The Overstory

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Some views and places, like the arching tree above (still there!), about which I have written before in one of the more often revisited blog posts of this remote little blog, lend themselves easily to metaphors. Others, like the one below, are more hermetic.

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The spot is the same as in one of my earliest posts. Back then, the composition off fallen tree on rock before a steep canyon wall kept intriguing me over several seasons, triggering something I can’t put into words. After a seasonal flood swept away the tree, the place became less fascinating, until I noticed that something was happening. Two little Sycamore trees had taken possession, visible already above.

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If they survive a few more years rock fall, floods, and human mischief, they will have outgrown the canyon and dominate the scene for years beyond me and you.

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By the way, read that book in the title. It is better than I think.


Ten Lakes Trail (California ’93/94 – I)

In 1993, I went to Berkeley for a year. Among many other things, I went backpacking quite a bit, and I will share some of the images over the following months, celebrating the 25 year anniversary.


The second hike I went on (the first I already wrote about) was in Yosemite, to the Ten Lakes basin. To get there, you have to cross a plateau with gorgeous views. 


The scenery is serene, and there is almost no way to get lost. Just don’t make the mistake I made, trying to get from the slower group to the faster group by following the trail. The faster group had stepped off the trail for a minute to enjoy the view, so that I rushed past them, getting more and more nervous towards the evening because I couldn’t find anybody. Berkeley160

I was only mildly relieved when a few campers told me I had indeed reached the Ten Lakes area, where I waited nervously for two hours until the rest of the group finally arrived.


There are two clear indications that you hike with people from Berkeley: They bring text books and actually read them, and they go skinny-dipping in every little pond. Well. Above is partial proof.


On the way back you have to get up to that Plateau again, and then it gets interesting when you entire the granite fields transformed by the afternoon light.


The rocks that are scattered around there cause suspicion that they have been purposefully placed,


and it is up to us to decipher the message.


For me, this was easy. It meant Come Back.

Mantis Babies (Butterfly Obsession II)


This is a tomato plant. You can call it misfocus of the cheap digital camera I grabbed quickly, or well-staged dramatic suspense, because, as you will have noticed, there is something in the background.


A few minutes earlier my daughter had spotted an egg case out of which cute little monsters were emerging.

Praying mantises are fascinating. It seems so easy to say: Oh, that’s not one of our species. But then, why do we project aggressiveness into everything they do – hunting posture, sex life, the way they look?


One thing clearly distinguishes them from us: They are ready for life seconds after birth.


Whatever you think, that tomato plant was free of all other insects a few minutes later.

Monarchs (Butterfly Obsession I)

Among the more pleasant creature who thrive in the current heat and humidity are the butterflies. My daughter’s obsession with them started when she was five, with a little moth.Moth

It then took off in Michigan that summer, where the rustic campground offered plenty opportunity to look for cute little critters in all the unspeakable places.

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It takes no time to figure out that the thing to do is to collect the caterpillars, feed them and watch them molt.

The tricky part is to find the right host plants for your caterpillar collection. So we focussed on monarchs and de-leaved all the milkweed plants in the neighborhood. Monarch trio


You put them in a box, and a stick on top of that box instead of a lid when the caterpillars get fat and restless.

If you are lucky, you get several of them lining up on the stick, and then you can see them molting one by one. The act of getting out of the cocoon is pretty dramatic.


When the wings are pumped up, be sure to have the food ready.


Mimosa Tea


We have four Mimosa trees in the garden. They have been busy blooming for a while, and the fragrant flowers are a wonder to look at.

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I couldn’t resist to harvest some of them and turn them into tea.DSC 9685Half a dozen in a cup turn instantly pale green when infused with boiling water.DSC 9699

The cup is still bright green, and the typical mimosa scent is overpowered by a herbal note that is not really unpleasant but distracting. What did turn out more spectacular was to use some of the flowers for pressing and scanning.Mimosa003 2

The colors became stronger after a day under heavy books.

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Green is a Difficult Color (Treescapes III / Colorado IV)

Getting to higher elevation in late spring is a problem in Colorado, not so much because of snow, but because of the streams with hip deep and ice cold water that one has to crossDSC 8735

After a while one resigns into not reaching that peak or lake, and finds consolation in the contemplation of the trees on the other side of the stream.

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I have written twice about treescapes: First about the fall at Red River Gorge State Park in Kentucky, and then about the winter in Brown County State Park. So now it is time for a spring version.

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Green is a difficult color. When I make 2-colored surface images, I usually have a hard time picking a second color that complements any sort of green nicely. On the other hand, I find the natural shades of green in these landscapes positively overwhelming. My theory is that green goes well only with more green, or shades of gray.

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These images are from an attempt to reach the Flat Tops Wilderness. There will be another time.

Crossings (Colorado III)

You need to cross the stream three times until you reach Bridge One…

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Crossing a stream is a well-worn pattern, at least in Western culture: we think of Hades, Lethe, and all that. This post is about the pattern of multiple crossings.

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I was hiking No Name Trail (near Hanging Lake), when I met the hiker who informed me as above. She continued:

 Bridge One is awesome. You should go there. 

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And so I went, crossing the stream three times. A single crossing is like a terminal step, irreversible. Multiple crossings are like a dialogue: Hey, here we meet. We both have changed. Let’s meet again.

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When switching from one side to the other, we accept a change. On No Name Trail, this might be perceived as a change from pine and oak to birch.

…From Bridge One you can go on to Bridge Two…

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At Bridge Two, there is a violent waterfall. Bridge Two itself, broken.

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…You can go even further, to a place I call The Top of the World…

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Will I ever get there?