Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Okay, so it's a little early, but nonetheless.

Just one more paper to finish and one more test, then I'll be headed home. I haven't seen the valley since early September, so I'm looking forward to it

Ham and potatoes, working out trip details with Alex, all the good stuff.

And climbing too. They say there is a little snow at home, we'll see. I've climbed in worse/stupider conditions.

Binghamton has seen its fair share of snow, at least some every day for the last two weeks. When I talk with people from Avon, a little town a few miles south of Rochester in Western NY, they all sympathize with me about how cold it must be in Binghamton. When someone from Avon feels bad about how cold it will be somewhere, that's not a good sign.

The temperatures are actually not bad, what I would put into the pleasant category, about 20 degrees. Howeer, the wind is pretty brutal, especially on campus. BU sits on a hill, tucked into the center of a horseshoe-shaped ridge that funnels all the wind through. Walking across the quad can be pretty miserable.

But it hasn't stopped me from wearing flipflops.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Thanks for all the birthday wishes, and for the crown. I wear it proudly.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Miss Climbing

(Stover, late winter. Below the crux of Neanderthal 5.8)
I'm sitting in my room, watching the snow fall, putting off a paper, and wishing that I was climbing. I haven't gone since July, an incredibly long time. The little slab work I did in October only made me want more. Binghamton has a lot of great places, but they are severely deficient in crags. I'd even take (gasp) indoor climbing at this point.

This Thanksgiving, I'm going to need to hit Ralph Stover. Saturday for sure, maybe even Sunday morning before I head back.


I heard that one of the crux holds on Neanderthal broke. Obviously, for Stover, this is nothing new. The joke is, Stover is the most dynamic crag in the northeast, because the climbs change so frequently.

That said, if the new Neanderthal is way hard, I'm going to be upset. That was to be a summer problem.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

St. Regis - May 2008

Trip Report for Spring Fishing Trip to St. Regis Pond - Adirondacks, NY

This was the first week of May, 2008. Just a week earlier, I had been hard at work on a campaign for the Pennsylvania primary, working as a field organizer in the southern portion of Lehigh County. At over 100 hours a week, the job had almost killed me, and I needed the trip, the silence, the fresh air badly.

We headed up early, stopping at Saranac Lake for sandwiches and a fishing license. We made it to Little Clear by around 1, unloaded quickly, and started off. I was in the stern of the
Eagle with my brother, Zack, paddling bow. With us was my father, in the Companion. The wind on Little Clear was non-existent, the first time I had ever been on the pond without wind in the face. We zipped along to the portage, which had been recently cleared and was in great shape. Dad and I hossed the canoes and the packs, and Zack took the food. The portage was as pleasant as a walk through the woods with a canoe "hat" could be.

The paddle into Saint Regis was very nice, and soon we were searching for a camp site. The lean-to was taken (I think the same group lives there year round). Our usual site on the right side of the lake directly opposite the lean-to was also taken. In the end, we decided to stay on a different section of the pond, on the northern shore across from the lean-to. The site was big and open, and had a great rock landing, with deep, deep water. It was a great site.

I pitched the tent as Dad strung up a tarp. As Zack gathered firewood, I put my rod together and shoved off in the
Companion. I cast against the north shore, far away from where I had fished on previous trips. Almost immediately, I was rewarded. I landed a nice splake, about 17 inches or so. I released it and started fishing again. A minute later, a strike, and another splake. It was a little smaller, but still a nice fish.

(One of the fish)

Dad got his line in the water and caught a splake as well. This was the first site we had stayed that had good fishing from the site. Usually, we had to paddle out to one of the "spots".

After the fishing cooled off, Zack and I headed to the other end of the pond to chase loons, a la Gus in Lonesome Dove. Zack wasn't as game as I, probably because he didn't have a coat and it was rather chilly, but we managed to track two and snap a few pics before heading back.
(Loon chasing; cuz pretty soon, there won't be any loons left to chase!)
(A cold, cloudy spring sunset)

The next day, I added another splake to my total, and Dad put up one as well, a beautiful splake that we would keep to supplement dinner.

Later that afternoon, Dad and I paddled down to the fish barrier on the west end of the pond. We scoped out the portage that goes to Fish Pond, deciding to come back the next day.

When we got back to camp, we checked out the land around the camp site. The forest was thick, and there was some great erratics, including this, the bastard love child of a tree and a boulder.
(Geology gone horribly wrong)
In all the tramping around, I lost my brand new sunglasses, a pair of Easton wraparounds that I had bought just for the trip. I wear contacts when I'm tripping, and without sunglasses, my eyes dry very quickly. But I think it was the wasted 25 bucks that stung more. Lesson learned, don't put the sunglasses on top of a wide brimmed hat. You don't feel them fall off.

That night, we dined on the fish. With a little butter, salt, and pepper, it was great.
The next day, we hiked down to Fish Pond, meeting a pair of portage cleaners on the way. We stayed at Fish for a few minutes, but without a boat we grew bored and headed back. Once back on St. Regis, we opted to paddle down the St. Regis River into Ochre Pond. It was a bit of an adventure, as none of us had ever tried it before. A few beaver dam-pullovers later, we made it to Ochre, before heading back. It was tiring and I got a little wet hauling the boat over obstructions, but all in all it was quite fun.
("Portage" to Fish)
Back at camp, Dad snagged two more fish, including a beautiful laker. Zack got skunked, unfortunately, but Dad and I had the best fishing either of us had ever had. It was extremely cold and windy, as weather was beginning to move in. Dad and I stayed up for a while, watching the last fire of the trip burn down into coals before heading to the bags.
(Dad's Laker)
The next day, it was wet and misty, but the rain had stopped before dawn. We broke camp and headed towards the portage. Little Clear was engulfed in fog and mist, but again the wind was minimal. We raced for the put in, chased by grey clouds to the north. We made it back to the car and tied the boats down in record time. I snapped a picture of Little Clear just as the clouds opened and the rain started.
(Little Clear, seconds before the rain)
A great trip.


We stopped at the Adirondack Loj and then the Mountaineer on the way out of town. Both were very cool, and reaffirmed my wish to tramp about in the High Peaks soon.

Losing my sunglasses sucked. I need to be more careful. On a long trip, that could have been a problem.

The fishing was great, and it was nice to see a part of the lake we had never seen before.

Overboots are okay for getting in and out of a boat at portages, but if there is any wading to be done, like going over a beaver dam, water tends to seep in. In the future, I want a water shoe, one I can wear without socks and that dries fast. Salomon Techamphibians?

It's time to go to Fish Pond and explore a bit.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chipmunk Video

Yes, the fabled chipmunk video. No animals were harmed. Enjoy!

Trip Proposals!

Winter in the northeast severely limits my adventuring, especially since my winter sports are limited to sledding and snow ball fights. But the winter does lend itself to trip planning.

Right now, I have two Algonquin trips going. The secondary trip is for late May, after classes end. It will be "the" loop, from Cedar to Catfish to Burntroot to Cedar, by the Petawawa and the Nipissing Rivers. My plan is to leave off Hogan in the hopes of spending an extra night at Burntroot, and maybe another extra day on Catfish. Maybe even reversing the direction, so we are with he current on the Petawawa.

This time, I want to take some time to fish and to check out the historical sites on Catfish and Burntroot.

But the BIG trip!

This is for late August, a week or two before school starts (if I'm still a student)

It would be my first lead, as this time it would be just me and my friend. I want to do a loop from Kiosk, going down Mink to Club the first night, up Erables to Maple the second night, over to Three Mile, down to Biggar, and over to North Tea the third night, a rest day, and then to Manitou the fifth night before heading back to Kiosk. We'd probably spend that sixth night in North Bay, before heading home through Buffalo (a true loop).

Right now my worries lie in the third day. Maple to Three Mile to Biggar to North Tea is a HAUL. It's about 15 miles, with almost 6km of carries. I have two contingencies planned. If we reach Three Mile and we are tired/late/fed up, we can portage 2800 meters downhill (like that would matter on a 2800 meter portage) to Manitou. And, once we reach Biggar, there are sites all the way to the East Arm of North Tea. But I really want to get to an island site on the East Arm, so that we can have a true rest day.

As for fishing, I've heard Club, Erables, Biggar, North Tea, and Manitou as likely spots for specks, lakers, and smallmouth. It would be great to catch anything, and maybe, if we are lucky, I can introduce Algonquin properly, with some fish dinner.

Lots of time left to plan. I can't secure the permit until February, so I'm sure there will be minor changes. But man, planning is fun.

(The Kiosk Route: I'll draw it out when I can. It looks like the bottom half of a capital "A")

Climbing Ethics: The Krakauer Method

OK, rant time.

Not really, but I do want to point out something I see often, and in my opinion, too often.

For some reason, hiking does not get the same respect for turn around times that mountaineering does. Obviously, mountaineering is much more dangerous, and hiking is usually done on established, often heavily trafficked trails.

But I question those that push the envelope and summit late in the day. I've seen it at the Delaware Water Gap, in the Adirondacks, even at Haycock. (For those of you that don't know Haycock, it's less than 1000 feet tall, but has no trail, and is a boulder field-summit.)

In Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer writes extensively of the two o'clock turn around time on Everest. During the 1996 storm, those that turned around before two where relatively safe, reaching Camp 4 ahead of the storm. Those that pushed on and summited at 3 or even 4 got stuck in the gale. Some made it through, some died. Krakauer points out that all would have lived if everyone turned around when they were supposed to.

I'm not equating any of my summits with Everest, but when I climb, I climb with a turn around time. I think that I could survive a night in the woods, but there are two reasons I make sure that I do not.

1) I don't want anyone to worry.

2) I never want to make someone look for me in the woods.

In my opinion, if you are pushing to the point that S&R is called, I think that that is a problem.

It is what it is and I doubt it will change. Just climb smart. Remember Ed Viesturs:

"Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory."

Bog River & Cascade Mountain Oct. 2008

A quick trip log of a three day trip to the Bog River Area and Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks.

Dad and Zack picked me up outside my dorm at 10AM, way too early. The whole college thing is very tiring.

We cruised along 86, and then turned north on 87, my favorite highway in the world. after about four hours, we reached the Bog River put in, ahead of schedule but down sandwiches for that night's dinner.

After a quick discussion, Dad elected to drive into Tupper Lake and scrounge some, while Zack and I would grab a site and set up camp. We quickly unloaded the car and shoved off, cognizant of the dwindling daylight.

With Zack in the bow and myself in the stern of the Eagle, we figured it would take about 30 minutes to reach Hitchens Pond. The wind had other ideas.

Now, I have paddled in wind before, and have come to accept it as part of the tripping experience. On lakes. Not on rivers, and certainly not on the Bog. But the wind was incredible. It was right down the initial stretch, blasting towards Lower Dam. It took over 30 minutes to get out of sight of the parking lot. On a normal day, that takes fifteen minutes, tops. The wind continued to push us around, and I found myself prying and drawing a lot more than paddling forward. After almost an hour and a half, we reached Hitchens. Our favorite two sites were taken, so we grabbed the site directly across the pond from the Bog River outflow. It was a little buggy, and had been recently "manicured" with a chain saw, but it would do.

Zack pitched the tent, while I hung the tarp and cut logs for firewood. An hour passed. At 4:30,just as I was beginning to wonder if this had been some elaborate plan by Dad to test us by abandoning us for the night, he pulled into Hitchens. As I found out, his lateness had been in no way intended; he had been crucified by the wind.

After meatball subs, a good fire, and some satellite spotting, we headed to the bags.

The next morning, after oatmeal, we paddled over to Upper Dam for our annual slab climb. This year, I specifically requested my Mad Rocks, intent on working on some slab technique.

The trail to the top of the outlook has changed incredibly since my first bushwhack ascent, some ten years before. The trail was remarkably moderate, and after only 30 minutes, we reached the top. One can see all the way to the Lower Dam and Horseshoe Lake to the east, and Lowe's Lake to the west. In fall, the colors are vibrant, golds, yellows, oranges, greens, and reds abound.
(summit pic, note the bare feet. Rock shoes hurt!)
I scaled up and down the face a few times; the shoes make it so easy, it's truly incredible. After descending down the face, we bushwhacked to the trail head, where we met the ranger. We caught up for a bit, her son would be attending the Environmental Science SUNY school next year. Afterward, we headed into the marsh on the other side of the pond, trying to re-find my route to the railroad tracks I had discovered some four years before. The water was high enough to let us go deep into the marsh, but so high that it had washed out any land routes. We returned unsuccessful.

That night we decided to head out the next morning to climb Cascade on Saturday afternoon, rather than Sunday morning, which would get everyone home six hours early. It was a good decision, and that night, I drifted off to sleep trying to put away any thoughts of a possible first 46er summit.

A much quicker paddle through incredibly thick mist got us to the put in very early. We drove up to Saranac Lake, then to Lake Placid, and then to Keene, to my favorite store, the Mountaineer. After buying a water bag (ours had finally quit), some Clif bars, and a few tips, we headed back to the trail head for Cascade.
(paddling through the mist)
I had emboldened Dad (and myself) be repeating that Cascade was the "easiest" of the 46ers. But as we got closer and closer to the trail head, I noticed a distinctive bald rock top on a peak in the distance, towering at what seemed like Leviathan heights

"Yup, that's it."

We headed up the trail, which was full of people and ranged from pleasantly moderate to calf-bustingly steep. A few stops and an hour's climb brought us to a bald face, where a few dozen people were making lunch. My altimeter was FUBAR, telling me that I was at 3200 feet. We reached the junction for Porter, and finally broke through the trees to the rocky summit. It took a second of puzzle-work to find the right "line" to the summit, but only two hours after starting, we stood at the USGS marker.

The summit was incredibly crowded, and increasingly cold. After ten minutes for power bars, water, and some pictures, we headed back down.

As we passed what I deemed the halfway point, it was around 4:30 PM. It was then that I noticed there were still people ascending. We met a beleaguered family with overnight gear, the mother and young children exhausted. But at least they had shelter. We met many people who were heading to the top with nothing more than a fanny pack.

I found myself at a common dilemma. I find it hard to assertively tell someone they are making a mistake. I have found that for 99 out of 100 people would be fine, and 100 out of 100 won't listen.

But it is stupid and incredibly dangerous to be ascending that late. It takes four hours to summit and descend Cascade. There were only three hours of daylight left. I understand that Cascade is not Everest, but it still deserves respect. These people were running a huge risk of descending a steep, rock and root-strewn trail in total darkness.

We reached the trail head at 5:30. As I stopped to fill out a survey for some UofVermont students, I talked with someone about the late hikers. Just as we spoke, a couple headed up the trail. They would be lucky to summit in daylight.

But back to the fun.

We headed back to Lake Placid, having secured a tent pad along the Heart Lake access road. After shakes at Ben & Jerry's, and then headed to a bar to watch the Sox. Not the usual trip, but a great change of pace and lots of fun.

The food was so-so and a little expensive, but worst of all, the Sox lost in extra innings. Tito needed to pull Beckett earlier, and I don't know why Timlin is allowed to pitch, but that is for a different post.

The next morning, after breakfast in Keene, we headed home. I was dog-tired from the climb, but the short trip left me wanting more.

There will be more posts to come of my two trips to Algonquin, planned for summer 2009.

First Post

Well, this is my first post.

I'll probably upload a few trip logs and pictures in the next day or two. I have an article out in this month's Prospect Magazine; I'll be posting the link when it becomes available.

Hopefully I'll be able to put up some interesting information.

Note: I am posting personal thoughts, musings, and short descriptions of my adventures. Firstly, all postings, unless specifically noted, are the content and property of the author.

Secondly, and most importantly, I am posting my trip logs and other records for their entertainment value only. Under no circumstances, in no manner whatsoever, do I guarantee the accuracy of my postings. I accept no responsibility for the safety and/or welfare of anyone who reads my posts and/or adventures.

The outdoors is a beautiful, awe-inspiring, wondrous place. It is at times, however, an incredibly dangerous place. I myself screw up routinely, and have come way too close to killing myself a handful of times. I recount my successes and my mistakes so that you can learn from them, but in no way do I advise, encourage, or advocate doing what I do.

In the end, it is you and you alone that is responsible for your safety and well being. I wish everyone the best of luck, and I hope to see you in my adventures.