Friday, December 24, 2021

Born to Wander

     Bye, Bye Bernice was my 2015 farewell post to a remarkable woman. Bernice Ende (aka Lady Long Rider) had spent the winter of 2014-2015 in Fort Edward and was preparing to leave as spring approached. Her time here was but a brief chapter in a long sea to shining sea journey that covered some 8000 miles over two and a half years ... all on horseback.

     Now it's time to say a final farewell. Bernice Ende passed away on October 2, 2021 at her sister's house in New Mexico. Over her lifetime she logged more than 30,000 miles with a number of horses and her beloved dog Claire. For more on her extraordinary travels you can read her book, watch a movie about her and visit a website which remains up for the time being. 

     Gwenne, Holly and I visited her several times in the winter she spent here. What always struck me was how she was more interested in our lives, in what we were doing, than in talking about herself. She was a thoughtful, contemplative person but couldn't easily explain why she spent days in the saddle, nights on the ground. On her website she does mention four reasons for her travels: To encourage female leadership. To discover, learn and grow. It's her personal version of the oft repeated justification for climbing mountains: "Because it's there".

     We all develop our own individual relationship with place. For most it's about finding somewhere secure and nurturing to live out our lives, to raise our families. But not for everyone. Somewhere deep in our DNA is the nomad gene that urges us to wander, to see what is beyond the next hill. It's what lead us out of Africa, to explore every nook and cranny of our world and even to venture into space. It may someday be the end of us as our travels are now fueled by spewing carbon into the air and have become so efficiently globe-spanning that we can spread deadly virus's in a matter of days.

     That's why I'm thankful for those who show us how to scratch the wandering itch simply, quietly while doing no harm. Thankful for people like Bernice Ende. 

     * Joni Mitchell's poetic sensibility touches on the deep stirrings that send us roaming. Here's a link to her Urge For Going.   

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Shushan Shining Bright


     I've been to Eagleville a few times in recent days, tidying up our woodlot before hard winter sets in. Strange to be working in a tee-shirt in mid-December with temps in the 60's. I usually keep busy until it gets too dark to see. That's around 4:30 pm (right about the time I would start baling hay in the summer!). As dusk fades into night I relax with some coffee and watch the Moon rise over Snake Ridge, listening for the hoot of an owl above the quiet murmur of the Battenkill.

     It's a monochrome world as I start the drive home. A patchwork of fields and woods washed in pale moonlight. Then it's down the hill into Shushan where things get a bit more colorful. For the unfamiliar, Shushan is a 'blink and you missed it' gathering of a few dozen homes at the spot where two county roads cross paths. It's a place where you can momentarily forget what century you're in. There's a certain timeless coziness about it and I make sure I don't blink when passing thru because it never fails to put a smile on my face. 

     In a world that seems slowly wobbling out of control, I savor Shushan's quiet steadiness. And in the holiday season there's the bonus of cheery Christmas lights. They lured me to stop the other night and snap a few shots. Unfortunately my dime store point and shoot doesn't do the scenes justice. But maybe they're enough to inspire your own ramble thru the winter hills, with their hidden treasure of sparkling color. 


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Over the creek...into the forest

     I visited the Cambridge Community Forest for the first time recently. Right away I foresee a big problem. You have to cross a foot bridge over White Creek to access the woods, but the scene looking up the stream is so enchanting that it's hard to go any further. Visitors may never make it beyond this view unless they know there's many more treasures on the other side.

     The 140 acre property has been open to the public for less than a month but it has been several years getting to this point. The previous owners had managed it for timber production while also allowing the school to use the land for environmental education. When the property was put up for sale local citizens recognized a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately, the Agricultural Stewardship Association, with financial support from the Open Space Institute and several other organizations and individuals, came to the rescue. ASA typically holds easements on farmland but in this case they have title and will manage the forest with help from a Friends group and volunteers. 

     If you can pull yourself away from the view of White Creek you'll come to an attractive kiosk (hewn timbers and a slate roof!). From there several marked trails branch off with many more planned. An easy, level path parallels the water. Whimsical signs attached to trees make this a natural playground for younger children. In short order you come to a tributary rivulet that was gurgling briskly downhill after a day of heavy rain. We headed up along it exploring the phyllite rock  ledges before eventually finding the den of a well-fed porcupine (judging by the copious scat at its entrance).

     The forest is a mix of white pine groves and open hardwoods with hemlocks higher up. I believe Jared Woodcock (one of the spark plugs behind the creation of the Community Forest) will be doing some horse logging here from time to time. That will be fun to see. There are some existing skid roads from previous harvests. They are wide enough and just the right grade to make great ski runs. Bring on the snow!

     What's also intriguing is the possibility of a connecting trail between the Community Forest and the Mt.Tom State Forest which lies just a ways to the east. Wood products, wildlife and quiet recreation are the bounty of these rugged Taconic hills.

     Cambridge has long been one of my favorite destinations for running and biking, for paddling and swimming. The Community Forest just makes it that much sweeter. And speaking of sweet, if you go on a Sunday morning be sure to stop at Kings Donut Cart. We picked up some amazing almond and walnut croissants. The farmers market is on Sunday as well. There's also a brew pub, several restaurants and a number of interesting shops in town. It takes a village (especially one with a community forest) to make a great getaway. 

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     Note that you park a short ways from the bridge and walk down Rockside Drive to enter the forest. Turn off Rt. 22 onto Rt. 313 and the parking area is a quick right turn (see map on right). On the trail map at left the blue and orange trails are marked and easy to follow. The green trails are planned for the future so wandering up there would be more of a bushwhack at this time.

     Here's a link to a video about the forest.