Sunday, December 13, 2015

Breakneck Ridge to South Beacon Fire Tower

Breakneck Ridge
Breakneck Ridge is probably the most famous NYC-area hike, and I've done it once before. It's always crowded (in some cases with people who have no business being there), but it's still worth it for the spectacular views of the Hudson River and Storm King.
Sunset Point
Most people turn around and go back by an alternate trail once they reach the top, but we left the crowds behind and continued on to Sunset Point. It wasn't sunset, and it wasn't quite as amazing as the name would suggest. Actually, we had a lot more amazing views on the way, what with all the leaves being off the trees, like this one:
Sunset Point
From there we kept on to the South Beacon Fire Tower. This photo looks north from the tower toward the Beacon Reservoir. The tower itself is 62 feet high and was only restored a couple of years ago. The crowds picked up here, since you can also get to the tower from several other directions.
South Beacon Fire Tower
We took the Wilkinson Memorial Trail back to Sugarloaf Mountain. Along the way, we encountered three jacked-up jeeps driving on the trails. This is your reminder that (a) this is illegal and (b) there are a lot of hikers on these trails, so this is an accident waiting to happen. Accept the fact that you can't take your preferred mode of transit everywhere (whether it be horse, bike, car, or even your own two feet) and don't be a jerk.
Sunset on the Hudson
We reached Sugarloaf at Sunset, hoping to see the Constellation installation on Bannerman's Island. While we could see it, it didn't look like much from that angle; word on the trail is that the best way to see it is by kayak. From there, it was headlamps on, down to the train.

Our leader estimated the hike was 14 miles, and my watch gave our cumulative altitude as 4,200. I don't know if that's accurate: Up Breakneck is 1,250, and we had at least two more significant ascents, but that still may be high.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Half-bucket list: Clock's a-ticking

Four years ago, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I turned 40. There are about six months left on that clock. So let's revisit:
  1. Be able to walk across a slackline: I haven't done anything towards this goal. Well, not true: I bought a slackline. But I've never used it. Maybe next time I go camping, but that will be perilously close to the big four-oh.
  2. Do macaco: I quit capoeira a few months ago. During the previous almost-four years, I lost a good two years due to shoulder issues and eventual surgery. Even so, I feel like I gave it a fair amount of effort, but I never got any closer.
  3. Be fluent in Portuguese: Fluent? No. I learned a good bit, but I found out my limits when I was in Floripa. I'm okay with calling this one good enough, though.
  4. Travel to Brazil: This I unambiguously succeeded in, for a good seven weeks.
  5. Have a novel published: After making this goal, I reconsidered it, keeping in mind what I tell my students about goals - not to mention my department chair's admonishments for setting annual goals. To wit, a goal should depend mostly on your efforts. Since I wasn't considering self-publishing, as formulated it was not necessarily achievable. But if I revised it to write a novel, that was within my control. And I did, having just finished NaNoWriMo.
  6. Do the Annapurna Circuit: Given the timing when one needs to do this, I'd have to be heading over there right now, and I'm not. So nope.
  7. Hold a handstand for a minute unaided: Much like macaco, this goal suffered for a bit thanks to my shoulder. However, I still occasionally do handstands. I still am not anywhere close to holding it for a minute.
  8. Successfully traverse the swing-a-ring: Much like the slackline ... I haven't even tried.
On the other hand, I picked up some new goals along the way. I decided to hike all the fire towers in the Catskills (done!) and complete the 3500 peaks. The latter will be completed by my birthday - there are ten left (out of 39), and I'll get two done in January. Then there is the SBM End-to-End, which I was supposed to do last year, but stayed home sick instead. This year, folks. My sister and I decided to do a walking tour of Wales, which we had initially talked about for summer 2016; we've pushed it back until 2017 for a couple of reasons, a not-insignificant one of which is that she is having foot surgery in a week or so. We'll see where I am come June. It's likely that Annapurna will slide onto the "life bucket" list, and some of the others will get quietly folded in a drawer to die. And then I'll have to set up new goals ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

It’s been radio silence for a couple of weeks here because I was only doing one thing: NaNoWriMo. I am now the proud creator of one shitty first draft! I definitely learned a lot from doing it:
  1. Lots of writers hate prescriptivist advice, but I can confidently say: Your production curve should not look like this:
    Writing 1,667 words a day is a lot for someone with a full-time job. I started off strong but was knocked off course by attending a conference in early November, and I should have worked harder to make it up. The last couple of days were not fun.
  2. Word 2008 for Mac sucks. What do you mean, you can't spellcheck anymore once I get up to about 35 pages?
  3. I'm much more comfortable with writing novels than short stories. I always assumed that one had to master the short story before moving on, and so I really took notice when a couple of writers (I think, Kate Elliott) said that wasn't the case.
  4. I'm a plotter, not a pantser (not news), and plotting is hard for me (also not news). I love world-building and characterization, but I struggle to figure out what happens next. (This is probably why writing fan fiction has never appealed to me - it seems to be skipping over the fun part.) That said, once I reached a certain point, the plot started to figure itself out. My plot outline only went so far, and then characters started surprising me (there wasn't going to be a sex scene, and certainly not with a character I didn't plan on even existing). I was actually writing to find out what happened next, which I had never experienced before.
  5. Is it good? Of course not: It's a shitty first draft. What I don't know is whether revision will turn it into a decent novel ... or a shitty tenth draft. But it's DONE. DID I MENTION IT WAS DONE?