Appalachian Observations – Experiences and lessons learned from the perspective of a WV artist, engineer, and mountaineer. by Gabe R. DeWitt
On April 8th, I had the pleasure of shooting the COOPERS ROCK 50K & Half Marathon. It was a beautiful day and the stoke was high (even with the sub freezing morning temps). In typical WV spring fashion, Coopers Rock was covered with 3in of snow at 6am, and by 2pm it was 60°F and all the snow had melted. The photos below are a few that stood out, but here’s a link to the rest of the images from the race.
This is a rocky, challenging, and scenic trail race at Coopers Rock State Forest in north central West Virginia. The 50 km course covers nearly every trail on the south side of the forest, features several scenic viewpoints, and has 4000 feet of elevation gain. The half marathon course is a shorter version of the same trails and has 1500 feet of elevation gain.
Just had one of my photos pop up on National Geographic Adventure’s Facebook page. It’s the last one in the video.
we decided to go skiing in those part…
Notes from Shim
Warren C. Giles Trophy awarded to the winner of the NLCS (National League Championship Series)
Writing by Dana Shimrock
In the Spring of 2014, a representative of the National Baseball League contacted me. He had received a recommendation from someone familiar with my work who knew I had done some sports trophies and other larger commissions. He wanted to know if I was interested in designing a new Warren C. Giles trophy for the National Baseball League, and if I could submit some portfolio work for the executive committee to review. They then reviewed my portfolio and asked me to submit renderings for a new trophy. Once I completed the design proposals, I conferred with the MLB trophy committee to arrive at a final design and began getting to work.
The original Warren C. Giles trophy was created in 1967. The trophy stays with the winner of the NCLS (National League Championship Series) for the entire year, until the completion of the next baseball season, when it moves on to the home of the next winners of the NCLS.
When designing the piece, I wanted to pay homage to the original Giles trophy, and therefore maintained some of the original elements, while at the same time modernizing the trophy and creating my own artistic interpretation.
The original trophy had 16 columns to represent the 16 teams at the start of the League; but, that number kept changing, which was one of the reasons the League wanted a new trophy. Therefore, I retained some of the column design, but did not want those columns to represent a finite number, so they were placed on the 5 points of the home plate-shaped motif that I created.
The wooden baseball at the top of the original trophy was significant, so I included it in the design, but rather than wood it is cast it in bronze, then plated in nickel and 24 carat gold.
The original trophy was all square, but I wanted to create a more unique shape. I decided to not have a single right angle anywhere, and I chose to use the shape of home plate as the central motif. The plates were cut into aluminum to reduce weight, then plated in nickel and trimmed in black nickel. Many thanks to Mike Goetz of Augustine Die and Mold in Somerset, PA, and his workers, for their expertise in helping to design the infrastructure that makes the trophy strong enough to be handled by the wildly excited ball players that receive it!
All of the wood was Koa, the only true figured American exotic…The columns were turned on a lathe then capped with finials plated in nickel/24carat gold.
Now the really challenging part was the creation of the center piece that displayed baseball players in action poses. I wanted to retain the concept of action figures that were on the original trophy, but I did not want to have the normal scratch type engravings, so the hunt was on to find an engraver that would have the ability to create a process that would allow me to get the intaglio effect for the action player figures. Seven months into the project, I found an embossing die company, Metal Magic out of Phoenix, AR, and convinced them that we could work together to achieve the sharp detail I needed. They normally only work on embossing dies in flat surfaces of brass, so I had to convince them that if they could engrave what I designed, I could cut out the sides and solder them together for the final sculptural piece. It was the toughest soldering job I have ever attempted and after much nervous anticipation, it, thankfully, came out just the way I wanted it to look. After that central sculpture was assembled and finished, it was also plated in nickel/24 gold.
The base for the center structure was acid etched with the signatures of all the past presidents of the National League.
Working in, what I now call the “longest-EVER slide into home plate” I was definitely pushed to the limits of my abilities and patience. The learning curve I experienced left me with a new found sense of confidence in the fact that “it can be done” with enough perseverance and passion, no matter how difficult and challenging the job, and that is a gift that will stay with me. Not to mention the thrill of seeing the new Warren G. Giles trophy raised in the air by Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, after the Cubs triumphed over the LA Dodgers 5-0 in the historic game 6 of the NLCS. This was the first time the Cubs have earned a trip to the World Series since 1945! I like to think maybe the new trophy was a good luck charm and helped to break the 70 year long drought the Chicago Cubs endured before winning the 2016 National League Championship Series. If the Cubs win the World Series, it will be their first championship since 1908!
A few weeks back I got the chance to meet an amazing local wood artist, Tom Shimrock (Shimbo). I was invited out to his art studio to grab some shots of the latest piece of Shimrock Wood Art. The recently completed National League Championship Series Trophy… before he shipped it off to New York.
Now that the Trophy has been awarded to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, after their triumph over the Dodgers two days ago, I thought I’d share Shimbo’s triumph in the creation of such an amazing piece of work.
There’re so many intricacies…from the Koa wood structure to the gold relief carving. Below is a small collection of images, along with the NLCS trophy hand-off video to the Cubs
On Sunday the plan was boating the Cheat Canyon! ..and I was in a raft with two of my friends, Lydia and Dani. Though, I was really itching to hard-boat as I had recently found some success on the Cheat Narrows with my friend Everett’s Wavesport Recon, being able to roll it with ease (onside & offside…it’s a magical boat).
We didn’t have the Recon on Sunday, but I found that another friend, Matt was going to tow a play boat with his shredder for surfing in Big Nasty. I had hard-boating fever since my last trip, so I asked if he minded if I went down in his play-boat. I asked quite confidently, feeling that I was ready for the undertaking that is hard-boating the Cheat Canyon.
In the Hard-boat:
The play-boat was much different in the water than I imagined, and compared to the Recon I had a very hard time rolling it. I swam once at the end of the first large rapid, and was a little shaken up by how I couldn’t roll the boat when I needed to.. but, I thought no, I can figure this thing out, and gave it another try… and down the river we went. The next larger rapid was more complex, and I was the only hard-boat among 3 inflatables…So I picked a line that looked …well, not good. I was headed right into a curling hydraulic that consumed me and my boat..I had a good breath though, and tried rolling back up, failing twice, but getting close with another breathe each time. On the 3rd attempt at rolling, I reached out to brace off the surface of the water, but at the same time I went over a spillway in the rapids, my right arm extended to far and smacked down into the next tier of rapids. Under water I heard the crunch/crackle and a tear, as my should slipped free of it’s socket…I suddenly lost all use of my right arm. Upside down, underwater, and with one arm I tried to jettison the boat. Forgetting to pull my skirt, I got caught by it’s elastic embrace before I was able reach it with my working/swimming arm to release it. I seemed to stay under for a little while before it was done with me. Then, the river kindly reset my shoulder back in it’s socket. Suddenly able to use my right arm again, I made my way into an eddy where I was rescued by a raft of friends.
Maimed, ego flattened, and feeling thankful to be alive, I sat humbled by the river. The realization of how much knowledge I had yet to earn and learn came over me… The Cheat Canyon is big water, and we were running on the low side that day. From a raft, the large white water is much easier to manage, which warped my perspective of the Canyon. My girlfriend Tara had warned me of the magnitude and technicality of the canyon, even when the water is low.
“The burned hand teaches best.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien.
The following collection of images were taken post injury while riding princess in Dani and Lydia’s raft (save the first two). I think these photos are a good testament to the products of staying positive after unexpected/unfortunate events, and also the support of great friends.
The irony is that on Saturday evening I took a jaunt on my bike through White Park (prior to boating Sunday ) and thought the whole time that I was going to break or dislocate something if I wan’t careful. My biking skills are only so so, & going over large logs was simply me asking to hurt myself…so I didn’t. I just cruised around, or hopped off and ran over them… and it was a good day. I need to learn to listen to my intuition more, and crosswalk some of that logic into areas where my ego has set up shop.
An underwater journey with Jim Snyder into the mysteries of squirt boating. …from an evening with friends along the Cheat River
“Squirt boating originally evolved from slalom kayaks. Racers found that if they let the upstream hip drop into the current and slide the stern of the boat under water, they could decrease the amount of time required to make large degree turns (90+ degrees). West Virginia kayaker Phil Coleman dubbed it squirt because of the way the boats squirted forward with extra speed thanks to the trapped buoyancy of the stern and the shape of the hull and deck. It is analogous to squeezing a pumpkin seed in between your fingers and having it shoot out away from you.
After this original maneuver was developed, a number of paddlers noticed that squirting was a lot of fun and introduced a new method of playing on the river. Squirts allowed the boats to get vertical even in flat water. The problem was that the predominant kayak designs of the 1980s were not conducive to doing squirts. Most kayaks at the time were more than 10 feet long and had a volume greater than 70 gallons (260 liters). Jess Whittemore, a kayak designer, designed the first chopped boats based on race boat designs that were intended to squirt. Then, one fairly well known paddler, boat designer, and paddle maker by the name of Jim Snyder decided to try and create a shorter boat that was designed to squirt that could also be used for running and playing on the river. The result, after many years of trial and error, was a radically low volume boat.
Squirt boating is slowly becoming more and more popular. Because it has the best of both worlds, since certain ones are very good at doing tricks in (Underdawg, Hellbender) and others are very good at doing Mystery moves in (Shred, Kor) and some are just as good as doing both (Funk, Angst.) Also most squirt boats are very good at surfing.” ~wiki