Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wood Thrushes

Is there a sweeter sound than the melodious call of the wood thrush?

I've had a nasty little cold, but decided I needed at least a short walk yesterday, and I went back to Deep Run Park in the late afternoon to walk a single two mile loop. The trees are leafing out, and as I walked through the pleasant woodlands of the park, I tried picking out various bird song. One bird in particular stood out, the wood thrush. I don't think I have heard their song yet this year. They have a beautiful flute-like call. Beautiful to us, war-like and agressive to other male wood thrushes, and enticing to the females. I stood mesmerized for several minutes, listening and looking for some of the birds, which were well hidden in the forest. I wonder how many people walking and running along with headphones had any idea of the wonderful concert that they were missing. I love music as much as anyone - I am listening to Robert Schumann's magnificent Second Symphony as I write this - but also love Mother Nature's free concerts, whether it be the plaintive cries of the spring peeper that herald spring each year, or yesterday's wonderful wood thrush melodies.

This morning, I got up early, having not slept well from my cold, and walked four miles. Along the way, I came across a red eft in the path. He was maturing into a newt, because he no longer had the fiery red-orange color of a young eft. He was more of the olive-brown color that he will become as an acquatic newt, but with the little orange spots. I moved him off the concrete path so no one else who came along would trample him.

Happy Easter! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Along an Old Railroad

I was in New York, up in the Catskills, this weekend to visit my sister. It rained like crazy, with some snow, on Saturday. But Sunday had periods of sun mixed with periods of rain and sleet, and I took advantage of one of the former to get in a five mile walk. I walked along an old railroad bed for most of it, as it went along the raging Esopus Creek and through the woods. Spring is barely underway. In Virginia, our forsythia is long gone, but in the Catskills it is just now in bloom.

Here are some photos.

Here is the route of my hike, 2.5 miles out and 2.5 miles back:

I am sure that this harmless and beautiful spotted salamander - about seven inches long - was minding its business when someone senselessly killed it. I am not sure I will ever figure people out:

I wondered whether or not trains still used the tracks or not. I had been on the tracks less than a half mile when this question was clearly answered. This is where I was glad I was alone. If I had been with another couple of men, one of them - with too much testosterone - would have talked everyone into trying to walk across one of the rails. Instead, I climbed down into the washout and crossed the stream on rocks, barely getting just one foot wet when a rock shifted:

There were rivlets and water falls at many spots along the way:

A view looking back along the tracks, with the flank of Tremper Mountain in the distance:

The Esopus was raging along after Saturday's rains:

Views of Tremper Mountain beyond Esopus Creek:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Deep Run Park Turtles

Sunday April 10. My favorite little local park is Deep Run Park, a county park about seven miles from my house. I often go there to run. There is a great two mile circuit - 1.8 miles actually but I usually add some little spurs to bump it up - that included a few steep grades and a lot of variety. I enjoy people watching there as I run or walk along. You see all races, many national origins, all ages - everyone just getting along and enjoying life, which in my view is how it should be. There are also a lot of dogs, and it cool to see them with owners. So this past Sunday, I went there to walk four miles and see if I could see some wildlife, which I did: turtles! Here are some photos from my walk:

This looks like a slider of some kind:

View of the pond at Deep Run Park:

Suspicious eyes:

Turtle near the bank:

Typical of the trails running through Deep Run Park:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What Happened to Spring?

Saturday, April 9. I was down at the coast and walked six and two-thirds miles in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It was a raw and gray day, and as you will see from my photos, the colors of spring were not to be found, especially when contrasted with my walk to Hollywood Cemetery just a few days ago. This by far the longest distance I have walked since foot surgery with hiking boots, and my second longest distance over all next to the 10K race day just over a week ago. I didn't see anything spectacular, but I did see a fair amount of wildlife: ducks, coots, lots of egrets, and a big hawk in a forested area. I walked through several different biomes, and enjoyed walking along the dike trails again, which opened April 2.

Here are some photos:

An American coot warily looks me over:

While this handsome drake mallard provided color other than gray, brown, and black:

View of the marsh out towards Back Bay:

I can never get close to egrets. This one was at least 100 meters away when I immortalized him or her:

As I walked along, I came to a wood duck nest box. It reminded me of a "prior life" where every now and then, I got to spend the day with a wildlife technician and we spent the entire day in a canoe checking wood duck boxes. We would head out about 5AM and work until maybe 2 or 3. I saw so much wildlife on those Maine marshes on those few days, not just ducks but kestrels and tree swallows nesting in the boxes. And once, we came on a broken tree in the marsh with a great horned owl nest with a large and scared owlet. We got within feet of him, and it was so cool.

This maple provided about the only vegetative color I saw during my hike:

For a half mile or so, the path went through woodlands. Just a few feet of elevation can make a huge difference:

The start of False Cape State Park was my turn-around park. I think this is the only state park I have ever been to where you cannot drive to it. You can hike or bike in, or perhaps go by canoe. In the winter - from November 1 to March 31 - most of the refuge trails are closed and you can only get there with a long hike down the beach. It is beautiful down there, and someday I want to camp. Camping in bug season would be tortuous, though. The deer flies down there have won awards, I am pretty sure:

View of the marsh at FCSP:

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's a Nice Place to Walk to, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There!

It's been a while since I did one of my long lunch time walks in the city. But yesterday, I got to work early and stayed late, and decided to take a long walk at lunch on a gorgeous - although very warm - spring day. Last spring, I'd gone south - around the flood wall - and I'd gone east - up Libby Hill and past St. John's Church - so yesterday, it was time to head west. So west I went, to Hollywood Cemetery, which is also a popular spot each year for a Team in Training run. This area is big enough that I need to go back soon and show the rest of it.

With my switch to race for a cure for breast cancer this year - a 60 mile walk in September - I will be doing a ton of walking. I also need to slow my pace a bit from my normal 12.5 to 14 minutes per mile to a more leisurely 15-16 minutes per mile, so walks like yesterday's are a good way to try this out and get used to a slower pace. If I don't do this, trying to do 20 miles a day for three straight days at the faster pace will make my legs "dead" by the third day, I think. I took lots of pictures on my 4.75 mile walk, and here they are:

I started out heading down towards the James River. Here is a view looking back along Brown's Island and the Haxall Canal:

From there, it was a short walk past historic Tredegar Iron Works and the city's Civil War Center:

Then I headed under the Robert E. Lee Bridge and north on the Northside Trail, part of a longer hike last fall:

I knew, from last fall, that the Northside Trail went right past the cemetery, and I was right. But to my dismay, there was a tall fence. A narrow tree lay from the path to the fence, with about an 8-10 foot drop. I was tempted to try, but it seemed like a good way to break an ankle. After poking around for a few minutes, I found the "back door" to Hollywood Cemetery:

Here is a view of hikers heading north on the Northside Trail below me:

This beautiful structure in the cemetary almost looks like a chapel with the stained glass windows and the open view of the James River:

A locomotive hauling minerals from the mountains down to the sea passes along the track, with the Hollywood Rapids and Belle Isle in the distance:

The gravesite of Fitzhugh Lee, son of Robert E. Lee, along with family members, is adorned with a pink and a white dogwood:

The gravesite of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confererate States of America:

The mausoleum of Lewis Ginter, who gave the original money to found the spectacular Ginter Botanical Gardens:

A guardian angel watches over this tomb:

An elaborate stone tree grows skyward from this grave site:

The grave of John Tyler, President of the United States, of "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" fame:

The grave of James Monroe, President of the United States:

The dogwood is the state flower of Virginia, and is glorious in the spring:

During the typhus epidemic of 1862, three young children of Confederate General James Longstreet and his wife Louise perished, and lie here in eternal rest:

As much as I wanted to keep walking, I had a meeting back at work and headed out of the Cemetary, passing through the neighborhood of Oregon Hill:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Future Long Walk in the Pink

I'm going to make a crossover today between this and my other blog, Racing for a Cure. In late September, I'll be walking 60 miles in three days near Washington DC as part of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, to defeat breast cancer. Along the way, I hope to raise a minimum of $3,600 for this cause.

In addition to raising money for the Komen organization, I do this walk to honor my sister, Ann, who has been battling breast cancer for over four years. She has fought with amazing bravery, but the cancer has spread to her liver, bones, and lungs. I'll be walking 60 miles, a long way to go, and difficult enough. But it is not as difficult or exhausting as it would be for my beloved sister to walk 100 feet. I can't save her, but I CAN walk 60 miles to hopefully inspire people to donate money that will save the lives of others.

If you want more information about what I am doing, or would consider making a donation, you can go to my 3-Day fundraising page here. Perhaps there is a loved one of yours who has battled cancer that you would like to honor with a donation. If so, I will write his or her name on the shirt that I will wear the third and final day of the walk on September 25.

Why should you care about a cure for all breast cancers? Well, if you a woman, I don't think I need to ask you that. But what about men? Should men care? Well, a man is writing this! Besides that, do you have a mother, wife, daughter, grandmother, girlfriend, sister, female cousin, aunt, granddaughter, sister-in-law, female friend, etc? Do I make my point? If not, believe it or not, men get breast cancer, too - it is just fairly rare.

Thanks for your consideration of supporting my long walk in the pink!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rambling Around Richmond

Althought not exactly a hike, I put about 12 miles on my feet yesterday in Richmond. It was a great test of my post-surgical foot, and 6.2 miles of it was for the Monument Avenue 10K. With 41,000 runners and walkers, that is one of the largest foot races in the United States. Of course, for most participants, we are just racing against ourselves, out there to enjoy the experience. Richmond is a pretty place in the spring, the race is a great spectator event, and I put lots of photos and the story of the day here on my other blog. If you read far enough down in that post, you will learn the tale of the courage and determination that I witnessed yesterday, and which will always be with me!