Hiking Up Douglas Mountain

Getting to the mountain

Days off together are a precious commodity for Nick and I, since he works retail and I have a 9-5:30 job during the week. We never know when we might get a day together, so we try to take advantage when it happens. Yesterday was just such a Sunday. We slept in together, and headed up to Douglas Mountain in Sebago after we stopped off at DD so I could get my coffee.

The drive up to Sebago
The drive up to Sebago

The drive up was cloudy at the outset. Nick said that even if it didn’t get brighter or warmer, the view would still be worth it. He has already hiked to the top of Douglas Mountain a few times. The sun came out as we ventured further north and wound around the lake. We took Route 114 North up through Sebago to Douglas Mountain Road, past picturesque farms and bright green hills. The Maine countryside looked fresh from numerous April rainstorms. We saw no more signs of winter.

Peaceful green Maine countryside
Peaceful green Maine countryside

We arrived at the parking lot around 12pm, and prepared our backpacks with water and some snacks. This time of year the forest is busy composting millions of leaves, and recent rainwater helps to turn everything into a useful mulch. So we started out carefully, stepping around the thick mud and ankle-deep puddles at the bottom of the hill.

Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain
Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain

The hike out to the peak and back, using the Eagle Scout Nature Trail (map here), is about 3 miles. Both of us had brought our Apple Watches, but we forgot to “start” the hike digitally at first, so we both ended up tracking 2.65 miles there and back. Though muddy and full of many puddles that looked like mass mosquito nurseries, the trail up the mountain was gradual and provided many rocks and roots to step on during the climb. It was steep enough that I had to catch my breath a couple times on the way up.

 

At the summit

The 16-foot stone tower at the summit was originally named for Dr. William Blackman, a surgeon who had purchased the area in 1892 and built the structure himself. Later it was purchased by a nature conservancy organization, and given to the town of Sebago for all to enjoy. Thanks to Dr. Blackman and the kind hikers who passed before us, we made it to the summit.

A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail
A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail

By the time we reached the Blackman Tower, the sun had come out and the sky was a rich blue. It was gorgeous. We spent some time atop the tower, hanging out together under wide skies. We looked out at Maine, and west to New Hampshire. There was a sign which showed the different distances to at least 20 different hills, ponds, and mountains all around. It said the tower looked out over several hundred square miles. Nick said the sign was new to him, though he’d been here a few times last summer.

We were there for an hour, snacking on jerky, saying hello to other hikers, and reading aloud the playing cards we have that show edible wild plants on them. The wind was wild but not cold, and the sun shone warm for a long time. The mosquitoes were decidedly fewer at the top of the tower. Nicholas kindly offered me his warm sweater, because he’s a gentleman like that.

At the top of Dr. Blackman's 16-ft stone tower
At the top of Dr. Blackman’s 16-ft stone tower

Soon enough we decided to go back, and ventured down the Eagle Scout trail the way we had come, to the parking lot. It took us a little less time to get down than it had to go up, but that is only natural considering the 480-ft elevation gain we had climbed. It wasn’t a long ride home, where we both promptly relaxed after consuming a delicious home cooked meal (thanks Nicholas) and I took a nap. Here’s to more hikes, and seeing more of the Northeast this summer.

Blue skies over the Blackman Tower
Blue skies over the Blackman Tower

 

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

7 Major Takeaways from National Novel Writing Month

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner
National Novel Writing Month Winner’s Banner
By Corissa Haury

Writing a novel is not easy. Whether you put pen to paper, type on a typewriter, or use a tablet with a keyboard like me, you still have to do something hard. You have to write.

You have to write a lot, too. 50,000 words in one month is no joke. The daily minimum to reach 50k is 1667 words, or about 3 double spaced pages. Multiply that by the 30 days writers are given to finish the task, and that’s a minimum of 90 pages for the month-long project. An average published novel is between 100,000 and 175,000 words, so starting with 50,000 is a solid half a manuscript. You learn a lot about yourself, writing, and how to be a better writer. Here are the 7 major takeaways I learned this year while finishing my 79,000 word manuscript.

1. Say No to Yourself

One of the hardest things in the whole world is to not look back. There is even an “I told you so” myth about that very thing. This is great advice the folks over at NaNoWriMo.org already recommend at the start of the program, but it is hard to follow. The temptation to read what you wrote from the beginning, to see if it is the epic tale you had hoped for, will start on day one and follow you to day 30. Say no to yourself. Don’t look back. Keep writing.

2. Gestate Your Ideas Beforehand

Are you the writer that plans ahead? I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. When it comes to character development, plot, and chapters, I am often hopeless. That changed this year during the last two weeks of October. I grabbed a notebook and wrote down character ideas and names, created locations, did beginning research, and drew maps for reference.

Not only was it fun, it was a novel lifeline halfway through the month when I could not quite remember what part of the story I was supposed to write next. Lo and behold, I have notes I can reference. To help yourself, write a rough chapter outline before your next book. Prepare your ideas in a notebook, and you’ll have something to look at when you continue to plod onward. Er, plot onward…

3. Be Willing to Scrap Your Plot Completely

There will be times when your plot becomes convoluted, your characters get strange, and the whole story surpises you and flips itself on its head. You can learn something about yourself and about your characters by allowing this to happen. Let the story morph. Rewrite your plot. Outline chapters a dozen times if you have to. (I did.) Whatever feels right, do it. Don’t inhibit yourself with the idea that you must keep the first plot or that a messy story is bad. Messes are what make things interesting in your favorite books.

40kwords
40,000 words towards the middle of the month.

4. Finish Your Story

This may seem obvious, but I will put it here anyway because I needed to learn it. Getting to 50,000 words is an accomplishment, but if the story is not finished than neither are you. 50,000 words is a minimum goal. Do not allow yourself to get to the minimum and stop. I know I fall into that trap, with homework and writing. Do not stop writing if the story is not at its end. You will not feel like you have won, because you left a lot hanging. You can do it. You can finish your novel.

5. Every Month is Your NaNoWriMo

Something my husband said to me this month is important. “Every month is NaNoWriMo.” He said. “I don’t want you to stop writing.”

Writing is hard. It is tedious. It is frustrating. It is a discipline, a chore, a task that you must continue if you want to be a writer. Stephen King has a great essay (#23) in his book On Writing. He talks about how when he was a young writer in the 60s, most folks believed that writing was a nebulous, divine vision that came to the writer. There was no expectation of discipline or definition. King and his wife, Tabby, who were dating at the time, did not feel the same. They both laboriously crafted their stories with care, and for Stephen, a sense of fun.

Keep writing. Do not stop because National Novel Writing Month is over. If you have a retail job that is 40+ hours per week like me, and you still finished a novel this month, don’t let the end of November stop you from the continuation of your craft. You are worth it. You can keep writing.

6. Kill Your Inner Editor

National Novel Writing Month is not about making a book. It is about getting a story onto paper that you can mold into a book later. Whatever it takes, silence your inner editor. That bitch doesn’t need our encouragement or our credence while we are writing the first draft. We will need her in later months when we come back to critique our manuscript with an eagle eye, but for now, she can go away.

What does it take for you to kill your inner editor while you write your first draft? Sometimes a stiff drink does it for me. Sometimes being out in the world and writing at a cafe helps. Sometimes you just need to find the right soundtrack for the feeling you are trying to produce with your words. There are multiple methods to make sure that critical voice in your head doesn’t get heard until December. Find your method.

7. Acknowledge Your Accomplishments

77k Words

If you are not a published author, you read often, and you have a decent sense of literary quality, then it is probably hard for you to feel accomplished when you write something. You know what a great book is, but you may not know what it took to craft it. The first draft should never be the final draft. What’s that quote by William Faulkner from The Sound & The Fury?

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

If you learned anything about your own writing while finishing a novel, you have more than accomplished what you set out to do at the outset. NaNoWriMo is about one thing: writing. Don’t expect your novel to be Sirens of Titan yet. This is just the beginning. After editing, rewriting, and several more drafts you’ll have something you can submit to a publisher or work to self-publish. You did better than yourself this month. Take a moment to appreciate your own accomplishments.

This is just the beginning. You have a manuscript to mold. You have a novel to make stronger, and more purposeful. Congratulations!

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

Do It For Yourself

from @m01229 on flickr
from @m01229 on flickr

I started running consistently for the first time in my life over the last few weeks. It has spurred me to new levels of human stability and adulthood I did not think possible. The big secret behind me, a very lazy person who loves television, pizza, and ice cream, bringing themselves to run, is one teensy thing I had to realize:

I am not doing this because I should. I am not doing this because I read it online. I am not doing this because anyone else is doing it. I am not doing this because my mother is fat and I do not want to be. I am not doing this because of anyone else.

I had previous hangups about it, where I compared my relative fitness to those I knew in my head, or pitied myself for being raised by a woman who thought walking up the stairs was exercise. (Still love you, Mom.) My running could not be about anyone but me, and I was making it about other people.

Running should not be about anyone else but you.

Here are three benefits I earned after three weeks of running every 2–3 days:

My Brain is Happier

Not really a side effect I expected, and hard to describe, but every other day when I run, I think clearer, I can stay up longer without feeling exhausted, and process emotions or decisions faster, with better results. This has given me more time in the day to accomplish more of what I want, which is also very satisfying personally. It helps me process my existential angst and emotions. My brain even gets kind of unhappy if I don’t run within two days of my last run.

It is Not a “Big Deal” to Go For a Run

There does not have to a be a bloodletting ceremony with seven vows before I grab my shoes and go to the local gym. It takes me all of 35 minutes to get to the gym, walk/run for 1.75 miles*, and go home sweaty and happy. The gym is a nice place to ignore every human blurring I walk by, go to my favorite treadmill, put in my headphones, load up Law&Order on TNT, and begin my run with a quarter-mile walk while I pick music. I had built it up way too much in my head.

Sleep is More Restful

The title pretty much covers this one. I actually wake up with the sun these days, which in Maine means between 5 and 6am depending on when I went to bed the night before. I sleep like a rock, and I can still feel energetic when I get up early. Dang.

from @E’Lisa Campbell on Flickr

There is no way I am saying running is easy. I ran four times in February. It was really hard and it sucked. I was not doing it consistently enough to gain the benefits. I ran once a week. Just enough to make my muscles become too sedentary before I go back. Muscular pain and stretching feels good now. It feels good to push myself. I am slowly shedding the habit of laziness.

I highly suggest it, but you have to do it because you want it. Because you want the benefits. Because of you. No one else. Harder than you think, to bring yourself to want these healthy, grown up effects. It is easier to pretend we are still kids.

I am tired of easy. Are you?

*not that far on a treadmill, maybe 20 minutes for a beginner

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.