Saturday, November 28, 2020

Sleigh Ride - White Mountains Edition

The holidays are a great time to get away to the White Mountains.  I am thankful that we have this amazing playground right in our backyard.  So, I decided to make a holiday music video combining the two.  If you don’t want to hear more about how and why I made this video, you can just watch it now.  Enjoy!

I have made a few music videos in the past several years.  I take a popular song but use my own words to fit the situation. 

It’s quite the process, at least for me.

First, I have to come up with an idea and then write the new lyrics. That’s the easy part.  For "Sleigh Ride," Eric and I were skiing out from Crowberry Cabin.  It’s 27 miles and we had a few inches of new snow overnight, so it was beautiful but also was slow going.  Christmas songs like "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride" kept popping into my head so I spent the time thinking up different lyrics about a trip in the White Mountains.  And by the time we got back to the car, the song was done.  I just had to fine tune some of the lines.  But by the time I did that it was almost Christmas, so I knew I wouldn't complete the video last season.

Skiing out from Crowberry Cabin last year

But then I remembered the song this fall and decided to make the video for the 2020 holidays.  The next step was to record the song.  This is the hardest part for me.  I can mostly sing in tune but barely, and I have a very mediocre voice.  And we don’t really have recording equipment at home, either.  I use Garage Band and a mic that we happen to own. First I download a Karaoke version of the song that I like. Then I have to practice ad nauseam so at least it’s good enough for others to hear.  I end up getting the song stuck in my head, it’s constantly going through my brain.  I’ll even dream with the song playing in the background.  Aargh!!  At some point, I usually say enough and save the recording complete with missed notes and bobbled words.  Good enough. Perfection is overrated, right?

Usually during the same couple of weeks that I'm practicing the song, I’m also looking through my photos and making a file of anything that might be useful for the video. Sometimes I’ll have to take a new photo to work with the song.  Last weekend on our cabin trip, I took  photos that I needed for the song that I didn’t have.  

Needed a wood stove photo for the video

Finally, I load everything into iMovie and then start putting photos with the music.  I will get everything in a general order and then spend hours making sure that photos are synced with the music.  Once again, I finally decide it’s good enough although by no means perfect.  By the time I get done, I am usually so sick of the song, I never want to hear it again!!  Then I just have to upload it to YouTube which is a pain with our slow internet speed.

The first music video I made was for Eric.  You might remember the song, "Feel it Still," by the band Portugal. The Man.  At the time the song was popular, Eric had decided to take up kicksledding.  Every time I heard the lyrics, “I’m a rebel just for kicks, yeah”, I kept thinking  “I’m a rebel with a kicksled”. 

Thus, the creative process started, and I ended up writing a song for Eric for his birthday and then went on to make the music video. You can watch it here.

Next, I took the song, "Ride Like the Wind," by Christopher Cross but came up with words to fit racing the Tour Divide.  I made this video the spring before I raced so didn't have photos from the trail, just other outdoor bike packing photos. I’m planning to redo it with photos from my actual race – I just haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.  So, you will have to wait to see that one. (Although you can just go to my YouTube channel if you really want to see the original.)

Then Jean Tsigonis, a family physician, decided to retire. We worked closely together for 30 years. She was my work BFF.  We shared so much, good and bad, over the years while taking care of patients.  Jean is an amazing woman.  Besides working full time for over 37 years, she raised 5 kids, homeschooled them, volunteered for countless other organizations, while also having a garden, quilting and making her own bread!  She goes nonstop and makes me look like a slug.  So, I thought about the Beatles song, "8 Days a Week," and made a music video for her retirement based on that.  You can watch it here:

Eric got in the spirit of it and also made a music video for me called "Striding Queen," based on the ABBA song "Dancing Queen."

Making music videos is a fun, creative outlet and I enjoy the process.  Hope you enjoy the final product!  Happy holidays to everybody and hope these videos will at least bring a smile to your face. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Winter Light in the Whites

I love winter cabin trips in the White Mountains National Recreation Area.  This gem is just a quick 30 minutes north of town and easily accessible.  We try to do several cabin trips a year.  We reserved Colorado Creek for Thanksgiving weekend but several weeks ago I saw that Eleazar Cabin was open this past Saturday so we booked that, too.  

We figured we could always walk to the cabin (it’s only 11 miles in) if need be.  But with the big dump of snow a couple of weeks ago and BLM getting out to groom after that, the trails were supposed to be in near perfect condition.  And they were! 

Trail conditions were quite good

Sure, our winters are cold and dark. By winter solstice we only have about 3.5 hours of daylight although closer to 6 hours if you include twilight.  But with the sun so low in the sky all day, the light is absolutely amazing.  Sunrises and sunsets last for hours.  Add in snow and it’s absolutely breathtaking.  It is spectacular to spend all day out in our winter light.

Since the trail report was good we took bikes instead of skis.  We got a late start since it would only be about a 2-hour bike in.  We had an incredible inversion.  Here in the interior, the cold air settles in the low spots.  There can often be a 30-degree temperature range from hilltops to low valleys and that was what we had on Saturday. It was 20F above with 10 mph winds at Wickersham Dome, but it was -5F when we got to the bottom of the Wickersham Wall.

About ready to drop down the Wickersham Wall to colder temperatures

Luckily, we had to climb a mile at the end to the cabin which warmed us up both by the hard climb and the temperature gradually rising.  And the cabin was still warm from the previous occupants. Score!  I stayed at the cabin getting the fire going and melting snow while Eric went out to get firewood.  What a typical division of labor!  I did go out and help collect firewood when my chores were done, just to let you know that I am a liberated woman!

Eric climbs up toward Eleazar's cabin

Eric collecting firewood

We had been to Eleazar’s on day trips but had never spent the night. It is a great spot. You are high on the hillside, overlooking the valley with expansive views.  At night, we could even see the glow from Fairbanks.  The cabin is nice and tight, and the wood stove worked great, so we didn’t get cold overnight and we also didn’t heat ourselves out of the cabin.  It was perfect! And the auroras were out, too.  It really was a wonderful get away weekend.




Failed aurora photo. I need a new phone.  A friend got awesome aurora photos using their iPhone 11 but this is the best I could do with my point and shoot

I have noticed that Eric and I have different styles of packing.  I’m fairly minimalist.  I don’t take much extra (except for lots of warm clothes) as a lighter bike means I can move faster, and I find it more enjoyable.  Eric is the opposite.  He takes panniers and figures that he might as well fill them.  He had 2 headlamps plus 2 lights for his bike just in case (even though we didn’t plan to bike at night).  He brought snowshoes just in case we needed them to get wood- we didn’t.  He brought his own saw (which was way better than the one at the cabin) and 2 large size bags of chips (even though we were only going for one night).  I don’t complain, though, because if he wants to bring all of that stuff, I get to benefit from it, but I would never do that on my own!  Plus, it slows him down enough that we are about the same speed.  I’m faster on the uphills but he is way faster going downhill especially on squirrelly snow. 

Notice the difference in how much stuff is on Eric's bike compared to mine above.

Lots of people were out in the Whites this weekend. We ran into friends both days.  Cathy, Tamara and Jeannette were coming out from Moose Creek Cabin on Saturday.  Ben caught up to us on his bike on his way to Caribou Bluff.  When I contacted him today, he said that he didn’t make it due to soft trails past Borealis Cabin.  He said it was - 25F down on Beaver Creek so he ended up bivouacking higher up on the ridge and then got up at 4 AM to bike back out.  He’s tougher than us.  We slept in until 8, had a leisurely breakfast and then headed out just as sunrise was happening.  

Fun to run into Tamara, Jeannette and Cathy

Fun to see Ben out there, too

All in all, it was a wonderful micro adventure, right in our back yard.  And next weekend, we get to head out to Colorado Creek Cabin. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to spend time in such amazing places.  

Same thing, in and out. Boring Strava, great in real life!