North by Northeast

Subarus are Great in the Snow
2 February, 2008, 11:59 am
Filed under: cars, outdoors, sport

I suppose I should get one of these for New England Winters.


December Nor’easter
16 December, 2007, 12:34 pm
Filed under: General, Local, observations, outdoors, photos

Towards Winthrop, originally uploaded by bwc.

Not all snow storms are nor’easters. The definition is a storm which is turning counter-clockwise and battering New England from the north east direction. Today we had one.

Here’s a few more pictures I shot.

It started early in the morning (the overnight) and was easily 5″ of light, fluffy powder when I began shoveling around 8am. Around 9, the sleet began. By the time I came in at 10, my shell was soaked from the wet precipitation.

A good day to stay inside and watch the Patriots. But if you haven’t cleared out your snow – its only getting wetter and heavier every moment. Good luck with that.

Mosquitoes with West Nile found in Medford
2 August, 2007, 10:05 pm
Filed under: bike, Local, outdoors

Mosquitoes with West Nile found in Medford-

Traditionally, West Nile begins circulating widely in mosquitoes in August, increasing the threat of infections in people. No human cases of West Nile have been reported this year in Massachusetts; last year, three people contracted the illness in Massachusetts; all survived.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one of every 150 people infected with West Nile develops severe symptoms.

…the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends limiting outdoor activities from dusk to dawn, peak biting times for mosquitoes. Otherwise, wear as much clothing as comfortable and apply insect repellent such as DEET, permethrin, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Be careful out there. (via NEMBA boards)

Wonderful New Clothes
10 April, 2007, 8:39 pm
Filed under: bike, outdoors

I don’t buy a lot of clothes. When I do I think it over a whole lot first.

I’m a big fan of SmartWool and merino wool socks. LL Bean and EMS make and sell some pretty good knockoffs of SmartWool, and my collection is about 50/50. I say collection because I have probably 8-10 pairs, and wear nearly no other socks, year-round. Even at formal events. They’re phenomenal. My feet get very hot and cold (my doctor says people with asthma often have poor circulation in their feet) and sorry, sweaty. I would never again wear cotton socks, and poly socks feel weird after wearing the natural wool. And the wool controls the temps and moisture of your feet very well. They don’t hold odors well.

I need more, after years of daily use, many have begin to wear out. But interestingly, I’m not here to talk about socks at all.


I’m here to say I just got a SmartWool shirt, and it may be the most comfortable shirt I’ve even put on. You feel no seams. It’s stretchy, so it hugs your body, but not in a lycra way. Just like it wants to be close to you, but yet its in no way confining. Very hard to explain. It’s like how your skin stretches when you squat, or bend your elbow. You don’t notice it. Soft like cashmere. Not itchy in the least (I’m sensitive to regular wool). Wonderful.

I’ll let you know how it makes out during hiking and biking… but I have a good feeling. I bought a midweight to wear as an outer garment most of the year, and as an undershirt for cold weather activities. It will fit nicely under my wool cycling jersey. They’re both damn expensive, but I must buy more.

PS – Dear SmartWool. I love you products. (Send me products and I’ll review them 😉 But your website, while beautiful, is brain-dead. Everything is clash. I can’t link to any thing on your site, I can’t copy text (say to put in my glowing review of your product on my blog), I click on the big, front page animation to look at your new spring line up and instead of taking me to your new spring lineup, you just reload the animation! Brilliant. Not at all. What gives with greying out all your products when selecting a line? (I figured it out now, after several trips to the site, but its really confusing) Why, if I click twice on the line’s name, so you then ungrey everything? Why is my back button broke? Loading screens stink. HTML is faster and easier to maintain. It has standard widgets, like scroll bars and text fields, and let’s me use my back button and save links directly to the things I want to spend money on, and recommend to my friends. You’re so right about the environment, and so wrong about hypertext. This saddens me.

Flickring brightly
25 March, 2007, 12:20 pm
Filed under: outdoors, photos

I’ve gone on a spree last night and this morning to get up some of my recent pics up on Flickr for the world to endure enjoy!


I’m really enjoying my Nikon D40. I’ve mastered all the semi-manual modes, and have been using some manual focus, as well, but I find the auto works the majority of the time. But I need to figure out the full manual controls, so I can gain control of my depth of field.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Synchro Softshell Jacket
4 February, 2007, 7:01 pm
Filed under: outdoors, reviews

4 of 5 Stars. Recommended for an active shell without a hood.

Feb 1, 2007 by

Brian Christiansen

photo of 'Mountain Hardwear Synchro Jacket'

★★★★☆ [prologue: The formatting is a little odd here because this was preformatted by hReview Creator. ]

At the end of December, I had the good fortune to get a couple of Eastern Mountain Sports gift certificates. With those I decided I needed an alternative to my long loved LL Bean XCR GoreTex hard shell which has served me well over the last five years. The shell is great, although it’s time to clean and retreat it, and has weathered some serious downpours, and it’s three layers of GoreTex have kept me bone dry, while keeping me reasonably comfortable internally. It did have some downsides, though. One being that it has no thermal qualities of its own, so if I wanted a shell, but it was mid-fall, I’d have to put a thin fleece underneath. So I’d be wearing two jackets. If it’s crazy cold and windy out, the shell plus my LL Bean PrimaLoft jacket underneath make for a formidable, if bulky, combination. But frigid and windy is currently the exception weather-wise in Massachusetts. Drawback number two is that the hardshell is noisy. Any form of movement would ruffle the sails, and it would amplify if the hood was up.

So, despite the years of dedicated service of this excellent shell, I needed something a little more appropriate for everyday use. I had heard that soft-shells offered comparable performance with few drawbacks. So I trotted down to EMS with my gift certificates in hand to find a black, hoodless softshell suitable for everyday use, perhaps winter on-bike use, and as an option for any cool weather sport (usually hiking). Continue reading

Mountain Bikers are conservationists
3 December, 2006, 10:21 pm
Filed under: bike, environment, outdoors

Hi. My name is Brian and I am a member of the Nature Conservancy and the New England Mountain Bike Association.

Recently, NPR had a story on this phenomenon, where mountain bikers like myself are being less lumped in with so-called “extreme” outdoors-people (see Dirt Bikes, snowmobilers, ATVs, jet-skis) and more so with human-powered outdoors-people, like hikers, kayakers, climbers. This is huge. This, along with new scientific evidence supporting the fact that the environmental impact of bikes is as little as hikers (careful PDF!), and sometimes less. The study showed MTB had significantly less impact than horses and motorized users. Plus, almost no mountain bikers are known to leave feces on the trail, like the equestrian contingent. 🙂

Now, this is what people like myself have believed for a long time. However, it’s important for land managers to note that there is a small contingent of mountain bikers who treat the land much the same as the motorized contingent. These people like to travel off-trail and try to build their skills with jumping and other natural-feature involved activities. I think there’s nothing inherently wrong with their activity since they’re still human-powered and they’re not polluting nor very noisy like a dirt back or ATV, and they simply can’t cause nearly the erosion. But they still can cause more damage than those who simply ride the trails. The best way to deal with this is to accommodate these people by designating areas for their use. This keeps them form digging deep into the forest and making their own areas. If you believe the mountain bike rags, this is happening all over the Northshore area of British Columbia, considered the birthplace of the hucking style known by many names, but free-ride is one of them.

Unsanctioned building of these areas in the wilderness is just a bad idea. Not just for the impact on the land, but these activities are simply dangerous. I think that the free-ride craze, although it’s not for me, is a lot better than a lot of things people could be doing, and thus should be supported by providing designated areas monitored by land managers and close to roads so the guys who land on their heads can be driven to the hospital.

The reason this study and future studies on the same topic excite me is the law of the land when it comes to wilderness designation. Currently, when an area is designated as wilderness “mechanical transport” is expressly prohibited. Right now, that’s read to mean “no bicycles.” If science can prove that the rubber on my tires has the same or less impact than the rubber on my hiking boots, that may open the lands up to bikes. And I think, given the size of wilderness tracts, that the mountain bike is the ideal vehicle with which to explore them. No noise, no pollution, long range, faster than foot, and low impact. Lower than domesticated animals, even.

With the International Mountain Bike Association‘s recent work along with the National Parks Service, we are that much closer to parity among nature lovers: equal access in areas that can take the traffic. IMBA is the leading voice in the mtb community for ecological responsibility.

IMBA has an action center where you can learn when to contact your legislators to voice your support for mountain bike access. Even if you don’t ride, if you care for land preservation, mountain bikers are great allies to have on your side. Help them to help yourself and the planet.