Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012
Going out and tagging a Christmas tree is a fun event and one that we tried for the first time just last year. We had a great time as a family and I wrote about it here. This year didn’t go so smoothly since Tonry Farm, which is where we tagged last year and were very happy with, was not allowing tagging in an effort to help replenish their inventory. Due to this, we decided to try a tree farm in Newmarket which was right up the street. We figured it was nice to have a tree farm so close and would be a nice place to start a traditional tagging trip to. Unfortunately, we were very unhappy with this tree farm. Each tree looked exactly the same (cone shaped, no space in between branches, very fragile limbs). Also, after stepping in dog poop at least two times, Jill and I decided this was not the place for us!
As I’ve explained on this blog last year, I love vintage looking trees. If you look at a spruce tree in the White Mountains, they are not uniformly shaped and cookie cutter like. Instead, they have character. They have space between the branches which are great for hanging decorations. They have wild branches that poke way out like wild arms. Most of all, their branches are very sturdy and firm, as they have not been trimmed, and trimmed…and trimmed, so they can support heavy decorations without bending way over and hitting the floor. Finding a place that sells trees like this is nearly impossible now a day without heading into the woods for a natural tree.
In late November, Jill got a tip from a co-worker (who also likes these types of natural trees) that there was a place on route 108 in Newfields, NH behind J.M. Hayden Equipment. We decided to drive down there a couple weekends back, after a nice dusting of snow. We found trees after driving around for a bit, out in fields that were way off the main road. We had a difficult time finding anyone who was manning the farm, but soon a lady came out and told us we could take whatever we wanted. We just needed to come back to pay. I thought that sounded good, so we were off.
Our Searl Family Christmas Tree, as we found it in the field
Lylah, having fun with Christmas Trees!
Me, cutting it down!
Once we got out in the farm, it was amazing. All of the trees looked like they had grown in the wild. None of them were trimmed like cookie cutter trees, and I loved it. We found the perfect Searl Family Christmas Tree pretty quickly and I cut it down. Once I had it loaded in the back of the truck, I drove up to the house, handed the lady $40 through my driver’s side window (love the drive through service) and told her we’d be back again next year!
We decorated it the way we always do, lighting it with white lights and stringing popcorn and cranberries. We were able to use most of our decorations this year as the spacing between the branches allowed for us to put bulbs all the way in toward the trunk of the tree. We topped it off with an aluminum foil star and placed my mother’s homemade, quilted skirt at the base. By far, this is my favorite Searl Family Christmas Tree!
Our tree prior to decorations!
Behold, the 2012, Searl Family Christmas Tree!!!
So what are some of your favorite Christmas decorations and traditions surrounding your Christmas tree? Comment here and let me know. I’m always looking for more ways to make this tree even better!
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Recently, I was introduced to a website that is dedicated to providing products which celebrates our beautiful surroundings in New England as well as promotes being active while enjoying outdoor activities. They sell different gear and apparel (tees, hoodies, koozies, sunglasses, etc.) and will soon be featuring prints and paintings as well. The name of the site is also very catchy…Live Free and Fly!!!
Live Free and Fly was founded in the summer of 2010 by Matt and Allison, and was a result of their love for doing outdoor activities (skiing, hiking, boarding, etc.) in the Northeast. They wanted to capture the beauty of the outdoors and make it into a lifestyle for their customers. Their motto is, "We change with the seasons, move with the elevation, and live in the moment". It is certainly a catchy motto and one that a New England outdoors-man will connect with!
Live Free and Fly Homepage
One of the most interesting things that I’ve learned about their designs is that they are all unique and created by Matt and Allison. In fact, most of them are inspired by actual photos of themselves or friends while engaging in outdoor activities. Even the snowboarder doing a back flip is a friend of theirs, that was captured in mid-flight!
Snowboarder back flipping as described above! - Image taken from Live Free and Fly
Matt and Allison were kind enough to donate three tee-shirts and a koozie for a giveaway opportunity. All you need to do to win one of these great items is to comment on Live Free and Hike’s Facebook posting regarding these items and tell us what your favorite outdoor, New England sport is! I'll choose four of your comments using Random.org and give out the tees and koozie to those lucky winners! I will draw the winners on December 12th.
Three Shirts and One Koozie for Giveaway!
Please stop by Live Free and Fly’s website and check out what they have to offer. Their website isn’t the only place you can find these awesome products either. You can also find their products at Warner’s Cards & Gifts in Porstmouth, NH, The Brick Store in Bath, NH and Lahout’s Country Clothing & Ski Shop in Littleton, NH. They will also be at the Holiday Craft Festival in Rockingham Park (Salem, NH) on December 7th – 9th.
You can visit Live Free and Fly at their website address: www.livefreeandfly.com
You can also like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/livefreeandfly
Finally, Live Free and Fly Tweets: @LiveFreeAndFly
Monday, November 26, 2012
It’s that time of year again, when you get out the boot care products, a hair dryer and a mason jar filled with a good brew. If you have leather boots, you’re going to want to weatherproof them for the winter hiking months. Depending on how you do this, it may also help condition the boot’s leather as well. Here’s a post from a few years back showing exactly how I go about weatherproofing my leather boots. Enjoy…the beer, and the reading too!
Monday, November 19, 2012
It's funny how one can go from hiking once a weekend to hiking once ever six months. What can cause such a dramatic change in activity you ask? Well, for me it has been a baby and a new house (justified reasons in my opinion). The last time I hiked was back in May, up Black Cap Mountain. Since I had a few PTO days coming up at work, and the weather looked halfway decent in the Whites, I figured it was time to get out on the trail again...and I made Jill come with me!
We dropped the baby off at school early and headed up to Conway to tackle Peaked Mountain. I feel the smaller mountains in the Green Hills Preserve (like Black Cap and Peaked) are highly underrated. Ever since our hike up Black Cap, Jill and I have wanted to explore other mountains in the range like Peaked and Middle. For little effort, you get great views at the summit. Also, since we don't hike as often, the smaller peaks seem to be enough of a workout for us these days.
We parked at the Pudding Pond Conservation Area parking lot, just off from Thompson Road. From the parking area, there's a quick 0.2 mile jaunt up a dirt road to a kiosk with maps and a trail log. We hung a left and headed up the Pudding Pond Trail toward Peaked Mountain.
Gate at the Trailhead
We quickly headed across some power lines and through an old snow barrier fence onto the main trail. Right away, I noticed a lot of leaves...a LOT of leaves. It was easy to tell that this was a beach tree forest since most of the fallen leaves were, yes, you guessed it, beach tree leaves!
Power Lines we Crossed on the Trail
It was cold heading down the trail early, so there was still frost on the ground. The tricky part was, it was covered by the leaves, so it created pretty slippery conditions. With the frost, leaves and not being able to see rocks and roots because of the leaves, the hiking was slow...which is always fine with me!
Leaf Covered Forest at the Peaked/Middle Mountain Trail Junction
After a half mile on the Pudding Pond Trail, we hit a fork where the Middle Mountain Trail went to the right and the Peaked Mountain Trail veered left. Due to time constraints we were on, we opted for the shortest distance to get to Peaked Mountain, which was via the Middle Mountain Trail (sounds counter intuitive, right???), so we headed right. Just past this junction on the left, there was an old, metal structure that had some bullet holes in it. It also had a cutout with a hinge on it which would make one believe there may have been a door on it at one time. My guess is that it was an old stove or something like that...who knows! Trail garbage, but cool nonetheless!
Metal Structure on Side of Trail
Jill stopped to take a break on a boulder on the side of the trail. I noticed holes in the side of it as shown below. The holes didn't look man made to me. I assume their creation had something to do with "glacial" activity from many, many...many years ago. If anyone knows, please comment and let me know!
Boulder with Holes
After 0.6 miles on the Middle Mountain Trail, we came to another junction where the Peaked Mountain Connector entered on the left. We opted to take this trail and it climbed moderately 0.3 miles until it intersected the Peaked Mountain Trail, just 0.2 miles below the summit. Before heading up the Connector, I noticed a fairly fresh woodpecker hole in a rotten tree trunk (see below).
On the Peaked Mountain Connector, there were nice, small arrow signs. They were green and yellow and helped mark the trail. Typically, each one was accompanied by an orange blaze as well. I thought they were a nice touch and made following the trail easy. I did notice they were made out of plastic instead of metal, obviously so they won't rust and are most likely more affordable. I'm still a firm believer that all trail signs should either be wood or metal with porcelain covering. This is because I love the historical signs!
An interesting feature to note was on the left of the trail, just before you reach the Peaked Mountain Trail, there is a rather large vernal pool. It didn't seem like runoff drainage, but instead like a mini-pond. I thought it was neat and figured I'd mention it.
Vernal Pool on the Peaked Mountain Connector Trail
Once we hit the Peaked Mountain Trail, we went from a hardwood forest (kind of ugly, gray trees, no leaves, etc.) to a pine forest (red pine a believe). It was very nice. The trail became somewhat ledgy at this point as well. It was obvious that we were nearing the summit.
It was at this point that we saw the only wildlife of the the trip. We saw a very fat red squirrel. I'm not a big fan of reds, as they are pretty much bullies. If you have ever noticed, if there red squirrels around, typically, there are no gray squirrels. That's because the reds are more aggressive and chase them off from their territory. Also, we saw some hawks circling above which is pretty common in New Hampshire.
We finally hit the summit, which was pretty small, but very nice and opened. It had restricted views to the north, but great, open views to the south and east! There was also a summit sign, which I'm a big fan of. I think all summits should have summit signs (wooden ones of course). The few summits I've seen with signs definitely standout (like Moosilauke). Also, and I shouldn't admit this, there have been some mountains, early in my hiking career, where I thought I was on the summit, but was actually on a false one! A sign would have helped me realize this!
Looking over the valley, to Chocorua
View over to Black Cap Mountain
View over to Middle Mountain
Restricted views over to Cranmore and Kearsarge-North
The hike down was slower than I would have liked. The leaves were ankle deep and the hidden frost, rocks and roots were brutal. I think the trail maintainers need to get their leaf blowers out ASAP! (Just kidding)
After our hike, we had a little time so we decided to head up to Jackson, our favorite home away from home! We stopped at the Backcountry Bakery and Cafe for coffee and hot chocolate. It was a great hike and a great day in the Whites!
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
John Stark was a New Hampshire native and was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1728. When he was eight, his family moved to Derryfield, which is now the great city of Manchester, NH. As a young boy, he spent a lot of time in the woods, as he was an avid hunter and trapper. On one of his hunting trips near the Pemigewasset River, he was actually taken prisoner by Abenaki Indians and brought back to their homeland in Canada. Stark unarmed one of his guards and attacked a number of other guards while trying to escape. The attempt didn’t work, but the chief of the tribe was so impressed by his courage that they adopted him into the tribe. He later returned home to New Hampshire after a ransom was paid.
Stark’s military carrier was as exciting has his childhood and he is known to be one of New Hampshire’s most historical heroes. He served in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. During the American Revolution, he served in many famous battles such as the Battle Bunker Hill, Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Bennington, where his valor earned him the title, “Hero of Bennington”.
His military carrier came to an end in 1783 and he retired with a rank of Major General (two stars). He, unlike most famous generals of the Revolutionary War, went back home to New Hampshire and got out of the public line light. I can only think that he, like myself, wanted to be away from the hustle and bustle of politics and the rat race, as it existed back then.
Later in life, when Stark was 81 years old (1809), he was invited to a reunion for the Battle of Bennington veterans. Being the “hero” of the battle, his presence was mandatory. Unfortunately, he was ill and could not attend. Instead, he sent along a letter for his army buddies. In that letter, a toast was included. I can only imagine hearing it read for the first time holding up a glass:
“Live Free or Die: Death is not the Worst of Evils”
As you all know, the beginning portion of that toast became this great State’s motto. It was put in place to remind people how valuable freedom is, and that in order to truly live, freedom is essential. Without freedom, the wonderful things that we all enjoy and take for granted everyday like hiking with our family and friends, being able to enjoy the wonderful views from atop Mount Chocorua or just reading nature blogs may not be possible.
Today is Election Day. I urge all my readers to go out to the polls and vote, no matter how long the lines are. It’s our duty as American citizens to preserve this freedom for our younger generation. Happy Election Day everyone, from Live Free and Hike!
Monday, October 15, 2012
Do you ever notice old stone walls that seem to pop up in the middle of the woods? I’m sure you have, especially if you live in New England. It seems you can’t cross through a small forest without stumbling across one (no pun intended). Or, drive through a quaint, historical town without finding at least one road that has old stone walls lining the shoulders. Do you ever think about where these stone walls came from and who may have built them? This always crosses my mind when I find them.
Stone walls in New England are very abundant. In some cases, they are hundreds of years old and were constructed using very primitive methods, such as oxen to drag the stones and some sort of lever bars to move them. Today, people build stone walls to create aesthetic boundaries and decoration. However, back when these older, historical structures were created, they were built mostly to make use of the stones instead the need for a wall.
New England has very rugged and rocky terrain. When the glaciers rolled across the Appalachian Mountains, they deposited stones and rocks of all sizes across the region. When settlers came to New England, they slowly created farmlands and giant fields, many more than exist today. These rocks and stones got plowed to the surface on a regular basis and were nicknamed “field” stones. A farmer had few uses for these rocks. They used them for structures such as foundations, chimney and smoking structures and dug well walls. There were only so many stones that were needed for these necessary items, so the excess stones were used to make stone walls. Many farmers only wanted to drag these stones to just outside the field boundaries as it was pretty laborious work, so many stonewalls signify the edges of an old field…most likely now a full-fledged forest.
I’ve always said I wanted a house that had old stone walls on the property. My new house does have the remnants of an old stone wall on it from the old farm and orchard that used to reside on the property before they built my house. I’m now trying to continue that stone wall further down my property. I’ve been collecting stones, digging them up outback…which I found to be very hard work. I’ve found that making sure it looks good is like playing with a jigsaw puzzle. Here are a few shots of the wall so far. Let me know what you think.
The start of my stone wall.
My stone wall as of recently. It's coming up along well.
Another shot of my stone wall in the works.
An old stone wall on my property line.
A segment of an old farm stone wall left on my property which is now part of my landscaping.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Growing up, woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, could always be found on my parent's property. Like most people, they saw them as a menacing creatures. Over-sized rodents that ate the buds off from their flowers and stole their vegetables from the garden before they were ripe enough to pick. I'm not sure why, but I have a much different view on woodchucks. I love watching them roam the ground for greens to eat. I always said if there was a woodchuck living on my property, I would leave it alone and hope that it would come back every season. Kind of keep it as an unofficial "pet" if you will...not really keeping it, just letting it live on my property. Well, we bought a house this past August and we have a woodchuck! We've named him Grover. Lylah loves to watch it eat. Here's a few shots...they aren't that great because they were taken through my window screen.
Grover, poking his head up in the overgrown grass!
Grover, running for cover as something spooked him.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Jill and I have been saying for a while that we wanted to try kayaking. We see kayaks on the roofs of cars all the time. It seems as though everyone has one nowadays. Also, I've read a lot of blogs with trip reports regarding kayaking and it looks like so much fun. So, we woke up today and decided to give it a shot.
We rented our kayaks at the Mountain Road Trading Post in Raymond, NH which is just a mile form the Pawtuckaway State Park's main entrance. The price for renting a kayak for a half day was $25 per kayak and that included paddles and life vests. The friendly people there even helped me load them. Once they were secured in the bed of my truck, we headed to the Pawtuckaway State Park canoe launch.
Getting into the kayak was a different experience. Right off, it didn't feel too stable. As I paddled, I felt like the kayak was going to flip on me. However, I think that was just initial uneasiness and not knowing what to expect. After paddling around for just 5 minutes or so, the feeling of instability went away completely.
Jill, "threading the needle" between two islands
Near the canoe launch, a duck, standing on one leg, watched as we got acclimated to this new activity. We stuck by close to the canoe launch first and slowly ventured out. We circled around a couple small islands and caught a view of the main beach as well as Mount Pawtuckaway's South Peak. I thought I could see the fire tower on the top of the mountain, but really couldn't make it out by eye. I tried to zoom in with my camera, but still couldn't make it out in the view finder. However, after dumping the photos on my computer, it's clear it was in fact the fire tower.
Our spectator while trying to learn to kayak!
The main beach, pretty full!
Mount Pawtuckaway's South Peak, with the fire tower just below the arrow
A zoomed in photo of the fire tower on the mountain in the previous photo
The afternoon seemed to go by quickly as we were having a blast paddling around. We decided to paddle down to one last cove before heading back. As we got closer, we were able to make out a very tall bird standing on a rock. It was a Great Blue Heron. These birds are a treat to get a view of. They look very prehistoric and seem to fly away whenever I get close to them in swamps or rivers. This time, I decided to head in very, very slowly and sort of drift over to him. I was able to get within 20 feet or so and got a very nice shot of him. I figured 20 feet was close enough and didn't want to invade his space any further, so I turned at that point. As I put a small distance between us, he must have decided he had seen enough of me too. He let out a huge "crow like" sound and took off, sweeping close to the water. It certainly surprised me and made me jump.
The money shot of the day, a closeup photo of a Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Herons flying low to the lake (circled)
Back at the shore, Jill and I talked about how great of a time we had. After this wonderful outing, don't be surprised if there's a kayak purchase in our near future!