139: Dad, summiting Mount Katahdin

I wrote a longer, more detailed narrative another time, but here is a short film taken by strangers (visible at the end) of my dad and his hiking partner Jack Scott finishing the Appalachian Trail after section-hiking it for a couple of decades.  It's a dramatic moment, not just because of the magnificent landscape and iconoclastic setting, but because we almost lost dad to a heart attack and triple bypass surgery the summer before, while Sloan and I were in Tuscany and near when his final hike had been originally scheduled.  This summer, in 2001, Sloan and I flew to Bangor, ME, and camped in Acadia, and met dad in Baxter State Park to accompany him on his hike.  My brother David accompanied us too, flying in from Vail, CO.

Here is the video!



138: Logging at Coldholler

I'm removing the deep green acre of massive mature white pines at the center of Coldholler.  It's surrounded by 100s of acres of mixed hardwood, so letting sunshine in won't be the end of the world.  But they are fully mature, with some past prime and a few widowmaker dead ones.  Now, I'll get paid quite a bit for the timber; wait too long, and I'll have an expensive, dangerous problem.  More detail later, but here are some pictures.

137: Tenkara!

Took a short lunch spin on July 3, and instead of hitting the WCU Trail as usual, I stayed in the valley and cruised around the  Tuckaseegee River behind campus, using fat tires to roll on shoulders and more closely inspect the banks, and then along the hatchery-supported stream that runs through campus. Several years ago, some stone was added to Cullowhee Creek, giving an otherwise 12" deep stream some attractive, much deeper holes eddies and small ledge pourovers. 

This is the spot that I caught a 5" brook trout week before, when I first tried my Tenkara rod. With no reel, Tenkara appeals to me because it offers the same simplicity I enjoy on my fixed-gear road bike and single-speed MTB.  Plus, "real" fly fisherpeeps look at it with amusement, cynicism, or intrigue, just like mainstream cyclists view fixies.  Since then I haven't had any luck, but it's hotter now and I've gone around mid-day during lunch. 

Thinking about all the possibilities around here for small stream fishing, accessible by road or mountainbike, some legally and some questionably so (I might selectively poach some no-bikes areas just to connect legit routes but would stay out of posted private property).  Any suggestions?

Here I am on my lunch ride...bike in background.  We live in a marvelous place! 

Some other pictures of Tenkara, in Panthertown Valley and in my own trout pond near the Coldholler log cabin...

136: Hiatus, over!

I took a couple of years off, here, during which the boys have grown a bit, I added another five acres and two trout ponds, lost 30 pounds and got back into cycling shape, built a mountain bike trail, and started Tenkara fly fishing. I'll try to bring the blog up to speed, perhaps not in any exact chronological order but by topic. Here I am last week, on the closed Blue Ridge Parkway just below Richland Balsam at 6000 feet, after climbing from the log cabin in Coldholler up and over a big ridge on my own faint trail, descending the new WCU Trail, and ascending 4000 feet on an old gated logging track in the snow. More soon!

135: A new kind of paddle

This summer, in between a lower back injury and a new crisis with my shoulder, I managed to work out four-or five times a week on the stretch of flatwater behind my college campus, and complete a three-mile leg of a wilderness triathlon in a racing kayak.  Our runner was third on the trail, I was tenth out of the water, and my friend Tobias was somewhere in-between on the mountain bike.  We were tenth overall, in a field inclusive of multiple Olympians.  Thinking I can knock whole minutes off of my time next year if I can manage to avoid injury while training and before the event.  Here I am with the wing paddle I use, new out of the box.

134: A pig for Gibbs

I cooked a whole little 30 pound pig Saturday for Gibbs Knotts and his wife Stacy and daughter Whitney, all of whom are leaving our mountains for a new home in Charleston this month. His dad (the pig's, not Gibbs's) was a Berkshire Boar, and his mom was a Berkshire and wild Russian boar mix. According to Daryl Talley of Trillium Farms Natural Pork, his Grandmom was the first wild boar sow legally taken from next-door Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the European variety introduced by the Vanderbilts for hunting.   I'll let the pictures tell the story...

133: First real cook of 2012

After riding my bicycle 31 days in a row starting January 1, avoiding meat and alcohol for the month, and continuing to ride bikes all spring, I've lost 25 pounds and feel almost as fit as I did when I raced for so many years, as a younger man and with a singular focus.

But it's time to start cooking again.  From now on, I only eat pork when I cook.

Here,  I smoked 90 pounds of Boston Butt in just 6 hours.  Some of it was shy of perfect, but most of it pulled no problem after reaching 205 degrees.  I cooked at 300-315 to accelerate the pace.  I'd say another hour would have been ideal, although the meat that sat on hot spots was developing a very thick bark.  All pulled and mixed together though, it was good BBQ.  My standard will be slower and lower, though.

Add caption
Almost done -- look at that bark forming 

The hosts -- Mike bought all that BBQ for less than 30 adults

close that thing - if you're lookin' you ain't cookin'
Passing the time, working off what I'm about to eat

Pulling pork!

Ultimate approval:  "Dad, this pulled pork sure makes me sleepy!"

132: January Challenge

I'll update this post soon with more of an explanation, but this year I decided to jumpstart my overall fitness during the upcoming season by riding my bike every single day of the coldest, darkest month of the year.  I walked away from bike racing in 2006, when fuel prices were high and my firstborn boy started walking.  My last few years of racing, in my late 30s, were in some ways my best.  I had discovered track racing, and the closed short circuit, strategy, structure and rules, not to mention it being a natural fit for my fast-twitch sprinter's body.  Between 1990 and 2006, I've been dropped before the finish in more road races than I'd care to admit, and even getting to the sprint at the end of an hour-long criterium challenges me.  But a 9-minute track race?  No problem!

Anyhow, I'll post more about the January Challenge soon.  In short, I ride every day this month, be it outside on a road bike, a fixed gear, a mountain bike, or my single-speed mountain bike, or inside on the rollers (here) or even the Schwinn spin bike at the gym, on which my old Shimano Carbon racing shoes fit the SPD pedals.  It just has to be 30 minutes, minimum.  My friend Shane, also a product of early 90's racing and especially the East Coast crit scene, is doing his variation of the same plan.  So last night, he and his wife and three small boys came over, he and I spun for an hour while Sloan and A.J. made pizza, and the five small ones wreaked their usual havoc.  A.J. was indulgent enough to step outside and take this video.  Enjoy!

Video coming soon

131: Christmas Cards!





Also, here's a distant shot of the Coldholler Log Cabin, finished, in the Fall of 2011:

130: Holiday Day BBQs, 2011!

Christmas Eve BBQ:
50 pounds of Boston Butt (pork shoulder) at 5am
Mid-morning, smoking away at 250 degrees

Smoke on the driveway!

Old Pawpaw checking out the butts...

Done at 3pm, with a nice bark and 203 degree core temperature.  The meat just fell off of the bone, and the smoke ring was almost an inch deep all around.  Wrapped them in a towel and encased them in a cooler to sit until I pulled them at 4:30pm, with dishwashing gloves to protect my hands from the heat.

Some of the pulled pork -- that's just pan #1.

Boys making yeast rolls for pork sandwiches!

Thanksgiving BBQ:
We have much to be thankful for, most of all our family and friends.  What better way to celebrate their love and camaraderie than breaking bread?  Or smoking 56 pounds of pork and poultry.  So, Thanksgiving morning, at 4:30am, I started a fire.  Here is a pictorial chronology!

4:30am -- starting the Kingsford comp charcoal.  Mainly to ignite oak chunks that I debarked and split. 
Those butts went on at 5am.  The turkeys went on at 7am.  I foiled the butts when they stalled, around 8am.
Fatties went on with two hours left, around 11am.  They only need to cook up to 165 degrees and absorb as much smoke as possible, so here I added lots of fresh oak to the firebox.  The driveway smelled like smoky paradise.   I mashed three pounds of locally-raised and produced breakfast sausage flat over three latticeworks of bacon, sprinkled dry rub and cheese on the inside surface, and rolled them into tight logs -- this is a fun little "extra" practiced by elite BBQ athletes in competition, toward the end of their longer cooks.
Angus came out to inspect at 7:15am and stayed for 2 hours in the 28 degree morning.  Pawpaw expresses his admiration.
Michael Faughn, encouraging the meat to cook the best way he knows how!  Dawn broke, but his voice never did.
The turkeys came out perfect -- after brining for 24 hours and smoking on oak for 6.5 at 250, they were juicy smoky goodness!
I took the butts off when they reached 203d, after about 8 hours, and wrapped them in a cooler for another hour before pulling them.  Amazing.  Great smoke ring, too!
The fatties were great -- I'm always doing that bacon thing, from now on.
Mike's wife Axelle, from France, brought some amazing foie gras, which was sublime on the fatty, washed down with a bit of pinot noir.
Smoke ring on the bird!  The carrots it sat on to keep it off the cast iron were amazing, too.  Smoky and full of turkey broth...

129: Windows and good luck

This weekend, I spent some time cutting Lexan and installing it over the screens in our cabin.  It's not super tight -- there'll be draftiness for sure.  But not so much that we'll feel a breeze, and a bit of air flow and ventilation will be necessary anyway once there's any source of heat in such a small space.

I also hung a couple of old cow bells from the door and some chimes from the antlers overhead.  For a final touch, I hung two large horseshoes over the door.  In August, at Burning Pig Festival, my co-cook and old friend, Taylor Watts, brought one for each boy, for fun and good luck.  Taylor raises and uses massive draft horses on his farm in Stateboro and in his carriage tour business in Savannah.  So the shoes are real, and used!  Sloan reminded me to hang them open-end-up, so the luck won't fall out onto the floor...

Helping a little brother along a leafy trail...
Angus like the door bells!

Wow -- horseshoes!
Dad, we can feel the good luck!

Taking the high road home.  Where'd all these leaves come from?

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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.