Recent Stories: Outdoors

Russell Drumm
March 25, 2015

I’ve been working on a book. Slow going at first. But, as most writers will attest, once the narrative ball gets rolling, even if it seems at times to be rolling uphill, the work becomes an oasis of sorts, a place to repair to in your mind.

It’s a bit like having the ability to summon a dream, or a semi-obedient genie whose job it is to gather kindling to feed fantasy’s fire, or at least provide food for thought.

Larry Penny
March 18, 2015

The snow is melting away quickly, and the ice in the bays is disappearing almost as fast. Spring is three days away. Things are heating up. The black widow spider that lives between the panes of my south-facing window has made her end-of-winter debut. I’m sure she hasn’t eaten a thing since the end of summer, as she is the same size as when she retreated in the fall.

Russell Drumm
March 17, 2015

It’s 1820, the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Two sperm whales have been harpooned from the small boats launched from the whaler Essex out of Nantucket. A bull sperm whale does not like what’s going on. Enraged, it charges the Essex, ramming her bow twice. The ship fills with water, capsizes, and leaves her crew of 20 to head for the coast of South America a couple of thousand  miles away in three boats with nothing but a limited supply of hardtack and very little water. Half die en route, the others barely survive by cannibalizing their fellow whalemen.

Larry Penny
March 11, 2015

You might have seen Senator Charles Schumer on the news on Monday taking PSEG and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to task for allowing 95,000 or so penta-treated utility poles to be installed on Long Island. Penta, or pentachlorophenol, is not only very toxic if inhaled, touched, or ingested, it is also classified as a probable carcinogen. That is why it has already been banned for use by more than 26 countries and counting.

Jack Graves
March 11, 2015

Ken Ferrin first fly-fished at the age of 19 at Flathead Lake in Montana, where he was the waterfront director at a boys camp.

A long hiatus followed, until four years ago, at the age of 78, he suggested to his wife and tennis and cycling partner, Patti, with whom he’s biked all over the world, that they forgo heli-skiing, which they’d done for 20 years, in Canada, in favor of fly-fishing.

Russell Drumm
March 11, 2015

We had the opportunity to head for the hills and early Sunday morning we took it: the South Ferry to a sleeping Shelter Island, then we stemmed the tide and a few car-size icebergs over to Greenport on the North Ferry where we bought scones and coffee for the ride to meet the 9 a.m. Cross Sound Ferry to New London, bound for Stowe, Vt.

Larry Penny
March 5, 2015

My ichthyologist buddy, Howard Reisman, who lives in North Sea, says that, notwithstanding the monthlong occupation of North Sea Harbor and other inlets and coves of the Peconics, the alewives are out there and ready to move in to Big Fresh Pond as soon as their passageway thaws. They have been arriving annually at this time every year like clockwork for at least a half-century and most likely for several centuries. The streamway connecting the harbor to the pond can be high or low, depending upon the standing level of the water in Big Fresh.

Russell Drumm
March 5, 2015

The winter of 2015 refused to loosen its grip. As a result, cold-weather passions that have lain dormant in recent years returned with a vengeance in the Northeast.

Ski resorts upstate and in New England have not seen so much snow in years. Iceboats have been dragged out of storage and onto Long Island lakes and ponds. One of the more intense winter passions is the otherworldly sport of ice fishing.

Larry Penny
February 25, 2015

The great American winter pastime for those of us who live not too far from the Arctic Circle: feeding and watching birds. Each bird species has its own unique way of staying active when the windchills are in the single digits and the sun is covered up by a pale gray sky for most of the day.

Russell Drumm
February 25, 2015

Consider ice: It can be a bulldozer that lifts a few thousand pounds of buoy off the bottom and carries it to new location a half mile away. It can be millions of tiny crystalline blades that scalp the terra firma from the face of a bluff. Ice can suck a piling from deep in a harbor’s clay as easily as pulling a toothpick from an olive in an ice-cold martini.

Larry Penny
February 18, 2015

As I write this on Presidents Day in the afternoon while looking out my window across the snow-covered yard to see which bird will show up next, the temperature hovers at 21 degrees. That’s the highest it’s been all day and it’s starting to sink lower. Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology’s annual birdfeeder count took place over the three-day weekend.

Russell Drumm
February 17, 2015

“Cabin fever” does not do justice to our frozen state of mind. True, the Arctic temperatures that have descended on us in recent days have kept us in looking out while the oil burner adds to our carbon footprint and subtracts from our bank accounts. But “fever” is not the right word. I think “numbness” or “ennui” comes closer.

Larry Penny
February 12, 2015

While out scanning the frozen waters of Noyac Bay and Upper Sag Harbor Cove on Monday, I noticed that one of my favorite trees and the largest tree alongside Long Beach Road, a willow, was already yellowing up, anticipating spring and flowering time, which comes early for the willow clan.

Russell Drumm
February 12, 2015

On the grand playing field of human intercourse, nothing gives us as much satisfaction as seeing braggarts brought low, especially if they are the cause, having dashed rather than hoisted themselves on their own petards. It’s what fools are made of, and fools have always been great entertainment.

Brian Williams, the NBC network news anchor, made one of himself with his “Nightly News” story about having been riding on a Chinook helicopter in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade shot it down. 

Larry Penny
February 4, 2015

All of a sudden after a worldwide record warm year in 2014, the winter turns frigid. Noyac Bay is half frozen, all of the freshwaters are iced up, the ground is still covered with a couple of feet of snow, and the land and water birds are having a hard time of it. These are the times when nature hangs in the balance and familiar themes drop out and alien ones take over.

Russell Drumm
February 4, 2015

Five a.m. on Tuesday. The house is surrounded and topped with snow and ice. It’s cold out and the wind sounds like it wants to come in as much as the cabin fever burning within me wants to go out.

Both my parents were outdoor people, especially my dad. If weather or some kind of obligation kept him inside for too long he got downright ornery, a trait he passed down to me. We walked the beach every weekend whatever the weather. Both parents skied and taught me at an early age.

Larry Penny
January 28, 2015
The biggest Long Island snowstorm that I can remember was the one that occurred in 1947, two days after Christmas. My family was visiting my Aunt Esther and Uncle Jake’s family in West Hills for the holidays.

As I write this column it is blowin’ and snowin’ up a storm. The weather reports on all of the media say we are in for a big one. The various reports remind us of the “Blizzard of ’88” (that’s 1888 for you millennial readers) and the famous storm of 2006, which dropped 26.9 inches in Central Park.

Russell Drumm
January 28, 2015

“Go take a long walk off a short pier.” Not sure why the dismissive phrase came to mind. The pier at San Clemente was not short by a long shot, 200 yards or more. I think it’s because in our minds, piers are a staple, a construct that everyone understands.

“Why do they build them? Just to fish from? Are they for people without boats?” Kyle asked. Good question, and the answer is pretty much, yes, but more. The Pier, as societal microcosm, parade, and oceangoing adventure for pedestrians, has been perfected in California.

Larry Penny
January 21, 2015

Only 37 days till March and the return of the ospreys and piping plovers. So far, it hasn’t been much of a winter as far as brutal weather events are concerned. The local freshwater bodies froze over, as they almost always do, while some of the salt creeks and lagoons, to wit, Upper Sag Harbor Cove and Otter Pond, were glazed over with the usual coating of thin New Year ice. The edges of the bays in the Peconics system have been white on and off with a pudding of concentrated seawater ice crystals.

Russell Drumm
January 21, 2015

It’s Sunday morning. We have just lifted off in the rain from J.F.K. bound for San Diego, where the plan is to rent a car for the short drive north to San Clemente, home of the Surfing Heritage Foundation. The foundation archives surfing history and works to protect access to surf spots around the world.

I’ll be meeting with the foundation’s executive director, a man of Hawaiian lineage, and a surfing god of sorts, a legend in his own time beginning in the 1960s in the waves of Waikiki.

Larry Penny
January 14, 2015

A cruise around the South Fork last Thursday revealed that about 99 percent of the deciduous tree leaves had fallen. The ground beneath the oaks, hickories, and other trees on either side of the roads in Northwest and Middle Line Highway and Old Sag Harbor Road in Bridgehampton were completely covered with brownish leaves from this year’s crop. The woods, per se, were as they should be, bare trees, underbrush, and a thick leaf groundcover.

Russell Drumm
January 13, 2015

Skating south, I squinted into the sun reflecting off the cold obsidian of Fort Pond in Montauk on Sunday, my blades carving the surface with the crisp metallic notes of swordplay.

The ice mirrored my fellow skaters. They appeared to be skating both right side up and upside down, joined at the blades. A few kids huddled, looking down through the ice in search of fish. “Through the glass darkly” came to mind, the way Corinthians suggests most of us view life — that is, imperfectly.

Russell Drumm
January 7, 2015

If you think of life as an unending story that’s whispered to you, shouted at you, otherwise presented, and then knitted together with the wool you’ve gathered — and I do — then you learn to consider the sources.

Larry Penny
January 7, 2015

Long Island’s annual holiday-season breeding bird counts have come and gone, the last, the Orient Count, finishing up the lot on Saturday. The two closest to home were the Orient count, which includes part of Noyac, Sag Harbor, North Haven, and East Hampton’s Northwest Woods, and the Montauk count, which includes Amagansett, Springs, Montauk, and Gardiner’s Island.