Thursday, January 29, 2015

Moxham Mountain in Two Seasons

(a portion of the summertime view from Moxham's summit)

Moxham Mountain only officially opened to the public in 2012.  I was determined to get there and enjoyed a Spring day hiking Moxham in early 2013 with an Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) group.  Shortly after, I talked up the hike to Bill.  "You would love it," I said.  "It's very doable.  There are views all the way up."  I love trails that open to rocky outcroppings throughout the hike. At about 5.5 miles round-trip with 1100 feet elevation gain, Moxham is not overly demanding, but a nice work-out.  Occasional view points are great rewards along the way!

The weather on my first trip had had high clouds, with spectacular vistas across ranges of mountains below.  I wanted another great day to show Bill Moxham's best.  The trailhead, located in Minerva in the Central Adirondacks, is an hour and three-quarters from our home in Albany.  It would not be worth the drive, if it rained.

(Blueberries on the mountain top are a gift!)

In August 2013, Bill and I drove north, as the sky grew brighter and brighter. I am wary of the heat in July and August, but we had comfortable temperatures with a light breeze, always welcome in the summer. Although Bill likes a nice hike, he doesn't want to work too hard. Those views along the way made great stops for snacks, with time to soak up the scenery.

Before long, we reached the summit.The dominant mountain, in the middle of a vista of about 250 degrees, is Gore, popular for alpine skiing. In the valley, an array of ponds and marshes connect, with typical Adirondack names such as Mud Pond, Clear Pond, and Long Pond.

(Bill picks lots of delicious berries)

Bill and I were thrilled to find the summit rocks covered with blueberries!  We picked and ate as many as we could, and then filled a small container that I had brought from home.  Blueberries on a mountain summit, on a gorgeous day, with fabulous views--who could ask for more?

(Bill and Virginia on the summit)

Well, when we got back to the car, I did ask for one more hike this mountain in the winter, on snowshoes, on a perfectly clear day, without wind.

ADK trips are scheduled months in advance.  In November, I posted a January snowshoe hike up Moxham Mountain.  Snow was not abundant after New Year's this year, but I knew, from seeing other hikers' pictures on Facebook, that Adirondack peaks had an ample supply. The next issue was the weather.  A forecast for clear skies didn't waver.

(My ADK group arrives at one of the first overlooks)

A couple of people signed up, and then a couple more. Interest was not awfully high. I was surprised, given the clear weather forecast and a nice snow cover, so I gave another look.  Ahh, it was supposed to be very cold.

In the end, seven of us stalwart hikers set off on the trail in -12 degrees.  A few inches of powder lay on top of a crunchy crust under a cloudless sky.  Another perfect day for Moxham!...and the cold?  It takes just minutes to warm up when hiking a mountain.  Nevertheless, I had brought hand and toe warmers for extra comfort, and shared some with others.

(it appears as if two mice traveled side-by-side)

Because the snow was fresh, and not too deep, we had fun seeing where animals had been.  Some of their tracks were easy to identify. Mouse tracks were obvious with the tail line between the tiny footprints.  We were glad that we didn't see evidence of the mice becoming someone's breakfast!

(a clear view of our destination)

Not far from the summit, a final overlook displays this great view of Moxham's cliffs, where we would have lunch. As we stood admiring the view, the sun warmed us. 

I said, "I wonder how warm it's getting.  It has to be at least zero by now."  One of the participants had a tiny thermometer hanging from his backpack.  "Take a look," he said, turning around so I could see it.  The thermometer was very tiny, and my glasses were deep in my pack.  I usually don't need them outdoors where the light is bright. 

"Well," I said, "I don't have my glasses on, but it looks like -5."  Another person took a look.  "Yes," she agreed. "I would say it's -5."  We were terribly impressed with ourselves.  Granted, there was no wind, and the sun was luxurious, but we had to be pretty diesel to be completely comfortable at 5 degrees below zero.

(here the deer tracks are in a cluster)

Deer tracks came and went, sometimes in great strides, indicating the deer had moved quickly.  We did not see predator tracks nearby, and we were the first humans on the trail since the light snowfall.  Maybe the deer had just felt like taking a quick jog.

While I like to rotate through the line of hikers when I lead a trip, now-and-then I stay in front.  When I saw the tracks pictured below going up the trail just as we were, I needed help identifying them.  They were clearly dog prints, but what kind?  The group gathered to offer ideas.  Too big for a fox, these had to be coyote prints.  This guy apparently had a mission, heading straight and steady for the mountain summit.

(Is lunch waiting on the summit for the coyote, too?)

The summit view did not disappoint.  Mountains lay below in waves of blue and purple.  Cold white powder accented every ridge and valley.  We found a few bare rocks to sit on for lunch.

"The sun is amazing," someone said.  "What do you think the temperature is now?"  I looked again at the tiny thermometer.  "It looks like it's still -5.  Wow, it sure doesn't feel like it."  Someone else added, "No wonder we can see so far.  The atmosphere is always really clear when it's that cold."  Again, we gloated for a couple of minutes .

Then the owner of the thermometer said, "Celsius is on there too.  Are you sure you're checking the right side?"  I hadn't seen the two readings.  Someone else stepped forward.  Either she was wearing contacts, or just had great vision, because she said, "It's 20 degrees. It's -5 on the celsius side."  What??  We laughed.  Maybe it's time for some of us to admit that we need glasses to read, even outdoors in bright sunshine....

(no blueberries on this day!)

None of us had trouble seeing the splendor surrounding us, however.  I searched the ponds for moose. Wouldn't it be the ultimate bonus to see a moose below?  It looked like perfect habitat. 

Out of the seven of us, five had not been on this mountain before.  It was fun to share a new adventure with them.  And the other two of us? We just basked in the scene.

(ponds and mountains for miles)

On the way down, we again marveled at all the views along the way. While we often long for loop trails, retracing our steps here took nothing away from our appreciation, every time we came upon an overlook.

ADK folks are a social bunch, and I could hear a variety of conversations along the trail, some between old friends, and others among people who had not known one another before today.  Once in a while, I hang back, or go ahead, to experience the solitude of winter in the forest, but, I, too, love the camaraderie of a cheerful group of hikers.

(the views on the descent feel new)

We still came upon animal tracks.  When someone said, "I see rabbit tracks, with big feet," we knew a snowshoe hare had hopped through.

(Wouldn't it be fun to see a snowshoe hare in his winter white?)

At the trail's end, I heard a two of our participants let loose a couple of joyous hoots.  Even though everyone is fit, there are always one or two people who go on these outings with concern for their physical capability.  They are excited by their accomplishments at the end of the day, and reach the cars all smiles.  "Did you hear us shout?" one of them said.  "Oh yeah, we sure did!" someone answered. "They could hear you all the way down in North Creek!"

We had had to park our cars a quarter of a mile up the road, since part of the road was not plowed in winter.  The sun, now lower in the sky, made long shadows across the snow. 

And I'm three for three--every time I've been on Moxham, the sky has been clear, and the views superb.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas in the City

(We each had tea in pastel-colored pots and china tea cups)
I had been wishing to see the Radio City Christmas show, so this year I was on it in August, asking my daughter, Meredith, and daughter-in-law, Marlie, about December dates.  I know to get tickets early, if I want a certain time on a certain day at the height of the season. By Thanksgiving, Meredith and Marlie were brainstorming ideas for what additional activities we would do on the day of the show.

(tasty tea, scones, sandwiches, and cookies)

The months flew by, and the holiday season arrived. Meredith met me at Port Authority. We walked to Bryant Park to see the sights, and then took the subway to meet Marlie at Alice's Tea Cup, a cute cafe on the Upper East Side. Alice's Tea Cup is a favorite with little girls and for children's parties, but its tasty sandwiches and huge tea selection also make it popular as a destination for bridal or baby showers, or for women like us out for a visit over tea and lunch in a festive environment.  We spent a relaxed couple of hours there. Our conversation ran the gamut.

( Like the three-year-old we saw at the next table, Meredith, Virginia, and Marlie sport fairy wings at Alice's Tea Cup, just for fun)

Eventually it was time to head down to Radio City for the show. Just being in this art deco theater is a treat, but our attention soon turned to the show's opening act, a captivating performance with the Rockettes as Santa's reindeer. Although some acts were familiar, like the classic toy-soldiers routine performed every year since the first show in 1933, much has changed over time, especially in recent decades with advanced stage lighting and special effects.

Two acts stood out for me.  One included the back drop of Central Park with skyscrapers beyond in evening lights, and skaters on the pond in the foreground.  Another was an act including a double-decker bus, filled with Rockettes, who "travel" through the city seeing all the sights.  It was fun to recognize so many familiar places all portrayed in their holiday finest. And who could resist the 3D arrival of Santa early in the program, and the live Nativity at the end? The Christmas show is truly "a spectacular."

Cameras are not allowed in the theater, but, as we left, I was permitted to use my phone to take this picture of the theater's Christmas tree, in the brilliant splendor of Swarovski crystal snowflakes.

Leaving Radio City, we headed over to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree.  Along the way we passed these flags at the skating rink, shimmering in silver and gold, a change from the usual international flag display.

Walking around the corner to get a better view of the tree, we came across dancing Salvation Army volunteers.  With music playing, they attracted much attention, which hopefully added money to their coffers.  Their method of keeping warm drew smiles from all who passed by.

As always, the tree shone with its 45,000 LED lights.

Lit angels and shrubbery formed a glittering aisle from the street, and Saks Department Store in the background stood draped in swags of gold. We watched the skaters for a few more minutes and then turned towards Fifth Avenue.

We debated which window decorations to see. With Saks right across the street, we began there. Walking by displays of mannequins dressed in exquisite evening wear, we soon saw themed portraits of fairy tales in "An Enchanted Experience."  What would happen if fairy tale characters came to New York?

Red riding hood might forget all about her mission when she entered her grandmother's bedroom, and said, "My what a big suite you have!"

(Grandmother has a pretty nice apartment!)

Sleeping Beauty "had a hard time adjusting to the city that never sleeps."

(Sleeping Beauty is still awake when Prince Charming arrives.)

And Cinderella? She "fell madly in love with a pair of designer shoes!"

(Cinderella isn't going to be happy with a glass slipper anymore!)

We continued up Fifth Avenue, passing Bergdorf's windows "A celebration of the arts," Tiffany's elegance, and more.  Eventually we boarded the subway with a destination of Union Square.

Although Union Square boasts what we consider to be the best Christmas Markets in the city, it is also home to the Whole Foods store where Marlie is the bakery team leader.  Marlie's business degree and experience in public relations in Manhattan, combined with being a pastry chef from the French Culinary Institute, led her here last year. Union Square's Whole Foods is the busiest in the chain.  Now, Marlie is creating dessert recipes for the Union Square store.  I had heard that her "Marlie-Made" truffles were to die for.

(Union Square bakery staff makes Marlie's recipes daily.  She comes up with new recipes for each season.)

She bought us each a truffle which we took out to the street, and, oh yeah, that crunchy outside and creamy chocolate inside were beyond delicious.  Although I like to bake, and I like to bake with chocolate, anytime Marlie wants to move into my house and become my personal baker, I'll gladly hang up my apron!

(Marlie-made truffles could be addictive!)

Across the street on the Square, Christmas Market booths were set up with red and white awnings and swags of greens across the pathways.  Colored lights and balls hung in festive display in front of each booth.  Shopping options are a myriad of socially conscious, hand-crafted, fair trade, local and international products. It would be easy to find a gift for every person on your list--if you had no budget limitations.

(Union Square Christmas markets are a festive December destination)

And there are foods.  Marlie took us to the Doughnuttery mini-doughnut booth where tiny cider doughnuts dropped into hot oil. Customers could choose flavored-sugar toppings. We chose "Paris time"--lavender, pistachio, vanilla--and "Urban Monkey"--coffee, banana, coconut. A bag of six little doughnuts was just right for the three of us.

(The Empire State Building shines in the distance at Union Square)

The day was passing, and I had a 6:30 bus to catch.  With limited time remaining, we decided that we should walk a few blocks and get a drink.  To round out our nutritious afternoon, we chose hot chocolate from The Bean.  Then the three of us each headed in different directions:  Marlie to Chelsea to meet a friend, Meredith home to Brooklyn, and I to Port Authority to catch my Greyhound bus to Albany. What a fun and festive start this had been to the holiday season!

(Fun in the city with my two favorite young women)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

School Days' Christmas

This month I have chosen to post a chapter from my book, Cool Mom on the Hot Seat (pub. 2005).  The book does not have pictures, so I have added these from the  my "vintage" collection just for fun.  Merry Christmas to you all!

On the last day of school before Christmas vacation, Meredith ran up to the back door and called as she arrived, “You should see all my stuff, Mom!”

 She emptied the contents of her backpack on the living room rug. Out spilled Christmas cookies, candy canes, and school papers collected through all of December.

I looked out the window and saw Thomas approaching, slowly, carrying his violin, a scowl on his face. He bumped his way into the house, breathing frustration, and dropped his backpack and violin case. Slumping into a chair, he moaned, “We were ba-a-ad. I couldn’t believe how bad we were. Everybody played a different speed.”

It was true; the violin portion of the Christmas concert had sounded, as Charles Dickens said, “like fifty stomach aches.” Already in his third year of private violin lessons, Thomas found school music frustrating. I understood his sense of humiliation.

“Look at this, Mom,” Meredith exclaimed, opening the gift from her teacher—a new box of crayons and coloring book. In the midst of her belongings she began a picture. “Did you see me in the concert? I smiled at you. Miss Mantas said to smile when we saw our parents.”

“I saw you. I could tell that you knew the words to all the songs.” Meredith had been singing around the house for days.

“I knew them all,” she said. “You know what Janelle said? She said she had on the prettiest dress. I don’t think that was very nice, was it? Besides her dress wasn’t the nicest. Miss Mantas said everybody looked nice.” Meredith continued on to the annoyance of Thomas.

(homemade decorations for the little upstairs tree)
“She’s always such a chatterbox,” he complained.

“I am not, Thomas.”

“Yes you are—all the time.” He slunk further into the chair.

“Okay Thomas,” I intervened, “it’s your turn. What do you want to say?”

“Nothing,” he grunted. “It’s just a rotten day. I’m going outside.”

In a few minutes, I heard the thud-thud of his basketball hitting the driveway I had shovelled earlier that afternoon.

“I’m going out too,” Meredith said, heading to her room to change into play clothes. I listened to her talking to her dolls, to her clothes, and to herself. At last, she went down cellar for her snow pants, boots, hat and mittens, still in a cheerful one-sided conversation.

Thomas returned with an improved frame of mind. “Johnny can’t come out, so I’m going to read. I have to read four books over vacation.” He sat down on the living room rug and started pulling books and papers out of his backpack. In her snow clothes, Meredith clomped up the cellar stairs and out the back door, without noticing that Thomas had come in.

“Here, Mom,” Thomas said, coming into the kitchen. “I made this in Art. I thought it would look nice over the sink.”

He held a paper angel, neatly colored, mounted on green construction paper and folded into a cylinder.
“Can you hang it up now?”

I cut a hole in the top, thread a string, and hung the angel over the window latch.
“There, how’s that?” I asked.

“Good. That’s a good place for it.”

Although only late afternoon, it was getting dark and I hadn’t seen or heard Meredith since she went out. I turned on the outside back door light, but didn’t see her in the yard. I went into the living room, turned on the front lights and opened the door to look out. Meredith lay sprawled on her back surrounded by snow angels.
“Look at all these snow angels,” I called to her. “We’ll think we’re in heaven, there are so many.”

“There are twenty-three of them.”

I wondered that twenty-three snow angels could fit in our small urban yard, but there they were, a heavenly host shoulder to shoulder, in rows. I closed the door. In a few minutes Bill would be home and it would be time for dinner. Thomas appeared relaxed in the chair reading. I put on Christmas music and walked into the kitchen where the paper angel hung over the sink.

(Santa Clause brings Buster kitten and a Hess truck!)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Autumn glory

(Mirror reflections on the Kunjamuk)

I have been nearly in a swoon for the past month over the gorgeous fall foliage this year.  Granted, I always think the trees are beautiful, despite what people say about this or that year being not as nice as another, but this year is stupendous.  I hope you have been able to get out to see the display!

While Bill attended a conference in Orlando, I spent a few days in late September and early October on day outings in the Adirondacks with friends. Karen took me to Speculator to kayak the Kunjamuk River. I almost never carry my camera in my boat, for fear of getting it wet, but I'm sure glad I did this time.  I was in complete awe at every bend of the river. 

(Karen is dwarfed by a brilliant overhanging maple)

Can you see Karen under the arch of this gorgeous maple?   Despite floating aimlessly at times to view the scenery and take pictures, we covered quite a few miles.  We had hoped to get to Elm Lake, but ten beaver dams used up a lot of our time and energy. We were able to stay in our boats and push ourselves through four of them, but we had to get out and climb over six dams hauling our boats behind us.  Apparently, the beaver population is booming in the Adirondack wilderness!

(Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake)

On October first, I took my elderly parents for, what I called, My Grand Boyle Adirondack Fall Foliage Tour. I knew they would love riding through the Adirondacks to places they used to visit.  We stopped at Sarah's Cafe in North Creek for coffee and a bun, visited friends in Indian Lake, walked the short distance into Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, had lunch at the Adirondack Hotel with a view of the water after walking the causeway in Long Lake Village, came back along Indian Lake, and returned to their Saratoga home by way of the Lake Desolation Road.

(one of our favorite campsites at Indian Lake turns golden)

The gray macadam of route 30 literally felt like a thin line parting two walls of red, orange, and yellow, highlighted by dark spruce green.  My mother, father, and I were a tree-crazy trio.  We could barely hold a conversation, because every sentence was punctuated with "did you see that red tree over there?" and "it is sooo gorgeous!"  We decided that, if one of us missed a sight on one side of the road, there was always an equally glorious sight on the other.  Our heads swiveled.

(fallen leaves on a campground path at Indian Lake)

One time, a number of years ago, Bill and I were in Colorado, visiting the high-elevation town of Nederland.  A snow storm of a few days prior melted quickly in the strong sun.  The woman in the visitor's center told me how Colorado's brilliant blue sky always came out after a storm, unlike in the east where gray clouds might hover for days.  Then she said, "You should come here in the fall.  The aspen is beautiful."  I said, "I'm sure it's really pretty," and then added, with a smile, "but I come from the Northeast."  Need anyone say more? You wouldn't catch me leaving this area in late September and into October! 

(Lake Desolation)

My friend, Linda, said that she would like to go to Merck Forest.  Merck Forest is dedicated to teaching sustainable agriculture and forestry.  At 3100 acres, it also has lots of hiking trails.  "My foot is a little sore," Linda said, "so maybe we won't hike Mount Antone this time."  That was fine.  Merck Forest has great variety, all appealing.

(Merck Forest, Rupert, Vermont)

We drove through bucolic Washington County in peak foliage and into Vermont, entering Merck Forest's  maple-lined driveway.  Yellow and red leaves glittered in the bright sunshine, but when we got out of the car and began to walk towards the farm, blasts of chilly wind hit us in the face.  "I need to warm up," Linda said. "Let's hike the mountain," and we set off at a brisk pace.

When we reached the summit and saw miles of rolling hills and mountains below in dappled shades of color, we were glad we hadn't missed this. I have been visiting Merck Forest since childhood, and don't remember ever seeing as far as we could on this day with its clear cold atmosphere.  In addition, we were plenty warm, and Linda said that her foot held up fine. 

(view from the summit of Mount Antone at Merck Forest)

My Tuesday trips of 35 miles, to see my parents, give me a chance to watch the progress of fall color as it spread throughout the Capital Region.  Huge swaths of trees along the Northway glowed in red and gold by the 10th of October. Peak foliage was now close to home.

Sunday's forecast was for a high of 60 degrees and sunny. Bill was ready for a fall outing. We debated where we should get doughnuts.  Should we head east and try the new Cider Belly shop, highly advertised, in downtown Albany, and then continue on to Grafton for a walk around the lake?  Or go southwest, stopping at Indian Ladder Farms for doughnuts and hike a few trails at Thacher Park?  Despite all the good press, I was skeptical of Cider Belly and figured Indian Ladder was a sure bet for good cider doughnuts.  We decided to go southwest.

(Albany County from High Point at Thacher Park)

Indian Ladder Farms has the best cider doughnuts in the area (barring my home made ones!).  Half of the Capital District appeared to agree; the place was mobbed.  We wove our way through the crowd. However, the farm's well-orchestrated and friendly staff made the process of getting doughnuts and cider easy.  Outside, we found a picnic table and had no trouble demolishing our purchase!

Fortified for a walk, we drove up to Thacher Park.  Lots of families were here too, but the park has plenty of room for everyone, and, anyway, I like to see people enjoying the outdoors on a beautiful day.  We continued through the main park area to Thacher North.  Only a couple of cars were in the parking lot.  Scuffling in the leaves and smelling the fall aromas, we hiked the Fred Schroeder Trail to High Point Cliff, making a pleasant three-mile loop.

Again the atmosphere was crystal clear, the view gorgeous, and the colors a mix of bright oranges, yellows and reds with dark green for contrast.  

(Bill walks through a path of gold at Thacher North)

With peak color blazing in the Capital Region, Karen suggested that we take a final paddle for the season and go to nearby Kayaderosseras Creek. We called long time outings leader and friend, Charlie, to guide us, help us spot cars, and to add his pleasant company to our trip.  Charlie had been on the Kayaderosseras in all seasons over many years, and was familiar with every part of the calm gently-flowing creek. Besides the Kayaderosseras itself, we added a side trip to Lake Lonely, and eventually paddled into the exciting swells of Saratoga Lake, ending at the entrance to Fish Creek where one of the cars was parked.

As we parted to drive home, Karen and Charlie were already brainstorming adventures for next year.  It is never too soon to think ahead!

(Virginia paddling on the stream leading to Lake Lonely)

Now, in mid-October, I can see oranges and reds from my back porch, and throughout my neighborhood.  Fall foliage is going by in the north country, but I am stunned by the brilliant color right here at home. I'm still saying "Look at the tree over there!  Isn't it gorgeous?"  My head will be swiveling for another week or so, and I'll continue talking about this year's beautiful fall for a couple of weeks after that.

One of these days, I'll go for a neighborhood walk and pick up some leaves to iron between waxed paper.  The pressed leaves will hang in the kitchen window well into November as a reminder of October's glory. After that, I'll be ready to move into the next season, as winter brings a new beauty.

(it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Environmental Activism

Who would have guessed that one event, for which I have been working an entire calendar year, and another, that came about in the last couple of months, both of which are really important to me, would fall on the same day?

First, I'll tell you about the one you can be part of.  On Sunday, September 21, many environmental organizations are coming together for a People's Climate March in New York City.  Some of you know that I am very involved with the Sierra Club.  In addition to the usual 30 emails I get a day as a member of our local Sierra Club Executive Committee, and as a member of the statewide Energy Committee, I have tried to do my part in encouraging people to attend the March. Many Sierrans are making phone calls, organizing buses, and tabling, for this effort.

The timing of the People's Climate March is immediately in advance of the UN Climate Summit where leaders will lay the groundwork for a Climate Treaty.  After my experience at the march against the Keystone Pipeline in 2013 in Washington, DC, I would like to be in New York on the 21st and help take a stand for the environment and the most important issues facing the world today. If you can go or would just like more information, go to    Being part of this march will be an amazing experience!

I have been working on the Adirondack Mountain Club Fall Outing sponsored by our Albany Chapter for a year, as one member of a five-person committee. I have committed to being at this event.  Hey, even my award winning photo of Lake Durant is featured on the registration page!

People often think of ADK as a "hiking club."  In fact, 70% of members join because they believe in the conservation efforts of the club.  The issues ADK tackles are more local and are easier to understand than the complex world-wide issues of the Sierra Club.  Both are worthy environmental groups.

The Fall Outing, however, will be fun.  It is three days of outings in the Keene area, including a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse and a musical event.  My part in the planning has been to communicate and help organize the 52 hikes and paddle outings for the three days.  I enjoy emailing with the leaders and working with the other members of the event committee, even though it has required many hours of communication and cooperation over the past year. If I could be in two places at once, I would surely attend both the People's Climate March and the ADK Fall Outing.

If you are able to attend the People's Climate March in Manhattan, I hope you will do so.  It will be a momentous event, and will show our world leaders how much we are concerned about the huge environmental issues we all face today.