A winter trek

Sometime in January last year, the husband and a friend climbed a nearby mountain range for a day trek. ‘What’s so unusual about that?’, you might ask. We live in upstate New York, that’s why. Average temperatures on a nice sunny January day here are below freezing. To say nothing of the fact that it was snowing the day the foolhardy two set out on their crazy (or so I claimed!) adventure.

‘Do I look like I’m crazy too?’, I smugly asked them when the poor guys invited me along. And ‘I just hope they come back home safe and sound!’, I prayed all day, as I enjoyed  some cherished me-time warm and cozy at home.

They came home all right, and brought with them some of the most breathtaking pictures I’ve ever seen! Naturally I was jealous as a cat! I’d mocked them too much to say anything then, but this year when the winter trek was being planned, I quietly slipped in a oh-so-casual ‘Perhaps I’ll come too!’. Hoping it would go unnoticed. Obviously it wasn’t, but what’s a few taunts and jibes when such gorgeous scenery’s awaiting me, right?

So a group of five friends, yours truly included, set out on a trek to the Skytop tower on the Mohonk mountain range early last Sunday. The final ascent to the tower was closed because of icy conditions, so I didn’t get my view after all, but the scenery on the way was worth every bit of the aching limbs that followed.

I leave you with some pictures and a suggestion – if you get a chance to go on a trek in the snow, don’t miss it! Take your precautions, wear lots of layers, put on sensible boots and go for it! Oh, and please don’t tell the husband I said that!

dsc05275Setting out!

dsc05328A semi-frozen stream on the way.

dsc05332Walking on snow is a tough job!

dsc053372But the view sometimes makes up for it!

dsc05327Pug marks in the snow – was that a bear? A dog, more likely, but it was exciting to imagine a bear instead!

dsc05347Lake Mohonk

dsc05353Sunset at 4 – it’s time to head back now!

dsc05365A sight for sore eyes (and aching limbs) – isn’t that just gorgeous?

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Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all!

This…

New Hampshire - White Mountains

New Hampshire - White Mountains

…is why I couldn’t do a Ganesh Chaturthi post this year. And no modaks for the husband either!

We hiked around the White Mountains area of New Hampshire through the Labor Day weekend. Back home tired and sleepy late on Monday night, I was in no mood to make elaborate festival preparations. So I took the easiest way out and attended Ganpati celebrations at my friends’ place instead, all doubts and principles put aside for the moment. And I am glad we went, we had a great time, admiring the Ganpati decorations, singing aartis and enjoying the sumptuous traditional festive food. Only the husband is not satisfied yet and is pestering me to make modaks this weekend. Oh well, let me see about that! And a very happy Ganesh festival to all of you too!

Coming back to New Hampshire (how I wish I really could go back!), let me do my usual photo feature again. The pictures are beautiful plus I know you guys enjoy them so much more than my ramblings!

The view from the summit of Mount Willard, our first hike for the weekend!

The view from the summit of Mount Willard, our first hike for the weekend!

Halfway up Mt. Willard and tired already!

Halfway up Mt. Willard and tired already!

Light at last - We are there!

Light at last - We are there!

Ripley Falls - A short and sweet climb away!

Ripley Falls - A short and sweet climb away!

The view from Mount Washington - the tallest peak in the NorthEast.

The view from Mount Washington - the tallest peak in the NorthEast.

One of New Hampshire’s famed Covered Bridges…

One of New Hampshire’s famed Covered Bridges…

Relaxing by a stream…

Relaxing by a stream…

What better setting for an impromptu picnic lunch?

What better setting for an impromptu picnic lunch?

Tranquility!

Tranquility!

Seasonal Musings

Favorite seasons are tied to places in my mind. In Mumbai, I loved the monsoon, but there was hardly any choice, was there? Summers in Mumbai are unbearably hot and dreary, and as for Mumbai winters, what are they and where do I find them please? So monsoon it was and will be in Mumbai. (I know the monsoon is more feared than enjoyed these days, but I refuse to blame the elements for the mayhem caused by our bursting-at-its-seams city’s poor infrastructure and indifferent officials.)

Lush greenery, wet and misty mornings, the thrill of the first rumble in the sky, the clichéd bheegi mitti ki khushboo, the gay abandon of getting wet in the first rains, the relief from the horrible May heat and dusty roads and brown hills and pale woebegone trees, waterfall picnics in the hills, garam-garam butta and onion bhaji and wada pav, splashing around in rain water puddles, twirling my colorful umbrella and soaking everybody around in the process, coming home and changing into dry clothes and perching myself on the swing in our balcony, a warm cup of coffee in hand, to enjoy the rains outside – these are just some of my wonderful memories of monsoons in my hometown.

(Incidentally, I splashed around in puddles of rain water in our complex this morning without a guilty thought – unlike in Mumbai, I knew this puddle contained rain water and little else! This simple and innocent moment of fun brought back all these childhood memories – I remembered walking to the bus-stop in my white raincoat with big green and blue flowers, spoiling Aai’s saree by jumping around in the water, I remembered blocking the drainage hole, much to Aai’s consternation, to fill up our terrace with rain water and then splashing away to glory while getting wet in the torrential downpour from above.)

I had no love for the monsoon in Pune though, where I lived for a couple of years after college – the dull lackadaisical drizzle throughout the day made me long for a straightforward torrential Mumbai downpour to get it over with – but winters in Pune are simply delicious. Cold, but not unbearably so, the mornings are perfect to snuggle under a warm razai (and miss the bus!) and an added attraction are the gorgeous and heavenly fragrant rajnigandha flowers one can bring home by the armful in the evening, without emptying one’s pockets for the privilege.

Now you would think me crazy if I said I love winters in the Northeast United States, my home for now, wouldn’t you? (Although they have their moments, I must admit – I like the peace and quiet of winter here, and I enjoy snow-mobiling and snow fights and building snowmen.) But the New England spring is the closest equivalent for my beloved monsoons – it is a similar harbinger of hope and freshness and new beginnings. I especially love the transition from spring to summer when tiny green leaves and colorful little flowers peep out into our hitherto dull gray world. The air is nice and crisp, not-too-hot and not-too-cold, and it is such a relief to finally get out after months of being cooped indoors.

Phew! As usual, this post turned into my ramblings on a dozen random memories rather than a simple answer to the question ThoughtSafari had tagged me for – What kind of day would you be? But what a rush of beautiful memories it brought on! Thank you so much for this lovely tag TS, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

Now to cut this rather long post short and answer the question, I would be an exuberant, playfully romantic and tempestuous monsoon day, the kind when ten foot high waves lash the walls of my beloved Marine Drive. And finally, I am very curious, M, D, MadMomma and Usha, what kind of day are you like?

Biking the Delaware & Raritan Canal in NJ

I seem to be doing only travelogues these days! Kya karen, the husband and I are busy making the most of these glorious May weekends and it would be such a pity not to share my excitement with you guys, wouldn’t it?

So as you might have noticed from this post’s title, we (the husband, his friend and I) biked along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in New Jersey yesterday. I won’t bore you with a long winding write-up as usual. Instead, here’s the story in pictures!

Starting out...

Starting out!

Green all the way!

Green all the way!

Reflections

Lovely reflections…

Husband and Friend

The husband and his friend have forgotten I’m there of course!

Better company

That’s okay though – I had better company to keep myself amused!

A lakeside weekend break

We treated ourselves to a short but wonderful break last weekend, in the Lake Erie region of upstate New York. It was one of our nicest short and impromptu vacations ever! I wish I could do a nice long post on it, but life is pretty hectic right now and I would perhaps end up repeating a lot of what I’ve written here, so I’ll keep it short and do a quick recap instead.

A common note throughout our vacation was gorgeous scenery and lots of peace and calm and relaxation sprinkled with occasional bouts of activity and fun. Calm azure lake waters, blue skies, swans and ducks and geese and doves and many other little birds that I couldn’t possibly name chirping about, verdant green fields and farms with sheep and cows and horses and quaint little farmhouses dotting the country-side, brooks and streams waiting to surprise us across the bend in the road… I could go on and on about the beauty and charm of this place, but you get the picture, don’t you?

Friday night, we were at Lake Findley, a smallish but very pretty lake in the heart of Findley village and one of the numerous ‘inner lakes’ in the Great Lakes region of New York. We spent a relaxed evening strolling along its banks and exploring the countryside.

Dinner was at a pizzeria in a tiny neighboring village called Sherman, estimated population 700! With a dozen shops on Main Street, a couple of side streets lined with neat rows of houses, and huge working farms scattered all around the village, everyone knew everyone else in the restaurant we dined in – this was a fascinating side to America that I’d never seen before – an American ‘khede-gav’ (hamlet) so to speak.

We spent most of Saturday at the Preque Isle State Park on the banks of Lake Erie. A long walk and picnic lunch at a beautiful deserted beach, a ramble through some lovely nature trails with lots of colorful birds for company and some tandem bicycling fun towards the end made for a tiring but enjoyable day. We stopped by the nearby Lake Chautauqua, another beautiful ‘inner lake’, to take in more breathtaking vistas in the evening.

And to top it off, we ended our glorious vacation with a mostly enjoyable but occasionally scary horseback ride at a local farm on Sunday. The drive back home east was beautiful (a major chunk of which was along the picturesque Delaware river) if somewhat lonely, but I took advantage of the deserted interstate highway to try driving on a freeway for once.

All in all, I totally fell in love with the area as you might have gathered, and I would highly recommend it for a short weekend vacation during the off-peak season if

a) you live within a reasonable distance,
b) you are a nature lover,
c) you do not enjoy jostling with a hundred other people on your vacations and
d) you are looking for a nice place to relax and are NOT looking to cover ‘n’ points of attraction as part of your vacation!

Now if you are still reading and are still interested, here are some useful links to get you started. Enjoy!

Lake Findley
Preque Isle State Park
Lake Chautauqua
Double D.A.B. Riding Stables

What can I do? A followup post.

When I wrote my previous post on the Global Warming challenge, I was all fired up with the information I had gathered and the ideas I had in my head. It seemed pretty obvious to me that everyone reading my post would feel similarly too. I guess that’s a mistake most of us tend to make when we feel passionately about something.

With hindsight, and after taking the husband’s feedback, I realized that my post might have come across as a sudden and impulsive whim to some. Here she is writing about her life, her family and other mundane stuff for so many months, and suddenly one day she comes across a television programme and thinks up some crazy challenge when she has no idea what she’s taking about!

That’s how some of you might have thought and perhaps you are right too. I am a bit impulsive like that. But I’d like to clarify a few things here. When I mentioned watching the programme ‘today’ I did watch it the day I wrote the post, but that day was not yesterday! I’ve been chewing on this post and gathering more information for quite a while now. And only wrote this post after I was sure I truly believed in this cause and it was not just a passing fancy.

So although I may not be the best-informed person on this topic, my intentions are the best and I am completely open to, nay, I’m actively looking for your feedback and suggestions. This is going to be your challenge friends! Having said that, I do have a few ideas that I’d like to bounce off you.

1) The first step would obviously be to brainstorm and come up with some cool ideas that we agree to implement as a group.

2) I think we might be better off starting with simple ideas that would be easy to implement. I’m not saying this is going to be painless, but lets take it one small step at a time, shall we? So relax, no one is going to badger you to sell off your dream SUV tomorrow, but it would be nice if you could replace some of those high-wattage light bulbs in your bathroom sometime soon!

3) A nice way to keep things on track might be to have something like an ‘Idea of the month’ series, wherein we go on making one small but helpful difference to our lifestyle every month, making sure we continue the good habits of the last month of course!

4) Group approval and peer pressure are perhaps the greatest motivators ever, so why not have something like a ‘Concerned Individual of the month’ badge, awarded to the most diligent implementor of the month? I know we have lots of talented and creative bloggers around, so making a cool badge that we could proudly display on our blogs should be a piece of cake, right? 🙂

5) Spread the word. Beginning at home and making a difference individually is wonderful, but what’s really going to help is making everyone around you equally aware. When I was reading up on climate change online, it seemed obvious to me that this was probably THE most important issue we should all be talking about and working towards.

But apart from a handful of organizations and some global conferences, hardly anyone seems to be aware of what we are facing here. Ever seen climate change news splashed on the front page of a mainstream newspaper? Becoming the centre-piece of an election campaign? I have no idea why this has not happened till now. Vested interests perhaps?

Again, I am no expert on this and all my information comes from online sources such as this one. It may or may not be a 100% authentic, but even the slightest chance that it might be, is enough for me to want to do something about it. Plus, who can deny that most of the simple measures we are talking about here make great economic sense too! Who wouldn’t like to reduce their electricity or fuel bill if it can be done? 🙂

And if all this is true, we cannot really overestimate the power of spreading the word! Doesn’t it seem obvious to you that working to prevent global warming is a selfish need. We talk of giving our children the best possible education and the best available lifestyle, how about giving them a healthy planet to live on and clean air to breathe in? Because this is what it really boils down to, to be honest.

Okay, that’s all that I can think of right now. As for the actual ways in which we can make a difference, there’s a lot of handy tips online, but let me mention a few simple but important ones as a sampler here.

1) Move your thermostat 2 degrees down in winter and 2 degrees up in summer. Better still, my suggestion would be to rethink if you really need a cooler/air conditioner running fulltime in summer. I can understand needing a heater in bitter cold winters, but am not so sure of summers. Especially in places like my hometown, Mumbai, where the air conditioner is not really a necessity but a luxury. Do we really need it? No. Is it nice to have? Sure! (Thanks to my over-zealous parents, I have practiced this myself, so I think I can speak about it!)

2) Carpool with your friends or coworkers while commuting to work or going on a picnic. This one is self-explanatory and plain commonsense really. Easy on the pocket and great fun too!

3) Cover your pots and pans while cooking. Better still, use a pressure cooker whenever possible.

4) Use double-sided single-spaced options while printing your office documents. And before you print, ask yourself – do I really need a copy of this document for each person attending the meeting? Could two or three persons share a copy? Is anybody going to even scan through my copy or are they going to chuck it away without a glance after the meeting?

5) Plant a tree. Moved into a new home or apartment complex with lots of open space? Planning to go for a picuture-perfect landscaped lawn look? Why not think of a nice foresty nook with lots of tall trees instead? Looks great, lots of natural shade and fresh air and a wonderful space for your kids to play in too!

Think about it friends, how many of these measures require great sacrifices on your part? Aren’t they more about making some conscious and well-thought choices and simple adjustments to your lifestyle? And think of the benefits involed! So let me ask you again, are you ready to participate in YOUR climate change challenge on this blog?

Did you know…

.. when you roll down the car windows the morning after a snowstorm, for a disbelieving moment you actually wonder if the window pane’s split into two, one part dutifully rolling down while the other stays merrily in place, mocking you with its resoluteness? And what fun it is to knock down the truant ice layer in a single blow afterwards, pretending you are a karate pro knocking down a thick sheet of glass!

Visitors to these parts carefully time their visits for late spring, summer or early fall. And I’m usually the one urging everyone to avoid coming here in winter. But inconsistency personified that I am, I sometimes pity them too – surely the poor souls don’t know what they are missing! I remember the tourist guide in Manali looking askance at the boisterous summer crowds around us and urging us to visit again in winter, ‘Barf ke mausam mein idhar aakar dekho madam, uska maza hi kuch alag hain’. How true, indeed!

Snuggling under the bed covers on a freezing winter morning and begging for two more minutes of sleep, waking up to find the dull greens and browns of the previous day swathed in a gleaming sea of white, the absolute silence characteristic of a morning-after-the-snowstorm winter morning, the pitter-patter of freezing rain and hail on the sun-roof of your home, the brook outside overflowing with crystal-clear and icy-cold water, impromptu snowman-making sessions in the evening interrupted by giggling bouts of snow-hurling fights, rushing to enter the warm coziness of home after the freezing temperatues outside, sharing a cup of hot chocolate looking out at the snowflakes dancing all around you, snow boughs falling down a tree and scaring two already-scared occupants of a car, waving and smiling at neighbors struggling to clear snow off their car and a kind soul offering to help two clueless desis desperately trying to extricate their car from the wintry mess piled up around it when their turn comes to head for office…

How do I explain these pleasures to all those who tsk tsk at the thought of a winter snowstorm in New England?

P.S. What about you dear readers? Do you love or hate winters in cold climates? I’d love to hear about it from you!