My Daughters Charlotte and Izzy: A Basketball Journal Entry

Charlotte on the left and Izzy on the right. I’m holding my Father’s Day presents: Bird on the Left and KD on the right.

Many of you know the cycle: fall workouts on the court and in the weight room, the school season, and the travel season that follows in March, April and May. June is for high school team stuff and July is back to the travel circuit heading to places such as Louisville, DC, and Indianapolis. Since the basketball never stops, it’s tricky to find moments for reflection, goal setting, and starting a basketball journal such as the one I’m hoping for here. With the school year beginning, it seems as good a time as any to start the project. Up first: where (or is it who) are we now? 

I am an assistant coach for the girls basketball team at Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina, and I teach completely online writing classes as a lecturer at Appalachian State University. Teaching online means that I have a lot of flexibility about when I do the job and so am free for morning workouts and practices after school. I find I have way more time to prepare to coach than I ever did when I was teaching at a middle or high school.

I have two daughters. The oldest, Charlotte, is a high school sophomore. Eighteen months ago, as her last middle school season came to a close and the CDC was confirming the first case of Covid-19 in the United States, Charlotte set the goal of making the varsity team for her freshman season. We had a few weeks of travel basketball but then the season was cancelled. We couldn’t get into a gym, and so I hung a goal in our garage that could only be nine feet high because of the height of the ceiling.

Izzy posing with the Watauga graphic she made under our garage hoop. This is where our pandemic training began.

The girls and I worked on ball handling, agility, finishing, and post moves. Like a lot of other people, I invested in more weight equipment and as the weather warmed up, Charlotte, her sister Izzy, and I logged what now seems like an incredible four months of six days a week of outdoor workouts in our backyard and at Junaluska Park in Boone. We got up early to avoid the heat and tried to get our workouts in before the sun rose above the trees. A surprising number of people passed through the park each day, and we made many new acquaintances. Charlotte did reach her goal of making the varsity, and she started all twelve of our games during the pandemic-shortened season. I’m proud of what she accomplished.

Charlotte as a freshman playing for Watauga High School in Boone, NC

My youngest daughter Izzy is an eighth grader, and up until this past summer, I felt like she might just be along for the ride when it comes to basketball. When Charlotte and I had plans to workout, we’d always ask Izzy and she’d agree to go with varying amounts of enthusiasm. Although I tell her she’s always free to decline the offer, I’m not sure how free she could really feel to stay home. Charlotte would probably be the first to tell you that Izzy can pick up a ball handling move faster than she can and is more of a natural shooter, but over the years, I have just been unsure of how badly Izzy wants to work to improve.

Last season, for the first time in Izzy’s life, she was on a team where she didn’t play very much. It was the first time that our school system took the eight K-8 schools that feed into the high school and made a district wide middle school basketball team. The competition to make the team was tougher, and while Izzy did accomplish that, she rarely played in the games. Izzy didn’t say anything to me about not playing. When she’d hop in the car after a practice, she was always happy and chattering about things her teammates had done or funny things her coach had said. Izzy liked her teammates, her coach, and took pride about her team’s undefeated season.  

Izzy and Charlotte in Lentz-Eggers Gym at Watauga HS

What I did notice about Izzy in the weeks and months that followed her season was that Izzy started to go out and work in the backyard on her own. When Charlotte and I were gone for high school workouts, Izzy would join my wife Megan for Peloton workouts at the house. A player really can’t just decide one day to start working very hard on their game. A player has to also decide to get in shape. Working hard on your game takes a lot of cardiovascular fitness. Izzy became a more enthusiastic runner of the big hill outside of our house, and I no longer have to prod her to keep running all the way around the mile loop we run at Valle Crucis Park by our house. For most of Izzy’s life playing basketball, she could get by because she could handle the ball with both hands, shoot layups with both hands, and consistently make wide open shots. Like most basketball players, and probably all athletes and maybe anyone who pursues a goal in or out of sports, Izzy came to a point when what she was doing to prepare to play in games was no longer good enough for her to succeed on the floor. It’s one of the great things about playing sports. A challenge rises up; we have to work to meet it or give up. So far, it’s been a pleasure for me to watch Izzy respond to the challenge.

Not too long ago, Izzy hit a rough spot of missing a bunch of shots while doing a transition / run-the-sideline drill. “Keeping working,” she told herself. I jumped on her comment and told her it was one of the best things I’d ever heard her say in a workout. Charlotte and I have also latched onto the phrase and it’s become a simple mantra for the three of us. Keep working. Rough spots are coming on and off the court because that’s part of what it is to be human and that includes playing playing basketball: there are missed shots, turnovers, bad losses, and days that we struggle to bring energy to our work. We often don’t get the results we want as quickly as we expect. Izzy, Charlotte, and I will ride those up and downs together and, like Izzy says, we’ll keep working.

The Evil Reading Check Quiz

Through the experience of some of the education courses I took in graduate school and then during my time teaching at St. John’s University, I accepted the idea that giving a reading quiz was the wrong pedagogical move. For the first time in thirteen years of teaching composition, I have a textbook for the course. I face a question a lot of we teachers face: How will I entice the students to read?
One way I try and get students to read is that I read out loud a part of the text that will be assigned for the next class with hopes this will spark some interest. If I can find the writer online saying something interesting, I show a bit of that to the class. One of the concepts in our textbook is that “texts are people talking.” In prep for reading Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts,” we watched her TED Talk. I also offer some focusing questions to give the students an idea about why I have assigned the reading. For example, we read Richard Straub’s piece about working in peer groups, and I pointed out Straub asks nine questions related to responding to others’ writing. I ask the students to try and remember two of those questions and apply what he says to what they might do when in a peer review group. Those focusing questions become the material for the reading quiz.
The quizzes are two or three questions. I am not trying to trick anyone with the questions. I have pretty much given the questions before the quiz. I hope the students will try and wrestle with the ideas in the piece. Because I believe writing is thinking and to be more literate is to be more powerful in the world, I don’t think I am wasting the students’ time with the assignments.
In grading the reading quizzes, I see some students still aren’t reading. Sometimes they apologize on the quiz for not reading, and I try to write something positive back to them. I wonder if those students not reading will start. I also learn that many of my students are reading and trying to apply the ideas in the text to their thoughts on writing.
There has been a really fun surprise in my giving of these quizzes. Because my questions require a couple sentences worth of a response, I am starting to feel like I am passing notes with my students about the subject of writing. What I’m doing reminds me a little of high school life in the 80s when classmates used to pass notes. When I respond to the students’ answers and write notes back to them, I see I am in about 90 different mini conversations with writing as the main topic. I thought responding to the quizzes was going to be something boring I did for the purpose of trying to get the students to read so that our time together in class was more interesting. It’s been a nice surprise that the pieces of paper the students and I are passing back and forth are feeling more like conversations about writing.

Thesis Statements in Stories

I had the choice of a couple of different textbooks to use for one of the college writing courses I am teaching. Today, I’m reading in it about narratives and how stories should have a thesis statement. While I do think sometimes I can point to a sentence in some of the stories I love that captures what the writer might have hoped to convey to readers, I can’t support the idea that a story needs a thesis and that’s something that can always be found in a story and marked.
I remember teaching freshman high school students in Charlotte when I thought I was ignorant because I couldn’t find all of the points in the story for a plot diagram. I had to start writing for myself before I realized that all the points on the diagram weren’t in all of the stories that were in our textbook. I hadn’t yet realized that the people who put together the textbooks and wrote the state tests didn’t really understand stories because they weren’t people who tried to write stories anymore.
I also doubt that all writers have a point or purpose to the stories they start. I have talked with a lot of writers who don’t start a story without knowing the theme of it and their reason for writing, but I have also talked to a lot of writers–and usually I’m in this camp–who discover why they are writing during the process of composition. The theme or purpose for the writing is fleshed out while writing.

Stone Mountain Loop Near Roaring Gap, NC

Torg hiking journal notes for Stone Mountain Loop Near Roaring Gap, North Carolina. There is a video at the bottom of the post. 

Sentence from A Falcon Guide’s Hiking North Carolina book:

“The premier hike here is the Stone Mountain Loop, a 4.5 mile circuit of the summit that takes in the top of the dome, a spectacular waterfall, and views of climbers scaling the rock face” (Johnson 153).

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement

Hikers: myself, wife and daughters Charlotte age 12 and Izzy age 10 and our dog Indy.

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

We parked at lower parking area.

Total Distance Hiked: Because of a mistake we made, 5.91 miles, 2 hrs 32 mins and 25 seconds of hiking time. With stopping at top of Stone Mountain and bottom of falls we were on the trail just over 3 hours.

Our directions from Boone are at the end of this post. We drove to Stone Mountain Park from Boone mostly traveling on 421. After our hike, we came home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. We loved the hike for the old homestead, the spectacular views from the top of Stone Mountain, and for playing in the water at the bottom of the falls.

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

There were several buildings at the homestead. If walking is a challenge for any reason, there is a special road that can be used to park right by here.

Highlights: homestead, interesting climb over stone using steps and cable hand rails to top of Stone Mountain, walk along falls, playing in pool at bottom of falls, and ice cream at the Stone Mountain Country Store on the way home.

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

Possible negatives: there were A LOT of steps and one really steep climb depending which way you go to the highlights: either up the side of Stone Mountain or up the falls. We had trouble in a couple of spots following the trail. There are a lot of other hikes and loops within the park. The trail was pretty crowded and with lots of steps, cables, and bridges, less wild than some hikers might like.

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

It was a tough climb to the top but even Isabel said the views were worth it.

We Torgs highly recommend this hike!

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

Pick your poison: up the steps to the mountain or these to the top of the falls.

We took the John P Frank Parkway into Stone Mountain Park. No charge to enter the park. Keep to the John P Frank Parkway. I saw two ways to do the loop hike. You can park at the Upper Parking area or the Lower. We drove through the upper parking area and weren’t sure what to do. It was very crowded. There was one group of kids–maybe a youth group?–that numbered probably nearly 40 people. It was a beautiful Saturday in August and the whole park was pretty crowded.

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

The girls and Indy the dog were glad for a chance to cool off at the bottom of the falls.

We parked at the lower area. Both parking areas are large with restrooms and water. We hiked up to the Hutchinson Homestead. This was a really neat area with quite a few old buildings that were furnished appropriate to time period. There was a large meadow and expansive views of Stone Mountain.

It wasn’t clear where we should go. There was a high school aged attendant at the house. She probably didn’t understand what we were trying to do–walk the whole loop–and she directed to a road that went right back to the parking area from where we’d come. We didn’t figure this out for a long time.

What we should have done was continue past the buildings, across a large meadow adjacent to where people were going straight for the mountain to climb, and do the loop that way. What we did was mostly backtrack on a road by the trail and walk just over an extra mile.

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

It took everything Charlotte had to finish this hike!

Our route from Boone, NC;

  • 421 toward Deep Gap and Wilkesboro
  • Left on 16 N Old North Carolina Highway (turn at Wilkesboro ABC store)
  • R after Millers Creek Elementary School on Pleasant Home Church Road
  • At T, left onto Mountain Valley Church Road
  • At T, right on Sparta Road.
  • After Cross Roads Primitive Baptist Church (We actually didn’t see this and I was luck to spot Yellow Banks) take a left on Yellow Banks Road
  • At the T, just after Viking Pump and Munch (didn’t see this either and as a Torgerson was looking forward to it), left onto Traphill Rd.
  • Over the Roaring River (wasn’t roaring)
  • After Billings Auto Sales, the Alleghany Spur Road, and Holbrook House, left on John P. Frank Pkwy.
  • Stone Mountain Country Store gets good reviews. It was busy and good!

Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Settlement, Roaring Fork, North Carolina, Life in Boone

Ice cream at the Stone Mountain Country Store gave us a boost!

Home on Parkway: The Blue Ridge is accessible via Traphill Road to the east and then a left on 21 North.

Lots to see heading back to Boone but we were too tired!


Profile Trail to Foscoe Overlook North Carolina

Torg hiking journal. Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hikers: Myself, wife Megan, daughter Charlotte (age 12) and Isabel (age 10), dog Indy

Parking: Profile Trail Parking Lot off of 105 between Boone and Banner Elk. Near the Pedalin’ Pig.

Profile Trail, Grandfather Mountain, Banner Elk, Foscoe, hike, Life in Boone

Profile Trail Parking off 105 Near Banner Elk

Distance and Time Hiked: 2.45 miles to Foscoe Overlook. Out and back took us 2 hrs, 18 mins, 49 seconds. We stopped to play in the water, take pictures of bugs, and rest.

Highlights:  Water crossings, large boulders, varied terrain of roots, stones, dirt path, wooden steps, great workout

Lowlights: very steep, under the trees and not much of a view at the Foscoe overlook, at least on this day

Profile Trail, Grandfather Mountain, Banner Elk, Foscoe, hike, Life in Boone, Kavu

My wife Megan and daughter Isabel show off new Kavu bags.

We’ve lived in Boone for two weeks and so as a family we know we have a ways to go when it comes to our stamina and leg strength. This hike presented quite a challenge.

We started the hike knowing that if we went the full distance to the Grandfather Trail and Calloway Gap that we’d have to turn back because of ladders that we couldn’t traverse. We have done that trail from the other side of the mountain inside Grandfather Mountain property. Note, there is a fee to hike inside Grandfather Mountain Property.

Profile Trail, Grandfather Mountain, Banner Elk, Foscoe, hike, Life in Boone

One of many water crossings on Profile Trail.

Parking area for the Profile Trail is new and large with nice restrooms. Before starting we filled out the form for registration and placed it in the box. The trail is well maintained.

The hike starts off going down for about a mile. There is a dirt trail, a bridge, and quite a few wooden or stone steps.

I estimate about a mile until the stream/river crossings begin. The water and big boulders were the highlight for us. Unless you’re planning on going all the way to the top, the largest of the boulders wouldn’t be a bad spot to turn around and head back to car.

Profile Trail, Grandfather Mountain, Banner Elk, Foscoe, hike, Life in Boone

The big rocks were a highlight.

The path winds and is interesting. There were four groups near us and waiting around near the Foscoe Overlook Sign. All were a little disappointed with that spot. It was a rainy and foggy day but there is a lot of tree cover here. I think if we could have slogged it out another mile, we would have loved the top.

We did meet a woman who lived in the area who said it was her favorite hike.


Torg Hiking Journal