Thursday, February 28, 2008

Navigation - Part 1

Navigation is going to be the real make or break for my TGO trek. Sure the weather could be awful but weather is something I can deal with (despite what some may think about weather in the States it can be just as unstable and obnoxious as anywhere in the UK. I'm not making light of the chance for lousy weather in Scotland in May I just don't see it as the big issue). Navigation is another story. Navigation requires ongoing effort. Navigaition requires seeing both the near and not-so-near picture. Navigation requires one be able to match what is seen on a map with what is seen on the ground itself. Navigation is tough and made tougher when you have low vision.

I've done a smattering of day hiking in UK (visit my personal website to see some trip journals). But it's always been group hiking and I've never been the leader. Even if I might have been in front of a group it was never by much and the group leader was always the one really in charge. You don't have to pay close attention to things in that situation (though you could argue that you should). What I've learned in those day hikes is that you trek across trails that range from the tiniest of paths to blacktop roads. Sometimes you might veer off trail completely and make your way across an open, and remarkably featureless moor that could be very easy to get lost on in misty weather. What you do not generally have are well maintained trails like you can often find in national parks or forests here in the States. It's more like finding the best route along a long distance trail that is still under construction like many portions of the North Country Trail or a trail more like a collection of routes like the Continental Divide Trail. Paths may be marked on the very nice Ordance Survey maps but that's no promise (as far as I know) that the path is actually visible on the ground. And we won't even discuss the idea of a blazed trail, that just doesn't exist.

For my purposes what I hope to find is that when I am following a path it remains fairly obvious that I am on a path. That's how I travel normally anyay. While I won't deny that their are times when I actively look for blazes on trails (if I know they exist) I do not generally hike looking for them. I follow the trail I am on and usually I'm pretty good at finding the trail.The key for me will therefore be finding the right path and staying with it but remembering that when the path fades out that that is just the way it is.

Next time I'll share some more details about the actual route I hope to follow during my hike. It's a route that should be, as these things go, fairly easy to follow. It is a popular route which will work in my favor as I will no doubt meet people each day and finding fellow travelers is always a confidence booster.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Great Outdoors Challenge 2008

Some of you reading this know that I am going to be taking part in the 29th TGO Challenge this May. The rest of you are learning as you read this post. The Great Outdoors Challenge (TGOC) is an annual hiking event held mid-May in Scotland. 300 people have two weeks to trek from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. Participants can start from about a dozen different official starting points and conclude on the eastern shore at a comparable number of finish sites. How they walk from start to finish is entirely up to each person doing the trek. If you want to make your trek a remote, wild camping extravaganza you can do that, rather stay at inns and B&Bs along the way then that is fine too, or some interesting mix of the two. You determine your route and then get advice from eent organizers on the best way to achieve your goal. Obviously anyone can hike across Scotland whenever he or she wants but by taking part in this event you get the support of the event as well as the built-in camaraderie that comes when you take part in something that is bigger than yourself.

I sent in my application and ws one of the lucky 300 (they had about 416 people) to be drawn this time around. People who do this trek once tend to do it again and again and while the vast majority of participants are from the UK their are people from other countries too. I think this year North AMerica (I'm hedging my statement here) has 16 people making the trip. That's the most that have ever gone. 

Over the next several days I'll be posting some of my thoughts on how my trip prep has gone so far; the nature of the event itself, what I hope to get out of the trip, what I expect to be the toughest aspects of the trip, and so much more. It has already been a remarkable journey and I already owe a great debt of gratitude (and perhaps a drink or three) to event organizers who have helped me so far. But it goes beyond the official organizers since I have received advice from people both in and outside of the States who have done the trek before. In some respects this will be the most involved hiking/backpacking trip I have ever done. While some aspects of the trip should be, if not easy as such, easier than some things I have done; others have definitely required more work and will no doubt continue to require more work.

It's been a great ride s far and I expect that to continue. 
Next time I'll start a small series on my route planning and how that has gone to date. It has had its ups and downs and certainly been a time consuming and wallet-busting affair. But if it all comes together as I think it now will my chances of completing th trek in the required time should rise considerably.

External link:

Ground Hog Day, 2008

On Friday, February, 1, 2008 I join two friends for a quick trip into classic Americana. Lar had been wanting to do this ever since he and his wife had driven through the tiny town of Punxsultawney, PA a couple years back on the return leg of a trip to visit family. He talked me into coming along and into bringing my brand new Sanyo Xacti HD1000 video camera with me.

The trip was a hoot. Drive five hours, arrive at a motel about 20 minutes outside of town late that night, catch a few Z's, crawl out of bed at 2:00AM and have a tasty good old American-style breakfast at 3:00AM, slowly find a place to park our car amongst the probably thousands of other vehicles sprinkled throughout park-n-ride lots in the area (we ended up at the high school), and then pile into school buses to ride to the famous Gobbler's Knob.

I have no trouble believing that there were 20,000 people or more present for the 122nd Ground Hog Day forecast by Punsultawney Phil (the nth, despite what some claim this ground being the self same one that started this all - sorry some things stretch the mind too much). It's why I never could see Phil himself, but we had a blast anyway. This really is a massive mid-winter party and though you no doubt have a better view sitting at home watching on TV that totally leaves you out in the cold as far as capturing the wonderful feel of this spectacular spectacle.


Welcome to my blog. While I have maintained a personal website for years that even includes a blog of sorts this is my first official blog. A lot of the entires you'll find here will deal with trips I've done, trips I am planning, or other random thoughts as they come into my mind (just like any blog). While the Travels Page on is still the main portal to most of my trips (yes, I'm behind) this blog will be a blow-by-blow source for them as well as a place you might find quick thoughts on a quick trip such as my recentdive into classic Americana with two friends to Punxsultawney, PA for Ground Hog Day, 2008.

I hope you enjoy what you find here.