Entries to Win Afghan

Sign up to receive the Books Leaving Footprints Newsletter. Comes out occasionally. No spam. No list swapping. Just email me! jhyshark@gmail.com Previous gifts include a short story, a poem, and coupons. Add your name, and don't miss out!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Little Orange Cuties

red eft

Two little orange cuties we saw on our hike. We almost always see the first one. It's a red eft, actually the juvenile form of the red-spotted newt. They are SO cute- one of our favorite finds. The adults are olive-green and live in the water. By then, they have no legs, and grow a much larger tail.

red back salamander

This one looks similar, but you can see they are not the same. This one has no spots. It has dark sides, with much more prominent grooves. Can you see how moist this one is? Bits of dirt and bark are even stuck to it. That's a real difference. The eft has dry, slightly rough skin. This is a red back salamander. Sorry about the hairy backdrop... it's Larry's arm.

Salamanders have no lungs, but breathe through their skin and the lining of the mouth, so they have to keep moist. They come out mostly at night. Newts are much more likely to be seen because they taste bad, and most predators leave them alone.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiking- Bucks Brook Road to North Pharsalia

The third day of the hike was actually the most difficult. We knew it was going to be one mile farther (13 miles), but that wasn't really the issue. The trail was continually hilly, up and down, over and over again. The surfaces were also very uneven with many rocks and roots. We did fine, but were more than ready to get in the cars at the end of the day!

One of the best parts of climbing hills is that there is often a view from the top. As you all know by now, I just love the hills of New York.

view of hills

In the afternoon we climbed for most of an hour along one creek. We made slow progress there.

hikers by stream

The problem wasn't so much the hill, although it was certainly long, but that we kept stopping to look at all the little waterfalls!

waterfall on shale

We kept hunting for a good place to stop for lunch, and kept saying, "just a little farther." This was partly because we suddenly found ourselves in serious mosquito territory. We even got out the head nets.

As it turned out, we stopped to eat at Jackson Pond (where we had camped), at about two o'clock. We had taken our tent down that morning, but that was ok. It was still a great place to stop and see the light on the water from a different angle.

reflection of trees

We reached the cars at North Pharsalia at 4:30. It only took a short time to retrieve the other car from Bucks Brook. Next stop- Larry's house for a great spaghetti dinner!

Total miles on the Finger Lakes Trail east of the North Country Trail: 31. How many to go? I'm not sure! I have to figure that out, but it's in the range of a couple hundred. The FLT ends in the Catskills, not too far from where Marie lives. Just a little stroll from my house in Michigan!

See Hiking- Paradise Hill to Bucks Brook Road
See Hiking- Cuyler Hill to Paradise Hill

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hiking- Paradise Hill to Bucks Brook Road

It rained all night Monday night. Marie and I were dry, warm, and safe from the mosquitoes in the tent. Her brother Larry came the next morning and we set off to put out the cars- one at each end- and to begin hiking 12 miles.

The rain had ended and left the tree trunks dark and the leaves bright.

large twisted tree

The terrain in this section of New York is very hilly and the trail goes up and over each ridge. Every large valley has a road; every valley has a stream. Most of these are small enough to cross on stepping stones. Many of the streams fall over steep jumbles of shale. I'd love to have this one in my garden!

small waterfall

Once in a while, the waterway is significant enough to need a bridge. But it's not significant enough to have a name!

trail bridge

The rain actually stayed away and the temperature was perfect for walking. We got back to the campsite in plenty of time to fix a campfire dinner while there was lots of light. Since a lot of the trail food I fix has to be dehydrated to make it light enough to carry, it was a lot of fun to make a different kind of dinner. It consisted of bacon, potatoes and onions fried up in a cast-iron skillet. Turned out yummy! But you need to have patience to give the potatoes time to cook.

campfire meal

The evening wound down as the sun reflected off the surface of the water. First the peepers started to sing. (Small frogs whose combined voices sound almost like sleigh bells.) After dark the tree frogs added their voices, chirping like birds from above the tent. A few geese honked their way across the sky.

I slipped into sleep with friends beside me, surrounded by fresh, clean air and the sounds of creation ringing in my ears.

See Hiking- Cuyler Hill to Paradise Hill

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hiking- Cuyler Hill to Paradise Hill

I got home last night, and managed to get more done today than I thought I might. I am actually somewhat energized to work on some things, but pooped out earlier than I wanted to. Over the next three days I'm going to just tell you about my hiking.

Sunday, after the hike I shared a few days ago, I headed for Jackson Pond to set up our campsite. I got the tent and a kitchen tarp up, and some wood collected and stacked under plastic before it started to rain. I had planned to eat in camp, but headed for town instead. I had to call Marie to tell her where I had put our campsite, and there was no cell reception there. So I bought a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that was really yummy and inexpensive.

On Monday, I hiked alone. That meant that I had to hike both directions, so technically, I hiked from Paradise Hill to Paradise Hill. Walked 12 miles, but only made 6 miles of progress on the Finger Lakes Trail east of the North Country Trail.

painted trillium

Finally, I have found some painted trilliums at the peak of their beauty. These are fairly rare, and like acid, shady spots.

wood thrush

This is a wood thrush. It's not a good picture, but it is rare to actually see one. They are secretive, but once you've heard one you'll keep going to the woods just to hear their music again. It's a liquid trilling that just seems to fill the forest.


Nothing rare about this bright little fellow. Just a male goldfinch, but they are so cheerful! And he held still for me.

Cuyler Hill view

I ended with a climb up Cuyler Hill Road. This connected me with the location where the North Country Trail heads north, previously hiked by me another year. When I turned around to walk down, this was the great view. It was windy and threatening all day, but I never walked in the rain. When I drove back to the campsite it did start to rain, so I went to town for dinner and to get gas. Marie met me there (cell phones make that sort of thing possible). We were in the tent by 7:30, and it rained all night. We were dry but feeling a bit confined!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jackson Pond Campsite

Jackson Lake campsite

In theory, I'll be home before this posts, but I may be too tired to care. This is where I camped for my 3-day hike. Marie and her brother Larry joined me for two of the days. Lovely spot. Will show more of the hike in the next few days.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where the North Begins and the Fine Fruit Grows

"Where the North Begins and the Fine Fruit Grows" is proclaimed on a billboard as you enter a town just a bit south of where I live. It's for certain that fruit growing is a huge part of life in west Michigan. This time of year, hillsides are blanketed with blooming trees.

cherry orchard

Sometimes, they make the horizon completely "fluffy."

cherry orchard

When I took these pictures, most of the blooms were cherries. Most of what is grown here are sour cherries, but also a lot of black sweet cherries.

cherry orchard
The apples weren't in bloom yet, but the peaches were!

peach orchard
Hope you enjoyed the fruit tour.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Asparagus Capital of the World

asparagus field

I thought I'd show you some local "products." Unless you live in Michigan or some parts of California, you might not think about asparagus all that much. Here, it's a defining factor. One nearby town bills itself as the "Asparagus Capital of the World." They have a festival, recipe contests, and crown Mrs. Asparagus every year.

I saw the first pickers of the year working this week.

asparagus field

Asparagus grows out of the ground in bare stalks from "crowns," which are clumps of roots. When the stalk is cut before the feathery leaves open the crown will just sprout another! You want to let the last one or two grow so that the plant can rejuvenate itself for the next year. So how do all those stalks get harvested?

asparagus picker

By hand. Picking asparagus all day is really hard work. People ride on those "wings" while the machine is continuously moving. They have to lean forward and cut off the stalks and put them in a "lug" (the box). And they keep doing it day after day. Most of the harvesters are migrant workers.

I have enough asparagus in my "kingdom, just growing wild, to enjoy a couple of free meals each year, no machine required.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great Grandma Rowe

old woman with baby on her kneeYes, the baby is me. No, I didn’t spend the whole time distanced from this person that the original picture suggested. But it is a day of mixed feelings for me. I promised to tell you the real story that goes with the picture from the April writing contest. Here we go.

This is my earliest memory, and although I have many early memories, even I am a bit astounded that I can recall this day. I was just over a year old. I don’t know the exact date of the photos other than Spring 1949, but because of their location in the photo album, I am guessing May. That puts me at 13 months of age.

Great Grandma Rowe was my mother’s paternal grandmother, her father’s mother. Now that I’m writing out this story, I don’t even know her first name. I’m sure it’s written down in my genealogy file, but it doesn’t really matter to this story, and since it’s my point of view she was just Great Grandma!

It’s amazing how many pieces of the big picture small children never collect, and how they zero in on the important things anyway. My grandmother must have brought her to visit, but I have no idea where she was brought from. (Her son, my mother’s dad, had died several years previously.) The house is ours and I remember the car in the driveway. I remember how my mom and dad helped her into the lawn chair. I still own that chair, and it’s in my stack of projects for re-furbishing.

The factual story isn’t nearly as interesting as the tales that some of you wrote for the contest. But it’s important to me because I do remember it... and not just the pictures of it.

Great Grandma Rowe was in her late 80's by then, and was quite frail. The part that I remember was a discussion about whether I was going to be allowed to sit on her lap. She wanted to hold me, but I was known throughout my childhood as the quintessential wiggle-worm that no one really wanted to hold on a lap, being all elbows and knees. I don’t know which adult, but someone clearly thought that I would hurt her if she were to try to hold me.

As you can see, those who wanted her to hold me won the day. I have no idea how long I sat there, or if I did hurt her in any way. But... as if in prediction of my natural abilities with human interactions, in all six of the pictures taken that day, never once am I actually looking at this person whom I only saw this one time in my life. She died a year or so later.

Is this a sad story? I can’t say. But since it’s my earliest memory, it is a part of who I am.

See Fourth Place Winner of the Birthday Contest- if you want to read the stories and see the original picture, you can start here and work your way back.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dogs of My Life - Bonnie

young couple with two dogs

Sweet little Bonnie was only with us for a couple of years. It's very sad. I have to tell you that I'm a sucker for hounds. The problem is, of course, that they are very headstrong. For some reason we decided to get a second dog. We were trying to start a family without any luck, and decided in 1970 that we would be a family with pups for a while. You've already met Jeremiah.

dog licking silver bowl

Bonnie Blanche was half coon hound, half beagle. She was the first female dog I'd ever owned, and she was just a sweet little cuddler. Soft hound-dog ears, and always ready for a little treat.

dog sleeping by Christmas fireplace

Isn't it strange that a dog will curl up and sleep in front of a cardboard fireplace? This picture is taken in a different house from the first picture. In December 1971 we moved just 3 miles to the property we are now on. There are so many stockings because Omer's parents came for Christmas, along with his "baby sister" Kathy (Lyghtekeeper- who died in August 2009- some of you may remember that). That leaves two stockings to account for- of course two of them were for Bonnie and Jeremiah. Pictures show that Loretta was here too, and maybe their brother came as well.

dog on couch

Dear little Bonnie was indeed part hound though. She had a tendency to roam sometimes. This is the last picture taken of her. She met her fate in the road the next summer. It's pretty appalling how many of my dogs died that way, but back then...people who lived in the country just did their best to train a dog about the dangers of the road, and then the dog was expected to take charge of its own destiny.

It's very sad, and I still feel guilty about Bonnie. She didn't die instantly, but crawled out of the road into the tall grass. We didn't find her until the next day. If we had found her right away, could she have been saved? We'll never know.

See Dogs of My Life- Butchy Boy II
See Dogs of My Life- Butchy Boy I

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Onondaga Branch Hike

Hi- I have 5 free minutes of Wi-Fi, so will post this quick. A big group hiked about 6 miles on the Onondaga Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail today.

We went up over a big hill and then down to DeRuyter Lake. I have our camp all set up in the woods, but came into a town to get some groceries. The rest of the week’s posts are scheduled. I’ll tell you all about this trip when I get back!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the Road

I am safely at Cazenovia, bunking with friend Irene. Just sharing some of the beauty found on the trip here.

gibbous moon

Gibbous moon- I think it really IS bigger these months.

Erie Canal mural

I got off the Thruway and puttered along the Erie Canal for a while in New York. Here's a mural of what it used to be like

Erie Canal

Here the reality of today. Still viable, in fact it's used for both transportation and recreation

Skaneateles River Valley

The hills of New York just make me intensely happy. I always enjoyed them as a child, but I never appreciated them until I could visit as an adult. This is the Skaneateles River Valley.

stripes of plowed land on hillside

Finally, I just love hillside agriculture. Aren't these stripes of plowed and fallow land beautiful?

It was so much fun to not be rushed this morning, and to have the time to stop and take these pictures.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bright Colors

blue sky and branches

Nothing very profound today. I have to get out the door, and I knew Thursday night that it would be impossible for me to leave when I wanted to. So the whole trip will be extra rushed. You would think I could get better at not doing that all the time, wouldn't you?
dandelions and daisies

So, I'll just share some bright spots of fun from my last couple of days. Hope you find some too!