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

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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