Almost Autumn

In honor of the first day of fall tomorrow, I’m sharing a few photos from today’s hike up Mount Jo in the Adirondacks.

We decided to climb, even though it was drizzling when we got to the trailhead.

This is the view from the summit — not exactly what we’d had in mind, but pretty in a hazy, climbing-into-a-cloud sort of way.  If it were clear, you’d see a  handful of the High Peaks and Heart Lake beyond the trees.

E noticed this little guy on the trail and moved him to safety so he didn’t get squashed.

And this one is for blog readers who live where the leaves don’t change color, or where they haven’t changed just yet. 

A branch full of maple leaves to launch you into autumn. Have a terrific week!

Rattlesnake Mountain

We hiked Rattlesnake Mountain in the Adirondacks on Sunday, one of my family’s favorites. Here’s why…

You don’t find too many picnic spots with a nicer view.

In case you’re wondering, the mountain doesn’t really live up to its name. Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes have been spotted on Split Rock Mountain, further south in the Adirondack Park, but not here. We did find a tiny garter snake.

I was amazed by how close he let me get to take his picture.  Maybe he knows that living on a mountain called Rattlesnake requires a little extra courage.

Journal in the Woods – Part 3

Two more miles through the woods…seven more mosquito bites…and Mystery Writer remains a mystery. 

The boys were off getting haircuts this weekend, so E and I decided to take the little black nature journal on another hike.  This time, we checked out Silver Lake Bog, a beautiful trail that starts with a half-mile boardwalk stroll before climbing through the woods to a bluff overlooking Silver Lake.

For a couple weeks now, we’ve been trying to track down the owner of a beautifully sketched and written nature journal that a student’s father found by the side of  a hiking trail.  It chronicles seven years of Adirondack hikes and includes the names of every bird and wildflower spotted along the trails, but no name of an owner.  Last week, we checked the log book at Poke-o-Moonshine mountain to see if we could figure out who hiked there on the date noted in the journal, but the log book didn’t go back that far.  We ran into the same problem at Silver Lake Bog this weekend.  The first entry in the book is from just over a month ago.

We didn’t find our Mystery Writer, but here’s what we did find:

Many, many lovely bunchberry plants,

A pitcher plant (Did you know that this is a meat-eating plant?  Doesn’t it look alien?)

A White Admiral butterfly,

A friendly toad, and a tiny garter snake, no bigger than a Number 2 pencil, who slithered under a log before we could snap his picture.

We enjoyed some writing time up on the bluff, so close to all the things Mystery Writer loved, but no closer to knowing her name.

We’ll hike again next week, but I’m afraid we’ll run into the same problem — log books that have been replaced since Mystery Writer’s last visit.  Where are the old ones?? 

This afternoon, I called DEC headquarters, where a woman told me that I should check with Chris.  Chris might have them, over in Lands and Forests.  She transferred me to his voice mail.  He’s out of the office until June 25th. 

Part of me is glad.  I am loving the sunshine, the warm rocks, the leaves under my feet.  Besides, nothing ruins a good mystery like having it solved too soon.

Journal in the Woods – Part 2

Marjie and I loaded up the kids to hike Poke-o-Moonshine on Saturday, in the hopes of finding a clue in the mystery of the anonymous nature journal.  Mystery Writer was there on September 7, 2006 and wrote about seeing ravens, hawks, and birch trees along the trail.  

Unfortunately,  the DEC log book at the trailhead only went back as far as January 30, 2007.  What happened to the book for last September??  The worker at the ranger station told us to try calling the DEC in Ray Brook next week to see if they still have it. He’s not sure if they keep the old ones or throw them out.

The trip wasn’t wasted, though.  It was a beautiful hiking day. 

Visibility was fantastic, so the view of the Adirondacks was spectacular.

We found a patch of lady slippers tucked in the woods alongside the trail.

The fire tower wasn’t open, but we climbed part of the way up to enjoy the view.

We brought Mystery Writer’s journal to the summit for inspiration while we did a little writing and sketching of our own.

We stopped  to rescue an Eastern newt from the middle of the busy trail on our way down.

We got back to the car with tired legs but healthier souls, true to Mystery Writer’s promise, and I’m convinced her journal was happy to see an Adirondack summit again after those months under the snow. 

Next stop on the Nancy Drew Adirondack Mystery tour?   Probably Silver Lake Bog or Coon Mountain, both beautiful hikes with log books we can check out.  Stay tuned!

Journal in the Woods

A little black leather-bound mystery fell into my lap today.  My friend Marjie, another English teacher in my school, handed me the journal 9th period.  A student’s father had found it in the trees alongside a trail when he was hiking in the  Adirondacks.  They looked for a name.  Nothing. They read bits and pieces of it but couldn’t figure out who might have left it in the woods.

I opened the front cover and saw this.

The journal was filled (half-filled, actually) with beautiful sketches, poems, and thankfulness for the role that nature plays in grounding us when we need it the most.  But no name.  No clues.  Just lovely pencil sketches and descriptions of the moss, the ferns, the pitcher plants in the bog.  It is lovely.  And homesick, I can tell.  This journal needs to get back to its owner.

Here’s our best hope.  At the end of each entry was a date and the name of the trail the writer hiked that day.  The Department of Environmental Conservation leaves log books at the trailheads of many Adirondack hikes.  Did this hiker sign the logs?  I took the journal home tonight, and my kids are on the case now, too.  We’ll be hiking this weekend, following Mystery Writer’s trail and checking the log books to see who hiked on those days.  I’ll post a progress report next week!

Robert Frost Challenge

I’m rereading great bouquets of Robert Frost poems now for a project I’m working on, and I’m rediscovering how much I love his work.  So many little gems embedded in simple walks in the woods.  Can any Frost fans out there identify which poems these are from?  (I’ll post answers next week.)

  1. Earth’s the right place for love.
  2. Good fences make good neighbors.
  3. We have ideas yet that we haven’t tried.
  4. So all who hide too well away must speak and tell us where they are.
  5. ‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart, ‘Whether they work together or apart.’
  6. ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.’
  7. It’s a nice way to live, just taking what Nature is willing to give.

If you live in New England, check out the  Robert Frost Trail in Ripton, VT some day.  It’s a beautiful walk through woods and meadows, short enough for small kids.  You can stop along the way to read Frost verses that correspond to the landscape.  We stopped to catch frogs, too, on a trip when my son was little. The website says it will be closed for work for a few weeks in June but will be open in time for blueberry picking season.