Skytop - Dewey - Underhill - Ranch Camp ...

A sugar day in the semi-backcountry (skiing mostly on blazed trails, and with signs at trail junctions) on the shoulder of Mt. Mansfield.

Stellar late winter conditions -- fresh powder on top of a nice firm base.

Skytop trail. There were many people out in the woods taking advantage of the great conditions.
I was the first person to ski around Lightning Knoll at the end of Skytop -- most people just skied off the ridge through the trees.

Heading back to the car via the Underhill Trail, before more tree skiing down to Ranch Camp.
The .kmz file may be downloaded here (use at your own risk).

It was a great day to be out, and this has been a good year for snow.


Algorithms don't think (and people are lazy)

IBM's "Watson" trounced human Jeopardy champions... thanks to total, and near instantaneous, recall of terabytes of data. But sorting data is not thinking -- hardly an insightful observation on my part.

A search for "woodward mountain trail" on Google.

This site receives very little traffic. There are some valid reasons for this -- it's mostly just diffuse, repetitive self-absorbed rambling -- and also "blogging is dead", as described in the New York Times*.

Somehow along the way, however, I have written a few posts that rank reasonably highly in Google's search algorithm. As more people click through on a given search result, it moves up in the search results, and the higher it moves up in the search results, the more people click through. The process feeds on itself.

One of the posts that has achieved a high Google ranking is the record of my first ski on the Woodward Mountain trail back in 2008. When I wrote this post there wasn't much information available online about this trail, research was not productive... just vague rumors and hearsay.

Position number #2 on Google.

The problem is, that this highly ranked post is far from the only post on this site having to do with the Woodward Trail. There are seven posts addressing this topic, plus many more on my various misadventures in Ricker Basin -- a plethora of information (words, images, video, GPS tracks) on a relatively undocumented part of the world.

These shortcomings are a dual failure on my part -- a failure to create compelling, 'sticky' content that would entice readers to delve more deeply and spend more time on the site.

It is also an ontological failure, if the site was better organized and categorized, and more consciously optimized for the search engines, perhaps information would be more accessible -- and accessed.

But it's also a flaw in the algorithm: A post was written, it has become highly ranked, and that is that -- all other content remains hidden.

Finally, it's also a flaw in human nature, especially in this flighty, short-attention-span online world: Users want information fast and obvious. That which requires exploration and time to uncover is resolutely ignored...

I'm not sure what the point of this post is except to point out that Google has come to play a pretty big part of modern life, and yet, like oracles of old, it is quite capricious in its prognostications... and also to vainly implore visitors to this site to poke around a bit and explore because Midnight Modern Conversation is not entirely random or diffuse -- there's probably related information around if one takes a moment to look.

Finally here is a link to my posts having to do with the Woodward Mountain Ski Trail, which runs between Bolton and Little River State Park, Waterbury, Vermont.**
*If the NYT is describing a trend (death of blogging, etc.) there is a good chance that there's more to the story than what appears in the paper.

**A deliberately unsubtle example of SEO copywriting.


Fight Club: "Only after disaster can we be resurrected"

Narrator: This is crazy...
Tyler Durden: People do it everyday, they talk to themselves... they see themselves as they'd like to be, they don't have the courage you have, to just run with it.

AND --

Tyler Durden: Fuck off with your sofa units and string green stripe patterns, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let... let's evolve, let the chips fall where they may.*

A little Monday morning Fight Club: In my own small litany of struggle in this harsh cold world, "let's evolve, let the chips fall where they may" speaks to me as the next phase begins.

More juicy quotes from the movie here. Listen to the Pixies Where is my mind? here.

*This is the first time the word "fuck" has appeared on this blog -- in 4+ years of blogging. This is not because of any prudishness on my part, but was a quite deliberate authorial choice, I worked in an environment where the f-bomb was used very causally and frequently, and consequently felt no need to use it when not at work.

Also the local Vermont "alternative" weekly prints this word on average 1+ times per issue, usually quite gratuitously, which I think is incredibly déclassé.


Views from high places: Owl's Head and Little Deer

Some photos from ski touring through the woods and up and over a couple of stumpy little Vermont mountains near Lake Groton.

Sunday morning: Owl's Head to the left, Little Deer Mountain to the right. The previous afternoon I discovered that the bare summit of Little Deer isn't as open and gladed as it appears to be from a distance.

Saturday afternoon: Lake Groton from Little Deer.

Let's get erratic: A large boulder along the trail.

Sunday afternoon: Kettle Pond from Owl's Head, after snow squalls moved in.


Out and back in the Waterbury backcountry

Blue skies and lots of untracked snow.

It's been a great season for snow in Vermont. Long stretches of cold weather and persistent snowfalls have left many feet of snow in the glades and bowls along the ridgelines, it's great for exploring, although backcountry rescue teams have been kept busy by lost skiers calling 911.

So even though I have a pass at a Nordic center the siren call of the untracked glades has been calling me. In my old age I find it much more satisfying to pick a route through some trail-less patch of land than it is to do laps on prepared trails wondering if my wax is right or if my heart rate is in the right training zone. I guess I am something of an anarchist at heart.

Last Saturday I made a long out and back journey on the Woodard Mountain trail. Snow conditions were awesome and the morning was brilliantly sunny with clear blue skies -- though by afternoon it had clouded up and another snowfall was beginning.

I have been here before.

Here is the GPS track of the trip in Google Earth. I wanted to ski a particular glade that is just about at the halfway point of the trail -- ie, it's quite hard to get to. I'm not spilling any secrets by posting this -- it's a marked, blazed trail, and someone had tagged a route in the glade with fluorescent orange tape.

Who tagged this glade? And for what purpose? It's a long way from anywhere, and there are no logging operations around. Shame on whoever did this (and they used a lot of tape, like every 100 ft or so). People like this carry cell phones into the backcountry, get lost, and call 911 wanting to be rescued.

(May not work in MS Explorer, tested OK in Firefox and Chrome)

Lots and lots of climbing: About 2700 feet of elevation gain.


Russian girls looking for you! More bike racing in the news today

Ever consumed leftovers that have sat in the refrigerator for too long?

Apparently Italian cyclist Ricardo Ricco did this, only by transfusing himself with 25 day old blood, with disastrous and almost fatal consequences.

These days, to follow professional cycling is to wallow in sleaze. To paraphrase Lance Armstrong, "it's not about the bike" -- it's about pharmacology, phlebotomy, legal maneuverings, etc. Any spectacular athletic exploit in a race will be met, not with praise and approbation, but rather doubt and suspicion.

So it's entirely appropriate that the ads popping up on pirated video streams of cycling coverage feature absurdly voluptuous "Russian" women allegedly seeking companionship (these screen shots are from 2010).

Corruption, human trafficking, degradation: There's not a lot of glory here.

The only further comments I would make on this topic are:

1 -- Back when I moved from Burlington to Waterbury I tossed out a stack of yellowing copies of Velonews from the mid '90s into the '00 decade -- the height of the doping era (and, coincidentally, the time of Lance Armstrong's rise to worldwide fame).

I wish I had saved these fading and rather uncritical publications -- they could have been used to produce an annotated history of the pharmacological assist.

2 -- Somehow along the way, a post I wrote about Tyler Hamilton's (another guy who knows something about blood transfusions) ex-wife became the most viewed page on this site. Strange but true.

This isn't the first time Ricardo Ricco has turned up on this mostly unread blog -- see this post from 2008.


Mundane Sunday (too busy to blog much)

It's been a long cold winter... and that's just on the inside of our condo. Hopefully the conclusion of the new kitchen project is in sight.


Saturday, I did manage to ski, and thoroughly wrecked my legs, which made standing on a ladder for hours on end the next day somewhat of a challenge, the fatigue was still rippling through me as I sanded, primed, and painted.