Chasing the Deer

The scene unfolded during our Sunday morning walk along the C&O Canal.

We were headed back from Swains Lock to Pennyfield Lock along the towpath (the trail).  The canal, which happens to have water flowing in it in these parts, was to our right, and to our left was vegetation and a somewhat sharp drop off to the Potomac river.  The only people on the trail in front of us were a middle aged couple who walking towards us from the distance.

We heard a commotion behind us.  After initially ignoring it, I turned back to see that there were two deer running on the towpath in our direction, being followed by two bicyclists.  One of the deer was bigger than then other, probably a parent.  Even though the deer had seen us, they keep coming, veering neither left or right.  They were scared by the cyclists, and also of what lay on both sides of the trail.

We turned to face the deer.  I feared a possible collision and I moved to protect my broken ribs.  The deer finally stopped not too far from us.  The bigger one then jumped into the trees and bushes on its left, towards the river, and the young one followed.  The bicyclists went by.

As the people coming towards us got closer, the bigger deer crashed out of the bushes beside the river and ran across the trail into the canal.  It swam across to the other side of the canal and climbed up the hill beside the canal.  You could barely see it behind the trees. There was no sign of the smaller deer, but we knew that it was still on the other side of the trail, separated from the deer that was probably its parent.

As the folks approaching us went by, the little deer jumped out of the bushes beside the river in front of them.  It saw the people approaching.  It took off in the opposite direction along the trail, heading back towards where it had originally come from, and away from the other deer.  The folks who are now walking behind the sprinting deer are pantomiming and trying signal to the deer to cross the canal to be with the other one.  The deer is in a panic, neither can it understand human communications.  Go back and get your young one, we ourselves say to the bigger deer who is on the other side of the canal.  Of course, we are not speaking the deer’s language.

We did not wait to see how the drama of the lost deer finally played out.  I would not be surprised if the two deer eventually found each other.  While they might be considered creatures without intelligence by some human beings, animals have capabilities that would surprise many of us.  They are not necessarily limited by the kinds of senses that we human beings normally use.  (Check this out!)

The places that we frequent during the weekends allow us to experience things that may be considered out of the ordinary, things that we do not see during the normal course of the day in our usual surroundings.  It may simply be that the turtles are hanging out on the logs, or the great blue heron are fishing, or that the wren is singing on a tree as you pass by.  You just need to keep your senses open and a different world opens up to you. But our experience last Sunday was unique even by those standards.

Fast-Forwarding to Today Temporarily Before Returning Back to My Canadian Adventure

I made it a point to return to the C&O canal for the first time today after the accident in Canada.  The pictures below are perhaps old in the sense that I have posted similar pictures before, but they also represent something new in my recovery process.  I am able to walk decent distances in the park, and I am also able to take pictures! Assuming no setbacks, I intend to slowly but surely try to get back to the stuff I enjoy doing outdoors.  This trip was to Pennyfield Lock.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Evanescent

ev·a·nes·cent [evəˈnes(ə)nt]
adjective

  1. Soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing.

In an expanded spirit of the theme, I have picked some pictures that may fit the theme in more ways than one.  These are all old pictures.  The situations that some of them represent can never be repeated.  Some of the others took place just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and this happened by chance, and it may never happen again.  They all have to do with memories.

The pictures below were taken in 2005 and 2006 respectively.  One had to be there at the right time of the year, at the right moment in time of the day, and on a day with the right conditions, to be able to see these.  The conditions along the C&O canal where these pictures were taken have also changed since the time I took them, so that these conditions may never be duplicated.  It was an evanescent moment in time that one could have said was a figment of my imagination if I did not have the pictures to show.100b1052100_3112The following picture is from 2009.  It was humid on that particular morning, and this caused the mist to rise from the railing on the bridge at Broad Run Trunk on the towpath.  I had never seen this before, and perhaps I will never see it again.  I just happened to be there at the right time.IMG_0616And then there is this series of pictures taken in 2009 of the train that appears out of the mist on a cool morning and then quickly vanishes from sight, as if it had never been there in the first place.  Nobody else was there to see it.  It was like that tree falling in the woods.  It was an evanescent experience that is only remembered today because of the pictures.IMG_0640IMG_0642IMG_0644IMG_0645The following picture is from 2005.   The broken-down building below used to be the Pennyfield Inn, and it used to be next to Pennyfield Lock. The building was built in 1879 and was finally demolished in 2009.  It is now replaced with an open space that feels like it has always been there.   (The building actually has an historical context in that President Grover Cleveland used to stay here during his fishing expeditions to this area.) The Pennyfield Inn is now just a memory.  It existed for only a fleeting moment in time in the grand scale of history, and now has disappeared. 100_0919This picture from 2005 illustrates the evanescence of the life experience.  One of the kids in this picture has just finished high school, the second is in college, and we just celebrated the college graduation of the third.   The circumstances of the old picture below are now but a distant memory.100_0344Here are other submissions to the challenge.

 

In The Still of The Day

I was driving on the road from the parking lot at Pennyfield Lock.  I was driving quite slowly.  It was not just the numerous potholes in the road that were slowing me down.  It was very quiet and relaxing out there and I was in no hurry.  Besides, there was an older gentleman walking briskly in the middle of the road in front of me with headphones covering his ears.

I had observed this older gentleman on the trail at Pennyfield lock a few minutes earlier where I had stopped to check out the fall colors.  The colors in our neighborhoods (except for that red maple that we planted behind our house) seemed to be somewhat muted this year relative to other years, but things seemed to be getting better a the tail end of the falling of the leaves.  I drove to the parks in spite of a weather prediction (that turned out to be accurate) that the sky would become cloudier as the morning passed by and that there was a chance of some rain.

In any case, the gentleman was walking with a purpose.  He looked like he did this kind of stuff regularly.  He was proceeding quite briskly in his yellow coveralls.  He had a backpack and I saw a camera hanging from a strap attached to it.  I did not see his water supply, but I am sure he was carrying some.  He had his music.

As the car got closer to this gentleman, I began to wonder if he realized that I was there.  The combination of the headphones he was wearing and fact that I was driving  a Prius that was in its quiet super-efficient mode because of my speed, could have made me difficult to notice. Since he was in the middle of the road,  I decided to drift off to the side of the road and get closer to him at a slower pace.  I was not about to honk the horn.

I got a response from him.  He shifted the position of his head as if to acknowledge me, and I was not sure if he was irritated by my approach.  All of a sudden he started crossing the road in front of me, to the side I was trying to pass him on.  I had not wanted him to change his position on the road just for me, but I figured out that this was what he was doing.  I reacted by turning the wheel so that the car moved back towards the middle of the road.

The guys raised his hands and signaled, it seemed somewhat aggressively, for me to stop.  As I halted the car, he broke off a stick from a fallen branch beside the road and walked with it across the road right in front of me. Soon he was pushing something that was on the road off of it.  I then saw it.  It was a small turtle and it looked very familiar!  After he had moved the turtle, he signaled for me to proceed. My mind quickly rewound to the incident many years ago when I had also moved a turtle off  a road. That incident had  motivated me to start writing about random stuff, and in some way led to the existence of this blog!  It felt, in a very irrational way, that there was some kind of connection being made across the different times of my life.  Weird!

As I eventually passed the gentleman in my car, I told him that he had done a very nice thing.  He was wearing his headphones, but he nodded to acknowledge me, and continued with his brisk walk.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.  I need to get out today to find out if I will find better conditions for fall photography.  It actually looks much nicer in some spots than I expected, but I also need better lighting to try to bring it all out.

 

Splattered Mud

The training for the bike ride in August continues.  This time I decided that I would do a focused ride where the objective would be to complete the distance I had set out to cover as efficiently and quickly as possible.  I traveled light. I did not take a camera.  Instead of sandwiches, I just took some breakfast bars and a couple of apples for sustenance in a backpack, along with a few bottles of water.  The day was promising to be hot and humid.  So I got an early start heading north from Pennyfield Lock.

The section between Riley’s Lock and White’s Ferry is considered by some to be the worst section of the C&O Canal to ride through after it has rained.  The problem lies in the numerous puddles that form on the trail. These are so frequent that you have to be continuously on your toes navigating from one to the other.  The puddles are formed and remain long after the rain has passed because the water does not dissipate through the clayey soil, and because there are depressions in the trail caused by its layout and by park vehicles that sometimes drive over it.

When you encounter an obstacle like this, you have to decide how best to try to tackle it.  Each puddle is unique.  If there is water all across the trail, you might just have to ride through it.  Sometimes you see bicycle tracks on the sides of the trail that are above the water because that section is a little elevated, and you head for them.  But you do need to be careful because there could be drop-offs on the side, and you are also leaning on your bike to make turns while doing this maneuver.  You have to recognize and respect that laws of physics.

If you see a path in the middle of the trail between the puddles where the water has either been absorbed into the soil or has evaporated to some extent, you head for it.  The problem you might encounter is that the soil is quite sticky and grabs at your wheels slowing you down significantly.

In any case, regardless of what strategy you employ, you end up with splattered mud all over the bike and on your legs, shoes, socks, and pants.

Anyway, I made it past the puddles up to Whites Ferry without any significant issues and slowdowns using a bunch of different strategies.

My incident happened closer to Point of Rocks, where I unexpectedly encountered a significant puddle of water across the trail.  I had some good momentum going riding towards this obstacle, and was quickly trying to evaluate the situation and figure out what strategy to apply to get across it.  I saw what looked like a track towards the right of the trail that was above water and headed in that direction.  I did not make it!

Next to the mud track I was headed for was a puddle of water.  I did not realize how deep it was (probably caused by the tires of vehicles digging into the trail).  My tires lost traction coming across the section on the edge of the mud track that was above water and slid into the puddle.  I lost control and the bike slid sideways out from under me before I could get my feet back on the trail and regain my balance.  I was going too fast. I decided to go with momentum of the fall rather than attempting to resist it.  I landed on my left thigh with the bike still under me.  My water bottles went flying.  There was mud all over my backpack and even on my helmet.

The bicycle was on its side but nothing seemed to have happened to it other than its gaining another layer of mud.  Even the handlebars remained aligned.  The muscles in my left thigh hurt where it had been in contact with the key chain and smart phone which were in my pocket.  I had landed on it.  I got to my feet and checked myself out.  I realized that everything was still intact and that I had come out of my first fall on the trail unscathed.  I could continue my ride, and I did just that.  I got back on the bike and kept riding to the point on the trail where I had intended to turn back, and then headed back for home.

The ride back was uneventful, but my strategy for dealing with the puddles had also changed because of my experience.  I was going to make it very simple when I got to these puddles and simply ride right through them, even if it meant that I would have to slow down significantly to limit the splattered mud.  Momentum and mud be damned!

My lower extremities, and even other parts of my body and clothing were caked in mud when I got back.   The bicycle got a thorough washing using the hose in the backyard.  My thigh is still a little sore, but it is not something that will stop me from riding!

Considering the amount of riding that I have been doing recently, it is inevitable that the probabilities are going to catch up with me, and that there will be some mishap or the other at some time.  I have had my first fall from a bike on the trail.  I would be surprised if it is my last. But I cannot afford to be a scaredy-cat. All I can do is hope that the experience will help reduce the chances of having similar incidents going forward.