September 30, 2008

Rocky Peak Ridge

The original plan was to do one last backpacking trip to end the season. Mother nature didn't look like she was going to cooperate with that idea and we did not like the idea of being cold and wet so we cancelled the trip to Santanoni. Keeping a close eye on the weather reports, we agreed to do a dayhike on Monday. At first the reports looked like clouds, so we thought we had settled on Tabletop. At the last minute, reported a partly sunny day after 9am. So it was my idea to do Rocky Peak instead and maybe have a nice view from Giant as well. Giant was the first peak my father and I did together and we were treated that day to a view of nothing. So, we started out from the Roaring Brook Trail to Giant hoping that the fog and clouds would clear by the time we summit one or both of the mountains. The last time we used the Zander Scott Trail, so this would change things up a bit. We climbed the three tenths of a mile to the top of Roaring Brook Falls. It was beautiful from up there and would be worthy of a return trip to that exact spot. We would also sometime like to explore the base of the falls, which has it's own little trail to and from. The trail continued away from the road and the falls, climbing very moderately on a soft dirt trail. Not too rocky. Just like any other high peak trail however, this one also gets very rocky near the top and also presented us with some tough maneuvering over wet bare rock and very slow going. This trail is also 6 tenths of a mile longer than the Zander Scott trail, so we quickly decided that we would take the other trail on the way out. This would require us to walk route 73 for about a mile to get back to the car. After leaving the trailhead at 7:30am, we made it to the junction with the other trail at 10:45am. While resting here we met two hikers who have completed the 46. They told us some stories and wished us luck. It is nice to meet others who have actually completed this feat and lived to tell about AND continue to hike them. My father and I joke that someday we'll be saying "hey, lets take a run up Giant just for the fun of it". When in actuality, I think we'll be saying "hey, I wonder what the view actually looks like from Giant". The weather is still not clearing at this point. I remain optimistic that by 1pm the clouds will have burned off. We ate an early lunch at the junction to the RPR trail. Only .2 to the Giant summit from this point and 1.1 to RPR. Off to RPR in hopes that hiking the 2.2 miles (which will take us about 2 hours) will get us back to Giant if and when there might be a view. Plus, we want to do RPR first because it is the needed peak. We didnt bag it the first time along with Giant because of an October 14th snowstorm that cropped up. The "mere" 1.1 mile is a lot of down, almost to the point you think you are somehow on the wrong trail. Finally it cuts back east and starts the ascent. This portion takes us 1 hour and 15 minutes. We spent little time on the top of RPR as there is no view and it is already 1:15pm. Limited daylight must be taken into account, so we eat a little more and take some quick pictures. Attention is paid to the rock formations up there since there will be no "distance viewing" today. There is a strange thing happening on the rocks today. 3 times we have seen a little drip turning into either foam or bubbles so I photograph that. On the way back up to Giant the sun comes out quickly and we are treated to a limited view of the peak we were just on and the almost peak status of the leaf season. There are rich golden and yellow colors mixed with the conifers. A little further to the south from here bright reds are visible. Just as quickly as the view appeared it was gone again. At the junction to the summit of Giant, it is still viewless. We are kind of relieved not to have to climb up Giant for we are both tiring and coming down with a head cold. The trip down the front of Giant is tricky but we remind ourselves that we've done it before and we slowly made it to the road at about 5:45pm. The 1.8 mile trip on route 73 to the parking lot is welcomed at this point, we walk at a very fast pace and managed to avoid being hit by the speeding 18 wheelers. Funny how you can walk 1.8 miles in about 15 minutes on flat pavement. In no time, we are sitting in the comfy seat of the car, enjoying the rest of our sandwich from lunch with the chips we bought and left in the car for after the hike. Along with our "dinner" we enjoy ice cold green tea from the cooler we finally remembered to bring. 19 down, 27 to go. Not bad for my first year hiking the high peaks. Happy 1st High Peak Hiking Anniversary to me on October 1st.

P.S. If anyone had clear views from Tabletop on Monday, I don't want to know about them.

September 28, 2008

*3* budding naturalists

I am extremely interested in Richard Louv's book, Last Child In the Woods. I will read it sometime, perhaps this winter when the pace slows down a bit. I totally agree with the idea that kids today play way too many video games and spend much of their time indoors or in "structured play". I have been trying to be better about making time for my daughter to be outside and in the woods. She is not yet capable of tackling a high peak, so on the weekends I am not hiking one of them, I make the effort to get her in the woods somewhere. My daughter's list of mountain climbs include, Hadley Mountain(x2), Tongue Mountain, Buck Mountain, and Shelving Rock Mountain. Her hikes are more enjoyable all the way around if she has my nephew to explore with along the way. Today, they wanted to search for monarch butterflies. We didnt find any butterflies, but what we discovered was that my nephew (the half boy, half animal I described in the bee post) has not quite made it to Jeff Corwin caliber as an animal enthusiast yet. The kids were excited to take their dogs and do the canoe carry trail that leads to the Hudson River. My nephew was armed with a plastic box for the collection of some type of creature he hoped to find. We made it uneventfully to the river, hung out on the rocks for a while, enjoying the waterfall of the dam. Until my nephew spotted this snake.
He let out a blood curdling non stop scream after yelling "SNAKE" which then led to my daughter's high pitched shrill intermittant screaming...both of them paralyzed, standing on their own rock unable to follow the simple directions I was shouting for them to go around the snake and that he was not poisonous. They finally made their way up to my sister who was equally as unable to help them as I was. Both of us were laughing so hard at this scene of hysteria that had derived from what was supposed to be an innocent nature walk. Well, my nephew was so mad at me for laughing at his panicked expense that he threw his plastic box of water at me. When he calmed down, he was able to express that he was sure this snake was a rattle snake (which was obviously why he was so scared). Shortly into our walk home, he was back to normal. He gave his 3 year old sister who was unaffected by the discovery of the snake, a ride on his back and in no time was showing all of us how to run like an ostrich. Whew...I dont think we traumatized him too badly. Aside from being on the computer researching Northern Water Snakes, I dont think we've lost this outdoor boy to the Grand Theft Auto video game yet. In fact, you never know what this experience might lead to...a quote from Jeff Corwin:

"When I was little, while exploring my grandparent's backyard in Massachussetts, I turned over a log and had an encounter that forever changed my life. I saw this garter snake, and was immediately transfixed by it. I remember catching it and bringing it into the house with me and seeing the terror it unleashed in people, but not understanding why they were so afraid of it. As I've often said, if I'd rolled back that log and found a golf club, I would have been Tiger Woods. I tracked that snake for two years and would visit it every time I went to my grandparents. One day, the neighbor next door snuck up behind me and cut off its head with a spade, thinking it was attacking me. I was so shocked by that behavior, by that expression of ignorance, it focused me on what I was going to do with my life. The day I found that snake was the day I became a naturalist. The day I saw it get killed out of a misunderstanding was the day I became a conservationist"


a neighbor approached my father saturday morning to get another opinion of "what" made the tracks through his yard earlier that morning. what we saw were huge split hoof tracks, some of which also had the impression of the dew claws. the space between the tracks was also leading these experienced in animal track hunters to believe that it had to be a moose. The only suspicion to the contrary is if the tracks had come from a cow. Quickly though it was determined that there arent any cows being raised in our immediate vicinity. the neighbor was able to follow the tracks through his backyard to where the tracks went back into the woods. we determined which way this animal went, grabbed the camera and headed for the canoe trail and pole line behind my house. on the trail we quickly spotted one place where this big guy crossed an open area and continued back into the woods. once on the wooded canoe trail I didnt see anymore signs of him. my father had split from us and we didnt see him for about 2 hours. apparently he was a better tracker and followed the tracks all over the riverbank. he concluded that the animal got close to the river, decided againt crossing there and continued wandering. it most likely was a moose and as of saturday afternoon was still on our side of the hudson. very cool. i wish we could have gotten a peek at him. apparently, we are in the middle of the moose's "rut" season where they are known to wander in all sorts of areas such as communities and roads in search of a mate. the moose population in the adirondacks has grown to a self sustaining rate. apparently one of them wanted to explore the southern most part of the park.

September 24, 2008

distracted by happy tune

I could talk about the "bailout" and how angry I am that responsible citizens now have to pick up the pieces of our greedy "fellow" americans who have borrowed money, lived beyond their means all the while the CEO's and Investment bankers lined their own pockets. Instead, I have decided to try to stay positive and continue to be thankful for what I have and for the decisions I made as a young home buyer. Perhaps, the best we can hope for at this point is that those CEO's don't leave their positions with a "golden parachute" severance packet, rewarded for the damage they have caused.

In the meantime, I heard this song today and particularly liked the lyrics . "open up your plans and damn your complications, our time is short"

September 21, 2008

busy bees

About a year ago, my nephew was looking at photos of his mother when she was growing up. He was curious, but somewhat disenchanted that the photos revealed a childhood that centered around farming in full swing. He saw pictures of cows, pigs, turkeys and hay fields being mowed. He wanted to know why he couldn't have been alive to be part of the farming he was now painfully aware of. Since this was coming from the kid who describes himself as part boy, part animal and spends hours teaching himself about a plethora of creatures and their habitats, my mother decided beekeeping would be an easy way to introduce some farming to the next generation of our family's kids. In addition to feeding Kyle's appetite for animal information we found that bees are actually in jeapordy these days. We did some research about a fairly new phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. It seems that the small scale, hobbyist beekeeper is becoming scarce and the commercial operation is causing the bees to be overworked and exposed to pesticides and other environmental factors that are killing them. There are lots of things you can do to help save the bee population that doesn't include actually raising them. After all, your food supply depends on it.
The kids enjoyed their first summer of being apiarists and the rest of us have enjoyed dabbling in an activity that was one of my grandfather's favorites.

Kyle and Grampa Mark donned the beekeeping "costume" and went to retrieve the top section of the hive which contains frames of honeycomb the bees have been working on since June. Kyle had to brush some bees off of the box because they don't want to let go of their honey. Once they are brushed off, Grampa leaves with the honey and Kyle must replace the top of the hive. Everyone is watching from a distance because there is a possibility of getting stung.
There goes Grampa Mark, making a clean get away with the stolen honey. Two boxes are left. One houses the actual living quarters of the bees and the other is honey that must be left for the bees to eat during the winter. The frames of the honeycomb we stole from the bees needs to sit inside overnight so it will warm up. This will make the extraction easier. The first part of the process is complete.

On Day two we must extract the honey in a closed environment because if the bees smell their honey they will come looking for it. So my garage is turned into the honey factory.
The honey comb has to be "uncapped" first by trimming the comb with a knife before the frame can be placed in the extractor. We have borrowed a hand cranked extractor, because my grandfather gave all of his bee keeping equipment, including an electric extractor, to a friend of his when he thought we were done with bees.The kids all got a chance to turn the handle and provide the force needed to pull the honey out of the comb. Kyle wanted to know how it turned into honey from the furry looking pollen that you can see all over the bees legs.

The empty honeycomb cells.

The spout is opened after all of the frames are emptied in the vat. Out the golden honey begins to pour. Everyone is surprised at how light the honey is. The color of the honey depends on the flowers and plants that the nectar has been gathered from. My father recalls darker honey that was harvested at a time when the fields were planted with buckwheat.

We were able to harvest 176 ounces of honey. Not bad for the first partial season out of retirement. The bees missed collecting nectar from the first blossoms of spring, so next year we anticipate having twice the amount of honey. The bees will be busy pollinating our garden too and hopefully through exercising responsible beekeeping habits our bees will be happy and healthy in the Washburn Meadows Apiary.....Here's to the resurrection of a family tradition!

what a girl

I was a hockey mom for eight exciting seasons (the blue line had a different meaning) and a little league mom during those same eight years. Every June I get to be the dance recital stage mother, however I am about as atypical as a stage mom can be. Saturday I made my debut as "soccer mom". Although, after reading the definition of soccer mom , I am not sure I want to be known as one. My daughter has been talking about how much she loves to play soccer in gym class and I guess I just never took her that seriously. After all, she is graceful on the dance floor and very much a girly girl, plans to be a cheerleader type. So I thought. Even her brother said he couldn't believe how good she is at playing soccer. This is the ultimate compliment. She ran her heart out and aggressively went after that ball. Even playing with and against the boys! She totally ate up the fact that we were there for HER. After all, she is practically a professional baseball spectator always playing the supporting role. On my way to the game that morning, I still had my doubts about how into a soccer game I could actually get. This sport is all new to me. Well, it doesn't take long to fall in love with a sport. Especially when your daughter already has.

I can be Reagan's soccer mom, but you won't catch me driving another mini van....

September 17, 2008


I'm not ashamed to say that I am counting down the days until the season premiere of Law and Order SVU. Mariska Hargitay is a super strong role model and advocate for women in her real life and I love to watch her play the tough detective benson on tv. This is the only program I never miss and yes detective stabler also has something to do with that.

September 16, 2008

not just a birthday party

I witness some pretty emotionally depleting stuff day in and day out so I am rather intentional about finding the good that exists outside of the world I live in from 9-5. One saving grace for all the work I do with people in recovery is a friend who gives me the real deal information on addiction. She is 7 years into her recovery and it is not difficult to see the path that was laid out for her. She met her husband at a meeting and two years ago they chose to foster a child whose addicted parents could not care for her. They have a combined 27 years of sobriety and now they have a two year old. They remind me that there are successes out there in the real world and at times the system does work. They have adopted the little girl, which has given her permanancy that many children in the foster care system will never have. I had the pleasure of attending her birthday party over the weekend. I don't know who needed the other more...but all three of them are pretty lucky. And so am I, to be included in their journey. Makes me better able to "keep throwing it against the wall" because occasionally it sticks. I have much gratitude for what they continue to teach me.

September 13, 2008

the fire department remembers 9/11/01

My daughter innocently expressed that although she observed the moment of silence along with her classmates, she had no idea why they were having the moment of silence to begin with. She was two when the towers were hit 7 years ago. So just when something seems like yesterday, we are reminded how quickly time flies. I am glad my daughter remains somewhat clueless on the subject of terrorism.

My husband's 20 years of service to his volunteer fire department makes the anniversary of 9/11 more poignant and the following poem which I stumbled across back in college pretty much sums up the reality of being a fireman. In the town his fire department serves, the selflessness described is definitely alive and well.

Volunteer Fire Departments are, when the alarm goes off, almost the only examples of enthusiastic unselfishness to be seen in this land. They rush off to the rescue of any human being, and count not the cost. The most contemptible man in town, should his house catch fire, will see his enemies put that fire out. There we have people treasuring people as people. It's extremely rare. So from this we must learn.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater
-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

September 10, 2008

neurotic or open to new stuff?

Found this article as I was logging on to blogger tonight. Basically, someone has done a study about the personality of those who blog. I do believe I can be neurotic about lots of things if I let myself get carried away, however, I would rather attribute my blogging to being open to new experiences. Ironically, my new experience of hiking in the Adirondacks is what led to my blogging. Since you have to pay to read the whole article from the online science magazine, I searched a little and found this much more complimentary information. I agree with this gal..who wouldn't want a blogger friend.

September 8, 2008

algonquin, iriquois and wright peak

You may be thinking that I just returned from another backpacking trip...Nope, I just decided to see how much I could punish my body in one day. I ignored the encouragement to save Wright for a leisurely, enjoyable, short day in the Adirondacks and coupled it with algonquin and iriquois because they are all in the same 11 mile vicinity. It was a very strenuous day to say the least, but the views were incredible. My father and I had decided earlier in the summer that we wanted to stand on top of Algonquin, the second highest peak, on a clear fall day so that the view would be the best possible and that it was. It was 65 degrees and mostly sunny the entire day. We started out at the Adirondack Loj trailhead, signing the register at 7:45am. We knew it would be a long day and with the shortened daylight we wanted to be back at the car by 7:00pm. We kept a quick pace along the trail that eventually branches off and bypasses Marcy Dam. We came to the junction of Wright and Algonquin at 10:10am after carefully but quickly making our way up the very rocky trail. This was not a wet trail at all. Just like any other high peaks trail there are tricky, root filled spots. The trail up Algonquin is just as rocky, mostly very vertical slabs of bare smooth rock. When you near the summit there are a few cliffs that give shorter legged people a bit of a challenge. The last bit of rock you must hoist yourself somehow up, paralyzed me a bit, but with help from my father and his trusty hiking pole, I made it. To the north, the view was still in cloud cover but in all other directions only a few low level clouds remained. There was Mt. Colden in front of us, closer than we had seen before. We got a great view of Lake Colden as well. We quickly found a front seat to this mesmerizing view and for a few short moments had it to ourselves. We were briefly alone...then the adk chapter hike arrived. They were a constant source of chatter. Some interesting information to note and some not so much. Anyway, we ate lunch, took many pictures and soon headed across the summit to boundary. Boundary and Iriquois appear to be a hop, skip and a jump away...however, when you have to descend, ascend, descend and ascend again to get to Iriquois, the legs definitely start to feel it. I know, stop whining...time is an issue though so this had to be done without a lot of rests in between. It took about 40 minutes to get to Iriquois and we allowed ourselves another 20 minute break. From Iriquois, there was a great view of the cliffs on Wallface mountain and by 12:30pm the view over to the Sewards and Santanoni had cleared. These mountains are not easily viewed from the other peaks we have been on so this was a treat. My father and I commented that we are getting pretty good at peak naming. I remember being on Cascade the first time and having no idea what I was looking at and not even being able to tell from the map which mountain was which. Back to Algonquin by 1:50 for another short break. The views North have cleared and we can now see Whiteface. We were still mesmerized by Colden and did not want to leave, but time is closing in and we need to get to Wright. The trip down the Algonquin trail take some time because of all of the bare rock that must be negotiated. We remind ourselves that this is nothing compared to the slide of Macomb! Yikes. We made it to the junction with Wright by 3:30, rounded the corner and without stopping began climbing once again straight up. I erroneously thought that Wright would a walk in the park...compared to the other peaks. Was I wrong. It may be a mere .4 mile but it is straight up, lots of bare rock and more boulders to maneuver. It was 4:00 at the summit, very windy and getting cold. The view had changed a bit with the shadows of late afternoon being cast. We got a great look at the vastness of Algonquin. I could not muster the strength to search for the plaque honoring the plane crash incident. I've seen pictures, they will have to do until I make another ascent of just Wright someday where I think I will leave enough time to take a nap up there! It is very cold at this point and at 4:30 we start the journey out. We pick up the pace as much as possible and reach the soft forest floor just as I start to feel like hot lava is lining my boots. I can feel a blister forming and my knee is starting to act up. We start the traditional planning of what we want from the Stewart's on route 73. Luckily my father has stowed a green tea in the car, which will however, be warm. We ask ourselves why we never think to put a cooler in the car for the trip home. Next time. On the final stretch we are walking at "red trail at dusk" pace. That means fast, like "we don't want to have to break out the headlamps fast". We signed out at exactly 7:00pm. 3 more peaks under our belt. Once you sit down in the comfy car is all suddenly worth the extreme physical exertion...never mind that I haven't been able to walk right all day.

September 5, 2008

eating extremely locally

The garden is winding down and while there were plenty of hands available on this past Monday holiday, we harvested whatever corn was ready and froze about 30 Ziploc packages. we didn't get enough green beans to warrant a big dilly bean operation, so freezing the corn will have to be considered our garden project of the summer.
There are several steps to freezing corn so anyone who wanted to jump in definitely had a role. First, you have to pick the corn and then you have to husk the corn. We do this outside so that the husks can just be dumped right back into the garden. My smallest niece doesn't care that the corn is not cooked, she begins eating an ear just after it is picked. I guess she likes her corn "fresh". Next, we carry about 130 ears of corn into the house, where my grandmother has begun boiling a large pot of
water. She cautions us not to put too many ears in at once and sets the timer for 7 minutes. This blanches the corn. From the boiling water, the corn must be cooled rapidly to stop the sugar from reacting before it is frozen.
So, into the ice water it goes. When it is cooled, which only takes minutes, it is cut off of the cob. My father had made a "special" rack to hold the cob while you cut the kernels off of the cob.
My mother did not like this idea, questioning the sanitary condition of using wood from the basement. My father told her that she was only PART of quality control and that he was going to use it. She held the cob with her hand and he used the tool he had made and neither way was faster than the other and neither of them cut off a digit in the process so I guess it is a matter of preference. I told them that even the wood from the basement was probably cleaner than the factory at Birdseye. By the way, my father did scrub the wood clean prior to beginning this assembly line operation. There are more family workers waiting to put the corn kernels now off of the cobs into the bags. The air is pushed out of the bag and then it is sealed. Ready for the freezer.
Unlike the story of the little red hen, we have all helped with the process and we will all sit down together on thanksgiving day and enjoy the corn from our garden. Wait, true to the story of the little red hen, I think my father was the only one who actually hoed the corn. Extra thanks goes to him.

September 1, 2008

reminder of the good old days

It never fails, the labor day picnic has a way of taking us all back in time. It has been a yearly occurance for at least 60 years in the Washburn family (my mother's) and has always taken place at "the farm". For a few years after great-grampa and three of his sons had passed away, attendance began to dwindle. However, the picnic was resurrected to its original state the year my grandfather passed away. It seemed only fitting to put on a gala affair that year for him and it helped those of us (who were grieving him at every event) get through our first labor day picnic without him. The family turned out in 2005 in overwhelming numbers...he definitely had a hand in getting them all there...and since then it seems that we've managed to salvage the sense of family in those of us who are left to carry on. There were some regulars missing this year, due to sickness, but all in all not a bad crowd. The furthest family members come from Maryland, Virginia and Vermont. Some of us live on the same street and some only 20 minutes away. I just have to walk across the street! Many friends have become family and are welcome too. I can't help but think of the time when it will be up to my generation to be sure this continues and it will be quite an undertaking...however, I looked around on sunday and thought that there will surely be enough of us who will think it's important and necessary. The kids played shuffleboard on the court that my great-grandparents constructed and that my grandmother paints each year before the big day. Every little kid there runs to get in the wagon when they hear the tractor start up for the hayride. The same tractor that my great grandfather plowed his fields with. There are several volleyball games throughout the day and at least one that is announced as an adult only game. There is plenty of food- the "Henry Pot" that Janie makes because it was her father's favorite, Gramma's potato salad, corn on the cob from the garden 50 feet away, Vicky's baked beans, lots of desserts, and several new recipes appear each year. The last thing my grandfather used to say as we walked out the door was "come back". Well gramp, they have and they will, for years to come.
* in memory of grampa hoddie*