Sunday, September 29 2013
On the morning dog walk, despite the risk of an incident with a bear, I took the dogs on an adventure over unfamiliar ground. We started out by going down the mostly-dry Chamomile using a trail that used to get heavy use by our neighbor Tom back before it was blocked by several bad treefalls during Hurricane Irene. This trail ends at Dug Hill Road just a little above the bus turnaround (41.929326N, 74.101539W, where local gun nuts like to monotonously discharge their firearms). At that point we crossed Dug Hill Road. On the other side of the road runs a strong creek that on the old Mapquest maps used to be labeled "Englishman's Creek," which is as good a name as any. Further up that creek, it cuts a deep gorge that I explored years ago with Sally and Eleanor. Today, though, I was more interested in the highlands to the northeast of that gorge. It's fairly easy to cross Englishman's Creek near the bus turnaround, where its gorge is not as deep and steep-walled.
Across the creek, I found a nice well-maintained trail running along a contour on the otherwise steep terrain. We walked up it some distance (it's hard to say how far). At some point I was stung by something and looked down to see a Yellow Jacket hornet dug out of the trail embankment, presumably by a bear. The sting wasn't terribly painful and didn't cause me any further trouble.
Somewhere along that trail, I found a reasonably-gentle way up the slope, and the dogs and I climbed to the top of the plateau, reaching an elevation roughly equal to that of Stick Trail. Somewhere on the plateau, I found another well-maintained trail. It had the hallmarks of one of neighbor Tom's mountain bike trails (stone ramps on either side of fallen trees to help the bike get over them), though I don't know how easy it is for Tom to get here from his house, which is on the other rim of the gorge.
Eventually the bike trail petered out and I wandered to a small bluestone barren with a good view to the southwest. Climbing a gnarly Chestnut Oak, I was able to get a picture of the distant high peaks of the Central Catskills: Cornell and possibly even Slide Mountain. I was hoping to also get a picture of our house, but it was hidden by trees from this vantage point.
Some more exploring turned up a small, unexpected clearing and a variety of mini-gorges incised into the landscape. Given my lack of familiarity with the region, I'll need to borrow Gretchen's smart phone so I can get see where these places exist on Google Maps. In the meantime, this is a very tentative map of today's hike.
A Lactarius (?) mushroom with moss. (Click to enlarge.)
A strange round inclusion in a piece of bluestone. (Click to enlarge.)
The distant peaks of the central Catskills looking northwest. Mt. Cornell is the peak in the middle and Slide Mountain might be one of the peaks to the left of it. (Click to enlarge.)
Re-entering lands belonging to the State of New York. Normally they just paint yellow marks on the trees to denote the border, but in a little gulley they put a sign on a tree.
I became increasingly excited about the Breaking Bad finale as evening came. I took a nice hot bath (this run of sunny days has made hot water an abundant commodity) and then sat down in front of the teevee to watch. But for some reason the DVR wasn't recording the show and it wasn't even in the queue. Fortunately, I had a backup method for getting the show that most people older than 40 are only dimly aware of: Bittorrent. Unfortunately, though, this meant I had to first wait for the episode to become available and then I had to wait to download it. It first appeared in a Vuze (my Bittorrent client) meta-search about a half hour after the broadcast finished, and then it took me another half hour to download it. That hour was somewhat problematic on Facebook, where "friends" were being vaguely spoilerish about what they'd just seen (if only by just expressing their satisfaction with it).
When I finally had the episode, I watched it on the big screen teevee in the teevee room, where I could kick back and snuggle with a dog with a boozy drink in my hand. I have to say, I loved the finale, despite my occasional difficulties with the suspension of disbelief. (Walter's pulling off that final showdown in the Nazi compound was highly implausible, but it needed to happen that way to tie everything up in a bow.) One thing I got from tonight's episode that I've never gotten before from Breaking Bad was a sublime feeling of pathos. In that scene where Walter is saying goodbye to his wife Skylar for the last time, it came across as an archetype of what all relationships inevitably become: a troubled friendship built more out of shared history and common cause than affection. But that troubled friendship is itself a kind of love, even if it doesn't end with so much as a handshake. When Walter White stood watching Jesse drive off to freedom, the pathos was of a similar gloriously-conflicted sort. But what really broke my heart was to see Walter White shuffle into the Nazi's gleaming meth lab for one last look and the thing that had "made him feel alive." Perhaps it was just knowing that I was never again going to see Walter White, that glorious monster, but I began to cry. And then Badfinger's "Baby Blue" took over the soundtrack and I think I actually let out a sob. "Baby Blue" is a great song from one of my favorite periods of rock & roll, and yet for some reason I've only heard it infrequently.
When I returned to my computer, I found a Youtube "video" of "Baby Blue," and played it repeatedly as I continued to drink and read the reviews of the Breaking Bad finale (which were already coming in). "Baby Blue" is a great song, but at 1:48 there's an extended bridge over a syncopating rhythm guitar, and, compared to the rest of the song, that part is jarring and unpleasant. So when I listened, I always started the song again just before the syncopation kicked in. In the Breaking Bad finale, that syncopating part is completely elided, though the episode still concludes with the actual song's final ascending mini-solo.
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