Sunday, June 8, 2014

Middlesex Fells

Oh look, a new blog post! Been way too long and I'm sorry this has lapsed. 😔 I haven't done much in the way of hiking the last year or two and I have made a promise to myself to get out more this year!

My husband is on his men's camping weekend right now so I planned to get out and do something. Asked a friend of she was free and she was, and suggested the Middlesex Fells. The Middlesex Fells (http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-north/middlesex-fells-reservation.html) is a 2500 acre reservation near Boston with woods, meadows, ponds and a reservoir and great trails. We hiked for about 4 miles and enjoyed the warm weather and woods! Didn't take many pics but did take a few of the skyline.


I will definitely be going back to explore this more! I am a huge fan of wonderful recreation areas like this being so close to urban centers.

I also took an amazing trip to Ghana in April! I will put together a post with some pictures because it was amazing. Please check back to keep up with my hiking and outdoor adventures this summer!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

First canoe of the year, 5-31-13

Got the canoe out today for the first time since last year! Figured it was Friday afternoon, over 90 degrees and nothing sounded better than getting on the river and swimming in that icy water (we don't have central AC at home sadly and our window air conditioners are not in yet :( boooo.) Since I get out of work at noon on Fridays and the husband is currently an unemployed student, we got out on the river around 3:00 or so and for our first probably two hours, we only saw ONE other person. It was heavenly!

We went to our favorite close-by on the Ipswich River and paddled to our favorite spot to hang out, Perkins Island. I'm not currently an Audubon member so we haven't camped there yet, but there are camp sites for members that I do want to check out sometime. We usually just pull over, have lunch and sit for a while. We spent a little extra time swimming (well, I swam, husband went in to his knees, lol) and just enjoyed the woods, water and being in the middle of nowhere all alone. It was beautiful and sunny, the water was calm, it was hot enough to swim; it was just overall a glorious day to be on the river.


I forgot to bring a camera so all we had was our ipods for photos, but I still got a few good ones. Of course I missed all the wildlife we saw - herons, beavers, otters, but the husband caught a few fish totally randomly as we got back to the car!


Super happy we've started canoeing already this year; we only took it out maybe twice last year, and since it's a fun, free thing to do (minus gas money) I want to do it a lot this year and try out some new places. It's that time of year where it's light out so late that we stayed on the river until 6:45 or so and it was so lovely. Hoping to get out again soon!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blue Hills Reservation, 5-5-13

Almost forgot, I have done a hike this year already! A few weeks ago, a buddy and I were talking and thought we'd plan a spur-of-the-moment hike, somewhere close by. I realized I'd never taken the guys to the Blue Hills, so off we went. Under an hour away from us, the Blue Hills Reservation is a 7000+ acre reservation outside of Boston with 125 miles of trails and some great views. WGBH is named for Great Blue Hill, the highest point in the reservation at 635 feet. In addition to the Blue Hills Weather Observatory at the summit, there is a tower you can climb to get a sweet view of Boston. There are way more trails I haven't done myself before - I've only gone up Great Blue Hill and around that side of the reservation, so sometime I'll have to explore the rest.

We headed out about 9am on a Sunday and figured we'd make it a short day, since my husband had finals to be studying for when we got back. It was a perfect day, so we set off into the woods and it felt GREAT to be on the trail! Only took us an hour or so to get to the top of Great Blue Hill, despite being a bit out of hiking-shape and huffing a little up the steep parts, lol.






We brought lunch to eat at the top then went up to the top of the tower to check out the views. Pretty clear day and we had a great view of Boston! Brought my telephoto lens and got some good shots of the city.






The tower is also pretty cool:



We moseyed on down after lunch and walked back to the car along the road, because my husband whined about how long it would take if we went back up & through the trails. (boohoo) We got him home by 2:30 so no need for his whining! (and he nailed his classes this semester) Anyway, it was really nice to be back on the trail and the guys loved it, so we're going to do a longer trip here later in the summer.





Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And last year I thought I was the worst blogger ever...

...but here I am, almost a YEAR to the day from my last post here! Ugh. My last post, our hike at Chocorua last year, was literally the last hike we went on last year. Life and other crap got in the way - we did some canoeing and went camping with my sister-in-law and her family, but otherwise no more hiking :( this is due in part to the fact that I was nervous about driving my old car up to the Whites -but we did get a new car in November so driving this year will hopefully not be an issue. Anyhoo, this year we are hoping to get up to the mountains at least several times. I haven't knocked a 4000-footer off my list in a couple of years!

For now, I will leave you with a trip I took in February to El Salvador to work with a rural health organization. This isn't so much about hiking, although there was at least one hike involved, but El Salvador is a beautiful, amazing country full of wonderful people and sights. The landscape is just gorgeous. ASAPROSAR (Salvadoran Association for Rural Health) is an organization several members of my church have been involved with for years, and they run yearly "learn and serve" volunteer trips. My mother has been several times and this year I got to go for the first time. ASAPROSAR works with the poor in El Salvador to improve their lives by providing medical care, running programs for poor children in urban settings, empowering youth and women, helping the extremely poor in rural settings with access to clean water and more. I visited several children's programs, a rural village/environmental program, a microcredit loan program for women to start small businesses, a youth project and more. The youth at one site we visited are working to build a tourist stop/overlook at the beautiful Lago De Coatepeque, and we also visited a coffee co-op at the lake. The lake is a volcanic caldera, and some of us took the almost hour-long hike down from the top where the co-op is to the lake for lunch, and it was super hot but beautiful. The lake is almost entirely privately owned, if you can believe that, so there is almost no public access. Here are a few pictures from the lake.




Next few photos are of the countryside we were in at the environmental program and village we visited in a really rural area in the mountains. Many of the people who live in these areas don't have any kind of sanitary sewage disposal and cook inside their homes without venting; both situations can obviously cause serious health issues, and among other things, ASAPROSAR helps them obtain water filters and build sanitary latrines.



We also took a short loop hike (I forgot about this one!) through the protected area of forest at La Magdalena, this same rural area we were in. There's a self-guided loop through the forest with 7 or 8 stops where there are educational signs about the forest ecosystem. At some points in the forest, it almost seemed as though I could be back home up in the Whites!



At the end of the trip, we also visited a Mayan ruins site, which was awesome. There are several throughout El Salvador (and tons more over the rest of Central America) and in addition to the ruins, there were some great views from the top of the hill we climbed up.



I will say, probably the best part of this trip was spending time with the kids. They are so grateful and sweet and happy that people want to spend time with them, despite the abject poverty they're growing up in. I didn't think I'd be as touched by the kids as I was. We went to several of the children's programs (called the Barefoot Angels), did a craft project with them and brought a special snack. The snacks the kids get at Barefoot Angels is the only meal many of them get in a day, and one of the teenagers who was with us commented on some of the kids wrapping their pastries in napkins. I pointed out they were probably saving it for later or to share with someone else since there was probably no food at home. Really heartbreaking. Besides the children at the Barefoot Angels programs (which are in the cities), we spent some time with kids up in La Magdalena, the rural area we visited. The kids there are lucky if they have a pair of shoes to wear to attend school and are also probably lucky if they get one meal a day. (first picture is Barefoot Angels, second is in La Magdalena)



It was an amazing trip and I would love to go again sometime. El Salvador is a beautiful country still trying to heal from the terrible civil war it went through in the 80s-90s, and although it has a long way to go, there have been visible improvements even between 1999, the first time my mother went, and now. The people are warm, friendly and welcoming and happy to know that people care about them and their country.

And meanwhile, back in Massachusetts..


:O it was very nice to escape the snow for a week! This pic is actually from Nemo, which was a week before my trip, but we were delayed out of Boston because there was another storm the day we left - we ended up getting stuck in Houston for a night, boooo.

So that's my recent big trip! Nothing coming up except for camping in August in NH, which will be great (and which will hopefully include some hiking!). I'm going to be trying to schedule time for hiking soon, even if I have to go by myself if no one else can make it. I hope everyone's hiking seasons are starting out well and I hope to be around a lot more this summer/fall than I was last year!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mount Chocorua, 5-19-12

I had set aside yesterday to hike weeks ago and hoped the weather would be good... boy was it! After talking to a hiking buddy about a trip she did to Chocorua with another friend of ours last year, I decided I should check this mountain out. We've hiked some trails in this area before but never done Chocorua, and I figured it was time. I heard about waterfalls and chose to do the Champney Falls trail up and back. Looked like it would be a long-ish day - about 7.5 miles round trip, not too bad for me but long for some of the group, but everyone was game so we went for it.


The trail starts out right off the Kancamagus highway, and the first mile and a half is a very nice moderate hike through the woods to the falls, which took us less than an hour. There are several areas of falls, and we stopped to take pictures and have a snack. The bugs were awful and of course we all forgot bug spray, so sitting next to the falls with the breeze helped keep them away temporarily!



After the break at the falls we pressed on. The trail started to get steeper and more rocky as we went on, with switchbacks further up. The last half mile was mostly all rock climbing and scrambling, which I love even though not everyone else does! We finally reached the summit, laid out in the sun and had lunch. It was super warm and even though there was a breeze at the top, it didn't cool us off right away. The views from the top are absolutely amazing, especially on a beautiful day like yesterday.
 




We headed down figuring we'd probably make it down in less time than it took us to get up. We were mostly right, although unfortunately we had a minor injury when one friend fell on a rock and scraped the hell out of her leg. She'll be bruised and scraped for a little while but thankfully it wasn't as bad as it could have been - I was behind her and when I saw her fall, I was afraid she'd fallen right on her face. It hurt her the rest of the way down but she was fine overall. This goes to show the importance of having first aid supplies with you on hike.

After a stop for my friend to soak her leg in the ice-cold river, we got back to the car pretty quickly, grabbed snacks/drinks on the way out and headed home. Long day (and long drive) but awesome hike. I love this mountain and will have to go back! My husband wasn't feeling well yesterday morning and didn't come, so I'd love to go back so he can do the hike sometime. We're planning on hiking next Sunday but I'm not sure where yet. This was a great day and great hike!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The High Line, NYC, 4-21-12

This was not a traditional hike (more of a walk), but I had to write a post about it as it's so cool! The weekend of April 20th we visited a friend in Albany and trained into New York City for the day on Saturday. She'd been told about this trail in the city she figured we'd enjoy checking out, and we were of course game. The High Line is a linear park built on an old elevated rail line on the west side of Manhattan. It's owned by the city, and maintained by the city and a preservation group. I'd looked at a few photos before we went and was super excited to see this! I think it's great when space in urban areas like this is re-purposed as parks or recreation areas, it's a great way to encourage people to get outside and appreciate what they have around them.


There are several stairways into the park along its length and we started on 14th street, near one end. (above is a view across the river from where we started.) The entire length of the High Line is about 1.5 miles so we probably walked about 1.25 miles of it. I was so overwhelmed I started taking pictures immediately and pretty much didn't stop the whole walk! Since it was such a nice day there were lots of people walking, but luckily not so many that I couldn't stop for pictures. There is greenery everywhere and sections of track that were left and planted around, which is so cool.


Besides the green space that's been created (there were actually some flowers in bloom!), another really cool thing for me was seeing the city from this perspective. We were a story or two up most of the time, possibly higher depending on what areas the trail was going through, and it's very interesting walking through the city at that level! You walk by people's balconies and patios, above busy streets and intersections, right by what are probably people's home or office windows, and also by some abandoned or busted up buildings/neighborhoods, which I love seeing. Really a great way to see the city. We had views of the Empire State building in the distance from some parts of the trail too.


Oh! And there was this bank of bird houses, designed like a shiny metal linear sculpture. The pictures I took don't really give the right perspective on how it was set up  - it's positioned at maybe a 30-35 degree angle to the ground even though the picture below makes it look like it's standing straight up, but it was a really interesting design, and the birds were happily using it despite tons of people gawking at them.



We walked along the entire length to the opposite end at 30th street. At that end, you can see the next length of track they are working on to add to the trail. I don't know how far this particular rail keeps going but I hope they're able to convert the whole thing to add to this wonderful park. So much fun to walk it! We don't visit the city very often but I would absolutely come back here, maybe during the summer or fall when more of the flowers are blooming (there is also supposedly a water feature I don't think we saw, probably too early in the season for it). Here are a few more random pics from the walk.


I will have a more complete flickr gallery of this trip up shortly - here's the link and I will be adding photos to this shortly to complete it. I would absolutely recommend checking out the High Line to anyone visiting NYC and looking for an interesting urban adventure, complete with green space!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monadnock, 4-14-12

Realized I'm a bit behind on stuff here so I better get cracking! We took our first "real" hike of the season two weeks ago with a group of our hiking buds. Mount Monadnock has been our hiking-season-opener for the last 5 springs. I've heard before it's the second most-hiked mountain in the world behind Mt. Fuji in Japan, though I don't know how true that is. :) I will say it is an extremely popular mountain. The mountain is in southern NH and is 3165' high - not a behemoth, but a great hike, an above-treeline summit and fabulous views from the top.


Last year we did some different trails, but this year I decided to do our old familiar White Dot trail. It's 2.2 miles up and lots of rock scrambling. I absolutely love it. I hadn't been working out very much leading up to this trip so wasn't sure how I'd do, but we all did great! The trails were in decent shape, not much water to speak of, and we had an absolutely gorgeous day for it. Last year it was cloudy, freezing, and spitting rain when we had lunch at the summit and we boogied out of there, but this year we ate a nice leisurely lunch and relaxed for a little while. One of our friends brought along a friend of hers from Ohio, who had never hiked a "real" mountain before to my knowledge, and even though she struggled a little, she was blown away by the views and was super proud of herself for making it up :) (she's the one above taking the picture - we stopped for breaks on the trail a lot and she had her camera out every time!)


We took our time and didn't rush anyone up or down, so it was a nice leisurely hike. Lots and lots of people were hiking, and we chatted with a few folks along the way. Felt really good to be out on a mountain again and I'm looking forward to our next group hike, which is supposed to be Chocorua (no date planned for it yet though). There was sadly some car drama at the end of the day - we had to have my car towed home from Jaffrey, but luckily it wasn't dead like I'd feared and is now back on the road! Happy to have hiking season rolling again for us :)