Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peters Mountain

My visit home for the holidays included a lovely walk in the woods with my dad. We set out this afternoon to hike up the snowy north face of Peters Mountain, which cradles the mighty Susquehanna and provides glimpses of the rolling Pennsylvania countryside and busy transportation routes that hug the shores of the river. The few miles that we hiked were icy and spectacular, and the peak of Peters was abuzz with avian activity. We saw numerous Eastern Bluebirds, Chickadees, and even a lone Hairy Woodpecker—all unexpected rewards for reaching the top.

The Susquehanna
BBBFB at home in the hills
View from the south face
Up with the birds
Blending in

This stretch of trail, which I've ascended only once before, is part of the great Appalachian Trail. The AT is a fixture of wonderment for me, as I've long dreamt of trading the stability of a day job and cozy house for costly hiking gear and nights spent with strangers in the trail's famed lean-tos. The romance of walking from Maine to Georgia is a real draw, making it easy to overlook the tales of agony and burden on the trail told by both friends and writers. I credit Bill Bryson with nearly extinguishing my fire for hiking the AT. I'm certain that just one more read of his adventures on the trail would keep me at home for eternity. At least I can always return to Peters Mountain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I have been anticipating the New England winter for weeks and this afternoon brought the season's first snow. It began lightly, so lightly that it would have gone unnoticed were it not for Liz stepping out to empty the kitchen compost. I joined her in the backyard to see for myself; the soft, white specs—barely visible—floated from a distant, nebulous origin. Up to this point, Texas has gotten more snow than southern New Hampshire. As we basked in the powdery fluff, I was overwhelmed with a combination of joy and relief, and for a short moment I was able to forget the unseasonably warm 50- and 60-degree weather of the week gone by.

It astounds me that skeptics of global climate change exist. I cannot imagine what ignorance is needed to believe that spring-like December days in Vermont and simultaneous snow showers in Texas are not a sign of what's to come. Senator James Inhofe leaves for Copenhagen in a few days to crash the climate convention. I can think of no better way to let the world know that you are a brain-dead tool.

One thing that Vermont and Texas naturally have in common is plenty of sunshine during the wintertime. This is a welcomed change from Pittsburgh winters, where snow is invariably accompanied by endless overcast, murky days, and where freshly fallen snow quickly turns to shade of brown and gray slush. That being said, Liz and I look forward to trying out some winter sports. We've been shopping for snowshoes and keeping an eye our for used cross-country skis.

Here are some photos of the gorgeous, sunny, snowy day in Walpole:

Back yard garden
View from the kitchen
Pasture blanketed in snow