Monday, January 20, 2014

Snowboarding - Take Two at Gunstock Mountain

Gunstock Mountain Resort

There’s something about snowboarding that has always appealed to me, even long before I became a hiker. My family never skied or snowboarded, so I was never introduced to it like many of my friends. However, when I was in college, I decided I was going to try it. I took lessons with Jill (then my girlfriend) at Ski Bradford in Haverhill, MA. This was ten years ago, so bear with me on what I recollect. I recall the lesson went by pretty quickly and the guy (a teenage kid) teaching us wasn’t too passionate about helping. But we made it through the lesson and I started planning out my first trip to a “real” mountain!

I recruited my buddy Alex, who you’ve met in three hiking trip reports on this site; Moosilauke, Doubleheads and Mount Crawford. We headed up to Loon and I can remember being very excited to snowboard and get past the learning curve. Little did I know, I wasn't going to be able to play around for an hour during a quick lesson and then just “be a snowboarder”! After I got my rentals, I put them on and realized immediately that my foot seemed to float a lot in them. I dismissed it and figured it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. I ended up fighting to keep my feet down on the board the whole day, which added to the challenge. Alex brought me up to the first slope, which wasn’t a very a high one. I spent some time trying to redo what I had learned at my lesson, but the more I fell, the more tired I got and the harder it seemed to get back up. After getting down from the first hill, Alex brought me to the summit of the mountain. This is where the pain really started. I remember thinking, “wow, we’re really high up…I should be able to get snowboarding down by the time we’re at the bottom”. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Every time I fell down, it seemed to take so much effort to get up. I remember being exhausted. And my wrists and tailbone hurt so badly that I thought the next fall would be my breaking point. I finally did make my way to the bottom, but it took a couple of hours. I remember Alex asking if I wanted to do it again but I couldn’t. So, we hit the Woodstock Inn Brewery for a few beers and called it a day. I didn’t return to the slopes again until this year!

My buddy Rob learning to make a toe side turn
My buddy Rob and I decided to take lessons at Gunstock Mountain Resort this past week. I can’t explain to you how great these lessons were compared to the lesson I took at Bradford 10 years prior. My instructor, also named Rob, had been snowboarding for 20 years and really took the time and patience to help us with our questions. The first thing he did was helped me tighten my boots properly so that my feet stayed flat. The lessons started off learning how to glide downhill and veer toe side and then heal side. From there, we went up to a sluice and learned how to connect toe side turning to heal side turning. I’m sure this all sounds pretty easy, but it was difficult! I liked the fact that Gunstock had a conveyor belt lift called the “magic carpet” so we didn’t have to struggle with rope or tee handle tows. After we made progress connecting turns, we learned how to traverse down a steeper banking, one way and then another. Once the instructor thought we made progress there, he brought us up to the Peepsight slope. For me, riding the lift is one of the most intimidating parts. Well, I guess not riding it, but getting on and off from it. I was able to successfully go down the trail and only fell a couple times! I was able to switch from toe side to heal side and check speed in between using what I had learned traversing. I really feel I need to go one more time to get more comfortable and call myself a “real snowboarder”! I’ll keep you all posted on my progress!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Contemplation in Conway - Guest Blogger Post

By Loren Valliere

How lucky are we to be able to share in Karl’s many adventures! If you’re like me, blogs like this one remind you why you love the northern landscape, and inspire you to get outdoors and enjoy it. Adventure is engrained in our Yankee spirit, and these wild spaces are deeply appreciated by everyone who is privileged to visit the granite state.

Today Karl has given me the opportunity to share some of my own experiences with his readers. Below is a picture of one of my hikes in the North Country this past year, up to Cathedral’s Ledge. We stayed at the newly-renovated Comfort Inn in North Conway and were looking for an easy afternoon hike on our first day up there. We looked at the trail map in the parking area for a while, a very rudimentary brown sign with not much to intrigue our current adventurous spirits. There were a lot of people out during a prime-tourist weekend, so we decided to ditch the trail and climb through the woods to the summit (I don’t recommend this- it was dangerous!). Before we knew it, we were scaling rocks without any equipment, pulling each other up steep areas, and catching great views between the trees as we ascended. To catch our breath, we stopped and listened to some of the different bird species. I could make out the purple finch (NH’s state bird!) and the common chickadee, but my limited identification skills stopped me there.

Before we could see the summit, we could hear voices. A few boosts up some tall rocks, clinging to some trees for dear life; I remember thinking we are certainly not taking this way down! Open blue sky was a welcome sight for me, and I crab-walked on all fours to make my way up the flat gray rock, cool on my hands in the fall sun, and finally I could stand straight up at the top of Cathedral’s Ledge. The top is fenced in many areas where the best views are, to keep you from walking straight off the cliff. From there we could see real rock climbers (not the young-and-stupid form of rock climbing we had just done) navigating the sheer cliff face. I learned later that this ledge formed during the retreat of the last ice-age. The cliffs are sheer granite and spectacular to see. During the summer months, you can hire a guide to help you navigate the cliff (oh, and there’s an autoroad to the top). Cathedral’s Ledge is part of Echo Lake State Park, along with White Horse Ledge, which were both purchased in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s by area visitors and local residents, and later deeded to the state of NH.

People laughed at our clamoring around, and probably thought those people obviously aren’t from around here (although, in truth I’m a born and raised granite-stater – go wildcats!). We stood with a friendly group catching some sun rays and delighted in our prize: the astounding views at the summit. People love New England, and that is for sure. I’ve lived in Oahu, Hawaii, and traveled every stretch of the island there; I’ve visited Mexico and the southern states, seen the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, and have gone north into Canada, but there is something about New Hampshire that keeps people coming back. Maybe it’s the charm, a strange kind of northern warmth even in cold weather. On this brisk fall day, you couldn’t feel any sense of chilly gray up there. Colors abound and the air is crisp, renewing the spirit.

This was about the same time I was embarking on a separate adventure. In my professional career: I had just been hired by the National Wildlife Federation to research and outreach to New Hampshire citizens about climate change. And now, standing up here on the rock face of Cathedral’s Ledge, it was all I could think about. It was very real to me that, in several years, my children and grandchildren may climb to this same summit, and discover a very, very different north country.

Most of us have accepted that climate change is here. The accelerated warming trends are well documented, especially here in the northern areas of the country where climate change will have the first and probably most devastating effects. If you haven’t read into this, I certainly encourage you to do so. There has been lots of press lately about how moose are being affected by shorter winters that allow ticks to literally suck the life out of our state’s icon (see the National Wildlife Federation’s recent report: “Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World"). Moose tour businesses are feeling the effects, since they have to search longer and put in more hours to find a moose to show their clients. The shops that rely on ice fishing during the non-tourist months are hurting because the ice just isn’t reliable for fishing anymore (see www.nwf.org/sportsmen for more information). Ice forms later and breaks up earlier, shortening the ice fishing season.

The maple sugar industry, also economically important for New England, now fears the northward movement of sugar maples out of this area as the warming climate proves inhospitable for their continued growth. US Forest Service models predict that New Hampshire’s future climate will support plant species that typically grow to the south and in lower elevations – think oaks and southern pines, not the smooth, stretchy-armed, long-fingered, yellow-and-red-leaved sugar maples. As hikers and people who connect with the outdoors, we know what a shift in plant species means for our wildlife species—lots of changes, lots of movement, and perhaps even loss. I thought then about the birds I heard earlier on my hike— the purple finch isn’t going to stick around in a warming climate, and is one of several species that has already begun to shift its range northward according to NH Audubon.

National Wildlife Federation is one of many groups in New Hampshire working to take action on climate change. If you’re interested in doing something to reverse our negative impacts on New Hampshire’s landscape, I encourage you to contact us and use our many resources to make your voice heard. You can take action right here in New Hampshire, and it can be as easy as making a phone call to your senator or signing a petition to set carbon pollution standards. So, I encourage you to speak up; this is one issue where every voice matters, and together we have the power to make positive change in 2014. Happy New Year fellow outdoorspeople-- keep adventuring!

Loren Valliere is a NH wildlife biologist and an outreach consultant for the National Wildlife Federation. Please feel free to contact her through e-mail (Loren.wildlife@gmail.com) or on FaceBook (NH Wildlife and Climate News)

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this guest post are that of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Live Free and Hike NH.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year's in Conway!

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and a happy and safe New Year. Jill and I have been very busy these days and Lylah is growing up quickly. She’s 2-1/2 now and this is the first Christmas that she actually “understood” that Santa was coming and that she was going to get gifts. That made for a fun holiday season for us. As usual, we cut down a tree that had not been traditionally trimmed, but instead, had a more natural, crazy look to it.

For New Year’s, we decided to take a trip up North, like we used to every year before we had kids! However, with Lylah this time, we decided to make this winter trip much more kid friendly.

We stayed at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in Conway as we had heard it was very child friendly and had a lot of activities to keep busy. When we drove up to it, we saw that it had a great sledding hill out front which we decided to try out later in our trip. The room was spacious and we had a great view of the Moat Mountain Range from our window.

During our stay, we took advantage of the indoor water park onsite, as well as the sledding hill and story time. We ate at a couple of our favorite restaurants in Conway, the Black Cap Grille and The Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Company, and had breakfast at a favorite, Peach’s. For New Year’s Eve, we traveled over to Jefferson, via the Pinkham Notch and went to Santa’s Village which was great, but very, very cold (negative degrees)!!! My favorite part, though, was the mountain scenery which was beautiful!

 Action Shot!!!

Overall, it was a great and successful trip up north with the little one. One thing I’ve learned from having a toddler is that a vacation up north isn’t as relaxing as it used to be (when it was just Jill and I) but does bring us just as much joy and happiness! Soon, we’ll have another little one to keep us company when we travel up there as well! 


Friday, January 3, 2014

We'll Be Back Soon!

Hi Everyone - We've taken a break for a bit with the holidays, but we'll have some new posts going up soon! Stay tuned!!!