Belle Isle Hike

April 25, 2017

Took some of the rainy time to take a shower while no one is around.

The wind combined with the waterlogged soil made it challenging to keep the awning staked up, but we triple-guy-lined the windward side pole, and that seemed to do the trick.

About 12:30P the constant rain began to ebb and by 1 it was not raining for the first time in two nights and two days. I took advantage and headed out along one of the trails hereabouts. I donned my hiking boots that have sat, lonely and forlorn in the back seat of the car, and tied my rain jacket around my waist just in case the clouds were not serious about turning off the spigot. It was still pretty cool, so I kept my hoodie on and set out.

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Had a really lovely 4 mile round-trip walk; first down the trail they call Watch House that ended at the Rappahannock River. Of course, there was some mud, but mostly it was hard-packed gravel and dirt.

 

Another longer trail headed off of that one, to something called “Brewers Point.” Of course, I had to go out thataway. It was a longer, 1.9 mile trek and it was along there that the sun came out, the humidity rose and the hungry insects came to see what might be for lunch. So the good news/bad news thing of the day was that I had to wear my hoodie because I forgot bug spray.

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At the end of the trail to Brewers Point were more insects, but also a “canoe-in camping area.” It was actually quite nice, with four raised tent platforms, four picnic tables, a common fire ring, and an area to hang stuff like wet towels as well as lanterns.

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Of course, there was a fee-paying station; but oddly, no privy. Short of walking the 2-plus miles back to the campground for the bathhouse, one would have to portage in all one’s water, and bring along a good, light shovel for burying non-trash waste. If you’re a purist camper who packs out everything he packs in, this site would be perfect. Very remote and primitive.

Every creature in the region, including the biting insects, had been sequestered, it seemed, during the rains, because I saw no fewer than 7 rabbits out for a nibble along the path; and 3 groundhogs. The birds and frogs in the wooded areas were legion and loud!

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First rabbit

I got back to the camper where Jack had spread our outdoor rug and a couple of other wet things in the sun to dry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too much longer when the clouds rolled back in. It began lightly raining again at about 4, just as Jack received a Happy Birthday phone call from his longtime buddy, Harry (Jack’s big day is tomorrow, our transition day). Below are various additional scenes from my hike.

After a bit more reading and game-playing on our devices, we set to making dinner: tortellini pasta with pesto sauce, Italian sausage, and a salad. More things removed from the fridge, so I can get more beer in there (hehe) 😉.

That’s pretty much the sum of our Tuesday, April 25. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to improve and stay that way, so we might be able to take a quickie ride or two before we head over to Powhatan State Park near Richmond, VA.

Falconry Season: February Crows

It’s been a strange season for flying birds. First the crash of the squirrel population. Then the wicked cold temps keeping everything (including me and my red tail) tucked into shelter.

So this has been the season I’ve reversed my “normal” A and B team concentrations. Where my most dependable and fun outings in the past have been flying the red tail on squirrels, and the falcon-on-crows focus was more of a “dawdle,” I have found myself frustrated and un-inspired by working with the red tail and the new dog. 

For one thing, the dog remains clueless. It’s hard to get the dog to understand what we’re doing out there when there are no squirrels to chase. So when I’ve looked for red-tail-style dinner options, we have devolved to rabbits. Not many of them around, either. So both the bird and the dog get bored. The other day, on one of those rare warm days, the bird found a significant snake crawling around — who’d have thought that a snake would be active in 45-50 degrees? And it wasn’t a little shoestring-sized snake, either. When the bird had finished eating it, we were done for the day.

A bored red-tailed hawk picks up bad habits. It might even think that the white-and-black canine running around randomly and not noticeably helping flush anything might just do for a quick meal.

Enter the traditionally-dubbed “B-Team.” My Crow Joe (CJ) the falcon has been spot on his targets. The thing about the crows, however, is that my fave time for getting out before too much human activity starts up for the day is right after dawn. But when the temps are in the teens and below, the crows are waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit before they start pecking around on the frozen-solid ground. Crows are smart, remember.

So it’s been tough finding the right timing and putting together the situations where both CJ is at weight and ready to fly, and the crows are out, messing around on the ground feeding. But it hasn’t been so tough that I have been unable to offer CJ opportunities to fly, and he has been eating heartily on fresh dinner á la corvid. 

I guess the upshot of all this is the following. You’re never too old to learn something new. If you try different things, you’re likely to find an alternative that works. If you’re patient, and try not to get your knickers all knotted up, the rough patches will smooth. And its useless to cry over situations that you cannot change; instead, make an effort to adapt.

So this is the winter of my adaptation. And I love my falcon.

February Crows:

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Falconry with Friends

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The Virginia Falconers’ Association held its Harrisonburg Field Meet last weekend. I met some new people, beat brush until I was near dropping, told some lies and tall tales, and generally had a great time seeing old friends who all share my particular form of insanity. The high temperature on the primary hunting day was 27 degrees, so it was also exhausting, trying to keep warm and stay out of the wind while following a hunting bird of prey. Still, it was rewarding to have my 2x intermewed redtailed hawk catch one of only two squirrels nabbed over the weekend (Harrisonburg is renowned, among falconers, for its rabbits).

When I was a start-up falconer, I hunted alone (with a bird, of course) for many many years. I’m very glad that circumstance changed for me. There is nothing quite like being in the fields and woodlots with my peers. I watch a recall to the glove: the singular beauty of a gliding hawk, homing in on a tidbit sitting on a leather gauntlet, some 50 or 100 yards away. We all stop whatever we were doing and watch, thrilling in the extraordinary discipline that has convinced this wild entity to voluntarily return to the fist; we all shake our heads, and murmur “nothing like it on earth,” and each knows what the other means. It is truly priceless.

I didn’t have the opportunity to fly CJ, the crow-eating falcon, during the field meet. I think it was too cold and windy for the crows to be sitting on the ground anyway; but I honestly didn’t have time to go check through the byways of Rockingham Co. So I flew CJ on the Monday morning upon my return home. He was so anxious to fly, he went out the window and nailed a crow within the first ten minutes of our effort. It was the first one we saw. He got a good crop-up in return for his good behavior and patience (ha! this is a joke: the very last thing counted among attributes of birds of prey is patience). Actually, I fed him up because I felt guilty that he was waiting fruitlessly all weekend to hunt.

It was a good weekend (plus). Hoping the approaching deep freeze won’t prevent more flying this week.