It’s a Colorful World

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.

The world looks different since I had cataract surgery. Brighter. Sharper. Cleaner. It’s as if I’d been looking through a very dirty windshield for a very long time, and someone came along and washed it clean.

And oh, the colors! Deeper, richer, more lifelike. Just in time for arrival of Lady Spring, dancing across a carpet of wildflowers in a shimmering gown that grows greener every day.

Without further ado, here is a sampling of my more colorful world.

Looking down on the bud and three bracts (not leaves) of a trillium not yet in bloom. Her Ladyship’s accent colors may be subtle or showy, but she sure doesn’t skimp on the green.  What color will this be when it blooms? Red? Pink? White? Yellow? Purple?

A violet. The name says it all.

I can see all obstacles in my way…

It’s not just seeing the obstacles. It’s the depth perception, a critical sense that had gone missing for some time.  It’s been hard to accurately judge where to put my feet, and I have a small phobia about falling.

This past weekend, we went to a nature preserve where the trail proved more challenging than we expected.

It was a narrow path that clung to the side of a steep ravine high above a creek. A thick layer of dry leaves hid the rocks and roots along the path, and made for a lot of slipping and sliding.

Not long ago, I would have been very uncomfortable, and possibly would have even turned back.

Not now. With more confidence in my vision, I really enjoyed this hike. I clambered up and down rock outcroppings like a mountain goat, and even made the numerous stream crossings easily.

Plus, there were wildflowers!

Dutchman’s breeches, one of our spring ephemerals, wildflowers that bloom in the brief time between when the snow melts and the trees leaf out.

Spring ephemerals carpet the forest floor with small splashes of color. They have a short time in which to grow, feed, bloom and set seed for the next year.

It seems Her Ladyship’s small footmen have hung their trousers out on the laundry line.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…

The last few months I’ve been in a sort of creative funk.

Winter is partially to blame for that, especially a winter of bare brown earth and trees.

Not now. I find my enthusiasm for photography is awakening as the earth awakens.

Lady Spring has arrived, and I can see her beauty!

And here it is! The aptly named spring beauty, one of our earliest wildflowers, pretty in pink.

White is a color, too.

My cataracts had turned black and white to dark gray and yellowish tan. For an amateur photographer, seeing true black and true white again is a joy. Especially when the white adorns one of Her Ladyship’s loveliest flowers.

Bloodroot gets its name, not from the creamy white petals and bright golden stamens, but from the orange-red juice in its underground rhizomes.

A trout lily nods in the shade of the forest floor.

The scent of Lady Spring’s perfume drifts on the warm air, leading my eyes to crabapple blossoms of rose and white. Oh, that sky! I don’t remember the sky being this blue…

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

What do you see?

Lyrics to “I Can See Clearly Nowby Jimmy Nash

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…

161105_pa-glen-providence-park-fall_4423acsCantaloupe?

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…

161105_pa-glen-providence-park-fall_4384acsGinger…

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?

Variations on an Icy Theme

RCSP Ridley Creek Snow_ 0740 The old cliché says that the Inuit have fifty different words for snow. Around here this winter we have come up with some words of our own, none fit for polite company.

Philadelphia’s average snowfall is 22.2 inches, for a whole winter. So far this year we’ve had 58.4”, and there are still four weeks until spring.

Taylor Arboretum Creek Ice_ 1147acsAll that snow, combined with a long stretch of sub-freezing temperatures, has created some magnificent ice formations, especially near moving water. Dripping moisture builds strange sculptures on Ridley Creek, above.

Intricate patterns etch cold surfaces on Crum Creek, below.

Smedley Crum Creek Ice_9957acs

TX White Rock Lake Frost_7282acsHoar frost on a leaf in Texas.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9610acsLoyal readers of The Wild Edge will remember this photo from our Ridley Creek geocaching adventure. This is called “needle ice”. It forms when the air temperature is below freezing, but the ground temperature is above freezing. Water forces its way out of pores in the ground by capillary action. When it reaches the air, it freezes. As more water keeps pushing out behind it, it forms into a growing column of ice. Needle ice is most common on steep slopes with seeping ground water, which is exactly where we found it.

07 Valley Forge Valley Creek_ 2696a 07 Valley Forge Valley Creek_ 2697acsSome ice formations are man-made. Bubble-wrap shaped ice on the wall of the Valley Creek dam, Valley Forge National Historic Park.

01 Valley Forge Farm_ 2350 Whoops! Who left the water running?

FUN FACT: Snowflakes form when water vapor condenses into ice.  Snow crystals all start as simple hexagonal prisms. But as more water vapor condenses onto them and they continue to grow, they begin to grow branches. This creates an amazingly large variety of snowflake shapes, including columns, needles, plates, and dendrites. The classic six-armed shapes with side branches, like we cut from paper in school, are stellar dendrites.  Stellar dendrites with an abundance of side branches are called fernlike stellar dendrites, for their resemblance to ferns.

RCSP Ridley Creek Snow_ 0663The dry powdery snow we had in January showed off several different snowflake shapes to good advantage. Which shapes do you see here?

Blue Snow_2768a

FUN FACT: What color is snow? Actually, snow crystals individually look clear. When they get together with their friends, the incoming light is reflected by the crystals and bounces around before scattering back out. Since snow generally scatters all wavelengths equally, it usually looks white.

But, it also happens that red wavelengths are sometimes absorbed by the snow, making the snow look blue or aqua. The deeper you look into a hole in a snow bank, the bluer it will appear. Since heavy, wet snow absorbs a lot of red light, we’ve seen a lot of blue snow in February. This is a close-up of a snow boulder left by a snow plow.

RCSP Ridley Creek Dam_ 0444

Also resplendent in shades of blue and aquamarine, the dam on Ridley Creek at Sycamore Mills was spectacular in late January. Bubbles and stalactites and little ice daggers, oh my!

RCSP Ridley Creek Dam_ 0440 There’s a lot of water flowing behind the spikes and icicles formed here. More and more of it froze every day. In only one week, the ice would grow into the thick solid curtain seen below, dusted with a recent snowfall.RCSP Ridley Creek Dam_ 0689

RCSP Ridley Creek Dam_ 0432

Fifty different words for snow? At the wild edge where the water runs, there’s just one word:

BEAUTYRCSP Ridley Creek Dam_ 0450

Treasure Hunt

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9489acs ***SPOILER ALERT***

I’ve done my best not to be too specific with my descriptions of these geocaches. Nonetheless, my photos may give them away. If you’re into geocaching, and haven’t done Ridley Creek State Park yet, continue reading with extreme caution.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

In between snowstorms, we decided to go geocaching at Ridley Creek State Park. Never heard of geocaching?

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9452aBasically, it’s an outdoor treasure hunt. Game participants have hidden thousands – maybe millions – of containers in outdoor locations around the world. Containers usually hold a logbook and a number of small trinkets. The rule is that you can take an item from the container if you leave another item of similar value. Participants search for the containers, known as geocaches, by using GPS coordinates. Or a smart phone app, as we did.

There are three traditional geocaches in Ridley Creek SP. The first was hidden on a hill between two trails. We poked around in fallen logs and at the base of trees for quite some time until Master Tracker Robb spotted the geocache. Good eyes – it was in a tiny 35mm film canister. (Remember film?)

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9463acsMe Robb. Me make fire. Me real he-man.

There are several of these tipi structures around the park, and Robb is always happy to pose ridiculously.

The second cache took us to a different hillside on a different trail. This time I found the cache, which is why there are no pictures. In addition to my role as the official App Bearer, I’m also the Team Photographer. The logbook was frozen shut. It must’ve gotten wet at some point.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9513acsThere may not have been snow, but it was cold enough for ice to decorate the fallen leaves along the creek.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9556acs We saved the best cache for last. First, it introduced us to a whole new trail, which instantly became our favorite. Second, the cache was challenging to get to, and even harder to find. The side trail led down another hill until it died out at a rock outcropping. The boulders just screamed “HIDING PLACE!”, and since the name of the cache was “Rock and Roll”, we felt certain we had found the spot.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9545acsThe treasure proved elusive, though. Don was convinced that if he could just lift up the rock, our prize would be underneath.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9598acs We’d just about given up, deciding that perhaps the cache had gone missing (it happens). In checking the online logbook, I found a photo that rang a bell with Robb. He led us straight to this crevice, about four feet up on the side of the rocks. Of course, the cache wasn’t right at the front…

To retrieve it, Robb had to venture deep into the dark recesses of the rock, supported only by a flimsy branch, all the while beating off creepy, nefarious creatures with a magic staff. Is there no limit to his bravery?

Don would wish me to inform you that the magic staff belongs to him, and therefore he deserves all the huzzahs.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9566acsEureka!

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9570aDon with the cache box.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9577a This is just a portion of the rock outcropping. It nearly ate Robb, while Don stayed safely out of danger. As Team Photographer and App Bearer, I, of course, was too valuable to risk.

We logged our latest triumph, then followed the trail back to its source. After a nice lung-busting climb up a hill, and  an even nicer knee-busting descent down the other side, much of the trail winds along the banks of Ridley Creek.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9610acsWe saw quite a few of these tiny ice formations on the ground. They look like fiber-optic tubes. I kept expecting them to light up in neon disco colors. Try as we might, we could not figure out how they formed.

Ridley Creek Geocaching_9649acsTree of the day – Shagbark Hickory.

Geocaching was a lot of fun, and we are keen to try it again. It added a challenge to the trails we frequent regularly, and introduced us to a new trail. There is no shortage of geocaches to search for, either, so this hobby should keep us amused for quite awhile.

It will be quite some time before we can travel such easy and clear paths, however.

For more information about geocaching: http://www.geocaching.com/