Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Our First Official Adirondack Hike

A recent conversation . . .

"So you're new to the Adirondacks? Where did you move to?"

"Keene Valley."

"Oh - you're a hiker?"

"Um . . . well . . . I like to walk in the woods. I'm not a climb-up-a-mountain-and-hang-off-of-a- cliff kind of hiker."

"Well - if you're going to live in Keene Valley, you're going to have to climb mountains!"

* * *

Apparently "flat" hiking is not an option here in Keene Valley. So last Sunday afternoon, we embarked on our first official mountain climb. The High Peaks are mountains over 4,000 feet high. I think this one was about 400 feet high - but it was still a climb!

This is the trailhead for three trails. (If you click on the picture, it should enlarge) We were hiking the Town of Keene Ridge Trail. At a hearty 0.9 miles, we thought we could handle it!

Um . . . is this a bad sign?

Is there a bear in there? The girls love to explore. Notice their backpacks. They were determined to take along their "gear." I think they were prepared for a week's hike!

Who doesn't love a little mountain stream?

The trail was in pretty good condition considering the long winter. There were a lot of fallen trees and branches and a still few snowy spots.

We felt pretty good about our pace up the mountain until we were passed by trail runners. Then we were passed again . . . by the same trail runners. They'd completed the loop and were heading up again! Oh well - we were stopping to smell the pine along the way!

Although the woods are just awakening to spring, we enjoyed many little spots of woodland beauty - I continue to be amazed by the colors on the rocks.

New life poking through the matted leaves on the forest floor. Someday a mighty pine could stand on this spot.

Another tiny tree . . . I wonder if he looks up at the big trees around him and wishes he were all grown up.

Some kind soul put a bench at the top for us "newbies" to rest on. We sat for awhile enjoying our apples and oreos (yes, they make organic oreos!).

CorrieAnne checking out the view from the top with her trusty binoculars - packed in her backpack of course.

Wayne and Sodie heading down the mountain.

So there you have it! I'm not sure if we'll live up to the Sound of Music theme . .. "Climb Every Mountain," but at least we've conquered one.

And The Morning Stillness Was Shattered By . . .

I will never forget the morning when I was rattled from my beauty sleep by the arrival of a backhoe outside my bedroom window. Over the next several years, as the beautiful field beside our Pennsylvania home transformed into a development with 40 homes, I grew accustomed to the rattle of dishes in my cupboards, the "beep-beep" of backing construction vehicles, the incessant hammering and sawing and the increased traffic on our country road. (We also made some great friends in the development - Hi Dave and Bonnie!)

While I'm not anti-progress, I am pro-sleep! And pro-peaceful mornings.

So . . . we moved to the quiet Adirondack mountains where we could awaken to the babble of the river and the wind in the pines.

As I sat writing in my journal the other morning, there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter . . .

. . . and there was a BACKHOE!!!

Now to put this in perspective, we have ONE neighbor!!! Just ONE!!!

We haven't even met them yet because they are "seasonal" owners - meaning that they live elsewhere and just vacation here. We've been told that they'll be here in July and August . . . so things should be pretty quiet September through June - right?

Wrong! Our ONE neighbor . . . is having an addition built on his house! Can you believe it??!!

So now every morning at 6:45 am, a parade of pick-up trucks, dump trucks, boom trucks and graders progress up our driveway past my window. Shortly thereafter, the hammering and sawing begins and continues until 4:00 pm when the parade heads home.

I'm trying to keep my sense of humor about this. =-) They say there's something good in everything. So here's what I've come up with so far:

1) The project has a June 30 deadline so at least we're only looking at months instead of years this time.

2) The nice man with the backhoe had to ask me to move my van on that first morning. Apparently he could tell I was less than thrilled (still being in my pj's and all) so he kindly used his backhoe to smooth out the mud ruts in our drive.

3) There's no use sleeping in so we're getting a nice early start to the day.

4) All you who know us are getting a good giggle . . . and since laughter is good medicine, we are improving your health of our dear family and friends.

5) I can't think of anymore right now!

Friday, April 25, 2008

75 Degrees and Knee Deep in Snow?!

On Sunday, we were finally able to walk the whole way around our house. (That is the first time I had seen the back of the house!) We wore short sleeves and sunglasses . . . and snow boots!

Yes, spring has come to the Adirondacks. The first snow fell in October and the locals tell us the ground has been white ever since. Needless to say, those who endured the long winter are almost giddy with delight. We, too, are enjoying watching spring arrive.

My first introduction to spring happened about two weeks ago. I turned out of our driveway and headed north on Route 73 toward Keene Valley. I had barely driven a quarter of mile when a loud "whooshing" sound startled me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something white exploding out of the rock wall to my left. I nearly swerved off the road!

The girls and I were a little nervous to drive back home. I slowed down as we neared the spot and we discovered one of the wonders of Adirondack spring.


No kidding - this beauty is just around the bend from our driveway.

A Keene Valley fireman told Wayne recently that the park rangers had tried to measure the snow on the High Peaks. Their probe was 9 feet long and they couldn't hit bottom! That's a lot of snow to melt!

As the temperatures climb, new waterfalls are created and regular ones swell. This picture is of Roaring Brook Falls - 2 miles from our house. The falls cascade over 300 feet down the mountain. This spot is popular with photographers and rock climbers. A hiking trail goes right up and over the falls. I'm not sure I have the guts to climb that one.

As all that snow melts, another Adirondack phenomenon is created: MUD!!!

This picture was taken in . . . our driveway! Spring in the Adirondacks is also known as "Mud Season." In fact, things get so mucky that the schools close for two weeks. Many of the locals take vacations to escape the mud. Others (like us) use the time to fix up their establishments before tourist season begins.

Four-Wheelin' anyone?!

You would have gotten a good chuckle if you'd seen me fish-tailing my way up the driveway. I knew if I stopped, I'd sink - so I just closed my eyes and kept on churning. We're taking donations for gravel . . .

When we moved in, there was a huge white mound in the backyard - looked like a buried Volkswagon!

Well - now we can see it for what it is . . . a rock!

My picture doesn't do it justice - there are so many beautiful colors of brown, green, grey - even pinkish hues. Guess you'll just have to come and see it in person.

We are blessed to live right across the road from the beautiful Ausable River. Right now the water is flowing swiftly from all the snow melt. We can hear it babbling over the rocks from our front porch. I'm sure once it's warm enough to sleep with the windows open, we'll enjoy falling asleep to its song.

Still haven't seen a tulip or a daffodil, but they tell me they're coming! For now, we'll just enjoy the signs of Spring that have arrived.

Gotta go paint - those tourists are coming!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ten Little Things I Love About My House

My heart has been so filled with gratitude these past weeks as I have settled into this wonderful home. I marvel over the obvious beauty and magnitude of the home, but it is often the little things that make me smile as I go about my day.

So here are my top ten "little" things I love about my house (in random order):

1. The kitchen cupboards have drawers that roll out - no more standing on my head to find pots and pans!!

2. The washing machine is HUGE. I can wash the entire family's darks or lights in one load. (This will be great when I'm washing guest linens.)

3. I can't see myself in the bathroom mirror without standing on my tip-toes. At first, I grumbled about this . . . but now I'm realizing that I'm going to have AWESOME calves!

4. There is a clothesline on the side porch . . .and while I'm on the subject, I love the FOUR porches. Can't wait to hang a hammock and set out some Adirondack chairs. Peach tea anyone?

5. We have an antique clawfoot tub in our bathroom - great for soaking - and a shower!!! (It only took twenty-two years of married life to get a working shower!)

6. We have a mud room . . . finally, a place for all the dirty boots and sneakers.

7. There is an island in the kitchen. I feel like Rachel Ray as I chop and mix!

8. When I stick my head inside the corner cabinet, it smells like my Grandma Drennen's house.

9. I can lay in bed and watch the woods wake up as the morning sun filters down through the firs. (It's hard to wake up grumpy when the first thing you see each morning is so lovely.)

10. Once I wrestle the heavy wooden windows up and carefully position the old-fashioned screens (haven't lost one yet!), I can hear the Ausable River burbling and bubbling from across the road.

11. OK - just one more. When God was handing out the stars, His bucket slipped and dumped several million right over The Snow Goose. AAHHH!!

Life is good!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Amazing What You'll Do for Five Cents!

Recycling is a reeeeeally big deal here in NY. Such a big deal that we have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR recycling bins in our house. Aren't they lovely?
Everything has to be sorted into its appropriate bin. Other trash has to be sorted into burnables and non-burnables. After you burn the burnables (a concept that wouldn't go over very big in Fairview Township!), you have to take the rest to . . . the DUMP.

Now I must say that this is the most attractive dump I've ever seen - nestled among the spruce trees with mountain views all around. But . . . it is nevertheless a dump and they charge you for your trash - by the pound! AUGH! Who knew kitty litter was so heavy!

Anyway - I have a funny story to share about recycling which is the real reason I decided to blog about this subject. Turns out that you can get 5 cents apiece for soda/beer cans and bottles. Well you know us Stoners - ever the entrepreneurs!

The girls and I were taking a walk through some of the back streets of Keene Valley the other day when we began to notice all the empty cans and bottles lying along the sides of the road. Cha-ching! We saw an opportunity to make some easy money. We began to pick up everything in sight. In a short time, all three of us had our arms full. We circled back to the van which was parked on the main street of town.

Yes - the main street of town.

Three blocks from the van, it hit me . . . here I was walking down the sidewalk . . . in broad daylight . . . with my children . . . all loaded down with beer cans! Knowing how fast news travels in a small town, I can only imagine the conversations over dinner that night "Saw that new family today . . . ."

Thought you all would enjoy that account of our afternoon stroll. =-)
And just in case you've taken it for granted, give thanks for your curbside trash service!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Just Drivin' to the Grocery Store!

One the things I love most about living here in Keene Valley is that even running errands is an extraordinary experience. The views take your breath away. I met a man last week who has lived here all his life and he still pulls over to the shoulder of the road to stare at the beauty. I hope I never get used to it either.
I thought I'd take you on a trip to our grocery store. Enjoy!

As we begin our climb out of the valley, we pass huge cascades of ice clinging to the cliffs along the road. Unfortunately, most of them are in rather dangerous spots so it's hard to get a picture. This was the best we could do . . .
Interestingly, many of them are blue ice. Not sure why yet.

A little further along we come to a beautiful stretch of road where giant mountains rise out of the fields. Everytime we drive through this area, we see "Destiny Ranch" all over it! This is the area where we would eventually like to buy land and build the ranch.

Another future Destiny Ranch scene - Yee Haw!

Yes - that's a dogsled team! We have now reached the village of Lake Placid (about a half hour from our home) where you could take a dogsled ride on Mirror Lake until last week. The lake is still frozen over, but they've stopped the rides as a precautionary measure. It was neat to watch the dogs fly along and to hear their barks echoing over the ice.

Do you have this kind of view from your grocery store parking lot? The mountain in the distance is the backside of Whiteface - the Olympic ski mountain, boasting the highest vertical drop in the East. Believe it or not, almost all of their slopes are still open for skiing in mid April!

On the drive home, we look forward to this view as we crest a rise in the road and look out over the High Peaks. This picture was taken about 5 miles from our home and provides a great view of our "back yard."
Keene Valley is called "Home of the High Peaks" because 36 of the 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks are found here.
We're back home now. Gotta go put the groceries away.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Winter Wonderland

I know everyone is getting spring fever, so I thought I'd better post these snow pictures before it's too late and I get myself in trouble. You all know Wayne's great love for snow . . . if you don't, well . . . let's just say it borders on legendary. Since Keene Valley averages about 100 inches of snowfall a year, he should be happy!

We arrived to about 3 feet of snow on the ground. The locals tell us that they had no big storms this year - just a lot of little ones. Since the temperatures stay cold, the snow never melts. Just keeps stacking higher and higher. This is a win-win since the roads stay bare, but the countryside is covered in a beautiful blanket of white. As Wayne says, "This is how winter was meant to be!"

Here are a few snowy pictures of our property. Enjoy!

Wayne in his glory . . . no one had cleared the porch roofs all winter so he decided to shovel some of it off. The last thing we need is a roof collapse!

This is Wayne's barn and I have to admit, as barns go, it's really cool. It has two floors in it - perfect for an office, bunkhouse for Expeditions and maybe even a cow. (Wayne keeps threatening!)

When I first walked around our barn and saw this scene, I literally gasped! It is a frozen waterfall cascading over a huge rock wall (perfect for summertime rapelling for those of you who like that kind of thing!). There is no way to adequately capture it - at least with our camera - but I thought I'd try.

This is the view from all of the windows on the back side of the house - the kitchen, the library, our bathroom and CorrieAnne's bedroom. Can you see why it's hard to get anything done?!

When you come to visit (hint, hint), you too can enjoy this wonderful view from all three of our guest rooms!

One late afternoon, I went out on the side porch to get firewood. I picked up a few logs, turned to go into the house and . . . wow! Standing only about 20 feet away was a beautiful doe. I said, "Why hello there!" She just kept watching me, completely unafraid. I stood there until I got too cold. I went back in the house and she went on with her business.

Almost every evening, between 4 and 5 pm, two doe come out of the woods in front of our house and spend 20 minutes or so nibbling on the bushes along our driveway. It is fun to watch them - probably won't be so fun when they're nibbling on our garden this summer!