Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thanksgiving / Connecticut Highpoint

After the Natural Bridge Caverns Du on Sunday 11/28, I flew to New York on Monday for a fairly brief, relatively traditional Thanksgiving with my parents, sister, and niece. I don't think I mentioned it in my post, but the eighth of my recent highpoints, Alabama, is 35th in rank of highpoints by height ASL, and happened to also be my 35th completed highpoint. This was unintentional, but when I realized that Connecticut is ranked 36th in height, I was more than a little bit interested in going there on this trip. It wound up being about the most exercise I got during a week of gluttony.

Not much happened on Monday. I got a ride to the airport at the totally reasonable hour of 8am. My flights were routine. I slept a little on the DFW to LaGuardia leg. My dad picked me up and drove us home. We all sat down to a dinner of meatloaf. Some television was watched, everyone went to bed.

I woke up around 7 on Tuesday as everyone was getting going for the day- my sister to work, my niece to school. It was overcast and drizzly, but the weather report seemed to indicate that the northwest corner of Connecticut would miss most of the predicted rain, so I stuck with my plan to go there to the highpoint. I packed up some water and snacks and headed out in my dad's car. The route was quite straightforward to the town of Salisbury, CT. From there, I was aided by GPS down ever narrowing roads that soon turned to gravel. Contrary to my guide book's instructions, I was unable to cross into Massachusetts and park by the trailhead there, as there was a section of concrete barrier blocking the road. There was a spot to pull off on the CT side where I parked. I walked around the barricade, past the parking area my book mentioned, and to the trail. The weather was cool and drizzly. I was wearing jeans, a fleece, shell, light gloves, and like Virginia recently, my trail shoes, which once again proved to be less than ideal for the conditions. The trail started out relatively flat. Walking along the narrow rocky trail through the woods, I saw a very steep cliff ahead. I figured the trail would turn and go an easier direction, but no, it went straight up the rock face. On a dry summer day it would have been no problem for me, but with lots of wet leaves on wet rock, it was quite slippery. That was just to get to the top of Round Mountain. From there, it was down another steep slippery slope to get to a saddle across to Mt. Frissell. This is one of the stranger highpoints I've been to: The summit of Frissell is in Massachusetts, and Connecticut's highpoint is the southern shoulder of Frissell. So, from the summit, I had to climb down, back to the state line. On the side of the trail is a cairn (rock pile) and a small state line marker that looks a bit like a USGS survey marker, just with a piece coming straight up about 6 inches. I set my camera on the ground to get a few pictures of myself, as I hadn't seen anyone on the trail at that point. I continued from there further downhill and west, to a stone marker, where CT, MA, and NY's borders meet. I took a few more pictures, including one of me lying on the marker, with various body parts in three states. I ate a granola bar, stuffed my fleece in my small summit pack, and reversed course, hiking the roughly 1.4 miles back to the road. At the top of Round Mountain, I met two guys, presumably father and son or something. We chatted briefly and went our opposite ways. It was only 1pm when I got back to the car. If I had thought about it, planned better, and had better weather, I probably could have gone on to Massachusetts's highpoint from there and still gotten back to my parents' house for dinner. Alas, it will have to await another day. Plus, it's a drive-up, so I want to ride my motorbike eventually. The rest of the day was completely uninteresting: Drive back, dinner, TV.

Wednesday morning my parents, niece, and I loaded up the car and headed out for "the farm" in upstate NY, where we've had Thanksgiving many, many times in the past. Quite unfortunately, this might be their last time hosting the big dinner as the "patriarch" Jack has been hospitalized for several months and recently had his foot amputated. After getting up to the house in the early afternoon and helping get dinner ready (Wednesday night's ham dinner is nearly as big as Thursday's), my dad and I, along with other friends, took Jack's dinner to the hospital and had a visit. I hadn't seem him since June, before his health deteriorated, but according to others he looked better this time than a month or so ago. It was sad to see him there in the hospital, but he seemed to be in good spirits, considering.

The gluttony of Thanksgiving (dubbed "amateur hour" by a competitive eater in a NY Times I read on the way up) began early. There was a whole assortment of pastries, the most dangerous being a New Orleans style praline cake that I couldn't stop grabbing pieces of. Of course that wasn't the only thing I ate between morning and dinner at 4pm (or even hors d'oeuvres at 2), there was always something around to pick at. At dinner I stuffed myself many times over. At least some of it sounded healthy: Cauliflower, spinach, brussels sprouts. Of course none of them were prepared in the healthiest manner. And then came dessert. Sondra (the hostess) makes the most delicious apple pies from home-grown apples. My mom makes bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Obligatory pumpkin pie. I shudder to think of the number of calories I consumed all day, and without one workout. I was peeling, carrying, lifting all day, but that didn't burn a fraction of those thousands of calories consumed.

We were planning on leaving earlier than we did on Friday, but my mom and I couldn't leave until we'd finished the jigsaw puzzle we had started the night before. We took a bunch of leftovers with us, because we clearly would have been malnourished otherwise. Not long after we got back to my parents' house in the early afternoon, I went for a run. Nothing too serious, about 4.5 miles at a moderate pace. It felt good to get some sort of workout.

Other than the obscenely early hour we had to get up to get to the airport for my 6am flight and a car fire on the highway (we got there after the police, but before the fire trucks), Saturday was pretty routine. I slept some on both flights, but still crashed out for a 2-hour nap when I got home in the afternoon. I went for a little bicycle ride later in the afternoon, and then a long run on Sunday, to start to work off the glut of food.

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