Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Summers Are Made Of

The best season ever is off to a great start (and by start, I mean the equinox was only 2 weeks ago). In and OUT of the city. The rain finally stopped, leaving us lots of lush grass in the now smoke-free parks, and millions of happily breeding mosquitos. Kudos, bloodsuckers! I don't even care. After dealing with your much more aggressive cousins near the equator, you don't bother me. To emphasize the 'OUT of the city' part, I ask, have you ever been to Tuxedo, New York? There is not much going on there. The houses (ahem, mansions) are gorgeous to drive by, and the town is very small and like a true city slicker I will say totally quaint and adorable. But what is the star of this part of this great state, would be Sterling Forest.

I spent all of yesterday torturing my legs on its 4 mile hiking trail around Sterling Lake. I know, sounds like a walk in the park? WRONG! The friendly ranger at the visitor center (who for some reason assumed I knew what I was doing, and mentioned bass season just started like 'well, I'm sure you already knew that') said it's a lovely little trail, that will take you all around the lake and back to where you start. A great loop to see the best of the park.

Childhood favorite. Calvin and Hobbes. There's Treasure Everywhere.
As a 9 year old, I never understood some of the five-dollar words in that comic.
But maybe it was better that way.

The first two miles were easy enough. Pacing ourselves, not in a hurry, stop and find a place to fish with little dinky rods we had in tow, eat some grapes, whatever. But the last 2 miles were a vertical climb.. in Keds.. up rocky slopes to the very tip top of a mountain, where we weren't even rewarded with a view of all the land we just conquered. Just an even more dangerous hike downhill. On rocky slopes.

***for those of you taking time to read this, click on some links, they are there for your viewing pleasure, and they're funny. so use them. especially if you are killing time at work***

Okay, I'm complaining. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, warm breeze, perfection. In retrospect I'm being a bit of a baby, because today my legs hurt a little, but yesterday was really amazing. It was so refreshing to get out of the city, and remember what silence and stillness sounds like, feels like, smells like. Dripping sweat and not caring, because hello, I'm in the middle of the woods, and chipmunks don't care if I reek, and eagles don't mind if I've sweat off all my make up. Because nature doesn't judge. It's like a child (under age 4) or a trustworthy blind person. Or Paula Abdul on American Idol. She didn't really judge, just smiled and nodded to whatever Randy and Simon said.

Doesn't this look like the Mufasa of chipmunks?
That IS Pride Rock

I know I said in a previous post that for a while I'd just be documenting my loafing around. But here I've attempted to connect some important artwork to the beauty witnessed in everyday life. No, I do not see nature like this everyday. But some (most) people do, and that is a wonderful thing. Just don't rub it in our urban noses!

The scenery up here was like something out of a John Constable painting.
Minus the livestock.

Flatford Mill (a scene on a navigable river) John Constable 1817

SO many lily pads. I liked it when the dragonflies landed on them.
Like little helicopters on landing pads. We totally ripped that off from mother nature.

So of course, you know what's coming.

Monet's lily pads.
Go figure. Sorry for the predictability,
but I totally understand why he'd choose these plants as a subject so many times.
They really are amazing. But, kind of a pain in the ass when you're fishing.

I literally stumbled onto some wildlife along the way. Inevitable when its 4 miles of forest, I suppose. Once I say this guy, I saw hundreds more along the way. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the toads I did not see before I picked up this wee fellow.
They will be missed.

Here's a bigger one that I somehow found despite his clever natural selection camouflage.
Take that, Darwin, you nerd!

I was SO excited to see a beaver dam. I really hoped I see some busy beavers building things. They are so hardcore, they don't get credit. They take out fully grown trees with their teeth.
Their teeth!
If thats not the most gangster thing you've ever heard a river-dwelling mammal do,
I just don't know what is.

By the way, upon sighting this marvel of modern mammal architecture, I shouted
'Look! A beaver dam!'
only to be corrected
'I believe its pronounced Amsterdam'.

Yea, that one doesn't get old, does it?

Shortly there after I spotted one of the creepiest trees in America! Why in a green forest, full of life and leaves, does this tree grow straight up and have broken off, straight, leafless branches? It was a little eerie. But made me think of Pocahontas.

How creepy does the Sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you'll neverrrr knowwww!

Also, it brought to mind those terrifying books read aloud to me in elementary school, which I'm sure have since been outlawed in public schools. Because they are too scary.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Haunting illustrations done by Stephen Gammell. I had multiple reoccurring nightmares thanks to this man's talent. Well done, sir! We all have you to thank for terrified kids afraid of the dark! They don't make them like this anymore.

Speaking of creepy, check out this creepy crawler I came across:

I think Tim Burton created this insect,
and let it loose all over the world.

Or just liked it a whole lot and put it into everything he's ever done.
I believe the creation hypothesis more though.
Seems easier and more plausible.

The best photo of a toadstool I've ever taken.

The best watercolor I've done of a toadstool (the only one) from a few years ago.

As I swung from a less than 100% safe rope over the rocks and lake, I thought much about Joan of Arc. Not the woman. The painting. I've stood before it many times at at Met and its size always overtakes me, and places me in a tranquil wood, being visited by various ghosts and angels, telling me to join the French army, and lead it to victory, only to be burned alive at a stake by the English. Ah, Joan of Arc. That broad sure was crazy.

It was a wonderful day, as you can see. My dogs may be barking today, but it was well worth it to see Turner-esk skies in the middle of the day, 40 minutes north of Manhattan. Cheese and grapes in tow. We didn't catch anything fishing, but that's all the reason to go back someday soon.

Blue Rigi (Lake of Lucerne), JMW Turner 1841

Norham Castle, Sunrise, JMW Turner 1845

Sterling Lake, yesterday.

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