Tag Archives: walking

At this age, I appreciate every step I take

Main Beach Fernandina Beach FL, beach walking, beach bike

The beach where we walked.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Aging can be a pain.

By the time my wife and I had returned from our winter’s stay in northern Florida, we both had unintentionally joined the ranks of the walking wounded. It was as uncomfortable as it was annoying.

I love to walk. It’s one of the few times I can actually multitask. I can walk and talk, walk and listen, walk and learn, walk and think, walk and snap pictures. Walking is an easy exercise for young and old alike.

There’s only one catch. If you are physically ailing, walking isn’t so much fun. Towards the end of our two-month Florida stay, my wife and I both began having problems getting around.

In my wife’s case, walking has long been a chore for her. Arthritis in your feet tends to do that to you. Since Neva’s left foot was particularly touchy, our walks on the beach together were shorter and less frequent than in previous years.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Soon, I began to feel discomfort, only in my right foot. I thought it was the hiking boots that I had brought along. They weren’t new, but I actually hadn’t worn them regularly until we got to the Sunshine State. I figured they would be useful to tromp around Egans Creek Greenway where I love to bird, hike, and take too many photos of birds, landscapes, people, alligators, and any other critters I encountered.

I also wore those clunkers on the beach when we first arrived. The weather was chilly and often foggy. The high-topped boots steadied me in the soft sand and kept my feet dry when the tide suddenly surged further onshore than anticipated. The longer I wore them, the more my right foot hurt. So I switched to my gym shoes, which seemed to lessen the pain.

That didn’t last long. The pain in my right foot increased substantially no matter what I wore. As we packed the van to return home, I noticeably limped.

When you live on an island that’s only 13 miles long and two miles wide, vehicular trips are usually of short duration and caused me no discomfort. As we headed north on the interstate, it didn’t take me long to realize just how much pain I was in. By the time we reached Charleston, South Carolina, my foot was numb and pain shot up my right leg.

Fortunately, an urgent care facility was just up the road from our hotel. When I described my symptoms, the kind physician’s assistant said, “You don’t have a foot problem. You have a pinched nerve in your back.” Lab tests affirmed the diagnosis.

evening on the beach

Smiling through the pain.

I had already made an appointment with my podiatrist in Virginia. Neva took that spot while I visited my family doctor. Neva had reason to complain. She had a hairline fracture in her foot and exited the doctor’s office with a walking boot. She had no recollection of when she might have incurred the injury.

My doctor prescribed muscle relaxers and sent me to physical therapists. For a month now, expert therapists have worked their magic, and my pain has subsided.

Neva got the all-clear after wearing the walking boot only three weeks. She still wears it if the pain returns. We’re just thankful she is finally finding some relief.

With the limp and pain eliminated, I’ve begun short walks to get back into shape. Given our age and these experiences, we more than appreciate every step we take.

shorebirds, beach

Worth the pain.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

1 Comment

Filed under birding, column, human interest, nature photography, writing

The unforeseen rewards of sleeping in

Amish homes

Pleasant morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I slept in. It was Saturday after all. It’s the way lots of folks begin their weekend.

For me, though, arising after 7 a.m. was abnormal even on weekends. I like to beat the sun to its dawn.

I needed the sleep after two consecutive late night outings. Now, the terms “late night” take on significant and liberal interpretation when you are a grandparent and not a teenager.

Thursday I attended another fun night in Cleveland with a good friend. I arrived extra early to avoid the guaranteed congestion since the Indians weren’t the only act in town. Sir Paul McCartney was playing next door to the Tribe, and the Browns lost another football game in front of their faithful mass of masochists.

In other words, the town was full of excited folks. Having lived and worked in the city many moons ago, I walked around the downtown area a bit to kill time and to view the remade public square. I was impressed with the space and the all-around cleanliness of the place.

Downtown Cleveland

Fun in Cleveland.

People sat at street side tables in front of restaurants enjoying the cuisine, drinks, and one another. I found the corner where three decades ago I had crossed the street with 30 first and second graders and their teacher. A religious street barker with hand-printed signs and tracts stopped his doomsday bellowing and moseyed up to me. He quietly asked me if the children were Pilgrims. I stoically replied that they were Amish, and followed the class across the intersection.

I spent a marvelous evening at the ballpark with my friend Rob. Happily, it was another last at-bat win for the Indians.

Elvis, Mark Lonsinger, Millersburg OH

Elvis.

Friday evening was just as much fun. My buddy Tim and I went to hear our friend Elvis perform his last gig for the summer in Millersburg. We weren’t disappointed and met lots of other friendly fans.

Both nights I was up way past my bedtime. So I wasn’t surprised that I had slept through sunrise on Saturday. I needed the rest.

Well behind my usual start time, I wanted to get my walk in before the late summer Saturday warmed too much. I discovered that being tardy had its enjoyable rewards.

I usually walk uninterrupted. Not this day.

morning walk

Where I walk.

Good neighbor Mary was already weeding her roadside flowerbeds. We chatted a while as Baltimore Orioles chased one another in the grove of trees at the south edge of my property. Their brilliant orange blazed neon in the sharp-slanting morning light.

An Eastern Phoebe called from a cluster of hardwoods just as I ran into Brian, another neighbor. We talked about his work, the warm weather, and the exhilaration of yet another fantastic Indians comeback victory.

I turned the corner and met my next-door neighbor, Trish, who was in the home stretch of her morning walk. I didn’t delay her long.

Girls in cerulean dresses pedaling bicycles and families in jet-black buggies silently greeted me with head nods and quick waves of hands. It felt good to be alive.

On the return trip to home, another young neighbor caught up with me on his four-wheeler. He was out scouting hunting spots with the season about to begin. A mourning dove sat atop a snag of a dying ash tree, perhaps eavesdropping on Tyler’s hunting secrets.

Annie Yoder

Annie.

I floated with elation the short distance remaining to my house. I was that invigorated by the gorgeous morning, the multitude of spontaneous interpersonal connections I had had, all after two enjoyable evenings with friends.

In the afternoon, I drove to Wooster to celebrate with my friend Annie on the release of her new album “Thousand.” True to form, she belted it out to the delight of all who attended.

Maybe I need to sleep in more often.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

3 Comments

Filed under Amish, baseball, birding, birds, friends, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, writing

Same walk, new results

Ohio's Amish country, Holmes Co. OH.

In my “hood.”

By Bruce Stambaugh

I love to walk outdoors. Treadmills don’t do it for me.

I guess I’m a multi-sensory walker. I need to exercise my listening, my observing, my sensing, my thinking as well as my muscles and my entire bony being.

Walking is an easy sport unless you’re a fair-weather walker. That’s me. I don’t do well in wet, windy, cold conditions.

My pickiness has its consequences, however. My body complains in multiple ways. My achy bones cry out in rebellion. My hamstrings tighten in protest. My soft tissue succumbs to gravity.

tulip

First tulip.

Other symptoms sneak up on you, tricking you into sullenness. Blood pressure is one of those conspirators.

All my life people would offer to buy my low blood pressure scores. I never fully appreciated the physicality of high blood pressure or the corrective medicinal ramifications. I do now.

Age apparently has caught up with me. At a routine check-up, my blood pressure was the highest it had ever been. Thinking it an anomaly, the nurse took it again. It went even higher.

I drove straight to the pharmacy and purchased a new digital wrist blood pressure cuff. My old manual one with the stethoscope had given up the ghost. I didn’t want to join it, so I began daily recordings of my blood pressure and pulse.

My good doctor tweaked my medication according to those results and my body’s physical reactions. I wasn’t ready for what followed. I hated the melancholy, lackadaisical feelings, the fuzziness and body fatigue, though I had done little physically.

I had a new appreciation for those with the same condition. I longed to return to my daily walks, but the weather was as uncooperative as my new pills. I brooded beneath the seemingly perpetual steel gray Ohio sky.

phlox in woods

Wild phlox.

Then, a week after the last snow, spring broke through. Daffodils sprang back. Spring beauties and phlox carpeted woodlots and pastures. The season’s first tulip brightened our yard. It was time to walk again.

The warmth alone drew me outside. I was in heaven again once I got past the roadside dead deer decaying in a woodlot south of our house. When I turned onto the little township road, I hit my stride.

I crested the first knob, and my favorite valley opened before me. The gently undulating and curving road reflected the morning sun. The road resembled a silver ribbon as it ran through the vale beyond the comely farms and up and over the eastern hill that separates one watershed from the other.

red-bellied woodpecker

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker.

The birds rejoiced with me. A dozen species regaled and entertained me with song and their territorial acrobatics. I rejoiced in the many varieties of the spring birds that had returned to mingle with the year-round residents.

At the halfway mark, the stream gurgled its own refreshing tune, too, though it hadn’t rained for days. The artesian well ran strong into the roadside trough. The willow tree teased yellow with its drooping canopy of leafy buds.

When I reached the little rise at the first farm, a familiar fragrance freshened the morning air. An invigorating mix of soap and cotton wafted all the way to the road from a recently hung line of laundry.

A few more steps and purple martins greeted me with salient salutations and arching flyovers. In contrast, the one-room Amish school stood silent, scholars already having completed another year of studies.

I felt incredible, transformed. My blood pressure was thankful, too.

valley, Ohio's Amish country

Evening in my favorite valley.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

4 Comments

Filed under birding, birds, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, weather, writing

Reflections along a mountain stream

autumn leaves, back lighting

Backlit leaves.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Recent rains made the sparkling mountain stream joyfully sing its way through the sylvan hollow to the broad valley below. The late morning sun’s reflection shimmered as the cold water rushed over and around ancient boulders.

I had driven to this little paradise on the advice of my daughter. She recently had hiked with her family a trail that crossed the creek and scaled one of the precipices of the old, rounded Blue Ridge Mountains. I wasn’t that ambitious.

I was content to drive the 22 miles out of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to the end of Port Republic Road to enjoy a morning stroll. I took the much easier firebreak road that shadows the meandering stream.

Stepping stones across the usually placid braided stream broke the trail my daughter took. Today the stream roared rather than lapped its way into the valley.

The native brown trout had to be happy to play in other pools for once. I was happy, too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The temperatures warmed as the sun rose higher above the foothills. The shedding oaks, maples, dogwoods, sycamores and quaking aspens filtered the sun’s splay. Sunrays backlit the remaining colorful leaves. They glowed against the drab earth tones of tree trunks, ferns, and long shadows.

The creek drew me down from the road to its shallow banks. Sapling undergrowth made the way tricky, but not hazardous. I was surprised by both the speed of the stream’s flow and the water’s clearness, especially after recent steady rains. Weeds and reeds normally rustled by the wind swayed submerged.

In the shade, the cooler creekside temperatures chilled me. I didn’t linger there for long.

I returned to the more inviting sunny, well-maintained service road. At times, the stream ran against the narrow berm. In other places, the road curved slightly north while the creek twisted south and out of sight, but never out of earshot.

No car horns, no train rumbles, no jake brakes, no jetliner noise overhead, no boom boxes interfered with the numerous natural sounds. A fox squirrel skittered from the road to the safety of a tree trunk as I approached. It barked at me, and I shot it with my camera.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Up ahead, birds flew across the firebreak. To keep my load light, I had left the binoculars in the vehicle. Fortunately, the birds sat still even as I quietly approached.

I smiled at sighting my first of the year Dark-eyed Juncos, freshly arrived from the Canadian tundra. The flash of their outer white tail feathers against their slate-colored revealed their identity.

The mountain’s granite core stood exposed from time to time. Whitish-gray outcroppings reflected the morning sun both at manmade cuts and in natural talus slopes. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the latter if the massive rock pile decided to slide.

Soon hikers a decade older than me approached from the opposite direction. We bid each other adieu, and I asked them how far the road reached.

“Ten miles,” they said, “But it’s an easy walk to the top,” referencing the mountain. The road ended at the Skyline Drive. I took their word for it.

A few trails flared off in either direction. I was content to stay the course for a while before returning to the car for lunch under the noonday sun.

The earthy fragrances, the laughing stream, the vibrant colors pleasantly seasoned my simple fare, which was only right. It had been a sumptuous morning in every aspect.

mountain stream, Shenandoah NP

Sparkling stream.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

9 Comments

Filed under birding, birds, column, family, human interest, photography, rural life, travel, writing

Walking runs in the family

longputtbybrucestambaugh

Our son, second from left, hits a long putt on one of the 100 holes of golf he played recently in one day. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have found walking soothes the soul. It’s my favorite form of exercise.

As I’ve shared before, I wander regularly on a nearby township road that runs east and west down into a wide, fertile valley. The majority of the land serves as pasture and cropland.

A few residences stand along its path, close to the frontage. Long gravel lanes grace a couple of the homesteads, one on a hill overlooking the splendor, the other where an unnamed creek lazily flows beneath the chip and seal roadway.

redheadedwoodpeckerbybrucestambaugh

Red-headed Woodpecker. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

It’s there that Red-headed Woodpeckers squawk from an ancient sugar maple tree, and swoop across the road to groves of black locust and black walnut trees, locusts on one side, walnuts on the other, the curvy creek trickling in between. There, too, Holsteins often slurp the pooled water they have just muddied.

I usually keep to the center of the road where the footing is flatter. Even with my diminished hearing, I can detect motorized vehicles and horse-drawn carts and buggies long before I need to scoot to the side.

It’s the quarter mile from my house to my walking road that scares me, which is why I wear a bright yellow hat and a reflective armband, even in the daytime. Still, I step aside when cars and trucks whizz by.

I enjoy my walk for more than exercise. Melodious songbirds, dashing flycatchers and gregarious swallows seemed to have grown used to me. They seldom leave their perches on phone lines and tree snags as I pass. Even the horses and cows pay me little heed. I embrace their acceptance.

Given all that, I appreciated a challenging trek my son, Nathan, recently completed even more. I walk for personal, positive health. Nathan’s effort was for a regional charity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of East Central Ohio. They connect volunteer mentors with children desiring proper adult guidance.

Nathan walked 100 holes of golf in one day. He wasn’t alone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the second year in a row, Nathan and another member of the charity’s board of overseers completed what is officially titled the Hundred Hole Hike. Each golfer recruited people and businesses to pledge money for the event to raise funds for this good cause.

If you’re familiar with the game, golfing 100 holes in a single day sounds insane. The sponsor organization’s rules required they walk the entire time.

The two had excellent assistance throughout the day. Caddies kept them hydrated in the hot August sun, and provided energy foods along the way. To save time, they also produced the right club to play each shot.

morningridebybrucestambaugh

Morning ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Even then, the entire effort took 13 hours, and for Nathan, 424 shots. They started before sunup in the fog, and finished in the twilight beneath the glow of a brilliant, ivory half-moon.

By then, Nathan and his partner were exhausted. Their feet were blistered and their muscles ached. They logged 33 miles each.

My wife and I, riding in a golf cart, joined them for the last 20 holes. The fairway gallery also included three deer, russet in the evening sun. At the last hole, we joined other supporters in congratulating Nathan and Josh as they concluded the humanitarian, fatiguing endeavor.

I’m grateful to live where I can walk regularly in a lovely rural setting. I’m even more grateful for a son who cares enough for others that he walked far beyond the second mile for them.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Leave a comment

Filed under birding, column, family, news, Ohio, photography, writing

All quiet on the home front

quietsunrisebybrucestambaugh

A spectacular sunrise on the “quiet” morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We live in a frazzled world, full of hustle and bustle and lots of noise. Even in the country, the noise of a busy world drowns out the normal peace and quiet.

Of course there are people that seem to prefer noise. They’re the ones that can’t stand a natural lull in a conversation, or dead silence in a room full of people, so they feel obliged to fill the air with idle chitchat. They’re happy as long as someone is talking, even if it’s them.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit long winded at times myself. But having lived in rural America all these years, I’ll take peace and quiet every time.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I enjoy music, though I’m no musician. I enjoy cheering for my favorite sports teams. I enjoy lively table talk, especially around a meal.

But age has a way of shushing you, quietly encouraging you to embrace the silence. I’ve learned to feel comfortable in absolute quietness, whether I’m home alone or with a congregation of contemplators.

quietbarnbybrucestambaugh

The normally bustling barn was even quiet.

Silence is good. I was reminded of that recently. Since it was a Sunday morning, the traffic on our busy county highway was minimal. In fact, only one car and one horse and buggy passed me on my regular two-mile stroll.

Normally I dodge construction trucks, straight bed trucks, semis, cars, bicycles, and several horse and buggies. This day was astonishingly different.

Less traffic meant less noise. And less noise meant the few sounds that I did hear really, really stood out. I heard a motorcycle accelerating far off in the distance, and a horse clopping on the county road a half-mile from where I was walking.

It was at that point that I stopped and realized the full breadth and depth of the stillness around me. The compressor from the neighbor’s barn wasn’t running. No cows were mooing. Not even a bird so much as chirped.

For a minute I thought the rapture had come, and I figured I had indeed been left behind. I smiled at the idea, and continued my lonely, but not lonesome walk.

quietstreambybrucestambaugh

A quiet stream.

Walking affords me more than physical exercise. It clears my mind, fills my body with bountiful goodness, and sharpens my senses. Even my age-diminished hearing seemed more keen. I could hear crickets and the last of the season’s katydids singing in the tree-lined stream that meandered through the crops and pasturelands.

On the return trip home, I fully embraced the quietness. I felt richer, fuller, and more alive, all because of hearing nothing at all. I was reminded of the importance of listening, of paying attention, of appreciating the good earth of which we have been assigned to nurture.

Our world is filled with too much noise. Televisions and radios blast away with the talking heads, stirring up people when life’s recipe says to let the sauce simmer.

Even from my countryside home, I see too many people with cell phones pressed to their ears while driving their cars, or cords from ear buds leading to a denim pocket of a passing biker.

That Sunday morning walk instilled in me just how important a little quietness is in our clamorous world. That silent experience said stillness is more than golden. It is a priceless pearl to the soul.

I’m glad I’ve come to appreciate the quality and value of silence. Please kindly remind me of that next time I start to ramble.

quietschoolbybrucestambaugh

The Amish schoolhouse stood quiet in the morning light.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

2 Comments

Filed under Amish, Ohio, photography, weather, writing

Walking with the grandsons generates more than exercise

davisandevanbybrucestambaugh

Grandsons Davis and Evan posed for a photo along the way.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Unlike their little sister, my grandsons, Evan, age nine, and Davis, now seven, wake early. No matter how late they stay up the previous night, they always rise with the cows.

On a recent visit from their city-situated home in Virginia to our Ohio rural one, I found the boys quietly playing in the living room as I prepared for my morning stroll.

I asked them if they wanted to walk with me. Davis said he would. Evan said not. So Davis changed his mind. As I headed for the front door, they both reevaluated the situation, likely based on previous walks with Poppy. They joined me after all.

Both are smart, observant boys, full of vim and vinegar. At their age, you never know what’s going to pop into their brains and tumble out of their mouths. They know that the saunter down the chip and sealed country road can resemble an amble in a zoo, with both domestic and wild animals appearing at various spots along the way.

checkingitoutbybrucestambaugh

The boys carefully checked out the dead Screech Owl along the roadway.

Practicing good safety habits, we walked single file. I took the lead on the initial stretch of the stroll along our busy county road. Most motorized vehicles seem to seldom adhere to the posted 45 m.p.h. speed limit.

That is particularly true of cars, vans and trucks heading north toward us down what we affectionately call the Number Ten Hill ski slope. Fortunately, in the quiet countryside, you can generally hear the acceleration approaching well before you see it. We stepped to the side until the traffic passed.

As we did so, we discovered a dead Screech Owl in the neighbor’s grass. It most likely had been hit overnight as it hunted for food. On the way home, I picked up the bird, placed it in a plastic sack and put it in the freezer until delivery could be made to the Wilderness Center in Wilmot where it would be preserved as a hands on educational tool for children like my grandchildren.

purplemartinsbybrucestambaugh

A family of Purple Martins perched high on the snag of a dead decidious tree at the beginning of our walk

We turned east on the township road and soon spied a family of Purple Martins perched high in the limbs of an old snag. Upon our arrival to their station, the gregarious birds greeted us by circling and chattering overhead.

Boys being boys, all things gross always intrigue them. The flattened brownish-green plops of horse manure left on the roadway drew their attention. Davis, the more scientific one of the two, wanted specific details of how it got there. I encouraged him to be patient, that maybe he would learn first-hand how that particular organic operation functioned.

At one homestead, I praised a meticulously manicured vegetable garden. Apparently too tame, the exploring boys barely gave it a glance.

wagonloadofwoodbybrucestambaugh

Always the exacting young man, Evan had to point to the wagonload of firewood to be sure that was the wood that would be delivered to the house.

Further down the road at our neighbor’s farm, I showed them the wagonload of chopped firewood that awaited delivery to our house. Their eyebrows shot up at the bulging cargo.

The mention of home seemed to trigger the fact that we had walked far enough, though we still had a quarter of a mile to go to complete my usual route. Not wanting to disturb the morning’s peacefulness, I relented. Knowing that breakfast awaited, the boys kept a steadier pace on the return trip, virtually ignoring the chestnut mares and Holstein heifers.

Though a horse drawn buggy did pass us, Davis must have forgotten his question, negating having to describe the unappetizing depositing process to their admiring sister. She’s a dainty enough eater as it is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Amish, birding, column, family, Ohio, photography, writing

Walking by myself, but never alone

Countryside by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Even though I am usually alone, I always have plenty of company on my regular morning walk on the township road near our home.

I walk for the exercise of course, but the benefits far exceed staying physically fit. On these hot and humid summer days, I like to get an early start if my schedule permits.

If I can survive the tricky first tenth of a mile on our busy county highway to get to the road less traveled, I can relish the rest of the walk. Common sense tells me to stay alert for oncoming traffic and dodge the fleet of various vehicles by stepping to the side.

Sunny walk by Bruce Stambaugh

Once I’ve completed the macadam gauntlet to the safety of the township road, I turn east into the morning sun. After a few steps uphill, the road unfolds before me, rolling gradually down into a low, sweeping valley formed by the Wisconsin Glacier 10,000 years ago. Farm fences on both sides squeeze against the chip and seal roadway, making it seem even narrower than it already is.

Eastern Kingbird by Bruce Stambaugh

This Eastern Kingbird and it’s mate often greet me as I walk along the township road.

I fondly anticipate these next moments. It’s the same road, but never the same walk. My audience waits, and every crowd is different. It’s not the Olympics by any means. In fact, it more closely resembles a circus.

I especially enjoy the high wire acts. The Eastern Bluebirds, including the juveniles still testing their wings, play their own version of leapfrog with me from the roadside power lines. Greeting me with melodious songs, the furtive birds wait until I nearly reach them before they flutter a few yards down the lines and land again.

I walk some more. They fly some more. The pattern is repeated a quarter-mile until the power lines run out. At that point, the beautiful birds make an arch over the hayfield and light upon the wires behind me to await my return trip.

Heifers by Bruce Stambaugh

Once the road flattens out, a congregation of Holstein heifers crowded head to tail beneath a black walnut tree suspiciously eye me. As I stroll, their heads turn as one, ears twitching, tails swatting pesky flies. Sensing a potentially easier prey, a few of the flies follow me.

Thankfully, a flashy yellow ball cap saved my baldhead. Still, I flail away at the persistent insects. I’m glad no other humans are around to witness my comical machinations. By the time I reach the valley’s shallow brook, the flies relent.

Jonas Yoder farm by Bruce Stambaugh

I usually turn around and head back home at the Jonas Yoder farm a mile east of my home.

Continuing east past the newly built Amish schoolhouse, the Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Purple Martins all start chattering to me at once, circling overhead as if they were asking me to follow.

Buggy by Bruce Stambaugh

At Jonas Yoder’s farm, I break the law. A U-turn begins my return trip. I usually walk down the center of the road until I hear a vehicle or buggy. On average, only one or the other passes me on the township road.

Song Sparrow by Bruce Stambaugh

One of several Song Sparrows that I see on my walk.

The American Robins and Song Sparrows are all used to me by now, and keep on singing in place. A young flicker, still with no brilliant red on the back of its head, flits from fence post to tree to utility pole. Poison ivy vines, leaves shiny as Christmas holly, have nearly over grown every locust post. A Green Heron escorts me back up the incline until it settles atop the tallest tree in a dense woodlot.

Down the arduous homestretch again, my next-door neighbor’s dogs unceremoniously announce my arrival. I hit the trifecta. I feel welcomed, renewed and refreshed.

Purple Martins by Bruce Stambaugh

Young Purple Martins wait patiently on a dead tree limb while being fed.

Poison ivy by Bruce Stambaugh

Poison ivy vines have over run many of the locust fence posts along the roadway.

Female Mallard by Bruce Stambaugh

This female Mallard, and sometimes its male mate, is often swimming in a pool of the small stream when I walk by.

Amish school by Bruce Stambaugh

An Amish school is being built in the pasture of Jonas Yoder’s farm.


This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

2 Comments

Filed under Amish, birding, column, Ohio, photography, Uncategorized, writing

Shaking the January blahs

swamp walk by Bruce Stambaugh

Friends walked the frozen marsh of Killbuck Creek in early January. (Photos provided by Dave and Kate Findley)

By Bruce Stambaugh

Normally, January is not one of Ohio’s more colorful months. I suppose residents all across North America could say that.

White and brown tend to be the dominant January color scheme here. It’s white if it snows, and basic brown on the bare ground if it doesn’t. Not exactly stuff of which calendar pictures are made.

With that introduction, I was going to write about how depressing it is to see the naked landscape during the winter months. I had my list of the usual suspects at the ready. The lack of color, the repetitive cloudy, dull days entombed with hard to breathe frigid air and the proverbial cabin fever all contributed to the annual epidemic of post-holiday let-down.

I had no sooner started to write when I received an email from a friend. She had attached several pictures of a swamp walk they had just taken in the backwaters of the Killbuck Creek near Killbuck, Ohio.

Most of the shots included the smiling couples that made the trek. I had a sneaky feeling their joy wasn’t just flashed for the camera. There seemed a deeper reason for their cheerfulness.

Though I did talk with my friend and her husband about their walk, the pictures really said it all. They revealed abundant beauty amid the wintry habitat of the marsh.

Buttonbush berries in varying auburn colors and stages of fermentation decorated the burnished host shrubs. By winter’s end, numerous types of wildlife, deer, turkey, robins and cedar waxwings among them, will have devoured the nutritious fruit.

beaver den

A beaver den in the backwaters of Killbuck Creek, near Killbuck, Ohio.

Behind a stand of some of the bushes, a blackish mound covered in tan sticks rose out of the mostly frozen water. The occupants of the beaver’s den were likely deep into their season’s sleep, unaware of their human visitors.

The pictures showed my friends walking on the marsh’s frozen surface, or posing for candid memories to be shared with friends and family. A rainbow of muted colors helped create their smiles.

The ice itself varied both in texture and color, ranging from off-white to clay gray. Nature’s arsenal of elements, wind, temperature, snow, and water flow all play a role in the seemingly dormant, yet ever-changing marshy environment.

swamp walk killbuck oh

My friends were amazed at the colors they found on their frozen wetlands walk.

Behind the low lying swamp, the rounded western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains jutted up like giant loaves of fresh baked bread. Clusters of pines served as a brief but green piedmont between the two.

At that point, a familiar fragrance distracted me from the pictures. I followed my nose into the kitchen to find pan after pan of fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls cooling on the counter tops. Beside them, tins of golden-topped potato rolls also stood patiently cooling.

In addition, rows of jelly jars filled with cobalt colored blueberry topping for homemade pancakes and waffles sparkled from the light that filtered through the kitchen window. Smaller jars of crimson apple jelly added to the colorful collection next to the stove.

While I had sat sulking listlessly at the computer, bemoaning the dull days and confined activities, my energetic wife and thoughtful friends infused me with unexpected splashes of color. My smile nearly matched those of my friends in the swamp walk photos.

Inspired by digital pictures, picture perfect baked goods and showy glass jars, I realized that the blahs of January were self-induced. If I desired color in my life during the cabin fever time of year, all I really needed to do was to open my eyes.

4 Comments

Filed under column, photography

Lakeside, Ohio: A relaxing place to be

Cottages at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

Cottages at Lakeside, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Erik Beun of Berlin was typical of the many people from the Holmes County area who vacation at Lakeside, Ohio.

“It’s a relaxing place,” Beun said. Beun and his family were enjoying their sixth year at Lakeside. Beun also brought along his parents, Henry and Julie, for their first Lakeside experience.

Their family was emulating a scene seen thousands of times a year at Lakeside. They were tooling around the quaint village on bicycles. And why not? It’s an easy way to see Lakeside’s immaculate gardens, quaint old cottages, shady lakeside parks and amazing views of Lake Erie and its islands.

The Beun family by Bruce Stambaugh

Allison, Laura, Erik, Andrew, Henry and Julie Beun all enjoyed a bike ride around Lakeside.

Because Lakeside is a gated community during the summer months, it is a non-motorized vehicle friendly place. In fact, bicycles often go faster than cars. In part, that’s because once at Lakeside, the need for a car drops dramatically.

The place is so pretty, so quaint, so relaxing and the people so friendly there is no hurry to go anyplace. You are on vacation. Sit back, relax and enjoy. Many from the Holmes County area have done just that over the years.

Kent Miller of Millersburg started going to Lakeside with his parents when he was 10-years old. That was 1982. Now his son, Kyle, is 10, and has the same sort of fun that his father did.

Miller said the family likes Lakeside because it is “a safe haven for young families to go and relax for a week.” He said they particularly enjoy the amenities of doughnuts from The Patio Restaurant, and letting the kids shop at Marilyn’s, a store with an eclectic mix of clothing, candy and Lakeside souvenirs.

Shasta Mast, executive director of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce, and her family have retreated to Lakeside for 15 years. She said the most difficult decisions she has to make while at Lakeside are what book to read and when to get ice cream.

Beach and dock at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The small beach and Lakeside's extended dock entice swimmers and sun worshippers of all ages.

Like many other Lakesiders, Mast likes to read her book while sunning on Lakeside’s popular dock that juts out into Lake Erie. Others swim, with lifeguards provided during certain hours. Still others fish from the dock, while some simply choose to sit and watch the variety of boats sail or speed by. In the evening, the dock is crowded with sunset watchers with cameras at the ready.

Of course, the front porch is just as good for reading as the dock. It could be the house rented for the week, a bed and breakfast or the sweeping, screened porch of the historic Hotel Lakeside. They all provide peace, shade and plenty of congenial company.

fountain by Bruce Stambaugh

The fountain in front of Hotel Lakeside.

After all, Lakeside is the Chautauqua on Lake Erie, nurturing the body, mind and soul. That is what the Lakeside Association both promotes and provides for its visitors. Educational workshops, seminars, evening entertainment and worship can all be part of the Lakeside experience for children to adults.

Tennis, shuffleboard, miniature golf, running, walking and Frisbee are also available if exercise and competition are your game. There are businesses to spend your money if you want, and by the lines, a lot do. Specialty drinks, ice cream, homemade doughnuts, and Lakeside-specific clothing are all available.

Then, again, you can just adopt Erik Beun’s attitude and simply relax. That’s the Lakeside way.

Maxwell Hospitality House by Bruce Stambaugh

Maxwell Hospitality House, Lakeside, Ohio.

This article initially appeared in The Holmes County Journal, July 29, 2010.

Leave a comment

Filed under article