Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bear Hill

Signs at the Bear Hill entrance
Thanksgiving morning I enjoyed a short walk to and around the Bear Hill Nature Preserve.

After a fifteen to twenty minute walk from our friends' house in Cragsmoor, where we were staying for Thanksgiving, Justin, Myrrhlyn and I arrived at the Bear Hill Nature Preserve. As we walked into the preserve, we passed by some of Cragsmoor’s older as well as newer homes. All reminders of civilization eventually passed from view, however, as we walked further into the preserve.

A few minutes later some small outcroppings of boulders appeared through the trees to our right. Never having been to Bear Hill before, I thought that we had arrived at our destination. We had not.

The three of us, two humans and a canine, continued walking until the distant horizon came into view though a cut in the trees created by the trail. For a while, it looked like the trail might end in a sudden drop off. As we crested a small rise, I could see, though, that the trail did not end at a drop off but at a “T” intersection. Justin suggested we turn left, and we did.

The view from rocky Bear Hill
Some more hiking brought us to the real Bear Hill, an outcropping of lichen encrusted silurian conglomerate typical of the Shawangunks. Offering a spectacular 180-degree southern and western view, we explored the area, climbing over slabs and boulders, jumping across and climbing down into and back up crevices. The deepest chimney like crevice we explored was must have been a hundred feet from top to bottom. As we climbed through the rock and boulder strewn formation, sometimes passing over, under and around large and small boulders edged into the chimney, I had visions of the movie 127 hours. We climbed down and back up, however, without incident.

At an elevation of 1,950 feet, the Summit of Bear Hill is no eastern Everest. Its commanding view over the lowlands to the south and west, combined with its exposed rocky ruggedness, suggests an elevation much higher.

While the nearby Sam’s Point Nature Preserve offers many more miles of hiking trails, far more flora and fauna, and a slightly higher elevation, I think the Bear Hill preserve offers a better view and far better rocks for scrambling. I am glad that this most recent Thanksgiving we explored it rather than hiking trails I have already hiked in the Sam’s Point Preserve.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations Coming to Summit to Shore Every Thursday

This photo will accompany every
Lectionary Ruminations post.
For the past several months, I have been contributing the "Lectionary Ruminations" post on the Presbyterian Bloggers blog. I will continue to do for the near future, but beginning this coning Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, I will begin cross positing the same "Lectionary Ruminations" here at Summit to Shore.

Climbing, kayaking and sailing readers of Summit to Shore might not find these every Thursday posts of much interest. Then again, who knows? However, Presbyterian as well as religiously and spiritually minded readers might want to read the every Thursday posts for the own edification and /or to prepare for participating in or leading Sunday Worship or lectionary based Bible studies.

While I have been positng this every Thursday column at Presbyterian Bloggers for some time, Lectionary Ruminations will become the first regular and weekly post on Summit to Shore.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Theater Poster
 Less than three weeks after visiting Hogwarts, my wife and I were sitting in a theater watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1. This seventh installment in the Harry Potter movie franchise did not disappoint us.

I am NOT the world’s biggest Harry Potter Fan. I have not read any of the books. I have seen all the movies however, some more than once. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy occupy the top spot on my list of all time fantasy favorites, followed by C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Frank Herbert’s Dune, all of which I have read. Even the Star War’s films and Star Trek in all its television and film permutations, excluding Enterprise, fall on my list before Harry Potter.

My wife, on the other hand, is a BIG fan. She has purchased most of the books the day they were released and finished reading them within a few days of their release. She knows the Harry Potter characters and story line much better than I do. Because she is such a Harry Potter fan, we have seen moist of the films on their day of their release.

We bought our tickets for the 7:00 PM show in advance over the internet. When we arrived at the theater, more than thirty minutes before the show, there was no line. My wife popped her credit card in the pre-sale kiosk and immediately our two tickets spit out.

By the time we rode two escalators to the third floor auditorium the doors had just opened and people were walking into the theater. We located two seats near the center front, two or three rows back. The seats were large, comfortable, and included cup holders at the end of the armrest.

After previews and commercials, the theater darkened, the sound came up, and the movie started around 7:15 PM.

During the film, the woman next to me gasped several times and almost jumped out her seat once. A man behind me audibly cursed at one of the characters and sighed a couple times when all seemed lost. The audience seemed engaged. When the credits started rolling, however, there was no applause as I have witnessed at other movies. I did not hear any audible comments, pro or con.

I enjoyed the movie and only a couple of times had to ask my wife about a character or place I was not sure about. She loved it and claimed that the film contained more of the book than the other films. Apparently, by dividing the book into two films, less of the book was cut out. The only thing she really missed was the internal monologue of the character’s thoughts provided by the book which the film does not try to recreate.

I am actually looking forward to the final installment because I am still not sure whether Severes Snape is a good guy or a bad guy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guests Without Gusts

Tony and Dottie
My wife and I recently passed a couple more sailing milestones when we sailed (sort of) for the seventh time a C&C 24 named Mischief. One landmark we passed was that we have now sailed Mischief more times than we sailed the J/24’s during our sailing class. The other highlight of our most recent trip was that it was the first time we sailed with guests aboard.
Having sailed a dozen times under various conditions I finally felt comfortable enough with our experience and skills to invite some friends aboard the Mischief for a sail on Jamaica Bay. Walter, Dottie, Tony and Fran arrived as planned to join us for a wonderfully sunny and warm afternoon on the water. The wind, forecasted to be between 6-8 miles an hour, failed to show up however.
While nearby JFK International Airport recorded winds up to 4.8 mph, we barely enjoyed a breeze and relied more on the outboard motor than the sails to maneuver. A single small gust lasting about 15 minutes did help propel as northward though Jamaica Bay but was all too short-lived. Even though there was not much wind, the glassy smooth surface of Jamaica Bay combined with a deep blue sky and warm sunshine combined to leave us with excellent memories of our first sail with guests. The other memorable event from the afternoon was passing a lone seal in Mill Basin both as we motored out to Jamaica Bay and motored back in at the end of the day.
Walter and Fran
As soon as the sun rested upon the western horizon I turned on the running lights, started up the motor and headed back to the slip. Now that fall has arrived and daylight savings time has ended, the nights are not only longer and coming sooner, there is less twilight between day and night. By the time we drifted into the slip the half moon was shining brightly and we flaked the mainsail, tied off the lines, and closed up the boat in the dark.
During the afternoon sail, everyone but yours truly enjoyed some red wine, supplied by Tony. As the Captain and helmsman, I abstained. After Mischief was secure in the slip at the end of the day, however, I broke out a bottle of Captain Morgan, filled six shot glasses, and we all toasted a fine afternoon on the water. I think ending each sail with a shot of rum will become a Mischief tradition.
Tony, Dottie, Vicki and Walter
It was appropriate that Tony, Fran, Walter and Dottie were our first guests aboard the Mischief because all four, but especially Walter and Tony, have been instrumental in helping my wife and I experience Jamaica Bay via kayaks. Tony is the recently elected Commodore of the Sebago Canoe Club and Walter is the club's is kayaking chair.  Some of my favorite paddling memories are memories of paddling on Jamaica Aby with Tony and Walter.
Upon leaving Kings Plaza Marina, we three couples rendezvoused at Nick’s Lobster House, along the banks of Mill Basin, and enjoyed a post sail dinner together. I think dinner at Nicks has already become a post sailing tradition for Vicki and me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Backyard Fall

Autumn has finally arrived in New York City, at least the vibrant leaf colors I usually associate with fall, and particularly in the little corner of Queens that is our backyard. Recently one morning I opened the back door so that I could take food and water out to the cat. Flaming yellow leaves of the single maple tree growing in our small patch of urban wilderness greeted me, foliage brilliantly illuminated by the morning Sun to the southeast, vibrant translucent gold set against a cloudless dark blue patch of sky that hinted of winter.

Some trees in my Ridgewood neighborhood have already lost most, if not all, their leaves. Other trees are still dressed in full green, holdouts against the season. The tree in our back yard falls into the middle of the spectrum, still holding on to most of its leaves but every leaf offering its previously hidden pigment. If its leaves were fiery red, I would claim the tree was a descendant of Moses’s burning bush, aflame but not consumed. Its leaves are golden yellow however, suggesting this particular tree ought to be sitting at the end of some rainbow and guarded by leprechauns.

Now that the morning temperatures have cooled, I have taken to wearing a hat in the morning when I walk our dog, and I have totally abandoned wearing shorts, a past habit I mourn, as I have surrendered to fall’s onslaught. While the mercury has fallen, the blond leaves on the tree in our back yard lift my spirit whenever I see them, interest paid in advance of winter’s debt. If it were not for this and other such bright spots in what could otherwise be canyons of brick and mortar set amidst concrete and blacktop plains, I would be tempted to crawl into my urban den, not to stir from hibernation until the first hint of spring.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day Prayer

Eternal God, strong to save,    
     we pray for all the women and who have served in the armed forces of this country,
         from the battles at Lexington and Concord
         to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We thank you for the freedom and security their dedicated service has won and preserved for us.
Help us to cherish our freedom and to use it well.
We ask you to bless all veterans in a special way, not just today, but every day.
Comfort those veterans who grieve for the fallen comrades
     who gave the last full measure of devotion.
Strengthen those veterans who bear physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds.
As a nation, may we live up to the commitments and promises we have made to our veterans.
Moreover, we pray for the day when your peace will reign,
     and no nation needs to defend itself
     and no one needs to serve in the military.
Help us to live not only as people who long for peace, and who pray for peace,
but as peacemakers in this, your world.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

City Lights

Looking South from the Williamsburg Bridge
City Lights
Inspired by the opening pages of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s San Francisco Poems

On the elevated M
Rolling over the Williamsburg Bridge
Passing from Brooklyn to Manhattan
City lights awe me
Reflecting off the mirror like surface of the East River
Appearing as bioluminescent diamonds
Randomly strewn about
On a jeweler’s back velvet cloth
Or stars planted in the night sky
By a capacious creator

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Egmont Key

One of the dolphins we saw
on the way to Egmont Key
After a fantasy getaway to Hogwarts and Margaritiaville, my wife and I were looking for a vacation activity that was a little more natural and water related. After an internet search of possible activities, we decided to take a boat ride to Egmont Key.
We hopped a ride with the Tropical-Island-Getaway ferry based out of the Gulfport Municipal Marina. Aboard the ferry, named the Quest, with Captain Randy at the helm and assisted by Captain John, we and eighteen other passengers enjoyed a smooth ride out to Egmont Key. As we were leaving Tampa Bay, dolphins played in the boats wake, offering us our closest look at dolphins outside of an aquarium. We have kayaked near dolphins as we paddled off the North Carolina and South Carolina coast, but never paddled as close to them as they were from the Quest. Along the way, we also passed out from under the cloud cover and arrived under more sunny skies.
Thirteen miles later, having arrived at Egmont Key, Captains Randy and John anchored the boat near the shore. Passengers climbed down from the bow by descending an aluminum ladder suspended from the port bow. Stepping into about a foot and a half of water, we slowly walked to shore, shuffling our feet in the sandy bottom to scare away any hiding stingrays.

Donning our own masks, fins, and snorkels, we explored around the collapsed remains of an old power plant. Once located in the middle of the island, due to erosion, most of the power plant is now in the ocean. While our snorkeling around Egmont Key in no way compared to our snorkeling around Eleuthera in the Caribbean, we still enjoyed the experience. We saw pinfish, a few shells, and stingrays.
Power Plant ruins off Egmont Key

After snorkeling, we enjoyed a small picnic under palm trees on the beach. The white, powder like sand was some of the finest and cleanest sand we have ever seen. There were few, if any, bugs. The sun was warm. A gentle breeze was blowing. As we looked out over the Gulf, we could even see patches of turquoise water reminiscent of the Caribbean. All that was missing was our sailboat and rum punch.

After a couple hours on Egmont Key, we and the other passengers climbed back aboard the Quest. Our return trip more or less followed the same course we took out, but in reverse, except for a small detour to Fort De Sota County Park, where we encountered some more dolphins.
The Gulfport Municipal Marina, homeport of the Quest, offers clean, air-conditioned restrooms with showers. The small store also sells packaged snacks and bottled water, soft drinks, and beer. A few picnic tables are also availble near the store.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Fantasy Vacation

Hogwarts, at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Too many vacation destinations lure vacationers with promises of making their vacation “a dream vacation” or the “vacation of a lifetime”. I generally do not succumb to such hype. This post, therefore, is not about “a dream vacation” but one day of our family’s vacation, a day that included a trip to fantasyland.

My wife is a BIG Harry Potter fan. She has read all the books, most within a few days of their hitting the store shelf. Together we have watched all the Harry Potter movies so far released on DVD. For my wife’s birthday, since we are vacationing near Orlando over her birthday, I gave her a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

Our favorite attraction was Hogwarts. Not only did the recreation of Harry’s Boarding School look spectacular, the thrill ride inside, featuring gyrating motion synchronized with IMAX type visuals, was a delight. We liked it so much we rode it three times. Even waiting in line (the lines were short) was entertaining as the line led through various rooms of Hogwarts, each room with its own thrill.

After a long afternoon, when we were hot and tired, the “Butter Beer” slush was quite refreshing and tasty. I regret it is (as far as I know) available only in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We enjoyed our beverage with a few chocolate fudge flies.

The day we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was Halloween, so I found it hard to determine how many of the Harry Potter look-a-likes and Hogwarts gown clad youth and adults dressed up for their visit to the Park and how many dressed up because it was Halloween. Nevertheless, their presence added to the fantasy.

As if the above fantasy was not enough, on the way out of the park we decided to eat and imbibe at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritiaville. My wife enjoyed the Jerk Salmon. Wanting to keep the fantasy alive, I enjoyed a Cheese Burger in Paradise. We both enjoyed the drink of choice: Margaritas, of course. Though we were not in Keys, we were in Florida and the palm trees next to our open-air seating added to the illusion.

Visiting Hogwarts and Paradise in one day—now that is a fantasy vacation!

Monday, November 1, 2010

About the November 2010 Header Photo

This month’s header photo features a “shore” photo, but a photo taken from on the water looking back to shore rather than from shore looking out over the water. I took this shot from the cockpit of a C&C 24 looking north while sailing south on Jamaica Bay, NY. The skyline of Manhattan is visible on the horizon.