Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Summer Blooms

Kelly needed some mulch and planting soil for her little garden, so we headed up to Wanczyk Evergreen Nursery in Hadley, on Rte. 9. Though the name says 'evergreen nursery', they have a garden center, that Kelly had been wanting to check out for some time now. They have a sign out front that says "We're Bigger Than We Look!". Hmm. We'll be the judge of that...

The hot sticky afternoon had finally begun to shed some rain, as we pulled in to the Wanczyk Evergreen Nursery.

They have those neat Radio Flyer wagons, and you can use them to tow your stuff around. Kelly grabbed one, and ducked into one of the hangar/tents to browse around and wait out the downpour.

I roamed around and looked at the blooms, that were colorful even in the grey rain. This one was in the purple to blue end of the spectrum...

The stamens on this one, a Lilium, looked like little worms as they wiggled around, when the plant moved in the breeze.

More, from the blue end of the spectrum...

The rain persisted the whole time we were there, so we couldn't get too thorough a look around, but Kelly was impressed with the prices for the mulch and topsoil. So, we'll be back.

Of course, the rain began letting up not two minutes after we left Wanczyk's. I decided to pull in to the Northampton airport area next, to get some shots of the foggy Holyoke Range, and take in some of the hazy the summer afternoon.

The sky began to clear again, in short order, and the sudden sunlight brought the soaked air to a rapid boil.

The height of summer. Make no mistake about it. Everywhere: green,

Overgrowing everything, if left to it's own devices.

Even the wheat is shrouded in the color of summer.

Splashes of other colors also abound, sprinkled here and there, seasoning the landscape.

An Oriole is quickly spotted by Kelly's hawk-like eyes. About three minutes, and a few "You can't see that??"'s later, I finally catch what she's talking about. Oh, Ok, I see it. I was looking too high...

We parked and got out for a look at the Connecticut river, and Brunelle's Marina across the way.

The Blackberry's are almost ready. We picked a couple of the ripe ones for a taste bud sneak-peek at the summertime treat...

Ok Ok, we're going, stop bouncing off me already...We're going...

We've been taking the dog out with us alot lately, and now it's becoming nearly impossible to leave the house on weekends without him bouncing off the ceiling and expecting, no, demanding to go with us. So we had to incorporate him into this afternoon's outing, and tentatively planned to go up to the dog park in Northampton, after the garden center.

The trail is like Disney World for dogs. Nemo was in uber-excited mode, and at first, had to stop at just about every leaf along the way, for a sniff and to 'respond'. These tracks bear witness to the amount of canine traffic that comes through here...

Several parts of the trail were shaded, and gave a little cover from the sun, but there was no escaping the humid, tropical air.

As we predicted, the Mill river was the place to be, and the 'normal' dogs splashed about and played. One amiable critter made the mistake of getting too friendly with Nemo The Terrible, and paid the price.

He won't make that mistake twice. Nemo rules this Earth with his little iron paw...

There's always a human or two, splashing around in the river along with the dogs.

The trail loops around, and goes through some nice meadows. Birds singing everywhere.

The dog park is a pleasant walk for man and dog, and a good way to get some summer-time in.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Valley Forge

We were in the mood for some Apollo's pizza and grinders, so we headed up to Belchertown late Friday afternoon. I've had fishing on my brain lately, so I secretly plotted to stop off at Forge Pond in Granby first, just for a couple casts. To head off a potential revolt from Kelly, I discretely loaded up a folding chair for her, so she could at least find some comfort, and maybe allow me to concentrate on the fishing for a bit...

On the way up I noticed this roadside ranch on Rte. 20 had some nice colors blooming behind their long wooden fence.

A small waterfall marks the edge of Forge Pond.

Forge Pond is a place I keep meaning to bring my kayak to, but keep forgetting. It's a good size body of water, and a pretty popular fishing spot. There were 4 or 5 small boats out there when we showed up, as well as a similar number of people fishing from the banks.

Algae seems to be the order of the day for this pond. I don't think I've ever seen it without it's thick green coating all along the edges, and in huge swathes out in the middle. Bass Country.

Also, apparently Duck Country. There were at least 4 families of the water-foul present, slowly criss-crossing the pond. Most of their young were juveniles, nearing full size already.

We witnessed an incident in one of the families, where two of the young broke off from the group, and headed off in there own direction. This caused complete chaos with the rest of the siblings, who couldn't decide whether or not to follow their bold brothers, or stay safe with their mother. They swam back and forth between the rebel siblings and their mother until the two drifters rejoined the group. Teens...

It was nice, hot, sticky Bass fishing weather. I thought for sure I'd reel one in today. I did get several nibbles, but unfortunately no takers. Kelly sat there in the folding chair behind me, critiquing my fishing techniques, and offering up advice after each near miss. Eventually she bored of the easy mockery, and went exploring; She soon discovered some huge snails on the muddy bank.

Becki's World

The sun had set by now, and the boaters were coming in to the launch area where I was fishing from.

One lady came coasting in on a bright yellow kayak, apologizing nicely for interrupting me. I assured her she wasn't interrupting anything. She had on a fly fisherman's vest, with a fishing licence displayed prominently on it. Getting out of the kayak, she claimed she had caught three small bass, but the big one, of course, got away. She lamented that until now, she had thought the story of the big one getting away was purely a male phenomenon.

As she was putting her gear away, she went into a story of how while fly-fishing on the Swift River once, her line had gotten caught behind her. Giving a sharp tug, she managed to pull the line loose, and then noticed a small Doe, bounding away into the woods. Then looking at her lure, she found a few tufts of hair on it! She had almost caught a 90 pounder..! Now that's a fish story.

The charming lady is named Becki Smith; she used to be a teacher, and now spends a lot of time teaching children about the great outdoors. She also runs a little operation called the 'Take A Hike' company, out of Belchertown, where she hires herself out for educational children's nature hikes. Here's her card, should you ever need to avail yourself of her services:

It was beyond time to eat. We headed for Belchertown and Apollo's. It was now about an hour before closing time, and they were still pretty busy. We thought about ordering out, but the waitress insisted we still had plenty of time to sit down and order.

Ahhh. Steak and Cheese grinders, after a little fishing... that considered surf and turf...?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Shiny Red Bike, And Other Treats

My friend Tom Daponde recently found a great deal on a nice mountain bike, from Craigslist. Since that day, he's been sending me regular dispatches from far-flung reaches of the Connecticut river valley, and on into the trail ribbed depths of Connecticut state itself. It appears he can't be stopped, the bug's taken hold. Then, he found this (fantastic) book:

...and it was all over. The old, walking Tom is gone. The new, rolling Tom will be coming to a bike trail near you...

So it was no surprise when he asked if we wanted to go for a bike ride after work today. Well, he was preaching to the choir. I discarded all previous obligations when I got home, loaded up the bikes, scooped up Kelly, and we were on the way to meet up with Tom at the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke. Apparently we weren't alone with the idea. The small parking lot there was near capacity.

We mounted up. Tires, check. Water, check. Sunglasses, check. You know what...? Forget the sunglasses. No, wait, give them to me... Actually, yeah, forget the sunglasses. And we were off. A quick left and right through some tall, ivy ensconced pines...

And swoosh...through the water laden beauty that is the Ashley Reservoir.

For all the cars parked at the gate, it wasn't at all crowded on the trails. There were certainly more geese than people. Ashley, by the way, is a Goose's paradise. (watch your step).

Tom had only been here once before, on a walk a group of us took an autumn or two ago. I noted to him that things are much better on two wheels. You pretty much get all the benefits of walking, and are able to cover much more ground. Well, I was preaching to the choir. The trail has been recently re-graveled, so the biking was smooth, as well as the running, and even for the poor misguided folks, the walking...

We whisked ourselves down and around the trail, and made it around the 3.4 mile loop all to quickly. Hmm, the walkers are still enjoying it, I thought, to myself. I thought about going round one more time. But the sunlight was fading fast, it was too late to start another loop around.

Let's get ice cream.

We shot over to Easthampton, and I called in to Mike Rooney, a native, to meet up with us. We parked and crossed the street, to Mt. Tom's Ice Cream; Home of the fabled Ice Cream Diaries.

It was my first time in here, as I don't have much of a sweet tooth and don't often frequent these establishments. But boy if I did...this place is sweet-tooth nirvana. Witness the jars of candy lining the walls, and every conceivable shelf space.

I did notice the proprietor was conspicuously missing, as his poor staff worked furiously, serving the long line of customers that we just added to, exchanging cones and money over cases of pastel colored home made ice creams.

I glanced around and happened to looked through a big opening in the wall behind me, into a back room. Sure enough, what do I see? A blogger at his muse.

I forgot to turn the camera flash off, so Jim Ingram turned around when I snapped the picture. I gave him my best trucker thumbs-up sign through the opening in the wall, and gasped "Hey Jim, Love your blog!"

He nodded and smiled wryly for a second, as if to say, "Thanks...please don't follow me home" and quickly turned back to his work, lest he get the stranger with the camera too excited.

Our group sat down at one of the small round tables, and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh, cold ice creams. Jim does good work.

Afterwards, we drifted outside into the sunset, and chatted, leaning against the fence by Nashawannuck pond, until after dark.

Time to get home again; another summer evening upon us.