blk: (Default)
Continuing with our holiday tradition, last month just after xmas, Xuth and I went to Parker Dam State Park for a few days to cabin and hike and read books. We chose this park specifically because the cabins have fireplaces (and also electricity and heat) and we like fire.

Day 1 (Mon, Dec 26)
The drive up was fairly uneventful, albeit damp. After unloading the car we browsed the nearby woods for some wood for the fireplace, which Xuth sawed up and split and I stacked near the heater to dry a little. It's dark early there, which leaves a lot of evening down time for dinner, fire, tea, and reading books.

Day 2 (Tue, Dec 27)
It was a lovely, sunshiney, cold day. We managed to break past hiking trends and actually got out of the cabin on the early side for us, a little after 10am. We traveled around several local trails, up to Tyler Road at the north end of the park which was completely iced over, and came in the north entrance of the park to pass the CCC cabin and tornado display, which gave an interesting summary and a few pictures of the great tornado outbreak of May 31, 1985. One of the F4 tornadoes swept a swath 1-2 miles wide for almost 70 miles through Moshannon State Forest, including through Parker Dam State Park, destroying large swaths of forest. A lot of our hiking took us through that area, where we could see what had grown up naturally in the last 30 years.

We finished our day with a hike up to a promised Scenic Overlook point, which, was a nice 300 ft climb in about 1/2 mile. Sure enough, there was a fairly scenic view of Parker Lake at the top. Coming back to the cabin was a nice round 10 miles, where I lay down and dozed for a much-needed nap before dinner.

Day 3 (Wed, Dec 28)
Wed seemed to be about similar temps as Tue, but I decided to put on an extra layer because it also looked to be overcast. This ended up being mostly but not quite enough, as I was almost comfortable, but still slightly on the chilly side for much of the day. We started off with a quick tour around Parker Lake, then over to the east side of the park where we took the first and last bit of the Quehanna Trail, with local trail between the points.

This was (as we found out later) a newer trail, and less well-maintained, with blazings often not within sight distance (and a very un-obvious, leaf-covered trail). About halfway between landmarks we managed to lose the blue blazings and ended up wandering around lost in the forest for a while. That sounds much more exciting than it was - we both had GPS devices, knew the approximate direction and distance we needed to walk in to find another landmark trail, and as a last resort could always have retraced our steps back the way we came. Eventually we re-found the route and continued.

Being slightly chilly for several hours is incredibly exhausting, so even though it only ended up being a ~8 mile day, we decided to call it quits after we got back to the main part of the park, and spent the rest of the day with naps and books.

Day 4 (Thu, Dec 29)

This was check-out day, but also snow! Not a lot, but enough to change the landscape in fun ways. We meandered around the lake then headed to the park office to check out and also because that was when the attendant had told us there would be a ranger available to let us check out the CCC musuem (PDF). This was the best collected information, pictures, flotsam, etc about CCC I've seen yet and it was all pretty interesting. It was also the first information I'd read about black people in the CCC (PDF), which stood out to me. Camps were kept segregated, and only 10% of the camps were black, despite having the community represent over 25% of the applicants in need.

Then it was home time, catching on all the previous few days of events of the world and coming back to regular life.

Link to full album of pics, in case you didn't click on the above pics.
blk: (feet)
[ profile] xuth and I went hiking in Laurel Hill State Park last weekend and it was fun. Cold, but fun.

Before the trip, I looked into possible things I could do to make my feet less sore when I hike, since basically the bottoms of my feet seem like they are always the limiting factor on how far I want to walk, even when I'm wearing supposedly decent shoes. They usually start getting sore within a few miles, although I can ignore it and go much further when I want to. Teh googles suggested different insoles for my shoes. Having never (ok maybe once) bought separate insoles, I decided I wanted advice, so I took advantage of a friend's trip to REI to visit the footware dept and see what they suggested.

The first associate put me in some high arch (green) Superfeet and had me walk around for a bit. I came back to report that it felt fine, but not a lot of difference, and being a newb, I wasn't really sure what I should be looking for. Another associate had me stand up just on an insole and reported "Well that's why you can't feel much. The arch of the insole isn't even close to touching the arch of your foot." Oh. Huh. So then he had me try the high arch Sof Sole and OH HEY there was something actually touching my entire foot. Weird. I walked around in some borrowed Keen hiking shoes for a bit and nothing felt uncomfortable, so decided to give them a shot.

I've figured for a while that I have a slightly-higher-than-average foot arch, although mostly just from looking at my footprints. But I've never noticed any negative side effects that come with that. I mean, sure I get sore from standing for like 20 minutes, but doesn't everybody? Slowly walking around museums is torturous, but that's probably just because I have no art appreciation ability. I always wear my sandals on the loosest setting, but I don't recall any not fitting. My multiple metatarsal stress fractures are probably just because I trained poorly. And my knee problems and lower back pain were already determined to be more likely related to my hip flexors. So, um, no, no issues at all. Hrm.

OK fine, I'll try out this ridiculously high arched insole. The first day I wore it to go walk around for a few miles running errands with some new (Keen) hiking shoes. I ended up with very mild strain on the outside of my ankles, which google said was normal. I rested a day, then took two days to wear them in my casual shoes (also Keens) around work and school, with no discomfort. Finally we went on our trip. The first day was expected to be wet and muddy so I put them in my mud/camping boots (still Keen; there's a trend here) and instantly the boots felt like they were hugging my feet affectionately, moreso than ever before. Hiking was good. By the homestretch my feet were still pretty sore, which was a little disappointing, until I got back and did measurements and realized we'd gone 8+ miles, which I'm pretty sure is an improvement. And the soreness went away immediately upon stopping, and my knees were mostly fine, despite a fair amount of downhill, and the next day everything felt fine. The next day we went another 4ish miles, this time in my hiking shoes, and I had no soreness at all.

Well that's pretty cool. Of course, now I'm wondering how much of the annoying pain in the rest of my life could have been fixed with something small like this. How many pairs of awesome boots did I give away because they weren't comfortable (I figured they just weren't broken in properly)? How many day outings did I not enjoy because I was just thinking about where I could sit down next? If this is really an answer, I want to keep it. I went ahead and ordered a different pair to try out and compare, and I'm thinking I will probably also see about putting something in my running shoes.

Oh, and here's a picture of the Jones Mill Run Dam.
dam )
blk: (icicles)
Now that the latest cold snap has passed, it seems like a good time to revisit [ profile] xuth's and my recent vacation getaway. This year we escaped to Black Moshannon State Park in the middle of PA. We chose this spot because there looked to be a fair number of hiking trails accessible without needing to drive anywhere, and also because they had a "modern" (heated) cabin still available for cheap.

Black Moshannon bog

We and a friend headed out Monday afternoon through fairly uneventful traffic and arrived in good time shortly before sunset. After some minor complications (needing to acquire some emergency kitchen gear), we settled in, had dinner, and played a game. It was cold at that point but no snow yet. Tuesday morning it started snowing enough to settle a layer of white on the ground, so it finally felt appropriately wintery, and we could actually snow hike. I took us on several loops around the main campsite that first day, totaling approximately 7.5 miles, with minor elevation changes and off and on snow. The afternoon gave us a brief clear sky to see the bog, although all the information signs on the boardwalk were snowed over. We got back before dark, thoroughly exhausted (at least I was). I got in my yearly game of Iron Dragon (which I was doing great on until events started kicking my butt and I ended up losing horribly) over dinner and dessert and lots of tea and gingerbread.

a quick very clothed group shot

Wednesday after breakfast we headed out to one more loop we hadn't gotten to the previous day. It was much colder that day. The only temperature reading we had at the cabin said 20F, but after being out in below 0F just a couple days ago, I'm inclined to say that the park temps were much lower than 20F. Fortunately there wasn't much wind, but we needed to stay moving and covered to be comfortable. There wasn't any new snow since the previous day, so we could see a lot of fresh tracks from various overnight visitors. We identified several different deer and rabbits. We also saw prints from what looked like a housecat and various other small skittery things. After just a couple miles, we decided to take the rest of the day to relax with books and napping and tea in a warm cabin.

Allegheny Front Trail goes UP

Thursday morning had brought more snow, the soft light kind that settles and turns everything a nice fluffy white. After a quick cleanup we closed up shop and drove over to the park office to try to find maps for the best way to briefly explore the Allegheny Front Trail, a 40 mile loop that went around the park. We opted to explore the "Front vista section," which went up and down and along the eastern ridge. Sure enough, less than a mile in, the trail turned very up, and involved clambering up snowy rocks for a while. The rest of the day was some variety of up or down, and was definitely very challenging terrain. After an hour and a half of walking we hadn't yet reached the next road, but decided we needed to turn back in order to get home before sunset. Another hour and a half brought us back to the road and the car, where I was very very happy to sit and not walk any more. Later studying of maps brought us to conclude that we had probably only traveled about 2 miles along the trail (so 4 round trip) in three hours. Sheesh. But I was exhausted enough by the end of 3 hours that I certainly wasn't up for more, so I guess that was it.

We came home to a quiet house and a grateful cat and several days of relaxing. Overall a good vacation.
blk: (axial)
It's been quite the week! Enough that I want to post about it, at least. We've spent the last few years really enjoying getting rid of the kids for the xmas week, and going somewhere secluded to relax and be outside. This year was no different, except that family obligations poked their head in, so we went back to Ohio instead of elsewhere.

sunday through thursday, in ohio )

adding some color

Friday I tackled the ice and snow on our sidewalks, as Pittsburgh had decided to allow winter in while we were gone. The rest of the weekend has been mostly doing a lot of lazing about, cooking various things, shoveling show, going to a couple parties, and attempting to get over these coughs. Mine has settled into being the better part of laryngitis and some vague coughing after I did a bunch of talking/socializing on Friday afternoon, and sounds pretty awful, but I'm otherwise feeling fine, so I think it's just the last bit of recovery. I made some pretty ice decorations and took a long walk through Frick yesterday.

Tonight we're off to another low-key party, hopefully one where I don't have to talk too loudly. Going to ring in de new year all quiet und sottle-like. Yarrrr.
blk: (tree)
While everybody's attention is focused on this gigantic troublemaker of a storm on this coast, I am going to revisit a small camping vacation [ profile] xuth and I took a couple weeks ago, Oct 13-14.

We had one of those rare weekends without the kids, and I wanted to go somewhere relaxing that didn't involve a whole lot of work (or money). After doing some looking to see what was available at the last minute (not much), I found a cabin available in Kooser State Park, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. The park itself was pretty tiny, but it is practically right next door to several other state parks, as well as Roaring Run Natural Area (pdf) and a stretch of the 70 mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

hiking details )

Overall it was a good weekend out, and perked up more of my interest in hunting for this year's winter vacation spot. In previous years we've gone to Germany Valley, WV and Hocking Hills, OH. Our ideal is a comfortable, relatively inexpensive place in the middle of nowhere, in easy driving distance from Pittsburgh, with indoor plumbing and heating and at least minimal food prep abilities, with nearby trails for hiking, and no kids around.

Another thing we've been hoping for is company. Would you be interested in spending a few days with us sometime between Dec 22-31, with snow hiking during the day, and quiet board games and tea in the evenings (or maybe a book and a wood stove)? We haven't decided on location or time yet, and can be flexible. The vast majority of our friends already have holiday plans with family or traveling, but in case you don't and are interested in joining, let us know!
blk: (icicles)
LJ catchup: December

Since moving in together, One thing [ profile] xuth and I actually have a lot less of is time without any of our kids around. So we've been taking advantage of the big holidays - when school is out and visiting families is normal - to go out on our own and enjoy some quiet time. This xmas, after stopping in Columbus for a couple days, we drove down to a secluded cabin in Germany Valley, WV, for a few quiet days of hiking and sightseeing.

how pale is the sky that brings forth the rain )

I've really enjoyed the past couple years of snow hiking we've done, and have decided to definitely do some next year as well. We'd love to find other people to go with. Anybody out there interested in driving out to some remote region, renting a cabin for a few days of kids-less quiet and relaxation, and going out hiking in lovely freezing cold weather with us? Now taking applications...
blk: (icicles)
Vacation trip by the numbers.

Miles driven: 1575
States visited: 6
Prices paid for gas: 2.93 (lowest, in N. PA), and 3.31 (highest, in E. NY)
Large forests tromped through: 2
Homes visited: 10
Homes I accidentally left things of mine at: 2
Homes I forgot to leave things at: 1
Times I swore googlemaps directions were wrong (or at least unclear): 3
Times I cursed myself for not having a GPS with maps on me: too many (guess what the topic of a near future post will be)
Times I un-losted myself without help: about 10
Times I needed help getting unlost: 0 (aw, yeah!)
Braids done on other people: 11 (I think)
Settlers games played: 2
T rides: 4
Number of boats I got stuck behind on the highway: 1

shut up and drive )
blk: (icicles)
There's something about hiking up a fairly steep mountain path which is covered in 6"+ of crispy snow that makes you really appreciate the value of walking in another person's footsteps.

Pic from the overlook in World's End state park near Laporte, PA.
blk: (tree)
This past weekend, I went out to NJ to help [ profile] shayde out with registration for UberCon. Besides the actual job part, I also got convinced into a few games of DDR, Karaoke Revolution, and a whole bunch of Joust.

But that's not what this post is about.

I've peed upon my mountaintop )


blk: (Default)

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