Monday, May 27, 2013

Battle Plans and Hiking the AT

"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" General Von Moltke 
Our battle plan was a nice section hike starting at Amicalola Falls State Park in GA and going up to Fontana Dam in NC.  Our contact with the enemy was an errant root that Lisa stepped on awkwardly, twisting her ankle.

All had been going great up until that point.  Yes, I was quite tuckered out by the time we reached Springer Mountain from the long side, but we were going good and making decent time for the first day of the hike.  That root just hung out there below that rock step, waiting for some hiker that was cruising along to hit it at the wrong angle.  Lisa was its victim.  Our hike (battle plan) changed after that.

Let's start at the beginning of the trip.  It was filled with excitement even before we set foot upon trail.

We got up nice and early on Saturday morning, the 18th of May and headed towards Damascus, VA around 0800.  The trip was nice and uneventful and we arrived at Trail Days just as the parade was about to start.  They had the main street blocked off and we turned down a side street and found parking pretty quick.  We came out to Laurel St and the parade was starting right in front of us.  It was a few jeeps and golf carts and an ambulance with its lights on.  I didn't feel like standing right there as I wanted to explore the town, so we started walking along with the front of the parade.  We walked a couple blocks and crossed the creek.  As we were standing outside the Dollar General, the cop at the intersection got all panicky and jumped into his car and sped down towards the back of the parade.  Evidently, someone had used their car to plow into a bunch of hikers in the parade.  

Here is a video of one of the Life Flights coming in.

We continued to walk around and headed towards tent city.  As we walked by, a few life flights came in to take out the more seriously injured.  The different stories of what had happened were rampant.  We headed back to the trail and vendors row and I bought a Stick Pic for my trekking pole.  As we headed back towards our car, we had to detour onto the creeper trail twice and circle way around to get back on that side of the creek and to our car.  

Baby pony at Trail Days
 We headed out around 4 or 5 and headed to Bristol, VA where we had reservations at the Motel 6.  We went to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner and went to bed.   

The mountains are calling
Fontana Dam and Lake
Smoky Mountains
At the Arch
The Falls, 175 steps done, 425 to go.
Blue Blazing
Taking a short break
The next morning was a little more traveling to Fontana Dam in NC.  We got there around 1300 and checked out the visitor center.  The rest of the day was spent wandering around, taking pictures and staying out of the pouring rain when it would come down.  At first we were going to hang near the Fontana Hilton Shelter, but couldn't find any good trees, then we changed that to maybe putting up the little tent we had brought, but the pads were cement and in the midst of a pounding rain, we thought that that might not be the best idea.  After a while we decided that sleeping in the truck might be just fine.  It would rain, the whole area would fog up and then it would clear up again for a bit and then start all over.  After a while we decided to go over to Fontana Village and check that place out.  
Signing the ledger on Springer

Ice and a soft bed
We drove over and made our way to the General Store.  There were two hikers sitting outside eating, but the store looked dark and closed.  It was about 10 of 5 pm.  We looked at the door and started walking away.  The hikers said the store was open, but the power was off.  Sure enough the door was open and we went inside and bought a 12 pack to help pass the time.  Lisa offered the hikers a beer and we carefully drank them out of our water bottles.  We talked a while and offered them a ride over to the shelter.  We loaded up their gear and headed back to the Dam.  After dropping them off we hung out in the parking lot and eventually hit the sack in the back.

We slept decently, but I don't think it rained any more that night. The next morning we were off to Amicalola Falls.

Dave picked us up about an hour early.  We had just gotten ready.  We got to the park around 10 and started our hike.  

The falls were awesome and the steps were no big deal.  My daily walks up over 100 steps at work had prepared me for this part.  We were up at the top before we knew it and were on our way into the woods.  

We passed a few hikers and three passed us.  We stopped for snacks and eventually lunch.  All was going as planned.

After we topped Frosty Mountain, we crossed a road and I let Lisa go ahead as I checked the guide and drank some water.  Within about 200 yards, she yells out Bear!.  I quickly ran to her trying to get my camera out.  I thought it would be long gone when I got up there, but it had ran about 100 yards down the hillside and stopped.  I got a good view of its silhouette, but knew a picture attempt wouldn't be very successful.  We had been hiking less than three hours and had already seen a bear.  Some people go months before seeing one, and usually it is just a quick glimpse of its rear end as it runs off.  We were totally fired up after that sighting. 

We continued on the last few miles and started up Springer Mountain.  I had passed up a fairly easy to reach, well flowing creek and had elected to get water at the next shelter, Black Gap, which the guide said was only .1 mile from the trail.  It wasn't .1 and it was all downhill to get there.  Coming back up kicked my ass a bit, but I needed the water.  The day had grown warm and I was sweating very nicely.  We started up the mountain and I fell pretty far behind Lisa.  She had to wait on me a couple  times as I would hike for a bit and stop for a bit.  I knew we were getting close, but that last half of a mile seemed to take forever.  

Before too long, we could see that we were near the top.  I got a quick shout from Lisa as she saw the first white blaze.  We had finished the approach trail.  8.8 miles of trail that technically doesn't "count".  Just try telling my heaving lungs and sore feet that those mile don't count.  Every step counts on this hike.  We are Section Hikers and all that we walk counts to us.  We still keep track of the official AT miles, but I also keep track of all the extra miles we walk.  Blue Blazes, Road walks, everything.

We took some pictures up on the mountain and signed the ledger with our trail names of EarthTone and LoGear.  I drank a lot of water and ate some more snacks and was feeling much better after my dehydrated climb up the mountain.  You appreciate it much more when you climb the whole mountain, not just .9 mile of it.  

We started down the other side of the mountain.  It was all pretty much downhill from here to our scheduled stop at Stover Creek Shelter.  After about a half mile, Lisa was walking ahead and was moving fast.  The trail was much rockier on this side and the going was careful at times.  

Lisa stepped down from a rock step and hit a root sideways.  Her ankle twisted with the weight of her pack.  She let out a shout and sat down.  Contact with the enemy had occurred.

We assessed the situation.  I had a brace in my pack since I had twisted my ankle about six weeks ago and thought I may need the support at some time during the hike even after all that time.  We put the brace on and she downed some Ibuprofen (called Vitamin I out here).  We sat awhile and then tried to go on.  It was slow, but before too long we were at the parking lot at Big Stamp Gap.  Lisa thought she could go on, so we continued down the trail.  We got to a creek and she decided to soak her ankle in the creek, since we had no ice out here.  We had gone about .6 of a mile from the parking lot.  

Her ankle didn't look too good.  It was swollen of course and I could tell she was in pain.  I said we needed to go back to the parking lot and figure out what to do.  I didn't want to get further away from possible help but hiking on.  Lisa was upset, but I assured her that all was ok.  This plan may have all gone to shit, but we were not done hiking just yet.  We had to regroup and figure out what our options were.

Now, I'm an experienced troubleshooter, having been doing it for 30 years in the Coast Guard as an Electronics Technician.  That is what we do, troubleshoot.  Also, our many Adventure Races have trained us to make quick decisions to get over, under, around or through any obstacle that is put in our path.  I went into Adventure Racing (AR) Troubleshooting mode.  

When I looked back, I know there were other options that we should have looked at, but I felt vulnerable   My bride was hurting and I had to get her somewhere where I had more control.  I didn't like being so far away from our vehicle and I think I based my decisions on wanting to get back into control.  

We got back to the parking lot and were getting ready to settle in there for as long as we had to.  Of course, there was no cell service at the parking lot, but I was able to walk up the road and leave a message with Dave our shuttler.  I came back and just then a SUV pulled into the lot.  We talked with the four people in the truck and before long William was making calls to his Ranger buddies, Linda was offering us sandwiches and Coke, Lawson  was telling us about his  trail experiences and Toddy was point out interesting flowers in the area.  

They offered us a ride to a hotel in Blue Ridge and we accepted.  We needed to get some ice on that ankle.  I finally got in touch with Dave and started making arrangements to get back to our car.  I knew it would be expensive, but I had to take care of my bride.

The ride out was long, but interesting.  These four knew their wildflowers.  As we edged along, they would call for Lawson to slow down or actually stop and back up to see some rare beauty that they had spotted.  That forest road seemed to go on forever.

Some time after 9 pm we arrived at the hotel and checked in.  I called Dave and finalized our arrangements to get back to Fontana Dam.  We should have slept on that plan and looked at it with the fresh light of morning, but I was still in AR mode and I lived with my decision.

We also started making other plans.  There were over 2000 miles of AT.  We didn't have to hike here if we didn't want to.  We could give Lisa's ankle some rest and try it out somewhere else along the trail.  

The adventure wasn't over just yet.  Stay tuned to see how it continued...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Heading South

It is 5:21 am. In a few hours, we load up the truck and start heading south. Our first destination today will be Damascus, VA to see what all the hoopla is all about for Trail Days. We have reservations for a room in nearby Bristol, VA for the night. To say I am anxious is accurate. 

So many things go through your head. Do we have everything? Will the "kids" be alright? Will Ginger hate us forever for not bringing her? These are the questions that wake you up at 0430. So you might as well get up and get going. 

I'm going over the daily "plan". I have no idea if we will be able to accomplish the daily miles I have figured out. The good thing is, we don't have to. We will do what we can do and it will all work out in the end. It always does on the trail. 

I will be trying to update on Postholer daily. I hope I am able to. It will probably be short, with little detail, but I will be taking written notes and will update here and the page later. 

I will also most likely be recording every mile walked, whether it is white blaze, approach trail, blue blaze or road walk. Every step counts in this hike. Just ask my feet. The true AT miles will be recorded at the TJ site. 

So here we go. 


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Where are the class of 13?

Time for another update.  This is the last update before we hit the trail ourselves.  We will see where everyone is after we finish our section hike.

Trail Name Start Date Last Entry Location Total Miles Days since Start
PrayerWalker 14-Feb-13 12-May-13 Roan Mt. TN 405.7 87
Blues Man 16-Feb-13 13-May-13 Delaware Water Gap 1289 86
Rash 17-Feb-13 15-May-13 Blackburn Hostel 1006.5 87
Groundpounder 18-Feb-13 13-May-13 Gravel Spring Hut Shelter 953 84
Boo Boo 21-Feb-13 14-May-13 Campbell Shelter 716.2 82
punkin pie 1-Mar-13 15-May-13 Bears Den Hostel 998.65 75
HotDog 6-Mar-13 15-May-13 Daleville area 652.5 70
Karma 7-Mar-13 15-May-13 Jenny Knob Shelter 599 69
Lady Grey 8-Mar-13 14-May-13 Pinefield Hut 891.2 67
50/50 15-Mar-13 13-May-13 Chestnut Shelter 593.7 59
Brown Squirrel 17-Mar-13 9-May-13 Mountain Harbour Hostel 355.4 53
Jacko 21-Mar-13 6-May-13 Creek Junction Rd 481.3 46
Odat 25-Mar-13 15-May-13 Va 608 Campsite 602 51
Mother Goose 28-Mar-13 4-May-13 Erwin, TN 342 37
Acorn 30-Mar-13 14-May-13 A.R.E. Camp 500 45

PrayerWalker is maybe done.  I can't tell anymore.

Boo Boo is off and on with shin problems.

Rash jumped ahead to hike with friends.

HotDog is having a dilemma of whether or not she wants to keep hiking.

Blues Man if trucking along.

Groundpounder falls off the radar every once and a while, but comes back with a bunch of updates when he hits a town.

It is cool to see the different way each hiker updates and how often they update.

I am following others, but they are all displaying the same amount of progress and hardship as they make their way to Katahdin.

In a few days, my bride and I will be among them.

We will see you on the trail...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

30 Years in 30 Days: Years 26 to 30

Year 26: 2009
In January we got to go back to Pittsburgh and watch a playoff game.  They were playing San Diego again, which was the game we went to back in November of last year, but this one was so much more important.  Next we knocked off the Ravens to go back to the Superbowl.  Of course the Steelers win their sixth Super Bowl.  We watched the game up in Philly.  I got so nervous I had to go upstairs to watch it for a while.

My second tour at HQ was coming to an end.  It was going to be either retire at 26 years, which isn't bad or get one more tour to take me to 30.  There was only one more job that I wanted to do as an ET and a Master Chief and that was Rating Force Master Chief.  That job was responsible for the health of the whole Electronics Technician rating.  I applied near the end of the year and it looked like I was going to get it.  One thing had to be accomplished and that was the Chief Petty Officers Academy.  My advancements had revolved around that requirement and I was technically exempt from needing it, but this job required it, so I had to remedy that.

I applied to the CPO Academy and was put on a waitlist for the class I needed to go to before reporting to the RFMC job, if I got it.  Well I got the orders and in April I headed to CA for five weeks.  The class was good.  As the senior person in the class I was made the president of class 159.  I got to do a short speech at the graduation dinner.

At the end of May we got a new addition to the family.  We found Ginger at a local pet store.  Her fur was the exact same color as the girls' hair, thus her name.  We woke her up at the store to check her out and at first I think she was either leary of us or pissed that we awakened her, but warmed up to us quickly.  She came home with us.  It became clear very quickly that she was very smart and very hard headed as I trained her.

The sigh of frustration she let out when I introduced her to the steps was priceless.  But all I had to do was show her how to negotiate them with the enticement of a snack and she mastered them quickly.  She quickly taught us the many things she would do to entice us to give her a snack.  She trained us well.

In June, my first born graduated high school.  It was a good ceremony.  The valedictorian or whatever sang a song instead of giving a speech.  Very cool.  Shauni would be off to DeSales University near Allentown, PA in the fall.

Also in June, I started my new (last) job.  The travel distance to my new job was doing down two flights of steps to the 9th floor.  I would be doing a total of 12 years at HQ, a place I vowed to never visit in my early years.  After a while you can get used to anything.

I did a lot of traveling in this new job, but we still had time to do a Cape May and Conneaut vacation.  My final tour had begun.

Year 27: 2010
This was a winter with some big snows.  At the beginning of February we got quite a bit.  Luckily our street got a little bit of treatment, but was still pretty covered.  I had to fly to Oregon for an inspection and while I was gone, it snowed some more.  I had to have some kids shovel out my van at the airport parking lot and when I got home (about midnight) I got stuck about 10 feet from the driveway.  It had been a long day, so I just left the van in the middle of the street and went to bed for a few hours.  I got up at daylight and dug it out and got it in the driveway.  That was fun.

Later that month I went up to New London for the Senior Enlisted Leadership Course.  That was the first time I had been on our Officer Academy and it was a very interesting two weeks.

In March Tom came down and painted a couple of our rooms.  He did the living room and hallway upstairs and our bedroom downstairs.  The best part was the Steeler room down in the basement.  It turned out really nice.  Black and gold blended together.

At the beginning of May Brandi got her permit.  It was time to teach some driving again.  We would go over to the local technical school and drive around it over and over.  After she got comfortable with that, we would drive off the campus and down the road for a while then come back.  It was a process.

Also in May, Lisa and I did a Muddy Buddy down in Richmond.  It was a lot like an adventure race, but a bit shorter and much dirtier.  The way this race works is you are a two person team with one bike.  One person starts off running and the the one on the bike starts a little later.  You both head to the first challenge.  The biker passes the runner and does the challenge.  When finished the biker now starts to run.  The runner comes up, does the challenge and then grabs the bike and continues on.  You keep doing this for about 3 to 5 miles or so and then do a mud crawl together at the end.  It was quite a bit of fun.

We also tried something called a Diet in June.  It is called a diet because it is free and there isn't any special setup or official stuff.  We didn't get real far, as it turned out to be a pretty tough training event.  We did some orienteering and then mountain biking and it was really hard.  I guess we could have skipped a lot of the far off controls as I guess it was a ROGAINE type race, but they never really said that.  If we would have kept going, we would have had to blow up a inner tube and float on the river some.  We never got that far, but we had a great time.

In July, my father had to have surgery to remove his gall bladder.  It was very badly infected and came close to doing him in.  But that hard headed Harold decided to stick around some more.  He spent a lot of time in the hospital, but was able to come home.

In September I headed to Ohio to take a basic survival class with Dave Canterbury.  He is a guy that was on  the Discovery channel's Dual Survival show.  It was a fun class and I learned a lot.  A week after coming home I was able to make fire with a bow drill set.  It was pretty cool.

In October Lisa and I did the Warrior Dash.  This was another mud run, but it didn't have the bike element.  Just lots of obstacles, lots of mud and you had to jump over fire.  They gave everyone horned fur hats.  After the race they had food, drinks and music.  We had a great time.

Year 28: 2011
After three semesters at DeSales, Shauni transferred to Towson.  She was now only a 45 minute drive away.  She also decided that she didn't want to pursue the nursing degree and switched to a biology major.

In March, Brandi passed her drivers test.  We had also given her a car for her (sorta) 16th birthday, but we didn't get it until August of 2010 or so.  Learning from the first try at this, Brandi and I would drive around and look for decent used cars.  Her one request was that it be red.  All we had to do was slowly drive pass a lot and if we saw red, we would stop.  We found her a little Chevy Aveo and she liked it very much. 

In April, I had a work trip to Phoenix, AZ and I got to visit John and Candy and their family.  I went over and we had dinner and hung out.  It was really good seeing them again.  I also had to climb Camel-back Mountain while there.  It can get pretty crowded in the parking lot, but it was a really cool hike up to the top and back down.  The views at the top were spectacular. 

In June, we did another Warrior Dash up in PA.  This time Lisa's sister (Age) and some of her friends also did the race.  It was really fun all of us together on the trail, getting all muddy and doing the obstacles.  We partied afterwards while we enjoyed the bands that played.  Our chip timers that were tied on our shoes were good for a free beer.  They also have a place where you can donate your shoes that you used for the race.  They clean them up and send them somewhere.  There were a lot of chips on some of those shoes, so I went treasure hunting and got about five free beers for my efforts.  It is hard to untie a wet muddy knot on a shoelace.  We stayed at a friend of Age's vacation house for the night and headed home the next day.  A very good time.

Late in the month we did a backpacking trip.  It was the whole family including Ginger and Alex, Shauni's boyfriend.  The hike in was nice.  The first part of it was on the Appalachian Trail, but then we veered off on a side trail down to the lake.  I sorta took us on a little extra route as the map and trail markings were not too good once you got off the AT, but we found our camp and had a nice overnight.  I'm pretty sure we camped near where two girls were shot (one died) about 20 years ago, by some crazy homeless guy.  I'm glad we didn't know the story until a few months later. 

July/August had Shauni driving to Florida with Alex for a vacation, followed by a Conneaut vacation, followed by a Cape May vacation.  We like our vacations.  While in Cape May, I was also volunteering as a Recruit Company Mentor.  I visited Recruit Company Juliet 185 three times.  Once in their second week, then in their fifth week where I was able to watch them do the obstacle course and receive their colors (the flag they carry), and answer their questions about the units they were going to and lastly at their graduation, where I gave a very short speech during the ceremony.  It was a very gratifying experience.

I had caught the AT bug.  I was now obsessed with hiking as much of it as I could and maybe even one day doing a thru hike where you start at one end and keep going until you reach the other end.  But for now I was going to do short sections.  In September I did my first AT Section hike.  The details of the hike (and others I have done since then) are on my trail journals website.  If you are interested in what one does when they strap all they need on to their back and start walking, go to  Basically I hiked from Harpers Ferry, across MD and up into PA.  I went as far as Pine Grove Furnace Park during this hike.  The new AT Museum is located here, but was closed when I came by. 

In November Lisa was diagnosed with some kind of cyst in her chin.  She had a couple operations to remove it and a few teeth came with it.  She still hasn't finished the work to repair the missing teeth, but hopefully will be done soon. 

My mom had to go into the hospital for a bowel obstruction that required surgery.  She never fully recovered and once again we were saddened with the loss of a loved one.  She died with my Dad and Sister near by on the 11th of December.  We were able to bring her home for Thanksgiving Dinner in November,  but had to bring her back to the rehab home that night.  It was  funny, she was sitting on the couch for about 2 minutes when she gets this look on her face.  We asked her what was wrong and she said the door was dirty by the door knob.  I quickly got a warsh rag and cleaned it up for her. 

Christmas was a somber affair that year.  At New Years Kristan's fiance (now husband), Jeremy set up all his equipment and we had a wonderful jam session in the house.  My dad seemed to enjoy all the music and I know we all did.  My playing wasn't that good, but with Jeremy leading the way, it all sounded pretty decent. 

Year 29: 2012
With my mother's death still fresh in all of our minds, my Godmother and Aunt, Colette, passed away at the end of February after suffering a stroke.  It was another sad trip up to PA for her funeral.

While Lisa continued with her surgeries and dental work, I found a new mole that seemed to grow rather fast.  The biopsy came back positive for melanoma so we had another fight to fight.  This time it had gone a little deeper into my skin so they also took out a couple lymph nodes along with a good deal of skin on my arm and gave me a nice new scar.  Luckily it hadn't spread to my lymph system and the doctor deemed this occurrence cured.

In April, Ginger and I went up the the AT for a quick overnight trip.  She loves the hiking, but gets scared of every bump in the night.  We had some rain, but as you can probably tell, I am now obsessed with backpacking on the AT.

In May, we did another back pack trip on the AT.  This time it was me, Shauni and Alex.  It was a 20 mile trip and we planned to take three days of hiking.  Nice and easy like.  The first day we stopped at a trail center that served us a spaghetti dinner.  Shauni had developed some blisters that got worse the second day. The last day was a painful walk for her down into Harpers Ferry, but we completed the hike.  See my trail journal for the details.  You have bookmarked my journal page, right?

In June, Brandi graduated from High School.  In the fall, she would be attending the local community college here until she figured out where she wanted to finish and what she wanted to do.

In July, after our annual vacation in Cape May I did a quick overnight backpack trip on the AT.  It was an easy hike to a nice shelter to try out a new hammock.  One thing I forget to bring was earplugs.  The Cricket Frogs were so loud that night, I barely got any sleep.

In August we went to Conneaut and after that we went to the Lowrie Family Reunion.  It had been four years since the last one and we were missing two beloved sisters from the group.  The newest member, my cousin Margie's baby had been born a day or so before the party.

It was September and time for another backpacking trip on the AT.  This time Lisa came along.  We had planned on three nights out, but we went pretty far and got back to the second car on the third day.  We had met a girl on the trail who had tried to thru hike in 2010 and had stopped at Harpers Ferry.  She was now doing sections southbound to try to get to the end, but a job made it more challenging.  We offered her a ride back to Harpers Ferry where she had to catch a train to DC and her flight back home and we stayed in a nice hostel in town called the Tea Horse Hostel.  It was nice and the hike was great.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

The world ended on December 21st in a fiery ball of death.  Oh, wait.  No it didn't.  Um, never mind.

New Year's Eve had us back at Cath's house for the now annual party a day after watching the Steelers kill the Browns in a meaningless game.  It was meaningful for us and the tailgate was fun as usual.  This year the jam session was in her basement and it was real fun again.  The highlight of the night was all the crazy people doing a polar bear plunge in the back of Mike's truck which was filled with slushy water.  I had fun watching.  There was no way I was going in there.

Year 30: 2013
For the last 30 days, I have been covering one year of my career each day.  I have had great fun going through my memories, journals and Franklin Planner (my paper brain) to help me remember the things we had done over my career in the Coast Guard.  There is no way I could have covered everything, but I think I wrote enough for you to get an idea of what it is like to serve your country for this long while building a family and living a life.  I was lucky that I never had a bullet aimed at me and I was able to advance to the pinnacle of the enlisted ranks.  I have received many good comments and I thank you for coming along with me on this trip down memory lane.  I apologize if I clogged your feed with my ramblings.

I hope to continue to build memories and maybe I will do this again in another 20 years or so when I retire for good.  By then, I will probably just have to think the words and they will type out for me while I sit at my estate on Mars. :)  So follow me once more as I finish this quest.  Thanks for reading.

The past five months has been a flurry of activity and excitement as we approach this thing called retirement.  Now, military retirement is a strange animal.  You start collecting the pension right away, but you are still young enough to find another job.  Living outside Baltimore and having two kids still in college means I will definitely be looking for another job.  It would be nice to find a place to live where my pension is enough to keep us fed, clothed and sheltered, while I hike the trail up and down, but for now I will work.

Shauni will be finishing up her degree this summer and Brandi is just finishing her first year at AACC.  We all still live together and the nest is still full.  (for now).  Lisa still works at Food Lion making sure everyone who comes in has enough of what they need on the shelves.  Ginger demands two walks a day and it will be hard to get the truck loaded without her trying to get out and into the vehicle   Precious is busy clearing the surrounding areas of all mice, moles and birds.  She is such a killer.  I continuously obsess about hiking the Appalachian Trail and once we are done with the retirement ceremony today, that will be my focus for at least the next three weeks or so.

Yep, you guessed it.  Lisa and I will be heading to the AT this weekend.  We will drive down south to the beginning of the trail and will start hiking north for a couple/few weeks.  Our start is Amicalola Falls State Park and our goal is Fontana Dam.  That is about 175 miles or so up the trail.

If you want to follow along, I will be trying to post updates at my other trail journal site called postholer.  That site is easier to post to with a phone while out on the trail.  I don't know how often we will have service, but if you want to, is the place.

If you want to come along, just show up down in Georgia on May 20th and start hiking with us.

I will see you on the trail...
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Friday, May 10, 2013

30 Years in 30 Days - Years 21 through 25

Year 21:  2004
In February, we all traveled to Mexico for a vacation (wedding).  The vacation was nice.  All inclusive is the way to go.  We did some parasailing and kayaking.  The food and drink wasn't bad at all.  We didn't have to leave the complex at all.  Everything we needed was right there.

This year was Brandi' turn to go to Arlington Echo.  I helped again.  It was cold and windy, but everyone had a great time.

We did another Adventure Race (our sixth).  This one was in my own home town and was called the Pittsburgh Urban Race Extreme or PURE.  It took place all around the city and we had a super good time.  We got to rappel off the Panther Hollow bridge.  About 200 feet down.  Due to high river levels, the first part was changed from a canoe on the river to a bike ride,  but other than that, it was a very cool race.  Quite an experience to a hometown boy.

Well as a new Master Chief and with my tour coming to an end, it was time again for another adventure.  After many negotiations with the detailer, the choice came down to two places.  New Orleans or Miami.

I choose New Orleans and started looking for a house.  We ended up having a house built.  There was a new development in Slidell  up above Interstate 12, which didn't flood too much.  The price of housing was very cheap in that area, so we had a pretty big house built.  It ended up being more house than we needed and it would take me two tanks of gas and a couple hours to cut the grass.

Moving into a brand new house is just like buying a fixer-upper.  We had basic white paint on the walls, no gutters or window treatments.  Four bedrooms, a living room, dining room and a family room.  A breakfast nook and a fireplace.  Just a little more house than we needed, but very nice.

I went down ahead of the girls as they did some visiting and followed a couple weeks later.  It was just me and the cat for a while.  I had closed on the house in May and it had sat empty until the end of June when I arrived and started to settle in.  At work, I got started at my new job as the Command Master Chief of the Electronic Systems Support Unit on the East Bank of the Mississippi River. 

We tried to settle into the life of New Orleans.  We weren't too impressed with the school system and that caused some problems.  The were sure to have gym class five days a week, but the math programs were way behind.

It seemed like a lot of hurricanes would set their sights on New Orleans then veer off and hit Florida or Mobile or somewhere else.  Ivan was the worst, and Tropical Storm Matthew blew down a large dead tree in our back yard.  Luckily I had moved the trampoline to a different part of the yard or it would have been crushed.

Of course the weather was much warmer than we were used to, but on Christmas day I was up early and I looked outside and snow was falling.  It quickly turned to sleet, then rain and didn't last long, but it was cool to see.

Year 22: 2005
Life was OK in New Orleans, but not perfect.  I got a surprise call from the detailer in January.  Apparently a billet had opened up back at CG HQ and my name came up as a good fit.  I had helped set up the billet before I left DC.  After checking with my work boss and my home boss, I was able to accept the orders and we were headed back to Pasadena, MD after only a one year absence.

Down in the New Orleans area, every parade consists of people throwing beads.  We got to see a few and of course experience Mardi Gras from the much calmer Slidell area, but it really is all the same. 

Shortly after receiving my orders, we had a knock on the door at home.  I had been elected as the President of the Homeowners' Association   I really don't know how I got roped into this one.  I went to one meeting and asked a few questions.  This led to someone nominating me and I should have said no, but couldn't.  At least I knew it was going to be only for a short time.

I created a monthly newsletter and worked with the other officers to get things done, but it just reinforced my dislike for homeowners' associations. 

We were able to sell the house rather quickly.  We actually had one offer before the house went on the market, but they offered low and wouldn't negotiate.  We eventually found a buyer and made enough to pay off the realtor and have a few bucks for back up north.  We closed on the house at the end of April, but rented back for another month and a half.

Then we packed up all of our stuff in June and headed to Philly and then down to Baltimore to house hunt.  When we first came here we didn't want to buy, but now we did.  The only problem was it was now a seller's market and prices were high.  We made a couple offers during our ten days of house hunting, but nothing took.  Lisa headed back to Philly and I headed back to Louisiana to finish out my time.  I had about a month left and I rented a furnished apartment right next to Lake Pontchartrain for that time.

Lisa continued to hunt for a place to live and found our house.  We put in a generous bid and got the house.  It was smaller than the Slidell house, but it was big enough for us.  We moved in the middle of August.  About a week after we moved in, Hurricane Katrina came ashore in New Orleans and tore the place apart.  Our neighborhood had some damage (including some of the roof of our old house) and quite a few of the very tall pines fell, some on houses, but no flooding.  We had avoided that "adventure". 

While on transfer leave, we did another Adventure Race in PA.  This was our seventh race and was a really challenging one.  We camped at a place called Blue Rocks the night before.  It was a whole valley full of car sized rocks.  Very cool.  The race had a good mixture of events.  Running, orienteering, bike on both road and trail, some canoeing with our bikes in the canoe in very shallow water.  Rappelling and ascending and a trek back to the start.  We crossed the AT during the race.  It was a 12 hour race and we finished in 13 hours.  The race director was still waiting for others to finish and a lot stopped when the cut off times passed so we weren't last.

In December, we went to Pittsburgh and attended a Steeler game vs the Bengals.  Steelers lost.  We still had a great time tailgating and seeing my Steelers with the Pittsburgh Steeler Fan Club of Baltimore.  It was cold.

Shortly thereafter we found out that Esther had terminal cancer.  We spent that Christmas in Philly, celebrating the holiday with the family as best we could.  This would be Esther's last Christmas.

Year 23: 2006
January was a pretty bad month.  Esther continued to fade.  There was no way to treat the cancer.  After a few tries, Esther entered into hospice.  I discovered a new thing called GeoCaching.  It was basically finding hidden tupperware in the woods and other places using GPS coordinates.  Since I didn't have a GPS yet, we used satellite pictures and hints to make the finds.  It was a good way to get our mind off of everything for a short while.

Esther passed on the 19th of January.  All three of her girls were able to be at her bedside when she left us.  I wrote this in my book on the day of her funeral. "

Esther's Laugh.  When I first met Esther in 1985, the first thing I noted was her laugh.  It was very distinctive and over the last 20 years no matter what was going on in our lives, that laugh was always present.  One thing about Esther, she wasn't shy.  She would greet anyone and everyone with a smile and that laugh.  I never met anyone who wasn't impressed by and immediately drawn to Esther.  Everyone always had something good to say about her.
When this sickness befell her and I saw it take hold and start to change her, I feared her laugh was gone forever, but I was wrong.  Even when she was feeling her lowest and was in great pain, she would still let that laugh out.  I would see the old Esther was still there, shining bright.  Even through her pain she was able to reassure Me and comfort Me when I despaired at her condition.  I can still hear that laugh and will for the rest of my days.  It exists in my heart and everyone's heart who's lives she touched while she was here.

Even though Esther was an Eagles fan, I think she helped out a little when our Steelers went to and won their fifth Super Bowl in February.  Bill, Robin and Age came down to our house and we had a great time watching the game and running through the neighborhood full of Ravens fans shouting our victory.  Just in case they weren't aware of it.

Shauni started driving this year.  Brandi built a trebuchet for school.  It really worked.  (sorta)

In October I decided to pay back a little to the adventure racing world and I volunteered to help at an all female race called The Buff Betty.  It was fun being on that side of the race, helping the racers and cheering them on.

We went to another Steelers game in November and they won this time.

Year 24: 2007
The year started out with Shauni's birthday.  We had gone looking for cars and when we saw one that she didn't hate (yet), I went and bought it.  We parked it down the street and on her birthday, we left clues for her to follow until she went outside and down the street where it was waiting.  We are such cool parents.

In April, Team CooCooChallenged (Me, Lisa and Age) teamed up again for a the GOALS Savage Adventure Race.  Lisa had sprained her ankle during the last wallyball season and she was just getting back into shape to race.  It was a pretty cool race and we had a great time running it.  Canoeing, biking, orienteering and some interesting challenges.  We finished in 5 hours and 41 minutes.

Shauni passed her driving test.  She did fine in the test. It was good that she could practice the actual course with her driving instructor.  We also got a pool for the backyard.  At first we were going to get a good aboveground one, but after checking the back yard again, I didn't think it was going to fit too well.  We ended up canceling that order and getting one of those easy to install pools.  Also, Lisa and Shauni went up to New York to go to Felicia's graduation.  It was a long drive, but they had a very nice time and It was great seeing old friends again.

When we were up Conneaut that year, Brandi got the great idea to ride someone's motorized scooter with no shoes and just a bathing suit on.  Well, the obvious happened and she got pretty banged up.  I called her Crash Brandicoot for a little bit.

I guess last year Momma Kitty had finally passed on the the scratching post in the sky.  We buried her out back.  In September we went out to Red Lobster for my birthday dinner. After dinner we went over to Petsmart just to "look" at the kittens.  We found a nice little girl that agreed to come home with us.  I called here My Precious as she was my "birthday present", just like Smeagol and his ring.  I didn't have to kill anyone to keep her.  (LOTR reference for you non geeks).  She got along nicely with Dusti as soon as Dusti understood who was the boss.  Her one "endearing" trait is she like to bite.  She thinks it is funny or something.

In November we went to PA again to see the great Steelers play.  They won again.  It rained.

Year 25: 2008
This year we were playing a lot of wallyball.  We were playing at Severna Park in our usual two leagues and over at Big Vanilla Pasadena where I had organized a league of our friends who belonged to that club.  We had a little scare in February when Lisa twisted her ankle again.  We were lucky that it wasn't bad and she was back to playing in about 10 days.

In March, Shauni want to New York City with her Honors Society Club.  They took a train up to the city and participated in a mock United Nations event.  It was really just a way to get up to NYC for a week long field trip.

In May Mrs I passed away.  She was a very important person in Lisa and Esther's lives.  She lived across the street from them and was a great friend.  There is a story that a woodpecker kept being heard in the neighborhood around the time she passed.  People would say it was Esther come back to escort Mrs I back to the light.  Cute story, but now, every time we hear a woodpecker, we wonder who is about to go.  :)

We also bought a Hot Tub for our back yard in May.  It became the perfect thing to loosen up your muscles after a hard night of playing wallyball.

In June it was time for another cruise.  This time we sailed out of New York City and we went with my sister and her family.  It was interesting leaving from that port.  After the little bit of fun we had driving on to Manhattan, we parked at the terminal and got on board.  Once we found everyone the party started.  I liked the multiple days at sea as we transited to the Caribbean.  It reminded me of being underway on the Northland, except there was a pool, and sunbathing and drinks and the food was a little bit different too.

During this trip we did an excursion where we got to swim with dolphins.  It cost a bit, but was totally worth it.  The last time I did that was out in the wilds of Kure Island when we were shutting down the Loran Station.  It was a little different this time.

Lisa and I ran a lot during the trip and I only gained about six pounds from all the eating and drinking.

July brought another Adventure Race.  We were going back to Western PA to near where our old camp used to be in Moraine State Park.  The Moraine Adventure Dash or MAD was a fun time.  In this race we had to cross a part of the lake by swimming.  It was faster to walk in the water along the shore up to the point where you had to swim.   We finished in 6 hours and 7 minutes.  We could have been faster, but near the end we had to separate to find different controls and I didn't pick the best route back to the finish.  I guess I lost about 15 minutes or so, but we had a very good time.  We came in 7th out of 12 in the Co-ed division.

In August we were back in Pittsburgh for another Adventure Race, but we were volunteering again.  It was similar to the PURE we had run a few years ago, but now had a new name.  TURFF (The Urban Race For Fifty)  I think there were 50 controls and you had to find as many as possible in the time allotted.  Our job was to work the kayak input and output.  After all the racer finished this part, we headed back to the start/finish for the awards ceremony.  I think we got a swag bag for helping out, but it was fun being on that side again, and quite a bit less strenuous.

The day after was a Lowrie  Family Reunion. We had a good time and got to play some volleyball.  Lisa and I dominated of course.

In September, Pickles, Ester's long black dog with very short legs passed away.  I'm pretty sure we could hear Esther's laugh as she welcomed him to the light...  I don't think any woodpeckers were sighted before he passed.

In November, it was back to PA again for our annual Steelers game.  They played the Chargers and won by a point.

The Steelers were doing great again.  Could they actually go to the Super Bowl again?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

30 Years in 30 Days: Years 16 through 20

Year 16: 1999
We found out during the year that the owners of our house were coming back to the area, so it was time to call the realtor and find another place to live.  We found another place without too much trouble and moved ourselves about 8 miles down the road to Pasadena.  This time the kid's school was just about three or four blocks down the road.  It was a nice walk each day as Lisa or I would walk the kids to and from school.  Shauni was now in third grade and Brandi was going to start Kindergarten.  Brandi would start a non-typical life for a military brat and spend most of her schooling years in the same school district.

Our new house had two floors and a basement.  The yard was nice and we had a carport to park our cars.  There was a nice piece of woods nearby and we would take walks in them a lot.

In April, we took the kids down to Disney World.  It was a real good time.  We got to see Paul, Sandi and the kids and spend a day in the park together.  I think we scarred Brandi for life by taking her on the Tower of Terror.  I didn't think her eyes could get any bigger. 

I took the Service Wide Exam again.  Last year I ended up at #12 and they made 11.  After this test, I ended up #1, so I was next no matter what.  Once the cuts came out I just had to wait to put it on.  Not too long this time. 

In June, we headed to PA and took a little backpacking trip.  It was very short due to the kids age, but we all had a great time.  My sister and her kids came over from Pittsburgh and we duplacated the first day of a three day trip I took back in 1982 with my brothers and cousins.  I gave myself the trail name Chuck Wagon for that trip as I had so much gear hanging off of my pack including pots and pans. 

Brandi learned to swim underwater that year.  We spent the forth of July in Cape May and watched the fireworks in Wildwood. 

In September we signed up for another season of wallyball at Serverna Park.  We would take the girls to the club and play all night, while they ran around the club and tried to stay out of trouble.

I went to my first NFL Football game.  Unfortunately it was a Ravens game.  They played the Saints and Lisa and I snuck down to the first row, right behind the Ravens' bench at half time.  We had a good time.   Lisa shook Rod Woodson's hand at the end of the game. 

It was the end of the millennium and time to party like it was 1999.  There was a big thing that everyone was afraid of called Y2K, which turned out to be nothing to worry about.  It was a total non-event.

Year 17: 2000
The year started off with a pretty good snow storm just before Shauni's birthday.

I advanced to ETCS at the beginning of February.  This would cause me to be short toured out of Baltimore.  I ended up going down the road to our Headquarters in Washington DC.  It was kind of cool the first few times riding down the road and seeing the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building.  Little did I know how long I would work out of HQ.

Living where we do, Cape May and Conneaut each year were becoming a regular thing.  We went to Cape May again in early July.  This time we saw fireworks over in North Cape May.  Conneaut was in August and we did the usual things there.  Swimming, kayaking, eating and drinking.

Lisa's foot was hurting and when she got it checked out something was wrong with the bone along  the side of her foot.  She had to wear a cast for a couple months until it healed.

In September we went to see Hanson again.  This time the concert was in the Warner Theater in downtown Washington, DC.  We put earplugs in Brandi's ears due to all the screaming that goes on and she actually fell asleep during the concert.

In November we went on another cruise.  This time all four of us went and Lisa's family too.  The ship left out of San Juan, so we flew down there and did a Southern/Eastern Caribbean trip this time.  Our stops were in Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts, St Maarten and St Thomas.  I remember going horse back riding in St Lucia and my horse was the smelliest on the island.  My cloths, bag and hands smelled for days.  Brandi spent a lot of time in the Kids FunZone.  She kept calling it school.  It was a very good time.

Year 18: 2001
This year started with the Ravens winning the Super Bowl.  This is significant only because I happened to be off work when they had the victory parade and Lisa and I went into town to check it out.  The last time I had gone to a Super Bowl parade was when my beloved Steelers had won their forth Super Bowl back in 1980.  I remember that day being so cold, I lost feeling in my hands, but still had a great time.  Lisa and I had a good time watching everyone celebrate the win.

I was offered a commission to Chief Warrant Officer.  I turned it down as the billet was on a ship out of Seattle which had just started a six month out of hemisphere patrol.  I didn't want to put my family through all of that and I was already an E8, so I put my sights on Master Chief and continued on.  I choose the path less traveled, and that has made all the difference.

I bought myself a cheap guitar and started teaching myself how to play.  I never have gotten very good.  I just like to play around with it.  I use it as a sort of therapy.

In May, Shauni had an overnight field trip at Arlington Echo.  I volunteered to help out and I got to run the row boats and do another segment called Paws and Jaws.  It was a cool experience and I think Shauni had a good time.  Lisa and Brandi came the first evening for the night hike and camp fire.

Brandi played T-Ball.  Everyone gets a hit and everyone scores.  Yea!

In August, when we were taking one of our vacations, this one at Conneaut, Lisa and I went to the next town and got a tattoo.  We both got the same thing.  It was a heart with our daughter's names.  Mine was on my arm and Lisa's was on her ankle.

Everyone has a story of where they were and what they were doing when the Twin Towers came down.  Here is mine.
I flew out to CA on September 10th for a conference in Oakland.  We were scheduled to present on the 11th.  My body was still on east coast time so I was up around 5 am pacific time and decided to go for a run.  When I returned, I turned on the TV and the first plane has already hit.  I called Lisa and told her to turn on the TV and while we were talking the second plane hit.  Shortly after that we heard that the Pentagon had been hit too.  I quickly called my mother to let her know I wasn't in DC and was ok and that was the last call I could make before all the lines jammed up.

We spent the morning going back and forth form the TV in the lobby and our conference room.  I couldn't believe that the whole tower had collapsed even when I watched it. It was just inconceivable.  We soldiered on and finished our presentation, but our problem now was how to get back home.  Four of us had heard that Travis was possibly flying MAC flights to Andrews, so we headed up there.  We got on base after a long wait, but found that all flight were still grounded.  We decided to rent a car and drive.

We went non stop.  The front seat people drove and the shotgun person stayed awake and kept the driver alert.  The back seat shift tried to sleep.  It was a very interesting trip.  We started seeing American Flags everywhere.  Every overpass seemed to have grown a flag.  We were about halfway across when we saw the first plane in the air, but we were on a roll.

My trip mates were all out of Portsmouth, VA, so the plan was to drop me outside Richmond and Lisa would come and get me.  This was before I had a cell phone, but I was able to use one of the other's to give Lisa information on the plan.  They dropped me off at a gas station off an exit of 264 and not too long after, Lisa and her dad came down the road and picked me up.  We had been driving about 47 hours straight by then.  My boss, who had stayed at the hotel and waited for the airports to re-open got back east about eight hours ahead of me, but my story was much more interesting.

Life went on.  We all got used to the "new normal".

One other thing that happened to me this year is a mole on my back was diagnosed as melanoma.  It wasn't too deep, but I got a nice 9 centimeter scar on my back when they removed it and a lot of skin around it.

Year 19: 2002
Brandi played basketball this year.  It was fun to watch.  I remember bringing my little portable TV one game to watch a Steeler game while they played.  We didn't get all the games here, but when we did, we had to watch.  And it was the Playoffs.  There was one girl on the team who was very good.  The game plan was to give it to her and let her score.  Of course they didn't really keep score, because Everyone is a winner in these types of things.  Just like real life.  Not...  Actually they won the final, so I guess they did keep score.

I sent a letter to get on the waiting list for Steeler Season Tickets.  The response was I was like number 39000 on the list and it will be at least 15 years.  Still waiting...

A few years ago, we bought a Tiger Oscar for our small aquarium.  We named him ShereKahn and as he grew we got a bigger tank.  We used to buy him feeder goldfish, which he loved.  We would also go into the garage and find one of those crazy looking spider crickets and ShereKahn would get all excited when he saw us coming with his lunch.  One goldfish who escaped his clutches grew pretty big and we named him King Louie.  The Kahn eventually got him, but in May our old Tiger went to the big aquarium in the sky (sea?).

Brandi had a yard sale and made almost $8 and Shauni went on an overnight girl scout campout.  She came home with a nice tick feeding on her.  Shauni was also playing the drums at school.  She was pretty good.

As Shauni finished the fifth grade, she was promoted to the sixth and Middle School.  She received the President's Academic Excellence Award.

On the work front, I took my last Service Wide Exam and scored #1.  Even though I was the next person to make it starting next January, the cut started off at zero, since we working on merging with the Fire Control Technicians.  There was a chance that I wouldn't make it and that would pretty much mean I would be retiring next year.  I even went to my first Transition Assistance Program that helps you prepare for retirement.

I had been working on my college credits for a while now and it was time to enroll and finish it up.  I enrolled at Excelsior College.  All I had to do was take one essay test and I was pretty much done for an Associate's of Applied Science degree.

Brandi joined Tae Kwon Do and before long all of us were taking classes.  Lisa, Age and I competed in our first Adventure Race, the Venture Quest.  We were the last team to finish, but we beat all the other teams that didn't finish.  It was a blast.  We really learned how much a person can do when given the chance.  We were hooked after that.

We went to another Ravens game.  The highlight was going to the all you can eat seafood at Phillips afterward.  I seemed a little bummed that the home team won.  :)

Year 20: 2003
This year I retire, right?  Wrong.  Sometime life takes you where you least expect it.  My original plan when I first raised my hand and swore to support and defend my country was to do four years, maybe make second class and move on to something else.  My first unexpected detour was meeting a girl that would become my bride who supported and defended me to no end.  At the time of our wedding I was just finishing up the first four years, was going to make first class and we had decided that this really isn't too bad of a life.  Yes, there would be times that we would have to be separated because of the nature of the job, but we knew we could handle it.  By the time I re-enlisted for the second time, we knew this was going to be a 20 year thing, that would reap a pension that I could start drawing the day I retired at the age of 40.

Well, the plan was still sound as the year began, but a new wrench was thrown into the mix.  I found out (at Outback Steak House) that they had moved the cut for Master Chief to 1.  Me.  I'm number one...  Shit, I'm making Master Chief!  The way we found out was funny.  I was off work that day and Lisa and I were at the restaurant having dinner.  All of a sudden we saw Tony, who was my first class back in Cape May and now worked in Baltimore as a Chief Warrant Officer.  He said congratulations, I saw you were making ETCM.  I'm like what???  It was true.  We were making Master Chief.  This was the end of February.

We had a nice blizzard in February too.  Lots of days off for the kids and me.  It was around 28 inches.

In April, Lisa and I did our second Adventure Race.  This one was in PA near Philly we once again took our time, but beat all the others who gave up.  Finishing was always our goal.  It was a pretty tough race here we did things like mountain bike, shoot a bow and arrow, cross some low ropes course and hand over hand boulder climb up a mountain side.  We had a good time.

Later that week, the family went up to the Poconos and spent a couple of nights in a hotel.  I think we received the vacation from our bank or something.  We got to enjoy a nice Easter Day buffet.

I too my English test for college and I passed.  I "graduated" in July.

 June was a busy month for us as far as racing goes.  First we went to NJ and did a Duathalon.  Age did the Tri and Lisa and I did a Run, Bike, Run race.  Since it was an individual thing, I went ahead to see what kind of time I could get.  It was decent, but no podium finish.  Next, Lisa and I did a Beer Chase with the local Orienteering Club.  You get a map and do a short course.  When you return to the start, you drink a beer, get a new map and head out again.  You do this three times then have a cookout.  It was a great time.  The last thing we did that month was a ROGAINE in PA near Age's house.  A ROGAINE is like regular orienteering, but you have a time limit and you have to pick which controls to find in any order.  You get points for each and the harder the control the more points.  We finished in almost 7 hours and came in at about the middle of the pack.  It had rained a lot the night before and the parking area was muddy. My van got stuck and some other racers helped get us out.

I made ETCM 29 days before going over 20.  It looks like we will be putting off retirement for at least two years to reap the full benefit of advancing to E9.

Also in August, it was time for our third Adventure Race.  It was called the Unknown Soldier and it was out on the west side of DC along the Potomac.  Lisa and I came in second place.  Our first podium finish.  We got a shirt or something.  In October, we did a Night Race.  It didn't start until 10 pm and it was a blast.  We finished sometime after 4 am, crawled into the back of the truck and snoozed until 9 am.

Our fifth race and last on of the year was the Rappels of Carderock   This was in the same area as the Unknown Soldier, but ended with doing 10 rappels down a rock face.  We learned different ways to rappel and it was a very good time.  We came in third place in the co-ed division on this one.

2003 was definitely our most prolific Adventure Racing year.