And if it’s Wednesday….
Spent most of the day in Acadia National Park.
And if its’ Tuesday…
And if it’s Monday….
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.This is from a hike up Gorham mountain on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.These bridges are a few of the many on a trail in the Flume Gorge area in New Hampshire.This bridge carries a trail across the Winooski River in Montpelier, VT.Bridges, in many different forms, are an essential part of our lives today.
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!
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. At 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. And before I knew it the engineer was blowing the horn to make sure that I did not step on to the tracks,and the train was rushing by shaking the ground under me.It 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.I 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.It 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. 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.)I 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. A woodpecker also obliged me by landing on a tree trunk next to the trail and staying put while I took its picture.I also got some nice pictures of the fog.All in all, another excellent outing to the river!
This was the first place we went to in Death Valley. The crater is located well north of the main gathering place for tourists arriving at the park. We had to get off the main road that runs through the park and drive to a more remote section of the valley. It was well worth the detour!
Ubehebe Crater was formed by a volcanic explosion, but is was an explosion of steam rather than lava. The explosion was caused by the underground magma meeting up with the groundwater and sending the water upwards as steam.
It was extremely windy when we arrived at the crater, and the occasional gusts of wind had you spread your feet to seek some kind of a balance. You were completely exposed to the elements along the rim and there was nothing to support you! It was extremely hard going, trudging up the hill on the loose sand (which, on the other hand, seemed to have the benefit of anchoring you and preventing you from getting blown away into the crater) as we climbed along the rim to get a view of Little Hebe crater. When we got to that point, rather than return to the parking lot directly, and in spite of the challenge of hiking under those conditions, we decided to complete the loop around Ubehebe crater. I had to work up my nerve to walk along the edge (which under these conditions appears to be narrower than it really is!). The wind, and the surface of the trail, which looked loose and a little unstable in some parts, did not help. But if others could do it, why not not us? And we did it!
We did not try to descend the bottom of the crater. It is considered an easy hike going down, but strenuous coming back up. It was an effort I was not prepared to undertake under the conditions, especially considering that there were other destinations we wanted to get to in the park.
Here are some pictures from Ubehebe Crater.
Against the wind! This is in the parking lot. You can see the place we climbed to to view Little Hebe in the distance.Early view of Ubehebe crater.Bracing against the wind while climbing towards the viewpoint for Little Hebe. The parking lot that we have climbed from is in the distance.Hikers on the far slope who have gone beyond the stop for Little Hebe.A view of the trail from a lookout. We had some nice cloud conditions during the hike that lit up different parts of the landscape at different times.Angela walking back from the far side of Little Hebe.Little Hebe from a distance.The parking lot and trails to the bottom can be seen in the distance.A sandy patch of trail that terminated at the edge of the crater!Vegetation on the trail.Towards the end of the hike.
As a family that likes to spend time outdoors walking and hiking in the midst of nature, we frequently find ourselves atop different natural formations during many of our outings. Here are some pictures taken during a vacation in Scotland. This first shot is atop a small hillock in Pentland Hills, just outside of Edinburgh.
This cow was observing us from atop another of the hills in the park.A climb up yet another of the hillsfound us atop a peak with a cairn.The following picture is of us atop Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.Some of us feel the urge to explore any and all random hilltops that appear within our field of view. So it was that, while we were at Hushinish in the Outer Hebrides, and in the midst of gale force winds and pouring rain, the kids clambered atop a hillock that we sighted in the distance in order to see what lay beyond. (Can you see them in the picture below?) The effort awarded them an unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean through the storm.And this was the view of the North Sea from atop a cliff near the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at the northern tip of the Outer Hebrides.We climbed a hill behind the town of Ullapool on the western coast of mainland Scotland. It was a long way to the top.We got a view of Loch Achall (which had been hidden from view so far) from atop the hill.This is a picture of Loch Broom and the town of Ullapool from the hilltop.The picture below includes The Minch, the strait that separates the mainland from the Outer Herbrides.Finally, here is a picture of us atop a cliff at Durness, along the northern coast of mainland Scotland.There is almost always a thrill when one looks out over the distance from atop natural formations.