On a hike in Harriman State Park in New York snakes were the farthest thing from my mind when this little garter snake crossed the path.
I did the usual thing I do when I see a snake that’s not threatening me—I moved toward it to get a closer look.
Later in the hike we were surprised by this big black snake. I’m not sure what kind it is but it was at least five feet long.
We wouldn’t have seen it if we had done the hike we’d planned on doing—a six mile loop. Somehow we missed a trail junction and ended up hiking a couple extra miles. Luckily, the only other people we saw had a map and they set us straight.
I had some expectations about this hike.
1. The trails would be crowded with people.
2. It wouldn’t require much thought or effort to navigate a marked trail system because most of the hiking I do in Alaska is in trail-less wilderness.
3. Maybe we’d see some squirrels or deer, but snakes—no way.
So, yeah, nothing I thought would happen actually happened.
Read Full Post »
So, our garden planting got delayed by about thirty minutes today because this young bull moose parked himself in the yard and proceeded to snack on willow and birch leaves. I was standing in the bed of my pickup truck while I took photos. Mostly, I just watched him strip entire branches of their leaves.
The day before the moose came, our garden planting was delayed because of a forest fire. The fire didn’t threaten our house but we could see flames through the trees while standing on our deck. I abandoned the garden and drove up the road where I could get a better view. This is what I saw:
700 acres burned in a few hours. Flames were shooting 100 to 200 feet into the air.
Watching a fire rage and looking at a large animal that could stomp you in an instant are both humbling experiences.
I felt sad as I watched the fire (sometimes I just had to look away) because I know people who live up in the area that burned, and I felt sure that houses were being destroyed. Miraculously, no houses were lost–I’m still amazed that the fire fighters were able to keep things under control.
And the moose, well, at one point he turned and looked at me and my heart did a little leap, like okay, get ready to jump down and scoot into the cab because it feels like that moose is going to come my way in a big way. But then he just kept tearing leaves from the trees.
So, those were my weekend highlights. What were yours?
Read Full Post »
I eat up books set in my geographic region: Alaska and the Circumpolar North.
These recent reads are both young adult novels.
From the backcover of The Trap by John Smelcer: Seventeen-year-old Johnny Least Weasel knows that his grandfather, Albert, is a stubborn old man and won’t stop checking his own traplines even though other men his age stopped doing so years ago. But Albert Least-Weasel has been running traplines in the Alaskan wilderness alone for the past sixty years. Nothing has ever gone wrong on the trail he knows so well. When Albert doesn’t come back from checking his traps one day, and with the temperature steadily plummeting, Johnny must decide quickly whether to trust his grandfather or his own instincts.
From the jackflap of Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick: In an isolated cabin in an Arctic wilderness, 14-year-old Sig is alone with a corpse: his father, who has fallen through the ice on the lake outside and frozen to death only hours earlier. Then, out of the Arctic darkness, comes a stranger: a terrifying giant of a man claiming that Sig’s father owes him a share of a horde of stolen gold–and threatens awful violence if Sig doesn’t reveal the gold’s whereabouts.
Both of these stories take place over the course of just a few days where well-developed characters drive relentless plots. And, the clencher for me in terms of what separates good from great–they both make full use of the setting in haunting and beautiful ways.
Read Full Post »