Random Splash of Color

I think that I probably have many hundreds, if not low thousands, of digital images on my hard drive, most of which have never been seen by anyone except myself... I think I am going to start 'publishing' them here.

Just a splash of color to mark the end of February, it is the time year, where color and signs of life, are much appreciated.


A Sugar Day in the Bolton Valley Backcountry

After today, if I never used my backcountry gear again, I would still say that I got my money's worth. Bolton Valley is claiming that they have received over 5 feet of snow in February and I believe them and I can attest, the snow is mostly all still there....

Everytrail is just an new service I am trying out, I'm not sure if it's quite ready for primetime but it is fully interactive and includes a Google Earth converter which is pretty cool. Like many other web services these days it lets users share files (photos, videos, whatever) only this is a sharing/hosting service for GPS files. There aren't many users yet from what I can see.

The profile from today. After this experience, I am tired... and my body aches, but in a good way.

The scene setting out at about 11:30 am.

I bought some "kicker skins" for my skis, they work pretty well, and are easier to work with than full-length skins, but obviously don't provide as much grip.

I came back down this trail in the late afternoon as I was heading back down the mountain. The area is quite remote, not patrolled, and I was alone (which is not recommended). I made sure to be cautious because if I had become incapacitated... I might have a very cold (perhaps fatally cold) night on the mountain. Part of being in such places involves acceptance of what might happen, even if you are prepared, and don't knowingly do stupid shit. It can be risky out there. But I have always believed that sitting at home drinking beer, eating chips and watching TV is more likely to kill you than being outdoors.

Miles and miles of trails like this (though there were some much steeper sections).

I was thinking about this blog (of all things) as I was slogging away uphill starting out; maybe I will make this blog into an irregularly updated journal of my misadventures large and small in the outdoors. Right now this blog really has no theme and I keep it going in the face of crushing indifference, no one reads it... I think a change in editorial direction may be in order.


Cabin Fever Pictures

In Vermont, the autumn of 2006 was unusually warm and balmy, and this carried over into about mid-January. Then it turned cold and dry (a weather pattern similar to the Canadian prairies) and then in mid-February there was the big blizzard...so we are going on a month and a half of true winter. It's kind of nice but it does take a toll and I think I am ready to be warm again.

I had to go to the optometrist today because the dryness and cold has irritated my eyes (long story, my eyesight basically sucks, lots of issues) and I brought my camera. I rarely use it indoors or take photos of people so this is an attempt at something new. My camera (Canon Powershot s3is) has some limitations that make it less than ideal for this.

Stowe Coffee Shop

Picnic tables waiting for spring

I have lived in Vermont for almost 20 years, and now I live 5 minutes from the Ben & Jerry's plant in Waterbury (#1 tourist attraction in Vermont) but until today I had never taken the plant tour. They were having a winter festival, so it was free admission.

I am actually not a huge fan of this company, either the politics of the founders and its self-proclaimed mission (though it is now owned by Unilever -- which makes me think of soap), or its products -- it's like eating butter, but as I noted, it is literally in my backyard. Also having their plant here is a major tax benefit to Waterbury so I shouldn't complain too much.

Waterbury is also home to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and sometimes when the wind is right the smell of roasting coffee fills the air.

And, one last image from today, there isn't much light pollution around here, so I am able to get some pretty amazing moon shots:


Fame but no fortune redux: A picture in the Waterbury Record

Back in October 2006, I took some pictures of a small local cyclocross race which were picked up, quite surprisingly, by the Burlington Free Press. Now there is a new weekly newspaper in Waterbury, of course the big Valentine's Day blizzard was major news, and this publication said "send us your pictures", so I did.

They actually offered to PAY me for photos which was quite surprising and I declined. There was also quite a bit of back and forth about file formats which ended with me telling them to use what they had or to not run anything at all. I also asked them to print my blog address but that seems to have not happened...

After all that, they managed to spell my name wrong! Who the hell is Jeff Gaultier? Should I adopt a nom de plume?

My little flickr photostream has been largely ignored by the flickr community for two reasons: 1) the pictures are prosaic and boring & 2) -- more importantly I think -- I really have not participated in flickr as a social networking site, I don't leave many comments, tag my photos extensively, and don't join many groups. So I must confess, that it is somewhat vindicating, that I have been able to get my stuff published, because I am sure that this isn't the case for most of the flickr community. So there. (Actually there are some amazing photos on flickr, it's just that I am not very adept at 'social networking'.)

My blizzard pictures can be seen here and the editor of the Waterbury Record was very encouraging ("we love your stuff") so perhaps I will submit more photos, and maybe even get paid, in the future...


What "Tele-Thursday" looked like: Bolton Valley, 2-22-07

I figure, lots of natural snow is likely to become a pretty rare (nonexistent?) thing in the future... so tonight I went over to Bolton Valley to take a tele lesson. I don't think I'll buy telemark gear but I wanted to try and learn some technique to improve my backcountry ability. I don't know how much I learned in a quick 90 minutes but I will be spending some time in the woods this weekend for sure so I will find out.
Cool gps track made with Google Earth.

Taken with my old camera, which does not have any image stabilization. Still a pretty passable image!


Where I was when: Basel Fasnacht, 1983

In some ways, the experience of moving in August 2006 was akin to a very high tide that came in, cast up some detritus on the shore, and then retreated. I'm still uncovering things that I hadn't seen in long time, like this pewter pin which is kind of like a very nice upscale First Night button.

1983 was the second time that I went to the Basel carneval, the first time was in 1980, I had only been in Europe a couple of months, and it was still something very new and strange. I also think in 1980 it was the night of the miracle on ice hockey game (1980 Winter Olympics) because I think I remember watching some of the game on German television before leaving.


Completely random photo of the day

Vicariously getting away from all the snow in Vermont: From a trip I made to Moab, Utah in the late 90s, & taken with a disposable camera. The story behind this picture is that I was on a bike early in the morning riding through the sleepy quiet town and I was going fast and looking up at the surrounding mesas & admiring the sunrise and POW I plowed right into a huge old parked Lincoln.... and I went pavement surfing, and my pockets were full of supplies for the ride, which all went skidding across the road. My misspent youth...


Monkey see, monkey do: More skiing at Waterbury Dam

I knew that after seeing people skiing on the dam yesterday that I would have to return today to try it for myself. The weather was quite harsh -- snow and wind -- but it wasn't too cold and climbing the dam five times certainly made me sweat.

I did this both to amuse myself and also to try and learn how to turn my backcountry skis in a tree-less environment. I have some Alpine skiing experience and have skied cross country at some quite hilly places...but these experiences haven't helped me too much in the woods.

I did make some progress I guess and my gear is not a full-on tele package and I don't think that the skis are designed to be pushed really hard on downhills -- they lack a certain snap or resiliency especially when cutting through crud.

I brought my GPS with me and it provides a quite humorous record of this experience, it is an entry level unit and hence there is a certain amount of variation in how the tracks are plotted and in the inconsistencies of the elevations on the profile:

An interesting picture looking down the face of the dam, almost at the top.

The way down. The snow was several feet deep.

The weather was quite harsh at the top, winds and blowing snow, it was like being sandblasted:

These images were taken with my old Canon A60 which is smaller than my other camera, and is old fashioned by the standards of today's digicams, but it still gets the job done.

This is the sort of blog post that could potentially get me into trouble but I was not the only person using the dam for this purpose and the snow is measured in feet, not inches, so I don't think we were causing any damage.


DIY skiing at Waterbury Dam

I went snowshoeing for a couple of hours today. For some foolish reason I was compelled to try and go bushwhacking, which, given that there currently is almost three feet of fluffy uncompressed new snow, was an unwise thing to do -- it was more like swimming than anything else. Avalanche warnings are posted in the backcountry and I would certainly think twice before trying to traverse steep open chutes because the snowpack would shift and settle under me as I waded through it -- and I was always in the trees. There would be a clearly audible but muffled sound as large areas of snow shifted under me.

I saw a couple of deer and tried to take pictures of them as they didn't bolt once they saw me (perhaps perceiving that I could hardly move forward at all) but the pictures didn't work out.

Once I emerged (covered in snow) from the woods, however, this was the scene at the dam, for some reason I thought it was really quite funny:

More pictures of the same place in a different season can be found here.


Time Lapse Blizzard

I saw a video posted on 802Online where someone had the same idea...On Wednesday during the big storm I worked from home and set up my camera in the bedroom on a tripod and let it take pictures throughout the day. I live in a pretty sleepy condo complex and there isn't much traffic even on normal days but on this day there was basically no activity at all.

The Burlington Free Press site has a version of this concept that is much better and that covers 18hrs of snowy activity at the corner of College & Church St.

I think I have a talent for making uninteresting videos... maybe I should make a DVD for people suffering from insomnia or something.


The Day After: The Commute

Just some not very exciting pictures of my commute this morning. After the storm subsided it was quite cold and windy which isn't the most pleasant combination. I pulled over in Waterbury Center and took some quick pictures but I was already late and the weather was not conducive to putzing around with the camera. The road is Rt 100 and it is a major thoroughfare that receives lots of attention from state road crews...but the storm was quite overwhelming and the cold and wind meant that it was still snow covered and slippery in the morning.

Note the street sign for 'Sunset Dr'... I drive a little Ford Focus, it is a pretty low slung car and when the snowbanks are this high, I feel like I could use a periscope to see what's coming.

Blizzard Images, Waterbury, Vermont, February 14 2007

The storm dumped about 2 feet of snow and in the afternoon it did qualify as a blizzard with high winds and very cold temperatures -- it was about 5 degrees Farenheit all day.


Valentine's Day

This is not my favorite 'holiday' (to put it mildly) but this was waiting for me when I rolled out of bed this morning, and no I didn't do it myself...

And, the Northeast US is experiencing a major snowstorm today, usually weather forecasters are hysteric types, prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, but this storm is the real deal apparently, blizzard warnings have been posted for this afternoon. I will post some images later today but this is the view out my back door at about 8:30 am.


Backcountry skiing: More Little River State Park

When I lived in Burlington I spent a fair amount of time hiking around Colchester Pond and Indian Brook reservoir. This small patch of woods was close to my home and hence it was very easy to get there.

Now that I have moved to Waterbury Little River State Park is playing a similar role except that it is a much larger and wilder patch of land and is also now very close to where I live.

Saturday I went over to the park with my backcountry skis (shaped skis with fishscales for climbing and metal edges, and heavy touring boots). I am still very inept on this gear and cannot do a tele turn to save my life (which, skiing in the woods, this could be literally true). Umiak Outfitters in Stowe is holding an intro tele clinic on February 25 and I may attend though it's quite expensive.

It was a great day to be out in the woods, not too cold and with intermittent heavy snow showers. The ice on the reservoir is thick enough now that fishermen are driving their trucks out on the ice. I wish I stopped to take a photo of one old guy out on the ice fishing who was nonchalantly cooling a bottle of beer in a snowbank as I skied by. The total trip distance was about 7.5 miles and getting back down from the high point (about 1500 ft) to the level of the reservoir (about 600 ft) tested my skiing abilities to the limit, descending a steep and narrow trail that lost a lot of elevation in a hurry.

Just some images from the trip:

The trail is an old road lined with abandoned farms.

A cloudburst of heavy snow. Five minutes later, the sun came out.

Part of the trail followed a snowmobile trail. The riders were polite but it kind of sucks to be out in the wilderness and to be surrounded by noisy (it sounded like a pack of Harleys), smelly machines.

Images of an abandoned cemetery. This area was farmed in the 19th century but the farms are all abandoned and the forest has reclaimed the land. Decrepit apple trees and cellar holes mark the sites of the old homesteads.


Comics in Stowe

I was in the Stowe Library on Thursday night, returning a couple of videos (ironically, one was American Splendor... a film about a comic book artist). There is a gallery space upstairs... which is usually closed in the evening, but they were hosting a talk by Harry Bliss, a cartoonist who has been published in the New Yorker (several covers, etc.) and other publications, in conjunction with the current "Fine Toons" show at the gallery. It was only serendipity that I found out about this event, even though I work in Stowe and live in Waterbury I am still out of the loop about events like this in the local community. I was on my way to the gym but I had been wanting to see this exhibit and the talk sounded interesting so I went to the presentation instead.

The show featured many cartoonists living in Vermont, some of whom I was familiar with, and some of whom I knew of, but didn't know had a Vermont connection. In particular I was very surprised that Frank Miller, of Sin City notoriety, lives in Montpelier... about as un-noirish an environment as I can imagine.

Ed Koren was also featured, he lives in Brookfield, where I used to work, and one of his drawings featured Floyd's Store in Randolph Center... which was funny as I lived right down the road at one time and have been in that store many times. Koren also did the artwork for these really old-school t-shirts for Onion River Sports... they are pretty cool in this era of glitzy overdone logo-laden gear.
The exhibit is free and runs through the end of March. It was reviewed in Seven Days here and Eva made a video at the opening which can be viewed here.


Where I was when: Chafed by the bay, renting a bike in San Francisco

Downward career trajectories: From 1995 - 2000 I had an Internet era boom/bubble job that paid me quite well, was interesting, and was in a congenial location (Burlington). All things must pass, however, and the tail end of this experience involved working at a company (my employer was acquired) that epitomized that period's cash-burning IPO-funded scam companies, which wasn't much fun at all. This company quickly ran out of money and was acquired in turn by Earthlink, and I was finally laid off (with a nice severance check, thankfully) on December 15, 2000. Since then I have had a variety of professional experiences and also spent some time at school as the state of Vermont classified me as a 'displaced technology worker'.

So, in the course of this odyssey of personal and professional trial and tribulation, in February 2002 I was working at a marketing-telecom company. This firm's main market was automobile dealers, and I was delegated to attend the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in San Francisco, CA. All I had to do at this event was to walk the floor for three days, make contacts, take notes, and scope out the booth presence of my then-employer's largest competitor. This was a cushy and rather incongruous assignment for me, as automobiles do not really get me excited... and I am pretty committed to using a bike as transportation whenever possible. I wish I had kept a copy of my trip report because it definitely owed a little something to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the parts where HST crashes a convention of law-enforcement types.... cars are not my thing.

I was flying to San Francisco on the day that the space shuttle Columbia was scheduled to return from orbit. Of course that ended in tragedy and as I was changing planes in O'Hare, the concourses were lined with TVs all tuned to CNN showing images like this:
This would have been sad and depressing under normal circumstances but it was doubly so as I was catching the next flight to continue my trip. I think I am becoming inured to tragedy, there are so many sad things going on in the world.

Once I arrived in San Francisco, however, I enjoyed four days of spectacular weather, cloudless skies and daytime temperatures in the mid-sixties -- quite a change from Vermont in February. The trade show didn't stay open late so I spent the late afternoons exploring the city and dining in restaurants on my expense account. I discovered that it was possible to rent a bike in the Fisherman's Wharf tourist district... which piqued my interest even though I had brought no suitable clothes for bike riding of any kind.

I bought a cheap pair of shorts (not cycling shorts, mind you) at the flagship Old Navy store downtown and headed off to rent a bike one afternoon. I wound up on a pig of a heavy mountain bike with a dorky helmet that tilted down across my eyes and of course I had no cycling shoes with me so I was riding in regular street shoes. It must have been quite a sight because I got this porky bike up to an unsafe speed (I was still a 'bike racer' at this point in my life) and blasted down the path along the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a really spectacular day and I remember how cool it was to ride across the bridge in the late afternoon sun and experience the view and to stop and peer over the low railing down the fatal drop into the cold waters below.

I have ridden a bike tens of thousands of miles in my lifetime and while I never acquired a really flashy expensive road bike I did have OK equipment, and I raced in all the New England states, NY, Quebec, and (briefly) down south (VA, NC, GA)... but it's not the equipment or the event that make the experience. All that's needed is a bike that sort of works and the motivation to ride, a spectacular setting like the Golden Gate Bridge is just a bonus.

The photo at the top was taken with a circa late-90s digicam that was meant to be given away as a marketing premium that I brought with me to this event. Today I'm sure that the average cell phone camera could do a better job, but it does convey the brilliant weather that I experienced on this trip.