By the wayside

roadside moss garden

Our desination last Sunday was a roadside cliff in northeastern Pennsylvania that my friend L. remembered from one trip some seven years before. To hear her describe it, it was a veritable hanging garden of moss and ferns and wildflowers, and she had jotted enthusiastic notes to that effect in the margins of her atlas. We looked for over an hour, and never re-found it.

Adam's Falls 2

Oh sure, we found the road she’d marked in the atlas, but it wasn’t the one she remembered. The cliff was neither as steep nor as wet nor as rich; she didn’t even recognize it. The road she’d been on then had been paved, she was sure of it, but this was potholed gravel.

Ganoga Falls 6

We consoled ourselves with a visit to the nearby Rickett’s Glen State Park. Black-throated green and black-and-white warblers called from the tops of old-growth hemlocks, but my attempts to pish them down within camera range brought me nothing but chickadees and a redstart.

Adam's Falls 1

On our way down the glen, we saw waterfalls and blossoming hobblebush; on the way back up, we saw crowds of painted trillium. They were right beside the trail, and it was hard to see how we’d missed them on the way down.

painted trillium 1

Driving back on PA Route 118 toward Hughesville, we pulled off the road to examine an incredibly verdant north-facing cliff, thick with moss and ferns (see photo at the beginning of the post). It was obviously very unstable, though, because a couple tons of it had recently calved, and blocked most of the berm. Directly across the highway, the rock cut was dry and grassy, and someone had erected a roadside memorial: white cross with a blue bow at its center, ringed with artifical roses and rocks the same color as the cliff. Joe Young, 34, 2003. Banks of greater celandine were in flower a few feet away, an old-world poppy more striking for its foliage than for its yellow, cross-shaped blooms.

roadside memorial

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

18 Comments


  1. As I guess you know, I like long shots. The top and bottom ones here really work for me. The white stripe and then the discovery of the double-yellow stripe at the end really add to an emotional punch. (I also love the crag’s sharp edges and deep light contrasts.)

    (To me, scrolling a long shot on a blog is like reading a post: it happens over time, allowing me to participate in a narrative. Of course, it’s not much time. I wonder how a dream, as short as some experts say it is, can sometimes take such unexpected turns.)

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  2. Peter – I’m glad you liked those, because of course I stole the idea from you. I do enjoy the scroll-like ambience of blogs, which I guess explains why I stick with a fairly narrow width, and why I changed my archive pages to include full posts rather than excerpts.

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the internet has evolved to favor scrolling down rather than scrolling to the right. I don’t think there’s any technical reason why blogs couldn’t be horizontal, with new content added on the left.

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  3. Scrolling the up the mossy vertical I gained such momentum I couldn’t stop and skidded upwards through picture frame and into the hanging headers.

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  4. Dave …great fotos! I like the roadside memorial. I have seen them a lot in Mexico. Not too many in the midwest.

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  5. They’re becoming more common here. I like to see this kind of non-commercial use of an otherwise heavily abused (mowed, herbicided, trash- and billboard-strewn) public space.

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  6. You can’t step in the same hanging garden twice. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me; and sometimes, when I return to the exact place, defined by some irrefutable landmark, I discover that my vivid, detailed memory is just plain wrong.

    Maybe that’s why I love the paraphenalia of field work–topo maps, compasses, notebooks, specimen labels, cameras, GPS sytems–it helps anchor memory to the material world.

    You brought back some wonderful photos of the place you did find.

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  7. Fabulous shots, the 2nd and 4th my favourites.
    I’ve been thinking about the scrolling nature of blogs, the reversal of the narrative, and the comparison with Chinese scrolls. I have to say I felt a bit frustrated not being able to see all the long shots at once, but perhaps I’ll have to approach them differently.

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  8. Lucy – Thanks for the reactions. No need to feel frustrated; you can click on through to their respective Flickr pages and view them at a smaller size.

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  9. Wonderful post, Dave! The first two photos in particular are stunning. I’ve never seen a painted trillium but now I’ll know the species if I do!

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  10. Hi, Larry – Thanks for stopping by! I’ll be over to catch up on Riverside Rambles soon, too.

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