Modern Fairy Tale

You can tell me all you want that fairy tales don’t exist. They can’t come true. Wednesday was the day I stopped believing that.

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Two Shadows
Two shadows, side-by-side, for the rest of our lives.

You can tell me all you want that fairy tales don’t exist. They can’t come true. Wednesday was the day I stopped believing that.

Wednesday, we went to Tinker Nature Park for a light, breezy stroll. I brought along my camera, as usual. I stopped frequently to take in the scenery and plan some good shots. I wasn’t aware he had done some planning himself.

As we made our way around a tight bend, a Radio Flyer wagon gleamed in the distance. A toddler played in while her mother rested on a nearby bench. A hat partially covered the girl’s fine, doll-like hair, and her blue eyes sparkled as beams of light danced across her face. She smiled sweetly at Jeff, and I could see his cheeks morph to a deep pink.

A few paces away, I asked “How would you like to try for one of those in a year?”

“One of what?” He sounded as though he genuinely didn’t understand my question.

I pointed back at the wagon and responded, “A little Jeffrey May.”

Red returned to his cheeks. “I thought you didn’t want one.” It’s true—we had been back-and-forth on this issue for the past year.

I shrugged. “A year is a long time, though. But we’d have to be married first.”

“You still want to marry me?”

Our relationship had been tested numerous times over the past almost three years. We pulled through and have been happier than ever recently. “Well… yeah, if you still want to marry me.” I looked him in the eyes to try and get an idea of what he was thinking. I couldn’t tell.

“Why wouldn’t I want to?” It almost sounded like a rhetorical question, but I still felt an answer bubbling out of me.

“Over the past few months, I’ve been a little…” I thought of an appropriate word. “Crazy.”

“All women are crazy,” he chuckled. Before you jump down his throat for feminism advocacy, relax, he was joking.

Fairy Trail sign

We continued along Fairy Trail where the huts are. “You already took some pics of those,” he reminded me as I stopped and analyzed the scene.

“I know.” The object of my appreciation at that moment was not a fairy hut but a group of trees with large roots that resembled huge gnarly feet. They reminded me of Tolkien’s Ents. I took a couple of shots while Jeff stood around with his hands in his pockets.

Tree With Feet
Tree feet

We continued our discussion for almost a quarter mile and turned down the path toward the boardwalk. For some reason, I almost always take the boardwalk for its sense of mystery.

Boardwalk

“I think if we got through the past few months, we can get through anything,” he said. “We’re stronger now.”

I turned and gazed into his chocolate eyes. “I agree.” I meant it, and I wanted to tell him that he meant everything to me. I couldn’t find the words.

Finally, I told him, “Most men would have broken up with me any time over the past few months. I would have broken up with me.” I stared at the ground, ashamed of my recent behavior.

He wrapped an arm around me, pulling me into him. He stroked my hair for a few moments before releasing me. When he did, our view through the sparse trees revealed a crisp, clear pond in the distance.

Birdfeeder

Further along boardwalk trail, we spotted a birdhouse amidst the cattails. As I lined up and snapped my shot, I couldn’t see what Jeff was doing behind me. When I turned to face him, he was rolling his eyes.

“What?” I knew stopping every ten steps annoyed him slightly, but he put up with it. I was becoming self-conscious about it.

He took a few steps toward me. “You know I love you, right?”

“Yes.” I smiled. “I love you too.”

“I want to be with you for the rest of my life.” He pulled a small white box out of his pocket and dropped down onto his right knee. My heart thudded in my chest as my brain finally caught up to what was happening.

He opened the lovely white box, and my jaw dropped. I saw a platinum band with a pink sapphire garnished with two small diamonds on either side. It was sparkling in the sunlight, just like the fairy tales describe.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

The questions erased in my mind, and I immediately knew my answer. “Of course, I’ll marry you.”

He wrapped his arms tightly around me. We lost track of time as we held each other. After few moments, I asked, “Are you going to put it on my finger?”

I packed the camera away and replaced it with my new fiancé’s hand. With the excitement of a sparkly new symbol of the next stages of our life together, the park was now the furthest thing from mind.

See? Modern fairy tales do exist, even for a moment.

1 so far - Burlesque

Love is Orange

Back at the intersection, the sign for “Trailhead” appears up ahead. Before long, we’re back to the parking lot. Feet and legs ache, skin is sweaty, and mouths are dry. After 1.7 miles, our courtship must resume another day. 

OT - Burlesque view of trees and vines

Remember when you first started dating someone and instantly felt the pangs of love? Every text message, every phone call, every touch brings back those feelings. You want to know everything about them, and you feel like you won’t be whole until you do.

As you may know from previous posts, I’m in love with Whiting Road Nature Preserve. Since my first visit, I’ve been obsessed with seeing every inch of it—memorizing every detail.

Jeff and I returned with Magnus a few days ago. The Real Feel in Rochester has been approaching Hell, so we arrived early. As we parked, we noticed how busy it was. We’re both introverts. Regardless, we were already committed.

We randomly chose the Orange trail, eeny meeny-miny-moe-style and soon discovered we were virtually alone—not a soul in sight. Oh, and when I said the Yellow trail was my favorite… Well, that was until I met Orange.

OT - Orange flowers 2

The trail snakes through trees, fields, and heavy forest areas. In many a bend, berries turn the path into shades of blue and purple. Monarch butterflies float along. Trees, young and old, seem to reach out with their roots. Dragonflies zip by to play in the lovely golden fields, which are dotted with bright orange flowers and trimmed with green thorny bushes.

Three plaques are scattered throughout the fields, created by Webster Girl Scout Troop 455. They are hand-illustrated and teach about the various birds, butterflies, and plants. It’s difficult not to smile at the talent and work required to produce such a project.

Around a corner, a large metal wagon wheel catches the eye. A “Private Residence” sign commands attention to the intersection. Who lives there? Why does the residence have its own trail? So many questions, not enough answers.

OT - Private Residence sign (Burlesque)

Further ahead, a fork splits the road. Forks are always intriguing. Which way should we go? The current trail is interesting and beautiful, but what if the other trail is more interesting or more beautiful? Decisions, decisions.

A steeply sloping hill ascends toward more orange blazes—up we go. The forest is welcoming, as is its shade. A strategically-placed bench sits around a corner to the left, set back from the rest of the trail. Clear indentations from mountain bike tires mark the dirt in every direction. It makes sense—this spot with major elevation changes, bridges up ahead, and plenty of dirt to kick up, makes for a great hot-spot for mountain bikers.

Several bridges pass through the remainder of the forest until the trail clears. We can practically feel the end up the trail coming up. Back at the intersection, the sign for “Trailhead” appears up ahead. Before long, we’re back to the parking lot. Feet and legs ache, skin is sweaty, and mouths are dry. After 1.7 miles, our courtship must resume another day.

The Return to Whiting Road

Brown trail begins - mapLast week, Jeff and I visited Whiting Road Nature Preserve and completed the Blue trail.  This week, after battling rain showers and thunderstorms, we finally returned and to scout out the brown trail.

The Brown trail is 0.40 miles long and branches off early on from the Blue trail’s north entrance.  Brown’s footpath is wide and clearly suitable for horseback riding as well.  In fact, we encountered some horse plops along the way.

The trail has a completely different feel from the Blue trail.  The beginning of this trail is still wooded, but soon the trees clear, and fields of greens and golds begin to be seen in the distance. The trail forks–the right fork leading toward Whiting Road and the left fork toward the rest of the Brown trail, spotting monarch butterflies, dragonflies, caterpillars, and more.

Nearing the end of the Brown trail, Green could be seen sloping downward into a more darkened woods.  Immediately we felt excitement and wanted to turn in that direction.  However, puppies are made for short journeys, not long ones, and we decided to use this as a reason to return later.

We did have time for one more trail, however.  The Yellow trail seemed to fit into our time budget, and Magnus was having a good time.

This turned into my favorite experience at Whiting Road thus far.  There aren’t exactly hills to climb, but a dramatic view of a drop-off around a sharp bend in the trail gave the impression of a change in elevation.  Some of the most interesting plant-life can be appreciated from the Yellow trail, including mushrooms, vine-covered trees, and Ramariopsisa white stalked fungus resembling coral.

We stood awhile at the top of a hill where an unmarked trail branched off.  There, we inspected an old metal gate that could have blocked the trail long ago.  It looked so out-of-place sitting there with tree branches growing through and around it, like nature knows it just doesn’t belong.

Yellow trail old gate

Finally, back on the Blue trail, and back to the car we realized we had just completed 1.4 miles, and it felt like nothing.  The beauty and serenity of Whiting Road Nature Preserve rivals that of other local favorites, especially considering the location.  We look forward to seeing you here someday when you come for your visit!

Next week, we have an interesting story to tell about Irondequoit Bay Park West. 

Clear, Blue, Easy

Trail fork.JPG

You might have thought the title referred to a female product, but no.  I am talking about the Blue Trail at Whiting Road Nature Preserve.

We were searching for obscure places to visit around Monroe County, and someone suggested Whiting Road Nature Preserve.  She was quite right — we certainly don’t hear about it much.  This hidden gem didn’t come up in many Google searches for local trails for some reason. Of course, I immediately jumped onto their website, and they have an extensive network of trails.  Sweet!  A new expedition!

We planned to visit almost two weeks ago, shortly after our trip to Lodi.  Unfortunately, the weather in Western New York is thoroughly unpredictable.  (I’m glad meteorologists don’t get docked pay for being wrong, because none would want to work here if they did.)  Anyway, it has been raining just about every day since, so we finally made the trek today.  I’m glad we did.

The first visible entrance from the main parking lot on Whiting Road is the Blue Trail.  According to the park’s posted map, this particular trail is 0.70 miles long.  Several other trails branch off for various lengths, creating quite the hike if time allows.  We were unfortunately only able to experience some of it as there was a thunderstorm to contend with.  Nobody wants to be wandering around under a bunch of trees with lightning…

Clear, Blue, Easy.  

The Blue Trail is a very easy stroll.  It features no hills, streams, climbing, or fancy footwork.  The path is clear, with no fallen branches or path obstructions.  The trails are also clearly marked, thanks to local scout troops.  In fact, some of the signs include mini maps to help hikers find their way.  This is a splendid idea and sometimes much more of a help than simply painting on the trees.

As we made our way back to the car, we nearly passed by a brick building set off some from the main path.  It apparently used to serve as a smokehouse and is currently being restored by Girl Scout Troop 106.

The trails do allow leashed dogs, as well as bicycles, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and horseback riding.  We saw some mountain bikers, but they were so far gone, we pretty much had the trails to ourselves.  Take a look at some of our shots.  We plan on doing the Yellow Trail and more next time!

Aspen Cabin at Mill Creek

This weekend, my fellow expeditioners and I tried our hands at “glamping.”  For those who don’t know what glamping is, it’s camping–with benefits.  We rented Aspen Cabin at Mill Creek for two nights, complete with free wi-fi, air conditioning, a microwave, refrigerator, and breakfast delivery in the morning.  It can’t get any better than this, right?

It took about an hour and a half to arrive.  The drive there was stunning.  Our puppy and child were great—quietly staring out the windows.  We cruised through rolling hills and fields, and over bridges… Until we arrived at a detour on Lodi Center Road.  There was a bridge out, which just happened to be the bridge right before we arrived at our destination.

Fortunately, the detour was easy enough.  It only took us about 2 minutes out of the way, and we ended up on Parmenter Road and at our cabin.

The exterior of the cabin was up to standards.  The rustic feel was exactly what we were looking for, but it also looked new and clean.  Wood was piled up next to the porch, and there was a fire pit built into the patio with logs already stacked log-cabin-style.  Three Adirondack chairs were positioned perfectly, with a tiny table available.  Hanging on a column, we found a Bic lighter, and on the front of the building hung tools for the charcoal grill and fire pit.

The front door was unlocked.  Upon entering, the key was found in a small basket atop a green-tiled dinette framed in blonde wood.  To the left was the microwave, china cabinet, sink, half stove, and refrigerator.  Also available on the microwave stand was a glass jar full of Milk Bones.

KitchenFurther inside, to the right was a small flat screen television with a Roku sticking out of the HDMI port closest to the door.  A very large armoire with the same rustic feel as the rest of the cabin hulked over the rest of the room.  A few feet from the TV, a futon laid out against a wall with a table in front of it, and a wood-burning stove next to the far wall.  The window closest to the futon contained the AC system.  We promptly turned it on.

The bedrooms were straight down a hallway from the front door.  To the left was a small bathroom.  The largest part was the shower stall, which seemed large enough to fit two adults.  It was gorgeous, with slate-looking tiles installed.  I often pictured something similar for my house one day, so it was in line with the vacation feel.

The “master bedroom” was slightly disappointing.  It was small, which I expected, but the mattress was a very squishy pillowtop.  We sunk right into it, causing us to wake up with sore, stiff backs in the morning.  In fact, Jeff refused to sleep on it a second night and slept on the futon.

The second bedroom was smaller but contained a bunk bed.  Holden loves bunk beds, and he immediately climbed to the top bunk and turned it into a hideout.  He remained up there for a good portion of the first evening, until we decided to attempt a cook-out.

One of the benefits boasted on the cabin’s website that we were especially excited about was the morning breakfast deliveries.  Mill Creek partners with a local bakery to bring breakfast to the cabins around 8 am.  When we awoke and dragged ourselves, creaking backs and all, to the door, we were excited to see the basket full.  Jeff set it on the table, opened it, and… frowned.

Inside were several small containers: one with four silver-dollar pancakes, another with two very small sausage patties, a bakery container with two tiny muffins, and two cups of fruit.  It was underwhelming, especially considering we had three in our pack.  We did our best to divvy up the food, Holden taking two of the pancakes, Jeff taking the other two.  They also each took a sausage patty, and I ate the muffins.  Well, I actually ate one muffin, because they didn’t taste that good.

The second day, the food was slightly better.  This time, we had a container of scrambled eggs with ham, some breakfast potatoes, and different muffins with fruit.  We ate all of it, however.  Free food=good food.  We worked it off later for sure.

Blundering Expeditioners

Have you ever seen the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary?  Do you remember the scene after Bridget gets the interview with her love interest and becomes a “TV genius”?  She says she has a feeling she is also a genius in the kitchen, and she proceeds to ruin dinner with blue soup, and nothing edible whatsoever.  Epic. Fail.

Well, in my head, I pictured us driving there in record time, immediately relaxing at the cabin, cooking dinner fabulously making delicious burgers, and chilling next to the campfire and eating s’mores.  This kind of ended up happening, but certainly not without a certain amount of frustration.  You see, we never really cooked with charcoal before.  We are gas grill people.  Gas grills are simple. You turn a knob, press a button, and they light.  Charcoal grills?  Not so much.

There was charcoal already there on the porch.  The bag was open, but it was ¾ full.  It would. Not. Light. We tried several times—we made a pyramid, we used the lighter fluid, we tried using a bit of kindling—nothing.  It took about an hour and we still could not get the blasted thing to stay lit.  So, I did what any self-respecting hangry person would do—I went inside and headed up a frying pan.  I also put on a pot of water for corn on the cob.  We were going to eat something good.

Well, while we ate hot dogs and corn, something flickered in our peripherals, and Jeff and I both stole a glance out the window at the grill.  Like magic, it was blazing.  After I was done scarfing down a hot dog, I ran out there and cooked me a burger.  They were actually delicious.

About an hour or so after eating, it was starting to get dark, so we decided to light the fire pit.  Again, the fire kept going out.  It was after a thorough Google search that we learned to take the wood out and start over.  Apparently, if there is a possibility that wood has already been burnt, you can’t try and light it because it might not light.  After we started over, the fire was fine and we were able to make our s’mores and eat ‘em too.

Millipedes

Throughout the night, we would wander around and take a step, and something would pop under our feet.  It was tiny millipedes.  There were hundreds of them, and they were crawling all over the cabin.  I didn’t realize why they were decreasing in number suddenly, until I caught Magnus eating them.  He must have taken out a good chunk of them, because the next night they were practically gone.

A Trail to Remember?

The website for the cabins also makes mention of a nature trail on the land.  We decided to take Magnus for a walk, so we scoped out the sites.  It pretty much consisted of overgrown brush that someone had cleared out a path through.  The best part was through a small wooded area, but that didn’t last long.  It was about ¾ miles through mostly brush and worm-eaten plant life.  It was completely flat and about a 0.5 out of 10 difficulty level.

Nearby Places

We visited several other places during our stay.  Taughannock Falls allows dogs on leashes, so we took Magnus on an expedition through their Gorge Trail.  Friday rained, of course, so the trail was muddy.  By the time we made it back to the car, we needed to use several bottles of water to clean him up enough to at least get him in the car without needing to buy a new one.

Check out some pics of the Gorge Trail below:

No Tan Takto Trail

NTTT - Entrance Sign.JPGThe highlight of our trip – the No Tan Takto Trail.  We actually found this trail by accident when we drove by the trail head and decided to hike it on the way home Saturday morning.  We had seen reviews of the Interloken Trail online, but for some reason the No Tan Takto Trail called to us, and we went with it.  It ended up being the most memorable part of the entire vacation.

NTTT - Jeff and Magnus.JPGThe first 1/8 mile or so is through a wooded area, but in the distance, a field splays across your view.  As you continue along the path, you can make out a large metal gate.  Unfortunately, that gate was locked.  Disappointed, we started back toward the car, until we saw the trail branch.  When we followed that path, we found another gate, and all the sign said was, “Please Close the Gate.”

Jeff and I looked at each other and shrugged.  What the heck, huh?  We made our way through the gate, closed it behind us as requested, and continued into a vast field which led to horse pastures.  A clear path was laid down by a tractor of some sort, and it was obvious which way we were being led to walk.  We veered off a little when Magnus clearly wanted to run… All clear… nobody around for miles… Again, what the heck, huh?  We dropped the leash and let him run.

Watching Magnus just be a puppy in that field for the next half hour was the reason we got a puppy in the first place.  He had the zoomies.  Anyone who’s ever had a puppy or dog knows what the zoomies are.  They zoom as fast as they can in every different direction, and occasionally their momentum knocks them over, they roll and start again.  Then, he’d stop and sniff something in the pasture, roll around in it, and catch up with us.

We continued along the pasture for quite a long time until our legs got tired.  They never seemed to end, but it was beautiful and quiet, and free.  This is my Heaven–full of peace and tranquility.  Finally, after we had our fill of the land, we finally strolled back to the car without a word, swearing we’d be back someday to finish that hike.

 

Family Pirate Cruise: The Colonial Belle

Since I’m on a much-needed vacation, my son and I wanted to do something we had never done together.  We Googled things to do, and I found this Family Pirate theme on the Colonial Belle.  He and I both enjoy pirates, and we enjoy boats… WE’RE IN!

Pirates sign

About the Colonial Belle 

The Colonial Belle is a small cruise line established in 1989 that tours the Erie Canal from Packett’s Landing in Fairport, NY, to the lock at Pittsford, NY and back.  The boat can hold up to 149 passengers, with an upper and lower deck.  The lower deck includes a bar, snacks and beverages for its passengers.  No outside food or beverages are allowed.  They do have dinner cruises as well, per their website, as well as other fun family events.

The experience 

 

Pirate Holden on deck

When we first arrived, the first thing we noticed was that nobody, and I mean nobody else was dressed like a pirate.  Being an introvert, this is the single-most-disturbing thing that happened on the trip.  We were all set up for disappointment, with lots of eyeballs directed at us, when we noticed the crew return from the Employees-Only parts of the vessel, and they were wearing pirate hats.

Boarding didn’t take long—the crew made sure of that.  Holden and I wandered quickly to the upper deck and took some seats at the back of the boat.  More eyes on us.  Great.  We peered out over the water and watched it ripple around the boat.  The rails on the upper deck are quite high, so it was difficult to take any good shots with my camera.

Once we were afloat, we decided to visit the lower deck and check out their snack selection.  They had a variety of chips and cookies, as well as pretty much any beverage you could want.  The seating on the lower deck is more extensive, with round dining tables and benches along the perimeter.  There is a small restroom, which was well-stocked with toilet paper and hand soap, with a working sink.  It was also clean and tidy, considering how many passengers they had.

From below, I was able to take a few nice shots of some bridges and other boats.  I could clearly hear the captain making some announcements from the upper deck.  He was prompt with warnings, making sure everyone on the upper deck was seated well before passing under a low bridge.  The crew would occasionally warn people to put their hands down when they were unable to suppress their thrill-seeking desires.

 

Canal lock 2

The lock was our favorite part.  Once we arrived at the lock, it was interesting to see the crew members in action.  They closed down the lower deck bar during the lock process.  They have to wait for a green light to enter the lock, and once they have the okay, they proceed into it, which basically looks like a huge tank.  Here’s a link to a website to explain better how the locks operate and what the crew has to do.

Colonial Belle worker 2

They have to keep the boat close to the wall using some cables installed directly into the lock’s walls.  The boat had these ropes they tied through the cables to keep the boat in place as we raised up.  Once the water is at the appropriate level, the doors open and the boat can proceed out of the lock.  In this case, the doors were leaking.  The captain informed us that this is not supposed to happen, but it has been this way for “a few years.”

After the locks, we basically did a boat K-turn, headed back into the lock, and did the same thing in reverse.  Cruising back to Pittsford took much less time due to the direction of the current.  Unfortunately, this was about the time where we started to feel a bit of motion sickness.  We made it back to Fairport safely, however, around 5:40 pm, and Holden and I were happy to get out of our pirate costumes.

Main Street Fairport sign large

Overall, it was a good day, and we definitely enjoyed the cruise.  The captain and crew were very professional and pleasant, and we will cruise with them again in the future—perhaps at the next themed event: The Murder Mystery Tour!

 

 

Tinker Nature Park

Tinker Nature Park main sign

One of my favorite places to visit, Tinker Nature Park is hidden in the rural part of Henrietta, nestled at the corner of Calkins Road and Pittsford-Henrietta Townline Road.  The sign for the Calkins entrance is quite difficult to see, which makes passing this beautiful plot of land a bit too easy.

While not exactly for “hiking”, this is an ideal place to park a car and have a mindless stroll (or quiet, easy run).  From the parking lot to the end of the longest trail, the place is set up to be peaceful and serene.  The land is completely flat, and visitors will not get their feet wet.

From the main parking lot, to the north lies a museum-style building which includes restrooms.  To the east, a well-kept garden is maintained, displaying an array of in-season flowers or plants.  To the south, a sidewalk winds away in the distance, revealing the beginning of the perimeter trail.  It is here that visitors are warned against bringing dogs or bicycles.  The signage is plain and simple – no room for misinterpretation.

No dogs sign

The first trail is the perimeter trail, which encompasses the entire park.  The signs reveal that this trail is 1.2 miles in length – long enough for a decent stroll, or a quick run.  The trail features the new “Fairy Trail”, and then finishes with a set of fitness stations.  It is divided in two by the Boardwalk Trail which snakes up along a pond where it is easy to sit and watch the herons catching fish.

Fairy Trail is a newer addition to Tinker Nature Park.  Tree stumps are carved and fashioned into “fairy huts” which I call them.  They are decorated with gems, metallic objects, wire, and other ornate items to make visitors take notice.  I have included some pics of my favorites.

Today, we took the Boardwalk Trail out of the woods.  The boardwalk sits between rows of cattails, where visitors can stroll along and watch the dragonflies fluttering around and landing on the railings.  Often, it is not unusual to hear a bullfrog or see a turtle poking its head out of the water in this swampy area.  Some visitors prefer to sit on the bench parked off to one side of the boardwalk and listen to the sounds of nature.

Along the way back to the car, it is almost easy to miss my personal favorite part of the park: the Chase Pitkin Nature Trail.  This trail is marked at 0.5 miles long, and it features a well-kept trail in the woods with two bridges passing over a swampy area.  If a visitor were to stand in one place long enough, he or she might see a family of deer, or notice a baby toad hopping along, or hear the sounds of leaves rustling, or birds chirping.  This is truly what freedom and peace feels like, and it might just resemble my kind of Heaven.