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I only had time for a quick walk, just enough to stretch my legs and breathe in some fresh air. It is early evening now, the days are getting noticeably shorter, the shadows are getting longer, and there is just enough crispness in the air to energize me. Even now as I look out my window, the leaves hanging down from the old Norway maple are absolutely still. My path wound through the old cow pastures and down into a small forest of towering white pines. Nothing moved. No birds sang.  A few crows flew overhead. Hardly any insect sounds. It was as if by some common consent everything came to a standstill. And yet there was life all around me. All the trees and shrubs are a lush green – later than usual because of the wet summer we’ve had. Asters and goldenrod are blooming in profusion at the edge of the meadow. I stopped at the muddy rim of a pool in the brook to see plenty of animal tracks … opposum, raccoon, deer, fox … so they’re all out there.

It has been a busy day – the day all the teachers return to school to get ready for tomorrow when the students come back. There was the usual round of meetings, getting our classrooms ready, straightening out the last-minute problems. When I started the walk I was thinking about tomorrow, what I would say to the students, how I would get my expectations for the year across to them. What would it take to motivate them? I started wondering how I would deal with the problem students. The ones who seem to thrive on being disruptive. They’re the ones who keep me awake nights. I teach in a middle school. Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but I often feel if we don’t reach them now, then they will be lost for a long time. Maybe forever. I’m determined not to get angry with them, to look for ways to help them realize there’s a better way. I was building up a lot of anxiety about this, until I got down in among the pines and stopped, looked around, and listened to the silence of the changing season.

The Nashua Telegraph reports today that several trails in the Ossippee Range in New Hampshire have been closed by property owners due to “irresponsible trail use.” Public access to about 12,000 acres has been shut off, including trails to the summits of Mount Shaw and Bayle Mountain. The area affected is north of the landmark “Castle in the Clouds” and south of Routes 25 and 16.

This is unfortunate. The area is somewhat less known than the more popular destinations around Mount Washington, and it offers wonderful opportunities for good hiking without worrying about overuse. This makes the closure puzzling. I was last up there a year ago for a pleasant day of hiking, and I didn’t see any sign of overuse. Far from it. I didn’t see any other hikers the whole day. The trailheads and trails didn’t seem to go near any dwellings. The area is fairly remote. Admittedly, this is just my personal impression.

The news article doesn’t specify exactly which trails have been posted, nor does it describe the nature of the “irresponsible use.” It does say that the responsible state agency is discussing the matter with the landowners. Hopefully this situation can be resolved. I think I made it clear in an earlier posting that widespread posting of No Trespassing signs is a real pet peeve of mine.

The Old Cart Path

The Old Cart Path

The Swamp Down Below
The Swamp Down Below

If it has a name I’ve never heard it and I’ve lived here for 50 years. We always referred to it as the swamp down below. It’s not much, just a small swampy area in the hollow between two hills. An old cart path winds along one edge of it. There’s the outline of an old cellar hole on a rise nearby and a old stone wall snakes though it. There are some other outlines that look like they might have been the foundations for sheds or barns or other outbuildings. I don’t know who would choose to settle in such a desolate place, but 300 years ago the landscape could have been quite different.

When I was younger it was a forbidding place, surrounded by impenetrable thickets and inhabited by a healthy population of black racers. It was also a dependable source for turtles and frogs. The black racers are gone, and there aren’t as many turtles. It’s just a short walk from my back door, and it’s one of my favorite places to go in any season, sometimes to explore for early signs of the changing seasons or just to think and enjoy the solitude. Already I can see the first traces of foliage changing into autumn.

In recent years there have been several deer living down there bedding down in the pine and laurel thickets. I didn’t see any tracks when I was down there yesterday, but next time I go, I’m going to make a more serous effort to locate them.  I always feel better when I know they’re still there. I’ll keep you posted.

I want to pick up where I left off from yesterday’s blog. Running up against an endless succession of No Trespassing signs touched a raw nerve with me. It’s not the first time. Yesterday I was cruising along a back road looking for a trailhead. I never found it. It may have been damaged during last winter’s ice storm, or the trail may have been re-routed. My guidebook at home was several years out-of-date. I thought about bushwhacking my way up the small Pack Monadnock, but every tree (or so it seemed) carried a bright yellow No trespassing sign. Tucked away somewhere behind these was the Wapack National Wildlife Refuge, but this row of property owners seemed determined to keep me out.

Earlier this summer, I spent a couple of weeks in Finland. There and in other Nordic countries is a concept called Everyman’s Right … this is part of their culture, and it is enshrined in their law. Anyone can wander through any natural area without restriction. The exceptions are walking through gardens or planted fields, or too close to homes. People can camp wherever they wish without the property owner’s permission as long as it is not too close to a home, and as long as they are not too noisy, leave litter, or cause any damage. There are a few narrowly defined instances when access to a piece of property may be restricted, but these generally require the approval of some government agency.

I think we can take a lesson from this. What is the point of prohibiting someone from walking through the woods where there’s no home or anything else there? What does it mean to own a piece of land? Where does the boundary line of personal privacy begin? Or does this go back to liability, insurance, and litigation?

As anyone can probably tell, this is a long-time pet peeve of mine, and I’m sure I’ll be re-visiting it from time to time.

Today has been absolutely glorious – the oppressive heat and humidity are gone, giving way to crisp, clear air and a bright blue sky. I made a spontaneous decision to hike the last few miles of the Wapack Trail in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The trail runs from Mount Watatic in Ashburham, Massachusetts, to Pack Monadnock in Peterborough. I’ve hiked every leg of it, except the last one, so I thought this would be the perfect day for it. It didn’t quite turn out that way. I never quite found the trailhead, somewhere on one of those New England backroads. It’s possible it was damaged in last winter’s ice-storm, and I missed it. That happens. What really frosted me was the endless line of yellow “No Trespassing” signs on both sides of the road. What have we come to? A century and a half ago Thoreau bemoaned the growing practice of marking off one’s property, warning people away – even where there was no house nearby.

More on this in a later post. If anyone has thoughts on this and happens to stumble onto this blog, it would be great to hear from you.

The day was no a total waste. I went into the village, to one of my favorite bookstores, and soothed my bruised sensibilities with some casual browsing.

I started out with every good intention to keep up with this blog, but as anyone can see that didn’t happen. However, I haven’t been idle. The school year was busy, and overall I was satisfied with the way it worked out. The new year starts next week, and I’ll be teaching something different – Technology Education, something that I think has a lot of potential. I’m looking forward to it. I spent two weeks in Finland, with my father and my son. My son and I covered 2500 km in the course of 10 days touring the southern part of the country. Dad spent the time at the Ruissalo Health Spa, on an island in the Baltic outside of Turku.

Urpola Nature Center, Mikkeli, Finland

Urpola Nature Center, Mikkeli, Finland

 

I’ve also been developing some ideas centered around this blog, and what I might do to make it more engaging. So regard this as a work-in-progress. For now, my resolution is to try to write a little something every day.  Also, this is a learn as I go process, so I’ll be experimenting with different things. Bear with me. Anyone who happens to see this, any advice you have, I’d be more than happy to hear it.

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RSS The Ecocryptic

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RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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