A Short Hike Up – Mount Watatic, MA

019

015

It’s November in New England, and since it’s not going to get any warmer, this weekend I forced myself out of hibernation and climbed Mount Watatic. Mount Watatic is only 1,832 feet, and is on the border of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, so it wasn’t as far a drive as it usually is for me to reach a mountain.

011

There are several trails to the top – we chose the most direct, and steepest, which starts at an unmarked lot off 119. It was freezing (literally) cold out, and it burned just to breathe the air. The trail was littered with fallen leaves, hiding would be assassin rocks from sight. You had to test each step to make sure there weren’t small rocks that were going to slip out from under you before putting any weight on your foot.

008020

It took an hour to reach the mountain – but only 30 minutes to climb it. Even though it was a smaller mountain, it was still icy cold and windy at the top. We visited the monument at the peak, and then hiked a short distance to a false summit, which provided a better view. A short while later we were back at the car, happy to be in the heat for the drive home.

My Very Happy Unbirthday

ic6Today is my very happy unbirthday. One of many, I admit, but a holiday (to me) just the same. Since I celebrate all my non-birthdays, I like to try to do something really special when my actual birthday rolls around. Last year I went ice climbing (my first time) at Northern Lights Rock & Ice in Essex Junction, Vermont.

ice8

I had a blast! I was a little apprehensive about going at first. Climbing and ice were two words that really just didn’t seem to go together. But when you strap the crampons on your boots and you take the ice axes in hand something special happens – you become a person with many sharp objects with which you could hurt yourself (or others).

ice11

Northern Lights Rock & Ice is a great place for beginners to try ice climbing for the first time. They provide you with all of the equipment you need. They also have their own ice wall, complete with rope and pulley system to belay you. Great idea, because if something should go awry and someone does get injured, you’re in the middle of a town, accessible to help, instead of being out in the wild. Another great thing is that if you like them on Facebook (clink link) you can get a ‘buy one, get one free’ coupon!

ice7

I had such a great time that I’ve planned another ice climbing trip, this time for Christmas. Out in the mountains in New Hampshire. On wild ice. (As long as it’s there, otherwise the trip will have to be postponed.) Which brings up the question – what will I do for my next birthday? I think I want to try spelunking.

Climbing the Walls

climb5

This weekend the sky was grey and streaked with angry clouds. It was cold, windy and rainy. Not the type of weather you want to be outside in, but after a week at work, spending the day inside makes me feel like I’m going to climb the walls. So that’s exactly what I did!

I went to the Central Rock Gym that opened this past summer in Watertown, MA. Last winter I logged a lot of hours at the Central Rock in Worcester, but the Watertown gym is closer and the walls are higher – up to fifty feet! New building, new equipment, new climbs – what’s to lose? The rock climbing gym is a lot different from climbing rocks on mountains outdoors. (Unless you do the whole Cliffhanger thing, but after you’ve seen the opening scene of the movie, why would you?) It’s an incredible whole body workout, and you can rent all the equipment you need so you don’t have to invest in any purchases until you decide whether you like it or not.

climb4

The first thing I’d like to say about rock climbing gyms is that they smell like feet. Just a warning to anyone who hasn’t been to a rock climbing gym before but would like to give it a try – brace yourself when you walk through the door. Even a new rock climbing  gym, even in the cold, can knock you over with the smell of feet. (Just being honest.) You get used to it quickly, though, and shouldn’t let it stop you from giving it a try. Rock climbing shoes are uncomfortable to just stand in, and a lot of people take them off whenever they’re not climbing. The padded floors tend to pick up the odor and hold onto it like the last piece of Halloween candy, so be forewarned.

As long as you’re careful and know what you’re doing, it’s relatively safe. Most gyms offer introductory classes every couple of hours on the weekends. You have to trust your belayer – the person on the ground who takes up the slack in the rope and keeps the line locked so if you slip and fall, you don’t go far. The pulley system used is great; you can safely belay for someone well over a hundred pounds more than yourself.

climb2

The harness isn’t the most comfortable contraption, but it’s a necessary evil. One you slip and swing for a bit 40 feet up in the air you’ll appreciate it. It provides a sense of security and comfort. And after your first slip or two you’ll find that it’s not as scary as you’d imagine. Just watch the wall, get back on it, and keep climbing. Or not. If you want down, you just let your belayer know, and use your feet to propel and protect you as you jump down the wall.

It’s a great way to spend a day inside. It’s not all upper body strength like you might think – your arms and back will get worked, but a great deal of climbing involves strategizing your way up in your mind and using your legs. While climbing, I’ve been next to five year olds and people well into their golden years. (I don’t wan to be rude and speculate about age, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an octogenarian or two!) So give it a try sometime!

Something Cold, Something New

070

The temperature is quickly dropping and I’m settling in for my second New England winter. It takes a few weeks for me to acclimate and make myself venture outside in the cold, but it will happen. Eventually. I promise.

014

It’s only a matter of time before it snows. I want nothing to do with mountains in the snow, except maybe take some pictures of beautiful snow capped peaks – from afar. And I have no interest in skiing. Anything that involves whizzing down a hill at high speeds while my legs are able to go in two different directions is not for me. I might giving snowboarding a try, but I’ll leave skiing to those who are less accident prone.

066

I tend to abandon most of my usual outdoor activities when the temperature drops. It’s just not the same when you have to bundle up. So I’ve been tasked with finding new things to do when it gets cold outside. After trying a few things I discovered that I like snowshoeing.

Last year I used my newly discovered talent of snowshoeing to check out some frozen waterfalls. It had never occurred to me before that waterfalls freeze in winter. It’s not that I didn’t believe it could happen, it’s just that when you’re able to go to the beach on Christmas, those aren’t the kinds of things you think about.

002

072

My favorite frozen waterfalls so far are those at Enders Falls in Granby, CT. Depending on where you start your hike, there’s a series of 5 or 6 falls, all of varying drops. You do lose a bit of elevation  as you travel along the river, so you will have to hike up on your way back, but it’s definitely worth it. Seeing the falling water trapped in time was an remarkable experience.