hiking to the border…. and back!

After a nice, restful sleep in the hammock the night before, I woke up yesterday morning nice and refreshed.  Typical of hammock camping, I woke up in the middle of the night having to pee (hooray for handy-dandy pee-bottle!) and woke up again around 4am – probably because I had enough sleep.  I chose instead to stay in the nice warm hammock until almost 8am.

I broke camp pretty quickly – I tried something a bit new for packing up.  Instead of taking everything apart, stuffing them into their individual bags and then placing in the pack, I instead unhooked the whoopie slings, and just shoved the entire hammock setup – hammock, underquilt, and sleeping bag – into the bottom trash compactor bag.  It worked really well, packing down probably better than in individual sacks, so I think I’ll do this more often.  I might even make a stuff sack that can hold it all – I imagine it’s probably around 15-20L.

Anyway, started out hiking around 8:15, it was a beautiful day.  The GA/NC border was 4.4 miles from Plum Orchard shelter, but it was going to be mostly uphill.  The intent was to hike out to the border, come back to the same shelter, and see how it felt, maybe go another mile or two and find a campsite – or stay there for the night, and hike out thursday morning.

IMG_1094   me at the Plum Orchard shelter, getting ready to head out

Needless to say, it was typical Georgia-muggy, and I started sweating soon after leaving the shelter.  There was a bit of down, but it was mainly uphill climbing the entire morning.  In fact, looking back on it – I think it was uphill climbing both ways 😉

I stopped about 2 miles down the trail, at a small campsite with water.  It was around 9:30, I needed water, and it seemed like a nice place to stop and rest a couple minutes.  I filtered some water (normal decision is – if water is running pretty well, I won’t filter, but if it’s pretty slow, I’ll filter – YMMV) and pulled out the Mountain House freeze-dried breakfast – oats with milk and blueberries.  It was pretty good, maybe I was just hungry.  After about half an hour, I got going again, but still felt really good – the lighter pack was definitely making a difference.

Covered the other 2.4 miles to the GA/NC border, really enjoying the scenery although it was mostly uphill and there weren’t a ton of views due to the amount of green.  The border was a good place to stop and take a break, take a couple selfies, and step off into NC

IMG_1122 IMG_1118  one foot in NC!

It was only 11am, still felt really good, and so I started hiking back toward the shelter.  I passed a couple NoBo people who were through-hiking, and passed the 3-ladies I had met the day before.  I intended to stop back at the same camp site / water spot, but when I got there I still had a full bottle of water and didn’t feel much like stopping, so I kept chugging along.  There was a couple there, waved hi, kept hiking (just keep hiking, just keep hiking…)

I arrived back at Plum Orchard around 1:30, and after 9 miles I was feeling somewhat tired but not overly so.  I decided to rest for an hour, and make a decision from there.  I had gotten a text from my wife a hour or two ago that she missed me, so I was seriously considering hiking the rest of the way out (bad idea, knowing this is a bad idea, already experienced this bad idea of overexertion during the Unicoi Gap trip).  I figured if I made it out by 4p I could get to church, if I was out by 5p I could meet for supper at 5-guys – and man was I craving 5-guys.  I wanted to eat about 4 burgers.  and fries, lots of fries.

So I rested for about 45 minutes, grabbed an unopened bag of freeze-dried fruit someone had left and munched on it, and headed out.  The remaining trek would be 4.5 miles, giving me a total of about 13.5 miles for the day – too long, but hey – she missed me!

So I started hiking, faced with a decent climb out of the shelter that tried to beat me down, but I tricked that old hill by taking a 10 minute break halfway up.  To give an idea, here’s part of the climb


pictures really don’t do it justice, it’s probably around 30-40 degree incline and went on for quite a bit.  For example, up top there where it looks like it ends – nah, it turns the corner and keeps going 😉  Eventually made it to the top of this one, which then took me back downhill almost immediately.  Let me tell you – I have zero problems with going down.  I could hike DOWN a mountain all day long.  Of course, finished that down all too soon, and hit another up – and oh what an up it was.  Cowart Gap was in the middle of these two up-down roller coasters, and I was definitely thinking this was a bad idea, this 13.5 miles of hiking in one day when I’m not in the best of shape.

So I started up this last hill, knowing it was the last hill did help motivate me some, but really I would hike 10 steps and take a break, hike 10 steps and take a break.  by 10 steps – I mean I would count 10 of those logs that formed the steps.

IMG_1166 more up and up

I would check my GutHook app every so often to see how much farther I had to go, but it was pretty discouraging because I was tired, I wasn’t making a lot of progress, and I was ready to be done for the day.  About halfway up I did luck up on a nice resting spot next to some flowing water, sat down and raised my legs, took a 20 minute break.  Drank most of my water I had left, but didn’t refill because I only had about 1.5 miles to go, and it would all be downhill.

I did have a couple of friends on the trail – two black snakes, within a mile or so of each other, laying across the path.  Although they’re black snakes – they’re SNAKES – I didn’t want to mess with them, so I picked up a small stick and threw it near them to encourage them to move along.  Yes, move along little snake, nothing to see here.


I did eventually make it to the top of that last hill, and coasted the rest of the way out to Dicks Creek Gap.  It was definitely a good hike, I enjoyed being out there for a couple days again, and I (once again) “learned” that I shouldn’t hike more than 10 miles in a day.  but hey – she missed me!

Oh, and I DID have 5-Guys that night.  a big fat burger, with a huge bag of fries.  My son had something going on so it was just me the wife and daughter, so I had plenty of fries (we always order a large and split – they put so much in the bag).  I also got to stop at a QT on the way home, grab a couple buffalo chicken stick things, and a bag of seeds; sort of a pre-supper to supper.

And finally, here’s a view of the two days of the hike, to give an idea of the distance and climb

IMG_1093 IMG_1168

looking forward to the next time I get to hike out there, but it’s starting to get warm; may have to shoot farther north or melt in a puddle of sweat!

a hike, a hike

yesterday i decided that i would hit the AT for a couple days and do a bit of hiking.  since i had hiked the section from Unicoi Gap to Dicks Creek a few weeks ago, i wanted to do a different part.    initially i thought of doing something around Dohlenegha and using the Hiker Hostel for shuttling back to my truck, but they were full up on Thursday (shooting for hiking 3 days to be home Friday for Stephen’s graduation) so instead I decided to do an ‘out-n-back’ from Dicks Creek Gap to the GA/NC border – about 10 miles each way.   I’m not a huge fan of out-n-backs, but it does negate the trouble of having to get back to my truck

So I left the house around 8:30, stopped and got gas and a snack, and drove up to Dicks Creek.   it was a bit over 3 hours of driving; its only about 120 miles, but its all slow roads, and the last 50 miles or so are 2 lane mountain roads that curve all over and keep you to about 35mph. Grabbing my pack (down to 29lb with 5-6 days of food and 2L of water) I was ready to get on the trail a little after noon.

there were 3 ladies just in front of me, a younger girl (later found out it was a navy man wife) and two middle aged – one was the mother in law of the girl.   I’m thinking maybe Nancy can come hike with me next time 😊

Hit the trail, with the intent of covering about 6 miles to the Plum Orchard shelter. It was a pretty pleasant hike all the way to the shelter, the ‘up’ parts didn’t seem too steep, but there was a long down part right before getting to the shelter   That will be an ‘up’ on my way out, and may challenge me a bit.  nothing like the Unicoi Gap trip though

The trail is definitely different than a few weeks ago; there is a lot more green, so the Green Tunnel is definitely forming.   no need for sunglasses (last night I buried them in my clothes bag).   I passed one other person on the way to the shelter, he was hiking to the NOC and then leaping to a different section

I arrived at the shelter around 2:30 and seriously considered continuing on a couple more miles, there’s a water point 2 more miles up with a couple sites.   But I’ve learned not to push too hard, so I stopped at the shelter.   there was a party going on when I walked up, about 6 college age kids having a lot of fun, but they were only breaking and left after a bit.  The one fella I passed earlier came in not too much after me, he knew the college kids and everyone talked a bit before they headed out

so I set up my hammock, filtered some water.  the 3 ladies showed up about an hour after I did, they set up a couple tents.  The navy wife didn’t bring a mat, not sure how that will work – hard core.  I would wake up sore all over.    well, first you would have to trick me out of my hammock – not going to happen

a pretty relaxing, uneventful day.  I did make a supper last night (Mountain House chili and rice), hung my food bag and went to bed around 8:30.   i did wake up once or twice, once to pee and once probably because I had slept plenty.   Beautiful weather, around 55 degrees and so clear the stars are shining through the trees bright as spotlights.

Time to start the new day!


so recently retired (28 years of active duty Army, been in since I was 17 years old) and have my eldest graduating tomorrow from college with a degree in BioChem.  she’s graduating with honors, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.   

on a side-note, I just downloaded the WordPress app for keeping up with this blog, so maybe now we won’t go a year between posts!

visiting the USMA

I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks with about 30 senior Cadets at West Point (United States Military Academy, where some lucky college kids are turned into Army Officers). The students were IT/CS majors, enrolled in a class titled ‘Building Defensible Networks’ taught by LTC Raymond. Towards the end of the class, the students build a network (that they plan out) for the yearly CDX exercise – where their network is attacked by NSA Red Teams.

This CDX is a cross-service competition – the five military academies participate. Historically, the winners have primarily been USMA and USAFA (http://www.westpoint.edu/crc/SitePages/CDX.aspx). This year – USMA won.

More important than the winning though – these kids are sharp. I was absolutely amazed at the technical capability each of them displayed as they attempted to secure their network against the continual onslaught of NSA-RED from both outside and inside the network. Yup – part of the ‘game’ is there are red players INSIDE the network, who have workstations they must be allowed to visit web sites and run binaries from.

As I worked along these young professionals, I had a tendency to forget they were college kids, some younger than my daughter. From configuring Snort rules to detect new signatures, to writing a regex expression filter in their Cisco ASA to dump invalid DNS requests being used for covert channels, to proxy magic they did for mitigating some of the insider issue – every time I turned around I was seeing something that caused me to think to myself ‘Self, these kids really have the training and understanding to be a critical part of the cyberworkforce’.

It was obvious (at least to me) that these guys had the correct level of training to help combat the very real threat existing in the cyberspace domain.

If we can get the next piece of the puzzle figured out – talent management, making sure we put these guys (and others like them with the talent and skill to work in this domain) in the right jobs – if we can get that part right, we might win a lot more than the yearly CDX.

In any case – I definitely had a lot of fun mentoring the cadets at USMA, and look forward to coming across at least a couple of them again in my career.

Convert multiple-part.vmdk files into a single one

If you’re like me, you hate clutter (well, at least in your computer – if you saw my desk it would probably cause an aneurism).  Anyway, during my transition from VMWare Fusion to VirtualBox, I have a number of VMs with their virtual HDDs in separate 2GB parts.  There are a number of methods to get these into a single file, but so far the easiest method I’ve found is to use VMWare’s vdiskmanager tool.  Pretty simple little command line to convert – and I’m sure it does many other things – but for combining the multi-file .vmdk’s into single files, it looks like this (below is command line for Mac – Windows will be similar, but binaries are in a different location);

/Applications/VMWare\ Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-vdiskmanager -r firstfileofmultipart.vmdk -t 0 outputfile.vmdk

execute that from the command line and it will take about 2 minutes to convert a 10-20GB set of files.  It will throw a ‘invalid configuration file parameter’ error (at least on mine) – no idea what that’s about, but like many errors it didn’t affect anything and after I mounted the single file, the VM booted as expected.

Convert multiple *.vhdx files to *.vhd using PowerShell

Yesterday the VMWare Fusion 6 trial license expired on my MacPro, and I really didn’t feel like paying $49 for the upgrade, so I downloaded and installed Oracle’s VirtualBox.  So far, it’s meeting the needs pretty well and overall the transition has been pretty seamless.

Unfortunately, most of my ‘master drives’ (the drives I use to deploy my test environments with, that are already built) are all sitting on my Hyper-V servers.  Two choices – rebuild about a dozen machines (from WinXP to W2K12r2) or convert the .vhdx files into .vhd ones.  VirtualBox can use .vhd but seems to struggle with .vhdx.

Now, converting one at a time is easy enough, right?  A simple PowerShell command similar to –

convert-VHD -Path inputfile.vhdx -DestinationPath outputfile.vhd

This can do one at a time, but requires me to type a lot, and mess with having to keep track of which files I’ve converted (ok, I’m old, and don’t feel like remembering stuff).  So I set off to automating it by executing on a directory.  Pretty simple little foreach loop, with the added part of having to create one additional variable for the output file.

once you’re in the directory you want to convert, the script will look something like this;

# PS script to convert vhdx files to vhd

$dir = gci .\*.vhdx
foreach ($file in $dir) {
    $fileout = $file.basename + “.vhd”
    Convert-VHD -path $file.Name -DestinationPath $fileout

anyway, thought I’d share the 15 minutes of work I put into the script.  enjoy!

good old CMDKEY and Hyper-V….

The other day I hit another one of those ‘derp’ moments.  I run a number of Hyper-V servers around the house – one built on a mac-mini (love the hardware, hate the OS so it runs W2K12r2) that I use for infrastructure services, another on my Win8 machine, others scattered here and there.  So anyway, not all of them are in the Rising3agle domain, but I wanted to be able to use the Hyper-V MMC interface to access multiple servers at once.

So – multiple Hyper-V servers, running on W2K12r2 and Win8, no domain membership.

If you google-search on how to configure this, it quickly becomes confusing: talking about running scripts, or reconfiguring DCOM access, all kinds of security-lowering madness.  But buried deep inside of all this stuff is this helpful little command – CMDKEY.  Reference for it can be found here – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc754243.aspx

basically, if you have a Win8 machine running Hyper-V and want to connect to other Win8 or W2K12 machines running Hyper-V, all you have to do is use CMDKEY to add your credentials for the target, to the client you are connecting from.

so if I’m connecting FROM win8-client, TO W2K12-server, I open a command prompt on win8-client and run CMDKEY, adding the credentials for W2K12-server.

The technet link is real easy to understand – highly recommend reviewing it before using the command.  There are options such as leaving off the /password option to force a password prompt each time the creds are used, or the ability to use a smartcard.

But for most who just want to connect from one workgroup-machine running Hyper-V to another – throwing the creds into CMDKEY is a quick and easy fix.

the rest of the gobbly-gook you come across is mainly relevant only to W2K8 and such – but it will confuse you quicker than a gun control bill in the senate if you read it all

DHCP updating DNS A records, oh my!

so today while configuring the ‘lab-production’ network (aka – the home network) I was reconfiguring some of the service providing.

Specifically, I wanted to move my DHCP service off the router and over to the W2K12 server that’s already running.  Actual service move was easy (as expected) – just install the DHCP role on the server, create a scope that issues addresses not overlapping the ‘old’ router-defined scope, turn off router scope, turn on server DHCP scope.

Pretty easy right?

The actual intent for doing this was so that I could ping all of the machines in the lab-production network by name – so ping ‘wifey’ to hit the wife’s machine, for example.  A couple things I noticed;

1.  The DHCP scope (almost immediately) began filling with iPhones and iPads getting addresses.  Not sure what Apple does, but it doesn’t hold a lease very long – definitely worthy of checking into the ‘why’ on this (and can I get some sort of exploitation by executing a DoS on an existing DHCP server while standing up my own DHCP service, thus apple clients will pull an IP from me – and use me as their GW? {insert evil cackle here} )

2.  the only names I was seeing populate into DNS for records were the Microsoft boxes, and the Macbooks.  No iPhone/iPad etc records.

So – back to the DHCP server.  The long story short of it is – you have to put in some credentials for DNS records to be updated by a DHCP server (thank you Captain Obvious).  For some reason I was assuming since the DHCP and DNS roles were both on the same machine, it would update by default.

DHCP options

DHCP options



I took a couple screenshots to show – I’ll get them uploaded.  once I put creds in here, the DHCP server happily populated DNS with the A records I was looking for