“I am in love with this world. I have nestled lovingly in it. I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, crossed its deserts, felt the sting of its frosts, the oppression of its heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.”
-- John Burroughs (1837-1921)
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“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on -- have found that none of these satisfy, or permanently wear -- what remains? Nature remains.”
-- Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
-- John Muir (1838-1914)
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For those of us who hike the mountain trails, summertime can mean berry time, among other things – a smattering of wild strawberries in June, abundant blueberries in July, and ripe blackberries and raspberries in August and early September.
Just as each year’s flower season is often different from the previous one, so the wild berry crop can vary pretty widely from one year and region to the next.
In a couple of recent years some of the berry crop has failed due to “weird winter weather,” namely high temperatures in late winter that caused plants to flower prematurely, followed by a freeze, after which berries can fail to develop.
This year’s blueberry season started wonderfully for some of us on our 7/10/16 moderate hike in Minnewaska State Park, where there were miles of delicious blueberries to feast on -- a delightful distraction along some of the trails.
I also encountered a massive number of raspberry-like (and super-delicious) wineberries twice while hiking on my own near Bear Mountain in July.
[Wineberry is an invasive plant imported from Asia in the 1890s, which has negative effects on other vegetation, unfortunately. But they do taste wonderful!]
We don’t find edible berries on all summer hikes, but a gratifying number of our outings do include opportunities for a scrumptious berry snack or dessert.
Minnewaska may have the most blueberries of any park we visit. As usual, we were also able to snack on blueberries and huckleberries on some other July hikes.
We’ll next be re-visiting Minnewaska on our 8/13 moderate hike. If we’re lucky there could still be a few blueberries around, although they may be gone by then.
In August and into September we’re more likely to find an abundance of raspberries and blackberries along some of the trails, especially in the Catskills.
While blackberries and raspberries aren’t as common as blueberries in the areas where we hike, we sometimes find them in amazing quantities. Here’s hoping!
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RECENT HEAT WAVES: As you know, we’ve had some spells of uncomfortably high temperatures and humidity in recent weeks. As often happens when we experience “extreme heat or cold” -- or when there’s a chance of “severe storms” -- there are warnings in the media about the dangers of such weather. Yes, we need to take care on hot days, especially to drink lots of water. But for many of us, heat waves are no reason to avoid hiking, since most of our summer hikes take place in the higher mountains, where conditions tend to be delightful. For example: On the weekend of 7/23-24, when temps back at home reached the mid-90s, on both of our hikes in the Catskills that weekend it didn’t get above the mid-70s -- in other words, it was another lovely weekend with near-perfect conditions for hiking.
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RECENT RAIN: As some of you know, since last fall we've had quite a rain deficit, with monthly rain totals much lower than usual, which has led to seriously dry conditions in some of the mountain areas where we hike. The consequences included a major forest fire in Minnewaska State Park last April, and very low water levels in streams and rivers. Some waterfalls had almost stopped flowing. There have repeatedly been forecasts for rain the past few weeks, but relatively little has actually fallen -- until now, that is! Thankfully we FINALLY got LOTS of rain the past few days, totaling up to several inches in some areas, which is great news for anyone who cares about the natural world. The semi-drought seems to have been broken, and for the first time in ages, the streams, rivers, and waterfalls are full again. Which means we'll once again be able to enjoy the wonderful sounds and beauty of flowing water on our hikes in the weeks ahead (and on our Labor Day trip, where we'll be camping near a big mountain stream).
-- Charlie Cook