Monday, January 14, 2013

Grindstone Creek- Adventures in the Mud!

Hello again!  Well, on Saturday we had another hike, our second of the new year.  We went on the Grindstone Creek trail, it connects to Cherry Hill if you walk far enough, although, truth be told, the walk isn't that long. If you remember, I mentioned before that we got a LOT of snow after Christmas. It stuck around for quite a while and we had more snow here and there, an inch or two at a time. Well, the January Thaw set in and it all melted! Then, add to that some significant rain fall over the course of a couple of days and you have a VERY wet and muddy trail. We have hiked through rain, no snow yet and I draw the line at hail (however, we ended a hike in a thunderstorm once last year), we're no mailmen, but this is a first for us. I can't wait to show you the pictures! Not so much becuase of the amazing beauty, it was beautiful in it's own wintery, muddy, thawed out way, but because of the AMAZING amount of mud and puddles! We didn't go alone either. We had a family from our homeschool group go with us, even the dad went! We had two complete families, 10 of us total. More than enough for mud, fun and fellowship together. With this I will begin to weave our tale of mud, mud and more mud. ENJOY!!
     And so we begin. Here is Caleigh and Eva at the beginning of the trail. So far it doesn't look so long and muddy, but time will tell. They are bundled up, but being a balmy 50ish degrees even I will end up taking off my coat.
Here is Sam posing solemnly for me. He is half smiling, I'll give him that, but for some reason, when the camera is focused on him, he gets contemplative. He's a handsome boy though!
Someone is excited! She's mostly excited because I found her messenger bag and it's full of rasins and granola bars.
There's Aurora! I was wondering where she got off to. Smiling in her usual friendly fashion and ALWAYS ready for the camera. My creative little one. She's an artist in her own right.
Right in front (or behind, depending on whether or not you backed in) of the vehicles there is a line up of rocks. To the average person they would seem to be there for the purpose of showing you (and insisting really) where not to drive past for parking, but in the eyes of a master enthusiast (read little people minds full of imagination) they are huge mountain tops  with deep chasms between that need to be leapt across at your own peril. Not being a mountain climber myself or one to jump from mountain top to mountain top across deep, wide, expansive chasms, I declined the invitation to join them in their expedition.
Sam decided to smile for me. Now, if we can get the eyes open and the great smile at the same time, we'd be all set! Love this picture though. My favorite is a bit later on, I'll make sure to mention it when it comes up.
Here again is the handsomest man in the world, staring off into space and time, contemplating the wonders of the universe and how to bring about world peace. He is also about to be kind of upset, you see, while we are telepathic, there are times when we're not communicating on the same wavelength. You see, he apparently sent me a telepathic message before we left for our hike to pick up his camera and bring it. I didn't get the message and since I didn't see it, I didn't bring it. Silly me. His feathers got rather ruffled and he went back home (thankfully it isn't far away) and got it. While he was gone we saw some amazing things you'll see shortly. Sam didn't want to tell him and upset him further that he had missed them, but he found out later when he saw the pictures. So, off he goes and I'll show you what he missed and let you know when he returns.
This beautiful darling is one of the things he missed. The first actually. She decided to pose for a photo shoot. This is her best picture of the bunch. She's a cutie, no?
You're probably wondering what this is. It is a picture taken with the sun behind me with a white-ish sky in the background, ALL of my photos of this wonderous creature turned out very similar to this. Sam got better pictures, you'll see them too. Mind you, most of these are photo shopped so you can see the bird at all!
Photo shopped bird. It's a hawk, a red-tailed hawk if I'm to understand correctly. There were 4 of them flying overhead. It was amazing! It was caught on film! The film just didn't turn out that well.
Same picture before photo shop. If you click on them they should get bigger, at least some. maybe you can see it better then.
This is the closest one I got. Now I'll show you some that I took before switching to the zoom lens. This is with my short lens and a polarizing filter. I couldn't get it off this lens for quite a while. By the time I did, the hawks left.
Bluer sky, but the birds are farther away. Just don't understand it.

These next ones are Sam's. This one above and the ones below.

These are his best, closest ones. His background isn't as bad and washed out as mine was. Any photo help on how to avoid this in the future would be appreciated.

Mike is back now and our friends have joined us. Let the fun begin!
Sam and Eva hanging out. Okay, NOW the hike can begin.
Down the trail. See all that white stuff down there on the trail. It's hard packed snowy ice that's melting. It's slick and the ground is smooshy on the sides of it. It's hazardous and arduous, but someway, somehow, we made it through.
Before we can go further however, we must cross the savagely wild and raging river!! AAAHHHHHH!!! Sorry, :-) let me rephrase, we must first cross the swollen creek (thusly named Grindstone Creek, not Grindstone the swollen, raging river). On the other side our trek continues. Our trek into unknown lands, far away, in the wilds of Ontario. Listen to me! There I go again. SLIGHTLY exaggerating.
Here is the VERY swollen creek. In late fall it was barely more than a trickle. Melting snow and rain have done much for it.

I don't know if you remember what this bridge and creek used to look like in the lush, greenness of summer and fall, so let me remind you.
See all that GREEN?! You can also tell that the creek is MUCH smaller. Now, back to the present.

Now, you can see that after crossing the raging river, err, creek, the off roading has begun. I will show you the reason for this off road trek.
This is the trail, not the creek. It was a little too deep here for even the most adventurous, boot-clad child to dare to trek through, at least with parent's permission which they OBVIOUSLY weren't going to get.
Here is another picture of the trail. We went from an icy, snow-packed trail to ponds and rivers.
Back onto the trail we go! For a little while at least. The offroading continued here and there throughout the trip.

Here is the second bridge to cross over the wild, raging, white river!!! Well, actually, it was slightly calmer here.
If you can see it, around Rora's legs is a beautiful black dog. It was the first of MANY that we saw. Caleigh especially REALLY enjoyed all the K-9s.

There's that handsome man again. He keeps popping up in these photos. Can't say as I mind. :-)

There was a LOT of time spent on the bridge. There were some chickadees that took advantage of the generous spirit of the children (and Mike).

This is the swollen, raging river from one side of the bridge.
And this is the other side.

Here is my favorite shot I was telling you about. Isn't he handsome, just like his father?
Here is one of the little birds taking full advantage of free seeds being handed out in large quantities.
Does this look look familiar? Here, let me show you why I ask.
Nope, that's not the look.
That's a good one! But it's not it either.

These looks are a little more like it. Do you see it? 
Okay, let's continue. :-)

Where were we? Oh yes, feeding the birds. Well, attempting to feed the birds. You would think that in the middle of January that the birds would be coming by the flockfull to steal the seeds away, but they weren't. In fact, they were hardly coming at all. They waited.....
And waited......
And waited.....

And then one of them gave up waiting. Mike had limited luck, but he's a giant compared to the kids and  so the birds that came came to him (until he decided to give the kids a turn). I'm not sure how many actually had a chance at it, I think Caleigh, Sam and Rora did, I'm not sure about anyone else. It wouldn't surprise me though.
Then came along a couple of distractions. The first was this....
No not her. She was distracted, but not the distraction.
See that thing on her thumb? It's a burr. Strangely, Caleigh had JUST gotten done asking if they were around in winter. I told her I thought they were and low and behold, Eva found some, on her coat! She tried to get them off of her coat and her fingers, but was having a bugger of a time.

See, still on her thumb!
Now she's trying to make it drop in the puddle she's standing in. It took a bit, but it worked.
Caleigh found some and guess what she did with them...... Here's a hint.
That's Rora pulling some out of her hair. She took it well, you'd NEVER guess how they ended up there!
Here comes the next distraction.
She found this VERY distracting! As a matter of fact, she found every big puddle she passed distracting!
She's doing a puddle dance. It's like a rain dance, but instead of bringing rain it's supposed to make puddles smaller. I think the scientific explanation for it is the water being transferred from the puddle into her boots, onto her clothes and soaking into the people and ground around the puddle. That's just a guess though. 

Here she has decided (albeit with some encouragement on my part) to move on to other things, namely the NEXT distraction. We did, eventually, end up moving away from the bridge, it took some time though.

See the distraction!?

Guess who was mostly distracted by this beautiful animal. Three guesses, GO!!

Nope! Not her, although she did find him more interesting than the puddles for a moment.
YUP! That's the one!
I'm not sure that's the part of the dog I'd be most interested in petting. She wasn't fussy though, she was willing to pet whatever he let her pet. His interest in the area was short lived though and down the trail he went. We followed very shortly after.

SEE! There they go! Let's follow and see where they end up. Bet you can't guess where Eva ends up.

But wait! You  missed a spot!
She was highly fascinated by the puddle. Not sure why. There was an entire icy, puddly path ahead of her just full of more puddles! She is 3 though and I'm pretty sure there's a 3 year old's creed somewhere that obligates her to this. We can't expect her to break the creed now, can we?

Turning, turning.... will she make it back out?! The suspense is killing me!

There we go! I didn't get a picture of it. But a little further down the trail there was another puddle that was ALMOST completely covered over in breaking ice. It was a decent size puddle. She passed it, stopped, came back and said, "Oops, I almost forgot." and she bent over, took a piece of ice off the top of it and stomped in it!! She then turned around, job done and continued on down the path. It's the creed, I tell ya.
Here is the observation deck on part of the pond. We have seen graceful waterfowl here during the previous seasons. It has nary a duck on it right now. 

Here's Mike and Rora looking out for birds. 
Sam telling me to be quiet lest I scare away something they think they saw.

Not sure what they think they thought they saw, but onward we go!

Here is the frozen but thawing water in front of the lookout that you just saw. Sam ASSURES me it's hard and safe to walk on. 
Caleigh went down to try her luck, didn't ask first, but she heard Sam talking about it and for a moment decided to investigate. Thankfully and to her credit, she didn't venture out more than to put a little weight on one foot. I'm not sure what happened, but she decided, wisely, that it wasn't worth the risk. Sam on the other hand had to be told a couple of times it wasn't worth the risk. Boys.
Onward we go. The girls were off running, Eva not far behind, over another bridge and onto a boardwalk. 

There goes Sam! Quite nicely camouflaged in his earthy clothes.
The water through here is also quite nicely frozen. Beware though, it's much more obvious in some spots that the ice is thin and I'm sure there's plenty of us that know the dangers of treading on "thin ice". I know in my more formidable years I had been warned about the thin ice I was on more than once. Lesson learned, I stayed off the ice.
See, thin ice.
Over the muddy slopes and down again. From the hill I got a nice picture of the board walk that everyone walked out on. We are about to see more pictures taken from that very place. There's not just chickadees out today!

From one side you see ice and dead cat tails. From the other side you see..... drumroll please.......
More ice and dead cat tails. :-)
You also see ducks.....
A goose or two..... and......
Muscrat! There's usually a pair. Sue and Sam. (not sure if that's there real names, but that's what I call them, not sure which one this is)

One-legged goose. Honestly. There was a two legged goose there too, but there was also this one legged goose. 

We also saw other things. LOTS of people. You would not believe the number of people out!
Cardinals too, here's some other things we got pictures of. Sam got the good pictures of the woodpeckers, Mike got the other bird pictures. I mostly got pictures of one-legged geese, dogs and kids. 

This is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. So named for it's red head. He didn't get close enough for me to see his red belly, I'll just have to take his word for it that he has one. Maybe though it's named that becuase he WISHES he had a red belly!
This is a Downy Woodpecker. 
There's that "Red-Bellied Woodpecker" on the railing.

Here's Eva with another K-9 friend. There were all over and the girls made sure to pet everyone that went by them.

Here are my last pictures. They are taken very near where these last photos were taken. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, they aren't as good as they could be, but they are beutiful none the less.

I can't help but see pictures like this and think of God and His glory. Winter is upon us, most days it's cold and grey, the leaves and life are dormant and gone and most of the animals are the same. But even in the stillness, in the simpleness of the moment, God is there. I'm reminded of a couple of verses. They are in First Kings. Elijah had traveled to Mount Horeb and was alone on the mountain. The Word of the Lord came to him and asked him what he was doing there. He told the Lord that he had been zealous for Him, but His children (the Israelites) had torn down His alters, forsaken His covenants and killed His prophets with the sword and he alone was left.  Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD [was] not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11-12
Moments like these make me think of moments like those. God knew where Elijah was, what he was feeling and reminded him he was not alone. God can talk to us with earth shattering winds, earthquakes, fire and other acts of God, but often, if we listen, we can hear Him in the stillness. He tells us that we can see all around us the evidence of Him. It's true, even in the winter time we can see His hands and His loving care of what's around us. The seasons come and go, the earth goes through a very complex process that even as smart as we think we are, we can't understand the depths of it. God, in His infinite wisdom, ordained the earth and everything in it to work on a schedule, His schedule. The Master Watchmaker knows the time and the seasons and we in our busyness ,rush around and don't take the time to see the details around us. There's a saying, "Stop and smell the roses." It's meant to make us realize there's more in life than busyness and we need to stop and relax some. But we need to do more than that. We need to stop and realize that God made these things, He fashioned them and the smartest and most knowledgable of men will never begin to scratch the surface of how truly amazing it all is. God looks down up on us and we need to take the time to honor Him for all He's done for us instead of rushing around and thinking the world revolves around us.
This is my last photo. After this we started walking back. On the way back I, in all my gracefulness, slid down a muddy hill I had been telling the kids to be careful on. Rora was right in front of me and running down the muddy hill and didn't so much as slip! I however, was being VERY careful and had it not been for Claudia, might have gotten MUCH more muddy than I ended up. I really should have gotten "after" pictures of all of us. Caleigh had mud and water up to the tops of her thighs. Eva was covered in it (I'm pretty sure you know why). I'm not sure how Caleigh ended up so wet though. Like I said, I was CAREFULLY trying to not get any more muddy than I was and I have Claudia to thank for my NOT getting more muddy than I did. :-) Thanks Claudia!! Rora had mud splatters up and down her pants and Mike and Sam were a tiny bit muddy, but didn't see the sport in it as much as the girls did. Regardless, after coming home no one was allowed further than the front door (after it was closed) and had to strip off everything that needed washing. I can't even imagine the color of the water coming out of it after the first rinse. 

Well, that's it for this time folks! Looking forward to another trip this week. It'll probably be Saturday again. It works out better for school during the week if we do them on Saturdays. I'll try and update again soon after. Have a wonderful week and God bless you all. :-)

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