Monday, October 27, 2008

Phillips Brook Recreation Area

Today, our adventure took us just a short drive to the Phillips Brook Backcountry Recreation Area, which is about 5 miles from our house, in Dummer, NH. The PBRA has many miles of well-graded dirt roads, and many miles more of hiking trails. The only issue we had, is that nothing is well-marked. A great map of the whole area would be really handy.

Driving in, we saw a hunter with his gun. We'd heard that it was a well-used hunting area, and here was our proof. On Saturday, we invested in some blaze orange, for all three of us -- a baseball cap for me, a vest for Michelle, and an orange and yellow reflective coat for Birdie! We were glad we put them on before we left.

We parked several miles into the reserve, and walked on a well-graded road to Little Dummer Lake. The lake was so still that it was like glass. We can't wait to come back here at other times of the year. If it's this gorgeous without all the leaves on the trees, we can't imagine what it will look like when the leaves are green, or changing in the fall.

We continued past Little Dummer Lake on the graded road for several miles, following the road to see where it would lead.

The literature promised us wildlife (and said moose sightings were likely) but we didn't have much luck. Michelle saw a large hawk in a tree-top, and we saw some chickadees, but that was about it. (Not counting the dead mouse Birdie tried to eat!)

The forecast threatened rain, but it never came. And, the temperature was surprisingly warm, in the low 60s.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whittaker's Farm

Our Monday adventure this week was a field trip. One of the priests in this diocese is also a forester. Brendan and his wife Dorothy live over the river (and through the woods, it's true!) in Vermont. Dorothy runs a small organic farm (at 74, it's amazing what she does). In retirement, Bren still works with a bit with one congregation, manages his 60+ acres of forest land, and hosts a number of groups who come to partake of some of his encyclopedic knowledge about the Northern Forest.

A class from Brown University was spending the day with Brendan, and he invited Michelle and me to tag along. We wandered into a big bog (or perhaps a fen). I didn't get as soggy as some, but I did wind up over my shoes in muck. We identified a number of plants, including the lovely larch (or tamarack), the only deciduous conifer.

Following our boggy walk, we visited with Dorothy, who talked at length about small farming, local agriculture, and why she's not officially certified as organic (even though she uses organic practices). The reason for the last one, by the way, is that it's a great deal of paperwork that she doesn't want to fuss with, and her customers don't seem to care.

After a casual lunch, we walked around Bren and Dorothy's woods. Bren talked about forest management, showed us different plots where different strategies had been used, and in general regaled us with stories about his days in Vermont government (he worked for the state in forestry).

After the students headed back to Providence, Bren, Dorothy, Michelle and I did more visiting, and Dorothy sent us home with a big batch of tomatoes (which Michelle has already canned!).

This wasn't a huge hiking day, but it was a huge knowledge day, and great fun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Real Runner

I began running in seminary, as part of a whole-seminary challenge to run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in April of 2006.  A friend and I trained hard, decided we weren't ready for a full 10 miles, and completed the 5K race.  I've run off and on since then.

Michelle and I decided to participate in the Great Glen Trail Running Series at the Great Glen Trails in Pinkham Notch.  These trails are at the base of Mount Washington and are open for a variety of outdoor pursuits throughout the year: walking, hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing.  The trail running series ran for six weeks and covered a 3.4 mile trail.  The first 1.4 miles consisted of a serious trail run - up and down hills, over rocks and roots, and several stream crossing.  The last 2 miles were on the cross-country ski trails and were graded (though still with some ups and downs).  

The runs were difficult.  Each week, I ran hard, and tried to improve my time (and I succeeded, clocking in at 52, 50, 48.5 and 47.2 minutes respectively).  But I never feel graceful or at ease when I run.  I have a hard time catching my breath, and my face turns all red.  

Last night, as I was running, I cam upon a mom running the short course with her two kids, who were about seven and four.  As I came up behind them, I heard the mom say, "Move over guys, there's a real runner coming."  Me.  She called me a real runner!  It gave me a total boost.  As I continued running, I realized that she was right.  I might not be the fastest runner (in fact, my times for the trail run were always the slowest).  But, I can run a 3.4 mile trail run and finish the course.  That makes me a real runner.  

Monday, October 6, 2008

Caribou Mountain

Today, Michelle and I climbed Caribou Mountain in Maine. We ascended on the Caribou Trail and descended on the Mud Brook Trail. Total distance - 6.9 miles, total time - 5 hours and 8 minutes.

I knew this was going to be a terrific hike before we'd even left the parking lot. While we were trying to decide where to start, I caught a glimpse of movement in the woods. A cow moose wandered by, followed by a giant bull moose. The bull moose was looking to get lucky and the cow was trying desperately to shake him off. They never got close enough for good pictures, but they wandered around the woods behind the lot for several minutes. If I were to see nothing else all day, it would have been a great hike! This was my first moose sighting in the wild since moving back east.

The good news for us was that the whole hike was amazing. We'd been told that the Caribou Trail as beautiful, and it was. We lost track of how many waterfalls we saw. The trail was supposed to be an easy one, but all the rain has made it quite soggy. And, we crossed any number of streams. 

I also saw a very cool
 pink lichen.  I've never seen anything like it before, and neither had Michelle.

Caribou Trail connected to Mud Brook Trail at 3.0 miles.  Mud Brook continued to climb to the summit of Caribou Mountain.  At the top, it was difficult to find the trail, but we saw what we'd come for.  365 degrees of open view and lots of fall color. 

The descent on Mud Brook Trail was a difficult one.  According to the guide book, Mud Brook Trail was named for the Brook and not the Mud.  It was, however, a pretty steep and muddy trail.  I fell several times and wound up with a shoe full of muck.  By the time we finished, we were really bushed.  

We've voted this our favorite hike so far, and look forward to walking this trail at other times of the year.  Cheers to Yvonne for turning us on to this hike.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Register to Vote!

My friend Lynne sent me the link to this You Tube video. While I'm not usually a huge You Tube fan, I felt like this was definitely worth posting here and passing on. After watching the VP debates last night, it's clear that there are strong differences between the two candidates and their policies. No matter which side you support, there is a strong impetus to get out and vote. So, watch the video. And register. And then get your self out there on election day and VOTE.