Poof.

There was a bad car crash near where I live last night. Van crossed the centerline, hit a car head-on, no survivors. Those people were just going about their day, maybe looking forward to some future plans for the evening or weekend, and then…poof. Gone. In the blink of an eye. Senseless. Now, I tempt the Grim Reaper all the time – I’m pretty sure he and Mother Nature have been comparing notes via WhatsApp to see where I am and what I’m doing. Dying doesn’t scare me, if it’s in one of my pursuits – that is, if I get bitten by a rattlesnake, run over by a speedboat in the kayak, fall off a mountain, or take a curve with a little too much gusto on the motorbike, well, at least I’m doing something I enjoy. But just driving along in my car, minding my own business? Nope. In that split-second before impact, I’d wonder who would know? Who would care? The world would just keep on spinning. Point is – and it’s a point I’ve made before – if you have something to say, don’t put it off. If there’s something you want, get it. Or at least try. Life is short and fragile, and there’s no guarantee that there’s a tomorrow for any of us.

You’ll recall I ordered wheel spacers for the Adventure Buggy last week. Well, in a moment of “f*ck it”, I decided to go ahead and order a lift kit for the thing as well. I want better ground clearance, and I want the biggest tires I can get, if I’m gonna buy new ones, anyway. The MFC lift is supposed to be the gold standard, and Jesse at MFC is a great guy. So, why not? I’ve already talked to my mechanic, and he can install it, no prob. I could do it myself in the driveway, but it would be sloooow. Lift one corner, do that corner, lift the next corner, do that corner, blah, blah. With a car lift, my guy can knock it out in no time, and presumably, he can get the tires, so I’ll just do it all at once, and then add the wheel spacers when they (eventually) show up.

The weather has been lousy. If it’s not-sub-freezing temps, it’s raining. One or the other – but never both at the same time. Grr. But it’s got me missing a few things. Missing riding the motorbike. Missing being in the kayak. Missing a hot day on a trail in the middle of nowhere. Other things I’m missing, as well, but you get the idea. I’m so ready for this winter to be over – this has truly been the winter of my discontent. I have things to do, and not much time to do them in. This past year has been…not great, and I’m really hoping 2020 will be better. Yeah, I know hoping isn’t gonna make it happen – but I’m still ever the optimist, despite all appearances. I guess we’ll see what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. Whichever.

My newfangled weather station just sent me an alert that the rain has started. That’s the only upside to this weather – the forecast indicates I’ll get to see some action on the weather station over the next 24 hours. Roomba is puttering around right now, doing it’s thing. The Ring camera network caught a coyote – a coyote! – wandering around in the driveway after I left for the gym this morning. All the gadgets are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, and so far, no Terminator-like uprising. Roomba has been looking at me funny, but I think that’s just because I put googly eyes on it. Seriously.

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

All Good Things…

Well, kids, I guess this is it. It’s been obvious to the trained observer that for the past couple of months, I’ve been toying with shutting all this down, and I guess I’ve made that decision. Probably – although I’ve been told that I shouldn’t. Life has just been too much…life lately, and I don’t have the motivation to continue documenting my adventures. And fitness/diet? Forget it – I will tell you diet fans, though, that stress-eating is a real thing, and stress will absolutely wreck you. I mean, like, really wreck you – so, if you read between those lines, yeah, I’m wrecked right now. But I’ll get my mojo back, eventually.

Anyway, because I’ve put so much effort into this stupid thing, I just can’t bring myself to pull the plug entirely. There’s too much valuable info here for you guys – trail maps, links to gear, my incessant babbling and that kind of thing. I’ve tried just closing up shop a couple of times (including the past few days as well as right now), but it makes me queasy. So, I’ll leave the light on, but don’t expect any updates. Oh, sure, if something interesting happens – I get creamed on the motorbike or something – I may toss a pic up, but don’t count on it (although I will always continue to update the Master Adventure Map). All that said, snaps to all of you for the great messages and other cool stuff I’ve gotten over the years from you lot. And whatever your journey is – weight-loss, getting in shape, exploring the world around you, or just needing the occasional chuckle, just keep at it. Whatever your goals are, you can do it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and don’t let anyone stand in your way of what you want. And when you’re at the end of whatever rope you happen to be on, just hang in there, and surround yourself with your fans. Surround yourself with people that make your life better, and that want to be a part of your life, and make you a priority in theirs. Surround yourself with people who will be there for you when you need them, and are counting on you to be there for them. Surround yourself with the love and support of people who are genuinely interested in your journey, all the time – not just when it’s convenient or when they’re bored. Surround yourself with people that want to walk with you, not on you. You probably have more people around you like this than you realize. Maybe I do, as well.

End of speech.

OK, let’s get into it, one last time.

THIS…IS…SPARTA!

Saturday, after more than 48 hours awake, I jumped in the Jeep, and hit the road. The first stop, the small town of Sparta (Movescount data), a good hour north of me. The town is very quaint, with interesting little shops, great old architecture, a compelling centuries-old cemetery, and – don’t judge me – an awesome donut shop. It’s a small town – only a couple miles wandering around, but very pleasant.

Nice to be back.

Next, on up the road to Burgess Falls (Movescount data). This is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area, and with a little bit of fall color still on display, this was a perfect time to visit. Practically no one there, either, which was awesome. The water was a little low, so the waterfall wasn’t on full display, but it’s still amazing. I also got to explore a little more than the last time I was here. Not a huge amount of steps, but still, well worth the drive. For better or for worse (and that’s a poor choice of words), Burgess will always be a special place to me.

Spectacular.

The last major stop of the day was at the hang-gliding flight park up on the mountain. I’ve ridden my motorbike up here before, and it’s one of my favorite places, as the views cannot be beaten. There was no one flying, and no one at the park at all. Very peaceful place to watch the sun begin to set. I may come back some day when people are flying, but based on various things I’ve read, the people that congregate here are kinda…obnoxious. I’ll never understand why people get obsessive about their hobbies, and act like they’re better than everyone else because of their leisure activities. I mean, I ride on road and off road motorbikes, I’ve done a century ride on my MTB, I’ve hiked an actual marathon (and hiked thousands of miles in general), and I’ve paddled hundreds of miles across 3 states; plus drone flying, surfing, juggling, unicycling, and playing the hell out of a good guitar. But I don’t think – or act – like I’m superior to people who haven’t done these things. My preference is to include people in my adventures and activities, regardless of their skill level, not look down on them. But that’s just me. I try not to be an asshole.

I know I look like hell. Don’t judge.

So, after all of that, some exploring on top of the mountain, and then the long way back to town, because everybody has to be somewhere. Not many miles actually walking/hiking, but close to 200 miles driving. For a day that started out terribly, it wound up being not too bad, and “not too bad” is about the best I dare hope for.

Closed for the season. The Harley Shop, not me. OK, me, too.

Now, Sunday was a much-needed epic Grand Prix of an adventure. See, I had intentions of going away this weekend, but as is always the case, that fell apart – but Sunday definitely made up for it, with a triumphant return to the Tail and the Dragon, and new exploring on the Cherohala Skyway. More than 300 miles from the starting point in town and back, plus another 30 or 40 miles to the Casa de Me. Up with the Dawn Patrol, and back late into the night, but an amazing adventure to close out things here.

I need this in my yard.

The Dragon is quickly becoming on of my favorite places, but I really need to get the motorbike up here. I guess that’ll be in the spring, as the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort and all of the ancillary shops are closed for the season. I tried to go this year, but it just didn’t happen – by spring, hopefully, my weekends of expecting to do something and then being let down will be a distant memory in the rear-view mirror, so once things start turning green again, I can start making my plans. For now, though, a day spent exploring the mountains along the TN/NC border was just what the doctor ordered what I needed.

I finally got my rain guards installed, but my passenger window is still screwed up. I see a very expensive visit to the dealership in my near future.

This was my second time on the Dragon, but my first trip ever on the Skyway, and it did not disappoint. Lots of pull-offs and trails to explore, with a stunning elevation peak of 5240 feet. All together, about 97 miles from the Highway 129 Harley shop at the head of the Dragon, to the Cherohala Harley shop at the tail end of the Skyway. Hundreds of twists and turns, amazing scenery in the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, and lots of pins of places to explore in the spring. Maybe this will be enough to get me through the long, long winter.

So long, North Carolina.

Beyond the Dragon and Skyway, lots of additional exploring, including the Tapoco Lodge, the Cherohala Biker Gear shop (and a great chat with a guy who has a Phantom like mine, and a girl on a Yamaha FZ), the Blue Water Resort campground, the Dayton boat ramp, the town of Robbinsville in North Carolina, and really, just about anything that looked interesting. This is how to road trip properly – a loose agenda, with no real plan. I’m normally a planner, but not having a specific itinerary was just the break my brain needed.

click for larger, or Movescount data

Unfortunately, after the desperately-needed mental health weekend, now, it’s back to reality, and my reality is nothing to envy. At least, not right now. I have a ton of stuff I’m giving away (seriously, how hard should it be to give stuff away for free?), I must get back on track with my diet after a weekend of culinary debauchery, work is…work, and the never-ending shitshow continues. There’s other stuff, as well, but nothing worth getting into. It is what it is, right?

So, with all of that, this is your ol’ pal Kevio, signing off. Hopefully, I’ll see you somewhere out on the long and lonesome road, or maybe at the Starbucks or something. “The amusement park is closed, folks. The moose out front should have told you.”

Handy, man.

I have a pile of lumber sitting in my yard. Yeah, I’ve gone a little nuts on the shopping, again. I have contractors coming today to install a new French door (‘freedom door’?), but the lumber is for another project. I’m gonna build steps off the deck on my bedroom, to make it easier on potential murderers and stuff to creep in in the middle of the night and do what they do. Actually, it’ll also be so I can pop right out when I go to the gym without waking the puppers at 3 AM. I need a project – but not installing a French door single-handedly; it’s a two-person job, and I don’t know anyone who’d make the time to take me to the hospital if I had a spear through my head, much less take a few hours to help me install a door (ironically, though, I know plenty of people who’d want me to install a door or something for them). I miss having projects. I was thinking about the house remodel I did just prior to the Great Unpleasantness, and that really was good times. Gutted and expanded a bathroom (jacuzzi – noice), remodeled the kitchen, my office – really, the entire house, including all the landscaping. I learned how to do slate tile, plumbing, hardwood flooring, HVAC, cabinetry, electrical, lighting and ceiling fans, foundations, plants – really, everything you’d need to know (and I already knew quite a bit). It turned out amazing. I guess I’m handy to have around, just ask – well, just take my word for it. Maybe someday, I’ll take on another major remodel, because it really was a great time, not to mention an awesome team-building exercise (if you know what I mean). Say what you will about *ahem* that person and what she did; she was an awesome remodel partner, and did a great job helping. Maybe that’s what I actually miss – the camaraderie of tackling a project as a team. Dunno. Perhaps I should start looking at buying a project house? Wouldn’t be any “team”, though, unless me and a box of doughnuts counts as a team. Team Fatass. Yeah, that works. Anyway, I’m looking forward to my little step project, although that won’t be a big deal. Just gotta find the time – I’m planning on going away this weekend, so maybe next week.

Now is the winter of our discount tent.

And that’s not all the shopping I’ve done. I finally got around to ordering the tent I’ve had my eye on, along with appropriate camping accessories. It’s nice – it’s a “blackout tent”, meaning it blocks out most of the sunlight during the day, and people can’t see in (because no one wants to see that). So, I’ve got to plan a camping trip – maybe that’ll be next weekend. Maclellan Island or Williams Island, via kayak, perhaps. That’s one of my bucket list items, anyway.

There was other shopping, but stuff I’ll probably just end up pitching. I’ve tossed almost as much stuff as I’ve bought in the past couple of months. You know how much personalized carabiners cost? Here’s a hint: a lot. Grr.

“Alexa, make my life not suck and order some Cap’n Crunch.”

Oh, I also got the new Echo Show – it’s the newer Alexa device with a screen. I have a bunch of these now – I ordered one as an ungiven gift last month, plus I already had several other Alexa devices. The beauty of the Show is I’ll be able to pair it with external cameras, so I can see what’s going on outside. I already have outdoor security cameras (and, boy, the things they’ve seen) plus cameras on the Jeep and Thing 1 (ditto – they’ve really seen some shit), so it’ll be cool to tie them all together. I’d really like to try the video chat functionality, but I don’t know anyone else that has one – besides, I’m pretty sure I have a face for radio.

I have also continued to dramatically downsize. I have too much junk. I think my sentimental days may be (finally) coming to a close. Not much point in that, really.

Hello, ladies.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also that time of year again – pup pics with Santa at the mall. I think this year, I’ll forego being in the pics myself, and just let the puppers be with Santa. I know what I look like, and honestly, two fat guys and two dogs is just kinda sad. I’ve always hoped that it would be different, but it never is. Meh. Still, I can let the boys have their fun – and they are always a huge hit at the mall (yeah, we have to walk a couple of laps, mostly so the goths at Hot Topic can ask, “Are those wolves”?). The mall is doing the photo shoots 5 times this year, so at least I’ll have time for a do-over if I don’t like the final result.

Yeah, like you didn’t know.

I guess that means I need to get the “Naughty” Chuck Taylors out, as well. So, there’s one good thing about the holidays.

Oh, and someone sent me this: Stay Single Until You Find Someone Who Puts Effort Into Pursuing You Every Day. That’s a 12-piece bucket of truth right there (although the pronouns should be gender-neutral; I could easily replace “his” with “hers” and “boyfriend” with “girlfriend” and still have a good read).

My current jam:

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