Sunday, November 30, 2014

Batona Trail logistics

I ended my trip after two days because of the cold. Not the cold during the day, but at night. My first night was on the edge of my tolerance at 35 degrees, and it was going to be 5 degrees cooler the second night, and another 5 the third night. While my sleeping bag is rated to 15 degrees and I had a liner, I sleep cold.

A few logistics:
  1. This was the biggest enemy I faced on the trail:
    Puddles, the great hazard
    That’s right, puddles. Big and too deep to wade through, the danger came from having to walk around them when there were thickets right at their edge - including lots of greenbriar. I can see why in the summer people complain about ticks.

  2. The map is terrible. Now, I didn’t get lost. However, whoever drew the map knows nothing about usability. Sand roads, streams, contour lines, and borders all look identical. Most of the ponds aren’t shown. Segment distances aren’t given for side trails, such as to the campsites. There are two reroutes (the Bass River one was called a “relocation,” which brings to mind internment camps) not yet shown on the map. I hope when the redone map becomes available, it is better, because there aren’t any commercially available alternatives.

  3. Taking the bus to Atlantic City and then the NJ Transit 557 bus to Greenleaf Road and walking two miles to the trailhead worked fine. Next time, I’d go down to Atlantic City the night before and try to make it to Buttonwood Camp the first night.

  4. If you want to start at Batsto, take the train to Egg Harbor City or the 554 bus to the same and then call a taxi. It’s not worth walking the 7 miles.

  5. Bodine Field Camp is not worth the 1.2 mile hike to it. There is a water pump … somewhere. I couldn’t find it. There’s also no way to pay there.

  6. I thought water might be an issue at this time of year, but there was plenty. Just bring something to treat it with.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hiking the Batona Trail

TrailI set out to hike the 50-something mile Batona Trail - recent reroutes have stretched it past its original 50 miles - over Thanksgiving. I didn't make it. But the part I did see was well worth it.

As I tend to be overly fixated on the landscape equivalent of charismatic megafauna, I was worried I'd find the trail dull. Certainly some hikers have. But the trail was surprisingly beautiful. It is mostly "just woods," although a few ponds break things up - it's not a trail of waterfalls, clifftop views, and dramatic rock formations. It reminded me of middle Tennessee's cedar glades, and my dad pointed out it looked like the land near one of their homes in the Upper Peninsula. In general, the UP has taller trees, but the Marquette area has sandier soil, much like the Pine Barrens.

PondThe trail is completely flat - at least the part that I did, from Bass River to Batsto. Later on, Apple Pie Hill is the high point of the area and it features a fire tower. Flat means less scenic variety, but it's also easier hiking. As this was my first backpacking trip in about three and a half years, I was okay with easier. (I was still feeling it.)

At night, the temperature dropped close to freezing. That was chillier than I like to sleep outside in. On the plus side, it means way less to worry about in the way of insects, and not drinking gallons of water like one would in the heat.

SandI'm not sure what my total mileage was, as I'm not sure how much longer the reroute at the beginning of the hike was. Best guess is that day 1 was between 12 and 13, including the road walk, and day 2 was almost 17, again including the road walk out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I leave tomorrow for a Thanksgiving weekend backpacking trip. The original plan had been to start today, but today's weather is an unpleasant mix of rain and snow. Tomorrow will be cold but dry.

Have a wonderful holiday. Enjoy family and friends and stay out of the Black Friday madness.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Greetings from ASHE 2014

Hello from Washington, D.C., where it's the last day of the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education conference.

As always, it's nice to see colleagues that I only see once a year and catch up. This year, the conference was held in conjunction with UCEA, so I got to see some of my K-12 colleagues from Vanderbilt as well. I especially like seeing my younger colleagues who have found good jobs and are "all grown up."

Of course, ASHE isn't primarily a social hour. I went to more sessions that I have in recent years, and found the average quality to be higher than in years past. (Perhaps I just picked better, but the number of proposals does go up every year.) Some of the sessions were related to my own research; others were related to the issues I deal with as an instructor; others were simply things that sounded interesting. Frankly, I tend to learn as much - or more - from the latter, and sometimes it drifts over into my own work.

While the papers are important, the conference is perhaps most important as a networking tool. This happens both in meetings and in serendipitous encounters. For example, someone encouraged me to come work for [x], I learned about a grant opportunity in my research area, and I agreed to edit a book with a colleague. None of these would have happened if I hadn't been here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Doing things I don't do

I recently took a month off from capoeira, and during that time I tried a lot of different physical activities. My favorite was the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but it was obvious that I wouldn't have time to do it and capoeira both.

Much to my surprise, I ended up joining a gym. I had pretty much sworn off gyms, as I did plenty of hiking, capoeira, and yoga.

But the gym I joined made me re-evaluate that. One, it's a ridiculously hardcore gym where no one is there to hit on people. (I am not ridiculously hardcore. I am kind of soft- and squishy-core. Basically I'm a poser, trying to look badass in my roller derby shirt.) Picture  a bunch of extremely fit people in all-black and tattoos and no shoes either punching each other* or lifting kettlebells, and you've got the idea. And I do like shoelessness. And wearing black.

It just hit me that there is no background music, at least downstairs in the exercise class space. You have no idea how wonderful that is, especially after my last foray into spin classes.

Also the gym has ridiculously trained trainers that teach their classes (full disclosure: I do capoeira with one of them, but really they're all ridiculously well-trained), and they don't do useless exercises or shout annoying platitudes at you. No one has yet told me to give 110%. I am a properly trained statistician, y'all, and I know we don't have 110% to give.

But the most important thing for me was that good-form weight training finally did the last bit of healing on my shoulder. My left arm is probably 99% of where it was before everything, and it very rarely gets sore in the way that suggests I'm overusing the wrong muscles. I'm also much more likely to go to class at the gym than to lie on my living room floor and do 30 reps with my 3-pound weight. I am not a home exercise person.

So, hey, I'm going to the gym. It actually means fewer days of capoeira, but my capoeira hasn't suffered for it. The increased strength has helped with my control, in fact.

* OK, yeah, they're doing Muay Thai. It's not a fight club.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Double circuit of Bear Mountain

Bridges Although Bear Mountain is one of the classics New York City-area hikes, I've never done it. And on this Ramblers hike at Bear Mountain State Park, I still didn't do it. Instead, we hiked around Bear Mountain twice, first in a large circle and then in a smaller one. The total hike was 13.3 miles with 2,228 feet of elevation gain - not bad for not actually climbing a mountain.

(Mind you, we did hike about halfway up Bear Mountain, and those are some killer stairs!)

Hiking The leaves are mostly fallen but there still was a lot of colors. That, combined with it being a sunny, warm day, made for a beautiful hike. It was no surprise that the Hudson River, with Bear Mountain on one side and Anthony's Nose on the other, was lovely, but I didn't expect the Popolopen Gorge near the end of our hike to be so nice. It was hard to photograph: In the summer, leaves would be very thick, but even at this time of year  trees obscure the bottom of the gorge in photographs, although the eye has no trouble picking those details out when actually present. The picture of Popolopen Torne below is one of the few good ones I captured.

Golden hill

Friday, November 7, 2014

Small data

I started keeping track of my hikes in mid-2002. This quick chart shows how many hikes I did per year every year since 2003, the first full year of tracking. A couple of things stand out.

First, in 2005 and 2012, I was dealing with injuries (undiagnosed IT band problems and a bone spur, respectively), that limited my time on the trail.

Second, 2014 will be the hikiest year yet for me since moving to New York, even if I do nothing in the next two months.

Third, the mean is about 28 hikes a year, or a little more than twice a month. (And 26 is the median and 30 is the mode!)

Fourth, I am the kind of person who should probably own a Fitbit or something, but I would probably get annoyed because it wouldn't track data exactly the way I want.

Fifth (and now we're way beyond "a couple of things"), hard data is interesting. If you had asked me how many times in a year I typically hiked, I'm not sure I could have given you an accurate answer. In general, humans are pretty bad at estimating how often we do things, or how many calories we eat, or how much time we spend doing any particular activity. My department has been trying to estimate how work we assign in our classes, and I considered polling my students. But - aside from the likely problem of deliberately misleading reporting - I'm not sure how accurate students would be able to be.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

100 days of new things

The 100 days project was born in a moment of rage. Someone had hurt me badly, and while I was angry at them, the impetus for this was rage at myself that I had let it happen. I had changed my life and fallen into a rut for someone who wasn’t worth it. Me! I was the one who, as a young child, always voluntarily tried new foods at restaurants. I moved across the country for college alone. And here I was spending my weekends sleeping in, going to brunch, napping again, and then, if we were feeling adventurous, watching a video. Something had to change.

New thing: Performing sea lionsI decided to do something new every day for 100 days. While the new thing could be something big like skydiving, it didn’t have to be. After all, I wouldn’t have time for that every day. But it had to be bigger than a new restaurant with familiar cuisine,

Over 103 days (including three rest days), I tried things I liked (glitch hop music) and things I didn’t (Insane Clown Posse). I shot a gun and smoked pot (in Colorado), but I also read Harry Potter fanfic and tried coco helado on days when time was short.

I tried a lot of new foods and cuisines. The best was Taiwanese from a food cart in Midtown, but the most surprising food was ramen. It turned out it didn’t have to be the dry-packet experience I swore off after college.

New thing: Building a rock-lined ditchI consumed some new media and art forms. The dinosaur erotica was far and away the best conversation starter, although Straight Stuntin’ magazine was more educational. The Mary-Kate and Ashley movie proved to be un-get-through-able, while listening to ragas led me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.

And Wikipedia - I edited a Wikiepedia entry, one of several technological new ventures. I also made a vine, tried Pinterest, and used an iPad in the classroom. And in the classroom I also tried polling software, took my students on a field trip, had a guest via Skype, and made an video with iMovie (not new - but not swearing at it was).

New thing: Hiking above 12,000 feetI hiked above 12,000 feet for the first time, took barre, Brazilian jiu jitsu, TRX, high intensity interval training, kettleball, and burlesque classes (where I learned to fan dance and chair dance). I went to capoeira classes at Joao Grande’s and the LIC Palmares groups, and I went to my first open roda.

I led a Ramblers hike, made a snow angel in July, and brushed my teeth with baking soda. I helped build a rock-lined ditch and opened a Smarty Pig account. I bought a lottery ticket (not a winner) and hiked with the Catskills 3500 club.

And there were a few things that required actual courage, although not as much as jumping out of an airplane. I talked about one of my goals that I tend to keep to myself on Facebook. I went a day without complaining; that took two tries. I wrote up a business plan. I opened up to my capoeira Mestre. And on day 99, I finally forgave the person who had hurt me in the first place.

New thing: Crossing the Henry Hudson BridgeTowards the end, it became harder to find truly new things I could fit in around a busy day at work. There were also things I wished to try but couldn’t. I never did get that pickleback or try that taxidermy class. But I still can. To the extent I’m still in a rut, it’s only to the extent of having a regular job and activities I enjoy, and that’s okay with me.