Friday, July 29, 2016

An Abundance of Wildlife

We actually had rain yesterday and overnight last night, and there may be more coming on the weekend. This seems to have awakened some of the critters in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park out of their heat-and-drought-induced midsummer torpor, especially the turtles, who tend to sink to the bottom of any deeper water and bury themselves in the muddy bottom until things cool off. Here are some of the residents of the park who sat still long enough for a portrait.

This Eastern Cottontail was sitting in the middle of the Dykeman Walking Trail daring me to keep walking
A Common Whitetail dragonfly in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A Painted Turtle sunning on the bog pool next to the north duck pond
This particularly large and ancient Snapping Turtle, who I call The Behemoth, had just come up for a breath of air, with the mud of the bottom still on his back
This Green Heron flew up out of the wetland into this tree to hide from me, and kept a wary eye on me for quite a while
A Variegated Fritillary butterfly in the upland meadow
My new Summer hat, a handwoven palm hat from Tula Hats out of Austin, TX
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, July 24, 2016


"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you." – Nathaniel Hawthorn

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." – Rabindranath Tagore

A Red Admiral in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A pair of Silver-spotted Skippers in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A Cabbage White in the upland meadow of the Dykeman Spring Nature Park
Photos © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

There and Back Again (with apologies to Bilbo Baggins)

"He [Bilbo Baggins] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'"- Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

So when I was planning my vacation for this week one of the first things that popped into my head was to finally walk the entire Cumberland Valley Rail Trail from Shippensburg to Newville, something I've wanted to do ever since I first discovered it. And looking at the weather forecast for the week, yesterday stood out as perfect for hiking - cooler than the rest of the week, with low humidity. So at 6:00 yesterday morning I headed out.

It was a great hike. Lots of things to take pictures of, interesting bits of history learned from the information posts they have along the trail, and new vistas to look at in the part of the trail I hadn't walked yet. But I made a mistake deciding to walk up to Newville and then walk back; that's 10 miles (16 km) up and 10 miles back, a 20 mile (32 km) total. I figured if I took a long, maybe half an hour, break to eat lunch and relax at the Newville trailhead everything would work out. More fool me!

The 10-mile walk up was fine. I was a little footsore, but not markedly so. I took my boots off and ate lunch, and then stretched out on the picnic table bench and rested in the shade. Then after that half hour rest I put my boots on and started to head back. After just two miles my feet were hurting, but the nearest bench in the shade was about 3 miles down, so I made it to that and took a rest with the boots off again. And I continued that way all the way back to Shippensburg. By the time I got home my feet were killing me, my hips and calves were complaining, and I was so tired I think I might have looked drunk as I slowly made my way through town to my home.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes. Age definitely puts limits on activity, and at 63 it looks like 20-mile hikes are beyond those limits. Ten mile hikes are fine, though. Also, some of the problem was due to the fact that my new hiking boots weren't as broken in as I thought they were (well, they're broken in now!), so the lesson in that is to wear only well-seasoned boots on long hikes. And finally, if I ever want to visit the entire Rail Trail again, I need to make arrangements with someone either to meet me in Newville and give me a ride home or drop me off at Newville and I'll walk the trail back to Shippensburg.

After a good night's sleep I'm back to normal today; I expected to be stiff in the hips and legs, but that doesn't seem to have happened. And I've gone through the shots I took and processed the ones I liked best, so here they are for your pleasure. Enjoy!

Looking north across the valley in the early morning
The Sensenig's Purple Martin high rise (at Duncan Rd.) is certainly full up and busy!
Another view of farms and mountains
A spiderweb along the Rail Trail
This brave little Chipmunk waited until I was almost up to him before he scuttled off
This baby Eastern Cottontail also waited until I was right up to him; he didn't take off until some bicyclists came whizzing by
Fields and mountains - a typical Cumberland Valley scene
A serene pastoral scene captured during one of my rest stops on the way back home
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Backyard Gardens

There are several cool gardens along Shippensburg's back alleys which I like to watch progress through the growing season, and now is about the time when they hit their peak. There's a vegetable garden featuring Sunflowers raised for their seeds out back behind the Church of the Nazarene, and there's a gorgeous little garden just up Lutz Ave. from Memorial Lutheran that mixes flowers, veggies, and fruits (i.e. grapes). Plus some flower plantings along the way that caught my attention. Take a look!

A BIG Sunflower in the Nazarene garden; that one will yield lots of seeds!
The flowers in the Lutz Ave. garden, including some Hummingbird feeders at the back
Grape vines are grown as a sort of screen along the street side of the garden; looks like there's a good crop of grapes coming this year.
And here's the vegetable part of that garden. I'll bet the eating is good at that house!
Covering a fence with flowers along Lutz Ave.
And another garden with plenty of perennials, which are good, low maintenance beauties 
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Sunday Morning Service

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,
I keep it staying at Home—
With a bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome.
- Emily Dickinson

I went to my "church" this morning - Nature. And specifically the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. Since I'm on vacation I took my time and spent a leisurely 3 hours wandering, sitting, and meditating. Join me in absorbing the beauty of Nature, basking in Mama Gaia's glory.

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow greeted me at the beginning of the nature trail
Cool, running water is always a welcome sight on a hot Summer morning
My pew this morning was a bench under a Black Locust. This is the upward view
Reflections on the north duck pond do very well as a stained glass window
Going up to the upland meadow you need to climb this stairway
The hay path on the meadow. I always expect to see a Conestoga wagon on it
"For purple mountains' majesty" - the northern mountains from the meadow
A Cabbage White butterfly on the upland meadow
Coming back down the hill to sit by the pond again; it's the ducks' lunchtime
A Common Whitetail dragonfly, a parting gift from Mama Gaia as I head for home
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Walk in a Drying Wetland

It's day one of my 9-day vacation, and after doing some laundry this morning I decided that, despite the heat and humidity, I needed to take at least a short walk. So I popped over to the Brookside Ave. wetland, which feeds Burd Run midway through its path from South Mountain to Middle Spring Creek. And I discovered that this very dry Summer has had quite an effect on the wetland.

Despite the prevailing humidity, there really hasn't been any useful, soaking rain since May. There have been pop-up showers and thunderstorms created by the effect of Summer heat and sunshine on humid air, but those only dump their load and disappear, and the rain they dump is gone almost as soon as it falls. It can create some flash flooding, but that quickly runs off into the local creeks and flows away to the Susquehanna River. What's needed is a good day or two (or three or four) of soaking rain. But we haven't had that since Spring.

So when I arrived at the wetland I found that despite the green and the flowers the water level in the collection pond and in Burd Run itself are very, very low. In fact, the pond is almost completely dry, with only a few of the deeper parts still holding any water, and most of them are greening up with algae. And no ducks or geese or herons; there are plenty of regular birds (the Red-winged Blackbirds and the House Wrens were complaining at me the whole time I was there), but the only waterfowl or marsh birds that were there were a crowd of Killdeer on the dried flats of the pond and in the adjacent farm fields. It's dry, folks! We definitely need a good rain!

The collection pond is very, very dry!
Cattails and flowers in the wetland
At one point the path around the pond is overrun by flowers
The water level is way down in Burd Run, too
Daisy Fleabane in the wetland
A Common Wood Nymph butterfly among the Spotted Knapweed blooms
Another look at how dry the collection pond is
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Shippensburg Pastorale

When I woke up this morning I had no idea what I'd do with today, my second day off of two. I knew I wanted to hike somewhere, but I couldn't decide where. Then I discovered it was the birthday of English Pastoral composer George Butterworth (more on him and a sample of his music after the photos), and in searching out music videos of his work on YouTube to post on Facebook I was inspired to consider a hike in an area I haven't visited in a while. So today I bring you scenes from an area west and slightly south of town, going out Possum Hollow Rd. to Mt. Rock Rd., out Mt. Rock to Rice Rd. and down Rice to Molly Pitcher Highway (Rt. 11) and home. Lots of farms, flowers, and views of both North and South Mountains. Enjoy!

A cornfield along Possum Hollow Rd.
A pasture becomes a field of flowers (mostly Chicory and Queen Anne's Lace) along Possum Hollow Rd.
Farms and South Mountain from Possum Hollow Rd.
Looking toward North Mountain from Mt. Rock Rd.
One farmer's inventive way of clearing a field after haying, along Rice Rd.
A pastoral scene along Rice Rd.
One more pastoral scene, this one along Molly Pitcher Highway on the way back home
George Sainton Kaye Butterworth (1885 - 1916) was a friend of Ralph Vaughan Williams and with Vaughan Williams and Gerald Finzi, Gustav Holst, and others a member of what I like to call the English Pastoral school - music based on collected English folksongs and composed as paeans to the English countryside. In fact, Butterworth and Vaughan Williams used to go on folksong collecting voyages along the country roads of Great Britain together, and it was Butterworth who convinced Vaughan Williams to compose his first symphony. Butterwoth's music is the epitome of the pastoral style of the "school", but we have only few works from him; like many of the artistic lights of his generation he was killed in WWI, specifically in the Battle of the Somme, which swallowed up so very much of Britain's youth. "Two English Idylls" (1911) is one of the best examples of George Butterworth's English Pastoral style. Enjoy!

Photos © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, July 11, 2016

More Wildflower Portraits

Another picture-perfect Summer morning + another stroll through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park with the camera = more macro portraits of wildflowers. There are flowers everywhere!

Queen Anne's Lace
White Campion
Hedge Bindweed
Pale Touch-Me-Not
Spotted Knapweed
Nodding Thistle
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger