Anyways, the conference is always interesting and I learn a lot, but the best part has to be the location.
Every year I attend a conference in Shepherdstown, WV for work and it is actually one of the highlights of my fall season! I mean besides football, my riding boots, apple cider and of course Thanksgiving :).
Anyways, the conference is always interesting and I learn a lot, but the best part has to be the location.
The conference takes place along the Potomac River in West Virginia. The campus we stay on is in the woods and you really feel a connection to nature while being there.
Every year we take a hike down to the river, skip some rocks, and do a little photo session.
However, this year weeks of rain had caused the river to rise to the point where we couldn't make it down to the banks, and it was rainy and dreary for most of our time there. I was very sad, but we still really enjoyed the feeling of being slightly disconnected from the rest of the world. So I hope you all enjoyed some of these snapshots from last years trip!
So, I didn't post any "Days in Nature" posts in July because, I mean come on
I think this counted, right?
So last weekend I had the pleasure of spending a girls weekend in the Shenandoah valley shacked up in a pretty sweet cabin complete with fire pit, hot tub and tubes for cruising down the river.
We had so many things planned, but someone else had a different idea..
Irene decided that she also wanted to come and join the party, and bring all her rain and wind with her. Now, we didn't have as much as our friends right on the coast, but it did manage to squash our river tubing and time around the fire pit. As always though, we made the best of our situation and decided a nice drive along skyline drive would be just the ticket!
Once we made our way to the park, we stopped off at the visitors center for a very important thing...
The National Park Passport! This is something that a few of our friends have bought and are having a blast trying to complete, so.. I decided to join the fun! You basically visit every national park in the U.S. and get a stamp at every visit!
After getting our stamps, we did a little drive along Skyline Drive. Rain? Fog? Wind? Nah, we had a great time and actually saw some amazing views despite the weather.
I wish we could of had better weather for a more outdoorsy experience, but all in all it was a great trip and now I have my passport trips to look forward to!
There are many things to love about Annapolis in the spring.
And the best thing has to be living right on the water with kayaks at my beck and call. Which was how I spent my Saturday.
Being on the water alone is amazing in itself. Propelling yourself with your own strength past massive sailboats and yachts is an awesome feeling (and great workout!). The other amazing part is everything that you get to see while you are out on the water.
Here in Annapolis we have a whole host of animals that live in and around the Bay, but the best ones to see on a kayak are the awesome birds. Even before we left the dock I watched a Cormorant dive underwater on his quest for lunch. He would dive under for about 30 to 40 seconds and pop back up empty handed (or beaked?). Until he came back up with something silver wiggling in his mouth. The fish put up a good fight, but in the end the battle was won.
*Note: I am sorry that I don't have any pictures from the day. The one thing about doing a two person kayak with Jake is that I inevitably have to sit in the front which is where the water tends to pour over front and douce me. Let's just say I was just a tad....soaking wet.*
I am excited for many more nature adventures to come this spring and summer!!! Maybe I will need to invest in a waterproof camera... at least a disposable one :)
Its getting to be that time again. A new month is upon us, and I have to check off a few of the monthly things I am suppose to do. There are a few that I am failing miserably at (aka Volunteering Once a Month) and I think it is because I don't start thinking about doing these things until it is too late! So, new goal, plan ahead for the next month the month before.
"Spend a Day in Nature" isn't doing as bad as some of the other goals, but I am counting something I did this past weekend (April 3rd) as my day for March. I promise, I will do another day this month for April.
So that being said, my day in nature for March was......
The Cherry Blossom Festival in DC!
The day started off a bit chilly, but the sun was out and it warmed up as the afternoon went on. We (Jake and I) walked along the tidal basin where the majority of the trees are planted. They were a gift from Japan in 1912. Fun fact about the trees, the first batch that was sent over was actually infested with many foreign insects and had to be burned. Not wanting to hurt the Japanese, the US told them there had been an accident and the trees had been lost. A new batch was sent over that were planted around the basin by First Lady Helen Taft.
There were a ton of people down there too. The past few days have been iffy weather-wise, so the sun brought everyone out to see the blossoms! Lots of kids being dressed up in various outfits and being forced to climb into the blossom trees for that perfect shot...man do I remember those days. Kites were flying, food was cooking and people were smiling and laughing. It was actually kind of nice. It was great to see so many people out and about enjoying the outdoors and each other.
The day was really amazing... but it wasn't all about the cherry trees....
I don't plan on doing this every time I have a "Day in Nature", but my month was kind of cut in half because of my burn, so I really didn't have as much time to, and really wasn't up to, practicing my photo skills. I made up for it this weekend at Great Falls.
I battled a lot of elements shooting at Great Falls. First, the weather. It really was such a beautiful day. Perfect temperatures and partially cloudy made for great hiking. The problem was the sun kept peaking out from behind the clouds and then hiding for a few minutes, only to reemerge. This made me have to change my aperture and exposure composition often. Even when I was shooting the same thing. It would go from blown out to over exposed in a few seconds. Very frustrating. Although Jake was definitely patient while I made my changes, I thank him for that.
Another element I had to battle was the actual location. It isn't very easy to climb cliffs with an DSLR camera hanging from your neck. I kept envisioning it flying out of my hands and down into the Potomac or banging against the rocks. It was also difficult to find good balance and even-footing to make sure I could be as still as possible while shooting.
Just by chance, this photo shoot had a definite theme, besides landscape photography, of birds. The only other time I have really taken the time to photograph birds was at Blackwater National Refuge when we happened across an eagles nest. They were flying over head and I tried my best to snap a few photos of them. I got them, but they weren't anything to write home about. This time, I had great subjects that didn't mind being the center of attention and were relatively easy to shoot (minus the woodpeckers head moving constantly).
One thing I learned about taking pictures of birds, you have to take as many pictures as you can in a short amount of time. Take a few to judge your settings, and then just go for it. Snap away! Because usually they aren't around for long. When I came across the woodpecker my settings on my camera were set for a much brighter scene, not the shadows that he was hiding in under the tree branches, that also happened to be back lit by the sun. Ugh. So I snapped a few photos took a look and had a mild heart attack. Looked at my camera, back at the bird, thinking he better not go anywhere!!! Made some adjustments and then just prayed for something to come out. A few moments later, he was gone. Now I wouldn't say this is the "expert" approach to this situation, but it was mine. And it turned out ok :o)
This was definitely a challenging photo day. It reminded me why I want a new high quality point and shoot camera that is easy to carry and you can whip out at a moments notice. But then I don't know if I would get pictures like this:
And I am reminded why I lug this thing around... and its three lenses.
This was a huge goal for me. I was unable to accomplish this goal last month because of a certain burn on a certain leg that left a certain someone incapacitated. I wasn't able to spend time grocery shopping let alone spend a day in nature. But not to worry, I made up for it with this months trip to....... Great Falls, Virginia!
Great Falls is located along the Potomac river that divides the states of Virginia and Maryland. It also happens to be where my parents got engaged. My Dad climbed up some of the cliffs and carved their initials into the rocks before he got down on one knee. Paul was a pretty romantic guy huh? Before going on our actual hike (we will get to that in a second), we headed to the over look to take a peak at the real reason we came. The falls. Jake and I "debated" its origins for a while. Went something like..."I think its from the Ice Age" "No it isn't there were no glaciers here" "I didn't say glaciers I said Ice Age." And then we stumbled across this:
Note the Ice Age mention above. :o) Great Falls is also famous for one of George Washington's biggest failures. I don't think the man had many, seeing how he is the father of my beautiful country, but you never know. Washington was convinced that the Potomac River could be used as a "water highway" from Georgetown in DC all the way up the Ohio River to Cincinnati. However, the Great Falls threw a wrench into these plans. Thus the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was born. This man-made canal winds along the Potomac and consists of a series of dams and locks that were used to move the boats along the river. The canal operated from 1831-1924 when it was closed due to lack of use, frequent flooding, high costs and the influence of the railroad. The locks still stand along the Potomac today.
There are trails on both the Virginia and Maryland side, but we hiked the famous "Billy Goat Trail" on the Maryland side. This trail lies between the canal and the Potomac river giving you breathtaking views of the river from over 100 foot cliffs. Why is it called the "Billy Goat Trail" you ask? Well because you basically need to be a billy goat to traverse it! Its a 2 mile long trail over rocks, boulders and cliffs. And it is all worth it!
We experienced some amazing views on our hike, but also some amazing wildlife! I finally got my first picture of a blue heron! If you don't know, blue heron are basically the mascot of the Chesapeake Bay. They are such beautiful birds with long stilt legs, and usually spook pretty easily which makes it hard to snap a photo of one. However, there was one hanging out in one of the abandoned canals fishing yesterday, and he didn't seem to mind posing for me! So I apologize for the large slideshow of the same bird... but I was really excited!!!
As we were walking towards the Billy Goat Trail, we (Ok, Jake) heard a * tap, tap, tap*. We stopped in our tracks. Looked up, and there was the biggest woodpecker I have ever seen! Huge!!! I thought they were small birds! Well, of course we (Ok, I) had to stop and snap some pictures!
Great Falls was a great way to make up two months worth of nature time. There was so much to see and do, and after you jump across crevasses, climb jagged rocks and boulders on the Billy Goat Trail, you feel like you could do anything. The weather was perfect also. Cloudy with a high of 55. You will work up a sweat doing this so I would recommend going during the early spring. We also didn't have to worry about ticks and snakes either. It would probably be beautiful to hike in the fall though with the leaves changing! This is definitely something you must do if you are in the MD or VA area, and a great thing to do with some adventurous friends who are visiting! Then you have to go to DC and have this from Surfside in Northwest: