Monday, August 13, 2012


So there are these guys that love women's shoes... Straight guys even, at least some of them. They watch the fashion world turn with envious eyes, and when Saks has a new pair of Jimmy Choos, they go full-on Carrie Bradshaw over them.

I never fancied myself one of those guys and I don't feel like I am, but I seem to be inching uncomfortably closer every year.

 New Shoes

Those are my new shoes, and "the eye that has brains" might notice that they are women's shoes. Those were the least girly-looking pair. It was either those or bright orange. I think I chose wisely.

The last 4 pairs of athletic shoes I've purchased have been women's. Why? Apparently I have dainty little feminine feet. I wear anywhere between an 8 and 10 in guys shoes, but for some reason the running/hiking shoe sizes are bigger than their casual/business counterparts, an 8 is slightly too big and nobody carries sizes smaller than an 8, I mean come on, who has feet that small? Occasionally I'll find an 8 that's close but it'll be either too wide or too long and I'll have to get the women's 10 in that same shoe, which, for some reason, always fits.

And now I've done it again.

Fun fact. My daughter Isabel has the opposite problem. She's the only one in our house who wears men's shoes.

The eye that has brains might also notice that those are barefoot running shoes. My brother hiked is ass all over creation in similar shoes last year without the slightest hint of injury, whereas I wore some bad-ass Keens, put in 1/10th of the miles he did and had non-stop problems with blisters, tendonitis and rolled ankles.

Enough! I'm buying into this fad. Lets see how they do.

I'd planned on riding my bike today and I even contacted Tim a few days ahead of time but he was too busy busting his face to join me. I bought a new pair of pants yesterday while buying those shoes, and with new gear burning a hole in my pocket and no riding partner on-hand, it was an easy decision to go hiking instead.

I rolled the mental dice and the Coopers Creek WMA popped up. The TNGA's going through there and there's a subtle change to the main road that I need GPS data for. Plus, there are dotted lines all over my maps of the area. Dotted lines meaning trails that I've seen but have not yet explored.

Explore them!

They say nothing remains constant except change itself, or something like that. Somebody said something like that I think. Such appears to be the case, in my life at least.

Ever since I started working for myself, I've made ok money but it's still ramping up, the money comes in lumps and it's inconsistent at best so now I'm making some radical changes to reduce our monthly expenditures until such time as we have a gigantic enough buffer built up to accommodate any eventualities. For example, we just paid off my wife's car, reduced our tv/internet bill service to the bare minimum, ditto for phones, and I'm planning on selling my beloved Subaru Outback this upcoming week. We just can't afford the note right now.

Our phone bill is less than half of what it used to be but as a result my iPhone has become a glorified iPod touch and I've got to carry around a separate dork phone now. Woohoo! It's worth it but I'm still not used to it and I keep letting the iPhone's battery die. I noticed that the battery was dead on the drive up and I didn't have the charger in my car. It meant that this adventure would be photoless which isn't that big of a deal, but the gravity of the situation (minor as it may be) hit me with unexpected force.

What if I see a mountain lion?

What if I see a bigfoot?

Nobody would believe me. And since I take so many photos and damn near always have my camera, and this is well known, it would seem that much less believable. That would be my luck too. On the day I have no camera, I'd see bigfoot riding a flying unicorn, chasing a leprechaun riding a mountain lion.

Well, I didn't see any of those things, this time. Next time I probably won't either, but only because I'll have my camera ready. They're out there.

I drove all the way up FS264 and parked at the end.

On the way in I realized how rough the road is. Prior to Sea Creek falls there are a bunch of deep potholes, then you ford 12 inches of water or more, then the road gets seriously chunky with big slabs of rock sticking out at odd angles everywhere. It'd be tough to fix with a grader and probably you wouldn't want to, really, as it's all very stable. I haven't paid mind to such terrain, really ever, but with the pending sale of my Outback, I sure do notice it now. Kathryn's Fit would have bottomed out in the first pothole and it'd probably still be there. I guess I'll just be walking a lot farther in the future, or maybe I'll have to ride in, stash the bike, put on the new shoes and run around for a few hours. I do that sometimes now, just in the bike shoes actually, just not for hours and hours. Ehh... I'll have to figure that out later. Back to the story at hand...

I parked at the end of 264.

Years back I'd driven up there and seen a trail leading on with a white, official-looking carsonite stake hammered into the middle of it, marked with a yellow blaze. I wondered if I'd misremembered that, but no, there it was, for real. With such official-looking signage, the trail must go somewhere, right?

Not really.

I mean, it starts off all promising, clean and well travelled and I'm sure it goes _somewhere_, but it narrows down after the first little creek crossing and becomes frustratingly overgrown with rhodo and other little saplings before too long. It featured a surprising number of little spur trails and spurs of spurs, most of which were less overgrown than the main trail, but they all led to equally short ends. I was decoding the fingers of an old logging network. Darnit.

Back to the car.

Along the road, years ago, I'd seen several little overgrown side trails and marked them for future exploration. It turned out that upon further inspection, they were less overgrown than they'd originally looked.

There were two of them and the first one was only slightly less frustrating than that one earlier. The trail clearly got some use but alternated between wide open and easily navigable to chocked full of downed trees or overgrown with rhodo or obscured by ferns and brambles to clean and beautiful again.

It turned out to be a logging network too. Loops off of loops, spurs off of those.

Despite the boringness and reclamation, there were clear signs of traffic all over the place. Who the heck else walks up in here? Other explorers like myself?

I found a spent shotgun shell, so that's one obvious answer, but then I also found this somewhat expensive, though old, hiking pole.


Must have been attached to somebody's pack, fallen off and then later ravaged by animals.

I packed it out.

When I first went exploring that area, way back, I hiked up and down Jones Creek and found the same kind of trail system. It looked like each little cove north of the road had it's own little self-contained logging network that didn't extend up over the ridge to the adjoining cove. I imagine that's how the lots were divided up way back. Thinking about it, I imagined competing crews of axe men, racing their timber to the mill. Now that I think about it, I wonder if there was a lumber mill below Sea Creek Falls. I never thought of that before. Might make sense actually, it'd be a decent place for one.

(Update: Ha! There was a mill there, or at least this guy claims there was:

Imagination aside though, the day had been kind of boring so far, but that's just because I hadn't yet reached the cove next door.

The trail was very well defined. From the clearing of debris, it looked like people might even walk side-by-side sometimes. As uninventoried trails go, this one seemed fairly popular. Perhaps it led to the Duncan Ridge Trail at the top of the mountain, or maybe up over the gap and into a neighborhood on the other side. Something!

It turned out neither one was true, but I did find out why the trail was so popular, or at least maybe why. After walking about half a mile or so, I suddenly came face to face with a gigantic poplar rivalling the Gannett Poplar in size. It was a foot off the trail, and there's no way you could miss it.

I don't really know if it's as big as the Gannett, I'd have to measure or put something in front of it for reference, but it was freakin' huge and damnit why did I forget to charge my iPhone today!!!

Fortunately for me, unlike bigfoots and mountain lions, trees don't usually go anywhere. I can go back and take a photo of it later. I even got the GPS coordinates.

The trail continued past the monstrous tree but narrowed down considerably before eventually terminating. The tree was clearly the attraction. Known to the locals, no doubt. Heck, some of them may have watched it grow up.

At the end of the old road there was this weird little shelf too. Somebody had just run the bulldozer up the hill to the right and levelled off a little 20x40 shelf next to the road. There's a similar one up near Little Skeenah Falls and another up near the top of the Raven Cliffs Falls trail. They look like good spots to put some machinery or a little shack or something, but there's no evidence remaining of their original purpose. Somebody knows what it's for though. Somebody knows! Somebody tell me!

I explored all around. There were a half dozen side trails that went up this draw or that and inevitably ended before the top. Gotta get that timber out. Yep, gotta get it out.

One, anonymous little semi-overgown side trail led to another, almost equally large poplar. Waah! That's two within a mile of each other.

Another trail led way up along a fork of the main creek but down near the bottom end were two gigantic, though sickly looking, hemlocks. Gigantic!

There are actually a couple of large hemlocks off of 264 itself on the drive in, but these looked even bigger.

I can't explain how big these trees looked to me. They're big enough that I feel compelled to go back and measure them or at least take photos for comparison.

There's the Gannett Poplar and there are a couple of huge trees on the way into Cochran's Falls including a gigantic pine of all things, and there is allegedly a stand of old growth further southeast in the Coopers Creek WMA, but I've read stuff on the web about all those. I'd never heard of these. Whoever logged out the cove must have left them standing. It makes me want to explore the whole cove to see what else they might have left.

Watch, when I go back, they'll be half the size of the Gannett or something silly like that. But seriously, in comparison to the surrounding trees, they are monsters. Maybe I'll take the kids up there next time. They might be intrigued and they'd be good for scale. Hmmm.

I almost forgot...

On the way in, before finding that tree, I noticed two giant mounds down in the flatts between the old road and the creek. I thought they were dirt at first, but stepping down onto one of them, it was soft and turned out to be decomposing wood. It looked like what a tree becomes when it's been lying there for 20 years, all soft and wet. It looked like a giant pile of coarse sawdust or like somebody had aimed a wood chipper there and fed half the forest into it. Maybe the mill was right there and they just left their big piles behind when they packed it in. So weird. I saw the piles on the way out again but I didn't see any clear indication of a mill or any other structure. There was certainly room for one, but it was an odd location. Hmmm again.

It was getting late and dark in the woods so I hit the highway. Of course, restaurants were closed all the way home. Chili's was the only place still open other than Waffle House. Chili's is always good though.

I can't rave enough about how well those goofy little women's shoes performed either. It feels like you're walking around barefoot except without slicing your feet open and getting all kinds of stuff embedded in them. You have to articulate your feet more so mine are a little tired but I found myself taking much more careful steps, landing on the balls of my feet more than my heels, and picking lines rather than just stepping wherever and letting the sole absorb the impact. It feels like a net gain. I was out for 5 or 6 hours and the soles of my feet feel fine now and usually they feel more tired and worn.

Adventuring is one thing though. Next, I need to go do some big on-trail hike now to see what just straight marching is like. So far, so good though.

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