Friday, September 30, 2011

Cape Ann Expedition

September 20, 2011
To Rockport, Massachusetts

A clear cold day-- wind N W
Salem to Cape Ann expedition
Leave Salem for the Cape on foot 
    HDT Journal, September 22, 1858

We travel along the back roads as much as possible, and today we were on our way to Cape Ann for our annual September vacation. As you can see by the quote above, Henry Thoreau also visited here in late September.

He took a train to Salem, then walked from there to Rockport, on the first day of what he called his “Cape Ann expedition.”

Our usual route takes us through southern Vermont. Just three weeks ago, Tropical Storm Irene caused much havoc, turning placid brooks into raging torrents. The waters have receded, but the brooks sure don't look like they used to.

It’s remarkable how quickly some roads and bridges have been repaired. Well, most of them. This is the detour around the Main Street of Jamaica, Vermont.

Besides the urgency of getting basic services restored for its residents, Vermont is also thinking of the upcoming Foliage Season, which is a large part of her economy.
Despite the damage, people seem to have kept their sense of humor (from the Halloween display at a popular farm stand)

Unlike the weather for Thoreau's expedition, it was unusually warm for this time of year. It was raining lightly today. 
When we finally arrived in Rockport, Mom and I were ready to sit and relax, after driving most of the day on pleasant but winding roads.
Jackie and Dennis would be joining us for several days,
for their first trip to Cape Ann.
Jackie and I were looking forward to some seashore botanizing.

They had taken another (faster) route, but arrived moments after we did.

Let the vacation begin !

We got settled into our rooms at the hotel, which sits overlooking Front Beach.

Rockport is indeed rocky, but this small stretch of sand is a great place for beachcombing.

Our lodging is a small room at an older sixties-style motel, but it is kept beautifully by the owners, who are friendly and helpful.

When you stay there, you realize the truth of the old saying,
“Location, location, location.”

We sat awhile on the balcony, drinking in the view, and being entranced by the splashing of the waves that are a constant on this beach.
The sound usually keeps me up the first night, and by the third night, you can’t imagine being able to sleep without it.

Just before we walked down to the Square for dinner,
the clouds parted, and a bit of sunshine peeped through.

Later, I awoke in the middle of the night.
The little waves were still tossing themselves down,
and the stars were out.

What woke me was the moon's light shining on my face.
It was just rising over the part of town called Bearskin Neck.

There’s no escape possible from Nature here.
Nor would it be wise to ignore her, for those who venture out onto the Ocean.

The Sun may rule the land, but it is the Moon who rules the sea.

Friday, September 2, 2011


August 28, 2011
Queensbury NY

When I awake
I hear the sound of steady heavy rain.

A southeast storm.
Our peach tree limbs are broken off by it.
It lasts all day, rains a great deal,
and scatters many elm boughs and leaves over the street.

The wind does damage out of proportion to its strength.
The fact is, the trees are unprepared
to resist a wind from this quarter and,

being loaded with foliage and fruit,
suffer so much the more.

There will be many windfalls,
and fruit will be cheap for awhile.

   HDT Journal, September 16, 1858

The Hurricane arrived on schedule Sunday morning. Thankfully, she was downgraded to "just a Tropical Storm" at that point. True to form, she was different than what everyone expected, in every way.

A gentle but steady rain was falling. I sat indoors, luxuriating in the possibility of electricity -- for as long as it was going to last.
I thought I would be catching up on lots of things, but what I ended up doing was sitting glued to the TV watching the Weather Channel. There were occasional couch-based forays later in the afternoon, to Channel 10, our only local station to stay on with weather coverage.
The others contented themselves with a mildly-intrusive crawl section at the bottom of the screens.

Despite being employed in the TV-listings business, I don't watch much TV. But today I could not look away !

For a while the rain got heavier. In my part of town,
we had no concerns about flooding. I was more concerned about high winds, and when things got gusty during the afternoon, I scurried about unplugging my computer. But we never lost power, even for a moment.

The trees out back thrashed around, but held steady.
[Meanwhile, a few miles on the other side of town, a microburst was destroying a large section of trees near West Mountain, causing heavy damage to houses and powerlines.]

Once or twice I peeked out the back door, trying to catch the essence of the storm with the camera.

I picked up the phone, and tried reaching my friend Rick back in Vermont. For many years we lived together, and the best years were in a village just north of Brattleboro. No answer. Hmm. He’s not one to get easily excited over things like weather forecasts. Of the two of us, I was always the Chicken Little.

And today the sky really WAS falling, at least on Vermont.
That beloved, rocky, hilly land.
That place where all the roads pretty much follow streambeds,
which makes for some fabulous scenic Sunday drives.

Hours later, Rick finally called back. He had been on a very interesting Sunday drive himself, almost getting stranded between washouts along the way. I’m still mad at him for taking such a risk.

In his defense, he said that he had no idea the conditions were so bad when he left the house with his pal Floyd, and headed for a shop in a village to the north, by way of the road to Saxton’s River. [Apparently neither of them watch tv or listen to the radio.]

But they could have both gotten into big trouble! That’s how Hurricanes, as big and obvious as they are, kill people – people underestimate them.

He and Floyd got back safely, but had to make many detours just to get home again, as the little brooks turned into raging torrents, moments after they passed by.

Rick, having seen some of this first-hand, is now catching up on all the media coverage. He just emailed me a link to a video of a car being swept down a river in Vermont.
That could have been you, ya fool ! I’m still mad at him.
But happy he’s alive.

That evening, things settled down, but it was still too gusty to risk taking a walk down the road to check on little Halfway Brook. Too many trees and wires to walk under. The power was still on, so I turned on the laptop, and worked on my backlog of photos. It was indeed a Dark-and-Stormy night.

OK, to me, that’s just the name of my latest favorite cocktail.
Such was my good fortune today, to be able to sit and enjoy a mug of it, while watching disaster unfold on TV in the comfort of my own apartment. Just before sunset, the sun peeked out for the briefest moment,
as tattered storm clouds sheared away.

Other folks meanwhile, were having a truly dark and stormy night.

By now, if you read or watch even a minimal amount of the news, you know what happened in Vermont.

Not to downplay what happened in other states, including my own
– the wind and water has affected millions of people along the East Coast –
plucky little Vermont seems to have gotten the worst of it.
My heart and prayers go out to all who have suffered the effects of this storm.