Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Well, I didn't get my 84 miles for the month. But, I will have something near 70, so I am not too far behind.

Got our taxes filed today. So that's done. Yay.

Got another backpacking trip on the calendar to the Cohutta, which will be awesome! Going during the butterfly migration.

Accepted 6 friend requests from people I have not met IRL yet. That's borderline crazy for me. I'll probably panic when that sets in.

Started a joint blog with 2 other folks, it already has several followers and comments. We barely have anything going over there yet, I guess it just appeals to the right crowd. It's all hiking and backpacking stuff, one lady is a personal trainer, so she's covering exercises. I'm yammering and the other lady and I are writing up our assorted trip reports. People freaking love to read about trips! It's like I found my calling.

Got Matt a rain fly for his hammock, got me a rain kilt because I can't wear rain pants over a skirt, lost 4 pounds and an entire pants size doing an abs and back workout every day. I still can't do all of the exercises, I am in awe at how genuinely out of shape I am. I drip sweat after 2 minutes, half an hour later, there's me, outlined in sweat on the mat. I think my posture is better.

I also can't believe I am still so tubby. 27 days of sporadic walking and near-daily abing. I should be a size 6 already. That one size drop just gets me back where I was before Matt starting bringing home holiday goodies from work. So my normal clothes fit and I don't have to just wear the elastic waist pants. Hardly even seems right.

Have some social things lined up for the kids the next couple days, then backpacking this weekend with Matt and Melanie. Then it will be February and leap year to boot. Jake has a couple days off next week, so Monday won't be crazy for once.

I have not watched much of anything this month, it's been a weird month. I am still reading Station Eleven, still love it. Last night I stayed up overnight and read Grandma Gatewood's Walk in one go. The book was so good. Finished up The Abstinence Teacher today. Very interesting read, I like the insight behind beliefs, to see the process, even if it falls apart.

Matt and I are watching The Leftovers, a series based on a book by the same author and that has another angle on sects and beliefs that I am trying to puzzle out. Same thing in Station Eleven, though it's a gorgeous story about life and love and carrying on. I've never read a story about the end of the world that's given me such raw hope like this one.

Why do people latch on to what they do? What gap does it bridge? That's all we are, pocked and holey creatures who seek out people and things to fill those spaces and smooth us out, make rolling through this life less jolting, yo.

Wishing us all smooth travels.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow! and Tea!

 On Friday we had a really good tour of Piper and Leaf over at Lowe Mill.  The owners were homeschooled!  And there are several siblings working together, so that was nice, too.

We toured the warehouse, mixing room and the tea shop.

Before we left, everyone had to get their jar filled!  I got caramel apple pie tea.
We came home with a summer blend with peaches that Ben won in a quiz and a chocolate fig blend and more caramel apple pie.

Ben went home with Katy because of the snow forecast, he's always wanted to sled down the back of the mountain.  He got to, several times!  Yay!

We all had lunch together and then headed home in case the snow got too crazy.

I have always wanted a picture of that tree!  The one off in the distance, there's another shot later on down there.   There's nowhere to pull off and no shoulder and Matt won't drop me off and let me wade over and get a shot and then come back to get me.  It's not a safe stretch of road at all.  But this is kind of okay, since it's pretty much exactly how I see the tree going down the road!

We waited for the tree to be moved, but those men parked about 6 inches from it on both sides and traffic stacked up behind them.  If either one had thought to stop further back, they could have hoofed it off the road.  We decided to turn around and g up the back way.  It was much prettier!

We went back to Katy's on Saturday for a birthday hang Emma's 14!
Most everyone was off sledding again, even Matt and Chan got in on it this time.
Birdie and I ate most of a flat of raspberries while we waited.

Before long, everyone had returned and after lunch the kids played this horrible game with flavored jellybeans.  You get a spinner and spin it, it stops on a color and you pick one bean from the bowl that is that color.  Green could be lime, or grass clippings.  Brown could be cinnamon or barf.  Black was licorice or skunk spray.  And so on.  The kids were delighted and disgusted in equal measure, so it was a success, I'd say.

The dads ran for the racing game in the basement.  The moms ran for the chairs in the sun room!

Our view was better! 

 The candles!  I nearly missed it because we were-talking!  Surprise.  

 This week is a little different, Jake did not bother to tell me there was no police thing tonight, so I arrived early to get him, Taco Bell in hand and a freshly filled tank.  Cost me $32 to make that 90 minute round trip so he could come home just ahead of Matt.  GAH
I did need to drive for a little while to be sure the brakes are acting right. So far, so good.  Of course I am in that early on mode of having some minor panic at every odd noise.

Matt's dad popped in out of the blue, left fireworks and a stream of advice, then vamoosed for Kentucky.  We will probably see him again in 18 months after he drives 8 hours one way to stay 15 minutes.  He thought Jake was turning 18 this fall.  That's Chan.  In 3 weeks. Oddest family relationships ever. I saw my grandparents every single weekend of my entire childhood, whole weeks in the summers, spring break, Christmas break.  The kids have seen theirs...maybe 2 dozen times in the past 10 years. That's for all 4 of them, not just Papaw.  When Matt's dad comes up the walk, one of them always asks, "What do we call him again?"  He probably does the same thing.

I know, better than most, that relation is not obligation.  I am not complaining, just sad.  They are such great kids and everyone involved is missing out on one of the best relationships there is in life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


I caught Ben today and got him to stand still for about 2 minutes total.  I took 12 shots, but he was talking in most of them.  So.  Here's what wasn't mid-sentence or blurry.  hahaha!  I love my baby.

That's his hair, laying down.  Kid has close to a quarter ton of it, I used to braid it back out of the way but it's become sentient and won't let me now.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Ben was feeling a little low about not getting to spend time with friends who were gathering elsewhere today, so we planned lunch with Matt and arranged for him to hang out with Alex this afternoon until Matt was off work.

We headed out on time and were about 15 minutes from town and the front end of the van started shaking, then the brakes locked up all on their own.  I pulled off and called Matt and Katy to let them know we were not going to make it to town and then I called Beth.

This happened last week as well, but Chan was driving and after Beth kept the van for 2 days and they drove it all over the place with no repeat, it was decided that Chan may have been pressing the brake and the gas at the same time.  It's happened before.

I drove it 500 miles in the past week, all over Talledega NF just Wednesday.  No issue.
I had just gotten up to 50 MPH and my foot was no where near the brakes, in the 60 or so seconds it took me to get off the road at a safe spot, the whole front end was engulfed in smoke from the brakes.

I decided I would wait for the brakes to cool so I could drive it back home. 

We sat there a bit and then Ben asked if we could walk down the creek that was nearby, so we did that.

I slipped where Ben is standing and SMACKED my shin, which is now swollen and green.  LOL!!  It had JUST healed from a similar event 4 inches higher.  Don't worry, I put Arnica on it. (Update, one week later, still hurts.  Arnica is useless!)

Tornado damage!

Back at the van an hour later, I cranked it up and the ABS light was off and it was rolling along fine, so I pulled out onto the road and it very quickly-100 yards-shut itself down again.  So, back off the road and now calling AAA.  Last week, even though I had it towed, as soon as the brakes had cooled, it was fine.  So this was crappy.

It was towed to one place near where I broke down, I did not trust what they told me, so I had it towed all the way to Beth 3 days later.  She replaced the entire braking system-lines, calipers, master cylinder and of course replaced all the fluid, bled the lines.  Over a thousand bucks, so I am hopeful that will fix the problem.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

4/52 Rebecca Mtn, Pinhoti Section 3, 13 m

Melanie asked if anyone wanted to hike this section with her and since I had nothing much going on this week, I said, "Meeeeee!"

We planned for about half an hour, decided where to meet and what to bring in our packs and that was that.  I LOVE having someone who knows what they are about and does not need me to plan for the both of us.  I do enjoy planning, but it's still nice when all I really have to do is pick out my protein bar flavors and remember extra socks.  And hunter orange because it's still hunting season. 

I think the 'approximately' next to the mileage means 'this trail is a solid 15 miles long, not 11.4'

It was a harder hike than I expected.  We walked from 10:30 until 6:30 at an average moving speed of 2.2 mph.  With half an hour for lunch, when the tracker was turned off,  that's 15 miles!  Google maps has it at 19 miles.  We are calling it 13 because that's what Melanie's tracker said.  When I asked my park ranger friend how trails were measured he said:  It varies. Sometimes it's using a GPS device, others it is decided upon by drawing numbers out of a hat at the next staff meeting. And we ALWAYS round down.

Birmingham-how I hate the traffic

Ah, much better!

We shuttled ourselves to the Trammel trailhead and left Melanie's car and drove the van to the Bulls Gap trailhead and left from there.
I decided they were weeding out the weenies early on with these steps!

We hiked from one side of the map to the other!  

Rebecca Mountain is described as a ridge walk with rollers.  This means you start on top of the mountain and then climb up and over several hills while walking along the saddle or brow or along one side.  Lots of climbs and descents. Most are short-you can at least see where it levels out again.  That's all I need most of the time.

the views were amazing, both sides of the trail, all day.

Still have not perfected my hiking garb.  I like the skirt, it covers my hiney if I have to 'step off the trail'.  In the winter, there's VERY little cover!  But my tights were too loose in the thigh (astounding!) and over the day, rubbed my upper thigh in one spot and made it tender.
And what heals rubbing irritations?  Hydrocortisone.

On the AT, there is a particular rock outcropping that looks a BIT like this one but much more dramatic, that EVERYONE gets a photo of themselves on.  We decided to do a mini-shot of our own jutting rock!  

note the total lack of a handstand

large, crazy trees were all the rage along the route

These pinecones are huge.  I have a size 14 foot.  Okay, it's an 8.  But they are still big enough to draw blood if they nailed you!  With so many down, it's a wonder we didn't have any falling nearby.  It was a super quiet day,

Another climb, the trail is off to the left a bit and goes right up that hillside.  But-you can see the top!

I think this might be my favorite section, I really liked the rolling trail just below the browline.  The work!  Trail builders just don't get enough credit!

There were 2 of these large planted fields along the trail.  We figured deer hunting.

Nearly at what we had thought was halfway.

Ah, so many trees across the trail!  We climbed over, under or around 6 that I can recall.

Under this layer of crunchy leaves are rocks, roots and holes.  I would never ever want to be on this trail without my ankle-supporting boots!  I wished a couple of times I had my hiking staff, but I had decided to leave it in the van.  I don't need it like I did!  I have been working on my ankle and my balance

Some man has to lay in bed and decide that tomorrow he's going to put a tractor on a trailer and haul it up the bumpy dirt road to mow, plow, plant.

This was a brutal mid-point to the hike.  A steep half-mile climb up pavement.  :(

The power line had been severed at the junction box, so this is a defunct com tower.

Click to get it bigger.
Check it out-the trail goes straight up and out over Ben's head right along the saddle.  There are views for miles off each side of the mountain.  It was like this off and on all day.  So pretty!

The Pinhoti is the first trail I have ever seen that utilizes the double blaze with such abandon.  It means 'heads up, there's a turn' and the turn is the direction of the higher blaze.  The double blazes are called Garveys after Ed Garvey
On this trail, they indicated turns, not always the way they said the trail was turning (above) and often for turns that were just curves.  This was at the top of a crest, there was nothing but downhill on both sides and that narrow strip of trail.
This sounds really silly to complain about, but the point is that you stop taking the 'warning' seriously and don't look for a turn when warned and not long after this is a series of switchbacks that we would not have noticed right away except that we ran into 2 thru-hikers coming up.  Getting off trail when it all looks the same and the trail is hidden with leaves and blazes are not always within sight of each other can be really bad!

this is me screaming in delight terror as I step up and over another downed tree

I had to lay down to get the above shots and when I stood back up, my leg was leafy!


We looked for lions.  Saw none.

As the sun started to set, the leaves on the trail glowed, it was so pretty!

I could have spent an hour just taking pictures of these stumps along the trail!

The above is a switchback, see ANY blazes or other indication of turning?  

Every trail should totally cut through the hillside so I can avoid climbs!

We got excited because the sun was setting and we thought this road would be really easy to follow once it got dark.

The North Face is a little obnoxious with product placement.  I could cut it off, but I am actually pretty damn pleased they make ANYTHING in a women's XL. BOOOBS, clothing manufacturers-I have 2 of 'em and they are not little!  So many brand name outfitters stop at size 12 or 14.  If you are a 16 or more, you are SOL for quality, durable outdoor gear.  You have to make do with men's clothing which won't fit curves or off brands that don't hold up nearly as well.  There is a reason they can charge $60 for a shirt.  Though I got this at the thrift store for $4.
Magellan, the Academy brand, will OCCASIONALLY have pants that run up to size 20, Columbia has a small selection of basic pants to 18.  REI has hats that will fit the full sized lady, possibly socks and shoes.  Not a whole lot out there. And some larger sizes don't fit-the thighs are too narrow or the waist is HUGE or there's not enough allowance for hips and buns and your hiney is squished flat.  Yoga pants and leggins are nice, they a least fit the flow and overflow of the female body, but they are not durable for long distance or warm when wet or fast drying.  I should not have to compromise like that just because I am a double digit size,

I love the gloaming!

After an hour in the DARK-headlamps or fall off the cliff dark-we stumbled out onto the road and found the car.  I had pulled or tweaked some...tendon or whatnot in my right leg.  The one that lifts your leg right in front.  It was HURTING and had stopped holding my weight.  My feet felt like lead, but were not hurting (go, boots!) but I had left my gloves in the van and my hands were so cold.  I was really looking forward to getting to the van!

Melanie could NOT find her keys.  We decided she'd left them in the van, so we called her husband to come get us with the spare.  He arrived about 90 minutes later!  We sat around trying to freeze to death, I had a down coat, thank goodness! And Melanie found me some gloves (she carried 2 pairs.  Plus 2 apples and 10 pounds of rocks ALL DAY).

After about 5 minutes, Ben decided we should do a fire. I was in agreement, so he and Melanie went off to get small branches and had a little fire roaring in moments.  I hauled over my pack and Reflectix sheet I cut to fit my bottom and sat down to thaw.  With my heat sheet wrapped around me, I was soon very toasty!  Thankfully Ben was pretty happy to keep running off to find burnables and Melanie talked her hubby through the myriad of turns to reach the trailhead-way down a dirt FS road off another dirt road!  By the time we heard him honk honk off in the distance, the fire was nearly burnt out.  We used water from the now-unlocked car and doused it, then stirred the few bits of coals through the gravel and sand at the edge of the road until it was all cool to the touch.

Ah, warmth! 

I lived!  hehehehe

Melanie found her keys (yay!) and we saw from her car thermometer that it was 33 out!  eep!

In all it was a great hike, my first on the Pinhoti, though certainly not my last.  I am not convinced the mileage is correct and it was tougher than I thought it would be-as evidence by my leg acting up! I was SO tired last night just after the hike, but perked right back up with a little rest, some Aleve and a Snickers bar!
  Can't wait for next time!