Friday, April 30, 2010

Small mercy: fewer car alarms

As I was cycling home from work this evening, it struck me that my aural landscape is nowadays much less polluted by car alarms than it seems to have been 5 to 10 years ago. I don't think there are fewer cars, and I doubt the percentage of cars with car alarms has done anything but increase, so I wonder how this is possible. Are the alarm sirens now less obnoxious than they used to be? Are thieves better at stealing cars without setting off the alarms? Is it just that I've been living in a nicer and quieter neighbourhood post-2005 than pre-2005? Have I become less attuned to them? Whatever the reasons, I'm glad for this small mercy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Five on the fifth: Adirondacks NY

See The State Of The Nation UK for more on Five On The Fifth, where one takes 5 pics on the fifth of the month and publishes them online.

On September 5, 2009, I happened to be not in my usual Montreal, but hiking in the Adirondacks, from Marcy Dam past Avalanche Pass and Colden to the base of Mount Marcy.

That night I camped high in the mountains, far from electricity, with no option to post pictures, which is why I'm posting this rather after the fact. I suppose you might even call this 5 of the 5th on the 22nd, except that wouldn't sound so snappy.

For technical reasons beyond my ken, I can't get the captions to display in the desired place (below each picture) so here they are in one list:
  1. View from Marcy Dam.
  2. In case you wondered why it's called Avalanche Pass.
  3. Cedar growing straight up out of a cliff at Colden Lake.
  4. Full view of said cedar. Note also the boardwalk over the lake.
  5. Colden Lake, after we reached the end/tip.

Hiking Camel's Hump VT

I got up early Sunday morning to get ready for a hike in Vermont. My friend C. picked me up around 6:15 am, after he'd picked up M., then we picked up one more hiker, and we set out for Vermont. Some construction on Autoroute 10 incited us to take a detour on Autoroute 15. The nice thing about this unplanned change was that after crossing the Canada/US border at Rouse's Point, we took some bridges and causeways over Lake Champlain, alongside the Mississquoi delta, along a floodplain with farms, and back to US Interstate 89 in Vermont, which is itself very pretty, passing through rolling farmland and then into the Green Mountains.

We got to the trailhead for Camel's Hump much later than we would have liked to, and after stretching legs and getting ready, we only hit the trail at 9:30am. However the hike up was much, much faster than expected, and we were at the summit for 11:30am. Partly this was because M. was leading most of the way (he's planning to hike to Mount Everest's Base Camp next spring) but partly the terrain was much easier than we expected. The summit is just above the treeline in the alpine zone (rather a rarity in Vermont, only on 3 mountaintops, Camel's Hump being the 2nd tallest in the state). The view was stunning and despite a bit of haze we could see the Adirondacks (NY, across Lake Champlain), other peaks of the Green Mountains, the White Mountains (NH), the Monteregian Hills in Quebec, and even Mount Royal (we think). (As a food report, I might mention that one of the "summit stewards" - who remind people not to walk on sensitive alpine vegetation along with spreading goodwill and taking your picture plus repairing trails too - shared some Ghirardelli chocolate chips with me... mmm). We left the peak around 12:15.

For the hike down we had a few trail options. We could have come down the same way we went up, but we took a longer route. We expected the descent would be more gradual, since you have the same height to descend but are doing it in a longer distance. Once again, somehow we had misread the terrain on the map (despite contour lines and all) so it was both longer and steeper. There were, however, some very nice lookout points on the way.

From start at 9:30am to finish at 3:30pm, it was an exquisite shorter hike.

Friday, July 10, 2009

See Strokkur Spew!

Geysir (the Icelandic original, after which all others were named) no longer gushes all that often, but just a few metres away is his son Strokkur who faithfully erupts every 4-6 minutes. He even offered some double-spews and triple-spews. He is said to shoot up to 20m high, but it looks higher to me, if I can judge 20m in relation to the observers standing by. Watching Strokkur shoot his stuff gave me the same exhilarating WHEEEEEEE! feeling of riding a roller-coaster.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Iceland - next stop

Yesterday in Isafjordur, it was glorious out, sunny, and perhaps above 20C. I hiked up one river from sea-level up to where snow-melt feeds it - though technically not to the very stop, that would have required mountaineering skills beyond my ken - then back down a second river. There were many waterfalls (and photographs) along the way. I didn't want to ford the rivers/brooks while hiking all alone, which required some detours. Often I had to hike upstream to get to a waterfall, where the stream would be broken into several branches, making crossing easier... and the overall trek longer! I was beat by the time I got back to town in the evening.

This morning I leave Isafjordur to head south. I think I should get a stop in at Latrabjarg, a huge bird sanctuary with very tame puffins. Unfortunately, puffins seem to take a siesta (do they know this is Iceland, not Spain?) from 2-4 each day and I'll be there 2-3:30, but hopefully there will be some night owls, so to speak. From there, I take a ferry across the Breidafjordur. If weather is okay, tomorrow I'll do a whirl through the Snafellsnes peninsula for one last taste of fjords, glaciers, volcanos, and sandur before returning to Reykjavik for a few days... and then heading back to Canada in a few short days' time.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Isafjordur, Iceland

Here in Iceland, in the grocery stores, some foodstuffs are expensive, fresh produce in grocery stores sometimes looks a little dreary (except locally grown hydroponics), but fish and dairy products are very reasonably priced. Yesterday I bought some smoked herring for about CAD$1, enough for 3 people to share and have lots of each. (It was very nice stuff too.) And the dairy products, yum yum! I have been eating lots and lots of skyr, which is like a thick creamy yogourt, except technically a cheese, and it's actually basically fat free. I'm surprised I still like it! I make up with 3.9% milk with breakfast, and occasional treats of "Þykkmjólk" which has about 5% fat (the first letter of Þykkmjólk, if it doesn´t come through, is the letter "thorn" which looks kind of like a P and is "th" like in "thistle", not to be confused with the letter "eth" which looks like a D with a slash and is "th" like in "that"). There are so many milk beverages that many grocery stores have a multilingual chart in the dairy section to tell foreigners what it all is. Yum. There is butter too, which is very good, and usually unsalted.

Tonight I went to a local restaurant specialising in seafood. They are part of the local maritime museum, and they serve whatever the catch of the day is. One of the choices was halibut (my favourite fish), another was salt cod (which I don't think I've ever actually tried) with chili sauce, and there were about two other fish to choose from. I hesitated between the halibut and salt cod, and chose the halibut. While I waited for my order, a French couple walked in, and shared my table (it was crowded). One ordered the salt cod, one ordered something else. When our 3 dishes arrived, I discovered shrimp in the sauce of my halibut. I am allergic to shrimp, and was wondering how I was going to explain this to the waitress whose English was good but not perfect. Fortunately the man (of the French couple) was willing to swap plates with me and I ended up with the salt cod. It was a bit salty, but very delicious and well-prepared. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.

I did take a picture of the lamb I had last night in the hotel in town. I understand the chef was French-trained, but whatever the case, it was delicious. If you are ever in Iceland, you must try the lamb, even if you are a lamb-hater. It is very tender, juicy, and mild, and almost completely devoid of the sheepy flavour you get in Canadian and New Zealand lamb.

Two nice restaurant meals, two days in a row: a bit of a splurge, so tomorrow it's back to camping grub... er, self-catered meals.

Today I went sea-kayaking in Isafjordur, and tomorrow I will go hiking in the area. The buses here in the West Fjords only run thrice weekly, so I will have had three whole nights here - the longest I have stayed put since leaving Reykjavik! - before continuing south to Reykjavik. The weather was okay Friday, and great yesterday and today. It is supposed to be rainy for the next few days. I guess that when it's rainy, it's better to spend part of your day in a bus rather than in a tent or out hiking, kayaking, etc... and I'll have a bit of buses for the next few days as I make my way back to Reykjavik with detours to the Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland for more glacier and volcano chasing.

It's now midnight, with only a hint of sunset colours in the sky. It never gets dark. The light here is fantastic, though it's hard to make myself wind down and go to bed at the end of the day... but that's what I'll do now, so I can get up relatively early tomorrow for my hike.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I knew I was forgetting something. Well, I've omitted lots of wonderful sights, like some of the waterfalls and geological features and glaciers and geothermal fields, but I made no mention at all of Jökulsárlón, where the bus stopped for about 25 minutes. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon, at one tip of the giant glacier Vatnajökull, where chunks of the glacier break off into a tidal lagoon and float around to the delight of visitors before they* head out to sea as icebergs. Little crystal iceberglets wash up on shore for you to eat/crunch/drink if you desire. It's the kind of place where, at least when it comes to the aspect of composition, it's hard to take a bad picture because everywhere you look is stunning. That was definitely one of many "WOWEEEEEEEEEEE" moments on this trip.

(* the glacial chunks, not the visitors)