Category Archives: Hiking

Dragon Slayer.

Welp, here we are, once more. It’s been a while since I added anything here, and – as usual – it’s been a tumultuous couple of months. Second verse, same as the first.

But there was Really Big News worth reporting, which is why I’m writing now. I’ve had a few adventures these past months; some good, some bad, some not worth thinking too much about. The Master Adventure Map is somewhat significantly updated, though. But the Really Big News is this: I finally rode the Tail of the Dragon.

Tail of the Dragon

And no, not just in the Jeep like I’ve done before. Although I did take the Jeep down the Dragon with the motorcycle in tow before making a run on the bike. I wanted the cool professional photos of the Jeep/trailer, but I also wanted to scout the road on 4 wheels before running it on 2, just so I’d have fresh in my mind anything I needed to be conscious of – potholes, oil, downed trees, etc.

Tail of the Dragon

Prior to the trip, significant work on the trailer was required. For one thing, since I lifted the Jeep last spring, I needed a new trailer hitch that dropped lower (so the trailer was level). And when I hooked it up, I found out that the lights were all squirrely. A real head-scratcher; they worked if the headlights were on, but the turn signals were backwards. They kinda worked on one side if the headlights were off. That kind of weirdness. To make a long story short, it was a combination of old bulbs in the trailer, and a short in the aftermarket LED bumper lights in the Jeep. A real pain to sort out single handedly, too – had to set up a mirror so I could see what the lights were doing when I hit the brakes and what-not. Have I mentioned I need a little helper? Feel free to drop me your resume and qualifications.

Tail of the Dragon

Anyway, after the test run in the cage, the real goal – getting out there on the motorbike. This is something I’ve been talking about for years (seriously), and it was exciting to finally be actually doing it, even if it was solo. For at least the past two years, I’ve been hoping to go, but something always got in the way – work, weather, mechanical stuff, life (ahem), but this time, the stars all lined up. Best of all, I didn’t die (OK, I guess that’s a matter of perspective). No real incidents of any kind. The run was fast and nice, and of course I mapped it using my fancy Suunto GPS watch – see the Movescount data right here. I started early enough that I missed the throng of afternoon riders (the road was just starting to get really crowded on my way back from the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort), so I didn’t have to deal too much with the ricer racers or any of that. One of the best adventures I’ve had, and that’s saying something. There was so much about it that wasn’t the way I hoped or planned, but at least I can now say I did it. I guess I need to update the Motorcycle page now.

Tail of the Dragon

I had such a good time, I’m thinking seriously about going back up in the next couple of weeks with the BMW. The BMW is a fast bike, but I’m not sure how the off-road tires will handle those curves. I guess there’s one way to find out. However, before I do that, I have another pretty cool trip planned for the Bimmer, hopefully next weekend. Another one of those stupid, crazy, dangerous bucket list things – but hey, who wants to live forever? Not me, that’s for sure.

Lower Piney Falls Now, in addition to the Dragon, there have been other adventures in the kayak, on the motorbike, the mountain bike, and in the boots (including my new Merrell Moabs, because shoes). Worth mentioning, and in no particular order, a short but really awesome and challenging hike at Piney Falls (Movescount data) with its two waterfalls (that’s Lower Piney Falls in the photo at the left), kayaking at Mud Creek (Movescount data), Foshee Pass (Movescount data) and Watts Bar Lake (Movescount data), all of which have helped fill out the blueway portion of my master map. There was a return to mountain biking at Sterchi Farm (Movescount data) and a long-wanted bucket list MTB ride at the Chickamauga Battlefield (Movescount data). A whole bunch of random hikes, walks and treks in town and out, including a bucket list visit to Twin Arches (Movescount data), and a sentimental visit to historic Rugby (Movescount data). Several dual-sport rides in the woods on the BMW, including a return to Insurance Bluffs (Movescount data). Even got the Jeep in on the action a few times. Just lots of activities, and hey, only a few significant injuries, none of which were especially life-threatening (although with some of the things I’ve done lately, I’m really, really tempting the gods of broken bones and death by adventure).

Silver Comet Trail

But I’m not done yet. In the planning stages for the next good weekend is a return to the Silver Comet Trail. I never really talked about my last trip there, but it went kinda south and almost ended badly (Movescount data), in no small part because I was, as usual, alone. Doesn’t matter now, but luckily at the time I had a guardian angel get me back to the trailhead before I died to death. Anyway, the trip I’m planning now is going to be headed west, to complete the remainder of the entire SCT. By my math, it’ll be about 50 miles round-trip, and since I won’t be doing it in August like last year, I should be able to scratch this off the ever-shrinking bucket list. I’m pretty excited about it – watch this space.

Clean Deck!

There’s always other projects, too. Pressure-washed the deck (after cleaning the rest of the gunk out of the pressure washer carb – again). Planted some bamboo for what I intend to be an entire grove next spring. Ordered some pink pampas grass to put around the deck. Put pavers at the bottom of the steps on the deck that I built last spring. Installed an awesome Alexa-enabled smart ceiling fan in my bedroom, along with some new Alexa-enabled bulbs (I had bought all this for a different project, but welcome to my world). I like projects/cleaning/etc, and I’m good at that kind of thing – and one thing is for certain, no one can ever accuse me of being a slob. One day this week, I’m going to replace the bottom of the vanity in my bathroom. I did the kitchen over the winter, and the other bathroom vanity a couple years ago. It needs it – over the years, the particle board gets wet and sags and stuff, so I’m going to replace it with plywood I was saving for another similar project that I’m not doing now. The kitchen turned out really nice; I’m sure my bathroom will, as well (and again, I could use a little helper). After that, I’m thinking of ripping up the carpet in the bedroom and replacing it with hardwood – I’ve already got my square footages, and I think I’ve found a wood that I like. Additionally, the 4 inches of rain we got last week showed me that the leaky roof I mended in my garage is actually properly repaired – you don’t screw with a leaky roof, unless you want mold and a desire to gut the entire ceiling. I guess I can indeed fix anything – one of only two things I’m evidently useful for.

On the COVID front, no socializing to speak of – no trips to the mall, concerts, movies or anything like that (but the drive-in closes soon, so I still might make a trip there), and certainly no slinging my DNA around in a group of people, because I’m not a f*cking moron (Addendum, October 2nd: Today has clearly shown us that if you’re stupid enough to willingly and eagerly go somewhere – anywhere – in a group of people that you have no idea the health status of – mask or no mask – then you deserve exactly what you f*cking get. Do your thing, Darwin.). I’m keeping a low profile and staying safe, I guess. Not sure exactly why, but here I sit. Oh, and right as I was updating this, I got some *cough* new footage on my Ring camera network. That’s the whole reason I installed the things. My private YT channel is…something. Ask me for a link. Some real fremdschämen, that’s for true. With Prime Day coming up, I’m going to add a couple more cameras, just…because.

Tomorrow, I have to change the combinations to all my locks and stuff, because of course I do.

Did I mention I rode the Tail of the Dragon? And didn’t die? Sorry, maybe next time.


Links:
Piney Falls Photo Album on Facebook
Tail of the Dragon Professional Photo Album on Facebook
Tail of the Dragon Personal Photo Album on Facebook
Chickamauga Battlefield Mountain Biking Photo Album on Facebook
Twin Arches, Hazard Cave, Historic Rugby and Foshee Pass Photo Album on Facebook

Cast, Away.

Buckle up, I’m feeling chatty. I should – I mean, it’s been months since I’ve written anything here. With the current global shitshow, I just haven’t really felt like it, plus, my adventures have been somewhat limited, therefore, not much to say. So, let’s start with the state of the world.

Are you people insane, or just stupid? I have learned alot about people these past three months (well, really, the past year, but that’s another story for later), and I guess the big takeaway is that, by and large, people are indeed selfish, self-centered and just dumb. Evil? Maybe. Horrible? Absolutely. Choose your adjective. Really, is going to Applebees or hanging out with your friends that important? Important enough that you’d put your family or your loved ones at risk of actual sickness and/or death (not to mention yourself – but hey, if you want to kill yourself, I guess that’s your business)? I mean, for realsies – I’m appalled at the behavior I’ve seen. Appalled and profoundly disappointed. I’ve been doing my part as best as I can, but some of you – sheesh, karma is going to smack you right in the ass. Do your good work, Darwin. But at least you get to hang out with your pals, right? Inconsiderate, arrogant asshats, the lot of you. You deserve exactly what you get.

Moving on.

Run, fat boy, run.

I whipped out my credit card this morning to order a treadmill. I’ve only been going to the gym very, very sporadically (maybe 6 or 8 times in 3 months), and only in the middle of the night when no one is there (and wearing the Speedo last weekend made it clear that I need to be going more)(much, much more). It’s just not safe, though – between the pandemic, the assorted weirdos out in the middle of the night, and the occasional high-speed car chases, I just don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. So, it’s been more of the Bowflex Max and SelectTech weights at home, but I want to add a Bowflex treadmill; specifically, the BXT216. Therefore, it’s out of stock, because of course it is – but I’m on the waiting list.

I finally painted the barn, too.

Speaking of whipping out the credit card, more Jeep stuff. I found out the skid plates I had been toying with adding to the Adventure Buggy have been discontinued and were getting harder to find, so I went ahead and ordered them all – the two underbody ones, and the fuel tank one, which was two pieces (and these were/are to supplement the two front plates I installed back in March). I installed them last week (by myself, natch, as usual – I really need a dependable helper; the operative word being “dependable“), with no major screw-ups, but it was a chore – hence the need for an occasional helper. I also got the 3 Cherokee-specific storage bags for the cargo area storage system that’s built-in to the back of the Jeep. Expensive, but nice. So, the Jeep is just about done, although I may go ahead and order a set of rock sliders – what’s another $1000 in the scheme of things?

If the question is, ‘How goofy can you look?’, well, here’s the answer. This was on an island in the middle of Rhea Springs.

Now, adventures. I’ve had a few decent ones (and a couple of crappy ones). My kayaking trips have been pretty good, and I’ve filled in spots on my map (and speaking of the Master Adventure Map, I’ve had to significantly expand the area covered as I’ve moved farther and farther away from home base – check it out). Two great trips to Dallas Bay/Lake Chickamauga (Movescount 1, Movescount 2) and an amazing trip exploring islands in Rhea Springs (Movescount). Still lots to explore around Rhea Springs, including going through the locks at Watts Bar – I think I’ll be going back there for a little while (time permitting).

I also have something super-exciting penciled in for this weekend in that vicinity. Watch this space to see just how cool I can be. Or dead, depending on how it goes. Nah, cool. I know my way around…stuff.

Bald River Falls (left) and Ozone Falls (right)

Anyway, there were some bucket list waterfall adventures, which were primarily Jeep/motorcycle road trips combined with a little hiking, a little climbing, a little you-get-the-idea. Bald River Falls (Movescount) and Ozone Falls (Movescount) were both amazing. Not a great deal of hiking to get to either one, but definitely worth the drive. Coming up, a trip to Twin Arches, which is supposed to be spectacular. Maybe a day trip, or I might take my camping gear and make it an overnighter. Regardless, nothing like a little holoholo ka’a.

There’s been a few other things over the past months – a nice bike ride on the Riverwalk (Movescount), a little roundball, several motorbike trips (on and off-road). I guess I haven’t mentioned it, but I also replaced my trusty Suunto Ambit 3 Peak with a new Suunto Spartan Baro. It’s an amazing piece of tech, and because it’s newer than the Ambit, it integrates better with my iPhone, has a better battery life, has a touchscreen, and many other cool features. Pricey, but oh-so worth it. Tracking/mapping my adventures is important to me; I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of treks, and it’s nice to be able to refer back to a specific adventure to answer questions for others, or to remember certain details like trailheads, put-ins, campsites and so on. The Suunto watch(es) have probably been the best investment I’ve made in my go-go-go Dangerboy lifestyle. I’ve never had to use it to get un-lost, but you never know.

Say ‘Cheese’.

Oh, and that’s not the only shopping. A couple months ago, I (seriously) splurged on a new camera. A Canon EOS T7i, to be specific. And not just the camera, but a massive EF 70-200mm zoom lens, extra batteries, a tripod that doubles as a hiking stick, and some other gear. There are reasons I’m not gonna get into, but the thing is seriously awesome, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. The above photo of Bald River Falls was taken with it, and there will be much more to come. Of course, it’s gonna go with me to the Dragon in a couple weeks. Watch this space.

Want. This. This color, these wheels, this everything. 115 horsepower of bliss.

I came very close to buying my dream bike, as well. Got a line on one exactly like I wanted, pretty good price, low miles – almost sounded too good to be true. Turned out, it was. It had a salvage title (meaning it had been wrecked, totalled by the insurance company, then repaired by some yahoo), making it pretty much worthless. Even a 10 grand Harley with a salvage title isn’t worth having, and I’d never be stupid enough to throw that much money at something I’d never be able to recoup. I’m not dying to have a new bike – I love mine, and it’s taken me years to get it where I want it. However, I’m not riding the BMW much, so I’ve been thinking about letting it go so I can justify a V-Rod (the pictured Harley). The V-Rod was never really popular amongst the Harley crowd (probably why I like it), and it was discontinued a couple years back. Not too difficult to find with a proper title; I guess if I’m serious about it, I need to start shopping the BMW around first. The BMW is an awesome bike, but you can only ride around in the woods so much (it’s street legal, but on the street, Thing 1 is the bike to ride). We’ll see.

Addendum: I just now took the BMW out for a very quick ride, since I tightened up the chain and lubed it (yeah, kids, if you own a motorbike, you need to know how to tend to it). So, who am I kidding? That thing is awesome. It’s fast, capable, and I’ve spent a ton of money getting it where I want it. New off-road tires, crash bars, aux lighting, tail rack and bag, headlight guard, better pegs, tank pad – I’ve spent a decent amount making it a great off-road machine, and that authentic BMW stuff isn’t cheap. Maybe I’ll just be a guy with 3 motorbikes. Why not, right? Can’t take that fat cash with you, after all.

Plus, chick magnet.

Nonetheless, that reminds me, I need to order a new helmet. I ordered a comms system that’s compatible with my Bluetooth helmet so I could communicate with a passenger without yelling over my shoulder, but it eventually came back as “no longer available”. So, I think I’m just gonna order an entire helmet with the comms built-in. Less complicated than those janky, stick-on affairs, and you never know when I’ll have a rear seat cover that I actually want to talk to (and sorry if your retinas just detached from rolling your eyes so hard).

Lastly, I’m a little annoyed (I know what you’re thinking: “You’re not a little anything.”). I was watching one of my favorite films for what turned out to be the last time, because reasons. Cast Away. What an awesome film. However, the more I started to think about it, the more annoyed it made me. Not the film itself, mind you. It was Chuck’s significant other (who shall remain nameless; also reasons). Chuck, our hero, was on the island for 4 years – and if it had been me, I would have been happy to just stay there. Anyway, in that time, his fiancee – love of his life, and allegedly vice-versa – married her dentist, and had a kid with said dentist that was a toddler by the time Chuck was rescued; again, after only 4 years. So, that means she waited, what, 6 whole months before she was doing the Horizontal Monster Mash with Big from Sex and the City? I feel you, Chuck. People suck. People really, really suck. So, for future reference, if you’re my significant other, and your FedEx plane crashes in the South Pacific, I’ll wait for you as long as it takes. Forever, even. And screw you, Ms. Frears – you suck. You’re probably one of those aforementioned people that just must go hang out with your friends right at the peak of a global pandemic with no regard for anyone or anything besides yourself.

Still, I’m bummed that I’ll never watch that film again. What’s next, my other favorite film? That one is a little hard to watch, also. Too much infidelity and stuff. And seriously, who the hell cheats on George Clooney? I wouldn’t – if he’d ever answer my letters, that is. But in all seriousness, I feel for Matt King as much as I do for Chuck Noland. Sure, it’s fiction – but I know what I’m talking about. I coulda been in either of those. Well, if I wasn’t so ugly. Furthermore, because I’m stupid, I had to watch the trailer, and now I’m sad. My usual condition.

George Clooney in The Descendants

All that babbling aside, I do still love you, Helen Hunt. No hard feelings. And Wilson – you’ll always rock. Maybe things will get better, and I’ll see you again someday.

Wilson the Volleyball from Cast Away

Well, Blow Me Down. Or Up. Whichever.

So, to get right to it, a tire blew up in my pretty, pretty face, and it was more unpleasant than that sentence sounds. I’m telling you this so if you see me in the real world – which, in itself is unlikely – please ignore the cuts and abrasions and stuff on my face.

To make a long stupid story short but still stupid, I’ve been working on my big driveway gate, because reasons. Ugh. Anyway, the thing has two wheels, like wheelbarrow wheel-size that it uses to roll across the driveway when it’s closing. Those tires needed to be inflated and you can see where this is going, right? So, my face, maybe a foot away from a tire filled with nasty-ass water, and unbeknownst to me, dryrotted. Trust me, it’s beknownst to me now. When I started inflating it, it exploded, giving me a face, eyes and mouthful of shrapnel and the aforementioned nasty-ass water – all under high pressure. I’m sure that watching blinded-me trying to drive the tractor back up the driveway to take a Chernobyl-like shower was entertaining to my neighbors.

Anyway, mending the gate. And putting up the pictured “No Trespassing” signs, because lawyers said that’s what I should do. Did I say “because reasons” already? Because. Reasons. I’ve spent no small fortune in Ring cameras, motion-sensing flood lights and stupid signs. This is what my life has become. I will say this, though – dear eight pound, six ounce newborn baby Jesus, thank you for inventing the Garmin dashcam. Next, I need to talk to John Frankenheimer. Wait, he’s dead? OK, Hal Needham. He’s dead, too? Frick.

I guess it hasn’t been all bad, though. Mostly, but not all. I did have a nice bonfire in the backyard, where I not only got rid of downed brush, but I also danced around naked in hopes of changing my fortunes. Spoiler alert: didn’t work. Obviously.

There’s been a little adventure. A return trip to Sewanee, and the Templeton Library, Natural Bridge, Green’s View and other points. That’s always a nice drive, and one of my favorite get-out-of-town road trips. Surprisingly, a lot to see and do for such a small town. Plus, coeds. Hello, ladies.

And speaking of aimless driving in the Wee Small Hours, Lookout Mountain. A great place to just go wander and clear the ol’ squirrel factory when sitting at home for another day is too depressing to think about. Plus, they have a Starbucks. OK, there’s more than Starbucks, but that’s a big friggin’ bonus. Especially one that I can relax at in peace.

In other news, the skid plates for the Jeep will be here tomorrow, and the front tow hooks are shipping today – but that means I doubt they’ll be here in time for me to tinker over the weekend. No matter; I honestly don’t think I can be trapped in the house this weekend. I need to be away. Far, far away. So, that’ll just have to wait until another weekend; not too long, though – the Dragon is officially open for the season, and I need to be there.

Did I say “ugh” already? OK, I stand by it.

Passion & Warfare.

Van Halen may have been Hot For Teacher first, but Little Stevie Vai did it better. This was always a favorite – both the song and the video – and I’m glad it finally showed up on the YT.


That Steve Vai, what a nice little boy.

This weekend, chores. Spring cleaning. Something. Trees to prune, scrap lumber to gather (from the steps project), and tinkering. Had to get the old tractor running so I can get rid of it (I bought a new tractor last summer; and had to take the mounting brackets for the bulldozer blade off the old one to put on the new one, and just finally got around to that). Cleaned out the garage a little, straightened up the barn, blah blah. It’s always something, and now I have a big pile of brush in my firepit to burn. Need to get some marshmallows.


But Sunday, a little leisure time. A visit to Blowing Wind Falls on the Ritchie Hollow Trail (Movescount data) – I haven’t been here in forever, and I wanted to get the Jeep and its new shoes in the woods; that, and I’m scouting places to camp as soon as Mother Nature settles down. Anyway, something new at the falls – scaled the bluff face adjacent to the falls to explore a cave (yeah, I know, shut up). Somewhat dangerous, but you know me. The view was worth it, at least.

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The Jeep did well in the mud and dirt and whatnot, but I really didn’t push it much. The front tow hooks and the skid plates I ordered should be here in the next week or so; once I get those, then I can see what the Buggy can really do in the woods. Still, just driving around in the forest is nice, even if it’s on the less-than-challenging roads.

Additionally, I had to discharge my responsibilities and put up a new flag at the cemetery. I installed a 30′ pole there years ago, so I periodically have to replace the flag. It’s pretty deep in the woods, but right on the main trail, so people do see it. Next, I need to replace the pole itself – it’s starting to show its age.

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Following the hike to Blowing Wind Falls, a required stop at Snooper’s Rock, and the work at the cemetery, a side hike to the Indian Rock House on the Cumberland Trail. It’s an easy hike; only about 1.5 miles round trip. This place has a little significance to me – when I first started hiking, this was one of my go-to spots to train. It’s not extremely difficult, although the last little bit through the “fat man squeeze” is somewhat challenging (and surprisingly, I fit). Because I was doing different things, I decided to scale the bluff to get back to the top, versus just going up the steps. No major screw ups (obviously).

Following that, the last stop was at Middle Creek. The last time I was here was kinda a train wreck, so it was nice to come back and enjoy the triple waterfall and other features. My intention is to boulder all the way to the top of the mountain, and after the limited bouldering I did here to get to the falls, it’s clear I need more leg days at the gym. Bouldering to the top is going to be incredibly dangerous, and if I’m going to attempt it, I need to do it soon, before Mother Nature unleashes the rattlesnakes and copperheads. Fingers crossed.

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So, I guess all things being equal, not a terrible weekend. But I’m ready for warmer weather. I need some motorcycle time, as well as some kayaking time. Soon. I’ve got my eye on you, Mother Nature.

Yesterday Was a Good Day.

A very good day, in fact. Today – Saturday – not so much. But I’ll power through it like I always do. Like I’m always forced to. And do you know what helps?

Journey. Journey helps. One of the few bands I’ve never seen (ditto Pretenders), and all it took was a tiny prod to give Ticketmaster and the boys (and Chrissie) 300 of my American dollars. So, assuming I don’t step in front of a bus before August, there’s that. That’s so far away, I can’t even think about it right now. Nonetheless, as it is written in the Albums, Departure 1:1 – Any way you want it, that’s the way you need it. Devotional meditation: Do I love to move? Do I love to groove? Do I love the lovin’ things?

What I can think about is my deck project. So, after driving around all night (again, which is a story of its own – let’s just say I’ve seen some sh*t; and over the past 9 months or so, I’ve logged a stunning amount of time just driving around aimlessly in the Wee Small Hours), I finally made it to the hardware store to get the lumber to finish up the steps. I’ve been wanting to get on this for weeks, but life kinda gets in the way of projects sometimes. But, now, done. Well, mostly done, anyway – I need enough lumber for a couple more steps and the banister. I’ll probably pick that up tomorrow, after a road trip, or Monday, after my home-away-from home time. (Monday addendum: except for a little sanding, the steps are done. So, would-be burglars, murderers, stalkers, whatever, you’re welcome for the much easier access – but be sure and smile for the camera.)

Steps are challenging. Lots of math and geometry, and very little margin for error. But I did it, without a single screw-up, nor a drop of blood spilled. Now, after, that’s another story – inexplicably, I got a really bad nosebleed. No idea why. Probably stress. Maybe it’s a tumor. Anyway, if I can build steps on less than an hour sleep, image the projects I could accomplish if I was well rested? I had debated hiring someone to do this, but why pay someone to do something I can do (probably better)? You just wind up with a shady contractor that does a half-assed job and it becomes a hassle. Do it right, do it yourself. Like me. Use your whole ass.

Now I just need to get my mighty pressure washer out and clean the deck. It’s always something, right? Right. Speaking of, I’ve ordered new sinks and faucets for my bathroom. No one sees it but me, but I still want it to be nice. Can’t stand a sloppy bathroom (or a sloppy house in general – I’m somewhat fastidious about my cleaning). I mean, come on. One thing I’ll never be accused of is being a slob.

Of course, I will pay my guy to work on the Jeep. Not because I can’t do it, but because I don’t have a car lift, and if you’re going to tear the suspension apart, a car lift helps move things along. Oh, right – I tore the suspension on the Jeep apart. Intentionally. I think I mentioned a while back that I ordered a lift kit and wheel spacers – well, all that finally came in, and because if a project is worth doing, it’s worth over-doing, so I went ahead and bought big new tires to go with it. In a word, it’s awesome. It looks so much better, and I’m sure will perform better off-road. Between the lift, wheel spacers, new tires, and the recently-added winch, I believe I’m ready to take my adventuring to the next level. Of course, it’s never done – next on the list is skid plates, and I’m having some custom tow hooks made for the front. Basically, to put the skid plates on, you have to take the whole front end off, and if I’m going to do that anyway, I might as well add the tow hooks, because that also requires dismantling the front. Gonna get them in yellow, to match the caliper covers. I’ve taken the back apart to install the tow package; the front should be basically the same. Being handy is awesome. And if you’re wondering, the inside of the Jeep is pretty spotless, as well. I’ll make someone a good wife someday.


I have also continued to add to my Ring camera network. I’m completely sold on it. I now have cameras covering all sides of the yard, the dog area, the barn, the Jeep and a few other spots I’m not going to divulge. Plus, of course, the Jeep itself is always recording – and I do mean always – it sees (and hears) everything, and I have a whole folder just full of…stuff. So, if you’re thinking about murdering me to death – or anything else – you better lure me away from the house, the Jeep and the motorbikes (I would suggest tasty, tasty donuts as bait). And keep in mind that I have Liam Neeson on speed-dial, and he has a very particular set of skills.

It’s that time of year again. My sweet Blackjack turned 8 years old. I can’t wrap my head around that. His birthday coincides with The Great Unpleasantness, so that means it’s been 8 years since that fiasco, as well. Yeah, there’s always some fiasco with me – but I’m working on it. I made it through the holiday season (officially, now), and I haven’t really celebrated a single holiday in a year – not Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. Not even flippin’ Arbor Day. Because reasons. Oh, I wanted to, but like every year, it just didn’t happen. All that’s left is that thing of which we do not speak in April – although, truth be told, I’m trying to look forward to it this year. Probably spend it on the Dragon. Now that the Jeep is all souped up, I’ll have to get new photos up there – and, of course, gotta get the bike up there. Sorry, kinda wandered off-topic. So, BJ turned 8, and he had cake, as always. He’s doing really well – he had some hip issues last year, but the daily Cosequin really seems to be helping. Great advice from my vet. I don’t understand people who have pets and never take them for basic veterinary care. Pets are a responsibility; not just something to dump off when it conflicts with your social schedule or are too self-centered to provide basic health needs. Grr. Some people just don’t have a heart. Or a soul. More specifically, some people just suuuuuuck.

And good news for the puppers, there was snow. Unexpected, of course. At least we got one snowfall for the pups to play in. And the Jeep (but that was prior to the mods) and the BMW. I’ll take it. It was the best kind of snow; a lot in the morning, and gone by the end of the day.

Of course, now that the Jeep is all souped up, it’ll probably never snow again. But at least I got out on the bike. That’s something.

There’s been a little adventure, as well. Not much, but a little. I went back to Falling Water Falls, which is always awesome, and then returned to Signal Point/Rainbow Lake and Edwards Point. These are some of my favorite places. The hiking is amazing, the scenery is spectacular, and wrapping up at River Drifters is always a bonus (OK, not Hot Chocolatier bonus, but a bonus all the same). However, tomorrow, there will be adventure. Much needed adventure. Watch this space.

Now, I need to go wash all my hoodies. Because of course I do.

Links:
Falling Water/Rainbow Lake/Edwards Point Photo Album on Facebook

Meh.

So, it’s been awhile since I added anything here. Like, two months. Not surprisingly, not much has changed in two months, but I guess the upside is that I made it through the holidays without jumping in front of a bus (well, there’s still MLK to get through)(and some other holiday in February, of which we do not speak). I think it’s safe to say I’ve hit rock-bottom with the holidays, so nowhere to go but up, right? Right? Anyway, I’m not sure i want to keep writing here, but I do kinda miss it, and I get lots of emails asking me what’s going on, or where the latest adventure has taken me. So, here we are.

I have been super, super busy, and not just with work (but yeah, work is nuts – NAMM; say what you will about She Who Shall Not Be Named, but she was always super-supportive during NAMM, and I really appreciate/miss that kind of support this time of year). Anyway, I’ve been finding things to occupy my mind, and been trying to forget/ignore that I have steered waaaaay off the ol’ diet. I didn’t fall off the diet wagon – I parkoured that shit, stuck the landing, and got a 9.9 from the Romanian judge. Damn you, on-sale Boo Berry, tasty donuts and Chinese buffet. Next week, I’ll get back on track. Promise.

I had a ton of stuff to do around the house – new furniture, remodeled/freshened the kitchen, other new accoutrements. In the kitchen, I did some pretty awesome work with AirStone, which turned out amazing (when I wasn’t taking a break to fall off of a mountain, that is). However, the stone work completely shredded my hands, and while I was cutting the synthetic blocks (on a tile saw), a chunk flew off and impaled me in the eye, but it just wouldn’t be a good project if no blood was spilled. I also added a faux hammered pewter backsplash, which also turned out quite nice. Oh, and what kicked off the kitchen work was re-framing the above-sink window, and adding a sill for plants and what-not. Anyway, I needed a good project – being handy is a privilege, not a right. I’ll make somebody a good wife someday. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – not likely.

The stone work turned out so good, I’m thinking about doing some additional work with it. It really makes a big, boring wall come alive, and relatively speaking, it wasn’t that hard. Same with the backsplash – changed the whole tone of the room, but wasn’t really that difficult. Total for the re-kitchening was only around $500. Worth it.

Ambient Weather WS-2902ABut playing Bob Vila isn’t even close to everything I’ve been dipping my toes into. I’ve been getting into home automation. I bought a Roomba (which the puppers just love, and the thing is seriously awesome), and tied it into my Alexa system (I think I’m up to 3 Echo Shows, 3 Dots, and the big Alexa), along with 3 Ring outdoor cameras (a doorbell on the house, a doorbell on the barn, and one awesomely-hidden solar-powered one). I can view all of the cameras from anywhere in the world, or even talk to people that are “on film”, just like the commercials. Finally, I’ll know which pup is digging holes in the back yard – but I’m looking at you, Tonka. Anyway, there’s also the Nest thermostat, a Firestick (so I can see the Ring cameras on my TV via a Harmony hub) and a few other gadgets, including several TP-Link Kasa bulbs and a couple of Tiles. It’s elaborate and complicated to set up, but so was the Starship Enterprise. It all works like a charm – but I can’t imagine a layperson trying to make it work the way I have; I just have a knack for this type of thing.


So, now I can control practically everything, just by yelling into the air like a crazy person. Roomba does it’s thing every morning in the Wee Small Hours, I get notifications (and recordings) if anything is going on outside, and I can adjust the temperature, lights, TV and other stuff without moving a muscle – kinda like the people in Wall-E, which I guess is my goal. Oh, and I set up a weather station (Ambient Weather WS2902-A, to be exact), which also works via my Alexa network, and it’s broadcasting to the WeatherUnderground (my station ID is KTNCHATT180, if you want to see if it’s raining on my head or whatever; and you’ll note there’s a WU icon in the top menu icon bar now). Stunningly, I did not fall off the roof or the mast that the solar-powered weather sensor array (pictured) is mounted on. And it’s way up there. I’m using IFTTT, so I’ve got all kinds of nifty things happening – for example, if there are wind gusts over 30 MPH, my inside lights blink. If it starts to rain, I get an alert on my phone so I can put the motorbikes in the barn if necessary. If there’s a severe weather warning, the TV switches to the Weather Channel. If the doorbell rings and Roomba is running, it goes back to its base until I tell it (via Alexa) to resume. IFTTT is cool stuff – and clearly, I have too much free time and/or disposable income.

Speaking of too much of things, I now have an official drone fleet. That is, two drones. Two drones that were hit by a global GPS outage when the calendar flipped to 2020 (now fixed). Why two drones, you ask? Why not? So, I spent the better part of a day updating the software and firmware in both of them to correct the GPS issue, and had to update my FAA license to reflect the addition of the second one – and if that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. The big plus to adding the second one was that I now have 8 batteries (and they aren’t cheap – about 100 schmeckles/each). So, I have several hours of flight time at my disposal now (plus, since I have an inverter in the Jeep, I can charge them on the road).

Oh, and the Jeep. Yeah, there’s always tinkering there. This time, major tinkering. First of all, I finally broke down and bought a big-ass winch. It’s actually pretty cool – unlike those front-mounted winches you’ve probably seen, mine mounts in the trailer hitch on the rear (had to buy the cradle to hold it, as well), so I only have to put it on if I get stuck. Installing it was a chore – it didn’t work out of the box; I found there was an intermittent short in the control housing where two wires were making contact, but I was able to fix that (because I can mend anything), but with that part of the job done now, it’s pretty cool. Crawling around under the Jeep to run the wiring harness (which I also had to buy) was a pain, but the install looks very professional. The whole package wasn’t cheap, but I don’t go cheap, because cheap doesn’t work in the woods – it has a 10,000 lb capacity, so I guess, technically, I could pull two vehicles at once out of the muck. Now, I don’t intend to do that – I just don’t want to get stuck myself. Or, y’know, if I come across a cute girl stuck in the mud or something. Any opportunity to be chivalrous and/or a show-off, because that’s worked out for me so well thus far.


But there’s more to come on the Jeep. I ordered a set of Bora wheel spacers, which are exactly what they sound like – spacers to to push the wheels/tires farther out from the axle so that bigger tires can be installed. As soon as they arrive (in a week or two), then bigger tires. I love the All-Terrain T/A tires I have now – despite how stupidly expensive they are – so I’ll be getting those in a bigger size. The bigger tires and winch are going to allow me to get to even more remote trailheads and kayak put-ins, which is what it’s all about.

And, of course, there’s been adventure. Over the past two months, I’ve seen some very cool stuff, and travelled all over. Without a doubt, the most interesting thing I saw was the almost-unknown Templeton Library in Sewanee:

Templeton Library

I kinda accidentally found out about this place, and after reading about it on Atlas Obscura, I had to visit. Made a nice hike out of it, as well. I have a feeling many of my adventures for the next couple of months will be ones like this – the 20-mile hikes and similar activities are gonna take a little hiatus. Because reasons.

Hemlock Falls, Denny CoveThere’s been so much more. I’m not even sure where to start or where I left off. I guess I must’ve left off with the first trip to Sparta. Since then, I’ve been back to Sparta 3 other times. Virgin Falls from the Virgin Falls trailhead (Movescount data), Lost Creek Falls (Movescount data) and Something-or-Other (let’s just call it the “C” word, of which we do not speak), and Virgin Falls from the Lost Creek Trailhead (Movescount data), followed by a return visit to Fall Creek Falls (Movescount data).

Then, there was South Cumberland on Christmas Day, covering Sherwood Forest (Movescount data), Grundy Lakes (Movescount data), Denny Cove, the town of Cowan; and New Year’s Day at the aforementioned Templeton Library (Movescount data), and St. Mary’s Convent (seriously), plus some Jeepin’ in Franklin State Forest. In between, Middle Creek, where I fell off a mountain, and a return for a full hike at Denny Cove (Movescount data) and Hemlock Falls (pictured). Lots of miles in the boots, and many miles in the Jeep. There have been other adventures – holiday lights at the Zoo, bowling, a couple of bike rides – but that’s the bulk of the activities, and really, and all I want to get into right now. Of course, the Master Adventure Map has been updated to reflect all these new trails, and even if I can’t do a bunch of miles for a bit, I’m planning. I just got an email that Punkin Center opens on March 7th, so I’ll be taking the motorbike up to the Dragon for some adventure there (which bike? Haven’t decided.), and I’m sure I’ll get into some things between now and then. I’ve decided this year is (finally) going to be my year – I’m going to cut off the dead weight, and make some drastic and significant changes. If you want to be a part of it, say so now, or forever shut up.

There we go. All caught up.

Links:
Virgin Falls 1 Photo Album on Facebook
Lost Creek Photo Album on Facebook
Virgin Falls 2 Photo Album on Facebook
South Cumberland Photo Album on Facebook
Middle Creek Photo Album on Facebook
Templeton Library and St. Mary’s Photo Album on Facebook
Denny Cove Photo Album on Facebook

Roll With the Changes.

I am still on my self-imposed social media hiatus – kinda – but that hasn’t stopped me from actively trying to kill myself in every way possible out in Mother Nature. So far, no luck. I was, however, beaten on a trail for only the 3rd time ever (and the other two I subsequently conquered). No matter – I’ll just go back and take a different tack at some point in the future.

That said, there’s been some of this…

Stevenson Branch

click for larger, or Movescount data

…a little bit of this…

North Chick Creek Gorge

click for larger, or Movescount data

…and some balloons, just to keep things festive.

Balloons

click for larger, or Movescount data

Oh, and this.

Do these jeans make me look fat? No, but the Cinnabon cinnamon swirl cheesecake does.

Oh, sure, I have plenty to say about all of that, as well as other things, but time (as always) isn’t on my side right now. For today, the biggest adventure ever. Not dangerous, except to my credit card balances. Hey, you can’t take it with you, right?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

Well, I guess there’s been some adventure, because of course there has been. And there’s been the never-ending, ongoing shitshow, because of course there’s that, as well. Don’t care – it is what it is. In fact, I’d be surprised if it were any different.

First up, a paddle. The Nina and Pinta, replicas of Columbus’ ships, sailed into port last week, and I was out there in the kayak to meet them. When they were here a few years ago, I paddled around them after they were already here, but this time, my plan was to be on the water as they sailed in. Had to wait for hours to catch them, but the end result was worth it.


Unfortunately, no good photos of me with the boats, but that seems to be how it usually goes. The next morning, and then last night, I went to check out the boats at the pier. Not as impressive as the huge LST325 that was here last month, but still pretty cool.

bear print

click for larger

Then, real adventure. A supremely challenging hike up Big Frog Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest. This is a big mountain; there’s nothing taller to the west until you get to West Texas and the Black Hills in South Dakota. The trailhead is at about 2142 feet in elevation, but the trails dips down to 1929 feet before a miles-long ascent to the summit at 4325 feet (according to my Movescount data). A different kind of brutal that last week’s Connector Trail hike, which was only about 800 feet in ascent over a mile. This was almost 2500 feet in ascent, spread over about 5 miles. Not for the faint of heart or spirit.

And there were bears.

The area is known for human/ursine encounters, including a few gruesome maulings and deaths. Less than 1/2 mile in, bear prints right on the trail (and I realized I had dropped my bear spray, so I had to backtrack to find it). These were fresh bear prints, along with numerous other fresh signs of bears (and the answer to the age-old question of what bears do or don’t do in the woods). It was unnerving – the bears were there, and I’m sure they knew I was there. So, of course I’m going back.

Big Frog Mountain

click for larger, or Movescount data

Just getting to the trail was a chore. It was about 5 miles up a gravel road, after a long drive (following the gym, natch). But leaving – wow. I decided to take the same gravel road down the back of the mountain, because there was more exploring to do (more on that in a sec). At least 10 miles down a very, very rugged road that required the superpowers of the Jeep to navigate. Probably the most challenging driving the Adventure Buggy has had to deal with, and deal with it he did. Good little Adventure Buggy – but I think I see a winch in my future.

Worth it, though. Shortly after exiting the wilderness, the tiny town of Copperhill, which is right on the TN/GA border, and just a stone’s throw from North Carolina. I had been wanting to visit this town for years, since I saw it on How The States Got Their Shapes (video below – worth watching, and I’ve written about it before). I even had dinner at the restaurant featured in the video; the one that the state line runs directly through. Well, I kinda had dinner there – the restaurant, called Patrick’s in the video, has changed hands, and is now The Copper Grill. Still, really cool to be in a restaurant where the bathrooms are across the state line. The video also covers the area around the TGA (the official name is actually “The Tennessee Georgia Alabama Tripoint”), which I’ve visited numerous times in the past, including just a couple of weeks ago for some extensive hiking.


Following all of that, a stop at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where the 1996 Olympic canoe slalom competition was held. Surprisingly, I had never been here before. It was late in the day, so I didn’t get to explore much, but there’s lots to see and do, so I’ll be back. Soon. Maybe on the motorbike, even. Anyway, a very long day, with bears, Jeep roads, a bucket list visit and more. Not a bad day, and everyone has to be somewhere.

Newton Kona

Oh, and there were new shoes, because of course there were. It’s been a long time since I bought new shoes (surprising, I know), but I couldn’t resist Newton’s Kona Ironman-themed limited edition kicks. Hopefully, it’ll make me faster.

This weekend, not sure. I seem to have an abundance of free time. Maybe I’ll be shaking my money-maker on stage somewhere, or maybe I’ll be stomping around in the woods, looking for bears to poke. Who knows?


Links:
Nina and Pinta Paddle Photo Album on Facebook
Big Frog Mountain Photo Album on Facebook
TGA/Nickajack/Cedar Mountain Photo Album on Facebook

The More Things Change, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

Y’know, I hate being right all the time. It’s a curse. The only thing worse is people assuming I’m stupid. Trust me, I’m not. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

There was a weekend full of adventure, and it was about flippin’ time. I had my gear packed in anticipation of something else (as usual), so I had some last-minute scrambling to make an alternate plan, and plan I did.

Unclaimed BaggageSaturday, Alabama Adventure! I decided to go do a little shopping at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is exactly what it sounds like. However, in the old days, it was actual “unclaimed [and lost/found] baggage”. Now, it’s that, plus a lot of flea-market type stuff; like, when a business shutters, and they dump their remaining inventory. Still, I’m glad I went, and there was a Starbucks there. Bonus. I had gone a couple of years ago, and came away empty-handed (largely because of time constraints for a bigger plan), but this time, I took my time, explored every nook and cranny, as well as the annexes, and still came away empty-handed (well, save for a new-with-tags Calvin Klein cardigan, in case it ever actually gets cold – and, y’know, I appreciate the finer thangs).

Following that, the exploring. Russell Cave, Neversink Pit, the internationally-acclaimed Rock Zoo and other points of varying degrees of interest. Explored Stevenson and Scottsboro, did some shopping, scouted kayak put-ins in Bridgeport, blah, blah. Pretty good and full day, actually.

Link:
Alabama Adventure Photo Album on Facebook

Sunday, a much bigger day, with a return to Savage Gulf to conquer the final significant trail there, the Connector Trail [Movescount data], described thusly on the official trail map: “This is the most challenging and strenuous trail in the Savage Gulf Natural Area. Several climbs and seemingly endless rocky slopes are crossed. It has connections with most of the other trails as it crosses the mouths of all three gulf.” Yeah, that sounds about right, and it was very hard, but not so much of the terrain, but because of the oppressively hot and humid weather. All of the creeks – even the huge Big Creek and Collins River – were completely dry. No wildlife, no wind, no other hikers, and more than 1000 feet in ascent/descent and 12.75 miles r/t. Just brutal. But awesome. And evidently, Mother Nature got my message from last week (at least as far as nature is concerned; other things, not so much), so no rattlesnakes, injuries or other major screw-ups.

Savage Gulf

click for larger, or see the Master Adventure Map

So, with the Connector Trail and the North Plateau/North Rim last weekend, I’ve done all of Savage Gulf, except for a couple of miles here and there, which will never be done (because of their remoteness). Just under 94 miles total, not including the times I’ve done the same trail more than once. Not too bad. Not too bad at all.

Link:
Savage Gulf Connector Trail Photo Album on Facebook

What’s next? Well, I have a plan. Two, actually. I always have a plan, even if it seems like I don’t. Yeah, imagine that. But I’m just getting started with the fall, and there’s lots that’s going to happen. Things move quickly in my world.

The Human Peepshow That Is My Life II: The Human Shitshow That Is My Life.

OK, Mother Nature. I get it. You don’t like me. I don’t know why, but you just don’t. That said, can we stop with the whole “nearly killed by a rattlesnake” thing? Seriously, I’m over it. Besides, better people than you have tried to do me in, and yet, here I am. Get in line.

Yeah, once more, hiking really deep in the woods, and I stumbled across (nearly literally) a huge Timber Rattlesnake, and oh, boy, was he pissed. Right in the middle of the trail, as well – one more step, and I would have stepped on him, and regardless, he turned, coiled and struck in the blink of an eye. This was at Savage Gulf, on the rarely-travelled North Plateau (rarely travelled because it’s out there – way out there). About 9 or so miles from the trailhead, so if he had gotten me, I guess that would have been the end of your ol’ pal Kevio. Yeah, I can tell you’re crushed. So, that notwithstanding (and getting turned around on the trail, and a torn muscle, and bees, and dehydration, and the official trail guide being woefully inaccurate as to the difficulty), it was still a pretty good 21 miles in the woods. A tie for my second-best hike (by distance), I believe.

Savage Gulf North Rim

Click for Movescount data.

As if that wasn’t enough, a few weeks ago, MN threw a brown recluse at me (well, not literally). It still hurts, and looks gross. So far, no super-powers have emerged from the bite. But I didn’t die, either, so there’s that. Well, depending on your perspective.

So, all that said, Mother Nature, you want me, come at me. I’ll be back in the woods this weekend (not sure where, but I have a couple of ideas). I guess if you never hear from me again here, Mother Nature won, and you can find my bleached bones in the woods somewhere.

And while I’m bitching at invisible forces, listen, Universe, my gym time is my unwind time; my therapy (although there are those that would undoubtedly say I need far more therapy than any gym can offer). So, please stop screwing with me while I’m at the gym. Yeah, another bit of – um – excitement this morning. Yay. Cut it out, already.

Y’know, I see these little allegedly motivational things on the IG and other places all the time (and you people who post these and nothing else, knock it off – have an original thought, please and thank you). I usually blow right past them, but my ‘pooter hung up, with this one right on the screen. Hmm. As much as I hate to admit it, this one is spot-on. I knew a guy once (who was quite a tool) who used to say “the best way to get over one person is to get under another one”. Told you he was a tool. Welcome to the world we currently live in. At the risk of overusing it…yay. Nonetheless, if I live to be 100 – which is highly unlikely – I will never understand people that just bounce from one victim person to the next in the never-ending quest for a warm body.

Oh, went to see Ad Astra. It had been forever since I went to the theater, and this looked like one of those films that would be best seen on the big screen. I’ll say this: save your money. In fact, maybe I’ll go to the drive-in this weekend to wash the taste of Brad Pitt out of my mouth. Wait, that didn’t quite sound right. Oh, well, I’m gonna stand by it. Interstellar was much, much better, and that had McConaughey in it. And Jason Bourne and Catwoman. Alright, alright, alright.

Since I’m ranting about stuff you don’t care about, this: long-time fans (and you’re all awesome) will recall that just over a year ago, I hit 1000 move goals on my AppleWatch (that is, I hit my daily targets for active minutes, calories, and hours 1000 times). The “1000” badge was as high as the badges went. Flash-forward to…now, and I updated my phone to iOS13, and updated my Watch to the newest WatchOS, and, lo and behold, the badges now go up to 2000 days. Sigh, I thought I was done. In fact, I was planning on taking the AppleWatch off after November (4-year anniversary) in favor of the new Suunto 9 Titanium. Can’t do it now – not with those goals hanging out there. Luckily, WatchOS was smart enough to give me the 1250 badge, since I hit that in April, but I’m 3 months away from the 1500 badge, and 590 days away from the 2000 badge. But really, snaps to Apple for updating their s/w, and realizing some of us are hardcore. Fitbit could have taken a lesson. Time this is done, the AW is gonna be the longest relationship I’ve ever had – at least it’s never cheated on me, and it always has time for me. Oh, I’m still gonna get the new Suunto – I guess I’ll be in a polyamorous watch relationship.

More news, after my near-miss strapping on my guitar (acoustic bass, actually) last weekend (don’t ask), I’m gonna try to take another swing at it this weekend. So, y’know, hide your girlfriends or sisters or whatever. In fact, there’s something brewing musically for me – not gonna jinx it, but I guess I better re-string my best guitars and maybe get some new threads. I’ve been working to get my chops back – like riding a bike, it comes back pretty quickly. I dunno, we’ll see how it all shakes out. But Ampasaurous Rex demands to be heard, and I miss being on stage, and it is kinda what I do best. OK, second best.

Links:
Savage Gulf North Plateau/North Rim Photo Album on Facebook