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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a treat!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Place

This is perhaps the place where I am best able to recover my sense of balance.

This is the place you will find me on most weekends, early on Sunday mornings.

A misty sunrise over the Potomac at Seneca Creek

Great blue heron gliding over the water at Widewater

Brilliant sunlight over the trail near Taylor’s Landing

On the trail beside the dry canal bed near Shepherdstown, WV

Fall morning at Riley’s Lock

Cold misty morning over the Potomac near Glen Echo, MD

Sunrise near Harper’s Ferry on a Winter morning

Trail near Antietam Creek in winter

Sunlight spotlights the trail in Spring

Springtime on the trail closer to Williamsport, MD

Summer time near Pearre, MD

This place is not defined by a single destination or a single moment in time.  It spans many miles and many seasons over many years.

This is the C&O Canal National Park that runs between Washington, DC, and Cumberland, MD, along the Potomac river.

I think this qualifies as one of my happy places.

To find more about this week’s photo challenge, visit this site.

Chasing Damselflies over the Potomac

It was cloudy yesterday morning at Pennyfield lock as we set out north towards Riley’s lock.  My old routine of early morning runs along the river on Sunday mornings has changed. I have company these days.  It has become a family affair. My wife and I are by ourselves on some of the Sundays, but on many other Sundays this also turns into a group event with other families joining us, the other families having been convinced that the outdoor activity is indeed a good thing for them.  In order to accommodate the larger group, this event has become a walk rather than a run, and it takes place a little later in the morning than I have gotten used to for many years.  But it is all for a good cause!

The cool of the cloudy morning, the early signs of changing color on the trees, and the dry leaves already on the ground informed us that the Fall season is on its way.

There are still flowers on some of the plants along the trail, but I could see that these would also be soon gone.

There were no herons to be seen on the canal this day, but I did sight an egret in the distance in the middle of the river.  What was it up to? Was it catching fish, or simply enjoying the feeling of standing in the flowing water while listening to the sounds of the river around it.

The waters of the river were low and at some point we decided to go down to the river from the towpath to see how far we could get walking towards the middle of the river by stepping over the exposed rocks.

We encountered plenty of damselflies along the way. (Yes, these exist, and they are not the same as dragonflies.)  Some of us tried to catch them as they hovered around, but they were too quick for us.  I stuck to using my camera.

The water was clear and you could see the fish and other little creatures of the water swimming around.  There were dry leaves already floating in the water, a sure a sign of the start of the Fall season, .

As we walked along the towpath we came upon the squirrel sitting on the branch of a tree chewing on something or the other.  It cooperated long enough for its picture to be taken.

It was a very pleasant walk on a day that also happened to be my birthday. I think this was the appropriate way to celebrate an event like this, and the way to also try to celebrate every day of my life.

Cheers everybody!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

It took me just a little while to realize that I had the perfect subject matter for the topic of this week’s challenge.  This is because I have been wandering over the C&O canal towpath over many years taking pictures through all seasons.  Here are some pictures that capture one aspect of change as I have observed it.

The first target for my observations is the Pennyfield lock house.  Here is a picture from early spring.

and here is one from a month later.

Here is the same lock house in winter.

Then take a look a Swains lock on a Fall day,

and then in winter.

Taking a look at the aqueducts of the C&O canal, the Catoctin Aqueduct was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  It was replaced by a temporary bailey bridge for many years.

April 2006Here is what it looked like when they started reconstruction.

and here is what it looks like after the work was complete in 2011.  They did a great job!

I will end with a picture of the bridge near Anglers Inn that was taken in the Fall.

Here is another picture of the same bridge taken in winter.

Feb 2010I find it hard to resist the temptation to dig up more pictures of this wonderful place I visit, but I must stop lest I be accused of obsessive behavior!

I might have saved a Turtle’s life today (6/12/04)

It is Saturday morning here in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and it is just beautiful outside – the sun is up but it is not too hot.  I usually try to either help with the Church furniture program on Saturday mornings, or go down to the C&O canal towpath by the Potomac river for an early morning run/walk.  Today’s morning plans have been thrown slightly askew.  Another meeting that had been planned  has not materialized and the morning could be free, but it is too late to do the usual stuff. Being the nice guy I am (he! he!), I volunteer to take Christina to her dance class at 8:00 am.  After dropping her off, I decide to explore the byways of Montgomery County by motorized means.  I take to the back roads that parallel The Potomac River, heading north towards Edwards Ferry and Whites Ferry.  The goal is to find parking lots along the river where I can park the car at some future date and explore the canal towpath (which winds its way all the way up to Cumberland, MD, 184.5 miles of hiking/biking trails in all).  The scenic countryside of Montgomery County, and its hidden woods, are seldom seen by us folks living in Suburban Paradise. We scurry around like ants taking care of our businesses and experiencing the hustle and bustle of daily life. We very rarely make a serious effort to learn about the place we live in and become familiar with what surrounds us.  So here I am on the back roads of America, bouncing around on the gravel pathways that we seldom experience, the roads that we always find a reason to avoid in our rush, for God knows what reason, to get from point A to point B.

What about the turtle, you ask?  Heading north on River Road from Riley’s Lock, on a reasonably fast road (40 mph), (not one of the gravel roads that I noted earlier),  I encounter a turtle crossing the road.  The turtle is on the opposite lane, which is a good thing because I could have killed it otherwise.  I quickly pull over to the side, turn around and drive back to where I had seen the turtle.  Luckily there is not much traffic around.  This is not a well-traveled road, and it is also a Saturday morning at that.  Mr. Turtle is still trying to make his way across the road.  (Wait a minute – I guess it could be a female!  I am going to call her Mr. Turtle anyway.)  A couple of cars zoom by on the opposite lane.  Mr. Turtle appears to hesitate with the noise and the gusts of wind from the passing cars.  I look around, make sure there are no cars coming, get to Mr. Turtle in the middle of the road, and pick him/her up.  All four legs and head are out, and I stare into Mr. Turtle’s eyes.  I think I said something along the lines of  “How are you doing”, or “What are you trying to do”.  Mr. Turtle quickly disappears into his/her shell (not very friendly, I thought!).  I  take Mr. Turtle across the road to where I guessed he/she was going, and put him/her down by the bushes facing the approximate direction in which I thought he/she was headed.  When last I left Mr. Turtle, he/she was still under the shell.  All the best, Mr. Turtle!

Now, I do not know if I really saved Mr. Turtle’s life, because, for all I know, he/she could have just turned and headed back for the road, and gotten hit by another passing vehicle.  Does it matter what I did?  Was the risk I took of getting hit by a vehicle myself worth it?  Maybe it does not matter in the big picture whether a turtle survives or not.  But it felt good!!!!

Boys and girls, that is my story for today.   If you have not been bored, I might even be tempted to tell you about turning the other cheek – a very naughty story indeed!   Or about the other day I saw a big snake on the towpath (it gets bigger with every week that passes!).

S’all for now.