Moosilauke revisited

On Saturday Mat and I hiked Mount Moosilauke, one of New Hampshires “4000-footers.”  The weather was warm (40s), although the day was overcast and the summit was fogged in.  We got a late start after a wrong turn (kids, bring maps!), so we were a bit concerned about daylight.

A trail report from a few days earlier indicated that it would be smooth going, but apparently we mis-read it, because everyone else on the mountain that day had either skis, snowshoes, or both.  We had neither, and for the first 3+ miles almost ever step resulted in snow up to our knees.

We held out hope that as we gained elevation (and colder weather) the base would be harder-packed.  That was the case eventually, but the slow going coupled with our late start made us decide to turn back prior to the summit.  It was an adventure regardless, and on the way down we got in a lot of “sledding” on our behinds, which was a blast.

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Triplog: Costa Rica (Part 3)

Yeah, I know the trip was in December and I’m posting the final penultimate update in April. Next maybe I’ll finally write about my trip to France in May…of 2006. Family is welcomed to comment with any CR details I’ve forgotten in the interim.

When last we spoke, we had concluded our time in Guanacasta and taken a treacherous(-ish) mountain journey to La Fortuna, around Lake Arenal, which looks (from afar, through the fog) sort of like this:

Continue reading “Triplog: Costa Rica (Part 3)”

Triplog: Costa Rica (Part 2)

I am writing now from La Fortuna, several hours inland by car from our previous location on the western coast. To get here, we traveled over major (paved, two-lane) highways and smaller (packed dirt, one- and two-lane) roads. We frequently had to cross what one local called “oh my God” bridges: narrow, single-lane water crossings with no side rails. Traffic lights are very rare, “stop,” “caution,” and “yield” signs are frequent.

In Guanacasta we did our first major tourist thing, which was a package that the tour company called the “Mega Combo.” After a two hour drive to Rincon de la Vieja we took a treacherous trail on horseback down to a secluded hot spring. One of our number found the experience a bit too exciting and left his horse behind. He quickly discovered that the journey on foot was far more treacherous and had to meet up with a tractor along the way.

The forest and the springs were beautiful, although I chose to forego the mud bath. After an hour, though, we were ready to move on to the next mega destination, a quarter-mile long water slide. Which was a blast. Everyone went twice.

Next up, ziplining. There were eleven platforms suspended in trees high above the floor with great views of the forest canopy. We saw a few monkeys, but not much else, unfortunately. We were each outfitted with a climbing harness, rope and pulley, and a safety rope. At each platform a guide would attach our safety rope to a secondary airplane cable and then we would do a pull-up so that the could hook us to our pulley on the primary cable. One hand rests on the line attached to the harness, one on the zip line behind the pulley. Cross your legs, lean back, and use your back hand (with a thick leather glove) to slow your descent. Very fun, great views, and easy to do. Despite what the picture implies, we were actually quite high off the ground.

Ziplining really is a blast, and with any luck we might do a bit more of it before this trip is done. And that wraps up the “Mega Combo.” It was super typical! (As they say on the signs for their markets here).

Tuesday was an in day at the hotel: pool, kayaks, cooking class, and the like. In the evening we rented a car and headed down to Playa Grande to sit around for several hours waiting for wormsign turtles.

The huge leatherback turtles (measuring 1-1.5m in length) return to the beaches on which they were hatched in order to lay their eggs. In the early 90s a thousand turtles a year would come to Playa Grande to make their nests, now that number is far lower. We were not allowed to bring lights, cameras, or cell phones and had to keep quiet. When a turtle was spotted we were led to the beach and allowed to stand within half a meter of the huge mother turtle as she slowly dug her nest with her back legs and then dropped over sixty eggs into it, before burying them in the sand. We were not allowed to stay to watch the turtle return to the water (nor were we allowed to take any pictures, and I almost got a “ticket” for bringing my camera along). Still, it was a pretty neat experience. I can only hope when I bring *my* children to Costa Rica some day there will still be turtles left to visit.

Next time: Germans! Rafting! Volcanoes! Mosquitos!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Triplog: Costa Rica (Part 1)

Although this is the dry season in Guanacaste province, which is in the north of the country, we were delayed getting from Liberia airport to our hotel due to recent flooding that had damaged a bridge. While enjoying daredevil driving, I had a chance to acclimate from the snowstorm I had just left in Boston to the hot and humid Central American weather.

The primary artery from the airport to the coast is a two lane road. Much of the country is like this, with critical infrastructure in need of repair and major transportation arteries seriously undersized. While Costa Rica, a highly progressive and environmentally-friendly nation, hopes to become carbon-neutral within the next 20 years, problems of infrastructure threaten to hamper those goals. Idling cars do not make reducing emissions any easier.

That said, Costa Rica’s energy generation is nearly 99% renewable, with a substantial majority of it coming from hydroelectric and geothermal sources — dams and volcanoes, to put it simply. Now, dams aren’t always entirely environmentally friendly, but geothermal energy has a pretty good track record, and CR even exports electricity to Panama and other neighboring countries.

Speaking of neighbors, we learned that the country has a bit of an immigration problem. Nicaraguan laborers from the north come to CR en masse during harvest season. Nicaraguan mango pickers work long days in the groves, looking up into trees and using a blade and basket assembly on a pole to pick ripe mangoes and pack them into crates. One basket usually holds 30-40 mangoes (depending on size) and they are paid about 200 colones (40 cents) per basket.

Mirroring the American immigration problem, dueling forcers are at work: the need for cheap, abundant labor to perform jobs that the general population is not willing or able to perform for the wages offered, and concern about rising crime and the cost of social services, both problems that can be pinned, justified or not, on the migrant community. There are differences, though. For one, Ticos and Nicas share a language and similar cultural traditions. Less than a quarter century ago Nicaragua was a more prosperous land than its neighbor to the South, but years of war and internal strife led Nicaragua to its present economic situation.

When we asked a guide about his feelings on the immigration wave, he said that while others may think badly of he Nicaraguan community, he is a supporter of their plight, has Nicaraguan friends, and has a Nicaraguan flag hanging in his house. So far we have not encountered any Nicaraguan xenophobes, but then we haven’t exactly been looking.

All around our hotel are condominium units built or under construction for rich American (and sometimes European) ex-pats. The top industry in Costa Rica is tourism, bringing in $1.7 billion annually and making the nation the most visited in the region. Next up is high technology, thanks to a concerted push in the last decade to bring in outside technology investment through major tax incentives. Intel is here, and a tour guide told us with evident pride that it was Costa Rican scientists who developed and a Costa Rican fab that is producing Intel’s newest Penryn processor. Fitting, as the Penryn uses a new low-power, high-performance design.

The third major industry in CR is agriculture. Fruit, cattle, and sugarcane are major crops.

I’ve run out of internet time (frittered away fact checking!), so next time I’ll talk bout our first adventure tour (the “Mega Combo” package!) and post some pictures. Until then.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Life update for May 2007

On campus things are winding down as finals end and summer begins. At Harvard I’m finishing up a big web project for the OpenNet Initiative today before I head out for vacation tomorrow. It’s also weird that fellows are slowly trickling out, because although I’ve only been here for two years in July, in that time I’ve seen tons of change at Berkman, including a tripling (or so) of our staff and the establishment of two major ongoing projects, a few shifts in focus, a move to a new building, and two batches of fellows (some of whom stay for only one year terms). And in a few weeks all of the summer interns are going to start pulling in, taking up every nook and cranny and making the Berkman atmosphere even more interesting. Oh, and also I joined the HLS softball team!

On the Northeastern front things wrapped up a few weeks back and Shaina is already home in California, working at Maintex and hanging out with her theater geek friends.

At Brandeis there was another brouhaha about another possibly racist/definitely offensive publication, which I got to watch from afar. Someone has learned something in the previous few “incidents,” but I’m not entirely sure what. Finals are happening there as well, which means my last major link to Brandeis, Aaron, is soon heading off to grad school at Rutgers (yay Aaron! but boo, far away :().

And in other happy news, Alwina got a much-deserved and long-overdue promotion to Assistan Provost in charge of unifying grad student services, a fun, interesting, and probably difficult task. We celebrated last week over Italian.

I’ve been enjoying the outdoors a lot, playing some frisbee (although it reveals how incredibly out of shape I am), going camping at IOCA’s trip to New Paltz, NY, and kayaking a couple times. On Saturday Jeremy persuaded me to skip out on some work and head off to Waltham to kayak at a place I never knew existed, and we went six miles round trip, headwind both ways, up to Moody street and back. It was fun. Soon the water will be warmer and there will be some swimming to be had as well.

On the home front the new washing machine is working great and I even installed it myself, things are generally clean and functional, I’m loving my Apple TV, and the only thing Igor and I are having trouble with is our wildly divergent conceptions of what temperature is habitable. 🙂

Tomorrow I’m off to Cancun for a few days, then to California to visit with family and watch Jessica walk at her theoretical graduation, and then back with Jess in tow for a bit of Northeast adventuring before returning to work in two weeks. I’ll take pictures, of course, and eventually post them. In the meantime below you can see a few kayaking shots and hopefuly today I’ll get up some old Berkman pics as well, a couple of which I’m somewhat proud of. So stay tuned, stay warm, and get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather!

IOCA Fall Lake George 2006

*Updated with photos. Click to view them full size.*

This weekend was the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association fall trip to Lake George, sponsored by the Rensselaer Outing Club. I tagged along with a few Brandeis alums and the main Brandeis student contingent and had a great time. I was pretty wary of outdoor camping in the wilderness, as I have a decided dislike of heat, humidity, and unsanitary conditions, but in the spirit of trying new things I went anyway, and it was well worth it.

Continue reading “IOCA Fall Lake George 2006”

Adventures update

Yesterday Jeremy and I drove to Concord, NH to kayak on the Contoocook River. It was a fun little adventure on a nice calm river, and, while we arrived fairly late in the day, we were able to kayak a couple miles upstream to a beach and then back again before closing time. Next time we’ll have to plan more than a few hours in advance and make reservations for one of the 5 or 10 mile journeys.

Warning signTwo weeks ago I set out with Igor and Yoni to hike Mt. Washington. While I’ve been on things I would call hikes, I’ve never gone on something this serious or difficult. I was woefully underequipped, with the wrong clothing, wrong equipment, and not enough water or food. The one thing I did have is an excellent pair of hiking boots and, thanks to Yoni, the right kind of (wool) socks, and my feet came out of the adventure feeling great, even if the rest of me didn’t do so well.

Mt. Washington is the highest peak in New England at 6288 ft, and while that might not mean much compared to other areas of the country, it is a very legitimate and potentially dangerous hike. It is also the location of the highest recorded wind gust in the world for a surface weather station, measuring 231 mph in 1934. On the day we arrived the weather was cool and clear for summer, and our chosen hike took us from Pinkham Notch up 4238 ft to the summit by way of the steep 4.1 mile long Tuckerman Ravine trail, which travels up the “headwall” of the ravine. I did not bring nearly enough water, but luckily the hiking companions we met up with were overprepared, and I was able to score some extra water, food, and a walking stick.

Us by the ravineMy choice of shorts and a light shirt paid off for the beginning of the hike, which was fairly easy going up nicely sloping trails. After a mile or so, we hit the fork that would take us up Tuckerman Ravine, and things got far more steep. The climb was still a pleasant one for another mile and a half or so, at which time we stopped to rest and eat. As we ate the sky opened and the rain started, another thing I was not well prepared for, with my jacket that was not especially good at keeping water out and my short pants.

We continued on, although I was slowed down for a bit by the food, which made me feel bad and gave me a headache (and there are no bathrooms along the trail). We kept going, and as we got higher fog started to roll in, the rain began to intensify, and the wind picked up. The last half mile was awful, and at times I had to stop to rest, out of energy to go on. Our group seperated into three pairs as we climbed the last section at different speeds and slowly, oh so slowly approached the top. When we finally got there, I was dismayed to see that we were only at a parking lot, and there was still a bunch of stairs to climb before we finally reached shelter. I was exhausted.

At the top we entered the visitors center, which was not well heated, and changed clothes for those of us who had things to change into, while attempting to dry off from the rain. Unwilling to made the descent in the crappy weather and the condition of some of our party, we bought a ticket to send one member of the group down on a van to pick up a car and come back up for the rest of us. While we waited for her to go and come back, and weather intensified, and the park service closed the road, saying it was unsafe to pass.

Worst weather in the worldWe were now trapped at the top of the mountain with the visitor center nearing closing time and the only way down to hike in the awful weather — or hitch a ride. Luckily the more female and cute members of our party were able to score us seats in the pickups and vans of the few remaining people at the top who had yet to leave. A very slow descent via road and we were finally, finally at the bottom, where the weather was a bit better.

This wasn’t the end of course, as next we had to drive for three hours to get back to Igor’s house, at the end of which I felt absolutely terrible and had the most awful painful hiccups, and then, after that, another half hour home.

Oh man, it was awful, aggrevated of course by me being out of shape and underequipped. Now that I know what I know, would I do it again? Damn right I would. But first I need to head out to REI or EMS and stock up on the right equipment.

Bluff follow-through

Thirty-seven degrees Farenheit. Midnight on a deserted beach. Huddled with a group around a blazing bonfire. Your legs are warm, your feet are freezing, there are graham crackers and marshmallows and, of all things, Dunkin Donuts. You strip off almost all of your clothes, pick up a burning piece of wood, and run straight into the Atlantic ocean.

Its like trying your first spoonful of ice cream. Its like your first time up on water skis. Its like floating on your back in a tranquil pond while, up above, fighter jets shoot across the sky.

I didn’t know what I wanted, didn’t know if this was going to just be a disaster or something I look back on and say, “what was I thinking.” Nope, its not that. It is new, it is strange, it is amazing, and I want more. I need more.

Thanks Mat. 🙂


Danny surfs, kindaToday was surfing day. Jessica, Shaina, and I were taught the ropes by Mikey of Goofy Foot Surf School, First round I got up and did alright, but nothing special. Second round I was all set and then got a really bad cramp in my right calf and fell into the water. On the way back to the group, I banged my left leg on a big rock. Third round I didn’t do very well because I was so worried about my painful right leg, not to mention my slightly less painful left leg, and I was getting pretty worried that the whole exercise would end up a failure.

On my fourth and final run I did all right and stood briefly, but even remembered to lean forward to try and speed up, but didn’t stay up very long. I was able to catch a last wave on my own and navigate in to shore, although I did not try to stand in the very shallow water. I never did get a chance to try turning and such, but all in all it was a productive and fun day, and now I can say that I’ve surfed. I’d like to do it again, but I’ll have to stretch my legs a lot beforehand, because it was really stupid to get all the way out there, be all set, and not be able to do anything because of my dumb leg.

I have pictures to prove that I did it, although Jessica posed a lot better then I and the swim shorts I was wearing look very, very geeky (thanks, Dad!). Ya know what else I want to do? Snow skiing. Guess that will have to wait until I get back to the other coast and, also, um, on the mainland.

When Life Gets You Down…

…take a walk. That’s what I did. An hour long one all around the Brandeis campus. I went to the topmost parking lot alongside Rabb and looked out at the lights of the city. I took the Peripheral Road all the way around, detoured around back and looked at the Rose Art Museum, came back up, discovered the Fine Arts center, kept going backwards to the International Center, and then around through Ziv, past the construction, and back up by Usdan to my dorm. Trace the progress using this handy map, courtesy of Brandeis.

Along the way I found several interesting sites, including:

  1. A placard for the sculpture entitled “Air,” overlooking an empty hill.
  2. A place that looked like a stock exchange or secret government control center but actually ended up being the International Center, home of the GSIEF program.
  3. The place where the BranVan parks.
  4. A secret back entrance to campus.
  5. Some fun artwork.

Darn Tootin!