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It's Trailing Tuesday again! Find out where Cumberland Transit Staffers M.E. and Ethan are at on their journey through the Continental Divide Trail.

Trail Tuesdays - Day 47: 708 (Chama) to 721

Trail Tuesdays are brought to you by Trailing Thought (@ourtrailingthought), CT Staffers M.E. and Ethan. They are walking their way from Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide Trail. Read their most current update below. 

We began our walk through town and away from our wonderfully cozy room at the Chama Trails Inn. We could feel the new heaviness of our packs with the added snow gear and the weight of the section before us. We met up with Ralph and Ted at the Fudge Shop, grabbed a cup of coffee, and loaded up in Ralph's truck. During our drive to the trailhead, we passed back through the beautiful Chama River Valley, and we talked about everything from previous hikers, the importance of responsible plastics, to the Cumbres Choo Choo. We arrived where the trail crossed over the road. A notable landmark for us but insufficient, invisible even, to the normal passerby. We said our good-byes, and left the road to join the trail. Thank you so much Ralph for the ride!!

Back on trail and back in Colorado, we were headed up, a couple thousand feet to be exact. We followed the trail through tunnels of trees and over snow bridges as bubbling water flowed underneath. Gradually, we climbed, and the valley below came into view. The South San Juans that had decorated our horizon for the past hundred miles growing closer each day were now in front of us and beneath us. Sometimes the trail would hug the side of a peak and other times the trail took us right up the side of it. Each mile we climbed higher, and the sun ducked in and out of fluffy, white clouds.

Our lunch came with a view of Chama nestled into the valley and the snowless mountains of New Mexico. We could also see the large snow capped peaks of the San Juans, their sharp edges and rough ridges made the slopes in between appear smooth like marble. Each mountain that we climbed was sculpted to be completely different than the next.

With our micro-spikes on, we slowly traversed snow packed angles of thirty degrees or more. One foot at a time we carefully kicked out our steps. The snow was softening under the climbing sun. We crossed heavily angled snow patches and fields of scree. We put on our micro-spikes then took them off. Sometimes we were on the trail other times we had wandered off.

We arrived at 10,500 then 11,800 then 12,300 feet. Critter had developed a cough after lunch. She kept feeling like she had to clear her throat then the cough migrated deeper into her lungs. Her cough became more frequent, more painful, and she started to wheeze. Sometime the cough would be so powerful, she would cough herself into a gag. The cough became so often that each attempt at a deep breath would begin an involuntary wave of coughing. During this wave of coughing, something different happened. On an inhale, no air rushed into her lungs. She tried again, nothing. With no history of asthma, this was alarming. Garbelly raced over unbuckling her pack and threw it to the ground as she gasped for air. Sitting down with her head back, she was finally able to get air into her lungs. Inhale. Exhale. We sat there for several minutes in shock. We were at 12,300 feet with six miles to get under 11,000. We needed to get lower and fast.

The two and a half miles an hour that we were averaging reduced to less than a half of a mile an hour. To be this uncomfortable while surrounded by so much beauty brought another wave, a wave of heartbreak. Her mind wanted to keep going but her body had other plans. We walked a couple more miles but the coughing persisted, and then another attack began. Like before, Garbelly detected a change in a cough and just in time raced back down trail to throw her pack to the ground as she struggled for air. It was emotional, scary.  The sun was beginning to disappear begin peaks even higher than our own. The air was getting colder, and we were still miles away from camp. Garbelly tried to find a way down closer to us, but with no luck we set camp up at 11,800 feet. We made the decision that night to go into town the following day. It was tough, being only one day out, but you cannot ignore your body when in the mountains. The mountains will always be there. Regardless of health or instance, altitude can affect anyone at anytime. Even if you have been in the mountains before. You have to be able to recognize the signs of altitude sickness, but more importantly you have to be able to make the decision to bail. It is not an easy decision to make, but it could save your life.

Critter was able to sleep even though we were still at altitude. Having worn herself out, she fell asleep easy but just in time to hear the songs of coyotes nearby and the silence that follows. Garbelly stayed up late formulating a plan to get down to the highway. It would require at least ten miles or so, but it was our only choice.

 Be safe out there. Listen to your body. There is always tomorrow.

Cheers to the hard decisions. They can only make you stronger.

Garbelly & Critter

 

We are a local business, and we love supporting and partnering with other local businesses.  We have had an awesome partnership with Climb Nashville for years.  We have always talked about teaming up and doing a t-shirt together. Well here it is!  Come grab a shirt and show your support...

New CT products in stock today!

We are a local business, and we love supporting and partnering with other local businesses.  We have had an awesome partnership with Climb Nashville for years.  We have always talked about teaming up and doing a t-shirt together.

Well here it is!  Come grab a shirt and show your support for local businesses and local adventure.

Don't forget to stay #ventureready 

 

 

Thanks to Lara for taking the rad photos!  If you haven't seen her stuff, you should for sure check it out.

M.E. and Ethan are two Cumberland Transit employees who are currently hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), a 3,100 mile trail between Mexico and Canada. Come back to the blog every Tuesday for their Trail Tuesdays updates and follow their journey on Instagram: @ourtrailingthought. Day 13: Miles 181.8 to 195.9 The day started...

Trail Tuesdays: A glimpse of daily life for our two employees currently hiking the CDT

M.E. and Ethan are two Cumberland Transit employees who are currently hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), a 3,100 mile trail between Mexico and Canada. Come back to the blog every Tuesday for their Trail Tuesdays updates and follow their journey on Instagram: @ourtrailingthought.

Day 13: Miles 181.8 to 195.9

The day started off in a pine forest weaving through land that held the secrets of centuries past. The remains of an old burn left fallen trees silvery black in the sunlight. The canopy towered over us, and the wind in the pine needles created a constant rumble. We finished our climb up to Tadpole Ridge (8023 feet) just as the sun was beginning to hit our side of the mountain. In the distance, we could see the hoodoos of Doug's front yard and the mesa behind them. Garbelly yelled down, "Good-morning, Doug," and the trees rattled back as his voice faded into the wind. When we reached the top, we came to the intersection where the Columbus route meets the Crazy Cook route.

From here, we began our descent down. Next stop, the Gila River Canyon. We came to a sign that read 'Gila River 2 miles', and then we began the real descent. Straight down to the river we slid for over a mile until the trail turned into switchbacks. The first couple of views of the canyon put a skip in our step as we picked up our pace to the river. The red rock faces stood like giants, and just a sliver of the river came into our sight.

Before hitting the Gila, we first came upon Sapillo creek which feeds into the river. The water ran crystal clear over multicolor rocks. It was amazingly beautiful. Garbelly and Thor ran up the side of the cliff on the opposite side to explore a small slot cave tucked into the rock.

Critter did what Critter does best, investigating the critters in the water. Flipping over rocks, we found Mayfly nymphs and everywhere you looked delicate shelters housing Caddisfly larvae could be seen. The pebbles they were usually reflected the colorful rock beds they lived in. We filtered some water about 1.5 liters. As we were kneeled down over the water and our filters, we picked up a stone that had a large, dark Mayfly nymph sitting completely still on the stone's underside. The stone was about to be placed back in the water when all of a sudden the carapace on the back of the nymph began to split. We sat there and watched the Mayfly emerge from its nymph shell. The wings came first tissue thin and standing straight up in the air. Next the head, tailing behind the long, segmented abdomen, and finally the three tails, long and hair-thin. The tiny Mayfly wiggled it's wings dry and it's slender body and then just sat there. We sat there in complete awe just staring at it before it caught a break in the wind and flew away.

Our first sight of the river was just too much for words. To our left was a giant slab of rock elbowing as the water flowed around the bend like the very vein of the canyon. Thick luscious green cottonwoods, oaks, and pines colored in all of the negative space that the water and rock carved out. To our right, more gorgeous rock and sparkling water. We could see another bend in the rock and water upstream.

We sat for a few and ate lunch consisting of hummus, cheese, summer sausage (Garbelly), and tortillas. Our map said that we did not have to cross the river yet, but rivers change. We made our first of many river crossings through the chilly, swift waters of the Gila River. We waded to one side curving around a bend then waded to the other. On land we waded through thick pile of debris from a flood a couple years back, and in the water, we waded one step at a time against the rush of water and the gusts of wind. Anticipating how many times we would have to cross back to back, we left our shoes and socks on. When we climbed back up on the steep banks of land, our feet felt like bricks from the water in our shoes and the chill of the water. Our feet were wet, and they would not dry out until camp that night.

As we made a crossing, we saw a fellow dressed in tan camouflage and tan waders with a straw hat on setting up camp in the sand. His green raft was anchored up on shore, and his tent matched his own disguise. The sight of us interrupted the staking down the tent process, it seemed from where we were at, and we wandered over to introduce ourselves. Turns out he was floating down a forty mile stretch of the Gila and turkey hunting! We spoke to him for awhile, and he even let us in on the tip that where he was camping for the night were some hot springs. The algae in the water was a sign of hot springs underneath the sand. All you had to do was dig a pit in the sand with the head of an old shovel that was sticking out of the sand, wait for it to fill with river water, and then wait for it to warm up. You could regulate the temperature by letting more river water in to cool it off or cutting off the flow to warm it up. Fascinated, we stuck our feet and hands in and sure enough they were toasty, just like a hot springs. We spoke a little bit longer before wishing each other a good trip. We had a couple more miles to go before we wanted to call it a day, and we wanted to squeeze in as many more crossings as we could.

We ended up with 22 crossings for the day. That night we camped in a patch of trees and ate dinner on a sandy beach while we watch the stars come out and the river float on.

Cheers to a new chapter: The Gila River!

Garbelly & Critter

By KYLE JACOBSON APRIL 12TH, 2017 The Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (S.C.A.R) - a 70+ mile traverse of the Great Smokies Mountains National Park via the Appalachian Trail. Backpacking along the AT in the Smokies is a very common activity, but there is a small subculture of ultra runners that...

One of our Ambassadors Kyle Jacobson did the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run

The Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (S.C.A.R) - a 70+ mile traverse of the Great Smokies Mountains National Park via the Appalachian Trail. Backpacking along the AT in the Smokies is a very common activity, but there is a small subculture of ultra runners that attempt this traverse all in one push. For backpackers, it is a 5+ day trip. Our goal was to try to finish around 22 hours.

There were six of us that drove to the Smokies for this adventure run. Jeff, Jim, Ryne and myself came from Nashville. Daniel came from Chattanooga. And Hunter came from Birmingham. Jim, Daniel and myself were the runners. Jeff, Ryne and Hunter were the crew.

We decided to start our run from Fontana Dam, ending at Davenport Gap. The total elevation gain for the route is around 18,500'. Almost 13,000' of that are in the first 40 miles. The one spot that we were going to be able to see the crew was at Newfound Gap at approximately mile 40. Other than that, we were on our own.

We all arrived at Fontana Dam from our various locales around 1:30PM on Friday. We couldn't have asked for better weather for March in the Smokies. The highs were around 50 degrees and the overnight lows were in the upper 30's, even on top of Clingman's Dome. The plan was to start early afternoon so that we could finish on Saturday in the daylight rather than a more typical early morning start and finishing early morning (or very late night) the next day. We took about 45 minutes getting ourselves organized at the Fontana Dam. From there Jeff and Ryne dropped us off at the trailhead and just like that, we were off.

Official start time of 2:26PM on Friday, March 24th.

The climbing began immediately from step number one. There was 2000' of elevation gain in the first 4 miles up to Shuckstack fire tower. We settled in to a power hiking pace for the first few hours as we climbed and climbed and climbed. The sky was mostly overcast and it was cool, perfect conditions. The majority of the first 12 miles were in the proverbial 'green tunnel' so there weren't a lot views, even with the leafless winter trees. That changed once we hit Russel Field Shelter. The tree canopy started to open up as we were on a series of balds for the next couple of hours. We got very lucky with our timing and got to experience a hazy sunset from just below Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mtn. This was very rejuvenating as we prepared to enter 12 hours of darkness for the overnight section.

The headlamps officially had to be switched on just right around 8PM so we enjoyed 5 1/2 hours of great visuals of the Smoky Mountains. From here a mental flip switched for me. I could no longer distract myself from the distance by simply enjoying the scenery. Now it was time to dig in and really enjoy the process and time with Jim and Daniel. This is also where story time with Jim and Daniel really started to pick up. There are lots of quiet stretches on the trails when running with others but there is also plenty of time to discuss almost any topic that you can come up with...especially when you are on the trail for almost 24 hours. Kids, relationships, favorite recipes, opinions on diet/nutrition, favorite trails, hobbies outside of running, parenthood tips and tricks, etc etc. I am very thankful for these conversations on the trails. The time together provides a place of great community.

The overnight hours all tend to blend together. We were all feeling good physically and mentally for the most part 25 miles in. We filled up on water for a second time at Double Spring Gap Shelter at mile ~26ish. At this point I hit a real low spot for the next couple of hours. I'm not exactly sure why or what caused it. I had kept up with my nutrition and hydration but had a real lack of energy for the entire 6 mile climb up to Clingman's Dome. Possibly because this was at a time that my body was typically used to going to bed so it was revolting against the idea of staying up all night? Once we got near the summit of Clingman's, the temperature dropped significantly and it became very foggy, wet, and windy. This was the only time during the entire run that I was uncomfortable due to weather. After a couple hour climb up the steep, rocky trail, we made it to the summit and descended down the backside as quickly as possible to get out of the wind. The views from Clingman's are typically phenomenal so being up in the dark with visibility no more than a couple of feet due to the fog was a completely different experience for me.

From the summit of Clingman's we had roughly 8 mostly downhill miles to get to our crew at Newfound Gap. Thankfully I started to feel much better as we started the descent. This portion was almost as slow as the climb up due to all the wet, slippery rocks and very steep trail. This was also the first section that really dragged on for all us because we were all expecting to make it to the crew point sooner than we did. Finally, around 3:30AM, approximately 13 hours after we started, we made it to Newfound Gap. Jeff, Ryne and Hunter were there awaiting our arrival. They had prepared hot coffee and soup for us and had all of our gear and food out and ready for us to grab whatever we needed. We spent about 15 minutes or so at Newfound taking in some hot calories and preparing for the final 30 mile push to Davenport Gap. The crew team was very efficient and pushed us out as quickly as possible so we didn't have time to get comfortable and not want to continue on to the finish.

I have ran and/or hiked the majority of the trail from Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap so I mostly knew what to expect. Fewer long, steep climbs than the first 40 miles but lots of technical trails and rolling climbs and descents that are a tough on tired legs. Spirits stayed pretty high and conversation continued to flow as the miles continued to click off in the darkness. We were in pretty heavy fog for the rest of the night after leaving Newfound Gap. Finally around 7:45AM the sun began to fight through the fog and we were able to shut our headlamps off for the first time in 12 hours. The sun came up just in time for us to get to experience the thick, green tunnel of ferns, moss and pines around Tricorner Knob.

Around Mt. Guyot we all began to hit a low spot. We were nearly 19 hours into our adventure and we were all beginning to get really tired. The technical trail was wearing us down physically and the lack of sleep was wearing us down mentally. At this point we were all ready to be finished but we still had about 15 miles to go. Our pace dropped considerably on the last 15 miles. We were on pace to hit our 22 hour target up until this point. We kept thinking we were closer to the finish than we actually were which was very mentally taxing but we continued to trudge forward. We stopped for one last water fill up at Cosby Knob shelter. Jeff and Hunter had run in from Davenport Gap to look for us and run out with us. They were expecting to see us at Mt. Cammerer but found us at Cosby Knob three more miles up the trail. We were behind schedule. They delivered the tough news that we still had eight miles to go but it was a bit of a boost having a couple more people to "run" with. There wasn't much running happening at this point. We hiked the last couple climbs to Mt. Cammerer and from there it was five miles all down hill to the end...three of those being very rocky and technical. Once we navigated our our way through the rocky section we hit Davenport Gap shelter and knew it was a smooth two miles to the end. These were our fastest two miles of the entire trip. Finally Ryne and his dog Dany came into view sitting by the final trail sign. We had made it.

23 hours, 45 minutes, 57 seconds.

Ryne was waiting for us at the finish with cold drinks and ready to prepare any food we wanted. It was a great feeling to be able to sit down. The adrenaline associated with finally being finished jolted me back to life a little bit. I suddenly didn't feel quite as tired and my body didn't feel as run down. This was my longest run since Stillhouse 100k in December and the longest I have ever continuously been on my feet by over 10 hours. What an incredible adventure.

I am very thankful to have found this community of runners/friends. I couldn't be more humbled that Jeff, Ryne and Hunter decided to make a 4+ hour drive to the Smokies to spend a sleepless weekend making sure that Daniel, Jim and myself had as good a run as possible. We owe you guys one. Thank you to Daniel and Jim for the miles and miles of stories, knowledge, laughs and wisdom.

My mental capacities weren't firing on all cylinders and I completely forgot to get a picture of us at the end. But here is one from the following morning with our eyes still half closed...

 

I get two questions all the time: What do you eat? and Why do I run such long distances? I will try to explain.

WHAT DO I EAT?

Short answer: As much as possible. With an early afternoon start, I ate breakfast and lunch basically how I usually would. Oatmeal for breakfast and a chicken sandwich for lunch.

On the run I carried:

  • 800 calories of Tailwind (electrolyte drink mix)
  • 800 calories of trail mix
  • 3 packs of peanut butter crackers
  • 800 calories of GU energy chews
  • 600 calories of salami/turkey/cheese rollups

At the crew point at Newfound Gap I ate:

  • A bowl of ramen noodles
  • A cup of coffee
  • An oatmeal cream pie
  • Fritos
  • Three pieces of cheese pizza

All this totals to roughly 4000 calories. I typically eat very little solid food while running but the pace of this adventure run and the nearly perfect temperatures made it possible to be able to eat these heavier foods.

WHY?

1- There is a lot to be learned about yourself and others while pushing one's self to a very fatigued state. I make the choice to do these long endeavors. I want to know what my boundaries are; what my limits are. When you think you have reached your limit, physically and mentally, you can always push further. This knowledge/experience extends into daily life and into situations that are completely out of my control. And I think I am a much better person for it.

2 - I have met a lot of fantastic people in the running community. The friendships, adventures and the stories that come from them are memories that I will treasure forever.

3 - God has blessed me physically to be able to do these types of runs. I want to get out and explore all of the beauty that God has created on this planet while I can.

Fly Fishing for Native Cutthroat Trout Flat Creek, WY By Bailey Brandon Nashville, Tennessee is lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of fisheries. Whether you’re targeting bass on the Harpeth River or trout on the Caney Fork, one does not have to drive far to be out of the...

Fly Fishing in Wyoming for Cutthroat


Fly Fishing for Native Cutthroat Trout

Flat Creek, WY

By Bailey Brandon

Nashville, Tennessee is lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of fisheries. Whether you’re targeting bass on the Harpeth River or trout on the Caney Fork, one does not have to drive far to be out of the city and throwing line. If you’re willing to take a two to three-hour drive, the Holston and Watauga in Northeast Tennessee have some of the best trout fisheries on the East Coast. Oh, and don’t forget Western North Carolina and the Smokies.

That all being said, fishing out west, whether it be Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana or even Alaska, is a very unique experience and one that can’t be compared to our local waters.

Flat Creek is small stream that roams through the heart of Jackson, Wyoming and the National Elk Refuge. This is a river that anglers from all over the world come to fish. The small, twenty-foot-wide, clear watered stream is much different than the snake river or any other nearby water.  Only fishable during the summer and early fall, you can bet caddis and mayfly hatches will be going off throughout its open season. 

 

Figure 1: Rob and Bailey plotting their plan of attack

On Flat Creek, you target a specific kind of fish, the Native Cutthroat Trout. While this small stream is heavily exposed, you’ll be lucky to set your eyes on one of these fish. They love to hang out in the undercuts of banks, not exposing themselves to the elements or anglers.

Figure 2: Bailey fishing on Flat Creek

8AM on August 1st was opening day for Flat Creek. A buddy and I pulled up to an access point of the Elk Refuge, where cars were parked as far as the eye could see with license plates from near and far. Many anglers showed up at sunrise as the local rangers opened the gates. While we also planned to show up at sunrise, the previous evening had gotten the best of us. A local biologist was collecting data from the anglers. Of the twenty to thirty anglers who had left the river by the time we had arrived, only a few were to report a catch and release.  To give you an idea, that is pretty typical for this stretch of water. Flat creek is all about quality, not quantity. These fish are spooked easily and are very smart. To come out with one, two, or even three fish for the day is a huge success. After a few months of pressure, it only becomes more difficult.

As we approached the river through waist high grass, you could barely see the top of the water through all of the insects. As anyone who has ever seen a hatch go off would tell you, it is a beautiful sight. We closely inspected the water and tied on our flies which best imitated the current hatch. I did not make a single cast for the first twenty minutes until I saw a fish rise to the top of the water. Very subtly, bubbles and ripples break broke the surface of the water. One rise, two rises, and I knew immediately that a fish was coming out from the undercut for a morning meal. I threw my Pale Morning Dun (PMD) ever so lightly about five feet upstream of the rising trout and … bam! That sucker took my fly like a bat out of hell. Adrenaline and goose bumps took over my entire body. As I yelled to my friend who was upstream, he sprinted down to get in on the action. After about ten to fifteen minutes of fighting the Cutthroat, he finally gave up and with his head was above water.

Fishing Flat Creek is a one of a kind experience. The West is known for its big waters and big fish, but Flat Creek is a smaller water with big fish. It’s not a stretch where you throw hundreds of casts, but one where you closely inspect and patiently wait for that perfect moment to trick some of the most beautiful fish the West has to offer.

Figure 3: Bailey's first catch of the day

 

-Bailey is one of our Ambassadors who is passionate about spending his free time fishing, biking, hiking skiing and anything else that gets him outside.  Follow his adventures on instagram @rbbrandon

  There is a magic amount of training that should be done for a long hike, without overdoing it. Injuries can happen due to over-training just as much as they can happen from not training. Here are some areas that we think are worth addressing before setting out:  FEET -...

How to Train for a Thru-Hike (Especially when you live at 522 feet above sea level)

 

There is a magic amount of training that should be done for a long hike, without overdoing it. Injuries can happen due to over-training just as much as they can happen from not training. Here are some areas that we think are worth addressing before setting out: 

FEET - No matter what you do to prepare physically for a thru-hike, your focus, first and foremost, should be on your feet. A hard lesson to learn is that what we do to our feet now affects what our feet will be able to do later. Most feet can handle long distance, that is a beautiful part of being human in that we are truly endurance animals. However you can thank evolution for the fact that our feet are so prone to sprains, plantar fasciitis, and the other ugly faces of foot pain. Discrepancies between the potential of our feet and reality of our foot health date back to the beginning when we became bipedal creatures. Whether or not we live an active lifestyle, foot pain is merciless and can cause not just discomfort but also a change in our daily lives. With all that said, it is crucial to always take care of your feet from the very first step we take, unfortunately we may not be graced with the advantage of knowing from the beginning that we some day will want to hike across the country. Some of us will just have to settle with falling in love with our feet the moment we decide to take our thru-hike dream and turn it into an attainable reality. So where do you go from here?

  1. STRETCH - Stretch, Dammit. It is not complicated, and most of the time you can actively stretch while sitting at a desk, in class, in a meeting, wherever your want! There are no excuses. Here are some of our favorites:       

  • Ankle Circles- Sitting down, or standing, isolate one ankle by drawing air circles with your toes. Continue for 30 seconds before reversing the direction of the circle. Repeat with the other ankle.

  • Flex Stretch- Sitting down, flex one foot by slowly pulling, with the toes, the foot towards your shin. At the top of the flex, slowly point the toes away from your shin, stretching down the top of the foot. Continue for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other foot.
  • Roll ‘Em Out- Grab a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, Nalgene water bottle, or foam roller. Sit the roller underneath your arch and roll your weight around on the roller. You are the judge of how much weight to put into your foot. Repeat on the other foot. If you really want a treat, freeze water in a water bottle before rolling ‘em out.       

Stretching will be a huge factor in maintaining and building strength as well as decreasing the chances of injury.

     2.  STRENGTHEN- The best way to build foot strength especially for a thru-hike is to hike. Add miles incrementally, and hike with your weighted pack when you can. If you are taking on extra work to save up money for a thru-hike, we can relate, you might not be able to hike as much as you would like to during the week. Try out these simple exercises to get your feet in tip top shape to hike the distance:

  • Calf Raises- Standing tall rise up on the ball of one foot. Lower your heel towards the ground, without resting it on the ground. Repeat for 20 reps, and then switch to the other foot. This can be performed on a flat surface or on the edge of a step.
  • Toe Crunch- Place a towel or handkerchief on the ground and step one foot on the area. Spread your toes out wide, and then scrunch the towel up with your toes as you bring them back in.  Repeat 15-20 times before switching feet.

    3. SOAK- Treat your feet to a weekly Epsom Salt soak. All you need is some hot water, Epsom Salt, and 20 minutes to revive your feet. Do not forget to drink lots of water afterwards!

   4. SUPPORT- Wear good shoes. The definition of good shoes is a pair of properly fitting shoes that provide the support and matches the profile of your foot. It is extremely easy to go by the shoe your friend recommends or your friend’s friend, but in reality, everyone’s foot needs are different. What shoe may be best for one hiker, may not work for you. Do your research in the field, not just online. As you start hiking around, pay close attention to your posture and how you distribute your weight on your feet. Do you roll your foot outwards when you walk or during normal motion? Do you roll your feet inwards? Overpronation and Supination are important to address before you get on the trail, don't ignore it. Do you have a high arch or a flat arch? These are all factors to take into consideration when picking out a trail shoe that works best for you. A good tip if you do not know where to start is to hit up a knowledgeable gear shop to have an expert check out your gait and offer recommendations.

CARDIOVASCULAR - Hiking, and just simply staying active, during the months leading up to your hike is important. Your body will have a lot of adjustments to make as is. Practice climbing elevation by hiking more difficult trails. If you live only a couple of hundred feet above sea level, pick a hill and repeat climbing it over and over. Your heart will be happy and carefree on the trail. Plus all of us low elevation dwellers will need any little bit of help for high altitude and peaks when we get there.

HIPS/LEGS- Another good reason to hike before you hike is to get your legs in shape. We mentioned before but can mention again the benefit of hiking especially with a weighted pack. It is a good idea to experiment with different paces to see what is comfortable for you, what you can work towards and what is too much. To supplement the hiking, stretching is a great way to maintain mobility and to help with recovery in between your hikes. In addition to hip flexors, the IT band is not one to leave out! There are so many stretches out there that target the hips and supporting muscles. Here are a handful of our favorites and what they stretch:

  • Frog Pose (Inner Thighs)- Begin in Table Pose. Take your legs out a little wider, keeping your knees in line with your ankles and feet. Take getting into this pose slow, and know your limits - don’t push it! Walk your arms out on the floor in front of you. Your elbows can rest on the floor, if you are there. Exhale slowly while pushing your hips backwards until you feel the stretch in your hips and inner thighs. Spend 3-6 breaths here.

  • Low Lunge (Hip Flexors)- From standing fold forward to place hands on the floor. Step back with one foot and set your back knee on the ground. Push your hips forward to actively stretch your hip flexors. Bring your torso tall while breathing into the stretch. You can gradually deepen the stretch. Hold here for 30 seconds before switching to the other leg.

  • Thread the Needle (Gluteus Maximus attaching to IT)- Laying on your back with you feet on the ground and knees in the air, place your right ankle just above your left knee or on your thigh. Holding your left leg around the thigh, pull your left knee towards you. Make sure to keep your back flat on the ground. Hold for 1-2 minutes before switching to the other side.

  • Standing Forward Bend (Hamstrings)- With your feet slightly apart, bend forward with your arms reaching towards the ground. Here you can use a block or a step, if you cannot reach the ground. You can also keep a slight bend in your knees as to not lock them out. Hold for 5-6 breaths.

Listed are just a few of our favorites. There is a wide variety of stretches that target different components of the hip-leg system. Stretching your legs will benefit your feet as well as your back. Always remember to take new stretches slow, and know your limits. Also remember that everything works like a machine. While you can isolate one muscle to stretch or strengthen, in order to keep the system working efficiently, you have to give attention to all of the components.

CORE- Core is crucial. No, you do not have to take on the trail with a chiseled six-pack. However, core is responsible for balance, agility, and good posture. With a weighted pack on your back, your core will help you keep upright and strong. Our daily movement on and off the trail is far from just frontal movement, or a single plane of movement. Therefore, just working out on one plane is not quite beneficial. Instead, try out strengthening exercises that target multi-planar, or rotational, movement.  

  • Plank- Starting on hands and knees in Table pose, step your feet back. Image a string starting at your belly button pulling straight up into the sky. You should feel your abs working here not your arms. There are tons of variations to a basic plank; you can always make it easier or more challenging. Hold 30 second to 1 minute. Repeat as many times as you want.
  • Side Plank- Come to your side on the ground. You can either take this pose from your elbow or go all the way up on your hand. The key here is to lift your hip/buttocks off the ground and to keep it from sagging to the ground. Likewise to the plank, there are lots of variations here. One of our favorite modifications is to begin to lower your hips and then take them back up to a full plank. Another modification to deepen the exercise is to thread your free hand underneath your supporting arm, twisting through your obliques.

  • Superman- Laying on your stomach with your hands straight out in front of your long ways, raise your chest off of the floor powering from your lower back. Rise up and hold or carry through the entire movement. Lower back to the ground slowly. These movements should be controlled. Repeat for 20 reps or 30 seconds. 

CLEAR HEADSPACE- It is simple. Being comfortable in your own mind is crucial to being able to handle the inevitable moments of loneliness that come with a long hike. Meditation, even in the smallest doses, is good for you. The ability to calm your mind will also help out in situations of distress, discomfort, or with anxiety. If you have trouble with your mind wandering or thinking about what is next or dwelling on what has past, focus on your breath. Practice this before hitting the trail.

 For more tips and advice on thru-hiking, head to www.trailingthought.com .

HAPPY TRAINING AND HAPPY TRAILS!

 

January 18, 2017 In Tennessee, all creeks seem to lead to the Cumberland River, but it is when you leave these mosaicked waters and head deep into the rhododendron wrapped forests that you find the true mightiness and potential of water.  Once a seabed hundreds of million years ago and...

Our day on the Cumberland Plateau

January 18, 2017

In Tennessee, all creeks seem to lead to the Cumberland River, but it is when you leave these mosaicked waters and head deep into the rhododendron wrapped forests that you find the true mightiness and potential of water.  Once a seabed hundreds of million years ago and now sitting 2000 feet above sea level, the Cumberland Plateau is a mecca for the most beautifully unique, yet perfectly carved rock formations this side of the Mississippi. Shaped by time's erosion and the persistence of water cutting through the sandstone, you would think the hand tools of man carved out each wrinkle, smoothed out each slab, and painted the rocks using the most beautiful palettes of purples, oranges, reds, and greens. However, the greatness of these rocks do not overshadow the other features of the land. A crystal creek flows over, around, and under glistening stones as the old growth frames the serpentine path, yet there is so much vastness. It is a rather delicate creek home to rather delicate creatures, yet here they flourish. Each bend in the trail leads to a furrow of rock herding us back into the gorge. In one corner of the rock wall, runs just enough water to create two tiers of falling water yet not enough to roar and rip through the canyon. Everything is coated with moss and beads of water, even the humidity captures rays of daylight giving this particular area a foggy glow. It immediately feels like we are in a far away rainforest, far away from human influence, and far away from the Tennessee we call home. Yet, home we are. 

(Click on one of the images to see more of our staffers Ethan and M.E.'s day)

The Crazy Owls is Cumberland Transit's trail running club that meets every Monday at 7pm at the Deep Well Entrance of Percy Warner Park.  We usually split up into groups to accommodate pace and distance.  If you want to get crazy one Monday night, come and join us.  Bring water and...

Crazy Owls Trail Maintenance Day at Percy Warner Park

The Crazy Owls is Cumberland Transit's trail running club that meets every Monday at 7pm at the Deep Well Entrance of Percy Warner Park.  We usually split up into groups to accommodate pace and distance.  If you want to get crazy one Monday night, come and join us.  Bring water and a headlamp.  And if the weather is gnarly, check our Instagram to make sure we are meeting.

We run the trails almost every week, so we decided it was time to help out and give our time to some good old fashioned trail maintenance.  All of us here at Cumberland Transit consider Percy Warner to be our backyard, adventure sanctuary.  It's very important to us to be good stewards of this place.

We met at the usual place, but this time it was daylight and we were wearing work clothes instead of our usual running attire.

Paul from Friends of Warner Parks maintains the trails at Percy Warner.  He was our crew chief for the day and planned work for us to do on the Warner Woods Trail.  When you see him out on the trails, give him a high five.  He's an awesome dude!  If you have been on the "white trail" during the winter, you know that it can definitely use some love.  There are a few sections that get really "soupy" muddy.

We spent the day using fire rakes to clear water bars and also added gravel to some of the really muddy sections.

Even with 10 volunteers and 3 hours, it didn't feel like we got much work done.  So if you enjoy these trails as much as we do, please consider becoming a member of Friends of Warner Parks.  We plan do to these trail maintenance days at least once a season, so if you want to help let us know.

Frozen Head December 11, 2016 This past Friday we woke up at 5:30 AM, loaded up the car with all of our backpacking gear and Milo, and drove east through the frigid Tennessee countryside. Only two and a half hours later we were transported from the Nashville basin to the...

Hiking at Frozen Head

Frozen Head

This past Friday we woke up at 5:30 AM, loaded up the car with all of our backpacking gear and Milo, and drove east through the frigid Tennessee countryside. Only two and a half hours later we were transported from the Nashville basin to the towering mountains of Frozen Head State Park. After a few glances at the map, we were off walking on frozen trail through seemingly untouched land.

As we wound around the mountain, switchback after switchback, we climbed in and out of the morning sun up the primarily oak forest of the Chimney Top trail. As we moved into the sunlight, sounds of distant birds and squirrels were constant, as the trail switched back into the shadows it became eerily quiet and the only noises we heard were our footsteps and Milo’s breathing. It quickly became apparent that we had the entire park to ourselves apart from the workers in the valley below. M.E. noticed in the shade there were thousands of hexagonal ice crystals lining the trail just underneath the top layer of leaves. A thick layer of crystals had formed underneath the dirt pebbles on the trail and gave the appearance that we were walking on floating rocks. It was magical. We were not necessarily happy that the park was empty, but excited that we got this incredible mountain all to ourselves for the cold December day.

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After a period of time we followed the trail the the top of Rough Ridge where we stopped to look at the small sandstone capstones that littered the top of the ridge. For a brief moment we were unsure if we had reached the top of our climb, but as we looked towards the east we noticed a peak at least a thousand feet taller than where we were standing. Then the trail began downwards. One of the things learned after thousands of miles of hiking is that trail builders usually do things for a reason. It seemed that the only reason we would be descending off of a ridgeline was that there was a water source at the bottom of the valley. About fifteen minutes of descending later, the prediction stood to be true as we crossed over Rocky Fork Branch and then immediately began ascending again.

There are things in the eastern United States that unfortunately are uncommon; the beautifully colored darters, the high towering American chestnuts and Hemlocks. While we did not get to see any of these, we did get to walk through a very old growth oak and hickory forest as we reached the top of the mountain. The trees towered high above our heads and appeared to be well pruned upwards of seventy feet. Even though we see trees everyday in Nashville, and even big trees when we hike in Percy Warner Park, the size and multitude of these trees stopped us in our tracks. Eastern Tennessee’s rich history of logging and mining extracted most of the large timbers in the state to use for large buildings, structure for coal mine shafts, fuel to melt iron ore and removed trees to clear land for agriculture (link below). At that time, resources seemed inexhaustible and there was not much care taken to preserve the trees. One hundred year old pictures of the American chestnuts show trees rivaling the redwoods of the west. Trees that are now nearly extinct in our region. To walk through a forest of massive trees that had to have preceded this time is a very powerful thing.

Soon we arrived on top of a steep ridgeline and decided to go ahead and eat a couple snickers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Milo had dog food and a few treats of course). Even on a short hike, maintaining energy to continue is crucial for an enjoyable day. Although it is possible to hike a long distance with little food, hills that would normally seem easy become more and more difficult. A few hundred feet later and we came to the fifteen to twenty foot tall sandstone capstones of Chimney Top. Icicles hung over a small overhang in the rock that appeared to create a perfect campsite. To the south a small trail led up to the top of the rocks where a sign read “Chimney Top Elev. 3120.” This prominent overlook felt massive compared to the elevation of Nashville (~500 ft) only a couple hours away. The Crab Orchard mountains appear to form out of nowhere from the surrounding farmland, making them feel even taller.

After hanging out at the top for awhile, we decided to head back to the ranger station before the trails closed. We talked and laughed about the amazing day on our way down the mountain, filled with the happiness and joy that only comes from spending the day outside. We had not even been phased by the sub freezing weather and gusts of wind due to the excitement of the beautiful hike. There is something to be said about this feeling. What causes it? The fresh air, the solitude, the physical exertion, the silence, or even just the visual stimulation. No matter what the exact reason is, these are all reasons that we are hiking the Continental Divide this summer. Just the opportunity to prolong that feeling is refreshing to think about. That feeling drives both of us everyday.

Below the ridge, our car became visible again and we had completed another beautiful hike in a beautiful park. A park that is not as well travelled as some of the others in the state and does need donations to continue to maintain and protect its beautiful trails. To donate to Frozen Head State Park or to just find out more information, visit the park or click the link below.

LEARN MORE AND DONATE

My name is TJ Maurer,  I live in Chattanooga, TN, and I am a sales rep for Fayettechill. My wife and I moved to Tennessee 5 years ago not for a job or out of necessity.  We moved here because where we are now, while I am writing this, is...

One of our Sales Reps TJ Maurer, On Balance in Work & Play

My name is TJ Maurer,  I live in Chattanooga, TN, and I am a sales rep for Fayettechill. My wife and I moved to Tennessee 5 years ago not for a job or out of necessity.  We moved here because where we are now, while I am writing this, is exactly where we wanted to be – which is a whole other idea of serendipity we can talk about on a long drive or around a campfire one evening.

 

I climb rocks, I ride bikes through the foothills, I chase trout, I run about both visible and invisible trails through forests, I sleep in my truck, I have two chickens, and when I am not doing any of that, I rep for outdoor brands that I believe in.  I escape to the mountains as often as I am able, which seems to motivate me to work as hard as I can while in town, which then leads to anticipation and drive for more play. Both the love of home and the strive for balance in all facets of life seem to be two similarities shared with Fayettechill, myself, and countless other individuals.

Seeking balance in life is a simple idea, ancient and easy to practice, yet seemingly overlooked. I strive for a balance of work and play, of urbanscapes and natural environments.  A balance of encircling myself among like minded individuals and also those who think differently.  I see it pretty simply – I work hard and, thus, play hard.

 

 

 

But there is an imbalance in work and play that is two sided. On one hand, those who despise their job. Problem doesn’t lie with the 40-hour work week, but within the increasing number of people who settle for situations they detest. On the other side, those who deny jobs all together, a generation of social media enthusiasts quitting their job, living out of a van, and traveling to see the world. I’ve done this myself and I can assure you I would make the decision to travel and drop everything again, again, and even again. However, we have begun to romanticize people dropping everything and unsubscribing to the conventional way of thought previous generations laid out before us. If one thinks a bit more about the consequences of this lifestyle, especially if we all lived this way… we would not exist, the luxuries we have would not be available, and there would be absolutely no way to live in vans and chase adventure.

I hope I portrayed both sides of the equation fairly here.  The main point I want to make is that both ways of living are not mutually exclusive.  We can work a conventional job, even a 9-5 one, but find balance through habitual satisfaction of our wanderlust. I think the simplest way to practice this balance starts by appreciation of the zip code you live in.

Since living in Chattanooga, my concept of vacation has changed. Now when on vacation, I do not dread that last day or even the day leading to that last day of the vacation, the long road back home and the restart of daily life.  It could be because our vacations are adventures in the woods, the high desert, or lesser known coastlines – all generally without warm showers.  At the end of it all, our return to the daily grind is coupled with the return to our hometown of undulating trails, warm hued southern sandstone, overwhelming vitality of the Appalachian foothills, a community of some of our best friends, and warm showers.  

 

I imagine it to be no different for the folks at Fayettechill. They adventure all around the world, climbing mountains, fishing rivers, and surfing waves.  Despite their near utopian travels and weeks abroad, I can safely bet they long for Fayetteville at the end of it all.  They are motivated and inspired to realign themselves with their work and continuing to better themselves, the company and those around them upon returning.

Despite working a “real job”within the real economy, we can still attempt to inspire both ourselves and others through the other 80 hours a week. We can still take post worthy pictures, we can still embellish the already pretty awesome stories around the campfire. We can still strive to create – create photos, stories, climbs, trails, flies, gardens, and shiny new bikes. We can stop wasting time thinking about greener grasses and see the absolute best in where we are and where we are going.  We can love the home and community we chose to reside, grow, and learn within.  We can be involved a bit more than we maybe feel comfortable doing and meet a few more people outside our social circle. Hell, maybe have a beer with them. These are things we can do. These are things we should strive to do as people and organizations and collectives of people. As we do it, we motivate others to do the same. We play hard and work harder, all for an end goal to leave this planet a little better off than we came into it. We all take a personal responsibility to inspire ourselves and those around us. We aspire to be a collection of individual who value both the journey and the destination.

Words & Photos by TJ Maurer | @ticklejeans

Interested in learning the basics of casting a fly rod? Ronnie Howard is an expert fly fisherman and guide and he will be holding a class teaching the basics of fly casting Saturday, May 7th at 9:00am. $10 to reserve your spot. Spots are limited so call ahead to reserve your...

Intro to Fly Fishing May 7th 9:00am

Interested in learning the basics of casting a fly rod? Ronnie Howard is an expert fly fisherman and guide and he will be holding a class teaching the basics of fly casting Saturday, May 7th at 9:00am.

$10 to reserve your spot.
Spots are limited so call ahead to reserve your spot. 615.321.4069

 

As soon as I heard that running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim was a thing, I knew I had to do it.  It's been on my list of goals for a while now and this year I finally made it happen. Disclaimer: Running the Grand Canyon Rim to...

Trip Report: Running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

As soon as I heard that running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim was a thing, I knew I had to do it.  It's been on my list of goals for a while now and this year I finally made it happen.

Disclaimer: Running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim is tough!  Although, with proper training and gear, it's not impossible.  Grand Canyon National Park sees tons of visitors in a year; so, as with any adventure in a National Park, do your best to cause as little impact as possible.  Be polite to other folks experiencing the canyon.  Just because you are running doesn't make your experience any more important than others.  Announce yourself to hikers and always yield to folks coming uphill.  Pack out everything you take down and don't forget to have fun.

My wife and I have both worked in the outdoor industry and we have very similar gear.  One of us will purchase a nice piece of gear, the other one will be jealous and then purchase the same thing in a different color.  So when we enjoy the outdoors together, we look like a sponsored team of some sort.  We are not sponsored, but we do call ourselves "Team Thienel."

For this particular adventure, Team Thienel flew into Phoenix and we drove North to Sedona to do some acclimating and fun running.  Sedona is an awesome place with enough Trail Running, Mountain Biking, and Rock Climbing to last a lifetime.  One of our particular favorites was Wilson Mountain.

 

In the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, Wilson Mountain is the highest peak at 7,122 feet.  The trail leading up to the peak is steep and rugged.  We got pretty lucky and saw very few people.  Living in Nashville, we don't get many opportunities for real elevation.  Although the altitude was mild, we were feeling it in our flat-lander lungs.

After a couple days running and eating Mexican food, we headed up to the Grand Canyon.  I had considered changing the day I would run down into Canyon because the forecast wasn't looking so hot.   Turns out the forecast was off by a day. So when we arrived it was very cold and windy.  It had been about 5 years since I had been to the Grand Canyon and I had a picture in my mind of what it looked like.  When I actually showed up and stepped up to the edge, that picture in my mind was nothing like the real thing.  This view can definitely stir up some emotion.

We snapped a few photos, took in the view, and then headed back to the hotel to pack up and go to bed early for our 4:00am start the next day.  I really like ultra marathon races, but my favorite outdoor pursuit would be long, unsupported runs in the wilderness.  I have done plenty of long runs, but this was my first time doing 50 miles unsupported.  I tried to go as light as I safely could.  I went back and forth on whether or not I would run in my Salomon S-Lab vest or the Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 20.  I decided to go with the Salomon Vest and stay light.  The weather was perfect with a high of about 65, so I didn't need a ton of layers.

My Gear List:

  • Petzl Nao Headlamp
  • Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles
  • Patagonia Houdini Pullover
  • Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts
  • Patagonia Airflow Singlet
  • Patagonia Duckbill Hat
  • Defeet Wool Arm Warmers
  • Khatoola Micro Spikes
  • Spot GPS device
  • 2 Buffs
  • Suunto Ambit 2 GPS Watch
  • Icebreaker Sierra Wool Mittens 
  • Swiftwick Aspire 4 Socks
  • Altra Lone Peak 2.5 shoes
  • 2 GU Flasks 
  • 2 Camelbak insulated Podium bottles
  • Body Glide
  • As much high calorie food that would fit a gallon ziploc bag

Some highlights to point out that made the day more comfortable:  The Petzl Nao headlamp is my favorite headlamp ever – its comfortable, brighter than I need, and the Reactive technology gives it a great battery life.  A friend let me borrow the Spot GPS device.  It has a tracking feature that allows friends and family back home to follow your progress via the web, as well as send out pre-written text messages when you so choose.  Also, if things go way bad wrong you can send out a distress signal.  I will probably purchase one of these for future long runs.  There was snow at the North Rim, but nothing to warrant the Micro Spikes, but better safe than sorry.  Body glide was my best friend, I re-applied several times to prevent chaffing.  The GU flask was perfect for this run since I needed to pack everything out.  I ate GU every hour, so this system saved me from having to pack out 10 or 15 sticky GU packets.

Our alarm went off at 2:00am and I jumped right up with excitement.  I am usually a cranky zombie in the mornings, but on days like this I have no problem getting up. I had read that the mule trains start down the canyon at 5, hence the early start.  I also wanted to be finished before the sun went down.  We packed up our things and drove to the Bright Angel Trail head.  I chose to run the Bright Angel Trail to the North Kaibab trail and back the same way.  This route is slightly longer but not quite as steep as running the South Kaibob Trail.  My wife, Amber, was running to the river and back and we thought the Village near the Bright Angel Trail Head would be a cool place for her to wait for me (and also eat pizza).

 

We got to the trail head and tried to take a selfie, but quickly gave up because it was dark and also 18 degrees.  It was really cool to have this part of the park, which is usually very crowded, all to ourselves.  We both had an overwhelming feeling that we were doing something wrong – like we were sneaking into the Grand Canyon or something.  My original plan was to run with her to Indian Gardens (about 5 miles), but we were having so much fun that I decided to hang back with her and run together all the way to the river.  I'm so glad I did.  We got to the river just as the sun was coming up.

 

We said our goodbyes at Bright Angel Campground just on the other side of the river, and I headed  off for the North Rim.  The next 10 miles were beautiful and easy and I was feeling really strong.  That changed as soon as I started to climb.  I definitely underestimated how hard climbing the North Rim would be.  I knew it would be hard, but I had to do some serious work to get it done.  I had never been to the North Rim before and the views were truly spectacular.  Getting close to the serious climbing, this one was one of my favorite views:

I topped out feeling a little slow but in overall good shape.  I knew now that I could finish strong and do the second half faster than the first.  At the North Rim Trail Head, I met a guy named Brian and his either 3 or 4 kids (after running that much details get blurry for me.)  The youngest of his kids was 5 and they were doing R2R2R in 3 days.  Pretty cool! I wish I could have done that when I was 5!  Brian's girlfriend had opted to stay in the Cottonwood Campground closer to the bottom rather than hike all the way to the North Rim.  Brian was nice enough to take my picture and, in return, I would deliver a message to Dawn, his girlfriend, that he and the boys would be back down later that afternoon.  So I finished my snack and headed back.

 

One of the real challenges was planning where to fill up with water.  Most folks choose to run it a little later in the year, more like late April or May instead of late March .  The North Rim doesn't open until May 15th.  You can always check the back country office for updated water availability so you can plan accordingly.  Because of the cool weather (high of around 65), I was able to get away with not filling up at the North Rim.  If it was any hotter, I would have taken some sort of water filtration.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful.  As I got closer, I tried to push it to go faster so Amber wouldn't have to wait as long (and maybe she would have a piece of pizza and a coke waiting for me.)  For me, the later hours of an ultra seem to pass very quickly.  It seems like every time I looked at my watch another hour had passed, and it was time to eat again.  I had a few really dark moments, but I forced my self to sit down, empty the sand from my shoes, and eat something.  Then I told myself that I chose to do this, it's fun, and this is a really beautiful place.  As I got closer to the South Rim, I started seeing more and more people.  By the time I got to the top, I had to push through a crowd to reach Amber.  It took 13.5 hours total, but to me it seemed like only a couple of hours had passed.  This is one of my favorite experiences ever, I really liked the fact that I could see most of the trail that I ran when I finished.  Maybe next year I will do R2R2R2R2R...

 

Wind whips across my cheek making my delicate position seem more precarious. It feels like a maelstrom compared to the enjoyable breeze I experienced on the hike to the base of this sea of granite. I glance over to spot a weakness in the rock. My hip cramps as I...

Lessons Learned While off the Ground

Wind whips across my cheek making my delicate position seem more precarious. It feels like a maelstrom compared to the enjoyable breeze I experienced on the hike to the base of this sea of granite. I glance over to spot a weakness in the rock. My hip cramps as I hike my left leg up and stab desperately towards a small edge.

            A few hours prior, this edge was of no importance to me. I was not even aware of the existence of this small grey seam. Now, in the present moment, nothing else matters. A few miles of hiking and scanning over the topo maps of the wall did not promote any conversation about this fold. Even studying the pitch by pitch breakdown did not leave me thinking twice about it. The duality of present moment focus neighboring a huge amount of awareness creates a fire and ice reaction that I find incredibly addicting. Weeks of planning, watching the weather, reading trip reports, and the expectations created during the approach all clear like a heavy fog as soon as your feet leave the ground. Nothing else in my experience brings life's duality so close to the surface. However, this partnership provides a glimpse to the dualism I find in the rest of the world. Loneliness and companionship. Rich and poor. Depression and elation. Good and evil.

            The left foot opens up a realm of possibilities. It provides access to a myriad of handholds. A calming assurance flows through me as I drive off the foothold up to a large shelf in the rock. In a moment, the the importance of the foot will have disappeared from my consciousness. This progression and flow of time reflect the movement that happens in our life. Movement is inescapable. We may drag our nails and stamp our feet, but movement happens nonetheless. The sages among us have learned not to fight it, but to harness it like a skilled sailor does with the wind.

            The next handhold looks promising. I twist my hips and hug close to the wall to maximize my reach. My fingers find greasy polished rock. My stomach turns and I am airborne. The indifference of the rock actual comes as a comfort to me, once again a parallel to the rest of life. The mountain does not decide when to unleash an avalanche. A storm cell does not wait until you reach the crux pitch to erupt in a thunderstorm. The hold did not shrink in size and become greasy during my moment of need. The only force that I can pilot is my own

            I pull my weary body to a small ledge. I spend a brief moment locating several cracks and then dig through my gear to find the appropriate piece of protection. The rope feels heavy as I pull up slack to the belay. Normally, belays feels like a safe haven. The difficulty of the pitch below has been conquered. The ledge and equalized anchor mean protection until the next push into the unknown. My mind and body take a brief rest as I belay my partner up. However, despite the rest and safety there is always one belay where I feel so lost. I want nothing more than solid ground. I want my harness to be hanging in my gear closet instead of chafing my waist. I want a cheeseburger.

As more and more slack piles across my lap, the impending certainty of the next pitch grows. In that moment, I want escape. There is so much work ahead, so much work that has already been done. I want to quit. My partner reaches the ledge, jarring about the quality of movement in the last pitch and his elation to have arrived at the station. I gaze at the next pitch, check my knot, sigh heavily, and begin moving upwards yet again. This feeling is one that comes all too often in life. The things we love and that make us come alive can easily be viewed as a chore minutes later. The wear and tear of life can corrode our greatest treasures, but, only if we let it

            Everything just flows. My head and emotions have re-centered themselves. Instinct takes over and moving up this sheer rock face has become as easy as floating downstream a gentle river. The original difficulty I felt in leaving the belay ledge has become completely unfounded. Such is the case in the rest of my life. Shedding off the wear and tear and hindrances is one of the things at the core of the human element. Often this does not resemble an act of hero, rather, it looks more like someone rolling out of bed. However, before you can blink we are off the floor and wide awake. Taking this "first step" becomes easier after repeatedly going through this process.

            The sun is barely starting to touch the pines on the ridge to the west of the summit. I stare out. Both the awareness and focus can rest. Movement keeps going despite my accomplishment, and despite my feeling of rest. The mountain does not feel conquered, nor does it applaud my labors. Everything is done, and it was done for it's own sake. This is perhaps my favorite thing about climbing and perhaps something that draws me towards writing. There is no prize, fame, or any other form of rewards. There are lessons learned and memories made. These are the reasons I climb. These are the reasons that I write. These are the reasons that I love. These are the things worth living for.

 

---Keith Erps is one of our ambassadors on loan to the Pacific Northwest for an undetermined amount of time.  While there he likes to ride bikes, climb mountains, and drink really good coffee.

Having fun is the point of the day.  Making memories is what its all about.  Today is not the day for a teaching moment.  Not the day for being critical about manners. Not the day to be a parent, at least in front of your kids.  Today is the day to  be a kid again.  Get on the sled.  Go faster than you are comfortable with going.  Make snow angels, then stay there and let your kids bury you in the snow.  These are quick cold moments in your day, but are unforgettable moments that your kids will hopefully remember for a lifetime.

How to Survive and Thrive During Snow Days

 

 

How to Survive and Thrive During Snow Days

 

Big Kids and Little Kids

 

By TJ Wilt 

 

Snow Days are one of the greatest memories as a child.  What about when you become a parent and you have children of your own?  They still are the best memories but responsibility gets in the way of you letting loose…completely.  Snow is not planned; snow is not forgiving and able to reschedule so being prepared prior to that phone call at 4am or the email the night before is tricky.  I am a little luckier than some, I have 3 boys so as one grows out of a winter jacket the next can grow into it.  This of course does not apply to the pre-teen that grows 5 inches in 6 months.  However, he can almost fit into my clothes and definitely his mothers. Below are some of my thoughts from experience that might come in handy. 

 

 

BREAKFAST

Always key to any big day of adventure are snow balls, snow men or snow women, sledding, crying,
freezing, a little bruising, a lot of laughter, some resting and a whole lot of fun is a good hearty breakfast.  EAT.  A lot of people skip this meal but it is critical to compete with your  kids energy.  Skipping breakfast should never be an option.  If there is ever a day for the full eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes,  waffles, fruit, biscuits and gravy, OJ, cereal and oatmeal this is the day.  Go all out!! We all know the possibility of getting to another meal before the sun sets is not likely.  

 

Ready…Set…. SNOW

Its cold, wet and it finds itself into your kids clothes especially when they are having fun.  So expect to see some tears mixed with the smiles.  

 

 

 

 

SLEDS

Go round up your sleds.  Use anything you can get your hands on.  We had some old plastic saucers in the basement and still resorted to trashcan lids, trash bags and sometimes even cardboard boxes.  So don’t spend a lot of time stressing because the more creative you are the more fun for the kids.

 

SNACKS

Almost as critical as breakfast.  Being outdoors and being active is a choice and choosing means preparing.  Snack bars are the easiest most efficient way to be prepared.   Gels are an option, but honestly, there are not many kids that will take down a gel pack like runners and cyclists.  Just throw some meal or snack bars in a backpack and call it a day.  Water is critical too. Just as important as it would be for a trail run or ride on the bike.  Water bottles are light and easy to refill.  Just throw a couple in the pack.  

 

FUN

Having fun is the point of the day.  Making memories is what its all about.  Today is not the day for a teaching moment.  Not the day for being critical about manners. Not the day to be a parent, at least in front of your kids.  Today is the day to  be a kid again.  Get on the sled.  Go faster than you are comfortable with going.  Make snow angels, then stay there and let your kids bury you in the snow.  These are quick cold moments in your day, but are unforgettable moments that your kids will hopefully remember for a lifetime.  The two most important tactics for staying in good graces with your kids during these memorable moments: 

  1. Get involved 
  2. Let loose 

So basically if you can be a kid again, DO IT!!

 

 

SLEEP

Yes, they will sleep.  Maybe not before you fall asleep, but they will fall asleep right next to you in bed if you are lucky and that will be the finale of a day that was lived to the fullest. 

 Enjoy the snow and know next time you get that email, phone call or twitter feed letting you know that tomorrow includes an unscheduled day off… you will be prepared and ready to take on the FUN.  

 

My picks for the best snow day survival items:

  1. Patagonia Better Sweater - my go-to mid layer for any cold weather
  2. The North Face Summit Series - The L5 layer as your shell will keep the cold out completely
  3. Grab the Gold Snack Bar - Made in Tennessee, just like me
  4. Suunto Ambit2 -  A little overkill for a snow day but I have had a Suunto for almost 10 years now as my watch and would not choose any other
  5. Kammok Gear Roo Hammock - of course at some point you have to relax and why not strap onto a tree right by the sledding hill
  6. YETI 20oz Rambler - Who could forget your beverage, hot or cold, its hard to pass the Yeti Rambler
THE BARKLEY MARATHONS: THE RACE THAT EATS ITS YOUNG   Join the Crazy Owls Trail Running Group at Cumberland Transit on Thursday, January 28th for a screening of this award-winning documentary!   Location: Cumberland Transit- 2807 West End Avenue Doors will open at 6:30. The film will start at 7:00....

Barkley Marathons Documentary Screening Nashville- January 28th @ 7 PM

THE BARKLEY MARATHONS: THE RACE THAT EATS ITS YOUNG
 
Join the Crazy Owls Trail Running Group at Cumberland Transit on Thursday, January 28th for a screening of this award-winning documentary!
 
Location: Cumberland Transit- 2807 West End Avenue
Doors will open at 6:30. The film will start at 7:00. Free popcorn and drinks!
 
There will be a $5 admission fee. Tickets may be purchased through Ultra Signup or at the door if there are seats left. Proceeds will benefit Friends of Warner Parks.
 
Film Synopsis:
Every year, 40 international runners descend upon a small town in Tennessee to test their mental and physical limits against the Barkley Marathons. Devised as a mockery of James Earl Ray’s historic prison escape gone awry, the race has seen only 10 finishers in its first 25 years. The race’s co-founder Lazarus Lake is as weird, unpredictable, and irresistible a character as the idiosyncratic event he has created. With a secret application process, unknown start time, and treacherous terrain, the Barkley has gained cult-like status with ultra-runners and amateurs alike. This award-winning, oddly inspiring, and wildly funny documentary invites you to the sports world’s most guarded secret; where pain has value, failure is spectacular, and it only costs $1.60.
 
 

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