Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Favorite Outdoor Places - OBN photo prompt

Yesterday, the OBN posted a new photo prompt - post a photo of your favorite outdoor place. I love photography & have zillions of pictures from all my trips, and it was hard to pick just one, so I decided to do a first/second/third place.

Third place: Arizona/Tucson area

My aunt lives in Tucson and I've been out to see her a few times. We went out this past April & spent 5 days there, and it was the perfect trip to play with my new camera on! The landscape out there is just gorgeous - the desert, mountains, saguaros, everything. We did a short hike about half an hour outside the city, and I took this photo on the hike. The "cactus" looking cacti are saguaros, which are unique to a very small area of southern Arizona, and the fuzzy one at the bottom is a teddy bear cholla.

Second place: Green Mountains, Vermont

I have done two amazing overnight trips in the Green Mountains of Vermont - this particular photo is from our 2008 trip to Camel's Hump. We hiked up in drizzle, fog and even hail (it was crazy!), and got to the summit to find it totally boxed in. We were a little disappointed, but the clouds started to clear after a little while and gave us absolutely amazing views of the mountains through the clouds. It was really surreal! I haven't hiked in the Green Mountains with the rest of my group, just my best hiking buddy Meg, but I'd like to do more trips in Vermont this year. Vermont is a really special place!

First place: Franconia Ridge, NH
I have done the majority of my hiking in New Hampshire, and one place I will go again & again is Franconia Ridge. I've done two big loop hikes on the ridge, both with my friend Meg, and I am planning to bring the rest of my group up there this year since they've never been. I should say that the White Mountains in general are my number one favorite outdoor place, but Franconia Ridge is beautiful. The views down into the notch and across at the cliffs of Cannon, north to the Presidentials, and east into the Pemigewasset wilderness are just amazing - it's a very spiritual thing for me being up there. There are usually crowds on the ridge so it isn't very solitary, but that's an acceptable tradeoff for me.

I do have a few runners-up for favorite outdoor places photos that had to be included:

Ferry Beach, Saco, Maine

Ferry Beach is my favorite place in the world. It's a Unitarian Universalist camp on the coast of Maine that I grew up camping at every summer, and it's very special to me. My church does a retreat for a weekend up there every fall, and my family still goes. Ferry Beach refreshes me mentally, spiritually, and in every other sense of the word, and this past fall when we were there, I woke up to be on the beach for sunrise every morning. It was magical, and I got some great pictures.


This is one of my favorite photos from our Arizona trip this past spring. We did a sunset horseback ride in the desert - my fiance really wanted to ride a horse in the desert (he's really into the wild west thing... lol), so we found a ranch & did it! It was a wonderful experience, and I got this awesome shot on the ride.

Imperial Sand Dunes, California

This has to be one of the coolest places we've ever been. On our trip out west this past spring, we drove to Tucson to visit my aunt from San Diego, which was an awesome 2-day road trip. One area we went through was the Imperial Sand Dunes, a huge dune sea in the far southern part of California near the border of Mexico and Arizona. We were super excited, pulled off into the recreation area & ran up the dunes to get a view. The dunes extended out from either side of the highway as far as the eye could see. Definitely one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, right up there with the redwoods. I wish the power lines & ATV tracks weren't in the picture, but we took some fantastic shots of the dunes.

These are my favorite outdoor places/photos of said places! I hope to be acquiring more 'favorite outdoor places' as I continue to hike and travel but I hope the photos are enjoyable :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's in a name?

I recently submitted Squeaky Trees to the Outdoor Blogger Network directory (thanks to OBN, by the way! Great site!), and they post 'outdoor writing prompts' to get the bloggers talking. This week, the writing prompt posted was titled It's Your Blog...Name, asking folks to explain the names they gave their blogs. There are plenty of interestingly-named blogs out there, so it was fun to read some of the tales!

I figured it would be fun to join in & whip up a quick post about my blog's name, Squeaky Trees. Relatively simple story, but still :) This past Memorial day I was hiking in Vermont, summitting Mounts Killington and Pico on a one-night overnight trip. Our first day we summitted Killington and it was breezy, cloudy and pretty damp with intermittent rain falling. It actually cleared up after we left the summit & headed north on the Long Trail and turned into a nice sunny day, although still windy. A portion of the trail between Killington and Pico is a nice, relatively level walk in the woods, and because of the wind, we started to hear the trees squeaking against each other.

This was not the first time I'd heard it, but it was the first time I paid attention. It's really creepy if you hear trees squeaking in the wind and don't know what it is - it could sound like an animal, or even a person screaming. I realized it makes me happy to hear the trees squeaking, or singing as I considered it, because it's almost as if they are reminding you that they're alive. It's a wonderful reminder of how alive the woods really are.

At that moment I decided I had to name something 'squeaky trees' because it sounded cute and it meant something to me. Maybe 'singing trees' would have been nicer, but I like squeaky trees better! I'd been toying with the idea of starting a blog to hash out my hiking & outdoor adventures, so I went home & did it right away. After posting twice I did forget for a while, but especially when the season was over, I wanted to keep up with my adventures, so I fired it up & intend to keep it going! I'm still working on ironing out my graphics & layout here, but I really like my name :)

(photo - me on the trail in Vermont on the trip that inspired Squeaky Trees)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Flickr gallery

I've created a Flickr gallery to host my hiking photos. I have a few different albums of my pictures scattered over the web, but this gallery will be just for relevant photos to link to this blog.

Squeaky Trees Flickr gallery - I've organized the photos into sets by year for now. This is just a sampling of the many photos I take while out hiking. I really love photography and taking pictures even though I'm entirely self-taught and have no training, so I'm always looking for critiques or advice or anything. Enjoy!

2010 Recap & 2011 Resolutions

Happy 2011! We were away in New Jersey over the weekend, and I'd really wanted to try and do a walk or hike on New Year's day. We were exhausted & decided it'd be cold, plus there was snow on the ground & we don't have proper footwear for that - but we woke up New Year's day, and it was sunny and a balmy 50 degrees :( so I was a little bummed. Next year!

Although I'm itching for a hike, I probably won't be able to do any trips for at least a few weeks, due to my schedule and the fact that I don't have the right footwear for hiking in snow. I've thought about trying out some traction thingies (very technical, I know) for my boots for snow & ice, so next time I'm at REI or EMS I might check some out. We will also be doing some snowboarding soon hopefully, although none of us are very good so we may just go to a local golf course with good hills before going to an actual mountain.

In 2010, I did 6 more of the New England 4000-footers, one in VT (Killington, 4241') and five in NH: Flume, 4328': Liberty, 4459': Tecumseh, 4003': Pierce, 4310' and Jackson, 4052'; I also did Monadnock (3165') in April as we do every year, Pico in VT (3957'), Great Blue Hill at 635' in Milton, MA with a great view of Boston (the Blue Hills Reservation is a great park with miles of really nice trails), and Mount Wachusett (2006') in central MA. Two trips were overnights - Killington/Pico, and Pierce/Jackson. Mileage-wise this year I did about 53. Altogether not a bad season, I did more this year than I did the previous year so I was happy!

I've thought about what I'd like to do this coming season for hiking. One thing I want to do is more backpacking - I recently got the Sea to Summit Mosquito Pyramid Net Double Shelter on clearance from LLBean and I think for the warm months, it'll be a nice lighter alternative to hiking with a tent. I'll review it when I try it out for the first time! Trip-wise, I'd like to do a hike or two on Franconia Ridge with the boys since they've never done anything there, and I want to do Mount Greylock, Massachusetts' high point at 3491'. I want to do that one as an overnight, and I do want to hike more in MA this year. It's kind of stupid that I hike more 3 hours away in NH than right here in my own backyard. Since I knocked off 6 4000-footers this year, I'd be happy if I could do that many again next year. Some I've looked at are some of the southern 4000ers like Whiteface, Passaconaway, and North & Middle Tripyramid, the Hancocks, maybe Carrigan, and maybe some in the Pemi wilderness, like Bondcliff/Bond/West Bond, Galehead, Zealand, and the Twins. (yeah, ambitious list I know!) We will start our season in April with Monadnock, as we've done for the past 3 years, and go from there. My friend Meg, who I've done Memorial day hikes with in Vermont for the past 3 years, will be in DC this year, so I'm going to go down there and we'll find something to do for Memorial day.

Besides my hiking goals, my other resolutions for this year are to finally lose 10lbs, take rock-climbing lessons, go back to yoga, and canoe more! We have a canoe we got off craigslist 2 years ago, and this summer we went out a fair amount but always to the same place. I'd like to explore some more local canoeing spots next summer.

So, those are my plans in a nutshell for 2011. I'm also getting married this summer, so my hiking time may be cut a little short, but I'm going to do as much as I can. I realized this year how happy it makes me to be out on the trail, and for my own peace of mind and mental & physical well-being, I've come to view hiking as a necessary component of my life. Happy trails in 2011 to all!