Harvest Soup

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3977acsLady Autumn drifted through the forest on a sparkling day, leaves rustling crisply under her feet. Wrapping her cloak tightly around herself against the chill, she swept her amber eyes across the landscape, seeking spices and herbs for her harvest soup.

A main ingredient was needed. Pumpkin?161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3934acs

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3945acsButternut squash?












Or perhaps…


161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_4087acsAh, a pinch of saffron.

161110_pa-home-fall_5165acsSome cinnamon and nutmeg.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_4046acsRusset potatoes, finally chopped to give the broth some heft.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3883acsAnd mushrooms. Always mushrooms.

Already her imagination conjured the aroma of bubbling broth, hearty and savory, laced with the essence of wood smoke.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_4150acsA zest of lemon would do nicely, she thought.

Even a little lime.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3962acsNuts would have been a nice touch. Alas, one of Her Ladyship’s small footmen had found these acorns first. A field mouse, a chipmunk, or perhaps a gray squirrel had taken them for his larder.

Lady Autumn didn’t mind. She would not begrudge her creatures a tasty and nutritious morsel when they have need of such sustenance.

161103_pa-crec-fall_4365acsA splash of claret.

A good soup tastes better with wine, Her Ladyship knew.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3973acsA sprinkle of sage…


161110_pa-home-fall_5172acsAnd a generous dash of paprika to top it off.

161103_pa-crec-fall_4233acsLady Autumn walked through the forest on a golden afternoon, gathering the seasonings for a fine harvest soup.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3849acsWhat do you think it will taste like?

In Lady Autumn’s Mirror

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9367acsThe Harvest Ball approaches, and Her Ladyship has dressed in her finest. Bedecked and bejeweled, she admires herself in the mirror.

What does she see there?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall Pinnacle_0493acsAdventure?

151104_PA HNWR Fall Evening_1852acsFellowship?

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9461acsWhat does Lady Autumn see when she looks in her mirror?

151026_PA Beltzville Fall_0699acsElegance?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall_0229acsRadiance?

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak mc_2996 acsWhat does Lady Autumn see when she looks in her mirror?

151104_PA HNWR Fall Evening _6922acsHarmony?

151026_PA Beltzville Fall_0807aExuberance?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall Pinnacle_0608acsMajesty?

What does Lady Autumn see when she looks in her mirror?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall_0221acsSerenity.

Unexpected Color

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9318acsIt was too early for fall foliage yet, not in this neck of the woods, and these were the wrong woods, for that matter. The Pine Barrens are made up of pines, for gosh sakes.

Pines are evergreens, they don’t come in any color but green.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_8953a2csYet there we were in the Pine Barrens, admiring Lady Autumn’s jewelry, the subtle red and gold gems sprinkled amongst the green. Atsion Lake (top) and Whitesbog (above).

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9302acsSapphire skies over Atsion Lake.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak mc_2964acsAutumn reflections where the Mullica River meets Atsion Lake. While pitch pine and Atlantic white cedar trees are the predominant conifers in the Pinelands, deciduous oaks like black jack, post and scarlet oak are common, as are shrubs like blueberry and huckleberry in the low heath layer.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9360acsThe Mullica River, looking upstream.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9345acsI am quite sure that some of Lady Autumn’s aquatic attendants reside in this wooden cave.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9472acsI am quite sure that I could quite contentedly reside in this wooden abode.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_9019ac copyNot much color in this particular photo, at least not the kind we were hoping for. This is a cranberry bog at Whitesbog. New Jersey is one the top producers of cranberries in the country, and they are grown in the rich wet environment of the Pine Barrens. When the time is right, the fields are flooded; the cranberries float to the top to be harvested.

Acres of cranberries like a vast sea of crimson; that’s what we were looking for. We were too early.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_8998acs copyThe cranberries were still on the bushes!

151021_Bladderwort at Harrisville Pond _6888A touch of summer remained on Harrisville Pond. Scattered here and there were some lingering bladderworts. These carnivorous plants float on little pontoons. Below the surface dangle tangled masses of thin leaves, and numerous tiny bladders. The bladder is a vacuum trap. Prey such as aquatic insects and other small organisms brush against it, and the bladder sucks in both water and prey.

On Harrisville Pond, bladderworts are abundant in late summer. We were lucky to find some still in bloom in October.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9484acsSunset on Oswego Lake.

151021_NJ Harrisville Pond Kayak_6871acsHarrisville Lake bedazzles with ruby, garnet and topaz gems amongst the emeralds. Lady Autumn’s finest jewels provide some lovely and unexpected color in the Pine Barrens.


141028_HNWR Autumn_2271acsWhat’s this? Has Lady Autumn been playing in her wardrobe again?

141109_Nockamixon Fall Camping_3230aIn the manner of all divas, this elusive elf has made us wait for her appearance. At last she has graced the stage. First to feel the touch of her hand were the mountains and high hills. Haycock Mountain wears Her Ladyship’s colors along the shimmering blue shores of Lake Nockamixon.

141025_Hawk Mountain_1962aHawk Mountain is similarly adorned. One can do worse than to sun oneself on an outcropping of Tuscarora sandstone, watching while raptors journey past, and vultures circle lazily over the slopes.

141025_Hawk Mountain_1840acsHere flies a courier of the autumn elf. A Red-tailed Hawk wings its determined way south on a mission of migration.

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2458aHer Ladyship’s steeds soak up the sunshine on a fine autumn day.

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2667acsFun Fact: The Summer Queen bedecks herself in leaves of green, while Lady Autumn chooses golden yellows, fiery reds and blood-deep purples. Yet these are in fact the same leaves. Why do they change color? Like much in life, it has to do with food. Plants use the chemical chlorophyll to make food from sunlight, a process known as photosynthesis. Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color. When the day shortens and sunlight fades in fall, the chlorophyll also fades. This reveals the yellows and oranges of the carotenoid pigments, which have been present all along. In addition, some trees produce anthocyanins in the fall, which turn leaves red and even purple. Leaves are vulnerable to freezing, so to protect the tree throughout the cold winter, the leaves close their veins and fall away.

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2587acsLady Autumn samples many smaller stages before she is ready to take her act to Broadway.

The theater of choice this year is the Wissahickon Valley.

A wise choice it is indeed. The slopes of the deep gorge abound with trees that can best show off her finery.

She cannot help but admire herself in the mirrored surface of Wissahickon Creek.

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2638aNo unblemished mirror is this Creek. All along its course are boulders of Wissahickon schist, smoothed and weathered with time. Far from detracting from Her Ladyship’s beauty, they seem somehow to enhance it.141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2885a

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2792aAs do some creations of Man. The Bluestone Bridge was built in 1896 to carry travelers across the creek to the Lotus Inn. The old roadhouse is long gone, but the bridge remains.

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2934aElsewhere, the Walnut Lane Bridge provides a more modern backdrop to Lady Autumn’s colorful dance.

141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2849acsNow the days grow short, and the hounds of the Winter Queen can be heard baying throughout the woods.

Lady Autumn’s entourage finds much preparation needed before the curtain closes.

141114_7D First Shoot_0058 acs copyThe smallest of her footmen searches busily through crimson raiments worn and then discarded. “There’s an acorn in here somewhere, I just know there is!”

Soon the last of Autumn’s finery, discarded along the wayside, will fade to brown, to be gathered and taken away. Not to be rushed is our Lady, though; before ceding the stage, she will have her encore, one last turn along the Wissahickon, one last dance in the gorgeous gorge.141031_Wissahickon Autumn_2745acs

Small Delights

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1489 acs

The beauty of the natural world lies in the details.

– Natalie Angier

It’s a big world out there, and sometimes overwhelming. Serenity can be found in tiny treasures. Spend time looking closely at the form of a flower, the lacy veins of a leaf, the tiny grains of sand, and feel the wider world melting away.

 Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.

– Liz Vassey

Regular readers of the Wild Edge may notice that I am drawn to small subjects: dragonflies, snails, lizards, flowers, seeds. While I enjoy landscape photography, it usually isn’t long before I’m isolating part of a scene, or zooming in close on some little detail.

So it was inevitable; I recently purchased a macro lens. For the uninitiated, macro lenses take extreme close-up photos, often of very small subjects. I took it for a walk along the bay beach at Corson’s Inlet State Park, at the southern tip of Ocean City.

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1466 acsNow I will readily admit I violated the First Law of Macro Photography: I didn’t use a tripod. This was just a trial run, and I didn’t expect anything of the session. To my surprise, a few photos seemed worthy of sharing here. If only to inspire you with the beauty to be found if you take a really close look at the small details of Nature around you.

Notice not just the flowers, but the wasp. Not just the wasp, but the grains of pollen on the wasp. Pollen hitching a ride on flying insects is one way plants reproduce.

 Details create the big picture.

– Sanford I. Weill

140918_OC Corsons Inlet Crabs_1638 aA tiny Ghost Crab stares down a leaf. His mottled coloration camouflages him against the sand. We’ll meet his kind again soon.

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1507acsHairs for catching pollen. Spikes for – what? Protection against being eaten?

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1553 acsAnother seed pod sports the punk-rock spiky look.

 To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1568 aGrains of sand on a clam shell. Sand is nothing less than teeny-tiny rocks and minerals, many grains as translucent as glass.

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1599 acsSand and shell on an autumn leaf. The lacy veins carry vital materials in and out of the leaf, including chlorophyll, a green pigment critical to the energy production of photosynthesis. When chlorophyll production ceases in fall, the green fades away and the red and yellow pigments already present in the leaf are revealed.

 I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things… I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.

– Leo Buscaglia

 140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1605 acsA closer look at a crab leg, dressed in the colors of a sunset.

140918_OC Corsons Inlet_1488 acs 2When it all feels too much, take  time for a walk, and lose yourself in the tiny details of life at the wild edge.

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

– Aristotle

Hawk Mountain

Hawk Mountain_0372a Welcome to the Endless Mountain, a long ridge known as Kittatinny that stretches 300 miles from Maryland northeastward through Pennsylvania and New Jersey into southern New York. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary sits on that ridge, and is internationally known as a premier place to watch the spectacle of fall raptor migration. Cross winds that hit face of the ridge create updrafts that southward migrating raptors use to carry them over the mountain.

On a clear fall day, with a northwest wind after a cold front, one might be treated to hawks, falcons and eagles flying past in large numbers and at close range. The day Colleen, Erika and I went to Hawk Mountain was not one of those days. It was a fun fall outing for us anyway.

Hawk Mountain Rock_0573aHawk Mountain is in the Ridge and Valley ecoregion, and is completely different from the flat Atlantic Coastal Plain of Heinz Refuge and southern New Jersey that I spend so much time in. For starters, there are hills. LARGE hills. Then there are the rocks. These range from small stones to enormous boulders. Like these at Bald Lookout (above).

Hawk Mountain_0800a From South Lookout we could see the River of Rocks below, a geologic feature that looks like water but is actually an Ice Age boulder field.

Hawk Mountain_0515aThe Lookout Trail was easy at first, well-groomed and relatively flat. Along the way we spotted a few small birds, including this Hermit Thrush (above) and a Tufted Titmouse (below), who was not giving up his leaf toy without a fight.Hawk Mountain_0491a

Hawk Mountain_0637a After Bald Lookout, the trail became much more rocky and challenging. There’s lots to see along the way, though, and stopping to look is a great excuse to catch your breath. The variety of mosses scattered among the stones made for an interesting vignette (above). A lot of the rocks like this one (below) are covered in lichens.Hawk Mountain Rock_0422a

We finally arrived at the North Lookout, and here I learned a valuable lesson: camera and binoculars go INSIDE the daypack at Hawk Mountain while on the trails. I overbalanced on a boulder and sat down VERY hard. I was lucky, just a scraped shin and bruised bum, but I could have done some significant damage to my equipment.

Okay, folks, we’re here and ready for the Raptor Show!  Apparently the hawks didn’t get the message. On this day, the birds that flew over the ridges were so far away as to be no more than specks. The official spotters, who were armed with scopes, told us that we saw Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, and even a Golden Eagle, but they all looked like little black dots to me.

Hawk Mountain_0721a  Dear Mom and Dad, I went to Hawk Mountain and all I got was this lousy Turkey Vulture…

Hawk Mountain_0715aEven the hills were shrouded in mist, muting the brilliant fall color and making landscape photography difficult. Nestled in among the trees were some farms and little towns, just visible through the haze.Hawk Mountain_0822a

Of course, within ten minutes of leaving North Lookout, the sun broke out and the sky turned brilliant blue. No doubt the hawks were laughing at us hapless humans. I think even this little chipmunk was laughing at us. But we enjoyed the day, so we had the last laugh!Hawk Mountain_0789a

 CONSERVATION PIECE: During the Great Depression, the Pennsylvania Game Commission paid $5 for each hawk killed, which led to the widespread slaughter of raptors. Hawk Mountain was a popular place to stand and shoot hundreds of passing hawks for sport. Dead hawks at the SlideConservationists began to oppose the killing, and one ornithologist recovered and photographed the abandoned carcasses. Those photographs reached a New York activist named Rosalie Edge, who in 1934 leased 1,400 acres on Hawk Mountain and immediately imposed a hunting ban. The next year she opened Hawk Mountain to the public to watch the hawks migrate. She then purchased the land and gave it to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association in 1938. Hawk Mountain has been a wonderful place to witness the marvel of migration ever since.

Want more information? http://www.hawkmountain.org/

Historical photo courtesy of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association      http://www.hawkmountain.org/who-we-are/history/page.aspx?id=387 



The Search Continues

Hawk Mountain_0399a If you would seek Lady Autumn, you must tackle the quest with tenacity. Her Ladyship will not show her brilliant colors in places that are easy for you to attain. Slow treks over rocks and steep slopes may well be the order of the day. And you may be left with bruised legs, bruised bum and bruised ego at the end of that day.

Was it worth it? You be the judge. Hail the Queen, wearing a misty veil on Hawk Mountain.Hawk Mountain_0804aHawk Mountain_0362aHawk Mountain_0704

HNWR Fall_0981aIf you would seek Lady Autumn, you must practice patience. Her Ladyship is not to be rushed. She will sample the many garments and baubles in her wardrobe over days and weeks before she achieves perfection in her raiment.

You must be willing to wait for her; she arrives in her own time. But when she does, what a show she puts on!

Hail the Queen, fashionably late at Heinz Refuge.  HNWR Fall_0940a HNWR Fall_0878aHNWR Fall_1129a

Marsh Creek_1999If you would seek Lady Autumn, you must not dally.  Her Ladyship does not linger long in her best adornments. Tarry even a little and you will be met with only bare branches and leaf-strewn paths.

Fear not. If you are willing of heart, even you, O Couch Potato, may find some lingering tokens of her presence.

Hail the Queen, playing peek-a-boo at Marsh Creek State Park. Marsh Creek_1178a Marsh Creek_1567a

Have you seen Autumn?Marsh Creek_2015a

Coming up: Hawk Mountain

Looking For Fall

Autumn at Home_0145a Has anyone seen Autumn?

I’ve been searching for her everywhere. Autumn is an elusive elf, playing peek-a-boo among the trees, teasing us with glimpses of bright color, evading us when we look too hard, then turning up where we least expect her.

OC 51st Street_5653 bCould September’s seaside goldenrod be a feather boa in her wardrobe?

Tuckahoe WMA_5526a Maybe her early colors adorn Tuckahoe trees.

Tyler Bigfoot_8588aPerhaps Autumn’s paint pot anoints the Sassafras leaves.

Tyler Bigfoot_8599a Has anyone seen Fall?

Did you see her pixie cousins darting among the marching jack o’lanterns?

Pine Barrens_9624aStrange things lurk in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. An elven queen knows better than to flout her presence along the Mullica River…

Pine Barrens_9639a Though occasionally she can’t entirely hide her exuberance.

Pine Barrens_9849aCould the tea-colored waters of the Wading River be her magic elixir?

Autumn at Home_0153aHas anyone seen Fall?

Lady Autumn played hide-and-seek with me one morn amid the dogwoods and the maples in my small Eden at home.Autumn at Home_0310aAutumn at Home_0295a

Autumn at Home_0193acs Oh, look! Here is one of her Ladyship’s attendants. The first Dark-eyed Junco of the season awaits her wishes.

Autumn at Home_0332aHave you seen Autumn?

Coming up: The Search Continues