Finally!  Three and a half years after our family left India – we spent a year living in Bangalore back in 2008-09 – we returned to India and our first stop is Mumbai. Although I have visited India four times since then, this is the first time that Pam and the kids have been able to make the trip.  I think it’s really important to cement those old memories of life in Bangalore, and travels in India, with another visit now that they are older.  We’ll be in Bangalore next week, but for now, we finally get to see the sprawling city of Mumbai.

Bayside view
A view from Nariman point to the north with the bayshore sweeping to the left. Trident hotel is at upper right.

We visited Mumbai ever so briefly back in January 2009, but I only saw IIT and the others saw nothing but the airport.  This time, we are fortunate to be able to visit two local friends – Varsha, who is a CS professor at IIT Bombay, and Kirti, who recently graduated from the Dartmouth MEM program and who was our FFP student last year.

We arrived at the Trident hotel around 2am yesterday, after a 25-hour journey from home. We slept a few hours and awoke to find out just how spectacular a location we have selected.  We are located right on the edge of the bay, along the famous Marine Drive promenade, with a spectacular view across the bay.  Unfortunately, the view is hampered by persistent smog, this time of year.

We spent our first day wandering the streets in the area.  For a weekday, I was surprised at how few people and how little traffic there is in South Bombay!  I’m used to the chaos of Bangalore streets but here they are wider, less congested, and better organized. We found a movie theater two blocks from our hotel, and decided to watch Life of Pi (in 3D) later in the afternoon.  (See it! great movie.)

Today we hired a driver and went up to the northern suburbs for breakfast with the family of Varsha and Jitendre, two colleagues from my days as a grad student at Duke. They took us over to IIT Bombay, which is in the midst of a four-day arts festival and competition.  We enjoyed the display of sculptures, watched contestants in the classical dance competition, and watched some of the Bollywood dance competition.  fun!

We then went to visit Kirti and her family for a home-cooked lunch. Wow, what a treat! chicken curry and fried fish, out of this world.

On the way back we shopped at FabIndia, stopped to see the Haji Ali Durgah and to eat some wonderful fruit creams – that is, chopped fruits covered with a cold sweet cream sauce, a bit like half-melted ice cream.

Today was a long day – we were out for 11 hours, and we’re too stuffed to go out for dinner. We flipped on the TV to watch the England vs. India cricket match, happening live at the stadium just a few blocks down the street.

So much for the tedious chronological summary.  Impressions so far?  It seems a wonderful city with great people and a deep history.  South Bombay is full of grand buildings from the Victorian era. The infrastructure, though clearly not keeping up with the booming population, has done so far better than Bangalore and thus the traffic moves along and things seem to work smoothly.  I look forward to exploring more tomorrow.

Hiking the A.T. in fall color

Gosh, what a beautiful fall it has been.  Although it has been rainy at time, the temperatures have been warm and the leaves bright!  After our overnight hike along the Appalachian Trail of early summer, John and I have determined to hike every weekend in the fall and to complete the full section of trail from Hanover to Moosilauke.  We’ve been on the A.T. for the past three weekends:

  • October 7-8, Mount Smarts and Mount Cube [pix]
  • October 13, Grant Brook and Reservoir Road [pix]
  • October 20, Holts Ledge. [pix]
Bright yellow leaves in sunshine
Fall colors shine gold in the sun

Lyme Hill

On Saturday we took a gentle hike close to home – indeed, we finished the hike at home.  The Upper Valley Land Trust has conserved large sections of Lyme Hill [map], which is the long ridgeline behind our house and overlooking the river.  We parked at their new lot on Route 10, the other side of the hill, and followed the nice new trail system [map] to the 1050′ “summit” of Lyme Hill. The kids were grumpy (“why do we have to go hiking!?”) but on the downhill side the moods cleared and we had a great time visiting Gilbert Cemetery, at the base of the trail where it meets River Road. This cemetery is the final resting place of the first settlers in Lyme, and we found gravestones from 1777 to 1784.  I posted a few more photos in the gallery.

Andy inspects gravestone at Gilbert Cemetary
Andy inspects gravestone at Gilbert Cemetary

Franconia Ridge

Greenleaf Hut and Mount Lafayette

John and I took advantage of beautiful September weather to hike a classic loop in the Franconia Range of the White Mountains (NH).  This 8.8-mile loop climbs from Franconia Notch up the Old Bridle Path to Greenleaf Hut, run by the AMC, then to Mount Lafayette.  The day was warm and the breeze friendly, with just a few puffy clouds brushing the summits as they passed through New Hampshire.  Check the photo gallery.

Although our original goal was simply to summit Lafayette and return, we reached the summit by 12:30 and the southbound ridgeline beckoned to us.

Southbound along Franconia Ridge

We popped south along the ridge, over an unnamed bump and then Mount Lincoln, reaching Little Haystack mountain by about 1:45pm.  We then fell down the Falling Waters trail to our starting point at Lafayette Place.  I’ve always wanted to hike the Falling Waters trail; aptly named, it passes five or ten gorgeous waterfalls in its lower reaches.   However, I learned one painful lesson: one should always hike this steep trail uphill, never downhill!  [My knees were screaming this lesson to me all the way down, and throughout the next day.]

John and David pause at a waterfall

As it was a gorgeous day on a Sunday in early September, there were many other people out on the trail.  I estimate that we passed about 60 other people, most doing the same loop in one direction or another. On the summit of Lafayette we watched one youthful group repeatedly pose for a group photo, pants dropped and butts bared, the photographer using a self-timer so he could join the picture.  Ah, I remember those days 😉

River trip

The kids and I spent Labor Day weekend on the upper Connecticut River, visiting its source on the Canadian border, stepping into each of the five Connecticut Lakes, and then paddling one of the first navigable sections from North Stratford NH to Maidstone VT. The weather was gorgeous, indeed, absolutely perfect. Check out the photo gallery!

Kayaking in Second Connecticut Lake

I brought along a kayak and managed to take a brief paddle in three of the four Connecticut Lakes that lay at the headwaters of the river.  My paddles were so brief as to be symbolic, and the “river” is not really navigable between these lakes anyway.  The gallery shows photos from all five Connecticut Lakes: Lake Francis, and First through Fourth Connecticut Lake.

Source of the Connecticut River

The “Fourth Connecticut Lake”, which is the source of the river, lays a few hundred meters from the Canadian border, and has no road access. We drove to the border station, a recently upgraded monstrosity that before 9/11 was no doubt a sleepy unmanned stop sign in the woods.  Confused about where to park, we crossed into Canada and asked at the Canadian entrance where to park.  He sent us back to the United States.  We never legally entered Canada, but had legally exited the U.S..  “Didn’t I just see you going north?” said the US-CBP guard. He checked our passports and told us where to park – next to the huge sign for the Fourth Connecticut Lake; we never needed to cross the border.  We hiked to the lake – it’s quite uphill, not feasible to visit by boat, and managed to walk all the way around this pond, er, lake, and to stand in a tiny inlet stream, the source of the Connecticut River.  Very cool! for those of us who live along the river.

NFCT map of the region around our trip

After stopping to visit all five Connecticut Lakes [map] we drove back downstream, stopping briefly at the 45th parallel to marvel that we were halfway from the Equator to the North Pole.  In North Stratford, NH we rented two canoes, with shuttle service, because I had only one car (anyway, my Prius can barely carry one canoe let alone two!). There are two great groups that are set up for CT river paddlers, the Connecticut River Paddlers Trail and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  I found the latter to be far more organized and up to date than the former and we stayed in two campsites managed by the NFCT.  That said, the NFCT only covers a small section of the river, but if you check out their home page it is quite an impressive trail!

Dragging the canoe up the Nulhegan River to the Debanville Campsite

I spent a lot of time, in advance, studying websites and guidebooks, and calling the two canoe-rental places. North Woods Rafting strongly recommended that I avoid the Canaan–to–North-Stratford section that I had planned, because late-summer low-water conditions would be unsuitable. So we did a really short segment, from North Stratford NH to Maidstone VT, because I wasn’t sure what to expect or how far the kids could go, and to add another segment would have doubled the distance.  So, we had a laid-back experience rather than pushing for extra mileage. (All the best, I think!)  Sure enough, at our starting point the river was so shallow we had to drag our canoes, and we met people who had dragged their canoes for miles through the upper section. We had just enough “quick water” to be exciting for the kids, and to make our paddle pretty easy.

Ready to launch our canoes! Nulhegan river in the background.

We had two gorgeous days of paddling, through a largely wild section of river.  We zipped through a couple of mild “rapids”. We watched a bald eagle circle right over our heads. We stopped for lunch and a swim. We stayed the night at two wonderful campsites, the second at the site of an old railroad trestle and next to a Vermont corn field. The weather was sunny and warm, and we encountered few other people.

I highly recommend the upper Connecticut River. It’s beautiful countryside, largely farmland and small towns, covered bridges and pristine lakes. We only paddled 11 miles of river, in a day and a half, but could easily have done twice that distance in two days. I hope to go back and pick up where we left off, or (in higher water) try the section to the north. I also hope to go back in the winter – I hear the Connecticut Lakes are great for skiing! Meanwhile, the photos will remind me of warm summer days.

Sunset over Vermont cornfield, from the Railroad Trestle campsite.

Armington weekend

We spent the weekend camping at our property on Lake Armington, NH.  We try to have a family camping trip every year, and this year we decided to do some car-camping and to spend effort clearing some of the extensive undergrowth on our lakeside lot.  We worked really hard for several hours each day, but still only made a dent in the brush-clearing that is needed.

Early morning view of Lake Armington and Mt. Piermont

We took time out to swim and canoe in the lake. The lake was especially peaceful, with a pair of loons calling to each other and, at one point, paddling over to investigate us as we were swimming.  Although the weather was nice on Sunday, on Monday it clouded up and really let loose during dinner and overnight.  We had decided to try out the 40-year-old canvas tent, which I once used as a child, and which apparently does not have a fly.  It stood up in the pouring rain remarkably well, but  enough rain found its way inside to leave our feet in a bit of a puddle and our sleeping bags pretty wet. Good thing it was the second night!

One cool thing was my discovery of a bioluminescent fungus.  I went out the first night to see the stars, and came across a disturbed area where a rotten stick had become exposed – all the bits were glowing!  Wish I had a photo of that.  In the photo gallery you can see the stick, in daylight, and some nice photos of clear skies on Sunday morning.