A Long Time Coming: The Return of Buffalo and Tough Cookie

Tough Cookie en route to a rocky island on frozen Lake Massabesic.

Tough Cookie en route to a rocky island on frozen Lake Massabesic.

“Yup, it’s colder out here then at home,” she says. Tough Cookie and I are standing just off-shore on frozen Lake Massabesic in Manchester. Our quest for the day is an intriguing series of small islands about a half mile away. At home, in wind cover, the day feels positively balmy compared to the last few weeks.

But out here, the wind comes howling down off the small ridges surrounding the city’s biggest lake, picks up speed over the ice and snow crystals and feels like tiny cold razors when it brushes exposed skin.

“Here, take this,” I say and hand her a fleece neck warmer to slide down over her head. She raises an eyebrow. The thing is just not terribly fashionable and is a sort of puke green color.

I’m amazed that we are at that point, the girl and I, where she is now (nearly) a teenager and there’s a sort of negotiation that goes on both between us and in her own head when it comes to such things. Well, she must be thinking, it is cold and that does look warm, and the hiker in me understands it makes sense to wear it, but then again, he’s telling me to wear it and I’m naturally inclined to resist adults and it is a hideous color and what if I meet somebody I know?

Powering over the ice!

Powering over the ice!

But today, I manage to prevail, and she makes a sort of “hmmm” grunting sound before sliding it over her head. And good thing too, because the wind hits us and we set our shoulders to the task, and once again, just like that, Buffalo and Tough Cookie are forging into an adventure.

Life sometimes takes no prisoners and neither of us ever claimed to be victims to Fortune’s wheel, but these past few months have challenged us in ways we could not have possibly have imagined. Pregnancy and birth. There is now a new eight week old hiker-to-be in our clan. School and family. Nothing is more important. The holidays. Well, we all know that can suck the life out of you.

But now, months after any major hike, I turn my exposed cheek away from the wind and look over at my long-time hiking partner. She leans into her snowshoes, her poles planting with firm crunches in the icy snow. I breath in the frosty air, frigid in my throat and lungs. Like two old friends with a shared understanding of each other, time apart means nothing when together again.

We beeline for the largest of the islands, a thin strip of poplar and pine maybe 20 feet wide, but a few hundred yards long. The ice snow is of different depths. In some places, the wind has scoured the lake nearly to the ice and we can walk over the rippled frozen water. In other places, we have to plow through one and two foot drifts.

We are far from alone today. The lake is a veritable playground this morning. Snowmobiles tear back and forth. Tiny, mobile bob houses dot the lake, the fishermens’ ice holes marked my large, plastic red and white bobbers held up by sticks. Other hikers – some on cross-country skis – explore the lake as well.

We reach the island and Tough Cookie finds a good spot for us to boost ourselves up to the “shore.” The snow on the island is very deep and we take turns falling into root and rock traps as we go. After a bit, we discover a huge boulder, and Janelle boosts herself up to the top. I break out the thermos for tea and we hang out a bit, away from the chilly breeze.

But ultimately, this island doesn’t hold our interest, so we scramble back down the other side and make our way across a channel to a tiny, rocky island strewn with boulders. “Whoa,” Janelle says, “look at this!”

There is a large boulder, just off the main shore, sticking about four feet above the ice. All around it, the water appears to have crashed in ripples against the rock. When the water began to freeze, it’s as though the ice lifted in waves against the rock. Adding to the interesting formation is the fact that the wind has scoured away the snow near the rock and we can get down on our hands and knees and, in some spots, look deeply into the lake through the clear, blue ice.

Tough Cookie shucks off her poles and scrambles around on the ice, sticking her legs out in front of her and sliding down the incline in the snow. “This is so cool!”

Checking out the cool ice formations.

Checking out the cool ice formations.

And for a few moments, she’s the little girl who began hiking with me four years ago; the kid who slowly began to develop a love of nature with big wonder and amazement. I wouldn’t change the incredible young woman that she has become, but it’s nice to see her engaged again in the moment as she slips off her glove and runs her fingers over the smooth ice. “Look at this, what is this?”

In the ice are tiny frozen bubbles, created perhaps by lapping water as it froze. Or maybe the fish and animals down below popped bubbles up. I have no clue and I tell her so.

“When you write about this, you should take a picture and ask people if they know,” she says. I’ve been a little concerned lately that as she gets older, she’ll be less inclined to appreciate my writing about our adventures. I’m thrilled that she doesn’t seem to mind.

In the car, on the way home, we drive by a section of the lake and spy two ice paragliders; the operators grip the wires, straining against the stiff, cold wind, their chutes wide open to the sky. They move fast along the icy snow. “I’ve never seen anything like that!” Janelle says.

I consider stopping and going back out on the ice. I think about asking her if she’d like to try that some day, but that would be a foolish question as I know the answer. Instead, I say, “Come on we’ll stop at a diner on the way home and I’ll buy you a hot chocolate.”

She nods, and grins, but her eyes stay for a long time on the colorful chutes against the bright, white clouds.

_______________________________________

MEET TOUGH COOKIE IN MERRIMACK ON MARCH 18!

MEET TOUGH COOKIE IN MERRIMACK ON MARCH 18!

Buffalo and Tough Cookie have a full spring of events planned and we’d love for you to join us!

Next up, we’ll be giving a presentation at Merrimack Public Library on Thursday, March 19 from 7-8:30pm.

The show is FREE! For more information on Buffalo and Tough Cookie or just Dan Szczesny events, stop by Dan’s website for all the latest news: Dan’s Event Schedule

 

 

Categories: Press and Promotion | 2 Comments

Connected on Monadnock, or Alone on the Mountain with Everyone

The summit of Mt. Monadnock is awash in humanity! We loved it!

The summit of Mt. Monadnock is awash in humanity! We loved it!

“We’re connected to these people,” I tell Tough Cookie. “All of us, right here, connected to everybody who came before and everybody that will come tomorrow.”

We’re sitting atop Mt. Monadnock on Columbus Day weekend and the most popular mountain in North America is living up to its mythology. There must be two hundred people at or around the summit. Tourists. Boston day-trippers. Tons of kids. Some are freezing in the October wind. Some are miserable and complain loudly. Some are taking pictures of the glorious foliage.

Some, like myself and the girl, just lean back in the sun, sip tea and people watch.

Janelle gives me one of her looks that says she’s not quite dismissing me and my philosophical fancies, but I better back it up quick or she’s walking away.

“Here, look at this carving.” Someone in 1920 carved their name in the rock. Rock graffiti like this is all over Monadnock, some of it over a hundred years old. “This guy sat right here, right where we are, nearly a hundred years ago, and saw and felt the same things we are today.”

She runs her fingers over the date in the rock. “And maybe he brought his kids up, just like I brought you up,” I continue on a roll. “And maybe someday you’ll bring your kids up.”

She perks up. “And we’ll bring your new baby up too!”

“Exactly! The past, the now, the future, we’re all connected, through nature, through this mountain.”

Tough Cookie begins the final climb to the summit.

Tough Cookie begins the final climb to the summit.

We sit for a while longer, watching the people. I felt awful at first, when we popped out of tree line and saw the huge pack of humanity at the summit. But I feel better now. This is nice, all these people – some unprepared, yes – but still we’re all here on this brilliant fall day connected in our pursuit of something bigger than us. Connected by Monadnock.

“My aunt climbed this mountain,” Janelle says. “And her friend.”

And for the next half hour we eat our PB&Js and chocolate chip cookies and play a game where we list all the people we know who have climbed this mountain; it’s a long, long list.

“Everyone climbs Monadnock,” she finally says settling our conversation.

A hundred years ago, John Muir mused that “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”

I think Muir would appreciate the crowd at the top of Monadnock, and be amused to realize how connected to him we are as well.

Tough "Rooster" Cookie surveys her hiking comrades from the summit.

Tough “Rooster” Cookie surveys her hiking comrades from the summit.

Categories: New England Hikes | 4 Comments

Welcome new friends, we hope you enjoyed Windows to the Wild and join us on our adventure!

An amazing day today, for many reasons. But here's the main one: tonight's repeat of Windows to the Wild crashed my phone in the outpouring of well wishes, book requests and support. I'll work on saying thank you to everyone in the days ahead. Tonight, I'll say thank you to my muse. Want to go Spider Monkey, this amazing adventure has been one of my life's joys!

An amazing day today, for many reasons. But here’s the main one: tonight’s repeat of Windows to the Wild crashed my phone in the outpouring of well wishes, book requests and support. If you enjoyed the show, please join us on Facebook, Twitter or here for more pics, info and upcoming hikes! I’ll work on saying thank you to everyone in the days ahead. Tonight, I’ll say thank you to my muse. Way to go Spider Monkey, this amazing adventure has been one of my life’s joys!

Categories: Press and Promotion | Leave a comment

New teaser for our Windows to the Wild show is out, and we’re only two days away from broadcast!

NHPTV photographer Joe Klementovich captured this monent atop Mt. Magalloway, during our hike with WIllem Lange.

NHPTV photographer Joe Klementovich captured this m atop Mt. Magalloway, during our hike with Willem Lange.

Just a quick note to start the week and remind our friends and fans that we’re only two days away from our appearance on Windows to the Wild with Willem Lange. Here’s a link to the teaser of the episode, which will appear on Wednesday, October 8 at 7:30pm on NHPTV. We can’t wait!

Click here for the teaser: Buffalo and Tough Cookie with Willem Lange

Categories: Press and Promotion | 2 Comments

Adventure is what we make it

Tough Cookie getting ready for her new adventure , being a big sister.

Tough Cookie in the nursery getting ready for her new adventure , being a big sister.

And just like that, we find ourselves celebrating the changing colors of the leaves. Tough Cookie and I have certainly come a long way, and now as the summer segues to autumn, and school work piles up, we find our roles and ambitions changing as well. The long days on the trail have made Janelle tougher and stronger. She’s joined her Cross Country Team at school, and has worked hard to fulfill her pronouncement to me earlier this year, that in 2014, she will run. Well, indeed she has.

This has meant less time on the mountains and more time for me, on the sidelines. Watching. Being proud. But, I’m ok with that.

This month will be the final round of presentations for Buffalo and Tough Cookie until 2015. And that’s been quite a journey for us as well. We’ll finish off the year with three big events, Pembroke, New Boston and Statham. Check the events listing above for your last chance to see us for a while. And don’t forget that we’ll appear on Windows to the Wild on NHPTV, next week, Wed., Oct. 8 at 7:30pm

But everything has a reason. And ours is simple. Janelle is working hard at school, and running. And I am getting ready for my own, next, enormous, challenging and wonderful, adventure. In December, we’ll welcome a new hiker into our odd, misfit family. And the twins have stepped up to the task of being older “siblings” to their coming “sister”

This journey has provided lessons too numerous to list at this point, but the one we all keep going back to is the most obvious, and the most difficult: Your family is the people who you love, and who love you back. So, this last weekend, we gathered with our family (they are our FAMILY, I don’t bother putting the word in quotes any more), to clean, paint and decorate the new nursery, and I could not have been any happier, or lost in wonder, then if I had stepped onto a mountain summit.

Aaron has already begun thinking about what instrument to teach the baby. And Janelle, well, I think it’s clear that it won’t be long before that little one is stepping up onto her own mountain summit, perhaps on Janelle’s back. We gather together. We learn and celebrate each other. Life itself is an adventure. Onward!

Categories: Updates and Plans | 1 Comment

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