Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Trudge

The leaves are just about all gone, it's getting cold, (though not very cold, yet), and we're plunged into long hours of darkness, way too early in the day.

I didn't mind bearing the long New England winters so much as a kid. When you're real young, you have a million and one days to burn, and then some. Besides, you'll get to do whatever you want later, when your rich and successful. So, passing almost half your life in darkness and dead arctic temperatures doesn't seem too much of a burden. Plenty of stuff to do to pass the time. Especially during the teen years. By the late teens/early twenties I was working for real, Life and consequences had just begun to really get in my face, demanding I take notice. It was in my late twenties, when I began to feel a faint itch, a distant inkling, that there actually may be an end to the rope. By my thirties I was running to make up for lost time. That's when, simultaneously, I began to really abhor the bare cold darkness of winters, and began to really appreciate the warm, colorful, full of life, beauty of summers.

Winter can seem such a waste of precious time.

So, it's getting tougher to find beauty in the natural world, in these months. Tougher, but not impossible. It's there, but a different shade, and not as forthcoming.

Driving through Springfield today,

I did a double-take when I saw this guy, deep in the bowels of the big city. He had his eyes intently fixed down the road, waiting for a bus. He might as well have been a deer, he looked so out of place on Main St. downtown.

He might have been on a REALLY long hike, like the Appalachian or M&M. I was surprised to learn how often one takes advantage of, or is forced to, use modern transportation and amenities during those long wilderness jaunts. This book set me straight:

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson.

A real good book, about a recreational hiker and his unlikely partner, taking on the immense distances of Appalachian Trail. Hilarious, and informative.

I dream of someday doing a REALLY long hike. I can't see myself ever having the time to do, say, the whole Appalachian Trail. It takes several months to cover that 2100 mile Maine to Georgia trek. My buddy Mike actually tried to do a Connecticut border-north section of it, and he fully committed himself, in gear and mentality. He did a commendable hike, covering I think about 60+ miles, before his ankles and baser temptations did him in. Still, it was an amazing haul for anyone in my circle of losers to pull off. I hope at best to do the M&M (100+ miles I think), and even that probably in sections. I'd be happy with that. I've done several sections of it already.

There's still plenty of rope left...I hope.

I get knocked down, but I get up again...

In case you've just gotten your computer back from the repair shop, the local Sultan of Cyberspace, Tommy Devine, has resurfaced, and in fighting trim. Check out his continuing journeys of the mind and soul, here:

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Artist and His Muse

I'm glad it rained today.

It seems like things slow down when it rains all day like today. It made for a nice easy transformation back into the workweek, after four days of face-stuffing madness.

This old grill may not look like much.

It used to be a propane grill, a long time ago. I honed my modest grilling techniques as a teenager right on this very grill. I also burned my eyebrows one time or two. It's been in the family a long time. When the propane aspect of it began to give way years ago (broken gas line, I think), my father was all to ready to convert it to charcoal use. It's served us (him) in that capacity ever since.

To the untrained eye, it looks like an old rusty clunker, ready for the scrap heap and whatever pennies it's weight in metal could fetch. But actually it's a canvas. It's a canvas, and my dad is the artist. The master seen here:

From it he has consistently produced barbecued chicken and pork-chops, with such delectable spiciness, a vegan would beg for more. My son is a confirmed addict. We all are. Throw in lots of rice, lots of bread, and a BIG bowl of salad (which my sister might share with us), and we'd have the makings of a feast.

The tasty lunch inevitably followed by old Portuguese brandy and coffee/espresso. (The kids here only drank the legal limit).

The barbecuing at my parents' house serves as the rallying point for our family, as many weekends as is possible. This past Sunday was the final one for a while, they are going back to the old country for a few months. Until they return, my kid is stuck with my feeble attempts at keeping the chicken from turning into charcoal. (On a propane grill, of course.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Tale of Two Sneakers

Maybe I'm a cheapskate.

I bought a pair of sneakers last week, because they were on sale, from $60 down to $50. Fine. They were maybe a half size too big, but that's all they had at the time. I like them, and I figure maybe a tiny bit loose isn't so bad. I hadn't bought a new pair in a while, and it felt good that they were on sale.

Come to find out, the place I bought them from, dropped the price another $10, for their 'Black Friday' sale. They were now $40. I had paid $50 just last weekend. That didn't sit right. Here I was sporting a brand new pair of sneakers that I had paid $10 too much for, and that really weren't even my size. I had to remedy the situation.

I had the day off, so I went out and braved the teaming masses of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunters to settle a $10 score. I still had my receipt, and the sneakers saw maybe 3-4 hours of use since I bought them, max. Slightly dirty on the soles, maybe a couple light scuffs, but otherwise still pretty new. I expected light resistance at the courtesy desk, and I managed to score a parking spot within a quarter-mile of the store. Sure enough, the lady accepted the return without too much ado, and I was off to the shoe section to see if they had gotten my size in, since last weekend.

Turns out they did have my size. I tried on a couple pairs to be sure, one extra wide, one normal. For some reason they felt really tight. I had been using this size for a few years, but on another brand of sneaker. Would they stretch and eventually fit nice and snug? I decided they would, and the clerk standing by agreed. I think he would have agreed no matter what I said, just to get me out of there. I think I was interrupting a conversation with his buddy over in the outerwear section.

I purchased the sneaks, and immediately put them on when I got outside, to begin the breaking in process. I drove over to another store nearby to pick up some stuff, since I was out, and also I needed to get a watch battery replaced. That turned out to be a whole other story- to make it short, don't ever let an acne-ridden teenager named Tristan, with the sniffles and jittery hands, try to replace your watch battery. I ended up having to take his bacteria infested watch tool, and finish the job myself.

During the battery ordeal and some other roaming around, I found that the sneakers didn't seem to be breaking in too well. In fact, I was starting to lose the feeling in my toes. I fondly thought back to the slightly larger sneakers I had returned, and the good times we had.

Before I knew it, I was on my way back to the sneaker store, tail between my legs, to return these sneakers too, and beg their forgiveness, for my indecisions.

Luckily I got a different lady at the return counter this time, so I didn't have to plead stupidity.

I went back again to the old shoe section, and looked for a pair of sneaks of the original size. The shoe clerk asked if I was all set, obviously not remembering me from 20 minutes ago. I saw only one box of the original size, and grabbed it. I opened the box, and immediately saw the tell-tale dirt on the sole, and the familiar scuffs. It was my sneakers. They had wasted no time putting them back on the shelf for resale.

I happily put them back on as soon as I got back to the car. For some reason, they seemed to fit much better now.

I drove away wondering who was worse; me for scamming them for $10, or them for putting my used sneakers back up on the shelf for some other unsuspecting consumer...

When the Lights come on

One holiday down, two to go.

Thanksgiving almost over, and it was amazingly warm out.
We were stuffed, and drove out to grab a coffee.

In many places, the Christmas lights were a' glowin'....

South Hadley...



Lights of a different sort were also a' glowin'...

Woe to the driver on the road, who gets caught with a little too much 'festivity' in him.

Hope everyone is careful, this holiday season...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Smart One

I saw this wild turkey fly a short distance into the air the other day, up into a tree.

I approached, and invited her to dinner Thursday, but she politely refused.

I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving any way.

Chance of Flurries

Doppler radars, Satellite pictures, Supercomputer Weather Tracking Models. 24/7 weather channels.
All for naught. The weather man of 1977 is still as good (or as bad) as the weather man of 2007.

The crimson sunrise Tuesday morning reminded me of that old adage: Red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

The trees should have taken warning, as a lot of them got caught with their leaves exposed to the snow. An eager winter ambushed a lazy autumn with a sneak attack this year.

By eight o'clock in the morning it was obvious it was going to be a messy day.

Murphy's law was in this guy's engine today. Worst possible place and time for a break down, if there ever is a good time for it.

The sticky heavy snow put a white cap on the Basketball Hall Of Fame.

Blogger Bill Dusty was there for some coverage of Rock 102's 'Mayflower Marathon' this afternoon.

In the end, we only got an accumulation of an inch or so. One good thing about it though; It isn't going to freeze too badly into frozen perma-muck. It was just warm enough to produce a misty fog outside as night fell.

Thankfully, it's supposed to stay above freezing for a few more days.

That's according to the weathermen, of course...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Titan's Pizza - I mean Piazza

It was supposed to be a short hike, Sunday.

I had heard of this strange rock formation called Titan's Piazza, from a hiking book. I also saw a reference to it surfing the web, on a site featuring a book from famed geologist of old Edward Hitchcock. He drew this intriguing picture of it:

Well, what the heck could that be? It looks like a wave crashing on shore. That's a rock? That's near here? I know they usually exaggerated a little in their drawings, back in the day, but I have to see this thing.

I quickly looked up the location on a map I had, and some websites, and got ready to go. I figured we'd grab a coffee, then run up and have a quick look at it.

Kelly said "Aren't you going to bring the map?"
I then sealed our fate for the afternoon, by saying "Nah, I'm pretty sure I know where it is."

We headed out on Rte 47 to the western end of the Mt. Holyoke range, where the rock was located. On the way we saw, on the left, a road called "Titan's Pier". I had read that there were cliffs about 20-50 feet high along the river here. We took a quick drive through to check it out, but apparently the locals had put an end to peepers. Lots and lots, and lots of 'Go Away' signs.

We moved on, before we got shot.

On the other side of Rte. 47, nearby, there's an unpaved road that meets the gate of the Summit road. Near the beginning of this dirt road there's a trail entrance, where the M&M trail begins the Holyoke range section of it's northerly march. The map I saw showed the Titan's Piazza very near this section of the trail. We parked and headed up, following the familiar white blazes of the M&M.

I did this hike a couple years ago, but definitely didn't see the giant cupcake-looking thing called Titan's Piazza. I would have remembered it, I think. Maybe I just missed it.

We climbed for a little while, and passed this power line, carving it's way through the forest.

The clearing it cut through the woods provided a nice view of Mt. Nonotuck of the Mt. Tom range, across the Connecticut river.

This is a nice 'ridge' hike, with lots of views to the west and south as you hike on. The bare trees serve to expand the views slightly.

As you progress to the more northerly side of the range, the Hemlocks and Pines become more numerous, and there are huge swaths of shady green slopes.

These two hikers took a break on a tree that seemed especially built for the purpose.

Some parts of the trail run right along the edge of high rocky drop-offs.

Also all along the ridge are lots and lots of trap-rock formations and rock beds to walk/climb over.

We had a brief exchange over whether or not these were fossils. Of course it was the two of us arguing over something neither knew too much about. We're pretty good at that.

We had reached the upper limits of the ridge, and no Piazza. We had gone too far to just turn back. So we kept going towards the summit house.

Near there were the remains, I'm pretty sure, of another short lived summit house. I remember reading something about it. It was built by one of the disgruntled co-owners of the original house, to compete with it, but burned down shortly after.

We got to where the M&M met another trail heading back down. It was starting to get cold, and the ground was frozen in several areas. We decided to start heading back.

This section of trail branched off the M&M and went directly down to the Summit Road, near where the old Tram/Half-Way House is.

It was easy walking from here. We walked down to the gate, and across, to the dirt road leading to where we parked. We stopped to look at a few cows mysteriously hanging out in the woods, rather than the field.

We took note of one cow's HUGE udder. Full of milk? Or freakish mutation? Me and Kelly had differing views on that, and on exactly why they would be hanging out in the woods. We turned and walked on. I was thinking lazily about giant udders, as I happened to glance to my left. I stopped in my tracks.

Lo and Behold. Thar' she was.

We had found it. That's why we missed it earlier, the trail had gone right over it. Matter of fact, we had unknowingly stopped, right on top of it, to enjoy the view.

We scrambled up the loose shards of rocks below to have a better look. It didn't look to big at first, but as Kelly got closer I could tell it was a pretty substantial chunk of rock.

Also, as I clawed my way up the steep incline and got closer, the more details began to come out. It is a pretty amazing looking old lava formation.

The edge of a lava field. The outer layers of the bottom part had broken off over time, and were scattered all over the place on the ground around it. This left the overhanging bulges of rock, that still looks a lot like flowing lava. There were white mineral deposits all over the lower edges, calcium from water running off the hill maybe?

So there wasn't that much exaggeration in Hitchcock's drawing after all.

I left with a sense of the wonder of history. We were glad to have finally stumbled upon the rock formation. Mission accomplished.