Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for September, 2010

May, Burch, Duvall revisited

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Fall is here. It hit quite suddenly. Last week we had highs in the 80s and 90s and this week it’s 60s-70s. The sun sets early now, around 7:30, so getting out after work is starting to require a little more planning. Soon I’ll need lights.

Last night I revisited this route. It’s a short (21-mile) but very hilly route west of town. So, it’s a good workout. It also happens to be incredibly beautiful. It felt much better climbing all those hills in cool weather rather than the 90s  we had when I rode this route before.

I don’t have much commentary other than that … here are some photos. The light was absolutely amazing throughout the whole ride.

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I’m planning a ride for tomorrow that should be incredible … stay tuned!

Observation

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Observing

(Photo taken by my wife.)

I’ve been making a concerted effort to be a better observer. In particular, ever since we watched the Perseid meteor showers, I’ve been more interested in stargazing. On our vacation, I gained a newfound appreciation for birds, thanks to all the interesting birds we saw in the Outer Banks of NC.

Astronomy

Since we got back from our vacation, I bought some binoculars. It’s amazing the mileage I’ve gotten already from a couple of library books on astronomy and a cheap pair of binoculars — even with the nearly-full moon, when the moon is so bright it interferes with night vision.

The Harvest Moon was spectacular last Thursday, and Jupiter has been very bright the past few nights as well. Friday night I had a revelation when I was able to view Jupiter and all of its moons, through my binoculars. It was quite a sight: Jupiter and its four moons were all in a line. From left to right, I saw Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede, followed by Jupiter, followed by Io. I looked for Uranus, but didn’t find it. I also saw an amazing cluster of stars which I later identified as the Orion Nebula.

I’m still learning my way around the night sky. It’s frustrating sometimes trying to find things, but again, the incredibly bright moon has made things more difficult. I think I’ll have more success once the moon wanes a bit more.

I found an amazing, free astronomy program called Stellarium. You set your location, and it shows you how the stars look from your location, complete with constellation/planet/nebula labels, if you like. You can also search for objects and it will show you where they are, or enter a different time and it will show you how the sky will look then. It’s absolutely amazing!

Birds
I haven’t spent as much time on birdwatching, but today we did a nice hike along Lake Monroe and I brought my new binoculars. They really made a difference. I was able to watch quite a few birds, mostly herons, egrets, geese, and turkey vultures. Some of the birds have quite a bit of character, and I loved being more aware of things going on around me in general.
Photos?

Ultimately, I would like to extend my photography into the astronomy/birding realms, but both can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. For now, I’m focusing on observing. Later, once I learn more, perhaps I can work on photographing stars, planets, nebulae and birds and other wildlife.

For now, I’m enjoying learning more about the world around me — looking up at the stars, I feel an almost childlike sense of wonder that as an adult is rare, and it’s quite refreshing. I’m amazed at the things I can see that have been there all along, but I to which I previously paid no attention.

Crooked Creek plus Nebo Ridge, at night

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

As someone who rides year-round, I don’t believe in a cycling “season.” I’ve seen some people saying the season is over, which baffles me. It’s just now cooling off, after a hot summer. The best riding of the year is yet to come!

However, for me, there is something of a night riding season. Night riding is a weird thing because when given a choice, I’ll nearly always prefer to ride when it’s light outside. However, nearly every night ride I do is memorable, and I always have fun. It just takes a little more motivation to get out at night, I guess.

Dave and I did an absolutely incredible night ride on Thursday.  We parked by the Crooked Creek boat ramp and rode out along the lake, and did part of the Nebo Ridge trail. Just like we did during this ride. However, this time it was different. We got to watch the sun set over the lake from some doubletrack, as we rode along.

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These pictures are a little misleading. By now it was getting fairly dark, the camera just corrected and tried to make it look like daytime. I should have adjusted them a little more.

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By the time we reached some gravel roads, it was really getting dark. The sun setting over a field of goldenrod was breathtaking. Again I had trouble getting the shots to reflect what we were seeing.

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Soon we reached a poorly-maintained fire road that took us up to the Nebo Ridge trail itself. Here we switched our lights on. Things were tricky on this somewhat overgrown trail that had a fair amount of debris, and a big climb.

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As we crested the hill, we could see the huge orange harvest moon rising through the trees. We stopped when we reached the trail to adjust our lights and get ready for the next section. Here’s my bike, and Dave getting his stuff ready.

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We rolled out on the trail. The riding was tough, with lots of ups and downs and a rugged trail surface. But it was also a lot of fun. As we rode along we saw thousands of sparkly spider eyes looking back at us from the ground, and rode through countless spider webs. It’s amazing how many spiders are out there! Here are a couple of pages about spider eyes at night: ONE | TWO.

Here’s an idea of what the view looked like from my bike.

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At one point, Dave shifted and his chain got caught between his cassette and spokes. Whoops! He had a tune-up recently, so it really shouldn’t do that … while Dave was fixing his bike …

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… I was looking around at the wildlife. I saw more spider eyes (which I did not get photos of), and a huge millipede. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but his guy must have been at least five inches long.

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As I was photographing him, he did something odd … he rolled his head under his body and held it there for a few seconds. Wikipedia says that millipedes can roll up in a ball, so maybe he was considering doing that. I’m really not sure.

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During most of our time on the trail, we couldn’t see the moon very much … there was just too much tree cover.

We didn’t stay on the trail too long. We would have enjoyed going further, but we both had to work the next day, so we only rode to the pond and back on the trail. Maybe a 3-4 mile round trip. And then headed back the way we came. Seeing the full moon over Salt Creek and Lake Monroe was amazing!

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I just noticed that you can also see Jupiter, the bright dot to the right of the moon, in this next shot.

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This was one of the better night rides we’ve done, and it was only the first one of the night-riding season! I can’t wait to do more. Dave was super cool about waiting while I took photos, which was appreciated. I normally don’t even try to take photos on our night rides because night photography is more time-consuming, and it’s quite hit-or-miss.

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