Sunday, August 25, 2013

Double Header!

A lovely afternoon stroll through Harriman State Park.  We did a 5-mile loop from the Reeves Meadow visitor center: up Reeves Brook (white) to Seven Hills (blue on white) to Raccoon Brook Hills (black on white) to Hillburn-Torne-Sebago (orange) to Pine Meadow (red on white).

The promised cascades of Reeves Brook were - alas! - dry and silent, but it was otherwise a lovely hike.  Plenty of climbs and scrambles and views.  Good company.  A few tiny blueberries.  Lots of joyous insect sounds.  Variety of terrain.

The orange-blazed section was not as well maintained as the rest and was at times very difficult to follow (at one point the vegetation was seriously overgrown, in certain other points the blazes were so faded that they looked like bits of lichen), but we managed to find our way nonetheless with the aid of a good trail description.

We saw some city skylines from near the Pulpit viewpoint (Sal guessed that the one on the top left was NYC; I can no longer pick NYC out of a lineup but it seems plausible to me):

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cold Spring

Pretty much on the spur of the moment, I decided to do a solo hike in Cold Spring.  I was thinking to go to Beacon, but I was running out of water.  And energy.  So I ended up just doing Washburn (white) to Notch (blue) to Undercliff (yellow), which I think was about 6.3 miles not including the road walking to and from the trailheads.

Ye Standard Washburn Trail Picture

A lovely pale lavender fungus

Cairns Gone Wild!!!

Fungus with a waffle indentation

Spider web

Doorstop at Le Bouchon Cafe

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"The Gardener" by Rudyard Kipling

I haven't read much (if anything) by Kipling, but I recently listened to his short story, "The Gardener," on The Classic Tales Podcast.  I listened to it a few times, and then read it for myself.*

It's a gem.  One might say it's a portrait of (among many other things) loneliness and missed chances for redemption.  I predicted the primary twist, but I did not anticipate the overall trajectory or even the genre of the story.

FN* The story was published in the book Debits and Credits.  Strangely, all of the "complete" free versions I found online are marred with errors and omissions.  The most striking omission was the end and aftermath of the conversation with Mrs Scarsworth; I don't know if that is an earlier or alternative version of the story (i.e., if Kipling ever published it without those paragraphs)..

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Schunemunk Mountain II: Revenge of the Ridge

My first hike on Schunemunk was just over five years ago, with a group of friendly strangers.  This time I went with different folks - people I already knew, imagine that! - and we had three cars.  So after a feisty debate at Jay's Deli, we decided on a south-bound point-to-point from the Trestle Trail (white) to Barton Swamp (red dot) to Jessup (yellow) to the Long Path (aqua).  With a little side-trip to the megaliths, of course.  According to a pedometer, our journey was 9+ miles.

We started out by heading straight up to the ridge, a steady climb... 

On the Barton Swamp trail, one of the stones looked dry but had slippery moss on it.  Whomp!  My feet slipped forward and I fell back on the rock.  My palms felt a bit abraded, but the only damage was a little cut on my left elbow which I discovered that evening.

At one of the turns in the path, there was a turkey vulture hanging out on a dead branch, just 10-15 feet away from us.
Up close with a turkey vulture!
We pushed on, soon finding to our chagrin that we were not staying on the ridge to which we ascended (the west side of Schunemunk); rather, we descended part-way and then ascended to a parallel ridge (the east side).  Careful examination of the topographical maps might have revealed that to us either.  Or actually reading the full trail description in my hiking guide - that would have done it, too!

In any event, the walk was challenging but good, with excellent views to reward us.

The other thing I might have been aware of (had I read the trail guide beyond, say, the first two paragraphs... or even if I had read my own post from five years ago) was that there would be snakes.

Andy, for one, is not scared of snake skin!!

I'm certainly cautious and respectful around snakes (especially ones that might be venomous), rather than brave or bold.  But I'm willing to assume (until proven otherwise) that snakes are generally not likely to attack unless they feel trapped or in danger, and I figure that calmness will allow me to deal with whatever might happen. So that's my strategy, for now.*  

Snake #1: This one literally went into reverse when he saw us.

No trip to Schunemunk is complete with a detour to see the Megaliths (which are spelled "Megoliths" on the park map and "Monoliths" in my prior post).

Post-lunch siesta

On top of the world!

After a nice lunch break and lots of photos, we went on.

The blazes were not always easy to spot -- many marks had faded, or were far apart.  But throughout the ridge, we found that people had marked the true path not only by building cairns, but also by creating little guiding walls (generally one or two rocks high) to point the right direction.  These were often only a foot or two long, but sometimes longer.  As long as you are mindful enough not to step right over them as if they were natural formations, but instead allow yourself to be herded by them, you'll be fine.
They really did not want us to miss this turn.
With the recent rain, there were some muddy spots (though nothing too deep or troublesome) and also (drum roll please) ... some fungi!  My favorites were the lavender ones.
Lavender mushroom!

As the afternoon wore on, we reached higher and drier ground, with smoother rock slab ledges (rather than the conglomerate type).  High, dry, smooth rocks in the afternoon sunshine.  Great for snakes!

My companions saw a timber rattlesnake coiled at the side of the path.  It startled them, and they startled the snake - which suddenly zipped out right in front of me and then under a ledge, rattling lightly as it went.  It was really pretty, but moved too fast past me for a photo.  But I used the flash to capture a shot of the snake under the ledge:

Snake #2: timber rattler.  Coincidentally, this is exactly the kind of snake my
guidebook mentioned we might encounter on the hike.
So we all survived that encounter (although arguably it was a close call, because one person jumped backward toward someone who was close to the edge!).  

Just a few minutes later, after a scenic overlook, we saw another rattler.  This one was a diamondback rattlesnake.  A big, chunky one.  Right on the path, and really not that interested in moving off of the path in honor of our approach.  Sort of a "stand your ground" snake.

The locals we met said that the diamondback is more aggressive/dangerous than the timber rattler; apparently, the diamondback does not feel the need to flee, and does not rattle in warning, but simply strikes.

So this was a bit tricky.  But we went around to the far side of the path and gave it a wide berth.  

Snake #3: diamondback rattler - This guy wasn't going anywhere fast, and didn't bother to rattle at us.  
Soon after the third snake, we began our final descent.  Note the aqua blaze(s) on the trunk of the tree on the cliff's edge:

This last part looked pretty steep as we approached...

I usually love to play mountain goat on the descents, but I went very slowly this time because I had managed to twist my left ankle a bit earlier in the day, and it was painful to mis-step.

The path finally took us down to a train track, which we followed along to reach Highway 32.

This photo is dedicated to my mom, who used to collect these glass insulators (albeit not "in the wild" like this!)

FN*  Of course, now that I've read a bit about the effects of snake venom, maybe I'll buy a snake bite kit as a back-up plan.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Weekend in Vermont!

For a belated "Parents' Day Weekend," I treated my folks to a weekend at a Vermont hiking spa.  When I awoke early Saturday morning it was pouring so hard I couldn't imagine ever getting out of bed!!!  But the rain stopped, I had a blueberry shake for breakfast (and no, they will not allow you to have a shake AND some steel-cut oatmeal at the same session), and we sent off for an Intermediate Hike.  It was a little over 5 miles according to my mom's pedometer, and included the Contest Trail.  The highlight was this clearing/meadow where there were blackberries aplenty and a bush full of the largest blueberries I've ever seen:

The spa itself is located in a ski resort which has perhaps seen better days.  But the scenery can't be beat:

View from the backyard.  Tent for yoga and other classes is just off-frame to the right.

On Sunday, we were pressed for time so went on a Beginner Hike, also a bit over 5 miles, but on smooth unpaved road along a brook.  Our destination was a bridge, from which we could see:

Not exactly roaring waterfalls, but a pleasant nature walk (sans naturalist guides).  On the way back, we stopped at a farmhouse to pass the time.  They told us about their struggles with bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all regulations (they are especially unhappy with laws that interfere with their ability to sell lovingly hand-produced unpasteurized goat's milk to informed and willing buyers).  They also told us about what it was like when Irene came through - the tiny brook we'd walked along swelled of course into a mighty river and overflowed its banks.  Luckily, they were OK - the water came across the road and almost up to the house, but did no permanent damage (other than possibly to the turkeys they kept down by the water - not sure I caught that part just right).  But many houses along the main river were ripped from their foundations - in fact, they are still there today.  The village got together promptly so that each could provide according to his/her ability, to those in need.  It was good to hear.  Apparently those who lost everything are now (according to the farmer) better off than before ... though it seems that the unmoored houses will stay in place until FEMA money comes through.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Learning the hard way

Apartment still in chaos, but I've hung up curtains in the living room and gave away my old a/c window unit so it's already better now.  Need to reorganize the storage spaces to reincorporate the stuff I've brought back. Goal is to streamline and make it easy to access even when things are up on high shelves.  Need to figure out where to keep things (and which things not to keep).  Tempted to keep portable linen closet, and small dish rack - but better to give em away, I think. And maybe time to get rid of the shelves and showerhead I've had lying around for - oh, I dunno - a decade.

Remember that contractor who wouldn't give me a start date? Well, he finally tells me he can start ... the next day.  Communication? Not really his strong point.  Nor clean-up or customer focus, as it turns out. Nothing is his fault. Signs of carelessness are blithely explained away and dismissed. But we finally reached a compromise.  And happily the project is over.  I'd been hoping I'd found someone I could work with on a bigger project I have in mind, but I suppose it's almost as good to rule him out without additional headaches.