If you only knew how long I sit around wondering where to hike, you’d laugh. I go through blogs. I open up my maps. I peruse my waterfall book. I can never decide. Maybe that’s because I have so many wonderful options? I knew I wanted a waterfall. That much was sure. This past Sunday my son and I set out for an off trail hike in Shenandoah to a big waterfall but due to my wonderful hydration bladder leaking and soaking my sweatshirt, we didn’t go. It would have made me very cold to hike with it like that and my base layer wasn’t warm enough. Ugh. We had fun roaming Big Meadows for a bit and driving Skyline.
I needed something new so I decided on Kilgore Falls in Maryland. It would be a 2 hour drive but I figured that was better than 3 hours to other ones I considered. I slept poorly and almost scrapped the whole thing yesterday morning but I saw an inspiring post on Instagram so I dragged myself out of bed and went.
As I was driving, I was willing the sun to stay behind the clouds. I felt like I had to hurry (I didn’t). I passed some beautiful farmland scenes that I would have liked to photograph but I really felt a need to get to the trail. I finally arrive and, boom, the trail doesn’t open until 10:00 am. 10:00 am? Really? That is so late. So crazy. I ran and used the port-a-potty (which I am happy to say was incredibly clean) and wondered what to do. I decided to zip on over to Conowingo Dam. I have wanted to go for a long time and figured this was my chance. I didn’t know if I’d see any eagles but had nothing to lose.
I got there and walked around a bit. I wasn’t seeing a lot of activity other than vultures. Whoopdedoo. I see those everyday around my house. And then I heard this sound. It was loud and sounded like birds could be fighting. Nope. Quite the opposite. It was two eagles getting it on (cue Marvin Gaye) on top of the electric tower. I obviously didn’t have my super telephoto lens with me but did have my 18-200mm. I zoomed in as best as I could to grab a photo. I was quite amused. When they were done, they just sat there. I guess they were being in the moment of what just took place. I figured this was a good time to head back to the trail head.
Hooray it was open! I was a bit worried about the number of cars I saw and thought there might be too many people for good photos. Thankfully, they were no where to be found except for one photographer. Walter. I thought he was packing up to go but he was interested in getting to the other side of the creek where the best photos would be. The water wasn’t super deep but it would be cold. We were both interested in avoiding that. So we walked. And walked. We followed the creek for quite a ways to see if there was a better place to cross over. Nope. It just got deeper. Like to my thighs deep. We turned around and walked back to where we started. I finally got the courage to walk up along the side of the big boulder and did get my feet wet. I thought, “I can do this!” so I walked out a bit more for a better photo. I turned and walked back and Walter decided to go. We ended up getting photos of each other in the process which was cool. As I stood there waiting, two young adults walked up and just walked across the creek without hesitation. I had to laugh. Youth. Never afraid. Bold. And it was then I knew I was walking across too. So when Walter returned we made our way across the creek. It wasn’t so bad. Cold, yes. But worth it. The other side of the waterfall was beautiful and made for great photos.
The things we do for photos…. It ended up being a great way to spend New Year’s Day. I met a great photographer (go see his work). We had fun. I saw eagles mating.
Spring is the busiest time of year for me. Both of my kids have sports virtually every night of the week plus games and that means I’m getting home from work, finding anything for dinner, and then driving off to a practice or game (often both). I try to find time to do my Spartan Race training but the weather has been uncooperative with my asthma. So needless to say, spring hasn’t given me much time for hiking or photos. It has been raining for 4 days now and all I want is to get to a waterfall. I also want to go see baby owls. I want to work on my macro photography. I haven’t had time for hikes but do find time to get out into nature a bit. That’s what counts.
What are you photographing this spring? Where are you hiking?
Here is a bit of what I’ve captured over the past month.
It is spring now and that means sports for me. My son has soccer 5 days a week and my daughter usually has 2-3 softball games a week. Yes, it keeps me busy. Usually, when my son is practicing soccer, I’m trying to run. It has been a bit tough with the winter-like weather we’ve had. I have bad asthma and so cold weather isn’t my friend (and neither is the pollen count this week). I still manage to get out and walk though.
I noticed 4 weeks ago that there was a mama goose who had nested at a pond at the soccer fields. As I approached the pond one day, the male honked and honked. I couldn’t figure out why he was in such an uproar. Finally, I spotted the female with her head down trying to hide. It was quite remarkable.
Over the next 4 weeks, I kept watch. I would go and see how she and the eggs were progressing. I never saw her partner again but she would be there. Head down. Hiding. And even just this past Saturday, I stopped by. As I photographed blue birds, northern flicker, hawk, and other birds I noticed she was still on her eggs. And then it happened. This past Tuesday I arrived and there was the family. Did I bring my camera? No. Of course not. I stood there and watched them and debated going home for it. I don’t live too far and knew it wouldn’t take me too long. I also figured I could return the next night with it. I finally decided to go and ran back to my car.
I returned and did my best to photograph the little cuties. There were 8 in total. I noticed one egg hadn’t hatched and so I figured they had to just be hours old. The cuteness was almost overwhelming. I kept texting a friend with that exclamation. I finally looked at my camera and my heart dropped when I noticed I hadn’t changed my aperture. Ugh! I reviewed some shots and yes, they were out of focus as the depth of field was too narrow for the distance. I fixed that and managed to get a few decent shots. I really wanted ones of them swimming.
Last night, we went early so I could show my son the goslings. They weren’t there. I figured they would be there for the next couple of weeks. I hadn’t anticipated them going elsewhere until the babies could fly. I was bummed (and incredibly happy I had returned for my camera the night before). As we drove back to his soccer field, I looked at a pond closer to the main road. And there they were. How did they get there? It is a mile from pond to pond. The new pond has a fence all the way around it. I was perplexed. And a bit sad because I really looked forward to watching them grow.
Here are a few shots to enjoy! Click to enlarge.
Wow. That’s my response to Breaks Interstate Park in Breaks, Virginia. My son and I showed up last weekend after a quick stop at Dismal Falls in Bland, Virginia. Our plan was to get there in time for the Elk Tour we had signed up for that was to take place that evening. The drive into the park was pretty amazing and then you turn the corner and there is this overlook that can almost take your breath away. They call it the “Grand Canyon of the South” due to the deep canyon that has been carved out by the Russell Fork River. We showed up, checked in, and made our way to the Catawba lodge. We were told by the woman at the front desk that our room had the best view out of all of the rooms. After walking in and looking over the balcony I’m sure she wasn’t lying. It was so impressive. We had a wonderful view of the river and the mountains over in Kentucky. We headed to the Visitor Center to prepare for the Elk Tour. In the last few years they have worked to reintroduce elk to Virginia. They hang out in an area that has been set aside for them. They ring 25 a year and the herd has grown to 400 elk. We rode in a van with others to the location. We could get out and walk around to see the elk and rode further around the wildlife management area. The elk did not care about the van but were skittish with people. It was impressive to see them so close, though. And we were treated to a beautiful sunset that evening as well. The tour provides you with a sack lunch. It was a very good tuna on croissant sandwich with an apple, chips, cookies, and a bottle of water. I think for the adult price of $25 it was well worth it.
The lodge room was very comfortable. Because it is still low season the place was virtually empty. We heard nothing during the night (which is how I like it). The next morning we got up and went to the restaurant for breakfast. They offered a buffet or ordering off the menu. We chose the menu and had a yummy start to our day. Our day was supposed to be an easy hike day. We started out on the Geological trail and were immediately impressed. The rock formations were exciting. We had so much fun exploring and climbing on rocks.
And then we decided we’d hike to the river. Oops. I guess I didn’t think it would be that bad. I mean it looked like a long ways down there but I didn’t anticipate heading straight down the side of the gorge. And yes, we just kept going. We are experienced hikers. We knew we’d have to go back up but I kept telling myself it wouldn’t be so bad. We found a nice big rock near the river for lunch and I realized my son had drank all of the water. Normally, we have two bladders for water but my other one was leaking. That left us with one Gatorade for the rest of the hike. Ugh.
We continued on and the sights were still amazing even at the bottom. We spent some time next to the river and decided we should start the hike back up. At first, we wound through rhododendrons and the climb was not bad. I thought, “Yes! We can do this!” And then the trail turned and it was straight up. By this time, the Gatorade was gone and we still had almost a mile to go. My breathing started to get worse (asthma) and my son was fading. At one point he exclaimed, “This is the worst hike I’ve ever done.” That felt really great even though I knew he said it in the moment.
Although the hike was incredibly hard, it was still beautiful. I was very happy to start seeing the very large rock formations because I knew that meant we were close to the top. When we reached the Geological trail again we opted to walk to the road. We still had more elevation to climb before reaching the car. What a wonderful sight that was. I checked my phone and it said only 3.3 miles. However, we had climbed 1600 feet in elevation. We had a nice big dinner of pizza and we drank a ton of water to make up for the lack of it over the hike. That evening I headed to Stateline Overlook to catch the sunset. I allowed my son to just chill in the room considering he was still a bit frustrated with me about the hike. Unfortunately, this meant we would not be able to complete the Sand Cave hike the next day. That hike is 8 miles with 2000 feet of elevation and I didn’t think I should put my son through that.
I really hope to get back to Breaks again in the future – perhaps in the summer so we can enjoy the lake and step foot in the river without freezing. The scenery is some of the best I have ever seen in Virginia. There is a nice run that feeds into the river and I’d love to take time to photograph that.