Posts Tagged 'outdoors'

Top Trail Towns-Manchester-Trail Runner magazine

The September issue of Trail Runner magazine has been out in print for six weeks. The issue features eight “Top Trail Towns.” This year’s eight are: Bend, Oregon; Lynchburg, Virginia; Duluth, Minnesota; Revelstoke, British Columbia; Tucson, Arizona; Manchester, Connecticut; Deadwood, South Dakota; and Truckee, California.

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That isn’t a typo. One of my hometowns, Manchester, made the list. How? Well, it’s a short story. First, here is the link to the online version of the Manchester article that Meghan Hicks wrote. This link takes you to the directory/full story that she wrote.

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Back in February, the editors of Trail Runner posted a simple question on their Facebook page.

This is what it said, “We’re gearing up for our Annual Top Trail Towns feature—what are your choices for the best places to live and run trails?”

That sounded like an invitation for a comment, so I did. This is what I wrote:

“Anywhere in CT. 825+ miles of Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails maintained by Connecticut Forest & Park Association plus more are perfect for running. Great running communities and trail clubs too. Oh, and some awesome races including 30-year-old NipMuck Trail Marathon and 29-year-old Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. If you have to pick one of 169 towns, go with Manchester because it has the Hop River Rail Trail and an iconic 77-year-old classic road race that even the trail runners love!”

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233 other people commented with their nominations, and I forgot about my own comment until May, when Meghan, an ultrarunner extraordinaire/writer, reached out to discuss Manchester. Debbie and I had a fantastic phone call with  her, but we wanted to know more about her 2013 Marathon des Sables victory, so we talked about that first.

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When we got around to discussing Connecticut, we couldn’t stop gloating about our state. I grew up in Vernon/Rockville, Debbie grew up in Prospect, but Manchester is one town over from Bolton, where we live now, and has the bigger name. When you live in a state like Connecticut, you love all of the 169 towns, especially the ones that you run, hike, and bike in.

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I’ve always been suspicious of “top” lists. A west coast bias dominates the outdoor media and it bugs me. I was very pleased that Trail Runner selected Manchester to feature along with perennial favorites Tucson, Bend, and Truckee. I was even happier that Boulder didn’t make he list! I’ve actually been to four of these top eight, including three of them (Tucson, Truckee, and Manchester) in the past eight weeks. Heck, Porter Reservoir doesn’t look much like Donner Lake and Case Mountain isn’t Mount Lemmon, but we still have enormous beauty and culture too.

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Connecticut has the best darn trail network in the country. Every year, we lead the nation in National Trails Day events, and that is in real terms. If it was measured per capita, we would be so far out front, it would be a silly measure. Regardless, it isn’t about volume; quality is what matters and we have that too. Our trails are rugged and beautiful and very accessible.

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Meghan was able to only cover so much in a short magazine article, but we made the list and if you really want to know about Connecticut trails, then you have to read this blog every day! The Livingston’s are pumped to live on the Hop River Trail. We are glad that we have parks like Wickham to run in. We are blessed with awesome trails.

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I shot some photos for the story. Clubmates from the Shenipsit Striders were helpful. We spent some time at Case on a lovely summer evening. Two images were published, including one of Debbie and Carly Stroich-Eisly, but a handful of others are included in this post. They are just part of a trail story that is still being told…

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Lake Tahoe

Last month’s trip to the Lake Tahoe Basin for the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs was one of the best family adventures we have had. Thanks to our fantastic host, Tony, and our support crew, Tim and Sara, we were in good hands. Lake Tahoe is a true wonder and we met some new friends.

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We had days of running, hiking, biking, boating, and swimming. It was about as perfect as it gets for the Livingston’s. We didn’t do much sitting around, though there was time for pizza and the occasional ice cream.

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We stayed in Incline Village at the northeast corner of the lake on the Nevada side. It was the perfect base camp for the race.

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Tony was kind enough to take us on the lake in his motorboat and we got to experience a few of the more secluded beaches. It was high season in Tahoe so most days, the roads were busy, especially on the weekend. We went to Sand Harbor State Park several times. It is a true oasis, though it was crowded at times. Tony and I went back one night around 7:30 P.M. and had the beach to ourselves. We had a fun swim.

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One day, I rented a road bike from a local bike shop and did a lap of the lake. My route covered 82 miles and was very scenic. The traffic was a bit worse on the California side, but I managed. It was a good ride.

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The day before the race, Sand Harbor was full, so we parked on the side of the road and scrambled down a steep embankment to enjoy a lakeside rock garden to ourselves. This was Tahoe at its finest.

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We took the kids down to Vikingsholm on Emerald Bay, which was really fun. We missed the tour, but we walked the grounds. Deb and I ran over to the ski trails at Diamond Peak on a few occasions. Of course, we spent time at the start/finish in Spooner Lake State Park.

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The same day of the race, Tony and his team did the Trans Tahoe Relay. That would have been fun.

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Tahoe is clearly a high-end place to visit, but it’s worth the trip. You can find affordable camping accommodations in CA and NV. The whole casino scene doesn’t interest us. We love the outdoor adventure side of Tahoe and will return. Tahoe in winter would be fun to explore too.

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Race registration was in Carson City, the capital of Nevada. We didn’t see much, but it is very different from the lake area. It reminded me more of the Arizona desert. We didn’t make it to Reno, but I don’t think we missed much.

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Thankfully, our trip ended on a positive note after the challenges of the race and the lost iPhone/gear saga that I covered in the race blog post.

Back in the White’s

It took a week, but I finally had a moment to reflect on last weekend’s awesome family adventure to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were back in the White’s exactly two weeks after our last adventure, but this time, with our two children.  2013_White Mountain Family Adventure 130

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It was a fantastic trip with many highlights. Last year’s Cog to Hut Adventure and 2009’s Hut-to-Hut with our son were inspiration for this trip. This time, we decided to base ourselves at AMC’s Highland Center in Crawford Notch. It is a great central location for day adventure in the White’s.

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Horst Engineering was closed for four day’s over the July 4th holiday, so we had the perfect amount of time to make the trip. We arrived on Thursday in time for me to take a short bike ride across Mt. Clinton Road and up to the Cog Railway. Several times during the weekend, the kids got to play on the amazing playscape. This was one of the main attractions. It is no ordinary playground. After our initial play, we had dinner at the lodge.

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At dusk, we made the short hike to Elephant’s Head and took in some sweet sunset views of the notch. The walk offered some fun photographic opportunities, which was part of the weekend’s “relaxing” appeal. It was a late night for the kids, but you make exceptions when you are on “vacation.”

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Friday was the day for our big hike. The goal was for our son to bag his first official NH 4000 footer. He had been across the summits of several qualifying mountains, but not entirely on his own power. This time, he was hiking solo without a net! From the notch, we went up to 4,052 Mt. Jackson via the Webster-Jackson Trail. It was cooler on the summit, but comfortable enough to enjoy a snack.

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From the top, we headed over to Mizpah Spring Hut for a late lunch and rest. Then, we took the Mizpah Cutoff to the Crawford Path and returned to the notch. The 7.7 mile  hike took us about eight hours. It was a fun day. We saw some critters, including a grouse, several frogs, and lots of insects. We avoided any rain. It was warm and partially sunny. Truly, it was a gorgeous day.

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It was a lot of work for a six-year old, but he was tough. We had to encourage him a bit at the end and he was cracking us up with the exchanges. At one point, he said, “I’m wilting.” I replied, “No, you are wilted.” He said, “What does wilted mean?”

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It was that kind of back and forth that made the day so enjoyable. Debbie and I were so proud of him. Our daughter did a fair amount of walking too. We were in no rush. It was great to just spend a day exploring in the mountains and we were blessed to have the weather with us, unlike our June Hut Traverse.

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After cleaning up at the lodge, we met up with our friends Matt and Christina Schomburg and their nearly one-year old daughter. Matt helped us out on our Hut Traverse as he has many times in the past. We invited them down from their home in Milan to have dinner and enjoy the playscape. After the meal, we had some rain showers but they cleared in time to reveal a lovely full rainbow that spanned the notch. The evening ended with a campfire and S’mores. It was a great day.

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On Friday, it was my turn for some adventure. After Debbie did hill repeats on Mt. Avalon, I suited up for a big training ride. My route took me west on Rt. 302 through Littleton, Lisbon, and across the mighty Connecticut River in Woodsville. From Wells River, Vermont, I rode west until I hit Rt. 232. I took the beautiful road north through Ricker Pond State Park, Groton State Forest, and Kettletown State Park. The climbs were hard but the descents were fun.

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I connected with Rt. 2, then headed west again until I reached Montpelier. I stopped to refuel at the co-op, then headed south on Rt. 12. When I got to Northfield, I took Rt. 12A into Roxbury. From there, I took Warren Mountain Road to the mostly dirt Roxbury Gap Road and over the infamous gap. I was way over-geared with only a 38 x 19 thanks to a balky derailleur. I gutted it out, nearly walking three times, but was able to finally pedal the whole way.

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I want to go back and do the epic Six Gaps Ride. I’ve been on most of those roads, but never in one ride. I had a fun descent down into Warren, and then paralleled Rt. 100 into Waitsfield where Debbie and the kids were waiting for me. It was 7.5 hours and 118 miles of bliss and should do wonders for my triathlon training. I took the kids for a quick swim in the Mad River and then we met new friends at the 1% For The Planet 10th Anniversary party.

Post-party, we changed the kids into their pajamas and made the 100 mile drive back to Crawford Notch. We didn’t see any moose, but it was a challenging trip after a long day. Sunday morning, we were up bright and early, packed the car, and headed south to Lincoln for the Loon Mountain Race. Debbie ran while the kids and I explored and watched.

After the race, we enjoyed some time in the Pemigewasset River before once again loading into the car and heading south. We were home by 6:00 P.M. and capped off an awesome family adventure. We can’t wait to get back to the mountains.

125th Anniversary/Supermoon Hut Traverse

Last weekend, we completed our second ever White Mountain Hut Traverse, but it was an ugly affair. Our first traverse was Labor Day Weekend in 2011.  I thought that was a rough day, but it turned out to be a piece of cake compared to our most recent trek. The first traverse had more individual physical suffering, and I was stronger this time, but the conditions were horrific. Debbie had her own challenges, so collectively, this was one nasty experience, but we are thrilled to have still finished. This was a great way to celebrate the AMC’s 125th Anniversary of the High Mountain Huts.

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The traverse itself took 24 hours and 30 minutes. That included the 49.5 +/- miles from Carter Notch Hut to Lonesome Lake Hut, with another two to three miles tacked on because of a wrong turn. Add in the four miles from Rt. 16 to Carter, then a couple of miles down from Lonesome to Franconia Notch and you have a pretty long day-plus of suffering.

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Mercifully, this year we had a ride from Franconia to Gorham. Two years ago, we rode our bikes to the “start” and that tacked on several more hours of physical effort before the big run/hike. This year, our long time friend and legendary super-hiker/National Forest Ranger, Matt Schomburg, was our savior. He has come to the rescue in the past. This time, it was his taxi service that got us to the start after a pit stop to feed a friend’s chickens and pigs. Thank you Matt!

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The major reason for this year’s troubles was the weather. It was abysmal. We hiked up to Carter from the Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead where Matt dropped us. We hung out at the hut for 90 minutes or so. We were getting itchy to start and didn’t want to attempt restless sleep on the floor of the hut like last time, so we planned an early departure. We also figured we would have a better chance of beating any late afternoon thunderstorms, and if we met our goal and best our previous time, then we would get to Lonesome with time for a swim before dinner.

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Hah, what a plan! We left at 10:30 P.M. The first four miles of mostly downhill set the tone for the rest of the trip. Weeks of rain had changed the trails dramatically. Everything was wet, including the rocks and roots. Erosion had exposed more rocks than ever, and that is how it was the entire day. We were slower on that first segment and got slower and slower. About half way up Mt. Madison, the clouds parted to reveal the spectacular Supermoon. We were ecstatic and thought that was a positive sign. But, as we approached the summit of Madison the weather changed dramatically and we could tell, even in the darkness, that the clouds were back and looking much more ominous.

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Then, it poured on us, and poured on us even harder, and then it hailed on us. The wind was blowing something fierce as we scrambled over the top of the mountain. The rocks were treacherous. Many were covered with green lichen, especially the north facing ones, and they were more slippery than ice. The night was filled with hard falls as we attempted to push the pace. It was a crash-fest.

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We refilled our packs at Madison Spring Hut and then began the long trip across the ridge to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. That section was downright painful. We each fell multiple times because it is all rock and they were soaked. It rained on and off, but the real challenge was the fog. It was pea soup and at times you couldn’t see five feet ahead. Navigating the trail with headlamps in the dark, rain, and fog was a wild experience. We got turned around several times and it was very hard to see the next cairn.

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As the dawn broke, we made our way to Lakes. We got there around 6:00 A.M. and there were a few folks up at the hut. We took a little extra time to use the bathrooms and refill our hydration packs. It rained on us again as we left the hut in the fog. We went around Mt. Monroe and Mt. Eisenhower and then over Mt. Pierce.

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The weather conditions improved dramatically on the way to Mizpah Spring Hut, but the trails were waterlogged and still very slick. We arrived at Mizpah in the middle of breakfast and got some motivating cheers from the assembled crowd of hut guests and Croo. We also grabbed some food right off of the breakfast platters (after asking). Next thing you know, we were flying down the trail towards Crawford Notch….but we went the wrong way. We missed the Mizpah Cutoff and instead, took the Webster Cliff Trail for nearly a mile and a half before realizing we had made a very bad rookie mistake.

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In our glee, we blew it. We had been running the whole time from the hut, so we had to backtrack, rather than going up and over Mt. Jackson. I don’t know if it was the right decision to go back, but in the end, it didn’t matter. I hit a low spot when we made it back to the Crawford Path. We stopped at the Highland Center in the Notch and I ate a bowl of oatmeal. I needed some solid food. We were more than two hours behind our 2010 time at the 25 mile mark. We thought we could make up time and pushed the pace out of the Notch, up Mt. Tom, and then down to Zealand Falls Hut.

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The air-dried a bit, but the trails were sloppy. One section of the A-Z Trail was like grease. The mud was so smooth and whipped that it was like a buttery spread. There was no way to move quickly on this terrain. The climb up Zeacliff was brutal like usual and the temperature warmed up a bit with breaks of sunshine. At this point, the hike turned into a sweat-fest. We hit the Twinway, went up and over South Twin. The descent to Galehead Hut was my low point in 2010. This year, my legs were much stronger and I was stable, but very slow. It is ultra steep and I had to take it easy. Last time, I was trashed and I didn’t want that feeling again.

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Debbie led me all the way down. We filled our packs at the hut, but we were only there for three or four minutes. Folks were lounging on the deck. Moments after leaving the hut, we started hearing the low rumble of thunder in the distance and the sky darkened. By this time, we were letting out frequent sighs, moans, groans, and grunts. The conditions had really taken a toll on both of us. The climb up to Mt. Garfield was very hard and we slowed considerably. We made our way partially across the Garfield Ridge and the thunder got louder and closer.

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The lightning began to flash and then the rain came in torrents. It was almost blinding in its intensity. The thunderstorms swept down onto the ridge with crazy force and we decided that we had to hunker down and sit it out. It was freaking scary as we pushed through thick brush in the short trees about 15 feet off of the trail. We sat there for a moment discussing our predicament before pulling out our emergency blankets and hastily unfolding them. The cold rain was already chilling Debbie. She loses body heat in these conditions at a very fast rate. Despite being a late June day, these were hypothermia conditions. After 19 hours of running/hiking, now just below treeline, we were being dumped on with cold rain and wind.

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We crouched/sat for about 20 minutes before the storms slowed. It was still raining, but the time between the flashes and booms lengthened enough for us to have the confidence to pack our blankets and head up the trail. We didn’t get 1/8th of a mile and another cell swept down the ridge. This time, the thunder was right on top of us. The flash/booms happened at the same time and I nearly jumped out of my skin. We quickly got into the woods again as the rain pelted us. We unfurled the blankets and huddled under them. We were pinned down in that spot for more than 60 minutes as the t-storms continued unabated. It was definitely my scariest moment in 25 years of mountain adventures. I snapped a photo of the two of us (Debbie was under her blanket) and the look on my face says it all.

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Lightning is something you don’t mess with. I was concerned about it, but also concerned about the cold. The blankets were very helpful, despite being soaked to the bones. When we were absolutely sure that the storms had moved northeast, we crawled out of our spot in the brush and got back on the trail. The water was insane. The trail was a gushing stream of white water. I hadn’t seen water on a trail like that since our infamous trip to North Brother in Baxter State Park 10 years ago. That is when I used the phrase, “White Water Running” to describe our experience. We literally sloshed our way up, then down, and then up again to the Franconia Ridge.

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The climb up Mt. Lafayette was wicked. The sheer rock faces were very slippery. The clouds parted a bit to reveal some nice evening color, but as we gained elevation, the sky darkened again, the wind picked up, and then the fog returned. We were anxious to get up and over the summit before another wave of storms, so we moved as quickly as we could on the steep slopes. Debbie wasn’t a happy hiker, but I encouraged her to keep moving. Once we topped out, she was a bit warmer and she perked up a bit on the descent to Greenleaf Hut. That last mile to the hut took forever.

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We got to the hut around 8:00 P.M. There was a lot of post dinner activity. I got a wool blanket and wrapped Debbie in it. The Croo gave us leftovers from dinner including soup, bread, and salad. They alerted the Croo at Lonesome Lake that we were way behind schedule and requested some hot food for us. I thought we could finish by 10:30 P.M. but it was 11:00 P.M. when we finally completed the traverse. The descent on the Old Bridle Path was tricky in the dark and it rained a bit on the way down to Franconia Notch. Debbie led, with both of us running most of the way. We still had decent legs after a day on our feet, which proved that it was the footing conditions that had slowed us. She beat me down and was waiting for me in our car at Lafayette Place Campground in the Notch.

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We stuffed extra clothes, Crocs, and toiletries in our packs and hiked the final uphill 1.9 miles to Lonesome Lake Hut. Assistant Hutmaster, Sarah Fischer, was waiting for us. She heated up rice and veggies and welcomed us in the darkness. I washed my legs off in the lake and then we crawled into our sleep sacks. Morning came very quickly. We joined the other guests for breakfast, took a quick nap, and then meandered our way back to the notch. What an adventure!

2013 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

We had a fun day at the Mt. Greylock Trail Races. Debbie ran Greylock for the 15th year in a row, which I find truly remarkable. She burst on to the New England trail running scene in 1999 and is still going strong. I’ve been to 13 of her 15 Greylock’s and I’ve run 10 of them myself. She is my “Queen of Greylock.”

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Today, we both ran the “half marathon,” and the next generation ran too. Our son did the 5K and he loved it. Thanks to the Carew Family for looking after him during the race. Apparently, he was “bombing the descents.” He was thrilled. Thanks to Kim Brown for watching our daughter while we were all frolicking in the mud, including her husband, Todd, who did the Mt. Washington Road Race/Greylock combo again.

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Donald Pacher also did the double, yet he was still strong today. He and I were together on the climb up Greylock and for a few miles of descending, but I couldn’t hold his pace. It was a wet one today, after all of the rain that we had in the past week. The trails held up OK, but the dirt roads were a mess.

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The weather was OK. It was overcast and relatively cool at Greylock Glen. There was no wind on the summit. I had one very hard fall coming down the back side of the mountain on a jeep road. I knew it was going to hurt before I hit the ground. My right knee, left elbow, and left hand took the brunt of the impact, but I bounced up and kept going, albeit a bit more carefully.

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This is a heavy week for me as I cram in the distance and intensity around a busy work schedule. I had a beautiful ride in the Connecticut River Valley yesterday, covering more than 75 miles in brilliant sunshine. So I wasn’t on my “A game” today, and finished about seven minutes slower than last year.

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Debbie finished 2nd, which was a nice bounce back result after last week’s Cayuga Trails 50 miler. More importantly, she felt better and pushed it hard at the end. The Shenipsit Striders had the tent set up and we had a nice contingent up from Connecticut. It was great to see all of our WMAC friends too. Special mention to Tony Bonanno who came screaming past me on the final descent. He had a strong race.

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We stopped at the Haymarket Cafe in Northampton for smoothies and buckeyes. The only challenge was two smoothies for four people creates conflict in the car! Then we did dinner at Agave Grill in Hartford. It was a great family day.

Race Results

2013 Trails Day & Scout Expo

We kicked off the Trails Day Weekend with some father/son time. I’m a member of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association Board of Directors and Horst Engineering/Thread Rolling Inc. are big CFPA supporters, so I wanted to stop by the first of two Bolton hikes.

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We didn’t do the two mile hike, but we were there for the history and introductions by Rod Parlee and Hans DePold (Town Historian). I always learn something new when I hear Hans speak. Last week, as a prize for winning the Historic category of the Bolton Conservation Commission Photo Contest, I got a Bolton history book authored by Hans. Good stuff!

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After visiting the hike and shooting photos, we went to the Connecticut Rivers Council Scout Expo at the Hebron Lions Club Fairgrounds. Our son will enter Tiger Cubs this summer and this was his first event as a prospective Cub Scout. Last night, we pulled out a big bin that I’ve had in storage. It holds all of my Scouting stuff, including my Eagle Scout award and memorabilia. It was a lot of fun to show this to our kids.

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The expo was fantastic with lots of cool stuff and it brought back a lot of memories. I especially like the history of Scouting exhibit. We did some outdoor activities including fire starting and we did a bunch of crafts including leather working and copper tin foil impressions. Let the weekend begin!

2013 Traprock 50K

We raced the Traprock 50K after missing in 2012. We were at the race last year, but just to watch. This year, both Debbie and I ran. I did two and a half laps and then decided to end my day. It was the right decision to stop after 24+ miles and log it as a workout. I’ve had a crazy work schedule and it didn’t make sense to go farther when my big races are later in the year. My legs were cooked and I was hurting. I needed the miles and got some.

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Debbie was the first woman. Her time wasn’t the best, but she has had a relatively slow start to the season after taking a longer than normal winter break from training. No excuses. She was also happy to finish her first ultra of the year and earn her third “rock” award from the Traprock gang.We had a blast hanging out with our friends from the Shenipsit Striders and we saw a lot of other friends from around New England who drove to Bloomfield for this great event at Penwood State Park. I even saw some of my friends from the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes come out of hibernation to frolic on the trails.

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Founding Race Director, Steve Nelson, and his dedicated volunteers did a great job again. They were loud and cheered constantly as we entered aid stations. They even played bongos! Special thanks to the volunteer who drove me back from the far side of the course. I waited for Debbie to come through the aid station where I stopped, before hitching my ride back to the start/finish. I was able to photography her at the last aid station with three miles to go and then again at the finish, where I was joined by my parents and our kids to cheer for her.

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It was colder than I would have liked, but that is how this New England spring has gone. I may have been a little underdressed, but live and learn. Two weeks ago at the Old School race, I was overdressed. It was great to run on the New England  National Scenic Trail (NET), which in Penwood is the Metacomet Trail. I invited Eric Hammerling, Executive Director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), to set up an informational table at the start/finish. I’m glad he came. Thank you to State Representative David Baram of Bloomfield for adopting Penwood State Park during the 100th anniversary year of Connecticut State Parks. He was our honorary starter.

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It was also nice to see Christine Woodside, the editor of CFPA’s Connecticut Woodlands and AMC’s Appalachia, two of my favorite periodicals. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is the maintainer of the NET in Massachusetts and CFPA is the maintainer in Connecticut. Congratulations to Christine, who after completing the one lap event, drove to NH to get her White Mountain 4000 Footer Club award at the annual dinner.

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The Traprock crew have been kind enough to make significant contributions to the CFPA from past race proceeds. This year’s record turnout should permit philanthropy again. We will see. As a trail user, it is important to show appreciation for the CFPA staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails, including the NET. I’ll only make two pitches and then leave it at that: if you are a trail runner who enjoys Connecticut’s trails, then you really should be a member of the CFPA. If you run all over New England, you should be a member of AMC. Please join! Disclaimer: I’m a member of CFPA’s Board of Directors, a member of AMC’s Board of Advisors (with Debbie) and have a passion for land conservation and trail access.

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A shout out to David Merkt of the Shenipsit Striders. This guy is so modest. He was appropriately cautious at the start, and again after lap one, when I was still with him! Then, he just kept going and smoked the course with a 4:31, good for second overall. Great job Dave! You did us proud.

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It would be great to see many of the Traprock runners come to the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races in Somers, Connecticut on 19 May. Debbie is the Race Director. It’s one of the ways that she pays back the trail community for all that it has given her.

Race Results

2013 Hoppin’ Hodges Trail 5K

A relatively new Easter tradition continued today at the 2013 Hoppin’ Hodges 5K. My 2012 report has more of the history behind the race, so refer back if you are curious. This year, the whole family joined me at the Church Street depot on the Vernon rail trail (Hop River Linear State Park Trail).

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I rode over to see many of our Silk City Striders friends. Janit Romayko is the race directing force behind this run little “race.” I think the true distance on the out and back course was more like 2.5 miles, but who is counting? I was taking it easy after yesterday’s trail half marathon softened up my legs, so Debbie ran solo and I pushed our little girl in the Chariot CX-1, which brought back a lot of memories. We don’t get that rig out as often anymore. Our son rode along on his bike.

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It was chilly but sunny. Everyone enjoyed an awesome post-race spread with lots of treats. Afterwards, inspired by today’s 96th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. I continued my ride through Vernon, Manchester, and Bolton. My route included more of the rail trail, then the Charter Oak Greenway/East Coast Greenway, then up to the top of Case Mountain, and back. I had a lot of switchbacks and steep climbs, but no cobblestones!’

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What a nice day!

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Race Results

2013 Shenipsit Old School Trail Half-Marathon

Today, I was a last minute “entrant” in the 1st Annual Shenipsit Old School Trail Half-Marathon. With no Northern Nipmuck Trail Race on the traditional Saturday before Easter, there was a void until Ron Starrett and his gang filled it with this fun race. The Shenipsit Striders threw their weight behind this self-timed affair and filled out the field with most of the runners. The start/finish was at the commuter lot off of Exit 67 next to Walker Reservoir in Vernon, Connecticut.

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The approximately 13 mile out and back course included one of my favorite sections of the CFPA-managed/maintained Shenipsit Trail. Other sections traveled on other favorite trails in the beautiful Belding Wildlife Management Area, in Valley Falls Park, on the Hop River State Park Trail, and in Freja Park in Bolton. The turnaround was at the old drive-in just off Rt. 44 west of Bolton Notch. We had a glorious spring day with a light breeze, cool air, but brilliant sunshine. The sky was a deep blue with puffy white clouds.

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It was a rugged well-marked course with a fair amount of elevation gain and loss. There was a lot of post-winter debris on the trail. There were several sections of ice and snow and there was a little mud. I had three hard falls including one where I didn’t think I was going to get back up, but I did. I slammed my right big toe into root and it sent me flying. It was great to see some of our runner friends come out of hibernation. NipMuck Dave graced us with his presence and even Jack the Puppy did the 13 plus he went out for another 7 with his Mom, Kristina Folcik and Dad, Ryan Welts.

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Last night, I went to the recently expanded New Balance store in South Windsor to search for high quality footbeds with better arch support. I ended up walking out with the new insoles in a new pair of trail running shoes. It was too easy to just try them on and leave them on. I haven’t had a pair of New Balance shoes in more than 10 years. It must have been serendipity, because yesterday, Debbie cleaned out her locker at Court House Plus and brought home a bunch of my old gear including a vintage pair of New Balance road runners.

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So, with brand new shoes and no break-in period, I tackled the Old School course today and other than the toe, didn’t have any foot issues. I got a chuckle when several other runners spotted my new shoes and recognized the model. Who has time to read shoe reviews? I wish I had time! I just walked into the store and said show me a pair of good trail runners. It was that simple. It is going to take more work to get my “trail legs.” I was clumsy and slow on the descents and my quadriceps are screaming tonight. Regardless, I had fun  covering the course in 1:53:05. I ran the last four miles with Mike Reed, which was cool. He told me that several years ago, Debbie and I helped him prepare for a Long Trail trip. We are LT End-to-End Mentors and help dozens and dozens of hikers every year. It was nice to place a face to the name/e-mail.

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My vote is that Ron and crew do this for real in 2014. I’ll be there.

Race Results

2013 Shenipsit Striders Fat Butt Run

It’s fitting that my first blog post of the year is about our first run of the year. The Shenipsit Striders hosted a Fat Ass Run at Crandall Park in Tolland, Connecticut. This was the second annual low-key event to celebrate the start of a new year.

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Around the house, Debbie renamed it the “Fat Butt Run” which everyone, particularly our three-year old, got a kick out of. It’s Fat Ass season with many runs over the next month.

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We had a nice turnout, with at least 15 members present. Thanks to Race Director Clint Morse for marking the course, tamping down the snow, and setting up the “finish line” table. The course was open from 8:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M (it’s still open if you want to go!) for members to run as many laps as they wanted.

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I went first among the Livingston’s and did three laps. I hiked half a lap with the kids and played in the snow while Debbie did four laps of her own. It was loads of fun. You didn’t need snowshoes, but they were optional. Some folks wore spikes/studded shoes, but we went without.

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It was a nice way to get things moving again.

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Results:

9 laps – 29.7km
Dave Merkt – 3:35
Russell Stroud – 3:47

8 laps – 26.4km
Clinton Morse – 3:17

7 laps – 23.1 km
JJ Cote – 3:31

6 laps – 19.8km
Mark Buongiorno – 2:14
Tony Bonnano – 2:14

5 laps – 16.5km
Adam Lung – 2:11
Earl Lavallee – 2:18

4 laps – 13.2km
Brett Stoeffler – 1:23
Deb Livingston – 1:32
Regina McGillivray – 1:54

3 laps – 9.9km
Scott Livingston – 0:58
Ken Forrest – 1:13 (I think)
Ginny Patsun – 1:32
Vicki Quaglioroli – 1:45
Maria Pelley – 1:58

2 laps – 6.6km
Stoddard Finnie – 1 hr?

1 lap – 3.3km
Dani Kennedy – 0:31
Ned Kennedy – 0:31

Cape Cod

This year, we replaced our annual end of December trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, with a shorter version to Cape Cod. With the Tuesday holiday and a Monday workday for New Year’s Eve, we only had a few days for a short getaway. Our uncle and aunt were kind enough to host us at their home in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

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We explored Falmouth on foot and bike, but the highlight was a day trip to the Cape Cod National Seashore and to Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod. Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite authors, famously said, “A man may stand there and put all of America behind him.”

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We stopped at the visitors center in Eastham and did a hike on the Nauset Marsh Trail with the kids, which took us around the salt marshes and through some beautiful woods. We saw a majestic Great Blue Heron on his perch, and explored the history of the area, which included Viking history and Native American history.

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We wound our way up Route 6 to Provincetown, where we had lunch at Far Land Provisions. We walked around town, checking out the Pilgrim Monument, which was closed for the season, and checked out the beach. We had fun walking through the eclectic town before heading southwest in our cars again.

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We went through the center of Wellfleet and over to the Great Island Trail. We walked along The Gut and over the dunes to the beach on bay side. We came across a duck skull, checked out an old shanty, which the kids enjoyed; and made it back to the cars just before the skies opened up. Heading west on Saturday afternoon, we drove smack into a wicked winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in Connecticut. On the Cape, we had heavy rain for several hours on the Cape, before switching to heavy wet snow.

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Three inches of the thick white stuff coated everything in Falmouth when we awoke this morning. It made for a wet, slushy, slippery, crunchy, and cold mountain bike ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway which we took over to Woods Hole and back. The storm was the second this week and smaller of the two, so we were bummed to not be in northern New Hampshire, but we still had a blast on the beautiful Cape.

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Connecticut Series of Cyclocross

The five race Connecticut Series of Cyclocross wrapped up this weekend with two fun races. Yesterday’s Cheshire CX and today’s Hop Brook Cyclocross had very different courses. Interestingly, I ended up with the same result (9th in the 35+ race both days) but felt a lot better today on the fast and wide open course.

Yesterday’s more technical and hilly track was not good for me on an “out of synch” Saturday morning. After yesterday’s race, where I felt empty after a long work week, I rode stronger today and had a fun battle with Ted Haack, who got a gap with two to go. I didn’t give him 8th spot without working for it. I closed in on the last lap (but burned my matches doing so) and he pulled away again. It was brisk both days with morning temps in the 30’s (Fahrenheit). The double was a lot of fun. Yesterday’s Cheshire race and today’s Middlebury race are less than 15 minutes from Prospect, where Debbie’s parents live, so  it was an easy commute both days.

Our kids got to race yesterday and it was a nice two loop course for them. I love watching little one’s tackle cross courses. They warmed up for the CX race with the Little Manchester Road Race earlier in the day, which was a very crowded affair (from what I heard). Debbie took them to Manchester first before meeting me at the cross race.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch on both days and had fun watching the other races while hanging with friends. The sunshine shone brilliantly. Cheshire Park was a challenging venue, as was Hop Brook Lake.

The star of the weekend was our 45+ teammate, Pat Cunningham. He dominated Cheshire for the win, and rode tactically smart Hop Brook on his way to 2nd place, which netted him the overall series title. Congratulations to Pat! Wade Summers, Art Roti, and I flew the Team Horst Engineering flag in the 35+ races.

Race Results

Katahdin

It’s been a big week. You only turn 40 once. I honored the last day of my 30’s with a special solo adventure to “my Mecca.”

 

Mount Katahdin has been a beacon for me ever since I was a kid. My mother, Lynn, is from Upper Frenchville, Maine on the Canadian border. Most of our vacations were to “Vacationland” which meant making the 500+ mile drive from Connecticut to Aroostook County via I-95, Rt. 11, and Rt. 1. Every time we saw Katahdin, heading north or south, we were thrilled. The mountain stands out. There are other hills and a few lesser mountains in this part of Maine, but unlike the White Mountains, the lack of a range highlights Katahdin’s prominence.

 

 

Our family visited Baxter State Park several times, but we never made it on to the mountain. My parents made a trip to the top in the mid-70’s and often spoke about that adventure. It wasn’t until I was in the Boy Scouts and Troop 11 made a trip to the Maine High Adventure Camp on Grand Lake Matagamon in 1989, that I got on to the mountain. Prior to a seven-day canoe trip in northern Maine, we hiked Katahdin, but we didn’t make it to the 5,267 foot summit. We were turned back at Thoreau Spring on the Hunt Trail, only one mile from the top. It was painful to return to the bottom without the prize.

The mountain called me back in September 1994. I was a senior at Boston College, had a few extra days off, and made an important mid-week solo trip to Baxter. I made it to the top, was shattered from the hike, but held on to the joy for a long time.

 

 

In October 2000, I proposed to Debbie from the Katahdin scenic overlook on I-95, but we didn’t make it to Baxter. We were headed for Frenchville.

 

Debbie and I returned in July 2002, along with 15 other cousins, aunts, and uncles. We had a tough day with nasty weather. Still, we guided the group to the summit before making a hasty retreat back down the mountain. We had no views. Debbie and I also bagged Hamlin Peak (a sub-peak) on the way down as part of our quest to hike all of the 4,000 foot mountains of New England. The next day, we ran the other official 4,000 footer in Baxter, North Brother. We have run and hiked a lot of other mountains since then.

 

I’ve been trying to get back there for 10 years, but work, family, and so many other aspects of life have kept me from the mountain. A beautiful picture of the mountain hangs prominently above our fireplace mantle, so the hill is always there, but I hadn’t touched it in a long time.

So, this past Tuesday, after work, I made the drive north. I stayed with my Aunt Terry in Portland, just as I did in 1994. I departed her house (base camp) at 4:30 A.M. on Wednesday, made it to Millinocket by 8:15 A.M., got to the Togue Pond Gatehouse, and then to the Roaring Brook Campground. I sorted my gear, signed the trail register at 9:05 A.M., and hit the trail.

My route, as captured by my GPS, took me in a counterclockwise 10.3 mile loop with 4,540 feet of elevation gain and loss. The route was: Chimney Pond Trail to North Basin Cut-Off to North Basin Trail to Hamlin Ridge Trail to Northwest Basin Trail to Saddle Trail to The Knife Edge Trail to Helon Taylor Trail and back to Roaring Brook. It was a thrilling trip. I had the North Basin to myself. There was no one on Hamlin Peak. I finally saw another person when I got to the Saddle.

I saw another 20 or so folks between the summit and The Knife Edge. The Baxter rangers had warned against Knife Edge, but I had a gorgeous day, the snow/ice wasn’t bad, and I was inspired. So, I took it and loved it. I also did it in 1994, but this time, I really appreciated the extreme exposure and beauty of the trail. I finally got my fix! I was able to run much of the Helon Taylor Trail on the way down and I was back at Roaring Brook before 3:00 P.M. I hopped back in the car and was in Portland by 7:00 P.M. My Aunt Terry and I had a celebration dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant called the Green Elephant.

Life Adventures!!!

 

Other Katahdin links:

http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2006/features/katahdin-final.cfm

http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/tripplanner/ideas/katahdin-baxter.cfm

http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2010/flashback/conquest-of-katahdin-map.cfm

http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/baxter97.html

White Mountain Family Adventure: Cog to Hut to Hut

Last weekend, our family had a true adventure. Debbie and I planned a White Mountain trip on the anniversary of our last real White Mountain adventure. In 2011, we executed a one day Hut Traverse while our kids were back home with their grandparents.

This year, we opted for a full family trip that was less ambitious but turned out to be just as fulfilling. In 2009, we took our son on a three hut journey that proved to be very challenging, but very fun. He is now six, and it was time for him to traverse on his own legs, rather than being carried by one of his parents. Debbie was pregnant with our daughter in 2009, but this time, we had the added challenge of carrying her.

The trip could not have worked out better. It went exactly as planned, which is testament to Debbie’s efforts. After work last Friday, we made the drive to Crawford Notch, where we stayed at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Lodge. Debbie and I are long time members of the AMC board of advisors and we are very loyal to our club’s assets. The huts are the jewel’s in AMC’s hospitality crown. The Highland Lodge is our club’s premier backcountry lodge and is an even better destination with the addition of an amazing new playscape.

On Saturday morning, we had to get going early. After breakfast, we packed the car and drove the rough and winding Mt. Clinton Road over to the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. Debbie drove the car back to the Highland Lodge, then ran the 5.5 mile Mt. Clinton Road back to the Cog to meet us. We explored the train museum while waiting for her. One of the most interesting things I learned this summer was the difference between a railroad and a railway. The brakeman informed us during our summit trip that the difference is the distance. A railway is less than 14 miles. A railroad is more.

Hiking to the top of Mt. Washington would be a challenge for any six-year old. I’m sure he could have done it, but rather than take the chance, we opted for this alternative. Without the kids, you would have had to pay me to take a train to the top of Mt. Washington. I didn’t feel as guilty because we watched the coal/steam engine go up the mountain, but rode on the more modern bio-diesel model. With a three and six-year old, the train part worked. They were thrilled and it made for a unique experience.

The gradient, up to 36%, was insanely steep and made for some fun moments when the passengers were encouraged to stand in the aisle of the cab, which is pushed by the engine. We only took the train one way because after spending time on the summit at Mt. Washington State Park, we hiked down to AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut. The huts are an experience that I recommend to anyone who likes walking. There was a neat segment on NPR this week that featured an AMC Hut Croo. Our son said that he wants to work on 1) a Hut Croo or the 2) Trail Crew when he grows up.

Mt. Washington’s summit is bizarre. It was loaded with tourists taking in the view. The hearty hikers are mixed in with overweight smokers in flip-flops who drove up. It can be a weird place, but we survived lunch at the cafeteria, toured the Tip Top House, checked out the Mt. Washington Observatory museum, and then left the peak.

It was really cool that our son had his own goals for this trip. At the top of the list was his goal not to be carried. He knew that we packed an Ergobaby backpack carrier in the bottom of our main pack. Even though he is no 34 pounds, I could carry him in a pinch. This hike was much farther and more rugged than he had ever gone, so we needed a backup plan. Plus, White Mountain weather can be notoriously bad and dangerous. If we needed to move fast, I had to be able to haul him. Should I have to carry him, we didn’t have a real plan for our extra gear, but pondered ditching it, splitting it up, shuttling it, or stashing it for a return trip. Regardless, we figured we would cross that bridge if necessary. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Debbie carried our 20 pound daughter in our Deuter pack that also has room for a little gear. Our system/plan worked out just fine and the weather cooperated. It was only foggy and drizzly for the first part of Sunday morning. Other than that, it was fantastic.  The trip from the summit to the first hut was 1.5 miles. Once settled at Lakes of the Clouds Hut, Deb and the kids wandered around while I went for an “alpine jog.” My 4 mile loop took me on the Tuckerman Ravine Crossover trail, across the top of the ravine to Lion Head, through the Alpine Garden, up over Nelson Crag, across the summit of Mt. Washington again, and back down the Crawford Path to the hut. I had some of the rarely used cross trails all to myself. My run paralleled and then crossed the Mt. Washington Auto Road. I’ve had some good times on that road, having done the Mt. Washington Road Race once and the Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb four times. I want to return to the bike race soon.

We had a great meal and night at the hut. After breakfast on Sunday, we headed down the Crawford Path to Mizpah Spring Hut. It was 4.5 miles and took us about 7 hours with stops. The hardest part of the hike for all of us was the steep descent to Mizpah. Our son said it “was brutal.” He and I had some awesome bonding on this trip. Debbie had her battles with our daughter who insisted on walking on her own. She must have covered more than a mile on her little legs with her various stints outside of the pack.

Coming down to Mizpah, I had nightmares about last year’s hut traverse and the intense suffering. Still, I think I want another shot at it. I cracked hard after 15 hours on the trail, and spent the last four hours in total misery. I guess that is why I love the mountains. I told my son all about that trip and we agreed to do a hut traverse together some day. He also acquired a trail name: “Trail Monster” thanks to some of his antics.

Dinner at Mizpah was excellent and we had great conversations with our fellow hut guests. The Croo was very nice and put on a couple of great skits. After breakfast, we made the 2.8 mile hike back down the Crawford Path to Crawford Notch. At the Highland Center, we spent time on the new natural mountain playscape, which was far more extensive than I expected. It was the best playground our kids have ever been on and is another great reason for families to visit AMC’s premier backcountry lodge.

After washing up, we made our way home via Vermont, stopping in Northampton, Massachusetts for dinner at our favorite restaurant. We were back to work on Tuesday and have some great memories from this summer ending trip. Debbie and I have had many great mountain adventures over the years, but this one was really special. Now, we are looking forward to 2014 or 2015 when both of our kids can go the distance on their own two feet.

Pennsylvania & the Laurel Highlands

Last weekend, we made the trip to the Laurel Highlands region of southwestern Pennsylvania for the Laurel Highlands Ultra. Debbie had a magnificent race and we had an excellent trip. We trucked west through Allentown and Harrisburg. We didn’t do much sightseeing on the way.

Like last year, we stopped in Bedford, PA for lunch. Also like last year, we camped at Ohiopyle State Park, which is in a great spot sitting on a bluff above the Youghiogheny River. The Great Allegheny Passage rail trail goes right by the park, cuts through Ohiopyle, and winds its way towards Maryland.

The park has a couple of rustic playgrounds and a bunch of campsites. I went for a run on the rail trail and then throughout the lovely Ferncliff Peninsula Natural Area. I ran along the river and then returned to our site.

Debbie got up early on Saturday morning to run down to the start of the race in the center of town. It was only 1/2 mile away. I saw her off and then took a little longer to get our kids up, fed, and the campsite packed up. We spent the day crewing for her. We spent Saturday night at the trailhead at the end of the 70 mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Seward where the race finished. We spent a restless night in the van. Debbie was hopped up on sugar and caffeine after her 13 hour and 34 minute jaunt. I got up before sunrise and headed south on the trail for a little trail run.

I checked out the last three miles of the trail and got a feel for what it must have been like to finish a 70 mile run. I was back at the van in no time and we had breakfast before rolling east. Our long drive back to Connecticut was broken up by a few pit stops. We had a late lunch in Bethlehem at Alando’s Cuisine, a Kenyan restaurant. Then, we went to the famous Vegan Treats bakery for a little dessert for the road. All in all, it was a wonderful family adventure.


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