Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter Work

Chimney system design

The barn continues to delight us and provide many opportunities to pursue pleasurable projects. Doug is fine-tuning the equipment arrangement and inventory while I am honing my power tool skills on a utilitarian bench. If successful, I will refine, replicate it for multiple indoor/outdoor applications. (Benches are particularly useful in New Hampshire where we are constantly needing a place to sit to put on or take off boots.) From the vantage point of the warm barn, the cleared building site inspires us as we view the changing weather and wildlife movements and imagine where, next spring, the house will begin to come together.

Meanwhile there is plenty of “winter work” to do inside with Doug on crutches and his torn Achilles tendon healing. (The injury occurred two weeks ago when he gave a Herculean push attempting to attach a snow plow to a truck. We are thankful that Dartmouth-Hitchcock and its expert medical team are just 25 minutes away.)

First order of winter work was conducted at the dining room table with graph paper, ruler, architect’s drawings, and stove specs. Doug designed the chimney system, and system is appropriately applied here.

Quadra-Fire fireplace insert

Two stoves—a Hearthstone Equinox in the living room, and a Quadra-Fire 3100 in the basement—as well as a Quadra-Fire wood fireplace insert in the dining room all share the chimney chase in a 3-D wonder of pipes and angles with tight clearances and strict codes. Hours of effort later (with stove expert Steve’s input), Doug worked it all out and his design will be incorporated into the architectural drawings.

Hearthstone soapstone stove
The plan is for the chimney framing to be built over the winter in the barn and be ready to be put in place in stages once the foundation is poured in spring. After the stove pipes are installed, a stone veneer will be applied. We’ve chosen Ashlar or Ledgestone cut in Vineyard Granite by Stoneyard from Corriveau-Routhier in Concord. The product is New England-sourced stone, cut thin. It weighs less than 15 pounds per square foot but given the dimensions of the chimney, which goes 24 feet up from the first floor, the structure needs to support 10,000 pounds. 

Vineyard granite in Ashlar cut
Other major winter work: nailing down the window selection. Doug has spent hours translating the architectural drawings into detailed window specs that we can send out to bid. The baseline product is Marvin Integrity, mostly casements but some picture, awning, and double-hung windows (basement and garage). After consultation with Marvin, we also will be getting bids from three Canadian companies that offer comparable products and manufacture all windows on a custom basis—Thermotech (Ottawa, Ontario), Fibertec (Concord, Ontario), and Accurate Dorwin (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Once we have a better idea of costs we'll decide whether to go with double or triple glazing (maybe a mixture).

Windows are a crucial element in our plan to build an energy-efficient mountainside house. We are striving to achieve a balance between sufficient ambient light and allowing the beauty of the landscape into the house while maintaining energy efficiency. The industry-accepted ratio of window area to floor area is a range of 15 percent to 18 percent. International building code requires just 6 percent while other codes require 15 percent for occupancy. Doug has crunched the numbers in every room and they run from highs of 23 and 21 percent (office and kitchen/dining areas) to a low of 11 percent in the mudroom/laundry, which makes sense when you factor in that the later has a northwest exposure.
Next up for bidding: the SIPs or structural insulated panels, standing seam roof, inside railing system, and granite countertops. Then we get to design the kitchen down to the last detail. What fun! I know many friends and family who have gone through kitchen renovations/redesigns, so please weigh in with your wisdom. Fill in the blanks: “I wish I had _____________” and “I would never again __________________“ and share in comments. Thanks in advance.

Friday, December 4, 2015

How to Furnish a Barn

Nobody ever complained that their barn was too big or their tractor too powerful.—Trish

Side of barn. Front has two more overhead doors.
(All photos by author except where noted.)

“What are you going to raise?” was the first question people asked upon learning we were building a barn on the New Hampshire home site. Given Doug’s long professional association with dogs and cats, they were expecting an aspirational leap to sheep, goats, alpaca, or at least some breed of exotic chicken. Sorry to disappoint, but sawhorses and bench dogs are as close as we will come to animals in the barn.

Doug organizing a workbench.

Horses at work.
Let’s start with the horses. We have four right now, designed and built by Doug, after a little research courtesy of YouTube videos. Nine pieces of 2 x 4s plus a 1 x 3 brace (nearly 26 feet of board) along with 50 screws make each horse very strong. With a pair of these versatile trestles Doug proceeded to cut lumber for two workbenches using the sawhorses to support plywood or 2 x 6s for legs. The sawhorses conveniently do double duty as a coffee table, coatrack, or pedestal to hold a something small for painting.

Bench dogs holes.
(Photo courtesy
The bench dogs have not yet taken up residence in the barn. When they do, there will be at least a pair of the clamp-like devices that will work with 18 holes in the workbench ¾ inch wide, evenly spaced; 12 in a parallel set and 6 perpendicular. They will be used to hold wood, working in tandem with router, drill, or hammer.
None of the barn critters need walking or feeding; some clean-up, however, is required.

Chickadee nest box ready
for occupancy.
Other furnishing for a well-appointed barn: table saw (I used it to build a bluebird nest box), miter saw (quick and handy for short cuts), drill press (bird house entrances), router (advanced wood working projects), vice (hey, everybody has one or to or they aren’t human), and circular saw, just for starters. And, of course, the full complement of shelves organized into departments that echo hardware store aisles—paint, electrical, automotive, plumbing, cleaning, lumber, gardening, and hand tools, hand tools, hand tools.
I can see myself getting into these power tools. For starters, I will be applying my beginner skills with the table saw and miter saw to building a bench.
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to my own new power tool, on its way for my birthday—a heavy duty sewing machine. It may not be able to handle wood but it is supposed to be able to rip through, wool, fleece, and denim, all necessary to keep warm in a barn on a mountainside.
P.S. First snow on the mountain; two inches yesterday.
View from behind barn toward Mount Cardigan.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gold Tumbles and Falls, a poem

Photos and poem by author.

Every day you do
hold upright brown, green
nature scented, earth anchored
clean the air
senator of ecology receiving
no ooh ahh thanks

Then snap all attention
to glorious grandeur
exploding phosphorescence
calling all children
former and present

Commerce thanks you
but where was the admiration
when it was slow growing
steady green no traffic
team appreciation lagging

Why when in dying
time turns gold
tumbles and falls only now counted
yet short in the end
like last year’s
New Hampshire primary also ran.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Plow, Loader, Grapple, Winch

Checking out a Kabota in West Lebanon.

New England’s famed Yankee ingenuity and a do-it-yourself attitude thrives in this neck of the New Hampshire woods. So much so that I’ve nicknamed Canaan can-do country. The canning section of the hardware store or supermarket is more than a gratuitous seasonal display. It is the necessary supplies for many to put away the year’s garden production—tomato sauce, pickles, or sauerkraut (my fave). Three-quarters of the vehicles on the road (and at Papa Z’s convenience store) are pickup trucks, and for good reason. You might have to haul a pallet of pellets for your stove, lime for the garden, or stones for a driveway repair.

Then there is that necessary other vehicle. Not a luxury sedan or even an ATV, the work horse replacement, a tractor.

“You gotta getta Kabota,” we heard repeatedly from our new New Hampshire friends. It had poetry to it. Doug didn’t argue, although he did check out the competition and run a cost analysis before settling on the New Hampshire gold standard for tractors. Kubota, which began as a Japanese metal foundry in 1890, developed a Japanese farm tractor in the 1960 and entered the US tractor market in 1972, filling the need for compact high-performance four-wheel-drive tractors.

Doug coming down the driveway.
(All photos by author except where noted.)

Comfy seat. New tractor smell. 
Never did I imagine in my entire life that I would get excited about a tractor. But I am. Striking orange paint, comfy seat, and lots of power controls. But, more important, power to move things—rocks, stumps, trees, dirt, mountains. Okay, not mountains, but definitely large mounds.

There is no end to the number of implements one can purchase for a tractor. One major company’s 110-page catalog offers an array of mowers, cutters, seeders, scrapers, diggers, grinders, rollers, spreaders. rakes, seeders, and snow pushers. Financial prudence dictates the limit of implements one purchases as a tractor novice. And so we come to loader, bucket, plow, grapple, winch, and the basics of tractor mechanics.

Grapple attached to loader.
The loader is the huge set of arms in the front that accommodates other implements to move things horizontally or vertically or both. You attach a plow (a snow pusher in tractor talk) to the front to move snow and pile it up. Or you use a bucket attached to the loader to move a heap of rocks. The grapple, also attached to the loader,  gives your tractor a pair of thumbs in the front so you can secure some large object like a log and move it where you want it instead of where the storm put it. All those implements (and many others) go on the front.
The power take-off or PTO on the back uses a drive shaft to convert spinning power to other motion and handles a multitude of implements—cutters, spreaders, tillers, backhoes, and in our instance a winch. The winch (a Wallenstein Bush Pilot, made in Canada) will allow Doug to pull a log or fallen tree out of the woods with 135 feet of 3/8 inch steel cable and a load capacity of 8,000 pounds.

Big guy. Serious pulling power. 
We just may have a county fair tractor-pulling champion in the making. See you in North Haverhill next July!  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Getting Really Into the Wood—Part 1

The name for this blog came to me in a flash. We were going to be building a timber frame house on a wooded mountainside in New Hampshire—wood timbers, wooded site. We were going to be getting into the wood in a big way. (As a side benefit, there is no possible copyright infringement with any Hollywood mouse movie with woods in the name.)

April 2015, after some logging, before excavating. (All photos by author.)

From the beginning we knew we wanted a house that had a significant open space—no walls between kitchen, dining, living areas (note, not rooms). This concept lends itself well to post and beam construction with square posts held together by metal screws, bolts, and brackets. We discovered New Hampshire, however, is a land where post and beam has a niche category all its own: timber framing.

Etna, N.H., library addition designed by Andrea Warchaizer.
Timber frame construction was very prominent in the Northeast, especially for barns, up until the late 1800s, but was abandoned in the industrial age as too time-consuming a building method. Timber frames are the more authentic, close ancestor of wood post construction with the complete framework of hand-crafted (with power tools) timber posts and beams of various wood species secured with oak pegs and mortise-and-tenon joinery.

We were fortunate (after one brief architect mis-step) to find Andrea Warchaizer (Springpoint Design), a fantastic architect who works almost exclusively with timber frames and is an active member of the Timber Framers Guild of North America, which was formed in 1984 as an educational nonprofit. Andrea earned her chops as a designer at Benson Woodworking Company, working with many talented framers; and her architecture degree at Yale. Tedd Benson is credited by some with reviving the “ancient” craft of timber frame in the United States with the founding of his company in the mid-1970s.

Here’s the skinny on timber frame versus conventional stick frame construction from
“Whereas light frame construction includes many slender sticks of wood simply cut to length and nailed together, a timber frame structure uses fewer, much larger members, shaped at their connections to lock together. . . . Today’s timber-framed house combines the best of the old techniques with the advantages of the new for structural integrity and energy efficiency.”
N.H. Timber frame home: Andrea Warchaizer;
 Timber-Frame Workshop.
Andrea did an expert job of taking Doug’s design to its next architectural dimension. What was worked out on graph paper worked in CADCAM. Armed with drawings for the timber frame and stick frame adjuncts, we sought out the craftsman who would make the timber frame happen, interviewing numerous throughout New Hampshire. When we conducted site visits and met with the timber framers’ clients we found them all most gracious in opening up their homes. They seemed to have formed deep ties with their framers, having gone through a long creative process together to achieve a common goal.  After a competitive bidding process and some soul-searching, we chose Tom Page's Timber-Frame Workshop of Alstead, N.H., to be our partners.

Tom and Doug with cut timbers for barn.

We nailed down a few more details with Tom and last week he ordered 250 pieces of Douglas fir from a company near Port Orford, Oregon. Major milestone! Lots is going to be happening—in Oregon and New Hampshire—over the next several months.

Fine grain  and warm color of Douglas fir.
Douglas fir (named after Scottish botanist and explorer David Douglas) is a beautiful and strong large conifer (up to 250 feet tall) grown in a small area of the American northwest. We are going to be getting really into the Doug fir!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Grass: The Down and Dirty

Last fall, before the logging. (All photos by author.) 
In our vision of a dream home, there is no lawn, but native trees, shrubs, moss, and wildflowers, au naturel. Having lived in New Jersey for decades and being busy professional folk, we paid plenty to landscapers to weekly whack away at grass and weed with multiple loud machines. The pleasure of a newly mown lawn is fleeting; the impact on the checkbook is not. Our no-lawn goal seemed like a no brainer, its New Hampshire and we have lots of trees. Well, maybe too many trees. Trees block views and a few had to go.

Painting by Canadian artist Emily Carr.

The first time that logger Steve came to cut we
were very conservative—leave this tree, this tree, this one, don’t even think of cutting over there (color-coded surveyors’ tape came in handy). As we got to see the lay of the land we discovered a surveyor’s map (scale 1” to 100’) can’t reveal the undulating micro slopes. To clear a swath for the barn that didn’t entail a walk-out basement, the logger was called back, plans were changed, more trees cut. Result: the barn is on level land and now we also have lots of beautiful bare earth we need to protect from erosion. Excavator Dave says to throw a little conservation mix seed on it; it’s excellent for erosion control and attracting deer to graze. Again, no problem. It’s fall; we’ll just go to the local hardware store and pick some up. Easier said than done.

Home site will be in front of trees in foreground and a little to left. 
Canaan Hardware is sold out; West Lebanon Tractor Supply Company (TSC) on the phone says they are sold out. We head out on a quest. It’s like we are seeking rare tickets for a Josh Grobin concert; we want it! And yet there is no conservation mix to be had. Resourceful New Englanders that we are (albeit recent ones, my stock is Pennsylvanian, Doug hails from Canada) we will make our own—a cuvee of grass seeds to approximate conservation blend (35% red fescue, 25% tall fescue, 15% annual ryegrass, 12% perennial ryegrass, 10% Kentucky bluegrass, and 3% white clover). For comparison, the formula  of the more easily procured contractor’s mix is 30% red fescue, 30% annual ryegrass, 30% perennial ryegrass, and 10% tall fescue.

There seems to be a lot of hype in grass seed these days. High-end seed sold in Home Depot (HD) as high-performance is 95% NOT seeds but enhancements (fluff?) that hold moisture and supposedly help the seed take hold. Yet another seed package on an adjacent shelf for a similarly expensive variety touts there are no additives. Confused? I am.

Meadow seeded. 
Here is what we end up with from available offerings at TSC and HD. Two parts HD Contractors Mix (perennial and annual rye grass, no clover, no bluegrass), one part TSC Farm & Ranch Pasture Mix (fescue, rye grass, Kentucky bluegrass, clover), and one part TSC straight clover. There is not a Cabela’s within 100 miles but online I find Imperial Whitetail Clover brand seed, which sells for $44 for four pounds, which is way more than we pay for good steak.

P.S. Bear evidence. Recent photo from night camera nearby.
We sow and wait, which shouldn’t be too long; some of the seeds germinate in as few as three days. With warm weather and gentle rain, we hope Mother Nature is hanging out in our corner of New Hampshire and will smile on our patch of mountainside. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Using Air to Keep Air Out

New sign courtesy of neighbor Elba.
(All photos by author except where noted.)

Waiting for delivery of barn garage doors and insulation. 
Going into this major building project, I knew that what I didn’t know about construction could fill volumes. My eyes glazed over at the mention of R values. I was much more excited about design and textures and colors. (Don’t get me started on colors names—Lighthouse Red, Olde Copper, Moonlight Sonata.) R values were, well, just numbers.

But, nothing can inspire more than saving money, and that is what R values are all about. So I promised to boost my insulation intelligence quotient in time for the big game (the House). As detailed in the previous post, were are now at the Barn stage, refining our contracting knowledge and skills.

Every surface of a building presents an opportunity to keep air out/keep air in. In the instance of a windswept New Hampshire mountainside, most of the time the objective is keep cold out and warm in; the opposite would apply in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for example. Building materials such as gypsum board or metal act as thermal bridges and allow heat transfer, wasting energy.

Science guy that he is, Doug explained how insulation and R values work. Oddly (to me) air is a poor conductor of heat—and a great insulator. That’s why bulky Irish wool sweaters keep you warm as does layering clothing. The idea is to trap air and keep it from moving around. Heat can flow in one direction only—from warm space to a less warm one. (Technically, cold is the absence of heat.) Insulating materials usually depend on air for their ability to block air exchange—think Eskimo igloos, thatched roofs, or straw houses.

With R Values, the higher the number the better. R values are numerical expressions of a material’s ability to conduct heat. R = 1/U where U= the amount of heat that passes through a square foot of a material in an hour when the temperature difference on either side is one degree.

Consider the R values of these building materials (per inch thickness):
Brick                                                   = .8 (pretty pitiful)
Plywood                                             = .47 (even worse)

Versus insulation:
Closed cell cellulose spray foam        = 6 to 6.5
expanded polystyrene.                       = 6 to 8 (see April 8 post on SIPs)
Styrofoam                                           = 3.5 to 5.4
Loose cellulose                                   = 3.2 to 3.3
Fiberglass bats                                   = 3.1

What’s your favorite energy source—hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear? Our pick is none of those. The best energy is the energy we don’t use. And so we are investing in insulation, lots of insulation in preparation for -20F snow days.

Rough electrical done. 
The barn has double-glazed LoE argon R 3.6 windows sealed with spray foam around the perimeter, Green Gaurd-taped seams, blown-in R 49 cellulose ceiling/attic, and R 21 batts in the walls. The concrete floor, built on 6 inches of crushed stone, has 2 inches of “blueboard” insulation. And, our saving grace to keep us warm working in the barn—the Enerzone 2.3 wood stove, which will consume locally sourced wood harvested by home-cooked meal-fueled manpower (with a chain saw assist). Meanwhile, I will be busy knitting wool hats and mittens. 
Enerzone photo courtesy  

P.S. The road to the road to Tug Mountain was paved this week by NH DOT in record time (compared to another state that starts in New). 2.5 miles in two days!

Smooth road in time for leaf peepers and winter.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Raising a Barn—Part 1

Trusses all in place. (All photos by author.)

Staging our escape from New Jersey took years of planning. Other people might choose a different route to a similar destination but for Doug and me, planning is in our DNA; it’s half the fun (and we do know how to have other fun, too).

Side of barn away from house and Mount Cardigan. 

Choosing a state, choosing a town, and finding a property was leisurely, if not ardently pursued. (See April 23 blog post, “A little background, part 2,” for a synopsis.) After home site preparation and excavation, building a barn was the next step and made sense to us as a prelude to building a house. Both involve lots of details and expense but the consequences of error are a little different in magnitude and any missteps made might be easier to live with when the building (the barn) is not the place you envision spending the rest of your life. 
View of mountain before windows.

Overhead door frame being put in place.

Early on, Doug assumed the mantle of general contractor and he and I met with many tradesmen (usually over coffee or lunch at Papa Z’s) and reviewed plans for the house and the barn. And, while not explicitly stated, the construction of the smaller and less-complex building gave us an opportunity to “test drive” some (but not all) of the tradespeople who would be working on the house beginning next year. The notable exceptions, the very important craftsmen not involved in the barn—timber framer, plumber, mason, and standing-seam roofer—we will not audition via the barn project but instead will evaluate their work in situ and through recommendations.

Roof trusses lifted into place by crane. 

Richie and Paul securing roof trusses. 

Once Doug designed the barn, we turned it over to Mike at LaValley Building Supply in West Lebanon where the pencil sketch was refined by an offsite draftsman. Doug and I, guided by Mike, chose products and colors—type of trusses, roof material, siding, windows, garage and pedestrian doors. A materials list and price quote was generated. The drawing went through several critical iterations. The Alaska slab foundation was changed to frost wall, and the design was flipped and reversed to suit the site as excavation more fully revealed the land’s contours. We had time, waiting for road postings to lift and for snow to clear, and the process took place over the course of nine months with regular visits from New Jersey.

Roof sheathing being fastened
Like so much in life, there is much more than meets the eye. When done (and it is not quite), the barn will appear a simple, cohesive whole. But the sheaf of invoices from LaValley’s attests to the many layers of specialized product that go into modern, energy-efficient construction. Consider this partial list: blue board, assembled trusses, Raindrop house wrap, gable vents, Parallam headers, drip edge, gable trim, ridge cap, sealer tape, roofing under layment, Grace ice and water shield, Advantech sheathing, soffit, drip cap, flashing, strapping spruce, PVC trim, CraneBoard board & batten vinyl siding, metal roofing, Paradigm windows. And that doesn’t include electrical outlets, switches, lights, doors, insulation, shee trock, or the tons of stone and concrete for the foundation.

Barn metal roof on; ready for siding. View from behind where house will be. 
Dave, Richie, and Paul did a great job. Thanks. The canoes will be safely stored for the winter and Doug and I have a place to hang out on the mountain and watch the storms (and wildlife) go by. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Iconic New England: Rocks, Stones, and Walls

Orange-colored granite on Mt. Cardigan in Orange.
(All photos by author.)
During his recent work on our Tug Mountain property, excavator Dave unearthed many large rocks, which he considerately moved into various piles for later use. He called to our attention one hefty rectangular granite one that could become part of the front step. He moved another, larger, irregular-shaped boulder weighing two tons that was in the middle of where the garage is to be located. Now it is 10 feet behind it. We will be leaving untouched a huge, pyramid-shaped rock that, like an iceberg, undoubtedly has more to it than meets the eye. Doug, meanwhile, is looking forward to having some spare time (and a tractor) to do some of his own rock moving to refurbish a few of the old stone walls that are noted on surveys and mark historic property boundaries.
The pyramid rock is staying put

Two-ton rock that was moved.
Stone wall on Canaan Street in Canaan.
People in New Hampshire take their rocks seriously; they are part of the landscape and the heritage. Stone walls date to the pre-Revolutionary War period when settlers, aided by oxen, cleared land to grow crops and raise livestock. The stones and rocks they unearthed were unceremoniously dumped or tossed into piles near the edge of the field. Only later were the walls re-laid more deliberately, with craftsmanship and artistry.

Stone walls can be classified by the degree of care that went into their creation— dumped, tossed, single, double, or laid—according to stone wall expert Robert M. Thorson, a geologist at the University of Connecticut. Most of New England’s stone walls are tossed walls, according to Thorson, and were built between 1775 and 1825. Today, stone walls are seen by many as ruins of early American civilization, cultural resources worthy of protection.

Same stone wall as above, in fall, looking toward Vermont.
In his poem, “Mending Walls,” Robert Frost writes of a stone wall on his Derry, NH, farm: “Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down.” But in New Hampshire today, don’t even think of stealing stones from that roadside pile you admire. It is a crime to remove those genuine Colonial New England treasures; one that carries “treble damages.”

Note: I consulted several classic resources, including Doug, to determine the difference between rocks and stones. The consensus is that stones are smaller and smoother than rocks. As Doug aptly said: “Rocks are what you can’t move; stones you can make into a wall,” 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Whites and Greens from Orange

From Cardigan looking north northwest. (All photos by author except where noted.)

When I reached the summit of Mount Cardigan, hiking it the first time with D two years ago, I recalled feeling as if I was on the top of the world. I experienced the same sensation atop Ben Nevis in Scotland, Great Britain’s highest peak with views to the clouds below. The similarities end there, however, as Ben Nevis was a July summer cable car ride to 4,409 feet and Cardigan was a well-earned 1.5 mile climb to 3,155 feet. Spectacular views, available only on foot, have special rewards.

Cardigan’s treeless granite top in Orange, New Hampshire, affords 360-degree views—towards the White Mountains in the north; the Green Mountains of Vermont to the west; Newfound, Squam, and Winnipesaukee Lakes to the east; and the Sunapee area (Lake and ski) to the south. Who could ask for anything more on a nearly clear summer day? The temperature and wind can surprise (similar to much-higher peaks) and even in summer a jacket and warm hat may be required.

Same place, two years earlier. 

On that June 16, 2013, hike, we were just becoming familiar with the Orange/Canaan area that we had chosen as the principal player in our New Jersey exit strategy. We had been scouting real estate remotely from Jersey, and in person on regular visits north, for more than a year. We had just made an offer to purchase land on Tug Mountain, opposite Cardigan, but were not certain that the deal, which involved an estate and multiple lawyers in two states, would come to fruition. When we gazed from Cardigan toward the few houses on Tug, we did not know that two years later we would be looking at our own swath of paradise—with a view of Cardigan.
The homestead, third clearing from left.

Fast forward to last week when we climbed Cardigan again. Early on an August Friday we left our car in the trailhead parking lot, one of only three, and started our climb up 1,200 feet on the well-maintained (with log staircases and wooden bridges) and popular trail. Hours later when we descended, the parking lot was jammed full with 35 cars.

From “Old Baldie’s” top we got to see what the homestead looks like from above (and two miles away). I imagined how, a year from now, people will be looking at our home from Cardigan. It is humbling to think of living among such raw, majestic beauty—the 5,655 acres of Cardigan Mountain State Park our prominent neighbor. We vow to be guardians of nature, minimally (and aesthetically) altering what the Maker has entrusted.

Ben Nevis panorama by Leo Hoogendijk; Creative Commons license.