Posts Tagged With: Hiking

Sometimes it’s OK to be different…

  • For many years, Thoreau’s quote of marching to a different drummer struck me – I admit to never having been one to go with the flow or to jump on the latest trends just to fit in…I sort of always knew I didn’t exactly fit in. In high school, I was in the marching band for my four years – not the most athletic or popular endeavour, and not the chick-magnet that football or soccer were.


So now I stumble on to a poem I’m sure many have seen, and I guess if I think about it, I have too. As I’ve gotten older, and start to wonder what my legacy will be, it really resonates with me, so I wanted to share it. It’s called the Men Who Don’t Fit In, by Robert William Service…he should know, he rambled from Scotland, to Vancouver Island, to the Yukon and worked as a banker, cow milker, and god-knows-what-else. I hope you find a note here that strikes you as well – enjoy.

The Men That Don’t Fit In

Robert William Service

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

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Sandstone Peak – California

The long hot trail

The long hot trail

I was fortunate enough to have traveled to LA this past weekend with my wife, for her sister’s wedding. We were together fortunate because her sister and husband (congrats to the happy couple) planned an excellent weekend of fun, food and merriment, including time for each visitor to see and enjoy LA in their own way. Naturally, Mrs W & I decided to find a place to hike. Turning to my original inspiration to start this blog in the first place, I looked to the ModernHIker for advice.  After reviewing his site, and consulting the great SoCal Google map he keeps, we decided to try to Solstice Canyon. Alas, last year’s fires have the park closed, so after contacting MH directly, he suggested we try to hike to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. He also noted that not only was this one his favorite hikes, it was ‘the one’ that convinced him how true hiking was to his heart.

We drove up PCH for not quite an hour (all driving distances in LA are determined by time, not mileage) and turned off on Yerba Buena Rd for one of the most winding roads I’ve ever been on. Mrs W was not amused, but after about six miles we found the trail head and parking on the left. As we got out, we saw a Sierra Club group getting ready to hike, and took off ahead of them along the trail (really nice dogs with them). The trail leaves the parking lot and starts a gentle climb right away…while the climb itself wasn’t tough, we quickly knew the conditions would be new to us. And, true to form, I was puffing and panting on this stretch as I warmed up to the day ahead.

It was 930AM, and already starting to get hot. And every step kicked up dry desert dust…ah yes, this would be a good one. The trail continues for about a half mile, and then splits – the western side heads straight to Sandstone Peak, but the eastern side travels around a long loop before joining the Backbone Trail and the Peak. We went east…and were greeted with views like we’ve never seen. Very shortly after the split we came across a pillar of sandstone…according to the GPS waypoints from ModernHiker, this spot was labeled “Climbing”, so we scrambled up the loose rock as far as we dared and got a great overview to the south of the terrain. The deep canyons appeared to fall away into nothing, with scrub brush everywhere. In the distance, isolated ‘clumps’ of sandstone dotted the landscape, jutting up and over and about, and taking your breath away. This is clearly not anything like our  Adirondack hikes –

As we continued the trail further east, it connected with the Mishe Mokwa trail, which runs along the western ridge of a larger canyon – across the gap were the stunning Echo Cliffs, and the unlikely (but correctly named) Balance Rock. We noticed a few climbers on Echo Cliffs, on the shady walls, of course, because by then it was really getting warm. At this point I was hoping we had brought enough water – five liters between us – but wasn’t sure.

We then found a beautiful oasis along the trail at Split Rock – again, aptly named for the large house size boulder split in two. After dipping our bandanas in the only water along the trail, and the obligatory photos inside the split, the Sierra Club group caught up to us. The leader announced a twenty minute break because “there is no shade from here out” – we took our leave and left the cool spot as they broke out their lunches.

She was nearly right – there were a few shady spots after Split Rock, but only if you hide behind the scrubs by kneeling down. It was hot – not that I trust it, but the thermometer on my pack read 95 (the news that evening confirmed 102 in the canyons). The trail looped around the north, and at the apex was a side trail to the TriPeaks, a collection of sandstone rocks to be climbed. Worried about water, and hotter than I’d prefer to be, we skipped this out and back, and continued to the junction with the Backbone Trail. From here, the trail gently climbed to the base of Sandstone Peak, which required a bit of a loose rock scramble to reach the summit. Initially confused by the Mt Allen plaque on the top, I remembered the dual name, signed the log, and sat back to enjoy the views. Wow! We could see the Pacific. We could see mountains to the east, and the south. We could see Santa Monica Bay. And, if you’re bold and lean over the rocks on top, you can see straight down (according to the GPS, about 900 feet straight down!) We hung out to catch our breath (it had been taken away by both the heat, and the views) and rummaged through our packs for lunch. Normally I carry a lot of food (eh, Rickie?) but most of my trail snacks had been noshed on over the weekend already (dang kids!). Not to worry – an emergency foil-pack of tuna, and some chips, and we were dining four star! Mrs W finished her second liter here, as I still had enough in my pack to get us back…as we packed up and scrambled down I realized that the Sierra Club group had not yet caught up, despite our break…

As the scramble rejoined the trail, it was a winding 1.2 miles back to the parking lot…I realized it would be all downhill, as we had about 1200′ to lose before returning to our starting point. As we wound around the trail, sweating our tails off, we took in our last views of the ocean, and across the canyon to Skull Rock…who names these things? They were a master of the obvious, for sure! No mixed up Anglicizations of Iroquois names as found in the Adirondacks — if a rock is teetering precipitously, call it Balance Rock. Works for me.

As we reached the car, I pulled the 3 liter hydration bladder from the pack, which had about a half liter left. We quickly finished that as we drove back down the winding road, noting the drop in temperature with every turn. As we drove back to hotel, we saw a sign showing the temp to be 69F, after being in nearly 100F just a short while ago – the windows were open, we were hot and sweaty, the ocean was in view…what could be better? Thanks ModernHiker for the recommendation…this was truly a beautiful hike and a great way to see what SoCal has to offer besides miserable traffic.


Total length – 6.11 miles

Time – 3 hours, 25 minutes

Elevation Gain – 1775 feet

I will have more pictures to post when I return and develop them – in the meantime, here is a Google Earth overlay of the track.

Google Earth overlay of GPS Track

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Mt. Arab – The First of my Firetowers

012_12a.JPGColumbus Day weekend in the Adirondacks is often a crapshoot. Is the weather going to hold? Will the fall colors be bright or past peak? Will it be wet, cold, or otherwise unpleasant? This year, it was absolutely perfect – the skies were clear, the temps were in the upper 60’s/low 70’s, and the colors were just a tad past peak, but still brilliant. Despite some unplanned rain on Saturday and a gray evening, Sunday morning dawned with an uplifting brightness not seen in some time. While the original plan may have been to take it easy, we decided to take advantage of the day to climb to the Mt Arab Firetower before we drove back home.

The trail starts just off Route 3, south of Tupper Lake, and is pretty easy to find. There was ample parking, despite the fine day, and we set off around 11:30. Just beyond the register, the trail turns up a bit and starts out moderately steeply. This wasn’t too bad, though, nor did it last long before the trail moderates and becomes a fairly straightforward hike up the mountain. The only real issue on this day was the wetness of the falling leaves – I don’t like to drive on them, and thankfully hiking on them is easier, but there were still a few slippery spots. This trail is cut across quite frequently with run-offs made of roots or stones, and is in fantastic shape. Just before the summit, the firetower came into view, and we rounded the bend to find a beautiful vista in all directions. this day. The most intriguing views were in the opposite direction, to the lakes of Mt Arab and Eagle Crag. The shape of these lakes is interesting, and the color surrounding it on this day was spectacular.

The colors were amazing, and the peak is a great place to chat up other hikers and families, and other photographers. The view from here is so well known and highly regarded there were many folks with some serious equipment up here. We022_22a.JPG climbed the tower and had our breath taken away from the views – Whiteface was clearly visible beyond Tupper Lake.

In spite of the great views from the firetower, I was even more excited when I found the overlooks on the east side of the mountain. Several large rock slabs marking the summit provided a good view, but by climbing down to another smaller rock I was able to get even better views of the lakes.

As far as the Firetower itself, there is an interesting website published by the Friends of Mt Arab. As with many of the old firetowers in the Adirondacks, this one has been restored through the efforts of diligence of the faithful few, and I would 008_8a.JPGencourage hikers who enjoy this trail to support their efforts, without which the tower would likely have been gone by now. In addition, one can climb the existing set of firetowers to complete the ADK Firetower Challenge – some are in the Catskills, but most are within the Blue Line. Given the opportunity for beautiful views, interesting hikes, and participating in an important part of the history of the Adirondacks, I think this is a worthy effort, and hope to get in a couple more before the year is out. This is also a great trail for kids, so bring ’em with you.

BTW – I will warn that if you wish to take your dog with you, you will have plenty of company, so keep the leash handy. And to the folks last weekend with the muzzled cocker spaniel – if your dog is so ornery you need to muzzle it in public places, leave it home.

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Finally back again…

005_5a.JPGIt’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything, and even longer since I had been able to get out to hike at all. This past Columbus Day weekend was different –

The hip has been healing nicely, and although there are still pangs of intermittent pain, for the most part, it’s fine, and at the very least, according to the x-rays, it’s fully healed! So, Mrs. Warlock & I headed off to the Adirondacks, and what a perfect weekend it was.

We drove up Friday morning, and spent part of the day in Lake Placid – and what day it was. The temp was around 70F, the sky was about as blue as could be, and the fall colors were just a tad beyond their peak, but still amazing. We then decided to drive up to the top of Whiteface – we probably should have hiked it, but we really weren’t prepared to do so that day, so we figured the views010_10a.JPG were still worth it on such a fine day. The views were spectacular – the colors were just faded a bit so as to look like a watercolor of the mountains. The temp dropped a bit on top (to about 56F) and the wind picked up, but it felt good to be out in the fresh air and sun.

We also decided on Friday to stop by the Adirondack Loj and to visit the ADK shop there – the photo at the start of this entry is taken there, behind the Loj, and looking over Heart Lake. It was so still, it was eerie…the colors were amazing, though, and we vowed to come back.

Which we did – the next day. We had wanted to take a moderate hike with our hosts, and decided to tackle Mt Jo, behind the Loj. As we got into the car and left for the Loj, the skies opened up and poured all the way there. As we pulled into the parking lot, the rain stopped – so we decided to move on to the trail.In terms of length and vertical, it seems to be an easy hike, but what it lacks in magnitude it gives back in beauty and intensity. Once you enter the trailhead you are given a choice of the Long Trail or the Short Trail – we chose the latter. The trick in becoming the Short trail is head to the summit as directly as possible, meaning there are some steep sections. Since it had just rained, some of the footing was a bit tricky – wet leaves on wet rocks always add to the challenge. Nevertheless, we made it to the summit in about an hour, and had some great views of the High Peaks area…even though there were some tall trees obscuring the view, we still could see for a great distance.

019_19a.JPGWe hiked down the Long Trail, which it turns out is only .3 miles longer than the Short Trail. It was definately easier going, (especially for the short legged dog with us!) and we ended up back at the Loj about 2 1/2 hours after we left. As we went into the shop to find some updated maps and souvenirs for the kids, the sky opened again for the next hour or so – our luck was amazing that we were able to get the hike in between the downpours.

We drove back thru Lake Placid, and finished the afternoon at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery – I highly recommend this place, especially the 46’er Ale and the spicy Fish & Chips. I only wish I had picked up a growler of the beer, and will next time.

To wrap up the day, we hung out on Lake Symond in Tupper Lake with friends for the rest of day – the hip survived the first real test quite well, but with the hike, rain, and beer, I dozed contentedly on the porch, listening to the call of the loons (OK, there was only one loon, but he did make one cry). It was, to say the least, a grand comeback.

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Last Child in the Woods…

lastchildpbcover.jpgI just finished reading “Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv….it was, to say the least, an interesting read, and one that made me think of my own childhood. I would highly recommend it, and am planning myself to buy several copies for the school administrators of my children’s school district.

Louv’s premise is that today’s children have lost touch with Nature, and by doing so, are losing out on a major component of their total learning experience. There is certainly more to it than that, but that’s the nickel tour…there are enough other reviews and synopsis around that you don’t need me to write another one.

My major fault with the book, as important a work as I believe it to be, is that it seems incomplete. While Louv gives some examples of school districts and communities that are trying things to bring kids back to nature, he doesn’t really say what the rest of the schools and communities should do. Perhaps its because the answer isn’t that simple, and that each community has it’s own set of issues to deal with, but what I took from it is that the problem is so big, it’s ludicrous to even think about a grand solution.

To me, like many of the issues with today’s education system, the solution to this problem starts at home. Granted, the world is a very different place than it was when I was a kid running around the neighborhood building forts, tree-houses, and getting muddy. Hell, my children’s mother doesn’t even allow them to get muddy for fear they’ll get ring-worms or something. But with the reality of whacked out psycho-paths on the prowl for young children, many of our fears do have foundation. So what to do?

Our family – my wife, her daughter and my two children – do as much as we can to spend our weekend time outdoors as we can. Unfortunately, I only have my children with us every other week, but when we do, we make it a point to plan some outdoor activity – typically we’ll drive down to the Finger Lakes area and hike on of the many waterfall-lined trails we are blessed with in this part of New York. And while these trips are not super-rugged, they do get the kids out experiencing nature first hand. Last summer the three kids spent one hike trying to ‘out-find’ each other, and turned up frogs, toads, salamanders and bugs I had missed – but the point is they were looking! And despite the fact that their little legs got tired, they had fun…

This is not the same as the unstructured wild play time Louv suggests is so important, but in the context of today’s world, I know it’s more than many of their friends get.

One other interesting point I’d like to add – I know there are many forums that criticize Bear Grylls and his Discovery Channel show Man vs Wild. I have a different perspective, and proof positive of his impact. No, his shows are not NOLS level survival courses, and yes, he likely makes some foolish decisions that might adversely impact your chance for survival should you be in a situation such as he places himself. But – my kids LOVE this show, and they love him, and because of watching his show, they are more intrigued than ever to get back out into the woods and try new things. Last weekend it snowed here (and yes, it’s snowing quite a bit now) – rather than spend the weekend in front of the telly, my kids went out in our yard, found several 7′ gardening stakes, some rope and a tarp (OK, so it was the one covering my firewood – whatever!). In the back of our yard under some trees and against the fence, they lashed the poles to the fence, and tied the tarp over the frame they built, and built a perfectly excellent shelter. Like their hero Bear, they made a camp, and even made a make-believe firepit in the shelter to cook on.Even as I look out back now with the 10 inches of snow we’ve had since last night, it’s still standing, and if they were here this week, I know they’d be out there. So while Bear isn’t necessarily going to save your life, he might just save your family from Nature Deficit Disorder, and I think even Richard Louv would be happy with that!

You gotta start somewhere…

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Still Hanging Out…

Tomorrow will be two weeks since the fateful crash that fractured my hip – and trying to live with no weight bearing on that leg is everything I thought it would be. Boring – Painful – Frustrating. Did I say boring and painful? As it turns out, the fracture itself can be made to stop hurting with medication and staying off it. But – what they don’t tell you is that trying to keep that leg lifted while hobbling on crutches causes every muscle in that leg to cramp uncontrollably, and nothing seems to help that.

Oh well, I’ve managed to start putting some of my pictures onto Flickr this week, which reminded me of the numerous hikes in the Finger Lakes area we did last summer. We managed to do Buttermilk Falls, Taughonnock Falls, Watkins Glen, and Lower Tremain. I think there might have been a couple of more, too, but since I can’t find the photo CD’s I can’t quite remember. However, it did make me think about how lucky we are to live near the Finger Lakes.

Finger LakesIf you don’t know, the Finger Lakes are a series of eleven long lakes in Western New York that were created by the retreating glaciers a couple of years ago (OK, actually a couple of million years ago, but who’s counting) Personally I like the local Seneca Indian legend that says the lakes were formed when the Creator touched the earth to bless the land. I like the areas between Seneca and Cayuga, which are the two longest lakes in the picture. For one, the area between and around these lakes produces outstanding wines. It should, in theory, take about an hour and half to drive from Rochester to Ithaca, but when the Mrs. and I do this in the summer it has been known to take all day, with the number of wine-tasting stops we make. At the southern end of each of these lakes are a number of beautiful State Parks with easy to moderate family hikes. Most of them either meander past or terminate at a waterfall of some magnitude – for example, the Watkins Glen hike has far too many waterfalls to count, and the trail winds around and under a number of them. The kids love this hike until the end, when the trail ends with what the sign calls “The Steep Stairs”. They are definately leg-burners, especially for the one who carries the only pack with the camera, and food and water for everyone. This coming summer – they start carrying their own!

We also did some of the hike last year at Robert Treman State Park, a bit southwest of Ithaca. We started with the hike that was to have gone to Lucifer Falls, but never made it, for two reasons. One, there was an apparent suicide there the day before, and I didn’t think we needed to bring the kids that close, and two, several hikers we passed on their return told of a “mad raccoon” along the trail near the Falls. Not wishing to investigate further, we turned around and spent the rest of the day ‘swimming’ in the natural pool Treman maintains in the summer. I put swimming in quotes because there wasn’t much actual swimming done – most of my time in the water was spent trying to simply catch my breath – as the water was only 61 degrees! As soon as your body goes off the board and hits the water, your head aches and your lungs start to slow down at that temperature. Naturally, that didn’t stop us, but a few more degrees wouldn’t have hurt.

So the plan for this summer is to do more of the same, with a bit more on the moderate side and less on the easy side. I hope to be able to push the hip rehab enough to be out there again – today it seems possible. Yesterday was so painful I doubted I’d ever walk again.

Funny, I chose the Winter Warlock alter-ego last November after watching “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” for the upteenth time – but I never expected that I would have to be thinking about just putting one foot in front of the other for real. Ain’t life funny like that!?

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Mendon Ponds WinterFest 2007

This past weekend I took the family to the Mendon Ponds WinterFest – while it had looked shaky just a week ago with such warm weather, the final week before was cold and snowy. It was perfect – we started on the southwest side of the park, where there were hosting sled dog races. We watched a few of the teams take off and finish the three mile course, and if you’ve never watched even a short race like that, you should. Until then, I always thought of these dogs as seriously overworked – but to watch their eagerness when they’re clipped to a sled is amazing. They absolutely love it, and the only thing cruel about this is not letting them run right away – the dogs simply can’t wait to get going.

We then went over to the main park offices and Nature Center, where they have recently opened a center for injured birds of prey. They had several redtail hawks, golden eagles, kestrels and two owls on the trainers hands – the kids loved this, too. There is also apparently a bobcat there, but it was hiding when we visited. EMS set up a small winter camping demonstration, but it seemed as if they could have done a bit more.

We finished by going to the fields by Stewart Lodge, which sits on the Hundred Acre Pond. There were hundres of kids sledding down the glacial kames of the park, but we strapped on our snowshoes and walked out onto the pond to see the ice-fishing demos. They hadn’t caught anything, but the demo and explanations were enough to interest my kids – not to mention the fact that they were thrilled (and scared) to actually be walking on the frozen pond.

We managed a short hike in the snowshoes, but it was pretty cold (14F) and the kids wanted to cut it shorter than I would have liked. We did stop in the lodge to talk to the local Nordic Club, who was giving free lessons and had plenty of equipment to borrow, but it wasn’t enough to keep them going any longer. Too bad – I would have liked to have joined the large gathering of skiers.

The bottom line is that I highly recommend the festival to anyone in the Rochester area – it was well organized, and there was more than enough to do for all ages, and all abilities. Rochester’s winters have been the brunt of east coast jokes for years, but for many of us who live there, it is winter time when the place really comes to life. The WinterFest proves that, and was able to show many locals new ways to enjoy the cold.

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First Post – – “Who Am I and Why Am I Here?”

Cairn on East Esker Trail, Mendon PondsHere goes nothing – sorry if this starts out slow, but I’ve been inspired to start my own by some great blogs out there like Tom Mangan’s Two Heel Drive, TrailCraft, and Casey at ModernHiker, and the new site known as, which still has a way to go, but it is a great idea I hope will take off. These guys have shared with those who are interested their experiences and insight, and I enjoy reading what they have to say. Much of what they write is about hiking, but there are often insights and views of this crazy world that are always amusing to read – especially since much of my reading is done at the pre-sun hours of the day.

I hope I can share my love for the outdoors with you as well as they have – one thing I have found insteresting about them is that they seem to live in adventure Mecca’s like Colorado and California. Me, I’m in Rochester, New York, and while I love it here, most people don’t appreciate all that’s available. We’re much more than the lake effect snow depository the Weather Channel says we are (OK, so we’re that, too, in normal years, which we haven’t had in the last few).

I have finally been able to regain my appreciation for the outdoors – for years I was married to a woman who didn’t allow me to take the time to spend outdoors as much as I would have liked, and am no longer so encumbered. My current wife loves to hike, kayak and be outside as much as I always did before – together we do what we can when we can, but you know the drill. Jobs, kids, household maintenance, and anything that conspires against you, it’s never as much as we’d like.

This year we have decided to start working on climbing the Adirondack’s 46 highest peaks – no, its not like climbing Colorado’s 14’ers, but it’ll do to start for us. I hope to share those (mis)adventures here – we hope to start in February with one of the easier ones to get the ticker going.

Meanwhile, I keep trying to get out as much as I can, and putting one foot in front of the other…thanks for listening.

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East Esker Trail

Mendon PondsWinter finally arrived in Rochester this past weekend, so Mrs. Warlock and I decided to try out a new trail in one the largest parks run by the county, Mendon Ponds. I hadn’t been out in quite a while, as I was nursing a minor surgical procedure from over the holidays, and it was great to be out. A light dusting of snow had finally lasted more than an hour, and while it wasn’t much to speak of, it made the park look more like Rochester than it has in way too long.

The trail is supposed to be about five miles, but somehow we got mixed up at a junction point where it doubles back on itself and ended up shortening it to only a mile and a half. The trail isn’t blazed too well, and I wasn’t looking at the map as closely as I should have been. Just as well – after being laid up for several weeks, the hills on this one got to me quicker than I care to admit, but it was still good get moving again. Now that we’ve had more snow in the last few days, and still expect more this week, the Park may actually be able to host their WinterFest this weekend. My kids are excited about seeing the sled dog race, and there looks to be too many fun things to do in one day, which is all we have.

Assuming we get more snow, I plan to go back and try this trail with the snowshoes – should be interesting.

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