Walking the level the these red might be overlooked hanging sparsely under nodding branches. From the leaf shape you may wrongly identify this as Solomon’s Seal. This specimen, growing on a shale ledge of the glen, reveals sparse red fruit, not the plentiful dark blue of Solomon’s Seal. This is Rose Twisted-Stalk (Streptopus roseus), a member of the Lily family. The two are often found close together. I found no Solomon’s Seal this trip.
The moss beneath the Rose Twisted-Stalk is plentiful here beneath the constantly dripping porous shale glen wall, mini swamps. I am not confident enough to following identification to each the red fruit. From the damp location and leaf shape I am guessing this to be mountain- cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). The first photograph of this posting is an overview.
A shallow grotto
Finely layer shale in the following photograph is sediment eroded over 50 million years from the Arcadian Mountains, washed into the shallow inland sea of the Appalachian Basin. We see here a transition between fine, fragile shale and another, harder, durable sedimentary rock, limestone. There was a stone on the otherwise flat surface of the limestone around which the sediments forming the shale grew.
We see the detail because here is a persistent, sparse spring. The trail builds created a well here to carry the outflow, preventing trail erosion.
Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
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.
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.
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.
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
To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village
men women children filled the meeting place
everyone participated especially the infants
raising John alone was not part of the plan
Its been just john and me
helen gave birth to john
to have a part of me
in case of loss
i felt the same way
and she understood
feminine voice in our home
“Little House on the Prairie”
“Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder
that has an emotional resonance for me
Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children
what’s left over though
A hellish shriek assaulted the cold 3 am darkness.
The scream was instantly recognizable. Anything but terrified, after a confused scramble I reinserted the pin into a personal security device hung from my backpack. Wrapped in a silly waffle weave blanket, tossing restless in the cold, the pin lanyard hung up then pulled free. Several minutes had passed with that sound flowing out over the canyon, calling all carnivores to breakfast.
I had drifted off with the wind shaking my tent like a drunken prankster and now all was totally and absolutely quiet. In spite of the cold, the inadequate blanket and the imaginary creatures looking for the source of that scream, the next two hours sped by in a fitful doze.
At 5 am I crawled out to find the thinnest crescent moon imaginable gracing the eastern sky, kept company by a century plant silhouetted against the early dawn light.
Click any photograph for a higher resolution image.
These stalks raise the golden flowers of this agave 10 to 15 feet above the green prickly rosette. Century plant stalks can be seen throughout the Superstitions, even at the high elevations among towering Ponderosa Pine.
Here is an agave in predawn light I caught on the next day, in Pine Creek canyon.
The leaves are used as needle and thread with the very sharp tip as the needle and the long leaf fibers, when properly dried and shredded, as thread. These leaves guard the agave heart from the harvest. A poke from an agave spike can be deep and painful.
The young shoots of the stalks are a succulent delicious treat raw. Roasted, the agave heart is a fresh, somewhat sweet delight. The earliest residents of this desert left numerous roasting pits on the mountain slopes, located where the agave still grows.
Dawn and the Pretty Hedgehogs
Although cold, the still dry air felt marvelous and even distant objects appeared absolutely clear. In this environment the spread of sun with its rising is a ritual. Here’s a photograph of the canyon walls a few minutes before the sun reached them.
And, a few minutes later, as the sun passed the ridges of Two Bar Mountain.…
By the way, that’s a desiccated agave stalk to the lower right, on the rocks.
At my feet, spread at intervals on the brown red broken rock, small Hedgehog cacti bloomed lavender.
Cacti, such as the blossoming lavender Hedgehog seen above, require a space which enjoys full sunlight for most of the day. The thick grown of juniper trees limited sunlight and compete with the cacti for water. This image will give you an idea of the extent of the juniper growth.
Looking into Nameless Canyon
In the above photograph you are looking west over a canyon that is unnamed on maps. The dramatic flat ridge bathed in light is a landmark marking the canyon of Reavis Falls, on the far side in this view. Make your way down the canyon where is joins Reavis Creek, turn left and the falls are a few miles upstream. This is NOT the easiest path to the falls.
As the sun rose I needed to prepare for the day’s trekking, but took one more portrait of this lovely nameless canyon traversed by an almost non-existent path.
This season, a cold stream ran at canyon bottom. Flowing among the rocks the water produced peals of a crystal bell, but this was not my last memory of this place.
In the “Nameless Canyon Morning” image, on the left there is the almost vertical (no exaggeration) canyon wall I climbed in 4.5 hours that morning. It traversed 800 feet altitude in less than a mile. The path was substantially longer because it followed the contour lines of the land in long loops called switchbacks. As I proceeded up the canyon wall, to the southeast, above the opposite canyon wall, the memorable Four Peaks gradually appeared. Here’s the view from my lunchtime perch…..
This view looks over the basin of Reavis Creek and includes the, out of sight, 140 foot high Reavis Fall, the highest free fall in Arizona.
The four mile climb up the 2,000 foot eastern Superstition Wilderness bajada and escarpment consumed the morning and much of the afternoon. It was the 80 pound backpack that did it. Ten days of supplies, tent, equipment and 3.5 gallons (28 pounds) of water; enough food for a trek across the Superstition Wilderness, water enough for two days. One day in, one day out if the water could not be replenished. Mine was a water commitment, enough water storage to allow two days to trekking to another source.
Here the canyon rim view from atop the escarpment…..
…over trail 122, the Tule Canyon Trail, looking out from the wilderness. Tule Canyon trail is very lightly used and only present in the form of occasional cairns. There is a red rock cairn in the midground. Theodore Roosevelt Lake of the Salt river is in the distance, as is the dirt road to the trail head. A settlement is visible, on the right.
A rancher formed a cattle watering hole by damming an ephemeral stream and that day the pool held some water. Shortly after a rain a large mountain lion had approach the pool for a drink, leaving a footprint in the now dry mud.
I knew a mountain lion attack was improbable: I ran more risk of being run down on a New York City sidewalk by a madman or, even more so, of having a heart attack. Still, during my brief lunch I faced east, looking over Apache Lake for the possibility of a cat leaping up from the canyon. On all other sides was an open area until, a quarter-mile uphill, there was a thick growth of Manzanita reaching to the ridge.
After that climb to the escarpment rim I was in a race to reach a safe campsite at an unknown location, the other side of Two Bar ridge, before sunset at 6:46 pm mountain time. Yes, the time was exact to the minute. If sunset found me on the mountain side or ridge, rapid fall of darkness would force me to set camp.
The following photograph was taken the winter of February 2006 from a campsite below Castle Dome on Reavis Ranch Trail. A red line, starting to the left, is Trail 119, my path along Two Bar mountain ridge, beneath the mountain peaks, with switchbacks into a nameless canyon.
Ahead of me was a 400 foot ascent in a half mile to Two Bar Ridge, two miles along the glorious ridge providing endless views to the west and northwest. An 800 foot descent to a nameless canyon below Two Bar Mountain. This left no time for photography!!
This photograph, taken 4 miles to the west and 10 months later, is similar to what I enjoyed, and dreaded, that day. A flowering century plant stalk grows at the end of the plant’s long life, usually 10 – 30 years. After death, the plant is reborn through suckers from its roots.
My hope was to find some flat terrain in that canyon, for a camp site. If only there was time enough to reach it. My progress was bedeviled by sudden gusts of wind, grabbing like a large cat, throwing off-balance.
The west wind was whipping the bushes as I entered the Manzanita. Here is a photo of the plant from a later backpack to the Rincon Mountain Wilderness. Yes, the trunk is a dark, rich red. “Manzana” is apple is spanish, the plan is named “Little Apple” for the small green fruits much loved by bears.
Manzanita leaves were thick around me snapping in the wind, making it seem at all moments a large creature was moving. The trail was difficult and several times I needed to turn back to find it, all the while climbing continuously.
On ridge was the highest point for a hundred or more miles to the west, so the wind was free to run which it did in huge gusts. You can get an idea of the openness from the Superstition sunset photo. For awhile the Manzanita acted as protection, then I descended along the west face of the Two Bar Mountain ridge.
My hat tie-down were tested on that two miles of ridge, the brim was molded around the right side of my head. The backpack acted as a sail so that it was taken in the wind gusts, affecting my balance.
On mountain trails the path is full of stones of all sizes and, aside from the occasional rattlesnakes, critter scat or, at lower elevations, Gila monsters, it is the rock that forces hikers to look four steps ahead, planning moves carefully to avoid falls. The 80 pound backpack, wind, rocks, high perch and, not forgetting the prickly pear cactus and jumping cholla, all slowed me to less than a mile an hour. I was jumpy walking through that Manzanita and this slowed me down more.
Trail 122 joins Trail 119 on Two Bar Ridge. On the ridge a substantial barbed wire fence separates federal land from the working ranch. Where the trails crosses, the fence has a break. The hiker needs to wend through a simple maze impassable to cattle.
Of all the trail, this is the most clearly marked. Fences have deep historical significance for the western United States. Range wars were fought between men who had different beliefs about land use and ownership. Many historians associate the building of barbed wire fences with the passing of the Old West.
Up until the fence, cattle grazing visibly damaged the land and plants. After the fence, the land was free to become as it was since the beginning of time. Up here, there’s wonderful grass that was, in this season after heavier than normal winter rains, was lush and green.
The trail followed the fence for a ways, then descends steeply into a fold of the land, leaving me in shade as the sun, low in a cloudless sky, raked over the mountainside with a brilliant golden light. The Two Bar Mountain and Ridge with Moon photograph, above, gives an idea of the effect.
Below, the canyon floor seemed a mass of prickly pear cactus groves. I decided the lower canyon wall was the best choice for camp…as unlikely as that sounds.
Here, the trail was anything but straight and almost invisible, descending in looping curves called switchbacks.
Here’s a photo from the following morning. I found a small shelf on a ridge overlooking the canyon floor, amongst wonderful shrubby Juniper trees. Tiny hedgehog cactuses were covered in lavender blooms. There is a decrepit stalk of a Century (yucca) plant lying over the rock.
On approaching the shelf, the air turned suddenly cold as the sun fully set and the wind gained even more in strength flowing up the canyon and over Two Bar Mountain. Stony ground made it impossible to stake the tent, instead I used small boulders to fix the corners and sides of the tent. Once inside, I was grateful for an excellent mat to protect me from the small jagged stones at one with the ground. The tent walls held back the wind. I forgot to back an excellent sleeping bag for the trip. Instead of buying one in Phoenix, my sister lent me a light waffle weave blanket. “What was I thinking???” It was a restless, cold night. The sun was very welcome the following day.
Rocks such as this are a favorite perch for leprechauns to rest and contemplate the works of man who have invaded their world. Inhabitants of Carlingford who wander Slieve Foye have come upon them often enough, their stories and certitude in the existence of the Little People are resistant to manifold doubters with their reasons and arguments.
Kevin Woods, aka McCoillte, was a doubter until worked on a stone wall on property he owned on Ghan Road, Carlingford. His belief did not arise on the discovery of the leather purse, covered with ages of dust and lime, nor with the gold coins inside. McCoillte pocketed the coins for luck. As luck would have it, McCoillte loved to walk on Slieve Foye. It was on one such walk he and his dog encountered Little People who paralyzed them to escape. His unexplained absence led to troubles with the wife.
This experience brought McCoillte around to enough of a belief that he, with lots of help, succeeded in petitioning the E.U. European Habitats directive to recognize leprechauns a protected species. According to a page on the Celtic Times web site, “The E.U. sent Madame Isobel Jeanne from Fecamp in Brittany France to Carlingford with the official letter declaring Carlingford Mountain (Note: otherwise known as Slieve Foye) protected, on the grounds that they could not prove or disprove their existence.” The page is titled “The Carlingford Leprechaun.” Google “Last Leprechauns” learn more about McCoillte’s stories.
I came upon this rock on June 9, 2014 on a day my cousin Sean Mills invited us to walk the Tain Way over Slieve Foye. It was such a finely shaped piece of what I suppose to be granite, the view of Carlingford, the lough and farmland so compelling, I spent time composing this landscape.
You can make out “King John’s Castle” just over the ridge and its yellow flowering gorse, on the margin of the blue lough. It is the boxy, grey structure; crenellations are visible on high resolution versions of the image. Carlingford is known for the castle, the popular name is for the English monarch who spent time there, although it was built by another.
I offer here a continuation of descriptions of a 2014 walk on the Tain Way, an appreciation of the lore and beauty of Ireland.
Descending the Tain Way from the ridge of Golyin Pass the sweep of Cooley Peninsula spread before us. Louth is the smallest of the Irish Republic counties, a peninsula which is mountainous where it is not farmland, one exception being Carlingford with the most people, population 1,405 in 2016.
Residential Carlingford continues along the Greenore Road, farmland adjoins then continues southeast along the Cooley Peninsula margin, the Irish Sea beyond. Greenore Town and deep water port on upper left. These photographs are views from the Tain Way on the slopes of Slieve Foye, the highest mountain of County Louth.
Wander through the place names: Chapel Hill, Liberties of Carlingford, Moneymore, Leminageh, Crossalaney, Mullatee, Millgrange, Ramparts, Muchgrange, Ballyamony, Mullabane, Petestown, Ballagane, Willville, Whites Town.
There is a deepwater port on Carlingford Lough adjacent to and part of Greenore Town. The port employed Cousin John Mills years ago, supplementing his farm income. Across the lough is Greenecastle, Newry in Northern Ireland.
The Irish Sea opens on the far side of Greenore with the Isle of Man about 52 miles east and a little north.