Resolutions

Laurel Mountain

This time of year I usually see lots of people running our local park loop around the lake. People with the very good intention of changing it up for the New Year. Sadly, according to a study at the University of Scranton, 80 percent of people do not stick with their New Years resolutions for the complete year. I believe that a lot of people either start too fast or too hard to get in shape, lose weight, or whatever else motivates them. Then it becomes a chore and a lot of people quit what was to be a very good intention. I always encourage people to start easy and work into it. Then the chances of sticking with the resolution become greater and the benefits become apparent. You should be able to enjoy the workout and not stress yourself. I always say at this point in my life- no one is going to the Olympics. I have a friend who says to start slow and taper off. We all laugh but that is a good motto.

This time of year, I am usually skiing. I continue to ride a mountain bike for exercise but as I age, I have been trying to enjoy the activities and not stress myself with unattainable goals. I find that exercise 4 days a week including skiing and mountain biking is enough to keep me in shape. I have found recently that if I back off just a little bit, I can enjoy the activity so much more. Take skiing for instance. If you start out too fast, the turns are compromised and you end up fighting to get some kind of rhythm. I have found that if you start with some nice rounded turns, you can ease into the run and enjoy the quality of a good turn instead of trying to get as much vertical as possible. Quality instead of quantity is my current motto. I like to be able to look back and say, ” now they were some good turns.”

Mammoth Mountain, California

It also gets me ready for runs like the above when I travel. Same thing. Not too fast just make good turns and execute.

Winter riding is the same. This is not the time to be a world beater. Especially in my mid 60s where I am definitely not a world beater. I find that backing off a little bit enjoying the snowy conditions, and just appreciating the ability to get out and ride a couple of times a week is good enough. Alternate activities like snowshoeing are good too to mix it up a bit.

Winter Riding with the lights.
Snowshoeing with the bride.

In any event, enjoying the moment and not killing myself seem to be the ticket for me as I make my way into 2021. It has been an odd time with the pandemic but outdoor activities seem to be Covid resistant and if we are careful, we can enjoy the outdoors and not need to worry. I won’t live in fear but I also need to be vigilant.

So as we make resolutions into 2021, it is important in my opinion, to be realistic with your goals and what you want to achieve. You don’t want to be one of the 80 percent that falls short. In addition, I think that a lot of resolutions should include what you can do for others. The elderly, the shut ins, people who are injured, friends who are having a tough time financially, psychologically, or otherwise all need our help. Maybe as we run around the lake, ride, ski, or do whatever we do in the New Year actively, we can include some thinking about what we can do for others. I am no motivational expert here. Just an older guy trying to keep on keepin on, and making the best of what is ahead of me. It takes a village as they say and we all can do something positive for our physical health this year as well as using some time to help others. Thanks for reading and Happy New Years to all of you.

In Search of Gemutlichkeit

Kitzbuhel, Austria

I have always been an atmosphere guy. Nothing did my heart better this year than having a white Christmas here at home. It just added to the atmosphere or the Gemutlichkeit as the Europeans would say. Getmutlichkeit officially is described as a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. But it is so much more with the creation of atmosphere in a particular setting.

I love to ski but there is so much more to skiing than just sliding down a hill. The first time I learned that was when I was a kid and walked around our local ski resort – Seven Springs, and took in the Bavarian atmosphere. The log, stone, and glass architecture of the old world was present in the original buildings built by Adolph Dupre back in the 30s. I related skiing to this wonderful world of European elegance which I could not wait to take in someday.

The Town of Kitzbuhel

Fast forward and I was in a little church in Engleberg, Switzerland for midnight mass at Christmas. As I listened to Silent Night sung in a German dialect, I was enthralled with the atmosphere of this little town in the Alps. Later in my young life I returned to Europe and was part of a PSIA Ski Instructors outing in Austria where we skied and visited many places in the Austrian Tyrol. I learned the significance of plum schnapps (tough on the stomach but you can never refuse it),and the fun tradition of the Rodelrennen which is a sled race down the mountain roads in which I took part. After the race, we all went to the awards in the town of Kuthai and I reveled in the Gemutlichkeit of the local party and the understanding that skiing is a lifestyle in Austria. The atmosphere that is created there with the food, the beer, and the traditions celebrates everything winter. I was hooked for sure.

Rodelrennen in Austria

My wife Janet and I spent our honeymoon hiking in the Swiss Alps and visiting Austria once again and together we experienced that Gemutlichkeit in places like Verbier and Zermatt , where a candlelight fondue set the atmosphere just right. We have not been back since, and it is on the bucket list to return someday to take all of that in.

Today- I still search for that wonderful way of life when we travel westward. Some of the ski areas of the west still create that Bavarian atmosphere and it makes the trip aside from great ski conditions . Perhaps the closest we get is when we visit our good friends the Birsics in Park City and take in lunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge.

Although the atmosphere is Norwegian, it still celebrates the feeling of Gemutlichkeit in the mountains of Utah. Nothing like coming in from the slopes and walking in to the Stein and having lunch. Linen tablecloths, fantastic food and drink and looking at all of Stein’s awards and medals in the trophy case just make the ski day all that more special. Spoken by a man who currently eats a peanut butter sandwich and boots up in his Jeep due to Covid regulations at our local area.

We celebrate a little Gemutlichkeit in our home around the holidays. Janet makes it her business to create that Christmas atmosphere with the decorations and the food.

So, I don’t know, I am just an atmosphere guy. I love the winter and when I have an opportunity to create or take in that feeling of warmth, friendliness and good cheer, I do it. Covid has been tough and things are different this winter. But someday, it will be over and we can all search and take in some Gemutlichkeit whether it is in our home, a ski area, or even out in the woods on a pair of showshoes- with some cheese and wine in the back of the Jeep. Thanks for reading and have a great New Years.

A White Christmas

Even if you are not a winter lover or a snow lover, you have to admit, you like a white Christmas? Most of us who are winter people love the snow and when this last blast came through, blanketing our local parks and mountains with the white stuff, there was a feeling of happiness and contentment in the air. We saw a lady on the trail with a big smile. She looked at us and said….” We needed this!” The long range forecast was cold indicating that the recent storm with re-enforcing 1-2 inches daily would guarantee that we would see a white Christmas. We have not seen one in quite some time. The fact of the matter is that with all we have gone through in 2020, the storm and subsequent weather has been a psychological lift to all of us. If we take the time to take it in and enjoy it.

Personally, there is nothing better than strapping on the old snow shoes and heading out on the trails of our local park in Sewickley, Pa. The muffled sounds and the silence that accompanies a large snowfall, really helps you to put your mind in a place where you can relax, enjoy nature, and think about what is important as we close out a very tempestuous year.

One of the other gifts that we received with this storm was a visit from our friends from Philly who were here visiting their new grandson. Mike and Judy Smith are very active people and jumped at the chance to join Janet and me on the trails of Sewickley. We met up and strapped on the snowshoes and reveled in all that is winter around our local park.

The Flying Smittys
PSU buddies forever.

People in Sewickley also get creative and a surprise at the end of the trail was a most welcome photo- op.

The Outdoor Christmas Tree

Following the “all smiles” snowshoe outing, I got some sandwiches, cheese, fruit, drinks and goodies and proceeded to set up an outdoor picnic- Euro- style! Jaime and Melissa would be proud. It was a welcome surprise to our friends and also my wife who complimented me on the good idea. Although it was a bit chilly, we bundled up, sat in the camp chairs and enjoyed the end of a pretty good day- celebrating the surprise that winter gave to us this past week. Again- a mental break from all that has happened and is currently happening with all the unknowns about the Pandemic.

Winter Picnic in the Park.

I believe you have to take advantage of anything that a season presents to you. Snowshoeing is not only good physical exercise, but a great way to get deep in the woods and think about what is important in life. When all is quiet and all is calm, you can really appreciate the Christmas season. And to have the blessing of a snowfall, the frosted pine trees and the hushed sounds of wildlife moving in the forest, your mind slows and all the problems, schedules, and issues, seem to disappear at least for the moment. It was a real treat to see the Smiths. We have not seen that many people during this time and to see their smiles was truly a lift for the day. I even liked their grand doggie who came on the outing with us. And we were outside which made us feel more safe in these times.

I love Christmas and the gift of a lasting snowfall just accentuates my love for the season. When I snowshoe by myself, it also gives me a chance to think about the real meaning of Christmas. As my earbuds rang out the Messiah choruses, I loved listening to verses like the following:

” Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name- Emmanuel- God with us”

Isaiah 7-14.

I even start singing which is pretty hilarious to people looking at me on the golf course the other day. ” Hallelujah, hallelujah, halleluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuujah.” 🙂 There is something special about choral music ringing in your ears around Christmas. It really gets you in the mood.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Take the time to enjoy the snow, the beautiful scenery, your family, and the real meaning of Christmas. Emmmanuel! God with us. We need Him. Thanks for reading.

The Operative Word is “Yes”

This photo was taken over the weekend up at McConnel’s Mills State Park here in Western Pa. Janet and I were hiking and I was experimenting with an app on the I-Phone called Pro HDRX. Pretty cool playing with that and also having an opportunity to spend some quality time with my wife on the trails. Janet and I are ” empty nesters” for the first time in a long time, and trying to be as active as we can in the current world circumstances. For us lately, the operative word has been “yes.” I participate in two major activities with friends but it has been important for me to spend time with Janet and get her more into the great outdoors than she already is, and doing some of the things that I have enjoyed for many years. She jokes that I have had a whole separate life when we talk about my activities over the years and the pre-Janet world. But now, we are in a situation where we can enjoy the time, activities and places together.

I must commend many of my friends who find themselves in the same situation and it has been fun to get together with them because we share the same thoughts about the empty nest and what that entails. The gift of time has enabled us to participate in hiking, cycling,swimming,shooting, skiing and snowshoeing. My wife and I laugh when I refer to myself as the “human crowbar.” I sometimes have to crowbar Janet out of her comfort zone and pry open that door of complacency and comfort. But once she is out the door and participating, she is happy and enjoying the many activities that we can do together. I am a Type A personality and Jan will never be in that mold, but that is why we do so well together. She tempers my enthusiasm where needed and I get her out the door enjoying things that she might not do on her own.

The interesting thing is that we have a lot of time to talk. That hasn’t been the case in many years because we were always on the go with activities with our son Jack as he was growing up. Not unlike a lot of couples. Games, practices, school, and also in the more recent years caring for her ailing parents and the constraints that are associated with that. We have no regrets but we are really enjoying the time together now that we have not had in a long time. We try to be safe in this Covid-19 world. We wear our masks, wash our hands frequently and respect others on the trails and other outdoor venues. But at some point, we will all have to accept some level of risk to be active. That is still being sorted out nationally and also in our own sphere of influence. But we persevere and try to get that fresh air that is sorely needed during this strange time.

Finally, we discuss why we feel the need to be active and go places. Is it just to check the box and say we have been there and done that? Is it because we want to post it on Facebook, or do we really like to participate because of the true gratification of being outdoors and being together. We both think it is the latter and when you see gorgeous scenery even right in your backyard, you appreciate the opportunity. Time spent together is priceless and whether you have a spouse, significant other, friend, or children, the gift of time is precious. The outdoors presents many opportunities to bond in discussion as well as a mutual appreciation of God’s great creation. We are all living in uncertain times and it is important to make the best of these times together. “Yes” is the operative word to opportunity and kindness goes hand in hand with that. Thanks for reading.

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The Global Warming/Climate Change Disappointment.

So far this winter season, I have had to chase the snow. From skiing and hiking in the rain, to heading west earlier this month, and later next month, to actually ski in some honest to goodness snow. But like I always say, I can’t be out west all of the time so I need to maximize my winters right here at home. Recent meteorological history suggests that climate change is a reality around these parts. Here in Southwest Pa, we are right on the borderline of the snow/rain events. So you really need to head north of Interstate 80 to get to snow country that so far has eluded the climate change issue. At least for now. We had that opportunity this past weekend when Janet and I ventured north to Bradford, Pa. The Icebox of Pennsylvania. I love winter and have posted about that love many times. But when you are standing on a pair of snowshoes and stopping to view and hear the gurgling of a winter mountain stream, it takes your breath away. There is complete silence in the wilds of Pennsylvania save the running water under the ice laden streams. One of the cool things about snowshoeing is that you can easily manage the trails by staying on top of the snow instead of post holing with your hiking boots. We use ski poles as well to aid in our balance and the movement among the snow covered pines and over the bridges of the streams. And if you want to go off trail and bushwhack to get to another stream or point of interest, the drifts are no match for snowshoes. I love bounding over drifts and off trail to enjoy all that the woods have to offer this time of year.

I always struggle to get the most ski days, schlepp equipment to the airport and to the ski areas, get some snowshoe days, look for snow, and in general get what I once had as a regular thing. I never had to search for winter. I grew up with it. Sled riding in the neighborhood with snow all winter. My dad built a skating rink for us in the backyard. We never had issues with weather. Winter was winter. Now we fight the weather, the rain, the sleet, and try to make the most of it outdoors. Sometimes we just have to go on the search for winter because this issue of climate change is affecting our weather down here in the banana belt and it is frankly discouraging to a winter guy like me. At the end of the season, I almost breathe a sigh of relief that the tension I put on myself is over for another year. I get mad at the forecasts, I constantly look at ski reports, I DVR ski races to ease my pain. I can vicariously root for Mikaela Shiffrin or Tommy Ford on the TV after a rain soaked ski day here in the changing weather scene. I will do whatever to enjoy the winter and that includes making things as easy as possible for my wife whose passion for the winter is not as keen as mine. Please note that my wife calls me the Sherpa. Ang McCloskey Sherpa. Two pair of skis, two pair of boots in the pack, two helmets and goggles. She handles the poles. Full disclosure, not that she won’t carry her own stuff, she is perfectly willing. I just do it to make life easy for her and encourage her to chase the snow like me.

So bottom line, I am discouraged at the local winters anymore and kind of bummed at climate change and global warming. I do what I can to help the environment in my own small way. I am a contributing member of POW ( Protect our Winters), the Jeremy Jones endeavor to lobby Washington to heed the call on climate change. I know that weather and climate have cycles over the centuries but there is something to be said about what we do to our atmosphere by way of CO2 emissions . I get it. Other countries better get it too!! Otherwise, our winter scenes, mountain streams, ski slopes, and snow clad peaks will be a distant memory for many folks. Support POW. http://www.protectourwinters.org Thanks for reading folks.