Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hi Ho the Cranberry Bog

If you're from the U.S. or Canada, the word 'cranberries' likely brings to mind Thanksgiving dinner and the purple-red jellied mass that comes out of a can and is served with your turkey.  (Looks weird, but still tastes like cranberries if you can get past that texture...)  Or perhaps the first thing that pops into your head is the Ocean Spray commercials with two guys wearing overall waders standing waist-deep in a flood of red and pink berries being silly and trying to convince you to drink some sort of cran-fruit juice.  Or maybe you just think .... Craisins!  Which are way better than raisins, in my opinion.

Cranberries are a big thing in Massachusetts.  It's the second largest producer of cranberries in the U.S., which is saying something since almost all cranberry farming takes place in the U.S. and Canada.  Eastern Massachusetts, especially the area south of Boston towards where the arm of Cape Cod extends off into the Atlantic Ocean, is dotted with cranberry bogs.

For most of the year, the bogs look sort of strange.  They are clear, open spaces in an otherwise very woodsy part of the country.  They typically have ditches bordering them, and the tangled mess of shrubs that are the cranberry plants often have a pinkish hue when viewed from a distance.  You can actually see the pink from the air too; keep your forehead glued to your window next time to you fly in to Logan Airport in Boston!

But then there's harvest season.  Harvest season is awesome.  In autumn, when the berries are ready, the bogs are flooded.  The ripe berries float, so the bogs become liquid swirls of pink, red, and white berries.  Some towns hold cranberry festivals, and many of the berry farmers open their operations to tourists who are curious about the cranberry-harvesting process.  They'll let visitors wander around the bogs and they'll talk through the various pieces of equipment and harvesting process.  But why just watch when you can do?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Three Things I Learned At Igloofest

A five-hour EDM rave.  On a pier.  Outside.  In Montreal.  In January.

I ask you, what about this is not brilliant??

I just happened to be in Montreal for opening weekend of Igloofest 2014.  And although I was traveling alone, I was not about to let that stop me from experiencing the madness!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Three Peaks Challenge

The National Three Peaks Challenge: within the time limit of 24 hours, you must summit the highest mountains in Scotland, England, and Wales.  And that 24 hours includes travel time between peaks.  Who comes up with these crazy ideas?  And why do so many crazy people then jump onboard to make it happen?

Ah well, pot kettle.  I don't come up with the ideas, but I always think they're brilliant.

I don't have a clue where the Three Peaks Challenge came from, and the omniscient Internet is remarkably silent on that account as well.  I first heard about it from someone at some point in England (how's that for vague?).  I wasn't much of a hiker or climber back then, but I will always pounce on any excuse to go to Scotland and I had not yet been to Wales, so I was immediately keen.  And fortunately I usually have one friend in the immediate vicinity with enough screws loose to join me!

We did a bit of research and decided the best route starts with Ben Nevis, then heads south through Scafell to Snowdon.  Ben Nevis is Scotland's tallest mountain, and the tallest in the British Isles, at 1344 meters.  It's near Fort William in the Lochaber area of the Highlands.  It's also the toughest hike, so we figured we'd rather do it when we were fresh.  Then it would be six-ish hours to drive to Scafell Pike, England's tallest peak at 978 meters, in Lakes District National Park.  Scafell is short, but very steep.  Then four hours to Snowdonia National Park in Wales to climb Snowdon, 1085 meters high but the gentlest climb of the three.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ice Marathon Survival Gear

There is a blizzard raging outside.  I already went for a run in it, so now seems an appropriate time to hunker down with a cup of tea and write about Ice Marathon gear!

I started experimenting with my layers a year ago, and was surprised to discover how very little is required to stay warm and toasty while running in really cold weather.  Of course, I was not training in Antarctica or anywhere with comparable temperatures, so I was still a bit nervous when I received the gear list from Richard.  Running tights and wind pants?  That's it?  Regular trail running shoes??  No freaking way!

But the reality is, yes freaking way.  In fact, I overdressed!  It wasn't super critical since we looped back through camp once and were closely monitored by the staff the entire time, but wet clothes turn into frozen clothes and unless you have a place to warm up and dry off (thank goodness for the shower after the race, and the dining tents!), you're toast.  The guides liked to remind us often: You sweat, you die.