Every Adventure has a Story
Every Adventure has a Story
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How do I organize a hike that is both interesting for experienced hikers and isn't overwhelming to new hikers? That's a hard balance; I remember being a new hiker when 2-3 miles felt like quite a hike, and I also remembered thinking recently how now my definition of a "hike" is vastly different than what it was a few years ago. How do I reconcile the two and find something that would appeal to everyone?
There was one obvious answer: Hanging Rock.
A long time ago, in the area where Franklin, NC now sits, local Cherokee told a story of a winged beast that swooped down from the skies and stole children. Heartbroken and desperate, the local villagers sent a warrior to the highest mountain to keep watch for the winged monster and to discover its lair. The warrior found the lair, but it was in a place in the mountains inaccessible to humans, so the Cherokee villagers prayed to the Great Spirit for assistance. The Great Spirit heard their pleas and sent thunder and lightning to destroy the winged monster. The lightning scarred the surrounding mountains but the warrior, afraid for his life, tried to abandon his post. To punish his act of cowardice the Great Spirit sent a bolt of lightning to the mountain summit, leaving a bald and turning the warrior to stone. From that day forward the mountain was called Yunwitsule-nunyi which means "where the man stood."
Today we call it Standing Indian Mountain. The bald is still there, as well as the rock scars on the sides of the nearby mountains, but the rock shaped like a man is crumbling, forgotten to all except those that know to look for it.
It's always a surprise when I stumble across the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This summer I will have lived in North Carolina for twenty years and through this whole time the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been like an old friend who keeps popping up again - someone I knew and liked throughout my life but never got to know intimately even though we share interests and keep rubbing elbows over the years.
My post on Wednesday was originally intended to provide information about long distance trails - specifically the Appalachian Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail - as an introduction for those unfamiliar to long-distance hiking, but a post just vomiting facts and metrics is no fun. Hence, the post on Wednesday turned into a passionate romanticization of long-distance trails. But as much as I wax poetic about the outdoors, I also feel a bit of guilt: I wonder if romanticizing the outdoors does it a disservice - that I am dismissing the dangers of the wilderness, downplaying the difficulty of the trail, or even encouraging others to find these beautiful spaces and disrespect or even defile them - intentionally or not - with cairns, graffiti, trash, or even just a proliferation of tourists with selfie sticks. An influx of people chasing selfies in exotic places for the sake of social media likes frequently brings up the debate regarding sharing the location of scenic spots - do you share the secret and risk it being overrun, or do you risk being a snob and keep your favorite places hidden?
I don't know when I first heard about the Appalachian Trail. It seems like I've always known about it, like it was some seed of knowledge that was embedded deep in my psyche before I was even born, but I must have learned about it at some point. Most likely I was just exposed to bits and pieces of information about the trail and so I learned about it piecemeal. Even the first time I set foot on the trail - on a day hike in Virginia with one of my best friends from college - I hadn't quite grasped the true meaning of the trail. I understood it existed and I understood you could hike it. I even understood that you could thru-hike it if you were crazy enough to love mountains and pain and you disliked showers and soft beds, but I certainly didn't grasp that there was an entire culture of people who lived and breathed the trail.
You all know I L-O-V-E a good goal or challenge, from running streak challenges, writing streak challenges, year-long goals, monthly goals, and everything in between. My pea-sized attention span needs something to latch onto and tackle to prevent me from jumping around from one shiny thing to the next (oooh shiny!) And while the challenges I tackle tend to be oriented around a personal goal - be a better writer/runner/hiker/biker/climber/person/etc. - I can enjoy watching a good fad challenge like the next person who is bored at work (I mean...stuck in traffic. No no I mean waiting in line at the coffeeshop! That's the one.) Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Or the Mannequin Challenge? Or even the Harlem Shake Challenge? Ah, good times. But I do draw the line at certain challenges - like the recent Tide Pod Challenge. Here are my votes on challenges to avoid and challenges to tackle (spoiler: they involve the outdoors, shocking!)
I am still trying to catch up on sleep after this weekend. I always strive to be the type of person who gets up early in the morning and is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to tackle the world, but in reality I'm at my best energy levels sometime after 8pm and before 5am. I have a friend who is the same way and she calls us "morning owls" - fighting our natural circadian rhythms just to get a little more mileage into our days. So with that in mind, Saturday morning was an eeeeearly morning for me. I woke up at 5am and had to force myself out of bed, all groggy and groaning and rubbing crusty sleep from my eyes. I'd already woken up early the day before for a pre-work climbing session, so two early mornings in a row was hella hard. But the mountains were calling, and I had a date with a meet-up group.
This recent snow from the "bomb cyclone" or whatever cute name we're supposed to call it calls to mind the trip McCrae and I made to Bullhead Mountain a few weeks ago. It had snowed a few days before we drove up to a small town outside Boone to stay at a mountain cabin owned by McCrae's uncle and aunt, and in the morning when we pulled on our warmest hats and coats the drifts lay deep in the mountain shadows.
I was going through the backlog of hikes I planned on posting on the blog, and I was shocked to discover that I did this Durant Nature Preserve hike in September! I am seriously that behind on posts, and I'm also amazed at how quickly this fall has disappeared.I met my dad early one morning in September for a Sunday stroll in Durant Nature Preserve in north Raleigh. I'd seen signs for it off Capital Boulevard every time I went to to the WRAL soccer park complex, and finally curiosity got the best of me and I decided to check it out.
I'm pretty sure that hike was the most miserable hike of my life. I'm also pretty sure I'm going to have scars from that hike. The trail was completely overgrown with rhododendron and blackberries and briars and my legs looked like they were the loser in a fight with some barbed wire. My arms weren't much better and I think my feet will never forgive me for that day.
It has been a ridiculously long time since I’ve been active on this blog, and yes, I miss it, but on the other hand it’s been thrilling to have such a fast-paced summer.
So if I haven’t been blogging, then what the heck have I been up to?! (The responsible and mostly true but boring answer is I’ve been busy with my job - technology moves fast and creating innovative technology means I have to move even faster.) But the more exciting thing to say is I’ve been running trails.
The 10th annual Running of the Bulls 8K in downtown Durham was this past weekend and this was my second time running the race! I took a new approach this year and actually decided to train. (Well, I’m training for a few other crazy races, but fortunately it means I was trained up for an 8K!) I crushed my last race time for this course! Read more for the full race report.
It was a two-for-one on Saturday in terms of races! (Three-for-one if you count the Kentucky Derby!) In the morning I had Doughman X and in the evening I had the Sinnott Circle Margarita Mile! The Sinnott Circle Circuit (SCC) is an unofficial race series organized just for fun by Fleet Feet friends. It includes ridiculous races like a beer mile, a taco mile, and a milk and cookies mile. The milk and cookies Holiday Mile was the first one I participated in last year, and I was excited about the first SCC race of the year - a Moana-themed Margarita Mile!
I don't remember the last time I did so much running and eating at the same time.
On Saturday morning I raced Doughman, a relay "quadrathlon" self-powered culinary tour of Durham. Heather, Jill, Lauren and I were the "Carbdashians." We went for completely over-the-top outfits: hot pink shirts that said "Keeping up with the Carbdashians" and a graphic I made, sparkle skirts, bling, exaggeratedly bad contour make-up, and wigs.
Do you have money left over from your tax refund even after being bombarded by spring charity fundraisers? Do you like bikes, the Bull City, or ludicrous athletic achievements? If you answered "yes," "no," or "maybe" to any or all of the above then please consider donating to my team's Doughman fundraiser! What's Doughman? It's a team race and culinary tour of Durham with running, biking, and "swimming" relay legs. Each leg also includes chowing down on some food from a local esteemed Durham restaurant. Think Krispy Kreme Challenge but cooler because it's in Durham, is a relay triathlon (ish), and has good food (oh snap!). ("Wait," you might ask, "how does one swim in Durham?!" I'm glad you asked! Apparently it will include a slip'n'slide or kiddie pool. Yeah, I'm not entirely sure what I'm signed up for, but oh well, I'm already signed up for it!)
Cookie cake, temptation, "Happy birthday" serenades by a bus full of strangers, and 15 minutes of fame on a local news station - what more can you ask for with a running vacation?!
16.59 miles. This is officially my longest run to date. I've been following the Fleet Feet Carrboro/Durham full marathon training program, inching past the half marathon training distance with an additional mile each week on the long run. 14 miles was an iffy distance for a long distance PR - there has been the occasional half marathon race or training run that tracked a little long and flirted with fourteen. Fifteen miles was a definite distance PR but it didn't feel that substantial. But 16.59? When the watched screen popped up "New PR! Longest distance!" I grinned - indubitably, yes, that's my longest distance and I just crushed it.
Sometimes when running with the training group I get this desire to sweep the pack. There's something about being at the back, chasing after everyone else ahead. Maybe I've always loved to chase things: to chase after butterflies, to chase the dogs as they sprinted through the woods like a pack of wolves, to chase a soccer ball up and down a grassy field, to chase after goals and dreams. There's something about the chase - of realizing there's something there ahead of you, to aspire to, to chase down and become. We all need that vision. We all need that something to chase.
If you love running and you love reading there's a good chance that eventually you'll end up reading books about running. There is so much to say about running - from the poetic to the scientific to the sometimes dry litany of training tips - and it's no surprise that running literature, while not a huge niche, at least has a deep bench. I started reading books about running by way of audiobooks. There's not much that will hype you up more about running on mile 8 of a long run than listening to all the benefits of running or all the love elite runners have for the sport. Check out my favorite running books I've read and the books I want to read!
My friend Kelly (an excellent mentor captain for Fleet Feet running group, Fresh Air Fitness coach and organizer, the awesome gift organizer for Duke Children's Hospital, and the founder of First Pages) is doing something epic this summer: she's running the Bryce Canyon ultra-marathon. She's tackling the 50K course, a rough trail race covering 31 miles in the national park. I am super excited for her and a little envious - I have such a love for running and for hiking, so combining the two and doing trail running just makes sense, so I eagerly volunteered to accompany her on some trail runs. To help her train we've come up with a bucket list of local trails to run.