heaviest backpack load yet
Thursday, July 23 2015
The relatively coolness of temperatures continued today, and I set out this morning during the period of morning "chill" (such as it was) to fetch the day's load of firewood. I returned to the area of the treefall across the Gullies Trail about a quarter mile from the house and cut my wood from the treefall I'd started on some distance down the slope. The Gullies Trail gets its name because it runs along a terrace that coincides with topmost reaches of a number of small, steep ravines. I call these ravines "gullies," though, unlike gullies in the part of rural Virginia where I grew up, these weren't caused by a recent unfortunate combination of overgrazing and flash floods ("gully washers"). Instead, these gullies seem to date back to the retreat of the continental ice sheet 15,000 years ago and reflect erosion of the steep recently-exposed (unvegetated) walls of the Esopus Valley escarpment and its glacial tributaries. Just below the Gullies Trail, each gully begins in what appears to be a dry waterfall featuring a horseshoe-shaped cliff of exposed shale. The tree I was cutting up today lies flat on the ground but cantilevers out over one of these dry waterfalls, its top a good 15 or 20 feet above the gully bottom. I bucked six big pieces but couldn't load more than four of them onto my backpack. Even with just those on there, I could tell as I rose to my feet that this was the heaviest load I had ever attempted to carry. I started staggering homeward, telling myself the whole time that if I needed a rest I should take one. I saw a doe deer run downhill across the trail 100 feet ahead of me and soon saw Gretchen and Susan (of Susan & David) walking on the Stick Trail. (They occasionally get together to walk either our dogs or Susan & Davids' dogs.) The deer had evidently been chased by Ramona, and after she gave up she saw me and came over to investigate. But I had no time for smalltalk, not even with a dog. I had to put all my mental energy into the task at hand. Somehow I managed to get the whole load back to the woodshed (a walk of a quarter mile featuring two steep uphill climbs) without taking a single break. Susan was preparing to leave when she saw me land my pack and came over to marvel. "That must be 250 pounds," she said. "Nah," I replied, "it's probably more like 140." It turned out to be 149.4 pounds, which is definitely a record. That's the weight of an average adult (though perhaps not an average American adult). It's good to know I can carry such a person (or dead body) a quarter mile in one go if necessary (provided a pack exists to distribute the weight).
This afternoon I drove with the dogs out to 9W to do some shopping. My first stop was the PetSmart, where I bought a contraption designed to block the gap between the two front seats such that a dog (in our case, Ramona) can't intrude into that space and make a nuisance of herself. In the past we've always let our dogs do this. Sally did it until Eleanor came along, at which point Eleanor did it and Sally stopped. Now Eleanor has stopped and Ramona does it, but she's so much taller that she introduces all sorts of new blind spots whenever she takes that position. It doesn't bother me as much as it does Gretchen (perhaps because I am taller and can see past Ramona better), and for many months now Gretchen has wanted a solution to the problem. Another possible solution is a doggy seatbelt, so I bought one of those too.
My next stop was Dick's, the sporting goods store at the Hudson Valley Mall. The sun was still high in the sky and there were no good shady places to park the car in the mall parking lot, so I parked in front of a Verizon van whose driver was shoulders-deep in a outdoor wiring closet. It was an illegal place to park, but the road here was blocked anyway, and there were pines directly overhead that blocked the sun. So I put on the hazard lights and went into Dick's. The thing I'd come to buy was mosquito nets to be worn over the head, but I found some fun survival gear near there (including a magnesium firestarter) that made for good impulse purchases. I also wanted mosquito repellant, but unfortunately Dick's doesn't sell any that doesn't contain DEET or strong neurotoxins. I bought two different kinds, including one claiming to contain Aloe vera, which is about as "natural" as Dick's gets. The other turned out to have a repellant called permethrin that is, I discovered, highly toxic to cats (as well as all cold-blooded organisms), so I will be taking that one back for a refund.
Another thing I got while out and about was a recharge cannister for the Subaru. There's a roadtrip coming soon that involves the Subaru, and it would be nice not to have mediocre-to-poor air conditioning on that trip.
On the way home, I stopped at the place at the edge of the field south of Wynkoop and led the dogs down to that wide spot on the Esopus in hopes that they'd jump in the water and splash around. Unfortunately, only Eleanor took advantage of the opportunity; my stripping down naked and walking out across the muddy bottom was not enough to get Ramona to join me.
Back at the house, I put on a long sleeved-shirt, long pajamas, and socks & CrocsTM and began mowing the grass. I'd done most of the yard when Gretchen interrupted me to tell me we had to go to our dinner date.
We met Chris & Kirsty (the "Photogenic Vegan Buddhists") at Garden Café (under new management, the restaurant has dropped the initial article) in Woodstock. The place was crowded for a Thursday evening. We sat out in the outdoor area, which has recently been augmented with a sit-down bar. The bar and lack of an article aren't the only features of the new administration; inside, the dining room has been decluttered and reorganized, and dogs are now permitted in the outdoor part (though we didn't bring ours). Furthermore, items on the menu are now more flavorful, an improvement that suggests why it was I never used to be excited about eating at the Garden.
In the past I used to get the Garden's various bean soups, which were the only of their foods I really liked. Today, though, all they had was a "summer vegetable" soup. I ordered a small with trepidation, but it was actually pretty good, reminding me of the minestrone served at the Plaza Diner in New Paltz. I'd ordered a side of beans with that to perhaps help make it into a bean soup, but I didn't end up doing that. Those beans desperately needed salt, which is something that can't just be sprinkled on them. As for my portobello panini sandwich, it was much better than I remember such sandwiches being in the old incarnation of the Garden.
During dinner, Chris said that he's spending most of his time working on the house again, adding a screened-in porch to deal with the mosquitoes, which, like at our house, suddenly became brutal in recent weeks. As for Kirsty, she's had a lot of recent success working on music, both in terms of performance and in the studio. I think I was the only person at the table who never mentioned what I've been up to. Indeed, for long stretches of the conversation I felt like I had nothing to add. At one point Gretchen introduced me to the new woman who runs Garden, and I explained to her that I follow Gretchen around "like a puppy."
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