Saturday, November 28, 2009

Springer Mountain, Georgia - The Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

Along with my sons Shaun and Tim, I visited Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail (AT). The Appalachian Trail Conservatory estimates the AT to be 2,175 miles, but yearly the figure changes with land ownership and route changes. I have no urge to hike all of the AT (at least at this time), but given I was spending a month in Georgia, and I have hiked a great deal of the trail in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, I could not resist hiking the Georgia finishing point of the AT to see the two rock-embedded plaques. Some folks believe the AT was an Indian trail. That assumption is not true. In 1922 Benton MacKaye, a forester from Massachusetts, had the vision of a continuous hiking trail from Georgia to Maine. A single AT was recognized in 1937 and is maintained by thirty-two non-profit organizations.

Less than twenty-five percent of through hikers - those who start from one end of the trail to the other - complete the entire trail. A thru-hiker can start at either of the trail's termini/starts - Mount Katahdin, Maine or Springer Mountain, Georgia.

The final mile of the AT passes through Forest Service Road (FSR) 42 near the top of Springer Mountain. From the small parking lot, you cross the FSR dirt road, and follow an AT wooden trail sign (with .9 miles engraved) and vertical white rectangular trail paint marks to its termination atop Springer Mountain. Visitors to the top of Springer Mountain can sign a logbook stored in a metal box encased in a rock holding one of the plaques.

Benton MacKaye Trail
As we returned to the parking lot, we encountered the Benton MacKaye Trail. This is a four and ½-mile spur off the AT that essentially brings you back to the Spring Mountain parking lot. In tribute to Benton MacKaye, we decided to take this trail to return to the parking lot.

It took many MapQuest searches, a few Google Earth reviews, and many Google Maps, before I found specific enough directions to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the AT. Click here see the Directions we took to reach the Springer Mountain parking lot from Kennesaw, GA. (note: There are other ways to get to the parking lot.) The Springer Mountain parking lot is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest nine-tenths (.9) miles from the top of Springer Mountain, where two rock-embedded plaques denote the southern end of the AT.

Ten point four miles of a Wildness Road
Our last ten plus miles to the Springer Mountain parking lot were on a one-lane rock infested and mud hole red dirt mountain road. Our bumpy ten mile per hour pace was jarring. We frequently had to pull off the road for on-coming cars. The road was literally cut into the side of the mountain with tall Georgia pines on each side. You surely need a four-wheel drive or SUV to use this route.

Resources for AT history, maps, planning and through-hiker experiences
A great resource to learn about the history of the AT, state by state trail maps, and how to plan the hike, can be located at
It takes the average AT hiker six months to finish the entire trail.

Never Say, “I wish I had…”
Shaun, Tim and I now, never have to say, “We wish we had been to the southern end of the AT.”

A Holiday Gift for the Outdoor Enthusiast

Give Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, "I wish I had ..." as a special gift for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Give a Book for Your Holiday Gift

$pecial 28% discount for Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, “I wish I had…”. Give Outdoor Enthusiast as a special gift for the holidays. Use discount code SX7VP7Q9 at for your 28% discount. Treat family and friends to a very personal gift.

Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, “I wish I had…” provides outdoor places to go and things to do. Moreover, Steve’s stories and his “I wish I had…” truism, show individuals and families can, like the author, overcome self-made health, material, physical and mental barriers (e.g. “my knees are bad”, “ I do not have a bike”, “I am out of shape”, and “I am too tired”).

Throughout the book, the stories and “I wish I had…” demonstrate bonding and learning through outdoor exercise.

Steve’s stories and lessons make you want to put on your backpack, find your running shoes, borrow a canoe from the neighbor, tune-up the bike, and get ready for cross country skiing!

Chapters include: ‘How to be an Outdoor Enthusiast’, ‘A Guest in Nature’s Habitat’, ‘Running’, ‘Hiking’, ‘Team Relays’, ‘Triathlons’, ‘Marathons’, ‘Canoeing and kayaking’, ‘Eclectic Adventures’, ‘Places to Play in Northern New England’, and ‘Avoiding Injuries’.

Use discount code SX7VP7Q9 at for your 28% discount.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Do We Have Mountain Lions in New Hampshire?

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, NH is the place to go to see New Hampshire’s wild animals “up close and personal”.

The Sunday Union Leader announced a lecture at Squam Lakes on New Hampshire’s large wildcats. Certainly, a topic of interest to all outdoor enthusiasts.

My wife Cathy and I arrived two hours before the 1 pm lecture so we could hike the ¾ mile Gephart Exhibit Trail. The Trail features live native New Hampshire wildlife in natural settings.

Yes, I had seen many of the animals and birds previously in their native habitat, but it was always for a fleeting moment. Now, Cathy and I are in awe seeing this same wildlife in their natural settings, and in an area where we can take pictures at our leisure, and read all about their traits.

All the animals are in captivity, but in ecology close to their natural habitat and space needs. The animals were orphaned or injured before they came to the Center. Essentially, the Center is now their home.

So, are there mountain lions in New Hampshire? Hmm, maybe, maybe not?

Absolutely, plan a day at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center so you (adults and children) will never have to say, “I wish I had seen and learned more about wildlife of New Hampshire.”

ADVANCE NOTICE -A $pecial post next week will be a 28% discount for Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, “I wish I had…” You can now give Outdoor Enthusiast as a special gift for the holidays. My book royalties are gone for this $pecial post so you can treat family and friends to a very personal gift. [Hint: use discount code SX7VP7Q9 at]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Paddle Florida - Get Down on the Suwannee River, and Go with the Flow!

Today, my sister Barb and her husband Larry, took my wife Cathy and I hiking at the Suwannee River State Park in Live Oak, Florida. Unexpectedly, we came upon a group known as Paddle Florida . Twenty kayakers were making a 123-mile eight-day trip from the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida to beautiful Manatee Springs State Park. We greeted them as they pulled ashore to prepare for a night of tenting.

We met Bill Richards, leader of the group. Bill enthusiastically answered my many questions about Paddler Florida. Moreover, Larry had just seen a huge fish jump in the middle of the river, and Bill identified the fish as the prehistoric Gulf Sturgeon.

Paddle Florida is held in cooperation with the Florida Park Service and the Suwannee River Water Management District. These two organizations have created the 171-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. The Trail makes the Suwannee River accessible to paddlers, hikers, bikers, equestrian enthusiasts and other outdoor groups.

The Suwannee River trek sounds similar to the NH/ME Androscoggin River Trek to the Sea where participants can join the moving river celebration as a day trip, do a series of days, or paddle the entire 170 miles.

You can contact Bill Richards at to learn more about the Suwannee paddle, as well as other great paddles of Paddle Florida.

Now, I never have to say, “I wish I had been to the Suwannee River, met a member of Paddle Florida, and learned about the ancient Gulf Sturgeon.”

Hmm, do you suppose a trek with Paddle Florida is in the future for Outdoor Steve?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Son the Writer

Small Dogma Publishing has selected Shaun’s book, Decisions, as their showcase book of the month. You can order his book at

A great Christmas gift for less than $14.

One reviewer of the book said: In Decisions, Shaun Priest gives the reader a look at the life of one illegal gambler in a way that brings home the reality of the world of bookies and their customers. Priest’s main character, Jack Fitzgerald, is a hotshot ex-jock and salesman for CM Solutions, a Boston-area company that specializes in selling software systems to hospitals. “Fitzy” is married, with a young son, plays basketball in an adult amateur league, and seems to have it all. But he has got a secret: he’s a compulsive gambler….At its heart, Decisions is a page-turner. It’s not a cerebral or contemplative tome, but it will keep you reading. This book would make a great movie.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meeting a New Hampshire Good Samaritan

When you need help, a Good Samaritan appears.

My wife, Cathy, and I went to the Contoocook River to locate the kayak put-in and take-out for my Sunday triathlon, the Contoocook Carry (2 mile run, 5-mile kayak, and 14-mile bike). To scout together, we decided to use our Kevlar twenty-five pound twelve foot Lincoln canoe.

We came to a dead end road, and could not see the river, nor the put-in - yet the web site directions showed we were in the right spot. We spotted our Good Samaritan walking near a farmhouse, and yelled if he knew where Sunday’s paddle race put-in was. He said, we could park there and he pointed to a path toward the river. “Thank you.”

We paddled to the Contoocook Dam - three miles - and then turned around and paddled back upstream - the current was no problem and with both paddling hard, we returned to the put-in in one hour.

Hence our real memory of this trek started.

Cathy had a large hole in the middle of her cane seat. The first hour paddle was comfortable, rump wise, but as time progressed she had to continually reposition herself in the canoe to get the blood flowing.

We returned to the put-in, carried the canoe to the car and prepared to lift the canoe on to the carrack. It was then our Good Samaritan re-appeared.

The young man, looking to be in his mid-twenties and with dreadlock hair, who had kindly given us directions to park and get to the water, waved to us, and we yelled back our thanks for a great paddle. Mike, carrying his 1 ½ year blonde daughter, walked over and we introduced ourselves. He admired our canoe, and then pointed to the torn cane seat. We certainly had noticed the seat, and it had given us “pain”.

Mike commented, “I have a brand new caned seat in the barn, and you can have it.” I responded, “Certainly, thank you.” “Let’s measure the seat to see if it is the same, and if yes, I will cut and install it,” he said. He walked over to the barn, and returned with an identical seat!

Within ten minutes, he had the seat installed.

Who knew, here we were in a far-region of middle New Hampshire - near an old farm - and who should appear but Mike, our Good Samaritan, with an identical caned seat and the knowledge and tools to install it.

People helping people in New Hampshire. Thank you Mike for a personal experience of kindness we could never have foreseen. Now I never have to say, “I wish I had accepted the kindness of a total stranger”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2009 National Senior Games Association (NSGA) Triathlon is now complete

Wow! A year of training and anxiousness for the National Senior Games triathlon is now no more. On Sunday August 2, 2009 in San Francisco, I was the sole male representative for New Hampshire to do the Senior Games triathlon (1/4 mile ocean swim, 12-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run). I believe I did New Hampshire proud with a strong race in my age group.

Click NSGA triathlon results to see all results.

To qualify to compete in the 2009 Senior Games triathlon an athlete has to be over age fifty, and do two certified triathlons, or finish a State Senior Games triathlon in 2008. I finished second in my age group at the 2008 Maine Senior Games Kennebunk Fireman Triathlon.

Here are my 2009 Senior Games triathlon race highlights

• My wife Cathy was my support team and ardent fan.
• Coincidently, the Senior Games race director was Terri Davis, the same race director for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, mentioned in my July 21 post. I introduced myself to Terri at the triathlon orientation session and encouraged him to visit this Outdoor Enthusiast blog.
• Elizabeth Bunce was the sole female triathlete from New Hampshire.

The Swim

  • The swim was in very salty 60 degree bay water of Port of Redwood City. I wore my shortie wet suit and was very comfortable.
    • We did a deep-water swim start - meaning we jumped from a dock, and swam to a channel where a start rope waited for our wave. All my previous triathlons had started ankle deep in water, or from shore.

    • My swim was comfortable with low waves and tasted very salty. Ugh. However, I had no effects of the few times I inadvertently swallowed the water.
    • I lost about 30 seconds in the swim to bike transition as I had mistakenly locked my suit's pull string. I did a Houdini type move to remove my wet suit.

    The Bike
    Rather than pay $125 to fly my own triathlon bike to San Francisco, I decided to rent one in Menlo, CA for $50. Overall, this was a very good financial move. When I called to rent the bike two months earlier, I was assured by the sales clerk the shop could match my bike shoes - so I did not bother to bring my own pedals. This was a mistake. With not being able to pedal in my own bike shoes, I used the bike shop's toe straps and my running sneakers. I had not used toe straps for years, and I did not feel comfortable pedaling.

    In addition to the pedal issues, the bike’s seat and handlebars were not perfectly aligned for me, and I could not efficiently pedal.

    No excuses here, as my closest competitor was way ahead of my time, and even with proper shoes and bike fitting, I could not have made up this time spread.

  • The bike route was three laps around a circled industrial park plus a straight roadway. The whole route was flat and for the first two laps no wind. In the final lap there were strong headlong winds. Of course, the wind was the same for all competitors.

    • During the bike component I saw three fellow bicyclists on the roadside with an ambulance by their side. One cyclist had hit a road divider, whereas the others I could not determine how they spilled.
    • I did get frustrated a few times, as cyclists passed me on the left without saying “On your left”. “On your left” is a warning that you are being passed. Once I was ready to pull out to pass a competitor, and nearly hit a cyclist passing me. I reminded them with a yell, “Remember to say “On your left!!” when you pass.

    The Run

    • The 3.1-mile run was four laps around a flat quadrangle. Before the race, I thought this method might have been too confusing and have count problems, but as I made my laps, I found it nice to look forward to see my support team, Cathy.

    • The age of each runner was on the left calf of each runner, so knowing the age of my fellow athlete got my competitive juices up whenever I passed or approached a runner in my age category. I dared not ask which lap they were completing.

    • As I neared my final lap my thoughts turned to watching each stride to be sure I did not fall. I wanted to make sure the sole New Hampshire male finished the race!

    • Unorthodox Training Schedule

      Two months before a triathlon I usually begin a mixture of a .8-mile weekly swim in Perkins Pond in Sunapee; two days per week of twenty mile bike rides immediately followed by one to two mile runs; and three to four five-mile weekly runs.

      My regular training regimen was not followed for this Senior Games tri. Due to other commitments, my training consisted mainly of hikes, white water canoeing, and distance paddling. These certainly are cardio-vascular workouts, but my concern was did I train the muscles needed for this tri.

      In case you crave more detail on my pre-race training
    • I spent the third week in June in northern New Hampshire with three friends hiking the 4th Connecticut Lake, camping, and paddling five lakes in the Connecticut Lakes region. A week of zero running, biking and swimming.

    • The 4th week in June in Standish, ME at Saint Joseph’s College teaching two classes six hours each day. I managed one five-mile run, and zero bike and swim.
    • During the July 4th week I managed one swim on Perkins Pond and ran five miles twice. Zero biking.

    • The 2nd week in July I spent eight days paddling lakes and white water in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (see July 31st post). A week of zero running, biking and swimming.
    • 3rd week in July my grandkids joined us and we spent lots of time in canoes and kayaks. I did manage one swim on Perkins Pond and two five-mile runs. Zero bike.

    • 4th week in July my two sons, grandson, nephew, brother-in-law, and two friends climbed Mount Washington (an exhaustive cardio workout!), and then spent two days canoeing Lake Umbagog and the Magalloway River. A week of zero running, biking and swimming.

    • Four days before I left for California, I did one five-mile run, road my bike ten miles with my nephew, and mowed my lawn!

    • Yes, I was concerned with my upcoming event.

      My Outcome in the National Senior Games Triathlon

      I felt strong the whole race, enjoyed it, and would not recommend my training schedule to anyone.

      I never have to say, “I wish I had done the National Senior Games Triathlon!"
  • Friday, July 24, 2009

    Paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway

    A Father-Son Paddling Trek
    Ten of us just returned from paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) in northern Maine. The ninety-eight mile AWW is composed of streams, rivers, and lakes, and shines as the brightest among the jewels of Maine’s wilderness state parks and historic sites.

    This was a father-son trip with four dads and five sons. Linwood "Loon" Parsons ( was our guide. Loon’s knowledge of the history and special sites around the Allagash meant many side trips and unique Allagash lore.

    We entered the AWW at Indian Pond Stream on Saturday July 11th and exited Saturday July 18th at Allagash Village where the Allagash River and the St John River meet.

    Wildlife was plentiful and we stopped counting Moose at twenty-five, and eagles at ten pair. Another thrill was having a loon land within feet of our canoe as we paddled. The loon landing took a long time before it settled on the water - it was like a big seaplane without skis coming in low with its proud chest up and no legs showing. This long landing time and style was magnificent to see, as the loon got lower and lower to the water. Finally, the loon gently became one with the water.

    A special treat for me was hearing the ”snort” sounds of a moose, and the shriek of the eagle. One evening a cow moose and her calf spent nearly an hour across the river from our camp, and we heard her many snort calls to her calf. Another time two eagles perched in trees across from camp and made frequent eagle screams.
    This was my son Tim's and my third trip into the AWW in six years, and the water level was the highest and fastest we have seen. My earlier trips required us frequently to get out of the canoe due to low water. This time we fought headwinds on Eagle and Long Lakes. Chase Rapids are five miles of Class 2 and Class 1 rapids with many thrills. We did short stretches of class 2 rapids over Long Lake Dam and below Allagash Falls.

    My biggest thrill was paddling with my son, Tim. We did the first three days with me in the stern, including Chase Rapids. On day four, we switched ends of the canoe for the remainder of the trek. Tim's ability to read fast moving water, along with his paddling strength, resulted in an adventurous, fun, and safe trip though the rapids. Our last day, the eighth, poured rain, but since we were on our way out, rain was no issue.

    Gourmet Meals

    Our meals were simply delicious, well planned, and cooked by “The loon”. Steaks and potatoes cooked over our open fire pit are just a sample of our eight days of gourmet meals.

    Allagash History and Our Itinerary
    Without a doubt, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway rates as one of the grandest wilderness areas east of the Mississippi. Its mystique draws canoeists from all over America and the world. First roamed by native Abnaki Indians in search of food and furs, then in the 1800's by lumbermen in search of virgin timber for logs and pulpwood, it is today visited by the adventurist paddler seeking a deep wilderness experience.

    The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is rich in historical points of interest from those by-gone eras. It abounds in wildlife of every description, from the majestic Moose to the ubiquitous White-throated Sparrow. Extending some 98 miles end-to-end, the Waterway offers the canoer both lake and river paddling environments.

    Our trip began at Indian Pond Stream, flowed into Eagle Lake, and then proceeded northward for eight days ending at Allagash Village on the Canadian border. "Pongokwahemook", an Indian name meaning "woodpecker place" and today called Eagle Lake, is a most interesting spot on the Allagash. We pitched out tents at Thoreau campsite on Pillsbury Island, the northernmost point reached by Henry David Thoreau in his expedition of 1853. It is from this base encampment that we launched our exploration of the "Tramway" that connects Eagle Lake with Chamberlain Lake and of the old locomotives that ran between Eagle and Umbazooksus lakes in the early 1900's lumbering era. A strange sight indeed to see these 90 and 100-ton locomotives sitting alone in this vast wilderness.

    By now, everyone's paddling skills have became finely tuned and in two days or so, we will be running the canoes down famous Chase Rapids, a beautiful and exciting run of nearly 5 miles ending at Umsaskis Lake. As the river enters Umsaskis Lake it meanders through an attractive marsh where we see moose feeding on the plant life. Canada geese often stop over here also on their great migrations up and down the Atlantic flyway.

    We next cross Round Pond, the last pond on the Waterway and spend the next few days being carried along by the current through easy rapids as the Allagash River descends toward the Saint John. Trout fishing at the mouths of the many brooks and streams offer Eric and Garrett enjoyment to wet a fly and we enjoy Garrett’s fresh 14” brook trout over our open campfire.

    We portage the most awesome spectacle on the river; 40-foot high Allagash Falls, a thundering, boiling cauldron of power and beauty.

    Never say, “I wish I had …”
    Fourteen river miles below Allagash Falls through class 1 rapids, the Allagash River delivers us back into civilization and our wilderness river adventure becomes a treasured memory.

    A special notation on this trip. We had planned this trek two years ago, but one of the Dads was diagnosed with throat cancer. We had made all the arrangements, and two weeks before the trek, we had to cancel on the advice of his doctor to begin aggressive treatment. Two years later, cancer free, he and his two sons, made his Allagash Wilderness Waterway dream come true.

    We now never have to say, “I wish I had paddled the Allagash Wilderness Waterway”.
    For more information go to Allagash Wilderness Waterway

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    FAQ from the July 5, 2009 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Post

    As a result of my July 5, 2009 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon posting, I received many emails with additional questions for Jim Graham and Tim Wolf. Their responses to these inquiries are posted below.

    Jim and Tim, we learn all the time from fellow outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, this sharing is a major reason for this blog. As such, I have follow-up questions for you to expand a bit on details of your EFA.

    Q. You said it was ¾ miles from where you exited the water to the bike transition area. Did you wear your bike shoes in this run from water to bike – or did you wear running shoes?
    • Jim: I used an old pair of running shoes. The EFA organizers suggest using a different pair than you are going to run the race in as they get soaked and full of sand. No socks either.
    • Tim: There is a transition area just out of the water where you have a bag of stuff. In mine, I had water to wash out the salt, a towel and a pair of old running shoes that I put on for the run to the bike. You could not run that far in bike shoes, nor would it have been smart to try to run it barefoot as a large section of the course was on concrete with lots of little rocks, glass etc

    Q. The current/tide factor obviously makes it an entirely different length than an ordinary 1.5 mile swim. Any idea what the current was and how far you might have swam? In other words, how would you describe swimming one direction against the current in order to reach another direction? Does this course mean you can never relax in the swim, because if you might never recover to get back?
    • Tim: A lot depends on the weather conditions on the day of the swim. I have seen times that indicate the swim to be more like a mile (in terms of time in the water), up to 2 miles. In this EFA, I was out of the water in 35 minutes. In a normal flat 1.5-mile swim, I would expect to be out of the water in 31 to 33 minutes, so it was not far off.

    While it is true that the current is pushing you towards the Golden Gate Bridge, many other factors slow you down, so in this case it worked out that time in the water was about equal to a 1.5-mile swim.

    The things that made the swim tough were:
    o You had to sight at the top of the wave, otherwise you could not see the point that you were aiming at.
    o You had to swim for a point way to the left of where you were planning to exit the water. This was tough mentally because you really "wanted" to swim to the exit. We were warned repeatedly that if we did not swim to the left we would miss the exit point and would not be able to swim against the current to get back.
    o When the sun came out it was in your eyes if you took a breath to the left, so sighting your swim marker was often very difficult, if not impossible.
    o The wind was from the right and caused you to be hit in the face with water when you breathed to the right. I was forced to drink a little seawater when this happen.
    o There were a lot of people that jumped off the boat in front of me and therefore a lot of people that I had to get around
    o No Sharks but I saw jelly fish the size of basketball that would scare the hell out of you if you ran into one.
    o The cold was not really an issue as you were so worried about the above to be worried about the cold.
    o From what I saw there were a number of people pulled out of the water by rescue staff.

    Q. Tim, how difficult was the EFA compared to other triathlons you did?
    • I was pleased with my effort. Jim's description is accurate, and from my standpoint, it is the toughest race I have ever done both mentally and physically. There was never a point in the race where you could mentally relax and regroup; you had to stay focused the entire time. It was definitely NOT just a run of the mill triathlon.

    Q. Steve, do you intend to do the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon?
    • Absolutely not! The EFA is way beyond my skill and endurance level. I posted Jim and Tim’s EFA experience on my blog because as a triathlete I knew this extreme event took an exceptional triathlete. Knowing these two men, and hearing their account of the EFA, was a chronicle I wanted to share with other outdoor enthusiasts. To me, hearing their tale was like sitting with Neil Armstrong and hearing him talk to me about what it was like to go to the moon.

      Sunday, July 5, 2009

      Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

      I have always been intrigued with the Escape from Alcatraz (EFA) triathlon. The strong currents passing Alcatraz Island make a swim to the mainland unthinkable. I heard many years ago about this extreme event, and envisioned attempting it only in my dreams. Last week I listened, enthralled and full of questions, as Jim Graham, a fellow member of the triathlete club (, excitedly shared with me his recent “up front and personal” conquest of the EFA race.

      The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon includes a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. The race continues with an eighteen-mile bike ride out the Great Highway, through the Golden Gate Park, and concludes with an eight mile run through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

      Last month, in addition to Jim, club members Tim Wolf, Jeff Litchfield, and Carlo Carluccio participated in the Escape from Alcatraz (EFA) Triathlon (

      Jim Graham gave permission for me to publish in my blog his narrative of the race. Jim’s account of the race is also found at the Athletic Alliance web site (, which Jim, Tim and I am members. I encourage all Outdoor Enthusiast Blog readers to send ECA questions and comments to this blog. I will forward them to Jim for his response.

      As described by Jim Graham

      Tim Wolf, Carlo Carluccio, Jeff Litchfield and I traveled to San Francisco to do the “Escape from Alcatraz” Triathlon on Sunday June 14th. Carlo, Tim and I got into the race via the lottery, having put our names in online in December. Jeff qualified racing in New York last fall.

      I was impressed with the EFA race on so many different levels: venue, organization, and difficulty, and I felt compelled to do a detailed write up. I have this great urge to go back and do it again next year, so I figure I will plant the seed now for people to think about joining me.

      Jeff and I arrived in San Francisco on Thursday June 11th - a few days early to do a little reconnaissance. Our 1st stop after we left the airport at noontime was China Town, for a nice lunch.

      After lunch, we drove the bike course in the car to check it out. It was a bit difficult to follow the course with the map we had as it lacked a bit of detail, but we managed. Our first impression was, “wow, this course is hilly!” We were staying at Jeff’s cousins’ (Jon Porter – brother of Athletic Alliance Member Jason Porter) house in Mill Valley on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Each day we had a beautiful ride back and forth over the bridge.

      On Friday, the plan was to pick up Tim at the airport, then swim in the bay and run part of the run course. We also found out we could pick our bikes up as well. We had shipped our bikes using “Tri Bike Transport”. The out and back service cost about $250 round trip and was definitely worth it aside from the fact that you are without your bike for 10+ days on either end of the trip.

      When we arrived at Aquatic Park for our swim, which is a couple of miles east of the transition area, there were a few dozen EFA participants already there doing practice swims. We put on our wetsuits and dove right in. Much to my surprise the water temperature was not that bad and there was only a little bit of rolling chop. This was a sheltered cove, but it gave us a taste of what we were up against.

      Jon recommended we get a feel for the terrain and run the middle 4 miles of the run course, the “sand ladder”. We dried off, changed into our running gear, and headed over to the “Warming Hut”, which is right under the Golden Gate Bridge. We were starting our run about 2 miles away from transition, all of which is flat and straight. From underneath the bridge, you begin to climb, first on steps, which then changes to a narrow walkway, which then changes to a dirt single track trail. I estimated there to be about 250’ of elevation gain over a mile. Once at the top you make a fast trail decent down onto Baker Beach where you run on the loose sand for about 3/4 of a mile before climbing the Sand Ladder back up to the top to reverse course back the way you came. We were running the course alone, except for a few people hiking and some people fishing along the beach. Most of this section of the course was tight, with little possibility for passing people.

      We picked up our bikes at the “Sports Basement”, a gigantic outlet selling all types of sporting goods that included an entire Triathlon section! Jeff could not control himself, purchased a new short sleeve wet suit, while I for the first time in a while was able to exhibit a sliver of self-control, and kept my wallet in my pocket.

      Saturday we went to the Muir Woods to check out the giant Redwood trees and had lunch at Joes Tacos (Great pre-race meal). In the afternoon, we went for packet pickup and a mandatory athlete meeting where they went over how to sight on the swim and several other details about race morning. Tim had the foresight to get a hotel room four blocks from the transition area for Saturday night. This way we would not have to drive into the city early Sunday morning and could get some extra time staring at the ceiling waiting for the alarm to ring!

      Sunday – EFA Race Day!

      The alarm went off at 4:30am. Pre-race jitters, along with fire trucks, late night party goers etc, kept me awake for most of the night. Since we could not get a late AM checkout, we had to put all of our bags in the rental car to store them because we were heading back to Jon’s house after the race. We rode our bikes down to transition with our transition bags. We had to drop off our T1-A bags that includes shoes and water bottle needed after exiting the water. It is about 3/4 of a mile run from the water to the bike transition.

      You then rack your bike and set up your bike transition area. There were coach buses waiting to take you from transition down to Pier 3 where you boarded the boat that take you to Alcatraz Island. You get body marked and wait in the usual “porta-potty” lines before getting on the boat that was set to depart at 7am sharp. I was wondering how the boat would look with 2000 Triathletes lying around, and it was impressive.

      There are three floors on the boat, and the second floor we were on was a large ballroom that was empty of all tables and chairs and triathletes were sprawled and napping all over the floor.

      Somehow, despite the crowd, Tim, Jeff, Carlo Rich Eichorn from Hopkinton, and I managed to come together and hang out for the 60 minutes it took to get out to Alcatraz Island and get positioned from the swim exit deck.

      As the boat slowly made its way out I was surprised at how calm the water looked, which as it turns out did not reflect what we were about to jump into. People were supposed to depart the boat based on their swim wave. I started heading for the door as soon as they were finished with the National Anthem, and I was surprised to see all different color caps on the way down the stairs. It occurred to me that nobody really cared about their wave time and was heading for the door. Chip timing and going over a timing mat before you jumped in took care of timing issues. I approached the doorway where everyone was leaping off the boat in chaos, and before I knew what hit me, I was leaping off the boat and hitting the water. I remembered to hold my goggles and scissor kick as I entered the water so I did not go very deep. My next thought was to get out of the way so nobody landed on my head.

      The first few minutes of the swim seemed to be smooth water and I felt good, although I had a tough time seeing the radio tower we were supposed to be sighting. All of a sudden, the water became very choppy with very large swells. The water temperature was the least of my problems, as I was concerned with gulping seawater, sighting my line, and staying calm. I kept being caught in the wave’s rhythm and getting hit in the face every fifth breath making it difficult to get a fix on my line. At one point I swam over the top of a large “something” that my hand hit that really scared the crap out of me. It was tough to swim a straight line at the radio tower because you were being knocked around by the swells and having to dodge other swimmers.

      I ended up overshooting the perfect line by about 50 yards and forced to swim the final 50 yards perpendicular to the beach against the tide, and that forced me to have to work hard.

      As I exited the water, I was psyched that I had made it through the swim. A glance at my watch had my time at 44 minutes, which under the circumstances, I was happy. I quickly found my transition bag in T1A, stripped off my wetsuit, put my shoes on, grabbed my bottle of Heed and started the 3/4 mile run to T1. I was VERY glad I had that bottle of HEED in my bag. I really needed to wash the ocean water out of my mouth and dilute the pint of salt water I had swallowed.

      I managed to find my bike and made my way out of transition and onto the course.

      The first couple of miles on the bike are straight and flat, but there was a hardy head wind. It was about this time that you hit the first of what are many climbs. We had ridden the bike course in the car a couple of times, so I knew what to expect. Actually riding it on the bike was a rude awakening! I tried to temper the climbs and not blow up while trying to be aggressive on the descents to try to make up a bit. Between the number of people on the course, the nasty pavement and tight turns, you were always braking or adjusting and not able to get in a good rhythm. The course did have some great views if you dared or were able to pick you head up to look at them. As I descended the final hill and got onto the final flat 2 mile return to run transition, helped by a significant tailwind, I finally felt like I was getting into a rhythm, too little too late!

      I entered transition knowing all I had left was an 8 mile run and I would be finished with this beast. On the first 2 miles of the run, which are flat and along the ocean, I saw all of the pros running by. Andy Potts had a big grin on his face as if he was out for a leisurely jog, while some of the other pros were four or 5 minutes back looked like they were turning themselves inside/out to get to the finish. It is humbling knowing they are beating you by more than 60 minutes! As I approached the 2-mile mark, the course changes from flat dirt path to stair climbs and uphill single track. The stair climb was 4 feet wide with 2-way traffic, and it was difficult to pass. As you crested the hill, you were directed from the single track out onto a paved road, which also had race bikers on their return trip. The paved road section was about 1/2 mile downhill before you were directed onto a trail that led down to “Baker Beach”. You entered Baker Beach and took a left heading towards the 1/2 waypoint of the run. Everyone had made their way down onto the hard packed sand at the water’s edge rather than run in the loose sand, which made it very difficult.

      After the turn around, you made your way back along the beach 1/2 mile towards the dreaded “Sand Ladder”. The Sand Ladder consists of about 350 ladder type steps in the sand that ascend up the side of a large hill that brings you back up to the road you descended from. As you approached the ladder, it looked like a “death march” as two single file lines of racers made their way up, one line on the left and the other on the right. You could hear loud music at the top where they had a DJ blasting tunes. They had timing mats at the bottom and top of the ladder so you could get your ladder split. My ladder split was 3:56, OUCH! There was a 1/2 mile of single track climbing as you were repeating the route of this out and back run. As you crested the hill, you began a wild downhill trail run that retraced all of the trails, paths and steps you climbed during the accent. It was tough running downhill on tired legs while trying to pass people and avoid any uphill runners making passes. Once down at the bottom, all that was left was 2 miles of straight and flat. Good news - you’re almost done. Bad news- its still 2 miles!

      Down the finish chute, I gave it every last bit I had. I crossed the finish line and I wobbled over to the fence and leaned on it to hold myself up because I was ready to black out. I laid on the ground rather than pass out. I was completely wrecked and lifeless. Tim came over and gave me a bottle of water, and then Jeff came over to tell me to get my lazy ass off the ground! What great buddies!

      It took 36 ounces of liquid to quench my thirst over the next 15minutes, so I guess I was a bit dehydrated.

      After the boys got their massages, we all grabbed our bikes from transition and brought them over to the Tri-Bike Transport tent to drop them off for their shipment home.

      At that point, we decide to find some place to eat in this beautiful Marina Green area. We all agreed with Tim that a HUGE burger was a perfect post race meal, so we set off in search of a burger joint and stumbled upon “Bistro Burger” that served huge gourmet burgers.

      We managed to be seated at a beautiful outside sidewalk table under sunny blue skies! Menu: Huge char broiled burgers topped with bacon and avocado with a huge basket of sweet potato fries and an ice coffee.

      Carlo headed home Monday morning, and Jeff, Tim & I rode the Trolley Cars around San Francisco taking in the sights.

      After getting my ass kicked by a racecourse, it usually takes me awhile to want to go back and do it again. I am ready to sign up for next year’s EFA right now! As this is an expensive race/trip, I will begin digging the change out of my seat cushions saving up for next year’s race. Who is coming with me?

      For a complete race recap, go to Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
      Why a triathlon club?

      A major benefit of belonging to a triathlon club is the camaraderie of fellow athletes with common interests. The club is open to all athletes, with most of its current membership from Manchester, NH and surrounding towns. Naults Cyclery ( is a major sponsor. primary goal is to promote the sport of triathlon, duathlon, Xterra, mountain biking and adventure racing. The membership consists of athletes of all ages and abilities who run, bike and swim for fitness, fun and competition. The club sponsors swim clinics, group training runs, swims and biking.

      Tuesday, June 2, 2009

      New Hampshire Magazine Selects Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, 'I wish I had..." as Bookshelf June 2009 Book of the Month

      Get Exercised Outdoors

      Couch potatoes, arise!

      Stephen Priest sees his torn Achilles tendon as “good fortune”. Without the injury (now years ago) he wouldn’t have become an outdoor enthusiast nor written a book about it. When Priest’s doctors told him that there was an even chance the tendon would tear again in the future, he set out to prove them wrong. He began an exercise program (starting with walking just the distance between two telephone poles) that led to a lifetime of hiking, biking, kayaking, cross-country skiing, marathon running, swimming and even shovel-sliding.

      He wants others to enjoy the outdoors as much as he does. His 242-page book, “Outdoor Enthusiast” (,, $34.88) outlines a plan for getting started (yes, between telephone poles is part of it) and for how to continue living a healthy lifestyle by being outdoors. He uses his own experiences with his outdoor activities to discuss the challenges and cautions of each. He also writes extensively about avoiding injuries (first of all, stretch), being a guest in nature’s habitat (watch out for bobcats) and where to go to “play” in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. If you’re ready to leave your couch or to kick your current exercise routine up a notch, this book can tell you a thing or two about how to do it.


      Sunday, May 10, 2009

      Horseshoes at GSSG

      I was the horseshoe event manager for the Granite State Senior Games (GSSG). Pitchers (as horseshoe throwers are called), all over the age of 50, compete in five-year age/gender categories. I was a pitcher in previous GSSG tournaments, but this was my first as the event manager. Certainly, it was a revelation for me.

      While each thrower is only concerned with their category, the event manager, in fact, is organizing eight or more separate mini-tournaments. Thus comes the rub. The challenge for the event manager is to give each pitcher an opportunity to play, while offering competition for them.

      When registration occurred weeks before the tournament, I had signed up to participate in the singles and doubles competition in my age category. As I planned the rules and pitcher assignments, it became obvious I would not be able to be both a manager and pitcher.

      I prepared a handout for the pitchers to have the key rules of the GSSG games, as well as to provide me guidelines for instructions to the pitchers. I used the 2009 Summer National Senior Games Horseshoe rules ( and the National Horse Pitchers Association ( rules, supplemented by a few local rules to speed up play.

      I incorporated two means of scoring. First, was the count-all shoes method to determine the skill of players and assigned them a person to play. Then the cancellation scoring method determined the “best” pitcher in each category. Although these two methods are encouraged in the NSGA rules and procedures, I found using two scoring methods in this GSSG tournament(s) very confusing to most of the players, since most had never played in organized tournaments. Since the purpose of these games is primarily for “fun”, rather competition, I would suggest next year’s manager consider only the count-all shoes scoring method.

      One interesting pitcher was Ron from the state of Washington. This 65-year young man had a 2009 quest to participate in as many state senior games as he could. The New Hampshire games were his tenth this year. While not being able to do all sixteen of the various GSSSG games, he would do the swimming event the same day as horseshoes.

      A special treat for me was my brother David being a pitcher. He won a silver medal in his singles category. Fortunately, the doubles competition was at the end of the tournament, and I was able to join David as his partner. We won Gold in our category!

      Surely one person cannot manage this multiple horseshoe event. Lucille was a tremendous help with set-up, awarding medals, record keeping, and a great assistant. Jim, Stan, and Hannah assisted with scoring.

      For the results of the GSSG horseshoes tournaments, and for the information on other GSSG games go to

      I will never have to say, “I wish I had managed a horseshoe tournament”.

      Wednesday, April 29, 2009

      Fantastic Mid-week Trek to Tuckerman Ravine

      How do you describe a perfect day for Dundee, Dick and I to hike to Tuckerman Ravine. In two hours, we made the three-mile uphill trip via Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Hermit Lake. The summer-like day was emphasized by Dick and I wearing t-shirts and shorts (we did have warm clothes in our backpacks for any change in weather.)

      Tuckerman Ravine (, isolated on the east side of Mt. Washington in the White Mountain National Forest, is famous for its daredevil spring skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, ice climbing and hiking. Moreover, Tuckerman’s isolation and its dangerous conditions and terrain can be dangerous – and even fatal.

      If you are thinking of skiing Tuckerman, you should be an expert skier in good physical condition. The headwall at Tuckerman is between 45-55 degrees and the vertical drop is approximately 1200 ft. The only way to the top is by climbing the headwall. (

      The hike started on a dry and bare rocky Tuckerman Ravine Trail. As we ascended to the middle section, we encountered snowmelt small streams crossing the trail, and we gingerly traversed slippery ice. The upper part of the trail was snow covered, and we could hear and see water flowing underneath our feet.

      Fellow outdoor enthusiasts, carrying their downhill and telemark skis, boots and gear, passed us. Other hikers, like us, are there for the thrill of the surreal scene of this magnificent beautiful ravine with a reputation for beauty, avalanche danger, and untold climbing challenges.

      Shared Thoughts:

      • A trek to Tuckerman’s is a perfect place to bond with your significant other, family, and friends. My wife Cathy and I have made this trek many times, and years ago, my son Tim and I encountered a sudden storm that nearly put an end to our lives. Memories of love, emotion, and bonding are part of my Tuckerman experience.
      • 10:30 am temperature 82 degrees AMC’s Pinkham Hut, 12:30 pm temperature 68 at base of Ravine.
      • We were aware of an air and ground search for a 17-year-old hiker Eagle Scout who had been missing in this area since Saturday. At around noon we heard from a hiker the scout was found safe and in good condition.
      • Camaraderie of all skiers was evident throughout the hike as we shared “where are you from”, “conditions of your ski”, “which side of the ravine did you ski?”, and “Have you heard if they found the scout?”
      • We wished a ten-year-old boy “happy birthday” after we learned he and his dad skied Hillman's Highway trail, the longest run in Tuckerman.
      • We drank water every ten minutes to be sure we did not get de-hydrated. My backpack was filled with a quart of water, two peanut butter jelly sandwiches, compass, map, duct tape, ace bandage, contractor trash bags for an emergency overnight, warm clothes, gaiters, winter hat, and gloves. We all wore hiking boots (sneakers would nearly insure a sprained ankle and wet feet).
      • After lunch at the caretaker hut, we started up the right section of the Ravine, but stopped because of rocks covered with slippery ice and brewing dark storm clouds moving swiftly over the headwall. Since storms come up quickly in this area, we did not hesitate to leave when we saw the threatening conditions.
      • Thinking of going to Tuckerman? Great, but before you go be prepared with a review of the HikeSafe program In 2003, the N.H. Fish and Game Department and the White Mountain National Forest partnered up to create a mountain safety education program called "hikeSafe." A large component of the program is the Hiker Responsibility Code. The code applies to all hikers, from beginners on a short hike to experienced outdoor enthusiasts embarking on an expedition. Please practice the elements of the code and help the hikeSafe program spread by sharing the code with fellow trekkers. This will help increase responsibility and decrease the need for Search and Rescue efforts.

      Dick, Dundee and I will never have to say, “We wish we had hiked to Tuckerman to watch the skiers and enjoy Tuck's majestic wilderness and mountain scenery.”

      A Summer Trek and Paddle in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire
      Later in July, I returned to the Tuckerman area.  My nephew Braden, and grandson Carson, joined my two sons, brother-in-law, two father-son friends and I on a four-day trek enjoying the Great North Woods of New Hampshire.  Please view the video to see this beautiful northern New England area as we hiked Pinkham Notch, Tuckerman Ravine and  Mt Washington, paddled Lake Umbagog and the Androscoggin and Magalloway rivers, hiked to the 4th Connecticut Lake, and tented at Mollidgewock State Park in Errol, NH.

      Wednesday, April 22, 2009

      Boston Marathon Day April 20, 2009

      My friends Ryan and Kevin were running the Boston. Temperature was 45 degrees at race time. Over twenty-six thousand runners. I parked in the EMC lot and took the marathon bus to the center of Hopkinton. I walked around Athlete’s Village, but could not find either friend.

      I kept in cell phone contact with my son Shaun, and friend John Kerrigan – later they would text message me Ryan and Kevin's locations and times on the course.

      Ryan wore bib 1862, and his coral was right behind the elite runners. I went to the 1000-1999 coral to search for Ryan. It was ten minutes before the start, so every 30 seconds I yelled ‘Kerrigan!’ I was determined to find Ryan. Ryan heard me calling his name – and we were both excited to see each other.

      Thirteen thousand runners started at 10 am. I now had to find Kevin for the 10:30 am start. It was surreal seeing runners of all shapes dressed in assorted attire. Everyone was nervous, and the smell of liniment and old sweaty clothes filled the air. It was fascinating watching the next 13K runners ready for the second wave.

      I had a thought that I should be running! It lasted less than a nanosecond, as I realized the training and effort all these athletes did to get to this starting line. I ran Boston three times – and I knew the pain they were about to endure – especially the back of the packers when in three plus hours they face heartbreak hill with cramps and exhaustion. Moreover, they still have an hour to go before they finish.

      The public address system calls out the 10:30 am start – and nobody moves at hte back of the corals! Yup, it will take nearly ten minutes before Kevin crosses the starting line. No matter, as his microchip will give him an accurate time.
      I yell three bits of advice to Kevin 1) Drink lots of water, 2) It is OK to pee in your pants, 3) Enjoy the run!!

      I take the athlete bus back to the parking area, pick up my car, call John Kerrigan for his location at the 20 mile mark, check my map, set my GPS and I am off to the corner of Commonwealth Ave and Sumner Street where John is standing.

      My twenty plus mile trip down the Mass Pike is without traffic, I get off at Center Street Exit 17 in Newton, pull off the side of the road, and set my GPS to the 536 Sumner Street address John gave me. I was only 1.5 miles away. I found Sumner Street, and a side street to squeeze my Jeep in with dozens of other illegally parked cars. No doubt, there were too many cars to tag or tow!
      Ten minutes after exiting from the Pike, I was standing next to John at the twenty-mile mark of the course. John’s son-in-law had text messaged John that Ryan would be reaching our area within the next ten minutes.

      We see Ryan! His six plus minute pace looks smooth - he smiles as he sees us, and I fumble my camera! Gosh!! I manage only one good video – of him running away from us.

      John leaves and heads to the finish to greet Ryan.

      Bill Roger runs by me – I wish I had my camera ready. He won the Boston in two of the years I ran Boston. What a great athlete and representative of the Boston Marathon.

      I now await Kevin. I had set my watch when Kevin started to run at Hopkinson, and my best guess was he would do a nine-minute pace.

      It was about 1:30 pm, and the temperature was beginning to drop. It was getting windy. I zipped up both my sweater and Jacket. I was thinking Kevin is getting dehydrated, and when he reaches me, will be cold and shivering. I will offer him my sweater and windbreaker. I watch the bib numbers of the runners. Kevin’s bib is 23369. The numbers passing me have not yet started in the 20,000.

      It is now close to 3:25 on my watch and by my calculation, Kevin should be here. Did I miss him? I was sure he was going to finish, but how long should I wait here before I leave? I called Shaun, and his last checkpoint for Kevin was 30K (18 miles).

      I see Kevin!! I start yelling and waving for him to see me. I have his water and orange ready. He says his stomach has been bothering him for some time – and he does not want anything. I walk with him listening to his thoughts about “I never knew it would hurt this much.” What do I say to him to encourage him in a quest he started six months ago. Since I had been in his position three times, I knew that plain words were not enough. Out of my mouth came “You are at the twenty mile point. You are now in a 10K race.”

      He picked up his running pace and away he went!

      I headed home to watch the marathon that I had recorded on my DVD.
      Ryan finished in 2: 48.26. Kevin finished in 4:44:08. Great accomplishments for two highly trained athletes!

      I will never have to say, “I wish I had been at the Boston to root and support Ryan and Kevin”

      Friday, April 17, 2009

      Planning a Paddle & Hike to Connecticut Lakes & Lake Francis

      I am looking for suggestions for areas of hiking and paddling for a trip with John, Dundee, and Dick in mid June 2009. Here is what we have planned so far:

      • Monday drive and camp at Lake Francis State Park and paddle the lake as light permits. The Park is our camp area for three nights

      • Tuesday hike 4th Connecticut Lake, and paddle Lake Francis

      • Wednesday paddle 3rd and 2nd Connecticut Lakes (can we paddle on both lakes without needing to put canoes/kayaks on cars to get from one lake to the other?)

      • Thursday paddle 1st Connecticut Lake (again, is there a paddle connection between lst and 2nd lake. Drive back to Manchester area in afternoon.

      We heard the Buck Rub Pub is a great place to quench our thirst and have breakfast/diner. Comment?

      I used Google Earth and with Google search found the site with a great narrative of an earlier trip by a fellow outdoor enthuiast. I do believe we will be following his earlier trek.

      Why are we doing this? 1. To say we have straddled the Connecticut River at its 4th Connecticut Lake headwaters outlet. 2. See many moose. 4. Enjoy my fellow trekers and The Great North Woods. 4. Because we never want to say, "I wish I had paddled the Connecticut Lakes and Lake Francis."

      If you have been there before I would love to hear your suggestions, comments, and web links to look at to get further psyched.

      Thursday, April 16, 2009

      Stocking Salmon for NH Fish and Game

      Never say, "I wish I had learned about how salmon are stocked in New Hampshire waters". I saw an article in the New Hampshire Sunday News on the NH Fish and Game asking for volunteers to stock salmon fry in the waters of NH.

      I asked my friends George and Dundee to join me, and we spent the most interesting day learning and stocking salmon fry. See the below slide show to this post.