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Travel

Trips in 2021

Here’s all the trips that I took in 2021.

Thanks to all the people behind the COVID vaccines and vaccination program, we were able to out and travel quite a bit in 2021 (though we avoided airports since the kid’s vaccine didn’t roll out until November).

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Outdoors

Hiking Cowrock Mountain in Winter

Cowrock Mountain is one of the most accessible, and best views on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Unlike Blood Mountain, which has somewhat better views with a *much* harder hike, Cowrock Mountain is a short, fairly easy hike up from a little used trailhead along the Richard Russell Scenic Highway.

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Photos Outdoors

Desoto Falls

This photo is of DeSoto Falls in North Georgia. It’s a really incredible view and very accessible near US Highway 129.

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Photos Outdoors

Lake Conasauga Swim Beach

This photo is from the Lake Conasauga Swim Beach in the mountains of North Georgia. It is the highest elevation lake in Georgia, so the water is *cold*. Also, it’s not really a beach per se, as a swimming area. The area gets deep quickly at the dock. But it’s lovely on a summer day.

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Outdoors Experiences

Hiking Nubbin Creek / Pinhoti Trail in Cheaha Wilderness

In March, I went on my first solo backpacking trip. It was only a single overnight. The weather forecast was all over the place, so I settled on the Cheaha Wilderness in Alabama, ironically the day after a huge system of storms came through. I’ve hiked the Cheaha Wilderness before, so I was fairly familiar with the area.

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Photos Experiences Outdoors

South River at Constitution Springs

This photo is of the South River as it leaves the City of Atlanta on its way through Panola Mountain State Park and beyond to eventually join the Yellow River and become the Ocmulgee. It’s quiet with steep banks. There’s an access point on the Constitution Springs loop trail just past the boardwalk that connects to the Doll’s Head Trail.

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Outdoors Travel

On Visiting Mojave National Preserve

I visited Mojave National Preserve on a short day trip within my business trip to Las Vegas in 2020.

I rented a car, and drove straight out of Las Vegas down Interstate 15, which goes right through the Preserve.

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Travel Experiences

Trips in 2020

Here’s all the trips that I took this past year.

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Outdoors

Dick’s Creek Gap to North Carolina / Georgia Border on The Appalachian Trail

Six years after we finished our last section (Unicoi to Dick’s Creek Gap), my brother, Dad, and I decided to come back to the Appalachian Trail and finish our last section in Georgia.

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Experiences Outdoors

Exploring Scull Shoals Historic Site

I recently visited the Scull Shoals Historic Site in the Oconee National Forest*. The site is very accessible just following a single Forest Service Rd off GA Hwy 15.

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Burgess Mountain Trail in Oconee National Forest

The Burgess Mountain Trail is a short hiking trail in the Oconee District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

Unlike other, more heavily used trails in the Georgia, there is next to no information on the trail online. The best & most recent post was from MathProfHiker back in 2014.

Here’s what I found in both the Winter of 2020 and Summer of 2018.

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Outdoors

Visiting Sweetwater Creek State Park’s Yurts

Sweetwater Creek State Park is one of the best state parks in Georgia. It’s “Atlanta’s State Park” and receives a lot of visitation every year. Based on all the records that I can find, it’s Georgia’s most visited state park.

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Experiences Travel

Trips in 2019

Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.

Business, Family & Leisure

James Floyd SP – October 2019

St George Island – July 2019

Don Carter SP – June 2019

Smithgall Woods SP – February 2019

Camping & Hiking

Hard Labor Creek SP (Green Trail) – October 2019 – Day Hike

Rabun Bald – August 2019 – Day Hike

Great Smoky Mountains NP (Goldmine Loop) – July 2019 – Overnight

Ocmulgee National Historical Park – June 2019 – Day Hike

Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge – April 2019 – Day Hike

Dockery Lake Trail – March 2019 – Overnight

Oconee National Forest – January 2019 – Day Hike

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Experiences Events

Attending The Global Climate Strike in Atlanta

I got to attend the Global Climate Strike in Atlanta on September 20th 2019.

It was the first protest that I had ever attended or participated in. It was a really interesting experience. I had no idea what to expect. I knew that the global protests were going to be huge (and they were). But I had no idea what the turnout would be like in Atlanta, the “Sultan of Sprawl” and poster-child for unsustainable land use & carbon footprint.

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Outdoors

Hiking Rabun Bald

Rabun Bald is the 2nd highest point in Georgia behind Brasstown Bald. But unlike Brasstown Bald, it’s only accessible by foot, so it’s a much less crowded & less car-influenced vibe.

There are 3 ways to access Rabun Bald. You can approach from the south via the Bartram Trail or from the north via the Bartram Trail.

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Outdoors

Hiking Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge

In April 2019, I went to hike the Red Cockaded Woodpecker Trail at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge as part of my exploration of middle Georgia’s public lands (like the Kinnard Creek Trail, Burgess Mountain Trail, Murder Creek, Scull Shoals, and the Hitchiti Trail).

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Outdoors

Hiking Raven Cliffs Falls

Raven Cliffs Wilderness is one of the most heavily trafficked Wilderness areas in Georgia. And Raven Cliffs Falls Trail is one of the most heavily trafficked trails within the Wilderness.

But it’s popular for a reason. Actually, several reasons.

It’s a challenging but very achievable 5ish mile hike (roundtrip). There are views, forests, a wide running stream with waterfalls – and a destination 40ft waterfall with outcrops and views.

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Kinnard Creek Trail in Oconee National Forest

The Oconee National Forest has been part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest almost since its establishment.

But it’s much smaller, much different, much less well-known, and much more divided up than the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia.

While open to all uses (like all National Forests), the Oconee National Forest is absolutely more focused on hunting, horses, and timber harvesting than hiking, camping, biking, or any other activity.

And yet, the Oconee National Forest is –

  • very close to Atlanta
  • has much, much less use than any other district of the Forest (outside of deer season)
  • has a unique, an increasingly endangered ecosystem
  • the historic heart of Georgia  – all the way back to before European Settlement

So I decided to start day hiking the Oconee National Forest. But I found that there is *very* little good information on the Internet.

*I’ve since checked out other middle Georgia public lands like the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Burgess Mountain Trail, Murder Creek, Scull Shoals, and the Hitchiti Trail.

The best resources I found were The Forest Service’s Interactive Visitor Guide and their PDF maps in addition to a good cached but basic topo layer map from Google Maps.

Either way, I wanted the Internet to have more “on the ground” information, hence, this detailed post.

Here’s an overview of my hike on the Kinnard Creek Trail in the Oconee National Forest.

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Travel Experiences Photos

On Visiting Death Valley National Park

I visited Death Valley National Park in January 2018 as a side trip on my business trip to Las Vegas. It was completely unplanned, and was time crunched between a 10am flight arrival in Las Vegas and a 7pm business event also back in Las Vegas.

My brother gave me the idea and the push to just rent the car and go, no matter how little time that I actually had in the Park.

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Experiences Travel

Trips in 2018

Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.

Business, Family & Leisure

Cloudland Canyon SP – October 2018

St George Island – July 2018

Magnolia Springs SP – July 2018

Charleston – June 2018

Indian Springs SP – March 2018

Las Vegas / Death Valley NP – January 2018

Camping & Hiking

Ellicott Rock Wilderness – November 2018 – Overnight

Congaree National Park – October 2018 – Overnight

Ellicott Rock Wilderness – October 2018 – Day Hike

Sweetwater Creek SP – August 2018 – Day Hike

Pine Mountain Wolf Den Loop – April 2018 – Day Hike

Great Smoky Mountains National Park / alt – April 2018 – Overnight

Categories
Travel Experiences

On Visiting Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park protects 30,000+ acres of bottomland forest in South Carolina. Even though it’s not in the “top tier” National Parks with Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, and Yellowstone, it’s much bigger than other public lands (State Parks, etc) and it protects a no extremely rare ecoregion in one of the most developed areas of the country.

I was able to visit for an overnight camping trip in October 2018. We did a bit of hiking, explored the visitor center, stayed at the Bluff Campground area – and decided that we’ll definitely be back in the future with a canoe and a better understanding of the landscape.

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Outdoors

Hiking Ellicott Rock Wilderness

In August 2018, I did a day hike along the Chattooga River in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness in North Georgia. I started at the Burrell’s Ford and hiked north along the Chattooga River Trail, hoping to find the actual Ellicott’s Rock (the boundary of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina).

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Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Hitchiti Trail

The Hitchiti Trail is a 3-ish mile trail near Jarrell Plantation that weaves along Falling Creek to the Ocmulgee River. Unlike a lot of trails in the Oconee National Forest*, the Hitchiti has a developed trailhead with a fairly clear path.

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Outdoors Experiences

Hiking Forney Creek at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In April, my brother-in-law, brother, my son, and myself all went on a 2 night backpacking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Outdoors

Hiking Wolfden Loop on the Pine Mountain Trail

The Pine Mountain Trail system is one of the most extensive trail systems in Middle Georgia. It’s one of those rare places in Georgia where you can travel south of Atlanta for a nice hike.

The Pine Mountain trail system winds through F.D. Roosevelt State Park, one of Georgia’s largest and best state parks, for more than 23 miles along its main spine. It’s maintained by the amazing Pine Mountain Trail Association.

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Products Events Experiences Reviews

Place in American Art by High Museum Art Exhibit Review

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta had an amazing exhibit called “Place in American Art.” The exhibit was incredibly well curated and fit well with the High’s permanent works.

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Travel

The Las Vegas Strip: 10+ Observations

The past few years, I’ve been able to visit Las Vegas for a business conference. On each trip, I’ve left the city to see something else, like the Hoover Dam, Death Valley, or Mojave National Preserve since most of Las Vegas’ attractions just aren’t my thing.

However, being able to see Las Vegas up close has been fascinating. Like most heavily marketed destinations, it’s not quite what I expected in person. Here are 10+ observations from visiting.

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Experiences Travel

Trips in 2017

Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.

Business, Family & Leisure

FD Roosevelt SP – October 2017

St George Island – August 2017

Nicaragua – August 2017

Hard Labor Creek SP – July 2017

Savannah – May 2017

Vogel SP – February 2017

Las Vegas / Hoover Dam – January 2017

Camping & Hiking

Springer Mountain / Benton MacKaye – November 2017 – Overnight

Hard Labor Creek SP – November 2017 – Day Hike

Cheaha Wilderness – October 2017 – Day Hike

Panola Mountain – May 2017 – Overnight

Categories
Experiences Outdoors

Hiking Cheaha Wilderness

One of the major pros of living in Atlanta is that I’m within a two hour drive of several designated Wilderness areas and National Forests. North Georgia is especially popular with hiking opportunities like the Appalachian Trail, Raven Cliffs, and more. Honestly that’s where most Atlantans go.

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Travel Experiences

On Visiting Hard Labor Creek State Park

After visiting Vogel State Park, my family and I took another mini-vacation to Hard Labor Creek State Park in July 2017.

Hard Labor Creek State Park is one of Georgia’s most historic and most well-known State Parks.

It’s well-known mainly for its golf course. The golf course is great – I’ve played several rounds there – but the park is so much more.

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Travel

Visiting Nicaragua: 10+ Observations

In August 2017, I got to visit & travel around Nicaragua for a week. Like all of Central America, it’s a lovely country with incredible landscapes, good food, and fascinating history – all within a short flight to the US.

It was the 2nd time that I’d traveled to the country (previously in 2006), so it was good to see some familiar sites along with some new ones. For this trip, I generally stayed south of Managua towards Granada rather than venturing up north like I did in 2006. Here’s a few observations from the trip.

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Outdoors Experiences

On Camping at Panola Mountain State Park

Panola Mountain State Park is a Georgia State Park about 30 minutes east of Atlanta, GA.

Panola Mountain State Park focuses on programming, activities, and conservation. They have everything from archery to tree climbing to fishing to biking. Unlike Vogel and Fort Mountain, Panola Mountain does not have many overnight accommodations.

But – Panola Mountain does have 5 walk-in primitive campsites. They are a real hidden gem for Atlantans looking to get outdoors.

I had been looking for the right time and place to take my son on his first overnight camping trip. My brothers and I usually camp in the backcountry, especially along the Appalachian Trail.

And unlike my first overnight trip, I had zero desire to have a bear walk into my son’s first camping trip.

That brings me to Panola Mountain.

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Travel Experiences

On Visiting Vogel State Park

After an incredible long weekend at Fort Mountain State Park in October, my family decided to make staying at every Georgia State Park a goal. We opted to try Vogel State Park…in February.

Vogel State Park is one of Georgia’s oldest and most heavily used State Parks. It’s set in a beautiful valley with a creek feeding a lake. It was one of the State Parks that received upgrades from the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

It also has more cabins than almost any of the other State Parks in Georgia, especially given its size. Most of the cabins have been renovated post-2012 as part of Georgia State Park’s big renovation program.

Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, we decided to give Vogel a try in February.

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Travel Experiences

On Visiting Las Vegas, Nevada

In January 2017, I visited Las Vegas for the first time. I went there on business to attend a conference. I was only there for 3 nights, but tried to see as much of the city & region as I could outside of meetings & sessions.

I flew into McCarran Airport and stayed at the Paris Las Vegas right on the Strip. During my stay, I also had the chance to visit Hoover Dam, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a few towns in the Las Vegas area and several other casinos including the Aria and Planet Hollywood. I went to a private party in the Cosmopolitan, had a business dinner at a hyped restaurant, and walked 6 to 8 miles around the Strip.

I also did not gamble once. And I was not able to visit Downtown Las Vegas. I also did not attend a show or play cards.

Either way – here’s what I observed visiting Las Vegas.

Categories
Experiences Travel

Trips in 2016

Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.

Business, Family & Leisure

Fort Mountain SP – October 2016

St George Island – August 2016

Camping & Hiking

Black Rock Mountain – April 2016- Overnight

Categories
Outdoors

6 Pros and Cons of Commuting and Getting Around by Bike in Atlanta

When I originally published this post in February 2013 – I had just moved to Atlanta, GA (metro area of 5.3 million) from Athens, GA (metro area of 0.19 million).

I had loved Athens’ bike-friendly culture (though not its very bike unfriendly hills). I used to bike nearly everywhere in Athens, and wanted to keep up the same biking habit in Atlanta.

I’ve had been a bit over 2 weeks, but had already started taking MARTA to work, and biking home – while also biking around the city for the sake of exploration and exercise.

So – for anyone who was curious about biking in Atlanta – a famously car-only, traffic clogged city  – I wrote up this pros / cons list.

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Travel

On Visiting India’s Big Tourist Attractions

My trip to India was spent primarily at my sister’s wedding and on the train to Delhi – but since we had the last few days in Delhi free, we got to see some of India’s Big Tourist Attractions.

India is an enormous country with more history than you could see in your lifetime. But – most of their world-famous tourist sites are all located in and around the Delhi to Agra corridor.

On our first day, we did a grand tour of Delhi’s attractions. The next day, we drove down to Agra to see the Taj and Red Fort.

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Travel

On Riding Indian Railways

When I traveled to India, we flew into Bengaluru for my sister’s wedding. But we also wanted to make our way to Delhi to see their house and do some sightseeing.

We could have simply flown. But when you only have a week in a country – what better way to see the physical country than a train?

Plus – there are few, if any, rail systems as famous as Indian Railways. They were the crown jewel of the British and India has used them to physically and symbolically tie the country together since independence.

And not only is there the romance of train travel – but Indian Railways has even more romance as the setting for a section of The Great Railway Bazaar and trains such as the Maharaja Express.

Either way – I wasn’t going to visit India without riding a train. So here’s how the experience went down.

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Travel

On Traveling To India

In June 2016, I traveled to India with my parents and younger sister to attend my other younger sister’s wedding. Previously, my travels had been limited to Nicaragua, Guatemala, The Philippines plus a handful of US cities such as Chicago, Boston and New York.

So it was exciting to not only attend my sister’s wedding but also have a good excuse to visit the world’s second largest country – which also happens to be one of the world’s oldest civilizations and one of the most powerful countries in the 21st Century.

Our visit took us to Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) then to Delhi before flying back to the US. This post will cover general lessons on traveling to India while another will cover traveling on Indian Railways and yet another will look at my visit to some of India’s most famous landmarks.

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Events Experiences

Attending Slate’s Live Political Gabfest in Atlanta

A few week ago, I attended the Slate Political Gabfest – Live in Atlanta. The Gabfest is the one of the longest running podcasts that I know of, and has been the “gateway podcast” for me and many others.

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Outdoors

Tourist’s Guide To Running In Atlanta: The Best Routes To Run

Running is possibly the best way to see any city. It’s fast enough to cover a lot of ground, but also slow enough to really see and notice things. You are also combining sightseeing with exercise, so it’s an efficient use of time on a business trip.

Running through the Back Bay and North End was my favorite part of visiting Boston, and it’s been a travel habit ever since.

There is a problem of running in a city you’re visiting – you have no real idea of where to run. Usually hotels in large cities are in heavily-trafficked areas that aren’t very fun to run in.

And if you go too far off the beaten track, you might get into a neighborhood where you don’t want to be (crime-y & confusing) or at least a neighborhood that is not fun to run in (no sidewalks; cars flying everywhere).

I’ve been living and running all throughout Atlanta for more than 3 years. And have run in 3 marathons winding throughout Atlanta. If you are a tourist in Atlanta for fun or business, here are the best places to run in Atlanta.

Aside – most start/end in Downtown or Midtown. If you are in Buckhead or Perimeter Center, I’ll cover your options at the end.

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Experiences Travel

Trips in 2015

Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.

Business, Family & Leisure

Chicago – September 2015

St George Island – August 2015

New York City – August 2015

India – June 2015

Camping & Hiking

Raven’s Cliff Falls – September 2015 – Overnight

Categories
Outdoors

How I Cut 1:57 Off My Average 5k Time By Tweaking My Playlist

[Note: This post originally ran December 2012 back when iTunes was still a thing. You can skip down to the bottom to find the current best option for running based on BPM as of September 2015]

I’ve rarely run with music. In general, I always thought it was too much trouble – where to stash the iPod, cords getting tangled, getting tired of it and having to run with it for a while – but last week, I updated all my music to store the song’s Beats per Minute.

I ran to the playlist with the highest beats per minute…and shaved 1:57 off my average 5k time and nearly set a personal best…without even trying. Here’s how to set it up and use it on your runs…

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Experiences Explorations Lessons

All The Stuff I’ve Ever Tried

The best career advice book I’ve ever read is How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame). One of his core arguments is that every skill you acquire doubles your chance of success (ie, Bill Gates was an incredible developer AND incredible at business).

Hopefully that argument is true because by both necessity and planning, I’ve done a lot of stuff and acquired a lot of skills before hitting 30. Although I can’t compete with the likes of my friend Matt Moore went it comes to number of jobs had, I have a lot of people ask exactly how many projects/jobs I’ve done over my career.

So here’s the list of every job I’ve ever had, and every money-making project I’ve ever had a “solid go” at and what I’ve learned at each as of December 2014.

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Experiences Travel

Trips in 2014

Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.

Business, Family & Leisure

St George Island – August 2014

Camping & Hiking

Cooper Creek to Woody Gap – October 2014 – Overnight

Unicoi Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap – May 2014 – Overnight

Categories
Outdoors

Cooper Gap to Woody Gap On The Appalachian Trail

In my quest to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, I had left out a short section due to bad weather on my Springer Mountain to Cooper Gap trip. This trip was a very short, out and back trip from Woody Gap to Cooper Gap. We hiked it on the last weekend in October 2014. The one way distance was ~7 miles, so it was about ~14 round trip.

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Outdoors

Observations & Training Tips from My Second Marathon

It’s been 2 1/2 years after running in my first marathon, but on October 4th, 2014 I ran in my 2nd marathon  at the Southern Tennessee Power Classic Marathon in Winchester, TN.

I finished 48 out of 86 with a time of 4:52:31, which was a huge improvement over my first marathon in my overall time. But more importantly to me, I wasn’t completely wiped out at Mile 19 and I actually ran without walking or breaking my pace through the final finish.

And those improvements were really just because it was my second marathon, and I that learned so much from my first. Here’s how those lessons carried over to my second.

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Outdoors

Unicoi Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap On The Appalachian Trail

Mid-March is thru-hiker’s season on the Appalachian Trail. The most common schedule for anyone planning on hiking all 2,000+ miles is to start in Georgia at Springer Mountain in March and finish in Maine at Mt. Katahdin in September. You get to beat the heat of the South while also beating winter (and the closing of Mt. Katahdin) up North. It was also one of the few times in which my, my brother’s, my Dad’s, and my brother in law’s schedules all aligned for 2 days to hike another section of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. So that’s what we did. 

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Travel

On Visiting Boston, Massachusetts

During the last week of December 2014, my wife Shannon and I went to Boston, Massachusetts on a brief 5-day trip. It was my first trip to a major US city outside of my Atlanta home since my City Stereotypes post went viral last summer.

Boston is a big city for tourists, and you can find generic tourist information all over the Internet. You’ll find no shortage of people who have been to Boston who’ll tell you where to go.

I read all that information, talked to friends who had been there, and friends who live there before the trip. But here’s 11 things in no real order that still stood out to me once I got there, and makes Boston a really worthwhile visit (or home).

Categories
Travel

On Visiting Portland, Maine

During our visit to Boston, we were able to take a day trip to Portland, ME via Amtrak. It was my first time to visit Maine. Despite the cold, the snow, and the early sunset, we had a great trip (thanks in part to solid recommendations from a Boston friend).

Here’s a few observations from the trip.