Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Garden 2014: Snow Edition

In spite of today's snow (and last week's, and the week before's, and before that...), our garden is already coming along. 
This is what the garden looked like for most of the winter. We covered the beds with straw in the fall. By Christmas, nearly everything was done except for the kale, which made it until the cold snap in January where we had temperatures down around zero degrees. Sunday, Michael turned three beds over, working the straw into the soil. I planted peas, potatoes, and onions.
I planted garlic last fall and it is coming up. A few of them have cold damage on the ends of their leaves, but they are otherwise thriving.

I also planted spinach last fall in one of the cold frames. Remarkably, it survived just fine. It grew too slowly to pick every day over the winter, but now that it is a bit warmer and the days are getting longer, I'm having it in my salads almost every day.
I planted a number of different cool season crops (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc) in the other cold frame about a month ago. Last year I found that the cool season vegetables I started outside in the cold frame were much stronger than those I started inside. This is a radish sprout.
Inside, our kitchen table is covered with paper cups and heat mats. I have started my tomatoes. These are Brandywines. I also have Cherokee Purples, Henderson Pinks, Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes, and Austin Pears.
My leeks are a couple of weeks old.
 Lettuce just starting to come up.
In a sure sign that winter is ending, my hellebores are blooming.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Riding: Prettyboy Dam and Tailwinds

Spring has been stubbornly refusing to show itself this year. We've had promises of 60 degree weather that never materialized, to say nothing of temperatures, say, in the 70s. Yesterday looked like it was going to be another day like that. When Michael, our friend, and I arrived at the Oregon Ridge parking lot, about 15 minutes north of the Baltimore Beltway, it was cloudy, windy, and cold. It even vaguely looked like it might rain. Nothing makes you want to ride like shivering in the parking lot in spandex.

Things rapidly improved, however. We got underway and the sun came out. By the tenth mile, we had to stop and peel off a layer of clothing. The wind never abated, but after lunch, our route aligned perfectly such that we had a strong tailwind for a good portion of the ride. There is nothing quite like getting blown up a hill at over 20 miles per hour. Of course, when it wasn't at our backs, it was a wicked crosswind bent on blowing us over. I have done a lot of soul-crushing rides where it seems like the wind is in your face no matter which way you turn. I have even fought the wind all the way out on a ride, only to have it change direction right when I reached the turnaround, so I got to fight it all the way back. This might be the first ride that I've done where the wind seemed like it was at our backs most of the time, no matter which way we turned. It was a good day and a beautiful ride, for a total of 73 miles.

All of the pictures were taken with my phone, so the quality is what it is.
A railroad bridge over the road near New Freedom, Pennsylvania.
 A pretty creek near the railroad bridge.
The spillway of Prettyboy Dam, which was built in 1932 on the Gunpowder. Prettyboy Reservoir is one of the water sources for the city of Baltimore.
Looking downstream below the dam towards Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Windy Day on Skyline Drive

Just a quick post and a couple of pictures from our ride on Saturday. We drove out to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park to do some climbing. While it wasn't as warm out there as it was in the DC area, it was pretty nice. The wind, however, added an extra element to the ride. Descending with (what felt like) 40 mph cross winds is...exciting. Michael, a friend, and I are training for a big ride coming up in less than two months, so there are going to be more cycling posts.
Michael at the overlook at milepost 17 on the way back to Front Royal.
My bike admiring the view of Old Rag from milepost 17.

Also, thank you to anyone who contributed to my friends' Kickstarter Campaign because of my last post. They made their goal.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Almost Alpine


I don't generally promote* products or causes on here, but friends of mine are working on a movie called Almost Alpine. It is a climbing mockumentary. I've seen an early draft and it was hilarious. If you enjoy spending time in the outdoors, I'm pretty sure you would like it, too. You can read more about the project here. They have started a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the final production costs. They are almost to their goal, so I thought I would give them a shout out here to help them make it.

*I'm not receiving anything in return for this post.

Photo from the Almost Alpine Kickstarter page.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Little North Mountain in the Rain

Little North Mountain is a wonderful, often overlooked, mid-length hike in the Great North Mountain area of the George Washington National Forest. It is overshadowed by its flashier neighbors, Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob. Finding the trailhead is a little bit of a test of map-reading skills. The hike starts at a nondescript pullout on rural highway southwest of Strassburg, Virginia. The pullout is easy to miss. There are no signs, and worse yet, there is a larger pullout literally around the next corner.

Six of us (eight, if you include the dogs) set out under gray skies. At first, the Tea Hollow Trail (really, an old roadbed) is easy to follow and has the appearance of having been maintained sometime in the last fifty years. The road follows Cove Run up the valley, towards the saddle between Tea and Little North Mountains. About half a mile in, there is a dirt berm across the roadbed and beyond that, it sort of all falls apart. The road bed is easy enough to keep track of, but there are a lot of blowdowns. A lot. If anyone has carried a saw into Tea Hollow in the last twenty years, they certainly didn't use it to clear the path. This isn't anything new. It looks exactly the same as it did two years ago. Then there is the greenbriar, that tears at pantlegs and skin. All of this is before the official bushwhack starts, three miles into the hike. I actually enjoy picking my way through all of that. It sort of adds to the adventure. The person who had to weave his dog's leash through each of the blowdowns didn't enjoy that part of the hike quite as much.

The road eventually just disappears and we were left to hike up the valley. It is a simple enough bushwhack, because one basically just has to follow Cove Run. The spring has a pretty little pool surrounded by moss-covered rocks. Nearby, we picked up the path up to the ridge. I think this path exists for Tuscarora Trail hikers who need to find water.

Just as we arrived on the ridge and the Tuscarora Trail, it started to rain. The temperature dropped steadily and the wind picked up. We also started to run into remnants of snow on the trail. We knew the front was coming in, so we were prepared, but I have to say, high 30s and rain aren't my favorite hiking conditions. The hike along the top of Little North Mountain was pleasant and easy. The clouds had rolled in, so we didn't get any views, but it is a nice hike anyway.

This is the hike if you are looking for solitude. We didn't see anyone else all day. The only downside of the hike is the mile walk back to the car along the road.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 A white fungus on a fallen branch.
 Leaves trapped under ice.
 Two members of our group following Cove Run towards the Tuscarora Trail.
 The Tuscarora Trail on top of Little North Mountain.
By the end of the hike, the clouds had settled down onto the mountain and we were hiking in the fog. This is the view to the east from the trail.