Nov 30, 2010

National Air & Space Museum

Well, I'm enjoying my time in DC. Although, today's meeting dragged on from 9:00am until 3:30pm. When it ended I dropped my laptop at the hotel and meandered about Capital Hill with my camera. It's fun to be a tourist in our nation's capital. I took a bunch of cliche pictures of the Capital Building, The Mall etc and then made my way over to the National Air & Space Museum. I love this place. I remember being amazed at the site of all those airplanes when I first visited DC back in 1994. To polish that memory I picked up some freeze-dried ice cream at the gift shop. I can remember my father buying some of this "amazing astronaut food" for me way back in the day.

Having been a licensed aircraft mechanic (I still have my Airframe & Powerplant License) I always find myself staring at the engines in this museum. When I think about reciprocating engines and how they were refined, leaned, improved upon and utilized, I am truly impressed. The Bently rotary engine shown above is an example of this. This engine was made out of aluminum in 1918. Aluminum cylinders (all nine of them) made it lighter and therefor made the plane it was mounted in able to accelerate much faster.

I enjoyed seeing my favorite airplane, the P-51 Mustang as well as a Spitfire, Messerschmidt, DC-3 and a couple very early fighter jets. I'll let the pictures do the talking from here.

Union Station

I'm down in Washington DC for the week on business. Should be a good time; I'll keep you posted. Below are a couple snapshots I took after arriving at Union Station around 10:00 tonight.

Nov 26, 2010

Gobble gobble

I'm still full. It's 11:20am the day after thanksgiving and I'm not really hungry. Though, I suppose it could be because of the two turkey sandwiches I ate around 11:30 last night.

Yesterday was a lot of fun. We had sixteen people roaming about, stuffing their gullets, joking, laughing, playing games and catching up on life. Doris (our mutt) was in heaven; she got a lot of scraps from all of the weak strangers. We listened to some great jazz from a new album that my wife's cousin, Miro played piano on. He's an amazing pianist. Take a look at his website.

The menu was as follows: Two turkeys, sweet potatoes with lemon, nutmeg & sugar sauce, smashed potatoes, green beans, salad, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, pumpkin pies, apple pies, cheese cake & pretzel salad.

Nov 21, 2010

Busy Sunday

Yesterday was a good day. Got a lot done. I'll sum it up like this: Up at 8:00am, worked on the Cannondale 1X9 installing a new chain guide, rode down to Fairway Market (scored a 2lb bag of Scandinavian blend coffee, some cheeses and two loafs of killer bread), took some snapshots in Harlem, met a friend for brunch at the Popover Cafe at 86th & Amsterdam, rode through Central Park and hung out for a while, hit up The Met and saw the current photo exhibits, stopped by Mod Squad Cycles and picked up new head & tail lights by Knog, helped cook one of our two turkeys for thanksgiving, ate two giant ham sandwiches for dinner, watched 3 episodes of Madmen (I'm on Season 3) passed out at 9:30pm.

Nov 20, 2010

Homemade woodgas backpacking stove

This afternoon I built my first woodgas backpacking stove. I must say, it works pretty damn well. I gave it a test run in the woods behind The Cloisters here in upper Manhattan. It boiled water in less than 5 minutes and I only used a handful of tinder. The environmental impact from this type of stove is virtually nonexistent and its a great piece of gear for the minimalist backpacker. It's great to be able to carry a small, light stove like this and not have to worry about bringing fuel canisters for it. All you need are dry sticks and you're all set. I made the stove using a small soup can and a piece of scrap stainless steel I pulled from a dumpster at work. I'd like to thank a few bloggers out there for motivating me to make my own woodgas stove: Heber in particular for his detailed construction notes. “Stick” for his videos of his version of the woodgas stove (by the way, check out Stick's Blog, it's an incredible resource for backpacking gear, tips and information) Lastly, I want to thank Ray Garlington who designed the stove. A quick video and pictures of the construction are below. The video is geeky, I know, but it was actually fun to make. The next time you see me using this stove I will be deep in the Catskills.

Above: I love/hate how noisy the Henry Hudson Parkway is in this video.

Above: This is the top of the stove. Note the four vents near to top of the stove. These, work in conjunction with the vents at the bottom of the stove to facilitate what is called an "inverted downdraft gasifier". In short, this enables the fire to burn from the top, down to the bottom of the fuel source (tinder).

Above: This is the bottom of the stove. The screen keeps the tinder off the ground and allows air in through the vents which double as a support for the screen.

Above: I used a coffee can to make a wind screen. This prevents the fire from being blown out when it's windy (it was windy today!) and also works as a chamber for preheating the air around the stove, further aiding combustion. The coffee can is an ideal height for use as a pot support as well.

Nov 19, 2010

Riding with turkeys

For the last three years, Kawasaki Rail Car has handed out turkeys to its employees. They're big birds; tasty albeit chock full o' steroids and hormones. Seeing as how we'll have close to 15 people in the apartment for thanksgiving, I took an extra turkey that a coworker offered me. Having ridden in to work today, it was all I could do to fit the two 20 lb frozen turkeys in my bag. I was actually worried about my wheelset giving out. I run a pair of Mavic Cosmos on my road bike and was especially watchful for pot holes and other debris. I weigh 200 lbs; 240 lbs when I ride with turkeys. Luckily I was stopping by my father in-laws place to fix a computer problem for him. He took one of the birds off my hands which felt great. On the way home I stopped on the Broadway Bridge and snapped the shot you see here. It's been a hell of a week. I'm ready for the weekend.

Pharcyde commute

When I got home, last night, around 11:30pm I wasn't very tired. I was stoked from having such a great exploratory ride home from midtown. I stayed up playing around in Light Room, processing some images I took during the ride home. Afterward, I roamed the web for a bit and before I knew it, it was 1:00am. Crap! I closed the lap top and hit the sack, doubtful that I'd be able to follow through on my intentions to ride to work in the morning. A nanosecond later, my alarm was blaring and it was 5:30am. I hit the shower, packed my bag and grabbed the bike I had stepped off of only 6 hours ago. When I stepped outside I could tell that it was going to be a great day. I selected a Pharcyde album to listen to and set off through the park, down winding leave covered paths with old hip hop in my ears. The paths dropped me out on Broadway which I took north out of Manhattan, through the Bronx and into Yonkers. I got to work on time and chuckling at the lyrics in Pharcyde's "Ya Mama". My commute to work is a fun 7 mile ride that took me 28 minutes this morning. Click the iPhone screen shot if you want to see the Google Maps route and other info.


Last night I spent a few hours over at my buddy Chris' place playing games with him and some of his wife's friends. We played Bohnanza for a quite a while, which is actually a pretty awesome game. It sounds kind of funny but it's a card game about farming. Bean farming in particular. Although the game was a lot of fun, the ride down at 6:15, was even better. It's been several weeks since I've ridden anywhere. Life's just been so chaotic that I haven't been getting up early enough to ride to work. Last night I finally committed myself to pedaling downtown. So I geared up with my winter riding garb and set off for Chris' place down on 89th street. Riding down from 190th street along Broadway is a lot of fun, and I always enjoy it. Broadway takes you through so many little villages and each one is different with abrupt transitions from one to the next. When I got to 125th street a 1 Train emerged from the tunnel parallel to me, and paced me as it headed south on the elevated tracks. I couldn't hear it's loud clacking rumble because I was listening to a Land of Loops album in my headphones. I was experiencing one of those "moments" in my life that I enjoy so much. Here I was, cruising down Broadway at night, under a nearly full moon, in Harlem, perfectly comfortable, flowing with traffic under the L, while I could feel the vibrations from the heavy subway cars above. I was thinking to myself: This is exactly where I want to be right now.

When I left Chris' place around 10:00 I was exhausted. But as soon as I was geared up, I felt a spark of energy and was looking forward to exploring on my ride home. I pedaled west through Central Park while Sublime played in my headphones. I made my first stop in Harlem under the elevated tracks for the Amtrak Line. There is a beautiful trestle bridge here with large arches and impressive iron work. I climbed the embankment at the south end of the bridge and sat peacefully in the dark watching traffic pass through the intersections below. I was surprised that I did not run into anyone else hanging out under the bridge. I sat there in the dark for about a half an hour thinking about where I was in life and I found myself almost completely at peace; it was another moment in life I wanted to hang on to. When I started to get cold, I zipped up, cinched up, and climbed down and out; returning to the Big Apple's buzz.

Pedaling out of Harlem, along Broadway, I chugged steadily north enjoying the night. At 163rd & Broadway I saw a well lit sign for a place called the Liberato Food Market. A small helicopter perched on the front corner of the market advertised the market's delivery services. The empty sidewalk, locked storefront gates and well lit signage seemed photo worthy to me, so I pulled out the point & shoot to snap a couple of pictures.

My last stop, before continuing home was at 168th & Broadway. I was interested in the red globes on the lamp posts of the subway station entrance. Setting the camera down on the ground, I framed the lamp post against the night sky for a long exposure. I wanted to capture the lamp post suspended in the universe for a interesting, thought provoking image. I only wish there were more stars in the sky.

Nov 18, 2010

Woodgas Stove Project

I have a new project for this weekend. I want to make a woodgas backpacking stove. From what I've read, when built well & used correctly, they're an ideal piece of gear for the minimalist backpacker. You probably want to know what a woodgas stove is. Well "woodgas" is the hot gas given off by the burning wood. The stove itself, is a simple cylinder (soup can) in which the fuel (wood) is burned. The stove allows air flow (vents cut in the soup can) to facilitate the combustion. You rest your pot/kettle on top of the stove and voila, you're boiling water. Why the sudden interest in woodgas stoves? My recent call of the wild has me reading through all sorts of backpacking blogs lately (like this one, this one and this one). Another reason, is because it's just a really cool concept.

I should mention that I already have a perfectly operable backpacking stove; the MSR Pocket Rocket. It works great, weighs only 3oz, runs on isopropane fuel canisters and folds up into a nice tiny package. So why make a woodgas stove? The main benefit is the environmental aspect of it. Fuel (twigs/tinder) is free and abundant which means that I won't have to carry any fuel canisters with me. Other than that, I just want to make one because it sounds like a rewarding challenge. It's a cheap, fun project and I'll get to give it a test run in the park next to phattire headquarters this weekend.

On my lunch break today, I walked out on the production floor to find a piece of wire mesh for my stove. I soon found myself in the machine shop, dumpster diving for a scrap piece of heater cover material. We laser-cut 1/4" holes in 1/32" thick stainless steel sheet and brake-form it to create the heater covers installed in the PATH subway cars. The piece I found was rather large. Rather than spend time nibbling at it with a pair of tin-snips, I lopped it down to size with the hydraulic shear (KA-CHUNKA!). The rest of the stove will get built this weekend; I'll be sure to post some pictures.

Nov 15, 2010


I spent yesterday morning photographing a friend & coworker's fifteen year old daughter; TJ. TJ wants to be a model and I'm going to help her create a good portfolio that she can be proud to send to agencies. Her personality and attitude is fantastic; she's really nice (like her mom) and is confident which I have to think is a big plus for a model. In short, it was really easy to work with her. She wasn't shy about speaking up, offering ideas and trying different poses and facial expressions. For her first photo shoot, she seemed pretty relaxed, showing only a bit of nervousness here and there, which helped me to relax as well. Initially, I was worried that I would make her uncomfortable because I don't have a lot of experience taking portraits and directing the model at the same time. I was surprised at how much fun it was and I enjoyed the challenge. My taste for urban decay definitely helped me to find interesting backgrounds that created a neat juxtaposition between rubble and the model. I stuck with my 50mm and 85mm prime lenses for the shoot and I'm really pleased with the results. I'm looking forward to working with TJ again. I think that the images will only get better because we will both be more relaxed and we'll have some areas that we both want to improve.

Nov 12, 2010

Snoring & dreams

I snore. Quite loudly I'm told. the other night my wife used her iPhone to record my snoring for me and now I understand why she gives me "love jabs" during the night. Hearing the audio recording of my obnoxious flapping soft throat tissue, I wondered what I was dreaming about as her phone hovered over my face... my mouth open, a puddle of drool on my pillow, my eyes closed, my thoughts meandering through my life. I dream often and vividly and usually remember the dreams. They are often bizarre, intermingled experiences, desires and interests that jumble together; sometimes pleasant and sometimes not. So I took the audio clip and made a video during my lunch break; just for kicks. This is my night life.

Nov 11, 2010

The call of the wild

Every time I drink from my backpacking mug, here at work, I miss the wild. Lately I've been wanting to spend all of my time in the wilderness. Ever since my hike along the Burroughs Range Trail, I've been jonesin' to get back out there. There is a very real, very profound connection with nature that I wholly feel when I am in the woods. I miss it. Getting a taste of it now and then just seems to make me want it more. That being said; I want to enjoy some winter trekking this season. Do some overnights and possibly a multi-day trek. I want to brave the cold, test my mettle, and use my skills to survive in the woods like I used to do as a kid. Man, I used to love it! I pictured myself living like Jeremiah Johnson one day (minus all the indian killing of course). Now look at me; working in a cubicle here in NY, dreaming of the getting away - what happened? It's been a good 15 years since I've actually slept in the snow, but I'm ready for it. I have nearly all the gear to get back out there and do it except for one thing; a winter sleeping bag. My current bag is an ultralight summer bag that packs down to the size of a 2 liter soda bottle but is only rated to around 40 degrees F. That's not going to cut the mustard. I wish Santa read this blog.

A boulder named Jack Sparrow.

I stumbled upon this video today and watched in amazement. Watch this guy climb a 7c route called "Jack Sparrow" in Finland. I need to get back to BKB soon...

Jack Sparrow (7c) from Sam1 on Vimeo.

Nov 7, 2010

127 Hours; great movie

127 Hours Full Trailer from TheSouthSider on Vimeo.

I sat down and watched 127 Hours this afternoon and loved every heart-wrenching minute of it. It's a story based on what happened to Mountaineer, Aaron Ralston while hiking in Moab, Utah in 2003. Aaron spent 5 days at the bottom of a ravine with his arm pinned between an 800 lb boulder and the ravine wall. Ultimately he makes an incredible sacrifice in order to survive. I won't spoil it for you, but you really need to see this movie. As a climber and hiker this movie really spoke to me about how quickly things can turn from magical to miserable when alone in the wilderness.

Nov 6, 2010

Tekka maki portraits

A piece of sushi sat on a plate, in our kitchen, for two days (Kinda' gross I know). But as it dried out, the once soft and fleshy, tuna had hardened to a deadly Jolly Rancher of deep purple colored fish. Still glossy, the seaweed wrapper, black, rigid and crisp, hugged the rock hard rice crystals. The poor wrap-job had split open as if it were unable to contain the roll's odoriferous core. Beneath the wrapper the outlines and bulges of rice grains were defined, creating a topography on the outside of the roll. I picked it up and examined it. It was rock hard and unmoving. I shook it back and forth in front of my eyes. Not a single grain detached from the roll. The color of the tuna had turned from a lively and appetizing red to the a fore mentioned deep purple. I opened the garbage can and held Mr.Tekka Maki over the bag inside. I couldn't drop him. I thought to myself: I should play with this. And so the garbage can slapped shut as I walked my dead friend into the living room where I could light him up and tinker with my point & shoot. Below are a few fun images. All taken with the Canon S90 point & shoot camera.


What's a "meeple" you ask? It's a wooden follower piece from a fun game called Carcassonne. My friend Chris is really into games (understatement). I, on the other hand, am not. Or at least, I didn't think I was. My experience with games is short: Pictionary, Monopoly, Risk, Clue... that's about it. None of which I've placed since the 8th or 9th grade. I think that when I expressed my general disinterest in games, Chris took this as a challenge to find a game I'd enjoy. So, last night after work I hopped a train down to his neck of the jungle and found myself standing in front of his collection: A shelf full of intriguing games. Heading into the next room he slapped me on the shoulder and said "Just pick out whatever looks good; I'm interested to see what you pick." I stood studying the boxes with their creative font, design and packaging and began noticing the little icons on the sides of the boxes indicating number of players, average playing time etc. I saw that some boast receipt of gaming awards... I couldn't decide. I'm just not into games. I hadn't made a decision by the time Chris came back and so he pulled a few off the shelf.

We sat down with Carcassonne. Chris informed me that it was a winner of the Spiel des Jahres award in 2001 (German game of the year). It's a tile based game where players draw tiles and place them on the table to create a landscape. Castles, Cloisters, roads and farm areas are established. The players compete for ownership of the establishments by placing a "meeple" on the road/castle/cloister etc. Points are scored by tallying the amount of land or establishments owned when all of the tiles have been placed on the table. Its a lot of fun; I actually found a game that I like! We played a few games in which I was slaughtered, quite mercilessly but I think I'll be able to give Chris a run for his money the next time we play. I've been fiddling around with the Carcassonne iPhone app on and off today.

Nov 4, 2010

Ma' Nature.

Last Saturday, Chris and I were exploring the Phoenicia area in the Catskills. We followed signs to the Fox Hollow Trailhead and then rock-hopped our way up a small creak that wandered through the woods. It was fun to be out in the woods just goofing off, balancing on logs, throwing stones and admiring the miniature waterfalls, moss covered rocks, ferns and falling leaves. I played with my point & shoot, slowing the shutter speed to around 1/10 - 1/15 of a second to catch that wispy water look. Below are a few fun images from the couple of hours we spent goofing around.

Nov 2, 2010

Hiking the Burroughs Range & Phoenicia East Branch Trails.

What a journey. With sore legs and a great longing to go back, I'm writing about a ten hour adventure upon which my buddy Chris and I embarked at 5:00am this past Sunday morning. The trek consisted of a 15.1mile loop, exhausting accents & descents, blowing snow, summits on three of the Catskill’s High Peaks (Including the tallest peak; Slide Mountain), natural springs, a mountain top sunrise and peanut butter sandwiches. I hope you're warm and toasty for this entry.

Saturday night: The Colonial Inn - Pine Hill, NY.

After a two-hour drive up from the city, we arrived at The Colonial Inn around 4:00pm on Saturday. Having the cheapest rooms around, I had made a very casual reservation with Steve the day before, which went a little like this:
Me: "Hi, I'm looking for a room for Saturday night?"
Steve: "OK, that'll be $75.00. What's your name?"
Me: "Mike."
Steve: "I don't need any credit card information; we'll have a room for you. I'll see you Saturday."
Me: "Uh, OK, we'll be by around 5:00 will there be two beds in the room?"
Steve: "Oh there'll be two or three beds in the room. By that time the buffet will be running and I'll be in the kitchen, so just tell one of the girls to come back and get me."

We pulled up to the Colonial Inn, took one look, and just started laughing, when we finished, we pulled the car into the front lawn and parked it. This place had character, to say the least. The front porch was packed with all sorts of odds and ends. A gun case, pool table, cigarette vending machine, several pot-belly stoves, stuffed dear heads, cookware and other junk lined a path across the porch, to the front door. I opened the screen door (which had no screen) and peered in through the glass of the heavy wooden door; I saw no lights, heard no activity and felt a feeling of caution sweep over my body. Standing in the cold and quiet, we talked about what to do and looked up and down the desolate street. We felt like we were in Stephen King's The Langoliers. Chris and I navigated through the sea of junk to the other end of the porch and cupped our hands to a window. We made out a dimly lit bar and a plump lady standing behind it. Not having the gumption to enter first, I made Chris open the heavy door. Stepping inside we found another door which lead to a parlor and further to the bar. Stepping inside was like landing in Oz. Mounted animals, fish and dart boards lined the walls, along with several rifles and shotguns; a giant black bear stood mounted with a peculiar look on its face; at it's side sat an old Victrola. Shelves held things like snowshoes, an old cash register, several old oil lamps, a globe, and an ancient brass diver's helmet. Country music played from the dining room and looking around the corner, a waitress folded napkins and set places on the numerous tables; preparations were being made for the "Grand Buffet". She noticed us and came over with a big toothless smile, liken to a bowl of black bean soup. She lead us up a creaky set of stairs and let us pick which room we'd spend the night in. Just as Steve said, there were two or three beds in each room. Each, dark, cigarette stained, drafty, unsettling room. We picked the best one.

The next hour was spent mapping out a route through the mountains and throwing darts with monogrammed pot leaves on the fins. Chris has an uncanny knack for throwing darts; do not ever play him. When the buffet opened we filed in with a few other locals. Slices of every pie you could think of sat on small styrofoam plates next to a giant bowl of pudding that jiggled with each approaching footstep on the old wooden floor. We ate our fill. It was delicious! Afterword we made a dash to the closest grocery store, a mere ten miles down the road and picked up our fuel for the next day's adventure. We would be hiking the Burroughs Range Trail (7 mi)from east to west and then the Phoenicia East Branch trail (8 mi) from west to east, covering three of the Catskill's high peaks.

Sunday Morning: Woodland Valley Parking Area, 1,250ft.

We crawled out of bed at 4:15am and set off driving through the dark and twisty roads towards the trailhead at the Wooldland Valley Parking Area. Scanning the FM band in the car, I stopped when I heard ACDC’s “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna’ rock & roll!”. We both laughed and ended up using this phrase several times throughout the rest of the day. By 5:00 we had entered the woods at an obvious entrance but could only find yellow trail markers where we should have found red. Research from a couple of days prior, told me that a common mistake was entering on the Phoenicia East Branch Trail and so we walked across the road and found the correct trailhead behind some campsites. Moments later, we had signed in and were on our way, hiking through the dark forest following red trail markers towards Wittenberg Mountain. About a half-mile later we had lost the trail. The fresh leave-fall had covered the well-trodden path and hiking by the light of flashlight and headlamp made it difficult to spot the markers. After twenty minutes of wandering about the woods through rough terrain, we decided to head back to our last known trail marker and take a really good look around. On the way, Chris picked up our trail and we were back on track. After a while the sound of rushing water caught our attention and we had our first drink of natural spring water, which poured out of the mountainside.

7:15am: Junction with Terrace Mountain Trail, 2,556ft.

Two hours and 1200 feet later dawn was breaking as we hiked in a mostly eastern direction. Hints of the rising sun began to outline the cloud layers giving slight definition and contrast against the dark sky. During the next few minutes, peaks and ridge lines gradually emerged in the distance. It was as if the curtain to a spectacular show was slowly being lifted. Mother nature was showing her legs. We continued on without our lights, as we were able to find the trail markers and follow the path. At this point, the trail got a whole lot more technical. Vertical climbing came into play. Climbing gear was not necessary but some basic bouldering skills came in quite handy. It was a welcomed challenge. All of those trips to the bouldering gym and Rat Rock in Central Park made these climbs a piece of cake. Another 1.3 miles would put us at the summit of Wittenberg.

8:15am: Wittenberg Mountain Summit, 3,790ft.

Wittenberg’s summit was the most impressive of the three peaks we would climb. The eastern view was showcased by rays of sun beaming down from above, reflecting off of the Ashokan Reservoir and casting shadows and sunny spots on the nearby mountains. The wind whipped our faces but we could not look away. We sat there for a good 15 minutes before continuing on to Cornell, which was only .8 miles away. On the way down the western side of Wittenberg, snow began to blow down on us. Very light wisps which was enough to excite and energize us. The snow just made the whole experience better; more intense.

9:04am: Cornell Mountain Summit, 3,860ft.

Cornell’s summit gave a great view of Wittenberg, which seemed so much further away than the mere .8 miles and also gave us a humbling look at the climb that Slide had in store for us. As we hiked down Cornell, Slide loomed higher and higher above us. Looking west, we could see dark clouds dropping snow as they swept to the east. We were definitely in for a lot more of the white stuff. Not lingering too long; we pressed on to Slide.

10:25am: Water Source on Slide Mountain.

We hiked across the col between Cornell and Slide where the trees, no matter how old they were, all topped out at about 30’ in height. The wind had regulated them to a uniform height, which was both odd and spectacular at the same time. We had read about the technical challenges that the east side of Slide would offer us: several scrambles and old ladders and looked forward to them. They were supposedly more difficult than the ones we had cleared on the approach to Cornell and we found that to be true. They were also more fun. The ladders were more of a luxury than anything. They provided steady surfaces and made for an easy gain in elevation. We wondered how long they had been in place as they were rotting apart. After the first ladder, we found a water source that was marked on our map. A beautiful spring babbled up ice cold water and we drank a bit and refilled our bottles. Drinking mountain water seems to put years on your life. It also seems to chill your guts!

10:40am: Slide Mountain Summit, 4,180ft.

The summit of Slide was freezing cold. Temperatures were well below 30 degrees and the wind was something else. The snow had stopped but the wind froze our hands as we sat and made peanut butter and apple sandwiches on flax seed bread. They were the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. We took a minute to read the plaque dedicated to John Burroughs for whom the range was named after, before moving on. John Burroughs was a naturalist and writer who spent a lot of time on the range we were hiking and you can read more about him here. We broke out a couple of hand warmers and let me just tell you: those things are pure delight! I braved the cold for a couple of minutes to change into a new set of liners and wool socks before continuing down the west side of Slide and my feet felt as good as new.

The trip down Slide was 4 miles of welcomed change in terrain. The trail was wide, fairly smooth, and enabled us to carry a steady brisk pace. More snow followed us down the mountain and we came across some icicles dangling from outcroppings. At this point, my camera battery died and I was forced to use my iPhone for the rest of the trip. We encountered a dozen or so, hikers on their way to the top. The trail went from wide and smooth at the top, to wide and very rocky at the bottom. Rocks would tip and topple every so many steps and gave cause for a slower more cautions descent. Rolling an ankle at this point of the journey was not an option.

12:25pm: Slide Mountain Parking Area.

When we reached the Slide Mountain Parking Area we took a brief break. The snow continued to blow down on us but was not accumulating. From here we had a 1.9 mile hike on a paved road to get to the trailhead for the Phoenicia East Branch Trail. We were thankful for flat, stable ground but were soon tiring from the pitch! Our legs were definitely tired at this point. We had hiked nearly ten miles over three peaks. The road took us past Lake Winnesook, which was beautiful albeit private.

1:44pm: Phoenicia East Branch Trailhead.

We reached the trailhead and sat on a guardrail for a few minutes. We were really feeling it now. The longer we sat, the better we felt and the harder it was to push on. A fist bump later we were up and at em’. Unfortunately, we were greeted with an intense climb. Up we went, 500 feet in a half-mile. This was brutal, but we took a break at the top where the trail to Giant Ledge met our trail. We split a delicious apple and took solace in the sign, which read “Woodland Valley Parking Area 2.75 miles”. These last few miles would be the toughest yet. The trail carried us down, down, down over loose rocks and gnarly tree roots hidden under the leaves. We were virtually baby stepping our way back to the car. It turns out that there is a reason why our destination is called Woodland VALLEY. We dropped 1,000 feet in the course of a mile and it was not an easy thing.

When we finally reached the bottom, we crossed a dry creak bed and were smacked in the face with the last thing we wanted to see. A giant staircase made from rocks. It stretched out prominently in front of us like a giant middle finger! We dropped our packs and had a seat before heading up the stairway to heaven (Heaven being the car). Step after step we climbed and when we reached the top the trail leveled off.

At this point, the trail gave a rewarding view of the three peaks we had conquered. Looking from right to left we saw the entire Burroughs Range: Slide, Cornell and Wittenberg. They seemed so far away. The idea of walking through the wilderness, over these mountains seemed almost hard to imagine and yet we’d done it and done it at a respectable pace I might add! A mile later we were signing out at the trailhead and sitting in the car. It was 3:00pm. We had hiked the entire 15 miles in exactly 10 hours.

I have hiked in New Mexico and the Adirondacks but I must say that this is the toughest hike I have ever done. Even though it was done with a small daypack; never have I hiked so far, over such terrain and in such harsh weather. The words and photos I have put in this blog entry simply do not do the trek justice. The beauty and wonder of the wilderness took and continue to take my breath away. I hope whoever reads this is at least inspired to get out there, wherever they are, and enjoy the outdoors in their own way. It’s waiting for you.