Sunday, October 30, 2016

A quick costume change

This is not the first time I have decided to go for fairy wings as a low-effort Halloween costume. However, this costume quickly became medium-effort when I found that there is a huge floral supply warehouse just a five minute walk from campus.

In ninth grade, I was a fairy in our school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream; subsequently, I have been drawn to fairies in art, literature, and design. If it isn't clear from this blog, I like plants and want to be surrounded by them. The florist supplier was a wonderland of silk flowers and foliage and ribbons -- my favorite part of any arts and crafts store, but at an unreal scale.

If/when I enter private/group practice, I will decorate my clinic to my heart's desire.

I still do want to revisit my autumnal fairy costume from two years ago (sparkly orange wings with foliage) and make a crown and wand. Maybe I can alternate Halloweens with these fairy costumes. Anyhow, I don't have a good name for this dark fairy costume. I place curses and may cause disease (congenital birth defects of the thorax, abdomen, or pelvis...exam tomorrow).

I'll keep the wings, crown, and wand for future Halloweens or costume-required events. They're props and don't take up much space, and will save me the trouble of hunting down costume items in the future. The wings were bought new, and the big blue flower, the blueberry pick, and the black leaves came from the aforementioned florist supplier. I used a friend's black electrical tape and the whole effort looks kind of cool.

I haven't decided if I'll be going to the exam tomorrow in costume. I'll bring it with me to school just in case.


And to follow, I have a more reflective post coming up, mostly about gross anatomy and my career goals and about Boston. As spoilers: it's fun/sadly almost over/lots of Latin, surgery, cold and historical. I'm possibly going backpacking in New Hampshire or Vermont this coming weekend, but I'm not sure about that yet.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Middlesex Fells Reservation, Rock Circuit | Massachussetts

At the terminus of the MBTA Orange Line, there is Middlesex Fells Reservation, a Massachussetts State Park just half an hour outside of Boston. I joined two friends on an impromptu hike on its Rock Circuit trail to experience two iconic aspects of the New England landscape: autumn foliage and granite boulders.

After an ear-freezing walk from our apartment building to Mass Ave station, we took the Orange Line to Oak Grove station, then walked through Boston suburbia to the trailhead about a half mile away. Not to imply that Boston is some urban jungle or bustling metropolis, but it was nice to not be surrounded by red brick and cars, and just enjoy the peaceful morning golden hour. There were fewer Halloween decorations than I had expected, though.

One of many unnamed boulders to climb

The Rock Circuit trail is just under 5 miles and basically picks out every significant granite boulder and goes up and over them, and links together various rocky outcropping and vista points on even large granite boulders. I've included a crude map of our route below, but we did not do the entire Rock Circuit (white blazes), but rather cut across it on the connector trail (orange blazes) and resumed the trail on the northern edge. Based on photo time stamps, we completed our route in around 2 hours. Next time, we will probably take the entire Rock Circuit trail to extend our hike.

View of Boston from Pinnacle Rock

Opinions on the difficulty and length of this hike vary across internet sources. It was a pretty easy hike, but I can see how a lot of going up and over boulders can be strenuous. Elevation gain is minimal. One thing to note is that there are few stretches of trail that are well-beaten and easy to walk on: rocks are everywhere, and watch your feet to prevent inversion injury.

As far as "scrambling" goes, there are certainly boulders where you will need to use your hands to traverse. I was wearing gloves and was generally more eager to scramble. Some descents are long and steep and need some careful route-finding, but nothing is scary or difficult. Overall, the boulders were fun, interesting obstacles that other trails would have gone around. Not the Rock Circuit.

Boojum Rock

It was quite chilly for the first 45 minutes or so, and I wish I had brought a hat. It's getting colder in Massachussetts, but the crisp morning was just perfect for a quiet ramble through the woods. This park is apparently quite busy, but we did not encounter fellow hikers until about an hour in.

MIT Observatory

The Rock Circuit brought us to the historic MIT Observatory built in 1899. It's now in ruin, but a good place to rest, take off a layer, and plan our route. We followed this blog post as a guide and figured we didn't have 3.5 hours to spare since we missed our first train and had a late start. Matching our pace to that blogger's, we could have probably completed the entire Rock Circuit in under 3 hours. After all, what's the point of waking up before sunrise to hike if we can't get a few good hours of actual hiking in?

It was good to get out of Boston for a bit, and especially to get away from school. We had our first set of gross anatomy exams earlier in the week and I needed a break from it all. I'm very happy with the results and am excited to tackle the next module (last one was Back and Limbs, this one is Thorax-Abdomen-Pelvis), but after I go out and see some beautiful New England autumn.

On White Rock

Leaves are slow to change color in Boston proper, but out in the Fells, the foliage was all ablaze. Earlier this week, I went on a jog near the Back Bay Fens and was disappointed to find greenery, but I'm pretty happy with all the autumn I saw on this hike.

Melrose Rock

In other news, my Thanksgiving plans are still up in the air. I'm not going home, and will either be spending the holiday in Virginia with a friend, in New York, or in Boston with other stranded West Coasters. As we hiked, we tentatively planned a camping trip to the Fells or maybe to New Hampshire or Vermont, which would be a real treat (but very cold).

Melrose, MA from Melrose Rock

I wish I could go hiking more, and for $5.50 roundtrip, this hike is about accessible as it gets. I'm hoping to get more friends in on this hike for next time, and I hope I have the strength to keep going even in the wintertime.

Black Rock

View from Black Rock

Lots of beautiful autumn colors

Cascade without water

All said, I still miss hiking in California, and wished that there could be more elevation change here. Boulders are all well and good, but I want hills. We also did not see many woodland creatures, though the blue jays were screaming like hell.

In total, ~4 miles and  <300 ft elevation gain, very rocky with plenty of big boulders to get up and over, and nice vista points of the Boston skyline or charming, quiet suburbs. We began our hike at around 7:20 AM and ended at around 9: 15 AM, but got stuck at the station for nearly an hour due to a delayed train. Overall, the hike was a moderate one which requires some scrambling and careful climbing. Sneakers are fine, but I think that real hiking boots, or at least shoes with better tread, are needed if hiking in the wintertime.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A/W 2016 | Wardrobe Planning

Alternative title: Winter Is Coming

1.5 weeks ago, a perplexing heat wave swept Boston and I wondered when summer would end. Well, the weather changed precisely around the autumn equinox and yesterday was rainy and mid-50s F. Over the past few weeks, I've been collecting cold weather advice from classmates, and it looks like I actually really do need to plan my purchases this time around. Early childhood in Chicago notwithstanding, this is my first real winter.

Coat and shirt from L. L. Bean, denim jacket and jeans from Levi's

  1. L. L. Bean Winter Warmer Coat - this coat is rated +15 F/-35 F light/moderate activity, which means almost nothing to me because I have no concept of what +15 F, much less -35 F feels like. What I do know is that this temperature rating more or less covers what I can expect of a typical Boston winter. It is down-filled, is long, and has a hood. I showed this coat to a friend born and raised in Boston and she gave her stamp of approval
  2. Levi's trucker jacket - last week, I rooted around an army/navy surplus near Boston Common looking for socks, and found a huge selection of jackets instead. I'm looking for something for another jacket to tide me over to parka weather. The men's Levi's jackets I found, some sherpa-lined and some not, seem like ideal candidates. They're pricey, but maybe I can find one secondhand. The women's cut is too high at the waist, of course, and the men's XS seems a good size on me
  3. L. L. Bean scotch plaid flannel shirt, blackwatch - I have wanted this exact shirt for months now. I have about three total long-sleeved shirts, which does not seem like enough for the impending cold weather. Although I am sure I could find many other flannels like it in thrift stores, this may be one that I buy new to get the exact color and size
  4. Levi's jeans - I have jeans, but I want more. Specifically, I'm looking for a looser fit, and something that I can wear a base layer underneath if it gets cold. I don't care for the skinny fit anymore, and given my recent squat and deadlift gains, my jeans are even skinnier. In all likelihood, I will buy a new pair of jeans during Black Friday and flip a coin about black or blue
  5. All the other things - a hat, a scarf, wool socks, mittens if my gloves prove insufficiently warm, a little black dress for when I need to clean up nice
It's been a damn long time since my last post. Medical school has been great. Gross anatomy is everything I have dreamed of and more. I found friends and have been catching up with old ones as well. I jumped onto an orthopedic surgery research project as a code monkey. I still want to be an orthopedic surgeon, but general surgery and trauma surgery and EM all look cool. Boston is changing colors, but right now it's just grey and rainy. That's the story thus far.