02 February, 2017

Eleven Months Left!

So… clearly these are being published a little late, but these are my goals for 2017. I really wanted time to reflect upon what I wanted out of this year. Evan probably knows this about me, but I set lofty goals for myself. For the past two years I have failed to meet 100% of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year- but both times I was did meet the percentage of goals I set out for myself. This year I decided to strip down the goals to the ones that were really important to me.

Whitewater Kayaking
25 - Days Paddling
2 - Personal First Descents
5 - Different Rivers Paddled

5 - New Advanced (UNCG) Top Rope Routes Climbed
5 - New Advanced (UNCG) Boulder Problems Climbed
5 - Days Climbing Outside
1 - 5.12 Climbed at Any Gym or Crag

Other Activities
30 - Miles of Backpacking
190 - Target Weight (lbs)

Creeks & Crags
20 - C&C Posts
4 - C&C Videos

Reading & Writing
1 - Participate in NaNoWriMo
2 - Entries Submitted for Publishing
4 - Books Read

1- Earn Bachelor’s Degree

Some may notice that there are less goals oriented around outdoor activities. This isn’t because I plan to be less active, but because I plan to be more efficient in how I spend my free time. I would rather spend my time focusing on the things I really love. I also decided to set goals by days spent, rather than raw number of rivers. Last year I paddled 18 days, so I know I will have to remain active to reach the 25 days of paddling this year.

Hopefully Evan will let us know his goals soon.

24 January, 2017

The Beauty of Believing

But I just made the terrible mistake of checking the water levels of the nearby rivers during January when I don’t own a Drysuit. Everything is running and my kayak sits in my living room where it continues to hibernate for the winter. (Save for a failed attempt to go snow-yaking.)

While my kayak slumbers- I have been continuing to climb frequently. I assume you could call “almost every day” frequently. Other than a couple weeks off for the holidays I have been feeling stronger and stronger in my climbs and managed to hit a milestone in my climbing career before my short break.

Actually this Friday (Jan. 27th) will mark the one year anniversary of when I began climbing. Thanks to the beauty of text messaging I know the date. For my first few months I climbed at the old UNCG wall “The Edge”. In mid-August the new UNCG Rock Wall opened up to the public for the first time and as the gates open the community flooded in. Immediately two routes stood out, ‘Moon Stone’ (5.11) and ‘Something to Believe In’ (5.11). All of the advanced climbers at the time began jumping on each route and trying their hand at conquering the beasts that would both would probably be graded higher and most commercial gyms. ‘Something to Believe In’ probably deserves to be 5.11+ at UNCG.

Left start hold and route card for 'Something to Believe In'

In less than a week ‘Something to Believe In’ was recognized for having an incredibly challenging start that was deemed ridiculous by many climbers. After a month only three people had managed to get on the project and make it to the top (clean), including the person who had set the route. For two months the route toiled away in obscurity as the only people who dared to touch it were those wanting to see why it had developed its reputation. Pulling on to the wall and making the first move just seemed out of reach.

That is until Patrick encouraged me to give it a go one evening. Like everyone the starting moves just proved to be too much for me. So I ended up skipping the first one/two moves and began working the rest of the route. It is a route that uses a combination of creative balance moves with slopers, sloped pinches, and crimps. It was incredibly hard to figure out how to use each hold and I felt way in over my head. It stood alone when it came to difficulty of routes I had been on, but when I came off of it for the day it no longer felt quite as impossible.

For the next couple weeks I started to hop on it more and more often making progress as I climbed. It sometimes felt like people thought I was weird for projecting it, but I had become consumed by the climb and I continued to work it. The final piece was putting together the start, which I managed to do with the help of Nick, one of the people who had climbed it. Eventually I sent the route and became the fourth person to get it clean.

It would be easy for me to claim ‘Something to Believe In’ as a milestone route because it is the hardest route I have ever climbed or even because I spent more time projecting it than any other climb. But what really sets the route apart for me is feeling I got and feedback I received from UNCG’s climbing community as I worked it. It was the first time that it felt like I had ever influenced people to climb something. Climbers who I look up to and have been learning from for the better part of a year seemed to watch me climb and listen to my praises the quality of the route. Since I topped ‘Something to Believe In’, Jamie and Alec managed to send it- and other climbers have managed to get incredibly close.

While I doubt it will take anyone else the same number attempts, I am glad that I managed to reignite interest in climbing a route- and that that interest ended up allowing the route to live well past its lifespan. As one of, if not the oldest route on our wall it will be stripped in a couple weeks as we prepare for our annual competition and I am sure more people will send it before it comes down. At least from me, it will be missed!

01 January, 2017

Goodbye 2016 - It's Been a Fun Ride

It seems to be a common trend on the internet to celebrate the ending of 2016. Just because people have replaced their calendars with new ones that have different numbers they think everything that happened last year would magically disappear. Luckily, I had a great 2016.

For the past two years I have set out with a list of goals to accomplish and these have worked out pretty well! I have yet to meet 100% of the goals that I put down, but have managed to reach the percentage set out for myself both years. Here is a very brief rundown of my 2016:

I spent 18 days paddling this year, which doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who lives in the Piedmont of North Carolina where paddling opportunities can be limited is actually a huge deal. During that time I paddled five Personal First Descents (PFDs):

  • Toilet Bowl / Hammer Factor [Green River Narrows]
  • Deep River [Cedar Falls Section]
  • Middle Ocoee River
  • Upper Ocoee River
  • Haw River

Gabriel's Bend Rapid (Haw River)

Each trip was an amazing experience and I learned a lot from each one. While I am super stoked to have run the last two rapids on the Green River Narrows, which included my first Class V, the weekend I spent on the Ocoee River with my friend Meryl stands out as one of, if not the funnest river I have ever paddled.

I guided three people on their first kayaking trips. Watching each of them have a blast as they embraced the sport was super exciting for me and I realized I still have a lot to give when it comes to the sport. (I also have a lot to learn too.) My roommate and I also entered our first kayaking race at Tuck Fest, which is where I realized that Kayak races might not be my cup of tea.

For years I have wanted to get into climbing and this year I finally did. In less than I year I have managed to meet a great group of friends through my University’s climbing community and have worked hard to improve. I entered my first two Climbing Competitions and even began to Sport Climb outdoors. I got the chance to make my first climbing trips to New River Gorge, Lake Summersville, and Pilot Mountain.

Pole Dancing (Pilot Mountain)

Recently I finished climbing the hardest climb I’ve ever sent at our University’s wall which was an amazing experience. I will likely write a post about this soon.

Backpacking / Hiking
I spent three days of my Spring Break completing the last 30 miles I had left to hike in the Nantahala National Forest. It was great getting back out on the Appalachian Trail with my dad and I was super stoked that we got to share that experience with my little sister.

Cheoah Bald (Nantahala National Forest)

I also got to hike the Perimeter Trail at Camp Grimes for the first time in years, and loved every second of it.

Disc Golf
I played eleven disc golf courses this year, six of those were new courses for me. In that time I got to play my first Doubles Tournament with a friend I met from school where we did decently well for as out of practice as we were!

Fitness and Leisure
I managed to lose enough weight this year to get to 188.6 lbs but have struggled to keep it off. I have been bouncing between 190 and 200 all year, and am currently back at 200. I plan to get back down below 190 and to keep the weight off this year. Evan and I also managed to increase the amount of content that we were posting to the various outlets of Creeks & Crags.

This year I managed to have a combined GPA of 3.72 at UNCG which is probably my best accomplishment of 2016. Not because I don’t think I couldn’t have done better, but because I have finally managed to learn how to balance my school work with all the other things I want to do.

17 December, 2016

More Like Sea to Snow

Well to say that I’m a little overdue for an update would be like saying “going down the Green River Narrows is kinda tough” or “pancakes are okay I guess.”  For those of you who thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere between Wyoming and Washington, well first off follow me on Twitter and second: Nope.

In fact right now I’m living large!  Spending the weekend at my friend and coworker’s place in Leavenworth, Washington and enjoying watching piles of snow tumble off the boughs of evergreens alongside a flowing river.

You may be asking, “Ooh a river?!  And you’re in the Cascades right now?  AND I just googled Leavenworth and you’re like 30 minutes from two different ski resorts.  AND it’s the adorable Bavarian-themed town that looks like it’s out of a freaking storybook when it snows!!”  If you didn’t ask that just bear with me, it’s a hypothetical, and yes all of those things are true!  But that comes later.  First off, I live in Seattle now.

It’s been busy, needless to say.  On Saturday, July 30th I arrived in Washington, and then shortly after in Seattle since I was coming up from Portland to the south and not the eastern side.  I have a whole video yet to make with all of my trip footage so for now I’m going to focus on what’s been going in since I arrived until the video’s done.  That’ll be a separate post, so for now let’s go over the past 4 months real quick.

It took me 10 days to find a job.  Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it but I’m now working in IT for a company that owns a bunch of restaurants in the area, plus they make a bunch of cheeses which is pretty much fantastic since, by proxy, I get to eat a lot of cheese now.  To be honest it’s not where I expected to end up but I’m happy to be there.  No part time scheduling worries, my first big-boy office job, and I get to stay busy with helping people out with their computer woes and worries.  Right up my alley since my Eagle Scout instincts kick in whenever someone has trouble logging in.

It took me 2 months to find an apartment.  Seattle’s housing market is downright vicious.  Any place I went to go see was usually rented out the next day, or within 2 or 3 if it was in a “less popular” area.  My renting experience in NC was one of taking your time and making sure you ended up with a place you liked.  This was more of a mad dash to snatch up any little morsels of space that happened to fall off the adults’ (read: Amazon developers’) table at dinner.  That being said I ended up in a place that I really adore.

You say claustrophobic, I say comfy!

It’s a tiny studio right at the southern base of Queen Anne hill, which is to say just a few blocks north of the Space Needle and pretty close to downtown.  I bike into work, I walk around the city when I need to run errands, I get to be active even when I’m just living life day to day.  Overall, I’m really enjoying it out here minus missing my friends back east.

But hey, I spent the weekend in Leavenworth which is an entirely different beast!  Just on the other side of the Cascades, between Stevens Pass to the north and Snoqualmie Pass to the south we have this down that is completely Bavarian themed from its architecture to its culture.  We chowed on bratwurst and enjoyed the Christmas tree lighting that came with the first snow of the season we came in for.

All my life I've wanted to grow up in a small German town.  Close enough.

My friend Ben’s family has a house there right on the bank of the hearty Wenatchee river, which after some research proves to be a nice kayaking destination!  Since it didn’t get above freezing all weekend I didn’t really, you know, get into the ­guts of the river but from what I’ve read it’s up to a 28 mile stretch with a good spread of Class II – III+ rapids with a low-head dam right in the middle to portage around.  Put it on the list!

We also went snowshoeing, which is the first time I had done that ever.  To be fair there probably wasn’t enough snow on the ground to really justify the snowshoes, only about 6 – 8 inches in most places, but there was a snowshoe trail so screw it, we used ‘em.  After a short trek in we veered off the trail and started going straight up the side of the mountain, made it to a secondary ridge and followed it up to the primary where we were greeted with wind, clouds and snow blowing in, and an absolutely breathtaking view of the town and the mountain range stretching out to the south.

The little mountain village sits, unassuming, being observed from the high mountain range.

Since the trail came up to the ridge in the first place we picked it back up and meandered our way back down the mountain.  Town was absolutely insane because of the tree lighting, which happens every Saturday night in December, so we grabbed some handmade bratwurst, a few jars of gourmet mustard, and a bomber of cider and went back to the house to grill and watch the Sounders win the MLS Championship in front of a roaring fire in the wood stove.  If you’re jealous of that setting you should be since it was fantastic.

So I’m digging it here so far, and I’ve managed to start keeping track of all the outdoor adventures I want to go on in the future.  There’s the Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile trek around the base of Mount Rainier, Rainier itself I’d love to summit after some mountaineering lessons, the 3 ski resorts nearby of which I’ve heard one is the best in the world (from a random dude but still), plus the countless rivers around with rapids galore.  I guess it’ll be pretty easy to stay busy once I start planning these trips out.

I know for a fact I’ll be getting my skis back on sometime this season, and of course I’ll be getting my roadtrip video(s) out in my next installment of Catching Up With Evan.  But for now the takeaway is that I’m out west, life is good, and it’s thick with adventure out here.  Derek, get your ass over here.

28 November, 2016

From the Ashes

It's been an awkward time period for me lately. A few weeks ago I heard the news that the Dining Hall at the summer camp Evan and I worked at together had burned down. It took some time for the news to actually hit me. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of the aftermath that I really knew how different things were gonna going into my last year of working Staff at Camp Grimes. For 16 summers I went to the Dining Hall to get my food and to admire all the memorabilia of the Camp since it opened in 1976. Gone. It's all gone and it's going to take some time getting used to that fact.

Remains of the Dining Hall.

I also have recently learned that I will need to one or two classes this spring so that I can graduate college. I had been operating under the impression that I would be graduating in two weeks. I could lie and say that it doesn’t bother me… but it would be apparent and ridiculous. Fortunately while operating this blog with Evan I have gone through some personal growth and know that it's not something I can’t overcome. From out of the ashes the phoenix rises stronger than ever. I know that 2016 has been one of, if not the best year I have had in quite some time. I know 2017 will be even better!

On some more pleasant news I have been route-setting at my University's rock wall and am having a blast doing it. Hopefully I can get some images or videos up soon of some of the things I’ve set.

26 October, 2016

Victory Vicariously

This past weekend my roommate and I took our friend, Patrick, to the USNWC in Charlotte. Patrick had been on two trips of the Upper Green with me and two trips on the Lower Green with Alec over the summer. He’d also been with us to the Center once before and even managed to get his first combat roll and making it down Sunset on the Wilderness Channel twice before swimming M-Wave.

Patrick on the Upper Green.

It felt to me that Patrick wasn’t paddling confidently early on and after two swims at Entrance Exam he chose to practice his rolls in the upper pool while Alec and I made a few laps on the Wildy and Comp Channels. Eventually we went to check on him and see how his rolls had been, but found him drying off. He did get back in his boat and a small adjustment managed to help him fix his inconsistent roll. It took some convincing, but he eventually agreed to try the Wilderness Channel again. For the third time this year I told him he could get out before M-Wave. For the third time this year I didn’t actually mean it when I said it.

We took our time through the channel, taking breaks in the eddies and prepping Patrick for what lay ahead. By the time we made it down Sunset, Patrick was having fun again. Even as he ran into the meat of M-Wave sideways he managed to keep his head together and get a solid roll attempt in before punching his skirt. Unshaken he talked about how much of a success the day had been and told us he was going to get out. We convinced him to try the Wildy one more time and to just get out after Sunset if he really wanted to… You would think he would have realized at this point he was going to go through M-Wave.

On his final lap Patrick managed to take a decent line on the right side of M-Wave and punched right through. From the eddy river right I shouted words of encouragement such as, “You’re good!” and “You got this!” when he found himself stuck on top of a plastic bollard. But he managed to make through M-Wave, Sunset, and Biscuits and Gravy upright. It was awesome watching him finally make it through the Wilderness Channel which I knew he really wanted to do. I was also super stoked to see Patrick push himself forward when he could have easily allowed fear to keep him from trying. Now we just need to look forward. Once he gains more confidence in the Wilderness Channel and his ability to roll there, we will get him to take a closer took at the Competition Channel.
Looking Forward - Big Drop (Class IV)!

12 October, 2016

The Intangibles

As a good friend of mine knows, sometimes you look back on something you’ve done and think to yourself, “That was dumb!” This is what was running through my head this past Saturday as I sat on the side of the road for my roommate to come pick me up. The two of us had just paddled the Haw River at 10,000cfs… while Hurricane Matthew continued to unload rain and wind across the eastern half of North Carolina.

Waiting at the Take Out.

After we got off work we threw our boats on his car and made our way east, to the Haw. I had been looking forward to running the Haw at higher water and that was exactly what I got. Sticks and logs accompanied us on the 1.3 mile float trip. The rapids were great fun and we both had a blast as we made our way down them. Gabriel’s Bend, which is easily the signature rapid of the run, was incredible. The extra water made it somewhere around a Class III+ rapid. I had heard a few of the rapids, Moosejaw Falls and The Slot, merge together at high water becoming a large pour-over. I was caught off guard at just how much they had merged at flood stage, even spilling over into The Maze to the far left. The entire trip was an intense roller coaster of waves and I am happy that I had kept my head on me to avoid waves that I knew were forming from water passing over trees from the flooded islands.

After reaching the takeout, Alec began the hike back upstream to grab the car and come pick me up. As soon as he made it out of sight an incredibly nice Park Ranger walked into the parking lot and offered me a ride up to the main road because trees were down near the take out so they were going to lock the gate at the end of the road. It was only after he dropped me off at the main road that I started to think about what we had just done. We had hopped on a river that was still rising while high bursts of wind continue to batter the the trees around us. While it was definitely an enjoyable experience I won’t soon forget, it is also (retrospectively) an unnerving experience that I won’t soon repeat.

In the future I will be able to wait through the heavy storm and hop on the rivers as they fall. It’s a little unfortunate I missed the chance to run the Little River (Eno tributary) or the Deep River as the levels fell into manageable ranges, but there will always be a chance to run them safely in the future.