Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 14, 2015 Saqsakaew, the Great Blue Heron

Some Native American Tribes have heron clans, the Great Blue Heron of the Menominee is called Saqsakaew.  The heron is believed to embody patience and wisdom.

It is a cool, clear day in the wetlands.  From the boardwalk, I stop and turn to the right. Out of the corner of my eye, I have perceived a movement or a branch that is not a branch.  Great Blue is standing on a log in the water.  He doesn't mind if I am there.  I stand silently watching.  Suddenly he dives into the water and comes up with a 6 inch long fish in his beak, which he swallows whole. For a while he returns to the log but then wades off into the water again, this time plunging for another small fish.  Certain in his stillness and swift in his dive, his aim is on target and he swallows his fish.

The Iroquois believe that Great Blue is a sign of luck.  A sighting of the heron foretells a bountiful fishing journey.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February 10, 2015 Sesquicentennial State Park: The Winter Blues

Sesquicentennial was built 150 years after the founding of the city of Columbia.  The terrain of this northern part of the city is sand hills.  There is even a new mall over this way called Sand Hills Mall.  The ground is white and black sand like the bottom of the sea where the sea used to be.  Pines are predominant.  The park has a lake owned by a big flock of Canadian Geese.  They also overnight on a little island in the center. They are so tame, they will jump up on your picnic table while you are eating.

I take the trail around the lake.  The temperature is 49 degrees but it feels much colder as the wind is pushing wet waves across the water surface relentlessly.

My grandparents had a farm in the sand hills north of here. We would go down home, down country or to Mama and Pappa's most Sunday afternoons.  My cousins and brother and sister and I would drive the old pickup down logging trails through a forest just like this one.  The little ones were in the bed in the back.  The adults would be in the house in this kind of weather, gathering around the dining table eating little biscuits with cured ham (some call it Virginia ham) and sometimes old fashioned banana pudding with meringue on top.

They raised pigs and we would go out to the smokehouse and see the salted hams hanging curing in the dark.
Now and then the pigs would get out of their pen and chase us.  We ran in terror. They seemed to us as children to be huge thousand pounders.  Inside the warm house, the adults would laugh and say, "Oh, they won't hurt  you" and turn back to their conversations.

Monday, February 9, 2015

February 8, 2015 Cottonwood Trail: Sunshine on My Shoulder Makes Me Happy

It is 66 degrees at 2:30 pm. Where on cold mornings, only the deer and I are here, today there are families with toddlers and loopy puppies cavorting on leashes, teenagers in shorts and sleeveless shirts and cowboy boots, an older woman with three big lazy dogs, bicycles, even a little one in a stroller pointing out an "alligator" to me.  (So far as I know, no alligators have made it this far up the state, although they do move inland at least as far as Columbia.).

I have read that the cost of keeping up this trail and area is $31,000 a year and the volunteers have been out clearing and cutting the big trees that have fallen over the path.

This beautiful day has just given fuel to my dreams of visiting the coast while another foot of snow covers Boston.  There a woman reported her car as stolen and then found it under a mountain of snow.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February 7, 2015 Kings Mtn National Park, The Cairn of Patrick Ferguson

A warm blue day has peeked out of the gray of winter. Even earlier this year, I have heard the frogs singing in the wetlands.  They are singing in the Spring to come, still far away.  Here and there in sheltered places, crab apples have been blooming since January.  Daffodil and jonquil bulbs are pushing up out of the cold ground.  The northeast is being hit week after week with blasts of deep snow.

In a thrift shop, I have found an army green floppy outback hat.  It even says "Australia". Around the brim hang wooden beads on yellow strings.  I think they must be to shoo away gnats and mosquitoes. On the monument trail up to the top of Kings Mountain, there is no need for this hat.  That is one thing about winter on the trail. There are no bugs or snakes. Bears are hibernating and so are some people, half asleep bundled up in front of their TVs or  clutching their cell phones.

There are small family groups, some couples moving up the trail.  A couple has two little girls who have hiking sticks they are riding like horses.  One drops her horse stick and runs down into a ravine.  The parents tell her if she doesn't listen, they are going to turn back.  She doesn't listen and they grab her up and turn back.

Today I do not read the monuments.  I find a nice rock and toss it to the very top of Patrick Ferguson's Cairn as I have done since childhood.  I have tossed many rocks now onto this mountain grave of the young Scotsman over the years.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015 Rail Trail in Winter

I am walking on the completely deserted trail this morning in a heavy mist.  The ice which came with a polar blast and temperatures as low as 11 degrees is melting.

The leafless tall trees reveal squirrels' nest and great clumps of mistletoe in their branches.  The holly trees are full of beautiful fat blood red berries.

Beside the trail lies a small animal with large pointy ears.  A small tan dog with large solemn brown eyes, tiny long toes and claws, formed perfectly and now frozen perfectly in death.

The man who was lost overnight on the Pinnacle Trail of Table Rock State Park has walked out of the woods.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 1, 2015 Table Rock Mountain High

Beautiful weather on this first day of the year.  It has become a habit to fortify myself with a coffee roll from Dunkin Donuts on the way up to the mountains.  Boofa makes not a sound in the back of the Jeep.

I came to Table Rock last year in Winter and went on Carrick Creek Trail when the creek was rushing and overflowing from heavy winter rains.  Today it is gurgling along happily. A few people are taking their pictures where it runs down over a rocky spill.  Today I am going to take the challenge of the Table Rock Trail, 3.4 miles up up up a series of stone steps as tall as my knees.

At first, I meet almost no one. At the .5 mile marker, I hear a voice behind me saying: "Only a half mile? I thought it was at least 2."  I agree.  It is a very strenuous hike. I don't hear that voice again.  I think they turned back.

Soon, I have to take off my sweater and tie it around my waist. A man in a blue jacket comes along and tells me that this is his 15th hike up the mountain. "I began when I was forty and now I am sixty.".  He disappears above me, appearing now and then as he rounds a curve.

Again I have to stop to get a rock out of my shoe.  I find it is not a rock; it is a blister on my  heel.  A middle aged man comes hiking with two ski poles.  He tells me that he climbs the mountain every year on the first day of January to challenge himself.  He tells me the blister will be better when I am going down hill as my boot will slide forward.  His daughter has turned back already today with new boots and blisters.

I keep moving up until I am at the 2 mile point and regretfully turn back.  I meet two young boys scampering up the rocks. Their father tells me that there is a shelter just beyond where I turned back.  They move on up and up..

I step off the path to allow a large joyful man to pass me. He is actually jumping down the mountain from one rock to another. Later another hiker tells me that this man told me he had run up the entire mountain. I am amazed.

I have a snack of water and raisins and descend the trail.  Maybe next time.

Driving home on Highway 11, I pass Old Highway 11 and shortly thereafter Old Old Highway 11. One day perhaps the road I am on will be Old Old Old Hwy. 11.

Here is my recipe for Black Eyed Peas and Yellow Crooked Neck Squash, a dish for New Years' Day so that you will have coins in your pocket during the coming year:

Rinse dried peas and put in a pot with plenty of water and bring to a boil. If you do this in the morning and just let them soak, they will be ready by supper time.  Or you can let them simmer about an hour and they will be ready.

Saute an onion and three or four chopped squash, 4 cloves of garlic in oil in an iron frying pan. Add  2 tablespoons of masala seasoning and 5 teaspoons of sugar.  Add a 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer a while.  Serve over plenty of rice.  Also good with nan.  It is especially good if you have just tried to climb Table Rock.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

December 28, 2014 The Cottonwood Trail: Shine Your Light

I am out early again today in a light rain.  A huge barred owl swoops low across the path so near that I can see his speckled brown and white undercoat.  The trail is cleared and muddy. I walk on the edges on dead leaves.  Three deer leap down the hill as I cross the ridge trail.  The wetlands are brim full, a cloudy moss green.  Dozens of Cardinals and Wrens twitter and call and scatter around me.

At the crest of the Highlands trail, just since two days ago when I passed here, someone has planted a White Oak, "In Memory of Medea Beauvais"  with a bench beside it.

The inscription on a stone says:

"Shine Your Light".