Monday, October 12, 2015

just another day in paradise

I am "officially" and "theoretically" off-line at the moment, on vacation with my family, stalwartly avoiding the interwebs and Facebook, but old habits die hard.

For lo, I have found something new on the beach this year. Every year, new things wash up. This year, it's those particularly long, pointy shells, pale ivory/pink,  3/4" long, and...these things!

At first I thought it might be frayed plastic, but it seemed made of clear tubes only. Eventually I realized it was... formerly alive. Either in-and-of-itself, or as the innards of some heretofore-unknown-to-me sea creature. A seaweed?

I ran into several more pieces of the stuff. 

It had been quite some time since I'd played with a camera, and eventually I moved on, and contemplated Tybee Island across the way and a little flock of seagulls and terns (?) (Caspian?), standing at the water's edge. They were all hanging out peacefully. A younger one begged incessantly from its neighbor.

It got nothing for its troubles.

I kept going after a while.

I found bigger bits of the clear seaweedy stuff, suffused with grains of sand.

Very cool.  

One small beached jellyfish today.

I came across what I think of as "brain coral"... that little speck in the middle is a tiny crab.

I zoomed in. It  surveyed me. 

"Try me, m------f-----."

Meanwhile, out in the surf, an entire dolphin family cruised by slowly, feeding idly, no more than 30 feet away. The ones in the lead surfaced for long enough to make eye contact with those of us walking along the edge of the surf. Behind them, a few juveniles were overcome with playfulness - one started breeching. I was far too transported to even attempt to photograph them.  A boy made his way out to chest deep, slapping the water with the palms of his hands, causing the three playful ones to turn around and cavort. 

In the meantime, on his own walk, Dearly Beloved spotted a bald eagle in the eagle tree:

Does life get any better than this?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Presidential Do-Over, Part Deux

Where were we? Right, going up the Air Line trail to Madison Hut. We'd just broken through the dense woods and had entered the krumholz (the stunted growth pattern of trees forced to endure the harsh conditions of icy winter winds, etc.).

This is where my heart starts to sing: above treeline. The cairns are not the work of whimsy, they're there so you don't get lost when the fog rolls in. Up and up we went...

...til we found the cut-off trail to Madison Hut.  We checked in, dumped our packs on our bunks (I took one for the team and picked the top bunk of three) (word is, Madison Hut used to have bunks stacked five high), helped ourselves to hot cocoa, and headed out for nearby Mt. Madison. 

It was the usual White Mountains scramble up a pile of rubble with the usual stunning views. Happy sigh.

Looking north...

...and east.

That dark green hump of undulations in the picture above is Howker Ridge. Later, a Hut crew member told us this was one of his favorite trails. Of course, you can't trust a guy who can get from the trailhead up to the hut loaded with a 55-pound pack of supplies in an hour and a half. So who knows if the Howker Ridge trail is passable by ordinary mortals.

Best of all was the view to the south. Mt Washington, wreathed in clouds, the toll road snaking its way up the back.

Eventually we headed back to the hut. Family-style dinner was served promptly at six. Afterwards, I approached the day's cook - a fellow Sarah - and offered her Reiki in thanks. She took me up on it. We found a quiet corner in the crew's bunk room and she soaked up twenty minutes like a sponge. Ahhhhh....  That night, I wish I could say I slept the sleep of the just, but I was hot and sticky and even with earplugs, could not tune out out the mellifluous syncopation of other people snoring. 

We were all up and at 'em by 6:30 the next morning.

Communal life in the AMC huts is made possible by a few simple rules: with respect to the food, "take all you want, but eat all you take"; no open flames; quiet hours from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am; and of course, the all-important, "fold your blankets thusly".  This last rule was acted out at breakfast via a skit based on Jurassic Park. 

You can tell that's a dinosaur, right? Yeah. Working in an AMC hut requires a little crazy. The good kind of crazy. We stuffed ourselves silly at breakfast and headed out for a day hike. Our goal: Mt Jefferson, 3.8 miles away. No sweat.

We knew we'd be in for a treat as soon as we popped our heads out of the hut. Glory Be and Hallelujah: a clear day!

That's Mt. Adams: we'd be skirting the back of it (on the right) and then heading left, over to Mt Jefferson.

Melissa and Liz

The first part of our morning took us along the headwall of King Ravine and offered a great view of the Air Line trail we'd ascended the previous day - it's that rocky spine to the right.

After we rounded Mt. Adams we got within sight of Mt. Washington, wreathed in nothing but crisp air, not a cloud in sight. 

Our target, Mt Jefferson - to the right and just out of the shot above; in full glory, below.

Sun = Smiles.

Washington in the background, Jefferson in the foreground at right.

The summit of Jefferson is - wait for it - a big pile of rocks. We joined about a dozen other hikers to take in the views.

Liz snapped one of me and I snapped one of her.  

It's always entertaining when someone's face gets distorted in making of a panoramic shot. Sorry, random stranger!

We inhaled some lunch as clouds rolled in and turned around for the hike home.

Contemplating Adams on the return journey.  

We played leap frog with an Appalachian Trail section hiker on our return. He wondered which one of us had the maniacal laughter. Guilty as charged.

Back at Madison Hut, I visited my bunk to make sure gravity still operated in normal fashion.

It did. 

I roused myself soon after so as to participate in the all-important business of chatting with other hikers out in the late afternoon sun as we waited for dinner. We chatted up a woman wearing a triathlon t-shirt. "How'd you do?" we asked. "I won!" she answered. Wow. 

The next morning, Liz got up extra early to make the first shuttle from the trailhead back to her car, but Melissa and I gave ourselves more time to dawdle on the descent.

Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis

It was over far too soon. Except for the part about not having been able to shower for three days.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

the Presidential Range Do-Over of 2015.

Devoted blog fans will recall that three years ago, my friend Melissa and I scampered across the Presidential Range in New Hampshire's White Mountains in drizzle and fog. We swore one day we'd have a do-over, and earlier this year we realized that we'd better hop to it. So Melissa, bless her heart, whipped out her credit card and got in touch with the fine folks at the Appalachian Mountain Club to made reservations for a couple of nights at Madison Hut. 

Our plan: start out there and make our way to Mt Jefferson - summiting the various peaks we hadn't bothered with in the crappy weather of our 2012 foray.

At the Appalachia trailhead. Off to a good start.

We were joined by our intrepid friend Liz. Here are Liz and Melissa consulting the map near a tangle of intersecting trails. 

Ahhh, New England, how I love your rocky former stream beds hiking trails.

We finally broke out above timberline and were treated to a spectacular view of King Ravine with a fog bank rolling in. 

We broke for lunch. Mmmm, hunks of cheddar cheese and sausage, fresh fruit, and banana bread muffins.

Near the headwall of King Ravine we encountered some mouth watering views...

The top of Chemin des Dames trail.

And lo, I find I must wrap up this post and start a new one for verily, Blogger does suck indeed and will not allow me to add new pictures to this post. Grrr. I'll be right back with more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

shagbark hickory buds are not for the faint of heart.

iPhone photos – not ideal, but not half bad, by some of my criteria (subject, composition, and what not). Sucky by others (crispness, clarity). It is what it is – I was doing a quick after-dinner walk down to the end of the road and back and I just couldn’t resist...I even deliberately left the cameras behind, but as you can see, I’m a junkie. A junkie for spring.

This is a shagbark hickory bud what’s gotten all explody.


BOOM. Those bud scales – wow. They’re huge.

And now for the tiny, a Canada Mayflower. Can’t get enough of these jaunty little guys.



It’s Friday, it’s 10 pm, I am not breaking out the guide at this point. Maple leaf viburnum, I’m guessing.



Another shagbark – this one’s the terminal bud of a sapling less than a foot tall.


Don’t underestimate me. I’m an old grandpa at heart.

The blurriness drives me nuts, until I remove the expectation of crispness, and then it just looks kinda cool.



Too lazy to confirm the ID on this one – the significant thing being, I NEVER see these guys flowering. So: special day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


And the Lord sayeth...”TROUT LILY!!!!!”


And lo, the angels did smile.

The back of our house is insane.


In the foreground, way down low, we have purple...the vinca, aka myrtle.


Just next to them and bit taller, an insane quantity of this frivolity:


Next to that, a hilarity of azalea:


TODAY is THE day for this almost-open look, where the color is the most saturated. Tomorrow this will all be different.


And behind it all looms the rhody, aswarm with bumble bees.


In the meantime, let us not forget the tulips.




And the downward-facing ... lily? dunno. These shots are not upside-down.



What the hell. Can I get an amen?

And just across the gravel path? More of this:


AND I saw ruby-throated hummingbirds at the feeder today. AND I talked to a woman at a local ‘wellness center’ – massage, facials, etc. – and will be their first Reiki practitioner. AND we sold two out of three of our ancient cars – the Golden Buick went off to Michele on the back of some tractor trailer so large, it had to be parked out on the main road cause it couldn’t get up our hill; and the Escape went to this nice guy who handed over a wad of cash. He’ll be back shortly to pick it up.

What a day, what a day. We are blessed.