Outdoorsy

Jun. 18th, 2012 11:38 am
eregyrn: (-Saw-whet - Spring)
[personal profile] eregyrn
Thanks to all for the birthday wishes yesterday. :) We actually had gorgeous weather here, so I took the opportunity to do something I've been meaning to do for a while, which was get out kayaking again. It surprises me to realize that I probably hadn't been out for 2 years, and as soon as I got back out on the water, I remembered how much I just plain enjoy it. The river is lovely and the feel of kayaking is lovely.

This time, I was excited to get out on a stretch of the Charles River that I'd never been on before. Charles River Canoe & Kayak has several rental spots, all of which I've been to, but I didn't know they'd opened up a new one upriver at Nahanton Park in Newton, on a 12 mile stretch of the river unbroken by any dams!

In a sense, this was my downfall; so was going by myself. Because whenever I go out to do things by myself, I always wind up being over-ambitious. Previously, I think I have not done paddles much longer than about 6 miles round trip. This time, I took advantage of a little canal that cut across a big loop of the river -- at the end of which, I had to actually get out and walk through a waterfall over rocks (in flip-flops, because I'm dumb), dragging the kayak under a bridge to get back to the river and go back the long way, downstream. In my head, this made sense, because paddling downstream is always easier, and I'd noticed on the way out that the wind ought to be mostly at my back on the return. But I sort of didn't do the math in my head to estimate how long a trip that would really be. When kayaking, I tend to manage about 3-3.5 miles per hour. I paddled 2 miles to get to the half-mile short-cut. That brought me back to the river 8 miles upstream, which I then had to paddle all the way back to the rental site. And while I was indeed going with the current on the way back, the current isn't so strong that it carries you at any speed. So, yeah. That was about 3 and a half hours' worth of constant paddling, more than I'd ever done before, and the river was twisty enough that I still had stretches where I had to paddle against the wind.

But it was great, even if my arms are kind of limp noodles today.

I don't have any pictures of any of that, because I don't tend to try to mess around with electronics in a kayak, since it's all so wet. Instead, have some pictures from a few weeks ago, when Diane and Katie and I took a day-trip up to the White Mountains in NH. I was the instigator of this plan, because it has seemed for a while now, to me, that it is ridiculous that I have lived up here for over 20 years and never been up there, and never driven up Mt. Washington.

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Many more pictures below the cut, half of cool animals and half of scenic mountain vistas:

So the first thing we did, after a fabulous breakfast at the cutest little diner, was to go Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, to look at animals native to New Hampshire. It's a pretty nice facility -- lots of room, big enclosures for the animals, and well laid-out so that mostly, the animal enclosures aren't in sight of each other (thus allowing the deer not to freak out about their neighbors, the mountain lions and the bears).

The foxes were all dozing and very uninterested in our presence:

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The bobcats were dozing, too, until the one on the left suddenly decided it needed to get up and play-attack the one who'd been leaning on it. So that was adorable:

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The next enclosure had a mountain lion, who was doing a circuit that kept bringing him right past the front windows where we were standing, allowing for an extremely up-close view, which was great, if not that good for getting actual pictures. Then he went up to the back of the enclosure, and FLOPPED.

In the first picture, notice the dark cave-like space under an overhand at left. As we were finally turning to leave, we suddenly noticed that another cougar had been under there the entire time.

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Then there were a bunch of deer, all of whom were also dozing. (This was a big theme for the animals.)

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There were also a couple of black bears, one of whom was dozing far away, and one of whom was pacing near the glass, so again, easy to get a sense of how big they really are.

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Red squirrel taking advantage of the spillage from bird feeders. Alas, wasn't able to get really good shots of its stand-off with a chipmunk.

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Then there were a whole bunch of raptors: great horned owl, bald eagle, kestrel, and red-tailed hawk here:

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So after all of that, we looked at the time and realized that if we wanted to drive up Mt. Washington, we'd better get the heck over there. This turned out to be a wise decision, because while it wasn't that far a distance, it WAS a lot of driving on roads you couldn't necessarily go that fast on.

We actually did all of this on the day before the Memorial Day holiday was due to start, which I think was a really good decision. For example, we ran into very few other cars on the way up or down the Mt. Washington auto road, which was FINE with everyone, because OH MY GOD, there are no guardrails on that road, and they SAY it is wide enough for two cars, and probably even two SUVs, but while that it technically true, it doesn't FEEL true, if you know what I mean. Diane did all of the driving, which, let's give her mad props for that. I've driven on roads like that and I know it's a constant feeling of being extremely aware of how much it would suck if you put the wheel into either the ditch on one side or worse, over the edge on the other, because that was a whole lot of DOWN over there. The word "plummet" was banned from the car, is what I'm saying.

But! WE SAW A MOOSE! Alas, at a point in the drive when I did not have my camera in hand, and by the time I got it, the moose was gone. But it was there! It apparated out of the trees up-slope about 20 yards in front of the car (thank goodness not closer), and then continued down, which was pretty amazing given how steep and densely forested the down-slope was. So that was exciting. When we told the guys at the top about it, they said that almost never happens and we were REALLY lucky.

Otherwise, there were some breathtaking vistas, from time to time, interspersed with being within clouds. You never quite knew which it was going to be. The lady at the toll booth at the bottom described it as a "cloud sandwich", which was pretty accurate. The middle bits were clearer, and the top was socked in, as you can see:

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When the clouds lifted briefly, we still couldn't see a whole lot:

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It was pretty neat going up, and coming down, through that much elevation and watching the landscape and plants change. I got more pictures going down, to give a sense of the view and the road:

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Plucky little car!

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At one of the pull-outs where we stopped to give the poor car's brakes time to cool off (seriously), I photographed some wildflowers that when you peer at them, look an awful lot like dwarf azaleas. That can't be what they are, can it? I'll have to see if I can look it up.

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Can we talk about the section near the top where for a while, the road turns into dirt? Whyyyyy?

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Clouds teasing the view:

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So really, getting to the top and then getting down again and all the way back over to Rt. 93 took up most of the rest of the day. One of the things I'd also wanted to do was go see some waterfalls, but by that time it was getting late and we were tired and didn't want to hike to anything. But there was one set of falls that were right by the road, so we did stop there for a few minutes, at Lower Falls off the Kancamaugus Highway.

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Lots of wonderful flat expanses of rock that just begged to be clambered over, which we did on the way to getting closer to the actual falls. At one point, there was a really neat vein of some distinct kind of rock that you could trace practically from one side of the river to the other. Here's where it dipped below the river:

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The falls themselves, with a person for scale at far right:

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And then, dinner, and the drive back, because it's really only 2 hours from Boston. Although, that was a WHOLE lot of driving for poor Diane, and while I'm sure we'll go back up there, we'll have to figure out a more equitable driving situation.

Conclusion: the White Mountains are really pretty. And I want to see more waterfalls.
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