the town of holliston is approximately 25 miles away from cambridge. getting there is easy, just keep on following route 16 and ride west. traffic's pretty rough from cambridge to wellesley, a lot of traffic lights, but once i get beyond wellesley, route 16 becomes a great motorcycle path. i was visiting the 200+ acres of holliston state forest. usually when i look for a place to go naturing i like ones that are next to bodies of water, whether it be the ocean, a lake, or a river. i can usually find a lot more interesting things by those areas versus just walking through seemingly endless and monotonous tracts of forests. unfortunately, holliston state forest is of the latter variety, but i was hoping i'd get lucky and find something new.

as soon as i got there i knew there'd be some challenges. for one thing, i parked in a patch of poison ivy. and as soon as i arrived, i was swarmed by mosquitoes.

the one thing that was very obvious was the abundance of fungal activities. even though i didn't actually see that many mushrooms (the few that i saw, most of them were eaten by animals), there presence was everywhere in the form of white mold on the ground and the hair-like roots of their mycelia. for people who like to eat wild mushrooms, this must be a great spot to find some choice fungi later in the season.

i see spotted wintergreen growing on the forest floor all the time but i never noticed their beautiful and intricate flowers, which are currently in bloom. they remind me of pitcher plant flowers.

so i basically spent 3 hours walking around the forest (for a total of just 2 miles round trip, i walk slow). i didn't see anyone other than two mountain bikers and a man riding on the trail on a motorcycle (not even a dirt bike, a real motorcycle - i'm sure that's illegal). scenery-wise it's pretty monotonous, a mixture of oak, pine, and sassafras. i thought i'd come across some streams but they were none to be found (or just dried up). reports of small pockets of red maple wetlands can be found in the interior but i wasn't in any mood to do any bushwhacking (even though i did have my gps in case i got lost). fans of glacial erratics however will have a field day as the place is littered with large boulders of various size, shape, and precarious balance. mosquito-wise the concentration was moderate but probably only because i sprayed with picaridin. to enter this forest without protection would be suicide. despite my long-sleeved shirt, the mosquitoes still managed to bite through, a few times on my elbows and shoulders (i'll wear a windbreaker next time, more impervious). besides the occasional bird/chipmunk chirp, the only other noises were the sighing of the wind blowing through the tall trees and the intermittent buzzing whispers of insectile obscenities.

other than wildflowers and mushrooms, there wasn't a lot of wildlife. come to think of it, even though i heard birds, i didn't even see any (normally i'd get a robin or two pecking leaves on the trail). the one cool thing i saw was a large bee-mimicking robber fly. i've seen them before but never one this large (close to 2cm). it was fearsome looking, and didn't even have a normal piercing proboscis of other robber flies, but instead had this dull chisel of a mouthpart to puncture the tough exoskeleton of its prey. i snapped a few pictures with the telephoto but by the time i changed to my macro lens it flew away. and is it just me, but am i the only person who thinks robber flies resemble motorcycles?

i returned to town around 4pm (saw some heron nests by the side of the road, as well as an angry groundhog), paid a short visit to my parents' place to water the garden, then came back home to get out of my dirty clothes and take a shower. hungry, i ate the leftover chinese meatballs my mother brought over yesterday.

i woke up at 6:30 in the morning to head down to the charles river by the hatchshell for the first ever charles river one mile swim. not to participate, but to get some photos. the idea of hundreds of bobbing heads in the charles river is something to behold and capture, even if they set a size limit of 100 swimmers only. the ride down was a bit chilly, but i was dressed warm enough. i parked behind cheers and took the foot bridge across storrow drive to the bank of the charles river where they were holding the race. naturally, with zero morning traffic, i got there a bit early, and waited about an hour for the action to start.

one of the announcements when they were giving the rules was the river recently tested for low levels of algae. although not enough to cause illness, and nowhere close to an algae bloom, nevertheless it was something that the swimmers had to keep in mind (there were of course portable showers for the participants to rinse off afterwards). algae was the reason the one mile swim had to be cancelled last year, and even this time around it was still very much a last minute decision whether to have it or not depending on water quality.

a third of the swimmers were women, and the rest were men. everyone lined up by the dock. after the gun was fired, people started jumping into the water one after the other. the course was a loop from the longfellow bridge to the MIT bridge. kayakers patrolled the waters, to keep an eye on the swimmers. right from the start two women quit and clung onto nearby kayakers before the motorboat arrived to bring them back onto land.

naturally there were other photographers there, some from the newspapers. i was a little envious, not only of their equipment (which they wear around their necks like photographic bling) but also their exclusive access; one photographer was even able to get a ride on the police boat.

the first swimmer finished in about 20 minutes. i didn't stick around to wait for the others to come in nor to see the awards ceremony (if there was one).

by the time i made it to my motorcycle, i got a call on my cellphone. who could be calling me at this time of the day? i wondered. turns out it was someone from the community garden, calling to assign me a common task for next week. normally on a saturday morning i'd still be sleeping at 8:45 and would be absolutely furious if somebody called me that wasn't an emergency. but since i was awake anyway, i was amused more than anything else that someone would choose to call so early. i'd heard a rumor that not everyone from the community garden has e-mail, so i wonder if this person was one of those special people.