Snow On The Mountaintop


Driving over the crest of a tall hill, the road drops steeply down and out of sight around a curve, a vista opens out across the valley, winter sunlight streams from a crystal blue sky, bare trees look black against the snow covered ground, their long thin grey shadows slanting across the forest floor. The horizon is dominated by a mountain ridge across the way, half way up there is a snow line, it reminds me of seeing snow line up high on summer trips through the Rockies in Colorado and of how snow line would oscillate up and down the distant peaks the winter I spent in Portland, Oregon all those years ago. Reminiscing startles to a halt when science kicks in, how can I see a snow line when there is snow at my present elevation? I take a more scrutinizing look at the mountain ridge and realize that I am looking at probably a frost line or frozen precipitation line of some sort. Although there is snow cover all the way down in the valley floor, the trees up top are covered in a frozen layer that is gleaming white in the slanting winter sunshine. The trees below that elevation do not have a coating of ice or frost, so they are dark and black against the ground. Above there, all the branches are coated in a frosty icing, blending into the snow covered ground giving the illusion of a snow line. A visual representation of the temperature gradient as elevation changes! Mother Nature is freaking awesome!


Year In Review!


2017 was generally a good year. Last December I decided my New Year’s Resolution for 2017 would be to have more adventures. I believe I have lived up to that resolution. When making it I knew that not all the adventures would be grand ones. I wanted to have small adventuress, ones that happen in every day life that make it interesting, fun, and stimulating. Of course when one is purposely trying to find new experiences, looking for Hobbit Adventures, one runs into misadventures as well, and there have been some of those too.

The adventures stared last December when I cut my hair, yes it was an adventure for me (my hair was waist length and had not been cut since 1994), and that set the tone for the year! I now have a shaggy pixie bob which I still love a year later.

Next I started Flippin’ Gypsy on Etsy. I make colorful, whimsical, scarves, hats, jewelry, and decorations. I have only sold one thing so far, but I’m having fun with it. I have a ton of ideas too, so I’ll keep it going this year.

Other small adventures include: this daily blog, becoming a snowshoe guide for Windham Mountain, raft guiding for Beaver Brook Outfitters, and moving my summer base camp to their property. As a Beaver Brook guide I did several overnight trips in the Hudson Gorge, staying at campsites I had never camped at before, guided a paddle trip across Lake George, one across Sacandaga Lake then hiking to Fawn Lake, one from Blue Mountain Lake to Raquette Lake and hiking into Sargent Pond from Tioga Point, working at the Thurman Canoe Center and guiding several paddle trips down the Hudson from there, guiding a high water trip down the “Lower Gorge” of the Hudson (a section I had never seen before), and guiding a raft trip down the Sacandaga River. I made some wonderful new friends and rekindled some old friendships working there as well.

Other small adventures include, in no particular order: all the solo walks, hikes, and paddles, seeing the middle of Kaaterskill Falls, seeing North South Lake frozen, hiking to Westkill Falls with my husband, paddling Brown’s Tract with my friend, paddling Lake Durant, checking out several state parks I had never been in for paddling potential, bike riding with my mother, jumping off the big rock into the creek, breaking trail in 3 feet of fresh snow with snowshoes, riding the chairlift, buying my own snow pants, playing in the waterfall at the end of South Inlet on Raquette Lake, jumping off the big rock on Blue Mountain Lake, knitting everybody’s holiday gifts, snuggling with the cats, lounging in the hammock in the sun with absolutely nothing to do, hammock camping (the best!), planting and harvesting the garden, walking across the trestle at Railroad Rapid (no trains on this track), participating in a protest march in New York City, practicing yoga on the porch every morning before rafting, seeing a moose at my tent twice, inheriting a raft and two duckies and using them, doing flips off jump rock on the Hudson trip, and many many more!

The three grand adventures were the whirlwind trip south for July 4th to run the Shenandoah with friends I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, the raft guide reunion on Blue Mountain Lake, and the epic trip to South Carolina to see the total solar eclipse with my sister which included kayaking from the swamp out to the ocean.

Misadventures, preventable: twisting my ankle while rafting back in June (still not back to normal yet), scraping my foot on a rock while swimming in July which didn’t heal until September when I quit getting my feet wet (left a cool scar), burning my foot with boiling water while camping in September (also scarred), getting eaten alive by insects in SC (I broke down and bought some actual Deet repellent), receiving several tic bites and having to go get the Lyme prevention antibiotic, all the times I froze my tush off in the rain because I wasn’t dressed warm enough, getting slightly lost in the woods on top of Windham Mountain while solo snowshoeing in a snow storm as night was falling, almost flipping my raft in a hydraulic in high water and having half my guests swim.

Misadventures, beyond control: having the well water go red and silty all spring and summer (I carted water from the Adirondacks home every week for us to drink), loosing my grandfather last August at 96 years old, I love him and miss him, being diagnosed with breast cancer and then lumpectomy surgery to remove it (early detection saved my life!), and getting bronchitis 3 times in 3 months.

So now that 2018 is here, I think I will keep a good thing going, my resolution for 2018 is to keep having adventures, take the back roads, try new things, take a walk on the wild side, keep life stirring, lively, provocative, intoxicating, groovy, and full of zest. Even the little things in life are worth enjoying!

Eagles In The Creek

12-7-2017 Magic Moment:

I went for a walk down the road today. It turned into more of a meander as I wandered off through the neighboring field to get a closer look at a new beaver dam. It is a typical late fall day, cold blustery air, sun playing hide and seek with low clouds. I fill my pockets with eye catching rocks as I stumble along the loose footing jumble of rocks that is the creek bed. Back up on the road, I am lost in my own world, walking through an evergreen tree tunnel. I notice movement on a wide rock bar down in the creek. Two glossy crows take flight, spreading their wings and catching air currents that lift them above the trees and out of sight, their caws echoing out of hearing. Then I see two more birds take flight, huge and cumbersome near the ground, giant broad wings flapping smoothly to gain height, then gliding effortlessly as they catch the moving air, their dappled brown and white bodies seem immense as the slide by me while I stand gawking at their silent passage. They are two immature bald eagles, flying so close I could almost reach out to touch them through the trees. To confirm my guess, another movement catches my attention, a third bald eagle, head and tail flashing bright luminous white through the dark evergreen bows. I guess this is mom or dad, as it banks, glides sideways and lands gracefully in a leafless tree across the creek. She/ he calls out a screeching squawking cry. The two immature eagles turn in flight, one lands nearby, the other disappears from my sight in jumble of tree branches. I stand a watch this eagle family for a long time. Neighbors had told me they saw an eagle all summer down here. There must be an active and successful nest hidden in the forest somewhere near here. There is wonder and beauty all around us, we just need to slow down and pay attention!

Moon Over Kaaterskill Falls

11-29-2027 Magic Moment:

After hiking up out of the Kaaterskill waterfall gorge, there was still an hour or so of daylight left and I wasn’t ready to go home, so I walked down a newly opened rail trail that goes out to Haines Falls. It goes through the woods along the top of the gorge. With no leaves on the trees, there are pleasing glimpses of the surrounding mountains through the trees. At one point I noticed that if I left the trail and walked over to a nearby drop off, I might be able to see partially down into the gorge. I wasn’t expecting to see much more than trees, but I was in an exploring mood. I wandered into the forest, and saw off a ways what looked like a small cleared area (maybe someone used for tent camping). Spectacular surprise! From that spot could be seen and heard Kaaterskill Falls in its entirety, from where the stream of water falls through the gap in the rocks at the tippy top to the rocky pool at the bottom deep. This perch is actually at a height above the top of the falls, and looking upstream over the treetops in the gorge. Absolutely stunning! I stood there, time unnoticed, mountains spread out before me, breathing, watching, absorbing. As I was turning to go, I caught a glimpse of something in the sky hanging just above the treetops over the falls. Stopping mid-stride, I realized it was an almost full moon rising across from the setting sun. I can imagine the waterfall in darkness with silver moonlight from a full moon illuminating the falling water as glowing liquid silver. I want to come back sometime to see that. What a sweet surprise to find at the end of a thoroughly satisfying hike.

Middle Of The Waterfall

11-28-2017 Magic Moment:

Kaaterskill Falls is near my house, and I usually hike up to it a couple of times a year. However, the last couple of years, the trail crews have been working on improving the existing trail and putting in a trail that connects the top and bottom of the falls in a effort to reduce fatalities at this spot. It is a high use area and several people have fallen over the years, because the only way to access the middle of the falls was to climb out on an exposed muddy, wet, and slippery rock ledge. Over the years I have tried a couple of times to get to the middle, but I have a (mostly healthy) phobia of exposed high edges, so I have never been able to get up there.

During the construction project, I have stayed away from the bottom of the falls, preferring to see the finished product instead of being annoyed by all the changes. Although, I have been to the top of the falls a few times to assess the trail progress and show visiting friends and family the falls from the new viewing platform.

Kaaterskill is a two tiered waterfall that plummets about 200 feet down inside a steep and narrow gorge. I had heard that the trail from top to bottom is complete and I decided to go see it for myself. Starting from the improved parking area at the top, I followed the handicap accessible trail toward the viewing platform. Then make the turn off going over a new bridge to get to the trail down. Its a sun shinny afternoon in the mid 40’s, but the sun is hanging lower in the sky this time of year so I only have a couple of hours before sunset, and the chilling return of the cold. No problem.

The trail slopes steadily down into the gorge. Several switchbacks, and a (new) long staircase later, I come around a corner to an intersection and see and hear the lower falls through the trees below me. I make the turn toward the middle. It is a well made trail, a ledge of packed clay earth a few feet wide, built into the cliff, with a rock face on one side and a guard rail on the other. Wow! My excitement ratchets up a notch as I hug the wall. The trail slides down and starts becoming icy, I can hear the water roaring just out of sight around the corner of rock and see mist in the air freezing to all the surfaces. I desperately want to go around the rocks and see the falls, but even with the guard rail, slipping here could mean a death fall to the rocks 80 feet down. So I walk back to a point before the trail became icy, pull out my ice grippers (yes, the kind for getting through the icy parking lot or driveway), and the continue slowly. One step at a time, making sure my footing is holding fast before proceeding. This process seemed to take forever to go the last few feet around the corner, but it was completely worth the patients and precautions. It was overwhelmingly amazing. I was so completely inspired it brought tears to my eyes! I finally made it up here, after all this time!

A sheet of water cascading down from over 100 feet up into a small pool before running over the edge of the bottom falls. The wind, spray, and mist are literally freezing onto everything. Water drops sting the skin on my hands and face. Rounded, lumpy, blue, green, and white ice formations are on all the rocks surrounding the pool. Crystal clear ice thickly coats the long brown weeds and grasses growing up the canyon walls. Icicles hang precariously from all the different layers of rock outcroppings up the cliff walls. Although it is sunny up top, this area is in deep shadow casting the water, ice, and rock into misty blue and purple light. I am so thrilled to be here, exultant in the glory and power of rushing water, captivated and intoxicated by the eternal allure of this waterfall, I don’t want to leave. I stay until the bone chilling wet cold finally sinks into my jubilant senses, and then start the long climb back up to the car.

Milky Way Night Sky

11-19-2017 Magic Moment:

I picked my amazing husband up from the train station tonight. He had been down in New York City with his dad for a couple of days. The Amtrak station is about an hour from home, and his train came in at 9pm. Neither of us had been up this late at night for quite a while. It is a clear night, cold and serene. At home, when we stepped out of the car, I glanced up at the stars. WOW! I stopped talking, stopped moving, and just gazed up, mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of the crystalline night sky. That deepest blue black of outer space, and the millions of twinkling silver stars, so close you can reach up and almost touch them. My husband looked up too and took a few chilly moments to stargaze as well. I pointed up arcing my arm across asking if he could see the thicker band of stars. He replied yes. I told him that it’s the Milky Way. We are looking into the heart our galaxy, staring through all the other spiral arms between us and the center. That is why there are more stars in this band across the night sky. We are seeing space and time, eternally spiraling, spinning into the abyss of nothingness, filling it with pure light.

Crystal Blue Sky

11-15-2017 Magic Moment:

My husband is traveling down to the city for a few days to help out his father. The last few times he drove, it took hours just to get through the city to Brooklyn, so this time he is taking the train. I drove him down to Hudson and waited at the Amtrak station with him. Although I used to work in Hudson and had spent some time at the park, I had never been in the station. It’s small and quaint, old time train station architecture, dark wood and rounded molding. There was some intriguing photographs done by a local artist hanging on the walls and a news stand in one corner run by a volunteer, the money raised going to a local cause. Being mid morning, and a classically beautiful day, we sat on the newly painted colorful benches lining the fence along the tracks. The sky was an infinite expanse of impossible blue, the sun gloriously perched just above the roof line of the station. The air was clean and crisp, but not too cold and warming up. Birds chirped and flitted around in the leafless dense branches of the ornamental trees growing through pavement cutouts in the small plaza. We sat side by side conversing in low tones as others started gathering for the imminent train arrival. It approached from the north with a whistle blast, screeching brakes, and whooshing air, slowed to a stop, disgorged a couple of passengers, and all the embarking travelers lined up to board. We said our goodbyes and I walk over to my car in the lot facing the tracks. As the train pulled away, I waved. I have no idea where he was sitting, by I did see movement through one of the heavily tinted windows. Someone was waving back as the train gathered speed, heading south, under a big open crystal blue sky.