Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sunday Hike -- Mt. Wachusett

Last Sunday, Michelle and I continued our journey along the Midstate Trail by hiking over Mt. Wachusett. We weren't sure that we were going to get a hike in last weekend, as it rained all day Saturday and into Sunday morning, but the sun came out sometime after noon, so we thought we'd give it a go.

It turned out to be a great afternoon, clear and around 60 degrees, but the trail was very wet (2+ inches of rain will do that). Wet enough that where the trail was steep, or near a brook, the water would run down the trail, causing us to have to hop from rock to rock as we climbed. On flatter terrain, there was frequently standing water that we were forced to go off trail to avoid.

About half way up, we encountered a garter snake with an attitude. I've seen garter snakes before--caught them when I was a kid--but I've never seen one coil up and threaten to strike. Michelle poked her walking stick at it and it attacked the end of it.

When we reached the summit, Michelle and I were the only people there for a few minutes. It is the first time I've ever been to the top when I've had it all to myself. It was quite peaceful, although the wind was quite cold, and there was a thick haze that prevented much of a view.

Total Hike: 3.6 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 29.5 miles.
Total summer to date: 36.6 miles.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

...always take the weather with you

Apparently the Republicans want to do away with the weather. From the Palm Beach Post:

The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.

Supporters say the bill wouldn't hamper the weather service or the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards — in fact, it exempts forecasts meant to protect "life and property."

But critics say the bill's wording is so vague they can't tell exactly what it would ban.

"I believe I've paid for that data once. ... I don't want to have to pay for it again," said Scott Bradner, a technical consultant at Harvard University.

He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.

"The National Weather Service Web site would have to go away," Bradner said. "What would be permitted under this bill is not clear — it doesn't say. Even including hurricanes."

Can you imagine a world where instead of guessing how far off Chikage Windler's forecast is when you wake up in the morning, you have to hope that she actually gets it right?

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Me Generation

I came across The Generator Blog today, which essentially is a listing of web-based software that lets you fill in the blanks and generate, well, pretty much anything. For instance, the sign above was generated at Kurumi's Sign Maker. Or, you might wish to have your name posted on the side of an air conditioning van.

Or you might wonder what you'd look like if you were a South Park character.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


The Ice Cream Truck just came by for the first time tonight. Just 179 more evenings of "The Music Box Dancer" until fall....God help us all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sunday Hike -- The Old Mill to Mt. Wachusett

Another nice day Sunday, and a difficult hike. Or rather a more difficult hike than we expected because there was a typo in our trail guide. We are using the Massachusetts Midstate Trail Guide Book to help us navigate the trail. It has been particularly useful in assisting us as we decide where to start and finish each day. We're trying to go 6-7 miles per leg, and use the guidebook to find parking areas, etc.

Since neither Michelle or I wear a watch when we hike, and don't really have a good handle on how fast or slow we are hiking, we also rely on the guide to help us understand where certain landmarks are on the trail in relation to where we are going, how far we have traveled, how far we have to go, etc.

The guide missed a mile in Westminster. It suggests the distance between Crow Hill and Redemption Rock is 0.4 miles, when it is actually 1.4 miles. So we ended up hiking 7.5 miles instead of the 6.5 we were expecting, which wouldn't have been too tough a task except that 1) it was our second day in a row, 2) the terrain was more difficult, including a hike up and down Crow Hill, which is at a higher elevation than any point since Mt. Wataic, 3) It was the warmest day of the spring so far (about 76 degrees).

Other than that, I actually enjoyed the hike (Michelle was less enthralled with it). It had some nice, changeable terrain, ran along a brook for a ways, and was mostly secluded, with only a couple of short portions on town roads. We finally encountered some hikers on and around Crow Hill, and in the Redemption Rock area. We also had a nice view from the top of Crow Hill of Mt. Wachusett and the Leominster State Forest, including Crocker Pond (shown below).

Total hike: 7.6 miles.
Total Midstate Trail to date: 25.9 miles.
Total summer to date: 32.9 miles.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday Hike -- Westminster State Forest to The Old Mill

Yet another perfect day Saturday, so Michelle and I headed back out to Westminster to continue the Midstate Trail. Saturday's leg was just over 6 1/2 miles long, and was the easiest of the three legs so far. We started at a parking lot just west of the Westminster State Forest and hiked in about 1/4 mile to where we left the trail last Sunday. Almost immediately we came upon Muddy Pond, which ended up being the highlight of the day.

The pond is far enough away from any roads or homes that it is completely quiet, save for birds in the area. Along the shore of the pond is a shelter and a firepit, available for hikers who want to stay the night (presumably those who are hiking the entire 95 or so miles straight through, but I suppose anyone could wander out there for an evening).

The trail continued aroud the north and east shores of the pond, through some conservation land, and eventially out to Bragg Hill Road. From there we followed paved roads for nearly a mile, then headed up into some woods that were close enough to roads and homes that at times it felt like we were hiking through someone's back yard. While the scenery was significantly less spectacular than the first two hikes (unless you are interested in viewing a variety of backyards, decks, and patios), the proximity to roads and buildable land meant that most of trail was significantly easier to traverse (flatter, drier) than the first 12 miles.

Although we haven't seen any significant wildlife yet along the trail (and didn't expect to see any on this leg, since most of the area we were hiking in was populated), we did again see a pair of wild turkeys and a pheasant. We did not encounter any other hikers on the trail.

Total Hike: 6.8 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 18.3 miles.
Total summer to date: 25.3 miles.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Everybody has somebody

Boy, are there some eccentric folk out there. From a New York Times wedding anouncement:

Dr. Debbara Jean Dingman and Daniel John DeNoon were married last evening at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. The Rev. Grover E. Criswell, a Disciples of Christ minister, performed the nondenominational ceremony....

Dr. Dingman and Mr. DeNoon met at an Atlanta jazz club in 1978, where she was a hostess and he a bartender. Dr. Dingman, in the spirit of feminism at that time, called herself Debbie "Dingperson," without cracking a smile, she said....

"Everything had to be totally discussed and negotiated," Mr. DeNoon recalled. "What I considered courteous - pulling out her chair, opening a door - she would take as an insult."

Dr. Dingman added: "We had an ability to argue about everything. He would order wine, and I'd be upset that he did it without consulting me. And then we'd argue about the migrant workers who picked the grapes. There was a real push-pull to our relationship."

I'm nearly speechless, but if you want to read someone's snark on this and other wedding announcements from the NYT, check out Veiled Conceit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wish I knew this three years ago...

Rene Rancourt is available to sing at wedding receptions. Where was this information before our wedding?

Chicago, Lincoln

From an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune:

The opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield this month can become the launch for an initiative to change the name of Illinois to that of the State of Abraham Lincoln.

I'm serious.

Few in the world know what or where Illinois is. Some have heard of Chicago. Yet the world knows Abraham Lincoln--the Great Emancipator; the rock who kept our Union of diverse peoples from fragmenting; the homespun, virtuous, self-educated man of the heartland; a hero, indeed, to all in the world who yearn to be free.

In contrast, our citizens have never really resonated to "Illinois," the name of a feckless confederation of tribes of so-called superior men, who in fact fled time and again--and indeed out of our state--before smaller bands of raiding Iroquois.

Chicago, Lincoln?
University of Lincoln Fighing Abrahams?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ashburnham+Tornado = UFOOOOOOs!!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!

So while I was posting the report of our hike Sunday, I googled the words "Asburnham tornado" in an attempt to find out if a tornado or some other reported event could have casued those trees to come down. While I didn't find anything like that, I did come across a couple of references to a woman who claims she was abducted by UFO's in Ashburnham in 1967.

For instance, if you click this link and hit Ctrl-F, then type "Ashburnham" in the dialog box, you will get to read a version of the account. Apparently this is a particularly famous UFO story, but since I don't run in those circles (or crop circles for that matter) this is the first I've heard of it.

I don't know which I think is crazier, that UFOs have been scooping people off the streets of Ashburnham, or that the site to which I've linked hypothesizes that people who have abduction fantasies are actually reliving their prenatal or birth experiences...

Sunday Hike -- Midstate Trail: Camp Winnekeag to Westminster State Forest

After 6 1/2 miles on Saturday, Michelle and I decided to take advantage of a second day of perfect weather (upper 60s, no clouds, no wind) and continued down the Midstate Trail from Camp Winnekeag.

From the parking lot at the camp, the first quarter mile or so follows town roads. Once we left the pavement for the woods, the next mile was a gradual incline up to the summit of Mt. Hunger. The path was dry and well marked, so we were able to hike fairly quickly. The hike to the top of the mountain was deceiving, since there were two or three false peaks and we haven't yet figured out how to judge our distance by our speed.

About three quarters of the way to the summit, we passed two couples with small children who had stopped at a small pond to listen to the peepers. They would be the only people (but not the only peepers) we would meet on the six-plus miles of hiking today. Just short of the summit is a lookout to the north, with a good view of Stodge Meadow Pond and Mt. Watatic (photo below).

In defiance of the mountain, we ate.

The trail continued along a ridgeline and through a sparsely forested area, including one grove where nearly all of the trees had been sheared off about 8-10 feet off the ground. It looked like there might have been a tornado or a microburst in that area at some time. The trail was dry and a bit slick in spots, due to the beech leaves that covered the path.

The trail dropped stteply crossed a road and through a pasture, and the terrain became much more difficult to navigate because of standing water in many spots. It became particularly challenging as we atempted to cross Brown Brook. While the crossing is probably easy in the late summer when the water is down, you can see by the picture below that it is difficult to pick out a crossing point this time of year.

We hiked nearly a mile along an old cart path to Phillips Brook and route 12, where we stopped for a rest. The path continued up a fairly steep hill (which was not evident on the map, we were expecting a fairly flat hike for the last two miles) and through some fairly dense forest. Along these two miles, we saw the most wildlife we have seen yet along the trail, with a red squirrel, a downy woodpecker, four wild turkeys, and a bird that we think was a pheasant.

Once we reached Westminster State Forest, we hiked out the Blue Trail about 1/4 mile to our other vehicle.

Total Hike: 6.4 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 11.6 miles.
Total summer to date: 18.5 miles.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Saturday Hike -- Midstate Trail: N.H. to Camp Winnekeag

Michelle and I have decided to hike the entire 94-mile length of the Midstate Trail which runs from the New Hampshire state line to the Rhode Island state line. Our plan is to hike it in six or seven mile stretches each weekend over the course of the spring and summer. We hoped to start last weekend, but because of the heavy rains the week before, we decided to put it off a week and hiked near Quabbin Reservoir instead (see entry dated April 5).

Unfortunately, there isn't a parking area at the N.H. state line trail head, so we needed to hike in over a mile to reach the northern terminus of the trail. We parked at the parking area on rte. 119 and hiked the State Line Trail up to that point. The State Line Trail traverses a line that bypasses Mt. Watatic and runs more or less directly to the, um...state line (shocking!).

The photo below is of Michelle and I at the trail head, which is marked by a granite monument in the stonewall. I believe the stone pillar marked "A&A Mass 1894" marks the boundaries between New Hampshire to the north, Ashburnham to the southwest, and Ashby to the southeast.

From the state line, we hiked south along a fairly well worn trail which carries both the Midstate Trail and the Wapack Trail (which runs from the parking area we used north for 27 miles over a number of peaks to Greenfield, N.H.). The trail was pretty wet in a number of spots and there was still some snow in areas that were protected from the sun. There was melting ice hidden underneath the surface of the trail in some spots, which occasionally caused the trail to crater five or six inches under our feet. The trail heads over Nutting Hill to the top of Mt. Watatic, and is quite gradual as it approaches from the north.

Nutting Hill offers unobstructed views to the east and southeast as far as Boston, while Mt. Watatic offers a nearly 360 degree overlook, with Boston visible to the southeast and Mt. Wachusett visible to the south. Only the view toward Mt. Monadnock to the northwest is obstructed by trees. The photo below looks to the south and includes Stodge Meadow Pond and Mt. Wachusett.

Surprisingly, we met few people at the summit of Mt. Watatic. Watatic is usually one of the more crowded peaks in Massachusetts. We only saw a dozen or so people at the top and along the trail to the summit. The hike down the west side was much more steep that our loop to the top of the mountain, although switchbacks have been cut to make the trek easier.

After stopping at the car for lunch, we continued south another 2.5 miles to Camp Winnekeag where we had parked our other vehicle. The hike to Winnekeag was over easier terrain, although we did cross the peaks of both Fisher Hill and Blueberry Hill along the path. The trail was significantly drier, and there was much less snow and ice aong the way. This stretch was also much more secluded than the first, as we only passed two other hikers along the route.

Total hike: 6.6 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 5.4 miles.
Total summer to date: 11.9 miles.

Friday, April 8, 2005

A columnist ahead of his time

In Sunday's Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom wrote a column about Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, two former players at Michigan State University who went out of their way to go to Indianapolis to support their alma mater at MSU's Final Four game on Saturday night. In part, he wrote:

They sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater. They were teammates in the magical 2000 season, when the Spartans won it all. Both now play in the NBA, Richardson for Golden State, Cleaves for Seattle.

And both made it a point to fly in from wherever they were in their professional schedule just to sit together Saturday. Richardson, who earns millions, flew by private plane. Cleaves, who's on his fourth team in five years, bought a ticket and flew commercial.
Problem is, neither player was actually in St. Louis for the game. In fact, they were both in Oakland for the game between Golden State and Seattle Sunday afternoon.

Obviously, there are a lot of problems with the column and these paragraphs in particular. They weren't in the stands, weren't in their MSU clothing, didn't take any planes, and most likely weren't sitting together (although they may have been, since Saturday was on off day for both players and they were playing each other the next night).

Albom's deadline for his Sunday column was Friday night, so he wrote the column a full 24 hours before the game was to take place, and added items he expected to be true based on coversations he'd had with the two players earlier in the week, but couldn't verify until after the deadline.

Now Mitch--who is one of the most highly honored and awarded columnists in the country--has apologized (although he tries to take his editors down with him), the publisher has ordered an investigation, and the story is becoming a big deal in journalism circles.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

News links

A couple of news links I like:

Sploid is a news site done in the style of a London tabloid.

Todays Front Pages at has images of hundreds of front pages from around the country and the globe, updated each morning.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005


Apparently, Republican Texas senator John Cornyn thinks judges who are victims of violence had it coming:

"It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. [Sometimes], the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people.

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence..."

On another note, if this isn't the craziest thing you've read in a while (via Romanesko)...

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Sunday Hike -- Dana

For the first hike of the spring, Michelle and I decided to head out to the Quabbin Reservoir and hike out to the former town of Dana, which was razed in 1938 to make way for the reservoir. The town, however, is not under water, and it is about a two mile hike in from the closest gate at the reservation. The picture above is what the center of town looks like today, 67 years after the townspeople were forces out of their homes. This site includes more information on Dana.

While none of the buildings remain, there are still foundations and cellar holes along the road into town, and around the town common. While most of them were built with field stones, one near the town common included a terrace that was lined with these smaller stones.

From the center of town, we continued another 3/4 mile southwest in hopes of finding an old plane wreck that is out in the woods south of the road. I found it once when I was walking out here about 15 years ago on a tip from David Knott, but wasn't able to locate it today. We ended up stopping at an inlet where we saw a half dozen or so wood ducks and a pair of blue herons. Earlier, we had been joined by a couple of hawks that circled us quite close to the ground while we were in town.

The trail head is located at gate 40 on rte 32A, about 6 miles north of Hardwick Center. Total Distance Hiked: 5.3 miles.

Friday, April 1, 2005

She Forced a Nation to Debate Death

At least that's what the Beaver Count Times newspaper of Pennsylvania would have you to believe. Oh, and the "she" we're talking about is Terry Schiavo. Not Mother Teresa or Sandra Day O'Connor, or Margaet Thatcher, or Eleanor Roosevelt or Joan of Arc. Terry Schiavo. Looking at this front page from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, you would think that a great American figure had passed.

Terry Schiavo didn't force anyone to do anything, and she certainly didn't have anything to do with the media creation that has been "The Terry Schiavo Case" (insert flashy graphics and dark music here). This story has been wholly a creation of a media that is starved for emotional stories and a political process that knows how to get the media all fired up about nothing. The parents of Terry Schiavo were doing everything they could to prolong their daughter's life and that's their prerogative (though not their right). I feel for them. But this is not a story and never was. Just one time, I'd like the media to say "you know, we have more pressing issues to cover than one family's drama," and take on a real issue.

But real issues don't sell newspapers, don't bring ratings, and don't get the folks to stay with the newscast once Dr. Phil signs off, which is why reporters will continue to go to Florida and put Jesse Jackson and Randall Terry on TV even though they don't care one ounce about Terry Schiavo.

If you look closely at those front pages, you'll also notice that the pope is near death. If Terry Schiavo's death is worth this much coverage, how much ink should the pope's passing get to put that event in proper context? Is there a front page large enough to deal with that?

Of course, we could all be in South Carolina, where the big news was that the University of South Carolina won the NIT. Congratulations. You're #65. At least you weren't forced to debate death.


No Drumlins Copyright © 2009 Premium Blogger Dashboard Designed by SAER