Notes from New Hampshire

The secret to racing, writes Ross Bentley is “to drive over the limit at times, bring it back, hang it out there, dance with the car at the ragged edge.”  I remembered Bentley’s advice a few weeks ago, while watching Top Gun: Maverick, with Tom Cruise as the aging fighter pilot who still feels, after all these years, “a need for speed.”  Who still pushes jet aircraft over the limit at times, and people, too. 

Later I was sketching out plans for a trip to New Hampshire, when the thought occurred to me — doesn’t everything worthwhile take place at some kind of edge?  Call it the ragged edge of reality.  A nebulous margin where knowledge gives way to the unknown.  Where jolts of pain and pleasure provide intermittent light, like signal flares.  Where the way forward, as Emerson wrote, “shall be wholly strange and new.”

In New Hampshire, the edge would lie for me along the White Mountain’s blade-like granite ridgelines, where I would attempt to climb a set of peaks without shoes or food (since that is how my practice works) — and to learn something, possibly, about myself and the world.

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Notes from New Hampshire

Completing the Catskills All Trails Challenge — One Step at a Time

On October 26, 2019, Steve Aaron and I stood on a vantage point near the summit of Balsam Mountain and celebrated his completion of the Thirty Five.  We stared across the valley at pumpkin-colored ridges and frothy marshmallow-mist swirling beneath cerulean sky, while overhead the clouds spread out into a celestial ribcage (the scientific term is cirrus vertebratus) and I thought, how strange that the sky would celebrate Steve’s accomplishment and then, wouldn’t it be even stranger if this was all coincidence….

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Completing the Catskills All Trails Challenge — One Step at a Time

Reflections on the Passing of a Friend

(Photo credit:  Steve Aaron Photography)

He staggered for a step or two.  I saw the concentration in his eyes.  The inward scan and assessment.  He seemed to understand that he could not go on.  He seemed to accept it.

Afterwards, we called my son to let him know.  My wife relayed the news, while I tried to add a comment but somehow couldn’t speak.  Later I retrieved an image and sent it to my son.  And then I dove into a decade’s worth of photos and began the process of reflecting and understanding….

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Reflections on the Passing of a Friend

Top Gun: Maverick

The recent hit movie Top Gun: Maverick opens with Tom Cruise in a pickle.  He’s test pilot for a next-generation stealth jet with a sleek black body reminiscent of the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane (which people my age might remember from growing up in the 1970s).  Cruise is gearing up for a test-flight in which he’ll take the jet to Mach 9, when he gets word that the Navy brass intends to kill the project….

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Top Gun: Maverick

9,000 Miles Barefoot

In September 2021, I reported on my 8,000th mile of barefoot walking, hiking, and running, and this morning I logged my 9,029th mile, so it’s update time.

What started as an experiment morphed into a practice and then became philosophy — and from here on the journey points into mystery. Originally the thought had been to reach 10,000 miles, and now that I’m nearing that objective I can only wonder what lies beyond.  Honestly, there was no rationale for 10,000 miles, besides it being a round number. That and the thought that 10,000 hours of training in a discipline is said to make you an “expert.” Although what I’ve found is that barefoot teaches simplicity. There’s nothing to be an expert of.

The following is my account of the last 1,000 miles walked, hiked, and run without shoes — including successful races and other projects, frustrations, and lessons learned….

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9,000 Miles Barefoot

Whitman and Wilmington

By Barefoot Ken

Surprise.  On the way to (yet) another race, I’ve pulled off the New Jersey Turnpike — desperate for coffee, water, a break from unpredictable traffic (speeds of up to 95 MPH) — and here I find myself, suddenly, in the Walt Whitman Service Area.  Whitman being, to some, the greatest artist America has produced.  The singer of the open road.  The poet of Democracy.  I did not know there was a Service Area named for him.  After the race I’m planning to visit his gravesite, which lies a few miles distant.  First, though, I must complete the Delaware Running Festival Marathon in nearby Wilmington, my 100th event of marathon distance or longer.  Which begs the question — what next?

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Whitman and Wilmington

22 Times Up Peekamoose

Afterwards, sitting by the fire, sipping Darjeeling tea, listening to a violin sonata, there was a feeling of completion. And a moment of contemplation. Beforehand, though, I wasn’t sure I had the energy. Maybe yesterday took something out of me. I hiked up the mountain behind the house, with 40 pounds on my back, in the middle of a snow storm. (How the tall slender maples whipped back and forth as the wind rolled through!) Maybe it was the thought of snowshoes, which following the storm would certainly be called for. I’m not a fan of the extra clumsy weight and hadn’t touched them in a year. Maybe life is variable, and our energy levels fluctuate for reasons that aren’t apparent. Or maybe this is how it feels as you get older.

In any case, it wasn’t until I was back home and going through the spreadsheet that I realized how many times I’d climbed Peekamoose Mountain in the Catskills, and its Neighbor Table Mountain….

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22 Times Up Peekamoose

Wildcat – Carter – Moriah

Having climbed the Catskills multiple times over, and having bagged the Adirondacks’ 46 high peaks, I am now slowly making my way through the next regional list — New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, of which there are 48.  Slowly, on account of the 5-6 hour drive to get there — and sometimes longer, as bumps in the road tend to knock the power cord out of my phone, which I notice at those inopportune times when I really need Google Maps.  And slowly on account of the rough trails — steep, full of chunky rocks, dotted with mud pits, laced with roots — and my practice of going barefoot.  Did I mention acorns?

This is the account of my latest trip — bagging 6 more peaks on a 20-mile trail over three rainy days.

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Wildcat – Carter – Moriah

Katlin Rhode’s 70-mile SRT Race Report

Guest post by 2021 70-mile SRT female winner and record-setter Katlin Rhodes.  Please note Katlin is raising money for suicide prevention — you can find out more at https://supporting.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=2425555

“Last call for runners!” I fumble with my mask and jump on the bus. There’s a buzz of energy and nerves as we’re all driven to the start line of the race in High Point State Park, NJ after dropping our vehicles at the finish line 70+ miles away in Rosendale, NY.

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Katlin Rhode’s 70-mile SRT Race Report

8,000 Miles Barefoot

By Barefoot Ken

In April 2021, I reached my 7,000th mile of hiking, running, and walking barefoot, accumulated over roughly seven years.  Now — five months later — the mileage stands at 8,034.  I seem to be picking up the pace.  Which supports the thesis that practice makes you stronger (at least until age catches up).  The real thesis, though, is that life is better with more nature and less technology.

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8,000 Miles Barefoot