My attempt to document 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Spring 2011.

Sunrise 3 (Columbia Tusculum, Rookie Mistake, and Flying Pigs)

This morning turned out to be waaay better than I first imagined.  I hadn’t planned on getting up early this morning, thinking I’d take the weekends off so I could sleep in.  Amanda already had plans to get up early and go to her running club meeting (they’re all training for the flying pig half and full marathon) so I decided to take advantage of this and get up as well.  Since I had the entire morning open (uhh the weekend is awesome!), I thought I’d try and go to Lunken Airfield and find an advantageous spot to see the sun rise, after all the airfield is in the valley and generally points east.  Saturday Morning Exploring, if you will.  The airfield is in the river valley that Ault Park’s Heekin Overlook looks down into.  As I started on my way, however, I started to feel a bit rushed because I didn’t know exactly where the best spot would be and I was kind of afraid of missing the sun rise.  One thing I didn’t really expect before starting this was exactly how pink the sky gets about 15 minutes before the sun rises.  It really opens up in beautiful colors.  Even if you’re staring at your watch, knowing you’ve got 15 minutes to get to Lunken Airfield, the sky’s colors can make you think your watch is slow! I ended up exploring the culs-de-sacs along the eastern hills to get a feel for where the eastern facing ledges were, afraid of missing it if I made the entire trip to Lunken.  Most of the pockets are actually west-facing, so they have absolutely breath taking views down the Ohio River, with the city skyline on the horizon, and of the sunset.  Views of the sun rise were surprisingly difficult to find.  It really made me appreciate how awesome Heekin Overlook is.

I found myself looking down a heavily wooded winding, quiet, and steep road.  I go to grab my trusty camera to document this sight, and what do I find? I find that my camera’s battery is dead. I left it plugged into my computer and forgot that cameras are the one thing that still hold onto their ancient roots by not charging over usb (they remain a “camera” primarily with a stand-alone battery, and it just so happens that they allow usb access.  No charging over usb allowed!).  Frustrated by my rookie mistake, I at least felt relieved that I could still document the sun rise with my camera phone on my 4-year old LG 9900.  Quality isn’t that great (especially in low light), but it does the trick.  In the top picture and the one below, it may look like the sun is up but thats just the atmosphere playing tricks with my head.

(More after the jump; be sure to check out mr. snail at the end)

I ended up meandering around several neighborhood culsde-sacs, considering camping out by the side of the road (probably in someone’s lawn) but it didn’t feel right.  I’m sure the local residents wouldn’t have minded (everyone I’ve met in the morning is always so friendly) but I really need to find a good direct view of the sunrise.  With 8 minutes to go I remembered a side-road that I’ve only been down once.  I imagined there were several cul-de-sacs and pull-offs before it ended up down in the basin, so I took the chance.

I continued down the path until I came across a shipping and receiving company nestled into the hill side.  Strange, really… to find such a secluded industrial plant hidden in the hills of an otherwise residential neighborhood.  I crept around the side entrance and was able to get a decent viewpoint down the valley.  But then I looked behind me, and saw a row of newly built condominiums.  Ah hah! I backed up and found the entrance, which was a small road that led up a steep hill.  Only one of the condos were actually inhabited from what I could tell.  I hopped up onto the retaining wall at the end of the road, and I ended up finding what I would consider to be the best vantage point in the area.  I ended up meeting the nice young lady who lived there, too (to her surprise I imagine.  I’m sure she’s used to being the only person on the street).  She was headed in for an early day at the office. I felt a bit strange, considering I basically set up camp in the corner of her yard.  She was pleasant and friendly; I’m sure the last thing she expected to see when she opened her garage door was a bearded dude with a coffee thermos hanging out with his bike at the end of her road 🙂

The nice thing about not having my camera is that I had even less things to distract me.  I couldn’t try to find flowers or neat things to take with the macro setting… really all that was left was hoping that the sun would come through the clouds.  And come through it did.  This was a really interesting sunrise, different from the previous two.  Although it was cloudy, the sun came through the clouds in a blaze of glory.  I could watch it without hurting my eyes because of the cloud cover.  The valley was covered in fog, so the entire atmosphere was hazy and muffled.  The colors were spectacular this time around, even with the overcast.  I swear each sunrise has been completely unlike the previous one so far.  These pictures on my phone don’t do it justice.

For some frame of reference, the picture last picture above is looking east (the sunrise is to the right), and on the edge of the left hill, if the picture quality was great, you would be able to see Heekin Overlook’s shelter, in Ault Park.

From here I ended up packing up my bags and heading home to charge the battery of the camera for 15 minutes.  By 08:00am I was ready to go again.  I decided that maybe I’d try and grab a view at Lunken after all, while exploring any other local areas that might make for a good sunrise vantage point.  I snaked down the mountain into East End.  East End is a historic neighborhood (along with Columbia Tusculum) that sits down by the Ohio River, about 3 miles from Ault Park… not to mention the 200ft decent down into the valley!  I saw some neat things, including a huge barge going down the swollen river.  No picture of it (yet) because I precious few minutes of battery life.  I ended up coming across one of the soccer fields down by the river.

I saw a coach from one of the local youth soccer teams setting up practice (I took the above picture from the field).  I ended up helping him set up his goal posts and pushing them into place.  Check that off under “something I’ve never done, and wouldn’t otherwise had the chance of doing”.

Off in the distance the towering apartment building on Columbia Parkway seems to rise up from eastern hills.  I couldn’t stop staring at it, so I had to get a few pictures.

I also remembered that there was a small marina right by the soccer fields, along the “Ohio River Bike Trail”.  I have only visited it one other time, and that was months ago when I was exploring East End on my bike for the first time.  I walked out onto the rickety floating bridge, made of plywood and floating barrels, to snap a few pictures of the boats and, once again, the rising apartment building.  I wonder if they’ll let me get up on top to see the sunrise? haha!  Notice in the background of the top picture, you can see the apartment building in Mt. Adams down the river.  On a clear day you would be able to see the city skyline as well.

I decided to start heading back up towards Mt. Lookout.  As I skipped through the tunnels (built in 1917 but you can’t make it out in the picture)  that cut under the old railroad line (that used to service the industrial plants in East End), I noticed something peculiar.  As I came onto Eastern Avenue, I saw what looked to be a “water stop” about a hundred yards away.  I also noticed several packs of runners jogging by me.  Of course! The Flying Pig is in 3 weeks and this was part of the route! Several things clicked at once, including the fact that Amanda was out there running the course somewhere.  I don’t know why I hadn’t even considered that it came through our area.  I ended up hanging out for about 40 minutes, drinking my coffee and rooting on the runners.

I took the opportunity to look at the macro features on the camera.  My friend Susan mentioned that there should be a way to control how the camera focused on the foreground.  I figured out what she was talking about and played around by taking pictures of a slimey friend that I found hanging around behind the ledge.  I got really lucky and pulled off some of my favorite pictures of the day.

After I was done hanging out with my snail friend, Amanda finished her run.  I ended up biking down the river about 2 miles to meet up with their group.  I hadn’t had any plans to meet up, the circumstances couldn’t have been more perfect! On the way I met a local in East End that told me about some of the history of the rail processing plants in the area.  Thats one of the coolest things about being on a bike… you’re as approachable as someone walking around. And all because I got up early 🙂

Turns out I never made it to Lunken Airfield.  I guess I’ll have to save that for another day! Rumor has it they have $2.50 pints of Dogfishhead’s 60-minute at the Sky Galley during happy hour 🙂

Stats from this morning:
Sunrise: 7:11am EST
Visibility: 4mi
Temperature: 50F / 10C, not much wind at all
Sky: Overcast, a thick foggy haze covered the valley.  Clouds broke for a bit before storming in the afternoon. If you look at the history, i had clear skies just in time for the sunrise.  A shame I didn’t bring the camera fully charged.
Sunrise: Pink, vibrant, and popped through the clouds right after sunrise. Because it was in the clouds, I could stare right at the sun without hurting my eyes.  It was really something to see.
Bird Chatter: Medium… I heard two woodpeckers today!
People: None.  Except for the business lady that let me borrow her cul-de-sac.

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