So yes, it's been a while. Once camping season was over it was time to hunt, then once hunting was over it was time to work on the snowmobile and get it ready for (hopefully) a full season of riding. I did exactly what I didn't want to do, and that was ignore Lye Brook for all this time and take my sweet ass time finishing it. Luckily, the misery that accompanied that trip is still freshly ingrained in my mind. On top on finishing Lye Brook (sometime this week?) a couple of other edits have taken place, such as adding some new hunting & snowmobiling gear and adding some new slideshows. Our trusty Sony VAIO laptop died about a month ago so we had to rely on my Asus Transformer TF300 tablet to connect to the outside world, but have no fear - Best Buy credit card is here. Just a few nights ago I set up our new HP desktop with 20" HD monitor. It's amazing how "cheap" technology today is still amazingly powerful for the average consumer. Needless to say, I have high hopes for getting back into the website-editing swing of things. I hope to get more than one overnight hike in this year, and so far snowmobile season has proved plentiful. Fingers crossed!
Brooke, Hunter and I took our new Jayco pop-up camper down to the Worcester Surfcasting Club campground on the Cape Cod Canal this past weekend for our first official camping trip. My parents were down visiting my Aunt & Uncle, so my dad, who is as excited about the camper as we are, got to partake in the festivities.
We hooked the camper up to my dad's Tundra early Friday afternoon and were crossing the Bourne Bridge at 4:30pm that evening. Within an hour the camper was fully set up and the seven of us were enjoying drinks at our camp site. After a few rounds of bevvies we packed up and headed to dinner, right down the road at Gert's. Fried seafood was on our minds, as we were on Cape Cod afterall, and after dinner Brooke, Hunter and I retreated for our first night in the camper. The three of us squeezed into the king size bed and proceeded to get nine hours of deep sleep, waking intermittently to the pitter-patter of rain on the hard roof of the camper. In the morning, while my dad and Hunter ran amok around the camp site, I cooked sausage and scrambled eggs over the stove while enjoying a hot cup of Starbucks Sumatra brewed in the stove-top percolator. This was quite possibly one of the five or ten best breakfasts I've ever had. Our weekend ended prematurely as the rain moved in and the radar on my phone showed no end in sight. We decided we'd be heading back down this coming weekend, so we didn't feel guilty leaving Saturday afternoon and heading back home. It was a great 24 hours, and with a few more weekends planned this fall, Brooke and I couldn't be more excited.
OK, it's been a while since I posted. It's been a weird few weeks. Brooke and I took Hunter to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania for the very first family vacation just the three of us. It was an absolute fucking blast. Watching Hunter run around and go on rides and play was one of the best Dad moments I've had. That joy was shortened when I got a phone call that a dear friend had passed unexpectedly. We were still in PA when I got the call, and for the remaining three days I really leaned on Brooke, and unbeknownst to him, Hunter, to keep me afloat. It's troubling how life can be so joyous and perfect at one moment and then so crushingly painful in the blink of an eye. OK, enough about that. He'd kick my ass if he knew I was sitting at my desk sulking like this.
Anyways, Brooke and I have a hike coming up in a few weeks to the top of Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in MA at around 3,500 feet. It's a short 8 mile loop that brings us to the summit on the second morning, but we're both pretty out of shape so we fully expect to get our asses kicked. As for getting my ass kicked, a mere six days after that, I'm joining Bill, Byronn, and New Mark to hike a loop in the Lye Brook Wilderness in southwest Vermont . We haven't fully decided on the loop, but it should be somewhere between 14 and 20 miles long. New Mark is in his 40's and has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Yes, that Appalachian Trail. It's also Byronn's first real hike (aside from day-hiking in Zion, which on second thought is about as real as it gets). It should be a blast, and hopefully I don't get lazy and post the trail reports and pictures months later.
Went and checked the trail card again (while Dad's in Aruba) and found this little gal peeking in one early morning.
I got my Dad a Primos trail camera this past Christmas (Primos TruthCam 35), and he set it up shortly thereafter. Well, about a month has passed and sure enough, as you will see below, we have some activity in the woods behind his house. What excites us the most is that the camera isn't up on the hunting property, where there will surely be more game activity. We'll move it up there some time this spring, but for now it'll stay perched on this same tree in the many acres behind his house.
This past Saturday Jamie (my brother-in-law) and I brought my sled down to Dave's shop to do some preseason tuning. It wasn't anything overly technical, which Dave is adept at, but it was still a blast to get the sled up on a lift and get some work in. Our first chore, besides cracking a 9am beer, was to mark out and drill the stud holes, 48 in all. I would have gone with 96, the standard amount for trail riding, but with 1900 miles already on the OEM track 96 would have potentially over-stressed the track. 48 was the perfect number to handle icy corners, hills, and the occasional rip around a lake. After we finished up the studs and continued with our liquid breakfast our next task was to take off the factory runners and put on some Woody's Dooly 4" carbides. Like I said, nothing too complex. Dave spent a good hour or so adjusting the two rear shocks and the front suspension, and voila, I had a trail-ready 2005 Polaris XC 700 SP. With hunting season over, all of my attention is now focused on snowmobiling and I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday. We finished up by hitting Dave's favorite local lunch spot, George's in Pascoag, RI, and proceeded to gorge ourselves on "stuffies," "iceboxes," and all kinds of fatty goodness. It was a great day all-around, and with my sled all set to hit the trails I couldn't be more excited.
A rare October nor'easter blew into the region this weekend dumping about 7" on heavy, wet snow in the greater Worcester area. Areas north & west of Worcester such as the New Hampshire border and the Berkshires received as much as 20"-30"...it set records, it downed trees, it severed wires, but it also allowed me to take the sled for its virgin ride, and it also allowed me to take my son Hunter, who is all of 16 months old, for his first ride around the backyard...the video is shaky, but I think it's potentially Oscar-worthy.
Yesterday proved to be one of the most successful Saturdays in recent history. I woke up bright and early and made it out to the fields that abut the hunting property to do some early morning pheasant hunting with two buddies from work, Leo and Tim. We made our way through the fields for a few hours, seeing a handful of birds, but ultimately returned home with nothing. It still felt great to get out and spend some quality time in the outdoors trying to stock out freezer with fresh meat. I ended up having to cut the hunting short in order to be ready to head to Springfield, MA to the site of the "Big E," the Eastern States Exposition, for the annual Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts (SAM) snowmobile show. It was like a time warp, and it was awesome. Walking around the show grounds with my dad, uncle, and cousin Garry - the original snowmobile group - after all this time being out of the sport was like being transported back 20 years to when the four of us would visit similar shows when my dad and I were first getting into the sport. Snowmobiling carries so many memories for me and the opportunity to get back into it is going to make this winter one to remember. I ended up getting a new modular helmet and dad grabbed a case of synthetic oil, and being immersed in all of the new sleds and gear really got us pretty revved up for the season. There are still plenty of weeks of pheasant and cottontail hunting remaining, turkey season is right around the corner, and deer season is in December, so it's definitely going to be a busy fall leading into snowmobile season.
So growing up, snowmobiling was a huge part of life. My dad and uncle bought new sleds in the late 80's and I started going with full-time (almost every weekend from Christmas through mid-April) in the winter of 1992. Each weekend seemed to surpass the last, and it was the best thing my dad and I shared. For close to fifteen years snowmobiling dominated my winters, yet the amount of trips started to dwindle as the younger generation of guys went to college, got married, had kids & jobs, etc. Well, the last two years have seen a resurgence among out group of riders. First, Garry (my cousin) went out bought a brand new 2008 Ski Doo MXZ Adrenaline 600 last year, and then Jamie followed suit with a 2002 Polaris 600 EDGE XC. This spring, myself, my dad, and Steve all caved to the peer pressure and also got some new rides (can be seen on the Sleds & Gear page). So starting next winter we will rededicate ourselves to the sport that has fashioned some of the best memories in our family.
Yesterday was the first semi-warm and semi-dry day in months, and we took advantage of it. Myself, Brooke, our dog Fletch, and Patrick went up to the hunting property and hiked around for a few hours. It was impressive how much snow was still on the ground despite the warmer temps here recently; over 1' in some areas, whereas our entire yard is (dead) grass. We hiked around for about an hour, stopped and made some Mountain House dehydrated lunches, and hiked on before one more stop for a cup of instant coffee. Starbucks Via > NesCafe Instant, and in the words of one local sports radio personality, that is "fact, not opinion." Fletch's paws were getting a tad irritated from the snow so we hiked out a little earlier than anticipated, but it still felt terrific to get out in nature and breathe some fresh air. This was our first foray into anything more extreme than living room carpet with our new hiking boots, and both pairs fared extremely well. Not only were we hiking through slushy, mushy snow, but we regularly traipsed through standing water and new rivulets created by run-off from melting snow. Our feet were warm and dry, and I was so excited about it mainly because it was the same situation I was in last year on the A.T. with Mark when my old boots soaked through within a mile. My new, bulletproof Bean hiking boots will surely be friends of mine for years to come. Brooke is excited about her boots, too, because they kept her feet dry and were "very comfy," but also because they "look cute." Amen to that.
That is known as gear shopping. It's ridiculous to think about, but ever since I declared my Keen Targhees not fit for action, I have owned the following hiking boots: L.L. Bean Cresta, Lowa Renegade, Salomon Quest, Asolo Fugitive, Vasque Wasatch, and back again to the L.L. Bean Cresta. Now, let me explain myself. I wanted a more durable, supportive, and stable boot than my comfortable-yet-"flimsy" Keens, but I was also concerned about weight and warmth (for hot hiking days). I have oddly shaped feet (flat, high volume, kinda wide), and the Bean's right out of the box fit like a glove. But with a little one on the way, I had buyer's remorse and returned them. Ya know, $189 buys a lot of diapers and wipes. REI had a member's sale a few weeks later, and my (il)logical thinking told me to just bite the bullet and buy a new pair of boots, so I tried on a few and decided the Renegade's were the one for me. Except after wearing them around the house and going on a few local hikes, I found out they were too narrow for my block feet and my piggie toes suffered considerable. Back they went. Next up? I traipsed around REI for a good 30 minutes in the Salomons, and to this day they were the most comfortable hiking boot I've ever worn. But the more I thought about it (usually at work or tossing & turning in bed), the more I realized that they were right in the same ballpark as my Keens - comfortable boots that wouldn't last more than 3 years, at best. Back they went. I got some gift cards to EMS over the holidays, and talked myself into the Asolo Fugitive, but they were both too narrow for my toes and felt incredibly hard underfoot. I returned those and ended up in a new pair of Vasque Wasatch (if only due to EMS' limited in-store inventory). They, too, didn't fit my forefoot properly despite being a pretty comfortable boot, and seemingly well constructed as well. Back they went (much to the dismay of the EMS personnel...listen, if you wanna compete with the REIs of the world, adopt a return policy like REI's.) If you read this blog you know that I hunt and fish when I'm not hiking, so I decided to bite the bullet and return to my first true love: the L.L. Bean Cresta. It's a boot I'll hike for many, many years in, but I can also wear it during spring turkey season, pheasant season in the warmer fall months, and on warm weather deer hunting days. I can wear them down the road on fishing trips in the Berkshires, and on adventures to far away destinations with Brooke and HP. I like the look of the classic all-leather hiking boot, I like the durability they offer, the guaranteed waterproofing, and basically everything that a kinda heavy, all-leather hiking boot will bring to the table. With the hiking boot ordeal over (in the words of Brooke), I can now stop e-mailing her daily posing hypothetical questions about which boot to buy. She's infinitely more happy, as am I. But now I find myself bored with nothing to research and buy. Well, I guess I could upgrade my day pack...and I will eventually need a multi-day pack - maybe a Gregory Baltoro 70? I have to go e-mail Brooke about it...
Seriously, is he one of the five funniest authors alive right now? I'm a Stranger Here Myself is pure genius, but what I'm taking the time to type about is A Walk in the Woods, which I just read for the second time (on my new Amazon Kindle 3G). I first read it back in 2006, before I even knew I was head over heels in love with backpacking. A few trips under my belt, I knew I had to crack the cover one more time and read it from the perspective of a hiker. Better the second time around. I'm too tired right now and too a.d.d.-riddled to even begin touching upon every subtopic in that book that really gets my blood pumping, but that book just makes you want to empty your savings account, outfit yourself, quit your job and fly to Springer Mountain, GA. Even when I expected what was coming, I still had to put the book, er, Kindle down and laugh like I've never laughed from a book. Every person out on the trail has a little bit of Bryson and a little bit of Katz (and maybe even a little bit of Maryellen) in them. If you appreciate the outdoors, do yourself a favor and buy/borrow/steal this book as soon as you can.
So I was visiting my favorite Google Sites how-to website when I stumbled across the Table of Contents section. A few hours and two cups of coffee later, and I feel like I've changed the site, for the better. Each trail report has a table of contents with links to each section, the Day Hikes page now contains every day hike with a link to each section, and each of the three Gear pages has its sections delineated at the top of each respective page. It's, in my opinion, neater and cleaner, and I feel that with each change this site slowly becomes more refined and user friendly. This site was conceived after spending countless hours over at www.dorfworld.net, a site belonging to a fellow member of the backpacker.com message boards. His trails reports had me sitting at work thinking how much fun it would be to start my own site, but "how?" kept popping into my mind - I knew nothing about websites. I eventually stumbled upon Google Sites (I drink the Google kool-aid), and their ease of use and ridiculous price ($10 a year) quickly made up for their relatively simple layout. Now, I'm proud to direct people to this site. Countless other backpackers have their own sites chronicling their own adventures, and sure, it's not built through HTML (am I even using that in the proper context??), and isn't super technical, but the product that Google offers to laymen like myself is nothing short of extraordinary in my mind. Google now offers some pretty terrific templates for those creating new sites, but there is absolutely no way I would scrap this and start over...maybe down the road they'll offer current sites the option to change over to a new template, but for the time being "slate" is the way for this site to go.
Anywho, off my high horse. As some of you know, my buddy Bill went to Glacier last year. His pictures dwarf anything I display on this site, and ever since last July our conversations have centered around "where are we going to go in 2011??!?!!?" Well, life happens and things change. I had a baby. Mark had a baby. Bill got engaged. Wild West 2.0 isn't happening in 2011, so now we're focused on hammering out two, maybe three weekenders this summer. Where will we go? Who knows, but if I had to guess we would do one weekend on the A.T. somewhere in the Berkshires, one weekend in the White Mountains, and potentially (hopefully) a three-day weekend in the Adirondacks. Wherever we go, it would be dutifully chronicled here, with more details than you care for and more pictures than you hope to view.
So after spending countless hours at the local hunter's education course, the season came and went in what felt like the blink of an eye. Deer hunting consisted of two Fridays and two Saturdays roaming throughout the property. I saw one doe, several rubs, and hundreds of tracks in my four days hunting. I hunted alone on the first Friday, with Jay, Justin, and Alex on the first Saturday, and then Jay and I hunted together the final Friday and Saturday. It has been a relatively cold fall and early winter here in southern New England, which made it even more enjoyable for me. I eagerly await next spring's turkey season, and cannot wait to get back to deer hunting next fall both here in Massachusetts, and hopefully in Vermont and the Adirondack region of New York. Below are a few photos from the season.
I went pheasant hunting with my father-in-law Phil on this cool, damp morning in November. We hiked into the fields around 7:15am and spent two hours walking the hedge rows and tree lines among the various fields. About an hour in we were working the woods along one of the fields in the hopes that the birds had been pushed out of the fields, and we were right. I spotted this pheasant in among the trees, and he took off like a bat out of hell. One trigger pull later and I had my very first pheasant stuffed in the back bird pocket of my Cabela's hunting jacket. I brought him home, dressed him, and cooked him up for lunch along with his heart and liver. It was a great first pheasant hunt, and I hope to get out soon with a few weekends left in the season.
So Saturday the 30th was the last day of turkey hunting's fall season here in Massachusetts. I got up around 5:30am, brewed a pot of coffee, and got all of my gear together (lumbar pack, .12 Winchester, camo jacket, and knife) and headed over to my dad's 40 acres of untouched, pristine wilderness. I walked about 200 yards into the woods, over the knoll and into a nice depression that gave me good site lines. The woods, being old plots of farm land from 200+ years ago, are spider-webbed with stone walls (used to corral cattle), so I found a great spot to sit against an old oak tree nestled right against a stone wall. I made sure to hide all of my blaze orange gear and got comfortable. After an hour or so of calling turkey and drinking coffee out of my Stanley thermos, I decided to change positions. I hiked up to my left to the top of another knoll overlooking the depression, and now had a great view of 10 or so acres below me. Within a few minutes, I head a "whoop, whoop" and turned to see a large turkey flying right behind me into a tree 100 yards or so to my north. It was too far of a shot, so I tried stalking closer to the tree - to no avail. Turkeys have excellent vision, so he saw me coming with no problem. He flew far, far away, and that ended up being the only turkey I'd see all morning. I gave up on this spot, as well, and decided to do some walking. I walked all around the properties boundaries following stone walls and streams, and saw nothing more than a few chipmunks. I found this mildly disappointing, as the last time I was on the property I saw 11 turkeys and 2 does, all with three other adults and two dogs running amock. It was a cold morning with nary a cloud in the sky, and it couldn't have felt nicer getting out bright and early and enjoying the solitude that the woods has to offer. I didn't bag a turkey, but the first (and last) turkey hunt of the short season was a success. The spring season is 4+ weeks, so hopefully I'll have many more opportunities to take down a large Gobbler.
So, in a recent conversation with my dad about hunting and how difficult it will be to find a place to hunt in moderately-populated central Massachusetts, he informed me that he owns 41 acres of undeveloped woods only about 2 miles from where I live. Who knew? The past few Saturdays have resulted in me and a few people, namely my neighbor Bill (from the Mt. Monadnock hike) and Mark (from several hikes) doing some scouting and reconnaissance missions on the land. This past Saturday of the 3-day Columbus Day weekend, the three of us along with Bill's son Harry spent a good portion of the afternoon creating a campsite. We found a nice knoll a short walk into the woods that is now comprised of a cleared trail to the site, three tent sites, and a rock fire pit. After finishing the fire pit and getting a gorgeous fire going, we cooked lunch (hot dogs and beans) over the open flames and enjoyed a few adult beverages. Later that day we took an hour-long stroll through the woods, and discovered a never-ending network of stone walls, a creek, and (lucky for those of us who plan on hunting the land this season) nine turkeys and two deer. Who knows how long the land has been untouched, but we found several game trails and other evidence that this place is a veritable game reserve. The 41 acres is surrounded in the back by more undeveloped woodland that stretches back for many miles, which for this part of the country is pretty impressive. What excites me the most about this piece of land is not the endless hunting possibilities, but the opportunity I will have the indoctrinate my son into woodsy, outdoorsy activities. The land we own and that which lies beyond is so vast that we can hunt, hike, and camp as often as we want, and it's no more than two or three miles from where we live. What will soon be afternoons spent hiking the woods with my son will be the seed that grows into week-long backpacking adventures through Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado (or so I hope).
Into Thin Air is one of my favorite outdoors-related books, so when I finally came around to reading Krakauer's other famous piece, Into the Wild, I was anticipating another great book. Thankfully, I was right. The story of Chris McCandless is heart-wrenching on many levels. Krakauer details McCandless's internal struggle with his father's infidelity and overbearing parenting style, his failure to converge his extremely high level of intelligence with the requisite motivation and work required to succeed as a student, and his disapproval and dismay at society's seemingly wasteful existence that came across to McCandless as, essentially, humanity raping Mother Earth. We can all understand and admire McCandless's journey throughout the lower 48 states in a 1982 Datsun, as we've probably all had, at least one time in our lives, a stronge urge to just "get away." (I know I have, and that's what keeps my romance with the woods burning strong.) McCandless, though, takes it a few steps too far when his desire to be alone and connect his soul with the earth drives him to venture into the Alaskan wilderness so utterly ill-prepared that his four month survival is nothing short of incredible. Those who pounce on McCandless's death as a great "I told you so!" regarding preparation and due diligence should take a step back and consider that this young man lived off the land in one of our continent's most inhospitable habitats for four months, eating wild berries and plants and killing everything from small game such as squirrels and ptarmigan, to felling a Caribou in his second month with nothing more than a .22-caliber rifle. His death was not brought on by arrogance towards nature or an ignorance towards preparation, but poisoning from toxic mold growing on seeds he was eating. And this is the beauty of Krakauer's narration of McCandless's story: you're torn between defending a young man who had the courage and wherewithal to actually do something that so many of us would never think to do, yet he did it in a way that can't be defended, for had he scouted the land or gone into the wild with the requisite survival tools, he would have lived. Krakauer doesn't pick a side to this fight; he leaves it up to you, the reader, and 24 hours after finishing the book, I still don't know what side I'm on.
In honor of one of my favorite TV characters ever, Reno 911!'s Lt. Jim Dangle, I did some new boot goofin' this weekend along the lines of hiking nine miles in Mt. Monadnock State Park in New Hampshire, as you can see under the Day Hikes section. I did the trek with Bill and Mark, and two of Bill's buddies, and it was a blast. I got to try out my new Salomon Quest 4D hiking boots (and some Keen, Asolo, and Merrell hiking boots were put to their first real test, too, on this trip) and I can away pleasantly surprised. They offer incredible ankle support despite their light weight, and the support under foot is miles beyond that of my old hiking boot, the Keen Targhee. Due to Salomon's success with trail runners, these boot incorporate a lot of the same features and essentially feel like you're hiking in a larger, heavier running shoes (which is a good thing). After none long miles (with minimal weight on my back) of rocky, root-y terrain, my feet felt terrific and comparable to what they felt like after 4-5 miles in my Keens. Now that I know comfort is second to none, it'll be fun and interesting to see how durable these boots are. The one-piece Gore-Tex lining should offer more waterproof-ness than the eVent in my Keens did (failed <1 year), and the proprietary sole (not a Vibram sole) looks promising. Though they only come with an EVA midsole (good for only 200-300 miles) versus a PU (polyurethane) midsole, my frequency (or infrequency, now) of hiking should allow me to get 3-4 years out of these boots. For more info on the actual hike itself, visit the Day Hikes section and peruse the short trail report, Picasa slideshow and Google map.
I'm just a guy who loves to hike, fish, hunt, camp, and snowmobile, preferably with my wife Brooke and our three kids, Hunter, Max & Shea. I play the part of a lawyer during the week and try to get outside and get dirty on the weekends.