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Latest Trip Update…

Back home and starting to dig through the pics from the trip to Boise and Yellowstone.  Details to come.  The trip into the Tetons got nixed due to a forest fire so we spent an extra day in Yellowstone.  Below are a few pics that I’ve pulled out so far.

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“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come…

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Chippin’ Away…

Just a quick update on what’s been happening since the last post many moons ago and what’s coming up soon.  As I mentioned, I had a mountain of “living amends” to tend to and that’s exactly what I’ve been focusing my efforts on.  Still a LONG way to go but I’ll just keep chipping away at ’em.  Little by little at lunch at work I’ve been going through the pics from the trip to Max Patch back in April as well as putting together a new gallery of wildflower pics.  You can find the Max Patch trip here and the new Wildflower Gallery here.  They’re still all jumbled up and not identified yet but I’m getting there.  (Note to Google: Please add the option to let users add captions to photos like you could in Picasa!!!  It’s ridiculous that you have to click on the “Information” icon for each image when a simple caption would suffice)

The big news, though, is that the countdown has begun.  Twelve more days until we head to Boise to visit our family out there and then its off to Yellowstone and the Tetons.  We are so ready!

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come…

AT 2016 Gallery Is Up…

Most of the pics for the four days on the AT with Deeps Woods are up now.  Still a bit to go through but I’m gettin’ there.  You can find those here.  Next up is the trip over Max Patch and then I’ll start redoing the “Favorite Droppings”.  Should be fun.

Two more months and we’re headin’ for Boise, Yellowstone and the Tetons!  Can’t Wait!!!

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come…

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Gallery Update…

I added pics from the day hike to the Walker Sisters’ Place and the hunt for the Yellow Lady Slippers to the gallery I put up last week from mine and Loonie’s four day AT trip.  You can find those here.  Starting to dig my way through the pics from mine and Deep Woods AT trip now so stay tuned.

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come…

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First Gallery is Up!

Little by little, I’ve been making my way through all of the pics from this last trip.  I finally put up a link to the gallery for mine and Loonie’s four-day backpacking trip on the AT and down to Cades Cove, which you can find here.  Many of these pics were covered in my posts for each day of the trip but there’s still a lot of new stuff in there.

Still on the galleries agenda:

  1. The day hike to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin and the spot where we found the Yellow Lady Slippers
  2. Mine and Deep Woods four days on the AT before getting off the trail due to the forest fire
  3. The overnight trip on the AT over Max Patch that Loonie and I did with her sister.

So, a LOT of pics to sort through yet.  Seeing as how Loonie is such a busy gal these days, watching Itty Bitty and all, and won’t be getting around anytime soon to getting her site setup, I’m going to go ahead and redo some of the “Favorite Droppings” here.  Definitely everything under the “Flora” and “Fauna” catagories.  I’ll update the others accordingly as well.  Once I do, I’ll be sure to let ya all know.

Looks like there will be no backpacking in the next few months and that’s disappointing but there are other exciting things planned in the meantime.  Loonie and I will be spending some time with the kids down at Big Cedar in a week or so and we can’t wait for that!  We have been looking forward to that for a LONG time now.  The week-long trip to Boise and Yellowstone with mom in August is all set.  That should be very cool as I have never seen that part of the country.  It should at least give Loonie and I some idea of the layout of the area for when we come back and do some serious hiking and backpacking.  And, we may still try to get back to the Smokies for a week in September or October but that’s all very tentative right now.  We’ll see.  Maybe we can sneak in a weekend trip here and there but I have a MOUNTAIN of “Living Amends” staring me in the face that I need to take care of so maybe I should just go there!  Gives new meaning to John Muir’s “The mountains are calling and I must go” doesn’t it?

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come…

On Fear…

“Driven by a hundred forms of fear…”   ~ Chapter 5 “How It Works”, Alcoholics Anonymous

That pretty much sums up how I have lived much of my life.  Fear of what people thought of me.  Fear of financial insecurity.  Fear of what the future held.  Fear of not being in control of my destiny.  Fear of what God would ask of me.  Here’s how my score card read upon reaching my bottom:

  1. To some, I was an obnoxious, disgusting drunk.  Others were heartbroken to see the person they loved so much slipping away into oblivion.
  2. My wife and I were making more money than we had ever made in all the years we had been married and yet our finances were in ruins.
  3. My future was becoming more and more certain – just not in any way I would have ever wanted.  One of two or three things  would happen.  I would get behind the wheel drunk one night and regrettably find myself in prison the next day for doing something very tragic or I would walk away…just disappear…never to be heard from again and wind up drinking myself to death or I would take my own life.
  4. Attempting to control my own life had brought me to the place that I now found myself in and now there seemed to be no way out.
  5. Never mind fears of lofty ideas of what God might expect of me.  He could seemly do nothing with me now because there was nothing left.  I was an empty shell that had nothing to offer anyone, much less find any love within myself.

Pretty bleak.  But, as they say, how dark it is before the dawn.  So, I’m trying to work on the “FEAR” thing.  Something that I ask Him to remove but He does say we have to be strong and courageous.  Not always an easy thing to do.  As far as what God asks of me, right now I’m just working on trying to be more like Christ and do what I can.  Like they say – “Do the next Right Thing”.  I just need to worry about today and do the best that I can today and let Him take care of the rest.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”   ~ Joshua 1:9

“Every day we have a choice.”
“Fear has nothing but a voice.”
“It may whisper, it may scream ”
“But I’m no longer listening.”

~ “Stronger Than My Fears”  SHEL

Sometimes the most simple verse can say so much.

 

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come…

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Some Thoughts On The Latest Bear Attack In The Park…

Just three weeks after Loonie and I were up at Spence Field Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an AT thru-hiker sleeping in his tent outside the same shelter was bit in the leg by a black bear.  You can read more about the incident here.  The man was able to get free and retreat to the safety of the shelter but the bear later returned and tore up the same tent, as well as another.  The injured hiker was carried out on horseback the following day and transported to a hospital to be treated for his injuries.  The park service closed the shelter for precautionary measures (which is all too common) and waited to see if a bear returned.  If one did, they would tranquilize it and determine, through DNA analysis, if it was the animal involved in the attack.  The park service has since euthanized a large bear (approx 400 lbs.) and later determined it was not the bear involved in the attack.

I suppose we could go back and forth all day long about what should or shouldn’t have happened with respect to how the park service handled the situation.  I don’t know that they had much choice but I’m not qualified to give an educated opinion on that aspect of the subject.  It all does sound strikingly familiar to what happened last June to the teenage boy who was attacked while sleeping in his hammock along Hazel Creek.  A bear was euthanized after that incident and, as it turned out, it was not involved in the attack.  Again, could the park service have handled the situation any better?  I don’t know.

What I do know is this: it is not uncommon to find food and trash left behind in the shelters, at the backcountry campsites and along the trail.  Loonie and I, along with another couple, were the last ones to leave Spence Field Shelter on the morning of April 19th.  We took a quick look around to make sure we weren’t leaving anything behind and to gather up any trash that might be lying around, which of course there was!  Low and behold, on the bench attached to the side of the shelter, the one intended for preparing your food, there was an entire bag of food someone had left behind.  We could have done any one of the following:

  1. Leave it where it was
  2. Hang it on the provided cable system
  3. Carry it out

We opted for number two in this instance as we figured that someone would likely return for their much needed food and not appreciate us carrying it out.  If said person(s) had given up on their hike and decided to leave the food behind, then unfortunately we were leaving the burden of carrying the food out for either one of the park’s ridge runners or a volunteer trail/shelter maintainer.  I do feel bad about that but I didn’t want to take the chance of walking off with all of someone’s food.  On the other hand, I certainly didn’t want to leave it laying down next to the shelter as a handy snack for the next bear to come along.

There was food and trash left behind at all four shelters we visited on this past trip (three of which we spent the night at) and we’ve seen it in the past at most shelters and backcountry campsites.  We typically try to carry out what we can.  And it’s not just the shelters and campsites.  On a three day trip back in 2013 that Loonie, my nephew and I took, which included a stay at Icewater Springs and Mt LeConte shelters, we encountered four college-aged guys out doing the same exact trip.  It was obvious from the gear they carried, their mannerisms, the way they talked, etc. that they had done little, if any, backpacking.  But that’s okay.  Everyone has to start somewhere and they were having fun and enjoying being outdoors.  They came into Icewater Springs before we left on the second day.  We watched as they got setup.  They were carrying items like whole cartons of shelf stable milk, cans of tuna, boxes of macaroni and cheese, entire boxes of snacks.  One of the guys had carried in a heavy single burner propane stove and fuel cylinder like you would use when car camping to cook with.  They were carrying a LOT of stuff and a LOT of weight.  We left and headed to LeConte via The Boulevard Trail.  It was surprisingly quiet up at the shelter.  We were the only three there that night.  No one came in after us and we didn’t notice anyone heading back towards the AT the next morning.  Just after leaving the shelter the next morning, here they come.  Right off the bat one of them says “Hey, did you see all of that trash someone threw off the side of the trail down there?”  He was pointing back towards where they had just come from.  We hadn’t seen a thing the day before.  The trail was in great shape.  So we moved on.  Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, strewn all down the side of a hill just off of the trail were the empty shelf stable milk cartons, tuna cans, macaroni and cheese boxes, etc.  Down the hill my nephew and I went to collect it all.  We filled a 13 gallon trash bag full of those guys trash and hauled it back to Newfound Gap.  We could have reported the incident to the park service and, in hindsight, I suppose that’s what we should have done.  But I could just see it turning into one of those he said-she said kind of things.

Why do I bother mentioning all of this?  Because I believe WE HUMANS AND OUR BAD HABITS AND THE TRASH WE LEAVE BEHIND are probably the biggest contributing factor to the problems we are seeing with these unfortunate human-bear interactions.  It sounds like the kid (who was traveling with his father) attacked last June followed all necessary precautions for traveling and camping safely in bear country.  Same goes for the guy just attacked at Spence Field Shelter a few weeks ago.  From what I’ve read, they took the necessary steps to stay safe.  So, I think its safe to say that its the careless behavior of those who had gone before them that brought about this problem.  I’ve seen over and over again now how careless people are about leaving food and trash behind at the shelters, back country campsites and alongside the trail.  Bears are going to do what bears do.  If there’s an easy meal to be had, they’re gonna go for it.  And they’ll come back looking for more.  Hikers drop their packs at the bottom of a fire lookout tower so they can run up unencumbered by the weight (very common at Shuckstack).  A bear comes along and finds a quick and easy snack.  Now he begins to associate backpacks with an opportunity for his next meal and bad things happen.  A hiker forgot that she left an opened energy bar in her tent before she went to filter water.  A bear finds his way to it and now he associates tents as a ready food source and then things like what just happened at Spence Field Shelter occur.  Sound ridiculous?  It’s happening all the time.  Just ask the park service for yourself.

I won’t lie.  I’ve left stuff behind myself.  If you’ve hiked enough miles, at one point or another you have almost certainly left something behind by mistake.  It happens to all of us.  The important thing to remember here is that we all have to work together.  Like they always say: “Leave it cleaner than you found it”.  Just some thoughts:

  1. Before you leave a shelter or backcountry campsite, do a quick check and pick up and haul out any trash you possibly can.
  2. Should you find any food left behind and you suspect someone will be returning for it (like the whole bag of food we found), hang it using the provided cable system.   Should that be inoperable and you’re not equiped to or unfamiliar with how to properly hang your food, carry it out.  If its just some leftover items or scraps, carry it out.
  3. Continually scan the trail and pick up any trash you find as go.  Carry it out.
  4. Do not prepare or eat your meals inside the shelters!  Most shelters have a bench on the side or in front that is intended for preparing and eating your meals.  Even better, prepare and eat your meals before or after you get to a shelter or campsite if possible.
  5. Make sure to hang all scented items before leaving your space, tent, tarp, hammock or whatever unattended.  Preferably, scented items shouldn’t go into these spaces in the first place.
  6. Never leave your pack behind to go check out a landmark, water feature,  etc.   Where you go, the pack should go.  Never leave it unattended.
  7. Preferably, pack all scented items in odor proof bags such as those made by Aloksak.   This should reduce the chances of food odors spreading to the rest of the contents of your pack.914AOJecLGL._SL1500_
  8. Consider hanging your pack instead of just your food bag.  Many frown upon this practice.  Some people hate it when you hang your pack.  You get to a shelter to find it completely full and tents are setup all over the place.  The cables are full of food bags and its a struggle just to get one more bag up, let alone a heavy pack.  When I hike solo, its not such a big deal – my pack, food bag and any contents I won’t be sleeping in or with weigh less than many folk’s food bags alone, so I will often just hang the pack.  It’s problematic, though, when hiking with Loonie and we’re carrying much more gear and weight.  Depends on how many people are there and how full the cables are.

I’m sure there’s a lot more that I’ve overlooked and could come up with.  And these are just my thoughts on the matter.  Do not take them as gospel.  I accept no responsibility for what may happen to you as a result of what you read here.  Always refer to the most current park policies, which you can find here.  Reservations are required for overnight stays at shelters and backcountry campsites and you’re required to check off that you understand the park’s policies, so please be sure that you do.

You’re also probably thinking that it would require carrying a pack the size of a dump truck to haul back out all of the crap you’ll likely run across.  All I’m suggesting is for each of us to do everything we can reasonably do to cover one another’s butts and preserve and protect this incredible park and the incredible creatures that inhabit it.  I think there are a lot of hikers that would scoff at the suggestions I’ve just made, saying most of them are pointless and unnecessary.  After all, they’ve hiked countless miles and have never had a problem.  These are my thoughts specifically regarding Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a park of roughly 500,000 acres containing approximately 1,600 bears and visited by over 10,000,000 people each year.  There’s a vast network of trails to put all of those visitors in close proximity to all of those bears and unfortunately most of those visitors haven’t the slightest clue about how their actions can affect everyone that comes along behind them.  Maybe we don’t have to go to some of the extremes I’ve suggested outside of the Smokies but I think they might go a long way to curbing some of the problems we’re seeing inside the Smokies.

Maybe this whole long-winded diatribe was just a reminder to myself that I’m the one that needs to be more careful and that there are some areas I need to improve upon.   I know that I need to lead by example and not let my emotions and mouth get the better of me, that’s for sure!  I’ve been guilty of that on more than one occasion and that does more harm than good.  I need to set a good example.  Maybe everyone will have a more enjoyable…and much safer…hike!

Update: Check out this article for more info on the latest attack in the park.

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come….

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On Gratitude…

My sponsor told me that I needed to make a gratitude list.  I’m 51 years old and I have to be told that I need to make a gratitude list?  Well, it should be obvious to you, my devoted readers (if there happens to be any), that I do indeed need to make a gratitude list and spend some time reviewing that list each and every day, giving thanks for all of the blessings granted me.

First, a bit of background.  When alcohol became my Master, I did everything I could to push anyone and everything away from me that might interfere with my drinking.  It no longer mattered how much I loved or cared for someone or cherished something.  If it would come between me and the next drink then they or it must be pushed aside.  My alcoholism progressed to the point where even when I desperately wanted to stop, I couldn’t.  It consumed me and poisoned my mind.  I nearly lost everything and I just wanted to die.  One night, when I was all alone, I cried out “God, Help ME!”  The next night I found my way to Alcoholics Anonymous and a new chapter in my life began.

It hasn’t always been easy.  Nothing really worthwhile in life ever is, right?  There have been some bumps in the road, usually of my own making, but one day at a time I have lived over four years now without a drink.  That alone, to me, is a miracle.  So, I am grateful for:

  1. My loving God & Savior, Jesus Christ
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous for helping to clear my befogged mind and sickened body, point me back to my Creator and set me on course for a new way of life.  None of the rest of this list would have been possible without that.
  3. My beautiful, loving wife of 32 years.  My best friend and companion.  Mother of our three amazing children.  She is all I could have ever wished for.
  4. Our three amazing, wonderful children – two sons and a daughter.  I find that I am more proud and grateful for them each and every day.
  5. Our FANTASTIC new daughter-in-law, a beautiful Godly young lady who dearly loves our oldest son.  Loonie and I are so blessed to have her as a part of our lives.
  6. Tomorrow we will welcome a second FANTASTIC daughter-in-law to the family!  Can you believe it?  Our youngest son will be getting married to a beautiful new bride!
  7. Our two BEAUTIFUL healthy, happy granddaughters and a third on the way!!!
  8. My sponsor and the scores of caring friends I’ve come to know in my time in AA.  They have seen me through some trying times.  We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together.  Most importantly, we’ve stayed sober and grown together.
  9. The country I live in and call home and the freedoms bestowed upon me as a citizen of this great nation.
  10. The roof over our heads – shelter from the storm.
  11. My job and the income it provides us.
  12. The great group of people that work in my department.  Many managers say “These people work under me.”  My people do…because they carry me!  I couldn’t ask for a better group of people.  They’re amazing!
  13. My own health and well being.

Well, I’m sure I could come up with a WHOLE LOT MORE but I figured that was a pretty good start.  All of the above very well could have slipped away, and most certainly would have, had God not led me through the doors of AA.  I’d say that’s quite a gratitude list just as it is.  All the same, I think I’ll be adding to it in time.

There are some challenges ahead.  I’m still struggling with the bipolar disorder, depression and social anxiety.  It gets very discouraging at times.  To make matters worse, the Essential Tremor presents it’s own unique set of challenges.  These aren’t “The Shakes” that an alcoholic gets from withdrawal.  I have a neurological disorder that is slowly taking away my ability to write, use utensils, drink from a glass and even speak clearly….especially when I’m nervous.  So you can just imagine how someone so self conscious and self centered as an alcoholic like me must feel dealing with this crap!!! (cue the violins).  I’m beginning to feel like a science experiment with all the different medications we’ve tried.  And I HATE taking meds!  We’re pretty much at the end of the road on that front with respect to the tremor.  Either this one works or it becomes a choice of whether or not to go through with the DBS procedure.  The thought of wires being shoved in my brain doesn’t sound too appealing.  But we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.  God must have some purpose behind all of this and that is actually a comforting thought.  So there, all that stuff I was just whining about?  Just added it to my gratitude list.

One last thing.  Not long before Loonie and I headed off on the trip, I was at an AA meeting and the topic of discussion for night was the 12th Step: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”  Many folks talked about their experiences when working with other alcoholics.  The successes.  The apparent failures.  But in the end, the growth they had experienced in working with another person.  I felt so apart from the discussion.  I have always been very open and candid about my alcoholism, something I just felt I needed to do, while still respecting others anonymity.  I had talked to a number of people about AA and the program and invited them to join in but nothing ever seem to come of it.  So on this particular night, I felt as though I was really falling down.  When it was my turn to speak I just said that I hoped that maybe I had planted some seeds along the way.  God only knew what might come of it.

A few days later, the day before we were to leave on the trip, I had an appointment with someone in the medical field.  I’ll leave it at that out of respect to their anonymity.  I hadn’t seen this particular individual in quite some time but she knew my story.  We talked for a bit and then she says “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I told my sister about you and she just celebrated 6 months in sobriety!  How cool is that?”  Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.  When I got back to the truck it took everything in me to keep from crying.  I was so moved!  God does work in mysterious ways.

Awesome!

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

More to come….

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On Charity…

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”  ~1 Corinthians 13:2

“Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we believe, is the root of our troubles.”   ~ Chapter 5 “How It Works”, Alcoholics Anonymous

Charitable is not a word that those who know me well would likely use to describe me.  Something that I REALLY need to work on.  Each day, by the grace of God, I’m granted a reprieve.  A gift that was passed along freely by a host of friends acting as his “agents”, if you will.  Maybe I should start giving back myself.  Might do me some good. 

“Think of all of the beauty still left all around you and be happy.”   ~ Anne Frank

I think I’ll just wrap up each post with that quote from now on.  If she could still find beauty in all of the suffering and indignities she had to go through then I should cherish each moment of each day that I’m granted.

More to come…