Monday, October 12, 2009

class, this week's theme is fall colors (and bad citizens)


what with Dave closing out his last 100 miles in the Smokies, Highlander hikes have taken on a higher level of 'strategery'. in anticipation of its winter closing, we set off down Noland Divide from Clingman's Dome Road to Noland Creek and along to campsite 63. along the way, we stopped at CS 61 to break the Leave What You Find tenet of Leave No Trace...

the abomination at campsite 61

... to clean up a disaster left by horse riders. hopefully Jeff won't report our 'outlaw asses' over this.

we did good at 61, didn't we guys?

i think we did pretty good, guys. gold stars all around!

we did good at 61, didn't we guys? we did good at 61, didn't we guys? 'Outlaw' Dave after 30 minutes on the clean-up at 61

actually, we didn't have any gold stars in the backcountry so we had to make do with campfire lasagna:

can you say campfire LASAGNA? can you say campfire LASAGNA?

the boys were none too impressed as you can see, just barely able to choke it down...

Jack wolfs down his share Dave approves Ricky Bobby finds the cheesy bread
Doug kills the last of the lasagna Jerky Mike - the mastermind John couldn't get enough seconds

in the morning, i got up early and just sat, soaking up the amazing chatter from the creek. Dave, ever on a mission for new miles, was heading out early to hike up Springhouse Branch trail to the Forney Ridge junction and back. i tagged along for the show. we met back up with the rest of the group at campsite 64 after i was only almost trampled by an overeager horserider. the whole gang hiked out Noland Creek together. [18.4 miles]

John, Jerky Mike, Jack, Ricky Bobby, Doug, me and Dave

John, Jerky Mike, Jack, Ricky Bobby, Doug, me and Dave

the whole shebang can be found here:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

God is in the house

this past weekend brought another glorious hike in the Smokies. George, Dave and i headed in from Cataloochee along the Caldwell Fork trail then up and around the Boogerman loop and on to campsite #41. after the previous week's deluge, we were all a little skittish about more rain. happily, we were only drizzled on about 11% of the time. Boogerman was a bit of a climb, but thankfully horses are not allowed. the contrast to Caldwell Fork's erosion and bogs was stark, especially in high incline areas.

campsite 41 is sprawling and peaceful. i pitched my tent cozy against the creek and slept deeply - wrapped in the soothing song of the water.

Saturday, Hollie's dinosaurs made an appearance at the campfire.

Hollie's dinosaurs

Dave took off early to knock out new miles. George and i followed him west on Caldwell Fork to Rough Fork then south up Rough Fork to Polls Gap. we saw signs that Dave was still ahead of us:

near the end of Rough Fork, we ran into a couple horseriders on Rough Fork with a Highlander worthy bottle of liquor. they also had a plastic bag carrying what appeared to be a burrito. turns out, they were heading out to bury a friend's ashes. [we raised Dickel in his honor that night.]

after chatting with the riders, George and i met back up with Dave at Hemphill Bald for a summit photo before splitting up again.

George, me and Dave at Hemphill Bald

George hiked with me out and back to McKee Branch to get me bonus new miles before heading down Double Gap back to 41. at the double gap trailhead, we stumbled across ne'er-do-wells Bill and Jack. while jawing with them, a black bear emerged on the trail behind us to sneak back off into the woods before a photo could be obtained. it was a profoundly spiritual and humbling experience. we were joined by Jerky Mike and Ricky Bobby in camp. that night, we had a wonderful time trying to move the Big Poplars:

drunk night hiking at its finest - we hug the poplar Jack, George and Ricky Bobby at the Big Poplars

Sunday morning we went off west out Caldwell Fork, east along Rough Fork, up Big Fork Ridge Trail and then back along the last section of Caldwell Fork to the truck. along the way, we stopped to enjoy the dulcet tones of elk in rut. Dave, George and i hit the Newport Rubys where our new favorite waitress assured us we smelled better than her childhood farm and then proceeded to heap abuse upon the boys.

Jerky Mike, Ricky Bobby, Jack, Bill, Dave, me and George

Jerky Mike, Ricky Bobby, Jack, Bill, Dave, me and George

final tally: roughly 35 miles in 2.5 days and another great time, had by all!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

one more reason the internets rock

between now and October 9th, the Ken Burns National Parks documentary series is available for viewing online.

go. watch. NOW!!!

ps. um, i'm serious people. scoot!
pps. don't cry. they find him eventually...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

it can't rain all the time... or can it?

went off for more fun with the Southern Highlanders this past weekend.

Friday night, i hiked in from Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald with John in the dark and pouring rain. amazing sunset in spite of the rain.

glorious sunset, even through the rain

we arrived to meet up with Dave, George, and Vince for a great night of carrying on. (we're all sorry, Warren. well - sort of.)

Saturday: rain. rain. more rain. the rain was so fierce, we never left the shelter. about noon, i ran out of knitting. about two, we were having push-up contests. the rains continued.

John began singing.

i started seriously considering throwing myself from an overlook to end the torment... which is right about the time, Kevin arrived bearing wine and a break in the monotony.

Kevin actually had other plans that night so he hiked out after an hour or two! the rains continued. Dave maimed John 'accidentally'. more rain. Grady and Bobby floated up. more. rain.

Sunday, the rains break and we had a glorious hike out.


composite group photos:

Vince, John, Dave, Kevin, George and me
Vince, John, Dave, Kevin, George and me

John, me, Bobby and Grady

John, me, Bobby and Clark

[Mileage: 4.4 each way.]

Friday, September 25, 2009

welcome home (hopefully)!!!

after 3 months of searching and close calls, i am finally in contract on a house. like me [or anyone for that matter], she needs some work - but she is a happy, quixotic house and just chock full of potential!

the good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, we will close Oct 15th. my plan is take some time off work the following two weeks to get her sass back on and officially move in on Halloween.


Monday, September 21, 2009

truer words...

even for me, this last weekend was a bit overscheduled - but i wouldn't have changed a thing!

first, i enjoyed a rousing good time dancing at KLX:
KLX 2009

stayed out far too late and then rose early for to blitz another Habitat house. afterwards, i was lucky enough to head once more for the hills.

although we made crazy good time on the build due to the mad skills of the UT Women's Rowing Team, the gang was long gone on the trail by the time i could make it to the Smokeys. i hiked in from Elkmont along the Little River trail in the rain and dark to meet the boys at campsite 24. enjoyed a tender welcome as only the Highlanders can offer when i pulled into camp at 9pm...

the woods were serene in the rainy mist, the trail wide and even, and the river sang a lovely serenade. l i hiked in the near pitch for quite some time before being forced by prudence to turn on my headlamp. i found myself reflecting on my life and the many ways i have been blessed.
  • my job is my calling and daily encourages me to stretch and grow to make the world a better place.
  • i have known cavernously deep, Shakespearean love with all its attendant tragedy and desolation. though Chopper has been dead just over 20 years now, i can still see and hear him as if it were yesterday and remain grateful for our time and the lessons it continues to provide.
  • just shy of 5 years ago now, i was also privileged to experience the pure and passionate wonder of true and abiding love. though our paths were meant to diverge, i regret not a second and continue to take much from that ponderous gift.
  • gentler, stronger and more loyal friends than mine cannot possibly exist. their honesty and generosity in spirit and deed humble me daily and their support during my times in shadow cannot possibly be repaid or matched.
  • truly, deeply blessed am i that the closest and greatest of my friends remains my mother. a braver, truer and more loving soul never was. she lifts me up when i stumble, floods my world with laughter when it is gray, and daily inspires me to reach beyond what i am to what i can be.
  • most specially yet also most privately, my faith and trust in God continue to deepen each day i am blessed to continue living and exploring. i see his endless compassion in the actions of my Habitat family and my friends; his capacious joy echoing in every new dance and skip; his piquant humor in my daily misadventures; and his great tenderness and love in the endless miracles of the trail.
these truths settled their fullness all around me in the empty stillness of the night. i found myself breathless with gratitude for the life i have lived thus far, with all its challenges and sorrows and darkness. it is the darkness, after all, that has helped me to see so clearly the joyous and shimmering colors of life!

in a recent letter, a friend wrote this:
I am so proud of you! You look so free and happy in your travels. Wow! Good for you. I don't remember ever seeing you so happy! Keep backpacking.

... and so it is and so i remain ever vigilant for the next gift on this winding road...

step 1

step 2

step 3

may life bring you such bountiful blessings and joys as well!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Easter egg

our Intensive Care Unit is being remodeled and this is what i have passed daily for over a week as it slowly grew:

a girl can only leave such temptation aside so long. Monday i broke down and slipped this in the wall:

just so there would be no confusion on the source:

teaser: watch this space for [hopefully] big news after the weekend!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

another weekend in paradise

with the Southern Highlanders:

i hiked in along Wolf Ridge into campsite 95 with John, Jack and Jerky Mike. after socializing with the Highlanders, John and i left our packs and went on a 'stroll' up to Parson Bald... without water, lights or our brains apparently. Song For David kept rolling through my mind. John and i ran into Jack (who had his headlamp) so ran the last 15 minutes up to summit. took a few pix and ran like fleet-footed gazelles down the trail in the near dark till we caught John who we followed back to camp like two wayward puppies. next morning we hiked out along the Twenty Mile Loop. (17 miles total)

came back to this post by Andre Jordan:

coincidence? i think not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

not to be vulgar...

but i have just popped my cherry on Machiavellian political machinations. i received word tonight that my first foray has resulted in the opportunity to purchase $82K in [badly needed] equipment for my section. hours and hours and hours of misery compiling data, convo-ing with random humans, and writing the dang* proposal actually coming to fruition. anyone see the Horsemen? they must be around here somewhere.

*told my students my goal for the rotation was to work on reducing my cursing... i am totally on a roll - only 4 expletives (one of the students is keeping a tally) in 3 days (and no particularly sailor-worthy ones among them). that is practically Sunday school for a veterinary internist!

much more importantly - photos are up from my Wednesday night jaunt:

and my weekend in Heaven:

wait - that means we are close to TWO almost perfect weeks in a row. seriously, where ARE the Horsemen?

Friday, September 04, 2009

'nuff said.

more living

goodbye bash with the Americorps 'kids':

sucks to have them leave but what a privilege to know them. 'sides, they won't get too far - family almost never does!

last weekend's Saturday hike to Fall Branch Falls with a crew from Meetup:

if you listen carefully, you can hear tiny cries as the mosses mate. :) a peaceful jaunt to an amazing waterfall - only wish the trail had been longer.

updated House Mountain to include photos from my Sunday morning hike with Bill:

no photos yet from Wednesday night's backpack up LeConte- will upload after this weekend's Smokies backpack...

Monday, August 24, 2009

letting go

as may be obvious, i have let go of keeping up with the blog. life is just too short to waste time writing when i could be doing! (plus my tendonitis remains a harsh taskmaster.) some visual catchup...

went to Tennessee eXtreme Wrestling with Habitat friends:

took a student's dog backpacking, had to quit due to tick infestation, rerouted for lake camping with Hab friends:

went to more wrestling. it really sucked but at least we made an unforgettable entrance with our couch:

went on a sweet dayhike to House Mountain here in town:

took up salsa and swing dancing over the last two months, though i don't currently have any photo documentation to prove it. went on a lovely 35 mile road biking loop last weekend. can't wait to try again now that the kinks are worked out of the bike.

been trying to find a house to buy for a couple months. made an offer two weeks ago. currently still unsure whether i am starting over with an offer on a different house today or receiving another counter on the first one based on the house inspection. (my 5 year old niece could put a better roof on without training...) have achieved a new level of zen about all the uncertainty.

met a ton of new friends at a wine tasting party on Friday. hooked up with fast new friends from Meetup for a killer backpack this weekend in the Smokies:

this week i have swing and salsa lessons, salsa team practice, a tango/salsa fusion workshop, semi-mellow hike with friends, possible bike ride, and tango lessons. oh yeah - and today i took off from work to hopefully go boating.

[shockingly - work is good, too.]

as it is wont to do, life will certainly crash about my ears but - for now - it is very, very good!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

unbroken streak

for something like the 477th trip in a row, today i reconfirmed that i should never be allowed in a nursery unchaperoned.

for over a month now, i have assiduously avoided forlorn flowerbeds of dying pansies, skeletal remains of last year's geraniums in hanging pots, and the overgrown scraggle that passes for my bushes. because i intend to move this summer, it would be silly and financially daft to invest time and money on their care.

the garden, on the other hand, was already planted and finally has been flourishing. therefore, it seemed only sensible to pick up two pepper plants and one tomato plant to round out everything i have been growing from seed. (not all my tomato sprouts have flourished as one would like.)

although i am not a mathematician by trade, even i can count to three. does this look like three plants to you?

not three. also not three.


three hours and one bee sting later, instead of casting a sorrowful pall on everything in their vicinity, the flowerbeds and pots now complement the day lily bonanza:

Day lily explosion

and the 'back 40':

Garden - June

in the end, i'll take silly over decay any day.

ps. anyone need any lettuce?

Sunday, June 07, 2009


things have been busy and weird and hard and good and busy some more. i have been working ridiculous amounts of hours and haven't much time to write.

i reread a wonderful article called On the determinants of academic success as a clinician-scientist a couple months ago. it motivated me to revisit all my projects and To Do lists and seriously consider which exist for the right reasons (makes me happy, invigorates me, good for me). that, of course, led me to create new lists of "Things to close out as quickly as possible", "Things to continue" and "Things to start once headway has been made on list A." that generated a fierce and focused attack on List A, so i can get to doing what i want to do that also can be what is good for my career. since then i have been happily trucking along, making excellent progress on List A though profoundly exhausting myself in the process.

late April was the Knoxville Habitat for Humanity Multi-house blitz. i had taken the week off from work to, well, work. it was wicked taxing but incredibly fun and rewarding. i learned to lay out a floorplan (set up to frame in walls) and led installation of fiber cement siding, ductwork framing, and windows/doors. there are some great pix here (including a few of me) though the sheer number of photos may overwhelm...

after the Multi-House Blitz, i went to a BBQ at a friend's house. i learned two new games: Polish Horseshoes and Stump. we had a LOT of fun:

in other news, Trav and i have split up. although there are sad moments and have been a lot of unrelated challenges, i am already much happier than i had been in quite some time. i feel like i have emerged from a dark cave after a long storm to a bright and glorious day.

too little time to catch up and then off to Florida for a weeklong family vacation. huge challenges wrt the car that made for quite the adventure and the weather mostly groused, but we still managed to have an awesome time! we discovered a found art installation on the base that was quite fascinating and clever. we did our part - adding several found objects to the structure. [can you guess which they were?] i also had a cameo as waterfowl rescuer extraordinaire.

got back on Memorial Day and worked feverishly to wrap things up for ACVIM which was in Montreal this year. made my deadlines - albeit barely - and enjoyed catching up with dear friends. Montreal is fabulous and i cannot wait to go back for fun... well, i suppose that is all i have from here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the maidens of spring's army

clouds and wind fight and cling to winter.

playful violets,

comic pansies

and seductive hyacinths heavy with fragrance

dance and whirl
in the riotous confetti
of falling cherry blossoms.

the clouds surrender to their joy.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

wicked awesome hiking

life has been hopping here in lovely east Tennessee. since the move, it seems i continuously struggle to both do and document in limited time. at the end of the day, i have decided it is better to live life than write about it and the blog has obviously suffered greatly.

the birds call outside and offset the otherwise gloomy dawn of the day, as i snuggle down under a new blanket and nurse my coffee. it seems the perfect time to write to you, my tolerant friend, though i hope you bear with my brevity as the pain in my arms burns fiercely from work and service rigors.

as one wakes from a cold suddenly better, i woke this January less fettered to that great 1950s American work ethic. i looked at my To Do list, estimated my maximal waking hours and recognized that 'caught up' is unachievable in academia. although this gut level realization carried with it melancholy, it also brought with it a degree of freedom. if 'under control' is an unachievable fantasy, then it only makes sense to find new successes, does it not?

to whit, my new philosophy:

you will never ever ever ever ever be caught up again... go hiking!

so i did. twice thus far.

January 31st, Trav and i took Bear for a 12.6 mile hike at Big South Fork.

the park remained festooned with winter decorations - icicles cascading from almost every surface, mosses bulging out into the sunshine and fallen leaves carpeting our path. it was beautiful and quiet, except for the occasional gunshot report as hunters and wild hogs faced off elsewhere in the park.

February 22nd, it was off to Frozen Head State Park for an 11.5 mile slog up to Chimney Top.

lazy snowflakes drizzled on our heads as wonderful and peculiar shapes and images curved into view. deer startled as they discovered us upon their path.

since then, work for Habitat for Humanity has pretty much monopolized the weekends. each build brings more fun than the last, as i become more knowledgeable and physically adept. it is exciting to catch problems before they occur and learn ways to compensate for my lesser upper body strength (compared to a man). the latter will be particularly important when time comes for the Women's build.

there is so much more to share, but the house now stirs and my chores list beckons. it will have to wait for another stolen morning.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fwd: A warning!

things have been crazy busy here in K-ville and i owe some serious postage, but in the interim i thought i would share this little gem.

I dislike people who post too many warning as much as anyone, but this one is important!

If someone comes to your door saying they are conducting a survey on deer ticks and asks you to take off all your clothes and dance around to shake off the ticks, Do not do it!

It is a SCAM; they only want to see you naked!

I wish I had gotten this yesterday.

I feel so stupid.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

snowy Knoxville

just a little eye candy from Knoxville February 3rd. 

yup. that is snow there on the ground right here in East Tennessee. it was a wonderful day!