The holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, is also the most wasteful season, as American household waste increases by more than 25 percent. All that added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and more adds up to an additional one million tons a week to the landfills in the United States.
OK, so maybe they aren't the Black Rebels. But Warren "Johnny Strabler" Slate reports that his Trikke meetup.com group, Trikke Riders of the Carolinas, had a take-no-prisoners heck-of-a-time on their New Year's Day ride. "We rode about 15 miles and we will be back there this weekend (Sunday at 2:30 p.m.) weather permitting. You can check out our rides at meetup.com/trikke."
"Ron," I said extending my hand to hike leader Ron Drago, "my name's Joe Miller. We've exchanged emails over the years but I don't think we've every met." Actually, Ron begged to differ, we'd met on two occasions prior to yesterday's New Year's Day Hike at Umstead, which Ron has lead for six years now.
Hike leader Ron Drago, far right, isn't afraid to take an occassional break to discuss something along the trail.
"There was that time on the Thursday hike at Lake Crabtree," he began, "when I thought I had discovered that interesting critter." With this an impish smile creased his face.
"The shoelace!" I said. Several of us had gathered around what appeared to be a small snake bearing a curious white and black checked pattern. Thoughts of a new species being named after Ron filled our comments — until I kneeled down and discovered aglets on both ends of the "critter".
Ron laughed. "And there was the hike off-trail hike around Big Lake." Ah, yes. "I think that was the last Thursday hike I've done," I said.
"Me, too," he answered. Ron didn't start the weekly Thursday hike over a decade ago, but he took it over shortly thereafter when the hike founder took a vacation to Alaska and felt Ron had done such a good job leading it in his absence that Ron should just take it over. So he did.
Initially, the Thursday hike was a gathering of Mensa members with some free time on their hands mid-week. They let me tag along for one hike, and, from what I've been able to piece together, realized that since the gene pool had already been tainted, what the heck, let's open it to the masses. The group has since evolved into the Adventurous Trekkers and is led by Ian Potter. (BPotter777@aol.com to get on Ian's email list.)
Ron hasn't hiked with the group in a while because a case of planter fasciitis keeps him from doing hikes much over five miles (the Adventurous Trekkers typically do five to 10 miles or more). Instead, he's been leading shorter weekend hikes in the area. (firstname.lastname@example.org to get on Ron's list.)
Yesterday's New Year's Day Hike was a delight. About 30 of us departed from the parking lot at the far end of the main park entrance off Glenwood Avenue/U.S. 70 at 1:30 under clear skies with the temperature in the upper 30s. Ron likes to make the hike accessible to a variety of hikers, so we started with a 2.8-mile loop on the Sal's Branch Trail. That was enough for about half the group. The remainder of us did the shorter Pott's Branch and White Oak loops, which brought us back to the car. Five miles for those of us who did the whole enchilada.
Along the way, we saw, among other things: a cocker spaniel who we thought was wearing a coat but in fact just had peculiar markings ("Sorry!"); ranger Keith Nealson, who stood sentry on the Sal's Branch Trail serving the traffic cop role of his ranger position as he kept the NYD masses from getting lost; and an unidentifiable plant (Anyone? Anyone?) that appeared to be heeding a premature call to spring.
Mid-hike, Ron Drago filtered to the rear of the pack where our family was playing caboose and reminded me of a third time we had met. It was on a Wednesday hike on the Crabtree Creek Greenway, four, five years ago. Belatedly and only at Ron's prompting, I remembered that encounter as well. Is it the Mensa thing, " I wondered, or the fact that Ron, who has a few years on me, spends so much time exploring the woods that's left him with such nimble recall?
Can't do anything about the former, I quickly realized. Better plan to spend a lot more time on the trail in 2009, I concluded.