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Posts Tagged ‘Adirondacks’


I traveled to Lake Placid with my husband and daughter this past weekend. On our way, we stopped to climb Mt. Arab near Tupper Lake, NY. It’s a small mountain, but the trail is maintained, it’s very family-friendly, and the view is worth it.  Plus, it’s part of the Tupper Lake Triad!  Completing it will motivate us to hold onto our dream of becoming 46ers (someday)!


We had a picnic lunch near the summit. We were blessed with a beautiful autumn day – it was even a little warm.  Something about sitting on bare mountain makes me feel closet to Mama Earth.

There’s a fire tower at the top, allowing for even more spectacular views of some of the high peaks of the Adirondacks in the distance. The photos doesn’t do it justice, unfortunately!  Bee grew fearful of the wind up in the fire tower, so I didn’t get to gaze out as long as I would have liked. Luckily, there are plenty of rocky areas with views such as the first image I shared. I could have sat there for while; I would have loved to meditate. Unfortunately, due to the agreeable weather on a weekend, it was a busy destination. Between that and Bee’s antsy toddler antics, I didn’t have a lot of time for quiet contemplation.

Still, it was a great opportunity to get outside and commune with nature in one of my favorite places on Earth. Bee did a fantastic job climbing the mountain. My husband carried her for a bit to the summit, but she did most of the mile round-trip hike independently. I’m so proud of her!  There was plenty of nature to inspire all of us – huge boulders, some with interesting patterns, tiny mushrooms, woodpeckers, and, or course, the magnificent autumn foliage!

Even though I didn’t get to treat the hike like a spiritual, stress-free retreat, I realize how lucky I am to take my family on such excursions. We are healthy, we have transportation, and we have weekends off to enjoy the outdoors together.  We live relatively close to the amazing Adirondacks!  This is the foundation, and I hope it helps Bee continue to form a meaningful relationship to the natural world.

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There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the Adirondack Mountains. I used to spend just about every weekend of my childhood summers swimming in lakes, fishing off docks, climbing small mountains, and hiking through forest trails.  It was where I first learned to truly treasure the wild places that have, in many areas, vanished. It was where I grew into an animist. I always felt a sense of something there – spirits.  Very old spirits.  I felt how sacred and connected it all was, and I felt it flow in and through me.  It is different from the forests around my childhood home and my new home.  They are very special to me as well, but they are less wild.  There is more sound and light pollution. Roads interrupt their power.   Not that the Adirondacks lacks that, but there’s a greater effort to reduce it. (Although I could be romancing it as someone who does not live there…) When I’m away for long, I feel it calling.  I feel the mountains and lakes calling.  When driving on Rt 11 through Lewis County, I always look towards the Adirondack Mountains in the distance, rising beyond the rolling hills.  Last week, we returned to answer the call and renew our wild spirit.  Here are some of our experiences.

Decay never looked so magical.  My husband and I mused on the nature of animism, life, and death while hiking near the Raquette River in Tupper Lake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

It’s a bit blurry, but I was proud to stumble upon some Indian Pipe flowers in the forest.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I learned a little more about a new spirit ally at the Wild Center.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Some of the High Peaks as seen from the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.  We all enjoyed our time there.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We also visited the Ausable River.  There’s a place to pull off on the road and a very short trail into the trees.  It’s a catch and release area, but we just wanted to see the river.  I had to sit quietly for a bit to take her in, then sang a song of offering.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

On a whim, we decided to explore a trail across the street from the Ausable River.  It lead to the Copperas Pond.  I wouldn’t call it an easy hike, as it went up some slight inclines and involved some scrambling over very rocky terrain.  It was challenging with a three-year-old, but she was so determined to do most of it by herself.  The end result was worth it – an isolated pond free from motor boats.  It was so quiet… we couldn’t even hear the traffic on the other side of the wooded hill we climbed over.  It’s apparently a popular hike, as there were other people in and out, but the traffic wasn’t so much that we weren’t able to enjoy lots of peaceful moments.  I definitely had to take off my hiking shoes and put my feet in to fully immerse myself in the Three Realms. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We didn’t run into too many wild animals on our hike – mostly squirrels 
and chipmunks.  I also spotted this immature frog sunning himself on a rock in the pond.  If you look closely, you’ll see his tail. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I already look forward to returning, possibly in the Autumn.  We hope to climb a small mountain now that Bee has officially caught the hiking spirit.  With any luck, she feels the pull of the mountain too, and the family tradition of exploring and honoring the Adirondacks will continue.

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Photo Jul 05, 11 43 06 AM

Our kayaks on the shore of Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Earlier this year, I took to doing weekly omen drawings to gain insight into what would come my way. I recently started to do daily draws for similar purposes, but I use the ogham for that so that I can better learn that system. My weekly drawings utilize my main method of divination: the Druid Animal Oracle. I still love that deck, and I grow more adept at it as I delve further down my Druidic path.

Last week, I drew the bear.  To me, the bear means personal sovereignty.  There is the connection between King Arthur and bears, of course, as well as the connection to the Gualish Goddess Artio (and we know many Goddesses are associated with sovereignty). In addition, bears are quite literally very territorial.  They take what they want, and woe to any human who gets in their way!  I also associate the bear card with hibernation, or rest.

That made a lot of sense to me.  It was my first week of summer vacation, and I truly embraced my inner bear.  I allowed myself to reclaim some of my personal time and energy.  Yes, I attended to basic housework and, of course, ran all over creation to entertain my little one, but I also sat on my butt to read, watch anime, meditate, and just chill.  I really got to wallow in my bear-self over the weekend, when I went with family to a camp on Star Lake in the lovely Adirondacks.

Photo Jul 05, 9 33 59 AM

A loon on Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I enjoyed lounging in and by the lake.  Summer hibernation, Grey style!  I could get used to a view like that.  I think I could handle getting out of bed to greet the sun shining on the water, then meditate on the dock each day in the green half of the year.  And what better place to be a bear than surrounded by pine trees?  I’m truly grateful for that opportunity.  I hope that one day, I am lucky enough to really drawn on bear’s sovereignty, and have my own home or camp on a lake or river.

What a blessing that would be!  After I’m done being a bear, I’ll have to get back to work with my eye on the prize!

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Last Friday, my husband and I returned to the sacred land of our childhood – the glorious Adirondack Mountains of Upstate, NY.  Neither of us had been born there, but we spent time there as children.  As for myself, my family seemed to travel there just about every weekend in the summers.  Most often, we swam in Old Forge or Inlet.  Sometimes we would hike near Raquette Lake, Long Lake, Blue Mountain Lake.  Sometimes we climbed little mountains.  And sometimes, those rare, special times, we would take trips into the land of the high peaks – Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.  We only swam and took short walks, but always in the gaze of the taller mountains.

The day was cool and sunny, just as we had hoped.  A light pack ready to go, we made our way to the wild heart of NY State.  Along the way, we listened to the most recent Druidcast which featured some of the speeches given at OBOD’s 50th celebration.  Even though I’m not involved with that tradition, the message was perfect for the trip.  As the high peaks began to appear, like whale fins cresting in a rolling green ocean, I felt my Druid spirit rejoice. Caitlín Matthews’ words from her speech, “Authenticity and Authority in Druidry” thundered in my heart – “I don’t call myself a Druid, I AM a Druid.”  One of the many reasons I feel that way is because of the time I spent in the Adirondacks as a child.  It was where I first started to rejoice in Mother Earth’s majesty, and where I truly fell in love with, and understood the power of conservation.  In my humble opinion, Druidism is only partially about culture.  The other part is adoring and revering the natural world.  The Adirondack helped me see that at an early age.  Now I was initiating my daughter.

We planned to climb Mt. Jo, one of the smaller mountains in Lake Placid.  With an elevation of  2876′, it would be the tallest mountain I’ve climbed to date.  Others described it as suitable for a family hike with small children.  I’m not sure they had one-year-olds in mind, but we managed through teamwork, frequent stops, a decent carrier, and sheer stubbornness.  There are two trails – short and long – the former being more difficult.  We opted for the longer trail, which was rocky and difficult enough.  I can’t imagine the shorter trail with a baby.

The trek was worth it, however.  When we reached the top (which meant passing the baby back and forth as we scrambled up some steep, rocky ledges), we felt amazing.  Even the most beautiful photographs don’t quite capture the size and majesty of the surrounding landscape.  It was like a Thomas Cole painting spilling over its canvas.  In some directions, the Earth Mother seemed to crouch, all elbows and knees.  Turn your head just so, and she appeared to relax, her breasts ample mounds at rest.  Above, the Sky Father’s bright eye looked out at her beauty from behind his lacy curtains.  A troop of iridescent dragonflies danced in her breath.

It seemed out of a folk tale; there were gurus at the top.  A young woman sat with a book, her employment to sit on the mountain for hours to guide visitors.  She helped us identify the nearby High Peaks.  A bearded gentleman sat, seemingly meditating.  His wife crouched with her loyal canine friend near the trees.  She spoke to us about how beautiful it was that we persevered with our child up the mountain, about how we were giving her a gift.  She reminisced about the times she brought her now grown children up mountains, seeming to get a little choked up.  It was moving, and made our effort seem all the more significant, all the more part of a spiritual tradition.  As we approached the top, we had thought, “Surely, we are crazy to bring a baby…,” yet she validated our calling to the mountain.  Yes, we were but three small creatures clambering over the Earth Mother’s elevated beauty, but doing so grounded us in her sacred mystery and reminded us of what it truly is to live.

Before beginning our descent, I put my hands on Mt. Jo’s rock.  It was toasty hot.  I let that warmth rise into my arms.  As I did so, I was aware of the sun above me, the Earth and trees about me, the nearby lake shimmering  just beyond our view…  Visitors to the Adirondacks are asked not to take anything nor leave anything as part of their conservation efforts.  I felt that an offering had to be made, but I’m a modern Druid and respect modern conservation (an offering in and of itself).  I left my gratitude.  I poured it into that mountain and sealed it with a kiss.  I look forward to returning with Bee when she’s older, and I can’t wait to climb more mountains…

The view from Mt. Jo’s summit. Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

 

Standing in awe next to the Earth Mother’s bones. Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

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I went to Old Forge Saturday afternoon to celebrate my sister’s birthday.  She wanted to climb Bald Mountain which is a few minutes past that lovely little hamlet.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been there.  The last time was when my husband, Weretoad, proposed to me!  We were excited to return.

Bald Mountain is small.  It’s definitely not one of the 46.  According to this website, it’s 2349 ft.  Bald Mountain only takes an hourish to climb.  There are some steep, very rocky points but you don’t need much climbing experience or gear – just a really good pair of boots or sneakers and a sense of balance.  It’s precisely why I can climb it!  Small as it is, Bald Mountain is beautiful.  When I was there last, I made an offering of gem to An Dagda.  It’s still there, hidden away.  I thanked him for his blessings and made offerings to the Nature Spirits.  My favorite part of being there is sitting on the bare rock and staring off into the distance…

Wild roots – by Grey Catsidhe
A balancing boulder – by Grey Catsidhe
View of the Fulton Chains – by Grey Catsidhe

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My husband and I are on vacation this week.  This time last year, we went to Ireland and I wish we could return this year.  Instead, we’re doing what responsible adults do and are saving money for a home and land.  Despite that, we did want to go on a trip.  We decided to stay close to home and go on a day trip to the Adirondacks*.  My sister and brother-in-law visited and we took them to Tupper Lake, NY to see The Wild Center, a natural history museum dedicated to the Adirondacks and conservation.  This was my third or fourth time to The Wild Center, and I always enjoy it.  It’s fun to see the otters and other animals (this time we got to visit with a kestrel as well!), and I always learn something new.  For example, I was really excited to learn that there are specific fungi that only grow on decaying pine cones!  I also learned that quaking aspens have chlorophyl in their bark and can continue to carry out some photosynthesis in the winter!  Nature never fails to impress!

We took a little hike in Tupper Lake.  Despite our lack of snow only two hours away, it still looks like winter in the Adirondacks!  The locals, on the other hand, know better and lament the poor season.  Many ski slopes, for example, have experienced terrible business.

From Tupper Lake, we made the short drive to Lake Placid.  We only had time to poke around the village, but we did enjoy seeing the lake (frozen over, complete with a sled dog team!) and the snowcapped mountains on the horizon.  Here are some of the photos I took:

Ice sculpture outside the Wild Center.
Probably my favorite photo from the day – lichen growing on a tree.  Look at how large it is!  If you squint, you could almost imagine it’s a Green Man or Horned God because of the branches.  Imagination aside, it was such a welcomed sight of green.
A cairn on the nature trail.
A view of the back of The Wild Center.  You can just make out the solar panels on one of the buildings.  In the center is the pond which is frozen over.  It’s quite the sight in the spring and summer!  Was nice to see it in a different season.
This was inside The Wild Center.    Whether or not reincarnation as imagined by various spiritualities exists, there is still this truth.  I’ve grown to take comfort in this simple reality.  This, to me, is  at the heart of Druidism.   This is certainly something to meditate on!  I just love  the imagery here – the spiral, the stream…  and of course, the question – what did you used to be?  What will you be?
There are many animals in The Wild Center.  Many were rescued and rehabilitated, or, like the kestrel I mentioned, they were born to rehabilitated parents and “behaviorally handicapped” in that they trust humans too much to return to the wild.  I’m not sure what the painted turtles’ stories were, but I loved how relaxed they looked sunbathing on this rock.  It’s hard to see, but there’s a sign near them that reads, “Turtles be warned: human hand may be dangerous.”
Here’s a view from Lake Placid.    I believe that’s Mount Marcy in the distance – the tallest mountain in NY State!  Isn’t it beautiful?

Today we went to my favorite local antique shop. The last time I was there, I saw an old herb cutter and it really caught my fancy.  Since then, I’ve seen other antique herb cutters in magazines and I decided that, if it was still there, I would buy it!

It’s older and needs some cleaning up, but it’s just the thing for chopping up large quantities of herbs!  It has a really earthy energy to it as well and I can’t ignore its very lunar appearance**.  I have a fondness and fascination for older tools.  They are often sturdier than most things you can find in big box stores these days, and reusing something is very sustainable thus very Druidic in my opinion!  Even if I decide it’s too rusty to use with food, it will be a great tool for other herbal workings.

It’s Wednesday now.  My vacation is half over but I’ve already had a great adventure!

 * Day trips aren't just good for the wallet - they are arguably better for the environment than taking a plane to a faraway destination!  I keep reminding myself that so I feel even better.  ;)
** On a very practical level, its shape allows it to fit in a bowl.

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By George Seymour, Saugerties, NY

Adirondack Almanack: Wildlife: Red Foxes Are Denning.

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