Brent and I met just about three years ago, and for the first couple years that we were together, we wouldn’t travel anywhere without dental floss.
Sure, it kept our teeth clean and doubled as a fastener when a zipper broke. But more importantly, it allowed us to track our every footstep. Two summers ago, as we backpacked across Italy on our honeymoon, all we needed was our trusty Lonely Planet guide and a piece of this lightweight waxy string, and we could figure out where we were and how far we’d traveled. From meandering around Rome or Perugia, to running through the streets of Florence, to trekking over peak after majestic peak in the Dolomite Mountains, each night, we’d take out our dental floss and add up how many miles we’d covered (Neurotic? Probably – on my end, at least… Brent wrote it off as good training).
Last March, after we crossed the finish line of the Snowgaine – a two-day snow-shoeing/orienteering event about 60 miles north of Syracuse, NY – we pulled out our spool of dental floss and the race maps to re-chart our course and total our distance. We realized that we’d covered more than 50 miles of trails and were probably smart not to go for that checkpoint WAY out in the upper-left quadrant of the map.
Over the past six or seven months, dental floss has given way to Google Maps and usatf.org. During our five-week road trip last summer through New England and southeastern Canada, I’d fire up my laptop every morning to chart a new run or bike ride in whatever small town we’d ended up in the night before. I’m not sure how I would have made it to the Ironman without my virtual roll of floss.
For the past three days, Brent and I have been hanging out at his folks’ house in western Massachusetts. Fred and Sally live on the outskirts of Amherst, right on the border of the little town of Shutesbury (population 1900). Their backyard opens up into miles and miles of undeveloped woodland. Last July, we all but walked right by their house as we traversed the state of Massachusetts, hiking from the Connecticut border up through southeastern New Hampshire.
One of the best things about coming up here is getting to spend time in these woods, and this visit has been no exception. Sure, we’ve done the usual winter-in-New England stuff – movies at the Hampshire Mall, a trip to Northampton, Brent’s favorite chinese food, and even a drive out to Boston to skate on the pond at the Commons and see the Sixers and Celtics square off – but in the midst of it all, we’ve made sure to get outside.
Thanks to the winter storm that dropped two feet of snow on the ground just days before our arrival, we’ve gotten to spend hours this week snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing around the backyard. The temperatures are rising now and the rain has been falling a bit, so tomorrow we’re going to take advantage of the last of the white powder and spend the morning hiking up Mount Orient before heading up to Northfield to catch up with friends and make the obligatory annual trip to the Yankee Candle Factory (I know you’re jealous). Saturday, we should get in a short hike before spending the afternoon at the movies with Brent’s niece and nephew (another Christmas tradition), and Sunday we’ll take the dogs for one last romp before the rest of Brent’s family arrives for their big holiday celebration.
And the best part about it? Unlike the distance we logged wandering around Boston for the afternoon, these hours in the woods aren’t trackable online. To calculate our mileage, we have to estimate our pace and figure out which trails lead to which creek crossings on the map. And of course, break out our trusty old dental floss.
I’ve finally learned the secret to New England winters – layers! (Of course, wearing four shirts and three pairs of pants makes me look a little bit like the pillsbury dough boy…)
Lupine – our five-year-old basenji mix, who Brent found on the side of the road in New Mexico several years ago – would rather be here than anywhere else in the world…
Phin, on the other hand, met his match with this storm… Our happy-go-lucky border collie mix, who, like me, has too much energy for his own good (and unfortunately for him, doesn’t have law school, a dissertation, and an ironman through which to channel it), slinked along miserably after about half an hour of plowing through the snow…
As soon as we got inside, Phin crawled into his crate and wouldn’t come out.