Sunday, March 22, 2009

Springtime Greetings

Today is the 21st of March, springtime. It was a warm 13 degrees this morning and made 39 degrees by afternoon. Early plants are coming up around the house even with single digit numbers due this week. Don’t put the warm clothes away yet. Snow geese were flying by today with a slightly different call than the Canada geese also traveling north. Our stream called Mill Creek is in it’s high spring flood moving large chunks of ice down toward the West Canada Creek. The water will empty into the Mohawk river and on to the Hudson to meet the ocean as it goes by New York city in a week or so.

This week I spent a day on snowshoes gathering Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) a fungus that grows on Birch trees. In the Adirondacks, yellow birch is a common forest tree. I love the forest this time of the year. Clear, bright open forest lands with yellow or golden birch trees make gathering such a pleasure. I also made a gallon of Black birch oil from branches smaller than one inch! The oil is in a ceramic pot at 95 degrees for a week or so. It smells of wintergreen and is used in many of our creams. I will be collecting many other barks over the next two months. I will talk of them as I collect and process the many types. The other fun thing happening is Maple syrup . I have friends that make great syrup just a few miles from us and it is a wonderful tradition. Gathering the sap, and cooking it down is a lot of work but so rich an experience that we look forward to it as a spring marker. Kate thinks of the sap as a sweet spring tonic. Cold nights and warm sunny days are the forecast that makes the sap run. Time to go.

Take care Don

Friday, March 20, 2009

The point of winter camping for me is applying my deepest understanding of my physical being, my relationship to nature and the desire to reach for the quiet landscape to find my own inner peace. The deep cold, the winter light, the frozen landscape all are in a deep state of quiet. I find the same quiet in a meditative practice and enjoy being immersed in wild natural settings. The practical lessons I learn in winter camping are about how the body works in adverse conditions. I can fell my inner physical metabolism working in a clear way and can find a balance of stoking the inner flame of my body. Winter camping is challenging and rewarding on so many levels. I love it.

Winter in the Adirondacks brings some migrating visitors to our land. We have had Pine Grosbeaks, Red-wing Blackbirds, Purple Finches, Black and Whites, Red Poles, Evening Grosbeaks, and Red Crossbills moving thru. Ravens are in courtship and the birds that are year round neighbors are beginning to sing their spring songs. We have yearly visit from a Barred Owl that perches near the house during the day. The Canada geese are heading north and snow geese have arrived at a local grainfield. I love seeing these pure white geese, with their different call, flying north. We have a pair of Ravens that nest on the land every year and they are mating in the tall spruce and balsam firs around us. Spring is slowly coming to us in the northlands.

Take care, Don

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

As I move slowly through the winter forest I look up to see the huge form of Blue mountain dominating the north west sky. I am pulling a sled with equipment for a three day winter camping trip. Three friends also are harnessed to their sleds pulling along the trail with snowshoes on.
The temp is 15 degrees and the wind is about 20 mph out of the northwest.
Our destination is an open shelter at the south end of Terrell Pond in the Blue mountain wilderness. We are expecting three days of windy cold with lows to 10 below at night. Terrell Pond is a mile long, laying north and south its long and narrow shape. Our trail in is a four mile pull over gently rolling landscape with a number of stream crossings with some running water to add a challenge to our trip. The sleds are long and thin to fit into the snowshoe trail we make and weigh about 45 pounds. Our gear includes a large tarp of white cotton to cover the open side of the shelter and a small pack stove (wood burning) to heat the shelter to a comfortable 40 to 45 degrees. Good food and winter clothing fill out our packs of gear. For winter camping, high energy food and lots of liquids are necessary to stay warm. Keeping your clothing dry is also very important.
The trip in takes more time to complete and we arrive with daylight fading to a winter rose color sky, temps dropping and much work to be done. We work on setting camp, cutting a night's supply of firewood, obtaining water and preparing dinner. A small propane lamp provides a warm light as night falls and we settle in to warm dry clothes for the night. Good spirits all around prevail after a long day on the trail. The wood stove sings a song of warmth as the deep silence of the north woods settles around us. Good down bags, wool caps and one man to stoke the stove through the night help make our dreams warm.
The morning comes bright with sun and clear skies. Today is a day for skiing the pond and just being in this deep quiet world. We share this space with the wild, year-round snowshoe hares, coyotes, fishers, otters and many kinds of birds. So the trip goes on with a sad return to our world of busy details and of happy return to home and loved ones. More on the trip and winter thoughts and sightings soon. Best to you, Don. Late February 2009