Thursday, May 10, 2007

Old Hikers Never Die,
They Just Smell That Way

So, Peter Money and I led a valiant group of CCS students up Mount Ascutney yesterday.

Well, Peter led. Actually, Sean Morgan -- CCS senior, Brownsville local, a man who knows the mountain and was climbing like a mountain goat -- led. Peter and Sean led, joined by fellow vet woodsman and CCS senior Ross Wood Studlar and freshmen Chuck Forsman, Dane Martin, Bryan Stone and Alex (Joon-Ho) Kim. A fine time was had by all.

As the oldest poopster of the party, 52-year-old Bissette held his own, sweeping behind for at least the final third of the climb, but I kept up and I made it to the top. But man, oh man, it was a climb.

I hadn't hiked a mountain in over nine years -- I used to hike
  • the beloved North Duxbury landmark Camel's Hump
  • regularly in my youth. Even a couple of winter hikes, mind you -- I was a boy scout, and I loved hiking.

    But I was in my forties when I made my last climb (Haystack in Wilmington), and I tell you, I was feeling the years yesterday. Particularly in the last mile of the 3.2 or so mile hike uphill. The equivalent hike down went much quicker and (per usual) tested a whole different set of leg and foot muscles, but it was easier on the ol' bod that the climb up. Gravity, you know.

    As Dirty Harry quipped in Magnum Force, "A man's got to know his limitations." I used to climb Camel's Hump's 4,080+ feet once or twice a year and love it, but I was a much younger man then. Mount Ascutney is far shy of Camel's Hump's altitude (see below), but it sure marks my current limit -- though I fully intend to visit the peak this summer, I'll take the car up to the near-summit parking lot and walk that mile versus the 3+ miles uphill we managed yesterday. It's unlikely I'll be making the hike we made yesterday ever again in this lifetime, unless it's as ashes in an urn for my students to spread over the summit.

    Peter and I planned this way back in December 2006 and this past January. It was our intention to bring the entire freshmen class on this end-of-the-year sojourn, but alas, due to a number of issues I shan't go into here, that didn't happen as we'd hoped. Still, we stuck to our staffs and those who could join us, did.

    Since the state park proper is closed until May 18th -- the day before CCS graduation -- planning a day trip that involved simply driving ourselves to just shy of the summit (there's apparently a parking lot between the south peak and summit; a less-than-a-mile foot trail takes you to the summit) was impossible. So, we decided, Peter and I, to make the climb to the peak on the Brownsville Trail, and just go for it.

  • Who is this Peter Money cat? He teaches at CCS, and he's a poet and a good man. Check him out.

  • What's this Mount Ascutney thang? Rather than bore you with historical and contextual blather, here's the Wikipedia listing for the mountain,
  • and here's the tech-stuff at, for those into such matters.

  • We made the climb. It was memorable, a great, grand experience. I'll write about it in some detail later -- jeez, I not only climbed it, I came home and prepped for the coming week of CCS and drew two complete pages for James Sturm's CCS class today (the climax to a class 'round robin' 'versus' comic, which concludes with my "Baby With Adult Legs vs. Bryan Stone" final round -- Baby With Adult Legs created by Joe Lambert, Bryan Stone by -- uh, Bryan's mom, I think. And his Dad. I hope.) -- so I'm too pooped to blog much today.

    I'm not sure how high up we were -- there's some confusion in the available literature on the mountain.

    Ross checked his hiking guide in the drive to Peter's house to eat after we were off the mountain, and reported it was 2600 feet, rated as a 'strenuous climb' (that it was!), but I don't know about that height.

    We passed the North Summit sign, marking 2600+ feet, and there was still considerable climbing after that. Since the parking lot for the park is reportedly at an elevation of 2,800 feet, I reckon we climbed at least a wee bit higher than that, whatever the hiking guide books say otherwise. I know that after the North Summit sign, we climbed for at least another half hour, and it was all climbing!

    Anyhoot, we made it to the observation tower. This was originally a fire tower; the cabin was long ago removed and the whole contraption has been relocated, and the views are breathtaking, encompassing the entire landscape round Ascutney's peak. We didn't make it to Brownsville Rock, which was about another 1/4 mile northwest of the summit -- Sean told us about this (it's a hang gliding launch site), but going to and coming from the tower we passed the sign for the Rock and simply continued on our way; nobody even commented on it. Next time, eh?

  • If you're into going yourself some time, check out the Vt. State Parks site, with mucho links to this and that relevant to such a trek.

  • Here's all the trail particulars, too, for those in any way interested in reading more about the hike.

  • OK, enough on that -- for now. If anyone who had cameras send me pics, I'll post 'em here!

    In any case, gentlemen -- Peter, Chuck, Sean, Dane, Ross, Alex, Bryan -- it was a real honor to climb that rock with all of you, and it's a day I'll savor to the end of my days. Thanks for making it happen!

    Things to ponder today:

  • As Head Honcho Asswipe continues to dodge his own culpability for this war-funding situation, acting like the sociopathic self-centered 'no one says no to me' colostomy bag leakage he continues to come across as (if it were so damned vital, why leave it out of the federal budget every single year of these interminable wars and require seven ancillary budgets to be voted through make up for the shortfall?),
  • and Vice-Cyborg McQuack-Quack further aggravates what Condi already fucked up so adroitly last week ("So we blew your country and all existing infrastructures completely to shit on false pretenses -- get over it! Get up on your own damned feet and act like men instead of like you're ravaged by four years of war, still without clean water, electricity, food or any shred of civilized security! What are you, a pack of pansies?"),
  • let's have another reality check in assessing how completely they've only spiraled the increasingly dire fiscal situation of the average American:

    "The real income of the bottom 90 percent of American taxpayers has declined steadily: they earned $27,060 in real dollars in 1979, $25,646 in 2005."

    - Heather Boushey and Christian E. Weller, "What the Numbers Tell Us," in James Lardner and David A. Smith, eds., Inequality Matters (New York: 2005), p. 36.

    "The 2006 round of tax cuts delivers 70 percent of its benefits to the richest 5 percent of Americans, and 6.5 percent to the bottom 80 percent."

    - Clive Crook, "The Height of Inequality," Atlantic, September 2006, p. 36.

    Have a Great Thursday, You Paupers!

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    Anonymous Tim Lucas said...

    Congrats on conquering Mt. Ascutney and your fifth-decade victory over youth and gravity! Considering the relative brevity of lifespans in the olden days, your achievement would probably turn Moses himself green with envy.

    Blogger Marky Mark said...

    I could help you with that oppressed pauper feeling if you'd only let me. Your sadness makes my heart hurt.

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    I feel the love, guys, I feel the love!

    Blogger HemlockMan said...

    Wow! You climbed it! If I ever make it up your way, you'll have to show me the trailhead.

    I hike and climb regularly. I have to admit that my lungs have held up well over the years and I leave folk far younger than I in the dust. Of course I hike a lot and walk a lot every day (I'm a mailman, you know).

    Sounds like you guys had a great hike, and Ascutney is certainly a worthy eastern peak.

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    Happy to, Bob! It's a great hike.

    My lungs have held up, but man oh man, my hiking chops haven't. In my prime, this would have been a piece of cake; of course, in my prime, I could also pencil an issue of SWAMP THING in five weeks, too.

    One of the most sobering aspects of the day was how the one climber who was a smoker smoked at least four cigs en route to the top -- and still handily stayed well ahead of this old bird.

    I also was disappointed in having a touch of altitude nausea once we arrived at the top -- something I'd never experienced on a hike per se, but sure felt the first day or so during my frequent visits to Sante Fe between 1978-80, where it took a day or so to acclimate to the altitude (standing up from a couch could induce slight nausea that critical initial 24 hours). Though I was hungry by the time we reached Ascutney's summit, I held off eating much of anything until we were back below; once we were beneath the snow belt line (yep, there was snow still on the trail and some thick patches of ice, despite the 80+ degree weather), the touch of unease disappeared and I enjoyed the rest of the walk down the mountain quite handily.

    That, though, was a result of the 9 years away from hiking, not a matter of age: at least two of the CCSers on the hike said they felt a touch of nausea, too, en route. Still, I had about 30 years up on most of the team, and about 15 years up on Peter, so I'm still happy with having held my own, sweeper though I may have been.

    All that said, I felt great yesterday, and am only feeling a bit of achy legs today. Not bad; I was dreading the day after, thinking I'd really be feeling it negatively. Instead, I feel great, and really happy for having made the climb.

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