After we bought a new house, I set to work trying to clean our range (oven). This was several years ago. I stupidly went to remove one of the oven heating elements while the oven was plugged in. To add to the stupidity I was chatting on the phone with my friend T as I did so. When the element electrical connector touched the side of the stove, there was a giant kapow, I leapt back 15 feet, and the phone was thrown across the room. I picked up the phone, T told me how he'd work on just about anything but not a stove because those things carry a LOT of power. I'm not sure how I made it out of the oven with both of my arms not to mention my life, but it turns out that the giant spark WELDED the element to the side of the stove.
By basically cutting the metal oven around where it was welded, I was able to free the element from the side of the oven and eventually got it working again. Well sort of.
From then on out if I ran the oven at 400 degrees or hotter for 45 minutes or so, the oven would stop working. I needed to turn it off and let it cool down before it would work again. It operated like this for several years, not a big deal as long as you understand it's limitations. A few weeks ago however, it overheated for the last time. The oven let out an endless beeep that wouldn't stop even after disconnecting the range from power for 24 hours.
No biggie. The oven is an old nasty smelly malfunctioning piece of crap anyway. We'll just buy a new one. Well guess what? For a few short years there was a fad where instead of installing costly overhead ventilation, Modern Maid and a few other (mostly related) companies built the ventilation into the oven itself. In our kitchen we have a beautiful picture window on the outside-facing wall. And of course it wouldn't make sense to put the oven in front of a beautiful few. Instead the kitchen sink is in front of the wall so you can look outside and water the plants while you're at the sink. Makes sense. Except that the stove needs to be on the outside wall so it can ventilate! To get around that, all of our cabinets have a ventilation shaft cut out of them down near the floor.
That fad has since passed. There is one model of oven that we could swap out. It's $3000 and has the most horrendous reviews imaginable. All the reviews talk about needed to repair it 6 times in the first year of ownership for example. So basically people in my boat are getting raked over the coals.
If we bought a normal oven, it would likely mean patching the holes carved in our lower cabinets and carving new holes in the upper cabinet for ventilation. Which probably would mean new cabinets.
Discussions about repairing the oven generally suggested replacing the circuit boards (there are two of them) or the temperature sensor. My temp sensor tested ok. The circuit boards are no longer available for purchase online, not that I could find anyway.
Because I was limited to sketchy alternatives, I was ready to look into some unexpected options. I found fixyourboard.com, which specifically advertises repairs for the circuit boards in my oven. I was skeptical at first, but got some confidence after watching their impressive testing capabilities:
I sent in my control board. When they received it, they quickly asked me to send in the relay board as well based on the problem I was seeing. I did, and within a few days the boards returned to me. I hooked them back up to the oven, and voila! It's working!
I am very impressed with fixyourboard's professionalism, and their ability to keep my old oven out of the landfill. It really saved the day for me.
* Modern Maid
* Model #: FDU186 2B
* Steady beeeeep, nothing on digital readout. Occurred while temp on 400 for nearly 1 hour. Had trouble in the past running at high temps for a long time. But this time it never returned to normal. After keeping circuit breaker off overnight and turning back on, still beeeeeep.
* Likely candidates for replacement:
# Relay Circuit Board: http://www.repairclinic.com/PartDetail/b1p13/Amana-Range-Stove-Oven-Rela...
# Temperature sensor (should be 1000-1100 ohms at rm temp). Tested ok.
# Clock/Timer and/or Electronic Range Control. (ERC) - http://www.fixyourboard.com/form.php
** Manufacturer part number: Y0308480
I have been casually eyeing some plants in the backyard that look like the edible purslane. It turns out that there are actually two different plants growing next to each other that look very similar. One is a delicious edible green called purslane. The other is a poisonous lookalike called, "hairy-stemmed spurge". Amazing (and a little scary) that they grow so close to each other.
Purslane has a distinctive red stem and succulent leaves, sort of like the leaves of a jade plant. It's really tasty. There's not a lot growing in my yard, it will take more willpower than what I've got not to devour it all before it gets a chance to spread.
Spurge has a slightly hairy stem and a milky sap that exudes when the stem is broken:
It turns out that milky sap is a good general guideline for things not to eat (unless you know for sure that it's safe).
Note to self
* wild carrot - Found this growing all over. Also found it's very deadly lookalike nearby. Surprisingly easy to confuse the two. I might avoid this one.
* wild aparagus - Went on a long mission to find these, could be tricky.
* lamb's quarters
* A concise description of some common edibles. Also be sure to check out the "Plants to Avoid" section.
* A somewhat unrelated page, but great and useful trees.
* Some poisonous plants to look out for
I have a ridiculously short and easy commute into work, a little over two miles. I usually try to ride my bike this time of year. I have ridden past this spot a hundred times, and the other day looked down to see brightly colored berries on the side of a short hill alongside the road. I parked my bike to investigate, and before I knew it I was full from eating so many delicious black raspberries like it was nature's Halloween candy.
It's strange how difficult it is to get over the feeling of embarrassment foraging for food along a common commuter-line, it feels horribly uncivilized. This is the last place on the planet anyone would ever go. It's a god awful pit full of prickers, poison ivy, and jewelweed (poison ivy's antidote) where you are on display with cars driving overhead watching you sweat and toil. But whatever. It's worth fighting through the discomfort to get to enjoy this treasure, every day til it's gone. How much more convenience can you ask for? It's less than ten feet out of my way. And I can tell you this much, there is *no* competition for these berries. They are all mine.
One day I eat berries like I'm a bear fattening up for a long hibernating winter. Then, on my way home I pick the area clean and collect a pound to bring home. A few days later even more berries have ripened and I'm back at it, eating berries until I'm ready to burst. And again the next day, collecting a full two pounds to bring on a visit with friends for the weekend. All on an area not much bigger than a ping pong table.
As I ride away from the berry patch with seeds stuck in my teeth, I spit them out along the road. By doing so I can't help but wonder... Am I planting a giant garden right now? After a few years of this will there be black raspberries growing all along my entire commute? It's amazing to think that foraging is a natural and wild form of cultivation. Consuming and producing are one and the same. Quite unlike consuming anything in a civilized way.
Over the period of 17 days, this little bud of a mushroom:
grew into this behemoth:
This is Berkely's Polypore. I saw one growing in the area last year, a few hundred feet from this spot and wondered what it was. It looks very similar to the chicken mushroom. It is listed as "edible". I broke off a piece of the wild mushroom and it had a rich, fresh, and pleasant mushroomy odor. The reports I read of eating it described it as bitter and bad-tasting, so I wasn't in a big rush to try it. It is best eaten while still young because as it gets older it becomes increasingly wood-like, much like the chicken mushroom. After eyeing the mushroom for 19 days, I assumed it would be old and gross to eat but how do you know if you don't try? So I brought home a leaf. The inner part of the mushroom is more woody than the outer part, so I cut the outer part into small strips.
I then pan fried it with onion, garlic, and olive oil. The end result was really good. No bitterness, it tastes wonderfully mushroomy and has a robust texture, on the verge of rubbery yet not rubbery at all. Kind of like octopus or squid that hasn't been overcooked.
I wouldn't hesitate to use this much like a chicken mushroom, and put it in Jurek Burgers, veggie chili, or any other dish that calls for wild mushrooms. In fact I should freeze some for winter.
The Taconic Crest Trail has been on my running bucket list for a while now. Ever since I heard about E dropping off a bike at one end, driving to the start, running the whole route, and grossly underestimating how difficult a 50 mile bike ride would be after a 30+ mile mountainish run.
The trail proved most elusive. I have repeatedly searched online for a quick answer to one simple quesiton: "Where does it start?" with nothing to show for it except vague answers like, "[The northernmost point of the] Taconic Crest Trail unofficially begins in Pittsfield... But of course you can make your own official start at the northern end in Williamstown, MA via Williams College Hopkins Memorial Forest or Petersburgh, NY via Petersburg Pass parking lot". So it has three starting points? And also, "the trail heads up into Vermont". So I can't even narrow down which of 3 states it starts in, is it NY? MA, or VT? And of course with such generic New England names like Pittsfield and Williamstown, we've got towns with those names in MA, VT, *and* NY. The road to the trail is called, "Taconic Trail" or "Route 2" for short, is that the trail? Or just a highway?
The Taconic Hiking Club provides a map of the trail if you can find it. "The package includes 11 wonderful maps and a booklet"... "Check out Williams College store downtown Williamstown, MA and if they don't have any they'll point you in the direction of a local store that might." So I'm going to drive all the way to Massachusetts to a store that will point me to a store that might have a map? All I want to know is where to start, do I seriously need 11 maps and a booklet for that?
So I'm planning to do some kind of medium-long Saturday morning run when I learn that I'll be on my own until dinner time. I wake up in the morning searching for someplace new and interesting to run and eventually find the Petersburg Pass parking lot on a map and decide to start there. It's an easy 50 minute drive, just 12 minutes past Grafton Lakes State Park where I was originally planning to run today.
When I get to the parking lot, I take a quick look at a graffiti'd info-less trailhead sign. On it someone has pinned up the following sign:
I scanned it quickly and walked away with the impression that somebody's poodle got chased into the woods by a bear. I didn't realize until after I returned and read more closely that this was no poodle. Basically a german shephard got eaten by a bear on the trail. Recently.
I sign into the trial register and mark down my plan: run out 10-15 miles then turn back. The first few miles work their way up the largest mountain on the trail. It's a steep-yet-runnable climb on a wide and incredibly well-maintained trail. I catch up to a small group of hikers. One of them, very attentive as though he is on alert, hears me coming and jokes, "good thing I didn't think you were a bear!".
5 miles into the run, the trail degrades and becomes a bit overgrown with the occasional muddy section. I come across a bird on the ground that goes into a total hissy fit, flapping wings, squawking, and making circles in the leaves, as it slowly departs into the woods. Later, I'm jogging along, and I see movement in the brush. Something is spastically coming at me. I imagine it's a rabid porcupine eager to kill me. When it emerges from the bushes, it's just another one of those darned birds leading me away from its young. During the first half of the run I find the birds amusing. By the second half of the run I am tired and in no mood to be startled by these peculiar animals. I curse loudly and flip them the bird. Right back atcha.
Once I reach 10 miles, I check the time and decide to keep going. I look down to see some giant bear tracks in the mud. The bear tracks are in the middle of a large berry patch. There are no berries at this point, only flowers. What is the bear up to? Eating flowers? Or perhaps staking out his territory for when he can fatten up on plump ripe raspberries?
I've always thought of black bears as little more than giant raccoons: annoying pests that might get into the trash or into your unguarded backpack looking for food. I run through my bear attack plan. "Spread your arms, look as big and intimidating as you can, make lots of noise, bang pots and pans together." I form my hands into claws and raise them over my head and say, "grrr". I look nervously at my skinny arms, realizing that I may have been underestimating my ability to dispatch the dog eaters who made these tracks.
I proceed along the obvious trail, failing to realize that the trail took a hidden left turn. I emerge on a hilltop, and realize that there is a road not far below. If I just go a little farther I can complete this entire section of trail! I bound down the hill for a while. Until I realize how much fun I've been having and how long it's been since I had seen a trail marker. I reluctantly stop and head back up the hill where I came from. After what seems like miles I discover where I went wrong. I explore the correct trail for a bit, but now I've covered 15 miles and it's time I started the long run back.
The relentless hills wear me down and I bonk. I'm walking up hills, taking sit-down breaks, really taking my time. I snack on a Clif Bar and a Granola bar. Not entirely satisfied, I occasionally grab the curled up tips of the ferns and eat those. Boy! A fern has never tasted so good! I drink my water sparingly. My backup is a Life Straw. However, this being a crest trail, there is no water to be seen. I make my way a few miles at a time, telling myself "22 miles, just make it to 22 miles". Then "25 miles, just make it to 25 miles".
As I make my final descent, a group of five hikers gives me a priceless once over. My phone is blasting tunes, I am bombing down the hill with a big grin and bloodied feet.
I am getting closer to civilization. Signage on the trees indicates, "No motorized vehicles". I hear engines blaring in the distance. That must be the parking lot! The engines get louder. I cock my head. Harleys in the parking lot? I am in LaLa Land after 29 miles of running when suddenly two dune buggies, slightly *wider* than the trail, hurtle 40mph towards me on the trail. HOLY SHIIIIIIT! I dive into the woods and watch as the driver gives me an incredibly polite wave, not slowing a bit. I give the stinkeye in return.
I stand up, dust myself off, and cautiously make my way to the parking lot. Nice way to transition back to reality after 7 hours of naturistic solitude.
It's the night before the big race. I'm at J's place after an amazing pasta meal at Basta Pasta. Too amazing. One of those meals where you just can't seem to put the fork down. We are watching The Dig, an awesome movie about the fall of the Atari video game corporation. As I sit my body is falling apart. My knee is aching. My hips feel like gigantic swollen hippopotamus hips. Worst of all, just today my wrist started hurting for no reason. Leprosy. It's the best explanation I can come up with as to why all my body parts want to fall off.
More likely these are phantom pains that all marathoners feel. They are just worse than usual today. Phantom pains combined with a bit of real soreness after a training cycle with more downs than ups.
Logistics are sorted, clothes are picked out, bib and gels are pinned to my shorts. I lay down for 5 hours of deep slumber. Nothing actually matters except waking up, eating breakfast, and getting myself to the starting line. I bundle up and head out the door to the nearest T station. Last year a police officer held open the subway gate saying, "on Patriot's day, marathoners ride for free". For that reason I didn't bring a charlie card with me, not really thinking about the fact that no guardian would be holding the gate open for me, and that the station has no way to buy a charlie card. But that's no big deal. I can just stick my panic-stricken face through the gates and yell, "uhhh would somebody swipe me through? I can give you two dollars." Lucky for me Bostonians are incredibly kind and generous and somebody paid my way.
I get on line for the bus and take a seat. I remain quiet for most of the ride and finally open up to the runner sitting next to me. He's from the midwest, has been running for most of 10 years and has never run the Boston Marathon before. He asks if the crowds are thin for the 'rural' parts of the race. I tell him that last year there were hoards of screaming crowds for the entire 26.2 miles. "Where do they come from?". The occupants of each town along the way show up in mass numbers to represent. Without wanting to give away too much, I describe to him the Wellsley all-girls College. For the better part of a mile, depraved college girls are crawling over each other reaching out for high-fives and kisses, screaming like they're at a Beatles concert. There is more raw energy behind the sidelines than anything 30,000 runners could possibly dish out. He asks if I have advice. Yeah. That's easy. The race begins with several downhill miles. It's impossible not to go out too fast. But do everything you can to hold back at first.
We spend a few hours at the Athletes' Village before being allowed to walk to the starting line. I help myself to a banana and some water. I visit the portapotties, then hide from the intermittently pouring rain under a tent. I walk around a bit and meet up with B. His training has gone incredibly well and it shows. He is confident and ready to run. We chat with C for a bit, who runs a lot of races in Albany.
I head to the starting line. It's an incredible honor to be in Wave 1, Corral 1. I don't expect to run as fast as anyone in the corral, but starting directly behind the elites feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity that I don't want to pass up. I stay in the back of the corral, at the far left. Before long, the elites make their way through. I stick out my hand and high five Meb, Ryan Hall, Sage Canaday, and all the rest.
The national anthem, then the starting gun. We're off! I keep what feels like a comfortable, mellow speed, trying to keep my spirits up while a thousand runners pass me over the next 20 miles. J blazes past in the first mile with a hearty hello. The first 6 miles are effortless. Looking at my watch, miles are ticking by more quickly than I would have planned for, but not so fast as to raise major concerns.
I see some young outstretched hands. I run over to the sideline for some high fives. I slap a larger hand amongst the smaller ones. I look up and hear, "Jake Stookey!". It's C's hand, she's here to cheer on H! What are the odds?
The miles quickly stop feeling easy. Over the next 13 miles or so, a weird sort of hip pre-pain appears and steadily grows. It weighs heavily on my heart as I run. With 20 miles still to run, all I can think about is that it's going to explode at some point. I realize however that I'm running a great pace and it hasn't exploded yet, so I stick with it. The cold and the rain are not helping with the mental aspect of the race. Negative thoughts start to overpower the cheers from the crowd, making for some really difficult miles. My pace slows. I have entered the Newton Hills. 5 miles or so with a significant incline overall. Except I don't know that I'm going uphill. All I know is that I'm going slowly, everything hurts, and that I am sucking. I reach mile 18, where M is going to be cheering for me. Then I reach mile 19 and there's no sign of her. This is my darkest mile. I am truly upset, thinking that I somehow missed seeing her. I make my way to some porta potties. Not really for any good reason, I think I just want to take a break for a minute or so. I've been thinking that I'm not really out of breath while running. However when I stop to take a leak, I can feel my heart pounding and hear my heavy breathing and realize how warped my perception gets during the excitement of a race.
I duck under a rope and get back into the race. Before long I see M on the right and give her a big kiss. As I run away she yells, "Your bleeding nipples!". I look down. Yes indeed, my nipples are bleeding.
I suddenly hit the perfect storm of positive emotions. I indulged in a bit of a rest. I didn't miss M after all. For the first time in the race the remaining miles are not daunting at all. I crest heartbreak hill and hear an announcer say, "this marks the end of the Newton Hills, it's all smooth sailing from here!". As if all of that wasn't enough to lift my spirits, mile 20 means it's time to suck down a caffeinated gel packet.
6 miles? That I can do. I start putting some muscle into the run and passing some of the multitudinous runners who passed me over the first 20 miles. I feel great, like I'm flying. I hold back just a little bit, I can feel the wide open veins in my legs quavering, on the verge of cramping. I catch up to D, a familiar looking sandal-wearing runner. We trade a few words. It turns out he finished two places in front of me at this year's JFK 50 miler. I see J, a local runner with the Willow Street running club who yells out my name.
I know my buddy J will be at mile 26. The rain is really coming down now, and the chill wind is tearing through but I'm feeling great. I hear my name and look to see a bearded face and yell back, waving frantically. Let's bring it on home!
I cross the finish line, amazed at how things turned around for me. I grab a hooded space blanket and a water, and march quickly along to where I'm supposed to meet up with M and J to grab lunch. There is no reason to dilly dally in my soaking wet short shorts and t-shirt. Many people will get hypothermia today, let's just hope it's not me. I walk briskly for several blocks. A runner walks up behind me and says, "Are you from Albany? I'm used to seeing you run barefoot, I hardly recognized you in sandals". The lucky guy takes a right into his warm hotel. I keep walking. Eventually taking a right into the subway station, from which a steady stream of piss-warm subway air wafts out. Another runner says, "I've never been so happy to hang out in a subway station."
Before long we all meet up and grab an awesome lunch at the same restaurant and same table as last year.
I've been dealing with knee soreness for a long time now. I don't know what is irritated, or what the specific cause is (certainly 'overuse' would apply here). Recently a few things have come together to suggest that tight hips might be the root cause. At this point all of this may be a misdiagnosis, but I'm just looking to try out some suggestions that sound promising.
The soreness is generally mild, it never causes me to limp or show any kind of visible swelling. Two things seem to make it feel worse:
1) Extreme running - Long bouts of running long and/or hard
2) Extreme rest - Lounging around on the couch
Things that make it feel good include simple sane activities like walking, biking a few miles, or yardwork.
The soreness makes me feel uncomfortable while sitting, sleeping, running, etc., so pretty much most of the time. Worse than anything else is how it weighs on my spirit by making all future running endeavors seem like a bad idea.
Each knee 'pops' only once if I hop on a bike and pedal a few times. Or if I walk upstairs. This occurs every morning, and a few times throughout the day. Also at times there is a mild crunching or creaking in my knees when I bend them. I suspect the soreness is a result of whatever friction causes this creaking, which over time causes irritation.
It's difficult to pinpoint the location of the soreness, except to say that usually feels like it occurs deep within my knee, right in the center there. At times when it's the most accute, soreness appears on the inside of the knee, which as I understand it suggest s that it's not IT-band related.
Sometimes I notice that my knees want to bend inward while I'm running. It's very slight, but my knees sometimes knock together, and feels related to the soreness on the inside of the knee. It's as if the inside of the knee wants to collapse just a little with each step. We had a coach in high school with knees that bowed inward pretty badly while walking, it feels kinda like the very early stages of that.
My upper leg muscles seem very tight. Not in a stiff-legged way, but often times the muscles don't feel like 'flesh', instead the feel like thick leather, or to exaggerate a little: almost like rock or metal.
I've come to look at the knee as not a 'thing'. The knee is a void between your upper and lower leg. So the cause of knee soreness is not the knee, but everything around it: the upper leg, lower leg, feet, hips, etc.
I usually do yoga at work once a week, and our really excellent yoga instructor R, keeps encouraging us and me in particular as an inflexible runner, to work on 'hip openers', suggesting that it will work wonders for running. Being stubborn, I'm not easily convinced, and the anatomical whys and wherefores are all too complicated for me to wrap my head around.
I was talking to H who has been feeling perhaps similar pain in his knees. He went and saw a doctor about those knees. The Doc probed his knees and said,
"Where's it hurt, here?"
"And what about your ankles, does it hurt here?" (probe probe)
Followed by an explanation that what happens to runners who run too much without giving the body a chance to keep up. He said that the hips gradually get tight which affects the biomechanics of the legs. An inward tendency starts with the hips and works it's way quickly to the knees and the rest of the leg.
I find it interesting how well this resonates with how I've been feeling as well as the recommendations from my yoga instructor. Putting it all together, it seems that maybe the 'hip openers' R has been pushing are worth focusing on. For the most part, this includes three yoga poses:
R's Yoga Studio - We are very lucky to have her instruct us once a week, highly recommended
Comparison of Tenandeho Water Levels for the Tenandeho White Water Derby
Click on the photos for high-resolution images:
|Coons Crossing Bridge||Rapids|
|After October Rain|
|Day After Irene|
|After May Rain|
|After cold snowy winter|
Looking to compare two sets of GPS tracks? GPS Visualizer has a great site for creating side-by-side comparisons. For example, here is a chart comparing the Great Range Traverse, Tongue Mountain Range Loop, Moreau Lake State Park 15k course, Wakely Dam Ultra, JFK 50, and Grafton Lakes State Park:
It's really interesting to see that Grafton is higher elevation than Moreau, in fact it's as high as the tops of the Tongue peaks. It certainly explains the Adirondacksyness of the area.
To compare multiple GPS tracks from GPX files, go to GPS Visualizer and select "Profiles (elevation, etc.)". I chose the options, "Profile Width: 500", "Units: U.S.", Add DEM", "Colorize by track" and "Cumulative distance: No". Select a few GPX files and "Draw the profile" and wait for your comparison!
I took some time off from work. J had time off as well. We made a "plan A", to camp out deep in the wilderness at the "Uphill" lean-to near Mount Marcy. It would be significantly colder and windier there than anywhere else, but the advantage is that we'd have easy access to several tough peaks. As the time drew closer, the temperature dropped from 30's and 20's down to 0's, with predictions at Lake Placid going as low as -26 degrees not including a wind chill! Time for a plan B.
The Seward range in the Adirondacks is a group of 4 remote mountains in the far northwest portion of the High Peaks region. The trails to the peaks are unmarked and the peaks are much less traveled than many of the more popular ones so even in summer you can really get away from it all. Fires are allowed, making it an ideal spot for our 3-day chilly weather camping expedition. It would be zeroish for our first day and night, and a few degrees warmer for our big day of hiking, followed by a chillier day as we make our exit. We'll carry our packs to one of the lean-to's and hike Seymour on the first day. The second day we'll travel light and hike the other 3 peaks, two of them twice for the return trip. Finally, on the last day we will wake up early and make a quick exit.
We made a plan to meet at 6am with the expectation that we would run late, expecting to start driving at 7. I think we made it out at more like 8:30 or so, which was awesome because that's the exact time Sorrentino's Deli opens up in Clifton Park! We stopped for subs, Chex Mix, and breakfast sandwiches along the nearly 3 hour drive to the trailhead. It must have been around noon when we pulled into the parking area. One other car was there: another late starter whose name is B. We chatted with B a bit as we got our stuff together. His plan was to hike the area solo and visit Duck Hole, and possibly the Santanonis for 4 nights! I mentioned that it was going to be cold, and he was aware and had two sleeping bags and a tower of sleeping pads to help him combat the conditions.
During the hike to the lean-to, several barely frozen brooks gurgled under our feet as we big booted across, trying to walk on lumps (rocks) instead of flat stuff (thin ice) as much as possible. We managed to stay dry for the 3.8 mile walk.
We quickly got our day-hiking gear together for the hike up Seymour: snacks, water, and microspikes. Oh, yeah, and headlamps, don't forget those because it's almost dark already!
There wasn't more than an inch or so of snow on the hike to the lean-to. However, within a few hundred feet of hiking towards our destination, we found ourselves walking through deeper snow with 4 or 5 inches making it a little tougher to walk. We turned back and fetched our snowshoes, just in case.
Before long we turned on our headlamps. The 5 mile out-and-back hike sounded very easy. Until we started hiking of course. We always forget just how long it takes to hike up mountains in the snow, especially when the first mile or so goes by quickly. Before long the trail gets steep and each step is a carefully calculated double stomp into the icy crust to gain traction. Hours were ticking by as we worked our way to the summit. I was constantly adjusting the my gloves and hat, trying to keep my hands, nose, and face from freezing. A full moon struggled to penetrate the thick of clouds above us, doing little to light our way to the peak. Once there, we gave a brief rejoice, and hurried our way down and back to the lean-to. The descent went quickly until we hit the flats at which point it felt like we should be there already, but we still had a long hike before reaching home.
B was back at the lean-to to give us company on this cold night. We quickly put on warm clothes and started fetching firewood. B had carried in some nice kindling and started the fire. We gathered a lot of great wood, but it took us an hour or two to really get the fire going. The fire consumed fuel as fast as we could collect it, but we were determined and kept it going for the night while we ate steak and frozen subs before packing it in for the night.
We slept in and got up to get ready for a big day of hiking. I fetched water and went to boil it, but alas, my finicky stove (which I had very recently tried to fix and clean) refused to work. So I woke up J and set him to work boiling water for a quick oatmeal breakfast.
We hit the trail around 10:30am, this time without snowshoes. According to National Geographic mapping software that I use the total distance for today's hike should be around 8 miles (four out and four back), although it has been known to underestimate at times. We discussed that once we hit 2.5 miles we were in good shape, because after that the last 1.5 miles to the 3rd peak shouldn't be too bad! We hit 2.4 miles according to the GPS watch and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done and pressed on. After a long period of hiking I checked our distance. I turned to J and told him, "we're at 2.6 miles now". He replied, "That's not possible". We shrugged it off and continued.
For some inexplicable reason this hike is always much more difficult than the hike up Seymour. It's happened to me twice, and I've heard similar comments from other hikers. It's easy to look at the map and get the impression that Seymour (which we did the day before) and Seward are similar hikes. Comparing the two elevation profiles does little to reveal why one is so much more difficult than the other:
Every trip has to have a special moment or it wouldn't be an adventure, right? Shortly after putting on microspikes while descending Seward towards Donaldson, we come across the scary part of our trip. The trail becomes a super-steep 50-foot long cascade of the worst kind of glistening ice with no "easy way" around it. We warn each other to stop. And to not die. Thoughts of turning back come and go, but we decide to give it a shot. There are roots and trees to hold onto for most of the way, and as soon as we step onto the ice our spikes sink right in. Luckily the ice is softer than it looks enabling us to make it down safely, with only one really sketchy part halfway down where you have to cross from the left side of the trail to the right without any handholds. We breathe a big sigh of relief and bump fists after making it down. However, this sets a mood for the rest of the trip. At this point, getting hurt is not allowed. It's going to be tough getting back up it in the dark if we're feeling 100%. And it's hard to imagine even a well trained rescue team being able get someone back up that precarious drop.
It feels like a very long way before we reach Donaldson. I take a quick look at the map and (wrongly) tell J, "the hike from Donaldson to Emmons is going to be a cakewalk". It looks like a flat ridgeline, mostly descending to Emmons. The hike to Emmons is anything but a cakewalk. The trail is long and not well travelled so the snow is deeper making for slow going, and the trail is nearly impossible to see, even moreso because the trees are thin so every direction looks like a trail.
We spend a lot of time probing for the trail. Eventually we get to where it's obvious we are standing mere footsteps from the peak, yet the trail phases in and out of existence like a haunting spectre. Night has fallen and our headlamps can't work miracles. I am starting to lose it a little. I was foolishly expecting a short, easy hike on an obvious trail with no snow, none of which are true. Admittedly, I'm tired and hopelessness settles in as we thrash around the wilderness winding every which way except the right way. J is holding it together much better than I, and miraculously crashes through some woods and announces, "here's the trail", and we climb to the top. Woot!
The return trip should be easy because we can follow our own tracks. Except for the sections where we sabotaged ourselves by scribbling tracks all over the place. As I said, I'm getting tired and losing it a little. I'm in marching forward in Lalaland, largely oblivious to the icy drop to my left. My spikes lose purchase and I tumble down 10 feet or so, crashing into bushes at the bottom. I stand up a little shaken. J starts to follow and I tell him, "that was not intentional, straight is probably easier."
There is a claustrophobic feeling caused by the icy wall we still need to climb in the dark. We are boxed in by it. It is a great relief to finally reach it and arrive at the top unscathed. From there it is a quick climb to the top of Seward and then the final descent to the lean-to.
We drop down the side of the mountain. Now we notice how incredibly steep this section of trail is. Each small step becomes a giant leap due to the near vertical decline. J points out that this is the section that took forever to go from 2.4 miles to 2.6 miles. The funny thing is, it didn't seem particularly steep on the way up. Just slow.
We cruise merrily back into our campsite at around 8:30. We forego a fire, and cook up some easy food, hang out for a bit, and go to bed. In the morning we wake super early, pack up and hike out, eating a light snack along the way.
We stopped at Druthers in Saratoga for a big lunch. I was the lucky one, my lunch stayed in my belly.
All in all another great trip.