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Speedwell Forge: the magical disappearing lake

Speedwell Forge, 1994

I returned from Indonesia in the summer of 1994, and spent a lonely year in an unlikely place: Lititz, Pennsylvania. That I would find myself in Pennsyvlania was unexpected, but this quiet corner of Amish Country was lovely and enchanting. It was Speedwell Forge, an artificial lake built in the 1960s and the well-loved fishing hole of a generation of Central Pennsylvanians. More than once I canoed around its perimeter, scouring its surrounding hillsides for signs of deer and searching in the wetlands for Heron and Ibis. This is one of very few pictures I took that year, but I recall it fondly: early fall in the treetops, and the glassy water's surface. Continue reading "Speedwell Forge: the magical disappearing lake"

The Adirondacks, Sixteen Years Later

In the early 1990s, I associated the Adirondacks with freedom almost indiscriminately. Upstate New York was my stomping ground, and when I tired of the Fingerlakes, real wilderness awaited just a few hundred miles to the northeast. In the Adirondacks you could truly get away from the raging masses, classwork, and society. You could get yourself off the map. Hell, you could even get hurt.. That was its beauty, and I loved it. Amazing, then, that it took me another sixteen years to return. The lesson here is that there is absolutely no telling where life will take you. Continue reading "The Adirondacks, Sixteen Years Later"

Tirell Pond

Tirell Pond

The Adirondack forest looks different when you're not hiking a blazed trail, when the trees crowd in on all sides, when nothing is worn before your footsteps, when your destination is out of sight and will remain so until the final moment. By the time we emerge from forest and climb the last hundred meters to the rocky peak we're soaked, but it's worth it: the view of Blue Mountain Lake and the nested ridges of Adirondack forest trailing off over the horizon is lovely – and for me, unprecedented. I look at Dave, who has gotten an idea, and following his gaze I get my compass out of my bag's top pocket. It's a straight shot down to nearby Tirell Pond (and then the trail), but there's no trail leading there. We're going to hike the old way, using our backwoods skills, our intuition, and by dipping into our reservoir of luck. Continue reading "Tirell Pond"

Not Swan Island

swan island

Grassy and solitary on Moriches Bay’s wintery horizon, the island beckoned to me like tapping on the windowpane. On paper, too, it intrigued. I traced its perimeter with a finger on the 1956 topographic map. An inconspicuous sand patch just behind the barrier beach in the shallow waters of Moriches Bay, the unnamed island was just close enough to the inlet to challenge the skills of a circumnavigating small boat sailor, but still close enough to home to be reachable in an afternoon sail. And it had no name at all, just the intersection of latitude and longitude in the shadow of the more prominent Swan Island a couple hundred meters west and across the channel. Continue reading "Not Swan Island"

Pump Station 362

Pump Station 362

I spent 2002 and 2003 working on the Corps of Engineers' ambitious Everglades Restoration Project, as a Construction Representative at Pump Station 362. It's part of a massive effort to improve the chemical characteristics of the stormwater inflow to the Everglades from the Loxahatchee area. The following are some thoughts on the Everglades and some pics of the wildlife that shared my workspace while I was there. Continue reading "Pump Station 362"

Autumn's Cusp on the Windswept Islands (Les Îles de la Madeleine)

The inter-island ferry deposited me on the docks in late afternoon, and I had to scramble to find a campsite and set up my tent before night fell. Clouds had rolled in from the ocean on a wet wind and the temperature was dropping. "It's not the temperature," everyone told me, "it's the wind." I got my first sense of just what they meant that first night in my sleeping bag, when my little tent was buffeted by winds that would have carried it out to sea had I not been lying inside. The Mi'qmak Indians got it right centuries ago when they named the place "Menagoesenog," the Windswept Islands. Continue reading "Autumn's Cusp on the Windswept Islands (Les Îles de la Madeleine)"

Île de Bonaventure

The literature from the local chamber of commerce all pointed me to Roche Percé (“ Pierced Rock”), the photogenic monument standing off the coast of the Gaspé peninsula. Indeed, Percé’s high arch permitted small boats to sail right through what could only have been a monument to the struggle of forces that defines nature and humankind. But my own map was leading me farther afield to Île de Bonaventure. Continue reading "Île de Bonaventure"

Land's End at Gaspé: A Quebécois Adventure

The adventure began with a map. All the best ones do. All the maps of America I’d grown up with had shown Maine as the northeastern terminus of land, the limits of civilization, the promontory from which you could look out over the cold waters of the North Atlantic. And maps of North America showed Canada and the United States in such a way that the sheer mass of Quebec overshadowed the land north of Maine. But “Atlas Plate 20: Eastern Canada, May 1967” made me catch my breath. Continue reading "Land's End at Gaspé: A Quebécois Adventure"