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)
  • 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


  • 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.


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!

MS Bike Tour 2012

Today I joined the Neon Riders Team which will be biking in the Nova Scotia leg of the 2012 MS Bike Tour.  The event will be held over two days in July – each day we will bike 50 kilometres (31 miles).  We will be biking from Windsor to Wolfville one day, and return the next day.

The MS Bike Tour is an annual fundraising effort for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society.  It has been going on for over 20 years and the funds raised help to provide support and services to those living with MS, their families and caregivers. The MS Society also funds research with three goals: to find a cause and cure for MS, repair nervous system damage caused by MS, and stop MS attacks.

It’s estimated that approximately 55,000-75,000 men and women in Canada have MS, and every day about three more people are diagnosed.  It’s most often diagnosed in young adults, aged 15 to 40. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis are unpredictable and vary from person to person and from time to time in the same person.  Some of the symptoms include impaired vision, memory failure, and difficulty in walking.

One person diagnosed with MS is the Neon Riders’ team captain, Beth Button.  I met Beth through mutual friends a few years ago.  She was diagnosed with MS in 2006 when she was in her mid 20s.  I did not know much about MS before I met Beth and I still have a lot to learn, but I do know that I want Beth to be able to keep riding her bike in the summer and keep skate skiing in the winter, and I feel that the MS Society of Canada can help.

This will be my first year riding with the Neon Riders.  Last year the team raised over $11,000.  This year I’m hoping to help increase that number by raising $500.  If you’d like to help me reach my goal, you can donate online here.

Team Neon Riders is always looking for more members.  If you would like to join us, give me a shout!

Back to where it all began (aka rock climbing at Minkey Wall)

On Saturday Chris and I headed out to Cochrane Lane for a day of rock climbing. Cochrane Lane is the most developed trad climbing area in New Brunswick and one of my favorite crags in the area.

We hiked in to Minkey Wall, which is the prominent wall with impressive roofs that you can see from the parking lot. The hike in was much different than in past March outings- all the snow is already gone!

Minkey Wall is where Chris and I first met 4 1/2 years ago.  At the time I wasn’t rock climbing very often, but had tagged along with an old friend for a day on rock.  Chris was out aid climbing and ended his day by rapping into Minkey Wall.  We met, he liked my smile, and when I moved to Fredericton a few months later he made sure to come introduce himself at the climbing wall.  The rest is wonderful history. 🙂

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures around 10 celcius (50 F), but the strong winds made it feel a lot colder.  As you can see in the picture below, at one point in the morning I got pretty cold and was wearing a couple of layers of long sleeve shirts and Chris’s down jacket over my down jacket. I looked like the Michelin Man!  Thankfully it warmed up a bit after that.

We started out with me leading a few easy trad climbs – Dash of Fall Memory and Salt N’ Pepper.  They’re not very difficult, but I found myself taking a long time and needing to rest on a few pieces.  It always takes me a few days at the start of the season to get my “lead head” back. Hopefully next time out my lead climbing will be smoother.

Chris then lead up 5.8 for Style and A Warm and Sultry Evening. Two great climbs that he had no problem with.

We finished the day with a new-to-us climb.  I’d forgotten a quickdraw and nut on 5.8 For Style so Chris decided to lead up the small gully to the left of it and rap down to grab the quickdraw.  It wasn’t very difficult, but he says it’s always fun for him to go up something he’s never climbed up before, especially in this case where he had no clue what awaited him on the cliff.

Thus ended another great day climbing in Welsford with the man I first met there 4 1/2 years ago.  I’m looking forward to seeing where and on what adventures the next years will bring us!

Have you gone back to “where it all began”? 

New favorite – homemade granola bars

I started making these gluten-free granola bars a few months ago for Chris, but I quickly started eating them too as they are so good. If I would have known homemade granola bars were this easy to make I would have started making them years ago!

This recipe comes from the glutenfreegirl’s website.  It is the main website that I have been using to find gluten free recipes. They have all been great and easy to follow.

Granola Bars (adapted from


  • 2 cups oats (I’ve used both rolled and quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup walnuts (or hazelnuts or almonds)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 2 cups mixed dried fruit (I usually use raisins and cranberries, but any dried fruit would work)


  • Preheat oven to 325.
  • Line a small casserole dish with parchment paper (I find my 9×6 stoneware baking dish to be the perfect size).
  • Add oats and almonds (or hazelnuts) to casserole dish and toast in oven for about 10 minutes. Turn once in a while.
  • In a saucepan, add honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring the mixture to a slow boil on medium heat.  Once it starts boiling, set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together toasted oats and almonds (or hazelnuts), sunflower seeds, puffed rice cereal, and dried fruit.
  • Add honey/sugar mix to bowl and stir until everything is evenly coated.
  • Pour mixture into the casserole dish.  Smooth out with a rubber spatula.
  • Bake 15 minutes (up to 30 minutes if you like your granola bars crunchy).
  • Cool for at least an hour before cutting them up into bars.