The nature pilgrimage was great as always, although this year I spent half the time missing Rick and the other half hiking through thick woods and up hills and generally tiring myself out. The excersize was welcome, but now my legs are complaining about it. We started out on Friday with rain, but that let up and only sprinkled throughout the day while I went out and did some nature art with pastels. That was a good session, I actually learned something about working with pastels and managed to bring back a decent half-finished work of art. Mom has pastels here that she said I could use to finish it up, when and if I want to.
Saturday was busy, since in the morning I went geocaching with the Jamestown Audubon Society's teen group. It was their first time and mine too, and it took us a while to acquaint ourselves with the GPS reciever we'd borrowed and to get the hang of finding the caches. We got two of them, and had a great time walking up and down hills in the course of our treasure hunt. It's exciting to find the geocaches and see what's inside, though one of them was only full of cheap plastic toys, the other had some better things inside. The idea of geocaching is that if you find a cache and remove something, you should put something back, so I left a bead lizard I had made a few years ago at camp in one of the caches. I didn't take anything for myself, deciding to leave the treasures to the Audubon group. It was fun enough to get involved in a treasure hunt and learn something about how to use a GPS reciever.
After the geocaching excitement I got to take a four hour hike through the most wild country in the park, where there is an old growth forest with trees over 400 years old in some places. It was an amazing tour and our guide was very knowledgeable, having done this same walk (always a different, unmarked route) for years. He went and explored a place that he said he'd never been, and it turned out to hold some great surprises. I saw a few flowers that I hadn't seen much of before, and also got to taste a basswood leaf. They're edible in the springtime before they get too big and tough; I didn't know that before. It's amazing what you learn when you're not expecting it.
Today there were some sessions in the morning but we slept in and spent the morning packing instead. After the nature pilgrimage we always head up the road a few miles to the most awesome rock outcroppings in the park - Thunder Rocks. We spend a few hours there among the boulders, have lunch and climb. The area sits on a hilltop and has a grouping of huge, old chunks of sedimentary rock that must have gotten kicked up from the bedrock when the glaciers were passing through. While the park does not condone climbing them, most people under the age of 40 or so try to climb every rock there, even the ones that have been proven time after time to be unscalable. A few are small and have plenty of handholds or tree roots to grab onto, while others are huge and provide some challenging faces. Some are mossy and damp from unseen springs or cracks within them, which makes climbing all the more fun (and dangerous). There is one boulder about 40 feet high which has a wonderfully easy crevice straight up the side, until within feet of the top, where it overhangs and forms a horizontal ledge underneath, which is the only way to the top once you're up the crevice. That ledge is the bane of my climbing experience because I've never quite gotten up the courage to crawl along it (remember, it's 40+ feet up and mostly smooth, which means no handholds). I still want to get on top of that rock one day. The other side isn't bad to climb either but getting started is tough without a boost or a rope. Anyway, I climbed all over and got up a few challenging rocks and finally scraped my knee on one, but came back dirty and tired and smiling nonetheless. We got home and unpacked the van, and then headed for the pool. The water was a balmy 68 F, which isn't bad for this time of year and felt fantastic after the heat of Thunder Rocks and the car ride back. Sister and friend joined us after a little while and we all splashed around and fought over the pool floaties while the adults watched from a safe and shaded distance. I must have spent about an hour in the water, and I feel slightly waterlogged but really content. It's been a relatively good weekend.