A Year of Firsts — The Fun Never Stops

At last count I’ve climbed 4,296 mountains, cut down 6,387 trees for firewood and planted 11,091 replacement seedlings, kayaked 13,417 rivers, run 96,216 miles, moved 147,281 rocks and been bitten by 2,866,802 mosquitoes — but who’s keeping score?

The mosquito part gets pretty old, but I never get tired of revisiting my favorite stomping grounds. As many times as I’ve scaled Mount Washington or paddled to Fishers Island it’s always an adventure.

Still, I’ve always been eager to explore new horizons, so when I look back at 2012 I can take particular pleasure in some of the fun activities I tried the first time.

Last September I competed in my first triathlon, and while I’ll never be an Olympian I did manage to earn a bronze medal in my division.

A decade or so ago I swam with a friend about 3 miles from Groton Long Point to Fishers Island. Last summer I joined a group that swam from Fishers Island to Noank.

I also kayaked with two friends for the first time in one of the most scenic waterways in New England, the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge on the Maine-New Hampshire border. We saw a bald eagle dive for a fish within 30 seconds of setting out.

I also hiked for the first time across the Badlands in South Dakota and also climbed with my son, Tom, to the highest summit in that state, Harney Peak. We also scaled 10,243-foot Mount Washburn in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, another family first.

I’ve visited Zealand Hut in New Hampshire’s White Mountains many times, but until last year, never on cross-country skis. My big mistake on that January trip was lugging a plastic sled behind me that got pretty well chewed up on the rocks, but live and learn. Next time I’ll stick to a pack.

I also joined two Day colleagues, Jenna Cho and Peter Huoppi, for our first day-long hike the 23-mile length of the Narragansett Trail, from Lantern Hill on the Ledyard-North Stonington border to Ashville Pond in Hopkinton, R.I. It was en elegant, if exhausting, outing.

During OpSail 2000 I had kayaked alongside the Parade of Ships from Niantic to New London; last year I paddled back over the same route with some of the same friends to witness a smaller fleet of tall ships.

My buddy Ian Frenkel and I also defended our title as tandem kayak champs at the Essex River Race in Massachusetts, but a scheduling conflict prevented us from returning for a second gold at the Blackburn Challenge. We’ll try again next year.

Just before the ground froze a few weeks ago I planted garlic for the first time, and hope to start harvesting it next spring, after I plant table grapes for the first time.

I also refurbished my compost pile. The fun never stops.

This Jan. 1, as I noted a couple of weeks ago, I’ll start the year the same way I’ve begun the previous 40-odd, joining a mob of friends on a run and swim in Fishers Island Sound.

I also hope to set out on some new adventures the rest of the year. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Happy New Year!

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