April 2017

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The crick done rose.

When we had the February thaw, the Barton rose to the level of River Road. I wanted to take pictures then, but by the time I got the chance, the water level had dropped.

It's been very warm this week, and most of the lingering snow and ice have melted, so that Barton has risen steadily every day all week. We went kayaking on it on Monday and there was still ice on the water in places, but we would not be kayaking on it now unless we parked a car at either end because the current is strong enough now that we could never paddle back. The water's right below the road again, and this time, I got out to get some pictures.

Crick Done Rose )
Well, we got the big snow as promised. I don't know how much we got, but it was a lot. There was a lot of blowing and drifting last night, so it'd be hard to tell, even if I was willing to venture outside, which I have not so far. Schools were closed today after an early dismissal yesterday.

This was our back deck this morning. It's still snowing lightly, but we're not supposed to get more than a few more inches today.

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Bobby took these pictures of the Wilds last night; he took them out to play in the snow. They are both like little children and get giddy when we have fresh snow falling.

Lancelot.

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Guineweird.

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On a completely unrelated note, I have enough fannish stuff to report that I'm actually going to use a bulleted list. Whoa.

  • I wrote an essay for the B2MeM prompt "Analyze a Chapter or Passage." I chose to compare the death scenes of Fëanor and Fingolfin, looking particularly at the evidence those passages provide for historical bias. The result: The Deaths of Kings: Historical Bias in the Death Scenes of Fëanor and Fingolfin.


  • For the personal essay B2MeM prompt, I wrote a personal essay (duh) called Mountains between the Light and the World: On Walls and Greed and the Privilege of Isolation. Warning: It gets into my personal politics, particularly my musings on why I've always been so bothered by the hoarding of light in The Silmarillion and how contrary to my political and personal values that idea is.


  • There's a new SWG challenge up. We're explicitly encouraging participants to combine our prompt with one of the other challenges going on. There's lots of challenges going on in the next month.


  • Last week, I almost died when I was Googling for a link to Attainable Vistas and, in the process, stumbled on this review of the issue of JTR and my essay in particular. The review called it "one of the best -- if not the best -- article on Tolkien written this year." What?! The writer is a Tolkien scholar, so he liked the first half--about historical bias--more than the second about fandom. Which I'd agree: the historical bias stuff is more generally interesting and relevant to an audience familiar with Tolkien. The fandom stuff is more for the connoisseurs, as it were. :D One of the things I found about traditional publication versus fannish publication is that the relative silence that meets a traditionally published work makes me wonder sometimes if what I wrote is even being read. (There wasn't absolute silence around "Attainable Vistas," but the chatter all came from fandom--go figure!) I was pleased to know that my work was not only read but clearly appreciated. It was a really pleasant surprise.


  • Speaking of "Attainable Vistas," I will be presenting the unpublished parts of that paper at the Vermont Tolkien Conference in just a few weeks. I received official registration information a few days ago, so it's really happening. No fandom stuff this time--just historical bias!


  • I have most of the rest of my B2MeM path planned out or underway. Let me say again how nice it has been to participate in B2MeM this year. I almost never get to participate outside of volunteering. But I get to listen to people participating complain about participating, feeling like the kid whose family never goes on vacation listening to her friends gripe about having to spend a week in Paris. I've really enjoyed getting to focus on my research and writing; I usually need an excuse to do this, and B2MeM has been a great excuse. It's improved my mood toward B2MeM immensely as well. I will confess that this is the fandom project where I am always the closest to burning out--thank goodness for Indy taking the reins these past few years!


  • Not really related to fandom, but while Googling my article the other night, I found that my university has also published my thesis. So you can read it if you want to. Some people said they wanted to! It's been downloaded 21 times, which is pretty amazing in itself.


Well, report card grades are due today, and I still have a little left to do to make that happen, so off I go!
This was not my first rodeo. I went to my first rally in DC when I was twelve years old. While I've never been intensely active politically, I've marched and rallied across the years for the causes most near and dear to my heart.

When I bought my bus ticket for the Women's March on Washington, I expected it to be more of the same. It would be fun, uplifting, and energizing to spend the day elbow to elbow with people who find meaningful the same things I do. It would certainly be the most adventurous march I've attended but only because, this time, I would be coming from eleven hours away, from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, rather than less than an hour outside of DC.

It wasn't more of the same. This was an experience like no other I've ever had before. Read more... )
I have been promising Bobby that I would learn to snowboard for a couple of years now. Of course, until last year, I was working on my MA as well as teaching full-time (and commuting two hours a day and trying to have a social life and taking care of multiple fandom projects ...) So it just wasn't in the cards.

But this year, I had no further excuses reasons not to learn. I have enough time, and since Bobby works at Jay Peak and I am his lawfully wedded wife, then I even get my season pass for free, so it's not like I'm even taking a financial risk in investing in a pass for a sport that I might hate or that might kill me or both.

Well, I had my first lesson today and 1) I did not die. 2) I did not hurt myself. 3) I actually had fun!

Bobby taught me himself, going through some basics on flat ground, then climbing about 20 feet up a tiny slight incline with me and running beside me holding my hands while I slid down. On my last run, I slid down entirely by myself, with no hand-holding needed (although he still jogged alongside me). I did not even fall (which I was a little worried about because I did not want to go back to work tomorrow injured in any way).

I have all of my equipment except for my own board, which I rented for this first outing, because Bobby gets super pro discounts on stuff now. Here I am with my first stick:

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We are at Burke Mountain, by the way, which is Jay Peak's sister mountain in the southern NEK. My next lesson will be at Jay Peak, in Bobby's familiar realm.

I've also written a story for this year's MPTT Yule Fic Exchange. I know that was a 180 there. The story is called "The Ship of Light" and was written for Talullah Red, who asked for, "Elwing and Eärendil's first Yule in Sirion. I'd like something light and dark, please. Given the circumstances they would be traumatized, but the people around them would be making efforts for them and the other children. If you're one of the Nimloth-survives type, it's fine by me."

Here is the Official Story SummaryTM:

Elwing is a troubled child, acting out to avoid facing the trauma of her past. During the survivors' first Yule at Sirion, mariners from Balar bring gifts to the refugees, and inspired by their benevolence, Elwing and Eärendil remake an old tradition into a new symbol of hope.


The story can be read on the SWG, MPTT, AO3, or LiveJournal.

Snowtography

Dec. 12th, 2016 04:42 pm
dawn_felagund: (newgrange)
Last night we got quite a dumping of snow. There was about a foot (30 cm) piled up on the patio chairs this morning, although it's impossible to tell what of that was new and what was old--but most of it was new. The snow was also powder, that elusive substance so beloved by skiers and snowboarders.

The result of this was that schools were closed! Bobby and I both anticipated a delay, but an all-out closure?? The outcome of this: I got to sleep in, Bobby got a powder day, and I went snowshoeing for the first time this year.

I did not post my photo-a-day yesterday because I had an immensely productive day, which tend to look boring from the outside. I did not leave the house or take off my pajamas all day, most of which was spent in front of the computer. I got a bunch of fannish stuff done and worked through about half of a Drupal 8 course that I found on YouTube. (My Drupal textbook finally foiled me. It is for Drupal 7, so I was wasting so much time trying to find modules that were integrated into the core Drupal 8 software or that haven't been completed for Drupal 8 yet. I also didn't like that the book dived right into projects, thus presenting topics rather willy-nilly, to use the technical term for it. I like to see the big picture of how things are organized first; all that happens when I dive into things at random is that I can never find it again or figure out what exactly I did back when. I have a very taxonomic brain that likes a place for everything and everything in its place and to see how things relate and connect.) None of that stuff exactly provides inspiration for any photos that I think anyone wants to see. (Me in my pajamas staring zombie-like at a Drupal tutorial on YouTube?)

Anyway, I hope to make up for yesterday's lack of photo by posting lots from my snowshoeing jaunt today. It felt good to get my legs under me again. The Nordic Center wasn't really open but they told Bobby over the phone that they didn't care if I went out as long as I didn't mind if the trails weren't groomed. As it was, one of the staff showed me a brand-new not-even-on-the-map-yet trail that he isn't even finished blazing yet, so I did that one. It took about an hour--not a long walk at all given some of my past outings--but with a foot of fresh powder and ungroomed terrain, it was quite a workout!

Snowshoeing at Jay Peak )
I took a photo for yesterday but didn't post it, so today I have two (okay, actually three) photos, plus a very annoying unsolved mystery.

Last night, we went out for dinner at the Thai restaurant in Newport. They also have sushi--and a phenomenal sushi chef--and I have been fiending for sushi something fierce. Twice, I have gone to places with great sushi, and they haven't had it at that particular moment for whatever reason. Thankfully, as the saying goes, three is a charm, and I succeeded in getting my sushi! At last!

Dusit Thai is a beautiful restaurant in addition to having incredible food. It's my favorite restaurant in Vermont, hands down, and there is some pretty steep competition for that title.

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Their portions are huge, so Bobby and I shared a spicy eggplant stirfry that we'd never tried before and will definitely have again. I've never tried anything off of their stirfry menu because I tend to hear "stirfry" and think "boring," but this was far from boring. Then we shared three sushi rolls.

Bobby had rented a movie for us for the night, and this is where the annoying unsolved mystery comes in. When he picked me up from school, he told me that he rented a DVD, and I saw it on the floor behind my feet, sitting on a pile of bungee cords. Somewhere between that time and our return from the Thai restaurant, the DVD disappeared.

In between, we went to the Thai restaurant and, after that, shopping at the natural market, so I got out of the car just once after he picked me up from school. All the same, given where it was placed--behind my feet--and how high off the ground our car is, it is unlikely that it fell out of the car. We tore apart the house and car--looking in and under things, including many places where it could not possibly be--and even drove back to Newport and checked where we parked the car, in case it had fallen out. NOTHING. We came up with multiple theories that were shot down one by one. It's so frustrating! Our house is small, and it's pretty impossible to lose things here. I am hoping that when we return to the video store to cop to losing the movie that the owner will tell us that someone found it in Newport and turned it in. But I highly doubt that it could have fallen out of the car.

My best theory at this point? That there was some kind of anomaly in the universe and it simply disappeared!

Today, Bobby went to Jay Peak to snowboard. Since the Yaris isn't appropriate for driving in the snow--we intend to replace it as soon as we can sell our house in Maryland--then we are sharing the Subaru, so I went with him, had breakfast with him, then drove back to Newport to run errands. One of which was getting my library card at the Newport Library! An actual library that is open every day except Sunday and has a lot of books for all audiences! Maybe because I look like someone who would avail herself of this or maybe because she tells everyone, the young woman who helped me informed me without my asking that I would be able to use interlibrary loan after three months in good standing.

I of course visited the fantasy section and was delighted to find a pretty nice selection. I was amused by the arrangement of genres, however.

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It seems like this would be controversial in a lot of places in the U.S. to have these two side by side! I imagine little church ladies glowering at ... well, people like me!

Then I went back to Jay Peak to meet Bobby for lunch and wait for him to go home. Jay Peak has received four feet of snow so far this year. It has received more snow than Breckenridge in Colorado and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. According to Bobby, "The goods are in the woods," and it was a very good day. The mountain will be all open very soon; the only reason it is not already (with four feet of snow!) is that the famed tramway needed a special part for a repair, which has arrived and was being done this weekend. Parts of the mountain are only accessible via the tramway, so they have been unable to get all open because of that.

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All of this snow is much needed. Jay Peak (and Burke Mountain in the southern NEK) became embroiled last year in a financial scandal due to the crooked dealings of their owner, who is now under federal investigation. It's a long and convoluted story, but the gist was that major expansions at Jay Peak that were done using local labor and businesses went unpaid-for. And this is not, as anyone who reads here knows, a wealthy area. The Northeast Kingdom is very low-income. These were contractors and workers who did work on the resort and were never paid for it. The threat that the resort would close (or be temporarily shut down) added an element of distress because so many people depend on the resort for their employment. And again, this is not an area that can weather a lot of economic distress.

To add insult to injury, last year, the snowfall in Vermont was exceedingly low--the NEK didn't even have a white Christmas--and the resort suffered even further from that. So the snowfall this year--among the best the resort has ever had--could not come at a better, more-needed time.
The Goldens have always been also named The Wilds. Alex and Lance were The Wilds, and now Lance and Gwen are also The Wilds.

People often speculate, "I wonder what my dog does when I'm not home?" I'm fairly certain I know what The Wilds do when we're not home. Spending both weekend days home with them revealed that all they do? Is sleep.

This was The Wilds over the weekend, both knocked out cold on the floor of my study while I worked.

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Guinevere has taken to not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and installing herself on the guest room bed. Bobby's staff holiday party for Jay Peak was tonight, and when we got home, we had to call her about five times before she finally deigned to come see us. And this was after a full day of doing what you see in the picture above.
Earlier this week, we took a walk down my road, in the valley along the Barton River. These pictures, which we taken the day after the walk down my road, couldn't be more different. Instead of the valley, this walk was along the ridgeline of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. Instead of soft meadows, a gently coursing river, and a palette of colored trees in the distance, the landscape here is ragged rock and plants tough and strange enough to survive in such an unforgiving climate.

The only similarity was the weather: It was borderline unpleasant on both days. This was the weather on the drive down to Stowe. It was supposed to clear up but really didn't.

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(As always, click for full-size!)

We ostensibly opted to do the Mansfield hike because of the views, but there weren't many views to be had: We were above the clouds for most of the walk, which only added to the strangeness of the scenery. The temperature on the ridgeline hovered right around freezing with wind chills dipping to the mid-20s F when the wind would kick up. Those were moments of ambivalence: They often swept away enough of the clouds to get a glimpse of the view, but they also tended to occur at moments when I was making crossings on rocks where I was not fully comfortable. I felt like the Fellowship on Caradhras, with the sense that the mountain was mocking me!

The ecosystem is alpine tundra, which exists in isolated pockets atop the highest peaks in New England. The linked Times article describes the alpine tundra as such:

Such is the weird world of alpine tundra, where life adapts to cold stone and thin soil, and snow, ice, wind, water and sunlight mix in rare and intense proportions to mimic conditions not widely seen since the end of the last ice age. Hike uphill high enough in parts of New England and you might as well be trekking in far northern Canada. Save for polar bears and permafrost, the look and feel of places like Mount Mansfield’s summit — a bald schist knob at 4,393 feet — mimic the arctic no-man’s land east of Hudson Bay.


We had originally planned to take the gondola from the resort and hike the Cliff Trail to the summit (called the Chin because the profile of Mansfield looks like a face in repose), but the poor weather made this unwise, so we took the Auto Toll Road to the end and hiked out from there instead. Take a walk above the clouds )
The weekend before last was peak leaf weekend in the Northeast Kingdom. Unfortunately, because things usually work this way, after weeks of perfect weather, it was rather cloudy and gray, which didn't make for the best conditions for photography. But I went out despite and took a walk down the road I live off of to photograph the leaves.

I live in a rather unusual place, as far as what one thinks of as stereotypical Vermont. Coventry is situated in a valley, with the Green Mountains to the west and the so-called Eastern Highlands (the mountains enclosing Lake Willoughby) to the east. The road I live off runs alongside the Barton River, so the ecosystem is largely wetlands rather than the mountains and forests that come to mind as Vermont's typical landscape. However, it is exceptionally beautiful: The river is calm and a near-perfect mirror of the surrounding landscape and sky, winding through tall grass with the occasional tree. I've been wanting to photograph the river for a while, and peak weekend seemed the ideal time to do it.

Come take a walk with me! )
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Our primary source of heating in our new house is a wood pellet stove. Back in Maryland, we had a woodstove in the basement and electric baseboard heat upstairs that we resisted turning on as long as possible because it was so expensive. The woodstove, on the other hand, was wonderful, and we used it as much as we could. However, it took a while to start it, and it was messy, producing a lot of brown ash that would cover everything in the house.

The pellet stove, on the other hand, starts with the push of a button and does not seem to be nearly as messy. We've had it on three times now--temperatures were in the upper 20sF/-3C a couple nights this week--and it made the house a little TOO hot! But since we live in an area where it is not uncommon to have temperatures as low as -30F/-34C, then we will be grateful for it in short order, I suspect!

Midway through the summer, Tractor Supply Company had a great pre-sale on wood pellets, so based on the usage of the previous owners (who used the pellet stove as their primary heating source as we intend to do; we have a kerosene backup), we ordered three tons (2.7 metric tons). This weekend, they were delivered, and the entire weekend was blocked off on our calendar for transporting them from the TSC in Derby--which is about twenty minutes away--to our house.

We have a little cart for our Subaru, and using that, it took three trips and about three hours to move all three tons of wood pellets. We put about 2.5 tons in our new barn and about a half ton in the log cabin shed alongside our house. Let me tell you, moving three tons of wood pellets is hard work! They come in 40 lb/18 kg bags. A 40-lb bag is not difficult for me to lift and carry, but repeated 150 times with much bending and lifting was rough! By the end of the third round, my poor little forearms were DONE. Bobby drove the Subaru down to the barn and was carrying the bags from the cart to the barn, where I waited with outstretched arms for him to dump the bag onto them, which I would carry into the barn and add to the pile. One of the last ones he plopped entirely on my forearms, and I barely made it! He was complaining of fatigue, and I wanted to say, "Imagine how I feel!" I have above average upper-body strength for a woman, but really.

Well, it's done now. My upper arms and shoulders ached something fierce this morning, so we went hiking on Mount Hor to keep me from stiffening up and so I could enjoy a dose of pain-fighting endorphins. Also because the views were going to be amazingly gorgeous.

I have a ton of photos to post from a stroll along River Road last week for the peak leaf weekend, and a hike along the ridge at Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. Honestly, I have been completely lost in this story I am writing based on the Scottish folk song "Tamlin." I am hoping to have it done in time to post it for Halloween at this point; it is much longer than I expected, in a large part because my first attempt at it was not as character-based as I like my writing to be, and characterization eats a lot of pages, at least how I do it. But when I'm on the computer, I don't want to be doing anything but working on this story. I stayed up till 1:30 last night with it.

I'll try to get those other pictures posted soon, but Mount Hor is going to jump to the head of the line. It was a gorgeous day: sunny and mild. Last weekend was the peak for the leaves, but as you will see, the leaves are still pretty spectacular!

Willoughby Gap Just after Peak Weekend )
This is apparently peak leaf weekend in our neck of the woods. We saw a lot of out-of-state tags during our errands today. That's great! Come enjoy our leaves and support Vermont's economy!

My posting here should relieve anyone who was worrying that, no, I did not reach an ignoble end in a killer-clown attack at school yesterday. It was a little of a rough afternoon, and my colleagues and I gathered at the end of the day, kind of heaved a collective sigh, and I said, "Well, the good news is that no one was killed by clowns today."

Bobby had a rough week too, so we both very much needed to recalibrate. We discovered while picking up the perennials from his colleague on Thursday that we are about ten minutes from Brownington Pond, so we loaded the kayaks on top of the car and went out to explore.

It was just what we needed. About an hour-and-a-half out on the pond with the setting sun making the surrounding forest glow like fire and we both felt like new humans. Pictures are below the cut with the usual caveats that they are cell phone photos taken from a kayak on the water. I do my best to keep them clear and my horizons straight, but currents and winds sometimes foil my best efforts!

Pictures below the cut )

So I did end up letting that cute bearded guy who followed me up the creek take me out to dinner. We went to the Newport Ciderhouse for their Oktoberfest weekend. I have written here before about how I have the occasional allergic reaction to beer. A lot of beer makes me itch and cough a little, but it's very minor, and so I limit myself to one and never mix varieties, and I'm fine. But every now and then, I get a hold of one that progresses beyond itching and coughing. My face and lungs fill with mucus, so I'm constantly coughing and sneezing, and my face gets red and hot. I had tasted 14th Star's Maple Breakfast Stout when Bobby's ordered it before, but when I had my own pint last night, I was three sips in and felt that distinctive itching start between my shoulder blades. I asked Bobby to finish it for me and resigned myself to sticking with water going forward. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there, and I had a full-blown allergic reaction! D^:

I enjoyed dinner as much as I could given that my head felt like a water balloon being filled by a garden hose. When we arrived back home, I went to bed to read and ended up falling asleep very early, which I probably needed because the Goldens were very restless a couple nights this week, and I was operating under a sleep deficit.

I still can't figure out what causes that reaction. It seems so random. It's happened with four different beers: two stouts, a porter, and an IPA. The only thing I can figure is that it's a specific type of hops or yeast being used. Since Vermont has so many amazing ciders, I'll probably be sticking more closely to those.

Tomorrow, we are hoping to hike Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain, so I hope I will have more pretty leaves and mountains to share soon.

Holland Pond

Oct. 3rd, 2016 08:50 pm
dawn_felagund: (autumn leaf)
Autumn is still descending in its multi-hued glory to Northern Vermont. Yesterday was a grumpy, gray, rather miserable day: 55F/13C, damp, with those drifting, misty showers that seem to ooze out of the air itself. Nonetheless, Bobby and I decided to take a couple-hours kayak jaunt out on Holland Pond, about a half-hour northeast of us. It had been recommended to him as a rather remote and especially beautiful site among the Northeast Kingdom's myriad ponds and lakes.

The rain thankfully held off for the duration of our paddle, and there was enough wind to ensure that we were kept quite warm as we fought to keep our kayaks on course. It was a really fun pond--definitely one of my favorites--with a handful of cabins on its western shore but otherwise surrounded by a wildlife management area and very remote. It was unusual in the large, gray boulders that lined its edges. There were quite a few little coves to explore, one of the things I love best about kayaking. While hiking, of course, leaving the trail is verboten. On the water, one can duck into a little cove or start down a creek to see where it leads, worrying at most about getting stuck and having to make an undignified exit. (Not a problem once yesterday, despite putting myself into some tight spots; I am getting good at navigating the new kayak like I once was with the cantankerous bastard.) When I was a kid, there was nothing better than opening a novel with a map on the first few pages, and even now, I can read a road atlas for hours if left to my own devices. Kayaking scratches that itch to explore very, very well.

Of course, I took pictures. They are cell phone photos taken on a gloomy day, mostly from a kayak being tossed lightly in the wind so not the best quality, but I hope they give some sense of Holland Pond and the day! Click for photos )
Mount Hor has a terrible name. Apparently, Mount Hor is also a mountain in the Bible, and I suppose it was named after that; I haven't been able to find anything about the history behind the name and can't fathom why you'd name a mountain "Mount Hor" without precedent. So Mount Hor is like the poor kid in school who gets assigned a storied, ancestral, and absolutely awful name: Benjamin Dover or Michael Hunt or Richard Lipshitz. And amid the teasing and the alienation that comes from a decision completely outside his control, he has to deal with the "But your great-great-grandfather the Civil War hero was named Benjamin Dover!" LIKE THAT MAKES IT OKAY. (I got relentlessly teased for the last name Walls, for pity's sake! Kids are senseless and cruel!) So poor, poor Mount Hor.

All this to say that yesterday, Bobby and I hiked Mount Hor. It is in what I term The Willoughby Complex but have since learned has the official name of the Northeastern Highlands of VermontTM. This means that they are not technically part of Vermont's Green Mountains! We have already hiked the two larger mountains in the area--Bald Mountain and Mount Pisgah--and I hiked Haystack Mountain* with my school.

*Which, until I learned its real name, I had named Boob Mountain because it looks like a boob in profile! The Willoughby area brings out the middle-schooler in the best of us.

The Willoughby Complex/Northeastern Highlands of VermontTM easily offer the most dramatic landscapes in a region of dramatic landscapes. The gap between the mountains Pisgah and Hor was ripped open by a retreating glacier, leaving Vermont's second deepest lake (the deepest being Lake Champlain) and dramatic cliffs pressing the lake shores on both sides.

The hikes to the summits of Pisgah and especially Bald Mountain were rather steep and rugged. (They are considered "moderate" in our Vermont hiking book, lol!) I expected much the same of Hor, but the mile-long (1.6 km) ascent to the summit was steep but not nearly as rugged, which made for a much nicer climb. I can pace myself on long ascents--this is why I'm good at snowshoeing--but scrambling rocks makes me tense and fatigues me very quickly. The hike to the top offers three different views: to the south and west from the summit overlook (looking toward the Greens) and two overlooks looking to the south of Willoughby and the northeast of Willoughby that are accessed by a flat trail that runs along the lake-facing edge of the mountain. This hike was pleasant enough that it's one I would strongly recommend for the Mereth Aderthad, because it is doable for someone in moderately good shape, even without experience hiking in the mountains. (For the truly adventurous, Bobby and I will take you to the fire tower at the top of Bald Mountain! :D)

If you want to SEE what I mean about Hor, click for pictures! )
In all of our travels to Vermont and having lived here now for more than two months, we have never been to Burlington. Burlington is Vermont's largest city, recognizing that 1) that is like saying that Maine is the largest state in New England, which is certainly true although it is still far from a large state (hullo, Texas!) and 2) Newport is also technically considered a city, and it's possible to drive from one side of the downtown to another in less than five minutes. But Burlington does indeed have things that one expects of a city, like buildings over three stories and streets arranged into blocks.

Since we had never been, we decided yesterday to visit Burlington for the first time. It's about an hour-and-a-half drive from where we live, but there are no drives in Vermont that aren't gorgeous, so it's all good. We had in mind three big plans: 1) eat some Indian food, 2) ride the Burlington bike path across the causeway, and 3) polish it all off with a meal at Citizen Cider.

Here in the Northeast Kingdom, we are very rural but we aren't entirely backwoods. We have a phenomenal Thai restaurant in Newport and an upscale German restaurant and wonderful hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Derby, as well as lots of places offering great local fare. (In Vermont, it typically involves Vermont cheese, maple syrup, beer, or all of the above.) But we don't have an Indian restaurant within an hour-and-a-half of where we live, and since Indian food is my absolute favorite, then this is one of the few things I grieve about leaving Maryland (although the Mexican-Indian restaurant in the mall in Westminster has apparently closed, so I wouldn't have had many options much closer in Carroll County either).

Burlington, being a real city and a college town, has an Indian restaurant, so that's where we went for lunch: Shalimar. They had a Sunday brunch buffet, which we both opted for. It wasn't the best Indian food I've ever had, but it was definitely good enough to satisfy my months now of going without (woe is me, right?), and the palak chole (spinach with chickpeas) was incredible. I could eat a big plate of it now if one were placed before me. And they offered free, self-serve hot tea. Win!

We brought our bikes because Burlington has a famous bike path that skirts Lake Champlain and follows an old railroad causeway smack across the middle of the lake with water on both sides. Come tour with me the land of Bernie Sanders and Ben & Jerry's! )
Baltimore officially broke the record for the most snowfall out of a single storm, so this was officially The Most Epic Snowstorm EverTM Or At Least Since Records of Such Have Been Kept Because I'm Pretty Sure More Epic Snowstorms Happened Before But Just Weren't Written Down. Here in Manchester, the National Weather Service tells us that we received 32 in/81 cm of white powdery goodness. However, I can speak from experience that snowfall numbers from this storm are going to be unreliable because of the wind. When I checked NWS snowfall totals yesterday, Lineboro--a town five minutes away that shares our zip code--supposedly had 4 in/10 cm more than we did, which is unlikely. The wind was just blowing it around, so an accurate measure was difficult to impossible.

Let's just settle for saying we got a lot of snow.

Read more... )
First of all, before I post the beautiful pictures garnered from that 10K of snowshoeing, to all who have been asking about Lancie: He is home! He was released last night from the vet hospital but spent the day with my inlaws so that he could be monitored all day today. He is about a foot away from me now. He is doing much better: the vomiting and diarrhea are gone, and he has his appetite back. We need to get his weight back up, which means extra canned dog food, which I don't think he's going to protest.

Okay, now as to the reason I am writing this post! Come take a 10K walk with me in the snow ... )

And that may be sooner rather than later. It seems we brought it back with us. Maybe the Ullr Fest worked! We are due to get as much as three feet (a meter or so) of snow over the weekend and are presently under a blizzard warning for Friday night into Sunday morning. Schools are already closed for tomorrow.
Bobby and I typically refer to Golden puppies as loaves of bread because they are roughly the size of a decently proportioned homemade loaf and similar in color. Since Guinevere is 11 weeks old--Alex and Lance were both 9 weeks when we brought them home--then she's quite a bit bigger than a loaf. We were adrift for a few days, not knowing what to call her. We'd sort of gesture her proportions with our hands like we'd do for the loaf of bread but bigger. But we didn't have a word to go with it. Eventually, I started calling her the miche, after the extra-large loaves one can buy at Panera Bread.

Well, we picked up the miche after work today. More! Including pictures, of course!! Of the miche. )
I am briefly coming off of hiatus to share some big news.

About a year and a half ago, Bobby and I went with friends to a local ciderworks. On the way back, we passed a house in Hampstead (next town south) that had a pen of Golden Retriever puppies playing in the front yard. Well, by the time we'd driven past three times, the owners noticed us and waved to us, like, "Stop being creepy and just stop and ask to see our puppies!"

We were not looking for a third dog--three big dogs adds all kinds of logistical challenges--but we liked the breeders and took a card and promised to give them a call if ever we were looking to add another Golden.

Three dogs was too many, but we do like to keep two. We like that they are able to be companions to each other when we aren't home, which is an unfortunate but necessary effect of being married professionals. We had talked about when we'd like to get a new dog and decided on the spring. And we'd call the breeders in Hampstead first when we did. Their website made clear that they breed one litter each spring, so the timing should be perfect.

This was solid enough in our minds that Bobby called them the other day to see if we could make a deposit to reserve a puppy from their next spring litter. A, lo and behold, due to work schedules, they weren't able to have a litter last spring, so they had one in the fall instead.

They had one puppy left, a little girl, light golden (like Alex, not Phil, who is red). We went to see her yesterday. I don't think it's possible for us to see a Golden Retriever puppy and resist it. We knew the outcome. I even joked to the owners when they asked if we had any ideas for names that I'd suggested "Maybe" and had then taken it right back because we knew the answer wasn't going to be maybe.

So Guinevere Estel will be coming home with us next Monday. This weekend, we are in Ocean City for a teaching convention (really! I swear! even though all the classes are in the morning so yes we will have to figure out something to do with the afternoons and evenings ...). She was born on August 1, so she is a little over ten weeks old. We didn't know her birthday at first, and the day Bobby found out she was ready was the eight-week mark of losing Alex, so that meant she could have been born on the day we lost him. I'm ... kind of glad she wasn't. As poetic as it sounds in theory, it actually hurts quite a bit in reality. As you will see from the pictures (of course there will be pictures!), she is a pudgy puppy like Phil, not tiny and emaciated like poor Alexander was. She is playful and friendly (also not like Alex! the carpet alligator!! I often say he was the cutest puppy I've ever seen but also the most awful in terms of behavior. He had no socialization prior to coming to us, it seems.)

It's funny: We've had three Goldens now, all obtained under unplanned circumstances. All were from litters of nine and were the last to be adopted.

We debated at length over the name. Bobby initially suggested Guinevere (Gwen for everyday use), but I shot it down right away, since she is a character in literature that I've never felt much connection to. We went through literature and mythology. It's a lot harder to name a girl using that method than a boy. We were between Cassiopea (Cassie for everyday--my preference) and Estel (Bobby's preference), which oddly were suggested by the opposite person who preferred them. Finally, driving home today, we revisited Guinevere and decided that there was a lot to like about the name, mostly that we liked the name Gwen and could imagine calling a dog in from the backyard using that name. (One of the main reasons that Lancelot became Phil over time! And one of the main reasons that I didn't prefer Estel.) So Gwen it is.

Phil went with us and met Gwen and ... wasn't thrilled. Phil likes exactly one other dog: Alex. But he has learned to adjust to about a dozen dogs of friends, family, and neighbors who end up sharing his house and yard periodically. He even learned to live with a cat for a while. (He really wasn't happy about that.) So he'll adjust and maybe, I hope, even learn to like her over time? At least a little?

This is much sooner than expected but we've gone with the circumstances with both Alex and Phil and ended up with beloved pets both time, so we think we're doing right now too. And we really can't resist a Golden puppy ... :)

Meet Gwen ... )
Wednesday was Bobby's 34th birthday and also the last day of our trip, so we saved the excursion we were looking forward to the most for this day. Shell Island, as I noted in the last post, was created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the channel between the Grand Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico to allow for the passage of shipping traffic. It is an uninhabited section of the park with absolutely no amenities and accessible only by boat. A shuttle boat runs regularly from St. Andrew's to Shell Island. There are some wooden poles stuck into the water to show where the shuttle boat will ride up onto the sand, but that is it. There are signs posted at St. Andrew's: Shell Island contains no water, shade, or bathrooms. If you want it, you have to bring it over with you.

The NO SHADE worried me the most. We brought over two big bottles of water, and if I needed the bathroom, it would not be the first time peeing in a wild place (or the ocean ... tmi!) by far. Despite properly applying sunscreen the day before, I was becoming tender in places, as was Bobby. So that morning, we stopped at the Ron Jon surf shop and picked up a pair of rash guards with SPF 50+ so that we could spend the day in NO SHADE in comfort.

We had lunch again at Finn's--the third time! The food was delicious and the open at 10. We had the scallop ceviche this time and I had the shrimp crunch wrap ... which, yes, is like the things they make at Taco Bell but about 100 times better! At St. Andrew's we rented a tandem kayak for the day, which was loaded onto the shuttle and across we went.

Shell Island was beautiful and wild. We donned our rash guards and launched our kayak and headed out along the coast on the channel side. I love rowing--there is something immensely satisfying about pulling yourself through the water--but I kept getting a crick in my right bicep that was annoying and sometimes painful. We pulled to shore so I could give it a rest and also to explore the island.

More and pictures below the cut ... )
On Tuesday, we were to receive the paddleboards we had attempted to rent the previous day and return to St. Andrew's State Park. Bobby had found a highly rated Mexican restaurant in the area that opened at 10 for lunch, so we planned to grab a bite to eat there and then head over to the park. We had a catamaran cruise scheduled that evening and had to be at the marina at 5, so we actually were working on a schedule for once. (Usually, our schedule more or less matches the sun: When the sun starts to set, we come off the beach and get supper.)

Of course, we showed up at the restaurant, and they were closed. Allow me a brief grouse about places that make changes and don't update their websites. Seriously, folks, as someone who has managed a website for eight years now? It's not that hard. Bobby found another lunch place that was supposed to open at 10. We drove out, found it ... and they were also closed because this was the day they were having a new stove installed. We were both grouchy at this point. I made a snarky remark about just going to someplace I invented in my grouchiness called Happy Jack's Happy Flappy Flapjack House. I just ... don't like breakfast. Well, I like Bobby's breakfast, which has been carefully honed over many years to my tastes. I don't like dessert, so why would I want to eat what amounts to dessert at the beginning of the day too? We ended up at a Waffle House because it is one of the few places that has breakfast that I like: a peanut butter waffle (with no syrup for the love of all things holy!) and a double hashbrown with cheese, onions, and jalapeños. When this is the biggest blip in your vacation, you're doing alright.

We headed over to the park, and Bobby called the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rental guy. Within ten minutes, he was pulling into the park with the boards strapped to the top of his truck. So the day was looking better already.

Bobby mentioned wanting to try SUPing about two years ago, when we saw people doing it in Ocean City. At the time, the joints in my feet were so swollen and painful that I wanted to weep for the thought of standing on a board and trying to float across water on it and them by extension. I made up my mind that I would miserably have to endure it for Bobby's sake. Well, thank goodness that chapter of life is behind me. I was actually able to enjoy it--it was quite a lot of fun!

St. Andrew's State Park is located at one end of Panama City Beach. In the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Gulf-Bay Pass to allow for shipping traffic to pass between the Grand Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico. On the west side of the channel is St. Andrew's State Park; the east became Shell Island, which I'll say more about when we go there. Several rock jetties were built, which on the St. Andrew's side, block most of the effect of the surf and create a very calm area for swimming ... or learning to SUP, in our case!

More and pictures below the cut )

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