50 things to do before 50

It occurred to me the other day that I am closer to 50 than 45, so I can no longer declare I’m in my mid-40s. Instead, I am in my late-40s and rapidly approaching 50. I realize it is just a number and doesn’t really mean much, but 50 is very likely to be more than halfway through my life. That time I refer to as “later” is definitely shrinking and I need to make sure I know what are the things that I want to accomplish or experience during this second half of my life. That’s rather vague, and potentially grandiose, so I decided to look a little closer in and figure out 50 things I want to do before I turn 50, which is 659 days from now. So, here’s the list, in alphabetical order:

Add two states to my states-visited list (currently 43)
Call a friend quarterly instead of just emailing
Call my mother monthly
Camp for 15 nights
Celebrate my 50th birthday
Develop a new habit
Do 3 pullups in a row
Donate my photography skills
Earn $1 in passive income
Establish a routine for keeping the dishes clean
Explore each cemetery in Tyngsboro
Finish scanning my mother’s slides
Get paid for photography
Give money to 5 new charities
Go kayaking
Go on a night photography walk in Boston
Go to the Mapparium
Have a photo published
Hike 100 miles
Hold a yard sale
Knit a scarf
Lose 20 pounds
Make a Kiva loan
Make a new friend
Make a new recipe
Make a t-shirt quilt
Medidate once a week for 3 months
Plank for 1 minute
Practice to be able to do 5 pushups in a row
Read five books (read, not listen)
Report on my progress against these items
Ride a segway
Ride my bike
See 10 new birds
Sell something on eBay
Take my kids to college for the first move-in day
Take photos of “that tree” in every season of the year
Track my water intake daily for a month
Truly deal with some boxes from my dad
Try a new food
Try rock climbing
Visit a country I have never visited
Visit an art museum
Visit each of my kids at college
Visit every piece of conservation land in Tyngsboro
Walk 10,000 steps every day for a month without fail
Watch a sunrise in the White Mountains
Watch a sunrise over the Grand Canyon
Watch all of my kids graduate from high school
Write in this blog monthly (preferably weekly)

Over the coming weeks and months, until I do reach 50, I will give periodic updates on my progress at this site. I publish this here for the accountability to myself and to have a good place to return to in order to see how I’m doing. I hope to feel accomplished by 2/20/2020.

Why Wander?

3/10/18

One day last week, the weather was finally (relatively) warm and sunny. At lunchtime, the warmer weather was calling to me to get out there and soak up all there is to offer out there. So, I put on my jacket and headed outside in the sun and wind to see what I could see. I have a few usual destinations for these lunchtime wanderings, but I decided to head out the door and just keep heading in that direction, I knew there was a park down there somewhere because I can see it out the window when I’m up high enough. With no plan in mind I just started walking and keeping my eyes open for whatever I might see that is interesting. So, here are a few things I found:

  • Manchester has a lot of churches. I suppose lots of places have a lot of churches, but my path that day took me past at least five different churches. They were all beautiful in their own ways, and all very different. By paying attention to each one, I was amazed at the variety they represented both religiously and architecturally.
  • Manchester also has a lot of really beautiful old houses. Again, the variety of the houses is very diverse. In a single block it’s possible to pass a run down, dilapidated house with tons of stuff in the yard, then a beautifully restored house that has had plenty of loving care to keep the old feel along with modernizing for the ease of living there, and finally, a big house which has been divided into several smaller units. I imagined what it must be like to live in a neighborhood like that. The mix of people must be every bit as varied as the mix of houses represented.
  • That walk was the day I saw my first spring flower! It’s been such a long March, with never ending snow, that I was truly jubilant at seeing the bright purple crocus. That was when I knew it really is going to warm up and stop snowing this year. After all, if the flowers can come back every spring, then we can make it to warmer weather too.
  • Although the streets seem to be in a grid, they aren’t quite. I purposely didn’t look at my phone to see where I was or where I should go next. I just went out the door and turned when I felt like it. The grid is close enough that I knew I was never lost, but I also found a bunch of little streets at an angle, or with a dead end, or tucked away behind a row of buildings. By simply wandering this way, I definitely found some streets I never would have seen otherwise, and may never quite find again.
  • One of the most fascinating things I found, just looked like an abandoned door standing by itself with no obvious purpose. In fact, when my curiosity got to me back at my computer, I found an article which described the door as a “door to nowhere” in Derryfield Park. It turns out to be from the old Town Pound, a place where wandering animals were put to keep them from causing too much fuss. I never imagined that this use of the word pound has lead us to pounds we think of today, like wandering pets, or vehicles parked in the wrong place.

I proved to myself once again, that it is always an adventure to just wander around in an unfamiliar place. I like to think of these as mini adventures just waiting to be found and right under my nose. It’s remarkable how there can be beautiful places, both big and small, in our everyday lives, but we usually just drive right by thinking about what’s next on our schedule. I’m trying to take this with me this week as a reminder to slow down, open my eyes, and wander toward something interesting or unexpected.

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The View of Mount Greylock

4/2/2018 Easter was a beautiful spring day and I spent it driving to Williams College and back to drop off my daughter for the rest of the spring semester. It started off as an overcast, grey day with not much promise for sun, even though the forecast said otherwise. About halfway there, the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds, and by the time we arrived on the other side of the Berkshires, it was fully out. It was fascinating to watch the amount of snow increasing steadily as we climbed up Rt. 2 toward the high point in Florida, MA. (Yes, it seems somewhat ironic that the largest amount of snow we found during a drive across most of Massachusetts was actually in Florida.) Driving down into North Adams after the infamous hairpin turn on Rt. 2, we were able to see fantastic views across the purple valley and of the towns there.  Once at the college, there were signs of spring in the air, including people out running, lots of bikes, and students trickling in from their adventures over spring break. After taking some time to move back in to the dorm and get some lunch, we decided we should enjoy the beautiful spring day, and what would be better than a quick jaunt up Mount Greylock? It’s a shame that the Massachusetts DCR doesn’t think so too, as they don’t open the road until late May. Since we were thwarted in our plans, we decided instead to drive up Bee Hill Rd. in Williamstown and had a wonderful view of Mount Greylock and the surrounding area. Evidently, other people had similar ideas since there were two other cars of people enjoying the view and a couple out strolling through the grasses on the hill. We took a few photos of Mount Greylock (instead of from Mount Greylock), tried to pick out the named peaks in our view, and soaked up the sun. When the breeze picked up it started to get a little chilly, so we took that as a sign to head back down. Once we said our goodbyes, I headed back to the car to start the drive back across the state and enjoy the scenery along the way. There was plenty of Easter traffic as there were many, many cars out throughout the day. By that point, I was getting hungry for dinner, and didn’t have any company in the car for conversation, so I drove back without exploring along the way. Every time I do this drive I think that I really should take my time sometime and explore the many interesting things there are to see on Rt. 2. I guess that will have to wait to be a post for another time.DMP_8616.jpg

 

Trip to Minneapolis

3/7/18

In February I took a trip to Minneapolis to visit my daughter and watch her swim at the MIAC championship swim meet. She is a member of the Carleton College swim and dive team. In between many hours watching swimming at the University of Minnesota, I did get a chance to explore a bit in Minneapolis.

Before the trip, I wanted to find out where some good locations would be for photography. I had seen a number of beautiful cityscape scenes online around the time of the Super Bowl a couple of weeks earlier. While investigating on Instagram, I noticed that the Stone Arch bridge was beautiful on its’ own, crossed the river, was pedestrian friendly, and provided fantastic views of the city. So, that was my intended destination.

I bundled up a bit to handle the Minnesota winter and headed out from the pool to explore. Along the way, I found tons of interesting things which was precisely the point of the walk. The U of M has plenty of things that could keep a photographer interested all day long. I stopped at a few, but since I had limited time, I wanted to make it to the bridge. I did make it there and had to wait a while to get some better light. I’d hesitate to call it golden hour that day since the whole day had really been overcast and grey. Nonetheless, patience paid off and I was able to get a couple of shots I liked. Time was short though because I had to get back to the pool for the competition. After all, that’s why I was there.

My primary takeaway from my few hours in Minneapolis is that it is a truly picturesque city, very pedestrian friendly, and a place I need to visit again with more time available. Overall, I loved it and look forward to going back.Minneapolis SkylineMinneapolis Stone Arch Bridge

Hiking Field, Willey, and Tom

9/4/2015 The summer is winding to a close on the calendar, even though the weather seems to be as summery as ever. I decided to take a Friday off of work and go hiking before the weather changes its’ mind and starts to act like fall. Tami and I decided to hike Mts. Field, Willey, and Tom. We did the “standard” route of starting at the Depot in Crawford Notch, hiking the Avalon trail, a quick stop on Mt. Avalon to enjoy the view, continuing up to Mt. Field, over to Mt. Willey on the Willey Range trail, back to Mt. Field continuing to Mt. Tom, then back down the A-Z trail to meet back up with the Avalon trail back to Crawford Notch. We knew it was somewhat long, but we felt up to the challenge and wanted to get three more 4000 footers in before we hang up the boots for the winter. Yes, I realize that plenty of people never hang up the boots and just keep going all year long, but that’s not us.

Since the days are getting a little shorter, we got started on the drive at 5:30 am. By the time we arrived, got our boots on, had a bathroom break, and were ready to go, it was about 8:15. By the way, the composting toilets and the bathroom at the Depot are very nice. What a great thing to have available in the morning before we got going on the hike. Thanks to the AMC for all they do to provide environmentally responsible amenities. Once we looked around for the trail and came across it hiding in the tall grass across the railroad tracks, we started up the trail. The trail itself was in good shape and easy to follow. At the junction with the A-Z trail, we continued on toward Mt. Avalon, and that’s where we started climbing. Tami’s boots both started losing their soles, so she was climbing with flapping rubber underfoot and extra slipping due to the lack of grip. The trail flattened out a bit toward the top and there was an innocent looking sign stating that the Mt. Avalon summit was just 100 yards of the trail. 100 yards sounds like nothing, but it’s a bit intimidating in the morning of a long hike when you head out for a quick view and discover that it’s 100 yards of trail and another 100 feet of elevation gain. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the sheer rock wall and boulder scrambling was unexpected to say the least. We decided that we should have a snack at the summit of each peak and were looking forward to our first one at the top. The view from Mt. Avalon was worth it though. We were the only ones there and we could see almost 360 degrees with a little maneuvering around the trees. The view and the available mobile phone service inspired me to download and try out the Peak Finder app. It’s a handy app that tells you what all the peaks within view are from your current location. I found it easy to use and pretty accurate. I determined it was well worth the $3.99 price, especially since I’m a geek that likes to hike. The more data the better after all.

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From there, we went on to Mt. Field. When we got to the Willey Range trail, there was another innocent looking sign stating that the summit was a mere 100 yards up the trail. This time, we were prepared for the misleading sign and weren’t at all surprised to walk a little bit and discover a rather steep climb which brought us up to the summit. There’s nothing remarkable about the summit of Mt. Field, but there is a spot where some trees have been taken down and it allowed a good view, all the way to the Mt. Washington and including the Mt. Washington hotel, the Cog Railroad, and the Presidential range. We sat on the cairn for a quick selfie and continued on to Mt. Willey.A_DSC0881

The map for the Willey Range trail between Mt. Field and Mt. Willey makes it look like it is almost flat. Of course, the AMC rules about what counts as a 4,000 footer means that we knew we had to descend at least 200 feet before the final climb to Mt. Willey. Mostly, the ups and downs were pretty tame, but at least one sheer rock wall caused us to stop and plan our route so that we would make it without falling. Mt. Willey is also unremarkable at the summit, but there are a few views to be seen. We sat for some lunch and met a dog who was very friendly and visited us a few times. The person belonging to the dog never did show up on the trail, but we enjoyed the canine company before she ran off to find her person.

When we had eaten enough snacks, we went back to Mt. Field. From there, we continued on the Willey Range trail until we got to the A-Z trail. Despite the sign saying it was just one mile between the two, it seemed to last much longer than that. The hiking was easy since it was a gently downhill all the way, but that just added to the feeling of it being a very long mile. Surely an easy mile should feel fast. At the A-Z trail, we headed up the Mt. Tom spur to the peak. The top of Mt. Tom is another one without much view, and it included searching around a bit to find the actual summit cairn. People must have spent time trying to find a place for a view because there are trails leading here and there all over the top of the mountain. The most interesting part of this trail was the set of (natural) stairs built into the rock, followed by a log staircase to ease the climb.

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Once we came back down Mt. Tom, we commented that despite our vow to have snacks at each summit, we actually only did that once. Tami’s boots were truly falling apart by this time and it was a struggle for her to keep them together on the hike back down. We had seen a young woman at the summit of Mt. Tom in her bare feet, but Tami didn’t relish the idea of following in her footsteps (literally) by removing the boots. When descending a rocky trail, it’s better to have bad boots than no boots at all. Heading back down the A-Z trail onto the Avalon trail, we just kept moving since it was getting later and we didn’t want to get stuck in the dark. We took a quick side trip to see the cascades on the way back down, and returned to the Depot about 10 hours after we left. Some French Canadians asked for our advice on parking for their Presidential Traverse the next day and we muddled through pretending we knew what we were talking about. They seemed satisifed, so we wished them well, got back in the van, and started our drive back home. That brings us both to 5 4,000 footers this summer. It’s a shame Shaun chose not to come with us, but he needed to stay home and rest instead.

Planning for a Trip to San Francisco 2016

3/19/17. In August of 2016, our Girl Scout travel group went to San Francisco.  A group of 23 girls and 4 adults spent 2 years together getting to know each other, raising funds to travel, and planning the trip. We did a few other small trips together to make sure we came together as a cohesive group and learned how to travel. We had various levels of experience in traveling, ranging from a few girls who had never left New England nor been on a plane, to others who had traveled to other countries and continents.

Since we had a large group who needed to earn the money for the trip to the greatest extent possible, we needed to be cost-council us in all that we did. First, this meant that we flew in to Sacramento instead of San Francisco. Since that saved over $100 per person, it was worth it for this group. From there, we rented three vans and drove to San Francisco. (Fun Fact: All three drivers used Waze to guide us to our hotel, and all three drivers were directed over different bridges across the bay. We arrived within 5 minutes of each other at our destination.)

Some highlights of our time in San Francisco included: a trip to Alcatraz, dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, followed by dessert at Ghiradelli, a morning of wandering around at Muir Woods, the afternoon at the Muir Beach overlook, hanging out at Crissy Field, a visit to the Cal Academy in Golden Gate Park, discovering some hidden treasures in the park, taking in the view at Land’s End, and a pizza dinner on the beach our last night. Some of these activities deserve their own entry, so look for additional entries on these.

Since this was a Girl Scout trip, it’s important to mention a bit about the process of planning the trip. As mentioned above, the group was formed two years prior to the trip. We worked together over a couple of months to figure out where to go. The girls did research together and on their own to convince the group to go to the place they wanted. We narrowed it down to the top two choices: Puerto Rico and San Francisco. Puerto Rico was actually our first choice. The girls spent several months planning a fantastic trip to Puerto Rico complete with visiting a rainforest, kayaking in a bioluminescent bay and touring Old San Juan. In the spring of 2016, the Zika virus was in the news. Since our trip included 23 teenage girls, and the long term affect of the virus remains unknown, the Girl Scout council asked us to cancel that trip and choose someplace with less risk of the unknown. Since we are all willing to make our own adventure anywhere we go, we knew it would be fun no matter where we went. The biggest obstacle was that we had to do the planning for a completely different trip in just a couple of months. Since this group only gets together once a month, it meant we had to focus and get through lots of discovery and planning in a short period of time. A primary objective of this group is to teach the girls how to plan for travel, including unexpected changes along the way, this was a great opportunity to switch gears and deal with unforeseen circumstances. The group handled it very maturely and we had a great time in San Francisco.

Cannon Mountain

8/8/15 Today we attempted the second of the NH 4000 footers. Just as it was for Moosilauke, Tami, Shaun, Roger, and I were the ones hiking. We chose Cannon because the hike was shorter, the trail was right off the highway, and we needed to be back in town by about 5:00. We took the Kinsman Ridge trail from the tramway parking lot. The trail started off gently, but soon became sandy, gravely, rocky, rooty, and steep. Sometimes several of those at the same time. One part was a big smooth rock face at a pretty steep angle that was difficult to maneuver up. Shaun, the fastest hiker of all of us, hadn’t eaten enough and was dragging in the back. With some persuasion, he stopped to eat some snacks and was then able to pick back up and leave me behind once again. The brief spur to the overlook made for a beautiful view and rest before continuing the rest of the way up the trail. We made it up to the trail with all the tram riders and walked up the viewing platform. I was surprised to find one of my co-workers there who had hiked up a different trail. After braving the crowds on top, we went a little bit down the path to stop for lunch, followed by a brief visit to the ski lodge for use of the bathroom facilities. Then we started back down.

This was definitely a trail that is difficult on the way down due to the steepness and damp along the way. We saw several groups hiking up who seemed under prepared and unaware of the treacherousness ahead of them. We also saw some people who though it would be nice to “walk” down after they had ridden the tram up.  They were quick to comment that they thought it would be an easier walk than it was. They weren’t sure it had been such a great choice after all. The family of two teenagers and a dad that we saw halfway up with only sneakers and no water bottles were definitely concerning. Hopefully they decided to take the tram back down, assuming they made it all the way up. Despite the trail being only 2 miles each way, it still took almost 3 hours to get back to the car. By then we were tired, satisfied, and ready to head back home.

I-93 winding through Franconia Notch

I-93 winding through Franconia Notch


Shaun at the overlook

Shaun at the overlook


Climbing up

Climbing up


View toward the Presidentials

View toward the Presidentials