Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you, wherever you are!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Schedule

(returning after a bit of a hiatus - hopefully our audience has not abandoned us!)

Christmas for us this year is a bit weird. Hilary's schedule as a first-year resident pretty much keeps us pinned down this year, though I haven't got much time off accrued at my current job, and Brynna is too bouncy for long trips, either. Hilary is feeling particularly shortchanged this week: after working a 30-hour overnight shift Tuesday-Wednesday, she's right back to it by putting in a full day today, Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, she'll head off to work at her usual before-7-am time to work another overnight shift. When she manages to escape on Saturday morning, we'll all pile into the car and head down to her folks' place in CT for their annual Boxing Day party. We'll hopefully get a full night's sleep before heading back midday on the 27th, just in time for Hilary to start two weeks of night float - 2nd and 3rd shift on hospital service. Included in that awfulness is working overnight on New Years, meaning she'll miss our usual gathering of college friends.

It's not all bad, though. We had a bit of Christmas last weekend with my family, who were kind enough to come to us and bring some holiday cheer to our new home.

image credit: Tom G.

We dearly missed some who could not make it due to difficult schedules and weather (this was last Sunday, when it snowed many inches up and down the east coast). Among some of the goodies that Brynna received: a 6' 7" maple ruler that we can use to chart her growth (the advantage being that it is not physically attached to the house) and a collapsible tent holding a few dozen plastic balls (less well filled than a ball-crawl, but the same idea).

Brynna likes the Christmas tree, we think.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Purple-Faced Blueberry Monster!

Brynna went blueberry crazy when we had our waffles last Sunday morning. It's a good thing we froze plenty of them for the wintertime!

"More, please!"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brynna At 16 Months

Brynna is so much fun right now!

Her favorite things right now are:
-building block towers (she build one 5 blocks high, all by herself, the other day)...and boy does she get mad if it falls down when she adds another block on top!
-reading books
-walls and logs and other balance-beam like things to walk on
-singing the ABC song

She can sing the Indiana Jones theme song (Miss A's cell phone ringtone). I will try to get this on video, because it hilarious.

She can do many of the animal sounds for Moo Baa LaLaLa: moo, baa, meow, and quack. (She does the lalala too, for the three singing pigs). Still no oink, neigh, or identifiable dog noises. She can also hoot when you ask her what an owl says.

She is still nursing avidly—once when I get home from work, a quick touch-base before bed, and once or twice in the middle of the night.

She spends the second half of the night in bed with us almost every night.

She knows a LOT of signs: milk, more, eat, drink, apple, banana, cracker, dog, cat, bear, frog, monkey, horse, sheep, pig, fish, airplane, car, truck, walk, Nuk, change (i.e. a diaper), build, color, where?, father, down, up, book, (and she understands "stand up" and "sit down" even though she can't make them yet), and she has a special sign for Miss A

She knows how to say some words: Mama, Dada, M (her maternal grandfather), Dickie (her great-grandfather), eye, down (the current favorite), and can mimic lots of other words when coached

She can identify her eyes, ears, nose, mouth, belly button, hands, feet, and toes. (Next, we will work on "xiphoid process.")

She has parts of eight teeth (four on the bottom, four on the top)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Milk and Books

One of the reasons that we were late for our own party (see last post) is that one of our favorite children's book authors was doing a reading at our local bookstore.

Jane Yolen has written many books for a variety of ages, but in our house she is most famous for How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, which, along with The Going To Bed Book, plays a key role in our bedtime ritual.

So I took Brynna to the store for the reading. She sat happily on my lap for approximately one half of one story, then looked up at me and made the sign for milk.

Me: "Brynna, look at the story! Look, dinosaurs!"

Brynna: (opens and closes fists)

Me: "Want to stand up on my lap and see better? Listen to the story!"

Brynna: (opens and closes fists more vigorously, adds insistent grunting)

Me: "you want some milk? Now? You don't usually nurse in the middle of the afternoon!"

Brynna: (throws herself backward so she is laying down on my lap)

Me: "oh, OK, OK" (hikes up sweater and shirt and tries to find way to discreetly nurse in back row of book signing)

One minute later:

Brynna: "done" (wipes hands together)

Me: "OK, let's sit up and listen to the story!"

Thirty seconds later:

Brynna: (makes sign for milk again, moves straight on to insistent grunting)

Me: "again? really?"

Brynna: (signs more vigorously, bounces up and down on lap)

So we got up and went to seek out a more comfortable place to nurse. One of the bookstore employees told us that there was a comfy chair back in the children's section, so we headed back there and got settled in to nurse.

Brynna nursed for another minute or two, then sat up and slid off my lap. I stood up, took her hand, and we started back toward the crowd. Brynna stopped, looked up at me, and signed "milk" again.

So we went and sat back down in our nursing chair, nursed for about thirty seconds, and then Brynna signed "done" and got down again. Once again, we headed back toward the front of the store. And once again, Brynna stopped me and asked to nurse!

I have no idea what was going on. Perhaps it's just such a novelty to have me around in the middle of the afternoon (I've been working six days a week, mostly) that she thought she'd better take advantage? Or maybe dinosaurs make her hungry?

We did come away with a copy of How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food:

...but it doesn't seem to mention repeated speed-nursing bouts at author signings.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Christmas Gathering

So, last week I decided that we should get our tree over the weekend...Sunday, to be exact, since I was on call Saturday. And then I thought that it would be fun to invite my fellow residents and their families over for a tree-trimming party.

Which is how we found ourselves zooming off toward the Christmas tree farm, half an hour away, exactly one hour and twenty minutes before the start of said party. Oops! May have cut things just a little too close there.

Despite being in a rush, it was a beautiful drive. It snowed on Saturday night, and the trees were still decorated with a layer of white frosting. We went through a state forest and up, up, up to the peak of a hill with spectacular views of the surrounding terrain. Then we jumped out of the car, strapped Brynna into her carrier, and set off into the fields with...oh...just about fifteen minutes to find the perfect tree!

There was a collection of already-cut trees leaning against a fence, and one of the farm workers told us that since we were looking for a 7 or 8-footer, we'd probably have more luck with one of those. But we hadn't driven all that way to pick up an already-cut tree, even if that would be a bit faster! So we took our saw and headed down the hill in the snow. The worker was right...there were many small trees, and many very tall trees, but not much in our ideal range.

So we huffed our way back up the hill, feeling very pressed for time, and resigned ourselves to taking one of the pre-cut trees. Then, just as we crested the hill, we realized that there was quite an attractive tree growing right next to the path! We circled it several times, squinting at it from various angles, before deciding that it was indeed a winner.

Alex the mountain man:

I was so impressed...I got all set to help Alex drag the tree up to the car, and he just picked it up and wandered off!

While Alex and a couple of the farm guys got the tree onto the roof of the car, Brynna and I took a look at the available wreaths. We settled on two basic ones, added two big red bows from another pile, and then we all buckled ourselves back into the car and zoomed back down the mountain, racing the clock so as not to be late for our own party!

Luckily, no one showed up at 4:30, as we arrived home at 4:34. Brynna and I went into the house to do some final tidying up (known in other cultures as "moving piles of stuff into rooms that are not going to be holding guests") while Alex wrangled the tree into the stand out on the porch. We did put our first guests to work chopping up veggies, and the hot cider wasn't quite hot until a few more folks had arrived, but no one seemed to mind.

Since I had only given people a few days' notice, we had no idea how many guests we would have. I originally scattered our food, with some in the kitchen and some in the living room. However, we turned out to have a large kiddie turnout, so the living room floor became the center of the action!

It was such a delight to watch all the kids playing together! Brynna was actually the second youngest, and she did a great job. She shared all her toys, including her wooden blocks...though she did run over and sit on her little ladybug chair a few times when it seemed like one of the other little girls had some interest in it.

And, yes, that is Jasper in the middle of the action! We could hardly believe our eyes. We were sure that we'd eventually have to put him upstairs, but after a little initial barking and lots of hiding under the table, he ventured out to explore the world of toddler-and-dog-level-food, and ended up quite happily receiving pats from the guests, particularly the kids. Never in a million years, even last Christmas, would I have thought that Jasper would be brave enough to do that!

With the help of some extra hands, we also got the tree decorated! We have a mixture of white lights and colored lights, because that's what I could find in the boxes. We put all the soft and unbreakable ornaments at the bottom, and Brynna has been having a blast playing with them.

All in all, a lovely time. We're looking forward to our first New Hampshire Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Word Today...


Said aloud, quite emphatically, while B wiped her hands together in the sign for "all done."

Pretty soon she's going to learn "no," and then our lives are never, ever going to be the same.

She also said "bean" this evening, quite clearly. That's our vegetarian baby!

And she came up to me this evening dangling the monkey magnet from the fridge and making "ooh, ooh" monkey noises.

The new sign yesterday was "fish."

The words are coming fast and furious now, whether out loud or in sign language!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do As We Say...

...not as we do.

We're slowly getting the house in shape.

And we caught Brynna trying to climb the bookshelves earlier today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Budding Engineer

Brynna has discovered blocks. Her favorite thing to do is build towers with Alex. She's almost tall enough to finish off this set...but she needs a little boost for the last tier!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trick or Treat!

Brynna was a big fan of Halloween. (Yes, that was 3 weeks ago, but at least we're blogging about one holiday before the next arrives.) We didn't get her a little costume— just decided to hang out at home and greet the goblins. It was a beautiful warm evening, so we sat on the doorstep with a basket of candy. We turn out to live on a very busy street for ghosts and monsters. Brynna quickly learned that when an oddly-dressed person approached, she should take something out of the basket and hold it out to them. It was adorable, and she was much less afraid than I thought she might be. The only costumes she was unsure of were the ones with masks, especially scary ones.

Brynna also agreed to pose with a pumpkin—it's harder to get her to hold still this year than it was last year!

She and Alex practiced the approach to the house:

Brynna did some sampling, and her favorites were definitely the Kit Kats:

Fifteen months old—look at her go!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brynna's Autumn Walk

We've been a bit lax with the blogging lately. Life gets busy sometimes. To help make it up to you, dear readers, enjoy this new video of Brynna enjoying a fine Autumn day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Manly Tools

I love the power! It feels so good.

While my folks were in town this past weekend, my Dad labored hard to prepare a garden bed for a batch of raspberry bushes my folks have given us as a housewarming present. With advice from my semi-professional landscaper cousin, we picked up lumber, hardware, and fill and set to work.

My Dad, bless 'im, spent most of Saturday afternoon in occasional drizzle digging up a patch of earth and trenching the base timbers into place. These were to be spiked into place using 3/4" diameter x 4' length of reebar, and we'd picked up a massive drill bit to match. The only problem, we discovered, is that my modest cordless drill only has a 3/8" chuck, while the bit required a 1/2". It's just as well, my drill wouldn't have been able to supply the necessary torque for the job in any case.

The solution? Craigslist. In about five minutes' searching, I found a guy just down the road who was offering a slightly beaten up corded power drill with the requisite 1/2" chuck, for a whopping $20. He even threw in a mud mixer attachment for the drill and a handful of large lag screws.

So now we could drill through the 4"x6" pressure treated lumber, but how to get these large bits of steel through them? How about a nice new 4.5-lb blacksmith hammer? About 40 or 50 whacks per bar really made the forearms stiff. A bigger and heavier sledgehammer would have been more efficient, but stood a fair chance of breaking some bones.

Those lag bolts the drill seller gave us came in handy - we used them to tie the timbers to one another. But how to drive the 3/4" hex heads? How about an upgrade to my lightweight socket wrench set? A set of large-diameter deep sockets and a 3/8" ratchet should do the trick.

Yes, it was a fine weekend for spending money on tools.

Unfortunately, the weekend is only so long, so there's still a bit of work to do. For one, the tool rental places in the area are closed on Sunday, so we couldn't rent an auger for digging the post holes for the trellis. There'll be some painting to do, as well, since the appearance of pressure-treated lumber, even after aging, is just atrocious.

Oh, for the love of raspberries!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gassed Out

Someday, someday, we will end our nomadic existence and finally stop moving around. One might think that owning a house would go a long ways towards that goal. By and large that is true, until a day like this. We are having hardwood floor put into the living room, and the existing floor in the adjacent dining room floor refinished to match. The plan had been to have the wood installed and everything sanded down one day, stain put down early the next so that it could air out all day, then everything sealed up the following day.

Unfortunately, our guy didn't put down the stain until about 4 this afternoon. As a result, the house reaked of volatile organic compounds. We did truly want to use a less hazardous product, but it just wasn't in the cards this go around. We were able to more or less sequester the bedrooms, and thre open the ground floor windows and doors, but it wasn't perfect. We could keep the air in the bedrooms fresh through the night, and thus spare Brynna from a nasty exposure, but it required blowing in cold outside air. That, too, could have worked for the night, but we wanted alternatives. A hotel that would accept Jasper was an option, but a pricey one. We had one more choice: our old apartment. Our lease runs through the end of the year, so we're still paying rent, and hoping mightily that our landlords could find new tenants soon. No luck yet, so it's still ours.

And so, here we are. We just got the last of our stuff out two weeks ago, and yet here we are, back again. We hope very much that this is just for the one night, and the aromas of petroleum byproducts will tomorrow be locked under layers of non-smelly, water-based, no-VOC urethane. After that, we can finally move into and unpack the living and dining rooms, and just maybe begin living in our house, instead of merely occupying it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Double Fetch

Labs and poodles are both retrieving breeds. Jasper, however, has shown a decided disinclination toward the game of Fetch.

When we first brought him home, tossing a ball would send him running scared in the other direction. By the time we left Minnesota, perhaps inspired by watching the crazy fetching Border Collies on the other side of the backyard fence, he would often chase a stick or ball and pounce on it, but he didn't understand the bringing-it-back concept.

But, rather suddenly in the last few weeks, he seems to have gotten it—more or less. He and Brynna have both been enjoying romping in our new neighborhood park. And now we have a very efficient way to tire them both out! It's a little game we call "Double Fetch."

Here's how it goes. I use the tennis-ball-atlatl to toss the ball for Jasper. He goes bounding after it:

Then I hand the claw to Brynna, who starts toddling in his direction.

Jasper comes sprinting back toward us, usually dropping the ball somewhere in a 50-foot radius. I ask Brynna "where's the ball?" and she heads in that direction as fast as her little legs can carry her. Sometimes she uses the claw to push Jasper out of the way. Then I have to coax Jasper to "drop it" and then cajole Brynna to give me the atlatl so we can start the whole process over again.

Pretty soon, both Brynna and Jasper are tuckered out and we head for home.

Tonight, I was using treats to help train Jasper to actually bring the ball all the way back to me...though maybe I will have to rethink this strategy, as it results in less exercise for little B.

Monday, October 26, 2009


My folks were in town this past weekend. It also happened to be Dartmouth's homecoming weekend. Being near and dear to our hearts, and my parents' hearts, and being just an hour up the way, we met up in Hanover Friday night to witness the homecoming bonfire. My parents met at the bonfire way back when, and Hilary and I nearly got engaged at the bonfire some years later.

For those that don't know, Dartmouth's Homecoming bonfire is a real piece of work. For the last few decades the design has been more or less standardized around the following (homegrown) design. Traditionally, railroad ties were used (the creosote really lit up), but they're harder to come by, so we instead now order tie-sized green lumber from a mill yard. Like popsicle sticks, the ties are stacked layer upon layer, first in a star shaped base, then a hexagon that closes off the star points, tapering to a square tower that gets topped with numerals for that year's freshman class, who goes most of the grunt work. The interior structure is filled with scrap wood, mostly old shipping pallets. The structure stands about 35 feet tall when complete; flames can easily top 100 feet when in full flare. During the lighting ceremony, things get started with a couple buckets of kerosine and six flares wielded by chosen members of the freshman class. Then they all run around the fire in various states of dress, no matter the weather, while the rest of the college and community urge them on.

Following the collapse of Texas A&M's bonfire while under construction in 1999, Dartmouth changed a few things. The ties above head height now get lifted up using a lull, rather than hoisted up on ropes. Large garden spikes are used to ties some of the upper courses together, to lessen the chance of the structure shearing off to one side (either during construction or when half-burnt). There is a visible police presence both outside and inside the assembled crowd. Highway construction spotlights bath the scenePlywood sheets are now affixed to the outside of the star base, ostensibly to provide a canvas for students to tag, but really to make it difficult for anyone to climb the bonfire after it is first lit (I kid you not, this did happen in the past).

We were joined by my Uncle Tom, who took some great shots:

This year's production.

The assembled crowd gazes in awe of our pagan rituals.

It was chilly, so we put Brynna into her Everest expedition wear.

The Conflagration!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vacation Hiking-Foiled By The Damp

On Wednesday of my vacation, we woke up to a rainy day. We did get Brynna out the door and over to her doctor's office for her flu shot (regular flu, not H1N1, which isn't available here yet, but she'll get it when it is), but we didn't want to drive up into the mountains for clouded-in views or a rained-out hike. Instead, we found a break in the weather and went off to the local Audubon Society preserve. Unfortunately, the break wasn't long enough, and it started to rain just as we got out of the car. We retreated to the building, which was a little less entertaining for toddlers than we might have hoped for, and eventually just gave up.

Instead, we went over to our apartment and Dad entertained Brynna while I packed up some more stuff to move to the new house. Brynna has a tremendous fascination with plastic buckles, and she was overjoyed to discover that with a minimum of help, she could work the buckle on Alex's Camelback water-pouch holder. She spent the rest of the week wearing it around, howling if we tried to remove it from where it inevitably came to rest around her waist. And she discovered these handy cymbals while packing up the kitchen:

On Thursday, we headed off to Mount Cardigan. It was a bit of a dreary day again, and after about twenty minutes of walking, Brynna made it clear that she did not want to go hiking, thank you very much. (The final straw may have been the Smartwool socks we had put on her arms to keep her hands warm.) So we turned around, hiked back down, and played in the parking lot and picnic area for awhile. Here's B admiring the fall foliage:

Friday it rained again. Blech. On Saturday, Brynna and I headed down to Connecticut while Dad and Alex headed off to do their piece of AT-In-A-Day. B was clearly inspired by her reintroduction to hiking, as she walked a good part of the way home from the library that afternoon—almost half a mile!—pushing her stroller by hanging onto the basket underneath, and categorically refusing to be put back in the seat. She certainly is determined!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vacation Hiking-Day #2

So, on Tuesday of my vacation (yes, that was two weeks ago, but better late than never!) we picked another shortish-hike-with-a-view and took ourselves off to Belknap Mountain in the the lovely town of Gilford, near the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. We wound our way up a dirt road, past a gate that warned us in large print that it would be locked at 6 PM, and parked in a mostly-deserted parking lot.

While Jasper gallivanted around, thrilled at the prospect of a hike without being made to wear his backpack, we got Brynna all situated in her backpack.

Then we hiked up through the forest, eventually catching sight of the fire tower after about an hour of walking. We climbed carefully up the very steep stairs (Jasper was not interested in this part of the hike, so we tethered him at the bottom) and were treated to a breathtaking view that encompassed parts of four states. The most beautiful part was looking out across the lake to the White Mountains.

We brought my Scudder's White Mountain Viewing Guide and were able to identify the whole stretch of mountains, including Mount Moosilauke and Mount Washington, plus peaks in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.

Brynna was most vexed by the determination of her mother and grandfather to hold onto at least one, and preferably two, of her limbs at all times while she was trying to explore the only-loosely-fenced-in pod atop the tower. Miss Cranky-Face did agree to pose briefly for a photo:

She returned to her usual, cheerful, whirlwind self once we returned to the parking lot and she was set free. She and Jasper ran all over the place, checking out lots of rocks and dirt.

As usual, the electronics drew the most notice. She definitely understands about the camera now—she will turn and flash a big smile when she sees it pointed in her direction!

B zonked right out in the car on the way home, and we were able to escape before the gate locked us up on the mountain. We stopped for our traditional post-walk snack of Peach Snapple and Cape Cod Potato Chips before heading home for our first night in our new house!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

AT in a Day

The goal: to hike the entire 2200-mile length of the Appalachian Trail, in a single day

That is what the Dartmouth Outing Club set out to do yesterday as part of the centennial celebration. They figured there were enough alumns out there that they could get enough people together to have the entire length covered in a single day. This isn't sequential, mind you, it's done in parallel. If they could pull it off, it would be a first. We were making history just by trying - this is something no group's ever attempted.

We had signed up for a relatively short and easy bit of trail near Franconia Notch - something Brynna Appropriate. However, as crunch time neared and the trail coverage was less than complete, we got reassigned to a somewhat more challenging section: Pinkham Notch to Carter Notch along Wildcat Ridge. An excerpt from the White Mountain Guide puts it this way: "The sections from the Lost Pond Trail junction to E Peak and from A Peak to Carter Notch are very steep and rought, and there are several ups and down and other steep, rough sections along the rest of the trail...." That, plus a poor weather forecast, made this trip not at all appropriate for Brynna, even with the possibility of using a ski gondola for an ascent and/or descent. So, it was just Mark and myself for this trip - the rest of the crew heading down to Connecticut for the weekend.

Pinkham Notch is the major lodge / visitor center in the White Mountain Forest and lies as the eastern base of Mount Washington. After leaving Springer Mountain in northern Georgia, the AT travels some 1800 miles before summiting Washington, then makes a circuitous descent down to Pinkham, across NH rt 16, then up the Wildcat Ridge trail, down to Carter Notch, then farther along the Carter Ridge to the town of Gorham, NH, then on a bit more to the NH-Maine border, and on for another 250-or-so miles to finish at Katahdin in Maine. In all, our section was barely 6 miles, though as the guide put it, it was "more difficult and time-consuming than one might infer from a casual glance at the map or the distance summary."

Our route is the red path. Google Earth is pretty cool! This is a view roughly SE. Mount Washington is in the lower-right corner. Pinkham Notch is more or less centered. Across the road from that is Wildcat mountain ski area - you can see all the trails. Our put-in was at 19-Mile Brook trailhead off to the left of the image.

The route isn't a loop, so we left the car at Pinkham and hitchiked to our trailhead. It took all of about five minutes of standing forlornly at the Pinkham Notch parking lot to hit the jackpot: a generous couple from Philadelphia was able to squeeze us in the back for the five minute drive.

We had a reasonably gentle hike of about 4 miles from 19-Mile Brook trailhead to reach the Appalachian Trail at Carter Notch (the blue marker at the col off to the left). As we went on, the weather went from forties, grey, and misty to colder, darker grey, and light rain. I had a fleece hat in my bag largely out of the habit of being prepared - today it saved me from being miserable. The weather forecast for the day was for light rain in the morning, but rapidly clearing up as the day progressed. That was correct except for the clearing up part - we saw no sun until our hike was 5/6 over in the late afternoon.

After donning rain gear, we headed south on the AT, up and out from Carter Notch, onto Wildcat ridge. The trail was sodden and muddy, the sort where waterproof boots and gaiters allow easiest passage by tromping through the middle of each puddle. We progressed over Wildcats A through D. We passed a group of three on top of Wildcat D with a small bottle of champagne - one of their group had just completed the 48 NH 4000-footers.

Although there was no snow or skiers atop Wildcat, the gondola cycled forlornly at the top, while a cold wind whipped clouds over the top of the ridge. Ordinarily, looking out from the top of Wildcat, one can look across the valley and view Mount Washington from the east, getting the best views of Tuckerman and Huntington ravine. For instance, here's the view when Mark, Hilary, and I were on Wildcat D in 2004:

This was the planned backdrop for our AT in a Day official picture. Today: a blank wall of white on all sides. We did the best we could.

There was also a kiosk near the top shack stating that we were on the Appalachian trail: 306 miles to Katahdin, 1834 to Springer.

We continued on our way south over Wildcat E. As the AT continued down off Wildcat E, the weather finally began to turn: the cloud deck lifted and parted as we descended below it, giving us a glorious view of the Washington valley in autumn colors and afternoon sun. Looking across we could see the Boot Spur and Tuckerman Ravine. We were just about level with the headwall. We could see our destination, Pinkham Notch, far below. The summits of the Presidential Range were still socked in a thick band of wind-blown clouds. We felt for the folks who would be doing the Presies today: hours above treeline and subjected to the cold winds whipping over the ridge. It's a hike that we could have done ourselves, but we would have needed a lot more planning beforehand, determination to see it through in such conditions, and equipment to do it safely.

The descent off Wildcat E was brutal. 2000 feet of elevation lost in a series of steep ledges, slabs, and piled boulder staircases.

As an ascent it would be an exciting scramble; in winter a fine place to practice one's icecraft. For a descent, however, it was just a long, knee-pounding slog. Redemption could be found in the numerous views to be had, now that the weather was clearing up to a fine afternoon. Mark hurt his wrist in a fall when one of his trekking poles collapsed high up, making him unable to use his right hand for the rest of the descent.

When we reached the level of the road and the Lost Pond Trail, a signpost said we had covered a mere 4.8 miles from Carter Notch - in the last five hours!

The Lost Pond Trail is a mostly flat - though not smooth - one mile section from the base of the Wildcat Ridge Trail back to Pinkham. If the pond had once been lost, it was pretty easy to find now: a series of beaver dams had allowed it to grow and expand, consuming some of the trail. The northerly wind rushed down the length of the pond, kicking up whitecaps that crashed into the dam. We picked our way along the eastern shore until we could join back up with the original trail. Over a few more bridges, a sharp turn to the left, and we were back to the highway and Pinkham Notch. We'd completed some six miles out of over two thousand.

No word on whether the group effort was successful - trip reports will be trickling in for the next few days, and eventually we'll see if we pulled it off. We at least did our bit.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vacation Hiking-Day #1

What better thing to do with an October vacation in New Hampshire than to hike?

Dad arrived last night to accompany Brynna, Jasper, and me on our wanderings this week. This morning we set off up I-93 toward Franconia Notch. We started with breakfast at Polly's Pancake Parlor. This is a spectacular diner where the waitstaff make your pancakes to order and the default option is real maple syrup, none of that fake crap.

Brynna enjoyed herself, as you can see:

We shared some blueberry whole wheat pancakes:

Brynna was very interested in this little horse outside the restaurant.

Then we headed toward Cannon Mountain, a ski area that is also one of the New Hampshire 4000-footers, where there are also some shorter hikes. We chose a loop over Artists' Bluff and Bald Mountain. Here we are on our way out:

And on top of the bluff (Jasper and Brynna are apparently playing peek-a-boo):

On top of Bald Mountain, I let Jasper run around free and borrowed his leash to use for Brynna so that she could do some exploring.

You can see the ski area in the background of this photo, with the lovely foliage:

Brynna and I also got some quality mother-daughter time at the peak. The distant mountain over my head is Mount Moosilauke, Dartmouth's mountain...which is also where Alex and I had our first unofficial date and fell for each other over Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

It's important to get some grandfather-granddaughter time, too:

Right after we took the above photo, we saw a rainstorm coming in fast from the north. We packed up in a hurry and scrambled down the rock slabs around the summit, getting under the trees and onto dirt trail just in time. The skies opened up and suddenly we were getting whacked with hail! We got Brynna's little canopy up but the rest of us were rather bedraggled by the time we returned to the road 15 minutes later. It stopped raining just about then, and we hustled back down the road to warm up our hands in the car. Now, I have always had a lot of respect for the bad weather potential in the White Mountains, but I have to say that I did not bring all my foul weather gear on this little loop that took us a maximum of 30 minutes from the car at any given time. Especially with the baby, never again!

On the way home, we stopped in Lincoln at the fabulous Mountain Wanderer bookstore, picking up a couple of new guidebooks and some maps.

All in all, a very successful first day. More to come!