Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Spring, Winding Down and Perspectives

What age was I when I started noticing how everything in life seems to be connected to everything else, at least in a roundabout way? Seems like I rediscover that concept on a daily basis (is this early-stage Alzheimer's, I ask?)
I've always loved being outside, even in the wintertime, and I've always loved walking, even by myself (no, especially by myself). Anyway, you may have noticed that I like to come to Wales and follow the local fox hunts through snow and rain, hail and sleet, sun (now that's an occasional thing!) and gale-force winds. Why, you may ask? There are several things involved, and I'll admit that the last few times I've been out, days when the weather was fair and sunny and the winds were less than 25 mph, I kept wishing I had a horse to ride so I could join the mounted field and view the hunt from a most interesting - and different -- perspective to that found while following in a 4WD vehicle or on foot.

Yesterday the hunt were on foot in a very rough and secluded area way on up in the Black Mountain not far from the Brecon Beacons. Steve went out earlier and laid the trail but I think the wind was at times blowing so fiercely that the hounds just kept casting aimlessly through the bracken, heather and, for want of a better term, scree, there on the dramatic hillsides. Still, it was a glorious day and I found myself wondering after the huntsman and hounds left the meet why I didn't pick up a walking stick and follow the hardy souls who went bounding up these treacherous hillsides in pursuit of the hounds. I am too old. Too unfit, anyway. So I got in my 4WD and drove on up the single lane track (and that it certainly was) to a place where I was surrounded by these vertical kind of cliffs on 3 sides. To get there you had to drive through a stream that was, thankfully, quite shallow (but at times I bet it isn't - that's why there's a footbridge several feet up on the side of the road). I parked up and then began walking across the fields watching the hounds on the sheer side, wondering how they managed to run across that loose stuff without plunging to their deaths. Thankfully they managed. Most of the daring walkers made for the very top of the hill and spent the day looking down into the hounds. They must have had a wonderful view of the surrounding hills and valleys though I can't imagine they saw many hounds.

Okay, so I watched for about an hour and then the huntsman and hounds (he was down near the bottom of these hills, but across a gully and up a very steep muddy bank from me) started heading further up the valley so I started walking up the track with my cameras. A few others joined me. I got to the end of the track just as everyone, hounds and walkers, started on up another hill. Impulsively, I joined them, huffing and puffing, panting and moaning my way up this hill. I was rewarded with fantastic views and I'll admit that I felt quite proud of myself. My heart sounded like the bass drum in a marching band when they score the winning touchdown and start beating it furiously. Thump-thump-thump-a-thump. I spent the better part of a couple of hours trying to keep within sight of the huntsman and the hounds, maybe it was the cameras, weighing me down or maybe it was that I kept stopping to snap photos of the hills and the hounds, but I just couldn't gain an inch. In fact, I fell further back. Then I finally began to catch up, only to find that they'd all gone DOWN the hill to the foot and now I was looking down trying to catch so much as a stern or flying ear, but no! So I kept along the track (now this track was like one foot - and I don't mean 12 inches, but rather about 4 inches) wide -- one slide and you're down the mountain! Pretty scary but when I'm following the hunt the adrenalin kicks in and I ain't got no sense, even less than usual for those of you who know me).

I get to the end of this hill after seeing the sights of farmhouses and stock below me, then the ruins of an abbey, and I'm gazing down on a tiny church and chapel in the little village of Capel-y-Ffin (one I've visited often and love well) and it was so cool to be there on the end of hill seeing these beloved sights from a new perspective.

Suddenly I see the hounds just below me, following the huntsman like so many groupies after some rock star. Heheheh, what a wonderful view. Since I'd already done the hardest part of the work (hauling my big aperture all the way up the hill) I figured I'd go on for awhile around the bend onto this other hill, going in a different direction. So I did and was treated to more breathtaking perspectives on other places I'd been loving since I first visited here in 2001. Rewarding! Spring hasn't come to these places much yet, but still there was a feeling in the air.

The hounds never seemed to pick up the trail Steve had laid much yet I couldn't help but feel thrilled to be up on top of this hill gazing down at these marvellous sights. Hunting season is winding down to be sure, yet what a rich tapestry of memory remains in the form of friendships and photographs, keeping these treasured days alive. Here's a few of the photographs I snapped as I trod step by step on the treacherous path.

As I headed back toward my truck, the drizzle moved in but I couldn't help but a group of "wild" mountain ponies grazed into my view. There's nothing like a live subject to set off a lovely landscape, be it hounds, a red coat, or a trio of scraggly ponies.

Outside this morning I spied hyacinths blooming under the laurel and the daffodils are beginning to reveal their stunning color. It won't be long now.

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