Category Archives: Travel

Splendid Springtime Sojurns

An hour before daybreak you’re crouched, camouflaged, calling up a wild turkey. By 1:00pm you’re sinking salmon eggs on your spin rod trying to tempt a trout. Following dinner, there’s still enough light to forage the fields and forests for flora and fauna. Whether you consider yourself a sportsman, an outdoorsman, or just a nature lover, May in Northeastern Pennsylvania is definitely your month.

 

Seasons of Change

The months of May and October in these parts are perhaps the two most dramatic epochs of the year. We begin October, typically, with a rather green forest tinted here and there with smatterings of yellow, red, and orange. The days are usually warm and being outside is rather enjoyable. By the end of that month, the trees are bare, the air has become chilly, and there’s a good chance your Halloween costume is hidden under an overcoat.

 

May is just the opposite. As we step into the month, the woods are a grey tangle of trunks and twigs. Blustery breezes off the lakes and on the mountain tops warrant wearing a windbreaker, at the very least, and finding frost fixed to your windshield in the morning is a plausible possibility. In a matter of days though, usually by mid-month, the transformation transpires. Everything greens up, sleeves become shorter, and by the end of the month we are heralding the return of the summer season. Like October, May has 31 days, as if the lords of the calendar deem you make the most of the month.

Iris.2

Fish & Game…and More!

Through most of May, it’s wild turkey hunting season. Later in the month you can hunt all day, but in the early part of the season you have to hang up the shotgun by noon. Fine. Put the 12 gauge in the trunk and pull out the fishing rod after lunch. Many local streams get a late stocking of trout during the first two weeks of May.

 

If you’re not a hunter or an angler, fear not! Save for the early blooming plants such as trillium and the summer buds like Indian pipes, the vast majority of Pennsylvania’s wildflowers can be found at one point or another throughout the month. Bluets, irises, violets, and laurels can all easily be found along many of the local paths and waterways. Most migratory birds that call these parts home for the summer have arrived and began nesting. White speckled fawns blend in with the flowery forest floor while red-shouldered blackbirds make their presence known with their buzzing chirp. Lace up your boots or put your paddle in the water…either way, take your camera. Chances are you’ll see something worthy of a social media post somewhere on your journey.

 

Hot Spots

Plenty of ponds in the area recently received a fresh dose of trout. Lily Pond, Lake Minisink, Fairview Lake, and Little Mud Pond have all been stocked as have waterways such as the Lackawaxen River, Sawkill Creek, and both the Little and Big Bushkills.

 

Expect loads of laurels to bloom, as usual, in and around Promised Land State Park and on the adjacent Delaware State Forest. Easy finds of big patches lie in the apex of Route 390, Old Greentown Rd, and Shiny Mountain Rd just south of I-84. Hike in less than a mile to Egypt Meadow Lake for irises, violets, and bluets.

Mountain Laurel

Let’s not forget about mountain biking either. With the exception of trails in the state forest that are marked exclusively for hiking (in the natural areas) the vast majority of state forest trails are open to pedal power. Check out the generally messy, muddy Maple Run off PA-402 or opt for a more leisurely ride along the Kleinhans loop and Song Dog Rd off PA-390. Expert riders looking for a real challenge might opt to tackle the trails at Prompton State Park.

 

Need some river? You may need to wait for a good rain if you want wild water on the Lackawaxen. Brookfield Renewable plans to restrict energy generation through mid-June, but this is good news for anglers. Enjoy some calm paddling on the Delaware River in early May below Matamoras and gradually move your river runs upstream as the season progresses. Pre-Memorial Day is also a good time to explore the Big Lake in smaller watercraft if you don’t care to share your canoeing and kayaking with powerboats.

Kayak Gear

Wildlife aside, don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with nature. Wade in the water, put your nose up to the flowers, hug a tree, and scramble up that slope. Don’t just enjoy the outdoors, experience it!

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Vermont Skiing Madness


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At the top of Mad River Glen

It’s the last Tuesday in January. A dozen or so skiers from Pennsylvania are waiting for a lift ride to the top of a mountain in central Vermont. Its trails twist and turn through trees and remain mostly marked in moguls. One by one they make embark on an uphill voyage on a relic of yesteryear, the last single chair ski lift in the lower 48 states. For some it’s their first ride, others are veterans, but whichever is the case, in a few moments they’ll reach the top and ski Mad River Glen.

A decade ago I was living in Vermont and was working in the ski industry. Through numerous sources I had access to a lot of free and low-cost skiing, some of which were restricted but a lot were open to everyone, just not well advertised. Occasionally my friends from Pennsylvania would come up and we’d make use of whatever deals we could. Such was the case in 2006 when two of my buddies came up and we took advantage of the “Roll Back the Clock Day” at Mad River Glen, a day when tickets are just $3.50.

Roll Back The Clock on the last Tuesday every January!

The autumn following that first trip I moved back to NEPA but the lure of cheap skiing and the lore of that inaugural adventure (which also took us to Jay Peak and Okemo) prompted us to go back and bring others. In addition to the deal at Mad River Glen, we picked up some vouchers for Killington and Mount Snow by attending the screening of the annual Warren Miller film at the Broome Co. Forum in Binghamton. We journeyed north, skied, and told more folks. This has perpetuated itself now for ten years. Our numbers have grown from three to over twenty, and through the years we’ve tacked on days at twelve Vermont resorts plus others in Massachusetts and New York. Where else we ski is largely determined by what discounts we can find, but Mad River Glen is always on the agenda and remains the focus of the trip.

The Iconic Single Chair
The Iconic Single Chair

MRG is something of an anachronism. Amidst the ever-expanding; state-of-the-art; full-service; all-amenities included style of resorts that cater to every possible whim of the vacationing snow sports enthusiast, it stands as the last bastion of bare bones; no frills; take-it-as-it-is skiing in all of the Northeast. It, along with Alta and Deer Valley (both in Utah) remain as the only resorts in the US that do not allow snowboarding, and thus is both praised and resented for that fact. Unique as well, it is owned by a Co-Op, not a private firm or a megalithic resort company, and it spends very little on marketing letting it’s supporters do most of the advertising simply by plastering it’s iconic red and white “Mad River Glen: Ski It If You Can” bumper stickers on cars, trucks, road signs, or whatever. I’ve met many seasoned skiers through the years that have never heard of the place and it doesn’t surprise me.

MRGBumper

MRG’s only neighbor is Sugarbush, a moderate sized resort. Both are tucked away and more of a challenge to get to than other mountains. Both share some similarity in terrain but that’s about it. Where Sugarbush is modern, makes snow, and grooms its trails; Mad River is throwback; it relies solely on Mother Nature for its snow and only grooms its easiest slopes. Just as it’s loved or hated for its snowboard policy, MRG is hailed or condemned for its trail conditions….and that’s what draws us back year after year.

MRG Gladed Trails
MRG Gladed Trails

We fully know that we could show up to 7” of fresh powder or encounter rock hard ice and patches of bare ground, but for $3.50 we’ll take a gamble. More often than not things work our way. With an open woods policy and plenty of gladed terrain undoubtedly most of us take to the trees for exploration as much as technical skiing. Slipping into a sketchy chute we dodge spruce and birch trees through untracked snow and discover a frozen waterfall. Here we take a break and examine the cascade of ice before making out way back to a thin, winding trail that opens up to a steep bowl littered with moguls. After that, we breeze back to the bottom and jump in line for the Single Chair again.

Waterfall Exploration!
Waterfall Exploration!

Not everyone in our group has the desire to go crashing through the branches. Ages range from young adults to retirees and ability levels go from novice to expert but regardless we all find something there we like. Depending on the route taken down, a skier can meander back and forth across the mountain several times and take upward of a half-an-hour to make their way down witnessing spectacular scenery on the descent. No matter what, by 3pm most of us are spent. We’ll head back to our hotel, get ready for dinner, and compare stories about the day before planning out what to tackle the next day. In a few days we’ll be back on the Pocono slopes spinning out tales and undoubtedly someone new will be telling us they want to go on the next trip.

Originally Published in Connections Magazine. January 2014

Fix-It Essentials For Your Ski Bag

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Wax, Edger, Oil, Tape, Scraper, P-Tex & Lighter, Pliers, Epoxy, and a Buffing Pad.

You’re on the second day of a week-long ski trip. You followed your crazy, adrenaline filled buddy off a trail and ended up doing some damage to your planks. You don’t inspect the damage until it’s too late to take it to the ski shop and you certainly don’t want to waste time tomorrow getting the skis fixed. It’s dumping and you’re determined to get first tracks! With the right stuff and a little know-how you’ll never have to fear again.

Touch-Up Wax: This is a must for overnighters and even a good idea for day trips. Most varieties come in a convenient applicator not so different than a stick of deodorant. Simply rub on the wax and then smooth it out with the cork provided.

Pocket Edger: This small file is great for tuning your edges on the fly. There are several styles and most do not come with good directions, so ask the shop clerk or watch an online video before using one.

Ratchet Tool: A must for snowboarders but a handy item for skiers too. Great for adjusting bindings and making sure the mounting screws are snug.

Duct Tape: Wrap a few yards around a ski pole or carry a small role in your ski pack or coat pocket. Make sure you have at least enough to circle around your ski boot three times. If you blow a buckle, wrap the almighty duct tape around your boot and you should make it to the bottom of the hill safely.

P-Tex, Disposable Lighter, & Razor Blade: To fix a nasty gouge in the base of your ski or board you’ll need this stuff. You have to set the candle on fire and let the melted plastic drip into the hole. Allow to dry, then carefully shave down the excess so it’s flush with the base. Again, something you might want to bone up on with a video before trying it on your own.

Epoxy Putty & Sandpaper: Got a ding in the top of your ski, a damaged tip, tail, or a ripped out edge? This is what you need. The two part putty that you can cut and kneed is easy to use and not messy. Use it to spackle your damaged area or re-affix the damaged edge, allow to dry and harden, then carefully sand out the excess so it is even. The edger and wax may be necessary if you’ve had to fix a problem area on the base.

Lubricant Oil: A small tube is great to fix a squeaky binding, stiff buckle, stuck binding screw, or sticky zipper. Just a drop is usually all you need.

Pliers/Wire Cutter Tool: Pliers are good if you need to keep pressure on a nut while you use the ratchet tool on a screw. They can also be used to bend a ski brake back to its correct position. The wire cutters are great for snipping lift ticket wire and plastic wickets or, the metal of the ski/board edge should it somehow become detached from the base.

All of the items can fit into a small pouch and don’t take up much room in a ski bag or backpack. Some items may need to be procured from a ski shop while others can be found in the hardware store. Keep them all handy in the event you have an equipment disaster. If you do, now you have the stuff to keep you on the slopes. You’ll have to make up a good story to recount the tale of your epic fail. We can’t help you with that.