Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

It was good to get out this past weekend. It is not as regular as I would like, so that I am not climbing as well as I would like, but to be healthy enough, have the opportunity to go at all, and have a young, Christian brother with whom to climb are all reasons to be thankful to God. He knows best what I need and what other things He wants me to be involved in. I am blessed, so I feel blessed. Get that right. Put the fact before the feeling. Remind yourself from Scripture, fellowship, and personal experience how you are blessed, then give thanks. At some point you will give way to feeling blessed.

20190727_104159
Partner on a wam-up lead.

For those who are not familiar with how lead climbing works, notice the rope going through metal devices called carabiners. These particular carabiners are part of what are called quickdraws, which are two carabiners with a stiff nylon webbing between them for easy deployment. He had to climb above the first device (a cam in this instance (you can Google all of these terms if you are curious)) before finding the next crack or hole to place protection. I am belaying from below, that is, if he falls then I stop his fall with a device the rope goes through and is attached to my harness. This is a mixed climb, meaning that it is has some bolts fixed in the wall to hook the quickdraws to and the climber must also place gear for other protection. When using the bolts, we call it sport climbing, and when using the other protection, we call it trad (for traditional) climbing.

20190727_105517
A fixed anchor with rings. You add the carabiners with runners (longer and more flexible than quickdraws) when you climb up to the anchors.
20190727_112752
A tall 5.8 climb. Red shirt of my climbing partner, about 100 feet up.

20190727_11561620190727_11573420190727_10550220190727_11562220190727_11564020190727_115924

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My daughter was reminiscing about a backpacking trip we took when she was 20 years old. As I pointed out to her, I have always been bad with ‘when’s’ and am slipping with regards to ‘what’s’. So, she reminded me that it was in August of 2008 and that I had blogged about it (see “Casting Cares”). That former blog entry was more about a few impressions of the trip than a diary thereof. At her request I am posting more pictures. I can’t resist a little commentary, but I will keep it to a minimum. Check out the map of the route at the end.

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 003

You can’t hide forever

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 004

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 005

I like lichen for the patterns and color variety.

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 006

Beech Gap Trail

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 01016-08-08 Smoky Mountians 00716-08-08 Smoky Mountians 00916-08-08 Smoky Mountians 011

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 013

Mutual Support

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 01416-08-08 Smoky Mountians 01516-08-08 Smoky Mountians 01616-08-08 Smoky Mountians 01716-08-08 Smoky Mountians 02016-08-08 Smoky Mountians 01916-08-08 Smoky Mountians 026

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 028

Fir Cones

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 03316-08-08 Smoky Mountians 02916-08-08 Smoky Mountians 03916-08-08 Smoky Mountians 04116-08-08 Smoky Mountians 04216-08-08 Smoky Mountians 04316-08-08 Smoky Mountians 044

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 047

You can just resolve the fire tower on top of Mt. Sterling.

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 04516-08-08 Smoky Mountians 04916-08-08 Smoky Mountians 05016-08-08 Smoky Mountians 051

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 053

Water Filter Blues

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 055

New Style Shelter

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 059

Old style blogging (trail journal)

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 06116-08-08 Smoky Mountians 06516-08-08 Smoky Mountians 06416-08-08 Smoky Mountians 07216-08-08 Smoky Mountians 07316-08-08 Smoky Mountians 07416-08-08 Smoky Mountians 077

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 078

“Why do we do these things? I will tell you…Tradition.” Based on the elevation and approximate sequence of pictures, the location is near Eagle Cliffs (elevation 5781 ft.).

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 081 (2)

Remembering former days on the trail

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 085

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 091

A goodly sized Red Spruce

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 092

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 096

The Happy, Rested Crew

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 097

Bee Balm or Oswego Tea?

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 098

Hog Wallow (Russian Bore, that is)

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 100

Tired turns to fatigue

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 10116-08-08 Smoky Mountians 10216-08-08 Smoky Mountians 103

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 107

I don’t even know.

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 110

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 112

The Cucumber Magnolia seed pod begged to be photographed.

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 113

Occasional Surprises in the GSMNP

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 121

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 122

When it is sharp or slick or both, you have to watch you feet.

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 124

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 126

Watching the wading crew

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 128

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 129

Spores Galore

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 130

16-08-08 Smoky Mountians 131

Cool looking mushroom; frustration of automatic focus camera

08-08-16 Backpacking

Trip began and ended at Round Bottom, hiking counter-clockwise. The first night we stayed at Laurel Gap Shelter. The second night we stayed at Pecks Corner Shelter.

Read Full Post »

The title comes from the notion that my extended family gathers every Thanksgiving at my oldest brother’s house for a meal and remembrance of God’s goodness to us. That is what feasts in the Old Testament were about, sacrificing animals to recognize and acknowledge one’s sin followed by celebration and feasting with family and friends over God’s goodness to forgive, provide, and protect.

Recently, because of growth within our family, we have had several additional gatherings for meet and greet. The latest one was planned for Independence Day, 2019. That comes under thankfulness for protection within this great country. Anyone thinking we could have what we do without God’s blessing is foolish, and anyone who implicates God in the evil that sinful men and women of this country have promulgated is without any sense. We are blessed and we don’t deserve it, therefore, God has been good to us. <-Period, read it?

On the way over the mountain, my wife and I stopped at the small westbound I-40 rest area in the highest gap for lunch. On our way to the bathroom, we saw several bunches of planted flowers. The edge of the woods had many wildflowers, notably Solomon’s Seal gone to seed. The entrance to the restrooms is the most busy corridor in the rest area, but it also has a dry ledge for mud builders. I took pictures and described to two ladies why it was a barn swallow instead of a cliff swallow, tree swallow, or swift. (Besides facial pattern the forked tail is a big give away.) Several Swallowtails landed among the plantain to warm their blood in the cool, sunny air. The traffic is close and noisy, people are coming and going, and the creatures just accommodate and adapt as needs be. I am sure some adapt by staying well out of range, but I was amazed at how others live so close.

20190704_123920
2 Beauties
20190704_123950
Barn Swallows
20190704_131917
Built on the Rock
20190704_125326
Eastern Swallowtail

Speaking of accommodating, my oldest brother and sister-in-law are very accommodating to have a family party. I think we are sensing the passing of the years, the incredible blessing of extended family, and the need to connect more often and more deeply. I was so busy talking and playing and eating that I almost forgot to take pictures. My wife and I counted 30 souls in attendance, the majority under 15. Many of my children and theirs were not able to attend. They have 15 grandchildren and I have 6.

20190704_205329
A Story, I’ll be bound
20190704_205444
Whack it hard! The “Birdie” is in motion just above her head over the white SUV.
20190704_205428
Get ready…seriously.

The next day, my older brother and I decided to go on a hike while my wife visited her sisters. The grandchildren wanted to go, but the pictures below reveal why that wouldn’t be safe. My brother wanted to visit a tristate marker on the way. It was a very unheralded spot, tying a point on a map to an actual location in the real world. Lines have thickness on paper, but lines in the world have only one dimension, length. It may seem as trivial to most, but the connection between the two is most fascinating, particularly as you stand over the spot.

20190705_090453
Grandchildren saying ‘goodbye’
20190705_102838
Another Tri-state intersection: The arch says, “Tristate Corner Paradise Point Resort”
20190705_102430
Which state is the camera in? And which way is north?

My brother had been to Foster Falls previously in winter when there was abundant rain. I was not surprised to find it simply dripping. This is the way of streams and falls on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. The pool was quite deep and must be well sealed to keep so much water with so little input. It was a beautiful sight, nonetheless.

After the falls, we walked about a mile along the base of the cliff, reconnoitering the sport climbing for a possible future push. I attempted a few pictures but the quality was sub-par due to contrast of shade at the base and full sunlight on the cliff. With the heat it would be best attacked in Fall. The walk back along the sandstone caprock was significantly flat with sandy spots and intermittent seeps, all dry and baked this summer day. And yet a succulent was thriving on the rocky, shallow depressions, Fameflower. My sister-in-law, who is very knowledgeable about wildflowers, named it and described it from this picture I texted her. She said she had never actually seen one in bloom in nature owing to the fact that it only blooms a few hours in the mid-day heat. You frequently don’t know what you are looking at until someone points it out later. I saw 10 or more blooms at the edge of thicker grasses, but only stopped to take a picture of this one because of its extra-ordinarily stressed environment- kinda a “bloom where you’re planted” scenario. It turns out that they are just tough as nails and out compete other plants for such sites.

20190705_113404
Foster Falls- capstone, shallow soil, and infrequent rain result in a boom or bust flow
20190705_115538
Mud Daubers? Cliff Swallows? Dried Mud? No, it’s pitted limestone!
20190705_134604
Topview of Foster Falls
20190705_140223
Phemeranthus calcaricus, Limestone Fameflower
20190705_140504
Natural Pavement, aka Sandstone Cap; Unnatural Meadow, aka Powerline Right-of-way

We made it home late that night, tired but blessed by the family time and brushes with nature.

Read Full Post »

Two weeks ago my climbing partner and I were making a short approach to a crag. I chose to come to the top of the cliff and set up a toprope. He went down through the crack to the base of the outcrop. When I was ready to rappel down, he said, “Watch the snake below you about ten feet above the ground.” I asked for further explanation. A moment later my partner said, “He fell.” I looked down just in time to see the snake smack the ground. This snake was climbing perhaps a 5.9 section of a 5.11 climb. We climbed a few pitches, watching this 5 foot Black Snake search for holds. After a while it gave up on the direct approach and moved up a slanted ledge toward the top of the cliff. While I was climbing, my partner commented that it had climbed into a bush high up on the ledge. We took no more notice for a while.

A little later while I was belaying my partner, I saw the snake 30′ up on a branch, reaching out to the cliff. It was at nearly full extension with just the last 6″ wrapped around the branch. I could discern the possible path that the snake had crawled out of the bush onto a far branch of the tree, to the trunk, and out to the end of the branch to the cliff. After much searching on the cliff for a hold, it slowly released hold on the branch, and soon afterward fell 30′ to a boulder below. I thought surely this killed the snake. However, I did observe the center of the snake strike the rock and the head flopped onto the leaf mulched ground beside it. It lay still. After my partner came down, I went over and poked it with a stick. It coiled up to strike. A few minutes later it crawled into a crack low on the ledge, and then back out followed by a shorter Black Snake. The shorter one tried climbing the wall several times, searching different holds to go up. It was more cautious that its climbing partner backing down instead of falling.

At one point I took a long stick and removed the shorter snake from a climb that I wanted to try. It got back on the climb shortly after I ascended. As I descended the climb I ask my belayer to stop at a small crack/ledge filled with miniature rhododendron bushes. The crack was no more than 4″ wide. There under one of the bushes was a fairly new bird’s nest without a bird or eggs. I suspected that this nest was the goal.

We moved to the right of the crag only glancing back occasionally to see the progress of the snakes. Now, nearly 2 hours since we had arrived, the larger snake was coming down from the top of the cliff and succeeded at getting into the crack where the nest was without falling. It must have been a disappointment to find no eggs for breakfast (late evening though it were). I would guess that they had visited the nest previously and consumed the eggs but had no idea that there would not be more eggs when they returned. So much effort with no return. Well, we certainly enjoyed the show!

20190604_185716

“Shorty” about 10′ up

20190604_185814

Check out the tail hold, full body contact, tense core, use of multiple holds, and hold searching

20190604_175240

Ledge Traverse

20190604_185827

Another “try hard”

20190604_182720

Climbing Partners in matching outfits

Read Full Post »

It has been 3 1/2 months since I went climbing, and it was two months before that. This is beginning to not look like a hobby. Oh well, I was thankful to get out today, and perhaps we have a plan to be more regular without overwhelming our schedules.

Being a little warmer, mid-80’s in the valley, we went to a crag where a creek cascades between two cliffs and most climbs are in the shade. It is about a mile walk in, down hill, meaning, of course, that it is a fairly stout walk out after climbing. At least the walk in doesn’t exhaust you before climbing. I knew that my finger strength was still good because I regularly do doorframe pull-ups, but I have not persisted in endurance training activities for my arms. I expected to do single hard moves and then be exhausted. Surprisingly, I did somewhat better than that, though I definitely felt the burn too soon. We completed 4 pitches and worked on a 5/12a project. Gonna have to increase the endurance before that one goes down.

thumbnail-1
“On Belay?” Ready to start a sport lead of a 5.10b
thumbnail-11
Jigsaw 5.8
thumbnail-6
Overhung, shady, and frequently damp (Frazier Magnolia in the foreground)
thumbnail-10
Belay lock position
thumbnail-14
Height is not a problem when you are properly tied in
thumbnail-13
At the rings at treetop level
thumbnail-8
The aesthetic cooling factor
thumbnail-2
Wall with roof and tree
thumbnail-4
Galax is so bright green and lively looking in Spring
thumbnail-7
Beautiful and cold
thumbnail-3
Grow where you’re planted
thumbnail
Hanging out at the crag 

Read Full Post »

After two months of rain and conflicting responsibilities, I got to go climbing yesterday. It was an exceptionally beautiful day, 20 degrees initially, but lower 30’s by the time we began climbing. Besides full sunshine on the south facing wall, the breeze was minimal and most of the climbs were dry except for one or two springs (yeah, not oozes, but springs, but hey, a record rainfall year just ended). In consideration of temperatures we chose a low elevation, south facing crag, Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Park (website) in the Brushy Mountains of Alexander County, North Carolina. Some forward looking people (community members and public servants, no doubt) planned and executed this transformation of a rock quarry into a park the whole family can use, and they do. The company my climbing partner works for designed and executed the parking, picnic, and climbing areas. Where else can you park, walk less than 100 yards across a mulched picnic area to 60 bolted sport climbs. Signs show topo pictures and ratings. My climbing partner suggested that we try to get in 10 pitches before park closing time at 5 PM. We warmed up on a 5.4, then progressed up to a 5.10. I only fell on the 5.10, but on the second try found the right foot placement to utilize the slopey, crimper sidepull for my right hand (Climbing Terminology). I actually figured it out by watching my partner do it between my two tries. Visual beta is the best when you can get it. It occurred to me that visual beta (seeing how it is done) is analogous to fellowship in the church. You can see the path forward as you watch and collaborate with fellow believers. I actually have a few pictures of me climbing in the park a former time I was there three years ago (Playing at 56). The day was particularly satisfying since my mind had been distracted by many difficulties and restraints. You can’t think about concerns when you are concentrating on climbing (Or at least, bears of little brain cannot so multi-task.) I was refreshed by the day, the conversation, the challenge, and the small accomplishments after so long a time away from climbing, and I am thankful to God for it.

Note: This blog post will be very dull indeed if you do not utilize the hyperlinks.

Read Full Post »

It was not a record snow. Those seem to be more in the neighborhood of 18″ in 1993, the 1960’s, 1925, 1911, or something, depending on whether you mean 24 hour total, storm total, and where exactly. Tracing such records is dizzying and hard to do. But a solid 14″ on the hard surface of my yard where there is gravel and scant, short grass is good enough for me.  I have a picture of it when it was 13″, because the 14″ measurement picture was blurred by condensation on the lens.

I think that one of the changes with age is my way of enjoying the snow. Some people don’t really seem to enjoy it unless they are sliding on it. I, too, used to love to do that on anything slick: sled, shovel, skis, shoes (boots really, but I couldn’t resist 5 s’s in a row).

But now I like most of all to take a long walk to the point of fatigue and take pictures of anything that looks beautiful or unique. I find much peace and exhilaration mixed together when it is snowing. It is quiet and yet screams at the senses, bright and yet darkly overcast, beautifully sculpting and yet messy, sanguine and yet melancholy. The wind, flakes, and sound absorption isolate you and yet your neighbors come out to greet you and lend a hand if you are stuck.

I apologize to my friend whose picture I took, twice. It seems that the snow flake that I did not see and obscures part of the clock was inconveniently on his face moments later. I walked 2 miles over to his apartment and then we walked a mile back up into town. We are both school teachers and don’t have anywhere we have to be at the moment.

I am thankful to God for hearing my prayer for it to not rain last night, since that would have certainly caused significant flooding. It melts away slowly today, running down the gutter at the bottom of my driveway. It was a beautiful, big snow.

101_1605

The Homeplace draped in liquid lace

101_1606

It’s hard to keep firewood dry.

101_1609

I had a better picture of this, but the flash reflecting off of the snowflakes was a pleasant surprise.

101_1614

It really was 14, later.

101_1616

Wind Sculpting

101_1619

Nice contrasts

101_1620

Working hard for a day off!

101_1623

Companionship is always good.

101_1625

It looks intense.

101_1627

Good architecture shines even when covered.

101_1629

In a small town near you

101_1632

Iconic, Historic Courthouse

101_1634

Go, but not too fast

101_1637

No one in attendance this week

101_1640

I forgot to tell him to turn off the flash.

101_1642

Snowtime

101_1647

“I moved down from Wisconsin to get away from this.”

101_1649

We have a few pieces of snow equipment in our small, Southern town.

Decorated Snowy Lightpole

Pass Go, collect $200, and have a Merry, White Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »