Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finishing Off Buffalo Mountain

On Monday I revisited Buffalo Mountain once more, to try to cover what I hadn't already. I'm still missing a couple of little stretches of trail, but, everything in time... Once again, here's a link to the map, so you can see what I'm talking about.

I had intended to depart from the trailhead (as opposed to the alternate trailhead), but since I arrived shortly after 7am, the gate was not yet open. Although I have seen no posted opening hours for this park, I'm guessing it doesn't open until 8am, like some others owned by the city. So I instead parked at the alternate trailhead, and hoofed it up to the original, via the roadway. Given that my legs and feet do not especially appreciate pounding pavement, this was a bit of a bummer, but it was definitely a good workout, as there was a steep grade most of the way. Funny how we're less likely to notice these things when driving a car!

After reaching the trailhead, I took the white blazed route toward Huckleberry Knob, and then bore left onto the Fork Knob Trail. You may recall that this is the route by which I returned a week or so ago, and found it to be rather a steep descent in some places. Oddly, when reversing the route and climbing, I didn't find it as strenuous as I expected. But the fact that uphills are easier on my knees than downhills is well known to me at this point.

About halfway up, I heard a gentle rain approaching, and really enjoyed listening to it falling on the canopy. It lasted quite a while, but as before, I felt almost no raindrops making it down to my skin. Eventually, the rain got a bit harder, and I began debating about putting my backpack's raincoat on to protect my beloved camera (for which, sadly, I had no use during this visit). Right as I stopped to put the raincoat on, in a very well protected area, I heard the rain became considerably harder -- perfect timing! As I left my shelter I finally began to get wet, and felt very fortunate to have chosen that exact time to cover my pack. The rain felt wonderful, and had a fantastic cooling effect. It did eventually slacken, of course, but the cooling remained, to say nothing of the amazing scents it left behind. Truly, every forest has its own unique blend of smells, and a light soaking of rain has the amazing effect of bringing them all out in all their delicious pungency!

I continued on up the hill, delighting in the new scents and the light breezes the rain had effected, and eventually reached the bench at Fork Knob. There I turned left, and explored the Fork Ridge Trail. Since I had already been to the south end of the Tower Ridge trail, and I knew that it was pretty high, I expected to climb to get there from Fork Knob. Climb I did, though not before descending a considerable way. I'm not sure if there was any net gain, but no matter, it was a pretty walk nonetheless, and with my freshly dampened skin and clothing, quite a refreshing one as well.

Upon reaching the blue-blazed connector trail, I hunted my way through to the service road. I had determined that I was going to make my descent via this road because I expected it to have a gentle, even grade, rather than some of the steeper ones I've been encountering on the trails. Although this surmisal was correct, it had a downside. A gentler grade meant a steadier one as well, which turned out to be just as hard on my knees, if not harder, than the steep downhills punctuated by relative flats that were found in the trail system.

I also determined that this would be a good uphill climb, especially if I were to make it at a slightly higher speed than that to which I generally push myself over uneven trails. So, my learning curve continues.

I only encountered two other humans on this trip, a couple of ladies walking their somewhat overweight daschunds up the service road. The ladies didn't look like they were in grave need of the exercise, but the poor little wiener dogs sure did! So now, the only trails in Buffalo Mountain I haven't covered are the Hartsell Hollow trail and the High Ridge trail to Tip Top. Both of these being dead-end trails (and you probably already have a feel for how much I hate covering the same ground twice!), it may be a while before I muster the gumption to traverse them.

As previously noted, I didn't encounter any things that were so spectacular that I felt the need to whip out my camera on this trip, but stay tuned, as on Wednesday I FINALLY made it to Roan Mountain, and there I found some stuff that was really worth photographing!

And now for something completely different...

What the heck is happening to me? After running across a copy of The China Study at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago (and buying it, and compulsively reading it, of course), I decided to make the switch to a vegan diet. And today, as I was browsing through The Accidental Vegan, I was looking for a new and exciting main dish to try. The very first recipe offered in the Main Dishes chapter was Pasta Primavera. It sounded pretty standard, so I almost flipped past it. But just to make sure Ms. Gartenstein hadn't added some new twist, I skimmed down the ingredient onion...garlic...fresh bell pepper...snap peas...waitaminit...this was sounding delicious! I'm not sure what it is about having adopted this way of eating for such a short time that has changed my tastes (and my taste buds! -- I made a tofu-based version of mousse today (recipe here) that I found quite tasty, but my mom tasted it and pronounced it inedible because it wasn't sweet enough) so drastically, but it truly is an amazing transformation! Whatever the case, though, I'm exceedingly thankful that I decided to make this healthy switch now, rather than waiting until something drastic such as diabetes came along and forced the healthy lifestyle upon me. I realize that evangelizing the vegan diet is probably pointless, but, like most new converts to any drastic life change, I feel compelled to pass along my own excitement to anyone who will listen. So, thanks for "listening!" :)