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

A January Weekend at South Carolina’s Mountain Bridge – The Inspiration


Last December I took my dog Roxy on a road trip. My destination was roughly unknown but the original idea was to spend time around Springer Mountain, the southern start of the Appalachian Trial, or the mountains near Asheville, NC. As my wife can attest to I love taking alternate routes or changing the agenda on a moments notice. Being with only a dog finally allowed me that level of freedom so with that spirit as my guide I took I-95 into South Carolina, stopped by Charleston, SC, ate a great hot dog with Jeff Wheeler at Perfectly Frank’s and opted to take his advise on hiking.

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Two Tuesday Quotes: Nathanael Greene and Ella Baker

Outside dining at Natty Greene’s


So much inspiration from my past few days spent with Chris Gandy. One of many highlights were two trips into Greensboro to dine at Natty Greene’s. Named after the Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene and home to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, this quiet southern city not only bears the name of an important historical figure but also is home to a seminal event in the history of the civil rights movement in America: the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In. At times it is easy to get lost in the stereotypes of the South, at which point your mind becomes mired in the negative and you become a host for further growth of the dark cloud. After 32 years of living in Jacksonville, FL I have come to love the pockets of light which stand opposed to the condemning stares of the world and these two individual are such examples. Even further off the labeled path (and here I go a bit off topic for the sake of my soap box) is the literature, art and ethic in this part of America. While Mississippi’s racism and North Carolina’s recent Amendment 1 validate the boilerplate, there is an ideal and a lifestyle which is both romantic an admirable. Hopefully these two individuals will directly represent the latter sentiment.

The irony in these two figures is that Greene, while a person who was elemental in American winning its independence, when pressed on the issue of enslaving Africans by his Quaker friend Warner Mifflin he noted it could not be defended yet gave an “excuse” as to why it was necessary, responding that they would be treated well. A difficult pill in our history with respect to the birthing of the ideal amidst the disease of slavery. You can read about that conversation and more here.

Learning is not virtue but the means to bring us an acquaintance with it. Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Let these be your motives to action through life, the relief of the distressed, the detection of frauds, the defeat of oppression, and diffusion of happiness.

– Nathanael Greene

Strong people don’t need strong leaders.

– Ella Baker

Go further to learn more. Additional information regarding the Sit-Ins.

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Two Tuesday Quotes: de Kooning and Rauschenberg

This week’s quotes are dedicated to my good friend Chris Gandy. A great benefit in surrounding one’s self with educated companions is that they often feed you when you are hungry. Chris’ love for philosophy, literature and art presents a gold mine of historical figures who otherwise would have been unknown. Inspiration to research these two artists came from this NPR piece: Two Ways to Think About Nothing.

The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves.
– Willem de Kooning

The artist’s job is to be a witness to his time in history.
– Robert Rauschenberg

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Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends

Image courtesy of http://www.cbc.ca/sevenwonders/

One of the difficult things about being a cynic are those moments of beauty which, like a religious experience, cannot be explained away. The moment washes over you and even upon reflection the desire to redefine it is absent of any appeal. When this happens the cynic can only smile and appreciate the hope which on other days would escape him. How can the mirror serve as a companion after this? Has it not become a judge which silently interrogates him at every glance? The poor cynic must forget, falling back on the comfort of his doubt and turn his gaze from every reflection.

And still his friends stand their guard.

This is a small celebration of their solidarity. This is a thank you. From the hallowed walls of Facebook, my timeline reads these. Some are direct or funny while others have a history or underlying meaning which requires explanation.  For example, when you read Chris Gandy’s it must be within the context of a fellow cynic returning the cursed blessings of the abyss we call Facebook. That he returned and “friended” me was a comical sigh of relief. Wade Baugher’s is one which has a nice depth to it.

Don’t get me started on the great pictures!

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Dirty in Public

My first mud run with my friend Chuck Schoonmaker and his family.

A rough last few months had the site on life support. Neither Chris nor I had time or inspiration to move outside these thin walls. I guess it never occurred to us that a simple push or punch would relieve us from the congestion. As my friend Josh McTiernan has always told me: “Just write.” How is it that the things we “know” are the things we forget? A failed philosophy of individual exploration trips on over its own ideas. But pulls itself back up an moves onward.

The job of the pilgrim.

I would like to say we have codified our philosophy and have moved on from our humble beginnings. The sad truth is that as small as we thought our idea was it still lacked vision and a plan. So while we maneuver through our own mistakes and ignorance there is only the art of “doing”. We will write. We will photograph. We will share positive to invoke change. Beyond that the road is unknown but the effort is not lost.

There are many things being experienced and considered.
But while we wait, here are things that have happened:

* I took the GRE. Top percentile in Qualitative. 4.5 out of 6 on the essay. 19th percentile on Qualitative. How do you get into graduate school with that? Math has humbled me.

* My first mud run with my daughter. Started writing about it. I will finish it.

* 13.1 trail run in Pelham, AL with my friends Brian and Philip. Another experience worth sharing. It will come.

* My wife attended a youth counselor seminar in Atlanta. Some great theological inspiration…even for this agnostic.

* My friend Josh returns from Kazakhstan. He was in the Peace Corps. His story is quite enlightening. Another share moment.

 * I have learned a lot about addiction. But I have so much more to consume.

I guess you could say the “changing” and “charity” has been a bit more introspective. While I watch others help out Haiti, the homeless and other areas I try to remind myself of those small dots and that beating the self up serves no purpose other than building the wall. The checklist is a work in action.

Chris and I appreciate all who visit this humble site. We hope inspiration can be found amidst the mess. More-so we hope you take the time to share with us what is going on in your world. Yes the internet is littered with sites much like this but maybe this will be the one that changes the one. If you don’t try you fail.

Be well.

One Can Down

One can filled: new can in progress. I have a photo of Chris’ 3 cans that I will share soon. Matt Lemine told me he filled one before he left to FSU and I know another friend is working his in secret (though I believe he is using mason jars). Thanks to everyone who is redefining the can or simply expanding its function.

Some reminders for you:

1. Would love any stories so I can pen them, or rather type them up for the site.
2. Volunteer activity or donation opportunities…let us have them.
3. Boxtops for education: I will come and get them. Don’t throw them away.
4. Fitness opportunities are coming up. Keep your schedule open for the Be Her Freedom Run.
5. Help someone grow something.
6. Have a favorite outdoor activity or place to get away (trail, water, hill, business, etc) let us know.

Don’t assume someone else is getting it done. We don’t have to be original, just an effective part of the collective.