Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Democrats’ Last Election Gasp -- Maybe

This presidential election has been the weirdest I have ever observed.  First, we had one candidate that only campaigned by attacking her opponent and his voters.  The other candidate buried his positions by making numerous public comments that allowed the mainstream media to twist his words and paint him as a racist, bigot and misogynist.  The media and polls expected a Hillary Clinton blow-out, and the country was surprised by a near-landslide in the Electoral College for her opponent.  Then the party that denounced Donald Trump for qualifying his support for election results, goes out and protests nationwide against the new president-elect.  And if that’s not enough, the Democrats’ Green Party surrogate, Jill Stein, tries to get vote recounts in three Electoral College swing states—just enough states to swing the election to Hillary Clinton.  When that doesn’t work, we finally hear from anonymous sources in the CIA (via the Washington Post and the New York Times), that Russia’s hacking was intended to swing the election for Donald Trump.  Now ten members of the Electoral College want a briefing from the CIA.  This last event was just one straw too many, and I cannot resist posting a blog in response.

First of all, let’s be realistic.  The Russian hacking had minimal impact on the election.  Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, and not as a basic truth, that the DNC and Podesta hacks, as well as the WikiLeaks releases on Hillary Clinton and her team, were all carried out by Russian government agents with the intent to get Donald Trump elected president.  The revealed emails allowed readers to draw several conclusions:  1) the DNC actively worked to get Hillary Clinton on the ticket as opposed to Bernie Sanders, 2) democratic party operatives (e.g., Podesta), are not very nice people—they gossip, cheat, and hate people that are not like them, and 3) some of the democratic party operatives had a very poor opinion of Hillary Clinton and her judgment.

Now I don’t know about you, but none of that surprised me.  Unfortunately, it’s typical behavior for quite a few people.  But how many of you would vote against the candidate espousing your beliefs and policies if you knew about such behavior by their team?  I doubt it changed any significant number of votes; especially with the low key release it obtained in the media.  The DNC in-the-tank for Hillary is slightly different.  Releasing that info would tend to bolster Bernie Sanders' chances.  It’s arguable that Donald Trump would have performed better against Bernie than he did Hillary.  But Bernie wasn’t the Democrats’ candidate.  So the Russians, if that was their intent, failed with their Bernie push.

So, we see hacking that was interesting to Republicans and embarrassing to Democrats, but we don’t see any significant effect on the election results.  Even if I’m wrong on this, there is still no proof that the hacking and releases were an orchestrated Russian attack with the intent to elect Donald Trump.

The evidence we have is that anonymous senior sources at the CIA released the supposed results of a classified analysis to the media.  My belief is that those sources must be the senior political appointees (Democrats), if not the Director, of the agency.  Anyone else would get caught, fired, and potentially imprisoned after their next polygraph test.  Political appointees will be leaving in January.

Since the analysis is classified, the appointees can say whatever they want to the media and cannot be proven wrong.  Claims of consensus by analysts or CIA employees is hogwash.  If a report isn’t authored by a single analyst, it will have sections written by multiple analysts and merged by the assigned editor.  The report will be reviewed up the chain of supervisors, and is usually changed at the supervisor’s request before he/she signs off and sends it further up.  With political appointees at the top of each chain, they will have the final word on what is approved or rejected.

Now, it is likely any report signed off by the agency Director or his delegate is reviewed as a staff package by his two-letter managers (these are heads of sub-organizations within the agency) and his chief of staff.  That could be the ‘consensus’ referred to in the media.  But that isn’t like taking a poll of 100 climate scientists, and then saying that 57 in agreement constitutes a consensus.  Theoretically, anyone ‘disapproving’ on a staff package can theoretically prevent a consensus, and stop release of a report.  In reality, those who disagree push changes they think they can get away with politically, then fold and ‘approve’ the staff package.  The bottom line is that the Director will get what he wants.  And the director in this case is an Obama appointee.

It appears to me, that the release of the CIA conclusions, followed within hours by a letter from Democrats on the Electoral College requesting a CIA briefing, followed again within hours by Podesta endorsing such a briefing, has but one purpose.  That is to swing 36 electors from voting for Donald Trump to voting for Hillary Clinton, giving Hillary Clinton the presidency.

Of course, you are free to think whatever you like about these events.  My words are just speculation.  But I suggest you give some thought to how the millions of Trump voters will react if 36 electors, in a 538 member Electoral College, switch their allegiance and vote for Hillary Clinton when their states went for Donald Trump.  Our constitution and voting laws prescribe a legitimate process for electing our President.  Letting innuendo and anonymous analysis override valid election results is preposterous and dangerous to the republic.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Presidential Voting Analysis

I thought about writing this post right after the election.  But there was enough speculation out there which I enjoyed reading, and figured my ideas were probably unimportant.  But I haven’t really seen anything that changed my mind.

I’m still surprised about the extent of the red (Republican) counties and the large margins that were achieved in most of those states.  By looking at the map, you could definitely see where (illegal) immigration had a significant effect (blue regions along the border not near large cities).  Obviously, most recent immigrants seemed to have been offended or simply disagreed with Trump’s position on border control.  While I did not expect Trump to do anything drastic--such as begin a mass deportation effort—I would not be surprised that recent immigrants might fear such an action.

But back to my main point.  First, I must say that anyone that was not a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat would have been likely to consider Trump’s policies in a favorable light.  That is, if they ever had a chance to learn about his actual policies.  Surprisingly (to me), a LOT of people must have heard about Trump policies that they liked, and voted for him.  The alternative, which is possible, is that many Republican and independent voters really hated the Obama and Hillary Clinton policies and approach.

What I expected was that the mainstream media’s war against Trump would have turned off a lot of potential Trump votes.  That is, it would have been equivalent to a strong voter suppression effort against Republicans.  If the articles I’ve read were correct, Trump got a few less votes than Romney.  If so, the media’s voter suppression effort was at least partially successful against Trump.

Now to the Hillary Clinton and traditional Democrat voters.  What they heard was how horrible Trump was and how horrible were those who would vote for him.  Many Trump voters in Democrat majority areas were so intimidated they didn’t expose their views to the public.  Many on social media likewise withheld their support for Trump to avoid the hate backlash.  Then, and this is what I think was critical, the polls showed Hillary Clinton with a nearly insurmountable lead.  The polls and pollsters that thought Trump had a chance were denigrated and ridiculed.

If you were a Democratic voter or Hillary supporter, why would you bother to get out and vote?  She had an insurmountable lead, and your vote would just be 1 out of 150,000,000.  You only listen, read and/or watch the mainstream media, which agree with your views, and they say Hillary is a lock.
And so Hillary Clinton did not get as many votes as Obama did.  In addition to suppressing the Republican vote, the mainstream media and clueless pollsters inadvertently suppressed the Democratic vote!

Of course, that is just my big-picture guess. If you look at the overwhelming majorities Hillary Clinton received in the big cities and blue states, it doesn’t really look like, relatively speaking, there was much of a voter suppression effect on Democratic voters. Maybe there really is a strong voter divide between red and blue country. People just tuned out the media and the pollsters, and voted their belief systems?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Michigan and New Hampshire Still Not Called by the AP and Media

I didn't expect to actually do any blogs on the election after it was over.  But there's too much of interest still happening.  One thing that bothers me is the AP, and the media in general, have not yet called the presidential race in Michigan and New Hampshire.  I'm a numbers person, so I went and looked at the statistics to see why not.  Admittedly, I relied on the media's numbers.  I looked at every county in Michigan to see where the votes weren't reported yet.  EVERY county had 100% of their votes reported.  Yet Fox, and presumably the AP, only show a total of 96% on their Michigan vote results page.  A similar situation was found for New Hampshire; every county had 100% of their votes reported.  What’s going on?

Michigan's margin for Trump was 11,837 votes, and Michigan is worth 16 electoral college votes.  New Hampshire's margin for Clinton was 2,528 votes, and New Hampshire is worth 4 electoral college votes.  Those are using the current Fox News tallies.

In an article from Heavy.com the AP is quoted as saying “The responsibility for calling races rests with experienced journalists in each state. They are armed with on-the-ground knowledge of their territory that no other national news organization can match.” In addition, says the AP, “On election night, race callers in each state are assisted by experts in AP’s Washington bureau who examine exit poll numbers and votes as they are counted.”

There's lots more worth reading in the Heavy.com article.  You find out the AP claims they won't call a race while there is the possibility of a recount.  That Michigan won't automatically do a recount when the margin is over 2,000 votes.  That Michigan is not required to certify the vote for 14 days.  And that Michigan officials believe no recounts will be requested until certification is made.

So in any state with a possibility of a recount, the AP won't call a race?  Sure, no chance of recounts in any of the other 48.

Here's a point from my own perspective.  Calling Michigan for Trump, and New Hampshire for Clinton would make the electoral vote predictions 306 for Trump to 232 for Clinton.  To me, the 306 looks a lot more impressive than 290, when only 270 are required for a win.

Another point, "experienced [AP] journalists" do the calling on the ground.  Was the AP biased for Hillary like all of the main stream media during the campaign?  I think it was obvious they were.  What's the chances the AP journalists in a state or two are like the Trump protesters in the big Hillary voting cities that say "Not My President"?

You can make up your own mind.  To me, making the call in those two states is straightforward.  If later recounts change the results, you then change your predictions.  It looks to me like the electoral college count is now 306 for Trump and only 232 for Clinton.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

UCLA Crazies and Our Future

I’m going to take a few words to get to my primary point.  So to avoid losing you ahead of time, I want to touch on my ending.  Yesterday, while trying to enjoy Trump’s victory, I saw a video shot of UCLA students walking through a long hall.  There seemed to be hundreds of students.  They were all marching to a slow, continuously repeated chant of “F*** Trump”.  And it seemed like most, if not all were staring down at their phones.  It made me think of what a Nazi Youth march might have looked like, only with a different target and no phones.  It also made it hard to get to sleep.

I’m obviously a Trump supporter.  I really believed that the polls couldn’t be far enough off to support a Trump victory.  All the media, including a good portion of Fox News commentators and Wall Street Journal columnists, seemed to support Hillary Clinton and continuously criticize Trump.  Extreme, over-the-top criticism.  The few advertisements we saw here in Texas, most of which were focused on electing congressmen, were nearly content-free slander.  They took a few seconds of video of their opponent, out-of-context, and made them look like the great Satan out to destroy the good things in America.  I have always assumed most people, busy with their hectic lives working or studying 60 hours or more a week, do not have the time or energy to get past the information on the Main Stream Media and understand the policies and potential impacts of the candidates’ actual positions.  Everything Trump said was taken out of context or distorted to sound like racism, bigotry and misogyny--24/7.  Hillary got a light drubbing on honesty and misjudgments, but the media still depicted her as the nice, dependable, experienced candidate—without ever criticizing or describing her policies.  There were a few on Fox and at the Wall Street Journal that were honest.  But they seemed to be offset, maybe by an editorial policy, that there had to be 50% democratic talking heads on every show.  In written articles, anything criticizing Hillary had to be offset by at least a paragraph also pointing out Trump’s deficiencies.  I won’t be renewing my Wall Street Journal subscription again.
Anyway, on election night, I watched a movie and went to bed early.  I had watched McCain and Romney lose on election night TV coverage, and thought maybe I could avoid the heart-ache of a repeat.  I was unhappy with the nice-guy approach of those two.  They never seemed to fight back.  Trump fights back, and I’m actually a lot happier with his policies.  So I thought maybe I could limit my disappointment to a few minutes on Wednesday morning.  Of course, my wife watched the returns and couldn’t resist giving me a few results:  Texas went red (expected, but the media seemed to think it was in doubt), Evan Bayh lost in Indiana (I grew up with Birch Bayh and was really disappointed with his and Evan’s time in office), she said the media seemed to be going crazy (?), and she thought Florida was going to go red.  Avoiding the returns didn’t help, I couldn’t go to sleep worried about a Clinton future.

I woke up Wednesday morning, turned on my computer, and brought up FoxNews.com.  There was a big picture of Trump.  I thought, if Hillary won, why would they have a picture of Trump?  I scrolled down and saw the headlines of a Trump victory.  I have to say, I got a bit emotional, and a strong feeling of relief.

I turned on the TV and watched Fox News for most of the morning.  The criticism of Trump was over, though they still had a few of the bitter Democratic partisans on their programs.
I was especially affected by the scene at the Democratic headquarters earlier that morning, when Podesta came on and said Hillary would not show.  Her fans were crying.  And I felt empathy for their loss. 

I was a bit taken aback by Hillary not showing up to say anything.  Had she been so affected by the loss that she had some kind of medical problem?  Was she just so upset and bitter that she couldn’t maintain her composure on stage?  All those people showed up and stayed through 2:30 am with all the bad news, and she couldn’t even make an appearance?  Since then, I’m leaning towards a simpler explanation, she didn’t have any concession remarks or speech prepared, and she can no longer speak without a teleprompter or memorized lines.  Whatever the reason, her lack of appearance seemed to just emphasize my belief in her lack of character.

So I went through the day, feeling pretty good.  And I decided to watch Fox News from Bret Bair through O’Reilly, plus a little bit of Kelly.  I’m not sure when I saw it, but one of them showed a video of the UCLA students marching through a hall chanting “F*** Trump”, again and again and again…  And this morning I see marches in most big cities where worse rants were going on against Trump.

What gives?  The Left criticized Trump when he said he might contest an election.  The election took place, it wasn’t close, and now the Left, at least some of them, seem to think it was illegitimate?  Way too many people seem to be hypocrites.

But more worrisome is the behavior of the UCLA students.  Supposedly, these students are representative of the future of our country.  Did your parents let you curse in public or even in private?  Sure, no one is allowed to physically discipline their children any more.  But you figure most parents are still going to try to instill a sense of decorum and courteous behavior in their children.  They want their children to know right from wrong, how to think about what’s going on around them, and understand it so they can get ahead in life.  They want their children’s schools to teach them how to behave in society as well as imparting the knowledge necessary to live life prosperously in our country.

How did these students get to this point?  Did their parents fail them?  Did their schools?  Did the media or Hollywood lead them off course?  I know the latter two groups have had an obvious slant towards approving this type of behavior.  Schools have been tending towards nonsensical behavior for years.  Some parents may have been bad influences, but I cannot believe most did not want better for their kids and work to make that happen.

Maybe there were other hundreds or thousands of students at UCLA who disapproved of this behavior, whether they vote left or right.  Maybe that’s true on most campuses.  Maybe you don’t see the people with good manners, and that have the ability to think, because they don’t make spectacles of themselves in their schools’ halls and in the streets.

The problem is, you see the mainstream media throwing mud continuously.  You rarely see a new movie that doesn’t push liberal culture and morals.  You almost never hear of colleges promoting free speech and open debate.  You see riots and protests that take place without any apparent regard for the rule of law.  You see politicians pushing to abolish and ignore the Constitution of the United States.  You see people unwilling to admit that most terrorism is Islamic terrorism.  You see a complete political party that seems to want open borders as a way to get more voters for their positions.

All that is worrisome enough.  Then you see hundreds of UCLA students marching to and chanting “F*** Trump”, our new president elect.  Yeah, maybe this election will help us retain our rights and liberties under our Constitution for a few more years.  But the media, our colleges, our entertainment industry and half of our citizens are pushing a different direction.  If our young people move that way too, where is our future?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Protecting Classified Information and Hillary Clinton's Emails

I’ve noticed that a lot of the folks commenting on the Clinton e-mail investigation do not seem to understand how classified information comes about and is protected.  So I thought I would put together a short primer.

Information can be generated, received or collected. If its disclosure to the wrong party could cause damage to the national security, the information is classified at the confidential level.  If disclosure could cause serious damage, the information is classified at the secret level.  If disclosure would cause exceptionally grave damage, it is classified top secret.  If the protections required for those three classification levels are not considered sufficient, the information will be placed in a ‘compartment’ where access is limited and additional security measures are applied.  Reportedly, some of the classified information sent through Hillary Clinton’s non-secure ‘home’ server was at the compartmented level.

Information becomes classified when an Original Classification Authority (OCA) designates it as such.  Usually OCA’s are heads of agencies or departments, though the ability to classify information at the lower security levels is sometimes delegated to organization commanders or directors.

Usually, the OCA will approve a security classification guide.  Sometimes at agency and department levels, there will be a security instruction (regulation).  And you can even get guidance at the Presidential level via Executive Orders.  What you find in these guides, instructions, or orders is a description of what information is and is not classified, what is sensitive but unclassified, and what security classification level is to be applied when the information is classified.  Usually, there is a table in the guidance where the first column is a list of categories or types of information.  Each row in the table describes the classification level and related information.

So, you might have a security classification guide on the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).  It would tell government employees working with the JDAM what information is classified and what is not.  Usually, you don’t get extreme detail.  As an example, the performance characteristics of the JDAM might be classified at the secret level.  The existence of the JDAM, and its general uses, might be unclassified.  Keep in mind, this is a hypothetical case for me, I have no knowledge of the JDAM other than what I’ve read in newspapers.

And I have absolutely no information, beyond what I’ve read in newspapers, about classification guidance for State Department information.

What I do know is that a government employee, when documenting something or communicating about something in their area of expertise, is expected to be aware of the applicable classification guidance.  They are expected to mark titles, headers, and paragraph portions with the appropriate classification markings when they generate a document.  They also apply a document classification header indicating the source for the classifications:  either the OCA, the classification guidance reference, or the derivative classification source from which they have obtained the classification markings.  If you create a document based on OCA guidance, your new document can become a derivative classification source for other ‘authors’.

Everyone is briefed on the protections required of classified information before they are given access.  And they are given periodic refresher training.  They sign forms indicating they have completed the training, and most of those forms indicate the criminal penalties for mishandling or disclosure of classified information to unauthorized individuals.

And here is a key point.  Once the classification guidance is issued, whether or not classified information is properly marked, it is still classified.  And the guidance generally is written to cover categories of information, not specific bits of info.  It is possible that some info could retroactively be classified.  If, for example, the categories in the guidance were not all inclusive.  In my, admittedly limited experience, I’ve never seen that happen.

Another part of security training is that publication of classified information does not change the classification level to unclassified.  Properly cleared government employees are still required to protect that information as classified.  In general, they are not allowed to comment on any public information or disclosure.  And everyone is told to refer any questions to the Public Affairs office at their organization or agency.

A final training point is that everyone is told to transmit information only on approved, secured networks and devices that are authorized to handle the appropriate classification level.  There are specific networks for secret and higher levels of classification.  Everyone knows that it is a security violation to transmit classified information on an unsecured network such as the Internet.

So, with Clinton having upwards of 2,000 classified messages on an unsecured system, it is extremely unlikely that more than a minute fraction were not classified at the time.  Any government employee, with a clearance, knows that transmitting classified information on the Internet, or giving it to unauthorized individuals will cost you your clearance, your job, and probably your freedom for a number of years. 

On the subject of work emails and unclassified networks.  Over the years, the availability of unclassified .gov and .mil email accounts on government desktops has become wide spread, at least in government buildings and installations.  As the cyber threat has grown, guidance has gone out to use only your .mil or .gov email account for government work.  For the last few years, most organizations have provided government Blackberries or iPhones to those senior employees that need to work away from the office or during travel.  They are configured to use the .mil or .gov email accounts and are secured as much as possible against intrusions.  In most cases, you cannot access your .mil or .gov accounts from your personal devices.  To my knowledge, US government systems do not permit automatic forwarding of emails from .mil or .gov accounts.  The only way to get an email off the unclassified .mil or .gov network is to forward an individual email to an Internet account. 

Also, it is supposed to be impossible to transmit an email from a secure, classified network to an unclassified network or the Internet.

For 2,000+ classified emails to be on Clinton’s home server, somebody or several somebodies had to have been at least criminally negligent about protecting classified information.  Someone had to type that information into an email, knowing it was classified.  And that had to have been done 2,000+ times.  Mr. Comey’s claim that there was no evidence of intent is simply hogwash.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Trump (***) vs Clinton (*)

I’ve decided to work through my inclination not to post on social media and talk about my personal history.  So to put this post in perspective, I retired as an Air Force officer the first time, then as an Air Force civil servant the second time.  For all of that period I held security clearances.  I repeatedly signed non-disclosure forms that said if I disclosed classified information to unauthorized individuals I would be subject to penalties such as 10 years imprisonment or $100,000 fines.  Over the years, I stayed away from social media because of a concern of inadvertently revealing information that could affect my security clearance and my job. 

So my view is that Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and penalties imposed.  If not in jail (miraculously), she should be on probation and ineligible for office.

Many of us lived through the Clinton presidency where we continually heard that one’s private sexual life was not germane to one’s performance as president.  Most Republicans probably thought that was wrong, and it’s definitely leading to a feeling of hypocrisy when planning to vote for Trump.  However, with Bill Clinton there was substantial reason to believe most if not all of his accusers were legitimate. Hillary vociferously attacked those accusers.  With Trump I have seen accusations of lesser offenses than Bill Clinton’s rapes, all coming within the last 30 days of the campaign, from years ago, and with almost no proof.  The claims against him sound too much like the insults of racism, bigotry, and the twisting of Trump’s words that stream continuously from Hillary Clinton and the main stream media.  Denigrating Trump, rather than pushing her policies, seems to be Clinton’s primary approach to campaigning.

What I will base my vote on are the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the policies of the two candidates.  Most of all, I believe in the Constitution of the United States and in the concepts of individual liberty and unalienable rights.  I want the Supreme Court and the other life-long appointees of the federal judiciary to interpret the laws and apply the Constitution as they are written.  I do not want an unelected, life-long set of jurists legislating from the bench and destroying the rule of law.  Hillary wants to nominate liberal justices who will legislate their agenda from the bench.  Trump wants justices that will apply the Constitution.

I want the right to own and carry a weapon as needed for self-defense.  Hillary either wants to repeal the Second Amendment or allow states such as California or New York or the District of Columbia to place any restriction on ownership, up to not even allowing you to own a gun.  Trump defends the Second Amendment.

I believe in the right to life of the unborn fetus, so does Trump.  Clinton believes in allowing late term abortions and partial birth abortions.

I believe in the right to live your life according to your religion.  Clinton’s judges and the great majority of liberals no longer believe in Religious Freedom outside your home or place of worship.

I believe in the right to Free Speech, for everyone, including corporations, companies, unions, and any organization that represents a group of citizens.  Clinton wants to reverse Supreme Court decisions supporting that belief.  And just to comment on liberal culture, I don’t believe that freedom should be abridged on college campuses that take money from state or federal governments.

Obviously, I believe in a strong military.  Trump plans to reverse the decline in defense capabilities of the Obama years.  Clinton believes the Obama approach is correct.

Regulations are probably my second biggest concern after the Constitution.  Obama (as well as Clinton) and the EPA’s campaign to kill coal, natural gas (fracking), and pipelines to distribute the fuel is disastrous.  We have a power network that relies on fossil fuels for something like 67% of our power.  Do you want brown-outs and high energy costs in your future?  Sure, I like solar and wind, and believe they should be expanded as economics and technology allow.  But I also have graduate degrees in electrical engineering and physics.  Alternative sources of energy (i.e. solar and wind) can supplement, but they can never be a primary energy source, and they are costly.  We recently obtained an estimate for a solar installation for our home.  To provide about 77% of our annual usage, it would have cost us $65,000 (before federal tax credits).  And that’s after years of hearing that the cost of solar is coming down!  I worry some about cyber attacks on our power grid.  With a solar installation I could guarantee our water pump would work during sunny days.  But our refrigerators, freezer, and air conditioning (in south central Texas) wouldn’t have any solar power at night.

Beyond the EPA, Obama has expanded bureaucracy/agency regulations that are stifling our economy and its growth.  Clinton wants to continue that approach.  Trump wants to reverse it.

Free trade is an issue that I’ve changed my mind about over the years.  In an open society where politics and national interests do not manipulate economic behavior, free trade would be great once a steady-state condition is reached.  Until then, there would be disruptions and hardships on individuals, groups and communities (i.e., your job would be at risk).  With the current nation-state partitioning of the planet’s population, our current agreements are destructive to our economy.  High employee salaries and costs plus high U.S. taxes mean jobs and manufacturing move to other countries.  If you increase productivity (to make an item cheaper to offset high employee costs) by automating the manufacturing process, you end up with fewer jobs.  Trump claims he will modify treaties to achieve deals that are not disadvantageous to the U.S.  I think he deserves the chance to show what impact a changed approach may have.  Clinton wants to continue with our current ruinous approach.

Health care is another issue that seems to be a core item of contention.  Obamacare has shown that a liberal attempt to impose government regulations on our health system causes higher costs and less choice.  I use the military retirement TriCare system, and cannot imagine a $5,000 annual deductible.  But I have also seen what it’s like to live with the doctor they assign you with no choice.  I’ve gone in to a military clinic coughing up green phlegm and been given cough medicine as their solution, I presume because they were told to minimize the use of antibiotics and to keep costs down.  I had to go to the emergency room days later to get an x-ray and the antibiotics needed to clear up the bronchitis.  I do not want to transition to government provided medical care for everyone, whether a public option that is cheaper and drives out private competition or a single payer (government only) system.  Choice will disappear and costs will rise.  If you don’t pay the costs because of government subsidies, other taxpayers will.  Trump presents us with the chance of a revitalized health care system.  Clinton’s will be a European or British system.

On immigration and national security.  I want to see our immigration laws enforced.  I don’t want borders where drug smugglers, terrorists and anyone with two feet can enter our country illegally.  Secure the borders, don’t just promise it or provide misleading statistics showing it’s not a problem.  Then work on the issue of legalizing those who came here without permission--that have not demonstrated other criminal behavior.  And do not grant entry to prospective immigrants without a background check, especially if they come from countries supporting or involved in terrorism.  Trump believes in that approach.  Clinton does not.

On international affairs and national security, Clinton and Obama have a history.  Clinton does not propose significant changes, for the most part.  The situation with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea has deteriorated, in my opinion, due in large part to Obama and Clinton foreign policy.  They do not seem to have the ability to counter increasing and emerging threats.  They seem to ignore it.  Clinton’s state department ignored requests for added security in Libya.  When an attack came that killed four people, including our ambassador, they did not even launch a timely military rescue.  I do not know how anyone can think Clinton’s foreign policy experience and decision making is something we want in a President.

Further, Clinton has recently proposed a no-fly-zone in Syria.  Early in the Syrian conflict, that might have worked.  Today, Russia has set up mobile variants of the S-300 air defense system (I am not an expert on this) that can take out anything flying within 100 to 150 miles of the system.  Can we take out those units?  I don’t know--maybe.  But it would seem to require a direct conflict with Russian forces.  Otherwise, how would we control the air?  Either Clinton was just trying to sound tough and smart for votes, intentionally misleading the voters, or she is inept and poorly advised about military operations.

Trump won’t talk much about his approach, which is considered good operational security, before an operation.  On the other hand, it doesn’t let you make firm conclusions about his decision making.  He does have good advisors!

On general temperament, I still lean to Trump.  Can you envision an extremely successful businessman with the characteristics Clinton claims for Trump?  He couldn’t make a deal or arrange a contract.  I expect Trump's deal making skills would make an excellent President.  Can you see a foreign head of state trusting anything that Clinton says?  Well maybe, if they make a big enough donation to the Clinton Foundation.

Finally, I almost overlooked policing in America.  With Black Lives Matter and recent media attention on police shootings of minorities, this has become a significant issue.  My wish is to allow police and the local justice systems to do their investigations, and if needed, go to trial.  Complete the initial process without federal intervention such as FBI and justice investigations, and premature conclusions and statements from the President.  If the local/state investigation and follow-up appears in error, prejudicial to one party, or not timely, then get the feds and public interest groups involved.  The police need our support to maintain the rule of law.  Trump understands that.  I’m not sure Clinton does.

To wrap up, I think it is almost unconscionable to vote for the candidate that does not support one’s beliefs on the Constitution, regulations, the economy, health care, foreign policy and crime/policing.  I can live with uncouth outbursts.  I can only feel anger about a public servant who has violated the trust of the American people by disclosing classified information to unauthorized individuals on unsecured networks and devices, then made light of it.  I don’t see that the arguments are even close.  Trump will be my choice.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Day 29 Final

I decided to leave the trail. No injury or major problems. Basically it was just that it wasn't working out well with me on the trail and my spouse at home working. She wasn't happy about my hiking, and I couldn't help with any of the problems cropping up at home. 

And lack of AT&T signal in Hot Springs was a major problem. I couldn't get Google Voice to call using WiFi and Viber wouldn't accept their own code this year. FaceTime was working on weekends when she had her iPhone with her. But when she went into work she has to leave it outside. 

The in laws had a major connectivity outage, on a system I had set up, but I didn't have the details with me. My wife was very unhappy. 

I did find out that AT&T can be configured on the iPhone for WiFi calling. Apparently it is disabled by default because 911 calls won't give your real address. I had to agree to numerous 911 forms.  Calling worked normal from the library WiFi after that. Met one other guy in town who tried to buy a Verizon phone locally but they were out!  I told him about the library free WiFi and the WiFi calling setting and he was pretty grateful. 

Anyway, the combination of missing Susan and my conscience issue of not being home to help her made up my mind to stop here. Unless she's fully supportive in the future, I'll stick to trips around 2 weeks long. 

Also, I met lots of couples, pairs of friends, and some single folks hiking. The only other married guy I heard about hiking alone made a similar decision a day or two earlier--around the one month point. That doesn't mean there aren't lots of married folks hiking without their spouses...

If you've been following along, thanks!  And I hope I didn't disappoint you. Have a good day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 28 Zero in Hot Springs

Not too much to say for today. Hot Springs is small. I got up early and finally got the eggs, bacon, pancakes, grits and milk breakfast I've been craving!

Then I repackaged the mail drop into my food and toiletry bags. Susan sent me a smaller size pair of pants, so I'm going to mail the others back. 

I'll spend some time on my kit...

The insoles on my Altra Lone Peak 2.5 trail runners have been sad. Every time they get wet they fold. Flimsy!  I've got a permanent crease in the left one. I am going to see if Bluff Mountain Outfitters has a better insole. I am not hopeful as the shoe is designed light and of course there is little spare room--except at the toes. 

The wintry cold weather and deep mud have resulted in my reconsidering my kit. If I stopped at a shelter I would have to leave my muddy shoes on to cook, eat and do toiletries. Most have camp shoes. Same issue in hostels. But my pack is not really designed for external equipment attachment. 

In the sleet storm I was chilly. It wasn't dangerous as I was relatively dry. I had on my merino wool base layer, my wind shirt, and my rain jacket. But the tremendous cold wind pulled the heat right out of me. The possum-down gloves and rain mitts were equally ineffective. I could have put on my down puffy, but that would have risked getting it wet. Plus the risk of moisture in the pack when I opened it. If it had gotten worse or been a degree or two warmer so the sleet was rain, I would have needed to stop and set up the tent to use the puffy or quilt for warmth. 

If I had been carrying my capilene hoody instead of the puffy, and maybe some wool mittens, I would have been fine and warm. But I saved a few ounces because I didn't anticipate any snow storms. When I do the summer to winter equipment change up north, I'll remember the lesson. 

Finally my quilt. It's a Katabatic 30 degree down quilt with a 'fixed' foot box. I love it except for the foot box. I have a touch of restless leg syndrome, and the fairly small foot box is like tying your feet together at the ankles. It's great in cold weather, but when it gets warmer it defeats part of the purpose of having a quilt instead of a mummy bag. I like the design of the Zpacks quilts and will take a look. 

Not sure what I'll do today, probably eat and watch TV!

Have a good day!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Day 27 Bluff Mountain to Hot Springs

Monday, May 09, 2016; AT Mile 273.7
Walked from 258.9 to 269.4 or 10.6 miles.
Started 06:45 AM, stopped 12:12 AM.
Ave mph was 1.93, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  4 percent
The ankle was feeling better today. Compared to my usual travel, I moved!  Most of the trail was downhill, but most wasn't too steep. I only got passed by a couple of college age girls. Not sure if they were thrus, awfully clean looking. But they were carrying their packs around town. 

Weather is nice today, but I'm not sure it will continue. Lots of clouds. 

Saw Square Peg at the diner on town entry. Tried for lodging at Elmers, but guy said last room was taken an hour earlier. He didn't seem too polite about my not having a reservation. 

Didn't want a standard hostel for a zero. Not too unhappy, proprietors are vegan. Got a room at Alpine Court. Almost nice. But I have to come here to the Wash Tub to do my laundry. 

Went to Smoky Mountain Diner for lunch after showering. Good food at average prices. It's open 0630 for breakfast and has homemade cobbler!

Stopped in Bluff Mountain Outfitters for change for the wash. Will need to pickup my mail drop there soon. 

No AT&T in town. And no WiFi at the Alpine. I'll use the library WiFi next door to call Susan.  Not sure why I had cell on the mountain last night but nothing in town??







Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Review of Standing Bear Farm Hostel

I wanted to talk a bit about my impressions of the hostel. You also need a frame of reference. I stayed overnight on Friday, May 6, 2016. This is near the end of the AT thru-hiker bubble. They may get year-round clients since they are about the only lodging/shuttle service at the north end of the Smokies. But I'll assume thru hikers provide most of their annual income.

I've also heard that last year the proprietor passed away and his relatives have taken up operations. 

Morgan (aka Comrade) did most of the upkeep. Maria seemed to be the new proprietor   Morgan was friendly and always helpful. Maria did not seem as upbeat, and seemed more worried about finances. I got there early and Morgan had me in the Creekside cabin by noon. Shortly after Maria stopped by and asked me if I was staying there?  She asked if I knew it was $30?  I asked if there was something wrong as she seemed a bit upset. She said a couple wanted a cabin for privacy and they charged two people a total of $50. 

That behavior was not professional and bothered me. Later when I paid early because I wanted to hike out early the next morning before the staff was available, she asked me twice if I had made all the purchases I was going to from the self-service resupply store. Again I was a bit irritated. 

I'll assume their income and expenses were tight and give Maria a pass. 

Now to the hostel itself. It's a great operational approach, but it has some bugs. You get an intro from Morgan but it misses some key details. Like towels, sheets, and who washes dishes you use. 

They have two port-a-potties which is fine and one traditional privy I didn't find. They don't restock the toilet paper and the contractor apparently doesn't do a good job either. They have a shower area but I couldn't find any towels...

They have a small common kitchen with gas stove, microwave, and pizza ovens. A large table with a bench around it was promising, but extension charger for phones left only one entry. People left musical instruments on bench, trash and dog food on the table. People were leaving dirty dishes in the sink and someone had stopped up the drain. Dirty towels were all around the sink and there was no obvious scrub pad or clean dish cloth to clean the dishes with.   I used the microwave and left. 

The laundry area had two sinks for hand washing and a dryer. With the number of hikers staying this was probably more 'wash' efficient than a couple of coin washers and dryers would be with everybody waiting interminably. But my muddy socks did not get as clean as I would have liked. 

There was a picnic table and chairs outside the food/laundry area for use in good weather. 

They had a small building dedicated as a self-serve resupply store. You just noted on an envelope all of your purchases and paid up when leaving. It was a great (and I mean great) little store for food while you were staying at the hostel. But it didn't have freeze dried entrees for the trail. Mail drops were free if you stayed overnight. 

The bunk room was what you might expect in a submarine if they made subs out of wood. It was packed with bunks like sardines. Every one had a hikers kit spread out on it. Maria had told me to get pillow cases there, but I couldn't get close to the shelves with the linen because of the mass of hiker packs and hikers around it. 

They seem to be extending the main house to two stories. Don't know if it's only for the staff or if they will include rooms for hikers. 

My little one room cabin was past the main house on a little creek. The creek side was all glass with double doors. A grated balcony extended over the creek with a rug and two iron chairs. The one room had a double bed, a fan and a half-height bookcase/night-stand. No heat and despite having two electrical outlets (that didn't work) they had an extension cord coming through the window. Good enough, but I could have done the wiring in an hour. 

They had a larger cabin with two beds near the shower and they had a glass tree-house near the back of the property. I was not aware of other lodging. 

In summary, their operation was a little more extensive than most hostels. The self-serve store and free laundry were the highlights. If they had paid attention to the details or the cleanliness in the eating/cooking area, the hostel would be outstanding. They could make improvements anytime that would help. 

The hostel provides an essential service for thru hikers leaving the Smokies. But it's not everything I had hoped. 

Day 26 Stealth Site to Bluff Mountain

Sunday, May 08, 2016; AT Mile 263.1
Walked from 247.2 to 258.9 or 12.7 miles.
Started 06:52 AM, stopped 03:10 PM.
Ave mph was 1.53, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  5 percent
I didn't do as far today as I would have liked. But given my ankle issues I'm pretty happy. Nice day with sun later. Humongous winds up on Max Patch bald. Lots of ups to get there. Some great views. Then some nice long gradual downs. Finished the day with two challenging ups. The site at the top of the mountain was open so I took it. Sometimes the downs offer few camp sites. 

I was really worried about my ankle yesterday. But I stopped early and it appears to have helped. Only minor issues today. But I still didn't want to push it. Unless the down tomorrow to Hot Springs is really nasty I ought to get to town by 2:00 to 3:00 pm. Then I will take a zero. 

The wind on Max Patch probably wasn't the 60 mph the hiker yesterday quoted. But it was strong enough to blow me off the trail mid-step. I had to put my rain jacket on and tighten my hat. 

Much of the down today seemed to follow a stream through a long valley.  

Bugs hit the last two hours. I'm hoping they will be fewer here on the height. Though when I was adjusting a tent stake a bee stung me on the palm of my hand. Couldn't believe it. 

Bunch of day hikers like usual. But not as bad as yesterday. Said hi to a couple older than me that was also heading north. Should have got their names. Passed three young women in black at the last gap. Unusual attire. Then as I was coming up the up, I heard singing and yelling behind me. Most thrus will pass me on an up. I even stopped to get water. Then while I was setting up my tent, 50 feet off the trail, the three young women arrived by the stones at the peak. Not sure if I took their site or what. They paused a really long time without taking off their packs. 

First time I've had more than one bar since the evening I left the Smokies. But think I will leave all media work for my zero. 

Have a good day! 



Heading up to Max Patch...






Top of Bluff Mountain...


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Day 25 Standing Bear Farm to Stealth Site

Saturday, May 07, 2016; AT Mile 250.4
Walked from 237.8 to 247.2 or 10.0 miles.
Started 06:19 AM, stopped 02:40 PM.
Ave mph was 1.20, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  3 percent
Today was peculiar.  Nice and clear as I left the hostel. Square Peg was there and seemed to be the only one up. Nice to pack up in a room with a glass front. The porch was placed over a strong stream. But the little cabin wasn't heated. So used the sleeping bag. I'm going to do a separate blog/review on Standing Bear Farm. See that write-up for more details. 

Until noon the winds were strong and cold. The sun has finally come out so its warming a bit. A section hiker stopped as I was setting up my tent. He said winds on Max Patch (up and I do mean up the trail 2.5 miles) were 60 mph today. He may have been exaggerating, but figure he was close. It caused him to go south to the next shelter. 

Lots of greenery and flowers today. Big up out of the hostel that ended in a bald with an air traffic control (ATC) facility on top. The fence was close so I don't think it was active radar or hikers would be fried. Probably just a communications facility and/or passive collection. 

Since then it's been ups and downs. My sore heel became a sore ankle today. I don't know what's going on with it. But it's the reason I stopped early. Seems better if I keep the foot and ankle straight. 

The water was pretty spotty. At the last forest service road there was supposed to be a culvert 50 yards north. But three roads converged with two going north. Used the AT Hiker app and went up the indicated road. There was a little culvert with a trickle coming out. Enough water to camp!

Then I found this camp site and couldn't resist!

Have a good day!







Day 24 Stealth Site to Standing Bear Farm

Friday, May 06, 2016; AT Mile 240.6
Walked from 235.8 to 237.8 or 2.0 miles.
Started 06:22 AM, stopped 08:21 AM.
Ave mph was 1.00, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  0 percent
Short hiking day. Overcast and rained last night so wore everything but rain mitts. It went down crossing a strong stream multiple times. Then it was a road walk up the rest of the way. 

I've requested a room, and need to wait a bit. Got the mail drop. Liquid applesauce, and some kind of chia stuff that was great, were consumed immediately. Not trail food but good!

Plan to let my left heel heal. It's been tight and a bit painful when stressed. And all of the trail was stressing it. Plus everything is a bit damp and I want to air it all out. And of course more rain today. 

So fair it is sunny. Small cabin. Washed clothes by hand in tub but drying in real dryer. Not as clean but good enough. Washed shoes in creek but mud still in them. So washed with hot water hose. Walking around in bear feet to let the shoes kind of dry. Have tent and rain pants stretched out hoping no sudden rain. 

No signal here so pictures will wait till Hot Springs TN.  Their resupply here is phenomenal. At least for snacks and lunches. Met Razz and Robin doing a section hike. She's retired AF nurse. They live up in Dayton. 

Have a good day!



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Day 23 Tri-Corner Knob Shelter to Stealth Site

Thursday, May 05, 2016; AT Mile 238.1
Walked from  0.0 to 235.8 or 15.9 miles.
Started 07:10 AM, stopped 05:25 PM.
Ave mph was 1.55, excluding lunch.
Battery used: 7 percent
I wanted to get out of the Smokies so this was always going to be a long day. 

Woke up to see sleet all around the tent. And it was icy cold. Shaking the tent froze my hands. In addition to all yesterday's clothes I added eVent rain mittens. Wore everything all day. 

The day started icy cold and windy. Worse than yesterday. But mid morning the sleet started. It came down continuous just like snow. Accumulated about 3/4 inch or more. In addition to wet rocks there was now ice. It wasn't melting at all. Except were it landed on running streams in the trail. 

Mid afternoon as we got lower it changed to snow. But that just added to the mush. Late in the day it became rain. By then the trail was one big mud slide. Many places 3 to 4 inches deep. It filled my trail runners. Footing was horrible. 

Instead of stopping at the last Smoky shelter a mile inside the park, I kept going. Camp free!  Plus as soon as I left the park the trail conditions went back to normal. 

It's cold here and sleeted some while I ate dinner. 

Have a good evening!


You can see my tent site outlined bottom left by sleet...





Day 22 Icewater Springs Shelter to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter

Wednesday, May 04, 2016; AT Mile 222.2
Walked from 208.3 to 220.5 plus 0.80 adjustment or 13.0 miles.
Started 06:50 AM, stopped 04:20 PM.
Ave mph was 1.37, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  8 percent
Today was almost worse than yesterday. Until about 1200 there was a tremendous cold wind blowing and fog. And I mean cold. I wore my wool shirt, my wind shirt, my rain jacket and pants (plus regular pants), my gloves, hat and I put the two hoods up. About 3:00 PM I took off the gloves. 

People are saying snow or sleet tonight. Good test of tent and clothes/quilt combo. 

Pretty nice views after fog and wind left. Trail was rocky, rooty, and muddy and just up and down. 

I had to take a 0.8 mile side trail at noon to use a privy. Just no off trail areas. Plus a horde of never ending day hikers kept passing.

Have a good night!






Day 21 Siler's Bald Shelter to Icewater Spring Shelter

Tuesday, May 03, 2016; AT Mile 210.1
Walked from 193.7 to 208.3 or 14.6 miles.
Started 06:46 AM, stopped 06:25 PM.
Ave mph was 1.25, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  2 percent
Today was a long and miserable day. It poured last night and early AM for hours. The tin shelter roof was so loud nobody talked. 

The trails started wet and got worse. It rained till about 1130, and the trails were either streams, puddles, or mud. I fell once, my foot just slid in the mud. Going was slow. 

I think this is the third time at Clingman's Dome with no views. Did get a couple of vistas late on the long climb out of Newfound Gap. 

Tons of day hikers. They all looked so immaculate. I looked like a walking mud puddle. 

Tenting at the shelter. Two tents were already up, though I think there were empty spaces inside. Cooked in the tent since all the shelter cooking spaces were in use. 

Think it's going to be cold tonight. I can see my breath. Have a good night!




Clingman's Dome in fog as usual...



Day 20 Russell Field Shelter to Silers Bald Shelter

Monday, May 02, 2016; AT Mile 195
Walked from  180.0 to 195.0 or 15 miles.
Started 6:46 AM, stopped 05:20 PM.
Ave mph was 1.45, excluding lunch.
Battery used: 3 percent
The trail was tough and long today. Lots of people in the shelter. Threatened rain all day long. Rained lightly overnight. Finally hit during dinner. 

Saw 3 turkeys on the trail. 

Second shelter with a full tarp front. Didn't have those last year. Not sure I like them. Previous one was stifling. Crowd isn't as talkative as last year. 

Have a good night!



Rocky Top....



Turkey, 1 of 3...


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Day 19 Fontana Dam to Russell Field Shelter

Sunday, May 01, 2016; AT Mile 180.4
Walked from 166.8 to 179.9 or 13.0 miles.
Started 08:53 AM, stopped 06:07 PM.
Ave mph was 1.41, excluding lunch.
Battery used:  5 percent
That was a tough day. Couldn't get a shuttle from the lodge till 8:45 am. My start was 2 hours later than last year. Must have been 120% humidity (:-). The ups never ended and neither did the bugs. Gnats in the face and swarms of flies biting my ankles at every pause. No one seemed to stop at the first camp site or shelter. Everyone is here. So I was able to tent. 

But mosquitoes showed up during dinner and ate up my legs. I got in the tent as soon as I could. 

Thought it would rain but it still hasn't. 

First time ever a ridge runner asked to see my permit. Apparently a bear was here last night and raided backpacks out of the shelter. Most of us are hanging our packs on the bear cables where we normally hang only food bags. 

Peculiar crowd. Only 3 people northbound passed me on the trail today. I'm still flabbergasted about where they all come from. 

Have a good night!








Saturday, April 30, 2016

Day 18 Zero at Fontana Dam Village

I slept on a good bed last night and will do so again tonight. My walking today was up to the Mountainview restaurant for breakfast and down to the Wildwood Grill for lunch. My legs are feeling great!

The Audi Club of America is staying here so they only offered a breakfast buffet, not their usual menu. I was a little disappointed as no toast, but I still over ate!  Never seen so many sporty little Audis. 

Yesterday at lunch the clientele was all thru hikers--grubby. Today it was, well I'll call it yuppies, though I have little info on their backgrounds. 

My lunch both days was a nice burger and a small salad bar. Both were fantastic. At dinner I had shrimp and grits. I had seen the entree on menus before but never tried it. It wasn't just shrimp and grits. The sauce and other ingredients made it fantastic. With desert it was more than I should have spent. Tonight I'll eat light from my leftover trail food. Same in the morning. 

I can get a shuttle to the trail head and avoid an off-trail 4 miles, but not until 8:30 am. And their restaurant doesn't open till 8:00 am. I'm hoping to walk uphill about 14 miles to a shelter with good water. 

Last night and today I read a Kindle book on my iPhone. I also decided to shave. The little dual bladed safety razor took forever. But for a day or so I don't have to worry about food in my beard!

I've got all the pack items cleaned up. My food bag is restocked. My optimistic route through the Smokies is planned. My remaining effort is deciding whether to watch a movie or TV.  And being dedicated to staying off my feet for another few hours. Have a good day!

A Typical Day on the AT

In this post I want to describe my typical day. One where I hike from camp site to camp site. Most camp at shelters or other 'official' sites with water. If you don't you have to count on using about a liter in camp and still have enough to get you to the next usable stream.

I've tossed and turned all night, sleeping until discomfort makes me roll over. I check my watch every few hours to see what time it is. At maybe 5:45 am I start waiting for 6:15. At that point I open the nozzle on my air mattress. I sit up in the tent and start getting ready. I change socks and put foot goo (lubricant) on my toes. I change into my day cap. I put everything back in my pockets then roll up the air mattress. I unzip the tent, pullover and open the top of my backpack, then start putting everything in. I also get out my snacks and any toilet paper I expect to need. With everything in the pack I stick my feet outside the tent and pull on my trail runners. Then I get out of the tent and zip it back up. 

I pull up all of the stakes and remove the extender from my trekking pole. The Altaplex tent requires a 58" pole, so I need the extra 10" carbon fiber tube. Then I accomplish the worst task of the morning.  Shaking the tent to try and get wet debris off the bottom floor. It's loud and messy and doesn't work!  I then try to cram it into a nice sack perfectly sized for a dry, clean tent you can fold tightly on dry ground. 

Since I want the tent below my rain gear and food bag, I partially reload and compress the pack again. 

Taking a leak is mandatory. Using the privy or digging a latrine with my trowel depends on circumstances. Unless you are at a single stealth site there are often lots of people around. Not much privacy. 

I try to remember to take my phone off airplane mode, start Hikers Assistant, and tell it I'm starting the trail. It gets my location for the start of the day's elevation profile. Then I have to put the phone back in airplane mode. 

I drink water before starting out and most days hike with 2 liters. 

I start out a little before 7:00am. Almost invariably, there is a big up to start the day. My heel or heels will be tight and if I laid wrong, I might have an ache or two.  If it is cool I'll be wearing a wind shirt or rain jacket. As soon as you get warmed up you start shedding clothes. Take off the jackets, roll up the sleeves, remove convertible pants legs, and unzip the 1/4 or 1/2 zip shirt. It's already been getting up to 79 degrees. You go up a good up and you generate a lot of heat. 

I saw one guy the day before yesterday sitting in a clearing near a hilltop. He was only wearing shorts and looked like he was about to have heat stroke. A cold breeze can feel great!

Anyway, you probably finish the big up in about 45 minutes and you can catch up on your breathing and heart rate. I stop for some breakfast granola or a bar. After that I try to stop about every hour to take off the pack, eat a quick snack and have some water. These breaks usually last 3-5 minutes. Other water-breaks are just done standing for about 30 seconds each.  My lunch breaks are a little longer where I try to eat a little more. 

I usually get passed by a couple of thrus, and we'll say hi and ask how it's going. I usually meet half a dozen hikers going south. Mostly day or section hikers. On weekends you see a couple runners and several couples with more or less happy dogs. Most of the older folks you encounter are a bit talkative, which is nice. The young folks, unless you encounter them at a water source, on a break, or in camp talk less and move faster. 

So the day goes by. You do the ups, with micro-breaks to slow my breathing and heart. Occasionally I encounter relatively flat sections on ridges or following around hill sides. Then you have the downs where you go slow to avoid falling, hurting your knees, or twisting your ankle. Both the ups and downs seem never to end. The flat or gently ramped sections are all too short. Interspersed along the trail are bad root sections, sloped trail next to drop offs and rocky sections where the rocks like to tip. 

The worst sections are the road gaps. It's always a steep long down to the two-lane 45mph highway. You wait for quiet between the 70mph passing cars, motorcycles, and trucks, then dash across. Now you do the steep long up!

About noon you hit your high point of the day. Your muscles feel fine and all the aches have gone. About 3:00 pm you are tired of snacking, and you start to lose energy. I try to slow down and be more careful. You start to watch the Guide or AT Hiker app to see how close you are to a camp site. If you are not stopping early, try for a less popular camp site. 

Since I planned to be here (Fontana) on a Friday and Saturday night I made reservations. To avoid getting here early I stopped at Locust Cove Gap early. It's the only non-shelter site with water on the map in that area. I got there at 2:30 pm and there were already two section hiker tents set up. On the flat spots!

Anyway, by 5:00 pm I'll try to make camp. I find a relatively flat spot and quickly set up the tent. I throw the air mattress, quilt and other bags in and zip it up. I keep out my food bag and stove kit. If there's a water source I fill my Nalgene and use my Steripen for 90 seconds to purify the water. 

If there's other hikers around I'll talk for a bit. But I usually want dinner. If there is a picnic table and room I'll cook there. I've only done that at Springer Mt.  Most of the time I set up a small ground cloth and sit on that. I use a variant of the Caldera Cone with an alcohol stove to boil water. About a tablespoon of denatured alcohol heats a cup of water. 

I add cold water to freeze dried fruit. Have one or two protein shakes (messy) and a couple of cups of cold water. My entree is a freeze dried Mountain House to which I add freeze dried kale, asparagus, or broccoli and a tablespoon of ghee. I pour the boiling water from my pot into the freezer bag with my entree and let it sit for 10 minutes. Cleanup is rolling up the empty fruit and entree baggies and putting them into my gallon trash zip-lock. Plus licking my spoon clean. 

You decompress the lighter food bag and either put it in your tent or hang it on a bear cable. If there are folks around, you talk some more. 

I always pull out my inReach Explorer to create and send a waypoint for my Locate Cipher blog page. Hope it's working!

I also spend 30 to 40 minutes transferring photos from my camera to my phone and writing my blog. Usually I'm tired and forget the interesting stuff. Usually I have no signal to post the blog. 

I try to wait as long to get into the tent as I can.  Getting in and out means taking shoes off and then putting them back on. I take a leak before getting into the tent at night. 

I put my cuben (waterproof, kind of) backpack under the tent fly, and sit in the tent with my feet out. I take off my shoes and nestle them inside the hip belt of my pack closest to the tent--to minimize wetness from rain. 

I blow up the air matress then change my socks and add new foot goo. I change my cap and empty my pockets, then stretch out. If it's still early I use my Sandisk player to listen to my favorite albums. 

I watch the woods through my tent screens as the sun goes down.