Solid Day of Canoeing on My Favorite Lake

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Yesterday’s canoe trip to a lake a couple towns over started off a bit rough. When I turned the canoe over to put it on my car, there were various species of spiders living on and inside, with about 6,000 baby spiders each. I felt a little bad hosing them off, but I wasn’t about to share my canoe trip with them. Then, before we hoisted the canoe on top of the car, a small snake appeared on the back of the canoe. Now although I am not afraid of snakes, I couldn’t help but freak out a bit because when I say appeared, I mean it was not there one second, and was there the next second. I have no idea where it came from, though my friend thinks it may have been tossed into the canoe from the opening of my car’s trunk. We just tipped the canoe to let him escape into the woods.

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It was like a mini-horror movie… but not really. The rest of the trip was quite a good time. Had some subs out on the lake, visited some islands, ate some wild blueberries, tossed some logs into a tree for sport… and it miraculously became art.

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Is it horrible that we fed some ants to the school of fish by the shore on one of the islands? I mean, fish need to eat too…

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Alex struck a gargoyle pose after shoving off… or he might have been stuck I’m not sure.

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It was slightly cloudy, but that didn’t ruin anything. In fact it might have been better with the cooler weather.

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A good shot from the bow…

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And of the stern with Steve’s finger in it (btw thanks Steve for taking all these pictures)…

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And yes I had to look up the terms bow and stern…

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Overdosing on Nature!

A 3.5 hour drive in beautiful weather up to the trailhead in New Hampshire. The doors open, it starts raining… pouring really. We hear some thunder in the distance. Its okay, we came prepared. In fact it would have been strange if it wasn’t raining, I don’t think I have ever completed a camping trip without at least one downpour. It felt like the start of a good adventure! And we could always get dry tomorrow. So I set out with my dad, uncle, and cousin.

Two miles uphill to the fork in the trail where we would make base camp for the 2 mountain peaks that we planned to hike the next day. Still raining, but luckily my dad found a good spot off the trail next to a river where we could fit 2 tents. We strung up a tarp, heated up some beef stew, and cracked some beers.

Yes, we carry beers with us even when space in our packs is limited. But good hoppy beers, not some of that light crap. It did indeed stop raining the next day, so I was able to make my usual backwoods refrigerator also known as the river. I just pile some rocks up to make sure the beers don’t float away, and voila, the cold mountain water cools them down.

At the top of one of the mountain peaks, I found the rock I would sit on were I to become a wizard inhabiting the region (I have pictures, but I did not take them, so they will have to come in a later post). It looked out over the valley of wilderness to the east of the South Carter, and Middle Carter Mountain. On top of Middle Carter I picked some Labrador Tea. Good flavor, but I didn’t have too much since “some sources describe the mountain version as poisonous” according to one of my books. I brought some home however, and will probably try it again with such easy access to hospitals, should something go wrong.

And the wisdom gained from elders sitting around the campfire is second to none. Drinking our river cooled beers after a solid 8 mile hike topping two 4,000+ foot peaks; “Relationships are like logs in a fire” my uncle mused. “Set the logs too far apart, and they extinguish. Set them too close together, they will smother each other and go out. You have got to put the logs at just the right distance for them to feed off one another, and keep the fire lit”.

And somehow, I hadn’t had enough hiking when I got back to Massachusetts, so I ventured out on Saturday to Douglas state forest. I supposed I might hike 4 miles, but that turned into about 7 when I got lost. Turns out there are many more paths than suggested by the map I found that someone had dropped on the trail. After stopping by the shores of Wallum lake…

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And finding a wild “Hen of the Woods” mushrooms that I later sauteed with some onions and garlic (it was actually wicked good)…

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And coming across some interesting structures and old foundations in the woods…

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For the first time I put the position of the sun to practical use in order to decide which trail to take, and good thing. I was heading south towards Connecticut, when I should have been heading west towards my car. So since I knew it was afternoon, I knew the sun would be more towards the west, I took an offshoot in that general direction.

This got me going in the right-ish direction, and sooner or later I happened upon the tri-state marker where Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island meet! I thought this was pretty cool, and was thrilled that I had gotten lost, because 1) I didn’t know that marker was in the forest and to stumble upon it was kind of like finding treasure or Narnia (well maybe not quite that cool) and 2) even if I did know I might have considered the hike too far.

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But in the end it was only another mile or two back to my car from the marker. So that’s where I have been for the better part of the last week; lots of hiking, nature, and good times.

Hiking the White Mountains, Back to Basics

Much like you get used to a certain level of stress, I think I might be getting used to a certain level of activity, which makes me feel like I’m not doing as much. But when I get to pat donkeys, goats, and alpacas, go to a bar with 46 beers on tap, and try disc golfing for the first time all in one weekend, I’ll consider that a win.

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And now I am in New Hampshire hiking the White Mountains near Carter’s Dome for three days! I try to get out to the Mountains of New Hampshire at least once a year, and it is amazing how relaxing a strenuous hike up a mountain can be. To see the views from the top, smell the air, rise above the tree line, and take in a different world is exhilarating.

So what I’ll be doing, probably as you read this, is packing up my frame backpack with freeze dried meals—which are delicious…at least after hiking up a mountain—a little gas stove, plenty of water and a filter, some snacks, a tent, sleeping bag, and as much beer as we can carry up the mountain: just the necessities. Again, 2 beers after draining yourself of energy and calories all day on rugged rocky terrain is plenty—especially a nice hoppy IPA—and helps you sleep well for the next day of hiking.

What I love about hiking and real camping is the “reset” quality. You kind of get out there in the wilderness, in the middle of the mountains, with just what you can carry, and you’re alone with your group. You are miles from any rescuers, and miles from a road. I leave my phone in the car and have no access to technology for a couple days. This feels like resetting myself to the natural state of being a human.

Sure I know I’ll have modern things with me, but there is still something rewarding about the difficulty of camping—not that it is particularly difficult, just that every little thing become more complex. Like when it inevitably starts pouring rain, and we have to scramble to get the tarp up if we didn’t see it coming, or layer the fire with leafs in shingle form to protect it from the weather.

Then you have got to enjoy the company of those around you, instead of relying on technology to fill the gap. It makes me feel like a hunter gatherer… with freeze dried meals. It brings me back to simpler times, closer to our roots… while enjoying a polyester tent.

Hey its not perfect, but its better than getting wrapped up in our modern, “advanced” world and forgetting where we came from.

Song Therapy to Get Out of a Rut

I developed a strategy yesterday for mentally returning to a good place. I didn’t know I was doing it, but in the morning before work (I didn’t work until 3pm) I was very high on life, having a recent reference point from an amazing festival all last week, and found myself enjoying the moment, when 2 weeks ago work would have loomed over me negatively. And I have a pretty upbeat job selling running shoes; retail though it is, I would categorize it as generally enjoyable.

So anyway I went for a run in the high noon heat and danced to the music, sang along a few lines because thats what I wanted to do, when I would normally be like, “but what if someone sees me and thinks I’m weird?” (Though I’ve probably been holding myself back for no reason; I’m sure some people already think I’m a bit odd).

When I felt a pulse of energy or excitement, I raised my arms to the sky, breathed in deep and took it all in. I passed an older gentleman running and would have kept my head straight forward two weeks ago, but yesterday I turned, smiled, and waved. He took out his earbuds and joked, “I was young once too”, and I laughed and told him if he keeps it up he’ll stay young. I ungracefully hurdled over a lawn sign.

Afterwards I’m happy, feeling accomplished (from the run), excited about my new blog! I just so happen to love this song “Rewind” by the Rascal Flatts right now, and I inadvertently bumped it at my highest moment (keep in mind I am not talking about drugs when I say high). Here’s the song:

And I was still quite happy well into work, and it was not so much negativity as it was tiredness that hit me around 5 or 6pm. I was like, damn being happy takes a lot of energy… or running 5 miles during the hottest part of the day. One of the two.

At points throughout the day pangs of fear would rise in me, as if its scary to be excited about life. The higher you fly, the further you can fall, so what—just stay neutral? I don’t think that is the answer, I think perpetual happiness is a better goal. So I tried to ignore the negatively.

What if my blog fails: who cares, what have I lost? And worrying about it doesn’t help anyway. What if at my happiest moment, it all comes crashing down? Well, at least I was happy before. What if I am judged for what I post? I am sure I am! And the best feeling is not caring at all and doing it for me.

But sometimes just rationalizing things is not enough, because then I engage in a conversation with myself, and in doing so, allow a platform for the negativity. Okay long setup, but back to the strategy I stumbled upon. Every time I started to whistle the tune to “Rewind” I would return mentally to my happy state of mind, from the best part of my day. Singing the lyrics had an even better effect (though not wanting to scare away repressed Massachusetts customers, I limited that to the back room amidst the shoe box audience).

I don’t know, maybe there’s a psychological basis for my observation, if I have any Psychologists reading (or maybe a freshman year pschology major who knows it all, and just needs to complete the other 6 years of study as a formality). But anyway, try it out and let me know if it works for you.

It does, however, take energy to be happy, and at points yesterday I had to let myself relax, perhaps slipping into neutral. I’m expecting as I train myself it will become default to be excited about life instead of having to coax myself back into position.

I’ve never really been an unhappy person, I’ve just found that I tend to fall into a routine, and not enjoy life as much as I could. It is cool to look for opportunities to have fun in a normally mundane situation. And really there is infinite amounts of things to be excited about.

So maybe no day should be normal. If we expect our days to be the same old drudgery, they will be. But two seemingly uniform days where I write, run, then work do not have to be identical; in fact it is impossible for them to be identical. Yet it is easy to feel like you are Bill Murray stuck in Punxsutawney indefinitely. But if you look for opportunities to be excited about “the same old stuff”, I am pretty sure you’ll find them.