The Jersey Shore
Last weekend we went to the Jersey shore. It was nice to camp out with our friend George again, and to do the campfire thing, and it was a pretty fun trip. But we both agreed that it’s harder to enjoy the black ocean waters of New Jersey after having been in the turquois Bahamian seas and the crystal clear streams of Colorado.
We started out on the beach in Ocean City, but it was packed as usual, and being the long, flat, straight beach that it is, it was really windy. So we drove route 619 (?) down the coast and eventually ended up at 67th Street in Avalon. It was now just after 5 PM, so the annoying lifeguards were packing it in, and the beach was far less crowded & windy.
On another day we went to a beach near 2nd Street in Sea Isle City. This day had been extremely rainy and windy, but we caught a break from the rain and hit the beach. It was still really windy, though, and this beach was nearly deserted; and the waves were HUGE, I’d say it was probably 6 foot seas when we went in. They were definitely the biggest waves I’d ever seen in person, and big enough that it was a struggle just to get out into the water. A wind-surfer came past us up the coast, and he was getting amazing air -- about 30 feet at one point. It was like he was flying.
We had dinner at The Lobster House one night, which means that I got Alaskan King Crab legs. They’re so big that they only give you 3 of them, and you still get as much meat as when you get a dozen regular crab legs -- only it’s far easier to get at it what with only having to break open 3 shells instead of 12. Also, we went at about 6 PM on a Sunday, and it was packed; but they told us our wait would be 60-80 minutes and it ended up being only 25, probably because there were only 2 of us.
We ate a late breakfast at Uncle Bill’s, but we went to the one in Cape May instead of the one on 21st & Asbury in Ocean City where we usually go. You’d think they’d be the same, but the stuffed french toast came with Reddi-Wip instead of cinnamon butter. Of course it’s the cinnamon butter that makes the meal, but when we asked the waitress about it, she said she’d never heard of it.
Of course we went to Mack and Manco’s a couple of times to get the greatest pizza ever.
Tubing on the Delaware River
On Tuesday, Maria, Kim, and I drove out to Point Pleasant, PA to go tubing on the Delaware River. Never having tubed on the Delaware before, we (er, Kim) looked it up online and found Bucks County River Country. (Warning: worst website of all time. No, really. Don’t go to the site. If you do, by all means, do NOT click on the high-speed/DSL/Cable version. Otherwise your nightmares will look like this, except that everything on the page will be sliding, spinning, falling, or flying, and there will be awful music blaring without so much as a warning. Besides this one.)
Website aside, Bucks County River Country is a pretty nice operation. You park in their parking lot ($5), pay for the tube ride/rental ($18), get on the bus, and they drive you a few miles upriver. That whole process takes maybe 20 minutes, not counting the time it takes you to put on your sunblock.
You can choose to get off the bus at the 3 mile point, 4.5 mile point, or 6 mile point, which will make your tube trip 2, 3, or 4 hours long, respectively. We got there relatively late in the day (around 3 PM) so our only options were the 2 and 3 hour trips. I was thinking that 2 hours in a tube would be plenty of time, mainly because I thought that by 3 or 4 hours I would be starving to death and dehydrated, so we did the 2 hour trip.
Our 3-mile tubing trip actually turned out to only take 90 minutes though, probably because the river was about 2 feet high due to recent rainstorms. They told us about the water level beforehand, but didn’t mention that it would make the river run significantly faster and therefore make our ride shorter. In any case, the time went by quickly, and we all wanted to stay longer.
Tubing down the Delaware was tons of fun. I say that as someone who loves rivers and lakes, though, and thinking about it, it kind of seems like it’d be really boring sitting there in a tube for hours. But it totally wasn’t, and I can’t wait to do it again.
I had originally planned to get a mesh bag or a small net to stick a bottle of water and some zip-locked snacks into, to tie onto my tube so I wouldn’t die of thirst or starvation during the journey. But their website says you can’t bring in food or beverages and you can’t take cans or bottles on the river. So I was bummed about that, and as I said, that was part of the reason I wanted to do the shorter run. But then when we got there, the girl told us "we’re not very strict", and in fact you can take that stuff with you. They even sell bottled water and rope to secure stuff to your tube, both of which I bought.
Another thing the website tricks you about is reservations: it says they’re required. But we called and they said we wouldn’t need them. It apparently gets crowded on the weekends, but it was pretty sparse when we were there. There were probably a few dozen people on the river with us, but we were spread out across 3 miles and the width of the river, so there were only a couple people anywhere close to us.
One of the guys at Bucks County River Country told me that there are no dams nor waterfalls between Point Pleasant and the Atlantic Ocean, which seems unlikely, but if true, it’d be cool to go all the way out there. It’d take forever in a tube, but still. And while the Pennsylvania side of the river is mostly private property around Point Pleasant, the New Jersey side is mostly public land, so if you brought your own raft you could put in wherever you wanted and go forever. Just remember to take 2 cars and leave one at the endpoint.
Below is a map of our route.
Whitewater Rafting Photos from Colorado
Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob just sent us some great photos of our whitewater rafting trip in Steamboat Springs. They stood on the shore and patiently waited the hour or so it took for us to come down the river and pass their spot.
Back in PA After Another Steamboat Springs Trip
When you land in Philadelphia after flying from Colorado, the first thing you think is, "Where are all the mountains?" And the second thing is, "Man, there are trees everywhere."
Having been born and raised in Pennsylvania, I have grown accustomed to all the trees, to the point that I don’t even think we have an abnormal amount of trees. But being in Colorado, with its vast open ranges, mountains, and whitewater rivers, dotted but not smothered in trees, I feel like I’m on another planet.
This trip was only a short 5 days, and it stormed or threatened to storm almost every day, but we managed to get in a couple of hikes, a bike ride, a trip down the Alpine Slide, some whitewater rafting, and a trip to the rodeo.
The bike ride and the rafting were both along the Yampa River, which is slow and tranquil in some spots and fairly frothy in others -- it’s considered a stage 2 whitewater, though probably only because of one or two drops of perhaps 3-5 feet. Most of its whitewater sections along the ~5 mile, 90-minute trip are pretty tame; we were neither required nor advised to wear helmets for example. But the scenic beauty of the river, the surrounding landscape, and the charming backyards of Steamboat Springs make it an extremely enjoyable ride even if the rafting isn’t extreme.
During our first hike, at Mad Creek, I got into the creek up to my waist; and at the end of our bike ride I got into the Yampa completely. The water was freezing both times, but it was at least a hot sunny day for the bike ride. When I got into Mad Creek, it was the middle of a downpour. But I generally can’t resist getting into rivers and lakes given the opportunity.
I’d never ridden an Alpine Slide before, but I gather that it’s something icy, fast, and fun in the winter. And in the summer they let you ride down it on these little carts that are about twice the size of a skateboard, with 2 wheels on one end and just friction on the other end, to prevent you from going too fast down the long concrete slide. There’s a single joystick-like control that you push forward to go and pull back on to stop. The track itself is probably a quarter-mile long, just winding back and forth down the mountain.
As we rode the chairlift up to the top, a girl went down the slide below us, going full speed, and wiped out pretty badly right in front of us on the first curve. Some of her arms and legs went over the side of the track, and she ended up with a big gash in her hand and probably some nasty scrapes all over. If I hadn’t seen that, I might have just floored it when it was my turn, falsely assuming that the arched sides of the track would keep me safe all the way down.
The rodeo was pretty interesting and not exactly the redneck-infested event that you might expect, though we weren’t in the south so maybe you wouldn’t expect that. The best part was the "calf scramble," where they invite all the 6-12 year old kids into the arena and then let loose a calf which has a ribbon on its tail; the kid who gets the ribbon wins. There must have been 200 kids and it was a hilarious sight to see the mob of them chasing this calf, which was running for its life. They then repeated this event with kids 5 and under and using a sheep instead of a calf; this had the added bonus of the sheep bounding right on top of the mob of kids as it tried to escape.
On Saturday we had to drive from Steamboat to Denver to catch our flight home. It’s a 4-hour trip, but the country out there is just beautiful, and since our rental F-150 had a line-in jack through which we could play the music on our iPhones, it was a nice drive. We passed through Winter Park, which has a restaurant called Fontenot’s, and I got a dish called Orzo Pasta Salad. It’s a base of cold orzo -- which I’d never had nor heard of before -- with field greens on top, then hot sauteed mushrooms in a "roasted red pepper balsamic dressing," and finally Pecorino cheese on top of that. I ordered it without the actual red peppers, and would have also omitted the onions had I known they would be hiding in it; but regardless it was an amazing meal.
Another great thing about Colorado is the climate: whereas in PA, during the summer, the temperature may go from a high of sweltering 90 degrees to a low of sweltering 70 degrees, in Steamboat Springs it goes from the 80s to the 40s. So you get the nice hot summer days and still have nice cool nights. The pool at the condo was even heated, so while not great for daytime swimming, it was a giant hot tub at night.
It’s difficult to describe just how different and amazing Colorado, and Steamboat in particular, is. It’s huge, it’s wide open, the sky is far more blue, the rivers are clean, and the views, pretty much no matter where you look, are breathtaking: there are mountains everywhere, many of them snow-capped all year ’round. Not to mention the skiing and snowboarding in the winter...
I’ve been to Steamboat 3 times now, and it’s hard to leave. I feel like I belong there. We would move to Steamboat in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the fact that we’d miss all of our family in PA too much. But Kim’s mom would follow us there. So I know I won’t be able to convince all of my family to come, but I figure at least one or two of you would be down for it. Rolly and Margie? Maria? ...Sinjin?
Kim was on photo duty for this trip; here are her albums:
Volcanoes and Lightning
(Photo credit: REUTERS/Carlos Gutierrez)
Uncontacted Tribe Photographed Near Brazil-Peru Border
The Geico cavemen, and "that’s totally photoshopped" are my primary reactions to this.
A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania
If you want to see the landscapes and culture of rustic Pennsylvania captured and presented beautifully on an almost-daily basis, then check out the photoblog at A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania. Many of the photos are simply breathtaking, particularly the landscapes; and every once in a while there’s an extremely cute one, like this:
That’s just a small crop -- check out the original image for the full effect.
New Kitten, New California, New Photos!
OK, so California isn’t new. But I did finally just post a set of photos from our trip to California: Redwood Trees at Muir Woods National Monument.
In even more exciting news, Kim and I got a kitten last night! He doesn’t have a name yet, but he is already an internet superstar with his own kitten photos online.
I Love Colorado
We just got back from an awesome trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I went snow-skiing for the first time ever and had tons of fun. We got a few inches of snow every day, and 10" on one of the days, and it was cold enough that at times we were up to our knees in "fresh powder" as they say. People were saying this was the best week for skiing that they had all year.
We had also gone to Steamboat in the summer of 2005, and it was equally awesome during that time of year. We did lots of hiking, some biking, and almost did some white-water rafting. (I took photos at Fish Creek Falls and Rabbit Ears Pass.)
In any season, Colorado is a beautiful and amazing place. Steamboat Springs in particular is a nice and quaint little town that just feels like home. I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would want to live anywhere other than Colorado.
I didn’t take many photos on this trip since we mostly just skied, but Kim took some, and I’m sure she’ll post them soon. The few photos that I took were from the plane and I’ll post them if there are any decent ones.
I finally posted the last 2 photo sets from our trip to Utah:Night Shots of Air Products in Bountiful, Utah, and Oil Refineries in Salt Lake City
Horseback Riding in PA
Last month, Kim and Maria and I went horseback riding at a place called Venture Farms. It’s an out of the way place on a back-country road with lots of animals: llamas, donkeys, goats, more I can’t remember, and I think nearly 100 horses.
The only other time I’d gone horseback riding was in Colorado. While the CO ride was through absolute wilderness that was often breathtaking, this local ride was still pretty scenic -- much more so than I was expecting for Pennsylvania. It’s not that PA isn’t beautiful -- it definitely is -- but in some ways it just doesn’t compare to Colorado. But we rode along some ridges with nice views of the countryside, in addition to going through some woods and riding on roads briefly.
One thing about the ride in CO is that the horses didn’t run at all: they walked very leisurely. I was expecting the same thing this time, but to my surprise, at quite a few points during the hour-long ride, the horses started running! My horse seemed especially eager and probably ran the most out of the whole group. I would guess that my horse was moving at somewhere around 20-30 MPH, but it seemed extremely fast, and was easily one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced.
My only complaint about Venture Farms is that the woman who was the group leader seemed to be either in a foul mood or was just not very nice. There were 5 other people riding with us, and the leader constantly told me to keep going when I would slow down to try and keep pace with Maria, whose horse was a little pokey. And when the ride was over, we were hanging around a little bit checking out all the other animals, but we got the distinct feeling that they wanted us to leave right away.
Speaking of those other animals, one of them was a goat, which had a fresh baby goat with it, and the baby goat would jump up on its mother’s back, and stand up on it. He just stood there while his mom walked around. It reminded me of Mario standing on top of some of the bad guys as they move around in Mario 2. It was really funny, and Kim got a video of it, which I’m hoping she will post on YouTube.
Hickory Run State Park
I just posted the photos from our trip to Hickory Run State Park.
Kim recently had a business meeting in Utah, and despite the fact that airfare to go out west is astronomical, I went along for the trip. Her ticket was on the company dime, of course.
The farthest west I’d ever been before this trip was Colorado, and Utah is the next state to the west, so it was a new record for me.
Utah is beautiful. We only had 3 and a half days there, 1 and a half of which were work days, so we didn’t have too much time to explore; we saw Salt Lake City, Alta, and Antelope Island (briefly). But even just in Salt Lake City, it’s so clean, and there are mountains everywhere; it’s a lovely city.
We took lots of photos. Here are the ones I’ve posted so far:Downtown Salt Lake City Sugarloaf Road Hike (Alta)
Update 2006-12-17: here are the final 2 sets:Night Shots of Air Products in Bountiful, Utah, and Oil Refineries in Salt Lake City The Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island in Utah
Some random interesting things about Utah or the Salt Lake area in particular:
The highways are really wide. Route 15 is 6 lanes in both directions at some points.
Every shopping center has a pawn shop and/or a payday-loan shop. Literally every one. There must be hundreds of them in and around Salt Lake alone. It’s weird because those kinds of places are so tacky, and there were other tacky/gaudy shops, but then the next block would be really nice.
All restaurants in UT are non-smoking. That alone is nearly enough reason to move there.
They have this great little restaurant called Noodles & Company. We went there twice in 3 days if that tells you anything. I had the mushroom stroganoff and the penne rosa, and both were amazing, for $5. It is a chain, so I can only hope that one comes to PA soon.
And finally, not really about Utah, but about the flight out there: it was non-stop, which I always figured (you always hear) is ideal, but 2 hours into the 4.5 hour flight I started getting really claustrophobic and fidgety. And the seat next to me was empty. I don’t know what my problem was, but Kim also was really claustrophobic on the flight back (due to the huge guy next to her). So from now on I think I prefer that longish flights like this have a layover. And I would certainly always rather drive 8 hours in my own car than fly any amount of time. Of course to go this far west, driving isn’t usually a viable option, but I’m just saying.
Also, they tricked us when we got our seats: they were like, you’re in an exit row, are you willing and able to assist others in the event of an emergency? And we’re like of course, no problem. What they DON’T tell you is that the exit row seats don’t recline!! On a 4.5 hour flight, that’s something they ought to tell you.
Here’s a photo that I took from the back deck last night. The orange only lasted for a couple minutes, as usual. When I looked again 15 or 20 minutes later, the moon had gone down in the sky, so maybe over the next few days I’ll be able to get some nice red moon shots.
Click the image to get the high-resolution version.
Hawk Mountain Photos
I just posted photos of our Hawk Mountain hike from the other weekend.
Appalachian Trail Hike #4
Yesterday I returned from my fourth Appalachian Trail hike. Here’s a little recap for anyone interested, and for my own use in planning and packing for future hikes.
This fourth AT hike was a 2.5 day trek in New Jersey, from Buttermilk Falls to High Point State Park. I can’t find a single online map that shows Buttermilk Falls, but based on a low-quality hand-drawn map of the area and my memory of the roads we took, I’m pretty sure that this is it (in the center of the map, just south of Mountain Road). High Point State Park is much easier to find online; here’s the parking area next to the trail where our trip ended. I was able to locate that by looking for route 23 and then using a map of AT shelters to see approximately where the trail crosses 23.
In general I haven’t found a particularly good AT map online, but the "Topo" mode on mapper.acme.com does show it. The quality of Topo mode isn’t that great, but it’s still useful because you can find what you want and then switch to the regular map or the satellite photos to see the same location.
This trip featured the usual suspects (me, Brian, Chris, Jason) except that Rolly came along and Josh stayed home. We covered 22 miles, doing about 9 on Saturday and Sunday and then 5 on Monday (which we finished around 2 in the afternoon).
My pack weighed in at 31 pounds this year, a big improvement over the 48 and 45 pounds of previous years. The main reason is that I carried much less water (only 1.5L) because there were lots of water sources along the way. (I think about 2L would have been perfect, assuming you can refill daily.) I also learned from earlier hikes and brought a little less extra clothing, less food since I always come home with lots left over, and I saved ~3.5 pounds by leaving my camera behind since Rolly, Jason, and Chris were all bringing their (smaller, lighter) ones.
The hike started with an extremely steep climb right next to Buttermilk Falls; there were steps for some of it but they were spaced really far apart so it was still pretty tough. Once we got to the top of the falls, there were no more steps but it was still uphill for quite a ways. After about 2 miles, the Buttermilk Falls Trail ran into the Appalachian Trail and we proceeded towards the northeast.
Even though my pack was about 15 pounds lighter than before, I’m about 20 pounds heavier and out of shape, so the going was pretty tough on me. I did prepare by going for walks and runs and bike-rides about 3 times per week for about 2 months before the hike, but none of the walks/runs were anywhere near 9 miles and I didn’t have a 30 pound pack on my back. So while they definitely helped a lot, I should have prepared more by doing exercises that were longer and more frequent.
My calves and feet were the areas that were hurting. I decided to wear normal socks instead of the fancy smart-wool type socks that cost $7/pair, and I think that helped keep my feet cooler, but they were still pretty warm, and the bottoms of them were hurting by the end of the first day and all thereafter. My Merrel shoes are made of water-resistant pigskin so they don’t ventilate your feet at all; I wore them because there was rain in the forecast, but in the future I’d like to take a second pair of shoes that are part mesh and more breathable.
On the second day we got some rain, but overall the weather was pretty great. It was really cold at some points, like at the top of Sunrise Mountain in the extreme wind, and during the second night, so I was glad to have brought my winter hat. And those smart-wool socks did come in handy for keeping my feet warm at night and in the mornings while making breakfast. I did bring one white t-shirt for each day (in addition to socks and underwear for each day), because even though you can’t really bathe, it helps a lot (especially for sleeping) to be able to put on some clean clothes, and t-shirts are pretty light in weight so I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
One thing that’s always been sub-par in my camping experiences is the camp pillow. The technology seems to improve every year or two though, and I got a new one this year. But I washed and dried it the day before the hike, and didn’t realize there was a small amount of dampness still in it after it came out of the dryer. I put it into a zip-lock bag and into my pack, only to take it out the first night on the trail and find it cold and damp. So next time I’m definitely throwing the pillow into the dryer for a second run even if it feels dry.
I found 3 new just-add-water meals that I really love: Mountain House Pro-Pak Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Mountain House Granola with Blueberries and Milk (takes cold water, not boiling), and Maruchan Won-Ton cup-of-soup. I decided to try a new-looking Beef Stew MRE, but I continue to not really like any of the stews. I brought mainstays like beef jerky and mixed nuts, and though I did bring applesauce cups, I forgot to bring some fruit cups. I brought 4 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal bars, but wished I had more of them. Some things I want to take next time are actual packs of Ramen noodle soup (as opposed to cups), some kind of drink mix and an empty bottle to mix/drink it from, and some Bottle Caps candy like Jason’s which I ate most of.
And on a food-related tip, bring an extra bottle for middle-of-the-night potty use, so that you don’t have to leave your tent and get eaten by the bears.
Actually, we did see a bear, for the first time ever on one of these hikes. But it wasn’t on the trail; we saw it while driving from the trail-end to the trail-head to pick up the second car. This young blackbear comes barreling out of the woods, across a few yards of grass, and right across the street! The little guy was flying and Rolly had to speed up to avoid having the thing run into the side of the truck. Though clearly young and small for a bear, he was probably 300-400 pounds, I’d say. Seeing this bear may well have been the highlight of the trip; we were all so excited.
We also saw some really cool bright orange salamanders, and we saw 4 black snakes. Two of them were seen slithering away under rocks as we came upon them on the trail, but the other two were actually up in the rafters of the Mashipacong Shelter. After arriving at the shelter area a little ahead of the other guys, Jason and I were sitting at the picnic table there. But he went to sit in the shelter to get out of the wind, and I joked "how are the bats in there?" I went to sit next to him and looked up at the rafter about 4 feet above my head. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw a honeycomb pattern and thought it might have been a bee’s nest, but a second or two later I said "Uh, I think that’s a snake." We ran out of there pretty quick. Once Rolly, Brian and Chris arrived, Jason managed to knock the thing down from the rafter (which took several tries -- it did not want to move) and we saw that he was about 4.5 feet long. Not only that, but there was a second snake up there too. So although you’re technically not allowed to camp anywhere but the shelters on the AT in NJ, the fact that they’re usually a haven for bats and apparently snakes too means that I’ll never stay in one. Nobody else does either, if the 3 or 4 other tent-sites we saw along the trail were any indication.
Overall it was a great trip, like the other 3 Appalachian Trail hikes I’ve done (except for that one where it was 30 miles of ankle-twisting rocks the entire time). It was interesting to see endless mountains and rocks and trees in New Jersey, because I typically only think of either the Jersey Shore or the crusty Camden area when I think of that state. I hope it’s not too long before I’m back out on the trail again.
Hopefully Rolly will post his photos soon, and I’m going to try to get Jason and Chris to send me their photos so I can post them here.
Update: Rolly’s photos are now online!
Kim and I visited a charming place called Hells Hollow yesterday. No, really. And yes, the fact that there is no apostrophe does drive me crazy.
More Colorado Photos!
Kim just added photos of a bike ride and a horseback ride to her website. Of all the cool things we did in Colorado last month, these were two of my favorite. The bike ride was so scenic, winding along and crossing over the Yampa river lots of times, and it was a beautiful, sunny, blue-skies day. The horseback ride was great because I’d never ridden a horse before, and we saw some amazing views of mountains and endless fields and lush green valleys, with no civilization in sight.
This weekend Kim and I visited Lake Arthur, and it was huge. It reminded me of Lake Wallenpaupack, which my family used to visit when I was little. I wondered how they compared in size, and from the above links (which are set to the same zoom level) you can see that Wallenpaupack is bigger, but they are comparable in size. According to a sufficiently disreputable-looking source Lake Arthur is about six-tenths the size of Lake W. (I don’t feel like typing the whole name out again, but can you really blame me?)
Anyway in my googlings I found this hilarious and pathetic site:
Lake Arthur is always a pleasure to visit. Bear Run is a great local stream. Take a little trip to Swamp Run while you’re here. Brush Run is a pretty stream that is worth checking out. You get a great view from the top of Fridays Hill. Other nearby water includes Shannon Run. Don’t forget to take a nice little excursion to Cheeseman Run. Why not check out nearby Grindstone Run if you’re here at Lake Arthur. A visit to Moraine State Park rejuvenates the soul. Whites Ripple is a great place to check out while in the area. Not all the water around here is flat, Jamison Run is a stream you can visit during your stay.
Check out Black Run while you’re here at Lake Arthur. Little Yellow Creek is one of the streams around here that might be worth visiting. Hiking is a popular thing to do around Lake Arthur, Monogahela Incline is a good local trail. Take a side trip to Big Run. Getting to Taylor Run from Lake Arthur is a piece of cake. Hell Run flows through this area. From the top of Big Knob you get a great view of the surrounding area. Hogue Run is a stream that you may bump into while here. It’s always nice to visit Grant City Falls. Great hiking is available along the Fishermans Trail.
Big Run is a great place to visit. Put some time aside to spend at Spillway Falls while you’re here at Lake Arthur. There’s great hiking along the Duquesne Incline. If you’re in a climbing mood you may want to go up on Briar Hill. Muddy Creek is very near and is always a pleasure to visit. Looking for some flowing water? Try Wolf Creek.
The best part is when you go and read the Lake W page and it’s virtually identical.
I just got back from an awesome little vacation with Kim and her parents in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. If there were such a thing as heaven on Earth, I think it’d probably be in Colorado. There are rivers and mountains everywhere, and the civilization (mostly farms) is sprinkled so sparsely across the landscape.
The little town of Steamboat Springs is wonderfully quaint and cozy. There is a walking/biking path that runs along the Yampa river right on the edge of downtown, and it takes you past bridges and mountains and restaurants and stinky bubbly sulfur springs. From literally everywhere in the town, and for that matter everywhere we drove in Colorado, you can see huge snow-capped mountains either right next to you, or off in the distance.
The only downside is that the sun is more intense there (seemingly a LOT more intense) due to the high altitude, and we got some sunburn pretty early-on in the trip. The only time I ever wear sunblock is at the beach, so I didn’t really think about it for the mountains. But on the upside, I wore a baseball hat for the first time in probably 10 years, to keep the sun off my head and face and ears, and I rather enjoyed it. I think I’m going to look for a hat to wear more regularly now.
Between myself, Kim, and her dad, we took over 2.5 gigs of photos and movie clips. I’ll be posting some of them here soon.
I finally got my Niagara photos online. There were so many to sort through, and I ended up only putting about 1/4 of them online. I think a lot of them are really good though, and Kim has a bunch of good ones too.
The Moon and Sky
The other night, Kim noticed that the moon was huge and orange on the horizon. I wanted to take some photos, but by the time I was able to get to a location with a low enough view of the horizon, the hugeness and orangeness were gone. I snapped a few photos anyway, and I don’t think they’re great, but here are 3 of the best ones.
These are all unedited except for lossless cropping, and all were taken with my Sony DSC-S85 set to 3x optical zoom, and with my Kenko Tele Converter KUT-500 5x zoom lens attached.
The moon appears to be orange when it’s right on the horizon because the light is travelling through more air than when the moon is high in the sky. When the light collides with molecules in the air, the molecules steal some of the light’s energy, and this happens most readily at the blue/violet end of the spectrum because of an obscure inverse-quad law. Anyway, when the moon is overhead, its light isn’t passing through enough air to strip out all of the blue energy, so the light that makes its way to us still appears white. But when the moon is on the horizon, its light has to travel through a lot more air to get to us, so many more collisions take place causing much more blue energy to be stripped out, leaving mainly the orange/red hues to reach our eyes. This phenomenon also explains why you can get sunburn during the day but not around dusk or after: ultra-violet light, being at the short-wavelength end of the spectrum, is the first to be stripped out.
(And it also explains why sunset skies are red and orange. It is a myth that pollution causes pretty sunsets -- in fact, pollution diminishes the vibrancy of such colorful skies.)
But all that to say this: why isn’t the moon huge and orange on the horizon every night? Or is it so, and I just don’t see it? I definitely don’t see the moon every night, nor indeed that often at all, but I can only recall a handful of times that I’ve seen it huge and orange.
I’m leaving for my annual Appalachian Trail hike with Brian, Chris, Jason, and Josh. Looks like it’ll be 30 miles this year. My pack weights 45 pounds -- mostly food and 4.5 liters of water. I’ll be back Wednesday night... don’t say bad things about me while I’m gone please : )
Insane Appalacian Trail Hike
Got back today from an insane hiking/camping trip on the Appalachian Trail. It was me and my brother Brian, and our friends Chris, Jason and Josh. We started around 9pm Thursday near Palmerton, PA (right at the intersection of 873, 145, and 248, at a place called "Weiders Crossing") and finished in Delaware Water Gap, PA at noon Sunday. That’s 36 miles in ~2.5 days. It was easily the most physically challenging thing I’ve done to date.
The start of the trail is a 1000-foot climb over one mile, so it’s pretty steep. My pack was 48 pounds. But we were blessed in that it didn’t rain except for a little drizzle, and it wasn’t windy (yet). So we hiked up the mountain, covered a total of one mile, and camped. What’s interesting about this night is we camped on the open face of the mountain. The view was spectacular, but the openness meant crazy wind. There were only about 30 or 40 little trees where we camped, and they were all bent over a little. It was so windy that most of us couldn’t sleep from the noise. Brian didn’t have tent stakes, so he had to set up 2 big tarps between trees and camp in the V formed by them, or else he’d have blown away during the night, for sure. I would estimate that the wind was gusting 40~50 miles per hour. It was just nuts.
Friday was still really windy, but it calmed down as the day progressed. You could tell that it was always really windy there, because the area looked like a complete wasteland. For a couple miles there was nothing but lots of short dead trees, and rocks.
The reason the hike was so difficult was that 90% the trail was complete rocks. Not little driveway-stone type rocks, but rocks big enough that you have to carefully place every step. Since we did 14 miles each on Friday and Saturday, we grew to hate these rocks. When you’re just walking on ground, you step, and your leg muscles get to rest for part of each step. But walking on rocks, your muscles must be constantly tensed because you have to balance your body (and pack) weight differently depending on the rocks your foot lands on. The bottom line is that walking 14 miles like that is exhausting.
I had a great time on this trip, but I would definitely not hike this particular stretch of trail ever again. I mean... well, it would take a lot of money, at least. Pennsylvania has the second rockiest Appalachian Trail terrain, next to Maine. As Brian put it, if you were hiking the whole AT from Maine to Georgia, you would surely take a car around Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, I left my camera behind to save 2 pounds, which I immediately regretted. But Brian took a bunch of photos, and I’ll put them up here as soon as they’re developed and scanned. (UPDATE: Brian’s photos are online.)