The nice thing about running is that you get to see a lot of scenery along the way. Here is a gallery of my favorite photos from 2017. I have also compiled them into a desktop theme pack for Windows 10, if you’d like to use these photos as your desktop background. Click here to download the theme pack.
It was the the year 2000, and my brothers and I were nearing the end of a week-long archery hunt for whitetail deer in the state game lands of Kentucky. We had seen only a few deer and none close enough to shoot. As the week progressed we noticed that most of the sightings were in one particular area, but since only one of us would hunt there at a time, the deer would always slip through out of range. On Friday, we decided that all three of us would hunt that area, to ensure that at least one would get an opportunity to make a kill.
The “hotspot” consisted of two thickets, separated by a dirt trail usable by vehicles and a strip of hardwoods. One of the thickets had small saplings and brush, and the other a field of tall weeds. In the morning the deer would leave the saplings, walk across the trail and through the hardwoods, and finally disappear into the weeds. There they could remain safely hidden. Our strategy was to make sure any deer crossing through the hardwoods would be within range of one of us. We took positions about 20 yards off the trail and about 50 yards from one another.
By the time the sun came up, all three of us had our climbing tree stands locked in place and were ready for action. All was quiet and uneventful until about eight o’clock. At that time, I eased out of my seat and stood up, expecting deer to begin moving through. Moments later, I began to hear a clanging noise coming from farther down the trail in the direction of Ty’s stand. Two hunters came into view. One had a tree stand strapped to his back, and the other was carrying a folding stool used for hunting from the ground. I stared in disgust as they walked noisily past Ty and continued down the road in my direction. I couldn’t imagine what bow hunter would be foolish enough to be walking around the woods at this hour when deer are typically on the move.
When the two men reached the point on the trail that was directly in front of my stand, they stopped. After talking to each other in whispers for a few minutes, one of them continued down the path toward Merv’s stand while the other removed the stand from his back. I waved at him from my tree to let him know that I was there, but he did not notice, even though I was in plain sight just 20 yards away. However, he did not begin to set up his tree stand as I expected he might, but instead lit up a cigarette. I shook my head in disbelief. A perfect morning, a perfect spot, and another hunter was sitting in my shooting lane smoking a cigarette.
I stayed silent, not wanting to scare any deer within earshot, and hoping the hunter would finish his cigarette and move on. No such luck, for he had other business to take care of as well. Taking a quick look in both directions, he lowered his pants and began to squat beside a bush in plain view. Desperately wanting to get his attention without frightening any deer that might be lurking nearby, I whistled.
The hunter jumped to his feet and pulled up his pants in the same motion, his head turning from side to side as he looked to see who might be nearby. I waved my hand again, but his gaze never traveled far enough up the tree to see it. Grasping his pants to keep them from falling down, he stepped into the trail and took a long look in both directions. Seeing nothing, he shrugged, returned to the bush, and resumed his squatting.
Restraining myself to keep from laughing, I whistled again. This time, the hunter paid no attention, apparently satisfied that he was surrounded only by wildlife.
Meanwhile, the other hunter had reached the spot in the trail that was directly in front of Merv and had sat down on his folding seat to wait for deer. Like me, Merv waved his hand to try to get his attention, but the hunter would not look up.
Meanwhile, I could see Ty was having some excitement of his own. He was standing up in his tree stand and was watching some movement in the small saplings. Less than 60 yards away from the foul smell below my stand, three deer were making their way toward the hardwoods. Just as my visitor was pulling up his pants, Ty let an arrow fly at one of the deer. It ran a short distance and toppled, and the two remaining deer fled back into the saplings.
Although both the arrow shot and the running deer were audible to me, the man below me still paid no attention. He once again strapped his tree stand to his back and continued down the trail in the direction taken by his partner. He was just out of my sight when he met the other hunter, who had finally spotted Merv in the tree stand above him, and both of them reappeared and retraced their steps back up the trail. They again walked past Ty and me, and this time a deer lying on the ground as well, and still noticed nothing.
The hunters were nearly out of sight when my eye caught some more movement back in the saplings. The two remaining deer were on their way back! I readied my bow and waited a few tense moments until the larger of the two deer gave me a clear shot at 30 yards; then I drew and released the arrow. My shot was high and struck the doe in the spine, dropping it instantly. The smaller deer circled and then made its way toward Merv. Minutes later, he shot an arrow as well, but unfortunately it struck a twig and missed the target. The deer ran into the saplings and this time didn’t return.
We stayed in our stands a while longer, exchanging a few words and some hysterical laughter using our two-way radios. When we were satisfied there were no more deer in the area, we gathered our kills and headed back to the house, chuckling all the way.
A Little Background
For many years, I didn’t pay much attention to what I put on my feet. I’d go to the shoe store, find an inexpensive pair of shoes my size, and make them work. However, a couple years ago when I started running, that began to change. When you run or even hike for several miles, all the little annoyances about your shoes become magnified. That place where the shoes used to rub a bit now becomes a blister. The snug fit around your toes means you’ll lose toenails as they impact the sides and top of your shoes thousands of times during your run.
My Shoe Criteria
Everybody’s feet and running style are different, and that means different shoes are right for different people. For me, there are two things I look for in every pair of shoes I buy.
The first criteria is no heel-to-toe drop. That means the heel is the same distance from the floor (or ground) as the forefoot area. For some reason, shoe manufacturers for years have made shoes with heels higher than the toe. For me, zero drop shoes just feel better, and put my body in a more natural alignment, the same as if I was barefoot.
The second criteria is a wide toe box. If you take a look at a typical shoe, you’ll see that the toe area is rather pointed when compared to the shape of your foot. Why? Perhaps it is for aesthetics. A pointed shoe looks a bit more sleek than one shaped like a foot. But when I’m running 10 miles at a time and don’t want to lose toenails, function is bit more important than how a shoe looks.
When it comes to running shoes, there are only a handful of companies that make shoes that meet those criteria. Some of the names that come to mind are Altra, Vibram, and Carson footwear. So far, all my running shoes are from Altra. However, once I wore zero-drop, wide toe box shoes for running, I did not want to wear anything else anywhere. So what to do about shoes for church and the office? Some of the previously mentioned companies have a small selection of non-running shoes, but none that suited my taste.
Meet the Nine2Five
But then I found Lems Shoes. They make a line of zero-drop, wide-toe-box shoes for a variety of uses. They do not make running shoes, although a few people have reported using their Primal 2 shoes for running. What sets Lems apart, in my opinion, is their sense of style. Their shoes are made with comfort in mind, but they manage to make them look good as well. Lems was kind enough to send me a pair of their Nine2Five shoes to review.
Lems Shoes have their own sizing system, so translation is necessary. Their website lists Lems size 43 as equivalent to US 9-9.5, and size 44 as equivalent to US 10-10.5. My dilemma was that I wear 9.5 in some brands of shoes and 10 in others, so I tried a size 44. They were much too large, so I exchanged for a size 43, which fit me perfectly.
Quality & Durability
It is hard to know how a one-month-old pair of shoes will last over time, but these look like they are well-made and durable. The upper is made entirely of full-grain leather and is double stitched together.
When it comes to comfort, I got what I expected. The wide toe box and zero drop sole made my feet feel instantly at home. The shoes have a minimalist feel as well, weighing only 8.6 ounces. The sole is flexible to allow your feet do what they while still providing adequate protection against any rough surface you might be walking over. Unlike my TUNEfootware boat shoes I sometimes wear to the office, the Nine2Five shoes do have a small amount of padding. However, they do not have a soft and cushy feeling, which I frankly do not care for.
If you’re looking for shoes with lots of support, lots of padding, and a traditional restrictive fit, then the Nine2Fives are not for you. On the other hand, if you want natural-fitting shoes that allow your feet to work the way they are designed while still providing protection and style, then head over to www.lemsshoes.com and get yourself a pair of Lems.
Two Saturdays ago my family and I paid a visit to the location of the Gap Trestles Marathon to scout out the course. The race starts and ends at the Meyersdale Area Historical Society, an old train station that has been made into a museum. If you like to walk, run or bike; or if you are a railroad enthusiast, it is definitely worth a visit! Below are some photos and videos I took while I was there.
Here are some video clips of the course that I recorded during my bike ride:
When I first considered purchasing a pair of Altra running shoes, I was pretty confused over all of the different styles and versions available. After some head scratching, I eventually purchased a pair of Instinct 3.0s, and a few months later, added a pair of One 2.5s. I still do not have a complete knowledge of the entire Altra product line, but now that I have a couple hundred miles in each of these shoes, it is time to share what I know so far.
You can think of this as two reviews in one. I will take look at what both shoes have in common, what differences they have, and then share my final thoughts.
Zero heal-to-toe drop
There are two things that all Altra shoes have in common. First, they no heel-to-toe drop. Altra calls this common feature “zero-drop”. The vast majority of shoes on the market have a heel that is quit a bit higher than the forefoot, or toe, area. I don’t know all the reasons why shoes are made this way. There has been a consensus for a long time amount health professionals that high-heeled shoes typically worn by women aren’t good for you. Yet almost every shoe on the planet has a heel at least a little higher than the two. Altra’s philosophy is that the foot works best when it is in it’s natural position, which is flat. For that reason, all of Altra’s shoe are “zero-drop”.
Wide toe box
The second feature in common amount all Altra shoes is what they call the “foot-shape toe box”. Basically, its a wide, roomy space at the front of your foot so your toes don’t get squeezed. It gives the shoes a boxy look that some people criticize as being kind of ugly. The shoes aren’t sleek and pointed. They are basically shaped like feet, which is a good thing even if it means they are not pretty.
The other thing the Instinct and the One have in common is that they are both neutral shoes. They have cushioning, but arch support is fairly minimal, which is right for most runners out there.
Altra has several cushioning levels: light, moderate, high and max. The Instinct has moderate cushioning, and the One has light cushioning. The difference is enough that you notice it, but my legs and feet typically don’t feel any different after running with these shoes. I’ve run a half marathon in the Ones and wouldn’t be afraid to run a full marathon in them.
The first things you’ll notice about the Ones is that they are very light. They weigh in at 6.6 ounces, where the Instincts come in at 8.1 ounces. The fabric on the top of Ones is also very thin – there is no insulation whatsoever, in case that matters to you.
The One has a wider toe box than the Instinct. My Instincts felt roomy until I starting use the Ones. Now the Instincts feel a bit cramp. The One is also a more flexible shoe than Instinct, giving you a better feel for the ground. I like that feeling on the road, but if I’m on a trail where there might be some large pebbles, I’d rather be running in Instincts. Of course, for trail running, neither of these shoes are the best choice because neither have a large amount of tread. One of Altra’s Trail running shoes would be a better choice for that.
The One has one design flaw: the grooves in the sole pick up pebbles. This happens in almost every run I do with them. This really doesn’t cause any issues at all when I’m running. But I always be careful when I’m finished to make sure there are not stuck pebbles before I go indoors. I don’t like to leave pebbles laying around in the house or scratch the floor.
I like both pairs of shoes, but if I had to chose one or the other, I would pick the Ones. They are the most comfortable shoe I’ve every put my foot into. They are my favorite shoe for road running and my favorite for everyday use and walking. But I like to change things up so I don’t run in the same shoe every day. I still wear my Instincts from time to time, especially if my feet are feeling a bit sore from the previous one.
Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll be getting Altra’s zero drop, wide toe box goodness; both of which I find it very uncomfortable to do without.
Staying in shape was not a problem in my growing up years. Between working on the farm and playing with my friends at school, I did a good job of staying on the move. But when I reached the age of 20, things started to change. I started a business of fixing computers, something that soon was keeping me busy for long hours. Still, I found time to play softball one or two nights a week, plus some volleyball now and then.
By the time I hit 30, there were more changes. I was a husband and a father, and other priorities had crowded out my playing of sports. Now it was just time at work and time with the family. I got more into hunting and fishing, but that doesn’t add up to a whole lot when it comes to building physical fitness. Life was great, but physically some undesirable things were happening. By the time I was approaching 40, my waistline was steadily growing. I could not run more than 50 feet or climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. It was time to take action.
In April of 2016, at age 39, I signed up for a local 5k, the Strawberry Stampede 5k. I didn’t like running, but I had to do something. And I still had enough of a competitive spirit that having the race on the calendar would keep me running even though I would hate it. I used my vehicle to measure out a roughly 3.1 mile section of roadway, and I started to train. At first, it was mostly walking, with a little running mixed in. It was brutal. Before long, I started getting a variety of running aliments. Sore calves. Shin splints. Runner’s diarrhea. It seemed my whole body was unhappy with my decision to run.
By the time race day arrived, I had worked through most of those ailments. The race was brutal, like my training. I pushed myself as hard as I could, but still had to walk much of the way. I finished in about 30 minutes – right in the middle of the pack. I was delighted to get an award for finishing second in my age group. Then I realized that I was one of only two 30-39 year old males in the race, so the medal was basically a finisher’s medal. My 9-year-old son Landry finished in around 27 minutes, good enough for first male under 12.
I still didn’t like running, but crossing that finish line was rewarding, and my competitive spirit kept me running for a few more weeks. I rewarded myself by purchasing a pair of Altra Instinct running shoes. Soon I found I could “run” the whole 3.1 mile distance. It was quite slow, more like a jog, but nobody wants to be a jogger, so I called it running.
And then the unthinkable happened: I started to enjoy it. Running was still hard, but physically it started to pay off. I had more energy. I didn’t need as much sleep. In fact, the amount of time I spent running was more than made up for by the extra time I was awake. I could actually sing in church without running out of breath or getting light-headed. Over time, running became easier and my speed increased. In July I ran the Shippensburg Fair 5k and finished in 25:45. In August I ran the Bremenfest 5k and finished in 24:45.
When Crystal turned 40, she and I had taken an overnight trip to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to celebrate. With my 40th birthday looming, it was my turn to decide on a destination. When I stumbled on the Runner’s World Half and Festival in Bethlehem, PA, I knew that was the place.
Crystal ran the 5k and I ran the 10k. I had set a goal of finishing it in under 50, and it took everything I had to finish in 49:48. It was probably a bit too ambitious of a goal, because within a few minutes after crossing the finish line, I had a severe case of IT band syndrome that left me hobbling for a day or two and then fighting with it during my runs for several weeks.
On thanksgiving day Crystal, Landry and I all ran the Greencastle Turkey trot.
Then I took the plunge and signed up for the Chambersburg Half Marathon, which was scheduled for March 11, 2017. My plan was to train for distance and use the Chambersburg Half as a training run to prepare for the Garden Spot Village Marathon in April. But my plans took a turn for the worse in December when I rolled my ankle during a run and pain shot through my knee. I suspect I had a mild LCL sprain. I never got it diagnosed, but it made running more than a mile impossible for about a month. It was February before I could start building mileage again. I still wanted to run the half, but I knew it was foolish to plan for a full marathon in April.
I had to ramp up my mileage rather quickly in order to be ready for race day. I did weekly long runs of 6, 8, and 10 miles in the weeks leading up to the half marathon in addition to my usual two 3-mile runs each of those weeks. Somehow, I made it to race day without any further problems. I knew better than to set an ambitious goal this time, so I decided to shoot for a 9 minute mile pace, which would put me at the finish line in just under two hours.
Race day turned out to be cold. At the starting line, it was about 18 degrees F and 10 degrees with the wild-chill factored in. I had never run a race in this kind of weather but somehow I ended up wearing just the right amount of clothing. Once I started running, I was comfortable. The easier pace made it a very enjoyable race. I felt great until about mile 12. At that point, my legs started telling me it was time to stop. But I kept them moving and crossed the finish line in 1:57:54. My family was cheering me on as I approached the finish line. By the time I had collected my finisher’s medal, they had escaped to the vehicle to warm up. Landry collected a few video clips and put together a nice highlight reel of the race.
Running has been a life-changing experience for me. It has become a form of therapy. My weekend long run is something I look forward to all week. Running is a time to enjoy nature, to reflect, and even to worship. And in the process of doing something I enjoy, I’ve lost 25 pounds and feel about as good physically as anytime I can remember.
This Saturday, I plan to once again run the Strawberry Stampede 5K, the race that started it all a year ago. My goal will be the same as it was a year ago, to cross the finish line.
Note: Because running is a bit off-topic for my Great Cove Adventures YouTube Channel, I have started separate channel for my running-related videos. To visit and subscribe, click here
This trip was designed to be a father-son retreat and a time of refreshment and renewal. After much planning, eleven of us were finally able to make the trip. The group included myself (Elijah) and my son; Duane Roth and three sons; Lester Weiler and two sons; Christian Horst; Daniel Miller
Monday, August 1
We met at Stirland Lake in northwestern Ontario at the old Wahbon Bay Academy (a former school for first nations high school students). We left at about 4:30 p.m. in five canoes after final goodbyes and encouragement. The first task this afternoon was about a one hour paddle across Stirland Lake and then a short portage across the rapids there and then onto the North Pipestone River. As we started down this river we encountered a intense rainstorm that soaked all of us (in spite of raincoats and gear). We finally made camp this evening at about 8:00 p.m. just below the fourth rapids from Stirland Lake.
Tuesday, August 2
Today was ideal weather with a high around 80 degrees and no rain! We got to the entrance to Yates Lake by lunchtime. Then we had a stiff wind coming from the south that was stirring up occasional whitecaps. But, nonetheless, we made it safely across the lake and proceeded over a few more rapids before making camp for the night. The water level is quite low compared to several times I made this trip before, so we often wound up needing to drag our canoes over rocks. Our campsite tonight was not ideal, but we did find an area that had some moss, whereas last night we pitched our tent mostly on a rock and had quite a hard night of sleep!
Wednesday, August 3
I got up early this morning and canoed back up to the last rapids to try my hand at early morning fishing. Had the best fishing of the trip so far: 21 walleye and pike in about an hour and a half. Mostly I caught walleye between 16-18 inches and a few pike up to about 24 inches. We crossed Sasiginaw lake and are almost to the entrance to Kecheokagan Lake. We stopped a bit earlier this evening (about 3:00 p.m.) and made camp. Some of us went back out to the last rapids to do some more fishing, and some sat around and relaxed and talked. A few did some swimming. Also each evening one of the Dads gives their life story and spiritual journey to the group.
Thursday, August 4
Today was a big day: First we crossed Kecheokagan Lake. This lake is known for its moose, though we were not fortunate enough to see any (probably we are too loud!). We have seen quite a few bald eagles out here — probably a few every day. Other wildlife so far: loons, otter, mink, red squirrel, and an assortment of other birds. Going out of Ketcheokagan Lake is a fairly lengthy and quite violent rapids: though with the water lower it was not nearly as intense as I remembered it previously. Most of us used ropes to make our way way down through the rapids, though Duane Roth decided to portage the entire section. He (with his son) got to the end about the same time the rest of us did. Part of this rapids had a nice chute of water that provided a fun place to drift down and swim and frolic. We ended the day by going through Frog Rapids of which we were able to canoe through mostly. This is a series of about 8-9 short rapids in progression that then empties into Horseshoe Lake. We are camping at the entrance here to Hoseshoe Lake. We had excellent fishing all along today through the rapids.
Friday, August 5
We caught a lot of fish here at the entrance to Horseshoe Lake, though the walleye were a bit smaller: mostly under 16 inches. Lester Miller has caught the largest walleye of the trip so far: 24 inches. The largest pike has been 28 1/2 inches long. The weather today (and yesterday also) was a bit unpredictable. We would have a short quick shower and then sun again. At one point today, crossing Horseshoe Lake, I could see three or four showers/storms on all sides of us while we had sunshine! It didn’t last long, though, and soon we were getting soaked again. Today we saw the only other person on our entire trip so far: a lone camper/canoer who is out here just to be by himself. We sighted a black spot way off on an island, and thought it was a moose or bear at first, but it proved to be a fellow human! We camped tonight about a mile out of Horseshoe Lake on the Pipestone River. The weather today was a bit cooler: upper 50’s in the morning and maybe a high of about 70 degrees.
Saturday, August 6
We paddled the rest of the trip out today to Baker’s Landing – about two hours of paddling with no rapids. We did have several interesting encounters: We saw a big bird sitting on a rock along the shore. It turned out to be an immature bald eagle that finally lazily flew up into a nearby tree when we got within about ten yards of it. I was afraid for a few minutes it might decide to just jump into our canoe! We also saw about four or five wolves (mother and cubs) along the shore (quite a distance away) and the last canoe (behind fishing) saw several black bears. We got picked up at noon at Baker’s Landing.
Somehow on the eve of Memorial Day we still didn’t have any plans of how to spend the day, so I took to the Internet to find a good day trip. I ran across Seneca Rocks, a hiking and rock-climbing destination in West Virginia. I don’t have interest in hanging from a rock face on a rope, but we enjoy hiking. I remembered from a field trip our school had taken there years ago that there was a nice hiking trail and a lookout.
So I gave each family member a motion sickness pill and headed out immediately after breakfast on the winding 3 hour trip into the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Upon arrival we ate a snack and then headed up the mountain. The trail to the top was about 1.5 miles with a 1000 ft elevation gain, so it was good for the cardiovascular system. At the end of the trail was nice lookout and a sign admonishing non-rock climbers not to go any further. Rock-climbers, of course, don’t bother with the hiking trail at all but scale the rock face directly from the bottom.
We finished off our picnic lunch and then hiked back to the bottom. Then we paid a visit to the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center where we watched a video about how the area was used for rock-climbing training during WWII. The building also had a large deck where those with good eyesight could spot some rock-climbers on the rock face above.
This destination is definitely worth a day trip. Be aware that there are only a few nearby places to eat, so you might want to pack a lunch. Also, you might want to pack a fly rod and enjoy the nearby trout stream.
UPDATE 06-27-2016: Landry put together some footage to create a nice video of our adventure. Take a look below.
As usual, the boys were looking forward to the beginning of trout season. The Pennsylvania counties are separated into two regions with each of those having a separate opening day. Trout season in the southeastern counties starts two weeks prior to the season in the rest of the state. Also, in both regions there is a Mentored Youth Day as well, which is the Saturday before trout season begins. We are lucky enough to live close to the dividing line between these two regions, so we can easy participate in the mentored and opening days in both regions. Here are a few photos and videos of some of the catches and scenery we got to enjoy the last few weeks.
After a few cold weeks, Sunday we had some spring-like weather. My family and I took advantage of it by taking a trip to the 1000 steps. As it turned out, a lot of other people had the same idea; the parking lot was nearly full.
In spite of having to pass a lot of other hikers going up and down, it was a great hike. Upon reaching the top, we hiked out to the locomotive shed and the western overlook.
The trail-head for the thousand steps is located on route 22 about two miles west of Mount Union. This is where the road follows the Juniata River through a narrow gorge known as Jack’s Narrows with high ridges on either side.
This was named for a trader by the name of Jack Armstrong who lived in the 1700s. It was near this location in February of 1744 where Jack and his two servants were killed by Indians after a dispute over a horse.
The steps were built in the 1930s by miners who climbed the mountain each day to work in the quarry. Sandstone mined from the quarry was taken to Mt Union where it was made into bricks. At one time Mt Union was the largest producer of silica bricks in the world.
How long it takes to climb the steps depends on how physically fit you are but for most people will take between twenty minutes and one hour. At each 100-step interval you’ll see a number of painted on the rocks to tell you how many steps you’ve climbed.
Turn right or left at the top of the stairs to continue exploring. Turning to the right will take you to a lookout that will allow you to catch a glimpse of the town of Mt Union. If you turn left the path will lead you to a concrete building. This building housed the locomotive that moved the sandstone from the quarry to the bottom of the mountain.
If you still have some energy left, climb the steps beside the building that lead a little higher up the mountain. After a short climb you’ll come to trail that leads further west along the mountainside. After walking about half a mile you’ll come to a lookout that allows you to see the town of Mapleton along with the railroad, route 22 and the Juniata River.
If you’re in the south central region of PA and you’re looking for interesting hike, you definitely will want to visit the 1000 steps. In fact, you might like it so well that you’ll find yourself making the trip every year.