Worcester Range with snow

On Friday I ran up to the top of Stowe Hollow Road to try and take some pictures of snow on the surrounding mountains. This effort was largely foiled by my ignorance of the local geography, the presence of power lines, and lots of 'no trespassing' signs. Still it was a beautiful day which set the stage for a weekend of persistent rain and wind.

Frosting on Stowe Pinnacle

Shadows and snow on the mountian

Worcester Range in the twilight, from behind Cold Hollow Cider Mill


Fame but no fortune: Pictures in the Free Press

I posted some pictures of a small local cyclocross race here and emailed the link to four people, one of whom must have forwarded the link to the owner/operator of the Catamount Family Center, where the race was held. He in turn was contacted by a reporter for the Burlington Free Press who was doing a story on this obscure sport and needed some photographs as illustrations. One thing led to another... and so my pictures were prominent in today's paper.

I know this is very trivial in light of the headlines on section "A" which were all about murder, wars and killing but still it was a nice thing and did give me a small sense of accomplishment & vindication. The story that accompanied the photos can be found here, its got some inaccuracies but any coverage of bike racing in the mainstream press is probably a good thing.


Another perspective on Tony's Hot Dog truck

Just playing around with Gimp, I really was trying to take pictures of the hot drug truck at an unfortunate time of day, the sun and shadows were quite awkward and the photos didn't turn out very well:

The re-made image; with color saturation turned up and a 'canvas' overlay applied. I have seen some stuff done with photoshop on Flickr makes me want to learn that program, plus real documentation (and a wealth of published material on how to use the thing) is an attractive concept... but I'm probably too cheap to shell out the money.


Cyclocross is a cold muddy sport

Just some random pictures from the cyclocross race at Catamount today. Tough conditions! The guys were hypothermic at the end of the race, it's hard to get 'warm' and make a big effort like that... and then stop, the body's temperature plummets...I have some first hand knowledge of this. Hats off to Josh Dillon (winner) and everyone who toughed it out.

The start:

Spectators watching racers suffer in the cold:

Ben Peters:

Sunglasses were of limited utility on this day:

A group of three stayed together til the finish, where Josh showed that he could still sprint convincingly even in the mud:

There are more pictures here:


Remember the Fallen

Military coffins at Dover AFB.... More images here.

News item from today:

11 U.S. troops killed as Ramadan attacks mount
With 70 slain, October on pace to be deadliest month in two years NBC NEWS EXCLUSIVE

Updated: 10 minutes ago BAGHDAD, Iraq - Eleven more U.S. troops were slain in combat, the military said Wednesday, putting October on track to be the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the siege of Fallujah nearly two years ago...

I find the current situation in America so unsettling and depressing. I think that Iraq is like this terrible 'tar baby' (no I am not being racist by using that analogy), touch it and you are stuck. I frankly don't care much for which grouping of violent sectarian tribes run that shattered and completely hopeless country.

As I understand it, Iraq (lost Babylon) isn't much of a much of a nation at all as much as a geographic region cobbled into a nation-state by the colonial European powers encompassing incompatible tribes who basically hate each other... more like the former Yugoslavia than anything else. Why is this my problem? I don't have a vision of 21st Century America as a shining city on a hill, who are we to expend thousands of shattered lives and many billions of dollars trying to fix this mess. In some ways the anti-war argument is deeply cynical but perhaps more sensible: Why are we involved in this situation? These resources would be better spent at home, coming up with a sensible energy policy, etc.

Here at home, it's almost holiday shopping season (too depressing), gas prices are falling, which is widely perceived to be a 'good thing', and the business climate is surprisingly good. The stage is set for an upbeat holiday season. And yet 11 lives were lost today in a fruitless cause, no major party politician that I have heard has seriously addressed energy/environmental/security issues in a way that I remotely agree with, and life goes on, seemingly oblivious to it all. It's very discouraging if one stops to think about it.


Waterbury Revealed Redux: More prosaic pictures

One of the things I like about having this blog is that it is really just some free directory space for me to post inconsequential things like a few random photos from another sleepy Saturday in central Vermont.

When I ride my bike to work I ride by what's left of "Harold's Auction Barn" with the abandoned "Tony's Hot Dogs" truck: neither business appears to be thriving.

Look carefully: This is actually a pretty cool photograph, and is a testimony both to the camera and the extreme clearness of the water: See the fish?

There was a small fireworks display in town tonight to celebrate the restoration of Waterbury's old railroad depot. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will operate a cafe there; I wonder if it will have wi-fi? There used to be a coffeeshop in town with a kick-ass wireless connection but it closed on Labor Day.

My dad gave me a small gas grill (ordered from Amazon.com) as a housewarming/birthday gift. Thanks Dad! Putting this thing together took a good part of the morning but I had the gas cyclinder filled this afternoon at the hardware store... hit the ignition button and she fired right up (I was somewhat surprised). Now I can grill slabs of meat with impunity, as Martha Stewart would say, 'that's a good thing'.

The corn was almost certainly the last of the season, there was a hard frost here last night, in the mid 20's.


"Happy Birthday": Mortality and my mortgage

"Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" -- said at the coronation of the pope

"I'll sleep when I'm dead" -- Warren Zevon

If I was in a really pessimistic mood I would start this by quoting Job's curse of the night of his creation: "May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!'" but that would be a bit over the top, even for me.

Two related events happened this week: I made the first payment on my new mortgage (only 359 payments to go!) and I turned 41.

It would have been nice to get a 15 year mortgage but I am a person of limited means so I wound up putting down a large amount of principal on my new place and getting a conventional 30 year fixed rate mortgage. I put down a lot of money up front to try and minimize the size my mortgage payments because I fear that property taxes and energy costs may escalate dramatically in the future, putting me in a really untenable situation. Home ownership is heavily subsidized (interest and taxes are deductible, and these deductions are not adjusted for income, which is a joke) but still I am in a somewhat precarious position. Home ownership: American dream or nightmare?

But another aspect of this is that if I stay where I am for the duration of the mortgage (which is unlikely) I will 71 years old when the loan is paid off: What will the world look like in 30 years? Will the 21st century be an "American Century"? Or Chinese? Or Indian? Or will there be some enormous cataclysm that will make it such that it will be no one's century? One has to wonder.

In the future, what will winters in Vermont be like? Will snow be a thing of the distant past? Perhaps the heated sidewalks at Spruce Peak will be quite unneeded... What energy sources will be available? Will private vehicles powered by internal combustion engines be obsolete? Permafrost is melting, methane is bubbling, glaciers retreating, etc. Look around, the changes are evident, if you take the time to be still and observe.

I'm a great believer in the idea that the way things are now may not be how things will be in the future... and with all the ominous possibilities it is hard to imagine that this will all end happily. Who knows? Maybe putting money into my retirement fund is quite unnecessary? Maybe I'll get run over by a truck while riding to my bike work tomorrow.

Another thing to consider is that I'm 41 now and am single and childless: So if it hasn't happened yet it seems unlikely to happen in the future. One consequence of this is that my life resembles Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", I look and feel pretty much the same as I did when I was younger. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Photo #1: My college yearbook (Vassar College '87) photo: Who is this smartass? My 20th college reunion will be in spring 2007. I haven't decided if I will attend or not, I am very conflicted about the whole Vassar experience. Future blog fodder for sure.

Photo #2: Hiking in the Adirondacks, October 2006 (exactly 20 years later). It is like The Picture of Dorian Gray! Unscarred (mostly) by the ravages of time! What's going on? As I get older I haven't (thankfully) gotten any fatter, I still have most of my hair, and I am still pretty fit. So things could be a lot worse even as the world goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket.


Little Green Bugs

Taken along the Stowe Recreation Path this evening. Soon it will be 'stick season' and grays and browns will be the defining color scheme of the landscape.


"Interestingness" at last: Popularity on Flickr

I was reading a blog about financial services (a discussion of google/you tube) and the point was made, and I think it is very true, that you tube, and by implication, flickr (photo hosting site) are not about video or pictures... they are variants on social networking sites like myspace or facebook.

This is partly why my little flickr stream is largely ignored by the world: I rarely participate in groups and never leave comments about other people's stuff. I know when I see stuff that is good it usually has been commented on extensively so one more "this is cool" doesn't seem that important in the grand scheme of things. Also many of the pictures in my stream are quite prosaic although some people have told me that they have enjoyed seeing them.

Flickr, which has 1M users and hosts (allegedly) over 60M photos, has something called "interestingness" which means - I guess - a photo that is interesting, which is a totally subjective judgment. Every day there are 500 photos selected that are deemed 'interesting'... and for the first time one of my photos made the cut (some users have had many, many photos included in this pool).

Having the picture of the monarch butterfly (taken in front of the Montpelier, VT, post office) tagged as "interesting" means that it has been viewed over 40 times in less than two days. I'll keep trying and I have started posting my pictures to more groups, who knows, perhaps I will start commenting on other user's stuff. My little photo stream will soon pass 1,000 views... by way of comparison this photostream has accumulated over 400,000 views (it is helpful to be pretty and a little risque sometimes), but talent and originality also come into play.


Harvest Moon

Friday night I climbed Camels Hump at night with some people I know after work. It's a pretty easy climb if you are fit, know the way, and dress appropriately. We left at 6:45 pm and were back a little after 11.

The brilliant full moon made for a very distinctive experience and headlamps were not needed for most of the way.

The bright lights of the 'big' city: Burlington by night. The runway of the airport points almost exactly at the mountain, the lights are clearly visible.


Radio Vermont Towers

Just a couple of inconsequential pictures in the twilight this evening. I think that the best opportunities for photographing a spectacular autumn moonrise will be in a month. Now it is still too bright when the moon rises for the full effect.

I remember seeing the autumnal moon rise when I lived in Burlington, it would rise over Mt. Mansfield and would be huge and orange and would dominate the horizon.


Almost full moon

The moon will be full on Friday and it is supposed to be clear (though here in VT I take that forecast with a grain of salt.) I will try to be on top of Mt Hunger again as the sun goes down to take pictures of the moonrise. It depends on my job if I can make this happen or not. Leaving at 4 pm would let me get to the top of the mountain by six pm or so if I really am motivated.


Close Encounters of the Ursine Kind

Ursine: Etymology: Latin ursinus, from ursus bear
1 : of or relating to a bear or the bear family (Ursidae) -- MW online...

I know where the wild things are. According to my GPS, there's a very large bear foraging in a beech stand 5.25 miles from my home. I know this because Saturday was beautiful fall day in Vermont so I drove over to Little River State Park again and went hiking.

I find hiking on established trails to be pretty boring. For example, one could 'hike' on this trail wearing tennis shoes and an Ipod and be completely oblivious to the surrounding forest and the lay of the land.

I had my camera with me (see here) so even on wide smooth unchallenging trails I didn't go very fast because I kept stopping to take pictures. I knew when I started, however, that I was going leave the trail and try and follow a stream up into the drainage under Ricker (Bolton) Mtn. I wore boots and nylon pants & carried food, water, compass, gps, headlamp etc. Even though I was a crummy boy scout in my day the maxim "be prepared" did enter my consciousness I guess.

After I left the trail I was following the brook up the mountainside. It was mostly second growth hardwood forest and pretty open so it wasn't too bad.

As I went higher, however, the streambed was in the bottom of a deep, steep and narrow gully and forward progress was becoming increasingly difficult. At this point I punched out of the gully and got up onto the ridgeline on the north side of the stream (see the google image below).

The ridgeline was prime moose habitat: Lots of cover from young hardwoods interspersed with open swampy meadows. It was quite wet, the picture below doesn't do justice to how swampy it was. There were lots of moose sign about, some very fresh. I was wondering if it was moose mating season yet because I have read that a bull moose in rut is a stupid, territorial and aggressive animal and is actually kind of dangerous to be around (I think it is still kind of early, but I am not an expert on the sex life of moose...)

This area was once cleared for logging/farming and the moose were using an old (very old) logging road as a game trail that ran parallel to the stream, so I followed this. At this point I put the camera in my pack because I'd carried it this far and there had been a couple of times were it was in the way and I had been clambering over stuff and if I fell the camera would have been reduced to pieces of plastic.

Eventually the logging road petered out and it was almost 5 pm and the sun was setting (I was on the east side of the mountains) and I really didn't want to bushwhack out of there with just a headlamp so I was getting ready to head back. I was standing quietly in the darkening woods (stopped to pee) and I heard something... Turkeys or grouse? No. Squirrels or some other rodent? No. About 50 or 75 yards from me was a bear. A big black bear. I'm 5'7" and 135 lbs and even in the twilight I could see that this animal was a lot bigger than me.

I spent quite a bit of time in the bear-infested Adirondacks last year, however, and had some bear encounters (one of which scared the crap out of me, camping alone, large animals that go bump in the night...) and so had done some research on bears. I just watched for a few minutes and then backed out the way I had came. Once back on the moose/logging trail I made good time down the mountain and made sure to make a lot of noise so that whatever was around could hear me coming.

It was quite exciting and worthwhile and I wish I had stayed and watched for more time but I was alone and needed to take care of myself. It would have been really cool to have managed to get pictures of this but I would have had to had the camera out and ready and also set up to operate silently without all its default little electronic beeps. Also it really was quite dark in the woods at that point so I'm not sure it would have worked.

Below is the GPS Visualizer/Google Earth plot of some waypoints from this hike. I went down the north (left) side of the stream. From waypoint "Bear" (end of the hike) to "Trail" was only .75 mile...but trail-less!