i went naturing today at marble hill in stow. part of the reason for going was a chance to travel down route 2 with the new motorcycle. with my old bike, i tended to avoid major highways because it could barely keep up with the traffic. with the honda spirit, i no longer have that problem. nevertheless, highway riding is inherently dangerous. driving a car you have your air bags and seat belts and protective chassis. on a motorcycle, there are no such luxuries. by law i'm required to wear a helmet but in the event of a collision, it won't save me from massive internal injuries. this overriding fear is what will keep me alive should i continue riding. only when i lose that fear and start getting complacent will i get into trouble.

so what does 750cc on the highway feel like? i was unusually relaxed. keeping up with traffic was no problem, and in fact i had to check myself from keeping too close to cars ahead of me. i traveled in the leftmost lane, sticking to the speed limit (55) or traveling a few mph above. cars passed me but i didn't care. as long as they weren't aggressively tailgating me, i wasn't very worried. the windshield protected my body from the air currents but the one place i felt it the most was actually at the bottom of my shoes (i'm pretty sure if i wore flip flops they would've been blown off immediately). the ride was smooth but the engine continued to backfire.

getting to marble hill was fairly easy, route 2 to route 62 to route 117. i got a little lost at the junction of 62-27, but i'd been there before (maynard town center?) so i didn't panic and found my bearing again. marble hill has two entrances, one north and one south. i ended up at the southern entrance which wasn't what i originally planned because the trailhead is behind the pompositticut school and i didn't want to draw suspicious looks wandering the school grounds. fortunately there was nobody outside when i was there and i managed to make my way into the forest undetected.

there were no poison ivy at marble hill but people must use it as a dog run because i spotted dog droppings along the trails. mosquitoes were another nuisance, which meant there must be some body of water nearby, but i couldn't find it. i was alone the whole time but the sounds of falling acorns kept me alert. for the most part marble hill seems to be an oak forest. i didn't see any squirrels or chipmunks but i did hear their familiar chirping. marble hill is dotted with numbered exercise stations (part of the headway lifecourse). a few of them looked like fun, including the gymnastic rings and a rope swing. rock walls snake through the property, evidence that the place was once cultivated.

i followed the red trail to the top of marble hill, where the only view is of more rock walls. maybe if i bushwhacked a little bit i could come to a clearing but the trees were too dense for me to see much of anything. coming down the summit - just when i was thinking there was nothing interesting to see - a found a patch of downy rattlesnake plantains. i wonder if they transplant well? they seem like they might do well in my shady backyard garden.

the red trail comes to an end and joins up with the white trail. i started making my way back to the entrance. that's when i saw one of the coolest things i've seen in a while. indian pipes are fairly common in these new england woods, and around this time of year i find them where ever i go. for the most part they're white, but every once in a while i see some that are light pink. what i never seen before were hot pink indian pipes. at first i didn't know what they were, i thought they were the immature shoots of some emerging plant, but no plant emerges this late in the season. i could see they were indian pipes but the colors were pretty unusual, and i thought maybe they're a different species (there's only one species of indian pipe). so i spent the next 10 minutes photography the hell out of these hot pink pipes, until i was covered in sweat and attracting more mosquitoes. turns out they're just regular indian pipes, except a rare color mutation.1

i came back to belmont, where i waited for my parents to come home for dinner. hailey was barking at the backyard fence again. i looked through the slits and checked out the neighbor's chickens. turns out they have at least 4 hens: definitely a plymouth rock, possibly 2 new hampshires, and one black & white unknown (andalusian?). they seemed to be amazingly calm, despite hailey's barking. i couldn't see any hen house, and the owners must've been around because it seems kind of dangerous to let chickens just wander around the backyard unattended. do cats pose a threat to these birds?

my parents are seriously considering taking the HDTV plunge. their verizon FIOS set top box converter already supports HD, although so far all the tv's in the house are still analog. sony was selling refurbished 46" bravias for $800; the deal looked good, but the tv wasn't energy star complaint, and weighed just as much as the large old 27" tv that currently resides in the living room. we decided a brand new samsung would be the best bet. besides being energy star complaint, they were also much lighter. originally we wanted 46", but after creating a mockup, that seemed too large and a 40" seems more suitable (not to mention using less power as well). i'm going to continue with my research before making a final recommendation to my parents.

i raced back to cambridge after dinner for an 8:30 appointment with my upstairs neighbor to discuss the details of the paint work that's about to begin starting tomorrow morning. if there's one thing i know now is my neighbor is pretty unreliable when it comes to doing anything, so it shouldn't surprise me when he cancelled our appointment via e-mail and said we can just meet tomorrow morning.

1 UPDATE: turns out these aren't classic indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) after all but rather something called pinesaps (Monotropa hypopithys), a reddish-pink species of indian pipes. (100210)