Archive for the 'Environment' Category

2016 Fat Tire Classic

It was a family affair at today’s Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails in Farmington, Connecticut. FTC was race #2 of the 2016 Root 66 Northeast XC Mountain Bike Series. We missed race #1 at Hop Brook Dam when we were in Utah for the Zion 100.

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This was my 9th Fat Tire Classic. I raced the singlespeed for the third year in a row. My race was four laps of the five-mile course. Debbie’s race was two laps. Our son’s race was one lap. Our daughter did the kids race.

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We had lots of fun, though the weather was cooler than we would have liked. We had brilliant sunshine, but the air was cool and there was a constant breeze. The course was drier than I’ve ever seen it. There wasn’t a drop of moisture to be found and it was dusty.

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I’ve got a serious case of “lung burn” as it was full gas the entire time. There is nowhere to hide on this course. It is constant pedaling with no respite. I was absolutely smashed at the finish. This is a building block race as I work towards fitness, so I pushed hard.

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Debbie had a good time and is getting ready to tackle the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series. We heard that there will be modifications to the five-mile MTB course for the weekly off-road triathlon series. That course is different and less technical compared to today’s route.

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Our son got his first USA Cycling racing license this week and completed his first ever junior race. He is excited to do more mountain biking and then cyclocross this fall. I didn’t get my first racing license until I was 19, so he is already got a leg up on me.

It was great to see so many Team Horst Sports mates out there on the course. We were joined by Arthur Roti, Paul Nyberg, Anthony Eisley, Mark Hixson, and Mike Wonderly. Zane Wenzel and Erik Emanuele stopped by during their Sunday road ride. In addition to our teammates, we saw a lot of friends for the first time since cross season ended back in December.

Race Results (will be posted when online)

Zion National Park, Day 2

Day 2 in Zion National Park was last Tuesday, and it was way better than Day 1, and Day 1 was pretty spectacular. We drove Kolob Terrace Road to the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and then did the Northgate Peaks hike.

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The day after our canyoneering adventure, we wanted to stay away from crowds and see a more wild section of the park. We chose a great spot. There were hikers on the trail, but like us, they were experienced and seeking more solitude. The kids loved the hike. The out and back trail was soft and fun to walk. It wound through a lovely pine forest before reaching the viewpoint, which was awesome. We sat down had snacks, and mingled with some of the other hikers enjoying the spot.

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We topped that view by scrambling up the northern Northgate Peak, where there isn’t a marked trail. That was a blast. The kids loved it, and we lingered on the summit for a while, snapping photos and soaking in the sights. From there, we had incredible views of North Guardian Angel, the Great West Canyon, and clear to Zion Valley. We had fine weather with blue skies and big white puffy clouds. Afternoon showers were forecast, but we were done before the skies darkened and we didn’t see any rain. Our son wanted to run back to the trailhead, so I joined him and we were back at the car in 25 minutes.

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Even the drive up and down Kolob was fantastic. Outside of the park, there were several small ranches and the cows were hanging out right at the edge of the road. My only regret is that I didn’t have a road bicycle. I would love to ride the road from the valley all the way to the reservoir and back. There are also many more trailheads to explore. We have to return!

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Zion National Park, Day 1

Our “front country” day at Zion National Park was last Sunday…with the crowds. The views were spectacular, but the congestion was not. After a morning “hike” with Debbie and the kids, I was happy to break away for a three-hour run away from the crowds. As a family, we checked out the Emerald Pools.  Debbie also took the kids to the Grotto, to the Human History Museum, and several other spots accessible by the park shuttle. That shuttle is doing a good job at keeping cars out of Zion. It’s hard to believe that it’s a relatively new approach to cutting traffic in the park.

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In the valley and on the popular trails, it was very crowded, but above the East Rim headed towards Cable Mountain, I had the trail to myself. Seeing the remnants of the cable system that brought timber and building materials from the East Rim to the valley was cool. The trip down took less than 2.5 minutes, which I find fascinating.

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Hands down, this is the best of all national parks that we have been to with only one exception: Acadia. It’s not just that Acadia starts with an A, and has to come first; as a native New Englander, we just love that park. So we like both parks that start with A and Z. Utah was spectacular.

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Canyoneering: Yankee Doodle Canyon/Dixie National Forest

Yesterday, the Livingston and Thatcher families had an amazing canyoneering adventure in Yankee Doodle slot canyon in Dixie National Forest. The canyon is part of Yankee Doodle Hollow, and just outside Zion National Park north of St. George, Utah.

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The kids have done some indoor rock climbing, I have some outdoor rock climbing experience (though it had been years since I last did it), and Debbie has some experience too. She did the NOLS Southwest Outdoor Educator: Backpacking and Rock Climbing program in 2001.

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It was a beautiful day. The temperature above the rim was in the low-60’s Fahrenheit and there was intermittent sun and clouds. Naturally, it was colder in the slot canyon. It was much wetter than normal, thanks several preceding days of thunderstorms and rain showers. The extra water meant more “swimming” for the adults. The same rain that affected the Zion 100 ultra marathon, is what left Yankee Doodle wet and wild.

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The first rappel into the canyon was beautiful. We all wish it was longer, but at 100 feet, it was a great introduction. We had half a dozen other short rappels over large rocks and overhangs. Several of the wetter spots required some ingenuity to keep the kids as dry as possible, especially in the early part of the trip. We were in the canyon for more than five hours, which is more than double the time it takes in dry conditions, without beginners, and without a six and nine-year old. One of the last “problems” to solve, couldn’t be done dry, without taking more time. So, we all ended up getting wet by the end of our time in the slot.

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I kept my camera gear dry by using too dry bags inside my pack. Everything else got wet, muddy, and sandy. That’s the way it is in the bottom of a slot canyon. We could have had better shoes. Debbie and I used our running shoes and they weren’t the best for the task, but they got us through the trip just fine.

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The Thatcher’s were super patient and everyone was excited about the “problem solving” required to navigate the canyon safely and smartly. We emerged from the canyon around 3:00 P.M. after a short climb up a moderately steep wall. We were all very happy to have full sunlight shining on us because the water at the bottom was very cold.

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The drive out of Dixie to St. George was spectacular with amazing views of Pine Valley Mountain, the national forest, Zion National Park, and a host of other incredible Utah mountains and mesas. It was almost too much to soak in as we wound our way back down towards the city. Utah has some amazing countryside.

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2016 Zion 100

We made it west again. The main reason for the trip was so that Debbie could run the Zion 100, a very popular ultra marathon in southwestern Utah. The race came right at the start of our trip, and didn’t give her much time to acclimate. We flew to Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday, and then drove to St. George, Utah. The race was east of there in Virgin.

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The start/finish was on Kolob Terrace Road. We got there in time for registration and the pre-race meeting on Thursday night. Once again, my cousin, Danny Roy, joined our crew for the race. He met us in Las Vegas after driving from San Francisco.

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We were fortunate to stay with friends in Washington, a suburb of St. George. The drive to Virgin was about 45 minutes long, so after the meeting, we returned to the house. The Friday morning start was at 6:00 A.M., so I drove Debbie there while Danny stayed with our children. It was cool and dry at the start. The 100 mile and 100 kilometer started at the same time and shared the course until they split at the 47.5 mile mark. 55 kilometer and 1/2 marathon trail runs were on Saturday, so it was a weekend of running in the desert.

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The Zion course has a modest amount of climbing, but nothing compared to Debbie’s last big race, ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI. That was last September, so she had a long layoff in between ultras. I watched her run off in the dark with several hundred other runners, and then returned to Washington to meet up with Danny and the kids.

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We returned to Virgin all packed for a day of crewing adventure. Our first aid station was Dalton at the 15 mile mark. We thought we got there in adequate time based on her projections, but we missed her by 15 minutes. She is a self-sufficient runner, but we were bummed to miss her at the first crew permissible aid station of the day. We couldn’t see her again until she returned to Dalton at the 30.5 mile mark, so we drove up the road to Zion National Park. We got our park pass, walked around the Visitor Center, and then stopped for a late breakfast in Springville.

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After eating, we returned to Dalton. She came through the 30.5 mile mark in about six hours. I walked up the trail a ways and was joined by our son. We eventually saw her descending a steep and rocky mesa. By noon, the weather had warmed up and it was in the low-70’s Fahrenheit with a strong sun shining between intermittent clouds. For the week prior to the race, rain had been in the forecast for Friday and Saturday.

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There was some pre-race discussion about the prospect of rain. We had been told that the soft and dusty trails would turn to mush with any rain. Debbie looked good coming in to Dalton and she was leading the 100 mile women, but as she exited the aid station, she told me that she was feeling a bit low. Still, she seemed to be in good spirits. We weren’t going to be able to see her for another 23 miles, so it was going to be a long afternoon without a crew. She was stocked up after taking a fresh UltraSpire pack from us and she was ready for the challenge.

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We knew it was going to be five to six hours before we saw her again, so we returned to Washington so the kids could go swimming in the pool at the house where we were staying. While I hung out with the kids, Danny went for a run. There was no race tracker, so we were left to wonder and worry about Debbie. I’ve spent 17 years following her ultra exploits and I never stop worrying.

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We packed up again and then drove over to the St. George Running Center so that Danny could pick up a new headlamp. It’s a neat specialty store. On Monday, we are returning so that Debbie can do an evening talk at the store. After the brief visit, we headed back towards Virgin and then towards the Grafton Mesa Aid Station. On our way up towards the aid station, we got a message from our friend, Melanie Thatcher. She was cheering for runners at the Goosebump Aid Station high on a mesa at the 47.5 mile mark.

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Debbie had just arrived, and quite a bit behind schedule. It was nearly 5:00 P.M. and she had been running for 11 hours. Melanie reported via text that Debbie was going to cut her race short and drop down to the 100 kilometer race. Pre-race, they had warned that this was the time to make that decision, otherwise, there was no good option to turn back. She and I have often discussed the ramifications of 100 kilometer options. They often give runners an “out” should they lack the confidence to finish the full 100 miler. We both agree that when you start a race and then drop down to a lower distance, that you are really a DNF. I’m not a fan of races that allow runners to conveniently shorten their race and then get credit in the results.

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Regardless, she says that she made the right decision. We had pulled off the side of the road to confirm with Melanie what Debbie decided to do. Thanks to modern technology, we had video proof of her arrival at Goosebump. Then we got a report via text that she changed her mind again and was heading back out on the 100 mile course with our Shenipsit Striders club mate, Steve LaBranche. Steve had been running strong, only a handful of minutes behind Debbie and apparently, had shared some miles with her running into the aid station.

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To make sure we understood, and to make sure we were headed for the right aid station, we called Melanie. She reported that Debbie had indeed changed her mind again, and was not continuing on to Grafton Mesa, but rather was in fact cutting the race short and doing the 100 kilometer course instead. This meant that she was heading for Virgin Desert Aid Station and not Grafton Mesa.

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Based on her schedule, she had 7.5 miles to go before reaching Virgin Desert at the 55 mile mark. That gave us time to get some dinner, so we went back down the hill to the town of Hurricane and found a place to eat. After dinner, we drove back up the hill and straight to the aid station. It was two miles down a dirt road and hands down, is the most beautiful aid station I’ve ever been to. The setting, high on a plateau had the most amazing views in all directions. The view of Gooseberry Mesa with a building storm on the horizon was simply spectacular. The promised rain was coming.

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We had time to set up and then hang out at the aid station. We were the first ones there and saw all the lead runners come through. We even saw the lead 100-miler runner, who was more than an hour ahead of second place. We knew she had slowed, so Danny decided to run backwards on the course and intercept her. The kids and I stayed back and took photos of the storm. It was more than one storm. We could see heavy rain falling to the west and to the northeast. In the east, there was a wonderful rainbow that lasted for more than an hour as the sun was setting behind us in the west. Eventually, the eastern clouds worked their way south and then west. It basically wrapped around the desert plateau and enveloped us.

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Debbie arrived, accompanied by Danny, around 6:50 P.M. after being on her feet for more than 12 hours and 45 minutes. Just as she arrived, it was starting to sprinkle, but we knew the storm was coming. We had watch the sky darken gradually. She was feeling really low, but was happy to see us. Danny was a superstar again. He has crewed and paced her at some big races in recent years, including Vermont 100, Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run 100, and Miwok 100K. A week from Monday, he is running in his second Boston Marathon. Last year, he had a nice debut, and this year, his goal is to crush it with a marathon personal record.

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She donned her rain jacket, switched packs, and put on her headlamp. She also donned her new UltraSpire Lumen 600 waist pack light, which is super-bright. She wishes she had that at UTMF where her light setup was woefully inadequate. Just as she and Danny ran off, it started to rain steadily. I gathered the kids and as much gear as I could carry and ran back to the rented truck. I loaded them in and then the sky just opened up. The thunderstorm that we had been watching for two hours had arrived, and with a fury. I had to get more of our stuff back at the aid station and by the time I ran the 200 meters from where we were parked, I was soaked to the bone. The desert had turned into a mud pit.

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When I finally got inside the truck, the kids were wild-eyed with excitement. The storm was amazing and the rain came down in torrents. It was reminiscent of the thunderstorm we rode out (also from inside a rental vehicle) at the 2014 Tahoe Rim Trail 100, but this time, there were no trees. It rained non-stop for 30 minutes. After it stopped, there was a brief clearing, and a wonderful sunset as the mesa’s were lit in a golden glow. I was happy that Danny was with Debbie for this final stretch. After the race, she reported that the trail turned in to a stream as the water rushed downhill carving a steep gully.

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The kids and I returned to Hurricane, and then drove back up to the start/finish in Virgin. We experience the occasional sprinkle, but for the most part it was dry. Of course, after the rain, the temperature had dropped and it was quite chilly. I bought them some pizza at the finish line and we hung out around the barrel fires to stay warm. Debbie arrived after 14 hours and 31 minutes of running. She had a solid final seven miles, running a 102 minute split. Though it was an unofficial 100 kilometer finish, she was satisfied with her decision and happy that she wouldn’t be hiking another 38 miles overnight.

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After getting some food for Debbie and Danny, we made our way back to our vehicle. All five of us piled inside and were thrilled to get back to Washington after the 45 minute drive back to the house. By then, the rain had started again, which further convinced Debbie that she had made the right decision. It had been a long day for all of us. She didn’t reach the goal that she set out to achieve, but she made an adjustment and was happy with that.

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In the morning, we got word that Steve LaBranche successfully finished the 100-miler, so we are proud of him. Congratulations to all the runners. I’m sure there were quite a few DNF’s. We also heard that some runners were forced to cut their race short because of the rain and deteriorating trail conditions. It rained all night, which also caused a delay to the start of the 55 kilometer and 1/2 marathon races.2016_Zion 100-5

Of course, I’m always proud of Debbie. It’s always tough to watch her suffer, and the waiting can be nerve-wracking. I always want her to perform at a high level. We both realize that after doing this for 17 years, her super-fast days are behind her. Nowadays, the running is more about the adventure, the experiences, the travel, the community, and the views. The Zion 100 had it all, especially the views.

Race Results (100 Miler)

Race Results (100 Kilometer)

2016 New England Trail Adventure, Part 1

This past weekend, Debbie had a big adventure on the New England Trail (NET). We spend a lot of time on the NET, but we have never done a long continuous run or hike on it. Her eventual goal is to run the entire length of the trail from Long Island Sound in Guilford, Connecticut; to Royalston Falls, Massachusetts on the New Hampshire border.

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The total length is 215 miles, but that includes a spur in Connecticut, where most of the NET is on the Mattabesett Trail, and a small section is on the Menunkatuck Trail. In Massachusetts, the NET is on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail. You could stretch the adventure even farther, and go to the summit of Mt. Monadnock. That would tack on another 25 miles or so. I last wrote about the trail in 2014 after attending the dedication ceremony.

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I’m not sure what her eventual goal is. We have to research it a bit more and decide if “running the trail” means doing every mile of it, or just going from Long Island Sound to the MA/NH border. You can’t run that length without scouting the route, so that is what she started.

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We know that there have been some “thru-hikers” who have gone “end-to-end” on the trail. Unfortunately, the NET doesn’t have many shelters or rustic trailside accommodations. That makes it more difficult to thru hike compared to the Long Trail.

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Saturday, I dropped Debbie off at Chittenden Park in Guilford. In Connecticut the trail is marked by blue blazes, and is part of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System (CFPA). We didn’t make it to Massachusetts this past weekend, but there, the trail is maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and marked with white blazes.

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I’m a big NET supporter, and it is worth noting that I am on the Board of Directors of both CFPA and AMC. The two .org’s collaborated on the NET Map & Guide that we are used. I put the map in Debbie’s stocking at Christmas.

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So, last Saturday, she ran from Guilford to Middlefield, stopping at the Rt. 147/Rt. 66 junction. After I dropped her off, I camped out at a Starbucks, and did a bunch of work. Then, I had lunch at the Shoreline Diner in Madison. Eventually, I drove to Middletown and bought her a protein filled smoothie at It’s Only Natural Market. She got additional crewing and support from her coach, Al Lyman, and his partner, Terry Williams. Both of them are great supporters of our family’s adventures. Coach Al ran with Debbie for quite a ways. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Al. We were in touch by phone and text, but he stopped at the Rt. 157 junction.

Late in the day, I drove to the Rt. 147 trailhead/pickup spot and ran backwards on the trail until I intercepted Debbie. I made it about five miles before seeing her. Actually, she spotted me. I was lost and confused (like usual), and if she hadn’t seen me from higher up on the ridge, I would have run right by her. Thankfully, she saw me on a side trail, yelled down to me, and I backtracked to meet up with her.

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We had a good run, though I’ve been suffering from a bad cold that won’t seem to go away. I haven’t done much exercise and don’t have my “trail legs.” I proved that point when clumsily, I took a hard fall and smashed my shin on a rock. I’ve been licking my wounds for the last several days.

The section I ran with her was along Beseck Mountain and had many nice views. We even ran across Powder Hill, the top of the Powder Ridge ski area. One lift was running and there were some youth skiers and snowboarders enjoying the slope. It was odd to see the man-made snow (one run) on a relatively mild afternoon. It has been a very warm winter in New England and a tough one for ski areas like Powder Ridge. We got back to our car just before sunset. She was on the trail for just over eight hours, and the map mileage indicated that she covered 34.4 miles. I don’t know the elevation change, but it was significant thanks to all the steep hills. She said it was more rugged than she anticipated.

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Some sections of the NET in Connecticut are heavily used. Being so close to civilization and with so many side trails, it’s a Catch 22. One of the beauties of this resource is that it is so close to so many people. Accessibility is a plus. The drawback of the proximity to heavy population, is the impact on the trail and the environment that it crosses.

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There are many cross trails, which  makes route finding a real challenge. Many of those trails get heavy ATV use. The NET itself is a mix of single track, double track, dirt roads, and paved roads. It’s a real mish mash of terrain. The trail was covered by lots of leaves, which concealed many sharp and loose rocks. The footing is terrible and presented a real challenge.

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Whereas some sections get heavy use, there are other sections of the trail that get light use. Running continuously, you see both the heavily used sections and the lightly used sections. This time of year, any trail in New England is hard to navigate, and the NET was true to form. The leaves and lack of other plant life, made it very hard to spot the trail. The blazes were often sparse and she did a lot of backtracking. Even the short sections I ran, were difficult to follow. The bright sunlight made it nearly impossible to see the blazes on the trees when you were running towards the sun late in the day.

On Sunday, I drove Debbie back to where she left off, in Middlefield. At the Rt. 147 junction, the NET crossed Rt. 66 and returns into the wood behind Guida’s Dairy Bar. Both days, she started running at 9:30 A.M. We used her parents house in Prospect as our base of operations, and our kids spent the weekend there. After dropping her off, I had to return to Prospect and take our son to a birthday party in Newington. I did that, spent a few more hours at a different Starbucks, picked up my son, and returned him to my in-laws. I took a call from her on the drive back to Prospect. She said she was lost. I said I would head in her direction and dig out some maps to see if I could help her locate the trail. Less than 10 minutes later, she called again to say that she found the trail. I reversed course and returned to my in-law’s. After a quick change, I got back in the car and drove to the spot on Edgewood Road in Meriden where she planned to stop.

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Her Sunday route required her to tackle Mt. Higby, then continue on to Chauncey Peak, and Lamentation Mountain, before she had a road section. After that, she had to climb Cathole Mountain, South Mountain, and Castle Crag. It was shortly after that section in Hubbard Park on West Peak, where I intercepted her. I ran backwards from the trail crossing on Edgewood Road. The sunshine was brilliant, which made it very difficult to follow the trail. The sun was low on the horizon and I was running west, straight towards it.

I made it three miles before we connected near a large complex of cell phone towers. The views on this section of the NET were spectacular.  I imagined what it must have looked like 200 years ago before civilization and suburban sprawl altered the landscape. This must have been a rugged and remote part of Connecticut. Now, Interstates 91 and 691 are in the shadow of these ridges, and you can’t get away from the hum of the vehicles.

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She was in good spirits and moving well. We took photos and then pushed hard on the descent back to the car. She covered another 26.2 miles in just over seven hours. Her total for two days was 60.6 miles in just over 15 hours, though several hours were spent with breaks and route finding. We returned to my in-law’s to collect our kids and head for home after a couple of long days of activity.

Judging the social media reaction from the pictures and comments that we posted from the trail, we already succeeded in stimulating interest in the NET. I predict that more and more trail runners and hikers are going to check it out. That would be good because the trail needs more use. That will drive more trail maintenance and make it easier to follow. The more positive attention that the NET gets, the better.

As always, Debbie is an inspiration, and I love to watch her in action.

Crawford Notch & the AMC Highland Center

Last weekend, we made the journey north to Crawford Notch. The White Mountains of New Hampshire are one of our favorite places to visit. We were planning a couple of days of snowshoe hiking and at least one day of skiing/snowboarding at nearby Bretton Woods. However, health and the weather didn’t cooperate. New England was hit with the biggest Arctic blast of the season and day time highs on Saturday were still nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. With the wind chill, it felt like -40F. That’s pretty cold and not good for skiing.

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The snowshoe hiking was OK, but I was really under the weather, so Debbie and the kids didn’t wander far. They climbed little Mt. Willard, which is a great family hike from our base at AMC’s Highland Center. The Highland Center has been one of our favorite destinations since it was built a dozen years ago. Situated at the top of the notch, we have access to great trails in all directions. Since we were stuck inside most of the weekend, we took advantage of the entertainment and programs. On Friday night, the kids watched The Lorax. On Saturday night, we were entertained by Islay Mist Ceilidh, a local Scottish roots ensemble. They played for more than an hour in Thayer Hall. On Sunday night, we all watched Frozen, which was the theme of the weekend.

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I did a little reading. The library has more than 100 years of Appalachia journal and I enjoyed the December 1972 issue. By Sunday evening, I was moving my body a little and we got outside before dinner for a little walk. The kids enjoyed the playscape even though it was frigid. We look forward to returning in summer when things thaw out, because the sunshine in these photos is very deceiving! It was much colder than it looks.

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Last night, I toured @getbackinc in Oakville. It's my kind of shop, complete with an anvil like the one in my office. I told the proprietor that @horsteng shamefully threw out tons of vintage industrial equipment and furniture over the last 70 years. It wasn't always vintage when we chucked it! Now people pay big $ to incorporate this stuff on to high end furniture of there own, but I bet those customers don't have 7,000 sf of wood block factory floor. That's vintage! #horstengineering I had a nice post work ride. First I rode up and around Marblehead Neck, and then I explored a windy #Nahant until the sun got low in the sky. I finally learned what a #tombolo is. #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #bicycle First #mountainbike race of the year was a leg crusher. All four of us raced the #root66 race series #fattireclassic at #windingtrails This course is "full gas" the whole time. We were joined by several #teamhorstsports mates. #cycling #taekwondo "breaking" on Saturday afternoon. #tkd #taekwondo "breaking" on Saturday afternoon. #tkd #taekwondo belt testing on Saturday afternoon. #tkd #taekwondo belt testing on Saturday afternoon. #tkd Wow, wow, wow! The @lockheedmartin F-35 & #prattandwhitney F135 engine are only mock-ups, but so cool to think @horsteng has parts on this aircraft. I stopped at #rentschlerfield on my ride to work. On display today & tomorrow 10am-4pm. I want to return with the kids. #aerospace #precisionmachining #manufacturing #instamachinist #cncmachining #cnc #madeinconnecticut #madeinnewengland #madeinusa @thecubscouts #cubscouts Pack 157 Friday night campfire. @boyscoutsofamerica #boyscouts #bongo

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