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Why I love my husband reason #476

Some husbands bring home flowers or chocolates for their wives. Mine? He brings me a butterfly! A Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) he saw on his way home in this case, and wow did its feet tickle!

DSC_2304 DSC_2319

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Greece: Athens – Royal Gardens, Temple of Zues, Lykavittos Hill

Detail of inlaid stone around fountainWith a freshly soaking wet head I ventured outside on this marginally cooler day to see a few outdoor sites. Next to the Parliament building is the forty acre National Gardens. I went in the morning and spent a couple hours there. For one, it was at least twenty degrees cooler within the gardens than the rest of the city. Athens has few trees along roads or in squares. A cool breeze actually came out of any of the areas that had significant numbers of trees and greenery. So I didn’t mind staying there for as long as I did.

The turtle hiding among the flowers bolted as I approachedIt isn’t an organized botanical garden per se. It is a park riddled with meandering paths, pools and fountains. The fountains had intricately inlaid stones around them. The park was created in the 1840’s and was landscaped by Friedrich Schmidt, a Prussian horticulturist, who traveled the world looking for rare plants. It’s not the same park as it once was, but was a wonderful place for respite from the sun and heat.

Olympian Temple of ZeusThere were woodpeckers everywhere, just as many as the pigeons. I thought there was a strangely large bird under the leaves of a patch of purple flowers, until I noticed that it was actually a turtle. A speedy turtle that took off as I approached, but not before I could give him a little photo shoot!

On the far side of the National Gardens is the Olympiann Temple of Zues. It is the largest temple in Greece, even larger that the Parthenon. Construction began in the 6th century B.C. but was not completed until 650 years later. Only 15 of the original 104 columns remain, but there is enough of the temple left that you really get a sense for the enormous size and scale of the temple.

Fallen column of Olympian Temple of Zeus

In the evening Mark and I headed on over to Lykavittos Hill. At 910 feet it’s the highest point inside the city of Athens. The ancient belief was that it was the rock destined to become the Acropolis citadel, accidentally dropped by Athena. We rode the funicular which was like the inclines in Pittsburgh, but in a tunnel, I would have thought it would have been out in the open for the views on the ride.

Mark on the very edge of Lykavittos HillOnce to the top we enjoyed the panoramic views of the city, we could see the Aegean Sea off behind the Acropolis. There is a small monastery and bell tower on top of the hill as well. We enjoyed a lovely (and a refreshingly really non-Greek) dinner at the terraced restaurant on the hill. I had the Sole served with an orange glaze and almonds with a bitter greens salad with pomegranate. We shared a dessert involving flambeed tomatoes and strawberries served with a mango and green pepper sorbet.

Deb on Lykavittos HillWith the funicular on running every half and hour near midnight, we decided to walk down the hill. Even in the relative coolness of the evening air, it was a rough hike down, if we stopped moving, that gave the still air enough time to remind us how hot we were.

Most the of the dirt path on the way down wasn’t lit aside from what light from the moon. It was one of those quiet and private moments Mark and I get to share, with no one else in sight. Hiking down the highest hill in Athens at midnight. Midnight! The metro stops at midnight! We were a couple miles away from the hotel, but slogged through the heat and fell asleep the moment our heads hit the air conditioned hotel pillows.

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Butterflies in the classroom

I was invited into a classroom of 5 year olds today to talk to them about butterflies and bugs. They’ve been raising Painted Lady caterpillars as well as reading books on the topic Caterpillar Butterfly and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I caught a butterfly that was inside the school, how handy to have a ready made prop! It was a huge hit! I showed the kids how to use a field guide I brought along to identify it, they quickly found the mostly dark brown with small eye spots of the Ringlet butterfly in the photo. We then released it during a break in the rain and saw that there were dozens of them flying about. Later several of the kids went around stalking the butterflies that were everywhere.

One of the little girls observed (showing how well she paid attention), “when it’s sunny out, we come out to play and the butterflies come out and when it’s raining, we go inside to play and the butterflies go inside too (they hide away in the rain)” It was all very cute and they asked surprisingly good questions about insect eyes and if butterflies can make noises, “can they sing?” They told me all about what they learned about the butterfly life cycle and drew me pictures.

Maybe I helped to inspire a budding entomologist out there :)

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

Deb with dock and reflectionSpending these days at this cabin has galvanized our desires to find the property of our dreams. This cabin was really perfect. So perfect we were sad to leave. We didn’t have that usual feeling you get toward the end of a bout of traveling, you know the feeling, of just wanting to get home, to your own bed. No, there was none of that this time. We wanted to stay, or at least, realizing we need to find something like this for ourselves. Far enough away to have the seclusion and quiet but just close enough to civilization for the things we need.

I hope and think when we finally return to living in the United States, we’ll start looking for that secluded cabin and sell our house. It was clear that this is what we want, I mean, we knew this, we’ve always have said it was our dream. We’ll make sure to make it happen sooner rather than later.

On our way back from the cabin, we would pass mobs and mobs of vibrant arctic lupines blooming everywhere. I’ll end my Finland blogging with a frolic in the flowers:

Jump! Deb with arctic lupine

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

Mark afloat on our little lake, me out with the binoculars on the hill top:

Mark having a float Looking for what's making that strange noise!

The Complete Photo Set for I fear I just want to post every single photo

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

Birch barkAs a biologist, I know, the further north or higher altitude, the less diverse the flora and fauna become. You know these things, but they don’t become real until they are contextualized. Until you see it, you don’t realize just how strange it is.

Flakey pine barkI sit here looking at the forest around me. Birch and pine. Pine and birch. Are there really just these two dominant tree species? Yes. I mean there are other trees, but when you look at the whole, you see the dark blackness of the pine highlighted by white streaks of birch bark. There are a handful of birds we hear singing their cheerful calls, there is a chorus of buzzing from the bees and flies, but mostly, these woods are silent. Where is the scurrying on the forest floor? I sit in complete silence admiring the simplicity of the beauty of this place.

There are few butterflies about, largely they are in the tree tops, pale browns and creams, flitting about frantically without stopping. Small shocks of orange flash by, tiny skippers. A cabbage white here and sulfur there. We’re near water, so there are the dragonflies and water striders. But overall, there doesn’t seem to be much *out* (if that makes sense). It was simply beautiful there and I should leave it at that.

Deb in the Finland Despite the moose crossing warning signs along the roads approaching where the cabin was, we saw no moose. There were piles of dried scat around the cabin that was too large to just be the roe deer, we hiked up to a hill top and Mark poked at something, “what’s this?” he asked (touch touch), “looks like poo to me!” I said. We heard some strange noises coming from the woods and tried to track it down, it turned out to be a large corvid making rather guttural grunting noises.

Another night passes where we just marvel at how light it stays so late, here I am at 10:30 pm where the sun still hasn’t dropped below the horizon, although I’m in silhouette you could read outside at midnight, it’s a slow setting process and didn’t get too much darker than this. At midsummer, the longest day of the year, Helsinki shuts down while everyone heads north and into the woods to celebrate. It’s almost the longest day, we’re doing as Finns do.

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

detail of stones that get heatedRecipe for complete relaxation: sit in a wood fired sauna until well done (i.e. sopping with sweat) complete with lashings from wilted thin birch branches, then jump into cool water of a lake in Finland. Lather, rinse, repeat. Did I mention we we’re doing this at midnight? Because it was still light out?

I admit, I was reticent about hopping into the cool water, the thermocline was pretty shallow and even colder water lay deeper. But it was such a wonderful experience, the water felt great and even when I hopped out of the water I wasn’t chilled, I was so warmed by the sauna.

I don’t think we could have picked a more perfect place if we tried. Since we’re here for a few days most of what we’re doing involves a lot of low impact and probably not that exciting to others, but exciting to us sort of stuff. Like laying around in the sun, floating on the water, being in the water, reading some brain candy (truth be told, I’m taking this time to re-read the last two tome-like Harry Potter’s to refresh my memory before the next book and movie come out), eating lightly (at least that’s the plan) and taking photos, lots of photos, these posts are going to be largely photographic

A dragonfly in flight while we went out for a paddle in the row boat, the thousands of tadpoles in our little lake that would delicately nibble on your hands and feet when we dipped them into the water, one of the many small orange butterflies flitting from spot to spot and the shiny emerald of a beetle:

Dragonfly in flight Tadpoles! Thousands of tadpoles in our lake!
Orange butterfly TBD beetle tbd

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Finland: Kalvola area – Kaivolampi Cottage

The perfect little cabin we rented 125 km north of HelsinkiIn need of taking some actual vacation time, we rented a cabin near Kalvola, 120 some km further north of Helsinki for a few days.

This is the farthest north that either Mark or I have ever been. At approximately 61°00’51” N and 24°09′ E (I’m estimating with Google Earth here).

We are the only cabin on a little body of water, a tiny private lake, in a country that has more lakes than any other country, upwards of over 188,000, it wasn’t hard to find cabins on lakes to rent with so many websites out there. Our nearest neighbor is 600m away, we have our own dock, a rowboat and a sauna attached to the cabin. In my search, contacting places to rent from, the sauna was often more important than a place having bathroom facilities. I was told, “you bathe in the Finnish way, in the sauna”

It’s all about us relaxing together, Mark’s been overdue for a real vacation and this is looking to be just perfect.

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Finland: Helsinki – Seurasaari Open Air Museum

Museum shop included historic shop items as an exhibitI made my way over to the Seurasaari Open Air Museum, this is a very neat and unique museum on an island to the west of Helsinki. Founded in the early 1900’s the museum has buildings brought from various regions of the country, representing different times in history which have been reassembled on this island.

Yes?  Do you have something for me?Apparently log construction was almost the sole technique of “vernacular” building (techniques native to Finland) throughout documented history until the mid 20th century, dating back to the Iron Age a thousand years ago. Tenant farms, granaries, a windmill, homes showing the spectrum of socio-economic differences, a church, 85 buildings in all. Even the museum shop was well stocked with period pieces of merchandise from the 19th century from when it was built.

The museum only took up a small portion of the island, the rest of which was riddled with hiking trails which I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking. There were these red squirrels clamoring about all over the place just being adorable. Tits looking like chickadees were circling my head, small fluffy ducklings in the ponds, all very Snow White amidst the wild flowers.

I was looking for something different for dinner this evening and found a place that was a few blocks away from the busy center of the city. I was intrigued by some reviews, one in particular saying, “the garlic beer was refreshing.” So we headed to the Garlic Restaurant. Despite having the beginnings of a little cold, I enjoyed a garlic cream soup and a steak wrapped in bacon with a red wine and garlic sauce. Good thing we’re garlic lovers.

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Spain: Madrid – Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid

I spent the day at the Real Jardin Botanico aka The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid.

Not much to say, it is a small but nice garden, surrounded on all sides by busy roads so you never escape feeling like you’re in the middle of a city. There were dozens of small fountains which served as the center of a square garden. Each little square had a “theme” either being all of a particular family or genus or a collection of plants from a particular region. I did spend a good bit of time stalking butterflies and hence, this is mostly a post for sharing some gorgeous photos:

Hummingbird hawk moth in flight

Red Admiral Butterfly in Spain Cebolla roja de miort

Aloe soponaria flowers Line of mini fountains

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Spain: Madrid – Casa del Campo

Left to my own devices, I hopped on the metro (just €1 to go anywhere you want to go with no extra fee for transfers and it even came complete with an accordionist playing a tango (Hernando’s Hideaway) on the Linea Dos!) and visited the Madrid Zoo and aquarium today, a really awesome zoo.

The zoo is nestled within the borders of the Casa del Campo, a former royal hunting ground encompassing 4,300 acres with pines and scrubland. The first exhibit you encounter includes all these birds that are free to fly: huge cranes nesting in the trees above and flying all over the place. So many of the water fowl had broods of tiny offspring following them around. All of the animals had huge enclosures, never have I been to a zoo where the lions, well, were not sleeping, but actually had enough room to run and chase after each other.

I had a blast with the new 18-200VR lens we bought, really, it’s hard to pick any favorites, it’s just making it even *harder* to *not* take fabulous photos. Here’s a sample:

Resting Pelican Lions running about
Smiling Meerkat Hmm... what's in here?

Complete Photo Set with the rest of the awesome photos

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England: Didsbury – Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden

AzaleasWith Azalea’s aflame, carpets of Columbine and surrounded in swaths of fragrant Wisteria I walked through the Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens and hiked on through to the neighboring woodlands.

I purchased the mini guide book written by the curator/gardener of the grounds and read it while sitting in the gardens. He had his own flavor of humor interjecting the stories of how and why certain plants are included in this garden with tales of personnel past and present, and ghost stories galore associated with the buildings on the grounds.

It really felt like an oasis that few people new about. I visited the grounds and woods twice this week and barely saw another soul. On the hike I got a little “lost” well, not really, it was just a detour to the River Mersey by missing taking the right trail back to the village. It was only a problem when I realized how hungry I was and that I was probably at least an hour away from getting out of the woods.

I made it back to civilization and had a lovely lunch at a French cafe (Cafe Rouge), I ordered the Prix Fixe menu, hoping it would be a fast lunch. A tomato tartlet with creme fraiche, Penne with smoked salmon and zucchini followed by creme brulee and coffee took all of two hours to escape from.

The complete photo set

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The Cotswolds

Deb, Sue and Mammam in Canola flowersWe drove around the Cotswolds today. Admiring the surreal beauty of honey colored limestone cottages and villages, surrounded by unending fields of sheep and the hillsides that were blanketed with acres and acres of yellow flowers, Canola flowers.

We’ll be in Pittsburgh this week and I’m not happy with having to leave the gorgeous sunny warm weather of England! (It’s been weeks without rain! And warm! I’m seeing on the weather forecast 39F and snow for Monday in Pgh.) I just wanted to share the glorious fields of yellow and sunshine with you!

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Kew Gardens with Family

Inspecting flowersToday we made use of our Kew Membership and guest passes and made our second trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens with Mark’s mom and grandmother. As two fellow lovers of flowers and gardening, I knew they would really enjoy this place, this place that is my most favorite place in England. Pictured is Mark with his grandmother inspecting a flowering tree.

So much was in bloom and so much was different from the first time we visited! We’re certainly going to need to make better use of our membership and visit more often. There was a lot of walking and photography going on, and again we only saw a tiny fraction of the gardens, but it is such a beautiful and worthwhile place to visit.

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Denmark: Møns Klint

Møns Kint, “the Cliffs of Møn”

Mark on flint beachThese chalky cliffs are the result of deposits made by microorganisms, the bulk of their mass moved to their present location by glaciers. Throughout the white there are visible dark lines of flint layers, metamorphic rock created under the great pressure of glaciers. Near the base of the cliffs the flint stones have that jagged toothed edge where you can easily see and understand how and why early tools were made of this stuff.

The beach here is made up of fist sized weathered rounded flint. As the waves poured over the flint and receded, the stones clicked together as they settled against each other. As we walked along, our feet caused the stones to sing, the tinkling of glass.

Our shoes are covered with chalk by the time we’re ready to turn back. Later that night, we notice the white traces our foot prints are leaving everywhere we tread.

There were 495 stairs leading steeply to the shore, we know this as someone so kindly marked them periodically with the count. This did not seem so bad going down, but on the way up, we made good use of a number of rest stops and benches on platforms overlooking the ravine.

(more photos to follow soon).

The complete photo set

We had some spectacular evening entertainment, the band in the hotel bar! Danish sure is entertaining put to music and hearing a crowd sing and dance to it :)

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Lund University and Natural History Museum

A museum of museumsThe Natural History Museum in Lund is available to view by appointment only. When I arrived I was treated to a personal tour by a staff member, as I was the only person in the museum at the time, he needed to unlock the doors and turn on the lights.

Butterflies of Sweden displayThis museum could be a museum about museums. You’ll find no flashing lights or blaring modern exhibits, it’s strictly an old school museum full of articulated skeletons and stuffed organisms. I was directed to remains of note, one of the few remaining complete skeletons of an Aurochs and Tasmanian Wolf. I was pleased to see displays of Scandinavian fauna, including a display of Swedish butterflies. The forms and colors of which was reminiscent of a display of Pennsylvanian butterflies. I also made a visit to the entomology department, although most of the staff were away at a seminar, I had a guide that directed me around the aisles. I was surrounded by familiar sights and *smells*, once you’ve been in one bug room you’ve seen them all :)

Insect FamiliesBefore my museum appointment I decided to explore the University of Lund campus. In the central library, there was display of papers and artifacts relating to Linnaeus. He had attended this university in 1727. He was only there for a year, and apparently not a terribly good student. He had worked in the botanical gardens while he was there.

The exhibit had letters he had written to his mentor Stobaeus and a class room roster with his signature, in addition to a copy of an edition of Systema Naturae. I really should have gone to the lecture on campus the other night that was on Linnaeus, even if it was in Swedish, it would have been a fascinating context. I didn’t go because it was right at dinner time to meet back up with Mark.

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Lund, Botanical Garden

Botaniska trädgården , the botanical garden associated with the University of Lund. The greenhouses are open to the public for free 12-3 daily. A warm oasis in the cold Scandinavian air. Highlights, the passion flowers filling one of the rooms with an amazing fragrance, cacti (oh how I adore photographing cacti!), and it’s just large enough to spend a few hours appreciating the plants.

Although there was some snow coving the grounds outside, there were a few flowers in bloom, or starting to emerge from the snow, with the evergreen trees and bushes along the footpaths it made strolling through the gardens worthwhile, I would love to return to see everything else in bloom.

Passion Flower Scandanavian winter flowers Garden paths lined with stone and conifers

The complete photo set

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Kew Botanical Gardens

DSC_4303Okay, I can officially say that Kew is my favorite place in England (so far, and really, no surprise there). It was lovely and sunny and not too terribly busy.

We only were able to see a fraction of the gardens in the few hours we were there. We hit the photography paradise that is inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which houses 10 climatic zones, and includes the room full of orchids. I additionally love photographing cacti and ferns. Those fortunate enough to be in a ray of sunlight were particularly radiant.

DSC_4237We strolled the grounds for a bit, with the aim of heading toward the Temperate Glasshouse, but kept getting side tracked by interesting and impossibly large old trees. We managed a quick tour of the Temperate house and made sure to go up to the sky walk up the narrow spiral staircase before the conservatories were closed fifteen minutes prior to the Gardens closing. Looking down on the umbrellas of tree ferns I snapped a shot and was reminded of a photo I captured staring up into a dizzying array of fern leaves in Costa Rica, the play of light creating an optical illusion.

As the Gardens were closing, we made our way through the Witch Hazel that is in bloom this time of year. Over all I was amazed and impressed with just how many flowering plants were flowering now, in January. I am in awe of this place, of how so many hundreds of species from around the world grow on the grounds and thrive in alien environmental conditions.

Since we know this is a place we’ll want to visit again and again, we’ve decided to become “Premier Friends of Kew” This will allow us unlimited visits to Kew (and over a dozen other gardens in England) along with a number of guest passes, as we’ll definitely want to take guests there when they visit us.

I wonder how far we walked with several hours of solid walking? I also wonder just how many different species of trees are on the grounds? The Kew FAQ site mentions there are over 14,000 trees on its 300 acres, but I have not seen a quote anywhere of just how many different species there are.

A few of my favorite shots (hard to just pick a few):
Cactus in sunlight DSC_4275 DSC_4298

The complete photo set here

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Fog and Spiderwebs

It has been foggy here yesterday and today. Fog so thick and murky, it only gets thicker and murkier as the day wears on. All this moisture, mist and fog has neatly deposited itself on the spider webs on the bushes outside our house. On close inspection, we discovered that it was cold enough to turn the collected droplets to ice. Festively decorated spiderwebs delicately strung with sparkling miniature pearls of ice (click to see additional photos at full size):

Fog plus freezing temperatures

P.S. Dear Santa, Please bring me a proper macro lens. That is all. Deb.

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Switzerland, Hiking in Egerkingen

Deb hiking in SwitzerlandWhile Mark was on site with a client, I was left to my own devices for the day. A quick check at the hotel front desk revealed there were hiking trails within walking distance. I was handed a map of the loops they recommend to patrons for jogging and headed off into to the crisp autumn day. The rain had stopped and the skies cleared long enough for me to have several hours of hiking.

There were heaps of trails around the hotel that were not on this map. Had I known, I would have provisioned myself better with water and snacks. Narrow spurs that wound their way up the hillside were everywhere. We are here for a couple of days, I’ll have time to explore these routes.

MushroomsPhotos can’t seem to capture just how dark and dense the stands of black firs are. I could have been passing through a cave, I could see the light on the other side shining brightly through the golden birch leaves.

The air smelled clearly of autumn, of leaf decay, but had distinctly different flavor to the aroma than that of home.

In the grass, there were tall (8-10 inches high) mushrooms huddled together like friends caught up in conversation. All around me were new and yet strangely familiar flowers, trees and leaves. The shape and color, or texture of bark all told me these were plant families I knew, yet so unfamiliar.

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Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

While out on a walk with Mark last night, he was noticing just how many people in our neighborhood had planted milkweed. The seed pods being particularly conspicuous right now. His keen eye spotted two of these ultra fuzzy milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillars on one of the roadside plants:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

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Hiking: Allegheny National Forest

Mark minutes into the hikeMark and I joined our friend George on an over night backpacking and hiking trip in the Allegheny National Forest. We set out for the Tracey Ridge Trail System, in the northern-most part of the forest. We did not see another soul on the trails we were hiking on. Although we did see one boat full of folks with their loud music and after dark we saw two other camp fires across the reservoir.

Deb between bouldersWe were fortunate that the rain cooperated. It did rain, but at all the right times. It rained the entire time we were driving up Friday afternoon. It stopped to allow us to have several hours/miles of rain free hiking, to set up a dry camp and have dinner on a large flat rock next to the reservoir as well as a bonfire (despite the sogginess of available materials) and for night time forest exploration for Mark. Mark disappeared for some time, periodically we would see his head lamp light some distance away. It started raining just in time for us to settle in for the night and a heavy continued rain for most of the night. By morning it stopped and we had clear sunny skies for day two.

I did manage to fall into the reservoir, rather gracefully I might add, as opposed to Mark who went in the water on purpose:
Deb gracefully slipping into reservoir Mark went in on purpose

Since we diverted from the main trail on day 1 in search of a camp site near the reservoir and the GPS kept losing us, I estimate we hiked around 11 miles. Probably 3.5 on the evening we hiked in and the remaining 7.5 on the way out on day two. Early in the hike, any intersection we encountered had a convenient “you are here” map with a tack at the intersection. Very handy, we thought, it is an excellent idea, however, once you were miles into the 33 miles of interconnecting loops, the maps just weren’t there. I mean, they had been there, the poles and bolts were there, the signs were just missing.

Mark and setting sunWe tried a new food strategy for this trip. The morning before we left we pre-cooked and portioned out food for our meals into Ziploc bags. The idea being, use a boil-in-bag strategy using the JetBoil to heat the food. For dinner, baggies of pork tenderloin (one baggie had bbq sauce, the other with teriyaki sauce) over bagged rice. For breakfast, baggies of scrambled eggs to have with bagels and precooked bacon. Preparing the food like this packs small and light and leaves for minimal clean up. I wouldn’t want to be scrubbing cooked on dehydrated camp eggs out of a pot.

Wild life high lights: red eft, large round-leaved orchid, there were Indian Pipes all over the place yet I managed to not photograph any:
Red Eft Large Round-Leaved Orchid

The complete photo set

There were blueberry bushes all along the slope near the water, some of the berries were ready for eating. Give these bushes another week and foraging for berries would have been much more filling than the handful that we ate.

A bit of product endorsement as well. I love my new pack, a CamelBak Alpine Explorer. The reservoir holds 3 liters of water and is made of materials that don’t make the water taste funny. The pack itself expands and holds a surprising amount of gear. Even fully loaded, the weight was nicely distributed on my hips and has super comfy shoulder straps. I’m ready for the next trip already.

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May bouquet of garden flowers

A pretty bouquet I put together from flowers in my garden of lilac, columbine, phlox, ferns and the unidentified white flowering bush from the side of my house:

May bouquet from garden Close up of flowers

I love bringing fresh cut flowers inside and the lilac is filling my living room with its fabulous scent!

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Hiking: Quebec Run Wild Area

Hemlocks hanging on to the bankToday I went hiking with George in the Quebec Run Wild Area in Fayette county. I had been meaning to hit this trail area for a couple of years now, but time passed, now I wish I had gone there sooner. Hopefully I’ll have time to hike and camp this area again before we move to England.

At first we thought we had covered about eight miles, but George noted her GPS had cut out for a bit of time in there and it’s more likely that we hiked closer to nine miles. Not a small chunk of distance covered. The trails took us along Quebec Run under a dark canopy of hemlock and mountain laurels and through more open and light areas of maples. It was interesting to see on the drive in just how much further behind the trees are on the ridges, most were just starting to bud, giving pastel highlights in sharp contrast to the dark barks.

Bear TrapAt one point we needed to cross an access road to continue on the trail we were on. We encountered a couple of trucks and DCNR folk on the grassy road. “Did you see a bear?” the ranger asked, “because we just released one here about fifteen minutes ago,” he explained, “well, if you see one, just clap your hands and make a lot of noise to chase him off. We do have a lot of bears in this area.”

Stream from bridgeWith so much rain recently, many of the trails had turned into tiny tributaries to the tributaries. I was thinking we should have taken a picture each time we needed to cross water to keep track. Either by bridge, logs, stones, squishy leaves, muck, jumping, or simply finding higher ground for an alternate route around the blazed trail turned stream, I imagine the number is well over fifty.

Trails were streams after all the rainOne of the trails turned stream, note the blue blaze and George navigating around it.

Some of the wildlife highlights: Scarlet Tanager, Yellow Swallowtail, Lady Slipper:

Scarlet Tanager Yellow swallowtail Lady slipper

Click for Quebec Run Photo Set

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Hiking: Keystone State Park

I hit the trails with Judith today at Keystone State Park. Another well maintained set of trails that interconnected enough to give us options to explore. We hopped on the first blaze color we encountered, yellow, and had an interlude with the blue blazed trail, which found us exiting about an hour later. This wasn’t enough, we evaluated the map, saw there was an orange blazed trail further out that we had managed not to see. We headed out in search of said trail.

Judith with We found an outer loop of the yellow trail, another unexplored branch of the blue blazed trail… finally we took a turn and realized we were no longer on a blazed trail but continued on. We found ourselves in some wetlands underneath power lines. Power lines? Where did I see that on the map? Oh yeah. We are WAY off course. But in the spirit of exploration, forged on up the hill (which Judith so named Maud) under the power lines. We thought if we could reach the road we would easily reorient ourselves in the right direction. We saw a road, but could not reach it.

Tee-pee skeletonWe turned off onto a small side trail, shortly into the woods we happened across the wooden skeleton of a tee-pee and a couple make shift shelter structures. We hypothesized we were hiking in above the campgrounds, that maybe this was a boy scout site for more primitive camping excursions. We continued on until we reached someone’s large back yard. Hrm. Turn around.

WetlandsSomewhere along the way we really led ourselves astray as the “trail” we were on continued to diminish until the point where we were bush whacking our way along a stream. If we followed the water, we theorized, we could find our way back to the wetlands where the unblazed trail led us into.

To make an already long story shorter, we backtracked and bush whacked the best we could only to emerge from the woods onto a portion of the original yellow blazed trail we had taken in.

Fish Formation SwimmingThree hours later we emerged, only a little scratched up, victorious from the days adventure. We had a precarious bridge to cross, observed interesting fish formation swimming, swarms of butterflies and skippers, bee-flys, and the emerald green cicindelids out in force.

I had left the GPS with Mark (he had planned on a long ride today), so I estimate between six to seven miles were covered. Today would have been a really good day to have the GPS with us.

Close up of Cicindelid Juvenal's Duskywing

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