We thought it was cool watching big adult porcupines lumber around our place. But that’s nuttin’ compared to baby porcupines (pups? cubs? kits?), two of whom made special appearances this weekend.
First, Brendan spotted a Lil Spiny chomping down on some black locust leaves, only a few feet from the cabin. Then, while we were out walking, another even more teensy one was ambling around on the road (a thankfully very rural road). I scared the spiky butterball up a tree because I couldn’t resist taking photos of him. (Having learned I can never be too prepared for great blog fodder, I had the camera loaded and ready to go.)
I mean, seriously. This is just redunk:
As absurdly adorable as this is, I didn’t take too many photos of the spiky dude/dudette above, because Brendan didn’t want me to spend all evening harassing him or her. And, earlier, he had let me take a lot of photos of the slightly older spiny piney that was already up in the tree — as long as I stayed about 30 feet back.
(Yes, Brendan is my handler. Otherwise I would try to go pet the porcupines and feed them Charlie’s food. While frustrating, I follow orders: It’s a relationship not unlike The Crocodile Hunter‘s and his wife. And we all know how that ended. I do not want to cross the sweet rainbow bridge with porcupine spines embedded in sensitive areas.)
I’m late in posting this, simply because I haven’t had the time to devote to doing a good job reporting back to you, dear readers, on one of my most exciting experiences lately: flying in a glider.
Not far from our casa upstate is Wurtsboro Airport, which lets regular folk like you and me go up in a glider with an experienced pilot. Brendan was awesome enough to spring for a gift ride for my birthday.
Why go up in a glider? Well, duh, it’s freaking cool. And, we had watched dozens if not hundreds of gliders soar in circles above our property, so it was time to find out what they saw. I mean, did we need to worry that they could tell our lawn needed mowing and our retaining wall looks a little iffy? Or worse, could they see me toodling around the garden, talking to chipmunks?
First you might be wondering what the heck these things are. Gliders are long, lightweight airplanes that lack an engine. They float on thermals — warm updrafts of air created under certain conditions, like in valleys between friendly mountains. We live in an area with good thermals, hence the glider airport nearby. While some gliders do have engines, most of the ones flying near us are silent, and move kind of slowly. [By the way, raptors (hawks, eagles, vultures) are basically biological forms of gliders, and are often out soaring near the glider airplanes, like little bird flying buddies. As seen in a previous post of mine.]
Without an engine, gliders gotta get up in the air via a less-than-majestic tow ride, usually little single engine prop planes. And all that’s attaching you to the tow plane is a little rope. This is the glider and tow plane that went up before me.
It’s a surprisingly smooth ride, not unlike going up in a passenger jet.
Where do retired U.S. army planes go after they’ve left the service? Well, now you know. That’s the town of Wurtsboro and the Shawangunk Mountains in the not-so-distant view.
As the tow plane lifts you higher and higher, your pilot will put you in charge of one important role: releasing the tow rope. All I had to do — on his signal — was pull a lever and boom! The rope fell away. The tow plane also dove down, headed back to the airport. We, on the other hand, started gliding. Weeeeeee!
This was my view not long after we said good-bye to the tow rope.
My pilot began hunting for little pockets of clear sky — sun beams breaking through the clouds create nice thermals, keeping us aloft. The design of gliders, by the way, mean it’s really hard to lose control, even if the thermals wimp out on you.
After spending a few minutes soaring amid the mountains, I asked him if we could head over to our home, to get a closer look. He ascertained the thermals were OK, and he begun a turn. However, he had a warning: Being in a glider that’s turning, along with looking down, is basically the fastest way to feel motion sick. Grrrrreat. I already felt queasy, but really curious. It’s a strange combo. I tried to stop looking down. But couldn’t.
Our house! From the air! I kind of want to vomit!
I texted Brendan and asked him to come outside. I could just barely see him waving at me. But I also felt more queasy, as texting and taking photos while gliding? I was apparently wearing my Bad Idea Jeans. I did at least find out that most pilots probably can’t see our property too easily.
At this point, stomach somewhere miles behind me, I decided to chill — telling myself, just enjoy the ride and stop trying to take photos. That helped, except when it comes to having more blog fodder: Therefore, we’ll have to cut short to the landing.
Fortunately, this was easy-breezy! As smooth as an plane landing I’ve experienced, plus with the added bonus of being able to immediately exit the plane and runway.
Thank you Wurtsboro Airport! It was a blast.
Last year, we sporadically saw reptiles and amphibians. This year, hoh boy, they’re coming out of the brickwork.
Along with the snakes comes the toads and frogs. We’ve also got gazillions of ’em this year. They’re strangely not shy about being photographed:
That’s just the garden-ish area. Let’s take a little drive over to the swamp for more slimy critters.
A few weeks ago I hosted 50 Shades of Purple Girls’ Weekend, which I’m happy to report looks like it’s well on its way to becoming a thing we do at least every year. In 2011, the weather was foggy and damp, and though we still had oodles of fun, we missed the sun.
This time, there was nary a cloud in the sky and the temps were a perfect 80 degrees. Not only was this perfect basking weather, it’s great for making sure your nail polish dries fast. And we needed that badly, because no one likes to squeeze a lime into their cocktail with wet polish, amirightoramiright?
So, without further adieu, girls weekend summed up in three photos:
I’ve visited the Basha Kill wetlands dozens of times, and I love that I never know what sort of wildlife encounters I’ll have. On my most recent visit, I was treated to this idyllic scene unfolding:
Are you kidding me? Nothing is prettier!