Saturday, April 25 2020
It was a beautiful sunny day, with temperatures rising quickly into the 60s, and Gretchen's vision for date night "tonight" was to drive down to New Paltz and get carry-out Impossible Burgers with fries for lupper, which we would eat in some nice outdoor location with the dogs. During Saturday morning coffee, she researched the options on outdoor places and found that New Paltz has a wildlife refuge on the east bank of the Walkill River on the west side of the village. Meanwhile, I'd determined that I needed a 12 inch by half inch extension for my breaker bar if I wanted any hope of replacing the anode on our hot water heater (for which we're bought a replacement to cure that problem with a sulfur smell). I thought we could buy that at the New Paltz True Value hardware store.
So there we were, driving south down the Thruway in a pandemic. Traffic was lighter than usual, but not as light as one would expect. A sign on the door of the True Value informed customers that they had to wear a mask to shop there, but this rule wasn't being perfectly obeyed or enforced. Everyone was wearing masks except a young man ahead of me in line. For my part, I was wearing one of those tubular "neckerchiefs" over my face. I managed to get two extensions that added up to a total of 15 inches.
Gretchen had ordered ahead for our Impossible Burgers at P&G's, the sprawling sports bar where we occasionally go for veggie burgers. There was a line out in front of the restaurant, though I'm not sure what that was for. Gretchen was wearing an N95 mask (given to her by Sarah the Vegan) when she went in, and it only took seconds for her to get her big bag of greasy food.
Our next destination was the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Refuge, which was a little ways north on Hugenot Street along the Wallkill. It being a beautiful day, there were a fair number of people out, some of them wearing masks even when they were far from others. We parked in a lot just south of a large community garden, where a fair sprinkling of gardeners were working. Between the gardens and the river was a wide swath of mowed grassland with nobody on it, so we spread out a blanket and had our little picnic. It was only then that we discovered that P&G hadn't bothered to give us any ketchup or mustard. In a way this made sense, if they thought we would be dining at home. Everyone has ketchup and mustard, and it would be wasteful to give out packets if we weren't going to use them. They hadn't known our plans were for a pandemic picnic.
An occasional pedestrian passed us on their way along the river. Most were friendly and none were wearing masks. Ramona made a point of marching up to everyone to say hello, something we didn't allow for the several people who had dogs with them (since she can no longer be trusted with other dogs). One neurotic woman with what looked like a whippet mix hollered at us from a long way away asking if our dogs were off-leash. She wanted them on-leash, as an offleash dog had once attacked her dog. So, no problem, we leashed our dogs until she passed. Afterwards, our dogs wandered north up the bank of the Wallkill, disappearing from view for a few minutes. When they next reappeared, Ramona was carrying a dead animal that hung limply from her jaws. Initially I assumed that she'd found it in this state. But when I walked over to look at it, it was a woodchuck that looked (and smelled) like it had been freshly killed. It was pretty clear that Ramona had just murdered it, though I let Gretchen continue believing she was not the murderer. As usual, Ramona lost all interest in the woodchuck once it was dead, leaving the corpse lying in the middle of the trail.
After we'd finished our picnic (and I'd drunk the beer I'd brought), Gretchen and I went for a looping walk through the wildlife refuge, up past a couple tweenage girls in pastel miniskirts taking Instagram glamor pictures on a wooden bridge in the forest, to the refuge's northwest corner, and then back on a different path.
Back at the house, I saw the weather forecast was for another cold rainy week, so I made an early-evening firewood salvaging foray to that fallen white ash above the Stick Trail north of the Chamomile. Later I made a twilight salvage of some fairly dry white pine west of the Farm Road.
Though there was no wind or rain tonight, an unexpected power outage came while I was rewatching part of the first episode of Chernobyl. The outage was still in effect when I climbed into bed on a 100 milligram dose of diphenhydramine.
Diane the Cat in front of our house this morning. Click to enlarge.
The grass between the Wallkill River and the community gardens.
Ramona with the dead woodchuck and Neville.
Ramona running back to our picnic.
Gretchen with Ramona and Neville at our picnic site, with the community gardens behind her. I'm in a forested strip on a bank of the Wallkill.
Some sort of fresh new lily-like plant.
Trout lilies on the bank of the Wallkill River.
Ramona on a trail in the wildlife sanctuary.
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