Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Could I Be the next Backpacker Magazine Field Scout?

So, Backpacker Magazine has a contest to become their field scout for an issue. The deal, for the winning entry, is that Backpacker pays for a backpacking trip in the “Lower 48” for the winner and a companion. The trip cannot exceed seven nights, and part of the assignment is to present the trip to Backpacker readers. To enter, one could submit an essay – not to exceed 300 words – or a link to a personalized video or web page. Three hundred words is not a lot to show why I’m the best hiker for the job, and how I could bring the adventure to life for their readers, but here is my entry: 293 words long. Wish me luck!

First, my girlfriend dumped me like a load of gravel, prompting me to decide that two weeks in the Rockies would cure my funk. Then, my car broke up with me in Ohio, so I thumbed a ride to northern Minnesota, and caught the ferry to Isle Royale. A 20 year-old greenhorn, I hoisted a heavy pack that was missing several of the 10 essentials, but was crammed with the 50 non-essentials. I staggered along like an abused pack mule, generously donated blood to hordes of mosquitoes during tent-less nights, and fell into a river vainly attempting to photograph a moose. And I had such a good time that I want to go back!

From Rock Harbor, I’ll plan a circuit route over the Greenstone Ridge, Minong Ridge, and Rock Harbor Trails. This time, I’ll carry only what I‘ll need to safely hike a seven night trip, and to record it for Backpacker. The latter will include my DeLorme PN-60 GPS to record the track and waypoints. My digital camera, constant companion on my treks, will come along to capture images, hopefully to include a moose – sans dunking! Back home, my Topo USA software will map the track and synch my photos geographically. And on the trail, I’ll periodically send custom messages using my SPOT synched up with the PN-60. I’ll record field notes in a standard notebook, though.

I may not be your guy to lead a three-week trip through the Yukon, but I’ve done plenty of hiking and have enough backpacking experience to do the trails of Isle Royale again. And I like to share my hikes, as evidenced by my blog: http://o2bhiking.blogspot.com/. Appoint me as your field scout, and I will take your readers along to this magical island park!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Last Walk for a While

I didn’t exactly do a hike today, but it was close enough. And with foot surgery tomorrow, that will hopefully take care of this neuroma once and for all, it will be the last walking, hiking, or running for me for a while. I am not sure how long it will be before I can walk normally again: normally for me being at least five or six miles at a pace of at least 14 to 15 minutes per mile. I am guessing at least a couple of months, and maybe longer, will go by before I can walk at that level again. Hopefully the surgeon can give me some clues about it.

On this cold winter weekend, I knew I wanted to go for a long walk at the least, since I won’t be physically able to do it for a while. I had too much to take care of around the house to go for a real hike anywhere – plus I have a cold. So five miles walking laps around Echo Lake seemed like a good way to go. I’ve not been running much or talking walks longer than a few miles very often in the last couple of months, but I was still able to walk the five miles (seven laps on the wooded trail that goes around the lake) in 64 minutes, which translates to 12.8 minutes per mile average walking pace. After five laps, my ears were so cold that I grabbed my hat out of the car for the last two laps.

On the mostly frozen lake, I saw groups of ducks looking for open water. As I moved through the woods, I saw little groups of sparrows, but that was about it for wildlife. I didn’t take pictures, as I have them from before on the other post about Echo Lake.

I was thinking of taking another long walk or even do some running in the morning, but I will get too thirsty. I can’t eat or drink before my surgery. So today will do it for a while. It will feel strange to be so sedentary for a few weeks. Hopefully the thought of hiking and walking in the spring weather will sustain me during that time! And I’ll be tracking recovery progress on my Racing for a Cure blog.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Splash of Color on This Winter Day

Back in November, I took my final fall color hike of 2010, but could not post the pictures because I couldn't find my camera's USB cable. Well, that hasn't changed, but I bought an SD card reader, so here are some photos from that hike.
My hike did about a seven mile loop along the James River, and for much of the time, you would not know that you were near a big city. Here is the start of the hike, along the North Side Trail.
The trail at first was adjacent to Maymont, and this burst of fall color appeared quickly:
And this pretty scene at Maymont's Japanese Gardens begged for a photo:
At this point, the trail climbed steeply over some switchbacks and headed through a residential neighborhood for about a half mile. This tree was at one of the switchbacks:
Back in the woods, this little maple was pleasant to the eyes:
The trail passed by two cemetaries. This one is the beautiful Hollywood Cemetary, sometimes called "The Arlington of the Confederacy" and site of at least one hilly Team in Training run each season:
As I neared the Robert E. Lee Bridge to cross over to Belle Isle, I had a view of Tredegar Iron Works with Richmond just beyond:
The Hollywood Rapids are always inspirational to see. Belle Isle is my favorite spot in the city, and is also my favorite Team in Training workout. We do that run at least once a season as well:
After crossing the other half of the river from Belle Isle, I headed north along the Buttermilk Spring Trail, so named because dairymen of old would put their jugs of milk in the spring to keep it cool:
This beech forest could have been in New England:
As could this rocky ledge, all just a couple of miles from a large city center, and closer still to neighborhoods:
I crossed back over the James over the Boulevard Bridge just at sunset. If I had $25 for every time I have run or walked over this bridge during Team in Training runs, I could take a pretty nice trip!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Great Horned Owl

"The Great Horned Owl"

This morn, I heard a great horned owl,
A fierce and nocturnal fowl,
Calling “Hoo hoo-hoo hoo, hooooo, hooooo!”
I mused if he was on the prowl.

Were I a rabbit, mouse, or shrew,
I wonder what things I would do
On hearing that an owl were near?
An owl, I’d probably eschew!

Would I hide, heart pounding with fear,
And stay there till the coast was clear?
Or would I venture, strong and bold,
Out in the owl’s own biosphere?

To live in fear and thus grow old
With much in life so uncontrolled?
Or risk it all by being bold?
These things I pondered in the cold.

Art Ritter
January 4, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Goals for 2011

In my "Racing For a Cure" blog, I have outlined my goals for 2011. One of them involves the outdoors and this blog.

Happy New Year! What do you hope to accomplish in 2011?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Where Would Your Grand 2011 Adventure Be?

With a new year, I thought I would try a new poll, so here it is:

Assuming money and time were no object, which of the following would you pick for a grand outdoor adventure in 2011? I’ll leave the poll open for the rest of January.

1. Traveling across Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon

2. Hiking in all of the Rocky Mountain, California, and Pacific Northwest National Parks

3. Hiking one of the long trails: Appalachian, Pacific Crest, or Continental Divide Trails

4. Trekking across the Alps

5. Trekking in the Himalayan Mountains

6. Hitting all the major East and South African National Parks on wildlife safari

7. Visiting Antarctica and wild places in the Southern Oceans

8. Outdoor adventures in Australia and New Zealand

9. Other – Where? Leave a comment!

Sunset at Back Bay

I thought I would try something a little different with this post of a short New Year's Eve hike in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I saw great wildlife during my three miles of walking, as well as a mesmerizing sunset, all while being entertained by the voices of thousands of tundra swans. But I took this walk specifically to try out a feature with my mapping software (DeLorme's Topo North America 9.0) that I had not used before. So the wildlife (and sunset) was considered to be a New Year bonus.

Here is my track for the hike, as captured by my DeLorme PN-60 GPS and then synched up with Topo North America:

And here is the same track showing where I snapped several of the photos you will see in this post:

The software has a Geo-Tagger feature that compares the time that the photos were taken against the track, and tags each photo to a spot on the earth based on the time you were there. Obviously, you need to have the correct time in your digital camera. Then it shows, placed on the topo map, a thumbnail of each photo that you choose to tag. Further along in the post, you'll see a larger version of each of these five photos, plus a few more that I threw in.

I didn't get close enough to wildlife for a good photo, but in addition to the swans seen far out on the bay (and heard wherever I walked), I saw a clapper rail, black ducks (I think), a great blue heron, Canada geese, and a kingfisher. The latter posed for a while on top of a dead tree, and then hovered over the pond for about 20 seconds before diving to miss a fish. And I talked to a man that claimed to have just seen a beaver swimming along the shore, but my guess is that it was a nutria.

From this point, I could see hundreds if not thousands of swans, and the cacophony of sounds coming from them was wondrous. In a few short months, they will be up in the Yukon.

There was still snow to be seen in many places from Sunday's storm down this way:

These feathers are all that remain of an unlucky bird that apparently ran into a hawk or owl:

The sun was starting to set as I headed south along the dike road:

From this point, the west dike path heads to the west and then south:

But that path is closed, so I headed east and then south as far as you are permitted to this time of year, to the big wildlife observation blind, with views over some ponds:

I look forward to April, when the path is open again all the way to False Cape State Park. But for now, I had to go back. As I turned back north and walked back to the car, I was treated to a spectacular sunset. The colors reflected off the bay, and also tinted the recent snows rose and orange. Here are the final pictures I took of this sunset, a mesmerizing last sunset for 2010, about which I wrote this poem two days later: