Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pawtuckaway State Park

My dad wanted to try this park.  We loved it, and ended up going two days in a row.

On Day 1, we explored the east side of the park, near the campgrounds.  This was a there-and-back-again trip.  We didn't have a lot of time, so we didn't bother to pack a lunch, or water, or anything really.  Just went and walked.  It was rather flat, but quite pretty.

A close-up of pine needles and various lichen on a rock.

Ho hum, another beautiful forest scene. Note the two different shaped blazes marking a single trail.

On Day 2, we set out to do a loop around North Mountain and a boulder field on the west side of the park.  We decided to do it counter-clockwise, starting with the North Mountain Bypass trail.  We had a map (kind of - it was not very detailed, since I'd forgotten the real trail map at home) and written instructions on how to do the trail clockwise.  All we had to do was follow the instructions backward, and voila!

I loved the root system rising out of the pine needles.

We stopped in the boulder field for lunch.  It was truly surreal.

The area is very popular with climbers.

Supposedly, all the rocks in the boulder field were plucked up by glaciers eons ago, but there were some strange rock-tree interactions.  In many places, it looked like the rocks had been merrily rolling along until they ran into a tree.  Other places, it looked like the trees were growing into the rocks.  Pretty cool any way you slice it.

After the boulder field, we walked over to what we thought was Dead Pond, and followed a trail we picked up near there.  We got disoriented (I blame the stones) and went through the Devil's Den.  We saw plenty of evidence of beaver activity in the area.

Exhibit A in People v Beaver 

This tree was still clinging to life!!!!

A dramatic re-enactment of the arboreal feeding frenzy.

We saw a lot of people enjoying a large natural climbing/rappelling wall (it looks like a great place to learn!) and many more scenic sights....

These are not slabs of concrete, but natural rock formations.

This is where we should have had lunch - the perfect sunny spot, just off the boulder field.

Fissures in the rock.

A natural pulpit or balcony.
After following the trails to enjoy all these sights, we ended up (to our surprise) on Round Pond Road.  Eep! Not part of the plan!

Luckily, the locals knew the area quite well and helped us get oriented again.   As it was getting late, we simply walked down Round Pond Road all the way to Reservation Road.

Reflections in a pond (which we believed to be Round Pond).

The vegetation growing on this rock looks a lot like hair, doesn't it?
Round Pond featured a number of very large mud-holes or small lakes blocking the path, so I think next time we will stick to the regular route.

We did notice one very cool thing about the mud -- it seemed to dye the leaves black. These leaves weren't visibly coated with mud, and they weren't wet, but instead appeared to be truly dyed or stained.  And it wasn't just one type of leaf, either - we noticed oak, beech, and others all stained alike.

Our wildlife sighting for the day - a small, nearly tailless mammal.  A shrew, perhaps?

On the way back to the car, we took a look at the old cemetery on Reservation Road (headstones dated circa 1825-1890).

There were gentle climbs and descents throughout the day, and plenty of soft leaves and pine needles underfoot.  The scenery was both gorgeous and incredibly cool.  Definitely worth another return trip!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Dave graciously hosted again, for a wonderfully boisterous Thanksgiving with 19 people from two families.  The place looks great, and everyone seemed to have a lot to be thankful for.  There was good food, Apples to Apples, a beach expedition and plenty of running around outside for the younger set, and even a great slideshow/travelogue of R's parents' trip to southeast Asia.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mount Taurus Hike - New Path!

I took the train up to Cold Spring and walked up to Nelsonville to a new (for me) trailhead.  I think I may even prefer this approach; it provided a change of scenery and a sidewalk the entire way rather than road walking. Very civilized.  Especially as it gave me time to enjoy a cappuccino from the bright, cheerful and friendly Go-Go Pops establishment en route.

My original plan was to take Nelsonville to Notch to Breakneck, and I'd left open whether I would cross over to Beacon or return to Cold Spring.  Let's just say things did not go exactly according to plan.

Initially, the plan was working just fine, thank you very much.

The vehicle is nearly picked clean.
As I walked, I listened to a series of lectures on Ancient Greece from the Modern Scholar series, which was interesting in between car wrecks and other scenic points of the Nelsonville Trail.

JK Rowling's website confirms she earned a French and Classics degree from Exeter, and based on the lecture series, it would seem that the name "Draco Malfoy" is not only drawn from the French (mal foy looks like Olde French for bad faith) but also from Classics.  That is, in 620 BC, a Greek named Draco wrote down the laws (yay!) but chose death as the penalty for most violations (boo!).  According to Plutarch, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, [Draco] answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones. So there you have it, the genesis of the word "draconian" - and the much-despised Malfoy.

I think this is where I heard the lecture about Draco.

There were many downed trees on the Nelsonville path, but the light and the landscape were very pretty.

When I tried to turn on to the Notch Trail, however, something was wrong.  I just couldn't put my finger on it, but things didn't look like I expected them to based on the map.  So I forged ahead, and things started to look oddly familiar.  Of course, I decided that was because I was so familiar with all the trails in the area.

Not because I had no idea whatsoever where I was.  Nope, not at all.  In the mean time, I continued on, confident that I was on the correct trail.  The white trail.

Raptor's wing tip catches the glint of sun

This view -- and the viewpoint on the rock
marked * NYC -- looked very familiar.

As did this pool, though I'd approached it
mostly from the other direction before.

So it seemed like I was recognizing point after point on the trail, but was somehow going in a different direction than usual.  The afternoon wore on, and I started to get a little nervous that maybe it was a little late to be pushing on to Beacon after all (which I thought I was doing when I turned right on to the yellow trail).  
But it wasn't until I reached the oh-so-familiar and utterly unmistakable junction with the Brook Trail that I was finally forced to admit that I was way, way, way off base.  In some ways, this was good, because it meant that I could easily get back to Cold Spring before dark.  

I followed all the way to the tail end of the Cornish Trail which more or less tracks 9D on the way back to the trailhead.

The bare trees looked like cilia on the
hills on the other side of the Hudson River.

A few trees on our side clung to their leaves.
I liked this part of the Cornish Trail a lot - and it was new to me.  Of course in some ways, this misadventure was an incredibly embarrassing reflection on my map reading skillz.  I had taken the Washburn Trail up and over Mount Taurus.  Which was not part of the plan.  But that's not important right now.  What's important is that there were stepping logs to help you get across the mud puddles:

These trees fell into the form of a giant jack!

Golden glow on the Cornish Trail in the last rays of the afternoon.

An arch cut through fallen trees.

The vines give this a Southern Gothic feel.

A tangle of roots.

The red sign says: "Emergency Road - Do Not Block"

I set off along 9D back to the train station.

Canada geese by a pond.

Turkey vulture at rest?

Cool mailbox!
All in all, I liked this route - especially Nelsonville and the Cornish Trail.  Good times.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quick Recap

Hit the ground running this week; highlights included a conversation with Ben Kingsley (as an audience member, not the interviewer) and a preview of The Muppets at the Museum of the Moving Image. I also went to a poetry reading at the Morgan Library & Museum's exhibt on Islamic manuscript paintng (a friend of a friend was reading poetry by Rami in the original Persian).

Kingsley was a good storyteller, answering just about every question with a story.  His theme for the evening seemed to be a childhood in which he was allegedly "not seen and not heard," for which he has more than compensated professionally.  I like the MMI's interview format; they showed short clips from a variety of Kingsley's films and used that to get the conversation flowing.  The clips ranged from Gandhi to Hugo, which is not very far alphabetically, but spans nearly three decades of his career (1982 to 2011).  In the Gandhi scene, Kingsley pointed out the seemingly minor bits of dialogue from other characters (soldiers on a hilltop) which actually provide an important frame for the audience in giving a sense of the drama and significance of the unassuming fellow who alights from the train.  In person, Kingsley comes across as slight and trim; probably the right word is compact.

MMI was essentially shut down for renovations for the past few years, so I became a member over their grand re-opening weekend back in January, to see if I could encourage them to remain open.  However, I've only been to a few of their events so far (sneak preview of 50/50 and a conversation with Frank Oz).

I was also going to go to a sneak preview of The Way there with the director live and in person, but gave away my ticket so I could see a non-celebrity preview of the same movie the same night with friends instead.  That preview would be more social, and much closer to home; and I needed to get up early the next day.

One mini digression (as if this entire post were not a digression) - the guy behind me in line to see the sneak preview mentioned that he himself had actually walked the Camino.  That was really cool.  But after our respective friends arrived, my gang was making unkind remarks about a media-friendly camping-out event, and my spider sense picked up non-sympathetic vibes from his gang.  

Still need to see MMI's muppet exhibit.
At the Morgan, I spent a lot of time looking at what looked like a Persian version of St George & the dragon (A Qizilbash and His Horse Entangled by a Dragon) and amazingly intricate drawings of composite beasts. Overall, the exhibit reminded me of The King's Book of Kings, which I loved as a kid.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sea & Land

Island Hopping Tour: [At Sea] - [PR] - [St. Barts] - [St. Kitts] - [Dominica] -  [St Vincent]  

LOTR Nerd Alert:  I thought it looked like the Cracks of Doom on Orodruin [Mt. Doom].
 But I also thought the thing in the middle looked like  an electric guitar (handle pointing to the upper right).

A fancifully decorated dessert.

Home sweet home?
Island Hopping Tour: [At Sea] - [PR] - [St. Barts] - [St. Kitts] - [Dominica] -  [St Vincent]