i was nervous this morning, knowing that i had to drive down to westwood to meet up with eliza and do some naturing at the ponkapoag bog. i rarely drive, and i can't remember the last time i was on the highway. i woke up early to prepare, brushed my teeth and gargled with listerine a few times as i ate a lot of onions with my italian sub last night and i could still taste it. for breakfast i had a matcha latte, reserving enough time for it to work through my system and use the bathroom before i left by 11:25am.

i wore my navy polo with a pair of khaki shorts and my merrell hiking shoes. knowing that the it'd probably be wet in the bog due to all the rain we've had, i was tempted to go with my rubber boots, but those things are hard to walk in, and though waterproof, if somehow the water gets above my knees, those boots will become useless. as far as camera equipment, in my messenger bag i packed my canon 80D dSLR along with the 18-200mm lens, the 60mm macro, and the 10-22mm wide angle. i also packed my fuji 3D camera. i as tempted to bring the drone as well, but if for whatever reason it crash landed, i wouldn't be able to retrieve it. i also packed two types of bug spray: cutter advanced with picardin and cutter outdoorsman repellent stick with deet. i brought along a frozen bottle of water and some candied pecans as a snack.

i biked to the cafe to borrow my parents' car. the plan was to leave from belmont, since it's easier to get onto the highway from there versus cambridge. i was meeting eliza at 1pm, and google map told me the best time to leave was 12:15pm. after a quick inspection of the backyard plants, i finally left my parents' place by 12:20pm.

the route to westwood was pretty straight forward: route 2 to the 95 interchange then a straight path south. it'd take approximately 30 minutes. my phone was charging in the dashboard cradle with the google maps navigation screen on. it was a hot day - the car thermometer said it was 90 degrees outside - so i had the AC turned on. i listened to WBZ 1040AM on the radio only because that was the channel it was on and i didn't want to get distracted while fumbling with the radio controls. i think the speed limit was 55mph but everyone drove at least 10 miles faster than that if not more. i was doing 65-70mph in the middle lane (white-knuckling it), but cars were still passing me left and right. whatever direction i was going seemed to be the right one because i noticed a lot more traffic on 95 northbound out of the city.

i was surprised when google maps told me to get ready to exit off of 95, i was expecting it to be farther than that. i've never been to westwood. well, that's not exactly true, i've been to parts of it, just never off of the highway. some of the local intersections looked familiar from my time naturing, i might've passed through westwood while going to millis or medway. i actually arrived 7 minutes early, so i parked the car off the side of the road and waited until 1pm, looking at the map to figure out how to drive to ponkapoag bog. when i finally drove to eliza's father's house, i couldn't find it at first, and i kept circling the street a few times before i finally figured out which house it was. i actually saw eliza earlier when she was waiting outside before she went inside. even though i got there right on time, i ended up being a few minutes late because i couldn't find the house. i brought in some packages that were out by the mailbox at the head of the driveway. eliza greeted me not with the traditional hug but a first bump.

in all the times we've known each other, i don't think eliza has ever gotten into a car where i was driving, it's always been the other way around. when she got in the toyota camry, she instinctively adjusted the seat, like she's been in this car before. she said this car was more to her liking, one that doesn't have all the fancy rear-view camera, proximity detectors, and keyless fob entries like more modern cars.

the route to ponkapoag bog was simple, 8 miles on 95, so i decided not to use the gps. that turned out to be a mistake, because i ended up getting lost. that area is very confusing, 95 becomes 93. instead of transferring over to 93, i kept on going 95 south (towards providence). actually, my original way was the right way, i just got nervous because i didn't see any signs for 93 and turned off onto 95 instead. i had to fish my phone out of my pocket and had eliza turn on gps navigation for me so we could get back on track. we finally arrived at the ponkapoag bog trial parking (off of exit 3 on 93) by 1:30pm.

we had until 4pm before eliza had to return home because that's when theo gets back from camp. at age 13 i asked eliza if her son was too old for camp. she told me actually this summer he has more of a counselor duty, keeping an eye on the younger kids. also because theo is eligible for the pfizer vaccine here in the US, i asked if he'd be getting it (children currently still can't get the vaccine back in france). eliza told me theo arrived in MA a few weeks ago already (for camp), and one of the first things her father did was take his grandson to get vaccinated. he'll get his second shot before he returns to paris.

anyway, after we parked, we started heading towards the bog entrance, a distance of 3/4 mile through the woods. it was actually kind of buggy but because we kept walking the mosquitoes (if any) didn't have time to latch onto us. both of us were winded walking the gravel path while trying to chat at the same time. at one point eliza spotted a small garter snake slithering across the path (i initially thought it was just a giant earthworm). before we entered the bog though, we stopped to spray.

as soon as we entered the bog, we knew it'd be impossible to keep our shoes wet. the planks of the boardwalk were all floating. standing on a plank, you immediately since to above your ankle. some of the boards were also slippery from algae. so it wasn't so much a leisurely walk but more of an obstacle course, stepping from one board to another.

soon after we started walking, two girls appeared behind us. we let them get ahead because they seemed better at balancing. they had the right idea though, going barefoot as to not get their shoes wet. they told us they were here during the winter, and it was just as bad; not so much the flooding as everything was frozen and slippery.

as i was taking a photo, i casually took a small step back and found myself falling into the bog. it happened so fast, i didn't even know what was happening, and i managed to dunk my dSLR camera briefly. apparently there was a hole in one of the planks and my left leg just fell through up to my thigh. eliza was concerned, kept asking if i was okay, i think i was more embarrassed than anything else, total rookie mistake. she also asked if i needed to go back, but i said i was okay. i think it looked worse than it actually was, the only injury was maybe a small cut and a bruise on the back of my knee. i was more concerned about the camera. after wiping it clean, i tested it to see if it was okay. it was still working, the canon 80D has some weatherproofing, but still, it wasn't designed to be an underwater camera. the lens suffered a bit more. some water must've gotten inside and it kept fogging up. it took a while for me to realize this, but all the photo i took with the 18-200mm afterwards had that soft-focused look because of the fogging. my other lenses were fine - the macro and the wide-angle - but this was my main lens, so it kind of took the wind out of my photography sail. also once we began to realize how challenging it was navigating the boardwalk, i put away the camera to keep my arms free, so if i started to teeter on a board i could use my hands to grab onto the branches on either side. eliza fell at one point as well, early in our walk. she also went down to her thigh, but quickly scrambled back onto the plank.

i used to come to ponkapoag bog quite often, one of my favorite naturing spots. i haven't been back in a few years though, the last time was october 2017. i've been here in all seasons (other than winter), and i've even been here in the pouring rain, that's how much i love the place. the only other person i've ever brought here is bruce, so eliza is just the second. i've studied ponkpapoag bog enough that i'm filled with bog trivia, something that eliza remarked on and said i could give tours.

so a few things we noticed inside the bog. one thing, it didn't smell bad, wetlands are notorious for bad smells. i think the nature of the bog, with the acidic water, helps keep stenches at bay. second thing was it wasn't buggy at all. eliza thought maybe that meant the bug repellent was working, but i've been in situation where the mosquitoes don't bite, they just swarm around you like satellites. this wasn't the case at all. maybe all the rainfall washed away the mosquito eggs, since their larvae can only survive in still water.

i started seeing pitcher plants and sundews, but many of them were underwater. i also saw the third type of carnivorous plants - bladderworts - but they do fine in the water since they're aquatic. so the bog transitioned from cedar swamp into a boggy clearing of sphagnum moss carpet. the entire boardwalk is just 2/5 miles, but it took nearly an hour just to get from the bog entrance to the bog clearing. the boardwalk was on more solid footing in the clearing area, but being out in the sun instead of the forest shade also meant it was hotter. also because we'd been balancing on floating planks for the past hour, we actually experienced some sea legs once back on solid ground. here were sundews growing amongst the moss, turning red from being out in the sun. i could've stayed here for another hour just taking sundew photos, but we continued onwards.

we kept waiting to see those girls returning since they'd been gone for a while. maybe they jumped into the pond and swam away? but eventually we saw them again once the clearing transitioned back into bog forest. apparently they had planned on having a picnic at the end of the boardwalk, not realizing there's nothing at the end. but they stayed there anyway and had lunch before turning back. while we waited for them, they were waiting for us, and thought maybe we had turned back. eliza and i made way so they could get by us.

in the second bog forest is where we saw better specimens of pitcher plants. i even spotted a small water snake slithering away underneath a wooden plank. by 3:30pm we finally made it to the end of the boardwalk. it used to extend further out, but those planks had rotted and weren't replaced. there were also some high bush blueberries, and almost as a prize for our hardwork, we did some foraging. they say wild blueberries aren't as sweet but they have a stronger blueberry flavor. we started heading back.

it took us 1-1/2 hours to walk the boardwalk coming in, but just 40 minutes to get out. along the way we passed a family of 5 with 2 kids who were also visiting the bog. we made way to let them pass before continuing onwards. another thing i noticed was all the new planks were smaller, not as wide as the old planks. could it be because of wood price inflation?

i didn't get any mosquito bites in the bog, but as soon as we left, i squatted two bloody mosquitoes making a meal on the back of my leg. like before, being back on solid ground was a little disorienting for our wobbly legs. it took us another 20 minutes to walk to where we parked the car.

i learned my lesson the first time, going back i used the gps to return us to eliza's father's place. earlier she'd already texted her father, who was going to go pick up theo from camp. we didn't get back to the house until almost 4:50pm. the wheelchair van eliza had told me about earlier was parked in the driveway. so even if eliza could've borrowed the van, they're very difficult to drive (extra wide) and there's additional challenges, like hitting the wrong button and having the wheelchair platform lowering and popping out, potentially scratching any vehicle to the side.

i went inside the house briefly - the air condition was turned on high enough it felt like walking inside a refrigerator. i met their dog, a golden retriever named emily who sleeps inside of a cage but otherwise has free range of the house. she was a little weary of strangers, but wasn't aggressive, and didn't want any pets or scratches. i saw theo, which is actually my 3rd time seeing him. the last time i saw him was 2012, and before that 2009. he seemed like a nice, polite soft-spoken young man (tall). i left soon afterwards, hoping to avoid the traffic rush.

i was lucky, because i seemed to be traveling against traffic, so i never encountered any congestion, while on the southbound side of 95 there seemed to be more cars. i only hit a snag when i came into cambridge. i turned off the wrong exit and found myself behind alewife station. i ended up taking a huge detour out to mass ave to get back to the cafe. i finally arrived by 5:30pm. after dropping off the car, i biked back home.

i rinsed my hiking shoes in the kitchen sink before putting them outside to dry. later eliza told me to put balls of newspaper inside the wet shoes to help them dry faster. after a day of hiking, nothing feels better than taking a hot shower afterwards and getting cleaned up. by the time i was finished it was close to 7pm. i ate a braised beef rollup my mother had given me for a late lunch even though it was already dinnertime.

i noticed it when i was coming back from the cafe: there's a sidewall bulge in my rear tire. when the tire exploded last week while i was taking frances' package to the post office, the damage apparently was a lot more than just the inner tube. i can still ride, but for safety concerns, i should probably replace the tire. this was a pretty good tire, the kenda kwest 26x1.50. it came with reflective sidewalls, which i think was a mistake on the seller's part.

i must've been pretty tired because at 8pm i fell asleep on the couch, waking up at 10:30pm. i made myself an italian sub and had my second dinner of the evening.