Catching Up with Chicago

We spent Columbus Day weekend in Chicago visiting friends–Jessica, Amy, Sandra, Ernie and Stephanie–and it was great to catch up with old friends. But it was also great to catch up with the city itself, picking up where we left off many years ago and spending some quality time together.

chicago-2009

View photo gallery

Savoring Fall

Many autumns just slip by, with only moments of awareness, a few accidental fleeting changes to soak it in and enjoy the particular pleasures of the season. This particularly unfortunate in New England, where the fall presentation is done so expertly.

I expected I would be even less attentive to fall this time around, given the push to get my dissertation done by Christmas break. But by mid-October I had taken my second dissercation week off from work and was able to hand in a full draft to my committee. We immediately left town for a very enjoyable weekend camping with friends in the White Mountains, where the view from Mt. Lafayette provided a fantastic vantage point for the whole spectacle.

nh-fall2008

There was enough time between this trip and the first dissertation feedback that we could slip in another trip last weekend, this time to the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. The main reason to go was to finally visit Andrew at Cornell and meet up with Ken and Irene. It was great to see everyone, and it was even better that we were able to explore the waterfalls of Watkin’s Glen with enough fall foliage and sunlight to make the gorges even more stunning.

Now the final dissertation sprint has begun, but I’m thankful that won’t have to mortgage all of autumn to pay for what I hope will be a great Christmas present–for myself and for everyone else who will be glad when it’s done.

watkins glen

Album

Mt. Washington and a week of Dissercation

This past week I took the week off to work on my dissertation–more like a “staycation” than a real vacation. Or perhaps I should call it a “dissercation,” to coin a really ugly word. It like the way it has hints of “diss” words (dissatisfied, diservice, dissipate, dissonance) on one end and of “altercation” on the other. In any case, it was cage match with me and the dissertation, and I put it to the mat until it begged for mercy. I talked a lot of smack and made sure it knew that things are different now. It’s had the run of my life for too many years, but now it knows its days are numbered.

By the end of the week, I came away with drafts of four out of five chapters, and I feel good about the progress. I still have a ways to go to pull together a full draft by the end of the summer, but I now feel more confident it will happen.

It was easier to focus for the week because I got a good weekend of hiking in with Cathy beforehand. We hiked Mt. Washington and stayed over night at the Lakes of the Clouds AMC hut  about an hour hike from the summit.

lakes_of_the_clouds

As alway happens when we hike, it rained. We hiked in the rain almost the entire way up Tuckerman’s Ravine and the last scramble to the summit was a cold mix of rain and wind. On the top, we couldn’t see more than 50 feet in any direction, so we just enjoyed the the chance to warm up and eat some chili before heading down to the hut.

But it was still great to get a taste of Mt. Washington (my first time) and I look forward to the views next time around.

More photos here

Missing the Pura Vida

costarica

This morning I’m back at JP Licks trying to get back into the dissertation groove, but since I have just a few minutes left before my battery goes dead, I’m going to take moment to post on my trip to Costa Rica. In typical fashion, I’ve been waiting to write a longer description of the week, to capture the essence of the experience in vivid description and poinant reflection, but all this does is prevent me from posting anything until it all has lost it’s sense of timeliness.

So I’ll just throw up a quick note here saying that it was a great week, and now it all seems a long ways away after several days of biking in cold rain. For most of the week the eight of us traveling together were in the small town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, tucked away near the border of Panama. We spent our time surfing, swimming, taking hikes the rain forest, and eating great food. Here’s a photo gallery to give you a sampler of the week until I have time to write more.

A Week in Yosemite

yosemite

We’ll, this is fairly late in coming, but I guess I should post something about our trip to Yosemite a week ago. I think I’ve been avoiding this post because it’s so hard to know what to say about such a fantastic place. Perhaps I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves, though they don’t really do justice either.

I will say that we were lucky to be there when we were–the weather was good, the crowds were relatively thin, and the waterfalls were at peak. We had a nice mix of activities–a stay in the Wawona Hotel, a visit to the giant sequoias, three nights car camping in Yosemie Valley, three days backpacking out of the Valley, one afternoon horseback riding, and a bit of time on either end in San Francisco.

Perhaps I’ll have more to say as I get further from it, but for now here are some photos to give you a taste of how we experience this incomparable place.

Picasa Gallery

A Day on the Franconia Ridge Loop

Saturday we spent the day on the Franconia Ridge Loop, the best trail I’ve been on so far in New England. It’s got everything–peaks, waterfalls, 360 degree views, woods, river crossings, holly berries–all in a hearty 6 hour hike. We started on the old Bridal path which was a strenuous but short hike up to the top of Mount Lafayette (5,2000 feet), where we had lunch with a brilliant view of the Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. From there we bundled up with all our layers to brave a blustery jaunt across the ridge to Mt. Lincoln and then Little Haystack. To add a bit of excitement, two jets made a close flyby over the trail. The final 3 mile leg took us down the Falling Waters trail, the first half of which we skied down as much as walked, on a few inches of soggy leftover snow. Towards the end the trail wove in and out of several streams that eventually joined into a series of waterfalls, a beautiful way to round out an already enjoyable hike.

A Cross Section of California

I just returned from a trip out to California for Monica’s wedding, a trip I extended so I could visit folks down the coast. I ended up with a cross-section of CA, stretching from Bodega Bay north of San Francisco, down the coast through Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, ending up in LA. Since this is long overdue, as usual, I’ll just summarize things briefly. For photos, check out the CA Trip Gallery.

I began in San Francisco, where I picked up TJ, Lara, and Richard at the airport and then we drove north to Monica and Simon’s wedding near Occidental, stopping along the way for a hike in the Muir Woods. The wedding was a weekend affair at a camp in the woods, with the ceremony outdoors in a stand of Redwoods and many of us staying in cabins for two nights.

pica-numeniusOn Sunday I met up with Pica and Numenius at the Seaweed Café in Bodega Bay, and we had an enjoyable chat as always. As usual, I felt like was just visiting from the other side of town, and we easily picked up where we left off. Yes, I’m willing to go to any lengths to further my “dissertation research,” even if it means meeting up with smart, interesting bloggers at a great brunch spot on a beautiful morning in northern California.

From there I drove into San Francisco, with a stunning late-afternoon view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city in the distance to welcome me. Ajai and I hiked up to a park overlooking the city and then had burgers in the Mission District. That evening, I stayed with Andy and Rebecca in Palo Alto and had just enough to catch up briefly before I hit the road Monday morning at about six.

Monday I spent the morning and afternoon driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping near Big Sur to watch about 15 condors hanging out along the highway. Further along the way I paused to check out the Elephant Seals lounging on the beach. By afternoon I arrived in Santa Maria where I enjoyed lunch with Elaine and got a tour of her stomping ground. I then drove another hour to Santa Barbara to visit Andrea, who has just moved there from Boston to take a job teaching psychology. Tuesday afternoon I completed the last leg of my journey to LA to visit Sara and Brian in Echo Park.

It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in California four times in the last year and half–enough to let me get in touch with California Tim, long repressed by my East Coast life. Though I’m beginning to feel like deep down I’m really a West Coast guy, the conclusion of these trips always force me to make peace with my life in Boston again. We’ve learned to work through our differences, Boston and I, and so last Thursday when I emerged groggy and stiff from my overnight flight back to Logan, I was willing to feel like I was home.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis

This sunny Sunday afternoon I strolled around Lake Harriet after having ice cream with some friends at the Edina Creamery. As I often do when I’m in the Twin Cities visiting family, I found myself relating to this place neither as tourist or native, but as prospective resident. Whether consciously or not, I was trying to figure out if this is a place I could move after finishing my degree. Today the nice weather and outstanding public parks earned it some points.