Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wildlife Run

If you visit this blog fairly often, you know that I enjoy Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Well this past Saturday, I did something a little different. I am just a few weeks away from being ready for the Shamrock Half Marathon, and needed to get in some training. I knew I could run part of it in the refuge, but to my surprise, the gate was open where the trail continued to False Cape State Park. So like the Energizer Bunny, I just kept going and going and going - kind of! I was rewarded with many wildlife sightings and a gorgeous sunset, and paid for it by running into a stiff wind. In my Racing for a Cure blog, you can read a fuller account and see photos on my post about my 10.6 miles of training in Back Bay.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sounds of Spring

I haven't had as much time as I should to run lately with 13.1 miles coming up in just over three weeks and a 10K just two weeks after that. The weekend up to New York City took three days out of my long distance running schedule. But last night, I got my house cleaning done after work and stepped out the door about 6:30 to get in a three-miler. Naturally, it was dark, but for February 23rd, unnaturally, it was very mild. I was dressed in shorts and a running tee, which was a welcome change from long running pants and multiple layers.

As it turns out, I wasn't the only one noticing the warm weather. As soon as I stepped out my door into the night, I heard them, one of the surest signs that spring is on the way - spring peepers! Loud and urgent they were, as if calling: "I'm here! I'm here! Pick me! I'm your ideal mate! Pick me! I'm here!" It is amazing that such a tiny frog - about the size of a thumbnail - could have such a loud voice.

We had our first real snow of the winter this past Sunday while I was in New York. Then, just four days later, it is over 70 degrees out and the spring peepers are calling as if their lives depend on it - which, of course, the lives of their future generations do. I've always loved that sound, and look forward to it each year. And even though February 23rd seems rather ridiculous to hear it, I enjoyed the little concert as I ran through the dark. It kept me company on my solitary run.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Footloose in the Big Apple

We Americans talk about honoring our forefathers, but I jokingly say that I honor my "four mothers." My father was married four times, one less than his five kids put together so far. Two of these were happy, and two "un." Unfortunately, the two happy marriages were both very short, one ending with him becoming a widower after five years, and the other resulting in my last step-mother becoming a widow in less than a year. (I can't complain about the length of his unhappy marriages, for if the first of these had been shorter than 12 years, I would not be writing this.)

My step-mother Rhoda is moving to Long Island in a week or so, and I wanted to visit her in New York City, and also see the apartment that has been in my family for 42 years one last time. It had been a long while since I was there. I hopped on the train, which took 4 hours longer than it should have (don't ask!) to get to NYC Saturday from Richmond. (Okay, ask - the snowplow on the front of the train caught on a road crossing and bent under the train in Ashland, just minutes after leaving the station. It took three hours to remove the mangled plow.) But I finally got there. Rhoda is slowing down and didn't much feel like doing anything other than conversation, so I decided to take a walk about in Manhattan for three hours Sunday while she took a nap. If I were walking straight out, I could cover about 13 miles in that time, but with frequent stops, a slower pace, traffic lights, and so forth, I probably only walked seven or so miles.

From the apartment on the Upper East Side, I first headed east to Carl Shurtz Park on the East River. I had walked there many times with my father on visits to the Big Apple, and it was a bit like a walk down Memory Lane to long gone times. I took plenty of photos during my walk, and share some of them here.

The Gracie Mansion in Carl Shurtz Park is the home to New York City's Mayors, although I imagine the current mayor has an even nicer place of his own. This mansion was once the residence of Theodore Roosevelt's Aunt, Anna Bulloch Gracie:I think this is the Triboro Bridge:Views along the East River in the park. Lots of walkers, runners, and dogs were enjoying the fairly mild weather.From Carl Shurtz Park, I headed west to check out "The Met." I was sorely tempted to go through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but at $25 a pop, my limited time could not justify this expense, so I headed to Central Park. The Met is less than a half mile from my step-mother's apartment:Spring is coming to New York!There were so many pretty paths in the park:I saw lots of birds from this spots, including tufted titmice and a downy woodpecker:No kidding!Central Park views:Two fierce eagles celebrate their kill of a bighorn sheep:I keep feeling like I saw a statue like this, an Indian brave hunting with his dog, in Cooperstown, New York a couple of years ago:This looks like a great way to see the park:"The Bard" probably never set foot in the New World, but here he is now:How iconic a Central Park image is this?This beautiful building, the Dairy, is a gift shop:Balto was the Siberian Husky that led one of the teams to deliver diphtheria serum to Nome in 1925. The exploit of the brave men and dogs that made this possible are now commemorated in the Iditarod sled dog race. This musician brought back memories of walking here with my dad listening to people making music, and how much he enjoyed that:Central Park has beautiful landscaping:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What Am I?

I saw this animal on a short hike yesterday in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I have never been so close to one of these in the wild, and will explain at the end.

I have a color in my name.

I have feathers.

I am usually spotted soaring through the air, always on the alert.

I am much bigger than a pigeon. In fact, pigeons would cower if I came within sight.

Did I mention that the color in my name is a primary color?

Keep your nasty salad and fruits. I want meat, and I want it fresh - mice, squirrels, rats, snakes, and other birds will be on my menu.

I am named after the color of my tail.

That should be enough clues, make your guess, and scroll down....



to here:
I am a red-tailed hawk.

In the refuge, there is a large blind that looks out over the marsh. Part of it is indoors with a glass front. Sitting less than a foot from the glass was this hawk. We were convinced that it was a dead, stuffed one, placed there to scare birds from the glass. He did not move. Suddenly, he blinked his eyes! No stuffed bird does that! I snapped a shot - this one - through the glass with a lot of glare. I stepped outside the building at the end and slowly rounded the corner. The second I came into view, this large hawk - less than a dozen feet away - took off. Even so, it was a very neat experience!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lunch at Great Shiplock Park

As mild as it was today, even should that Pennsylvania groundhog sees his shadow tomorrow and we end up having six more weeks of winter, we have nothing to complain about! I took advantage of the mild weather and a longer lunch hour to do a walk to Great Shiplock Park past Shockoe Bottom. It is about 1.7 miles each way from work, and while there, I explored about and ate my PB&J sandwich and my Greek yogurt - yum! Along the way, I took a number of photos, some of which I show here. And at the end, on this "winter" day where the high was close to 70 Fahrenheit, I hated to return to work - but I did.

This is the Tidewater Connection Lock in the downtown. It was once used to lower and raise boats between two canals at different levels.
I'm looking back from whence I came along the Canal Walk.
If you were enslaved, how badly would you want freedom? How far would you go to taste it? Well, in the 1850's, Henry "Box" Brown had himself nailed shut into a box and shipped to Philadelphia from Richmond. This box is the same size as the one Brown, with the help of friends, used to escape slavery. The local white man who helped him was eventually caught and punished. I put my day pack in there so you can gauge the size, but trust me, it would be a miserable trip even for an hour, much less for more than a day on a bumpy train.
Because I was shooting into the sun, I had to put the camera very close and on the ground in the shadow of the box to get my photo inside the box. And even then, my foot was sticking out. I cannot imagine how anyone could have endured the long trip to Philly nailed shut in a box - even one much larger than this one.
Here is the view back to Richmond from my arrival in this little park. See the tall building left of center? That is the James Monroe Building, where I worked as a contractor for six months in 2000. It is 29 stories tall. I know this because I used to walk to the top once a day - after I was able to do it. It took me about four months of working there, adding a floor a week, to make it to the very top, and it took about seven or eight minutes to walk to the top!
The mighty James River, the reason there is a city here, runs by. The purpose of the old locks here were to allow ships access to the river below the unnavigable rapids that Richmond is famed for. The James is, I believe, the longest river in the United States that flows in only one state.
February 1st???? Really!??
These geese and ducks are enjoying the spring-like weather.
Part of the path I walked to get here is on the Capital to Capital (or Cap 2 Cap) bike trail. When completed, it will run for 50 miles and connect Richmond with Virginia's original capital, Williamsburg.
The last time I saw "Connecticut", the Big Indian, he was being evicted from our baseball stadium. It is good to know he has a new home with nice river views.