Friday, June 29, 2007


We went for a long hike yesterday -- 8.5 hours on the trail, up-up-up-up-up and then of course what goes up must come down... 
I took a lot of pictures but my camera was acting funny. Sometimes the shutter button wouldn't click. Sometimes the display screen read, "No CF Card." Then it would start working again.
Today a friend asked me to take pictures of his car for sale. Camera acted funny again. When I went to show him the pictures, again it said, "No CF Card." I opened it up and.... no CF card. Empty. Like I'd forgotten to put film in a film camera. I said, "That's weird. It was saying that yesterday and I thought the card was just not in straight or something, because it was working... it's not supposed to work if there's no card in it." And then I remembered... it wasn't working right. Sometimes the shutter button wouldn't click.
And here I am a supposed advanced photographer who knows her way around a camera.
So all those pictures I took yesterday remain in my head. And to think I did all that hiking with my heavy digital SLR swinging from my neck; I kept knocking it with my trekking poles, tossing it over my back to get it out of the way, knocking the lens cap off. It made the trip harder. And no memory card in it.
Kind of like my head. No memory card in it.
I was thinking, as we hiked; I saw a stone with a large smooth section of mica and thought, "You can see yourself in it." And then, as we continued through the forest, I saw that that was true of everything on the trail. The different ecosystems you pass through as you journey up and back down; the way the organisms co-exist,  subsist, cooperate, resist. You can see yourself in it.
I can see myself in it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Well, I guess I should call it a Coke-can stove, but the established nomenclature is Pepsi-Can Stove, or, more generically, beverage-can stove. It's made from the bottoms of 2 Coke cans: one for the top section, one for the bottom section, and a strip is cut from the wall of a third can, to make the inner cylinder. Fuel (denatured alcohol) is poured into the center, runs into the outer chamber between the inner cylinder and the wall of the stove, and sends a lovely hot blue flame out the holes.
I made it! By myself! With the instructions from this site, after finding that this hiker had one that he made. It fascinated me right away and I knew right off that I wanted one. To make one myself. I will feel even better about my AT endeavor, the more of my gear I make or improvise myself. I'll also be more likely to be able to do it at all. The hiker who introduced me to this little stove is in Pennsylvania now, and afraid he will not be able to finish the Trail due to running out of money. Click on the "this hiker" link, above, to read his story. Then go here to read his wife's version as she supports him from home.
Here's the stove set up with lightweight tent stakes as the pot support. Anything that can do double duty is good.
Here's the pot set up on it. When I'm hiking I'll want a much lighter pot, but this was what I had.
Then after I lit it, I wrapped a piece of aluminum foil around the whole system for a windscreen.
Wow! With 2 ounces (60mL) of denatured alcohol, it burned for half an hour. A pint (120mL) of water in the pan boiled in 7 minutes. I could easily cook pasta on this! It would probably have boiled sooner if I'd set the tent stakes lower so the pot was closer to the fire.
I love it!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It occurs to me that this title will turn up on the Internet if anyone Googles "White Ledge Trail" to see if they want to hike it, so I'm making this somewhat informational for them, and hopefully entertaining for my friends.

The trail starts at White Ledge Campground off Rte. 16, in the White Mountain National Forest. When I got out of the truck in the park, I didn't see anything resembling a trail, so I just took off walking up the paved road in the campground and before long I stumbled on it, next to a sign that said "Parking for campground patrons only." A good citizen, I had parked in the "non-camping" spaces, next to the bathroom (which was good as outhouses go, but not as classy as a real chemical or composting toilet.)

This is fairly early in the trail, after an encouraging start (flat, carpeted with pine needles); it starts up gently after a quarter mile or so (estimated) and continues to do so less and less gently up to the summit, an overall 1,450 feet over 2.7 miles to the summit. The entire loop is 4.4 miles, mostly forested except for the half-mile or so (again, estimated) on the ledge (it's more of a bald, not really a ledge) approaching and leaving the top.

The trial is marked with yellow blazes (it's a White Mountains National Forest trail, not an AT trail, which would have been marked with white.) Although you can't see it in the picture, there actually is a yellow blaze at the top of this rocky path, which otherwise has possibilities for going astray.

As does this one. The bare rock path was a little slippery -- it had rained last night. I was glad for my rubber-tipped trekking poles.

It was also quite hot on the rocks in the sun, towards the summit. Here's Journey with her tongue dragging the ground. She went with me, to defend me against marauders of whatever species. She was much more surefooted than I on the rocky parts. This spot was the first open mountain view after emerging from the woods.

Cairns like this marked turns, since the blazes painted on the rocks might be easily missed, sending you off into the wild blue yonder. Turn here...

And again up ahead at that next one. The blazes tell you which direction; the cairns call your attention to them.

This isn't a cairn; no human put it there.... I wonder how long it's been there.

A lovely view to the southeast...

And, in case you're so intent on looking for yellow blazes that you forgot to look up...

Less-familiar view of Mt. Chocorua and the "Three Sisters," from the east.

On the trip down the mountain, I unleashed Journey; footing was so hard that I didn't want to take the chance of her jumping ahead pulling me down. She was the perfect hiking companion -- she'd spring down the ledges and then wait for me to pick my way down, although she had to entertain herself by watching squirrels in the trees while she waited. She was great. If she ran ahead too far, I'd call, "Journey, wait!" and she'd stop and wait for me.
As I said, it was hot... over 85*F by noon. Journey found a mudhole to wallow in, being part pig; I was too busy thinking, "How am I going to get that off her for the ride home?" to think to take a picture. She wouldn't have shown up anyway; the forest-floor mud was as black as she is. Luckily there was a stream crossing later on (there's one each way, stepping stones) and she got rinsed off there. We were back at the trailhead at 12:45; 2.5 hours exactly for 4.4 miles, including stops for pictures, breath-getting, Camelbak drinks (Journey drinks from the Camelbak too; I squeeze the bite valve and she catches the stream in midair.) I guess I've still got triathlete-think in my brain: X hours:minutes for X miles including stops. ~Sigh~ It gets worse.... the AMC White Mountain Guide estimates 2:55 for this loop, so I beat that by 25 minutes including stops...
However, I was not hurrying. I wanted to see everything. And hear everything. I heard something big crashing in the brush about 100 feet off the trail; I couldn't see it, but it sounded too big to be a whitetail deer, which would have made it a moose or a black bear. I'm not afraid of either one, but a moose is one of those critters I don't want to meet face to face by myself in the wild. Meeting up thus with bears in Maryland, I've learned that saying, "Hi!" is enough send them packing. However, I'm not used to moose, and don't know what to say to one. Journey started her "There's something chaseable there!!" yipping, though, which deterred whatever it was from coming our way. Good dog. She was on leash at that time, or she'd have been after it. It is no mystery to me how she ended up at the dog pound as a stray. But now and then I think how much she lucked out, given the usual fate of dog-pound strays. Traveling in a truck all over the country, going for long runs and woodland hikes. Doesn't get much better for a dog. Or a dog-owner.
I saw a hairy woodpecker (that name cracks me up); heard what must have been a pileated woodpecker, since the drumming was too loud to have been a downy or hairy w.p. There are veerys singing in these woods; they have a lovely distinctive trill that sounds to me like running several successive soft mallets down (not up)the scale of a xylophone. Red squirrels, a tufted titmouse (that's a bird, not a mouse, in case you're not familiar with it); most of the creatures, though, must have been holed up in a damp shady place out of the heat. So most of the had that lovely just-me-and-the-forest stillness... somehow enhanced, rather than disrupted, by my companion dog.

Monday, June 25, 2007


From the summit of Little Haystack Mountain, Franconia Ridge Trail, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Last week Steve and I hiked a beautiful 9-mile loop here in the White Mountains. The Falling Waters Trail leads upward to the summit of Little Haystack Mountain (4,760 feet), picks up the Appalachian Trail to take you along the Franconia Ridge Trail to Mt. Lincoln (5,089 feet) and finally Mt. Lafayette (5,250 feet.) There are 48 mountains in NH over 4,000 feet. This loop was suggested at Hike the Whites as one of the finest day hikes to be had in the area.

It was.

It was also my first New Hampshire glimpse of the Appalachian Trail (I've walked short segments of it in Virginia), and I took a picture of my first "white blaze" -- the 2-inch by 6-inch white paint marks on the trees or rocks which mark the 2000+ miles of trail so you don't lose your way.

Don't be deceived, though.... this looks like a pretty little dirt path edged with rocks. The AT is not like that. From Little Haystack to Mt. Lafayette, there were ups and downs that can only be called bouldering. On the few flat ridges, the path is laid out to keep hikers in line to protect a fragile ecosystem, in this case Alpine. They don't want you walking all over tundra flora like these:

We had encountered this sign while still below the treeline:

Here is another section of our trip up the mountain on the Falling Waters Trail, more representative of what a lot of the hike was like:
Yes, that is the trail.
At one point I reached for a handhold, missed, and flopped back on my ass, or would have had there been anything behind me to land on. With my ass hitting nothing but air, the momentum carried me on backwards, over my backpack (which kept me from getting hurt), onto my shoulders with my feet behind me in a Yoga Plough position. I struggled like a turtle and finally completed the rest of a back somersault and righted myself. Thank goodness Steve was ahead of me and didn't see it, although he heard my yelp of alarm and yelled back, "Are you all right?" Thank goodness I was, although when I first started falling I thought, crap, at the very least this is going to hurt, and at worst I might actually get injured here.

We hiked down the Old Bridle Trail to complete our loop, and it was much the same. Rockslides you had to inch down.

I crunched each ankle once, but each one recovered in a couple minutes. My quads hurt for 3 days afterwards, though. And I had enough abrasions that hikers we met up with kept saying, "Looks like you took a spill." The funny thing was, none of the bloody or dirt-smudged spots were in places that could have been hurt when I fell. I didn't know where they had come from. Just trail souvenirs.

Here's Steve picking his way among the roots:

He emerged from the hike without a scratch or bruise, and claimed that his quads were not sore, either. I feel outclassed.
Nine miles. A drop in the AT bucket.
More pictures from along the Falling Waters Trail:

I loved this hike. We're going out again tomorrow, but haven't mapped our trail yet. It's going to be hot, 90*F, so we probably won't go as far. If Steve backs out and says he'd rather not go (this sounded possible...) I'll take Journey and hike by myself. I've been reborn to hike.

Update already: Steve says it's going to be too hot to hike tomorrow. He wants to wait till Thursday. However, I may still go do an easy trail tomorrow by myself. I want to hike.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I have not been blogging. I've been thinking. I've been re-inventing myself.
I have not been running. I started returning to it but got tired of it.
I have not been biking. I started returning to that, too.... but got tired of it.
Lord knows I haven't been swimming.

I had registered for a triathlon which took place today in Maine, but my manager forgot to giveme the day off. I said, that's OK, I didn't want to go anyway.

What I want to do is hike. And learn to backpack and wilderness-camp, and be ready to start the Appalachian Trail next spring. I'll probably only do half, or a little more, from its start in Georgia to the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line. Although we're more or less "retired," I still can't take 6 months out of my life and everyone else's to hike the whole trail. Steve is talking about spending the summer back "home" at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland; on the way there from wherever we spend the winter (south), he can drop me off in Georgia and I'll just walk home.

I have to learn to live out there first, though. To manage with next to nothing, and learn to rely on myself. Which, actually, is one of my reasons for wanting to hike the Trail, learning self-relliance, but I'll have to learn a little of it before I start.

Today I made myself a little stove out of one of those teeny aluminum cups that hold tea candles. I filled it with 15mL (a tablespoonful) of 91% isopropyl alcohol (the stronger variety of rubbing alcohol), put a few stones around it as a pot stand, flicked my Bic and it burned for 17 minutes. I got the idea from this site about ultralight backpacking. On this creation I cooked a package of Ramen noodles (an AT-hiker staple). I wasn't hungry but I was so pleased with my accomplishment that I ate them anyway. Denatured alcohol is recommended, but I didn't have any. I could probably actually get the water to boil on a candle-cup full of that! Even without boiling, though, the noodles cooked. I was so happy!!

The Vermont City Marathon was 4 weeks ago. I posted a few hopeful thoughts about a PR this fall, if not a BQ, but then I lost interest as I tried running and just didn't enjoy it, and started thinking that I want to spend my long-"run" days doing long hikes, not marathon-training. I guess I'm recovered physically, but mentally -- either I haven't recovered, or I emerged from that marathon a changed person. Because I am not interested in doing another marathon. Not for a long, long time. I will not be trying for Boston this year. I will be hiking.
I think this blog is, starting now, the story of a runner-triathlete-turned-hiker.

I don't want to run. I want to hike. I want to walk and walk until I get to the end of the earth. Or to Pennsylvania. I wish I could go all the way to Maine.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Wow!! This site, ExRx, has EVERYTHING!! The anatomy and physiology of muscles and muscular exercise. Strength-training, flexibility-trianing, aerobic and endurance training. Details on how to use every conceivable piece of gym equipment. Beginners' information. Training plans for running and triathlon (although it only goes up to Olympic distance.) Injury prevention and treatment. Gym etiquette. Recommended books. Exercise psychology. Nutrition. Weight management. I mean, this site has EVERYTHING!! I found it when I did a google search for "hip rotators." Wow.... I found remedial exercise for that and everything else that could ever happen. This site is amazing! You gotta go see it!!!
My training today: 23.6 miles on the bike. I'm getting back into shape -- I feel like an athlete again. I didn't, before VCM, or especially during it.
Yesterday I ran 3 miles, first run since VCM. My hip still hurt (which is why I did the search which turned up this astonishing website.) It was good to run again. Tomorrow I'm going out for new running shoes :-)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


When you're thrown from the horse, show 'em who's boss, jump right back in the saddle.

I'm working on a new training plan, incorporating strength training. I'm starting with just light weights, increasing the weights a little but dropping the reps in each set, as suggested in Body for Life. This program has a food plan that's not for endurance athletes, but I think the exercise plan will work for anyone, and it's very structured -- good for me, because I don't have to think about it, kind of like having someone else plan my food for me (which would be great.... I eat crazy and out of control in the evenings.)

Here's the plan:
Day 1: Upper-body.
Day 2: Run or bike training.
Day 3: Lower-body and abs.
Day 4: Run or bike training.
Day 5: Upper-body.
Day 6: Run or bike.
Day 7: Rest.

Uh-oh, I don't do well with every-day training. But I'm thinking maybe it will be OK if every other day is weights, if I don't make them too heavy.

I would really like to run a recent-incarnation PR at the Clarence DeMar Marathon on Sept. 30. I'm not going to BQ this year, I'm quite sure. But my best in 3 years would be great. Three years ago marked my return to marathoning after 3 years of doing only tri's, the longest of those 1/2-IM's. I ran a 5:30 at the Chicago Marathon that year; 5 weeks later a 4:50 at Huntinton, WV's Marshall University Marathon. Then I submerged into IM training and we know how IM marathons usually turn out. After my first IM, ChesapeakeMan, two months later I managed a nice 4:45 at RNR AZ. Since then, ~5:20 at Hatfield-McCoy (June 2006), I think 7 hours or so at IMFL, and recently 5:22 (watch time) at VCM. I struggled more on the slower ones than the faster ones.

Dropping my marathon time will require dropping weight as well. About 20 pounds. ~Sigh~

Where's that diet-meal delivery service?

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Since VCM, I've been so tired and achy for most of the next week, I wondered if I was sick.

After IMFL, I had no desire ever to do another triathlon.

I'm over it now.

Yesterday, 6 days after the marathon, I wasn't sore or tired anymore. Yesterday, 7 months after IMFL, I found a sprint tri to look forward to: The Wild Bear, Poland, Maine, June 23, 1/3-mile swim, 16-mile bike, 5K run.

I think training for these easy distances will actually help my marathon recovery, if I don't go too crazy. Swimming will feel good all over, biking will move my legs without the pounding; I'll take another week off running, but I can surely do the 5K run leg by June 23.

So yesterday I got out my bike, inflated the tires (which were down to 60 pounds), and rode 12 miles. Today my back and neck muscles are -- well, not sore, but not normal. After just 12 miles!! No wonder my marathon was so crappy.... I'm just plain out of shape.

I also got a gym membership.

I feel better now!