Reunion 2016

What’s round on the ends and HI in the middle?

IMG_3987

The great state of O-HI-O!

Ohio is where my 4 children and 7 of my 8 (soon to be 9) grandchildren from 3 states gathered for our annual hiking vacation. With a son living in the east-central part of the state, 14 of us converged there to laugh and tell stories, plan outings, to cook, eat and sleep in a rural setting surrounded by woods and farmland where wheat and corn dominated every horizon.

 

corn

We accomplished our annual hike perfectly while keeping up with a son’s rigorous itinerary. We visited the stables where his daughters’ ponies were put through their paces for us, met the barn cats, and shared in pony grooming complete with treats.

Click on photos to enlarge

We shopped the vibrant and beautiful Wooster, Ohio.

Wooster

Meals were simple and delicious. We ate well.

Deserts were simple, too. Either s’mores over a fire pit or our annual blackberry dessert with hard sauce or Kentucky Derby Pie. Local blackberries weren’t available but black raspberries were sold from an Amish neighbor’s garden. This area is home to the world’s largest Amish community. Great neighbors!

Our hike took place at Wooster Memorial Park, also called Spangler Park, owned by the city of Wooster. Over  320 acres and 7 miles of foot trails up and down steep ravines, through lush woodland, scenic overlooks, and far stretching farm fields loaded with wildflowers.

Days slipped by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and return home… but not before one last celebration: a monumental firework display to celebrate our happy family gathering.

 

Hiking through the Winter Woods

After wet, heavy snowfalls this fall, I thought for sure we were on our way to more polar vortices and deep snowfalls like last winter. Click to enlarge all photos.

There’s never 100% certainty, but because a strong El Nino did not materialized, the Climate Prediction Center of the NOAA now predicts a 40% chance the Northeast will have above average winter temperatures. We still may have our share of memorable snowstorms because those can only be predicted one or two weeks before. Fingers crossed…

This weekend the temperatures in Exeter hovered in the 40’s….great Virginia-like weather for a holiday hike with family. Blue skies. Abundant sun. Mild temps. Light breeze.

farmWe hiked over private land to the Phillips Exeter Academy woods and numerous trails that run along the Exeter River and beyond. With hardly a ripple in the water, we were treated to some spectacular reflections of the sky and trees…. only broken up by the activity of 20 or more mallards happily enjoying the mild weather.

Winter is the time to notice the bark on trees and we stopped several times to witness activity and interests along the trails. Click to enlarge.

Finally, with abundance of wet weather, the tiny natives along the trail were gloriously happy and green on the woodland floor when little else was green except tall evergreen trees.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) with its bright red berries grows slowly and will form a thick mat when conditions are right. I am careful not to disturb it.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum) is a club moss that looks much like a tiny pine… whose 100′ tall ancestors existed almost 400 million years ago before flowering plants populated the earth.  They reproduce by rhizomes and spores. Often used for Christmas decorations, many states now protect this delicate native plant.

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

The Challenge

This post challenge comes from Les at A Tidewater Garden Winter Walk-Off: On your own two feet, leave the house and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.  Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue, unless you want it to be.  Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping or local eyesores.  Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative and have fun, but don’t show anything from your own garden.

It sounds simple. Les can find beauty and interest in shadows and shapes, textures and tales, as well as in his garden. But his challenge is a tricky one for me. Last year I passed up this assignment because all I saw on my walks was a mile and a half of sand and loblollies. Ho-hum. This year I live in the burbs, too far from anything of great photographic interest. But, I tried. Two days ago, I walked around the neighborhood, armed with camera, shooting photographs of boulders, Christmas wreaths that still hang on doors and mailboxes, trees, road signs…. Yawn, Ho-hum.

After our big snow yesterday, I saw a another opportunity to give the assignment a go. I was drawn to the large fields and tidal salt marsh covered in deep snow. With help from my daughter, I strapped on gaiters and snowshoes for the very first time and stepped out into the ‘Wilds’ behind the house… accompanied by my daughter, her Rhodesian ridgeback and our old gal, Mattie.

After only one face-plant, I got the hang of snowshoeing and I was on my journey through the fields, past trees with branches that were beautifully adored with glistening snow, the air shrouded in a winter-blue mist. I felt as if I had stepped through a wardrobe into a mystical land called Narnia.

Although we didn’t encounter Peter, Susan, Edmund or Lucy, we saw signs of creatures that make this land their home. Deer tracks, squirrel tracks, birds calling beyond the treeline, a red-tailed hawk circling, seagulls, a turkey vulture, and the noisy Canada geese overhead.

Together the 4 of us made our way down to the river breaking a trail in the fresh snow, then we turned and followed our trail back across the fields and marsh.

My one amazing but true story to tell about this stretch of land involves the late Aristotle Onassis.

In 1973, shipping and oil magnate Aristotle Onassis had an option to purchase thousands of acres of land and planned to build the world’s largest oil refinery just a stone’s throw from this very spot. Stretching all the way from Lake Winnipesaukee for needed fresh water supply, the pipeline would snake through several towns, ending at an oil dock for super tankers 10 miles offshore on the Isles of Shoals. Outraged local residents were organized under the leadership of 3 strong women and exercised “home rule” where local citizens have the right to determine what happens in their community. They were able to thwart this dastardly plan by legislative vote in 1974 and, thankfully, the land and waterways remain pristine to this day.

Sorry Aristotle. This land is Our Land.

Click on any photo for a more detailed look at a little slice of Durham NH