ten day walking challenge day one

Well, first of all I have to report a big reward I got for getting out there–I saw a mink! It’s not common to see them: although they are plentiful here, they are shy. This one was moving in unhurried short leaps along the ice on the edge of the Little River–here is a picture of the river I took–didn’t get the camera out fast enough to get the mink. dec 15 little river.jpg

Well that was thrilling. Then, as I was walking (50 minutes total) the sky went from mostly cloudy to mostly sunny. Beautiful! dec 15 sunny path

The walk goes along the athletic field, along the Little River through pine trees, then along the much bigger Grasse River. Here is the Grasse River:dec 15 grass river

For my BIG things, I noticed the sky, the tops of tall pine trees, as well as the broad Grasse River. dec 15 pine tree tops

dec 15 sky

For the teenytiny things, I noticed a pine tree seedling about 5 inches high, and a tiny “pond” in the woods (OK, maybe a puddle).dec 15 tiny tree

dec 15 tiny pond

A good start!

 

 

 

 

getting out of the “saddle” (SADAL)

We can agree on the big things, even if the details from nutrition and health experts keep changing: eat mostly real food (not processed food-like substances), plenty of fresh vegetables and whole fruits, and whole grains; keep sugar to an occasional treat; exercise regularly; get enough rest and sleep; avoid stress. But to do these apparently simple things, I at least and I suspect many of my peers, have to do battle with, or resist, the SADAL: Standard American Diet And Lifestyle. This means two huge challenges: 1. change lifelong habits, and 2. resist the “habits” of our whole culture. Still worth doing, but let’s not underestimate how hard it can be. The SAD and the SAL dovetails very well. We work long hours, often sitting down, in often stressful circumstances. We are encouraged by ubiquitous advertising and our own well-developed habits, to deal with busy-ness and stress by taking pills,  doing “retail therapy”, driving instead of walking or biking, eating sugar, watching TV, etc. Rarely do I say to myself, “Wow, I have a really full day tomorrow and I feel barely able to keep up, I guess I better sleep in, take a long walk, and eat a bag of raw carrots.” No, I set the alarm an hour earlier, feeling resentful at my job and frustrated at myself for poor time management, skip the walk, drink more coffee, grab the (usually less-than-carrot-rich) food that’s easily available, and put the old nose to the grindstone. *sigh*. Our culture pushes sugar at us virtually every single day, and stimulates the heck out of us so we get hyped up yet pressed down.

OK, so enough complaining!! What am I going to do? I have a plan.

I know now to keep it simple and easy when I have to get back on the healthy wagon. First thing to do is relax and forgive myself and look ahead, not behind (or under my feet at the scale). My sister and I have learned to accept that there will be fall-backs and fall-offs and even the occasional cliff-dive. So what? It doesn’t stop us. So, the plan: ten days, ten walks, no excuses, starting today. Also, to make a game out of it, each walk I will look for one thing BIG and one thing teenytiny to notice. And to make it very friendly, it has to be only 30 minutes to count. I’ll check in later with today’s report. I’m at my office, getting ready to grade some quizzes and essays. Classes just ended, the campus is very quiet. Final exams start today, even though it is Saturday. The liveliest place on campus is our bookstore, which will be crowded with Christmas shoppers and coffee-slurping students.

not virtually but actually side by side

“It’s cold out there, and breezy–where can we go that is woodsy but not windy?” I asked. We piled in the van and headed over to Letchworth State Park for an hour or so walk, accompanied joyfully by Bree, the puppy my sister is dog-sitting for a friend. at Letchworth

There was a bit of snow, not a lot. Oak trees were losing their leaves, they fell twirling around us. For some reason they really caught my eye–such a beautiful rich brown color. letchworth oak leaf

We stopped to admire the dramatic middle falls, with the frost-rimed vegetation and icicles all around. letchworth falls

The wooded ravines were steep, and quiet. Only the little streams made a bit of noise, and now and then a crow would call. letchworth streamWe didn’t see anyone else until we got to the road along the edge of the Letchworth canyon. letchworth canyon

A perfect way to spend the middle of an afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving!letchworth walking

 

 

Walking With Siblings

“Hike tomorrow?”  The single text came across my phone screen.

“Time and place?” I replied.

“You tell me, and I’ll be there.”  Yes!

Among outdoor lovers, that’s all the communication that’s necessary. Especially when they are family. October was particularly wet this year, and the next day’s forecast promised sunny blue skies. It was time to seize the opportunity.

My sister-in-law loves the outdoors as much as I do. We have always relished the woods, the trails, the peace of wild things. No retail therapy for us–it’s the outdoors that soothes our souls and calms our hurried lives. We met at our favorite county park and hit the trail.

 

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I convinced my husband to abandon the Sunday afternoon football game and join his sister and me on the one lovely Saturday in October. As you can see, the sun was shining brightly and a golden carpet of leaves covered the trail.

 

I usually don’t take photos of pavement, but the tunnel effect of the light and trees over the park road was too good to pass up. img_20181104_144944021_hdr

One more for good measure: See the siblings at the top of the rise?  Lucky me to have such an extended family!

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Ironically, I am teaching the Transcendentalist right now in American Literature. I am reminded of Emerson’s words: “In the woods we return to reason and faith.”  I couldn’t agree with you more, Emerson.

Text someone soon: “Walk with me today?” Take advantage of every opportunity to be in the woods!

 

autumn walk at sunset

There is a week in the fall when most of the trees have lost their leaves except for the poplars, and their leaves have turned bright yellow. The woods become black and grey with lace of gold mixed in. So beautiful! I took a walk yesterday afternoon and enjoyed this gold filigree, along with the quiet shades of tan, green, grey and brown this time of year. The sun was low as I set off, shining on this old fence post and frozen asters.

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It is a two-mile walk, one mile up some easy hills to the corner, another even easier downhill back home. Across from my house is a swampy brushy area beloved of birds. nov 4 cornerAt the top of the first and only strenuous hill I stopped to admire and photograph the poplars waving their gold leaves in the last of the sunshine. nov 4 gold leaves

nov 4 gold and blueBy the time I reached the turnaround point and looked back west, dusk was creeping up, the sky settling down into dark. nov 4 duskIt was a quiet, peaceful walk.

Walking With Goats! Oh My!

I have a friend who loves goats. She has three goats-triplets, actually-all siblings- and she has named them Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. She and I walk them often on her large farm. Let me tell you, they are a hoot!  They are really big scaredy-cats. They walk right in front of us, stopping suddenly to munch on tall grass, making us bump into them or make a quick detour around them. If they get distracted by a yummy patch of grass and get separated from us on the trail, they come thundering up behind us in a tizzy. A strange sound startles them, like a flock of birds flying or a hawk screeching overhead. It’s almost charming and endearing.  And they have copper bells, like a small cowbell to add to the charm.

Last week while my friend was on vacation, I volunteered to take her goats on a walk.  It was cool and cloudy. But the air was fresh and invigorating. If you look closely, you will see the other reason I love to walk my friend’s goats. See that labrador retriever in the distance? That’s Murphy, the best walking companion ever. Dogs know how to enjoy walks, let me tell you. Even more than goats!

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It was hard to get a good picture of all four animals, but here is the best I got:

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This country girl loves a walk in the country with farm animals leading the way!

 

three days, three walks, YES!

On Thursday I had office hours until 3:30 and a meeting at 4:15. I grabbed my phone, turned it to “Two Steps from Hell” music, plugged in earbuds and left the office at 3:35. I had to be fast because the path usually takes me 45 minutes. No dawdling–the music pushed me, too, and I made it around the loop just in time to get to my meeting. No time for pictures!

Then on Friday I was done at 1:00, and I called home: “I’m going out to Indian Creek, can you come along?”  So, we got to the trailhead at 1:20 and were done at 3:20, a nice long walk.

icnc sign

The start of the walk is through an open woods with big trees and very little undergrowth. Something magical about that. And shushing through a carpet of golden leaves is pretty nice, too.

icnc golden woods

icnc leaves

We walked from one end of the trail to the other, where there is a tall platform you can climb up for views of the lake/wetlands.

icnc lake

We saw a great blue heron, lots of Canada Geese, and ducks. On the way back we noticed a lot of bittersweet vines, but we couldn’t tell whether it was the native kind or the invasive oriental bittersweet. They are not easy to tell apart. I hope it’s the native kind, because there was a lot of it!

On Saturday in spite of cool and drizzly weather we went for another walk. This one was in the Downerville State Forest and Grass River Wild Forest. The DEC maintains a short (less than a mile we think) trail to Harper’s Falls. So beautiful! To get to the trailhead you have to drive a long way on a winding dirt road, lined by a dozen or so hunting camps. Hunting season is clearly happening since the camps were all bustling with activity. Here I am at the trailhead:

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We made a point of chatting a bit more than usual so hunters would know we are not deer. But we didn’t see or hear any hunters.

harpers falls trailhead

The trail is easy, with a few ups and downs, a few short bridges over small streams, and a wonderful reward at the end. Most of the fall color is gone. The trees are brown and grey, the sky was grey, the leaves beige and brown. The main color came from green ferns and moss.

harpers falls rock fern tree

The woods smelled wonderful. We heard and saw some ravens but otherwise the woods was quiet. When we stood still we could hear a few raindrops and the tap tap tap of leaves falling. As we got closer to the falls we could hear that, too.

harpers falls

harpers falls downstream

I’m in my office right now getting ready to dig into a pile of essays that need to be graded. Would rather be out in the woods, but there’s a time for everything, and it’s nice to think of these places waiting for us to visit them again.

In Praise of Trees and Boardwalks

There’s a lovely (free!) county park near me that lends itself to cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking the rest of the year. This past Saturday, I took advantage of some free time and wandered the trails in the cool wet October we’ve been having. I know every trail in this park and took the time on this Saturday to stop and really look at the trees.

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I always knew the trees were part of a plantation effort from the 1930s; the set rows told me that.  I stopped to read the sign giving the details:

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I love the beavers on the sign- and I learned the date was earlier than I thought.  There was a Cub Scout activity happening at one end of the park, but I had the trails to myself this morning and it was lovely. I especially noticed some grand old trees that were dying due to age or injury (lightning, maybe?) and remembered from Biology class that even in death, these organisms give back to the soil. Here were three that struck me with their age and grandness even as they decayed.

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Anne should have been with me this morning, because – lo and behold- they have boardwalks!

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And one final picture of something I haven’t seen much of lately: a blue sky and sunshine!!

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I love county parks for their proximity to me and their price of admission: nothing. Thank goodness for tree planters and for taxes that pay for our county parks!! Head out to one this fall and enjoy nature for free.

hedgerows, fields, meadows and woods

We grew up in woods as very small kids. There was a soggy swampy woods right across the street from us, and a wooded hillside behind the house. The house was closely surrounded by a dozen or more old maple trees; we shushushushed in the blanket of leaves they threw down every fall. Then we moved when I was 7 and Jeanne 5 to a more cultivated area, with patches of woods, called “woodlots” by the local farmers and “magic playgrounds” by us kids. Even more magic were the hedgerows, where you had lots of light and sun but also trees to climb, rock piles to explore, shrubs to play in. In our new home woodlots were surrounded by corn, wheat, and hay fields, and some pastures. That kind of mixed quilt of landscape always feels like home to me. It is not that different here in the St Lawrence River valley. Like where I grew up in the northern Finger Lakes, the fields here are small and often rocky. There are plenty of hedgerows, magnets for wildlife of all kinds, and the woods have those old 18th and 19th century stone pasture “fences” that Jeanne saw in the Oatka Creek area.

This morning I went on a modest walk–only two miles or so. It took me an hour and I dawdled some. The trail is maintained by our town’s SUNY college, and must be used by their track team. The paths are flat and wide, neatly mowed and cleared. SUNY Canton trail mowedThe trail starts behind the school gym and wanders through tall trees, beside corn fields, hay fields, and wild meadows before finally meeting up with and following along the Grass River. I don’t think it is easy to see from the photo below, but the hedgerows were lovely, with trees growing up tall among rock piles. I was standing on the path and took this picture into the hedgerow–doesn’t it just invite exploration? But I am not 10 years old anymore and didn’t quite feel like crawling in there! I took the easier path.SUNY Canton trail hedgerow

Above me a red-tailed hawk floated in small circles over the river and fields, looking for breakfast. The path was cut through brushy areas and wild meadows full of birds going after flower seeds and berries. I stopped for a drink of water and snack and watched the breeze blowing milkweed fluff around. SUNY Canton trail leafy underfoot

Toward the end of the loop the trail followed the Grass River. I could hear traffic now and then, and I met up with a few other walkers, but mostly it was quiet and peaceful, a beautiful cool sunny autumn walk!SUNY Canton trail grass river

 

 

World’s Smallest Woolly Bear

Last week we took advantage of an extra day off to meet with family and hike an old, familiar park.  We hadn’t been there in five years, so we joined T’s parents for a stroll down memory lane.  I meant to take pictures of the trails, but we chatted so much about their recent trip to England, it completely slipped my mind until we got in the car to leave. Oops.  Luckily, I remembered in time to get the sign for this most southernly park in the county.

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As you may guess, it was a wet day with muddy trails, but we maneuvered wet spots to walk two miles down to the Oatka Creek and back.  It is a park that used to be farmland; in fact, an old road lined with massive oaks and maples cuts through the center of the park. After it was bought by the county, nature took over and now young forests are reclaiming former pastures. Vines climb over tumbling rock walls that used to designate cropland. (I’m guessing here, but I have seen these rock walls in many county parks here- I love how nature takes over once human activity ceases.)  Here is the beginning of that road-this pic shows it maintained for occasional use by visitors. But the rest of the road that extends through the park is a lovely lane, void of blacktop and guardrails. I promise I will take pictures next time I go there.

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And here is the Oatka Creek, which, ironically, runs through my hometown south of this point. It grows as it meanders north before it empties into the Genesee River to Lake Ontario. Wikipedia tells me this creek is the third longest tributary to the Genesee River.

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We took this picture from the bridge that crosses the creek. In the spring, we have seen several people fly fishing for trout.

And what did we discover in my in-law’s driveway? The world’s smallest woolly bear caterpillar!! Note T’s hand in the picture for scale. This is the caterpillar for the Isabella Tiger Moth- scientific name Pyrrharctia isabella. I’ve never seen one so small. Maybe it portends a short winter with little snow? One can only hope. (Actually, I love snow and hope for lots of it so we can go snowshoeing!!)

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Grow big, little isabella!