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Part II: Hiking at Jackson-Washington State Forest

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Sarah and I decided a hike was in order on Saturday afternoon. We didn’t want to do anything too long, and from experience we knew that the trails there are pretty challenging. Hiking there, it feels like you’re covering more ground because there are constant ups and downs, many of them fairly steep.  We looked at a map and put together a short loop. We had chosen a campsite right by a trailhead, so we were able to hike directly from our site.

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Starting the hike.

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Enjoying ourselves already

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A fuzzy vine on a tree

Almost immediately, the trail began climbing, and did so for quite a while. Once we reached the top of that hill, we saw a sign saying the trail is closed for logging. Couldn’t they have put the sign at the bottom of the hill?

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Naturally, the part of the trail we planned to hike was closed

However, it appeared based on the sign that they had just closed the trail days before, and it said you could go through if nobody was working. We continued on. All they had done so far was mark a few trees.

It’s really sad how much logging has increased in the state forests. Our current governor has increased logging 400% since taking office. Sad. No, I didn’t vote for him.

The trail followed a ridge briefly but then resumed the constant ups and downs. You’d literally reach the top of a hill and immediately go down the other side, only to climb another hill after that. We crested one hill to see our dog waiting for us.

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Rob, waiting at the top of a hill

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Steep trail

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Rob and I exchange greetings

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More steep trail

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Sarah

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Hiking down

We came around a bend and suddenly Rob ran off the trail and into some brush. We heard some scuffling and wondered what was going on. I tried to get him back, worried that he’d run down the very steep side of the ravine. A couple moments later, out came Rob, with … something … in his mouth. Something big and furry.

It didn’t take long before I realized it was a possum. Rob seemed so proud of himself for finding it and I think wanted to show us. Somehow, we got him to set it down somewhere other than on our feet.

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Rob’s mostly-dead possum

It wasn’t moving. Well, at least not much. We could see it was still breathing. At this point I decided the humane thing to do would be to end its suffering. Sarah put Rob’s leash on and took him down the trail. I found a suitably long and thick stick and finished it off.

About an hour later, Sarah said to me “Hey, don’t possums play dead?” At this point, I realized what I had done. I killed a possum that in all likelihood would have recovered. I felt a little dumb, and kind of bad for doing that, but it really did seem like the humane course of action at the time. Apparently I’m not the first person to do this though as Wikipedia’s Opossum entry says, “Many injured opossums have been killed by well-meaning people who find a catatonic animal and assume the worst.”

We were quite surprised at Rob’s actions. He’s normally a very laid-back, lazy dog. We see rabbits all the time on our walks at home and never seems to pay much attention. But he sure went after that possum aggressively. We couldn’t find any bite or scratch marks on Rob … I guess that possum never had a chance.

After that encounter, we were a little shaken up but still enjoyed the rest of our hike. Unfortunately the hike we chose to do didn’t have any overlooks, even though it went to one of the highest points in the area. Next time we’ll make a point of hitting an overlook. This time, we were too tired, and it was too hot, to add in the extra miles to get to an overlook. Still, it was a beautiful hike and you could see some hills in the distance between trees. Not really something you could catch with a camera. You can sort of tell in the photo below.

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Going downhill back toward the trailhead

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Almost back

We really enjoyed our hike. This state forest is very special to us, as it’s where we got engaged. It was great to hike there again and see some different trails. And the possum encounter is not something we’ll be forgetting any time soon.

Labor Day weekend camping trip

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Sarah and I tried an experiment this weekend. We did a camping trip, with a twist. I rode to the campsite, and she met me there with the car. And the next day we went further, me on my bicycle and her driving. It was almost like a supported tour.

We had mixed results. I didn’t plan well enough, and we both had poor to nonexistent cell phone reception, so we had a little trouble connecting in Brownstown, IN. Also, what I intended to be a way for me to get some riding in while allowing us to spend a lot of time together became a little more complicated and bike-centric than I intended. Sarah was very patient and we had a great time together, but in the end it felt a little selfish. If we do something like this again, I’ll need to plan things out a lot better. It was also really hot, which effectively meant that by the time we got anywhere, it was too hot to want to do very much.

I plan to write about this trip in three parts:

  1. Riding from Bloomington to Brownstown and Jackson-Washington State Forest
  2. Hiking at Jackson-Washington State Forest
  3. Riding from Jackson-Washington State Forest to Clark State Forest and Henryville

I am not good with a wrench

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I made some changes to the Long Haul Trucker, or at least I attempted to do so. I ordered some different handlebars (Nitto Noodles) and some fenders from Velo Orange. I ordered the VO Fluted Fenders, more because they’re the right width than because I wanted the fluted style, but they do look great.

In the process of attempting to install them, I broke a piece that is supposed to hold on the rear fender. These things are incredibly difficult to install. I’ve spent several hours on them already and was almost done when I broke that piece; now, I have to wait for a replacement. Chris, the proprietor, has been helpful with my e-mail questions though and is sending me a replacement bolt at no charge, I think.

I had less trouble installing the handlebars, although I did somehow screw up my shifting in the process (which I hope I’ve solved now, we’ll see) and did a pretty poor job installing new handlebar tape on the right side. I’ll probably undo it completely and try again. I also plan on some twine and shellac but given how badly I did the wrapping, I’m glad I didn’t do that yet. I also moved my computer from the road bike to the Trucker. Once the replacement fender bolt comes, I can install the rear fender and then the rear rack and this bike will be a lot closer to the kind of setup I’m shooting for.

I didn’t get a lot of riding in over the weekend. I was hoping to do a nice long ride but it was just too hot, so I did shorter rides both days. My shifting was messed up so I switched to friction mode. It’s great to have that option.

Shilo Ride on Saturday

I had heard they finished repaving Shilo Road, so I figured I ought to check it out. I actually liked how rough Shilo was; it made it fun and challenging to ride. I hoped they hadn’t ruined it.

It was so hot and humid that there was a pervasive haze everywhere I went. This added interest to the scenery and the sky, but mostly I just boiled.

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New fender

I saw a lot of wildflowers, but things are looking rather parched. We had flooding this spring, but it really hasn’t rained much since. There are lots of golden and brown plants. It’s both pretty to look at and a bit sad.

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The sky

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Wildflowers and brown corn

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Great fence

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This section used to be riddled with potholes

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My bicycle

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I can’t believe how smooth the road is now

As I rode my fears were confirmed: Shilo is nowhere near as fun to ride on as it used to be. It’s a smooth, easy ride now, but the challenge is gone. I still enjoy it, but I liked it better when I had to dodge potholes.

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The Trucker by Shiloh Cemetery

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Another view

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Some spots of light penetrate the canopy

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The flats on the Nitto Noodle bars sweep back a bit, for comfortable upright riding. It looks funny but feels great.

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Hills in the distance

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Pond

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Haze

I really like the Nitto Noodle handlebars so far. They are wider than the ones that came with the bike, and sweep back toward you slightly. I find it a lot more comfortable to sit upright with my hands on the top of the bars, with these. The ramps are nearly flat which makes riding there or on the hoods more comfortable, as well. I also love the look of the Cinelli Corky tape. I think it’ll look even better with a couple of layers of amber shellac, and some twine.

The fender seems good, but the front end tends to vibrate a lot. I wonder if there’s something I can do about that. It doesn’t rattle, it just shakes back and forth. Hopefully, I can find something to stabilize it.

It feels good to make the Trucker feel more like my own. It was great straight off the sales floor, but as I customize it, I can see that I can turn this into something even better. It’s such a versatile bike that you could do just about anything with it, and unlike my road bike, I can see having this bike for years to come.

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