Tiny Travelogue

I don’t go far from home. I don’t travel much. I like being home. And lucky for me there is a seemingly endless supply of things to explore right under my (geographic) nose.

Today we decided to explore the Morris Arboretum. It was established on the grounds of Compton, the summer home owned by the wealthy Morris family starting in 1887, who collected plants and were interested in furthering horticultural education; it is now part of the University of Pennsylvania. Not located near the main campus, though – it is only about 15 minutes from my house.

We became members not too long ago – I thought it might be a good place for walking, especially for my husband, as he continues to gain strength after his knee injury. Believe it or not, in almost 40 years of living close by, I had never visited the site, though I had often thought of doing so in recent times, because I drive past it on my way to Chestnut Hill College (of poetry marathon fame!) all the time.

It is expensive for a single visit, but a membership could pay off for the two of us after three visits – and being members makes a quick stop just for a walk much more likely. I signed us up.  Today was a reconnaissance mission.

It was a stunning day – sunny, warm, and low humidity. We parked in the lower lot – other people had the same idea as us to visit the gardens on such a nice day – and walked up the hill to the main building. I noticed I could see the roofs of Chestnut Hill College across the way – it is next door.

We walked around the upper areas following paved paths past manicured lawns and many trees. I found some details interesting:

Small structures dotted the area as well as sculptures:

There were other attractions, such as a garden railway exhibit and a treehouse/walkway structure; fernery; rose garden. Today, these areas were crowded with families; even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t much appeal to me. If this had been all there was to the place, I would have been lukewarm on it. I will say, though, the level paths would make a nice circuit for an easy walk (or run, if you came on a non-crowded day).

We made our way back down the hill to the wetlands area. This section was deserted and quiet. Just birds, insects, trees…

Now I was interested. Look at this milkweed.

A bee was working very industriously at this flower head.

This dead tree’s stark appearance amid all the greenery made it a landmark.

Mowed paths guided us through this section. There was so much to look at.

My assessment of the arboretum: I thought the main area tame and uninteresting. The wetlands, fantastic. I could see visiting that section often just to see the changes in the landscape. I much prefer walking on grass to asphalt. Wilder to manicured. Full of detail to edited. I’ll come back and concentrate my attention on this area, I think.

It would be a great spot for a walk after a poetry marathon session or for my husband to visit during lunchtime. I’m glad we checked out the arboretum.

Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Cones, Simply

Yesterday my husband and I stopped by this parking lot to check on the Power Line trail – we wanted to see if the snow had melted and the way was clear for us to run on it again. (In case you are interested, yes, it was.)

This parking lot in Horsham is at the mid-point of the trail and serves the trail and adjacent ball fields, none of which are in use right now, of course. So, the lot is handling some other jobs – for one thing, the township piled a lot of snow there from the roads – there are some nice snow-mountains along the side. And, it’s a great place for these trucks to assemble when they are off-duty.

They are tree-trimming trucks and they belong to a company whose work consists of trimming trees for the electric company and municipalities. You see them everywhere in the winter.

Trucks 2-6-16 #1 small

And a closer look.

Trucks 2-6-16 #3 small

You know what caught my eye? The arrangement they each have on their front bumpers for carrying traffic cones. Yes, I was so intrigued by the ingenious way they were packed on to the truck. There are two methods. One is horizontal – the cones are set on a rod that is secured with a cotter pin.

The other is vertical – they are stacked in a bracket attacked to the bumper.

Think about it. Every road project, every construction site, any tree work – all of them need traffic cones to protect the site and the workers. You know this. You’ve seen it. And you’ve never thought about where the cones keep themselves when they are off duty, have you? Well, now you know.

I found it just fascinating to see these huge trucks all with their neatly stacked cones, all ready for Monday morning. I love the simple elegance of this solution. No one will ever be shouting, “Where are the #@&!* cones!” on any site where these trucks are at work.

Trucks 2-6-16 #2 small

A Lot of Trees in the Snow

This morning my husband and I took a walk on the Pennypack Trail in Lorimer Park. Now, they don’t plow the trail, so you can’t walk on it after it snows, until the snow melts. Or, you need to be willing to strap on your Yak-Trax and to pick your way along. We really wanted to get outside. So we chose the latter idea.

In the summer, you can’t see into the woods from the trail – it’s a green curtain. Not today. Each tree is clear and distinct. I love this view.

Lorimer 1-31-16 #3 small

Here are a couple of more snapshots. Nothing spectacular. I was just happy to be able to get outside after a week or so restricted by the snow – and to see one of my favorite places again!


Saying Good-bye, Slowly

We have a beautiful November day today, sunny, blue sky, breezy, and chilly. I have noticed that the leaves remaining on the trees and bushes are getting lonelier and lonelier each day as their less-stubborn neighbors let go and fly off. It seems so often that the last hangers-on are at the ends of the branches. I have wondered why.

On this bush next to my driveway I see an example – these two yellow leaves are about all that’s left, way out at the very tip of the branch. I took out my camera and snapped some shots, not looking at the screen but just sort of aiming in it the direction of the leaves and sky.

The portrait of the leaves is blurred – the wind kept them in motion, but they still stayed firmly attached.  Still, what beautiful colors, the blue and yellow! The bare branches make such a complicated pattern against the sky, one you don’t imagine exists when you see this bush in the summer just crammed full of leaves.

I’ll keep an eye on these two hold-outs and see how long they stay here with me. My guess is, not much longer, but I am glad I did have a moment today with them.

Can We Try This At Home?

A few days ago my husband and I were walking in the Fort Washington State Park when we noticed the acorns covering the ground under our feet. Upon examination, we realized these acorns looked a little different from the usual ones we see – these were a bit shiny, larger, and their caps were formed differently and seemed to fall off more easily.

We also noticed that these were the most enthusiastic acorns we’d ever seen – pretty much every one had a little sprout emerging from it, heading for the earth. Remember, these acorns were just lying on the ground’s surface – so these shoots were taking off on faith alone, heading through the air to where they wanted to be.

We looked up the tree – we think it’s a chestnut oak. Once we knew to look, we saw lots of them.

We got the idea to see if we could get any to root in a pot at home. Now I know this usually doesn’t work, but – why not? We took some likely candidates back with us, set them on the ground in this pot, and put it on the porch. Let’s see what happens…

Just Wandering Along

These photos were taken along the Green Ribbon Trail in Fort Washington State Park about a week ago. I was walking that day rather than running, and so I stopped over and over again as things caught my eye. I love this time of year.

Here is that beautiful red bush and a close-up of its berries. I love the red and black color scheme.

Green Ribbon 10-9-15 small Red berries 10-9-15 small

Next, I came on this huge entwined set of vines. My goodness, they were as thick as my wrist.

Tree with vines small #2 10-9-15

Tree with vines small #1 10-9-15

And a bit later, here’s an example of what I think of as a “Tarzan vine”; the park rangers cut them so that people don’t run into them, and I see them hanging down like this all over the trail. I don’t know why but I like them.

Tarzan vine 10-15 small

Next, I took pictures of this dead tree. I’ve photographed it before. It stands in a curve all by itself and commands attention. I feel almost as if it’s calling out, with that hole looking like a mouth to me.

Tree with holes #1a Green Ribbon 10-15 small

Tree with holes #1b Green Ribbon 10-15 small

The trail goes through a flood plain in this section, so there are a lot of dead trees stranded out in the scrubby undergrowth. They are left to decay as they like. I got interested in the number of holes in them – birds looking for insects.

Tree with holes #1c Green Ribbon 10-15 small

Tree with holes #3 Green Ribbon 10-15 small

These holes are not in trees but in the gateposts where the path crosses a road. Couldn’t resist taking a look inside with the camera…

And another interesting thing – this rotting tree is home to a thriving weed, growing in the crotch of the tree.

Tree with flowers growing in the Y 10-15

Interesting day out there on the trail!

Nature Walk

I’m so excited that our world is greening up. I just have to say it! Look at the woods here. And what about the beautiful color of the water in the Pennypack creek? Right now I’m taking advantage of the early-season view of things – in summer it will be blocked by the masses of leaves.

Along the creek Lorimer 4-15-15 small

As I walked along the rail trail, I noticed a clump of daffodils down near the creek. I always wonder at how this isolated group arrived at this spot. It’s not as if a house or building were ever here for someone to plant them. Maybe an animal dropped a bulb or two here at some time in the past. Obviously it has worked out well – it’s a nice thick crowd of blooms for me to enjoy.

Same thought for these little white flowers. Who are they and where did they come from?

White flowers Lorimer 4-15-15 small

The ditches alongside the trail are full of rippling water and I like the look of these tiny green plants standing in it. And yet the dead leaves from last season still have a presence here, don’t they?

Plants in ditch Lorimer 4-15-15 small

This man was fishing in the Pennypack creek. He looked very settled in his red chair, but as I watched, he stood up and paid more attention to his line. Maybe he felt a tug on it?

Hello, Glad to Meet You

I admit to seeing personalities in all kinds of objects. I will not say inanimate objects, because, well, I am not always sure about that.

If you think I am getting a little too far out here, think about the last time you couldn’t find your keys, and I am pretty sure you were angry at them and felt they hid from you or otherwise concealed themselves.

I think I have made my point?

Here are a couple of personalities I’ve recently become aware of. I’ll start with this train signal tower, now disused, in Lorimer Park on the rail trail.

And how about this tree? It’s in the Pennypack Wilderness next to the creek.

Inextricably Intertwined

When people say the phrase “inextricably intertwined”, they usually mean it figuratively: events or interests or fates or feelings might be the subject. I use the phrase literally. I got interested in trees and vines and their relationships earlier this winter when I photographed some trees for the Sunshine Project, and since then I’ve been paying attention.

At this time of year it’s easy to see the details of vines and trees. There are no leaves or other greenery to interfere. To me, there is something vaguely unsettling about vines circling tree trunks or bases; it always seems to me that one is a predator and the other the prey. A determined vine has the power to bring down a large tree, if enough time is allowed for it to do its work.

The complicated forms the relationship takes, though, are eye-catching and often graceful. That’s what I was thinking about in these pictures that I have collected over the past weeks. Take a look and see what you think.


These trees are cedars along the closed portion of Jarrett Road, Horsham, PA, part of the Power Line Trail park, in February, 2015.

These pictures are from the same site. The vine looks reptilian, I think, and seems to be crawling up the tree in a sinister way.

A knotted tangle encircles this tree, also from the Power Line Trail park.

A bit more lighthearted, these two vine/tree relationships seem to me; I like the swirly twistiness of the vines and they don’t look to be strangling the tree. Yet, anyway. These are also from the Power Line Trail park.

I saw this tree and its heavy tangled partner in the Fort Washington State Park along the Green Ribbon Trail in March, 2015.

This tree supports a fascinating tightly-coiled thick vine. It’s also from the Green Ribbon Trail.

This view shows the trees and vines along the Pennypack Trail in Huntingdon Valley, PA, in March, 2015. Honestly, the vines are as big as the trees and maybe even more numerous. If you are a vine I would advise trying some other location; this one seems to be full up.

Trees and vines Lorimer Park 3-31-15 small

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