Thursday, August 29, 2013

Katahdin with Mom!

We were hoping to accomplish a couple things in Maine while still living in the Northeast, and Mom agreed to join us for the journey, so we took a long weekend to make the long drive over to the big state of green forests, beautiful lakes, and remote mountains.

First stop - Auburn/Lewiston to run a race.  I've done a couple events in Maine but John has always run support for me (and Mom), so it was time for John to do a race in Maine too.

We picked a 5K to make it easy.  Except both of us had nagging little foot/ankle things going on.  How is it possible we could mess up a 5K?  Happily everything felt fine that morning and we had a lot of fun with a short run over bridges and through the park and town streets.  It was great seeing all the different types of people out there for the race, both ends of the age and fitness spectrums, and it was a beautiful morning to get outside.

Goal #1 = done!  That makes "State #24" for our racing career:

Mom was having issues of her own that morning, with back spasms making it hard to walk.  Luckily she was OK for sitting, so the driving was fine and we started north for the hinterlands.

On the way we found Paul Bunyan....

Driving through Millinocket and toward Baxter State Park we started catching views of the large Katahdin massif through the trees, although it was difficult to capture on camera.

Keep Maine Beautiful (by painting on the rocks, I guess):

Ah, now that is a view.  Baxter Peak (our goal) is the highest point in the middle:

John Bunyan:

We drove past many beautiful lakes that made me consider wanting to paddle a little:

Katahdin Stream Campground was peaceful and pretty, with a lovely stream making gurgling sounds to lull us to sleep:

We had a nice view of the mountain from the campground, but when we tried to take a selfie with it, the lighting didn't work (our faces must be too pale).  I think everyone will appreciate what we did to compensate:

We got up super early to get a nice head start on the big climb.  The first mile is so nice and easy, up until crossing the creek.  Then the rocks kicked in.

We climbed up through the trees, up some excellent stairs (someone has done a marvelous job with the trail maintenance through here), and further up among the rocks.  Occasionally we had a view of the surrounding countryside, a reminder of the beauty of Maine.

Mom wasn't sure how her back would hold up, but she started out and it seemed OK.

In the Ranger Station there was a map with various animal sightings listed (moose, e.g.).  Here is our version - all of these spotted on the Hunt Trail:

One squirrel chattering at us while trying to eat a morsel of food
One toad hurrying off the trail
Two ants (separate sightings) crawling on rocks
Two slugs (one squished, one almost flattened by Mom's hand)
One grasshopper that seemed really lost amid a rock field
One Boreal Chickadee that Mom ID'd on the hike down
And our highlight - one raven flying around us and calling through the mist

The higher we got, the more rocks we were climbing over:

Then we broke out above treeline and things got real.  Real views, a real good look at the low clouds over the mountain, and some real scrambling over rocks.  Including some rungs to help people up and around the trickier spots.

John was real excited about this part:

One of our last views for the day:

It was chilly and windy - time for more clothes:

We made it over the short section with the rungs with me and Mom wondering what we might have gotten ourselves into.  The good thing is that was perhaps the most technical part of the climb, except we didn't know that at the time.

The challenge was that the low clouds quickly got lower and we were soon engulfed in blowing mist and fog.  So we couldn't see how far we had to go.  Maybe that was a good thing, actually.

We could focus on each boulder puzzle as we came upon it.  John helped us figure out how to climb up, and Mom did great pulling herself up the larger rocks.

A section in the middle even flattened out somewhat, for more hiking vs. scrambling.

The last portion of steepness returned to more interesting hands-on travel, then suddenly we were at the Tablelands.  Sweet!

Now we could just walk through the cloud, following a mostly-flat trail for another mile and a half or so.  The wind was really whipping through here, throwing rain-type moisture at us as it went by.  It was wet and pretty cold and I don't know how some people were hiking in shorts.

A cairn/Karen pose:

Mom started questioning how far we might still have to go, worrying about hypothermia possibilities.  I asked her if she was suffering?  Really I was just concerned with how she was feeling, but both Mom and John took this question to mean, "if it's only moderately bad, keep going."  I may not live this one down.

She asked us to go on ahead to see how far it was to the top, as we could see only a short way in front of us in the mist.  There was a bit of a climb at the end that warmed us up nicely, then we found the sign at the top!

Here we are!

We went back to report to Mom, and she had been moving well herself.  There were only 6 cairns in between her and the top, so that was enough motivation to make it all the way there.

Mom did her version of "oh thank goodness, I made it" with the summit sign (comparison photo further down):

My camera was starting to get fogged up with moisture but at least I managed a half-decent summit selfie:

Then the sun popped out for 5 seconds!  Then it was gone.

Time to get back down and out of this cloud.  We made our way back across the Tablelands and to the drop-off into the boulders again.  John was again a huge help, and Mom surprised us by needing less assistance on the descent.  John found the route and Mom found a way to hang on and slide down, not pausing at all for the trickier sections.

Cairns (and a brief glimpse of John) in the fog:

The metal rungs were a bit of a challenge but we were motivated to get back to treeline just below.  No problem, with some great help from John:

Back in the trees!  Now just a long, steep, rocky trail down the side of the mountain.

A funny little mushroom (and a note that my camera had a moisture spot that wouldn't dry out until later):

The beautiful Katahdin Stream Falls - we really liked this spot:

You're almost there, Mom!  Doing great!

At the junction with The Owl Trail:

Mom decided she wanted to finish in less than 10 hours, so we hustled back the final mile and made it in 9:59.  Well done!

One final selfie with the cloud-over-the-mountain.  Yeah, we could have gotten our pale faces out of the way again, but this time that wouldn't make the mountain any more visible.  It was socked in for the day.

Woo hoo, we made it!

We headed to the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket to celebrate.  It's a great little place with good food, nice photos, and a bunch of AT-related stuff.

We thought this was apt for our day on Katahdin:

The photo that Mom was emulating, in fog and everything:

A successful weekend and highpoint #15 for us:

One last "big statue" to bookend our drive to/from Maine - a sculpture in honor of the last hand crank magneto telephone system in the US.  Probably big enough for Paul Bunyan:

We delivered Mom back to Waterbury and started back to Albany.

One detour for me - a tour of Magic Hat brewery and a little taste of Mardi Gras:

John suggested his detour should be a ferry crossing from Vermont to New York state.  We had not done this before, so it sounded like a great idea.  We had perfect timing to get on the ferry, nice call.

A view of Lake Champlain toward the Adirondacks:

Ferry boat arrival:

On the water with our car on a clear and sunny afternoon.  An excellent way to end an excellent weekend.

An article honoring Dad in the Long Trail News magazine - really nice, thank you Pete!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saratoga racing

Last weekend we stayed closer to home (for once!) and took the opportunity to finally visit the horse races in Saratoga while we still can.  It was a fun afternoon and of course the horses are beautiful to watch.

Heading in the front gates right before the start of the first race:

We saw the first set of horses run and began to get a feel for various places to watch the excitement and where/how to place bets on them.  It was fun to be in the big crowd as the horses rounded the last turn and people were cheering louder and louder for their horse to keep or take the lead.

Standing at the fence we had close-up views of horses being hosed down after their fast effort:

Another type of hosing down:

We entertained ourselves studying the program and musing about the odds and what might make a decent bet.  John and I had differing strategies, this should not be a surprise to anyone that knows us.  John picked a horse with long odds that we learned was named "The Best Glacier" - I don't know John, you can be a really good glacier but still not move very fast?

My "strategies" didn't work much better but I did enjoy reading the names of the horses and trying to figure out what would cause someone to call them "Sliver and Onions" or "Livingston Street".  Some that I liked were "Saguaro Blossom", "Midnight Taboo", and "Dark Roast".

Watching the horses warm up and then load up for the start:

It was a beautiful day to hang around outside:

One of the winning jockeys:

It is the 150th year of racing here!

We found where the horses entered the track and stayed to watch before one of the races.  Seeing them up close did not particularly help my ability to pick which one would win...

One last race before we needed to leave (we were visiting friends for supper) and I saw that the #12 horse was named "Tater Downs".  How could you not like a horse with that name?  I wonder what the announcer thinks of things like that.

Anyway, that was the best bet we made all day  :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New York City weekend (part 2)

A most exciting event last Saturday!  Our friends Ron and Jerome got married!  We are so happy for you.  It was a small private ceremony, but they did have a nice after party so we were able to see them for smiles and hugs and to hear some of the stories.  Congratulations and much love!

In the glow of happiness, we hung out at a rooftop bar to watch the sunset with an excellent Empire view:

One part of the city we had not been yet - Little Italy.  We took the subway down and wandered just a bit before happening upon the lively street full of authentic restaurants, outdoor seating, gelato, and snippets of the Italian language.  Ah, memories of one of our favorite countries.

This mural seems a bit out of place there - Baby Hulk?

Sunday we had a leisurely start but eventually got ourselves to the Museum of the City of New York for an exhibit on Making Room - New Models for Housing New Yorkers.  I was surprised to see the current regulations and restrictions on living quarters in the city, limiting density and one-bedroom apartments and requiring a minimum size in a place where space is at a premium.

Design projects are in the works to find innovative options on housing.  From the perspective of a couple people who like to live in a travel trailer, this makes a lot of sense.

Small areas - creative use of space - natural light - shared resources...

This project is apparently in the works for testing micro-unit apartments (250-370 square feet) with modular construction and various shared spaces including an attic garden, ground-floor porch, lounges, and a fitness area.  I look forward to hearing how (and if) this works out in a couple years.

The museum had a walk-in demo area for small-space living - more room than an RV and a bunch of innovative features and ways to store furniture pieces when you aren't using them:

One last try at the lotteries!

Still no luck, oh well.

We spent the afternoon on the Intrepid aircraft carrier - awesome!  There were many jets and helicopters on the deck to admire:

This Tall Ship was looking just a bit smaller from this perspective:

A Top Gun jet:

Our main purpose for the visit was to see the space shuttle which was sharing space on the desk, now that the area has been reopened after being damaged by the hurricane.

An amazing photo of the Enterprise being flown into the city:

There she is!

The influence of Star Trek on the name of the first shuttle - and a look at the actors a few years ago:

Discovery meets Enterprise:

We were very excited to get to see the shuttle up close:

This might make a good "what is this?" puzzle photo:

Another great image of the shuttle being transported to its new home:

The rest of the Intrepid was interesting to explore.  We had never been on an aircraft carrier before, this thing is big, lots to see.

They've got coffee, good to go:

Beware of... something starting with "J"...

Asleep on the job:

I'm really not sure...

Lego model of the Intrepid - that is cool:

Huge ropes and spool - I needed to put a person in this photo to give some perspective.  They look like modern art pieces to me:

Playing around with the "Meatball", the landing aid for jets on the deck of the carrier:

Checking out the lines holding this thing in place:

9-11 memorial:

A Concorde - that's pretty neat!

We stopped in for our first go at Ethiopian food - interesting, something different, that's for sure.

Then we took a ride back to Brooklyn and found an astonishingly long line to get into the bandshell area of Prospect Park.  They were showing the movie "The Beasts of the Southern Wild" on big screen, with a live orchestra instead of the movie score and the director (Ben Zeitlin) I believe in the orchestra.  Even the actress who played Hushpuppy (Quvenzhan√© Wallis) made an appearance at the beginning.

We were very psyched but we weren't sure we would get in from the back of the line of possibly thousands of people.  So we grabbed a spot along the road to stand behind the fence and we could see and hear just fine.  Awesome.  Sometimes we get so lucky in finding things like this and having the timing work out.  And the movie and music was great - again!

One last NYC morning on Monday!  We ran across the Queensboro Bridge, had one last bagel as Ess-A, ran back to shower and check out of the apartment, and finally made it to the Argosy bookstore to browse old books and maps.

Then we headed to Wall Street for lunch with our friend Naveen - it was great to see him!

Too much fun!  We may need a few days to recover from all of that... but it was totally worth it.