This is the last installment of boring summer doldrums photos, I promise. If you're really into it, though, there are more in the two previous posts. Start with "What I did this summer #1" and work your way up.
Photo 11: Mr. Wren hits the long curve on the homeward stretch. At this point we'd walked about 21/2 miles -- not far for you athletic folks who walk or jog frequently and go for distance, but quite a handy jaunt for both of us gimpy types. I figure as we regain strength, muscle and endurance, we'll add distance naturally. Already we're walking far more and for greater distances than I'd have believed two months ago.
Some years back, when Mr. Wren was still backpacking way up into the high country, he asked for walking sticks, as he'd heard they were great for stability. I got him some for his birthday. They didn't get much use, unfortunately, as he was disabled not long after.
But now, those fancy sticks are making themselves worth the initial outlay of cash. Mr. Wren normally uses a cane to assist his walking. But when we're out walking for all the good things it brings, he uses those walking sticks. And man, can he move out. When he's warmed up and feeling good, it's just like old times -- I have to trot to keep up. To help me with that, he bought me my own set of sticks a couple of weeks ago. Mine are about a foot shorter than his.
Since my rheumatoid arthritis isn't actively flaring these days -- I deal mainly with morning stiffness and, oddly, sore feet whether I've been walking or not -- the fine walking sticks still feel a bit awkward to me. They do provide extra balance, however, and the rhythm of walking with them, arms working in tandem with my legs, feels good. I like 'em. I figure I'm conditioning for cross-country skiing, come winter (and assuming actual snow falls this year). Or maybe snowshoeing. Perhaps that's a bit ambitious, considering a three-mile walk on a nice, gently sloped trail wears me out. But I like to be optimistic.
Photo 12: Isn't this a nice thistle-head? There was a patch of these by the trail -- about waist high, touched by sunlight in an otherwise shadowy green copse, looking to me like big, gaudy stars. I had to snap a pic because that whimsical, dry thistle made me smile.
Photo 13: The woods to either side of the trail are composed mainly of a variety of oak trees and shrubs, Ponderosa and sugar pines. A little higher up, the oaks peter out and tall, rustling cedar trees and the Steller's jays that live in them join the pines. The understoryby the trail is composed mainly of crispy, dry grass, toyon, broom, manzanita and poison oak. Where there is water, there's blackberry bramble.
Oh, and there are rattlesnakes. I'm hoping that one morning soon, we'll see one sunning itself on the trail and I can take a photo. From a distance, of course. A longggg distance. I have zoom.
Note the dark mass high up in the pine tree on the left in Photo 13. Photo 14 shows it close up. It looks like a huge nest. Mr. Wren thinks it might be a squirrel nest -- there are gray squirrels everywhere -- but it seems to me that if it is, then we'd see a lot more honkin' big nests in the trees. But this is the only one we've seen, here or anywhere else. Any naturalists out there who might know what sort of creature builds a huge nest like this? It looks like it has a hole in one side as an entrance and exit, it's made of sticks and ... green pine needles? Or maybe the shaggy look is from horsetails? (see installment #2, below) And it's attached to some crossing branches. It's very cool.
Maybe tree elves live in it. Heheh.
Photo 15: End of the trail. Just another 50 yards from where I shot this photo of the orchard-covered hill up ahead is the parking lot for the trailhead. When we get to the Celica, both of us groan all the way down into it (it's sadistically low-slung) and then we head off for the reward -- a nice cup of chai and sometimes, a breakfast out. Walking most mornings has been a real spirit lifter for both of us. We're losing weight, we're waking up, we're moving. For Mr. Wren, this is almost like a miracle, as he has barely been able to walk from one end of the house to the other for that last couple of years. Now, with a little more than 40 pounds off his frame (and he's still losing) he can walk three miles. And he wants to. That's the icing.
As for me, I'm still not smoking, I'm still on the patch and I'm still dieting. I'm losing weight much more slowly than Mr. Wren (the curse of a female physique, I'm told) but I am slimming down. Even when the pounds seem to stick, I've noticed changes in their distribution since we started walking. My "always fit" jeans are getting loose. The cat has a lot more room on my lap. It's all good.