Sunday, July 26, 2009

Top of The World-and Other Places

A long weekend again, and this time more pleasure than work. We left late Thursday for a 3 day weekend, which in my opinion, was well deserved. We have been working most of the summer, both at home and up here in the great white north, so haven't really taken a formal vacation. (Still haven't either.) After arriving late Thursday and settling in it began to rain a little, and that turned into a heavier rain Friday morning. Go figure. Not to be dissuaded by the weather in any way, we headed over to the local lumber store to stock up on supplies. More wood for the walls downstairs, and cinder blocks to form a ring and create our first fire pit.

After returning, the rain stopped so we decided to take a drive down Route 2 which runs East/West through the state. Through towns like Marshfield, where we saw a collapsed structure. I thought those things were stronger for some reason. Westerly we continued into Montpelier, the capital of Vermont. Montpelier, was chartered in 1781, by population is the smallest capital in the United States. For more fun facts click here:,_Vermont . The State House in the capital city was very prominent even from a distance, with the golden dome reflecting the faint rays of the sun appearing through the clouds.
This was the 3rd rendition of the State House, last designed in 1857 and opened in 1859. Again for more facts: . On the way back we stopped off at a local ice cream establishment, which had a few interesting features as well. The first thing that caught my eye was the lines in the parking lot. After getting our ice cream and sitting down at the table, we noticed a carnival type mirror on the side of the building. Naturally we had to check it out and it did not disappoint. Personally I was hoping it was the one that made you look thinner, not shorter. Oh Well. On the way home we chose a parallel route to mix it up a bit and drove the the town of Hardwick. We have snowmobiled through here before, but not through the town proper. Again we see the devastation fire can produce, as we drive by another beautiful older building that had been ravaged. Indeed a shame, a moment of carelessness or a chance failure of an electrical nature, and memories, possessions, history, and so much more can disappear.

Saturday we looked at the weather, and it was going to be relatively clear but warm, and it did warm up very quickly. We had been toying with the idea of going to drive The Mount Washington Auto Road. We decided it looked pretty decent and did a little research to make sure we would have time to do it and went for it. (Pretty obvious to figure out by the first picture) On the way we decided that we would take a guided van ride up, saving our vehicle, and blood pressure from extremes, and allowing all of us the time to enjoy it. The picture below shows the entrance to the auto road, and you will note the guard rail. According to our driver/guide this would be the last one we see on the auto road. A bit of trivia:

  • The Mt. Washington Auto Road opened as the Mt. Washington Carriage Road in 1861. As the oldest man-made attraction in the country, the Auto Road is 7.6 miles long with average grade of 12% and a 22% grade on the last 50 yards.
  • At 6,288 ft. (1916.6 m) above sea level, Mt Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast.
  • Famous for its unpredictable weather, it holds the world record for the highest wind gust directly measured at the Earth's surface, at 231 mph (372 km/h), recorded on April 12, 1934.
  • Mt. Washington is the third highest state highpoint in the eastern U.S., after Mount Mitchell, North Carolina (6,684 ft; 2,038 m) and Clingmans Dome, Tennessee (6,643 ft; 2,025 m).Elevation: 6,288 feet (1,917 metres).

There are many amazing and bizarre records regarding the mountain as well from fastest time on foot (56 minutes), fastest time on a bike(49 minutes), fastest time in a car (6 minutes 41.99 seconds- Wow!!) People have walked up backwards, walked up pushing a wheelbarrow, and most recently a man brought a camel and walked the road to the summit because no one had ever done that before. But I digress. A few more pictures and details about the mountain. The following is from regarding the various stages of vegetation. "From Pinkham Notch to the summit of Mount Washington will take you through a wide variety of plant communities, ranging from lowland deciduous woods to alpine tundra."" As you ascend in elevation, the northern hardwoods give way to a mixed spruce-fir boreal forest." " Higher up, the trees begin to thin out and become stunted. Dwarfed trees and dense, low mats of vegetation called krummholz (a German word meaning "crooked wood") are evident as you approach treeline.""In the alpine zone itself, low-lying sedges, grasses, lichens, and mosses predominate, alongside spectacular mountain flowers. The meadows of Mount Washington flower in late June, attracting many admirers. The mountain floral display often continues in mid-summer. Some of these plants are endemic (meaning that they exist in a small geographic area) and are quite rare." Also pictured above are cairns. Cairns are rock piles that are man-made often used to mark trails. According to our driver, the cairns on Mount Washington are 30 feet apart. Most experienced climber would have a rope with them and in poor visibility would anchor the rope to one cairn and seek out the next, then tie off on that and retrieve the rope. Sounds like a lot of work, but the weather is ever changing on the mountain, and walking 30 feet in the wrong direction when you cannot see too far ahead could be fatal!

Of course the views of the mountains driving up were phenomenal as well. The most prominent in the presidential range were Clay, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. We arrived at the summt, and had but 30 minutes to explore.Most of the time was spent in line to stand next to the summit sign-at the beginning of this blog- but we always push the limits, and were able to get a few more shots and show up a few minutes late for the return trip. There were several buildings atop the mountain, some functional, some historic, and some a little of each. The Summit Stage Office was built in 1908 and actually served as the first home to the Observatory from 1932-1937. In this building the worlds highest wind speed was recorded. You can see the chain in the picture above as well as the next where the building had been chained to the ground, apparently because there was no foundation.

The Tip Top House, originally built in 1853, was a stone hotel at the summit. We were informed by our driver that is was a symbol of status to go there and gentlemen would wear proper attire-top hats, tails, and the like. The inside accomodations were sparse, but the dining area was ample. The Tip Top entrance, as my wife heads in for a closer look, to the accomodations, much like a pullman car on a train, but very simplistic. Finally, the Sherman Adams Summit Building, built in 1979, which serves as the central visitors center, and houses the Observatory.More facts and info can be found here: is you desire. After the decent from the top of Mount Washington, and a leisurely ride back home, we decided to reduce the pile of wood a bit. There was a significant amount of roots, branches, and the like we pulled from the yard-so far-, so we figured it was time to dispatch them to the never world. Translation? Bonfire. We stacked up the wood and started up a small fire, which quickly proceeded into a larger fire.
Since the fire was going good, I decided to try my hand at a little "fishing"
And there were even a few keepers :->
The next day, Sunday was a pack up day, but we managed to get some work done too. We have talked about a trail from the yard out to the snowmobile trail for some time. This way we do not have to ride down the road to get on the trail in either direction. This makes it difficult to steer on the black top so you can't always get from the road into the trail smoothly. We looked at several options and the best option was directly across from the shed dormer. This works well for 2 reasons-it gives us a better view of the trail, and we are able to cross the"moat" in an area which it is the shallowest, so no bridge required. A before and after look.
I still have to take the stumps out next time, but had to get some of the brush out of the way so we could access them first. And the view from the trail looks pretty good too. That's about it for now. Back up soon for more work, fun, and all that jazz. I will try not to ramble on so much next time, but a picture is said to be worth a thousand words. Although I do not have a thousand words for each picture, I hope I have added enough to tell the story behind them.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summers going fast....

It is so hard to believe that it is the middle of July already. By my estimate, we have ~156 days or so until the snowmobile trails open up for the winter. The last several weeks have kind of been crazy and there has been a lull in activity. I was up a few weeks back with dad and we worked on one of the walls and stairs, and this past weekend we were up and finished the stairway and put a handrail up. Also another chore on the list was to put up a pegboard-after all whats a work area without a pegboard! (And I got such a sweet deal on the pegboard too!)
Karen decided to paint the outside entry door green to match up with the roof, and it came out pretty nice! Cutting the grass has been an interesting experience this year. As previously shown, the grass was non-existent, then suddenly took off to towering heights. While cutting the last time, the riding mower promptly died part way into the job. This resulted in a request to our plowing person who also cuts grass to come and take care of the hay field which was our yard. He was able to cut a good portion of it, but with an over abundance of ruts and tree roots in the back he couldn't do a portion. While we were up this weekend, we did some root removal and tried to cut with push mower this time, while waiting on the rider parts. The results were pretty much the same. This was the before shot. Very time consuming and not too fun, with the ruts and other foreign objects. I was able to get the biggest portion done where they were unable to trim the previous try. It came out decent, all in all. Except the lawn mower died. Not to start again. So we brought it home to tinker on and see what the malfunction is this time. The pile of wood in the picture on the left is a pile of the roots and branches we have pulled out of the front yard so far. We plan to light the pile up at some point in the future, and enjoy a nice bonfire, once we fill a few buckets from the stream for safe measures. As you can see it is a decent size pile and only represents a little less than 1/4 of the sticks in the yard. Of course we don't like to work the entire time we are there. We found out there was a really bad fire in St. Johnsbury, the next ton over, late Thursday into Friday. For the full story click here:
This was literally 2 1/2 minutes from our place so we took off after working for the day, had a bite to eat, and stopped by to see the devastation first hand. It is said there were 130 + fire fighters from 17 communities in Vermont and New Hampshire that responded. Amazingly no one was seriously injured. The last picture is the bank being aired out. No money was harmed in the burning of the adjacent building, however smoke and water damage were present. With all the towns being much smaller than we are used to,one would think this is a major loss to the town, not only physically, but I would imagine historically as well.

Sunday brought some cleanup chores, and a visitor. We had a turkey "trot" by through the yard and across the driveway and Karen was able to get a great shot of the bird from the upstairs window. We still have yet to see any large animals on the property, but they are around to be sure. We found a few different, distinct tracks that had been made recently, the biggest being this: A little comparison shot for size estimate. Someday we will catch them (photographically of course). And overnight brought a heavy rain, so the stream was flowing in the morning as well.All in all a productive weekend, with a little downtime too. But the weekends, much like summer, seem to be flying by way to quick. We just got there and it was time to leave to come back to work. I will have to take a few days off and spend up there working on a few more outside projects before it gets too late.

Enjoy whats left of your summer and looks for updates in the future!