Category Archives: Out Beyond the Beauty Strip

The contrasts and contradictions lapping up onto our beautiful landscapes.

Beyond the Beauty Strip for October 2010: Hidden in Plain Sight by Tamia Nelson

When we’re behind the wheel, it’s easy to fall into “Don’t look, don’t see” mode. A car enwombs driver and passenger alike, insulating them from the many of the sights, sounds, and smells of the world around them. Not long ago a driver ran down a cyclist, dragging her several hundred yards. The driver continued on without stopping, thinking, she later said, that she’d just hit a deer or a dog. Only when she got home and discovered a bicycle lodged under her SUV did it dawn on her that she’d struck a human being. (The cyclist died of her injuries, by the way, but the driver wasn’t charged. Apparently, this was a mistake any driver could make.)

Only a deer. Only a dog. Only a cyclist. Life is cheap on America’s highways, and the open road is littered with the bodies of the ones who didn’t get away. Not many cyclists are left where they fall, of course. We still have enough respect for human life to collect their remains, if not … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip, September 2010 by Tamia Nelson

 
The weather was so pleasant when I was cycling along one of my regular routes last week that I decided to extend the ride, and I took a detour onto a road that I hadn’t traveled down before. I hadn’t gone far before a dirt track led away from the road into a woods. The sign at the intersection said Cemetery Road. It was an invitation I couldn’t refuse.

Chickadees called from the trees, and I heard a turkey clucking softly in a field just visible through the woods to the south. A quarter mile or so further on, the track suddenly came to an end. And sure enough, there was the cemetery. Ranks of neatly tended gravestones reposed on a gentle hillside, shaded by towering spruces. I left my bike at the open gate and entered the cemetery.

Resting Place

I walked the rows of stones and wondered about the lives of those who were buried there. Several graves marked the resting places of soldiers from the American Civil War, and a Marine who’d died … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip for August 2010 by Tamia Nelson

As the days grow shorter and evenings become more chill, the crowds of fair-weather hikers thin out. So I’ve been walking the local woodland trails more often. A favorite path leads me through a garden rich in the delicate wildflowers known as touch-me-nots, or jewelweed.

The flower stalks grow as high as my shoulders here, attracting countless insects. Songbirds and small mammals find plenty to eat, as well. Before long, I emerged from the woods into a clearing. Beyond that point, the trail widens and continues on toward the town road. This wider track has been badly scarred by ATVs, whose riders have left the usual mementos of their passing: crushed beer cans, broken bottles, food wrappers, and discarded oil cans. The wild creatures who call the woodland home can’t move to a quieter neighborhood, of course. So they cope as best they can. And as I continued along the rutted track, I noticed a barely perceptible stirring in a patch of scraggly grass that the wreckreationists had somehow spared. I looked closer and saw … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip for July 2010 by Tamia Nelson

It’s often difficult for me to wrench myself away from The River, with its dramatic falls and tranquil pools, but the bordering woodlands have an allure all their own. So I made the most of a cool day not long ago, climbing away from The River on herd paths and side trails in search of subjects for my lens. I wasn’t disappointed.

I kept climbing, following an informal trail that I knew would take me to a seasonally maintained dirt road. As I crested the last rise, the trail opened up into a clearing. Formerly a staging area for logging operations, this opening in the woods boasted a profusion of berry bushes—a favorite spot for berry-pickers of every species, including man. No longer, however. The canes of the berry bushes had been stripped bare of their leaves by the passing and repassing of ATVs and trail bikes, and in the now-barren heart of the clearing was a large fire ring.

Fire Ring

Spent shot shells covered the ground, and…

Spent Shot Shell

Tangles of rusty wire were everywhere.

A Tangled  Tale

So the … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip for June 2010: Pleasant Mound Cemetery by Tamia Nelson

Pleasant Mound. That’s a good name for a cemetery, isn’t it? Conjures up images of a properly bucolic final resting place, with a songbird chorus celebrating each new dawn and a gentle breeze whispering through the treetops. And the view from the road doesn’t belie the promise.

Pleasant Mound Cemetery

I came in search of two lonely graves, tucked into a hollow along the boundary of the county forest. I hadn’t been able to find out who was buried there, and I hoped to photograph the stones in order to facilitate further inquiries. A dirt road loops around the back of the cemetery. I followed it as it climbed gently. Then, just as I crested the hill, I was greeted with this sight:

Around the sBack

I’ve pieced this panorama together from several wide-angle photos, which explains the unusual perspective and the stitch lines. The cemetery proper is just out of sight to my right, with the nearest maintained graves at the top of the hill. The two gravesites I’d been seeking are hidden behind chest-high brambles, on the left of … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip for May 2010 by Tamia Nelson

The local dump—it’s actually a “transfer and recycling station,” but everybody still calls it a dump—is free to residents. You heard me right. There’s no charge for dumping your household garbage. But free is still too high a price for some folks. Want a for-instance? OK. Take a look at this little stream, only one half-mile from the dump:

Real North Country

A pleasant sight, isn’t it? A delightful little pocket wetland. But now look more closely. What do you see? An informal dump, littered with scrap wood (complete with exposed nails), long lengths of lawn edging, plastic sheeting, and broken flower pots, the detritus from somebody’s abortive home beautification scheme, no doubt. How ironic.

Real North Country 1

Real North Country 2

Real North Country 3

And that’s not all. The bank of the stream is carpeted in leaves, the accumulated lawn sweepings from who knows how many years gone by. And while these will decay in time, they all but choke the little waterway now—as well as concealing other, less benign trash.

A Nasty Surprise

Of course nature is fighting back…

Nature...

Keeps Coming Back

And now it’s getting a little help. Someone’s gone to … Continue reading »

Beyond the Beauty Strip for April 2010 by Tamia Nelson

Spring came early to the Adirondacks this year. There’s still snow on the High Peaks, but sun and wind are gnawing patiently away at what’s left. Meltwater now swells the Saranac River and hurries it along toward Lake Champlain. The state highway (NY Route 3) between Cadyville and Riverview gives any traveler who cares to look plenty of chances to watch the water’s headlong rush.

Saranac River

No setting could be lovelier, could it? The scene is framed by white-capped mountains, towering spruces, and bare-limbed maples and beeches.

Mountain Vistas

There’s history on offer, too. A state marker in a pull-off just west of the hamlet of Redford reminds passers-by that the river was here before the road:

Historic Marker

And that it, too, was once a busy highway.

Saranac River

Of course, this was a long time ago. But even though commerce may have abandoned the river, mergansers still patrol the shallows, fishing for minnows to rebuild their reserves after the long flight north. There’s plenty of action elsewhere, too. Woodpeckers hammer tattoos on trees deep in the woods, while chickadees flit through the … Continue reading »