Archive for March, 2010

Appalachian Spring #3 (i’ll think of you)

March 29, 2010 1 comment

This is the last piece I wrote hiking the southern most piece of the Appalachian Trail in 2000. Overall that was a really rough year for me but this piece has some joy in it. It was in early May and the wildflowers were really spectacular. We bought a little book and tried to learn their names as we went and this piece came out of those efforts. I remember reciting it for a friend and she was rather surprised i had this kind of sentiment in me. Life is not made up all of metaphysics and politics, but it takes a little love now and again as well.

When the Mountain Laurel is blooming

And the Cinquefoil is too

And the Bluets and the Spiderwort

Is such a lovely hue

I’ll think of you

And I’ll think of you

When I have fresh berries

That are so delightfully blue

Or I see the mulberry tree

And stop to pick a few

I’ll think of you

And I’ll think of you

When the leaves start to change

And turn all red and yellow like they do

And I go out walking in the woods

And the Great Horned Owl asks “who?”

I’ll tell him you

And I’ll thank of you

When the first snowfall comes

And turns everything white and new

and the kiddies don’t have to go to school

And the moms don’t know what to do

I’ll think of you

And I’ll think of you

At the stars at night

I’ll think of you

When the sun shines bright

I’ll think of you

Most every season

I’ll think of you

For any reason

I’ll think of you

And I’ll think of you

Categories: feelings, poetry, travel

Spring Break 2010 part 3 (the journey home)

We pulled out of Ft Meyers and headed North. This was Tuesday so we still had some time for some exploration. We detoured over to the Ocala National Forest and took a random hike up a forest service road. The trees were pretty shrubby and from the looks of the logging trucks they have a pretty short rotation on the cuts. Nonetheless it was nice to be out of the van and hiking in the woods. Again i was struck with how much less life was present here than in some of the areas. It just seemed like it wasn’t a fully functioning bio-system, like there were pieces missing. It was pretty though pine and hardwoods with lots of tropical plants. Looks like a nice place for free winter camping should i ever get the chance.

Spring was definitely in the air though. There was some very pretty wildflowers and the red buds were doing there thing. We thought we were gonna break our streak of incredible wildlife viewings that had been going on as long as we could remember but we saw a couple of elk as we were heading out of the woods. I didn’t think there were elk in FLA but seeing was sort of believing. A little research showed Elk are not native to FLA but 6 were released after a TV show, but not in our area. The elk we saw were by a fence so they were probably not wild at all. Sometimes seeing is not believing.

Coming up I-75 GPS sent us off and on an exit but we came out of that with a hitchhiker. He was pleasant enough but not really going anywhere, seemed more like a mobile panhandler than someone trying to get somewhere or even just wandering. We passed on the hints for a handout and took him up to Lake City where there were three other dudes trying to hitch north on that exit. Tough world.

We got a room in Tallahassee and decided to do a little side treking and then driving through the night rather than just drive and sleep for two more days without time to do anything. We took 319 South which runs along the Apalchicola National Forest. We stopped for a hike at Leon Sinks, a geological site highlighting sink holes and swamp lands. It was very cool, especially the disappearing streams and dogs were allowed on the trails so it was fun. Not a lot of wildlife viewing though beyond some squirrels.

From there we drove south to the Gulf and then west along the coast. We stopped and took the dogs to an isolated beach which they got a big kick out of. The water was cold for swimming.

Then we drove and drove. We stopped for some good barbecue in Alabama, dozed a bit, but mostly kept the wheels turning all the way home Thursday morning. Our only excitement was some heavy rain in st louis with a multi-car pile up right in front of us. Our luck held and we weaved our way through the wreckage to make ourselves home.

All in all it was a good trip. I would like to go back. The hitchhiker says you can still swim with manatees in the Crystal River, winter camping in the national forest would be cool and i would like to go back to the everglades with a bicycle (its so flat there) and a canoe (perhaps some back country camping or a long float trip). So didn’t get to check if off, my list of places to go never seems to shrink but just gets bigger and bigger the more i learn.

Categories: dogs, hitchhiking, travel

Spring Break 2010 Part 2 (everglades to ft meyers)

March 27, 2010 1 comment

We ended up camping three nights in the Everglades, mostly bird watching and some hiking. One morning John and I both woke early so as not to disturb the rest of the camp we drove up to the marina got a cup of coffee and went and watched the sun rise over a lake. We had some nice company with a night heron fishing nearby who didn’t seem terribly alarmed at our presence. All in all it was a nice relaxing time.

We packed out early to head back to Big Cypress National Preserve. Driving out of the park I was profoundly struck on the abrupt change from the swamps to the agricultural lands. The absence of life was striking coming from where so close it is so thick. What a loss we have with these huge monocrop wastelands. It was really more like a desert than anything else. So sad and such a wrongness around it it could’ve broken my heart. i always cope with things like this by remembering it hasn’t always been this way and it is not always going to be this way its just this way right now. i send out prayers for effective preservation and using the park to build on restoring the whole ecosystem.

At Big Cypress we drove the loop road the other way and again parked near Sweet Water Strand and this time hiked the other way. There were a lot of alligators sunning themselves not only on the canal banks but out in the road. The dogs seemed like they couldn’t see the gators and were totally unconcerned. I think with the gators staying still and being unfamiliar to the dogs they just couldn’t see them. Probably for the best that the dogs don’t know whats out there waiting to eat ’em up.

From there we started our drive back North. We stopped in Ft Meyers and got a room. The next afternoon we went out to Pine Island and visited our longtime friend Jay and his wife CeeCee. They have a place right on a canal and Jay was eager to take us boating. Smokey was as ready as anyone but Shadow took some coaxing. Once we were out there though they really enjoyed it, except for when Smokey fell in the canal when we stopped for gas.

The wildlife was thick in the canals as they bordered on mangroves. So close to the city there was this huge explosion of life that rivaled the everglades. Gave me hope that we can live in some kind of harmony that allows biodiversity and wild beauty and still have all of the social goods of urbanity. We saw manitee, a bald eagle, dolphins, and the usual cast of avian characters. The Bay was calm so we got the canal boat out and frolicked with the dolphins a bit before putting back to home.

Jay made a nice lunch and we took a drive over to another bald eagle nest. There was one in the nest and one on a nearby branch. The one on the branch took wing and the one in the nest eventually joined him calling back and forth. It was really really cool. We decided to wrap up our visit while our hosts still thought the dogs were cute and headed back to our room.

Categories: dogs, environment, travel

love spring

It was beautiful after work and great to get out and do some mucking around with the garden. I cleaned up the herb bed and can give my first detailed report. The tarragon is looking great, the oregano is spreading nicely, the thyme is back in two places, and the local white sage could almost be described as pernicious and is enlarging its footprint this year. Bergamont is looking good and the chives continue. The parsley is back as well. Inside the rosemary rocked through the winter and will move outside noticeably larger.

I raked off the leaves off the strawberries and was disappointed. I think i had them on too thick and wet and lost some plants. Nonetheless there’s a lot of them and most look great. With the early super cold snap I might have lost some anyway, who knows. I have a lot of leaves now and turned the compost before adding a bushel to the working pile. The working pile looks great, the one finishing is struggling and needs a lot of work.

Glad the weather is cooperating and glad to be home and on it. On the flower front crocuses are up and doing well, especially the violet ones. Everything else is coming along. less and less bare every day.

Categories: gardening

Spring Break 2010 part 1 (home to everglades)

Back from vacation today. My brother John came through town and picked me up. We left the Saturday before last in the morning and drove through the day. He brought his dogs Shadow (Australian Shepherd)  and Smokey (Australian Cattle Dog). It was rainy on day 1 so we didn’t really do anything else and got a Motel 6 room for the night.

We didn’t make too far and still had a long way to go so we decided to drive through the next night. We took a side trek to Russel Cave in NW Alabama. Its a federally managed archaeological site but we mostly used it as an excuse to get off the highway and into the woods for at least a bit.

The next morning found us in South Florida, a little punch drunk but none worse for the wear. We checked out sunrise in a pocket park at an early oil well. It was wet but there were a bunch of little deer in the distance. We drove into Big Cypress, stopping a couple of places to try to get info and see alligators. Eventually it warmed up enough for them to come out and I saw my first alligators.

We got a campsite at Monument Lake, pitched camp and relaxed a bit. Being a National Wildlife Refuge dogs were pretty limited, although with the thick layer of alligators we weren’t going to let them run around a lot on their own anyway. We ended up driving down a road out into the swamps, parking near Sweetwater Strand and hiking down the road. The Cypress were beautiful but it was sad as well as they were all pretty small. Apparently they got pretty ruthlessly cut in the 40s and we never saw a single big cypress in Big Cypress.

The Cypress stands were dense with birds and gators in incredible numbers. It added something to the hike seeing the big gators or hearing them splash into the water. Smokey got a little nervous but Shadow was oblivious to alligators.

We decided to just camp one day and move up our trip to the Keys so we could catch Lost at the Motel 6. One of the elevators were out so after routinely sneaking an extra dog into the room we finally got busted. John paid for 2 rooms so we could be legal but we decided to forgo our second day there.

So day 3 we left out of the hotel and drove down Highway 1 all the way to the end. It was rainy which thinned out the spring break crowds. Mostly just looked at the gulf and the ocean and all the islands. At Key West the sun came out and we walked around downtown. We went to the old Smokey Joes where Hemingway used to hang out and were going to hang out for a drink with an umbrella in it but we got tired of waiting and just left. We walked by Hemingway’s house and saw the giant Banyon Tree and we enjoyed the colorful rooster at the courthouse.

The drive back was more fun as the weather was better and we stopped off and walked a bit with the dogs. We got a room at a place that was pet friendly and sneeked the big dogs in without incident. The next morning we drove down to the Everglades. We checked out a pond where the black vultures were eating the rubber parts of peoples cars.

We camped at Flamingo campground which was pretty nice and really delved into the incredible complexity of life in the swamps. It was just so biologically rich you could literally just watch any area and a showcase of exotic animal life would descend their and put on a show. We speculated on how long you would have to be there before you became jaded to the spectacle and just went about your business blindly.

We kept stopping by the Marina because there had been manatee and crocodile sitings there. On one trip an Osprey flew overhead carrying a fish, we followed it and watched it closely as it sat on a branch. It called out and other Osprey came and it seemed like our Osprey with the fish was trying to date but a bigger Osprey hung out in the same tree like some kind of cock-blocker. Our first Osprey ended up just eating it. On the way out we saw a group of folks with cameras trained on a big Osprey nest. Sure enough there was a mama feeding her baby. We ended up seeing 4 Osprey with fish and countless others and became pretty familiar with their call.

At the visitor center there was a red shouldered hawk nest and we saw a number of those as well. I have had a thing for raptors especially hawks since this three week period of time some years ago when I saw a hawk take a rabbit, another grab up a squirrel, and a third narrowly miss a pigeon. All of these sitings were just driving around my normal business in the Monroe-Toledo are. Another notable raptor encounter happened in the Manistee national forest when i got repeatedly swooped by a pair of Goshawks, had me so spooked i was running blindly through the forest. Our other great Everglades raptor siting were swallow-tailed kites. They’re a really lovely bird and we watched them repeatedly. John got some great photos you can see at his picasa web.

Categories: dogs, travel

“Appalachian Spring #4 (salamander dance)”

Hiking the georgia and some of the north carolina sections of the Appalachian Trail my overwhelming memories are of being tired and wet. Sometimes it was really hard and it was stressful hardly ever getting really dry and going through the exertion all day every day. Sometimes i was frayed and tempers flared a bit. More often though we rolled with it with good grace, humor, and determination. And we got to experience some amazing life changing adventures. I remember camping by ourselves in one shelter, open faced on one side over a near 36o view of the mountains. When clouds formed below us out peak jutted out of the mist liked a cloud island. When it rained and misted heavy the newts and salamanders and such would slide around, move about a bit. If you were sharp eyed you could see lots of different kinds sometimes right at your feet. We saw a lot in crystalline springs, up above the cattle. they like clean water. once we had been rained on off and on for days and was struggling to stay in good humor. this i wrote, as a whistling in the dark, trying to stave off some rain fueled misery, and quite successfully i might add.

If it starts to rain by chance

The salamanders do their dance

They do their dance

The salamander dance

And if it starts to rain some more

Then the frogs began to soar

There’s flying frogs all over the place

There’s flying frogs flying into your face

And if it starts to rain in pails

Then out will come the snails

With their slimy trails

Of snail entrails

And when the rain is finally done

Then out will come the sun

and the hikers will smile

For another mile

But if it starts to rain by chance

Then the salamanders do their dance

They do their dance

The salamander dance

Categories: Uncategorized

“Appalachian Spring #2”

March 11, 2010 1 comment

Hiking the AT we would frequently hike or hithhike into the nearest town to resupply, get some ben & jerries, do laundry that sort of thing. We saw some cute little towns and met some really nice folks. One town we didn’t much care for was Hiawasee Georgia. First off its one of those towns built around a state route so it sprawls for miles along a busy road being one building thick. Second we had both shaved our heads for the trip and Amee drew a lot of unfriendly looks. It was good to get a room with a bed and a shower but ultimately we preferred the woods. The poem i wrote is only 4 lines and i thought some more would come but except for some false starts its kind of just hung there. For good or ill here it is. It makes me think of the bards of old. You don’t want to offend a poet or you can find yourself knocked in verse.

I’d rather sleep in the rain boy

I’d rather sleep in the rain

Then in a king size bed in Hiawassee

I’d rather sleep in the rain

Categories: poetry, travel

“Appalachian Spring #1”

In the spring of 2001 my wife at the time Amee and I quit our jobs, sold our stuff, and set out to hike a good chunk of the Appalachian Trail. Not long after we put in notice and right around when we had our sale I found out my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. What had been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream became one of the most difficult times in my life. Not really understanding the gravity of the situation we started the hike at the trail’s southern terminus Springer Mountain in Georgia and hiked 136 trail miles North to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina where our packs were stolen. It turned out to be a blessing as my mom ended up having very little time left and i got to spend a lot more time with her after curtailing the trip. The biggest lesson i learned is not to let your plans, hopes, dreams, or apparent obligations stand in the way of what is really important. Being there in a significant way for the ones you love. It was a pretty emotionally raw time and if i ever find my journal from the time i might write at length about the trip. I ended up writing a fair amount of poetry, almost exclusively silly and placed them in my chapbook “America: Its Land and Its People” under Appalachian Spring 1-4.

Appalachian Spring #1

Sassafras Mountain is green with nature’s love

But its ringed with solitude

For all those who will walk above

The speeding cars and the busy places

The teeming masses of the city spaces

Left behind for nature’s stasis

On Sassafras Mountain

Categories: feelings, poetry, travel

first foray

After a pretty harsh winter I got my first real chance to get my hands in the dirt since probably November. I went to Westlakes as I had some other shopping to do. I got 2 more 50 lb bags of sand for the horseshoe pits for the winter settling. I also picked up 2 cubic yards of composted cotton waste. I paid a little more than if i would have gotten compost and peat but i figured composted ag waste was better than supporting peat mining, a fairly bad thing from what i’ve read. I also got a can of brown spray paint for the rain barrels, the special kind for plastic. Plus i got a small bottle of black for the rims and ridges so i have a faux rustic thing going. The can only covered 1 1/2 barrels so i will need another one. I saw bulbs and was tempted but resisted to focus on clean up, or so i thought. At Aldis i ended up getting 15 gladiolas and a gardenia. Dad wasn’t feeling up to cutting down the rest of the ant infested red bud so i didn’t have to stack wood and haul brush. Instead I dug up a small bed up on the high side on the east, next to the neighbors privacy fence. I put the gardenia in the middle and the glads around it, fairly dense, putting in about 4 inches of the cotton compost. I did a couple of short dense rows of mescalin mix over the tree roots where i couldn’t get very deep. Didn’t realize glads need to go in 8 inches or i probably would have put them elsewhere. Too wet to go about anywhere else. Lots of spring bulbs popping up, but no flowers yet. Doesn’t look like i’ve got many crocuses coming back. I think the squirrels have been in them. There’s this stubby tailed bastard i’ve caught in my tulips twice. Dad says i shouldn’t begrudge them a little eats. I also cleaned up my herb garden, white sage, chives, and oregano coming back already. I considered raking the leaves out of the beds but decided to wait. Compost is going slow. With a march vacation coming probably won’t get as much of the really early stuff in. Nonetheless some time outside felt really good.

Categories: gardening


March 7, 2010 4 comments

After Amee and I split up I went to camp alone in the desert for some weeks. It was January so I went to the Anza Borrego desert in San Diego county. Very stark and beautiful and cold at night. The nights are long in January, so  i spent a lot of time shivering in my tent thinking, reading by candlelight, and a little writing. So this would have been written in January 2002, and less a dark night of the soul then a time to really reflect on my purpose in the world. i got some good answers and it was time well spent. Anyone who comments on this post i will give a copy of my book “America: Its Land and Its People”. (Facebook comments don’t count, they have no history.)

I need to get real with people

Its easiest to do with strangers

With no history

Preconceived conceptions

Or formulaic patterns

To escape reality.

The fascination of discovery


Total attention

The Universe condensed

To an understandable packet.

The most beautiful times

Are when that packet

Is the interaction.

The unity of two

The most difficult

To harmonize into the One.

As zero is nonbeing

And one is existance

Than two is one and not one.

Duality, the first separation

But between two is the

First Possibility of communication

A process that is One.

But if only one is being one

There is no communication

Only projections

Of the not one received by the one

And the Universe is the Other

And i am no more

Lost and forgotten

By even myself

I wander not in the unity of the One

Where I belong

Where I am nurtured

Where i am inexplicably me.

But in the Zero



The abyss

So excuse me

If I try

To make you get real

With me

I am only trying to exist.

Categories: philosophy, poetry, the mind