Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Hike on the Appalachian Trail

South Mountain, the goal on Wednesday morning
I took this week as a vacation week from work and decided to go up on South Mountain to hike a stretch of the Appalachian Trail as it runs through Michaux State Forest. The week had started out hot, humid, and rainy, but I was betting on the forecast being right that a cold front moving through on Tuesday would produce excellent hiking weather - cooler, drier, and with a nice northwest breeze - for a few days starting Wednesday. Well, they were right, and the weather was gorgeous right on schedule!

I set out from my house at 6:30 Wednesday morning, going out to Means Hollow Rd., which goes up the mountain and crosses the Appalachian Trail at the top of the ridge. That was quite a climb! The plan was to hike all day Wednesday and stay overnight at the Tom's Run Shelter, and then to go on to Pine Grove Furnace State Park on Thursday morning and then head back to Shippensburg Rd. and head for home. That plan changed a little, and I skipped Pine Grove Furnace, just visiting some things that looked intriguing on Michaux Rd. just on the other side of Tom's Run and then heading back to Shippensburg Rd. You see, I neglected to get an air mattress to sleep on, and those shelters only have a hard, wooden surface to sleep on. I got very little sleep Wednesday night and I swore I wouldn't spend another night like that. As going to Pine Grove Furnace would probably necessitate a stay at the Birch Run Shelter on Thursday night, I decided to skip the state park and get home at a reasonable hour Thursday. Maybe next time!

Some things to note... The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has shelters built all along the Trail at reasonable intervals to accommodate overnight hikers. Each shelter is built near a potable water source, and each also has a privy (outhouse, outdoor toilet, whatever you call it where you live) a decent distance from the shelter. Unfortunately those privies are not chemical toilets but the old-fashioned one-holer, and this time of year the smell inside them is really something else! 

Also of note, the place I visited Thursday morning on Michaux Rd. is called Camp Michaux. It was originally a CCC camp (Civilian Conservation Corps, an institution created by the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression in the 1930s to employ the rising numbers of the unemployed and improve the infrastructure in the US at the same time) and was converted to a prisoner of war camp during WWII. Nothing remains now but the shell of an old barn, but I like ruins and I had to go see.

Up in the mountains in most of the southern areas of the US the people who originally settled in those areas had some interesting names for landmarks and geological sites. One of those places lies across the trail; it's called Dead Woman's Hollow, and Dead Woman's Hollow Rd. crosses the trail and I just had to see it. I was really expecting to hear banjos and a mournful voice singing "The Long Black Veil", but I guess the ghost of that dead woman departed a long time ago. Still, I had to go see just for the novelty of it.

In any case, it was beautiful up there on the mountain and I brought you some pictures to look at. There are a lot, and 37 passed quality control. I'm just posting a few favorites here, but I'll leave you this link to go visit my Picasa web album where you can see all of them and click on the "slideshow" link to watch it that way.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures I liked the best. Enjoy!

There was a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers nesting under the eaves of the Birch Run Shelter
The trail runs through a fern break up on Big Flat Ridge
A mushroom growing along the trail
Walking through the woods on the Appalachian Trail
A Red-spotted Purple butterfly on Milkweed just off the trail on Ridge Rd.
© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Random Shots

Tomorrow I go up on the mountain and hike a short stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Today I went out and gathered up the rest of the stuff I needed - chewy granola bars and Snickers, a 5-foot wooden mop handle which will serve very well as a walking stick, and mosquito repellent. I took the back alleys and got some pictures while out and about. The first shot that looks like a farm way out in the country is actually planted smack in the middle of town, surrounded by housing and busy streets; it's off the end of a back alley called Hockersmith Ave. The flower garden is on Neff Ave. in the same backyard as the overgrown patio chair I shot last week. The last two shots are of South Mountain from the RR overpass on Baltimore Rd. That's where I'll be tomorrow and Thursday (and maybe Friday morning, too). Today is wet and very, very humid, as you can probably tell from those South Mountain shots; but there's a front moving through and the next few days will be much drier and cooler. Perfect weather for hiking! Whoopee!

Farm off Hockersmith Ave.
A flower garden on Neff Ave.
A view of South Mountain from Baltimore Rd.
A view of South Mountain from Baltimore Rd.
© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Getting Up Close

Day one of my eight-day vacation. I ambled lazily through it, grocery shopping and watching the World Cup finals. And of course on the way to the grocery store I went through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. I discovered that there were small things that wanted to be photographed, so I obliged them. The flowers were all shot in macro mode, but I had to use the zoom to get the butterflies; there were lots of winged critters around but none of them would let me get close enough to use the macro. Oh well... 

A Little Wood Satyr butterfly along the Dykeman Walking Trail
A Pearl Crescent butterfly along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Butter-and-Eggs, a wild variety of Snapdragon, in the upland meadow
Spotted Knapweed in the upland meadow
Red Trumpet Vine in the upland meadow
© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

This 'n' That Around Town

I didn't feel like getting up to much today (don't be alarmed, it's just laziness, not illness!), so I just wandered around town for a little and collected the following scenes. The birds are at the flat sunflower seed feeder in my backyard. And I liked that shot of the old, rusty patio chair overgrown by a runaway garden in both color and b&w. The last shot, of the layered mountain ridges, is something I see all the time; it's just that today I finally figured out how I wanted to shoot it. Enjoy!

The chow line at my flat feeder - a male Cardinal and a male House Sparrow
Found art in the back alleys of Shippensburg, the color version
Found art in the back alleys of Shippensburg, the b&w version
Three ridges converge - South Mountain from the RR overpass on Baltimore Rd.
© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Drama Overhead

We had a cold front move through yesterday evening. Blasted through is more like it - straight line winds up to 70 mph, horizontal rain, even some lightning and thunder. But it was still humid in the aftermath, and today there's a secondary front moving through to finally usher in cooler, drier air. The result of the secondary front moving through that humid air was some pretty dramatic clouds, especially looming up over the mountains. I went up to the upland meadow in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park to capture some of that drama. In black and white, of course; nothing else captures the drama of cumulonimbus clouds quite so well!





© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day 2014

America the Beautiful

Blue Mountain from the upland meadow in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park
A Turkey Vulture over the upland meadow
A view from the upland meadow
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 

Yes, faithful readers, it's that fateful day again. For those of you fairly new to this blog, I have a particularly loud bee in my bonnet, and I let it out for a spin every U.S. Independence Day (aka Fourth of July). That bee is - we need a new national anthem.

I don't like "The Star Spangled Banner". It's a chest-thumping, militaristic poem about a particular battle early in our history, set to a British drinking tune, which explains why it's so hard to sing - you have to be drunk to sing it, and that rise up to the high note (... o'er the laaaaand of the freeeeee...) was where they raised their flagons high in the pub and spilled beer all over themselves. It doesn't say anything about the country, the people, and what the country is all about. All it's about is barely winning one battle. And as the character Belize says in Tony Kushner's Angels in America: "The white cracker who wrote the National Anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word free to a note so high nobody could reach it." (Yes, Francis Scott Key, the "poet" who composed the lyrics, was pro South, pro slavery, from a slave-holding family from Carroll County, MD.)

My suggestion for a new national anthem is "America the Beautiful". The words were written by Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, in 1893 after a trip from Boston to Colorado Springs. The music was composed by Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster. Unlike "The Star Spangled Banner", "America the Beautiful" is meant to be sung in a reverent and respectful manner and actually praises America for its beauty and principles. Let's face it, it's just a much more pleasant song, both lyrically and musically, than the current national anthem.


And of course it wouldn't be my annual Fourth of July post without Ray Charles singing this song. Happy Fourth everybody!


© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lush

I took a walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park wetlands area this morning on the way to the grocery store. It's full Summer, and we've had enough of both heat and rain to make things very, very lush. While I was walking it started to rain, a very gentle Summer shower. So I found my favorite bench at the north end of the north duck pond under the big, old Norwegian Maple and settled down out of the wet to watch and listen. There was a beautiful serenade by a Cardinal, a Song Sparrow, and several Wood Thrushes. It was very serene and I almost hated to leave, but the rain moved off and it was time to get back to errands. Still, that brief stop by the pond settled and refreshed me, and now the rest of the week should be fine.

The wetlands in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park are very lush with all the heat and rain we've had lately.
Along the trail in the wetlands
Daylilies along the trail in the wetlands
Rushes beside the north duck pond in the rain
© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger