Saturday, December 22, 2012. The second day of winter. I meant to write something yesterday, to celebrate winter solstice, but I exhausted myself out in the woods being The Balsamean, celebrating for real, not just on paper. Er … I mean, in pixels. (That’s trite, isn’t it?)
If ever I lose the ability to walk in the woods as much as I do, maybe I would use the time to write a book (about what, I have no idea). Unfortunately, most of my best inspiration arises while walking in the woods, the flow of creativity juices increasing proportionate to the time spent walking. No walking, no writing.
Here on the second day of Winter 2012-13, finally we have some genuine winter weather. On our morning walk, we had a beautiful 25 degrees and steadily falling snow, adding to the half-melted and re-frozen crunch-bed of snow underfoot.
Viewed from the window in front of me as I scribble, the snow is not falling so much as driven horizontally by strong winds roaring in from the west. Deep in the woods, where the wind lives mainly in the treetops, the snow floated peacefully down to me during our morning walk. (By the way, proper making of scribblements at Balsamea is with a window in front of you, if not outdoors.)
This morning, in addition to meandering through some passes and paths, Buddy took me on our usual walk around Balsamea’s perimeter trails. He tends to want to go clockwise, beginning on Balsamea Way, to the west terminus of Stumpy Way, then Stumpy to the northeast half of Kiefer Loop, then across the east side of Beech Loop, around the southeast corner of Birdsong Loop, and back to the house via Whitetail Way. Today we also ambled through part of Aranyaka Maze. We walked about half of the entire trail network.
I cleaned yesterday’s crusty, icy accumulation off all the fireplace and woodpile covers. This is a routine activity on every walk after snow. We have large rock fireplaces (that’s large fireplaces made with large rocks) at five locations: Camp Balsamea, Turkeyfoot, Tettegouche, Silviden and Kieferhaven. This year I made permanent covers for the fireplaces, to keep snow and ice out of them (I use all of them year-round).
The wood stacks have camouflage-colored 3-ft x 8-ft tarp covers, anchored with rocks at each end. After every snowfall or sleet accumulation, besides brushing the snow off, I remove the rocks at one end, clean around them, then put the rocks back, else they become frozen to the tarp and the tarp frozen to the ground (one of the many useful things you learn in the course of becoming The Balsamean). This is a valuable part of life at Balsamea. Campsite and trail tending, mending and bending. It beats reading emailed updates from Google Alerts.
Anyone seriously interested in Balsamea, especially if they want to know what the heck I am talking about, should know some basic terms about what the heck I am talking about. I owe visitors an explanation about the trail network naming system – if they want to know what the heck I am talking about. Otherwise, just read this for any entertainment value that you may find, or to learn some things about the nature of The Balsamean, since a scribbler is as a scribbler does.
As you can see in this highly amateur but utterly fascinating map (thank you, Google Earth and Mother Earth) Balsamea’s boundary lines form a long quadrilateral with no two sides equal in length. It is longish east-west, shortish north-south. This is handy to know for understanding the basis for the types of trails we call Ways and Passes. (For fun with quadrilaterals, see Math Is Fun-Quadrilaterals – they are true to the fun in their name.)
Click the picture for the full-size view. It opens in a separate window, so that you can easily pop back and forth between here and there as you follow this captivating exploration — National Geographic never had it so good. Also available in the Maps – Aerial Views gallery.
As you can see in the colorized print, there are four trail types: Way, Pass, Path, and Loop. A special patch of paths forms the Aranyaka Maze.
A “Way” is a long route running generally east-west for at least half of the distance between the east and west boundaries. For the color-sighted, another way to define a Way is to say yellow.
There are four Ways. Balsamea Way (B) is the central and widest of the Ways. Stumpy Way (D) runs along the north boundary line. Whitetail Way (A) runs along the south line. Whalehead Way (C) wiggles along through the space between Balsamea Way and Stumpy Way.
As with all trail maps, the real path is radically different from what it looks like on the map. This is necessary to avoid spoiling the adventure of hiking, or people would just stay home and study maps (as I often do, because to me that is also an adventure).
But this map is good as a general guide for discussion. Not that anyone but Buddy and I discuss it, but Google Earth is fun to play with, maps are fun to make, and with this map it’s easier for you to know what the heck I am talking about when I say things like, “We saw a varying hare on Whitetail Way between Bunchberry Path and Tettegouche Pass.” Remind me to tell you some day about the difference in travel habits of rabbits and hares.
Oh, yes, Buddy and I do actually discuss it. He has said a few times, “This is a nice shortcut.” I agreed, and thus created a new trail segment.
Whalehead Way is the shortest of the Ways, and the least developed, but no less interesting than the others, and, like all the others, it has forest features none of the others have. They each offer something unique. That is a factor in why they exist, and in the twists and turns they take.
Mother Nature is another factor. She changes trail routes now and then. She forced several major changes (and, ultimately, major improvements) with her 717 Storm (see map of storm damage July 17, 2012) — a topic for a future post.
Here are three views of one example of Mom’s work on 7/17/2012, where she modified the intersection of Birdsong Loop and Beech Loop (click any pic to see enlarged):
You can guess the reasons for all the Way names except Whalehead, since we are about a million miles (via the route Buddy would take) from any ocean. It might as well be a million miles, since I will never see an ocean again except in pictures. It’s okay. I spent half a lifetime very near and ON oceans and an inland sea (Lake Ontario).
I named Whalehead Way for a rock protruding about three feet out of the ground in the shape of the head of a humpback whale. (Image credit Chris huh.)
A split in the appropriately shaped rock runs from the ground to the top and back down to the other side in a parallel route. That’s the whale’s mouth (well, its lips).
To see what I mean, first refresh your memory of a humpback whale’s mouth.
Whale pictures credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a wonderful resource.
Now, look at Balsamea’s whale head namesake rock, May 5, 2012:
See? Wouldn’t you have called it Whalehead Way?
These are not such good pix of the rock. Some day I’ll make new ones and alert the Press.
It could be called Humpback Way. But people might get the wrong idea and think I meant a variable human dorsal deformity made famous by Igor (it’s EYE-gore) in Young Frankenstein, a movie I want to buy if I can find it for $5 or less. (“What hump?” – movie clip) Let me know if you want to give yours up.
(Personally, I think that the heads of fish, whales and dolphins should be called prows, not heads, given their lack of necks to isolate head from body.)
Okay, now I’m way into overtime for today’s bloggerism, explaining Ways. (Get it? WAY into overtime explaining WAYS. Har-dee-har-har.) So you’ll have to wait with anxiety (as I know you will) to learn more fun-filled facts and fantasies about paths to heaven via Balsamea.
Thank you for being my scribblement target practice. I welcome your comments, questions, curses, prayers, editorial critiques, etc.