Another segment of Wabash; some fortunity

I finished another segment yesterday, in the rain (as shown below). My iPod’s battery was run down so no music on the trail and no photos for this post. Just the trace and I’m lucky to have that as I’ll relate:


The blue trace is the new segment to add to the magenta traces already completed. I started in Malvern Iowa and hiked northwest, about 10.2 miles round trip. I’d planned on starting in the north and hiking south but parking on country road near the trail might have been problematic (mud) in the rain so instead I used the solid parking lot near the trailhead in Malvern. It was a nice hike, amazing to see how huge the plants have gotten since just a few months ago when I started this and everything was winter brown. The rain, at times significant, only made the trail a bit muddy and so it was a nice hike. With everything growing it really is a “green tunnel” for miles and miles. For the first time on this trail I actually show two deer which is the same number of people I saw.

Now as to the fortuity. When I got back to Malvern I stopped for a brief rest at a picnic table near the trailhead. This location is a couple of blocks from “downtown” (of this small town) and near same agri-industrial stuff and neither residential or commercial. So there aren’t many people near that picnic table.

I was later than expected getting back and so wanted to eat in Malvern which means I’d be back home much later than planned and so I was trying to call my wife (who would call rescue if I didn’t make it back) and having trouble with my phone so I just hopped in the car and drove to the restaurant. There I had leisurely dinner and a couple of beers but the phone still didn’t work. On the approximately one hour drive home I stopped several times near towers to call – nothing worked. Finally, literally back in Omaha the phone starts working and it hits me! I forgot to take my handheld GPSr off that picnic table. Panic! I quickly finished my call and reversed on the Interstate to return, about 47 miles away.

I was pissed I’d lost my GPSr and kept speeding a bit to get there, but then kept telling myself the couple of minutes I’d save speeding would be far less than the time I’d waste getting pulled over for speeding so I kept right at the limit watching my ETA countdown on the dashboard GPS.

I figured my odds of finding my GPS (before someone else walked off with it) were pretty good but still it was hours since I’d left it there. Just as I arrived a fellow was climbing in his car parked where I had parked earlier. I urgently halted my car and jumped out and he said to me, “Is this yours?” Viola, my GPS. He told me he’d left a note on the table to call him to get it back, but it was almost dark and I know, had I not seen him in person, I would have not seen the note. So literally, by seconds, I got there in the nick of time or bye-bye GPS.

Not only do I lose a somewhat expensive gadget but then the track I show above would be gone too! Almost worse since replacing the track is another hike rather than just some cash. So I’m very lucky I can make this post.

I have to update some data but I’m now probably about 60% complete on this trail. You can see the three gaps I’ll have to fill in on future hikes and then I only have the southern segment, from Shenendoah Iowa to the Missouri border to complete. Not sure I’ll make all that this spring (already humidity is building up and hiking is getting less pleasant). So maybe not too many more of these posts until the fall.

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Deciding what I believe

This might seem like a silly exercise, after all I believe what I believe. But rather than let myself just jump to some conclusion, based on gut feel and general belief, I like to be consistent in my beliefs, basing them on evidence and a ratiocinative process considering the evidence. Like any person, however, I am subject to some inconsistency in my beliefs so every now and then I try to examine them objectively.

Now what does all this mean? Yesterday, during a pleasant lunch, I ordered a new beer (my new hobby), the Goose Island Sofie. It was interesting but not really to my taste. Since I’m now trying to experiment with the diversity of beer (the lunch was after signing up for a class on homebrewing at a good homebrew supplier nearby) I keep a OneNote journal of my tastings. So I was collected “clipping” to my journal, starting with the Goose Island website (useful info). But then, using one of the rating sites as additional information, I was shocked to see this beer (the entire brand) is now a Bud product (actually AB InBev since Bud itself is now owned by a global megabrew). So Goose Island is a “crafty” rather than actual “craft” brew (like Blue Moon is really just Coors, but pretends to be craft). There is a formal definition of “craft” and now Goose Island (which started as craft) no longer meets.

But so what! That’s what I’m trying to examine in my beliefs. Does it matter than Goose Island is owned by Bud which I normally wouldn’t ever consider as a product I’d consume?

What I’m getting at here is consistency in belief. In general I tend to tie my beliefs to evidence-based and scientific framework. Facts matter. And whether forming just an opinion or making a decision as a consumer I believe my beliefs should tie to this, if you will, “meta-belief” (science as a way to know truth).

So for example I believe (in the evidence) of evolution (instead of the myth of creationism) and global climate change (instead of vested interest denialism). These beliefs are generally consistent with “liberal” and/or scientific (as opposed to religious) meta-beliefs. But I also believe in vaccines (i.e. am hostile to the anti-vax crowd) and accept (not so much pro as anti-anti) GMO. But generally evolution and climate change are lefty views and anti-vax and anti-GMO are also lefty, but being pro-evolution and anti-vax is horribly inconsistent (not my problem). So lefties, just like the rightie deniers, base their beliefs, not on science, but some other point of view (anti-government by righties, anti-corporate by lefties). But all holding all four beliefs, as I do, is consistent with a science-based worldview (rather than purely political, or self-interest (like the Kochs, who knows what they believe in except more money), or religious).

But craft beer falls into a different category. Is it scientific to think craft beer is better than megabrews or just a bias? When it comes to food (or beverages) I generally fall in the foodie group, i.e. fond of taste and interesting products. But is ownership of a brewery by a global corporation inconsistent with liking their products?

When it comes to food I find much of the beliefs silly. We look at terms like organic, local (the newer fad) and natural (a stupid undefined concept). Organic was popular and then became profitable and then became corporate (i.e. Walmart is now the largest “organic” supplier, so the lefties have largely begun to rebel against “organic” (hence local as the more politically correct fad). Local is very vague but for the purpose of this post tends to incorporate many of the same concepts as craft. Natural, OTOH, is just woo, since almost nothing we put in our mouth is “natural” and all food is the product of breeding, either conventional or more high-tech (which is why I think the anti-GMO position is not only wrong, but stupid – does anyone who rejects GMO and endorses “natural” actually know what a “natural” apple or banana or corn or kale really is – it’s all the product of industrial breeding, only the method is different).

So the local food movement encompasses more concepts than just the old organic (although it’s very similar to the original idea of organic before organic became popular and thus agribusiness too). So local food is supposed to taste better and be healthier. And the most local food I eat (from our garden) I actually do believe is superior, even to the pricey organic at Whole Foods. But local has a political and economic element to the belief, i.e. sustainability (which is actually false when you do the accounting (energy, environmental impact, etc., correctly and not just according to leftie dogma) or supporting local lifestyle (this works, real people actually do real work in real dirt producing local food). And that’s where this compares to craft beer – i.e. small scale production done by people who actually care about what they produce rather than just another business opportunity as InBev so relentlessly pursues.

The craft beer movement (original microbrew) is fantastic, presenting consumers with both more tasty products and an amazing variety of choices. Megabrews took over the U.S. beer market (which started as what we’d call “craft” today) and dumbed-down the product so badly it’s insipidly tasteless, aimed at the lowest common denominator of people who merely want fizzy alcohol with no taste (after all when a good has taste it’s bound to turn off some people, how many Coors Light drinkers would like an imperial stout or a saison).

And like local food craft brewery creates a lot of jobs, not just in production, but in service, but then creates a very pleasant experience for the consumer. For example, recently I started stopping at Keg Creek brewery in Glenwood Iowa (on the way back from Wabash Trail hikes). Their beer is OK but not great. In fact, it’s possible Bud might actually produce something better. BUT, and this is a very big but for me, Keg Creek is fun – a pleasant little place with sampling and tasting, friendly people (both staff and customers), and very diverse (they have more styles from a tiny brewery than all of InBev has).

Now if you’ve followed my blog you know I liked baking bread. Why? I live in a large enough area to buy decent bread, not just limited to mass produced crap. Well, making bread is fun as well as tasty. I doubt it qualifies as “sustainable” but I don’t care about that, so much in this case. Mass agriculture or food processing can be very much more efficient than “local” or “craft” and that’s part of the definition of sustainable as well (and part of the reason I support GMO, it creates more food with less environment damage or energy requirements).

Now I’m thinking about getting into homebrew (it’s way harder than bread), but for the moment I’m having fun discovering all the “local” beers. Even outside the beer meccas of Boulder or Portland or Bay Area there is still interesting craft beer around here and that makes me happy. Sure these people are just trying to make money too (nothing wrong with that, despite being “liberal” I very much believe in entrepreneurial capitalism (it’s monopoly capitalism I don’t like)).

So there is a politically correct definition of “craft” and now Goose Island doesn’t meet that definition. But is “craft” then just another elitist “fad” for foodies. Does it matter who makes the beer if it tastes good and is interesting? Many people, even beer fans, don’t think so, but my “belief” (based on feeling and that’s what I’m exploring here) is that BIG IS BAD and small is good. Why? Why do I believe that?

I think it comes down mostly to choice. Big also means uniform and ultimately means bland (in beer or bread) and mostly means inferior (since accountants, not brewers, run InBev and find ways to cheapen their product). But it’s the friendly environment, the fun of experimenting (not all craft beer is good, some is downright bad), and most importantly choice. I could spend the rest of my life (and retirement savings) visiting all the craft breweries in the U.S. and trying all of the 200 or so styles of beer and have a lot of fun doing it. I don’t want to go back to the bad old days of a few insipid brews.

Like most of the people involved in good beer I learned about beer in Europe. Sure I drank megabrew swill as a kid, but then I went on a two week bike trip to Germany and got to drink “good” (although today I’d find most of that beer rather boring) beer (and ate good bread as well). I marveled at the idea that an area as small as Bavaria would have 1000 breweries (like the U.S. in the 70s, but delayed a couple of decades, most of those are gone now and Germany is mostly ruled by megabrews these days).

So my “belief” (preferring craft brews, believing in the strict definition of craft) I’m just like the other lefties supporting local. And I think maybe I’m being inconsistent, being swayed by irrational biases. Beer is beer, good or bad, interesting or bland, and does it really matter whether it comes from a craft brewery or Bud. I think it does, but this gives me some hesitation because I’m not sure my “belief” is really rational (as I’d like to have my beliefs be) versus political/emotional.

But for now I’ll shun megabrews (even possibly good ones) and go for craft and be inconsistent in that I don’t (very often) buy local instead of mass market. So much for consistency.


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Finished another segment of Wabash Trace

As I reported in my previous post events got in the way of doing another segment of the Wabash Trace last Sunday but during the week I got another chance so here’s my updated history of my walks on the Trace:


The yellow track (previously segments are shown in magenta) was the 12.5 mile (out-and-back) walk I did Wednesday. I started at Silver City Iowa (where I had a previous tiny track) and headed northwest to Mineola, walking slightly past my previous track starting at that trailhead to get some overlap. As I was feeling good, plus took a nice break in the little park in Silver City, then I proceeded on another segment southeast to get a longer walk (in fact my longest to date).

As a result I have now done more than 50% of the entire length of the Trace, 58.3 miles in total and 35.15 miles of the Trace (unduplicated). So now I’m in a position to close a couple more gaps that would get all the of Trace between Council Bluffs and Shenendoah but that will require at least two more walks. I like this walk and wish I had a way to do it end-to-end (probably would take me four days).

Even though I was tired and a little sore at the end of this hike I noticed I had fallen into the keep on keepin’ on mentality. I wasn’t out of gas and could have gone further but it wouldn’t have been that pleasant, but someday I need to at least push up to 15 miles in a single walk with an eventual goal of 18 miles which would put me in the range of being able to do a long walk somewhere.

Let’s see if I can upload some of my iPod pictures to include here:

wabash 004You can see it has certainly greened-up since I started posting some pictures (too bad the iPod is such a bad camera, it’s all I wanted to carry).

wabash 005

By the way, the marker you see in this image (393) is the old distance markers from the original railroad which you usually find every mile along the Trace (people seem to have claimed these markers somehow, not sure they’re really “original”).

wabash 003
And this is the shelter / rest area at the Mineola trailhead with a bit of the small town of Mineola in the background.

As it’s now beginning to be fairly warm (and thus humid) I’m not sure how much more of the Trace I’ll do until the fall and good walking weather.

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No Hike: Kid, Roof, Rain – Back at Starbucks

After a short hike on Wabash Trace yesterday I planned a longer gap-filling walk today, but alas it was not to be. Since it’s Mother’s Day my wife and I have to go treat my mother this evening, so my wife decided her day of pampering her addict kid had to start earlier than usual. OK, no problem. Instead of my usual Sunday exile to Starbucks I’d go fill another trail gap but that required leaving at the planned 11am for the kid’s pamper day.

Meanwhile after years and tens of thousand$ in repair our main roof still leaks. We’ve been trying to get a skylight expert over for weeks and guess what, he shows up just as I’m about to leave. So since pampered addict can’t have his day interrupted I have to stay at home to assist repair guy. After some fiddling he disappears promising to return with supplies and crew but I have to stay home and wait for that. The click is counting down on my hike but mom says she’ll be back with kid immediately. An hour later, no wife and addict kid, no repair guy and now it starts to rain. It’s a 50 minute drive to trailhead (plus obviously the same amount back) so now my time on trail will be less than 2 hours AND in the rain. Not ideal for the gap I planned to close.

So it’s Starbucks instead and I go a day without exercise but have to rush home once the addict is gone to then prepare Mother’s Day dinner. Of course I have to do all that, after all it is my mother. I wonder what addict kid has planned for his mother except hiding to play video games and searching for booze (I hope I locked everything up).

So all I got done was the same gap yesterday.


which is the short yellow segment (about 2-1/4 miles), show in full scale and more detail in the blue outlined inset. The green segment was what I hoped to do today which would have also pushed me up to having completed about 1/2 the total length of the trail. I’d still have two more gaps to fill in before completing the Council Bluffs to Malvern segment (Malvern is just below the 41 road number on this map where the short magenta segment is the northernmost part of my previous Imogene to Malvern hike.

So who knows when I’ll be able to complete this.

It irritates me, that for a small fraction of the money wasted on the ineffective repairs to the roof I can hire some jobless millenial to escort me for four days and stay in Shenendoah four nights and get this trail done end-to-end in four walks. Some enterprising person ought to set up a shuttle service business for exactly this purpose. But I can only dream of such things. A long multi-day walk will probably just remain a fantasy for me.

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Lost 9.5 pounds in three days!

Sounds like an ad for a quack diet pill or kale smoothie claim – right? But it actually happened, my largest short-term swing inĀ 2.6 years of my weight loss records. How could this happen?

Well it’s all the mysterious water weight, whatever that really is. I went up 4.7lbs in two days, admittedly real breaks from my discipline. First a birthday party for a friend at a BBQ joint and a few beers and lots of BBQ and other fried stuff. Second, a day of geodashing, consuming my share of TWO bags of chips (which I’ve almost entirely avoided for years since I know these are killer – not the calories, but the salt) and then more chips and salsa (plus salt on two margaritas) at the Mexican restaurant. Wham – giant gain, with 3.4lbs of it gone the next day. That’s half a gallon of water! Admittedly I also probably overconsumed about 4000 calories in those two days as well, but that’s not the big swing.

So back on the wagon hard, near fasting for three days until last night. My wife wanted to grill some of her homemade sausages and it was a nice night outside for a fire (my pretend camping in backyard) and a whole lot of wine, probably 2000 calories, plus a bit of excess food in a good meal. But wham, a 4.7lb loss in one day (plus a bit of hangover).

Amazing swings, both directions a bit larger than any previous swing and coming together in space of three days an amazing swing as you can see below:


The red line and markers are my seven-day moving average, my most reliable indicator of trends (the graph starts after a vacation in Boston, then includes my return to discipline, and then falling apart again during year-end holidays. The run-up around week 128 was mostly due to drop in exercise and some partying, but I was beginning to start heading back down when this huge swing occurred). The blue markers and line is the daily which is certainly “noisy” (which is why the 7DayMovingAverage is best indicator) and the last couple of points show the huge swing I just described. While there are other fairly large daily swings this is still the most, EVER. Not a record I want to ever break.

But I’m mystified what this swing really is. Yes, all the salt (by itself way excessive) triggered the water gain and then the alcohol seriously dehydrated me (but for the life of me I don’t know how the water was expelled as I didn’t have any unusual amount of excretion). I know excess alcohol does this (although for my body, only with wine, beer adds short-term weight significantly). This is over a gallon of water and over five days my fasting probably made up for excess calories so very little, if any of this, is actual change in fat. So where does a gallon of water go in a body?

Note to new readers who haven’t followed all my other boring weight posts: I lost about 70lbs over half a year and now have kept that off for over two years. I fluctuate, mostly due to vacations (eating out, less exercise) but my obsessive record keeping and lots of spreadsheet analysis keeps me on track, just as the graph above shows. So a little excess every now and then does not become a habit; when I measure too much gain I go back to intense loss. I have found it difficult to “stabilize” at my target (about 10lbs less than now) but find it fairly easy to stabilize at my current level. Just too many events produce all the swings, although none as huge as this most recent.

So let’s see if I can learn something about where this water gain/loss occurs. I know the hydration (or dehydration) occurs mostly in glycogen, the animal version of starch, that is mostly stored in the liver and muscle cells. Glycogen can bind with about 4X its weight in water. Young lean males have about one pound of glycogen but older males (me) may have two pounds or so. I can tell, doing intense fasting, I’m losing glycogen as I have fairly severe fatigue in a couple of days (hard to then do 3 hours and 1000 calorie burn of exercise at the same time). But this mechanism probably only explains half this recent spike (gain, then loss). How did alcohol extract the water? Where did it go?

Well, as usual, the Net is flooded with junk articles and it’s hard to find any real science about this so I guess my question goes unanswered. So while part of my gain was hydration of the glycogen I don’t see where the diuretic effect of alcohol displaced the water, I guess it had to come out via breathing.

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Did a long stretch of the Wabash Trace

As I was able to talk my wife into dropping me off on one end and then meeting me at the other end (she went off to nurseries for plant shopping) I was able to do a one-way hike, 12 miles in about 4.5hours (averaged 2.5MPH with stops, about 3.4MPH moving). So I filled in a big gap in my tracklogs:


The wider (outlined) magenta trace is my walk, starting just a bit north of Imogene (the small magenta part I did before) and ending at Malvern (covering a couple of miles I’d done before). So now I’ve done 40.7 miles total and 26.5 unduplicated miles (41.8% of the trail). So I’ve got a lot of gaps to fill in to eventually have covered every mile.

It was a good day for hiking, mostly clear (after storms the day before) and nice mid-60s temps. I met no other hikers or bikers, but encountered a couple of people looking to harvest morels. Despite the trail crossing through heavily human altered (farmland) area the trail itself is sufficiently isolated it feels like a reasonable wilderness walk. The trail, being old rail grade, was effectively flat and a good surface (little mud) so easy walking. A few types of trees were flowering and most of the trees were just beginning to get some leaves. I saw lots of squirrels, a soaring and hunting hawk, a pretty pheasant rooster, and numerous small birds and a few butterflies. So despite this trail not being someplace you’d expect to find good walking this was a nice stretch.

It’s a good thing I had no trouble (getting too tired, any uncomfortable injury) as nowhere could I get cell reception in order to call for help. I arrived at out agreed-upon meeting place (the Classic Cafe in Malvern, nice home-cooked meal and decent beer) just about on time. After relaxed dinner we headed back home in setting sun.

So a few pictures (taken with the crappy camera in cellphone, why do people think these things are any good for photos instead of a real camera) to give a feel for the trail.

iPod 337

iPod 339

iPod 341

iPod 343So you can see the Trace does a good imitation of a real natural trail since by following the old railroad, often in fairly deep cuts, it’s quite isolated from the boring surrounding farmland.

iPod 346Even a small bit of green survives the human alteration of the landscape.

iPod 347And a stream.

iPod 348And a few wildflowers.

iPod 349And reaching the major bridge over the Nishnabotna River (about a mile off from where my maps in handheld GPS thinks this crossing is),

iPod 351And the river itself with high water due to recent rains. This river, when full like this, is a popular canoeing stream with numerous put-in/take-out spots, but I didn’t see anyone on it. But don’t try to walk along its edge (as I once did geodashing) as the mud is very soft and very deep and really easy to get trapped.

So a good day, but it would be nice if there was more lodging along this trail so I could do a multiday walk and pretend I’m doing something like the Camino.

p.s. And just to show the contrast between Trace and immediate countryside here’s a streetview (courtesy Google) of the place I started this walk:









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Sandals or boots for walking

In the many books I’ve been reading about taking long (multiday) walks some people advocate using hiking sandals (or even less sturdy sandals) than boots. So I thought I’d give it a try. Clearly, backpacking on rough trails with a heavy load requires good boots, but what about light loads on relatively smooth trails, like the rails-to-trails conversions I do around here. So I got a pair of Keen Newports and am breaking them in. These are sturdy walking sandals with thick soles (almost as good as my boots) so they’re not that much lighter. One idea advocating sandals is that weight on your feet requires even more energy than weight in your pack since you’re moving your feet (and not much a pack) so even relatively small reduction in weight saves energy. So far I can’t tell if that’s true but I haven’t gone as far with new sandals as previously I’d done in boots.

Clearly the sandals, even the closed toe types (which I consider essential as protection), are a bit cooler. And, at least compared to high top boots, I have more flexibility in ankle – good for sitting, not as good on rough rocky trails where twisting an ankle is possible. But the real issue may be water. Clearly tromping through even a shallow stream is tough on boots (walking on wet boots and socks is a good way to: a) get blisters, b) wear out the inner linings of the boots, as I’ve done before). But I have to wear socks, to avoid blisters from the back strap on sandals, so getting wet isn’t going to be much fun either way. And in light rain (as opposed to actual crossing water) my feet do get wet quickly, but as I’ve found on long hikes in rain, anything short of waterproof boots (bad for sweating feet), will get wet sooner or later and be semi miserable.

So I don’t yet have enough experience to declare any results. But one problem I’ve always had with sandals, these new ones included, is that somehow the manufacturing process creates some “bumps” in the inner sole (never had this with multiple pairs of boots) and so I get a little stress on bottom of feet, especially in these new sandals on left foot (two bumps). I don’t understand why this happens but thus far it’s be consistently true – never in boots, always in sandals. So I’m a bit nervous doing my longest walk, to date (planned for next week) with the sandals instead of the known trustworthy boots. Since I’ll have support (i.e. a car a phonecall away) next week I suppose I’ll try the sandals since any problems won’t be as bad as one a multiday hike in nowhere, with no support.

So actually, thus far, I think the issue is just more trendiness and fashion than actual suitability for walking, but perhaps over time I’ll be able to add more data to suggest which is the superior choice. But I’m relatively sure the most popular (and open-toed) sandals are not for me.

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