Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gearing Up For My First 5K!

So, I'm getting excited because my first 5K is right around the corner. I've been training for a few weeks now and have transformed myself from a total couch potato to a slightly more athletic couch potato. Just this past weekend, I hit the 5K mark on my weekend runs which means I'm READY!

Cool Out of Hibernation bear logo from 2009's race

The 5K I chose is the Out of Hibernation 5K in Portsmouth, NH on April 14th. I chose this 5K for a few reasons. First and foremost, my Masonic Lodge, St. John's #1 in Portsmouth, puts this race on every year. Being Freemasons, just about all the events we put on are for charity. This race is no exception. All proceeds go to a great cause, the Seacoast Family Food Pantry. Second, it's early in the season. I feel like if it was later in the season, I would be less motivated to train for it as temperature would be much higher (I hate running when it's hot out). Finally, it's in the beautiful town of Portsmouth. There is nothing more scenic (in this area) for a run than historical, downtown Portsmouth. 
The Out of Hibernation coarse map

So, if you're not doing anything on April 14th and feel like running for a good cause (registration is only $18 online), this event may be right up your alley. I hope to see you there!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Portsmouth Urban Forest Center and Fun in Downtown Portsmouth

The weather has been so beautiful lately that Jill, Lylah and I decided to make a day of being outside. We started off over at an area that I had never heard of before. It was the Portsmouth Urban Forest Center, which Jill had noticed while driving by recently. The sign conveniently mentions “TRAILS”, so it was obvious that we had to check it out. The parking area is just off from Route 1 and when we arrived, already had quite a few cars in it. Near the parking area, there were some great fields for dogs to play in (although it said they must be on their leashes, none of them were…however, all were behaving just fine). We put on our boots, assuming it would be muddy on this spring weather day, and stuffed Lylah in her new favorite mode of transportation, her Kelty child carrier backpack!

 Lylah, ready for her hike!

 Horse in penned area across the street.

View of field at the parking area

Before heading out, I took Lylah over to a horse that was penned in across from the parking area. She seemed to like it and the horse came right over. He looked bored since he was all alone.

The trail system was a little confusing to navigate using the map (click here for the online map) we found online, as neither the trails nor the map were marked with names!!! We decided to head down toward the salt marsh area, which we could see pretty well in the distance and hung a right and followed the marsh banks. Right away, we noticed that a lot of trees were marked with numbers. These numbers corresponded with a leaflet that could be picked up at the trailhead, which named the trees. Again, this was a bit confusing. There were some that I knew were wrong without question. At one tree, the leaflet said it was a type of pine, whereas it was clearly a maple tree :).

Chickadee, happy it's spring!

 Numbers at the base of trees, to align with legend at trailhead

NH-HD marker near trail. I'm not sure what the HD stands for. Highway Dept. purphaps?

The walk along the marsh area was very relaxing. The sounds of spring were in the air in the form of chickadee chirps and red winged black bird songs, both of which I was able to snap photos of. We saw lots of squirrels too, but they were too fast for me to shoot with the camera.

Old Cemetary

Red Winged Black Bird

Bird houses out in the marsh

Soon, to our right, we past an old cemetery which was fenced in with iron bars. These old cemeteries seem to pop up all over New Hampshire and really signify a lot of history. Typically, they are family plots which date back quite a ways. I was actually surprised to see this one so close to the salt marsh as I would think the water gets pretty high during the spring or when floods come around every few years. Who knows though…maybe since it’s a marsh, the water doesn’t significantly rise more than normal during floods.

 Squirrel nest I think

 Old stone walls in the woods

Duck at the end of one of the streams into the marsh

After the cemetery, the trail entered the woods. The trail was wide and easy on the feet, having rocks sticking out here and there, but nothing that you really needed to work to get over. There were a few runoff streams across the trail that I believe must have emptied into the salt marsh, and there were really nice foot bridges over them. After a bit of walking, it was nearing Lylah’s bottle time, so we figured we better head back. We looped around on one trail, which brought us back to the original trail. Again, the trails were not well marked or named, so it’s hard for me to understand how far we actually made it.

Foot bridges on the trail

Me in the baby, she's getting heavy for me at this point.

After leaving the parking lot, we decided to head down to downtown Portsmouth for some lunch. We hit up The Common Man restaurant as they welcome children and have fine food. Jill and I both got burgers (perfectly cooked I might add, well-done without being burnt) and Lylah munched on Cheerios. After that, we put her in the BOB stroller and headed down to Breaking New Grounds for some iced coffees. The square was filled with people soaking up the sun and blue skies. The motorcycles were all parked along the street and the guitar players were filling the air with music. I think people wearing flip-flops were certainly in the majority on this day.

The Common Man restaurant where we ate lunch

A New Hampshire cribbage board in Maine-ly New Hampshire

After grabbing our iced coffees, we went to one of my favorite stores, Maine-ly New Hampshire. Everything in the store is focused on product that is either about or from the states of Maine and New Hampshire. They have a wide selection of products such as books, games, wines, foods, stickers, etc.

The steeple in downtown Portsmouth

 A very busy downtown Portsmouth

The Memorial Bridge into Kittery, ME, currently being torn down

We finished off the day by sitting in Prescott Park along the harbor, where Lylah got out and had some fun in the grass. It was a fun day and the weather was awesome. We got in a hike and had a fun walk downtown. I plan on visiting the Portsmouth Urban Forest Center again soon since I have a better idea of the layout of the trails now. Hopefully, we can do so in the spring months as I’m sure the wildflowers are prominent near the marsh!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Peakfinder: A Great Phone App for Hikers!

Update Note 03-19-12: I updated the photos as commenter Whimzical commented on how to take print screen photos on my phone!

Has anyone out there used this app, PeakFinder? It’s a really cool app that I learned about through the scuttlebutt on Facebook. This application turns your phone into a virtual looking glass to the mountains and hills that surround you, wherever you’re standing. You can put it in 360° mode and move it around you, and the phone will sweep the landscape of peaks. Leaders with the mountain’s names display as well. At any time, you can lock the view window, highlight summits with digital binoculars and even sit on the top of a targeted peak and look at the landscape from that perspective.

This is an extremely cool app and it seems PeakFinder has USA East (which is what I have), USA West, Canada West and the Alps all available for both the iPhone operating system as well as Andriod. I can only speak for the iPhone app, that it works very well and is pretty accurate with positioning. The cost of this app for the iPhone is $3.99, which was money well spent. It is approximately 50MB in size.
PeakFinder finding South and North Uncanoonuc from where I'm standing!

PeakFinder finding North Pack and Pack Monadnock from where I'm standing
Definitely check this app out when you get a chance. Nothing works better than a map and a compass, but this certainly a close second!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Absent Blogger...Sorry!

For the last month or so, I haven’t been the best blogger. I haven’t posted in over a month and I’m losing followers on my blog for that reason, I would assume. I also haven’t been as active in reading other’s blogs or the hiking forums for that matter. The truth is, I’ve just been really busy and posting material hasn’t been the highest priority as of lately. Family, work and school have pretty much monopolized all my time. Getting outdoors on the trail seems to be a thing of the past these days and writing about my passion for it has taken an even further backseat. Anyway, I hope you still come by and visit Live Free and Hike now and then despite my absence. I hope to start getting content up again soon and have some stuff in the works for reviews and giveaways. This weekend, with the nice weather, I’m hoping that Jill, Lylah and I can get out for a short hike in the seacoast area which I’ll gladly share a report of.

So, what do I have coming up? Well, I’m reading two great books right now (yes, two!). One is Following Atticus by Tom Ryan which has been an absolute pleasure to read. I’m almost through with it now and hope to have a book review out shortly (I am such a slooooowww reader…sorry Tom!). Another is UP by Trish Herr. I was super lucky to get an early copy of this book and hope to have a book review out sometime next month. Also as far as books go, I won a copy of The Will to Climb by Ed Viesturs over on the blog, New England Outside. It looks like an awesome read and can’t wait to jump into it. Finally, my wife got me This Grand and Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains by Christopher Johnson. This looks like an awesome book that has detailed stories of the historical White Mountains. Tom Ryan actually recommended it to me and I can’t wait to start this one too.

What else can you expect to see on Live Free and Hike NH in the months to come? Well, as I mentioned before, I ‘m working on some giveaway opportunities, which are always fun for all. Also, I’m hoping to run my first 5k in the upcoming months, so I’ll share with you some of my adventures in this journey to get there (5k is a short distance for most…but long for me :) ). As the temperatures rise, we obviously hope to get Lylah out in the woods more and more, and show her the beauty of New Hampshire’s wilderness. These trips will always be posted here, as you would expect! We have some stay-cations planned to the Whites in the upcoming months and I will certainly keep you in the loop on our activity. Finally, I’ve made the decision that when next winter approaches, and the snow begins to fall again, I going to learn how to snowboard! I really want to learn to do it correctly (as I’ve done it before, incorrectly), and I’m not getting any younger, so I’m just going to do it. Again, I’ll share those experiences here as well.

As readers, I hope you don’t mind me widening my scope of this blog to other activities that I do in New Hampshire that isn’t focused on just hiking, such as running or snowboarding. They are outdoor activities nonetheless and think they somewhat fit in with the outdoor theme and my love for New Hampshire. Now that I’ve given you an idea of what I’ve been doing as well as what I plan on doing in the near future, I better get back to my Financial Management homework. I’ll be finishing up this class in just a short couple weeks and will then be doubling up with two tough courses to finish up my MBA for good. Finishing this course work up couldn’t come at a better time for me, as it falls in what I think is the best hiking time, just after the black flies are gone!

See you on the trails and thanks for your continuing to visit Live Free and Hike!