Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reese Hollow Trail and Shelter ATTABOY!...and Ultrarunning

From Facebook, comments from a northbound hiker on the Tuscarora Trail:

After passing the Hell’s Hill Trail the trail got a lot better. We were following the ridgeline and the rocks became a lot easier to cross. There were fewer boulder fields and the trail seemed to be in a lot better shape. By 3:30 we reached the long trail down to Reese Hollow Shelter and began our descent.
Initially the descent was relatively steep, but after a few hundred feet the grade lessened and the yellow-blazed trail made its descent into the shelter. We crossed two side trails before dropping down into a heavily wooded glade where we found the shelter. Johnny B and I both remarked that this was the furthest that we had ever hiked off the main trail to get into a shelter for the night.
However, the long descent was worth it! Reese Hollow Shelter is a wonderful site. It is a large, single decked shelter with a large overhanging porch covering a picnic table. Although we generally aren’t into campfires there is a really nice enclosed fire pit at the shelter. The shelter maintainers have done a wonderful job with this site! The piped spring is about 150’ from the shelter. The privy is above the shelter and it is a nice one…and the maintainer even provides toilet paper! This is a Hilton among shelters!
We settled in for the night. It cooled off nicely and because of the shelter’s easterly location in a deep hollow it got dark early. By 6:30 we were already using our headlamps. It was an early night – we were exhausted. I tried to stay awake, laying on my sleeping bag and listening to the sounds of the evening. 

Comments like this make trail and shelter overseers like me glow with pride.  I am proud of my work at Reese Hollow for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) and am happy to be able to enhance the outdoor experiences of other hikers.

And I must put in a plug for volunteerism: these trails do not maintain themselves!  Whenever you go for a trail run, there's a whole organization--largely invisible--that supports trail construction and maintenance.  An organization comprised of individuals like you and me, who enjoy having trails and want to give back by working on said trails.

So...if you are an Ultrarunner, you should also be a trail maintainer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Know We Run Beyond 26.2 Miles, But This is Incredible!

The new world's record in the marathon (men's) is now 2:02:57,  just set in Berlin this weekend.  

Wanna feel like a wimp?  This is 4:41 pace, people!

I've blogged about this before, but some years back I was running laps overnight at an American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.  I had decided in advance to run 100 laps, and so I executed that plan. I ran well and was relatively fresh when I hit my 100 lap goal, which equated to 25 miles. 

I wasn't spent or burnt out, I simply had no interest or desire to add another 1.2 miles so I could call it a marathon.  I suppose that was the moment when I truly became an Ultrarunner.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Perfect Endless Loop, It Seems....

Via Shakesville, who points us to the original article at CNN:  

The United States is spending millions of dollars to destroy U.S. equipment in Iraq and Syria — gear the U.S. gave the Iraqi military that was later captured by ISIS forces.
The U.S has hit 41 Humvees since attacks began in August, according to data from United States Central Command.
The U.S. is sending $30,000-bombs to eliminate these armored vehicles, which cost about a quarter of a million dollars each depending what it is equipped with, according to Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The U.S. Defense Department confirmed the targets to CNN. "In some cases, we have seen instances of ISIL capturing and employing U.S.-made equipment," said a spokesperson. "When we've seen these terrorists employing this equipment, we've sought to eliminate that threat."
Once the U.S. destroys the equipment, it might have to re-supply the Iraqi military.
"If we want them [the Iraqi military] to be able to secure their own borders in the long run, we're going to have to re-equip them," said Harrison. "So we'll be buying another Humvee and sending it back to the Iraqi military.''

I'm not good enough with my Apple software and Blogger to draw this, but what I'd like to depict below would be a circular loop, with 4 circles distributed at the noon, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions.  And all connected by clockwise-pointing arrows.

Imagine the circle just described:

NOON:  U.S. supplies "good" guys

3 PM:  "Bad" guys intervene, attack "good" guys, capture U.S. provided military equipment and supplies

6 PM:  Chaos ensues, lots of human misery, "good" and "bad" guys and the way ahead all quite ambiguous, but we must do something!

9 PM:  U.S. blows up "bad" guys and their captured military equipment and supplies

NOON:  U.S. resupplies "good" guys

How many times in our Middle East adventures have we seen this same sort of scenario play out?  In the meanwhile, whenever we shoot, we create more people who hate the U.S. than existed before we shot, exacerbating the problem downstream in the future.

I keep thinking that the only solution to break this endless loop is to tell the "bad" guys,

"You know, we were gonna send $xxx worth of drones, Tomahawk missiles, and bombs to try to wipe you off the face of the earth.  Instead, we are sending that same amount of humanitarian aid in the form of food, shelter, medical supplies, and well-digging equipment to aid the ordinary people whose lives are screwed by near-constant war."

This may not work, but let's just try it this once, OK?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cats in Art: A Community Art Project, Highland, IL

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  In this case, I'm taking a break from the traditional art I've been featuring to showcase a contemporary piece of artwork: painted tile created as part of of a community park beautification project.

 Both image credits Gary:
This is the town square in the peaceful community of Highland, IL.  The one-block square park features an art deco fountain at its heart (on the right of this image), with a small pavilion beyond (in the left-center of this image).

On the illuminated front wall of the pavilion, facing the fountain, dozens or even hundreds of community members have created tile and painted art.  The bride and I--in town to visit a dear old friend--scoured the wall, looking for cats, and at last spotted this tiny guy in the upper left corner of the wall.  Only about 4" long, the impressionistic kitty just looks like he is reaching out to a human, any human.

I like to think that this cat will still be creating smiles many decades from now, even after the unknown artist is long gone.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Runner's Hat

[image credit Gary]

I usually wear a baseball cap when I run to keep bugs away from my head and the sun away from my eyes.

Yesterday I ran for the first time in my newest old hat--the one pictured above--that belonged to my father-in-law, Charlie, who passed away a few weeks ago.  The bride and I got him this hat some years back to commemorate the ship he sailed on in WWII, the USS Turandot, AKA-47 (see here for a brief history of the ship).

When I ran through the village of Marion near my home, a car pulled up and the window came down.  I swear I almost jumped, because it was a black SUV with black windows that looked just like a Secret Service car...but turns out it was just a lost guy.  After I gave him directions (he wasn't far off track) and we were parting ways, he glanced at my hat and said, "Thank you for your service."

I explained that it was my FIL's hat for his ship in WWII, and that I was wearing it in memory of and to honor Charlie, but, well, the tears just began.  At length I managed to get out the brief story, but I was an emotional wreck the rest of the run.

That's how grief goes, I know, from having experienced it numerous times: you're OK, then there's a trigger, something that reminds you of the loved one you have lost, and then the waves of grief come washing over, sometimes even interspersed with laughter.

There's no right way to grieve, you just wing it.  And somehow I think your departed loved one understands.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sliding Stones in Death Valley...and Ultrarunning

Have you ever seen this phenomenon written up?  Seems there are stone that somehow slide around Death Valley, thus far eluding explanation.

[image credit Bad Astronomy]

Until now.  From the always-great read Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait explains:

When I was a kid, one of the coolest mysteries going was the moving stones of Racetrack Playa. This is a dry lake bed in Death Valley, California, where large rocks are embedded in the dried mud. However, many of the rocks have clearly been moving; there are long tracks behind them in the caked, baked mud pushed up like rails along the tracks’ sides.
What could be moving these stones? No one knew. They would sit for years, then suddenly be found to have moved many meters. Could wind push them? Maybe ice formed after rain, forming rafts that floated the rocks up. Speculation abounded, and I remember watching TV shows about the rocks, and reading about them in sketchy “Mysteries of the Paranormal” type books when I was a wee lad.
Now, however, this enduring mystery has been solved. And I mean,solved. Like, we know what’s causing this. A team of scientists and engineers were able to capture the motion on camera, finally revealing the mechanism behind this bizarre behavior.

In a nutshell, the playa is very dry, getting only a few centimeters of rain per year. In the winter, when it does rain, the slightly tilted playa gets accumulations of water a few centimeters thick at one end. It gets cold enough for the water to freeze on top. When the Sun comes out, the ice begins to melt, forming large chunks called rafts. The wind blows these rafts (which are typically a few millimeters thick), which then hit the rocks and push on them. The ground is softened by the water, so the rocks can move more easily ... and then they do. 

Gosh, I love science!

The link to Ultrarunning, of course, is that Death Valley is where the Badwater race takes place, a race that I have absolutely NO desire to ever run.  If you do, my hat's off to you, but this clearly is a case of different strokes for different folks.

And so on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yellow Flowers on the Tuscarora Trail

I don't know what these guys are, but for a stretch they dominated the trail a couple weeks back when I took this shot.  I have a good Audubon wildflower guide, just lack the motivation to key it out.

[image credit Gary]

The plant was a single upright stem about waist high, terminating in these showy yellow posies.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat Catching a Bird (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  

[Note: sorry this is posting a day later than usual.  The bride and I were on the road a bit last week.]

Image credit WikiArthere.  Cat Catching a Bird, Pablo Picasso, 1939, oil on canvas, 32" x 39", held by Musee Picasso, Paris, France.

Most of us don't think of our kitties as killers, but Picasso's surrealistic painting kinda dispels that notion, at least for this cat.  A few thousand years of domestication don't negate the millions of years of evolution that produced such an efficient and successful predator....that also delivers and receives cat love with such style.

That's one of the reasons why we love them, I think: the undercurrent of wildness behind the purring, the inability to know what cats are thinking, the aloofness and distance that many kitties keep.  You know, the mysteriousness, the dangerousness, which Picasso captured so very well in this image painted a lifetime ago.