Stompin' on the Terra

"And he said, 'Stomp upon the Terra.'" – Lord Buckley (via Hunter Thompson)

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Location: Plum Island, Massachusetts

24 April 2011

Garage Sale Zen

What a strange experience, having a garage sale for the first time ever. A wide range of experiences, actually.


The hectic preparation phase covered the entire past week. I posted as many individual items as possible on Craig's List, each complete with photos and a write-up -- and a mention of the imminent garage sale. Then there was the aggregated garage-sale listing that I tried to keep up-to-date. The bonus was moving a lot of items prior to the weekend; the negatives were dealing with the innumerable spam emails I received and, even more wasteful, the time required to simply post each listing.

Then came the insanity of the last-minute preparations. That started at suppertime last night, as I realized I wouldn't have enough time prior to the 9am opening to get everything even into the garage, let alone arranged and priced. That delightful part of the process -- the arranging and pricing -- started at 6am today and didn't let up at all before the early birds arrived (never mind the "no early birds" warning on the Craig's List post).

Which then segued right into the frenzy of open hours. Oh. My. God. I'd heard about that subculture that loads up the car and goes garage sale-ing and yard sale-ing, but this was like nothing I'd ever seen before. I really hope some sociologist (and psychologist) has studied this phenomenon; it is rife with fascinating people that you normally only hear about in "can you believe it?" stories on the interwebs. There's the guy who doesn't want to buy anything but just wants to chat; the van load of Filipinas who are louder than a Who concert and offer you a dollar for everything despite the as-marked price of ten bucks; the shop-a-holic who buys things he will likely never use in a million years -- and the locals who are clearly looking to make their dollar go as far as it can in these tough times.

They came to my garage sale, one and all, and they put a lot of cash in my pocket. And I'm grateful. More importantly, they took a pile of stuff -- stuff that owned me more than I owned it -- off my hands, making me feel light and free in a way I've not felt in some time. Am I sad to part with some of the stuff? Sure. But the memories are still in my head and my heart and my soul, whether or not that climbing gear that I haven't used in years is still sitting in my garage. And I definitely parted with some things that I will have to replace at some point in my life. But for now, that light-and-free feeling is priceless.

   ...and after.

Through it all, too, flocks of geese honked overhead as they made their way to their spring and summer homes farther north. A pair of songbirds did a call-and-response serenade from opposite ends of my cul-de-sac. A chill, light breeze whispered beneath an overcast sky displaying all the signs of the high winds that were forecast for the hillside area overlooking town. And the light of a northern afternoon in spring flooded softly between the budding trees.

Things are good. It's been a great day. And it makes me love this neighborhood all the more. I'm going to be very sad to leave.

21 April 2011

Quickie Adventure: The Sweaty Version

The Chugach Mountains cast an early morning shadow over Anchorage. Riding point for the Chugach is Flattop Mountain, LITERALLY Anchorage's backyard and the most-climbed mountain in Alaska. From the Glen Alps Trailhead, it's anywhere from 30 minutes (if you're running) to a couple of hours (if you're waddling). I tend to be more in the middle: my average time runs about 40 minutes.

Flattop Mountain from between the first and second saddles

Last week I took two jaunts up the snowy slopes. On Thursday, I cruised up on frozen snow under a wonderfully warm sun. Three days later, my Sunday hike took part in a slushy snowpack that was noticeably thinner. I wore Yak Tracks though they provided no more grip than the vibram soles on my shoes (boots on Thursday: excessive; ankle-high hiking sneakers on Sunday: a bit ambitious as the snow softened).

Can you see Denali through the haze? Look how big it is...and it's 125-ish miles away!

It's interesting how the snow changed the trail. In some ways, it made for a quicker hike: switchbacks were eliminated and a straight route taken. But that straighter route was often steeper, require a bit more sweat equity. For me, the difference was minor: 45 minutes to the top, both days.

Anchorage's backyard: the Chugach Mountains

The route down on Sunday, however, was much quicker. Rather than follow the boot-kicked stairs down the ridge from the summit, I opted to slide on my ample butt and made the descent to the second saddle in a couple of minutes. As I walked out from the Flattop bowl, I sank to my crotch at times: clear sign that the snowpack was too soft and should be avoided. And true to form: a couple of days later, a hiker/sledder was killed by an avalanche on Bird Ridge.

Looking out over Alaska's population center
So my forays to Flattop are likely over for now. I might squeeze one more hike in next week, but if I go, it'll be on the ridges and in avalanche-safe areas, for sure. But as with hiking the peak in the summer: as long as you're smart, it's a hike anyone (in reasonable condition; the final push to the summit can be a bear) can and should do. The views from the top -- from Denali and the Alaska Range up north to Mt. Illiamna down to the southwest -- are spectacular, and as you sit on the edge of the flat summit that gives the mountain its name, you'll get a glimpse of Alaska's population center just over the tips of your toes. It's a grand view, and one I'll miss…until I return again.

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