For most people, a week's vacation in January involves sand and sun and heat, a reprieve from the cold grey winter and coats and boots.I went to Sweden. Why, you may ask, would I chose Scandinavia in winter over a sunny beach in Jamaica? For starters, no one was offering me a ticket to Jamaica, but more important, I have been having a love affair with Stockholm for several years now. It's true, we met on a business trip and I just cannot get the city out of my head. I love strolling the streets of the old city, amusing myself watching the people while riding the metro, feeling the wind in my face as I travel across the water by ferry, exploring the shops, and talking to everyone, naturally. Stockholm holds my hand, tells me jokes, kisses me in public, discovers with me, and shares its life. I am happy to see it and always sad to part from it. I did not have a lot of time this trip, a flight cancellation made it even shorter. My friends organized themselves so I could see most of them. I've missed them all and marvel at how we can always pick up where we left off as if I'd never left. I crammed in as much city wandering as I could manage, deciding that sleep could wait until I was back on a plane. The result is a group of beautiful photos, and many disappointing ones. I learned a lot on this trip about photographing while sleep deprived and I am making a list of things to remember for my next journey. For more a complete portfolio of my work from the Venice of the North, please view the Stockholm section in my gallery.
Decided on a hike up Table Rock in Grafton Notch. Drove there, parked, looked at the sign pointing out the trails, and crossed the road. Heading off I passed a guy coming out. That was the last person I saw on my hike. There were signs for a number of trails, I took the Table Rock trail and followed it up. Once again, it seemed harmless.
It got steep rather quickly and turned into an antediluvian riverbed, boulders instead of a path, winding up 900 feet. I followed the markers of red spray paint, a bit incredulous, at times completely winded. A couple of times I thought the top was near, I was so wrong, the trail deked me out, ran me through some woods, then up up up again. At one point I got to this huge boulder under a cliff and stood there flummoxed until I realised there was a spray painted arrow on one side indicating a narrow space to squeeze yourself between the rock and a cave under the cliff. I suppose if you had managed to make it up that far, they assumed you were thin enough to fit. Finally clambered up a muddy last hill and reached the Table, a flat bit of rock with an enormous view of the surrounding mountains.
The sun came out, but it was quite cool and windy. Still, nothing was going to deter me from sitting and enjoying the view for a while and drinking some water and eating a granola bar while I was doing it.
I wasn't looking forward to the descent very much, but realised as I was climbing down that the markers were blue now, then realised that the trail was quite a bit easier. The significance of the red and blue suddenly sank in.
I was so happy about the fact I didn't have to climb down through boulders that I started singing selections from Carmen at the top of my lungs. I was hoping I really was alone because a) I'm not an opera singer and b) I don't know the words. Still, happy as can be tripping down the trail, torturing the wildlife, passing streams, slipping occasionally on moss and muddy areas from all the rain we've had lately. The markers turned white, but I was still heading down, and eventually got to the point where the trails separated and I was indeed coming down the opposite fork from where I started. Got to the car, now kind of frozen and enjoyed the heater immensely.
On the way home also stopped at a covered bridge and then at the local grocery store. No tahini (what was I thinking?), but found hummus, which was just as good when combined with lemon juice for the sauce for the chickpea/squash thingie.
Skyped my kids, miss 'em.....then read, wrote, drank, and slept.
Have been reading and writing and lounging all morning, but must get out at some point and wander about. Trying to determine if my knees will accept a hike up Grafton Notch, or whether they'd prefer a 10k run. I'm fairly certain they'd prefer to stay in bed.
So yesterday, I had my route, which started with a dreary run along the two-lane which the locals treat like the autobahn. No real shoulder to speak of, so pretty terrible. Finally get to the turn off, Vernon Street, which goes back, way back behind the pond and loops around to town. Paved, but very quiet. Too quiet in fact. Realised that there really wasn't much out there in terms of anything. My thoughts turned to city-girl fears - bears, serial killers, you know. On the other hand, I'm enjoying the peace and the woods all around and being the only thing on the road. To combat my fear of startling a bear (my brain is a truly stupid place), I started to sing whatever my ipod was playing, of course terribly because I'm running, I'm wearing headphones, and who can sing the Beegees and Abba? Was fully expecting to come upon a bunch of locals BBQing in their backyard and staring at me. Luckily, that didn't happen.
Passed the occasional house and bit of civilization. After about 12.5k I came to the next turnoff that I'd seen on the map. Paradise Road cuts directly into town instead of going further around and then back. This seemed more efficient to me as I'd sat at the house planning. It looked harmless, as all truly bad things do. There were quite a few houses along the route, although the road was narrow. I took it. It had started to rain, a light drizzle, it was a bit cool, windy.
I now have a new rule about checking elevations when I plan a running route.
Paradise Road got its name because its purpose seems to be to bring you to the kingdom of heaven. The grade started slowly for the first .5k, then turned into the equivalent of running up Peel Street ten times, in a now harder and cooler rain. At a few points I actually felt like I was moving backwards. I was rewarded at the top with a vantage of the mountains and surrounding colourful countryside and a cemetery with one headstone. There are a couple of houses up there and I was mighty jealous. The way down was much less steep and I made it into town in time for the sun to come out. I wandered a bit and then ran, stumbled, occasionally walked, the last 7k back to the house, iced my knees, went and found some food, had a hot bath, and read until I couldn't stay awake.
Out and about again!
Woke up this morning to see a pink sunrise and water rippling and everything was so quiet and lovely. Threw some clothes on, made some coffee and went out to the dock outside the back door to enjoy it. Sipping hot coffee, world so peaceful, beautiful Fall colours, birds, chill in the air, sound of the water lapping against the dock. Bliss. Noticed one of the metal chairs had fallen into the water. Bent to retrieve it.
Fell in, obviously.....
If I ever warm up again, have a run mapped for today - about 23k as far as I can tell. I will be stopping halfway for a walk around the town.