Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Snow is falling, all around me!

This past weekend I experienced my first snow fall. Yeah it’s early, even for the ice box state of the US. Most of the residents were annoyed because ‘bad weather’ had come so early this year. Well, I being a newbie here was overjoyed to see the white powdery stuff all around. This was the first time I had seen snow! It was amazing. This post is for all the readers who have never seen snow. I hope I can give a good description so can experience it vicariously.

First of all, it’s beautiful beyond words. Everything except for the streets is white. It is even better when the sun comes out. And since the leaves haven’t yet fallen off, a lot more snow collects on them which makes the scene prettier. The fall colors and snow make an awesome combination. The snow is like a fine powder that falls slowly through the air. You can dust it off yourself and I like to shake myself like a dog while doing so! :D It’s is soft and quiet. Calming and relaxing, unlike rain which can be noisy and forceful. Supposedly snow absorbs other sound too and makes for a more peaceful setting.

The snow is soft and falls slowly because the terminal velocity of snowflakes is low. But you can compress it in your hands to make snow balls and throw at each other. Or you could make a snowman or build a snow fort. The lazier people can make snow angels! Well I didn’t do much of the above things as the snow was a little slushy cause of the high temperatures of 1-2 degrees Celsius. I have a long to-do list for the winter. Besides the snowman, fort and angels, I wanna try my hand, or legs rather, at skiing, skating, snow shoeing, and broomball. My friends have promised to take me out to indulge in all the winter fun I want. I hope I can bear the brutal cold though, which brings me to the winter clothing.

I have purchased headgear, mufflers, scarves, a coat, woolen pullovers, gloves, woolen socks etc. Thank you Ben, for taking me winter shopping! It’s a bit of a pain to wear all these things before going outside. I guess I will get used to it. Growing up in Goa hasn’t really prepared me for this, but I know I am going to have a great time! I can’t wait for Christmas, to see a snowy Christmas, to see what we sing in carols and print on cards. I have to look up for Santa’s email id and ask him for a white Christmas!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Superior Hike

This has to be one of my best treks of all time. It was fun, it was beautiful and it was awesome! I was looking forward to the trip from weeks before. I must thank Pranav for telling me about the COA at UMN and its wonderful trips. The group was as diverse at it could get. We had Norwegians, Danes, an Austrian, a German, Indians, a Canadian and yes one American. We set off on a cold damp Saturday morning for a 3hr drive north to Duluth.

Duluth is a beautiful port town in north Minnesota. We had a stunning view of the harbour and Lake Superior as we drove in. We stopped for Lunch at Pizza Luce where Kim and Kristian tried to do the ‘humanely impossible’ thing of eating a 16 inch pizza each! We drove further north to Two Harbors for dinner and breakfast supplies. We then proceeded to our first hiking trail, Gooseberry Falls. Luckily the weather was holding well and we could trek comfortably. We were treated with amazing sights of streams and waterfalls and the fall colours in all their glory. The forest was bright despite the overcast conditions. This is my first experience with fall colors and so I was really excited. The trees, bushes and ferns were in varying shades of green, yellow, red and orange. It was a riot of colors. Thank God for digital cameras. I clicked tons of pictures. We walked along a stream most of the time. None of us wanted to get into the freezing water. So we hung around the edge and tried to skip stones along the water surface. I really enjoyed being in the wild on the grassy trail surrounded by colourful bushes and an assortment of trees. Minneapolis is green and clean, but all you see is well manicured lawns and gardens. It gets monotonous after a while. The air was clean and the forest was quiet. It was a truly relaxing experience.

We headed back when it began getting dark. We drove to Finland state forest campsite for the night. First we had to set up tents. The tents had been folded down to the size of small backpacks. I had no idea how to set up the tent. Luckily all the others in the group had a lot of camping experience and showed me how easy it was to set up a tent. The tents were really cool and I remembered scouts camp in school when we had those rickety unwieldy tents. And that was the only time I had stayed in a tent.

Next it was time for food! Dinner was a lovely time. The boisterous group had so much to talk. There was lot of talk about culture, as we were from so many different countries. That automatically led to bit of friendly country bashing. The large population of engineering students led to some tech talk which irked the rest of the crowd. The adventurous guys had some amazing camping and hiking stories to share. Non veg jokes spiced up the chatter. The food was great. I guess a hungry stomach and the camping atmosphere makes any food taste good. After a few burritos, it was cookies time! The cookies were not round in any sense and looked like scrambled eggs, but still had the amazing chocolate cookie taste! And then it was time for the piece de resistance. I’ll call it the automated popcorn. It was like a small covered plate which had to be heated over the stove. And the top keeps rising until you can hear the popcorn inside. Then it blows open and pop corn is ready! American stuff rocks!

We all headed to the boys tent for games. We played telephone Pictionary and it was hilarious! It was fun to see how the result ended so far from the start. I started with ‘I can’t read your poker face’ and got ‘the pope is praying over the grave’ in the end! It was time to turn in. We were advised not to have any cosmetics or eatables in the tent as it might attract bears. OMG! I slipped into my sleeping bag, my first time in a sleeping bag, and thought about how awesome it was to be sleeping somewhere in the wild under the sky, a few inches off the soggy ground and yet so warm and comfy, next to a gurgling stream which reminded me of Famous Five adventures.... ZZZZZZZ

Next morning after a long struggle, I finally got out of my warm sleeping bag. It was an effort to get cold water into the mouth to brush teeth. Breakfast consisted of hot chocolate and delicious pan cakes which I used to warm my hands and fill my tummy! It was time to pack up. And since COA follows ‘leave no trace’ rule, we cleared the campsite thoroughly. We didn’t even wash our dishes there. It’s great to know that campers try to preserve the place for others. I enjoyed the camp as we had the best of both worlds. We had our tent and sleeping bags and cooking out in the open experience on one hand. And we had our luggage in the van nearby on the other hand.

It was time for day 2 of hiking. We drove to Tettegouche state park. The weather was perfect for the outdoors. It was cold and bright.The trail was very comfortable and we were treated to sparkling waterfalls and colourful forests. We reached the rocky shores of Lake Superior after a while. It was beautiful beyond words. But that also marked the end of the hike. We walked back to the van. On the way back we spotted some deer in the forest.

It was time for the long drive back. We stopped at Two Harbors for a quick lunch. The drive was gorgeous. We had the sparkling Lake Superior on the left and colourful forests on the right. Miles and miles of unending beauty! How I wished the trip would never end. Soon we were back in Minneapolis. A wonderful trip had come to an end. I wanna thank all the group members for the making this trip so amazing. The COA volunteers, George (from Canada) and Annie (from USA) and the rest of the group which included Lars, Kristian, Kim,(all from Norway), Astrid, Julia,(both from Denmark), Maria (from Austria), Ecem (from Germany) and Smita (from India).

Check out so more pictures on facebook and orkut!