Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Play Ball: College Baseball in Ann Arbor

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I have lived in Ann Arbor for more than 19 years. In all that time I have never attended a University of Michigan sports event. It's not that I dislike sports; I like some quite a lot. I just have never taken the time, made the effort, to go to a live game. In some cases that's because I just can't see going to a basketball or hockey game both of which hold little interest for me. Football can be a lot of fun to watch, at least it is on TV, but I've never felt like plunking down the money to go to one of the big games though I suspect I would have a good time especially if I could go with a friend or two. I'm sure sports like track and field events or swimming events draw people but they're not going to draw me. That leaves baseball and its kin (softball). I've known a stadium was downtown somewhere but until a couple of days ago I hadn't known exactly where. Until a couple days ago I had just pondered going to a game. I decided a couple days back that it was time to actually go to a college baseball game and that if the weather was going to be nice the next time the Wolverines played in town I would go. Tuesday rolled around and the weather was very nice indeed. It's about a mile and a quarter walk to the baseball field that nestles in by State and Hoover. I got to the game just as it was starting. I found a few hundred other people, of all ages, scattered in the bleachers. Two definite camps of fans: the Wolverine fans and the fans for the Eastern Michigan Eagles. I bet the most ruckus ones cheering and jeering the teams were the students. That is how it probably should be. The day was bright and clear with no real wind. You are more than close enough to the field to hear a ball when it strikes the catcher's glove. I doubt their is anywhere in Ray Fisher Stadium that you cannot hear the clang when a hitter manages to put his bat upon the ball. Personally, I prefer to sound of a wooden bat but I suppose I'll just have to live with it.

I wish I could have found a radio station that was streaming on the Internet (yes, the U-M website says coverage exists but whatever the station is they require you to run Microsoft Silverlight to stream. Way to go CBS Sports you picked a tool that no mobile device supports), but I did not (if anyone reads this and knows of a radio station that does stream on the Net do let me know). I missed out on plenty because of this but I was so close to the field that I could easily watch segments of the game and have enough fun that way. At least enough fun to make me feel my $5 ticket was well spent money.

Baseball is about many things. Some of them include running goofy contests for the fans like the how-fast-can-you-eat-the-hot-dog content, the dirtiest car in the parking lot contest (granted I guess no one knew of that one ahead of time), and the trivia game. Then you toss in a great experience like the Junior Announcer inning where a kid gets to introduce the batters during a home half inning. I bet the kid today had a real thrill. I know I would have. Of course, you also have classic traditions like a seventh inning stretch with a sing-along of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Some things just have to happen. A good live sports event is more than just the game. It's true you want your team, home or away depending on your particular stance, to play well and win but a good event should have more than that. A good event brings people together and sparks community growth. The community could be as small as a couple of friends out for a day of fun, a couple on a date, a family outing, or something much bigger. A good event also gives you the chance to forget about the wider world and escape into some real world fantasy. The fantasy that you could be down there on the field playing too or at least that your hollering and hooting might help your team win the game.

Today I took part in a bit of that and had a fine old time. Perhaps I will go again and if I am lucky maybe I will be able to get a friend or two to go along. After all an experience shared amongst friends is far better than one shared with like-minded strangers even if that isn't a bad experience.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Glimpse At My 2010 TGO Route, Part 2

Yesterday I posted a summary of my planned route to hike across Scotland during the upcoming Great Outdoor Challenge. This two-week event has been running for the past 32 years and shows no signs that it is going to stop. Many walkers have participated in the Challenge for decades. It is a non-competitive event whose goal, as I see it, is to foster a love of travel by foot across long distances while engaging with the people around you. You are part of a community of Challengers who all share the same goal of trekking across the Highlands of Scotland and sharing the mutual joys (and sometimes sorrows) of that experience. Along the way you meet people who are not taking part in the Challenge: the locals who live in the region mostly. That opens up another realm of experiences which are just as valuable. The Challenge is limited in size to ensure that it can be managed and not overwhelm the areas being hiked through. The management takes the form of the people, volunteers, who staff Challenge Control during the event and those kind souls that examine the submitted routes and advice the entrants about what may a better way to accomplish their goal. For example, a vetoer might point out that a route crossed a river that no longer has a bridge or note that you are taking an unusually long way round to get from point A to B. Their advice is invaluable. These aspects help cement the community aspect of the Challenge.

I fully expect that I will meet other Challengers every day of this hike. In 2008 I had a couple of days where I did not meet anyone after leaving a gathering point. The very first day after I left Dornie I did not see any other Challengers (I did meet a couple locals out for a stroll). On other days I met one or two Challengers early or late but that was it. Only a couple times did I find myself walking with groups of people for the bulk of a day. This year I suspect that will be different. I am following a pretty classic route and in some cases there really aren't that many ways to efficiently get from point A to point B. I am certainly I'll meet many Challengers at the major towns along the way and I'm looking forward to that. I have very fond memories of the evening at Kingussie and my day in Braemar. I hope I have enough time this year when in Fort Augustus to actually see Loch Ness (last time I arrived sometime after 7:00PM on a rather rainy evening and just wanted to dry off and have a nice rest). We will see what happens.

You've seen the route summary already and I thought I'd share a map with you. This route does share some of the same countryside as my 2008 trek. The hike between Fort Augustus and Kingussie is the notable repeat stretch. It's a steady climb up over the Correyairack Pass but the Old Military Road is an easy route to hike. The stretch between Garva Bridge and Kingussie is on paved single-lane road for the first several miles as your approach Monadhliath Hotel. There is also road walking beyond the hotel in the vicinity of Mains of Glentrum but it is a pretty area and you return to two-track as you walk through Phones towards Lubleathann (with a dud of a roadwork into Kingussie proper). While I've no doubt I can cover that stretch in two days I can easily see breaking it into 3 days like I did in 2008. It will depend a lot on who I meet along the way. My foul-weather alternative out of Kingussie would be a reprise of what I did in 2008. While I'd be irked if I have to go this way the hike through Glen Feshie is an enjoyable one though the last few kilometers to White Bridge on the two-track are dull and the six or so kilometers from White Bridge to Mar Lodge are hard on the feet. Finally if I take my foul-weather option out of Braemar I'll walk a few kilometers of paths I've seen before but it's hardly worth mentioning.

Show/Hide the map for TGO 2010 Planned Route

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Glimpse At My 2010 TGO Route

I've been a bit slow in finishing up pulling together my map information for the upcoming TGO (The Great Outdoor Challenge) 2010 hike. I had finished creating the route and filling out the official route sheet a while back but putting everything together to share with the Internet world has taken a little bit longer (with the obvious interlude of my trip to Portugal and England; I hope you have enjoyed the videos from that trip).

This will be my second TGO. I had fully intended to do a TGO hike last year but circumstances conspired to prevent it. That's a story for another time. This year I have planned a pretty conservative southern route that will end up traversing some of the same ground I trod back in 2008. But it also is going to feature some regions that, weather permitting, should be spectacular. From the initial ferry ride from Mallaig over to Inverie, across the Correyairack Pass, through Lairig Ghru, along Jock's Road, and beyond. This route will a bit more southernly trending than the 2008 route. I expect it to be fun, social, and full of scenery that should keep me happy throughout the whole trek.

The summary below should give you a good idea of what I plan on doing. Although the official route has a couple lengthy days I don't expect either of them to be that difficult. In fact it is highly likely that I'll break up the trek between Garva Bridge and Kingussie into two days with a nice lazy break at Monadhliath Hotel which I found thoroughly enjoyable back in 2008.

I still have to print out all sorts of material and settle on some final gear choices which I will write about later on.

Summary of TGO 2010 Route
FRI 14thMallaig – Inverie – (alternative: walk the shoreline of Loch Nevis, past Tom Cruinn, NH864 960) - Carnoch – Sourlies Bothy4014550Sourlies Bothy
SAT 15thSourlies – Meallan Dubh – Bidean MhicLain Ghlais - Kinbreack40181000Kinbreack
SUN 16thKinbreack – NN005 972 – NN008 983 - east along River Kingle – Lochan – NH104 001 - Eilean Mhorair – Tomdoun40, 3420350Tomdoun
MON 17thTomdoun – NH192 023 (cross bridge) – Torr na Carraidh – Greenfield – Allt Ladadh (NH230 003) – Glenluie - easter Mandally – Portmacdonett - Bridge of Oich – Fort Augustus3430300Fort Augustus
TUE 18thFort Augustus – Melgarve Bothy – Garva Bridge34,3527950Garva Bridge
WED 19thGarva Bridge – Sherrabeg – Drumgask Fm – Catlodge – Mains of Glentrum – Phones – Lubleathann – Kingussie (This is a day I could easily decide to break into two with a stop at Monadhliath Hotel.)3531600Kingussie
THU 20thKingaussie - Tormie Bridge – Feshiebridge – Loch Gamhna – Cairngorm Club Footbridge35, 3623.5250Cairngorm Club Footbridge
FWA to Braemar goes through Glen Feshie. Kingussie (NH757 005) to Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy (NN847 928)3516Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy
FRI 21thCairngorm Club Footbridge - Larig Ghru – Corrour Bothy jct – White Bridge Trail jct – Luibeg – Derry Lodge36, 4323.3650 / 550Derry Lodge
FWA Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy (NN847 928) – White Bridge – Mar Lodge.35, 42, 4329800Mar Lodge
SAT 22ndDerry Lodge – Claybookie – Mar Lodge – Braemar.4312120Braemar
FWA Mar Lodge – Braemar436100Braemar
SUN 23rdBraemar – Lochcallater – Jock's Road – Glendoll Lodge – Clova Hotel43, 4432600 /900Clove Hotel
FWA Braemar – Invergelder – Balmoral – Ballater4422350Ballater
MON 24thClova Hotel – Green Hill – Craig Turner – West Migvie – Tarfside4421.3800Tarfside
FWA Ballater – Craig Vallich – Shiel of Glentanar - Mount Keen (if summit if undoable follow path from Craig Vallich past Hare Cairn; bit shorter that way) – Auchronie - Tarfside4420800Tarfside
TUE 25thTarfside - Fernybank – Holmhead – Edzell – NO602 690 – Arnhall - Northgate – North Water Bridge.44, 4526250North Water Bridge
WED 26thNorth Water Bridge – Marymill – Hill of Morphie - St. Cyrus. Follow road past Maines Gallery and cross major road at (NO684 649, 4.6km). Regain smaller raod at (NO686 652, 5.1km) at Marymill. East at junction near Mrophie (NO710 641, 8.0km), NE then East over Hill of Morphie to St. Cyrus4512.5100Montrose
Total kilometers non-FWA Route290.6

Over Cliffs, Across A River, To Sagres We Go

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Day 6 (February 26, 2010): Across the River and Over the Cliffs
Our final hike in the Algarve would take us to the southwestern town of Sagres. But in order to reach this little beach town we would have to walk along coastal paths and paved roads, through gorse, on top of slick-as-ice stretches of clay-rich mud, and cross a river.In some respects this 9.3 mile walk with about 940 feet of ascent and descent would be the most stressful.

We left with low clouds threatening and strolled out of the town of Figueira into the low hills that would lead us to single lane dirt tracks that would gradually rise until we reached the Mesa-like low growing grasslands that mark the coastal cliffs around here. Perhaps the grass is kept short by grazing animals as was certainly the case later in the day. Many small dirt roads crisscrossed up here. Without decent notes, it could be easy to get confused. Worse, the mud that the path had been turning into under the recent, and now current, rains was quite slick making for poor footing. At least the rain didn't last long though the cloud cover never really did break.

When we got our first views of the Atlantic we saw an ocean of somber blue-green with hints of grey. It matched the mood of the sky. But the dreary weather did not deter the surfers down in the cove below. We edged down the narrow path along the cliff-face and passed by a small cafe that no doubt does great business in nicer weather. A road-walk beckoned before we would have our big challenge of the walk and perhaps the trip: a river ford.

The river at Azenha do Mar was probably 75 feet across. Waves from the ocean surf lapped at our shorts. Had we walked further out in the ocean we might have been spared the rocks underfoot. The rocks were smooth but still a bit painful to walk on and they affected, at least for me, balance. Had the rocks not been present the water crossing would have been a cakewalk. I have crossed tougher streams but this was I believe the biggest water crossing we've done on an HF trip. Once on the far side towels, courtesy of the hotel (how civilized!)came out and legs and feet were rubbed dry. The cool wind did it's part too. We settled in for lunch in this surfers cove (RVs abounded in the muddy parking area on the other side) but before too long it was time to strike out on the narrow steep hiking path up the cliffs to what would turn out to be a lengthy stroll across vast sheep-grazed fields past a lonely farmhouse along more slick tracks. We would take a long way around to reach the cliffs outside the town of Sagres. Then we dropped down one last time onto a wide and long beach that must be popular when the weather is nicer.

Sagres seemed rather quiet, perhaps a bit run down. We found the cafe that had served the easier walking group a little earlier and shared our last post-walk tea before piling into the bus for the ride to Cape St. Vincent. This windy spot with a couple buildings (lighthouse) is the most western part of mainland Europe. Next stop North America. We didn't hang about as the wind was howling, and beyond the views of the pounding surf against the high cliffs there is not much to see. One thing of note were the fishermen casting improbably long lines from the tip of the headlands out past the surf, perhaps more than 200 feet, fishing for bream (which I had not heard of).

Enjoy the video and photos.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Foia, Fog, Forests, and Fields

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Day 5 (February 25, 2010): Foia, Fog, and Towns
All regions have special places. Some of them are special for what is put on the land and some are special because of the land. Foia falls in the latter group because it marks the highest point in the Algarve at 902 meters (3,931 feet) above sealevel. The summit is open so views could be great but at thecstartvof our day no views of any great degrerme were available to us. We were treated to dense fog and a misting rain. We didn't hang around in the howling wind. We began following a small paved road off the summit. I don't know if the flowing water was a result of the rain or is a natural stream though I expect it is the latter. We were the only things on the road. But it is clear the area is inhabited. As we veered off the pavement on to a dirt track we saw terraced slopes in the distance.

When moved to a path, an actual path, we entered a eucalyptus forest. This was a new experience for us. Walking on the fallen shaving of wood reminded me a bit of moving through a pine forest though the colors here are different. It was a nice walk through the forest even with the drizzle. We caught glimpses of Monchique as we descended into the town. The town proved an interesting hamlet built into the mountain. It has what surely must rate as the slickest cobblestone streets I've ever trod. The town seemed quiet, almost dead in it's silence for a town I'd heard was a market town. As we picked our way through the narrow streets traffic increased and things got more luvely. We snacked at a tiny cafe avoiding the drizzle.

Leaving town, with abouttwo thirds of the walk to do we found ourselves striding out of the town along single and double lane paved roads into the countryside. Roosters crowed, dogs barked, rivulets gurgled, and cars whizzed by. It is pleasant country dotted with small homes and farms but the walk along the paved roads does drag.

We eventually turned onto dirt lanes the would have provided fine views out towsrds the coast had the visibility been better. Instead we merely could imagine what was out there as we continued to drop in elevation. The overcast refused to break. Just after we crossed the sulfurous river leading to our final push into Caldes de Monchique it began to rain. But it would be a quick uphill climb along the mostly unseen river to the spa complex.

I know people do a lot for the pleassurevof experiencing mineral waters that may have healing properties but this hotel and spa complex nestled in the mountains seems a bit much. There is nothing around the place. We had coffees and learned the fruit/ice cream treats were quite something (seemed too frilly to me) before we boarded the bus for the ride back to Belivista de Luz.

To sum up: the first part if the walk is much nicer than the second part. The second part does have an alternate route that might be nicer when it's not so soggy. I suppose I'll never know.

Enjoy the video and photos.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous