Monday, February 28, 2011

Backpacking the Congaree

I just got back from an outstanding backpacking trip with Rake and Randy this weekend.  I haven't had time to put together a proper blog for it, but I will tell you what I'm hoping to share with you this week:
Some amazing trees!
The map of our hike in the Congaree National Park
Life at camp: whittle a whistle
Scouts sing Justin Beiber and wear Hello Kitty!
Randy the pig slaughterer!
Wildlife in the Congaree (including poop on the trail!)
Video of our hike.

  We had a great adventure with perfect weather.  Thanks to Randy and Rake for a great time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where Do You Live?

This morning, before any coffee was consumed, Cari and I were sitting at the computer.  She was filling out some forms and asked me what our church's address is.  She knew the street name, but was trying to confirm the number.  While I looked it up on Google, she said she thought it was 309 because our neighbors house ends in 09.

Then I asked her what our own house number is.  In return, I got a blank look.  Then I confused myself.  "It's 510, right?"  Still a blank look.  We had both forgotten our address.

"I need coffee.", she told me.

I went to Google maps to figure out where I was sitting and Cari got up and left the room.  I thought she was getting coffee, but I heard the front door open.  She was going to look and see what number we have posted on the front of the house.

Oh!  It's going to be a rough day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Game

Why did the chicken cross the road?
Before you answer that, I have another.

Why did the skunk cross the road?
To stink up the road?

There are tons of dead skunks on the road sides right now.  More than any other animal at this time of year.  What is going on? About five seconds after passing the carcass the unique smell invades my car.  Just as fresh air starts to enter my nostrils, I pass another dead skunk.  What is it about pavement that draws skunks in from the forest?

I started thinking that maybe there is some sort of game in the animal kingdom.  They challenge themselves to play some type of Frogger. Which species can cross the road more times than the others?

What about those small birds that fly about two feet off the ground.  They zip right in front of cars.  I saw one get hit and I thought.  "You are a damn bird.  Why wouldn't you fly twenty feet in the air and avoid this."   It's because of the game!

Deer play the game as well.  We all know that.  Deer prefer the added challenge of hiding in the darkness when the sun goes down.  They just hang out on the side of the road waiting for a truck to come by before making a mad dash to the other side.

Squirrels like to go half way before getting scared and confused.  Then they just run back and forth in the middle of the road daring you to kill them.  I imagine their little squirrel friends sitting on the side of the road encouraging them to keep going before my tire squishes them into the pavement.  

Not all animals play this game of crossing the road.  Have you ever seen a wild pig hit in the middle of the road? How about a porcupine?  Monkey?  Have you ever seen a monkey in the middle of the road begging to be hit by a car?  Maybe even chewing on a banana waiting for you to get close enough.

I think we haven't seen too many monkey's on the road because they can't handle the smell the skunks left behind.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

20 miles. 5 casualties.

One of the most difficult requirements for a Boyscout to earn his hiking merit badge is a twenty mile hike.  Our group of boys decided they wanted to tackle this on the Swamp Rabbit Trail near Greenville.
The trail is an old rail bed and there should be very little elevation change on this mostly paved trail.  Twenty miles would be no problem.  I'm in!

On Saturday morning thirteen of us gathered to start our adventure.  We arrived at the North end of Travelers Rest where a trail marker posted mile 23 on the trail.  Eleven of us began the hike while two adults stayed in the truck to act as support crew.  They would drive to various points along the trail to supply us with food and water.  Although they don't look like the cheerleaders I'd prefer, they also played that role as we hiked through the day.

We hiked South toward Greenville but by mile four, we had one youth feeling sick.  His feet were dragging but when we met up with the support team near Furman they encouraged him to continue on.  Two miles later, the support group was picking him up at an intersection.  Casualty.

The weather was perfect for a long hike as the rest of us continued on.  Although the trail goes through an industrial area, I didn't find the view ugly.  It was interesting to see new things and, for an industrial area, looked very clean.  The ten of us continued down the trail, mostly walking single file.  I noticed that a LOT of people use this trail.  Walking, biking, and skating.  We saw it all.  Everyone was courteous as they passed by warning that they were coming up on our left.  Several people recognized us as scouts and one gentleman on a bike quoted the Scout Oath to us from memory.

Lunch was near a church parking lot around mile 7.  The support crew, looking refreshed, brought us more water and food to resupply.  Two more in our group were starting to complain of foot and leg pain, but nobody gave up.

After reaching mile post 33, our half way point, we turned back toward Travelers Rest.  The two with pain were starting to lag behind.  By mile 12 of our journey, the support crew was meeting us at an intersection to pick up the two injured hikers.  Casualty.  Casualty.  With the refreshing view of the truck, a third decided to join the injured list.  Casualty.

We closed in on the sixteen mile mark without much more incident.  There were now two adults remaining and five youth.  The support crew that was slowly growing into a truck full was scheduled to meet us near the Furman golf course.

We had another injured youth in our pack and he was starting to get really slow.  He felt like he had multiple blisters on his foot and every step was painful.  Our mile 16 was near the Furman golf course and we met up with the truck full of support.  This was a good place to check on the youth with blisters, and he had several.  His foot was in bad shape.  I took three youth up to the lake at Furman while we waited to find out the status of the injured.  Another youth stayed back and contemplated dropping out.

Although this was a flat and paved trail, twenty miles is still twenty miles.  It was not easy.

I sat at the lake edge watching my three boys as they encouraged a large goose to come to them.  I asked what they were doing and one replied, "I'm trying to get this goose to bite me."  Of course!  I should have known.  About that time, two girls came walking by with a cat on a leash.  The cat was not happy to be going for a walk.  I watched them take a break near a tree and the cat clawed it's way up the trunk.  The cat was out of reach, but still attached to the leash.  Ten minutes went by as they tried to retrieve their terrified cat.  Meanwhile, my boys were still trying to get animals to bite them.
It was more than thirty minutes later when the last remaining adult caught up with us.  He was joined by one youth.  The boy with blisters couldn't carry on without really hurting himself.  Casualty.

It was six o'clock in the evening and the sun was going down.  There were four boys and two adults left on this twenty mile hike.  We had three miles left to travel.  We were all tired and sore, but determined.  One boy was starting to hurt pretty bad and was using walking sticks to support himself.  It was said that he looked like a wounded spider moving down the trail.

By 6:30, there was almost nobody but us on the trail and we were back in Travelers Rest.  

The trail is well marked with mile markers every 1/2 mile.  We were making a very consistent pace for the last three or four miles and could estimate, to the minute, the next time we would pass a post.  Early in the day, you counted the miles as they passed.  After lunch, we'd celebrate each half mile and counted them down.  At the end, we were counting the minutes we had left.

It was ten after seven when we reached the post marking our twentieth mile.  The support crew and all of our injured hikers were there to greet us.  It was dark and they shined flashlights in our direction. They were clapping and high-fiving each one of us as we reached them.  It reminded me of the finish line of an episode of the Amazing Race.

With this behind us, we had four boys well on their way to earning the hiking merit badge.  Perhaps someday in the future they will schedule another 20 mile hike for the boys that didn't make it.  I'll bring my pom-poms for that hike.

Friday, February 18, 2011

80 Shots

The photograph in the previous blog took more than 80 clicks of the shutter to get.  Why does it take eighty shots of a self portrait to get it right?  Here's a summary of my photo shoot followed by some bloopers.

It started with an idea.  I wanted a shot of me sitting at the desk.  I wasn't sure on the facial expression I would use, but I wanted to try several.  Something that maybe expressed some concern over quitting a job.  I set up the camera on a tripod and aimed it at the desk.  I set the flash on another tripod and pointed it at a wall.  Then I took several shots before stopping to check the result on the back of the camera.

Out of focus.  Light too bright.

I moved the focus zone on the auto-focus and adjusted the light some.  I didn't want to manually focus this shot because I was moving around a bit between shots.  I just had to line myself up with the lens better.

My next group of shots was much better.  I moved the flash around and re-composed the shot.  While I had the setup, I wanted to try a few various poses and looks before settling on one quick snapshot.

More out of focus photos were included in that group.  I was using a really narrow field of view which meant I had to have the focus right.  A very narrow range of the image would be in focus and everything else slightly blurred.  If I could have gotten behind the camera and taken your photo, it'd be no problem.  But with me jumping from behind the camera to in front of the camera, it was a problem.

After eighty shots I selected some of my favorites and did some minor editing.  I adjusted the crop, contrast, and black level before I posted the shot you saw the other morning.

Here's a few of those eighty shots that didn't make the cut:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I quit.

During the past month I wrote to you about the stresses of changes at work.  As you read, I survived the restructure, and accepted a new job in the company.  I've held that job for roughly two weeks now and it isn't a bad job.  In fact it isn't bad at all.  If you need a job or want a job change let me know and you can have my job.

Because I quit.

I quit that position and in the same breath accepted another new position in the same company.  I believe I have just doubled the amount of jobs and titles I've held in the past ten years.  I'm excited and scared of my new job.  It's a newly created position that nobody, not even my new boss, knows much about.  I've read a job description and made a few educated guesses about daily life in this new job, but only time will tell.

Hopefully, this will be the last time I have the opportunity to announce a new job in 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Good Morning Sheep!

It's Valentine's Day.  A day . . . hmmm.

I sat down this morning to tell you how Valentine's Day was invented by the greeting card companies to make more money.  I was going to call you a sheep for blindly following such a silly and meaningless day.

But then I did some reading to try and validate my argument.  Most of my reading was done on Wikipedia, since everything there is 100% true and unbiased.  ;-)

This morning I learned that Valentine's Day has been around since Medieval times in Rome.  While it has changed a bit over time and some other stories about St. Valentine have been created to romanticize the holiday, I had no idea that this holiday went back so far in history.  It was even a part of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints until 1969 when it was removed by the Pope.  I imagine he did that on a year that he didn't receive enough Valentines.

Having been proven wrong, I offer my apologies for calling you a sheep.  But, realize that Sheep are cute and fluffy critters that shouldn't offend you.   After all, I didn't call you a slug.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Last of the Lights

On a beautiful February day my beautiful wife let me know the beautiful Christmas lights tangled in the tree of our front yard needed to go away. This is the last of the lights.

With no good excuses available, I agreed, and went to climb the tree. I carried the lights inside and put them away. Problem solved.

Solved until Cari went to make the bed and discovered a strand of Christmas lights under her pillow.

The next morning I was getting ready for work and guess what I found jammed in my sock drawer? A beautiful strand of Christmas lights.

I didn't have much time to put them away, so I crammed them into the laundry basket. Problem solved.

That was two days ago. The laundry has been done. I don't know where the lights are, but I doubt they're in the attic. I know my wife, and this isn't the last of the lights.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Cold and Rainy Day

It was a cold and rainy day. Don't all good stories start on days like this?  I was at work.  Just before I had left for work I noticed that my passenger tire looked a bit low.  I sprayed a can of Fix-a-Flat into the tire and made my thirty minute drive to work.  When I got to work the tire looked worse.  Worse, as in, it was totally flat.

During my lunch break I filled the tire with a portable inflater.  By the end of lunch, the tire was flat again.  Did I mention that it was cold and rainy?

I contemplated my options.  It took almost an hour for the tire to go flat and it only takes thirty minutes to drive home.  If I inflate the tire REALLY full just before leaving work, I would be able to make it home, right?  The other option was to put the spare on.  Did I mention it was cold and rainy?

Although the first option sounded easier, I started to imagine the tire giving up as I sped around a corner at 50 mph.  I'm pretty sure I've that on CSI and it wasn't pretty.

It was a cold and rainy day.  I was in a parking lot putting a tiny tire onto my car.  After some work, I noticed the spare was flat.  The writing on the tire wall said it should be inflated to 60 psi.  My gauge said the tire had 18 psi.  This must be my lucky day!  The valve stem was located inside a small metal circle cut out of the rim.  I reached two fingers in and tried to twist off the cap.  After struggling for a few moments I looked down at my work.  The tire was still flat.  The cap was still on.  My fingers were cut to shreds thanks to the metal hole cut in the rim.

After some creative thinking and problem solving, I had the spare inflated and it was staying full. Finally, something was working properly.

The next morning was Saturday.  I decided to drive over to our favorite tire shop before work.  You have a favorite tire shop, don't ya?  With my tiny tire still inflated, I drove over to the shop.  The parking lot looked empty as I approached and I was happy knowing my wait would be short.  As I pulled into the empty parking lot I saw the sign on the door,  "Closed Saturday and Sunday".  I tried one more shop on my way home.  Closed.

I went home on my tiny tire.  At least it wasn't rainy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Moo! (translated)

Me:  Look! Cows on a hill.
Cari: Moo!
Me: What did you just say to them?
Cari: I asked them where they go to get chopped up so I can eat them.
Me:  Oh! What did they tell you?
Cari: Moo!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Friday, February 04, 2011


Cari and I had a great get-away day recently in Asheville, NC at the Biltmore Estate.  This has quickly become one of our favorite places to visit.  This "castle" is amazing to tour.

We started our day early as the house opened and, while touring inside, there wasn't much of a crowd.  As we exited and found some lunch, we noticed that it was becoming quite busy on the property.  We took a guided tour titled "Family and Friends" that takes you into some of the rooms not normally on the tour.  The guide told us about the people that stayed in the house and some of the customs of the late 1800's.  We really enjoyed the extra tour.  While we were on the Friends & Family tour we noticed that the house was becoming very busy inside.

After our guided tour we headed over to the winery for a brief tour and then a wine tasting.  It was during this time that, unaware until that night, I was photographed.  A fellow blogger and photographer was also visiting Biltmore that day and spotted us heading onto our tour.  Tom and I have never met in person and it would have been very exciting.  Unfortunately, he said that after he snapped the photo and put his camera down we had already moved into the winery with the tour.  We had both been at the estate all day and probably had crossed paths multiple times.

Cari and I did enjoy our first experience wine tasting.  With a list that we were clueless about, we randomly chose a few to try.  After our sampling, we entered into the store and purchased a bottle of wine.  Of course, we chose one that we had NOT sampled just moments earlier.  It's not that we didn't like the ones we sampled, that's just the way we roll!

When we got home, we read the label on our wine and the label suggests that the wine we purchased goes good with pizza.  What luck!

You can tell how incredibly sophisticated we are, can't you?