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Posts tagged “hiking


IMG_8245(Click on photo for best resolution)


I’ve never had a fondness for city or town life. In my opinion, the best neighbors are the kind you can’t see or hear. Ever. Although my house sits on a small parcel of acreage, I’d be perfectly happy living smack-dab in the middle of several hundred acres. During the spring and fall I try to get outside to walk several miles every morning. I’ll usually say it was a good walk if I’m able to complete my hike without seeing a soul. That’s my idea of quality time.





Ombre by Ludovico Einaudi, from Le Onde


Lately I feel like I’m drowning in sadness. August 25th was loaded: my sister and husband were in a serious motorcycle accident, someone very close to my brother suffered a stroke and a very close friend of my husband’s family died. It was a “busy” day. Since then, I’ve learned that my father-in-law has cancer, my upcoming eye surgery “might not” deliver the result I was expecting, and the brother-in-law of my riding instructor (age 47) was killed in a motorcycle accident.

This has left me feeling as though I ought to say something profound. Like, “Live life to the fullest because you never know what tomorrow will bring!” or something to that effect. Unfortunately, while that cliche might be true, it just sounds old and overused. The fact of the matter is, for the last couple of years I’ve felt like life’s been swinging from one extreme to the other, and I’m not sure why. Is life is getting harder? At times it feels that way. And when you add local, regional or world news to the personal struggles it almost feels overwhelming.

So I try to grab a little time to do things I enjoy: Listen to music, read, ride, hike, take pictures, and try to spend more time with my dogs, horses, friends and family.

The Path



We bought our house in 1986. The house proper wasn’t anything special, but the location was private, nestled off  a sparsely populated dead-end road and bordered by state forest on one side. A year or so after moving in I bought a horse and kept it at my neighbor’s farm. When my husband decided to get into the horse world we gamely cleared the only flat patch of land we owned, built a small barn, collected our horses and brought them home. That was April of ’89, and we’ve been riding some part of this trail regularly ever since.

Back then this path wasn’t a public park. It was available to those who knew of it’s existence, but the old abandoned rail bed wasn’t used by more than a  handful of adventuresome folks and hunters who didn’t mind a bit of a trek and a challenge. Not that it was such tough going, but the sandy path was punctuated by two long expanses of trap rock that discouraged the passing of all but the most determined hiker or biker. By today’s standards I would think the trap rock would be a mountain biker’s dream, but from what I’ve seen they seem to want the experience of riding in the woods, but the ease of an uncluttered trail. Go figure.

I’d traversed this trail on foot, bike and horseback at least a thousand times when some lobbyist decided we should use our gas tax to “convert” this path into a public state Linear park, better known today as the Airline Trail. Oh goody. Literally overnight, the quiet little farm we worked tooth and nail to create was changed. The peace and quiet …. the sole reason we bought our home …. was gone. The remote location and deeply desired privacy vanished. Where we once marveled at our great fortune and foresight to live in such close proximity to a fabulous bridle and hiking path, we now cursed it’s nearby presence. And before you enthusiastically try to proclaim the obvious, which is to remind us of how lucky we are to have such easy access to this wonder of misspent tax dollars, please walk a mile in our shoes. Think for a few moments about what it’s like to suddenly have to live with a very public park in your back yard.

To combat my angst and frustration I use some part of the trail almost daily. I always used it before it was a state park and I refuse to punish myself by avoiding it now. I try my damnedest to pick a time when I think there will be a minimum of users about because frankly, I hate seeing anyone out there. I don’t want to nod a chipper “Hello,” or mutter a fake cheerful “Good morning!” each and every time I pass someone going the opposite way. I just want to mind my own business and enjoy the scenery, preferably one that’s not cluttered with bikes, dogs, baby carriages and loud, screaming children.

If I sound like a miserly curmudgeon, so be it. I feel an affection for this trail that borders on possessiveness. When people discard their litter on it, I’m appalled. When hikers let their dogs use it as a toilet, I’m annoyed. (And yes, should the inevitable happen I dismount and remove any road apples from the trail when I ride. Everyone in our small equine group does.) When the parks and trail committee decided this trail needed benches and bright blue metal picnic tables I was disgusted. So now one of the most rural, pristine sections of the old airline is peppered with man-made “improvements.”

I was out riding three weeks ago and took a detour off the main path to an area I hadn’t visited in a few years. It had changed little.  It was comforting to find the huge boulders, sandy landscape and canopy of trees that hugged the rocky flowing stream remained unchanged. That’s what I like about nature; reliability. A week later as I traversed a nearby trail, I heard the sound of heavy equipment. A steady rumble of diesel echoed off the steep walls of the ravine. I rode a little farther before I realized the location of the commotion was the area I’d visited the week before. I rode to a higher vantage point and peered down. Many trees had been cut down, a road built and an erosion barrier had been erected. Obviously, a project of sizable proportion was underway.

As the week progressed I watched the slow progress. From my lofty perch it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, but I had my suspicions. Mostly, I saw a half dozen or so hard-hatted workers sitting around chatting, while one guy ran an excavator. Friday I rode in that direction only to discover the trail was closed. Sawhorses with signs that said “Road Closed” prevented my passage and ahead, parked in the very spot where I had been viewing the slow progress, sat the largest crane I’d ever seen. I could feel the bile rise in the back of my throat. My trail, my woods are being changed. Again. Undoubtedly, some fool will eventually say to me, “They’ve been improved!” and I’ll have to resist the urge to slap them.

I took this picture on a damp, blustery fall day … a day when nobody thought the weather fit for hiking or biking.

All the better for me.

Peace and Quiet


The last time I was out on this trail it looked like this. Given that I haven’t been able to even reach this trail let alone see it since January, I’m getting pretty excited to start hiking again. The only good thing about winter is that very few people try to hike this trail very far. You see, my house and barn sit only a couple hundred yards away from it and I can’t stand the traffic during the rest of the year. We’ve lived here since way before tree huggers lobbied to turn this (already public) trail into a linear state park. Not that our state needed more parks. Many nearby parks have either closed or offer no services (things like a simple trash can) because our state doesn’t have money in the budget for park upkeep. But people pushed for this old rail bed to be converted into a park anyway, so now what was once our nice quiet, remote little farm at the end of a dead-end road is like living in a fishbowl in the middle of Grand Central Station three seasons out of four. Oh, and while most people seem to think this trail was a great idea (Read as: free) they don’t realize that a good portion of our state gas tax goes toward it for improvements, upkeep and continued expansion. Since our current price at the pump has exceeded $3.60 I’m wondering how great that idea seems now? Frankly, I’d much rather be able to afford a tank of gas or home heating oil than pay for “improvements” for a trail that …. well, was ALREADY a trail.


Right now it’s still quiet, like the calm right before a storm. Soon, I’ll be awakened by people yelling at my horses and at each other as they bike, hike and jog past my property. The traffic will be almost constant during the daylight hours, especially on the weekends. As soon as we change our time back my peace and tranquility will be over  …  before I really even get a chance to get outside and enjoy it myself.



Oct 17, 2010 7:46 AM. EST.

Canon EOS 7D

ISO: 400, 30mm, 1/50 sec, f/16

Lens: Canon EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Lightroom3: Contrast/brightness adj



The wall surrounds nothing,

leads nowhere, yet her

strength draws you near.

A timeless force to reckon with still.

Nobody Home


I was out taking pictures one day when I drove past this old abandoned building. It sits on the bank of the Salmon River and probably at one time or another was some sort of factory or business. (And no doubt polluted the heck out of the river.) I’ve driven past this building many times before, but never explored it on foot. For some reason having a camera on board makes you want pull over and go poke around places you never thought about exploring before.

I took several bracketed photos with the idea that later this winter, when I have some time to kill, I can try a little HDR magic with them.  When I’d taken maybe a dozen or so photos I suddenly heard someone yelling. “You’re on private property!”  I looked around. Huh? Really? Hm. I walked into what I hoped was more of a clearing and peered in the direction of the voice. About 200 yards up the road was a house. A middle-aged woman stood on the back stoop and peered in my direction. “I’m sorry!” I hollered, “I was just taking a few pictures!” I held my camera aloft and wiggled it, thinking my reply would ease the woman’s mind that I wasn’t about to steal her bricks or an old rusty axle or something.  “You’re on private property!” she hollered at me again.

Sheesh! Alrighty then! I thought about walking over to the house, introducing myself (I live about five minutes up the road) and asking the woman if she would grant me permission to take a few more pictures. But I didn’t see anything that begged me to stay so I hollered another apology, picked my way back to my car and left.  As I drove home I thought about this experience. I realize it’s important to get permission to take photos of certain things and whenever possible, I try to be sensitive to that and get permission first. Being a private person I understand how intrusive a photographer can seem from the other end of the lens. However, I really have to wonder if this lady did in fact own the property I was on or the building I was shooting. For some reason I tend to doubt that. I think she just didn’t like the idea of me poking around the property next to hers. I’m sure she’s had to deal with trespassers on that site before …  I saw signs that someone has used the spot for a place to drink and party. But it was 9:30 on a weekday morning and kind of unlikely that I was a vagrant (with a camera) out looking for a place to go have a snort.

Oh well. I suppose if I wanted to explore this site more I could ask for permission. The worst the woman can do is say no, in which case I’ll borrow a damn kayak and shoot it from the middle of the river.  She doesn’t own the water!




Curious Minds

I’m really curious what other people think because to put it frankly, I just don’t get it. These running shoes have been dangling from the power lines for  several years. Five, if I remember correctly. And every single time I pass under them the same handful of questions run through my mind. Why would anyone discard their personal belongings in such an irresponsible way? Was this meant to commemorate or memorialize an event, a personal accomplishment? Or was this done on a dare, like some childish prank? How many throws did it take for the shoes to wrap around the wires, leaving them suspended in midair? Why hasn’t the power company cut them down? How long will it take for the shoes to decompose? Has the person who owned them ever come back to reminisce or admire their work? Is it art? Should this bug me as much as it does?

That last question might strike some readers strange. Why should two pairs of dangling running shoes bother me? Well you see, it’s because of where they are. The location. They’re not hanging in someone’s neighborhood development or somewhere in a crowded city. They’re not suspended from a school goal post or from a fence along a deserted track field. No. They’re hanging from a power line that crosses a road that bisects a NATURE trail. There’s something that feels sort of …. well, sacrilegious about that to me.



What bothers me most, is the possibility that whoever left the shoes behind was someone who drove out here to ENJOY the remoteness of this trail.  The trail is used by many hikers, bikers and equestrians of all ages, many who are attracted to it precisely because of it’s pristine vistas and isolation. So why would anyone who enjoys using this trail turn around and desecrate it with their personal litter? Of course it’s quite possible they didn’t use the trail after all, but simply found this was a nice remote spot to leave their litter. But I have a hunch it’s the former scenario.


Well, that’s kind of a stupid question I guess. There are signs posted at every access point, but few pay the least bit of attention to those either.



Back to the shoes. So you’re walking down this lovely trail when you come upon a road.



There’s a small parking area and a placard that tells you where you are (You are HERE) and some of the “attractions” along the trail. Oh, and there’s two pairs of running shoes dangling from a power line. Nice!


Let’s cover this from another view:



So I’m curious. What do others think about this? Is it art or angst? Lightheartedness or litter? Free spirit or foolish selfishness?




Still Waters

This photo was taken early one morning about ten days ago. I had to descend a very steep bank to get down to the actual water level of this swamp/pond. I was literally standing on the rim of a very large beaver dam when I took this picture and if I tapped my foot, it sent ripples across the water. It was almost like standing on the water proper, and the depth where I was standing was quite deep. Kinda spooky, considering one wrong step and I could have gone crashing through the dam and into the drink! Needless to say, I was very careful about where I put my feet!

Ahead and Behind

They say it’s wise to look where you’re going.





But it’s not a bad idea to take note of where you’ve been.




The leaves are starting to peak and we finally got some nice weather to go with the pretty scenery!


The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I~

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


~Robert Frost~









They took all the trees

And put them in a tree museum

And they charged all the people

A dollar and a half just to see’em.

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone.

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot.


~Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi~





There are no roads that lead here, no trails. I’m not sure how this car got here or why it was abandoned so deep in the woods. It’s been sitting here since way before I moved to this area, which was twenty-four years ago last month.

The occasional visual blight aside, I love this stretch of woods. It’s not clogged with underbrush and the rolling landscape is dotted with interesting old trees

and crossed by several old stone walls.

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring these woods and I’ve come to think of them as my own  … even thought they’re not.

Orange overload

Not my child or puppy, but I love this picture! This is a friend’s son and the last of a litter of pups they raised this summer. “Isabel” (“Izzy” for short) now lives with my farm vet. She’s adorable and I get to see her every now and then when I stop by for this or that. I took this picture on the spur of the moment when they stopped by as they were walking home after a little hike in the woods. It was the pup’s last day before going to her new home. All the red/orange in the picture was funny, but totally unscripted!

Flying Dogs and Other Circus Acts

I should have known he’d jump. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been warned.  Like the time he was  four months old and jumped off the back deck. His dad had just walked out of the basement and in his excitement, the pup took the shortest route down. Splat. Just like Bambi on ice. He looked a little surprised for a second, but got right back up and carried on like it never happened. I nearly lost my lunch.

This was going to be my “do everything right” dog. I’ve raised plenty of dogs, but I never had much concern about how they turned out. Sure, I trained them and for the most part they all wound up to be great companions. But I never really had any high expectations for any of them. They came when called, behaved in most situations and were basically considered to be obedient, well-rounded family pets. What more could one want?

Then I got an Australian Cattle Dog. What a difference a breed can make! Like many, I got my first taste of this breed at a local stable.  The owner had a couple of Cattle Dogs who were always lurking about in the shadows. One used to sleep under the saddle tree in the tack room and would come lunging out the minute your arms were fully loaded with heavy tack. And then there was the older male I mowed down in the indoor arena. I was practicing a reining pattern on a very hot horse and for some reason, the dog chose that very moment to cross the arena to be with his master. I saw a blur of movement and heard a sharp, high pitched yelp as he tumbled ass-over-tea kettle under the horse. With lightening quick reflexes he was back on his feet and zipping away, none the worse for wear. I apologized profusely, to which the owner said, “Don’t worry about it. He knows better.” That night I left thinking to myself, “I gotta get me one of those dogs!” It took awhile, but eventually I was the proud, albeit tired owner of two Cattle Dogs.

So there I was, out hiking with my red boy. He was my youngest and had been hiking the woods with me since he was a pup.  I had taken plenty of time to let his body and mind mature, then slowly built up his endurance until he had grown into a wonderful hiking partner that I could trust to stay close even off leash. He often zig-zaged a few yards ahead, but he seldom ventured far enough away to alarm me. Occasionally a chipmunk or bird would tempt him off the main trail, but he was rarely out of my sight for more than a few seconds. The New England woods are dense and he was taught at a young age that if he couldn’t see me then he’d better high tail-it back to me PDQ. Special treats made this a game that he grew to love, so he’s pretty motivated to keep me in his sight at all times.

That particular spring morning was perfect for hiking; cool, sunny, and absent the weekend warriors that detract from our love of solitude. We got an early start down the converted rail trail that runs along our property. My plan was to follow the public hiking trail for about two miles before veering off on a less populated path. It was early enough in the day that the chance of encountering other hikers was slim, but I kept him by my side for a bit just to be sure. When I was sure the coast was clear I gave Hazer the release command and he sprang ahead, anxious to lead the way. I laughed at his enthusiasm and for the umpteenth time, wished I had his youth and athleticism. Instead, I set off at my usual brisk pace, knowing it wouldn’t be long before he would relax and close the gap between us.

We crossed the wide expanse of an old Viaduct that rose high above a swampy vista.  A thick veil of fog hovered over the water, obscuring the view of a large, sprawling beaver dam and a flock of noisy Canadian geese. Soon the mist would burn off and it would turn into a crystal-clear, picturesque spring day. The trees were just beginning to flower and I wished I’d remembered to bring my camera. But I didn’t want to turn back to fetch it. I could take pictures another time.

After crossing the open viaduct the old rail bed re-enters the woods and continues alongside a clear rushing brook. The woods on both sides of the trail is protected by a land trust and has grown dense with thick underbrush and standing timber. There is always the possibility that we might spot or startle wildlife if we are  the only hikers to pass that way recently. Hazer and I are often treated to a glimpse of an amazing assortment of wildlife on our daily outings.

About a mile into the hike we began to enter a long corridor where steep cliffs start to rise sharply on both sides of the trail.  You can still see the scars where the ledge was drilled and blasted to make way for the rail bed below. Wide gutters run along the base of the rock and catch the orange runoff that weeps from the ore year-round. At the onset of the cliffs there is a broad thicket of Mountain Laurel. This is our state flower, which is actually more of a wild flowering shrub than a flower. It was here that Hazer paused, then took a sharp right onto a  faint path that cut into the heart of the dense vegetation. Any deer that had used this path recently would be long gone by now, so I didn’t object to a little impromptu exploration off the main trail. I slowed my pace, but continued to move ahead while keeping an ear trained on my dog. As was his habit, I knew he would come bounding up from behind any second.

I walked for about a minute, but when he didn’t reappear shortly I stopped and turned around. No dog was visible on the trail behind. Not worried, I called and listened again. I could hear a faint rustling in the dry leaves behind the ledge on my left. Confident that Hazer was retracing his steps, I turned and started walking again. I was sure he would overtake me in a moment. But I hadn’t gone far when I realized that my dog was not making his way back to me. I stopped and strained to hear any sound that would pinpoint his exact location. I called his name a few times, but the echo of my voice just bounced off the steep walls of the surrounding cliffs. I was just about to start retracing my own steps when I heard something large crashing through the dry underbrush at the top of the cliffs on my right. I looked up and saw my dog.

I’m not exactly sure when the icy dread of fear hit me. When I first saw him I was just relieved to know where he was, but my relief quickly vanished when I realized that he was trying to find a way down from the ledge. Why he didn’t just retrace his steps I’ll never know, but I froze in place as he took a tentative step closer to the edge. I didn’t dare move for fear that he might panic and do something foolish in haste.  I forced myself to push that thought aside. I knew my dog was a woods-smart, experienced hiker who had shown an innate ability to resolve some pretty complex challenges in a variety of situations. On one level I had to believe that he would use his good instincts and skills and find a safe way down, but something about his posture alarmed me. He was dangerously close to the edge and showing no fear or sign of turning back. I was afraid to say his name, so I shouted, “Go back! Go back!” several times, praying silently that he would listen and remember the numerous times we had worked on that command in the past. He knew what I was asking him to do and I could see that he was torn. If he backed up and retraced his steps, he would have to lose sight of me. He looked me in the eye, then looked at the trail below. I could almost see his mental wheels turning as he stood coiled, weighing his options. In the blink of an eye his expression changed and instinctively, I knew he had made his decision. His face stretched into a goofy grin and I watched in horror as my dog confidently stepped into thin air!

Scroll back up to the picture at the top and click on it twice. That’s my boy sitting close to where he landed, at the base of the ledge where he jumped. Like a lead balloon, he dropped well over two stories. I honestly don’t know how he survived. He did a perfect swan dive off the highest peak of ledge, cleared several outcroppings, and landed front feet first in the muddy water-filled drainage ditch at the base of the cliff. Paralyzed with fear, I couldn’t move or breathe. How on earth was I going to carry my broken dog home? As I stood thinking this very thought, Hazer jumped out of ditch, shook himself hard, then came bounding over to me like nothing happened. With knees weakened by a flood of adrenaline, I slumped to the ground and immediately began running my hands over what I was sure would be a battered body. I was checking for compound fractures, dislocated joints, cuts, abrasions … anything! I didn’t dare let myself think that my dog had just taken a massive fall and might actually walk away muddy, but unscathed.

But he did.

They say Cattle Dogs are a little bit like cats. Well, one life down, eight more to go!