Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Rail Trail - a holistic view
Monday, March 29 2004
Gretchen and I took the dogs down the Rail Trail again today, but this time we rode bicycles. This allowed us a much greater range, and we rode all the way down to High Falls, some seven miles to the south. We rode leisurely, giving the dogs opportunities to take numerous side-excursions into the forest. Still, the speed was sufficient to give me a holistic sense of the landscape, as if I was viewing it all from high above. I've had this feeling in the past, but it usually required that I was in an airplane, on top of a mountain (Marin County, California), or under the influence of marijuana while riding in a car. I think this feeling way was based on two things, both related to the fact that we were traveling on an abandoned railroad grade. The first was that the ride was almost completely flat (despite the surrounding terrain), making the ride effortless. The other was that it was nearly perfectly straight. It was as if we were drifting on an arbitrary course through the landscape in a dream.

The ride was broken into several phases, each divided from the next by the crossing of a road. The first phase was 3.1 miles long and took us over the divide between the Esopus and Rondout Watersheds. Just on the other side of this divide was a long swampy arm of water. I knew right away that it wasn't a permanent pond, because there were numerous large dead trees sticking out of it. My suspicion that this was a beaver pond was confirmed by the stick and mud dam at its southern end, where the water was so deep that it inundated the trail itself and forced us to ford our way to a higher bank. As beaver ponds go, this was an especially large one, with numerous lodges. And the adjacent woods had many examples of beaver timbering operations, some of which had been left in a dangerously unfinished state. Gretchen thought it was awesome.
When we got to High Falls, we went into the High Falls Food Co-op and bought a variety of foods that could be eaten without preparation. Then we had ourselves a makeshift picnic along the brook that runs in a deep stony gorge off the side of the parking lot. Unfortunately, the burritos that constituted our main course were so bland that they were nearly inedible. This reflected, I think, an unfortunate philosophy widespread in certain health food circles: that eating isn't supposed to be a pleasurable experience.

On the way back north, we saw a collapsed old barn and decided to jump a creek and wade through a briar patch to see what it was like inside. It had a beautiful horse-drawn harrow (I think that's what it was) and plenty of abandoned hay. The electrical system was unexpectedly robust, all of it running through steel conduit.
A nearby building was similarly abandoned but looked to be in good shape. It was comprised of about a half dozen large stalls seemingly designed to hold cattle.
About a third of the way home, I started noticing that Sally (who is about eight years old) was lagging a bit, at least in comparison to the youthfully-rubbery Eleanor. When she dropped out of sight entirely I began to wonder what she was up to. Then I heard her barking. So I rode back to see what she'd found. It was an enormous raccoon that was choosing to cower at the base of a tree instead of climbing to safety. By now we'd been joined by Eleanor, who got right up in the raccoon's face, only retreating when it charged at her. It took some work to get the dogs away from such a distraction. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that it's the prospect of encounters like this that make the dogs so excited about going into the woods in the first place.
Speaking of encounters, we only encountered three other groups of human beings on the entire trail system (7 miles down and 7 miles back), and two of those sets of people were people one or both of us already knew! What does this tell you about the sort of people who hike on this trail?

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