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Golden State of Mind

Although I traveled to California for work (and free time was limited), I was able to snap a few photos at both the LA Arboretum and The Huntington. Simply stunning. (Read more about my trip here.)

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The Mountains Are Calling …

TrailLet’s begin by acknowledging the fact that hiking 16+ miles on any given day(s), sans coffee, is a feat.

And even though I was slow as molasses (One MPH? Seriously?), and I had a mini meltdown at one point (I thought we were hiking, not rock climbing?), and it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had … I’ll admit that hiking a portion of the Presidential Traverse and summiting four 4,000 foot mountains in 1.5 days is fairly satisfying.

A little background:

The Presidential Range is a mountain range, located in the NH White Mountains, whose most notable summits are named for American presidents … and is rounded out by Mt. Washington, long home of the highest winds recorded on the surface of the Earth at 231 mph.

And thus, a Presidential Traverse is, quite simply, a hike that begins at one end of the range and ends at the other. And, in my opinion, it’s a bit tough.

According to the ever-wise Wikipedia:

“A Presidential Traverse does not merely require the absolute gain of some 4,500′ from starting point to the 6,288′ summit of Mt. Washington; it involves repeated gain and loss of elevation between individual summits along the way. …. A basic Presidential Traverse encompasses almost 9,000′ of combined vertical, doubled when difficult downclimbing is included.

Sign2I’ll admit – we didn’t tackle the entire traverse. We missed Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Monroe. But I’m still going to take credit for hitting Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower and Washington.

Basically, we hiked the Crawford Path (the oldest, continuously maintained, hiking path in America) from the AMC Highland Center all the way to Mt. Washington, then descended via the famous Tuckerman Ravine trail   . The total mileage was about 16 +miles. And did I mention this was all sans coffee?

Highlights include:

  • Crystal Cascades 2The caretaker at our campsite ended up being an old friend of Stranded Dog. Needless to say, ending the first day of hiking on the “porch” of a friend’s semi-permanent tent structure with some whiskey in mason jars was a nice surprise.
  • When we finally summited Mt. Washington, the line to take our photo with the official sign at the summit was insanely long and packed with people who had taken the auto-road up the mountain. Where’s the express line for hikers?
  • We kept meeting the same people along the trail, including an amazing 71-year old AT section hiker who had just kicked off the last few weeks of his trip. We wish him the best of luck … on the remaining 325+ miles to Mt. Katahdin.

Basically – We hit the peaks, slept in our tent, and enjoyed some time in the mountains. So far, 30 ain’t so bad.

 

Bad Photo, Good Bread.

English Muffin Toasting Bread
*Slightly different than my mom’s awesome recipe, but this should work.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Directions:

  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
  • Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. The liquid will feel very hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would scald you. As a reference point, the hottest water from your kitchen tap is probably around 120°F (unless your tap water is so hot that it burns you).
  • Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
  • Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.
  • Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.
  • Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.
  • Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn’t be more than, say, 1/4″ over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn’t very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
  • Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.