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)