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Roads Not Traveled

Friday, October 30, 2009


I knew it was the last bike ride of summer. The kids knew it, too. On a fine Sunday, threatening showers, we took off down Dean's Fork, one of my favorite roads around here. It has a beaver pond and natural gardens that defy belief. It has grass growing down the middle, even in the well-traveled upper part, which should be your first clue that you don't take your new Subaru down there.
Nevertheless, Dean's Fork has an allure that calls me every day, because I don't yet know what's down there, a situation that, by the time you read this, will have been remedied.

We timed it just right for the Joe-Pye weed, for the tall ironweed and the jewelweed and the tickseed. These photos just don't do the late-summer tapestry justice, but you can get a hazy idea how spectacular all these weeds, jumbled together in a wet meadow, can be.
Joe-Pye weed is the misty mauve stuff. Tall ironweed is the brilliant royal purple, and tickseed sunflower is the yellow, and jewelweed is the orange. Mmm. Late summer tapestries.

Needless to say, there were ruby-throated hummingbirds in the jewelweed, an embarrassment of riches.
We rode and rode, stopping every now and then just to consider the green halls of summer.

A hay musk ox was lurching along in the meadow below the beaver pond, but he froze stock-still when he saw us coming, like the Marsh Man.

Brief digression: This is the Marsh Man. He looks like a willow bush, but he's really a man, who lurches over the marsh. But when you look at him, he stands stock-still, and looks like a bush again.
His wife is the Marsh Crone, who makes a brew every spring that wakes up the birds and animals that gets them thinking about making more birds and animals.Written and illustrated in 1960 by Ib Spang Olsen (why can't I have a name like that?) and given to me and my sister Micky by my sister Barbara sometime in the 60's. Only about five inches tall, it is one of the books that stayed upstairs, one of the gold standards of children's literature, far more magical to my mind than many of the books that get all the attention.

I am so excited. Today, Friday, it's supposed to hit 75, and the moist dark air at 6 AM holds a warm promise of Indian summer. Bill called Shila up last night and talked her into rearranging her schedule so she and I could take off on a girlhike.* Ever since we almost ran into ruin on Dean's Fork, we've been itching to conquer its 7 or 8 mile length by foot. We want to see how bad it gets; we want to see who and what lives down this forgotten trace. So we're parking a car at either end, packing lunch and lenses and dog cookies and Chet Baker's leash (because there are bound to be cattle), and walking the whole durn thing. I cannot wait.

Zick + Shila + Chet + cameras + unexplored territory = fun

I hope we can't get into too much trouble riding shanks' mare.

*Bill is very good at talking girls into things.

But back to the late-summer bike ride. The kids were very, very tired when we finally got home.
I trailed behind, as always, and this is what greeted me when I came up the driveway. Corpses.

Chet Baker knows what to do when people lie down on the ground.
He gives them doggy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until they giggle.
Chet Baker, I hope you are up for a much longer walk today.
I am game, Mether. I will walk twice as far as you and Shila, because there are bound to be squirrelts.
Walking with my family is my favorite thing.
Boston terriers: small dogs with giant kisses. It's as if they were bred for it.

11 comments:

Ah the stuff of many memories! Great post Julie,and I especially like Mr. Marsh Man..I think I've met him a few times myself.

I cannot wait to read more.
A girlhike--what a wonderful way to celebrate a warm fall day.
(How long did it take? Naturalist/photographers have been known to dally along the trail!)

There's a bunch of books that are misty but real memories for me -- this is one, but I'm not sure I would have remembered it if I hadn't read this post. I was blessed with amazing teachers and librarians in my childhood.

Love seeing Phoebe and Liam sprawled out like that. A very good bike ride on a very beautiful road. We're having weather like yours, 75 degrees and the fall slant of the sun through oaks and Ponderosa Pine. The birds and critters are all a-flitter and skittery in anticipation of winter. Can't wait to see what you saw on your girlhike.

I just love it here.

The books of childhood were different back before the Disney flood.

One of my favorites was "The Prince of the Pin Elves" by Charles Lee Sleight, which at that time (early '50's) had been out of print for probably forty years. I recently found it online in .pdf form...the actual pages and illustrations...and re-read it with fascination. I'm pleased to say it still holds up (at least in the seventh decade of this big kid).

I downloaded it, printed and bound it for my daughter to read to my granddaughter. She loved it too, but wanted to know why the hero wasn't a girl like in grandpa's stories. Her mom wanted to know the same thing.

hdl.loc.gov/loc.gdc/scd0001.20051129002pr.1

Those were some beautiful weeks when the Joe-Pye and the Ironweed were in full bloom. I would see fields just covered with Ironweed. What a wonderful place to ride and soak in the beauty. Can't wait to hear about the adventures you and Shila had yesterday!

Thanks for this wonderful posting!

Posted by Helen Mar Parkin October 31, 2009 at 6:17 AM

I too, can't resist the allure of those roads less traveled. But in an instant, fun can be overtaken by fright, and fright leads to flight. At that point, the only thing you can think of is, please just let me get home safely. (There are doggy kisses waiting for me there.)

Thank you for your beautiful blog and letting us share in your life and adventures.

Be Safe.
D.D.

Posted by Anonymous October 31, 2009 at 8:24 PM

Enjoyed the bike ride. And I'm not tired at all. LOL

What an amazing day you seem to have had! We get so lucky in the fall to have these warm days and how great it is that you could enjoy one with the kids and Chet.

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