Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do Great Things This Winter

It's a nice idea isn't it? Do great things this winter sounds like a lot of fun. Only problem is- I sort of dislike winter. I think this mainly stems from not skiing while living in prime ski country. Sure I do my fair share of winter hiking, snowshoeing, and a little cross country skiing, but it's not really enough to keep me same.

So this winter I'm making plans to actually have more outdoor fun starting with these to-do's:

Hike a little 21 mile trail in one day

I actually already hiked this trail from beginning to end several years ago, but I cheated a little (I'm not telling where!). I've always felt a little guilty about claiming this feat to my records- so I'm planning a redo in January/February. It's much easier to hike the trail in the winter, because all the rocks are covered in snow allowing you to just slide down sections.

Hike up three mountains and then sled down them

The past few years Adam and I (and Misty!) have taken to hiking mountains with access roads and then sledding down them. It's wicked fun, but I think it's time we expanded our current list of haunts into newer mountains.

Enter a snowshoe race

I'm not sure why I've added this to my list since I don't really consider myself much of a runner, it just seems like fun.

Try biking in the snow

It's really ridiculous isn't it? I've never really mountain biked in the snow before. Once or twice I've tooled around someone's driveway, but never really spun through the woods on an actual trail in the winter.

What's your plans? How will you stay sane this winter?

Why I’ve Gone Wooly

I’ve recently gone to the wooly side of things. If you haven’t noticed- more and more companies have been making wool outdoor clothing. So what’s with wool you ask? Let me start this wool series with why I’ve gone wool. Later this week I’ll feature some of the wool’s more technical characteristics.

My first wooly

I first started going wooly while I was working at an outdoor retailer about six years ago. My boss constantly touted how nice Smartwool socks felt and handed out free pairs left and right. Finally I was able to land a pair and I’ve gone back. They were perfect for someone with admittedly sweaty feet. Do you know how nice a fresh pair of socks feels midday? That’s how Smartwool socks feels all day long. Never mind the fact that they are wonderful at reducing blisters while hiking. (I also really like Darn Tough socks for winter hiking.)

Camping Socks

It lasts longer

I started adding more wool to my outdoor clothing wardrobe more recently. I started to get fed up with shirts that started to smell bad after only a few months of wear. I don’t want to fork over a lot of money for a shirt that has to be chucked after such a short bit of time. Many clothing manufacturer’s like Ibex, Icebreaker, and Smartwool have focused on doing wool apparel really well and it’s worth the spend.

So now you’ve learned several important things about me:

I like wool clothing.
I have smelly feet
Some of my shirts smell.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Not About the Gear

We've all fallen into the "gear trap" before. Thinking about how if you just had that titanium accessory, that ultra-light wheel set, those new cycling shoes you would be that much better of a mountain biker. The gear trap is going on a hike or backpacking and thinking it would be a better hike if you just had that fancy backpack with those fancy strap do-hickey’s and that sweet soft shell.

I’ll admit to falling into the gear trap myself. I worked for a local outdoor retailer and stocked up much more than my fair share of pro-deals. I managed to acquire three soft shells, three top-of-the-line rain jackets, and four- yes- four pairs of hiking boots in less than six months. That’s a jacket a month!

Skipping Rocks

When I switched jobs I also had to kill off my crazy gear habit. I felt like I barely escaped a full blown cocaine habit. I had some new gear withdrawals, some pains when I saw the newer soft shells and the newer ultra-light technology.
But… having lived the outdoor life on both sides of the track I have to say it as honestly and as nakedly as possible. It’s not about the gear.

It’s not about the mountain bike

It’s not about the sweet frame. It’s not about the snazzy pink grips, the lightest pedals, the sleekest wheels. When I first started riding it was on a rigid frame two sizes too big and probably weighed close to 50 pounds. My next bike had front suspension and clipless pedals- and I thought I had hit the big time. Since then I’ve made some small upgrades here and there, but have essentially been riding the same type of bike- low/ low-mid range mountain bike for over ten years.

And you know what? I have no problem keeping up on group rides. I regularly pass the guys on $3000 bikes while racing. Now if a girl on a $500-$600 bike can pass a guy on a $3000 bike – then it’s not about the bike.

It’s about riding nearly every day. It’s about riding in the rain. It’s about riding when it’s muddy because who cares if my bike gets filthy-right?

It’s not about the gear

Okay- this might blurb may be a bit controversial to some but here goes. I used to spend a lot of time thinking that I needed crampons and the best snowshoes in order to go winter hiking. I saved and I saved and I put off hikes because I didn’t have the gear. Now I have crampons and snowshoes (the fancy steep grade ones) and you know what? I hardly use them! I hike in the winter all the time, mainly on mid-moderate sized peaks in the Whites (think winter hiking in the Moats vs. Mt Washington) and there’s one thing I always bring with me. It’s not snowshoes or crampons (which I use maybe 3-5 times a year) it’s those cheap $20 Yaktrack things.

It’s not the size of your boat

I worked with a fellow gear junkie who I would call a kayak expert. He schooled me on the merits of fiber glass vs. plastic, nose shape and cockpit size. By the end of my tenure with him I was really convinced that I needed an ultra-light composite kayak and it would cost me around $3300.

Without a pro deal I had to budget and save and do my own research on kayaks under $1000. I ended up with the Calypso kayak and you know what? I take that thing everywhere- local lakes, rivers, wetlands. The green pickle is always roof side during the summer months. Sure I can’t take it out on the open ocean, but it’s much more realistic for me to throw it on my car and take it to the lake down the street.

It’s not about the kayak. It’s really about getting on the water and tooling around. It’s not fretting when you scratch over some unseen submerged rocks. It’s about the freedom of your own little boat.

It's just not about the gear

You’ll still see the occasional gear review on my blog- mainly because women need a reputable source for female specific gear reviews. But I want to make it known that for me; it’s not about the gear. I find it more refreshing to ride with a fellow biker who took her grips off her last bike because they felt better- not because they were the newest thing. Someone who’s discovered some vintage LL Bean polypropylene shirts that still cut it on winter hikes.

There will always be something about a soft shell with an elbow patch and sleeping bag bungeed to a pack that makes me smile.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Still Soaking

I'm still soaking. It's not from the incredibly wet summer we had, but rather I am still soaking in this last little jaunt with warm weather. The temperature is, let's see... about 56 degrees (okay I didn't guess that. I got it off the local weather channel) and I am ready for another weekend hike.

Skipping Rocks

Last weekend we hiked about two local mountains for an easy four mile round trip hike. That's me in short sleeves---- in November! Misty also got to spend a lot of time off leash since the hiking season for all the tourists has ended. That is the really good thing about New Hampshire. If you don't mind severe weather and some rugged conditions, the hiking only gets better in the fall and winter.

Nuggets on Morgan Hike

Morgan Hike

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mountain Girl Decor

Hope you don't mind if we take a step inside today. I thought that I would show off some of my Mountain Girl Decor. I love going to thrift stores and yard sales and have many collections. Here is a favorite collection, my vintage outdoor field guides.

The Guides

It really strikes me as funny that the name of one of those guides is Fishes.

The Guides

Here are some more guides including Guide to Animal Tracks (this one is very cool, I need to post some pages from it) and several bird guides. I really need a good guide for trees maybe even just trees from the Northeast.

Oh yes, in case you are wondering those are plastic animals. Yes, plastic animals under a cake stand.

The Guides

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall May Be the Best Biking Season

Fall may be the best biking season because...

Trail Leaf

No Bugs

This needs to be addresses first because it is the most important quality about Fall. With the warm weather of summer comes the swarms of little buzzers biting at your legs as you try to perform the quickest flat tire fix of your life. Luckily those buzzers are long gone come Fall and you don't even have to deal with them. Nope. You don't have to preplan your stop breaks to be super efficient because of the ensuing onslaught. You can stop when you want. Have a snack. Check out that strange rock formation you've remarked about all summer.

Bike on Fall Trail

Perfect Temperature

Gone are the long hazy humid days of summer. Welcome are the temps in the 70s with a pleasant warming sun. Perfect.

The Fall Outfit Next to the Work Shoes

Not too few layers. Not too many layers. Just the right amount of layers. Only in Fall.

Dry Trails

New England riding has many great features- rock gardens, massive flocks of roots, and tight windy trails. Those same wonderful features become your nemesis when you add moisture. Considering this summer was like the wettest in history (or close to) I'm pretty sick of wet trails. I'll gladly take what Fall gives me.

New Rear Brakes

Dogs are Always Welcome

Another reason I dig Fall is because dogs are always welcome along. There's no worrying they'll overheating. There's no trying to keep the bugs off them (ha! you say- what foolishness is this? I swear the bugs were so thick this summer that Misty would regularly be accosted by swarms of 500 at any given moment). Also, it's a lot easier to grab a bite to eat afterwards since they can relax in your car and you don't have to worry about it being too hot.

Where is the trail?

I call this game- Where is the Trail? I play it frequently when I am out mountain biking or hiking in the fall. One second you have the trail, the next second you aren't quite sure which direction to go in. It gets even more fun to play at night with a headlamp.

Leaf Covered Trail

Oh, I think it is there by that tree.

Where is the Trail?

Where is the Trail?

Okay, not that tree. Maybe over there.

Where is the Trail?

Hmm... still looking...

Where is the Trail?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Biking in Warm Weather

Biking in warm weather, after several weeks of a frozen face and a drippy nose, is like jumping into the hot tub after swimming in the lap pool. It's completely shocking, but in a really great way.

We're having an unseasonal stretch of weather these days in New England. The temperature is in the 60's, the wind is surprisingly calm, and I am thinking that I could bike until February if this keeps up. Even my legs feel stronger, if only because they are warm enough to have blood circulating in them (ha!).

The bike beckoning

I know it can't last though. This last little summer like romp. They're predicting seasonal temps by the end of the week and I expect there will be a consistent and cold headwind along with that weather.

Until then, I'll be hot tubbing in New Hampshire.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Rock Chair Garden

We went out for a quick two mile jaunt with Misty this weekend and stumbled upon another rock chair garden. You may remember that on our Fourth of July hike we also found some rock chairs. These newer ones are a bit smaller than those. Pint sized really. Maybe they were really made by gnomes...

Rock Garden

Baby Rock Chair

Rock Chairs

Rock Chairs

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Slippery Hike

I guess that I've forgotten what three inches of leaves feels like under foot. Pretty slippery- in case you didn't know. Add a steep slope, some granite beneath your boots and you're in for a rip-roaring time.

Leaves Under Foot

Slippery hikes aren't as bad as they sound. In fact, they are pretty darn funny. You'll be hiking along, being all serious and stuff and then- whump-- you slip backwards, fling your arms all around. Maybe you fall to one knee and then pop back up again- just like nothing ever happened and you randomly fling yourself around like a crazy person everyday.

She Knows the Way