snow


We are in the middle of another major snowstorm, and the snow is falling fast. I went to the office this morning as I had a fairly important meeting to attend. Jonathan went to UNH because he was having a quiz. They closed the campus at 12:40, 10 minutes after his quiz. At work, we were told to be gone by 3:00, but I bailed at 1:40.

Jonathan and I both made it home OK, but it was harrowing. I drove past our normal exit and went up to the next one because the hills are less formidable that way. I had great difficulty with the first one off the interstate though, since I had to stop at the bottom of the exit ramp and then try to climb the hill from a stop. I didn’t make it. I ended up turning around and going back towards town (downhill). I turned around at a gas station where there was plenty of level ground so I could get a run at the hill. That did the trick. I got home sometime after 3:00, but I’m not exactly sure when. Jonathan was home already, his car stuck in the middle of the driveway. He was running the snowblower.

I figured he’d need to back up and get a run at the little hill just below the garage, but my car was in the way. So I took the snowblower and clear a path to my parking space, took a run at it, and managed to get it up the little hill to its spot.

Then we worked on getting Jonathan in the garage. I had to push him, and we needed to put the floormats under the tires twice, but he got it in there. Then I pulled the snowblower back into the garage and closed the door.

Va was brewing some much-appreciated hot chocolate. I had a cup and rested for half an hour (no more!) Then I thought I should take a few photos, but I had left my camera in the car. I suited up again, braved the elements and fetched it. Penny came along. Here’s the haul:

The House

The House

Penny in the driveway

Penny in the driveway


Penny is looking for a stick no doubt. They are harder to find under the snow, but somehow, she manages.

30 minutes of snow and we got about three inches.

30 minutes of snow and we got about three inches.


In this shot I’m standing in a spot where I had cleared down to the driveway 30 minutes before. I think that’s about three inches of snow covering my feet. In thirty minutes!

Penny wants me to shovel (so she can attack the snow)

Penny wants me to shovel (so she can attack the snow)


Penny desperately wants me to use the shovel. Sorry Penny. Maybe later.

The sidewalk to the front door

The sidewalk to the front door


It’s time to go in now.

At least a foot more on the deck

At least a foot more on the deck


Here’s a shot out the back door. That’s a foot of new snow on the deck.

This is supposed to continue until midnight. I expect we’ll get more than the 12 inches they have forecast since I think we have that already.

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I have been wanting to go snowshoeing pretty much all winter, but things have seemed to conspire against me. Either I didn’t have enough snow, or I didn’t have enough time. Today, I had enough of both, so Penny and I set out for Sandogardy Pond. I don’t know when I was last there, but I do know it’s my first time since taking a new job in NH in November.

I always like to take pictures of Cross Brook (or as I prefer to call it, Little Cohas Brook).

Cross Brook

Cross Brook

Penny was afraid to cross the bridge, so she started making motions to swim the brook. I called her off, but she really thought I was going to cross and didn’t want to be left behind. I attribute that more to her being a dog than to anything special about me. 😉 I told her to sit, and she did.

Penny waits obediently

Penny waits obediently


I took another shot or two of the brook and then turned around and came back across to her. She seemed relieved.

I didn’t notice this at first:

Stray paddleboat

Stray paddleboat


It’s a paddle boat. It’s owned by some people who live on the pond, but I’m not sure exactly which house they live in. Also, I didn’t see an easy way for me to rescue their boat without risking hypothermia, so I let it be. Maybe someone with an ATV or snowmobile could pull it out.

This hike was very much needed, both by me and by Penny who has not had a decent hike since at least November. I’ve been busy with so many things. One of them was this:

Ship in a Bottle

My Pinewood Derby entry


My Pinewood Derby car. Yes, it’s a ship in a bottle. Lots of people asked how I got it in there, and I told them I had a shrink ray and that it was a real boat. I had shrunk it smaller than that so I could fit it through the mouth of the bottle and then put it in reverse and tapped it a few times. It didn’t unshrink the bottle though, because the bottle is glass and the ray would just go straight through it.

But the real answer is that the mast folded down (towards the stern). It slipped in fairly easily with the mast pushed back, and once it was in there, I pulled it up with the rigging. I tacked the thread to the jib-boom with s dot of super glue (which sailors of old surely lacked).

The sails are made from a tea bag, and the ship is set in the bottle in wax. Once I had the boat inside, I shaved some wax, dropped it in, and set it on the stove until it melted. Then I set the boat in position and let the wax harden.

Nothing to it!

The Pinewood Derby was the last part of a very long day. It started with our annual Pathfinder Sabbath. We did a “Newscast” from Jericho in the time of Joshua. The kids did a great job, but the whole program was plagued with technical difficulties. After that we had a potluck lunch, and then went into the Bible Bowl, which is like a quiz show. This year the material all came from the book of Joshua (which is why we selected that for our newscast).

Then we had supper followed by the Pinewood Derby. All-in-all, I very much enjoyed the day, in spite of the technical difficulties.

Last weekend the Pathfinder Club had the first campout of the spring. The Milano family had invited us to camp at their place, and I thought that was a grand idea. They have a small stream running through their property, and Warran (one of the staff) wanted to teach the Gold Prospecting honor. He wanted us to camp near a stream, and the Milanos had one. Done deal.

There were two problems with that plan, but we overcame them both. The first was that we could not get the trailer closer than about 300 yards from our camp site. The second was that those 300 yards were very wet. And by that, I mean that it was basically a swamp. I arrived early Friday with Beth and Ana, and we set about the task of building a small bridge over the first major puddle. Then we started hauling stuff to the site in a wheelbarrow.

A couple hours later, the Stokes clan arrived, and they helped haul stuff too. Everyone else arrived in waves. We got everything out there and set up before it got dark, but it was an awful lot of work making that happen. I can tell you that I was one tired dude.

Which made for good sleeping. I don’t usually sleep much when camping, but when I get tired enough, lying on the ground doesn’t get in the way of sleeping. Much.

We got up around 6:30, and made breakfast. After washing up, we began our church service. The kids led the song service and told a Bible story. Then I taught a short lesson using False Hellebore and a Dandelion. Then Jean Cadet, a guardian of one of my Pathfinders arrived, and he preached a short sermon.

Jean Cadet led our worship service

Jean Cadet led our worship service

After that, we began working on our supper. The plan was to build a lovo – a pit in the ground which we loaded with food (mostly root vegetables) and hot rocks. The food was wrapped in banana leaves.

Veggies wrapped in banana leaves in our lovo

Veggies wrapped in banana leaves in our lovo

And then we buried it.

Burying the lovo

Burying the lovo

We actually lined the bottom of the hole with quart-sized rocks, built a fire on top of them, and added more rocks to the fire. Two of the girls lit the fire using a magnesium fire starter (simlar to a flint and steel). They were pretty stoked when that fire got going. The pit had been dug and the fire had been started right after breakfast. We added the food after our church service.

Once the food was buried and the fire was out, we drove out to Mount Kearsarge. One of the older Pathfinders had never been to the top of a mountain before, so I thought we could not finish the year without hiking to the top of one. That was a problem we could fix.

The gate to the park was closed, so we had to hike almost a mile up to the regular parking lot. It was steep too. We took several rest breaks, and then hit the trail to attack the summit.

Up Mount Kearsarge

Up Mount Kearsarge

Climbing mountains can wear you out!

Rest Area

Rest Area

Along the trail we saw this rock. I suppose it marks the halfway point from the parking lot to the summit. Of course we had started out hike well before the parking lot, so that meant we were more than halfway when we reached this point.

Halfway mark

Halfway mark

Ana takes in one of the views well below the summit.

Ana takes in one of the views well below the summit.

At one point, the snow and ice was pretty thick on the trail. It was slippery in places too!

Snow and ice on the trail

Snow and ice on the trail

Here we are at the summit. Or very close to the summit. It’s kind of flattish up there making it hard to tell.

Group shot!

Group shot!

We decided the summit must be by this cairn.

We conquer!

We conquer!

It took about three hours to get to the top, and only one hour to get back down. Nobody stopped to rest on the way down. One kid twisted his ankle though, so it was slow going. I was going to carry him out, but he is one stout kid, and my legs simply refused to lift him. So he had to hobble down on his own. I stayed with him though.

Root plus tent.

Root plus tent.

The kids were way too tired to do anything too physical when we got back to camp. We unburied the food, ate supper, and made S’mores. Then the kids went to bed without complaint. They let me sleep until 7:00. I started waking them up around 7:30.

We ate breakfast, washed the dishes, and knocked out our Camping Skills honors. At 10:00am Warran showed up to teach Prospecting.

Warran teaches Prospecting

Warran teaches Prospecting

He took a look at the stream and decided that there was almost no way there would be any gold in it. There was no sand at all in the bed, and the stream did not originate in the mountains. If he had told me that ahead of time, I could have chosen a different stream, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. He had a backup plan though. He brought some pay dirt (which he had spike with some bits of silver and a little bit of gold). He dumped it into a kiddie pool and added water from the stream. Then showed the kids how to pan.

Panning for gold

Panning for gold


They were pretty stoked to find silver, even though they knew it had been added artificially. He explained that this pay dirt was way richer than what you would find in nature. Still, it’s good to find what you’re looking for so that if you ever do need to find it, you know what it’s like.

With that wrapped up, we struck camp. This time there were plenty of kids there to help haul it all back through the swamp to the trailer so it went a lot faster.

Today is the first day of spring, but it doesn’t look anything like that here. We had a snow storm yesterday, and it dumped nine and a half inches of snow on my house. I am nearly alone in being happy about this, but I do love snow.

This morning I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I wore snowshoes, and she weasel-jumped most of the way. She’s sleeping on the floor near me right now, one tired doggie.

Anyhow, here are the shots I made while I was out.
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It’s snowing today, and we are expecting about a foot. Since I am stuck in the house, and since Cecilia reminded me of an incident from my past, I thought I would share a story. Of course that story reminds me of another, so I will share it as well.

Syruping pot and container

Syruping pot and container


In my mercifully brief stint as a bachelor, I seemed to have a problem in that I would not remember to eat until I was hungry. Not having a microwave, that meant it would take way longer than my stomach wanted for any food to be ready.

I decided that I could speed things up if I made a big lasagna at the beginning of the week and then eat the leftovers every night after that until it was gone. This would surely solve the problem.

I made the lasagna, ate one serving, covered the pan with foil, and popped it in the fridge. It was delicious.

When I got hungry after work the next day, I popped the lasagna out of the fridge and into the oven. Wait 20 minutes, remove, take one serving, and pop it right back in the fridge. I did this every night for about a week.

At the end of the week, you can probably imagine that the lasagna was baked on the pan pretty solidly. I took one look at that and said to myself, “That’s going to have to soak.” I put the pan in the sink, added some dish soap, and filled it with water.

About a week later when I came to my apartment after work, my keen olfactory sense detected an odor. I followed my nose to the sink where the lasagna pan was still soaking, and did the most sensible thing that came to mind. I changed the water.

Another week passed, and again, the nose tipped me off to a slight problem in the kitchen sink. This time, I broke down and took the even more sensible action of actually washing the pan.

The other “bachelor” experience I had while living there involve my freezer. It was not frost free, and it had managed to build up a pretty thick layer of frost. I knew what to do, but didn’t have the tools I was used to using.

My Dad was an electrician and HVAC repairman, and as a result was also an expert at fixing broken refrigerators. I worked with him for a couple of summers when I was in college (and those were some of my best memories from back then – Dad was great, and was certainly the best boss I have ever had the pleasure of working for). Every now and then we would get a call from someone whose freezer had quit working. When we arrived, we found six inches of frost. Freezers don’t work when they get that way.

Dad didn’t mind defrosting someone’s fridge if they were paying him to do it, and it was often better for them to let him rather than do it the way people often did – by using a butter knife to chip the frost off themselves. The problem with that approach is that the thin aluminum walls of the freezer compartment also served as the outer sheath of the tubing through which the Freon would run. One slip of the knife, and the tube is punctured. The Freon escapes, and without that, neither the fridge nor the freezer are going to work. Aluminum is notoriously difficult – almost impossible – to solder, and replacing the freezer compartment cost almost as much as a new fridge.

It’s not that hard to defrost a fridge without a butter knife, but in spite of that, some people often elected to have him do that for them. He would use a hair dryer to speed the process.

Back to my apartment. I knew better than to use a butter knife, but I didn’t have a hair dryer. The engineer in me said, “Anything with a heating element ought to work” so I turned my thoughts to all of the appliances I had which were equipped with a heating element. Aha! The clothes iron! I was a bit worried that it would be a Bad Idea to put the iron in the fridge and have melted ice dripping all over it, so I placed the iron in a roasting pan, covered it with a lid, and turned it on.

While I was waiting for that to work its magic, I called Va. We were engaged, but lived 750 miles apart. I explained the ingenuity of my plan to defrost the fridge, and she asked me, “Why don’t you just use a pot of boiling water?”

Now why didn’t I think of that!

I am sitting at the airport in Omaha, Nebraska as I write this, though I was not expecting to be here right now. My journey here started a month or two ago when I was invited to sit on the North American Division Pathfinder Honors Taskforce. This is the committee that reviews submissions for new Pathfinder honors and revises existing ones. I was invited because of the work I have done on the AY Honors Answer Book wiki.

It was a thrill for me to have been invited. Pathfinder honors have been a pretty big part of my life for a number of years now. It was not to go without a few hiccups though. The first was that my club had scheduled March 9 for our annual Pathfinder Sabbath, during which we present the church service in its entirety. But I am blessed with a large and capable staff, so I figured they would be able to cope with my absence quite handily. So we pressed on with preparations.

Our presentation this year was to be similar to the one we did last year – a broadcast television newscast set in Biblical times. This year we decided to cover events from the Book of Mark. We pre-recorded all of our “live action reporters in the field” so that we could project their performances on the screen, while our anchor desk interacted with them live during the presentation.

But one week before we were to make our presentation, the hard drive containing all of our footage – every single second of it – was subjected to a most unfortunate accident. So we rescheduled for April 13. The upside to this is that I will be able to attend the performance, and the kids all knew their lines even better when we did the re-shoot.

But I digress. I am still sitting in the Omaha airport.

I flew out here on Friday and met my friend Mark. He is the webmaster for pathfindersonline.org (and other sites), and he too flew in to Omaha, but from the DC area. We decided to share a car, so he waited for my arrival. Then we set out for Lincoln. We picked up a couple of geocaches on the way. Our car was a tiny little Fiat. It was so tiny, that I think I could have lifted the whole thing with one hand.

Mark and I standing in front of a Virtual Cache in Iowa.

Mark and I standing in front of a Virtual Cache in Iowa.

There is a trick of geography near the Omaha airport. The Nebraska/Iowa border was originally set by the course of the Missouri River. But after the boundary was set, the river changed course, though the boundary did not. So there’s a little spit of land on the west side of the Missouri that still belongs to Iowa. It’s funny to drive through that section of Iowa and see the signs say “Welcome to Iowa” and then “Welcome to Nebraska” in the space of about a half mile.

The cache above was in Iowa, and it features a monument honoring York, a slave who belonged to William Clark. When we got to the monument, I looked at the sculpture, and it showed a black man being pawed over by several native Americans. I said to Mark, “Hey, I bet that’s York, a slave belonging to William Clark!” We walked around the back of the monument, and there was a plaque declaring as much. Talk about a guy feeling pretty smug!

On Saturday, we went all over the Lincoln area finding more geocaches. I think we found nine of them.

A virtual cache in Lincoln.

A virtual cache in Lincoln.

We also saw three bald eagles. Two of them were juveniles, and one was an adult. I got a bad photo of the juveniles, but couldn’t get one of the adult.

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Juvenile Bald Eagles

The meetings started Saturday night around 6:30pm. I very much enjoyed them, which is a strange thing to say about a meeting, but we were talking about a subject about which I am highly passionate.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, there was an inch of snow on the ground.

The Blizzard Begins

The Blizzard Begins

It was still snowing quite heavily, and the wind was blowing a gale. It was a full-fledged blizzard. I kept an eye on the situation, as I was slated to fly out from Omaha at 6:45pm. My meeting ended at noon, and the situation outside was looking pretty grim. I consulted with Va and with those in control of the Division’s purse strings, and we all agreed it would be best if I stayed put in Lincoln for one more day. It seemed foolhardy to tempt the roads in a toy car.

The Toy Fiat

The Toy Fiat

My instincts were correct. Mark’s wife and new baby (12 weeks old) were schedule to fly into Omaha Sunday afternoon too. They were twelve minutes from landing at Omaha when the airport was closed, and they sent the plane back to Minneapolis. Not to be deterred, she tried another flight, this one directly to Lincoln. They took off, gained some altitude, and then the Lincoln airport was likewise closed. So she landed again. I don’t know how many frequent flier miles that would be worth, but a trip from Minneapolis to Minneapolis is about zero miles, even if you do it twice.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska State Police closed Interstate 80, so even if she had landed at Omaha, she would have been very hard-pressed to make her way to Lincoln.

There were a ton of other meetings scheduled for Sunday all the way through Thursday, and all related to my youth ministries. I was invited to sit in on a subcommittee meeting going over some new Adventurer Awards. I asked Va to provide some input on one of them, and she sent it to me straight away. It took me a little longer to get her input to the subcommittee, but they were all very excited about it, and I think it will make it into the Award requirements.

Mark, a handful of other people, and I were treated to dinner at El Toro, an authentic Mexican restaurant in Lincoln. The food was very good, but I could only eat half of it. I took the rest back to my room and forgot it in the fridge.

Mark’s wife and baby eventually did make it to Lincoln, and she had a car (as per the plan). So I returned our toy Fiat to Omaha. Along the way, I counted 28 cars off the shoulder, stuck in the snow. Most (perhaps all) of them had police tape on them. None of them were barely off the shoulder either. They were all way down embankments, pointing every which way, and I thanked God He guided me (and Mark’s wife) away from that fate yesterday.

While I was waiting here for the storm to pass, David was in Concord playing in a chess tournament. It pretty much took all of Sunday, but he played four games and won all four of them. This bumped his ranking up to 1985 (15 to go David!) and he will have to enter the “open” section from now on. He won $200 in the under 1900 section (as he was ranked under 1900 when the tourney began). I am very proud of him, and wish I could have been there with him to share the moment. But we shared via text & voice, so it was almost like being there.

So now I find myself with a bit of downtime. I needed to get the car back here by 2:15 to avoid another day’s charges, but my plane doesn’t leave until 6:45.

So there is time to write a blog post.

This weekend we had our third weekend snowstorm in a row. But I am MORE than OK with that. It gets even better (for me… most people I know feel the opposite way). We are forecast to get another foot of snow overnight and into tomorrow.

But before that happens, let’s get caught up with this previous snowstorm. I woke up for breakfast and there were a couple of inches on the ground then. After I ate, I decided to go back to bed, and I slept until noon. When I got up again, this is what I found:

My snow gauge was working

My snow gauge was working


That’s about a foot of snow. 🙂

The snow was still stuck to the trees, which in my opinion, is the most beautiful sight I am privileged to see. I like this more than brilliant autumn leaves or a field full of wildflowers.

Down the Driveway

Down the Driveway

The downside is that it makes the road pretty slick. I grabbed the newspaper while I was out and saw this car in the ditch.

The roads must have been slick

The roads must have been slick

For reasons I cannot explained, I just assumed that no one was in the car and that a tow truck was on the way. So like a true oaf, I snapped a photo and then went snowshoeing in the back of my woods.

Along the trail in my woods

Along the trail in my woods


It was pretty there too.

I was out again later when my neighbor across the road (Jeff) came walking up from that direction. He had the presence of mind to actually go and check on them. It was a young couple, and they were waiting for AAA to come and get them. I felt pretty stupid for not thinking of checking on them myself. They had been there for over an hour at that point. I went in and asked Va to make some hot chocolate. We couldn’t find any cups with lids, so I poured the hot chocolate into a thermos, grabbed some un-lidded cups and snowshoed down the road to them. When I got there the tow truck was getting ready to leave.

Help arrives

Help arrives


They accepted the hot chocolate with lots of thank you’s. I know I felt better.

That night I took Jonathan back to Durham, as he was going to have class on Monday in spite of this snowstorm. It was a dicey ride, but I made it there and back again without incident.

The next morning (Monday), I strapped on my snowshoes again and took Penny out for a nice long walk. We headed down to Sandogardy Pond. I didn’t actually go to the pond itself this time. We crossed Cross Brook, which I still prefer to call “Little Kohas Creek.” More beauty.

Little Kohas Creek

Little Kohas Creek

After crossing, we kept going until we got to the railroad tracks. We walked north on the tracks. The tracks are not active this time of the year as far as trains go. But as for snowmobiles and snowshoeing, it’s quite active. There were two sets of snowshoe tracks left since the snow had stopped, and I was adding a third set.

I've been walking on the railroad

I’ve been walking on the railroad

Penny can find sticks even when they are buried under two feet of snow. Sometimes she finds sticks that are just a tad too big though.

Penny found a too-large stick (my opinion, not hers)

Penny found a too-large stick (my opinion, not hers)


I would not throw this one for her, much to her disgust. If I did throw it, she would catch it and probably lose several teeth in the process. But she would bring it right back so I could throw it again, and she would lose more teeth. Since I know she is going to need her teeth, I just let her be disgusted. There were plenty of other sticks out there, and she was able to find many of them.

I guess we did about four miles all told. I was pretty winded when we got home, but Penny was exhausted.

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