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Archive for the 'Nature' Category

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.

Muscatatuck NWR

Monday, June 16th, 2008

This weekend was good, even though I didn’t ride at all; Sarah and I spent Saturday driving around the countryside, eventually ending up at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge near Seymour, IN. I planned to go on a nice long bike ride yesterday, but I wasn’t feeling well.

Saturday was a lot of fun, after getting some lunch, we set out with no real destination in mind. We drove east until we hit Columbus, IN, then headed south. In the middle of nowhere, we came across Granny B’s CDs and DVDs, a smallish shop that was just packed with CDs, DVDs, books, and VHS tapes. We were puzzled to find this shop in such a remote area, and bought a few things very cheaply. It was an intriguing find.

Shortly thereafter, Sarah saw a sign for the Chateau de Pique winery. We followed a couple of signs and found ourselves at this small winery that is new as of last year, and as the woman we talked to stated, is “poised to become the #3 winery in Indiana.” We tasted several wines, including their Sauvignon Blanc (good, and very refreshing), Chardonnay (more intense than the Sauvignon Blanc), the Chandelle Cherry wine (tart, and better than I expected), and their Cabernet Merlot (a little mild for my tastes). All were pretty solid, but we preferred the slightly stronger Chardonnay to the Sauvignon Blanc. We bought a bottle of the Chardonnay to take home with us and took a few photos of the surrounding land.

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Tent

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Rows of grape vines

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Grapes

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Tendrils

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Barn and field

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Sarah, with her new camera

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Open

We didn’t stick around too long, and drove on to Seymour, then to Muscatatuck NWR. There are a number of marshy areas here, and we saw tons of wildlife, mainly in the form of dragonflies and birds. I even tried to get a few dragonfly shots … it’s more difficult than you’d think. They can be really elusive.

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Dragonfly

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Wildflowers

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Marsh

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Pond/marsh

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Lilly pads

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Creek

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Geese

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Great egret in the distance — there were several of these and a couple of Great Blue Herons

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Ripples

We also hiked the Turkey Trail, a one-mile trail, although we took a wrong turn and hiked half of the bird trail, too. It was a lovely day for a hike.

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We also saw a bunch of black and white dragonflies, like this guy

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Sarah on the Turkey Trail

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Brown dragonfly

We also kept seeing some green dragonflies but I couldn’t get them to sit still long enough to take a photo. Alas.

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Wetland

After we finished hiking, we drove pretty much directly home. It was getting to be pretty late in the day. This was different from our normal outings, but we certainly enjoyed it. Muscatatuck is a cool place, but it’s more geared toward observation than hiking, overall. We had fun, but stayed a little too close to the car most of the time.

An impromptu day off

Friday, June 13th, 2008

A few weeks ago, Sarah was gone most of the weekend, so Monday I took a day off at the last minute and Sarah and I spent the day together, driving around southern Indiana, taking photos and exploring/hiking. I fell behind in my blogging, so I’m just now writing about it.

The great thing about taking a day off at the last minute is that it feels like playing hooky, without any guilt (well, maybe a little guilt for not giving my boss more notice, but hey, it wasn’t a problem). We started our day off by going to our favorite breakfast establishment, Wee Willie’s (we like the Ellettsville location). Anyway, after that we started heading south with no real destination in mind. Unfortunately I left my Indiana Atlas and Gazetteer at home, so we had to make do with the road atlas. We ultimately decided to drive down to Paoli, a town I had driven through but Sarah had never seen. We stopped in downtown Paoli to take a few photos. There is a pretty quaint square with some big hills in the background.

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Courthouse, downtown Paoli, IN

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Some shops

I did a couple of infrared shots, but quickly decided I didn’t want to haul the tripod around or deal with the cumbersome nature of IR photography.

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Courthouse in infrared

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Infrared shops and hills

So, I put the tripod away and broke out my kit lens, and threw a circular polarizer filter on it. We had fun just walking around the square, seeing what shops were there (actually surprisingly few of interest), and just being together. I was fascinated by many of the buildings’ textures, and several very interesting windows. Many buildings were vacant or businesses closed. A couple of businesses had moved across the square to different stores.

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Siding

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Sherrod (not sure what that was …)

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Windows

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The Music Store

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Railing

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Walters Ye Olde Barber Shoppe

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Peeling paint

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Stairs

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Public Library

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Hills

After going around the square and taking some photos, we went into a “pub” that based on the outside looked like it was going to be pretty nice. It wasn’t dirty or anything, but it wasn’t what we expected. When I asked what they had on tap I got a funny look. Nothing on tap, just bottles. OK! One guy drank Stoli drinks out of a paper cup and a number of people gathered at the bar to watch Maury Povich. We each had a Rolling Rock and left.

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Bar

After our … uh … “urban” expedition, we decided we should do something outdoors and found we weren’t far from Patoka Lake. We drove there and got a map at the front gate, but didn’t realize until it was too late that it didn’t include a map of the hiking trails. Oh well, we figured, we read that one trail was short and decided to give it a shot, even though we were not wearing proper shoes and didn’t have a map. As we prepared to go hiking, we saw an animal from a distance that we think was a fox. Then as we walked along, we saw a couple of lizards sunning themselves. They stuck around long enough for me to put the long lens on my camera.

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Lizard

We took photos of the lizards and some nearby plants before heading down the trail

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Ferns — nice and fractally (yes, I’m sure that is a word)

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Flower

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I’m not sure what this is, but it’s really cool-looking and fuzzy

We debated which way to go once we reached the trail. It was a loop, so we figured we should be able to go either way.

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Sarah hiking

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Hiking

To make a long story short, we must’ve gone the wrong way, I believe at the very beginning, because this trail was not short, and we ended up going “backwards” based on the signs. We hiked for a good hour or an hour and a half in sandals/poor shoes and really got pretty tired. Eventually we found a “short cut” back but it was probably another two miles from there. Sometimes being spontaneous has a price, but it was well worth it even though it was a bit frustrating, and we were not well-prepared this time around.

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Trail

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Light

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Pines

Eventually we got back to the car. It took what seemed like forever to get back. We enjoyed our hike immensely, though, and we’d like to go back again and do more hiking at Patoka Lake. There are also some bike paths there that looked like a lot of fun, a couple of campgrounds, and I am sure some boat rental. It looks like it’d be a fun place to spend a weekend.

We drove back to Bloomington tired, but happy, and glad we were able to spend this time together. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than wandering through the countryside with my soon-to-be wife.

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