Sunday, December 11, 2011

Carter Doom?

Considering that for this, our third attempt on Carter Dome, we hadn't hiked a peak in over 6 months and the weather forecast was borderline blizzard/ice storm, there was a good chance we might not be reaching the summit  of our 44th 4000fter.  But we were prepared with microspikes, snowshoes, down and synthetic jackets, I had a new pair of Garmont Momentum Mid GTX Winter Boots, and a free weekend.

We were at the 19 Mile Brook Trailhead at 7am Saturday morning. There was a light snow, the temps were in the mid 30s, and all the mountains were covered in thick clouds. But at least they weren't predicting a blizzard like the were April 1, 2011when we made our last attempt on Carter Dome. Nor was it 2 pm and 85 degrees, as it was when we attempted it in May 2010, after SD's pack broke.  We had to make an emergency pack purchase and change the itinerary.

I was a bit apprehensive. Not so much about the hike, I realized, as about the possibility of not making it on the 3rd attempt.  How do you keep trying to do the same thing over and over again without succeeding?

We broke trail through the snow until about half a mile from Zeta Pass when we passed by a guy doing both North Carter and Carter Dome.  It was about this time that the snow became heavier and started to build up so it was good to have someone in front. At Zeta Pass however, he went North, and we went South plowing through 6 inches of powder. Just not deep enough for the snowshoes. The wind picked up and the temperature was dropping, but that was offset by occasional glimpses of blue sky. Maybe it would clear up by the time we reached Carter Dome? Because at this point, one thing was clear, we were less that 1/2 mile from the summit, and this time we were going to make it!

And we did! Guess you can just keep trying until you get it right. You could tell the view would have been nice if we weren't in the low clouds. You could also tell that within half an hour it would be. But the wind was blowing, and with the temperature dropping it was too cold to hang around. We decided to head back via Mt. Height which by the time we were there had some awesome views along Carter Ridge to the North. Mt. Washington was still in the clouds Pinkham Notch spread out below.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Homeowning. A Smoking Adventure?

What constitutes an adventure? SD and I disagree.  He insists that renovating this new house qualifies (he also insisted in adding a few comments - they are in green). I insists life is an adventure, lets enjoy it and take advantage of it.  (although most time he says it's "something to get through". I contend that having done more than 8 houses between the two of us, it doesn't.  What a stick in the mud.

That no matter what the house looked like when we saw it that rainy day in August, we both knew what it could be and that getting it from there to here and forward was something we would do, it might even be fun, but its something that really didn't qualify as an adventure. I insist it qualifies, (it is if you believe life is an adventure, loosen up!), because it's the first one we've done together, and because we're both a good 15 years older than the last time we did it.

C. K Chesterton says "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered."(That a recipe for considering all life's trials and tribulations an adventure, it's all in your attitude!!)

So what then is inconvenient? SD's continuous whining, his non-stop ideas for the location of the half-bath?  Making plans is inconvenient? 

He feels that his adventure lies in doing the renovation with someone like Me. You are so lucky, as am I, how much better than that can it get? Life sucks, making an adventure out of it makes it better!!!!!

This morning I walked out to the compost bin we built two weeks ago and filled up last weekend. And it was smoking!! Actually smoking. That baby was burning! And not just in the middle. As i turned the outside leaves into the center more smoke rose. An upturned clump of grapes was almost shooting flames.  I have built many a compost pile in my time. Most molded into usability. Only one, and that one was half horse manure, ever burned. But now, with the help of the lovely SD, things are smoking (so life isn't an adventure but the compost pile gets you excited?). 

This house thing with SD just may turn into an Adventure after all.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Oyster farming combines two of my favorite things, farming and being on the water. Oh, and Oysters!  Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farmis an ode to all three. Written by Erin Murray, a woman who spent one and half years farming oysters at the Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury, Mass does a great job of describing the the highs and lows of the life. The mud, the cold, the phyiscal demands, the crew comraderie, the taste of freshly picked oyster, and the pride of growing good, sustainable food.

I'm a big fan of aquaculture, for a number of reasons
, and it really bugs me that most people equate aquaculture with agribusiness and all it's pollutants, and cheep labor practices, when aquaculture (at least in the US) is really about sustainable, local farming. I love the role oysters play in the food chain, in the filter chain, and in the local economy - and Shucked does a good job of explaining those relationships.

Murphy also briefly talks about aquaculture as a means of sustaining the New England Fisherman tradition as most of the Oyster farmers that sell to Island Creek are either ex or part-time fishermen/lobstermen. Which is key in my mind. Why let the big fishing fleets of Stonington, New Bedford, and Gloucester die off as the wild fish stock is fished out, why not set those seafaring, ocean-wise folks to growing? (aside from their major  aversion to transition from hunters to farmers, that is)

The only really big disappointment I had in the book was that she failed to mention the entire, vibrant, tasty, New England oyster farming culture. Island Creek is in no way the only Oyster farm in New England. In fact, I've toured a number of New England oyster farms, and tasted a hell of a lot oysters and not a single Island Creek. Nor does she mention (or know?) that there are lots of other ways to grow them.

Oh, and that brings up another point. The book includes a number of great oyster recipes, but really, seriously folks, isn't the best way to have oysters raw, slurped right out of the half-shell?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reading the River - North East Style

 It's amazing how fast you can kayak down river, with the outgoing tide,and a west wind at your back. But the real question is how long it takes to get back to the launch site? And will you still be having fun when you get there?

We put in at the East Street boat launch in Ipswich for a paddle east to the sea. It was a beautiful fall day. High tide had just passed, so both the river and the tide were with us. And have I mentioned that the wind was too? From the boat launch to the sea, the river runs approx 2 miles through an estuary/bay, but the channel is well defined. It also meanders with several bends and reaches. By the time we came to Plum Island Sound the flow rate was amazingly strong and we pulled onto the beach watching as a lone kayaker fought their way through the rip and into the river, and contemplated the trip back.

After a quick Shot Bloks refuel, we headed up river, up tide, and up wind. It was more frustrating than hard. Paddling and not moving, is such a bummer. But as we started tucking into the inside bank of the meander then paddling hard across the reaches to tuck in, once again on the inside bank of the next up river meander we started making good progress.

 Although I wasn't walking the experience reminded me of walking up the Virgin River in Zion National Park. "As the water rushes down you have to figure out where the water is running deepest and fastest." and get to the other side. Figuring out where and when to cross is almost as challenging (in a fun way) as the paddling.

Turns out it takes approx 3x the times and effort to go back but the effort in no way lessens the fun. The paddle out was just as fun as the back, with the added challenge. The day just as beautiful. the company just as good.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Tale of Two Kayaks

They were the best of kayaks, they were, well, both the best of kayaks, but for different reasons. Just as Eliza was settling into her new home, a old new comer showed up. Build by SD back in 1992, stored and loved by good friends, and known by those who've kayaked her as the Grey Ghost, she weighs in at 25 lbs with a length of 14ft, and is of stitch and glue construction. Eliza is 14. 5 ft., weighs 49 lbs and is of rotomolded plastic.

We took the both of them down to Lynch Park, along with two sets of paddles, a 210 cm Bending Branches Breeze and the Grey Ghost's pine, Inuit-inspired 9ft paddle. I then proceeded to paddle four laps around the buoy a half-mile off shore.  First the Grey Ghost with my Bending Branches paddle, then the Inuit paddle, then I switched boats and took Eliza around with the Inuit paddle, then the last lap with the Bending Branches paddle.

SD's pine/Inuit paddle is noticeably both heavier and longer that any paddle I've ever used. It also has a much narrower blade. Aside from the weight, I really liked it.. Just  very little effort had either boat moving out, and building momentum with ease. Turning was a bit more complicated with the longer, thinner paddle but some of that may have been from lack of experience.

When I switched to the Bending Branches paddle, the lightness was welcome, but the shortness of the stroke suddenly felt unnatural and stunted. After using both paddles I decided the ideal one would be light but long. At least 20 cm longer than what i had, and with a narrower blade. (Hint: Werner Athena  )

Kayak comparison was not so easy, not so conclusive. While both are roughly the same length, and width, their weight, construction materials and hull shapes are very different, and it comes through in the paddling. SD's kayak was known as the Grey Ghost because of her off white color, but I felt she paddled more like a glass slipper. So light, seemingly delicate, and super responsive. There was no give in her, she moved out, no energy was lost between paddle and boat. She was also very low in the water, and. I'd guess in a heavier swell, she'd skim right through, rather than over, the waves. As it was she easily held a steady course, even downwind.  In the hands of an expert paddler, and with a not-so expert on a very calm sea, I suspect she'd be a dream.

But, I'm no expert paddler and Eliza was more forgiving. Not so responsive, and not so balanced, but more comfortable. She took a little more effort to get under weigh, but she went just fine.

So for now, I guess I stick with Eliza.  I guess, but boy is that little slipper seductive.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

What a Difference a Month Makes

Only one month ago we purchased our lovely little clashingly decorated home. After only 30 days of wall-paper stripping, hole puttying, painting, floor sanding, tile cleaning, cabinet scrubbing and a heavy dose of decorating awesomeness we now have the beginnings of a lovely little home. And here's the proof:

Dinning Room - Before

Sitting Room - After

Living Room - Before

Living Room - After

Kitchen - Before

Kitchen - After

Entry Way - Before
Entry Way - After

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?

While renovating and moving into a house no longer qualifies as an adventure (been there, done that about 8 times!) people ringing your doorbell (2 tones for the front, 1 for the side) and dropping off welcome-to-the-neighborhood cards, soup, and cupcakes certainly is. As is having the mailman introduce himself as the neighbor who lives in that house "over there, the one with the red garage door." All this is very new, at least for me as an adult. I do believe Noank, the town where I grew up, was much like this but being a kid, I was oblivious to all the adult-doings. Since then I've lived in a number of places and can recall only one time a neighbor offered a welcome gift. Sure, we'd eventually meet and talk, during a snow storm, or on the stairs, while doing yard work, or after our kids starting running together but generally neighbors pretty much stayed inside their physical and social boundaries

This neighborhood is proving very different. I had only just recovered from a real live paper boy sighting (complete with white canvas sack and orange shoulder strap) when a posse of 10-12 year olds rode by on scooters and the neighbor across the street walked up the driveway and introduced himself.

Now the Sesame Street song that is now on continual loop. This is indeed an adventure into a strange, perhaps wonderful, perhaps a bit-too-friendly-for-a-Nutmegger, world. But as SD always says, we'll see. As the years go by in this latest adventure I suspect I'll be able to resist the urge to put on a dress and apron while cooking,and leaning over the fenced to gossip with a neighbor, on the other hand I could ace the lawn and garden competition.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Do America

By day 6 of the Seattle/Oregon trip I had Mark Knoftler's “Do America” on continuous play. It seemed like we were going from place to place, hitting the high/tourist spots and with the newly invented BBB scale  I felt like I had a good feel for three new areas.

Ashland, Oregon is a full-on BBB triple threat!  With the Standing Stone and Caldera micro brew pubs less than three blocks from each other, the Bloomsbury independent bookstore and bikes, from sleek racing to around-town cruisers, almost as prevalent as pedestrians it's a beautiful thing. Added to all that is a great used book store, fantastic hiking, fruit -  luscious pears, plums, blackberries, etc, growing everywhere like weeds, and  friendly people,and its a town I could really spend some time in.

Jacksonville, 7 miles East of Ashland, looks good at first sight. Neat, tidy 19th century houses, large sidewalks, and a decent coffee shop. There are a number of bikes in town but you soon notice they are only riding through town. There's neither a bike shop, nor brew pub.  Out of 15 different shops, not a single bookstore, used or otherwise, and while the restaurants offer locally grown food, their selection of Oregon beers was limited. A very sad, missed opportunity for a town.

And then there is Seattle, a town once noted for its impressive coffee shop penetration, but now has even more sushi restaurants.  Tourist traffic has also increased in the last decade and the big independent bookstore recently moved from Pioneer Square, North and up to the Capital Hill district. It is a well-stocked, vibrant, if singular store.

Bikes, and bike lanes are everywhere in Seattle - as is a bike-friendly transit system. But somehow you get the sense that the idea is to get bikes in and out of, not around town. Seattle boasts a great outdoor recreation ethic, but all that recreation happens outside of Seattle. It's like a commuter city, a city where everyone lives and the commuting it to the mountains, rivers, and ocean around them.

And the beer? Hmmm. I really can't recall anything remarkable about the beer selection in the restaurants, and didn't see a brewery although google maps does show one, it too is in the Capital Hill district, not Seattle proper.

All in all, I guess I too view Seattle as a commuter town. A decent place to go to Do America and find other BBB towns like Ashland.

Friday, October 28, 2011

We Walked Among Them

You knew photographs never did them justice but you never know how much, or rather, how little, until you are actually there with them. In the redwoods, the forest is the trees. Huge, massive trunks that you just can't love enough, you hug them, but can't even manage to encircle them 1/3 of the way. You try to photograph them, but can't get far enough away from one to get it in the camera window. At first they are overwhelming, and bring you (me) to tears. Once you've spent a little time with them, it begins to feel just right

We asked the Ranger for a good 5-6 mile hike to see a really big tree (as if we weren't already surrounded!). He pulled the park map out and began highlighting the various hikes and trees in great detail. We decided to hike the 5.4 mile Boy Scout Tree Trail. After a quick trip to the foggy shore of the Pacific Ocean, the mists which make the existence of giant trees possible, we drove west up into the redwood forest. Off a dirt road that often narrowed to one car width between massive tree trunks, we found the trail head and began hiking. The Ranger had shown us a picture of The Boy Scout Tree, a black and white, circa 1920 image of ten boy scouts gathered at the base and climbing up to through the crotch of a massive 'double' trunk tree and seeing it in person seemed as good a destination/excuse as any to walk amongst these trees. Because really, that is what I wanted to do – just be there in this new forest with them.

It takes 3000 years for a redwood to reach maturity. The forest we were walking through was much older. The top of Mt Mazama blew off 12000 years ago,forming Crater Lake, the Cascades had been growing for millions of years, and the White Mountains, my backyard stomping ground, had formed 124 to 100 million years ago. Walking among the redwoods, the youngest of them all, I felt not only small, but also quick. A blip. And it both pissed me off that for the most part, people had felt they had the right to decimate the trees, and the earth, and it also felt like a big joke. Man's existence is a blip on this massive time scale where 3000 year old trees are but a second, where one volcano can bury an entire ugly city in one good blow, and no matter how much we try and mess it up, nature, the planet, the universe, gets the last laugh. If we're smart, if we can be comfortable with the meaningless of our part in all this, we can walk amongst it, and know, that that, in and of itself is enough.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who Wants to Go to Crater Lake?

[Catch up post from last month]

Around 5700 BC Mt. Mazama blew its top and left behind a big hole, a really big, big hole and this now the bluest lake I've ever seen.

We began this trip with breakfast and pie at Beckie's, a diner on the side of Route 62 described by most tourists guides as a Must, and reviewed, with varying degrees of compliments on Yelp, and TripAdvisor. The most notable thing about Beckie's on the day we were there was the continuous stream of bicyclists stopping there for pie and sandwiches. After watching a dozen filter through the place we discovered they were on a 10 day organized tour around and up the coast of Oregon . Their destination, like ours, was Crater Lake. A 37 mile ride seemed a bit tame to us but hey, it was their vacation.

SD and I pulled out of the parking lot in our rental Hundi and soon turned right and up rt 62 to the park. And up. For 30 miles we drove up to the rim of a volcanic lake often passing the bike riders, spinning, later struggling in low gear, we had seen at Beckie's. Once we entered the park, the road became much steeper as it wondered up switchbacks with views off to other mountains. Mt Theisen to the North, Mt Shasta to the South.

We parked at the rim and took the trail to Mt. Garfield. Hiking up alongside the lake, the view more amazing at every turn. Views that would even be worth a day long bike ride straight up a mountain!

Who wants to go to Crater Lake? I do! I could spend hours and hours there and never not be impressed by each new view...and come to think of it, it would make for some amazing kayaking!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The BBB Scale: a proposal for town assessment

When bicycling through Holland Amy and I quickly learned that the first stop in any town should be at the VVV (tourist information stop). The VVV is the place to get info on the town. Not only can you get info on campings, bathrooms, bike routes, but you can also get a feel for the town. In the States, it's not so easy but while in Seattle last month,  I decided that  the tenor of a town can be determined by looking into three factors; Bikes, Books, Beer. These three valuable indicators are indicative not only for their literal value but also for what information they tell about the town.

The ideal town would have a ratio of people to independent bookstores of 1:200,000. These bookstores would carry titles by local authors, have a large section of high-quality local history books, sponsor author talks and book groups, and be generally supportive of book culture.

Not a Bike Lane - notice cars
The high scoring town would also have a thriving bike-commuter population as evidenced by real bike lanes, not the suicide lanes such as in Boston, and plentiful and secure bike storage. Support of bike commuters is not just in and of itself important but also indicates a culture that supports outdoor recreation and is trying to make a dent in the U.S. car culture.

And finally good beer, or more to the point, micro-breweries, would be a celebrated by the perfect town. This important aspect of the BBB scale measures not only the actual presence and support of microbreweries, but also the prevalence of micro-brews on tap at the local bars - both high and low dollars. High support of micro brew culture is an indicator of local support for alternative, small businessmen, and locavors, all desirable qualities in a town. A symptom of a town that is proud of its accomplishments and people and can have fun doing it.

In the end, that is what it's all about, trying to find the town that is the most fun (Even if it's my definition of fun!) and that town has bikes, books, and beer!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Biking, Bainbridge Island and Blackberries

After the second brilliant sunny day of this trip and the 8th consecutive sunny Seattle day, I'm beginning to suspect that all those continuous rain stories about the Pacific Northwest are told in order to keep Californians and Easterners away. Another thing that would be attractive, if you knew, and they've never mentioned, are the blackberries. You know those rather largish black berry bundles that grocery stores sell in tiny pints for $3.99? Those same berries, or rather, a more luscious, ripe, version of those berries grown EVERYWHERE in the Pacific Northwest.

I first noticed them, with the total disbelief of a blackberry deprived Northeasterners, as we were riding our bikes just outside of Bainbridge. We'd taken the 9:20 ferry, arrived just a little before 10:00, rented some horrendous rental bikes (I now get why some people don't like to ride bikes, I wouldn't either if this way my experience) and immediately pedalled out to circumnavigate the island. After grinding through 6 gears and 2 chain rings up a hill, we were speeding down when I noticed that all those bushes crowding the side of the road were overflowing with blackberries. I braked. SD swore, almost ran into me, and narrowly avoided another broken collarbone which may be the reason he was not as impressed as I was. There were blackberries everywhere.

At least they sure looked like blackberries, but what were blackberries doing on the side of the road? Unpicked by humans, untouched by birds, unnibbled by rodents? I glanced up the road to see if anyone was watching, any cars approaching. The coast was clear so I picked and ate one. At this point I was expecting that perhaps they just looked like blackberries but were infact some insidiously disguised poison fruit. But oooh, they tasted like black juicy sweetness itself. I picked another and handed it to SD, hoping it would justify his close encounter with 3 months of intense shoulder pain. I'm not sure it did, but he did smile. We ate some more, me still glancing furtively around wondering when some angry farmer would appear waving a shot gun, and then we rode off.

Up over the next hill there were more roadside berries, and up the next hill, and down the other. (In addition to berries there were an unexpected number of hills on this island!) Sometimes the bushes looked so ripe and full I tried, but just could not pedal by. SD was now riding a good 100 ft behind me so when I cried “Berry Break!” he would have enough braking distance. At one patch I was literally surrounded by blackberries, so many berries, so little hunger.

Talking about this later with Pacific Northwesterners, transplants, and other visitors, I learned this first encounter with blackberries was typical. That they are in fact so plentiful as to be considered an invasive weed. The bushes are everywhere, in highway medians, on the side of the LinkRail tracks, in vacant warehouse lots, in parks, everywhere.

Strangely enough, they still sell in Seattle grocery stores for $3.99 pint.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Swimming with the Salmon, Hanging with the Harbor Seals

Most people go to Anacortes to see the Orcas. And I admit, that would be cool, but on Friday I went to Anacortes to see the Salmon and the Mussels, or really, the Salmon and Mussel farmers.

Riding to the Salmon Farm
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a farmer. But being raised in a coastal fishing village, farming seemed remote, exotic and impossible. Little did I know, I could have been a fish or seafood farmer (there presently is a oyster farm in Noank) . Aquaculture in the United States is amazing.  While its image suffers from the bad rap it gets from foreign raised salmon, US grown fish thrive in open, healthy, sustainable 'farms.'  Farms that I'd be happy to live on. While America romances the Family Farm of the midwest, with its rolling fields of amber waves,  I've seen the beauty of the Peuget Sound waves rolling beneath Mt. Baker and douglas fir lined shores.

Mussel Farmers Hard at Work
And then there are shell fish farms. From Anacortes we drove about 20 miles south to the Penn Cove Shellfish Farm and toured the mussel farm.  The mussel are grown on 30 ft lines hanging from a series of rafts.  Apparently, the harbor seals consider this their personal day spa. Even as we rode by them close enough to almost touch the raft, they merely glanced our way and went on sun bathing. There's an amazing amount of work that goes into profitably growing and harvesting mussels. The day we were there wasn't a harvest day but there were still two crews hard at work. One 'socking' the young mussels onto their lines and the other gathering spat.

The only proper way to end a day of watching people grow food, is, of course, to consume that food. Coincidentally, just down the road from Penn Cove, in the town on Coupeville, is Toby's Tavern,  the perfect place for mussels and beer.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Kayaking the Ipswich River

Cardinal Flower
There just might be something to this river paddling. While the boats need to be a bit shorter, and you have to contend with  more bugs, incessant turning, and submerged logs, you never have to wonder if the tide is going to turn on you and leave with all your water.  In fact, if you start up river and paddle down, you're guaranteed to have more water the longer you paddle. And, the big bonus - you really don't even have to paddle, the current just floats you along. The run between Thunder Bridge in Topsfield, Ma and the take out in Ipswich is probably 9 miles, and it only took an extremely leisurely 4 hours.

The river, roughly splits into three different areas, although throughout the entire length it meanders continuously bringing you, after half a mile of paddling, just a few feet east of where you used to be.

Through the Audubon
The first section of the run however, from the put in to the Audubon Society land, reminded me of paddling in Ocala National Forest. It was about as much like the Everglades as you can get in New England. Lots of vines, cardinal flowers, clear water over sandy bottoms, submerged logs and people, in the middle of no-where, bathing. (Not swimming, but lathered up with soap and bathing).There was a blue heron who proceeded me for about an hour, flying down river, or across to the next oxbow until I paddle up, when he would take off, and move on down.

The second section was through the Audubon Society land. More meanders, but through a very open marsh. Very few trees, and very little dry land. It was a sunny day, one of those sunny days where you pray for a cloud, any cloud and paddling through an open marsh provided no relief. The turtles however, were not complaining and they were everywhere basking on the logs they were pretending to be.

Grape Break!
The third section, was the shortest. From Bradley Palmer State Park to the take out, the Ipswich River runs through a more forested section with willows and other trees over hanging the banks, and lilies in the water. In some places there were also grape vines, and some of those vines had juicy bunches of Concord Grapes! It's been a long, long time since I've picked a ripe bunch of Concord Grapes off a vine and eaten them. And oh, they were good!! The kayaking was great too. The river was just woshing along, and while the grapes were good, I was getting hungry. It was that time of the paddle when you starting thinking about food and beer. And that's just when the take-out appeared around the bend.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Midsummer's Night Bike Maintenance

After a long first half of the riding season and with the cool fall rides to come, my Puck has come to put the bikes back to rights.

Regular maintenance requires some regular tools and this time, rather than hang the bikes off the back-of-the-car bike rack we thought it time to get a Home Mechanic Repair Stand. For reference, Puck uses the Park Tool BBB-2 The Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair - 2nd Edition. He's not sure if he needs the Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit, seems like it'd be better just to buy the tools we need, when we need them. Of course I already have the  Park Pedal Wrench (which has been to Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg), a Chain Tool , a spoke wrench and the ubiquitous, ever-useful Muli-tool. What more could you need? (oh, Puck says you also need Tire Levers)

And while Puck is busy fixing, I'm just going to buy things. Like a new set of Time Iclic Cleats. I love the Time i-Clic Pedal. They are really easy to get in and out of and give just the right amount of play. The cleats however, wear down really fast. I try not to walk in them too much but after a little over a year, it is well past time to replace them.

If we the bike professional have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you may ride your bike so dear
But until thou does repair it, it is clear
That all between you and machine
May appear no more than a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as he is an honest Puck,
The bike will run years more with luck.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Good Part of the Commute

This video captures the best part of the commute from Boston to Manchester. The last 5 minutes (cut down to 2) Shot today. I haven't figured out how to edit out the sound so you might want to mute it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My New Place of Employment - Alt Resume

I can now add 'Kayak Guide' at Essex River Basin Adventures to my alternative resume, right after 'Gear Guide' at Eastern Mountain Sports, which follows 'Boatyard Worker' at Noank Shipyard.  Not bad for a computer geek/librarian!

Kayak guiding is a good gig. While you don't get to talk with customers about all kinds of cool gear like an EMS guide, you do get to take them out on the water in one of the most beautiful estuaries on the East Coast and show them how to paddle a sweet little boat through brilliant marsh land, and share with them the egrets, ospreys, plovers, crabs, fishes, and clams, along with talking with them about the history of Choate/Hog Island and the Crane Wildlife Refuge.

And, as at EMS, one of the best part of the job is the other guides!

If you're ever on the North Shore (the shoreline area North and East of Boston) look me up and we'll get out on the water.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Tour de France Scenario

Only one week down and this year's Tour has already inspired a new wannabe-rider scenario. Now in addition to practising my stage winning finishes (hands raised straight up,to the side, or mid-way, or the self-congratulatory chest bump), and the effortless spin through fields of sunflowers/corn/hay, or raising my hand when flatting so the team car can zoom up and replace my tire, stage 9 has given me a whole new scenario.

Now, when being passed by a car on a twisting, narrow road I can pretend that the car is being driven by a thoughtless French newspaper driver who may side-swipe me and throw me into the bordering barbed wire fence ala Johnny Hoogerland.

Really, it is time for every car and motorcycle driver to realize that bicyclist are people. They're flesh, blood, and muscle, and when you hit them with a heavy hunk of moving metal bad things, very bad things are going to happen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ode to the Camp Counselor and Kayak Guide

One of the notable things about the other week's hikes was the number of camp groups on the trails. Groups of kids, aged 11-17, originating from some camp somewhere in New Hampshire, out on a day or overnight hike accompanied by one or two young adults,

For many of these counselors, you could tell that running these trips was both a privilege and a challenge. For many of the kids, you could tell this was their first trip into the woods and while they chatted on about Nintendos and facebooks statuses they'd also stop to admire the views, and play in the waterfalls. And even though the camps attempted to match up the skill level and fitness of the kids there were still ones that would go bouncing off the front, and others lagging behind. The Counselors, did a good job of keeping everyone together and keeping the mood up.

On a related note - yesterday a large group of kids went out with the Essex River Basin Guides. It was a beautiful day and while, I can only image what its like to go kayaking with 60 kids, I'm sure the guides made sure they had a great time and were safe, as well.

For many of these kids, this was probably their first experience in the Whites, or on the water, and it was good to know that these important first introductions are handled so well.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Mt. Isolation, Moose and Iliotibial Band Syndrome

12 or 14 miles (depending on which trail you prefer) deep into the White Mountains lies the appropriately named Mt Isolation. One of the shortest, but furthermost from any trail head, of the 4000fters. (Owls Head is 16 - but that's a hike for another day).

We decided to walk in via the Rocky Branch trail this time, having attempted the Glen Boulder trail earlier. Certainly not as scenic, but promising 1000ft less in elevation and the chance to take a dip in the Rocky Branch river if the temps rose to the predicted 80 degrees. The trail rises up immediately off the trail head and continues a steady, but not stair-like climb for the first 1.8 miles before almost leveling off for a 0.9 mile stretch down to the river. Around 1.6 miles we paused to have a staring contest with a moose.  Despite numerous and voluminous evidence that they are everywhere, we've only seen two moose in our hikes. Both times they were just off the trail, behind some brush. Both times they just stood and stared  at us. This time we stared back, S.D. took some pictures, we all stared some more, the moose won and we continued on our hike.
Moose do not photograph well

Around 2.1 miles the right side of my right knee seized up. Iliotibial Band Syndrome usually happens to runners but it can happen to anyone, especially folks who "are notoriously weak in their hip and core muscles, particularly if strength training or participation in sports that involve side-to-side movement are lacking." - umm like cycling. And it's happened to me before. Usually on the final mile of a long downhill stretch - not less than a 1/4 of the way up on a 14 mile hike. S.D. whipped out his first aid kit and expertly wrapped my knee. Hoping that a walk on the upcoming flat and the bandage would keep things under control, we continued along. But things didn't improve and as the trail became a stream and hiking became an act of jumping from one rock to another the knee really started tightening up. At the Rocky Branch River the knee and me just snapped. Frustrated by having hiked the hardest part of the trail, even now being able to see Mt. Isolation, but knowing I couldn't reasonably continue on, I gracefully hurdled my hiking poles into the dirt, and let loose with a string of expletives that S.D. will forever tease with me but that at that moment were pretty shocking.

After I finished my little tantrum we turned around, hiked a little, had another peanut butter and jelly sandwich that couldn't be beat, and limped on back to the car. We'd hiked 7 miles, it was a beautiful day, the last day of a great vacation and we still had 5 more 4000fters to go, 5 more easy reasons to return to the White Mountains.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Liberty and Flume : And then there were five

Friday morning was foggy and the forecast called for rain, but since it just can't be a hiking vacation unless you climb in the rain we went ahead with our plan to take the Liberty Spring trail up to Mts. Liberty and Flume. And it's a nice trail, provided you don't mind walking up stairs for 1.6 miles and 3000 ft.

Along the way we stopped and talked with two AMC guys who were putting in some erosion ditches.  Brian was a lead maintenace guy and went around to the various crews providing technical knowledge and oversight. Jim was the caretaker at the Liberty Springs tent site who like other caretakers also cared for the trails nearby. Being a high traffic trail (Liberty Springs is also the AT), and very steep, the trail is constantly eroding and while the majority is passed over the granite/dirt combination so common below treeline in The Whites, there are also some sections of crumbly brown sedimentary rock that easily washes out. As S.D. pointed out - most people think all the trail work, those finely crafted log and stone steps are for the hikers but really they're for the trail. To keep as much dirt and rock on the mountains for as long as possible.

A few hundred yards after chatting with the guys (and catching our breath) we reached the peak of Mt. Flume and soon after were back on Liberty. Our last peaks in Franconia Notch. There were nice views off both and the rain held off until we were half way down. Making a nice hike for us, and the promise of more work for the trail crews.