you turn me spin me right round baby

O spring!  Weeks ago my heart leapt at my first sighting of flowers – a cluster of purple crocuses (croci?) with stunning stigmas of saffron. Every day the parade of flowers grew…. forsythia, daffodils, magnolias… and now even the prized cherry blossoms are abloom.  But snow?  Seriously!  Spring officially began a week ago!  I can handle the rain when it’s warm. I can handle the cold when it’s sunny… but please tell me we’re done with the cold+wet combo!

Snow Day (x3)

Second third snow day of the week! This has got to be one of the greatest perks to being a teacher, trumped only by summers off. Weds I decided to go running in the slush right at 2pm when the snow was supposed to start coming down in earnest. I’d just lost faith in the weatherman… but around 2:30 it started to pelt little white bb’s of snow at me, so I cut my run short. But that’s nothing compared to the traffic Weds night. My dad’s 23 mile commute from DC to Reston took almost 8 hours! Yesterday I went snowshoeing with Buddy and my mom & her dog Darby. Buddy is adorable bounding like a bunny in the snow.

I think I could get used to a two-day work week.  I may have only done 3 things on my 38 item to-do list, but I’ve toured beautiful homes on Apartment Therapy, looked for vacuums on Craigs List, baked oatmeal whole wheat beer bread, read about the !Kung Bushmen (they’re my new heros!) made a huge batch of veggie chili (still need to make the Jalepno Pepper Jack scones) and watched The Blind Side, a film that could seem a bit OTT except that it features the true story of Michael Oher.

Warming wisdom from across the pond

Last night we got a dusting of snow and this morning school was delayed 2 hrs. I went on a run through the glittering woods, following the footprints of deer, foxes, rabbits and raccoons… but no other humans. Our backyard rocks.

Early on the roads and sidewalks were plowed and salted. However, when we were in England recently, it snowed a similar amount but didn’t melt much or get plowed. Weeks later there was still a slippery mixture of ice and snow on sidewalks.  So the Brits may not be masters of snow removal, but they do have a lot to teach us about staying warm.

May I present to you 3 of their simple yet magical techniques:

1. The electric kettle. This little baby is crucial and widely available. Most can boil water in about 5 minutes and lift off their base for ease of use. But heck, we’re happy using a $10 hot pot I bought 11 years ago for uni.  And, no, I’m not suggesting you pour boiling water on yourself to warm up, but the electric kettle will greatly assist step 2 & 3.

2. Tea. Ok, so I know Americans drink tea, but when it’s cold out, we could learn a lot from the Brits about the RITUAL that is tea. They drink 5 cups a day.  But, really, fill yourself up with hot liquids – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soup – for an instant warming effect. Just don’t burn your tongue!

3. The hot water bottle. About $10 and you’ve got a warm body to cuddle all night long. Seriously, mine are still warm in the morning! But no hot bottie is complete without the proper attire. Check out http://www.etsy.com for a great selection of cute sweaters for your hot water bottle, like this one from A Crooked Sixpence from… yep, you guessed it, the UK.

Seriously.  Try these out – you’ll be hooked and hott!

Of engelond to caunterbury they wende

Canterbury Cathedral

12/18  It was off to snowy Canterbury to visit Nat & Umberto.  It’s an picturesque small city with a large pedestrian-only area.  Their flat is just minutes from the train station and an amazing farmers market/delicatessen called The Goods Shed. Sunday we went to the seaside and then evensong at the cathedral.  My high school English teacher would be dismayed because I couldn’t recall any of the Canterbury Tale’s Prologue which we’d had to memorize.

Our time there was far too short, for soon we were off to York. It was strange in some ways being back in the city where we’d lived for a year.  Many of our old friends were already away for the holidays but we did get to catch up with our old housemates Dave & Nichole.  And, of course, we had a great time with Matt & Pete.  Then it was off once more, this time to a cozy cottage in Sherwood Forest where the 8 of us (Pizzos + partners) spent Christmas.

12/22 This was the true holiday portion of our holiday…. lazy days of reading, eating fabulous food, running in the snowy woods, spending quality time with Pizzos and screaming as we went down waterslides at the huge indoor tropical pool area.  Christmas day I made the legendary Moll Cinnamon Bread for breakfast and then we enjoyed a time of sharing. In lieu of presents we did a book exchange where we each brought a book we’d enjoyed and swapped it with someone else.  (Great idea, Dee!) For Christmas dinner we had pizza made from scratch by Nat & Umberto along with Christmas Cake, Pan d’Oro, Panettone and mince pies – YUM!

I even saw Robin Hood…. well, I saw a beautiful red fox that looked very similar to this one:

Only the fox I saw wasn’t wearing any clothes.  But still!

Our time in England flew by… two more days in ‘Nam with friends and family and then we were back at Heathrow… it seemed like only yesterday we’d arrived.

The Beautiful Beaverheads

7/16 – 7/20  We journeyed through the Beaverhead Mountains which were a delightful alpine surprise. Unfortunately our time up high among the rock and ice was limited and some of the trail took us to viewless woodland where we were voraciously attacked by bloodthirsty mosquitos.  Thankfully Deet saved the day!

 We also saw 5 bears!  One afternoon we spied a cinnamon Black Bear and her 2 cubs swimming in a river we were crossing a few hundred yards down. We starled them and they scampered across the meadow but we got a good look at them (and some in our group got photos!)  Another time Candyman (Dan) & Hawkeye heard a strange scratching noise and then saw it was coming from a tiny black bear cub as it scampered high up a pine tree.  We immediately looked for mama bear, who thankfully was further away, but quite worried about her baby. She kept standing up on two legs to look for him until we backed away and baby scampered back to mama.  These sightings were spectacular because we were far away enough to be safe but close enough to get a good look and most importantly, we never came between mama & baby – which can be a dangerous situation!

The Great Wall of Bob

June 24th we saw numerous mule & whitetail deer, a Cinnamon brown bear and a enormous elk buck all before 11am. Then our legs were whipped into a bloody mess by overgrown brush on the trail up to to Spotted Bear Pass. After lunch at icy My Lake we walked in awe under the magnificent Chinese Wall… but before long the wall lost its appeal… it was  a never-ending wall and we were only inching along on slushy snow and mud.

Thankfully we had some good glissading once we finally started our descent…. but it was many more miles before we could make our camp along the Sun River.

Glacier and The Bob have been gorgeous but all the snow, mud and river crossings make for slow travel and constantly WET feet.

50k on 10th day

The Kiwi Krossing

June 23 –  Little did we know what was in store for us on our 10th day.  We awoke to another sunny day with a likelihood of waist-deep river crossings coupled with hair-raising currents and a chance of snow travel at high altitude.  The high mileage day (spurred by the prospects of good camping with a bear bagging set up) wasn’t planned.

The day started nice and easy with good talks of childhood memories over pleasantly shaded forest.  As we drew near lunch we met with 4 more thru-hikers to exchange strategies over the looming, double, waist-deep, freezing river ford.  Thank goodness for the Kiwi, Rolling Thunder, who had a wad of good techniques up his sleeve….

The first time we attempted the Kiwi Krossing strategy Dan lost his trekking pole down the swift current of the Two Medicine River, but this time we were better prepared and linked in a chain with our arms clasping each others backs/packs we forged through the raging waters without incident.

We continued through the Bob Marshall Wilderness area often hiking the “Continental Divide Creek” since the trail ranged from a slushy snow pile to a sticky mud pit to a swiftly flowing river.  We made our way up to a snowy plateau with the Trilobite Mountains arching above us and then, guided by Yas’ superb navigation skills and Nina’s powerful snow-steps, we made our way up to Switchback Pass.  Then came the switchbacks….never-ending as we let gravity compel us onward. Finally, around 10pm we finished our 32.5 mile day at a scenic campground by the Pentagon Ranger Station.

Exhausted, elated, asleep!

Switchback Pass