Sunday, November 28, 2010

Near Death in New Hampshire

                                                                                                                        (left image-- summit view from 3000 feet, right image--cairn a.k.a. grave marker)
I just returned from a lovely trip to New Hampshire. As most of you know, I love to hike. As some of you know, I'm usually up for an adventure and don't always perform adequate risk assessments until it is too late.

On Wednesday night, I was sipping wine in the kitchen, when a guy named Ed stopped by. He said that every year he hikes to the top of Mt. Monandock   
to memorialize his friend's death. I cannot recall if he actually invited me or if I invited myself. However, next thing I know I've signed up to go on a Friday morning sunrise hike. I'm sure in my wine-induced overconfidence, I neglected to listen to important details such as PEOPLE DIE UP THERE EVERY YEAR. 

I do recall him saying that we will not be hiking on the State Park side, but on the "locals trail". He also said that he knows every inch of the mountain and can run up to the top in 36 minutes. It is only 2 miles to the summit, so I figured that it's no big deal. If he can do it in 36 minutes, it will take me at least an hour. I tell Ed that I'm in shape--I play squash and practice yoga. He seemed enthusiastic and told me that I would do just fine. I vaguely remember him saying that it is a REAL MOUNTAIN. I must have mentally blocked out the story where he had to carry someone down the mountain. This was someone who didn't properly respect the mountain and had fallen, breaking their leg. 

Thanksgiving Day and I'm not feeling as excited about my upcoming hike. I can't imagine what I was thinking when I agreed to wake-up voluntarily at 3:30am, leaving at 4am to hike in the dark. I do not have hiking boots, only sneakers with worn treads. 

Ed calls that night to say the weather forecast is foggy and rainy. Most of his other friends have already bailed. I promise him that I'm a trooper and I won't bail. Due to weather conditions, he delays the trip from 4am to 9am. 

Friday morning 8am, Ed calls again to say conditions are bad. Sleet has covered all surfaces in ice. This is my opportunity to bail. I get on the phone, prepared to cancel. We discuss my lack of adequate footwear. He says sneakers are not a great idea. He asks if I can borrow boots. I say yes. I open my mouth and instead of canceling, I agree to go. 

I slide down the walkway on the way to the car. Ed and I are picking up his friend Adam. On the way, he tells me that the trail will be icy. He says that he can lend me his spikes to grip through the ice. This is when I begin to have doubts. SPIKES FOR THE ICE? He also reiterates that it is a vertical climb (how did I miss this point???) to the summit. We will be climbing 2000 feet to an altitude of 3165 feet. At the top, he says it will be very windy and cold. Winds up to 50mph. 

It's too late to cancel. We arrive at the trailhead. Of course there aren't any other cars. We are climbing the Marlboro trail. I find this very funny, since there is no way a smoker could hike this trail. Ed says that the first part isn't too hard. It warms you up for later. 

After 15 minutes, I'm breathing really hard, sweating through all four layers. I am thinking that there is NO WAY I'm going to make it. Ed has some sort of superhuman powers, because he jumps from rock to rock and doesn't appear to slip AT ALL! 

To their credit, both Adam and Ed tell me where to step and not to step, offering assistance as needed. To MY credit, I do not complain once. I fall and get right back up. I don't want to ruin their friend's memorial. 

I do not see any visible trail, just lots of ice-covered roots and rocks. We start out in forest and climb into a barren-looking landscape. Prehistoric, sub-arctic--lots of boulders and no visible signs of life. I see lots of rock piles. Ed calls them cairns, saying that hikers leave them as markers. I'm guessing they mark all the dead bodies. HERE LIES ANOTHER DUMB HIKER WHO DIDN'T RESPECT THE MOUNTAIN. 

Half-way point, the view is stunning. Ed gives me the spikes. I perfect the art of holdingonfordearlife. It takes over 2 hours to reach the summit. The temperature drops by 20 degrees. My sweat-drenched clothing is forming icicles. I do not make it all the way to the top. I quit at 3000 feet. Ed and Adam race to the top. 

I text my daughter. HARDEST HIKE EVER. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I WILL GET DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. I briefly wonder how much it would cost to get heliported off the mountain. Needless to say, it is much harder going down than up. My legs feel like jello and aren't working properly. I keep tripping. Only 1 hr down. I can do this. 

I've had to pee for the past 1.5 hours. Didn't want to do it at the summit and have it freeze midstream. Towards the bottom, I see a big boulder to hide behind. My legs are so locked up, that I can't squat down. This simple act takes me at least 15 minutes to perform. Darn those men who can pee standing up. 

I make it to the bottom. Ed and Adam graciously tell me that I didn't hold them back and that I did great. The next day I can't walk. Later when I look up this trail on the internet, its difficulty rank is 4 out of 3!!!

Ed asks me to hike again next summer. Sure I say. I'm looking forward to it. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reveille This! 13 billion light years & Blue Cheese Alfredo Sauce

You've heard the saying Women are from Mars and Men are from Venus. Or is it the other way around? In my household, we are not just from other planets, we exist on other galaxies. 

Speaking of which, did you know that last month scientists discovered a new galaxy? It has the sexy name UDFy-38135539, and is located 13 billion light years away. I'm thinking that a long distance relationship might be in order. If my husband can find a job on UDFy-3815539, we will only get on each other's nerves every 13 billion years. I think I read that Coke is opening up a bottling plant there. See last week's Businessweek article "Coke's Last Frontier". I'm sure Coke could use a VP to head up their operations and new development. 

Lest you think I'm joking, I will share this morning's irritation. It started with my husband's alarm. He has programmed the military bugle reveille to sound off every morning at 6 am. I have patiently told him that it is the most ANNOYING alarm noise in the entire world. I have pleaded (not so patiently) for him to change the sound. He always responds with the SAME answer. It's SUPPOSED to be annoying. That way, you'll wake up. On this particular morning, he hits snooze 3 times. This happens to be the ONE morning all week that I can sleep in until 7am. After hearing three rounds of reveille over a 30 minute period, I can no longer sleep. In fact, I'm in a vile mood. Reveille is at the top of my chart for most REVILED song. 

The next irritation occurs a few minutes later, while I'm cooking breakfast for the kids. My husband decides to criticize my pancake making ability. Actually the pancakes were already made, I was just microwaving them. However according to my husband, my microwave abilities are lacking. He stops the microwave in mid-heat mode, pulls out the plate, and inspects it suspiciously. What is that glistening substance on the pancake? It's the syrup, duh. You are microwaving it too long and it will burn the roof of our son's mouth. 

At this point, I'm ready to shove the pancake down his throat, just to shut him up. Instead, I tell him that I've microwaved lots of pancakes and I know what I'm doing. Then I tell him that if he doesn't like it, HE can wake up an hour earlier to make the kids breakfast and lunch. I don't appreciate cooking tips from someone whose culinary prowess includes making alfredo sauce with Marie's blue cheese dressing. 

I am further irritated by the fact that in the span of an hour, I've managed to cook breakfast, make lunches, feed the dog, give the cat a pill, fill out two recruit forms for our daughter and finalize my proposal for world peace, while he takes a shower and shaves. 

He FINALLY leaves for work and I sit at the computer checking email. 5 minutes later he calls me to ask me what happened to the car. I'm confused. What happened to the car? You've trashed the car. I'm further confused. As far I know, the car seems fine to me. Now for those of you who know us, most of you would agree that I am the one who tends to exaggerate, especially for the benefit of a good story. 

Since he is not prone to exaggeration, I'm perplexed. I know that my memory has been in gradual decline lately, but I think I would remember if I trashed the car. The whole LEFT side is TRASHED! He accuses me of ramming the car into the side of the garage. Again, I think I would know if I hit the garage while backing out. I go outside to inspect the car. I see a scratch on the car. So yes, I must have scraped the car against the garage while exiting. It is a scrape. I call him back to tell him that it is a scrape. SCRAPE??? That scrape will cost $800 to fix. I ask him if he thinks that I purposely crashed into the garage, just to dent the car and piss him off. He tells me that I need to be MORE CAREFUL. (irritation #501)

REVEILLE THIS. If I was a vindictive person, I would delete all songs from his IPod, except Reveille and then set it on eternal repeat, so he could listen on his 13 billion light year trip.