Monday, March 30, 2009

monday the 30 day I ffecthed my wifes mare

This week, in between hikes, when the rain was falling or threatening to fall I've been hanging out with Thomas Minor. One of the first people to keep a record of life in Stonington, Ct. Minor records his monthly activities from 1653-1684, as he clears farms, hunts, raises a family, deals with local politics, and does every day things. Intended only for his own record keeping the entries are a bit terse but they do remind me of some tweets you read these days. And reading between the lines you do get a sense of what life was like.

For instance - here what he recorded for March of 1668:

the .6. day Thomas Tracie and leaffingwell was heare the .7. dai I branded .2. Coults [colts] I sowed hemp & pease in the orchard sabath day the .8. day: sabath day the 15. The 13. I was at mr palmes I had A barell of mallases [molasses] wensday the 18. we made an End between Jossepth & Marie Averie monday the 30 day I ffecthed [fetched] my wifes mare and 26. day Thursday we trained fryday .31.

It was while starting to research the history of Barn Island that I came across the diary. Surprisingly enough there are a few others kept by people who lived in that area around that time. Venture Smith, Joshua Hempstead (1711 To November, 1758), and Minor's son Manassah keeps one from 1696 to 1720. The person I wish had kept a diary, Thomas Stanton, was apparently too busy translating and trading with the natives to write anything down. He certainly sounds like an interesting guy and one who's history is closely connected to the Barn Island area.

The diary is available for free through the Internet Archive:, or you can buy a hardcover reprint through amazon.The Diary Of Thomas Minor, Stonington, Connecticut: 1653-1684 (1899)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Carolina Management Area

The quality that makes Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
the most-loved book of the AT (Appalachian Trail) crowd is not that it just describes a fantastic hike, but that it describes that and all the other things that make a walk a hike; the history, geology, plants, animals and people that you meet along that hike. I have never laughed so hard, nor so nervously as when he discussed the Bear issue, nor appreciated the history of the Appalachian people, the chestnut blight, or the community that develops among the thru-hikers, until I read that book.

This past weekend S and I hiked more trails in Arcadia and in the Carolina Management Area, again with the guidance of Ken Weber's Weekend Walks in Rhode Island: 40 Trails for Hiking, Birding & Nature Viewing, Fourth Edition. Ken (we've spent so much time together lately we've become friends) does a great job of picking interesting loop hikes and providing useful maps and written directions to keep even the most directionally-challenged hiker on the trail. He also points out the locations of abandoned cellars, forest cemeteries and the occasional outstanding tree, however, I'd suggest a few more additions.

  • Geology - Rhode Island has had an intimate relationship with the glacier that spread over North America a few years ago leaving drumlins, glacial moraines, erratics, and kettles. Many of these which one runs into while hiking.
  • Plants - I love trees. Especially the big tall ones. Fagus grandifolia, Quercus alba, and my personal favorite, Liriodendron tulipifera Give me a virgin forest and I'm speechless, heck a few hundred years of unchecked growth will silence me for minutes. And then there is the Hemlock. A beautiful, majestic member of the pinus family that is under attack by the Woolly Adelgid. Saturday we walked for 2 miles through a forest of dying Hemlocks. Once tall, regal giants, some over 3 feet in diameter, now bald. We crawled over the littered remains in the understory. Here and there a small white pine poked through the brush but it was all very sad and all needing a few lines to explain the life story of our long-loved plants.
  • History - One cannot walk more than a few miles anywhere in New England without running along a stone wall, a cemetery or an abandoned house or stone cellar. I see those and I see a glimpse of the people who once lived here. Maybe it's the historian in me, maybe it's really the romantic, but I love to stand at the threshold, look around at the lay of the land, the run of the stonewalls, the probable site of the barn, the apple orchard, the lane to town, and think of what it was like to live here when they did. What that area did for them, and what nature is doing with it now. Every hike book should include the history of the area.
Back to the Carolina Management Area. It's a great place to hike. It has everything. Fields. Trees (big ones). Cemeteries. Abandoned farms. Oh, and a trout stream (if you're into that sort of thing)

Of course Ken isn't putting out any new editions, and I doubt I'll get around to it. But it's always nice to dream.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Arcadia Wildlife Management Area

This past weekend, with temperatures in the 60's, and snow on the ground, we headed to nearby Arcadia. It's a great place to hike with over 30 miles of trails wandering over 13,817 acres. We hiked the Mount Tom and Shelter Trails through beautiful pine forests and up onto ledges looking out over the whole snow-blanketed state. We also bagged two of Rhode Island's 400 fters. We, or mostly I, also pondered the existential question - is there a single definitive map of the trails?

We've been using Weekend Walks in Rhode Island: 40 Trails for Hiking, Birding & Nature Viewing, Fourth Edition as our Rhode Island hiking guide. It's a very good guide to the best trails and it certainly did a good job of pointing out the trails, and trail highlights for both weekend hikes. The maps, however, for the trails, just aren't complete.

Bill's Wild Outdoors posts some maps of Arcadia, divided into North and South by RT 165. - but all the trails there don't match the ones on the ground.

The Rhode Island New England Mountain Biking Association also posts North South Maps of Bike trails superimposed on topo maps:

But all in all, or rather my anal-retentive love of good maps aside, Arcadia is a great place to hike, and even more so when you've got the best hiking buddy ever.

The 400 fter's Club - Hiking Rhode Islands' Mountains

While small in size and low in height, the state of Rhode Island is plenty diverse in geography. From drumlins to erratics, from pine barrens to dense hardwood forests there is plenty to see, plenty of places to hike. But sometimes, hiking aimlessly, wandering hither and yon gets a bit umm, aimless. Especially for the more goal oriented of us hikers. And so it is with the acheivement oriented in mind that the 400 fter's club was born.

Can't make it to New Hampshire?
Not in shape (yet) for the big ones?
Leery of sudden blizzards?
Want to hike but have to get to Mom's for dinner by 6:00?

Go Peak Bagging in Rhode Island!

A list of the 50 heighest peaks (all above 400 ft) and their locations is at:

Still to do:
  1. Determine the patch design. -I'm nominating a chicken climbing a hill
  2. Select award dinner location
  3. Compose detailed peak criteria - i.e a peak must be 20' lower/higher than the nearest peak...
  4. Compose fancy excell spread sheet for recording peak, date hiked, trail taken, etc.
  5. OH - and hike the darn hills.
PS I've got Mt. Tom and Penny Hill

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Return to Piney Island

Funny to think that less than two weeks ago I was walking around in a t-shirt where I was now skiing.

This time however, I remembered to bring a camera so I can share a bit.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Adventures in a Recession

The defining characteristic of the latest adventure is that unlike others, this one comes to you. Most adventures involve making a plane reservation, driving a car, or at the very least getting on a bike, but this one, this one I don't have to do anything but sit and watch it flow over me and my fellow adventurers. And folks we're all in this one together.

Technically an economic recession is defined as:

"a significant decline in [the] economic activity spread across the country, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP growth, real personal income, employment (non-farm payrolls), industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."

Personally I'd define it as:

"a period in which the general population makes significant changes to their daily habits in reaction to the feeling that "holy s$%t, we could/have loose/lost our jobs/savings/homes at any minute."

The noted changes vary greatly, and include but are not limited to:

1. forming facebook groups entitled "If I get laid off I'm going to be a gypsy"
2. going back to school
3. leaving a satisfying, but low paying job for a higher paying but not so cool one
4. selling off your personal hedge fund
5. selling off some of your toys (anyone want to buy a yakima bike rack?)
6. shopping at Walmart.
7. checking out books from the library instead of buying them
8. watching more tv, going out less.
9. pirating music
10. spending more time online...making lists.