Category Archives: Hiking
I know that I ended my last post with no more bear stories. Well, I just found bear tracks in the thin layer of dirt next to the big barn doors mentioned in the last post. Sooooo, I have tell a story that should have been in the last post. Forgot about it until this morning. It’s hilarious.
I was hiking in the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains with a friend. We ran into a group of six hikers taking a lunch break at a shelter. The Guy (don’t remember his name) had to share what happened that morning. The group was staying at the previous shelter about 15 miles away. It was late April and the bears were beginning to awake from their long winter slumber.
The group wasn’t together per say, just been meeting up off and on. They were all at the last shelter except the Guy. He came in late and there was no more room in the shelter for him to squeeze into. He pitched his tent in front and found a spot for his pack in the shelter where it would be safe from the bears.
All of the shelters in the Smoky’s have chain link fences across the front with a secre locking mechanism. The Smoky Mountains are a busy place for tourists, creating tension between man’s food supply and demands of the bears. A night in an open shelter makes for easy picking on the part of the bear.
The bear encounter for Guy took place in early morning. Guy rose early to head “nature’s” call. A bear came into the clearing heading for Guy’s tent. I guess the lack of food in the tent ticked off the bear. The amount of anger leads me to believe the bear was a female (being funny). She shredded his tent and Guy ran for the port a potty and locked himself inside. Well, being very disatisfied, the bear walked over to the port a potted grabbed and shook it. Guy fell to the bottom and braced his feet against the door to protect himself. One last shove left the port a potty on its side. Guy didn’t mind a bit. The bear ran off into the brush, most likely to find another victim just for spite.
Here are some photos of the bear tracks imprinted on a thin layer of dirt where work had been done for the driveway. Click on image to view full size.
Birds create a fantastical world for me. They are beautiful to look at. Their songs fill empty spaces with pleasure. They have a lovely disposition and brighten my day. I’d like to talk about one of my favorites, the Chickadee.
I’ve had many an encounter with the Black-Capped Chickadee from the sharing of meals to a bit of humor. I’ve seen how they care for other birds, showing them the way.
One such time was when we had a young Robin winter over up here, where the weather turns bitter cold and the snow piles grow. At first the little guy came to the feeder by himself. A few days later he stayed when the Chickadees came, sitting in a leafless bush far from the feeder. Where did he go when the wind blew wildly? He just sat in the same bush with his feathers fluffed to the uttermost. Nights were spent in the crook of a maple tree branch. Finally, on the fifth day, he understood that the Chickadees had been offering him an invitation. They wanted him to know when to come and eat, where to get his rest, and to sleep in a warm place. I watched him come with the happy little guys, taking his turn to gather food from beneath the feeder. He learned to rest in the thick branches of a cedar shrub and to sleep inside the hole of a dead tree, nestled deeply in the woods behind the cabin.
There are other stories familiar to many of the Chickadee landing on shoulders, taking feed from tiny hands,and gathering thickly to complain when “someone” was late with the food. My funniest was during a second hike of The Appalachian Trail (a continuous trail that runs from Georgia up into Maine). I did it differently than most by starting in Pennsylvania the second week of March and heading north. This way I’d be alone for most of the five month journey and I was. Anyway… I was in Vermont enjoying the rewards of what happens when the skies let loose. It was raining for the fourth day in a row. As the previous days, the rain was torrential in the middle of the day and had nearly washed away my wonder and awe of where I was. That is, until I came round a sharp bend in the trail just below the summit of Peru Mountain. I was face to face with a Chickadee, mere inches from my nose. He said his usual “Chickadee, dee, dee.” But it was obvious that he was saying more than a cheery hello. His crisp clear few syllables shouted laughter. He was laughing at me as I stood in front of him. Twice! And then, I couldn’t help myself and began to laugh with him as the rain continued to cover me like a waterfall bursting off the top of my head. “Chickadee, dee, dee, Dee! DEE!” translation, “ha, ha, he, he, you’re all wet! Followed by little giggles.
I cannot claim the scientific distinction between mankind and animal. The world is a creation beyond eternity.
What we plan to happen and what really happens is a test of character, the very essence of who we are.
I have no idea what time it is nor do I care. Suffice it to say that I find it a hindrance like dragging around a ball and chain. I am using time on this trip for only the prediction of tide and weather. Ah, the compromises one has to make.
I take my leave of the Punchbowl and head for camp. A thick stand of Rose rugosa, “Beach Rose” is along my route. They are considered an obnoxious weed in the United States. It grows with gusto robbing space and nutrients from native plants. According to Wikipedia, Rose rugosa was introduced to America in 1845 and the first report of Rose rugosa far from where it was introduced occurred in 1899 on Nantucket Island. Presently, the plant has overtaken the shores and islands of New England States. Wikipedia Source
I’m happy to see them at the moment because I’m hungry. Goodness, my meager diet is already becoming a nuisance. I want flavorful food and more of it. But for now, I’m happy to feast on some Rose Hips. I pick a few and eat them where I stand, careful not to consume too many at one time. I learn that the pulp and seed are filling, quieting the voice of hunger.
[There isn’t much to the rose hip as it mostly pulp and seeds. However, it is extremely healthy providing vitamins A and C, plus Calcium and other nutrients. Click for more info.]
The hunger I am starting to experience reminds me of my first hike of the Appalachian Trail, click for info. I thought I’d done a good job preparing food for this hike. A lot of research was done, including food logistics. The information turned out to be woefully lacking and hunger became an entity in itself . His character was single minded, intrusive, demanding, and the instigator of dreams. One dream focused on the value of food – I own a pick-up truck and in the dream I had taken it to a garage to be worked on. When the owner asked for payment, I opened the back, reached in and pulled out four loaves of home-made bread and gave it to him. Another dream was about eating. It contained every detail of me making a chocolate cake. Much of the time focused on spreading a heap of creamy chocolate frosting. I was very slowly laying it on in fancy swirls. Then, I cut a large piece from the cake and right when I was about to take a bite, my hiking partner woke me up. Boy, was I mad! and felt like punching her at the time.
I haven’t been able to put together the next post for 21 days at sea, but feel like putting something in the blog tonight. I searched through photos and other Snippet in time type writings. Nothing peaked my interest until I stumbled upon my introduction for a naturalist hike that I led three years ago for the Randolph Mountain Club. It’s a bit soap-box like but was also appreciated at the time. I really enjoyed the stories people in the group had to share about some pretty unusual nature experiences as well. [ please excuse the choppy flow as this was an interactive introduction to our hike.]
More Than A Name
My degree is in sociology and I like to examine the “world” around me through relationships. I believe that every living creatures, plant and animal (or other), came long before we could stand and/or be spiritually created. We may have opposing thumbs and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. But, are we really better than what we see before us? What kind of example or pattern for life and living has humanity brought forth to all living things? I think that the natural world is intrinsically much more than we give credit for. We observe plants and animals showing kindness and then without warning these same plants and animals produce terrible violence.
Some of the most beloved and valuable experiences in my life are rooted in what I refer to little big lives. Bumble Bees swim when it’s hot and sleep under a blossom or leaf when it rains. A single wasp digs a nest from hard-packed dirt a few seconds at a time. Spiders stroll down sidewalks. Birds play and I’ve heard that Moose do too. A chickadee laughs. Squirrels fly. Ants build rafts out of themselves. Flies light up. Bears and Raccoons work together and so on.
Are we really more intelligent and important than all living creatures? Or, are we a part of the whole that is in existence at this moment in time? We were not, we were, we are, we will be and we will not be.
Perhaps, we should take note of how we fit into the grand scheme of things with an open mind. Perhaps, we should humble ourselves and give nature a chance to be our guide and teacher. Slow down, watch, learn, and be attentive. See the portrait of life painted for those who choose to visit.
“It is impossible to look at one kind of plant or animal in its environment without considering the environment generally – a vital consideration in a world increasingly disfigured by industrialization” Ian Tribe from Mushrooms in the Wild.
I’d like to add that in this consideration our consumer disfigurement may completely wipe us out while all other life continues onward.
We went out to see what we could find after our little talk. People assigned themselves to groups that would examine a specific area along the trail via words, sketches, and photographs (whatever tickled their fancy). I wasn’t going to tell them the names or unique facts. The object was for each person to make the discoveries, ask the questions and find the answers.
The choices of assignments were: The ground, shrub and small tree height, larger trees and the sky above. *It was an amazing experience for me to watch these people who already know so much learn how little we all know in an intimate manner.
I found some old winter photos today. They are of my loop hike of Mt. Hayes I did many years ago, which was and still is a memorable trip for me. (Mahoosuc Trail to Centennial Trail and Home).
My landlord dropped me off in Gorham, where I walked to the Mahoosuc Trail. I noted the temp. as 10 degrees f. (The summit sits at 2,555 ft. and climbing Mt. Hayes from the Mahoosuc side has an elevation gain of 1,750 ft. in 2.5 miles.) I had a goot start, stopping to photograph the stream before heading up to the freshly fallen snow. It was a pleasure to be the trail breaker. The scenes before me were breathtakingly beautiful. It didn’t matter if I were looking straight ahead or around a bend, loveliness greeted me. Trees stood frozen in time, planted in deeply in the snow among the early morning shadows. Light played across both creating a distinct sharpness in some places and softening the harshness in others.
The climb was definitely a cardio workout. But it was once of the nicest I’d every done. I was happy to be on top and once again noted the temp. which had fallen to 15 below 0. A fierce wind battered the mountain, but the trees on the west side of the ledges protected me from it. Not so with Mt. Washington. The winds were blowing so hard up there that spindrift was flying off the summit and ridges, spraying the sky with fine powder. I thought Mt. Hayes was a great place to be that day.
My challenge for the day was to find the Centennial Trail. I tried my compass first. It wasn’t much help. I knew the general area but the snow was too deep for any distinguishable features. As far as the trail sign, What Sign? Buried! I did make a few pokes into the trees to find the trail. No go. You see, the trail takes an elbow turn, bending sharply to the east and and then skirts the Mountain. I decided to start from a point I knew was wrong and work in one direction. I had to step off the rocky ledge in places.while doing this and a snowshoe hare hopped right by me during one of those times. That was worth not knowing how to get there from here in itself.
My challenge became a whole lot bigger once I did find the trail. The deep snow clung to the mountain in an almost vertical wall, cutting through the trees. I had mountaineering snowshoes but the going was going to be tough, tougher than I expected. I didn’t have an ice axe and had to turn each foot 90 degrees and jam it into the snow. The farthest in my feet went was barely beyond my toes. It was a slow and painstaking process, step by step, grabbing tree branches or doing a full body lean to hold on or rest. Every step was taken with care as falling wasn’t an option! This process was only for a half mile. It took me three hours to cover that distance. And I tell you, even the tiniest muscles in my toes were cramping and burning by the time I found flat ground. Actually before, but you get the picture.
I did lose the trail again but found it easily and loved the flat surface of this part of the trail. I had a three miles to go but they were gentle. I made it down and also the next mile home. The toll of the work shows on the final photo in this gallery.
p.s. I went out and bought an ice axe the following day! [click on photo for full screen]