Thursday, January 27, 2011

February is Heart Health Month

For the next Blog Carnival, the EtsyBloggers team is writing about heart health, since February is Heart Health Month. While it is difficult for some people to get out and exercise in the colder months of winter, there are still some outdoor options, as well as many usual indoor options to keep your heart in shape.

I keep my heart healthy in the winter by snowshoeing. Snowshoeing can burn a lot of calories and you actually stay pretty warm even in the coldest temperatures, so check your local recreational websites for snowshoe trails in your area, many of which might actually rent out snowshoes so you can try it out before buying. Remember to be respectful when snowshoeing if you are sharing the trail with cross country skiers, who do not like their groomed trails ruined by snowshoe tracks.

With proper gear, you can even hike up mountains on snowshoes. Although it can be dangerous and more difficult, in some ways winter hiking is easier than summer hiking because the rocks roots are under the snow, crampons can dig into the ice on the rocks, as opposed to wet summer rocks which can be slippery. There are also no black flies in February either! If you need to retrace your steps, you have your own tracks to follow back out.

I recently bought a pair of MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes. I haven't tried them out on much of an incline yet, but they seem to have amazing traction and are much lighter than my former pair. When shopping for a new pair, I was looking for something light weight, good crampons, and a heel lift. My dystonia has left me with a weaker right ankle and I have trouble holding the tip-toed position while walking on an icy incline like you need to do at times when winter hiking. This position digs the crampons in so that you have a better footing. The heel lift on the back of these snowshoes gives the back of your foot support and something to rest on, making it easier on the calf and ankle muscles.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Big Slide - Winter Peak

I have been the proud owner of snowshoes since I was a little kid, mostly just walking through the cemetery next to my childhood home, golf courses, and across Paradox Lake. As an adult I have a few local trails that I like to go on. Over the last couple of years I have climbed up one firetower mountain in them (Hurricane Mt) and some small elevation gain trails like the one at Pilot Knob Ridge in Lake George - but today was my first winter high peak hike. I chose to go with the Albany Chapter of the ADK on Big Slide, because that is one of the easier peaks of the 46 and only 8 miles if you go via The Brothers up and back.

We met at "The Garden" in Keene Valley around 7:30 am, and our group of seven started out around 7:50 on the trail towards the Brothers. The temperature was -10 F in the parking lot but we warmed up quickly before reaching the First Brother at 1.5 miles, at about 9:15. The sky was perfectly clear, letting us see over to Camel Hump in Vermont. We had a great view of Giant, Lower Wolf-Jaw, Upper Wolf-Jaw, Saddleback, Haystack, and some other high peaks. We could also see Round Mountain and the top of Noonmark. We remarked on the clear skies and lack of wind. We were warm from hiking despite the bitter cold temperatures, and welcomed the calm cold air.

Giant Mt

Hurricane Mt (Firetower)

Great Range

At the third overlook we could see clouds quickly moving in over Haystack, and that was the last view that we had. Tucking back into the woods after one of The Brothers, the snow cover on the ground was high and every inch of the trees were covered in icy snow, even the undersides of the branches. The weight of the snow had made the branches hang low - it was like walking through a winter wonderland. The next time we came out of the woods, at the summit, we had entered a different climate than what we experienced on The Brothers. The wind was strong and it was heavily snowing. There were no longer any views out in the distance, we were trapped in our own little snow globe. Nobody felt like eating at the cold, exposed summit and the longer we were there the colder we would be, so we left the summit shortly after arriving, probably about noon.

Snowy view from summit

My snowshoes are great for wandering on flat trails, but I realize now I need a pair that are shorter in the back with better crampons for steep climbing because the last half mile or so was very difficult for me. I'll probably get a pair with heel rests for the steepest parts, as I have trouble walking on my toes to dig into the ice with my right foot. I had microspikes in my pack, as well as some rented crampons, but the snow conditions made snowshoes seem more suitable. The leader had to pull me up over an icy spot at one point, the rest of the time my arms got quite the workout pulling my body up using tree trunks and branches. The ladder that was built toward the end of the trail to assist hikers at this steepest part to the summit is actually buried in the snow right now.

Normally I climb a lot better than I descend, but on snowshoes this was not the case. Perhaps the snowshoes give me more ankle and knee support, or maybe it was just the butt sliding that we did for a good portion of the beginning of the decent. Snowshoeing on flat ground is a workout, let alone up a mountain... I definitely was out of breath a few times!

We got back to the trail head around 2:20 pm to find the lot was quite full and the cars all snow covered. A couple people had not realized that I was a newbie in winter high peak hiking until the leader congratulated me on my first winter peak, so at least it wasn't that painfully obvious! I do not plan on completing the "Winter 46," but this was my 19 high peak o my regular "46" goal.

To view all the pictures from this trip click here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Theme Thursday: Keeping Warm

Although my region is experiencing a below average amount of snowfall so far this season, our cold temperatures are not letting us forget that it is winter! Cold weather is not unusual in Upstate New York, but it can be a struggle to stay warm during these brutal months. Fortunately, if you experience the chill of winter, there are some great seasonal handmade items on Etsy that can help keep you warm.

RainyDayArt offers this hand knit Classic Grey Hat with Pink Stripes. It fits most adult heads and is machine washable in the gentle cycle.

This hand knit Black Opal Traveler Shawl, made by FoxyGknit, is currently on sale. It is a versatile piece that can be worn to the office or to a soccer game, and it is perfect for traveling. It is soft and tailored and the colors will match with many things already in your wardrobe.

If you like nature-inspired handmade items, check out these Cattail Hand Warmers by RagamuffinDesign. They are made with 100% wool and lanolin oils to help keep them water repellent.

Northwoods stitch pattern was used to make the unique textured pattern in MagdaleneKnits' Cafe au Lait Crocheted Scarf. It's narrow design makes it practical for wearing outside in the cold or as a fashion accessory.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Music Monday: The Dog Days Are Over

In honor of a new year, I'd like to feature videos of Florence and the Machine's song, "Dog Days are Over." The original video was made in 2008, and is a low budget video, but actually is my favorite of the two. In my opinion, you can get more emotion from the song in this version. The characters in the video bounce around and dance in the woods like I'd like to do whenever I hear the song. The original video below will take you to another website for viewing.

The second video (2010), is of better quality, but in my opinion, it lacks something.

I can't claim to understand the true meaning and theory behind her song, but I have my own personal interpretations. I love most of the music by Florence and the Machine, she reminds me of being in Ireland which, is where I was introduced to her music when I heard "Cosmic Love." She has a unique voice, passion, and talent.

Original Video:
(Clown alert if you are afraid of them)

Newest Video:

What would you like to leave behind in 2010? Are your Dog Days over? Can they come back again?