Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hunters of the Beautiful

June 21, 2014 - Summer Solstice
Orra Phelps Preserve, Wilton, NY
and Moreau Lake State Park, NY

To begin this summer, Jackie and I planned one more full day of walking.
It was a Saturday, the Longest Day of the Year, and I had all day to ramble !
In the afternoon we would visit Moreau Lake. For the morning, we both signed up for a walk led by Linda Eastman, a nature photographer from Broadalbin, New York.
The walk took place in
Orra Phelps Preserve, where paths wander through lush shady woods along the Snook Kill creek.

Linda started right at the beginning, with a discussion of the basic concepts of photography, and shared some practical tips as well.

She also had worksheets for us to take, with practice exercises to do on our own. 
Those of us who participated may have varying levels of experience, and own cameras of all sizes and shapes, but we seem to have one thing in common -- we are all hunters of the beautiful.

 Forest Tent Caterpillar

Along the campground road in Moreau,
several cars slowed down" to help," but Jackie was only
checking out the cool liverworts we found !

Thanks to Linda, for sharing her wisdom with us, and to Saratoga PLAN for organizing another great excursion.
And now to go forth on a summer’s day, with a particular Journal entry tumbling around in my head:

I wish to begin this summer well;
to do something in it worthy of it and of me;
to transcend my daily routine
and that of my townsmen;
to have my immortality now,
that it be in the quality of my daily life;
to pay the greatest price, the greatest tax,
     of any man in Concord,
and enjoy the most!!
I will give all I am for my nobility.
I will pay all my days for my success.
I pray that the life of this spring and summer
     may lie fair in my memory.

May I dare as I have never done!
May I persevere as I have never done!
May I purify myself anew as with fire and water,
     soul and body!
May my melody not be wanting to the season!
May I gird myself to be a hunter of the beautiful,
     that naught escape me!

        HDT, Journal, March 15, 1852

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Day Before Summer

June 20, 2014
Along the Powerlines

And so the seasons went rolling on into summer,
as one rambles into higher and higher grass.

-HDT, Walden

The third and last day of my vacation, I planned to walk with Jackie up to the Spring Overlook, which has become a sort of Solstice tradition.
The skies were full of gentle sunshine and small clouds, so typical of a June day.
Before meeting her for our walk, I made a stop at the powerline easement at Mud Pond, to check for Wood Lilies in bloom.
Two years ago-- before some major clearing and herbicide spraying occurred here -- we had counted over 80 lilies in one short section.  Last summer, we saw but a handful.
Today, I was hard-pressed to find ten rather small plants.
The effects of the spraying seem to last for more than a year ... must be pretty nasty stuff !

All were still in bud. They are blooming later than usual, as are many other plants this year. 
On the way back to the car, I almost stepped on this one – in full bloom. 

Glaringly bright and beautiful…
yet I had walked right past it on the way in!
So basically, my day was complete:  I’d seen a Wood Lily on Mid-Summer Eve.
Anything else would be gravy.

There’s a section of easement on the way up to the Spring Overlook too, which was part of our plan. That’s the first spot we had seen these lilies, a few years ago. 
We started up the Spring Overlook trail, and after a short time walking through the woods, reached the easement crossing.
Lots of careful searching revealed oceans of ferns, 

lots of whorled loosestrife, and deer tongue grass -- but no lilies in bloom.
We did find one lily plant in bud, about 8 inches high, tucked in among the ferns.

At that point, Jackie suggested a change of plan.
Well, we had all day -- why not?
She knew of another section of easement, a mile or two to the east, and it led up a ridge that had intrigued us for a long time. Jackie had gone partway up this ridge, back in the fall.
Not only could we check for lilies there, she said, there would be fine views of the river valley as well.
So we returned to our cars and drove back to the other easement.

View from the road

Only problem was, there was no trail. Whatsoever.
From a distance, it looked like easy walking, but soon we were waist-deep in ferns and brambly brush. Uh… I muttered to myself … there’s not enough tick repellent in the world to protect you in a place like that !

As we worked our way up, the walking would get easier, at openings in the brush, then harder where the plants surged taller again.
Shady woods bordered the easement on both sides.
But the plants we sought would be out in the open -- so through the ferns we went.

Then I heard a noise, like a large dragonfly a-buzzing.
It got louder and louder, and I looked down at the river valley to see a little black helicopter, flying along the powerlines, just above the tops of the metal pylons.  

And it was heading our way !
“Hey, er …. let’s go into the woods till they pass by,” I suggested, thinking of how we were, technically, trespassing. 
“Nah,” said Jackie.  “We’re just looking at flowers.”
I started searching for an easy way over the woods, as the chopper noise got louder.

There were piles of slash here and there, from previous clearing work.

“Oh !” she suggested.  “--maybe they are SPRAYING”
– at which point, I lept like an spastic deer, over to the edge of the woods.
There I stood under the trees, knees shaking.
The buzzing was a dull roar now. I could see Jackie standing in the clearing, her bright pink shirt shining in the sun, giving a friendly little wave at the sky.

It sounded as if the helicopter hovered in place for a moment --
(although I’m not sure, since I was cowering in the woods, thinking of those Vietnam movies where the platoon leader yells,
 “Don’t look up !”)

Of course, the chopper did nothing;
it moved on, whirring its way up and over the ridge on its maintenance mission.

Jackie did NOT collapse, clutching her throat from herbicide exposure;
and I regained my composure enough to venture out into the open expanse again.

We walked some more, and stopped for lunch in the shade of the woods’ edge.
(That’s probably where we picked up all the ticks- not in the brush. We found a bunch of them on our clothes, back at the cars. Surprisingly, they were wood ticks, not deer ticks.)

After lunch (during which the helicopter came back down the slope !) we resumed our upward walk, not going very far before looking up to see a decidedly steeper section. 

It seemed best to call it a day.
I think Jackie would have gone for it, had she been on her own.

The view on the way down was fantastic – you could see all the way upriver to the Dam.

It's that little blue line just under the horizon

Jackie added two new plants to her life list –
which is remarkable, since her list is very long.
My life list gets added to almost every time we go a-botanizing together.

Desmodium rotundifolium