Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome to New Hampshire. Please Try Not To Die on Our Mountains.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, firstly, you deserve great rewards and riches. I will not be providing them, of course, but you most certainly deserve them.

Secondly, you may remember a recent post about a car ride up the treacherous, tortuous slopes of Mount Washington. If you need a moment to scroll down and refresh your memory, please, feel free.

Ever since our drive up Mount Washington, my daughter Tori has been aching (a verb that soon proved to be aptly chosen) to climb up Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England and home of the world's worst weather. She chose her hiking outfit carefully. Her zip-up monkey pajamas are designed to keep her snuggly and warm, even in the face of all of nature's fury.

Nature's fury proved to be 70 degrees and cloudless, however, rendering the high-tech monkey pajamas entirely unnecessary, but still extremely fashionable.

We drove to The Cog Railway base station where the hiker parking lot is located. The parking lot, at 8:30 a.m. was already crowded, promising a busy day on the trails. 

And it was. 

I have done a bit of hiking with my good friend Julie over the last couple of years and, until last Saturday, Mt. Monadnock held the title of being the most crowded hike I have had the misfortune of taking. Now, Mount Washington is clearly the winner. There was a steady stream of hikers all the way up the mountain. And all the way down. Our planned hike would take us up Mt. Monroe, over to Mt. Washington, then down Mt. Clay. Three mountains, but only one actual "summiting experience" which is the moment you get to touch the metal geological survey tag marking the summit and then trudge off back down the mountain in search of the nearest ice cream shop.

We began up the Ammonoosuk Ravine Trail, which, believe it or not, is actually spelled correctly. It was a beautiful hike, following along the Ammonoosuk River and affording excellent views of waterfalls and sweaty hikers gasping for breath and chatting away on their cell phones.

We neared the Lake in the Clouds hut and were rewarded with a view of the summit of Mt. Washington that seemed tangibly close.

You will notice the joy on our faces at seeing the distant peak of Mt. Washington. We rested briefly at the Lake in the Clouds hut. Tori was understandably chagrined to find that the Lake in the Clouds is more like a large puddle on a hill, but seriously, who'd climb three and a half hours over treacherous terrain to see a puddle on a hill?

We headed off toward the summit and were met with this helpful, encouraging sign along the trail.

In case you can't make it out, it tells the eager traveler to STOP. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad. Our spirits soared with the welcoming hospitality of the Forest Service and we skipped along the 1.4 miles separating us from our destination.

An hour or so later, we trudged on to the summit where hordes of tourists milled about, snapping pictures of each other against the fairly spectacular background scenery and at the summit marker. There were so many people, in fact, that we actually had to stand in line to pose at the summit.

You can see the majestic beauty of the White Mountains spread out behind us. You cannot see the majestic beauty of the through-hikers who are stopping at the summit on their way along the Appalachian Trail. Neither can you smell the majestic odors which the through-hikers trail behind them like an olfactory tail.

We chose to lunch on the observation deck, where the odors were quickly dispelled and then began our descent toward the car, which by that time, seemed dispiritingly far away. We could, of course, have cheated and bought a couple of the $47 one-way tickets on the Cog Railroad, but we are made of sterner stuff than that.

Besides, then we would have been deprived of the joy and beauty of the hike back down, which crosses the Cog Railway tracks and affords hikers the opportunity to moon the passengers on the train.
Of course, Tori and I were aghast at this appalling tradition, but we do ask that if you were on the 2:10 train going down the hill and you had your camera out, that you do not show your pictures to my wife.

The trip down the hill was more difficult than the trip up had been, but the scenery, including the gentleman hiking down the mountain clad only in a tasteful pair of boxer shorts and some sturdy hiking boots, made it an interesting trek.

Tori was very eager to get back to the parking lot because I had brought along a tiny camping stove and some leftover dinner from the night before so we could have a warm meal in the parking lot after the hike. She explained to me, as we walked down the hill, that cooking on the little burner in the parking lot was the part of the hike that she was most excited about.

"We could have just gone out in the back yard and cooked dinner there," I suggested.
"Oh, yeah," she said, "I never thought of that."

By the time we reached the car, nine hours and fifteen minutes after we had left it, we were both tired and sore and hungry.

But it was time for DINNER IN THE PARKING LOT!!!!

By the time I had assembled the burner and got everything ready, Tori decided that cooking in the parking lot was not as spectacular or thrilling as she had thought it might be.

"I thought there'd be a lot of flames and sparks; like when you weld stuff," she explained.

We ate our disappointing, flame and spark free dinner and headed back home where Tori asked that I please post a picture of her blister here to serve as a sort of warning to others who may want to hike the mighty Mount Washington.

Consider yourself warned.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A New Pencil Portrait

This is a pencil portrait I've been working on for about a week now. I loved this girl's hair. This was a quick sketch that spiraled out of control and wound up being a big project. I'm sad to report that about half way through the drawing, I was working outside, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and the entire board fell off my easel, so the paper got rather wrinkled. It's sort of like an unwanted age-progression process on the drawing.

I was happy with it, though, wrinkles and all.