it's been more than a month since my last nature outing (i went to oxbow NWR), not counting a visit to the arnold arboretum. naturing is what i like to do during my downtime, so it's nice to get back to business. originally i wanted to visit flat rock in fitchburg, but it was already noontime and by the time i got there it'd be almost 2:00. instead i looked for someplace closer, which is easier said than done, since i've visited a lot of local nature spots already. i finally found a place in wayland i've never seen before, upper mill brook reservation. although only 60 acres, it was the diversity of environments that attracted me: woodlands, swamps, and ponds.

getting there wasn't very hard, i just headed west on route 20 through waltham and beyond, and then north along route 126 until i got to the lutheran church; the entrance to the reservation is actually hidden in the back. the church parking lot was completely empty, which is a good sign that i can nature undisturbed. today was a warm day with temperature in the 80's, so i just had on a t-shirt. it didn't taken me long before i had to spray myself down with insect repellent and put on a light windbreaker, which i also brought along. i was already hearing the buzzing of hungry mosquitoes, and since i'd be walking into some pretty marshy area, i assumed it'd only get worse. better to be slightly warm than to be constantly fed upon by bugs.

there was a distinctive smell at the reservation, like cloves, but also like the sweet odor of fermented pond scum (which is pungent at first, but doesn't smell too bad). the clove smell came from a flowering tree (spicebush?) that was too high for me to get any good photos.

from benjamin pond i followed a path that led me to emma pond. distracted by the honking of a pair of canada geese with some goslings, i suddenly noticed some movement in a nearby undergrowth. it wasn't fast, like maybe a muskrat running away, but more deliberate. whatever it was was also rustling more than one spot so immediately i knew it was a snake, and a fair large one at that. i was hoping to see a racer (only seen it once in my life) but upon closer inspection, i could tell it was just a water snake, coiling itself up and warming in the sun.

further along, between markers P and J, i almost stepped on a small garter snake (18" long). it was just lying on the trail, it's head poking through a dead leaf. it was pretty tame and i got a bunch of photos. i was tempted to pick it up but decided otherwise. (compare and contrast the garter snake with the ribbon snake).

the highlight of the trip had to be finding some fringed polygala AKA gaywings. they were only in one area, between marker J and the bridge that goes over the inlet for emma pond. i knew they were something i've never seen before when i spotted the pink flowers from a distance, but i could only appreciate how weird the flowers were when i got up-close. to me, they resemble a pink elephant head holding a flower in its snout. i had some opportunity to use my off-shoe flash to get some better lighting. it's sort of hit or miss because i'm holding the flash in one hand while trying to use the camera in the other hand. i'll need to invest in some kind of flash bracket.

since i still had alex's wide angle lens, i took full advantage of the extended coverage. only a wide angle could truly capture the grandeur of the natural landscape, something my paltry medium length lens can't do (that's why i must get my own wide angle lens as soon as possible!).

leaving the reservation, that's when i encountered my first people, a couple decked out in t-shirts and shorts (i hope they brought bug spray, be careful of the snakes! and oh yeah, plenty of poison ivy).

riding back to cambridge, i had this feeling of deja vu. it was on this exact sort of two-way rural suburban highway that i had my motorcycle accident last year, around the same time. so i was extra careful, making sure i wasn't too close to anyone, or speeding unnecessarily. approaching weston, i was stuck in an awful traffic jam that must've last 30 minutes. i was just baking in the sun (by then i'd switched back to my t-shirt) and i could feel additional heat from my engine. when the congestion finally cleared up, turned out it was a car accident. i caught a glimpse of the wreckage, one car with a completely crumpled front side being towed away.

i stopped by at my parents' place thinking my mother might be home, but it was only my sister and hailey. i let hailey out in the backyard and then went home to cambridge, where i couldn't wait to take a shower to wash all that sweat and bug repellent off my body (and to check myself for ticks, zero hitchhikers).

i made some macaroni and cheese for dinner. alex came by later in the evening to return my lens and to take back his. i was actually kind of wishing i could keep it for just one more day, since i'm going into boston tomorrow to do some photo work (i don't need it for the job, but i want to play with it later). he decided that instead of buying the canon 70-300mm IS telephoto that i use (which costs $500+), he's opting to get the canon EF-S 55-250mm IS telephoto that just recently came out ($250). it makes sense and at that price it's practically a steal, but he will lose 50mm of reach.

i watched the cavaliers magic game. i figured cleveland would just totally dominate orlando, make quick work of it and just sweep them in 4 games. the first quarter validated by view, as the cavaliers pulled to a big lead. but then the magic started coming back ever so slowly, until they tied the game and then took the lead. cleveland came back but then it was a back and forth battle with seconds to go, and orlando ended up winning. i'm just as stunned as the cleveland fans. maybe by defeating the celtics in 7 games, the magic somehow absorbed some of that champion blood, and it carried over in this first game of the series. it also doesn't make me feel as bad about the celtics losing to the magic, because if orlando can beat cleveland, maybe they're a better team that i originally thought. ah, who am i kidding? cleveland is still going to totally win the series!