Tuesday, February 16, 2010
10.1 Hike Camel's Hump in all four seasons (Winter)
It frustrates me that at my college we hold classes every year on Martin Luther King Day. But I love it that we get off not only Monday but also Tuesday of President's Day weekend. So, while everyone else had to march off to work, I spent Tuesday afternoon in the coolest way possible -- on a winter hike up Camel's Hump. The plan was (and still is) to do my winter hike as a snow shoe this coming Sunday with our college Wilderness Program. But when my friend Conor, a former student and Wilderness Program leader who now teaches at a local high school, offered to let me tag along on his (non snow shoe)hike today, it was a no-brainer.
Conor, I recently discovered, does this hike multiple times weekly, usually with weights in his backpack, as a training exercise. I passed on the weights, but took him up on his offer of crampons, which we strapped on to our hiking boots about half way up the trail.
For non-Vermonters, Camel's Hump is our state's second highest peak and a hike up it is pretty much obligatory for everyone before they can leave the state (there might even be a law about it, passed around the same time as the one requiring everyone in the state to list cheddar as their favorite cheese). For Vermonters, today I learned something very important that I'm dying to share. The news is this: assuming you have crampons, hiking Camel's Hump in the winter is actually easier than hiking it in the summer. It might be that everyone else already knew and were taking bets on when I'd find out. But in case there are any others to whom this is news, let me explain. First, the snow covers slippery rocks, so if you have good hiking boots, you actually have better traction. Second, once it gets really steep and you put on your crampons, you have better traction still, and there's no danger of sliding backwards when you take a steep step. Third, the snow laden trees are so amazingly cool-looking it's easy to pretend you're in Narnia or some other children's book, and thereby forget that you're huffing and puffing. Finally -- and this is the real clincher -- going back down is a blast. That's because, if you're wearing snow pants and enough layers to make you look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man (a description you can see from the photos clearly applied to me) you can take off your crampons, sit on your butt, and go on the longest slide you've ever been on in your life. Who knew? Not me, at least until today.
Of course, as with all great things there is a catch, and in this case it's that the summit is windy and cold -- very, very windy and cold. There's a clearing about a third of a mile from the summit that looks deceptively calm and is ringed by beautiful snow-bowed trees on all sides. And then as you keep climbing the wind starts whipping around you and you notice that the trees are all stunted, and that finally the wind is making your face numb (even if you're wearing your super-warm hat from Nepal -- thanks Jane and Kurt!). And then it feels like you're not in Vermont at all, but rather Alaska or anywhere else you've ever imagined as really high and really cold. So you put on every single extra stitch of clothing you have in your backpack, try to peer through the clouds whipping around you, take a photo or two, and hightail it back down to the clearing. From there, the world rights itself quickly. You can pull off and pack up your crampons, sit on your butt and go for the longest sled ride (minus the sled) of your life through the steep part of the trail. If you've never done it, you must. It helps,of course, to have a terrific friend and guide like Conor show you the ropes. It's really too much fun to miss.
52 to Ways to Say I love You
..in German, once again with thanks to my multilingual friend Cherifa (who can also hold a plank position longer than any of the rest of us in the Crossfire class -- some people are so talented!)
Ich liebe dich. I love you
Kann ich zwei biere bitte? Can I have two beers please?
Hallo Hello (Gotta be fair to all the words and give them their translation due)
Auf wiedersehen Good by
Still planning to go skate skiing on Saturday, February 20 and snow shoe hiking on Camel's Hump Sunday, February 21. And the following weekend Leah, Siham and I will still go up to Bar Harbor for the east coast earliest sunrise.
Spring Break 2010 I had one other plan that I wanted to start posting now. My summer travel plans are coming together and they are really exciting. Dominican Republic with Saint Michael's College service trip May 18-28. Jordan, Lebanon and possibly Syria and Spain for 2-3 weeks in June. And my colleague Jerry and I recently learned that we'll be presenting at a conference at Cambridge University the first week in August. That obviously means that there will be some travel before and/or after the conference to several European countries on my New Places list. Given all those plans, I think I'm going to save my time and pennies, and devote my spring break to winter sports here in Vermont. I still want to do downhill skiing, snowboarding, night versions of several winter sports, and learning to jump and spin on ice skates. So, if any of my friends and/or former students has ever been dying to get (or return) to Vermont and try skiing/snowboarding/night sports/skating (and also check out maple sugaring -- it'll be the season), this is your chance. If you want to come to Burlington and stay at my place during the period between March 14-20, now is a good time to let me know!