Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A night atop Abe.

A last minute decision to head for a night stay at Battell shelter and come down early for work was well in typical fashion for Sarah, Odin and I. We reached the top just in time to set up camp, eat, enjoy the sunset and have a quick game of solitaire then to bed. With the temps in the low 40's and a light to moderate breeze we had the whole mountain to ourselves. With morning came a brisk hike down to Lincoln Gap then off to work. This is and will always be my favorite way to start the work day.
Tis a good one as always.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's a beautiful life.

A memeorial service at the GMC headquarters will take place and then a hike for Dave lead by Lexi. In celebration of a life truly well lived. Heres to Dave.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Sad Day

It started as a very good day in our household - T got his cast off! - and we celebrated with breakfast and coffee in Stowe. Then, we came home and rallied on what is hopefully to be a stellar tag sale - we organized, priced, and prepped. We decided to cap off this day with a beer downtown, and that is where we learned the news: Dave Blumenthal did not survive yesterday's collision with a car. Our neighborhood, town, and the greater cycling community - and outdoors community at large - is devastated. With this, we are going to go outside, find something beautiful to look at, and think how lucky we are. We're lucky to have the fortunate lives we do and to have now. When we try to make sense of someones death, we both turn inwards and we look to others. For me, I'm amazed at how life works: we talked with Dave the day before he left - he was so excited - and we wouldn't have known this was the last time we would talk with him. I talked with his wife and daughter the other day in the neighborhood. I told his wife we were following his progress, and his daughter peered out of her stroller to tell me her daddy was in a big bike race; she was elated. My heart breaks for them; my heart breaks for how short life can be. And I marvel at how we will just never know what the future holds.

Tristan and I try to show that life is what you make it; we try to inspire others to enjoy the now. We are not very concerned with status symbols, resumes and titles, fancy degrees, hours logged at work, or other markers of "success" as the modern world would define it. These are not the things that matter; these are not the things that you take with you. In the memory of Dave and in the spirit of a life lived with only the next adventure in mind, I am going to solidify the importance I place on enjoying the now, in the spirit of adventure, and in loving life and what it gives you.

A two wrist day.

So after five weeks June 24th is the first of many days with my brand new wrist! With my cast gone I look forward to not having to retell my broken wrist story ever again! Back in the saddle again, watch out here I come.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Every Adventure is a Blessing

The Tour Divide is a self-supported long-distance mountain bike ride that starts in BC and follows the spine of the mountains all the way down to Mexico. Some folks treat it as a race, others as a great adventure. Our neighbor, Dave Blumenthal, sought to re-create the feeling and lifestyle of a "thru-something." For those who have not done a long distance trip, this lifestyle is one of pain, endurance, beauty, and wonderful times shared with wonderful people. Unfortunately, Dave's trip ended abruptly this morning when he suffered a head-on collision with a car. My heart breaks to think about him and his family.

Tristan and I decided that we have to assume the best, but it's hard not to imagine the worst outcomes. We tried to distract ourselves with a hike and dinner out, which was nice, but as soon as I got home I looked for an update on Dave. Nothing yet, but I'm still hoping for the best. In the meantime, it reminds me that everything can change in an instant, nothing is a given, and every adventure is a blessing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Perfect Sunday

Tristan and I got out today for a really nice hike on the Long Trail, starting at Appalachian Gap (Rte 17) and up to Molly Stark's balcony, which is a nice little overlook with expansive views. But before our hike, we stopped by a favorite spot, with a certain amount of significance for us, to have a sandwich: If you haven't been, the Warren village general store is fabulous, so yummy, has great hiking snacks, and the river right below the deck is a great spot to swim and hang out. (Or wait for hours for someone to come pick you up...twice.)

We hadn't been on this particular section of the LT since 2001, the year we hiked the trail in its entirety. It was beatiful hiking weather, the views were spectacular, and it was so nice to just walk in the woods.
Tristan had a memory of stopping during our LT hike in '01 on this section of trail to cook a ramen noodle; I couldn't recall this at all, until I got to this exact spot in the trail. It just hit me, and it felt so nice to remember.
Today was a classic example of our approach to adventure: we headed out with a general sense of direction (which was dictated more by a craving for that general store sandwich than anything else), the minimum basics for a few different types of outdoor pursuits, and absolutely no plan. We found ourselves at Molly Stark's balcony on a beautiful day. Life is always the best when you open yourself up to just letting it unfold. The first - and only real - step is to get out there.
We ended the whole thing with one of the more beautiful salads I've ever eaten, corn on the cob, and a chewy, yeasty, delicous ciabata bread from the general store. (Seriously, go there!) This is how Sundays are meant to be lived!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back at it

Somehow I managed to have some good friends invite me on a ride up county Rd to Morse farm for a road slash mountain ride. The climb was great but found my cast too awkward for the descents. That being said I still had a great time and found the time I put on the trainer was well spent! I think this plaster of paris comes off in one to two weeks? Cant wait! Here's to a great time thanks everyone.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

One-Pot Meals in the Backcountry

While out on a multi-day trip in the backcountry, one of the greatest pleasures can be getting into camp, setting up your home for the night, and cooking a warm meal.
T and I subscribe to lightweight backpacking, and part of keeping our pack weight down means we cook all of our meals in one pot and eat out of that pot (we don’t carry dishes; we bring only one cup and spoon each and a multi-use knife). One pot meals can be tricky to make, they require some forethought and practice, but they can be very yummy.
Here are a couple of our tried and true favorites. Most of these recipes involve saving your cooking water. You can use a nalgene or aluminum drinking bottle to reserve this water and the water can be used for making hot chocolate, tea, or instant pudding after dinner. And because this is leftover cooking water, it contains carbohydrates and nutrients leached from the food during cooking. Using this leftover water is a good way to get as many of those into your system as possible, since both are in short supply on backpacking trips. Lastly, a wise person turned us on to carrying oil. Adding a tablespoon to each meal adds much-needed fat, calories, and nutrients to your dinner.

When packing for your trip, all meals should be re-packaged individually in Ziploc bags. The Ziploc bag reduces the size and weight of your food bag by getting rid of excess packaging, and the Ziploc serves as a garbage bag to carry out your trash or uneaten leftovers (these should never be left in the backcountry). Put indivudal Ziploc trash bags into a larger Ziploc bag that can carry multiple days worth of trash. All of this double-bagging helps to insure trash doesn't leak out on the inside of your pack.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Ingredients – dehydrated mashed potatoes, dehydrated seasoned stuffing mix, turkey or chicken in a small can or foil pouch, dried cranberries. Bring enough water to boil to re-hydrate the potatoes and stuffing; bring the water to a boil and then reserve boiling water in a nalgene or other drinking bottle; turn off stove; put the potatoes and stuffing into the pot and add water slowly until rehydrated to avoid adding too much water; add a little extra water, put pot back on the warm stove with the lid on, and let sit; when the potatoes and stuffing are at the desired consistency and moisture, stir in the meat and dried cranberries (adding as many as you like). If using a can, crush it and carry it out with you in your trash.

Sweet and Sour Rice: Ingredients – boil in a bag rice, chicken or salmon in a foil pouch, dried pineapple, packets of duck or soy sauce from a Chinese restaurant. Cover the bag of rice with water and boil, reserve boiling water in a nalgene for another use (use this carbohydrate-laden water to make warm drinks after dinner, allowing you to absorb the carbs in the water, too); stir in meat or fish and pieces of dried pineapple; drizzle duck or soy sauce over the dish.

Burritos: Ingredients – package of dehydrated bean soup or chili, tortillas, hard cheese like cheddar (hard cheese will keep for a week or more without refrigeration), salsa or taco sauce packets from Taco Bell. Prepare soup or chili with just enough water to rehydrate – you don’t want this to be soup, but rather just rehydrated beans; once cooked, turn off the stove and spoon beans into tortillas, sprinkle with chunks of cheese, and drizzle salsa or sauce over the top; roll up and enjoy! This tends to be a big meal, with a lot of beans, so this is a god one to share with friends or other hungry hikers.

Mac-N-Cheese: Ingredients – your favorite mac-n-cheese (Velveeta is nice because the cheese is already rehydrated; for dehydrated cheeses, you can add dehydrated milk, water, and oil to reconstitute the cheese sauce); tuna or salmon; dehydrated vegetables (purchased or made at home in a commercially-available drier or your oven). Boil the noodles and dehydrated vegetables until done and reserve extra water in a nalgene for warm carbohydrate drinks; add cheese (plus milk powder, water, and oil if using dehydrated cheese) and continue cooking for another minute or two to allow the noodles to abosorb the cheese (this is especially important for dehydrated cheese, otherwise it will be like mac-n-cheese soup); turn off the stove; stir in fish.

Please use the comments section below to post some of your favorite recipes - we're always looking for new ideas! ~Happy trails!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On Top of the World!

It took us way too long to accomplish, but T and I have now hiked to the top of Mt. Washington! We hiked it from the western side, which I think was very appropriate since this is the side we gaze at from Vermont on a clear day. It was a magnificent hike! Though the summit left something to be desired, since we both appreciate more of a back-country experience than is provided by the developed and highly-accessible summit of Washington.
We parked on the Base Road at the bottom of the cog railway and took the Ammonoosuc Trail up the ravine and to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. T and I have often felt this hut system does not align with our thoughts on how the backcountry should be used, be we were immediately greeted by friendly people and a beautiful place to come in from the fog and relax. Though I can't see us doing any hut-to-hut traverses in the near future, we were both surprised to not dislike the hut as much as we thought we would. And I will stand by my argument that making the wilderness somewhat accessible means that a greater portion of the population can visit the wilderness and hopefully will become stewards of what they find there.

On the topic of accessibility, the summit of Mt. Washington may take this all too far. In watching the crowds envelop the summit as they got off of trains and out of cars, I wondered how many of these people, if any, really appreciated what they were seeing and experiencing. For the most part, they just took a picture of themselves next to the sign and then went inside to buy souvenirs and eat food. Not really a mountain experience, in my opinion. I don't think I saw a single group that arrived via train or car go out and do a little hike around - and there are plenty of options to do so.
At any rate, T and I ate lunch at the top and noticed a few other hikers. You could pick them out easily because they had gaiters, or hiking poles, or some other backcountry gear and a look about them that was part removed and part condescending towards the gawkers getting off the train. As we ate and checked out the various parts of the summit, the clouds lifted. We were granted with a beautiful day on top and beautiful views in all directions. The most moving view for me was immediately to the northeast, looking at Mts. Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Our next foray into the Whites will definitely take us to these undeveloped high peaks.
From the summit, we took the Gulfside Trail over to Mt. Clay, from where the Jewell Trail descends back to the base of the cog railway. We stopped many times to take in the beautiful views, and got to spend another mile or so gazing upon Mts. Jefferson and Adams.

The Jewell Trail was beautiful hiking as well, some of it still above tree line, but most of it in the trees. The grade was very gentle and the trail was smooth and had good footing. It was a very nice way to descend, as it was easy on the knees, and would be a good way to approach Mt. Washington for people that want to avoid rocky ledges, steep ascents, and gushing stream crossings.

In all, T and I enjoyed a classic hiking trip that will stay in our memories forever. It was wonderful time spent together in the mountains and left us feeling uplifted and inspired; for us, this is what life is all about.
Happy trails!

Learning and Evolving...

T and I are learning to do car camping a little better each time. We're both so enthralled with the lightweight, minimalist approach that backpacking can offer. But car camping has its pluses, though it will require a whole new set of gear. We did just add the MSR Mutha Hubba to our tent line-up (we backpack with the Hubba Hubba which is the best tent ever made), and it is the three-person, beefier, three-season version. And we brought pillows! But we cooked our dinner in one pot...and ate out of that one pot...on our MSR whisperlite. Our next purchase is going to be a two -no, three! - burner Brunton fold-out stove. I can envision eggs, bacon, and coffee - each cooked in their OWN POT in our near future!

Despite our hybrid backpacking - car camping approach, we can still kick back and relax:
Though you can usually find us by a camp-fire in the evenings on our backcountry trips (of course always in an established fire ring and following all leave-no-trace guidelines), this one was considerably less smelly (we were not dirty and sweaty from many days in the woods without a shower) and more beer-y. And there were pillows in our tent! (I'm always excited to have a pillow in my tent.)
And while on the topic, New Hampshire has a wonderful state parks system, many of them with beautiful, well-maintained, quiet campgrounds. Do check them out if you're headed for a visit with our neighbor to the east:
Happy trails! Er...happy roads, leading to campgrounds!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back on the bike again....sort of..

So here I am a mere two weeks at best into my broken wing vacation and due to a dear friend I am back on a bicycle. Here's to Phil Beard for lending me a trainer and giving me some great advice as to training while I miss out on thie spectacular riding season. Thanks for keeping me on the bike while I'm down!