Sunday, October 30, 2011

An Early Taste of Winter

We awoke Sunday to the quiet of snow and a bright white blanket covering the dimly lit morning landscape. Sarah rushed outside with Odin to take it all in. After some tea and a little work around the house, an afternoon hike up Spruce Mountain, with spectacular views from the fire tower, seemed like a perfect way to spend Sunday. It's a great hike and right in our backyard. It felt good to us to explore something so close to home - this is exactly why we choose to live where we do. A culture of mountains, outdoor recreation, and nice people make it easy to call Vermont home.
Spruce Mountain is known as one of the "fire tower" hikes. It is the site of a former fire lookout, complete with cabin and telephone line, built in 1919. The mountain has one foot each in Groton and LR Jones State Forests (the latter of which is Vermont's first state forest). The tower was rebuilt and replaced throughout the mountain's history as a fire lookout, and then ceased being a lookout all together in 1974. A tower transplanted from Belleview Mountain in St. Albans now stands tall off the peak, and a cellar hole is still visible nearby to the tower.
 As we started out on the trail today, our spirits were immediately lifted by the sights: pillows of snow on spruces, the poplar leaves rushing across the breezes to land on a white ground, and sunshine filtering through snow-covered trees. Something about being outside in the snow and cold really makes you feel alive.

Our hike continued on as we climbed and rounded the top of a ravine. A sharp left switchback brings the hiker to a side trail on the right winding through large boulders and caves - a neat little side adventure. Onward to the top the trail grades moderately over granite slabs to an open forest, then a couple of steep steps, and finally to the top. There are great views to the east from a look out and 360-degree views from the tower.

Pretty soon we hope to be exploring Spruce Mountain on our skis!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Back [Spring Forward]

As the weather reports roll in warning of the inches of snow that could accumulate overnight (eeeee!!!), I am warming up by the fire after a brisk walk with the dog looking back through pictures from some of our Fall adventures. Fall is a great time to reflect, to look back; Spring energizes us into forward motion (towards the garden, out the door, go, go, go). This contemplative feel to the season may be why I enjoy hiking in the Fall so much. It's a slower pace activity and it gives you time to mull, clear the head, get inspired. And, with the snow on the way, what better reason to go head up into the hills: To see the mountain-top winter wonderland! While that is on the agenda for tomorrow, today I will share some photos from a favorite fall hike: Hunger Mountain. For extra adventure, running the entire ridge is an amazing hike; but for those not up for the 12 miler day, even an side adventure over to Hogback Mountain or down to White Rock is a treat. The latter is exactly what we did with friends on a recent October outing. Enjoy! And Happy Trails.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Riding into the night.

As the air outside cools and we feel time grow tighter and the leaves change their amber colors we can feel our daylight get shorter.  This is some of the best time to ride here in our Green Mountain State.  As green turns to beautiful shades of yellow, red and orange, our green tunnel takes on a new and fantastic feel.  The trail even seems to change as the leaves fall; we feel them crackle beneath our tires as we carve turns.
This Wednesday night was no colorful exception as we rode some of our favorite trails in Waterbury: Perry Hill.    Every light in front or back of you flowing in and out of turns.  Old familiar trails turn new and exciting with the absence of natural light, with only our own artificial headlamps illuminating our way.  Night rides take on a much more personal camaraderie-like feel with friends navigating together through the dark. Night riding with a pack of ten is like no other. This might be why fall night riding is one of my favorites.  The group shares the experience of riding through the dark, staying together, calling out turns or features, guiding each other as we ride.
So as we feel our light fade earlier and earlier each and every day, don't let it keep you inside! An old trusty headlamp or new high-powered riding lamp can show you a whole new world.  One you never knew just happened to be right outside your door; in the dark.

Now get outside.


Powderwhore's "Breaking Trail" Trailer 2011

Yeah yeah! Going to watch this lovely film tonight at the Savoy in Montpelier! It looks like these guys have put together another exceptional film, and it appears they are expanding from their telemark roots to include others: I see a snowboard or two, some AT-ers perhaps? It doesn't matter what you're on - just that you get out there!  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mountain Biking in National Forest - pretty cool!

We recently got a tour of the new trails in the Moosalamoo/Silver Lake area in southern/central Vermont. What a treat! Patrick Kell himself (of Vermont Mountain Bike Association fame) led a group of 20 or so from Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New York. It was great to see the new trails and all the hard work that went into making them, and even better to make new friends while we were out there. Take a look at some of the snapshots we got throughout the day!


Mt. Philo: Hurray for Vermont State Parks!

Tristan and I recently spent a few days in Burlington with the Vermont Sports tent at the Nor'Easter Festival. We decided to make a trip of it and stay there, and we picked a campground that offered a walking distance commute to the festival each day. I'm not going to name names, but the campground rhymed with Morth Meach Mampground. So there's a hint for you. Anyways, this campground was not my cup of tea - there was a cart that drove around at all hours, our site was about 10 square feet, there were no trees, and there was nothing appealing about having a campfire practically in the road. It was crowded, loud, bright, and sounded like the city. And we were wedged in between the intersection of two roads. Not fun.

So we abandoned our [very expensive] site at said unnamed campground and headed to Mt. Philo - we had heard this was a good one. And was it ever! Vermont State Parks never disappoint.

We drove up and up and up to the top of the mountain in the dark, where we met Nick the caretaker.  The sites - only seven of them - are actually on the way back down the mountain (it's a one-way road that winds up and back down) on a little saddle of Mt. Philo. We pulled into our site, stepped out of our car in to the blackness, and heard only crickets. Perfect!

That first night we started a fire, set up camp, imbibed, played checkers, and made chicken fajitas on the grill over the fire (the recipe's super easy - see below!). What a great night, and what a great weekend. We have always been fans of the Vermont State Park system - Smuggler's Notch Campground is a favorite of ours, as is Underhill State Park. We're sorry we didn't just go there in the first place! If you are ever in the Burlington area, of just south of that area, we highly recommend Mt. Philo for camping, and we hear the hiking is nice too!

Chicken Fajitas Over the Fire (feeds 2+)
2 chicken breasts
3 bell peppers
1 red onion
fajita seasoning
salsa verde
tin foil

Wrap the chicken breasts (whole) in foil along with the fajita seasoning and some of the salsa verde. Slice the peppers and onions and wrap these in a foil packet. (To make a foil packet: Place the food on top of a large square of foil. Fold the foil up, bringing the two edges together, then roll the edges of foil together and keep rolling down until you form a snug wrapping around the food. Fold in the opposite edges on top of the first fold, making a little packet.) The tortillas can also be wrapped in foil and warmed over the fire. The chicken took about 20 minutes over a good bed of coals; the peppers and onions were on for about 10 minutes. The tortillas were only on for 5 minutes or less. To make the fajitas, cut the chicken into strips, put the chicken onto a tortilla, top with peppers and onions and some of the left over salsa verde. Then enjoy! Yummm!