All posts by Martin James Wood

About Martin James Wood

Nature enthusiast Martin James Wood is an outdoor writer and blogger for The Wood’s Edge. He has spent his life among the forests and woods, admiring nature with a camera and pen. His writing, artistry, and outdoor photography celebrate nature’s simplicity and beauty. A Pennsylvania native, Martin James is a loving father and husband, and a friend to our nation’s forests who believes in protecting and preserving our wild lands.

Wood’s Journal, Friday, February 24, 2017

Photo by Martin James Wood

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This featured post is in celebration of Arbor Day!!!

Becoming a Wood’s Member supports preservation of our forests and wetlands!

This particular post is a journal entry from the “Wood’s Journal” page. Please enjoy your trek along “The Wood’s Edge” and check out more on the “Wood’s Journal” page.

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Written by: Martin James Wood

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sky: blue sky with altostratus clouds

Air: warm with a constant breeze

Precipitation: none

Ground: clear and damp

Sunshine: occasional bright sunshine

Temperature: 70 degrees

Time out: mid-morning

Pennsylvania’s woodlands have seen temperatures ranging quite dramatically this week, from the mid-twenties on up to peeking in the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. Temperatures as this, can fool one into thinking it’s Springtime. What a welcome to see and feel temps such as the sixties and seventies this time of year…! This morning, some of my family and I are visiting and hiking McConnells Mills State Park, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And It appears the 70 degree temperatures haven’t just brought us out to the park, as I can see there are many vehicles and people about enjoying this break in the weather.

The highlights for the news this week seem to focus quite a bit on President Trump. There is liberal backlash after he makes a promise at a Florida rally to do whatever he can to not let media getaway with false or distorted press while seeming to capitalize on their own agendas. Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster has been named National Security Advisor on Monday by the president. He also named retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg as Chief of Staff of the National Security Council. Kellogg has been recently acting as National Security Advisor since the president fired Michael Flynn from the job. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington was visited on Tuesday by President Trump and his chosen cabinet member Ben Carson, who also is the president’s choice for Housing Chief.

Other news; marijuana is at the center for some controversy with jurisdictions of state and federal laws. Federal laws have final authority over state when there are conflictions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reputation is not one to be in favor of marijuana use, worries marijuana activists and industry. Homeland Security has issued, on Tuesday, documents stating to faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States. Also on Tuesday, Coyote Creek crested 14.4 feet causing major flooding. Evacuations of about 14,000 people were necessary along with an evacuation advisory for an additional 22,000 people to leave their homes. San Jose, California hasn’t seen flooding of this magnitude since 1997 and creek flooding records like this since 1922. Army Corps of Engineers ordered for Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps to be shut down by 2:00 pm on Wednesday. Arrests were made Thursday for those who wouldn’t leave… There is talk of drilling in Alaska. U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski pushes for legislation to open America’s largest wildlife refuge, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for oil drilling…

I’m all for a healthy economy and improved industry. We all know our country is in desperate need for these. I just hope and pray all can be mindful of a healthy balance for our environment and our nation’s economy. We have to remember the price that can be brought onto ourselves if we are not careful about discerning our regulations. We can’t guarantee ALL to be responsible when mining, drilling and disposing of industrial waste and pollutants. When a mountain is leveled for coal extraction or any other mining endeavor, it can not be put back to its natural state. When a stream or a tributary is redirected or terminated for the same, it can not be put back to its natural state. Certain sacrifices just aren’t worth making… I believe that we may have been overregulated and that some deregulation was, and is necessary, but as I said, we have to be mindful of what we do, and how we do it… We have to be creative and tread lightly. We owe it to ourselves and our future stakeholders in this land… There is no room for selfishness. We must be responsible… And,,, not be like foolish children leaving irreversible messes behind, just for a quick good time…

Walking this trail along the Slippery Rock Creek, I notice a dramatic difference in temperature from where we started out higher up the gorge. It must be ten degrees cooler down along the creek bottom… The steady cool breeze blowing down the creek sure adds to the chilling effect. The hemlocks are quite a sight this time of year as they are the only green along the banks in addition to the assortment of moss and ferns.

Photo by Martin James Wood

The trail we are on winds along the creek falling and rising with the bank. The creek at times becomes wider and more turbulent. At other times the creek is deeper and appears less turbulent, but I’m not fooled by that, as I can see the quick smooth swiftness of the flowing water over the large boulders… These massive rocks climb the hills up both sides of the gorge, decorating the banks with moss and tree’d outcroppings on the rocky ledges above… These hemlock cliffs of boulders and promontory places are definitely the reason for the cooler air along the Slippery Rock Creek bed. The cooler air aids with maintaining the stream’s cooler temperature which is a necessity for cleaner water along with its fast moving flow… So, not only are the gorge walls a sight to behold, but they are serving a purpose as well which man could hardly recreate. After all,,, it had taken mother nature thousands of years to do this…

As we traverse the trail by the creek, we decide to move onto another path which ascends a steep wall of rocks and hemlocks. We follow a small tributary until we come to a small skinny stream of water about two stories above us pouring out from some boulders higher up. More ice cold water exiting the earth and finding its way downward into Slippery Rock Creek. I have to think of how there are many more of these little hidden tributaries among these gorge walls which are feeding that monstrous current below…

Photo by Martin James Wood
Photo by Martin James Wood

These hills and forests provide relaxation and recreation for so many people. They also provide an ecosystem necessary for our environment which also benefits so many people. It all appears to be a “win, win” from where I’m standing among these hemlocks underneath this blue sky, sunshine and ice cold water.

Photo by Martin James Wood

It is so refreshing to be out and about in this environment today. I couldn’t imagine having it leveled and distorted from all of its beauty, and I wouldn’t appreciate it if some big corporation were to change it in any way for an agenda of theirs. That would seem very selfish. We all benefit from this environment and we should all have a say in what happens to it… Because it affects all of us eventually, in one way or another…

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© 2017, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

We Are Like Mountains

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This particular post is a from the “Wood’s Reflection” page. Please enjoy your trek along “The Wood’s Edge” and check out more on the “Wood’s Reflection” page.

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Photo by Martin James Wood

Written by: Martin James Wood

Mathew 20:28 NKJV

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been spellbound by mountains,,, and all their natural beauty within. As a child, I was always drawn to the woods and nature. Drawn by the sounds, beauty and hidden peace that was offered. A person would only know of what peace and solitude it had to offer, by entering in… I loved walking the trails and paths within, and was always mesmerized by what might be around the hidden corners… And as I’ve mentioned, mountains,,, ohhhh mountains,,, and the woods together, would just multiply that awestruck feeling of mine…!

I can stand at an overlook and stare out at a mountain range for hours. The sight of them just brings a peace and a comfort that is hard to explain… It is difficult finding anything that compares…

How I love to explore the mountains and forests. As an adult, I find myself becoming a child again, every time I have an opportunity to explore nature, and especially, the mountains. It’s almost embarrassing,,, this fetish of mine… But nothing can break me of this obsession. I’m driven by it, in almost all that I do…

My favorite colors are,,, you guessed it,,, green, like the dark green pines lined along the forests’ rocky cliffs above the river, or like the light green colored buds dotting the woods’ edge in springtime… And brown, like the brownish grey of the bark on an old weathered maple protruding out along the leafy forest’s floor, or the dark brownish black of earth along the edges of a meandering creek opening up to a small waterfall rolling over an assortment of smooth rocks into a clear mountain pool… And orange, like the wonderful color of the fall foliage shimmering in the wind upon the mountainside, or like the deep orangish-red glow of sun setting through the timber along the ridgeline just before dusk… And grey, like the soft grey boulders heeped along the hills with dark green moss strewn across them in the shadows of the wood…

The mountains possess so much beauty and mystery for me that it’s hard to avoid appreciating. When I walk the wooded hollows and ridgelines, I feel as if I’m receiving something that is good for me. It is giving to me; providing a service per say. Providing rest and peace. Providing inspiration and refreshment. Providing privacy and solitude. By these, I am also receiving strength and revitalization which also helps provide knowledge, wisdom and understanding. And by these, I receive maintenance for my sanity… The mountains serve me and the betterment of my being, if I just choose to enter the atmosphere behind the tree’d environment with rivers and uncultivated splendor and allow it to affect me.

I have to think, during this Easter season, of how this is like Jesus was and is for us… He came to provide all these things for us. Through his teachings and love. He was serving us with these and teaching us to be the same. He is like the mountains of splendor which is offering so much to be taken… all we have to do, is enter and accept. Even by entering, we don’t have to enjoy what he has to offer. We have the choice to look at what is there and allow it to affect us,,, or not. But what it can provide for us, if we do… And by receiving, we will be able to offer the same for others. Thus, we are also mountains, and the health of our mountain’s environment, depends on how we take care of our mountain.

Jesus is able to offer so much because the health of His mountain is superb. The mountain of Jesus allows for the trees and the rivers to be plentiful and full of great health. This is all God, our Father, which is being offered through the health of Jesus’ mountain. Every healthy brook, every healthy pine, every healthy meadow and every healthy wild creature is a fruit borne by the mountain. The healthier the mountain, the healthier the environment on the mountain. The healthier the environment on the mountain,,, then the more pleasant and beneficial the experience for the guests upon the mountain. We are to bear the same healthful fruits for others and serve in an unselfish manner much like Jesus did for us. He didn’t worry of what and who was trying to damage the mountain. This would have only distracted him from the nourishment he was to keep receiving for the environment; the sunshine; the nutrients from the rain and air; the growth necessary by the winds against the trees; the seasons’ production of decomposition for the earth and the shade and dens needed for the animals. The mountain must devote all of its concentrated efforts on the heavens and sun to continue to provide for its rich environment. It can not worry about who is entering its passes and paths attempting to destroy it, it has to remain focused on receiving its nourishment for the environment it has to provide…

Like Jesus, who sacrificed His life and continues to serve us with His mountain, so that we may be able to walk and explore it in awe and be comforted, we too are to be mountains… Because His human life was destroyed, doesn’t mean the mountain He left for us was. The mountain He left is alive today and forever. It is there for all who choose to walk the paths and trails of His beauty and breathe the crisp clean mountain air. Drink from the clear mountain brooks. Smell the sweet pungent aroma from the autumn winds. Watch the aspens shimmer along the hillsides in the morning’s sunshine. Feel the coarse bark with your hands of a tall hickory along the edge of a lonely mountain meadow and dwell in peace and solitude with comfort and refuge… He is there,,, we just have to enter…

We are like mountains too, and what we give back is the determination of what kind of mountain we are, like Jesus. We may be abused, defiled and debased, but we can’t let that affect our focus of the mountain we are to be. We must remain focused and concentrate on the nourishment. Our mountains’ health depends on it. We have to keep our focus on God and continue to look up and seek his rain and sun for our nourishment. We can’t focus on what and who is attempting to tear down the forest of ourselves. God will provide the protection necessary for the roads and passes onto the mountain. We can’t waste energy focusing on that because that will only distract us from God’s nourishment…

I recently read an article of an individual who is a doctor and a grandfather who was recently dragged off a flight of a major airline because the flight needed to remove someone for its overbooking. The manner in which they removed the elected gentleman was inexcusable. He was ruthlessly beaten and dragged bloodily from the plane. There are many cases of selfish, uncaring, non-serving behavior such as this and worse in our world.

To be like Jesus, we have to serve with love. Not be served… Are we mountains worth exploring? Are we providing the services needed for others to find sanctuary on our mountains? Will they find peace upon our mountain? Will they be awestruck by what they find on the mountain? Will they feel inspired and refreshed on the mountain? Will they be rested and rejuvenated at the mountain? Will they feel stronger from a visit to our mountain? Will they gain knowledge, wisdom and understanding from our mountain’s environment? And,,, will they feel safe at the mountain and be compelled to return…?

Do you like what your reading and want more? Hike on over to the “Wood’s Membership Subscription” page and check out the view!!!

 

© 2017, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

The Camp

the-camp-sketch

Written by: Martin James Wood

A 70,000 acre tract up in the big woods. A camp so nestled in, that it would take about an hour walk to get to from the bottom of the hill. If driven in with a four wheel drive, it might take about the same, sometimes longer if the jeep got stuck on the old logging road which was not maintained at all. This road hasn’t been used in years, except from us visitors to the camp.

This was the place that a small group of men from all walks of life would meet that once a year during buck season in Pennsylvania. It was also where other groups have gathered for buck seasons of the past and for other occasions for about half a century.

At the camp, there was a perpetual profound understanding amongst all its visitors, of appreciation for the surrounding forest and wildlife. The camp was a place of where its visitors would come to experience the natural world on a personal level. Whether it was to get away from their secular lives for a short time, hike the hills, or to experience a hunt for food to fulfill a primal extinct and reconnect with their inner self. Wildlife that was harvested from the forested hills at the camp were considered sacred and a food source. Time and activities spent here were innately special and not to be taken frivolously.

It was a small rugged building built by the hands of four brothers during the second World War. The brothers were all soldiers in the war. The three room building was a ranch style cabin, painted boxcar red. It possessed a galvanized roof which has been patched several times as it could be noticed when walking up to the cabin. Above the back door was a gable roof which served as shelter for the wood pile and coolers of food. Over the front door, also was a small gable roof with the name of the camp formed in small rustic timbers suspended from the gable, CAMP WINCHESTER.

Out its front door, you could see the brook that cut its way down through the mountain hollow of rocks and trees which ran its way underneath a wonderful grove of soft hemlocks. Out its back door, was a generously sloping woodland which climbed a magnificent hill of laurel forest with boulders, pines and towering hardwoods.

The cabin sat on a flat shelf which was just about large enough for the cabin and its shooting tower. It seemed that the air was always cooler up the mountain. It was as crisp and cool as the brook which ran beside her. In these big woods, one could walk for miles and not see or hear from any civilization. Some of the sounds that stick out in my memory from the camp, were the mountain winds in the trees, which on occasion would cause the tree tops to knock, the steady rippling of the mountain streams lapping over the smooth rocks, the sound of a first snow in the quiet mountains’ still air as the tiny ice crystals would gently patter upon the forest’s branches and the cabin’s roof. And ohh,,, the silence in between… Silence that would make your ears ring… All of this engulfed this little cabin half way up a mountain hollow in the Alleghenies…

Inside were planked hardwood floors. The main room had a table in the corner with a gun rack which was used to house the many hunting carbines of choice along with the many miscellaneous items to go along with them. On the table, there was always a deck of cards, and beside it, a magazine rack that had hunting and fishing magazines that dated way back to the dawn of the camp. There was a stone fireplace in the center of the room, stone that was found on that mountainside and that was hand laid to form a hearth which warmed the hearts and souls of many guests of years’ past. A date inscribed in the hearthstone, dating back to 1947, told on the age of that magnificent stonework. To the left of this, wood was stacked clear to the ceiling. An old railroad rain parka hung in the corner next to the front door, which has hung there for many years. I don’t recall it ever being worn in recent years of my time spent at the cabin. Perhaps, it had a story of its own from long ago, along with the horizontal scratchings, names and dates on the door jamb of that main room.

Oil lamps hung from the walls and a lantern rested on the kitchen table to provide light for her guests. Pictures of ducks, geese, rabbits, grouse, elk and deer covered the walls along with a topographical map of the camp’s surrounding forest of hollows and creeks… This map was always heeded with high regard as the encompassing beauty was equally matched and mirrored in all directions, which is exactly how these hills could easily turn one around.

An old wood cook-stove and oven sat quietly in the corner of the kitchen. It is obvious from the age of the stove, that it has probably sat there since the first callers upon the camp. A long dinner table adorned the stone wall of the backside of the fireplace in the kitchen. This was where small groups would eat, play cards and talk of life, family and past hunts. The front wall of the kitchen had a window above a spring water fed sink that looked out at the meandering brook which disappeared in the hemlocks farther down the mountainside. Cold mountain spring water piped in underneath the camp to this sink helped aid with awakening from the cool night’s deep slumber; spring water, that was gravity fed through buried pipe from higher up the mountain. This water tasted as pure as it was ice cold…

Four bunks, were all that was in the small bunk room, in that little cabin, which sat on a hillside of lush woodland and primordial sustenance. It was tight quarters in that bunkroom, but comfortable for sleeping. The chamber looked out upon the shooting tower that was constructed of log timbers. Above it, was a galvanized roof as well and underneath that, was a comfortable arrangement for two for sighting in their rifles.

At the opposite end of the cabin a short distance into the woods, an outhouse stood, which was a reminder of the cold winter mornings in those deep woods…

I remember one evening when standing outside of the cabin, and how the deafening silence was broken from an occasional owl in the distance. The treetops swayed and knocked from a light wind caressing the mountains. The back door of the camp opened and the sound of voices grew louder. The sound of a cooler shutting, followed by the door, left the voices sounding faint again along with the sound of laughter, perhaps from another tall yarn told at the kitchen table. The dim warm lights in the windows of the camp were welcoming, along with the therapeutic smell of wood burning. The night air was cool and the hill above black with night. The sound of the rippling stream nearby softened the soul as the world outside drifted away…

…Moss covered boulders as big as a house, was the place I was sitting on a ridgeline during a deer hunt, on one such visit. A flock of turkeys strolled through a crevice below on the ground as I watched between the rocks. Single file, they strolled through, when I realized, two bears were casually following as if they were part of the flock. Bouncing along behind, enjoying the outing with their turkey friends…

Another time while turkey hunting over the next ridge in the neighboring hollow, I was trekking along a very old logging road which was grown in with trees and brush, when I witnessed a moment of my life, in the outdoors, which I have yet to equal or transcend… While fall turkey hunting the old path with my shotgun across the crook of my arm, I noticed a cat’s head a very short distance up ahead of myself, peering out from the side of the overgrown old road. I slowly stepped one last step and stood still, so I could catch a glimpse of the bobcat that I was sure he was. “His head was of good proportion for a bobcat” I thought to myself. It seems I was stopped frozen stiff for eternity. My arms were tiring from the weight of the shotgun. I slowly lowered the gun to relieve my arms, when the cat quickly turned and made an about face back into the brush from which his head was peering out from. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I noticed his sleek, long, large, brown body and three-foot long tail swing around and disappear back into the thick cover…

I’ve been blessed with many experiences at the camp. The harvesting of my first buck on that hill above; the sightings of bear every time visited for a hunt; the pounding of grouse wings when walking the old logging roads and the feeling of going back in time for a short while. I recall the camaraderie, the friendships, the bond of man with fellow man and the woods. The camp was like a strong thread of stitching that held all these things together.

I was a mere visitor, but a participator in these events. A good friend of mine was of the family that leased and built the camp. I spent many years visiting the camp as a child and on up.

Twenty-two years ago, a major logging company decided to terminate all leases on its grounds. Today, the camp no longer stands in that laurel forest with boulders, pines and towering hardwoods. Instead, the land is unrecognizable as to what it once was and the camp was dismantled and burned many years ago…

The business of the world has caused a lot of good things and traditions to die, a lot of future feelings and experiences to be stolen away, and most definitely, the evidence of destruction left behind.

Far back in the woods, there is a place that has been changed. But,,, not so far back in my memory, there is a place that will always remain the same……

Do you like what your reading and want more? Hike on over to the Wood’s Membership Subscription” page  and check out the view!!!

 

© 2016, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

From The Cabin’s Front Porch

cabins-front-porch

Written by: Martin James Wood

This evening while sitting on the cabin’s front porch, nestled along the forest’s edge and some tucked away farm fields and age-old pastures, I decide to set here and not move, and watch the evening pass…

The leaves among the trees are as dark, of a green, as they are going to be in this late time of summer.

The rising and falling fields of corn are flaunting their yellow tassels in neatly textured rows,,, and the lush soybean fields exhibit their rich dark green color, as the wind gently caresses the sea of green maturation like the subtle waves of the ocean.

From the cabin’s front porch, I can see the red cherry crabapples have come on, sporting the trees with tiny red dots amongst the faded green branches.

The indefinite droning of the crickets with their hypnotic chorus continues on into the later evening.

From the cabin’s front porch, I can hear an occasional crow caw, as it loudly breaks the evening’s sound of the monotonous crickets. I recognize this sound, as this is a sound heard often in the fall season, among these cornfields and woods.

From the cabin’s front porch, I gaze out at the blue sky backdrop which compliments the contrasting elements of the dark green trees standing behind the yellowed tipped corn.

A cooler breeze cuts through the trees in the warm humid air. I become aware of a sudden interrupting burst of some robins cackling in the near distance…

From the cabin’s front porch, I perceive the quiet from all around… No sounds from any roads, near or far,,, as was one of the reasons why I had chosen to settle on this place, many decades ago…

From the cabin’s front porch, I can see the beach nuts are starting to show themselves with their prickly husks of soft needles, which I know will eventually turn firmer as the fall season progresses.

From the cabin’s front porch, I can see the oaks’ branches are heavy with their crop of nuts and red stemmed thick green leaves.

Higher up the mountain, the winds pick up and softly sweep along the lonely tops of the lofty timber…

From the cabin’s front porch, I can see the goldenrod has begun to dress up the untouched forgotten meadows.

From the cabin’s front porch, I hear geese break the silence from above, as they effortlessly pass over, performing their early ensemble of autumn… Afterwards, I hear a couple doves cooing somewhere along the edges of a distant mountain pasture…

From the cabin’s front porch, I hear a family cow bawling for its supper from the valley below, in the evenings now cooler air…

From the cabin’s front porch, I also can see the mighty oaks’ acorns have begun to let go of the branches… The azaleas’ leaves have begun to turn their crimson red,,, and the sumacs are full of their red fruit.

From the cabin’s front porch, I can see the hardwood cherry is producing its pea-like berries of red and some already dark violet.

From the cabin’s front porch, I can see the dark green rhododendrons have begun to curl their leaves, and the laurel leaves have turned their lighter yellow-green which are pointing upward toward the sky.

The sun gently shines across the rolling farm fields spread out beyond the cabin’s porch and lights the land ablaze with golds and yellows as the sky farther off gradually transforms from hues of blue to orange, yellow and brown.

From the cabin’s front porch, I listen to the peepers as they begin to fade in with the symphonic monotonicity of the crickets,,, as the cool late summer evening fades out, with the approaching of dusk…

Now standing,,, very still in front of my chair,,, and removing my hat as I stare a long while into the night… Humbly, I walk toward the door and lightly grasp the handle while taking one last glance over my shoulder. Softly opening the door, I slowly step inside,,, from the cabin’s front porch…

 

Do you like what your reading and want more? Hike on over to the Wood’s Membership Subscription” page  and check out the view!!!

 

© 2016, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

Wood’s Journal, Friday, August 5, 2016

Price Lake
Photo By Martin James Wood

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This featured post is in commemoration of our American National Park Service of 100 YEARS!!!

This particular post is a journal entry from the “Wood’s Journal” page. Please enjoy your trek along “The Wood’s Edge” and check out more on the “Wood’s Journal” page.

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Written by: Martin James Wood

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sky: overcast of thick cumulus clouds with hints of blue sky

Air: very warm, humid and still

Precipitation: intermittent heavy rainfall

Ground: wet but drying quickly

Sunshine: occasional bright sunshine

Temperature: 72 degrees

Time out: mid-morning

This week, some of my family and myself are spending the week at a mountain cabin in historical Valle Crucis North Carolina.

As I notice on the cabin’s television, there’s news of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and his son, explaining and clarifying a statement of Donald’s and how it was taken out of context. Also a highlighted past event from earlier in the year, of a controversial payment, of millions of dollars, that the US paid Iran at the same time Iran released American hostages, has come back into the spotlight. A black lives matter protest was held in London’s Heathrow Airport blocking traffic. There is news of the CDC having trouble with stopping the spread of the Zika virus in Florida near Miami. And, there is more talk on Hillary Clinton’s alleged perjury in the email case of her carelessness with confidential correspondence and documents.

The temperatures ranged this week from the upper fifties on up through the mid eighties here in the Blue Ridge. This mountainous area can typically have rain daily but during our stay we’ve seen some unseasonable consistent heavier rains throughout the days due to some coastal storms along the Gulf. Even with the heavy rain throughout the day, almost immediately after each water drenching, the sun will shine bright and ever so quickly dry up the saturated earth.

The High Country sky this morning seems to be constantly changing with large white billows and blue sky. From an old rocker on the cabin’s front porch, I take note of the branches above that are covered with light green strands of moss. I also observe the sunshine glimmering off the leaves along the wooded hillside. A heavy fog, below the hillside, hides the lower woodland and stream that I know is there, as I traversed its steep road to get to here. What a gorgeous morning in these mountains!

The cabin from Anderson Mountain Realty, http://rentourcabins.com/, has been extremely comfortable and pleasant. Wooded views from all around have been a pleasure for the soul. Quiet evenings have allowed for some well rested nights and scent from the piney forest has been quite therapeutic.

We decide to head out along the Blue Ridge Parkway to take in some forested mountain views. We pull off to take a trail which leads to a mountain brook which winds along mass boulders and rocks, and mossy creekbanks. Just alongside the boulders and rocks are large dense thickets of Laurel which follow the winding banks throughout the wooded wonderland.

brook
Photo by Martin James Wood

The warm humid air of the morning seems cooler, among the laurel and along the crystal clear brook. The laurel decorates the banks with its dark green leaves of sporadic texture. Throughout the forest, light peers through the deciduous branches and laurel leaves shimmering off the water before me. Standing at the edge of a clear pool, I spot a trout along the rocks across the bowl in the shadows. I watch him, as he moves further into his rocky chamber of safety.

Later, on the Parkway, we pull off for some magnificent mountain views way up amidst the pines. There are sporadic foggy formations throughout the valleys and mountainsides below. Driving the Parkway, we are bestowed with breathtaking panoramas at every cliffy clearing. Along the drive, we’ve had several opportunities of sighting deer along the road’s grassy fringes. Appearing content in their summer coats of amber, they feed among the high grasses. We are fortunate to witness some fawns as they play in a meadow of flowering wild grass while their elders look on.

At another one of our pull-offs along the banks of what seems a hidden mountain lake, known as Price Lake which is part of the Julian Price Memorial Park, I look out at the placid water reflecting the mountains just beyond, which I realize are a main water source for this lake. The atmosphere is as serene and calm as the basin stretched out before me. A little further than my arm’s length away, perched in some shrubbery overhanging the water, is a Gray Catbird looking out at the majestic Grandfather Mountain across the reservoir. The black capped bird with her smooth gray-blue plumage appears to be so intently focused on the silhouette of the peaceful mountain view far beyond the lake, that she’s unaware of my presence. Turning my attention in the bird’s direction while sitting and reflecting, I can’t help but think of a time of when man’s decisions were wholly dependent upon the land, and nature. Decisions of what needed done for the day, what one would eat and drink, and even how they would sleep, or not… This makes me feel small. Real small.

The splendor of this tucked away little giant gem with its wooded banks, the high mountains in the far distance beyond its opposite shore, the pristine mountain brooks and tributaries hidden among these forests, the wildlife sustained by all this natural grandeur, and the giant sky above it all… Yes, I feel small. Real small…

Do you like what your reading and want more? Hike on over to the Wood’s Membership Subscription” page  and check out the view!!!

 

© 2016 – 2017, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

Wood’s Journal, Wednesday, June 22, 2016

cropped DSC_0055
Photo by Martin James Wood

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This particular post is a journal entry from the “Wood’s Journal” page. Please enjoy your trek along “The Wood’s Edge” and check out more on the “Wood’s Journal” page.

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Written by: Martin James Wood

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sky: blue sky with very thin layer of stratocumulus clouds

Air: still, warm and humid

Precipitation: none but it rained the night before

Ground: dry, with some left over puddling

Sunshine: bright sunshine

Temperature: 79 degrees

Time out: mid-morning

My wife, my youngest son and myself are spending most of this week on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, off the coast of Virginia. We made this stop-off to fill the time in between some college visits and college basketball prospect camps my son had been invited to attend. I know this is a perfect opportunity for me to explore the natural surroundings and wildlife of the islands as I’ve spent time here in the past and I’ve learned of its natural beauty before,,, and I know well, of what it has to offer.

The temperatures this week are fairly moderate and pleasant for the coast. There had been some short bursts of storms with hard rainfall, but these have been very short and intermittent. It seems with all of the harsh news of the world, with refugees, BREXIT, ISIS, mothers doing horrible things to their children, fathers doing horrible things to their families, mentally unstable people shooting up night clubs and some of the irrational bickering of some government officials, there isn’t a place to find peace… Peace of mind.

But step away, and look into nature. Look deep into it…

It was later than usual this morning when I arose and looked out upon the bay and noted of the higher water level, which I’m sure is a direct result from the rainstorm we had the night before.

“Somehow even when it storms on the island, it seems to be relaxing to look out upon and appreciate the innate environment”, I think to myself as I continue to stare at the still water this morning with my coffee in hand, remembering last night’s storm. The accommodations of the cottage house of Easy Does It Vacations http://www.easydoesitvacations.com/, has allowed us to take in some of the Bay views in comfort during our visit here. The owner, John, has been very accommodating and pleasant to speak with as well.

I head out to Assateague Island National Seashore to take in some of the primitive beauty of the day. A trail leads me out to the marsh, and also runs alongside the ocean. I notice the sulfuric smell from the marsh’s salty air. In the high grass I watch a young rabbit, looking for its mother, I assume. The young rabbit appears frantic as it regards my company; also, he’s not able to locate his mother. A little later on, I can see her further down the trail, fully indulged with grazing, and savoring the grass before her. She seems to be completely unaware of both my presence and the younger rabbit’s panicked state.

Off of the trail, there are quite a lot of fallen trees lying among the tall marsh grasses, which are growing up and around the limbs. I’m sure this makes perfect cover for these rabbits. Dark brackish water lies between these little islands of cover, with high grass and remnants of felled Loblolly. The silky long appearance of the grasses, plush and soft to the eye, is a perfect contrast to the coarse and jagged bark of both the standing and prostrate piney timber that is intertwined and interwoven throughout this sandy coastal forest.

cropped DSC_0016
Photo by Martin James Wood

Approaching the tiny and now frantic rabbit, I crouch down, and examine him a little more closely. I lay on my belly and hold the camera out. The little rabbit, which is no bigger than my fist, seems calmer and begins to eat at the grass around him. It isn’t long before mom becomes aware of the photoshoot. I can see her notice the little one’s moving about, and I watch her as she becomes concerned, and then moves quickly toward us.

I move further along the trail. A pair of cardinals touches down beside me, as if spontaneously deciding to stop in for an informal visit. But, as quickly as the spontaneous calling had come, the couple departs, perhaps remembering an engagement of theirs, so it appears… 

Soon after I come upon an entrance of where the marsh opens up to a vast expanse of sea green grass stretching almost as far as I can see. How beautiful are the colors of the grasses and the water in between, reflecting the sky. Standing amidst these colors is a perfectly white Great Egret. With my camera in hand, I study the long necked egret as it saunters through the water, in between the tall stems of grass. Eventually she decides to take flight as well, and leaves me staring out at the marsh wanting more, more of this peace…Peace of mind.

Step away, and look into nature. Look deep into it…

 

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© 2016, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

Special Woods

blog sketch canoe mountain

Written by: Martin James Wood

If you like to hike, hunt, trap, fish or consider yourself a naturalist or maybe you just like the outdoors, then I’m sure you could answer this question… What is your special woods?

You know,,, the place you dream about in the middle of a hectic work day… It’s a place you may or may not be real familiar with, because it could be a fictitious place in your imagination…

You may go there often to take game, pull a whopper from its waters, or just unwind and walk the trails…

It might be that place you have visited with your father, brother or with that friend, who may or may not any longer be around…

Life’s circumstances may have caused you to only have been there once or twice in your lifetime…

Possibly it is a nostalgic place from your childhood and you swam in its cool waters or climbed of its branches…

Maybe it has changed or it’s no longer present in the way that you remember, and never again will you be able to see, touch, or smell its existence…

There are many places that take one’s breath away, and then there are those places, that just give us breath…

How about a place high up in the mountains, with deep defined valleys and ridges, with a view of nothing but forest for miles around,,, or how about, wide rusty canyons that stretch far as the eye can see with green shelves high above,,, or a place that has long flat low green valleys surrounded by far off snow capped mountains…

If you’re like me, maybe your special woods relate to you as the changing of the seasons. The seasons of time and weather;

…It is spring turkey season and I’m walking the woodline following a wide spread of rolling farm field. The grass is lush and green. The sun glistens along the woodline blotted with an assortment of greens. The path I’m walking is a brown ribbon like trail winding upward along the treeline. The air is fresh and thin. There are a pair of hawks soaring freely above in the endless blue sky. As I crest the edge of the field, I hear the sound of crows arguing somewhere in the woods and I sit down and take note of the ever familiar view of the ripening valley below. The warblers, chickadees, thrashers and wrens all seem to be quite present in the whole affair…

…It is summer and there is the hollow sound of the oars brushing against the side of the canoe. I hold the paddle to one side of the boat and steer a friend and myself into one of my favorite summer afternoons. We pull our oars out of the water and slightly drift as I watch the reflected trees from the shoreline in the placid water pass by. A fish splashes just up ahead as I quietly and gingerly drop the anchor. The serenity of the lake leaves not much to be heard, other than the steady wiz of our casting lines and the occasional, “I got one!”, after a tug or two on one of our rigs. But how the lake makes up for its lack of sound with its surrounding beauty. The sun shimmers across the lake and the evergreens seem to hold everything in its place along the shoreline. Above is a beautiful blue sky that extends far beyond the encompassing wooded hills. A crane standing on one leg close to shore decides to suddenly take flight and land in a nearby tree while the water beside me instantly ripples from a teasing fish…

…It is fall and I’m sitting on my haunches peering across a clearing of yellowed faded grasses with my shotgun across my knee. I can smell the fragrance of wild apples in the warm autumn air. Wild apples from the crab apple orchard across this secluded forgotten meadow. As the sun shines through the golden branches, all speckled in reds and yellows from the season’s remaining crop, I can see the evidence of deer from the defined paths through the high grass that go to and fro this little island of bounty. I should remember this place during deer season for the scrapes and rubs are many, but it often seems I find myself remembering it during the warm leisure autumn of turkey and squirrel…

…It is early winter and I find myself in the hardwoods walking snow covered ridges and old logging roads, or I’m walking along the edges of fields or following creekbottoms littered with hemlocks usually in my quest for deer. Later in winter, it’s the brambles and the brush that pull at my hound’s and my hearts. Red brush, thorns and fallen trees, places that you don’t think about walking into any other time of year and of course the fence rows, woodlines and the long forgotten about homestead remnants. The dog and I do have our favorite places but like the early explorers, we also like to discover and conquer new territory…

These woods are very special. They leave everlasting impressions in our hearts like mountain streams cutting deep and finding their way through wooded hollows. Most definitely and undeniably, these are “special woods”…

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© 2016, The Wood’s Edge Publications/Martin James Wood. All rights reserved.

Wood’s Journal, Friday, March 11, 2016

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This particular post is a journal entry from the “Wood’s Journal” page. Please enjoy your trek along “The Wood’s Edge” and check out more on the “Wood’s Journal” page.

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blog sketch turkey tomWritten by: Martin James Wood

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sky: blue sky with very moderate cumulus clouds

Air: comfortably cool with an  intermittent light breeze

Precipitation: none

Ground: dry

Sunshine: bright sunshine

Temperature: 42 degrees

Time out: Friday mid-morning

In the woods and fields of Pennsylvania, this week’s spring-like weather has given us temperatures ranging from about thirty degrees on up through the mid-seventies. The college basketball ‘March Madness’ is now upon us and people are filling out their brackets. The Republican debate this week with Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich was a much more civil display than some of their past debates. Bernie and Hillary went head to head with their debate and the March 8th Primaries still show Trump and Clinton out ahead with delegate popularity. Players, fans, politicians and media, all are needing to strut their stuff to prove their expertise of what they do…

Outside my cabin door, I notice the refreshing intermittent breeze as I espy the waltzing pines. I also instantly take note of the increased bird activity and song. There are more robins about today than I have seen yet this approaching spring.

I choose to take a wooded path not far from the cabin this morning and proceed to step off the front porch and trek along. As I enter the trail, I observe the definite shadows from the trees on the dry woody earth as the sunshine is very vibrant this morning. The treetops above sway with the comfortable cool breeze. The sky above them shows-off it’s deep blue color and also leaves room for some magnificent white formations to admire.

I don’t go very far before some movement catches my attention along the trail. Crouching behind a wide oak, I get comfortable to watch a hen sashay up the trail toward me. Looking between the trees to see if I can find more, I soon spot more movement and long behold, I’m studying six turkeys feeding about. As time goes on, more movement a little further beyond them also catches my attention and now I’m surveying a full strutting Tom. Using my binoculars, I examine his behavior. He paces back and forth and never moves toward the hens. He drops his wing feathers real low to the ground and drags them as he puffs his body feathers way out as to appear as a large black ball about twice his size. Then he raises his huge fan of tail feathers straight up toward the blue sky and continues to walk real slow and smooth-like, still dragging his wing feathers. It really is quite a sight…

A closer examination of him allows me to attentively regard his colors of shiny green, on the sleek black ball of his body, and blueish white head all speckled about with red, which has a red and white comb hanging and waving over the beak. His head is considerably larger than the hens’ that he’s trying to entice. The fan of tail feathers are brown and whitish tipped. His beard hanging out from his chest has to be at least nine to ten inches in length. He is definitely a majestic sight to behold…

The hens, who are not as majestic in appearance but are quite an exhibit of their own with their long slick bodies, long legs and finely contoured heads, seem to not pay any attention to ‘strutting Tom’. They ruffle their feathers and shake them out from time to time and just remain focused on their feeding of the nuts upon the forest floor. Tom isn’t interested in feeding at all. He remains concentrated on his strutting and watching his harem quite intently, occasionally calling out to them in a low soft subtle, yelp, yelp, yelp,,, yelp…

The hens decide to head in the opposite direction of him and are suddenly spooked by something… They take to the sky in that direction… I detect that this bothers him as he paces faster,,, and then, he eventually stops strutting,,, and quickly, he strides in their direction,,, and eventually, he flies after them, as he is,,, needing to strut his stuff to prove his expertise of what he can do…

 

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Wood’s Journal, Saturday, February 20, 2016

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This particular post is a journal entry from the “Wood’s Journal” page. Please enjoy your trek along “The Wood’s Edge” and check out more on the “Wood’s Journal” page.

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blog sketch bluebird

Written by: Martin James Wood

 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sky: solid deep blue

Air: warm and breezy

Precipitation: none

Ground: clear and wet

Sunshine: bright sunshine

Temperature: 67 degrees

Time out: Saturday mid-morning

The Nevada Caucus resulted with Hillary Clinton triumphant by a very small margin for the Democrats and Donald Trump continues to be out front for the Republicans and wins the South Carolina Primary this week. There seems to be some controversy in the news over the replacement of highly respected and recently deceased US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We seemed to have had a vast range for the mercury this week, with temperatures as low as the negative single digits on up through the upper sixties as experienced today. I have to admit that the ever-changing erratic temperatures and weather has made for a quite pleasant winter for myself and many others here in the hill country of Pennsylvania. We’ve been able to witness some very cold wintry days, and as quick as the cold snaps have come on, so have the warm sunny spells in between.

Walking this rocky ridge which follows along the river below, I witness two hawks above as they soar in playful circles. When the larger approaches the smaller one, it screeches as if it’s coaxing the smaller one along and the smaller one answers back with his screech. They continue this affair as they sail higher on above into the deep blue firmament.

I stop as I hear the warm breeze whisper along the ridge and watch the current caress the long needles of the white pines grown out from the rocky cliff. I then move further into the wood-line to follow the path which takes me down along the water’s edge and then enters a small clearing facing an oak grove. Upon arriving at this grove, I notice two blue jays touchdown on a low lying branch just ahead of myself about ten feet off the ground. The ever happy jays sing for a little while and the larger one inserts food into the mouth of the other. He, the larger one, takes to the air and the slightly smaller one, the female I surmise, follows.

Standing among the tall oaks, it is quiet for a moment and I notice the change from the invigorating piney scent of higher up earlier to now a refreshingly musty earthy smell. Detecting the hollow sound of some quick repeated knocking in the not so far off distance, I Squint in the direction of the sound to try to catch a glimpse of the woodpecker that I’m hearing,,, but unfortunately, I’m not able to spot the colorful worker, that I’m sure he is.

As I move along, there are more blue jays diving and feeding here and there. The crows are flying overhead crowing jubilantly, along with the ecstatic calls from the jays. The soft forest carpet seems to be the perfect playground for some gray and red squirrels running about. The jubilant feeling is very contagious I realize as I catch myself smiling at the squirrels chasing one another up and down the oaks.

Climbing the trail out ahead, it leads me by an old orchard which appears to have been a planned fruit garden many years before. I notice some robins and a beautiful pair of bluebirds perched among this wildly overgrown thicket. They seem to not care of my presence as I approach them and they only seem to have interest in one another and the sunny day, which allows me to observe the mates at almost an arm’s length away. The soft light blues are quite a contrast to the branches around them and the robins who are also close by. The robins and the bluebirds continue to look about and not care of me and fluff themselves in the sun and stretch their little necks toward the blue sky which I realize is the only matching element of the bluebirds. The song of the birds and the warm sun on the natural innate surroundings leaves one feeling not only jubilant, but also quite jovial.

Upon my looking back down toward the ground and a little beyond the orchard, I discover an old stone foundation which has to date way back to the late 1700’s to 1800’s… I suddenly feel a little saddened to think at one time this house and orchard was once part of someone’s dream,,, their life… Someone must have poured their blood, sweat and tears into this homestead, and now,,, it’s gone and long forgotten…

Change always seems to bring controversy and stir the soul, but somehow beauty seems to remain and allow for jovial comfort…

 

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A Fulfilling Hunt

blog post A Fulfilling HuntWritten by: Martin James Wood

It had been six years since I’ve harvested any venison and the Pennsylvania buck season had just ended. It seems I’m always sighting deer while driving in my truck. When hunting buck season around here, you always see doe and if you’re lucky, that one buck. The buck are usually traveling off on their own along secluded routes during this season in late November. If you have seen more than one, then either you have missed or he was out of range.

Having very little time for scouting this last year, I blame myself for not filling my buck tag. Although having little time, I do have a general idea of where the deer cross patterns and main traffic areas are around where I have been before.

I have spent several days out in buck season and only spotted about a handful of doe. With doe season immediately following buck season, it has almost pretty much become a rule in my book that to get a doe you just about have to trip over one because they’re sitting so tight and are so skittish from the just ended Buck season.

It was about 5 a.m. when I arose on the first morning of doe. The air was cold and a heavy frost had blanketed the ground. I thought I would try one of my favorite spots where I know the deer heavily run during the fall harvest season. It’s an old crab-apple orchard which had produced a bountiful crop this year. The high-ground along the wooded edge is where the deer would come and head down toward the old orchard. With no wind I chose to stand along this wood-line.

Patiently waiting with my .270 Winchester, I prayed to the Creator for guidance on this hunt. A few hours had gone by and the once frozen ground had thawed. Life in the orchard seemed scarce that morning. After exhausting a still hunt of moving slowly about the whole wood-line and the primal orchard, I concluded to try another area and followed the trail through the orchard down along a creek bottom. The stream crossed under an old backroad and the trail crossed the road and entered the mouth of a huge ravine… So I followed.

When reaching the top, I crossed the clearing ahead along the woods edge. When reaching the corner of the tract, I turned right to continue along the woods until I saw a pair of hunters further down the opening. Turning toward the woods, I saw more orange and could see two more hunters in the open span on the other side of the woods. Instantly, I realized they were putting on a drive. “I walked right into a deer drive!”, I thought with excitement. Could I have been this fortunate? But,,, I usually never see anybody hunting way back in these woods…? Which way were they driving? As all of these thoughts poured out on top of one another. Squinting, I stopped and observed the direction they were facing which was opposite my direction. I whispered to myself, “The drive is coming right toward me”. I made an about-face and quickly headed back to the corner of the tract from which I came. I cut into the woods between the two clearings of where the hunters stood and I walked the direction opposite them to acquire a safe distance from their range of shot. While walking, I said to myself, “one‘ll get by them and it’ll turn into these woods, and I’ll be waiting.”

I wheeled around after a few steps to get a glimpse of anything… Just then, a doe, charging down the wood-line, jumps a fallen tree and enters the woods I’m in. Instinctively, I shoulder my rifle as if I’ve done this a thousand times a day every-day of my life. I look through the scope and realize she’s too close and moving too fast as I pull the cold stock closer to my cheek and peer down the iron sights under my scope and gently squeeze the trigger off. Sinking the bullet in the rib cage just behind the right shoulder, the deer then runs a little further then horseshoes around me while I’m ratcheting another round in the chamber of my rifle. I watch as she then stops, arches her back, then runs a few more paces and lays down. I look up toward the clearing to where all the orange I had seen a moment ago and,,, there wasn’t anyone… No orange anywhere! In fact further off there was a low fog hovering where there wasn’t before… The clearing was a long empty spanse of overgrowth with not a sign of anyone.

Kneeling down beside the deer, I thanked God for the hunt; the bounty; the instinct instilled deep in both of our beings, and the chance to complete and fulfill my instinct. I ask the Creator to bless the deer and thanked the deer for what it has given. I looked up from the deer as a mystical silence fell over the woods, and then from just behind me I heard footsteps approaching. I turned my head toward the sound of the footsteps in the leaves and I didn’t see anyone or anything. As I was Stretching my neck in that direction, the once still air picked up and blew a long brisk breeze right up my shirt and stirred all the leaves about myself and the deer… My eyes welled up as I felt the sense of fulfillment deep in my soul…

My instinct, an urge to hunt; an urge to go and complete a ritual that is controversial today. Something that had to be done, just because.

Instinct is in all living creatures. It is, because it is. Instinct enabled me to make a judgment call in an instant; fire a rifle; and down game without any forethought. It enabled me of providing food with my bare hands.

This is all instinct instilled deep within from our Creator. We can win marathons; win contests; and accomplish incredible achievements, but nothing compares to fulfillment. I believe fulfillment comes from completing an urge of instinct. An instinctive feeling deep within us not by any choice of our own. This is why man hunts; why geese migrate; why a dog must satisfy his master; why salmon swim upstream in the spring, and why a hen broods her eggs.

If man were to be denied of fulfilling his instinct, then man would be no better than a deer locked up in a cage.

Ohhh…… Six years has been a long time…

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