Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York. January, Frozen Puddles on Brink Hill.






This is my third winter this year.

It has something to do with hemispheres.

My sister, the science nerd, tells me it involves planetary Tilt & Wobble.

And I believe her, because it does feel like a time of great uncertainty and instability.

Sometimes I question the whole setup of this planet.   Why can’t we all just get along, and everyone could have winter at the same time?

Basically, most of us trust that the world keeps spinning and orbiting, I guess, but based on impartial scientific observation, days of tedium are too long, other times the good days speed by, leading me to question the constancy of the Earth’s revolution.

Gravity seems pretty predictable, and generally OK, until I slip on the ice and come down hard, landing somewhere south of the equator, and then think — why don’t we set things up like on the moon, with 83.3% less gravity (just looked it up).   I mean, just lighten up a bit.

Not really sure tectonic plates make a lot of sense.  Back in 1915, with a world war and so many horrible things already underway, a German geologist named Alfred Wegener somehow thought it a good idea to start up “continental drift”.

Not many people feel comfortable having huge land masses skating around.  It’s resulted in rifts.

“Continental” has come to connote a certain sophistication, but the sense of uncertainty has lead to earthquakes, very minimal breakfasts in hotels, the instability of the Weimar Republic, etc.

On a positive note, my sister also tells me that every year, I’m an inch closer to Hong Kong and Singapore.

But this is science, and there’s apparently a law about an equal and opposite reaction.  We draw closer to Asia, but the moon is moving away from Earth, did you know that??

You’ve probably sensed we’ve grown more distant and chilly — we never visit anymore.

Without that dynamic relationship, that old devil moon circling around us like a dynamo, this planet’s magnetic shields won’t hold forever.  We’ll be pelted with radiation, and comets and so on, most of which are, for pete’s sake, big chunks of ice, like we need more ice around here.

We’re also told that there’s this continuing issue with “geomagnetic pole reversal”.  Which is bound to upset Vladimir Putin, now that he owns the North Pole, when it suddenly flips to the other end of the planet.

If you call the United Nations’ IT department about these threats to global stability, they just tell you, try rebooting, and put you on hold.

I could go on with scientific stuff like this, but today’s concern:  as a minor side effect of traveling between the northern and southern hemispheres – – I’m currently living through my third winter in a row, meaning, almost continual winter for the better part of a year.

First, Milwaukee, a town where winter doesn’t kid around.  Wisconsin can be breathtaking.  Not in the sense of being beautiful, but literally so cold it’s hard to breathe some days.

Then Chile, in the foothills of the Andes, not snowy in my region, but with countless icy showers (both outside, and at my unheated hostel).  More than twice the rainfall of home, and mostly as a long chilly monsoon.

Third, back home in Upstate New York.


Upstate New Yorkers rival the Aleuts in snow and ice expertise.

The Eskimo terminology may be larger and more detailed, but the NY Winter Vocabulary is more colorful and emphatic, and on occasion, has actually been known to melt things.  It’s audible from the cars in ditches, pedestrians careening down icy sidewalks in the teeth of the gale, and homeowners shoveling out their driveways for the third time in 24 hours.  The weather may be frigid, but we’re a hot-blooded, short-tempered crowd during the ice age.



Abandoned farm road, now within a state forest.

Actually, although I do not camp in the winter, neither am I discontented.

I enjoy winter, and am more active in the colder temperatures, than when it’s hot.

We’ve been hiking a bit in the Southern Tier (bordering Pennsylvania), which hasn’t had much snowfall yet this year, and some unusual warm spells.



Everyone is entitled to change their mind sometimes. I guess this former farm road decided it would rather be a creek bed.


The beautiful fall leaves are now mostly faded to brown, dark russet, and dull yellow, so the winter woods are pretty drab without the snow.

The ravines often have hemlocks, survivors of the forests that were cut up for lumber in the nineteenth century.  I love hemlocks, and their subtle fragrance, but on a gray day, with no snow, they can make for a dark and melancholy woods.

And our last two walks went through stretches of tangled second-growth — former farms that went belly-up during the Depression and were replanted with pines by the CCC or the state.

Sometimes, after eighty years, the abandoned pastures and fields have returned to being groves of mature maple, ash, and shagbark hickory, and are pretty nice woodlands.

Other times, former apple orchards are now a nasty tangle of black raspberry brambles, wild grapevines, and spiky hawthorns. The decaying apple trees are decidedly unlovely, and the thorny crap always seems to be trying to choke off the trail, cut up your hands, and stick something sharp through the seat of your pants when you’re not looking.

So, you cannot always be someplace beautiful and picturesque.  And it’s all good.  I watched my footing, and began admiring the patterns in the ice on the little pools and puddles of the old roads.




The cycle of freezing and thawing has given the ice an opportunity for experimentation with a lot of different shapes and textures.  I just had a cellphone with me, but took some pictures to give an idea of what I’m talking about.




Usually the ice crystals around here are pretty, well, crystalline – – sharp-edged Art Deco/Jazz Age.




But this week, maybe because I’ve been looking at architecture from the turn of the last century, the streams and puddles around here seem to have a definite Art Nouveau look to them.








34 thoughts on “Pictures of Upstate New York. January, Frozen Puddles on Brink Hill.

  1. Those photographs came out amazingly well considering you were just using a cellphone. Good point about Vladimir Putin and the dangers of geomagnetic pole reversal, by the way. Of course, at least he’ll not longer have to worry about NATO. The name will have to be changed to SATO.

  2. Very interesting and enlightening post. The photos are delicious too. We are having a very mild winter in the UK – no snow to speak of and it has been raining mostly. Coming from Ontario I really miss cold winters and lots of snow…

    • We’re actually getting quite a bit of rain, and not snow, right now, everyone here is in shock (but also kind of glad to not be shoveling) But I do know what you mean, there’s always some snow-covered days that stop everyone in their tracks to admire how beautiful it is.
      I was going to run up to Ottawa this winter, probably passing through Cornwall, but the Museum of Civilization & the national art gallery are pretty much closed, getting renovated and ready for the 150th celebrations this summer. But maybe can manage a couple of days in Montreal, if the weather allows.

  3. Yes I remembered, that would be exciting after all that time! The country has added new population from all over the world, some places like Gananoqueway (spelling?) don’t seem to have changed, but I bet your hometown has grown

  4. See? This is what happens when I leave things open in tabs. About every two weeks, I plow through to see what I’ve left lying around, and I’m always chagrined to see what I didn’t come back to after I pulled the cat from the dryer, or convinced a friend she should NOT buy that annuity. This was your time. Sigh.

    Anyway: your ice photos are terrific, and your musings on the state of our planet are a nice tonic for someone who’s grown utterly weary of — well, of a good bit. When the folks calling in to Coast to Coast in the middle of the night sound more reasonable than much of the press, it’s probably time to head to the woods and appreciate the ice. I wasn’t as fond of the last photo, but I mostly don’t ilke blue. The others? They could live on my wall quite nicely.

    Speaking of the woods, I perked right up when I heard “hemlock.” To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a hemlock tree, but I’d love to be introduced to one. I want to know if Longfellow was right, and they really do murmur (along with the pines, of course.) Primeval forest beats evil anything, any time.

    One thing’s for sure. I know who winter-napped our season. We always have a nice, cold mid-December to early February, and this year I had only two mornings with ice in the bird baths and plants in the living room. Of course, plant-dragging’s not at the top of my list, so that’s ok. The good news is, if you stay put, you probably can avoid another winter: at least for a few months.

    • I’m always very glad to hear from you and learn your reactions, Linda! And my cat goes in the dryer, too.
      You mentioned one time, you were considering a column on the flora & fauna of roadside ditches – maybe I’ll specialize in potholes & puddles, and my artistic oeuvre can be mud. (I had to look that French word up, never realized it’s the same as those little fancy appetizers.)
      Hemlocks are one of my favorites, but I keep that quiet, don’t want the other evergreens to pine.
      Here is a surprise – I’m currently in summer. I’m supposed to be working and saving up for grad school, but by random good luck, a student tour to the Galapagos had an extra slot and let me tag along, got a last-minute cheap flight to Quito for 1/2 the cost of going to see relatives in the US. So I grabbed it, on my way, and it’s about 70 degrees, and yes, I’m feeling like a pretty lucky guy right now.

  5. Now, that’s poetry! And speaking of ash and mud, I finally found a section of prairie today that was burned only six days ago, and accessible. I spent all afternoon wandering around just looking, and by the time I was done, you can’t believe what a mess I was. I needed boots rather than hiking boots, and a change of clothes wouldn’t have hurt, and somehow I got ash inside my camera, and…. Oh, my. But all’s well.

    I couldn’t believe that there already was some growth taking place. it’s a good thing I got down there today, or I would have lost my chance to photograph the bare prairie.

    • I don’t know much about prairies, saw a restoration of one in Indiana one time, and didn’t know any the plants. I guess they’re designed to survive and thrive after grass fires sweep through? Sound interesting.

      • That’s right, and that’s why fire is used as a tool for prairie management. Fire used to be natural. When we started supressing it, invasive, woody plants moved in, and now it’s used as a tool to get rid of them where prairie restoration is the goal.

        Some grasses have roots that go six feet deep, and the fire (as I recall) moves so quickly that they aren’t disturbed at all. The heat only goes about an inch into the soil.

        • They were talking about a controlled burn in the Montezuma refuge, a big swamp near here, a couple of years ago, to get rid of the purple loosestrife, that was pushing out the cattails. And I think, before they could get it organized, a lightning strike or cigarette started a fire anyway, so that worked out ok.
          I saw grass roots like that in a museum — the topsoil in the northeast is only 4-6 inches, don’t think any local plants here have 6′ roots like that!

  6. Your photos of this and other recent posts chill me to the bone and bring back memories of waiting for the school bus in those impossibly cold winter mornings in Rome, NY. My lungs still hurt just recalling those brittle, arctic years. — Stay warm! – Douglas

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s