September 29th, 2009
Time has been flying by here in the mountains.
Perhaps it’s the view that has been distracting me.
Then again, it could be that I spend a lot of time chit chatting with hikers. Franconia Notch is a hiker haven. Right outside my cabin is the start of a nine mile loop that takes you across these mountains.
A trip on this trail involves a lot of climbing over steep and rugged terrain, and cold, windy, and often times wet weather conditions. That’s why I have Harold to help me here. Harold might be ready to hike, but he never actually seems to make it off the porch. But he keeps me company and he’s great at sharing the ten essentials
that you need for a hike.
But enough about Harold, let’s talk about mountains. There is a club of some prestige here in the White Mountains; The 40 over 4,000 club. There are roughly 48 summits in the White Mountains that are over 4,000 feet high. Hikers put themselves through all sorts of trials and trails to bag over 40 of them. My cabin is nestled at the feet of Mt Lincoln, and Mt Lafayette, both of which just happen to be on this list.
(I want to find the person who made this list and have a chat. I want to know why Little Haystack (the peak on the right above) is not on the list. Despite it’s name, it fits the criteria quite well at an elevation of 4,780. In my opinion it’s as much a separate peak from Mt Lincoln as say, North and South Kinsman, (which didn’t even bother with different names,) or Mt Monroe which is barely a dimple on Mt Washington. But I digress.)
The Loop Trail first takes you past waterfalls on the appropriately named Falling Waters Trail. Then it carries you away from the stream and leaves you to climb the difficult, boulder strewn trail to the top. But you are handsomely rewarded as you reach the top.
Just before you reach the summit of Little Haystack the trees start to become twisted and gnarly. They’re called Krummholz trees. Krummholz is a German word, that means “crooked wood,” and it well describes the wind-battered trees you find at the high elevations on summits. You are about to enter one of the most intense and fragile ecosystems on the planet.
Welcome to the Alpine Zone. Small lonely islands in the sky, surrounded by an ocean of trees. Very few things can survive up here where the wind and cold are so intense, the soil so rocky, and the sun is often blotted out by clouds. The view from these sky islands is spectacular, but the conditions are often harsh, and the environment is delicate. The alpine plants like the carpet of Mountain Cranberry, or the tiny white flowers of Dwarf Cinquefoil, and the bright yellow Mountain Avens are well adapted to low sunlight and high wind, and grow very slowly, but a single footstep can damage or kill them.
So follow the trail carefully. (This is, after all, the famous Appalachian Trail, why would you want
to stray from it?’) The cairns and the white trail blazes will guide you.
First you’ll summit Mt Lincoln, at 5,089 feet....
And then you’ll climb Mt. Lafayette, the highest peak on Franconia ridge at 5,260 feet. (Just keep climbing, don’t worry you’ll make it!) You’ll be walking in the footsteps Henry David Thoreau, and the poet Robert Frost. You may also notice the footprint of the old summit house.
From here it’s time to head down towards the Old Bridle Path. On the way you’ll pass by the Appalachian Mountain Club’s
Greenleaf Hut. (Do stop by and say “Hi” to the Croo, they are an awesome bunch!)
By the time you reach my cabin again you will have travelled 9 miles, walked across three mountains, and shown your feet some of the best scenery to be found in New Hampshire.
July 14th, 2009
And just like that....it was July.
I cannot believe how quickly time has been flying by. Life at Bear Brook has kept me busy. Shenanigans, as always, abound.
I realized not long ago that I was living in a community of full-fledged ice cream junkies. I am ashamed to say that I quickly fell into their wicked ways and it wasn’t long before I became one of the worst ice cream enablers among the group. There are many vices far worse than ice cream and we aren’t often so desperate that we resort to making it ourselves, but the acquisition of delicious frozen dairy treats does take a sizable chunk of time out of one’s day.
Perhaps it was a crazed ice cream deprived state that led me to the decision to go from this:
But I did, and I love it!. Those two pigtails went to Locks of Love.
This hasn’t been the craziest extreme make over going on at Bear Brook. A bunch of people shaved their heads for St. Baldricks.
I also had fun playing with tools in the woods for a week.
And came out of that week looking very dirty. (Of course our bosses insisted upon calling "Work Skills Training," but I think that I had way too much fun to call it "training," or "work.")
And finally, by June it was time for me to pack up and move out of Bear Brook. But the adventure isn't over yet. I moved from Bear Brook to here:
I'll be spending the rest of my summer in Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. (Try not to feel too sorry for me darlings....it's not all bad. :)
And the adventure continues....
April 19th, 2009
In the utility closet at Bear Brook, behind the brooms mops and shelves of earth friendly cleaning products there is something squirmy going on. Meet Bear Brooks new residents; a host of red wriggler worms.
At first the members of the New Hampshire Conservation Corp weren’t entirely sure how to welcome the new addition to camp. “They aren’t exactly friendly or outgoing,” said NHCC member Geoffrey Lloyd. “I asked them if they wanted to go hiking and they just ignored me.”
But friendships began to sprout as the worms found their own niche in the close-knit community. As it turns out, red wrigglers are extremely good at getting rid of kitchen waste. Daniel Moffatt was surprised by “how excited these guys can get about garbage.” Each week since their arrival the worms have eaten about half their weight in vegetable scraps, apple cores, shredded newspaper and miscellaneous kitchen waste.
Tensions did run high after the worms held an open-mic night that went into the early hours and woke several members with slam-poetry and acoustic renditions of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” But with the promise of worm castings for use as top-rate garden fertilizer in the spring, members were willing to work out their differences. “I think it’s helped that we stopped feeding them coffee grounds.” says Emma Trester-Wilson.
Bear Brook is not the only place welcoming worms. Vermiculture, also called worm composting is becoming a popular method of composting food waste, although there are some limitations. For example, large amounts of acidic foods such as citrus and onions are not recommended for worms, and adding pet waste, meat and dairy products will result in stinky worm bins. Aside from these drawbacks, worm composting is an easy, odorless, and low maintenance alternative which requires little space. Worm castings are also an excellent source of soil for potted plants and gardens.
There are many resources available to anyone interested in starting their own worm bins. Our worms came from Joan O’Connor of Joan’s Famous Composting Worms in Henniker, New Hampshire. “Worms Eat My Garbage; how to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System,” by Mary Appelhof is a wonderful comprehensive guide for beginners. Online an abundance of detailed websites on vermiculture are only a Google search away.
As for the worms at Bear Brook? “They’re definitely here to stay.” Said Marlee Levielle, Education and Service Learning Manager for the NHCC. “We’re all looking forward to spring when we can use the worm castings in our gardens.” Geoffrey Lloyd is just “hoping that when the weather gets warmer the worms will be more eager to hit the trails.”
April 6th, 2009
No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. -Proverb-
I cannot hope to do justice to the transformation that has happened here over the past few weeks.
The first sign that things were changing was the sunlight that started shining into my cabin and waking me up in the mornings.
Day by day the layer of ice began to retreat from the surface of the ponds.
Then the birds woke up. I saw few birds my first two months here, and then all of the sudden the woods were filled them. Bear Brook is a noisy
place this time of year.
I started seeing streams and vernal pools that I had no idea were even there before. Familiar places have changed completely as new features appear underneath the snow.
And all at once the woods are jam packed with things that are living and growing. Today I hung out by a vernal pool that was full of frogs. We’ve had several warm days of rain which means the salamanders should be out soon!
Finally, this week when I walked into the lodge I found this spring time mystery:
If you think you know what it is, leave a comment. The first person to correctly identify the critter and
the stage of it’s life cycle will get something springy and New Hampshire-ish mailed to them.
￼Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!" -Robin Williams-
April 4th, 2009
Time is flying. It seems like only a few weeks have passed since I first drove into Bear Brook, but tomorrow we will have been here for three whole months.
Our schedules are getting more and more packed as we approach the end of education season and are scrambling to get all of our class projects finished up and squared away.
In addition to the glories of lesson planning and teaching we've been working on a number of other projects. Right now everyone is gearing up for the Manchester Earth Day Celebration
which the New Hampshire Conservation Corp is throwing at Veteran's Park in Manchester on April 18th. There will be games, there will be food, there will be animal pelts, and there will be hip-hop! Even though I am pretty sure that no one who reads this journal lives near Manchester tell all your friends anyways, cause baby, it's gonna be grand!
We've also been occupied publishing a newsletter for the NHCC which you should totally read, and can find here.
On another note, we are having problems with internet access here at Bear Brook. Simply put, the problem is too many people needing to use the internet and not nearly enough bandwidth to go around. This makes uploading pictures at camp an impossibility, which makes blogging kinda difficult. I'm going to try and work out something this weekend, we'll see how it goes.
March 19th, 2009
There is little doubt that you are wondering how someone who is supposed to be living in the woods took a picture like the one above.
On Sunday a group of us ventured down to South Boston for the St. Patrick’s day parade. Since my birthday is on Saint Patrick’s Day I considered it to be my birthday fling, even though it was technically on the ides of March.
There were bagpipes.
￼There were some pretty sweet costumes....
and some pretty sweet floats.
There were all manner of things civic...
There were, of course, Storm Troopers.
There was dinner at a very authentic
There was revelry and goofing off on Boston Common
Not to mention much rejoicing at the sight of green grass.
And best of all, there were good friends.
March 14th, 2009
After spending two months in New Hampshire there is something I have noticed about this place;
New Hampshire gets a lot of snow.
When I first got here I learned pretty quickly about post-holing. Post-holing is when you are trying to walk in deep snow (which is pretty much anywhere that isn't on a road,) and the snow goes all the way past your knee and usually up to your thigh. Not surprisingly, it's a little difficult to walk this way.
Snow shoes are truly essential for getting around if you want to go anywhere with a view.
Normally by the time March rolls around I am sick of winter.
This year, not so much.
February 22nd, 2009
I may have gotten myself wrapped up in something that I may never get out of.
It all started with Marni. A few weeks after we arrived Marni suggested that we “Play The Game.”
“Play The Game?” We all asked, “What is that?”
To play the game (PTG) you need to know three simple rules:
1. This is the offensive move in PTG:
2. If you make eye-contact with someone making the offensive move, you have to do this:
you block it in time with the defensive move by going like this:
There are a couple of basic strategies:
If you’re good at the quick draw, you wait until you have everyone’s undivided attention and then throw up the offensive move. It’s a tough thing to do, but if you’re quick enough you can get multiple people on the floor that way.
Then there’s the sneaky technique. Wait until your target is distracted with something else and, when the least expect it, throw up the offensive move and call their name.
Then there are the less common techniques, like the scan. Make the offensive move and just look around the room to see who you can snipe. Not surprisingly, it’s not nearly as effective but when it works, it’s priceless.
Most of the remaining strategies are just a combination of these basic maneuvers.
For the first few weeks I watched. I feigned disinterest, but quietly and inconspicuously as I could I studied everyone’s moves.
Then, when I thought I was ready I declared myself “in.”
I did well the first day, I may have been a newbie but I held my own pretty well. But then....
I picked a fight.
I caught him three times in one day, and then I blocked two of the ones he sent my way, and now Ralph has it in for me. I expected retribution to come quickly, but not from Ralph. Ralph is patient. Ralph is a brooder. Ralph can wait.
I don’t know when it’s coming, but sure as you’re born it will come. When I die you might as well bury me with my arms and legs propped up in the air because if I know Ralph he will surely staple a picture of himself mid-PTG to the lid of my coffin.
February 17th, 2009
I have not updated the blog because....I have not updated the blog because my camera is on the fritz.
I have tried every avenue I can think of to fix it but I think I’m just going to have to suck it up and get a replacement. As a result a some of the pictures in here are either a few weeks old or have been taken by Stephanie (who incidentally is also keeping a blog, which you can find here
.)I have not updated the blog because I have been too busy playing hacky-sack:
My hacky-sack skills have improved exponentially since arriving here, (although to be fair, my hacky-sack skills had no where to go but up.)I have not updated the blog because we have been too busy sledding:I have not updated the blog because I’ve been busy learning to play the guitar:
My repertoire is almost at four songs. There was that first week when all I could play was Wagon Wheel. My fellow lodge mates were very kind in not going crazy when I sat down and plugged through it for the 873,384th time.I have not updated the blog because we have been busy dreaming up designs for our own sustainable communes:
The sheep, alpacas, and angora bunnies in the field? Totally my contribution.I have not updated the blog because I am too busy making plankton out of felt scraps and tulle. I have not updated the blog because I was watching while Sue taught everyone to crochet:
I am slightly concerned that the crocheters now outnumber the knitters. I have not updated the blog because I am contemplating a counter strike.
It has been suggested that not updating the blog makes it significantly harder for those trying to live vicariously through me to do so. I apologize to those individuals, but as you can see....I have not updated the blog because I have been hard at work!
January 30th, 2009
These past two weeks have been a blur. We don’t have TV out here in the woods, but around noon on the twentieth this is what we did:
We have spent the majority of the past two weeks in training for education season. Part of the NH Conservation Corp program involves several months teaching environmental education in area schools. It’s something that I won’t talk about much on here, but it is one of the things that drew me to this program.
There is a growing concern that children are growing up too detached from the world around them. They spend a large portion of their time inside playing video games, watching TV, and surfing the web. The time that they do spend outside is confined to the framework of sports or other extracurricular activities. As a result they are more aware of the destruction of rainforest thousands of miles away, but unaware of where the food they eat and the water they use everyday comes from.
There is also a growing body of study that suggests that the absence of unstructured play time in the natural world may correlate with increasing rates of ADD and childhood obesity. I don’t want to give you the impression that these studies constitute rock solid evidence in favor of these theories, because they don’t. It is a difficult thing to study, to measure and to quantify.
But I cannot escape the memory of my early encounters with nature. Birding trips with my grandfather, camping trips with my family, field trips to parks and nature centers in Girl Scouts and in school. I find myself wondering what role these played in shaping who I was and who I have become. My experience at a week-long outdoor education camp is one of the happiest memories I have of sixth grade, a year that I otherwise remember being a nightmare as I struggled with a learning disability and switching schools mid-year. I do not think it is any small coincidence that last year I found myself going back to that same Environmental Education Center to become an instructor. Incidentally, it was that experience that brought me to where I am today; out here in the woods of New Hampshire, wondering how I will affect the students I will be teaching. ￼
As both individuals, and as a team, by teaching about photosynthesis and the water cycle, we have started to build something. We have a very clear vision of what we want to create but we have only a glimpse at what the finished product will look like. But we hope that in the end something will sprout from the seeds we sow.