Monday, March 27, 2006

SB II - How Not to Freeze to Death in the Woods

So, now that a week and some has passed since spring break, here comes the second installment.

When we left our intrepid explorers, they were not even explorers yet. They had just left Atlanta at around 4:30 pm after winning the sucky bracket (We're the best suckers around) and eating some Wendy's.

We drove to North Carolina, which involved traveling on the worst roads I have driven on, as far as road markings go. We would hit intersections and the highway we were on would turn both left and right, with no other markings. So of course we guessed.

We eventually made it to Fontana Village, which was going to be our entry point into the Great Smokies. I had read that there was a shelter at Fontana Dam, but aside from seeing it on one map, I had no other confirmation it existed, much less that we could stay there. This lack of planning worked out perfectly however, as the shelter did actually exist, and the night was so pleasant that we just slept under the stars anyway.

Monday morning we awoke to lots of birds chirping, the sun rising over the mountains of Appalachia, and an itch to get on the trail. The plan was to hike 13 miles the first day, and stay at the Russell Field Shelter on Monday night. We got on our way at about 9 am, hiked passed our car, hiked to the visitor's center, registered, and crossed Fontana Dam. At about 9:30 we officially entered Great Smoky National Park.

On this part of the Appalachian Trail, the Fontana Dam is located at about 1500 feet above sea level. The first two hours after the Dam consisted of an immediate gain of 2000 feet. An hour into the trip I explained what 'Hot spots' were (the beginning of blisters) and the importance of foot health, which prompted Adam to have some. Well, maybe he had them already and didn't know he should care. Regardless, we stopped and I told Adam how to use Mole skin, except I gave him the wrong directions and ended up making his soon to be blisters worse. (I make an awesome leader.)

We hiked and rested and hiked and rested and hiked some more. Adam, Andrew and Nick were all really tired from the Ultimate tournament, and were pretty down about the trip, until after lunch. Then things got a little flatter, and I promised them a moving walkway like they have in airports for the second day.

We reached Mollie's Ridge shelter at about 5:00pm and it was beginning to get cold and foggy. We had traveled roughly 12 miles at that point, but still had 3 to go to get to Russell Field, so I called a halt and we decided to stay at Mollie's. That night intense rain battered the shelter and woke us up 3 or 4 times. Temperatures dropped from about 45° to some where in the 20s, (and then add in wind chill!). All of the rain ended up freezing on to everything, coating our bear bag (you have to hang all your food from trees so that bears don't come and eat you), the trees, bushes, everything with ice. Due to the cold and fog we discovered in the morning, the early start we had planned did not pan out.

Tuesday we did not get started until 10:30. We cooked breakfast at a Snail's pace, and Adam spent at least 10 hours bandaging his heels (were the blisters were). When we finally got moving, we knocked out 5 miles of trail in just over 2 hours, which was by far the fastest pace we had kept yet. We ate lunch and started on thestretchh from Spence Field shelter to Derrick Knob. This stretch of trail was 6.2 miles of steep ascents and descents, and climbed over Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountains, both of which were in the 5500 ft range. They offered amazing views, and lots of soreness.

We got to Derrick Knob at 6pm. The sun was starting to set, and with its fall the temperature was dropping quickly. We had nearly 6 more miles to get to our scheduled shelter location at Siler's Bald, but that would put us in at 9:30 or 10pm. To add to our problems, the Derrick Know shelter was full, and there were about a dozen people sitting around outside trying to decide whether to stay or continue. We all decided to stay. While Adam and Nick went to get water, Andrew and I rigged up a wind-block in the lee of the Shelter using a tarp, seven tent stakes, a tree and some rope. We stacked all of our backpacks in one of the openings that the tree made in our little haven, rolled out our pads and sleeping bags, and got in bed by 7:30.

It was really cold. By 3:30am I was wearing all of the clothes I brought. The wind caused the tarp to flap, making noise and also hitting us in the head repeatedly. Nick was wearing socks on his hands to help stay warm. Some time in the night his nose was running so he wiped it with his socks. He eventually discovered that his nose wasn't running, but instead was bleeding! He proceeded to die. Okay that wasn't serious. In the morning we all sat up and said "That was horrible. I don't think I slept at all, but there is something about being in bed for 13.5 hours that makes me not tired anymore. And Nick got a bloody nose because it was so cold! This is ridiculous! Let's turn around and go back."

So that's what we did. We were roughly 23 miles into the park when we turned around and headed back. Wednesday night we stayed at the Russell Field shelter we were supposed to stay at the first night. Thursday we hiked the entire 13 mile stretch to the Fontana Dam in 6.5 hours, setting our new personal land speed record. We reached the visitor's center at 2:30, and then ran around in our boxers for an hour while we took showers. We left Fontana Village at about 3:30 and headed to Louisville.

4 days
4 nights
46 miles
1 ice storm
1 sub freezing night under a tarp
2 blisters (both Adam's)
2 optimal ways to kill a bear
1 optimal way to kill a cougar

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring Break - Ultimate

So six weeks until this experiment called college comes to an end. What sort of end it will be, I do not yet know, but let us hope that it will be a good one. For now, let me wow what ever audience I may have with tales of intrigue, danger, adventure and romance, otherwise known as Spring Break! Okay, there was not any romance. But the rest happened!

Adam, Nick and I left on Friday for Louisville. New Albany would be more accurate, but who knows where New Albany is? I sure didn't. Anyway, the plan was to drive to New Albany, meet up with Andrew, Beth and Rachel, trade my car for Nick's van and then head to Atlanta. We got out of Lafayette at about 2 pm. Traffic was pretty good all the way down, and we cruised at a pretty steady 73ish until we got to Nick's exit. As I applied the brakes on the exit ramp, my right front tire started making the "Thump thump thump thump thump" sound of a flat. I groaned. The car really did not want to brake, nor turn, but we coaxed it the 2 miles to Nick's house.

When we got out, a quick inspection revealed that the tire was not flat. I called my dad (always a good course of action with cars). This led to use of the jack, rotating the tire, and then eventually taking it off. As it turned out, one of the bolts that secures the brake shoe to the car had fallen out. Awesome. Well, Andrew's dad volunteered to see if he could find a new bolt, so I thanked him profusely, we ate some dinner, traded cars, and took off for Atlanta (aren't parents great?).

So the girls were planning on coming down to Atlanta to watch the Ultimate tourny (Terminus) that Adam, Andrew, Nick and I were playing in. The were then going to visit people in Atlanta and generally enjoy the warm weather. Adam rode with them in their car, while Nick Andrew and I were in the van. At about 10:30, we got a call from Adam saying that their car had overheated. We stopped, got coolant, filled the reservoir back up, tested the car, had it fail, and then pushed it 3/4 of a mile down the highway to the next exit. Adam and the girls decided to stay at the Day's Inn and wait for morning when a guy named Charles might be able to help them. Andrew Nick and I left for Atlanta. The time was 11:30 pm.

We got to the north side of Atlanta at about 4:30. We decided to drive straight to the fields because game time was so close. Nick combined our directions to the hotel with the directions from the hotel to the fields to make some directions directly to the fields. We got there and peed on the fence. We got back in the car and left in search of food. The time was 5:30 am.

We ended up sleeping for an hour and a half in the van before the rest of the team showed up and we commenced with the festivities. While I didn't play much, the weather was great, and there was some good ultimate on Saturday and Sunday. I slept for 11.5 hours on Saturday night (which set the tone for the rest of the week).

Next installment: How not to freeze to death in the woods.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


My thoughts have been running all over the place of late. I am finally getting some distance from Love Triangle Shenanigans that consumed much of December and January. An over ambitious spring break trip is right around the corner. Graduation looms. Teach for America just shipped me a bunch of reading material. So I guess I am just going to talk about a bunch of random stuff.

I wonder if I am going to be any good at teaching. Here I am, 2 months from a BS in Mechanical Engineering and I am turning away from the field in which I have more than a year and half of work experience. Did you know that as a teacher for Teach for America, I still have to interview for a job with a school district? This information shocked me. What do I have to talk about? I don't know anything about teaching! Well, scratch that, I know how to be a sucky teacher. That's easy. Just stop caring about the students, speak unintelligible english, never be available outside of class and you pretty much have suckying down pat. But being good...well that's a different story. So maybe it will go like this:

Principal person: So why do you want to be a teacher?

Me: I think I can make a difference in teaching. Teaching allows me to serve a need through skills that I have.

Principal person: It says here that you have a BSME...why didn't you go into education?

Me: Well, uhh, because I thought the classes would suck?

So yea, I don't think that would go too well.

I was back in GR this past weekend, and so went to church at Mars Hill. It amazes me that Mars, and home in general, can be so filled with these emotional cues and yet be so seperate from anything I am going through now. I mean, I don't know anybody at Mars Hill anymore. Home is now a place my parents live. I don't even like my bed....yea. But what I really wanted to talk about was the sermon that Rob gave. He talked about the Lent season. Apparently, there are 'standard sermons' for each weekend in Lent. The first weekend is "The Temptation of Jesus".

In general, I have not really gotten 'into' Lent. I don't really see the point in giving up some thing for 40 days, and really that is about all I knew about it. This idea of a standard sermon, however, really struck me as meaningful. It was like I was suddenly part of this world wide community, all of whom are experiencing a similar thing, for similar reasons. It's kind of like when you take communion and you pause and think about how many millions of people have taken communion down through history and that at that moment, you are partnering in this recognition of the divinity of this man who came and loved so freely. There is something in that, being part of that group.

And this brings up all sorts of other questions. My parents don't really 'hang out' with other people all that often. How do they 'do life' with out a strong community around them? All people have something in common, in that we were all created by God, we are all human. How much similarity is enough for community? Why do we insist on seperating ourselves so much, into economic, gender, race, relgion, profession?

Finally, a piece of inspiration from the incomparable Catch-22:
"Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was."