Saturday, January 31, 2009

Carter Notch, January 30, 2009

What a great day and a great hike! Thanks to all of you who wished me well. It was one of those perfect days when everything cooperated. Good company clear skies, and beautiful scenery.

We started at the trailhead at 9 a.m. and the path was fairly well packed out from last week's storm but it was still hard work climbing 2000 vertical feet over 3.9 miles in snowshoes.

Layering with synthetic layers is the way to go when winter hiking. The enemy of the hiker is not the cold but moisture--so to avoid sweating, you always want to be slightly cold in your layers, adding and subtracting as necessary. The synthetic fabrics wick the moisture away from your body and keep you dry so that when you stop and the wind picks up you don't freeze into a hikersicle.

In addition to the synthetic fabrics sold for hikers and skiers, chemical hand warmers are another thing that makes winter hiking more comfortable. I had one in each glove as I hiked up the mountain and had a new set to switch over at the hut for maximum heating. This I did at the hut after eating lunch and changing into dry socks. The mistake I made--and I'm going to try and put this delicately--was putting the still warm used handwarmers in my bra--it seemed like a good idea at the time and since this is a family blog, I won't go into detail--but CAUTION: Do Not Do This Even if It Seems Like A Good Idea At The Time.

By the time we were within a mile of the hut and climbing steeply the wind picked up and it was COLD. Maybe it's always cold in notches where the wind comes howling down the rift between big mountains but I just about froze my fingers taking very few pictures. Our lunch break at the hut was welcome, there was no fire and it was cold but at least the wind stayed outside so we could eat our lunch even if it meant putting things into our mouths to melt before chewing.

The descent went much quicker than the ascent and by the time we had lost some elevation we could once again feel our fingers and toes. It was fun getting to know Elise who is the clerk in one of my courts and her friend Sally who hiked over 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail with her husband in 2007, the year that she turned 50. It was great to hike with them and I hope we can do it again really soon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Heading to the Notch

Tomorrow, I'm heading into Carter Notch in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The trail we will take from the road is called the Nineteen Mile Brook trail and while the trail is not 19 miles but a mere 3.9 it does follow along a pretty little brook called Nineteen Mile Brook. I am very excited. This will be the first time that I've gotten into the mountains this winter and the trail is one of my favorites. It is a popular one and by the time my hiking buddy and I meet at the trailhead at 9 a.m., I expect the trail will be well packed for our snowshoes.

Carter Notch is tucked away between the Wildcat Range and the Carter Range just to the east of Mt. Washington. The picture on the right was taken on an ascent of Carter Dome in September. If you look hard you can see the green roof of the hut in the Notch far below us. The hut will be our destination tomorrow.

A few years ago, I hiked into the hut with Archie and two of his ice climbing buddies. We planned to spent three days and two nights and somehow managed to choose the coldest two nights of the winter. The hut is unheated except for a woodstove that is only lit at night. In the main hut building with the wood stove, there are tables and a propane cook stove and hikers can cook their meals but to sleep, you must venture from the woodstove and go to one of the bunk houses which have no heat and no insulation. That year that I hiked in with the boys, there were no other people there except the caretaker who had his bunk in the building with the wood stove. The boys and I claimed our bunks and laid out our sleeping bags and shivered. I don't think I slept at all the first night but was somewhat comforted by the snores of the 3 teenage boys who apparently have metabolisms like furnaces. I have never been that cold and of course in the deepest darkest part of the night I had to go to the bathroom. I tried mind games, I tried counting sheep but all I could do was imagine the filling of my bladder. Finally, I could stand it no more and got out of my down bag, put on my clothes including hiking boots and crampons for the trip to the outhouse. It was a long night and you can be sure that the following evening I drank no liquids. Honestly, though, that frigid adventure with the ice climbers is one of my fondest memories and one made extra special because I shared it with my eccentric, knows-no-limits son.

But tomorrow, I am heading up the Notch with a new hiking friend and we won't scale any high peaks, we are just hiking along the brook to the hut, we'll eat our lunch and we'll head back and be home in time for supper.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cardinals in the Snow

The Bluejays spent most of the day at the feeders, but just before dusk, Mr. Cardinal arrived. He ate and looked around and ate some more then flew off and brought back Mrs. Cardinal. What a cute couple--look how he dotes on her.

As the rest of the country digs out and recovers from the storm, we are in the thick of it. At this point, we probably have close to a foot and it is supposed to continue until midnight. Bee class was canceled.

I am planning a hike into Carter Notch with a friend on Saturday. It should be beautiful but I hope some hearty souls get in there to pack out Nineteen Mile Brook Trail before we head in. In fact, if I could have my preference it would be a group of very heavy people on snowshoes or perhaps even a large group of boyscouts. The harder the snow is packed down, the easier for those that follow.

Here it comes

Just as I follow the migration of birds and the coming of Spring through my google reader and updates from fellow bloggers to the south and the west, I have followed the track of today's storm as it passed through Kentucky and Virginia and Ohio and Pennsylvania and southern New England before coming to Maine to dump up to two feet of snow on us before passing off to the maritime provinces and the north atlantic.

Nothing is coming out of the sky yet, but the call from school came already, making the predictions by the teacher and the teenager accurate. Fortunately, for me, I had planned an office day so my commute is the twenty feet from my barn door to my little carriage house office. I will fill up the feeders before the snow starts so the birds can dart out for calories and I can be distracted by them. The weatherman says that it will be snowing 2-3 inches per hour for most of the afternoon. I guess bee class will be canceled tonight.

A few months ago, a friend from another state asked me to join facebook--I joined with trepedation thinking that it was the domain of the hip and happening crowd--it isn't. Well, it may be for some people--the hip and happening ones--but it is also a fun place to reconnect with people. Recently, several of the bloggers that I follow have joined. So, maybe we have a shot at being hip and happening after all!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Just right

Each winter Saturday, KGMom posts a soup recipe and each winter Saturday I want to make it. Well, today I read her post before my trip to the grocery, added some ingredients to my list and made this delicious Hearty Winter Soup. It simmered away on the stove through the afternoon as I cleaned the house and read the homework for my Beekeeping class. Charlie spent the day coaching his ski team and this evening the yummy soup hit the spot for us both. There is plenty left over for this week's lunches and some to freeze for another day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What's all the Buzz About?

For the past two winters, a notice in the paper has caught my eye advertising a 12-week course in backyard beekeeping offered at one of the local schools. It has intrigued me each year, but twelve weeks seemed like a major commitment and do I really want to keep bees? Well, this year I decided to check it out and yes, maybe I will keep bees.

What really surprised me was the number of people filling the school cafeteria--there were at least fifty other people there wanting to spend the next twelve Wednesday evenings learning about bee keeping. The folks in the class have all sorts of different motivations Some had kept bees before but want to learn more about it, some are gardeners or farmers and want the bees for pollination, some want to start a honey or wax business, one couple makes goat milk soap and uses honey as an ingredient--some (like me) just love nature and want to learn more about the fascinating work of bees.

This should be fun--updates to follow in the weeks ahead.

Harder than it looks

Ruthie J and Jayne
had an idea for a game, so I'm playing along. I'm really curious about how many of you would like to be pirates or have slept on satin sheets. So, give it a try.

37 Random Things About Me

1. Do you like blue cheese? I've never tried it.
2. Have you ever smoked? I puffed a time or two as a teenager--it didn't take, thank goodness.
3. Do you own a gun? Nope.
4. What flavor Kool Aid is your favorite? Grape
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No, my doctor is really nice and I've been going to her for a long time.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? They are yummy at baseball games.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? It's a Wonderful Life
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee
9. Can you do push-ups?
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? Earrings that my husband gave me (he has really good taste).
11. Favorite hobby? Hiking, reading, blogging, sewing--do I have to choose just one?
12. Do you have A.D.D? I like to multi-task, so maybe?
13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? Contacts, extended wear--I love them.
14. Middle name? Elizabeth
15. Name thoughts at this moment? How did all those people stay up late and go to balls and look so good last night? I was worn out from watching the inauguration on TV and was in my pj's by 9.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Coffee, tea, pomegranate juice, water, Polar Seltzer Water--is that more three?
17. Current worry? The economy
18. Current hate right now? Ugly rhetoric on either side of the political spectrum
19. Favorite place to be? In the woods or on a mountain.
20. How did you bring in the New Year? Dinner with friends and an exciting game of Boggle, we made it until midnight but not much past that.
21. Where would you like to go? Macedonia
22. Name three people who will complete this? Rach, Katie and SJ!
23. Do you own slippers? Yes, a pair of L.L. Bean wicked good slippers that my husband bought me for Christmas last year.
24 What color shirt are you wearing? White, still part of my pajama ensemble, too early for real clothes.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Same answer as blue cheese--never tried it.
26. Can you whistle? Oh yes, I like to whistle.
27. Favorite Color? I can't think of one that isn't my favorite!
28. What songs do you sing in the shower? I'm too self-conscious to sing anywhere except the car all by myself and then I sing everything that comes on the radio whether I know it or not.
29. Would you be a pirate? No
30. Favorite Girl's Name? Molly or Sara
31. Favorite boy's name? Ethan or Archie
32. What's in your pocket right now? kleenex
33. Last thing that made you laugh? The Daily Show
34. What vehicle do you drive? Ford Escape
35. Worst injury you've ever had? I've been very lucky--no serious injuries.
36. Do you love where you live? yes
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? Two, well there might be more stored in the attic but two that work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


We have heard so much over the past few months about the first African American President and the hope and inspiration that many people associate with him. As a white middle-class protestant who grew up with two parents, I cannot be presumptuous enough to understand what seeing President Obama sworn in meant for many people who grew up disenfranchised and in the shadow of power.

But, I did go to law school in ultra-white Iowa with only a handful of African American students and that gives me a story to tell

On the first day of our first year, I noticed that the few African American students all sat together through classes in Torts and Property Law and that they rarely engaged in discussion. As a quiet person myself it did not strike me as strange--I was not anxious to jump into discussions with a lot of argumentative law students either. I did not associate their silence to the color of their skin--I just thought maybe I would start sitting with them in the quiet corner.

The second day of our first year, we had Contracts class and our professor was an African American. Suddenly, it was as if this brilliant man had lit a flame under the African American students. They participated, they contributed, they were engaged in discussion and the whole class was richer for it--I even jumped in and started letting my mind expand with the discussion.

I thought about it a lot. Our teachers that first day had been brilliant, too.

While I appreciate the importance of the President's race to many people, to me the hope centers not on the color of his skin but on the breadth of his intellect and I wish him and all of us well.

Monday, January 12, 2009



Who isn't chillingly fascinated by the idea of wolves?

I grew up listening to Peter and the Wolf and loving the oboe even though it reminded me of the foolish duck. The Three Little Pigs caught less of my sympathy--either because they were pigs or because they were lazy. Certainly, as a little girl who loved her grandmother, Little Red Riding Hood upset me greatly and I learned to be honest and truthful from repeated tellings of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Through all of the stories, though, it seemed that the wolf only took advantage of people (or animals) who let down their guard and were foolish (the duck), lazy (the pigs), gullible (Red Riding Hood) or drama queens (The Boy), I was not any of those things so perhaps wolves were worth another look.

As I grew up, I discovered that the stereotype of wolves, as with most of the other fears from my childhood, did not exactly measure up to their reality, but it was many years before I actually saw one in the wild. In the summer of 2004, Archie, Molly and I went to Yellowstone and in the northeast corner of the park saw two wolves enjoying an elk carcass and drinking from a river. They ate, they lazed in the sun, they played--I could have watched them forever.

Wolves have been re-introduced to several locations in the United States over the past twenty years. They now roam in areas of Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and North Carolina. The closest area of wolf habitation to Northern New England is in Algonquin Park Ontario.

Currently, I am reading The Return of the Wolf: Reflections on the Future of Wolves in the Northeast. It is a very interesting collection of essays on the biological and cultural realities of re-introducing wolves into Northern New England and Northern New York State.

What do some of you think of wolves? I know that readers of this blog are from all of the states where wolves have been re-introduced as well as from the Ontario where they have thrived in Algonquin Park and I would be very interested to hear what sort of experiences and ancedotes you can relate from their presence in your area.

It's all running together

As I was going out the door a few days ago, I realized that my canner was still on the porch where I had left it to cool last Fall after canning some tomatoes. Hmm, --this is January--you last canned in September--why is this still on the porch? I have a lot of dialogues with myself. Well, didn't the skiis stay in the corner of the living room all summer?

Living in Northern New England, I often wonder why we even bother to change our closets over from our winter things to our summer--it would almost make sense to have our few shorts, t-shirts and sundresses in a suitcase in the corner of the bedroom and just pull it out for July and August.

This week is supposed to get frigidly cold with sub-zero wind chills and low temperatures. I guess I should put my canner away, it will be a long time before the ground thaws, things are planted and harvested and put in jars to be processed in boiling water.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Working on a Snowy Sunday

My primary bird feeding station is just outside of my office window. I was feeling a little sorry for myself having to work all weekend after finishing a long trial week but the Blue Jays came out in the snowstorm to keep me company.

What a long week it was, this first week of January, and did I make my goal to snow shoe or ski at least twice this week? Sadly, no, but hopes and resolutions spring eternal--perhaps next week.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Signs of better times ahead?

Canary in a Coal Mine
In our backyard there is a large crane that looms over a lumber yard. I've written about it before here. During the last half of 2008, as the economy tanked and the newscasts, newspapers and coffee shops were full of reports of hard times, the lumber yard seemed to be barely chugging along. There were long periods of time when there was very little wood stacked in piles waiting to become plywood--but things started to change late last week.

From my early morning perch at the dining room table with my coffee and laptop, I could hear noises and see lights coming from the lumber yard and it is continuing. There seems to be a constant stream of trucks being unloaded of their 20 tons of wood by the big green crane. This could be a hopeful economic sign. The loggers are able to sell the wood, the gas prices are down for the haulers and the plywood is on its way to Home Depot.

For the People of Maine
Another hopeful sign occurred yesterday as Janet Mills, a woman who I am very proud to call a friend, was sworn in as Maine's first female attorney general. For many years, she was right beside me, protecting me through some of the hardest times of my life and now, the whole state will have the benefit of representation by this brilliant and courageous woman. Here is an excerpt from her remarks yesterday:

I am from the foothills of Western Maine, a place where we look up to the mountains and where we look down and across onto the cities in the lowlands, where the sunsets are bright, snow aplenty, and the soil is still good for growing. Where the river bottoms are lined with ocean sand from some ancient glacier deposit, where there are four definite seasons... seasons of swimming, hunting, skiing and planting.

Today, we are in a season of change, regardless of the calendar, here and in our nation's capital, we are moving the goals, challenging the agenda, taking new roads.

The road I take is one that will open opportunities for every girl growing up in this state who once had dreams but who had to put them aside.

I ran for office because I believed I was the most qualified person for the job. And I hope that history proves it so.

I also ran for every Maine woman and girl who grows up in the shadows of Margaret Chase Smith and who seeks opportunity in this state.

I stand here on behalf of children like my 6-year old niece Julia, who will grow up competing on an equal footing with her wonderful brother Anthony.

Julia, don't ever let anyone tell you can't compete, with friends, classmates, and others, regardless of where they are from, regardless of the color of their skin, their race, their religion, their gender, orientation or beliefs.

Julia, dear, today we begin to color outside the lines. We are changing the lines, and redrawing the lines. Not cutting corners, but improving the road, expanding the landscape, like an Aroostook County sunrise enlarges the horizon.

We are changing something about what is 'normal,' about what is expected and of whom it is expected, here and around our country.

I know that whatever I am able to achieve in this position will be not because of who I am but because of what I do.

Today I begin what I have referred to fondly and with some anticipation, as running the largest law firm in the State of Maine.

Today I begin the job of litigating, negotiating, arbitrating, mitigating,--the job of resolving differences, of defending the people, of heading up a team of men and women who will represent the face of

Maine people in the courts and in the public eye.

And we will do so with integrity and with honor,--to hold the beams and trusses of government sturdy against strong winds.

Much of what we will do will not be heard or heralded. There will be few victory speeches; for the lives that are not lost; for the businesses and consumers made whole; for the workers returned to a job; for the child no longer abused; for the tribal member whose voice is heard; or for a citizen not denied due process.

This will be our quiet work of solving problems diligently before they are known,

Not because they are known.

And if we may touch one life and make it better, if I may change, the course of the state in some small way, if we can make people feel just a bit better about living and working in our state. If I can make that difference, I will count my career, my life, a success, without more.

And I will always count myself so lucky to be standing here today, in this historic Chamber, in the cross beams, if not the cross hairs, of the three branches of government, taking the oath of my predecessors before this most distinguished audience.

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Amateur Meteorologists

With a teenage boy and a high school teacher living under this roof, the night before a predicted storm is full of research, analysis, discussion, speculation and prayer. Adding to my bemusement with the situation is that all of the other River Valley Bloggers are teachers so the research, analysis, discussion and speculation continues through my google reader. Personally, I hope the snowstorm does not materialize, I have a day of driving deeper into 6-10" territory planned and it will be a pain in the neck to re-schedule all of the appointments. But, I won't say that out loud.

When the phone rings at 5:15 a.m. and the school secretary says, "Will you let Charlie know that school is canceled," I will share the excitement along with everyone else and re-schedule my appointments, strap on the snowshoes, stoke up the fire, fill the bird feeders and watch the kids make snow angels.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Water for Elephants

Normally, I shy away from novels because I never know how they will affect me. Due to the horrors that are routinely part of my job and some difficult years of personal trouble, my brain is unable to deal sensibly with what I think of as the emotional manipulation of certain novels and movies.

Because my children understand better than anyone my low emotional risk tolerance, I trust their recommendations of books and movies. Recently, daughter Sara told me that she had read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and thought that I would enjoy it.

Over these first few days of 2009, I have spent hours wrapped up in an electric blanket reading my way through and when I finished it this morning, it left me with all the joy and transportation of a novel and with a few tears--but they were easily managed happy tears. This book could not have had a better ending.

The novel is a good story wrapped up in the setting of circus life during the Depression years. I could almost smell the stale popcorn and feel the gum on my shoe as I followed the adventures of almost-veterinarian Jacob Jankowski as he traveled with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

An interesting note is that the first draft of the novel was written during NaNoWriMo.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dear 2009, Please be kind to us all

Good Morning, 2009, It's nice to meet you.

I'm the first one up this morning and, you will discover, that we share the early hours of every morning alone together sipping coffee, reading blogs, listening to the news and sometimes talking on line to Sara who is in the middle of her day.

I am really looking forward to getting to know you, 2009, and hope that together we can accomplish quite a bit. This is a big year for me, half a century of living. So, why don't we talk about what we want this year to look like.

In January, I'd like to drive to State College and help Ann and Ethan move into their new house, Let's set a goal to snowshoe or x-c ski at least two times a week and it would be wonderful to spend a weekend with some new friends.

February will have more daylight than January, so let's raise my snowshoe and ski expectation to three times a week and then add in a drive to Boston to hear Greg Mortenson speak at the Appalachian Mountain Club Annual Meeting.

By March, Charlie will be through with coaching for the season so we can enjoy some weekend skiing together. Maybe we could go to Quebec for a weekend ski trip--that would be exotic and exciting but not too far away or expensive.

Oh, April--Molly's birthday and cherry blossoms in D.C. If airline bargain tickets are to be had, a long weekend visiting her and spring time might help me get through my least favorite month in Maine. During Charlie's April vacation, nothing short of a complete economic meltdown will keep us from seeing the Yankees in their new stadium.

May will be the month that Jacob graduates from Northeastern University. That will be a very proud time. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine what else I would want to do in May besides prepare the garden for it's Memorial Day planting and lace up my hiking boots to climb some mountains.

In June, I will watch Archie graduate from high school. Nothing can top that but I will definitely be using my feet to propel me to new heights as, each weekend, I climb and climb and climb hoping to accomplish my goal of finishing the 67 4000 footers in New England before my 50th birthday in September.

I really can't plan beyond that--the summer seems so far away as I shiver in the early-morning chill of January 1. But, 2009, please be kind to us all.