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Posts Tagged ‘Outdoors’

I don’t take stock in premonitions, but I may have had one the other day. Whether I did or didn’t did not enable me to influence or change the outcome in any way. After doing some yard work, I was walking around my backyard enjoying the sunshine, which we haven’t had much of lately, and looking up at the tree branches to see how much more work would be raining down. I saw the large Virginia Pine behind my shed that overhung it. I paused and thought, ‘I wished that I had taken that down (about 16 years ago now) before I built that shed. It is going to fall on that shed one of these days soon.’ I had not taken it down because it was probably on my neighbors side of the line.

We had a wholly unexpected ice storm on Saturday morning, November 24th. My son called me to tell me what happened, because my wife and I were still away visiting relatives for Thanksgiving. ‘A large branch broke out of the oak tree next to house, but it missed everything. It didn’t even hit the gutter.’ I think that was his warm-up sentence. ‘You know the big pine tree behind the shed? It broke off and landed on the shed. It didn’t put a hole in the roof or break the rafters.’ What he didn’t tell me was that there was an ice storm. What he did not know, nor did I, was that the tree had a rotten trunk. There was no external evidence of it.

So, I had planned to finish my wood splitting this week for the season. Instead, I get to take down a ‘widow maker’ lying on my shed. I cut a four foot section hanging beyond the back of the shed. I was concerned that it would drop, knocking my ladder out from under me. So when the gap in the cut began to open up as I sawed down through the log, I stopped and climbed down. Then I retrieved a pole with a hook on the end and pulled the log down. Sure enough, it knocked the ladder aside. I had not moved the ladder, because I thought I might have to climb back up and saw a little more.

I finished today’s session at dark by clearing as many branches as I could reach. Sawing over your head is tiring. At the ground you have to choose the branches to cut that will not cause the tree to flip over or slide off of the roof while you are under it.

The next step will involve easing it down a cut at a time followed by one last knocking a block out to bring it down.

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The One That Missed

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It’s giving me a headache

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This can’t be good

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That is so much weight

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The rotten, splintered base

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That looks like a tedious job

I worked on it two more hours this evening before dark. It slid down a few inches at a time, perhaps three feet in all. I took all of the branches but two that now support in on the ground. The next step I have planned is to tie a rope to the large end and pull it off the shed with my truck. That way I will be well out of the way when it comes down. There is no way without a bucket truck to take it down without a little further damage. Oh well, I’m impressed that it didn’t collapse the roof, and I am thankful that nothing hit the house.

 

 

 

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Last Saturday I went climbing with two friends in an out of the way place that local climbers know about but don’t widely describe its location. The day began cool, cloudy, and damp. There was no one out. We stopped along the way to take pictures at the top of the cliff, because you walk in from above and descend a gully to get tot he base of the cliff. My friends had never been to this location before, but I didn’t show them around much because our time was limited.

We worked on 3 different climbs, two sport and one trad. I have a habit of overprotecting trad climbs, but I put in adequate protection without overkill this day. It felt good. For the uninitiate, sport is clipping your rope into bolts on the way up using carabiners, while trad (traditional) protection is various devices that you place in cracks and clip the rope into with carabiners. Trad is more challenging since you have to take more time, and therefore more energy, to place the protection.

The clouds blew away in late morning, leaving a clear blue sky and pleasant temperature. We encouraged and quipped each other up the rock. It is good to have friends with whom to do things.

This day out of context seems pleasant enough, but it is mid-October and still unseasonably warm. The year has been exceptionally wet. Flowers and shrubs seem confused. I have an azalea that is blooming for the third time this season. Below is a picture of rhododendron blooming in mid-October. Mosquitoes are still fierce, moss is still green under the trees in my backyard, and mildews are ubiquitous. Most of the leaves are still green and only now do we see sourwood turning deep red (picture below). Higher in the mountains the yellows are appearing, but green is still the predominant color. Finally, this weekend we expect near freezing temperatures, but we ought to be approaching hard freeze date and it is not likely soon. Whether this is a permanent change or a prolonged cycle I have no foresight to tell, but it is at the very least odd.

One way or another, for one reason or another, this old world will be as a worn out garment one day, ready to be changed and rolled up. But God never changes. He will remain and all of those who by faith are His children. (Psalm 102:25-28) So, I enjoy the beauty of nature and glorify God for its beauty and in its fading glory.

preping at BF

Preping for the Climb

Dan at BF

Balance and Concentration

lichen

“Paint Flake” Lichen?

Noel belaying

The Old Man Belays

Stephen at BF

Beautiful day for a challenge

Stphen belaying

“Belay On.” or Banana on?

variety of seedlings

How many varieties of tree seedlings can you identify? (I see 4 and one more I’m not sure about, a vine and a shrub.)

Lake J From BF

From Cliff Top

3x selfie from BF

Guy Outing

Rhodo blooming in Oct

Rhododendron blooming in mid-October?

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Today is the day that Florence crossed North and South Carolina. I have no great stories and hope it remains that way.  For many this was a day of struggle and loss, for others a day or heroism, and more than not, a day to stay indoors. Much prayer has been answered, in that the storm was Category 2 by the time it reached shore and many have been rescued. But the snail’s pace of coming inland has caused massive flooding with feet of water rising, dozens of inches of rain in places, hundreds of people rescued, thousands of homes flooded, hundreds of thousands without power, and millions of dollars in damage. Many good citizens are out helping others.

On this rainy day I am going to recall last weekend when the rain was more of a nuisance than a difficulty. We had to go to two different crags because the first one rained us out after about two hours. It was amazing that I could climb considering my back problems, but if you avoid significant twisting and dynamic motion it is really just good stretching of the spine that increases blood flow and disc hydration. And I climbed a climb (Homegrown 5.10a) clean that rarely happens for me. It has one hard move on it at the top, which is more a matter concentration and balance than real difficulty. The mild pain, which I was monitoring for a change that would tell me it was time to stop, seemed to increase my concentration. I was with my climbing partner, a friend who had not climbed in five years, and a new friend who had not climbed on rock before. Two said they were impressed; my partner had seen me do it before. I was just happy.

We only did three pitches there before rain set in. On our way along the Parkway, we got past the rain cloud. We decided to stop at Barrett’s Boulder. This is a nice little crag with six climbs on the side of Hwy 181. In the summer the rhododendron and tree cover completely conceal the crag from the road visually, though not audibly from road noise.

My partner lead Obvious Route (5.8) which is a fun flake with a huge undercling move. I top roped a climb I have done now many times on which I believe I made the first ascent in about 2010. The reason for this FA, I believe, is not because I’m such an awesome climber, but because it is not an obvious line like Obvious Route and Skywalker’s Revenge on either side of it. I just claimed it and named it on http://www.rockclimbing.com (see it here). And following is a video of me climbing it: Climbing “Biohazard”. I also have a video of me climbing Barrett’s B… (5.9) (not my name): Climbing 5.9.

Click on new friend to see a pre-rain attempt on Homegrown. My other friend of longer acquaintance stayed behind the camera of the pictures that I have.

My partner (click here) and I (click here) struggled on what I call “Sharp Loaf”, which I have climbed clean several times, but certainly not this day. I call it that because the last hold you see us struggling on is shaped like a loaf of bread but is sharp and takes a strong open-handed grip. I need some more hangboarding before I try it again. To make the move on the “loaf” is the crux, and I would say a 5.11b move.

I am genuinely thankful for friends, old and new, to climb with, challenging ourselves, having good conversation, and doing it all outdoors on a pleasant day. We dodged rain, mostly, and injury, and I, for one, came home tired and satisfied.  I have so much to be thankful for to God.

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Time to head south again for another training session. But this time I decided on a different route a bit out of the way for a three night visit with friends I had not seen in five years. We were amazed at how we picked up conversation as though there had not been two weeks between when we had seen each other last. And to make that more amazing (confession time), I’m not particularly good at keeping up long distance relationships. We have had occasional contact by Facebook or phone for needed prayer or listing what had happened in the last year or proof-reading articles, but these were not often. I reflect that one future day when we stand in heaven we will remember and give thanks for all of the people God put in our paths to help us along the way. Some we kept up with; others we did not, but the moments we did share were of value. So make your moments ever more valuable with conversation about your spiritual lives and learning, shared prayer and worship, all true fellowship of substance.

This couple also has three special little girls. As should be they eyed me warily, clinging to mom or dad. But as we interacted and their parents included me in family activities, the girls warmed up. Dad and mom told me to not expect one to warm up, so I was friendly but gave her some space. We played blocks and I read a few stories. I had suggested that the girls were old enough to have longer stories read to them. So I took it upon myself to ask to go to the library where they checked out “Little House in the Big Woods.” I read the first chapter; now it’s dad and mom’s turn. That should keep them busy for a while. It will increase their listening skills and attention span, properties deficient in many of their peers.

As I had been to the Naval Air Museum, the beach, and two historic forts in the area, Dad and I took an all day trip to the USS Alabama in Mobile Bay. It is being wonderfully restored by the money and efforts of the people of Alabama. I find it amazing how much money, energy, and technology goes into such a war machine for the amount of use and action it actually has. The Alabama took 2 1/2 years of 24/7 to build and had a crew of 2500, but saw action for only five years, shooting down 22 planes. It bombarded many islands in the Pacific. But what would have happened if these great ships and their convoys had not been built. Desperate times require desperate measures. War is madness and passive subjection is suicide. What is a people to do?

My friend teaches at the Roy L. Hyatt Environmental Center in Cantonment, FL. We and his girls went the next day to feed the animals and show the new guy around. The Center is in a major transition with a full teaching schedule during the school year while a new multi-purpose classrooms/exhibits building is going up. The variety of activities and creativity of my friend and his teaching colleague is inspiring. Even with many of their exhibits temporarily warehoused they have come up with new, engaging activities for their students, like a GPS treasure hunt that gets the students to solve environmental problems with science based on clues they are sent to find. They have many donated and injured animals that cannot be released as exhibits and 120 acres of swamp, bog, and woodland that has not been disturbed since WWII. They are doing real ecology with studies and allowing students to see, smell, touch, hear nature for themselves.

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1 of 4 USS Alabama Screws

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16″ Turret Nest

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B-25, B-52, Mobile Skyline

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Big Guns

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Rings True

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Anti-Aircraft Guns

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Packing Some Punch

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Comin’ atcha

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Cruiseliner with Mobile Government Building in the background

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But restoration funded by the people of Alabama

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Modern Shipyard

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C-47 (DC-3 Civilian) A workhorse in any capacity

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Where are we headed Captain?

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Keep regulation haircuts

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Notice the overhead winch track for heavy repairs

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Boiler Room

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16″ Armor-piercing projectiles

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USS Alabama Battleship

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The fastest of the fastest (SR-71 Blackbird)

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Grounded Submarine

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Torpedoes Away!

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Oldest

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Youngest

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Middle

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Exhibit A

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Native Florida Lobster

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Corn Snake

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Pitcher Plant

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Actual Flower of the Pitcher Plant

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Helping Daddy

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High Protein Diet

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Preying Mantis hanging out

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Smaller Pitcher Plant

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The Fun way to get around 120 acres

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I’m not getting out to climb often enough to improve these days, but I am amazed how well at once a month I am maintaining. I do some training on the hangboard, door frames, and pull-up bar. We climb in the morning at a South facing local crag. We were 75% of the time in the shade since the Sun had not come around the corner. Of the four climbs we did two of the climbs that we did were positive slopes with minute holds, almost friction climbing. Three were sport climbs (having bolts to clip into, for the uninitiated), and one was a mixed route (meaning it had bolts (2) and needed gear placed (in this case cams)). There was a 5.8, a 5.9, and two 5.10’s. I flashed one of the 5.10’s. I enjoyed the mixed lead most and have some pictures of my climbing partner and me leading it. The day was surprising pleasant for a summer day in the South. There were occasional cool breezes and random small clouds and some shade. The insects were slight, the other climbers out of earshot, the skies exceptionally blue, no injury, and several clean (no falls) topouts. Our conversation was pleasant, and I believe God glorifying, and my mind was cleared. Such nice days make the harder ones more manageable. It is good to set aside and commit such days to the One who “gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

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Lead on a mixed 5.8

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Partner entering the crux sequence.

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I live in the present for a number of reasons. I like adventure, even if ever so small, so I seek out new experiences. I have never been able to attach times with events; I have a friend who can name the year, month, and frequently which day an event happened. I have discovered, save a few rare jewels, that few people want to hear about what happened long ago. But today at lunch a definite opening to the past came about and I related a story and asked my colleague to relate a similar experience, “What was the most interesting night you have ever spent backpacking?” She related that it was the first and last time she ever saw a porcupine. Part of her adventure was a lack of understanding at the time of how quills work, that is, how porcupines use them for defense.

I told of a night when it was snowing hard, large wet flakes at dusk and we were looking for an opening with a flat spot for our tent. We came down to a road where a man was checking his mailbox. My friends got into a conversation with him about the weather and camping sites. He offered his barn loft and we jumped at it. The loft smelled of hay but there was none other than a dusting on the floor. We swept the loft so we could start our cook stoves without burning the barn down. Svea stoves sound like small jet engines, so it drown out the windy storm for awhile. Candlelight caste eerie shapes and shadows on the rafters and slats. I took several time exposures with my film SLR. We told stories, read abit and lay down to a long winter’s slumber. It was a pleasant place to sleep not having the tent flapping in the breeze. The next morning it was in the upper teens. My wet boots had frozen overnight and were painful to put on and to walk. I am sure that  up on Whitetop Mtn. there were significant drifts, but there was dry snow here, too. I feel like I have experienced a small taste of what life used to be like when I have done things like sleeping in a barn. Of course, our forebearers didn’t have nylon sleeping bags and packs, or pre-packaged food or white gas stoves or SLR cameras, but they did live simply and sleep hard on occasions.

Telling this memory reminded me of other memorable nights in the woods. Once with another friend we spent the night in a forest of young, straight trees. It was hard to hang our packs with no branches within throwing distance of our cord, so we hung our packs between two small, understory trees with the bottoms of our packs hanging barely above our reach. It had been a very wet day and now set in for a foggy night. We may have napped an hour in our tent when we heard pack rattling noises. Our flashlights revealed three large cubs, perhaps even yearlings, taking turns climbing one of the small trees and jumping out to swipe at the packs. We had left the pockets unzipped so that any mice that managed the climb would simply enter rather than chew holes in our packs. This detail meant that the cubs’ swipes were effective at knocking out our granola and snack bars and meat packets, and so forth. Before they had done much damage to our food supplies or torn open any stuff sacks we were out of our tent yelling and banging tree trunks with sticks, to which they scurried into the rhododendron out of sight. After several exchanges of this kind we could see that they thought it was a wonderful game, but we were becoming more leery at the thought of mother bear being just out of sight ready to attack if our admonitions were not to her liking. Wearily and warily we decided that there was no help for it other than to start a fire under the packs to keep the cubs away and mother hidden from sight. It was the hardest fire I have ever started. My friend collected every potentially dry twig and leaf possible, from under rocks and under logs and in tree hollows. There was only relatively less wet; dry did not exist. With a little of our toilet paper, some white gas from our stove, many minute twigs and needles we somehow got a fire going, but keeping it going and drying wood in the smokey fire was just as hard. Walking most of the day with a pack on requires two things: lots of food and good sleep. We were not getting much of the latter. We took two hour shifts of keeping the fire going and sleeping in the tent. Some time during the wee hours the fog lifted to reveal a moonless, starlit, branch filled sky. It was perhaps the first time that I realized that the sky begins to lighten as early as 3 AM in the summer. What is not perceivable to the eye around light pollution is a wondrous sight to the dark adjusted pupil. We didn’t see the cubs again and can’t say with any assurance that mom was anywhere around, but our packs smelled of smoke for a long time after that.  

Another memorable night I spent on Camp Town Bald, which I think was renamed Viking Mountain. There are few fire towers left in the mountains and probably none used for their original purpose, but one of the larger ones stood on top of the Bald in the late ’70’s- I estimate 80+ feet tall. My most frequent backpacking partner and I camped at the base of it in the tall grass. After dark I mounted the tower to the deck above. The glassed in portion was locked so a sat down, curled up in my sleeping bag, leaning against the wall of the enclosed space. I had a wonderful time of prayer and singing hymns as I gazed over the lights in the valley and the stars above. I began to see flashes of lightning in the far distance, so I moved around to the other side of the cat-walk in order to watch the fireworks. Above the trees and over 5000′ elevation, I could see the storm many miles away. Now that I reflect on it, it was odd that the storm was coming from the East over the mountains moving toward me. Thunderstorms rarely come from that direction. The storm kept building in my direction until I figured that perching atop a metal tower in a thunderstorm was probably not the safest vantage point. Having such a grand view of it I feel sure that I abandoned my post in plenty of safe time, but my friend down below had been getting worried. This story doesn’t make for quite as interesting telling or hearing, but if you can envision the scene with its three kinds of lights and the opportunity to worship the Creator of all that is light and life and beauty, you may imagine the depth of peace and joy the situation brought to me.

For it is this same Creator who has saved me and given me purpose and a future with Him. He commands the thunderstorm and the snowstorm, sets the stars in their places, gives man shelter and provides all that he needs, grows the trees and provides for the bear cubs, and will extend to you grace also if you will acknowledge your sin and His Son’s work to put it away. Glory to God for His goodness and His benefits to those upon whom His grace abounds.

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Odd shaped trees make for hazardous felling.

So, I climbed a few feet up on a ladder and took out some limbs. Then I was on the ground taking down the snagged limbs. I had to cross a barbed wire fence to get to some of the limbs. Several of the trees needed pulled by truck and rope. One twisted and the stump end jumped toward me. I had noticed when the tree began to move that it was twisting, so I stepped back two steps. When it landed at my feet I jumped back again. Even small trees are due respect since they outweigh me many times over, are much taller, and fall in surprising ways. Oh, you can read that it will fall funny, but not always the exact path. I cut Sweetgum, Willow Oak, Eastern Redcedar, Black Cherry, and Maple. The trees ranged in size from 6 inches to 2 feet- small to medium.  It was to help out a friend’s mother. My friend helped cut downed trees and pull with the truck and two of his daughters hauled brush and loaded firewood for him and for me. Everyone worked hard and everyone was safe, including, as best I know, not getting poison ivy that was thick on several of the trees. And did I mention that I got paid.

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