Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for July, 2007

Hiking, more hiking, and nighttime canoeing

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Hiking (part of) the Tecumseh Trail

Sunday was a very busy day for us. It started with a hike with my mountain biking buddy Dave at Yellowwood State Forest. Dave has done a ton of hiking, especially in this area, and even wrote a hiking guide that covers many local trails — but this was the first time I had hiked with him. We had planned this hike last week — Sarah and I wanted to pick his brain about our trip to the Smokies and North Carolina, and Dave has been down there probably 30 times, so he is full of great information.

We met by Prange (some spell it “Prang”) Pond, which is just off Dubois Ridge Road (which is just off Lanam Ridge Road, where Dave and I have ridden on the road a few times). It’s fairly out of the way and in the outskirts of Yellowwood, so it doesn’t see a lot of traffic. We hiked part of the Tecumseh Trail, which is a huge, 42-mile trail that goes from Martinsville all the way to part of Lake Monroe that’s in Brown County. We only hiked about three miles of it.

Prange Pond Scene on Tecumseh Trail
Prange pond; a scene on the Tecumseh Trail

It was a really cool hike, with some hills, but none were too hard. Dave is a fountain of knowledge and pointed out some sassafras, an old well, and some very valuable trees (not having any branches until about 3/4 of the way up). It was an interesting hike because it wasn’t just a linear section of trail — we hiked on the Tecumseh Trail, a horse trail, some logging roads, and a gravel road, creating a pretty cool loop. We were glad to have Dave as our guide, because it would have been easy to get lost.

Tecumseh Trail Huge spider
Dave hiking; a huge spider

The trail was pretty overgrown in some sections; we wished we hadn’t worn shorts. I’m not sure I have any pants that are well-suited for hiking.

Yellowwood trail Yellowwood trail
Sarah, Dave, and the dogs; pines leading to a clearing

I was really glad that Sarah and Dave got to know each other a bit. I have spent quite a bit of time mountain biking with Dave, and told her a lot of stories, and conveyed a lot of things Dave told me to her. But this was the first time they spent any significant amount of time together, and I thought that was pretty cool.
Prange Pond Wildflowers
The pond with some cattails, and some wildflowers

Dave brought his dogs (we left Rob at home), and they were good. It was fun having them with us. Maybe next time, we’ll bring Rob. Rory, one of Dave’s dogs, went for a swim in the pond when we got back, ending up a disgusting mess — exactly how dogs love to be.

The Abandoned Homestead Hike

Sunday afternoon, we talked about how much we enjoyed the earlier hike and decided to go for another one. We picked a couple of possibilities from Dave’s hiking guide, and ended up doing the Abandoned Homestead Hike, which is near the Ransburg Boy Scouts Reservation near Lake Monroe. The defining characteristic of this hike (aside from the abandoned homestead) was the lack of a trail. A few parts had a proper trail, but it was either overgrown or nonexistent for much of the time. After a false start that took us down near the lake, we went back to a different trailhead.

Lake Monroe Lake Monroe
When you go the wrong way and see something like this, you begin to question whether it was indeed the wrong way to go.
We saw a guy on his way out as we were going in, and asked if we were heading the right way. He said we were, and that there was a baby vulture in the attic of the homestead. He said it was making a horrible shrieking sound.

Glad to have some assurance that we were on the right track, we continued hiking. We basically had to find our own way much of the time, due to the lack of a trail. That gave this hike an interesting challenge. It was a really pretty area, and we were hiking along a ridgetop. However, there was a lot of noise from boats on the lake that was pretty distracting. It detracted from the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere. It was enjoyable nonetheless.

The Sarah and me
Part of the “trail;” Sarah and me

Just when we were beginning to wonder where this homestead was, Sarah spotted it. We had to maneuver over a tricky area to get to it. It was a rickety old house — although as Sarah pointed out, it couldn’t have been too old because it had electricity. We saw no other clues to help date it, but we did wonder how somebody picked that spot to build a home, and how they got the materials there. We saw no evidence of any vultures, babies or otherwise, but we weren’t about to try looking upstairs.

Abandoned homestead
The abandoned homestead
Me Looking through II
Wondering when the thing will collapse; a view of the inside

Remnants of a chair Side of homestead
A chair sitting behind the homestead; the side of the building

Meadow
Meadow

We hiked a bit further and found ourselves heading down a big hill. We ended up back where we had started hiking before at what we thought was the wrong trailhead. It wasn’t the one we were looking for, but it was just another part of the same trail. We turned around and headed back, having some more trouble finding the trail on our way back.

Nighttime Canoeing on Lake Griffy

Sarah had signed us up for a nighttime canoeing event on Lake Griffy, so after eating some dinner, we headed over there. There was a limited number of boats, and I think they chose a good limit — there was enough space that nobody was interfering with anyone else’s enjoyment of it. A man and his son were in the boat ahead of us, and as they were backing up away from the boat ramp, the man looked back to check on his wife and daughter, who were in the canoe ahead of them, and their canoe capsized right there by the shore. The guy was really embarrassed, and his son was pretty scared, but nobody was hurt. The guy did lose a sandal. He turned the canoe upright, but it was filled with water. I helped dump the water out of the canoe and turn it back over. They headed out. I felt his son was being pretty brave, not complaining and giving it another shot. We were next, and nervous after seeing that, but we didn’t have any problems.

The night paddle was timed such that we got to see the sun set over the lake, and also paddle some in the dark. It was an incredible experience. It was a beautiful sunset to begin with, but the way it reflected off the water was truly magical.

Griffy sunset
Sunset, and a paddle. No pixels were harmed in the making of these photos. No effects were used. “Sunset” scene mode was used, however.

Looking at the above shot, I can still feel us gliding over the surface of the lake, even without paddling, and hear the water dripping off of our paddles and falling in the water.

Sarah Me, smiling
Sarah and me

We spent most of our time in the middle of the lake and in a small cove, hidden away from everyone else. We saw a Great Blue Heron standing in the water majestically, who later took flight and swooped to a different area. We saw another one fly overhead a few minutes later. There were geese over near the dam — they didn’t seem to notice our presence at all. Then again, we mostly sat awestruck and silent.

Lake Griffy Sunset, golden
The lake is liquid gold

Sarah and me
Clever portrait of the two of us taken by Sarah

Griffy Sunset, pastel
Pastel sky

The array of colors was impressive, from blues at first to oranges, pastel purple and later deep reds.

Sarah and Lake Griffy sunset
Sarah, silhouetted, with some geese in the distance

As we sat in our cove, with darkness falling, we started to see bats flying around, sometimes swooping down to catch a meal on the surface of the water. We heard something swimming not too far from us, and I turned on my flashlight to see if we could figure out what it was. Sarah guessed it was a muskrat, but we didn’t get a good look. We also heard some unidentified creature jump into the water, making a splash and startling us. We didn’t get a good look at that one, either.

Impressionist sunset
Impressionist pastels

We paddled back without turning on our flashlight. The air was beautiful and hushed and our eyes adjusted to the light. It’s surprising how much you can see if you’ll just let your eyes adjust. The moon was glowing behind some clouds, not providing much light, but adding to the atmosphere. We paddled back to the boat ramp, wishing we had more time — more time to paddle on the lake, and more time in our weekend, which was quickly coming to a close. But we felt satisfied that we had made the most of it and spent every possible moment together, outdoors, at one with each other, and with nature.

Brooks

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Well, after reading a lot about Brooks leather saddles, I finally took the plunge and ordered a B17 from Wallingford Bicycle Parts. I got it in honey brown, which in all honesty looks a little funny on my bicycle as it is right now, which is red with mostly black components. However, I think that I’ll put some tan handlebar tape on there when it’s time to replace it, and that’ll help it make a bit more sense. I thought I had taken a photo of my bike with the new saddle on it, but I can’t find one.

The advantage of leather saddles, aside from looking sexy, is that they’re supposed to conform to the shape of your body. There’s a break-in period of a few hundred miles, and leather requires some maintenance — mostly in the form of rubbing proofide (sort of like shoe polish) on it regularly during the break-in period, and then a couple of times per year after that.

Saturday morning, I installed the saddle and rode it around a nearby neighborhood to try to get it adjusted to my liking. I found that I need to angle the nose up a bit to be comfortable. I went to see Sarah tell the “Caps for Sale” story at the public library, had lunch with her, and went for a ride later on Saturday. I was hoping to get a good long ride in, but I wasn’t feeling up for it, so I did a brief 30-mile ride to Fairfax State Recreation Area, on Lake Monroe.

The saddle worked pretty well — in fact, I made some progress on a problem I’ve been having lately (feeling too far from the handlebars) by moving the saddle forward slightly. I’ll probably need to get a shorter stem at some point, but this definitely helped. I only brought half of my multitool, and wasn’t able to straighten the saddle — it was pointing off to the right a little bit. I’ve also noticed that slight changes in angle/height/position make a big difference with this saddle. But, I think I got the angle set right, and you know what? The thing is pretty darn comfortable, even though I haven’t broken it in yet. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it improves as I break it in

I got to Fairfax and realized I’d forgotten my state park pass. I only had a couple of dollars with me, and I didn’t feel like paying to get in anyway, so I turned around and headed back. I was disappointed, though, because I really wanted to go down by the lake, relax a little, and snap some photos before heading home.  Last time I rode there, I didn’t need my pass, as the office wasn’t even open yet. There are also some photos on the page about my last ride to Fairfax.

I took Smithville Road home, which has a big descent, and then a long climb. As I was going down the hill, approaching 30 mph, I hit a rough spot in the pavement that made the velcro on my camera case (which I attach to my stem) come undone. The camera and case went tumbling behind me, and I hit the brakes, turned around, and rode back up the hill to retrieve them. The camera still worked fine. I took a photo looking up the hill so I could get a shot of the rough pavement that caused the problem.

Smithville Road
Rough pavement on Smithville Road

Once I collected my camera, I continued the descent, and then had a long climb ahead of me. I also added in a jaunt down Moore’s Creek Road to get some more big hills in my ride. This also put me by part of the lake for a short stretch.

It was a pretty good ride, even if it wasn’t as long as I’d hoped, and I couldn’t get down to the lake at Fairfax. I’m looking forward to riding more and seeing how much more comfortable this saddle gets.

I have a ton more to write about, things we did on Sunday, but I’ll wait to do that until I sort through my photos.

Last weekend’s camping fiasco

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Sarah and I went camping last weekend, but things did not at all go as planned. She has an excellent blog entry about it. In fact, I was stunned by how succinctly she summed up the weekend. My account will probably be a bit more narrative, because well, that’s how it usually comes out. I’ll put a slideshow at the end.

We left Friday evening. Sarah had gathered most of our stuff and loaded it into the car by the time I got home (I rode my bike to work). It still took a while to get the rest of our stuff together and run a few errands before leaving town. On the way out the front door, I jokingly asked Sarah if she had remembered the tent. She thought for a moment, and we looked in the closet to find the tent still in there. That was a close call!

The drive to Versailles is about two hours. The sun set during our drive, but fortunately, we were able to see some beautiful country before that happened. We had been anticipating this trip all week and couldn’t wait to get there — but we enjoyed the drive itself a lot, too.

We arrived at Versailles to find that the campground was full. Fortunately, I had looked up the location of Clifty Falls State Park before we left, so we drove there (about 30 minutes away) and ended up camping there. We got there just before the offices closed, and had some trouble getting them to give us a spot. Eventually, they did. We put our tent up in the dark, and we were both pretty irritable. We also had some loud neighbors, who really irked us.

There was one kid, though, who was a constant source of amusement. He’d walk across part of our campsite to go to the playground and announce whatever was on his mind. “We’re waiting on breakfast! We’re going to the park!” he said once when he walked by with a friend. Later, it was “We’re going to eat bacon! Honey bacon!” And finally, running across the site and shouting to our dog, “I’m not giving you this mushroom! I’M NOT GIVING YOU THIS MUSHROOM!”

Saturday morning, we changed our plans (I was planning to go mountain biking at Versailles at this time) and went hiking at Clifty Falls, since we were already there. It’s a beautiful state park with several waterfalls, rugged, rocky trails, and wooden platforms and steps in some places.

Clifty Falls
Clifty Falls

Sarah and Rob Stone steps

We really enjoyed the hike. We hiked trail 7, which goes from a picnic area to Clifty Falls, then over to Little Clifty Falls, and almost up to an overlook. What we didn’t realize was that the part that goes up to the overlook is actually trail 6. We thought trail 7 was going to loop around, but it didn’t seem to do what we thought. Since we were both irritable, we argued a bit about which way to go, and ended up going further on trail 6. Fundamentally, this was OK, because it was more of the same great type of trail. There were switchbacks and short, steep climbs, heavily rooted sections and jagged rocky surfaces. We were also testing out new hiking boots, and both pairs seemed to be great. Sarah’s have especially good grip — she scaled up one very steep section that bypassed a staircase with no trouble.

Sarah
Sarah
After hiking and tearing down the tent, we drove over to Versailles. I called Saturday morning and got a reservation for Saturday night, so we knew we’d have a place to camp there this time. It ended up costing $25 for the reservation — apparently, they charge pretty hefty fees for reservations, especially same-day reservations. The way I put it to Sarah is, it’s normally $8, but since we were in a bind, they charged us $25.

We arrived at Versailles to find the place crawling with people. The pool area was especially packed. We went to our campsite first, and discovered the campground to be a zoo. People playing cornhole, kids running around and yelling, riding bikes and skateboarding, lots of campers, and we ended up with a horrible campsite, too. We were stuck in a corner, wedged in a tiny spot between two other sites. We decided not to set up camp yet, and instead go canoeing.

We double-checked to make sure we could take Rob canoeing with us. They said it was no problem, so we rented a canoe. I had to lift Rob into the canoe, but once he was in there, he was very good. He seemed a little unsure about the whole thing, but he tolerated it admirably. As we were about to depart, a park employee asked us if we could paddle out by a paddleboat across the lake and make sure the kids on it were OK. They had gotten lost and/or stuck and had been on the lake for over three hours. Their parents were worried. We agreed. We went over by the paddleboat and talked to the kids — they said they were fine. I waved my paddle back at the park employee to signal that the kids were OK. As we paddled on, we heard one of them say, “Man … we’re never going to hear the end of this …”

Versailles
Versailles Lake

After we went canoeing, we went back to our campsite and debated what to do. I really wanted to go mountain biking, but the campground really was terrible. We weren’t sure we wanted to stay there. I called one of my buddies from college and asked him to Google state forests near where we were. We’ve had great success camping in state forests. He found some things, but nothing very close. Finally, we decided to head to Jackson-Washington State Forest to camp. It was about an hour away, but it seemed like the best option. I figured I’d drive back to Versailles on Sunday and go mountain biking then.

We arrived at Jackson-Washington and were greeted by two small but very beautiful lakes and a campground with plenty of large, available spaces. We chose a spot, and we could tell that this was going to be vastly superior to camping at either Clifty Falls or Versailles. Some neighbors played music fairly loudly, but they ended up turning it off before it go too late. We pitched our tent and I rode my bike down to the office to drop off our registration and $8 camping fee.

Our night was perfect, complete with a roaring campfire, over which we cooked hamburgers (which took forever, but were delicious), and lots of just-us time. We even did a science experiment we had talked about recently, putting a paper cup with water in it in the fire and watching the water boil.

We took a walk down to one of the lakes late at night and I attempted some long exposure shots (which either didn’t turn out or were so dark that the lab thought they were unexposed film). We let our eyes adjust to the darkness and saw perhaps the most star-filled sky we’ve ever seen, complete with a few shooting stars. The moon was nowhere to be found, but it was still surprising how much we could see once our eyes adjusted.

On Sunday, I decided it wasn’t worthwhile to drive back to Versailles to go mountain biking — so I didn’t get to do any the whole trip. However, I didn’t really care. I can always go back. I didn’t want to waste so much of the day driving around, and Jackson-Washington was fantastic. We drove through part of the state forest on Skyline Drive, which goes up a huge hill and follows the ridgetop for a while, with some vistas. I wouldn’t mind cycling on Skyline Drive sometime — it’d be difficult, but it would be great hill-climbing practice, and it’s very beautiful. We stopped at a vista to get some photos. These are very different from the overlooks at Brown County State Park, where all you can see are trees and hills. We saw some farms and villages, as well as some pretty incredible natural formations.

Vista
View from a vista on Skyline Drive

After our drive and photography session, we went to Starve Hollow lake for some more canoeing. Rob enjoyed it more this time, looking around a lot and even leaning over the side of the canoe to drink. He almost jumped out of the canoe once, but I stopped him. I have no idea how we’d get him back in the boat if he jumped out. We are definitely improving at paddling, and were able to move pretty quickly and control the boat very well this time.

Resting his chin on the edge of the canoe
Rob, resting his chin on the side of the canoe.

Jackson-Washington State Forest was truly awesome. I really want to go back there soon — based on what I’ve read, it sounds like the hiking trails are excellent. We didn’t have time for a hike there this time, but it’s only about an hour from here, so it shouldn’t be hard to go back there to go hiking.

Here’s the slideshow. It contains the above photos, and others.

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