i had a rough night falling asleep with the temperature at 85°F inside my house. even with the windows opened, the air outside was still so there wasn't any breeze. the heat made me wake up early, no point staying awake in a warm bed.
LJ left a sink full of hair (at least it wasn't on the floor) and her bedroom window wide open. apparently she didn't heed my warning that as first floor occupants we have a greater chance of getting burgled. i never bothered to tell her about the 2 recent break-ins on my street, was afraid it'd freak her out. when she first arrived she seemed very cautious, but not after living here in cambridge for more than a month, she thinks the neighborhood is very safe. that still doesn't mean we can leave the windows open when go out.
i biked to market basket to get some groceries. i had a hankering for salmon bagels. the trick is to not only use real salmon slices, but also some salmon cream cheese as well. to that i add some sliced onions, some capers, and some crushed peppers. a little tomato would be nice to, i'll have some fresh ones (from the garden) in a few weeks.
bruce called me right when i got back. i was surprised to hear that he wanted to try some naturing today, despite a forecast of severe thunderstorms in the afternoon. a check of the radar revealed nothing in the sky. maybe the meteorologists got it wrong? it's been known to happen and no point wasting a perfectly good day.
i took a quick shower, fixed myself a turkey egg bagel sandwich, then put on some neutrogena ultimate sport sunblock on my face (it tingled, but didn't feel oily, and smelled nice). i met bruce at 12:15, tending to his herbs growing in an outdoor faux terracotta planter. he showed me the monarch caterpillar he was raising. i saw it last week when it was just an egg on a piece of milkweed leaf; now it was a tiny banded caterpillar.
we decided to go to the middlesex fells. i printed out a map and followed the google directions which told us to cut through winter hill to get to I-93 north and take exit 33 to fellsway west. we pulled into the upper sheepfold parking lot.
cutting across sheepfold meadow, we stopped to inspect some milkweeds, for possible monarch caterpillars. we didn't find any, although there was a wealth of other insects, including many varieties of butterflies and dragonflies. if i was here to photograph arthropods, i could've stayed here at the meadow for hours.
my original plan was to circle the perimeter of north reservoir counterclockwise. the first path led us to a fenced dead end; the second path brought us to a piece of the same fence that'd been ripped open. despite the numerous signs against trespassing, we entered anyway. along the bordering path, we ran into a group of people dressed like they were spending a day at the beach. seemingly lost, they asked us where the parking lot was. one of them warned us a ranger was patrolling the area, but just tell him we were about to leave if he catches us.
that little tidbit of courtesy information made bruce uneasy about trespassing. already several parking tickets owed to the city of cambridge (though contested), bruce didn't want to get into anymore municipal trouble with another town. i didn't think the ranger would mind our presence since we weren't there to swim in the reservoir like those other people. but we decided to play it safe so we back tracked and returned to sheepfold meadow. the new plan was to head north to bear hill tower.
we followed the path along the western edge of the meadow. coming across some milkweed, we stopped for an inspection. this time we struck monarch gold: 2 eggs, 2 caterpillars. a large carpenter ant was assaulting one of the caterpillars; turns out it was already dead, a tiny shriveled thing. i personally don't think the ant was involved; if i had to guess, it was probably an assassin bug that drained the caterpillar. bruce was worried the same fate would befall the other caterpillar, and vowed to return and mount a rescue mission.
there's not a lot of natural colors during mid to late summer. flowers normally bloom in the spring, and plants spend most of their energy building leaves and making seeds. nevertheless, there was still some things to see:
traversing north, we walked further and further into the forest, all the while we could hear the distant rumbling of thunderstorms. at that point we weren't too terribly concerned, joking how the safest point would be up on a hill underneath a tall tree. despite the dabbled sunlight, the sky still looked bright, no imminent danger for the time being. we arrived at an intersection: in one direction it seemed to take us to the reservoir but through no-trespassing land; in another direction was bear hill tower. we decided to go to the tower.
bruce and i had been to bear hill before, back in may 2008, a particularly good outing where we saw a scarlet tanager and an indigo bunting. despite the impending storm clouds and rumble of thunder, we climbed to the top of the bear hill tower.
immediately i could sense we were in great danger. not only were at one of the highest points in middlesex fells, but the top of the tower was a lighting rod, attached to the entire length of the winding metal staircase. out in the distance, no more than a mile or two, we could see lightning bolts shooting down from the sky. we quickly descended. i didn't feel safe until we were off of the metal staircase.
we checked nearby winthrop hill briefly, but since it was a field on top of a hill and we were the tallest objects standing, we didn't feel safe there either and retreated to the canopy path of bear hill trail.
it got darker and darker, to the point where we almost needed a flashlight to read the map. behind us the approaching rumble of thunder, and every once in a while when i look back i could see a strand of lightning zigzagging across the sky. despite it all, it still wasn't rain, just a lot of spectacle.
in a nice bit of serendipity, it began to drizzle right when we reached shelter beneath a bridge. still gauging how far we were to the parking lot, the drizzle quickly turned into a downpour and we had no choice but to wait it out.
at one point early on it looked like somebody was throwing ice cubes from overhead. it never crossed my mind that it was actually large-sized hail. the hail balls i've seen before were always the size of pebbles. the ones that fell - and there were only a few - were the size you'd find in an ice cube tray.
once the downpour arrived, the dry pathway beneath the bridge quickly turned into a torrential river of muddy rain water. we stood along the rocky edges, watching the flash flooding.
when the rain finally let up (we could tell because the sky began to brighten again), we continued on our way to the parking lot. we must've looked strange, because despite the torrential downpour we just experienced, we were both relatively dry. instead of going the shorter route of forest trails (which might be muddy), we decided to walk out onto the street, along the sidewalk parallel to I-93/fellsway traffic, being careful not to get too close at the risk of being splashed. i would've liked to have checked out the forest to see if there were any post-rain efts, but i would've probably ruined my shoes as a result.
by then i told bruce about my last visit to the middlesex fells, where i discovered to my horror that certain parts (area around sheepfold parking) were a gay cruising site. once we were back at the parking lot, it became glaringly obvious that something was going on. despite the rain, which would drive away any regular visitors, the parking lots were still surprisingly full. not only that, but it was all single men sitting inside their cars. and everyone of them made a point to make eye contact, like they were all watching each other.
anyway, i reminded bruce about the caterpillar rescue, he got a wet paper towel from his car, and we went back to sheepfold meadow. there was actually another living caterpillar but bruce decided to leave it because he didn't think it looked healthy, and took the one we saw earlier. and of the 2 eggs, he only took one, because once again, one of them looked suspect. monarch eggs are tiny, almost like a spec, but i suppose with practice they can be easy to spot (like how i can pick out a squash vine borer egg from far away).
back at the parking lot, the cars were still there, but just moved around, like they were playing a game of musical chairs. lower sheepfold lot had the most activity, with smiling men getting out of cars to talk with other men. on the surface it seemed very innocuous but they were all their to cruise.
it began to rain again while we were leaving. an old broken tree branch had fallen on the road earlier, and we stopped to clear the pieces so we could get across. i saw a highway billboard for 103.3 FM, formerly the oldies station, the only channel i tune to when i listen to the radio, but now it's a deejay-less pop music station (AMP radio). this is total crap!
back in cambridge, there'd be sporadic downpours. i knew it was coming because the sky would suddenly turn black and the rain would fall like hissing sheets. whenever that happened, i'd take out the window fan and close the window. there was even some hail, but just the size of pebbles, nothing like the ones we saw at the fells. once the sky brightened up, i'd reopen the window and put back the fan. earlier this morning i noticed my neighbor had spilled a can of white paint on the curb. the series of downpours ended up washing away all that paint, to be emptied out into the charles river.
my 32gb lexar firefly usb jumpdrive ($17) arrived today. when they said "bulk packaging" it just meant throwing the drive into a padded manila envelope with zero manufacturer packaging, not even directions - although a thumb drive is pretty self-explanatory to use. i thought the see-through cap was built-in but it's actually removable (which i don't like, easy to get lost) and and snapped behind the drive when in use. i like the red in-use light (i think most of my thumb drives have them, sandisk micro cruzer is my usual brand).
for dinner i finally had that salmon bagel sandwich i've been yearning for since this morning. i reminded LJ to close her bedroom window when she goes out. she did a late load of laundry, running the dryer around 11:00.
a day of rain did drop the temperature significantly (it's currently 75°F outside), but unfortunately not the humidity which stands at 77%. not only that, but the high humidity makes things smell like my living room carpet. hopefully after a shower i might feel cooler and ready for bed.