Saturday, June 18, 2022

Back to Cold Spring!

It was a cool, breezy day, perfect for hiking.  For the stem of the lollipop (about 1 hour), I walked from the station to the trailhead, then took a left at the initial fork for the gentle slope of Cornish (blue) to Brook (red).  The loop portion took me about 2.5 hours: right on Undercliff (yellow), left on Washburn (white) to go up and over the top of Bull Hill, then left on Notch (blue) back to the junction with Undercliff.  From there, I retraced my steps.  

Not much to report in terms of flora or fauna, but it was nice to get back to the old stomping grounds.  

Saturday, May 21, 2022


At the AskAManager site: 

1. How do I explain why I’m not donating blood?

My medium-sized company is hosting a blood drive on site in a few weeks and HR has really been pushing for people to sign up. I would love to donate blood but because I am a sexually active gay man, I am not allowed. Because I live in a small, conservative town, I am in mostly in the closet (totally at work). My employer is basically the only game in town and I need to keep my job. From past conversations and experiences, I have no doubt that things would not go well if I came out (that includes HR and my boss).

While I hate that this is how it is, I have come to terms with it. The issue is, I don’t know what to say to people when they ask why I haven’t signed up. I can’t say the truth so I think a small white lie is the way to go. I was going to say that I donated recently already but as this is a small town, we don’t have many drives so worry about follow-up questions. Any other suggestions? 

Since I apparently missed the commenting window, here's my $0.02:

I'd try to pick a vague reason or even a non-reason and repeat it over and over, no matter what.  Unless the busybodies have a subpoena, you don't have to give them a real answer of any kind - no matter how hard they push.  

And if they start speculating about specific reasons why you might be unable to give blood, whether correctly or incorrectly, I'd move to "You are not entitled to that information."  Or "Wow, that's presumptuous."  Or just stare at them in amazement at their rudeness and walk away.    

I suppose the bottom line, for me, is that it is, in fact, the busybodies who are being rude if they persist after a polite non-answer or a polite deflection.  The longer they persist, the ruder they are being.  You owe them nothing.

And now that I think about it, the letter writer doesn't even need to reveal the fact that he cannot give blood.  If he's got the courage to face down social disapproval and is willing to ignore or deflect attempts to persuade him that he's being selfish or insufficiently public-spirited, "I don't want to" is a more than sufficient reason - and it should shut down inquiry into his reasons.  

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Along Breakneck Ridge

So today, I took the high road and stayed along the ridge.  It was more arduous than I remembered; there's a bit of scramble which feels a little exposed, especially when the wind gusts, and there was a lot of mud and damp leaves.  On the final leg, I managed to stray from the official path and had a punishingly steep descent.  Felt it in my knees after a while - not good.  

But it was a good day overall.  Plenty of fungi and flowers.  Not much wildlife - just a daddy long-legs, a few slugs, and a worm or two.  

Arrived Cold Spring at 10:30, made it to the 4:04 train at Beacon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Answering Back to a Gaslighter

Another pair of moments when perhaps Tolkien and Lewis are exploring similar ideas in their fiction. 

The setup for both, broadly speaking, is that a villain has dominated another's will through nefarious means.  With the assistance of outsiders, the victim is starting to break free, and the villain turns to gaslighting.  A person once under the villain's dominion now answers back.

In "The King of the Golden Hall" (LotR bk III, ch 6), Wormtongue's steady lies and evil counsel over a period of years have managed to sap Théoden's strength until he sees himself as a doddering old man.  Gandalf breaks the "spell" with a little sound-and-light show that leaves the cowardly Wormtongue face down on the floor, then gives Théoden a solo pep talk and encourages him to remember and re-embrace his own strength by casting aside his staff and holding a sword.  Théoden is soon ready to hear the news (the need for action to protect his people) and reacts to it as a king should.  When Wormtongue is brought back, he tries to salvage the situation with a little gaslighting:

'Dear lord!' cried Wormtongue. 'It is as I feared. This wizard has bewitched you. Are none to be left to defend the Golden Hall of your fathers, and all your treasure? None to guard the Lord of the Mark?'

'If this is bewitchment,' said Théoden, 'it seems to me more wholesome than your whisperings. Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast. [...]' 

So the ploy doesn't work; the erstwhile victim has come to see things clearly.  But note the form of response.  He doesn't flat-out contradict Wormtongue.  He shies away ever-so-slightly from the direct confrontation by taking Wormtongue's premise as possibly or hypothetically true, and choosing Gandalf's way over Wormtongue's way as "more wholesome," even if magic is involved.

Lewis tackles something a bit like this in "The Queen of Underland" (The Silver Chair, ch. 12).  An evil witch has kidnapped and bewitched Prince Rilian of Narnia, giving him amnesia so that he will fall in with her plans.  She has had him in her power for years.  Puddleglum and the children free Rilian during one of his brief moments of lucidity, and he smashes the instrument of his magical enslavement.  The witch returns, and quickly creates a new enchantment to cloud the thinking of Rilian and his rescuers, while she works to gaslight them into believing that her dreary underground caves are the only reality.  

She deflects and denies all their attempts to "prove" (or get her to acknowledge) the existence of the sunlit world they have always known, half-persuading them that they have invented or dreamed it all.  So when Puddleglum finally manages to break this new enchantment, he does not try to reject the witch's false premises. Instead, he takes them as at least presumptively true and explains why he chooses the ways of Narnia and Aslan over the witch's way even if they are mere illusions. 

"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.   Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it.  We're just babies making up a game, if you're right.  But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.  That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world.  I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it.  I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.  So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland.  Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."  

 (italics in original; bold added) 

Friday, October 08, 2021

Good But Dangerous

In the popular imagination, labeling a person as "good" can be a way to dismiss them.  The playground taunts of someone as a "goody-goody" or a "goody two-shoes" imply that they are over-scrupulous or even over-concerned with the appearance of goodness as if to curry favor with those in power.  The stereotype is perhaps to say that a "good" person is an obedient rule-follower, boring and insipid, lacking in imagination and drive; they are predictable and easily taken advantage of.  They will surely finish last.  Indeed, there can be something almost offensive in their seeming inoffensiveness. 

But Lewis and Tolkien, each in their own way, decouple the ideas of goodness and safety in their fiction – both naturally and implicitly in the worlds they have created, and also expressly in reported dialogue.  

Here the Beavers are telling Peter, Susan, and Lucy about Aslan (whom we have not yet met) in chapter 8 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (emphasis added):

"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly." 

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy. 

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

(The idea comes back in various forms throughout the Narnia books.  In The Silver Chair, for example, Jill Pole asks Aslan to "promise not to – do anything" to her, if she comes and drinks from the stream; he declines, and proceeds to tell her "I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms."  We repeatedly hear that Aslan is not "a tame lion.")

And here's where Gandalf tells Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli about Fangorn, in book III, chapter 5 of The Lord of The Rings (emphasis added):

"But you speak of him as if he was a friend.  I thought Fangorn was dangerous."  

"Dangerous!" cried Gandalf. "And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet[...].  And Aragorn is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Glóin; for you are dangerous yourself, in your own fashion. Certainly the forest is perilous [...] and Fangorn himself, he is perilous too; yet he is wise and kindly nonetheless."

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Cold Spring to Beacon Redux

HÅKAN Chocolatier was as good an excuse as I needed to go to Beacon. And since the shop is already half an hour's walk from the Beacon train station, why not simply walk up from Cold Spring?

It's been a few years since I've followed the hiking trails from Cold Spring to Beacon – probably not since 2018, when I was preparing for the West Highland Way – so I double-checked the route options before I set out.  The initial part would be Cornish-Brook-Notch-Breakneck Ridge, a fairly standard easy ascent.  From there, I wanted to switch to the Wilkinson Memorial trail because it would be less crowded.  But the truly critical choice would be when I hit the Casino trail: should I take the ever-popular and most direct route down to Beacon, or add another big chunk to my hike by continuing on Wilkinson, past some scenic overlooks to Dozer Junction and Fishkill Ridge?  I was inclined to use crowd-avoidance as my lodestar, but wasn't entirely sure if I'd be up for it.

Merging Onto the White-Blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail

I like the woodsy climbs and descents along the long stretch of trail blazed blue and white (i.e., where Notch and Breakneck Ridge merge or overlap).  It is almost entirely wooded (no scenic overlooks that I can recall) but very pretty in the early autumn, and pleasantly solitary on this spectacular day.  At a few points, I lost the trail briefly but quickly rejoined.

A standard approach

I was thrilled to see another example of polypore, which I learned about last month in New Hampshire.  At first, I thought it was growing on a living tree and was a little surprised by that.
first glimpse of a birch polypore

But a step back suggests it is essentially a very tall tree stump!  I'm not sure why it hasn't fallen, but it's quite striking in situ.

Not a vein in the rock; it's a glistening trail left by some creature.  I don't recall 
having seen these delicate slime-trails before, but today there were several.

Veering Off to the Yellow-Blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail

Soon after Notch (blue) and Breakneck Ridge (white) diverge, Wilkinson Memorial (yellow) merges with the blue.  They continue together for a while, then right after you cross Squirrel Hollow Creek, the yellow trail splits off; it goes around a bit and then crosses the white trail, heading up eventually to a nice series of overlooks.

The first dubious choice... taking a detour to descend from the ridge

What I had not remembered (although I suppose it is clear enough on the contour map) was that the blue and yellow trails steadily descend at this point.  It makes perfect sense when you think about it; the blue trail had been following the ridge and thus had nowhere to go but down!  But it was a little disheartening to be descending and descending in order to re-ascend later on.  After all, I could have stayed up on the ridge.  There are good reasons why this route is less crowded! 

Relatedly, I also soon realized that the trail maintainers do not expect people to go the way I did on this section.  The double blue and yellow blazes are bright and clear and new looking if you're south-bound (I looked back often to check), but the yellow blazes have faded to the point of invisibility if you're heading north – leaving me to wonder if I'd missed the turn-off for yellow.  (I had not yet realized I'd be crossing a creek first!)    

Notch and Wilkinson Memorial blazes, a rare instance where they are bold
plastic disks, instead of a bright square of blue paint and a barely discernible
trace of where a square of yellow paint may once have been

The Decision Point 

I pushed myself hard on all these initial sections and reached the turnoff for the red-blazed Casino trail about 3 hours after I'd set out from Cold Spring.  I followed Wilkinson Memorial a bit past the intersection, then sat down on a rock to decide what to do.  While I munched on my bread and cheese, one couple surged past me energetically. They then reappeared about five minutes later with a cheery "Red trail it is!"  Ultimately I decided to challenge myself; it was not yet 1 p.m.

The first scenic overlook north of the Casino trail is perhaps a 10-minute walk and quite rewarding.

the first scenic overlook on the Wilkinson Memorial trail north of the Casino trail is spectacular

After that, to be perfectly honest, the cost/benefit ratio deteriorated somewhat for the subsequent views.  I'd told myself that it'd be easier from that point, since I'd be staying at the top of the ridge, but there was a lot more undulation than I remembered, and I started to sigh with every new climb.

sadly, each subsequent viewpoint shows more man-made structures

I worried a bit that I'd already eaten all my food (though I had plenty of water) and I slowed my pace considerably because I noticed my feet were occasionally starting to slip or turn. So that left me a little nervous about finding my way if I were still out there as daylight faded, since I wasn't sure from my map how many miles I was really adding to my journey.  

A Crucial Shortcut

There are two ways to get from the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial trail to the white-blazed Fishkill Ridge trail, which I counted on taking down to Pocket Road in Beacon.

In the northward/eastward direction, you first encounter a little blue-blazed trail (0.3 miles, with the unimaginative trail name of "Blue"), which provides a shortcut to Fishkill Ridge via Dozer Junction.  Just a little further on, however, you will reach a direct intersection of the Wilkinson and Fishkill trails.
Two ways to get from yellow to white

How important is this shortcut?  Well, it looks like it spares you 2 or 3 miles and the summits (such as they are) of Bald Hill and Lambs Hill!

What happens if you miss the crucial shortcut

I would like to walk the entire Fishkill Ridge trail someday, but today was not that day.  I resolved that if I somehow missed the turnoff for the Blue trail to Dozer Junction and came to the direct intersection of Wilkinson Memorial and Fishkill Ridge, I'd retrace my steps and do whatever it took to find that crucial shortcut! 

Fortunately, it was well-marked and I did not have go back!  At certain points, there were some nice delicate white flowers against the ferns, reminiscent of an English garden; elsewhere, a few purplish maple leaves fallen among the grasses reminded me of a William Morris design.  From time to time, there were fungi of interesting colors.

fungi with a delicate blue-gray color, bordering on the palest purple

a little hard to capture the effect,
but it reminded me of an English garden

 a few fallen maple leaves among the grasses;
almost an accidental echo of William Morris

Patriotic litterbugs: a contradiction in terms? Discuss.

I liked the mossy crannies (left) and pale pink-peach fungus (center-right) on this stump

Dozer Junction at last!

I continued on, with the positive reinforcement of passing the turn-off for the Overlook Trail only to encounter a nice little overlook from Fishkill Ridge.

A glimpse of the Hudson from Fishkill Ridge,
a little west of the Overlook trail

I was also encouraged by the fact that I was now encountering quite a few hikers who were apparently starting their hiking day with a climb up to Fishkill Ridge.  Clearly they didn't think darkness was about to fall and cut them off from finding their way back!  There was one very large group of perhaps college-aged kids climbing up; I stepped aside and let them all pass.  Some of them thanked me for it, in courtesy, but of course I was more than happy to rest a bit by now.  

An Unexpected Journey

So I continued my descent along the Fishkill Ridge trail until I got to a rough gravel road.  I knew the trail should cross the road, but it wasn't immediately obvious where the trail was.  (I dimly remembered having encountered this issue when I'd been here before.)  On my map, it looked like I could descend to the town by turning right on the gravel road.  It seemed to me that that might be a good idea anyway; I was getting tired, and had to be deliberately mindful of my footing to avoid injuring myself with a turned ankle.  I didn't relish all the stream crossings and slippery rocks I'd encounter on the official trail from this point on.  

I turned right on the gravel road and half-heartedly looked for a continuation of the Fishkill Ridge trail (though I was increasingly sure you have to turn left on the road to find it).  

As I steadily and carefully descended the gravel road, I kept mulling over possible justifications, excuses, and attitudes if challenged by some park ranger.  (Should I focus on my fatigue and justify it as responsible decision-making for my personal safety?  On the fact there were no signs saying not to walk on the road?  Am I too old to pull off the look of innocent, wide-eyed surprise?)
Soon enough, my fear materialized; I heard an internal combustion engine coming up the hill toward me.  I got off the road and stood as motionless as possible in hopes that I wouldn't be spotted.  It didn't work, but it also became clear that the car crawling up the road was driven by a civilian!  The guy was mindlessly following his GPS, trying to somehow get down to the town (although he was obviously ascending).   He had questions.  Did the deeply rutted gravel road get any better?  I couldn't speak for the entire road, but I had seen nothing but gravel.  Is it a dead end, or does it come out the other side?  I had no idea; I'd joined from the hiking trail.  Did it get any broader, so he could turn around? Not really, from what I'd seen, but there was a point where the road split a little so vehicles could pass; perhaps he could turn there.  I wished him luck.  

He did manage to turn around, and as he passed me the other direction, he asked me to wish him (more) luck.  So I did.  

But all along, I'd been quietly skeptical that this was a road on which civilian drivers were welcomed.  And sure enough, as I reached the end, I turned around and saw a red sign saying "NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT.

easily missed by a civilian driver enslaved to his GPS.

The gravel road ended in an intersection with the hairpin turn of a paved road which was most emphatically not as shown on my map.  But it seemed to me perfectly clear that turning left to follow the paved road down was my best bet for descending to the town of Beacon proper.  And so it was.

Once I reached the regular residential streets, it was just about a 20-minute walk to downtown Beacon.

Sculpture of two birds on a tree, in front of an arched gate.

All in all, it took me less than 7 hours to get from the Cold Spring depot to the chocolate shop.   

On my way to the train, I ate some cookies and cream ice cream, with gingersnaps!  It was very good. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021


So I headed north for a bit of birthday celebration.  Some small walks, some games of Upwords, some nice meals, and family togetherness.  Ruth furnished a cake which, as she described it, seemed to be the product of a strange alchemy.  Apparently, you pour the chocolate cake batter in to the mold, and then pour the dulce de leche flan batter on top.  But during the baking process, the chocolate cake portion rises up through the flan to the top!  Of course, when it's done, and you turn over the mold, the chocolate cake becomes the base.  It was quite nice, especially the flan part.  

in person, the sleek lines of the little boat
in the foreground were quite appealing

as the sailboat tacked and moved along, the sail color seemed to change with the angle of the light;
at first, it looked like a solid dusky silver-grey, while later the white was almost blindingly pure

 a nice bold striation, there

an attractive arrangement of daisies

The teenagers were certainly missed, but I was feeling a little unnecessary extra pang initially, when I mistakenly thought I hadn't seen them in an entire year.  (In fact, it's only been one-third of a year.)  I mean, it would be great to see them more often, but given the pandemic and the frenetic pace of their high school activities, I can content myself.  In the mean time, I'm certainly glad I seized on pretty much every excuse to go see them in the early days, when they were more readily portable!  I'm so proud of them, and so curious to see the paths they will choose.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Today's Walk

I caught the train up to Cold Spring today two hours later than I'd intended, but at least an hour earlier than last weekend.  The subway was far less crowded (thank goodness!) and there didn't seem to be huge crowds of hikers exiting the train with me, so I went ahead with the classic 5.5 mile loop, taking Washburn up and over Bull Hill, then returning on Notch, Brook, and Cornish.

It was perfect weather.  Saw a paper wasp nest, the usual variety of fungi (including one that looked a little like a cross section of a tree branch) a low-flying turkey vulture overhead at the summit, two caterpillars (one on the trail and one on a Pepsi machine at the station), a very pale spider (also at the station). 

Had to push myself a bit, and stopped for several water breaks to catch my breath on the way up, but it felt really good.  (This is all very unlike last weekend, when I'd gone up the gentler Nelsonville trail to avoid the crowds – doing Washburn as a descent – and remained in the grip of lethargy and a sense of pointlessness all the way.)

Supported the local economy by buying some gelato afterward (flavor: cookies and cream).

paper wasp nest to the left of the trail on the ascent

ungathered mushrooms

¡si, oruga!

shy little spider on railing


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Recent Walks

On July 31st, I walked the usual 5.4 mile loop: Washburn (white) up and over Bull Hill, to Notch (blue) to Brook (red) and Cornish (blue again - apparently they have a limited palette).  Conditions were pretty much ideal.  I saw two instances of a really cool black mushroom of some kind; it looked like embossed leather.

nifty black fungus

they've gotten SERIOUS about people not missing this little detour on the Notch trail

on the subway platform

I was toying with doing another solo walk on Wednesday, the predicted most clement day of my week off, but instead decided to (gasp) be social.  This meant going for a celebratory hot chocolate with friends Wednesday and then walking with a friend on Friday (I hadn't seen her in person since October).

Friday was ... not as clement.  I was feeling a little guilty for choosing an early start time, but it turns out we should have set out even earlier.  Like 2 or 3 hours earlier.  The air was heavy the entire day and we went quite slowly.  We chose to avoid the initial steep ascent of Washburn and ultimately followed a 7.5 mile lollipop route: Cornish (blue) to Brook (red) to Undercliff (yellow) to Washburn (white) up and over Bull Hill, then the traditional descent down through Notch (blue) to Brook (red) to Cornish (blue).  When you add in the 1.6 miles round trip walk to the train station, that's not bad at all!  

We met a fair number of people on the way up – they were all going the other way of course, like the man with seven wives, each carrying seven sacks with seven cats – but once we got to Washburn, we were completely alone.  

we saw several turkey vultures, but I never had my camera ready when they were close!

a bit of haze on the horizon

Then, by the time we started the descent from Bull Hill, we started to encounter some mosquitos.  Increasingly clouds or swarms of them.  We stopped several times to re-apply DEET and citronella, but nevertheless they persisted.  It was unpleasant, although I don't think either of us got bitten.  It was unprecedented in all my years walking the Hudson Highlands trails.

I was quite tired by the end of our walk.  My friend wanted to get some ice water, while I didn't want to miss catching the next train, which was supposed to arrive in 1 to 6 minutes.  So I directly went to the platform and boarded when the train arrived. I was hitting 'send' on some apologetic texts to my friend when, lo and behold, there she was! She'd made it! In between naps on the way home, I checked the weather and saw that the air quality was rated Very Poor, with a recommendation to avoid strenuous exercise.  Oops.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

A Divine or Providential Madness?

So, the companions are waiting for Frodo to decide what to do.  Gimli, Legolas, Merry and Pippin all think it best to go to Minas Tirith.  Merry says "It would be mad and cruel to let Frodo go to Mordor. Why can't we stop him?" and Pippin concurs "We must stop him."  (FotR 403)   If they cannot dissuade him, they all mean to join him, but Sam recognizes that's not an option for Frodo.  He must and will choose to stick with the quest and head off to Mordor, preferably alone.  Aragorn concurs (id.): 

Now, Frodo is surely no match for two Men, especially if backed by a Dwarf and an Elf.  And yet in response to Pippin's renewed suggestion of forcible constraint, Aragorn seems almost to suggest that "other powers [...] far stronger" would thwart them from imposing their will on a single Hobbit, if he decides to press on eastward. 

This is a little astonishing; we have heard much about the power of the Ring, but here it seems there are "other powers" that would support Frodo's decision, should he manage to screw up his courage to do what he must.  This seems to me to follow the same hint we see in Beowulf: "Wyrd oft nereð / unfægne eorl þonne his ellen deah" (572-3).  If Frodo turns aside now, fate/providence won't save him... but if he is courageous enough to continue his quest, fate may save him if he's not doomed to fail.

When Boromir returns, they realize Frodo is not merely taking a long time to decide; he has quite literally disappeared (after putting on the Ring to escape Boromir).  Sam panics, and Aragorn attempts to impose order:

'Wait a moment!' cried Aragorn.  'We must divide up into pairs, and arrange – here, hold on! Wait!' 

It was no good. They took no notice of him.  Sam had dashed off first. Merry and Pippin had followed, and were already disappearing westward [...].  Legolas and Gimli were running.  A sudden panic or madness seemed to have fallen on the Company.  (FotR 404, emphasis added)

That last sentence suggests to me a divine madness, one that descends perhaps from the "other powers" to which Aragorn so recently alluded.  It is especially the words "seemed to have fallen on" that convey this impression, in conjunction with its suddenness.  This is no slow-boiling kettle, with people gradually working themselves up to a frenzy; the sense is of something external which has "fallen on" them.

As a result of this "panic or madness," the company is scattered, almost like the children of men in the land of Shinar when God confounds their language, that they may not understand one another's speech (Genesis 11:7 [tower of Babel]).  

But this madness and scattering providentially assists Frodo's decision to continue the quest.  Sam attempts to follow Aragorn, but can't keep up.  Stopping to catch his breath, he finally realizes what Frodo must have done and takes off after him just in time.  So Frodo gets the companion he needs, and the two are able to slip off undetected amidst the chaos until it is too late for their friends to stop them or join them. 

We can't say for sure that this is a divine or providential madness at work to support Frodo's new-found resolution... but I don't think we can rule it out.  

* * *

Coda: We later get Pippin's recollection of this "sudden panic or madness," as he starts to piece together where he is and what's happened.

Of course: he and Merry had run off into the woods. What had come over them? Why had they dashed off like that, taking no notice of old Strider? They had run a long way shouting – he could not remember how far or how long; and then suddenly they had crashed right into a group of Orcs: they were standing listening, and they did not appear to see Merry and Pippin until they were almost in their arms.

Again, he has the sense that something "had come over them."