Wednesday, September 23, 2015


It's autumn, a season of change.

NHL hockey preseason has started. My adult league hockey starts next Monday.

Things will get better, right?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gotta Get Away

I'm almost at a breaking point.

Every moment of "planning time" at work seems devoted to meetings that I shouldn't be having. :|

Anyway, with all this bullshit going on, the fact that I didn't get to do anything fun last weekend weighed on me heavily. My "fun" was Monday, and when you consider the hours I spent bawling my eyes out in frustration and loss, it was hardly "fun" at all.
LEGO Black Seas Barracuda. It sat on top of my doll case for 20+ years.
LEGO Renegade Runner. It served as a stand-in for the Dawn Treader in my Chronicles of Narnia project
Besides breaking down Lego sets, I had to wrap up and protect my ethnic dolls, and also just go through both of my closets, which had been stuffed with things that weren't mine. I eventually whittled things down to personal items.
I'd actually been looking for Tracks for a few years now. Generation One Autobot.
'94 Mustang poster. I think the Bucks are going to take this for Scarlett.
Needless to say, Monday was awful. I spent too much time mired in memories, and had to follow that up with a miserable work week the next four. 
Blue crystal paperweight that belonged to dad.
Three weeks into the school year, and no one seems to be taking me at face value about grade books needing to be aligned. The chemistry teachers aren't aligned, the biology teachers aren't, the environmental science teachers aren't, the astronomy teachers aren't.....better yet, when I convene a group of content teachers together and point this out, it's all a bunch of bullshit "I can't change" crap. Why do I even bother?

I need a magic wand that actually works.

Anyway, last night, Pat said he wanted to go fishing out at Taylor's Landing. I said I'd want to go, too. If for nothing else, I just needed to get out and away.
At the end of the eastern boat ramp
My first several casts were awful. We went upstream from the twin boat ramps, and my experience was vegetation snag after snag.

After a while, I finally moved downstream of the ramps. Pat soon joined me.
Still west of the boat ramps, a spring appears from rocks
It looked like a dead crayfish, but it was actually just a shed exoskeleton.
Downstream of the boat ramps had a lot less vegetation, and more rocks. So, I still had a few snags, but now those snags were in rocks rather than in plants. 

I finally started to get nibbles, and then finally....

It was larger than either fish I caught two weeks ago, and Pat said it was bigger than the one fish he caught today
I had a few more nibbles and a few more snags after this, but never reeled in another fish. 

Pat called it quits around noon, so we went home then. However, I think we have tentative plans to go somewhere next weekend and hopefully there will be better results. :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Gone Fishin'

End of a long week
This year started off much like last year -- staff being trifling over things that you'd think normal adults could understand are either not acceptable or couple work out amicably. As a result, I began the actual first week of school woefully underprepared.

Fortunately, it doesn't seem as if my students noticed. With the new, shorter class periods, things go by very quickly, and my experience with 45-minute class periods probably helps. I've already had students remark that "this is my favorite class of the day," and we really haven't done anything "fun" yet, like a lab. I hope I can continue to fuel their enthusiasm.

The fun doesn't end though, and I will be doing work later today on more scheduling stuff. This is because no one listens to me when I point out problems with staffing and scheduling during the summer, and now, a week into the school year, suddenly it's a problem. :(

In any event, as stressful as things are, I wanted to get out. Friday, I was at work until 7:30PM moving things from a former-science-now-ESOL classroom, and went straight to the Broken Rocker show at Blue Sky to meet up with Kyra. We talked work a little while, and we parted ways after the band's second set.

There was no camping talk from Pat, so I asked him if he was going to go fishing this weekend. He said he was probably going to go to the Dam 4 area on the Potomac River on Sunday afternoon, since he'd been there on Friday afternoon and caught a decent number of midsize smallmouth. I asked if I could join him. He seemed skeptical, but come Sunday afternoon, he loaded up my bike and an extra fishing rod, and we headed up to Dam 4.

Pat set up the rod for me initially, putting a red glitter worm on the jig. I am not good at casting, but I started to get the hang of it early on, and within the first ten minutes, had two near hits. The third time was the charm, though.
About ten inches
The stupid fish had damn near swallowed the hook though, and there was blood seeping onto my hand as I tried to get it out without killing it. Pat came over to help, and the fish did swim away under its own power, so I guess it was alright.

I ended up snagging the lure a little bit later, and on my first cast with the new one, snagged that one too. Unamused, I put a green worm (with red glitter) on the next jig, and moved about twenty feet to the left. The next cast saw success again!
Probably just about twelve inches
The second one had the hook in its mouth, so it was easy to remove, though the fish was feistier. It was thrashing around enough, even out of the water, that it took a few tries to grab so that I could pull the hook.

I didn't really catch anything except snags after that. After losing three more lures (including one that I evidently didn't tie properly :( ), I didn't have enough line left on the reel to continue. I put the rod down and watched Pat wading in the water downstream until he came back to switch to top water lures.

He let me use his other rod while he put a top water lure on the "backup", and I still just caught snags, so I was allowed to switch to a top water too. In the meantime, he caught a fish with his setup.

In the end, we both caught two fish, which was a far cry from what he'd racked up on Friday afternoon. Still, for the most part, it was peaceful and quiet, and that was the point.

Looking upstream towards the dam.
Pat also wrote about the trip on his blog. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

One Week Down

I survived the first week of school. I just haven't really had time (or energy) to do much else other than "survive" at this point, hence a lack of posts. And it's not my students -- who, overall, seem to be great -- who are sucking the energy out of me like a dementor.

I might have more to say later, as Pat and I should be going fishing this afternoon. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spring Gap

I hadn't been back from the road trip but three days when Pat asked, "Do you want to go camping this weekend?"

That's code for him saying, "I'm going fishing this weekend." ;)

I tossed out the idea of Spring Gap. It's the furthest west of the C&O Towpath campgrounds, and we hadn't been there yet. He was game, on Saturday afternoon, after stopping for provisions, we made the trek to Cumberland and then dropped down MD51 to the Spring Gap Campgrounds.

The site was more like the other campgrounds we'd been to than Paw Paw, which was like camping in someone's back yard. It was also wide open, though whether than was due to the hot weather or lack of area interest, it wasn't clear.

We chose site seven and set up camp, then Pat went off to go fishing. I decided to bike eastward to see what there was to see.

The campground is just west of mile 173, and I rode past mile 168. There were a lot of painted turtles, especially in the 169-168 area.

There were a LOT of tires in the canal and the Potomac River in this area
I don't know if I should post photos of thistles or not

Believe it or not, not the same turtle nor tire as above!

Past 168, I finally decided I should head back. Not too far up the towpath, I catch a glimpse of something, stop and think, "Are those worms? Wait, no...."
A copperhead has a gartner snake for a late afternoon meal
The garter snake was just larger than earthworm size, and the copperhead was just a little larger. The photo above was taken with a telephoto. I did take a "close up" with my cell phone that I posted on Instagram, but I was still a respectful distance from a definitely poisonous snake.

While snakes usually don't both me, the scene had me a little shaken. It would only get worse a little ways down the trail.

I'd seen this blue heron on my way down the trail, so I was surprised he was still in the area when I came back.

Then I saw something.... weird.

It kind of looked like a beaver, or maybe an otter. I was thinking, "Cool!" Then I realized how much the animal appeared to be struggling to swim and keep its head above water.

That isn't a beaver's tail.
It's hard to see in my photos, even in the last one, but I saw it with my own eyes, so take my word for it. The beaver -- and it was a juvenile -- had been attacked and latched onto by a copperhead. During the animal's struggles, the snake's tail would get flung above the water level. The beaver was smaller than a football (smaller than even a Brady deflated football ;)), so it may have been a viable meal for the copperhead, which looked to be at least as thick as my wrist (let's go with ~2-2.5").

It was horrifying, and the longer I stayed to watch and try to photograph the animal's struggles, the more I was horrified.

Turtles. Yes. Turtles are cute and harmless.
Yes, see the turtle sunning itself.

Oh, look, it's a white tailed doe in the stream running out of the culvert.
I was still mildly disturbed by the time I got back to the campsite. Pat wasn't around, so I puttered around a bit, then once 7PM passed, I started to become concerned. Because copperhead.
Let's look at the river behind our campsite
How about the river behind a different campsite?
The river from the far (east) end of the campground
Street tires ruin everything
An older Ford pickup had come up and parked at the end of the camping area, and two guys with fishing gear had wandered down a path at the end. Then one of the other campers (there were only three sites being used at this time) drove over to the same area to scavenge some firewood for his firepit. Finally, Pat emerged from the wooded area.

They weren't bison burgers, but they were still quite tasty
I had the campstove ready to go, so I lit it and we dropped the steakburgers on. Everything was going great until Pat went to take the nearly done burgers off and managed to flip on upside down. The problem with that was it had cheese on it! So, there was cheese all over the grill attachment. I figured I'd worry about it in the morning.

It was a relatively cool night, as the humidity still hadn't built to excrutiating levels. Our tent was oriented in such a way, though, that the early morning sun woke me up by 8AM (well, the birds tweet, tweet, tweeting had really done the damage), so I crawled out of bed and scoped the area.

I decided to throw the breakfast sausages on the grill and cook the eggs by about 9AM, because any other time, Pat's back by then. He wasn't. I texted him, "Breakfast is ready!" 9:30, and he still wasn't back.

I wasn't sure where to start looking for him, but around 9:40, he showed up. He'd gotten caught up with trying new lures.

I'd already packed up some of the stuff to hasten our departure, so after we were done eating, I told him I wanted to bike westward to see if I could get to Lockhouse 75.
Remains of a railroad bridge
Remains of a steam pump
More from the steam pump area
Lock 72
I made it just past lock 72 when I went to take a sip of water from my water bottle, and it wasn't in the bike's carrier. Knowing it must have fallen out, I turned around, asking bikers and hikers along the way, "Have you seen a red water bottle?" Everyone mentioned it was "just down the way," and sure enough, it was just laying there in the towpath. That's the last time I attempt to carry that particular water bottle (it's a collapsible bottle/bag) in the bike's carrier.

Back at the campsite, Pat's starting to put things in the truck.

This butterfly has been hanging around all morning though, and we couldn't quite figure out why. It appears to be a purple admiral, and if that's the case, then it was evidently eating the bits of cheese that had been cleaned out of the campstove from the previous night's burger flip.

Just for grins, and because it was still in the camera bag, I took a photo with the diecast Camaro.

We headed home soon afterwards. Pat was satisfied with his fish haul, and while I was a little disappointed with my historical sites, I more than made up for it with some crazy nature photos. :)