Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in America

Quite frankly, we planned to work more or less during Christmas. We thought there is nothing else to do. But then, Dale, a fantastic colleague at Johns Hopkins invited us to celebrate Christmas Eve together with him and his family who gave us a warm welcome in their home. They insisted on not being called a 'typical American' family, not celebrating 'typical American' Christmas, and so we spent the night eating, playing and talking about adventures in every possible corner of the world. ;)

Anyway, later the evening we decided that we wanted to see something typical American as well, and so we drove to the 'Miracle of 34th' street, which is - guess what - in 34th street in Baltimore. For years now they decorate their houses for Christmas, and people from all over the area come and watch the lights there. It's hard to stand it, really, and the hip swinging Santa really caught my mind. And another thing I was wondering is... what if the house owners don't want to decorate their houses?

But have a look now, here are some pictures I took on Christmas Eve (which is December 25th, here, just to let you know).



December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.

December 25th, 2011. Christmas Eve in Baltimore.




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The sky is alive. Prime Hook.

I had quite a busy life the last weeks - exams for my University, work on the project... whatever. But finally we managed to get out again and drove to Maryland's eastern coast to visit Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. At this time of the year, literally thousands of snow geese gather there during fall migration. It's a spectacle that you should see - and it's especially beautiful at evening, when the geese start flying in perfect formations, and huge flocks.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

November 2011. Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, East Coast of Maryland.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A rare October Snowstorm

Newspapers wrote about a 'rare October snowstorm', even a 'deadly snowstorm' that 'slammed' the US northeast. People died due to traffic accidents and fallen trees, hundreds of traffic accidents happened and 2.5 millions were without electricity. In some parts of the east, about 30 centimeters of snow fell from the unusual sky. But everything has two sides, and I guess that's just nature. Despite the tragedies that happened on this weekend, we were again lucky and enjoyed the unusual weather.

We worked the Saturday night and didn't see a lot of the weather outside, and on Sunday we first had to remove ice from the front screen of our car and then headed down to West Virginia, to George Washington National Forest in the near of the small campground at Hawk. Don't ask how to get there, I only remember narrow dirt roads and quite a lot of snow. Every now and then we passed massive fallen and cracked trees and I even had to remove one of them to let Bernhard pass with the car. Boy, the tree was heavy!

But the weather on Sunday was awesome, and we took some pictures on our hike (were we unfortunately couldn't find the right trail and after an unexpected climb ended up on a mountain ridge instead of at a river down in the valley... well... we probably should have turned around earlier).


Colorful leaves.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

This was the street. Covered by snow and sometimes quite big trees lying on the road as well.
October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors. The newspaper wrote about massive snow storms. Three people were killed, hundreds of traffic accidents happened and 2 million people were without electricity. That's nature, I guess, and everything has two sides - we were lucky once more and enjoyed the unusual weather in the woods of West Virginia.

Riders came along.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

Color reduction.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

October 2011. Near Hawk, West Virginia. Autumn colors.

Just click on one of the pictures and see the entire gallery on my Page. Enjoy.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah National Park

Oh what a beautiful weekend this was! But not only the weekend... I give you a brief summary: on Thursday we attended our first climbing gym lesson in Timonium and climbed our first routes on the walls. On Friday our boss gave us tickets for the Baltimore Symphony, and on Saturday we headed down south to Virginia again, under a wonderful blue sky, to climb Old Rag Mountain on Sunday.


Well, I have to say... I did expect a lot of traffic and lots of people in Shenandoah National Park and on the so-called Skyline Drive which is a street atop of the mountain ridges. But soooo many people and cars...! Wow! Okay, Shenandoah is famous for the fall colors, and people from everywhere come here, at least, the big cities of the east coast aren't that far. We expected to camp, but all campgrounds off Skyland Drive were full, so we drove a little farther and camped wild somewhere. Under the most, most, most impressive sky I've seen for months. The Milky Way was so clear as you will seldom see it. A fantastic night.

Next day we came quite early to the parking space for the trailhead for Old Rag Mountain, but again: lots of people were there even earlier. But we started the hike, and it was worth it, although we rather prefer less crowded trails. The problem began a bit underneath the first 'false summit' of Old Rag: there the trail continues into a field of boulders, and you have to scramble over large granite rocks, crawl underneath or jump over small cracks. Nothing of a problem, and the rocks have good grip, but some people are just not the right ones to go up there. So on the few cruxes on the 'climb' (forgive me the word 'climb'), it soon gets crowded. There is one crux where you have to make quite a big step on a in this case really slippery rock, and there are no decent grips for your hand, which is really tricky, especially with a backpack. When we came there, there was already a huge line of hikers waiting to ascend this rock, and even a researcher was there investigating the question of overcrowding on Old Rag. The day before he counted 1500 hikers. And as you can imagine, there are always some that aren't reasonable fit enough to do the hike, so they slow down the whole line of hikers on the cruxes, making the line even longer.


But despite this 'waiting inconvenience', it soon gets social up there and you get to know the other hikers. Anyway, the hike itself was great, as was the weather and the view from the top. Now let me show you a few pictures of this great trip...




Fall colors in Shenandoah, seen from an overview on Skyland Drive.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Overview from Skyland Drive.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Overview from Skyland Drive.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Overview from Skyland Drive.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Skyland Drive.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Evening colors in an autumn night.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Evening colors in an autumn night.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Evening colors in an autumn night.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Evening colors in an autumn night. Gentle rolling hills of the northern Appalachians.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Evening colors in an autumn night.

Fall colors on the hike to Old Rag mountain.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Hiking the Old Rag mountain in tremendous fall colors.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Hiking the Old Rag mountain in tremendous fall colors.

October 2011. Hiking Old Rag mountain (one of the few mountains with a bare, stony mountain ridge on top instead of wood all over.)

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Hiking the Old Rag mountain in tremendous fall colors.

On the summit of Old Rag.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Hiking the Old Rag mountain in tremendous fall colors.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Hiking the Old Rag mountain in tremendous fall colors.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Late afternoon and misty weather.

October 2011. Shenandoah National Park. Hiking the Old Rag mountain. On the mountain ridge you can boulder over granite rocks. Fun, fun, fun... ;)


Just a comment to the photographers: the bright red and yellow colors are 'as is'. They are difficult to photograph and to capture it it's nearly impossible to do it without color calibration tool. In this case I used a Spyder Cube, and I have to add I have the Lenovo W520 with colorimeter, optimized for photography.


Monday, October 3, 2011

St. Mary's Wilderness

I admit it: hiking is an addiction, so we just came back from another weekend trip in Virginia. The first day took us to Prince William National Forest Park, where we walked a short 7 mile tour through ancient and beautiful forests on quite good trails. Then we drove further south, camped in George Washington National Forest and experienced first fall temperatures. To be honest, it was damn cold in the morning, but hot coffee got us going.
The goal for today was St. Mary's wilderness, which is a protected wilderness area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our hiking guide says there are two kind of hikers: those who were in St. Mary's Wilderness and those who soon will be there. So you see: we had to go there.
There are a few access points, we took the trail head from the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, milepost 23 (we passed it three times before we found the trail head). The most of the time unmarked trail (I saw two or three marker... that doesn't count in my opinion) leads first along a river with many cascades downstream and then climbs up again to an elevation of almost 3300 ft. At the bottom of the trail is a very green valley with old trees and river beds which have to be crossed. Well... you see... hiking near Baltimore is not alpine, but it can be quite nice though. Maybe we should try the Appalachian Trail next.

Prince William National Forest

October 2011. Prince William Forest Park.

October 2011. Prince William Forest Park.

At the 'High Meadows Trail' we found some antlers. (Don't ask why Bernhard is carrying a leaf.)

October 2011. Prince William Forest Park.


Blue Ridge Mountains, as seen from the trail head of St. Mary's Wilderness.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

Never without tripod!

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

Autumn cascades in St. Mary's Wilderness.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

At higher elevations, autumn colors are just about to come out.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

We hiked the 7++ hour hike (marked as strenous) within 4 hours. This was what Bernhard usually saw from me (I was somehow motivated... or was it due to the new and good tasting cereal bar I've discovered recently?)

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

Strange trees (difficult to pass with a tripod on the back).

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

The trail.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

On an old but still accessible jeep track we found this thing.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.

Broken glass.

October 2011. Blue Ridge Mountains, St. Mary's Wilderness.