Thursday, March 31, 2005

Sunsets in Varna, NY

As I mentioned previously, sunsets have been rare throughout the winter. Fortunately, the temperatures have risen and the snow has melted. This week it has been in the mid-40s to mid-50s. I've started riding my bike to campus again. Last Thursday, during the ride home, the sun lit up the horizon as I entered Varna's city limits, about 100 yards from my apartment. I stopped my bike and snapped this picture around 6:00pm.

A setting sun lights up the horizon in Varna, NY. Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Queen Catharine Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Today I hiked a nearly 9 mile loop around the Queen Catharine Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area in Watkings Glen, NY. Apparently, it's named after a local native american. The marsh is occassionally open to hunters and is managed by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. Supposedly it's an important bird migration site. Today I observed a few species of birds during my trip -- the only one I could identify is the popular Canadian goose.

Typical view of the marshland from Cass Rd. Posted by Hello

The Queen Catherine Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area from Cass Rd. Posted by Hello

I parked the Jeep on Cass Rd., which borders the marsh to the east. It's easily accessible from Route 79, just as you enter the village of Watkins Glen. No winter maintenance is provided, but that's usually not a problem for me. Anyway, today there was no snow or ice on the road -- just minor mud puddles. I parked several hundred yards away from Route 79 so that I could enjoy the entire walk. Had I driven further, I would have realized that I could have driven over small streams, formed after falling from several waterfalls which border the marsh to the east. Water empties into the marsh through these waterfalls from higher elevations. There must have been a lot recently, with the melting of several feet of snow.

Several waterfalls run across Cass Rd. and empty into the marsh. Posted by Hello

The picture below shows a waterfall against the sedimentary rock layers typical of the Finger Lakes Region and, it seems, especially Watkings Glen.

The ledges provide great views of the underlying geology of Watkins Glen.  Posted by Hello

The walk along Cass Rd. was pleasant enough, although it was unfortunate that about 3-4 miles of the path was along a road at all, even if only seldomly used. The color of the marshes, although interesting in its own way, pales in comparison to other hikes in the region, at least during this time of year. I suspect that hiking this region later in the spring would be much better. After about 4 miles on Cass Rd., the trail turned off the road and cut through a dry region of the marsh, along one of the canals. This was by far the most interesting part. I had never seen a marsh up close before and some of the imagery was what I expected, as shown below.

The southern part of the marsh looked more how I expected. Posted by Hello

Differences of water color were quite interesting. Posted by Hello

A look at the marsh from one of the foot bridges. Posted by Hello

After awhile the trail passes by the site of an old airstrip. I saw no obvious remnants of the site. Although it's nice to know that the area has returned to its natural state, it would have been interesting to walk along the old runway. Near the supposed site was another canal whose crossing required the use of a rather unstable looking bridge structure. Fortunately, the bridge was far sturdier than it looked from afar.

Would you cross this bridge? Posted by Hello

At this point, at the south end of the marshes, about 5 miles into the round trip, the trail passes the Montour Falls Yacht Club. I was glad that the site was vacant. It was quite large and I'm sure that in the summer the area would have been crowded with boaters. The yachts actually travel along the west edge of the marshes and into Seneca Lake a few miles north. I had to cross a canal by walking along a bridge on Route 14 in Montour Falls at which point the trail headed back into the marshes. Eventually the trail ended up in Watkins Glen. There was supposed to be an abandoned railroad here, but I couldn't locate it. Instead I walked through Watkins Glen and ended up on the southern border of Seneca Lake. The lakeside in Watkins Glen can't compete with Cayuga Lake in Ithaca due to a super Wal-Mart and a gigantic salt refinery placed on its border. I met up with route 79 and walked another mile or so until I connected with Cass Rd., completing the loop. All things considered, I'm glad I investigated the marshes. The southern region was easily the most interesting and I may decide to see how the scenery changes in the summer.

Below is a satellite image of the area. In orange is an overlay of my track, generated with my GPS.

The Queen Catharine Marsh Loop in Watkins Glen, NY. Posted by Hello

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Sun Sets Behind the Clocktower

The winter has been so long that I almost forgot what a sunset could look like. I enjoyed this sunset, my first in Ithaca in many months, while waiting at the bus stop on Tower Rd. This picture was taken on March 21.

Sunset and the Cornell clocktower from my bus stop. Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Treman State Park to Buttermilk Falls

On Saturday, March 19, I parked at Treman State Park and hiked about 8 miles round trip on the Finger Lakes Trail toward Buttermilk Falls State Park. There are two paths up the steep climb up to South Hill -- a short, steep blue-blazed trail and a longer, gradually inclined white-blazed trail. Near peak elevation an orange-blazed trail heads towards Buttermilk Falls State Park. Since they were likely to have the park closed this time of year due to hazardous icy conditions, I decided to continue along the Finger Lakes Trail to the south, where there were some overlooks of the valley.

Several acres of grasses act as a buffer between Route 13 and the private wilderness preserve. Posted by Hello

The bark on this tree is white and smooth; possibly a "Beautiful Hawthorn". Posted by Hello

From Treman State Park, it was neccesary to cross Route 13. On the other side, large tracts of tall wild grasses separated route 13 from the wilderness preserve which lies further to the east and provides most of the interesting views along this part of the trail. After crossing through the grasses, it was neccesary to use an abandoned railway bridge to cross over a creek.

An abandoned railroad bridge proved to be quite useful in crossing Lick Brook. Posted by Hello

About a mile away from here, before the elevation climb, was a beautiful frozen waterfall. Although most of the snow has melted by now, the waterfall was frozen solid. In fact, it was possible to talk on the frozen stream and climb right up to the face of the fall. I took many photographs, although only a few came out well due to the lack of sunlight in the gorge where the waterfall is located.

Most of the waterfalls were still completely frozen. Posted by Hello

Part of the sedimentary rock foundation around the falls. Posted by Hello

Shortly past the first frozen waterfall, the steep climb began. I decided to take the more gradual climb up the white-blazed trail. It was very pleasant. Toward the top of the climb, there were a few nice overlooks.

A narrow trail, gently rising to the top of South Hill. Posted by Hello

Parts of the trail offered nice views of the valley below. Posted by Hello

Here's a real tree hugger. Posted by Hello

Although it was sad to put my new snowshoes into the closet until next winter, it was nice hiking without snow for a change. For now, most of the greenery consisted of mosses growing around the base of deciduous trees.

Until the leaves start sprouting again, moss provided much of the greenery. Posted by Hello

In all, this was one of my favorite hikes in the area so far.

Below is a satellite image of the area. In blue is the white-blazed trail -- a gradual climb. In red is a blue-blazed trail that I took on the way back which was far steeper.

Treman State Park (left) to Buttermilk Falls State Park (right) via the Finger Lakes Trail. Posted by Hello

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Not-So-Typical Day At Cornell

It more or less started as any other day. For lunch, a group of us from the lab went to Collegetown. After eating, we starting the trek back up to campus and came across an ... unusual group of people.

A not-so-typical day at Cornell. Posted by Hello

The crowd surrounding them was massive. And then I saw it. Following not so far behind, his head bobbing up and down, his large tail swinging side to side, a large blue-green dragon, at least three times my height!

A dragon approaches! Posted by Hello

The people flanking its sides were screaming and occassionally he stopped to lift his head as if to roar at the gathering crowd.

Closer and closer he comes! Posted by Hello

As he passed by, I got a better look. It was impressive. He has big gazing eyes, hundreds of scales and an orange underbelly. Fearsome as he looked from afar, up close I realized he had only two teeth -- but they were big ones!

A truly massive and beautiful beast. Posted by Hello

At first, I was taken by such surprise by his presence, I stood still as stone as he passed me by. Fortunately, his movements were highly predictable and I managed to cut him off on his way past the clocktower and into the Arts Quad. The size of the crowd was increasing now and I could tell that something big was about to happen. My eyes remained fixed on the dragon as he proceeded in my direction at an ever quickening pace.

He passes the clocktower. Posted by Hello

Closer he came, until finally he abruptly halted. Then he lifted his head up into the air and let forth several powerful screams.

He belts forth a few final roars... Posted by Hello

Meanwhile, those who led him to this very spot, started to put into position a highly unusual structure made of wood and fencing. At the very tip was a sharpened point and they slowly brought it down, sinking it into his neck.

...before coming face to face with his destruction. Posted by Hello

He was never able to recover. For a few brief moments, he suffered. He attempted to lift his head once again, perhaps to counterattack, but nothing came of it. The wooden structure was far too heavy. It was clear that his time had come. At this point, several people in the vicinity, dressed in armor with capes and large swords, took a few hacks at his neck, ensuring that it was comletely severed. Then others swarmed around the body, mutilating it and stuffing flammable objects in between his scales and under his belly. Shortly afterwards, what must have been their "leader" held a burning stick high into the air, causing roars from the crowd. For several minutes already they had been chanting slogans such as "LET HIM BURN!" and "FLAMES! FLAMES!" The atmosphere was indescribable. I felt as though things were about get out of control, if they hadn't already! At this point, the leader touched the torch down onto the corpse and the flames immediately spread.

His neck severed, those who led him here now set fire to his carcass. Posted by Hello

Seconds later I felt the heat generated from the dancing flames. As the fire reached the body, loud crackling noises could be heard and the flames leapt higher than at any other time. The crowd retreated, surprised and frightened as debris flew into the air.

At some points, the flames were quite fierocious! Posted by Hello

Several moments later, the fire still crackling, the majority of the corpse had been burned. Several oddly dressed paraders were skipping around the body, apparently overcome by what they considered an orgasmic experience.

Even dragons are no match for wild, raving Cornellian undergraduates. Posted by Hello

And so went another "Dragon Day", or so it's apparently called in these parts. As for the exact meaning of the ceremony, I am still uncertain. But it happens every year before spring break. As I pieced together fragments of information I had overheard during the ritual, it was carried out by either the architects or the engineers on campus -- or maybe both. I put my money on the architects -- I always knew they were crazy.