Thursday, December 30, 2010

Frozen forest & waterfalls

Crabtree Falls, in the George Washington National Forest, is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi and is one of the "hot spots" in popularity for hikes in VA.

Ash and I have tried to pick the less trodden locations to explore when we have planned trips in the past, but we were looking for a close day hike for Christmas break. Our logic was there would be considerably less folks out in December after a major snow storm rolled through the area.

So going on a close friend's recommendation we decided to check out Crabtree Falls.

The hike for the falls trail is approximately 1.7 miles up and back.

Another curious thing about Crabtree Falls is that it's considered to be one the most dangerous waterfalls in the country with 27 deaths including 2 this year.

Almost all of the deaths were contributed to people leaving the trail and falling from the rocks which are covered with a clear super slick algae.

The cool thing about water falls and freezing temperatures is that you get some pretty wild formations of ice and snow which contrast with the crystal clear fast moving water.

 The ice created multi-colored hues of blues and grays mixed with brilliant whites.

The path leading up to the top of the falls is groomed and maintained to a point that Ash & I felt like we were at a theme park instead of a national forest which is a testament to how many visitors the falls attract.   

That being said, several sections of the trail were rendered nearly impassible by large areas of ice flow.  

{Looking down on an ice covered section of stairs on the trail}

Crabtree was perfect for a day trip, and the winter season was a great time for me as I tend to shy away from crowds and regularly take measures to avoid them. 

For me the tragedies that permeate the history of the falls tend to overshadow the beauty the location has to offer.

As I gazed at the frozen falls I couldn't help but think about the young lives that have been lost over the simplicity of trying to get a "closer look" or were the result of a good natured dare.

Because of  my background I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about and researching the concepts of risk vs chance.

Crabtree falls serves as a tangible reminder of knowing the difference between the two.  


Monday, December 27, 2010

As the dust settles

Christmas blew in and back out quicker than the snow storm that blanketed the east coast over the Holiday weekend.

As the dust settles I think about the wicked cool gifts I received while I try to keep in focus the true meaning of things.

I'm not launching into a Christmas bashing commentary, just an observation and a way for me to keep myself in check during the holiday season.

One of the gifts from my wife was the book "Where Men Win Glory" by John Krakauer. Its the story of Pat Tillman who walked away from a promising career in the NFL to join the Army after 9-11. He ended up being killed in a "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan.

On the subject of exceptional people, some you read about, others you have the privilege of meeting in person.

Christmas eve found us visiting (if only for a while) with an incredible lady who is the personification of positive thinking and overcoming tragedy. I would hope I could be as strong in the same circumstances, but I can say with conviction that I would never want to be tested in that way.

If you aren't lucky enough to be surrounded by these kinds of folks on a regular basis, but happen to meet one in passing, pay attention to their story, as it will remind you of whats important, and to never take for granted the ones you love.   
Next up on the holiday check list;
New Years...

A brief moment of reflection in the hectic holiday season...


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Rolling into the parking lot of what has become my “go to” place to ride and run, my mind was filled with a sense of wild expectations. The last two weeks were filled with obligatory 5:00 am wake up calls and very little personal time. While I absolutely loved what I was learning and doing for the past few weeks, my riding had to take a back seat, that’s just the way the hand was dealt.

So the fact that I was going for a ride at all was awesome, the fact that the ride was going to be in the snow was even wilder.

I don’t run snow tires; in fact I don’t change a thing. (Sometimes when you sweat the details you miss the point entirely).

The trail was a mix of crunchy fallen leaves, frozen loam, and icy turns where the sun had yet to reach, the well trodden paths were clear, but a quick flick of the bars took me to a few spots where the knobs of tires had yet to leave their mark.

After an hour of “hike a bikes” up the steeper sections and slip and slides back down I was ready to call it a day.

What type of dinner is fit for a post winter ride?

 It’s never too cold for grilling out, (as long as you have a good down jacket) and our decision for a Sunday night seafood extravaganza let me run wild with my faithful Weber.

I roasted freshly chopped garlic in olive oil then mixed it with sriracha, which was drizzled over the gulf shrimp with pepper and basil.

Add a pound of scallops with sea salt and pepper to the mix, and it was a perfect grilled compliment to Ash’s Coconut Curry Mussels.

                                                         A great way to start the week.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Yule Tide Libations

A handful of craft brews for the holiday season 
Samuel Smith's "Winter Welcome Ale"
77% overall user rating at Ratebeer
I would give it a 70% because nothing really stood out about it as a whole, but still a good beer.
English Strong Ale
Stone Brewery "Double Bastard" Ale
100% overall user rating at Ratebeer
I would give it a 90%,  lots of flavors going on, and a strong citrus tone to it. Reminded me of a belgian 
11.2% ABV
Allagash Black Belgian Style Stout
98% overall user rating at Ratebeer
I would agree, roasted flavors, with a hint of alcohol at the finish. Good stuff
7.3 Alcohol/Volume   

Winter Walks In

"Cold but dry", that is the verbiage used repeatedly by the forecasters for the impending winter months that are now upon us. The experts pointed out that we would not experience the same snow fall as the previous years where multiple storms rolled through VA dumping loads of the white stuff.

So as I awoke this morning and sipped coffee while I surveyed the frozen landscape of our yard and surrounding woods, I couldn't help but wonder if the forecasts may be "slightly" inaccurate.

"This may also explain the inordinate amount of  acorns that littered the ground in November" I thought to myself...

In a week's time the area had sustained two separate winter storms with a third threatening for the weekend, "dry indeed".

Mind you I'm not complaining, it's a excellent way to usher in the holidays and winter break.

Here's to you winter...


Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Tis the season...for porters

I picked up 2 of my favorite Porters and one I had yet to try for the beginning of the Holiday season.

A perennial favorite of mine is Fuller's London Porter .

I seem to gravitate towards the oatmeal stouts and porters and really enjoy  Highland Brewing's Oatmeal Porter.

My newest addition was from  "Old Dominion Brewery", who make an awesome "Burbon Barrel Stout",  so I decided to try the brewer's Baltic Porter as it is described by the company's web site;

Dominion Baltic Porter is brewed to meet your need for warmth on a cold winter’s night. Hints of licorice, toffee & chocolate mingle with a touch of Rye giving our Porter a full-bodied taste. Raise your mug to those who were bold enough to brave the Baltic!
•6.8% Alc/vol
•German Pilsner, Crystal & Dark Specialty malts
•Pairs well with grilled meats, hearty stews & even chocolate
•Serve in a mug or pint glass at 45-50ºF

I definitely got the licorice and toffee tones and the beer paired very well with a friend's venison barbecue at the Christmas party.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Dashboard Lights

The wind whipped down 5th and Franklin Streets like a winter messenger delivering the first day of December.

We had been here before, for whatever the reasons, we have many memories that either started or finished at the gates leading into "Penny Lane Pub".

In fact many years ago I went out on a limb and told Ash that I was going to marry her after 2 weeks into our relationship.

Prior to my revelation to her, I had built up my liquid courage at Penny Lane.

This pub is no ordinary place, and it would do you good to read their history.


I actually frequented the pub's first location when I lived a stone's throw away.

So last night under the twinkle of christmas lights hung across the bar, Ash and I shared pints and some good conversation.

We settled our tab and we were off to the "National", a local live music venue a few blocks from the pub.

A few years back Ash and I got married at a cabin in the mountains, and when we danced, (and we did dance). A band called "Dashboard Confessional" was on the play list, because to be frank, the music moved us.

So Dashboard Confessional, or the brainchild behind the band, played the National last night.

No, it's not my normal type of music, but anything done with honesty, integrity and feeling these days is alright by me.

And Ash danced...In a sea of statues, Ash danced...And it took me back to those same feelings that made me take a risk so many years ago, and the fact that I know I made the right call.

In a few more years when we renew our vows, you can bet that Dashboard will be on the play list.