Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's Been a While!

I'm exhausted.

I'm finally back to base camp after two weeks in Baxter State Park. I think I told you we've been doing stone steps, but we've actually been highlining rocks down the trail in order to build stone steps. The main goal of the project was the get the rocks moved so they could bring another pile over in the fall. We did some odd projects, like riprapping side areas of the trail to prevent erosion, but it was mainly moving rocks. If you look at it from above, it looks like a big Y. The main line is attached to two trees, and then there's a supporting vector with a griphoist on one end to move the line up and down for loading and unloading. Once the rock or rockbox is attached and the line is tightened, someone gets to guide it down using a rope. It's actually pretty fun work, though slow at points.

We stayed in the park during our days off last week. On Wednesday, we drove into Millinocket, the closest town, and went to the Appalacian Trail Cafe, which is home to the Summit Sundae Challenge. It's fourteen scoops of ice cream, a banana, a king-sized Snickers bar, a handful of M&Ms, five cherries, and an entire pastry (ours was a blueberry muffin). It's meant to be eaten by one person, but we split into teams of two for a challenge. We made quite the spectacle, and the locals were even getting into it, cheering us on. Turned out to be rather anticlimactic though, as all three teams finished at the same time. My stomach was fine, but my mouth was cold! We warmed up by lying in the sun on the sidewalk for a few minutes!

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around town looking for t-shirt supplies to make team tie-dyed shirts. We actually drove forty-five minutes to the nearest Walmart to get the actual shirts, and the only color dye we could find was green. But it was my first time tie-dying, and the shirts turned out pretty well. We used cardboard to make a stencil with our team name on it, and we spray-painted it onto the shirts. Low-budget, but effective. :)

Thursday, we woke up at the unearthly hour of five am - even earlier than we get up for work - to climb Katahdin. But we hit the peak at about nine-thirty and were down again in the early afternoon. We went up the Hunt Trail (which we worked on!) to Baxter Peak, across Knife's Edge, and down Helon Taylor. I'm not the most experienced hiker, so it was a challenge, but it was definitely worth it. I tried to take lots of pictures, because the views even halfway up were incredible, so we'll see how they turned out.

We chilled on Friday, finished our t-shirts and went to the Ledges - the swimming place with the natural water slides. We were back at work on Saturday and left on Wednesday morning. The weekend in the park was nice, but staying in a tent for two weeks straight is not the most comfortable thing in the world. It starts to smell after a few days (mostly from socks), especially when you don't do laundry or take a shower! Also, it's tough to dry clothes out when they get wet.

So now I'm back! We got in yesterday morning, had lunch, went for showers and laundry, and then immediately piled into the vans again. We camped last night and went white water rafting today! It was my first time (I know - for shame! I live so close to the Yough!), but it was pretty fun. Most were class 2 and 3 rapids, but there was one 4 I believe. The first half of the trip was more exciting; the second half was a lot of drifting and minor rapids. We occupied ourselves for at least an hour with a riddle about two men in a restaurant and an albatross, lol.

Whew. Well, that's all for now. It's already past my bedtime, so I'm off to sleep! Catch you on the flip side. :P

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Natural water slides in Baxter State Park.
Sunrise over Flagstaff.
Flagstaff Lake.
Rainbow Lake.


Sleeping in a bed is a good feeling. It's not something I realize that I miss when I'm in a sleeping bag and a tent, but, if asked, I would probably take the bed over the sleeping bag, especially in a torrential downpour. I'm in Bar Harbor with my family for the 'weekend,' and every morning, I wake up diagonal across the bed. I always manage to stay on my sleeping pad when I'm in my tent, but the mattress seems to be just too big. Too much room!

It's been fun being out on the town and hitting the sights. It was rainy yesterday, so, after lunch (and a shower for me), we went to the Whale Museum in downtown Bar Harbor. We did some shopping and then went back to the hotel to play some cards in the bar, where I had my first legal drink. It was a . . . Bluberri pink lemonade? I'm not actually sure what was in it, but it was . . . interesting.

It was a gorgeous day today! Sunny, low 70s. We had breakfast at this cute little restaurant, where I had chocolate chip pancakes. Yum! We explored the BH shops a bit more before going on a lighthouse/harbor boat tour, which was fun for a number of reasons. I didn't get sick on the boat! The tour guide was funny and he was from near Pittsburgh. We've gotten stopped at least three times in the past few days because of our PGH college sweatshirts, and the general consensus is that Pittsburgh is awesome. :) We're all set to go kayaking tomorrow. I'm super excited for that. Being on the sea is definitely a worthwhile experience.

As for work, I have to be back tomorrow night to get everything packed. We leave again on Saturday for our second week on the Hunt trail, on Katahdin. Last week, we fixed up some extra things. We'll be doing stone steps for the next two weeks. We have plans to stay an extra day one week so we can hike to the summit. I'm not the best or most experienced hiker, but I'm really looking forward to that. I don't want to spend three weeks working halfway up the mountain and never experience what it's like to make it to the top. I can't wait for the view!

We also have plans for an ice cream competition! There's an AT cafe in a nearby town that serves fourteen scoops of ice cream, one for each state. We've already split up into three teams of two. The goal is to finish. If more than one team finishes, then it's fastest time. We've been "training" for weeks, eating seconds and thirds at dinner in the name of this competition. I think the gaps between appetites are starting to decrease, and it's going to be a close contest. The biggest thing I'm worried about is brain freeze!

I have more pictures to share! I'll try to get some up soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dusk on the shore.

Hiking along the beach.
The border!
It's easy to lose track of the days in a job like this. Two of the most frequently-asked questions are: "What day is it?" and "What's the date?" It's not something we need to keep track of, as long as we show up at the beginning of the week. Distance means very little as well, beyond how far we have to hike in and out.

So when we had an extra day and a half off for the Fourth of July and I wanted to get out of base camp for a while, I didn't think too much about the distance when someone suggested Canada as a possible destination. And because I had no idea what the date was, I ended up pulling into St. Andrews in the midst of their Canada Day celebrations. I got some free flags out of it! I almost got to see a fireworks display as well, but a fog rolled in about the same time I did, and the fireworks looked more like big flashes of light than anything distinguishable.

St. Andrews is a nice town though, and I had fun exploring. I tried to do a lot of the historical things, so the first order of the day was to walk down to and check out the blockhouse (where I tried to watch the fireworks). I also hit up the Loyalist burial ground, which had some really cool old gravestones, and the Ross House Museum, a 19th-century period house with some great room displays and paintings. The woman working at the Ross Museum kindly gave me a map marked with some things to do and a newspaper article on the St. Andrews trail crew. Thanks to her, I went for a great hike along the beach and went up Chamcook Mountain (where the Rosses had their actual home).

I also traveled over to Minister's Island. There's a great little summer cottage built by William Van Horne, a major player in the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I went for a tour of the house (which William designed himself) and the barn (where he raised cows and horses). The tides in the Bay of Fundy are apparently some of the biggest-swinging in the world, and it's so fun to watch. I tried to go to Minister's Island around 10:30 in the morning and found that there was no way to get across. When I came back during low tide, there was suddenly a land bar to cross, big enough to drive my car over. Later that night while walking along the beach, I walked out on a promontory to take photos. I was out there for about ten minutes, not quite paying attention. When I turned to go back, I realized the tide had already started to cover my route back to shore! Luckily, the water wasn't high yet, and I was able to cross without getting soaked.

I camped that night and spent some time reading on the shore. It had drizzled a bit in the morning, but had cleared up during the day. It was gorgeous by the time I went to bed. Even so, I bought some a tarp to put down under my tent. "Just in case," I told myself. I didn't actually think it would rain, or else I would have rigged one over my tent. Alas, I was awoken at 6:15 in the morning (Atlantic time) by a thunderclap. I woke up enough to register the raindrops falling on my tent, but it was another five minutes before I realized that water was actually pooling inside my tent. When the thought Why are my legs wet? ran through my head, I knew I was in trouble. I sprang up to assess the situation, threw on my rain jacket, and proceeded to toss all my wet possessions into garbage bags (that I luckily had in my trunk).

I high-tailed it out of the campsite around 6:45 and drove to Saint John in a rainstorm. It was quite an experience. Because I arrived so early, I killed some time sipping a hot chocolate in the market while waiting for the New Brunswick Museum to open. That museum is an awesome deal. I think I got in for $3.50 as a student, and, because I was there so early, again, I got a one-on-one tour of the shipbuilding exhibit and there were only two other people on the tour of the whale hall. Very cool stuff, especially the shipbuilding.

Luckily, the storm cleared up while I was in the museum, so I was able to walk around the city a bit. I went to the Saint John Centre for the Arts, where they had some nice galleries. There was one with a Spanish/dance theme that I especially liked. I'm a self-proclaimed used bookstore addict, and I think I went to . . . four in Saint John. At one, I found a Myst book! I couldn't pass it up, because I loved Myst when I was a kid, and, sadly, I've kind of been looking for those books for years. I picked up an Ann Patchett book at another bookstore/coffee shop. I actually got invited to a book club there and had to explain that I was just visiting! I did a little shopping as well and picked up a mug to add to my collection.

All in all, I thought Canada was beautiful. I definitely want to go back for a proper visit. There are so many things I'd like to do (namely: spelunking!). I'll try to update tomorrow about our new project and what I'm up to this weekend. Pics to come?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Staying in NB, Canada for my days off. Camping - woke up to a thunderstorm and water in my tent at 6:15 this morning. Nice wake up call eh?