Thursday, June 30, 2011

AWOL Again

Yes, I have been AWOL again this week. Far from being lazy, this summer has been going full-throttle since May (which, I realize, is technically not summer, but since it was hot and Benjamin was out of school, it counts in my book) and I have just not had much time to download and organize pictures. And what would reports of my various activities be without pictures? Blah, that's what.

That said, one thing I have been busy doing is attending the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's production of Othello. I went on Saturday with a couple of friends, then again last night with Benjamin. The actors et al. did a marvelous job - Iago was villainous and thoroughly evil, the sets perfect, and the final act especially was heartbreaking and shattering. It was so good that I have no desire to see Othello again any time soon, for it would be too wrenching. They have one more performance tonight, then it is back to As You Like It (which we will be seeing this weekend), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Since this week is a long weekend, I should have plenty of time to process photos, so hopefully I will be back blogging at a more reasonable rate soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Above the Buffalo


Since the telling of this story has already gone on much longer than the trip itself, I am going to wrap up my review of our camping trip today. After a night in the woods, it was time to head back up to the car. And up, and up. The entire trail back was uphill to some degree or another.

Part-way up the climb we took a short side trip down Goat Trail trail to get a view of the Buffalo from above.  The guide book was full of warnings about how dangerous the trail was, and how any slip would be fatal, and how the author wouldn't and couldn't take any responsibility for any accidents, but how cool the view was and how it was definitely worth the trip.

We decided to take the risk, but to be careful and stay away from any edges (not really much of a problem, since Benjamin gets vertigo in high places, even more so when it is me near the edge). The trail was rather narrow, and there were a couple of places where the going could be considered tricky, but not too dangerous.

And the view was worth the detour. Yes, the river is down there, somewhere. There were hawks gliding around below me, but of course I didn't have my telephoto lens, and they wouldn't hover for me!

There - told you the river was down there. This is upstream from where we camped, and at 10 AM, there were already plenty of floaters visible. Supposedly, from one of the view points, a settler's cabin was visible across the river. I am always amazed at the places people homesteaded in Arkansas - now those places are almost inaccessible, only seen by hikers. Once though, people lived on hillsides, and tried to earn a living and keep themselves fed in places where the soil is thin and rocky, the trees shade out the ground, and neighbors far away.

After a short contemplative interlude, it was back to the main trail and up and out. It was a lovely hike, although my dad would have hated it - he has never liked hiking up, which is why we never went camping in the mountains when I was a kid.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Red Neck (literally) Traffic Jam

So, to re-cap where we are - we have hiked out into the wilderness, about 5 miles, to get some solitude while exploring the Buffalo River and environs. After dropping our packs at a campsite and eating a snack, Benjamin and I head off down the trail (or I guess I should say up, since the trail is decidedly uphill) towards Hemmed-In Hollow, and the area that the guide book described thusly: "This is what wilderness was meant to be. No sign or sound of man. Only the hush of the water cascading over the falls, and the cry of a red-tailed hawk above."

Obviously, Tim Ernst was not describing the falls area on Memorial Day weekend. This is the view leading up to the falls. An actual traffic jam, 5 miles into the wilderness. Full of red necks. When I say red necks, I don't mean the Jeff Foxworthy "You might be a redneck ..." kind; I mean the kind that come from floating down a river shirtless with a cooler of beer but no sunblock. I'll take my scraped-up knee over that kind of sunburn, thank you very much.

When the line finally crawled up to the falls, this was the scene. Just add in the sounds of screaming and the smell of cigarettes and it is like you are there. Sheesh! Of course, most of these people did not come in the hard way, like us. Oh no - they all floated in, beer can in hand (yes, I already mentioned the beer, but I am not kidding, everyone except the children seemed to have beer with them), took a short little stroll in their flip-flops and river shoes, and then had plenty of energy to spare for exuberance. And the falls were pretty cool, when you could look up and ignore the people.

Anyway, I suppose we should have been expecting something like the traffic, since it was Memorial Day, and in another section of the guide, Ernst says that "On most spring weekends, you'll see a lot of paddles here! In fact, it can get down right crowded." The thing is, except for Pinnacle Mountain and Cedar Falls (both short hikes to spectacular views), we have never yet been on a trail in Arkansas where we saw more than a handful of people at any time. Certainly never on a long trail like this one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hiking the Buffalo

So, at long last, here are the pictures from our backpacking trip along the Buffalo River over Memorial Day Weekend. The Buffalo River is a National River, which is a sort of National Park. Most of the parks in Arkansas are state parks. In this case, there aren't too many differences, since I think hunting is allowed in the Buffalo area, where it wouldn't be in Yellowstone. Anyway, the trail-head that we wanted was about a 3 hour drive from Maumelle north to the town of Ponca.

The trail was mostly downhill for the hike to the river, great news for the inbound hike, not so good for the next day's climb out. But that is another post. The weather was on hot, but not so hot as it has been since then, and we started at a higher elevation, so it was cooler at the top. It was probably the last weekend until October or at least late September that isn't too hot to go hiking. I suppose we could go hiking when it is 95 out, but really, why would we? I can roast quite easily in my own backyard, thank you very much.

Anyway, I didn't take the camera out of my pack until we reached Granny Henderson's Cabin - one of the reasons we chose this particular hike. A friend who is extremely knowledgeable about hiking in Arkansas told us that this was one of his favorite hikes, and that we definitely had to stop at the cabin. Granny Henderson lived in this cabin until the mid-1970s, when the National Park Service basically forced her out so they could create the national park area. The story, as told in a newspaper article and a homemade sign nailed to the cabin, is pretty disgraceful - forcing an old woman out of the only home she knew for 70 years. Not one of the government's better moments, I am afraid. But the cabin was pretty cool, and the area was lovely. I can see why she would have wanted to stay, despite the lack of running water, telephone, electricity, and transportation.

From the cabin, it wasn't far to the river. Our ultimate destination was Hemmed-In Hollow Falls, but camping is forbidden close to the falls, and we wanted to drop our packs somewhere before we headed to the falls.

We found a perfect campsite just up a little hill, off a side trail, ditched our packs, and headed towards Hemmed-In Hollow.

This picture must be from the next morning, because during the afternoon, the river was jammed with canoes and children and bros with beer. It looked like a fun outing, and we decided that next summer we definitely have to go ourselves.

From the river, the trail to the hollow goes back up into the trees and uphill for a mile or so. I managed to slip off a log while we were crossing a creek, bang up my knee and fill a boot with water - but I didn't drop the (expensive, new) camera in the water, so it was OK.  Later, I got my foot stuck in a rock and banged an elbow, but again, didn't break the camera. I think it is just my father's genes coming out - he was always scraping himself on rocks and logs when we went hiking, partially because he was so excited to get a better angle for a picture, or because there was something interesting to see.

Tomorrow : Hemmed Hollow, or the Traffic Jam in the Woods.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Things I don't like ...

Shopping for shorts. I don't really like shorts, but it has been over 90 almost every day in June, so shorts are only practical some days, at least at home. I had a couple of pairs that I got several years ago, when I was thinner, and then I had less muscle on my legs. They don't fit any longer, so I needed to buy a pair of shorts that are not athletic shorts. I have a couple pairs of those, but I use them for going to the gym and playing tennis, which means they are sweaty and stinky and not fit for wearing around the house. So, I forced myself to go shopping for shorts this weekend. Ugh. The sizes are all weird, the lengths are all weird, and the designs are all weird. What is up with the little button flap on the sides, as if you are actually rolling up longer pants?

It doesn't seem that difficult really, to design a basic pair of shorts. But somehow, it must be, because there was a definite lack of plain, decent shorts. Sigh.

I found a pair, but as I complained to Benjamin "They don't even have my sizes, and I am not really a difficult size, so I am forced to see how fat they make me look, before I can even look at how ugly they are." Not a great day for loving my tree.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Garden

I am running way behind on my pictures. Here are a couple of pictures of our garden, from the first part of May. The peas (tall plants in front of Benjamin) are finished now, and the broccoli is about finished. The collards (middle of the first box) are a lot larger, and so are the tomatoes and squash (back box).

Next week I will give you the long-delayed pictures of our hiking trip, and maybe even pictures from my trip to Philadelphia.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This week I like: Reading Terminal Market

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I am in Philadelphia for the Special Libraries Conference, and I forgot to bring the pictures from our Memorial Day weekend hiking trip. Oops. I will have those for Thursday. In the meantime, I have fallen in love, not surprisingly, with something food-related. There is a covered/indoor market here in Philadelphia a lot like Pike Street in Seattle. It is the Reading Terminal Market (pronounced Red-ing, not reed-ing). It is in the area where the Reading train terminal used to be, and it has so much good looking food. Yesterday, I had lunch at a gyro stand. This morning, I had a Nutella-strawberry crepe. I have bought some apples for snacking, and scones for nibbling in my room. If we lived in Philadelphia, this would surely become a regular Saturday morning destination.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

5K Recap

The 5K was this weekend. I didn't meet my own personal goal of not walking at all, but I finished. I am pretty sure the main reason I had to walk was the temperature/humidity combination: it was 85 with 60 or 70% humidity at 8 AM. Since I did most of my practice running in the gym, with at least a little AC, that was just too much. Benjamin ran the entire way though.

I still don't think that I am a real runner - it isn't fun yet, not really. It is work, a challenge, but I don't lose myself in the running. But I certainly do want to RUN an entire 5K some day, when it is cooler. So I will keep running some of the time for my morning cardio workout, and I will try to go longer and faster. Maybe being a runner isn't something you just become - you have to slip into it, until one day, I will look up and say - Hey, I'm a runner!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Visit to Falling Sky Farm

Moveable Chicken Houses
I am almost a month behind on taking pictures off the camera - I though digital cameras were supposed to remove the lag between the taking and the viewing. I guess that only works if you actually take time to get them off, just like film. Anyway, last month, between storms and tornadoes and before the hot weather, we attended a farm day held at Falling Sky Farm, one of the farms we get food from at our farmer's market. Cody and Andrea are the driving force behind our online market/CSA, and are really motivated and interested in providing local, humanely grown eggs, chickens, pork and beef. They hold a farm tour day semi-annually, but we have never been able to go before.

The day was gorgeous, with a breeze, but not too much, and it was sunny, but not too hot. The farm is about 100 miles north of Conway, just at the edges of the larger hills and mountains up that direction.

Chickens, trying to decide if we are friendly
Andrea and Cody raise laying hens, meat chickens, grass-fed beef, and acorn-fed pigs (well, not exclusively, but they do get to root around under oak trees every day). I only have pictures of the laying hens - I forgot to charge my camera battery, and it died right after the first stop on the tour.

Yup, not a threat. Let's investigate.
They move the cows and chickens daily, so that the grass isn't overgrazed, and the chickens get a chance to scratch through the manure, which helps spread it around and eliminates bugs.


The tour was great, although I only have these few photos. We walked around to the cows and the pigs, then had a delicious potluck with the other visitors. I love that we are able to go see the farm where our food comes from, and see that the animals are happy and healthy and that the land is healthy as well. I also love that we are able to support small, local farmers, since they should be the backbone of our food economy.

Visit their website. If you are interested in learning more about the local food movement, slow food, etc, there are many, many resources available on-line and at your local library. Read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, go to a farmers market. Start a garden.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A REALLY good reason not to diet

Here is an article that gives me all the proof/evidence/ammunition I need to never want to diet or restrict my caloric intake just to lose weight. From Experience Life Magazine, a columnist tells the story of what happened to a group of volunteers who went on starvation diets during WWII to help doctors learn how to treat the many soldiers and civilians who were starving in Europe. Short version? They went crazy. Literally. Several had to be put into psych wards, one cut off his fingers with an axe. All on a diet of 1500 calories, which is actually above what some of the popular diets out there recommend. So, don't do it. Don't restrict yourself in the hopes that you will be thin. Aim for health, eat enough food to keep you sane, because this world already has enough problems without a lot of starving, psychotic people in it.