Throckmorton the Loon
Wednesday, July 29 2015
location: southeast shore, Twenty Ninth Pond, remote Minerva Township, Essex County, New York
Either the pond water I've been drinking had been insufficiently boiled or that great mass of Chicken of the Woods I'd eaten yesterday didn't agree with me, but I was plagued with diarrhea all day today, starting when I got up this morning. I went out into the woods north of the cabin (a little above the lake shore) hoping I was far enough away from the dogs for them not to find it and then detonated like a dirty bomb. It being the Adirondacks, though, there were no convenient rocks to cover it with so I had to leave it all exposed to the air. And of course later Ramona showed up with diarrhea breath, so I'm going to chalk it up as a bit of a fail. I don't know if it was related to the diarrhea or not, but I would go on to feel just very slightly ill all day in a way that mostly kept me from eating any more Chicken of the Woods or experimenting with the kratom powder I'd brought.
Later, after Gretchen got up, we had our customary coffee down on the dock. We'd just been talking about loons and why none were on our pond when we heard one shout from the distance. And then he appeared out of the sky, landed three hundred feet away, and gave the mournful call would make the north sublime even if it were one huge strip mall studded with statues of Sarah Palin, Lawrence Welk, and Santa Claus. We just happened to have the cabin's binoculars with us, so we took turns looking at his spectacular plumage, which was so graphically perfect it looked like CGI. Once landed, the loon seemed to be satisfied that he was the only loon on the lake, and so he proceeded to fish, disappearing for long stretches of time beneath the surface and then reappearing in random places, some of them close enough to us to trigger a round of barking from the dogs (though they responded well to being shushed). None of this seemed to concern the loon whatsoever. Initially Gretchen was adamant that his gender was a mystery, but I was pretty sure he was an unmated male prospecting for territory. Due to this hunch, we decided to name him Throckmorton. Later we would see a frog (probably a Green Frog) resting on a lily pad and we would name him (or her) Leonard. Leonard had a beautiful speckled green, brown, and black pattern on his back, but it was his fondness for lily pads that would endear him to us on this trip.
In the course of exploring the shoreline of the pond from kayak, I arrived at a conclusion about the pond's beavers: there were none. They'd lived here in the past (indeed, the guest log says they were seen here a little over a year ago). But there was no evidence of freshly-felled trees, fresh pointy stumps, or vegetation that had been dragged down to the water. From the look of things, the beavers had killed all the choice trees near the shore and had perhaps made the pond unsuitable habitat. Perhaps at some point last year, they thought they had a good thing going and their civilization would last until Jesus returned. But then Jesus failed to materialize, they ran out of food, and had to move elsewhere.
The other day, Gretchen had fetched me so she could suprise me with something she'd discovered: it turned out that down in the basement, behind an unlocked door held shut by a clever system involving a rope passing over a pulley to a horseshoe weight, was a game room. In this room was a ping pong table and a dart board complete with fancy wooden darts that included real bird feather flights. The cabin owner had said nothing about it, but evidently it was a whole additional way to pass time, particularly if the weather should take a turn for the worse. For the time being, though, we were experiencing something of a heat wave; Gretchen had checked the weather before we'd left and the prediction for today was highs in the 90s (which is hot for the Adirondacks, even at our elevation of slightly over 2000 feet above sea level). This afternoon we "played" several "rounds" of scoreless ping pong, the whole goal of which was to maximize our volleys. At the end there, we were up to over 50 volleys before I would inevitably screw it up and say "Ooopsie!"
This evening, Gretchen prepared a meal of ravioli and green beans (the latter from our garden). Later she popped open a big bottle of berry-infused lambic, of which she only drank a glass. She also fetched me an Itaca Flower Power from the refrigerator. This would be the only alcohol I would drink today.
After dinner, we loaded Ramona into the canoe and paddled to the north end of the pond, beached the boat, and hiked to the snow mobile trail. From there, we turned west and walked all the way to Route 28N, which wasn't far away. After seeing a few cars zip past (driven by the only other humans we'd seen in days), we turned and hiked the other way. We proceeded eastward beyond the trail back to the pond for only a short distance; despite insect repellant, the clouds of deer flies around our heads were growing bigger and and more aggressive with every minute in this forest.
Instead of paddling with me back to the dock, Gretchen elected to take off all her clothes and swim there instead. The shoreline was not a good one for beginning a swim; she sank knee-deep into black mud as she sought a depth of water sufficient to begin swimming. Hopefully any leaches that attached to her at that point were washed away when she made it out over the depths.
Meanwhile at my Arduino workstation, I wrote a first approximation of the code necessary to turn readings from an array of barometers into a direction. For now all this code does is look for the sensor with the highest reading and it determines that that is the direction of the wind. I tried to add some math based on the other sensors to get increments between such directions as north and east, but it didn't work very well; it's clear I'm going to have to refresh my knowledge of vector math to get that right. Mind you, there were no gusts of wind strong enough to make the sensors produce reading differences that were any greater than their usual noisy jitter, so clearly I will have to attach funnels to the sensor tubes to amplify pressure differences from the various directions.
I've also begun work on the weather station client, which will probably be built around an Arduino Mega 2560 board. The advantage of this board is that it has more than one serial port, allowing it to connect to the sensor pod (aka, the barometric windvane) via one serial port while I can control and debugging it with another. It also has more memory and flash storage, allowing very complicated sketches. This will come in handy as I build a menuing weather station front end that renders graphs of historical data and produces visualizations of predicted weather events. As an inital first step towards that goal, today I attached a Digole LCD module to the Arduino Mega 2560 board that I'll be using as the weather station client. I even managed to get it to display sensor data coming via serial from the barometric windvane.
Leonard on a lily pad near the dock today. (Click to enlarge.)
A birch growing atop a huge granite boulder along the snowmobile path. (Click to enlarge.)
Green Frog on the snowmobile path this evening.
Gretchen swimming back across the lake this evening (ripple on the upper right) while Ramona looks on from the canoe. The canoe is heading for our dock and boathouse. (Click to enlarge.)
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