Author: Michael Harley

Trip Report: Stone Door Trail, Big Creek Gulf Trail, Ranger Falls, Big Creek Rim

I really love the Savage Gulf area and hiking these series of trails. After last week’s disaster of an effort, I needed something familiar yet challenging so I could prove that I’m still a hiker. I tell you guys, last week really shook my confidence. This week, we decided to hike Stone Door Trail to Big Creek Gulf to Ranger Falls to Big Creek Rim and then back to Stone Door. Strava recorded it as a bit over 11 miles.

We arrived at the trailhead and had boots on trail by 7:30am. The hike through the stone door and down to the Big Creek Gulf trail was super muggy, wet and sweaty. There’s a couple rock fields during the descent but they weren’t wet enough to cause any problems. Meredith will tell you but I descend and negotiate rocks like an old man with sore knees but I still feel we made good time.

Stone Door!
Stone Door from the bottom
Tying my dang shoe and steaming!!
Steaming though…

Once at the bottom, we hightailed it over to Ranger falls and stopped for refueling and for a Meredith-play-in-the-water session. The water level for Ranger Falls was lower than it was the first time we came through this year but still plenty of flow and the water was good and cold.

Ranger Falls
Ranger Falls you guys!
Meredith playing in Ranger Falls
My normal view of water falls…
Spooky raccoon
Spooky Raccoon turned Rambo

Once we cooled off, we headed back to Big Gulf Creek trail and headed down for another mile to take our lunch and another cool off session at a nice pool and area of semi-swift water. I’m not sure if it actually has a name or even what the name of the river is there but it’s the second favorite part of the hike for me. Again, Meredith played in the water and I took off my boots to cool and rest my feet. In retrospect, I think we hung out here too long as I was feeling like I could take a nap at one point.

Lunch spot!
Lunch spot!

After getting back on the trail, it wasn’t too long until it’s time to make the ascent up to Alum gap campground. This is the section I had been preparing and waiting for and I was determined to make a good ascent. This ascent has some grades at 30% according to Strava and it’s about .5 miles to the top. On the ascent, I felt great and was ascending at a good pace that I could have kept up for a good long time.

And now we go up!
And now we go up!
That's where we came from!
That’s where we came from!

Once back at the top, we pushed on to Big Creek Rim trail and had scenic but otherwise uneventful hike back to Stone Door Ranger Station.

Taking a fiver!
Taking a fiver!
Nice views on Big Creek Rim Trail
Nice views on Big Creek Rim Trail
Heading to the rim!
Heading to the rim!
Proof of life! I made it!
Proof of life! I made it!

Last week I tried a new hiking clothes configuration. On the right, I’m wearing hiking pants and a hiking/travel shirt. The idea in making the change was that I’d be more protected from brambles and ticks and such. On the left is the current setup and one I wore Saturday on our hike. I think the clothing situation was the single biggest thing contributing to my problems on the trail while hiking Fiery Gizzard. I still need to change the shorts again as these did cause some chaffing that I didn’t notice until I was home. I’m going to try a pair of running shorts with a tights/compression type liner.

Clothing changes!

Fiery Gizzard Trail to Raven Point Trip Report

The crew!
The crew, pre-hike selfie!

Many reviews on AllTrails mentions hiking the trail counter clockwise because of the rock fields and I’d have to agree 100% with this idea. I’m a big guy and the focus and balance required to hike on rocks for nearly 4 miles is pretty challenging. Doing this while you’re fresh is best.rock fields and I’d have to agree 100% with this idea. I’m a big guy and the focus and balance required to hike on rocks for nearly 4 miles is pretty challenging. Doing this while you’re fresh is best.

Sycamore Falls
Sycamore Falls

The first part of the hike was pretty lovely. The trail is scenic and goes along the river which makes for pleasant viewing and temps. The rock fields don’t seem so bad at first and I was kind of wonder what the big deal was about all the reviews. It turns out that hiking on rocks for a couple hours wears me out. There’s a certain amount of mental focus and balance and concentration required to do that type of hiking. It was bothering my knees and I have to pick my way carefully.

Since we were hiking along the river, I knew we had to do a big climb to get up to the top of the mountain so we could get to Raven Point. The climb up the mountain was pretty severe. Easiest the hardest and most severe climb for me this hiking season and we’ve hiked Stone Door down to Ranger Falls and back out and Virgin Falls.

These are the new clothes I was wearing on the hike.

I recently decided to try a different clothing setup – pictured above. I have been hiking in gym shorts and my sleeveless, merino wool shirt that I use for cycling. The shirt very light weight and probably the best piece of clothing I own. The reason I wanted to switch to hiking pants and a hiking/travel shirt was mostly for protection from brambles, ticks and the sun. Making this change during the middle of the summer hiking season turned out to be a huge mistake. After taking our lunch at Raven Point and heading back along the ridge, I was overheating and just couldn’t cool off. It caused me to hike very slow, slowing down my hiking partners. I was feeling nauseous and even got sick a few times. The hike back took a lot longer than it ought have.

As we were getting close to the end of our hike, we started coming across swimming holes and we decided to get in the water to get cooled off and it helped tremendously. We should have done this at the very first opportunity. My take away from this is that anytime Meredith says get in the water, I’m just going to do it, no questions asked.

After our dip we started hiking the last mile or so back when the cherry on top happened. As Meredith will tell you, I roll my ankles and they do so for no good reason. Most of the time it’s a little twist and awkwardly catching myself and we carry on like nothing happened. I guess I was so tired and was mid step when it happened this time that I took a tumble and started tumbling down the side of the trail embankment. It was happening in slow motion for everyone who was involved and witnessing it. Ugh.

I’d definitely rank this hike as difficult and strenuous; at least it was for me. I’m not sure how much of that was because I was experiencing some heat exhaustion. I intend to this hike again this season. I came away feeling embarrassed with my confidence shaken. I would recommend this hike to hikers as I think it’s definitely some of the best hiking in TN, right there with Virgin Falls and the Stone Door trails. I’ll be back Fiery Gizzard.

Little copperhead
Little copperhead!
Post hike selfie!
Post hike selfie. Ha ha.
Raven Point
Raven Point

Re: Most Americans Are Against U.S. Becoming More Politically Correct : NPR

Fifty-two percent of Americans, including a majority of independents, said they are against the country becoming more politically correct and are upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore.

I was cruising my news feeds this morning and this article has got stuck in my craw. I’d love to see the demographics of who independent voters in the US actually are. My impression is that these are low info voters who are not especially principled or informed on politics. These are the people who say shit like “I vote for the man, not the party” without realizing how stupid they’re being.

The next time I’m around a person saying something like this I’m going to ask them to list the things that they can’t say anymore because of political correctness.

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” then candidate-Trump said during a Republican primary debate, adding “and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness, and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.”


We don’t have time for total political correctness? I think a big part of the disconnect is that we’re not talking about the same thing. Progressives mean that we shouldn’t use slurs based on race, sex, sexual orientation etc to describe people. So when we read the quote above it’s outrageous to us that people think they don’t have time to pause, just for a second, to consider other people’s points of view and identity.

Conservatives of course focus on the ridiculous, non-existent parts of this idea that has been weaponized against the Left. A good example is gender neutral ginger bread cookies narrative. Rebecca Watson does a great job of responding to this so I encourage you to just go read her take on it.

I’m completely looking forward to seeing conservatives post images of their gendered ginger bread cookies with giant dicks swinging so they can pwn some libtards.


Things I found interesting today | 12/20/2018

Here’s some shit I found interesting today.

  • Maggie Haberman: Why I Needed to Pull Back From Twitter
  • The High School We Can’t Log Off From
  • My Skin Track UV: A Tiny Wearable to Track UV Exposure
  • Southern food is made in restaurants and homes all over America, but there’s science behind why biscuits will never be as good outside the South, writes @amandamull
  • How to install Visual Studio Code and configure it as a replacement for the PowerShell ISE

Understanding Trump’s campaign violations

I recently learned that the Obama 2008 campaign was fined $375,000. If you’ve been under a rock recently, Trump is an un-indicted co-conspirator for making illegal payments to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, a violation of campaign finance laws.

So this morning, I’m trying to understand why Obama was only fined but Trump is being accused of a felony. This post will be my resource for understanding the issue.

From the Snopes article linked below but this seems to be the main difference that makes what Trump did a felony and what the Obama campaign did just a fine by the FEC:

Not only does the matter have to be something that is purposeful, but it [also has to be] a major violation. People often have reporting violations [and] that’s what the Obama ones were determined to be.

In [Cohen’s] case, what [the Department of Justice] determined is that there was a criminal intent to hide a campaign contribution … and so, it falls within a criminal violation, as opposed to just a civil one to be enforced by the FEC.

Hey Siri, what’s the internet mad about today?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my social media usage lately. Most of my friends are pretty liberal and they share and retweet all the awful, outrageous things that politicians, society and the world does.

I think it’s important that we’re aware of these awful things and that we’re thinking about them but the constant flow of awfulness makes me feel helpless and hopeless. For instance, what can I do about POTUS45 saying that we can’t possibly do anything about the targeted killing of the Khashoggi because there’s too much at stake? On its face, it’s such an awful thought… all a country has to do is spend enough money on tanks and fighter aircraft and they can assassinate people without any sort of response from the US. That’s super ugly and we had the leader of the free world standing up and saying that to all of us, with a straight face.

What can I do about the fact that a lady needing a heart transplant was denied said heart transplant because she didn’t have enough money to afford the medication she’d need after the transplant (link)?

What can I do about the fact that POTUS45 is still trying to use fear to divide and motivate people about the border (link)?

What can I do about the fact that “good guy” with a gun is just a racist lie (link & link)?

What can I do about our country’s utter lack of response about global climate change (link & link)?

It’s all so depressing and I’m afraid that I’ve been guilty of echoing that awfulness. I do it thinking this is is super important and everybody needs to know about it. I think there’s already enough messaging and my little bit of echo chamber isn’t helping with anything.

With all that in mind, I’m going to try to change my style of social media usage. Instead of being part of the social media outrage machine, I’m going to try to focus on things that I like and enjoy. Things like tattoos, foosball, bicycling, kombucha, coffee, metal music, infosec, coding and memes about those topics. Wish me luck.

So, I’m going to work on becoming a developer

I currently work as a Systems Administrator supporting SharePoint. My official job title is SharePoint Engineer. That job includes design, installation, server support and some tier 3 user support.

I can see the writing on the wall at my current company that there’s a push to move the on premises SharePoint environments to Office 365 / SharePoint Online. Additionally, they intend to outsource the management of the Office 365 tenant to a third party company.

I really enjoy managing the infrastructure pieces (design, build, maintain) but the favorite part of my job is developing automation scripts with PowerShell.  I believe I’m being presented with an opportunity to change career paths as I think supporting infrastructure will be something that fewer companies will elect to do. So, why not take this opportunity to try to get into a career doing something I really love?

With that in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate myself to becoming a developer. My intent is to follow this guide to teach myself the skills I need and to find a job actually coding.

I think I’ll probably have to take a step back in salary to switch career tracks as I’m pretty senior in the systems administration track. If I go slow and spend the next year learning the skills and paying down debt then I could be in a position to take a job for less money but with more satisfaction.

Two Visions of Patriotism Clash in the Midterm Elections – The New York Times

Denise Bubeck, a Republican in Grimes, Iowa, works for an advocacy group that promotes “family values” such as heterosexual marriage and opposition to abortion.

For her, standing to show respect for the flag is nonnegotiable. When she sees athletes kneeling in protest of police brutality during the anthem, she thinks of a grandfather who was killed in the battle of Iwo Jima. “People actually shed blood for the freedoms we have,” she said. “We need to show respect for this country.”

Dear Denise,

Your grandfather was killed, fighting for the rights the athletes are exercising. Isn’t it at all ironic to you that you’re trying to brow beat your fellow citizens into not exercising their rights? And really, kneeling is a pretty respectful way to protest.

Re: How to deal with fear in polyamory?

I have made a strategy for dealing with fear and maybe it’s wise for you to do the same. Sit down when you feel good and are not dealing with massive triggers. Think about what you need to feel safe. This is my strategy for dealing with fear:

  1. I’m not this fear I’m feeling. I’m reminding myself that I’m the observer of fear that is triggering me right now. Can I see the little girl inside me who’s afraid?
  2. Close your eyes and visualize this little girl. What is she afraid of? What does she need right now? What can I do to make her feel safe?
  3. Are there any emotions that want to be released? Do you want to cry or scream?
  4. Sitting inside makes me go inside. Go outside, into nature if this is possible. Look at the clouds and the stars. Remember that you’re not alone.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol and try to stay away from overeating. You know it makes you feel worse.
  6. Move your body. Go for a walk or do a soft, heart-opening yoga flow.
  7. What would make you happy? Do you want to draw, write, listen to music or watch a movie?
  8. If nothing helps, call friend A, friend B, friend C or friend D. Or call them anyway if you want to.

This is a really great article about dealing with fear/jealousy. I think lots of relationships can use some advice on how to deal with jealousy.

These practical strategies really appeal to me and my nature. I need to print them out and post them everywhere in my house!

Re: Trump administration orders closure of PLO office in Washington

The closure was announced by the State Department shortly before White House national security adviser John Bolton, in his first major policy speech, threatened U.S. punishment for individuals and countries that cooperate with the International Criminal Court, where the Palestinians have lodged complaints against Israel.

“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process,” Bolton said, “and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.

I’m honestly not sure how I still have the capacity to be shocked by this administration yet, here we are.