Saturday, June 27, 2009

Body & Solstice - part two

(belated entry for June 21, 2009, continued)

It being Sunday (all day to walk if I want! ) AND the Summer Solstice,
I took a huffing and puffing pilgrimmage up to the Spring Overlook on the Hudson River side of Moreau Lake State Park.

It's a magical place, up there - with rocky ledges at your back, and before you a terrific open view of the Hudson as it bends northward. On a previous visit, I'd been sitting there admiring the long green view, when a turkey vulture glided past, BELOW my stony seat.
That bend of the river is our number one place to observe bald eagles in the winter months.
They frequent this part of the river, with its dams which create sections of open water even in the dead of winter.

There are all sorts of large stones scattered here and there on the forested tabletop behind the outlook. Perhaps I would meet some post-modern druidic folks up there, celebrating the solstice ? Or some Naked Hikers, doing same. (see previous post.)
It certainly was warm and humid enough to make clothing seem redundant. Conditions were good for a sighting!

Alas, I met no one else on the trail that day, even though it was a Sunday when lots of folks are out and about doing fun outdoor things. That's the great thing about Moreau Park, it's very large - something like 4000 acres large. And, as a ranger once told me in describing Yosemite National Park: "About 95 percent of the visitors here visit 5 percent of the park."

Once at my destination,I had not been out on the ledge five minutes when I looked northward - hey, there's a pretty dark cloud, and it looks like it's raining across the river!

Then: hey! it's coming this way!

And before you could say Weather Channel, a big sheet of rain swept across the landscape rapidly in my direction.

I got off that ledge fast (thinking of the possibility of lightning.) Once down by the powerline which crosses the trail halfway up that side of the mountain, the rain eased up, and I took my time coming back. Everything looked fantastic after the drenching - the colors were all, er, more saturated.

Also in my travels to various places today, I found a flower that was new to me - even after all these years of admittedly casual observing, it's amazing how many remain out there to be discovered anew ...!
The Red Lily -"it belongs not to Spring" according to Thoreau

Glowing bright orange against the tender green sea of delicate ferns - it was a Wood Lily. Spotted like a tiger lily, but pointing straight up at the sky. According to my knowledgable pal Jackie (who looked this up), it is not too common and also somewhat endangered in New York State. What thrilled me was to learn that this is a true native lily. (The common day-lily that lines the roadsides this time of year is an introduced plant.)
To celebrate the Solstice, I dined on what the trail had to offer:

Le Menu
Solstice Café
Appetizer - sorrel leaves and strawberry
Clover Salad Buffet - all-you-can-eat Red, Pink Alsike and White Sweet Clover, garnished with Ox-Eye Daisy foliage

Side - fresh new wintergreen leaves.

Dessert - blueberries and huckleberries.

After-dinner mint - tender new growth of Eastern Hemlock tree needles (once you get used to that "just-scrubbed hardwood floor" taste in your mouth, it sort of grows on you.)

Body & Solstice - part one

(belated entry for June 21, 2009)
Today was Naked Hiking Day. Now don’t get all excited, I did not see a single naked hiker on the trail today. (Had the wide-angle lens all ready, too.) Nor did I actively participate. It was warm and muggy, and the bugs were a little too aggressive for me to want to offer them an all-you-can eat buffet.

However, Mother Nature loves a joke as well as any of us - as you shall see.

Part One of my walking today was within my beloved Moreau Park, to check on a hognose snake who has been frequenting the same 20 feet of a well-travelled trail. I’d seen him 3 weeks in a row, in roughly the same spot - a narrow foot-trail, near water, where the midday sun creates a nice warm basking-place among a bed of russet oak leaves. His coloration is so effective as camouflage that if you weren’t really looking for him, you might walk right past him. Come to think of it, how many times did I myself stride along that same trail, within a few feet of this scaly creature?

The first time I saw him, I did one of those automatic jump-backs. Then curiosity took over. I got as close as I dared (after taking some photos using that oh so useful zoom lens!) and spoke to him. Well that got him going, he started to hiss and his neck flared out, in eerie resemblance to a cobra.

Yup, an Adirondack Cobra. Nice try.

Then he coiled up, neatly hiding the rattle-less tip of his tail, and hissed while keeping a steady eye on me.

They have other tricks to fool other creatures into thinking they are something fearsome, including, as a last resort, flopping over and playing dead. I had seen a hognose do that, years ago, in Virginia. So I didn’t need to harass the wildlife.
Frankly I wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t try striking out (how far could he reach?) before it got to playing-dead time, and there I was, wearing shorts. So I backed away, and took another path to get to where I was originally headed.

A week later – there he was again, 10 feet from the first spot. It was enough just to know he was hanging around in one place.

The third time, another week later, it had been rainy for a stretch of days, but now the morning was bright and sunny. As I came up to that place, you could see a full foot of his tail sticking out into the pathway! This time (yes wearing shorts again) I even didn’t try walking by him, but watched him awhile, then headed back the way I had come.

This was getting to be a regular thing! I can’t imagine how many people – kids and dogs included – must have walked by this snake on a crowded Sunday afternoon.

So on this past Sunday, it being Summer Solstice AND Naked Hiking Day, I once again went into that section of the park, ostensibly to check on a particular tree nearby. Might as well stop and see if I can see Mr. Hognose again.
The trail was even narrower, with the growth of ferns and other plants along the sides being especially vigorous now. And in my shorts my legs felt pretty vulnerable. Treading cautiously, I came near the spot, a small slope covered with fallen oak leaves. Hmm, no sign of him. I edged a little further. Nope.
Then another ten feet – waah! There was that tail, hanging out on the trail!
But wait, he didn’t look so good. The tail was sort of – flat.
In fact, I could see at least 12 inches worth of flatness. Eh?
Brushing aside a fern, what I saw was a snake SKIN, and from the look of it, it was shed recently.

All his lovely markings were there – but HE wasn’t.

He must have been off celebrating Naked Hiking Day.

Welcome to my Pad

"What are you doing now?" she asked.
"Do you have a blog?"
So I make my first entry today....

Fellow admirers of Henry David Thoreau will get that joke.
(That is a paraphrase of how Thoreau began his Journal at the age of twenty, which grew to over two million words over the following 24 years of his life.)
The Journal, to put it in a nutshell, changed my life. Or perhaps it helped to bring some things into better focus.
Like my hero, I try to spend as much time as possible outdoors, following the changes of the seasons. (Unlike him, I do have a full-time job.) So, from time to time, I will add some photos and descriptions of places I like to visit. It's usually a place not far from here. Sometimes those places prove the best.