Bridging the Gaps

I am a big fan of bridges, and I admit that I have taken too many pictures of them.  I think that some of the bigger ones, especially the suspension bridges, are marvels of engineering design.  The fact that we have figured out ways to use the laws of physics to construct these gigantic, and often beautiful and majestic, structures to leap across wide open spaces and voids in such a seemingly effortless manner (a perception that is deceptive) is remarkable.  The manner in which the roadways hang in the air, suspended from cables attached to elegant piers that rise from the ground or the water into the air to tower over the bridges themselves, is amazing.  And many of us take these structures for granted while using them in our everyday lives, with not an appreciation or understanding of, or interest in, the ingenuity that went into their construction.

But having said all that, I would like to take a different tack for this week’s challenge.  I will just focus on some more down-to-earth “bridge” encounters from our recent trip to New England.  These are simpler bridge stories from the other end of the spectrum.  The physics involved is quite simple in many cases.  These pictures will show that as far as the simple act of walking or hiking is involved, there are many basic ways that are used to bridge obstacles that may appear in front of you.  In some cases, even the simple rocks found in nature will offer you a bridge!

The following pictures are from the Camden State Park in Maine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is from a hike up Gorham mountain on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese bridges are a few of the many on a trail in the Flume Gorge area in New Hampshire.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis bridge carries a trail across the Winooski River in Montpelier, VT.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABridges, in many different forms, are an essential part of our lives today.

On Your Left

This phrase is a call used as a common courtesy on the trails in these parts, usually uttered when a bicyclist is coming up on either a walker or another cyclist from behind.  It serves as a warning to the slower person about your approach, and also a request for the person to move towards the right side of the trail if he or she is blocking the trail.  You hear the phrase  quite frequently on crowded trails, and the responses to this call can vary quite a bit. Sometimes folks do not hear you unless you yell because they have their  earphones on and are listening to something or the other on their mobile devices. Sometimes folks do something unexpected like moving into your path.  But the call works often enough that its usage is a common practice.  I do not know what the etiquette of overtaking on a trail is in other places.  Perhaps in the UK, they say “On your right!”

It happened when I was barrelling downhill on the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT), heading from Bethesda to Fletcher’s Cove on the C&O Canal.  Traffic on the trail was unusually light that morning.  It was a cool morning, actually unusually cool for this time of year, and I was wearing extra gear to keep out the chill.  I felt an occasional drop of water from the overcast skies.  The forecasters had predicted that it would all clear up, but perhaps even this slight threat of inclement weather had been sufficient to deter other bikers from the trail.  (Or maybe it was because people have left town on vacations because of the start of summer.)

My goal for the ride was to tackle two trails that had slopes that were challenging.  I needed the training to be better prepared for the Rockies.   The Capital Crescent Trail and the Custis trail, both trails that I had found difficult in the past in this context, were within reachable distance of each other.

As I was speeding down the nearly empty CCT, I spied this kid in front of me who was walking down the middle of the trail in the same direction that I was riding.  I tried to warn him “On your left!”, but I got no response.  He had his earphones on!  I had to slow down.  I kept repeating myself with increasing urgency as I got closer to him and continued to slow down.  He heard me at the last minute and jumped to the side.  He turned to me with a sheepish grin on his face.  “Sorry, my bad.”  But I was not upset at all. In fact, I had to smile in spite of the fact that he had slowed me down significantly.  It was partly due to the look on his face, and the spirit in which he apologized.  There was no sign of annoyance in his demeanor at being startled, and he also openly accepted his responsibility.  Also, I was not really in a hurry (in spite of my speed), and I was happily distracted by the thought of a kid taking a walk on the trail in the middle of the morning, enjoying the outdoors.  Hopefully he had not bunked school, but in any case, he seemed to be involved a healthy outdoor diversion that was better than idling in front of an electronic display of some sort at home.  I was not upset.IMG_20170607_102733902_HDRLater on during the ride, while on a section of the W&OD trail in Virginia, I sighted a mother (I think!) and her little girl on the trail in front of me.  The two of them moved to the side of the trail when the mother noticed my approach.  The mother sat herself next to the kid, pointed my way, and the two of them waited for me to come by.  As I got closer she waved to me, and the kid gave me a big smile that would have melted any reasonable person’s heart.  I waved back with a smile on my face.  I got a big lift that lasted for a significant portion of the rest of the ride.IMG_20170607_115652484It is sometimes the small things that you remember from these type of outings, and I hope many such opportunities for smaller memories continue to present themselves during the next few weeks of training.IMG_20170602_092609202I managed to tackle the hills on both the Capital Crescent and Custis trails without having to get off the bike and push it uphill.  I am also learning how to better relax while doing rides like this that require some endurance.  I took breaks from riding whenever I felt like it without feeling a need to push myself and keep going.  I eased up on imaginary challenges that I tend to set for myself while riding.  In spite of this outlook, I did manage to keep a good pace.  In the end I covered about 46 miles, and I was in the groove towards the end, hitting four and a half minute miles on the rough trail.  Perhaps I am in decent shape for the final ride already.

 

 

Thanks be to Gravity (9/14/2008)

This is a highly edited version of something I wrote many years ago.  These days, I am also more comfortable with adding pictures and links directly to the narrative.  Ain’t technology da bomb!

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If you take the exit to Keep Tryst Road from US Route 340, (it comes up close to Harpers Ferry, just before you cross the bridge over the Potomac from Maryland into Virginia), and then follow the road all the way to the the bottom of a hill, it ends up next to tracks for the CSX railroad.  At this point the road makes a U-turn and heads back up the hill to rejoin Route 340.  This place next to the railroad tracks is where people park their cars to head out on hikes.  The place is called Weverton.  From this location you can follow the Appalachian trail (or the AT as it is fondly known) up to Weverton Cliffs, or you can cross the tracks and head down to the towpath towards either Brunswick or Harpers Ferry.

Weverton used to be real town many years ago.  Very few people live in the area today. Back then an intrepid developer decided that he could harness the power of the waters of the Potomac for energy in order to develop commerce in this area.  The concept did not work and one of the reasons for failure was the regular flooding of the river.  I have read that you can see the remains of the old town of Weverton if you leave the towpath and head towards the river.  I have not been successful in finding these ruins so far.  Weverton is also a switching yard for the railroad, and the location from which a spur line used to branch off towards Hagerstown.  You can still see the remains of the railroad bridge for this spur line under the bridge for Route 340.

I arrived at Weverton early in the morning before the fog had lifted to do a hike to towards Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights. My timing for the start of the hike was perfect.  As I walked towards the railroad tracks to cross over to the towpath, I sighted the headlights of the freight train through the fog.  It was heading in my direction. IMG_6132At the point where the path crosses the railroad the tracks curve away from you and as  a result you get a head-on view of the approaching train.  I got a lot of pictures of the train in the fog as it switched tracks and approached rapidly. IMG_6134And before I knew it the engineer was blowing the horn to make sure that I did not step on to the tracks,IMG_6136and the train was rushing by shaking the ground under me.IMG_6137It was moving quite fast and even picking up speed as the freight cars thundered by, with the hundreds of metal wheels screeching like a thousand banshees as the rail cars pushed against the rails and struggled to stay on the tracks as they rounded the curve and accelerated at the same time.IMG_6138I stood by just next to the carriages, which seemed to be much bigger and higher than what I imagined them to be when I had seen them from a distance, and felt a rush.  I was screaming but nobody could hear me.

The objective for this trip was to climb Maryland Heights on the Maryland side of the Potomac river next to Harpers Ferry.  From the lookout point on Maryland Heights one gets a nice view of the town of Harpers Ferry.  This hike turned out  to be an unexpected mental challenge for me.  I began to feel tired even as I started up the steep slope from beside the main road.  Perhaps I was really not in good shape.  The early part of the climb was quite strenuous and the last time I had done this was when family had visited from India, when we had walked halfway up the hill.  I walked up slowly, stopping frequently, and stopping by the meadows along the way to enjoy the sight of the many white butterflies fluttering around.IMG_6174It was a humid morning and pretty soon I was sweating quite profusely.  I did not really feel any pain but I was feeling nervous because this was the first time in a while I had pushed myself in this manner since the big event.  I almost turned back at one point.

But in the end I persevered.  I was going to reach my destination one way or the other, whichever destination it happened to be – the Pearly Gates (being the eternal optimist that I am) or the Scenic Overlook over the river!  I made it to the latter destination feeling a sense of achievement.  I spent some time taking pictures of the river and the valley below.IMG_6175IMG_6176IMG_6192 There was a butterfly sitting in the sun on a rock that did not move even as I approached and took close-up pictures of its eyes!  (There are some wonderful experiences waiting out there for you if you are willing to relax and  pay attention to what is going on around you.)IMG_6199IMG_6206I ran all the way down the hill on my way back to the towpath.  I wanted to sing a song – He’ll be running down the mountain when he comes!  It was a nice outing and I got some pictures of some flowers and creatures that I had not seen before. IMG_6155IMG_6157A woodpecker also obliged me by landing on a tree trunk next to the trail and staying put while I took its picture.IMG_6214I also got some nice pictures of the fog.IMG_6145IMG_6162IMG_6163IMG_6165IMG_6169IMG_6171All in all, another excellent outing to the river!

Back In The Saddle

The weather has warmed up enough for me to start training for my July bike ride from Jasper to Banff in the Canadian Rockies.  I am back in the saddle after a break of many months from biking activities, indeed a break from the time of my last long ride! Considering the tremendous amount training that I did for the Pittsburgh to the DC area ride last year, I was wondering how the body would react during my first ride this year.

I started off early in the morning with the intention of not going too far.  It was still quite chilly when got to the trail, and I had to bundle myself to defend against the cool early morning breeze.  It took me a little longer than usual to get prepped for the ride and for me to try to get back into the routine that I was so used to following last year.  I remembered that I needed to gather an adequate supply of food and water before I left home to keep me fueled through the ride.  I needed to fit the basket on to the bike to carry the supplies.  I needed to make sure that the bike was OK after a long period of disuse.

The ride went off OK.  The miles passed by quickly as the bike (and especially the basket on the handlebar) rattled along on the uneven surface of the towpath.  It was quite the different experience from running!  It felt easy at first.  But it did not take too much time to be reminded of the level of effort on the muscles to keep pedaling for a long time.   The muscles in the thighs were out of shape.  I was also beginning to feel it in the butt.  I have a way to go before I will be ready, but the good thing is that there is enough time to get the body back into shape.  We will be riding on a paved surface this time, and the distances we will be riding will for the most part be shorter than what we were covering last year.  So perhaps it will not be as tough.

It is not that one is not already in decent physical shape, but the difference in the kind of effort that is required for running and for biking feels quite significant.  I was reminded of this when I made my first run last year after an extended break when I was only riding the bike, an experience that caused me to take extra precautions in my preparations this year.  But all is good.  It is time to get back in the saddle once again.  Lets ride!

The Three Amigos

As seen during our walk on the C&O canal towpath this morning.  They were paying particular attention to me, the photographer.  They sometimes plunge into the canal when they see me pull out my camera, but they did cooperate this time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were plenty of turtles in the waters of the canal today.  The water level was also quite high, probably because of the recent rains.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match

The outdoors and us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it to Sugarloaf Mountain once again this weekend and did roughly the same distance on the trails as last weekend.  It was quite cold this time, and quite a change after the balmy weather that we experienced during the previous hike.  Winter has returned!

See other interpretations of the theme here.