Sunday, June 29, 2008

From a Spectator's Point of View: Cranmore Mountain Hill Climb

Another foggy, low cloud start to the morning when I looked out the window this morning. But that was how yesterday had started, so maybe things would clear for the 9am start of the Cranmore Mountain Hill Climb, which Snowman was running. We headed down to North Conway and found the Cranmore lodge filled with runners. We ran into our friend Dan, who made a funny comment about all the serious, skinny mountain runners around. Yup, it was a serious looking crew, and Snowman was wondering where all the more casual runners were so he could have someone to beat... somehow the words "Hill Climb" and casual runner don't seem to jive.... :-)

As we were chatting and Snowman was stretching, the skies opened up. It was pouring like crazy. Puddles were forming fast and rain was streaming off the lodge roof. Runners were huddled in the entry way, under the Inov-8 tent, under the timing tent. With a few minutes to start, I sent Snowman off into the rain, and stayed in the lodge. I didn't have any rain gear, and besides, I would have a great view of the runners as they came through the end of the first lap from the lodge deck. Perfect. I could stay dry and still be able to do some good cheering. It was once again odd to be a spectator at a running event, when I'm used to participating in the events I attend. I could have signed up this morning, but after yesterday's run, I might have been out there for a solid three hours. The Hill climb course was two 5k laps, up, up, up the ski trails and down. Not very kind of the body. So I accepted my fate as support crew, and chatted with a few other spouses and parents in the lodge.

I watched as the group of runners wound their way up the ski slopes, moving forward in a long colorful string up the mountain, until they were finally hidden from view by the low clouds and the trees. 25 minutes or so later, the lead runners started to come through. Our friend Kevin was in the front with one other runner, looking great. Others began to pass by the lodge, and the rain was letting up. It was a fun spot, as we were all along the railing cheering everyone on. When Snowman came through, he yelled up, "This is nuts. No one should be doing this." I yelled back, "You're the one that signed up for it!" This exchange got a good chuckle from my fellow deck mates.

As the last runners came through on their first lap, the rain had finally stopped, so I made my way down onto the grass to watch the finish from the ground. Kevin came in second, and Dan had an awesome finish too, looking strong. Snowman came in at 1:16, looking tired but still putting forth a good kick when I informed him that he had someone right on his tail. I still can't believe he wanted to run this race, which looked brutal, but I'm proud of him for a great race, especially given that he just did Mt. Washington last weekend!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

There's a Black Fly in My Eye 15k

Ronnie the cat woke me up before 6am, so I had no trouble getting over to Great Glen for the 10am start. The lodge was jumping when I walked in with lots of people signing up and getting their goodie bags. (Dad, if you're reading this, I got a large t-shirt so you could have it!) The weather on the drive over made me wonder if I should have brought my rain gear - very misty with lots of low clouds - but the skies began to clear and it really was a nice morning for the race. A bit humid, but with a good breeze and only a few bugs.

At 10am sharp, we were off... It was a pretty good-sized field, with lots of faces I didn't recognize. I hung back a bit at the start, not wanting to go out too fast on lap 1, which is definitely the easiest. The course goes down into the main field at Great Glen, which was in full bloom - purple lupine, indian paint brushes, daisies and a pretty deep pink flower which I didn't recognize - and then into the woods. The first loop is mostly on the wide level carriage roads. I came through the exchange area (there are teams of 2 and 3 people competing, as well as solo runners) in around 27:00, and then was onto the Aquaduct loop. This is my least favorite of the three loops, as it is the most rugged with lots of slippery rocks on the steep uphill. I admit to walking a bit, but was able to pick it back up as the trail mellowed out a bit before the big downhill. This lap was the slowest, with me coming in over 32:00. Yikes! Time to pick it up!

Somehow, on the final lap, I got into a pace where I was alone, and couldn't even see the runner ahead of me, or hear anyone behind me. How does this happen? Oh well, I just kept on chugging. Up Libby. Up Dugway. Weaving through Wilding, and then down Grumpy. Although this is a tough loop with a pretty good uphill on Dugway, it is probably my favorite. It's a nice mix of carriage roads and single track, and allows you to get into a good groove.

Not the mention the finish! In the final 100 yards, you have to cross the East Branch of the Peabody River, and then climb up a short, almost vertical grassy hill to hit the finish line. Where else do you get to do that in a race?! :-) I finished unofficially in 1:29:19, which is nowhere near my time last year, but oh well... Perhaps it is lack of speed work? Regardless, it was a great race and a good workout!

Thanks to Amy, Mary and all the staff at Great Glen for putting this race on. It's tough but fun, and it's already on my calendar for next summer :-)

UPDATE - Official Results

Photos used above courtesy of Great Glen Trails.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Easy 3

Went for an easy 3-mile run this morning in preparation for tomorrow's "There's a Black Fly in My Eye" 15k race up at Great Glen. It was a bit heavy out, but it is summer after all... I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race. It's always a fun, pretty laid-back, atmosphere and the course is a good one. Year #1 was run in 1:29; last year in 1:26. Think I can continue my string of bettering my course record this year?! :-) We'll just have to see...

In other news, Snowman has decided he is going to run the Cranmore Hill Climb on Sunday, so I will once again act as support crew as he does the 2-loop 10k course up and over Cranmore Mountain on the ski trails. Somehow he seems to have gotten this idea that he's a mountain goat! :-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cedar Waxwings and Deer Flies

Up early and out the door by 6:30am for a run along the powerlines from home. The air is cool (59 degrees) and most of the route is still in the shade. A heavy dew coats the grasses along the side of the powerlines and the birds are singing like crazy. Most of the deer flies seem to still be asleep, as I am only chased by a few along the way and those seem to disappear as the breeze kicks up a bit. Can't complain about that! A nice morning to be out running.

The flora and fauna highlight of the run this morning was the sighting of two cedar waxwings. Snowman had seen a pair at home yesterday morning while I was out running in the Commons, and I was feeling sad to have missed them. But I got good looks at two separate birds today, one near the Highland Green Road, and one farther down the lines. Beautiful birds. Also seen were one towhee, a mallard, lots of sparrows. Chickadees and phoebes heard calling along the way, but not seen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and Bambi

We don't go to the movies all that often, saving our theater visits for when there is something we really want to see on the big screen. I figured we had to see the new Indiana Jones movie, as we've watched the original trilogy millions of times. So, last night, Snowman made dinner (I know, breakfast and dinner! wow!) so we could get to the 6:45 showing. Let's just say we came out of the show disappointed. The movie was cheesy and predictable, and well, just not good. I think we need to watch the originals so we can redeem ourselves. This one was just not in the same class.

Even though the movie wasn't good, I still managed to have the Indiana Jones theme song in my head this morning as I headed out for a run in the Commons.

I always see lots of deer tracks in the Commons, but had yet to see a deer, until today. A young doe bounded across the trail into the woods. Neat. Otherwise, the run was good but again uneventful. Even though I started before 7am, it was humid. I guess summer has arrived!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Work, Work and More Work

After a fun day off Saturday on the rockpile, it was back to work for me yesterday. I got in a mellow 3 mile run in the Commons in the morning, which was nice but uneventful. This morning was a lazy one with no running, and Snowman was nice enough to make me a yummy mushroom, spinach and goat cheese omelette for breakfast! Unfortunately I'm working today too (Sunday and Monday are our "normal" days off), which isn't much fun... Oh well. I'll be off again this coming Saturday so I can head up to Great Glen for my 3rd running of the "There's a Black Fly in My Eye" 15k trail race. Should be fun!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mt. Washington Road Race and the Alpine Garden

Normally I get nervous for races I'm running in. I was not running in the Mt. Washington Road Race, but I was very nervous. Perhaps not as much as Snowman, who called it "terror," but nervous. I wanted to make sure Snowman was OK. I knew I couldn't see him start. Would his calf be OK? Would he be able to make it? All these thoughts raced through my head. In my heart, I knew he could do it, but there was a lot of uncertainty...I dropped Snowman off at the starting area at the base of the road around 8am, and headed up the mountain. It was odd that I wouldn't be able to see the start and finish, but such is the life of a spectator at a point-to-point race. I was bummed to be leaving Snowman so early, but I wanted to have time to get up the road, do a bit of hiking and still be able to watch the race. Besides, leaving early meant I had more time to drive up, which is another thing I was nervous about. I am not super good with exposure, and there are definitely points on this road that are exposed! However, it was a beautiful day, and the drive up went well. I took my time, and enjoyed the views and the wildflowers along the roadside, including blue bead lilies, false lily of the valley, goldthread and bunchberries. The sky was clear until around 7 miles up the road, when the clouds we had seen sitting on the summit earlier began to engulf the car. Still, hard to ask for a better day. Not too hot. Not too cold. Not windy. Not rainy. A bit overcast and in the clouds, but otherwise perfect.

After parking, I set off into the mist down the Nelson Crag Trail to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. There was no one around, and I had the trails to myself. The Alpine Garden Trail is a beautiful trail, running relatively level for about 1 mile on a plateau below the summit. The flowers weren't superb, but I still enjoyed having the chance to see the diapensia, labrador tea and alpine azalea, along with the typical bluets and bunchberries. There were numerous springs and small streams as well, along with some great views as the clouds lifted. Once I junctioned with the Lion Head Trail, I had a bit of a stiff climb back up to the summit, where lots of people had gathered to cheer on the runners. It was a fun atmosphere, with a good announcer and music.

The winner finished in a little over an hour, and after that, a steady stream of runners ran, walked and gritted their way up the mountain. The last pitch before the finish is something like 20% grade! A mean final stretch... It was fun to see everyone really cheering the runners on here as they were almost done!

As the clock neared 1:30, I kept hoping to see Snowman coming around the bend.... being a spectator is brutal! But finally, at 1:42:40, he crossed the finish line, putting in an awesome effort and a great race! Congrats go to Kevin and Stephen too, along with all the other runners. Good job! I was hurting just watching :-) Also fun to meet Jamie, who was Stephen's driver.

We drove two other runners down, Nancy and Art, who have done the race several times. They were super nice, and the conversation helped me to not be too nervous about driving down the mountain! Snowman and I enjoyed the food served up by the race organizers, watched the awards and enjoyed a chat with Ian of Trail Monsters who was volunteering at the race along with doing a big hike/run up and down Mt. Washington as training for the VT 100 mile race next month. The day ended with us heading into town for a well-deserved beer at Moat!

Photos here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Commons and Mt. Washington

Got in a nice 6 miles in the Commons this morning. Not much to report, but a nice morning to be out.

Tomorrow is a day off from running, and I head up to Great Glen to cheer on Snowman and Kevin and Stephen and all the other runners in the upcoming Mt. Washington Road Race. I think the best things about this race are that the race website says "Only One Hill," and as a runner you get one of those cool "The driver of this car ran Mt. Washington" bumper stickers. Of course, I am not crazy enough to want to run it myself... But I am looking forward to getting in a bit of hiking in the Alpine Garden and watching the finish!

Keep your fingers crossed that Snowman's calf is feeling better so he can run and run well!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

4 in the Rain

It has been a rather soggy week here on the coast of Maine. But really, overall it's been a pleasant spring, and I'm sure we need the rain, so we can't complain too much. I headed out early to a get a run in across the street. With the rain, I thought I'd stay off the powerlines and stick to the Mt. Ararat trails instead. I did a few loops up and over and down the "big hill," which is a pretty decent workout. Got in a bit over 4 miles, and called it a day. The woods were pretty quiet, but I did see a towhee singing away, and noticed that the pink mountain laurel is looking beautiful along the powerlines near the Highland Green Road. The blueberries are also out, but they're still pretty green!

In other news, I lost the toenail on my right foot that's been threatening to go since becoming nice and black after the Pinelands race. Isn't that just lovely? I guess I won't be wearing any of my open-toed shoes to the gallery anytime soon! :-)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yes, This is What I Do for Fun

So, it's your day off. It is an overcast day, misty and foggy, damp and cool. Your husband is up early and out the door before 7am. What do you do with yourself while he is gone? Do you 1) go back to sleep? 2) go relax on the couch and read a book, maybe do a few errands, or 3) get up and go to the nearby state park for a 2+ hour trail run? Yup, go guessed it. You do #3!

After a quick breakfast, I packed up with my fuel belt, some extra clothes and a towel, etc, and headed out the door around 7:45. I wanted to get my run in early in case it started to really rain later in the day. But first, I took a quick detour to our nearby garden center, Skillins, to buy some plants. I have been meaning to add a few plants and mulch the garden for weeks. I know June 16 seems late, but in Maine, you can't plant until Memorial Day, and after that we were in Aruba and then off hiking last weekend. So, today it is. I picked up a bleeding heart, a few native lily of the valley and Solomon's Seal, and a few Coral Bells. My garden is a shade garden, and hopefully these plants will do well.

Anyway, on to the run... I headed to Bradbury State Park. It was misty with low cloud cover. The plan was to get in 12 miles today. As a loop on the Breaker course and a loop on the Scuffle course would net 10.5 miles, I needed another mile or so to get to 12. In light of that, Snowman had suggested I do the Knight Woods loop (approx. 1.1 miles) first, so that I don't wimp out at the end and not do the extra. Definitely a good idea! My legs felt a little tired (perhaps from the 10 miler on Friday? Or just because?), but it was a nice temperature and the woods were quiet. It was a good morning to be out, despite the mist. After the loop, I headed back across the street and onto the Breaker course. This part of the run was about 90% running and 10% hiking. There were a few sections on the Boundary Trail that I power walked up. I also walked down a fair section of the South Ridge Trail, as with all the rain, the rock ledges were pretty wet as were some of the ladders. I also walked up most of the 0.2m Summit Trail. This is a stiff uphill to Bradbury summit. Boy, the Breaker is going to be a tough race! And it is two loops! Aie...

I got back to the parking lot at 1:00, hit the bathroom, and took off again across the street to do the 6 mile Scuffle course. We've run all the trails that make up this course before, although many of them in the opposite direction, so I felt like I was exploring new terrain in a few spots. The trails wind up and down, in and out, through the wet and green woods. I was feeling pretty good, but definitely feeling the fact that I'd now been running for well over an hour. Finally, I reached the Snowmobile trail and knew I had approx. 1.5 miles left to go. It was funny to be on the Snowmobile trail as it looked totally different than when we ran it this winter, all snow covered and packed by, surprise!, snowmobiles. One final hill on the Knight Woods Trail and back to the road. I was soaked, partly from sweat, but mostly from the low cloud cover and constant mist. I was dirty. I was tired. But it was a good run. Finished in 2:05, which given the terrain, doesn't seem all that bad for 12 miles.

Didn't see anyone else during those whole two hours. Did see a few chickadees, a phoebe, a wood thrush and what I think was an owl flapping quietly through one section of woods. The flora highlight of the run was all the beautiful iris blooming in a swampy section along a bridge on the Snowmobile Trail.

Now that I've showered, had a bit of lunch and watched a few holes of the US Open play-off round between Tiger and Rocco, I'm headed out back to plant those plants and get the garden set. After that, though, I might take a nap :-)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Scuffle Report

Congrats to Snowman on a great 8th place finish in the Bradbury Scuffle under not-so-great conditions, raining with lots of slippery roots and rocks! He sounded really happy with the race he ran, and I know that feeling good today will do wonders in feeling like he can do well on Saturday in the Mt. Washington Road Race. Way to go Snowman :-)

I'm sure you can read more about it later by going here.

All Work and No Play Today

In 15 minutes, Snowman will be headed off in a pack of other racers for the start of the Bradbury Scuffle. I, on the other hand, will be headed to work. I am really sad to miss this race. One, it's always better to be running than working! Two, it's odd to have Snowman racing when I am not. And last but not least, the race is put on by a really cool running group, Ian and the Trail Monster Runners. I wish I could join them racing! They did a fabulous job with the Bradbury Bruiser last year, and a few weeks ago with the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge. However, I will have a chance to participate in their next race, the Bradbury Breaker (sounds tough!), which is in August. Snowman won't be running that one, as he has to work that day. So, in the end, I guess it evens out.

With Snowman headed over to Bradbury, I headed to the Commons for a mellow 3 mile run. It was drizzling slightly, but cool. Tomorrow I have the day off and Snowman doesn't (do you see a trend here?! Ugh.), so I'm planning to head to Bradbury myself to run one loop of the Breaker course as well as the Scuffle. Should be a good workout.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Beautiful Morning for 10

Finally! I managed to get out of bed for my scheduled 10 miler. I added an extra layer of insurance last night when I asked Snowman to be sure to prod me into getting up should I attempt to roll over and go back to sleep. He did. I got up, and he promptly rolled over and went back to sleep!

I headed out into the Commons at 6:20 am. Although getting up this early to run is a bit of a chore, there is something about running at such an early hour that is really nice. I didn't see a soul in the Commons, and at the end, turned left to head into the Pennellville area of Brunswick. This is a great place to run, bike or walk. The roads are quiet, and with the mix of old stately homes, rolling farmland and deep woods, it feels like you're out in the middle of nowhere. I ducked into the port-a-potty at the Pennellville soccer fields for a much-needed stop. Thank you Town of Brunswick! And they had been cleaned yesterday, even better.

As I headed out through the fields, the birds were everywhere. I guess they love it out here too. Bobolinks (what a cool bird! Doug, if Lucy still needs the bobolink for her life list, come to Brunswick! There were at least 4 males out in the fields this morning!), red-winged Blackbirds, goldfinch, a pair of Tree Swallows, sparrows and others. At the end of Pennellville Road, I turned left again to head down to Simpson's Point, where the road ends at the water. This bright and beautiful morning the water was calm and smooth as glass, reflecting the pine trees and the blue sky above. What a wonderful thing to see in the early morning light.

The route looped back around to the Commons again, and I headed back through, finishing the 10 miles in 1:27. What a way to start the day! I'm also pretty happy that I managed to get the 20 miles in as I had planned, given that our hike on Sunday/Monday was pretty exhausting. A solid week as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Snowman Says: On the AT - Rt. 2, Gorham to Wright Trail

June 8, 2008 | Miles: 11.8
Start: Rt. 2, Gorham
End: Gentian Pond Shelter

Here's an idea: Go on a backpacking trip. Not just any trip, but go on one of the hardest sections of the AT. For your first backpack of the season. Then choose the hottest weekend of the year. Don't forget the 90% humidity. Height of bug season? Yeah, throw that in, too. Sound like the worst idea ever? Well, it is the worst idea ever. And, it's exactly what we did.

Originally, Ghost was going to come with us. Ghost had gone for a hike the day before. He decided that it was going to be too hot for him. He chose wisely. However, he was still nice enough to help us with our car spot. (Thanks, Ghost! We owe you a fine dinner at Monsieur Pizza.) So, at 7:45 we met him in Bethel, and headed up to the Wright Trail to park our car—this would be our end point. Then at about 9:00am he dropped us off at the trailhead on Rt. 2 in Gorham, so we could begin our hike. The first .5 mile was along the road. This was the last easy walking of the whole trip. Within the first 1/2 hour, I was completely saturated with sweat. After about an hour, I thought I was done. I was soaking wet, struggling under the weight of the pack (which I've lightened to under 30 pounds, which makes my laboring that much more pathetic), losing blood rapidly from bug bites, and generally unhappy. We contemplated turning around, but trudged on. We had an out at 3 miles, so I decided to make my decision there. This out was at the top of Mt. Hayes. I didn't feel particularly better, but I didn't feel any worse. We kept going. And going, and going, and going. Drip, drip, drip. Swat, swat, swat. Grumble, grumble, grumble. There was a brief break during this time for lunch: hummus, carrots, cucumber, pita, cheese...we go first class. (Oh and a Reese's Fast Break.)

Eventually, we descended to Trident Col. It was steep. Then a funny moment happened: D said, "Well, they weren't kidding about the col part." That was the last and only funny moment of the day. We stopped at the spring at the campsite, 0.2 off the trail, for water. It was early afternoon, but I'd already emptied my 100 oz. bladder. Drip, drip, drip.

More walking, more sweating, more bugs, more grumbling...then it got worse. A black fly flew in my eye. Really into my eye. It wouldn't come out. It hurt. No seriously, it sucked.

Eventually, we arrived at Gentian Pond Shelter. It took us 8 hours. We got water and made dinner. Pad Thai from Backpackers' Pantry. It sucked. Pretty much the only thing you want after a hard day is a good meal. This was not so good. Grumble.

Since no one else is as dumb as us, we had the shelter all to ourselves. At about 7:30, we sent up the tent in the shelter. Poor shelter etiquette? Yes. There was still enough room for at least 6 people to come in if need be. We could tell it was going to rain, and it was still way too hot to sleep in the tent with the rainfly on. So, into the tent we went. I laid there...sweating, nay dripping. But at least I wasn't getting bit anymore.

June 9, 2008 | Miles: 7.3 (plus 4.4 miles on the Wright Trail)
Start: Gentian Pond Shelter
End: Wright Trail, South Fork

At some point, I stopped sweating and fell asleep. I woke up at one point and realized it was raining. We were still alone and comfortably dry and bug free in the shelter. Then at 11:00, I saw headlamps. Two people had shown up. WTF? Who shows up at 11:00 on a day like this? We asked them if they wanted to come in, but they said they had set up tents. OK, back to sleep.

The day started with a climb...of course. Well, first we had to pass through the tentsites. The two were actually a group of about ten. We exchanged pleasantries, apologized for hogging the shelter (they said they wouldn't have used it anyway) and we headed on our way. This was the only human contact we had on our trip. We didn't see anyone else. Well, because it was so awful out. Today was less sunny, but no less hot or humid. And, don't forget the bugs. At some point, I offered the second and last funny moment of the trip, when I said: "Why don't we have any hobbies that are fun?"

We climbed Mt. Success. It was hard. We were sweating. We stopped and had a snack it was buggy. We kept going. We came to a ridiculous jumble of rocks that was supposed to be the trail. It was basically straight down. The rocks were wet. It was tricky. It sucked. It took us about 20 minutes to go about 100 feet. Soon after this we reached the Maine border to no fanfare at all. We took a photo and moved on. We were too hot, too wet, too tired to really care. We knew we still had a long way to go.

We hit another ridiculous jumble of rocks. This time we had to take of our packs. It was both exhausting and annoying. Don't forget the bugs and the heat. (Or the smell at this point.) Actually, I had stopped worrying about the bugs. I was sweating so much, they were drowning before they could really bite me. After this obstacle, we reached the trail to the Carlo Col shelter. This was good news because we were out of water. This was really bad because the water was 0.3 miles down, down, down. So much suckage.

Climb back up to the AT. Climb Mt. Carlo. Go down the other side. Then it was back up to West Goose Eye. As we started this climb, I said to D, "I really don't think I can keep going." I wasn't kidding. I was toasted. We climbed up West Goose Eye. It was steep and rocky. There was a ladder. It was ridiculous. D yelled, "I don't want to go up anymore." She wasn't kidding. We reached the top. We ate a snack. We moved on.

Soon after, we hit the Wright Trail to begin our miles that "didn't count." I'm sure the Wright Trail is a really nice trail. It sucked on this day. We had 4.4 miles to our car. It felt like 444.4. Down, down, down. Drip, drip, drip. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Somehow, we reached the car. We'd been out for nearly 10 hours. Count 'em. 10.

This was the hardest trip we've ever done. I'm never hiking again.


I was all set and planning to get up at 5:45 am to go for a 10 mile run. However, when the alarm went off, all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. So I did.

So much for my good intentions.

I did manage to get up and get in a 6 mile run in the Commons before work though, so the day was not lost. Things has cooled down overnight, and there was a nice breeze. It actually felt pretty good to be out running.

I'll try for 5:45 am again tomorrow. Who's willing to place a bet that I actually get up?! :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tired Feet

Finally dragged myself out of bed this morning to get in an abbreviated run before heading up to work for an early meeting. Headed across the street onto the powerlines. After the thunder/lightening and rain last night, things seemed to have cooled off a bit, but the air still felt heavy. I was happy to notice that my legs didn't feel sore, but they did feel tired. As did my feet. My feet seem to have suffered the most from this weekend's hike. Perhaps it was because they were wet for 36 hours straight due to lots of sweat and a few slips off bog bridges! Regardless, they were feeling a bit tender. I got in 4 miles, shorter than I had planned previously, but oh well. These things happen.

I talked to Snowman on my way up to work. He appears to not be recovering very quickly, and is still feeling wiped out. Poor guy. I'm sure a super long and busy day at work yesterday didn't help, and hopefully he'll feel better with a good night's sleep tonight. As we've seen over our years of hiking, my body seems to handle the heat better than his, so I guess his body is just letting him know it wasn't too happy with this weekend's adventure!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On the AT - Rt. 2, Gorham to Wright Trail

Photos of our hike.

June 8, 2008
| Miles: 11.8
Start: Rt. 2, Gorham
End: Gentian Pond Shelter

This weekend's hike could be summed up as follows:

Ghost was smart. We were dumb.


Sweat. Sweat. Sweat. Bugs. Bugs. Bugs. Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.

Throw in a some really stiff and rugged terrain, a few nice views and some spring wildflowers, and there you have it.

Now for the long version:

Ghost decided to skip out on this weekend's adventure due to the forecasted hot and humid weather. He had been out hiking on Saturday and said it was pretty awful. He was going to spend the rest of the weekend relaxing inside. We decided to go ahead with our plans. One, we are dumb. Two, we have a lot of things going on this month and only had this one weekend to get out backpacking. Three, we really want to finish up all the miles we have remaining before we do the final stretch in the 100 mile wilderness this September. So. All of the above being noted, we met up with Ghost on Sunday at 7:45, so that he could help us with our car spot. That really made things much easier. Thanks Ghost!

About 2 minutes into the hike, we were sweating. And it was buggy. Not even an hour into the hike and Snowman was saying "This is too hard. Too hot." This was going to be a rough day. I seemed to be faring better than him, but we still had a ways to go. We took it easy and trudged onward. The terrain was rugged and the trail not well used. It seems the Mahoosucs were living up to the rumors, as a beautiful, but rough and rugged stretch of mountains.

The 11.8 miles took us 8 hours, which considering we took at least an hour worth of stops through the day to rest, drink, eat and fill up our water, isn't too bad. But we were both spent by the time we got to Gentian Pond Shelter. The heat and the terrain had taken their toll. The shelter was empty, and had a great view out into Shelburne with the mountains beyond. A pretty spot. After dinner (by the way, the Pad Thai by Backpacker's Pantry is not recommended. Neither of us could finish our portion, which is really unusual for us.), we set the tent up in the shelter. Not good shelter etiquette, but as no one had arrived by 8pm, we figured it was just us for the night. It was hot, but we finally fell asleep. I awoke at 11pm to rain and a couple of hikers coming into camp. 11pm? What were they doing?! We felt bad for taking over the shelter, but they said they had already set up their tents... Ok. back to sleep. We needed it.

Flora and fauna report: Lots of moose poop and prints, but no moose. Lots of overly friendly black flies. Two grouse, one junco, one gray jay. One black and yellow garter snake. A few toads and frogs. Lots of pink and white ladyslippers, false lily of the valley, goldthread, bunchberries, blue bead lilies, mountain laurel, violets and rhodora.

June 9, 2008 | Miles: 7.3 (plus 4.4 miles on the Wright Trail)
Start: Gentian Pond Shelter
End: Wright Trail, South Fork

The rain during the night had cooled things off slightly, but the air was still heavy when we awoke at 6:30. Turns out what we thought was two hikers last night was a group of 8 or 10 wilderness camp instructors out for a training backpack. Still don't know why they arrived so late. We headed off up Mt. Success at 7:50am, in an attempt to beat the heat. The rain had turned the overgrown trail into a car wash, but it was good. Still, it was slow going. The roots and rocks were now wet, and the terrain had not gotten any easier.

In a few spots, upon first glance, we couldn't figure out how to get through the obstacle course of boulders that was the trail. Snowman had to help me up and down numerous times. My skirt was totally dirty. I was soaked, again. My legs were covered with sweat and mud and pine needles and heat rash. Lovely. It took us forever to get the Carlo Col Shelter for lunch and water refill. From there, we trudged onward and upward to Mt. Carlo and one of the Goose Eyes. Snowman was falling back. I kept urging him on. He was not looking good. This was not looking good. But there was nothing to do but keep going. Wingfoot had definitely gotten some of the mileage wrong, and we kept going and going and going. We did pass through some beautiful high bog areas, where the cotton sedge and mountain laurel were blooming. Still, neither of us were having a great time. I, again, seemed to be better off than Snowman but this did not stop me from swearing a good number of times at the rather impossible climbs up slick rocks or the bugs trying to gnaw at my arms and legs.

Finally, we reached the Wright Trail junction. The 7.3 miles (although I'm pretty sure Wingfoot was off by 1 mile at least through this section) had taken us until 3pm. Man... The Wright Trail was rugged for the first few miles, but had some gorgeous views. We finally dropped down to Goose Eye Brook, which we followed for the last few miles. Definitely a nice trail, but all I wanted was to get to the car. It had been a long day. We hit the trailhead at 5:40. D***, that was tough.

After a refreshingly cold wash in Goose Eye Brook, we had dinner at Sunday River Brew Pub. After a quick unpacking and a much needed shower, we were in bed by 9:30. Perhaps we shouldn't have chosen one of the toughest stretches of trail for our first backpack of the season, on the as-of-yet hottest weekend of the year, in early June when the bugs are at their worst. But then again, we're dumb. Who would have expected anything else from us?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Misty Morning

Although the weather channel was calling for temps in the high 60s today, it sure didn't seem like it at 7am this morning. The clouds hung low in the sky and a steady but light mist fell. Maybe in part due to the weather, or perhaps the early hour on a Saturday, the Commons were quiet. I didn't see anyone until the last 10 minutes or so, as I neared the college. The woods have come alive, looking lush and green. The pink ladyslippers still abound, joined by many false lily of the valley and bunchberries.

This week tallied up to 17 miles, pretty paltry, I know, but I put in some good weeks leading up the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge, so I figure a week of "rest" is not such a bad thing. Next week is the first of the summer's 3/2 weeks, meaning I'll be running 3 days and hiking 2 days. This will be an interesting experiment, as I still want to keep my running miles up over 20, as well as get in at least one long run a week. Next week I'm planning two 5-mile days and one 10-mile day. The mileage isn't the problem, but the time is. Although I realize I'm lucky with that my work day doesn't start until 10:00, getting 10 miles (or approx. 1.5 hours of running) in before 8:30am is still going to be a challenge.

Tomorrow we head out to do a section of the AT in NH. Our friend Ghost is joining us. Should be fun :-)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Powerline Run

In a total shift from our runs earlier this week, this morning's run featured mist and temps in the high 50s. A bit of an overcast day, but nice to be out. I hit the powerlines for a 5 mile run, and enjoyed the peace and quiet, broken only by the birds singing away. Things have come into full bloom in the last week or so - bunchberries, wild strawberries, white violets, rhodora, even a beautiful iris along a swampy part of the trail, and many flowering shrubs I'm at a loss to name. Also saw my first red eft of the season, always a favorite of mine to come across on the trail, whether running or hiking!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Many Sides of Aruba

For a full look at our Aruba photos:
Aruba Photos #1

Aruba Photos #2

Home Sweet Home

After a long day of travel yesterday, starting at 4:45 am, we are now back in Maine. As Snowman said when we were driving north yesterday from the airport, it's very odd to think that yesterday morning we were in Aruba and only hours later are back on the coast of Maine.

Although we had a wonderful time in Aruba and really enjoyed our tropical vacation, we are glad to be home! There is nothing like your own bed and your own meowing, purring, drooling cat alarm clock to wake you up in the morning :-)

Monday, June 2, 2008

...and the aftermath

After quite a few tasty margheritas and a late 1am turn-in, Snowman awoke at 7:30am and went down to reserve shady hut #41. He then came back to bed, where we debated whether to get up and eat, or get up and work out in the fitness center, or just go back to sleep. I fully intended to get up and go run on the treadmill, but instead promptly fell back to sleep and woke up at 10:30! So much for an early start to the day!

We went down to the hut, had some lunch, read and relaxed, and enjoyed one more swim in the ocean. After a few hours, I was getting a bit antsy, so Snowman good naturedly humored me, and off we went, walking down the strip in search of Bubali Bird Sanctuary. We asked directions from a nice Westin attendant, who sent us in the direction of the Butterfly Farm. We figured since we were walking right by, we would stop in and check it out. A bit expensive, but really neat. They've created a protected butterfly sanctuary and boy, were they beautiful! Pretty cool to get such close-up views of so many different kinds of butterflies.

Turns out the sanctuary backs up to the Butterfly Farm, but you have to access it from another road, so off we went. As usual, it was HOT, and I was sweating, even with the nice wind. Oh well. The bird sanctuary was not much more than a covered high bird watching tower at the edge of some marshy land between the roads and hotel area and the beach. Still, we had some good looks at a few cattle egret, one fly-by yellow warbler, one HUGE iguana, many ground doves and grackle, some sort of plover I have yet to identify, and some neat looking ducks. We also saw a brown-throated parakeet on our walk over, talking up a storm in one of the divi divi trees. Neat!

Feeling pretty sweaty but with me still a bit antsy upon our return to the hotel, we enjoyed the AC in the room for a bit and then went for a mellow 3-mile run on the treadmill in the fitness center. Nothing like a bit of exercise to make me feel better!

The Wedding

Congratulations to Meg and Chris!

Last night we all attended their beautiful wedding on the white sand beach outside the hotel. It was a gorgeous evening with a really nice sunset and was the perfect setting for the ceremony.

The dinner and reception were in the restaurant where earlier in the day we had spent 2 1/2 hours eating at the ridiculous buffet, feasting on everything from french toast, omelettes, homemade donuts, meat from the carving station, sushi, a dessert station and more. We all enjoyed the reception-food was good, band was talented and of course, best of all the company was great! A good time, and lots of drinks were had by all :-)

I'll also take the time to thank Meg, Chris, Irene, Dana, Regina and Mike for a wonderful time! We really enjoyed our once-in-a-lifetime tropical vacation, and were honored to join the families and friends in such a nice place for such a special occasion!