Friday, January 02, 2015

jumping the shark tank

Five years ago, the joyous experience of fastpacking the Benton Mackaye Trail was fresh in my mind. The BMT marked the start of a greater journey. For me, travelling fast, light and free for multiple days in the back country became my preferred way to experience "the rapture of being alive made manifest through the body in motion."

Having had some time to stare at a computer, I stumbled on a recent article about fastpacking (or whatever you want to call it) on the irunfar website. It appears as though fastpacking may be gaining some traction in the ultra-running community. Could others not be far behind?

I'll admit this makes me a bit anxious- a similar feeling shared (and expressed to me) by "traditional backpackers" (their term, not mine) regarding my hiking pace. After all, Appalachian Trail visionary Benton Mackaye himself is quoted to say: "Some people like to record how speedily they can traverse the length of the trail, but I would give a prize for the ones who took the longest time."

Still, I have faith that if done right fastpacking can have far less impact than many other recreational activities, including traditional backpacking. Like it or not, as more of us have less time to recreate, more "speed demons" may be on their way. It's encouraging to read discussion around the skills in these emergent articles (with hopefully more emphasis on Leave-No-Trace in the future), and not just the gear. Hopefully the speed demons will be as well-educated as they are well-equipped.

Travelling fast, light and free has been an empowering experience, which has helped to inspire me to make positive life changes off the trail. Perhaps similar epiphanies await those who follow. In the meantime, I look forward to more tinkering in 2015 to make sure myself and perhaps others are at least well-equipped for future trail adventures. Who knows what mind-blowing foolishness still lurks at

Here's to happy trails in 2015, wherever they may lead!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

all decked out...

a work in progress: the universe is expanding
rounds salvaged from 30-step stair project along the Suwannee
(proof of elevation along FNST)
and finally, some footage that Lily's been sitting on for some time:

Happy 2015!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Good times in the Pisgah Nation!

ALTAR picture pages

Monday, December 08, 2014

ocala adventure run

orange blaze all in my brain
lately things don't seem the same,
actin' funny, but I don't know why
'scuse me while I kiss the sky.

12/7/14: Florida National Scenic Trail Ocala National Forest Traverse AKA Ocala Adventure Run:
Clearwater Lake to Rodman Dam; 66.3 miles; 14 hours, 10 minutes; self-supported.

Start @ Clearwater Lake
Morning smiles
This is why you blaze orange
Open spaces
Gator country
The path ahead
A cloud blessing in Juniper Prairie
Halfway @ Hidden Pond
Perpetual prairies
Avoiding the vortex of Store 88
Trail Angel Ruth @ Rodman Dam
Post-run lentils!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

the yearling

The more I work in and explore Ocala, the more I wish to traverse the entire forest on foot. I'm tentatively planning to give the 66-mile Ocala Adventure Run on the Florida National Scenic Trail a shot in early December, pending a resolution to health concerns. Keep on keeping on!

Approaching Hopkins Prairie in Ocala National Forest on the FNST
Uwharrie gets a drink at pre-1900's watering hole on Pat's Island
Miles pass through hypnotizing tunnels 
Hopkins Prairie
Big sky & Scrub
Followed by a post-run swim at Silver Glen Spring

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the citrus loop

With my current work schedule, days off come mid-week, so this week's long run was scheduled for Wednesday in anticipation of a welcome cold front. Highs crept into the 80's, but it could have been worse. The destination: the highly acclaimed Citrus Loop within Withlacoochee State Forest outside of Inverness (about a 1 and 3/4 hour drive from home).

The Citrus Loop is a part of the Florida Trail system in the western corridor and is 35-40+ miles depending on whether a handful of 1+ mile side trails are incorporated to access recreation areas with water. Lack of water is the biggest challenge on this loop. I didn't want to add mileage to what would already be a long day for Uwharrie and me, so I opted for us to carry the water we needed for the entire 35 miles. This resulted in us carrying a bare minimum of 100 oz. for myself and 32 oz. for the dog.

We started at 10:20 am from the northernmost trail crossing of FR 13 and proceeded in a counter-clockwise direction. The trail was well-marked and in reasonable condition. Fresh legs and early cloud cover made the initial miles fly by. we really enjoyed the diversity of the scenery, which fluctuated from dry pine to enchanted gnarled oak forest. There were even rolling hills, which added to the flavor. All in all, I was really impressed with this loop, especially the western half.

As we rounded the bend and headed north on the eastern half, our pace suffered as the afternoon heat took its toll on an unrelenting stretch through shadeless pine. Still, the sight and fragrances of the wildflowers kept the mood light even as I resorted to periodic walking breaks. Uwharrie was doing surprisingly well in the heat, but I made sure to water her regularly (whether the silly raisin dog wanted to or not). We startled an owl who flew off with a green snake. We also saw coyote, squirrels, deer and turkey on the loop.

We were both happy to return to the car at 4:45 pm. This is a great loop and I certainly would love to return to it later in the winter- a great introduction to Florida trail ultra running!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

swamp solitaire

The lingering monsoon season has continued to keep old roads and trails above the Hawthorne formation submerged in black water and undesirable, if not impassable. So the week's long run was held in our big backyard along a lime rock forest road free and clear of water. The road forms a scenic loop about 3.2 miles in length through the forest where an annual 5K run is held. It's easily accessed via a 0.4 mile dirt road from our house.

The plan was hatched for a marathon: starting/finishing from the tiny house and running 8 laps. I successfully completed this run starting at 4:00 am Sunday morning. A cold front had passed through and the temperature was in the upper 40's... Hot it was not!

I carried one 20 oz. bottle out to the start of the loop and sipped at it periodically on the laps, but never felt inclined to refill it. I also started with a headlamp, but after a few loops, felt comfortable enough in the darkness to turn it off and let my eyes adjust. I marveled at the Milky Way and watched several shooting stars.

Having recently observed a coral snake and gopher tortoise in the forest, I kept a constant eye for more herpetological specimens, but didn't see any. The only animal encounters were the eyes of deer and the yipping of coyotes. For the most part, it was just a game of swamp solitaire. 

Lily loaned me her wristwatch, so I was able to keep track of my splits. Halfway in, I figured I'd go for sub 3:30. I'm happy to have hit that goal. The weather provided a huge advantage:

00.4 - 0:04:08 - 04:08
03.6 - 0:30:30 - 26:22
06.8 - 0:55:15 - 24:43
10.0 - 1:19:17 - 24:04
13.2 - 1:42:26 - 23:09
16.4 - 2:05:48 - 23:22
19.6 - 2:29:41 - 23:53
22.8 - 2:55:05 - 25:24
26.0 - 3:22:50 - 27:44
26.4 - 3:27:22 - 04:32

The forest only began to light up with bird song on the final lap, so there was no real need to bother with photography. Thankfully, I have some of Lily's photos to share, including pics of our Saturday night trip to the top of the forest canopy to watch sunset and the moon (atop a tower along the loop). Good times!

A typical scene along the forest loop (during the day)
Looking into the woods along the loop 
Lily watching the sunset atop 96' forest tower
Nearly full moon over tower
Looking up from the forest floor