Saturday, May 24, 2008

First, and Most Recent

The greatest toy my wife ever bought me is my digital camera. Well, plural, now. She bought me my first one in 2004, and here's the very first photo that I took on a hike. It's of a rock climber on one of the cliffs near the summit of Crowder's Mountain, a quartzite monadnock not far from Charlotte, NC, where I live.

Fast forward some four years and two months later. Carole bought me a second digital camera that's a bit better than the old one. Nice lens, more memory, etc. (Both are made by Canon.) While I do the lion's share of my hiking in the mountains, my latest outdoors excursion was in the low country, in Florida, and features the scrub jay that stole all of the bait out of the live trap meant for the problem raccoon at our campsite.

I'm left to conclude that I'm not a very good photographer. I'm far too impatient and I never learn all of the details of a camera's operation. As soon as I learn the basics, I shut down the learning process and just start snapping photos as fast as I can. That's the thing about a digital camera. You can take so many damned photos that you're bound to snap a few that are pretty good.

At any rate, having these cameras has meant a lot to me. The fact that I can record so very much of my hiking and camping and backpacking experiences has added a tremendous layer of joy to my outdoor activities. I took pictures when I used a film camera, but of course not nearly so many.

Here's one from June 24, 2004, the day I learned how to use the camera timer for self-portraits. This is, I think, the first self-portrait that I took on one of my hikes. This one from the summit of Cook's Wall in Hanging Rock State Park near the NC/VA border.

And a self-portrait two years later when I was in the Bald River Gorge Wilderness in Tennessee. By then I had a tripod that I took along instead of struggling to find a rock or a stump to put the camera on.

Well, it's been a few weeks since I've been on a hike, and I'm going stir-crazy to get out of the city and back into the woods. My next trip is in June when I plan on hitting some big waterfalls and bagging some peaks I've never climbed. And, of course, I'll also be taking quite a pile of photographs.


Ian Saylor said...

Love reading your blog. Saw more great pics of the trip into Linville Gorge over at the ENTS site, if I'm not mistaken.

Anyway, I have a question for you.

How do you manage to still enjoy the Eastern forests even with all the dead/dying Hemlocks? I ask because I am having some issues with it. It's really depressed me. I visit Fall Creek Falls State Park fairly regularly, and HWA is scheduled to strike next year, and I know that a few years after that all the old growth hemlocks will be gone. When I hike through the groves, all I see is death, even though the trees are still thriving. The Smokies have lost all their appeal for me, now that there are so many dead trees. I often think of moving back to Oregon just so I can enjoy hiking again. Of course, Oregon wilderness has its own problems (logging!), but at least when you enter a protected, pristine area, the trees aren't all dead or dying.
So how do you do it? How do you keep your spirits up? Or do you?

HemlockMan said...

It is VERY depressing.

The most depressing part about it, for me, is that every single old growth grove of eastern and carolina hemlocks could have been saved. This idiot nation can spend trillions of dollars slaughtering other humans, but not a dime to save our natural heritage.

When one walks in an eastern forest, one sees not just the hemlocks dying off. So many other types of trees are under threat from introduced pests, invasive species, and the constant degradation of the environment by Mankind.

What I try to do is to look at what is there, rather than what is being lost and the things that I understand will soon NOT be there.

Cataloochee is pain to hike in, now. All of those dead hemlocks are a shock to the system.

Fall Creek Falls State Park is genuinely one of the most beautiful places in the East. As is Savage Gulf and the so-far untouched hemlock forests of the Cumberland Plateau. My advice is to spend as much time as possible in there before the hwa arrives and kills all of the trees.

I had a blast hiking in both of those places year before last. I hope to get back there again to see some of those stands before they die.

But, to answer your question--I don't keep my spirits up. I find myself very, very, very, very angry.