Why do we wait?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a picture I keep on my phone, and every now and then I look at it. It’s important to remember stuff like this. Go ahead, read it:IMG_3691

 

Its just one example of weird things that cause people to wait, and one in a very sad series of stories I have heard recently.

I read a book called “300 Zeroes” About a retired man who wanted to start hiking. Living in Florida has it’s own problems (sure you can hike a lot of Florida, but if you like heights, there are no mountains, and Florida’s highest point is 300 feet above sea level), so he decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is generally a six month adventure, for those of you not in the know, and someone walks from Georgia to Maine, over distance that could be covered in a six hour flight (8 if you count going through security and changing planes in Atlanta). Who does this?

Mainly twenty-somethings and retired people. The former have the freedom of not struggling with paying mortgages and putting kids through school and country club dues and working their way up the promotional ladder at work. The latter have done all that, paid off the house, settled down and need something to do with their off time.

But in the middle is a whole host of people that wishes they COULD do something like that. Often, however – there are things that make people wait. It’s hard to leave one job, take six months off and find another equivalent job (unless of course, you work at McDonalds or WalMart), and even if you could, how many spouses are not going to have a total flail-out shit fit over it? The guy in 300 Zeroes was lucky, along with a few other books I have read, his spouse was supportive. She went to hiking club meetings with him, helped him shop for gear, and wished him well as he boarded the bus or plane or whatever to Georgia. She even mailed him some resupply boxes along the way. She was in no way like “Some Guy’s Girlfriend” above.

But here’s the scary thing – Life is what happens when you are making other plans. I’ve read three stories this week about people who went on long distance hikes (The AT is just one of them, theres another called the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast, and a few other long distance trails across the country) for one reason only:

They were dying.

The guy in 300 Zeroes wasn’t dying, but he nearly did. He had a heart problem he was unaware of, and when he got it checked out, it took him nearly a year to recover; thus the 300 Zeroes title. A zero day is a day where a hiker walks 0 miles. Just hangs around town or rests or does laundry, but no trail miles. 300 Zeroes would be 300 days, or about 10 months.

Another guy was doing a blog, and it was to be his last adventure, because he had cancer. I got my last issue of Backpacker Magazine today, and in the back of the issue was a several page short story about Andy, who also was suffering from a terminal cancer. They had done pretty much what they could for him, and told him in no uncertain terms, “You’re going to die in about a year”.

So Andy picked up and hiked the length of the Pacific Crest Trail (there’s a motivation to finish – you can’t come back and try again), and finished it. At the end of the story, he died. Not on the trail, mind you, but very soon after finishing.

Someone I know recently told me she got into hiking after surviving cancer. It was on her bucket list of things to do.

The thing is, why do we wait?

Why should people have to die to do something they truly want to do? Where does the time go? Why do we waste so much of our lives of petty meaningless bunk when there’s all this STUFF to go do and see? I don’t want to be laying in my death bed with hours to live thinking, “you know what, I really wished I could have seen the Grand Canyon, or gone bungee jumping, or parachuted, or learned to surf.” I for one could never hike the whole AT. Sure, it sounds like a major accomplishment, but it’s one I would prefer not to do at once.

I could spend two weeks, maybe a month, out there, but that’s it. I read these stories of people dealing with toenails falling off and black flies and constant damp and mildew and sweat and think, “nope”. But done right, at the right time of the year – say one month a year for six years in the spring, I could finish the whole thing. Of course – I don’t have the vacation time for it anyway. And thus – I wait. I wait until retirement, when I still won’t be able to do it because I’ll have to find a different job to make up the difference in pay, but there’s a chance…

BUT – It’s worth looking into. Why do we wait? Don’t wait until you’re dying to do something you want to do, just to squeeze it in before it’s too late.

 

As long as you can afford it, because, after all, if you DO die, someone else has to pay the VISA bill. If you survive your pilgrimage to your personal Mecca, those payments can be harsh at 14.99%

Advertisements

Sleeping bag liner… just because.

If you go back and read my really old stuff, you will find my tale of my first hike, when I really didn’t know anything, and I spent a miserable night in the cold because no one really told me I needed insulation underneath me when sleeping in a hammock.

So after that experience I made my first under quilt and it worked like a charm. But I still decided there was no way in hell I was going to be cold again. I also really don’t like the feeling of laying directly on synthetic fibers like the nylon hammock or the top quilt fabric (which I think is nylon, too). I wanted something a little more like what I was used to in the bed. Besides, I always wind up with a little dirt or leaf bits in the bottom of the hammock that I can’t get rid of, and it’s nice to have something between me and it.

So, I made a sleeping bag liner out of a cheap fleece sleeping bag I got online for around $15.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.35.25 AMIt’s supposed to be a 55 degree sleeping bag, but honestly I wouldn’t trust it. It’s really thin, which makes it perfect for what I wanted to do. First I cut the zipper off, then tapered it to sort of a mummy bag shape, and finally sewed it together at the bottom to make sort of a foot box, and hemmed up the rest.

Why a closed foot box, you ask? The foot box helps keep your feet warm, and it helps you in the tent. You stick your feet in the liner and pull it up around you. I like to lay on top of mine, so it wraps around from underneath. When you’re all situated, then you open your sleeping bag and shove the liner in with your feet. Quick and easy, and you don’t wind up fighting an open-ended blanket that would likely just wind up bunched around your calves.

The bag liner worked just fine, until I had a problem. On one of my hikes, I got really wet due to a failed rain coat, and was trying to keep warm. I wound up stripping off my wet clothes and hanging around camp under the shelter with my bag liner draped over my shoulders. It helped, but it would have been a lot better if the blanket was opened up, like my top quilt will do.

Yesterday, my wife was gone all day so after cleaning up some stuff I pulled out my second bag (hey, for $15, when you plan to cut the thing up, you buy two just in case) and got to work making something different.

Walmart has little snaps that will tap on to fabric with a hammer and small socket. They don’t include a tool to do the work, but if you have a 3/8″ socket it fits the outer ring pretty well. Use the deep one so you have more to hold.

So I laid out the thing on the floor and cut the zipper off. I tapered it a little at first, and then laid down on it and guessed and tapered the feet end some more.

IMG_5245

Next I ran a hem all the way around the blanket, twice, and cut off the excess. No, I don’t sew straight, I’m not a 13 year old vietnamese sweat shop kid. Besides, I was going for quick and easy. I used no pins, and just eyeballed everything, and my eyeballs don’t work that great anyway.

IMG_5246

The hardest part was the snaps. I guessed about 4 inches apart or so, and whacked all the tops into place. Then I had to try and fit the bottoms in place and line everything up.

IMG_5247

So, finally it comes together. Now I have a sleeping bag liner with a closed foot area, that I can unsnap and drape over myself if I start to freeze to death and need some extra in camp insulation. Total cost, at most maybe $25 by the time you buy the blanket and the two boxes of snaps. I know, with the white thread it looks like a pair of blue jeans or something, but I didn’t want to have to dig through the wife’s thread collection and find black or blue. Again, going for quick and easy…

IMG_5248

 

RIP my washing machine. And I hate Sears.

Alas, my washing machine of 16 years has finally died. It was a rather interesting adventure amongst all the other stuff that was going on last weekend. I was sitting quietly watching TV, because when I’m on call, that’s about all I get to do. I can’t go hiking and I damn sure can’t leave town and do something fun. So I’m washing the backlog of clothing that builds up during the week and there’s a big CLUNK, like the time my power screwdriver fell off the shelf and landed on the washer. So I go check, and the screwdriver box is still on the shelf but the washer is twisted about 20 degrees off square with the wall, like someone went in there and grabbed it and tried to steal it.

What the Duck?

So I straighten it and at the same time start to notice this strange clicking sound coming from the machine, that I never noticed before. Then the washer starts the spin cycle and the clicking gets worse, sounding much like a steam locomotive chugging down the tracks.

The only comparable sound was when my refrigerator quit several years back. There was a big clunk one night and in the morning all the food was spoiled. So, knowing that clunks and clicks aren’t normal, I did what any American guy with a tool box would do, I proceeded to take the washer apart, because maybe I could find out what is wrong!

Never mind the fact that I’ve never taken a washer apart in my life, and according to my wife I don’t even wash clothes the right way (synthetics in one load, everything else in another load), I’m going to fix this thing! So, I turn off the water, unplug the bastard, and grab my hand truck with the one flat tire, and drag the bitch out of the laundry room into the middle of the kitchen.

Then I proceed to swear for an hour while getting the motor out, getting grease on my new shirt, and dumping cruddy just-washed-clothes water all over me. Finally I remove the suspect part: the transmission assembly. But, it’s factory sealed. Theres no way into it. And I’m not even sure if this is it. There aren’t many other moving parts, though, and everything else looks like I suspect it would. No broken pieces sticking out, no sheared off parts, no bolts missing.

So, not finding anything wrong, I put the thing back together, dump some water in it, and try to run it, to see if maybe, through some mechanical miracle, I have successfully repaired it. You laugh, but it has happened before… I fixed a few things not knowing how or what I did.

It doesn’t start. All it does it make a scary buzzing sound. Uh Oh. So I tell the wife “I can’t fix it, put on your clothes, we’re going to Sears”

“But you hate Sears, you said you would never go back there!”

Oh yeah – I did. I was looking at lawnmowers and they had no prices on the ones outside. So I asked “hey why are there no prices outside?” to which the guy replies: “The main office doesn’t let us put prices on those outside, because those are the cheaper ones. You have to come inside and ask.”

So I left and went to Lowes. We go to Sears anyway, and the same thing happens. The guy tells us “The prices on the washers aren’t the real ones. There’s a sale going on, so tell me what you want and I’ll look up the discounted price.”

No, asshole. You don’t look up the discounted price. You PUT the PRICE on the WASHER. It’s not a secret, you shouldn’t have to look it up. It should be THERE so I can SEE it! So we find one that we want. Before I go any farther – I must remind you that this happened on a Sunday. The worst day for this to happen, because first of all, there are a lot of places closed on Sunday, and in my backwards-ass 1950s county nothing can open until 1:30pm anyway, so you have to waste half the day before you can go to a store, and there’s no deliveries on Sunday.

So, I find a washer I like and ask when it can be at my house. The guy says, “Well if I order it today, it will be here by Wednesday, so Thursday at the latest.”

Thursday? I could go buy a CAR and have it at my house today. They don’t keep washers in stock? I also failed to mention that my kid is leaving for a school trip Wednesday morning. Thursday it out of the question. So, I do what I should have done before. I go to Lowes.

We walk into lowes and look around. Without doing any research, without comparing prices, without any knowledge whatsoever, we just walk into the washer section. The lady asked us if she could help us.

“Do you keep washers in stock?” I ask.

“yes, some of them.”

“Are these the correct prices?” I ask.

“Yes”

So we point out two that we like. Top loading, high efficiency (no agitator thing in the middle, just a plain empty tub). She scans them and says she has the one on the left.

“I’ll take it, when can you deliver it?”

“Tuesday” She replies. Good enough for me. She grabbed some hoses and I told her I didn’t need them. She tells me they won’t hook it up without new hoses, to which I replied, “I replaced my old hoses with the stainless steel braided ones, and I don’t need them to hook it up.”

It turns out that the price on the washer wasn’t the right price. It was even cheaper because I said I would hook it up myself. I told her all I wanted the guys to do was take away my old one, and drop the new one in the kitchen.

So, I got 60 dollars off. Yay for me.
Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 10.49.51 AM

 

When they finally brought it, they wanted to hook it up. I told them I hadn’t paid for it, and they said, “That’s fine, we’ll do it anyway.” Which I expected was delivery guy speak for, “The longer it takes us here, the less time we have to work at the store”. I told them again that I would do it, and they left in a huff. Besides, I had all the crap in the laundry room to move out first, sweep the floor, etc. I wound up having to take my folding shelf off the wall first before the washer would even go in the room.

Of course, like most other things in my house, I quickly discovered the water valves were mislabeled. Hot was cold and cold was hot, but I plugged the damn washer in and got it running. So, I was happy about it.

The new one is much different than the old one. For one, there is no water setting. It weighs the clothes of something, spins them around a few times, and adds water according to what it calculates is right. It also locks the lid when you start the cycle, so you can’t say, “Oh shit I forgot these socks” and chuck them in. The whole time you are programming the thing by pushing the selection buttons, it dings like Super Mario is collecting coins, and when it’s over is plays some little beeping melody, something like Bach or Brahms… for about a minute.

But, it works, and that’s what’s important.

Uwharrie Trail Hike

You whattie? The Uwharrie Recreational Trail seems to be somewhat of a geographical anomaly. The drive there is mostly along flat and gently rolling hills, than when you arrive, suddenly there are large hills and vastly more upward terrain greets you than you expect for central North Carolina. Its the type of terrain I really expect to encounter more in the upstate of South Carolina, but, there it was.

Uwharrie Map - the only map I carried because I couldn't find a really good one.

I planned this hike originally as a winter solstice hike for our meetup group, but due to winter-holiday-related scheduling conflicts, I wound up moving it, thus it was my first hike of the new year. Yay 2015! This one was closer for me, so instead of our usual Columbia spot, we met in various places and made the trailhead at 9:45am. After some discussion, we dropped a supply car halfway, near where we intended to camp, and headed on up to the north end. 

Some of the group elected to “slack pack” – in other words, leave the bulk of their gear in the supply car, and just carry food, water, and rain gear with them. Most of us carried our entire packs, for various reasons. Me and Carol, for instance, carried ours because we wanted to condition ourselves. I feel like sort of a fat pig after the holidays, and lugging 30 pounds through the woods for 12 miles is good exercise. So, we dropped the cars at the north end, and began our trek through the woods. At first, we were all well rested and eager to go, and stayed bunched up.

Group all bunched up at the beginning - this would not last.

Very quickly, as is normal, the faster and/or less burdened outpaced the slower and laden-down, and the group spread out over the landscape. It was a cool misty morning, a grey overcast would follow us the rest of the day.

Cool view.

One of the first ridge lines offered an impressive view (better in person than on camera), and a nice breeze helped cool the sweat on our heads.

Nice place to break an ankle

The trail was full of rocks of all sizes, hidden under the leaves, but the bigger ones were more prominent.

Kim trailing along behind me

Kim elected to slackpack, due to a recent three day hike through the Florida swamps. I wouldn’t see her again after lunch, until time to set up camp.

Overload heading down the trail
Overload heading down the trail, given that name due to her propensity to pack too much.

One activity I don’t often get to do much on the trail, because I have to keep up with the faster people in front of me, is geocaching. Despite playing a game of “beat the sun to camp”, I did find time late in the day to find one of the largest geocaches I’ve found in a while. Unfortunately there wasn’t much in it, but a wet log. It was right off the trail, and I couldn’t pass it up.

Big ass geocache
Big ass geocache

Me and Carla stop for lunch because everyone else was fasting or something.

Carla and I stopped for lunch, and watched the others walk off into the distance, apparently fasting or something. We soon caught up to them, because THEY had stopped for lunch. Carla waited with them, and I went on ahead, needing to make up some lost time. After about a quarter mile, I had this strange feeling of “holy crap, I’m really alone in the woods”. Kim was somewhere way ahead of everyone, as she was slack packing and wanted to make it to camp, and did not want to wait around on us slow pokes. Everyone else was eating, well behind me. I made a few ‘squatch calls and admired the rocks.

Cool rocks

Me looking regal and trying not to trip

Rock Selfie!
Rock Selfie!

Rocks

At one point after lunch, I found a creek. Water was a persistent question on this trip, not having been here before. Finding this nice creek to sit beside and wet my hurting feet in, was a nice surprise. I filtered my water, drank some, and examined a burgeoning set of blisters on my right foot. There was nothing I could do, except reposition my socks, which seemed to help. As I was packing up, everyone caught up with me.

Creek for my feet again

Water time
Water time

I wound up at the back of the pack after a while, My ankles were killing me and my blisters were slowing me down, and I didn’t want anyone to get left too far behind. Several times the trail was confusing, and seemed not to be as well marked.

More mystery trail
More mystery trail
Walking onward
Walking onward

Trail marker

At least the intersections we well marked at the roads.

Jason, Cowboy and Flamingo.
Jason, Cowboy and Flamingo.

While Carla and I brought up the rear, it started raining steady. It rained on and off all day, and continued being damp and misty constantly. Everything was wet, you couldn’t escape it. At one point it suddenly started raining HARD, right as I was peeing. It’s always the way… I had to move fast and grab the rain jacket, which I wore the rest of the day.

Another survey marker. These people on the park boundary are SERIOUS about trespassing.
Another survey marker. These people on the park boundary are SERIOUS about trespassing.
The group all together again
The group all together again

We finally made it to Yates Place campground, which is sort of a loose open area with a pit toilet and a few tables, and scattered fire rings. I didn’t take any pictures, because by this time the sun was going down quickly, and we had to get everything set up. By the time it was all set up, it was dark. Jason had a brilliant idea at this point.

“Hey why don’t we go to the north end, and grab the two cars, and bring them here”. It was a great plan. It’s a 45 minute round trip to get the cars, which would save us that much driving in the morning. So, we headed up to get the cars. By the time we returned, Im glad we did. After sweating in my clothes all day, they were soaked, and I forgot my sleeping shirt, which meant I was going to be cold and wet. Not a problem once you get in bed, because you warm up fast, but walking around camp I was shivering. Luckily, I had my “drive home clothes” in the car, which included a cotton shirt and my north face coat’s innards (the insulation part comes out of the jacket, and makes a nice light coat by itself). I put those on under my raincoat, and was warm quickly.

More rocks
More rocks

After settling in, it was time for food. I forgot my steak again, so I had to watch Kim and Jason trying to cook THIER steaks. Kim ordered her steak medium rare, to which Jason replied “cook it yourself then”, or some other equally appropriate comment. Carol, who I don’t think eats at all, was tired and went to bed. It was during supper that I made a serious determination to go meet our camping neighbors, who were actual, full-on certified, no bullshit for-real Bigfoot Field Research Organization members. Damn straight, I happened to camp next to two Bigfoot Hunters. After my meal of a partial bagel, protein bar, mashed potatoes, an adult beverage or two, and a pity bite or two of steak from my beef-laden friends, I went over and sat down with them.

The bigfoot people had firewood in abundance. I had brought a little from home, but they had a cord or two, and let us take advantage of it. Cowboy, true to form, had built a nice fire by the time we got back with the cars, and it kept us warm until bed time. It was interesting talking to the BFRO people (whose names escape me right now), and after about half an hour, I wandered back to camp. I was tired, stiff, and exhausted.

Fire! Fire!
Fire! Fire!

It rained on us all night. Not too badly, and the promised storms never arrived, but it rained on and off pretty much from midnight on. For some reason I couldn’t sleep well at all, and kept tossing and turning (carefully, I’m in a hammock, after all). I was also HOT, my hammock gear stuff being a bit too warm for this weather. I woke up once soaked in sweat and had to readjust a few things. At 5:45 (yes, AM) I was awakened by Cowboy and Kim apparently enjoying the fire he had managed to stir up.

Yes, despite steady rain all night, there were enough coals to stir up a fire. It just goes to show you, make sure your camp fire is out! Jason, Carol and I held a meeting. Severe thunderstorms were supposed to arrive by our projected halfway point. We decided to cut the hike short and head on home. Due to the rain, the damp mist, and fog, everything I owned was at least partially damp, and I was kind of glad for the decision. I knew it would take a long time to dry everything out. We parted ways and I headed home.

Misty morning drive home
Misty morning drive home

All told, we did 12.1 miles (of an 11 mile trail?) and climbed a total of 2300 feet. Not bad for a day’s walk.

 

Apparently, from Facebook comments I received, I left something out:

“You left out how Sunshine took time to draw an arrow where you don’t cross the river. Think Paul was the only one who saw my sign. She brought a duraflame to make Cowboy’s fire duty easier as well as toted 4 arm loads of wood to camp from our awesome neighbors. Mighty Mouse, Cowboy, and I had decided we needed to make camp by the car where we had a table and there was already some wood there. I had already carried one huge piece from the site between us and our neighbors to where we planned on setting up. You guys chose a spot that made our wood toting more painful. But, we did get to eat the most wonderful chicken chili ever made by our neighbors and sit under a tent to stay dry while enjoying the best ever campfire they had. Almost all the water I brought was used. Jason should have done better with my steak. I carried a heavy log further than I should have for him to sit on to give his knee some relief. I made him hot chocolate and shared my roasted corn with him. His gratitude was an overcooked burnt steak. Oh and I let him share my plate. Cowboy broke my fork. Guess it was his way of saying the food I shared sucked.  . The look on his face when it broke was priceless. And, I am picking on Jason. We are learning how to cook without the modern stuff out here.”

 

uwharriehike