Category: life

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.

Comparison!
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.

Untitled
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

Mike-as-a-service

Most of my friends and family already know but I’ve accepted a new position at Bridgestone as a SharePoint Administrator and start there at January 4th.

I’ve worked at CCA for just over 5 years and I have nothing but good things to say about my time there. I’ve enjoyed working for my manager Scott and for our CIO JP. I wasn’t even looking for a position but this one fell in my lap and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. They’re going to be looking for a SharePoint person so if you’re interested, drop me a line and I can get you in contact with the right people.

I’m looking forward to new challenges and expanding my knowledge on my road to becoming a SharePoint Jedi. 😉

Birthdays, ice storms and power outages oh my

Today is mom’s birthday. My plan to go spend the weekend in Crossville, visiting mom and hanging out with Jessie and friends didn’t exactly work out as I’d hoped.

Pretty sure I'm going to die in Crossville.
This is us tromping down to Mom’s house.

 

There was a pretty massive ice storm that rolled into Crossville Friday night. As we slept, everything got coated in a thick coat of ice. Power was out in a lot of the county (including my brother’s, where I was staying).

We walked over to Mom’s first thing Saturday morning and she made us some food. I have to say, she made me the best fried egg and bologna sandwich I’ve ever had.

What was supposed to be a weekend visit turned into a half day visit which we topped off with lunch at Waffle House.

Happy Birthday Mom. Hopefully there won’t be an ice storm next year on your birthday.

Best weekend in a while…

I had a shitty week last week. It was a combination of not cycling, the amount of darkness in the 24 hour period this time of year and trying to share a car between two working adults.

Had an off week and this is what I'm doing about it.
My Friday night

Friday night, Jen worked late so I just sat on the sofa, drank alcohol and played on the Internet. It might sound pathetic but it was actually pretty enjoyable.

Saturday I was out and about on the bike. Coffee at a very crowded Red Bicycle coffee shop followed by hanging out at the bike shop and a long lunch and great discussions with the Green Fleet guys filled most of my day. After that, we rode over to watch the cannons go boom!

We then spent the rest of the evening up in Kentu… err, Hendersonville with a large group of our friends; dranking and werewolf and such. It was truly a great time.

Sunday, my brother and I tailgated with Lucy before the Titans-Jets game. I hadn’t planned on getting drunk but Lucy’s kung fu is strong. After shotgun beer lessons and moonshine lime shots, we walked over and enjoyed the game from the excellent execute suite – I won tickets from work. They had free food, drinks and alcohol. I clutched my ticket like a shield every moment in case somebody tried to kick us out because I felt so out of place. #lowclass

I've had worse seats
First series… look at the packed stadium!

I locked my bike to this but didn't notice the sign until after. Oops.
I locked my bike to this but didn’t notice the sign until after. Oops.

I had to leave right at the end of the 3rd qtr because I needed to fix the flat on my bike then bike 20 minutes to Jen’s work for the ride home because we had to get ready for her work Christmas party!

More convo, drinks and food! I think our table was the coolest as we had the lesbians and the guy with the bolo tie.

My great weekend helped me forget about my shitty week. Moar weekends like that please but I need to rest for a while first.

On midlife crises or feeling my mortality…. again.

I think about my mortality a lot. This has been a recent development – within the last 2-3 years anyway. I thought it was just me being a morbid person but maybe I’m experiencing my midlife crisis? Instead of buying a convertible sports car and banging the hottie at work I’m buying bicycles and sensing the end? Maybe.

As clichĂ© as it sounds, time really does speed up the older I get. It really seems to be flying by to me now… it seems like just a few weeks ago, I was biking to work with an ice beard but that was 5 months ago. Weeks zoom by and days barely register. I worry that my time is going to zip past before I get to do all the things I want.

Another recent development is that perhaps these days I’m living right now are the best days of my life. Don’t get me wrong… my life is actually pretty good right now. I ride a bike to work nearly every day. I feel great and I’m healthy. Jen is healthy and our life is relatively worry free but as a younger person in my 20’s and 30’s, I always thought that the best was yet to come. I console myself by believing there are lots of people in their 50’s and 60’s thinking “Oh to be 40 again!”

Feeling like my time is limited and precious, I’ve started thinking seriously about a bicycle tour across the US… it’ll happen within the next two to three years. I know I can do the ride, physically but I just have to plan the financial side of things.

Anyway, O’Brother’s music sounds like I feel inside.

Friday bike and thangs 04/25/14

Quick hits

  • I’ve had bicycle touring on my brain lately and the photo below really appeals to me.
  • The weather has been great and my miles on the bike (300 miles in April so far) and my happiness levels have been up because of it.
  • I’m participating in the National Bike Challenge. If you ride a bicycle, you should too.
  • I’ve started using Strava to record my rides. Let’s be friends.

Photo by Heather McGrath
Photo by Heather McGrath

A driver misjudged our speeds and failed to correctly anticipate the turn in. Being a gentleman, I allowed the lady to go ahead of course.

Spring ponderings

As I was riding my bike home from work yesterday, I realized that this is actually a really good phase of my life.

If I examine my feelings I think I have this expectation that life isn’t good until every little problem is fixed, every feeling resolved, all the money saved, in the perfect house, in a specific situation; then I’ll have made it!

The fact of the matter is, I’m surrounded by great friends, I ride a bicycle to work, I like my job and I feel appreciated and challenged in my work. My loved ones are all in good health and they’re accessible.

I actually think that I’ll look back on this time in my life very fondly. I just have to stop rushing into the desired perfect future that might not ever happen and enjoy the present more – or so it seemed as I was riding home on a wonderful spring afternoon, sweating and breathing deep.

Thoughts on clean sheets

I love clean sheets. I also love the way the carpet looks right after vacuuming. I love the way the kitchen looks when all of the dishes are put away, everything is clean; my world seems in order. I love when all of the clothes are clean and everything is put away. I think I’m just one impulse away from spending a Sunday afternoon of doing chores in the buff because at the end, I’ll sit perfectly still in my chair and I’ll know that my universe is perfectly in order.