Centennial Trail

Looking Down On Sheridan Lake On Our Way to Hiking Well Into The Night

A couple of friends and I decided with very little planning to hike the Centennial Trail. I had been eying it since I took a vacation to the area with my family. For the most part it was exactly what we expected it to be. I did not keep a journal or daily notes or anything since all of our phones/batteries experienced issues. Below are the trip highlights (from the best of my recollection).

Pre-trip – The drive up was relatively uneventful except that I swore I saw a mountain lion in the rolling plains of the Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado border. I actually had to look up mountain lion ranges in the area on my phone I was so sure. It was larger than a coyote/bobcat and looked like it was stalking something.

We stopped in the town of Pringle as the sun set to take a look at an odd bicycle sculpture and to grab some beer from the local bar/eatery. We then drove to a dirt road in the National Forest on the way to Wind Cave National Park, pulled in, set up tents, and drank our beer as lightning flashed in the distance. At some point of time Eric mentioned that he found a Tick … neat.

I turned in around 11 I think, and woke up a couple of hours later to lighting striking closer and closer. Eric was pitched under a large pine tree so I called out to him to ask him if he was going to head to Daniel’s car, but did not get an answer. I spent the next 15-20 minutes counting down thunder claps until lighting was striking consistently within 1/4 miles of us … then fell back to sleep as it moved off into the distance.

Day 1 … Bear Butte to Alkali Creek TH – 16.2 Miles: We woke up, pounded down fruit/breakfast and cold coffee drinks, and made our way over to the southern terminus of the Centennial Trail in Wind Cave National Park. There I waited for our shuttle while Daniel and Eric headed out to register the car for overnight parking at that trailhead. While waiting a couple of NP rangers drove in an spoke to me, asked me what we were doing, sounded surprised that we were hiking the whole trail, acted incredulous that we wanted to do it in about a week, and warned me that Bison are dangerous. There were nice though and did offer up some helpful info.

Our shuttle arrived and we began our trip North to Bear Butte. She told us about her day care business and her shuttle businesses which offered services to outdoorsy people like ourselves, as well as people would want to party in a bus and tour the local strip clubs. Interesting. She seemed nice, but turned out to be shady as fuck … more on that later.

We swung by one of her other businesses, a bicycle shop, so she could have her daughter take us the rest of the way. Eric, Daniel and I headed next door to a coffee shop that seemed like it was run straight out of someone’s kitchen. The poor proprietor was completely unprepared for our arrival and we ended up waiting like 35-40 minutes just to get our three coffees and pay. The casual black hills pace would be one of the themes of the day.

Ruth Langmore (as our new chauffeur eventually came to be known), was a sweet local college student working on her nursing degree. She seemed like she was helping mom out and did not know a lot about the area attractions, geography or events other than telling us about the Sturgis layout (insane) and a Snoop Dog concert she attended there a while back (also surprising). She also told us when asked that Sturgis began in the late 1800’s when people just randomly rode their motorcycles there … interesting.

We stopped in the town of Nemo to drop off our resupply bags at the Nemo Guest Ranch, where we proceeded to discuss our route and water situation with the owner, Troy. It seemed like he could talk to us for hours about all of this but we politely excused ourselves after 15 minutes and headed past Fort Mead and up to the Bear Butte park entrance. It was 2 PM.

So this is where it all begins. We finished all the snacks we did not want to carry, used the restroom, snapped some pics and headed up. The weather was a little tricky due to the coolness and high winds, so we had to quickly adjust heading up. We ended up passing everyone on the way up, even a super fit mother and her younger teenage son. All in all I think we summitted in about 50 minutes.

At the top there were beautiful Lokota streamers hanging from the trees and even a local native who was chanting on the East ridge of the mountain. I kind of felt like an ass being there then. We headed down and began our long walk across the grasslands toward Fort Meade.

Lokata Streamers at the Top of Bear Butte.

On the way 2 Fort Meade we noticed that we were picking up ticks on our legs again. A lot of hikers were pants just for this reason, but it was often very easy for us to spot when another one of us had picked up a tick since we are all some damn pasty. We got into the habit fairly early of checking ourselves every few minutes. We did run into a family (husband, wife and young kid) who were just working their way to the Northern finish along with their support vehicle. Very cool.

Fort Meade was a picturesque little historic town, with a beautiful service cemetery up on a ridge. We spoke a little bit about war movies and books and the sacrifices that the all vets, especially and including 20th century war vets made.

Shortly afterward we got lost for the first time and ended up adding about 1/2 – 3/4 miles to our first day. We also learned that given the choice between going from point a to b directly, and meandering sometimes pointlessly, that this section of the trail would choose the latter. We hobbled into our camp site at Alkali Creek as the sun was going down and were excited to have a fire pit, running water and restrooms.

That night I lay in my tent replaying the days’ events and discovered a tick in my tent which for some stupid reason I flicked and could not find, which led to me spending about 20 minutes with my headlamp on unsuccessfully looking for him. Eventually I fell “asleep” but awoke to anything and everything that felt like it was moving.

Day 2 Alkali Creek TH to Bluff Above Elk Creek – 18.2 Miles: I found Mr. Tick in the morning still crawling around the inside of my tent but thankfully not on me. I disposed of him with a special sort of disdain and went about the process of packing everything up. I think this began a long and recurring series of tick related jokes and names. I certainly cannot recall all of them over the course of the trip, but some are below:

  • Names
    • Tick Van Dyke
    • Tick Tracy
    • Tickhole Kidman
    • Tick Perry
    • Tick Offmeman
    • Tick Nolte
    • Tickless Cage (what my tent eventually came to be called)
    • John Tick 3 (The third tick I found on my leg)
    • and of course … Tick James of the “I’m Tick James Bitch” fame
  • Dad jokes
    • Me: “Hey Eric … do you know what my favorite genre of comedy is?”
    • Eric: confused a little … “No … what”
    • Me as I slap a tick off my shin: “slapstick”

You get the idea. They were stupid and relentless and tired and juvenile and absolutely wonderful especially considering none of us were all-to-excited to have ticks gnawing on our tender-bits.

I think this was the morning where I noticed my battery pack that I used to charge my phone overnight had somehow drained juice out of my phone. So here we were not even a day into our trip and I was at like 30% battery. Oh yeah I should mention that Eric and I reminded Daniel to bring a wall wart when we met him at his house in Denver so we could charge our phones when we were around outlets. He did bring it … an then proceeded to leave it in the car at the southern terminus … foreshadowing.

We ate breakfast, did our business and headed out, and already the heat and humidity were pretty bad. We knew from my InReach mini weather report that today was going to be on the warm side (I vaguely recall about 87 degrees and humid).

As we meandered through a beautiful, peaceful section of trail in the pines, we came across a sign informing us that we could ring a bell and possibly hang out with a dog owned by a local family, named Poett. He had a pretty interesting setup with a cool wooden gate. We rang the bell but he did not come.

Poett, the official Centennial Trail Dog

We continued on the steamy trek and had to battle chaffing surprisingly early. I think Eric came across a snake somewhere along this stretch, which was probably our first snake run in. It was harmless though. The heat seamed to be zapping us of energy though and we had to stop to take a couple of breaks after lunch. This was also one of the driest sections of trail and I was completely out of water by the time we reached Elk Creek.

At Elk Creek, we sat in the cold water and enjoyed every minute of an hour or so just soaking and drinking/filling up water bottles. I had experienced this a little during the Padre Island Thru-hike, where I was literally putting down 150 ounces of water a day and still getting dehydrated. The also seemed to occur on the Centennial Trail, where I often approached or exceeded 200 ounces of water daily. On the Colorado Trail (from Denver to Durango, in arid climate often at high altitudes), I rarely exceeded 100 ounces a day.

This is where things got fun … for me anyways. After we got done wading and drinking we all dried our feet and put our socks and shoes back on. We hiked for a few minutes only to come across yet another crossing of Elk Creek. I looked at my phone/map and determined that we were going to have a few of these, so I donned my camp slippers and just powered through. Neither Daniel or Eric brought camp slippers though so they had to go through the shoes+socks off, wade through, dry feet, shoes + socks on process each crossing. I just meandered a head a little ways and enjoyed the view. I shot the picture below while laughing after Eric and Daniel turned a corner only to realize they would have to do this all again.

I could lip-read the “$#%@” from across the creek.

I hurried ahead again and met with a couple who had started on the South end. They warned us about another couple behind them with an asshole dog, and told us that all had been quiet for them for a while on the tick front. They also told me there were good ridge-line camp options 3- miles ahead. I relayed this information to Daniel and Eric and we pushed on toward camp. We were caught in a flash thunderstorm that came about so quick that I did not even have time to get my pack cover out. One minute we heard some thunder, the next we saw rain coming at us across the valley, and by minute 3 we were in small hail and rain, huddled down a ways off the ridge by a rock. It did not last long however and we were on our way soon. It turns out that was 1 of the only 2 times we would get caught in any kind of weather and in both occasions the storms just grazed us while being much worse only a few miles away. There ended up being about half a dozen occurrences on the trip where it storms and even hailed to the point where hail accumulated, even with 75 MPH winds, only a few miles from where we hiked or camped. All said and done we were really lucky on the weather front.

The views along this stretch of the hike were stunning, looking down on impressive bluffs above Elk Creek. When I imagined hiking the Centennial Trail in the past, this was the kind of scenery that came to mind. Quite beautiful.

We found a relatively flat and quiet patch of land where most of the pine trees had been logged which offered great, and surprisingly tick free camping. We had made descent mileage despite the 2 hours of creek time and taking shelter from the storm.

Day 3 … Bluff Above Elk Creek to Nemo – 14.0 Miles: We knew we had a more pleasant hike ahead of us on Day three though we had some differences regarding plans. Eric typically wants to press though and bang out 20-25 miles at all cost. Daniel is often more laid back. I tend to lean in either direction depending on how I am feeling. In the past I have been critical of myself for being more concerned with reaching the destination than enjoying the trip itself. Cliche I know but it is something I contend with.

After about 6 miles of hiking we arrived at Dalton Lake, and took a dip in the creek below the damn. Another wonderful little break. From there we headed uphill and for the second time took a wrong turn. I think we ended up on the ATV 89 trail instead of the regular 89. While we were wondering around in the wrong direction Daniel came across a Grouse that was not at all afraid of human contact.

Shortly afterward I rolled me ankle to the ground and had to deal the adrenaline that comes with that for a mile or so. This section of trail was honestly shitty, often rutted out from ATV and off-road use. We again got off track above Nemo and our GPS tracks were off from our intended route. This probably added a mile to our trek. In the end we decided to follow the tracks we had downloaded on our phones would let us down a gully with older 89 signs. It was apparently that older spur of the trail was no longer in use though.

Once we reached the highway we witnessed an interesting altercation between a couple of birds (crows?) an Eagle, and a duck. The Eagle was trying to swoop in and kill/eat the duck while being pursued by the 2 birds. Not exactly sure what was going on there. The hike into town from there was short.

I headed straight to the gas station once we hit town, and literally bought 4 drinks and fruit flavored Popsicle. They did not have a wall wart so we were still left to our own devices regarding charging our phones. Eric and Daniel were over at the Nemo guest ranch talking with Troy and company. He told us about the history of the ranch, and Nemo itself, and how he had worked as a set designer for Siegfried and Roy back in the day.

Nemo Guest Ranch Back in the Day

Behind the guest ranch is a restaurant. We spent about 2 hours sitting on that porch drinking beer, eating cheese curds, wings, and anything else we could get out hands on. Oddly enough this was one of the highlights of the trip. Truly enjoyable. Eric, who was probably upset inside because we would not get 25 miles that day, even decided to go for a ride on their merry-go-round. The campsites and amenities were nice too. I made my way back over to the gas station before they closed and purchased a Hamm’s Beer Shirt and of course a 16oz Hamm’s because Eric would call me a fraud if I wore the shirt on the rest of the hike without ever having tasted the beer.

Troy Would Not Approve of This

Day 4 – Nemo to Tamarak Gulch TH – 19.15 Miles: Leaving the relative comfort of Nemo was a little hard, but we were all excited to arrive at Pactola Lake later in the day. We had driven past it while being shuttled to the North end of the trail and it was beautiful. It was also the largest lake we would encounter on the trail.

We meandered around 4WD and ATV roads SW of Nemo and if I am not mistaken came across our first snake of the trip, through not a rattler. Storms were again brewing off to the South of us. We cross a road near the Wonderland Cave and entered a really flowy section of trail which allowed us to cruise for about 6 miles or so. We all decided to hike about 1/2 mile to the Whispering Pines campground, where we would purchase drinks and ice cream, as well as some general medical supplies. The owner of the shop was a little difficult to figure out, alternating between being curt and friendly. She told us stories about previous hikers being turned around by floods and fires, and discussed the wildlife with us. I spent some time lancing the blister that was now about a quarter size on the bottom of my left foot.

After about an hour we pushed off to head toward Pactola Lake. We had all but decided there was no real way to camp at the lake without adding a couple of miles, so our camping plans for the night were unknown. I fell into a little bit of a funk and let Daniel and Eric lead as I meandered 50 yards or so behind them. I had mentioned to Eric that we should jump in the lake when we get there, but it seemed as if the trail was doing it’s damn best to stay away from the lake. Eric did manage to sneak away in a little cove and jump in, apparently next to a dead fish, while Daniel and I took a break. We eventually crossed HWY 385 and dropped down below the damn to Rapid Creek. From there we were just looking for the nearest place to pitch, which actually ended up being the Tamarak Gulch TH.

I know now why they called this “Rapid Creek”. The water was really moving and getting down to pump or fill bottles was a bit of a challenge. This was also the buggiest place of the whole trail, though we only had a few tick sightings. It looked as if we were going to get clocked by an approaching storm as well so we all decided to retire to our tents early and eat alone. A couple of odd cars/trucks came through there and creeped us out as well.

The Sun Setting on Rapid Creek as a Storm Approaches

Day 5 – Tamarak Gulch TH to Samelius TH- 20 Miles: We were again awake early due to heat and humidity . I had another all night battle with a tick in crawling on the outside of the tent, flicking him off repeatedly only to watch him start climbing again and honing in on me. Fortunately he never found the dime sized tear in the netting. Daniel was dragging a little in the morning and Eric and I were eager to press. I often like taking off early on my own in the morning at a leisurely pace to allow for the muscle/joint aches to work themselves out while my hiking partners push to catch me. I informed Eric that I was going to push ahead and he stayed behind and waiting for Daniel. After a couple of miles I decided to take a break at a trail junction that wasn’t marked particularly well.

We were supposed to get storms (there was about a 80% chance). The afternoon was incredibly muggy. Opportunities for water were everywhere the first several miles. We ran into another couple of hikers who almost stumbled across me doing my business. After a couple of more miles of hiking we came across an expansive tree-free sections which allowed for 360 degree views. Unfortunately it did not offer us much shade from the scorching sun.

An Interesting Open Section of the Trail

We decided to take a quick food break on the back side of the open section as towering storms approached us. Again, incredibly they seem to split all around us and leave us completely dry. We had about 6 miles to Sheridan Lake and at some point of time both Daniel and I got into a really heavy funk. Everything is always press, press, press with Eric, and I was annoyed at the prospect of finishing the trail without as single lake-side camp. Also my lanced blister was now infected and red and my feet in general were beat up. Add to that some issues navigating the trail to Sheridan Lake (yet another fork between human and ATV sections of the trail) and I was not in the best of moods. Frankly for 1-2 hours I just wanted to fucking punch something.

We finally made our way down to Sheridan Lake on the East end near a bunch of high school aged cliff divers. It actually looked quite fun but I was too gassed to walk back over there and get in line for the jump. I was also a little worries about bruising my feet up anymore by hitting the water from a 25 foot free-fall. Regarding my feet, in case I have not already mentioned, I inexplicably left my superfeet in Daniel’s car, and was just rolling around with a stupid light insert about the width of an athletic sock. I was also hiking in ultralight boots so my feet really did end up taking a beating. After a while I joined Eric in the lake which did feel pretty great on the legs. The water temperature was probably in the mid-60’s. We hung around the lake for about an hour or so and then got out, dried off, and headed to the next trailhead around the bend of the lake.

You Can See the Cliff Jumpers Just Left of Center

We were hoping that the Flume TH around the bend would offer water and opportunities to buy food, but that was not the case. We wandered around a bit looking for water and came across a campground with running water and a bathroom, where we decided to use one of their picnic tables to eat dinner. This was a welcome break even though we had just had an hour at the lake about 1.5 miles back. The next section of trail was the longest climb of the entire hike, which was only about 1200 feet or so (laughable by Colorado Trail Standards) but I was tired enough already to press ahead of Daniel and Eric. Again we had no idea where we were going to lay down for the night.

One of the More Scenic Sections of the Entire Trail

An odd thing happened around this point. As we climbed to reach the high point of the trail around dusk, we had views in all directions and all 3 of us had gotten our second wind. Daniel suggested we push through to the end of the segment which would require a couple of hours of night hiking and take us to about 22 miles all said in done (including the upcoming search for the tunnel at the end of the TH and other missteps) and Eric and I were both game. I again, rolled my damn ankle down to the ground but just pressed on. We arrive at Samelius around 9PM and proceeded to spend what seemed like a damn hour looking for the tunnel under HWY 16. All of our phone were indicating that we would cross using a tunnel that was fenced off and certainly not usable. We eventually gave up looking and decided to pitch our tents on a forest service road behind a gate near the TH. Not the best location but we had put down some serious miles.

The Sun Setting on the Ridge Near Mount Warner (Trail Highpoint)

Day 6 – Samelius TH to Mount Rushmore to Iron Creek Horse Camp – 14.8 Miles: We were all really excited to get to Mount Rushmore and eat bison burgers and ice cream. We were able to find the tunnel about 1/4 East of where we were expecting it, but after crossing we lost the trail again. I was annoyed so I pulled up my GPS on my phone and bee-lined to where I knew the trail would be. I eventually found an older section of trail, still with signs up and headed South for a while. After a few minutes I noticed that Daniel and Eric were gone and that I was all alone. I was fairly certain that I was ahead of them due to my direct approach to the trail so I left a cairn and proceeded ahead to an intersection with a dirt road in case they came out there. I ended up having to wait about 20 minutes for them there. They had doubled back and found, lost, and found the real trail.

Views of Black Elk Peak opened up, and there were some really good rocks/boulders for climbing along this section of trail. We only had about 10 miles to Rushmore so we pushed right along, past some large bolted multi-pitch routes that I drooled over (https://www.mountainproject.com/area/105714435/hornets-nest). We finally arrived at the Rushmore turn-off and made our way up to the park. By then we were all running a little low on energy so we had split up. I think I was the first to arrive and quickly went vendor to vendor looking for opportunities to charge my phone … no dice. I headed over in disgust to the cafeteria only to learn that it was closed … no bison burgers for us. There was a snack stand open so I purchased one of the best Root Beer Floats I have ever had, a bunch of other snacks, and about 3 drinks. Eric and Daniel both arrived and purchased a bunch of snacks after facing the disappointment of the cafeteria being closed. We all sat out of the way of the customers, to the side of where the cafeteria lines would be. About 5 minutes into our rest/gorge-fest we were approached by a man who looked like he would play an accountant in a mafia movie, who told us that we could not stay there an eat due to Covid regulations, and that we needed to go outside, which ironically was loaded with people. I actually thought Daniel and Eric were going to hit him.

Hot, Mostly Closed, and Under Construction

So we made our way out to the scorching west side of the plaza, and all sat in little nooks of shade made by pillars. We only had 4 miles to reach the Iron Creek Horse Camp which was our stop for the night. It started to get a little too hot so we finished our snacks and headed to the East side of the monument, which was completed shaded with unused concrete benches. We started talking to a couple of rangers who were inquiring about our plans. One of them kept mentioning that we had to summit Black Elk Peak (2 of us already had in the past), which was kind of funny. He also spoke a little about a handful of Colorado 14ers he had summited.

A huge storm came rolling in as we made our way back to the trail. We got a little bit of rain but again, the bulk of the storm passed just North of us. The hike to the Iron Creek Horse Camp was uneventful, except for some wonderful rock features along the way. The camp itself was fantastic, with the exception of the hornet living in the registration box. We were all alone next to a creek and well-kept bathrooms. As the night progress the clouds were simply doing thing I have never seen before. I believe I saw clouds at different altitudes traveling in all 4 directions (though not rotating). Brilliant mammatus clouds popped up to our west and approached us. I had the feeling that the luck we have had so far was about to come to a dramatic end. We all hit our tents just around 9, hoping for the best. It turns out, we again had just narrowly escaped a rather nasty storm, which dropped quarter sized hail in depths of 1-2 inches just South of us.

Mean Skies

Day 7 – Iron Creek Horse Camp to Legion Lake to Middle of Nowhere Custer State Park – 20.0 Miles: We had another relatively short hike to reach a rest stop at Legion Lake, where we would eat lunch and relax a little. We ran into a slow but well prepared hiker heading North, who mentioned that he was taking notes and surveys to send to whomever to update/fix trail signage. There were some old, interesting fire vehicles out in the middle of the forest as well.

Legion Lake was very scenic, albeit a little crowded. We drank beer and ate Bison Burgers finally, though they were a little bland. We also bought some personal items at their store, and then pushed off into Custer State Park. This part of the hike reminded me of Austin for some reason. A few miles in we saw a bison about 70 yards in the distance on the trail. As Eric, Daniel and I slowly approached in an effort to determine the best way around, I noticed that there was another one, now rising from his dirt bed, about 30 yards in front of us. His posture was much more aggressive than his neighbor. We gave him a wide birth and passed in the pine trees to his south as he eyeballed us.

The Second Bison Mean Mugging Us As We Skirt By

So that was our first Bison encounter of the trip. Could have gone a lot worse really seeing that we unintentionally snuck up to within about 90 feet of the first one, who was also very agitated since we woke him from his nap. We warned a passing party of 4-5 hikers heading North about the 2 Bison and we crossed paths. The next day we would run into the Wind Cave Rangers again and they would inform us that someone (possibly from that party) was gored in the back of the thigh as they ran and medivac’ed out.

We again got well off trail somehow, at least according to the maps and GPS routes we all had on our phones. We were about 1/2 mile east of the trail when we intersected another trail that led to a small horse camp, which might not have even been on our maps. We found an old road which seemed to head in the right direction for a while, and eventually we were back on our route is we dropped down a steep, rocky, gully toward our last horse camp of the trip (French Creek). By my calculations the map/guide book was off by about 2 miles on this section of trail. Up until this point each section had been fairly spot on in terms of distance. This set up back a little ways.

As we approached French Creek it became apparent that crossing it would be a little more difficult than the other fords, so I just plowed right through in my hiking boots without a second thought. I figured it was warm enough that my socks would be dry before we pitched and just kept walking. Daniel and Eric took their shoes and socks off and took their time crossing. Shortly after I reached an even deeper/more swift crossing and just plowed through again. This put me about 15-20 minutes ahead of Daniel and Eric as I entered the French Creek Horse Camp, right next to a Bison that was casually grazing about 100 feet to the West of the TH.

This Guy Did Not Have a Care in the World

I sat in the grass, snacked, used the restroom and dried my socks/shoes. Daniel and Eric arrived and we walked through camp together taking photos of all of the animals, and filled up our bottles. We had another brief discussion about bedding down there (it was very inviting), but instead decided to get as many miles in as we could to shorten our final day, and 7 hour drive home.

As we hiked South about the camp we entered an old burn area. The temperature had cooled a little as yet another storm was brewing to our South. We watched lighting strike ridgelines in the distance many miles ahead as we took in the expansive views.

A Very Peaceful Section of Trail

Shortly afterward we walked into the friggin tick capital of the world. It might have been the long overgrown grass, or the time of afternoon/evening, but these little assholes were “questing” and grabbing on to our legs constantly. In one instance I stopped, flicked one off me, took 3 steps forward and then had another one on my left calf. It slowed us down a little since we were walking about 25-50 feet, then looking down at the front and back of our legs. We eventually broke through that area (I think we picked up about a dozen ticks there all said and done), and approached a dirt road over a creek, which had crappy drinking water. By that point we were tabbing our water because Daniel’s filter was clogged. We decided we all had enough water to get us to the next creek the following day and kept wandering down the trail looking for a place to sleep. There really weren’t a lot of options though so we opted to bed down at a fire service road junction a couple of miles in. We kept hearing some rather weird and loud animal noised by something about 1/4 – 1/2 mile to our East but never determined if it was a Bison. I remember as I lay in my tent thinking of how terrible it would be to wake up to a Bison stomping on my tent.

Day 8 – Middle of Nowhere Custer State Park to Norbeck TH- 9.03 Miles: Most of our hike out was uneventful. As I mentioned above we ran into the 2 Wind Cave rangers as we entered the park. They were a little surprised/impressed by our pace, notified of us the goring, and asked us if we had run into a man named Yia Yang along the trail. Apparently he had gone missing recently. Unfortunately we had not seen him and could not offer any information. They would find his body a couple of days later (https://www.facebook.com/CusterCountySDEM/photos/a.433137263531549/1524217587756839/). Apparently Mr. Yang died of a self inflicted gunshot wound.

A few miles before the end of our journey we reached another open valley populated with about 6-8 bison. For some unknown reason 4 of them broke formation and sprinted/jogged away and across the valley. It was pretty cool to see them moving that fast.

Running Away From Us … Is It The Smell?

The last mile to the car a weird bee-like fly species kept intentionally flying into my eyeballs, landing on my eyelashes, and later flying into my sunglasses when I put them on for protection. I am still not sure what they were or what they were doing, but there is something unsettling about having a potentially harmful, stinging insect on your eyeball.

When we reached the car, we posed for our end of trip photos, downed whiskey and Gatorade, and heading into Hot Springs for fast food. We ended up having to pull over in Cheyenne Wyoming to avoid driving into a massive 200 mile long squall line of severe cells. Once we dropped Daniel off Eric, who thankfully was paying attention slammed on the brakes to prevent a t-bone (right into me) with a woman who inexplicably flew through a red light. She instead clipped the bumper of a car next to us and we spent some time tending to that matter.

Last Time I would See These Trail Posts
The Collective Smell From This Picture Was Formidable

Post-hike … Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance: It is often hard to get back into the rhythm of things after long hikes. I have even read some interesting publications regarding the increased likelihood of depression following thru hikes. Though this was a shorter hike, there were some interesting dynamics of returning to the world of Covid-19 and riots, especially considered we had really only worried about foot, water, weather and ticks for a week. First world problem I know. I did not feel particularly rested when I got back, and actually felt a little more restless than I did prior to leaving for the trip. This was compounded a bit by the fact that my project at work was falling apart, and my teammates frankly have acted as they did not give a fuck, since the responsibility fell on my shoulders.

On top of dealing with the above and worrying about my wife and kids, the damn shittle/shuttle company we used basically stole money from me. In hind sight it was my own down fault for not insisting on a receipt. The thing that bothers me most is that I am 100% certain that is wasn’t accidental, and that this is their MO. Prior to heading out for the trip I had called around to find a shuttle and after calling about 6 places ranging from $200 – $250, I got a hold of “Rabbit Bicycles” who told me they would charge us $185 all inclusive for the shuttle. I got off the phone, ran it by Daniel and Eric, called them back and asked about the Nemo stop along the way so we could drop off supplies. She told me that would be no problem, and I asked TWICE is that was included in the $185 to which she responded yes.

Fast forward to the end of the trip and I notice I had been charged for a little over $252. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I call and ask where that total came from, and she informed me on the phone that it was $185 + $20 for the Nemo stop (I am already pissed there), and the rest is tax. I did a little math in my head and on the basis of the above statement she said she had charged north of 20% tax. I asked her what the tax rate was, and she said there were 2 taxes, one of 8% and one of 3%. I know this was bullshit because I can do elementary math, so I asked for a receipt. She hung up and emailed me the receipt below (notice the tax lines) with my forged signature (funny). Good times. I notified my credit card company and they refunded the money. She did not answer any of my following calls or messages. I will probably reach out to the state comptroller when I have more time.

Centennial Trail Galleries

Outward Bound – Boundary Waters Dog Sledding

Boundary Waters – Day 1: Great Team/Group

Boundary Waters Veteran Dog Sledding Group – March 2020

Our instructors seem nice and genuinely happy to be here. The veterans all seem very laid back and, surprisingly, there does not seem to be an overbearing alpha personality in the groupSteve 2 and I volunteered to get into the river as part of a hypothermia training scenario. I only lowered down to my stomach but the water did not seem that cold despite the ice and snow. I actually felt warm afterward as the other members worked to keep us warm. We shuffled inside and changed into dry clothes.

Steve getting wrapped up after our plunge

The instructors issued us gear for the rest of the night and did their best to ensure we would have everything needed for the upcoming trip. We are all nervous about life after class as COVID-19 continues to spread and our lives change on a daily basis. I know it sounds a bit entitled since we all essentially chose to be here (over paying for cancellation of everything that was purchased for us), but the idea of the world becoming unrecognizable to us by the time we are done with this class and having no real contact to the outside world until then, is a little terrifying. I thought of how expedition leaders hundreds of years ago must have felt the same when leaving for multi-year explorations with little to no communication. We all slept out on the porch as our last dry-run with our new gear before heading out tomorrow.

Notes:

  • Darick – Collects first copy prints of books, like $30k for an original print Walden.
  • Bill (part of original Duluth crew) – Likeable, screwed up his back in a Humvee wreck, was hit by a drunk driver recently and is afraid his back will not allow him to finish the class.
  • Steve (part of original Duluth crew) – Is into marketing, the first person to talk to me on this trip, while we were waiting for a shuttle in Minneapolis.
  • Steve 2 – Goat farmer … loves dogs, interested in climbing Rainier.

Boundary Waters – Day 2: Skiing

Not a long day today, picked out our dogs, drove to drop-off site, rigged up sleds and dogs, and skied about 6 miles. I pulled a pulk with weird plastic bindings that caused my heel to constantly pop out of the binding (kind of looked like a plastic Kinder binding where boot get strapped down). Skis were wax-less and immediately I could tell they were going to be sticky. It was very difficult to get any glide due to the warm temps. I would shuffle and try to kick off the 1 inch of snow that frequently accumulated on my skis but that only allowed me to barely glide for about 20 feet or so before the problem began all over again. My bindings came undone about a dozen or so times until Neal, one of our instructors rigged a bungee cord on them to keep them on. Combination of the snow conditions causing me to randomly stick to snow on downhills, pulk pushing me around, and weird binding put me on my ass a few times. Everyone gave up skiing before we reached camp and either walked in skis or undid their skis and carried them while walking through snow. It was a very frustrating day.

Neal looking back to see if I have fallen on my ass again

On the positive side the day was short, and we arrived into camp around 1PM, which allowed us plenty of time to get all of our work done prior to dinner. We all immediately went to work gathering and processing wood, caring for the dogs, and setting up shelters. Camp is on the North side of a moderate sized lake (August Lake perhaps) that we crossed. Weather is nice, spent most of the day only wearing 2 layers. Getting some alone time with Steve, Bill and Darick.

Bill and I processing wood

I spent a lot of time with a dog named Fleetwood who is black, quiet and very sweet. She is an Alaskan Inuit and one of the 2 dogs that I helped load into the truck-kennel. Her demeanor sets her apart from most of the other dogs. Darick, Bill, Steve and I all slept with “Fry Pan” one of the lead dogs, and ended up laughing our asses off for a good 5-10 minutes prior to falling asleep.

Meeting Fleetwood

Post note: I did not know it then but Darick, Bill, Steve and I had already established our little group and would do most everything together for the rest of the trip.

Boundary Waters – Day 3: Dog Sledding

I finally got to dog sled! It seemed fairly straight forward to control speed and stop. The dogs are unbelievably eager to get to pulling. It seems that the only things they care about in the world are eating and pulling. I have to shout to my two lead dogs “Sunbeam … Fry Pan … ready dogs … let’s go” and they immediately take off. It’s worth noting that for some reason the “let’s go” has to be in a high pitch voice, which evolved to become more and more ridiculous each time I say it. There is a dog-fight early on while we are harnessing dogs that leads to “Grey Jay” getting a nasty gash on his nose and bleeding everywhere. “Fry Pan” was also involved and though it looked like she was okay she began limping heavily midway through the day (a long 8-10 mile day in thick snow with sleds full), and she began stopping altogether which caused the other dogs to quit. I brought this to the attention of Neal, who discussed the situation with Nora (most dog-savvy instructor) and they decided to strap her to the back sled and replace her with another dog. There were 4-6 other dog fights and for some reason Fleetwood was often involved as the aggressor. Steve and I had to push the sled quite a bit as the dogs were getting gassed and the trail was rutted out with sharp uphills and little run-offs. I even drove the sled over Steve a little when I was trying to get it back on the trail by applying the brake (in powder) while telling to dogs to pull. Lesson learned there. We learned toward the end of the day would could keep from running off course a little on the sharp downhills by stomping down on one side of the drag brake and standing on the inside skid and leaning. Funny that it took us this long to figure this out. Part of the reason why we were experimenting with steering was because our strongest pull-dog, “Papa” in the back was consistently pulling us off and to the right even if the low and easy path was left, possibly just by his strength and position on the rope.

Beautiful sledding across a frozen lake to begin the day

Once we arrive to camp I spend a little time setting up shelters and then process wood with Bill and eventually Steve. The instructors have gone out their way to get to know many of the students so far.

We set up a large expedition style canvas tent with a wood stove and that is where the cooking is done. Once dinner is ready we all piled into the smokey, steaming hot tent and eat, and then the typical, nightly, why are you here questions came out. Today’s question was what three things are going great back home and what three things aren’t. The smoke is burning my eyes so I just close them and kind of sit and listen quietly as everyone takes turns talking about things they are struggling with. Steven (non-Ukrainian) puts himself out there by talking about some of the post war things he is dealing with and how it is causing distance between him and his immediate family. He says he has difficulty with nit-picking imperfections at home. Sadly I can relate to most of this. It is very honest moment and no one really knows what to say. After a moment of silence I offer my answers:

Three things going well:

  1. I am at a position at work now, due to tenure where I pretty much get to choose what I want to work on
  2. Small things like a wonderful bouldering trip with Jade last summer up in New England. For some reason a couple of particular moments from this trip are replayed heavily.
  3. My wife and I have been married a long, long time and I pretty much get to do anything I want to when many of my friends do not have any such freedom.

Three things not going well:

  1. I need a better relationship with Logan. I talk about how fun our Boston trip was.
  2. I miss riding my motorcycles, like really miss riding them.
  3. I am not sure I am happy in my job. I know it sounds cliche but sitting down all day really does not make me happy. I often dream about working for forest services or as a ranger if pay was not a concern. I even stare out of my window at the construction workers building shit in the snow and get jealous, which is just ridiculous.

Notes: Darick, Bill, Steve and I are getting along great. I have had little to no communication with Ashley or the twins. Today Logan had to step outside the canvas tent to drop second pant layer to dry out/cool down and he came back in with his outer pants around his ankles and said “Don’t look at me … I’m hideous”.  The way he said this was pretty damn funny. Logan skied out with “Grey Jay” and “Fry Pan” so they can be evacuated and in “Grey Jay’s” case, retired (I think). 2 new dogs (“Wednesday” and another are brought it)

At one point of time one of the instructors whipped out the surprise of the night, a jar of salsa to throw on our dinner. Everyone spontaneously erupted to a loud cheer of “SALSAAAAAAA” which kind of caught the instructors off guard. The told us that they cannot recall such an animated reaction to any of the treats they have offered in the past, let alone salsa. I was just glad it wasn’t just me who broke the silence by shouting.

Boundary Waters – Day 4: Solo

It is finally solo day. We gathered around early and the instructors did everything they can do to make sure we wouldn’t kill ourselves, and remind us half a dozen times not to blow our whistles unless life, limb, or eyes are in jeopardy. Many of the vets are pretty nervous about setting off on their own. I know Darick and I have been looking forward to it and are completely at ease. I imagine Ashley is as well. I grabbed a bunch of birch bark (we were told this is great kindling) to use as fire-starter and showed a few others where they can find some.

Weather was still great, probably in the 20’s with small flakes falling from time to time. Very peaceful. We headed out and I got dropped off in an alcove on the lake Southeast of where we slept the night before (I am on the North shore of Omaday Lake). Wolf tracks ran right through my camp and the silence was deafening. I had not realized how loud 16 dogs and 11 people have been over the last 3-4 days.

Wolf tracks

First thing I did was shit. I know, not something you want to hear about but I could write an entire blog post about the tranquility of that shit. I farmed a bunch of snowballs and stashed them by my “shitter” in case I needed them in the future. This turned out to be a great idea. After I did my business I built my shelter using a tarp, some twine, 2 poles and truckers hitches. It was a pretty simply setup off under some pine trees. We were told it is going to snow/sleet so I wanted to take advantage of the trees. Kind of funny for some reason a bowline was easier for me to tie than a trucker hitch.

Home for the night

It is good to be alone. No, it is GREAT to be alone. We have had little to no time to ourselves since the trip began because there is always something to do and somewhere to go. The work and movement itself is not hard, but the breakneck go-go-go pace of everything really makes me appreciate me not having to do a damn thing now. I am confident in my shelter, confident in my skills, and I can spend the next 18-20 hours or so doing whatever I damn well please.

Songs rang through my head in the silence. I gathered firewood for a while and decided to lay down in my shelter. I ended up taking a short nap. It dawns on me that today we are the dogs. Each night we chain the dogs up wherever we camp using ice screws and metal guy wire. I noticed the first night that they are chained so that they are just out of reach of each other and find that a little odd. I wonder if they would not like to lay together in the cold. Now we (the vets) are all out of reach of each other and I totally get it and no longer feel sorry for the dogs at night.

I woke up from my nap and sat around a bit before eating the 3 Jolly Ranchers given to me by our instructors. I laid on my back in the snow while eating my last Jolly Rancher and began to doze off again. This was not the best idea. I was so utterly comfortable, content, and relaxed I damn near choked to death. When I woke up in a panic from said choking, I thought of how funny (okay morbidly funny) it would be for the OB crew to have to explain to my family that I had choked on something when I was out by myself and died. I figured they would issue an Outward Bound policy to all instructors that participants would only be allowed life savers in the future. This made me laugh to myself a little.

I spent more time processing wood and building a fire platform. After a little while I headed over to my shelter to pass out for a proper nap. This was one of the best naps I have had in a long, long time. I awoke around 16:00 to the sound of Logan asking me how I was doing and if I wanted a dog. I told him that I wasgreat and that I would like Fleetwood if possible since she was so bitchy yesterday.

Firewood processed, and fire roaring

I fought the urge to begin a to-do list. I am not exaggerating when I write that. I can’t help but to think something must be wrong with me. We haven’t had any time to ourselves until today, and my thoughts raced uncontrollably from topic to topic. I am afraid of not being “in the moment” again. I think about the end of the trip and how I am just going to blink and it will all be over, and I will be sitting on a bus, shuttling to the Minneapolis airport wearing my “I came, I saw, I OB’d shirt”. I always have a tendency to look ahead to the end of whatever I am doing. I am in the process of re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Pirsig really hammers home the folly of not being attentive to the now. In short the journey really is the destination. These thoughts made me want to write more to preserve my thoughts and feelings throughout the trip.

I also thought about COVID-19 and what is happening to the world while we are all off-grid. It presents an “I think I left the stove on” feeling that just does not go away. I never know when the thought will pop up during the trip but it does so, repeatedly without warning. I take a little comfort in knowing that everyone else is coping with this too.

I headed to the lake to get my fire going. It was ridiculously easy to start with Birch bark. Right before I put my food on Logan appeared with Fleetwood. I took a video of her arrival and tied her to a tree. I boiled my pots of water and cook the Ramen, veggies, and sausage that was provided to us and relaxed a little while eating and drinking my tea. I had saved about half of my firewood to put back for future Outward Bounders but about 10 minutes into relaxing I convince myself that we are probably the last winter group that will come through here until late next year, and that there is more than enough downfall and dead branches to sustain campers for years to come. A poem pops into my head …

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I did my very best to burn a hole to the bottom of the lake. I ended up with a 5 foot wide 30″ deep crater I would have to fill in the morning. The following day I was told by a handful of people that they could see my fire from across the lake.

After tending to my fire, I cleaned up, brushed my teeth, fed Fleetwood her lard, and led her over to the shelter area. I was able to tie her up so she could sleep right next to me without any risk of her peeing on my gear. This day was everything I imagined the trip to be. I closed my eyes and fell asleep to the gentle sound of snowflakes on my tarp.

Boundary Waters – Day 5: Last Night Out

I slept pretty well last night, only occasionally waking up to see Fleetwood starring at me. It took me about 30 minutes to pack up and head over to the group campsite where we had a big breakfast waiting on us.

Fleetwood and I heading back to camp

After eating I was treated to skijoring for the first time, which was absolutely wonderful. The snow that had fallen over the last couple of days had made the ski conditions much more favorable. It felt a little foreign to fight keeping my balance as a sled dog pulled me along but I started getting a feel for it and relaxed a little toward the end of my 5 minute run.

I could get used to this

I knew we were looking at a short, last night out and was looking forward to getting another shot at skiing, perhaps with better conditions. We packed up camp and headed out and immediately I felt the kick and glide I had grown accustomed to in Colorado. I was not pulling a sled this time around so I really got to hang back and take pictures when I wanted to, and just glide along through the wonderful, peaceful Minnesota woods. This was one of the 2-3 ah-ha this is what I signed up for moments. I was on cloud 9. I was so happy that I paused for a short while for my only selfie of the trip. I wanted to remember that moment, and being in that moment.

Wonderful ski day

The rest of our last ski day was fun, quiet, and relatively uneventful. I did get to talk to Ashley briefly and to no surprise, beneath the guarded exterior was a very intelligent and ridiculously capable person. I think most everyone knew this already. She was a Hahvahd grad would had recently summited Denali, and I think Aconcagua in the past. She had been waist deep in adventure for quite a while.

We eventually made our way to a little alcove on a river a few miles from base camp. The center (moving) portion of the river was not frozen. It was a quiet little spot, shielded from the wind with a good view across the ice. We didn’t need to concern ourselves as much with firewood gathering and processing since we had amassed and pulled quite a load on one of the dog sleds. We still had to tend to our dogs, make sure they were happy, chained, fed, and healthy, and setup our shelters. I volunteered to help cook for the first time which meant I could sit around the fire and prepare food. For the life of me I cannot recall what I cooked but I recall it being with Darick.

Cooking duty aint bad

We gathered around the fire when the food was ready, ate, answered our question of the day and laughed and conversed. I recall Neal busting out some form of snack/dessert and all of us getting a little excited. The sun set across the river in dramatic fashion and the temperature lowered quickly. I took my watch off and hung it on one of the tent guy-lines for a reading. After dinner we ran around camp to warm up prior to jumping into our sleeping bags. Typically routine.

Fire and a sunset

Boundary Waters – Day 6: Heading Back to Base Camp

When I awoke the next morning my watch read 6 degrees F. Not insanely cold by any shake of the stick, but colder than anything we had experienced thus far. We all quickly huddled around the fire for breakfast and fed our dogs. I think we all were very conscious that we would be back to base camp within a few hours, with beds, bathrooms, running water, and technology. We were told the travel for the day would be about 3 miles.

It was my last day dog sledding. I had learned a little, gotten better at steering for sure. Steve was joyfully running along and filming everything. As we approached base camp we turned onto a packed, snowy road. This is where it became somewhat hard to stop the dogs, okay actually impossible to stop them alone. Up until this point Steve would jump off and go take pictures and I could dig my arms under the sled frame to shove the brake teeth into the snow and stop them easily. The first time Steve stepped away on this road the dogs, probably sensing they too were close to home, took off. I stood and pulled up as hard as I could on the brake and even tried applying another foot on the drag brake, and they just drug me along like it was nothing. Steve was able to jump on and help me stopped them before things got out of hand.

Approaching the kennels

Once we reached the Kennels we had to secure the dogs, provide one last health and welfare check for each of them, and then take them back to their spot in the yard. This was an oddly sentimental moment since we all knew we would not see them again. After dropping off the dogs we headed over to base camp to turn in all of our gear, and to dry out everything we had taken, which was a lengthy and involved process.

Base Camp

We all had a few minutes to check with family on our phones. Laura and the kids were doing fine. I really didn’t have a lot of time to catch up with them. I am not sure if I learned then or later that Steve had a friend who had died of COVID-19 while we were out. Apparently his last words were, “I just don’t want to die”.

Eventually we made our way back down to the river and sauna, where we would jump into the icy cold river wearing wool socks, and then shiver and shuffle our way over to the sauna for about 30 minutes before repeating the process. This was a surprisingly comfortable evolution, and it was quite relaxing. We all did about 5 round prior to heading back to base camp for a shower. On the last round I challenged myself and others to stay under for about 10 seconds (head and everything), which sound insanely easy. After playing with Wim Hoff stuff for a while I was able to hold my breath for about 3 minutes last year, which is good for me. The second your head went under that cold water though you could just feel the air being sucked out of you as every muscle in your body tensed up. Add to that the unsettling feeling of drifting down the river a little, and it was genuinely hard to stay under just 10 seconds.

Wish my mother was here for this

The shower and dinner that followed were nothing short of heavenly. I was pretty dingy after 5 days of smoke, sweat, and grit. Having a hot meal and dessert was great too. After eating we were introduced to a couple of other teams who had just returned from being out in the sticks, including a group of teenagers who had been out for about 60 days I think. We were tasked with doing dishes for everyone, and it was kind of funny to see how effortlessly we self-organized to knock that out.

At some point of time we returned to the dog yard for our final ceremony. We were asked what we took away from the course, told that we all passed, and asked if we would award ourselves with an pin symbolizing excellence. We were all told to close our eyes and hold out our hands if we thought we were deserving. After this we were told to explain our decision to either take or turn down the pin. A couple of people shared a similar answer with me, that excellence is really the best of the best, statistical outliers, etc. I believed I came in with a wealth of experience yet even with that experience only performed adequately. It was an interesting question. To this day I do not know if I grasp the philosophical depths of our answers. Maybe people like me are just destined to wander through life thinking we have not achieved excellence in anything? Have I achieved excellence in anything (volleyball)? I know I am good at a lot of things, but good cannot hold a candle to excellent. I snuck out to take a picture of some of the dogs and of the shack we huddled in. Right then and there I was struck by the realization that we would be back in our airport shuttles en route to returning to family and COVID-19 tomorrow.

The dog shack

Boundary Waters – Day 7: Returning Home

The shuttle ride back to the airport was similar to the shuttle ride in. We all had our own conversation groups and I spent most of my time trying to replay the whole experience while soaking in the Minnesota scenery as it whizzed by. I had no idea when I would be back.

Once we arrived at the Duluth airport I raced off to charge my phone so I would have some sort of entertainment as I traveled all day. I kind of liked the Duluth airport, even though is was incredibly tiny.

I see what you did there MN

Once through security I purchased a couple of things and hung out briefly with Martin, a straggler from one of the other groups. He told me he was from San Fransisco and that his mother was worried. A few days later we would get call from the Outward Bound director so he could inform us that Martin was presumptive positive and that we should all self isolate/quarantine as if we were too. It turned out Martin did not have COVID-19 but it gave me a little bit of a scare since I had minor cold-like symptoms.

I split once and for all from everyone at the Minneapolis Airport. There the Buffalo Wild Wings employees were so happy to see me (they were all just sitting in the dining area at a table without customers, cooks and all) that they gave me a bunch of free food and sat around me and talked about the trip and Coranavirus. Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs airports were equally desolate. I wore a handkerchief over my mouth and nose and received some funny looks through my travel that day. A couple of weeks later and my handkerchief/mask look would be required by Colorado for leaving the house.

Pirsig’s Gumptionology 101

Because with great power comes great respronsitrillitrance

Gumption

Gumption describes exactly what happens to someone when they connect with quality … they get filled with gumption. A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things, he is at the front of the train of his own awareness watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. The gumption filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see, feel and hear the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it. In climbing and other physical pursuits, gumption is akin to “flow state”.

An adequate supply of Gumption is the first and most important tool. Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there is no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it, there is absolutely no way in the world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed … it’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all time and preserved above anything else is gumption.

Gumption Traps

There are innumerable kinds of gumption traps. Essentially anything that can cause one to lose sight of quality and thus lose ones enthusiasm for what one is doing.

There are two main types of gumption traps:

  1. Setbacks – When you are thrown off the quality track by conditions that arise from external circumstances
  2. Hang-ups? – When you are thrown off the quality track by conditions that arise within yourself

Examples of Setbacks (External)

The Out-of-Sequence Reassembly Setback. This typically rears its ugly head right when you think you have it all just about done. You begin the reassembly and then notice a part that was left out. Everything has to come apart again, and this is a major gumption trap. This can require a substantial rest period to re-gain gumption (Pirsig jokes a duration of a month)

Mitigations:

  1. Notebook used to write down order of disassembly and note anything worthwhile for reassembly later on. Notes should pay attention to left hand and right hand, and up and down orientations, and color coding and conditions of wires.
  2. Newspapers opened out on the floor of the garage with all the parts laid out left to right and top to bottom in order of disassembly.

Notes:

  1. Gumption can be salvaged by the knowledge that information may have been gained and that the second assembly will be quicker/cleaner.

The Intermittent Failure Setback. The thing that is wrong becomes right just as you start to fix it. Electrical shorts often fit into this category due to things bouncing around as you ride. As soon as you stop things are okay. All you can really do it try to get things to go wrong again. These become gumption traps when they fool you into thinking you have the thing fixed.

Mitigations:

  1. Wait a descent amount of time before assuming things are fixed (few hundred miles using the motorcycle example).

Notes:

  • Actually more of a gumption trap to the owner who has to take the problem to professionals again and again than to those who struggle through the process themselves, due to knowledge they will gain. You will be more prepared to work on it when the intermittent occurs than professionals.
  • Be mentally prepared for a long fishing expedition

The Parts Setback. The price of the parts are often jacked up due to you not being a commercial mechanic. Also the part might not fit. It is always a major gumption trap to spend the money only to get home and learn that the part you just purchased will not work.

Mitigations:

  1. Know your suppliers, know who is most helpful. Get to know them on a first name basis.
  2. Keep an eye out for price cutters.
  3. Always take the old part with you to prevent getting the wrong part.
  4. Take along machinist calipers with you to be sure you have precise measurements and can compare.
  5. If you have the time, money, and patience, learn to machine your own parts.

Notes:

  • The work of machining your own parts becomes gumption building.

Examples of Hang-ups (Internal)

Value Traps – Those that block effective understanding, the largest and most dangerous group of hang-ups. Generally best to recognize value traps when you are in them and to work on getting through trap before proceeding with work on your project.

Value Rigidity – Most widespread of value traps. If your values are rigid you cannot learn new facts.

Mitigations:

  1. Slow down deliberately to go over ground you have gone over before to verify that the things you thought were important are really important. Just stare at the machine and be interested.
  2. Chase nibbles when fishing. Go from motorcycle mechanic to motorcycle scientist.
  3. Check your ego at the door … be humble. If you have to, fake modesty.

Notes:

  • Often shows up in pre-mature diagnosis. Have to clear your head of old assumptions.
    • We pre-select what we think has value meaning for our problem and ignore the rest.
    • Example of South Indian Monkey Trap, monkey values rice over life, trapped by its value rigidity. Stop yanking and stare at the coconut.

Anxiety – So sure you will do everything wrong you are often afraid to do anything at all.

Mitigations:

  1. Work out your anxieties on paper.
  2. Read every book and magazine you can on the subject.
  3. You are chasing piece of mind.
  4. Organize things.
  5. Avoid fidgety things that can create more problems later on.

Notes:

  • Results from over-motivation, can leads to all kind of errors of excessive fussiness. Jump to conclusions and chase all kinds of errors.
  • It’s okay to make mistake, take solace in the fact that you are least getting an education.

BoredomNot seeing things freshly and lost your beginners mind.Opposite of anxiety, commonly goes with ego problems.

Mitigations:

  1. When you are bored … STOP! Go to a show, take a nap, call it a day, turn on TV.
  2. Sleep. It is easy to sleep when you are bored, and hard to be bored when you are well-rested.
  3. Keep a cup of coffee at the ready.
  4. Turn boring jobs into rituals … reacquaint yourself with the familiar.

Notes:

  • If you press on through boredom you are inviting the BIG mistake.
  • If coffee and rest don’t help you might be suffering from deeper quality problems.  

Impatience – Close to boredom, caused by underestimation for amount of time a job will take.  

Mitigations:

  1. If possible allow an indefinite amount of time for the job, especially for unfamiliar work.
  2. Value flexibility … overall goals must be scaled down in importance, and immediate goals must be scaled up.

Notes:

  • Cleaning up shop is a good example of a scaled down goal. Helps you scale down impatience by helping you find what you are looking for.  

Truth Traps – When the context of your question is too small for nature’s answers.

Mitigations:

  1. When your answer to a test is indeterminate that means that either your tests aren’t doing what you think they are or that your understanding of the context of the question needs to be enlarged.
  2. Do not throw away Mu answers. They are every bit as vital (or more so) than yes or no answers.

Notes:

  • Strong statement could be made that science grows more by its Mu (non-discrete) answers more than its yes or no answers.
  • Yes or no answers confirm or deny hypothesis. Mu is beyond the hypothesis.

Muscle Traps – Those that block psycho-motor behavior. 

Mitigations:

  1. Buy good tools. Good second hand tools are better than inferior new ones.
  2. Bad surroundings fall into this as well. Make sure you have adequate lighting, heat, air, etc.
  3. Avoid out of position work when possible.
  4. Take the time to insure you do not damage things while working on the problem. Handle precision parts gently.
  5. Take more time.

Notes:

  • Primary example is inadequate tools. Muscular insensitivity is another example (bull in china shop).

All in all Pirsig’s outline of gumption traps provide a shortcut to living life. His intention is that if we are aware of the traps that we fall into, and in some cases the underlying cause of those traps, that we can more easily address them, climb out of them, move on and grow. As we get more comfortable and familiar with that process we improve our quality and the snowball continues to roll and grow.

Notes: Watch out for gumption desperation, where you hurry up wildly in an effort to restore gumption to make up for lost time. That just creates more mistakes. Know when to take a long break from your projects.

The Struggle is Real

“To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then *it* will be “here”. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it *is* all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.” – Robert M. Pirsig

2019 Firsts and Notables

  • Symphony with family (Swan Lake)
  • Bought fat-bike
  • Real hangboard training
  • Consistent climbing
  • Downhill skiing with Logan (her first lift ride)
  • Glissading
  • Couloir Climbs
  • Bouldering Enchanted Rock
  • Biked Across San Antonio
  • CMC Trip Leader
  • Jade Driving
  • Acadia peakbagging trip
  • Worked with Acadia guide authors
  • First bikepacking trip
  • Submitted bikepacking route for consideration to bikepacking.com
  • Jade NHS
  • Lincoln Woods bouldering
  • Led Backpacker National Summit Day trip – Massive Mania
  • 5.10
  • Big conference talk (150-200 people)
  • Lab talks
  • Ice level Avs tickets
  • Parking lot altercation at Avs game, ended with me repeatedly kicking a guys van after he intentionally hit our car and tried to back over me
  • RMFI volunteer work
  • Delivered a fawn
  • Pawtuckaway bouldering
  • Jade dorm check-in in Vermont
  • Class 4+ 14ers
  • First live leads on sport routes
  • Presidential Traverse (lite)
  • Finished Colorado Trail !!!!!!!
  • V5
  • Vail pass bike trip with kids, Matt and kids
  • CMC co-led 2 trips
  • V6!!!
  • Khatadhin Knife Edge
  • HAMS
  • New Taco
  • CPR cert
  • Moto wiring fixed
  • Complete carb rebuilds
  • Icy bike wreck
  • Skiing blue lines, caught an edge
  • 8-fiddy
  • Logan lab trip

The Abstract Beauty of a Summer Storm

Beautiful Video by Mike Olbinski

Thud and Blunder Bikepacking

My bikepacking buddy and I threw together an overnight trip from Aurora to Colorado Springs to prep for a longer trip we intend to embark on to celebrate the life of Kit Carson (aptly named the “Blood and Thunder” trip). I had no idea what my daily range would be on a 60 lb. bike, and figured the beginner friendly nature of a trip beginning and ending with food, amenities, and civilization would be a good start. Also I’ve thought about biking from Denver to Colorado Springs just about every time I drive North.

We weren’t really expecting much from this trip on the scenery front, though we planned to pass through Castlewood Canyon State Park and some other scenic spots between Larkspur and Monument. A good chunk of the trip was on paved trails that weaved their way through both Colorado Springs and Denver. The rest of the trip ended up being incredibly scenic once we left the pavement of Denver and climbed up into Castlewood. We made it about 55 miles the first day, with about 2k of climbing. There were 2-3 times when I completely bonked, rested a while, and continued on rejuvenated.

My journal entry from camp, “First BP trip, lots of literal and figurative ups and downs. Bonked/crashed about 25-30 miles in. Felt refreshed after good, heavy dinner in Franktown. From Castlewood on scenery was fantastic … lots of wild turkeys. 55.1 miles in 5.5 hours of moving time. Cramped climbing a hill toward the very end of today. Had to pitch tent/bivy on side of road in some trees since we are surrounded by private, fenced in property. I am worried we will bothered in the middle of night by something, though we have done our best to hide everything. Car driving to the house across the road and up the hill from us drove by, saw my tent light and honked. I suppose they could have been honking at the turkeys on the road … maybe even the tom that won”t shut up. Decided to hike-a-bike 2 hills to stretch the legs out at the end of the ride and that felt amazing. Chain-suck twice on downhills, will have to do something about this. Got a few good laughs and moments of encouragement looking down at Jeff picture by the handlebars. Good service all day. 40-ish miles tomorrow and mostly down hill through the wonderful, flowing New Santa Fe Trail from Monument and into springs. We are planning to end our trip with some Mexican food and Margaritas to celebrate Cinco De Mayo “.

One of the most exciting, and albeit a little goofy aspects of the trip, was the opportunity to finally get some bike porn shots of my Pugsley (Peeg) out in the wild.

Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Looking back toward Castlewood Canyon SP
Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Home sweet camp
Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Home sweet camp 2
Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Views opening up toward Pikes Peak after breakfast
Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Beginning of second day, in perfect weather near Larkspur
Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Near Greenland
Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Wallpaper
Approaching Palmer Lake

PEEG 2.0 – My Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Rig

Bikepacking - My Surly Pugsley Wallpaper

2018 Firsts and Notables

  • NHL Playoff Game
  • Chopsticks
  • Questival
  • Paid of NASA
  • Finally hit my credit score goal
  • Padre Failure
  • Ski Resort Trip
  • Hiked Across San Antonio
  • West Coast Trail
  • First Rifftracks event
  • Royal George (its been decades)
  • Set bike to work speed record, moving time of 52 minutes, moving speed over 15 MPH
  • Played a few rounds of golf with Dad
  • Bought lemonade from a lemonade stand
  • Finished DC badge challenge
  • Capital Reef NP
  • Arches NP
  • Bryce Canyon NP
  • Black Canyon of Gunnison NP
  • 6 NP, cross-country trip with Jade
  • Finally got Longs
  • Tommy Caldwell talk
  • Got Laura interested in climbing
  • Wim Hoff
  • Navy/Air Force game
  • Camped with Moose!
  • 60 mile CT session with Jade
  • Visited Vancouver
  • Moved offices
  • Made progress on CB750 with help from dedicated forum members
  • Got my first real road bike
  • Lazer tag with kids
  • Stopped using work elevator
  • Began climbing in earnest
  • Big Memorial Day car camping
  • Destroyed truck on CastleCon approach (due to mechanic errors)
  • Finished 50 mountains
  • Finished 14 audio books
  • Ate crab pulled right out of a tidal lake
  • Visited a couple of lighthouses
  • Hiked Waldo and Williams Canyon
  • Massive Mania failure

Parenting log 181011

We’ve noticed that kid #2’s grades have been slipping over the last few weeks. We asked her about this, and checked her campus portal and noticed that she had 12 missing assignments 1 day prior to the end of the quarter. She had told me, often with a lot of attitude, that she did not have any school work to do over the last couple of weeks, usually when I caught her messing around on her computer. This is nothing new really, though my wife and I both thought she had turned a corner on this front. Unfortunately for her, we had not checked her grades in a couple of weeks.

I asked to see her computer, and ran some browser history tools (since she has to have a computer for school), and was blown away by the resulting logs/histograms below:

Since kid#2 cannot go to discord, wattpad, furry paws, and her other favorite sites at home, she has been using her school time to surf the web. She informed us that she only did this after she was done with work in class, but the browser history logs for the week indicated that she hit one of her knock-off sites about every 2 minutes during class. You can even tell by looking at the histogram when she is at lunch, and when she is in transit either to or from school. She had a couple of days, once of which she had 5 missing assignments, where she logged over 1000 hits. I am looking forward to showing her teachers this, and installing a HIDS on her machine.




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