Making America Great Again….

Thank you in advance for reading this, but given the events of the past week, I feel obligated to explain my upcoming hiatus from social media.  I’m saddened by the venom, the hatred, and the bigotry I’ve seen posted on my wall. Saddened, and embarrassed.  And yes, it comes from both sides.  I’ve seen friends and family members vilified because they, like I, are horrified by the upcoming inauguration.  This has continued, even though ‘their’ candidate has ‘won’.  I’ve always welcome respectful discussion, but I’ve seen so much hate in the past several months.  So, I leave you with some final thoughts before my Facebook vacation.  In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m posting a picture of my father, a World War 2 veteran.  He saw the kindness in all people.  He accepted into his family people of all races and religions. He didn’t care about someone’s sexual orientation.  He worked with his hands, and his back, his entire life; he was a champion of the poor, the blue collar worker, those working for minimum wage.  He never finished high school, yet was more educated in politics than most of us are.  He respected women; always.   He didn’t live to see this election, but early on in the primary process, he called Trump a ‘clown’.  I miss him; I would love to be able to know what he would say.  This is a man who earned my respect.  Respect that he earned.  I do not respect the President elect, and its should be obvious why I feel that way.

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To my students, former and current, and to my children’s friends who may be members of the LGBTQ community;  I and many others are with you.  Love and kindness will prevail, I’m sure of it, and I charge you, and all my friends and family members to embrace others who are struggling with discrimination based on gender identity, race and religion.  It starts with us.  We, as a country, are better than this.   Let’s not be defined by the lack of moral character, the racism, the misogyny of the person who sits in the White House.  He is only one person; we are legion.

So, sayonara, adios, خداحافظ, and goodbye for now.  Will be back after my hiatus. Some of you may not, and I think we’re all OK with that.  I’m making America great again…starting with my Facebook page.

Catching up…Ausable Chasm, New York

It takes a lot to drag me away from the Great North Woods in the summer. Truth be told, I’d gladly spend my entire summer here. But occasionally I have to defer to my better half, so off to the Adirondacks we went.

Our overnight in Burlington was eventful for two reasons. First: random naked guy wandering through Church St. in full view of crowds of people. Who knew that public nudity is perfectly legal in VT? Certainly not I. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to snap his picture, otherwise I could have posted it, and you would have wondered (as I did) why he felt the need to display his “shortcomings.”

The second event of our overnight in Burlington was being awakened at 5 am by the blaring fire alarm and a disembodied voice instructing us to vacate the building…which we did. It was interesting to see the various states of dress and undress people evacuated in. Some in PJs, others (mostly women) perfectly coiffed and in full make up. I’ll let you figure out which sartorial category I fell into.

But, it was all worth it. Crossing Lake Champlain on the ferry to Port Kent was cool. Kept my eyes peeled for Champy, but he didn’t make an appearance.
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Walls of Ausable Chasm.

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Rainbow Falls in Background

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No, I didn’t dare go across this!
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Beautiful trip via ferry across Lake Champlain on the way to Ausable Chasm

Well, at least I didn’t see any snakes…Cascade Mountain, Keene, NY

Looks like I have some catching up to do on my blog.  Summer hiking got off to a bit of a slow start this year, for a couple of very good reasons.   At the beginning of June, we headed off to Bermuda on a cruise, then entertained the little K for a week.  She deserves her own blog…and I guess I should post about her first ‘big girl’ hike as well.   Anyway….as for today:

Not that we’ve gotten bored with NH hiking, but my better half wanted to do some Adirondack hiking for a change, so across Lake Champlain on the ferry we came.   We spent yesterday at Ausable Chasm…incredible!  Go, if you’re ever in the Adirondacks.   And if you’re ever here and want to stay at a really awesome B and B, call Rock and River in Keene.  The place is gorgeous, relatively inexpensive for the area, and the owner is a great guy

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Today, was the 4000 footer, Cascade Mountain.  Of course, the weather was forecast as uncertain for later in the day; thunderstorms predicted to come in around 3 pm…but we were going to be done way before then.  And we were.  But apparently weather forecasters in NY aren’t any better than the weather forecasters in Boston.

Those of you who know me, know that (oddly enough, for a hiker), I do NOT like heights.  I don’t even like climbing up a ladder.  I’m OK with climbing mountains, but certain things set me off.  Sheer drops. Wide open summits.  Rock faces that require me to use all four appendages (Going up..  Five coming down if you count my butt as an appendage).  The second thing that scares the crap out of me is thunderstorms…the lightning part, anyway.  And I don’t have to be on a mountain to be scared witless when those bolts start spreading across the sky.   The third thing that I’m petrified of, is snakes.  “Nuff said.

So, this hike had plenty of the first two scary things.

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Joe stayed behind to ‘take the picture’. What he really said was ‘You go ahead…I can’t stand to hear you whine.”

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Yes, I was aware of the clouds in the background....let's go already!

Yes, I was aware of the clouds in the background….let’s go already!

Shortly after this photo, and only a few minutes after we got off the rock face, we started to hear the rumble of thunder way off in the distance.  By the time we got below treeline, the skies opened up, and the trail became a river.  And the ‘distant’ thunder became not so distant, accompanied by its partner lightning. So, here’s a question….is it better to carry your metal hiking poles in your hands and not let them touch the ground?  Or just use them to keep from slipping off the rocks?   I dunno.  But will definitely have to find out.

Last Day of NH summer

It seems like every year when this day comes, I post some whiny “poor me” rant, and of course, nobody feels too bad for me.  That’s OK, I get it.  Most of you have had to work all summer, and I consider myself very fortunate to have summers off.   I had kind of an epiphany of sorts this week, so instead of my usual “I don’t wanna go back to school” post, I decided to share some thoughts I had during one of this week’s hikes.

View from top of quad

View from top of quad

One a ‘lazy’ say this week, I took the quad ski lift up to the summit (or near the summit) of the Bretton Woods ski mountain.  Its a quick (20 minute) easy hike up to the top of the mountain from there, and an hour or so meandering down to the base.  It probably will come as a surprise to those who know me, but I usually pray when I get to the summit of a mountain.  Although I can’t admit to embracing any particular organized religion at this point in my life (much to my Irish-Catholic father’s chagrin, I’m sure), nor am I sure to what or whom I am praying, but something about being physically able to get to the summit, and being surrounded by the beauty of nature is awe-inspiring and makes me feel so glad to be alive.  Anyway, at the summit of Bretton Woods this week,  I began to think of all the things I am grateful for; partly inspired, perhaps, by the trend recently on Facebook.   So, rather than my usual ‘end of summer’ bitching and complaining, here are just a few things for which I am thankful:

I have a husband who doesn’t complain (too much!) about my taking off for the summer.  I’m also fortunately that I like him a whole lot (which is very important, after 39 years..if you don’t like each other, you’re in for a miserable existence)

I have great kids and sons-in-law, and a beautiful, perfect granddaughter whom I love more than life itself.   My sisters and brother and their families are all close by, and when I hear about the strife and bickering that goes on in others’ families, I so appreciate the relationship we all have.

I am thankful for my students…the good ones, because they make my job easier, and the ‘other’ ones, because they make me SO appreciative of my own kids.

I count my blessings every day because I still have both my parents; I was sad that they weren’t up to coming north with me this summer, but at 94 and 90, I guess age is finally catching up with them.

Although my health isn’t perfect, I’m a whole lot better off than most people.   While I’m on the subject, I am eternally grateful for my primary care physician (whom I won’t embarrass by naming him here), who believed me, and believed IN me almost 20 years ago.

Lastly, I’m thankful for my NH neighbors, who welcome me back every summer, keep an eye on things when we’re not here, and keep me busy with Bingo and Scrabble

I guess that’s enough.  Don’t get me wrong….I still don’t want to go back to work. Appreciative as I am, I would be ever so grateful for just a few more weeks of summer.  Just sayin’.

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Two Days, Two 4,000 Footers, and One Question

Summiting two 4000 footers in as many days was not one of my better decisions, but in retrospect (after sitting with ice on my knees and an iced beverage or two in my hands…I’m all for ‘repurposing’, ya know) it wasn’t all that bad. Friday is was North Twin (elev 4761); great day, impressive views, and a lot of fun, since the usual “Dynamic Duo” of Lisa and Carol became the “Three Musketeers” with Linda joining, although anyone observing us last Friday may have more appropriately tagged us the Three Stooges.   Saturday it was Mt. Hale (elev 4054); up the Hale Brook Trail to the summit (view? What view?) and down the Lend-a-Hand Trail to Zealand Hut and back to the car (close to 9 miles) with Joe. I’ve included a few photos below, but this isn’t the purpose of this particular blog post.

The Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide   is the hiking bible for up here, and most hikers I know consider it the ‘bible’ for researching hikes. Authors Mike Dickerman and Steve Smith have kindly included a ‘check-off’ list in the back of the book White Mountain Guide where one can record the dates each of the 4000 footers is summited. Remind me next time I need a piece of scrap paper, because I think I can safely tear that out of my book because I am NOT (hear that, crazy hikers in my family?) doing any kind of a ‘list’, thank you.   But my one question for this week actually relates to this book.

We had a discussion the other day of the definition of “book time”, which is an estimation of the time needed to complete a hike (as stated in the White Mountain Guide). Definitions, acronyms, etc are thoroughly explained in their introduction, but I have one more suggestion for them. We need to come up with a definition of “Almost There”.   These words are often uttered by members of the chirpy, waif-like, under-30 crowd, whom I encounter while I am ASCENDING and they are DESCENDING the trail.   Now, in their defense, I can understand why they may feel the need to smile brightly and say these words as I’m huffing and puffing and chugging my way UP.   I can read their minds…”Oh, look! Isn’t she cute!? She reminds me of my gramma. Good for her! Let’s cheer her on!”   So, in order to encourage me, they shout “Good job!!!! Almost there!”

Now, not to discourage the youngsters from chatting up us older folks who are hiking, but can we agree on a definition of what “Almost there” is?   Maybe standardize it, include it in the next edition of the White Mountain Guide, and even better, impose some sort of penalty for those who don’t abide by the standard.   For example: you are a fit 30 year old descending (skipping, bouncing, rock-hopping, barely breaking a sweat) Mt. Hale. You encounter an ‘elderly’ (by your own observation) hiker ascending (gasping, plodding, sweating) the trail.   You should NOT be allowed to say “Almost there!” in that happy sing-song-y voice unless the summit of the mountain is LESS than five minutes (elderly hiker time) away.

So, if the duo of Dickerman and Smith would like to include this in their next edition, I think it would be appreciated by all.   Now, we just have to think about what would be an appropriate penalty for violating this standard. I think death is a little bit harsh, and it would be a little tough to enforce, since by the time the ascending hiker realizes that “Almost there” is really “I know it only took me 20 minutes to come DOWN this trail, but you’ve probably got another 45 minutes to go” said ascending hiker is long gone. So, its got to be something enforceable.   Let me know if you have any ideas. At the very least, next time you’re tempted to say those encouraging words to me on the trail, trust me….if it takes me more than ten minutes to get to the top? Well…provided I can remember your face…you’ve been warned!

This is NOT "Almost there"

This is NOT “Almost there”

Bare, but viewless summit of Mt. Hale.  This would be considered "there"

Bare, but viewless summit of Mt. Hale. This would be considered “there”

River crossing on N. Twin Trail.  I <3 my watershoes

River crossing on N. Twin Trail. I

The Three Musketeers on top of North Twin

The Three Musketeers on top of North Twin

 

Blueberry Mountain (Maine): My kind of hike…

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Blueberry Mountain (elev 1781) is a perfect example of my philosophy…why hike 4,000 footers when you can be lazy and get great views with less effort?  A bit out of the way from those who hike solely in the Whites, Blueberry Mountain is located in Maine, just over the border from NH.   Located in scenic Evans Notch, hikers in the area have dozens of hikes to choose from, varying in difficulty.   Hiking Blueberry Mountain was a perfect warm up for the more strenuous (and aborted…see previous post!) Baldface Circle Trail the next day.

Easy, but rocky, part of the White Cairn Trail

Easy, but rocky, part of the White Cairn Trail

The trailheads (White Cairn Trail and Stone House Trail) are located a short distance down Stone House Road; parking at the small lot, and bypassing the gate (which closes the end of Stone House Road, which is on private land), we walked the .25 mile to the actual White Cairn Trailhead.  The book describes this as the more difficult ascent of the two, and once again, I wasn’t disappointed.  (For Little Legs (less than 5 yrs old) and Old Knees, the better approach would be to avoid the White Cairn Trail, and do an in and out via the Stone House Trail.)

The beginning of the trail was easy and relatively flat, but I’ve learned whenever a trail starts out like that, its only putting on the inevitable.  Yes, there were ledges and rock scrambles, and once again a few spots where I had to be helped (hauled) up, but the views were spectacular.   And during this two mile hike on a Thursday, we didn’t see a single other hiker…another bonus!

Beautiful views on the way up.

Beautiful views on the way up.

But, of course, a few rocky ledges...

But, of course, a few rocky ledges…

Always a victory when I can get up the rocks with a minimum of whining.

Always a victory when I can get up the rocks with a minimum of whining.

The best views were actually from the hike up the White Cairn Trail; the mountain top is a bit wooded (although there was a great short walk to a viewpoint off the other side of the mountain).  After a stop for lunch, we crossed over to the Stone House Trail (via the Blueberry Ridge Trail) for the longer, but less steep, hike down.   Just before finishing the 4.2 mile loop, we took a short side trail to the Rattlesnake Pool (fortunately, the sign just said “Pool”…I found out about the “Rattlesnake” part later…otherwise I wouldn’t have gone and missed this beautiful deep green pool.

Rattlesnake Pool...not a snake in sight!

Rattlesnake Pool…not a snake in sight!

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After this beautiful, half day hike, we returned to our campsite at the Basin Campground, located just a few minutes away.   Staying at the campground was a compromise…Joe, the AT thru hiker, likes to sleep in the woods, while I have minimum standards of running water and flush toilets.  But if Lisa ain’t happy, nobody’s happy, and Basin Campground, although somewhat remote, had both.  (So much for a ‘compromise’, right?)  But, after a good night’s sleep…as good as one can have while sleeping on rocks with critters nosing around the tent at 3 am…if was off to the Baldfaces in the morning.

Home sweet home...kinda.

Home sweet home…kinda.

Basin Pond, at campground.

Basin Pond, at campground.

Friday’s Hike: North and South Baldface. Well, not quite…

Admittedly, completing the Baldface Circle Trail (9.8 miles r/t, with significant elevation gain) was a bit of a lofty goal, even though I recall doing this as an overnight hike with the kids when they were young.   I think these two mountains have gotten a little higher, and the Baldface Circle Trail a little steeper in the last 25 years.  In any event, after reading (and re-reading) the trails description (particularly of the portion that ascends South Baldface) we switched plans a bit and chose to summit North Baldface (elev. 3606, with significant elevation gain since you start at only 500 feet above sea level) via the Bicknell Ridge Trail.  Following the Baldface Circle Trail for 1.3 miles, the Bicknell Ridge Trail branches off to the left and continues for another 2.3 miles, meeting up with the Baldface Circle Trail again about a mile from the summit of North Baldface.   The trail isn’t particularly difficult, moderate with a few rock scrambles, but then, once again, the whole ledge problem reared its ugly head.  Way too many places I could have (in my imagination) plummeted to an untimely death. 

Feeling optimistic that I hadn't fallen off the mountain yet.  Summit of S. Baldface in Background

Feeling optimistic that I hadn’t fallen off the mountain yet. Summit of S. Baldface in Background

 

But the time we reached the Baldface Circle Trail again, I was pretty much done with ledges, and Joe had probably had enough of my whining.  The views from the ledges (once I dared to look) were breathtaking, and well worth the effort.   But looking over to North Baldface from the Circle Junction, and checking the time, we changed plans again and opted to hike over to Eagle Crag (elev 3020) about .3 of a mile away.  Definitely worth the trip!

At Circle Junction; wisely decided to head in the direction of Eagle Crag

At Circle Junction; wisely decided to head in the direction of Eagle Crag

Smiling..not realizing the tricky descent awaited us

Smiling..not realizing the tricky descent awaited us

Eagle Crag; not disappointed at this view!

Eagle Crag; not disappointed at this view!

Its always interesting reading the trail description again after the hike is over.  I now know the definition of “tricky’ ascent.  Rather than take the Bicknell Trail back down, we chose to return via the Baldface Circle Trail, and encountered the ‘tricky’ part immediately.  Even my seasoned AT thru hiker husband had some difficulty (just a bit, though) and I perfected the art of butt-sliding to get down some of the tricky spots.   But other than the first .25 mile of the trip down, the hike back to the car was pretty easy, although long.  We opted out of a side trip to the Emerald Pool (about .7 of a mile from the end of the hike), even though I was intrigued to find out if the ‘clothing optional’ rumor was true!