The Legend of Osceola

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The Legend of Osceola -it was a play I was in in the fifth grade. My mom actually wrote it. The epic tale of the Indian Chief who led his people back to their native homeland in Florida against the white man’s wishes. I climbed Mount Osceola in honor of that man. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Truth is, I climbed the mountain because I like to climb things.

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The day started out damp and gray. We almost didn’t head out, but had hopes that the sun would come out and burn off the gloom as the day progressed. We weren’t to be disappointed. By the time we reached the White Mountain National Forest is was a beautiful day. After we finished bumping seven miles down a dirt road to reach the Mount Osceola trail head, we were ready to climb. We put the mandatory $3 parking fee in the honor system envelope, hung the pass on the mirror, and off we went.

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The sun was bright overhead, but there was a chill in the air heralding the first day of fall. Random swatches of tangerine and cherry wove their way among the green, a sampling of the leaf display soon to come. The trail was a work-out, heavy on the rocks. It was pretty difficult in some places, with numerous switchbacks, and one treacherous obstacle where the only way to pass over a huge boulder was to place your trust in an old, exposed tree root as a foot hold as you hugged the rock, trying to flatten yourself out so you wouldn’t hang too far over the drop below.

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We covered the 3.2 miles to the 4315 foot summit in only an hour and forty-five minutes, which was a huge ego boost. This was not a cake walk climb. We passed five groups on our way up, so we might be getting kind of good at this whole mountain thing. I had to stop every 20 minutes to take a sip of water, but I think that may be a female thing – guys just spit when their mouth gets dry. I don’t know how that helps, but it’s what they do. (And it will be a really bad day for one of them if I ever stick my hand in it while climbing and I know who’s mouth it came from.)

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As usual, I was freezing at the summit and had to wear both a sweatshirt and a windbreaker, but the view was amazing. We tried to find a place out of the wind for a quick lunch, but sometimes there’s very little shelter on the top of a mountain. By the time we finished eating and started our descent, my hands were ice hold. The good thing about hiking, though, is that after 20 minutes of making our way down the mountain they had warmed back up. The entire hike took less than 4 hours, and even with the 2 hour drive home it was still early enough to throw a quick dinner together and watch a movie, which was a first for a day spent climbing a 4000 footer.

It levels out….at the top

031“Don’t worry, it levels out….at the top.” I often wonder if we’re the only hikers who use that mantra. This weekend we hiked Pack Monadnock, which, while not very tall at just under 2300 feet, is quite steep in places. Which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect a mountain to be flat, and I don’t expect climbing a mountain to be easy. My body, on the other hand, wouldn’t stop complaining.

We’d taken a weekend off after hiking the entire 9 miles of the Franconia Ridge Loop in the pouring rain. I expected to be a little rusty, but my knees and ankles were flat out screaming, “oil can!” Like the tin man, I found my joints reluctant to cooperate.

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The fee at Miller State Park is $4 per adult. You can either hike or drive up the mountain. Mountains with roadways are never my favorites – once you get up to the top the air is filled with the smoke of all the people who drove up the mountain to smoke a cigarette. Drives me absolutely insane.

We chose the Wapack Trail, which stretches for 21 miles, actually beginning in Massachusetts. The ranger at the bottom told us it was a 45 minute hike. Going full speed ahead with no breaks, we made it in 45 minutes exactly. We passed several groups on the way up, all a bit irritated that they’d been hiking for so long without reaching the top yet. I prefer the rangers who give an over-estimate on the time it takes to get to the top. Hiking up the side of a mountain isn’t easy – why not try to build confidence instead of fuel discouragement? We did our best to impart a few words of encouragement, let them know that we do this every weekend, and that during the first few climbs of the year we have to stop every 50 feet for breaks.

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There are a couple of good vistas on the way up, and the view from the summit is worth the hike. It was a beautiful day, so a lot of people had driven up and it was a bit crowded at the top. It was a good hike, challenging but not long, a good work out for a late Sunday afternoon.

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We learned that you could hike from the top of Pack Monadnock to Pack Monadnock North. Unfortunately, we had started too late to hike the 5 mile loop over to Pack Monadnock North. Since I don’t enjoy descending mountains in the dark, we decided to save that hike for another trip. We did start down the trail for a bit to see what it was like – sometimes it’s just a straight shot over to another peak, but this one appeared to entail climbing down one mountain and up another. That adventure will have to wait for another day.


My Dogs Sleep Naked

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Yep, that’s right. It’s true. Every night before bed,  their collars come off. Which means every morning when I come downstairs, there’s two little wiggle worms doing the naked puppy dance, waiting to line up and get dressed before going outside. As much as they like their collars coming off at night, they look forward to them going back on in the morning. Their harnesses……..not so much, but since they don’t have a fenced yard right now, it’s a necessary evil.

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The leash can’t be clipped to their collars. Tempest walks great on a leash, until something catches her attention – then she pulls with such force that she chokes herself – and she’s so stubborn that she’ll just keep pulling. Sully suffers from neck-bigger-than-head syndrome, which is exactly like it sounds. His head, being smaller than his neck, makes it very easy for a snug fitting collar to slip off whenever the collar is pulled in that direction. The leashes are necessary because as the bi-bosses of the universe, they’re quite sure that it’s unnecessary for them to take any suggestions about where they should not go.

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This weekend we took them to King Phillip Conservation Land in Sudbury, MA. It’s a nice stretch of woods where you could easily get lost among the labyrinth like trails snaking in every direction. It’s a great place to let the pups get in touch with their wild side, an obstacle course of fallen trees to leap over, stone walls to climb, and feral scents to detect. I love watching them dart about like the little wolves they are, fearless and brazen as they conquer yet another slice of the world. I wish I could let them roam naked and free on their adventures, but what would the neighbors think?   😉

Growing Pains

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Do you remember the ache of growing pains? The agony of being seemingly stretched in every direction? The many sleepless nights suffering as your body fought to do what must be done? What do you do when it doesn’t stop?

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Sure, the physical pain of growing may cease, but the mental pain of growing seems to never end. I still feel the agony of being stretched in every direction. I still suffer sleepless nights as my mind fights to do what must be done. The shoulds and shouldn’ts, the what ifs and the what if nevers? I have a feeling that it will never stop. And maybe it shouldn’t. Because if you stop growing as a person, then what’s left?

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A Friday Fiesta – Tequila Lime Shrimp Quesadillas

014After hiking the notch in the pouring rain, I really didn’t feel like hiking a mountain this weekend. I bought a Groupon for tickets to a Rennaisance Faire last month – what better weekend to use them? And since I was sure we’d probably get a snack at the faire, I made dinner Friday night to stay in budget for the month.

I’d made these once before, something I threw together from spare ingredients in the fridge one night out of necessity. They were so good that I’ve been looking forward to making them again, and since they’re so easy, I thought I’d share.

You will need:
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  • Shrimp                                               
  • Portabella Mushrooms
  • Green Onions
  • Tortilla Wraps
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Lime
  • 2 Ounces of Tequila (2 shots)
  • Chili Powder
  • Cooking Spray

(I buy a bag of medium sized frozen shrimp at Walmart for $5, they come shelled so you just have to pull the tails off after defrosting them. I can usually make 2 dinners from 1 bag. I defrosted a half bag/16 shrimp for this recipe, 8 shrimp per quesadilla.)

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Finely chop about half a container of sliced Portabella mushroom, along with half a bunch of green onions. Juice 1 lime in a small to medium sized frying pan, add 2 shots of tequila, then give it a little stir with a fork to mix. Add the mushrooms, cook for a few minutes, then add the shrimp and green onions. Sprinkle with chili powder. Flip the shrimp when the pink color starts creeping up from the bottom, sprinkle with more chili powder. When the shrimp are bright pink, they’re done. Stir and set aside.

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Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray. Place a large tortilla in the pan. Put some cheese on half, along with the desired amount of shrimp, mushroom and green onions. Add a bit more cheese (or a lot if you like), fold in half, and cook over medium high heat. I move the pan around to focus the heat on different parts of the quesadilla to get it to cook evenly. When the two halves start sticking together on their own, flip (using a spatula, tongs, or your fingers – I just carefully grab the open edged center and turn).

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Heat on the other side until the tortilla cooks a bit and the cheese seems melted. You can slide it right out of the pan onto the plate. Slice, add any guacamole, sour cream or salsa and enjoy. Simply repeat the process for each additional quesadilla.

TIP – Prepare each one off of the hot burner. To keep the already cooks ones hot, you can put them on a plate in the oven on low heat, about 250 degrees.

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I made blue margaritas to go with the quesadillas, which are margaritas made with blue curacao instead of triple sec. Taste a little sweeter, but generally the same. An easy recipe for any margarita is 2 parts tequila, 1 part triple sec/blue curacao/Cointreau/Grand Marnier/amaretto or whatever you’re using for to make whatever type of Margarita you want, 4 parts Margarita mix. The all natural mixes with lime juice and cane sugar are much better, healthier, and lower in calorie than any of the mainstream ‘lite’ mixes. They make for the best at home margaritas, even blend well for frozen drinks! (Did I mention I bar tended for years in college?)

 

A thousand words….

039     032  IMAG0838     I love taking pictures. I always have. I remember when my grandparents gave me a Polaroid camera as a little girl. I’d spend HOURS painstakingly arranging ‘scenes’, posing my Breyer model horses on a white sheet with a piece of fencing, creating my version of a winter wonderland.

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In middle and high school, every field trip, slumber party and event, the camera was glued to my hand. Hundreds of photos, candid shots to posed pics and everything in between, piled up under my shutter happy finger. Every important moment frozen for eternity. Always behind the camera, very rarely in front. 

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     Out of seven years of college, the year of photography I got to take was by far my favorite class. My portfolio may have been a tad too artistic for crime scene photos, but I couldn’t resist. Yes, my crime scenes were staged. I like to think that you could feel Hitchcock’s influence in my shots. Happiness was the dark room, watching as my visions came to life.

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Now, I’m a weekend warrior. Whatever pain and strife I endure on a tough hike is worth it if I get the shot. I take entirely too many pictures of my pups. I love when I get that pack of developed pictures and see the shot that could be on a calendar. It makes my day brighter. It’s my bliss.

So I’m sharing some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken over the last couple of years 🙂

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Victory is Mine!

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Victory is mine – but it is not sweet. It isn’t even bittersweet. The long awaited, much anticipated conquering of the Franconia Ridge Loop has come finally come to fruition. I hiked the entire notch, 9 something miles of mountain, Labor Day weekend. Only it started pouring rain just as we were reaching the summit of Little Haystack. The fog was so thick at the top, that you could barely see more than 20 feet in any direction. The ‘amazing view’ that I was so looking forward to was not to be had.

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The 1.7 miles across the top of the ridge as you climb up and over Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette seemed like an eternity of misery, each step hampered by wet clothes, the wind whipping the rain up into a maelstrom of mayhem that lashed at my face like a cat-o-nine-tails. I wanted to complain, (I really wanted to kick something), but what was the use? I feel very ripped off that I couldn’t see anything. The only up side is that we had the mountain to ourselves.

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We surged forward, too uncomfortable to stop and eat our lunch, searching in vain for the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) hut that we had heard about. Yet each apparition rising out of the mist before us was – yep, you guessed it – more mountain to climb. It was becoming obvious that we had become trapped in an episode of Night Gallery, doomed to forever walk through the freezing rain and fog, an endless search for a destination we’d never find. Until finally, luckily, we encountered a ranger on the far side of Mount Lafayette, a dutiful soul braving the elements in order to alert those crazy enough to be enjoying the weather on that glorious day of the turn for the descent, thus saving us from a who knows how long detour continuing along the Appalachian Trail.

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Thus began our perilous climb down the mountain, over slick rock and through muddy puddles, our vigor renewed, our destination promised to be only a mile down the mountain. With the hope of a bit of warmth looming on the horizon, we picked up pace. I’m not sure-footed on the best of days, so you can imagine what a challenge it was to descend such a steep incline, every surface wet and slippery, clothing soaked and hindering movement, my normally 15 pound pack drenched and weighing at least 30 pounds. Not my most graceful day in history. Amazingly, I completed the entire hike without (serious) injury.

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The hut…..was not what we had imagined. No roaring fire, no welcoming smiles, not even, much to my partner’s chagrin (who, as a giant, has a much warmer body temperature), an ice cold beverage to be had. There was a counter, however, where we were able to purchase a couple of dry shirts which we wrapped in a spare rain poncho so we’d have something dry to wear on the way home after we got back to the car. We quickly left the hut and continued on our way down the mountain.

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The rain had finally stopped. The fog was lifting in places, and I was able to get a few pictures, which made me a little happier about the situation. I also learned that brown rocks tend to be much more slippery than gray, an invaluable lesson. Then the glorious moment came when we could hear traffic noises from the road and we knew that our adventure was coming to an end. Was it everything we had hoped for and expected? No. Was it a rewarding and wonderful memory? No. Would I do it again knowing what it would be like? Yeah, why not? Not everything in life worth experiencing is enjoyable. I know now that I can do it (and still walk the next day). I’ve proven my point to myself. But next time, I expect a view.