Sunday, May 29, 2011

Observations from the Porch

These last few days have been really relaxed punctuated by an hour every now and then running around with my head cut off. The Chaplains, and support staff in general, really don't have a whole lot to do right now. We sit around talking to each other while the "traditional" staff is in construction training and the like, while we could sit in on these sessions it seems best we not. The Chaplains are never going to be asked to step in and supervise construction and they Admin team seems to want to firmly define our role as one of spiritual support and not allow us the temptation of being distracted by construction.  This comes from hiring past summer staffers to be Chaplains, as opposed to seminary students. Scott, Jeremy and I don't have any ASP or construction background so we have to focus on the spiritual well being of the staff. In all honesty, that is completely fine with us.

It does lead to a lot of during the day down time. For the last few days we were planning a worship service and a session on the summers theme. But we did the theme session yesterday and the worship service today. Both went really well, I was surprised at how well the Worship service came together. I picked the songs based on what the staff already knew and songs that would be easy to learn and only glanced at content, but they lined up perfectly as to where they fell in the readings and in relationship to Scott's sermon.

But now that 2/3 of our timed responsibilities are done we don't have anything to plan till next Saturday, so we nap and surf the internet and wait for the staff to have free time so we can talk with them. All in all its been really fun.

A couple days ago the Chaplains got bored so we went into the bustling metropolis of Jonesville, Va for lunch... only to find out Jonesville has .5 restaurants. This number includes 2 gas station delis and a subway attached to a gas station. We wound up driving out a little ways to the tiniest pizza buffet ever. But in between we did discover that Jonesville has 5 salons. I think that salons are the only business that can survive with out incorporating something else into it. Most gas stations double as delis or coffee shops. One called Papa Bear's is a Gas Station, Pizza Parlor, Deli, and Video Rental Shop, but it has a cool name, so redemption points there.

The First Years and Returning Staff don't know what counties they will be in yet. The Center Directors just found out their staffs last night, so they have been going around messing with the rest of the staff making jokes like "man it will be so great to have a guitar player on my staff" or "with you and me we will have the prettiest staff" and the like. Its interesting, There is a lot of importance placed on county staffs, because that is who they will work with, so everyone is really excited. Its like waiting for Support at Warren Willis to come check off your cabin and tell you what team you are on... only this team is all summer and Support doesn't (usually) draw out the tension (for long). Its a ASP culture thing.  The rest of staff finds out where they will be serving tonight at some big reveal.... mostly its also a cook out and I am excited about the food, but I can see the excitement in everyone about finding out staffs. After they find out where they will be training becomes more staff centric and more about their roles at their sites.

I have known my counties since before I got here. Then I got here and Jeremy asked if he and I could switch so he can be closer to home and as such his wife, I was more than happy to do so... so now My counties are all in Kentucky and one Virginia. I will be serving the staffs in Breathitt, Clay, Magoffin, Knott, Perry: Chaivs, Leslie, Knox (KY), Harlan, and Perry: Jeff in Kentucky and Lee: Keoke in Virginia.  If you want to look it up Harlan county has several songs about it including the oft covered "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive." Apparently Harlan earned its nickname Bloody Harlan County thanks to a series of Coal strike/ riots in the 20's and 70's. It may be my best bet to find moonshine.

I have been given an unofficial list of topics not to broach with locals, it includes coal and timber. I don't want to see what happens if I talk about this with the wrong person. I assume Obama-care, and racial diversity are also topics to skillfully dance around.

All in all its shaping up to be an awesome summer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th

So here I am sitting in a Boeing 737-800, seat 25D on flight 413. There is something mildly strange about flying on Friday the 13th, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Also I am writing this between while I let Community buffer and the short bursts of watching it Delta internet allows me.

New Haven and New York where great. As expected Chris took us to some great New Haven eateries, ice creameries, and book stores. It was great to get to hang out with Tanner, Chris, and Chuck together again. We don't really get to see each other to often, so when we do it is a grand reunion. It hasn't been just the four of us sans girls since we all stopped being on Team together.

We stayed with Chris (Yale Divinity Student) in New Haven Tuesday and Wednesday night, and with Tanner's cousin Jeff in New York Thursday.  New Haven was quaint and very much what I pictured a New England town to look like. New York was crowded and kinda dirty, it was fun to visit and if I had to live their for a couple of years i would, but the entire time I lived in New York I would be looking for jobs in the south.

Thursday night Jeff took us out for dinner and drinks, he picked up our tab for the whole night, it was awesome. When I have a big boy job I will do the same for my siblings and friends. We got NY Pizza at John's Pizza which was delicious. Stopped in for a drink at some crazy theme bar, the theme was getting killed on an adventure. There were robot skeletons and dinosaur skulls that came alive and read the appetizer menu, its not as cool as it sounds. Then we went to a bar near Jeff's and hung out till 1 just talking, it was a good time. When our waitress came over around 12:30 to tell us she was going off the floor, but that the bar was open till 4, I don't think I have ever seen Tanner looks so amazed/confused. Bars open past 2 are a novelty to small towners like us.

We did not do a whole lot in the city, but I was really insistent we do something that was quintessentially New York. This eventually just became be asking when we were going to Central Park, every chance I got. The boys caved and we went to the park Friday morning before Tanner and I had to catch out flight back (road to subway there so I guess that's two New York things). We walked around, Tanner complained about carrying his bag, we found the bridge that is in every movie ever, climbed some sort of castle thing, and then Chuck and I unsuccessfully looked for a geocache, all in all it was a great time.

And now I am on a plane, watching 2-4 minutes of Community at a time. For the money I paid for this stupid connection I expected a whole lot more. But it is Friday the 13th. By the way I watched Friday the 13th (only 24 horror movies left), and I must say after watching it I can respect a cliche a whole lot more. I think half the horror movie cliches that we take for granted today, were actually effective devices of terror prior to the 80's. Let us not be quick to judge, unless we are judging airline internet connections. Those suck.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Morals from my last post.

These are the abriged morals and lessons from my trip.

We met a thru-hiker named Grasshopper who was probably in his 60's. On a rather long uphill on Wednesday he passed us and Keri said "I don't know how those guys do it, without taking breaks." He said "Oh they take breaks, you just don't see them, but you gotta hike your own hike." "Gotta Hike your Hike" became our catch phrase for the trip, and will probably be something I say for the rest of my life.

Some people hike to get places, see things, or feel the accomplishment of doing it. While those are sub-goals, I hike to feel the relief of taking off my pack. Taking off my pack at overlooks, halfway up a mountain, and at a shelter. That relief puts everything into perspective. Its like being done with a paper, or taking off a suit at the end of a long day. No trial lasts forever.

I like to take breaks and hike slow, it helps me to forget about the shelter or town coming up. Its about the journey, not the destination. As a wise man once said "Gotta hike your hike."

Blisters Suck.

Granola/ cereal bars that don't have over 100 calories are useless.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be awesome to hang out with for the following reasons...
  1. Unlimited supply of pizza
  2. Chance to learn the secret art of Ninja
  3. Zaney catch phrases
  4. They are girl magnets, but they can't date these girls
  5. People will think I am very accepting
  6. Hanging out in sewers and abandoned subway stations is probably really cool

What I did this week.

This past week I spent four days on the trail with an Adult trip out of Warren Willis Camp. It was amazing. When I first moved to Atlanta I thought I would do a lot of backpacking, since Emory is only about 2 hours away from the A.T. trailhead. Then school happened and I was lucky if I could make it to Stone Mt.

So when I realized finals would be over in time for me to make this trip I jumped on it. It was a little stressful, I had my History of Christian Thought final on monday at 9, and as soon as that was over had to jump in my car to pick up my friend Keri in Athens, so we could drive to her aunts house to drop off my car and meet the group as they drove through from Florida.

When we met up with the group we went to ReCreation experiences to stay the night and do one last gear check. On Tuesday morning one of the Directors of ReCreation drove us to a put in point at Davenport Gap. Thus began one of the longest days of my life.

The hike from Davenport Gap to our first Shelter at Groundhog Creek, was around 10 miles. Seven of those miles went straight up the side of a mountain. I started off fine, Keri and I quickly found a place in the middle of the pack, the speed hikers of the group being 30 min ahead and the first time hikers 30 minutes behind. We hit the trail at 10 in the morning and around 2 my thighs started cramping. Then my right calf decided that I was not taking my thighs seriously and gave out on me... three times. The second of which caused me to swing my walking stick at a tree in frustration and break it into three pieces. While this was not ideal the walking stick served its purpose, it made me feel strong in a time of weakness. The third time my calf gave out I wound up sitting on the side of the trial, by myself since Keri didn't realize I had stopped to stretch until she was over a ridge, until the slower hikers caught up. This helped since it gave me a good 30-45 minuets to let my legs recover.

By the time they last third of our group had caught up to us I was still sore, but able to hike again. Unfortunately the weather had caught up to us, our first summit at Snowbird Mt should have been an amazing view, but we were in a cloud, so it mostly looked like a scene from The Hound of the Baskervilles. After that it started to rain, and continued to rain after we got to the shelter and set up camp. Joel, Keri, and I stood around my hammock (under a tarp that was set up for just this occasion) until 8:30 talking. We didn't want to go to bed any earlier because, well it was only 8:30. That night I slept well, and from what I could gather the next morning wound up being the driest member of out group.

The rain let up sometime between Tuesday becoming Wednesday. We packed up our damp gear (I managed to bust the zipper on my sleeping bag in the process) and headed out for a short 8.9 mile day over varied terrain. If Tuesday was enough to make me question why anyone would ever backpack, Wednesday made me question why more people didn't. It was a beautiful and clear day, the rain had brought in a cold front that made hiking a cool and pleasant experience, until we got to the top of Max Patch. Max Patch is a bald, which means there are no trees or high plants, imagine the opening scene of Sound of Music only put her hill at the top of the mountains and you have Max Patch. It was a beautiful 360 degree view, the only problem was it was windy and cold. I made Keri spend 30 min on top becuase I wanted to take my pack off and enjoy it. Eventually we hiked down and into our shelter a couple miles away at Roaring Fork.

The cold really set in that night, and I decided to hang my hammock in the shelter for the extra wind protection. It got down to bellow freezing. Now I had this crazy idea that it was May everywhere, but apparently it is still late February in the mountains, so all I had was a fleece, beanie, and thin gloves in addition to a few very breathable shirts and hiking shorts. The break in my sleeping bags zipper worked to my advantage as I got to use it as a blanket and wrap in around my self, with the mummy bag back covering my head. So staying warm wasn't a problem, but before I got into it I was miserable. Waking up in the morning and getting out of my warm cocoon was even worse, but I did and then the sun came, and it was perfect again.

At Roaring Fork we first met Driftwood, Oatmeal,  Reese and a couple on the second half of their honeymoon whose names I can't remember but they had a tiny white dog named Charlie with them (Driftwood and Oatmeal are their trail names) who are all attempting to thru-hike the trail (go from Georgia to Maine in one season). These guys must be the most laid back hikers ever, but since it was so cold we didn't really talk to them until the next shelter.

The thing about it being cold is you don't want to take off your socks. The thing about hiking is that your feet are really important and sometimes blister. This is the quandary I found myself in, and so began the story of the five blisters on my feet. When I was hiking I could ignore it, there were more important things to worry about, like scenic vistas and staying hydrated, but when I stopped my blisters got cold and made starting again miserable.

Thursday was a great day, my legs were doing fine, the weather was perfect, and we had two beautiful summits. This was our longest day, from Roaring Fork to our shelter at Deer Park Mt it was a 14 mile hike. The Hike knocked out two of our hikers around mile 11, and they caught a ride at a crossroad into Hot Springs. Two of our guys, Asa and Kyle, got to the shelter, dropped their packs, and hiked the 3.4 miles back to the Gap where they were going to help those two carry their gear on to the shelter. They did get there in time to watch the other two drive away and run the 3.4 miles back with Joel. They made the hike in an hour, pulling in 20 minutes before the sunset.

That night was ideal, we got to sit around a camp fire and talk to the other people camping at the shelter. I learned some fun facts, mostly about the number of calories in any type of food, 280 in a snickers bar, and 120 in a tablespoon of Olive Oil are the ones that stuck out. Thru-hikers won't carry a food bar unless it has over 100 calories, which makes sense as they are concerned about weight and consuming as many calories as possible. I burn around 800 calories per hour of hiking, and thru-hikers hike for more hours than I was, so they need 3x the calories as I needed. Charlie the dog warmed up to me and sat next to me and allowed me to scratch him. Also Charlie the dog had a full body mohawk, he is awesome.

Friday we woke up and hiked down into Hot Springs, a whole 3.2 miles. When we got to Hot Springs we picked up the two who came in early and headed over to the Hot Springs Spa. An hour in the hot tubs, all my muscles felt amazing. Keri and I got dropped off in Spartanburg where we spent the afternoon at her Aunt's. I watched the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie with her cousin Phillip. Aunt Holly made us an amazing dinner, and we eagerly returned to Athens and Atlanta where real beds awaited.

I spent today sleeping, letting my blisters heal, and making a trip to REI to look at new boots. All in all its been a good week. I love backpacking.