Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thumbs Down!

This past weekend I went out to the Canaan Valley (pronounced ka-nayne, for some inexplicable reason) for three days of telemarking and snowshoeing at the fabulous White Grass nordic resort.  Or at least I hoped that's what it would involve.  In reality the snow coverage was so minimal that we had to resort to making do with snowshoeing where any other sane person would have been perfectly fine with regular hiking boots, and cross-country skiing over ice, leaves, rocks, and whatever else lay before us in the spring-like temperatures that greeted us.  To our credit ("our" being a reference to me and my friend Kevin, who similarly scoffed at alpine skiing in such conditions) we accepted these obstacles cheerily and did not let the less-than-ideal conditions keep us off the mountain.

The real reason I'm posting this account, though, is to relate the story of how I went home at the end of the second day with my hand in a splint and several hundred mgs of ibu in my stomach.  On this day, Saturday, Kevin and I signed up for a two-hour tour of the upper ranges of White Grass with the owner/proprietor of the resort, a wild, zany, fun, and certifiably cookoo dude named Chip.  Because we would start the trip with a chair-lift ride at the Canaan Valley alpine resort and finish with an alpine descent, we were outfitted with cross-country gear that included a steel edge along the length of the foot (normal nordic skis do not have such an edge - however, these were still not telemark skis, with complete edges to better assist with turns).  After the two-hour tour through the trees -- which was its own sort of scary, exhausting challenge -- we returned to the top of the lift and began the laborious process of skiing down the alpine slope.  To say Kevin and I struggled with this would be a gross understatement; quite simply, it was torture.  I can't even begin to describe the level of frustration we felt as experienced alpine skiers, suddenly reduced to the very lowest level of ability by our equipment, so ill-suited for the environment.  With the exception of a few times we attempted to telemark, we primarily stuck to scooting down the hill in a snow-plow.  But without the edges provided by alpine or telemark skis, and with the warm temperatures turning the snow into slush, it was desperately difficult to remain in control.  Like I said: a fall every minute.  Perhaps you can see, then, how injury was just a matter of time.  Indeed, one of my falls turned out to be slightly more violent than the others, and as I fell, my thumb jammed into the ice/hardpack at high velocity.  The first minutes afterwards were excruciating.  I was in hysterics until someone offered to get Ski Patrol to pick me up in a stretcher, at which point my pride forced me to dry my tears, pick myself off the ground, throw my skis over my shoulder with my good hand, and hike down the hill to the lodge (with Kevin accompanying me, like the gentleman he is).  Eventually I found Ski Patrol, who conducted a bunch of tests to make sure it wasn't a bad break and then splinted me up and gave me a bag of dirty snow to keep the swelling down.

Fast-forwarding to the current day, I can happily report that the thumb is not fractured, but the interior tendon has torn.  I did some research and was delighted to discover that this is commonly referred to as "skier's thumb," although how I got the injury is not typical (my pole was not a factor - it was just the speed involved in "jamming" the thumb into the ice).  According to Ski Patrol, this is one of the longest-lasting injuries to the hand; it will take many months for the tendon to heal.  Right now at least the splint is gone, but my thumb feels stiff and arthritic.  

Otherwise a fun weekend, but man, what a pain!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Best Music of 2008

It's that time of year again!

My favorite albums of 2008:

15) Dear Science, TV on the Radio
14) Partie Traumatic, Black Kids
13) Street Horrrsing, Fuck Buttons
12) For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver
11) Robyn, Robyn
10) Rook, Shearwater
9) Keep Color, The Republic Tigers
8) In Ghost Colors, Cut Copy
7) Parc Avenue, Plants & Animals
6) Alpinisms, School of Seven Bells
5) Santogold, Santogold
4) Carried to Dust, Calexico
3) Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles
2) Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
1) Furr, Blitzen Trapper

Why 15 instead of the usual 10? Because I was simply overwhelmed with awesome choices this year.

Other amazing albums that I just couldn't fit on the list: Saturdays=Youth, M83; Oracular Spectacular, MGMT; Third, Portishead; All Together, Pattern is Movement; Love is Dead, Lowry; The Seldom-Seen Kid, Elbow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fingerless Mits with Crochet Edging

Not to brag, but I'm kind of enjoying the results of my latest knitting endeavor. It's a pair of fingerless mittens, knit mostly with a really fun yarn called Jellybean that I picked up in Anacortes on my trip last month (see post below). The challenge for this project - because there is always a challenge - was to try out some crochet edging. I'm not much for crochet, so this was an interesting task. The tops and the thumb holes are edged with a simple slip stitch, but the bottom is a very cool, beautiful picot edge that is my real coup. See details below.

BTW, this is an Xmas gift for a family member.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Adventuring in the "Other" Washington

From Olympic NP and Guemes/Fidalgo/Whidbey, October 2008
Last week I decided I would make the most out of a meeting I had to attend in Redmond, WA, by bookending work time with vacation time.  First stop: Olympic National Park.  I flew into SeaTac airport on Saturday afternoon, picked up my thrilling Hyundai Sonata rental, and drove the roughly 2.5 hours out to Port Angeles.  I made it just in time to pick out my site at the Heart O' the Hills campground and set up my tent.  Heart O' the Hills is located just inside the park entrance and in an low-elevation rain forest.  The place was beautiful:

...but there was one enormous problem that hadn't occurred to me: wood.  I had been planning to gather wood from around the camp (which you can do in the off-season), but the thing about rain forests is that they, and everything in them, are wet.  That was a bit of a set-back.  The first evening, therefore, I spent about an hour wandering around trying to find the least wet sticks and branches there were laying around.  I skipped a warm dinner and a fire that first night because I wasn't confident I had enough wood yet, plus it was already dark and I was tired.  

The next morning I woke up (surprisingly late! My new sleeping pad was comfy) and drove up to the visitor's center at Hurricane Ridge.  Wow, what a difference from the campground!  All the way up the mountain it was warm, dry, and crystal clear (my dad says this is called an inversion).  Not exactly what I had expected from the famously wet Washington.  I found an interesting-looking trail that ran from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center along the Klahhane Ridge for almost 4 miles and took off for a stroll.  The four miles out took me almost two and a half hours, although for the most part it was not at all strenuous until I hit the switchbacks at the end.  Beautiful views and terrain the entire way (see picture at the top, which was taken at the summit).  The only downside was that it was rather a warm day (in the 70's) and the trail was a bit more popular than I would have liked.  Nevertheless, super fun.  The hike back took less than two hours, and I was happy to find on my drive down that I had sewing-machine legs.  Must have been a half decent workout.  When I got back to my campsite, I went straight to work collecting more half-rotten, half-soaked sticks from the surrounding woods.  My paranoia levels were high.  This was the moment of truth.  If I went without dinner again, after 11 miles of hiking (including the three I took through the rain forest after the Klahhane Ridge hike), I would be unbelievably miserable.  And pride would of course make going into Port Angeles for dinner a complete non-option.  I pulled out the copy of the Express I had brought all the way from DC, arranged a few pieces of kindling, and strategically inserted a few choice firestarters that I suspected would make all the difference.  After about 5-7 minutes of smoking, dying, adding more paper, smoking more, and just generally looking like a complete and utter failure, the fire finally took off.  The firestarters must have managed to dry out a couple pieces of wood just enough to allow them to catch on fire.  Score!  I quickly poured some water into my pot and set it on the grill to boil.  My proudest moment of the trip:

Dinner was mine, and it was good.

The next day, Monday, I took off for my hotel in Bellevue.  In typical Alexandra let's-try-something-new fashion, I picked a route that would take me via ferry over to Seattle.  I've been on ferries many times as a kid, but experiencing one as an adult was downright thrilling.  Driving on, parking the car, walking all over the deck (it helped that the weather was amazing) - it was all a blast.  I took the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds, then drove done to Bellevue without incident.  Voila.

Work took up the rest of the week, but on Friday afternoon I was off for more adventuring; this time to the north.  My first stop was Anacortes, where I grabbed a delicious salad at the fabulous Adrift restaurant, then picked up some yummy skeins of yarn at Ana-Cross Stitch.  Eventually I made my way over to the Guemes Island ferry terminal and got in line.  This was my second ferry ride of the trip, but it couldn't have been more different from the Kingston-Edmonds leg. The Guemes Island ferry is just a little platform for about 20 cars and a tiny cabin for the walk-on passengers.  You couldn't even get out of your car.  But on the other hand it was a very short trip - less than 5 minutes if you don't count the loading and unloading of the cars, which takes more like 15.  The weather was drizzly, but I decided I needed to see a bit of Guemes before heading over to my lodging for the evening.  I took off north, looped around to the west and then south, then went east.  I think managed to pretty much hit every non-private road on the island.
Finally I made my way over to my home for the night: Deb and Dave's.  Deb and Dave are a fabulous Guemes Island couple who have converted a horse arena and stable into a house.  Needless to say it's enormous and a little bit strange.  The garage, which used to be the arena, is gargantuan.  The stables are now used for storage (and, in one case, a hot tub).  A former tack room is now a bedroom, the old horse wash is now the laundry room, etc etc and the list goes on.  It's a fascinating work in progress.  Deb and Dave also make their own biodiesel from the local store's french-fry oil and have an incredibly impressive water reclamation system that takes water from their large roof and stores it in drums for their daily use (apparently much better than the insufferable well water they would otherwise use).  Breathtaking, all of it.

The next morning Deb and Dave left early for a trip of their own, and I headed off for a day of slow meandering down the length of Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands.  Connecting the two islands is a fabulous bridge over a narrow pass called Deception Pass.
Beautiful.  And the weather was actually cooperating all that morning, go figure.

I had lunch in a wonderful cafe in Oak Harbor called Angelo's, then made my way as slowly as I could down to Clinton to catch the ferry to Mukilteo.  I made stops at Fort Ebey State Park and the Whidbey Island Winery to smell the roses, as it were.  And after one last ferry ride through cool grey drizzle and a quick jaunt down to my airport hotel, my great PNW journey came to an end.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


From Alaska Trip J...
Got back on Sunday from a wild and wonderful first-ever trip to Alaska. The wildlife was plentiful, the scenery breath-taking (literally, for me, when we got to Skilak Lake), and great fun was had by all. My tour group, lead by intrepid Alaskan Waldo, was pretty awesome. We hiked, camped, golfed under the midnight sun, and set off fireworks on the 4th of July (made somewhat lackluster by the absence of any contrast with the sky).

The picture above is from one of our more exciting experiences: a very close run-in with a bear sow and her two cubs. That's my tent in the picture. Click on the picture for a link to my photo album, which includes many other awesome shots (that still somehow don't convey exactly how awesome Alaska is).

Here's a brief itinerary of the trip to accompany the viewing of the photos:

Day 1 (Sunday, June 29): Drive from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula. Stop at Portage Glacier in Chugach National Forest (which just now I learned is "Alaska's most visited tourist attraction"!). Set up camp on Hidden Lake.

Day 2: Two hikes in the morning, one to Kenai River and one to Skilak Lake (where we skipped rocks). Canoeing and bear run-in in the afternoon.

Day 3: Drive up to Seward, boat tour of the Kenai Fjords (glaciers! orcas! humpbacks!), dinner in Seward.

Day 4: Loooooooong drive up to Denali via Anchorage. Awe-inspiring views of the Alaska Range, including Mt. McKinley. Apparently it is extraordinarily rare to see them as clearly as we did - they are (especially Mt. McKinley) almost always covered with clouds.

Day 5: In Denali National Park on the bus system (the only way to access the park). Hopped on and off for two hikes at Polychrome Mountain and Toklat River. Game of midnight golf from 10 pm - 1:30 am.

Day 6: Fourth of July! Big hike up Mt. Healy at the edge of Denali NP. Fireworks show at 11:20 pm.

Day 7: Sad last day. Brief hike down to Horseshoe Lake (unfortunately no moose to be found) and then a drive back to Anchorage. Incredibly long wait at the Anchorage airport, but at least the Chili's served Alaskan.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy Holyoke Holly

A big congrats to my friend Holly Norwick, who graduated magna cum laude from Mt. Holyoke this past weekend.

From Holly's Mt. H...

I spent three days with Holly, her Mt. Holyoke friends (including boyfriend Shaun, who was awesome enough to pick me up at the airport), and of course Jason, who flew out from Hawaii to be there. As you can tell in the above picture, Holly has spent enough time in Hawaii to justify an enormous collection of graduation leis.

What else happened? Eating and more eating, a tour of the Mt. Holyoke campus, a stroll around North Hampton, and karaoke. Holly works at the (in)famous Rex Lounge in Chicopee, so of course her graduation party was held there. I managed to overcome my I'm-not-in-Hawaii-anymore- why-bother-with-karaoke funk and sang a few songs myself, with various amounts of success.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cherry Blossoms/The Hype

Many things simply aren't worthy of the hype they've managed to accumulate for themselves. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, for instance, or Roombas, or ecinacea. I'm sure we all have our personal lists. Every so often, though, something thumbs its nose at the laws of too-high expectations and actually proves itself worthy. Two soaring examples of this in DC are Ben's Chili Bowl and the cherry blossoms. Sure, Ben's has ridiculously long lines at nearly all hours of the day, and the Tidal Basin in late March/early April is inconceivably crowded with the most disgusting hordes of tourists, but at the end of the's hard to explain. It's as if missing out on these things would be missing out on life itself.

I didn't make my usual pre-dawn trip to the Tidal Basin this year, but I managed to sneak in a late-afternoon stroll through the blossoms. As always, they filled my eyes with sparkly joy and made my heart giddy with beauty. Consider this my official addition to the Cherry Blossom Hype, then, I guess. Click on the pix below for a floral explosion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Maybe not in my life, though...

This is silly, I know, but I just can't get over the first sentence.

Alexandra's diary entry for September 23, 1989 (I'm barely 11 years old):

Today just happend to be the worst day, maybe not in my life though. It was sunshine in the morning. We had our family picture taken at Grafflin. The picture included Max. The bad part was, it started pouring, while I was opening a refigerator door my finger got smashed, Nick wacked me in the eye, and last I got sooked and froze while running to the car. At night dad and mom went to a party, and Nick and me had pillow fights and watched T.V.

All misspellings sic.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Heavenly Week

I ask you, what could possibly beat this view?

From Tahoe 2008 an...

Now you know how Heavenly got it's name, eh?

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed my week-long stay with family and friends at the Heavenly Valley Townhouses, a short walk from the California base of Heavenly. Mainstays Cherif, Kate, and Susan H joined me and my parents at the condos. I took my once-yearly ski lesson with Bob Haas early in the week and spent the rest of my time on the slopes working on improving - ok, maintaining - my modest ski form. I have to say that despite over two decades of skiing, it's only been over the past three years, joining the crew at Heavenly, that I've become a real enthusiast. It also helps that for once in my life I was skiing on my very own equipment. Speaking of which...

Countless hours of my precious vacation were spent dealing with my infamous "boot problem." You see, back in May I had thought I was so smart and competent and had gone out to buy cheap off-season boots at REI. After the first day of skiing, though, I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong. By the second day I was in so much pain I had to cut my day short. I then went in desperation to Powderhouse to see Jeff, a master boot fitter. We spent two hours together fitting a boot: taking measurements, cutting out a footbed, inserting heel lifts, and grinding down the padding on the tongue (the last three things solely because I have an incredibly tight plantar ligament in the arch of my foot - Jeff called it the symptom of a "very intense" person!). The next day I went in for another couple hours to have a custom footbed made. Finally on the day after that I went in for a heel wrap. Total cost of the new boots & custom footbed: $470. Cost of old shitty REI boots: $249. How much I would have paid for the new boots after having skied for two horrid days on the old boots: $1,000,000. What I learned about the experience (useful only for other skiers, but essential for them!):
  • When you first put on the boots, your toes should be squished against the end. When you buckle in, your toes should be just brushing the end. The boot should feel on your foot like a firm handshake feels on your hand.
  • Unless you're a super regular skier with lots of experience buying boots, use a boot fitter! Again, use a boot fitter. It's not just important, it's absolutely necessary.
More pictures from the week:

Me and the lake and me and Cherif

Newly engaged couple Kate and Tyronne with my 4 year-old cousin Audrey

Audrey plays animal charades. Any guess at what she is here? (Hint: it smells!) (we were laughing soooooo hard...)

Evan and Audrey give the "evil eye"

I can't help it - another gorgeous view.

Until next year, dear Tahoe!