Monday, October 14, 2019

Windham Weekend


Early in the year, I suggested that we plan a family weekend in honor of Bill's and my 40th wedding anniversary.  Our son, Thomas, and his wife, Marlie, and our daughter Meredith, and her husband, Brian, all responded with enthusiasm.  Even a small family has many schedules to work around, but we were able to settle on a weekend in October.

I was adamant about choosing a location that would be an easy travel destination for everyone.  The Catskills seemed a logical choice.  Thomas and I began checking HomeAway and Airbnb.  We found the Mountain House in Windham, a 5-bedroom house that boasted views and a pond.  Meredith and Marlie confirmed our lodging suggestion and the plans were set.

 Enjoying the pond and leanto on the property


"We're going to Windham?" Bill said with hesitation when I put the dates on the calendar.  A native of Prattsville, just down the road from Windham, Bill does not long to "go home," especially now that we have no family to visit there.  This part of the northern Catskills would not have occurred to him as a getaway for a family gathering.  I hoped he would enjoy a new perspective on an old place.

A few days before the weekend, I said to Thomas on the phone,  "I'm wondering what we will do there.  Do you think we will get bored?"  Windham is, after all, known for winter sports or summer hiking, both of which we weren't likely to do.  Thomas said, "I'm not worried about it."  Okay, I wouldn't worry either.


Outdoor fun!


Bill and I drove from Albany, Meredith took the bus from New York, and Thomas and Marlie, with little Hayden and Harry, drove up from their home in New Jersey.  Our only disappointment was that Meredith's husband, Brian, had had a recent change of schedule and would not be with us.

By early afternoon on Saturday, as five adults and two children, we began exploring our weekend house and grounds.  Indoors, huge windows and sliding glass doors offered a panoramic view of mountains, the pond, and trees. The spacious kitchen had all the amenities and the living space boasted three couches and a wood fireplace.


Marlie, Hayden and Harry look at spiders on the bocce court

Outdoors, we gravitated to the leanto by the pond and the yard. Hayden and Harry quickly discovered spiders.  They were shocked but fascinated when I picked up a Daddy Long Legs so that they could have a closer look. Later I heard Hayden tell Bill, "Grandma picked up a spider."  From then on she found spiders in lots of corners and wondered if I would touch them.  "Only Daddy Long Legs," I said.

Bill helps Hayden understand how bocce is played

Because we had both little children and good cooks, we chose to have all of our meals at the house and brought food from home.  From the open kitchen, we could keep half an ear on the conversation,  an eye on the children, and still look out to the view.

As I prepared the manicotti that was Bill's and my dinner contribution, I saw three deer nibbling apples under the tree by the pond.  "Come look, Hayden," I called across the room. "There are deer eating the apples."  I lifted her up to the kitchen window to see.  Even from inside, we made enough noise to spook the deer.  They ate apples for a few more minutes and then scampered away, tails up.



Harry gives croquet a try


On Sunday, we decided to go to Oktoberfest at Hunter Mountain. Bill took us on rural roads both to and from Hunter Mountain.  We saw new Colorado-style log houses as well as villages whose better days were long behind.  And always we saw colored leaves over rolling hills and mountains that reminded us why tourists have come here for fresh air and scenery for 200 years. 



Meredith and Hayden play hi-lai

Oktoberfest is no longer the huge event that it was in years past when the long-time former owners brought in well-known musicians, and reveling continued well into the evening.  We were happy with the new, smaller, more low-key format.  We watched a German music and dance performance, ate a pretzel, kettle corn, or bratwurst.  Hayden had her face painted, and we saw dachshunds training for an afternoon race.  By 1:30, Harry needed a nap and we went back over hill and dale to Windham.



Indoor fun -- Bill and Hayden make a unicorn puzzle
Harry rides the Thomas dinosaur




















Thomas and Marlie planned and prepared Sunday's dinner.  With a choice of a gas grill on the house's deck, or a charcoal grill by the pond, Thomas dressed chicken with a Brooks-style marinade for the charcoal grill.  The sky threatened rain and clouds hung heavy, but did nothing to deter us from more time by the pond where we kept Thomas company at the grill. The aroma of barbecued chicken wafted across the property.




Virginia and Hayden read "Scary Scary Halloween"



Monday's forecast predicted solid rain.  We could hear it pounding outside even before we got out of bed.  After breakfast we sat around visiting, playing with the children, and enjoying the views out the windows as the rain came down.



The Batavia Kill from the recreation path

A few months before, while checking out bicycling in the Catskills, I had discovered the new 1.5 mile recreational path in Windham.  Although not long enough to bother bringing bicycles,  the Windham Path would be perfect for a family walk.  Yet, here we were on our last day with heavy rain and we had not yet checked it out.

"I'll go.  I need to go outside," Meredith said.  I asked the others and no one wanted to join us.  Meredith and I gathered our rain gear as large puddles formed on the deck.  After a short drive, we found the Windham Path trailhead. Even fully covered, zipped, and snapped up in torrential rain, we could not miss the beauty of this trail. 


Meredith on the trail -- why had no one wanted to come with us?

Rounding the final bend, I heard my phone deep in my rain jacket pocket.  Thomas said, "We're going to go out for ice cream.  Want to meet us?"  Apparently, cabin fever had set in at the house, even though it was only mid-morning.  At the Catskill Mountain Country Store, other patrons consumed full breakfasts, but that was not our plan.  Breakfast for us had been hours before.  We were ready for a serious snack.



Harry ate his entire bowl of ice cream with sprinkles and whipped cream


Attached to the store, hay bales under a roof with enclosed plastic sheeting looked inviting.  Bales rose high above the children but not so high that we might lose them in the maze. Running between the bales, admiring the Halloween decor, and petting a very friendly cat helped the children expend some energy before heading back to the house. 





The rain still pounded as Thomas and Marlie prepared a pizza lunch.  By 2:30, we decided that we should pack up and head home.  Thomas and family left first in their car, beeping to us as they drove out of the driveway.  Bill and I took Meredith to the bus stop on Main Street for her 4:00 Trailways bus, and then we drove north to Albany.

Three full days with two nights, not far from home, had made for a great family weekend.  I was very pleased and said to Bill, "I bet you never thought you would vacation in Windham, did you."  "Never," he said with a smile.





Sunday, August 4, 2019

Anne La Bastille -- A New Perspective

(Adirondack loons in the early morning)
When Leslie Surprenant mentioned on Facebook that she was considering offering an overnight trip to Adirondack author Anne La Bastille's West of the Wind property, I responded immediately.  Anne's cabins and land are main characters in her Woodswoman books which describe her life in the Adirondacks and her career as a wildlife ecologist. Some of you will remember my 2017 blog post in which I described Anne's cabin, now at the Adirondack Experience museum:  http://nooksandvales.blogspot.com/2017/07/woodswoman-then-and-now.html

Leslie was a close friend of Anne La Bastille, is the executrix of Anne's estate and an Adirondack Guide.  In the eight years since Anne's death, Leslie has worked hard to honor the conditions of her will.  She studied and sorted every detail of Anne's material possessions, as well as clearing her 32 acres at Twitchell Lake of extraneous building materials and other detritus.

(The Twitchell Inn's boat house designed by Earl Covey)

In mid-July, five of us, including Leslie, left the boat launch at Twitchell Lake in the southwestern Adirondacks. We kayaked up the small lake, while Leslie described the vertical log architecture that we saw along the shoreline. "Earl Covey designed many of the buildings here and on Big Moose Lake.  The vertical logs make them very distinctive."  She also told about Anne's experience here, reminding us that Anne would park her truck at the boat launch and could only access her property by boat, skis, or snowmobile.  We thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely paddle up the lake, but if crossing the water or ice were the only way we could begin to go anywhere, this workout in every kind of weather might become less appealing.

(The "Point of Anne" marking her property on Twitchell Lake)

Leslie pointed to a line of rocks jutting into the lake from a wooded promontory and said, "We call this 'The Point of Anne.'"  We pulled our kayaks into an opening in the trees and explored the property.  Even though I had seen Anne's cabin, which she called "West of the Wind," at the Adirondack Experience, I was taken aback by its former location which only somewhat resembled my imagination.

The deck is all that remains of Anne's cabin, since the main structure is at the museum.  I remembered that Anne wrote in Woodswoman about a glitch in her deed that required that her cabin be moved farther back from the lakeshore.  Once moved, the cabin "perched in the woods like a long-legged marsh bird," but the new space created under her cabin by the move came in very handy for storage and for her bath tub!  As I looked at the depression in the land and considered Anne's use of the space, my mental picture of West of the Wind began to take shape.



(Two tents in the hollow where Anne's cabin and "basement" had been and one tent on her deck)

In her second Woodswoman book, Beyond Black Bear Lake, Anne told of her need to build a cabin even more remote than the one on the edge of Twitchell Lake. I had often wondered about this need for more privacy, since her early descriptions had made West of the Wind seem quite remote, especially in the winter.  However, here on this July Sunday, I began to understand.  Motor boats that seemed too large for this small lake zoomed by.  Even though there were trees between the cabin and the lake, I felt a sense of exposure that I had not expected.


(The memorial to Anne that Leslie had made, and its "spirit dog" bowl)


More surprising to me were how many little retreats Anne built.  One faced a different view of Twitchell Lake, another had sliding screen doors and served as guest lodging, still another actually had electricity which helped Anne with her ecological career as it progressed well beyond the Adirondacks.  All of these additional retreats each had its own character as places for Anne to write in solitude.



(A leanto Anne built facing a cove on her Twitchell Lake property)

The crown jewel in Anne's cabin world is by far Thoreau II, the subject of Beyond Black Bear Lake.   With the help of friends, Anne built this tiny cabin keeping in mind the financial and space constraints that Henry David Thoreau detailed in his epic book, Walden.



(Another structure with sliding screen doors, reachable by a narrow forested path)

We hiked quite a long way through the forest and past marshes and ponds to reach Thoreau II, although Anne would not have trekked through the woods quite the way we did.  She had a canoe placed on one pond to take her to another.  While she still had to hike, her trail was shorter and in a slightly different location.  Add trail-building to the tasks that Leslie took on over the past eight years.


(Under power lines, this cabin is electrified!)

Thoreau II, with its loft windows looking out to the forest, is built on the edge of Anne's acreage along Lilypad Lake, the epitome of quiet and remote beauty.  I was smitten.  If I could have a wilderness cabin, this is the one I would want.  Surely a writer could find her muse here.  We spent quite a while exploring the cabin and sitting by Lilypad Lake. With reluctance, we returned to the woods and our path.

(Charming Thoreau II)
Back at West of the Wind, a couple of people said that they were going in the lake for a swim. I hesitated since the day was cool.   "No pressure. No pressure," Leslie said.  I knew I would regret not swimming off of Anne's dock.  After a few minutes, I dove in.  The water was a perfect temperature -- cool enough to be refreshing but without a deep chill.  In the end, every one of us went in.  How could we not?


(Exquisite Lilypad Lake at Thoreau II)

Leslie had promised us a slide show describing Anne's family background and her drive to become a woodswoman.  We would see the pictures "if I can make technology work for me...," she said with hesitation. 

Leslie chose the cabin with the screen doors for this presentation. To crate ambience, she covered the rough floor with a green tarp and put a copy of every one of Anne's books on a shelf, standing Anne's pack basket and one of her Guatemalan blankets alongside.  All of these items she had carefully transported in her canoe.  The colors of the tarp, books, and blanket brightened the mellow pine boards of the shelter as late afternoon shadows from the tall trees outside grew long.

With a battery and a tiny projector connected to her tablet and a cloth screen tacked to a log wall, Leslie's technological set-up worked.  We were fascinated by the pictures and narrative.  At the end, Leslie reminded us that Coke was one of Anne's favorite drinks, as was a shot of whiskey.  From a cooler, she produced an 8-ounce can of Coke for each of us and a small bottle of Jack Daniels which she passed around.  She also shared a plastic container of homemade brownies.



(the sun begins its descent)


Like an Adirondack Guide from a century past, Leslie prepared dinner for us.  Beginning with an appetizer of crackers topped with cream cheese and guava paste and ending with black beans and rice, we felt very pampered.  "I don't want any leftovers." she said.  I know that I ate my share!  Despite offers of help, Leslie cleaned up the cooking dishes by herself while we each washed our own plates, cups, and flatware.


(Sunset on Twitchell Lake)


One activity remained -- a campfire and s'mores. Leslie had thought of everything.  We chose some dry pieces of wood from a stash under the deck and found sticks for marshmallows.  As always, a campfire brings out conversation as darkness descends. The sun set over the lake and the moon rose.  Eventually, we put the fire out and went into our tents to the call of a loon. Then quiet settled on the lake.

(Moonrise behind the pines)

In a tribute to Anne's lake and wild lands, I planned to go for a morning paddle.  I woke early as I usually do, looked at my watch, and saw that it said 6:45 a.m.  I was almost too late!  I would barely be out before 7:00!  I quickly and quietly put on some clothes and my life jacket and pushed my boat into the water.



(The Point of Anne in the early morning)

Mist was beginning to rise as I dipped my paddle and headed back down the lake towards the boat launch.  I had heard a loon call from that direction and hoped to get a picture of one in the early morning mist.  Before long, I came upon a group of six loons, more than I had ever seen at one time.  I let my paddle sit idle as I watched them.  They dipped under the water and came back up, always in a different place but steadily closer to me.

(Loons in the morning mist)

The loons seemed unperturbed by my quiet presence.  A few times I turned slightly to watch the mist lift from the ridge behind me.  I knew I had been out quite a while and checked my watch.  6:30??!!  So I had actually gotten into my boat at 5:45 not 6:45?  This is very typical of me, taking a cursory look at the time without putting on my reading glasses and then being shocked later.  I was glad that I had misread my watch.  I had gotten out in plenty of time before the sun rose and cleared the lake of mist.


(Sunrise on Twitchell Lake)

A few of the loons had moved farther away and I headed back towards West of the Wind.  As I approached the Point of Anne, a loon popped out of the water near the namesake rocks.  The sound startled an otter who was perched on the largest rock.  It watched the loon as I again sat silent in my boat.  All of a sudden, in a great flurry that surprised me and the otter, the loon ran across the top of the water and took flight.  The otter dashed into the woods.

I paddled close to the dock where Leslie was filtering water and anticipating a swim before she began making our oatmeal breakfast.  We chatted quietly while our other companions slept.  Before I pushed away from the dock to continue my paddle to the other side of the lake, a dark head moved fast, cutting a noiseless path through the water.  "A beaver," Leslie said quietly.  I was thrilled that I had seen so much wildlife during my early paddle outing.  I was grateful for this morning that was bathed in the nature that Anne La Bastille loved so much and spent her life trying to protect both here and around the world.


(Our wonderful guide, Leslie Surprenant)

(End note:  Very recently Anne's property has become part of the Pigeon Lake Wilderness.  New York State requires that all man-made structures be removed from wilderness lands.  It's hard to say when Anne's structures will be taken down, but two weeks before our trip, the Department of Environmental Conservation removed Anne's outhouse -- no chance of us sitting on the throne with a view of the pines as Anne had!  Leslie told us that Anne's property is the only public land on Twitchell Lake and that people have reported being very pleased that there is a place for them to go as a paddle destination with a picnic or camping spot and paths to hike through the forest. "Anne's property belongs to you now," Leslie said.)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Two New Nearby Trails

(Part of the new trail at Kaaterskill Falls, seen from the viewing platform)

Bill and I planned two days to explore two of our favorite places, neither of which we had visited in quite a while.  We designated one day to walk the new Skywalk, a two-mile trail that crosses the Hudson River.  Our second adventure would be to hike the new trail and stairway alongside Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills.  We had read about both of these trails and were eager to give them a try.


We began the Skywalk from Olana, 19th-century artist Frederic Church's home, continued across the the Hudson River on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, ending at Cedar Grove, the home of Thomas Cole, Hudson River School founder and teacher of Frederic Church.




(Olana, home of Frederic Church in the late-1800s)


Although we had been been to Olana off and on over decades, so much had changed.  A grant in recent years enabled needed improvements both inside of the house and out.  And now, instead of one house tour, there are many tours to choose from, each with a different focus.  We chose the downstairs house tour and the upstairs tour, but there were others such as a garden and landscape tour that we might want to check out another time.  Rain came down in buckets on this mid-June day, so indoor tours held more appeal.


(the porch view across to the Catskills)

The rain still came down heavily as we prepared for the walk.  Museum staff advised that we not take the steep dirt path from the house to the bridge in the deluge. Instead, they suggested that we begin from the parking lot at the eastern end of the bridge.  We took their recommendation, parked near the bridge, donned a full set of rain gear, and stepped out.

(the Rip Van Winkle Bridge crosses the Hudson River)

Views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains are this walk's big attraction.  Although rain clouds shrouded the mountains, we could look down on the gray river and into the woods directly below.  We know the area well, and could see the mountain view in our mind's eye. 


(The Hudson and islands from the bridge)


Walking on the historic Rip Van Winkle Bridge, built in the 1930s, had not been encouraged in the past.  Now, as part of the Skywalk, it is notable as the connection between the two artists' houses.  In Cole's and Church's day, a ferry would have taken them back and forth across the river.  The two friends often drew and painted together, sometimes on top of the hill with its river view, where Church eventually built Olana.


(What's a little rain?  Bill is dressed for the day.)

After arriving at the western end of the bridge, I decided to walk the Cedar Grove property just far enough to see that Cole's "new studio" had been built.  Besides its historic accuracy, the new studio houses contemporary art.  I had been dismayed on my previous Cedar Grove visit to see modern art mixed with Cole's furnishings within the house.  The house has now been returned to the style of Cole's mid-19th century era.

(Cedar Grove, Thomas Cole's house in the mid-1800s)

From house to house, the Skywalk is two miles, four round-trip.  The bridge itself is one mile.  It's possible to walk just the bridge, parking at one end or the other.  Based on our experience, we highly recommend the Skywalk and spending time visiting the homes of Frederic Church and Thomas Cole.


(the lowest part of the falls along Route 23A)

We had cloudy but far better weather for our second adventure. 

Kaaterskill Falls drops 260' and can be very dangerous.  Fatalities or serious injuries are not uncommon.  In the mid-1970s, when Bill took me to the falls from college, we could and did walk anywhere, including behind the falls in the amphitheater high above the base.  In addition, at the very top of the falls, we could literally put a hand in water before it tumbled below.  Greater use and an increasing number of deaths demanded that changes be made to safeguard visitors.

(The beginning of the trail rises from Route 23A)


Some changes were made in the late 1980s.  Those changes essentially prohibited people from accessing the highest level of the falls.  Not surprisingly, people continued to take risks. 

Last summer, in 2018, $1.25million in upgrades at the falls included a 200-step stone stairway built to get people safely to each of the three levels of the falls.  Visitors can still take chances and get hurt, but warning signs are everywhere, and, if people stay on the trails or on the immediate rocks, fewer accidents should occur.


(A wooden stairway was our first introduction to the new design)


From the Route 23A parking area, rubbly stones begin the trail.  Just beyond, a wooden stairway is built over what was a dirt scramble when we clawed our way up more than 40 years ago.  And above that, we encountered our first set of stone stairs.  We were totally impressed by the precise construction of this stairway, each stone perfectly placed.

(The first set of stone stairs)

And the view at each level?  Astounding.  The new regulations and construction did not detract in any way from the beauty advertised by the Hudson River School painters in the early 1800s.  We were glad that hikers are again able to see the entire set of waterfalls.

(This series of waterfalls still inspires artists and photographers)
Today, in the "instagram age," estimates are that an average of 1000 visitors come on every summer weekend day to enjoy Kaaterskill Falls.  We saw only about 20 or 30 people on our mid-June day.  But, alas, we did see a group of teenagers hiking in flip-flops with beach towels, intending to swim, and we saw people partway across the amphitheater in a bent-over crouch behind the waterfall, but most people didn't take chances. 

In the close-up picture, you can see two people sitting on the ledge.  I was glad that they appeared not to be continuing to the steeper more-slippery section.

(The upper falls is magnificent)
(A close-up of the other photo shows people behind the falls)






Bill and I continued up above the falls on more stone steps to a level summit path.  We learned that hikers are encouraged to park at the site of the Laurel House on top of the escarpment, rather than at the base on Route 23A as we had.  By parking at the top, hikers avoid the 2/10-mile walk along the road.  They also begin with the highest views and can decide how far down they want to go, rather than starting at the very bottom planning to go the entire distance to the top.

(The upper falls from the new viewing platform)
The rocks at the very top of the falls, which were popular photography locations, are now completely off limits.  Instead, a platform has been built a short distance away.  From there, the view is fabulous.  I definitely didn't miss peering over the top to see below.  Bill and I give this new trail an A+.


(Kaaterskill Clove from the viewing platform)





Saturday, June 15, 2019

Merck Forest Milestones

(Making strides on the high road)

My mother had no doctor's appointments this week and nothing pressing on the chore list.  "I think we could do something fun," she said when I called.

She had been wishing to hike on a trail in the woods.  Having broken her hip over a year ago and now doing fairly well, we both still knew that a hiking trail might be a stretch.  A couple of days went by and then I suggested going to Merck Forest.

(Merck Forest has been a family favorite for decades)

Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, Vermont, is a non-profit educational institution with a mission to teach and to demonstrate the benefits of innovative sustainable management of forest and farmland.  It is also a charming place to visit with lots of beautiful dirt roads and trails.


"Do you think I could walk the road from the parking lot to the farm?" she asked tentatively.  I thought she could, but it would take all of her walking stamina to go that far and back.  She would not be able to do that and still have enough endurance to enjoy the area.




(She walked this uphill road to see the views)

I called the Visitor Center at Merck Forest and told the receptionist, "My mother used to hike at Merck Forest regularly, but now she's nearly 94 and uses a cane.  Would it be possible for me to drive her as far as the barn?"  Visitors were not allowed to drive beyond the parking lot, but I hoped there could be an exception.  "Yes, that would be okay," the woman answered.  My mother was thrilled.

My family has visited and hiked at Merck Forest since it opened to the public in the 1970s.  Even now, I regularly lead Adirondack Mountain Club hikes up Mount Antone, on the property.  My outings always include a stop at the farm to see the animals, admire the barns, and enjoy the pastoral part of Merck Forest as well.



(And then a little farther so that she could be in the woods)

My mother loves going to Vermont.  She admires all the scenery and comments on changes that have occurred since we last headed over through Washington County from her Saratoga Springs home.  Anything from, "oh look, didn't they do a nice job painting that house," to "oh dear, that old barn is listing badly," and even, "I don't know what possessed those people to put that unsightly addition on that pretty place!"  And there are the spring flowers, farms with rolling hills, a cafe for coffee and a mid-morning snack, a lunch plan, and ice cream on the way home.  "We'll eat our way through the day," she says.

(My mother waits under a big maple while I retrieve our lunch from the car)

With caring for my father until last year, my mother had not been to Merck Forest in a long time and had been fairly certain, since breaking her hip, that she would never go there again. 


I stopped in the Visitor Center when we arrived and was told to park by the sugar house.  Once out of the car, my mother was determined to walk the Old Town Road past a farm field to where the forest begins.  She only stopped once to rest on the gradual uphill.  We admired the view west to the southern Adirondacks and then continued on.

Sometimes she held onto my arm going over the stony sections, but most of the time the tracks made by farm vehicles were flat enough for her to feel stable on her own. "I want to go into the woods," she said, continuing to where the forest meets the farm.  We soaked up the damp earthy aromas and admired the lush green of the woods.


(Lunch with a view, the sun, a breeze, and an appetite)

Walking back along the road to the farm, we passed a field of sheep and lambs.  At first, we couldn't see the lambs because the tall grass made them invisible, but we could hear their urgent bleats.  Their mothers called to them in response.  Little black lambs bounded over the grass, joining their mothers.  We stood a long time, listening, and watching for the lambs to reappear.



(We could see the sheep better from a distance than we could up close)

After a picnic lunch, my mother was ready to explore the barns.  Her artist's eye is drawn to barns.  Sometimes her pastel paintings deviate from farm scenes to the ocean or woods and lakes, but farm scenes are her favorite.

She was taken with the chicken shed and the road leading to it.  I was not impressed with this as a subject for a picture.  Regardless, she instructed me to move this way or that to photograph the shed from a variety of angles.



(Beautiful chickens and a rooster know what free range is all about)

After we had studied all of the outbuildings, I asked, "do you want to walk a little way on the Stone Lot Road?"   "Sure," she said.  She is highly motivated and game for anything when she is determined.  We headed up this less traveled, farm road.

In the distance, far from the barns, we could see Merck's two large work horses. Standing head to hip, their long thick brown tails switched one another's chestnut back.



(The shed and road that first attracted my mother's eye)

We discussed whether we should make a circle back down to the barns and the car, or return on the road we had just walked.  Not wanting to miss a thing, my mother chose the loop.  She turned to me in surprise, and said, "And nothing hurts!"  What a tonic this outing was for her.

Every few feet, she stopped to study the view. She is understandably very fussy about the subjects of her pictures.  I take a lot of photographs whenever I see something that may appeal to her and then print them, but the size of her reject pile is very large.  I always tell her that she can crop the photos or change the road, or put in different fences or mountains.  However, once a picture has been rejected, it rarely resurfaces.



(Studying the scene as a possible painting subject)

We came around the side of the field. Walking with an artist is a wonderful way to observe.  At each turn of the road, the view changed just enough that I had to go in the garden to get the right angle for a photo, or over there by the tree, or just to the edge of the road, or allow her to step aside when she instructed me to "stand right here where I am."   I think the picture below has possibilities for a painting, but what do I know?


(The big barn and curving road look pretty nice to me)

On the drive home after our adventure, we admired the same houses and scenery we had seen in the morning, now from the opposite direction.  And we remembered.  We reminisced about past times at Merck Forest and thought about other drives through this rolling rural countryside.  But hunger set in again and we knew just where to fortify ourselves.  The Ice Cream Man in Greenwich serves generous portions of delicious homemade ice cream.  "Today was an upper," my mother said.

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Here are a few of my mother's pastel paintings that you might enjoy seeing.