Monday, February 28, 2011

More Adventures in the White Mountains

This weekend, Jaimee and I spent another wonderful weekend in the winter wonderland of the White Mountains. We stayed for two nights at Carter Notch Hut near Mt. Washington. We drove up on Friday and when we left Boston it was a hard rain that turned to snow as we progressed north. It took over six hours to drive there, more than double what it should take. This meant we got a late start hiking, leaving the trailhead at 4:15PM for the four mile hike to the hut.
We made good time on the slog up the Nineteen Mile Brook trail, but when we got to the top of the ridge, it was pitch black with a hollowing wind. Even with our headlamps on full blast we could barely see in front of us, and when we got to a trail sign that said the hut was 0.3 miles we were super excited. The problem was, with the blowing wind, there was no trail. Having never been to the hut before we didn't know that it sat just above two small lakes. All we found were the lakes, and as we wondered across the frozen surface we noticed that our tracks were blown away so it was impossible to backtrack. I'll skip to the ending in that we eventually noticed the lights from the hut, but I will say, I was very, very scared. The White Mountains are a dangerous place, especially in the winter, at night, in a blizzard. It was the first time I'd ever seriously contemplated activating the 911 feature on our Spot device, but luckily, we stayed calm, found the last bit of trail that we recognized by walking the perimeter of the lakes and were able to find the path people take in the summer. There was another sign at 0.1 miles from the hut and at that point we could see the warm glow of the hut.

Our two-night stay at the hut was fairly uneventful, except for a drunk person in our bunk room. We stayed in a six-person bunk house the first night and one of our bunk-mates threw up inside the room, multiple times. It's a pretty horrible sound to hear retching and then the sound of vomit hitting the floor. Luckily the room was about 10 degrees so the vomit froze and actually didn't smell. But the guy did cause some drama looking for the door, falling on ice, making all sorts of noise. The second night was less dramatic as we had the room to ourselves.

We climbed one 4,000 foot peak during out stay, Wildcat Mountain A, which was quite the hike. It's only one mile up to the summit but because we had to break trail through drifts of snow over four feet high it took us two and a half hours to get to the top and only 40 minutes to come down.
The hike out to the car was much easier than the way in, but we decided to just return the way we came on the Nineteen Mile Brook trail instead of out and over Carter Dome, another 4,000 foot peak in the area. We got back to our car, and although the car was fine, we'd left a Sigg water bottle full of water in the car and when it froze it broke the metal bottle! The weather and conditions of the White Mountains are not be taken lightly!

Other than our little weekend adventure, we've had more quality family time. We celebrated Jaimee's birthday with her cousin and meme, who all have birthdays within a few days of each other. I love this picture of the three of them blowing out the candles on the cake. Take away the smart phone on the table and it could be a Norman Rockwell painting:
We also got in a trip to Vermont to visit my Aunt and Uncle, where Jaimee and I pinch-hit for my Aunt (she hurt her knee and has trouble snow-shoeing) and led the wine and cheese snow-shoe tour at Grafton Ponds where she works. Much easier than hiking up Wildcat Mountain, this was a 45 minute hike through the woods to a waiting bonfire where they'd already brought up bottles of wine and blocks of cheese via snowmobile. We drank four bottle of wine between 10 of us, which made for an interesting walk back down through the woods. We've had an amazing snowy winter here in New England and we feel lucky that we've been able to enjoy it as much as we have.

Monday, February 7, 2011

40 years ago...

No, I'm not turning 40. I may be old, but I'm not that old (not yet anyway). Forty years ago today my parents got married. They were married for 19 years when my father passed away, and I have no doubt that if he hadn't died, they'd still be married and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this week. Their anniversary was a big deal in our family because, as some of you may know, we didn't celebrate Christmas growing up. (We also didn't celebrate Hanukkah, which is always the next question when you tell someone you don't celebrate Christmas.) Instead, my parents arranged what we called, in retrospect somewhat unimaginatively, "Present Day" which coincided with their anniversary. We took the Christ out of Christmas and moved it to early February. We also took out the lights, decorations, stockings and trees. In reality it was nothing like Christmas except that we exchanged presents. This tradition fell by the wayside as my sisters and I got older, and I honestly couldn't tell you when the last official "Present Day" was.

I mention my parent's anniversary today, not so much because of the memories of "Present Day", but because my dad has now been gone longer than my parents were married. I got to thinking about this recently because I have a strong tendency to dwell on the past, and while I never ever want to forgot the people from my past, sometimes the past has a way of covering over the present. Life moves forward, and it sounds like a cliche, but you can't live life looking backwards.

Take for example our around the world trip. Before we know it, we will have been back in the States longer than we were away. It's not that the memories of the trip are fading, but the relevancy is fading, or at least that's how it feels. It might seem obvious, but the trip we took will never change, which means we'll always be answering questions such as, "Did you go to Cambodia?" with "No." Or  "Did you go to South America?" and we'll have to say "No." We'll answer "What parts of Africa did you go to?" and it will always be "Just Egypt". And we'll always be explaining that we only visited southern India, and didn't see the Taj Mahal.

This isn't to say we won't travel again, and indeed I intend to continue traveling and visiting new places. I recently found myself on-line playing around with around-the-world tickets, which even though we didn't end up using one for our trip, I still find intriguing. Not to alarm anyone in our family lest they think we're planning another big trip, but I read a lot of travel blogs and I happened to click on an ad for a "South American around-the-world" ticket that stopped in Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica. All those stops (and there were multiple stops in some of the countries) cost less than $1,500 per person. That's an amazing deal, and part of me wants to head to Miami (where the ticket originated) and leave on that trip tomorrow. And not just because Boston has three feet of snow on the ground, although that certainly is big motivation.

Then again, as I've mentioned repeatedly, I am enjoying myself in Boston. Yesterday we had a lovely Superbowl party at Jaimee's dad's house and on Saturday, Jaimee and I had a long visit with my sister and nephew. I cherish those moments, and am truly happy that we are close to family. But, the travel bug is hard to kick and I sometimes wish we didn't fall into jobs and a routine in Boston so easily.

When we came back from our trip, I had a grand vision of finding some way to finance more travel, finding a way to break free from the "9 to 5", three weeks of vacation a year syndrome. Alas, Jaimee and I found jobs, good jobs that we both like, and an apartment that we love. So what's the problem? Nothing really, except that I still have unfulfilled dreams. I guess the take-away from this somewhat long rambling post is that I plan on spending more time in the present (and future), and less time reminiscing about the past. In reading other around-the-world bloggers, I noticed a similar struggle that sets in a few months after returning. Often it seems the blogs morph into something else. The most explicit example of this is AwayTogether, a blog about a family of four who traveled around the world, which turned into A Runner's Trip, a blog about long-distance running. Another example is our friends Jason and Gillian from Victoria who have continued their blog, but with a focus on motivation behind travel, living in the moment, and challenges to move out of your comfort zone. I know that Gillian sometimes reads this blog, so I don't mean to misrepresent her blog if my description isn't her intent, and I really encourage people to check it out for themselves, as it's quite motivating.

Maybe this blog will change into a place to motivate others to fulfill their dreams and live in the present. I suppose we can do that by setting an example ourselves. So, maybe you'll see more posts about dreams, goals and living a more fulfilling life.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lonesome Lake

As promised, here's an update of our latest winter adventure at Lonesome Lake hut in the White Mountains (with pictures). It started, like many trips to New Hampshire do, with a stop at the Liquor Store right off the highway. We had to stock up on "nips" to keep us warm in the hut, and we also wanted to pick up some Sortilege, that super-yummy Maple Canadian Whiskey that our Canadian couchsurfers brought us a couple months ago. We couldn't find Sortilege in Massachusetts, but we'd heard it was available in New Hampshire. Sure enough, they had a huge display of it, although they were the small 375mL bottles which was disappointing, but it just meant that we got two!

The hike into Lonesome Lake hut is fairly short, a little over a mile, but like many trails in the White Mountains it is very steep - it gains about 900 feet in that one mile so it was a good workout. The lake was completely frozen over so we could take a shortcut across it to get to the hut:
The setup of the hut is a large main building where the caretaker keeps a wood fire in the evenings surrounded by two unheated bunk houses separated into rooms with four or six beds each. The entire compound sleeps about 45 or so, but when we got the hut, the very nice caretaker told us it was only us and one other couple that night. So we had privacy on our anniversary after all. We soaked it up that first night because on Saturday night the hut was filled to capacity, half of them a "Women of Newburyport" group. They certainly took advantage of the short hike in as they carried in at least a dozen bottles of wine.

Our friends Michael and Liza met us at the hut on Saturday morning and we did a day hike of two 4,000 foot peaks in the area. The conditions were amazing. The trail was already packed out by other snowshoers and although there wasn't much sun, there also wasn't any wind so it wasn't all that cold (as long as you kept moving). It truly was a winter wonderland. We summited both North and South Kinsman, making it peaks 17 and 18 in my quest to hike all 67 4,000 foot peaks in New England.
Even though supposedly the hut was packed the second night, no one shared our bunk room with us so we had the room to ourselves again. Of course, the temperature in the room was in the single digits so we didn't spend too much time in the room itself; mostly we were bundled up in our sleeping bags. I'm a pretty warm sleeper so I was comfortable in my 25 degree down bag, while Jaimee had borrowed her dad's 0 degree bag. It took up most of her backpack on the hike in and out but she claims it was totally worth packing in.
We had a great weekend at the hut, and I'd totally recommend Lonesome Lake as a place to try out "winter camping" as it's a short hike in, the hut is very comfortable (even with 40 or so people), and the setting is beautiful. We're already planning our next outing, probably to Carter Notch Hut at the end of February. 
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