Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowbound solstice..

Every year, more so than New Years Day, I mark the solstice... My life is ruled by the sun. And this year is no exception... you can choose to fight the darkness, but I live for the light. .. and just like being snowbound.. much of how you live is by choice. So we're really not snowbound, technically, here on the mountain. In fact we're anything but.
It 's a great way out of unwanted commitments however.. "Oh, you know, there is just so much snow, I really can't make it, safely..."
Everything is forgivable once you use the "s" word... (Especially if you do and teach dangerous things for a living..)

So world, I'm snowbound.
I'm not out skiing with my buddy Jeff.. (or Drew, Jake or Josh, or Clyde or...).. doing laps around his mountaintop meadow. I'm not tubing down icy chutes into the nighttime darkness... the only light being a weak, distant lantern and the winter' s waning crescent moon.
..and I'm definitely not spending time on the trails out my backdoor, regardless of where they lead... there's just too much snow, and cold, and who knows what... it's just not "safe".

..and so I fight the darkness, too. Another log on the fire, a moonlit hike down the snow-filled road..around the turns and down, with the air full of snow-smells and woodsmoke, and then I sit and dream of the long hours of springtime and basking on sundrenched rocks.. so far from where we are...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Slop Running..

Early season, mid season, late season... in the mid Atlantic mountains, all of these are candidates for finding good slop for running..
Cold nights, warm days, and less than 10" of snow (new snow, old snow, any old snow).. make for cushioned footfalls, hidden rocks and holes, slippery takeoffs and turns, and wet, wild and sometimes muddy adventures at speed, spiraling up and down, over and under..
Plus, the mid thirty-degree range is an almost perfect running temperature and humidity level.. Change up your running game.. you'll be glad.
There's nothing like it!

Sometimes, I take for granted the treat it is to live on a mountainside.
With an arctic air mass inbound, I decided to take advantage of the above described running conditions...and at 1.30pm, at 1100 ft elevation, the temperature right at 32, I started on my "up the mountain over and back again" run... From the (relative) calm but shady SE (leeward)side of the ridge.. all was right with the world.
2.15 pm I was topping out at somewhere around2,400 ft the temperature was now in the low 20s.. and the slop was gone and in it's place was crusty styrofoam, and where there was no snow, the surface layer of leaves and mud was a frozen, slippery laminate... waiting for my careless footfall. Crossing to the NW side of the ridge, the full force gale winds of the approaching front were brutal... the sweat was freezing on my hat and on my sunglasses...
2.55pm returning to the start, temperature now in the mid twenties... and it feels so good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


So, today is the first of!!! November '09 has come and gone in a seeming flash.
Our guiding season has been busy with people realizing the beauty and wonder of the outdoors in the "off-season" (reality?? there never really is an off season.. perception vs reality)...
And with the longer nights, sitting by a fire it's also when we have the time to do a bit of reflection on our business... and where we are.. and all the variables that are beyond our control and knowing... and the things that just don't make sense....
* * *
Here is a secret (?!)...some of the best times of the year for being in the mountains is during the short daylight months November thru March... The mountains are all yours, a private playground.. and the beauty and the views are truly extraordinary.

But with most folks only thinking "warm weather=mountain fun", the phones and e-mails have been crazy... people competing for the limited days to hike, climb, paddle, explore etc.. all after 1 May 2010... Already, the summer months of Jun-Aug are nearing capacity...
* * *
In September, I was contacted by my friend Jedd Ferris of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine... He wanted my opinion on new gear.. all the latest and greatest and "best of"... (In fact, in a sidebar in the November edition, I was identified as a "Gear Expert".) Wow... those of you who know me know 2 things...
1- We have a LOT of good gear; and, 2. None of it is the latest and greatest hi tech weenie stuff.. (ok, some of it is)
Our / MY focus and philosophy has always been that the best gear you can have is stored in your cranial vault.
Gear expert.. a new resume item.
* * *
So, going back to my Luddite roots, when you really don't like cell phones, or computers, or e-mails...what do you do??
They are a reality of doing business in this age. You suck it up, swallow your pride... and subscribe for service
Along with those business "necessities", so are the social networking tools of Facebook and Twitter.

I always promised my kids I'd never have a Facebook account. Just like I said I'd never have a cell phone (in 1993) or e-mail (in 1996)... I lied.

We are working to build a Facebook presence for Shenandoah Mountain Guides... and in the Spring, an accompanying Twitter account...
The thing is, like all that we do, if we're going to do this we want to do it well... and "it takes a village" (I'm gonna get sick)

Become a fan of Shenandoah Mountain Guides on Facebook.. It will be a way to keep up to date with what's going on, a way you can contribute your own images from trips and classes, learn about short notice activities and some great bargains...

There, I said it.
.. time to put another log on the fire.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire on the mountain..

Even though this picture is several weeks old, and we are now past peak color, if you know where to look, in some of the more protected spots in Shenandoah, the remaining Fall colors combined with the plentiful ground water provide breath-taking scenery for another few weeks!
Monday, 26 October, Chad was featured on FOX 5 out of Washington DC, talking about just this topic!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

October.... in September

... or "What I did on Vacation"

So when you climb, hike, bike, paddle, camp, swim, explore, run, rappel ... etc. for a living, just what do you do for vacation down time? That was my dilemma. Having been on the go 7 days a week since early April, I found myself needing a break...
Of the three adventure activities (that I love) that I consider relaxing and vacation- worthy, two of them require cold, snowy / icy weather.. and the third required something I did not possess... a fast sea kayak.

What better way to accomplish two goals at once than a boat-building class with the Wooden Boat School?? (specifically a CLC sea kayak)

Something I've had in mind for years.. finally done...
so what's in store for future years' vacations? Expeditions... by boat... stay tuned....

..and while the boat is still not finished, it is getting closer by the day.. 30 minutes here, an hour there. Maybe by Thanksgiving we'll be ready for a maiden voyage..

Friday, September 18, 2009

all the buzz...

We had time this week for a few "re"s..
We rehearsed an Adventure Race program we' re doing for a regional middle school, we re-visited our favorite bee tree (as in wild honey) here on the left. It's still going strong for more than four years now.. it's nice to see the wild hive returning ..and I had the chance to catch up on some reading and re-reading.
That was particularly rejuvenating...

One of the periodicals TL/SMG subscribes to is ORION... In the December 2008 editorial, "From the Editors" (Page 1) is a discussion of current political atmosphere in the country..

"Meanwhile, in a quiet corner of Olympic National Park, rains will fall onto the lichen-covered trees of that teeming ecosystem. A beaver will reinforce its lodge on Lake Umbagog in northern New England in preparation for the oncoming winter. And uncounted Americans will gaze into the star-filled skies and reflect upon the order of the cosmos.
Which of these realities is more real? The voices coming from the television? Or the trees and heavens and stars and the rhythms that have carried them through history? Which matters more?
It is neither newsworthy nor particularly insightful to observe that Americans live in an Orwellian world where language is twisted, culture is co-opted and many of us, to put it bluntly, are duped- duped in part by the unremitting Potemkin world of television and radio, newspapers and magazines, blogs and websites. But the reality of the natural world and the intelligence manifest in it- the world that lies behind the false-front constructions thrown up by political posturing, greed-driven economics, and self-centered gratification- is a profound truth. Beyond being the source of our sustenance and a wellspring of inspiration, the natural world today serves a new function: it is a baseline of honesty at a time when we desperately need honesty."
I was glad to see the bees back and at work.... making honey for the tough times ahead.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

slip slidin' away.... with an occasional jump with only one way in.. and only one way out, and much of that being on rope, Chad's first safety brief of the day begins...

and just like that, summer starts to wind down into Fall..

But it is ever so sweet while it's still with us!

Friday, September 4, 2009

MirZuk FITVENTURES meets the mountain..

What happens when you gather folks from NY to FL who are interested in active vacations?
When you gather on our home turf of Shenandoah National Park..
You all have a ball!
..climbing, hiking, paddling, swimming... and that is all just in 3 days!
see their site mirzukfitventures

Monday, August 31, 2009

Outdoor Leadership

A hot August day, a group of adventurous, prospective outdoor leaders, a plethora of problematic scenarios and a mountainside bushwhack traverse...
We're having some fun now!
One of the true joys of our work is when we teach our Outdoor Leadership classes. To have the opportunity to go into the mountains with experienced hikers, climbers, backpackers and educators and have open exchanges of ideas, techniques, methodologies and philosophies is a welcome bit of refreshment.

Typically, participants in our classes are those who will be responsible for leading others, regardless the experience level, when they go into the mountains. University outing club leaders, outdoor educators, prospective employees of other guide services and schools... all come to us for the highest level of professional training and certification available.

The SMG staff consists of master educators and national-level "certifiers" for outdoor adventure skills... we work hand in hand with several national assets whose focus is mountain safety and rescue. In other words, when we are not teaching Outdoor Leadership, we are doing it.

Of course, on a hot August afternoon, not everything is sweaty and deer tick infested... here we have a class taking a refreshing break at the ole' swimming hole..
ok, correction, not everything is sweaty.

.... and along the way towards gaining certification as Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainers, it's always a great demonstration to build and enjoy an LNT mound fire... a very low impact technique when done correctly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Late Summer Blues..

..the end of the wildflowers and the early signs of maples changing in the high country let us know that autumn is nearer than we think..

the late morning darkness, followed by the mist in the hollows and valley

But with all changes, there is sweetness if you take the time to look and have the inclination to embrace the good.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

By the numbers..

1,24, 2, 4, 14, 2:15, 5, 6, 07, 08, 09, 18, 45, 43.5, 73127 ?

1- goal for the group: complete the four-state challenge (variously known as the quad-state challenge and the Maryland Challenge) with the goal being to hike in four states along the Appalachian Trail in a day.

24- the maximum number of hours allowed for the challenge

2- the number of staff who accompanied the trip, also the number of shoes totally destroyed

4- the number of states to be stepped in during the course of the day and the number of boy scouts participating

14- the age of the youngest scout participant

52- the age of the oldest hiker

2:15 - as in A.M... the time in the morning we started in Pennsylvania, by headlight.

5- originally to be the number of minutes of rest between each 1 hour of hiking.

6- the average number of bananas consumed by each participant

07- the month of the event

08- the day of the event

09- the year of the event

18 the number of whole hours required to complete the hike

45 the number of additional minutes

43.5- the total number of miles hiked!

73127- the average number of steps hiked by each participant

unmeasurable, bordering on infinity- the distance from the top of Weverton Cliffs to Harpers Ferry WV

Southbound at 0600

Troop 194, Flemington NJ, from Camp Rock Enon's world class High Adventure program

Monday, May 25, 2009

Heading Home..

through the mountains, after a long Memorial day weekend in and on the mountains..

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chock full of adventure

(and pollen...)

The past 7 days have been just plumb full of adventure... our scheduled whitewater trip was flooded out due to the monsoon rains of of the central Appalachians/Blue Ridge... so we went southeast to the tidewater regions, paddling and camping ... in the mud.... a great week of discovery!
Cap that with a climb-a-palooza on Saturday and a weekend on Old Rag working with and training the Old Rag Mountain Stewards, and... whew!
Instead of a lot of words.. here are a bunch of pics!

Monday, May 4, 2009

About to pop!

With all the spring rain.. the Blue Ridge is right on the verge of exploding! The next few weeks should be uproarious with wildflowers.. the trillium are nearing peak at the lower elevations and even Pink Lady Slipper has been noticed.. we've picked a fair number of merkles, and bluets are lining every rocky trail. NOW is the time to come visit Shenandoah, park your car, and take a hike that will take your breath away!

.. a long forgotten and disused Blue Ridge spring... still flows at more than 50 gallons per minute

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Slow is smooth...

Last week, (18-24 April) Chad, Jeremy and I were honored to be asked to help teach the EHART (Eastern High Angle Rescue Training) class for the National Park Service and other federal agencies in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway (near Linville Gorge). The high elevations, the long days, the SNOW(!), the awesome group of professionals, with whom we were working.. and the chance to do dangerous things in high places was all a balm to our collective souls.
There is nothing like rappelling late into the night, in a cold, 50+ mph wind off of a mile-high swinging be followed by a headlight-lit rock climb... no this is not recreation... it's training. (though I can see how it can be confused for fun!)

..the bottom line is it is all about learning, and teaching others, how to save the lives of those who have gotten themselves into untenable situations in the mountains.
As members of the training cadre, we took, and take a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that the skills we were teaching will someday make a key difference in some unknown person's quality of life.

.. and smooth is fast..

..therefore, Slow is Fast!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Work Weekends..

First, take a spring weekend... earth, bursting with fresh rain..
Kick it off with a Friday afternoon whitewater canoeing class.

Add in a Saturday filled with a mountainside introduction to outdoor, 4-season survival.

End with a brilliantly sunny, Sunday rock climbing class...

and you just gotta love it!