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Taughannock closeup

 

 

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In Trumansburg, NY, flowing into Cayuga Lake, a few miles north of Ithaca.

Thirty feet taller than Niagara Falls (but a bit less water)

The name “Taughannock” is apparently not Iroquois, but most likely Leni Lenape (aka Delaware, an Algonquin tribe).  I’ve heard many explanations for the word, from “large waterfall in the woods,” to the name of a Delaware chief, to “Better get out and carry your canoe for a bit“.

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. Taughannock Falls, Fall and Winter.

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

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

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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

 

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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.

 

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This is not a particularly colorful shot, but I just like this stretch of the creek,

I guess in part, because this is the farthest upstream I’ve been.

So your imagination can create whatever it wants, past that bend.

(Pretty sure it’s just cow pastures, but still…when the picture was taken, I didn’t anticipate posting it from South America, so who knows what’s up around the bend.)

“It’s easy to go around the bend, but hard to see around the corner.”

 

 

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. Fall Creek, November

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An old railway bed near Canandaigua, NY.

Autumn, FLX, hiking, NY, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. Late Afternoon, Early November.

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. Lucifer Falls. All Hallow’s Eve ’13.

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Waterloo

Pictures of Upstate New York in October. Staghorn Sumac

 

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Sumac

Not really presenting this post as a Fabulous Fall Foliage Photo Folio (please, say those last five words three times fast) – more as an advertisement for a neglected part of autumn.

Sumac is often scrubby and undistinguished, and every fall, I realized that it’s rarely mentioned, when people are exclaiming over the maples and aspens or whatever.

Kind of a mutt – – too leggy and sprawling to be used as a shrub in your yard, but seems too small to be a real “tree.” It usually grows like a big clump of weeds – – in neglected corners of fields, along roadways and railroad beds, or behind barns.

 

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I read up on it a bit, and find that in other countries, the dried “fruit” is used as a lemony spice.  I’ve never heard of anyone using the North American version in this way. But I’ve been informed, that I’ve eaten it, and liked it:  it’s a key ingredient in  Middle Eastern “za’atar” seasoning (there’s a lot of versions, but thyme, sesame seed, and dried sumac seem to be the constants).

Just try saying “Za’atar!  Sumac!  Sesame!”  out loud, and see if it doesn’t sound pretty cool and exotic.

img_2902The only use I can think of for its wood:  kids cut it into foot-long sections, push out the pithy center, and use it for pea-shooters.

 

I’ve also read that Native Americans used the sections as pipe-stems, but I don’t know if this is true.

The Iroquois tribes around this area, grew beans, corn, and squash, but not peas, so I guess the pea-shooter idea was of no use to them, and they had to stick with tomahawks and arrows.

(Actually, we generally used the the smallest fruits from hawthorns, or inkberries, not actual peas, depending on the caliber of the shrub we’d cut that day).  But there are two other attributes that make this little-noticed, unkempt little tree kind of special.

For kids in this part of the world, the little groves of sumac were the closest thing we’d experience to a bamboo thicket.  Only kids could eel their way through the dense stands of sumac, like Br’er Rabbit escaping a fox.  Say, hypothetically, if you used your pea-shooter to ambush a larger cousin walking by.

 

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And every fall, having gone the entire summer in scruffy obscurity, it faithfully turns beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges.

Always, without fail.  Having gone the entire summer in generic, innocuous obscurity, just as autumn begins, it flames out with style.

 

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The leaves hang in festive rows, like tiny ceremonial banners for the autumn celebration, a mousey shrub suddenly looking quite elegant.

Sumacs are like the quiet, unassuming, small-town guys, that you always forget are Shriners, until one day, out of the blue, they break out their red velvet fezzes, have a few belts, and parade down the avenue in their crazy bright brocade uniforms.

 

I don’t use the expression, but sumac seems to meet the definition of a “hot mess” – – disheveled but attractive.

 

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