Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Road Running Kit v3.0

Yesterday's run was hot one. Half way through I realized I'd forgotten to tape my nipples and I was beginning to chafe. Ouch!  I stopped, busted out my running kit, cut two strips of tape, applied them, and was off and running. Chafing emergency averted.

As I was restocking my kit I realized that it's been years since I published its contents. I've made notable improvements since v2.0. Here's what I carry now:

The contents include:

  • Cash
  • Heavy duty fishing line wrapped around a bread clip
  • #22 surgical blade
  • Handkerchief
  • Credit Card
  • My usual keychain. Includes: tweezers, 3ft of cordage, Benadryl, P-51 can opener, safety pin, whistle, derma safe razor, pill container with $20 and a set of rare earth magnets
  • Surgical mask
  • Leuko Tape
  • KT Tape

All this fits into a normal sized SPI Belt. For trail runs I use a slightly larger belt pack and add in an SOL Heatsheet.

The tape and handkerchief solve most medical issues. The blade, cordage and keychain tools help with repairs. The surgical mask is a Covid addition intended for use when stepping into a business with  a mask requirement. The cash and credit card solve everything else.

Given how compact and versatile this kit is, I can't imagine running without it.

v1.0 and v2.0

Monday, July 12, 2021

Bull Run Campground: 24 hours of Outdoor Fun

Last birthday we gifted 5 year old S. camping gear and a promise that we'd do a camping adventure. And then Covid hit and we went a year without leaving the house. Now that things are open we were all more excited then ever to tackle our camping adventure.

When Shira and I hiked the BROT we learned that at the Bull Run terminus there was a campground. We did some research and learned that not only was there camping, but there was also a Water Park. That sealed the deal: we decided we'd have our camping adventure there.

Friday night, after just 40 minutes of driving, we found ourselves at a classic car-camping site. We had a fire pit, picnic table, space for a tent and 100 yards away, clean bathrooms.

It was fairly late, so we quickly went to work setting up camp. Shira and S. worked to setup the tent, with the highlight being S. pounding in stakes using the mallet we purchased. Once the tent was setup, S. realized there were various tree nuts scattered throughout the campsite. He collected them up and started cracking them open with his mallet. Let me tell you, collecting up nuts and smashing them may not seem like much, but you've got to try it. Talk about a simple pleasure in life. S. was happy. We were happy S. was happy.

Shira and I finished setting up the tent, filling it with sleeping gear and then I clumsily started a fire.

As the sun went down, we roasted marshmallows over the fire and looked forward to a full day of adventure the next day.

We had quite the packed schedule on Saturday. We started with a treasure hunt to a nearby Geocache. S. found the cache, but alas, there wasn't any exciting treasure to be found in it. I'd brought 3 mini-"Lego" sets camping for S. to build. The idea: he'd leave one in the cache in exchange for a treasure and take the other two home. With no loot to be had, he was glad to keep all three vehicles. I always over-think what to leave in Geocaches, and I think these small knock-off Lego sets are ideal.

After Geocaching, some playground time and lunch, we walked the short distance to Atlantis to cool off. S. enjoyed exploring the kids area and getting dumped on by the massive water bucket. And then he and I made our way into the pool. They had life jackets for the kids, which S. donned. This let us roam the whole pool, from the area where he could stand to the deepest parts (5 feet!). While an older kid may have scoffed at Atlantis, S. loved it all. We finished our water time adventure with ice cream sandwiches. Yum!

We had one more adventure to tick off before I could call our camping experience complete: fishing. We grabbed my ultralight fishing rod and headed out on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. We made it to Cub Run where we turned off the trail and headed up an un-named path to follow the creek.

We finally found a spot where the fishing looked like it might work. I asked S. what color Trout Magnet lure he wanted to use, and he picked solid gold. Nice. I gingerly tossed the tiny lure into the stream and waited a few moments. Bam! Fish on! I reeled in a 3 inch Sun Fish. Whoo! There were fish in the water.

For the casts after that I had S. reel in the line. On his second attempt he pulled in a whopper: a 4.5 inch sunfish! We were all overjoyed. S. had caught the biggest fish of the day, and I'd delivered on my promise that we'd be able to go fishing.

We walked more of the trail to see if we could find other fishing holes, but ultimately, returned to our first spot on Cub Run. There we pulled out sunfish after sunfish, marveling at each catch.

I have to say, Bull Run Campground really delivered. It blows my mind that we got the complete camping experience and did so a mere 30 miles from our home.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Review: The Wisdom of the Talmud

My Sister-in-Law gifted me a 1950's copy of Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser's Wisdom of the Talmud. I was curious how a 70 year old book would explain a nearly 1500 year old text.

Most of what Bokser has to say about the content of the talmud lined up with what I've pieced together over the years. I was re-introduced to a number of our sages and I marveled at how their philosophies have endured throughout generations. When I consider that I can articulate points of view that after 10 or 20 years no longer make sense, it's all the more amazing that Rabbis of old got so much of it right.

Pursue peace, strive for humility, practice kindness, seek knowledge, provide education for all; these values are so familiar that they hardly seem worth articulating. And yet they were, and in a number of ways still are, revolutionary.

But what really blew my mind in Bokser's work were the chapters leading up to the content overview of the Talmud. These chapters provide a historic account that deftly shows how the Jewish people transitioned from biblical tribes to a centralized priestly religion to the loosely organized Rabbinical faith that we practice today. Bokser covers the people, events and critical changes that made this journey possible.

While I was familiar with many of the events and names that Bokser highlights, I'd not seen them connected in such a clear way. In short, I could grasp that there were both Biblical, Temple and Rabbinical versions of Judaism, but not how we smoothly flowed from one to the other.

Judaism tends to be a religion that focuses on continuity and adhering to traditional practices. Dietary restrictions, for example, aren't re-evaluated on a regular basis to keep them in line with modern sensibilities. Instead, they are derived from ancient texts and remain as unchanging as possible. And yet, as Bokser makes clear, it's only through change that the Jewish people were able to survive.

For example, without transitioning to a fixed calendar in 359 AD it would have been extraordinarily difficult to keep the dispersed communities' holidays in sync. Surely it felt wrong to abandon the procedure for determining dates based on observation and testimony; what with hundreds of years tradition behind the practice. And yet, acts like this are precisely what allowed Judaism to continue into the future.

Perhaps the highest complement I can pay to Bokser's text is this: once I finished reading the book, I immediately flipped back to the historic chapters to re-read them.

To connect the dots of my ancestor's history wasn't something I'd previously considered. Now I wonder why I didn't search this information out sooner.

Thanks Sis, what a treat this book turned out to be!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

23 Years of The Tully's Effect

Yesterday, June 28th, was our 23rd wedding anniversary. Though lately, I've been thinking about June 27th, 1998 the day before. That evening we hosted a big o'l group of friends at the local Tully's as a sort of alternative to having individual bachelor and bachelorette parties. We walked by that Tully's 11 days ago when we were visiting my Mother-in-Law in Rochester, NY.

Much of that evening is a blur, in part because it was 23 years ago, but more so because--and this I do recall--someone handed me a Long Island Ice Tea and told me I would enjoy it. I did. Probably more than one.

What makes that evening so special isn't just that we had a good time with friends. Upon reflection, I appreciate it's more than that. That night, and quite a few others since then, was made awesome not by luck, but by Shira. She took care of planning and executing that evening and I just enjoyed the outcome.

It's not that Shira's a gifted party planner (though, she is that, too). It's just one example of moments in my life when Shira was, often without using words, able to step in and say, I've got this.

I'd like to think that in these past 23 years, I've had my share of those moments, too. Moments when I've been able to give her the same joy and support that she's given to me.

So Tully's turned out to be quite the sign of times to come. And what a wonderful sign it was.

Babe I love you. And if you excuse me, I'm going to go order a Long Island Ice Tea or Two. Now that I think about it, I enjoy those.

Monday, June 28, 2021

More Miles, More Awesome | Hiking Jones Mountain in Shenandoah National Park

Let's Do This!

Yesterday I talked Shira into tackling an 11 mile hike in Shenandoah. Between the hot weather and crowds, we wanted an early start. Which meant that we left DC at 4:00am.

By 6:15am we'd arrived at Bootens Gap, the trail head, and already seen countless deer and a family of turkeys (I assume the big ones were mommy, daddy and the small ones were kids). The sun rose as we drove into the park and we were feeling good. It was looking like we'd get in an epic hike and still be back in DC by the late afternoon to run some errands.

The route (thanks HikingUpward!) called for us to cover Cat Knob Trail, Jones Mountain Trail, Staunton River Trail, Fork Mountain Trail and start and finish on the the Laurel Prong Trail and a short section of the AT. Along the way we were promised one view and a visit to a radio tower.

They're Not Problems, They're Opportunities

About 5 minutes into the trail we ran into, and solved, two problems.

First, I immediately noticed a hot-spot my left heel. I tried to tell myself that the rubbing would go away and soon I'd feel better, but I knew that was a lie. In a few miles, the hot spot would be a blister and for hours I'd be miserable. I stopped, applied a 1 inch length of Leuko Tape over the blister and we were on our way. The blister, incidentally, was due not to hiking gear but to the fact that I'd walk to shul in fancy shoes the day before. And of course, I haven't worn dress shoes in over a year. Curse you covid!

The Leuko Tape was like magic. One tiny strip kept me pain free the entire hike. Long distance hikers / runners preach the value of Leuko Tape and I've dispensed it to others before. But I think this may be the first blister of my own that I've treated. Wow, this stuff works.

The second gotcha was one that we'd struggled with on our last long hike and apparently forgotten about. Shira wanted quick access to the paper map, her phone (which has the digital map) and trekking polls at the same time. The issue: she had no pockets (curse women's pants!). On our last hike I promised I'd set her up with a fanny pack (which are all the rage in the backpacking world), but quickly forgot that promise.

As a field expedient solution I emptied out a 1 quart Ziplock bag and attached the 3ft piece of cordage I carry on my keychain to it. The result was a sort of neck wallet thing that dangled from her bag's sternum strap. It held the map and her phone perfectly and provided easy access throughout the hike. She was quickly sold on the solution and declared it more functional than a fanny pack. By the end of the hike I started brainstorming about how I could craft a more robust version, but she insisted that she likes the Ziplock bag and string solution.

Let's Hike

We made our way through the first half of the hike without incident. I found plenty of interesting plants to photograph and review later for identification, as well as the usual millipedes, ladybugs and caterpillars to stop and gawk at. We saw some crazy fungi, including the the spooky looking ghost pipe and what appeared to be chicken of the woods (yum!).

The view at Bear Church Rock didn't disappoint. Perhaps most importantly, the day was hot and sunny but nearly all the hike was under cover, which made it far more comfortable.

We saw signs that we missed mountain laurel and pink lady slipper blooming, and we were too early for the raspberries. Had we hit any of these at peek bloom I would no doubt be raving as to how amazing this trail was.

We had solitude for most of the trail, seeing 3 or 4 groups of people the entire time. The quiet was nice, but no doubt contributed to the overgrowth of the trail. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but for some sections the overgrowth was made up of stinging nettle. There was one section in particular when we found ourselves walking through a trail that was getting choked out by waist high stinging nettle. Ouch.

By the time we hit the Stauton River Trail, we knew that we'd have to walk considerably longer than the 11 miles promised in the trail description. Part of this was because we added an extra section of the Cat Knob trail, but even with this addition we think the distance of the route is off.

My eyeballing of the map suggested the side trip to the radio tower be a quick one. Of course I was wrong. For nearly a mile we trudged up steep, rocky and unstable ground in hot sun.

At the top, we found not just one radio tower, but a collection of them. If you're a fan of radio towers (and who is?) this may be exciting. For everyone else, this was probably more of a "so what?" moment. Behind one of the radio towers there was a large boulder which offered a nice view. Was this view worth the slog up and knee busting walk down back to the trail head? Depends who you ask. Me: heck yeah! Shira: are you kidding me? No.

Compared to the radio tower slog, the rest of the hike went by with relative ease. Again, I misread the map bracing myself for a massive uphill at the end, only to find that, yes the trail climbed back up to the ridge but it wasn't brutal.

One Last Surprise

As we finished the last .5 mile on the AT, I started to think about this blog post. Specially, about the wildlife we'd seen this trip. Sure, we saw the deer and turkey in the morning, but other than that, we hadn't seen much (not that millipedes and lady bugs aren't special). As we rounded the corner, 500 feet from our car, Shira stopped me: snake! Sure enough, overflowing onto the trail was a big, black snake.

The first order of business was to get pics. Which I'm glad to report I did. And then we had to consider how we were going to get past this guy. By then, another couple had walked up behind us and we discussed our options. Our talking alone didn't scare the snake off, so we made more noise. That finally seemed to do the trick and the snake started to slither back into the bushes. And when he did we all heard the distinct rattle. In no great hurry, Mr. snake retreated part-way into the undergrowth, where I could plainly see his rattle. After a few more moments, he slithered a bit further away from the trail and we made a break for it.

The Shenandoah NPS website reports that there are 16 species of non-venomous snakes and two species of venomous snakes in the park. The venomous include the copperhead and timber rattlesnake. If the rattling sound and visible confirmation of the rattle weren't enough, Google Lens piled on with its assessment: we clearly encountered a timber rattlesnake.

Shira and I have seen plenty of snakes before, but this is our first rattle snack and first venomous variety. This as an especially interesting find because timber rattlesnakes are a State endangered species.

This was a remarkably cool way to close out an outstanding day of hiking.

The Final Take

In the end, we covered 15.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,822 feet. I consider the extra mileage a nice bonus, Shira thinks this is a case of false advertising. Either way, it was one epic day of hiking.

Overall the trail was pleasant, well marked, well shaded and had quality water sources. The stinging nettle overgrowth was annoying, and for Shira was enough of a reason to avoid this hike. While I'm more positive about the trail, even I I can't categorize this as a must-do tail. But that's more a measure of how spoiled we are in Shenandoah, which offers countless trails to explore.