Sunday, November 15, 2009


During the 1950s, the shores of Schroon Lake, NY were graced by world-class resorts, including the Leland House, the Ondawa and the Edgewater, on whose land my parents' house now sits. Perhaps the most spectacular and well-known resort was Scaroon Manor. The 327-acre site in South Schroon featured a golf course, tennis courts, a beautiful shoreline and an amphitheater. The 1957 film Marjorie Morningstar, starring Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood, was filmed at Scaroon Manor. During the filming Schroon Lake was enjoyed by the cast and crew, and especially by Robert Wagner, who was there only to advance the romance between himself and Miss Wood and had many idle hours while she was on the set. Less than a decade after the movie was made, after a couple of unprofitable seasons in the hands of new owners, the hotel's land was sold to New York State.

The once elegant buildings were demolished and, for many years, the land was left idle. The golf course is now designated wetlands and nature has long since reclaimed the tennis courts. All that is left of the grand hotel is the stone shell of the amphitheater. For almost 50 years the site was open to the public, or at least anyone who was willing to boat around the remains of the concrete docks to reach the beach, or make their way through the brambles from the road.

Trips to "Marjorie Morningstar", as we called the place, are part of my memories of summer vacations at Schroon Lake. We would beach the boat and scramble up what was left of the paths in search of blackberries, which grew wild. We would climb onto the remains of the amphitheater and dance and sing for the adults. For us kids, that amphitheater was a magical place, as if the spirit of Natalie Wood was still there, inspiring even the shyest among us to perform.

Recently, the state has decided to use the land, and has gotten busy clearing pathways, paving parking lots, and building picnic shelters and restrooms. The state also constructed a little building near the entrance, where employees can sit and collect money for day-use fees. Still under construction are additional facilities and campsites. I've heard that the state plans to open Scaroon Manor for camping, to replace campsites lost at the soon-to-be-closed Eagle Point Campground, where overuse has led to serious erosion and loss of vegetation.

Thanks to the state, boating in with the kids to let them run and explore like we did has become expensive. (Someone is watching the new boat docks to collect those fees.) During the summer, all we can do is look at the beach from the water as we go by. At the end of the season, however, the state workers pack up and go home, and the locals park outside the locked gate and walk in.

Today we took the dogs and walked the old hotel grounds. My son performed in the amphitheater, which still has it's magic. On a quiet path we let the dogs off their leashes and they took off running - into the lake, down the path, into the creek, up the path again and back into the creek. They enjoyed their own little piece of doggie heaven, oblivious to how cold the water must have been. The dogs were so happy that they forgot how badly they usually listen. They came when we called them, sat still as we put their leashes back on, and walked like well-trained show dogs back to the car. (I wonder if Natalie Wood had a dog.)

Scaroon Manor park is a nice place for a short walk every now and then, although I miss the untended ruins from my childhood memories. The blackberries are gone; their thorny vines were probably deemed unsafe. The paths are a bit too groomed and there is too much pavement to really satisfy my desire to explore the wilds of the Adirondacks. The brown vinyl-sided restrooms can't replace the resort that once flourished on the shore, but perhaps the state will restore the amphitheater one day, keeping the spirit of Marjorie Morningstar alive to inspire another generation.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The View from (Almost) the Top

It was a beautiful November day, 48 degrees and mostly sunny. The kids were off from school for Veterans Day, and the county offices were closed so my husband had the day off as well. I don't have any yoga classes on Wednesdays, so I was free. We had to take advantage of this day.

After sleeping in a bit, we stuffed lunch into a day pack and drove to Putnam Pond in Ticonderoga, NY. We hiked around the south end of Putnam Pond, then picked up the trail to Treadway Mountain.

Hiking in the Adirondacks in the fall is magnificent, but not without its challenges. The trails are blanketed with brown leaves. Green moss and the occasional fern provide contrast, and the scene is highlighted here and there with white curls of birch bark. The leafless trees no longer block the sun, and it streamed down to sparkle off the quartz embedded in Treadway's rocks. The trails are quiet and there are no bugs. The trails were damp and even squishy in places, however, and the leaf cover makes it hard to see the rocks and mud, so we had to take it slow at times.

Of course, when you're hiking with a six year old, you're always taking it slow.

We had been hiking almost 3 hours when we reached the last knoll before Treadway's summit. The guidebook estimated the total hike at 2 1/2 hours, but the writers of the guidebook must not have tried it with a first grader. He never stopped and he tried hard to keep up, but his legs are short and he just can't go as fast. The guidebook said the last bit to the summit should take 15 minutes, but we knew it would be longer than that and we wanted to be down before dark, so we decided it was enough for today and satisfied ourselves with looking at the summit while we ate our lunch.

Next spring there will be pictures from the top.

We were pleasantly surprised by this trail. The terrain changes from soft forest floor to almost solid rock as you near the top. There was even a five-foot rock wall to scramble up. Cairns marked the trail over the rocky bits, and my son amused himself by adding a pebble to each one. The hike took us past Mud Pond, which was not muddy but actually crystal clear and as smooth as glass. The quartz top is fantastic, and the views were great even though we didn't reach the summit.

During our hike, we caught glimpses of the rarely seen teenagera surlyous (commonly known as the American teenager). This solitary creature roams the trails, usually just out of sight. The only way to get a good look at one is to leave food out. The teenagera surlyous can't resist a meal and may risk being seen for a cheese sandwich. This species does not seem to get a properly insulating winter coat until the temperature is well below freezing, perhaps due to a genetic deficiency, therefore if may be possible to tell if one is near by listening for muttering about the cold. The impatient animal might also be spotted pacing near a locked car, especially if there is no cell service. (We thought this species was native to the Northeastern U.S., but we've since heard they've been spotted across the continent.)

Each time we go out, I am impressed with my son's ability to navigate the trails. He spots trail markers, and at junctions remembers which color marker to follow next. He took a couple of spills, and got "kissed" by the rock when we climbed down a ledge, but he never stopped smiling. I feel blessed to share these experiences with him.

Every now and then my son would slip a cool hand into mine and walk with me. I know that he will soon outgrow holding mom's hand, and in a few years he will probably only reach for my hand to help me up. I treasure these moments now and will gladly walk slowly along the trails with my baby, even if someone is already pacing by the car.

We made it down just as the sun was setting spectacularly behind the mountains.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Problem with Handstands

Joshua Tree yoga - handstandImage via Wikipedia

There is nothing that makes my heart ache more than one of those pictures in Yoga Journal magazine of a yogini perfectly balanced on her hands, back bent, head lifted and feet dropping towards her head. She's smiling as if to say "this is the easiest thing I've ever done." Sigh.

I know I shouldn't want it so badly. I should put my ego aside when I'm on my mat. I should practice non-attachment to hand-standing outcomes. I should be where I am today. Double Sigh.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana, or handstand, is my yoga mountain; it's sheer rock face and I'm scaling it without a rope. I've figured out headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) and the forearm balance Pincha Mayurasana, but I'm missing something with handstand.

Upside down is one of my favorite ways to be. I could spend an hour in shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana). I think the worst day can be turned around by a few minutes on my head. I'm not afraid of falling.

I can kick up to the wall and, as long as my feet are against the wall, hold handstand for awhile. I can take one foot off the wall. Take the second foot off the wall, though, and next thing I know my feet are back on the ground. Every time. I just can't master the balance.

When I was at Yoga Journal's Estes Park Conference in 2008, I took a handstanding workshop with David Swenson (the master of making it look easy). I paid attention and tried to do everything he said. We practiced with partners. Even with my partner holding me up, I couldn't keep my feet over my head.

One of my goals for November is to practice handstands every day. So far I have done one handstand each day against the wall. And, so far, I haven't gotten any better. Okay, it's only been a week, but I keep hoping for a breakthrough.

In the meantime, I'll keep working on letting go of my attachment to handstand. And not hating the Yoga Journal models.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where there's smoke there's fire...or not

Wood burning stoveImage by JKleeman via Flickr

Our little Adirondack cabin is heated by a wood-burning stove. The stove does a great job of keeping the house long as there's a fire going. When my husband is home, that's not a problem. He's got a knack for starting fires and we are always toasty. The problems start when he goes to work.

Fire and I have always had a sort of all or nothing relationship. Sometimes I can strike every match in the book and never get as much as a spark. Other times I light a candle only to have the candle holder shatter. I've noticed a strange smell in the car just before the burning wires make the headlights fade. Let's not even mention what happened to the pot holder I dropped into the oven.

Because of my history with fire, burning things has been my husband's job while I stayed out of the way.

The first time my husband left me with nothing but ash in the wood stove, I spent most of the day and most of the matches trying to light a piece of wood. My husband came home that evening to find me and the kids wearing two sweaters each. I had to be humble and admit that I needed some fire making lessons.

The next morning I was instructed in the finer points of fire construction. I learned that I needed more than one split log. I was shown how to arrange the ash and coals and where to put the crumbled up newspaper. I discovered the magic of kindling. Armed with this new information, and under my husband's watchful eye, I made a fire.

Fire and I aren't BFFs or anything, but our relationship is more stable. Most days I can get the stove lit with one match. Occassionally I still need a whole book of matches. If fire is being really uncooperative, I bake something. The oven warms the house up very nicely, too.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spazz, with a Capital S

Chimney Rock YogiImage by Gare and Kitty via Flickr

I was chatting with a yoga student after class yesterday and she asked me which sports I had played in high school. My answer seemed to surprise her. The truth is, I never played any sports in high school. In fact, I spent most of high school volunteering to play ping-pong with the special ed kids so I could get out of gym. I was not athletic. I was an uncoordinated, gawky honors student. I was a Spazz. (Note the capital S.)

So how does the high school klutz end up teaching yoga and participating in triathlons in her 40s? I've been thinking about it, and, honestly, I don't know. I can't remember what drew me to the first yoga class 13 years ago. Desperate to lose post-baby weight, I made a fool of myself in all the aerobic and spin classes they offered in the gym. Maybe I figured yoga couldn't be any worse. I can say with certainty that after one class I was hooked.

Fast-forward 12 years, and I'm finishing up 500 hours of yoga teacher training. I knew the day was coming soon when I wouldn't be spending one weekend a month at the yoga studio, and I wouldn't be compelled to practice every day. My body felt great - strong, flexible, coordinated. I'm afraid that once I lose teacher training, my motivation will go with it. I needed something else to do.

A couple of months later I was in Colorado for a Yoga Journal Conference. I went a day early to do a yoga and rock climbing intensive with Jason Magness and Team Yogaslackers. Rock climbing was something I always wanted to try, so I figured I could scratch that off my bucket list. (I loved it, and now my whole family climbs at an indoor gym. We're hoping to get out on the rock again next summer.) During the intensive, someone mentioned triathlons. I wasn't paying much attention, but I guess that triathlon idea worked it's way into my head.

A week or two later I found myself googling "triathlon" and "training plan". I can't say for sure what made me think I could do a triathlon. I could swim well enough to avoid drowning, bike around the park, and I'd run a 5K once. Not really what I'd call a solid base. I just wanted to do it, so I did. Twice. Now I get to call myself a "triathlete". Notice the "athlete" in there?

When people say "athlete" I still assume they're talking about someone else. But I'm working on it.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air

The alarm went off at 6:30 am and I opened my eyes to was light out! I love standard time. I wish daylight savings time would go away forever, but I'm just happy it's over for a few months. Since it was Sunday, I didn't have to hop out of bed and I got to watch the sunlight stream in the window for awhile before I finally got up for my run.

I ran 4 miles this morning under blue skies.

At noon, I persuaded my daughter to get out of bed (she was at the midnight showing of Zombieland at the Strand Theater for Halloween) and got everyone into their hiking boots. We hiked the Blue Hill Trail in the Pharaoh Wilderness for a couple of hours. It was a perfect day for hiking. Bright light spilled down through the trees. The air had a nip to it, but it wasn't cold. Everything looked brilliant!

We found a newt on a rock by a stream and some cool fungus. I kept my youngest amused looking for all the colors in the rainbow. He's been carrying around my husband's old camera and he took pictures of the colored things we found.

Here's a red leaf...

and some orange fungus...

and a blue trail marker.

He lost interest after blue, but stayed out of trouble anyway.

My daughter hikes much faster than the rest of us, then she has to wait for the rest of us to catch up. I'm trying to convince her to try trail running.

Days like today remind me of why we came to live in the Adirondacks. Days like today also tire me out, especially because it's 9:30 pm, but my body remembers that last night it was 10:30. It also remembers that my daughter needed a ride home at 1:45 am, and this body didn't sleep until noon. Fresh air kept me going all day. Hopefully it will help me sleep all night.
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