Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bay Walk, Beach Walk, Brisk Walk

Today, I took the longest continuous walk since my foot surgery just over a month ago. I walked 4.5 miles in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, most of it on the beach, although the first mile of the hike was along the bay and marsh.

I slept poorly last night and was awake by 5:30. I could easily have made this another dawn beach walk, but instead, I got up for good about 6:10, and relaxed with a mug of hot tea while listening to a Mozart piano concerto (#12, so lyrical and serene!), and read about great hikes in my latest Backpacker Magazine. Around 7AM, I drove to the refuge and started walking about 30 minutes after sunrise. The tide was ebbing, as shown by this screen shot from my GPS:
Here is my route, mapped onto my DeLorme Topo USA software from my GPS. I hiked south through the marsh, cut through the dunes to the beach, hike south on the beach about a mile and a half, and then reversed course to eventually cut back through the dunes north of my original beach access point:

There is something so tranquil about a early morning walk on the beach. It gave me some time to reflect on things in my life, think about the recent passing of my friend, Judy, and think about my sister and her illness. Along the way, I tried to be at peace with how things are right now. The wind was brisk and raw at times, but it felt good to be out walking and communing with nature. Here are some photos from my walk.
Cattails along the marsh:
Tundra swans, heading north towards the Yukon:
And resting in the marsh:
Boardwalk access to the beach protects the dunes:
This driftwood appears to guard the beach:
The ocean is so tranquil this time of day:
It is like this all the way to the North Carolina border about 9 miles down the beach:
Pelicans are such a cool bird:
This claw is all that remains of a blue crab, which survived against inconceivable odds to become an adult. Probably, some of his molecules live on in the muscle tissue of a gull:
This gull has managed to find breakfast:
Dunes protect the marsh. The dune zone here is about a quarter mile wide:
Swans fly in "V" formation over the ocean, heading north:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stomping Breast Cancer With Hiking Boots

My friend Chris, AKA “Hawkeye,” steps off in about a month to head north on the Appalachian Trail. He plans on hiking about half of it, ending at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, or just over 1,000 miles. And he has decided to make the hike about something bigger than just a long walk in the woods. He is going to raise money for the Susan G. Komen For a Cure organization. Chris’s wife is a recent breast cancer survivor.

Breast cancer is a horrible disease. I was thinking today of all the people I personally know who have had to face it. My sister, Ann, who is fighting stage 4 right now. My sister-in-law Christine, who is a 22 year survivor. My friends Janice, Mary Beth, and Bev. My former co-workers Lisa and Linda (who died from it several years ago).

I hope someday we can stomp this disease into the ground, and all other cancers. That is why I race for a cure, and it is one reason Chris is doing this long hike. If you are interested in following Hawkeye’s preparation and progress, you can do so here.

And if you would like to donate to the fine Komen organization in support of Chris’s hike, you can do so here. Even a penny a mile, just a $10 donation, will add up in this desperate fight to kick breast cancer – with hiking boots, in this case - to the curb!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Last Sunset

I saw an amazing sunset at the end of my New Year’s Eve hike in the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. The next day, I learned of a poetry form new to me, the monotetra. It has the following rules:

Each stanza has four lines.
Each line has exactly eight syllables.
The end of the first line in a stanza rhymes with the end of the other three lines in that stanza.
The final line of each stanza repeats the same four syllables.

So, inspired by the beautiful sunset that evening, I thought I would try writing a monotetra about it a day or two later, and here is my effort. I decided tonight to finally put this out on my blog.

"The Last Sunset"

I stand and watch the setting sun
On New Year’s Eve; day’s course has run.
Feels like this year had just begun,
Yet now it’s done. Yet now it’s done!

Vivid hues paint darkening skies;
Swans fill the air with their wild cries;
One beats its wings and starts to rise.
How high it flies! How high it flies!

The sky, in hues of orange and rose,
Tints faint with blush last weekend’s snows
Mother Nature so proudly shows
Her new year’s clothes - her New Year’s clothes.

Across the marsh, last light subsides;
‘Neath cloak of darkness, the sun hides;
Towards history, the old year glides;
New Year presides! New Year presides!

I know one day my sun will set
Although that’s easy to forget.
When that day comes, will I regret
Things not done yet; things not done yet?

Art Ritter
January 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lunch Time Walk to Great Blue Heron Colony

2011 has not gotten off to a great start for hiking, or too much else, actually. First, there was the death of our dear friend, Judy, at the start of the year - just four weeks after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Two days after her memorial service, I headed to upstate New York to visit my sister Ann, ill with stage four breast cancer. Five days after I got back home, I had foot surgery, which has pretty much sidelined me for three weeks.

I took the bandage off yesterday for good, and decided I needed a little lunch time hike today. I went to the great blue heron colony in the James River, right in downtown Richmond. This is an interesting urban hike, as documented in more detail in my blog here almost a year ago. My walk today was 2.25 miles, and I had no trouble at all, despite my foot surgery of 3 weeks ago. It felt great to take a walk on a nice day and enjoy some views of the river and wildlife. My route, as tracked by my DeLorme PN-60 GPS, is shown on the map below. I walked in a clockwise direction, and the three little images show where I took my pictures.

Here are some herons on their nests, high in the trees on an island in the river:

A view of the island from where I stood, with many nests in sight:

Nice painting on a bridge support, with a formal sign on the other side of the support:

Rapids further upriver:
View of Tredegar Iron Works Civil War Visitor Center:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Short Walk

I am still limping but can almost walk normally now, as long as my foot is wrapped and stuffed in an open shoe, like my Croc. I can maybe walk at a 20 minutes per mile pace, which is slow for me, but at least people are not passing me as much along the street as I go to and from the car at work.

Yesterday was a nice day, and I am sick of being a coach potato and sedentary person. So I decided to trade a little foot pain for some exercise and fresh air. It was not exactly a hike, but I walked up to the State Capital Grounds and made a loop around the Capital. Virginia has a really beautiful Capital, designed by none other than Thomas Jefferson.

I stopped at one of the best monuments I have ever seen, the one dedicated a couple of years ago to the Civil Rights movement, right on the grounds of the Capital of the Old Confederacy. It is a beautiful and moving monument, and I am always inspired when I see it. It is the only monument on the grounds that depicts a woman, a minority, and a child. I paused for a few minutes and reflected on that part of our country’s history.

I continued down the brick walkways and back to the street. I decided to go pay respects to our former State Supreme Court Chief Justice, Leroy Hassell, who’s body was lying in state in the capital building. He died from lymphoma a few days ago at only age 55. I don’t know him, of course, but as a cancer survivor, I feel a connection. He was the state’s first black Supreme Court justice, and also the first black chief justice. So I walked up through the Capital Building to the rotunda, where his flag-draped coffin stood next to the remarkable Houdon statue of George Washington.

From there, I retraced my steps to go back outside, and thence back to work. It felt good to move around a bit. I can’t wait to be able to walk normally again, then ultimately try a real hike and some running! But that is all still some weeks away.