Tag Archive 'walking'

Jan 16 2021

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Midwinter Sunshine

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We waited several days for it. When finally the sky broke open as promised by the weather forecasters, Judy and I went to Colchester Pond. Judy is still passionate about photographing birds, and a few interesting ones had been spotted there recently. But the main thing was to get out and enjoy the sunshine. That’s not an easy thing to do in the middle of winter – not this year, anyhow.

The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived. Evidently, we weren’t the only ones looking to get out of the house. Half a dozen ice fishermen were camped out on the pond. Mostly gray-haired folks like us were walking the trail around it – on a Friday at noon, of course.

I glassed a few cardinals and blue jays with my binoculars but Judy didn’t even raise her camera. She can see those at home. No matter. We soaked in the relative warmth as we meandered slowly along the beaten path. With temps above freezing, Judy actually broke a sweat. I was quite comfortable.

After the walk, we sat on a bench along the edge of the pond, not far from the parking lot. That’s when Judy’s cousin Rick hailed us. We met him halfway between the bench and the parking lot and chatted with him for half an hour or so, keeping our distance because of the pandemic. Then Judy spotted a bird landing in a tree not far away. I glassed it, telling Judy she’d better get a shot because it was a raptor of some sort – one I couldn’t identify. It turned out to be a merlin. A rare sighting. What a fluke! A nice finish to a very pleasant day.

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Dec 22 2020

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Mac’s Bend

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Judy found out from her online birding group that bald eagles have been seen recently at Mac’s Bend near the mouth of the Missisquoi River, so we went there yesterday afternoon. Sure enough, we spotted a pair of them perched atop a tree on the other side of the river, not more than ten minutes into our walk. Unfortunately, they were too far away for Judy to get a good photo of them. So it goes with birding during the winter, more often than not.

We kept walking, following the gated, gravel access road to the Jeep trail ahead. We kept our eyes peeled for whatever else might come along. A woodpecker and a few nuthatches appeared. That’s all. Still it was good getting out of the house, getting some fresh air and stretching our legs. With the pandemic raging these days, we’ve been homebound for the most part.

The river was iced over and covered with a thin layer of fresh snow that also covered the access road. With temps above freezing and no wind, we were comfortable enough as we walked. Sunlight seeped through fissures in the grey clouds overhead. Animal tracks crisscrossed the river. All was quiet as the landscape settled into its winter dormancy.

After checking the time on my cell phone, I realized that there was only another hour and a half of daylight left. No surprise there, this being the shortest day of the year. Winter Solstice. The official beginning of winter. The good news is that the days will be getting longer from here on out.

Judy and I linked arms as we strolled back to the car. We chatted a bit but kept things light. There is enough darkness this time of year – especially this year. Upon reaching the car, we decided to drive around a bit on back roads and continue looking for eagles and other raptors. We spotted a hawk perched on a pole in the middle of a field and saw another one devouring a field mouse she had just caught. We enjoyed seeing houses adorned with colorful lights during our drive back home – Christmas being only four days away. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year.

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Nov 18 2020

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Walking It Off

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Once again I’ve found myself slipping into a funk – a Covid funk. The current surge of new cases means there will probably be another lockdown soon. Like the political bullshit and the shortness of the days isn’t enough to deal with. And then this morning I awaken to sub-freezing temps and a dusting of snow. Although previewed earlier this month, winter has arrived in force here in northern Vermont. Ug.

While my first thought was to stay indoors and continue stewing in my juices, I decided to go for a short hike in a local pocket of woods and embrace the season instead. Besides, the funk wasn’t going to go away on its own. I had to do something proactive.

After a round of writing and shipping out some books, I stepped onto the trail winding up and around Aldis Hill. Not much of a hike, really, but getting outside, stretching my legs and breathing fresh air for a short while was all I needed. It worked wonders, of course, as it always does. And it was nice being among trees again, even if they are in a city park. Nothing compared to that challenging Jay Mountain Ridge hike a few weeks ago, but not every outing has to be a rigorous one. Sometimes a 40-minute walk will do.

The funk had diminished considerably by the time I returned to my car. I know how this goes, though. I’ll have to get out again in another day or two to keep it at bay. Even then, the news will still be full of political bullshit and the days will keep getting shorter for another month or so. No matter. I do what I can to get through these dark days thinking: What a glorious year 2021 is going to be, once a mass vaccination has done a number on that nasty bug! Then we’ll all have a life again.

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Apr 10 2020

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A Walk Around the Reservoir

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A couple days ago, Judy and I drove to Essex Junction to pick up some cotton dinner napkins. Before delivering that material to those making face masks, we stopped at Indian Brook Reservoir to walk the two-mile loop trail there. We hadn’t done that in a while.

The parking lot was full of cars when we arrived mid-afternoon. No surprise. With the pandemic raging and people “sheltering in place” for weeks on end, the urge to get out and stretch one’s legs becomes irresistible. Trails like this, close to Burlington, are a good place to do that.

The crowd was expected, as were the dogs accompanying them, but I was not prepared for the flood of memories. My canine companion Matika accompanied me on many walks around the reservoir. She died a year ago, but her spirit was still with me during this walk.

Judy was horrified by the wear and tear of the trail. After thinking about it, we realized that half a dozen years have gone by since she was here last. Yeah, the trail has taken a beating since then. Too close to Burlington and too well known.

So there was a touch of sadness in our walk. All the same it was good getting out, good ambling through the woods on an early spring afternoon, seeing the handiwork of industrious beavers and watching the natural world slowly coming back to life. We aren’t too picky these days. We take our small pleasures wherever we find them.

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Jan 17 2020

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Frigid Walk

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When the temperature outside got up to zero this morning, I put on my thermals and other warm clothes then went for a walk. Nothing special, just the local loop. A couple miles. Just enough to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.

The sun shined brightly through an azure sky. The naked trees cast blue shadows over snow that had fallen the day before. I cut fresh tracks through the woods, then walked the road as an occasional car passed. No one else was stirring otherwise, neither man nor beast.

My eyeglasses frosted over as I walked making it difficult to see. When a gentle breeze kicked up, it stung my exposed cheeks. I usually scoff at wind chill, but not today. Yeah, any kind of air movement when the temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit gets my attention.

I crept along slowly, unwisely having left my crampons at home. I had expected the road to be clear. Slipped and fell once, causing more embarrassment than injury. Like it wasn’t silly enough for me to be out walking on a day like this.

Ah, but stepping back inside after a frigid walk was a true delight! And I’ll enjoy being indoors the rest of the day as a result. Sometimes a little exposure to the elements is just the thing to make one appreciate the comforts of home.

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Dec 11 2019

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Long Walk on a Short Day

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The snow that had blanketed northern Vermont since early November melted off during the past few days. That gave me a chance to get out and really stretch my legs this afternoon, before it snowed again. So I did just that, heading for the wilder section of the nearby Rail Trail to hike hard and fast across barren ground.

Mid-afternoon and already the trees casting long shadows. The days are short this time of year. No matter. The nearly cloudless, deep blue sky lured me out of my warm car and into the seasonably cool air.

I became a little melancholy yesterday, while listening to holiday music during a book-hunting road trip. My mother loved Christmas so I couldn’t help but think of her, and my father as well. They’re both gone now, along with my canine companion Matika who walked the Rail Trail with me countless times during the past twelve years. But there’s a time to grieve and a time to get on with life. This afternoon, I chose the latter.

There was still ice in the wetlands this afternoon, and patches of snow lingered beneath the trees. It won’t take much for winter to reclaim this landscape, but for an hour I walked with a warm-season gait, leaving faint tracks in the partially melted surface of the trail. I crossed paths with a chipmunk that was also taking advantage of the day. This time of year, it’s wise to get out while one can.

Back home now, I’ll soon return to the work I was doing this morning. But first these words jotted down while savoring the last bit of daylight. The sun is sinking fast into the western horizon. Less than nine hours of light today. The Winter Solstice approaches. Glad I got out and soaked up some rays while I could.

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Aug 11 2019

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Monarch in the Goldenrod

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Last week the mountains were calling me so I dropped everything and drove over an hour to a favorite valley where I bushwhacked along a trout stream for the afternoon. That happens more often than not. But this morning I was in a different mood, feeling an urge to walk through sun-drenched fields. So I headed for the nearby Rail Trail.

Blue sky, mild temps, and poplar leaves quaking in a gentle breeze. A tricolored blackbird sang out. Queen Anne’s lace, chicory, birdsfoot trefoil, and clover lined the gravel trail. Sometimes it feels good walking with no goal or purpose in mind, especially on a summer day.

Suddenly I was missing my old dog, Matika. She and I walked this particular section of the Rail Trail together many times. It’s conveniently located right on the edge of town. Just then it dawned to me that I was walking here for the first time since she died. Ah, well… life goes on.

Cornfields and distant hills reminiscent of my childhood in Ohio. Maybe that’s why I like to hike across open ground like this every once in a while. I love the shady forests that blanket three-quarters of Vermont. But occasionally I hunger for sunlight.

A good distance from the car, I stopped to look around. That’s when I spotted a monarch butterfly fluttering across a large patch of goldenrod just starting to bloom. The charm of late summer in a nutshell, I thought. Then I smiled into the sky before turning around and walking back the way I came. Sometimes if feels good just to be alive.

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Jun 02 2019

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Coastal Forest

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Once again my wife felt the need to visit the seashore so we headed for the Maine coast early last week. With temps in the 50s, a chilling breeze and rain every day, it wasn’t weather for lounging on the beach. All the same, Judy got her ocean fix during a few shoreline walks, and I had plenty of opportunity to hike early in the morning while she was still sleeping. My best hike took place on the last day.

I drove over to Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and meandered through forest and meadow just as a thick morning fog was burning off. I got there early enough to have the place all to myself – just me and the mosquitoes, I should say. With all the rain we’ve had lately, it’s been a banner year for them. No matter. As long as I kept moving, they didn’t bother me much.

Bunchberry, starflower and several other wildflowers were in bloom despite the closing of the canopy overhead. The many ferns in the surrounding understory were that vibrant vernal green that also brightens the leaves of the birches, maples and other trees. Coast, mountain or anything between, I love that green. And I love this time of year because of it.

I hiked the perimeter trail as it ran along the estuary then veered back into the woods. I particularly enjoyed the rather lengthy boardwalk cutting across a wooded wetland covered in sphagnum moss and other wet-loving vegetation. I’m not a big one for elaborate trail work, but in particularly damp places like this it minimizes impact and makes walking nearly effortless.

I feel more at home in the mountains, really, but anywhere a forest grows is a good place to be by my way of reckoning. With all the development along the southern Maine coast, I’m glad that some of its natural beauty has been preserved – estuary, wetland and forest as well as shoreline. All this complements the magnificent ocean view. We are enriched by it. We are enriched by all things that we are able to appreciate.

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Dec 26 2018

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End Year Ramble

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After lounging around the house all day yesterday, I awoke this morning with a tremendous urge to get out and make tracks. Didn’t have to talk my old dog Matika into it. She was right on my heels the moment I put on my boots.

Clearly I wasn’t the only one needing to walk off the holiday feast. The trail at Niquette Bay had plenty of boot prints in it. All the same, I had the place pretty much to myself late in the morning.

With so little snow on the ground, I didn’t bother bringing my Microspikes with me. That was a mistake. Icy patches caught me off guard a couple times and down I went. Other than that it felt good to ramble – to stretch my legs, keep a leisurely pace, and breathe in the frigid air. Hiking can be just as pleasant in December as it is in June.

The sun burned halfheartedly through the clouds. At midday it felt distant and the surrounding trees casted long shadows. There’s no doubt in my mind as to what time of year it is. Not that I’m complaining. As long as I can get out and walk every once in a while, I’m okay with it.

Back home now, I’m surprised by how quickly dusk has come around. Surprised once again, I should say. Still I wrap up the year’s business and make plans for the near future. Soon the calendar will turn and I’ll be back to my literary work with gusto. All the same, I’m daydreaming about a rigorous trek on the Cohos Trail – something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. This coming summer I’m going to make that happen. Every walk between now and then anticipates it.

 

 

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Oct 04 2018

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Reflection and Walking

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It has taken nearly a week but I’m back into my routine now. Back to writing, publishing, and running my book biz. Back to cooking, hanging out with Judy, and going for the occasional short walk between errands. Two weeks ago, I drove to Ohio to visit family and friends. That took something out of me since I do not pace myself when traveling alone. It feels good to be back.

The leaves are turning. Cool temps are common now. The days are noticeably shorter. All this is to be expected when we turn the calendar to October. Still I am a little shocked by it. The clock ticks away while I’m busy doing stuff, and I’m left wondering where the days have gone. That’s especially true this time of year, when the rows of pumpkins at the nearby farm stand make it clear that the growing season is over.

My eyes feast upon the splashes of color in the trees as I walk the Rail Trail. Most of the trees are still green but that’ll quickly change now. Note to self: take down the air conditioner still protruding from the bedroom window. Yeah, those days have passed.

I stop several times just to look around. Blue asters still bloom along the trail’s edge. Most other wildflowers have withered away. Still a touch of goldenrod, of course. And a few fallen leaves. I walk in shirtsleeves because, well, because I can. Not too many of these days left, either.

We all know what’s coming. “The long white,” a friend of mine calls it. The colder half of the year is when I do most of my writing. I look forward to that. But I’m also thinking I should go for a long hike or two soon, very soon – before the snow flies. October is a good month for that kind of thing. October is a good month for reflection and walking.

 

 

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