Monday, February 27, 2012

Lunch, On The Rocks

Sometimes I imagine Odin's adventures with us from his perspective: We go outside, head into the woods a ways, eat some snacks, and then head back to the car. "Why don't we just eat snacks at home?" he might wonder. But, I think if Odin could speak, he would share a sentiment similar to ours: It's not about the destination (or the snacks) - it's about the people we meet out there, the sights we get to see, and the fun of being outside in the woods on our skis, bikes, or feet. Today was no different from this: Moments in from the parking lot we met up with Abe (a friendly black lab) and his person Nick. We skied along together - the dogs playing, us chatting about our winter adventures. Odin, Tristan, and I were already in our groove. Then, something even more wonderful happened. Just up the trail we could make out two figures, lumbering along with tremendous packs. The dogs barked at them; this was unusual.

The first thing you do when you see someone with a tremendous pack such as this is ask them what they're up to. These two, a girl and a guy, were hiking the Long Trail. In winter! It had been great they told us, and then this snow changed everything. The day they woke up to it, it took them eight hours to move four miles. They didn't even make it to their planned stop for the night. Today, they were headed to town for food. We chatted with them awhile - I was so inspired from meeting them. What an amazing adventure! Before parting ways, we shared our favorite high-calorie trail snack with them: pre-packaged cookie mix with water and dried milk: More calories than you can imagine, a bit of protein from the milk, and sinful deliciousness (think chocolate chip cookie dough with walnuts added in, maybe some dried cranberries - yummmm). We told them they should have no trouble getting a ride. We could relate; food beckoned, and warmth, and maybe a shower. I remembered the feeling, but tried to imagine adding into that several treacherous days in thigh-deep snow and cold. Now I couldn't imagine the feeling.

We parted ways, us moving up the mountain and they moving down. And soon after, Nick parted ways, too - he was headed up to catch the first glade we passed, while we were heading another three miles in, up to the height of land: Lunch Rocks. After a few "nice meeting you's", we all skied on. Tristan and I skinned up and up, through the switchbacks, past the many glades we were looking forward to, and into the high mountain forest we love so much. Just before our destination, we met two couples, our parents' age, skiing down. Again, I felt inspired: I hope I am still doing this in 10 years, 20, 40.... I think I will be, if I can help it.

And then, there we were: Lunch Rocks (though, I had already come to calling this Cheeseburger Rocks because I could think of nothing more I wanted for lunch). I stepped up to the lookout; Tristan was already taking it all in, in peace. And then I saw it - in full panorama: The view was astonishing. And out there, in the distance, the wind mill on top of Bolton. I can see nothing but beauty upon the sight of a mountaintop pinwheel, weaving the wind.  The expanse was amazing.

I was looking at my very favorite section of Long Trail, from Route 2 in Jonesville up and over Bolton Mountain, Mt. Mayo, and on to Mt. Mansfield. I remember the first time I walked these ridge lines, through damp, deep, dark forests. I was in love. We have continued to walk those lines; this is a section of the trail we have repeated over and over again. It feels desolate and wild out here; we've had moose walk up to our tent, we've passed them from feet away, the views of Mt. Mansfield from the back side of Bolton Mountain are unique - a vantage point you don't get from the valley roads, and the climb up the forehead, through the Needle's Eye, is unforgettable. And I remember the first time I saw the backcountry trails that cross paths with the Long Trail in the deep sag before the climb up Bolton Mountain to Puffer Shelter; I remember looking down Raven's Wind, a steep, narrow swath cut into the mountain side. "People ski that?!" Not yet being a skier, I asked myself this. "Hmm...looks cool." Onward. To Puffer Shelter, to Canada, back to the real world, to new jobs, to Montpelier, to our discovery of skis. Here I am again today, exploring these mountains I love so much, only this time I'm on skis. I stood there today, at Cheeseburger Rocks, and took in the view. A view like that can put everything into perspective. There's something about looking down on things that helps you understand exactly what's important, exactly what is cherished. I took it all in; we ate lunch (not cheeseburgers, unfortunately); and we headed back down, but not before I took one last look, and smiled from my heart.

We skied into the dense mountaintop woods, down through the fun narrow shoots of the Catamount Trail.This time we knew these turns, thanks to our recent Bolton to Nebraska Valley tour, and we zoomed down them with smiles. We ripped skins just above a sweet open glade and made our first turns into the deep powdered woods. Again, I smiled from my heart.

As we continued on out of the glades and back on to the trail, we dipped in and out of  the woods at the sight of fresh powder and a steep angle. And we marveled at how life is what you make it, your adventure is what you make it. It can all be as epic - or unepic - as you want and, as long as you're having fun and living from the heart, it's everything it needs to be. The key is to stay positive. And this can be hard! I personally have struggled with negativity, anger, and depression; and I had the realization that this life is what I make it. Each morning, I choose the mood I will be in; I choose my reaction to each of life's events; and I choose where to focus my energy. Life can bring good and bad; the trail can be good or bad. And I can take these developments and do anything I choose with them. Today, life brought me torn blisters on my heel, frustrating missed photo opportunities, a broken climbing bar, and I dressed all wrong - it was much warmer on the climb than I had planned for. But, life also brought us fresh powder snow, wonderful people, happy dogs, and inspiring views, and a break of sunshine through the pine trees just as we crested towards the height of land. We stopped to hear my favorite sound in the world: wind in the spruce trees. I met skinners, skiers, and long-distance winter backpackers. I think if Odin could talk, he would tell us this was far better than eating snacks at home. I can't imagine a better, more epic day than this.

Happy Trails!      

Oh, p.s., today also brought me hand-cut potato fries with bacon and blue cheese at the Res. Holy crap, I have found my reason for living! Seriously - you must try this apres ski snack. ( :

February Fresh

 Here in the northeast, we've recently been rewarded with a long-awaited thing: winter. To the tune of 12-24 inches of the fresh, fluffy white stuff. Needless to say: we've all been pretty stoked. To celebrate the new arrival of the white stuff, we headed early morning on Sunday to do some dawn patrol at our local mountain. Typically we skin up one of the main trails before the lifts start running, but on this particular morning, the groomers were out in full force. We've had some run-ins with some of the groomers - they don't always like that we're there, and they certainly don't like that our dogs are there. And I can understand why, but on this particular day, we had to get to work by 9am (well, 9:30...more on that later) and we also had to get some of that fresh, fluffy white stuff. So, off we headed to our local ski hill...and there we found knee-deep powder.

Kip, Tristan, and I plowed into the parking lot early morning and met our friend Jase (he has a broken leg, but still joined for the camaraderie of dawn patrol, a ski which he normally would have joined us on). He set up a chair, played with the dogs, and laughed with us about everything. He's a good friend. And, finally, after much fiddling around with skis, boots, skins, and etc. we started our skin - and Jase his short shuffle, up to the start of the ski trail. Jase waved good bye - it was sad to leave him there as we trekked into the fresh powder. Next year, Jase! 

Now, I should have mentioned sooner that Jase agreed to take our dog Odin back to his house with him while we skied - we didn't want Odin to get in the way of the groomers. So, with dogs in the car, Jase headed back to the parking lot and we warily started off towards a couple of groomers. Not wanting to get in their way, we quickly ditched into the woods. And that's when we heard it: "OOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDDDDIIIIIIINNNNNN!!!!!!" We looked back and what did we see? Odin, dragging his leash, running madly for the woods behind us. He was not going to be left behind on a powder day! (We learned later that Odin took a millisecond opportunity to clear the backseat and squeeze out the door as Jase opened the back hatch of his Suby.). In truth, I was so happy to see him. And I really admire his little doggy spirit: There was fresh snow, and he wasn't going to miss it. 

So up we skinned  through the deep fluff and trees. It was a great skin. We all agreed: the ups are just as good as the downs. We got out of the woods with the first light of day streaming through the spruce tops and naked birch limbs - that will never cease to be one of my favorite sights. We skinned up the rest of the way to the top on groomed trails. Once there, we ripped our skins off, set up for the descent, and headed down - the boys through the woods and me on the groomer. I wanted to practice my telemark turns.

We all met up again further down the mountain, after I had my first several glorious turns through knee-deep fluff. What a feeling! The sound of gliding through fresh snow reverberates through your whole body. And, at three years in to trying, my telemark turns are starting to form - I made some really silky turns down the upper portion of the trail. I stopped to take it all in. And after a little while, Kip joined me and we waited for Tristan. And waited. And waited. "He was right behind me," Kip said. We could barely make out a figure through the trees, further up the trail, moving around eratically. Was he hurt? Kip started the climb back up and, after a few minutes, I followed. It was the camera; Tristan had demoed from ORS a helmet cam to video-tape our descent and, upon face planting into the snow, lost it in feet of powder! Kip and Tristan looked frantically and, eventually, Kip found it. After a little celebration, we all headed down to make turns together.

The camera search had set us back time-wise, so no second lap for us. But it was all so worth it. And I'm so glad to have shared a great day on skis with friends and my dog.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Morning Skis

These pics are from a few weeks back - we woke up to some fresh snow and got out there before day break on the trails around our house. We were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise, awesome powder snow, and the best, most refreshing wake-up there is.This is such a great way to start the day!

Fun in the Sun and Snow

President's Day weekend gave us some time off and some unbeatable skiing conditions - blue skies, fluffy clouds, strong doses of sunshine, and temps warm enough to soften up the snow. Tristan and I stuck close to home - we're lucky enough to have a fabulous town forest about a half-mile from our house. Most of the time we can actually ski out that back door to the town forest - this was not the case this weekend as the trails had thin coverage and lots of ice. But, still, we headed out to one of our favorite open hills up the road and found the goods: snow, fun, sunshine, and a great time. We even found some "powder" conditions out there! 

I did a really nice tour on Saturday. The snow was soft and coverage was actually really good on the trails through the town forest. On Sunday, Tristan and I skied the Moon Field, a big, open pasture that has a good slope on both sides - enough room for a few turns anyways. We were joined on the hill by Kip from ORS on Monday, and it didn't take him long to find some lumps of grass to launch himself off of. We had a bunch of fun - that's what it's all about! 

This winter has certainly been trying - and less than inspiring - for all of us. So when the weather gets good, get out there! And even when the weather's not that great, there's still a lot of fun to be had. And these conditions just build character and make better skiers out of us all!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More beaver ponds than you could shake a stick at.....Wait, what did he just say?

   If there is one single reason I delved into skiing three years ago, simply put, it was to to enjoy the outdoors and glide through the forest enjoying the ups and downs of it all.  As I awoke this Thursday morning, quite groggy  I might add, the first thing that came to mind was to continue skiing somewhere I had left off with Sarah a week ago. Sarah was busy with work, so naturally  I called Mike, the Chong to my Cheech- I'm sure he'll be absolutely flattered with that analogy.

So here it was Groton State Forest on a beautiful bluebird day in Vermont with temps in the 40's?! We used access across the lake into Groton SF. As you make your way across the lake you clearly see the granite cliff of Marshfield Mt. (elev. 2,154 ft). This was where Sarah and I  had left off to ski another day just last week when the temps were in the single digits. Now, however, we found ourselves on great Spring corn snow.

Sarah and I have BC skied at some great spots and more than a few are well guarded or well known for that matter.  Many of these spots need drive time, the info and well, the snow pack to get there. This year has been a bit different from last year and I believe last year had us just a little spoiled....OK more than a little spoiled. As things go here in Vermont, I hear most of you are out there making the best of it, which is all one can do.  One thing we really enjoyed last year especially in our "new" neck of the woods was skiing out the back yard or a short drive a way. This has always been at the core of what we believed in especially when we lived in Montpelier and found ourselves car-less.  Hubbard park was "the" scene as we were often there or in the Worcester Range, a slight distance away. 

A little bush whacking..

One of Mike's first descents although I think Odin may have beat him to it?
The cliffs of Marshfield Mt. 2,154 ft.
For awhile now I've been asking Sarah "Whats that beautiful granite peak in the distance?" and Sarah would say " I don't know - maybe we should find out?!"  After repeatedly asking Sarah and expecting her to know I finally found out myself via the CVT - Cross Vermont Trail - a rails-to-trails bike path venturing East to West across the state of Vermont; still a  work in progress.  Little did I know that one beautiful Fall day last year Mike and I would ride our bikes into Groton  SF and find ourselves at the bottom of that very same granite cliff; Marshfield Mt. So naturally we thought it would be great to ski out there as well,  so here we found ourselves exploring the beautiful ponds, forests and meadows of Groton SF. And I can stop asking Sarah what that mountain is!

The Birch trees were astounding

Groton SF has many places to explore whether on  foot, cycling, snowshoeing, paddling or skiing.  Many trails are multi-use and you will find that the CVT becomes a great avenue in which to explore it.  In winter the CVT becomes a snow mobile trail and is quite popular.
As I said " More beaver ponds than you could shake a stick at"

Access is a very touchy subject, especially here in VT and I think Groton SF is a shining example of what can happen when people come together and coexist. One can only imagine the possibilities when examining the trail system which encompasses Groton SF.  With trails and wonderful destinations such as Boulder Beach, Marshfield Mountain, and Kettle Pond, this is truly a place anyone can enjoy no matter how you choose to explore it.

    If a little adventure is what you seek, no matter the mode, Groton State Forest provides - all that is asked is that you find it for yourself, which is the best part. What ever you seek, however much or little snow you may find, make the most of it and remember: If you're not having fun out there then what the hell good is it anyways? Oh and remember don't take yourself too affects your turning ability......, it's scientifically proven...OK maybe not,  just have fun out there!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Click to Clacks

 A couple of unusual things found us on this Sunday in winter: a free day off, and new snow! So, we found a few friends, and headed out for a tour on the Catamount Trail - we're calling this one "Click to Clacks", or, in other words: Bolton to Trapps. This iconic ski tour had us climbing quite a bit up to the height of land, where we were rewarded with wonderful views, and then down through narrow, winding trails with sunshine, blue skies, and poofs of fresh powder snow. It was a great day and, thanks to an early start, we were out of the woods in time for lunch at the Res and a nap at home in the sunshine. Aren't Sundays in winter great?! We sure think so. Happy Trails!