Half way through the Blizzard

I wrote yesterday about the blizzard that we were expecting. It is now the morning of the next day. We are now more than half way through the storm and have received more than a foot of snow.  The snowfall is only expected to taper down later in the day.

It was quite pretty outside last night.   It looked very peaceful in spite of the snow coming down, or perhaps because of it.

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This morning we awakened to the wind and the following sights.

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The night was quieter than I expected.  In the past, under similar conditions, we have awakened to the sounds of the house reacting to the storm, and to the sound of the wind whistling into the home through unsealed cracks in the window sides.  That has not happened this time, perhaps due to the work we had done this summer sealing up the windows.

Our neighbors have already started clearing their driveways.  Perhaps it is time for us to start.

Into The Morning

It was still dark when I left home at about 6:30am on Sunday morning to head out for the C&O Canal towpath trail at Brunswick, MD.  The morning star and the crescent moon were still visible above the darkened homes, while a faint glow was beginning to show up in the sky just above the  horizon.

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I was about to get back to doing something that I had not been able to do for over a year.   I was heading out to a distant location on the towpath all by myself for a very early morning run.  And I had not been to Brunswick specifically for a much longer time.  And at this point I was actually missing the experience.  The change from my older weekend routine was made so that others could come out with me for walks in the parks on Sunday mornings. It was all for a good cause and a greater good, and something that I was (and still am) happy to be able to do.

It was 29° Fahrenheit when, following my old habits, I drove out to the nearby Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich and coffee.  Surprisingly, they still served the spinach and egg white sandwich that had been my staple in the past.  I picked up my food and drink and headed back to the car.  It was a familiar routine.

In the distance, from the parking lot, one could see the faint outlines of the sunrise.  The colors were beginning to change on the horizon.  I got into my car and on the road to the highway as the diffused light from the sun began the process of gradually replacing the darkness with light.

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The sun was rising behind me as I headed north and west on Interstate 270 towards Frederick.  I had this strange feeling of familiarity, of going back to to an old place in my mind, and it felt good.   I first stopped at the scenic overlook outside of Frederick to observe the colorful sky over the still shaded valley as the sun attempted to climb above the hills behind me.

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Heading west out of Frederick, I continued to enjoy the experience of the sun rising into the heavens – as it lit up the sides of the houses with a golden light, a light that invited people to wake up and pay homage to a new day. I was lost in a pleasantly blissful state of mind when I made a mistake and took a wrong exit from the highway, and got on the road towards Point of Rocks, another location on the towpath.  Feeling quite unperturbed by this unexpected turn of events, I exited this new road at a random intersection with country road whose name I did not even attempt to read, and then proceeded west along this local byway.  After all, how lost could one get with the Potomac river to one side of me and the original highway that I had been traveling on to the other side.  The winding road took me up a hill from which I got an unexpectedly grand view of a broad valley below me partially lit up the sun.  This was the valley through which the Potomac flowed.  I could see a distant water tower, perhaps at Brunswick, my destination by car; and also a hint of my ultimate destination on the trail,  Harpers Ferry, the place where the Shenandoah river joins the Potomac to become a single flow, cutting though and creating a gap in the ridges of the Appalachian mountain range.  It was an unexpected treat, but I could not stop to take pictures on the narrow road.  Before I knew it the road descended the hill and I had found my way back to the road to Brunswick.

Crossing the railroad tracks at the train station at Brunswick the sun appeared to be struggling to rise above the treeline, but the railroad station was lit up in a weird shade of red.

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A coal train stood in the shadows, waiting for clearance to head onward towards Point of Rocks and perhaps the power generating plant at Dickerson.

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The view of the Potomac from the parking lot at the boat ramp below the bridge across the river was gorgeous.

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I made my way from the parking lot on to the towpath and headed west towards Harper’s Ferry.  The cold and brisk air, and the tall misshapen trunks of the leafless trees reaching for the skies all around me, triggered something in the brain.  I was once again in my happy place.

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Before long I heard the lonesome whistle of a freight train from further out west, probably miles away in the area of Harpers Ferry.  I was quite sure it was headed my way.  Within a few minutes the twin engines of the freight train appeared through the trees on my right as the sun lit up the trees beyond the railroad track.

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The sun began to light up the trail as it rose, while my body began to react to the exercise by building up a sweat in spite of the cold.  The numb feeling in the extremities began to vanish.

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After about 3 miles, the lock house at Weverton appeared to my right, still partially in the shadows.

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As I ran through this section of the trail, I peered through the trees on my left, the side of the trail where the river flowed, searching for the remains of the old town of Weverton  that had been washed away by floods in times past.  I did not see anything remarkable. I then passed through a section of the trail that was still completely shaded by the tall hills that rose across the river in Virginia.  The birds were still waiting for the sunrise.  I eventually broke out into an section of the trail lit up by bright sunshine.  The bridge for the highway across the Potomac appeared in front of me in the distance through the trees.

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Approaching Harper’s Ferry, I noticed that the steeple of St. Peters Catholic church was still in the shadows while other parts of the town were beginning to experience the direct rays of the sun.  The Shenandoah river still lay in the shadows of the hills on one side of the town, while the Potomac flowed on its other side in bright sunlight, reflecting the clear blue of the cloudless sky above it.

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As I turned to head back towards Brunswick, the sun had ascended high enough into the sky to be able to light up the entire area, including the trail.  While it was still cold, and I was occasionally passing people who were all bundled up for protection, I was not feeling any of it.  It was time now for me to focus on the “running” aspect of this outing. I needed to try to put my camera away into the backpack and set a more regular pace for the the trip back.

Having not run this kind of distance in quite a while, I was also beginning to feel the effects of the effort on the system.  My heart indicated that it was still fine with the pace I was setting (which for some reason was becoming faster and faster according to my GPS device), but the muscles in my legs were beginning to complain.  “Dude, we need some more oxygen, and why the heck did you leave the water behind in the car?!”  My tracksuit was soaked in sweat. But I was also getting into a rhythm as my feet beat a tattoo on the towpath. I picked up steam heading east.  I was in the zone!

I huffed and puffed my way back into Brunswick where the coal trail was still waiting to depart.

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The tiredness did not matter at this point as the mind was in a very different place from the sore muscles.  I got into my car and was soon heading back home after my Sunday morning visit to the Church of the C&O Canal.  Alleluia anybody?!

The Call of the Cardinal (1/15/2006)

No, I am not talking about a religious leader – I am talking about the bird!

It was bitterly cold this morning, in the low 20s (Fahrenheit, that is), and the wind was howling. I somehow managed to drive to the Monocacy Aqueduct.  The local road was covered with broken tree limbs, and I had to navigate around the bigger ones, listening to the thumping of the broken branches against the bottom of the car.  There was nobody around.  The wind hit me the moment I got out the car bringing tears to my eyes. Having navigated cold mornings in the past, I was determined to go on.  But this was different.  About a half mile down the trail, I began to lose sensation in my toes and fingers completely.  What little feeling of pleasure I had about getting back on the trail after more than a month of absence vanished.   I may push things to the limit, but I am not foolish.  I returned to the car and quickly turned on the heat.  My fingers hurt.

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I could have turned and returned home after this experience, but I still felt the urge to do something.  So I headed north.  I discovered the road to the parking lot at Nolands Ferry.  The road was in as bad a shape as that to the Monocacy Aqueduct.  The wind had done a number on the trees the previous night.  The cold front had come roaring through on Saturday, and in our part of the world this is usually accompanied by the icy Canadian winds from the north.  I stepped out of the car to think about running once again, but changed my mind quickly.  I then drove further north to Point of Rocks.

I had just parked the car beside the trail when the Cardinal landed on the side-view mirror on the passenger side and looked at me.  “What are you doing in there?” it seemed to be asking in a curious sort of manner. “Why don’t you join me out here?”  I was furiously trying to extract my camera from its cover while the bird was sitting there pecking at the mirror.  This one was sneaky.  The moment I got the camera in my hands, it flew away to a branch on a tree and I had to be content taking a picture from a distance.

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Anyway, this was my encouragement.  I stepped out onto the trail once again.  This time I made it a few 100 feet north before I was hit by a gust of icy wind that almost stopped me in my tracks.  The impact of the wind being channeled over the trail by the cliffs next to the river was tremendous.  I turned around and headed back on the trail, this time towards Nolands Ferry.  This I could do!  The space was more open and the wind did not seem to affect me too much, although I could still hear it howling through the branches up above me.  Gradually, I got back into my pace, remembering the way things were before I went on vacation.  It felt nice.

It was when I turned to head back towards Point of Rocks that I felt the effect of the wind once again. It was blowing into my face, but it was not as bad as before.  The sun had come up by now and its warming effect helped things.  In any case, I had no choice but to make it back to the car.  There had been a few other people in the park at Point of Rocks, but there was nobody to be seen on the trail at that point.  I think the wind had something to do with this.

So I completed the run, covering my normal distances, and got back into the comfort of the car.  I was disturbed by a banging on the back window as soon as I sat down in the driver’s seat.  It was the cardinal once again, furiously pecking at something on the back of the car!  Once again I tried to get my camera ready for a picture but the bird flew away.  As I settled into the seat to eat a donut, the creature performed its act once more, this time banging against the side window, looking at me all the time, and then flying away when I got my camera up.  I then decided to get out the car and back into the cold, and tried to follow the bird to get a close-up picture of it.  I managed to take a picture better than the one I had gotten during my previous visit to the trail, but it was certainly not as good as one I could have gotten if the bird were against the car itself.

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The bird would keep reappearing the moment I laid my camera down, and then it would fly away.  It was playing games!  So I decided to sit for a while with camera in hand, just waiting.  The bird came back, but this time it settled on the side-view mirror of another vehicle across the road.  It then started pecking at the mirror of that car.  I think what was happening was that it was seeing its reflection in the mirror and pecking at it.  (Does anybody have an explanation for this kind of a behavior?)  The bird never came back on to my car again. I had waited for about 10 minutes.  I then drove home.

I could have given up at the Monocacy Aqueduct and gone home when I first got started, but I am glad I persisted.  It felt good to do this once again, and I can thank my friend the cardinal for motivating me to get out there and brave the cold and the wind.  By the way, both the side-view mirrors on the car have scratch marks on them that do not look like they will come off. The cardinal must have a very sharp beak.

The country celebrates Martin Luther King Day tomorrow.  Lona Alias was playing excerpts from the “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech that Dr. King gave in Memphis on the radio.  This was the speech given just before he was murdered. He had a premonition about what was going to happen to him. What a great speaker!  His words moved people during his time, and they continue to be a source of inspiration.  Dr. King was not a perfect person, but he managed to influence the life of many people in a positive way.  We have to admit that we are also imperfect people ourselves.  If we find a way to leave a positive and lasting impact on people in spite of our weaknesses, then I think we have done well.

Enough preaching for today.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Oops!

I had to dig back in time to find a couple of themes that could perhaps be suitable for this challenge.   It is possible that they may be missing the mark regarding the objective of the challenge.

The C&O canal has had a history of problems dealing with the forces of nature even in its heyday.  The park that remains today where this canal once operated is particularly vulnerable even to this day, especially since there is little money available to the National Park Service (NPS) to maintain its 184.5 mile stretch along the Potomac river.  The aqueducts have suffered damage regularly, and the ones that are still standing are there primarily due to the efforts of volunteer organizations working with the NPS to preserve some of these historic structures.

In 2010 there was a massive snowstorm that hit the Washington DC area and the east coast of the United States called Snowmageddon!  Over the next few weeks the melting snow in the mountains caused massive flooding in the Potomac river and a disaster in the C&O canal park.   Here are a few pictures showing some of the problems caused by the weather.  I am happy to observe that the particular oops! seen below have been addressed over a period of time since that time.

 

In 2012 we visited West Africa and the country of the Republic of Guinea.  We did a lot of traveling while we were there.  It was an adventure of sorts considering the conditions of the roads and the vehicles in use.  In fact the highway that we took from Guinea to Senegal was essentially a dirt track winding through the mountains.  The vehicles on the road were in many cases several decades old, kept running by the ingenuity of the locals.  There was really no public transportation available, which led to amazing scenes of people and material stacked in and on decrepit vehicles traveling on the bad roads.  In any case, the circumstances were ideal for us to witness many oops! moments. Thankfully we were ourselves not involved in any serious incidents.

 

A Walk on a Foggy Morning

The fog began to increase in intensity as we approached the parking lot at Carderock next to the Potomac river and the C&O canal.  The temperature was below freezing as we bundled up and stepped out of the car and on to the trail.  The sun began to rise into the sky through the  trees behind us as we started our walk at a brisk pace, trying to get rid of the cold in our extremities.  The fog began to lift slowly, creating a unique and somewhat surreal lighting over the still waters and in-between the trees.  There was some kind of magic happening!

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The sky had completely cleared up by the time we finished our walk and returned to the parking lot a couple of hours later.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transitions

This is a wide open topic since almost everything that we experience that is noteworthy is related to transitions, whether it be those that are in nature or in the environment around us, or whether it be those that we experience in our own lives.  Transitions can be abrupt or they can be gradual.  Sometimes they are of a subtle nature and not obvious until it has happened.

But I also cannot help thinking that almost everything that most of us already tend to talk about in our blogs tends to be about changes and transitions!  So, I was not too successful in trying to find my own unique take on this subject. But I thought I would present something anyway.

The first picture is of a sunrise over the water.  You can barely make out the transition from land to water.  There are more transitions underway in this picture.

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This second picture is also of a sunrise, but is taken from inside an aircraft, over the wing of the aircraft.  Besides the transition from night into day, there is the transition between the aircraft and the sky and then the transitions between the land and the sky and the different layers of color in the sky.

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The third picture shows an abrupt transition of clouds in the sky.  This picture was taken near sunset.  There is no subtlety in the nature of this transition in the big picture.

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I made an argument in an early blog that while some changes (or transitions) seem to be abrupt (or digital), life is truly experienced in a gradual (or analog) manner.  I wonder if there are any folks who will agree with me.

See other submissions in this theme at this site.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Autumn Treats

Something crazy happens to me every autumn season.  It usually happens when the colors of the leaves on the trees are changing, when the leaves begin to fall to the ground.  I am so taken in by the change that is going on that I start taking plenty of of pictures.  It does not matter that I have gone through a similar experience of autumn many times over many years. It does not matter that I have taken pictures of the changing scene almost every year.  It does not matter that I am actually seeing all of this change in the area around my home, so that it is more than likely not a new experience.  It does not matter that I tell myself that I have seen and done this stuff before, and that there is probably nothing new for me to record.

The craziness manifests itself in ways that are unique to the season.  I end up placing my camera in the car where ever I happen to be going during the daytime, regardless of the purpose of my trip.  I end up taking trips into the countryside and driving the lightly traveled country roads around me for hours looking for the fall colors.  I end up stopping the car in potentially dangerous spots beside the roads and stepping out to take pictures, perhaps even stepping into the center of the road if the probabilities seems to be in my favor.  I end up making U-turns in my car to return to the spot on the roadway where I saw something that caught my attention.  I end up walking around trying to find just the right angle so that the sun lights up the trees in a manner that accentuates the colors of the leaves that are dying.  I end up waiting patiently for the clouds that are drifting past the sun to get out of the way so that the trees are lit up just right.  And all of this happened to me once again this year!

And it turns out that I still continue to enjoy looking at the new pictures I am taking. But even among these pictures there are some that present a special treat to me.  There is something about the way these pictures effect my state of mind.  Take a look at some examples.

I was driving out of my neighborhood when I came upon a scene that caused me to stop the car right there on the road.  I had to step out of the car and wait for just the right moment for the swiftly moving clouds behind me to get out of the way before I was able to take this picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI usually run my loops from home beside Seneca lake with the minimum load I can carry.  But knowing that the time was right, I had carried my camera in my backpack while running on this particular day even though the added weight increased the level of effort needed.  I was rewarded by this sight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen this was what I saw while I was driving to different points on the C&O canal to experience the fall colors.  I wonder if she was using water colors!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, this one was closer to home on the road leading out of the neighborhood.  The splash of color caught my immediate attention.

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