Monday, June 25, 2007

You came DOWN the Nelson Crag Trail?

Vindication is sweet. For 4 hours Kim and I had been struggling down the Nelson Crag Trail, one of the steepest trails on Mt. Washington. Cursing was one of the major components of our conversation. The Nelson doesn’t end at Pinkham Notch, but 1.6 miles north of there near the start of the Auto Road. Thankfully the Old Jackson Rd trail is mostly flat.

Even though we were late to get back to let Rosie the Chihuahua out, we needed to stop in the Pinkham AMC shop to buy a book. We met up with a fellow hiker from earlier in the day and began comparing notes. She had taken the Lion’s Head trail to the summit while we had diverted and taken the Alpine Garden trail so that we could view and photograph the alpine flowers that were blooming.

She then inquired as to our hike down from the gardens. We responded that we came down the Nelson Crag Trail. The news that we had done this caused several of the other patrons to put down the books, t-shirts, mugs, etc they were ogling to chime in, nearly in unison “YOU CAME DOWN THAT TRAIL?” The general consensus was that this was not one of the trails to come down. It is unrelentingly steep and much of it is in very thick woods. As I said earlier, vindication is sweet!

Tuck's from the LionsHead Trail

We had started the day hiking up the Tuckermans Ravine Trail to Lion’s Head and up to the Alpine Gardens so that we could photograph the tiny alpine flowers that were in bloom. There were blooms all along the trail including plenty of Bunchberry and Clintonia a.k.a. blue bead lily.
Bunchberry in bloom

There is actually a fairly small window for the alpine blooms and mid to late June is the usual peak season. I think we were there just a wee bit before true peak. Don’t get me wrong it was gorgeous up there, but the Mountain Avens were still mostly buds, waiting to burst in the next few days and the carpets of blooming flowers were scattered. Since this was my first, but not last trip to the flowers, I may have been expecting more than what is typical.

There were diapensia everywhere and scattered in amongst them were Lapland Rosebay and the tiny Mountain Azalea. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful little stream that led into a small marsh. Hellebore, Hairy Deer Grass were the prominent species there. Continuing along the trail we came to the junction with the Huntington Ravine Trail and considered, only for a moment mind you, descending by way the HRT. It would have involved 3rd classing down some sections with exposure all around. I haven’t been climbing much and my head wasn’t up for that.

The view across the Gardens from the top of Huntington's

So, a quick consult of the map showed that making a loop hike by going down the Nelson Crag Trail would be almost the same distance and since we always think covering new ground preferable to back tracking, we opted for the loop. Note to self: Never take the Nelson Crag Trail again!
The point of no return

Once down and with book in hand we retreated back to Kim’s house in Conway to a very happy (and relieved) little dog. Margaritas and some raviolis and soon the Nelson Crag Trail didn’t seem so bad. Of course 3 days later my thighs still had twinges of stiffness from the constant set of 2.5 miles of deep knee bends.

So, I’m off to San Diego for a conference with other biotech geeks. Aside from I love what I do and I’m presenting a poster of some of my work, I am also going to boogie up to Bishop for a few days of hiking before heading home.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Spring at the Rolling J Farm

June 9, 2007

It’s taken me a little mental re-organization to admit that the BLOG doesn’t have to be only for trips. It can also be used for keeping in touch with folks and a means for showing off the gardens. So, here’s a brief update from here at what I call the Rolling J Farm.

The seasons here at the farm tend to revolve around the fire…winter the woodstove, summer the grill. Cooking on the woodstove or over a wood fire in the fire pit is waaaaaay more satisfying than turning on the electric stove. This time of year after Saturday chores, time in the garden and a bike ride, we start the fire in the grill. A gin&tonic to fight malaria from any potential mosquito bite and watching the traffic roll by is quite relaxing. As you can see, it's quite a comfortable set-up.

So, tonight I’m here at the Rolling J Farm with Mr. Cat while Holly is at Harvard making Livingston Taylor look good. The last of the Harvard events (the 35th reunion concert) is tonight and so begins the final countdown to her summer vacation. Mr. Cat is patrolling the attic and I’m finishing a fabulous porterhouse and watching the lightning bugs. Mmmmmmm.. fresh kale, asparagus from our garden and steak from Avery’s. It doesn’t get a whole lot better. All complimented with a lovely Pinot from Paul’s ( in Shelburne Falls. Even the No-See-Ums seem to be a bit more relaxed tonight and are not intensely eating my feet.

Last weekend we were able to get most of our plants into the garden beds. Tomatoes, potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, kale, hot and sweet peppers and alliums of many sorts-onions, leeks, shallots, scallions. I’ve also started transplanting Ostrich ferns under the crabapples so we can have our own supply of fiddleheads each spring.

In the dooryard gardens all the herbs are growing great guns and I’m going to harvest some to dry. Oregano, thyme, savory, sage, and tarragon all seem to have survived the winter unscathed.

The iris, peonies, mountain rue, and tansy are all beginning to flower and the gardens smell lovely right now. I’m in the process of building another small stone wall in the gardens to shore up some slumping soil and create another tier for plants.

There’s always stuff to do here at The Farm. Stay tuned for more!