Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for July, 2007

Road to nowhere

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Last weekend was yet another excellent one, complete with mountain biking, road biking, swimming, and some photography.

Mountain Biking
I went mountain biking with Dave and the two Chrises on Saturday morning, but I was running late, so I met them up at Hesitation Point instead of at the lower lot. I rode Hesitation Point very well, clearing some obstacles I had never cleared before, including a drop-off followed almost immediately by some rocks and a log you have to hop. We also rode the Aynes Loop “backwards” (counter-clockwise), which I had never done. It was actually easier than going the other way, which involves at least 10 minutes of solid climbing. The climbing is more spread out this way, and the trail rides very differently.

Then, we rode the North Tower Loop backwards to complete the trifecta. I rode down to the lower parking lot with them, rested for a minute, and turned around and rode back. I lost the computer on my mountain bike (again!), and I think I just won’t replace it this time. I’ve bought two already, I don’t really want to buy another one. Incidentally, it was a Cateye Enduro 8. I can’t really recommend them, since I’ve had two of them fall off of my mountain bike. I haven’t had the same problem with the Cateye Mity 8 on my road bike — at least not yet. My confidence in it is definitely a bit shaken, but the road bike doesn’t see the same kind of abuse and rough surfaces the mountain bike does, so hopefully, it’ll be OK.

I was tired on my way back up Hesitation Point. The fact that I was riding really well earlier was lost now, due to fatigue. I made a mistake around a difficult switchback. Somehow, one of my tires slipped, and I found myself falling — fortunately, to the center of the switchback, not to the ravine on the outside. Still, I fell a bit, hitting my knee and my left arm on something, and unfortunately, hitting some sensitive parts on the top tube of the bike. No real damage done, but it left me a bit sore. I rested for a few minutes and continued on my way. I was glad when I made it to the top of Hesitation Point. I think it was about 18 miles of riding, all told.

Road biking
On Sunday morning, I went for a road ride. I wasn’t sure how well that would work out, given my injuries from Saturday’s trail ride. I also got off to a bit of a late start, and it was pretty hot by the time I started riding. My plan was to ride around Lake Lemon backwards. After riding Mount Gilead Road, I felt OK and continued on, riding Shilo Road in the opposite direction I have in the past. It was a lot easier this way, in terms of climbing; instead of a long, spread-out climb, it was mostly downhill, with a couple of short, steep climbs. The only problem with this was that since Shilo Road is one of the roughest and windiest roads in the area, it was more technically challenging.

I still felt pretty decent after riding Shilo Road, but I decided to head back toward home, rather than ride around Lake Lemon as planned. It was getting hotter, and I knew I could make it around the lake, but I didn’t want to push it too much. I wanted to get home and hang out with Sarah, and I knew we’d want to do some things with the rest of our day – I didn’t want to wear myself out completely by riding. So, it ended up being a fairly short ride, at about 26 miles, instead of the 36 I’d planned. On my way back, I took a photo of something by a fire station I’ve been meaning to shoot for a while.

Water ... bikers
Proving once again that firefighters are true American heroes.

Swimming
Sarah and I went swimming in the pool in our apartment complex Sunday afternoon. We have done very little swimming in recently years (especially me), but we had a lot of fun. I use the term “swimming” very loosely; really, we just hung out in the water, and played a little pseudo-volleyball with a beach ball and no net. We also took some photos with the underwater camera I got at Goodwill for $2. I’ll post some of those photos later.

Photography
We were planning on watching Office Space Sunday night, but instead, we went for a drive and took some photos. I used my old Pentax K1000 again, and really enjoyed it. Sarah has a great post about our outing here. We found ourselves on many roads to nowhere, getting lost and not particularly wanting to be found. There was some incredible late afternoon/evening light, warm and on an angle — and a beautiful sunset, the best part of which (a huge, pink sun hanging low in the sky) we couldn’t capture because there were cars behind us and no way to get off the road. Anyway, Sarah covered it pretty well, and posted some of her photos, so I’ll shut up and post some of my own photos.

Bryant Creek Lake
Bryant Creek Lake

Reaching up
Reaching up

Main Forest Road II
Main Forest Road

Sarah
Sarah

Stump
Stump

Low Gap Road
Low Gap Road

Solitary tree
Solitary Tree

Independence day camping at Yellowwood

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Sarah and I decided at the last minute to go camping Tuesday night. We weren’t even sure where we wanted to go, but settled on Yellowwood State Forest. We haven’t gone camping at any of the state parks yet, but my theory is that the state forests are a little less popular, and more remote, so they probably make for a better camping experience. I think we’re very lucky to have so many places to camp within half an hour of where we live that our biggest problem is figuring out where to go — even if we don’t decide to go camping until evening. There’s a slideshow at the end of this post.

When we got to Yellowwood, we drove through all three campgrounds to find the best spot. We settled on a camping spot in the Red Pine Campground. There were a few spots from which you could see Yellowwood Lake through the trees a little bit, but those were already taken. We found a site with a good place for our tent a bit back from the road, so it felt a little more secluded.

After setting up the tent, I suggested to Sarah that we hike down the trail that lead down into a ravine from our campsite. It looked a little boggy at the bottom, and I thought we might be able to see the lake from down there. Sure enough, we didn’t have to hike far at all before we were treated with a stunning view of Yellowwood Lake. I had brought my old film SLR camera, the Pentax K1000 I got when I was in high school to learn about photography.

Yellowwood Lake II
Yellowwood Lake from near our campsite

When I snapped a few photos, this old camera that I hadn’t used for quite some time put a big grin on my face. It felt so comfortable, and it’s about as simple a camera as you can get. No auto focus, no auto exposure, and the light meter is just a needle that moves up and down to tell you whether you’re under- or overexposing from the metered reading. The camera feels solid in your hands, and even the clicking of the shutter is loud and confident. You can feel it shake a little when the shutter releases. So it’s probably not ideal for the most crisp photos, but you *know* you’ve taken a photo — with authority.

Sarah seemed a little antsy, worried about the dog, who was still in the car, and getting the rest of our stuff set up. I kissed away her worries and we enjoyed the beautiful scene a little bit longer.

All in all, this was very similar to our last camping trip. Once again, we made bratwurst. I did a better job of cooking them this time, waiting for the fire to burn down a bit more, and putting the grill a little higher off the fire. The brats were hotter throughout and took on more of the smoke flavor from the fire.

Some fellow campers were playing some music loudly early in the evening, but they turned it off before long, and most people went to bed pretty early. The rest of the world just melted away and it was just Sarah and me, and our dog, Rob. All you could hear were insects and bullfrogs, and the crackle of the fire; all you could see was our fire and the light given off by the nearly-full moon. There weren’t any lamp posts in the area, and I was very glad.

Before we went to bed, I managed to convince Sarah to go for a walk around the campground with me, despite the fact that we were both tired and drunk. It was just a small loop. We took a flashlight, but really didn’t even need it because there was so much moonlight. After our walk, I got my tripod out of the trunk and took some long exposure photos with my old camera, not sure how they’d turn out.

Moonlit Trees
Moonlit pine trees

It felt funny setting up the tripod and fooling with my camera’s very rudimentary cable release. It’s a button you push, but not an electronic one — it just pushes a wire down that opens the camera’s shutter, and it stays open as long as you hold the button down. It feels like having a direct, physical connection with the shutter.

We went to bed, hearing some kind of howling sound that may have been coyotes, but I’m really not sure. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. We woke up a couple of times during the night and felt cold, so we held each other close and tried to keep warm. I had the love of my life, my dog, and the forest to wake up to. It was great to wake up in the morning and see a line of trees leading into a ravine. We would have been warmer if we had closed the tent door, but it sure was great to be able to see out as soon as we woke up.

It was a fantastic camping trip. I really love being out in the middle of nowhere with Sarah and Rob and no distractions at all. No TV, no e-mail to check, no laundry to do or dishwasher to load — just us.

Update: I submitted two of my photos to StateParks.com’s page about Yellowwood. They accepted them; I’ll have to submit some more, both for Yellowwood and some other state parks.

Simplify

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Back in May, Sarah’s friend Julia came to visit. We spent a couple of hours with her cousin, Christopher. We went over to his place to hang out for a while, and as soon as we entered his kitchen, Julia spotted a sign that said “Simplify” in block letters. She started laughing and asked, “You have one, too?” Apparently, one of their relatives gave a “Simplify” sign to each of them. Both of them kept it, but neither seemed to be sure why.

This “Simplify” sign had a surprising impact on me.  I’ve thought about it a few times since then. Then yesterday, I looked at my bank statement online and felt stupid — “this transaction was unnecessary,” I thought. “This one, too.” There were several things on there that I just didn’t need. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much stuff is cluttering up my life.

Then, on my way home from work (I drove, since my bike had a flat tire), I saw a man laying on the ground and a cyclist trying to help him. I turned off on a side street so I could turn around and see if I could help. I turned around, and I was stuck at the intersection, but I could see across. A few people were trying to help the man, and at least two people had already called 911. The man appeared to be unconscious. He started to convulse a little bit. Moments later, he regained consciousness and tried to get up. Someone helped him to his feet. He seemed to have enough help, and I could hear an ambulance already, so I decided to continue on my way.

Another reason I didn’t stick around was that I knew I couldn’t do much. I don’t know much about first aid, and I took a CPR class back in high school, but that was a long time ago. I felt helpless. Fortunately, this guy already had people helping him, but what if I was the only one there, and I didn’t know what to do? I felt silly that I had worried earlier that day about my flat tire and getting a new tire and how I was anxious to get home quickly. Those things are so trivial compared to a human life.

I need to get back to basics. I’m going to make a concerted effort to simplify my life. I’m not sure yet what that will mean, but I need to figure that out. Two things I know it will involve are buying less crap and learning some first aid and CPR. Especially with all the cycling I do, and the hiking Sarah and I do together, I really need to know those things. Sarah said she’d take some classes with me, which is a great idea. I think I can get rid of a lot of the junk I already have, too. I have a lot of clothes that don’t fit anymore, and stuff I don’t use. It needs to go. I have two old bicycles I’ve been meaning to get rid of, but haven’t. I have no idea why, I just keep putting it off.

I’m hoping this simplification will help on several levels. It should help me save money, and I think having less clutter will make me more comfortable. It’ll be easier to find things if I don’t have so much junk to dig through. But more importantly, I have been trying to be more self-reliant in general, and I think that learning first aid — and trying to depend less on things I should be able to do without — should help me do that. I already feel more self-reliant from cycling. If my car broke down, or I crashed it, or something happened and oil prices skyrocketed even further, I could still get around. But if one of my loved ones got hurt, I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything. That is unacceptable.

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