Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Blue Hills

This post has been in the works since I actually went to Blue Hills ( 2/6/16) but then life things got in the way of finishing it. Still wanted to share, enjoy!

Normally my weekends are spent outside of the city, but occasionally other things (like work) keep me here. I was SO excited for the snowfall last week and it gave us the perfect opportunity to try out two things that we have been wanting to do, explore Blue Hills and go snowshoeing! 

I mentioned in a previous post that I had gotten Kristen snowshoes for Christmas. I was originally anticipating her using them for our trip up Mount Cardigan but the trail had no new snow and was so packed down she didn't need them! I was happy that our schedules worked out and we were all available to go for a snowshoe on Saturday. 

But first, brunch. 

We originally made plans for the for of us to meet up and go out to brunch, but I was feeling inspired to bake and spend a little by more time at home, so we had Kristen and Bob over for brunch. I recently had a patient show me how to make homemade biscuits. I was amazed at how simple the recipe was and how delicious they tasted. I pretty much recalled the recipe from how I watched them being made (it's that easy!) But checked online anyways. They were all pretty similar, but I decided to go with what I remembered. 

Six simple ingredients (salt not pictured) 

2 c flour 
2 tbl baking powder
1 tbs sugar 
1 tbl salt
4 tbl butter 
1 cup milk

Combine and wisk dry ingredients 

Slice butter into small pieces 

Combine butter with dry mixture -many recipes referred to some type of pastry tool (I have no idea what this is). I used a fork and knife to cut through the mixture and the butter until mixed. You'll still have chunks of butter and that's ok. 

Combine milk and mix. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. 

This made 11, I'm guessing I made mine big. Bake on 350 for 25 min. If desired brush melted butter on top for a golden brown finish.

I sliced them in half, topped with melted cheddar, spinach, avocado, poached egg and sour cream with fresh dill, so good! 

Blue Hills was about a 35 min drive from Cambridge, easy to get to. The parking lots were super crowded, mainly with skiers but people hiking/snowshoeing as well. We parked in the lot after the trail side museum which gives direct access up the blue dot trail.

The snow created a beautiful landscape, all the trees were covered in the untouched snow. A true winter wonderland. 

After we crossed the road on the blue dot trail we went off the trail to the right. The road and the trail create a boundary so we could explore without getting lost. We came out eventually on a part of the red dot trail that led us up to  the Eliot Tower. 

It was a clear sunny day and the views from the top of the tower were beautiful.  Boston was in clear view in the distance. 

We enjoyed the sunshine at the top, had some hot tea we brought up in a thermos and some more biscuits. 

Our hike down we took the red dot trail. It was rocky and packed down in many places, but we opted to keep our snowshoes on and ducked off the trail in the fresh snow where we could.

This was only my second or third time snowshoeing, and Kristen and Bob's first. The verdict: its a fun way to get outside, be active and enjoy the snow! Our trip was relatively flat and easy. We did about 1.8 miles in a two hour time, including our rest at the top. An easy go to spot again for future trips!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Weekend at High Cabin

Alex and I have had our eye on High Cabin since we first explored Mount Cardigan last winter. It's located two miles up and sits a 1/2 mile from the summit. Back in the beginning of October Alex surprised me and  had booked a weekend at High Cabin. He had gotten one of the last open weekends for the winter as it generally books up very early. Initially I was concerned... some of the concerns being, temperature inside the cabin at night and our ability to carry in everything we needed, including wood! When we visited the cabin last winter we were able to duck in as the previous guests had left the door unlocked upon their departure. Recalling that it was toasty warm even on a frigid day,we figured we would survive! There was also some wood there (we assumed the group didn't use everything they brought) as well as some pots and pans & dishes. The cabin has a carry in carry out policy for everything you bring, I guess people choose to leave some things, too many things in my opinion!

So, our research and preparations ensued. My concerns quickly turned to excitement. One of our big preps was making a sled to carry up the wood and other supplies in. We looked online and learned how to make a pulk.

Saidie approved, and so did we. We put this thing through the wringer getting up there and back and it stayed in one piece. We used 1/2" PVC pipe and if we ever use it again we'll swap it out for 3/4" or 1" for a little more rigidity.

We arrived at Cardigan Lodge on Friday afternoon. Side note: Alex and I stayed at the lodge last year and had the best experience. Even if you are coming up to hike for the day you are welcome to go in the lodge, they have a small supply store to purchase any last minute items you may need for your hike, fill your water bottles, grab a snack etc.  Anyways, we checked in, got the combo for the door and for the propane in case we needed another tank and asked where we picked up the wood. The gentleman described it being under the deck on the side of the cabin, but that the box inside the cabin should be full. Wait, WHAT? There is wood already there? YES. This is something that AMC has yet to update on their website and something that reservations failed to tell us. A huge win for us because in hindsight, I'm not sure we would have made it!

We still used the sled to carry up our hiking boots, a box of wine, a pot and a pan. We set off for the cabin around 3:30 and with our two mile journey ahead of us, we expected to arrive at 5:30. We were wrong. While the sled glided effortlessly over flat terrain, figuring out how to move the sled over tricky terrain and getting it up steep parts was challenging and time consuming. I didn't remember the rocky parts of the trail, and that's probably because the snow pack was maybe, triple last year? I think we were working with a good base of 7"? and that might even be generous!

And so, we were still on the trail at dark. Some parts were too steep to skin up and resulted in carrying the skis. Alex did an amazing job hauling the sled up. I helped out where I could pushing it with my pole from the back (at least I like to think I was helping). We had been on this trail before so knew where we were going which helped ease my nerves as dark hit. The cabin is not difficult to navigate to, but there's just something about the darkness...

We struggled, we fought but worked together and made it to High Cabin just before 7pm. Alex quickly got the fire going, I got some water boiling and made us hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps.

I was so glad we had enough water to drink and cook with that night. Melting snow for water is not something I would have had the patience for after our journey there.

The cabin got so warm and cozy. We relaxed, drank wine, had a delicious meal and played cards. We have tried quite a few dehydrated meals and different brands. Mountian House has some great meals but this was our first time trying Backpatker's Pantry. Their Kathmandu Curry was a winner and one we will definitely buy again.

A new purchase since our last hut trip were a pair of Baffin Base Camp Booties. On our previous trip we brought our slippers that had a hard bottom, we wanted something a little lighter and more flexible to pack better. We also didn't want to break the bank. They seem very durable and while not a hard bottom they are tough enough to go outside in. They kept my feet super warm. I do wish they compressed down more to pack better. Alex used a compression sack with them and said it worked great.

The cabin has 12 wooden bunks with mattress pads. We doubled up on the pads which actually made sleeping very comfortable! The cabin stayed warm for most of the night, almost too warm. It did get chilly in the cabin in the early morning but it was manageable. At the warmest the cabin got up to 70 degrees and the coldest was around 50 in the morning.

In the morning we did a few chores including melting snow for water. We were hopeful the nearby stream would be running as ones about a 1/2 mile down the mountain were... but this one was frozen. Melting snow was time consuming as all the snow had debris in it from the trees. We had to melt and then filter. Luckily there was a coffee filter there, a little torn up so we put a paper towel in the and it worked just fine.

Later that morning we put on our hiking boots and micro spikes and headed  partway down the trail where we met friends coming up, David and Crew!

We went back to the cabin, grabbed our skis and went for a run down the Alexandria Ski Trail and skinned back up the Holt trail. Check out a movie David made of our run! The lack of snow was definitely a disappointment, but what's new on the East Coast. As we were almost back to the top we met up with Kristen, Bob and Sarah who were just arriving. 

We headed back to the cabin and got settled in. Everyone was so happy with the accommodations! That night we had a delicious pasta dinner. Drank lots. Played cards. Told ghost stories and had the best evening around the table in-front of the hot wood stove.

Alex and I saved a real breakfast for Sunday morning when everyone was there. We brought some Canadian bacon and pre-cooked bacon we had at home, as well as a dozen eggs cracked and stored in one of our Alex Bottles. This worked perfectly! Because you can open the bottle in the middle we wouldn't have to worry that cleaning it out would be difficult. The Alex Bottle was on Kickstarter and I learned about them through Protect Our Winters Instagram account, a cool company and definitely worth checking out. I get lots of compliments on mine! 

After breakfast we headed out to the summit of Mount Cardigan via Hurricane Gap Trail that runs next to the cabin. A quick 1/2 mile up led us to 360 degree views. It was unseasonably warm for January and a relatively calm day.

After some photos with the selfie stick we headed back down the side of the peak, which was the trail we thought we came up on. With a few wrong turns and back tracks we eventually found our way back to the cabin (good thing we had a map!). It just reminded me that even if your think your going out for a short hike up and back on the same trail, always good to be prepared.

After a quick clean of the cabin it was time to head back down to reality. We had a fun run down the Alexandria trail and back to Cardigan Lodge. The snow was actually better than the day before as it softened up a little bit with the warmer temps. Alex had what I hope was a fun run with the sled! It did some barrel rolls and we had to strap the gear back on, but only once.

We all had such a positive experience for our first time at High Cabin and talked about making it an annual weekend. Until next time High Cabin!