The Approach of Winter

Although winter is not officially here yet, we are seeing signs that the transition to the season is well underway. The difference in the nature of the woods during past few weeks is stark. This is how a certain section of the trail looked two weeks ago.

This is how a section of the trail that we visited (a different one) looked yesterday morning.

It was still early in the morning when we got on the trail yesterday at Whites Ferry. It was quite cold outside, in the 30s. We are still getting used to the onset of these kinds of temperatures, fairly typical for this time of year at this time of the day. Fortunately, it was not windy. The sun was still struggling in and out of the clouds from its position low on the horizon when we arrived. There was little warmth from its presence. The weak rays of light barely reached us through the leafless trees.

The majesty of the towering Sycamore trees was once again revealed to us in its fullness: on the trail,and across the river on the shores of the Potomac.The perfect reflections on its calm and quiet waters further enhanced our views of the river, and uplifted us, on this beautiful morning.

For some reason, we encountered very few people on the trail yesterday. But we did see a few great blue herons. The herons were more skittish than I expected – like this one that we encountered early on in the walk.

Its eventually warmed up into the 50s, a more reasonable temperature to handle at this stage of our transition to winter.

The long walk that we took served well to compensate for the calories consumed during the Thanksgiving meal. It was a quiet and relaxed affair with just the family and a friend, with the kids putting in most of the effort in preparing the meal. We are thankful – for everything!

Halloween Sunday On The Trail

We started our walk from the parking lot at the Dickerson Conservation Center on Halloween Sunday. We walked towards the Monocacy Aqueduct. The colors were rather dull. It took a while for the sun to emerge.

Later on during the walk, we ran into some young people dressed up for Halloween.We saw them a couple of times on the trail. They looked like they had actually walked a significant distance.

The trail was mostly green, but we encountered a few trees with yellow. We have come to the realization that a lot of the yellow is due to the turning of the Pawpaw trees.

We crossed the Monocacy Aqueduct but did not quite get to Noland Ferry before we turned back. The river was running a little high that morning. I have taken so many pictures from this perspective that I neglected to take another one that morning.

I liked this picture of Spinks Lock (Lock 27) with its lock house. The lock lies just beyond the power station at Dickerson.

My eyes were drawn to this sight of the drying leaves of a sycamore tree up in the sky, caught in the early morning light. The blue and the white in the sky provided a nice contrast to what we were seeing on the trail.

Williamsport and Pearre, MD, On The Same Morning

It was our first weekend walk along the C&O Canal after my return from India. After our earlier somewhat less successful experiences in the Shenandoah National Park with the viewing of Fall colors, we were going to give it a shot once again. But, based on experiences of past years, I was also not expecting much success in this regard. Except for in a few short sections of the canal closer to the city, the leaves on the trees along the towpath tend to fade to shades of yellow, with perhaps an occasional tinge of orange if you are lucky, or turn directly to brown. You do not see much of the reds.

In any case, we decided to give it a try, and headed to a place that was much more north and west of where we lived, where, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fall was well underway. We went to Williamsport.

Unfortunately, we arrived in Williamsport to find that most of the vegetation was still green.We walked south on the trail up to a section just beyond the re-watered part of the canal. At that point we determined that the colors were not going to improve. We aborted the walk, returned to the car, and decided to drive further west to see if we could have better luck in our endeavors. This part of the Sunday morning activities was totally unplanned.

In any case, before leaving Williamsport, I managed to get a picture of the restored Conococheague aqueduct from the level of the creek, something I was unable to do during our previous visit.

We drove west past Hancock. Soon after, just before the Sideling Hill cut on highway I-68, we turned south onto Woodmont Road, one of the occasional narrow local roads that run through this extremely rural section of Maryland.

(As an aside, Sideling Hill is actually a somewhat long (but not very tall) mountain ridge of the Appalachians that runs all the way north into Pennsylvania and south, parallel to the border of Maryland and West Virginia, to West Virginia. The Potomac river forms the border of Maryland and West Virginia here. At some point the river turns and cuts through the ridge. The border of the states continues to follow the river.)

This space was a part of Maryland that I used to come to by myself, to run and explore, every once in a while in the past, but not recently. This section of the Maryland is lightly populated and heavily wooded. The drive south on Woodmont Road was quite nice, and we could see some color on the trees along the way.

We ended up at the parking lot for the Western Maryland Railroad Trail (WMRT) in Pearre, MD. This parking lot used to be the western terminus for the WMRT. We discovered that morning that the trail has been further extended a few miles west.

We were able to get on to the C&O canal towpath from the WMRT using a connector between the two trails. Alas, the vegetation here was also mostly green. We took the trail headed in a westerly direction. It was less than a mile before we crossed the Sideling creek and Aqueduct.The railings on the WMRT (behind the aqueduct in the picture above) looked new from the level of the aqueduct. This was our first hint that that trail might have been extended beyond Pearre. It was perhaps more than a mile after that before we came to a place where we saw the following structure.We realized that this was the place where the extension of the WMRT on the railroad right-of-way ended. This was where the WMRT connected back to the towpath.

We decided to tranfer to the WMRT for our return to Pearre. There was a little more color to be experienced from this perspective, but not much.The trail was very nicely paved and in much better shape than the towpath in these parts.

It turned into a long morning because of our having gone to two different places, and because of the extended distance away from home that we had traveled. I was tired, and it put me in a bad place later in the day for the first music practice after my return from India.

We have not had much success so far this year in our quirky annual endeavor of trying to find places to experience the colors of Fall. It may not be too surprising to some that I have been observing the fuller phenomenon of Fall, with more of its brilliant colors, more vividly closer to home – on the local roads – in recent days. I do not know yet if I will end up taking pictures.

One More Ride

Yesterday’s bike ride could end up being the last bike ride of the year. I am leaving on a long trip. Any long trip can be a bit of an adventure, and this one certainly falls into that category. You let go of the guardrails of your usual routines, you plan as much as you can, and then you take a chance and step out into the less known. Inshallah!

The trip that I am about to make has come together at the last minute, and thinking about its logistics has shifted my balance a little bit. There are particular challenges because of current circumstances.

I forced myself to go out for this ride. I needed to do something that was a part of my usual routine, a routine that had been disrupted even last week by the almost daily singing I had been doing at the fair. I needed to get the endorphins going. Biking has become that activity in the more recent past.

It was a warm and muggy morning when I headed out, but I got it done – covered the usual 30 miles on the towpath! Now, onward!

Here are pictures from the last couple of rides.

The inspiration for the title of this blog came from a song our chorus sings. Here is a version that I found online.

Stories From Lock 27

It was a hot day for a bike ride, and I had gotten a later start than usual due to a phone call earlier in the morning. The plan was to ride from Sycamore Landing to the Monocacy Aqueduct. I did make it, and I set a decent pace in spite of the heat. I could literally feel the heat on my shoulders through the openings in the green canopy of the forest during the later parts of the ride. Surprisingly, I saw more people on the trail as it got closer to noon, when it was beginning to feel really hot.

I could have finished the ride earlier than I actually did, but was delayed by an encounter at Lock 27. An older gentleman seemed to be eager for conversation. I indulged him.

As I was riding by Lock 27, I slowed down to look at a small black dog running around on the other side of the lock. A gentleman who was on the towpath noticed me and informed me that the dog was a work dog. Having heard something recently about the difference between pets and work dogs (specifically those that help to corral animals in the fields and pastures), I asked him if the dog worked on a farm. That was an excuse for me to stop and get off the bike, and for him to extend the conversation. It extended more than I was expecting.

As he walked up to me, he mentioned that his dog was was a search and rescue dog. She was trained to find people trapped in rubble from structures that have collapsed. He went on to inform me that he had been working for FEMA for 40 years. His job was as a search and rescue specialist, a task which he performed with his trained partner dog. He mentioned the recent condominium collapse in Florida as an example of where his work could take him. (He later mentioned that he had been a part of the team responding to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.) He said that he was 75 years old. His dog was 7 years old, and her training started when she was 6 months old.

She was a small black dog. She seemed to be very mellow. She looked light on her feet, which is what is needed when she is walking on rubble that you do not want to collapse further. The dog was listening to everything that he was saying to it, and was responding to his instructions. He demonstrated this to me by asking her to go down into the bed of the lock to look around. This was a typical action that would be needed to go into destroyed buildings to try to rescue people. You might have noticed that I used the word “asking” rather than “ordering”. Yes, he actually talked to the dog using full sentences. It was quite clear that they are good friends. She was a very quiet dog. She responded every time he asked her something. She seemed to be happy.

He had had a stroke about a year ago. He is still recovering. He still had some physical issues to overcome (which I could also see), but he was hoping to go back into active service at FEMA. He lived on a farm near the aqueduct. He had his stroke when he was on his tractor working on the farm. He says that when the stroke happened he felt and knew what was coming. He stopped the tractor. Unfortunately, his mobile phone had died. When he got off his tractor, he fell and could not get up. There was nobody around other than his dog. He asked her to go to the neighbor’s farm to seek help. He said that the dog did not know the neighbor. The dog left and eventually came back with the neighbor, and he was able to get the help he needed. Apparently, the dog had appeared at the neighbor’s front door barking insistently, and succeeding in convincing her to open the door. When she opened the door, the dog would apparently try to convey what she wanted by running a short distance towards where he had fallen, and then coming back to the lady. She did this a few times. Apparently, her actions were enough to make the lady understand that the dog wanted her to follow her. And the dog led the lady to where he was lying in the field. The dog saved his life.

There were a few other directions that the conversation went off into once we got talking at Lock 27. He liked telling his life stories.

He had fought in the Vietnam war for 4 years. He had been a fighter pilot, flying F-100s. He named the five dogs that he has worked with at FEMA after military aircraft. His aircraft had been blown up out of the sky by anti-aircraft fire on two occasions. He mentioned how, all of a sudden, he had found himself in his ejector seat in the sky with no aircraft around him. He was fortunate to have been rescued on the ground after he had fallen behind enemy lines.

He says that he did not have ill-will for the Vietcong even in those days. (He differentiated between them and professional soldiers for some reason.) He mentioned that the Vietcong were usually young boys, 14 to 15 years old. They would come out to the base in the night with explosives to try to blow up the aircraft. The military had a process for confronting the kids, the last stage of which was to kill them if they did not respond to call-outs. He said that on several occasions he ended up taking the Kalashnikovs from the kids’ hands and sending them away without killing them. He was hoping to win them over. His approach was not popular with some of the other soldiers.

Without being asked, he admitted to having killed people. He sounded a little bit defensive when he said that. He said that he was following orders from his government. His job was not to question why. And finally, it became apparent to me that his current job at FEMA, trying to save lives, was partial atonement for some of what had happened during the war.

He asked me where I was from. He said that Indians were shady people. I was completely floored by his statement, especially because I, a person of Indian background, was the one having the conversation with him. Unfortunately, it turns out that his prior formative experiences with Indians have not been good. When he was in Vietnam, an Indian merchant tried to rip him off. There was a confrontation (with the use of all the threats available to military personnel being brought to bear) before the situation was resolved. The funny thing is that he seemed to be sympathetic to the circumstances of the person who had ripped him off and, in the end, ended up trying to help him. Most recently, he became a victim of a call-center scam where people from India remotely got control of his computer, locked it, and in the end got money off of him. I was trying to tell him that there are scammers everywhere in the world, and that we are not all like that. I did not do a good job. In any case, both he, and his dog, did not exhibit any suspicion of, or acrimony towards, me. In fact, they were downright friendly. The dog let me pet her and wagged her tail in delight when I scratched her neck. He said that dogs know whom to trust, and behave differently in the presence of different people. He also mentioned that although he cannot do it himself, it is possible to learn about people from their auras. He said that it was a skill that could be taught. I began to suspect that he might have Buddhist leanings.

When I mentioned my name and my background as a Christian from the State of Kerala, he sprung it on me that he was of the Mormon faith! I do not know why, but that caught me completely off-guard. But it did also make some sense. There is a big group of people who follow the Mormon faith in the area where we live, and he had actually grown up in Montgomery County. And I had learnt previously that the Mormons had fought in the past in wars for their country.

In the end, I had to stop asking questions lest I got him going off on yet another interesting topic or the other for an indefinite amount of time. I really had to get moving once again because I had not yet reached my intended destination at that point.

During the initial part of the ride I had been thinking about whether I would have anything interesting to blog about as a result of the ride. The only notable events so far in the ride had to do with birds that were not cooperating with me when I tried to take their pictures. They would seem settle down for the shot, but would fly away when I got off the bike and reached for my camera. I did not get even one picture of a bird! Fortunately, Bob and Raider came to the rescue!

Snakes In the Morning

Before proceeding further with this blog, I have to make a note related to my previous blog. There was a picture of a bird in that blog that I was not able to identify in a timely manner. I now know that the bird is a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. These birds breed in North America during this time of year and fly to South America during the non-breeding winter season. They are shy birds that apparently stay hidden most of the time. I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to see it! Incidents like this give our outdoor activities that extra zing!

I went for a bike ride last Friday, starting out from Rileys Lock, and heading north. I had not been on the trail too long before I came upon a lady who was stopped on the trail. She stopped me and told me that there was a snake on the trail. A somewhat smaller-sized northern copperhead lay in the middle the trail enjoying the cool of the early morning. In case one is not aware of it, these snakes are venomous and can be deadly.

The young lady wanted to proceed north with her travels, but was very nervous about the reaction the snake might have to her attempt to get by. The two of us stood for a while strategizing about how to get around the snake. I was thinking of riding past it on the bike. While we were standing around, a bald eagle landed on a tree nearby. I could not get a very good picture of the bird.I wonder if the eagle was attracted by the activity on the trail.

I eventually rode past the snake, right in front of it. It might have turned its head to keep an eye on me as I rode by, but I was not too sure. My focus was on my safety! I stopped after had I passed the snake to take a picture of the bald eagle that was still hanging around, but the bird took off before I was ready with the camera. The young woman finally decided that she was not going to risk moving past the snake.She turned to head back towards Rileys Lock.

Having seen one snake this early in the morning, I was prepared to see more of them as the ride progressed. And it happened! The reptile sightings actually took place only towards the end of the ride – on two occasions.

The first time was when a long and thin black rat snake crossed the trail.It was moving fast enough that I my attempt to frame a picture capturing the entire length of the snake in the picture was unsuccessful.

The second time was toward the end of the ride. I saw a big and fat black rat snake beside the trail. I think the snake was getting ready to cross the trail. It turned and quickly slithered back into the grass when I stopped to take the picture.

It was towards the end of the ride, a little bit after I stopped for the second black rat snake, that I realized that my lens cap had fallen off the camera somewhere along the way, probably after I had taken the picture of this last snake. Something like this was bound to happen some day because the Olympus lens caps are, in general, designed very poorly from the point of view of staying attached to the front of the lens. You have to make an extra effort to make sure they are locked into place after you put them back over the lens. They might seem to be securely attached even when they are not. There have been several occasions in this past where the lens caps on my lenses have fallen off, but I had always been fortunate thus far to have been able to find the piece that dropped off. Not this time! I returned home “capless” in spite of my effort to find the lens cap by riding back along the trail – back to the place where I thought I had taken the last picture.

Luckily, it is not too difficult to get a replacement lens cap.

I want to finish the blog with this picture of a swallow taken at Whites Ferry. This was one of many on a wire. I cannot figure out what kind of a swallow this is.

I will post more of these pictures on Pbase eventually.

Sweating The Computer Stuff

I have not been in the state of mind to write a blog for a little while now. You can blame technology for this. I finally got a new computer. I ended up spending a lot of time getting the new machine up and running. I found myself in a frame of mind not conducive to writing anything.

My old laptop computer has had a few issues with it for a long time, but I tried to manage without a replacement for as long as I could. One of the buttons on the touchpad has been sticky for a while, which sometimes led to unexpected responses when it was pressed. The plastic casing of the computer had cracked and separated an even longer while back – at the location on the side where the power cord got plugged in, to the extent that the connector for the power cord inside the computer was not firmly connected to anything within the computer itself. When the lid of the computer was lifted to the certain level, the broken plastic on the bottom of the computer would separate, and the connector would become free to move. The only way to ensure that the connector was stable was to push the top and the bottom elements of the casing together and to try to keep them together using some force. The engineer in me had to try to come up with a solution to the problem. Super-strong adhesives would not work since the force pulling the broken pieces apart was too much. I was using a sticky tape instead as a temporary solution, and had been trying to limit the actions of opening and closing of the lid of the computer. That careful approach had its limits, and mitigated the issue for only so long. It was time for a new computer!

I got a new laptop computer with much more memory than I had before, with the hope that it would make it easier for me to support multitasking, and also speed up running of my photo editing app, a piece of software that is a complete memory hog. I also upgraded to a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of the traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) in order to eliminate a moving part in the computer.

Laptop technology has advanced significantly since my last upgrade about 6 to 7 years ago. The newer units are far more compact (smaller in overall size for the same screen size), significantly thinner, and much lighter. This is in spite of the fact that the new machines are much more capable than the older ones. The core chipset technology has advanced significantly.

The effort involved in bringing up the new machine to a configuration of familiarity to me, so that I could do all the stuff that I used to do on the old machine, was what disrupted my past week completely. This process should not have taken a lot of time. But one of the key apps on the old machine that I use for image processing would not install on the new one. I spent a few days trying to get past this issue, even spending a significant amount of time with representatives of the company that made the app – on the phone and on my computer – trying to figure out what was going on. I even gave the company reps temporary access to my computer for hours on end. (I was very nervous for the duration of the remote sessions when they were running.) In the end, they were unsuccessful in figuring out what was going on. And, in the end, they also dropped the ball on solving the problem. They had promised a call back from their experts within 24 hours. A few days have passed since then…. But, fortunately, I had also been trying to troubleshoot the problem on my own, and finally found out the source of the issues I was having. It was due to the existence of a use case that they were not likely to see too often – one that they were not familiar with. But shame of them for not following up! If they had stayed on the case, the information that I have found could have been helpful to them in the future. Too bad that they gave up!

Changing gear……
Changing topics…..

We went out to pick fruits at a farm last weekend. It was my first such experience. It was a fun couple of hours. The fruits available on this farm for picking at this time of year were nectarines, peaches, and blackberries. It turned out to be a very pleasant day to be outside. It was good exercise to walk across the fields to the locations of the best pickings. I was quite surprised by how engaging the process of trying to find good fruit to pick actually turned out to be. One becomes adept at making out the level of ripeness of the hanging fruit. And, of course, you are sampling some of the fruit you have just picked as you go along. There we a lot of families out there having fun. In the end we ended up picking more fruit than we really needed.

The farm had other activities to keep the families engaged, including places to pet the animals, and a flower garden where people could cut flowers for themselves.

It was a good day!

We were also able to go to the canal for our Sunday walk last weekend. It was good to be out again after a short break. We went to a familiar section of the trail – between Sycamore Landing and Rileys Lock. The parking lot was unusually full because of the people who had come to see the garden of sunflowers next to the lot.There are very few flowers along the trail itself at this point in the season in this section of the towpath. There were the dying Wild Sweet William that I had seen in full bloom while biking a couple of weeks back. The underbrush is also very thick at this time, with the various tall grasses and shrubs pushing up against you from the sides in the sections of the trail that have not been cleared out yet. It is green everywhere.I did see some leftover Bee Balm, Coneflower and Touch-Me-Nots. There seemed to be fewer than usual birds around. We noticed the occasional cardinal. The woodpeckers were scarce.

There was the one Zebra Swallowtail that we saw feeding. It did not seem to notice us.

Fortunately, there were very few gnats, probably because it was a unusually cool and cloudy morning.

It is possible that the reader will get the impression that the experience of the towpath must have been diminished because of what I have written above. Banish the thought! That certainly was not the case. There is nothing like being out in the quiet of the woods to rebuild one’s spirits – in order to carry you through the rest of the week. Thus it was last weekend!

Walk, Bike, and Run

I felt good this morning. I was able to go for a run after a somewhat long break. The last couple of days have been a little cooler than usual, and the temperature was in the 60s when I started out. I thought that I would feel a little sluggish because of the break. That happened to not be the case. I got my mojo going pretty quickly, probably because of the cool temperatures. The running came easy. I was was able to maintain a decent pace throughout the run, and I actually felt wonderfully refreshed the rest of the morning.

We walked from Weverton to Harpers Ferry last Sunday. We were walking a section of this trail for the first time this year. Because of the location closer to Harper Ferry, there was more activity on the trail than one wishes and hopes for. But it was OK. We still had our extended periods of quiet. Here are some pictures from the walk.

The railroad line runs beside the canal all the way to Harpers Ferry.

This is the Route 340 bridge across the Potomac.

The river is very rough downstream of Harpers Ferry. The water is also very low in summer.

Harpers Ferry is across the river in West Virginia at the meeting point of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. The railroad line crosses over the river on the bridges to the right of the picture.

The newer flowers that we saw for the year during this walk include White Campion,

Buttonbush,

Queen Anne Lace (here in its early stage),

flowers that I was unsuccessful in identifying last year too,

Crown Vetch (distinguished from Red Clover because of the nature of the leaves),

Hedge Bindweed,

Wild Sweet William,

Rose of Sharon,

and Asiatic Dayflower.

My bike ride last Wednesday started once again at Pennyfield lock, but this time I headed towards Washington, DC. I rode up to Chain Bridge. It was a typical hot and humid Washington, DC, summer day. I covered more distance this time than I did during my first ride of the year last week. I put in a little more effort than during that first ride – keeping up a decent speed on the trail. There were quite a few people on the trail in spite of the heat. Thankfully, interactions with folks I encountered were generally pleasant, including a conversation with a couple who were in the early stages of an ambitious ride of over 60 miles! I hope they made it.

Here are a couple of pictures from my ride. The first one was taken at Widewater.

You can make out the typical haze of a Washington, DC, summer day in the second picture.

Riding For The First Time This Year

I rode my bicycle last week – for the first time this year. It has been a late start. I was going to start writing about the reason why this has happened, but then realized that I had a late start, for almost the same reasons, last year also. So my mindset in this regard, and the preparation for this first ride, mirror what happened last year. I wrote about it in the first section of this blog.

Truth of the matter is that I had gotten my bike cleaned up for a ride a couple of weeks earlier, but had never gotten around to actually taking the bike to the trail. This year, I am finding that the heat outside is discouraging me more than I expected from my efforts to exercise. I have become better at making excuses. Years are catching up.

There were three distinct stages to the ride last week.

The first stage was getting used to the feeling of being in the saddle once again after a very long time. When I am on a bike, the distances and the scenery pass by more quickly and smoothly than I am used to when on foot. I cannot pay as much attention as I usually do to things beside the trail. Nevertheless, it was difficult to miss the large number of birds at the pond at Riley’s lock. I had to stop to take pictures. There were an unusual number of egrets at this location.

There were also a few Great Blue Herons to be seen all along the trail. We have not seen them for quite a while, and their sight, for some reason, brings a feeling of comfort.

The second part of the ride was when I was transported into a world of happy fantasy, where my mind wandered away into some other space. The act of biking itself became completely instinctive. I even recited a nursery rhyme loudly when I went past a section with a lot of blackbirds. My song for the morning included the words – “I want to fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me“! And then, there I was, chasing the butterfly, and the bird, and the rabbit, as they showed me the way ahead, each for a short distance – as they fluttered all over the place in the air in front of the moving bike, or skipped along in the grass beside the trail, or hopped for a while on the trail, all while staying in front of me. This was my Alice in Wonderland moment, and there were no magic mushrooms involved.

The last stage of the ride was the slog. This happened primarily because I am not fully in shape. (Thankfully, I had decided to do a shorter ride than I normally would have pushed myself to do.) If I had been in shape, I would have been in the zone by this point. This stage of the ride is usually notable because one can end up speeding without even realizing what is going on. But I had to slow down. I was feeling the effort. There were also a few distractions along the way, including having to deal with the hordes of people who had descended on the trail by this time.

I hope I can keep myself motivated to do more rides this year. The bicycle rack remains mounted on the car.

The Heat of Summer – Once Again!

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city…
…………..The Lovin’ Spoonful

The temperatures began its rise into the 90s last weekend. Knowing that it was going to get very hot, we started our walk earlier than usual on Sunday. We were on the trail at Swains Lock before 8 O’clock! In spite of the early start, it did not take too long before we began to feel the sweat collecting on our necks and back. It was going to be one of those days!

We walked towards Great Falls. Here is a picture of the tavern at Great Falls.

We continue to see flowers for the first time this year along the towpath. The numbers I am recording are staggering. These include Tall Meadow Rue,

Yarrow,


Trumpet Flower,


Pickerelweed,


Mullein,Thistle,what I believe is Bindweed of some kind,


Black Cohosh,


Day Lily,Basil Bee Balm,

and a couple of flowers that I could not identify.

We also found raspberryand pawpaw fruitalong the trail.

The heat of the summer also brings out the dragonflies and the butterflies. We saw a few skimmers, a zebra swallowtail, and even a Red Admiral and a Crescent butterfly. (I will post some of these and other pictures in my Pbase photo galleries.)

We took a detour on to the River Trail just north of Great Falls on our way back to Swains Lock. It was a delightful experience! We ended up walking on a narrow trail along the side of the river. There were very few people on the trail and we saw a lot of birds. There were so many herons on the other side of the river, with many of them standing on their own individual rocks!I have to believe that there is a park on the other side of the river that is attracting the herons.

We also saw a Indigo Bunting.At first I was not sure about the identity of this bird, being confused by a shaft of light falling on its breast, but I now feel more confident of my conclusion. (Of course, I am not an expert on this matter, and my process for identifying a bird is always subject to verification/confirmation by any knowledgeable birder or ornithologist who happens to come this way!)

Here is the video of the song that I mentioned at the beginning of the blog.