It was in tourist country, the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area that is not a wilderness anymore because it is severely overrun by tourists. As beautiful as the High Peaks are, they are not worth sharing a few miles of trail with fifty people trashing it and even actually crapping on it.
There are about 45 pictures on this page, including a few maps. It may load slowly. You can optionally open/download a PDF copy (6.24Mb) to read offline.
This is the only long post in this series on Concordia. The rest have narrower topics and are mostly pictures and links.
Dear Nuala (NOO-lah),
I have less than two weeks before your visit, and too many other things to do, including figuring out how to fix the refrigerator that turned itself into a freezer today (M-m-m, frozen pickles), but I want to document something going on in the Balsamea woods that is about you, or because of you. I want it to be on record, forever. I also want to make sure you know about it, just in case your tour here doesn’t do this topic justice.
I’ve given you the pseudonym Nuala to protect you from the stigma of associating with me, and to protect your privacy. Even though only three or four other people will read this, if anybody, everybody on the Internet is a close neighbor with a fence to gossip over.
It’s a nice Irish name. It came from Fionnuala (or Finnguala), notable in the popular Irish myth, The Children of Lir (PDF). This presentation of the myth, with the art I added to it, a Thomas Moore poem, and extensive end-notes, may be the best treatment of the topic you’ll find. Especially since you’re probably not looking anyway. But seriously, it was a pile of work putting it together, and worth it. It’s probably the best part of this post. (It even has a naked picture of Nuala.)
Nuala (/ˈnuːlə/; Irish: [ˈn̪ˠuəl̪ˠə]) is an Irish female given name, derived from Irish mythology – being either a diminutive form of Fionnuala [or Fionnghuala] (“fair shoulder”), the daughter of Lir, or an alternate name for Úna (perhaps meaning “lamb”), wife of Finvarra, king of the fairies. — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuala
Fionnuala – In Irish mythology, Finnguala (modern spellings: Fionnghuala or Fionnuala; literally fionn-ghuala meaning “fair shoulder”) was the daughter of Lir of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In the legend of the Children of Lir, she was changed into a swan and cursed by her stepmother, Aoife, to wander the lakes and rivers of Ireland, with her brothers Fiachra, Conn and Aodh, for 900 years until saved by the marriage of Lairgren, son of Colman, son of Cobthach, and Deoch, daughter of Finghin, whose union broke the curse. ‘The Song of Albion’, with lyrics by Thomas Moore speaks of her wanderings.
The name is anglicized as Fenella. The shortened version Nuala is commonly used as a first name in contemporary Ireland. — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionnuala
As you know, about ten years ago (maybe more, I’m not sure … the earliest photo I have is 2009), I dedicated a special maple tree to you, with your name. Nuala’s tree (or just “Nuala Tree”) is now the centerpiece of a forest retreat with unique natural features and special relationships with many components of Balsamea’s trail network.
The place is called Concordia Park, or, as I’ll normally put it, just Concordia.
I love a campfire. I like to say that having one is to “enjoy the thrice-warming wood.”
First, you warm up from the physical labor of collecting the wood. Then, you warm up from the labor of breaking and/or sawing it. Finally, of course, the wood gives its life to entertain, console, amuse, mesmerize and warm you, in mind and body, with fire.
The wood gives its life for the fire? Isn’t it already dead? Not as I see it. The tree is dead, but good firewood is still loaded with stored energy. I think of that energy as the last of the wood’s life as wood, before it decomposes, becoming something else. When that “something else” is ash in my fireplace, and pleasure for me, I am the last beneficiary of the wood’s life as wood.
When I find a nice four-inch thick dead-fallen maple that dried suspended in the air (which happens in various ways) instead of soddened with the leaf mold and moss on the ground, it is a joy, and I am grateful to find the treasure. I have several long pieces of maple set aside at my campsites, enough campfire wood for a long time, and good sawing exercise, because maple does not surrender easily.
I prefer four inches or less wood diameter (five to six for softwoods) because my backpacking saw handles it nicely. I love that saw. I’ve had it many years and used it many times, still on the original blade. If you want a good backpack saw, look for the Sawvivor brand.
I’ve seen people embarrass themselves with inferior saws when they break or fall apart within the first ninety seconds of use. (Always test your gear at home before heading out to the woods.) My Sawvivor is tough, rust-proof, and a good size for serious work, but it fits nicely in a day-pack (15″). It has a padded handle, too. It is standard equipment in my backpack, even when I have no intention of making a fire. It is a survival tool.
Below, find your favorite irreverent self-amused blogging Balsamean on a chilly, windy and sunny afternoon, Saturday, September 16, 2012, enjoying the thrice-warming wood (shown here in two of the three warming activities) at our Turkeyfoot Campsite.
All summer I look forward to mid-September, when Balsamea starts to seriously chill. It is also the onset of the bulk of the autumn leaf color changes. On average, our first frost comes around September 15. In 2012 it came on 9/11, as solid ice, not just frost. (See my blog post, 9/11/12: First Frost is ICE!) I celebrated that morning with a campfire, too. That’s right, two campfires within a week, the 11th and 16th, celebrating the cold. Summer is my least favorite season. Campfires feel better in the cold.
(As always, click the pix to cozy up closer.)
Yes, I do have a metal folding chair stashed out there at the Turkeyfoot Campsite. And now and then I like to saunter around Balsamea letting my feet experience the ground as it truly is, naturally. Hey, I’m the Balsamean.
I do not remember that it was a windy day, but it must have been pretty gusty for me to put down the chin-strap on my hat. That campsite does catch more wind than the others.
Are you a big fan of campfires? Enough to have them several times a year at home?
Saturday, December 22, 2012. The second day of winter. I meant to write something yesterday, to celebrate winter solstice, but I exhausted myself out in the woods being The Balsamean, celebrating for real, not just on paper. Er … I mean, in pixels. (That’s trite, isn’t it?)
If ever I lose the ability to walk in the woods as much as I do, maybe I would use the time to write a book (about what, I have no idea). Unfortunately, most of my best inspiration arises while walking in the woods, the flow of creativity juices increasing proportionate to the time spent walking. No walking, no writing.
Here on the second day of Winter 2012-13, finally we have some genuine winter weather. On our morning walk, we had a beautiful 25 degrees and steadily falling snow, adding to the half-melted and re-frozen crunch-bed of snow underfoot.
Viewed from the window in front of me as I scribble, the snow is not falling so much as driven horizontally by strong winds roaring in from the west. Deep in the woods, where the wind lives mainly in the treetops, the snow floated peacefully down to me during our morning walk. (By the way, proper making of scribblements at Balsamea is with a window in front of you, if not outdoors.)
This morning, in addition to meandering through some passes and paths, Buddy took me on our usual walk around Balsamea’s perimeter trails. He tends to want to go clockwise, beginning on Balsamea Way, to the west terminus of Stumpy Way, then Stumpy to the northeast half of Kiefer Loop, then across the east side of Beech Loop, around the southeast corner of Birdsong Loop, and back to the house via Whitetail Way. Today we also ambled through part of Aranyaka Maze. We walked about half of the entire trail network.
I cleaned yesterday’s crusty, icy accumulation off all the fireplace and woodpile covers. This is a routine activity on every walk after snow. We have large rock fireplaces (that’s large fireplaces made with large rocks) at five locations: Camp Balsamea, Turkeyfoot, Tettegouche, Silviden and Kieferhaven. This year I made permanent covers for the fireplaces, to keep snow and ice out of them (I use all of them year-round).