Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Foliage is for Trail Running!

  Ah, the rainy season of foliage has begun.  The foggy weather is a bummer for the leaf peepers, but for the trail runners and mountain bikers, this season is HEAVEN!  Beautifully colored leaves litter the trails, except for a tire-wide stripe marking the best line through the rocks and roots.  I do love mountain biking, but I find that while the colors are in the trees it is much safer for me to trail run - this is because I spend too much time looking around at the beautiful trees rather than on the rough surface below.  I have fallen off my bike way too many times already during foliage; so I'll just stick to running until all the leaves are down and the trees are naked. 

I'm not upset though - the little bit of moisture has made the ground just a little bit smushy, which is perfect for my Vibram FiveFingers SPRINT!  You know, those wierd running shoes with separate spaces for all your toes.  I wear the Sprints and have had such a wonderful time playing in the woods!  There is nothing better than feeling the mud ooze up between your toes.  It reminds me walking across the beach to get my canoe into the water and happy thoughts just creep up everywhere.  Plus, my feet and calves have gotten so much stronger - I am definately going to have a better edge during the upcoming ski season  :)  But my absolute favorite part of foliage Trail Runs: you can hear the red, yellow & brown leaves crunch under your feet when you're running.  What a beautiful season for trail running!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Just Keep Paddling

Since I am blessed with a lot of free time in the summer, I have the good fortune of returning to my childhood stomping grounds and participating the Bear Mountain Canoe Regatta, sponsored by the American Canoe Association.  This is a great event that has been around for decades and something that I have participated in since I first held a paddle.  As you can see, our team is fairly serious, in so much as that we all have matching shirts and smiles!  Most of our kids begin paddling as soon as they pass our waterfront test and it's all paddles and canoes from then on! 
2010 Camp K-20 Canoe Team

Our team focuses on a combination of fun and responsibility - once our paddlers reach the age of fourteen, they can participate by becoming a Coach-in-Training, working with the younger paddlers on their skills.  But paddlers come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  My sister and her two-man partner made a return appearance this year, at the ripe old age of almost 30.  And I make sure that all the moms and dads are ready when the 18 & Over age group comes up.  It used to be that I would feel like I was forcing these parents to paddle, but something has definately changed at regatta.  Now I have parents asking me when the their race is, just like they did when they were campers.  Sometimes the regatta calls and you just have to paddle. 

Dock Dogs!!

For the first time this year, the official DockDogs Competition came to Killington - and it has turned out to be one of the best events of the summer!  It was a great mix of professional athletes, local dogs and the old dogs who were just there for the social atmosphere.  Aaron & I followed Vespi around for a couple of hours as she sniffed her way through the crowd that was already over-flowing the bandstand in its first year!  She made tons of new friends, sniffed butts with some old ones, and came home with a big bag of homemade treats that would make any pastrry chef jealous  :)
Photo Credit: Chandler Burgess
The object of the game is to get your dog to jump as far as possible off of a running platform that is two feet above the water, the world record being over 28 FEET!  Since Vespi won't even jump off the dock, it was amazing to see these dogs not even flinch at jumping 13-16 feet.  One of Vespi's boyfriends, Sully, was competiting for the first time and ended up jumping over 13 feet, while our neighbor's dog, Finn, ended up with 2nd place in the Junior Division.  You should have seen how proud they were of his ribbon!  Sent the photo all around to their friends before the event had even ended  :)

All in all, I think that DockDogs might very well turn out to be one of the highlights of the Killington summer event schedule.  If you missed it this year, I would very much recommend that you add this to your list - and start training with your dog now just for a chance to participate!  Set to the backdrop of the beautiful mountains with Ozzy Ozbourne blaring out of the speakers, this is definately a Killington friendly event - at what other dog show do you get offered jello shots on a regular basis?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Changing Winds

Our friend, Ben, came over the other morning for no reason whatsoever, and had the most exciting news to share.  While picking up his breakfast at the Phat Italian, summer was referred to numerous times in the past tense.  Now that may frighten some flatlanders or city dwellers with fears of preparations for the cold months ahead, but here news of Fall's arrival brings smiles of great anticipation for the months ahead.  Local folks start sneaking peaks at their skis and boards, shaking out the winter jackets and digging deep into the closet to find where those ski socks went.  It's a time of anticipation and questions, like When will the mountian open?  When is the first snowfall?
Killington Hay Festival:
A Benefit for the National Audobon Society
But what is it exactly that tells us that Fall is upon us and the months of screaming children are behind us?  For some it's that new-age American habit of throwing the pigskin.  For my dad, it's analyzing the final games before post-season baseball begins.  My sister, who lives in NY, had started talking about the new fall fashions and is pulling out her leather knee-high boots, I'm sure.  And for my mother, it's time to finish up your fall needlepoint and break into the christmas thread. 

Up on the mountain, we have other ways of telling time.  While walking Vespi the other day, I heard someone explain that the Killington Classic marked the beginning of fall and the end of the summer motorcycle season.  The Killington Hay Festival covers a good month from Labor Day to Columbus Day as we watch the leaves turn their beautful harvest colors.  One of my favorites are the heirloom tomatoes which seem to be in every farmer's market this time of year. 

But for skiers & riders, fall is all about the anticipation of the powdery winter months.  There are vigorous discussions about probably snowfall, changes to the mountain and debates about the resort's opening policices.  The harvest comes in and the serious dry-land training begins.  We know it's fall because dead leaves cover the ground - except for those worn paths on the mountain biking trails  :)  Rock climbers in dark colored hoodies litter Deer Leap, basking in the warm rays of the sun while they try to keep their fingers warm.  And hikers start carrying heavier packs, including hats, gloves & a warm fleece for the cool trip downhill.  Aaron will be checking the weather everyday to determine if tonight we should be sleeping at the Peak in order to catch the first snowfall.  And then, "let the wild rumpus start."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Echo Woods!

Some trails at Killington are possessed by with a magical & mystical power. These are the trails where your soul seems to float just above the wide open groomers. Or perhaps you find magic in a trail so rarely open that any trip down without a scratch in your skis must have been glorious. For some, it's that magnificent bump run where survival is somehow translated into excellence. But there is one trail at Killington that has been my favorite since the beginning: the twisty turny tree trails of Echo Woods.

Lost in Echo Woods: 20 Years Later!
It would all begin with the begging at the top of Roundabout. "Please, Please?" we would whine at the top of our lungs.  Coach would eventually give in and we quickly found ourselves bopping down something that resembled a combination mogul & bobsled run that was perfect only for those with the right amount of energy and motivation. This was the trail toward the best chairlift in the entire world: The South Ridge Triple. With eyes closed and arms held high, we would giggle in anticipation of the "Sudden Turns Ahead" and scream into the wind as we were jerked like rag dolls around the bullwheel. And then the singing would begin. From the Littlest Worm to Beauty & the Beast to Madonna, it didn't matter. There we would be, chair after chair of screaming children, using all our energy to keep from freezing to death in the harsh winds of the exposed South Ridge.

The suffering was always worth it. From the top of the lift straight down to Echo Woods we would slide, working on the hippest stease of the day: spraying snow. But pretty soon, all we could hear was each other screaming as someone over there crashed into a bush whereas someone over there was thrown out of the track. A third would have lost their ski in the snow and was trying to simultaneously dig and avoid getting skied over while another was worried if they had gotten too far from the group. A five-child pile up was a commen site. You would come hard around a corner only to be the latest victim in a giggling tangle of arms, legs, skis & poles. Ah, the mountain is a wonderful place when you're young.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our New Fridge

After three months of trying to make ice and coming up with only water, we finally realized that our refrigerator was on its's last legs.  After months of denial, we began the slow process of saving up money to replace it.  We moved the rice milk, the tofu and eggs into the freezer, where we hoped they would have at least a fighting chance of survival.  It really was a sad state of affairs as we listened to our fridge make noises that I thought could only come from an angry bear as it fought for its life.  By early September we had succeeded in saving up the couple hundred dollars required to purchase the absolutely cheapest energy saver fridge on the market.  Then we made the fortuitous mistake of walking into Dick's Sporting Goods one beautiful summer day. 

Paddling Chittenden Reservoir toward Pico Mountain
We left Dick's that day with a canoe!!  Made of the same material as cheap sit-on-top kayaks, our hideously blue canoe was absolutely perfect.  The sales guy made the mistake of dropping the boat while trying to remove it from the racks and it was already on sale.  For us, there really was no question here as to whether or not we would purchase our first Mad River Canoe.  In about thirty minutes (with a little haggling) we left the store with a set of straps and a big plastic boat, headed home to grab our life jackets and paddles, and drove straight to the Chittendon Reservoir.  Immediately upon launching, I knew we had made the right decision.  I could feel the boat floating underneath me on the calm water as Vespi bounced from gunnel to gunnel trying to figure out where puppies would sit.  After about an hour, she finally settled in and found her place in the boat, her head on my shoulder, looking out over the water with wonderment at the beauty of it all. 

Since that wonderful day, we spent the remainder of the summer exploring all the lakes and ponds that the Killington region had to offer.  We found mini-reservoirs with apple orchard shorelines and little coves where sunbathing was clothing optional.  Hours have been spent fishing and reading as we floated along over the acres of water filled with mountain runoff.  There has never been a single moment that either of us have second guessed our decision to forgo the fridge and instead purchase a doorway to the peace and quiet of the cruising on flatwater. 

Ride the Beast Naked: Mountain Biking at Killington in the Summer

“Weave left, right, now around that big rock - don’t look at the big rock - now the root, root, push down, don’t slip, tilt the bike, root, rock, around that branch, pull up, move left…whew, wait - ”

I was amazed at how fast these thoughts came flying through my head as I headed down Trail 7, one of the Black Diamond Trails at Killington Resort. I was riding with my friend, Will, who was visiting from Boston. Earlier, we had reintroduced his 17-year old niece to the sport and were excited to spend some time riding hard on the more difficult terrain. Moving fast through the rocky, off-camber sections that traverse through Patsy’s, I was definitely glad we had spent the morning warming up on the easier trails. Dropping right down the Rock Garden on Double Black 7, a gnarly section of the Gravity East Race Series Downhill course, would definitely not have been a great way to begin my season.

Berm Track on Trail 7: Killington Resort
If you’ve ever enjoyed Killington on your board or skis, whether ripping through the woods or flying down Cruise Control, then you have got to try Downhill Mountain Biking. Just riding in the gondola is enough to make the skier or rider in you smile with anticipation. You’ve already felt the rush of the cold winter wind squealing through your goggles as you cruise down the Beast. Downhill Mountain Biking bring back all the same excitement - without the fluffy white stuff to protect you from the rocks, roots and gravel waiting to claim their next unsuspecting victim. But that’s why we all look like we could claim victory on American Gladiators - you don’t dress for the ride, you dress for the fall. Shin guards, Full-Face Helmets, Goggles and Gloves are the minimum recommended requirements when riding what looks like motor-less dirtbike down 2000 vertical feet. You’ll even see the more committed rider wearing full chest, shoulder and spine protectors, just in case.

That’s why the shop guys spend a good chunk of time lecturing everybody that rents. It doesn’t matter whether you want to hear it or not. As you come around the first turn of loose gravel, your eyes will pop out of your head as the bike wiggles underneath you. Only then will you wish that you’d paid more attention to what the rental guy was lecturing you about when he handed you the bike. But you keep riding, mostly because it would be embarrassing to hike back up, and then something wonderful happens. Maybe it was in the woods at the end of Green 2, pounding the rocky drops on Blue 3 or even the mini jumps on Blue 24; but about halfway down, a big smile reaches your eyes as you realize, “Hey, THIS IS AWESOME!” And then it hits you - you’re really not good at this yet, and maybe - just maybe - you should slow down! Instead, you smile and head to the K1 for one more run .