Frances Slocum State Park, PA

July 15, 2011

The 15th of July is more than half way through the year, and, except for the rainy trip to Ohio in April, we haven't had the chance to get out much. Preparing for retirement sure was time-consuming. The lack of normal mobility in the Spring culminated in the inability to move at all by the end of July.

Dave Cohen & I took this afternoon off to take in a couple of miles of Frances Slocum. Although I officially retired July 1st, with my son Matt and daughter Celeste taking over, it'll probably take a few years to totally keep me away from all of the fun of transition. If the business was taken over by anyone else, I would have had the WHOLE day off.

It was a nice warm July day and we decided to hike the Larch Tree trail to see if we could capture some interesting light sifting through the pine forest at the top of the hill. Instead of parking near the fishing dock and walking along the lake to the trail, we parked at the top of the paved road leading down to the campground area where the Larch Tree trail begins. My first 14 photos in the galley were taken on the way downhill --the first 12 of a little "tree" growing out of a wooden guardrail posts. As we approached the bottom of the lake we saw a blue heron hide behind reeds in the overflow pond. We spent some time photographing some turtles on the raft in the pond while we waited for the heron to return. Eventually we became inpatient and continued up the trail to the rows of pines.

Sometimes it seems my real love is walking through the woods, and I only take the camera so my aged body would have excuses to stop and recover on the hard climbs. On this climb a welcomed site was backlighting hitting the fuzzy branches of photos 28, 29 & 30 just when I needed a rest. Number 30 is an HDR of the scene just to bring out the color. Shortly afterwards we arrived at the top and set about looking for the best photos. The ferns were in high form and colored the forest floor in beautiful green. Yet I was unable to get a quality keeper out of the bunch. The walk back down was much faster than the one up, and at the bottom we found a turtle waiting to get his picture taken. Of course we obliged.

In hindsight, this is where, or rather why, it would have been so much better for my back if we parked by the dock and walked the lake trail instead of the paved hill. Usually when there is pavement I try to do my walking on the shoulder where there is earth, and I should have stuck to that plan on this climb. But we were in somewhat of a hurry and trudged right up the hill. Carrying my heavy backpack is hardly strenuous because it is designed to distribute the weight in such a way as to relieve my back of the burden. The strain most often comes when I take off or put on the backpack. Usually it's when I see something to shoot and fling the burden from my shoulders without any regard for my back; then when I'm satisfied with the takes I heft the pack back up, again without a thought for the position of my back. Even when we merely bend at the waist to peer through the viewfinder there is tension in the lower back to hold us at that angle. Without proper stretching that area can get worse each time we ask it to work. At this age we really need to heed the warnings or we (as Bob Russell said in the Duke Ellington tune) don't get around much anymore.

I stretched several times that night while packing for our trip to Delaware which was in two days. My back was feeling the result of months behind a desk with no change in the routine to allow for exercise. Couple that with the strenuous climbs of Ricketts Glen and now Frances Slocum inexplicably paced at record-chasing speeds and I was becoming the poster child for back problems. The weight-shifting design of the backpack brings no relief from climbing, specially steps or rocks. You're still lifting the extra 30 to 40 pounds with your back. Things will be better in Delaware. Right?

Delaware Seashore

July 17-24, 2011

It was one of those best of times/worst of times things. It was great to be at the shore. The ocean has such a profound effect on all animals, especially on northern humans in summer. The worst part started when I awoke in panic on the day of departure. Laying flat on my back I couldn't move to either side nor lift my legs or head. Eventually I was able to slide out of bed and walked in four-inch steps to the shower, hoping the hot water would cure me. It didn't, but I did manage to get down the steps and out to the car by the time Barb packed everything and carried it all out to the car. Two of her heaviest loads were my camera gear, which she had to continually move out of everyone's way all week.

Camping at the Delaware Seashore State Park is a family tradition dating back to when Barb was a little kid --even before OUR family started getting in on the fun.. Our good friends Mary & Jim Pettison were with us, and it was a good thing for Barb they were.