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Ice in the ocean on Ferry Beach in Scarborough

My workplace does an annual Christmas Eve hike on the Cliff Walk around Prout’s Neck in Scarborough – a little over 4 miles, almost all of it right on the water. I couldn’t make it out on Christmas Eve last year, but I managed to squeeze in the hike last weekend. Thanks to the near-subzero temperatures, I seemed to have most of Prout’s Neck all to myself.

I’m consistently surprised and delighted by all the trails and green spaces around Portland. Portland Trails maintains a great network of trails within the city limits, while groups like Saco Bay Trails and Freeport Conservation Trust maintain trails in neighboring cities. The White Mountains National Forest is only about an hour from Portland, but it’s always good ro remember there are plenty of options for getting outside and taking in some scenery right in our backyard.

    

Photo:

Photo from US National Archives by Flip Schulke / Flickr

Lovely story on the always lovely “The Morning News” today about the dangers of camping – specifically, the dangers of camping in Yellowstone as a teenager getting ready for college with a film canister full of pot.

“Bears up there,” the Ranger said, glancing at our backcountry travel permit before tipping his broad-billed hat and ushering us out of his cramped station.

He didn’t caution us, or quiz us, or check our gear, or show us a pictogram of a car-sized beast licking brains from a pulverized human skull—and I can’t guarantee that even those warnings would have kept us from our 10-day hiking trip through Yellowstone National Park during what I’ve only recently learned was the peak of grizzly bear season.

We were just out of high school. We were constantly stoned. We traveled in an ode to that particular brand of privileged American adventure, the cross-country drive, funded in equal parts by savings from crappy after-school jobs at a camping store and graduation money from loving parents. In the fall, we’d both start at fancy colleges: Tim to Stanford, on his way to a pair of dad jeans and the hedge fund life in Silicon Valley, and me, to Vassar and non-profits and Brooklyn and waxing sentimental about stuff I did 15 years ago.

“Hey, Bear” by Graham T. Beck

White Horse Ledge above Echo Lake in Conway, NH

White Horse Ledge above Echo Lake in Conway, NH.

My girlfriend and I went to the White Mountains today for a quick hike and a chance to enjoy all the scenery bathed in fresh snow. Conway, North Conway and the Kancamagus Highway are all just a little more than an hour from Portland, and I find myself returning there more and more. The White Mountains were a staple of summer vacations in my childhood, but I was always more interested in helping Kirby save the world from King Dedede on my Game Boy than I was in being awestruck by the region’s natural beauty. Now there is little I enjoy more in life than getting outside and unplugging for a few days, hours, or even just my lunch break.

On the way back to Portland I queued up the latest episode of PRI’s Living on Earth on my iPod. Living on Earth held a regular place in my earbuds when I was working in a warehouse years ago, a reliable source for an hour of entertaining and informative listening while I moved Box A from Point B to Point C. LoE was absent from MPBN for the last few years, but it’s just recently returned to the lineup, which inspired me to download an episode.

Coming back to reality from my quick mountain getaway, this story in particular piqued my interest. In “The Changing of the Environmental Guard,” host Steve Curwood speaks with Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, about what could happen to the country’s environmental policies this year with a new Congress and a re-elected President Barack Obama. After an election where environmental issues got barely any mention at all, and the House still looks largely the same, things still look king of grim. After a day like today outdoors in the White Mountains, I hope they get a lot better.

https://i1.wp.com/media.outsideonline.com/images/jeep-snow-drift_fe.jpg - OutsideOnline

Photo: Zastol`skiy Victor Leonidovich/Shutterstock (from OutsideOnline.com)

Today, for all my fellow New Englanders battling close-to-zero temperatures: a fascinating story from Outside Magazine about how freezing to death works.

It was a mistake, you realize, to come out on a night this cold. You should turn back. Fishing into the front pocket of your shell parka, you fumble out the map. You consulted it to get here; it should be able to guide you back to the warm car. It doesn’t occur to you in your increasingly clouded and panicky mental state that you could simply follow your tracks down the way you came.

“The Cold Hard Facts of Freezing to Death” by Peter Stark