Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Westmore Mountain Challenge



(https://youtu.be/Kkuq8ZJgC9o)

Westmore Mountain Challenge 2018 The Northwoods Stewardship Center put on this point-to-point trail marathon in Vermont’s beautiful Northeast Kingdom. The route would take us to the peaks of five mountains, in order are Moose Mountain, Mount Hor, Mount Pisgah, Haystack Mountain, and Bald Mountain. Total elevation ascended (by my calculations) was 5600’ and descended was 5800’. After destroying my quads in Tennessee last year, I was determined to be smarter, even if it meant a slower time. I also hadn’t been feeling particularly strong on climbs, and I hadn’t done any trail running since Tennessee in November, which were other factors weighing on my mind. The course leant itself (in my mind) to taking it easy. Many of the climbs were fairly steep and technical. Much of the week leading up to the race had been rainy, so the trails were fairly wet and were covered in wet leaves, which hid the rocks and roots. The weather during the race only added to the challenge, as it was below freezing on the mountains, adding an occasional icy layer to surfaces, and it was misting and raining most of the day. The finish line was at the Northwoods Stewardship Center, so the plan was for the shuttle bus to depart for the start at 5:30. The buses didn’t show up until after six, much to the race director’s chagrin. It probably worked out for the best, saving me from having to use a headlamp. The start was very informal. There was a check-in at the trail head, and they wrote your start time on your bib and sent you off. I got started right before seven. The four or five people ahead of me headed off down the wrong trail. I wasn’t going to follow them mindlessly, and struck out up the ascent to Moose Mountain. The first two mountains were not separated by a major descent. I took it very easy until after the second peak. Here the trail hit a decent gravel road that had a nice downhill grade. I ran most of that road down to the bottom of the valley. Mount Pisgah was fairly intimidating visually. I decided to eat the tuna from my pack on the climb. I first met Tim on the climb and spent some time talking with him. The lunch/snack spot was in the valley after Mount Pisgah. I ate up. It might have been the eating, the stopping, or the weather, but I got very cold heading out for Haystack Mountain, and put on my windbreaker. I warmed right up once I started climbing. Haystack was the steepest mountain, both going up and coming down. It was snowing pretty heavily on the summit, limiting the views. There were some nice runnable dirt roads after coming down from Haystack, leading back to the lunch/snack station. Now was the climb for Bald Mountain. Since it was the last mountain, I felt like once I made it up to the top, I’d be practically done. The climb was long, but not that bad. It was cold and snowy at the top. I was preoccupied with getting my windbreaker back on and hand warmers in my gloves, so I neglected to take a picture of the top or fire tower. The climb up the fire tower was cool, but I really couldn’t see much except snow from the top. Only once I started to think about coming down did I realize how challenging it would be. My legs had done a lot of hard work up to that point, and heights can make my legs shake a little. The steps were narrow and icy. The wind was blowing hard. There was a cold metal railing along the stairs, but not at the landings. The only way I could see to proceed was to sit down on the steps and scoot down like a toddler (and pray). I made it fine. Tim was waiting at the bottom, and we headed off down the trail. The descent had lots of slick, bare rock that was very wet, but overall there were good running stretches. I felt good and ran most of the way down the mountain to the paved roads in the valley. I didn’t run much at all for the last two miles, which is something I could improve upon, but I didn’t feel like it at the time. If I had been running, or even walking up mountains on a regular basis, I am sure I could have been stronger on the climbs, but I was very proud of how I managed the race. Even with the fog, snow, and rain, the scenery was amazing. The leaves were a couple days past peak, but still stunning. I’d recommend the race to anyone who wants a fun atmosphere, friendly staff and racers, a good challenge, and gorgeous scenery.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2017 Bird Feeder Summary

We record all the bird species that visit our bird feeding station each month, or land in the crab apple that holds the bird feeder.  To date, we have had 54 bird species recorded. 

  • The number of species that visited throughout the course of the year (35) was down from 2016's 39, but still came in second place, beating out 2015 by one (34).
  • New birds for 2017 included Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Lincoln's Sparrow, Tennessee Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.  
  • Average number of species per month (17.3) dropped from 2016's 18.2, but was the second best year, beating out 2015 by 1.8 (15.5).
  • The 26 most common birds of 2017 (in descending order of frequency) were:

    • Carolina Chickadee = 12 out of 12 months
    • Downy Woodpecker = 12 out of 12 months
    • European Starling = 12 out of 12 months
    • House Finch = 12 out of 12 months
    • House Sparrow = 12 out of 12 months
    • Northern Cardinal = 12 out of 12 months
    • Song Sparrow = 12 out of 12 months
    • Tufted Titmouse = 12 out of 12 months
    • American Goldfinch = 11 out of 12 months
    • American Robin = 11 out of 12 months
    • White-breasted Nuthatch = 11 out of 12 months
    • Mourning Dove = 10 out of 12 months
    • Dark-eyed Junco = 7 out of 12 months
    • Blue Jay = 6 out of 12 months
    • Brown-headed Cowbird = 6 out of 12 months
    • Ruby-throated Hummingbird = 6 out of 12 months
    • Carolina Wren = 5 out of 12 months
    • Chipping Sparrow = 5 out of 12 months
    • Red-bellied Woodpecker = 5 out of 12 months
    • Red-breasted Nuthatch = 4 out of 12 months
    • Cedar Waxwing = 3 out of 12 months
    • Eastern Bluebird = 3 out of 12 months
    • White-crowned Sparrow = 3 out of 12 months
    • Coopers Hawk = 2 out of 12 months
    • House Wren = 2 out of 12 months
    • Yellow-rumped Warbler = 2 out of 12 months
  • Looking out the five years of data, the month with the most bird diversity is May, with 33 species observed.  June is the lowest bird diversity, with 20 bird species observed.  October and April are the second and third best months.