Shawangunk Mountains, New York – Rock Climbing

Last week Chris and I drove ten hours to climb at one of my favorite areas in the eastern US – the Shawangunk Mountains, a.k.a the Gunks.  The Gunks are located 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of New York City, in the Hudson River Valley.  The Gunks aren’t so much mountains as they are an escarpment 19 kilometres (12 miles) long and 90 metres (300 feet) high.

People have been rock climbing in the Gunks since the 1930s and today there are more than 1,000 established climbing routes, most of them accessed by a carriage road running along the base of the cliff.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon after spending a few  rainy days in Massachusetts. The weather forecast was still iffy, but we decided to give it a chance. I’m glad we did – we managed to climb for five days straight with only a few rain sprinkles here and there.

We spent most of our time climbing in the Trapps area.  We both managed to lead some new climbs and get on some old favorites.

Climbing in the Gunks can be pretty intimidating.  Large roofs and overhangs – even on easy climbs – , very exposed walls, and PG-rated climbs make for some adventurous climbing.

On this trip, Chris managed to get a clean lead of Retribution – a hard 5.10b climb that had eluded him last time.

One of Chris’s favorite climbs of the trip was Modern Times – a 5.8+ with a series of overhangs at the crux.  To climb through the crux, he had to cut loose from the wall and campus a few moves (climb using only his arms, legs dangling in the air).  When I got to that part of the climb, I didn’t have the upper-body strength to do the moves and ended up having to aid through the crux – a time-consuming process, but better than Chris having to come down and rescue me.  Extra slings for aiding are a must for me in the Gunks!

Saturday was our last day of climbing and we decided to go to the Near Trapps area which is less busy as the approach is along the cliff instead of on a carriage road. Our last climb of the day was Birdland, a beautiful two-pitch climb. The first pitch is a tricky face climb while the second pitch goes through a series of roofs.  I was happy to be able to climb through the roofs on this climb.  A great way to end another fun climbing road trip.

Seedlings are up!

Three of the four lettuce varieties that I planted early last week are up.  The fourth one was an old seed package that I thought I’d see if they were still viable.  Unless they’re really slow germinators, they’re probably not going to come up.

The broccoli seedlings are looking great. This is the first time I try to grow broccoli from seed. I hope it works!

The cucumbers are starting to poke out.  The cherry tomatoes are up while the other variety is still waiting.

I’m still waiting to see the pepper plants come out, but I’m pretty sure they are slow to germinate so I’m not worried yet.

The seedling flats are in our basement laundry room where I can control the temperature better. I also have some grow lights and have been keeping these on for twelve hours a day.

It’s an exciting time of the year!

Acadia National Park – Rock Climbing

On Saturday I joined Chris and Jon at the Precipice climbing area.  My shoulder was still hurting, but I figured I could try climbing an easy route with one arm. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get on the rock here at least once.

This was my third climbing trip in Acadia. I love climbing here – the rock is clean and sticky, there’s a good variety of routes, there are no large crowds or lineups, and the view from the top pitches is gorgeous.

We decided to climb an easy classic –  “Story of O”.  It’s a sweet two pitch climb with some fun jamming and stemming.   I managed to get up the climb without using my right arm too much. It made for some interesting body positioning which I thought was a lot of fun.

Once we rappelled down, we were joined by our friends Fred and Cara and their kids Marie-France and Maxime.  After his parents finished the classic climb “Old Town,” they set up a top rope nearby .  Maxime, 3, harnessed up and put on his cute tiny Sportiva climbing shoes. With a little bit of help from his dad, he was able to get a good way up the cliff . You can see him in the picture below chalking up for his next big move.  With huge smiles his parents watched him go. For a pair of climbing parents, this is a big step.

Chris and Jon climbed a handful more routes that day including Chris’s lead of “Connecticut Crack” – a tricky 5.11 with delicate footwork and thin cracks.

They finished the day with a very cold ascent of “Green Mountain Breakdown.”  With the wind starting to pick up I was very happy that Jon was there to climb this with Chris instead of me.  I tend to get a bit spooked out on exposed climbs when it’s super windy.

Earlier in the afternoon, Jon Tierney, the owner of Acadia Mountain Guides was out taking pictures of the cliffs for a new guidebook for the area.  He mentioned that there will be a climbers’ festival the weekend of May 26 and 27 with movies, talks, demos, crag clean up, and all-around fun. If you haven’t climbed in Acadia before, it would be a good time to go check it out.

What a great weekend in Acadia National Park!

Acadia National Park – Biking and Hiking

This past weekend we made the 3 /12 hour trip down to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbour in Maine.  I first visited Acadia five years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite local vacation spots.

Friday, Chris and our friend Jon C. went to the Precipice area to rock climb. As I had a minor shoulder injury I decided to take a day off from climbing and go biking and hiking.

Acadia National Park has a wonderful system of park roads that wind their way around the coastline and then inland between the mountains. The park road are closed in the winter and re-open April 15th each year.  The closed park roads were perfect for biking.  Kilometres and kilometres of smooth road and no cars to worry about.  It was my first time out biking this year and my legs were feeling it – there are a lot of hills in the park! I ended up biking 21.6 km (13.4 miles) – not bad for my first ride of the year.

Biking is one of my favorite ways to discover an area.  I can cover so much more ground than I can hiking, and it gives me the time to look around and see a lot more than I do while driving.

On this biking trip I came across a family of deer eating on the side of the road.  They were not spooked by my presence at all.  I stood twenty feet from them and took pictures for about fifteen minutes.  They just kept eating and looked at me once in a while as if to say: “Are you done yet?”

After a relaxing visit to the only sandy beach in the park, aptly named Sand Beach, I decided to drive out to the western side of the island to a hiking trail that I’d been wanting to check out for a few years.  Beech Cliff trail is located by Echo Lake (another popular swimming area in the summer) and is 1.2 kilometres return (0.8 mile). It’s a short hike, but one that switchbacks up the mountain side and ends with four iron ladders to the top. Not a trail for those scared of heights, but I’d recommend it to those looking for a shorter moderate hike in the park.

After my hike I picked up the guys, happy with their successful climbing day, and we headed out to our accommodations at Acadia Suites. This is a great spot to stay in Bar Harbour – off-season rates of $75 per night for a one-bedroom (queen size bed plus single-bed), large kitchen and living room with pull-out sofa.

We recaped our adventures from the day and talked about what rock climbs we’d attempt the next day…

Ellen’s Yummy Quinoa Salad

This quinoa salad has become my potluck staple. It’s extremely easy to make and always gets rave reviews and recipe sharing requests.The recipes come from Ellen, a woman I worked with at the Falls Brook Centre over ten years ago.  We’ve lost touch since then, but I always think of her when I’m making this salad.
Ellen’s Yummy Quinoa Salad (adapted from Ellen Ruby)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup quinoa – any colour (you can also use 1/2 cup quinoa, 1/4 cup wild rice, and 1/4 cup brown rice)
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 1 can corn nibblets
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • Optional: 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Optional: 1 chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp cider or rice vingar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Cook and cool quinoa (this can be done hours in advance, just put in fridge until ready to assemble salad).
  • Add red pepper, corn nibblets, feta and optional parsley and jalapeno pepper to quinoa.
  • Mix together garlic, vinegar and oil for dressing and add to salad.

Enjoy!

With a lot of help from our friends…

We managed to split twelve cords of firewood this weekend!  That will be enough to last us for three winters.

We could not have done this without the help of friends – Chris calculated that it took 60 combined hours of work this weekend.

The work weekend started Friday night after work with our friends Chris N. and Rob L. helping to run the splitter and move wood.

Saturday they came over again to help, along with Jon C.  Jon’s 2 1/2 year old son William also came over to watch. He was so good – he sat in one spot for 2 hours fascinated by the wood splitter.

There was a small accident Saturday afternoon.  Rob got his finger pinched between a piece of wood and the bottom of the splitter.  Thankfully it didn’t break or get cut, but it will be sore for a while.

On Sunday we had the help of Mark M., Mike M., and Rebecca.  We had just met Rebecca Friday night, but she was kind enough to come to almost-strangers’ house and help to stack wood all Sunday afternoon. It was also nice to spend time with Mark as he will be moving away for work soon.

All weekend we talked about how wonderful it is that friends and new friends are willing to come over and help when a group effort is needed.  These work weekends are not as common as they were in the past, but  it’s so nice when they do happen.

By 5 o’clock on Sunday we were mostly done. All that is left is a half a cord or so of wood that is frozen in thick ice.  We finished the weekend with a fire and dinner outside on the patio. A great ending to to a productive weekend.

Thank you again Chris, Rob, Jon, Mark, Mike, and Rebecca!