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Archive for the 'Mountains' Category

Nescopeck State Park

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Last weekend, mom drove our car up from Indiana and stayed for a couple of days. This was huge, as it meant I didn’t have to tow the car behind the U-Haul. She also helped unpack and clean. I was going to work on Monday, but I ended up taking the day off so I could spend it with her. After all, I no longer live just a few minutes away from her, and this was the last chance to spend time with her before she flew back to Indiana.

After a very productive morning, we decided to check out a state park in the afternoon. We chose to go down to Nescopeck State Park, which is a bit south of Wilkes-Barre. The drive there was beautiful, taking us on 309, up the mountain to Mountain Top, and back down the other side. Around here, I actually have to use the low gears in my car.

We went to the park office first, which was a much more impressive building than I expected. We got a trail map and some information about other parks in the area. Then we decided to go down to see Lake Frances, and planned a hike of probably around two miles. The folks at the forest office even gave us a couple of bright orange vests, as it’s hunting season.

Our hike started by traveling along one side of the lake. The trail we were on goes all the way around, I believe, but we only went along one side before turning onto a different trail. I was hoping for some vistas or mountain views but this particular park is in a valley; we did get some views of surrounding mountains, but I’ll have to explore other parks to find the epic vistas I crave.

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Lake Frances

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Lake Frances again

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A small pier

We got on the Nescopeck Trail, and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the trail itself. It was more like a fire road than a trail, really. It was very wide and smooth, and flat, and even had slight tire ruts. It was overgrown with grass, but it was well-maintained. It was pleasant, but it was more of a walk through the woods than a hike. Still, it was a beautiful day and I was happy just to be out.

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The trail is wide, but it’s hard to complain with scenery like this

We passed a pond or small lake and looked for an access point, but couldn’t find one. We hiked on and found a very quiet, peaceful spot by Nescopeck Creek. It was off a small side trail and it’d be easy to miss it. We explored the creek a little and rested before heading out.

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Nescopeck Creek

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Mom, resting on a very large rock

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The trail leading back up to the main trail

We continued on our way, and the trail followed the creek on and off. Before long we reached another lake, this one arguably more beautiful than Lake Frances. The afternoon autumn light, the blue sky, the clouds, the foliage, and the reflections in the water all made for quite an impressive scene.

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Lake

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Another shot of the lake

We got on the Woodland Way trail and this one was narrower, more rugged,  and more interesting. The trail surface had a lot of rocks, and thick moss on one side. It meandered along the lake shore.

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Moss by the trail

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Rocky trail

This was another stunningly peaceful place. We stopped every few steps to admire it, and did not speak much. It required a certain quiet reverence.

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The Lake, with Mount Yeager in the distance

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Rocks and leaves

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Trail surface

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Another lake shot

Within a few minutes, we were back at Lake Frances. From there, it was only a short walk back to the car.

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Lake Frances

All in all, I enjoyed the park. The hiking was easy, but the scenery was quite beautiful. I’ll have to try some of the other trails there and see if most of them are interesting like the Woodland Way trail, or more like the easier Nescopeck Trail. There are a whole bunch of other parks I want to check out before going back here, though.

Wilkes-Barre, PA: First impressions

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Last weekend, Sarah and I went to Wilkes-Barre, PA, where we are moving, with the primary goal of finding a place to live. We flew to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre airport (by way of Chicago), rented a car, and got in to our hotel room late Friday night.

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Scene at O’Hare International Airport

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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport


“Meditation Room” At W-B/Scranton Airport

Saturday morning, we woke up and I peeked out the window to get my first glimpse of the area during daylight hours. I saw a bunch of chain stores, and mountains in the distance. Pretty damn cool, since I didn’t really get to see the mountains at all the night before.

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First glimpse of Wilkes-Barre

To get to our appointments, we had to drive across town on 309, one of the major roads. This gave us some great views of the city and surrounding area.

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Wilkes-Barre, as seen from 309

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309

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Bridge across the Susquehanna River

We spent Saturday touring apartment complexes and rental houses and calling others to attempt to find something suitable. Frankly, it was pretty frustrating. Even the apartment complex we thought would be a pretty safe bet turned out not to be a good option at all. Some houses were decrepit, in bad neighborhoods, or both. In the process, we did get to see a lot of the area and got to know our way around a little bit. We were mostly interested in living in Kingston, a smaller borough right across the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre.

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A Kingston neighborhood

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Looking toward Edwardsville, and the mountains

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Looking down on the valley from the top of a hill

We also spent some time in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

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Someone painting a mural

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Staircase

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YMCA

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Osterhout Free Library

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Inside the library

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Another shot inside the library

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Church

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The square, downtown

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Around Town Bicycles

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Bike Shop Parking Only

We eventually found a good place to live in Kingston — we’ll be renting half a duplex, 3 bedrooms, two stories, plus basement and attic, and a small fenced yard for the dog. All for the same price as the 2-bedroom apartment we have now.

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The front of the house. Left half is hours.

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Back yard (fence to be completed, debris cleared away)

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Our neighborhood

We also managed to go for a couple of drives in the mountains while we were there. The fall colors are a lot further ahead there than they are here. One drive included a precipitous gravel road up the side of a mountain, with some switchbacks and quite steep sections, and even some rocks forming small rock gardens in the middle of the road — driven in our rented PT Cruiser. Man, that car sucks. But it survived. And we only nearly hit a couple of deer.

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View from near the top of one mountain

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Mountains

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An industrial complex nestled in the mountains — strange juxtaposition

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Driving through the Endless Mountains

We only got a small taste of the beautiful country in the area, but it’s certainly whet my appetite. I’m excited about cycling there, but some of these roads are just incredibly steep, for a long time. I’ve got a real challenge cut out for me.

Mountains in Hendersonville, NC and Roanoke, VA

Monday, June 30th, 2008

I figure it’s time to post some good things about our trip to the mountains — and while we had very little opportunity for recreation and my enjoyment of it was tempered by my injuries, we still took in some incredible scenery. First up is Jump Off Rock, in Laurel Park (near Hendersonville), North Carolina. It was a slow, steep, twisty drive to the top of the mountain.

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View from Jump Off Rock

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Sarah at Jump Off Rock

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Mountain layers

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Neighboring mountain

There were a couple of hiking trails, but I was in too much pain to hike. As you can see, though, there were some truly incredible views. Later that night we saw some other mountains on the other side of town.

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House in the mountains

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Sunset

On our way to Roanoke, VA from Hendersonville, we got caught in a couple of intense storms. We stopped at an overlook alongside the incredibly scenic Interstate 81. It was still raining and there was thick fog nestled in the mountains. My photos don’t do justice to the sheer size of some of these mountains or the atmospheric beauty we witnessed.

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Fog rises from the mountains during a thunderstorm

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One of many climbs on the interstate

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Panoramic shot of the mountains and the interstate

In Roanoke, we made a trip up to the top of Mill Mountain, where the Roanoke Star sits. It’s a 100-foot lighted star on the mountain overlooking the city. This spot also offers panoramic views of the Roanoke Valley. Once again there had been strong storms and the whole region was enveloped in a thick fog.

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Roanoke Valley

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Roanoke Star

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Roanoke Valley panorama

I also took a few infrared shots. It’s interesting how well the IR shots cut through the haze

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Part of Roanoke Valley, in infrared

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Infrared mountains

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Steps on the short hiking trail

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Trail leading back to the parking lot

We also took in part of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke. It was absolutely stunning.

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Houses and power lines

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Hazy mountains as darkness falls

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Blue ridge panorama 1

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Sky

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The Blue Ridge Parkway — maybe someday I’ll get to ride part of this

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Mountains

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Blue Ridge Panorama 2

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Sun setting over the mountains

As you can see, our trip was not exactly a bust in terms of scenery. And while we experienced the mountains from a more passive perspective than I prefer (driving, rather than hiking or biking), I feel lucky we got to go at all.

It’s true what they say. Virginia is for lovers. I sure was glad to be there with mine.

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