November 17, 2011

A Season of Change

It appears that five months have elapsed since my last post!  I have a great excuse for not writing.  He looks something like this...

 Yes, the Woods Hippie tribe has expanded its ranks by one.  As of this writing, the little guy is seven weeks old and has already enjoyed his first hike in the woods of Burlington, CT and has tasted some delicious squirrel stew (albeit processed into breast milk by Mama).  So, I haven't had much opportunity of late for grand outdoor adventure, but plenty of grand life adventure!  I can't really ask for much else.

Although, it would have been a blast to be able to ski on some of that freak October snow.

The venerable Coleman stove was impervious to the power outage.

As I alluded to above with the stew reference, I have been hitting the small game hunting season with some regularity, and the squirrels have made some tasty fare.  Don't knock it till you've tried it!  Squirrel really is a flavorful meat and an elusive quarry, too.  Forest greys are much more wary than your average suburban squirrel.  My setup of choice has been my Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun outfitted with a full choke, shooting no. 6 game loads.  The tight choke allows for longer shots in oaks still loaded with foliage, and I don't have to worry about the consequences of sending a .22 slug skyward in the relatively populated areas in which I hunt.  That, and the scattergun gives me options should I flush a stray pheasant or partridge.

I'll leave you with a few scenes from a Connecticut small game hunt...
Think snow.

July 6, 2011


Zukes!  Yikes!

Three Sisters.

Colorful mopheads.
Gettin' bigger by the day.  AKA - dog's eye view of the garden.

Keep doin' your thang, little bee.

Food is good.

July 2, 2011

Easy Ridin', Northeast-Stylie

Left to Right: Hippie's bike, IIA, Hippie, IIA's bike.
This past weekend, my cousin and I decided to skip out of Connecticut on the bikes and get lost in the Pennsylvania and New York countryside.  Or, as my new-found Irish relative P. K. would say, "We're gonna fuck off to PA for a bit?!"  With a half-day of work on Friday locked, loaded, and time sheet submitted by noon, I kissed the wife, dog, and son-to-be goodbye and threw a leg over the saddle and spun over to my cousin's place where we took a look at the map to confirm his route for the day.  My cousin, to whom I shall refer only as the Irish Italian American (IIA) in deference to his internet privacy, was visibly giddy at the outset of his first motorcycle camping adventure (though by no means his first motorcycle adventure).  And I, as the Self-Proclaimed Motorcycle Adventurer (SPMA), was more than eager to show him the ropes (and my stash of cool camping gear).  Also, sometimes it's healthful to sack up and drop the whole hippie thing and expand my carbon footprint every now and again.  Gas is cheaper than Zoloft, eh?

The IIA on the shore of the Delaware River.
Well, I should back up a minute here and explain things.  I felt as if I owed the IIA an adventure of some sort as a result of his ill-fated experience with the glorious backcountry cabin ski trip which I gushed over here and here.  Those dedicated readers of this blog may have noticed that the IIA was not mentioned in that trip report, but alas, he played a brief, albeit spectacular, role in that trip.  The IIA joined his brother Johnny G and I on the first day of the trip with every intention of enjoying a weekend of snowboarding and backcountry shenanigans but, to his chagrin, he fell victim to an unfortunate case of food poisoning at the hands of a D'Angelo's grinder in West Lebanon, NH on the ride north.  Halfway up the trail to the cabin, the tainted bacon or chicken or whatever gained the upper hand in the gastrointestinal battle for digestive dominance and the rest was in the history books.  Johnny G. and I escorted him to the base lodge, booked him a hotel room for the night, and left him to dance the porcelain two-step as we reascended the mountain to keep our date with a cabin in the woods.  So, in the end, I did feel bad for abandoning him in his hour of need, but every skier knows and accepts the one hard and fast rule of the slopes - there are no friends on a powder day...

50 mpg and cooler than your Prius.
So, after stashing the last of the gear on the bikes, we roared off towards the New York line in a fury of partially-burnt hydrocarbons and hot rubber.  Well, perhaps the IIA's bike roared westward whereas my steed probably purred along with mild flatulence...while we both rock V-twin engines, his has a few more cubic inches and a hell of a lot less muffler than mine!  The whole MoCo vs. Japan thing...such distinctions are pretty worthless once you get on the road.  In my book, it doesn't matter what you ride as long as you ride.  At any rate, the IIA's bike is the type that provokes either love or hate in the ears of the pedestrian subjected to the raw explosions of the straight-piped Twin Cam 88 engine as it passes through some quiet hillcountry town.  On the one hand, the midnight purple Softail Night Train inspires moist panties and envious looks from, respectively, twenty-something females in tight blue-jeans and pussy-whipped males driving automatic transmission Toyota Corolla sedans with tan interiors.  (alright Dad, that's not too "Thoreau" for you, is it?)  On the other hand, the bike probably has the capability of drawing the ire of anyone who works third shift and sleeps in the daytime.  At any rate, I think his bike is straight up rad (yup, child of the 90's here), and, having had the opportunity to swap bikes and ride it, I can totally appreciate the whole Harley-Davidson thing.

Diners, bikes, and Jeeps.   This is America, bitches!
Alright, so back to the ride.  Throwing myself to the whims of the weekend, I totally entrusted the first day's route finding to the IIA, which, according to his father (my uncle), was akin to handing him the keys to my as-of-yet unborn first child.  I could not have been more pleasantly surprised, as his route brought us through pastoral New York farm country and a magnificent traverse of the Shawangunk mountain range outside of New Paltz, complete with conglomerate/sandstone cliffs, 180-degree hairpin turns, and mountain laurel in full bloom.  Breathtaking, I assure you, especially atop a motorcycle.  Port Jervis, NY served us our first taste of adventure as a cloudburst tested our riding mettle mere minutes after we donned our raingear in response to a light shower.  We kept on trucking despite fogging helmet visors and were rewarded with spectacular scenery along the raging Delaware River and some technical (if not gravel-strewn) riding once across the PA border.  As the day grew long in tooth and our odometers climbed towards 200 miles on the day, we pulled into a dive bar in Hawley, PA for a well-deserved burger and pint (just one, Mom, don't fret) of Juengling.  And, much to our delight, the bar also sold 12 packs of High Life to-go, so we were able to fulfill our needs for dinner and camp beer rations in one convenient stop.  Thank you, Pennsylvania!  The last half-hour of the day found us winding around the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack, PA's largest man-made lake, in search of a campground, which we discovered at the motorcycle-friendly Ironwood Point Recreation Area.  A modest expenditure of twenty-five dollars bought us a chill campsite and ample firewood for the night.

'Nuff said.  Either you're on the bus, or you're off.
We slept well, which I find is always a boon on the first night of a camping trip when the body is not really accustomed to outdoor life.  Awaking on the late side of 8 AM, we jumped into the welcoming waters of Lake Wallenpaupack before striking camp and aiming the bikes toward the nearest greasy spoon for corned beef hash and pancakes.  After the obligatory and much welcomed deuce, we struck out toward the Catskills on the most obscure and winding back roads that we could find on our maps.  We had three sets of maps - my Rand McNally set and the IIA's H-D guide and an anonymous atlas page for NY state.  The funny thing was that these maps could not agree on what roads existed in this part of the United States.  Here we were, no more than 50 miles from NYC, one of the largest cities in the world, and we were left to navigate by dead reckoning, the positioning of celestial bodies, and a wet thumb stuck into the breeze.  

Once again, take that, Utah!  Although, this looks pretty steazy, too.
Okay, so I may be prone to hyperbole, but we were in the country for sure, which I fully enjoyed.  The IIA later commented that there were no chain restaurants to be seen for almost two full days.  Windy side roads brought us to the gateway of the Catskills in Liberty, NY where we faced our only stretch of interstate riding in no less than a veritable downpour.  The remainder of Day Two was destiny unbound motorcycle heaven - 60 mph sweepers alongside a mountain reservoir with views of high peaks and tumbling mountain streams to either side of the handlebars.  In true carefree road trip style, we pulled into a secluded roadside rest area and snoozed under a maple tree as hazy afternoon sunshine gave way to a brief shower.  An hour or so later, we pulled into the ski town of Hunter, NY to stock up on grinders (sandwiches, to the uninitiated) and beer before throttling southward to the evening's destination of Devil's Tombstone Campground.  (We had to pick a badass-sounding destination for our bike trip, ya dig?) 

The Delware in raging flood stage.
After a night of wet firewood (the IIA truly impressed me with his dedication to getting the fire started), we struck towards home, but not before ripping some RIDICULOUSLY FUN twisties right out of camp.  In true Woods Hippie fashion, I navigated this circus right into Woodstock, NY (yes, that Woodstock) for breakfast amongst some real granola/hemp/crunchy/tie-dyed folks in the one organic, vegan, don't-eat-anything-that-casts-a-shadow coffee/artisinal bakery shop in a town that boasts more yoga studios than gasoline stations.  And all I was really jonesin' for was a fucking sausage-egg-and cheese sandwich!  Well, at any rate, we supported local agriculture and independently owned businesses and all that jazz, and, with bellies full of low-glycemic-index complex carbohydrates and fair trade joe, we pointed this show east, crossed the Hudson, and made our triumphant return to the Nutmeg State.  After winding through Connecticut's gentrified western hills, I deposited the IIA and his gear at his domicile and sped towards home on the last ten miles of an absolutely fabulous weekend spent on two wheels...

Have a great Independence Day weekend, everyone.  Play safe, and think deeply and honestly about what liberty means to you...


June 23, 2011

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

I recently devoured a terrific book by Michael Pollan entitled The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Now, this book was released in 2007 so I’m a bit behind the ball, but Pollan’s message strikes such a deep chord with me that I feel I need to spread it around.  Last summer, I crossed this great country on a motorcycle (read about it here) and, having never seen the Midwest except from the seat of a jetliner, was shocked and more than a bit dismayed to experience firsthand the American industrial agricultural machine.  I witnessed field after field, mile after mile, and DAY after DAY of nothing but corn and soybean!  Yes, I understand that we are a nation of 300,000,000 people and need vast amounts of food, but the utter lack of biodiversity across an entire region just confounded and contradicted every bit of knowledge that I have gained in my studies in biology and environmental science.  Now, I know that as kid from the suburbs of Connecticut, my critique of American farming may ring hollow in the ears of those living in the farm belt, but for crying out loud, do we really need to be injecting pure anhydrous ammonia into our soil to fertilize our crops?  How could we have gone so far astray?

Well, apparently I’m not the only one who pauses to think about our food in such a light.  In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan essentially investigates the various ways in which Americans produce, process, and consume food.  Naturally, he starts out with a bang and dives right into a dissection of the vast corporate agri-business that supplies the majority of our food, with the discussion centered on the exploits of the humble (or not so humble) corn plant.  Through the “miracle” of modern agricultural and food science, the corn plant has become the foundation of our processed food system in which a grain of corn is broken down into basic molecules and synthetically reassembled into much of the “food” available at the local supermarket.  Take a look at anything with a nutrition label and a list of ingredients – much of the stuff that you can’t pronounce is probably manufactured from corn.  I won’t even get into his descriptions of industrial meat production, but I’ve seen the feedlots in Kansas and can vouch for his tale.  Why so much corn, you might ask?  Pollan hints, no, jabs at various government policies and market conditions that drive farmers closer to the brink of financial extinction to supply large corporate grain processors with ever cheaper raw materials.  The unwritten message is, “Gee, I bet these processing corporations can afford to purchase some pretty influential congressmen on Capitol Hill”.  The written message is that the industrial agricultural system, with the backing of the United States government, endeavors to transform petroleum into food at the expense of fair economy, the environment, and our health.  Do heart disease, obesity, and diabetes ring a bell?  They're all linked to industrial food.  Pollan takes the stance not that of the typical tree-hugging enviro-conspiracy theorist, but of a horrified, intelligent observer looking into the system as an outsider.  Skeptical?  Read it.  Your library probably has a copy on the shelf right now.

Pollan ventures next into the burgeoning "organic foods" market, with a focus on the type of organic goods that you might buy at Whole Foods.  The results of his investigations are disappointing but not surprising.  As you might suspect, the organic food industry is, for the most part, just that - an industry.  Yes, lettuce may be grown without petroleum-based fertilizers and chickens may not be fed antibiotics, but the system still suffers from monocultured fields, crowded animal feed lots, and intercontinental transportation of foods (carbon footprint, anyone?).  Pollan cites the example of an “organic TV dinner” as the ultimate hypocrisy of the organic food movement.  There is redemption, though, in his exploration of the “beyond organic” food movement.  In the most enlightening chapters, Pollan visits a Virginia farm where one visionary farmer studies and applies the rhythms of nature to his cattle and chicken operation.  The farm, by Pollan’s description, is really such a beautiful ecosystem that I won’t attempt to paraphrase – just read the book already, eh?

The last chapter focuses of Pollan’s efforts to serve a meal entirely of his own creation, and by that I mean he hunts the boar, picks the mushrooms, grows the lettuce - you get the picture.  Delicious yet time consuming and, he admits, just as impractical for modern life as the industrial system is deleterious to the environment.  The compromise, he argues, should be somewhere in between. 

My overall take on the book is that it confirms what I already suspected about industrial food, but Pollan blows me away with his detailed research and engaging writing style.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma left me disgusted with the current state of affairs, hopeful with the promise of ecology-based local farming, and fearful of the government’s reaction to alternative food movements that challenge their corporate partners.  (In what backwards world do live when locally-produced vegetable, dairy, and meat is considered “alternative”?)  So what are your thoughts on this subject?  Do you eat?  (That’s a rhetorical question, folks…)  Do you know where your food comes from?  Are you a thoughtful consumer?  How do you rate the tradeoffs between nutrition and cost?  Would you be willing to support local farms?  Do you believe that your food dollars may be more influential than any vote you cast in a ballot box?

June 10, 2011

Farmer Hippie, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Two posts in two days, wow, kid's on a roll!

It's only early June but the garden beds at the Woods Hippie homestead are covered in lush vegetation and we've already enjoyed some of the spring crop.  I feel as if I have been working the garden for months, because, as it turns out, I have!  The early season bed was seeded in late March and early April with peas, carrots, radishes, chard, and lettuce...the usual cool season contenders.  The peas were content to stay snug in the soil until well into April when they all apparently got the memo and sprouted with vigor.  Now, the "bush" peas stand nearly three feet tall and I'm constantly pinching the growing tips to inhibit further upward growth and to promote flowering.  We've enjoyed several weeks of SPICY radish slices in our fresh romaine salads.  I will never voluntarily purchase a store radish again after tasting these little red delights, the flavor is incomparable.

The garden, circa May 16.
Starting to fill in!
The summer bed was seeded with bush snap beans and basil just after Mother's Day.  Around the same time, I prepared my very first Three Sisters garden, which is a Native American companion planting technique with corn, beans, and squash.  The theory has it that the corn provides a trellis for the pole beans (I chose runner beans), the beans provide nitrogen for the heavy-feeding corn, the corn provides shade for the delicate squash, and the squash, with their broad leaves and prickly vines, serve as a living mulch and critter deterrent for the garden.  For the squash, I planted a variety including butternut, pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, and melon.  I started some seeds indoors under a grow light and planted some seeds directly in the ground.  The plants started indoors met with mixed results once hardened off and planted outdoors; I'd say 60% survived the transplant.  The direct-seeded plants were nearly universally successful, though the surviving transplants have a bit of a edge, size-wise.  The corn, as evidenced in the photos, have almost 18" of height at this point.

I am blessed in that I have two neighbors with green thumbs, both of whom cultivate heirloom and odd-duck varieties of tomato and gift me their extra seedlings.  I can't keep track of the varieties growing in my beds, but I think I have some Cherokee Purple, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, Big Boy, and Better Boy.  The bigger plants are already flowering!

Perhaps a weedwack is in order, but those weeds are tasty Lamb's Quarters!
As you might expect from a guy who's blog moniker is "Woods Hippie", the garden is cultivated organically.  I apply quite a bit of compost every year, though this year I did add some bonemeal-based fertilizer to add some other nutrients, and I recently applied a hydrolized fish fertilizer.  The plants have responded well to the light fertilization, and I have yet to see any significant insect problems (knock on wood).

So, for now, things are looking good as the spring crop wraps up and the majority of the garden is settling in for the long haul.  The seedlings are now established, which takes off some of the initial worry, now just as long as everything withstands the powerful thunderstorms that have been rolling through and I remember to water every now and then, hopefully we'll be looking at a nice harvest in a few months!  
Grandma keeps an eye on the house in the form of a rose bush...

Have a great weekend!

June 9, 2011

A Day's Hike into the Clouds

Moist breezes swirl through the intricate spruce forest, carrying a sweet, delicate fragrance to my nose...a fragrance that is not pine, not mist, not soil, but a gentle concoction of all earthly pheromones that strike deep into some primordial nerve center, and a sense of home washes over me.  Momentarily bound in a cosmic plane, I shift my focus back to my physical reality and resume picking a slow and methodical path through the jumble of schist and granite boulders that dot the mountainside.  The path, and the surrounding forests, are constant sentinels of a medieval world that we, as travelers, struggle to comprehend on our recreational forays into the kingdom.  

There is magic afoot here, ancient powers that conspire to anchor trees in bare rock and send their woody antennae skyward in a silent quest for light.  Water, the lifeblood, the oil in the cylinder, seeps from every imaginable and unimaginable crevice from springs unseen, pulsing through beds of moss before submerging into the soil matrix, to emerge some months later in a river destined for the sea.  Meanwhile, secretive flowers advertise their genetic ribbons to a selective audience, perhaps to the one particular breed of insect that has evolved a quiet symbiosis with its floral brethren.

"Focus," I again remind myself, "or your tired feet will stumble and pitch you headlong into a rock!"  Oh, but for that intoxicating balsam perfume!  Onward we climb into a cloud, a literal ascent to the heavens.  Here, the weather has shaped trees into boreal statues crafted of gnarled fiber and resilient waxy needles; deformities, we might infer, but to the trees, all the better to withstand to ceaseless winds and brutal winter snows. 

Today, the bold rock and resolute statues of wood play second fiddle to the atmosphere, which, to the unaccustomed, at first appears to be a featureless sheet of white but, upon further inquisition, we find that the aether forms a vaporous canvas for the broad brush strokes of meteorological happenings.  Tendrils of cloud break free from the main body of fog filling the valley to whip past our faces and race through the trees, stripping us of the mountain views for which we came, but garnishing our climb with a much more surreal and contemplative vista.  What else but fog could free us from our preconceived expectations and usher us into an ego-less appreciation of the mountain as it presented itself to us?

It is only much later when, on the drive home, we see the entire ridge and solve the meteorological mystery that leaves our little mountain enshrouded in mist.  The ridge intercepts a moist northbound air mass that speeds through the valley.  The invisible freight train careens into the the ridge and climbs as did we, only much, much faster, compressing against the mountain then cooling in a flurry of instantaneous condensation which gives birth to a transient toupee of cloud over the barren rock.  On the summit, we surmise that the entire Presidential Range was enveloped, but our later observations show us that the clouds merely break over our mountain like an ocean wave before absolving themselves of existence in the lee of the rock, evaporating as uncountable numbers of water molecules warm imperceptibly and vanish.  

Mother Nature captures us again with her sorcery as she forms and destroys clouds at will in front of our eyes, but she graces us with benevolence today as neither rain nor sleet mar our passage; we journey home, tired as always, but ever more transfixed...

May 17, 2011

Spring is in Full Swing!

Another glorious New England spring is in full bloom in the wake of the best winter season I have ever experienced, and I couldn't be any happier.  A devout winter sports enthusiast to the core, I have no qualms hanging up the skis when the weather turns here in Connecticut.  Sure, the Greens and Whites may harbor pockets of rideable snow into June, but I'll leave those outings to the locals.  They don't have to drive too far at $4.20 a gallon to ski marginal backcountry routes.  

Cape Pogue...a poetic juxtaposition of sky, sea, and sand.
Anyways...spring!   I regard this season as our annual reward for enduring months of iced-over windshields and heating bill-induced heart palpitations.  Few complaints are lodged during these fleeting weeks of flowery transition between winter and summer; even the most curmudgeonly opponents of "weather" seem to embrace the live-affirming spring rains and silence their atmospheric grumblings, if only temporarily.  The days are warm, the nights encourage open windows for deep sleep, and the gentle rains and tumultuous clouds lend a dramatic backdrop as biology reestablishes seasonal dominance over the reticent geology.  I have found myself engaged in an endless fury of activity spurred by the abundant daylight, and as a result I have made good on some of the aimless goals which I presented in an earlier post.

Can you believe I lived with this salty dog for four years?
The warmer weather and emergent foliage bring out the travel bug in me, so I indulged my fancy with a weekend trip to Martha's Vineyard to visit some old friends and catch a few early season fish.  I am vastly fortunate to have roomed with Captain Roberto during my college days, and not only is he one helluva nice guy, but a skilled fisherman taboot.  The first order of business was to pursue some Morone saxatilis in one of the Vineyard's most scenic and secluded backwaters.  The shallow waters of the pond proved to be the perfect environment for the Gheenoe, the Vineyard boys' recent Florida-inspired small craft acquisition.  With a 15-hp outboard, shallow draft, stable casting deck, and ample beer storage, the Gheenou got us into the goods in the most stylish of redneck fashions.  Armed with a carbon-fiber pole, Roberto skillfully piloted the craft around the edge of the marsh where the stripers were feeding in various inlets.  We met success with a topwater Jumping Minnow and soft plastic baits.  The time spent in the salt pond was a highlight of the season so far...great conversation with a great friend, a fun boat, and good fishing all framed by the pristine coastal dune ecology.

Capt. Roberto at the helm.
To top off an already great outing, the following day found me in the company of the island's elite sportfishing charter guides, the boys of (minus "Carl", who was otherwise "engaged").  Captain WBC was eager to show off his new ship, a 22 Pathfinder outfitted with a custom poling platform.  Talk about a humbling experience, fishing with these guys!  All I could do was hang on tight and cast where they told me, with expected success, though  I'm sure I'm not the first amateur from Connecticut they have brought to sea.  Anyways, if you enjoy great fishing photography and well-written prose, you must check out their blog at  And if you don't know what FTV are talking about in their posts, you must i.) meet Kevin and/or Hoagie, ii.) listen to more Grateful Dead than you currently do,  iii.) book a charter and find out what it's all about, or iv.) listen to Grateful Dead while on a charter.

If Ted Kennedy drove a Gheenoe on that fateful day on Chappaquiddick, he might have been president.
Though the weather surely looked like rain, we found the wads of birds and, between bouts of hurling insults at dejected Phocidae, hooked into some striped bass and entertaining bluefish before the schools of bait gave way to fruitless casts and a fine dockside lunch in Woods Hole.  After two days on a boat, I was thoroughly tired, sunburned, and dehydrated, but the spiritual well was replenished and the cosmic batteries were recharged.  

 Here are a few more from the weekend.  Enjoy.

The Woods Hippie gets one.

If the thunder don't get ya then the skull knob will...

Roberto finds fish in the strangest of places if you look at them right.

30 knots and no skipper to be seen...

The lawyer hooks up on his first cast of the season.

April 28, 2011

The Green Revolution?

Morning dew, Grand-Sault, New Brunswick.
As the seasons change along with my recreation opportunities, I would like to step back from trip reporting for a bit and delve into some of the more philosophical issues that tend to divert my attention from time to time, and I would like to share some random photographs from my collection that show the various moods of nature that I have witnessed on my travels.  With last week’s celebration of Mother Earth Day and my involvement in my employer’s sustainability initiative, my mind has been awash with thoughts of the condition of the natural environment and the recent “green” revolution.  It seems that every media outlet is touting some new “green” product and governments are promising major leaps in renewable energy and transportation alternatives.  Closer to home, my office has been making efforts to reduce consumption of paper goods and electricity in the name of sustainability, and I have been attempting to ride my bicycle to work to save on a little gasoline here and there.

Moonrise on the Riga Plateau, New York.
This notion of sustainability is part of a spreading environmental awareness that has emerged in popular culture in the last few years; all of which is a step in the right direction, but I have this feeling that something is missing.  Our culture, despite the “greening” pastures, still seems hell bent on following the consumer model that has become entrenched in the last 50 or 60 years.  You should have an idea of what I’m talking about – the conspicuous consumption of petroleum and disposable retail goods, our reliance on an agricultural system based on chemical fertilizers and monoculture, and sprawling suburbs that leave automobiles as the sole transportation choice.  Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that if each of Earth’s citizens lived an American lifestyle we would need something like five or six more planets to accommodate everyone’s needs.  This hardly sounds like sustainability and brings to light the myriad environmental injustices being perpetrated around the world in the name of profit and convenience.  When I ponder this, the pessimist in me starts to think that the whole "green" revolution is pile of smug shit that lets us, on a mental level, continue to live our wasteful lifestyles while believing we're doing something good for the environment.

Graham's Harbor, San Salvador, Bahamas.
The optimist in me, however, takes heart in that factions of the younger generations are recognizing the folly of the mass consumption model and are making an attempt to return to a simpler lifestyle for reasons both economic and environmental.  I see a renewed interest in planting gardens to supplement store-bought food, and people are choosing to live closer to the workplace to avoid long commutes.  Interestingly, I also see a weakening of the  of "work hard and sacrifice and you might be rewarded" corporate mentality (at least among employees, not necessarily employers).  Instead, I see a shift towards scaling back lifestyles so as to minimize reliance on the daily grind.  Obviously, though, there is a long path to walk in this respect, but every long journey begins with a single step.  Thoreau was on that right path, back in 1845 in his cabin by the pond...

Na Pali coast of Kauai.
I wonder, though, how the current cohort of environmentally-minded pioneers will fare as they progress in their careers and begin earning the money that makes the consumer lifestyle more attractive.  Take a look at the Baby Boomers, who sparked the first nationwide environmental movement in the 1960's and 1970's and then moved on to become the most voracious consumers in American history.  I am hopeful that younger Americans may stay true to their ideals of simplicity, self-reliance, and environmental stewardship because the future of the American economy may require it.  Let's face it, the glory days of booming manufacturing and cheap raw materials are waning and we may have no choice but to return to regional economies in which foods and goods are produced locally and wasteful consumption becomes unaffordable.

Connecticut River south of Enfield, Connecticut.
When I think about conscious lifestyles, I look back to my grandparents' generation, often referred to as the Great Generation; those born in the raucous 1920's, raised in the lean times of the Great Depression, and seasoned on the lethal shores of France and Iwo Jima or in the aisles of a factory at home.  In my mind, these people knew how to stretch a dollar because they had no other option, and they learned how to go without.  They grew gardens, walked to work, and hung clothes on the line not because of the environment, but because of economy.  (Not The Economy, as pitched by the media and stumped upon by politicians, but economy as in living within means; Thoreau's notion of economy).  But come to find out, what was good for economy was good for the environment, and vice versa. 

Hammonasset State Park, Connecticut.
So, as the "green" tide pushes further and further inland into the consciousness of American society, we need look only a few generations back to get a sense of what our future may hold.  The next few decades may prove to be a shock to our collective systems as we forge on with finding innovative ways to power our homes and feed our bodies, but as long as we develop a grasp on true economy and don't allow The Economy to pillage the environment and our souls, we just might make some progress as a human species.

April 17, 2011

The Art of Living Simply: A Backcountry Trip Report, Part II

My cousin Johnny G. was cool to share his photos from the backcountry trip.  Rather than typing some overly-worded essay on the ethereal nature of backcountry skiing (did I really write "Gaia's temple" in the last post?  Note to self, cut back on drinking and blogging), I'll simply post up the pictures and let them speak for themselves (well, plus some captions; blogging is by definition narcissistic so I can't help but impart some Woods Hippie flavor).  Enjoy.

Camping and skiing here is one of the coolest things you can do without involving a 9-iron, pack of condoms, and some illegal fireworks.
We're, like, totally hardcore and all, but you can't argue with chowda' bread bowls and cold pints!
Long distance runner, what you holdin' out for?
Caught in slow motion in a dash for the door.
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor
You gave all you had, why you wanna give more?
The more that you give, the more it will take
To the thin line beyond which you really can't fake.

Fire! Fire on the mountain!

Saturday was a tryst between orographic snowsqualls and an emergent spring sun.  While the cosmos had yet to declare winter or spring as victor , we as riders won big.
Dear couch potatoes.  It's okay, we understand that you didn't want to miss the next episode of Idol.  We made sure all this powder got skied.  And by the way, while you were letting the television rob you of your mind and an actual life, we were thriving in the woods and continuing the great survivalist tradition.  It's cool though, but don't get mad at us and those like us when this society goes to shit and we procreate with your girlfriend and inhabit the woodlands while you sit uselessly on the couch, trying in vain to click a remote control at a blank TV screen while wondering what the hell to do with yourself...
I should have waited one more week to shave the beard.  It was friggin' cold out.
Winter is but a distant memory here in CT, and Johnny G. is onto the next thing, along with the rest of us.  Marquis nailed a top-10 finish in his first MTB race of the season, and my running shoes have been hitting the trails on the reg.