Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sign of the Times


Been spotting lots of signs around town, some are posted, some are just indications of the end of winter or the start of spring. 
The persistent trouble maker who alters signs around Cornell must have been satisfied with the presence of winter this year, I didn't see any with the words " trail maintenance" covered up.  I think Cornell puts up the sign in the bottom picture just to let people enjoy the first spots where the ground reemerges.

Signs of the Times


Markings from spinning tires are a good indication people took off their snow tires too soon, or have worn down the tread.  This is what our street looked like two consecutive days the first week of spring.  Witch Hazel is a reliable early bloom in town.

Signs of the Times

This one just keeps getting more absurd.  First the city painted new stripes on the street, then they took out the crumbling steps on the other corner and put up a railing.  Then a house designed by William Henry Miller burned down and the sidewalk was closed in front and along side (the famous Frosh Alley where Ezra Cornell planted the Osage Orange trees that grow there to this day).  When do-gooder/ anarchists moved the barrier enough times that alley reopened.  Now they are rebuilding the house and this has been the situation on the street since the fall.  For the privilege of taking the public space for so long the property owner could have rebuilt the steps on the other side perhaps?

Signs of the Times

This guy is looking for a good landscaper to clean up the garden of all the debris that's collected since last fall. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Amazing Out There



Spring time, a wonderful chance to get out and spend several hours at a time outside.  As I've learned from watching the Weather Channel with Mary Ellen, It's amazing out there (Tm).  The first weekend of spring I took a ski in Six Mile Creek gorge that lasted over four hours.  I stopped by Bridal Falls to see some of the ice has broken up and been carried away by the massive melt off we're experiencing with these near-freezing temperatures, went up to the 60' dam to do my required inspections of the natural area and took the easiest route across the reservoir.  The ice patch in the middle photo is where I once had a close encounter with death when I slipped on it as I walked on the trail (there is a trail under the ice and that day it was bare ground except for the frozen falls), I started sliding down and would have ended up in the creek with ice-covered banks and raging water had I not grabbed a sapling.  It's dangerous out there too so respect the conditions.

Amazing Out There


The trip back and forth between home and Hospicare continues to provide great opportunities to ski.  One day this week, about a week into spring, I came home and wrote on the calendar "Best skiing ever."  I don't think it was an exaggeration.  The ice on the lake has been changing daily, I love seeing it from this overlook.

Amazing Out There


My 15th winter trip to Pharaoh Lake was another wonderful time.  We had the largest group in several years when a few of the guys who had stopped going decided to join us to celebrate the return of Jim Beck after his long absence. 
Turned out Jim couldn't make it.
But Dick Orth joined us.  He's wanted to winter camp his whole life and has talked about it since before I started going.  He picked a good year to go, conditions were ideal with lots of sunshine, hard packed snow to walk on and excellent skiing on the lake.  He and Jim went up first and got there ahead of me.  Roy, Glenn, Tom, and Bill spent a night in Glenn's house in Bolton Landing before coming up the next morning.
Roy and I had a first experience too.  We climbed the low hill behind him in the bottom picture just before the fog rolled in on Saturday.  From these perspectives it might look like a similar elevation as Pharaoh Mountain behind Dick, but it was a 500' climb compared to almost 1400' for Pharaoh.  Next time Roy and I have our sights set on the higher hill in the background which should have fantastic open views of the lake and mountain.

Amazing Out There


Perfect conditions, clear days until we wanted a change, then the mist rolled in followed by some fresh snow.  Maybe even some sprinkles that turned into snow showers Sunday morning.

Amazing Out There






Easiest haul in and out we've ever experienced. Someday I'm going to get a bigger sled so I can bring 
more stuff.  I didn't have to leave the banjo behind in the car with the favorable conditions, that's always a treat for everyone.  Glenn even got a little serenade while defenseless in the outhouse.

Amazing Out There

Jim and Dick headed out Saturday morning.  I accompanied them part way out and took them off trail for a view of the ice slide on Pharaoh Mountain's west face.  Tried to get them up the mountain, obviously Dick has never been up, and after three decades of going there Jim has never been up either.  Here's a file photo, but this reflects the conditions we would have experienced had I persisted more, Mt. Marcy is in the center:


Amazing Out There



This was the first year I'd taken skates with me thinking conditions had been right for a few days to produce good ice.  There turned out to be lots of patches which were sort of linked.  I was able to skate about half way across the lake at a pretty wide point.  There was also a nice spot at the outlet where the trail arrives at the lake so I went there and skated while waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.
The bottom picture is a skiing shot, in addition to excellent conditions on the lake, I had one good opportunity in the woods.  The ice was about 18'' thick where we drilled a whole for water access.

Amazing Out There

Glenn's been out there the most of all of us since he has a house nearby.  That doesn't stop him from checking his GPS regularly.  Conditions were perfect for taking the shortcut over the beaver pond and the last time he did that it added an hour to his trip.

Amazing Out There


Had some good wildlife encounters, but you had to be patient as most things are still chillin' and not about much.  Roy got out of his car and was greeted by these Pileated Woodpeckers, lots of thin ice on beaver holes and their trenches leading to or from in the deep snow.  Heard both Great Horned and Barred Owls, there was even a chickadee hanging around the lean-to snatching scraps whenever it could get them.

Amazing Out There

I don't know if we've had seven people in the lean-to before, it was cozy.  We were all able to squeeze in one side of it for the group photo, but there wasn't enough room for the chickadee so it crouched down in the front.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Sweet Sunny South


  This record-setting winter finally got us, Gail and I headed to the Palmetto State, specifically the Lowcountry and the city of Beaufort, SC. 
OK, we planned it when I was whining about not being able to ski yet in November, but it was unusual in that we got in a car and went a 1000 miles south.
As you'll see if you look at all these pictures there was a lot of water involved, which is the only explanation the Welcome to Historic Beaufort sign is in front of the bay.

Sweet Sunny South



Day one dawned rainy but warm, mid 50's.  We walked around the Point neighborhood where several elegant houses are adorned with centuries-old trees.  Many have their own docks, and adjacent signs proclaiming the views were protected by some tree-hugging organization led us to believe the dock we went out on was public.  Most definitely not.  The Spanish Moss draped live oak was in the only block not stuffed with houses.
For those of you familiar with the Chautauqua Institution, it was very similar, except on salt marshes, bays and estuaries.

Sweet Sunny South


We rented a sweet little house built by freed slaves after the Rebellion.  These were people who lived the Gullah culture which included light blue paint on frames to keep bad spirits out.  Seemed to work while we were there.  Even with all the sunshine I wasn't able to sit on the porch and play much, too cold.  Nice spot though, and the 25'x25' house was divided up sensibly, just hard to keep warm with a swamp heater when temps drop to the teens.  Thankfully it also had a space heater and fireplace.  We were cozy.

Sweet Sunny South



No sense staying in bed with daylight burning, so Gail got up to swim at a local pool and I got some cold walks around the water.  Found a nice swing one morning and some flaming windows across the bay.  Our house on Bliss St. in Westfield used to do that with the sunset certain times of the year.  It looked like the house was fully engulfed in flames with no smoke.

Sweet Sunny South


That neighborhood, the Point?  Several of the houses have been used as sets for lots of movies you've seen.  The bridge in the top picture got the funeral procession over the bay in The Big Chill (at 4:00 minute of this video, don't suffer through the whole clip.) The house they used for that film was around the corner of the one pictured, it had extensive obstructions to keep the riff-raff away.  Had it been warmer we'd would have gladly kayaked past it.  Also filmed here were films of local resident Pat Conroy's books The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini.  Forest Gump ran across the bridge as well.

Sweet Sunny South

A few miles outside of Beaufort is the Penn Center.  The building pictured is where Martin Luther King Jr. often spent time to get away from his many headaches and detractors.  It was in this building he wrote much of his I Have a Dream speech.  They could use some help with upkeep.
Here's the description from their homepage:
Tucked in the heart of the South Carolina Sea Islands surrounded by glimmering marshes and nestled beneath the silvery moss-draped limbs of massive live oaks, is Penn Center - the site of the former Penn School, one of the country's first schools for freed slaves. It is one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today. Penn Center is located on St. Helena Island, one of the most beautiful and historically distinct of the South Carolina Sea Islands, and at the heart of Gullah culture. The 50- acre historic campus of Penn School was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1974, and is the only African American landmark district in the nation. Established 150 years ago in 1862 as Penn School, an experimental program to educate Sea Island slaves at the beginning of the Civil War, it is the oldest and most persistent survivor of the Port Royal Experiment. The two founders were Northern missionaries: Laura M. Towne, a Unitarian from Pennsylvania, and her friend, Ellen Murray, a Quaker from Rhode Island, who spent the next 40 years of their lives serving the people of St. Helena in so many ways, in spite of numerous severe hardships. Charlotte Forten (1862-1864) of Philadelphia was the first Northern African American teacher at Penn. Upon Ms. Towne’s death in 1901, the school became incorporated under a Board of Trustees, and was heralded as a showplace as the new Penn Normal, Agricultural and Industrial School, influenced by the Hampton Institute, until it closed in 1948.

Sweet Sunny South

As we're well aware, many of Dr. King's dreams haven't come true.  One being the end of unlimited spending for militarization that assures the continuation of much unnecessary poverty.  A classic example is this fighter jet flying over Beaufort, something that started each day at 9 am and repeated as often as every three minutes.  It was so loud it stopped conversation, but as the slogan at Parris Island across the bay where they were taking off proclaims:  It sounds like freedom.
By the way, I'm probably not free to post this video, hope I don't find out the way some others have.

Sweet Sunny South




And beyond Saint Helena Island where the Penn Center is you come to Hunting Island State Park with its ocean-front beaches and a lighthouse that's open to the public to climb to the top and enjoy the view.  I did have a moment of satisfaction in regards to military spending as Marines were there continuing work the CCC started some 80 years ago.

Sweet Sunny South

If I'd had a sharpie with me I might have taken liberty to add false information to make light of a key measurement I think the State of SC left off this board visitors climbing the stairs stop to read.

Sweet Sunny South




Hunting Island was deemed "uninhabitable" at some point and was just used for...hunting.  It has an amazing forest with nice trails now.  Gail was looking for dinosaurs in the undergrowth.

Sweet Sunny South

I was looking for members of ZZ Top or Duck Dynasty.  Found one.

Sweet Sunny South




The island is "walking" which means one end is eroding while the other end is growing.  Looked to us like the erosion was happening on a more significant scale.  The trees littering the beach were remarkable, we were mesmerized by them, especially with their faded colors contrasted against the blue sky and ocean.  Would have loved to see it in fog too.