A January Weekend at South Carolina’s Mountain Bridge – Table Rock

IMG_1011A rare dry moment

The drive back to the Cleveland, SC area started at roughly 9:00 am EST on Thursday the 10th of January. Wanting to maximize the offerings of my location I planned to knock out two of the Table Rock trails prior to meeting up with Chris Gandy at Caesars Head State Park. Chris had rented the Bear Scratch Cabin from Firefox Mountain Cabins and the plan was to meet up with him at 1:00 pm EST. This meant an early start as the collective trail time on Table Rock was 6 hours if I pushed hard (which is normally the plan).

Arriving in Greensboro, SC at 3:00 pm EST I unpacked my bags, attended to some work responsibilities and then closed the night with a filling club sandwich and two pale ales. While feeling grateful for the opportunity to experience the Blue Ridge area I was a bit disheartened by the weather shift which offered a 70% chance of rain with a temperature range of 40 to 50 degrees. My attention to detail for trail readiness failed to incorporate rain gear for the lower body and I was left hoping the precipitation would be gone by mid-morning. False hope.

Prior to entering sleep mode I finished reviewing the trail research compiled over the previous weeks. Links will be posted below and with total assuredness those resources get my complete backing. Before sharing the experience I want to speak a bit to preparing for any hike. Visiting a state park with well maintained and marked trails ensures a level of safety and confidence. However, you should never anticipate terrain and maintenance. Of this I was reminded as I began my ascent of Table Rock.

My primary trail need was a new set of hiking boots and my wife was kind enough to make my primary Christmas a pair of Keen hikers (I forget the name). While I love my Keen sandals the boots felt too loose and the overall foot support was harsh. Thankfully she purchased them from Black Creek Outfitters so my next 3 visits (yes it took that long to decide) yielded the Vasque Breeze. Highly recommended by the staff and by friends it is not a brand I would have looked to, another reason why shopping at your local outfitters is worth the extra money. Trail conditions would further validate the purchase.

My Osprey Raptor 10 hydration pack was well surplused with Clif bars, a compass, rope, first aid kit, toilet paper, knife, extra socks and of course water. I was properly layered with a Mountain Hardwear polyester blend base layer, an Outdoor Research Radiant pullover and a water resistant Endura Stealth jacket. While my Marmot light weight hiking shorts were a good idea they were not quick drying and on the descent it was all I could do to not have them fall down my legs.

Let my mistakes be your lesson learned.

Breakfast was free so I loaded up on oatmeal, granola and a few bacon-egg-cheese english muffins. My departure time of 7:00 am EST was honored though the cold and wet morning made me rethink things. Estimating a drive of 1 hour and 30 minutes I knew the wet terrain would cause a change of plans both driving and hiking so I spent my dark, wet morning deciding which trail would win out. A quick stop at a drive-thru Starbucks helped change my mood as the kind person in front off paid for my Americano. Of course this meant I had to “pay it backwards”. Fueled by a good deed, and more than enough caffeine, the day began to brighten up in spite of the overwhelming gray that was disclosed as night slowly took its hiding place.

With XM radio 1st Wave my soundtrack the awe inspiring drive to Table Rock took on a movie-like quality. The mountain ranges seem to hold the roads in place as you wind past oddly place mobile homes and remote communities. Table Rock itself is divided into two areas: one being the Welcome Center (situated by a meditative lake) with group parking, cabins and camp sites, the other being the start of the trail, offering further residences along with a variety of recreational treats.

Pulling into my parking space an unloading my gear was water torture. The steady rain was enough to be annoying, just short of refreshing. My running cap ended up being the smartest accessory for both heat retention and keeping the rain off my face. The trail begins, as all good ones do, with a sign-in card for the hiker to complete. Should anything happen this is your lifeline as it allows you to give your destination, start time, emergency contact and expected return. I filled mine out along with a fellow enthusiast dressed well for a challenging mountain run (he was going the full extent of the course) but not for the weather conditions. Upon leaving I would find that his car was gone, hopefully meaning he realized his gear mistake.

The “gift shop” at the trail head was closed but the bathroom was open. Care has been taken with this area as the entry is a newly built wood bridge and walking path. Maybe they did this to give you a sense of calm at start and relief upon return. All references to the challenging elevation would speak nothing to how much worse the wet conditions would make it.

http://www.brendajwiley.com/table_rock.html (Brenda’s detail is priceless.)



The full hike was wet and misty. The elevation was challenging but not impossible, save for a fallen tree. Moving was a requirement simply to keep the body temperature at a comfortable level. I learned very quickly that all the gear that was presumed to be perfect for the known conditions would not completely answer the call to functionality. By the time I was coming down from the peak of the trail my shorts were falling off my hips due to the all the water that it consumed. Additionally my Endura jacket did not match the environmental conditions and eventually gave up its resistance.

Yet I love these moments. These humbling moments through which learning to be in the wilderness is better defined. I wish I could remember the quote or the news article but it is true that we should never enter any wild place with arrogance.

Apart from this minor inconvenience the hike itself was worth the trip. Sadly the low hanging clouds kept me from fully appreciating the view, although the haunting death call of the wind whipping over the rocks at trails end did its best to make up for it. There is always something stirring about not being able to see your destination all the while knowing what lies ahead thanks to nature’s not-so-subtle clues. Add the stairs carved in stone and the heavenly silence to the brochure and I found myself wanting to stay.

But I had to meet Chris.

IMG_1012You must go beyond this to get one of the great views

IMG_1013One of those haunting drop offs

IMG_1002A minor natural obstacle

IMG_1003Many of these…more difficult thanks to the rain

IMG_1026The lower on the trail the more clear

rockstairLove the rock stair

The Santa Letter 2012

Last year the final flicker of childhood was smothered. My daughter, who for the previous two years had launched a vicious campaign in search of the truth behind Santa Claus, climbed onto the bed which my wife and I share all but demanding to hear from our mouths what she knew to be true. There was no actual Santa Claus.

The boy was easier. Fact is I cannot recall the moment in which the noble story became the noble lie. However the clarity came, my recollection was that it was without remark. The girl was the polar opposite. There was a quick exit when as soon as the words left my mouth. The word “Liar!” trailed behind her as she jetted from our room. My wife too became filled with sorrow, knowing our final child would cease to experience the excitement of Christmas Day with the idea of the bearded gentleman.

It is now a family fact that if you do not believe in Santa you do not get presents from Santa. The lie has become blackmail.

On the lighter side it is an element of family tradition. While what that tradition has to yet have a meaning beyond a form or greedy materialism (Santa’s sole purpose is mostly stockings, if anything), we still go through the motions of leaving out the milk and cookies. This year while my not-s0-little girl was baking sweets for the fat man I made it clear that Santa now prefers Almond Milk. What I was not expecting was a continued embrace of the whole drama from my son’s hand.

This requires some back story.

Amidst the aforementioned investigation by my daughter, a specific inquiry focused on Santa’s “Thank You Letter”. For every note that was left, I would pen a thank you while my wife would leave the reindeer food. Once the doubt crept in my youngest brought to my attention that Santa’s handwriting looked strangely like mine.

In steps my son.

Graciously accepting a position in the propaganda machine, Evan took pen in hand and in 2010 wrote the final thank you which served to selfishly extend Sara’s belief. It was with great joy that in waking up Christmas morning 2012 to find the following by an empty glass of milk and plate of chocolate cookies courtesy of my son.

Dear Sara,

I hope you enjoy this last cookie. I saved this milk for you as well. It was warm by the time I arrived, and I carry my own milk anyway.

I put the cookie in a plastic baggie so it would stay fresh for you.

I crocheted the bag out of reindeer drool and elvish mustache hair.

It is very transparent, yet it is strong and safe. Anywho, enjoy the cookie, I sprinkled some dwarf nose hairs to brighten up your day.


p.s. I’m Mormon

There is meaning here that I must find. All that is needed is a few months of over thinking it. For now it is the gift of family.



A Sunday Afternoon in the Moment

My trail map

When I was in college studying philosophy and religion one element of learning was prevalent: be in the moment. It was not necessarily a critical component to any thought or thinker, rather it was a means by which the subject matter was understood. Historical understanding of ideas aside, experiencing the idea for yourself, in your own time leads to a greater understanding of the thing.

For example, Existentialists Soren Kierkegaard and Frederich Nietzsche both penned influential and timeless evaluations of who we are and how we become. Each approached a reaction to some historical event. For the former it was Hegelian thought, the latter Christianity. Yet their reaction to these subjects required an awareness of the now and what the present impact was. From the Buddhist blog “Wildmind“:

How often is a thing considered based on what it might be or what it might influence? In turn how often is the present influenced by that perception? But there are also past burdens. Things which we assume as future concerns and as such we respond without consideration as to their relevance.

Being in the moment means being mindfully aware of what is going on right here and now, in our experience, and this includes any thinking we do about the past or future. Much of the time our experience does not have this quality of awareness or mindfulness. A lot of the time we are like robots, automatically living out habitual patterns of self-pity, anger, wish-fulfillment, fear, etc. These habitual tendencies take us over and run our lives for us – without our being able to stand back and decide whether this is what we actually want to be doing. It can be a real shock when we start to realize just how habitual and automatic our lives are, and when we realize how much runaway thinking leads to states of suffering.

My friend Chris Gandy is a welcomed mentor in my endeavors, reminding me not to get caught up in the fallacies of past and future considerations. When posting stories on Facebook he will sometimes direct my attention to the purpose of the sharing and ask that I simply be in the moment, then move on to the next experience. Not to have “runaway” thoughts. It is not unlike Jesus’ parable of sowing seeds. Being distracted from the path is so easy when we become consumed by the other person.

Obviously the concept is far more complicated than the few words above but they serve as a frame to the greater discussion. It was with this in mind that I mounted my 2005 Trek, loaded up the Osprey Raptor and headed to UNF’s nature trail. There was roughly four hours of daylight left on this Sunday the first of April. For me it served as the demarcation point of winter to spring. Recently I had registered for the Jax Tri series and a 16 week training schedule was peering at me from Monday. The mind needed to purged and combining that cleansing with a slow 13 mile training ride happened as needed fact.

Rather than write of the time I will allow still moments obtained with my Blackberry 9000 to steal the credit.

A Sunday Afternoon in the Moment – Images