Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Epic NH ski day at Bretton Woods

After getting off to a slow start in January, the ski conditions in the White Mountains of New Hampshire are now Very Good to Absolutely Epic. The great thing about skiing in the Mount Washington Valley is that you have so many ski areas to choose from, both cross-country (more on that later) and alpine. With the weather patterns around Mount Washington, at any given time, one place or another is going to have great snow. Right now, that place is Bretton Woods. On that side of Mount Washington, the snowfall has been steady and has built up a base that isn't going away anytime soon, even with the warm temperatures forecast for later this week. Everything is open, and another great thing about Bretton (at least for advanced intermediate skiers like me) is that there is is a LOT of intermediate terrain, even from the tops of Rosebrook and West Mountains. With so much snow, they've even created some lovely glades for novices to try. Yes, I did, and yes, I had a blast.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great skiing at Wachusett Mountain

Even though the folks at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, Mass. have been making snow for a month, there's nothing like a natural snow drop (of around two feet) to encourage Rhode Islanders to make the one-hour drive northwest to ski there. I headed up on Friday, just ahead of the busy Martin Luther King weekend hordes, and enjoyed a great day on the slopes -- my first of the season.

The whole mountain was open, with some deep powder pockets on the steeper west side and smoother going on the east side. As always, Wachusett does a great job of managing people: Even though there were lines of maybe 40 people at each of the two lifts, I never waited more than 5 minutes to get on. And miraculously, the slopes themselves were wide open. I never felt crowded going down.

Everyone I met just seemed delighted to be skiing on such a fine day. Good options if it's your first time this year: Ralph's Run and Challenger, then Conifer and Balance Rock to work your way up to Smith Walton and 10th Mountain. By the end of the day, you'll have it down cold. But don't wait too long to leave. Around 2:30 p.m., the big buses roll into the parking lot, disgorging hundreds of school kids and weekenders. Time to call it a day and head home.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter sunset

Who couldn't love a winter day like this one? This great oak stands guard over Haines State Park in Barrington -- a great place to snowshoe.

Yes, there was some damage from the storm of Jan. 12, but isn't the snow worth it?

Ski trails are tracked at Pulaski!

When Rhode Island gets snow like we got yesterday, there's no better place to be the next day than Pulaski State Park in the state's northwest corner. I got out there this morning around 11, and all the trails had been groomed and tracked. The longest trail is 4.25 miles (yellow), but you can take smaller loops by following the green, yellow or pink arrows. The park's website has a link to download a trail map.
A few things to remember: First, how to get there. Take Route 44 all the way west, past Chepachet. First you'll see a sign on the right for the George Washington Management Area. Next you'll see a sign for snowmobile trails. KEEP GOING. Look for a small blue sign that says Cross Country Ski Trails, and turn there. Follow the park road into the parking lot. All of the trail loops begin and end there. There is a restroom. Technically, skiers are supposed to wear orange vests, because part of the park is in a bow-hunting area. If you didn't remember to bring your own, there is a wooden box with vests to borrow for the day (to be returned by 3:15 p.m.)
Don't miss this chance to ski this close to home! The trails are "like butta."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2 days, 2 rivers, 2 kayaks

In a recent post, I noted what a hot, dry and perfect weather summer we've been having. Well! Never mind.

In between the torrential downpours, bolts of lightning and wind gusts of the last several days, Retired Guy and I did manage to get into our new kayaks on two consecutive clear days, Friday and Saturday. Friday was my day to pick our destination, and I chose one of my favorite spots: the East Branch of the Westport River, which is just across the state line from Rhode Island and about a 40-minute drive from Providence. Friday was the day to go because the tide would be high at just about 3 p.m., meaning that we'd be paddling downriver with the tide from our put-in spot at Hix Bridge on Hix Bridge Rd., and ending up at the state boat ramp next to the Back Eddy restaurant just in time for dinner.

View Larger Map

IT ALL WORKED according to plan. It took us two hours to paddle three or four miles downstream to the ramp, where we'd left our "drop" car, CHEEKY. Then we drove back up Route 88 to Hix Bridge to get the Subaru, which is the only one of the cars that can carry kayaks. (We're looking into getting Mini racks for kayaks, but it's a process.)

The weather was perfect, the river lovely and clear. The rock islands and green riverbanks dotted with summer cottages made us feel that we were in Maine. Ospreys swooped overhead, and cormorants dove into the clear green waters. We didn't see stripers, but we did see striper fishermen in kayaks.

The day ended with a wonderful meal at the always lively and fun waterfront restaurant, the Back Eddy, where we shared a bowl of steamers and a pair of cod-crabcakes in a remoulade sauce. A blueberry cobbler with ginger ice cream for dessert, plus a couple of glasses of wine brought the bill to about $60.

IT WAS SO MUCH FUN that when the next day, Saturday, dawned clear, we packed up and headed in the other direction to one of Retired Guy's favorite spots, the Wood River in Exeter's Arcadia State Management Area. Without any tide to worry about, we paddled gently down the stream from the state access point at Route 165 in Arcadia three or four miles to the pull-out point (where we'd left a car) at Barberville Dam on Arcadia Road. (Click this link to see a map.)

What a different experience this was than we'd had the day before: Where the Westport River is a wide tidal estuary of the sea, the Wood River is a narrow freshwater stream, a favorite of trout fishermen (of whom we saw several). I'd been secretly afraid that we'd be bombarded by mosquitoes, but we weren't, and the peace and calm of the river were magical. We saw a heron, several ducks, lots of colorful dragonflies, and painted turtles sunning themselves on rocks. No trout, though, as it was the middle of the day.

(See if you can spot the well-camouflaged ducks in this photo of a stump in the river. Click on the photo to make it larger.)

I don't know why it's taken me this long to discover kayaking, but I'm glad I did.

The two best online resources I've found for finding places to go around here are Rhode Island Blueways and Wild Turkey Paddlers in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Please send a Comment if you know of others.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Newport not-so-fast, and bachelorettes galore

Saturday was one of those hot, steamy nights that make you just want to be out on the water on a motorboat or sailboat. Not actually owning such a boat meant that RG and I had just about one good option for the evening: taking the fast ferry from Providence to Newport. We decided on this plan at around 4:30, and in a few minutes I had booked us online on the 6:05 boat with a return at 9:50 p.m. -- enough time for dinner and walking around, or so I thought. Cost: $48.

The main attraction was the boat ride, because when it comes to this ferry, "fast" is really not that fast, at least not for us. It would take us, say, 20 minutes to drive to the ferry dock at Conley Piers off Allens Avenue in Providence, another 10 to park and pick up our tickets, then 50 for the actual trip to Newport. By way of comparison, driving straight to Newport from where we live in Barrington might take us 40 minutes. Of course, then we'd have to park the car.

When we arrived at the Pier and saw big "LOT FULL" signs, we thought we were sunk. But it turned out that some kind of big noisy carnival and concert was being held, and when we said we were there for the ferry, we were directed to a far back parking area and told to "just squeeze in wherever you can." After picking up our tickets, we strolled over to the Tiki Bar waiting area, and right on time, here comes the Ocean State catamaran ferry. It was so hot, we sat in the open-air area on top all the way down and had fun identifying familiar Bay landmarks from the water side. There was Crescent Park, there was Blithewold mansion, there was Melville Boat Basin and finally the War College.

We stepped onto the Newport dock just after 7, windblown but definitely cooled off. Had we driven, leaving the house at 5, we'd have arrived an hour ago, paying maybe $8 for two gallons of gas and another $10 to $15 to park. But where would be the adventure in that?

Newport was really, really jumping. There was no sign of any slack-off in tourism or economic slowdown in the city that night. Walking up and down the waterfront nearly to Wellington Avenue, we were turned away from restaurant after restaurant. At all of my favorite places to eat on the harbor -- 22 Bowen's, Clarke Cooke, the Pearl and the West Deck, we were firmly told that without reservations, the wait would be an hour to an hour and a half. My last best hope, Cafe Zelda, I thought might be sufficiently off the tourist radar to at least sit us at the bar. No such luck.

So, sad to say, somewhere around 9 p.m., we staggered into a convenience store and seized on Milky Way frozen ice cream bars and bottled iced tea. Sitting on a curbstone, watching the parade of people passing by, we couldn't help but notice an inordinate number of bachelorette types, traveling in groups of 6 or 7, teetering precariously on high heels and giggling as they floated on cascades of chiffon ruffles, leaving clouds of perfume in their wakes. One girl even had a sash across her bosom that said "Bachelorette."

These women were so numerous, in fact, that even some of the young men they passed seemed to have had enough. "Oh no! Not more bachelorettes!" we overheard one man say as he stepped into Thames Street to dodge yet another pastel pod.

So intrigued by this phenomenon was I that, once back home and having revived myself somewhat with a peanut butter sandwich, I Googled "bachelorettes newport ri". What I found (from a blog called Be My Bridesmaid) is that Newport has become the unofficial bachelorette capital of the East Coast, possibly the country.

Who knew? I just hope that wherever they all were headed on those impossibly high heels, they had reservations for dinner.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Out Of Office Reply Day

Today was Day 3 or 4 of a string of perfect days to be on vacation in Rhode Island. The inland temperature topped 90, but at the coast it was in the 80s with a cooling breeze. If you were at work today, you must have been lonely, because everyone else was off.

Every email I sent got the brisk bounceback message "Out Of Office Reply," and every office phone that answered was a voice mail message to the effect that "I will be out of the office until Monday, July 21."

It wasn't a day to do any kind of business, and most people were smart enough to know it.

Here's what some of them were doing while you were working!

Kayaking on Ninigret Pond in Charlestown.

Eating fried clams at Champlin's in Galilee.

Jumping from a rope swing into the Pawcatuck River in Westerly.

After 6, even the lifeguards were off, above at East Beach in Charlestown.