Blogging a while back, things have changed big and we now find ourselves living in a vacation home we’ve owned for nearly 15 years that occupies a spot in Arnold, CA, at 4,189 feet elevation and just inside the western edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that spans 400 miles north to south, and 70 miles west to east. If you want, you can find lots of things to do. So we are. For example:
- Trail Hiking (nothing is flat for very long around here)
- Preparing Meals at Home (there are a few restaurants, but putting on pots of soup is fun and rewarding)
- Fishing (tons of rivers, lakes, and streams; gear on order from Amazon)
- Kayaking and Canoeing (lots of rental places)
- Touring Caves and Caverns
- Snowshoeing, X-Country Ski, and Alpine Ski
- Hunting (lots of deer up here)
There are other things, such as mountain biking, but that’s the list of things that interest me, and I intend to do most of them and blog about them. Last Friday we completed our first full week of hiking, where we did four substantial hikes over seven days, so let’s begin there. A food post will be next.
I fired up the Fitbit Surge once we got up here and almost immediately found myself in a weekend challenge where I prevailed for 49,000 steps on a Saturday and Sunday. I ended up having to go out and run from 11:15 to midnight on that Sunday evening to win by 1,500 steps. Came out to about 19 miles distance total, but it was mostly on the local streets around here, not trail hikes with big ascents and descents.
We began with the trail hikes on Saturday, a week ago. Hiked two days in a row on portions of the Arnold Rim Trail that’s essentially in our backyard.
The Fitbit logs lots of data, which you see from the dashboard, but you can also drill down for data over time (those dashboard figures are for the whole 24-hr period). For instance, here’s the heart-rate plot that includes last Friday’s near 10-mile hike with numerous ascents and descents between 3,500 and 4,400 feet elevation. It also includes cooking a steak frites meal later, which always gets my heart pumping.
But I have an even cooler trick up my sleeve. It’s a GPS and altitude logger app for my iPhone, and it works even when there’s no cellular service. Motion-GPS…check it out. I didn’t get it until before our second hike and even then, forgot to turn it on until we were .8 miles in, so this was really a 9-miler (Sunday, June 12).
Even cooler than that is you can share the completed track, data, and plots to Facebook, Twitter, and email. So, family, friends, and followers can click the link and check out all the data interactively. Here, see for yourself.
Having just started at this, we were pretty pooped come Sunday evening and so took three days off with just basic dog walking. On days six and seven of this first week, we hit it again.
Here’s the interactive track for that one. On Friday, it was back to the rim trail and we decided to do the car drop-off thing, then hike the whole thing from top to bottom.
Here’s the data drill-down link for that. If you click the link, then the Speed button, you’ll see that for a brief time, we were doing 85 mph. This is the result of pausing the tracking for a brief rest, then forgetting to resume before we were a couple of hundred yards further down the trail. …I guess it has AI, or it would have logged infinite speed or at least Warp Speed.
In terms of cumulative distance, it was 28 miles for the four hikes. Not shown on these—but available data on the Motion-GPS phone app—is accumulated ascent and descent in altitude. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the cumulative total for each hike and either it doesn’t save that data, or I’ve not yet found how to access it. At any rate, those hikes were on the order of 1,500 – 2,000 ft accumulated, each way. In total, perhaps about a mile of climb and mile of descent.
All of these hikes were done with zero provisions but for water. People crack me up with their packs of various foods for a hike of a few miles. The food post will be next, and a big part of that will be about the pre-hike breakfast.
I’ve tried everything and to be honest, never liked anything that much, and all it took was a few dog walking sessions in Vibrams for me just to ditch them altogether. That was thousands of miles of dog walks around the neighborhoods barefoot, over many years.
But going barefoot on trails can be pretty problematic if it’s not something you do all the time. So, I’d often just get out the Vibrams even though for various reasons, I don’t like them. I have a “Roman” or “Greek” toe, for one, and I just find the idea of putting your toes in a glove hilariously ridiculous. The only thing in “paleo” I find more ridiculous is the prevalence of various nut butters of different kinds…where the mark of distinction is that it’s “not peanut butter.””
These have everything I need—which is minimal protection with a solid sense of earth and its contours, along with adequate securing of shoe sole to foot—and nothing I don’t want, like a glove, sweat, stink, and a jammed second toe (yeah, I know about the “cigarette lighter” mod).
Let me address a couple of things those who’re fans of Vibrams might raise. The first would be security; that is, slippage between the shoe sole and foot sole. There’s no dought that something that holds you overly tight like an extra-large condom is not going to be slipping around on the inside. But is it overkill? Well, in my experience over those miles on trails—and bounding around on various rock outcroppings and precipice—the webbed nylon “tube” straps are adequate. Just enough, not too much.
The second thing is pebbles small enough to get in and stay in. Even as tight as Vibram-condoms are, this still happens, and you have to clear them. It does happen with these as well, but it’s surprisingly rare. No more than a few times in 28 miles have I had to stop to clear a “just right” pebble between my foot sole and the shoe sole. I suspect that the design element of that raised lip on the back of the sandal is more about foiling those pebble entries than about slipping backward since the rear velcro strap is more than adequate.
A final thing is a slipperiness from sweat. Vibram solves this by overkill. In other words, they’ll wrap you so tight in their foot condom you’re sure to have awfully sweaty feet over the space of a long trail hike; but you’re wrapped tight, so no worries. I have often lamented flipflops because the soles of my feet tend to sweat, and then I start slipping around, and since there’re no means of securing your foot by design, it can be a problem. Miraculously, no such problem with these. But, in honesty, I have to clarify that I only wear them trail hiking, which is dirt, so it may be that the dust is a naturally circulating means of keeping you dry with the sole of your foot firmly in sensory control.
This aspect is most profound when descending a loose, small rocky gradient of 10-12% (Motion-GPS gives me gradient data as well). Who hasn’t been in hard-soled hiking boots where the little rocks act like ball bearings, and you end up on your ass with a nice view? This is just another element where these X-shoes excel in perhaps their greatest expression of minimalist ethic meets function. The soles are thin enough to feel everything. The soles are thick enough that even the sharpest, pointiest rocks and pebbles are no problem. The soles are malleable enough to contour around all of it, just as your bare foot would. In short, I watched my wife, in regular minimalist shoes, having great problems with the steep descent gradients and I sailed down them, sure-footed. In 28 miles of dirty, rocky trails, I didn’t have a single slippery incident.
If you like Vibrams, knock yourself out, but these Xero Shoes have a timeless, classic sandal look that even Jesus would be proud to wear…and when you have the “what would Jesus do” thing covered, well, it doesn’t get better than that. And hey, if you’re Jewish, I’m sure Abraham would have been hunky-dory leading the Jews out of Egypt to tromp around in the desert for 40 years in these as well. (Yes, I know, that was Moses; but why quibble?)
I think the biggest endorsement I can offer is that after 28 miles of trails over the last week, I can not imagine myself wearing anything else, ever. I just can’t.
Beyond that gear, the only other thing is my little .380 semi-auto, my go-to concealed carry piece. Fits easily right under my belt loop, available to me in a second.
The magazine holds six rounds, and I carry a spare six in one of my cargo pockets.
Some of these trails are remote, and you don’t see another human soul for hours or miles. In fact, that first hike we did, up to “Cougar Rock”—and I don’t think they’re talking about a place where sexy older women with hard bodies hang out—was without seeing another person the entire loop.
People get a false sense of security in the “wild,” which is an element of the tragedy of the commons. They believe that because it’s on a map, people go there, hike it, etc., that it’s safe. The better way to look at it is that just like most things in life, the Earth outpost of the universe is not malevolent to human life, per se, but shit can happen. Be prepared for that; but more importantly, be aware of its possibility.
Usually, you’ll be fine. Don’t take it for granted.
But reality can bite hard, and I prefer to be at least able to put up a No; Fuck No!
Other people vote.
…Late Saturday afternoon, a couple of days ago, we had the front door of the house open, as well as the gate from the deck, to the stairway to ground, so the three rat terriers and beagle hound could roam freely at will.
Suddenly, big commotion right in the front yard. Bea: “there’s a bear!”
The dogs had him three feet up, hugging the trunk of a pine tree and they were not happy at all. Mind you; this is about 70 pounds of doG in total, 200-300 pounds of an adolescent brown bear. But these doGs are a pack, the senior being 11-yr-old Nuke, a female so ripped it’s worrisome for me, at times.
I ran in to grab the gun while instructing Beatrice to get the dog leashes, the plan being: nobody get’s hurt. While that was going on, the bear goes from the tree he was in, to another one. But as soon as I descended the stairs and was there, the doGs gave it up to the Alpha and the bear scurried off.
Nobody gets hurt. The gun is to give you the final authority to have the wherewithal to interject to make sure nobody gets hurt if you can help it.
Alright. I think I’m done here.