Took part in The Mountaineer’s annual Mountainfest yesterday, and snowshoe-bushwhacked up the shoulder of Round Mountain, where we got this view of the Dix Mountain range of the High Peaks.
I was recently interviewed by the Buffalo News for an article on the challenges that two escaped killers face in the woods of the Adirondacks. The article gives great insight into their mental states, and helps explain why they have been able to be elusive for so long. You can read the full article here:
I purchase the Osprey Talon 33 backpack two months ago. I have used it in a variety of conditions and am pleased by its performance.
I bought the pack to use on search and rescue missions for Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, however I used it on several hikes and cross-country ski trips before being called out on my first search. I use the NASAR pack contents as a guide for what I should carry. I added some more stuff than they recommend, but also eliminated a few things. I see no need to carry a tracking stick when I have no idea how to use it effectively, but a folding saw can come in handy when you’re in a thick alder swamp with only a couple of feet of visibility.
The pack had some extra room in it even with all the stuff I carry. I use a couple of water bottles instead of a bladder, so with a bladder there would be enough room in this pack for a summer overnight. While out skiing with the pack the first time, I was satisfied with the way the hip belt carries the load. I did not have to deal with the pack shifting a lot, even over several layers of clothes.
I found that the small mesh pockets on each shoulder strap are very convenient for holding an energy packet or something else small. I didn’t want to put a knife in there as the pockets are open at the top, but securely stored my multi-tool in the zippered pocket on the hip belt. It’s easy to get to and in no danger of falling out. I stash a compass in the other hip belt pocket, but they are large enough for a small digital camera as well.
My favorite design feature of the Talon 33 is the number of pockets, with very little on the outside of the pack to get hung up on brush. After two days searching through alder swamps, off-trail through old growth and across rock ledges, the pack never got hung up once on any brush or rocks. I was able to move through the brush easier because of the streamlined design of the pack.
However, there are actually nine pockets in addition to the main compartment and the beaver tail. Two water bottle pockets on either side, one on each shoulder strap and hip belt, two on top of the hood, and a zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the hood. Small things are very easy to access while still being secure.
I put my personal identification, keys, and phone in a baggie and put them in the zippered mesh pocket. I kept a notebook and maps in the top pocket, rain cover on the side, and crampons and gaiters in the beavertail. I had no issue with a lack of storage with this pack.
The downsides are few in my opinion. The shoulder straps are comfortable, light, and airy, but a little flimsy. I can’t help but look at the padding through the mesh and wonder when it will start to rip. The back also isn’t quite stiff enough. I always carry a small foam pad to sit on, and it helped stiffen up the back a little bit. The location of the water bladder is in the usual spot against your back, so using a bladder will probably cause the typical back bulge and make it less comfortable.
All in all, I am really happy with my purchase. It does what I need it do, and even a little more.
The snow is still falling, but not as fast and furious as it was earlier. I heard on the solar radio that this is now called Winter Storm Euclid, but I think most people will remember it as the Blizzard of 2012. I’ve got about twelve to fourteen inches on the ground, and it is still coming down.
I woke up early this morning to a text message from a friend letting me know that she had made it to Colorado alright. The sun wasn’t up, but it was starting to get light out, so I got up and fed the pets and the woodstove. The stove was cranking and it was pretty warm in the cabin. I hadn’t done anything different in terms of what or how much I burned, but it was noticeably hotter in here. When Pico and I went out for our morning relief, I figured out why it was so warm inside. There was eight inches of snow on the roof providing a lot of extra insulation.
The next thing I did was to wax up my skis and get dressed for some outdoor activities. After getting about a quarter mile from the cabin, I was glad I had set out early. The snow was getting deep and it was hard to glide when I was breaking trail. I could have followed Pico’s path, but that quarter mile would have turned into a half mile the way he runs all over the place.
Pico didn’t mind the new boots I had put on his feet, and the two of us made our way down to the little lean-to, named for the kid that built it, Nick’s Place. It’s only about five feet high, eight feet wide and six feet deep, just enough for a couple of people to sleep in, though I doubt anyone has stayed there in quite a few years. I’m always a little worried though, that when I round the corner of the trail and Nick’s Place comes into sight that some hermit or drifter will be staring out of the doorway at me. It hasn’t happened yet, and since not even my landlord has seen the thing, I doubt if anyone will wander out here and find it. But I always get just a little tense when I get close. The more logical fear when it comes to the lean-to is that Pico will run in there and be face to face with a porcupine or raccoon. He’s marked the area well, and hopefully my fears don’t come true.
Last weekend, I took Pico, a folding saw and some loppers to clean up the trail to the lean-to. I’d like to make this place a little more accessible, and the first step in clearing out the existing trails.
From my cabin, I take the road that leads to Upper Camp. About half way to Upper Camp there is a junction trail that goes off to the right. It passes one of the old hand-dug wells and follows a stone wall to a large ash tree. From there, the trail continues straight to a little clearing where all the pine trees were cut to build Upper Camp. But the trail to Nick’s Place goes right, through a break in the large stone wall and meanders off into the woods. I clipped some branches and small balsams that had started to grow, and pulled a few dead trees out of the way that fallen across the trail. The trail then empties into an open glade, which in summer is beautiful. Moss lines the ground and the thick clumps of balsam and spruce give off a classic Adirondack aroma.
There are thick evergreens that surround Nick’s Place, masking it in the woods. Nick was the son of the previous owner’s and he did a nice job building this place. The front is about half closed in but there is a doorway and a window, and the roof provides a little overhang so that snow doesn’t make its way inside. After cutting out a few trees, you can see the lean-to from the where the trail enters the glade. At least I don’t have to get too close now to see if anyone is living in there.
But this morning was not a work morning. Pico and I just skied out to Nick’s Place and then bushwhacked up into the woods, heading towards the clearing up above. I’d like to mark and cut a trail from the lean-to to the clearing, and found a pretty good route up there. Of course, the route I took this morning is now covered in snow, and I’ll have to mark it another time, hopefully when there is not a blizzard going on. It’s just one of the perks of doing this type of thing out here. I get to ski it once, then ski again to mark it, and then ski it again to cut it out. I could have done all that today, but I’m looking forward to having to do the route a few more times. You know, as long as I don’t run into anyone along the way.
I like bees. They really don’t bother me that much. It’s not like I want to get stung, but they tend to leave me alone, maybe because I don’t freak out when they fly near me. I understand those who are allergic or just don’t want to get stung, though.
I remember vividly the first time I got stung by a bee. It was at our house on 5th Ave in Gloversville, and I was already strapped into my car seat in the back. Mom was locking up the house or grabbing something from inside, and when I shifted in my car seat, the bee stung me right on the butt. I don’t know if I started screaming (I couldn’t have been more than fifteen at the time) and I don’t remember the aftermath, but the sting itself is clear as day.
At work there is a window air conditioner. I was mowing the lawn and noticed a lot of bees around near the a/c unit. I stopped to watch, mainly to see if there was a ground nest nearby. Watching the bees for a minute, I realized that they were going to the ground under the a/c to drink, not because their hive was down there.
With the ridiculous drought going on, I’m not surprised that the bees are hanging around a reliable source of water. It’s fun to sit a few feet away and not really be in any danger of getting stung. As long as I don’t get too close or let Pico run through them, I figure it’s safe to hang out and watch. I won’t bother them if they don’t bother me, and the feeling so far seems to be mutual.
The baby osprey are getting big. They poke their heads up above the lip of the nest and look down on us. The chatter they make is for food, though, not because I’m standing about twenty feet below their nest. The people and the cars and the bikes don’t seem to bother this particular family.
Their nest is built on top of an electric pole right behind the entrance booth of the campground. It’s about three feet across, sits right on the electric feed for the whole park. It stinks pretty bad right now, as there hasn’t been any rain to wash the area in and below the nest. The shrubs and pavement are splattered white but amazingly no one has gotten hit.
The osprey are a big attraction along the road, with three nests. But the ones at the booth are my favorite. Watching them circle around with a bullhead in their talons they seem so graceful. It’s another story when they are getting chased and harassed by birds one tenth their size. I’ve seen the osprey running from little red-winged blackbirds and even the great blue heron has chased them off a few times.
It’s great to be able to watch a bird daily, just going about its life. Lot’s of people ask if they are eagles, but once they get a good look at the birds, it’s apparent even with the similar white heads that they are not. And while it would be great to have eagles nesting right there, the osprey are good enough company.
I was watching the sun come up over the Vermont mountains, listening to Pico splash in the lake and really appreciating the bug free morning. The haziness of the air made for a nice sunrise, all pinks and purples. Pico loves the water, even though I have to give him a warm-up throw or two of the ball to get him to really swim. But once he’s in, he loves it.
Ed caught a mouse last night. At three in the morning. And he wouldn’t kill it. He just walked around for half an hour with the poor thing in his mouth. Every couple of minutes Ed would drop him just to catch him again. He was growling at Herbie and Pico and me. Finally I just picked Ed up and carried him outside, where he dropped the mouse and it ran off.
I’m no fan of mice, especially in my house, but I was surprised when it ran off. As far as I know, it’s only the second mouse Ed’s ever caught. And he responded to my travesty of releasing his prey by knocking a glass onto the floor, shattering it. He maintained eye contact the entire time. Now, the next time this happens, I will be faced with the decision of letting him torment the mouse or incurring Ed’s wrath. Well, sorry little mice, but I gotta live with that cat.
I threw another piece of wood on the fire. It was some leftover wood from last year’s hurricane that had blown down during the storm. The red pines that came down around here were huge old trees, but growing in sand a lot them just tipped over.
Back in the cabin, the woodstove hasn’t been used in months. I think back to all the winter nights when I really would have liked to see the fire. But my stove doesn’t have any glass in it, just a big black box. A little bit of light is nice when the sun goes down at five in the afternoon.
Most nights this summer have too hot to bother with a fire, even outside. The heat coming off the fire mixed with the stagnant humid air is just not too enjoyable. The only thing making up for it is the late evening swims to cool off before bed. And that’s a far cry from getting up three times a night to stoke the fire.
A grackle got stuck in the porch yesterday. A few friends and I were playing horseshoes, and I went inside to grab a beer. In the twenty or so seconds that I was in front of the fridge, the bird flew in through the open door and was completely stymied by the wall of glass windows. Those windows are nice for me, but not so nice for an animal that has limited reasoning skills.
I watched the bird from inside for a minute or two, hoping that he would find his way back out the door. The black body and iridescent head of the grackle are beautiful in the sun, changing color as the bird looks around. I see them all over the campground, and the flashes of color off their seemingly black feathers usually brighten up the day. But this one was clearly in distress.
Its beak was open like it was panting for air, and it kept fluttering around in the middle of the porch, surrounded on three sides by the outdoors, but blocked by all that glass. He perched on one of the chairs for a rest, then dove headlong into the middle window down at floor level. He dove at this particular window several times, apparently convinced that this was the way out. It was not.
I grabbed a pair of work gloves, and watched the bird for another minute. He was not getting any closer to the open door, and seemed to be tiring. Plus he was hitting his head on the glass a lot. I eased out onto the porch and pushed the outside door open wider. The bird sat on the edge of my cooler, beak open, eyes wide with anxiety. The head shone a striking blue-green against the darker body. Even though I was sorry for the bird, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the colors coming off his scared little noggin.
I got within about a foot before he took off again. But this time, after diving into the middle window again, he took off, spun around and flew over my right shoulder and out the door. I watched as he glided across the yard and landed in a cedar about a hundred feet away. I glanced out at my friends to see if they had noticed the commotion, but the horseshoe pit was too far away for them hear or see the bird on the porch. I stood there and watched him in the tree, wondering if he would remember this experience. I know I will.
Memorial Day weekend is over. It was beautiful weather, the campground was full, and I’m exhausted. After working three fourteen hour days in a row, I’m glad the campers are gone, even though we didn’t really have any problems with the crowd. Lots of guys talking about fishing, wondering where to get ice and firewood, and wondering how long they can extend their weekend.
I like working in the campgrounds, even though dealing with the public is often unnecessarily stressful. Drive slow, be quiet and keep your dog on a leash. It’s not that much to ask, but many people find it difficult to follow those simple rules. But what I love about my job is the chance to be on the trail crew. They pay me to hike, and I have to pinch myself every time.
After Hurricane Irene, I was in the High Peaks doing cleanup. Hauling a forty pound backpack while carrying a chainsaw and wearing steel toed boots, Kevlar chaps and a hardhat apparently is my notion of an ideal work environment. From Lake Colden to Johns Brook Lodge, those were two weeks I won’t ever forget because the work was exhausting and endlessly rewarding at the same time.
This spring, I was helping out on trail crew, and got to go into Tahawus near Newcomb, NY. My hero, Teddy Roosevelt, was staying here when William McKinley was shot, and the house where he was lodging is still standing. Looking at the remnants of a ghost town, and realizing what hard work it must have been to carve out a living is a lesson in humility. Sure, I walked some of the same routes, but I drove there in a four wheel drive truck while listening to radio. Plus, we have chainsaws. That makes it a lot easier.