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



sneaking a walk on a wednesday afternoon

Although it was a strangely hot 82 degrees, we managed to schedule a short walk–maybe two miles–from campus downtown to a sweet little place called “Heritage Park”. It is small but carefully maintained with wide trails, lots of benches, landscaped areas with lawn, shrubs, flowers, a covered picnic area, a paved parking lot, and informational plaques. The group of volunteers that maintains the park does valiant battle with poison ivy. This time we noticed the paths had been widened and areas beside them cleared, which I suspect is part of the attempt to eradicate that menace. heritage park oct 10 path

The path itself is a short loop that runs around a tiny island in the middle of the Grass River. It has lively rapids and waterfalls on both sides and the island is completely wooded. The picture below is me standing on the bridge that goes out to the island. Although it was very hot, it was a nice way to fit in a walk without getting in the car to drive somewhere. This coming Saturday morning I am working on trails with the volunteers at Indian Creek, and if the weather is decent we plan a hike up a low peak for foliage viewing in the afternoon. heritage park oct 10.jpg

weekend walking report, and a confession

Two great walks this past weekend! On Friday, to celebrate the end of the week, we went for a three-mile walk at my current favorite spot, Indian Creek Nature Center. The weather was cloudy and damp, but we didn’t get actually rained on. We walked through a wide variety of landscapes: huge old maples, dark cedar groves, shrubby grassy areas, and overgrown apple orchards. We saw a lot of fungus of every shape, size and color. We saw winterberry shrubs and wild cherry, branches drooping with bright red and blue-black berries. We scared up a grouse, and were accompanied by chickadees and northern flickers and blue jays. ICNC into the woodsWe went at the end of the day, starting at 4:50, and enjoyed the dusky, quiet atmosphere. We had the place to ourselves. At the end of the walk we wandered over to an apple tree still covered with big golden fruit, and ate about three apples each. We saw a lot of vines with yellow berries, and tentatively identified them as American bittersweet. So that was an old familiar place, and on Saturday we explored the Whalen Park Trail in Massena. To find this one we used the brand new website put together by the St Lawrence County chamber of commerce and some other organizations. It is called STLC Trails: St Lawrence County Trails  and so far I am finding it very helpful. We had to drive for 45 minutes to get to the first trailhead at the Massena country club golf course. This trail is a bike path, 100% paved and smooth as can be. massena bike trail

The wide grassy verge was recently mowed, and was nicely landscaped with side paths to the river, several benches, and some decorative boulders here and there. bench at massena trail

The river was full of Canada geese, various ducks, and cormorants. It sprinkled a bit but not enough to deter us. It is an out-and-back path that ended at a park/playground with covered picnic tables and a handicapped-accessible canoe/kayak launch. So we walked a respectable 3.2  miles but it took us a while because we were walking slowly, for reasons I explain below. At many places we could take a few steps and get right to the shore. I even tried my hand at stone-skipping.st law river massena trail

The path stayed close to the river, winding through tall grasses/wildflowers, mowed hay fields, and beautiful towering oak, hickory, willow, basswood and other trees. After this walk we drove a few miles down the highway to the trailhead of Richard’s Landing Bike Trail, and walked just a little way out of curiosity. richards landing dike trail massena

This trail is gravel rather than paved, but still could be biked, which is what we plan to do next time. We sat on some big rocks along this trail to sip coffee from thermoses we brought with us. We took a short side trail through dense woods to the river and surprised a large flock of geese.  After that it was time for lunch so we went to the co-op in Potsdam and grabbed some healthy “fast food”.

So, the confession: the reason we didn’t go on the second trail very far and the reason I walk with hiking poles is that for the last six months I’ve had plantar fasciitis (hashtag!). It is sometimes not that bad and sometimes that bad. Yesterday was a really painful day, possibly made worse by walking on the paved path. It doesn’t stop me walking but I have to be careful. Woodsy trails with softer ground and frequent stops to admire this or that seem better than paved or concrete. #walkingwithplantarfasciitis

when all else fails…

I have pretty much given up on getting out of the office for walks during the day or finding time to go somewhere during the week, and I’m concentrating on taking long hikes on Saturdays and Sundays. Tomorrow we are planning to go to a hiking/biking path in Massena. But it occurred to me that I could also do a bit of walking in my office building, which has three floors and plenty of stairs! This is my hallway: not a bad walking surface…hallway

and here are the stairs, stairway downwhich are not as pretty as a woods path but have their own aesthetic charm, of a geometric, structural sort. stairway spiral

I’ll give that a go and report back on how it works!

a two-hike weekend, woohoo!

It was another week with no walking during the work weekdays, but I got out this weekend both yesterday and today. On Saturday, yesterday, morning early I went for an early breakfast at a local diner, which was crowded at 7:00 am when I rolled into the parking lot. After eggs, home fries, bacon, toast and coffee I drove a mile down the road to the Stone Valley trailhead. entrance to stone valleyThis is a 3.5 miles out and back loop and I’ve been on parts of it several times, but never walked the whole loop. Friday night I called a friend who knows the trail very well. She cautioned me that it is “a hard seven miles” so I played it safe and just walked out for an hour and a half and then retraced my steps. I start out at 7:45 and got back to the car at 10:20. I had to go fairly slowly because it’s a kind of winding, twisting path, with lots of roots and rocks, a few steep parts, and slippery rocks. stone valley river sceneIt was so peaceful and beautiful–I knew that no pictures could capture its magic. It’s fungus season for sure–literally any step you decided to pause, if you looked along the trail you would see a mushroom or fungus of some shape and size, and usually more than one. stone valley mushroomThe trail follows the river, at times booming down waterfalls, and at other times silently flowing in flat, wide spots. The sun shone on the tops of the trees but not on the trail in the dark ravine. Lots of places opened to the river for views or rock-sitting.

Then this afternoon I headed back to Indian Creek Nature Center. indian creek mapThere were several other families there. It’s an especially child-friendly place. We walked the 1.4 mile “lowland trail” loop. Cloudy and cool, no bugs. Perfect walking weather. I had my trusty walking poles, and we brought a brownie (for me) and a piece of cake (for my husband) to enjoy at a really nice sitting area halfway along the trail. indian creek lower woodland trailThe trail wound through forest and along a big wetland area full of geese and ducks. indian creek view into wetlandsWe saw chickadees, too, and marveled at the big fat red winterberries lining the trail. That short walk took us about 45 minutes. Now I’m back at my desk getting ready for my classes tomorrow!indian creek woods trail

weekend walking, making up for a lousy week!

Wow, work swamped me last week, so, let’s just not talk about it. I made up for it by doing some wonderful walks this weekend. On Saturday I went to a great two-mile walking path just outside of Watertown. I took my walking poles, since my plantar fascitis was acting up. Even with ibuprophen I was hobbling around all day. 20180922_145530_resized

This trail is an out and back, two miles one way so I logged four solid miles. There are signs announcing your progress every quarter mile, and benches! It is bordered with a solid wooden fence, and lined with wildflowers, shrubs, trees, and wetlands. Yes, you can hear traffic from the nearby road, but you can’t see it and that makes a difference.20180922_152517_resized

Halfway is a small lake which was covered with Canada geese.  20180922_161035

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, first day of autumn! Lots of people were on the trail: couples pushing strollers, friends chatting, whole families with small children in tow, lots of folks with dogs and a few bicyclists as well. Even with all that traffic, most of the time I was happily alone with the natural world. Here is a typical view on the non-road side of the trail:20180923_111134_resized

Then today, Sunday, I was going to just come here to the office to get ready for the week ahead, but then I looked at the photos a friend sent me–she is a wildlife photographer, and her pictures–wildflowers, a great blue heron, lakes, waterlilies–were so beautiful I decided to go somewhere before going to the office. I went to the nearby Indian Creek Nature Center, and walked about four miles through woods, along the edge of wetlands, over boardwalks, through clearings, dark cedar groves, overgrown apple orchards, and meadows. 20180923_105219_resizedHalfway along I found a handy bench and had the picnic lunch I brought: very healthy food from our town’s natural food store–oh, and coffee and a cookie, too! This nature center is located next to the Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area so it can get soggy–boardwalks are a frequent help for hikers. This has been a dry summer so it wasn’t even muddy.20180923_121739_resizedAfter I had been sitting quietly awhile at my lunch spot the woods near me came alive with red and grey squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, and chickadees. Elsewhere I saw and/or heard northern flicker, crow, some kind of yellowish warbler, and a phoebe. Everywhere were beautiful sprays of fall flowers, especially dark purple and pale blue asters. 20180923_123015_resizedAt the end of the walk I finished my coffee sitting under a heavily-laden apple tree, before reluctantly getting back in the car to go to work.




unimpressive walk, impressive scenery

Yesterday was a Sunday but I spent most of it in my office getting ready for classes, so I didn’t get home until 6:15 pm. Without me even changing out of my skirt we left for a walk around the field across the road. It was less than a mile distance, but it still counts by my standards as a walk! It took us 20 minutes, and I have to say it was more ambling than marching. Sept 16 giant cloudUpon our return we met up with all four cats, the two elders and the two adolescents, who had come quite a way following us. We like to discourage that since it leaves them vulnerable to cars and hawks. So next time we will have to be sure they are shut in the house.

The day had been hot, but it had cooled down to the high 70s by the time we went into the field. To the west a huge towering white cloud hid the sun. Under our feet the field was full of flowers–clover, birdsfoot trefoil, black-eyed Susan, daisies, asters, goldenrod. sept 16 field flower

Today is supposed to be equally hot, and I plan on a somewhat longer walk but not until this evening.

perimeter walk at dusk

On friday my week is done and I like to celebrate somehow: go see a movie in town, go out for ice cream, visit a friend, go out to eat. This past week we celebrated with a perimeter walk around our property. We got a late start so it was just about dark by the time we straggled out of the woods, and decided to walk the last leg on the road rather than stumble around in the dark woods. Earlier I had taken a picture of my shoes for fun. This is all the equipment I need to go on a walk–my beat up old walking shoes. walking shoes

The sunset and a sliver of moon accompanied us as we started out our walk. big sky with moon sept 14

Later on the sky briefly took a dramatic turn. amazing sunset sept 14

From there we went into the woods, along the eastern edge of the property, enjoying the quiet, peaceful atmosphere, stepping over fallen tree trunks, admiring colorful mushrooms and fungus, listening to an occasional squirrel, scaring up a grouse. By the time we got to the road the crickets and tree frogs were loud.

Yesterday (Saturday) I started out with good intentions to combine apple-picking with a short walk, but I got stabbed by a three-inch wicked sharp thornapple (hawthorne) thorn, and it bled like crazy (which is a good thing, to avoid infections). It didn’t really hurt that much but it took the wind out of my sails. Plus it was 85 degrees and that sun was HOT. I just decided to go home, take a shower, and hang out with the cats on the front porch, something I’m very good at!


Happy Trails (Jeanne’s inaugural post!)

Our walks began over 50 years ago on a dusty country road, aptly names Pleasant Valley Road. Two sisters, walking hand in hand, singing old songs our grandmother must have taught us. “Rain, rain, go away, Come on back another day” while holding umbrella-shaped leaves of the Mayapple over our heads. We went everywhere together, often on that dirt road. One vivid memory is of us splashing through warm puddles of summer rain, preferably in the late evening in June when fireflies came out. The town must have oiled the road to keep the dust down, but that didn’t stop us. Barefoot with a glass jar in hand, we captured those poor bugs to marvel at their light. Our feet must have been filthy!

Later, I dutifully followed Anne down the road to visit the neighbor’s pony. Not just once. Every. Single. Day. I never thought to say no, except on the day I balked at passing the field with the bull in it. I wore a pink shirt and was certain the bull would charge me! I think I turned back and went home, leaving Anne to face the bull alone. (Sorry!)

And here we are fifty years and hundreds of miles later, still walking together whenever the opportunity presents itself for two sisters living five hours apart. We’ve managed to hike in the Adirondack Mountains, (“As long as it’s not a mountain,” she says, “I don’t like climbing mountains!”) the Bruce Peninsula (incredible views), on the Finger Lakes Trail (safe, meandering trails through farmers’ pastures and hedgerows) and even in Newfoundland, Canada (sweeping, wind-swept headlands).Bruce Trip 2017 112.JPG

Why walking? There’s something about walking that’s good for the soul, my soul, anyway, especially if it’s on a trail. I know of no other image that beckons to me like a picture of a trail (“A flat trail, Jeanne” she says, “Not too steep.”).

Bruce Trip 2017 169.JPG

sneaking a walk

I got prepared for my 12:40 class at 11:55 and decided to go for it. I walked around one of the loops on campus that skirts the river, goes through piney woods, and comes back out near the gym across the street from my office. sept 13 trail

It took 30 minutes so I made it to class only just on time, but now I’ve done my walk for the day. The woods were all green and gold on this sunny hot day, the sunlight bouncing off of leaves of all shapes and sizes. sept 13 woods

The trail goes along a river. I heard a lot of raucous blue jays in the woods, but mostly it was just quiet and peaceful. sept 13 river