Sunrise 34: Ault Park (World War I Memorial, Lightning-Struck Tree, Unknown Conifer)
These overcast days have really begun to push my creativity. On a beautiful sunrise morning (hopefully like tomorrow’s if the forecast is correct!) it isn’t hard to get a couple of interesting unique pictures and call it a day. But on these mornings where the sky is dark and gray and everything looks the same as it has for the past five days, I find myself exploring areas of the park that I often overlook out of habitualness. Yesterday, for example, I found out that there were redwood trees in the park. Not the pacific northwest redwoods, but another kind of redwood that grows 100ft high none the less and is critically endangered.
This morning I also experienced another “first”. I met a nice woman who identified me as “the sunrise guy” – this is now the fourth of such encounters* – and she said that I was an inspiration to her new routine of getting up at sunrise and walking her golden retriever through the park. It was an exciting encounter and she even made the claim that this “sunrise movement” is going to catch on! Thanks Polly 🙂
* I probably forgot to mention it – but last Saturday at the Bike+Brew (specifically at the Lackman Bar in Over-The-Rhine) I actually met a guy who found out about Ault Park Sunrise from a post I submitted to reddit. I mentioned that I love the history of Cincinnati and asked him if he knew about Ault Park. He replied “hey that used to be a vineyard!”. I said “haha yeah! I just found that out myself because I’m doing this sunrise project…” and he replied “Oh! haha! I saw your website on reddit’s cincinnati section and thats how I knew it was a vineyard!”. I’m still recovering from that piece of mind explosion.
As I entered the park this morning I stopped early and checked out the two large conifers that rise high above the playground on the west part of the park. I wondered if they, too, were redwood conifers. I don’t believe they are after inspecting the leaves. Also they are bearing small pine cones, something that I didn’t notice on the redwood. These pine cones are actually one of my absolute favorite “fruits” of the park, if you will. I collected several of them last year because they look so beautiful when they are just starting to grow. I didn’t even know what they were when I found them on the ground last spring, and the mystery wasn’t solved until almost a year later when I realized that the small fractal ball I held was actually a pine cone that had another couple of months of growth before it became mature. I actually have, sitting on my dresser at home, two sets of pine cones that I collected last year. One set is from these two conifers in Ault Park. They are large, green, and healthy with symmetrical features and fully developed leaves. The other two are from a park down in Hyde Park, where the trees are smaller and probably younger. The pine cones are small, a bit mishapen, and not as fully developed. Assuming that the trees are the same species and the cones were about the same age, to me it says that the Ault Park elevation, clean valley air, and low pollution provide the perfect environment for these large conifers. Perhaps they are Cedars??
Next to the playground that the conifers tower over there are two more Murdock Fountains. This is the fourth fountain in the park, the third made by Murdock. It is identical to the style typically found from the 1960s era (Thanks Bob Murdock!)
Also at the entrance to the park is a stone bench that I really haven’t paid much attention to. I pass this bench every single morning on my way to the overlook. The bench looks worn, old, and sunken.
I really can’t recall seeing anyone sitting in the bench now that there is a playground with picnic tables only 30 yards away. But if there is one thing I’ve learned about the magnificent Cincinnati Parks it is that everything exists for a reason. Now that the bench has entered my mind, I wonder what it is from? Almost every structure that exists in Ault Park, including groups of trees and benches, have a dedication or memorial attached to it. What about this old stone bench?
As it turns out, the stone bench is a World War I memorial. It is dedicated to the citizens of Hamilton County who gave their lives in the final years of the war effort between 1917 and 1918. What is interesting, and what strikes out to me initially, is how there is no mention directly of the name of the war. At the time the stone bench was built, no doubt, it was beyond obvious what war they were referencing. Now, 90 years later, World War I is only a distant memory, one that very few living people today have witnessed. In fact the last living U.S. WWI veteran recently passed away at the ripe age of 110.
For some context, the park was established in 1911 so that places this monument as perhaps the first structure built after the park’s creation. I believe the pavilion wasn’t built until 1930. This stone bench also lacks the metal plaque that would become the standard sometime in the next few decades, and you can already see that the engraved text is beginning to whither. It was difficult for me to get a picture of the text at all.
I usually ride right by it. The trees surrounding the bench are the cherries referenced in the stone bench. I wish I had a picture of them in bloom from last month. They don’t seem like 90 year old trees, so perhaps at one time they were replaced with younger trees? Or maybe cherry trees just age very well. Either way I like that the stone inscription directly mentions “cherry trees” so that future generations have no decision to make as far as what kind of plants are to live around the memorial.
I like this picture because it shows how the large canopies of the trees provide a nice enclave for the overlook, but at this point the trees are so large that the ground area is completely clear of branches and quite roomy.
As I am walking away from the overlook, preparing to take my final stroll around the park, something catches my eye. I pass by this tree by the overlook (and the stone restroom building behind it) every morning. I would think that I would have noticed the large chunk of missing bark streaking down the trunk. I believe that this is a typical side effect of a tree being struck by lightning. The tree is still living, fortunately, and seems to be doing fine. Ideally the lightning would have struck the tree and traveled down the trunk on the outside of the tree, stripping the tree of its bark but saving the heart of the tree from destruction. I lost the streak partway up the tree so I’m not sure how high up it goes.
See those little things sticking out from the wood in the center of the picture? They are little columns of silt or dust, and crumbled when I touched them. I imagine they are the result of burrowing worms or insects that take refuge in the thick layer of bark and leave behind a small tunnel that eventually fills with dust (and/or insect poop). Completely a guess though.
Having seen both the stone memorial and the lightning strike, I found myself quite content with the brief adventure of the morning (by now it is only 7:00am – 35 minutes after sunrise). I head home but on the way I am distracted by a small flower bed that is nestled into the hillside of one of the local homes. The flowers are fresh and new, so I stop to take a few pictures of them. Once again – I have no idea what they are 🙂
Ants and their mysterious ways. What plots have they concocted for this plant? Are they harvesting aphids? Looking for sap? Stuck in an infinite loop of micro-instructions induced by a pheromone cocktail gone bad?
The sky was so dark that it really became difficult to get the right lighting for these macro shots. This plant reminds me of my jade tree – it is succulent and thick with its leaves full of water. Likely a kind of desert plant.
Ahh, look who we have here! A small insect, ID unknown although I’ve got a request out on the “Whats that bug” subreddit. Crowdsourcing works 🙂 UPDATE turns out it is probably a 1st Instar Katydid. Anther picture here. User “xddm” shared this picture regarding a Brazilian Katydid he found last summer. It is incredible to zoom in and look at the developing wings. They really look like leaves!