Tales of the Trail

We are off the trail now, as planned, and relaxing at Misty Mountain Inn & Cottages in Blairsville, Georgia. Cabin 4.

We came of the trail at Woody Gap.

We now have this:

Yesterday we had this:

We don’t appreciate what we have, nor do we appreciate the power and magesty of nature which we think we have conquered. But that is a delusion. It was before us, and will be after us. This infrastructure we have created is as fragile, and temporary, as a spider’s web, a butterfly’s cocoon, and a Robin’s nest.

I will soon begin a series of post entitled “What I Learned on the Trail.” Not what I learned with complete certainty, but glimpses and hints. I’m not even sure what it is I really learned. Maybe just some kind of awareness? Language struggles to convey reality. Language, and this blog post, are just facades as to what really is.

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First Hike of 2018 and Three Lost in the Woods

Great weather for a change inspired me to get out and hike. The low fifties on a sunny day was perfect.

Picture of author
Looking like a dufus

Every year I forget how hiking uses muscles that you don’t use otherwise. Especially the glutamous maximus. I need to train for this spring.  By the way, after seeing this picture I want straight home and trimmed the beard.

Hiking trail in Missouri
Trail close to the trailhead

Missouri has lots of parks and lots of small trails including those at Rockbridge State Park which is about a seven minute drive from my house.  I wanted to do the eight mile loop on the Gans Creek trail but opted out because they are evidently redoing the routes and it is a chaotic mess.  The blazes are being changed and the main route that was fairly well marked last year is, I think, incomplete.  I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of it.

I started at the South end and wanted to loop back around through the Northern trailhead and come back,  but cut my hike short by at least an hour because the trail markings were so confusing.  It was not so much about getting lost, but the uncertainty of where I was on a trail, and hiking on a trial where the blazes from last year were either missing or changed. It is that chaotic.

To get back all I would have had to have done is follow the creek which runs downstream from North to South back where my car was parked at the trailhead where I started.  Worse case scenario was bushwacking (hiking off the designated trail) my way back following the creek downstream to the trailhead.   That would have been wet and muddy.  A compass would have made it a bit easier, but I could have done it without the compass because of the creek. I had foolishly not brought my compass and will NOT make that mistake again.  Also, the sun was to my West and that was visible. So I wasn’t going to get lost.

On the way out I passed a group of three teenagers and we greeted one another.  On the way back,  about fifteen minutes after  I decided to turn around, I passed the group of teenagers again.  They asked me if they were on  the route back to the Northern trailhead.  Actually that is the same question I had asked myself, and was unable to answer because of the confused trail markings.  Essentially why I had decided to turn around.  They had a map which was useless to them because it was just squiggly lines, and I don’t even think it was updated with the new changes.

I told them I had no idea. That is not what they had wanted to hear.  They had started on the Northern end and were trying to make it back there where their car was parked.  They had asked other people for directions and the people they asked had  either not known or had given them directions that turned out not to be helpful.  They were not panicking but they were concerned. They had been over  three hours in the woods, they had no water, and the one cell phone they had between them was about to die.

I looked at  them and wondered what to do. Just giving them directions were not going to get it done.  At least two people had done that. I was familiar with the trail, but the new configuration, which I suspect is not yet complete anyway, had confused me. I could try to lead them back to where they started, and would have eventually made it, but it was late in the afternoon, and I didn’t know the distances.  Then I would have had to hike back to where I had begun.  Also I could see their feet were wet and muddy, and they probably had on cotton socks. I am also sure they were hungry and thirsty although they declined my offer of water.  The other option was to lead them out and drive them back to their car on the highway.

They were in a bit of a dilemma.  They meet a stranger in the woods who offers to take them back to the trailhead and then drive them to their car. If they were my kids, or if it was me lost in the woods, I certainly hope somebody would have helped out.  I could tell they were hesitant.  As I would have been.  As a matter of fact I had the same concerns about them but had sized them up as good kids, with no gear, out on a walk that went bad.  They decided to take me up on my offer.

They thanked me profusely. And they were grateful, but I am not sure if it was because I didn’t bludgeon them to death with my hiking pole, or they were just glad they were finally going to be able to get home.

 


Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

Katy Trail Trip Revisited & Knee Problems

Bent but not broken I ventured back out onto the Katy Trail this past June, and lived to tell the tail.  Here is some photographic proof:

On this solo trip I spent the night in Hartsburg Missouri and then came back the next day.

I do not think I am sticking with the trailer, but I need to try it on my new touring bike to make sure.

Knee Woes

Well, running ugly got ugly.  At least for my left knee  I could probably count on my fingers, maybe without having to use the toes, how many times I ran last year.  I tried it again the week before last and I made two miles with no problems.  I could have ran a lot faster.  I laid off for a day or so and thought I would try it again.  My left knee kept bothering me a bit but I decided to give it a try.  Maybe it was the weather (that would be the denial kicking in).  I did not make it fifty yards.  My knee is now much better.  Biking, walking, and stairs don’t seem to bother me.  I did some boxing bag work last night and that was fine.  Weight lifting is fine. For being 60 I think that is good enough but I sure miss running.

Did running cause that knee problem? No.  I think not.  I did martial arts for  years and my kicking leg was my left leg, and it has “nagged” me for  years.  Little tweaks hear and there.  Hyperextending it with kicking, and maybe aggressive stretching, did it.  That I am sure of.

If, and until, I have to get a knee replacement I am most likely done with running and maybe a new knee wouldn’t even help.  The pain is very tolerable.  I just want to retain mobility.

Getting Ready for Bike Camping 

Why not integrate fitness into a lifestyle?  If you are going to camp backpack or bike instead of driving. I purchased a Burly trailer for my bike for camping, and it is time to use it.  No excuses.  Time to hit the road with it.  No more lollygagging.

I thought that the trailer would be easier than having a bunch of overloaded  panniers on my bike. Since I’m going camping next week with my son-in-law  I decided to go on a training ride tonight.  I will take another one or two rides with it before we leave next Monday.  Next week is my spring break.

 I read a bunch of books about people who rode cross-country and a good number of them used a trailer. I figured if they could do it so could I, and then I found some people online that were traveling across whole continents that had the very  same trailer. The trailer was also cheaper than new panniers as well as more racks, and I think they have less balance issues.

 I’ve been on a couple of errands with the trailer but nothing over maybe a quarter of a mile. The trailer was attached to my wife’s Diamondback comfort bike,  and I would go to the store and the the recycle center Both near my house. Tonight I switched it over  to my hybrid, packed it up with camping gear,  and took off.  Actually it was easier to pull than I thought it would be. That was a nice surprise.  Here is a picture at the halfway mark.  More to report later on my preparation, and the actual trip.

Book of the Week: Run Until You’re 100 by Jeff Galloway

This is another Jeff Galloway classic. I have written about one other book of his – he is a prolific writer.   It’s been around for a while but I finally decided to buy it a couple of weeks ago after about 6 or 8 months, maybe even longer, of nagging injuries. Also, it was after I had turned sixty. After reading the book I decided to finally give his method a try.

Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of the run walk strategy. It sounds kind of counterintuitive and I resisted it for about 2 years now although I’ve recommended it to other people. I just didn’t think it was for me. But after turning 60, and after those nagging injuries I referred to earlier left me sidelined, unable to run, I decided I needed to give it a serious try. I committed myself to one week of running and walking. The results were surprising and dramatic.


Not only was I able to run without injury or nagging aches and pains, I ran faster. I trained with a Polar heart monitor, and I discovered something pretty amazing things from the data. For one thing I ran dramatically faster. I’ll be posting some of the screenshots this week from my app  but it was pretty amazing. What was also amazing is how my heart rate responded with this run-walk method as compared to when I usually run. It’s my belief, and I’ll discuss it in another post, that the run-walk method not only reduces injuries and lets you run faster, it mimics high intensity interval training (HIIT)!

When I got back into running several years ago I entered several 5k races and some 10k events. I’ll tell you a secret that I haven’t written.   There were these guys that would run past me, and them  I would pass them latter on while they were walking. However, after that, when I was tiring, they seemed to get stronger and they would pass me again.  Often  I wouldn’t be able to get in front of them that one last time before they crossed the finish line ahead of me. My guess is they were using the Galloway method. Well, God willing, I’m going to be using that method this summer for some upcoming races. I’m especially looking forward to the Show Me State games.

I am a believer. I think I will be using the Galloway method for the rest of my running career.  The injuries really are down, my times are better than they would be otherwise, and I think it will keep me running longer.  This method may not be for  younger runners, but for this sixty year old it is the way to go.  Better than sitting on the porch.

 

Book of the Week – The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training Over 40

As we age we lose strength.  When strength goes so does mobility and balance as well as an increase  of other unpleasantness.  Through the typical bad diet and inactivity we also approach what is called the sick aging phenotype. Although we’re unable to reverse the aging process we are able to mitigate it to a great deal. We’re able to do some things which help us to live longer and better with much more quality of life. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, and you’re over 40, this is the book for you.

This is a howto book on how to get stronger using just five or so basic exercises. Barbell exercises such as the squat, deadlift, press, and bench press.  It’s based on research, and experience. It is an outgrowth of the Starting Strength approach by Mark Rippetoe.

Order the book.  Spend a week or so reading it cover to cover, and then think about how you might implement the program. I have found it to be effective.  One serious consideration though.  You must know how to perform the exercises precisely or you will get injured. I suggest a personal trainer. I am calling one today.

Closing thoughts.  At 60 years of age I want to remain as healthy and active as I can.  I also want to do it in an intelligent, empirically driven, fashion. I really think this book offers that.   But, the barbell prescription is powerful medicine.  Use it with care.