Three seasons of the Jay Range (Adirondacks)

Derby Brook, deep in the trailless woods of the Jay Range in the Adirondacks. This photo was taken May 29, 2005, this is a relatively cold, dark place, the trees were only beginning to leaf out, even though it was Memorial Day weekend. I remember that I encountered a few small patches of ice on this hike deep in cracks in the rocks at higher elevations.

When I lived in Burlington, I could see the Adirondack mountains in New York across the lake -- but I was racing my bike for recreation, so I really didn't spend any time there. There were many reasons why I stopped bike racing but a desire to spend more time on other outdoor activities was a definite contributing factor. Once I stopped racing, did I spend some time in the Adirondack High Peaks and while it is a thrilling, rugged landscape it is also congested and full of wide, well-marked trails. Solitude is kind of hard to come by there.

I bought a guidebook to the Adirondack region that is closest to the lake, and it suggested that the Jay Range as an excellent place for exploring. Travel time from Burlington to this area was quite minimal and this area is quite remote, trailless, and not many people go there, at least from the east side. I have made several trips to this area and it is a great place to get away from all the trappings of suburban living and wander through a trackless and rugged patch of land.

Image and video from a hike in the rain in Fall 2005.

Above: Slip Mountain, December 2005. Below, the same mountain with foliage, October 2006.

Looking from Slip Mountain to the highest point on the Jay Range ridgeline (3300 ft.)

The time I have spent in this area has taught me a lot about navigation -- even with map, compass and GPS I have still repeatedly gotten lost . Wandering through the valleys and scrambling up the small but rugged mountains has also taught me a lot about the correlation between what is drawn on a map and the actual lay of the land.

For example, in my first trip to the area in 2005 I charted a path from the outcrop above, trying to get to the top of the ridgeline by the shortest and most direct route. This was a huge mistake, I wound up badly scared in a remote area that was full of impenetrable blowdown and peppered with sheer cliffs. I was having visions of falling and becoming immobilized and dying alone in the remote woods and was very happy to get back to the car in one piece.

I kind of miss being relatively close to the mountains in New York and the spectacular sunsets across the lake. I did set up my tiny one person backpacking tent this past weekend just to air it out a bit; maybe I'll get the rest of my gear together and plan a short trip there in the near future.


Memorial Day 2007: Paths of glory

It's Memorial Day -- which was one of the first topics of this blog. Not much has changed in the ensuing year -- I usually start my day, listening to public radio and reading newspapers online, and every day it is the same damn thing -- bombings that kill 10, 20, 50, or 100 people in Iraq, and the deaths of more soldiers over there. To recycle a phrase from another conflict I don't think there is any light at the end of this tunnel.

I tell myself that if I was younger and certainly if I was facing the level of economic uncertainty that I was living with earlier this decade I would go to Iraq or Afghanistan as a soldier even though I don't think that the whole Iraq situation is going to end happily. My reasoning would be tied to the fact that I am single and childless and I am tired of reading about young soldiers being killed over there and leaving young widows and babies that they have never seen or spent time with... It's very tragic. My cynical logic being, that if anything terrible happened to me, it would affect a much smaller circle of people, than these young men (most KIA are under thirty) and their widows and fatherless children. But this is just a small self-indulgent bit of hypocrisy on my part...like many other things going on in America today.

My mom came over for Mother's Day a few weeks ago, she is not the most computer literate person, so she asked me to email a letter to the Free Press that she had written out longhand on this subject, and they printed it, the scan is above.

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one

Female Downy Woodpecker

From the wilds of my backyard this morning.




Sweetness and light

I tossed my camera into my courier bag today for the ride to work. It was, however, an exceedingly warm day, and so when I stopped to try and take some photos on the way home, I experienced a massive heat flush, sweat was pouring off of me, and consequently these aren't the greatest photos. The apple blossoms don't last long at all, and it won't be long before the trees revert to being a more prosaic and less gaudy green for the duration of the summer.

I find that there is something peaceful and comforting about images like this because these days when I look at an Internet news site I feel like I am living through the endtimes & expect the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to come clattering by at any moment -- and I am not someone who is eagerly awaiting the rapture. I'm sure I will be 'left behind' (I've actually seen that schlocky movie).

The title of this post is in keeping with the title of this blog (I think I have pretty much cornered the market for google searches for 'Hogarth') and is an extremely obscure allusion to Swift's "Battle of the Books" -- the bee and the spider... the bee brings forth 'sweetness and light'.


Mostly uphill

Most of my adult life I've been riding a bike, either recreationally, competitively, or as basic transportation. This started way back when in high school in Europe: The first real job* I ever had, was over the summer, working for a German company that had the contract to clean offices on an American military base, on nice days I would ride a bike to work, and when it rained I took the bus.

Since then, I have ridden a bike at least some of the time to every paying job I've ever had...with one exception when I had a company car. I am not much of a car person, and hardened from exposure to riding in traffic from a quite early age, busy roads and pissy aggressive drivers don't really faze me too much.

Since I stopped riding competitively in 2002, however, my mileage on a bike has really fallen off precipitously, and it is increasingly rare for me to ride recreationally. This is kind of a shame, because throughout my life, the bike has been one of the few venues where I am really comfortable meeting new people.

I am, however, both committed to the idea of reducing my 'carbon footprint' and a pretty thrifty (ie, cheap) person, so I finally lubed up my old and battle-worn road bike and finally managed to start riding to work this week. It kind of hurts because I'm getting older and my bike is still set up to race (ie, high saddle - low handlebars) but after some after a few days of riding regularly my body will start to adapt. Apple trees are blossoming and I can smell their fragrance as I ride through Waterbury Center on my way to work, and I have noticed in the course of my career, that if my ride to work is the absolute highlight of my day... that is usually a sign that my job isn't going well.

I won't begin to list all the reasons why driving a car is bad (I think that there is a fairly straight line, between putting gas in the tank, and funding people/groups, who would kill me if they could) is a bad thing. But congestion and sprawl are certainly marring the landscape in parts of Vermont so more people riding to work, at least in the clement seasons of the year, would be a good thing.

My old racing/training/commuting bike. Lots of miles on this baby, in a wide range of circumstances.

The profile of my ride to work in the morning.Why pay money to join a gym when you can climb 900+ vertical feet on a bike every morning?

*This job was nuts, I was an illegal, non-authorized worker, kind of like a migrant farm worker in the US today. The people on the crew were the detritus from the four corners of the world: Yugoslavians, Greeks, Turks, Somalis, etc. I was paid in cash -- a fist full of Deutschemarks every two weeks. Kind of an eye opening introduction to the exciting world of work.


Of moose and men: Images from another day in the woods

True story: This past Friday night I was coming back from a very happy night out on the town with my girlfriend. As we got back to my condo at about 10:15 pm there was a juvenile moose trotting quite nonchalantly through the parking lot, it disappeared through the back yards of the condo complex as we drove up.

Today I went for my usual hike in the Stevensville Brook basin near my home and I was slogging through a swampy moose meadow and this moose decided to bolt from one patch of woods to another. I had noticed it and had the camera out and almost ready but it still isn't the greatest image. This area is like a resort for moose...swampy overgrown hardwood thickets, it is almost impenetrable for humans except when there is snow. There's lots of moose sign.

I like this capture of a small snail on the woodland floor.

The woods are full of wildflowers this time of year.

Bear scat! -- but no bear. I don't know what would have happened, if I had encountered a bear. What would win out: Self preservation or the desire to record the moment for posterity? And I know that black bears are not really dangerous... still, I found this pile of droppings in a really remote spot where a bear would have had quite an advantage in maneuverability compared to me. It was steep, thick and rough.

Things are greening up nicely. Ironically this will put an end to hiking because bugs will come out and underbrush will start coming up (a good part of this hike was way off trail).

The view back towards the reservoir and Waterbury Center.


"Youth's the season made for joys": Spielpalast finale

"I thought myself Captain Macheath..." -- Boswell's London Journal. Boswell is interesting in the context of blogging as kind of an 'ur-blogger', in his early London Journal -- quite a funny book, full of sex, theater going & debauchery -- he debates with himself, what to write about, and what level of detail is appropriate.

Now there's a man, the living tool of Satan
He charges forth while others are debating
Conniving, cocky knave with all the trimmings
I know one thing will trim him down -- WOMEN.
In women he meets deep authority,
In them he feels his old dependency.

-- Driegroschen Opera

This clip is in no ways nearly as good as the "Seven Minute Sopranos" on YouTube, and it is a pale reflection of the whole elaborate production, but is a slideshow of images from the 2007 Spielpalast Cabaret show set to the Queen of the Night's "Vengeance Aria" from the Magic Flute. Enjoy!


The secret dossier of Haven Parchinski: Bike racing in the news today

Haven Parchinski is Tyler Hamilton's wife. Hamilton is a professional cyclist (originally from New England -- I've been in races with his brother) who has been linked with many doping scandals, has recently served a two-year suspension, and may be facing another suspension for involvement in another scandal. Despite quite a bit of evidence, Hamilton has never admitted anything. The image is a fax allegedly sent to Haven Parchinski by a notorious Spanish doctor at the center of a major doping scandal.

Cycling is in the news these days but not in a good way. The NYTimes had an article "When the wheels come off a sport" recently that discussed the impact of numerous and repeated doping scandals on the sport's popularity. To read the cycling news sites these days is like reading the "Day in Court" section of the newspaper. Velonews has a lawyer writing a column about the Floyd Landis hearings! What does this have to do with riding a bike? It's squalid and disheartening and has caused me to lose interest in following the sport. The Giro d'Italia happens this time of year and live video is (apparently) being streamed online by Italian tv... but I really don't have an interest.

In modern bike racing, any time there is some big exploit on a bike in a pro race, I wonder, what's that guy on... not 'wow he's on a super day'. The whole system is rotten and maybe the pro sport needs to go away. Winners of the sport's biggest events are caught out and exposed but the team directors and the shady doctors who supply the drugs go largely unpunished.

I was working at the GMSR last year and I was doing prize distribution at the last stage, and one scruffy, low-budget 'pro' (I use the term loosely) team managed to scoop up most of the prize money from the last stage. The rider the team sent over to collect their winnings was a guy coming back from a two-year doping suspension. It was kind of an odd experience to hand him a wad of cash, shake his hand, and send him on his way.

All this squalor and scandal, however, is no excuse for me not having touched a bicycle in 2007...in past years, when I was racing, I would be on a bike every month of the year no matter how cold or wet it was outside. I know that it is very hypocritical of me to be driving back and forth to work on my increasingly flabby ass while stories about wars in the Middle East and the consequences of imminent climate change dominate the news. And $3/gallon gas should provide a strong incentive to not drive unless it is necessary, maybe next week I'll finally start commuting by bike again.


More frogs

Getting away from the kleig lights of the cabaret...just some more images from the same hike described in this post. I just wanted to record some of the sounds of spring and get them online, unfortunately I live quite near the interstate so there is some road noise. The images lose a lot of resolution when they are converted to video and then uploaded into photobucket and changed into some sort of Flash file.

I was doing yardwork and I saw this little (only about the size of a quarter) frog with some nifty copper coloring, so I grabbed my camera.


The frog pond was the kind place, where, if I was a kid now, I would plunge right in, no problems or issues. I remember collecting tadpoles in a mucky swampy place like this, when I was a kid, and it must have been about this time of year as well.


More pictures from the cabaret


...I sent Eva, who is in the show and, seemingly, enjoying herself immensely, some photos, and she posted them on her blog. Check them out. More people will see them there, than if I just posted them here.

I have spent a lot of time reading about digital cameras and I knew that my camera would not perform too well in that environment and I was pretty happy that I managed to get anything usable out of the experience. And I enjoyed the show.


Welcome to the Magic Theater

..."Price of admission, your mind". Also, "Not for everybody". Hesse, Steppenwolf.

Some pictures from the Spielpalast Cabaret show, it plays next weekend in City Hall, Burlington.

My camera does not thrive in low light and there were always lots of hotties twirling around -- there are not many still moments in the show -- so I have lots of arty blurry images that don't show much detail.

I am not a particularly artistic person but there is definitely a side of me that appreciates the idea of spending lots of time, talent and energy on projects outside of work (ie, projects like putting on a cabaret show, bike racing, or even worse, bike race promotion).

This blog doesn't have a lot of readership, and what readership it does have, is scattered throughout the four corners of the world, but if you are in the Burlington area this coming weekend (May 17-19) and want some slightly risque entertainment, check out this show. In addition to the song and dance numbers, which are a real homage to Weimar-era cabaret culture, there are a couple of other interesting aspects to the production. In a state with really remarkably little fashion sense -- jeans and a flannel shirt, is kind of a uniform, for both sexes, and in a wide range of circumstances -- this show is a refreshing change of pace because of the costumes... also the band is really excellent.


Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day. It's one those kind of bogus, fake Hallmark holidays but oh well. My mom is coming over for a late brunch so today I am stressed and running around engaged in a spasm of housework which does not put me in a very good mood. And it's my mom...she isn't going to grade me on how I keep my place, trust me, I know.

My mom has been working half time as a nurse at the hospital in Burlington for quite a few years now but she is finally getting ready to retire, which is good. The work is hard, staff morale is kind of iffy, and some patients are difficult (my mom was once kicked in the head, hard, by a criminal who was coming down off of some drug, and wasn't adequately restrained). Plus the job exposes one to a daily routine of disease, pain and sometimes death that can be quite wearing.

This picture goes back to the late 60s (68? 69? 70?), my mother, very evidently, was not a hippy chick, even in those times. I'm dating myself horribly. My haircut hasn't changed too much through the years, though my hairline is receding now.

And some flowers to mark the occasion:


Local color

Spring comes late in Waterbury. I planted these bulbs the weekend after Thanksgiving and they survived the winter and have finally bloomed. It was a long gray season so it is good to see things coming to life after the long winter and the cold damp spring.


I fought the spruce, and the spruce won: In the cripplebush on the SW side of Iroquois Peak

A follow up to this post. I got on the road real early, picked up Ongyel in South Burlington, and drove over to Adirondack Loj. I had never been there despite having spent some time in the High Peaks because they charge $9/day for the privilege of parking.

We followed the trail to the summit of Algonquin which is the 2nd highest mountain in New York, it is really quite straightforward from the Loj, the distance isn't too great even though it is a long steady climb. As we started out a ADK Club staffer warned us of 6-8 feet of snow on the south face of the mountain and mentioned "spruce traps" as a hazard.

Starting out, it was a great day and there was still lots of snow cover at the higher elevations, but it was very warm and the wind wasn't too strong until we got to the summit. When we reached the summit it was still early so we ate lunch and discussed what to do next. The idea of doing the big descent off Algonquin and then going up and over Colden seemed kind of daunting so I suggested that we head over to Iroquois instead.

Jeff and Ongyel, heading off the summit of Agonquin, before our travails began...

Iroquois from Algonquin, it's only a mile from summit to summit. How hard could it be?

Ongyel in a spruce trap. This was when this was still amusing, and we still were carrying cameras.

There is no official trail from Algonquin to Iroquois -- just a herd path. The snow was very deep and covered the scraggly but thickly growing evergreens that eke out a meager living near the summits of the High Peaks. A "spruce trap" is when the branches of the evergreens create air pockets in the snow.... so that when someone attempts to walk over the area, the snow suddenly collapses. In deep snow, this can be like falling into hole that is 3, 4, or even 5 feet deep.

We made it over to the summit of Iroquois without too much trouble and it was a cool journey to a quite remote place, the evergreens weren't too thick, and we were able to navigate through the spruce traps; and when we did get into trouble it was more amusing than anything else.

Once at the summit of Iroquois, however, I had the brilliant idea of heading down the mountain off of the faint herd path into Cold Brook Pass. The distance isn't too great, there were visible cairns marking the supposed route, and it was a warm sunny day... what could happen?

Anyway to make a long story short, this was an extremely unwise thing to do, once off the rocky summit thick cripplebush blocked all routes, and the snow was very deep. We fell repeatedly into deep spruce traps and were soon exhausted, wet and beat up from flailing around in the deep snow. Even though the distance to the bottom the pass was only a matter of a 1/4 mile or so, we were too exhausted and intimidated to continue downwards.

We eventually decided to retreat back the way we had come, which involved more flailing around in the deep snow but eventually made back, first the summit of Iroquois, and then up to Algonquin. It was odd to be starting back from the summit of Algonquin at 5:30 pm, wet and tired, knowing that it was all downhill but still a good distance back to the car.

It was a very long day but we eventually made it. This qualifies as one of the dumber things I have done in the outdoors in a while, but no real harm was done I guess. On the drive back Ongyel and I had a debate of the meaning of the word "lost" because technically I knew exactly where I was (and had map, compass, and GPS to prove it) but we were certainly caught in an impenetrable wasteland that we could not pass through.

A couple of GPS plots of the trip.


Primordial soup / signs of spring

Some images from a most excellent day in the woods. It is actually a very nice time of year to be out as things are slowly greening up, the woods are open and dry, there are no bugs, and the weather (today at least) can be spectacular.

I walked up a VAST trail near the reservoir, I've been in the general area, but never on this particular piece of land. The woods were beautiful, and, like other parts of Little River State Park, the area is dotted with abandoned homesteads that have gone back to the land -- sprawl in reverse.

Spring flowers in the woods.

I took many photos of this duck -- most of which did not come out well, due to bright sun, reflections, and his incandescent coloring (and a certain lack of skill on my part).

A swirling mass of newly hatched tadpoles. This small pond was a teeming, seething amphibian/reptilian paradise. It was full of jellied egg masses, tadpoles in various states of development, and salamanders. It was interesting to try and capture all this with my camera.


Success in the media, both old and new

I sent one of my bird photos to the local paper and they picked it up. It must have been a slow news week in this slow news town, but it's nice to get a little recognition.

Also this week the blog 802Online linked to my May Day post and as that site gets some traffic, (much more than this tiny blog gets on its own) the link led to a corresponding surge in visitors to this site. On one hand I'm grateful but it is always somewhat disconcerting when this happens, most people just follow the link, take a quick look, and move on. A minority of the visitors, however, do delve into the site, go through the archives, look at older posts, etc. I know that a blog is no place to publish secrets but I have noticed that this document is a pretty self-aborbed piece... it really is all about me -- and, consequently, isn't really too interesting, and quite narcissistic.

Also in the world of "user generated content" (sometimes referred to as "loser generated content") I have a small youtube page which exists solely to support any videos I post on this site... I have no aspirations to rule youtube.

Anyway I posted a couple of videos from the Valentine's Day blizard on youtube, I would be the last person to suggest that they are in any way interesting (how interesting can video of snow piling up be?). The long, more boring, version of this video suddenly has been viewed almost 2000 times... I find this very curious. How is this happening, where are these viewers coming from, etc.? I wonder if this is an anomaly in youtube's tracking system or are there that many seriously bored people out there? And I find it curious that none of these 'viewers' have watched other videos posted on the page -- perhaps they were repulsed -- or visited this blog.

Trust me -- I know this isn't interesting.

Lastly, there is an interesting discussion of what Flickr is doing to the world of professional photojournalism here -- though I think the post exaggerates the level of 'professionalism' on Flickr. The cycling photographer Graham Watson recently noted a similiar effect recently, commenting that the momentary value of his work -- which is quite amazing -- had declined due to thousands of fans lining the roads with high quality cameras these days.