Tuesday, December 19 2006
setting: forested Minerva Area, Adirondack State Park, New York
Today Gretchen and I hiked with the dogs up to Sherman Pond, about two miles to the northwest via a snow mobile trail. We passed through a rugged forest that was almost entirely deciduous (various birches, maples, aspen, and beech). Occasionally we ran into the odd spruce tree from which I'd pluck a few needles to satisfy my constant need to be tasting something. The forest lived atop a rolling landscape of granite rubble, with some boulders as large as UPS trucks. It didn't take much imagination to picture how it had looked soon after the last of the Laurentide Ice Sheet had melted.
Weather was good for our walk, somewhere in the 30s, but sunny and windless. It was a little cold at first but once we started moving we warmed up fast. Sherman Pond itself was frozen over with enough ice for our dogs to run across its surface with abandon. We hoped they wouldn't break through and neither of them did.
The outflow of Sherman Pond is dominated by a narrow but unusually tall beaver dam. Placed where it is, this dam looks to have expanded the pond by a good fraction, making it nearly as large as, say, Onteora Lake.
Yurt-based existence is a relaxing vacation. One spends a lot of time lying around on the upper bunks basking in the rising heat from the propane heater, reading, napping, or just meditating. It's like being in a hot bath but with no fear of drowning.
This evening I dedicated myself to the task of opening a bottle of Yellowtail Cabernet Sauvignon Gretchen had brought. We hadn't brought a corkscrew and there were none in the yurt's collection of kitchen supplies. I went out looking for a wire with which to fashion my own corkscrew, but I couldn't find any in the clutter beneath a nearby cabin. The solution was a pair of screw-in hooks above the heater. One by itself couldn't gain sufficient purchase on the artificial cork, but two entering at different angles did the trick. Gretchen seemed to think the wine had spoiled from all the temperature changes it had been through, so I drank nearly all of it myself. I care more about such things than I used to, but essentially I'm still the guy who believes himself a rich man any time he holds an alcoholic beverage in his hand.
Since there was no high tech of any sort to divert me, if I wanted to be creative I had to do it the low-tech way. Traditionally for me this has involved paint and surfaces. I'd brought some acrylics and pieces of wood, so this evening I started on two paintings simultaneously. One was based on a photo I'd taken recently (of our cats Marie and Julius) and the other was just a big colorful doodle of a red guy in one of my planty landscapes.
I've been sleeping in the upper bunks of the yurt because that's where it's been warmest. Tonight there was a cloudless sky and I could clearly see the stars through the dome-shaped overhead skylight. At first I thought I was seeing Mars, which I insisted on calling "the red planet" when mentioning it to Gretchen. When she finally turned off her lantern and I could see clearly I realized I'd been looking at the left shoulder (or, if he's facing us, the right shoulder) of Orion. This star is the famous red giant Betelgeuse, which I remember best from Planet of the Apes, the original novel.
Sherman Pond, six or eight feet of whose depth was augmented by beavers.
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