Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 New Thing 1. Moonlight Snow Shoe Hike

Last year, when I decided to do 52 New Things, lots of my friends wondered if I'd run out of ideas.  Actually, the converse happened.  The more new things I did, the more additional ideas got generated.  I did a couple of great snow shoe hikes last year, and when I did them it made me want to try doing one at night, which is what I did tonight for the first new thing of 2011.
The crew at the top of Mt. Philo

Once again, I have my students and Saint Michael's College's fabulous Wilderness Program to thank.  When the week's schedule of wilderness programs went out over email, I immediately forwarded to a number of friends and colleagues to see who else was game, and sure enough, Alexsis came through with impressive speed.  She'd never gone up Mt. Philo, and we both thought it was time to change that, so tonight we did.
Bridget and Nelly, our cheerfully unflappable leaders

One of the things I learned from last night's hike is that the Be Prepared motto isn't just for Boy and Girl Scouts.  Faced with some snow shoe problems (a bunch of them had buckles missing, which we didn't notice till we got to the parking lot of Mt. Philo), Nelly, one of our Wilderness leaders, responded with a sense of resourcefulness and dispatch that would have made MacGyver weep with envy.  Using only the string of her compass and the tape in her first aid kit, she managed to get her, Alexsis' and my buckle-deficient snow shoes firmly attached to our boots and off we went.  I had already met Bridget the year before when she was one of the Wilderness Leaders on a snow shoe hike that Ryan and I took up Camel's Hump that was so cold that all the rest of the participants who had signed up bailed the morning we were supposed to go out, so I knew she was impressively intrepid. But last night's hero award definitely went to Nelly for incredible grace under fire.
Nelly and Alexsis doing battle with their buckle-deficient snow shoes and trying to ignore their freezing fingers

On one of my snow shoe hikes last year my friend and student, New Thing Hall of Famer Josh, gave me a piece of advice for winter activities -- you should be dressed so that you're a little cold when you start, because otherwise you'll be peeling layers halfway through.  This proved true once again.  In the parking lot I was cold, halfway up Mt Philo (which is admittedly not a major haul, but still clearly slants in an uphill direction) I was plenty warm.  Thanks to the overshoes that the Wilderness Program kindly provided to go over our hiking boots, for once, even my toes were nice and toasty.
Alexsis and I at the top of Mt. Philo.  I felt particularly good about having twisted Lexi's arm to go when she told me she hadn't been to Mt. Philo before.

If you've never done a snow shoe at night up a trail you've hiked in another season during the day, I recommend it.  It's a whole different experience.  Between the snow reflecting on the trees in the moonlight and the totally different way that the trail looks covered with snow, it gives a whole other perspective on a place that you might feel you already knew.  The same was true at the top.  Looking out at Lake Champlain and all the farms below was really beautiful and a completely different sight than you'd see if the afternoon in the summer or fall.
Love the way the light of the headlamps looked in this picture taken on the trail

In the Works

New Things:  Not quite sure what the next New Thing will be.  It depends on who's up for something new, and what they're interested in, I think. Some of the possibilities on the docket for the next month or so include sled hockey, walking greyhounds at the St Albans rescue, visiting the Snowflake Bentley Museum in Jericho, and trying dog sledding.  Let me know if anyone wants to do one of these, or has some other fun idea.

Challenge 1. Become a better skier/snowboarder.  This one is a lot of fun.  So far I've gone this year to Smugg's with Josh and Sugarbush with Chris.  I'm looking forward to going with Paul to Bolton in the next few weeks when our schedules mesh, Alexsis has offered to go to Smugg's and possibly pull together a group for Jay Peak, and I'm always looking for other people who are up to go.  The one thing I've definitely discovered is that it's not possible to have too much warm weather gear, and I'm still looking for ways to keep my toes warm.  Any suggestions (or offers to ski together), let me know!
Chris and I at Sugarbush last Friday.  My smile is clearly related in part to the fact that I was inside and could once again feel my toes.

Challenge 2.  Become a better cook This one, I must say, is going quite well.  It's just so much fun, plus the possibilities of things to make are pretty much endless, plus there are lots of people willing to do it with me and/or eat the results.  Lilly and I need to start our tandem experiments in Thai and Ethiopian soon (anyone up to come over and try them when I do it?), and I still need to give my new crock pot its inaugural run.  Of all my challenges, this is the one I'm most confident of actually achieving this year.

Challenge 3. Learn to jump and spin on ice skates.  I'm really only putting this one down to note that I have made so little progress on this one.  Chris and I went ice skating two weeks ago and that's the last time I've been in a rink.  Gotta get going on this..anyone up for doing it together?

Challenge 4.  Finish a marathon.  Still plugging away.  Did my first long run last weekend -- nine miles.  That sounds more impressive than it is, though, because the program that I'm on requires you to do a combination of running and walking, making my already-slow pace even slower.  But I figure, given how horribly cold it's been here lately, I'd be hard-pressed to be running at all right now if it weren't for this challenge, so at least that's something.

Challenge 5.  Become a better rock climber.  Still haven't been since the New Year began.  But Amanda is starting Women's Night at the Climbing Wall at SMC on Wednesday nights again, and Claire and Kate have promised to give it a try with me on the first Wednesday in February.  Anyone want to join us?

Challenge 6.  Write a book with students.  This challenge is about to suffer a setback when Drisk heads to Montana for a few months. However, Alexsis, Matt, Amanda and Ben are stepping up to help with logistics on the project, and we have a big in-person meeting coming up the first week in February to get everyone back on track.
One of the many things I'll miss about Drisk is that we  agree on all the crucial aspects of producing this book -- such as the decision that all editorial meetings should be conducted over breakfast.  Here he is with Siham, Leah and I discussing weighty country case study issues at Mirabelle's.
My other challenges, such as learning Arabic, haven't even been started, but I have high hopes that once the semester classes settle into place, I'll find time to incorporate more of the others.

So, that's it's for now.  Still deciding what all the challenges of the year will be, and still looking for people who want to do them together or in tandem long-distance.  Drop a note if you'd like, or if you have other ideas.


  1. I love the pictures. It looks like a cool thing to do...and perhaps it is not quite as cold in VT as it is in WI today!

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