Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hiking Slide Mountain, winter edition


Slide Mountain is one of the four peaks that must be hiked again in winter for membership in the Catskills 3500 Club, so on Sunday I joined the club on a trip up to the top. I had hiked it in the fall, but of course it was quite a different experience in winter.

Unlike Doubletop, Slide has a perfectly nice trail up it. Moreover, the previous day's hikers had flattened the trail out for us, so the snow was reasonably well packed. I was able to do the entire hike in my microspikes.

(Note: That term doesn't really seem appropriate, as mine don't actually have spikes of any size on them. Nevertheless, I was pleased with the performance of my "Ice Trekkers Diamond Trip Traction System." They bit the snow nicely and prevented sliding.)

We had a nice, sunny day for hiking. Our crew consisted of several children as well as adults, the former more than able to keep up with the latter. The children perhaps had more fun, as on the way down they speeded their descent with some mini sleds.

The above photo is from the viewpoint just past the true peak.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hiking Doubletop from Frost Valley

Briefly flat

I wasn't supposed to be hiking Doubletop, the highest of the trail-less peaks in the Catskills, on Saturday. But when my original hike got cancelled, I needed something to do the first day of the Catskills 3500 Club Winter Weekend. Doubletop is not a required winter peak, but I had to do it sooner or later.

As a trail-less peak, Doubletop is a bushwhack. There are definite advantages to doing it in winter - less underbrush, for one - but in winter it automatically means snowshoes. I hadn't used them in mumblety-um years, although it's not a complicated skill. The hardest part is leading the group and having to break trail. There was no chance of me experiencing that particular hardship; my speed put me in the back half.

OK, full honesty: This hike was hard. I felt like dying for the first 20 minutes. Then again, I hate the first 15 minutes of every hike. Fortunately, we slowed the pace down a little after that. Still, I found it rough going. Snowshoes mean a lot of work for the calves and feet, and mine felt it.

On the way up, we passed by the wreckage of an old plane crash, probably the biggest landmark of the day. Any viewpoints were tempered by the gray skills that limited visibility. On the way down, the sky cleared up a bit, and we could see the surrounding mountains through the trees. By the time we reached the cars, the sky was almost blue. At 7.2 miles round-trip, peak #8 was done.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book is out!

In non-hiking related news, I finally have a copy of my new book with Tim Caboni! You too can have your very own copy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hiking in the Kittatinies

The Kittatinies were one of the few local hiking areas I hadn't been to. You may also know this as the Delaware Water Gap, but we weren't hiking at the actual gap, just in the National Recreation Area.

It's not an area you can reach via public transit, which is probably why I hadn't made it out here before, but it was quite lovely. Our hike started near Buttermilk Falls. In the summer, spring, and fall, you can park at the base of the falls, but in the winter the road closes, adding two miles of (dirt) roadwalking to our hike.

From the frozen falls we headed uphill - and it is a steep up - to the Appalachian Trail. We followed a ridge and then climbed Rattlesnake Peak. We left the AT at an old road, then headed back down that same steep hill and back to the car. Another loop had been tentatively planned, but the additional four miles of road were enough; we completed 13.5 miles as it was.

There was an inch or two of snow on the ground, not enough to require any special footwear. Naturally, it was cold out, about 20 degrees F. Despite overcast skies it was a pleasant day, without precipitation or wind. Of course, now I'd like to go back and see the falls when they're aren't frozen over.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy new year hike


On New Year's Day, I joined the NY Ramblers in the annual Fat-Ass Ramble. This hike takes place the first day of every year in the city, although the route changes. This time, we hiked from Penn Station to Red Hook, for a total of about 14 (flat) miles. Although it was cold, it was beautifully sunny. The hike took us through some neighborhoods in Brooklyn I had never seen before as well as some neighborhoods in Manhattan I don't know very well.

It's a good way to start the year - better than a hangover, for sure. However, it was also a good reminder for me that while 2014 sucked in a lot of ways, not everything about it was rotten. I still have hiking and capoeira - and that is thanks in large part to my shoulder successfully recovering from surgery. 2014 was also the year I paid off my credit cards.

I don't make resolutions, but there are things I hope happen in 2015. They're things I have some control over, such as actually saving money, now that my credit cards are no longer draining it away. And I'm going to Iceland! So here's hoping 2015 continues the best of 2014.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The best books I read in 2014

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
My patience for epic fantasy waxes and wanes, but this one at least has a feminist sensibility and interesting treatment of gender. The conceit behind the world (different satellites rise and fall, giving different wizards powers, and also there are multiple worlds with the same people in them) are a little silly, but then again most epic fantasy has silly premises. I often heard this discussed in the same breath as The City of Stairs, but it's no contest - Hurley's book is far better.

The Blue Place, Stay, and Always by Nicola Griffith
Griffith had the excellent Hild out this year, but I enjoyed her Aud trilogy even more. It's Scandanavian noir crime, written by a Brit living in Seattle.

Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani
I started this book in 2012, put it down because in 2013 I was only reading books by women for a year, and finished it very slowly in 2014. It's not an easy book. The first 30 pages or so start off at a fairly brisk pace, promising you a horror novel about sentient Middle Eastern oil. Things quickly slow down and get ponderously theoretical. The theory doesn't hang together, though, and it finally becomes evident that it's a critique of postmodern theory (albeit one from a philosopher whose philosophy I haven't begun to try to understand, because there just isn't that much time) rather than a novel, per se. You have to decide for yourself if this sounds like something you'd like.

Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Technically, I suppose this is military sci-fi, which is really not my genre. But after I read the first book, pretty much everything else in the sci-fi world feels obsolete. The narrator is a multiple-bodied spaceship, and the treatment of gender is, in some ways, even more interesting than Hurley's. (Think Left Hand of Darkness, except gender isn't even the point.)

Most trilogies suffer from the problem of second-volume let-down. The first book has it easy, in a way; everything about the world is new. It's like meeting and falling in love with a handsome stranger. And the final book has a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion, usually with plenty of action. Second books, however, tend to be characters we already know not succeeding in whatever quest they're after. Leckie gets around this, in a way, by deliberately narrowing the scope of the action. Book one takes place on multiple planets and in multiple time periods; book two is set in one place and linear in plot. By shrinking the scale, Leckie works with second-book challenges rather than against them.

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camp and Raul the Third
I've been pushing this on a few friends. Yes, it's a graphic novel for kids: Talking animals build a lowrider that goes into space. Despite the "space" angle, it's more fantasy than sci-fi - it's no more scientific than The Back of the North Wind. It is, on the other hand, a lot more fun.