Spring Valley

Spring Valley early April before the weeds take over
Spring Valley early April before the weeds take over

We used to hike up here all the time, back when ticks were not on our radar. Old horse riding paths wind around the hills off Hoffman Road. The entrance is overgrown and many of the paths have fallen tress you have to climb over but that is exactly why we like it. The deer are still startled to see people up here and we often see packs of wild turkeys.

The large undeveloped part of the park is bordered by Hoffman, Lakeshore Boulevard, Kings Highway and Titus Avenue. The paths are nearly impassable in the summer when the tick infested Black Swallow Wort takes over. Early April is the perfect time to wander around.

We usually exit along the big ridge trail that leads over to Spring Valley but before we get out on the road we have to cross the creek and it is often running pretty full in the Spring. We found a crutch-like stick and rearranged a few big stones in the water in order to cross.

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Migrating

Hawk migration over Durand Eastman on March 30
Hawk migration over Durand Eastman on March 30

All those little specs in the photo above are hawks. It was unseasonably warm, in the 60s, and the dark clouds were moving swiftly overhead. Turns out the shores of the Great Lakes are one of the best places in the country to catch the migrating hawks. Just after taking this shot it started raining but we could see blue sky on the horizon so we soldiered on. By the time we got down to the beach the sun was coming out.

Durand Eastman beach on Lake Ontario
Durand Eastman beach on Lake Ontario
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Overly Optimistic

Catalanni place at the bottom of Titus Avenue Extension
Catalanni place at the bottom of Titus Avenue Extension

Everybody knows House of Guitars is on Titus Avenue but how many people have been to the very east end of Titus, the part they call the Extension? It drops steeply as it winds its way down to the bay and then it dead-ends at this place. The houses along the way look tiny from the street but some are three and four stories in the back as they as they hang over the hillside.

As I walked out to get the paper this morning I heard a flock of geese overhead, the first I’ve heard returning from down south. They make a racket as they fly but their sounds are so beautiful. I stood out in the road in my slippers as they came into sight and then disappeared.

We were skiing just a few days ago on March 1st but its going to be 60 by the weekend and Saint Patty’s is just two weeks away, the unofficial first day of Spring. We spotted a few Red Wing Blackbirds in the marsh, standing on top of the tall grasses and calling to one another. I had a feeling that our Winter Aconite might be up so took a look out back and then realized I’m being overly optimistic.

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Peggi skiing across the golf course in 9 degree snowstorm
Peggi skiing across the golf course in 9 degree snowstorm

It is a special club, those of us who get out there no matter what the weather. There are not many of us either so we say hi when we pass. It was 9 degrees today with a wind off the lake.

9 is an important number in soccer, the position with the best chance of scoring, the center forward spot. Often the player in that position will wear the number 9 on his, her or they jersey.

Nine is my favorite number but wasn’t always. When I was nine I placed a token on number 12 at Saint John’s parish’s the their annual festival and I won a box of Milky Ways, something like twenty 5 cent candy bars. Snickers were actually my favorite but I ate every single one.

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Hollow Hair

Cross country tracks near pine grove on golf course
Cross country tracks near pine grove on golf course

It was ten degrees this morning when we got out there but we were warm in minutes. We skied over to Horseshoe Road and up to the club house. I always expect to find a café open up there but it doesn’t happen. We’ve skied everyday for over a week now and the five day forecast on the back of the Sports section calls for more snow and frigid temperatures.

Len Lisenbee’s column on the front page of the Sports section was about how wildlife survives in this climate. We’re always coming across spots the trails where deer have slept for the night, depressions in deep snow that look pretty cozy. Sometimes the snow looks melted by their body heat. I’ve always wondered how they are able to withstand the cold. Lisenbee explained the deer have “hollow hairs,” like double pane glass with dead air inside, that help hold in body heat.

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Distinctive Mandibles

Walking bridge over Genesee River from Seneca Park
Walking bridge over Genesee River from Seneca Park

It was cold this morning but the birders were out, all bundled up with binoculars hanging on their necks. Someone had spotted Redpolls and Purple Finches near the end of Hoffman Road and posted the location so a small group had gathered. The Finches have come south for the winter, “south” to upstate New York. One of the guys told us he had also seen some Red Crossbills near Conifer Lane, the long dead end running off Hoffman. He told us they have special beaks that enable them to pick the seeds out of a pine cone.

We looked Red Crossbills up when we got back home and sure enough, “their distinctive mandibles, crossed at the tips, enable them to extract seeds from conifer cones and other fruits.” Fitting that they were spotted on Conifer Lane probably picking the seeds out of the conifer cones.

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Calling All Mushrooms

Mushroom bouquet near Erie Canal in Pittsford NY
Mushroom bouquet near Erie Canal in Pittsford NY

We had a week of weather that was apparently hard to forecast. My watch is tethered to Peggi’s phone but they have different default weather apps. And both were consistently wrong when it came to predicting the hourly chance of rain. Not that we study that kind of thing but we’d like to be prepared when we we’re out walking.

The on again, off again rain acted as calling card to the mushroom spores. I added quite a few specimens to my My Mycology Album.

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Lake Effect

Peggi on ski path around Eastman Lake
Peggi on ski path around Eastman Lake

Atlético is due to meet Chelsea in an upcoming Champions League contest and six of their players have tested positive. On top of that, Spain is restricting entry to citizens from the UK so they are planning to host the match in Budapest. Atlético, who sits rather comfortably atop La Liga, meets Granada on Saturday in their next league contest. The “colchoneros” (mattress makers) have a fairly deep bench so we are not that worried about this one but they will need their best lineup to meet Chelsea.

Luis Suárez was out earlier in the season having tested positive after partying with his national team, Uruguay. The team managed without him. He returned in top form and is leading the league, just behind Messi, in goals scored. But now starters, and some of our favorite Atlético players, the Frenchman, Lemar, the Belgian Carrasco, the Mexican Herrera, and the Portuguese sensation, João Félix are all out with what is rumored to be the British strain of COVID-19.

João spent some time on the bench while recovering from an injury and we kept yelling at him to pull his mask up but it didn’t do any good. Luckily we have two other favorite teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, the second and third place teams in the the 20 team league. We record the games in Spanish and watch them at dinner time, sitting on the floor in front of the tv in order to see the players clearly. La Liga matches, cross country skiing (we’ve skied twenty days in a row) and the vaccine are going to get us through this pandemic.

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Perambulatory Notes

Worship on Facebook only sign at Church of the Transfiguration on Culver Road in Rochester, New York
Worship on Facebook only sign at Church of the Transfiguration on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

I thought two cans of olive oil would last longer than they did. We needed a walking destination anyway so we headed up to Rubino’s, an Italian market that has the good sense to carry some Spanish olive oil. I put two 3 liter cans of Zoe oil and a half gallon of Pittsford Dairy milk in my backpack. Peggi carried the figs, olives and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For kicks I checked the price of Zoe’s at Amazon before we left – 45 bucks for a can that costs 29 at Rubino’s. We saved thirty dollars and got a seven mile walk in. I have a reader who likes the perambulatory details so I will share them here.

We turn right, right, left and then right from our house and come out at the Church of the Transfiguration on Culver, a road that runs from Pinnacle Hill in the city all the way to the lake. We go south here on the left side of the street because there’s no sidewalk on the west side and we turn right on Titus. My watch always dings at this intersection because it is exactly a mile from our house. There is a large overgrown lot on Titus that has been for sale for years. It makes a great bathroom stop in all seasons. We turned left somewhere after that, not sure what the name of the street is. After some zig-zagging in that neighborhood we cross Bouckhart Avenue where the virgin is and continue until the street ends. It ends for cars, that is, because there is a secret sidewalk here that takes you the one block over to Kings Highway. We go by Bishop Kearney, where Joe Barrett and I went to school for a couple years, and the big medical complex where the workers smoke cigarettes out on the sidewalk because they can’t smoke on the grounds. At Ridge Road we considered walking through the drive-thru lane at Starbucks but decided against it. I ordered two cappuccinos when we got to Rubino’s and they made them while we shopped.

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Schadenfreude

Bittersweet climbing up tall trees in Spring Valley
Bittersweet climbing up tall trees in Spring Valley

We were waiting for a day like Tuesday, theoretically too cold for ticks (although our friend, Jim Mott, told us he found two on him after a walk in the woods on a 20 degree day), sunny with no snow, to take one of our favorite hikes. This section of the undeveloped part of the park is completely overgrown with evidence of old horse trails that we follow in a big loop from our house. There really is no park management overseeing these trails so huge trees fall over on the paths and stay there for years.

Back in 2009, when we used to take this trail all the time, we discovered someone had brought a crew in to cut up the fallen trees and widen the path. We assumed it was the park management but the job was so destructive we called to complain. Larry Staub, the Parks Commissioner, came to to see it for himself and the police arrested a guy we nicknamed “Bulldozer Man.” Not to get too close to schadenfreude here but Bulldozer guy, who owned a construction company, was run over by a bulldozer being driven by one of his employees just last year.

The fallen trees in hills here look like art installations and there is never anyone up here. You do have to forde a creek that runs along Spring Valley and the first hill is a serious climb, something that is impossible with snow on the ground. The paths are completely overground with invasive plants in the summer. You would need a machete to get through the black swallow wort and mustard green. Those tick harboring plants have all died back now so our visit was sensational.

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Unattainable Attraction

Lake Ontario 12.03.20
Lake Ontario 12.03.20

You could visit Lake Ontario everyday. We come pretty close to doing so, and it will always look different. Sometimes brutally rough but alway beautiful. For us it is a pagan pilgrimage site. Our meditative walks reach a culmination there. We can’t go any further north on foot. We can only stop and admire the display. The lake level, wind, waves and ice all rearrange the shoreline. Shells, stone and pieces of worn glass get washed in and gather like a carefully arranged art installation. The open sky is nothing but dramatic and the lake plays with the colors in the sky. The horizon is always a dreamy but unattainable attraction.

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Glass Half Full

Durand Beach looking west toward Charlotte in October
Durand Beach looking west toward Charlotte in October

While the president was on his steroid binge he issued a statement that his hospitalization and process of recovery was a “miracle from God coming down.”

If God really did come down he would force the president to watch “David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet.” Then, while under the influence, in his weakened state, the president would erratically switched gears and became an environmental leader, pushing us to take the simple, sustainable steps that will allow our earth to recover.

Attenborough, at 93, with sixty plus years as a naturalist, chronicles the destruction he has witnessed in his own lifetime and instead of hanging his head in shame he is an optimist. Not so much for mankind, but a true believer in nature’s ability to adapt, correct and move forward.This magical film on Netflix is his witness statement.

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Hunter Gatherer

Pink flag, golf balls and Beech nuts
Pink flag, golf balls and Beech nuts

We’ve noticed bike tracks on some of the trails through the park and we’ve occasionally seen guys on bikes, those fat tire things. They don’t pay any attention to the “No Biking on Trails” signs. We noticed a new sign yesterday planted right in the middle of a trail that goes straight up a hill. In addition to being obnoxious the bikes tear up the trails and lead to erosion. I spotted this pink flag on trail today, probably alerting other bikers to the path. I brought it home with me along with six golf balls and three Sweet Gum seed pods that looked like a brown version of the Corona virus.

There was a period, five or six years ago, when I was bringing home Budweiser cans from a spot near the marsh on Hoffman Road. I put all those photos in a slideshow below.

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Correction

Snowy Magnolias against a blue sky
Snowy Magnolias against a blue sky

I love these Snowy Magnolias, so aptly named. They’re much prettier than the clunky, tulip-like Magnolias.

Is it because of the pandemic that this is the best spring ever or in spite of it? The wisteria which typically herald the new season are still yellow after almost four weeks. The daffodils still standing. The cherry blossoms are still on the trees. We’ve not had a wind storm or heavy rain or heatwave to crash the party. This year it is a slow orgasm.

Spring blossoms in Durand Eastman Park
Spring blossoms in Durand Eastman Park

I suspect the pandemic has shaped my perception. I’m not an essential worker or a high school senior. I didn’t lose my job. I am healthy. It’s just that the world moves more slowly now. Why is the newspaper so big. Oh, it must be Sunday.

My appreciation and respect for the natural order, the plant and animal world, has only grown deeper. The virus is throwing our bad behavior in our face. And the pause has provided a glimpse of a possible correction. Maybe we haven’t completely fucked up the earth. Maybe its not too late.

My friend, Louise, agrees.

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Better Than Six Feet Under

Six Feet Saves Lives sign on Lakeshore Boulevard
Six Feet Saves Lives sign on Lakeshore Boulevard

The warmer it gets the harder it will be to stay six feet away from others. The park is more crowded than ever for this time of year. They’ve taken down the barricades that closed the roads for the winter. Cars stream up Zoo Road from the lake and loop back down Pine Valley and the Magnolias won’t even be in full blossom for another week or so. The cars above are parralel parked before the parking lots even begin! We ran a zig zag pattern today, got right down on the beach for a few minutes and then crossed Lakeshore Boulevard and went up Horseroad Road, across the golf course and up Hoffman Road.

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Primary Line

In the Fall our neighbor, Jared, had a Hickory tree come down on the hillside behind his house. It fell across the road and took the power lines down. Peggi and I cut the wood to log lengths and hauled it up to our yard in preparation for splitting. This winter one of our trees came down and took the lines down again. The telephone pole between our properties, the one that carries the primary (high voltage) line, was yanked in both directions.

Sometime after one of these incidents we noticed a black patch of bark on one of our trees. About twenty five feet up in an oak that is well over a hundred feet tall we guessed that it had been hit by lightning. The spot, about eighteen inches in diameter, appeared charred and was shinny when wet. When we looked at it from our bedroom it appeared to be reflecting a light source, maybe from the neighbors down the road who leave a light on by their driveway around the clock. In the last week or so the light points became more intense like lasers. Our house guest, Steve Black, became sort of obsessed by it and alerted us to especially active periods.

When he called our attention to it yesterday there was a small flame shooting from the tree. Outside we saw smoke and for the first time realized one of the power lines had burned a deep gouge in the tree. We called the power company and they called the fire department. Three trucks answered the call but they didn’t want to touch the wire. When the power company got there they lassoed the wire and pulled it away from the contact point. They tied the rope to another one of our trees. Rather than move the pole backing place they decided to take the tree down.

This morning we woke to a guy way up in the tree. It took him about four hours to lower the branches and ten the crew dropped the 30 foot long tree trunk and left it for us.

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Flower Power

New fence around our Forever Wild area.
New fence around our Forever Wild area.

Good Friday sort of sails by these days. I remember sitting on the front porch of our house on Brookfield with my sister and brother as we tried to stay silent between noon and 3 PM, the hours Christ hung on the cross. We were not able to do it.

Our place came with a dog pen on the side of the house, a square, fenced in area that the dog could access from the doggie door, which was cut into the bottom of a door in our garage. The fence keeps the deer out and all sorts of stuff grows in there. We call it our forever wild area. 

We bought some new fencing recently. It’s six feet tall and black clad instead of five feet and green so you sort of look right through it. We fanned out from the corners of the house and made the area considerably bigger. The project took a good week. The next owner will have a bigger dog area.

After all that work we drove to Wegmans and really filled the cart because we wouldn’t have to carry it all home this time. We are headed to Joyce’s birthday party tomorrow and Helena and Jedi’s for Easter so we stopped in the fresh flower section and bought two bunches of roses, colors specific to each party. 

I went off to the produce department while Peggi watched the flower lady wrap the roses. When I returned with an armful of fruit they were talking about Woodstock, the ‘69 version. The flower lady had been there and Peggi told her that I had too. She told us her sister-in-law used to live with Gene Cornish and she managed the Young Rascals, the Rustix and The Brass Buttons. And her brother was roadie for The Invictas back in the day.

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The Song Of Roland

Pyrenees in northeastern corner of Spain
Pyrenees in northeastern corner of Spain

We headed out before sunrise this morning having never met the proprietors of the hotel we were staying at in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We made those arrangements back in Rochester and we planned to see how far we got before booking a room for tonight. We made it to Ronceveles, an eight and half hour walk over the Pyrenees and we’re settled down in an old monastery that has been artfully converted to a hotel.

We were sitting on a bus going in the opposite direction on this same route yesterday. It was a series of hair-pin turns.
The driver gave us a talk before departure, first in Spanish and then in English. English that he apologized for but he was great. He told us the bus would stop and start a lot and there would be some bumps so if we felt sick he said we should use a plastic bag and he demonstrated with one. Then he gestured toward the door to his left and said. “I stop the bus. You go out. Throw up.”

It wasn’t so bad. Today the route was mostly off road along streams, up the side of mountains and though valleys on enchanted pathways. The woods were gorgeous, water seeping out of the ground, trees covered in moss and lychin. Wildflowers, cherry tree blossoms, pastures with long horned sheep and breathtaking views.

In one day we met two people who are doing the Camino for a second time. We’ve just gotten started and I too would like to do it again.

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Dramatic Intersection

Intersection of the Erie Canal and the Genesee River
Intersection of the Erie Canal and the Genesee River

Rivers don’t cross one another at right angles. But a river and a man-made canal can and they do just south of downtown Rochester. You are looking west from one of the beautiful, arched, concrete bridges in Frederick Law Olmstead’s Genesee Valley Park. The canal runs across the state, and the river, coming from the left in this photo, flows north to Lake Ontario. This is a really dramatic intersection.

We have shifted gears and are now wearing only the gear we will be bringing on our walking trip. I feel like we are already on the walking trip but it doesn’t start for another thirty days. So, no more layers of cotton clothing. We have been outfitted in man-made high-tech gear. Our friend, Olga, who has a keen fashion sense, works part time at REI so we texted her for her hours and then stopped in the store on Tuesday night to take her recommendations.

I came home with a SmartWool base-layer top, some Royal Robins pants, a 100% Polyester Pantagonia Fleece lightweight jacket and my favorite item, a cool Kuhl rain jacket. Oh, and then we bought hats to keep the rain and sun away. They are too goofy looking to link to.

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Dix Street

Old Glen Haven Railroad bed
Old Glen Haven Railroad bed

Thirty-eight degrees is just right for walking. Our twelve and a half mile walk today took four hours to complete but that included a number of stops. Starbucks was the first and then a stroll down Dix street, thinking of Otto and the book Angel has of his work before stopping in Dunkin Donuts to use the bathroom. And then down the access road that runs along 590 near the Norton Street exit and into the woods in the county park that follows the old subway bed, the same line that ran from Garson Avenue along Shaftsbury and down to the bay where the old amusement park was.

It’s a beautiful trail with all sorts of turns and small bridges and there’s remnants of old houses along the way, just the foundations and slabs and the hint of a fireplace. There are occasional markers. We followed the blue to the green and we came out on bay right across from the entrance to the Fish and Game club. We called our neighbor, a member, from the entrance and I was picturing him inviting us in for a beer but he was at home. We stopped at a gas station on Culver to use their bathroom and then Wegmans to pick up some salad for the family gathering we’re planning for tomorrow where we will prepare of my dad’s next show.

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