Friday, July 17, 2015

Elliott Knob: My Adventures on Hillbilly Hill



For those of you who are new to reading my blog, two things are true: 
1) It takes me a few days (or a week) to write a blog entry.  I have a job and kids, so I have a tendency to fall asleep while writing.
2) I have an incredible sense of a direction, but technology doesn't.

I think I've been lost twice in my life.  The first time: : Torry Ridge 
The second time was on my way to my first training hike at Elliot Knob.  For some idiotic reason, my phone decided to route me to a gun club-- fortunately, Di wasn't with me.  (Do the math: (Gun + Di) x Getting Lost in the Mountains = X)  Unlike the other time I was lost in the mountains, I had cell service and could actually communicate with others about where the trail head was.   Of course, when I met up with Corey we discovered we were at the wrong trail.  Believe it or not, our guide suffers from directional issues as well....how could we forget our hike at McAffee Knob.

Not only did I get lost on the way, but it was raining as if we were in a monsoon.  It may be logical to blame the weathermen for the torrential downpour we were going to hike in, but the truth is that some people blamed ME for the mess.  Apparently, I'm just  a little black rain cloud.

Me.
Before going off to conquer the 9-mile trail at Elliott Knob, we introduced ourselves to each other.  Out of the fifteen hikers, half were familiar faces from the first Xtreme Hike.  The other half were new Xtreme Hikers or hikers from last year's event, each with their own incredible story of how they're connected to the CF community.  Hell, one of the new faces is hiking with cystic fibrosis.  Want to know who's going to kick everyone's ass on the final hike? Josh and his wife Jamie.  I know this because A) they kick ass, and B) they just returned from a vacation at Walt Disney World, and I guarantee they walked more miles in the parks than they will in September.

Day-Glo Corey


Oh, and how could I forget the two random dudes who joined us during introductions.  I don't know their names, but I'll call them Maynard and Zed.  I'm not trying to stereotype hillbillies, but when a couple dudes come strolling down a rural road, not wearing rain gear in a heavy downpour and carrying flasks in their jeans...well....let's just say you can hear the banjos play a familiar tune in your head.

Maynard & Zed
The one smoking the cigarette (Zed) finished his drag and asked the group, "Y'all going for a hike or something."  I answered for the group: "No, we're DEA Agents about to bust up a meth lab, know where we can find one?"  Well, that's the answer I wanted to give, but I've read Deliverance*, so I kept my mouth shut and watched them walk into the woods--onto the same trail we were about to hike on.

*If you like outdoors adventures and haven't read Deliverance…don't.

 I know the Xtreme Hike isn't a race, but I don't want to be pulled off the course during the Final Hike-- which is certainly a reality based on my last Xtreme Hike. A couple of years ago, I was a slow hiker.  Today, I'm still a slow hiker, so I wanted to use this hike to work on improving my pace.  The first part of my strategy was to identify the hiker with the highest level of athleticism.  This is why I got behind Roxy, a 7-year old mix-breed.  Also, I thought Roxy could be our best hope for survival if we came across the missing hillbilly hikers.

Roxy, my pace dog


So how was the actual hike?   It's difficult to describe the Eliot Knob trail as a trail.  It's more like two dirt roads connected by a short path through weeds and water.  If I had to call anything "interesting," it would be the weeds and water part.
The first dirt road.


Sure, there were a couple of waterfalls, but nothing scenic enough to stop for.  Maybe I've become a jaded old hiker (or I've always been a jaded old person), but 99% of waterfalls you encounter while hiking can be recreated with a garden hose and a couple of rocks in your backyard. 


Waterfalls are overrated.


 There was a little bit of excitement as we crossed the streams. Most of the hikers dipped their feet in the water unintentionally.  I have to admit, I didn't want to get my feet wet-- despite the fact I was hiking in pouring rain.  If that makes me a sissy, then so be it.  By the end of the hike, nearly everyone was wading through the water, while I was  still tip-toeing across the rocks.   

REAL Xtreme Hikers get their feet wet.


After a few stream crossings, the trail turned into an overgrown mess for about a mile before connecting to the second dirt road.  As we emerged from the jungle,  our group ran into a couple of hikers going the opposite direction-- meaning, they had not encountered meth-head hikers.  I asked how the top of the Knob was, and they told us that they turned around before reaching the summit.  "We're looking for the waterfalls."  Right. Have fun.





The "trail"


Walking on a dirt road doesn't seem XTREME

The next 2 miles were a vertical climb without switch-backs.  The ascent felt like a great workout, but there wasn't a whole lot of excitement on the dirt road.  Roxy kept the pace going up the hill, but the climb was absolutely kicking my ass.  I eased up a little and engaged in brief conversation as other hikers passed me.  I tried keeping up with the group, but intentionally dropped into solo mode when one group started talking about feminine hygiene on the trail.   It's not unusual to talk freely and openly on the trail-- in fact, I once had someone tell me that they enjoyed killing people (bad guys, of course).  

After 4+ miles of terrible trails, you'd think that the views at the top would make the journey worth it, right?
Spectacular.

At least I discovered why I was getting such great cell service. That's a bonus.

Oh, and we also discovered the creepiest fire tower ever. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the shadow of a person's body.  Was it Zed? Was it Maynard?
Creepy tower....with an open gate.

Or was it some other axe-wielding psychopath waiting for the next group of campers?


I am not amused.















Friday, July 10, 2015

Mental Training

After my last blog post, fan mail flooded my in-box.  The most common question was related to my training regiment.  Before my first hike, Bob (the guy who wears the kilt) told me, "Hiking 31-miles is a mental challenge, not a physical challenge.  Anyone can hike 31-miles if they train their minds to do it." After hiking 31 miles, I'm proof that anyone can physically hike long distances-- and with proper mental training, you can too.

Do or Do Not. There is no Try.


So what's my secret?  I ask myself 3 questions before every Xtreme hike.  I printed each question on a flash card that I can carry along with me on my hikes (see below).
#1.



If you plan on hiking XTREME, then you need FOOD.  Not only do you need food at the top of the mountain, you need it at the base and on the trail towards the summit. If you want to look like a true hiker, then you need to be prepared to eat the worst food imaginable (ie: Tuna-flavored Cliff bars and Chocolate-covered tofu). Here's my advice: just bring a few Snickers bars.  They contain everything you'll need on the trail: sugar, protein, and nougat.  If you answered yodeling, then I'd practice on your balance, because there's a good chance you'll be pushed off the mountain.

#2.


There's no wrong answer, but if you picked batteries for your heated socks, then you're really not ready for an Extreme Hike.  First of all, the Xtreme Hike is in the extreme heat of Virginia's summer.  Sure, it's a little cooler in the mountains than on the city streets, but it's not exactly cool.  Plus, if you fall in a stream there's a good chance your feet will be electrocuted, putting you at risk of an on-the-trail amputation (something Corey CAN do). Technically, I don't carry a teddy, but Beanie Boo's fit nicely in my pack.

My hiking pal: Wishful



#3.



I've seen many people bring flags with their pet's face on it.   Planting a flag with Buttercup's face is adorable, but do you want to be an adorbale hiker?  You need to send a message. You need people to know: THIS IS MY MOUNTAIN, BITCH.   That's why every Xtreme Hiker should be thinking about their legacy and the flag they want to plant on top of that big rock.  An Xtreme Hiker needs to put their face on that mountain.  


Hopefully this advice will help one of the new participants finish the Xtreme Hike.... I don't want to see kitty cat flags on the next hike!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

THE RETURN

2 Years Ago


Two years ago, I made a decision to stop writing this blog, but I've continued to reply to emails from my fans:

"Dude. Your blog brought meaning to my life. I am lost without you. My soul is empty. Please come back."
Dear Loser: I've been busy. I have a life. I suggest you get one too. Thanks.

OR

"Hey buddy, did you keep your beard after the hike? It looks rad."
Dear Corey: Yes, I kept the beard, and thanks…it IS rad if I keep it trimmed. Otherwise, I look like a crazed psychopath.

OR

"Love the blog, and I really wish you'd write about your hikes again.  It seems like you really hate hiking, but I think it would be good for you."
Dear Di: I do hate a lot of things, and hiking just happens to be one of those things. And despite this declaration of hate, you're probably right (as always).... maybe I do need to hike again.


I'm fortunate to have so many loyal fans who want me to write again-- and that's why I'm declaring my RETURN.  For the past several months, I've been secretly training my body and mind for the upcoming XTREME HIKE 2015.  Yes, I've decided to hike again-- which means I'm bringing my talents back to this blog.



So two years is a long time to go missing, and I know you're wondering: what has Scott been up to?  Glad you asked.

For the past two years, I've been a dad.  I've done a few other things, like go to work and cool guy stuff (ie: reading books about war, re-watching Breaking Bad episodes, sneaking handfuls of potato chips from the pantry when no one's looking, gaining weight, and creating new expletives), but most of my time was spent being a dad (and going to work).  Being a father is incredibly important job, and I didn't want to take my responsibilities lightly.    

Last year, I signed up for the Xtreme Hike, and I was so psyched to spend my summer staring at trees and popping blisters-- but after thoughtful consideration, I backed out. I was a quitter, but I needed (and wanted) to spend the summer enjoying time with my daughters.  'They' say you never get this time back, and I wanted to be present for my girls, rather than 'the strange dude that cooks us chocolate-chip pancakes on the weekends."  It was the right decision for our family.  

So WHY am I doing this year's Xtreme Hike?

First, I need a break from the kids.  Yeah, being a dad is great and all, but after a year of being DAD it's time for ME again.   We'll always share the wonderful memories of 'Dad Time,' but I'm not really sure the girls appreciated this time together.


Making core memories on Goofball Island

The girls keep asking, "Hey dad, when are you going to get off the sofa and do something?" and "Remember that hike you did? That was cool. Do you do cool things anymore?"  And sometimes they wake me up from my nap on the sofa and say, "Daddy, you need a hobby."  Maybe daddy just needs a drink, and the best place to do that is in the middle of the woods where you can't crash your car after a few shots.  (Girls, when you're old enough to use the Internet, I hope you come across this blog and know that I TRIED, girls…I really did.)  So yeah, everyone's on board with daddy finding an activity outside the house. Even my wife.

Speaking of my amazing wife who joined me on the first hike-- she's not hiking with me.  I've tried to get her back on the trail, but she keeps telling me: "blah blah DIVORCE blah blah."  I know she WANTS to be out there with me, so maybe next year.

The second reason I'm doing the hike? It feels pretty damn good to accomplish something as challenging as the Xtreme Hike.  Two years ago Di and I raised $7,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and hiked 31 miles in a day... I want to beat that accomplishment this year.

It feels great to kick ass.


So what's in store for Summer 2015?  Well, I already missed the kick-off hike because I was on vacation.  I made up for it with my own training: a 4-mile hike of the hills of the Outer Banks, NC with several minutes of X-training (Corona Curls and Rum Punches).

Ready to kick ass.

THIS Saturday, I will return to the mountains for the first time in 2 years.  I'm setting out to conquer Elliot's Knob (somehow that doesn't sound right).  I don't know much about the trail, but I have a feeling I'll hate it-- unless there's a water slide that takes you down the hill to a poolside bar.  I've been reading the reviews and it sounds like a true gem:

"If you are hiking this in the summer, be sure to bring bug spray, though, as the biting gnats were horrendous and left bites that bled and itched for a week."

"We ran into a rattler that wasn't too pleased to see us."

"If it's a sunny day I would definitely wear sunscreen because you're exposed to the sun for a good portion of the hike- especially at the outlook."

"We go to the woods to enjoy nature, but seeing the immensity of the clear cutting of the forest made us sick...such destruction!"

Bugs, snakes, sun, and DESTRUCTION!!!1! They don't scare me. I'm a man. I can deal with that stuff (with proper bug spray, snake-bite kit, sunscreen, and prepper go bag).  But HILLS? I hate hills-- most aging, overweight people do. So this was probably my least favorite comment:

 "It's the toughest hike I've found yet in Virginia.  The trail builders apparently do not believe in switchbacks."

And then I looked at the elevation profile:

Fun times.

And then I looked at my calendar for the rest of the summer and thought, "Cool, what else could I do with my time this summer?" I thought of a trillion other things that sound more fun than hiking the state's most difficult trails, but… none of them have any social value whatsoever.  No one benefits from me sitting on my sofa with a cold beer. Well, I benefit…but this isn't REALLY all about me.  It's about fighting Cystic Fibrosis.  So please take a second to donate to my hike to help fund CF research and to find a cure.  Donate Here: http://fightcf.cff.org/goto/seaborn