Monday, October 25, 2010

A cool warm-up

It was in the low ’30s with chill winds when the New Zealand crew began its shakedown cruise Saturday morning. We climbed out of Crawford Notch on the Avalon Trail, warming up and getting to know each other as best we could, rock-hopping uphill in single file. We were two from Connecticut, three from Rhode island, one from New Hampshire, seven from Massachusetts. A New England crew, not unexpected on an AMC trip. The trail was slippery in places, and as we climbed we hit the snow line. At the Mt. Tom spur, after picking up the A-Z Trail, we took a break for a snack and chat.

Having gained 1,700 feet or so, the walk heads generally downward  from here, eventually into Zealand Notch. From its  junction with the Zealand Trail, it’s just a few flat minutes to the Twinway and the final, notorious, steep bit up to Zealand Hut. On this weekend evening, the place was ringing to the cries of a dozen or so very young, very active Boy Scouts (absent in this photo, using one of the bunkrooms as a sound stage), who had walked in down the notch. Cooking, eating, and cleaning up together gave us NZ-ers a chance to get better acquainted. We are, if I say so myself, a mighty fine group. We will rock the Antipodes.

Ready for the off next morning, we found it warmer and much less windy.

We headed south on the Ethan Pond Trail (which is actually, if weirdly, north on the Appalachian Trail), to Thoreau Falls,

then headed on toward Ethan Pond over thin ice, frozen mud, and puncheons. Those aren’t ripples on the water. Well, they are—but the water is frozen. Not a good surface for skating.

Lunch at Ethan Pond Shelter...

then onward and downward to the trailhead on Rte. 302, 13 or 14 miles by trail and four or five miles by road south of where we started. We re-shuttled cars and all said goodbye until we meet again at Los Angeles International in February.

I came away feeling reasonably fit—we all seem to be—much more comfortable with the idea of hiking in a group—this group, at least—and more enthusiastic than ever to get this show well and truly on the road. And I learned a new term: “Bio-break.” I like it. It might even make me smile on my nightly 3 am excursion.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why we call it “Fall”

Two days ago, I cut the grass and got rid of all the leaves.

I just read an article that claims it’s better for the lawn to mulch the leaves and let the particles remain. Sounds good to me, though I’m not so sure about the mow-once-a week-deal. Let’s not get silly about this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Up North

I’ll be seeing our Concordians this weekend, if all too briefly, before and after my Saturday-Sunday stroll in the woods.

Earlier this week, it was iChat to the rescue, during which A came home from his run and B joined in to stretch with Dada.

It won’t be all that long before we’re all shuffling along together. Sweet B’s already beginning to do a little interesting motoring on her own. She took her parents on a walk into Lonesome Lake Hut a few weeks ago—here (purloined from their blog) she is with her Mama overlooking the lake (that’s Mt. Lafayette between them),

and enjoying lunch.

Especially on the way out, she managed selected sections of the round trip under her own power, if under Dada’s watchful eyes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Say, have you seen...?

I’ve been collecting my small kit for this weekend’s walk to and from Zealand Hut with the NZ crew. I’ve been using the same list for hut-based walks for a long time, and it can easily be made to coincide pretty well with the one prescribed by our leaders. My problem at the moment is that I can’t find one of my favorite pieces: an old Patagonia Zephur jacket. The Z is very light, very compact, and it takes the place of a windbreaker, a medium fleece and, on its better days, a rain-resistant layer. It works very well over a light baselayer, and I rely on it for walks in the Fahrenheit 30s and low 40s, which is what we’ll likely find in the Whites in a few days. I haven’t needed it since last spring, and I obviously stored it somewhere I thought was very clever indeed. I can get along without it, of course—God knows I’ve got enough stuff—but I’d be both functionally and sentimentally sorry to have to.

I lose things all the time. Significant things. Last week, it was my iPod Classic, which eventually turned up being used as a bookmark in an novel I had set out for someone else to read. A month or so ago, it was a tiny Photon LED pocket flashlight with some important keys attached. That one’s still gone.

This would all be fine, and even funny, if I were an absent-minded professor with better things to think about. But it’s actually infuriating, because I am in fact just an inattentive guy with a lazy habit of mind. In other words, I have no excuse.

And no Zephur.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An effulgent review

The lead review in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review is of Nicole Krauss’s Hearts Full of Sorrow, which I probably won’t read, despite the fact that the reviewer, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein gives it a rave.

Goldstein at one point compares it to Krauss’s previous book, and says, “The History of Love, despite its tragic underpinnings, is anything but solemn. Its sorrow is rambunctious, its anguish rollicking. Its fulgerating pain comes out in shrieks of unlikely laughter.”

To which my chastened response, peering around guiltily to make sure nobody could hear me was, “What does ‘fulgerating’ mean?”

Well, to merely literate people (not including me, obviously) it means to emit flashes of lightning, or to emit light in flashes. So perhaps I am fulgerating my Photon when I’m stuck high on El Capitan  and sending SOS signals to rescuers in the valley. Or maybe not.

But, aha!, to a doctor, “fulgerating” refers to pain that is lightning-like, electric, sharp.

Which, combined with that rollicking anguish and rambunctious sorrow, actually makes me want to read The History of Love.

110 days, 8 hours, 10 minutes, 33 seconds to wheels up out of LAX, bound for NZ. But the trip? I can take it or leave it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weather grump

Well, that was underwhelming.

By the time I was up and out early in the morning, it was dry and merely breezy. We had some strong winds overnight, and supposedly a few inches of rain (though Lake H was dry, so it couldn’t have been all that much). We certainly could have had a decent day out on the hills. Anyway, I ran in a lightweight baselayer top and left the Airflyte hanging on its hook. So more info on its characteristics will just have to wait a while.

Relying on weather predictions to plan outings can be mighty both directions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A little follow-up

It was just above freezing when I went out for my shuffle this morning. We barely escaped the frost that had apparently descended on more northerly parts of Litchfield County. I stretched a point in my eagerness to try out the Airflyte. A sleeveless techie tee, a midweight baselayer, and the jacket were predictably too warm. (Though, as usual in barely chilly temps, I was happy to  have the Buff protecting my manly jaw.) I started sweating hard about a mile out, and although I unzipped and flapped about a bit, I managed to wet out my shirts by the time I was through. Under normal circumstances, I would have simply taken the jacket off and tied it around my waist, but I was using the iPod pocket (which worked very well), and didn't want to fiddle.

Basically not a fair test, because a calm 35°F (2°C) is simply not quite cold enough to be wearing a jacket of any kind on a run. I'll be out in the rain and wind tomorrow morning, I'll wear only a light shirt under the jacket, and we’ll see how things go then.

The Aiflyte is also pretty stiff, apparently a characteristic of eVent that moderates with washing, so I expect I’ll have a very clean rain jacket.

(I’ve just checked the little countdown widget I’ve got going. As of right this moment, I’ve got 113 days, 13 hours, 14 minutes, 30 seconds before Air New Zealand whisks me off to the antipodes. I remain, of course, blasé about the whole thing.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reaching for the sunny side

Bummer. Big rains and wind predicted for Friday have squelched a walk we had planned along the South Taconic Trail, across Alander Mountain, to Bash Bish Falls.  (Too bad we hadn’t planned on it’s been one of those glorious, perfect New England fall days than which there is nothing more lovely—I’ve been out for a run and three short walks.)

The sunny side (and this is a real reach) is that I’ll get to try out my new shuffling shell in “conditions.” It’s an REI OXT Airflyte

my first-ever garment of eVent, a waterproof/breathable fabric many people whose opinions I value rave about (and, even at half-price, the most expensive running item I’ve ever bought, barring shoes). The deal is that the stuff is supposed to be truly waterproof, truly breathable, and lightweight—a nice combo that would obviously be great in the mountains, too. Here’s a review from Backpacker. And here’s a cool little demo:

The Airflyte has no hood, which is fine with me, because I don’t like running in one, and does have a little iPod pocket high on the left breast, with a way to run the ear bud cord up inside the jacket. This might be nice or a pain. I’ll find out Friday morning, when I try to make the lemonade of discovery out of the lemons of disappointment. I’ll be humming as I splash along.
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us ev’ry day, it will brighten all the way
If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life

Thursday, October 7, 2010


October 1 (I’ve been away) would have been my mom and dad’s 65th wedding anniversary. We lost Mom far too early, but I still see Dad almost every day. This Hoagy Carmichael hit was “their” song (they weren’t alone). My dad still keeps a little music box, a wedding present, that plays the tune. There are lots of good versions of this old standard. But I think to most people of my parents’ era, this Artie Shaw version was the definitive Stardust. The trumpet is Billy Butterfield. The clarinet, of course, is Shaw. Here’s to wonderful memories, Dad.

(And let’s steer clear of the bad ones. That 1931 Bing Crosby record of it qualifies as execrable, and the best-known Glen Miller version is pretty awful.)