I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Thursday, February 24, 2011

longwood gardens (not actually a hike)

longwood with Sarah February 2011 211

No hike this week; we hosted my mother-in-law and took her to Longwood, a stupendous public garden west of Philly: check out this map of the conservatory. The carnivorous plants would have delighted the Addams family, and we liked the silvery succulents and the bonsai. While my camerado and his mum toured the DuPont house I went to see the new treehouses--the rustic materials and setting contrasted nicely with the grace and sophistication of the designs. Many arboretums are adding treehouses. HOORAY FOR TREEHOUSES!

Longwood also added a serpentine corridor to the conservatory--with a living wall:

longwood with Sarah February 2011 137

I had read about living walls but this is the first I'd seen in person.

longwood with Sarah February 2011 140

The museums and gardens of the Delaware Valley were a haven and an education for me growing up. It's great to see one growing in smart ways, while respecting its heritage.

Longwood has been significant to my family: we celebrated the second anniversary of my mom's transplant there, and, for some reason, went after my cousin's funeral--I guess because we didn't know what else to do. While my newly-abbreviated family and I were looking at the view from the Italian garden, a girl I was seeing at the time put her arm around me and whispered, I'm bored, can we leave?

celtic classic, longwood 084

The Italian garden looks a little stark this time of year, I took the picture above the first time my camerado and I went to Longwood--he was quickly surfeited with the formal gardens and wanted to see the woods and meadow--a choice I found baffling at the time, because you can see woods and meadows anywhere.

longwood with Sarah February 2011 158

I've seen a lot of woods and meadows with him since that time and can attest that no two are alike. We'll be back in Chester County for our next hike, where we hope to see some paw-paw trees and Brandywine blue gneiss.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

fifth hike 2011: Cape May NJ

our fifth hike 2011 cape may 194

After some exhausting hikes in the snow, our hike this week was refreshingly easy. There was no snow in Cape May; we walked the beach, read the text in the museum about Indians, birds, and WWII, and crept around a nature preserve looking for wildlife. I had anticipated osprey but we were too early, and it was too windy for the other raptors I'd hoped for. Instead, we saw a lot of humongous Mute Swans--flying--violently beating the air when taking off--waddling to the edge of the water like arthritic old people at the beach--then launching themselves onto the water's surface with princely grace. It's hard to resent Mute Swans for being an invasive species when they look like royal emigres from a Grimm's fairy tale--but eurocentric nostalgia can't obscure the fact that Mute Swans are multiplying like tribbles, and are bad for native wildlife, and probably should be eaten.

A Great Blue Heron flew across our path; though this is not such an uncommon bird, it's thrilling to see one in flight. I grabbed my camerado and said look, he grabbed me--as if the bird might eat us--and said what is it, what is it? He had never seen one. Huge, and primordial, with its strong neck folded back on itself like one of Henry James's sentences, the Great Blue was my highlight of this hike.

our fifth hike 2011 cape may 201

Cape May Point State Park has great interpretive signs; we learned to identify shadbush and mockernut, and practiced the persimmon-identifying skills we gained at Ridley Creek. We met an older guy with serene blue eyes and a smooth-but-textured voice like Tony Bennett, who coached us on distinguishing Black Vultures from Turkey Vultures (the former have shorter tails and white on the tips of their wings). It was clear that birding is this man's bliss. I regret not taking his picture.

We walked the park's blue trail and then walked the beach. I feel slightly embarrassed I did not know Cape May had so much incredible WWII history.

our fifth hike 2011 cape may 223

After the walk on the beach my better half was so cold and wind-battered, we decided to cut the last third of the hike, which would have been the Migratory Bird Refuge. Unlike us to ditch, as we are normally such berserkers. (My parents and I hiked the Refuge once and saw a waning sun ignite the breeding plumage of a male kestrel--unforgettable).

Downtown Cape May, off-season, at dusk, reminded me of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. The light was strange and gray, people struggled against the wind, the pedestrian mall had a pre-apocalyptic feel. We ate in a pub and checked out the candy store--great almond macaroons--and walked through a deserted indoor shopping area where a solitary vender kept a lonely vigil with her wares.

our fifth hike 2011 cape may 231

Then we drove to the end of Beach Avenue and got a kick out of watching the sun set over the ocean... on the east coast... My camerado says this was one of his highlights of the hike.

our fifth hike 2011 cape may 247

We both like the shore off-peak, but plan to return to Cape May during the prime birding season to see the raptors and butterflies with the friends who gave us the book that sparked our year of hiking.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 hikes three and four: Rancocas State Park in NJ, Ridley Creek State Park in PA

our third hike 2011 rancocas 079

Our goal: to hike all fifty hikes in Best Hikes around Philadelphia by the end of 2011. Hiking in winter makes it hard to identify some of the flora described in the book, and we didn't see the gneiss at Ridley Creek because it was covered in snow. But our consolation is sights like the ice patterns above (Rancocas) and the unexpected greens that can thrive near water in winter:

our fourth hike 2011 ridley creek 112

That's Ridley Creek--verdure like that is a feast for the eyes this time of year. But before we get to Ridley, I'll give a truthful account of our adventure at Rancocas State Park in New Jersey--and a revelation of my blogging perfidy. Reader, will you forgive me for glossing over a significant detail of our first hike, from sheer vanity? We went to the Wissahickon to inaugurate our year of hiking, and I admitted then that we ran out of daylight, but did not recount the harrowing final leg of our truncated hike, in darkness, along the narrow shoulder of Bells Mill Road. We resolved then to note the time of sunset while planning a hike, and leave our itinerary with a friend. That night, in the stony margin of a busy road, my camerado said I should be candid about our hiking errors on this page, so that our development into competent hikers could be charted. I argued against candor then, but now I think he was right. Whether she learns from our errors or laughs at them, the reader will be served. What other purpose can a writer have?

Still, the reader's credulity will be strained to learn that we made the same mistake two hikes later at Rancocas... due to a series of delays--leading to another hurried and uncertain end to our hike there--

our third hike 2011 rancocas 087.

There's less margin for error hiking in winter--snow slows you, and it's harder to see where trails cross or fork. The section of Rancocas that has the bird sanctuary is fairly well-blazed, but the section with the Renape Indian reservation is wilder, and because the sun was setting, we cut out a section of the hike, and were unable to pick up the trail the book recommended on the way back. We decided against hiking back along the road, because, again, there was no shoulder. Instead, we retraced our steps; though this was a less risky option than guessing at the trail the book recommended, it was tricky nonetheless. Rain had fallen on the snow and refrozen it, glazing the snow with ice, so we slid a little with every step. And, it was getting dark.

At moments like this, I ask myself, Are we crazy?

The answer is probably yes, crazy or foolish, or both. I console my pride with a favorite motto from a favorite writer, Isak Dinesin:

Navigare necesse est, vivere non necesse.

To sail is necessary, to live is not necessary. Something drives you to explore and discover, ready or not, smart or foolish. I lost a laptop and part of a tooth last summer in West Philly because I had to take a walk, and didn't want the dodginess of my surroundings to enforce a sedentary evening. I tend to chalk my wanderlust up to my ancestry, but this may be lazy thinking--it isn't only Europeans who insist on bashing around the world claiming and classifying things--though it's fair to say we have a marked proclivity for it. I need look only to my two most immediate ancestors to see the roots of this impulse in me. My father, a nurseryman, has been in all 50 states and is ticking off the continents; my mother, a schoolteacher, decided to go to Europe when she was dying, and, not surprisingly, collapsed, and spent ten days in a hospital before being flown back to the USA with two Swedish travel nurses, and me, exhausted, beside myself with the stress of it, and taking pictures the whole time.

our third hike 2011 rancocas 080

Our next--fourth--hike of the year was Ridley Creek State Park and I prepared like mad, having learned at last that hiking rewards the prepared--like anything else in life. I checked the map in the book against the map on the Ridley Creek website, found two discrepancies and marked them, read up on the flora and geology the book promised, emailed our itinerary to our friend Peter, double-checked the directions to the park, and packed a second set of batteries for my flashlight. Were my preparations perfect? No--I still hadn't dug my compass and whistle out of the basement, for example, or boned up on my first aid skills, or done any number of things I sincerely intend to do... But we were better prepared, started earlier, ended when it was still light, and had a much nicer time.

our fourth hike 2011 ridley creek 134

Ridley Creek was well-blazed, and in many places grand--as the picture above only partly shows. (The deer have thoughtfully removed the understory and shrub layers and left the landscape pleasingly stark). None of my photos from Ridley do justice to its slopes and rises, or to the creek itself, which was dark, lively, stony, and picturesque. (I learned that creeks are my hiking companion's favorite landscape feature.)

Our guidebook directed us on and off several different trails, and was simultaneously complex and vague, and failed to warn us that the white trail has a tricky side loop that can be very ambiguous if you're not expecting it, and, in short, was so difficult and unrewarding to use that a member of our party suggested that its proper place was an incinerator. We resolved from that point on to continue hiking the parks the book recommended, but to choose our own trails and use maps provided at park offices or on line. We were on the white trail having just crossed Sandy Flash Drive where it parallels a stream--and at the bottom of page 25 of Best Hikes around Philadelphia--when we had our final argument with the book (should any future hikers of Ridley Creek wish to pause and remember our frustration at that point in their hike).

After that, we decided to follow the white trail the rest of the way, and cut over to the blue trail only at the end. Our route was beautiful at every turn, and provided one dramatic view from a high elevation late in the hike, and some trollish rock forms. We were able to identify the persimmon trees the book promised by means of their dark, grid-patterned bark, but couldn't find the honey locusts--a cool native tree with thorns so severe they can be used as nails.

I told my dad of our frustration with the book and he said "Yeah, guidebooks are always wrong," and told of traveling fifty miles from New Orleans to a park a book promised would be there, when it was actually an additional sixty miles down the road. So I felt better. He's threatening to give us a copy of Best Hikes around Central Pa. so we "have something to do next year."

Next hike: Cape May!

prague, pine wolf 1-10, xmas 09 210

Navigare necesse est, vivere non necesse.

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