Tag Archive 'landscape'

Jul 08 2022

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Two Completely Different Landscapes

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Last month, towards the end of a big trip out West, I hiked in the Mojave Desert with my friend Bill Weiss. We went into Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California to be specific. We left his Jeep at the end of a dirt road and hiked to Queen Mountain before sunrise – before the sun had a chance to really heat things up. We wore jackets to protect ourselves from a strong, dry wind that threatened to strip the moisture from our bodies. The air temperature was in the 70s when we started, and in the 80s when we finished our hike a few hours later.

A fine dust covered the ground, along with rocks of all sizes. There was no sign of water anywhere. Yucca, creosote and cactus plants arose from the arid landscape. They sported all kinds of needles and other hard, sharp edges. As Bill pointed out, desert plants have attitude.

When the sun rose, I was awestruck by the beauty of this wide-open country. The mountains in the distance were awash in pastel colors, and the folds in the ground closer to us cast long shadows as did the vegetation. Oh, but that blinding orb shined relentlessly once it finally showed itself. We stripped off our jackets and tipped the bills of our hats down over our eyes as we hiked out. We sucked down precious water from our bottles. Dust mixed with the sweat and sunscreen on my exposed forearms. In the desert there is no place to hide from that blazing sun. We were glad to be back indoors later on that day, when temps spiked over 100 degrees.

Yesterday I hiked up Mount Abraham in central Vermont. Temps were in the 60s when I started and in the low 70s when I finished. Nice and cool, especially under the cover of trees, but I sweated the entire time anyway. The forest was damp, very damp, after weeks of considerable rain. There was water running everywhere, and the trail was all roots and rocks and mud puddles. From the top of the mountain, I marveled at the Green Mountains rolling away to the south beneath billowing clouds. A thick haze covered the Champlain Valley to the west, due to high humidity. The sun peaked occasionally from the clouds. The wind blew but it was more comforting than threatening as it usually is this time of year. The wind in the middle of winter, well, that’s another story.

The desert has its charms, but I’m a creature of the forest. I like having that canopy overhead and feel quite comfortable in the endlessly green understory. Granted, it’s a lot easier to get lost in the woods than it is in the open desert, but I always manage to find my way home. And I don’t like being very far away from water. Others don’t mind it, though. To each his/her own, I suppose.

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Jun 20 2022

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On the Road

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I just returned home from 5 weeks on the road. A writer friend died suddenly last year so I decided it was time to see as many others as possible before anyone else slipped away forever. Some of them are roughly my age; others are in their 70s and 80s. Some of them I hadn’t seen in decades; others I had not yet met. It was time to stop saying “maybe someday.”

As I planned the trip, the list grew. I added family and a few non-literary friends to my itinerary – those I hadn’t seen since before Covid, who lived at least 500 miles away. There were 20 people on the list by the time I departed. So I knew from the outset that it was going to be a whirlwind tour.

I rented a nearly new car and drove it from Vermont to Florida, then to Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Missouri, then to Colorado, New Mexico and all the way to California. I turned in the rental at the LA airport then flew home completely exhausted. I put 7,600 miles on the car’s odometer. I saw a good part of America – its land and its people. It’s going to take me a while to process it all.

There are two things I can say for certain, though: everyone is living life the best they can, despite the pandemic and everything else, and this country of ours is a remarkable place. It has changed since the last time I traveled into the deep south or far west 40 years ago. The cities are bigger, the climate is more severe (especially out west), and the people are more diverse. Yet the landscape is as beautiful as it has ever been, and most people are surprisingly friendly.

There were challenges, of course. Constant Covid testing and mask wearing, skyrocketing gas prices, a shortage of workers causing all sorts of problems, homicidal drivers on the highways, intense heat, and wildfires out west – the trip was not a cheap or easy one. But it was well worth it.

It was worth it just to hug those I hadn’t seen in years and to meet longstanding literary friends for the very first time. People are important, and that’s something that a solitary, woods-wandering guy like me needs to remember. All the same, it feels good be back on home turf with my life partner Judy. Being away from her was the only real hardship. The rest was an adventure.

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Feb 18 2022

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Walt Franklin’s New Book

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I am pleased to announce the release of Walt Franklin’s latest collection of essays, Learning the Terrain: Reflections on a Gentle Art, under the Wood Thrush Books imprint. Fly-fishing is the gentle art here, of course, and Franklin is quite adept at it. But this is more than just another fisherman telling tall tales. Franklin is a naturalist with a bamboo rod in hand, a poet wading clear mountain streams. Yes, there is a little poetry mixed into this prose, and a lot of prose that reads like poetry.

Along with plying waters of his home bioregion – upstate New York and north-central Pennsylvania – Franklin recounts excursions to classic trout rivers out west and catching salmon in the tributaries flowing into Lake Ontario. He also tries his hand at saltwater fishing. But it’s the moments when he tunes into the wildness all around him that edifies the reader. Franklin is at home in the natural world. This comes out loud and clear in his work.

After publishing five other books of his, I had resolved to move onto other nature writers. Then I read this collection and felt it had to be ushered into print. You can acquire a copy of this book by going to the Wood Thrush Books website. It is also available at Amazon.com. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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