Old Fart at Play – Tracking Coyotes in the Snow

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This is where I stopped tracking. The coyotes had crossed Pine Run and scampered up the bank.

Had a couple of visitors last night. The dogs alerted me to it when we went out for our morning pee.

It was too dark to make out the tracks then. Whatever it was came up the lane as far as the barn, rooted around a bit, then retreated from whence it came.

After breakfast, I headed out to follow the tracks. Two coyotes. They might have been interested in a fox or a rabbit that had crossed the yard earlier. It looked as though they decided the tracks weren’t fresh enough and their would-be prey was long gone.

The coyote tracks led down an old tractor lane, past a log cabin and through a stand of pines that had once been a farm field.

As I followed the tracks through the woods, the wind kicked up. It blew snow off the boughs, creating an instant blizzard.

After crossing through the woods, the coyotes had descended into a floodplain and crossed a small wash. They continued along an old wagon road, then followed Pine Run a short distance before crossing.

I decided not to follow any further. I had followed the tracks about 2/3 of a mile.

It’s possible these was the same coyotes whose tracks we followed across the ice on Pine Run a few months ago.

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Instant blizzard. Wind gusts blowing snow of pine boughs in what had been a farm field.

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One of the coyotes found my stepping stumps to its liking when crossing a small stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Look Through Any Window

Photos from my window series

Windows are the eyes of a structure — revealing secrets of those who dwell there. Or those who dwelt there.

Windows might not reveal anything outright, they certainly fuel the imagination. It’s always been that way for me.

Naturally, when I got into photography, windows became a tantalizing subject.

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While out shooting along Clear Fork of the Mohican River in February 2017, this window near Gatton Rocks caught my eye.

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Two years ago, I was staying with friends at Shaw’s Hotel in Lancaster, Ohio. I got up early in the morning, grabbed my camera and headed out into the street. Very few people were stirring, yet these two ambitious souls were hard at work.

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I once interviewed a woman who went to this one-room schoolhouse in Green Township, Ashland County, Ohio. When taking this shot in November 2016, I thought about her and all the other schoolchildren who surely looked longingly out that window — especially on nice spring days.

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One of my happy places, Shuswap on Lake Nipissing in Ontario, Canada. The main boathouse has been remodeled, but I always loved this old one. Taken in August 2016.

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While out on my morning rounds, looking for things to shoot, I came across this old cabin in, I believe, Knox County, Ohio. April 2017.

 

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In October 2016, I visited the Loudonville (Ohio) Street Fair early in the morning. That’s the best time to go to fairs as far as I’m concerned. I came across this little sourpuss in an upstairs window on Main Street.

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I’ve gone by this Holmes County farmhouse many times and always been intrigued. One morning in August 2016 I stopped to take a photo. I love the faded look — consistent with the mood here.

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This Perrysville, Ohio, window speaks volumes — of a town that’s seen better days. On a positive note, good things are happening there and things are looking up. July 2017.

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I’m not particularly keen on digitally manipulated photos, but this one called for it. Butler, Ohio, October 2015.

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Facades. Downtown Mansfield, Ohio, October 2012.

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Making my morning rounds in Holmes County, August 2016, found the stone foundation of a barn along a remote township road.

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June 2011, Church window in Ashland, Ohio. Taken while I was working as a reporter for the Ashland Times-Gazette. My caption? Yum!

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Shot last year through a cracked window of a restored one-room schoolhouse. Mohican Wilderness, Glenmont, Ohio.

High-resolution prints of these — and all my photos — are available through my photo blog and Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Algonquin it ain’t – Charles Mill Lake canoe trip, part 3

You are NOT alone

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One of two bald eagles that watched me break camp.

There was no one else around at my Muskrat Bay campsite, but I was not alone. Lucy kept me company all evening and, when I crawled out of my tent in the morning, she was still there.

Lucy was a Canada goose. She appeared to have been injured and unable to fly. She swam around in front of my campsite, constantly positioning herself so she could keep an eye on me. It was sad to see goose couples come and go. Lucy watched them helplessly, perhaps longing for a life she’ll never have.

She wasn’t the only company I had. As I prepared breakfast and ate it, an osprey looked on from a tree across the bay. It flew off as I broke camp and, moments later, a bald eagle landed near where the osprey had been and stayed there until I slid my loaded canoe into the lake and paddled off. It was joined by a second eagle.

I began a day of exploring the lake north of the SR 430 bridge. Along the way, I saw a mallard, an egret and a plastic goose. I also rousted thousands of cormorants, which have become something of a plague on Charles Mill Lake.

There are suitable Islands for camping and a site — complete with a picnic table — on a peninsula at the southeast entrance to Big Turtle Bay. The downside is they’re situated between US 30 and SR 430 and the sound of traffic never stops.

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon paddling along the shoreline on the northern end of the lake. Because of the highways, Eagle Point campground, a boat ramp and houses, it’s less appealing than the southern part of Charles Mill Lake.

In short, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to stay there.

In Camp Harbor on the west side of the lake, I came upon what I hope wasn’t a familiar sight — a scuttled dredge. Years ago, while working as a reporter for the Ashland Times-Gazette, I wrote an article about the naming of a new dredge. It was dubbed “Sedimental Journey.” Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District had purchased the dredge. The plan was to dredge the channel under the SR 430 bridge, which separates the northern and southern parts of the lake, then take it to other MWCD lakes.

I can’t imagine it would have been scuttled without being used more.The average depth of Charles Mill Lake is only five feet. That’s down three feet from the original depth. The bottom of the lake is covered with a gooey layer of silt, the byproduct of irresponsible farming, logging and construction practices. I’d like to think that this was another dredge, one replaced by Sedimental Journey.

Ironically, as I explored the lake for three days in April, 50,000 gallons of drilling clay had been dumped in a wetland upstream — a byproduct of the Rover pipeline project. It might not reach the lake, but the harm to wildlife and the wetland is disheartening just the same.

Here are a few photos from the final day of my three-day canoe trip:

 

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Lucy, my constant companion.

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A mallard duck doing some morning yoga, north of the SR 430 bridge.

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An egret looks for fish in the shallows along the eastern shoreline.

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A plastic goose lurks in a tree trunk near Sites Lake, a residential area on the north end of Charles Mill.

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A scuttled dredge in Camp Harbor. Note the disintegrated oil boom around it.

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The cab of the dredge. I was concerned that the interior of the hull reeked of oil.

Click on the link below for a map of the lake:

Charles Mill Lake Map annotated

 

Previous posts on this trip:

Part One

Part Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Algonquin it ain’t – Charles Mill Lake canoe trip, part two

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While paddling around Bushman Bay, waiting for my friends to arrive at the lake, this tree called out to me.

Sitting around the campfire after a day of exploring the western part of Charles Mill Lake, I thought about the traffic on nearby SR 603. Like a lot of rural state routes, traffic dies down at night. It was far enough away and masked by trees and the sound of water going through the dam that I could barely hear the occasional truck going by.

I thought about how many times — thousands — I had gone up and down that road to and from work. About 13, 14 years. Tires over the bridge now; I’m retired.

On the second day of my trip, my friends Kevin and Theresa joined me for a day paddle.

We spent several hours exploring the east side of the lake, from Charles Mill Dam north to the main campground. Part of the mission was to explore islands, looking for other potential campsites.

I’d always thought Harbor Island at the southern end of the lake looked promising. Like Mud Lake — mentioned in the previous post — it was not. It, too, is choked with multiflora rose and too close to civilization. There are several houses nearby.

From previous experience, I knew Applegate Island was suitable for camping. Kevin Theresa and I found Barb Island to be good also. It’s small, but isolated enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to camp there. Except during duck hunting season. Duck hunters have staked claims on most the islands and other spots along the shoreline, posting their names and phone numbers. It’s a good lake to stay off of during waterfowl season.

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Theresa and Kevin check out turkey vultures that were checking us out in Muskrat Bay.

We were particularly impressed with Muskrat Bay. Isolated and shallow, it was teeming with wildlife including great blue heron and belted kingfishers. As we headed out of the bay, I told Theresa that the islands there had camping potential. Those words proved to be prophetic.

After we parted company, I headed north. I planned to paddle upriver on Black Fork of the Mohican River and, perhaps, camp on one of the islands.

However, it had rained a lot the previous week, leaving the islands muddy. I found a few suitable spots, but they were too close to SR 603, which follows the river pretty much from US 42 to SR 30.

So, I grabbed a six-pack of Molson XXX from Molly’s Cheese House and headed back downstream to the lake. (Another story for another day.) I paddled back to Muskrat Bay and found another perfect campsite on one of the islands.

Here are a few more photos from day two of the trip.

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Great blue heron in Muskrat Bay. Notice how shallow the water is.

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Waning full moon over Muskrat Bay

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Turn on yer Bud Lite — I “repurposed” a discarded beer bottle found on the island and made this swell candle holder.

 

Click on the link below for a pdf map of the lake.

Charles Mill Lake Map annotated

Next – Breakfast with friends in Muskrat Bay and dredging up memories.

 

 

 

Inauguration day – and the sun still rose

img_6660At 7:49 a.m. eastern time, the sun rose here. A lot of us couldn’t see it, but it did.

Depends on your perspective.

Four years from now, the sun will also rise. America will not be great again. Just like the “Audacity of Hope” somehow came up short. As did the slogan before that and the slogan before that.

Truth is, our culture is in decline. Our species is in decline. How can you believe in American exceptionalism when you can’t believe in human exceptionalism?

Nothing will change that. There are too many of us — competing for resources or clawing at one another for worldly gain. Or, worse yet, spiritual gain. Go figure.

Still, there is beauty in the world. Beauty in the grandeur of a breathtaking landscape or in some minute detail. I’ve resigned myself to focusing on that – with my eyes and with my camera – and taking joy in sharing that.

That’s beauty. That’s love. That’s all we’ve got.

Shooting the shit and other fun stuff

A day hike to Turret Rock — 2016 Algonquin Canoe Trip, Part 5

We hiked four miles, uphill both ways, through boulders and fallen pine trees — to see a fucking boulder. On the map, it was identified as Turret Rock. Probably a misprint; it’s more like Turd Rock.

But we had fun exploring and the scenery did not disappoint.

The route to the Turret from the Barron River Canyon takes you through a chute of what, in times of normal rainfall, would be a cascading stream. Still, it was one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever been.

On the other side of the chute is something identified on our map as The Wall. We were worn out from our 300-foot vertical climb to the Turret and in need of medical attention from tripping and falling on boulders and pointy pine tree carcasses, so we opted not to hike there.

To be continued …

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Pitcher plant flowers growing in the chute.

 

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Shooting the shit. Steve photographs what we suspected was wolf scat.

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Ken and Steve check out glacial grooves along the chute.

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Ken waves to his newfound friend.

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Stuck! Ken is grabbed by his own reflection.

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Interesting stuff we found in the water en route to our hike. It appears to be some sort of algae with tentacles.

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This is IT? This is IT? You’ve got to be kidding. Turd — I mean Turret — Rock.