Droning my sorrows

Do not resuscitate (DNR) this drone, better to invest in the newest that comes with avoidance collision features.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) this drone. Better to let the healing process begin with the newest DJI that comes with avoidance collision features.

As my flying menace spiraled out of controlled, the faint traces of an evil grimace formed on my face. In my head, I could hear the words: “Take that, you lousy piece of bleeeeeep!” For a trace second it hovered like an angel but then it decided otherwise, plummeting like my typical stock picks.

I didn’t mean to bury my DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter under the barren branches of an old oak but that’s where it ended up on Saturday. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it since last summer. But after a long, cold winter, I was anxious to take the investment out for a practice run. Instead, I killed it.

Shiny black, plastic props splintered and got tossed like in a salad. The 3-axis gimbal tore away from the shell and launched into the brush. One of the retractable arms bent like a bow. And the LIPO battery ejected and rocketed into the fourth dimension.

And, to think, I was, finally, almost good enough to pull off a 360-radius spin around church steeples, basketball nets and light houses – manually, mind you, which is no easy feat. Aerial mavens know how difficult it is to rotate around an object without the assistance of the POI (point-of-interest) feature.

The good news is that the newest DJI model (selling at B&H in 2 days) has collision avoidance and a visual tracking system. Will my competitive clients be able to wait until I can recoup my losses and re-invest? I hope so because it seems like drones are as valuable, if not mandatory, to a freelance videographer as the rest of our gear – camera, lights and audio kits. You can’t have one without the others.

Author David Schryver of Waterfalls of New York State

David_Schryver

I love waterfalls but I had to fly 1200 miles, all the way to the state of Florida, to meet one of three venerable authors of the book, Waterfalls of New York State.

Former math teacher-turned-waterfall enthusiast, David Schryver and his wife, are the newest and, by all appearances, the youngest snowbirds to the Zephyrhills retirement community where my Dad lives. Their homey double wides sit only a stones throw from each other – a very happy coincidence while I visit this weekend. I interrupt the couple just long enough to score an autographed copy and ask a few questions.

“Okay, so what’s your favorite waterfalls?” a hackneyed question that I’m sure he gets asked all the time.

Schryver responds as if he’s nostalgically waxing about his first high school sweetheart: “Well, I’d have to say that my very first waterfalls is still my most memorable. That would be Lampson Falls.”

Rural St. Lawrence County’s most popular gem is in the town of Clare, not far from several private universities and state colleges, and not far from where I grew up. I can’t agree more with his choice.

Lampson is an easily accessible 40-foot curtain cascade with plenty of vantage points including a sandy beach area for easy swimming at the base of the falls. I’ve blogged about it before.

In 2006, it was Schryver’s son who first introduced him to the dynamic, evocative, hypnotic power of falling water. He’s dedicated every spare minute he finds to exploring, photographing and writing detailed descriptions of hundreds of beautiful icons found in the North Country. Endless miles have been logged, both on foot and in a car, traipsing through St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Herkimer, Essex, Franklin, Clinton, Lewis, Hamilton and Warren counties.

His definitive guide book (that doubles quite nicely as a coffee table book) debuted in 2012 and features over 100 of the state’s most scenic: 40 from the North Country alone. His weapon of choice is the Canon 60D armed with the 28-135mm and 70-300mm lens and of course, a Garmin GPS.

So, how does someone who loves waterfalls so much find himself in a state supposedly bereft of them? Easy. Florida has plenty of ’em! Check this out: http://floridahikes.com/tag/waterfalls

To purchase your own copy of Waterfalls in New York State visit: http://nnywaterfalls.com/waterfallsofnys.htm

Waterfalls of New York Cover

Spring fever for the “Hills” of Tampa

Touching down in Tampa yesterday, it was tempting not to rush to Ybor City and root for our country’s next president. A crowd gathered inside the theater at Ritz Ybor to listen to the Democratic frontrunner talk tough about climate change. No doubt, Florida’s staunchest environmental advocate, Carl Hiassan was at the rally.

Dad and his girlfriend are voracious readers of the prolific novelist and Miami Herald op/ed columnist. His passionate slams on phony politicians, especially for ignoring Florida’s coastal flooding predictions, is spot on.

While most tourists flock to the fun and sun of the barrier islands off the gulf coast, they’d be wise to read Hiassan (or my posts) about the network of trails to explore in Florida. Our favorite is Hillsborough County where a short and easy walk beneath the shade of ancient live oak or tall cabbage palm is our choice of recreation.

Photos below are of the Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve, a nearly 2000-acre protected area with some of the finest examples of fragrant pines, palmetto prairie and marsh and wet prairie.

Spanish Moss

Pines

Blackwater Creek

Spanish Moss

mini-toad

Turtle

Long Pine Needles

Hiking to Idiosyncratic truths on Halcott Mountain

The steep wall behind George looks a whole lot more intimidating in person than it does in this photo.   Still, with the right melodies in mind (or ridiculous Zappa gibberish)  music can get you to the top of anything.

The steep wall behind George looks a whole lot more intimidating in person than it does in this photo. Still, with the right melodies in mind (or ridiculous Zappa gibberish) music can get you to the top of anything.

What goes through a hiker’s head when he (or she) hikes for miles and miles, especially alone? Cell phone batteries die quickly in the cold, especially compounded with a GPS app, so it helps to have a tune etched on the brain.

I can tell you that mine is definitely NOT Frank Zappa! Those absurd lyrics, those abrasive, pedantic, guitar solos – hey, I’m already “pretty out there” by being in the woods – no need for more psychedelic weirdness.

It’s strange too because I adore YES, Eno and Floyd, but while I tend to lean more on conventional glam-pop or new wave (a relic of my high school years) my tiresome boomer boyfriend, 13 years my senior, insist that his go-to-score is anything Zappa.

So, while George whistles outlandish cacophonies: “My balls feel like a pair of moraccas,” I push forward to the mainstream rhythms of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

Yesterday, we bushwhacked up Halcott Mountain in the Catskills. Two years ago, we fell short of Halcott turning back because of endless patches of meddlesome nettles and inaccurate directions. This time we’d get it right.

When the faint trail overlooking Brushnellsville Creek ended, a super steep wall welcomed us to hardest section of Halcott. The ridge proved too intimidating for my “Valley Girl” and he announced that he wasn’t going any further.

He plunked down next to a downed log as I handed him an extra sandwich and bottle of water for the wait.

I quickly heaved my way over brambles and brush straight to the gray canister where I signed into my 9th log. Only 4 hikes left to go! The din of ephemeral melodies by Talk Talk and Thomas Dolby got me there and back.

No sooner did I return from the summit, to where George was suppose to be, when I received a belated text. (Hikers are lucky to get a single bar of connectivity in the mountains.)

My Zappa-savant had received his second wind and decided to scale the steep wall, presumably to the sage lyrics of “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow.”

This last stretch to the summit was a lofty challenge, even for the best hiker, and George wasn’t wearing his Microspikes. They dangled uselessly from my backpack.

I retraced my route, confident I’d find him before he slipped and fell, shouting his name repeatedly. I finally found him and, not unusual, he was in his own oblivious little world of comedic idiocy, whistling what I think was a track from Zappa’s “Joe’s Garage” album.

I wanted to scold him for leaving but I’ve been guilty of doing stupider so instead I helped him don his micros and succumbed to the unnerving rock opera in now both our heads.

Halcott Mountain

Slip sliding through swamps of Penfield, NY

Thousand Acre Swamp

Swamps are unique habitats. The marshy lowlands attract a plentiful variety of plants and wildlife. But, it’s early March – still no signs of spring peepers, croaking toads or beautiful butterflies. Still, that didn’t stop us from exploring woodland trails in Penfield and Macedon, NY.

With a history reaching back to the Ice Ages, the Thousand Acre Swamp Preserve in Penfield is a quiet environment this time of year. With the exception of a low flying grouse or single engine plane overhead, the only sounds are that of our feet slip sliding on the icy boardwalk and trail system.

A few miles later, we spy a white-tailed deer watching us from the Ganargua Creek Meadow Preserve in Macedon, NY. We’re relieved that hunting season is behind us, allowing Bambi to roam safely. Jumping icy fast-moving creeks in Microspikes can be tricky but Mutti managed to do it cradling Renee in her arms.

Thousand Acre Swamp

Ganargua Creek Meadow Preserve

History Marker Underground RR Canargua Creek

White-tailed deer

Boardwalks at 1000 Acre Swamp

North Dome and Sherrill: Getting there is half the fun

Hikers are verbose people. No doubt about it. Regardless of the external factors: cold feet, tired lungs, sore muscles, we like to share.

While we huff and puff up a steep summit, we also connect and share. While we slip and slide along a rocky ledge, we also broadcast and blab. Given the right company, some of us agree that our “mouths” get a better workout than our bodies – and frankly that’s just as rewarding as the views.

I think it’s because conversations and discoveries, even a wee bit of political mishegas, takes the mind off the intimidation of climbing and/or the killer workout. Saturdays bushwhacks near the town of Allaben, N.Y. in the Catskill mountains were two non-negotiable examples of this.

Leader Tim Watters of the Catskill 3500 Club, with a little help from his faithful tail-wagging companion, led our exuberant crew: an expert canoe builder, a French teacher, a professional landscaper, a military man, a Cuban-born American and several more, on a ramble to the top of North Dome and Sherrill.

By the end of our 9-mile adventure, we ACTUALLY liked each other enough to further our conversations over hot, steaming bowls of creamy cauliflower and crusty loaves at a gourmet bread shop along Route 28 called Bread Alone. That’s mountain talk at its best.

Humor and laughs shared among Christine, Heather and Richard nearing the summit of North Dome at the one viewing platform (see next shot).

Humor and laughs shared among Christine, Heather and Richard nearing the summit of North Dome at the one viewing platform (see next shot).

Views from the southern side of North Dome.  We ascended this mountain with prior permission from Timber Lake Camp in the town of Allaben off Route 28.  This is the shorter but steeper climb than from the traditional Spruceton Road parking lot.

Views from the southern side of North Dome. We ascended this mountain with prior permission from Timber Lake Camp in the town of Allaben off Route 28. This is the shorter but steeper climb than from the traditional Spruceton Road parking lot.

Perched near the top of Sherrill Mountain are icy stalactite fingers clinging to the sides of granite ledges.

Perched near the top of Sherrill Mountain are icy stalactite fingers clinging to the sides of granite ledges.

Cold sandwiches and picture taking at the top of Sherrill mountain.   Note the cute canine sharing lunch with his master, our leader Tim.

Cold sandwiches and picture taking at the top of Sherrill mountain. Note the cute canine sharing lunch with his master, our leader Tim.

Christine braces a fallen birch tree like a good friend as she ascends to the top of Sherrill mountain.

Christine braces a fallen birch tree like a good friend as she ascends to the top of Sherrill mountain.