Digital Fitness. There’s an app for that.

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Home gym.

Home Gym, November 26, 2022 — Being in shape has been a lifelong priority.  Fitness itself is not the primary objective.  Instead, being in shape is a means to a higher quality of life and an open invitation to activities denied those who have gone to seed, especially at my age.

I doubt it will extend my life my much, if at all.  I do think it immeasurably improves quality of life and experience.

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Being fit allows me to hike hundreds of miles with far younger people as a peer, not an elder for whom they have to stop and wait.  While we can find meaningful trail work for almost any level of fitness, the fit folks can do the good stuff – carry heavy tools on strenuous approach marches, work with big rocks and heavy timber,  and schlep chainsaws up and over the mountain du jour.

It truly makes a difference when you can run with the big dogs.

This spring, the balloon popped.  The personal training gym franchise for which I was a loyal customer for 16 years, changed ownership. The previous owner was a bodybuilder/gym rat first and a business owner second.  As a West Point grad, we bonded over our mutual military service.  When he sold, I understood, but was disappointed nevertheless.

The new owner was friendly enough, but was also a newly minted mid-life MBA.  He was amassing a collection of gyms in several states.  For him, it was all about the dollars, and my opinion, very little about sense.  I girded my loins for Mr. Finance.

As I anticipated, he raised my rate.  I was heavily discounted for a couple of reasons, including as one who paid well in advance.  Cash is king in a small business.  Customers who give you interest-free money are the ones to love.

Love wasn’t exactly the new owner’s approach.

A little TLC would have gone a long way toward winning me over. He could have simply said to me, “Hey bro. Thanks for the free classes and hikes you led and for paying so far in advance, but costs are increasing dramatically.  I’ve gotta make payroll, insurance and rent.  In appreciation for your loyalty, I’m going to give you the best deal I can.”

I could afford the new rates.  Instead the sterility of the transaction turned me off.  I kept thinking the rate increase would be the first of many until he got me paying the full non-discounted amount.

So I quit. Now what?

The new terms were still reasonable.  It’s not like I could find a better deal somewhere else.  Individual personal training is priceless and rightfully expensive.  Group training is near worthless, for me anyways, so I thought I try one of the new apps.

There’s also a twist.

During the pandemic, we trained virtually via Zoom.  I decided to push myself hard and dramatically increased the amount of weight I could lift.  My then personal trainer, Sam, did an excellent job coaching me as I improved.

Secret:  I have hated the weight room my entire athletic life.  Weights can make you humble.  They can bring you to your knees and turn your limbs to jelly.  Their ultimate revenge can put you either on your ass, or in the driver’s seat of the porcelain bus.  That “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” is a profoundly true statement.  Weights can exact revenge far faster than sprinting suicides. (Wind sprints for older folk.)

Father time also weighed in.  As one ages, connective tissue becomes less elastic.  We become far less flexible.  Pushing the weight led to tendonitis almost everywhere and occasional sciatica.  Moreover, during this period, I finally graduated to the medicines commonly prescribed for people my age.  Among them statins, to lower cholesterol, can have some nasty side effects.

Fortunately for me, they were minimal, but added to the tendonitis and some muscle cramping.

Quitting gave me a chance to take a break.  I decided to take the summer off from lifting to recover while I searched for a fitness app that would work for me.

Taking time off isn’t always the best thing to do.  In fitness, there is a concept known as detraining or regression.  When one stops or dramatically reduces exercising, fitness levels drop slowly as fist, then much faster.  In this equation, age is an exponent.  The ability to run five miles can become one mile seemingly over night.  The same applies to strength training or any other strenuous activity.

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The effect was soon noticeable.  When Sam and I were sawing away on this brutal (triple bind) blowdown in October, I noticed that my fitness level had decreased precipitously.  Sam was kind enough not to mention it, but I could not hold my own for the first time ever. I had allowed myself to regress to the mean.  It was embarrassing, but highly motivational.

Now to find the right weight training app.

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During the summer I had messed around with more than a dozen fitness apps.  Then I discovered “Future.”

Future is maladroitly named.  I think it’s founders were thinking it is the future of personal training apps, and I think it is.  The problem is that the name doesn’t suggest much of anything.  The name is certainly not motivational or aspirational.

Hint.  If you’re naming something, start with the audience to which you’re going to sell it.  If you’re the owner, you are not the audience.

Here’s the key that sold me.  Future comes with a real coach.  Remember about my need for accountability?  Found it.  Add the Apple Watch and Apple health app interfaces and you can’t hide, ghost or fake it.  The data tells the truth.

First, about the coach:

Point guard:  LSU women’s basketball team.  Assistant strength and conditioning coach, Auburn University and North Carolina A&T.  M.S. in sport coaching.  There’s much more, but simply put, she’s an athlete’s coach.  We’ve been working well together for a month.

The coach designs the workouts and monitors the data.  After each workout the athlete gets feedback via email or text.  Live Zoom calls occur monthly.  For someone who knows his way around a gym and values motivation and feedback, this is truly an ideal model.  The monthly cost is equal to the weekly cost at the franchise gym.  Sounds like a best value to me.

The process starts with a detailed in-take questionnaire which asks about the equipment you have, goals, experience, physical limitations, exercise style and coaching preferences.  Based on this information, a coach that should fit your style is assigned, but can be changed at anytime.

A 15-minute Zoom coach/client interview with your new coach follows.  We talked about physical limitations, workout design and intensity, frequency and women’s basketball of which I am a huge fan.

There was a lot of trail and error in the first few sessions, but the feedback loop allowed for excellent communication and adjustment.

These screen grabs offer insight into how the app works.

IMG_9889Note interface.  Length of workout.  Equipment list.  Overview is a preview of each exercise.  Settings turns data features on/off.

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I find the overview feature critical.  It allows me to adjust weight or the actual exercise itself before trying to do it in real time. This page shows the warm up for that day’s workout.  Each workout starts with a short pep talk from your coach.  The coach can also add verbal pointers variously along the way.

Each exercise is continuously demonstrated on a video loop that plays until the reps are completed and the client presses the forward button.  Recovery pauses are built in.

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At the end of the workout, clients rate the difficulty and provide feedback to their coach.  You can add a photo to illustrate problematic exercises or other difficulties such as form.

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The stats are amazing.  Dogging workouts:  Busted!

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More info available and the end of each workout session.  In this case the graph shows my level of effort was solid.

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The watch and health apps have even more data such as VO2 uptake, blood oxygen, etc.

So far, the Future App has been an excellent choice.  Four stars.

Sisu

Why I Vote

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Kensington, Maryland, Election Day, 2022 — We’re lucky.  We “walk the vote” at our neighborhood middle school which is a pleasant 10-minute stroll down leafy streets.  Most of the leaves are down now but enough are hanging on to offer a pleasant autumn ambiance.

Neighbors were on the same mission, quietly filing along by ones and twos, some pushing strollers,   A few held hands, walking with a sense of purpose, as they might on their way to schul on Friday evening or church on Sunday morning. 

As voters approached the school entrance, candidate signs decorated the final few yards while campaign reps offered to persuade the undecided. 

The early November breeze was just chilly enough to find the gaps in my puffy jacket.  The chill reminded me of elections past.  Only one other time, in Massachusetts, was walking to vote possible.  Mostly you drive, hope to find a place to park, and line up for your turn.

The American armed forces place a lot of emphasis on its members voting without telling them how to vote.  Having been a military brat and then a career officer, I’ve watched this process since I can remember.  Because most military members are far from home, the effort is all about absentee ballots which must be requested early, making the emphasis on election season seem much longer than in civilian life.

I’ve also served our nation in war and peace.  I know what authoritarian regimes look like.  Along the way, some of my friends have given all and aren’t here to vote, but all of us have sacrificed some to defend that for which we claim to stand.  For me, voting is a continuing duty in honor of those who are no longer with us.  That’s why I do it.

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For some reason, election day here had a pleasant zen of its own.  The people I met were particularly pleasant.  I snapped this on my walk today.  It seemed about right.

Sisu

Hut Repair and a Day Hike

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Shenandoah National Park, October 21 – 22, 2022 — The park is probably getting tired of me.  I’ve been there six of the last nine days. I won’t mention the gas bill.

First the hike.  We were back at it again last Friday when the Gang of Four -1 plus Sara hiked up North Marshall and down Big Devils Stairs on a leaf peeping sojourn.  We were not disappointed.

We ended with our usual pizza stop at the ever excellent Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen – a brick oven pizza emporium in Sperryville. https://www.rappahannockpizzakitchen.com/

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Now for the weekend highlight.  Gravel Spring Hut is a place for hikers to sleep.  As it’s name implies, it’s adjacent to a spring and comes with campsites and a composting privy we’ve chronicled before.

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The hut’s siding is original inch-thick oak carpentered by the CCC nearly 90 years ago.  After all that time, it’s beginning to rot in places due to insect and water damage.  In order to save as much history as possible, only the rotted parts of the boards are replaced with rough sawn lumber matching the same dimensions.

Boards are surgically removed rather than the chaotic demo seen on TV home renovation shows.

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The scrap was left as a treat for campers to burn.  The volume of activity near the huts ensures there isn’t much small firewood around to collect.  Since most campers don’t carry small saws, they get stuck trying to burn larger branches that don’t readily lend themselves to campfire fuel.

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Next, the boards are cut and sized.  Thank heaven for battery-powered tools.  Sara, aka Ridgerunner 2, stopped in to lend a hand. She’s given a lot to the park the past two years and PATC in 2016.  This year she also was a ridgerunner in Northern Virginia and Maryland.  We’re going to miss her.

The boards are carefully placed and screwed into place.  Screws eliminate the risk of further damage pounding nails might cause.

Special caulk is stuffed into the cracks followed by paint.  Russell Riggs, the hut maintainer, played Rembrandt.  The hut is back in service.  We’ll be back again when we have more lumber which is donated by a local saw mill.

Sisu

Mother Nature’s Party Dress

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Shenandoah National Park, October 15 – 16, 2022 — Mother Nature’s autumn soiree is in full swing.  She’s dressed in loud colors that evoke AC/DC cranked to the max.  She will keep the party rocking until the pumpkin lattes run dry.

The colors truly are spectacular.  These are from the Big Devil’s Stairs canyon and the south side of Compton Peak.

So what were we doing there?  It’s the third Saturday of the month – Hoodlums work trip day.  As always, we organized into several work groups.

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Our group was assigned to hike deep into the Big Devil’s Stairs (BDS) gorge to clear a cluster of massive live tulip poplars recently blown down by a possible microburst.

The lower half of BDS hasn’t been maintained in awhile because there is no access from the park boundary.  Most people hike to the second canyon overlook and then double back.  Few wonder down to the bottom where the views are nil and the trail is steep.

Before we get down to muscle business, let’s celebrate an encore appearance from a special Hoodlum.

Sam Keener became a Hoodlums regular just before the pandemic.   During lockdown we met twice weekly over Zoom for personal training sessions.  Later she joined the FBI, graduated from their academy at Quantico and is now a Special Agent.  Fortunately we’re fake hoodlums.  Besides, she’s one of us!  You can’t bust yourself.

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Sam gave me a FBI Pittsburgh Field Office challenge coin which is now front and center in my trophy case along with a chunk of the Berlin Wall and a piece of the foundation from Check Point Charlie – made famous by a Berlin Crisis standoff between Russian and American tanks.

Back to business.

The going on this one was rough.  The bind on each of them was such that these trees wanted to move like Superman, up and away.

We hacked at this cut for more than an hour without being able to muscle through.  Sam is a power lifter, so she makes the friction seem far less than it was.

Nearby, the other crew was slogging too.  The binds were unusual – side and bottom.

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Ultimately we walked down to the other crew.  The clock had run out.  We’ll be back with many more bodies to finish the job. This was much bigger than five people.

As we licked out wounds, Mother Nature flashed her jewelry in the form of this young timber rattlesnake.

Ole Jake No-shoulders was nonplussed by our presence.

On Friday I sneaked up early to pick up six chainsaw chains I’d left with the Stihl dealer for sharpening.

I spent the night in solitude at the Indian Run maintenance hut, aka Hoodlums clubhouse.  I had to hack my way in for the sixth time this year!  If only Mother Nature would stop throwing her party favors on the access road!  The hut does look like it would be fun to spend an evening there during the Christmas season.

Sisu

Tom Moran kindly contributed photos and videos to this post.

Loose Ends

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Here and there, October 10, 2022 — Just closing the loose ends. We burned a bunch of firewood and mowed down some pizza at Sara’s farewell this past Saturday.

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Recall from the previous blog that I dropped off Sara and Lane Early at the Mason-Dixon line in the rain so they could hike the 41 AT miles in Maryland.  They finished at their predicted time.  Lane and his wife Colleen have been the caretakers at Blackburn Trail Center all summer.

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Poured some Prosecco to toast Sara’s long service as one of our ridgerunners.  Though my daughter says it’s fake news, she did take cover behind the glass door.  Not sure she had much confidence in my ability to safely pop the cork.

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In the bad luck department, Sara’s dad hit a deer on his way up from Alabama.  He’s supporting her current adventure biking the C&O Canal – about a 250-mile bike trek through history. 

He says it drives ok, but only has one headlight.  Glad he was already thinking of buying a new one.  Meanwhile, he’s driving her van, not his, which is safely stored in my garage until they return.

Next up:  Hoodlums on Saturday with encore appearances.  Stay tuned.

Sisu

Seasons end but the work lives on.

 

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The Appalachian Trail, September 30 and October 2, 2022 — We’re a month early but my final chapter leading our ridgerunners has been written.  Dan Hippe will now keep the flame burning brightly with his capable leadership. 

It was a cold and drippy day as Sara and I climbed up to Annapolis Rock one last time to pack up the caretaker site and secure it for the winter.  The stuff good enough for next year was packed into the tool box while we carted the UV-rotted tarps to the dumpster at Washington Monument State Park. 

Since then, Sara has turned in her radio and keys.  She’s hiking all of Maryland’s 41 miles as this is written.  I picked her up at 5 a.m. in Harpers Ferry where she left her van, and shuttled her to the Mason-Dixon Line for a 6:15 a.m. pre-dawn start.  She expects to finish by 11 p.m. tonight.

My larger role may be changing, but the trail maintenance gig has a long runway in front of it. 

The spring on the AT section Caroline and I jointly maintain in Shenandoah National Park was, for all intents and purposes, dry.  The ground was saturated but the flow was virtually nonexistent.  Tina, my friend of 30 years, Gang of Four hiking group member, and occasional swamper, joined us help remedy the problem.

 

We dug a catchment basin, inserted a 5 ft. length of PVC pipe and anchored in with large rocks. 

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It worked!  Our next Hoodlums work trip is October 16.  We’ll check on it then.

The other reason we were working was to rake and shovel silt out of our waterbars (erosion control structures that direct water off the trail).  Our section is particularly sandy and the waterbars need annual cleaning.

This is hard pick and shovel work. 

We didn’t count the exact number, but we got three quarters of our waterbars cleaned out.  We’ll finish the rest next trip.

Exciting news!  After almost two consecutive years working with the Hoodlums Trail Crew and one year co-maintaining this section, Caroline has a trail name. 

It’s not something trite like “Sweet Caroline.”  Regular readers know that she’s an American/Swiss dual national, so she could have been “Swiss Miss.”  It’s far better than those.

Meet Caroline “Dozer” Egli” ’cause she can move dirt.

Sisu

 

Seasonal Rhythms

Fall

September 22, 2022 — Today is the autumnal equinox, the day Mother Nature begins disrobing ultimately she’ll bare it all.  She showed a little ankle on my neighborhood walk today, a bright splash teasing what she has on offer.

So it goes in the world of hiking trails and life in general.  Events happen more or less in order and on schedule – the circle of life’s rhythms and flow.

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If it’s the third weekend in September, it must be the Hoodlums’ annual trail maintenance instructional workshop in Shenandoah National Park.  Thirty folks ranging from raw beginners to the well-experience gather to live an learn.  Picks are swung, fires are made and beer, shall we say, is swallowed.

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This crew repaired part of the Appalachian Trail Caroline and I maintain on the south side of Compton Peak, about 11 miles south of the park’s northern boundary.

Heavy use and heavy weather was taking its toll on a steep traverse.  Eight waterbars (erosion control drainage structures) were torn out and reconstructed.  Rocks were dug out of the tread to smooth it out and make it a bit safer.  It’s good for at least 15 more years.

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Caretaker area at Annapolis Rock – Caroline, Sara and Sierra.

This also is the time when the ridgerunner program shrinks to Maryland only.  We lost Kasey to a family matter, so Sara Leibold shifted from Shenandoah to Maryland to help us out.  She and Sierra will complete the season – my last.  I will miss the interviewing, hiring and hiking with the amazing people – nearly 60 all told – who have graced us with their selfless service to the hiking community.

Caroline let me know that she was thinking of taking a Saturday hike on our section.  Knowing I would be there Monday, I suggested she hike up to Annapolis Rock with me.  Since she and Sara are friends, I thought a two fer would be fun – see Sara and a new place.

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While inspecting the area, eagle-eye Sara spied a spotted lantern fly.  It’s an invasive insect that is wrecking havoc on the region’s fruit orchards.  Did you know that if the jar says Smuckers or Mussleman’s, it probably came from this orchard-rich area?  We made the required report.

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Unfortunately, on the way to the car I noticed this graffiti and the axe blaze on the tree not far from the upper trail to the Pine Knob shelter.  We’ll use Elephant Snot to get ride of it, but why people think vandalizing nature is ok is beyond me.  The rock is sedimentary, the remnant of an ancient sea bed.

Tina, aka “Bulldog”, my friend of nearly 30 years, dating back to our days at the White House, has been my swamper on several trips.  She pitched in again this month.

The rhythmic drumbeat of blowdowns crashing to the forest floor is quickening.  The supply is nearly infinite.  Invasive insects have recently killed the red oaks, ash, and hemlocks.  The chestnuts and elms are long gone.  A native blight is currently attacking white oaks.  Have chainsaw.  Will travel.

I’ll close on a sad note.  We lost Mittens to brain seizures.  He was 15 1/2.  As the alpha cat, he could be a pain.  But, a Formula 1 Ferrari could not compete with the throb of his rhythmic purr. Frank Sinatra’s eyes could not have been bluer.  In fact, I wanted to name him “Frank,” but was overruled by my daughter.  RIP Big Guy!

Sisu

Please be seated.

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Who is she going to bury?

Shenandoah National Park, August 27, 2022 — When you live two hours away, the number of trail maintenance trips is limited.  When ever you do get there, there’s usually no time for the extra little touches that are fun to do.

We usually tent at Indian Run after a Hoodlums work trip and use the next day to maintain our section.  Since Caroline and her partner have a new puppy that needs a lot of potty training attention, we kicked the can ahead a week.  The improved weather was a bonus.

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First we replaced a rotten waterbar that, as the photo illustrates, was also completely silted up with sand that originated as part of an ancient lake bed that covered the region eons ago.  Then the fun began.

For years I’ve wanted to build a log bench adjacent to the water source that flows at about the half way mark on the south side of Compton Peak.  Its common to see hikers stop there to refresh their water supply, each lunch or take a break.  There is only one flat rock on which one can park their butt.  Otherwise, it’s sit in the dirt.  Adding a bench was priority two – after everything else that needed doing.

We had a handy materials candidate in the form of a nearby blowdown cleared about 18 months ago.

The plan was to saw two pieces for the base and use a six-footer to sit on.  We would then peg it together with wooden dowels.  What could go wrong?

Would you believe the battery overheated several times and stopped the drill dead, the last time for good.  We were unable to complete drilling the holes.  Time for plan B.

We had already made a cradle for the cross piece with an axe.   It would have been ok for a pegged bench, but not for one held by gravity so I used my chainsaw to notch a seat.  We’ll bring a more powerful drill next trip and complete the pegging then.

Meanwhile the bench got a reasonable test from a flip flopper and two southbounders who stopped to help.

But wait!  There’s more.

The last time I painted blazes was 2015 when I inherited responsibility for the section.  Some are fading and flaking paint.  Time to refresh.

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The first thing we did is invite one of the southbounders to paint a blaze.  She was thrilled.  Her husband documented the deed.  I think we made her day.

The first the old paint has to be scraped and the bark smoothed with a stripping tool.

Caroline’s dad is from Switzerland and she’s a dual national.  When I asked if there were any famous Swiss painters, she couldn’t think of any.  Well, they have one now – sort of.

Sisu

PS:  Hoodlums highlights from last week.  Our team cleared seven blowdowns from the north district trails including a branch that crashed at the hut.

We also cleaned out a silted up box spring.

The water cleared after a bit.

A fish story.

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Rembrandt sunset.

Aswopiswanan Lake, Northern Manitoba, July 29 – August 6, 2020 — Imagine a land of sky blue water* framed by endless popcorn, all of it patrolled by bald eagles above and by submarine-size northern pike below; where the eagles outnumber the people and the fish can weigh more than small children.

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We were there.  Four guys alone with two motorboats and a zillion miles of nowhere; where eagle chatter dominates nature’s gossip; where waves slapping your boat is the drumbeat of time passing; where no sign of civilization can find you.  Walden Pond, eat your heart out.

We were an interesting deck to shuffle.  On the one hand, we are variously two sets of brothers, one uncle, two nephews, two sons, and three of us are dads.  On the other, we were simply four fishermen loaded for pike.

Four a.m. wake up.

Let’s start at the beginning.  It takes four flights to get there from here.  One from where you are to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Winnipeg; overnight in Winnipeg.  Day two opens with a zero-dark-thirty take off in a Beechcraft King Air to a dirt strip at Point St. Theresa.  Next it’s a float plane flight about another hour north to the lake and a lunchtime arrival.

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What a treat.  Our floatplane was a 1953 vintage De Havilland Beaver (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Canada_DHC-2_Beaver), the aircraft bush pilots love.

Although retro as hell featuring well-worn rudder pedals as proof of its lucky legacy, it was updated with the latest avionics from Best Buy.

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Fortunately the Beaver can schlepp a load.  My brother’s boys are not small people.  Matt is 6’6 330lbs.  Nate is 220 lbs.  Somehow we fit.  Since this lake is a regular stop on their fishing circuit, they gave the rookie the front row seat with its E ticket ride.

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Number two for takeoff following 10-minutes to warm-up the oil pan.   The windows were so scratched that I wondered how the pilot could see much of anything.

Airborne in under a minute.  As long as the number of take-offs and landings are equal, all’s good.

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The glaciers pocked Northern Manitoba with more lakes than you can count.  Classic boreal forest carpets the exposed granite ridges.

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Esker debries lines the lake bottoms.

Definitely an old-school stick and rudder aircraft.  Happy landing. Hardly a bump when we hit the water.

The fish camp decorated in early particleboard reminded me of hiker accommodations powered by propane where the shower output dribbles like an old man standing at a urinal.  Unfortunately at some point prior to our arrival the building made a wrong turn on its foundation but remained true inside.  A crew flew in to shore it up on the plane that lifted us out.

After tossing our gear inside, it didn’t take long to launch the two 14-foot boats pushed by 20-horse Yamaha outboards.  Thus powered to stay out of trouble, we still could scoot up the lake at a pretty good clip.  It’s the venerable kit used in International Falls when I was a kid.

Twenty horses pack a punch even in rough water when the boat smacks your butt like the principal’s paddle back in the day.

Ok.  We’re there.  We’re on the water.  Let’s get down to business.

In this case we don’t have to talk about the ones that got away even though many did.  We were using barbless hooks from which smaller fish can easily unhook themselves by wiggling.  With the exception of a few walleyes we ate, this trip was strictly catch and release.

Proof they weren’t all lunkers.  Too many hammer handles to count.  (A hammer handle is a northern pike about the same size as a hammer handle.)

We’ll save the lunkers for last so stay tuned. Now for what happened in the middle.

Northern pike are notoriously aggressive.  They’re also cannibalistic. 

It works like this.  Grandpa hangs out outside the nursery school door waiting for his grandkid’s class to get out, then boom.  They eat about anything that moves. 

The lunkers are large enough to eat almost any fish or bird in or on the lake.  This medium size northern followed a smaller one my brother hooked and attempted to devour it while still on on the hook. The aggressor fish was oblivious of everything else except eating.

An overnight storm proved challenging in several ways.

The wicked wind of the west kicked up waves around three feet tall.  The boat moored perpendicular to the wind was swamped. 

Bailing it out proved challenging.  Then we discovered a leak and water in the gas. 

Fortunately there were five boats to choose from so we made a change.

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Later, I was wearing an automatic flotation device when a wave flipped me out of the boat as I stood to cast.  The auto feature worked.  The water was warm!  Fortunately I saved the tackle and the ride back to change clothes was short.  I was embarrassed but delighted with the outcome.  Don’t screw around without PPE.

The abundant wild life have been noted.  Here’s some proof.  Unfortunately we didn’t photograph the beaver swimming from its lodge.

Now for the best video clip of the trip.  Bald eagles owned the sky.

I quickly fished my iPhone from my pocket when I spied this one.  It delivered for my effort.  I captured several eagle clips.  This was by far the best.

Ready for the sunsets and sunrises?

The best was taken by my nephew.  I was too whipped and jaded to get out of bed to view the northern lights the first night. 

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He caught the big dipper dead center.

Oddities?

What’s with the ancient rifle or the weird chairs?  The prop looks like it diced some rocks instead of onions.

The hook and bullet trade is not known for its attention to Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

Even motorboat fishing has its zen.

Let’s get ready.

Ok, here come the trophy fish.  They are in the 38 inches+ class.  When they hit, you know it.  Your rod bends like a troll with a bad back.  The drag groans as the fish overpower the brake.  You hang on and reel like crazy.  You’re hoping Jaws is on the line.

I won the contest for most fish over 40 inches and for the biggest fish. 

 

This is the 42 1/2 inch lake snake that won me $15.  My brother Jack did the honors.  The fish are seriously stressed by handling.  The less, the better.  They also secrete a huge amount of slime as a defense mechanism. 

These are serious predators.  Here’s what it did to my lure. 

The fish was strong enough to break off on of the hooks and bend the rings.  My nephew Nate restored the lure to mint condition. 

There are a lot of ways to end this story. 

It could be the wings back to reality.

It could be another eagle video.

It could be landing a fish.

Instead its the real reason for going in the first place – family, fish and fresh coffee at dawn.

Sisu

*Appropriated on purpose from a Hamm’s Beer ad from yesteryear. 

Thanks to Bolton Lake Lodge, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I took 330 photos and video clips during the week.  Here are some out takes:

 

Saw, Dig, Pull

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My view of the Thornton Gap Entry Station

Shenandoah National Park, July 24 – 27 — The North District Crew Week was anything but usual.  For one, we tackled a variety of projects.  For another, I only worked three of the five days.  Now, it’s off to Manitoba to fish with my brother and nephews.

Usually crew week offers the opportunity to partner with the park service trail crews on big projects that are too big for either outfit alone.  This year everybody was everywhere all the time.

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We started with the great blowdown hunt.  While the remainder of the group took on some dirt work, Wayne Limberg and I searched for a tree tangle reported by a hiker on the Shenandoah Hikers Facebook page.  Shall we say it wasn’t where it was alleged to be…

On net we hiked about four miles on our search.  We found it about 200 yards from a trailhead parking lot.  It would have been a cinch if we had started three miles south of the initial reported position.

We managed to chew a lot of wood into sawdust, huge piles of it. 

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In the end, the old guys were bushed.

The next day we rehabbed the AT from trailhead parking south to the Byrd’s Nest 4 connector trail.

My last day was best.  A tree on the AT about 200 yards south of Compton Gap parking became a leaner last year and ended up in a near vertical posture.  This was too dangerous for volunteers to cut.  After consultation we and the park crew agreed that it should be pulled down.  This is how it happened.

Rigging the tree.

Dave Jenkins has a new toy.  It’s a motorized winch.  Beats a grip hoist any day.  But, sometimes things don’t exactly go according to plan.

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Ready to go.

Oh oh!  Nothing is happening.

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Ain’t technology great!  What else.  Check You Tube to find out what you did wrong.

Turns out the rope wasn’t wrapped quite the right way around the capstan.  A couple of twists made all the difference. 

But wait.  There’s more.

The tree had dug itself in.  Nothing a pick mattock could not tackle.

On the way.

One more time.

Boom!

All that for 50 seconds of sawing.

Job done.

Sisu