Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bear Brook Fat Ass, January 29th, 2011

About Christmas time Dad let me know that he and his girlfriend L were going to be vacationing in the White Mountains the last week in January, and could they stop by and stay over on their way home?  This invited the idea of planning a "Fat Ass" event: a run (generally) with no aid stations, a group of crazy folks, and beer at the end.  I had initially planned on a 29K- about 18 miles total- in Bear Brook State Park.  I've never run this distance, plus it's the middle of winter and training time is sparse... this was gonna be a challenge to complete, never mind plan.

With all the snow we've had there was no way we were running without at least some serious traction.  I ended up suggesting snow shoes or cross country skis to anyone partaking.  I downloaded a map of Bear Brook's trails, read the descriptions of each one, coded them for difficulty, and mapped out a route with two "peaks" and plenty of rolling terrain.  Since snowshoeing is more taxing than "mere" running, I downgraded the distance.  The large loop measured a bit more than 9 miles according to the map scale, with three bail-out points between 5 and 6 miles.
Planned route at Bear Brook State Park

Know me and you know that I take my "planner" responsibilities pretty seriously.  I was worried no one would show up.  Then I was worried a lot of people would show up and they'd hate it.  I worried that I forgot something crucial.  The morning of the event came and I knew at least 7 people were coming out to play in the woods and at least 5 were coming back to eat at my place after.  My head swam with logistics about feeding people, ensuring my house guests were comfortable, packing proper food and hydration.

My Runner and Sherpa had met at 6:15am that morning to start on the trails and gain some extra mileage in anticipation of the Peak Snow Shoe Race in March.  Their pre-surveillance of the trails, as well as Sherpa's familiarity with BBSP, turned out to be very helpful.

So, I forgot the map.  Obviously.  Though it turns out I didn't even have the correct one- I had the Summer Trail Map that didn't show which trails were groomed for snowmobiles and what trails we'd have to break.  Luckily Sherpa came prepared (at least the tens of thousands of tuition dollars paid for SOMETHING... saving my ass!) with 6 copies of the winter trail maps. 

Next surprise- Dad and L had one pair of snow shoes between them.  Snow shoes that were likely made by Inuits at least 10 years before I was born.  Seriously, these things shoulda been in a museum.  After learning how groomed the trails were, I suggested they both wear their x-country skis.  L was still gaining confidence in her skis, and Sherpa re-assured her that she could handle the terrain. 

The group heading out from the parking area

Ten people and a doggie set out from the parking lot (which was NOT the lot I had planned on starting from- the gates to THAT lot were closed despite what I had been told by park staff).  The weather was warm: about 25* at 10am.  Spirits were high, and we were all chatting and having a grand time.  I felt great, despite being tired and having forgotten the map.

The first turn came to go up Bear Hill and the trail was steep and ungroomed.  A decision was made that the cross-country skiers, Dad and L, the two "novice" snow shoers G and J, and the doggie would go off on their own.  The rest of us would "catch up" (yeah right).  We didn't see Dad and L again until the parking lot. 

Gazelle, Sherpa, me, Taps, Puma, and photog My Runner

My Runner, Sherpa, Puma, Gazelle, Taps, and myself broke trail up the slope.  The trail on the map appeared to be no more than a quarter mile, but the sign at the trail head stated 1.2 miles to the summit (the first in MANY signs that this day would be longer than expected).  We all worked hard breaking the trail taking turns in the lead until we reached the summit.  About a tenth of a mile from the top we saw the quarter mile summit trail that was the PLANNED route... whoops.  We used it as a return route and began down the groomed Podunk Road.  (Seriously.  Podunk.  I *wish* I could make this shit up.)

The snowmobilers were out in droves.  I knew Bear Brook was popular for snow mobiles, but we spent a quarter of the time hunkered by the side of the groomed road choking on fumes.  The positive- at least half of them were polite and shared the roads with us. 

It wasn't long- ok, it WAS long, but we weren't far into my planned hike when I leaned over to Taps who has a fancy-schmancy GPS watch and said, "How long we been out here?"
"About two hours."
"And... how far have we gone?"
"5.3 miles."
"Shit.  Sherpa, lemme see that map...."

Taps and me on the trails

We were about a third of the way into the "9 mile" loop, and still quite a distance from the bail out points.  I was feeling great, but Gazel had only snowshoed about 4 times this year, and Puma was nursing an injury and coming back from time off.  We weren't going super fast, but I realized there was no way this was gonna be short for anyone.  I confided in Sherpa, who looked at me knowingly.  "I didn't know how to tell you without stepping on your toes..."  Whelp, in for a penny in for a pound today.  Shit, in for a penny in for a kilo and a bonus pack.
Gazelle, Puma, and Sherpa
My Runner giving me a (deserved) long-suffering look

Ultimately we were on the trail for about 5 hours and 11.5 miles.  Dad and L arrived at the parking lot an hour and change before us, and gallantly picked up beer for everyone.  At the mention of beer, Gazelle, true to her name, sprang ahead, eager to take of her snow shoes and relax.

Gazelle waiting impatiently for us to catch up, Sherpa with his trademark Shit-Eating-Grin

I felt GREAT at the end of 11.5 miles.  Puma was hurting, but in good spirits once her shoes were off.  Taps was still bouncing off the walls- that guy has ENDLESS energy.  Sherpa seemed to have a great time, but headed home early (poor guy can't have beer now anyways...).  My Runner had angered his achillies after 18+ miles of snowshoeing in boots not really made for hiking or outdoor sports.

Dad, L, Taps, Puma, My Runner, and I retired back to my place for salty snacks and crock-pot fajitas.  The beer flowed, we chatted about hiking, races and runs past and future, and much more.  Fred got some cuddle love.  I started to fade around 6:30, kicked out the guests, had one last beer with Dad, then excused myself and slept, SOUNDLY, for 10 hours.

I made many "mistakes" with this first Fat Ass.  I'm still not sure what happened with the map scale, and I really should have scouted at least the parking area.  While I understand the decision to break up the group, I was bummed I didn't spend more time with Dad on the trails.  However I was very happy snow shoeing ELEVEN MILES!  And luckily my mistakes didn't result in any serious injuries or illnesses.  Best of all, I got to explore an amazing park that's about twenty minutes from my apartment.

It'll be a while before I plan a Fat Ass again, but when I do I hope to at least not make the same mistakes twice.

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  • At 4:43 PM , Blogger Kim said...

    Sounds like all had a good time. Don't stress the Fat Ass.


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