Archive for August 2008

Uh-binchur!

16 years (and to be specific, 9 months) ago this coming Sunday began one of the greatest adventures of my life…my boy, Josiah.I can still hear him say, blue eyes gleaming, “Daddy, let’s go on an uh-binchur.” Who could say no? Well, buddy, this Sunday you’ll be 16 years old and your Mom and I are so proud of who you are that I can’t quite put it into words. We are honored to be a part of your life, much less to be your Mom and Dad. Your radical pursuit of God puts you at the top of my heroes list. I am humbled by the opportunity Papa has given me to watch as someone of your caliber becomes the man God created him to be. We love you more than you can possibly know and have loved every minute of this uh-binchur you’ve taken us on. Yeah, buddy, let’s go on an uh-binchur.

Happy birthday,
I love you…
daddy

Rim of the Gap Part 1

Rim of the Gap Part 1

Saturday evening Jo returned home sunburned from spending the day at the lake with some friends. While he was finishing up a bath I asked him how tired he was. He said, “It depends on what you wanna do.” I said, “Cut grass.” “I’m exhausted,” he replied. “How ’bout an overnight hike on Rim of the Gap?” (Rim of the Gap is a very strenuous 4.3 mile trail at Jones Gap.) “Let’s go!” We’ve primitive camped for 20 years but this would be the first time that we carried everything we’d need on our backs and hiked 2 hours up a steep ascent to do so. So we threw a few items in our packs, intentionally leaving out the 8 man tent for obvious reasons. We decided to spend the night in our recently purchased “travel hammocks” and sleeping bags. By the way… our sleeping bags? Way too big for backpacking. After a quick stop for trail bars, nuts and water we arrived in the Jones Gap parking lot at 7:10 pm. As we were walking toward the registration box I had a nauseating revelation. I had suddenly remembered some very important information. You’re supposed to pre-register for camping. I ran to the office and unbelievably it was open. I walked in, hands in the air, bemoaning my blunder. Elliot, one of the guys working there, said “Let me see what I can find.” After running through our options he found an available site 2 hours up the trail on Pinnacle Pass, the very place I’d hoped we could camp. A man makes his plans…thank God, He determines our steps. So with a newly purchased map and an admonition from a very accommodating Elliot to hurry to the site, we busted it up the trail which ascends about 1,000 feet in about a mile. It wasn’t very long and we found ourselves hiking under the cover of night with only my headlamp lighting the way. It was beautiful and, Jo thought, a little creepy. Suffice it to say that blaze colors look striking similar and reasonably rare at nightfall. We struggled to find our way at several junctures. But after stumbling past our trail several times we tied our hammocks up and prepared to sleep like babies. Unfortunately due in large part to out hammocks there was precious little sleeping to be had. First, they were too small, un-bearably uncomfortable and extremely prone to flip. Then factor in the bugs. There were the flying bugs: mosquitoes, gnats, “no-see-ums” and who knows what else. Then there were the ants who discovered they could leap off the tree and slide down the sloping ends of the hammock to make landfall on either feet or head respectively. I smashed well over a dozen ants and one spider directly on my forehead. Jo sustained over 32 bites of some sort just on his left arm. Did you know that the crickets (I guess that’s what they were) never stop their noisemaking as long as it’s dark? And they were really loud. Eventually we unzipped our sleeping bags (which were too hot anyway) and hid beneath them giving us at least some protection. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that while we were setting up our hammocks something nearby howled…then warbled on the end…then did it again…and again. It was almost otherwordly. After spending the night waiting for dawn, I finally got out of my hammock (for the 19th time) snapped a few pics of Jo and started packing up. We were on the trail heading back to Rim of the Gap by 6:30 or so.
For some reason Jo likes to be in front so I usually let him lead. This morning, for some reason, he’s behind me and 10 minutes into our hike (We’re on the John Sloan Connector) he stops and whispers, “Bear, bear, BEAR!” By the time I figure out where he’s pointing all I see are rustling bushes. Jo was given an amazing gift; he saw two bear cubs playing. Amazing. I know what you’re thinking, “How cute.” Yes, cute…but…we’ve read a bit about bears. Our black bear is very non-aggressive toward humans unless…yeah, you get between mother and her cubs. She’s not concerned with your intentions and no amount of explaining or apologizing will do. You’re a threat to her family and quite possibly a tasty meal. So we froze…for like 10 minutes. We heard what sounded like a large bear like critter moving through the foliage…so we waited, (Jo had his camera out of course.) and waited and waited some more. Obviously we survived so Bear tip 1? No sudden moooooovements! 2 hours later I hear laughter bubble up unexplainably from Jo’s chest. when I asked “What?” He replied, with a big ol’ smile plastered on his face, “I saw two bear cubs.” The Gifting Giver is so good.

Rim of the Gap Part 2

The morning heated up unusually fast and our water supply dwindled even faster. We’d filled our bottles and brought 3 bottled waters apiece but were still running out. If we keep this up a water filter/ pump is going to become a necessity. You just can’t carry enough water for even a 5 mile hike. According to our map the trail ahead would descend for 200 feet in about a mile then ascend 400 feet in the remaining mile. It looked nothing like the map. We were constantly climbing up steep trails, only to carefully pick our way down root covered hills, only to begin yet another climb, sometimes up rustic ladders or via cables. It was a lot of fun. Exhausting but fun. Every now and then we’d get a peek out across the valley and the views were almost dizzying. In places there were breaks in the trees and you could look out over sheer drops of what must’ve been several hundred feet which led to other even greater drops. We were at least 2,400 feet above sea level and it felt like it. In several places the spongy trail gave way and scared the poop out of me. At one point I stepped on a really big rock that, seemingly defied the laws of physics and rocked up into the air, throwing me off balance about 4′ from a 100′ drop. That was a trip. Oh, I almost forgot, the trail leads right through a boulder where we had to take off our packs and slide through an opening. Check out the pics.
The effects of the drought are pretty apparent because we encountered several places that looked like they were once waterfalls of some degree but were now dry. We did cross in one place where I could dip my hat in a pool. That was de-licious.
By this time I’d decided that doing a flip-flop (A flip-flop is when you reach the end of the trail and then turn around to hike back to it’s start) was out of the question. Whether it was due to sleep deprivation or just the fact that we’re wimps, we were toast. The map showed a connector trail called Frank Coggins that led from the end of Rim of the Gap to Caesars Head Visitor’s Center. It was 1 mile and was rated as “easy.” Easy I could do. It was the most anti-climatic end to a hike we’d done to date. It left us at the intersection of 3 trails with no fanfare or hoopla of any sort. On that note we set to our mile walk up Frank Coggins. When we arrived at the Visitor’s Center we were greeted by two friendly faces. One belonged to a girl who was working with Elliot the night before and she recognized us. (While I was whining about biting off more than we could chew she informed us she just completed a 22 mile hike. Yeah, thanks.) The second belonged to Adam, with whom I inquired about a shuttle back to Jones Gap. After discussing it with some mystery person in a back room, Adam came out and happily said, “I’ll take you.” He declined my grateful offer to “kiss him full on the mouth,” (I’m not sure why) led us to his chariot (a white station wagon) and gave us a most appreciated ride back down the mountain. It was here that I realized just how aromatic we’d become. I apologized repeatedly. Having done a half-thru hike of the AT,Adam was well aware of the effects hiking could have on body scent. He re-assured us we were fine. I think he probably torched the wagon when he got back. Adam, whose trail name was “Thieving Bear,” (Ask him when you see him) was a great guy and we really enjoyed hearing some of his story. We discovered a common passion for hiking and trout-fishing and I think there was a lot more to Adam than a 1/2 hour shuttle gave us time to explore. I hope to run into him again soon.
Jo and I threw our packs into the truck and made our way down the mountain. We stopped at a gas station and once again the hiking monster took over my appetite, destroyed my will-power and drove me to the deli-counter where I was compelled to order fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and fried okra. It’s a bit of a blur. In the midst of my feeding frenzy I have vague memories of giant ostriches, ducks and a wobbling death-metal goat but it might’ve just been the food induced stupor I was in. You’ll have to ask Jo.
We arrived blissfully home thanking our God for making our way, an awesome hike, a shuttle ride, great new friends, fried chicken, okra and mac and cheese and sleep. Dana walked in the door hours later, back from her trip with our old friend Lisa to see Journey, Heart and Cheap Trick. That’s her story to tell.