Back to the trail – part 2: White Mountain Adventure

This is podcast 2 in a two part series (part 1 here)on our 2018 section hike of the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Kendall and I recount our various adventures and sum up with what we are taking away from this most recent walk in the woods (more mountains than woods…), including:

  • Getting back on the trail after an unplanned day off.
  • Making decisions as a group
  • How luck plays a huge role in your experience
  • How hiking can “force” you into a more meditative frame of mind

We are already planning our next adventure, so if you have any suggestions of sections we should take a look at , drop them in the comments below.


A soggy start to what would be a foreshortened day 5 and a crew that is absent Me and Mason (we had already left for Highlands)
Coming down Mt. Webster…what would end the day early.
Hanging things out to dry in the “emergency” suite at Highlands Center.
Refreshed after a hard day 5 and a night at Highlands center. Ready for a good day 6 on our way to Guyot Tent Site.
We got lucky and were able to wait out a storm in a hut…but the creek didn’t have that luxury so it was raging by the time we got to it to cross.

Up and at ’em on the morning of day 7 from Guyot Tent Site.
A quick break on a hard day 7.
Yep, that’s the trail that leads to Garfield Ridge campsite. It just happens to be an active waterfall as well. After this we were expecting the trail to go through an active volcano!
Cooking dinner at Garfield Ridge Tent Site. Last dinner on the trail so emptying the food bag of all dinner stuffs.
It was slow going on the top of Mt. Lafayette with the fog making it hard to see the next trail marker.

The feeling that can only be achieved by actually finishing something like an 8 day section hike through the white mountains.

Back to the trail – part 1: White Mountain Adventure

A little late in getting this posted, but we hit the Appalachian Trail again this summer.  It was Kendall and I, plus Mason this time as well as 4 friends from church.  This trip all got started last summer when I was talking about our trip to Shenandoah and Greg, a guy I go to church with, expressed some interest in doing a section hike.  10 months, a few planning meetings and a lot of miles in the car later, we were in Pinkham Notch getting ready for what would turn out to be a really challenging, but really rewarding 8 days on the AT.
This hike was a lot different than our previous section in Shenandoah, but as I come off this section (and with the benefit of a few weeks or R&R back home), I can say that it has only strengthened my resolve to through hike.  Where there is a will there is way.
Mason, Kendall and I say down to record our experiences on the first half of the trip, including:

  • A pretty easy first day from Pinkham Notch to Osgood tent site
  • A way harder second day over Mt Adams and Madison to get the Perch (with some getting separated and lost for good measure)
  • A recovery third day with awesome weather to get great views from Mt. Washington and an overnight stay at Lake of the Cloud hut.
  • A very nice fourth day that got us in pretty early at Nauman tent site
  • A surprise 5th day that you’ll have to listen to hear what happened…


An annotated map of the plan for our 8 day adventure (things don’t always go as planned…)

Look at all those smiling faces and clean clothes! First morning on the trail.

A lot of this on day 1. Not too much different from Shenandoah.

We had it made at Osgood tent site. There plenty early and an extra platform to setup the tarp and play cards.

And then this happened on day 2.

At least someone was enjoying themselves.

No one said anything about rock climbing!

This is what 2 miles in 4 hours looks like at the top of Mt. Madison.

Coldest night of the trip at The Perch (sort of…this is a stealth spot since the campground was “full” by the time we got there after recovering Kendall from her unplanned side trip)

Back at it Day 3 and not looking to worse for the wear.

Fighting off the tourist who drive to the top in the car to get a pick at the sign.

Sunset from Lake of the Clouds Hut

Ready to face the day after a hearty breakfast at Lake of the Clouds.

Last night for the full group on the trail at Nauman Tent site.

Working in a crypto mine

I’ve been a crypto currency enthusiast for a few years. This past Christmas, I decided to do more than dabble with investment and take a try at mining. Mining the premier crypto coin directly, bitcoin, is out of the question for the hobby miner without investing in ASICS which mostly (completely?) come from Chinese manufacturers that seem to use them themselves to mine for a few months before selling them on the open market. Rather than jump in there, I decided to try my hand at GPU based mining which can be used to mine for coins like Etherium, Zclassic and Zen-cash.
I ordered

  • a motherboard off of alibaba (which was an experience) that can support up to 8 GPUs directly not he board and in theory 4 more through risers (I say in theory since the PCI Express slots are all blocked by the cards in the main slots)
  • 5 EVGA 1070ti hybrid GPUs from Amazon and 2 from Newegg. I must have just slipped in before the great GPU shortage of 2017/2018 as I ended up with 4 of the 5 cards from Amazon and none of the Newegg cards. I feel lucky to have any of them given the prices and availability since then.
  • the most crazy expensive 1500W Platinum power supply I could find
  • An open air frame that has the capacity (that I probably won’t use) to hold up to 12 cards
  • A few extra fans…mostly for the lights.

I put everything together in a few hours, downloaded simplemining os and was up and running in 4 hours. I made one mistake of not configuring my miner to point my account on suprnova (don’t yell at me…I’ve since switched to so the first few hours of mining went out into the ether (or more likely the suprnova wallet of the smos developer).
I’ve had the rig offline a few times for a total of maybe 4 hours, once to install the fans and once to move it from the bench where I built it to the shelf where it’s going to live, but otherwise it’s been running for 4 weeks straight. I am getting about 2,000 Sol/S mining Zencash (not the most profitable, but I like the project) and have mined a bit short of 8 zencash in a little over 4 weeks. At current prices (admittedly depressed) that’s worth around $280 with total electricity costs of $28, for a net profit of $252, which puts the payback on what I have invested so far on the rig at around 10 months.
I’d like to add some more cards to get to a full 8, but not at the current prices. Otherwise, I think I will just let it run, HODL my coins and see what happens the next few months.

Camus on finding respite in the thick of battle

Sometimes synchronicity works in your favor and sends you just the idea you need right when you need it.

One may long, as I do, for a gentler flame, a respite, a pause for musing. But perhaps there is no other peace for the artist than what he finds in the heat of combat. “Every wall is a door,” Emerson correctly said. Let us not look for the door, and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living. Instead, let us seek the respite where it is—in the very thick of the battle. For in my opinion, and this is where I shall close, it is there. Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say that this hope lies in a nation; others, in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever-threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundation of his own sufferings and joys, builds for all.

Has it been long enough to forget?

I hope not.

That’s different. This western-front business couldn’t be done again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn’t. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren’t any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiance, and little cafes in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and weddings at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather’s whiskers.


Bitchun' or Die?

I just finished reading Homo Deus, the second book from Yuval Noah Harari.  I loved his first book so my expectations were high.  It didn’t exactly disappoint, but it didn’t leave me as excited as Sapiens. His first book was a look back and this one is a look forward. The basic thesis is that humanism / liberalism has sown the seeds of its own destruction by enabling the creation of ideas and technologies that destroy the fundamental assumptions that they are based on.  It seems an echo of Nietzsche’s idea that Catholicism created the necessary conditions for the enlightenment and the scientific revolution, two forces which weakened the church.
The book left me a little flat since it seemed to meander around – making a lot of interesting points, but no seeming big point. Maybe it was the overall mood that put me off. It was more than a little bit gloomy.  Harari doesn’t give us humans much of a chance over the next few centuries mostly due to the inevitable emergence of intelligence independent of consciousness, i..e AI, and the resulting devaluing of all things uniquely human. To be fair, it may be harder to construct a coherent projection of the future than it is a coherent explanation of the past and he does conclude with some interesting discussion questions.
One theme that I have carried with me has been this idea of the choice we have in the matter. Do we plug in or do we stay in the real world?  It’s some what related to the last post I made to share and comment on the article from MIT Tech Review: what do we gain and what do we loose when we choose to tune in, turn on and drop out? Harari says that those that choose to plugin are (unconsciously perhaps) shifting the arbiter of the meaning of their actions from their own internal perspective to their “network”. It’s the shares and likes that matter, not the subjective value of the experience.
This seems like a bad deal to me, but then I can’t help but think of one of the sub-themes from Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I re-read it over the beach part of my summer vacation and one sideline story that happens before the book starts is the emergence of the Bitchun’ society. It’s never exactly defined in the book, but according to the Wikipedia page it is:

the dominant Earth culture in which rejuvenation and body-enhancement have made death obsolete, material goods are no longer scarce, and everyone is granted basic rights that in our present age are mostly considered luxuries.

The main characters talk about in the past tense the Luddites that clung to the ways of appearing the age you were, living day to day without a backup and a retinal overlay and dying only once.  It’s that last choice that was their downfall. Those that decided to do those things simply outlived those who didn’t. It wasn’t a matter of trying to convince people through reason, logic or evidence it was just a
I’ve been tempted to jump on the quantified life train with the release of the newest apple watch, but the idea that all of my health data gets streamed off to some remote server that I don’t have control over gives me pause. To be fair, I’m not sure that any of that’s true, it may be that everything is encrypted, secure and only available to me, so maybe it’s just the idea that it could be is why I haven’t. I do wonder though if I am living through the emergence of some form of the Bitchun’ society. Those that choose to live a quantified life are likely to live longer than those that don’t, so maybe they don’t have to convince us all – they can just wait us out.

Putting a finger on something I have been sensing

HT to Tim Ferris and his weekly email 5 bullet Friday for pointing out this recent essay from David Byrne on MIT Tech review.  I’ve been sensing this for a while now, resulting in more time journaling, meditating and going out in the world to be with other people and spending less time on my phone, blogging more than facebooking and being more conscientious about taking what seems to be the path of least resistance doing things online.
Here is one of the key quotes:

When interaction becomes a strange and unfamiliar thing, then we will have changed who and what we are as a species. Often our rational thinking convinces us that much of our interaction can be reduced to a series of logical decisions—but we are not even aware of many of the layers and subtleties of those interactions. As behavioral economists will tell us, we don’t behave rationally, even though we think we do. And Bayesians will tell us that interaction is how we revise our picture of what is going on and what will happen next.
I’d argue there is a danger to democracy as well. Less interaction, even casual interaction, means one can live in a tribal bubble—and we know where that leads.

via Eliminating the Human
It seems to me we (the royal we = the human race) have to figure out how to have a better conversation about the costs in addition to the benefits of all these new technologies.

Until we meet again

It’s been quite a week since we got home from some amazing experiences, first on the AT through SNP and then in Charleston.  When we got home late Saturday something wasn’t quite right with our dog, which lead us to the emergency vet early Sunday morning which then lead to a week long stay at our regular vet.  Final diagnosis is pancreatitis.  He’s home now and getting better each day, but still not out of the woods.

We weren’t quite recovered from the roller coaster ride of having to decide each day whether a long time friend should live or die, when we went up to the barn yesterday to find my horse, Levi, dead in his stall.  No warning, no sickness and no sign of exactly what happened.  Just dead on the stall floor, having kicked out about half of the wall (unclear whether he did that before, during or after experiencing whatever it was that did him in).

I’ve been a bit numb for the last 24 hours.  I think that is just a natural defense to so much.  But I’ve started to process some of it and this is an attempt to work out for myself, what it all means.  We humans after all are nothing more than story telling monkeys, so until I can tell a cohesive story about all of it, it will just be unprocessed mess.  What follows is a jumble of ideas, thoughts and emotions I have had over the preceding day.  Putting it down here is, as always, my attempt to work it out for myself.

I have such a wide mix of emotions about Levi dying.  I’m sad, of course, that he clearly suffered before he died.  I’m morning the little bit of my identity that has died with him.  I am no longer a cowboy / horseman.  Sure I still have horses on property, but none of them are “mine”.  I have no doubt that I could borrow any of my family’s horses whenever I wanted, but it’s not the same.  I’m not sure that I will ever have another horse that’s “mine” so that part of me may be relegated to the past forever.

I regret not riding him more,  taking it for granted that there would always be time “mañana”.  There was always some chore to do, some dinner to eat, some movie to watch.  My only hope is that Levi was happy without a job.  It seems to me Levi had a pretty good life – he had good pasture, was leader of his herd, was put in at night and had vet care when he needed it.  I hope that not getting to work didn’t bother him too much.

I am also a bit freaked out.  After coming off the trail a few weeks ago, I had started to think seriously about transitioning off the farm and getting into a setup that would allow us to travel more often and more freely.  No, I don’t believe in the “The Secret” or anything like that, but it did make me start to think more carefully about the intentions I am putting out there is the world.

But (and this is probably where the story telling starts), I am also grateful.  I am grateful that he didn’t die when we were on vacation – that would have been horrible for the person watching the house, dogs and horses.  I am grateful that I didn’t have to make a decision.  I had reached the point of life/death decision making fatigue earlier in the week with my dog, so that would have been just too much. I get that it’s just pets, but unlike humans, they can’t tell you what they are feeling or what they want. This gratitude makes me feel a bit guilty too…still processing that.

As odd as it may sound, I am grateful for the chance to deal with death so directly.  For those of you that have never had to bury a 1+ ton animal, I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that you appreciate the body for what it is and pretty quickly realize that there has got to be more to horses (and by extension people) that the meat suits that we ride around in.  In our highly sanitized, medicalized and funeralized society we don’t get to deal with death so directly anymore.  It’s not fun, but it is a teacher.

I’m grateful for the kick in the ass this has given me to be more mindful about my choices.  When we moved to our farm more than a decade ago it was to be with our horses and by extension use them more.  That hasn’t worked out as planned and with some life transitions coming up in the next two to six years, I realize that now is the time to start envisioning and, most importantly, experimenting to figure out what we really like and what we really will do (as opposed to what we think / say we will do).  This is hopefully a useful outcome from the regret of not riding more.  I can’t change what I haven’t done in the past, but I can make more mindful choices in the future.

Lastly, I am grateful for the too few times we rode together.  Levi was a great teacher.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination a great horseman.  Levi was always patient and helped me get better.  It wasn’t nearly often enough, but every time we did get to ride I came away feeling relaxed, accomplished and connected.

Happy trails, Levi, until we meet again.

Way before we knew him. He was born in 1999 in Saskatchewan.
The early days.

In his younger days he was a speedster. Often with a flagged tail.
He was more than just my teacher.
My favorite pic.
Added one to the herd.  Everyone got older.
Added one more to the herd. He was still in charge.
We used this for our Christmas Card one year.  One more added to the herd.  The only pic I have of me actually mounted.
The most recent pic from this summer. Levi and his heard.
As he aged, he liked to take naps more and more. Much to my wife’s consternation (thinking he had colic).