Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beeing Productive

The bees are busy and happy now that the weather has turned to sunshine. Washington hive is ready for me to add the honey super. The honey super is the layer that will contain the honey for harvest.

Ever since the rain stopped on Thursday, the bees have been working hard--flying out and coming back to the hive with their little pollen baskets full. The worker bees have a short lifespan so some of these workers have probably never gathered pollen before these last few days.

When the bees die, they fall down to the bottom of the hive and are swept out by the workers and their little bee bodies are carried off. One morning during the height of our rainy spell, my mother called me, "Oh Beth, something terrible has happened--all of your bees are dead." She had noticed that there were no bees flying in or out of the hive and then noticed on the little lip of the hive (what we call the porch) there were piles of bee carcasses. I finished up my office work and then headed over to investigate worried that both my hives had fallen victim to too little sunshine. My dad and I lit the smoker and opened Washington hive. It was full of busy bees building comb and feeding larvae and the situation was the same in Madison hive. We surmised that the weather had just been too nasty for the bees on funeral patrol to do their job. A brief appearance of the sun and the porch was all cleaned up.

Beavers and bees--I guess I am partial to creatures with a work ethic and a commitment to neatness.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Charlie and I got up early, packed our packs, poured travel mugs of coffee and then drove the 2-1/2 hours to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire and the Mt. Tecumseh trailhead arriving exactly at 9:00 to meet his son Caleb who came up from Massachusetts to hike with us.

We laughed when we got out of the cars because we all had on identical outfits of tan hiking pants and black fleece pullovers. Caleb started hiking with us a couple of years ago. He was trying to quit smoking and was advised by his doctor to try doing activities that he would not ordinarily do. He called us up to see what we were doing that weekend because he was quite sure whatever we were up to was not what he would ordinarily do. We were going hiking up the Kinsmans and so he drove up and met us--chain smoking his last cigarettes as he drove the 3 hours. His smoking habit comes and goes but he has managed to hike 11 mountains with us and one on his own so he's on the way to completing his list, too. We just need to find him a nice, intelligent, attractive, funny, 20-something female hiking companion.

I really enjoyed the hike up Tecumseh--it was a mostly a moderate grade with some flat spots where we just walked through the woods. There were two super-steep stretches up the two summit cones. We reached the west summit first and then had to descend steeply and traverse another flat spot before heading up the summit cone of the main summit which comes in at 4003 feet above sea level. The view was nice, although I guess we missed the best viewpoint by not coming up from the ski area. Oh well, we'll have to go back some day. We ate our lunch on the top and looked over at the Tripyramids and recalled our hike there on a hot July day two years ago.

The hike down included re-navigating the steep section up to the west summit but from then on it was all downhill. Once we were to the car, I got my clean clothes out of the trunk and went looking for a sheltered area in the creek to clean up. The cold water sure did feel good--those cold water creek cool downs are the best part of a summer hike.

What's left in New Hampshire

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tomorrow, Tecumseh

Somewhere off to the southwest of Mt. Willey where Molly and I hiked on monday is the least of the New Hampshire 4000 footers called Mt. Tecumseh. I know that it is a true favorite of Tom and Atticus--they (well, Tom, I presume) wrote about it here. I have never climbed it and tomorrow, I think, will be the day.

There are 67 mountains above 4000 feet in New England. 48 of them are in New Hampshire, 14 are in Maine and 5 are in Vermont. In my younger days, I climbed some of them and some of those many times (Washington, Camels Hump and Mansfield) but that was before I began the quest--so anything that I climbed before June 21, 2005, does not count.

On the morning of June 21, 2005, I was on the last day of a short vacation in North Conway, New Hampshire, with Molly and Archie. We had driven over and stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights while the kids took a rock climbing course with International Mountain Climbing School.

That last morning, we sat in a Friendly's restaurant eating breakfast and I gave Molly and Archie a couple of options of what we could do with our day--a water park or go for a hike. They both immediately said they wanted to go climb Mt. Washington. Well, I had climbed Mt. Washington several times but not in recent years and, in fact, I wasn't really in very good shape for climbing up the tallest mountain in the northeast--especially as an impetuous decision over pancakes--but, OK!!

So, we drove to the trailhead and headed up. They beat me up by a good margin but waited at the top and then we headed down--they beat me down by a long shot, too, but by the time we met at the car I knew that I would find the peace and healing and strength that I had been looking for in the mountains.

Molly had her learner's permit and so I let her drive home since my legs were very sore--we took a shortcut down a road (and I use the word loosely) called the Jefferson Notch Road. It was full of huge potholes and our little VW Jetta bottomed out several times. Between my exhaustion and Molly's inexperience, we did not notice the oil light. We had ruptured the oil pan on a pothole. The engine seized and that was the end of the VW Jetta. But, that worked out too--I decided to buy a car better suited to my new life as a lady of the mountains and we picked out a Ford Escape.

A few weeks later, I climbed up to Mt. Madison by myself. It was the first time that I had hiked alone and it was fine--I really liked it. A few weeks after that I climbed Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln--Ethan and Molly went with me on that long hike--although they were jackrabbits who I only saw at pre-arranged catchup spots. Not long after that I hiked Mt. Jefferson alone and then Mt. Eisenhower and then in a memorable hike in October, I hiked to Mt. Monroe along the historic Crawford Path. The Red Sox were playing the Yankees that Sunday and as I hiked I met up with two men who were hiking with a radio on their backpack--we hiked together and listened to the game as all the world stretched below us dressed in red and gold. At that moment, I knew that I was experiencing what for me was perfect bliss.

There were many more hikes throughout that fall and winter some in New Hampshire and some in Maine. Mostly I hiked alone, but sometimes with one of the kids and once, in the winter, with Ethan's entire fraternity up Cannon Mountain. Then in the summer of 2006, Charlie appeared back in my life and we got married and started hiking together. In September of 2006, we hiked over the Wildcats and into Carter Notch, spent the night in the hut and then climbed up to Carter Dome the next morning where we met Tom and Atticus. At that point, I didn't know much about peak bagging but Tom told us about his adventures with Atticus climbing the 48 New Hampshire peaks and I really was intrigued. When we got to a trail junction, we had a choice. Either head back to the car or take another trail so that we could summit South Carter--a mountain with no view and no reason to be climbed other than to check it off a list. Either we were peak baggers or we weren't. We took the trail for South Carter and so began the checkmarks.

So here I am, closing in on the end of the list. I have six more in New Hampshire, 7 more in Maine and 3 more in Vermont.

Tomorrow, we will check Tecumseh and I will strategize on how to get the rest based on the weather and my work schedule. I would like to finish the New Hampshire ones before Molly goes back to college on August 16 so she can share the last New Hampshire peak with me since she was there for the first one.

And that peace, strength and healing that I suspected I would find in the mountains--it was there.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

It is glorious out today--the sun is finally shining and the weekend looks like it is going to come through for us. Now the only decision is which mountain to climb. Sewing, jigsaw puzzles, woodstove--that was so two days ago.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rainy Days and Sundays, Mondays, Tuedays....

Please note the juxtaposition of the verdant growth of raspberry canes outside of the window and the roaring fire in the woodstove. Another rainy day in the 50's in northern New England and we have only FIVE pieces of wood left in the barn--I guess we'll have to start burning books and furniture soon. I try to recall summer, but the memory is proving elusive.

So, we do what we can.

Molly just finished a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of sunflowers and I gave into an impulse purchase and bought 8 yards of fabric at Walmart without any idea of what to do with it. But, you see, the fabric contains outlines of all of the states with their attendant flowers and birds. Ideas are welcome. So far I have come up with curtains for the bathroom and placemats but that still leaves me with about 5 yards of unplanned fabric. I'm thinking about a skirt and matching handbag--is it really tacky to wear a skirt that matches your bathroom curtains and your placemats?

Yesterday, Molly and I decided to brave the weather and head off onto the trails in order to climb Mt. Willey and check another 4000 footer off the list. Our original plan was to hike to a mountain called Bondcliff--that one is an 18 mile hike and so we needed to get going really early in the morning in order to get out of the woods by dark. When I woke Molly up at 5, she suggested that perhaps another shorter hike that would allow her a few hours more sleep would be a better idea. I was happy that she gave me an excuse to change our plans, hiking to Bondcliff in questionable weather with high water at the river crossings was probably not a great idea. So, Mt. Willey it was.

Mt. Willey is the southernmost peak in a range of three 4000 footers at the eastern edge of the Pemigewassset Wilderness in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The day was rainy and the rocks were slippery and wet but there is no place that I would have preferred to be.