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.

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

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

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.

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!

I sometimes really hate night time…

I find that the wall I build up around my emotions to function during the day is the thinnest and weakest at this time. There’s about a three-hour window in the evening, before going to sleep where this happens. Not every night but more than I’d like and it can vary in intensity.

All the things that are on my mind and bothering me are really at the forefront of my thoughts and I’m unable to do much about it other than to just be with those feelings. That thing I can do during the day, where I’m able to compartmentalize, reframe and rationalize the negative emotions using my brain, just seems to be wore out after doing that all day.

I’m not sure what to do about it.

Father’s Day

These are the jokes people

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there. My dad passed away 32 years ago and I rarely think of my dad in a way that makes me feel sad. I do enjoy making everybody else uncomfortable by posting dumb memes but that’s about the extent of it.

My thoughts seems to turn to how I did and am doing as a father. I think all parents probably have some regrets and I’m not different. I was 17 years old when Jessie was born and as such, I really had no idea what I was doing; we were kids having kids.

I regret not being more present and appreciating the special moments of Jessie’s childhood. I spent too much time and energy trying to hang out with my friends.

My dad and I… 1975’ish I’d say

I regret not being more established in my career to provide better for our family back then. We were on every form of public assistance there was and we really struggled at first. These things can be excused because we were idiot kids having kids; our brains weren’t even fully developed at 17 years old.

I regret the way Jessie’s Mom and I split up. That was a traumatic experience and I wish I would have did that better. I was just so caught up in my own head and my own life and feelings and I didn’t realize how much my actions could affect Jessie.

Jessie and I – 1994

Jessie and I have a pretty great relationship now. I’m in a great position with my career and finically that I’m able to help out now in really meaningful ways and I’m really proud of the woman and mother that my little Jessie has turned into.

Jessie and I 2013 at the Nashville Zoo

So, I had a heart attack

Yep. I had a heart attack on April 23rd, 2018.

I woke up at 2am on April 23rd with my chest kind of feeling weird and having an achy feeling in my shoulders and back. Mostly, I was just uncomfortable when I first woke up. On the pain scale of 1-10, I would have put it around a 2 or 3? It felt like a body ache but in my shoulders and back mostly. The first episode lasted about 3-4 minutes. I woke up, used the bathroom, took some ibuprofen and was just taking some deep breaths when it passed. I went back to sleep and didn’t have anymore issues during the night.

In the morning, I woke up, went to work, stopped by BK for my normal breakfast (2 bacon egg and cheese croissants and a medium Dr Pepper) that I had almost every morning for the past couple months. As I was walking into work, I had another episode that was very similar to the first. I walked in and rode the escalator up with the heart attack in progress. By the time I got to the top of the escalator, it had passed. I worked all day without incident and got home a bit after 5pm. At this time, more serious episodes started to come on and I knew I was in trouble. I certainly couldn’t just ignore it as I was at home alone and I didn’t want to wake up at 1am with a serious episode happening and nobody there to help me. With that in mind, I decided to get dressed and call 911. By the time I was dressed, the episode had passed so I drove myself up to the ER. I’d say the episodes were spiking into the 5 range on the pain scale now.

At the ER triage room, they had me hooked up to machines and were listening to me but they said the machine tests were inconclusive. They took me to a trauma room and that’s when I got more worried as the trauma room is where people with gun shot wounds go. More doctors were coming and listening to my chest and getting me hooked up to more machines and still, the tests were inconclusive. They said they wanted to go take a look because even though the tests were inconclusive, the symptoms I was describing sounded like a heart attacked. I was nervous about this but I agreed.

In the cath lab, they gave me some medicine to help me relax and then made an incision in my wrist and tried to go in that way. Because of my anatomy, they couldn’t get the cath to my heart so they had to go in through my groin area – after a nice shave! This part of the experience was pretty mild. I was just laying on a table and there were monitors and I could see what they were doing. After about 20 minutes of feeling very chill and relaxed, they were done and said yeah, you had a 100% blockage in the LAD; the widow maker. We put a stent in and you’re good as new. I remember feeling very…. 😑

Yeah well you should still get the fuck off my lawn.

My dad had his first heart attack at 56 then died at 61 with another so I beat him by 12 years; awesome. It’s weird to think about that too because he lived life hard. I remember he was a heavy smoker and drank a lot. I’ve not lived the best life – obviously – but I’ve been cycling pretty regular for 4-5 years now. I wonder how much that offset the severity of my heart attack? Other than my bicycle riding, I’m pretty sedentary as I work in IT as a SharePoint Engineer at Bridgestone. I spend 8 hours a day sitting at my desk, doing awesome shit with SharePoint.

Anyhoo, I was in ICU for one day then on the regular floor for two days. I was put on more medication than I care to admit (7 pills a day). Some of them will be forever; aspirin and blood thinner for the stent. The others though, I can possibly come off of if I can get my health in order.

During my stay, I had many people come to visit and that made me feel pretty good. I had work friends coming to visit – Antwon, Phillepa and even my manager, Randy! That was awesome. My old manager, Scott and another guy, Rob from CCA came by to visit too!  Jessie came to visit all the way from Crossville and she brought a surprise, my best friend David came to visit! That was really cool!

Special shout out to Jen who came up as I was in the ER and the cath lab. Even though we’re separated, she still came up and visited several times during my stay.

Really special shout out to Amanda who really helped me a lot. She made sure I had everything I needed and spent a lot of time with me and took me home and made sure I was setup at home.

My doctors have cleared me to resume all my normal activities and I feel better than ever. The damage to my heart was minimal and they believe that my heart can get back to normal. I’ve been back on the bike for a few weeks now and I’ve really felt great. I guess it’s amazing that your cardio vascular system works better when you don’t have a clogged artery! I wonder how much this affected my bike trip out west last year as I was really struggling. I thought it was just because I was out of shape – and I was – but I imagine this had to contribute as well. I’m just so glad this didn’t happen while I was out there!


Happy Valentines Jen Harley

I’m glad our weirdnesses match. Thank you for laughing at all my dumb jokes. The jokes I tell to the cashiers and waitresses and you’ve heard a million times.  Thank you for not rolling your eyes when I spend too much money on bike stuff or when I go on and on about autonomous cars, SharePoint, the Titans, Star Trek, or my ideas about a cool space pirate show. Thank you for not sighing too loudly when I’m playing my shitty trap music in the mornings as I’m getting turnt up. Thank you for accepting me for me and all my weird quirks.

Nobody gets me like you do – life is ours and we live it our way.

I love you. Will you be my valentines?

Jen being weird


Ps. Thank you for being my chunky monkey. 😉