Sunny and Snowy

When one owns a dog who needs exercise, one must walk. In the rain. In the sun. In the snow. In the heat of summer. In the sub-zero temps of winter. Even during a polar vortex, by golly!  And here is proof it can be done:

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Nevermind you can’t see the dog in this picture. I assure you, she is there, somewhere in the woods, hopping through the snow looking for what, I do not know. Nothing dampens her spirits.

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Not a blizzard…..

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….not a polar vortex so cold even Letchworth State Parks’ Middle Falls partially freezes over……

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….and certainly not the warm (balmy!) sunny weather of this afternoon. See me waving to you there?  And here is Fergie searching for squirrels to chase…..

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And look at this rectangular hole made by a woodpecker. I have never seen one that was not rounded. Had to stop and take a picture.

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Happy February everyone! Here’s to more hikes (or snowshoeing or skiing) in whatever Mother Nature brings our way.

Small Graces

Walking in winter affords fewer opportunities for viewing wildlife like songbirds who have flown south, or rabbits and fox, who stay hidden in thickets or dens. But there are still interesting patterns and colors in nature this time of year. You just have to use your imagination at times.

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This shelf of turkey tail fungi are green, I think, from the wet conditions. If I imagine a shift in size, I can see cliffs instead of fungi.

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And this 2-foot frozen waterfall could be…..Niagara Falls?  🙂

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The power of frost to heave the ground. This ice formation reminds me of rock crystals.

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Use your imagination to see the black cat sitting quietly in the middle of the tree. Can you see it?

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Finally, one of my favorite “tunnels” on a hike in state land. With, of course, my favorite walking companion.  Happy hiking/skiing/snowshoeing, friends!  Don’t forget to use your imaginations!

 

A Walk a Day Keeps a Girl Busy!

Since acquiring a four-year-old English Spring Spaniel last month, Todd and I have walked every day at least once. Meet Fergie, our newest dog.

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She doesn’t ever really walk. She springs! She leaps! She bolts! She pounces! She races! AND she wiggles that docked tail of hers whenever she is happy, which is most of the time.  My routine since Fergie came into our lives is to race home after my last class, find her waiting excitedly at the door, change into winter hiking attire and head out to walk her. We often go to state land nearby where she can run free.

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Sometimes we go to a dead end road at the top of the hill and walk past corn fields and hunting land. I prefer this on sunny days when I need to see the blue sky and sunshine.

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All I know is, life is good with a dog as a walking companion.  I’d write more, but Fergie wants to head out the door. See ya’ later!

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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!

 

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!

 

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.

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!

A New Bridge

After three years of construction, Letchworth State Park has a new bridge spanning the Genesee River. The old bridge from 1875 was deemed unsafe for train traffic, so it was removed and a new bridge installed. Local residents have been patiently waiting to see the replacement bridge, worried it might be ugly and modern. But we need not have worried. Voila!!

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The river was swollen with the rains and water roared over the falls. Everyone loves the bridge, and Friday after school Todd and I grabbed a pizza and ate outdoors by the falls. Then, we began the climb: over 200 stone steps to the top of the bridge, which, of course, is off limits to pedestrians. Trains only for this bridge!

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We are lucky to live close to the #1 State Park in the US.  Stop by if you ever get the chance! #nyhiking  #teacherswhohike.  Happy long weekend, everyone.

Finding Green Space

We visited our son this past weekend in Connecticut. It was great fun and terrific to see him, but the area is highly urbanized.  Everywhere I looked I saw sidewalks, buildings, highways, traffic, and more buildings! It only took 24 hours of that to make me long for some green space.  So Sunday morning Todd and I headed to a local park designed around an old stone mansion built in the 1860s.  We found trails through the woods edged with stone walls in various states of disrepair. I could only imagine how much work those walls took to construct.

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But then I found something even more fun: a boardwalk! My sister’s favorite kind of trail. Naturally, I sent her a picture.

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We walked for an hour, exploring meandering woodsy trails with lots of dog walkers and even a family having professional photos taken.  After taking in the peace (and a piece)  of nature, we headed out of the woods back to cement and blacktop grand central station.  Thank goodness for Departments of Park and Recreation around the country that preserve green spaces for nature lovers like us.