Defying Labels: A Mini-Adventure

When I was a kid going biking or hiking wasn’t a specific hobby (at least where I grew up it wasn’t), they were both just activities that you did. If you were bored, you went for a walk in the woods or you grabbed your bike and started pedaling done the road. There was never a set distance I was trying to hit or a specific mountain to conquer. You simply stepped outside and enjoyed what nature had to offer. If it was mundane, you created something magnificent.

The smallest hills were transformed into mountains, the dirt road became a 100 mile race track. As a child I didn’t have to seek out adventures, they just happened. I made life an adventure. But, then you begin to grow older and the nameless activities of youth begin collecting labels. Once an activity has a label, the sense of wonder and adventure associated with it is lost. Why? Because labels have definitions and expectations, and if those expectations are not met then you did not truly experience that activity.

I first became aware of this fact after moving to North Carolina. Hiking and camping in NC is more than just a past time, it is a religion. A faithful following. You are supposed to dress a certain way, carry the correct gear, and use the appropriate labels. If you say hiking you better be climbing a mountain; otherwise, you are only going for a ‘walk in the woods.’ If you go camping make sure to specify if it’s car camping, backpacking, or in a camper. Keeping track of your sense of adventure can be easily lost amidst these labels.

That is why I purposefully force myself to seek the natural beauty, wonder, and amazement in my everyday surroundings. You can’t always climb a mountain, but that shouldn’t stop you from going on a hike. You can’t always ride your bike on epic downhill, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend that you do. Sometimes, you just need to get out side for the simple joy of being amidst nature.

Athena and I tried to do this yesterday. We went out and created our own mini-adventure in our own backyard. Using the right angle and some clever filters even a simple game of fetch can become rather stunning.

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Of course, you can’t play fetch without teasing your dog some as well. Thanks to GoPro’s Time Lapse feature I was able to capture this epic shot.

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After a competitive game of fetch, I felt inspired to take Athena out on the trail. I had recently watched Seth, from Seth’s Bike Hacks, attempt to transform his French Bulldog, drama, into a trail dog and was wanting to test Athena’s trail mettle. Athena has pretty good sprinting capabilities, but for anything longer than a mile she simply doesn’t have the ability to hang. Luckily, the ride around our lake is slightly shorter than a mile. She certainly did enjoy the short ride and run around the lake.

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There was one point while we were playing with the GoPro and searching for that perfect angle that I decided to work on my bunny hopping skills. The mythical bunny hop has eluded me for years, but every once in awhile I try to attempt it. This time I decided that hopping, or in this case running over, my GoPro would be a good idea. I may have failed at clearing my camera, but I got this awesome photo from the attempt. It almost looks like I am atop the world here…almost.

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Failed bunny hop attempt 

Finally, Athena and I went and rode on some super secret trails that crisscross the woods behind our apartment. Once again experimenting with lighting and angles gave me a pretty cool picture.

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Overall, our mini-adventure Sunday behind the apartment was quite spectacular. It certainly was enough to wear the dog out for the remainder of the day.

 

Lake Crabtree Morning Ride

I first bought my mountain bike in May 2013 and it has easily been one of the best purchases of my entire life. This one simple purchase has lead to countless adventures, meeting new friends, and has even become a shared hobby between my wife and me. Even more importantly, mountain biking (and hiking) is a great way to explore the state (such as a visit to Occoneechee Mountain), country, or world that you live in. Since Michelle and I have moved to North Carolina we have been able to visit multiple trails around us in the Triangle area (Harris Lake, Lake Crabtree, Legend Park) in addition to several adventures in the western part of the state (riding Rocky Knob Park and Tsali Recreation Area). We even had the opportunity to experience a winter wonderland bike ride after a North Carolina ice storm!

Athena Morning Walk
Athena enjoying her morning walk before I leave for the trails

But, more importantly mountain biking is a great way for me to exit the city and reacquaint myself with nature. When I reach the trailhead and unload my bike from the car I leave behind deadlines, news headlines, and general stress. Once I start down that trail, there’s just me, my bike, and my ability to navigate the lay of the land. Luckily, I am blessed to be able to sneak out most Friday mornings for a ride at Lake Crabtree County Park before work. Here are some of the shots from this past Friday morning ride using a GoPro Hero+. The temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit and the ride started at 7:30 AM.

* * *

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The segment shown above is one of my favorite areas to ride at Crabtree! There is just enough of a decline slope here to give you some speed and the low berms give the trail a little added difficulty.

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I came across this mini-drop that seemed like a good spot to session (work on my technical trail skills). When I was setting up the camera I had no idea that the colors would have this much contrast.

The image on the left represents my constant failure to conquer this one section of the trail. There’s an uphill root section that creates a series of large trail obstructions. So far, I can only ride down them and I am still searching for the best line to ride up this section. Shown on the right is a cool image of the sun coming through the trees.

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I recognize that a photo of a bench seems random (and it is); I just really love benches. No real reason why, I just like the concept of benches with beautiful scenic overlooks.

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This may be my favorite photo from my morning ride. The sun hit me just right and I felt like I was racing my shadow for the entire stretch back to the trailhead (my shadow always had a slight lead on me and I was never quite able to catch up).

 

Invitation

 

 

Michelle and I recently ordered some hammocks from Fox Outdoor Sports and decided to test them out this weekend. Behind our apartment there is a Greenway around a small lake that has several wooded spots you can stop to enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding scenery. This Greenway allows us to forget that we are really in the center of busy city. The poem that follows was inspired by this hammocking adventure and was written in response to the daily word prompt, invitation. The two photos were taken using a GoPro and I feel really capture the ambience of the location. 

treecanopy

Here we hang,

Suspended

            Hanging from

            Tree to tree

Beneath the

            Lofty pine.

Invited by

            Ambience,

            Of this place.

* * *

Here we hang,

Arm-in-arm

Below a

            Canopy.

Sky, painted

            Blue, brushed with

clouds of white.

Invited by

            Soul’s delight.

* * *

Here we hang,

Lost in love,

Ignorant,

            To the sounds

            That surround

Unaware,

            Of patrons

            Passing by

Invited by,

            Solitude.

* * *

Here we hang,

By hammock

            Lost in our

            Pseudo woods.

Forgotten,

            Is the city

            That surrounds.

Invited by

            God’s good grace

An ambience

            Given this place.

         hammockshot

Trail Bucket List

A brand new year is upon us and with that new year comes the traditional posting of resolutions:

The list can go on-and-on. Some of us will succeed at meeting our resolutions and others will fall well short, but the important thing is that we will all attempt to better ourselves in some way. One of the resolutions I made in 2016 was to start riding my trail bucket list.

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Riding Arcadia Dunes, MI (2013)

What is a trail bucket list? Well, a trail bucket list is a list of your favorite mountain biking (or hiking) trails that you want to visit and explore. When I first started riding my Giant Talon 29er in Michigan there was one king trail that I always wanted to visit: Copper Harbor. However, before I could ever ride this epic trail I moved from Michigan to Illinois. And all I had left was a mountain of regret and dreams of missed opportunities.

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A trail shot of Rocky Knob Park, Boone, NC (2016)

After Illinois, I moved across the country to North Carolina and discovered a new epic trail to dream about: Tsali Recreational Area. According to the Singletracks website, Tsali has been voted as one of the Top 5 trails to ride in the country and is located near Bryson City, NC. After growing up in Michigan and missing a chance to ride Copper Harbor, I knew that I couldn’t let Tsali become another missed opportunity. I couldn’t have another someday trail left unrdidden.

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Taking a lunch break at Tsali Recreation Area, Bryson City, NC (2016)

Michelle and I executed a trip to Bryson City, NC last October to visit the Great Smokey Mountains, take in the beauty of the fall foliage of western North Carolina, and shred some of the most epic singletrack NC has to offer. Tsali did not disappoint. The trail had amazing flow, a good balance between climbs and flowing downhill, beautiful scenery along Lake Fontana, and a great mountain biking lesson (always carry a small air-pump and spare tube; thank you to Tsali Cycles for helping to get me back on the trail).

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Learning a life lesson at Tsali. Always carry a spare tube and portable tire pump. (2016)

Riding the Tsali Recreation Area was a great opportunity to scratch a dream trail off my trail bucket list, but more importantly it took me to a new area of North Carolina and gave Michelle and I a lifetime of memories. I can’t wait to see what adventures unfold throughout 2017 as we continue to tackle the trails on our bucket list.

What trails are on your trail-bucket list? What trail is your Copper Harbor (a missed adventure)?

Some of the targeted mountain biking areas on my trail bucket list:

  • Moab, UT
  • Mountain Bike in Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado
  • Trails around Charlotte and Asheville, NC
  • MTB the Triangle (Harris Lake, Crabtree, RTP Trails, San Lee, etc.)

Your Buildings Be Damned

            When I awoke this morning I left bed with heavy eyelids and a grumpy attitude. Athena had decided that last night that if she was unable to sleep, then nobody would get any sleep as she woke me up twice to go to the potty, once by getting stuck in the bathroom, and finally to bark at the things that go bump in the night. Needless to say, rising from bed was a true struggle today.

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Athena’s “I’m sorry I kept you up all night” pose

           But, there were some silver linings. It is a Friday morning and that means brewing the special coffee that celebrates the end of a long and tiring work week. However, as I was preparing the coffee cup a loud screeching noise was heard echoing from outside. The screeching noise consisted to attack my ears through my fist cup of coffee and breakfast. Before leaving for work I decided to step onto the back porch of our apartment and see how heavy of a coat the day would require as I stepped onto the porch Athena and I discovered the source of the screeching.

            This morning, when Athena and I stepped out on the porch, we discovered the source of the screeching noise was coming from a saw operated by a tractor. This was a true horror to witness! Our apartment is a terrace level room with a back porch that overlooks this beautiful wooded lot. In the summer, the trees provide plenty of shade keeping our home extremely cool and they provide the other perk of preventing us from seeing cars and people in the middle of Raleigh. The trees are a true blessing. As you can imagine, I proceed to enter a melodramatic rage at the machine destroying our beloved trees. This is what Athena and I yelled.

*  * *

“What is this?

What are you doing out here?

Do you not know,

That these trees are mine?

They are not yours,

They do not belong to you,

You cannot chop them down!

*  * *

Why must you chop down

            My trees?

Why must you remove the woods

            From the city?

Are we not aware,

That the beauty of Raleigh

Grows from the dirt.

Tall trunks standing erect

Leafy canopies casting

much needed shade

From the sun’s fiery touch.

How can we be,

             A City of Oaks

If there are no more Oaks?

*  * *

Perhaps, I thought,

This saw was meant to bolster

The woods behind my home.

Removing only those trees

That are dead

            Or sick.

But such a job, requires only a person

            And his saw.

Yet, here I see

A yellow tractor,

A yellow devil

amidst my trees.

Whose engine roars

Drowning out,

 morning birds’ song!

Whose exhaust

Blackens out,

 the early dawn!

*  * *

This yellow beast,

Can mean only one thing.

My Trees are doomed!

No more,

Shall I hear the birds’

No more,

            Will squirrels taunt my dog

No more,

Will the forest’s peace

            Surround.

How can I know, such a thing?

Because it has happened

            Before.

Last summer, there was a grove

of pines, standing on a corner

They graced both Tryon

             And Walnut

With a releasing green space

Amidst the hurried traffic.

But, green things do not last!

They are forcibly removed,

(as these pine trees were)

In place of warehouses,

            And stores.

            Apartment buildings too!

We say, it is

For progress,

The trees must go.

For city’s growth,

            The trees must go.

For man’s wish,

            The trees must go.

We say, it is

For another building,

            The trees must go.

To this, I say

Let the trees remain

            The Oaks stand.

And your buildings be damned!

 

An Old Tree in the Woods

 

This year during Thanksgiving REI created a media campaign, #OPTOUTSIDE, promoting time spent with family and friends in the great outdoors. This campaign recorded over 6 million people who choose to bypass the sales of Black Friday, flee the materialisitic desires of society, and spend a day on a hike, kayak, bike, or some other great activity amidst the natural beauties nature has to offer. 

On Black Friday, my family and I elected to go for a hike along the lake shore of Jordan Lake, NC on the New Hope Trail. During our hike we enjoyed a wonderful picnic (while watching the dog play in the water), searched for the world’s greatest walking sticks, and began to question our sanity as the expected 5 mile hike grew longer and longer (the overall distance walked is still subject to much debate). During this adventure, we found an old weathered tree that enraptured my imagination for the entireitity of our walk. This poem is about that tree. I hope you enjoy it. 

 * * *

Weathered and worn,

Tried and true.

Ages have passed by,

But still you stand

Firm and resolute.

As one walks by

One can’t help

But to wonder…

What sights have you seen?

What stories can you tell?

What mysteries do you know?

* * *

And, here you stand,

Deep in the forest

With Barren limbs,

Eroded bark.

Hollowed by the might’s of

              Ants and grubs.

Shell bleached by years

              Under the sun.

Roots tested and tried

              By unrelenting wind.

But, still you stand

Beneath the shade,

Cast by oak and pine.

Weathered and worn,

Tried and true

A witness of ages past

As you stand

Firm and true.

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An old tree I found during a hike along the lake shore of Jordan Lake, NC