Monday, May 26, 2014

Hiking: Mount Monadnock

It's Memorial Day here in the US. It was Victoria Day in Canada last weekend, but of course the US doesn't celebrate the birth of British monarchs, so I went to work and waited for this weekend for an extra day off. Honestly, I worked today too, but only my Canadian job, since my Albertan co-workers were in their offices at the University of Alberta.

However, I digress.

Today is Memorial Day, and to take advantage of the three day weekend Andrew and I went hiking on Saturday. Originally I'd hoped to go to the Appalachians, but they're a three hour drive away (much like how the Rockies are three hours away from Edmonton). In around-about way (Googling hikes in Vermont) I discovered another potential hike site: Mount Monadnock, which according to their website is the third most visited mountain in the world. It's located in New Hampshire, but it's only an hour and a half drive away.

As the weekend grew closer we hummed and hawed over whether or not we should go. The forecast was iffy (chance of rain), and the last thing we wanted was to be stuck halfway up the mountain in a downpour. In the end we decided the actual chance of rain was low enough to warrant going, and if it turned out to be cloudy, it would make better conditions for hiking anyway. A blazing sun leads to lots of sunscreen, and sweating.

So, the hike. We parked at Gilson Pond, and started out on the Birchtoft path. From the trailhead, the distance to the summit is 3.4 miles/5.5 kilometers, with a beginning altitude of 1300 feet/396 meters.
The trail started out reasonably easy. After 1.25 hours we'd covered 3 kilometers and were thinking to ourselves, there was no way this trail is going to take us 5-6 hours to complete (what the staff at the check in booth had told us).
The lovely Andrew, out on the trail.
Me, of course. I downed 1.5 liters of water during the course of the hike.
Although all the snow had melted off the mountain, there was still a lot of water on the trails. It made the return trip extra tricky having to be careful not to slip.
A look out point, a little over half way up the mountain.
The last trail crossing pointing us to the summit (or on to another trail).
The summit of Mount Monadnock off in the distance. Once we got close to the tree line we had to follow carins to guide us to the top.
At the top of the mountain, elevation 3,165 feet/965 metres. It took us 2.5 hours (minus 15 minutes for a lunch stop where we each devoured half a loaf of bread).
The view from the top. It was cloudy, but we could see enough around us to make it worthwhile. We stayed for fifteen minutes to rest our feet and refuel, then headed back down.
An example of the steep rock face we had to climb. I thought it was fun to have to scrabble up--albeit challenging.
I would definitely go back if we had the chance, maybe camp there for a night or two and check out some of the other trails, or rent a canoe or kayak.



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Short story project: Wrap up

The final installment I presented last week was not, in fact, where Claire's story ends; however, I don't intend to spend the next year posting 500 word sections of the manuscript...never mind that I never managed to finish the story. The manuscript as I left it is 47,000 words long. I don't remember the reasons why I abandoned it, probably one at least being that I didn't know how to finish it off. It's also possible that other stories were pressing at me as I've been bouncing between various new projects and my old standards of Cimwai's Bay (and its sequel), and The Cure (and its sequels), for several years.

At the point of which I left off, Claire does not leave without Jason. She's too shook up from her narrow escape that she doesn't feel capable of taking off and instead returns to his glamorous penthouse apartment. Over the next several days they plan to scope out, and break into the Homian Power research facility which is located on an island just off the shoreline of the city. I think I managed to get them in and out of that experience (narrowly, of course), but that's where I ran out of steam. I had some intentions of re-introducing Claire to her mother, but never figured out the final showdown between her and the Homain Power, powers that be.

Claire's story came up out of the idea to simply write a story about a girl who could fly (much like how Ava came about from wanting to write about a girl whose hair turned green). I made her a librarian since that is my background as well, and she lives in a city that somewhat resembles Toronto (although when I thought of the library where she works, I more of thought of the Milner in Edmonton than any location in the GTA). At one point I attempted to turn the manuscript from an adult read, to young adult tale, reducing Claire's age to that of a university student, and omitting her habit of smoking (there's still sex, however).

What's next? My blog will probably go back to a casual record of my life in Somerville for the time being. I don't promise any consistent posting schedule since my free time, or more specifically the free time with which I feel like writing, is pretty scare at the moment. I'm currently balancing two part-time jobs, and thus working more hours than I did when I was full time at the University of Alberta. For writing? I'm in the process of writing a straight-up romance about a circus (involving a number of aerial performers, of course). It's actually in the editing phase and I've made a very laid-back goal of trying to submit it to a publisher by the fall. We'll see if I make it.

If you haven't read my short story project, but are now curious, you can head back to Part 1, by clicking here.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 17

I strode across the lobby with as much confidence as I could muster.
“What’s your hurry?” Bailey caught up to me, and clamped his hand onto my shoulder.
“It’s getting late.” I eyed the hand anchoring me to my spot. I couldn’t tell from the tone of his question whether he was after me as a woman, or as an illegal intruder.
“It’s not even nine.” Baliey said. “There’s no one else here—and I know there are couches in the executive offices.” His hand drifted down my back and rested on my butt.
I could, as suggested, retire to one of the executive offices, but where would it end? What was I willing to do to make sure I walked out of this building alone? What would happen if I said no upfront? Did Bailey really believe me that I was a new employee at Homian Power, or was he jerking my chain, trying to get as much out of me as he could?
“I’d better not.” My voice cracked. “It would be just my luck to get caught in my new bosses’ office.” I searched blinding with my hand, my arm twisted behind me, for the elevator button. I found it.
“Hm.” Bailey removed his hand from my backside and crossed his arms over his chest.
The elevator chimed and the doors swooshed open. I smiled as I backed in. “Maybe some other time then, when you’re no longer on the bottom rung.” The guard’s voice didn’t ring with humour or enthusiasm.
            “A date then,” I said as I pressed the button for the main floor, then held down the one to close the door. Once I was alone, and the elevator was on its way down, I sunk to my knees. I remained that way, curled up tight for the whole of the ride. My head hung forward, my shoulders hunched as I tried to get a handle on my breathing. When the elevator halted on the ground floor, I forced myself to my feet and staggered across the lobby and out onto the street. I stumbled all the way to the alley without realizing where my body was taking me.
            “Clare?” He had waited for me. “Claire, are you all right? Did you get it?”
            I could sense that Jason was close, although I couldn’t see him. It was too dark…and my sight had gone blurry. Then a pair of strong, warm hands grabbed me by my forearms as my knees gave out, pulling me into a hug, rather than allowing me to sink to the pavement. I hadn’t been held so close by someone in years. Not since my father’s funeral, and my mother had said goodbye to me at the train station.
            “Clare, are you all right? Are you hurt? You’re shaking.” Jason attempted to pull me tighter to him, but I shoved him away with as much strength as I could summon.
            “I am never, ever doing something like that again.” I tossed the thumb drive at Jason. It bounced off his chest, then clattered to the ash fault. “I want no further part in this. Don’t ever call me, or wait for me at the library again or I’ll call the police. Goodbye.” I kicked off my shoes, abandoning them in the alley, then took a series of running steps to get myself into the air. It required all my remaining energy to take flight, maybe it was the excess adrenaline that helped me manage it, but I was aloft, I was free, and I was going to crash as soon as I reached my apartment.

The end!

Well, not really the end of the whole story, but the end of this part of the story.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 16

I clicked around on the desktop icons, but there wasn’t anything immediately apparent that might lead me to the desired information. If this was my computer, I’d keep important work numbers and addresses in a spreadsheet. Opening Excel I scanned over the recently opened files list.
“Bingo,” I whispered. The second file from the top was labelled “Homian Power Site Addresses.” There were multiple sites? That could make things tricky. I checked my time: it was passed eight-thirty. I’d been in the building for twenty minutes already. Would Jason actually leave like I’d told him to, or would he wait in the alley all night? Worse, would he attempt to storm Homian Research in search of me?
I removed the only other item hiding in my pocket, a thumb drive, and plugged it into the computer. In under a minute I’d made a copy of the file, and was giving myself another five to see if there was anything else useful before I logged out and made my escape. I saved a couple more files to my drive just for the heck of it, returned it to my pocket, then sat back in the chair and sighed. Had it really been that simple? I probably shouldn’t relax just yet. I stood, straightened my skirt then walked toward the glass door, breathing easier than I had all night. As I reached to push the door open it swung wide from the other side. In front of me, blocking my way was Bailey Cousins.
“Good evening, Ms. Banks,” he said with a grin bordering on menacing spread across this face. “Nice to see you again.”
I smiled. “Nice to see you too, I was just on my way out.” Was he going to detain me?
“How long did you say you’ve been working with Homian Power?” Bailey leaned against the door frame, his arm stretched over head, totally blocking the way.
“Just a few days.” I was the mouse trapped in a cats clutches. I swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump forming in my throat, then leaned in a little closer to Bailey. Hopefully I didn’t appear as robotic as I felt.
“Hm.” Bailey, who was easily over six feet tall looked down at me. “Funny thing—I checked the building personnel files and I couldn’t find a Serena Banks anywhere on the list.”
Fuck. I had to suppress the chill that tingled at my spine, as I desperately tried to think of a reasonably lie. “I’m recently divorced. All my ID is still under my husband’s name, Parker.”
“Recently divorced?” Bailey reached out and played with the collar of my coat.
My blood turned to ice. How was I going to get myself out of here?
I stepped even closer to Bailey, so that my body was pressed up against him. “Very recently.” Then I slipped passed the guard and squeezed through the doorway into the elevator lobby. I had turned, looking over my shoulder. “Perhaps I’ll see you around sometime?”
To be continued...look for more of the story on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 15

“Sorry, Miss.” The man paused as he looked me over from head to toe. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”
I smiled again. “I’m new.” I tugged at the end of my braid, curling the end around my index finger. “I forgot a file I need to work from home.”
“Just started and already putting in overtime.” The guard chuckled as he leaned in close to me, reaching around me to press the elevator button. His face was inches from mine.
I laughed. “You know how it is, start a new job and you have to work twice as hard as everyone else until you’re no longer on the bottom rung.” I carefully stepped around the man, giving him a little curtsy that I hoped looked cute, then strode toward the double doors of Homian’s offices. “Have a good night.”
“You too,” the guard said as the elevator doors swung open. “What was your name again?”
I pivoted, almost loosing balance on my high heels. My cheeks flared hot, but hopefully the man couldn’t see from his place across the room. “Serena Banks.” I flashed my biggest smile yet as I delivered the name of my first year dorm roommate.
“Bailey Cousins.” Mr. Cousins delivered a crisp salute in my direction then stepped onto the elevator.
I released a huge gush of air once the elevator readout showed its occupant was travelling downward. One obstacle down, now I had to actually get into the offices. Was the card of a girl who’d disappeared weeks ago really going to let me in? They must have deactivated it, or put a flag on it to alert someone if it was used. Turning to the doors once more I reached for the card reader fixed to the right side of the entrance. I swiped the card. The light on the side of the readers flashed yellow then beeped red. I peeked over my shoulder to see if the elevator was still on its way down—it was. I swiped the card a second time, slower, making sure the whole card passed through the reader. The flight flickered yellow, and this time it glowed green.

Relief flooded me as I grabbed the handle of the door, then accidentally flung it open so hard it crashed into the wall behind it. My heart beat slowly slightly, at least so it no longer felt like it was going to leap from my chest. I might be able to do this after all.
I pulled the slip of paper that held my instructions and passcodes out of my pocket. I was to search the main administrative computer. When I looked up from the paper I realized the enormous glass-topped desk in front of me bore a brass plate that read “reception.” This must be it. I rounded the corner, plopped myself into the ergonomically shaped chair, then giggled the mouse to wake up the computer. The password screen popped up and I carefully typed in the twelve digit code I’d been given. After another whirr from the hard drive, the user settings loaded—I was in.
To be continued,...look for the next installment on Thursday, May 8th, 2014.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 14

I set my gaze straight ahead and walked toward the open sidewalk.
“Claire?” Jason voice sounded uncertain, almost choked.
I paused and pivoted, hands on my hips. “Yeah?”
I shrugged. “Don’t mention it.” I turned and walked swiftly so he couldn’t interrupt me again, disrupt my resolve to get this job over and done with.
When I reached the mouth of the alley I stopped, and peaked over my shoulder. If Jason was still there, he’d hidden himself well. I rounded the corner of the tower and breathed deeply, trying to keep my heart rate under control—innocent people weren’t flushed and out of breath when they showed up at the office late on a Friday night. I would have loved a cigarette, but I left them at home.
The walk to the entrance of the Sears Tower lasted long enough for me to blink. Despite my efforts, by the time I rested my hand on the cross bar of the revolving doors I was near hyperventilation. I took another long, slow inhalation, lifted my chin parallel to the ground, and strode through. If you acted like you were supposed to be somewhere you weren’t, people would be less suspicious of you.
The elevators were on the opposite side of the lobby, straight across from the main doors. As I crossed the cavernous lobby, my heels clacked against the marble floors, making such a racket I wouldn’t have been surprised if a security guard would pop up out of nowhere and arrest me. I reached the elevators unscathed and jabbed the call button. A moment later the elevator arrived. Selecting the twenty-second floor the doors slid closed and I was on my way up.
Like the walk to the front doors, the elevator ride was alarmingly short. When the doors swooshed open I was able to take one stride before I froze.
“Good evening.” A man dressed in a khaki shirt and pants blocked my way to the Homian office door, which I could see behind him. He looked like a security guard, but he also could have been the man I saw fire on Jason that night a week ago—I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t gotten a good look at him, and hopefully he hadn’t gotten a good look at me either.

“Good evening.” I said, stepping again, bringing myself within arm’s reach of the guard. “You scared me.” I smiled broadly, and fluttered my eyelids for good measure.
To be continued...look for new content on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014.