Hiked 15.8 miles to complete 13.6 AT miles (or Bridge Out!)

img_0001For my second day of joining Travis, I anticipated a much easier hike than previously. In truth, that’s what I got, though not as easy as expected. The first 7 miles or so were pretty good, but then my left knee started to bother me again. I downed some Vitamin I and proceeded gingerly for a while until it kicked in and the trail descent lessened. Not too bad.

About 11 miles in, we reached the shelter where we planned to eat lunch. There were other hikers there and we happened to discover that our planned pick-up point with Marci was on a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that was closed


One end of the closed section

for bridge maintainence. This presented a definite problem as the next road intersection after that was also on the closed section. Yikes!

The next reachable road crossing was about 10 miles down the trail, much further than I felt capable of doing. Going backward wasn’t a great option either, though I don’t know how far. Luckily, we figured out that there was an additional 2.2 mile trail from my planned stopping point to another road. As we approached my original stopping point, there was a pretty significant climb, so I worried that there would be an equally significant descent to where I would meet Marci. As it turned out, the descent was very gradual over the entire 2.2 miles, so my knee didn’t balk too much.

The rest of the group didn’t want to stop this early, particularly not with having to do the extra 2.2 miles both today and tomorrow. Instead, they chose to continue to the remaining 8 miles to the next crossing mentioned above, where Marci and I would meet them to pick them up and drive them back to Daleville.

Bevo (Travis, in front), Stitch (in pink), Secret Agent (in blue), and Bright Bags (in green)

Prior to the road closure issue, the plan had been for the rest of the group to hike a couple of additional miles after my stopping point and then I would join them there tomorrow for another 14.4 miles. At that point, Marci would pick me up and deliver their packs to the other hikers, who would continue on some before camping for the night. However, with my knee situation, I was hoping for something shorter — closer to 5 miles. The new starting point does offer the possibility of a 6.6 mile hike for me, but it includes a large amount of downhill hiking and I just don’t think my knee will be up for it. Thus, today was my last day of hiking.

Instead of hiking tomorrow, I will deliver the other hikers to their starting point and then meet them at the 6.6 mile point with some cookies and sodas. Then, I will meet them again several hours later near their ending point for the day (over 20 miles) with some Rudy’s BBQ we brought to Virginia from Texas, along with their packs.


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19.8 Miles – McAfee Knob

My friend Travis is thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It’s awesome.

p1100133Today, I joined him and his “trail family” for a portion of the hike, particularly selected for its inclusion of the famous McAfee Knob overlook. Unfortunately, this meant that the mileage for the day would be longer than I’d like: 19.8 miles. A tall order given that my longest preparatory hike was just 10 miles of relatively flat trail and this hike would include a 1500ft climb over the first 4 miles and several more climbs after that.
We can do it!

It was a wonderful day, which was particularly nice as we’d been concerned about rain and their previous day had been a miserable day of cold, wet hiking over dangerous terrain. Today couldn’t have been more different.

Everything is awesome!

While by no means easy, I did pretty well through the first 18 miles or so. Then, on the final downhill stretch, my left knee decided it had had enough and I had to really slow down. A couple of ibuprofen and some flat trail worked it out a bit and we finished the hike after a bit more than 9 hours (including several photo and water stops and a half hour lunch stop).

I’ll see how my legs feel tomorrow, but the current plan is to take tomorrow off and then for me to join them for two more days of ~15 miles per day.

Oh, and I got over 3000 active calories (and over 50K steps) on my Watch.





Missed it by *this* much

A circle is beautiful.

A circle is perfection.

Except when it is not a circle.

The Watch with its Activity Circles can be a harsh taskmaster. The Stand (blue) and Exercise (green) circles aren’t too bad: every week is a fresh opportunity with the previous week’s results no longer relevant. The Move (red) circle is the true master with multiple long term goals including perfect months and, my personal demon, longest streak.

During our Christmas trip to Jamaica, I managed to complete the move circle every day, and without arbitrarily reducing the goal. On the last day, I figured I would get plenty of walking in the various airports, so I didn’t make an extra effort to burn more calories in the morning. As I checked my progress throughout the day, things seemed okay. However, when we arrived back in Austin and got to our car, I was concerned by the number of calories I still needed and the limited amount of time left in the day (which ends promptly at midnight and isn’t particularly time zone friendly).


Not so itsy-bitsy

I expected to be home about 10 minutes before midnight with only about 10-15 calories left to the goal. This would not be a problem. Unless, of course, I were to be distracted by my daughters finding a fairly large spider had built a web by our front door. I took the time to take a picture and by the time I remembered the calorie goal, I only had about two minutes left. I didn’t make it, ending my 166 day stretch. As you can see above, I missed the goal by 2 calories.streak

I took the next day off and then began the slow march toward rebuilding the 166 day streak. I only made it to February 20 before another mishap, this time 6 calories short ending a mere 54-day streak.

Begin again. As of May 4th (May the forth be with you), I believe I am 74 days in, though I had to set a pretty low goal recently due to a mild illness in order to keep on track.

As I finish writing this, it occurs to me that it has drifted past midnight and I had neglected to verify completion. Thankfully, I had not yet increased my goal back up, so it was no problem (and I just now increased it back to a more reasonable goal).

Thank you. May I have another?

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AT Update: 10-Miler

 As planned, I managed to work in a longer hike this weekend. I had intended to hike 5 miles along the trail (which is over 7 miles long) and then hike back. However, at somewhere between 3 and 4 miles in I encountered a low water crossing and didn’t want to wade through it. There was a smaller trail continuing on without crossing, so I took that.

I followed the small trail for a while, including an unmarked merge onto another small trail, until it popped out near a commercial building. It appeared to continue on, but I wasn’t sure that it didn’t just loop back on itself, so I decided to just cut my hike short and head back to my car. If I recall correctly, this was just shy of 4 miles in.

On the hike back, I eventually decided that I would add another out-and-back in a different direction for the remaining time I had available. In a confirmation of my scheduling ability, the subsequent timed turnaround resulted in almost exactly 10 miles of total hiking (10.02). Success!

Based on the amount of battery drain the previous 6 mile hike had on my Watch when using it to track the hike, I left it in passive mode this time. Unfortunately, this led to neglecting to start the tracker on my iPhone as well. To somewhat compensate for this lapse, I decided to start tracking at the turnaround so that I could double the result. Of course, once I decided to add a second leg, it was necessary to stop the tracking at the second turnaround to get an accurate half log.

I’ve taken the elevation graph for the half I logged and flipped and expanded the two portions to show the whole 10 miles.  Oh, after the hike I discovered that one of my hiking poles had lost its rubber foot. Bummer.

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iPad Pro

When I purchased the original iPad, I didn’t have a use for it. I commented at the time that it was probably the largest frivolous purchase I’d ever made. I never regretted it and kept it until Apple announced that it wouldn’t get the next iOS release. It helped that the first Retina iPad was out by then, though it was the short-lived iPad 3 (or whatever it was called), which wasn’t a great iteration.

Once the iPad Mini existed, I was quite tempted by it for the potential of more comfortable reading in bed. However, giving up Retina was not an option. Eventually, the Retina version came out along side the iPad Air and very nearly feature equivalent with it. Mine! The next update to the Mini was fairly minor, with TouchID being the only change I recall. Not tempting enough.

Fast forward to the recent release of the 9.7″ iPad Pro. Nice. Pencil is cool, though I’m not an artist nor do I normally write by hand, so it’s not really something I’m likely to use. There are a number of improvements relative to my iPad Mini that actually matter to me, including split screen multitasking, TouchID, and more RAM. There are, of course, other improvements as well, but I don’t know that I’ll really notice them.

And yet, I bought one. I’m honestly not certain why. Having used it some, there are obviously advantages to the 9.7″ over the 7.9″, and the weight difference is pretty small (until you add the Smart Covers). I’m not unhappy with it and I expect it will probably grow on me.

(Based on Dave2‘s write-up, I may buy Procreate for Pencil fun!)


Welcome Back

Jumping right in…

Wrist News

(see Pebble on the Wrist)
It is presumably no surprise that I replaced my Pebble with an Watch pretty much immediately. The biggest thing I miss is being able to swim with the Pebble and have it (sort of) track laps. Having given up this functionality has resulted in giving up swimming as well. This is somewhat compensated by an increase in playing racquetball. 

The other feature I miss is the sleep tracking I’d started using via the Misfit app on the Pebble. Yesterday, I installed Sleep+ to attempt to track sleep with the Watch, but my first impression is that it doesn’t do as good a job. Also, the shorter battery life presents a potential challenge. Time will tell.

Completion of Mac Journey

(see The Long way Home)

Before my long hiatus, I think I may have still had a Windows system at home that got little to no use, a Windows laptop at work, and a Linux server hosting this blog along with a few other services. Since then, the home Windows system has been retired, the Linux system has been supplanted by an old MacBook Air with a broken screen, though the services have mostly been moved to various “clouds” (such as this blog being moved to WordPress.com), and the work Windows laptop went through a couple of years of being relegated to secondary status to my old 17″ MBP (as a BYOD at work) until recently being replaced entirely by a new work-provided 15″ Retina MBP.

Appalachian Trail

My friend Travis is a couple of weeks into a planned through hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It’s over 2000 miles and will take him around five months to complete. In about a month I’ll be joining him for three days of hiking, though no camping, and expect we’ll hike almost 50 miles. I do a reasonable amount of running and walking, so I’m not overly concerned, but the first day is probably going to be a 20-miler, so I figure I ought to do some training. 

I’ve purchased some gear, including a small backpack better suited for this task than any I already had and a set of hiking poles. I’ve never used hiking poles before, so I watched a couple of YouTube videos and took them, the backpack, and a pair of trail shoes (because I definitely needed more shoes) on a trial 6-mile trail hike today. Well, yesterday by the time I post this.  

It took a few minutes for me to work out the rhythm of the poles, but after that, I really liked them, particularly for getting up and down the rocky micro-hills on this trail. I also appreciate that they moderate my typical pace. I’ll probably head back to this trail this weekend and aim for a 10-miler.


Pebble on the Wrist


Kickstarter Edition!


It would be nice if this view could be customized; perhaps a future update will enable that.

Back in April, I jumped on the opportunity to acquire Dave2‘s Pebble watch, Kickstarter Edition, at a bargain price. Shortly thereafter, the firmware was updated with several significant fixes and the expected addition of support for displaying running data from various iOS apps.

For me, displaying the run data completes the replacement of my GPS watch with my iPhone. I had already made the switch and adjusted to no longer being able to glance at my wrist for current data; it’s very nice to have that back.

Over the months I’ve had the Pebble, I’ve experimented with a number of watch faces, including a couple that pulled HTTP data via an extra iOS app. While those were nice, they drained the Pebble’s battery much too fast for my liking. I also suspect the app caused significant additional drain of my iPhone’s battery. One of the more entertaining watch faces I tried was Gallifrey Time by SzDom. I’m currently using Bigger Time by Gorges, which is by far my favorite.


“Gallifrey Time” – I had a fun time with this one for a while; only took a short time to learn to read it.

The best feature of the Pebble, naturally, is its raison d’être: notifications. The fully supported notifications (on iOS) are Phone, Messages and, mostly, Mail. The caveat for Mail is that use of Mail’s VIP feature disables Pebble notifications (unless that’s been fixed since I last checked on it). The Phone notifications aren’t particularly useful for me, as I almost certainly want to pull out my phone to deal with the call in one way or another. Rarely, I just want to ignore the call, which I can do from the Pebble. In theory, that is. For some reason, call notifications aren’t going to my Pebble at this moment for me to verify, though the “Missed Call” notification does come through.

Despite this limitation on supported apps for notifications, it turns out that getting other apps to work reliably is possible, if inconvenient. After the Pebble and iPhone are paired, you can go into the iPhone’s Settings->Notifications and, for each app that you want to have Pebble notifications, select it and toggle the “View in Lock Screen” setting off and then back on (it must be on). From that point forward, as long as the Pebble connection persists, notifications from those apps while show up on the Pebble. For some apps, I like to disable the iOS Sounds notification and rely on the Pebble.


“Bigger Watch” by Gorges

This is all well and good, and worth the minor inconvenience, except for one thing: the BlueTooth connection between the Pebble and the iPhone is fragile. I don’t know all of the triggers, but large spatial separation between the devices is certainly one of them. Once this happens, it is highly likely that the notification work-arounds will need to be re-done. Worse, I’ve had the connection drop without recovering on its own, necessitating a launch of the the Pebble app on the iPhone to see that they are not connected and to reconnect them semi-manually (starting the manual process seems to trigger the automatic one).


Getting vibration reminders on my wrist makes me more likely to take action.

For the most part, I’m quite happy with my Pebble. I admit, however, that some of this is with forward-looking optimism that leaves me expecting better reliability in the future. There’s some reason to think that iOS 7 will improve the connectivity, and future firmware updates from Pebble could possibly help as well.

Oh, one more thing, I think I get 5-7 days on a charge of the Pebble. I wish it gave a better warning that the battery is low. The indicator isn’t visible on the watch face, only in other views. If I see the indicator in the morning, the watch will usually last until that night, though I have had it die in the early evening. I could just charge it every night — I wish I weren’t paranoid about charging patterns affecting rechargeable battery life.





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