Tag Archives: Nature

Camp Journal, Part 1

 

Perfect Storms

Chairs Await

I understand much of the modern science of meteorology. Warm and cold fronts, high and low atmospheric pressures, occluded fronts, jet streams, humidity, moisture in the clouds. One can fathom a pretty good guess with the data from weather radar, computer modeling, and good, old-fashioned experience and instinct. Still, even a meteorologist will admit, foretelling the weather is essentially an informed speculation.
So the weather forecast for our annual trip to the Adirondack High Peaks region and the remote Forked Lake Wilderness called for showers and passing thunderstorms. 25% guess for Friday, 85% educated good guess for Saturday, and back to 25% Sunday. “Looks like we might see our first washout.” Joe texted me. My regular camping companion for this past decade, he followed Sparky’s lead (our other 10-year die hard compatriot), who had hinted at calling it off already on Thursday. It would be the first break in the ten-year tradition. “Bah!” I replied to Joe. “I’m heading north. We’ll see what it looks like when we get up there. Every day is part of the story!”
Friday morning, after we finally got Max awake, he and another grandson, Kacey, climbed in the Jimmy and hauled our boat, the AquaMarie, to her favorite destination. Skies were cloudy and overcast, and temperatures were high, in the 80’s. Perfect brewing weather for thunderstorms. We were packing light and moving at a quick but unhurried pace. We drove past the scenic outlook, where we can see the western edge of the Green Mountains in Vermont, and the north end of The Berkshires. We drove past the hamlet of Sabael. These are two places I like to pause and look and linger.
We pulled into the Indian Lake One-Stop for our traditional cold cut sandwiches. Max’s favorite is the liverwurst sub, not something offered at a lot of places. I do turkey on wheat, and I don’t know if it’s superior bread and cold cuts or the atmosphere and preferred company, but I find it always to be the best turkey sandwich of my year. We ate on the road, continuing our northward trek and watching skies that looked potentially stormy, but dropped no rain on us. Past Lake Durant, past Mason Lake, past Galusha’s Cottages and Lake Algonquin, and the Northville-Lake Placid Trail signs.
After two hours’ travel, I drove past Deerland Road, where three miles hence resided the gravel road, which 2.8 miles later brings us to the DEC Campground at Forked Lake. I turned left at Hoss’s Corner Store, and showed the boys Long Lake, (the lake, not the village) and the place where Ryan and I boarded a float plane for a great ride, much of it right over our beloved campground. Then we made straightaway for the boat launch, and the AquaMarie slid into the cool, clear water, the lake obviously low, with a few rocks poking up where normally they are hidden. We could see the high water mark, and the lake was down by perhaps four inches or so. In a shallow lake filled with boulders, this can mean the difference between boating over rocks or hitting them.
Then we came to our first, and frankly easiest, hitch in our plans. We checked in at the ranger station and asked for two bags of firewood, to which the ranger replied “No wood this year. Didn’t have time to get it.” The campsites in the state had only opened July first, and hadn’t time to put everything in place. “Have to go to Stewart’s for wood.” he said. So back in the truck and up the 2.8 mile gravel road and the three miles of paved road and three more miles back to the hamlet of Long Lake. Passing the Stewart’s and Hoss’s, I again continued down the “main drag” by the beach, where the water taxi was homed and the Adirondack Hotel stood three stories high, facing north. Here we stopped at Mountain Born, and picked up four bags of firewood after nosing around the campy-touristy store. Little did we know that finding this hitherto unexplored trading post would be our salvation from another hitch we would encounter Saturday.
Camp stores are a mesmerizing conglomeration of goods, and seem to be a hybrid of tourist trap, camp store, marina, hardware store, grocery and fishing tackle supply. There are window stickers and T-shirts and sweatshirts for the tourists. Then there is camping supply; stove gas and fire starters, plastic flatware and plastic ponchos and S’mores sticks. Part of the store is a mini-marina; spark plugs for your boat motor, 2-stroke oil, paddles, life jackets, bulbs for your running lights, ropes for anchor lines. At the other end of this aisle is the beach store; sunscreen and beach umbrellas, floaties, checkered plastic tablecloths, disposable hibachis and folding chairs. Next to plastic pails and sand shovels and the occasional snorkel we find the automotive section; motor oil, fix-a-flat, air fresheners and sun shades. In the midst of this will be a miniature fishing tackle department, with poles and fishing line, lures, hooks, snap swivels, and a fish scaler. Then the souvenir section, with those little cedar boxes declaring “World’s Best Mom” or “Lake Life”. There are soaps made from pine needles and candies made from maple syrup and boxes of Paine’s Of Maine balsam incense.
We grabbed up our firewood and hightailed it back to the boat launch, boarded the AquaMarie, and motored out onto the lake, up the east shore to sites 31 and 32, our home for these three days. Clouds came and went, as did the sunshine, and we awaited Joe’s arrival at site 33. We pitched camp in short order, and were ready for some fishing. We headed for “the lily pads”, which actually describes a half dozen places around the lake with several inlets. This spot, however, has two parallel channels that wend their way through half a mile of bog before emptying into the pristine lake at one of our top “hot spots”. From here, Max would land the first of many bass over the weekend. One at seventeen inches, and another at sixteen. Kacey and I would soon join the ranks of successful fishers, and we were well on our way to another perfect day at camp.
As we caught and released quite a few fish, listened to the loons and floated on our peaceful lake, I began a running gag that would punctuate our weekend. With a sarcastic tone and a disgruntled moan, I’d say “This is awful. I should have stayed home.” The other running gag was the “waiting for Joe”. The last I heard from him before leaving my cell phone in the truck was “See you up there.” I fully expected him to show up sometime Friday. I’d see a boat as we were fishing and ask “Is that Joe?”
“Want to troll the south shore down to the lily pads?” Max asked, referring to yet another spot with the same moniker. I agreed, of course. Our road trip to Paradise, added trip to town, pitching camp and catching fish had burned up most of our day. The sun told me we had perhaps two hours before sunset. “Let’s head for the inlet (the “lily pads”) first,” I commanded as Captain of the AquaMarie, “then we’ll troll our way back so we’ll be getting closer to camp as it gets dark.”
We chugged slowly up the inlet as the water lilies fouled our prop and wrapped around it. We shut off the engine and dropped anchor at the spot that produced awesome fishing last year. I saw a movement across the forty-foot-wide channel, and from a pine tree not 100 feet away, a bald eagle leaped into the air, glided southbound down the channel, made two flaps of its nine foot wingspan, and disappeared behind the trees. We marveled at the sight.
“Well,” I summarized, “we drove here, pitched camp, caught fish, heard the loons, and now we’ve seen a bald eagle. Now we just need to eat some fish and sleep in a tent and we’ll have checked all the boxes for a perfect trip to camp.”

Forked Lake Sunset

The action was hot, so we stayed at the Eagle’s Inlet. We watched the sunset from the boat, watched the water calm to glass. Viewed the colorful sky as civil twilight progressed to nautical twilight, often declaring “I should have stayed home.”
Finally, and I don’t recall exactly why, we weighed anchor, lit the running lights, and got underway for our mile-or-so trip back to camp. Perhaps darkness or hunger were our incentives, and we cannot discount plain old tiredness. The air was perfect, and we motored our way up the center channel as twilight faded into darkness. I throttled back, left the tiller, let her plod along her course toward the little light hanging from a tree that marked our home. I stood and walked amidship, between my two boys so I could be heard above the hum of the motor and the churning water.
“I’m so glad we did this. I’m always wanting to be out on the lake at night, cruising or fishing under the running lights. We have fulfilled my dream.” After a moment’s pause I put on a scowl. “This is awful. I should have stayed home.”
“Yeah.” the grandsons nodded in mock agreement.

We cooked more burgers over the fire. Kacey took to the hammock, to sleep out in the piney forest air. I prepared a bed for him in my tent, in the event he might need to escape rainfall. The occasional splash of a fish, a light breeze in the eaves of the hemlocks, and calls of the loons were our lullaby.

Ah, another perfect day.

The Pinnacle Days Of Summer

Bow View

We’re right smack dab in the middle of it now, this summer thing. Hot weather, T-shirts and shorts, long days with the sun setting at 8 o’clock. Misty, humid mornings. Hazy humid afternoons. Passing thunderstorms. Welcome trips to the lake or the ice cream stand.

Spring’s constant is change. Each day nature reveals something new. A flower, migrating birds, trees leafing in. The days grow longer and the temperatures milder. Away with coats and hats.

Then we roll into June. Busy as can be with grade ceremonies and graduations and weddings. The fields are getting greener, the pumpkin plants can be seen now, starting their march to Autumn. By the end of June, we’ve pretty much accepted summer weather as the status quo.

Too often, our senses are so calmed to summer that the slightest change will awaken them. A particularly chilly night, when we are shocked to find ourselves lighting the heater on a June morning. A hot day, which is what we would expect from summer, becomes the topic of whining conversations. “It’s oppressive today.” “It must be the humidity.” “Looks like rain all weekend.” “My air conditioner never stops.”

It takes focus to remember these are unique days. The brain purposely makes you forget February and snow and down comforters, and lulls you into thinking that life will be like this from now on. But the clock is ticking, the Earth is tilting, and these days we dreamed of in the depths of winter are numbered.

Now we arise each day and move through it without noticing the outdoors and the subtle changes in the flora and fauna. The lilies are blooming and the hummingbird regularly visits the foxglove. It’s just another summer day for us, but for the wildlife, the clock is ticking, too. Babies must be raised, taught foraging and camouflage and self-defense, and fattened up for the next set of seasons. Fledglings fledge and leave the nest, often under the watchful eyes of parents.

And so what looks like just another summer day is anything but. Thick leaves on trees hide the squirrels, thick underbrush hides the mink until she scurries across the road with lunch in her jaws. In tall grasses, Common Yellowthroats and Skippers and Crickets disappear, save the occasional glimpse of movement, the flash of a wing.

Now I am on watch each day. Every day I remind myself (and the dog, when she’s listening) that these are our pinnacle days. I must remind myself to look and to see and to treasure these moments. Lush, full trees. Red-winged Blackbirds. Summer storms. Each and every day counts, and I am bound and determined not to simply let them pass by without notice. Every evening I stand outside and marvel at the mild air, the starfield above, the calls of creatures of the night, the owl and the coyote.

When I awaken in my armchair at 1 a.m., and Juney wants to go out, I follow her. I note the position of the Big Dipper, off to her summer place, and far from her winter home. I note the morning sun rising over the Sumacs instead of the south side of the barn. On my commute she rides quartering-off to my left, a welcome relief from the dead-ahead of the equinoxes.

“Remember these lilies,
These misty mornings,
This thick underbrush,
This Pinnacle Day.”

And now I am off for the weekend to my favorite lake way up north in the High peaks Region of the Adirondack Mountains. Here I will commune with loons, lure some fishes. Sleep on the ground with the sounds of night things rustling beside my tent. I will rise with the sun and smell the air, scented with water and perfumes of pines. I will gaze out on the glass-smooth water under the stars. I will be in touch intimately with these Pinnacle Days, and will relish every moment before my return to civilization.

Keep watch now.
These days seem to pass so quickly, and I wouldn’t want you to miss a minute of it.

 

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

Earth Life

I’m talking to YOU!

“Rome was not built in a day.” they say.

“All in a day’s work.”

“An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

We’re talking to you, too.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

“Let’s call it a day.”

Enter Scarlett O’Hara, Margaret Mitchell’s beautiful, selfish, mesmerizing heroine of Gone With The Wind.
“Fiddle dee dee.” Scarlett says, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Hello?

“The Day The Earth Stood Still”

“Day Of The Jackal”

“Dog Day Afternoon”

What does a day mean to you?

I’m talking to you, as well.

Do you wait for one day each year to eat?

We’re asking YOU.

Do you take only one day each year to sleep?

I’m just listening.

Do you take care of your home just once each year? Make the beds, clean the windows, rake the lawn and then what? You’re done for another year?

Every day is critical to me.

Every day counts for us.

We embrace the Earth every day.

We’re talking to you, too.

It’s our Earth, too.

I’m trying hard to think of something special, something extra to do for Earth Day.
It seems everything I think of are the things I do every day.
For water, for air, for birds, for animals, for terra firma.
She is my mother, and I love her every day.
Not more on better days and less on lesser days.
I don’t live Earth Day or even Earth Year.

For me, for mother, I live an Earth Life.

Down here. We’re talking to you, too.

We’re in this together.

Trees and water calling, too.

We all share the same planet.

Don’t forget us.

A big thanks from me!

 

Love always,

Paz, Sasha, and Mother Earth

Budding Season

The four seasons called out on calendars are but a repository, a filing cabinet of sorts, for the thousand seasons-within-seasons that we observe during one trip around our sun. Within each quarter-year drawer are dozens of files, arranged chronologically of course. Once in a while, a file will be out of place, and some reference others. The paper calendar and the imaginary filing cabinet lend an air of order, of regimentation. If we look more closely it is sometimes more random, almost haphazard, sometimes chaos in defiance of logic. If you’ve ever had a late freeze, a simple cold snap on one solitary morning in April or May, you will understand. How this will echo and follow you daily, all the way around our planet’s course until next year.

No lilacs. Frozen apple blossoms results in a full year without apples. No little green starters in midsummer. No fruit on which to watch the blush of summer grow redder on its cheek, until it hints at the next season. No piles of apples amid the autumn leaves for deer to nosh on. No soft brown blobs left when the snow recedes, their presence welcomed by those who’ve toughed out a long, frozen winter. Of all the things a late freeze steals from me, I feel the greatest sense of longing for the apples. Fingers cramp from crossing until June.

After a long winter with rather little snow, we have now seen in this second week of April a number of flurries, even a few inches of accumulation which usually lasts only a day. We have a few tulips that have opened on the south lawn, where they bask in full sun beside the stone foundation. Tulips doused with snow somehow look entirely natural, perfectly contented. An April snow is easy to love, as one is keenly aware that it will not stay and pile up and need to be shoveled. It’s especially welcomed this year, to bring up the water table. Spring snowmelt fills our reservoirs and water towers, and starting the year in the hole brings trepidation.

April also brings a breathtaking and captivating burst of growth in nearly every tree and shrub. It is a tiny season-within-the season of spring, and if you’re not watching, you could easily miss the Budding Season among the trees. It’s easy to spot the pussy willows, their fuzzy catkins begging to be petted. So, too, the “Tulip Tree” magnolias will start to show bulges at their fingertips, gently unfolding into pink blossoms. Cherry trees catch the eye with their white flowers, and dogwood glows red in anticipation of leafing out. But if you look up, if you look into the woods, you will see giants in bloom.

 

 

“Redbud!” I declare when first I see them. As if it is a scientific name for this exciting taste of the day-by-day changes spring gifts to me. Red is the most popular color for the earliest leaf buds as they sprout from twigs, just babies. Not yet old enough to produce the chlorophyll that will paint them their trademark green. Some are yellowish, and some are indeed green when first they appear. Some trees will produce catkins, mossy-looking or fuzzy or string-of-pearl tendrils dangling like elegant earrings.  Ready to greet the turkeys for their spring cotillion, a festive display for the dancers in the fields, the bachelors sporting their finest.

It is a feast for the eyes as well as good food for the soul. Even one who embraces winter, and feels woe at spring’s arrival, such as myself, must delight in the colorful profusion on those naked sticks one has viewed since October. Winter is quite monotone, with a few splashy highlights. It’s mostly grey bark and white snow and a trim of almost-drab evergreen, dotted with a blue jay, a red-bellied woodpecker or a northern cardinal. Now these giants are dotted with colors, pale yellow and deep burgundy, and adorned with kinetic energy. Herein is a trusted source and undeniable sign that winter is fading behind us. Not an observant groundhog or college-educated meteorologist’s best guesses, not the reading of signs and recollections of years past. Here is solid proof from the authority.

Flowers, flowers, flowers. From Mother’s Day to the mums of Thanksgiving we love flowers, flowers, flowers. But how many are waiting for that May day to relish in the beauty of blooms? How many are ordering seeds and starting morning glories on windowsills and cleaning out the greenhouse on a mild April day without looking up, looking out, and beholding the biggest display of the present season? Sure, we’ll have fields of wildflowers if you want to wait three months. Sure, we have yet to smell the lilacs and peonies, to be wowed by the locusts, and mesmerized by the honeysuckle. You’ll have all summer for that.

For Budding Season is one of those rare and brief moments in nature, when she’s on the move and swinging into action. Like the nesting birds and calving cows and lambs that dot the farmyards, it is soon to be overwhelmed by all the life and living that summer brings.

It comes along at just the time we need to be reminded that these cosmic clockworks never fail us.

 

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

Falling

 

Autumn Glow

It begins quite subtly, this big show. Starts way back in late August, when the Swamp Maples are first to conclude the end of the growing season draws near. They fly their red flags in swamps and bogs, and some folks probably just think they are dying trees, drowning in the muck.

As days pass, each one growing incrementally shorter, the tide begins to turn. Sumacs begin to turn the color of red wine, Sugar Maples will begin to show yellow, then reds, then burst into gold and orange. The demure Cottonwoods eschew the attention, quickly going from light green to tan, then brown as dirt. “No pictures, please.”

Sometime in September I begin to be on the lookout for the curious fungi of fall. One day they are not there, then suddenly they are. Some simple toadstools in colors of yellow and orange and red. Some in unusual shapes and deep brown. As I mow the lawn I discover them, and I scold myself for running them over. I stop to look, though they are the same as last year and the fifty years before, and they aren’t exactly what one defines as pretty. Still, they are regular visitors, part of the whole rolling year that comes around just once. I am glad to see these reliable friends again. As quickly as they arrived, on the next round of mowing, they are gone.

The big Maples that line the road frontage are our main source for leaves. We need leaves. We stockpile and hoard leaves right up to the big day of the Leaf Pile Party. We’ll gather all we can, hopefully with plenty of children. We’ll put out cider and eat donuts. Maybe chili if it’s cold. Then we will pile the leaves, higher and higher. As tall as granddaughter Maddie, twice as tall as grandson Evan. We’ll use the big steel ruler to determine the height. Have we set a new record? I believe it is 56 1/2 inches.

Then the throwing begins. First we throw bushel-sized armfuls of leaves at and on one another. Then we grab up children of throwable size, and pitch them into the pile to squeals of laughter. Then we’ll burrow deep within, hide ourselves, make the dog a little crazy wondering where we went (or in Chuy’s case, he would come to save me). We’ll have leaves in our hair, leaves in our mouths, leaves down our shirts.

These simple pleasures will occupy much of a day for us. A day to be outdoors, seeing and smelling all that makes fall. A day to join together for a party without a cake. It is not without a guest of honor, nor gifts. Our Guests of Honor are the leaves themselves, and they bear the wondrous gift of gathering and joy. Joining hands and hearts with nature.

Mother Earth laughs with us as we celebrate the closing of the growing season in North America. She will shine her warm sun on us, or perhaps cool us with a breeze. She will drop one by one and two by two the few remaining leaves of the ancient Sugar Maple, falling like confetti on our festivities. She will paint the sky gold and orange and red to match her trees. She will thank us for appreciating the million or two leaves with which we play for a day. She is glad someone does not see them as litter to be removed, but as playthings to be enjoyed.

Long after the guests have gone and fall cedes the stage for the next set of seasons, I will find on the Great Lawn a large circle of crushed-leaf carpet. Until the snow covers it, and sometimes still in spring, as I mow I am reminded of the day and the season by this memory quilt.

I will see smiles and hear laughter. I will smell all that Fall Air brings to me. I will revel in the memory of a chilly day filled with warm hearts.

And two million of our closest friends.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

Paz

 

Autumn In Engleville

Yes, indeed, Autumn has arrived.

You can know by the colors of the trees, the honking Canada geese, the fog-laced mornings.

October Sunrise

Misty Morning

We can know it by the heavy dew that clings til afternoon. By the honey bees, hurriedly trying to build a hive in the siding of the old house. We can know it by the visits of neighbors from nearby states. What I call home every day of the year is a destination for them. Camp. The woods. Far from Boston or Springfield or Framingham.

Morning Trail

We can know it from the noisy School Bus so early in the morning, orange as a pumpkin and lit with Halloween lights. From the darkness that arrives in time for supper now, no longer the farmer, stretching the day to nine o’clock.

Bus Stop

We can know it by the murmurings of Starlings, Blackbirds, Cowbirds, as they fly over the house in columns a mile long. They stretch as far as the eye can see, from the horse farm at Hanson’s Crossing, over Engleville Pond and the Corporation land, up the face of Victory Mountain and on over the hill into Cherry Valley.

Starling Sunset

We can know by the ag trucks with their fat tires, hauling open loads of silage from the cornfields, the bits blowing all about, drifting and floating in the air and on the road, a premonition of that famous winter precipitation. (We can’t use the “S” word yet.) By the stripped and bare fields, devoid of green and crops, an occasional corn stalk standing silent, lonely vigil for the passing of comrades.

Last Corn Standing

Now the pickup trucks will line the back roads. Every man, woman and child embracing the fall fashions; boots, hunter orange, vests, fluorescent hats.  After bow season, these woods will once again roar and rumble to the sound of gunfire. Close your eyes and imagine the Revolutionary War battle of Cedar Swamp, fought just three miles from here.

Huntsmen

Everything that is leaving is on its way now. Everything that is staying is feverishly preparing for the next season. Birds will migrate south from here, a thousand miles, or two, or three, to their winter homes in Mexico, the Yucatan and Patagonia. Lemmings will make their way across the Canadian border unimpeded, seeking the “warmer” climate of the Maine Seacoast.

Saying Goodbye

Around the ranch, many annual chores, duties and traditions repeat themselves. Time for lawn mowers to slow down, the wheelbarrow to rest. Time to decorate for Harvest and Halloween and on into the “big holiday season”. Time for pointed shovels and iron rakes to trade places with leaf rakes and those big, plastic shovels to move you-know-what.

There are no defined stops and starts for me and my Earth. No delineation; here is summer, and- across this line- here is autumn. The days and seasons follow on one another and blend as they pass. Like the water feeding the creek, it is always arriving and yet simultaneously always leaving.

Ellie and the leaf pile

Like the grandchildren who will not stop growing up despite my pleading, the blue ball turns at her own pace. And I ride along it like a child on a roller coaster. My hands gripping, white-knuckled, wind sweeping through my hair. A mile-wide smile, and sometimes a whoop or squeal of delight. Up, up, up clatters the chain drive, propelling me on. And then…

Harbinger

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

Deer Season

Huntsmen

New York State has a long deer hunting season, that starts with bow and muzzleloader seasons, after which comes the regular firearms season.

Son-in-law Matt and Grandson Maximus are avid hunters, going back several generations in the hamlet of Buel, five miles north of Engleville. It’s been quite a while since I stalked deer with a gun, and I’ve moved on to a new hunt. With my camera.

I’m a catch-and-release fisherman. Except for a couple of shore dinners while camping up north at Forked Lake, I measure, photograph and release the fish I catch. I decided that since I’m past the game-taking stage in my life, I’d start a new thing: “Shoot and release”.  It’s unlawful for members of a hunting party to be unlicensed, so I have my big game tags on my back as we pursue our quarry. However, my Nikon is the only thing I shoot with.

Opening day I joined the lads and a couple other hunting buddies, Mike and Jeff, and we went on a couple of deer drives in Buel. Push-hunting, or driving, is a method that calls for a couple of members of the party to take a stand at advantageous spots, while the “drivers” start along the opposite side of the area (typically woods, swamps, marshes and the like) and we make noise and hoot as we drive the deer out towards the shooters.

After a couple drives in Buel, we headed to daughter Kerry’s farm, where Matt and Max have box blinds. These are raised stands enclosed by walls. We spent a few hours in the blind, until dark, without seeing any deer. Max got himself a good nap, though.

The day after opening day, Max got his buck. He and his Dad were at Kerry’s, and Matt drove the swamp towards Max. A fine 6-point buck was Max’s reward. It was a beautiful deer, in good health, with no sign of ticks.

 

Max’s buck

As the only unarmed member of the hunting party, I’m always a driver, or “pusher”. I get some great exercise and see some trails and terrain that’s new to me. The hunting party is actually glad to have me, as fewer and fewer folks pursue hunting these days. Back in the when, there would be a dozen guys assembled for some big drives. Sometimes the group would take more than one deer in a single drive.

I’m a little conflicted in the sense that I myself don’t kill things, and also I love all of nature and all its creatures. Thanks to Disney and The Yearling, many of us get emotional over seeing a deer killed. Thankfully, my over-sized human brain is able to understand the concept of overcrowding. There was a time when predators would take their fair share of deer, and there were no fields full of corn or pumpkins to feed them. Nowadays, deer get plenty to eat, and have power line right-of-ways and rear easements to wander through safely. If we don’t take responsibility for reducing the deer overpopulation, they’ll all suffer with starvation and rampant spread of diseases. They’ll also run out in front of your car or even occasionally crash through a picture window into someone’s living room.

For me, I’ve taken to joining the hunt to spend time with my grandson and favorite son-in-law (okay, so he’s my only son-in-law, but still…) in the great outdoors in all weather. It’s a fine adventure for an old Armchair Zen grandfather, and I am easily mesmerized by the many photo opportunities that present themselves. Alas, I’ve yet to “shoot” a good deer on a hunt.

Mostly it’s about taking game, but nearly as important is the camaraderie of the hunt. Jeff arrives with “tomato pie”, very popular in Utica, from which he hails. Between drives we’ll talk about the deer we saw or didn’t see, yesterday’s drive, tomorrow’s plan. We recall names of those that hunted before us and have since passed on. Max’s grandfather Mert, Mike’s cousin Ken (they say don’t mention Ken Jones locally, he was a real character. Loved or hated, no in-betweens). A neighbor stopped to ask where we were hunting and if we had permission, and after a couple of well-timed name-drops, the neighbor was glad to have us nearby. And “Yes!”, she said, she’d be glad to get some venison if we were successful.

So, another year of trucks lining the roads on weekend mornings, guys walking around armed like soldiers, and the sound of shotguns and rifles ringing out through the hills. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a good respectable sport, and we are responsible sportsmen, and we have some great times out in the snow and mud of November.

Until next year!

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Walk With Me

Let’s Walk!

I so often talk of our Wonder Walks and trails and woods behind our home. It occurred to me that a virtual tour of our beloved space might benefit the reader, put images to the names and places, like Widowmaker Field, Little Beaver Creek, the Rifle Range and the Wonder Woods.

Grab your jacket and join us, won’t you?

Let’s head east, through the Great lawn, reserved for our famous Leaf Pile Party. The lawn was mowed last weekend, and now will not be mowed again until after the party. Don’t want to chop up our leaves!

 

We’ll walk the old R/C Airplane runways, past the Sumac Stand, wherein we will find Jeff’s Rest. Named for my best human friend that gave me the chair. It’s cool and welcoming in summer. It’s a nice place to sit in winter, too, brightly lit when the leaves are gone. Through the sumacs and bear to the south, we’ll go east up the Rifle Range, to the top of the hill.

We walk the trail in all seasons. We walk in the sun, the wind, the snow, even the rain.

A wise dog once taught me:

“I would not let the rain keep me from this walk. It is filled with beauty, and the rain is part of it.”

Past the pine stands, or perhaps on the North Loop, the other side of the Pine Grove. Our course meanders, typically chosen by my canine companion. Walk, wander and wonder, I call it, and we find the grandest things right here in our back yard.

We’ll top Nishan Hill, named for its owner, and have a good long look around. On a clear day, you can see for several miles. Always a breeze, welcome in summer. At other times, we’d call it the blustery wind. If we wander to the south, we’ll cross Widowmaker Field, where the wind whips up snow devils, and dries the mowed hay in June.

 

Through Chuy’s Trail and on to Wonder Woods Trail, we arrive at the forest. Herein we can walk down to Little Beaver Creek. We can cross the Tree Bridge to get to the swampy other side. Just a bit further and we’ll come upon the old rail bed, abandoned in the early seventies. The bridge is still intact, of course. The Wonder Woods see all sorts of activity, from walks with kids in the full summer, to squirrel hunting in the fall. A couple of tree stands dot the woods for deer season, and camouflaged turkey hunters will secret themselves at the cross-trails.

 

We’ll linger long in the summer. Linger more briefly when it’s 12 degrees and a fifteen mile-per-hour wind is rumbling down the lee of Victory Mountain to our west. From atop the hill we’ll “put the sun to bed”, as often as we can be here at just the right time.

Rainbow’s End

I’ve spent many an hour atop this hill, gazing out across the grand landscape. Many long, luxurious moments feeling the sun on my face, listening to the visiting winds that blow, watching as the Earth moves through the thousand seasons I will share with her.

Like a child, I want to stay longer. It always seems too soon to go in. Chuy and I would “be in trouble” in the old days, staying out so long. Well past dark in some seasons. Curiously, I will always feel the same way, even after a long walk in the pouring rain or howling wind.

I feel like I belong when I am out in The Magic, The Wonder of all that is laid before us. When I am all alone (well, except for the company of a canine), I feel most in touch with our blue ball, this spinning rock suspended in space. When the floor beneath me is earth or snow, and the only walls surrounding me are sturdy giants called pines and maples and beech and hemlock. Where everywhere is a window, and the ceiling is twelve miles high. Here the smells and sounds and motions come racing to me. Here, surrounded by light and shadow, green and gray and brown and black.

Here, safely in Mother’s arms.

Shadow Paintings

We’ll explore the Wonder Woods in depth, and follow the trail where it leads us.

Next time on Life In Engleville.

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Our Waning Pinnacle Days

Parsons Farm Flower Field

In the middlest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, I have a name for this season-within-a-season. These are our Pinnacle Days of summer.

There’s no set start date or end time for Pinnacle Days. You sort of know one day, typically around mid to late June, that we have settled our globe’s rolling-rocking year. Now there is a time for things to grow and to look fuller each day. Until the wane of Pinnacle Days.

Now we approach that time. The “Clock Tree” on US 20 will tell me when our Pinnacle Days have ended, and we will segue into the Harvest Time. Actually, these two may overlap a bit, as harvest begins in the Pinnacle Days. Strawberries first, and Swiss Chard, followed by peas and beans, tomatoes and potatoes, then finally sweet corn. Now we just wait for the pumpkins.

We don’t notice much when things stay the same. Day by day, our summer ticks along. Each day we rise to T-shirt temperatures, go about our business without care. We can leave the windows open, park the John Deere where we please. If you don’t remind yourself that these are the Pinnacle Days of summer, you might not notice until you wake up that foggy morning to a later sunrise and the need for a light wrap.

People are like that. We notice spring because it’s a change. Something different than the day-to-day snow. Snow, snow, snow…then BANG!..flowers, flowers, flowers, and birds (and mud, of course).

We notice autumn. How could you NOT notice autumn? The crisp morning air, warm afternoons, and then Mother Nature’s Fall Fashion Show, as she paints every hillside in temperate zones with dabs of hue and intensity that make every painter envious.

We notice the first flock of Canada Geese headed for Mexico in the fall, or Hudson Bay in the spring. We see “the first robin” as a harbinger of summer, and we await the return of the tiny Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you can’t help but notice the subtle turn to the seasons-within-seasons. This year’s fawns growing bigger, readying for their first winter. Wild Turkey are fledging a second batch this year, they’re roosting in the pines now. At Quiet Creek, the water slows to barely a trickle.

You can know without clocks and calendars the time of day and the season of the year. Black-eyed Susans begin to wind down. Milkweed has spent it’s blooms and now holds pods of feathery seeds, hanging on until after the turn. They’ll fly with the snow. “The down of a thistle” can now be seen, clinging, letting go, flying away. Chicory and Asters bloom in shades of blue, and cattails form their furry brown heads.

And so, September is now upon us. Seasons are not static, there are no defining lines or dates, just the profusion of growth followed by a fullness, and finally, a settling, a slowing. Our Pinnacle Days wrap up, leaving us so many warm memories of the warmest season. We set our sites on the next set of seasons-within-seasons. Frankly, the most breathtaking.

And I will tell myself that I will not shoot a thousand photos of the same tree I took a thousand photos of last year, and the year before, and the thousand-or-so years before that.

Reflection Of Fall

Next thing I know, I’m sorting a thousand snapshots while watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Perfect Day #3

Bow Boots

Journal entry 6/14/17

Perfect Day #3

Wednesday is Fish Taco Day in camp. Today, you fish for your supper.

Went up the northeast inlet quite a ways, and grounded the AquaMarie on weedy clumps of sediment in the shallows. Lifted the outboard and revved it a bit, and thankfully we were able to pull her free from the grounding. Twice! The motor ran poorly off and on, fouling one cylinder occasionally. 

Ryan pulled the first fish, a 14″ rock bass, which we placed in the live well. “One fish each and one for the pot will be plenty” I said, observing our Forked Lake Rule. We went fishless for a couple of hours as we worked the north shore just off the main channel, fished the holes between islands. By 2 o’clock, we still had just one fish. “Well,” Ryan says, “if we don’t have more fish by three o’clock, we might as well throw this one back.”

We decided we would force ourselves to eat the dehydrated “survivor” foods if we failed to catch fish. Oh ye of little Lake faith. About then I hit a nice rock bass, about 15″, and I assured Ryan it would be enough to make fish tacos for two. “I wouldn’t mind having a third fish, just to be sure.” came Ryan’s reply, as we returned to camp to prep for dinner.

I walked to the south point of our island and hammered it, fishing alongside a pair of loons. A couple nibbles I thought were short (there were Bluegills), then whack, and BANG! Fish on! Set the hook and landed another 15-incher. I walked back to the table where Ryan was filleting the fish. “Did you order a delivery?” I asked, holding up the rock bass. “Sweet!” was his reply, “You come through again!”

Ryan whipped up a beer batter and fried small pieces of the day’s catch. Flour tortillas, avocado, limes and a little sauce, and a delicious Fish Taco Shore Dinner was had. “Well, that was a great dinner.” Ryan summed up, “Eating fish my dad caught for me!”

My battery had died on my camera, and I decided to live the last day actually seeing everything. From time to time I would gaze at the beautiful vista or some tiny subject and would declare “I wish I had a camera so I wouldn’t actually have to look at this with just my eyes.”

It cooled off a bit, the last evening in camp, and we stretched out the hours around the fire pit. We laughed so much, we both complained our faces were hurting. We headed for the tent reluctantly, and laid down our heads, listening to the call of loons.

When I awoke in the midst of the night and walked down to the water, I looked north and there was an entire cloud, just sitting on the lake. It was probably 100-150 feet tall, as wide as that part of the lake, and it just sat there. So curious. Not much of fog about, and not a cloud in the sky.

The sky had, indeed, fallen.

Good thing Chicken Little is not here. 

Third Eye

As the journal stated, my camera battery ran out Tuesday evening. I had made no provision for a spare. I intended to make a run back to civilization and the Fun Bus, and charge the battery, but this didn’t happen.

Whenever I am out in the world, and I mean always, the camera is part of me. Practically a body extension, a bionic eye. I love to document our lives, events, our growing family. I love the art of photography, compelled to capture mood, light, moments in abstract. And, of course, I love to shoot our outdoor adventures in all their aspects.

I missed my niece’s wedding and reception, even though I was there for all of it. I was the official wedding videographer, and was no hack. We got every second from early morning hair and makeup to the mother-of-the-bride after the reception, complete with B-roll. Of course, I spent the day inside a three-quarter inch viewfinder, and felt the next day as if I wasn’t even there.

This was not my only lesson on the subject, and so I embraced the idea of having a good excuse to leave the camera in the bag.

We traveled quite a ways up the northeast inlet, winding our way slowly up the channels, often shallow enough for the prop to churn up the fine sediment. As we twisted and wended our way back out, she ran aground on a clump of weedy soil deposit. I tried reverse, but the bottom fin of the outboard dug in and refused to let her back. I lifted the motor halfway and powered on in forward, and she rooster-tailed her way over the impasse. For a moment, I thought we’d have to jump into the muck and push her out, but again, the little outboard saw us through.

We saw a whitetail deer on the west side channel, a rare sighting at the lake. Backed up to hundreds of thousands of acres of Adirondack wilderness, the wildlife has plenty of places to go without approaching areas of human activity. Of course the black bears follow their noses. The loons, too, will tolerate our encroachments on their lake, share their fish. To date, at this lake I’d seen just one bald eagle, practically the icon of wild places. Oddly enough, I’ve seen more bald eagles around my home town, and even in the big city along the mighty Hudson River.

Throughout the day I’d make tongue-in-cheek comments about not having a camera, being forced to see things with my eyes. My only regret was I was unable to document the preparation and presentation of the Fabulous Famous Fish Tacos of Forked Lake. Luckily, Ryan had enough reserve charge on his phone to get a snapshot for me.

Fabulous Fish Tacos

Last evening in camp is always dichotomous. There’s a whisper in the back of your mind, calling you home. Yet there is a quiet gentle voice of this place compelling us to linger longer. The timeless days pass quickly, and before we know they are drawing to a close. Last day in camp is my least favorite. Striking the tents is undeniable testimony that this dream must end.

This particular evening I saw the whole sunset, the rose-tinted wisps of clouds flying above me. This evening I saw the laugh lines in my son’s face, the warm fluttering glow of the campfire in his blue eyes. At the twilight of this day, I saw the aquamarine sky light up with the evening star, the delicate diamonds of giants, shining brightly across the incomprehensible distance. This evening I smelled the smoke of camp, the humus of pine and hemlock, the very water of the lake as it hung suspended in the cool night air. I tasted the cold and bitter coffee, scented of wood fire, ashes floating on its surface. I listened intently to the creatures of the night, the owl’s “who cooks for you?”, the maniacal laughter of loons swimming in the dark. I felt the wet breeze on my face, the chilly dew setting on mossy rocks, the warming embrace of favorite company.

“The best pictures I have are right here”, I say, tapping my temple with an index finger.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz