To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hemlock Crossing

Where did this gem come from? And why am I only just discovering it? K asked if Sir S and I wanted to go hiking with her and Dunnie...I hardly had to ask the boy. He loves the woods and he misses his own dog. "Yes," was the word.

The trail wends you along the Pigeon River bottomland and around through the uplands. "A pedestrian bridge and numerous overlooks offer scenic views of the river corridor, wetlands, natural springs and woods."  Indeed!

Beautiful, well marked trails with lots of markers and maps. You will not get lost in here. The trails are relatively easy yet provide you with a fair amount of up and down though the hills so you don't get bored, but it's nothing too strenuous. The park wasn't busy and we found plenty of solitude for watching critters and birds, and the antics of a boy and a dog.
Sir S is fascinated with streams and wetlands and it wasn't long before he was hanging over the edge of the boardwalk playing in the stream flowing under the bridge. And then, of course, the dog had to get down there in the muck to see what the boy found so interesting. Boys...and dogs....I tell ya!
That's a good sized Beech, as were many in this park. Isn't it interesting how the Beeches have such character? They watch you with their eyes, they hide images in their bark and they provide the smoothest bark for leaving your mark. We didn't do that, but you can see that many people can't resist the smooth surface.
K turned Sir S loose with Dunnie. The idea was that the dog and the boy would wear each other out running through the woods, and run they did, until the dog needed a break. We forgot to tell the two of them that we were going for miles today...nearly 7, in fact. Run, boys, run!
It's funny because Dunnie took a long nap when he got home, but Sir S went to the park to join in a pick-up game of basketball. Guess I need 2 dogs to wear him out.

Anyone want to go explore the rest of the trails?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Clinging Birds

This past weekend was a great time for viewing tree clinging birds, more specifically, Woodpeckers. We don't usually see (or hear) so many. Also unusual is that they didn't seem that shy of us in spite of our stalking them for good photos.
Pileated Woodpecker, and they are generally quite shy. More so than most, it seems, which seems odd for such a large bird. We thought they sounded much like a Pterodactyl ought to.
Hairy Woodpecker - he seemed as interested in us as we were of him/her. At first I thought it was a Downy, but he's too big. Drat, I've never seen a Downy. Guess I'll have to spend more time in the woods.
The wonderful Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Did you know they are the ones responsible for the straight lines of holes we often see on trees? They're going after the sap, not bugs. Sapsucker, get it? ha
This is the beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker. No, I did not get a glimpse of his belly.
Okay, okay, I know, this isn't a Woodpecker. It's a Chickadee butt. But it's a cute butt! Little buggers are so darned fast that I could only capture his backside.

Next up, Hemlock Crossing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Blooms

Honestly, it was too early for some of these blooms and I suspect they may yet be killed off by a hard frost, but most of the woods is low lying wetlands so they may be fine. But Trilliums in March? Uhhh, I don't think so.
I know, it looks like raisins on a branch, but we didn't put these here. I couldn't identify the species in my mushroom book and I'm wondering if this is Purple Jelly Slime that didn't get killed off during the winter because it never got cold enough. Anyone know this?
Bloodroot pushing up already. I found out that Native Americans used this root for a red dye. Thus, the name.
Trees were furiously budding...
More Bloodroot, open and in bloom.
Spring Beauty covered the forest floor.
Trout Lily were out in abundance as well.
Another unidentified fungus that sort of looks like a Lamprey Eel. Hmm, did it crawl up from the creek and attach to the tree? No, I'm kidding, but if you know what this is I would appreciate the tip.
At first I saw some of the leaves poking up, walked a little further and saw leaves unfurling and wondered if I would see one in bloom. Yes, I did, and a lot more than one.
Here come the May Apples.
So I didn't have much luck identifying the fungus from the hike since I don't know what this one is called either. Anyone?
And here we have the quaint and adorable Dutchman's Breeches. Sir S thought it looked more like a funny alien head with eyes. I can see that.

Some of these were drawn in detail, but mostly we admired them as we walked. I realized too late that we had forgotten the magnifying glasses. It's pretty awesome to see the flower parts magnified.

Monday, March 26, 2012


The weather held, with it's delightful and unseasonable warmth, the woods called and I responded by donning hiking boots and a backpack. Of course I was drawn to nature, and I ventured forth with extra crew both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a slow walk in the woods with a girlfriend, my daughter-in-law and three young children as we meandered along the paths exploring more of what was to be found in the woods and along the streams rather than covering distance. The children played in the woods, climbed trees, stopped for sketching, ate snacks and investigated the Spring blooms. The women gloried in the moment. I took many, many pictures.

I'm focusing on the people today and I'll post more of our adventures during the week, but there are far too many pictures for one post.

We hiked Aman Park again. It's conveniently close to town, yet the children feel like they're in a far-off  forest. I love how they seem to become more alive in the woods and revel in their freedom.

This boy would hike with me constantly if he could.
A backpack holding the necessities of the woods. He packs it himself now with whatever seems appropriate for the day but always includes a sketchpad and pencils.
Binoculars for bird watching, which were very necessary today.
They stop on their own each time they discover something of interest that needs to be drawn.
Now here's an interesting tree, which is actually three trees all growing together, Beech, Shag-bark Hickory and Maple. That warranted a stream of questions and a discussion about how this could happen.
And really, it was the perfect tree for climbing. You're in the woods, how can you not?
Ha, and we're not above a bit of humor.
Graffiti artists at work. Does it count if they used pencils and the shack is about to fall down anyway?
Practicing balance and pushing against boundaries.

Did I mention the freedom they feel out here?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weekend Away

It's been a rough couple of months, I'm not gonna kid you, just a bit too much loss and stress for this laid-back city girl (I lost a very dear friend a month after losing my cat). I couldn't shake it and I was sort of wondering when it might be okay for me to relax and enjoy myself again without feeling guilty. I know everything I was going through is part of the grieving process, but I didn't know how to let it go. Enter the girlfriends...we had a weekend to ourselves at one of their houses in the woods. There's a trout stream just off her deck and down the hill. In fact, when I arrived Friday evening there were two ladies already sitting on the deck watching the Steelhead run upstream while the two of them drank a frosty beverage. I didn't even bother unpacking my car, I grabbed a beer and joined them to unwind. It was soooo good to be with them again. Oh, and the weather, so unlike March for us, was incredibly sunny and warm. Did it hit 80 over the weekend? I think so.

Others soon arrived and joined us on the deck. That set the tone for the weekend. Normally, we get together like this to work on scrapbooks or cards or some other paper type craft, but this weekend was more about connecting with each other again. We did manage some scrapbooking, but we also brought out the Scrabble board. Scrabble is my favorite board game and I'm good at it, really good, probably because I've been playing all my life. It's rare that I find someone to challenge me and play to my level, but danged if SB didn't give me a run for it. I won a game with the help of 'moisture', which was a double word score plus an extra 50 points for using all 7 of my letters. Whoot! SB won the next game and then we changed the rules and someone else won a game. I was having fun and relaxing, and no longer feeling guilty.
Saturday was another peaceful day with a bit more attention paid to our books. I hemmed a scarf I've had in my sewing basket, I read Hemingway a little, helped with a couple lay-outs and did a bit of journalling in my Taiwan book before wandering back out to the deck for more Scrabble and a shared Alexander Keith's. Wouldn't you know that SB would have one of my favorite beers sitting in her refrigerator and she didn't even know I liked it. The only place I know to buy this is when I go through customs into Canada, which is what SB did on her vacation last year. I detect a road trip coming up soon.
Because we normally get engrossed in our books and don't want to stop, we've come up with an idea for meals. Each of us will pick one meal for the weekend and we're responsible for supplying all the food, prep work, cooking and clean up. That way you only have to take time from your activities once during the weekend to take care of meals. You just never know what sort of food is going to be served and we've tried  some amazing new recipes. It's agreed that this cake was the highlight of the menu this time. In honor of St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, SB made the Chocolate Guinness Cake which was to die for! So rich, so chocolaty, so delicious!
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The companionship, the food, the atmosphere, the experience. I left the weekend feeling refreshed and regenerated, ready to face the world again. I love my girlfriends!