The Black Diamond Trail is a nice option for walkers and bikers in the Finger Lakes, near Cayuga Lake.  It’s a new railroad bed conversion, running eight miles between Cass Park in Ithaca, NY and Taughannock Falls Park, in Trumansburg.  Eventually it will continue south to Treman Park, another eight miles or so.

The trail’s name refers to coal – – the north-south railroads in the Finger Lakes generally ran coal from Pennsylvania, to ships on Lake Ontario, and thence to sooty places around the world.  This particular route of the Lehigh Valley RR also had a luxurious “Black Diamond” passenger service from NYC to Ithaca, and then on to Niagara Falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve sometimes been, well, not entirely complimentary about sumacs. In autumn, they’re quite often looking like the tattered and hungover remnants of a Mardi Gras parade. But they’re unfailingly colorful in the fall, and can look pretty darn elegant in summertime, too.

 

 

The south (Ithaca) end of the trail is a bit dull.  A powerline is overhead for a mile, and the cars on Route 89 are visible through the trees.

Serious bikers streak past, unsmiling, bug-eyed goggles, spandex and sinew, their tee-shirts advertising an obscure microbrewery in Rochester.  The beers and ales are a bit too hopped-up, and the cyclists too, pretty much oblivious to the waterfalls, wildflowers and views of Cayuga Lake.

 

 

 

 

The aged hippies from Trumansburg glide by at a more sedate pace, on recumbent bikes or ancient Schwinns, “Uncle John’s Band” and “Touch of Gray” audible from their headphones.  They wave, stop to look at the little streams, comb a few bugs out of their gray beards, and offer you a sip of homemade kombucha.  They’re nice, but I don’t drink, afraid I might wake up under a tree, like Rip Van Winkle, wearing mossy old bellbottoms and “California Dreamin” running through my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very soon, the trail becomes nicer. The powerline decides to head west, and it’s just trees overhead.  The trail moves farther and farther from the highway.  An unmarked but well-beaten footpath goes up the hill, alongside a nice stream with lots of little falls.

 

 

 

 

After a while, as we go up the hill, a sound like passing trains or traffic starts coming through the trees.  Past an old picnic area with stone tables, and we’ve come out behind the county hospital.  Huge air conditioners are making the rushing sound.

 

 

 

 

 

Going back down the hill toward the rail-trail, a side trail is covered with matchstick-sized fungus.  Tiny but creepy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re unmoving, but we walk around them, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Ithaca, Nature, NY, Railroads, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. August. Matchstick Army on the Black Diamond Trail

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In a state chockablock with wonderful parks, Fillmore Glen is one of the best. It’s fairly small, under a thousand acres – basically a cool, shady little gorge, with a series of waterfalls and miniature bridges. Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born near here, and there’s a replica of his log cabin birthplace. He grew up dirt poor, son of a tenant farmer, and the park was constructed by other poor folks, in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. They did an amazing job – picnic pavilions and a lot of the stonework retaining walls, etc. have survived from the 1930’s, despite a number of floods over the years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woods reflected in a pond. It was very still, but there are small ripples throughout the picture, if you look closely.  Last year, they gave a Nobel to some scientists who were able to detect infinitesimal ripples – apparently just good vibrations are surfing through the whole darn universe all the time now.  I have sometimes felt a tingling sensation up my spine, and thought it was the anticipation of eating a jelly doughnut after the hike, but it could be Einstein’s gravitational waves.  Far out, dude, feeling totally amped about this whole ripple thing.

 

 

a picture of exuberance

 

 

 

OK, not taken in August, but the only picture I could find of the first bridge.

 

 

A close call, encountering the dreaded Dark Newt of Doom, and barely surviving. “Only these marishes and myrie bogs, In which the fearefull ewftes do build their bowres, Yeeld me an hostry mongst the croking frogs …”  (The Faerie Queen)

 

 

 

Seriously, can you imagine this little creature inspiring dread? Shame on Spenser for kicking up a skink, perhaps he was thinking of Warty Newts, or had a bad experience with salamanders, after a night tossing back mulled wine.  I know Renaissance folks associated newts and efts with sorcery, but personally, I’m always delighted to spot these cute little guys, and the Eastern Newts really are this bright and colorful, almost fluorescent.

 

 

Toward sunset, the fungi almost seem to glow a bit. Has anyone seen foxfire? I’ve seen bioluminescence in the ocean, but never in the woods.

 

 

 

 

Fillmore Glen is just outside of Moravia, NY, at the south end of Owasco Lake, one of the eastern Finger Lakes.  It’s a sleepy little village, but it produced the industrialist John D. Rockefeller, a U.S. President, and the first president of Cornell University.

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. August, Fillmore Glen

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Have you ever experienced a recurring dream?

I have one, that comes to me during ragweed season.

I find myself walking and walking in the country.

Trees and plants, woods and fields, hills and dales.

There are people with me, walking and talking, talking and talking, talking of stalking, pointing and gesticulating.

In the dream, I don’t know the time, but I know it’s very early.  Too early for all this gesticulating – I can’t even say that word, at this early hour.  Hand-waving, then, and sounds like they’re speaking in Latin.  Are we monks??  I don’t understand any of it.

Then I hear a voice say clearly “…The F Stop…” and I look around for a bus.  But there isn’t any, so we keep walking.  I don’t know what time it is, but I know somehow, that it’s early, and we’re rambling in the grayness of Pre-Noon – that horrible, fuzzy zone that exists before lunchtime.

Without looking, I can tell my socks don’t match.  One feels like it’s wool, knee-high, and itchy.  I don’t own any socks like that.

It’s at that point, the slow dawning horror comes over me, as I become aware, that I’m not dreaming.

I’m actually awake, out and about at this ungodly hour, hiking apparently, and have fallen among  some roving cult of naturalists, botanists, forest-bathers, and photographers.  Why does this keep happening.  Apparently sometime last night, once again, I agreed to an Early Morning Nature Walk.  Don’t remember.  Don’t remember if anyone thought to give me breakfast first, or brunch, like decent, civilized people.  Don’t remember signing on to wander around in the shrubbery and thickets of binomial nomenclature.

But that explains the people in my dream, talking in Latin.  And the “F Stops” – the photographer has us straying through sodden “Depths of Field” or suchlike, and my socks are soggy.

Ragweed Season.  I don’t sleep well, and I don’t do awake so well, either.  I’m stumbling along, coked to the gills on antihistamines, Echinacea, Sudafed, Mucinex.  Just let the mosquitoes drink as much of my blood as they want.  They try to fly off, but then the Benadryl hits, and they drop from the sky like stones.

Walking at breakfast time.  Dogwoods, but no doughnuts, fritillaries, but no frittatas.  Someone offers me a handful of Dragon’s Tongues.  They’re surprisingly tiny and green.  It seems like the dream-state is resuming.  But “dragon’s tongues” turns out to be a mixture of grape vine tendrils and the leaves of a flowering mustard plant, they call “wild arugula.”  Not bad!  The grape tendrils are delicious, kind of lemony.  Someone pulls out a thermos and gives me some coffee.

I open my eyes, and it’s a pretty nice day!   Nature’s not so bad, really, as long as the plant life includes coffee beans and tea leaves.

 

x

 

 

Pollen thy name is Legion

 

breakfast, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

It’s always a cakewalk in ragweed time.

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“Still Life with Fungus & Poison Ivy”

 

I know, these pictures look like a nature walk with the Addams Family.  I’m enjoying the fresh new foliage and spring flowers as much as anyone, really, but on a recent hike, it was the tree fungi that caught my eye.

Doesn’t the 2nd shot looks like Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge cake)?

I also wondered about the minimalist spider web in the 3rd shot.  I once saw photos of spiderwebs, after the spiders had been given various drugs (OK, I guess it’s occurred to all of us to do that).  The caffeine web was jazzy, random, frenetic-looking.  The LSD web, as I remember, was unnaturally perfect.

Apparently nibbling on this fungus leads to a lack of ambition and inability to complete tasks?

Or just a desire to simplify and try something new, even if you don’t catch any juicy bugs that way.

 

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

A Fetching Flock of Fungus for Friday. Pictures of Upstate New York. May.

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Ithaca, Nature, NY, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York ~ March ~ It’s Spring! Breaking Out the Lawn Furniture

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, photography, snow, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York ~ March ~ A small waterfall on Enfield Creek

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant

Last summer, after a wet spell, I posted some pictures of colorful specimens of toadstools and other fungi, sprouting all over the local woods.

I also included this shot, of a strange non-fungus, “monotropa uniflora,”  called by various names like “Ghost Plant,” “Indian Pipe,” or “Ghost Pipe.”

 

I would not care to hear whatever dark and sinister tune might whisper out of these pale ghost pipes.

From a distance, it has a pale, porcelain prettiness, and the stems are a rather nice pink, but on closer inspection, the overall effect is of an unhealthy, repellent fleshiness.  But perhaps I’m just projecting, because of its vampirish lifestyle.

A lot of fascinating info on Tom Volk’s Fungus Web Page.

[http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi]

My first surprise, was to find out that it’s a herbaceous perennial plant, and somehow related to much more cheerful plants:

cranberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries!

Seems like it would be a strained relationship.

That pale, creepy Uncle Fester we never discuss when the young blueberries are around.

Not only did we find it growing amidst the various fungi, but like them, it lacks chlorophyll.

A parasitic existence, living on fungi.

It’s host fungi, in turn, have a symbiotic relationship to trees, often beeches.

Professor Volk mentions a “one-way flow of carbohydrates,” which immediately brought an image of me in a pasta restaurant.

Given its somewhat creepy appearance, and parasitic nature, its not surprising to find another, creepy, nickname,

“Corpse Plant.”

 

I’ve only seen it a couple of times in my life, and was surprised to find it again, embedded in greenish glass, in the Corning Glass Museum!

This is an amazing glass creation by Paul Stankard, “Cloistered Tri-Level Botanical with Indian Pipe Flower and Spirits”

I’m sorry it’s not a better picture, I photographed it inside a glass case, which could have used a wash.  We know which visitors are making things smeary, we can identify their fingerprints.

 

But if you look closely, you can make out the spirits on the underside of this strange plant.

 

 

Here’s a link to a better image, on the museum website

[www.cmog.org/artwork/cloistered-tri-level-botanical-indian-pipe-flower-and-spirits]

Apparently Native Americans discovered a number of medicinal uses, including a root tea, used as a sedative and soporific.

I don’t experiment with such things, and in this case, doesn’t it look like, as a sleeping aid, it might just work a bit too well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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