Archive for October, 2007

Oktoberfest at Mountain Lake

My friend Mandy had some Oktoberfest tickets she couldn’t use, so last night Ann and I took Penn to the festivities at Mountain Lake.  The event featured a biergarten, traditional German food and the Sauerkraut Band.

When we first stood in line for the buffet, it dawned on me that this was a disaster waiting to happen.  Penn’s a picky eater, a very picky eater.  And although the entrees sounded delicious to me, I could easily see how the likes of beets, sauerkraut, purple cabbage and smoked salmon would be less than appealing to Penn.  He was particularly disturbed by the roasted pig.  The devoured meat exposed the pig’s spine, meanwhile the pig’s head was still in tact.  Penn stared and had a lot of concern about the pig’s eyeballs.

This pig did not help Penn’s appetite

Luckily, Penn found one of the German sausages edible.  Though when he had eaten about half and suddenly asked, “Where does sausage come from?” I was very nervous to tell him “pigs”.  That knowledge didn’t make a difference to Penn, he continued to ingest his dinner.

A local bakery in Christiansburg has a sign that says, “Life is Uncertain, Eat Dessert First”.  I didn’t adopt the sentiment verbatim, but when I passed by the pastry bar and saw the inventory dwindling, I made sure to snag a piece of cake right away.  I balanced it on my two plates of food and carried it back.

Evidence of foresight– Cake!

Later Ann asked Penn to get a dessert from the bar.  He came back carrying a plate of crumbs (literally).  That was all that was left.  I was so very proud of my foresight and was eager to share my bounty and be the hero of the group.  Alas, Mountain Lake did eventually replenish the dessert table.  At least I can still snicker at those who had to wait ten extra minutes for their cake.  Suckers! 

Even though the meal started out shaky for Penn, he ended up having a fabulous time.  The Sauerkraut Band was a big hit.  He enjoyed clapping along, toasting his Sprite when the adults toasted and he seemed particularly enamoured with watching a little girl dance.  Later, the event took on another level of excitement when Penn discovered a number of children playing billiards upstairs.

Penn claps along to the Sauerkraut Band

Little Penn toasts his Sprite

The Sauerkraut Band

In the buffet line, I fully expected the evening would end with Penn driving our departure time.  In the end, it was Ann and I, the old fogies, who had to drag Penn home!

More pictures from Mountain Lake’s Oktoberfest can be found on my Flickr site.

October 14, 2007 at 4:37 pm 4 comments

Man’s Humanity to Man

On more than one occassion, Kurt Vonnegut wrote and spoke fondly about firemen and their mode of transportation– the fire engine.  When asked his thoughts about 9/11, the author simply said:

I can’t imagine a more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.

Vonnegut’s symbol is certainly nice, but now I’ve found my own image of man’s humanity to man.  Last weekend, I witnessed an act that moved me more than a fire engine would.  I watched four men rescue a dog from the Appalachian Trail.

At the end of our backpacking trip, I shuttled some hikers back to their cars.  When I returned, I noted a particular couple still weren’t present at the trailhead.

“Brian and Akiko aren’t back?” I asked.

“They’re having a… dog malfunction,” someone told me.

It was the oldest dog in our group, eleven-year old Yoda, who was “malfunctioning”.  With two miles left to go, poor Yoda collapsed.  Shaking and completely spent, he could move no further.  His owner put him in a creek to cool down and came down the mountain to seek help.

At this point, four men *ran* back up the steep two-mile ascent, built a stretcher and carried the dog down to safety.  Their efforts were very touching.

Andy, James, Brian and Carl carry Yoda down the trail

Poor Yoda

Is it odd that my favorite symbol of “man’s humanity to man” involves a dog?  I don’t think so.  If those men would run up a mountain to rescue a dog… just imagine what they would do for you!

And actually, one member of our hiking group doesn’t even have to imagine.  He got lost (“I thought the blazes were more of a guideline”) and never made it to the end.  Some of the very same men who ran up to retrieve the dog, were poised to backtrack the whole day’s hike and/or explore steep side trails to find their missing co-worker.

The Group studying maps and trying to figure out how to find their friend.

And when cell phone contact with their colleague was finally made, a group of these hikers drove two hours to a trailhead in West Virginia, hiked up the Groundhog Trail and brought their lost friend home.

So if you don’t fancy the dog angle, how’s this:

If those men would drive two hours and hike up a steep hill for someone who disregarded blazes, just imagine what they would do for you!  🙂

October 14, 2007 at 3:31 pm 6 comments

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October 11, 2007 at 2:22 pm 2 comments

The Birthday Orange

Last weekend, as we hiked Peters Mountain, Mike E celebrated a birthday. The wilderness doesn’t provide good shopping opportunities, but I was able to find a great gift for him from the inventory of my pack. An orange! And so, at our our second day campsite near Symms Gap, Mike ingested his birthday orange.

The Birthday Orange!!!

An orange may sound meager, but it was well-received. Over the last couple of years, oranges on hikes has become a little tradition of ours. Here’s an entry I found in my 2006 journals talking about the history of our hiking oranges.


Last year when Mike E and I hiked VA-779 to VA-311 [13.1 miles], Mike brought along an orange. When we reached Tinker Cliffs after a long, steady ascent, Mike shared a few wedges of his orange with me.

It was so very delicious on that hot day, that orange and its sweet rejuvenating juices were exactly what our bodies needed.

This year when we hiked 13.1 miles from VA-779 to VA-220, it was I who brought an orange. And… when our bodies were hot and fatiqued, shortly before Hay Rock, Mike and I sat down and split that fruit.

Again – it was DIVINE. Delicious and refreshing. Just what we craved.

The oranges are such a highlight of our hikes– that [on our hike] last week, Mike and I both brought 2 oranges each! That’s a total of 4 oranges!

Not only that– early in our own hike, maybe even mile one, we started anticipating the oranges – speculating when we’d stop and how good they’d taste.

It wasn’t a disappointment when we finally stopped and ingested our first orange.

So today, preparing for my hike with Bill— an orange was a no-brainer inclusion. It was a downright necessity.

BUT– once I got on the trail, the orange securely in my pack, I had a strange feeling come about. It was a twinge of guilt and regret. It almost felt– it almost felt like I was being adulterous to have an orange without Mike E. Like I was cheating on him by sharing our fledgling tradition with a stranger.

It turns out no one (Bill, Tony, Paul, Matt, Nancy) had the least bit interest in my orange. That only goes to show they were unworthy of the orange to begin with! 🙂

Anyway– so no orange was had in Mike E’s absence.

This evening when I returned, Mike and I discussed today’s orange goings-on. Mike and I decided to have an “open relationship”… in regards to oranges. 🙂

“I’m cool with you eating oranges with other people,” Mike said.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Likewise, I give you permission to share oranges with whoever you like.” I told Mike.

So we are both free to sow our orange seeds whereever or with whomever we desire. BUT– I suspect that having an orange on the trail without Mike E will just not be the same.

I will always think of my hiking buddy whenever an orange is ingested. Mike’s lasting legacy?

It’s a good thing we established an orange understanding. This summer at Apple Orchard Falls— I shared an orange with some Potomac Appalachian Trail Club members. Yup, members. I’m a slut. 🙂

October 10, 2007 at 9:18 am 3 comments

A Hike of Many Purposes

Last weekend, Jimmie and I joined a formidable group of hikers and dogs on a backpacking trip on Peters Mountain! We traveled from VA-460 to VA-635. That section spanned 19.8 miles of the Appalachian Trail and all but 0.2 miles were new to me!

In my home office, I have an elevation gain map of many of the Virginia Appalachian Trail miles hanging on my wall. Whenever I complete some new mileage of the AT, I highlight the completed section. On that map, Peters Mountain has sat smugly blank for some time, bisecting two substantial sections of completed trail.

On Monday, the contour of Peters Mountain was finally traced over with a yellow highlighter! Now I can look proudly at my map and know that I have hiked a continuous stretch from VA-611 in Bland County all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Roanoke!

My AT Map– Before and After

Besides connecting two sections of completed mileage, this particular hike had a number of purposes:

Mike E’s Birthday Hike!
Mike, like myself, celebrates his birthday with a hike. Two years ago we went northbound on the AT to Dragon’s Tooth. Last year, we went to the Smokies! And this year, we hit Peters Mountain. I profit substantially from Mike E’s birth.

*MY* Birthday Hike!
Yup, my birthday was seven months ago. But if you happen to have a great memory (or mediocre searching skills), you’ll find that this same mountain was targetted for my birthday hike in March before I got stupid strep throat. But look how this has a happy ending! Thanks to that strep throat, my first trip to Peters Mountain included great weather, wonderful company and beautiful fall views. Sometimes good things do come to those that wait.

HEL Backpacking Trip
The group I was with were employees from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute— the people who do the SmartRoad. Specifically, I was with their Hardware Engineering Lab (HEL) team. Each year they do an annual backpacking trip and this was it. Man, that organization has a great corporate culture! Not only do they do cool backpacking trips like this, but they do annual canoe trips, painting balling ventures, and other outdoor activities. Note to self — get a job at the SmartRoad.

It feels weird to close this post without any pictures, so here you go!

Day 2 – Me and Jimmie at Rice Fields

Day 2 – Pile of Packs at Rice Fields

Day 2 – Tents at Sunset

Day 2 – View of Trail from Rice Fields

Day 3 – Sunrise Nears Symms Gap

Day 3 – Fog from Near Symms Gap

As usual more pictures of our Peters Mountain Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

October 10, 2007 at 8:48 am 3 comments

Henry and Keffer Oak

Over a year ago, I heard about the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project.  I didn’t have to think twice about what tree to nominate— the Appalachian Trail’s Keffer Oak! 

On Sunday I got a call from the project and they told me Keffer Oak made their top 100 which will be included in a book that will be published in 2008.  Good News!

Then they said they wanted someone to pose as an Appalachian Trail hiker in the photo.  They asked if I would be interested.  Great News!!

Then a little later they called and asked, “Do you still have that dog?”

That dog would be Henry!  When I nominated the tree, I submitted a picture with Henry to provide some perspective on the tree’s size.  They asked me to bring Henry to the photoshoot.  Spectacular News!!!

And so this morning, little Henry and I got up at 5 AM.  I still had my pack in tact from last weekend’s backpacking trip (which will get a series of blog posts once I have more time), so I grabbed it and my trusty hiking boots and met up with the writer and photographer.

We hiked the shortest route to the tree (0.6 miles from VA-630) and the photographing began. 

The photographer working his magic with Keffer Oak

I’m not sure how either Henry or I did (I didn’t feel very natural) or if we will ultimately make it into the book, but it was a fun time.  I very much enjoyed chatting to both of my companions and getting an opportunity to talk highly of our local mountains.   I’m a little envious of their occupation!  Driving around, taking pictures of and talking about cool trees— that sounds awesome!

On top of all the fun, the trip was educational for me.  I learned a little lesson about myself today:

I will sacrifice my own comfort for art

Despite keeping him leashed, early on Henry found an opportunity to roll in cow manure.  And so, as is often the case, Henry was covered in poo.  At one point, Henry and I were “resting” under the tree and I could hear the writer yell a direction to me from above.

“PET HENRY!!!!” she said.

And so I did.  🙂

October 9, 2007 at 10:20 am 5 comments

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October 3, 2007 at 2:21 pm Leave a comment

Glenn Potts

Last night one of my former co-workers, Glenn Potts, passed away.  He had esophageal cancer.

I worked with Glenn for many years and we exchanged pleasantries frequently when we passed each other in the company kitchen.  But, I didn’t know him all that well.

When he got sick, I started to send him some letters and some postcards as I traveled.  In this day in age, letter writing is a pretty dead art.  I rarely get letters back, so I don’t expect them.  I especially did not expect it from Glenn. 

But, with everything on his mind and all that he had to face, he took the time to write me back an actual, physical, multipage letter.  And there, I got to hear about his visit to Estes Park and the time he tried skiing and ended up under a truck in the parking lot.  He made me smile.  He made me laugh.  It was a very nice letter.

One thing that struck me about Glenn when I worked with him is he would almost always eat lunch alone.  I’d catch sight of him at Cracker Barrell or Stone’s and would invite him to join our hefty crowd, but he would politely decline.  He always opted to eat at his own table and read his paper.  Now at the time, lunch was my social hour.  I would even venture to say that lunch’s primary purpose was socializing…and then maybe, perhaps, eating would be a runner-up.  Coming from that perspective, I’d spy Glenn and his paper and wonder if he was lonely. 

This May, I started working on-site at a company in Roanoke and with three exceptions, I’ve eaten alone each meal.  At first I was quite annoyed with the prospect.  This is LUNCH, afterall, my favorite part of the day.  Without companions, I read magazines, worked on crossword puzzles and caught up on letters (some to Glenn).  As time went on, suddenly I developed a deep appreciation of the alone time.  It was peaceful.  It was productive.

“I get it now,” I wrote Glenn in July.

And that, for me, may end up being the memory of Glenn that best stands the test of time.

October 2, 2007 at 7:15 pm 8 comments

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