Saturday, August 20, 2016

2nd Story Theater, Warren, RI- The Sunshine Boys

Thursday night I pulled myself away from the Olympics. I had bought tickets to go see a play with my brother at a small theater in Warren, RI. The theater is called 2nd Story Theater. My boss told me about it a few months ago and said it was really cool.
I went online and saw the plays for the summer. In June the play "Tuesday's with Morrie" was playing. I had read the book and wanted to see it. However, the book was so sad, I decided to pass. So I asked my brother what play he most wanted to see was. He chose the "Sunshine Boys". The tickets were a birthday present and a chance for two busy brothers to hang out.

The play is about a retired comic duo that hadn't spoken in eleven years. They fought a lot during their forty three years together. As expected, fate brings them back together for one more show.  From the first line to the last, the show was funny. We, along with the audience, laughed out loud multiple times.

The playhouse itself is really cool. It is in downtown Warren just off of Route 114. The play that we saw was upstairs. We counted the seats, and as best as we could see, there are roughly only 160. The play was "in the round". The play is in the center of the room. All the seats are along the walls. There are no bad seats. There are only about five or six rows so no matter where you sit, you can see the eyes of the actors.
I took this picture before the play started. The stage is in the middle
of the room. You can see how small it is. There are only a few rows

Tickets for the plays are $30. Considering how expensive it it to go to PPAC and Trinity Rep are, I think this a very fair price.

  The play lasted an hour and forty five minutes including the short intermission. There is a bar downstairs if you want to get a drink (you can bring it up to your seat). There are multiple places to eat within a couple of blocks. Parking is simple, as there is a municipal lot directly across the street. There is also onstreet parking and other lots (you can see the parking areas at the website)

All in all, we had a great time. I will absolutely go back again. Plays go on year round. I am always looking for things to do during the winter to break up the monotony.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympics and Red (kayak), White (rumped sandpiper) and Blue(fish) Catching up on August

My biggest blue. Caught about ten days ago before the Olympics  started
I haven't wrote much the last couple of weeks. The main reason for that is the Olympics. For the most part I have spent every night the last week watching them. I really don't watch much television. Sometimes, I'll go weeks at a time without even turning it on. However, since the Summer Olympics are only on every four years, I watch as much as I can

 My friend Laurie comes over almost every night to watch them. She is huge into the Olympics. As I have said before, her favorite sports are gymnastics and figure skating. It blows me away how much she knows about gymnastics.  We all know sports junkies that know all the stats from Fantasy Baseball and football. Laurie is like that with gymno.  She knows everyone's routine, not just the Americans, but everyone! We could be watching Great Britain's third best girl on balance beam, and Laurie can tell if she took a twist or flip out of her routine. It is amazing to see.

As for the other things mentioned in this post's title: the colors are patriotic symbolizing myself and Laurie rooting for team USA. However when I have gotten out it has been to go birding from my (red) kayak at Charlestown Breachway. I went today. I ran across two other birders that I have seen many times this year. They spotted two new birds for me this year ( Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs). We thought we had a white-rumped sandpiper, but it turned out to be a big Least Sandpiper.

Three Short-Billed Dowitchers
Before I started on the Olympic binge I was still enjoying the incredible summer fishing that
Narragansett Bay has blessed me with this year. Although I was still catching the occasional small striper, for the most part I had been getting bluefish every night. I was probably averaging 6-8 fish with tons more hits. Some nights the hot lure was shad bodies. As you can imagine the blues were chewing them to pieces. On nights that the fish were less fussy, we were getting them on poppers and Jumpin Minnows. The blues ranged ion size from 2 pounds up to big ten pounders. You just never knew what you would hook.  It was a blast.

It was hard to take a couple weeks off from the great fishing. I've heard the fishing has slowed down a lot. I'm not happy to hear that. I'd rather be missing out with something to look forward to in a week. Whatever happens, it has been a fun summer so far.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Remember your memory card! Charlestown Breachway Mudflats Birding

The worst named bird ever, Short Billed Dowitcher
The last two days I went to one of my favorite summertime places, the mudflats at Charlestown
Breachway. The mudflats are a great place to see migrating shorebirds. Besides the birding, the mudflats and Ninigret Pond is just a fun place to be. There are always kayakers exploring the pond during the summer. People will go clamming for both soft shelled clams and quahogs.

Of course, my main focus was birding. Low tide, the best tide, was in the afternoon both days so I didn't leave my house until 1 pm. I didn't see many unusual shorebirds. The biggest surprise was how many Piping Plover I saw. There were at least twenty both days.

On the other hand, I did have a big disappointment. On Thursday I started taking pictures of birds that were very close to me. I looked down to see what one of the photos looked like. My camera told me "Memory Card Not Inserted! I left it in my computer from the last time I downloaded pictures. I was so pissed at myself. I had no excuse for doing this, just a careless oversight.
Laughing Gull

Of course, I saw one bird that I didn't know what it was. It was slightly bigger than the other peeps feeding. It had red on its neck. If I could have gotten a picture I could have put it online for ID help. I went back Friday hoping it was still there but no such luck.

So I relearned a valuable lesson  to do a mental checklist before going on a daytrip. Remembering the camera isn't enough. Checking for memory card and making sure the battery is charged is just as important.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Piping Plover

Least Sandpiper


Just a cool place

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hiking with Amber and Kirsten

My son DJ has two little sisters, Amber and Kirsten . I write about my buddy Amber all the time. Over the years we have spent a lot of time together. I haven't spent as much time with Kirsten but she is a good kid also. Amber went with DJ and I to Acadia National Park a few years ago. Kirsten had never been to any mountains, hiking, camping or as she said, "seen a waterfall."  Finding time to see them is hard enough because they both do competition cheerleading. So finding a couple days to go hiking was almost impossible. Luckily, they had this week off from cheer so we planned on going up on my days off.
Two tents as far apart as I could make them.
I don't deal well with snoring 

We went up Thursday late afternoon, but because of traffic and difficulty finding a campsite we didn't get any hiking in.  We stayed at Sugarloaf Campground ($20). The girls were happy to have places to go to the bathroom.

Friday morning we drove to the Davis Path. We hiked it up to Mt. Crawford. Mt. Crawford has one of
my favorite 360 degree views. It was very overcast. I knew going up there was a good chance the taller mountains would be in the clouds. It did look like the cloud ceiling was well over 4000 feet. I hoped that we would see most of the mountains under the overcast conditions.

We got lucky, although it was overcast when we reached the top two hours later, the sky was clearing. We could clearly watch the cloud ceiling rise. Even Big  George made an appearance for a few minutes.

We stayed on top a couple hours getting pictures and taking in the views. We took almost as long going down. There is a lot of sand on the rocks so we took our time to minimize falling. After we got down we went for pizza in Twin Mountain.

Amber doing a cartwheel on Middle Sugarloaf
When we got out of the pizza place, the sky was bright blue. All the humidity was gone. We had planned to go sit on top of the elephant head near Saco Lake. Instead I told the girls (who just did five miles hiking AND ate pizza) that we should hike another small mountain that has a great view. So at 6:50 pm, he started up to Middle Sugarloaf. It is only 1.3 miles to the top. We made it to the top at 7:30. This gave us about 40 minutes before we had to screw down to beat the darkness. Time flew by
on top. The girls loved the view and playing on the rock slabs. Being cheerleaders, they wanted  pictures doing cartwheels on the mountain.  We stayed on top ten minutes too long. By the time we got to the bottom, Amber was using her phone's flashlight app.

Saturday morning after we packed, we drove to the Elephant Head to eat breakfast. I promised them we would go there. Then we went to the Lower Falls of the Ammonoosuc River. Kirsten got to see her waterfall. From there we drove to the Basin and then to see the Indian head profile. Ten we drove to Waterville Valley.

It was still only 11 am at this point. The main focus was Welch-Dickey Mountains.  I figured the girls would love the big views on the clear day. I had forgotten how steep the slabs are. Although they liked the views, they  were none to impressed with the steepness.

I had done Welch-Dickey last year after I hiked Tripyramid. I started at 5:30 pm and had to be down at dark. That meant I hustled, it took me exactly 3 hours. This hike I wanted to enjoy the views more. I hoped the hike would last about four hours. However, Amber was tired and done. She put her head down at the top of the second mountain and just went down. We made it in 3:40. The only good part of that was, I still had a three hour drive home, so it was okay.
It's becoming a tradition

My drive home was lonely. The girls slept almost from the beginning of the drive to the end. Periodically they'd wake for a snack, then fall back to sleep. All in all we had a great time.
It was 52 degrees Saturday morning. Amber wore my raincoat for
warmth, because why would you pack a sweatshirt in July

Things I learned

Hiking with girls means waiting for hair to be brushed. It means hearing "wait a second" a lot because of untied shoes, stopping for a rest, and fixing their hair. Hiking with girls also means they want to see every picture after you snap it, if it is not the way they want it, we retake it. That was actually cool for me. I like taking photos, it was nice to have such willing subjects.
Amber on Mt. Crawford

Blueberry picking
The light was perfect at the Basin

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Answers to hiking questions

I get asked all the time the same questions about hiking and camping, When I come home from a trip people ask me the same things in each of the stores I work at, so I thought I'd answer some of them on my blog.

1. No I am not afraid of black bears. I do not worry about getting eaten by, mauled by, or chased by them. We only have black bears in New England. Grizzly Bears on the other hand are dangerous. When I have slept in grizzly country I admit I have been nervous. Black bears are nothing to worry about. All but one bear I have ever seen ran the other direction when it saw me. The other one walked right along the trail in front of me for 300 feet. Then walked into the woods.

When people say "they are more scared of you than you are of them ", It is true for me since they run away and I try to get photographs.

2. No I do not get lonely. When I go camping alone, I don't get bored or feel alone. I don't go up to get away from friends. I just look at a trip alone as a trip to New Hampshire, not a trip alone.

3.Yes I shit in the woods. No it doesn't bother me.

4. No I don't carry a gun. My boss seems to think I'm going to get raped by extras from the movie Deliverance. I consider the trails in New Hampshire very safe. There is nothing to worry about.

5. If I had to choose, the animal in New England that I would most worry about it would be raccoon. About half have rabies, therefore you can't reason with them and their spit is deadly. I have never seen one anywhere but my car so I don't give them any thought either.

6.  There aren't any poisonous snakes in New Hampshire. In fact there are very few poisonous snakes in New England. There are a few timber rattlers in Vermont, Connecticut and Mass. There are also copperheads in MA and CT. They are not widespread or common. I have never seen one. So no I do not worry about poisonous snakes.

On a different note, there are no "water moccasins" in New England. All of the snakes that people say are moccasins around here are northern water snakes. Northern Water Snakes obviously live in water. They do not fear people and they can be curious. They may check you out, which can be taken as aggressive. They won't harm you SO STOP KILLING THEM.

7.  I know a lot of people would consider the way I camp "roughing it", but I just consider it camping. Packing is simple and I have most of it my camping box anyway. Last week DJ and I went camping at the same time but not together. He went with his girlfriend, I alone. The only thing I took from the camping box was the lantern. He took the box

8.When I camp I don't bring a cooler because I don't want to deal with ice issues every day. So I found foods that I don't have to keep cold like soup cans, Chef Boyarde, and snacks like granola bars, and fruit snacks. Fruits like plums will keep a day or two.

9. When I go camping/hiking, I do not go out to eat if I'm alone. I just eat my supper, usually with a view of a mountain somewhere. When I go with Laurie, we usually get pizza after a hike in Lincoln, NH.

10. Yes after a big hike sometimes my knees hurt a lot.

11. I don't like biting insects anymore than the next person, but unless they are swarming, I don't let them keep me inside.

12. I do not worry about diseases from ticks or mosquitoes. I wear bug spray and "try" to remember to do a tick check, but I have never thought I shouldn't go outside because of West Nile Virus.

13. Usually I camp near the car. When I backpack, I take as little as possible. When Laurie and I went into Wind Cave all we took were tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, snack for breakfast, drink, raincoat,change of socks, bug spray, small first aid kit (basically band aids, ibuprofen and her contact lens stuff, toothbrush/paste.) That's it. If I was out longer I'd consider another shirt, and of course more food/water.

14. Even though there is a fire pit in the picture, I never have a fire. I hate the smell on my clothes. I've probably had three fires in the last ten years camping, if that.

I'll add to this list, if I think of any other FAQ

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Peak bagging at its Worst

Peak bagging as you can surmise is hiking a collection of mountains just to "collect" them all. In the case of New Hampshire, they have 48 mountains over 4000 feet. There are other collections in New England. There are the New England 4000 footers, hundred highest, 52 with a view.  There are two ways to look at peak bagging

1. It gives you an excuse to go hiking.
2. If climbing a mountain is just for the sake of "collecting" it, then your not getting the true experience of the mountains. Some peak baggers will reach a gorgous summit, touch it, and turn back around.

I agree with both points of view. You could make a winning argument for either case. For my part, I love views. When I hike a four thousand footer I spend as much time loafing at the summit as possible.

 For the last fourteen years, I have been trying to do New Hampshire's 48 mountains over four thousand feet. Some years, I don't make it up at all. Other times I decide to hike other trails, and sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate. The trouble with hiking other trails or not going to New Hampshire is: I always have that cloud hanging over my head that I haven't finished them. So this year I am making a conscious effort to try to hike five mountains so I can finish them next year. When I finally finish them, I will not be starting any other list. There are too many trails I want to do that lead to lakes, shorter mountains, and waterfalls. There are some hikes I am itching to do again. And sometimes, you just want to go to a trout pond.

So the last few days I went to do a couple four thousand footers. I had a total of nine hikes left ( a couple of the hikes have two mountains). It is at the point that I have to do some of the mountains I don't want to do. Reasons one might dread a particular mountain are:

1. Long drive
2. Very hard or long trail (all mountains are not the same)
3. No views, so you are climbing just to check it off the list.
4. It is Owl's Head

Before I begin, I should say that I knew I was in good in enough shape to hike big mountains. I wasn't going to have any heart attacks. I also knew I was not in good enough shape to enjoy them. There was going to be soreness and pain on any big hike. Of course, I could have started with short easy hikes to build strength but that would have meant I wasted a whole weekend of being in New I sucked it up.

Wednesday night I drove up after work. If I can, I like to hike a smaller mountain in the late afternoon. I chose Mt. Willard. It is only 15 minutes from my camp. To reach the top it is only 1.6 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain

I had a can of soup and plums for supper. I made it up in 35 minutes. I thought I must be in really great shape to do that. Twelve hours later I was humbled by real mountains

Edgar Allen and his wife Virginia on the summit

Mount Webster and the impressive cliffs behind me

Thursday morning I woke up bright and early. I had a fifty mile drive to my trailhead. My hiking plans for the day were the two Carters and Carter Dome.  The hike from Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead started easy enough. I made it 1.9 miles to the Carter Dome Trail in an hour.

From there it is a long slog up seven switchbacks to Zeta Pass. You would think with a name like that it would be pretty. Nope, just a trail intersection in the woods. From Zeta Pass I could go to the Carters or right to Carter Dome. I did the Carter's first so when I ran out of water, I could refill at Carter Notch later.  After a short while, you reach the wooded summit of South Carter.
Here's me flipping off the wooded summit.
Notice the bend in my finger. I was born that way.
Needless to say, I don't give too many people
"the bird"

From South Carter it is a fairly long walk to Middle Carter (North Carter is not an official 4000 footer).  There is one incredible view between the two summits. The view faces the Presidentials.

The only view from the summit of Middle Carter was this amateur radio operator
. He carried a lot of equipment up the mountain.

From the summit of Middle Carter I went back by South and again to Zeta Pass. From Zeta Pass I could choose the short way up Carter Dome or a slightly longer way, .4 miles and an extra 150 feet of elevation to go over Mt. Height. This mountain has the best view in the range. It is 360 degrees. You can see deep into Maine, the Presidentials, and many other peaks. So I planned on taking the side
trip and eat my lunch there.

Two of my favorite mountains.
The Baldface in Maine from Mt. Height

Three of the Presidentials
L to R
Jefferson, Adams, Madison

After I left Mt Height, I was treated to another summit without a view. Although a couple ledges were nearby, tha actual summit is wooded on Carter Dome.

When I got to the top of Carter Dome I drank the last of my Gatorade. This was planned as I'd been rationing all day. A mile and a half away was the Carter Notch Hut. I knew I could get water there. It was all downhill, so how hard could it be?...
Two and a half grueling hours later I made it to the hut. My knees were killing me. The trail was so steep and each step down hurt. This view below the text was taken after I'd been on the trail almost two hours. I couldn't believe I was still so far away. 

These two lakes below are the Carter Lakes. They are at the hut. They are beautiful. One abuts Wildcat and its cliffs. The other sits right against the cliff face of Carter Dome. They were the prettist thing I saw all day. After I refilled my water bottles I sat by the lakes and ate a snack. I couldn't stay long. It was already 5:30 and I still had four miles to go.

Tired and sore, I made it out at 7:30.
 I had time to get back to my site 50 miles
 away before dark


Friday morning I woke up to three completely different but all equally surprising things

1. The second I opened my eyes I could feel a pounding migraine.
2. The wind was absolutely howling at least 40 miles per hour.
3. My knees did not hurt.

Despite my knees being okay, I thought any real hiking was unrealistic because of my head and the wind. After about 20 minutes I mustered the energy to get some medicine from my car and got back in my sleeping bag. To my surprise in the next thirty minutes both the pain in my head and the wind died down to nothing. I packed my tent and drove off.

I was trying to think of a small mountain to hike. As I was driving I realized I had no excuse to hike a 4000. My knees were okay and my headache was gone. This really only left me two options. I had to drive home after the hike and the closest two mountains ( by at least 30 minutes) I have left are  Kinsmans and Owls Head. Kinsmans would have required more uphill but is considerably shorter at ten miles round trip. Owls Head on the other hand is eighteen miles round trip. Only one mile is considered hard the rest is a long boring slog through the woods. 

No one wants to do Owls Head. It is by far the worst mountain on the 48 big ones. Eight miles walking through the woods. There are multiple stream crossings including Franconia Brook (really a river) .There is an extremely steep slide to reach the top, 1500 feet in .8 miles. Lastly, let me say again, nine miles each way. Owls Head, alone is enough of a reason to consider peakbagging a stupid endeavor. It sucks

However, I want to enjoy my last few hikes, so I chose to get Owls Head out of the way. I started at 8;30 am at the huge Lincoln Woods parking lot

Then you cross the river on a suspension bridge
. You can feel the bounce as you go over. It is right near the lot if you are interested.

The first three miles are extremely flat. That part of the trail is an old railroad track for a lumber company. Many of the ties can be seen in this picture

After you cross this bridge at 2.9 miles, you cross into the Pemi Wilderness

At 5.1 miles you come to this, Franconia Brook. No matter where I looked I couldn't cross it without getting wet. I took off my shoes, but my feet were so raw from the pounding the day before I couldn't walk on the jagged pebbles. I decided to leave my socks off and put my shoes back on. I walked across and walked sockless with wet feet for three miles until my shoes dried. 

The first five miles were easy. The next three were just as flat. However, there was a lot of muck and blowdowns to climb over. There were multiple stream crossings to rock hop over.
It was also buggy. I did not make nearly as good time.
New Hampshire mud at its finest. 

After 8 miles you come to this. It is a  cairn to mark the turn for the Owls Head. Within fifteen feet of this spot, the grade gets really steep. 

After only.1 miles you come to this slide. I assure you, pictures do not do justice on how hard it is. Besides the steepness, the dirt is loose rock and pebbles. every step had to be calculated because of slipping

The view across to Franconia Ridge was really nice. Notice the dark clouds. I checked for a weather report at the Ranger Station before I left but they hadn't put it out yet. I ran across a hiker on the slide coming down he told me it was supposed to rain at 1 pm. He told me this at exactly 12:55

I knew I was battling the time and the weather. The slide was hard enough without rain. I took a chance the rain would hold off. I never plan on hiking this mountain again, so I couldn't turn back after eight miles. After .8 miles the grade gets much easier. For the last quarter mile it is flat. There are two summits, an old one and the one GPS says is the higher one.
Here is a pic of me at the larger and older cairn. Notice, another viewless summit.

At precisely 4:00 I made it down from the slide. It took me three and a half hours to do that two mile round trip (and find the other summit). At precisely 4:03 it started to rain. I had eight miles to go, but it was all safe. I didn't mind the rain at all. It turned out to be a shower lasting ten minutes. Just long enough to wet everything. Multiple times as  I was rushing out I'd purposely shake branches above me to cool off.

Since the terrain was level on the way out I jogged short straightaways. I did miles eight through five in an hour. When I got back to the river, I just went across. I didn't try to find the easiest route. I just wanted to be done. When I got back on the Lincoln woods Trail and only had three miles to go, I was spent. I couldn't run anymore. As flat as it was I walked out. My quads were on fire. I got to my car at 6:52, but Owls Head is just a memory
I found this and some other iron at a river crossing.
I'm sure it is part of the railroad or lumberjacks equipment from
a long time ago. It is illegal to move or take these artifacts so
others can enjoy them in the future.

I'll be honest, this wasn't my most fun trip to the Whites. I did thirty four miles. In Thursday and Friday combined for 31 of that. I climbed about 8000 vertical feet. However, of the hikes I have left, the two that I just did were the hardest. After I rehydrated, I lost five pounds in that time period of two and a half days. Next week I'm going up again. However, I'm taking DJ's little sisters. We will not be doing any 4000 footers. We are going to concentrate on short fun hikes. I'm looking forward to it. 

Things I learned:
I consider every camping trip a learning experience. This hike I realized I should put Iodine tablets in my bag of essentials. They would come in real handy when crossing rivers on very long hikes. I wouldn't have to carry as much water either. I have them, but they would do me a lot more good in my backpack than my camping box.