Friday, December 31, 2010

A Winter Adventure

With this posting I may have to really rethink the whole "Chasing Summer" title for this blog. I just spent three days enjoying the aftermath of the "Blizzard of 2010" up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. (Jaimee could not go with me as she had to work.) Last Sunday night New England, especially coastal areas like Boston got hammered with snow. Boston alone received 18 inches of snow. Before the storm, we spent Christmas Eve to Christmas morning at Jaimee's dad's house in Shrewsbury. We had a lovely, festive time, and pardon the inside joke (but let's be honest, only "insiders" are really reading this anyway) no churches were burned down on Christmas Eve. We left Shrewsbury Saturday evening and drove down to Cape Cod where we visited with Jaimee's visiting Mom and her brother and sister. The storm began rolling in late Sunday morning, and although we had plans to return to Boston on Sunday night, we spent another night and braved the roads back to Boston on Monday. Although by Monday most of the snow had fallen, the roads were still somewhat treacherous and parking in the city was a nightmare. Our downstairs neighbors were out of town so they said we could park in their driveway, but that meant I had to shovel it. It took over two hours to shovel out the driveway wide enough to park the car. Dealing with this much snow is certainly never something we had to deal with in Seattle.

However, the timing of the storm couldn't have been better with respect to my planned trip up to the White Mountains. I spent two nights with our friends Liza and Michael at the AMC Zealand Falls Hut. The hut is rustic, only heated with a wood stove that they stoke between 4PM and 9PM each day. The hut has bunks for about 35 people and it was filled to capacity each night. This meant for cozy accommodations especially in the main room with the stove. We had a great time though, playing games and meeting new people. Not only did I meet someone who knew one of the Appalachian Trail through-hikers I met last summer while hiking the Long Trail, but I also met people who knew my Aunt and Uncle, Neil and Betsy. One guy said he'd house sat for them, and another said he used to work at the West Hill Bike Shop when my uncle owned it. It truly is a small world.

We also got in lots of snowshoeing during the day. The first day was a relatively easy snowshoe into the hut because the trail was already broken out. The second day we took the trail up to Zealand Mountain which was not already broken out. It took the three of us five hours to break through snow that was often up to our waist deep. We eventually got to the summit, which sadly had no view. Although it is a 4,000 foot peak so it helped my friend Michael who is attempting to climb all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000 foot peaks in the winter:

The third day we returned to the car via the summit of Mount Hale, another 4,000 foot peak. Again, waist high snow where we took turns breaking trail to reach the summit. Hale actually had somewhat of a view and the day was beautifully sunny, so we enjoyed basking in the warm and calm summit:

It was a lot of work snowshoeing through the mountains, but it was a ton of fun and I hope to get up to the mountains more this winter. I'm not necessarily trying to climb all 48 New Hampshire 4,000 footers in the winter, but I am keeping track of which ones I've climbed; I'm up to 16 peaks climbed (and now two in the winter). You can see the rest of the pictures from my hut adventure here.

Now we're finishing packing up and are headed to Neil and Betsy's for the weekend. We might get in some cross-country skiing, but overall hope to have a relaxing New Year's. 2010 was a tremendous, life-changing year for me and Jaimee and I'm hoping 2011 brings more adventures and fun!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Although Jaimee and I have enjoyed our Holiday travels in the past, this year we're taking advantage of being in the area to do many of the family things we were too far away to do in recent years. As we mentioned in the last post, a couple of weekends ago we went down to Cape Cod to visit Jaimee's brother. While there we helped him install Christmas lights on his house. They were the "icicle" style:
Although the Chatham stroll was kind of a bust (we thought it was happening both Friday and Saturday nights, but when we went on Saturday night many stores were closed), we still had fun visiting family and friends.

This past weekend, we attended the Annual Leroux Christmas Party at Jaimee's dad's cousin's (aka Jaimee's first-cousin once-removed) house. He lives in a beautiful, recently remodeled house in central Massachusetts. The house was like a Bed and Breakfast, and good thing because there were probably 50 people there. The main event of the party was an "As seen on TV"-themed Yankee swap. If you think a Yankee swap with 42 gifts sounds like a nightmare, well, you'd be right...Actually it wasn't that bad, although the gifts were about what you'd expect given the theme: there were three snuggies (one plain, one with the Patriots and one with the Boston Red Sox, the Patriots), three Perfect Brownie pans and several other gifts that were good for a laugh, but not much else. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprising for those that know us) the gift we bought for the party, we also got to keep (I traded for it). It's the Twin Draft Guard, a contraption for blocking cold air on drafty doors or windows. The door that leads down to the basement in our apartment is super drafty, but after putting the Twin Draft Guard on the side of the door - the draft is gone! It may not be the most stylish thing in the world, but it certainly works!
Speaking of drafts and cold weather, today was the first big snow storm of the year! It started snowing around Noon, and by the afternoon there was a good couple of inches on the ground. I was a little nervous to ride my bike home in it, but it wasn't all that slippery. It's still snowing and we have to go to the airport in about an hour to pick up Jaimee's mom. Her mom is visiting for the next two weeks from Idaho. She's spending the night with us tonight and then going to the Cape tomorrow. We're spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Jaimee's dad in Shrewsbury, than heading down to the Cape to visit with Jaimee's mom and her side of the family. Here's the Leroux family tree (they seemingly buy gifts for everyone and his brother):
It's shaping up to be a busy Holidays, but my office is closed between Dec 23 and January 3, so it should also be relaxing. For me, anyway as Jaimee still has to look after the babies that she nannies for. While Jaimee is doing that I might be spending a few of my vacation days hiking up the White Mountains. My tentative plan right now is to snow shoe into Zealand Falls Hut for a couple nights and hike a few of the 4,000 foot peaks in the area. Given the recent snow storm, it should be beautiful up there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

After such a New England Thanksgiving we are continuing the Holiday season with what's shaping up to be a very New England Christmas too! In fact, my company already had its Holiday Party. It was a pretty low-key affair (on a Monday night!) but Jaimee made the trek into downtown Boston after work. It was actually pretty fun, because at one point Jaimee and I got on the subject of our trip with a few people. Most people are amazed when we talk about spending two and a half months in South East Asia or two months in New Zealand. It was fun to reminisce and it made me really miss our trip. I'm glad we don't forget about it and find new opportunities to discuss and remember it.

Last weekend we visited Vermont for two reasons. First, we spent Saturday doing some trail work on the Catamount Trail. The Catamount Trail is to cross-country skiing what the Long Trail is to hiking. It's a cross-country ski trail that goes the length of Vermont. They were having one of the final work parties of the year so Jaimee and I made the trek up to Killington to help clear a section of the trail. They were rerouting part of the trail off of a snow mobile trail. Here's Jaimee ready to go with the brush cutter:
And as is typical in Vermont, one of the people working that day knew my Aunt Betsy and Uncle Neil. We discovered he knew them because this guy started talking about how he's attempting to ride his bike along every paved road in Vermont, and he was wondering out loud if anyone had ever done that before. I said, well my uncle was telling me about someone who was attempting to do that, and as soon as I said it, I thought, wait maybe he's the same person. And sure enough he was. It's a small state.

After our day of trail work, we headed across the state to East Thetford where my cousins Jenny and Campbell live. We spent the evening babysitting their two kids while they had a dinner out with some neighbors. Their kids, Kate and Mack, are the kind of kids, as Jaimee likes to say, who could trick you into having kids. They are the cutest, smartest, most well-behaved kids. The next morning, we went with the family to pick out their Christmas tree. In true Vermont fashion you drive on a dirt road to a big field with a bunch of trees. You pick out the one you want, cut it down yourself and then mail the owners $16. (Subaru station wagon is optional, but strongly encouraged, as four of the five cars parked along the road were Subarus.) It was fun picking out the perfect tree, and my cousin's family did some nice posing for pictures. Here's Mack and Kate in front of the tree:
Then the whole family posed for a nice picture:
Continuing the Christmas theme, Jaimee and I are headed to Cape Cod this weekend for the Chatham Christmas Stroll. I'm actually in the strange situation of having to use up some vacation time. I accrue a certain amount per month at my job and I'm not allowed to carry over any vacation time to the next year. So, I'm taking a paid day off tomorrow, which is a strange feeling since my last few jobs have not had any paid vacation. Anyway, one last picture that Jaimee took of Jonah and Grace this week. It's been quite cold out recently, but Jaimee has been quite the trooper in wrapping up the babies for at least one trip outside each day. Here they are ready for the cold:
Aren't they lucky kids to have such a nice nanny?
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