Sunday, August 30, 2015

Raining at the Beech

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Often in my walks I visit beeches. My favorites are mature trees of a 100 years or more, and I constructed the trail in our woods so it would pass several. Some may think me strange, but a walk in the woods for me is a visit with friends. 

While sauntering today I noticed it was raining beneath a large beech tree. At least it sounded like rain. It was, in fact, a slow but steady shower of beech nuts. The nuts and husks littered the ground beneath every mature beech tree I came to, so I'd say it looks like a good year for beech nuts. This is good because I see no abundance of hickory nuts in the forest this year. 

Also, beechdrops are just now beginning to come up. They'll be blooming now for the next few weeks. I hope to get better pictures of this strange, parasitic wildflower this year. With its lack of green chlorophyll and dull colors, I've found it to be notoriously difficult to photograph. I think I just need to catch good light.

Nuts and parasitic wildflowers—just two more reasons to spend time with beeches at the end of summer.

Beech nuts

Beechdrops, just now beginning to emerge and not yet blooming

Friday, August 28, 2015

Good Bread

End of day. Walking beneath a rising moon, mosquitoes buzz my ears and bite my thumb, fluttering bats patrol the air and eat those same mosquitoes, the last few summer Katydids chirp and sing, shadow engulfs forest color, and I chew on the words of Edward Abbey who insisted “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”

Who would want to live without good bread?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Hiker

"The hiker can go without combing his hair or shaving and will be accepted as perfectly normal. He can get dirty and his friends will still speak to him jovially. His clothes may be in tatters, and people will think nothing of it. If there happens to be a little rock dust on his shirt or trousers, or if his clothes are a trifle torn, so much the better. Of such stuff are hiking heroes made. The hiker doesn’t have to have to talk very much, say witty things, hold a glass in his hands, or laugh lightly at banalities. His is a world of opposites, and no one cares or worries about it." — Ann and Myron Sutton, The Appalachian Trail: Wilderness on the Doorstep, 1967

Troop/Crew 17 at the end of a week in the desert in southwest New Mexico in 2007

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nature's Demons

The field where I likely ran across the seed ticks

For me, going into wild nature is a tonic for my soul, an antidote to the grind of too much modern life. Except for seed ticks, that is. Discovering too late that I've wandered into a hatch of seed ticks is like accidentally taking someone else's medicine and finding it to be poison. A couple hundred seed ticks can ruin an otherwise good August.

Itchy and ill doesn't begin to describe it. I don't know what I'd do if I got them in the middle of a long hike. Benadryl, hydrocortisone, and patience seem to be the only things that help. For some reason, manuals on first aid only talk about treating bites from adult ticks. In my experience, though, any encounter with juvenile ticks (the larva and nymph stages in the tick life-cycle are known as "seed ticks") is far worse. This is mostly a matter of quantity. Seed ticks in the teeny tiny larva stage come by the zillions, and they're basically too small to see. By the time you know you have them it's too late. 

I know this for sure: my future summers must include better prevention and greater vigilance against these tiny demons. It's either that or stay inside.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

We Are the Enemy

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own Government to save the environment.”— Ansel Adams talking with David Sheff (1 May 1983), "Playboy Interview: Ansel Adams," p. 226

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Natural Impulse

"Children are attracted by the beauty of butterflies, but their parents and legislators deem it an idle pursuit. The parents remind me of the devil, not the children of God. Though God may have pronounced his work good, we ask. 'Is it not poisonous?'" — Henry David Thoreau, from his journal in 1859. 

It's true. Children are naturally attracted to all manner of living things and delight in being outside. It's the adults who screw up this natural impulse. Sadly, too many parents and legislators are profoundly disconnected from nature's good influences. They're not bad people. They just don't know any better. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fountains of Men

“The mountains are fountains not only of rivers and fertile soil, but of men. Therefore we are all, in some sense, mountaineers, and going to the mountains is going home. Yet how many are doomed to toil in town shadows while the white mountains beckon all along the horizon!” — John Muir, in Steep Trails, edited by William Frederic Bade, 1918, pg. 43.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Adventure is Found in the Unknown

Whether climbing mountains or wandering local woods, adventure is found in the unknown. Fortunately the world is full of mystery, and adventure is always near at hand for those open to discovery. 
“I only experience real adventure when I don’t know what the outcome will be.” — Reinhold Messner (renowned mountaineer, best known for making the first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen, and also for being the first climber to ascend all 14 of the world's 8,000 meter peaks).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Common Wild Beauty

Is the dandelion growing in a sidewalk crack any less wild? Or is it any less beautiful?

Are rare wildflowers any more beautiful because they are few?

Is the soaring eagle any more wild or free than the backyard cardinal and robin?

Does a sunset become less glorious because it is repeated day after day after day?

Do we tire of too much beauty?

Does a bride tire of hearing she is loved?

Or is our perception simply calloused and resistant to wild beauty all around us?

Are we so dull? Are we asleep beneath dawn's glow?

God, help us! Help us to be fully awake to the glory all around us. Open our eyes. Open all of our senses. But most of all, Lord, open our hearts. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015


“I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.”— John Muir, quoted in John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 191.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fleeting Thoughts

Turkeys bobbing their heads in the side yard fill my head with thoughts of thanksgiving. It's a thankfulness for the privilege of living in a place shared with wild turkeys, and it's thoughts of the November holiday because, well you know.
And just like that the giant birds disappear into the shadows like ghosts. Such are the moments of life, fleeting thoughts wandering in shadow and light. Insight is elusive and wild.