Earlier this summer we took a afternoon excursion to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX. Even as an adult seeing the footprints of dinosaurs along the riverbed of the Paluxy River was an exciting experience. Even with recent rain the water was still low enough to allow us to walk along a good section of the riverbed and view many of the footprints. We then took a hike along the Cedar Ridge Trail in the park and enjoyed getting away from the crowds to enjoy the scenery. Though there was a fair amount of hiking on inclines the panoramic views were well worth the walk. For being one of the few state parks near the DFW area this park seemed to offer a less urban feel for a nice getaway from the city life.
Yesterday we went for a brief hike (the sun and 100 degree weather were harsh) at Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve in the southern part of Dallas. The preserve was surprisingly scenic for being in the city of Dallas and offered quite a few different hiking trails. We walked the Cattail Pond Loop and were pleasantly surprised when we saw there was still water in the pond. While I took time to capture some images of the pond I was startled by the sounds of fish jumping from the water. No wonder there was a bird perched on a log fishing for lunch. The trail had a wonderful scent of cedar as we hiked along and took in the overlook of Joe Pool Lake. Was pleasant to find such an oasis near the DFW metro area.
I went out today with my D70 and an infrared filter and decided to play around a bit more with digital infrared photography. Infrared photography is always a finicky and tricky thing to do (especially well), whether it be film or digital. Most people find it hard to believe that this is how the images come straight out of the camera; no editing is needed to create these surreal images. The filter used for infrared photography simply blocks normal daylight (uv light) and only allows infrared light to pass through the camera’s lens and reach the digital sensor or film. Infrared filters are impossible to see through and make shooting a challenge as any framing has to be done before the filter can be put on the lens. The other challenge is that the focus plane of infrared photography is different than that of any other type of shooting. Most lenses have an extra dot, but it is still not precise and often needs adjusted to reach any kind of sharp focus. As with any digital shooting it is always much cheaper to experiment and try new things. I do still have some 35mm infrared film packed away to use at some point, but for now I am enjoying the ease of doing it on a digital camera. These are by no means exemplary, yet turned out better than expected. Infrared photographs create a dreamlike reality within the everyday world with the whites created from grass, leaves, and other plants. It makes an ordinary summer day seem like a world away in a place you only see in the deepest sleep. These photos are all taken in Maypearl, TX on a driving adventure I took today after the rain cleared and the sun came out (you really need bright sunlight to have effective infrared photos.
A little over a month ago I took a vacation to Texas Hill Country (south and central Texas) with my wife and dog. This was our first venture out of the DFW metroplex, and we were in shock at the beauty of this region of a state we had come to view as a brown scar of cattle land. We drove through winding hills and dense forest vegetation to get to Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, TX. The drive into the park was slow and rugged on a minimum maintenance dirt road (I would call it a car trail) in our Toyota Yaris. After what seemed a long drive, though it was only 6 miles at low speeds, we came to a paved road that rapidly descended into the Colorado River valley. The camping area was itself a wonder of wildlife and beauty. Our tent sat within throwing distance of the Colorado River and we watched deer walk through our site in the evening hours. We took a walk along the river on our first night in the park and were amazed at the abundant wildlife. We saw deer, big horn sheep, cardinals, vultures, and our first armadillo sighting since moving to Texas. During the first full day at the park I took a side hike out to Gorman Falls; the main attraction of the park. I hiked a mile and a half through terrain that would have looked right at home in an old Western movie with horses and cowboys riding across it. As I came to my destination it was a sharp downward hike on limestone to the base of Gorman Falls. Once I reached the bottom of the hill I was taken aback at the beauty that lie in front of me. The array of colors within the moving water were well worth the hike to get there. Calcium deposits built up over thousands of years to create the 60 ft. waterfall that looked like a shimmering rainbow as the water mist over the the deposits. Even though the park was in a six year drought there was still plenty of water flowing along the rock face from Gorman Creek.
I recently had the privilege of visiting Summit County in Colorado. During my visit I spent one of the nights outside in the refreshingly chilly mountain air. Even in April there was still several feet of snow on the ground (not a huge surprise when you are over 10,000 ft. above sea level), though the daytime sun was warm enough to be outside in a t-shirt. Being out of the city the stars shone brightly behind the silhouettes of pine trees and mountains. These images reinforce the magic of the camera as the camera captured the stars moving across the night sky.
Way back in the days when the grass was still green
And the pond was still wet
And the clouds were still clean,
And the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…
One morning I came to the glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.
I recently mailed a copy of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss to my niece in Colorado. Before mailing it I of course took the time to re-read the book myself.
The concept of the book is that change begins with one person and from that the possibilities are endless. In Minneapolis one such man would be the former parks board president and commissioner Charles Loring. Loring helped to make Minneapolis to be known not only as the City of Lakes, but also the City of Parks.
This excerpt made me think of a morning in Minneapolis that I went to the Lyndale Peace Gardens. It was fall, the air was moist, and the trees were like swaying rainbows in the breeze as the birds sang in the morning air. Not to mention the bright colors of the trees was not unlike that of the Truffala Trees.
I was alone in this area of natural wonder. For anybody who has never spent time in Minneapolis the city and its residents have a high regard for their parks and the ability to escape into pristine areas of wilderness without ever escaping the city limits. The Lyndale Peace Garden, which is right along the chain of lakes, is one of these exceptional parks.
The Peace Garden was originally called The Rock Garden because of natural ancient rocks. The rocks were perfect housing for alpine plants and dwarf conifers; giving it the feel of a Japanese garden much like that of Como Zoo. It has a small zig-zag bridge over a rock bed that at times is filled with water. The zig-zag design is in Japanese tradition as it is said that evil spirits can only walk in a straight line, thus preventing the spirits from following those who enter the garden.
As you cross the bridge to the sight of a beautiful, low growing conifer greets you. The trail winds around these trees near a small waterfall along with more exceptional landscaping.
One thing that I miss dearly living in Texas is the ease of escape to nature I was able to enjoy in Minneapolis. Within a mere few miles of my apartment was five natural lakes (nearly every lake in Texas is man-made). I could hop on my bicycle at the front step of my apartment and within 20-30 minutes be across town sitting on the edge of Lake Harriet next to the beautiful architecture of its bandshell taking photographs of the reflections in the clean water, the boats moored in the starlight, and more.
Ever since I was a child heading up north meant getting away, vacation, reprieve from everyday life. Sitting here on this chilly grey day in Texas brings my mind to the wonder and beauty of the north woods during the spring with it’s cool mornings and evenings and warm, sunny afternoons.
Each and every trip meant escape to the beauteous peace and serenity of the woodlands and lakes that Minnesotans are fortunate enough to call their own. These trips could be with my parents and sister, my grandfather and cousins, boy scouts, or as I grew older with friends or alone but they always held such meaning; a renewed outlook on life and the world.
Any outdoor enthusiast knows the wonder of lying down in your sleeping bag gazing through the porthole screen window at a lakeshore sunset or the blanket of stars in the unpolluted skies of the north. It’s in these moments that you can find peace and solitude as your mind begins to slow down and turn itself off allowing you to live in the moment or simply forget the stress of daily life and allow introspective thoughts of yourself and the world.
With the backpacking trips there I always find amazement in the fact that every necessity is carried in one pack light enough to be carried on your back.
It only takes that 30 pounds of gear to live.
Within this 30 pounds you have shelter, clothing, food, a book possibly, some writing materials, for me it always contains a camera, and a few other odds and ends. Enough to survive, yet it all can be carried on your back.
The slow pace of hiking allows you to take in the details of the world around you. Things you simply would not notice in the hustle and bustle of daily life take on great importance. The morning dew on the pine needles, a loon calling to you from across the lake as you sit next to the campfire, the splash of the beaver’s tail on the water as you drift off to sleep. Every bend in the trail presents a place that looks too splendid to not stop and take a break, yet you have to pass some to make camp before the sun falls behind the trees and the trail disappears into the thick and noisy darkness.
As you stop to make camp you unpack the gear that you so carefully fit into your pack. One person takes the time to set up tents while the other cooks a dinner that only takes one pot. We often decide to reduce dishes to simply eat right out of the pan and sit next to a lake or creek and replenish our energy with a dinner of mashed potatoes and pasta mixed into a trail version of hotdish, or casserole to any non-Minnesotan.
Then there is the magic of the campfire. Within those flames are many a story of wonder and enchantment. Somehow any conversation just seems more interesting as you watch the crackling flame and glow bugs while listening to the noisy silence of the woods.
The morning is almost a ritual for any backpacker. Being awoken by the heat of the rising sun as it fills your tent. You rise from the sleeping bag slowly and put on camp shoes to stretch as you take in the beauty once again renewed from a nights rest in the cool fresh air of the northwoods. You then find solitude and sit on a bench or log and watch the sun finish rising from the East; taking your time to wake up as your mind relaxes. There is simply no rush to get ready as you knowing you have the entire day to make the next campsite.
All of this magic lies just a few hours north of home. Part of its beauty is that it holds a different meaning for each individual who enters the woods. Moments of bliss and reflection await a personal experience that is hidden in the trees that surround.
About the photographs:
The Twin Lakes Loop located near Beaver Bay and Silver Bay is a wonderfully scenic section of the Superior Hiking Trail that every backpacker should experience. It’s difficulty level is one that any enthusiast can enjoy. Though having a few challenging ups and downs there are plenty of places to rest and enjoy the scenery to catch your breath and hike the next section. The campsite on the shore of Bear Lake is one that will exceed the expectations of even the most seasoned and traveled hiker.