I've determine that getting away at least once during the winter is essential. Even if it is to somewhere colder than where you are.
In celebration of my "week off" (which hasn't turned into much of a week off at all), we headed up to New Hampshire for an overnight. This year, as promised after last year's overnight in an unheated hut, we stayed in a B&B with a jacuzzi, and only ventured out onto the frozen trails during the day.
Initially, I wanted to take Matt on the hike up to Carter Notch, where I stayed overnight last year. It is a beautiful place. But, I've learned over the many years of planning our hiking adventures, that plan B, and sometimes a plan C, helps to prevent my major disappointment when things inevitably do not go as planned. The hut hike was almost 8 miles roundtrip, so we needed to get to the trailhead early. But when we were out the door an hour later than hoped on Sunday morning, and the drive took an hour longer than expected, we both agreed it was time for plan B.
Instread, we took a 3 mile round trip hike up to Champney Falls, on Mount Chocorua. The hike was perfect. Just long enough for a first day out on the trail. Not too steep. And our destination was well worth the effort.
And of course the husky mutt loved being outside in the snow and ice.
She really wanted to climb up that ice wall, just like the ice climbers who vacated the ravine as we arrived. For a little comic relief, Matt offered some support for her decent. She didn't get the joke.
Later this week, a few more pictures from our hike the next day!
When I heard it was going to be in the single digits this weekend, my plan was to post pictures of the beaches of Puerto Rico for this week's Nature Photo Monday. I couldn't take it anymore. We seem to have gotten a couple more feet of snow this weekend. Me, even me, the one trampsing around in the snowy woods every weekend was so - over - it.
We got a fresh batch of snow last night, so I decided to pull the snowshoes out of the storage locker and make use of them. Following our Sunday tradition, Kaia and I headed to the woods.
After strapping on the snowshoes, I got a good workout while Kaia pulled me up a hill. When we reached the top, I took a round of photos then promptly deleted them. On accident, of course. I was trying to change the file size so I could take more photos, but instead clicked "Ok" to "Format" and was greeted by a "No Photo" message on my camera screen. Sigh. A little lesson on letting go. We were having too much fun to dwell on my loss too long.
We found ourselves an outlook and sat down for a rest. Apparently Kaia likes checking out the view as much as I do.
I don't think she was contemplating the beauty of nature. I'm pretty sure she was looking for something to hunt.
I called her name to get a better shot. She likes burying her entire face in snow piles, trying to sniff out mice or anything else tasty, so for most of our hike she was sporting a snow mustache.
*Did you really break my concentration just to take another dang photo of me!?*
Okay then. She's such a teenager right now.
Back to the view. I have to deliver at least one nature photo without the dog! All winter I've been looking forward to climbing a hill to catch a view of the trees all dressed up in snow.
*Uh oh, I hear someone coming!*
Far before I heard anything, she sensed a pair of snowshoe-ers headed down the hill. That was our cue to head back down too.
As we were leaving the reserve, a cross-country skier slide by us on his way down a different hill. I was jealous. I want to train Kaia to skijor. Skijoring is a sport where dogs pull people on cross-country skis, although I learned just this weekend that skijoring is also done with horses! Now that sounds dangerous. Interestingly, equestrian skijoring was a demonstration sport in the 1928 Olympics.
The major roadblock, besides Kaia's limited attention span, is that I've only cross-country skiied a few times. Before I train her, I need to train myself! So my next winter challenge is to practice skiing, so that maybe next year we can ditch the snowshoes and glide through the snowy woods in style. It might be a pipe dream because she definitely hasn't been the easiest dog to train, but it's always worth dreaming.
I've been feeling quite low about winter this year, what with the regular snowfall and the subzero windchill and the muddy-salty roads not fit for puppy's paws.
All I had to do was head to the woods behind the ice rink down the road to rediscover that winter is magical. Once I was moving, I was not cold anymore. I planned to stay for half an hour, but I stretched the hike to an hour, just past nightfall. I think I heard two types of owls out in those woods.
As I was taking photos and editing them, I kept thinking that there can be such a fine line between a black and white and a color photo when snow and ice are the subject.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving we went together to the Middlesex Fells Reservation, just north of Boston, for an hour-long hike in the 20 degree weather. Upon arrival, we were surprised that a whole pond was already frozen over. With no snow yet here in Boston, and leaves still on the ground, the seemly sudden appearance of so much ice reminded us that fall is over and winter is upon us.
These photos, taken mid-day when the sun was high in the sky, are a little washed out for my taste. Still they capture a moment in time, when fall first made its exit, and winter, its entrance.
Along the trail, there were patches of ground that froze very quickly, creating these beautiful ice crystals that reminded us of glaciers in miniature.
There are miles of trails to explore in the Fells, and last time I came with a friend a couple years ago, we hiked completely different territory. Because no maps were available, we got lost in a crisscrossed maze of trails that circled several ponds. We found our way to a main road and hiked back to our car. This time, Matt took the lead and we stayed on the well-marked Skyline Trail.
The Fells to the north and the Blue Hills to the south are oases just outside the city. I am so glad people had the foresight to preserve these lands for our enjoyment and escape. Scrambling up these rocky trails is one of my favorite things about living in the Boston area, and make urban living all the more bearable.
First off, happy birthday mom (aka grandma)!
Matt's been sick with a cold, so Kaia and I have been spending a couple hours a day outside together so he can have a little quiet and get some much needed sleep. Saturday around 4:00 we headed over to Houghton's Pond in the Blue Hills for a hike and a swim. A swim for her, not for me, mind you.
I love being out during the "magic hour" when the sun is starting to make its way to the horizon.
I noticed on the drive over that the forest canopy is now copper and evergreen. Gone is the variation from light yellow to deep red. But when you enter the woods, there are still many colors - gold, peach, brilliant orange, and crimson.
After a hike through the woods, we headed over to the pond. In the summer we came here to lay in the sun and take Kaia for one of her first swims.
Kaia rushed right into the water, as if it were a blazing hot day.
When I got home, this photo was a total surprise. It came out of the camera just like this. Darkness was setting in.
Before we left, Kaia took a roll in the sand. Afterward, she smelled like fish, just in time for us to head to the car.
Summer may be long gone, but with days like this, I'm not complaining.
And sorry to end on a down note, but I woke up very early Sunday morning, as Kaia was not informed about daylight savings time, with a tick stuck to my belly. It hurt. It still hurts. From what I've read, it's not likely I'll develop lyme disease because it was on less than 24 hours. But still, I'll be watching the spot over the next couple days. So, do what I didn't do when you go into the woods, and you definitely should be out in the woods right now with all this beauty around - change your clothes when you get home and look for ticks. And keep checking if you have a dog in the house!
During a botched attempt to go to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (no dogs allowed) yesterday, I had a moment of inspiration.
Why not prompt myself to share some nature photos every Monday. That way I have no excuse but to get outside every weekend with the camera. I need it, the dog needs it. We'll all be a happier lot.
I got some decent shots right in the parking lot, so imagine what will happen if I get off the main road. I'm going to keep the narrative short, so just enjoy!
I keep thinking over and over that it's been a quiet month. Quiet despite the chaos that was 3 very full days of packing up our apartment and finding another place to live for a couple weeks while our apartment was being renovated.
I found that the only things I really struggled to leave behind were my three cherry tomato plants. About 30 cherry tomatos were on the verge of ripeness. Broke my heart to say goodbye after watching and wondering all summer if they would bear fruit.
A neighbor offered to babysit all of my herbs and my tomatoes. Hopefully she's eating well.
After packing up, we hit the road. Originally we were going to stay in Massachusetts, but at the last minute we ditched that plan and headed home. Our road-leery pup seems to have adjusted to car trips, and knows the command "in the car".
We're starting to think she might sort of like car trips now.
Somehow this packing up and leaving town process helped strip away our usual routine. It was replaced with a slower routine in Michigan. Usually we're running around trying to squeeze in visits with everyone we know, but this time we didn't have time to fill up our schedule with lots of pre-arranged visits. Only one major get-together to celebrate 30th birthdays and an engagement. The four of us haven't been together since my wedding 7 years ago.
It's undeniable, life is just slower here. And quiet. Did I mention the quiet?
Lots of walks in new places. Trying to avoid another round of poison ivy this summer.
But mainly enjoying the pace of the Midwest. I'm glad this is where I was raised, saddled on all sides by fields, water, woods, and simple pleasures.
Tomorrow we head back to our other home on the first coast. Hopefully we can take an ounce of the slow life with us, to carry us through.