Fun Summer Activities

We have had fun over the last month with trips to the Blue Oar, the Goodspeeef Opera ,House (to see Anne of Greengables musical), Enders Island (to see the full moon) and Wilcox Park (to see Waiting for Godot). It’s a great time of year to live in our location!

Evans Notch Hiking & Camping

A few weeks ago we headed up to Evans Notch in the White Mountains for a weekend of camping and hiking. We went with Mike, Denise and Mesa and we were blessed with dry, warm weather for the entire trip.

To warm up on Friday we hiked to the summit of Eastman Mountain (52WAV). On Saturday we hiked the Baldface Circle and Eagle Crag (both 52 WAV). We took it easy on Sunday with a circuit over the Caribou Speckled Mountain Wilderness. Overall it was a fantastic weekend with great friends in the mountains.

Bumper vegetable crops

The garden at Hangman Hill got off to a slow start this year, but the last month of warm weather has really started to pay dividends. We now have lots of okra, tomatoes, beans, onions, herbs, Savoy cabbage and peppers. There will be a few late nights in the kitchen in our future!

Visitors from the UK

Bruno’s parents came to visit us during the last two weeks of July. We were blessed with warm sunny weather for the entire time, and we spent a lot of time outside. Highlights included lots of time in the garden at Hangman Hill, a 3-day trip to Philadelphia (on the train), Shrek at the granite theater, several trips to the beach in Watch Hill, and a wonderful dinner at the Weekapaug Inn. Both Bruno and Nick were suffering from COVID for part of the time, but they didn’t complain. Luckily Sheri and Pam stayed healthy and were able to keep everyone hydrated and fed during the visit.

A trip down the Grand Canyon in a dory…

Since reading the book “The Emerald Mile” we had been saving up and making plans for a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip down the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The trip, in a small wooden row-boat called a dory, was to be guided and was originally scheduled for 2020. However, the pandemic caused a change in our plans and delayed our trip until May/June of 2022.

We found a reputable company with experienced guides, and we even convinced our friends Joann, Eric, Leah and Lenore to join us. We consulted acquaintances who had been on similar tripS, and we purchased a waterproof camera. We also made sure that all our vaccinations were up to date and we got our 2nd COVID booster shot. And finally on one Tuesday in late May we packed our bags, dropped Zealand off with his godparents, and took an early morning flight to Flagstaff (Arizona).

The trip to Flagstaff was uneventful but we still wore N95 masks to ward off evil spirits along the way. We arrived in plenty of time and had ~24hrs to explore Flagstaff and get acclimatized to the heat and the altitude. The evening before our departure we met our fellow travelers at the Double Tree Inn, introduced ourselves to the head-guide, and spent the evening packing all of our needs for 16-days into a large yellow dry-bag.

The next day we departed the hotel at 7am. Sixteen paying travelers from all over the USA, mostly middle aged, many retired, and all looking forward to the upcoming river adventure. The van ride to our departure point, Lees Ferry, took about 2-hrs. The boat launch was just downstream of the Glen Canyon Dam which holds back Lake Powell and it was the start of our 270-mile journey down the Grand Canton. We quickly unpacked and met the boatmen – Bruce, Fabry (Mike), Monty, Lew – and the support staff – Betsy, JB, Wade, Kip and Hannah. We also glimpsed the wooden dories that would be our transport for this trip and the yellow rubber rafts that would carry our food, bedding, water, waste, and other essentials for the trip.

No time was wasted and we were quickly underway. The sun was shining and we slipped quietly into the canyon. The oars propelled us smoothly and without any fuss and we began to hear about the geology of the canyon, the wildlife, the history, and the river from our guides. This was interspersed with stretches of white water where we would experience the thrill of shooting the rapids in a dory under the skillful direction of the boatmen.

We made our way downstream for several hours in this fashion before finding a quiet beach by the side of the river for our first camp. This is when we first saw the highly organized crew quickly set-up a full camp kitchen and create a wonderful evening meal for us. Meanwhile all we had to do was find a flat spot to roll out our sleeping pads and then enjoy a beer as the sun went down over the horizon. 

The first night was not an easy one because the wind steadily picked up, and we all spent the night trying to keep the sand out of our ears, eyes, and sleeping bags. By morning we were all covered in sand and wondering if we could put up with this for the next 14-days! Thankfully the wind dropped by day-break and we were all refreshed by a hearty cooked breakfast and plenty of tea and coffee.

We soon settled into a routine on the river and everyone relaxed very quickly. We would get up with the sun at about 5.15am, eat a home-cooked breakfast, pack the boats, and be on the river by 9am. Each day we would stop to explore side canyons, take hikes, look at geological features, study Native American artifacts, or just take a nap or read a book. Lunch was usually a picnic on a sandy beach, and by ~4pm we would make camp, clean ourselves up in the river, and relax as the sun went down and the guides prepared a gourmet dinner. After dinner we would read and usually go to bed at about 8.15pm so we could look at the stars as we drifted off to sleep.

We did have a few notable events along the way that are worth mentioning:

One of the guests tested positive for COVID on Day-2 of the trip and was evacuated by the park service in a helicopter. This was an attempt to stop the spread of the virus throughout the group. However, this was unsuccessful and the virus spread to several other members of the party, including some of the staff. As a group we agreed that we would keep going and try to practice social distancing. Thankfully no-one got really sick and we were able to minimize the impact on the group. It did make for some interesting conversations on the trip and lots of speculation about the pros and cons of vaccinations.

Our guides turned out to be some of the most experienced river guides in the canyon, and they really surpassed our expectations. All of them were in their 60’s and each had 30-40 years of guiding experience. This meant that collectively we had perhaps the most knowledgeable and expert crew possible. Because of this we had no issues running the various rapids on the river and we learned an immense amount about the history, geology, and hydrology of the Grand Canyon. They were also a great deal of fun and we regularly had water fights, played jokes, and laughed out loud under their leadership.

Along the river we saw several other groups in different types of water craft. There were kayaks, small rubber rafts being rowed, large rubber rafts with outboard motors, and just 1 or 2 other wooden dories. Some were guided trips like ours and some were private citizens who were simply passionate and experienced river-runners.

In the lower sections of the canyon we saw ancient lava flows that had once blocked the river. We also saw evidence of massive erosion in the side canyons and tremendous uplifting of the earth from below. These geological features were very impressive and must have been quite frightening to the early explorers in this region of the country.

One of our support staff turned out to be 75-yr old John Blaustein. ‘JB’ is a well known photographer of the Grand Canyon and had published the seminal book of pictures from his days as a river guide in the 1970s-1990s. It was great to get to know John and to hear about his days on the river before it was such a well organized and refined experience.

Sadly, after 15-days on the river, our trip had to finish. We had run out of canyon and made it all the way down to Lake Mead (held back by the Hoover Dam). Because of the drought in the western USA the level of Lake Mead is much lower (50-100ft?) than normal and it was shocking to see the devastation this is causing. Thankfully we had plenty of water on our trip because they are still currently letting out water from Lake Powell at the normal rate for hydroelectricity and irrigation downstream. It is likely that this will not be the case for too much longer if the drought continues.

A selection of photos follows that illustrate our trip. If you’d like to see a short (12-minute) movie of our trip please send Sheri or Bruno an email and we will be happy to send you a link.

The spring garden is planted

We had a busy weekend planting annuals in pots on the deck and planting seedlings in the garden. The seedlings were started indoors in April and have been hardening off outdoors over the last week. We have the usual favorites like okra, broccoli and tomatoes, and a repeat of ground cherries that were a big hit last summer. New this year is Napa cabbage and Nigella..

Kale and Napa cabbage
Strawberry shortcake anyone?
Afternoon tea in the garden
Zealand in his spot
Green onions and cauliflower

Hiking the Shelburne Trails

We decided to ease back into hiking season by exploring trails in the northern end of the White Mountains. These trails start in the valley of the Adroscoggin River and run mostly in the north-south direction among the foothills of the Mahousic Range.

After reading a trip report by Phil Werner who writes the Section Hiker blog, we made our destination Mount Ingalls with a side-trip to Ray’s Pond. We were intrigued by the turnstile at the trail had (see Phil’s post) and his raving review of the views from ledges around Mt Ingall.

Photo credit; Phil Werner

It took a bit to find the trail head as the turnstile had been removed because of logging in the area. We later spoke to a local who assured us it would be put back in place. It was disappointing, but it does offer a reason to come back.

Initially, the trails followed logging roads and were a bit like a spaghetti network, but we found the way. At about 0.5 miles from the car, we came upon a sign to the “cable car”. We were delighted to find the Shelburne Trail Club had installed a cable car to aid crossing the river. This turned out to be great fun. Well maybe not for Zealand who didn’t quite commit to the crossing. Meanwhile, Mesa chose the direct route across the river

Hold on Z!

Oops! Sorry Z (he is in the water below)

The trails in the area are color coded, and easy to follow. The paths are well marked and easy to follow. We only met one, very friendly hiker along the way who gave us advice about closure of the blue trail due to logging.

Ledges below the summit of Mt. Ingalls offered views of the Presidential and Carter-Moriah ranges

Not far below the summit of Mt Ingalls is Ray’s Pond that was name for a well-loved local. The pond was still partially frozen, but the frogs knew it was spring. We considered having lunch by the pond, but it was a little squishy and a dry place to sit was hard to find. We did stay for a bit and enjoy the frog orchestra and the warm breeze.

Singing frogs at Ray’s Pond (turn the volume up!)
Mesa enjoying the tree frogs
Lunch break with the doodles
Sheri crossing the river on the way back

We returned to the car on the red trail (as the blue trail option was out) and used the cable car once again to cross the river. This time both Mesa AND Zealand chose the river crossing option. Overall this was a lovely hike with great views, ponds and of course the cable car. This could easily become a favorite place and we expect to return again soon.

A microgreens experiment

Early April in Connecticut is prime time for sowing seeds indoors. We have a growing station in our basement that consists standard utility lights from Home Depot and an IKEA shelving system Sheri bought when she graduated from college just before heading to Connecticut to work at Pfizer (the first time).

We planted the usual cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, okra and a few other favorites. Also, flowers, we sow plenty of flower seeds for the cutting garden. This year we planted for the first time blend of microgreens, that is predominantly radish seeds. We sprinkled the seeds on top a 1” layer of potting soil in a tray. We added water, put them under the grow light and waited.

Microgreens in the growing station
Salad fixin’s in less than one week!

To our delight in less than ONE week, we were enjoying microgreens in salads and on fish tacos! Every year we try growing something new, with varying levels of success. The micogreens are a winner!

Skiing in Craftsbury, Vermont

Two weeks ago we traveled to Craftsbury, Vermont along with our friends Mike, Denise, Anne and Don. We stayed in a lovey house that Denise found for us that was located right on Craftsbury Common. This location provides easy access the XC ski trails that connect to a large network of trails.

We stayed in this lovely house

Craftsbury is known for outdoor activities and we have read about the XC skiing with longing. So, we were very excited about the prospect of skiing there with good friends with whom we have had many ski adventures, including trips to Maine Huts and the AMC Huts in Maine.

However, when we arrived on a Thursday evening to temperatures in the 50’s and no snow, we were of course disappointed. This wouldn’t be the first time the lack of snow threatened a ski trip. Fortunately, there was snow in the forecast, and …we woke to snow on Friday morning!

Waking up to snow!

By Friday afternoon there was enough snow to ski and so we headed to Craftbury Center and skied until dark. The following day we had a full day on skis in bright sunshine. The trails took us over frozen lakes, through delicate woodlands and provided iconic Vermont scenes along the way.

Just enough show to bring out the smiles
Fun mosaics decorated the trails
Another mosaic on trees
Mike and Denise
Relaxing after a day on skis
Skiing on the lake
Looking from the house to Craftsbury Common with fresh snow
The Common

On Sunday, we were pleased to wake to a fresh layer of snow and skied from the house in the direction of the ski center. It continued to snow all day, giving us six additional inches which made the skiing even better.

Enjoying the view
Happy skiers
Don and Anne
Food, friends and wine …lots of wine

On Monday morning it was bright and crisp, and we were able to get one more ski in before heading back home to Connecticut. It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed skiing through farmlands and along shimmering rivers. With reluctance, we headed south but did Craftsbury General Store for a sandwich and coffee for the way home. The provisions at the “Genny” are reason enough to visit Craftbury, but the skiing is pretty special too.

Classic Vermont
Skiing by a stream early Monday morning

Best of 2021 Christmas cards

Each year we enjoy receiving the Christmas cards that our friends and family send to us. We put them up in our dining room and enjoy them over the holiday season and into the new year. \

As we take them down in January it is always fun to re-read them and to select a few which have designs that we really like. For 2021 there were seven cards that made our ‘favorites list’. Below we share the images with you so you can enjoy them too.