Tuesday, July 07, 2009
For the last ten years I've ridden my bike 200 miles or so to the Great Blue Heron Music Festival in Sherman, NY ( Panama if you're mailing yourself there) where I've worked regularly since 1996, the past five as a "know it all" in Head Quarters. The festival is on property owned by Julie and Steve Rockcastle and Julie's dad, Warren Erickson. This year promised to be a treat as three of my favorite banjo players would be there and I knew I'd get a chance to play with some or all of them. The real treat came when a forth was there and I got to play quite a bit with him. I've taken my banjo along the last three times and this year I traded my binoculars for a camera and took some shots along the way. There are many routes and many places to start from, but I think I've finally got the flattest, shortest one. Start by getting a ride to the top of the hill west of Watkins Glen, hit 40.1 mph within minutes, and in a few hours you're cruising above the highest point on Rt. 86.
Forest management seemed to be the theme to this trip. When I got to Mt. Irenaeus, a Franciscan retreat in Allegany County that is run by friars associated with St. Bonaventure University, the forest had about 80% of the ash trees marked for cutting before the Emerald Ash Borer arrives. The borer has decimated ash trees in Michigan and Ohio and has been found in Randolf, NY which is less than 100 miles away. They also recently clear-cut a pine plantation that a farmer planted 50 years ago as a Christmas tree venture. It was a monoculture that cloaked two of the cabins, the pond and a screened hut in darkness.
Two of my favorite buildings are at Mt. Irenaeus, La Posada and the Peace Chapel. Going to mass or prayer services are a pleasure in this chapel, and the acoustics are as good as it gets for hearing live music. La Posada provides a nice break from a wired home whenever I stay there. Despite its name it wouldn't stay still for this picture so it's a little blurred.
At Lippert Hollow I won the Whose the First to Spot Aunt Mary's House game. Even took second place by being the first to spot the barn. Sat on the porch reading letters Grandpa Stephan wrote in the forties ("Flossie is getting to be quite a good milker" Flossie being my mother, not a cow). Played banjo tunes I hope Uncle John played on his Gibson before dying in WWII, and watched lightning strikes on top of the hill across the road. Unfortunately my cousin, Sara, didn't get there with her family until after midnight so our visit was brief.
Last year I got a little lost and ended up on this abandoned stretch of Rt. 17 along the Allegheny River. It's on the Allegany Indian Reservation, across the river is the State Park. A native woman told me about it, but this year a native gave me a great "get off my land" speech that had me nervous about encountering "people drinking that wouldn't be too happy to see me" when I got up to the reservior Johnny Cash called, "Lake Perfidy." I only saw some DOT workers and sober amish. Next year I'll go over the hill again via Sawmill Run Rd. which is awfully pretty too.
By the time I got to Jamestown I was pretty wiped out and in need of a pick-me-up. Just my luck to see an add that steered me in the right direction. This add also gave me an idea for a mural on the side of Ithaca's garages with our most famous former resident. Carl Sagan could be saying something about "billions and billions of cars."
In Sherman the ash trees weren't faring much better. Warren didn't wait around to see what will happen and had most of them cut from his part of the property. The picture on the top shows the area I camp in with many stumps, piles of woodchips and ground stumps and a lone ash that grew in overcrowded conditions. On the bottom is a beautiful example of an elm tree that survived the Dutch Elm Disease. It's just down the road from Blue Heron.
Of course most people go to the festival for the music, and Blue Heron does that with class and variety thanks to David Tidquist. I didn't catch much since I was working and playing tunes most of the time, but I caught the Horse Flies in the dance tent. It was great to catch Allison Pipitone's set too, it would be nice if she moved to Ithaca sometime.
Tammy Rayborne and I keep things going in HQ. We do our best to keep things organized, make sure people have what they need and direct them where to go. There's hardly a question we can't make up an answer to. Like the trip to the festival, this was the best one I've worked at, and I started back in 1996.