TVT Challenge

“HOT HOOOOOOTTTT!!  Holy HOOOTTT!”  I curse at myself as I spill hot coffee on my crotch for the second time and it’s only 5:15am.  I slide my dented Stanley Thermos into the passenger side cup holder of my new-to-me, Toyota Tacoma my wife and I have named Baloo.  As with all new cars, it takes time to figure out the quarks.  Quarks like, if I put my piping hot thermos of coffee in the driver’s side cup holder, I will inevitably knock it onto my crotch every time I shift into second gear.  Yay!  I blame the early hour for my stupidity.  I still love Baloo. 

Bugs peppered my windshield as I rolled down the country back roads of Germantown Ohio, making my way to the Twin Valley Welcome Center where the actual adventure, the TVT Challenge, will start.   The Twin Valley Trail Challenge (TVT Challenge) is a 27.5-mile hike along the Twin Valley Trail, Dayton Ohio’s one real local backpacking trail.  The challenge is to do the whole trail in a day.

When I was hiking along the Appalachian Trail for a month I would regularly hike close to 20 miles a day.  Over 25 miles in a day was uncharted territory and I really didn’t know how my legs and feet would react to the pounding.  Also it has been two years since the AT.  Now I do run and stay in shape, but as any long distance hiker knows, there’s no simulating big miles.  You just have to hike big miles.  I had not been hiking big miles.  Or really miles.  I mean I walk my dog a few times a day, but I don’t walk her 27.5 miles.  She would die.  I was however, confidently underprepared.

The challenge was set up in a kind of start-when-you-want sort of way.  I ended up starting around 6am.  There were a few other people when I started but, having a pretty quick pace, I was almost immediately alone and stayed that way the rest of the day.  Now the TVT challenge is not a race, but being alone, I didn’t really stop and smell the roses.  My pace tends to be around 3.5 miles an hour.  Not bad for a walk., but man do the miles still creep on by. 

The Twin Valley Trail system is quite cleverly put together.  Connecting the Twin Creek and Germantown Metro parks was no small feat and I’m impressed by how little road walking there is.  Yeah there’s a mile or so on road and then another couple on a bike path, but it’s not that bad and the roads seem to be low traffic.  Some of the connector trails are interesting hiking.  Trails you would never take unless you were connecting this big loop together. 

All in all, I can’t see myself doing this repeatedly.  That is not the fault of this great trail though, there just aren’t really any points of interest.  There’s nothing to look forward too if you’re hiking the trail in one go and not backpacking it.  There are no real vistas or overlooks.  No caves or summits.  But that doesn’t make this trail a great place to hike.  It would be a fantastic first backpacking experience for a person that is new to the outdoor world.  And it is honestly really fun for the one day challenge event.  It just doesn’t have the repeatability of a trail with a goal or summit of some kind. 

The event was great and I would do it again.  Next time though I will bring a friend.

Perimeter Trail Jaunt

Perimeter Trail Jaunt

Whack!  It had finally happened.  My premonitions had come true.  For the hour I had already been running/slogging around the western edge of Caesars Creek Lake on the aptly named Perimeter Trail, I’d had visions of slipping and falling face first into the many briar bushes paralleling the path.  While I was in the process of dodging one of the hundreds of mud puddles I juked my face right into the welcoming arms of a briar.  Lovely.  Well chicks dig scars, and my wife’s a chick so, cha ching!  

The Perimeter Trail runs through most of what Caesars Creek State Park has to offer.  This is what initially peaked my interest when searching for longer trail runs in the Dayton area.  At around thirteen miles (Some maps say 12.7, some say 13.1, I’ve even heard a 14) the loop winds its way past the lake (duh), pioneer village, a small graveyard, horseshoe falls, a sweet Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-esk swinging bridge, the dam, cliffs and many creeks.  It was a lovely time.  

As I was picking the thorns out of my face it occurred to me that I had never run this far before.  Hmm.  I mean I had run this far before, but it was never on a trail.  Trails and their varying terrain really add to the effort put in on a run.  This got me thinking about my longest trail run.  It was maybe seven miles?  So I was effectively doubling my longest run.  “Fantastic,” I thought as I smeared the blood from my face with my shirt sleeve.  “I’m sure I’ll be fine.  I brought snacks!”  Aka a heel slice of bread with an afterthought of peanut butter and a bee’s teat squeeze of honey (I’m not a scientist, I know nothing about bees).  So far so good though.  I was over half way through and feeling spry.  

I had begun my trot at the boat ramp.  Not because it was the best place to start, but because I was confident I could find the trail there.  It ran right across the boat ramp.  You can’t miss it.  Because I had started my run in a counterclockwise direction, halfway though I came to one of the most impressive and unnecessary swinging bridges I’d ever seen.  Don’t think that I’m saying it’s stupid or anything, it’s lovely, it’s just unneeded.  You could cross the small stream it spanned if you had thrown couple of pancake like rocks in the center and used them for stepping stones.  I think that makes the presence of the bridge more awesome.  Basically I like this bridge, end of story. 

A short time after the bridge I took a nice wrong turn and ended up tacking on another mile with the Cove Trail.  By this time I was quite tired and a tad frustrated at myself for the extra effort I had put in.  I sloshed my way along the path for another half mile until I finally hit the Pioneer Village.  Now I was tired.  

I’m sure the Pioneer Village is lovely.  I zombied through it only thinking of two things.  A chair and my sad heel of a sandwich.  I arrived at the blacksmiths cabin and plopped myself onto a bench on the porch.  I eagerly tore off my backpack and fumbled with the zippers, only then realizing how nonfunctional my hands were.  They were freezing!  I wiggled my fingers around until I could finally pull the zipper down and access my sadwich (not a misspelling).  I snarfed it down in a matter of seconds.  I started to chuckle at how funny I probably looked.  I was in a olde timey looking village sitting on a blacksmith’s porch in running tights.  I also had oodles of snot on my sleeves as well as blood and a not too manly scratch on my face from a thorn bush.  Cool.  At least there was no one to see me.  It was thirty degrees out and the place was closed.  

I still had about three and a half miles to go so I got up and got cracking.  As soon as I exited the Pioneer Village I encountered the worst mud of the run.  An unbroken pig pen about a hundred yards long with no way around it.  Yay.  I ran through it, but it probably looked more like I was trying to do disco on an iceskating rink.  I was pretty done mentally with the run by now, but I still had to cross the bridge that spanned the lake.  The bridge was not as fun as the last bridge I had crossed.  It didn’t conjure up any Indiana Jones memories or feel like a big trampoline.  No it was what it was, a highway going over a lake.  Luckily there weren’t too many cars and the shoulder was nice and wide, but still not fun.  

After the bridge I still had over half a mile to go.  It would have been lovely, but I was running on fumes and just wanted to get back to the car and have a nice sit.  The trail ribboned it’s way through a nice little forrest right along the lake and finally ended at the boat ramp.  

If you’re planning on trying this trail out I have a couple of suggestions.  

  1. Bring water.
  2. Bring a snack.
  3. If it’s rained the day before and you don’t like mud, maybe skip it.  There is a ton of mud and I would bet that it is pretty much a constant feature on this trail.

Other than that have fun and I’ll see you out there!

Catching Krakens

Catching Krakens

It had been close to two hours.  Two hours of standing out in the damp chill that happens after a good long rain in the spring time.  I had finally decided that I was going to give up, pack up my fly rod and leave the extreme expanse of water that is Sunfish Pond.  

It’s not that my fishing experience had been a horrible one, no in fact it was really nice coming into the outdoors and not physically pushing myself.  Normally when I’m outside I tend towards a trail run or riding my bike.  It’s very rare that I’m just standing around next to a small kids fishing pond. 

If you really break down fishing that’s what it is.  Most American’s lives don't depend on what they bring home after a day of fishing.  That really hasn’t been the case for decades.  And honestly whatever I wrangled out of Sunfish Pond probably wouldn’t taste nearly as good as the lowest grade cut of salmon at my neighborhood Walmart. Especially since the only thing I had managed to wrangle out was some slime.  I had actually reverse wrangled more debris into the pond with the haphazard flailing of my fly rod; a chunk of grass, a couple of dead leaves and a reasonably sized limb from a maple tree, all fell victim to my impeccable back cast.  No, fly fishing should really be called standing next to water while flailing your arms. If you didn’t have a rod in your hands it could also be called extreme tai chi. 

That’s why I’ve always had a hate/love relationship with fishing.  Most of the time I hate it.  I stand around all day not catching a thing, having no clue what I’m doing.  Losing oodles of flies and snagging multiple trees, coral heads, people, cars, babies. It’s pretty hard to stay stoked on something you suck at so much.  Every now and then though you catch one and wow, when you do, it’s awesome.  

Typical Dan

Typical Dan

I remember when I was serving a year abroad as a student teacher in the Kingdom of Tonga, my buddy and co-teacher Dan and I would go out fishing.  Dan loves fishing.  You will know that about five minutes after you meet him.  We would spend our weekends exploring our little island home of Vava’u looking for new places to fish.  Well Dan would be looking for new places to fish, I would just come along for the adventure aspect.  Dan would fish, I would wander around, swim, throw rocks and whatever else there was to do on a small island.  I would fish occasionally, but I never really caught anything.  Dan would catch quite a bit though.  He would move around from spot to spot, change lures, search the waves with his sunglasses on, look cool.  That’s when I realized that you can actually learn to be better at fishing.  It wasn’t just complete luck that Dan would catch more fish than me.  He actually knew what he was doing.  I would just cast a hundred times in the same place and call it quits.  

A brief lull in the marlin fight

A brief lull in the marlin fight

About half way though the year we chartered a deep sea fishing boat and set out to catch some big game fish.  I had never been deep sea fishing before and was pretty excited just to be on a boat.  Instead of the typical standing next to a large body of water we would be motoring around in it.  In reality it’s the same, it just costs more money.  We threw our lines out and started trolling for big fish.  I don’t really know what kind of fish, but I know we wanted big ones.  Dan had decided that I should go first for some reason.  Since you don’t have to hold on to the rod when your trolling you just wait until you hear the zipping of the line being torn out of the reel by a hopefully massive fish.  We waited for a couple of hours without any zipping sound until finally we were all startled by the ruckus of the reel.  I jumped up in a semi panic and strapped the waist mounted rod holder around myself and with help slipped the rod into the mount.  What followed was without question the pinnacle of my very short fishing career.  I fought what turned out to be a marlin, for a good twenty-five minutes. By the end of the fight I was smiling and exhausted!  I had just reeled in a fish that weighed more than I did!  This is the type of fishing I could get into.  By the end of the day Dan had caught a marlin also.  We were both grinning for the next week.  

Hello beastie

Hello beastie

Well this was not the same type of fishing that was happening at Sunfish Pond a good six years later.  I was about to wind up my line when I was caught of guard my a small tug.  Up until this point I hadn’t felt a thing.  I thought I had just caught a bit of slime, but then another tug, and then a pull.  It was a fish!  What followed was a battle for the ages!  Ok not really, but it was a fun little skirmish that lasted about fifteen seconds.  

I get it.  I get fishing now.  I can see why guys will stand out whipping their fly rod back and forth for hours just for those few seconds of fight that come with catching a fish.  Yeah not every one will be a “fish story” fish like my marlin, but they’re all fun and exciting.  

I reeled in my five inch long kraken, pulled out the fly and released him back into his aquatic home.  Instead of packing up my rod and hiking back to my car like I was intending to do just minutes before, I threw out my line.  Then I cast again.  And again.  And again.  

 

 

Wandering Ohio

Wandering Ohio

Quite recently, Courtney and I packed up our stuff into a small moving truck and headed east. After a bit of wandering we landed in Ohio for the time being. Not where we originally intended to land honestly, but it's really not bad!

We have found a bunch of parks around our area and have had some pretty great microadventures. Below are a few photos from our little trots around our new home.

 

Yellow Post Campsite #1

Let me just start out by saying I am very disappointed that all my camping friends either didn’t know about these sites or weren’t proclaiming their lovely virtues from the mountaintops.  Shame on you whoever you are.  

Now that I have that out of my system, yellow post sites are campsites that take a little of work to get to, but in the end are extremely worth it.  First of all they are free.  People from the east coast might not appreciate this as much as us here in the west, but let me tell you, it’s lovely to get something for free around here.  A typical campsite in Southern California is $20-$30 a night.  That adds up if you planning on even doing a two night weekend trip.  Parking at the beach is $15-$20 in some spots!  I digress and will save this rant for another time.  Oh also you can stay at a yellow post site for up to 14 days. . . for free.  Courtney and I might just move out there.  

I think the reason I didn’t know about these sites was because I didn’t know to search for them.  When I google "camping near me” or something to that effect, the search engine just spits out full on campgrounds with all the animates, like toilets, water and asphalt.  You get none of that at yellow post sites.  First off, they are typically harder to get too.  Yellow post site #1, where we stayed, was a few miles off the asphalt and a few turns on some fire roads.  Aka you have to be vaguely familiar with maps.  Siri isn’t going to take you there.  Also the more ground clearance the better.  We have a Subaru Crosstrek and a Ford Focus.  The Focus wouldn’t have made it.  Most of the forest roads are navigable with a Subaru or an all wheel drive car, just be careful.  

Another thing about the sites, there are no toilets, there aren’t always tables or fire rings and as of right now no fires are allowed at all.  So you have to be self sufficient.  Bring your own water, toilet paper, etc. and take out all your trash with you.  For the love of God take all of your trash with you.  Did I mention you should take all of your trash out with you?  Great!  

These extra little inconveniences may deter some people, and that’s the whole point!  That’s why they’re free!  Trust me its worth the extra drive and the map reading and pooping behind a bush.  You get some actual seclusion.  It’s actually camping.  If you can lock the site down you have it all to yourself.  Typically it’s the only site within miles!  

A little about site #1 now.  I had to wait for Courtney to get off work to drive up and I was getting a tad nervous that we wouldn’t get the site that we wanted, #1.  As soon as she was done I rushed over with the pup, Denali, and picked her up.  As we made our way up to Big Bear Lake I started getting more and more anxious.  It got even worse when we hit the forrest service roads at Fawnskin because we passed a few cars, which doesn’t typically happen on forrest service roads in my experience.  When we finally arrived we were relieved to find that Yellow Post Site #1 was still free!  And it was lovely.  

As soon as we arrived we set up our hammocks and relaxed.  There’s nothing better than throwing up your hammock after a long week and just letting everything in the world swing away.  After a bit of hammock time a bald eagle soared across our view, the site was perfect in other words.  

Yeah it sucks that you can’t have fires.  Yeah you have to drive a bit extra on less than ideal roads.  But wow, it’s worth the seclusion.  

YP #1 overlooks the northwest corner of Big Bear Lake and the little town of Fawnskin. If you’re interested in checking out some Yellow Post Sites here’s a map of where a few of them are and a great reference to the various sites with mini reviews of most of them.  

Cheers and happy adventuring!