The rain was something of a downer, too. Those dark and stormy days, denying me walks, tended to lower my energy and flare my arthritis. But the rains have passed and in their place has come heat, up in the nineties, July and August temperatures in May and the First of June. So I walk early, which I always do anyway, to beat the heat and survive another day.
I also bought a Flip Video Camera. The videos I did before were on my digital camera, but the quality and clarity were never up to the same standard as the still photos. I decided to try something dedicated to filming. I am still experimenting and working on a more steady hand. After the words here upon, you will find three videos of my practice. The scenes were not all shot on the same day, although I arranged the sequences to be in proper order. The first takes I did still had some shake and bounce, so you will identify the earlier bits by that. I bought a tripod the next day and screwing this in to the Flip as a handle seemed to remove some of my quiver.
Anyway, if you view the videos I suggest you scroll down and turn off my music player. There is no narrative on the films, but you can hear distinctively the forest sounds, especially birdsong to the backbeat of my crunching steps upon the trail.
What you won't see in the videos are most of the distractions that disrupted my walk and filming. I have tended with age and curiosity to speak to people along the way, especially if they are puzzlements. I do not care to stick a camera in their face, however, so I generally snap it off during conversations. So here in print are the gaps and the tales of these interesting encounters.
Let's begin with Jerry the Flutist, or Flautist for any Anglophiles, who is pictured walking along at the top of this post. I met Jerry a few weeks ago, right after the floods we had. He had a long, strange object in his hand and so I asked, "What's that, some kind of musical instrument?"
Yes, it was, a kind of flute, but very different and very beautiful. It was shaped more like a Recorder than the flutes we see in marching bands. You blew in the top and played finger holes straight down the tube and it was quite long. I don't remember the name, but it was a Native American instrument, all hand carved from wood, polished up to bring out the shine and distinction of the gain. It had been made for him by a friend who does those things. Jerry said he had another, but was reluctant to bring it because of its size, fearful people would be spooked, think it a weapon, perhaps a bazooka.
He was going on a trip to Colorado and would take this flute with him. He hoped there would not be any problem taking it on the plane, but he would not go without it. It was too important to his soul now.
His wife had died last fall and this was his consolation and his spiritual connections to his love. He came to the park and wandered its paths playing music, very well I will add. I've passed him several times since, tootling and soothing away his lost in melodies played to the trees.
And I saw him as I began my filming walks these last few days. So we can start with him tooting our overture as we march upon our own way, our own spiritual journey along the creek.
Ah, the creek, the creek, the Brandywine is more river here, broad and flowing. I choose the West wood path right by its side and decided to walk this to Ramsey Road and then back on the higher, wider Piken Creek Road and finish it off with a climb up a Piedmont Hill. These are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. They sit like humps and bumps between the sea and the higher climes from New Jersey to Alabama. They are beautiful festivals of color in the fall and bleak landscapes in winter, covered with leafless trees standing like tombstones above the carcasses of fallen brothers. Now after the weeks of rain, they are green jungles steaming with this current blanket of heat.
They run down this edge of Delaware like its spine, festooned with the hard blue rock we are so proud of and rising to our higher elevations of 400 feet or so. Not enormous, but still somewhat challenging to hiker and biker.
I start out along the flat and low lying river, following a narrow dirt path into the tangle of shrubbery, sometimes coming near crumbling edges of riverbank, sometimes twisting as if after a wandering snake into honeysuckle or thorn. You can follow my amble on this first video.
After entering and traipsing deep into the woods I come to a cross trail. Here a kind of marsh has formed on one side and there is another pool of stagnant water right next to the creek on the other side. I stepped into this area and was immediately a buffet luncheon for a batch of mosquitos. Every time I glanced down some bug had its straw-like mouth in my flesh happily slurping away.
I swatted my way through this thicket of bloodsuckers and then forded a little run by crossing a fallen log. If you look in the video you will see this run is festooned by brown, flat material. This stuff is cornstalks, carried and trapped at this place from the cornfield we will soon walk beside. The cornfield you see was a few weeks ago under water from the flooding of the Brandywine. You have to realize how high the banks are here to appreciate the amount of water that overflowed them and its power to pluck the field clean of last years empty and dead stalks. Now the field is all planted with the sproutings of this years crop. It was also aswarm with circling clusters of gnats. These tiny insects swirled about in the air, tiny dervishes of constant motion.
And while I watched this dance, a large splash from the creek caught my attention. I thought perhaps some large fish had jumped or perhaps a goose had landed. In a moment a large, soppy-wet, oddly furred hound bounded from a small side path before me, shaking droplets in all directions. Ahead came a couple with another large dog I easily recognized as a Yellow Lab, much like the Tucker we lost last spring. The two dogs came rushing to me, tongues lollying and tails wagging. The soaked beast was a Golden Doodle, part Golden Retriever and part Poodle. This was Melvin and Maxine. The owners explained there was a third dog, a Chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier mix, but he was at home.
I actually learned most of this on my second meeting with Melvin and Maxine, but I give it here anyway.
Continuing on past the corn, I hook up with the Piken Creek Road, the wider main path through this side of the park. My plan is to come back along this dirt road after I turn around at Ramsey.
Piken Creek Walk One
As I started down Piken Creek Road toward Ramsey Road I spoted someone standing in the middle of the trail. Not only is he standing there, he is staring up toward the tree tops. You know how it is, you see someone looking up, you have to look up as well.
"Something interesting up there?" I ask him.
He explains a certain bird hard to spot is in these trees. A bird tweets and he asks, "Hear that. That's its song."
This is Don, the bird-watching mailman from West Chester, a Pennsylvania town not far from the Delaware border. He tells me he grew up in the country and took a notice and interest in the birds. I grew up a good bit in the country myself, but I'd be hard put to name many birds by sight, let alone by their call.
I wished him happy bird watching and continued out to Ramsey where I turned. Don was still there when I returned and now he joined me on my jaunt, pointing out various birds as we went. I had intended to follow the Piken Creek Road, but now we sauntered back down the cornfield path, once again encountering Melvin and Maxine and their jolly owners, where we paused for a lengthy conversation.
I told Don he might be interested in a bird-watching group that wanders through the park regularly. It is led by guides from the Delaware Natural History Museum. I had run into a group not long before this popping out of this very trail, older people like me, all with binoculars dangling about their necks. I wondered if this was the best way to watch birds, trotting through the trails in large groups, but Don seemed interested. I hope I meet him again, because I gave him wrong info. I thought this group met every Saturday morning, but on getting home discovered it was a monthly meet, not weekly.
I split from Don back in the midst of the mosquito infested portion of the woods. I took a side trail to get back up on the Piken Creek Road and then to the Piedmont hill I intended to crest.
As I walked along this winding passage, a horse suddenly appeared before me, a lovely creature of white with large patches of brown. A lady was amount. She probably had come down the Piedmont herself, from a horse farm up atop it. I stepped aside to let them pass.
"Walk early," she said (the lady not the horse) "so you don't die."
This was in reference to the high heat we were having. It would be up to 94 by afternoon. Just as they passed by me, the horse stepped either in a small hole or skidded on a hidden rock and stumbled.
"Don't fall on me, buddy," I said.
"He won't," said the lady.
I wasn't really worried about myself, but concerned the horse might get injured. He righted himself and they went their way and I went mine.
Piken Creek Walk Two
I came back onto Piken Creek Road just below a bridge. I let a bicyclist zip by and then I filmed myself standing on the bridge gesturing like an idiot. I look as if I am telling you what is over there and what is over here, but actually I am not saying a word, just waving my arms about and dithering in silence.
From there I walked up to a couple of rocks along the trail and looked down. A month ago some bicyclist tried to ride his bike up this incline and flipped over on his head. I wish I had filmed that.
Now I begin the long climb up this Piedmont hill. It goes up and up and up for quite a ways. As I start there is another path to my right, which is where I will return after cresting this hill and heading down the other side, a complete circle.
Not far past this point I am struck by movement ahead. A big tan dog is racing -- alone -- toward me. He is woofing. This is always a nervous situation. I don't like meeting a strange dog in the woods. Who knows what it will do. Much to my relief its master, a young woman, and another dog soon appear. Both dogs are Labs, one a Yellow very like my late Tucker, meaning it is kind of plump. They pass me by and I hear the young woman direct them off on what will be my return path as I continue my climb.
At the top of the hill I come out in farmland. There is hay as far as you can see. The path, barely discernible, goes through the hay and reenters the woods on the far side. The hay is very high. It actually comes to above my hips. I came through this field a week ago, before our hot spell and everything was still wet from all the rains. By the time I crossed this field my shorts, legs and shoes were soaked. This was a situation best avoided this day, since I discovered the particular shorts I was wearing this time get quite transparent when wet.
I met the young lady and her two dogs again part way across this field, a situation which could be awkward in transparent shorts to say the least.
Finally it is back into the coolness of the forest. I was beginning to perspire in the field, caught directly in the morning sun. Now I snake my way back down the mount on a narrow, steeper trail and end my first practices with the Flip.
Piken Path Walk Three