One hot and sunny afternoon in late May, 2008, Ranger Bob took a workout ride on the Over Mountain Victory Trail. It lies between the south side of Kerr Scott Lake and the north side of NC 268, to the west of Wilkesboro, NC. The trail was built and is maintained by the Brushy Mountain Cycling Club on land owned by the US Corps of Engineers. The trail is a wonderful creation of cycling dynamics. The guys who built it really knew their stuff. It is a mountain bike single track, with loads of sharp curves, short but steep up and down hills and narrow passes between trees, rocks and ravines. The trail surface is occasional smooth dirt interspersed with near constant rocks, roots, washboards and little ski ramp type jumps. Bicyclists from all over western NC and other states come here to enjoy the trail.
Over the long weekend of March 28 '-30, 2008, Jim Smoak, Kelly Pipes and Bob Laney backpacked over the top of Grandfather Mountain, camped two nights and hiked back out. Lead by Ranger Bob, the idea was to get in a winter backpacking trip, at the end of the season when conditions would not be too brutal. If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, then we got bit by winter's last tooth and growl. On Sunday, we were in freezing rain and a few flakes of snow. But by the following Tuesday afternoon, I was playing tennis in short pants and a t-shirt.
I wish I had more and better photos to show for this trip. Unfortunately, I carried my camera in an outside pocket, without insulation or access to body heat. Apparently the cold (the wind chill was somewhere below 0 degrees) sapped the battery power or froze the parts, and the camera failed about half way up the mountain, just before I got to the scotch tape ice and rime ice ['more on that below]. Photos # 5 - 9 are from another trip 33years earlier, of the same trail in the same weather conditions.
Over the stormy weekend of March 7 - 9, 2008, Debbie Laney competed in her first half marathon. The 13.1 miles in Morehead City and Atlantic Beach was the longest distance she had run in her life - ever - including training and many long runs when she used to jog years ago.
On a sunny and beautifully clear day in early February, 2008, I decided to go hiking on a section of the Tanawha Trail which I had not traversed before. The trail runs on the west side of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Price Park south to Grandfather Mountain. The section I took today is from Cold Prong Pond north to Holloway Mountain Road, about 3 miles one way. I went out and back for a 6 mile round trip.
Over the weekend of January 11 - 13, 2008, the intrepid and imperturbable Bruce Nolin led the St. Paul youth group on a ski expedition to SnowShoe Resort, West Virginia. The youth really were (mostly) well behaved. But when things got a little out of hand, or (a lot) behind schedule, Bruce was cool and collected. I guess training in the Navy helped.
On the sunny and unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon of January 6, 2008, I took a shake-down cruise for the first mountain biking exercise on my new bike. Debbie gave it to me for Christmas. I drove my Bronco Moses with the bike on a rack to the Ranger station at Kerr Scott Lake, whose parking lot is the eastern end of the Trail.
During the Christmas 2007 festivities with my wife Debbie's family, I got invited by Bill Dunn to temporarily join the Old Farts Club. Each Wednesday, they take their weekly 'constitutional' hike, often up to 15 miles. The Club has some very stringent entrance requirements: be over 70 years old and retired, or had heart surgery. The OFC is lead by the redoubtable Alvin Sturdivant, who is on track to hike 1,000 miles in 2007. That's averaging two 10-mile hikes every week. Other partners in crime include Bill Casey, Edgar Harris and Tommy Thomas.
Over the weekend of October 26, 2007, Ranger Bob and Debbie Laney took an impromptu vacation to the southern NC Outer Banks. For the first time in memory, Ranger Bob stayed in a regular, normal hotel instead of camping in a tent or staying with relatives. We booked a room at the Seahawk in Pine Knoll Shores. It was inexpensive but comfortable, and right on the sea shore. The view outside our window was of a small grass lawn leading to sea oats, sand dunes, sea gulls, sandy beach, pelicans and breaking waves.
By Paul Anderson: The idea for a trip to Morehead City to dive off Cape Lookout at the North Carolina coast came from mine and Bob Laney's scuba diving trip to Key Largo in July 2007. We wanted to dive on the wreck of The Spiegel Grove near Key Largo, FL. But the dive outfitter would not take us there, since Bob did not have his Advanced Open Water Certification. Even though Bob had had dived on wrecks to 100 feet depth, made other dives at night, in heavy current, done navigation, helped in a (minor) rescue, done a total of about 35 dives, and all the other advanced diver skills, he did not have a piece of paper saying so. We had to skip the Spiegel Grove. On the way home, I proposed going to Morehead City later that fall with the Blue Dolphin Dive Center, since an instructor would be with the group who could give Bob the advanced certification.