Mysterious Mountains Below

About a week ago I flew out to San Francisco to attend the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Spring National meeting. These meetings are always a great combination of sight seeing, visiting new cities, networking, and learning more about the field of chemistry. I was attending the meeting to give my first oral presentation (at this type of conference) and present a poster about my current research and promote my latest publication in the Journal of Cheminformatics.

There is a major downside to attending these conferences: They typically involve flying. Personally, I would rather drive to any destination than fly. It never fails that when I have to fly there will be a delay (unless, I book the earliest possible flight). On top of the inevitable delays, flying requires a lot of rushing to arrive early so that you can sit and wait which isn’t the most satisfying feeling.

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The return flight home was delayed, so here’s a classic staring through the window at the airplanes picture

However, there is one aspect to flying that I absolutely love which involves the window seat. I love looking out the window and seeing the landscape change beneath me. It is the only time when you get to see mountains, oceans, cities, and plains all within a few hours. There’s  a certain enticing mystery about the earth below that makes the actual flight time pass by rather quickly. Besides, flying over the Rocky Mountains provides great inspiration for a writers heart.

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From the airplane the Rockies almost look like big hills. Almost.

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Mysterious Mountains Below

I see you there
Down, far, far below
Snow-capped peaks
robed in brown.
From here,
you don’t seem
so big.
Or majestic.
No, from here
I see sand piles
Whose tops
are colored white.

But,
if viewed from
the ground;
how rugged
must you be?
As you tower
high above the sea.
Whose snow ridden
peaks stand there
unobtainable to those
such as me.

No, from here,
inside this plane,
you are but specks.
Specks, capped with white
and wrapped in brown.
Small dots, scattered
upon the ground.
Such sights,
are seen briefly
As soon,
your majestic peaks
will lie, hidden,
beneath the clouds.

* * *

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From the flight home. Not all of the mountain peaks had snow.
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I’m not sure which city this is, but it certainly was beautiful at night (assuming you don’t mind the light pollution)

A Beaver, Our Local Lumberjack

Athena and I have a standard walking path for her morning walk before I leave for work. This path wraps around a small man-made pond and has several dirt walkways that branch off from the Greenway. Our favorite dirt path goes along the edge of the pond between a cluster of small pines. When we first moved to Raleigh the pines here were extremely dense, but sense that time a beaver has taken up residency in the surrounding area. His favorite trees to chop down are pine trees.

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No longer in the shade
No longer isolated
No longer, lost in the pines.
Instead, the land is open
and I see across the pond.
Where apartments are my sky-
line.
There upon the ground, I see
the remains, where trees once stood
is now a shoreline covered
in stumps.
Whose points, no man could construct
but, were built instead by the
chomp of a beaver’s teeth.

Bike Tire in a Tree

Michelle and I were taking the dog for a walk the other day when we stumbled across the most random thing hanging in a tree.

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Surprise! Someone had ruined their bike tire and felt the best place to hang it was in a tree. When we saw this I had a mix of different emotions. Clearly, I was shocked to see a tire hanging in a tree (it would be weird to expect a tire in a tree). But, then I my feelings were bouncing back and forth between ‘this looks kind of cool’ to ‘why the heck would you leave your tire in the woods!’ Michelle and I tend to get a little cranky when we see people leaving trash or broken parts in the wood.

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Bike tire in a tree

what a sight to see!

Never, did I expect

to find amidst the green

black rubber hanging

forgotten from a limb.

Carried in,

but not back

out again.

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Quick Ride

It certainly did not feel like spring when I left the house this morning. My weather app listed the temperature at 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and it definitely felt that cold! But, after an insane couple of weeks I needed to get my bike out on the trail and blow off some steam before presenting at my group meeting. So, I made sure to bundle up and head for the trusted and true Lake Crabtree trail system.

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There’s no greater sense of accomplishment than being the first one at the trail head!

After arriving at the trail head, I took off down the trail chasing the local KOM (King of the Mountain) time and my hands were instantly reminded about the cold (I should have worn heavier gloves!). I have just started tracking my rides using the Strava app and there’s no better motivator to help you push your limits then chasing a KOM. (It also helps if you need to get off the trail quickly, it would be a shame if I was late to my own presentation). Unfortunately, I am still a long way off from being a legitimate contender to this mountain (about 6 minutes to be exact), but I can still dream of distant glory.

When I first entered the trail system, I scared about 5 blue herons into flight. They love to land and hang out right on the edge of the lake by the trail. I will admit, one of my favorite things to watch is when these birds decide to take flight. On the ride back in I discovered that these beautiful birds had returned to their spots, so this time I stopped to snap a couple of photos. The green of the brush in lower right of the photo certainly provides a sharp contrast to the surrounding browns.

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Love these Herons! On my ride in about 5 of them took flight at once. Go figure I forgot my GoPro today.
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I couldn’t believe that they just stood there letting me take their pictures!

After stopping to take some photos I had to try and get some classic ‘bike on the trail’ pics. First, I tried playing around with it near some brush with the lake in the background. Using a center-focus filter I tried to white out the edges to draw your focus towards the water. Did it work?

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If you don’t have a photo of your bike on the trail, did you really go for a ride?

After using the brush for framing, I had to go for the more traditional picture with Lake Crabtree in the backdrop. This time you can really see the green of the grass indicating that spring is finally starting to get here!

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I am constantly amazed at my bike’s ability to instantly reduce my stress levels from 1,000 to almost zero. There’s something magical about the sensation of flying down singletrack, hopping logs, and narrowly dodging trees. It creates a peaceful serenity where the only sounds you hear is the wind, the noises of your bike, and even traffic from I-40. It provides an instant escape from whatever worries are occupying my mind. Even pausing on the trail to take some photos is enjoyable (it actually helps me to pause and appreciate the surrounding scenery).

Spring

Even though winter has put up a valiant fight, spring is finally starting to take over. The mornings still get cold, but the sun stays out longer and the days are slightly warmer. The transition between the seasons can be both wonderful and torturous.

When spring arrives it brings back the birds who grace us with their songs and occasionally turn our patios into nesting grounds. Or at least, a bird has turned our fake patio tree into a temporary nest.

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There are even some eggs inside, which means in a few weeks Michelle and I will be able to listen to the baby birds chirp while we sip our morning coffee on the swing. (Don’t worry, I made sure not to disturb the nest when taking these photos).

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Spring.
A time of new life
When winter’s icy paws
loosen their chilling hold.
The sun returns to us
brightening our days
warming our hearts.

Spring
A time of new life
Flowers bloom, amidst the thaw
Trees slowly begin to bud
Bird’s nest to raise their young.
Molding winter’s day
into Spring’s new art.

Curve of a Disc

Athena and I woke up this morning and went on a mission: Capture the perfect image for the Tuesday Photo Challenge. This week’s theme was Curve and as an Ultimate enthusiast there was only one way to interpret this theme: Throwing a Frisbee. Plus, it was a great way to take Athena out for a game of fetch. We decided to take the GoPro out and experiment with the Time Lapse setting and the surrounding scenery.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

* * *

Nothing quite captures the definition of curve like the flight-path of a disc. The ability of a Frisbee to defy the law’s of physics is mesmerizing as it slices through the air. When you think the disc will fly for miles, it falls; when you think it can drift no farther, it gains new life and hovers on. The only limitation of where you can throw the disc is your own creativity.

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All photos were taken using a GoPro Hero+ using the Time Lapse setting.

A Frosted Bloom

A Frosted Bloom

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The vibrant purple mixed with the icy white snow perfectly captures the strangeness of this March NC snowfall

Frozen water
falls from the sky
a natural
beauty, I once
missed.

Falling upon
the greenest grass
March has ever
known. Blanketed
in white.

Spring no longer
blooms all around
with fresh petals
frosted beneath
snowflakes.

* * *

North Carolina isn’t known for handling snow or ice very well. Heck, if there’s even the threat of snow it is likely to cause a State of Emergency to be declared in the rare event that we do have a snowfall. Some years the rarity of snow is enough to make a former Michigander wish for the snow. This winter has been a very strange winter for NC as February has been one of the warmest on record (and the temperature seems to change from 30’s to 80’s daily).

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You can’t see it, but these petals are actually covered in snow. The joys of using a GoPro to capture photos is learning you missed the epic-ness of a shot

That is what made waking up this morning extremely strange as I discovered snow covering the new spring grass (in March!). First, I thought this was a result of lack of sleep due to the Daylight Saving’s time change, but Athena and I quickly discovered this wasn’t the case. It was really snowing!

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I love snow covered trees! Especially green pines.

Athena and I went on quick adventure to play in the snow, but those pictures and that story are for another post. If I ever manage to get caught up on my actual work and editing photos/videos I will upload those. This post is actually my response to Dutch Goes the Photo’s Tuesday Photo challenge: Bloom. When I saw this theme on Tuesday, I thought there was no chance of me capturing a great picture showing the birth of spring or of a flower.

However, I was wrong as this morning provided the perfect photo opportunity. The contrast between the blooming season of Spring and the snow answered the photo prompt challenge exquisitely (and inspired a little poem to boot!)

I hope you enjoy the photos and poem.

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A classic snow covered bridge!

Nostalgia

When I first saw that the Tuesday Photo Challenge for this week was nostalgia my initial thought was ‘How am I supposed to capture a photo that makes one wistful for the past?’ But, then I forgot that this weekend I would be celebrating my 26th birthday. What more do you need to inspire feelings of reflection?

How about a camping trip in February! Yes, I said a camping trip in February. Here in North Carolina this has been one of the warmest winter months in history, so Michelle and I decided to go on a camping exploration to celebrate my birthday. Combine these two events together and you have the perfect recipe for self-reflection and longing for the past with simpler times.

Here are a few teaser photos from our trip (a full write up will be posted after I edit some video and photos) with a short poem.

For this post I decided to use three photos with three photo-filters applied. My first step in editing a photo is to apply an auto filter. This adjusts color, contrast, etc. After I get a feel for the photo after adjusting color contrast I begin to play with other filters. For these photos I felt that using a vignette or black and white filter best captured the feeling of nostalgia. I am constantly amazed at how applying simple filters can completely change the story a particular photo is telling us.

I hope you enjoy these photos and poems.

* * *

My favorite part about camping is campfire coffee in the morning! There isn’t a better pairing of any two things!

Maybe I spoke too soon about perfect pairings. Can you really beat drinking a cup-of-joe while hanging in a hammock? Don’t forget the sun is shining and the birds are singing!

What is the one combination that is better than any cup of coffee? How about the great outdoors and a dog. Athena’s favorite spot was posting up outside our tent.

* * *

Simpler Times

I long for simpler times,

Times free of burden,

Times free of worry.

I longingly look into my past,

Before Facebook

                     and social media.

A past filled with make-believe

                            and imaginary friends

Where my games involved the woods

campfires,

s’mores,

and trail rides.

I long for simpler times,

Where all I needed

was the forest

To feel God’s love

That is all around.

* * *

Sadly, I wasn’t able to edit and post these sample pictures before the Tuesday photo round-up. Check out some of the great interpretations people had for the theme nostalgia! 

Lake Crabtree Morning Ride

I first bought my mountain bike in May 2013 and it has easily been one of the best purchases of my entire life. This one simple purchase has lead to countless adventures, meeting new friends, and has even become a shared hobby between my wife and me. Even more importantly, mountain biking (and hiking) is a great way to explore the state (such as a visit to Occoneechee Mountain), country, or world that you live in. Since Michelle and I have moved to North Carolina we have been able to visit multiple trails around us in the Triangle area (Harris Lake, Lake Crabtree, Legend Park) in addition to several adventures in the western part of the state (riding Rocky Knob Park and Tsali Recreation Area). We even had the opportunity to experience a winter wonderland bike ride after a North Carolina ice storm!

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Athena enjoying her morning walk before I leave for the trails

But, more importantly mountain biking is a great way for me to exit the city and reacquaint myself with nature. When I reach the trailhead and unload my bike from the car I leave behind deadlines, news headlines, and general stress. Once I start down that trail, there’s just me, my bike, and my ability to navigate the lay of the land. Luckily, I am blessed to be able to sneak out most Friday mornings for a ride at Lake Crabtree County Park before work. Here are some of the shots from this past Friday morning ride using a GoPro Hero+. The temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit and the ride started at 7:30 AM.

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The segment shown above is one of my favorite areas to ride at Crabtree! There is just enough of a decline slope here to give you some speed and the low berms give the trail a little added difficulty.

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I came across this mini-drop that seemed like a good spot to session (work on my technical trail skills). When I was setting up the camera I had no idea that the colors would have this much contrast.

The image on the left represents my constant failure to conquer this one section of the trail. There’s an uphill root section that creates a series of large trail obstructions. So far, I can only ride down them and I am still searching for the best line to ride up this section. Shown on the right is a cool image of the sun coming through the trees.

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I recognize that a photo of a bench seems random (and it is); I just really love benches. No real reason why, I just like the concept of benches with beautiful scenic overlooks.

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This may be my favorite photo from my morning ride. The sun hit me just right and I felt like I was racing my shadow for the entire stretch back to the trailhead (my shadow always had a slight lead on me and I was never quite able to catch up).