula Lake doesn’t open until 9, so I had an hour to kill). Long story short, instead of just puttering around Sunset Rock, I hiked (and did some trail running – luckily, I planned ahead enough to wear my Brooks Cascadia 12 GTX trail runners) on the Bluff Trail to Point Park, then back to the trailhead through the neighborhoods of West Brow Road. Only 3 miles, but a good start to the day.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Following Sunset Rock and Point Park, the main objective: the Lula Lake Land Trust, which is across the border in Georgia. I know many people who’ve gone here – mostly my dog-walking friends – but I’ve never been. No real reason, it was just a bucket-list thing, and I’m emptying that bucket.

Entrance to Lula Lake - click for larger

Entrance to Lula Lake – click for larger

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it was amazing. OK, that was pretty fine.

Lula Falls - click for larger

Lula Falls – click for larger

Because of yesterday’s rains, Rock Creek was running strong. Mother Nature is up to something, because the temperature was in the 60s (and, y’know, this is November), but it was still really, really foggy. I don’t mind that, though. It’s just a different perspective versus a sunny day, and the fog “traps” the sounds of the forest, so the creek was quite loud. Water features are my favorite. While bluffs have their own appeal, creeks, waterfalls and the like are ever-changing; what you see today will be different tomorrow. Bluffs represent stability; water represents constant change – and a place like Lula Lake provides both.

OK, that was a little philosophical. Moving on.

I ran a little GoPro along the creek, as well. I really need a gimbal for the thing (basically a gyroscope, so the video is smoother – but what am I, Spielberg?). Still, the Chesty harness would’ve been a better choice than the handlebar mount, but at least I remembered to turn the thing on this time.

After the falls, time to get serious. Well, as serious as I get on the bike. I’m just not really grindcore; I’ve seen too many MTB wrecks – I’ll get my danger on the motorbike. Still, I probably should get some pads, just so I can push the boundaries a little. Anyway, I headed up the Bluff Trail, which, as you would expect, follows the bluff to the border of the Trust a few miles away. From there, just exploring the various trails – some fast, some not so much, all somewhat slippery. Still, no major screw-ups (yay!), and after about 3 hours pedaling – but only 9.5 miles – I had covered almost all the trails, and was back at the parking lot.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Adventures like these just underscore what a great decision buying the Adventure Buggy was. My friends all know how I labored over whether to buy, what to buy, etc. Zero regrets. I still have some things to do to it – Monday, I’m going to order a basket for the roof rack (to carry my paddle and other gear), and I think I’m going to go ahead an put a little winch on the front, just in case I ever get stuck. At the very least, I probably should get a manual winch – that would be better than nothing. In fact – and somewhat ironically – back at the parking lot, a truck very similar to mine was stuck. Just in the somewhat flat (but wet) part of the parking lot. Meanwhile, the Adventure Buggy had no issues, and it didn’t even need four-wheel drive. That’s something else really cool about it – it switches to 4WD if it needs to, or you can manually turn the little knob thingy for different terrain – snow, rock, mud, sand, etc. Pretty cool. I also figured out how to use the manual transmission last week. It’s an automatic, but you can kick the shifter over, and drive it like a clutchless manual, with 9 speeds. Frick, I remember when we all we had was a P, R, N, D, 1 & 2, and we were happy to have it. Now, I’ve got automatic gears, manual gears, plus automatic 4WD, and a bunch of 4WD options. Super-fancy.

Of course, tomorrow is another day, and I already have something planned. With any luck, I’ll knock out the last section of Foster Falls/Fiery Gizzard. The time changes tonight (which reminds me, this is the one-year anniversary of my 100-mile Century Ride – yay, me!), so that’s gonna throw me off, I’m sure. Get to bed early tonight, get up, go to the gym, and find some adventure. This is my life, and I have few complaints.

Link:
Sunset Rock, Point Park & Lula Lake Photo Album on Facebook

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