Sunday, March 8, 2009

A few miles through Porter's Gap

75 degree weather in early March made the chance at another afternoon on the woods took good to pass up, so my lily-white children and I went and walked a few miles through Porter's Gap in the Talladega National Forest.

It had been awhile--too long, really--since I had hiked the Pinhoti Trail. It runs a total of 140 miles, mostly in the national forest from the Alabama-Georgia line to near Sylacauga. I have walked most of that length over the years, most of which is quite physically challenging since it traverses mountains along most of its length. Along the way there lakes, creeks, springs, practically untouched wilderness and cuts through the heart of Cheaha State Park. So in addition to the things brochures for the Pinhoti tout--like hiking, camping, fishing and taking in the flora and fauna--I have also had a wide range of fun that can only be had in the middle of the woods where no one is a trespasser.
Saturday the kids and I were at Porter's Gap, a break in the moutains near the Talladega County/Clay County line. If you have ever hiked or want to hike the Pinhoti, Porter's Gap is notable because it is where the trail crosses Alabama Highway 77 and has parking--both of which are important for accessing it.
There was only one other car at the parking area when we got there after lunch. I had with me two faithful pieces of personal Pinhoti souvenirs: hiking boots that are 15 years old and a Kelty backpack that's 16. Although having brought them out reminded me how long it had been since I put them to good use, I was very glad that I spent good money for good stuff all those years ago because they served me liked they did new. I'd learned early on that a cheap pair of boots and a pack without modern waist and shoulder straps takes the fun out of toting your way through the woods, and fast.
Even though Saturday's load of camera, sandwiches, fruit and drinks was incredibly light (I have humped as much as 60 pounds up to 15 miles a day before) I'd only planned on doing a mile or so with Griffin and Carlie because I was not sure how much they's like it. That question got answered soon after we set out, when they asked for and were given permission to run down the well-worn open trail. A mile got gone quick, and they wanted more, so with the intention of stopping at the next spot that looked good for eating lunch, we pressed on.
The terrain changed from gentle slopes and smooth earth to increasing inclines and rocky ground just enough to remind me: a whole bunch of the Pinhoti is not for tender feet. About the time we had slowed down and there were no more requests to run, I spotted a nice collection of rocks with tabletop-like faces, free of undergrowth and well off the trail. So lunch--and rest--was had.
We worked our way back to the trail and backtracked slower, looking closer at what there was to see. Griffin did his best to make sure that no clump of moss went unkicked along trails edge and Carlie made sure I was made aware of muddy spots she needed to be carried over. It was about the time I could see the gleam of the Civic's windshield in the late-afternoon soon that I heard the first hints of whining from Griffin when he asked how much further was it back to the car. When I paused and pointed it out to him through the woodline, he threw on one last sprint to the parking area. And with that, a beautiful afternoon in the woods was done.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

25: The Internet and computers

1. I have been online since 1998, when a cheap computer cost $1000 and a dialup modem was the only connect a person could get in Pell City.

2. It did not take long before I learned the hard way that sharing an email address with someone gets old very, very fast.

3. I did not know it as the Internet at the time, but my first contact as such was working at the Samford computer lab in 1988. You could do a very limited amount of school work on the network (as it was called) and send email to people from school. Hardly anybody did unless it was required for a class.

4. There is not a good way to deal with friends who endlessly email forwards joke that aren't funny, causes you don't care about, and myths like "forward this email to a bunch of people and Bill Gates will send you a check!!! But you have to figure out a diplomatic way to do it, or soon, those will be all the emails you get.

5. There was a time when you actually had to know how a computer worked to use one. But that time is long gone...Apple and Microsoft amassed quite a fortune making personal computers accessible to anyone that wanted to use them. I think about that every time I hear somebody say, 'oh, but I am not very computer literate!'

6. The email address given me by my ISP I use for email that matters, like bills. I have another that I use for 'casual' stuff, and still another address that I use when I have to give an address to a place I know will spam me.

7. I installed yahoo! messenger because I like chatting, but I always leave it running because it instantly alerts when my yahoo! address gets mail. Usually it has to do with having mail elsewhere, or spam, but it's still nice not to have to check it.

8. I guess it would be different if I had to have it for work, but I have never quite understood why someone would need or want to have Internet on a handlheld device. As much as I like being online, I also like getting away from it. I guess that sort of relates to the reason I don't have a cell phone.

9. I pay $18.67 a month for Internet service from the local cable TV place. That's about all it's worth, but it's always on and fast enough.

10. I have been reading and contributing to a gun collectors message board, , for more than 10 years to keep informed and learn about the hobby.My nickname is Bama there. I never realized how many people had been reading me until a friend told the folks there about me being in the hospital after The Wreck. My buddy printed out the responses and brought them to me and I was amazed at many people 'knew' me from there and wished me well. I still have that printout and it's been 7.5 years ago.

11. It did not take long to learn that free stuff from the Internet like programs or services are not only not worth having, but can be annoying and/or dangerous. Facebook is a notable exception, but then again, it doesn't make you install crap to have it work.

12. I used to love eBay for buying and selling crap. I actually sold pine cones and empty beer bottles on there more than once. But at some point the place became just businesses shilling their stuff instead of just average folks unloading stuff. and that was too bad.

13. I got a new printer/scanner/copier and didn't have it very long before it died when one of my kids spilled apple juice on it. I was bummed, but since realized that I never, ever used the thing.

14. Internet nicknames that include the words "cute" "pretty" "sexy" or similar adjectives usually reflect considerable optimism on the part of the person who so named themselves.

15. I could probably make some people I know in real life feel embarrassed with what I have seen about them on the Internet. But I don't dare, because they could probably do the same to me!

16. Remember when there were actually search engines people used that weren't Google?

17. Years ago using the Internet to research my genealogy I learned that in1942 my grandparents went to a town where they were not from to get married. Only a few months ago did I find out why.

18. Computers are many things to many people, but it ought to be remembered that about 92 percent of them would get by just fine if the whole shebang just suddenly quit working tomorrow.

19. I have a myspace page that I just about quit using once I started facebookin'. Once in a while I consider killing it off and then wind up meeting somebody who asks, "Hey are you on myspace?"

20. Know anybody who still uses AOL? Is it even still around? I used to love getting the freebie program CDs from them because they came with a free CD case.

21. The skinny LCD monitor has got to be the best thing that happened to desktop computers in years. Although, the old timey monitors are still great fun at the rifle range when I can get 'em.

22. Seeing facebook relationship status changes can be silly, sad or uplifting. Or it could be somebody screwing with their friends. If I ever have anything to report there, don't know that I will unless I'm coerced.

23. The thing that is not the Internet which I use my computer for the most has got to be Adobe Photoshop. I learned it working for the newspaper, and man, it has served me well. It's the photo program all the others wish they were.

24. Can't remember the last time I played a video game on the computer and I have never used it to watch TV or a movie. That could be because I have a video game system and a TV.

25. Wow, this list took enough and time and introspection for me to realize I have a life that doesn't require sitting in a chair and typing.