On the Cusp

Today, as we squired our house sitters around Floyd and ate excellent “pig” from Bootleg BBQ, we tried to think if there was anything additional that we needed to get done before our departure to the airport tomorrow and flight Sunday.

One last thing, not knowing what kind of wifi we might have over there, was to refresh my FB page photos. I chose a pic of CJ from a couple of years ago, because as the leaves turn on the early trees (dogwood, maple) I’ve been reminded of falconry season, which will begin before I return. And seeing posts and inklings of friends near and far beginning to be ready for their own falconry seasons, I’m a bit jealous, but I know I will start the hunting as soon as possible after I get back.

And I chose a photo of sunset over Occoneechee State Park’s Buggs Island Lake (or Kerr Lake, depending on whether you’re standing on the VA or the NC shore) for a couple of reasons. We will be missing the activities and freedoms of traveling in Roomba for this trip (Occoneechee and North Bend campgrounds being among our favorite spots); and down in Clarksville, our upcoming tour leaders have a “family” farm they are able to occupy as much as possible between stints at their places of work, and we went to visit them last year, staying at Occoneechee. Soon, we shall meet up with them and our cycling tour friends for a new adventure.

We are heartily looking forward to our trip—not only the cycling but also the longish visit with family—and have heard from friends old and new with best wishes and “bon voyages.” We know that our critters are in the best possible hands, and those hands are supported by lots of big-hearted friends who have assured their assistance should any be required. It is lovely to feel confident in getting away when there are so many people standing beside those we hold dear.

More later, folks. And into the blue we go.

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Bald Eagle State Park, PA

Bald Eagle State Park is an enormous area, with plenty to do and plenty to see.


We debated whether to take our bikes up to the Pine Creek Trail on this gorgeous day (Monday, October 3). In the end, we elected to do our Bike/Site Tour Boogie, riding the Park, while Ken and Diane headed to the Pine Creek Trail.

Armed with a pretty good map and a desire to eventually end up across the lake, where the primitive camping area was, in addition to a little town called Howard and a lakeside hiking trail (that we hoped might accommodate cycles) we set off using the “every right turn” directional program.


There are at least 10 miles of hiking trails in the immediate area, and several marks on the map for cross-country skiing trails, and hunter’s trails outside of the campground (but still in the Park). 

Our first right was a “connector” trail called the Shrike Tr., that was just grassy and obviously not for bikes, but we rode through (it was only about 25 yards). The next right turn carried us to a boat launch area where we got right up to, not the lake proper, but Hunter Run Cove. 


On the map it looks more shallow than the main lake, which is called Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, or Sayers Lake for short, which is actually a reservoir. Here’s a bit of the history:

Leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the 5900 acre state park was opened to the public July 4, 1971. Completed by the Corps in 1969, the 100 ft high and 1.3 mile long dam forms the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir. Created to reduce flood damage and provide water-based recreation, the reservoir/lake is1,730 acres where visitors can recreate year-round. The reservoir honors Foster Joseph Sayers, Private 1st Class. A native of Center County, 19-year-old Sayers was killed during a valiant assault on enemy forces during WWII. For his heroism, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At Bald Eagle State Park the Allegheny Plateau’s rolling highlands meet the steep slopes of Bald Eagle Ridge, creating not only spectacular scenery, but also prime wildlife habitat. Migrating hawks ride ridgeline thermals, black bear, bobcat, porcupine, and turkey inhabit mature forests of oak and hickory. Great blue herons wade in Bald Eagle Creek while osprey pluck yellow perch from Sayers Lake. 

The park is the site of one of the most intensive woodcock, songbird, and native habitat restoration projects in Pennsylvania. In addition to the American woodcock, many rare and declining songbirds, like the golden-winged warbler, nest at the park. Partners across the state have been working together to improve and maintain the shrubland habitat for woodcock and other declining scrubland-loving species. 

Our next stop along the Site Tour Boogie (the next right would have taken us to the Office and Rt. 150, so we saved that until we had to get onto the highway to get to the other side of the lake, and we went straight through a 4-way intersection instead of turning right) was the Marina. We thought to go up to the Ecological Learning Center, but workers were re-roofing it, so we skipped it. Next time.

The Marina offers summer and winter dry storage for boats, and a variety of boats that are for rent during the high season (closed at this time, however). I heard through the grapevine that there are 200 slips for private use here, and across from the inlet defining the Marina was a lovely picnic and fishing area (there were tons and tons of walk-in fishing sites/trails designated all around the shoreline we visited).


To get over the water to that picnic ground (and more) we rode back up to the four-way intersection and took the next right, which carried more deeply into the park. We crossed a small dam/bridge dividing the “entry area” from the larger park area, and visited an enormous day-use area that includes the picnic site we could see from the Marina. At this point, we got to the northwest shore of the Lake proper.


After biking all those loops (there was a beach area, several pavilions, fishing areas, public rest rooms, etc.) we took our next right and headed toward the Nature Inn, a significant lodge, where we were told many, many Penn State fans come to stay for home games – last weekend, we heard, the entire camping and lodge areas were packed due to a Penn State football game.

We tootled along two more right turns to boat launch places, at one of which we saw a blue heron and a praying mantis. 


Then, instead of heading more-or-less straight up the hill to the Lodge, we took an apparently little-used road down to the inlet between Hunter Run Cove and Sayers Lake. There we saw what was once old Rt. 220(?) disappearing below the water and re-appearing on the other side of the narrow throat connecting Cove with Lake. 

We also were accosted by Sadie, an Alsatian mix on a lead with her humans (whose names I forget) who engaged us in a monologue for quite a bit longer than we’d expected to be viewing the watery end of this road.

We at last extricated ourselves and headed back uphill, and the next right turn was uphill some more, all the way to the top of the ridge we can see from our campsite, where the Nature Inn stands. A lovely place inside and out and the views for the guests are truly lovely.


Upon passing several of what looked like interesting trail heads, we briefly contemplated doing some “cross training” (walking as well as riding our bikes) to see where the trails went, especially one marked Skyline Trail with another sign that pointed us to our camping spot (which, incidentally, is called “Modern Campground,” I suppose as opposed to the “Primitive Campground” on the opposite side of the lake).

But we refrained and took another paved road (which was a left hand turn, by the way) that took us off the ridge and down to another boat launch area from which we were unable to escape, except by reversing our path back up toward the Inn, skipping that right-hand turn back up the Inn’s driveway, and again retracing our earlier steps back to the picnic and day-use area opposite the Marina.


Before we headed out of this part of the park, we took one more uphill, due to the fact that a sign labeled “Overlook Sledding Area” piqued our interest. There we found a FedEx guy parked for his lunch in a shady area next to one of the public restrooms, and through the weeds and along a “no vehicles allowed” walking path, saw the Inn from the opposite direction, straight along the top of the ridge. The views were nice from this high spot as well.


Taking a rest stop ourselves, we left the sledding area (might look more promising covered in snow, but who can say?) carried on to Rt. 150, and the narrow road blessedly had a decent shoulder relatively clean of debris, keeping us away from the traffic (a little bit, anyway). We turned left again onto Rt. 26 headed toward another bridge with a view back to the Marina (pic below) and rode on toward the teensy burgh of Howard.

Too bad about the power line, but in the distance, one can see the boats of the Marina.

Had to endure no shoulder along some of 26 to get to the road to the primitive campground, and found an unkempt road full of patches and pots and gravel and humps; and found the majority of the primitive sites to be totally unsuitable for anything except tents (although the walk-in tent sites were quite lovely), despite the area being billed for both tents and RVs. There was, in fact, one RV there, but it looked quite lop-sided and uneven in its site.

The best primitive sites were along the rail road; while we were there, no trains passed, but it was obviously a working RR, and I’d hate to camp there and be awakened in the small hours by a huffing train passing by. 

Back along Rt. 150 was a scenic pull-out, which we took and caught a decent photo.

To the middle/right of the pic is the bridge where I stood to take the previous pic.

And we saw an osprey perched in a snag near the road over a swampy/shallow water area. It didn’t like our presence so near, and flew away before I could get a photo. Other wildlife and critters we saw (in addition to the bald eagle we saw on the first day) were many, many Monarch butterflies, two red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, several great blue herons besides the one I was (marginally) able to photograph, and many songbirds. Not any pesky insects, however, another plus for “shoulder season” camping. 

By the time we made it back, it was 3:00 and our cyclometers indicated we had 28 miles under our belts. We had not taken anything along except water, and we had a date with the extended Russell family to meet up in Mill Branch, PA, at the Clinton Country Club, to have dinner together at Haywood’s On the Green bar and grill. I gotta say, I was quite ready for a meal, since we skipped lunch in favor of our long ride.

Along with walking the lakeside trail on the southeast side of the Lake on the list for Next Time we visit, is to go farther along Rt. 150, either by car or bike, and visit the Schenck and Sandhill cemeteries, farther to the east of the Rt. 26 bridge. Also, to see if it’s possible to bicycle along the dam road; and to hike just a few of the miles of trails within the park.

We made it back before the rain (which came down for a while as we were trying to do a little pack-and-stow, and also to shower) and well before our collective departure for dinner at about 5P. Through texts, we discovered that the fix of JB & Martha’s RV took longer than expected, and they would miss the dinner. But all of the remaining group of us, plus three of Jack’s cousins and their spouses gathered to enjoy some beverages and a meal together. It was quite a fun evening. One or two stories of the young cousins misbehaving at the homes of the generation now gone were told with laughs and fondness.


The following day was our departure to Douthat State Park in VA, and so we hit the hay and arose early to get a jump on a very long day’s drive. Happily, the drive was uneventful, except for several stops for construction projects throughout MD, WV, and VA – at one of which, Jack saw a bear cross the road in his rearview, but I missed it, it went by so fast. The only items of note from the windshield viewfinder were the Seneca Cliffs in West Virginia.


Had a late set-up in site #14 in the Whispering Pines section of the Douthat State Park, and enjoyed a short confab with Kerry, Gloria, Diane, Ken and Barley Boy (JB and Martha finally finished up the RV repairs and were spending the night in Winchester, VA, having another sublime experience camping in a second WalMart parking lot as they sorted the dashboard warning light issue – we discovered marginal cell service at Douthat, allowing texts about RV repair updates, and [obviously] an upload of this post, albeit a very slow upload, indeed). Our “quick” dinner was mostly leftovers, but included fresh-baked rolls (risen during the drive) with our pasta and dinner remains from Haywood’s On the Green. 

Hungry as I was, who could eat all that? It’s Haywood’s meatloaf special: a buttered piece of toast in rich brown gravy, topped with 2 2-inch slabs of delicious meatloaf, topped with a generous scoop of mashed potatoes topped with more gravy; corn, and a side of grilled mushrooms and onions. No wonder there were significant leftovers, right?

Family Reflections

We checked my brother in for his flight back to Berlin, Germany on Saturday, September 24. We’d not seen him for a few years, and it had been 5 years since he’d seen our mom and been in Virginia. Jack, Page and I concocted a proper send-off the night before with grilled tuna steaks (from Indigo Farms Seafood), a beet, grapefruit, and arugula salad, and rice pilaf. Page had brought some Proseco and lovely Cusina Macoul Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our celebratory dinner. And Jack resurrected an ancient bottle of vintage port we had acquired back in the 1980s, saved for a special occasion. We finished the night with some strong French cheese and that port, almost as old as Page (my brother is 1959 vintage, where the port was 1963).


He felt as though he’d accomplished a lot during his short stay, sorting through old items he’d left in Mom’s attic; helping her sort the good from the “ready to go” down in her basement; and touching base with a couple US friends. Mostly, he had to make some tough decisions about the remarkable catalogue of Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides from his photojournalist/nature photographer career that began before digital photography supplanted the more expensive films he cut his teeth on. I felt his pain and loss, but as he aptly pointed out, “If any publisher had wanted to use the original African elephant or American wolf images I took back in the 90s, he or she would have contacted me by now, I’d have thought.”

Among my fondest memories of time spent with my brother in our young adulthood was a January trip we took the the Florida Everglades, for him to photograph the wintering birds and wildlife for the magazine he worked for at the time. I acted as his “bearer” slinging cases and bags of lenses and film across my shoulders, freeing up his hands to actually take the photos. We saw many wonders during the trip, including a hawk stealing a water snake from the beak of an egret or a heron (I have forgotten which) just before the water bird swallowed its meal. We took a slough slog, or a walk into the chilly freshwater river with a group led by a wildlife biologist. We managed to get a speeding ticket as we arose from our tent later than we’d intended, and raced to the south to catch the sunrise. 

It was a wonderful trip and resulted in some truly spectacular photos. My shoulders were tired, but watching him work was a tutoring experience in itself.

Chatting with a friend at Dogtown Roadhouse.

If there had been more time available to him during this 2016 trip, my personal hope was that he’d have been able to sort those slides stored in Mom’s attic, not by which to pitch and which he just could not let go. Rather I wished he could determine which to have digitized and which to pitch, even if the digitizations had to await his next visit to the US, since I could hold them in my basement. But that, of course, is a much more involved decision-tree than what he actually had time for. So he ended up breaking his own heart by throwing away pounds and pounds worth of original images we can see in several of his books. 
I guess the saddest part is that the images represent a past life and many extraordinary journeys and have bits of memories attached to them. Of course, he’ll always have his memories, but those pieces of film carried with them slices of those memories. When we clear the items from our histories by tossing and sorting, I believe that we all fear those slices of memory might be gone forever.
Now we both have an idea what our mother is going through, emptying out her home in prep for a move to Assisted Living.

The family, including eldest Richard and in-law Jack.

Triggers

The first thing was to hide all the bedding, toys, and food bowls. We did that through streaming tears on the first day, merely to make the house habitable. Couldn’t then and still haven’t actually “dealt with” the paraphernalia, but simply moved it from sight. Those triggers were just too big to endure.

Since then, the triggers are small. Simple. Ordinary.

We drop a piece of food on the kitchen floor while cooking, and no one trots over to clean it up. I look out the kitchen window as I’m washing dishes but there’s no one stretched out sunning on top of the picnic table. Processing a load of laundry leaves the warm sheets in the living room to fold later, but there’s no one to yell at to keep their grubby paws off the clean sheets.

My dogs are gone and they’re never coming back.

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Today, we’re a week into our bereavement. Yuck. Such an inadequate word to hug our devastation to our chests—to encompass the tsunami of tears; the avalanche of tissues; the derecho of splintered heart. Our glasses have been smudged and wet for days and days because our eyes continue to leak and our hugs for one another are tight and desperate and full of snot. We awaken with crusty eyelids because we cry in our sleep.

Triggers accost us at every turn. A squirrel at the feeder doesn’t prompt ear-splitting barking; a deer eating apples in the orchard isn’t answered by 4-legged lightening-streaks down the hill; our return from town isn’t ushered in with “singing” from our bedroom window.

I’ve taken refuge in work: I have had that advantage over Jack, with a job to do that gets me off the property. His work keeps him bumping up against the triggers, all day. Every day.

The gray, foggy weather hasn’t helped. Our first weekend alone in the house, we thought a nice Netflix movie would be a good distraction. But the popcorn made us cry. Jazz and Radar loved catching popcorn puffs tossed in the air. We cannot even snack on dry-roasted peanuts because they always shared with us. Popcorn and peanuts: the only “human food” we allowed our dogs.

Mornings are the worst. In a normal life, I came downstairs with my fleece jacket over my nightshirt and sweat pants under. I put the kettle on the stove, clicked the flame on, and walked outside to release them from their “playpen” below the front porch. Always so happy to see me, they’d stretch and yawn; jump and wag; and lift a leg or squat en route to the kitchen and their breakfast. We’d turn on the radio and settle down to a quiet cuppa for me and a post-breakfast snooze in the warmest, smelliest spots for them. Sometimes, there would be some lap-sitting and snuggling included.

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Now. There’s nothing.

Me, my tea, and Tab O’Neal & Steve Inskeep on the radio. Jack comes down the stairs and we hold each other for everything that was lost.

We got brave and took our first walk around the ponds over the weekend in the drizzling rain and fog. We knew it would be upsetting without them running in the woods, barking up trees, and checking in at a gallop, only to race past and find a new spot to harry. No more water snake harassing. No more snatching catfish food out of the air as we toss it into the pond.

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I discovered that digging their grave was a great way to vent anger, frustration, heartbreak, and self-pity. Using a digging bar to loosen the clay and the inevitable substantial rocks—all the while cussing and crying and kicking dirt clods—was actually therapeutic. Who knew?

I know that, for me, the worst is yet to come. These were my falconry dogs; partners to the redtailed hawk in the hunt; with four and five years of experience behind them. The bird, acquired in 2011, was at long-last “getting” the game we played together—understanding the usefulness of the dogs. The dogs were “getting” the idea that, even though they weren’t allowed to catch the quarry, they could still experience success when the bird actually scored the take-down. It was an enormously talented team, which was admired by everyone who saw them work together.

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Now, in one fell swoop, I’m demoted from falconry chauffeur to rabbit dog. I think the redtail will be sorely disappointed in what I can produce for it to chase, as compared to what Jazz and Radar were able to flush. That will, again, break my heart for all that has been lost.

Jack & I graduated to being able to talk about potential breeders of puppies as we were comforted by friends over the weekend. The images of my dogs that I see in my head are now, rarely of their bodies lying in the road; or as we arranged them in their final resting place, to appear as if they were snuggled together in sleep. I am beginning to see pictures of them as they lived, rather than as they died. Healing is happening.

And, I realize it is important to keep things in perspective. I just heard that a good friend does not, in fact, have cancer. That news is monumentally important to me and I am delighted to hear it and know it in my heart. I rejoice for her and her family and friends. We have received many wonderful expressions of heartfelt understanding from a tremendously wide range of our home community members. So much in our lives could be so much worse.

But for right now, right here, we are assaulted by triggers. And we cannot cleanse the pain with tears.

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Copenhagen sights

Arrived late afternoon Monday and linked up with Ini and Lee right as we cleared customs. Puzzled about the metro system for a while, then puzzled some more about the self-serve kiosks for buying tickets. Just as our flight landed, it had begun to rain. As we got on the train, it began to pour.

We were quickly in our new neighborhood, and a very short trudge through the rain from the station landed us in our new apartment building. Our hostess, Lene and her daughter Sonya, arrived with the keys and instructions. What a spectacular apartment!

We wandered out for a coffee by the nearby lake, and wound our way back to the apartment through an ethnic neighborhood with wonderful vege markets on the street. We purchased some stuff for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast, ate well, shared wine, and hit the sack early.

I’d tried to get a call through to Bertel, with whom we’ve arranged to meet on our second day, so he might steer us to the best “gotta-do’s” for which we have time, but something went awry and he didn’t get my messages. Last emails of the night were exchanged between us to set up a meet for the following AM at Mikael’s gallery (Galerie Mikael Andersen).

Here are some sights and sounds of our Copenhagen adventure so far (no pix from our short, rainy walks).

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