Wednesdays are Hard

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure


It is not easy to look forward to a Wednesday morning, but on this Wednesday I would not spend another chaotic day darting from one meeting to the next and staring helplessly at the computer screen as 50 more emails pop up. On this particular Wednesday morning, Caitlin and I would hit the road to embark on another adventure.

We set out for the White Mountains of New Hampshire to do some hiking and camping, but first we stopped at a town called Hancock (NH) and spent the night there at Hancock Inn B&B. People have stayed in this historic building since 1789 (George Washington’s first year in office). The town itself is located in the Monadnock Region and maintains its original character. Part of me wonders what it would be like to move to a town like this, away from all the madness.

The following day we arrived at Crawford Notch Campground in the White Mountains; an immense campground near the Saco River. We immediately headed for the trail and managed to squeeze in a short hike before darkness covered the mountains. We startled some people (and their dog) as they tried to peacefully smoke Marijuana, on the way to the waterfall, which was the big scenic point of this hike. The first night in the White Mountains was cool and crisp – the kind of mountain air that you remember breathing for months after the trip.

Next morning, we hiked Mt. Washington – the tallest peak (6,289 feet) in the Whites, which likely makes it the most popular hike. Still, it wasn’t too crowded until we made it to the summit. Most people apparently drive up to the summit or take the old railway. I doubt that we will be doing this hike again, but it is a beautiful hike and worth doing at least once. There are just far too many other trails to explore in this enormous landscape. Back at the campsite, we had a gourmet dinner of Ramen Noodles and found our beds in the tent in minutes, exhausted after the 11-mile walk.

As we dozed off listening to the owls in the distance, pleasant memories of the local flora and fauna floated around in my mind. Cornus canadensis (Bunchberries) – what looked like little mini flowering dogwoods carpeted the cool, moist ground. Perisoreus Canadensis (Gray or Canada Jay) came around to investigate as we hiked through the dimmed forest toward the end of the day/hike – they flew over our heads and landed just 2 feet away. They reminded me of Blue Jays, but bigger, black, gray, and white; not as loud, and their heads not triangular, but round. Finally, up near the summit, Arenaria montana (Mountain Sandwort) made for a spectacular display of white and yellow sprinkled over the rocks and gravel. I hope it won’t be too long until we return to this mountain wilderness for another adventure.

Catskill Vibe

Outdoor Adventure

Recently, I’ve been spending more time in the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York State. It’s the closest drive I can think of that will get me to a mountainous region with a 3,000+ foot elevation. I would imagine that folks from the upper west coast would chuckle at that number. Well, these mountains may not be as tall as the ones out west, but they have their own unique beauty and vibe. According to geologists, these mountains are a result of uplift and erosion. The process that formed these mountains is different from the process that formed most other mountains, which involves folding, extensive faulting, magmatic activity, and other events that can be described as orogenic events. Today, the Catskills are described less as a mountain range, and more as a severely eroded plateau resulting in a sharp relief (Catskills GIS Atlas 2012).

To me, a mountain is anything that has dirt, rocks, plants, and an incline. Places like that tend to have “vibes”. I’m going to forget the fact that the area is crammed with resorts and that it is mostly known as the place where many young stand up comedians got their start. I drew my own take on these mountains as it hit me while camping there and hiking through the area. I cannot define that vibe in a word because I had many different experiences there.

We once camped at Mongaup Pond: a beautiful campground on a lake. We filled the raft with air and lowered it into the water. We paddled through the water and a bald eagle nervously floated from tree to nearby tree as if he were always uncomfortable. As soon as I opened a Victory Pils he was gone. Some time later, a golden eagle circled the lake over and over again. I don’t think he found what he was looking for. Some time even later: Witches (I think?). Into the night…awakened inside the tent by strange lights on the outside. In the morning, we tried to place the sounds we heard that night, but we could not tell what they were without adding imagination. What was the vibe….?

Back to our favorite campground: Woodland Valley Campground. The vibe is always really good here. No enchanted lake or breathtaking views, just a quiet place amidst oaks and other hardwood trees that I can’t really identify. The main attraction photo describing this place in the brochure was a photo of a leaf. The man working the visitor’s booth closely resembled Keanu Reeves. He didn’t talk much about surfing, but he had great tips for reserving campsites: “Just ummm pull it up on the website man, click reserve, and you’re golden, bra”. Nights here consisted of craft brews, lanterns, interesting humor, stars, hammock time, little mice on Harley’s, and the sound of the owls (if you are lucky).

While hiking; the air always smelled great (unless something crapped nearby). The climbs were challenging, rocky, and refreshing. Once at the top, sometimes you’d see peaks of similar size; cobalt and cerulean blue in the distance. Other times, you’d see hazy bodies of water down below or nothing but thick fog. In the woods, something was always scurrying around and rustling up the leaves. Now and then you’d feel a presence of something and then nothing. Suddenly, a bird of prey would leave in haste crashing through the trees, cursing you for discovering its hiding spot. You’d wait for your heart to slow down and then take some water from the stream.

What about the people? Not my favorite subject. What was the vibe in the Catskills? I’m not sure I’ve got it yet, but I’m excited to go there again.


Works Cited

^ “REGIONAL TOPOGRAPHY”. Catskills GIS Atlas. Catskill Center. Retrieved 2009-10-12.

A Great Year for (car) Camping

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure

The two week immersion into the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington State did nothing to curb my appetite for exploration and adventure. The trip only made matters worse, leaving me hungry for more portions of delicious wilderness. I learned a lot on that NOLS (national outdoor leadership school) backpacking course and I was eager to put newly acquired skills to use. And off I went, but as much as I enjoy the company of my own thoughts I felt lonely at times. So, I dragged a few friends along for a couple of short backpacking trips. Later, it occurred to me that lugging a heavy pack for days, smelling like ass, and eating dehydrated peppers wasn’t everyone’s idea of a grand old time.

Looks like I wasn’t going to have my wilderness cake and eat it too. There was only one way to play the hand I was dealt and combine the company of my bros with being outdoors. I would have to embrace a particular kind of camping… camping. Oh yes, everyone loves car camping. Fans include bikers, hippies, birders, and beauty pageant winners. No heavy lifting, no need to emulate the diet of a goat, and best of all; no need to dig a hole after a sip of coffee. The bathroom is close and the car is even closer. So close, I often walk right smack into the car, usually after my 3rd specialty beer. It would be quite a challenge to backpack with a six pack of Boulder Beer’s “Hazed and Infused”.

After a strong night of partying in the woods, it was time to pass out on king-size air mattresses waiting inside tents that Andre The Giant must have loaned out. But, I still had the stars, the fresh mountain air, the eerie sounds of owls growing louder and nearer, and best of all; the company of my bros. My cynicism for car camping was replaced with a feeling of content, as I reflected on a terrific night of classic shenanigans. Same old jokes, same old impressions and comedy skits, for well over a decade now. There are trips where nights like this make the trip and trips where it’s all about summiting that peak, but I wouldn’t trade one for the other.