Around and About Athens, New York, part 1

Enjoyments of Athens, New York

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Memorial Day Weekend 2019 Pam and I visited Athens, first settled in the 17th Century by an ancestor through her maternal grandmother. Click me for more about the Van Loons. Jan Van Loon is 10 generations removed from Pam and her siblings and is one of 1024 (512 pairs) of ancestors. Whatever became of the other 1022 people (and all those in between) Pam was there with me that day to enjoy the experience of walking around town and talking about Jan Van Loon’s connection to herself.

Click any photograph for a larger version

Founded as Loonenberg, named after the first settler Jan Van Loon. today,Athens is a lovely destination, a historic village on the Hudson River.

We stopped for a very enjoyable latte at Bonfiglio and Bread on 2nd street. As we ambled south on 2nd street Pam spotted someone to talk to and I proceeded with the goal of the Hudson River, visible at the bottom of the street.

I noticed this architectural specimen and turned to capture this side in a good light and was lucky to capture a young co-admirer of its style with whom I assume is her Mother. Athens, developed as a “National Register Historic Site,” is a charming place to stroll and admire.

Southeast view on 2nd Street between Water and Washington streets. Athens, New York

Hudson Riverfront

Yesterday I did a Red Cross blood donation at an elementary school on Hudson Street here in Ithaca. Henry Hudson, the first European to sail up the river that now bears his name, is memorialized this way across New York State so much so it is unusual to find the “Riverfront Park” named as such.

The city of Hudson, in Columbia County directly across the river named its park “Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.”

Looking east toward the entrance of the Riverfront Park, Athens, New York. Found at the east end of 2nd Street.

Peace and Quiet

The Athens Park is a gathering place for the village with a large swath of grass, a short boardwalk, benches and generous shade trees along with river…….

The photograph captions will speak for themselves for the rest of today’s post. Enjoy!!

A sole reader enjoys the solitude and view across the Hudson. A large mid-stream island, Middle Ground Flats, provides a swath of green instead of a view of the city Hudson.

…and a dock.

The map shows a dotted line between this dock in the Athens Riverside Park and the Henry Hudson Riverside park of the city of Hudson. Barely visible in front of the wooded hills is the Hudson-Athens lighthouse.
A pleasure craft motoring south on the Hudson River passes in front of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. On the eastern shore is a line of freight cars. Amtrack uses this line for service between New York City, Albany and beyond. We have enjoyed this Hudson River view from the train and highly recommend that trip.
Built 1874, the Hudson-Athens lighthouse guides traffics around the island named “Middle Ground Flats.”

Click me for more photography, my online Fine Art Gallery.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Spring Fragrance

What Phlox fragrance brings to mind.

Working as a consulting dietitian, back in the 1980s, on a early June drive from Canisteo, New York on route 19 north of Mansfield, Pennsylvania, where the road goes through the Tioga-Hammond Lakes Recreation area there were miles of phlox growing on the east side of the road. The fragrance of phlox was pervasive with the window down and to this day I remember that time when phlox is in bloom as it was on June 5th, last week.

Click any photograph for a larger image.
The species name (Phlox) divaricata means “with a spreading and straggling habit”.

On the way to Treman State Park, to check out wildflowers, on an afternoon that threatened rain I came upon these stands of phlox, growing as it does under trees in damp soil on the east side of Colegrove Road. We’ve had plentiful rain this spring.

Phlox is abundant here

Looking it up in my reference book, “The Botanical Garden”, the plentiful number of species was daunting. (CLICK ME for more about this reference.) Bloom times spread across the calendar from May through August and into autumn. Species blooming in June were just not a good match.

The blooms seem to go on forever into the woods.

It was a surprising result, though in retrospect given the wide distribution and abundance of species, is to be expected. So I poked around the internet search engines, results from varied search strings, until Phlox divaricata popped up as a wildflower with a late May / early June bloom and growth habit and flowers matching these.

I captured macros of the two hues from roadside specimens.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

They came for the beaver, he stayed for the corn

Pam’s Ancestors Jan and Maria Van Loon

June 2018 I shed a 53 year old habit of working for a living for new habits in retirement. Instead of waking at 5 am to work for someone else, my routine became to wake at 5 am for personal projects. From June into September 2018 my morning time was spent researching and documenting family history, also known as genealogy: my own and Pam’s.

It was fitting Pam and I spent the last days of that year (June 2018 through May 2019) harvesting our newly acquired knowledge on the ground, a 3 hour drive from our home, to the site of Pam’s earliest ancestor in the New World, at that time Colonial America. Our visit will be book-ended by another this September to Burlington, New Jersey, on the eastern short of the Delaware river, founded by my earliest ancestor, also in Colonial America and 4 hours from our present day home.

A river setting is a link between our ancestors and the two rivers associated in a number of ways. In driving to Athens, New York, a village on the west bank of the Hudson River 31 miles from the state capital, Albany. Our route from Ithaca to Athens included route 23 that passes through the Catskill Mountain, Delaware County, village of Stamford. The headwaters of the west branch of the Delaware River passes through Stamford.

Founded as Loonenberg, named after the first settler Jan Van Loon. Today, Athens is a lovely destination, a historic village on the Hudson River. The rear of the Jan Van Loon house is in the background.

Henry Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon were the first recorded Europeans to visit both the Delaware and Hudson rivers. The Half Moon dropped anchor in Delaware Bay late August, 1609. They reached the estuary of the Hudson (then called the North or the Mauritius). The goal of Hudson was a route to China. Luring him up was the flow and width of the river, Hudson suspected this land was a island, behind which lay the route to the Orient. He navigated up the river for ten days, passing the future site of Athens.

Historical signage with house. One wall remains of the original house, this is a loving restoration on the original site.

Beaver!!

Hudson was in the employ of the Dutch East India Company and it was the Dutch who laid claim to the length of the Hudson for the purpose of trade. In summary, when Swedish/Finnish colonists on the Delaware proved successful in shipping huge numbers of beaver pelts and tobacco the Dutch took control of the Delaware under force of arms in the interest of controlling this trade.

The Dutch, AKA the Dutch East/West India Companies, had little interest in establishing colonies. Instead huge areas of land, “patents”, were granted to individuals with the underlying goal of providing a flow of shippable goods. It remained as such for many years, until 1664 when England, under the king Charles II, took control of New Amsterdam and, by extension, trade flowing on the Hudson River.

Overview of the Jan Van Loon House, 39 South Washington Street, Athens New York from the Athens Veterans Memorial Park with view of the Hudson River and the lighthouse. Phlox are in bloom!!

Stayed for the Corn

Jan Van Loon (pronounced Van Loan) comes into the picture with a 1676 marriage to Maria in New Amsterdam. When Jan acquired a major interest in the 1688 Loonenburg patent the land was just opening to European settlers and their tenancy was less than secure. Threatened by incursions of Native Americans and animosities between the French and English. They had eight children who reached adulthood, the house of one of them, Albertus, is one of the oldest continually inhabited residences in New York State.

Athens, New York is the present day name of this town on the Hudson River first settled by Pam’s ancestor in the 17th Century. Pam is pointing to the modern window restoration (aluminum double-hung), the roof is cedar shingle (I believe).

Tradition has it Jan Van Loon acquired the land through a payment of 50 beaver pelts and provided services as a blacksmith, though that had to be after a number of years of residence, since he was a first settler. Pam and I are learning more about those early years, but we know Jan and Maria’s interest in the land was not trade. It was to live peacefully and prosper which they, somehow, did to the benefit of all the people around them.

Detail of the modern restoration of the east foundation wall, Jan Van Loon house, Athens, New York, at the juncture of the field stone/brick joint. The front of the house is to the right.
The lighthouse as viewed from the Jan Van Loon House site. Build 1874, the lighthouse was not part of the environment of Jan and Maria Van Loon.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

First Water Trailhead

A desert garden with plans

….continued from the chapter “End of the Beginning”

First Water Trail Head

Notable Sonoran Desert Plants, all in the same frame. From the left, back row: staghorn cholla, ocotillo, saguaro. Front row: teddy bear cholla, yucca. I am not certain the greenery to the left of the yucca is brittle bush.

First Water trail head is the most used access point to the Superstition Wilderness, being the closest to Phoenix and its satellite cities and suburbs. For day hikers there are ample and interesting route choices as all foot trails of the west side terminate at First Water making for a variety of loops and incredible views. For horse people there are facilities to park huge trailers.

The ready access from Mesa, where my sister and husband had their home, was the primary reason I planned to finish my cross wilderness hike on the Dutchman Trail. Named for Jacob Waltz of the fabulous legend of the Lost Dutchman mine, the inspiration for The Searcher’s Superstition Wilderness expeditions and, ultimately, why he and I met and my change of plans.

On our ride over from Roosevelt he told of his difficulties building a home in Apache Junction, sleepless nights spent guarding building supplies from thieves. He looked forward to moving day.

This photographic record of five days in the wilderness would be much different without that meeting yet, there I was that afternoon with plenty of time for photography during the golden hours of late afternoon as I wandered the desert gardens until my sister arrived.

Wild Barley

The long distant ridge beyond the rugged near hills is the backbone of the famed “Superstition Mountain.” On the far right are hoodoos, appearing as so many teeth on a jaw. Gorgeous saguaros in the foreground.

Weavers Needle is the distant peak, 5.5 dry miles away in this view to the west / southwest.

I’ve always been partial to how the dense spines of cactus catch the evening light. These staghorn chollas are in front of the same ridge of the Superstition Mountain. A famous formation, “The Flatiron” is visible on the far right.

The road to the trail head, Service Road 78, winds through 2.6 miles of hills. Here is another overview of Sonoran desert life.

You might remember hedgehog cactus blossoms from my posting “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. The following are from the large hedgehog cactus in the foreground of the preceding photograph.

Future Plans

During the drive back with my sister, Diane, we talked of plans for returning to the Reavis Ranch together, as a backpack expedition. In coming days I met with The Searcher to explore possibilities for a horse expedition and, three years later, these plans came together for a trip kicked off from this same First Water trail head.

Hedgehog Cactus Blooms

Here is a gallery of the same photos. It is fun to flip back and forth with me disappearing from the scene.

Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

End of the Beginning

Exploring Arizona in my Fifth Decade of Life

….continued from the chapter “A Rocky End to a Perfect Day.”

The Searcher arrived after breakfast. My camp was bundled up to join the rest of The Searchers equipment and supplies on Colorado’s panniers that replaced the saddle where I sat, and was dumped from, yesterday. This fifth morning of the adventure, I was to have the experience of a light pack for the 4.7 mile trail from Pine Creek to Campaign Creek, past the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance.

First, there was the climb to the edge of Pine Creek canyon where we, for the last time, enjoyed the view to the north of the Arizona Trail and, in the distance, the Four Peaks Wilderness.

North from Reavis Gap

At Reavis Gap we took a rest before the 1500 descent to Campaign Creek on a trail rated as so difficult backpackers go miles out of the way to access Reavis Ranch.

I split an energy bar and took a swig of water before setting up the tripod to capture the following view of our path. The ridge, hazy in the distance of 22 miles, is Apache Peaks, the near descending ridges an improbable green after a wet winter. In the previous photograph, “North from Reavis Gap” you can clearly see the transition from the desert to a grassland biome as the elevation increases.

Generations

On this, the southern shoulder of Two Bar Mountain, we enjoyed desert grasslands almost the entire length, starting with this unlikely oat field. The higher, eastern Superstitions are the western and northern-most Sky Island of Southern Arizona: rising from the desert as isolated mountain systems, catchments for passing storms, with life zones progressing with altitude, the highest typical of Canada. As with oceanic islands, each is a haven for life with potential for evolution of unique species from the isolating effect of the surrounding desert.

These oats are domesticated grain spilled from a horse or donkey pack to thrive in the decades since, sprouting into this spread of light green after a wet winter, ripening, then turning gold with the summer, the grains falling to wait for the next opportunity. This green hue is my first impression of Reavis Gap, see my post “Two Meetings” for a video of the morning breezes rippling along the hillside.

The camera sweeps 180 degrees for all the views from this spot, including prickly pear cactus among the grasses, a butte-like formation to the west, as in the following photograph.

Upper Horrell, the end of the beginning.

We passed the length of the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance, the Reavis Gap trail is 100 feet or so higher on the north side. The name “Upper Horrell” is attached to this location. Reavis Gap trail used to start at a ranch house, part of the “Upper Horrell Ranch.” Horrell is the family name of the former owners.

Upper Horrell is a fortunate location for the school, with the perennial Campaign Creek flowing parallel to their 13 acres on which is a large garden, many fruit trees, livestock and poultry. The school provides lodging and classes throughout the year.

The Searcher initiated his time in the Superstitions with wilderness survival classes and they allowed him to park is horse trailer and pickup outside the gates. We were loaded and out of there with a stop at Roosevelt, population 28, where we were the only customers for mesquite grilled hamburgers and french fries. We talked about the potential for future trips and I took him up on an offer to store my stuff until then. In the following years I did more Superstition Wilderness day trips, backpack expeditions, some with my sister Diane, and one horse expedition with The Searcher and a friend.

Here is a gallery of this post’s photographs, for you to flip through.
Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Rocky End to a Perfect Day

A visit to a wilderness horse camp

….continued from the chapter “Superstition Galleries”

Nugget and Colorado had eaten their fill of the rich early spring grass of the apple orchard, The Searcher pulled together the pair for the return to Pine Creek. Perched on Colorado, the lead held by The Searcher, I listened as he shared survival facts remembered from Peter Bigfoot’s desert survival course. The Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance, founded 1979, is along same Reavis Gap Trail (#117) we traversed. After descending to Pine Creek and up to Reavis Gap (where I first met The Searcher), it descends to meet Campaign Creek where the survival school is located.

He pointed out on the many flowering Century Plant stalks along the trail. “These are great to roast when young, just as the stalk starts to bud from the center, before it starts to lengthen.” By the time the stalk flowers, as in the following photograph, it is quite tough.

Agave flower spike against the dawn in the nameless canyon west of Two Bar Mountain, Superstition Wilderness, Arizona.

At the base of boulders, shaded from the sun, the ridgeline fern takes hold. Surviving on seasonal water seepage, it dries out during dry spells to later revive and reproduce via spores. As I recall, the dry or fresh form is useful as an analgesic.

An absolute necessity for bushwacking (walking off the path), a pair of rattlesnake proof boots were worn on every expedition. These rose to mid-calf with a layer of lexan, the same as used for bullet proof glass.

Swept from the Saddle

We passed the time in this way, me holding on to the saddle horn bouncing and shifting as Colorado negotiated the rough and steep path down to Pine Creek where the vegetation changed from very sparse to the thick growth you saw in my post “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek”.
On the east side of Pine Creek a trail, unmarked on the maps, follows the creek bed uphill north towards Mound Mountain. In 50 feet or so we passed the side trail to my campsite, our destination was The Searcher’s campsite. I was not paying near enough attention to the surroundings when I looked up to see an Arizona Oak limb headed to my chest. With no time or space to negotiate the obstacle I was left to grab hold and hang on to be swept from the saddle. The branch held my bulk for, at most, a second before giving way.

In bending flexibly before breaking the live Oak wood and centuries of soil underneath the trees softened my fall enough so I was badly shaken and unhurt. Falling a foot or so in any direction would have resulted in serious injury or instant death. Colorado stopped, looking briefly back as I slowly came to my feet. After taking account and letting the circumstance wash over me, I got up and proceeded slowly while we both contemplated my miraculous survival.

Bear Shelter

I now took up the rear as in a few hundred yards the valley wall rose on both sides of the Creek to form a short, narrow pass. The walls fell away just as quickly, the valley floor leveled out and we came to The Searcher’s camp. The bear shelter stood out right away. This was a ten foot high teepee of 4 – 6 inch diameter tree trunks tied with rope, within was a hammock . The three foot wide opening left only one unprotected side while he slept, offering some protection from the all too common roaming bears, most commonly from September to November when mazanita fruit ripens.

Well stocked in every respect, for a wilderness camp. In the following years of roaming the wilderness the camps of other horse people were similar in this way: stoves, comfortable cots, radios, pots and pans all fit into panniers. As a noun pannier is seldom used in the singular because there are always two, one on each side of the horse for balance. I sat on the wide top of one enjoying a cold beer pulled from a bed of ice.

We discussed the benefits and drawback of horses for exploration. I required a gallon and a half of water daily and in the desert wilderness provided for storage of three days, 4 and a half gallons. At 8 pounds each, that is 36 pounds!! Starting out, my pack weighted 90 pounds with a camera and tripod.

There are benefits to having a mode of transport that thinks for itself and drawbacks. Each individual has its own personality and horses do try to get away with what they can. It is wise to limit your dependence on a horse until you know each other well. In retrospect, I was “out on a limb” riding Colorado modified by being led by someone the horse knew well.

It was soon time for me to head back to camp. We set the agenda for the next day, an early start for the hike out. Colorado was to be fully loaded so my riding was not an option, just as well. It was possible to lighten my pack to almost nothing and I looked forward to that.

I took some time before dinner to set up the tripod for a self portrait on my last full day in Pine Creek. The view is northeast from the Arizona Trail near my camp, the ridge overlooks Reavis Gap. I did a version of the view with an without me.

Click any photograph for a larger image.
Click me for the next post in this series, “End of the Beginning.”

Here is a gallery of the same photos. It is fun to flip back and forth with me disappearing from the scene.

Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Superstition Galleries

A peaceful wilderness evening

….continued from the chapter “Reavis Ranch Autumn Sweep”

These are three galleries of photographs from my Superstition Wilderness postings. You can click on any gallery and page through the photographs.

The following year my sister Diane and I did two expeditions into the Superstitions, March and November 2006.

“A This video is from the November backpack, taken from the hill above the Ranch Ruin (Click me for “A Ride to Reavis Ranch”) you will experience the peace of this wilderness valley.

Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills