The state of Florida doesn’t offer much for outdoor climbing. It had to happen someday and this was it. What started as a vague conversation with Jimmy at the climbing gym, ended up in this wonderful little climbing trip a week later. Until this all the climbing I did in US was indoors and this was my first climbing experience on American rocks. Let the pics do the rest of the talking.
All the pics are clicked by Prajakta, my wifey.
Covering a vast area of approximately 1570 sq. km in central Florida, Ocala National Forest is home to the world’s largest contiguos sand pine scrub ecosystem. Wet praires, longleaf pine, sand hills, pine flatwoods, live oak hammocks and swamps are the other eco systems to be found in the forest.
More fascinating for us was the fact that this was enroute our trip to Tampa which had to be undertaken for some paperwork. So once we were done with the Tampa business, we would have good weekend camping at Ocala. And fortunately for us, we did manage to get one of the only two campsites available when we reached there on Friday evening – at Juniper Springs campground.
Here are some quick photos:
One gripe – Although, it easily was the most wonderful part of our camping at Ocala, I Could not take the photos of our 7.5 miles long canoe trip in the Juniper run creek. It was my first trip canoeing and I did not want my camera to get drenched in any event of capsizing the canoe. To make it even more sour, eventually we did not capsize!
Located in a semitropical wooded setting, the Juniper spring has limestone caves present at the bottom along with areas of sand and aquatic grasses. The inflow to the pool is from three cavities in the pool bottom. It issues 8 million gallons of crystal-clear water each day. The maximum water depth at the spring is 18 feet. The spring water is clean and clear and its dissolved solids concentration is low compared with most Florida springs – safe for swimming and recreation.
The springs are the headwaters of Juniper Creek, which meanders to Lake George in the St. Johns River basin, 10 miles north-east. A good part of this creek is used as ca canoeing trail for recreational purposes. The seven-mile run from the spring is considered to be one of the best paddles in all of Florida – though I cannot say much on a personal note as this was my first attempt at canoeing. The creek starts off quite narrow as it winds through an outstanding canopy of subtropical forest filled with large cypress, palmetto, palm and oak. About two miles downstream from the spring, the run enters Juniper Prairie Wilderness, a sanctuary for wildlife.
Fern Hammock Spring:
Besides Juniper Spring there are other active springs in the area. Approximately 1 mile hiking trail farther east leads from Juniper Spring to Fern Hammock Spring, a major spring contributing to Juniper Creek. Fern Hammock Spring is a second-magnitude spring, pristine blue speckled with gurgling sand boils, and in my opinion more beautiful than Juniper spring. It consists of 20 or more sand boils scattered throughout the shallow spring pool, in a nearly pristine setting of dense native forest. No swimming is allowed in this spring due to ecological considerations – and thankfully so.
Canoeing at Juniper creek:
Juniper Run is a narrow, winding waterway set under a dense canopy of old-growth forest and few places solid enough to get out of your canoe. Two miles after the starting point, the creek enters Juniper Prairie wilderness, a designated wildlife area, and hence are left as it is in their natural condition. There are no roads or any lee-way along the entire canoe run for 7 miles. There are plenty of fallen woods, which you may have to duck under or even lift the canoe over partly submerged logs. The streams are left in these primitive conditions to provide a challenge and a sense of achievement, and to let visitors experience the quiet beauty of the unspoiled environment. More details about canoeing can be found here.
A brief info for the campers:
Juniper Springs recreational campsites offer good camping facilities. For details about the camping facilities and activities visit this site http://www.fs.usda.gov/ocala
Government subsidies and price controls in European medical care sector has peaked in the past couple of decades. The presumed result has been lower costs for the masses. However, presumptions are not always correct, and in most cases of demagoguery, it is almost always an unscrupulous way to progress in political careers.
Government intervention is already killing the European pharmaceutical industry. In 1990, European and the U.S. companies each held about a one-third share of the world’s drug market. However, with rising subsidies and price controls, Europe’s share is already down to 21%, while the relatively free hand given to Pharma companies in the U.S. has managed to increase their share to 50%. European companies have now already moved their R&D bases to the U.S. and they make 60% profits in American markets.
Now most of the new drug production and inventions happen in the U.S. This situation has been far more common in many other nations where government interventions for short-run benefits has deprived nations of its potential pharmaceutical progress, leaving them to depend on American pharmaceutical industry.
In effect, we can say that American taxpayers are not only supporting a lion’s share of cost for developing new drugs, but also helping government funded researches in many other nations indirectly. However, the cost of importing these advanced pharmaceutical drugs back into the European (and other) nations is no inexpensive task. Even if the government pays for the cost of importing advanced drugs, it is directly paid from the tax revenues and thus leaked out of the tax payers pocket – the costs, which are invariably higher than it would have been without price controls. Not only would have the pharmaceutical companies helped progress the nations R&D, but also would have lessened nation’s reliance on more expensive external sources.
Now with similar ‘affordable’ and supposedly ‘progressive’ government initiatives gaining strong support in the U.S., what will happen to the global R&D in pharmaceutical industry as such? It would mean killing the goose that lays golden eggs – when it comes to producing new medications to fight painful and debilitating diseases globally.
Reference: Thomas Sowell. 2009. Economics of Medical Care; Applied Economics (revised edition)
I came across this seemingly very commonplace question on Quora, “What are good things that Indians should learn from Americans?”
Well at first thought, it seems like there is a lot to learn. Then, on thinking a bit more, it seemed to me that it is a matter of applying what we already know in the first place, and then seeking out new lessons. We all know that thoughts, ideas and lessons are all good, but of no value unless implemented. The immediate thing that follows this argument is that the latter is an iterative process and needs time. Precisely and very succinctly put forward by Andy in his response,
What America can teach India is Patience and Planning.
Yes, that sounds totally absurd with the image of America today, but keep in mind that it’s taken over 200 years for America to become what it is, while India’s current government has been around for barely half a century.
But America and India have similar origins; both came into being through throwing off the yoke of British imperialism and struggled with establishing rule across a country of wildly different cultures and languages. There was corruption, there was bloodshed, but there was also democracy.
Here is some wisdom from the time when America was establishing its identity and getting ready to challenge the powers of the old world:
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
- John Adams 2nd President of the United States of America
So as you can see, President John Adams saw that America would develop in generations. First, America must create stability for itself. Then, Americans must pursue vital, functional skills like mathematics to strengthen their country. Only then can Americans fully pursue leisurely activities such as art and story writing (movies and TV today, the America everyone knows)
So then ask yourself: What state is India in?
I especially liked the historical snippet, in terms of John Adam’s quote, that Andy has provided to support his answer, that underscores the importance of patience and planning.
All economic theories are based on the postulate that changes in incentives influence human behaviour in a predictable manner. Personal benefits and costs influence our choices. If the benefits derived from an option increase, people will be more likely to choose it. Conversely, if the personal costs of an option increase, people will be less likely to choose it.
This basic postulate of economics – that incentives matter – is just as applicable under socialism as it is under capitalism. For example, in the former Soviet Union, managers and employees of glass plants were at one time rewarded according to the tons of sheet glass produced. Not surprisingly, most plants produced sheet glass so thick that one could hardly see through it. The rules were changed so that the managers were rewarded according to the square meters of glass produced. The results were predictable. Under the new rules, Soviet firms produced glass so thin that it was easily broken. Changes in incentives influence actions under all forms of economic organization.
Some critics have charged that economic analysis only helps explain the actions of self-centred, greedy materialists. This view is false. People act for a variety of reasons, some selfish and some humanitarian. The basic postulate of economics applies to both the altruist and egotist. The choices of both will be influenced by changes in personal costs and benefits. For example, both the altruist and the egotist will be more likely to attempt the rescue of a small child in a three-foot swimming pool than in the rapid currents approaching Niagara Falls. Similarly, both are more likely to give a needy person their hand-me-downs rather than their best clothes. Incentives influence the choices of both.
James Gwartney, and Richard L. Stroup. 1993. What Everyone Should About Economic and Prosperity, Tallahassee, FL.
So now, when my arms feel pumped and tendons strengthened after trying to get back (or rather make a genuine start from scratch) into the climbing mode, I feel compelled to have a quick refresh of the trail so far. This will serve as an introspective viewpoint as I write this and also, may be, relate with some climbers who are going through the same stages in climbing as I hope to cover in this brief log.
So, I was introduced to climbing back on 2007, when I attended a climbing camp conducted by Girvihar in Mumbai, India. I have had no clue of what climbing would be like till then, and all the possible images of climbing as an activity were revamped and rewritten in a span of those 6 days. I liked it for sure. But probably no to the extent that I currently do. Still, the pull was strong enough then to keep me motivated to do it on weekends. It was all outdoors and I was really starting to get the feel of it.
Muscle aches, finger pains, peeled skin, early calluses and so on. With all the physical attributes, I also watched a lot of climbing movies, read a lot of literature and became well acquainted with the lingo. I was happy about being there and doing things. I believed in myself, but the results were anything but impressive, much below my expectations from the self. Probably, I was not really climbing as much as I should have been. Being a weekend warrior did not help me much and the lack of visible progress gradually started to diffuse my enthusiasm. I really never made any progress. I started with a V0 and probably by the time I reached V2, I was all but enthusiastic. I did not do much in the routes either, probably notching up short routes of 5.6 to may be 5.8 being the upper end of my abilities. It too approximately six months and I started weaning away from the sport. I still connected with the sport virtually, in the form of literature and movies. And yes, a burning desire to do those awesome moves that I saw in the footage and photos shared by my friends who continued to progress at a good rate and climbed better grades, while I slowly detached from the sport.
It was a mixed emotion. I probably consoled myself, I don’t enjoy it much anyway. What’s there in just wasting time on one face pr a boulder when the world is waiting to be traveled. However, deep inside I knew that is not what I thought about the sport and that the diffused desire still carried an iota of hope. I always hoped to get back. But, I was then too shy of my own abilities and my limits. I was clueless. I simply did not climb. There was no motivation. The V2 grades that I managed to do soon deteriorated away.
To add up to it, there were some turns in my life, academic and personal that further pulled me away from climbing. I could see the sport fading and diminishing away in the rear-view mirror as I continued on the road leading away. And, to be honest by then I had given up and the fact did not even seem to bother me much, probably a bit. But anyway, that was soon to go. Even the virtual connection in the form of movies and reading faded away and ended. That was end of my climbing journey form, which was sort of active for six months, then remained virtually connected for a year and then suffered a painless death deep within. The tombstone dated somewhere in the winters of 2007.
Please do note that I have always been an extensive trekker and the trekking spirits harnessed inside always tried to wake the climbing spirits from its deep slumber, and sometimes managed to successfully shake it off and arouse, only for a brief moment and only to find it unresponsive, once again. I was on a smooth track, job, decent salary, treks and an easy life without climbing. I thought I was happy and I did not miss anything. I was unaware of the virulence. Probably, the reason for the unrest which I could not pin point and identify. Earlier, I thought of myself to be a climber, but I knew I was not a one.
A brief while in the seemingly stable and inter phases of my life and a bit of personal turbulence caused a derailment. Some things happened, and I landed up somewhere in a not so remarkable town of Jacksonville, Florida. My friend, my well wisher and my wife (recently married) who is crazy, completely focused and unrelenting about climbing reintroduced me to climbing. It was sport and all indoors. Florida doesn’t offer much outdoors anyway. There was nothing to lose. I had no expectations and I was as passive about it as I could be. I did not think even for a moment that it can ever be rekindled. It was all done and dusted and the I was sure that the piece of coal sunk deep in the bottom of the ocean will never ever ignite. It was August 2012 then.
I started with an easy 5.8 (top rope) on a 90 degree with good holds. I was pumped. I was happy to reach the top though. Still, nothing significant to alarm me of the times to come. I was sloppy with my footwork and gripping the holds. It was a gap of five long years since I ever climbed a route. I was a guest visitor then. A few days later, my wife (would be then) convinced me to shell out a few dollars and take a monthly membership and just see if it connects, at the worst we would lose a few dollars. Unenthusiastic me agreed passively.
I made a few more visits to the gym, not climbing much but watching others more. I did a few 5.7′s and 5.8′s on vertical walls while she was romping up 5.10s and even working out a few overhangs. It was time I tried one on overhang as well. It was 5.9 route. I was on it and every time I did a few moves on the overhang it spat me out. I was kicked away. Tried it thrice that evening and the same result. I remember I was sullen and did not smile or talked much for the rest of the day. The feeling was surprising, I did not expect this kind of reaction from me, just because I could not a damn 5.9. It was probably the time when I realized that the virulence is for ever and even after fiver years of dormancy it was ready to cause a relapse.
A couple of days rest and I top roped that 5.9 pretty decently. That was on an overhang. On more forgiving angles of 90 degrees, I followed up with my first 5.10 top rope a day later. I was pumped and elated and smiled from ear to ear. I was a week old into climbing. And even though grades doesn’t matter much, a sense of accomplishment swept in. I knew I was way below par of what I want to be, but I also felt that probably I am not incompetent to do it. I climbed up and improved on the grips and footwork gradually. Worked on a few problems well beyond my limits, a 5.12a on a vertical wall. Most of the overhangs still spit me out and I looked ugly on those. Verticals were more forgiving and I seemed to like balance and delicate moves than powerful ones on overhang. Over a period of one month I gradually progressed on the 5.12 a and was a just two moves away from the top. But please do note that I still could not do a 5.10 on an overhang.
After a month long of route climbing, I turned my back to bouldering. I could do the V0′s and V1′s. Not more than three at a time. V2′s seemed beyond me. It amazed me to see that people literally running up the V2′s that I struggled on were struggling on that 5.12a where I made considerable progress. I was surely short on power and endurance. This was by the end of August. The best I could do gracefully was a 5.9 (easy 5.10 on verticals) and the easiest V2. It was no where near remarkable, but I was happy and the self belief had found its place.
It is the beginning of December, four months when I had my second brush with climbing. It’s not a long time. But I feel the connection I have established in these four months are inseparable for life. I cannot think of anything else. I have doing well in what I am supposed to do and no surprise the my climbing has been a perfect complement to it. I have climbed hard and relentlessly in these four months and have had many night of aching arms and swollen fingers. Tendons don’t keep up.
The progress has been definitely encouraging and I have already top roped a 5.11a on a moderate overhang. I climb overhanging 5.10b pretty smooth and a upto 5.10d with considerable difficulty. I am working a few more 5.10d’s and 5.11a’s. On the bouldering front I have sent a handful of V5′s and a couple of V5+s as well. I am pretty much near to sending my first V6 and I am really happy with my progress. Most importantly, I am loving it and I am sure it will not have a break this time, in its second life.
It’s been a cherished four months so far and I believe it would be a few cherished decades to follow.
This was my first outdoor trip in the U.S. and how lovely it was! I had just come to the U.S a couple of month ago in my academic pursuits and was already fascinated by what the national parks here had to offer – flora, wildlife, and yes, the mountains! No wonder Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S.
I am writing this log after a really long time after having completed the trip, so the fascination and fresh excitement are hard to come by. Also the faded memories means that I have the concrete noted details of the trip, which unfortunately does not relive the finer details that completed the experience. However, the captions in the photos below will help with the description of those particular moments. It was a three-day trip and we managed to do Ramsey Cascades and Mt. Leconte via Alum Buff’s trail. Not to forget the long 10-hour one side driving from Jacksonville to Gatlinburg and back.
A few snapshots:
We reached Elkmont campground on Friday Morning and by the time we secured permits and set up the camp it was already 10.00 am. We were all tired after the overnight 10 hour drive and we just wanted to crash in our tents. However, time was at premium and we just had 2 more days before we had to show up for our daily grind – work, university and all that humdrum. So without much deliberation we headed straight for the Ramsey Cascades trail.
Ramsey Cascades trail is located in the Greenbrier region, a 20 minutes drive from the Elkmont campground. After a bit of navigating, we managed to reach the trail head at 12.15 pm. The entire round trip is approximately 8 miles (13 km) in length and achieves an elevation gain of about 2400 feet. It is considered to be moderately strenuous hike. The trail passes through some dense old growth forest and gains altitude moderately at first and steeply later. Some of the trees along the trail are among the largest known in the park. Over the last 2 miles hikers will pass through an old-growth hardwood forest that includes large tulip trees, eastern hemlock, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches.
The Sun was harsh and mercilessly beating down upon us. We had probably underestimated our sleepless night and the exhaustion that the long drive had brought upon us – not to mention the hectic routines of the preceding week! It took us 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach the cascades – reached at 3.00 pm. Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park, as well as one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous salamanders can often be found.
The water was extremely cold and it was splashing all around. An even though the Sun was still bright and shining, it made the surrounding temperature extremely chilly. We managed to spend some 15 minutes near the waterfalls before heading back at 3.15 pm. The descent was less tiring and it only took us a couple of hours to find ourselves driving back to the Elkmont campground by 5.30 pm. To say the least, we were exhausted.
Day two of the trip began late. With great difficulty we managed to crawl out of our tents and then with heavy head and aching bodies discuss how we should have taken off the day before for rest and then use the remaining two days for hiking. Anyway, all said and done nothing was to change and we were too tired to do any hike today. I was already beginning to get disappointed at the prospect of not being able to do the Mt. Leconte hike. I had become so fixated with doing this hike, and now with only a day remaining to go – which was by the way reserved for the 10 hour long drive back to Jacksonville so that we could resume our routines – and shattered bodies it seemed like everything was such a waste. I did not come so far just to do Ramsey Cascades!
Grudgingly we stretched out, ate some nourishing food and decided to take the day easily. We spent a cool day hanging around Gatlinburg – like typical tourists, ambling around the market, visiting stores, gazing around the lofty hills surrounding us and yes the hot chocolate and pizza! Whoa, all the while I was reconciling myself of the fact that Mt. Leconte will still be there when I would visit it next time around.
Taking the day off really helped us with some much needed rest and relaxation. A good nights sleep to follow was icing on top of the cake. We were all fresh when we woke up the next day, awaiting the rigmarole of our long drive back. It was 9.00 am and by no means an early start to the day. As we were breaking our campsite, a brief conversation, a sudden spark and we decided to do Mt. Leconte, or at least give it a try. Time was not on our side now. Anyway, with the new found enthusiasm, we packed up everything and started on our way quickly towards the Alum Bluffs Cave parking lot. By the time we parked our car and started on our trail towards Mt. Leconte, it was 10.30 am. The weather was beautiful, cloudy skies, cold temperatures and beautiful scenery all around.
We knew we were racing against time and hence small breaks to catch up on our breath as we rushed uphill was a luxury we did not have. It took was an hour and 15 minutes to reach the Bluff’s cave at 11.45 am. This was supposed to be our turn around point depending on the time we took to reach here and how we felt about it in general. The time and the feeling, both were good in our opinion. We rested here for 15 minutes, munched on a couple of snicker bars and started further. The weather got cooler, and we encountered a couple of inches of snow on the tracks further ahead. It started to drizzle, unexpected at this time of the year.
After a couple of hours of trudging in snow and light showers we reached the Leconte lodge at 2.00 pm (took us 3.5 hours from the parking lot to reach the top). From the lodge we headed further up, to the actual summit. At 6,593 ft (2,010 m) it is the third highest peak in the national park, however, from its immediate base to its summit, Mount Le Conte is one of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountains rising 5,301 ft (1,616 m) from its base. Back at the lodge, a few cups of hot chocolate and bagels was all that we could stuff in. We started on our way down at 3.00 pm and reached the parking lot by 5.30 pm. It was quick descent, the rain was picking up and getting heavier – so camera was inside all throughout the descent, making it quicker. It was getting dark, approximately 6 inches of snow in the trail and temperatures approaching 32 degree Fahrenheit (0 degree Celcius).
We were fortunate though. It was barely five minutes after we reached our car that the thunder storms started. It started raining like hell and visibility was reduced to few feet in the front. The windshield was all fogged up and viper couldn’t keep up with the torrents. Driving in the dark, in such conditions, on the curvaceous roads of the Newfound Gap road was the last thing required to round off the day! Eventually, reached home at 3.00 am in the morning.
It was an unforgettable trip and I fell in love with the Smokies and Leconte. I will surely be back there for more!
Have you ever flashed a boulder problem and then struggled a couple of weeks later to figure out the same problem? You wonder how did you do it last time and after a bit of pondering when you remember the movements, you wonder how the hell did you manage to do that?
Well, it is a common phenomenon when you rest too little and don’t allow for super compensation. The first time around when you flashed the problems at the upper limits of your climbing skills (say V4), you probably had come back from a good rest period and were in the beginning of a new cycle. Then you work hard through the grades and possible move a grade up or so (say V4+ or V5).
Now a couple of weeks of practice and working out on the difficult at problems at the upper end of your limits, your body has started to deplete and you are nowhere near your peak performance levels. You feel it as you grab the hold or do your regular stretches. The performance is sub-optimal. At this stage you realize that working hard and banging heads at harder problems (probably V5′s) wouldn’t give you positive results. So you turn back and look towards repeating the easier problems and you are quite confident of doing them easily as they were the ones you flashed just a couple of weeks ago (back to ‘easier’ V4′s).
Presto! Now when you go back to the same problems, the seemingly easier ones, you struggle yo comprehend the movements and struggle to understand how did you do it. Where has all the smoothness, finesse and precision vanished?
The answer is that it has not vanished. It is still there, pretty much inside. It is just preparing for something better and harder. And it needs time and isolation for that preparations. If you continually interfere with its preparations, your performances down the line would suffer, and even would deteriorate to such an extent that even the easy grade problems would take you a long time bagging.
Not being able to repeat the ones you bagged easily in recent times should be viewed as an indication that your body is giving you. An indication that it is time to rest and allow it to compensate and replenish, to get back with better performances, so as to allow you to flash or do the problems of the highest grade of your limits with ease and finesse(V4+’s or even V5), that you are struggling to do today.
Rest, workouts, depletion and compensation are all very much intertwined and are better put into context together when measured with the grades of difficulty that you push your body to allow. It might be a progression from a V4 to V5 for some and from a V15 to V16 for someone else.
The above post is based on my experience. V4′s were probably the hardest problems I did, and with some difficulty. The after a couple of weeks of hard training and good rest, when I went back to the problems I could do them with ease and finesse and even flashed a few new V4′s. Then a couple of weeks of hard training took me to V4+ and probably an easy V5. But at the end of the cycle I was so depleted that I couldn’t repeat the V4′s that I flashed. After a good three or four days of rest, when I went back to those problems, I could easily repeat them and even progress on the harder ones.
I am currently in one of those resting phases and hoping to go back and see what a rest of three to fours days might have in store for me when I work on a few more hard V5′s. I’ll keep you all updated.
The photo used in the above post is the clicked by Sharad Khiyali. You can find more photos from their Miyar Valley climbing trip here
From North Face Speaker Series:
The east face of India’s Mount Meru, an ice-coated granite fang in the Himalayas, defied climbers for two generations. The saga of its ascent by Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, is the stuff of legend. In 2008, the threesome endured a humbling defeat in the face of endless storm. Three years later, grit and determination brought the team back to complete the climb. In this exclusive event, the trio will recount the tale of their ascent, illustrating the art of suffering and the strength of teamwork.
We usually make friends with the ones who are proximal to our surroundings. Ones with which we meet often, share often and do things together. Friends usually share the same set of environmental considerations, benefits and constraints – same set of knowledge and experience.
Acquaintances on the other hands are infrequent strokes of brushes on the canvas of our memories. The interactions are rare, usually set apart by different geographical and environmental barriers. The benefits and constraints invariably differ between acquaintances – distinct sets of knowledge and experience.
Exactly because of this characteristic of each relation, we can learn more from our acquaintances than we can from our friends. Friends can be grouped in circles; acquaintances are like a dot matrix. We live within a circle to enjoy, but to expand we must connect the dots.