Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I never really wanted a Kindle.  It’s not that I’m truly against them, I just love the feel of books! 

I  love the textures – some are smooth, some are bumpy, some have smooth pages, others have pages that feel like construction paper. Library books are the best – they have those plastic covers and most are well worn hardbacks.  The pages are soft from so many hands. The binding is loose but not broken.  Paperbacks have softly frayed covers. Sometimes you get extra lucky and you are one of the first readers of a brand new book – it’s special library cover is crisp and the binding cracks a bit.  One time I was reading a Janet Evanovich book from the library and it dumped sand all over my bed – it had spent a fun week at the beach that summer!  Books are meant to be read and enjoyed and library books are fulfilling their destiny!

eReaders kill the feel of a book in your hands, and I wasn’t ready to take that step. 

My mom got a Kindle and I played with it a little, but didn’t really like it.  I kept trying to touch the screen to get it to do stuff and it didn’t work! There were too many buttons and the interface was clunky.  I decided that it definitely wasn’t something I wanted.

Soon after Amazon introduced the Kindle App for iPhone I downloaded it and it quickly became one of my favorite apps!  I always had a book in pocket!  AWESOME!  Now if I was stuck waiting or stuck in traffic (only when the car is completely stopped at a red light or bumper to bumper traffic) I could read!  Last summer when we went to Washington State I bought all my hiking guides on Kindle and it was so handy having the guide books with us at all times without the added weight and bulk of the actual book!  So far I have read 15 books on my Kindle App and didn’t really miss the “book feel”

A few weekends ago I was at my parents house planning our summer  trip to Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon and I was thinking about how I could cut down the amount of stuff I needed to bring.  I was trying to think of things that I always feel the need to bring with me but never use or really need.  The 1st thing that came to mind: books.  I always want to bring a lot of books, but I never read them.  Books are heavy.  Books take up space. 

But a Kindle is small.  And light.  And holds LOTS of books!

Also, I have a bunch of books by John Muir, that I’m planning to read when I’m in CA or at least start, and they are all on Kindle.  They were free too! 

So I broke down and bought a Kindle.  It’s the “small” one – 6 inches.  Wifi only.  I opted not to get the one with “special offers” because I didn’t want to have all the ads.  I also got a cool cover for it that has a light that pulls out and is powered by the kindle battery so never needs batteries!


I love it more than I thought I would! It has a bar at the bottom that has little hash marks denoting each chapter so you can tell at a glance how much farther to the end of the chapter – perfect for an anal reader like myself who hates putting the book down before the end of the chapter.   Turning the pages is just a tap on a button.  The e-ink is very easy to read.  Much easier to read than on my phone.  In it’s cover it fits perfectly into the book clips on my treadmill – and I don’t have to hold it open like I do with a paper book.  I have a ton of books in my hand so if I get bored with one, I can just read another! This morning, when I had jury duty and did a lot of sitting and waiting, this feature was really nice!

The only problem I have with it:  you have to buy the books.  Over the last few years I’ve been pretty good about getting my reading material exclusively from the library, therefore my reading habit is mostly free.  Now, if I want to read it on my Kindle I have to pay for it.  And frequently I’m finding that the kindle version of a book is more expensive than the paperback version!?!?! 

I’m looking forward to the launch of the lending library service Amazon has promised later this year. 

I hope that I still love “real books” as much as I did and the Kindle never takes the place of “real books”, but in the meantime I’m trolling Amazon to find cheaper books to download and read! :-)

The Great Hogback Mountain Butterfly Chase

Saturday I went hiking! The pollen seemed like it was lower, or at least it wasn’t bothering me as much, so I took advantage and hit the trail!

It was forecast to be in the 80s in Woodbridge and it was already hot as I headed out.  I was worried it would be too hot – it gets too hot for hiking very quickly! However, as I made my way into the park I watched the temperature drop on my car thermometer!  By the time I reached the trailhead it was a pleasant 64 degrees! :-)

I was planning to hike over Hogback Mountain and then down the Sugarloaf trail and back up a fire road. Since it was such a nice day I figured (correctly) that the parking area by Hogback Mountain Overlook would be full so I parked in the less popular Keyser Run Fire Road.  I’d hiked this trail back in 2001 and I thought I remembered the trail exactly, however, I quickly learned that my memory is not for navigational purposes!

As I headed up the trail I noticed that there was what appeared to be a bumper crop of wild geraniums and violets, there was little variety in the wildflowers though.  I passed a few people coming down, including two folks who I’m pretty sure were thru-hikers.  Soon I reached an rocky outcropping at the top where I stopped to take pictures and attempt some self portraits, there was no good place to put the camera down though so I headed down the hill!  I was at the top of a smallish mountain and I could see a big mountain in front of me, I thought, “man I’m glad I don’t have to climb that!”

I was feeling very accomplished!  I was thinking I’d already done the major climbing part of trail and was almost to the quiet wilderness part of the hike. I did remember that there was a radio tower at the top of Hogback Mt, and I knew I I hadn’t seen it, also they laugh hang-gliders from the mountain…wasn’t sure why I hadn’t seen those things.  The trail quickly descended into the overlook and it wasn’t the overlook I thought I’d be in!  Hmmm…consult the map! 

Ahhhh…turns out I’d only hiked up and over Little Hogback Mountain.  I did indeed need to climb the big mountain!  Well, at least it looked easy – the trail seemed to follow one contour line and skirt the summit!  Off I went!

The overlook was in a saddle and there weren’t many trees, just lots of brush and there were butterflies everywhere!  I attempted a few pictures, but they were very hard to photograph! Butterflies don’t stay still very long! 

As I climbed the mountain and went up switchback after switchback I guessed that I had mis-read the map!  It wasn’t hard, just steeper than I had expected!  The butterflies were still flying around – all kinds, yellow ones, brown ones, blue & black ones, some small moth like butterflies.  It was pretty cool!  I made several attempts at taking pictures, but as soon as I’d get the butterfly in the frame it would fly away! 

Soon I reached the ridge and the open-is meadow! There are tall trees but they are wildly spaced and undergrowth is low.  I’m guessing the area had been cleared for farming at one time.  The butterflies were still dancing around and there was a cool breeze!

Right at the top there was a post in the middle of the trail.  Posts in SNP indicate trail intersections.  I went up and read it: Launch Site- 100 yards.  Skyline Drive – 400 yards.  Great! I’d reached the top! 

I walked over to the launch area and it was deserted so I spent about 10 minutes taking pictures, including a bunch of self portraits with my timer, and having a snack.  I then headed back the way I came, assuming that the trail that continued on just went to the radio tower I could see at the end, when I got to the post I turned down the hill, once again please with myself and what good time I was making!

Soon I came to Skyline Drive and instantly realized I was in the wrong place.  I was supposed to be in an overlook, but I was just by the road.  I quickly realized that I’d mistakenly taken a spur trail to a spring rather than the trail down.  I was faced with 2 options: walk along Skyline Drive to the overlook or climb back up the hill 400 yards to the trail.  It was a busy day and there were lots of cars and motorcycles on the road so I chose the “up the hill” option.  I quickly got to the top and continued down the trail. 

As I reached the top there was a couple with their 2 dogs coming down the trail.  We played hopscotch a few times before I finally let them get ahead of me while I photographed some really pretty pink flowers.  I was pretty excited that I’d walked back up the hill because I never would have seen the flowers if I hadn’t! (turns out the flowers were in abundance further down the trail.

Soon I reached the road again and when I did I completely lost the trail.  I was right on the edge of the overlook, which hugged the road – basically the road was just a bit wider there as the overlook curved around.  I couldn’t figure out where the trail had gone.  I got out the map, but that didn’t help – it looked like it crossed Skyline Drive, but I couldn’t see it anywhere on the other side.  I knew the trail crossed the drive on the other side of the overlook so I just walked through the overlook, enjoying the view and taking pictures!

I picked up the trail again and doubled back over the territory I’d just covered while walking through the overlook.  In just a few minutes I saw the couple with the dogs that I’d encountered on the top of the mountain.  They must have been able to find the trail!

I was almost back at Skyline Drive before I got to the Sugarloaf Trail! I probably ended walking at least a 1/2 mile out of my way!  Things should be easier now – it was just down the Sugarloaf Trail, across the Pole Bridge Link Trail and up the fire road.  I did however shove the map in my pocket since I kept having to stop to consult it.  Ended up not needing it again the rest of the hike. 

By this time I’d been walking for about 2 hours and had covered only 2 miles.  I needed to pick up the pace a bit!  I stopped taking pictures and focused on walking!  The Sugarloaf trail would be an awesome place to hike when the Mt. Laurel is in bloom!  WOW! I had to simply imagine!

I saw more people than I expected to see – all going the opposite direction as me, but otherwise the trail was uneventful. 

Soon I reached the fire road.  I’ve hiked up this fire road before and I know that it’s pretty boring.  It’s well graded making the uphill hike nice, but it’s boring so before I conquered the last mile I pulled out my iPod. 

I’d been walking a little while, and I’d been guessing that I was about 1/2 way back to the car, when all the sudden sirens pierced through the silence and the music on my iPod.  It sounded like there were a million and that they were close.  My thought was I was much closer to Skyline Drive than I’d thought and that there been a bad accident. 

A few minutes later I heard a loud, low rumbling sound – my 1st thought was “motorcycles” – also in keeping with the idea that I was closer to the Drive than I’d estimated.  But the sound continued for a long time.  I then thought maybe it was a helicopter for the accident – but helicopters make a “thwap thwap” sound…this was more of a train coming at you.  The sound kept going and going for almost a minute.  If I’d been in Mt. Rainier NP I would have thought “Lahar”, but there aren’t any volcanoes nearby.  My other thought was “tornado” but it was really sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. Oddly, “earth splitting apocalyptic earthquake” didn’t occur to me until later!  I had no idea, but was eager to get back to the car to find out!

The car was a lot closer than I’d thought and I was there within minutes.  I quickly changed my shoes and headed to Elkwallow to grab a snack and a cold drink before heading home. 

As I passed the Hogback Mountain Overlook (the one I’d hiked through, the one that’s just a wide spot in the road) I saw that there was a whole mess of motorcycles!  It looked like there were about 50.  I suspected that’s what I’d heard on the trail.  As I headed down the Drive I didn’t see anything that could have explained the sirens.

When I got to Elkwallow the motorcycles weren’t far behind! They all pulled in as I was getting out of the car! I counted 25, but I’m pretty sure I missed some – the kinda scattered and they were parked in clumps.  While in store I saw many of their riders and learned from the patches on their vests that they were Eagle PA Harley Owners Club!  

After seeing no evidence of anything requiring sirens I concluded that I must have been in an acoustical “sweet spot” when I was on the Fire Road and it simply amplified the road noise from Skyline Drive.

Snacks and cold drinks in hand I made my way back down Skyline Drive to I-66 and home!

Hogback Mt 5.21.11