Three Walks and Some Wildlife

I’ve had three good walks recently at local parks, two of them on relatively warm days between blasts of cold and the last one on a brisker, more wintry day.  My friend Jane emailed about a walk and suggested Turkey Run, which I’ve written about before.  I hadn’t been there for a couple years, so I was glad to go.

I suggested we stay on the upland paths because between the snow, rain and some flooding, the river paths I’ve walked recently have been worthy of wellies or at the very least, waterproof hiking boots.

I hesitated to put this in, as it doesn’t do Jane justice, but it shows the upland forest nicely. For better pictures of Jane, see who gets a band at their retirement or her chronicle of bicycling across Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Ultimately, we decided to go toward the river down a feeder stream to get a better photo of the white sycamores, the green water, and the blue sky.  The path, however, got narrow, precipitous, and slippery.  Jane, being younger, and a former Marine, was willing to have a go, but I was not willing to fall into a rocky stream if I slipped in mud. (I’ve got a whole tale for another time about a recent tumble doing something injudicious.)

Look past the near branches to the ghostly sycamores on the other shore. We never did get to the clearer picture…

Still, our explorations brought us upon an old fence line with odd concrete posts and what we could only think was some sort of survey activity in the park.  Or treasure hunting.  Who knows?

Next my friend Paul emailed, back from a road trip and asked if I was up for a walk.  I suggested the Maryland side of Great Falls for a walk on the upland paths in the woods, which are far less peopled than the river paths, and which I don’t hike alone.  He was game, and when we got out there, he said he’d never been on the Maryland side.  So I had to show him the falls, which look different from the Virginia side.

The river drops 80 feet in the space of a mile.

The Potomac River Gorge is one of the most geologically diverse places on earth because of its position along the Fall Line between the Piedmont Plateau and the Atlantic Coastal Plain.  The park contains at least 60 rare plant and animal species and explodes with wildflowers in the spring.  What we and others noticed right away was an extraordinary number of Black Vultures.  They are always here, soaring on thermals, but this was … a lot of vultures…

There were more vultures than shown here. This is just a sample.

The vultures were sitting in trees and on rocks as well as soaring above in groups.  Once we reached my favorite little beach area, we were able to conclude that it was breeding season, or as Paul quipped, the vultures were speed dating.

This vulture was waiting for its date…

We enjoyed the calm of the little beach and then headed into the woods, which gave us another view from the bluffs.  I can never be at Great Falls without experiencing the sense of a river “cut by the world’s great flood [that] runs over rocks from the basement of time.” [Norman Maclean, in A River Runs Through It]

Here you can see where I get the “beach” idea from…
Since all my companions are tortured with a cameo, I didn’t think I should allow myself to slide out of the picture entirely, though I did try.

The third walk was with my friend Carolyn at Roosevelt Island, which is within walking distance of my house.  One of the clergy at my church started offering a service there on Sunday at noon during the worst of the pandemic so a few people could get together in person safely outside.  Today was the first day people could actually go back to the church in person since Omicron swept in, but Carolyn drove over to my neighborhood and we walked down and met up with the wilderness church crew.  

The water was beautiful and sparkling.

It was lovely, as nature is really the best cathedral.  Afterward, we walked the boardwalk through the marsh, coming upon a group of Mallards going about their ducky business.

We circled around, back to the bridge to the Virginia shore and admired the beautiful day and the sparkling water.

Carolyn looking toward Georgetown.

And now I’m back home, hoping to catch up with you all through your latest posts.  Best of late February to everyone!

Past the sycamore ghost trees, you can see the spires of Healy Hall, and nestled beneath Key Bridge, the Potomac Boathouse.
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32 Responses to Three Walks and Some Wildlife

  1. Thank you, thank you, for taking us on three very different walks. The second one was particularly fascinating, where “the river ran through it.” Also enjoyed seeing a photo of you.

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  2. Lavinia Ross says:

    These were beautiful walks, Lisa, and I enjoyed the footage and meeting some of your friends. That river is wild-looking and beautiful.

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  3. Lisa, you are clearly enjoying your retirement. You can’t beat time in nature with friends. You live in such an amazingly beautiful place.

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  4. Fine records of splendid walks – thanks to retirement. I can still hear those waterfalls.

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  5. SueW says:

    Oh, how lovely. The sound and sight of water is so soothing, though probably not floods!

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  6. I’m impressed that you can do so many wonderful walks with such beautiful surroundings. I’d opt for the high ground too. Cold, muddy water is not at the top of my list either. It’s especially nice you have a walking companion. A much safer bet just in case of slippage.

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  7. Thanks you Lisa for the lovely walks – I won’t have to exercise for a week! Lovely photo of the rocks ETCETERA (the one after the beach photo)! I remember meeting Jane before.

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  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Those falls are stupendous! Thanks for sharing your walks, Lisa. The days are warming, so we’ll be able to get out and about more comfortably. I’m counting down the days to equinox. 😉

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  9. TanGental says:

    Glad to see you out and about. Soon all those bare branches will be exploding…

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  10. shoreacres says:

    I’m a moss toucher, too. There’s just something about its springiness that’s appealing.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned the black vultures. On Sunday as I was returning home, I noticed great numbers of them rising up and circling in the sky. I assumed that our unusually warm temperatures had created an updraft, and they were taking advantage of it. It seems like the same sort of conditions might have encouraged yours to gather and be more active — along with greeding season, of course!

    We have plenty of beauty here, but we lack what I call “live water.” There aren’t any rivers tumbling and falling around here; they just flow along, silently. I’d have to go to a different part of the state to hear musical water. Still, there is youtube. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve used this as a background for various kinds of computer work.

    Speaking of work and water, do you know this Wendell Berry poem? It’s called “Our Real Work.”

    “It may be that when we no longer know what to do
    we have come to our real work,
    and that when we no longer know which way to go
    we have come to our real journey.
    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
    The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

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    • arlingwoman says:

      I came home from that walk and looked up the vulture’s breeding season–in your area it would start in January. I figured late Feb would work for here. I do love the sound of water. That moss was something! I always have to touch lichen as well, and I’ve been known to ask permission to touch fabric of someone’s clothing as well! I don’t know Wendell Berry well, but that poem makes me think I should pick up something by him again. Any recommendations for particular books or collections?

      Liked by 1 person

      • shoreacres says:

        I’ve not read any of his fiction, but the collection of essays titled The Art of the Commonplace is terrific. I like a good bit of his poetry, too — especially those from his ‘mad farmer’ period. I’ll find my favorite and leave a link. I can’t remember the exact title right now.

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      • arlingwoman says:

        I will try him again. That mad farmer poem is furious. I can feel that, the fury and disgust combined with the knowledge of the natural world clashing with capitalism. Whooeee. I have a book of essays, Life is a Miracle and had only grazed the poetry 30 years or so ago…Thanks!

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      • shoreacres says:

        That’s interesting. I’ve never sensed fury and disgust in the poem. My sense is more of an ironic detachment leading to clear vision — and I’ve always thought the last line is the most important one.

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      • arlingwoman says:

        I think those first 12 1/2 lines are pretty ticked, but then he starts mixing in ways to counter it in the middle of that poem (I wish he’d broken it into stanzas–this would be easier) and up to the line ‘be joyful/though you have considered all the facts.’ (love that; try to practice it myself) Then he sets forth how to live, including that lovely last line. But even in that last section he warns ‘As soon as the generals and the politicos
        can predict the motions of your mind,
        lose it.’ My favorites in here are the line about joy, quoted above, and the line about carrion, which is so packed and I think foreshadows that last line because we can’t practice resurrection if we can’t ‘hear the songs that are to come.’ Let me know if this makes sense. I love a good natter about a poem because, of course, we bring ourselves to it, and so see different things.

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      • shoreacres says:

        Well, let me just say this is one of my favorite poems: filled with other bits of advice I find useful for living my own life. As for any deeper analysis, or for trying to figure out what Berry was up to? I no longer try to analyze poems. I stopped feeling guilty about that when I found “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins:

        “I ask them to take a poem
        and hold it up to the light
        like a color slide
        or press an ear against its hive.
        I say drop a mouse into a poem
        and watch him probe his way out,
        or walk inside the poem’s room
        and feel the walls for a light switch.
        I want them to waterski
        across the surface of a poem
        waving at the author’s name on the shore.
        But all they want to do
        is tie the poem to a chair with rope
        and torture a confession out of it.
        They begin beating it with a hose
        to find out what it really means.”

        Every time I read that (and I read it often) I laugh.

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      • arlingwoman says:

        Yes. I don’t go in for anything more than I feel on first reading. And Billy Collins is a treasure, for sure. I’ll never forget a professor in college trying to tell the class Robert Frost’s ‘Birches’ was about sex. Even then, it was so clearly to me about life shaping things, wear and tear. As I said before, most poetry speaks to an individual’s experience and point in time–and like good literature, helps me process life. I almost never reread fiction, but I reread poetry and see something different all the time, because I’m bringing something new to it. Fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Ay ay ay. That stream sound! I’m bookmarking that!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sylvie Ge says:

    The videis of the water are great! And so are the photos of the vultures, I have never seen one ” in the flesh”.

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    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks, Sylvie! I do need to remember to video landscape rather than portrait. The vultures are common here, but not in the numbers we saw them. They really have beautiful feathers and kind of gleam, even though they’re black.

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