Archive for the 'Environment' Category

2015 Hop Brook Mountain Bike Race & Bimbler’s Bash

Yesterday, the better weather that spring is known for was finally felt throughout southern New England. While winter weather still grips the north country, Connecticut, has seen most of the snow melt in the past two weeks. Two important race series kicked off on Sunday with their first races of the year.

The Livingston’s had to split up in order to take part in the fun. Debbie headed to the Bimbler’s Bash 10Kish Trail Race in Guilford, Connecticut. It was the kickoff race for the 2015 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. Both of us raced the Bash in 2014, but I’m on the slow road (rather trail) back to fitness, and am avoiding any technical trail running while my left foot slowly heals from the battering it took in early 2014. I’m also easing my way back from the fractured scapula and related injuries that pretty much shut down my 2014 season completely in late-August. Debbie had a fine race, one of her better Bash’s in recent years.

She said the trails were in good shape and that the runners were in good spirits. The bright sunshine and milder temperatures really helped.

Bimbler’s Bash Results

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I went to the Hop Brook Mountain Bike Race for the third time. I love the venue and again, it was the kickoff for the Root 66 Northeast XC Mountain Bike Series. I raced my rigid single-speed Seven Cycles Sola on the undulating course. There were several muddy sections, but largely, the trails were in better shape than I expected. The only difference from 2014 was that they cut our race from four laps (5.2 miles per lap) to three, which was OK with me considering that yesterday was my first mountain bike ride of the year. I just changed the tires on my bike last weekend and hadn’t even ridden it yet. A warmup lap plus three laps and a cool-down was enough for one day.

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Hop Brook Results

Both races have wonderful organizers and volunteers that make them possible. Next up for the Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series is Traprock 50K on Saturday in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Next up for the Root 66 Series is Fat Tire Classic in Farmington, Connecticut on 26 April. Join in the fun!

Mohonk Mountain House

Last weekend, Debbie, the kids, and I visited the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. It is adjacent to the Mohonk Preserve, which I wrote about in 2007. We have visited the Mountain House several times. We were last there for the 2013 Survival of the Shawangunks, which I also did in 2012.2015_Mohonk Mountain House Trip_April3

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Another big event I did in New Paltz was the 2008 American Zofingen Duathlon. That race has an amazing bike course that loops the preserve and the house properties. This past Saturday, I rode two laps of the course (the race has three) and it was a fun reminder of how hard that race was. Each lap has 3,000 feet of elevation gain and the scenery is spectacular.

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Our stay at the resort was fun. Most of the trails were still closed, but we still explored a bit. We toured the Barn Museum, which was awesome. The building is loaded with all kinds of tools, artifacts, and other items from the Mountain House’s 145 year history.

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Operated the entire time by Smiley Brothers Inc., the 5th generation of the family is now working in the business. I love great family business stories and this is one of them. Visiting the Mohonk Mountain House, which is a throwback resort hotel from a bygone era, is a true joy.

Trash Museum

Today, Debbie hosted her Cub Scouts from Den 5 (Bolton Pack 157) at the CRRA Trash Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. She took our children to the museum a few years ago and in her role as Den Mother, thought it would be a good idea to lead a trip with her boys and their families. I joined the kids and parents for what turned out to be a fun-filled education tour. The Reduce/Reuse/Recycle/Recover/Rethink methodology deserves a lot more attention. Our family has always been very good about minimizing our waste and recycling everything possible, but we still learned a lot of new information during today’s visit.

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I’m more motivated than ever to improve our home recycling while also stepping up efforts to get the 140 employees at Horst Engineering and Sterling Machine to care more about their own consumption. Some of the statistics we learned at the museum are shocking. Each Connecticut resident produces an average of 4.4 pounds of trash per day.

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The CRRA plant on Murphy Rd. is a single-stream recycling facility. The 6,500 sq/ft museum is attached to the processing plant. We saw how the delivery trucks bring massive amounts of mixed recyclable items to the site. The workers use various technologies to sort the different items, including corrugated boxes, bottles, cans, jars, and the other items that are handled by the CRRA. Interesting, our hometown of Bolton is not a part of the 40+ town group that is served by the CRRA. Our recycling is managed by a different local organization. It is also odd that some of the recycling rules (e.g. what you can mix together) are different from what we learned today.

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One good example: we were confused about plastic bottle caps. Our docent said that they should be removed and that not all of them are recyclable. She indicated that any time there is a question about an item, it is discarded (e.g. trashed). Her comments led me to believe that the whole system is quite inefficient because there seems to be little education about recycling. The fact that we were touring the museum with the Cub Scouts is great, but we sought out the education. I’m curious how much is taught at our kids’ schools. It’s important that the children learn the rules, but it’s also the adults who need to get more educated.

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The lack of a standard likely contributes to recycling confusion. I know that ignorance is a big factor in the lack of recycling success because I pick plastic bottles and containers out of the trash at our factories all of the time. That is despite having separate containers, signs, and constant reminders. Many folks just don’t care. They don’t care what they consume and they don’t care where it goes when they are done with it.

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Unlike the old days when landfills leached toxic chemicals in to the water supply, improvements have been made to the way we manage trash. Of course, the improvements in the United States don’t mean that other countries operate the same way. A lot of trash is now incinerated and the byproduct of the burning process, including the ash, is buried in special landfills. Garbage technology has come a long way.

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The numerous exhibits explained all different types of trash processing. The kids got to explore the exhibits, many of which were interactive. We watched a video about the various methods used to process the trash. We also got to go to the mezzanine and view the actual plant through large windows. The docent led a craft building exercise where the kids learned how to turn trash in to art. They built little robots with styrofoam, aluminum foil, and other items. I thought I was knowledgeable about waste and its various streams, but I got a good primer this afternoon and I’m interested in learning more. At work, we have always been diligent about recycling the metal scrap that is generated from our precision machining processes, but I’m anxious to improve our handling of the every day trash that we generate.

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I use the eyeball method to determine that we generate a lot less waste that our neighbors. We only have to “put out the trash” one day a month, and that is often only one bag. Our town picks up the trash every week, but we don’t have enough. One big reason is that we don’t put any food in our trash. We are vegan/vegetarian and we generate very little food waste. Anything we don’t eat gets composted in one of two composers, which we maintain year round. We try to avoid packaged products, particularly packaged foods. We still consume some, but at a lower rate than the average household. We also reuse the containers when we can and we recycle everything that is eligible. Seeing the piles of garbage at the CRRA plant was a stark reminder that there is so much waste in the way we live.

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I recommend the tour of Hartford’s Trash Museum. If you can’t come to Connecticut, find a trash museum near where you live. It will change the way you think about trash.

2015 TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour Trail Race

Today we returned to the TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour Trail Race for the first time since 2012 when Debbie ran it in glorious conditions. Today’s conditions were far from glorious and there was no sign of thawing. Now, that wasn’t a surprise. The fierce New England winter is not over yet and spring may officially start next week, but spring weather is likely weeks away. So why were the conditions so rough for this Trail Animals Running Club event?

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The main reason was that the trails were covered in snow…lots of snow. This part of Massachusetts has seen more than 110 inches of snow since November. Sections of the course still had 24 soaking wet, partially compacted, inches remaining. It was ugly. There really aren’t DNF’s in a race based on time, but some of the runners were stopping after one lap, and I don’t blame them. Some took to the roads of Andover, which is ironic because the town is known for its great trails, including the Bay Circuit Trail, which was part of the course.

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Well, those trails are buried right now. The best way to walk or run on this kind of snow is with snowshoes, but from what I heard, USA Track & Field rules didn’t permit the use of snowshoes today. Micro-spikes and similar shoe spikes were a common site. Horst Spikes might have worked! Debbie’s small Kahtoola spikes weren’t small enough and they wouldn’t stay on her feet, so she ditched them after one lap, which was too bad. The first lap was the worst for everyone. Most people ran their second lap faster. After the 100 or so starters compressed the snow a bit, the conditions improve, but only a little.

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I couldn’t get any traction when I was walking on the trails. They were slippery and treacherous. A few spots where there were stream crossings were actually muddy, which made it even worse. Cold and dry snow (if that makes sense) would have been better conditions. We have had some melting in the past week and it was 37 degrees Fahrenheit during the race with constant rain and intermittent downpours. So, the snow was waterlogged and icy. Conditions really couldn’t have been worse.

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Everyone out there, including the volunteers (many from TARC), deserve credit for spending time in the woods on this March day. I brought my bicycle and rode out and back on the roads near the course. It’s worth noting that the roads of New England have been hammered. I’ve ridden in both Connecticut and Massachusetts in the past week and the potholes, cracks, and sand are atrocious. I rode back to see Debbie complete each lap, which was 40-50 minutes for 3.5 miles. The first lap had an extra .5 mile of road added in an attempt to spread out the runners before they entered the single track. Even in dry conditions, other than the first/last 50 meters from the woods to the aid station, this race is all single-track. Today, it was more like half-track. You had to step out of the groove to let another runner pass. After my ride, I did a short road run, and then I went out on the course with my camera to get a closer look at the carnage.

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Race Director Emily Trespas got a lot of help from her TARC mates. Yesterday, she hosted volunteers on the trails for a “stomping party” in an effort to improve the conditions. They really had no impact. Runners were constantly “post-holing” which is no fun. If you got off the compacted snow by even a foot, you risked plunging up to thigh deep.

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Gregory Soutiea completed eight full laps and the official two-mile out and back for a total of 30.5 +/- miles. Amy Rusiecki wasn’t far behind him at the end of her eighth lap, but she didn’t have a whole lot of time left on the clock and stopped at 28.5. Debbie ran much of the race with Sonja Glaser, including all of the final two laps. Their seventh and final lap was their fastest, which proved that you really couldn’t run as fast as you wanted because the conditions were so bad. Kudos to them for getting seven done in 5:56, just under the six-hour cutoff. It would have been a real bummer if they didn’t finish and lost the mileage. That’s the game you play with a timed race. So, they finished with 25 miles. In the perfect 2012 conditions, she did 34.5 miles. What a difference three years and all that snow makes!

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Speaking of thawing, Debbie didn’t thaw out until the end of our two-hour drive home. It is nice that some race proceeds benefit several trail organizations including A.V.I.S., the Andover Trails Committee, and The Bay Circuit Alliance.

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Next year, if conditions are similar, let’s skip this ridiculous race and go to the Caribbean instead!

Race Results

The Connecticut Forum – Explorers & Adventurers

Last night, Debbie and I attended The Connecticut Forum at The Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, Connecticut. We were long time season ticket subscribers to the Forum, but have taken several years off because life has been busy. We never stopped supporting the Forum, which is a fantastic organization. Typically, there are four Forums each year on a variety of topics.

Last night’s subject was Explorers & Adventurers, which if you are an avid reader of this blog, know would be right up my alley. Debbie and I didn’t want to miss, so we secured a sitter for our kids and made it a date night. The moderator was journalist Alison Stewart. I thought she did a fantastic job. The panelists were Cheryl Strayed, Paul Nicklen, and Diana Nyad.

I have not read Strayed’s book, Wild, nor have I seen the film adaptation that is wildly popular. However, I’ve done some long distance hiking, love to write, and enjoyed hearing bits of her life story. I was fascinated with Nicklen’s single-minded pursuit of excellence in environmental photojournalism. His photos are amazing. I share his approach. My style of photography is to get images in extreme circumstances. Now, my circumstances aren’t as extreme as his, but I get it. He specializes in polar expeditions.

Despite all the talk of great imagery, near death experiences, and amazing wildlife; the most poignant part of the entire evening was when he let his guard down and admitted that personal relationships are basically non-existent in his life. In his own words, he says that he has let a lot of people down. He had a failed marriage, partially as a result of his work and travel, and that relationship with family and friends were strained. This is the part of the story that touched me most. I love adventure, but there is a limit. If the pursuit of excellence on that level, or the quest to make a difference for the world creates such imbalance in your life, then that is where I struggle to comprehend. Nicklen’s story isn’t unique at all, but in last nights setting, it was interesting to hear. I love his National Geographic work and now I see it a bit differently.

We saw Nyad speak at the 2014 YPO-WPO EDGE in Los Angeles. On that day, she delivered a monologue for more than an hour. It was a gripping story about her life and her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida. I’ve followed her story in the hardcore endurance sports and ultra swimming press, which I’m sure 99% of last night’s attendees are unaware of. I have some ultra swimming friends who think she “cheated” in her record swim and have come out hard against her accomplishment. There has been a lot of controversy over the years regarding the validity of her efforts and the ultimate results. There have been claims that she discredited her rivals and was harsh in her treatment of others. There is no question that she is an intense competitor. I don’t know enough about the specific allegations to have an opinion, and most people will never know those details. Her public persona as someone who “never gives up” is quite powerful and despite any technicalities related to her records, she is a strong person who has positively impacted many lives.

The interaction between these three resources along with Stewart’s questions was fascinating. The second half of the show was a Q&A session led by Stewart, but with questions submitted from the crowd. That is the typical tried and true format of the Connecticut Forum. We were happy to be back in Hartford last night.

The Power of Place

The Power of Place is Jerry Monkman’s new documentary film about The Northern Pass, a billion plus dollar electricity transmission line project that will cut through New Hampshire. The line would be 187 miles long with 1500 steel towers that are as tall as 135 feet.

Last night, I watched the world premier at the Red River Theatres in Concord, New Hampshire. I was joined by my friend, John Judge, from the Appalachian Mountain Club. AMC is a big supporter of the film and has done a lot of work to oppose The Northern Pass.

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Debbie and I are longtime members of AMC’s Board of Advisors and Horst Engineering is a longtime supporter of AMC’s mission. Our family businesses, Horst Engineering, Thread Rolling Inc., and Sterling Machine, need safe, reliable, and cost-effective electrical power to operate successfully in Connecticut and Massachusetts. We have significant monthly utility bills and the power we pay for is a critical part of our manufacturing processes. Electricity is always on my mind.

I’ve been following The Northern Pass project for many years. I’ve read a lot about it and much of what I’ve read has been from AMC’s perspective. This particular energy project has created more controversy than any New England project in decades, but it is still off the radar of the vast majority of our region’s population. The acute effects of an expanded electrical transmission corridor, larger towers, and higher voltage lines will be felt throughout New Hampshire, but particularly in the northern forest areas that include the White Mountain National Forest. For these reasons, and many others, AMC has helped lead vociferous opposition.

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The private for profit energy project involves Hydro-Quebec and Empower (formerly Northeast Utilities). Empower and National Grid are the two main utilities that our businesses rely on, and they happen to be rivals. There is a ton of information about the project and there are multiple opposition groups, so it would be pointless for me to attempt to describe the situation in any detail. Among those opposition groups are entire municipalities that have lined up against the project. Those interested should read on and explore the links, but also, watch the film.

I support many capitalistic ventures, but I have a very strong environmental ethic and have always been willing to pay a premium for electricity so that the impact to the environment is minimized. 10 years ago, Debbie and I built an energy-efficient home, we conserve energy, and we educate our children so that they do the same. At Horst Engineering, we have implemented many conservation projects including the shift to more efficient lighting and motors. We have solar PV electric power systems on two of our buildings, totaling 76kW and have offset a good chunk of our power demand by investing in these renewable sources.

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Clearly, we are willing to “pay a premium” for cleaner power, though there is so much more that we and others can do. With all of that said, I’m an avid outdoorsman and have spent lots of time in the mountains of New Hampshire. I don’t want to see this project go through. Like many of the others, I challenge everyone involved to find better alternatives, even if that means scrapping the current project.

The argument has pitted northern New England states against southern New England states. Many of the protesters have argued that New Hampshire will not directly benefit from the project. The power will just be “passing through” on its way to markets in Southern New England states, including Connecticut. The utilities have touted the infrastructure/construction project as a job creator. Even the regions utilities aren’t on the same page. After all, they compete in a tough market, and one that is dominated by only a handful of players. Despite deregulation, consumers still don’t have much choice. The company that owns the transmission lines that deliver electricity to your house or business has a lock on the distribution of your power. You can’t go anywhere else.

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Too often, we take it for granted and don’t pay attention to where our power comes from. Society suffers from the same type of problem with our food. Debbie and I believe that you have to know where these things come from. Whether it is the food we eat or the electricity we cook it with, knowing that these products were sourced in a responsible manner, and transported with minimal impact on the environment, is just the beginning.

That bring’s me back to Jerry’s film. Watch it. It’s a great story with some amazing time-lapse photography, videography, music, and interviews. On the surface, you can view it as art, and it is splendid. However, there is so much more to the story. It is told from the perspective of the opposition, so it doesn’t present a balanced argument. The people behind The Northern Pass declined to participate in the film, so you only hear a little bit from their perspective. Regardless, it is a powerful film about a power project.

Click here to read about the Appalachian Mountain Club’s position.

Click here for a cool flyover video using Google Maps and GIS technology.

AMC has a lot of company in this fight.The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests have also been vocal in their opposition. So has the Conservation Law Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Existing power lines already cross the Appalachian Trail, but The Northern Pass would bring more development to the White Mountain National Forest and would impact the AT even more than today.

Click here for the Forest Society’s information.

Click here for the CLF’s information.

Last night’s premier was held in a sold out theater. After the film, Jerry and his assistant producer, Kari Post, fielded questions about the making of the film. 20 hours of interviews were recorded, though they were edited down to 35 minutes in the film. It was a tedious process. The videography and photography also took lots of time. Jerry and his team, including his spouse and business partner, Marcy, worked on the film for more than two years. Jerry and Marcy have written multiple guidebooks about New England’s wild places, including Acadia National Park. Jerry is one of the premier outdoor photographers based in New England and many of his iconic images grace the pages of publications including Yankee Magazine and Outdoors. The Monkman’s children joined them at the premier. I love family enterprises, so it was nice to meet them and know that they were part of the making of the film.

The film was partially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Following the Q&A about the film, Jerry moderated a panel discussion regarding The Northern Pass. Susan Arnold (Appalachian Mountain Club), Jack Savage (Forest Society), and Rob Werner (City of Concord) all spoke about their opposition to the project. They took question after question from the packed crowd. When the program wrapped and we were filing out of the theater, I met many of the people featured in the film. It was really neat to chat with some of them after seeing and hearing them in the film.

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On the drive back to Boston, John and I discussed our thoughts and ideas at length. My final thoughts are that the impact of the development is too great. There has to be a limit and The Northern Pass has met its match in the number of people who are against it. Susan Arnold said, “We have to think fairly about energy, but not export the impacts of the power that we use.”

Bolton Notch State Park Hike

We are fortunate to have traveled to some amazing destinations, but sometimes a close to home adventure is the most enjoyable trip of all. Yesterday, made the five minute drive to Bolton Notch State Park for some snowshoe fun. We can walk, bike, or run to the park from the house, but with three feet of accumulated snow on the Hop River State Park Trail that connects our neighborhood to the notch, we opted for the short drive.

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We hiked the 3 mile Mohegan Trail, which is marked by yellow blazes on the trees. The first half of the loop climbs sharply up to a ridge. The second half includes the descent down to the junction of Railroad Brook on the rail trail. To complete the loop, you walk on the old rail bed through some amazingly steep cliffs that were cut through when they built the railroad.

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With all of the snow, it was an awesome walk. Our kids did great. This loop is known for abundant mountain laurel, which retains its leaves during winter.

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We had a fabulous walk.

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Best #trails system in the world. I'm biased. @ctwoodlands #ctwoodlands #cfpa #blueblazedhikingtrails #blueblazedtrailrunning #Connecticut #trailrunning #conservation Hop Brook #MountainBike Race. I remained ON my @seven_cycles #bicycle the entire time. That's a good thing. They cut the #singlespeed race to three laps from four which my legs appreciated. #mtb #teamhorstsports #horstengineering #root66 #sevencycles #sunshine #teamlivingston #teamhorstsports Finally the first #bicycle ride to/from work @horsteng of spring. #carfreecommute @seven_cycles #sevencycles #casemountain #waterfall I took the long way home. Even the sub-spindle tool touch probe on our new #Okuma LT2000EX-3T2MY multi-axis lathe is high tech. #starwars #robot #precisionmachining #instamachinist #machining #cncmachining #cnc #manufacturing #horstengineering @horsteng #madeintheusa #Connecticut #capitol #Hartford One of my favorite buildings. Visited the Old Judiciary Room for an @ctwoodlands Winslow Society discussion about conserving our parks, #trails and landscape.#cfpa #ctwoodlands #bicycle #waterfall #Mohonk #minnewaska #newyork Alex and I did a lap of the #AmericanZofingen bike course. Cool, windy, and wet roads but glorious. For two hours we swapped endurance sports war stories. I'm headed for another lap. He is headed to work @mohonkmountainhouse #Mohonk #skytop @mohonkmountainhouse #mohonkmountainhouse #Mohonk Lake

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