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

mt. lookout

Sunrise 25: Ault Park (Foggy Valley, Crusade Castle Vineyard, St. Ursula Villa and R.K. LeBlond, Columbia-Tusculum, and Alms Park Vineyard)

This post is technically a day late two days late but that’s better than never :). This write up took much longer than I had anticipated, but extra depth was required to get the background information ready. Every time I look for history of buildings in this area, I’m lead to even more websites referencing even more history. It could be a full time job!

Saturday morning I took the chance to do an extended exploration – one of my favorite things to do on a weekend morning with no commitments before 09:00am. I ended up discovering an “ancient” vineyard down below Ault Park that I had no idea existed. The history of the vineyard has led me down a rabbit hole of Cincinnati history. Often times I try not to rely on Google for discovering information about the history of the area I live in, preferring to discover (and sometimes make up my own versions) the history on my own. However if used appropriately the Internet can be a powerful tool in augmenting the exploration of the real world that we live in. More about the vineyard (Crusade Castle), Cincinnati wine, Columbia-Tusculum, St. Ursula Villa and RK LeBlond’s legacy, Alms and Eden Park after the pictures of the sunrise. The ride ended up being about 3 hours from start to finish, and it was one of the most fun rides I’ve been on in a long time.

The Sunrise

I started off the morning knowing that I was out of coffee. I left 10 minutes earlier than usual and swung by our local coffee roaster in Mt. Lookout Square, Lookout Joe‘s. I couldn’t believe it – they were closed! OK I can believe it, 6:15am is a bit early to be open on a Saturday Morning. I ended up swinging into the local UDF and was absolutely pleased to learn that they let me fill up my 26oz Nissan thermos for $.99! Thanks UDF! (UPDATE: as of the writing, on Monday, I learned that it is free refill day. $0 is even better than $.99, thanks UDF!) if you’re on the front page, please click continue to read more. I promise you won’t regret it. (more…)


Sunrise 24: Ault Park (Bursting Cumulus, Green Leaves, Caterpillars)

After seeing the cloudy front take over the sunset last night, I was worried that the sky this morning would be overcast. When I got out of bed and looked out the window, the was indeed a bit cloudy but it was a light covering with pockets of dark blue sky showing through. The atmosphere was on the “heavy” side of light overcast. I rode up to the park for the 6:34am sunrise but as I made my way up the hill I started to notice that the sky was darker than I would have expected. There were not any signs of orange, indicating that there was a low cloud cover over the horizon. It is worth mentioning that this week I have continued to “default” to using the second gear on my bike to go up the hills. This is something that I was unable to do even two weeks ago – the added difficulty is a welcome addition to my morning rides that are becoming easier by the day as I get into shape. Feeling a bit of pent up energy from the many rain storms, I could tell that if the lighting conditions are right I’d be taking lots of pictures today.

The sky was indeed filled with a low overcast cloud bank. The sun came up over the horizon and shined through the misty layers. Just as I was sitting down to enjoy my coffee, my assumptions about a conservative and boring sunrise started to gather doubt. I noticed that directly above me the sky was starting to break, I could see the clear blue sky pushing away the clouds. The clouds were moving east allowing the clear skies to slip closer and closer to the sun rise. (If you’re on the front page, please click to continue –>) (more…)


Sunrise 16: Ault Park (1960s Bell telephone systems, with a special guest appearance by “The Sun”)

These overcast days have made me lazy. Last week I started setting my alarm at 6:25am, a clean 40 minutes before the sun rise. With the overcast mornings and rain storms we’ve had in the past week, I didn’t bother to re-think the alarm time this week. This morning I woke up at 6:25am and set out for the sun rise at 6:40am (5 minutes before true sunrise – 20 minutes before “overcast” sun rise).

I knew something wasn’t right when I walked into the kitchen. I forgot to make my coffee the night before, so I filled up the kettle and set it on the stove in a sleepy haze. I cracked the window open to get a smell of the morning air and listen to the bird report. The birds were chirping loudly, and I looked up and saw a dark, deep blue sky. Good. Dark and… wait, deep blue? What happened to the gray? I panicked a little bit and walked out side.  Sure enough, the sky was almost cloud free, save for what I could see along the horizon behind the trees. Now, because we’re only about 15 minutes before sun rise and the sky is dark, but clear, this can only mean one thing.  A clear sky with a low-lying cloud bank sitting on top of the horizon, right? “This could be interesting”, I thought to myself. I checked the time – I should have left 5 minutes ago if I wanted to casually stroll up to the park and arrive with some time to spare. I rationed out the water in the kettle so that I had just enough water to fill my thermos, and gathered up everything I needed for the morning. By the time I got out the door and started riding up the street, I was met with an atmosphere that had started to explode in pink and orange. “Oh crap” I thought as I pedaled the hardest and fasted I could up the incline towards the park.

I ended up taking a few pictures on the way. Please excuse the blurry, I was mid-pedal.

I like the entrance into the park because it is appropriate for getting an “eyeball” of what the sunrise is going to do. The massive oaks and old pines rise up 80 feet above me, pointing to the sky but obscuring the horizon. I also noticed that there were gusts of wind, some so strong that I could hear the difference in tire speed as I pedaled into the park. As it turned out, there was an eastern moving front that was trying to come through the valley. You can tell in some of these pictures that the left side of the picture is bright and orange, but the right side is dark and gloomy.

Arriving at the outlook, I realized that I wasn’t too late. I may have missed the opening credits, the but show was just getting started. There was a low-lying front blocking the sun rise (so I didn’t quite miss it!) but the open sky above threw off an array of pinks, oranges, purples, blues, and whites. It reminded me a lot of the sunrise from April 16 (Sunrise 09) where I took my favorite picture, “Wheels of Fire”, against the sun rise. There are two parts to a sun rise like this. The first part is that the atmosphere doesn’t get colorful until about 10 minutes before the sun’s true sunrise time because the clouds are blocking the area just above the horizon. The colors come on quickly but are scattered wide into the periphery of your vision while the horizon itself stays dark. If you are lucky enough to have a completely clear upper atmosphere, the second part of the sun rise comes next.

It caught me off guard this morning while I was taking a picture of the almost flooded east/west lane at lunken airport.

As I turned around I remembered this familiar cloud formation from the aforementioned sunrise 9. The sun finally peaks over the low lying frontal cloud bank, and if you’re even luckier it can be obscured by a higher level haze allowing you to look at it directly. This is a close up taken just as the transition from “stage 1” to “stage 2” takes place.The light illuminates the upper area of the lower cloud bank and provides a rolling mountainous plane. It really is a sight to see. The camera does it justice in some cases, but in person it just looks outstanding. This particular low-lying bank had a unique feature. The lower pieces of the bank started to spread thin, allowing patches of deep orange to shine directly down towards the earth. This provided a surreal situation where you’ve got the bright yellow/orange illuminated upper mountainous region with deep orange spot lights poking through towards the forest.

Needless to say, this sun rise was the last thing I expected when I woke up this morning.

I found myself on the eastern part of the park. I took the long way home, past the observatory and down through Mt. Lookout square.

I had hoped to catch the observatory against the beautiful backdrop, but as I was leaving the park the eastern moving front moved through to block most of the light.

I took the chance to snap a picture looking west on Observatory across Delta Ave. This is just north of Mt. Lookout Square. Behind me is Ault Park and the surrounding residential neighborhood. Observatory runs a parallel east/west with Erie Ave and provides a popular flat stretch for the local runners (and part of the Flying Pig route), considering most of the area is made up of unforgiving hills.

On the way back home I passed a building that I often wonder about but haven’t checked out. It sits on the corner of a quiet neighborhood inlet and Delta Ave. The lawn is always well kept and the brick building sits confidently in the middle of the plot. You can tell it is still maintained but it isn’t labeled in any obvious way. There are newspapers piling up on the front porch – enough to indicate that there is life on the property but that they don’t use the front door.  As I’m staring at the building, wondering how long after the “1940-1950s art deco boom” that is responsible for so many of the Cincinnati Water Works buildings, I noticed a plaque on the wall just to the right of the front door.

The plaque reads “The Cincinnati and Suburban Bell Telephone Company”. Ahh. An old relic of the Bell / AT&T monopoly. I don’t know much about this history (AT&T alone is interesting), but the local telephone carrier Cincinnati Bell is one of the few fragments left that still uses the “Bell” moniker. The history of Unix is tied into AT&T history as well, of course, which means that your ANDROID  phone (running linux) and even the iPhone (which can be traced back to FreeBSD/Unix) can be tied back to the legacy Bell computer systems. All of which are, in a 6-kevin-bacon-degrees-of-freedom kind of way, connected to this building. I bet there are some sexy analog switchboards hidden in the closets of this building. Judging by the brick and “modern” look, I’d place building to have been built sometime in the late 1960s / early 1970s. +/- 15 years, I don’t have anything to compare it to. A little bit more Googling and I find that this logo (seen above in the plaque) dates back to 1964.

UPDATE: The Cincinnati Bell History Page says that in 1971 the company officially changed names from “City Suburban Telegraph Company” to “Cincinnati Bell”.  That places this building as being built between 1964 (when the logo was first used) and 1971 (when the name changed). Holy cow, I was really close in my original guess. The page also mentions that there were several switching stations, one was called the “East” exchange. Perhaps this is the building they’re referencing?


Sunrise 15: Ault Park (warm spring day and pink magnolias)

You can tell today is a Monday. I got all the way up to the park before I realized that I had forgotten the camera. The last time this happened, the sun rise was so spectacular that I had to make do with my camera phone. This time, however, the sky was overcast. This meant that a difference of 10 minutes didn’t really matter as much. I whipped back home, all down hill, and grabbed the camera from the table. The second ride up the hill wasn’t as hard as the first; being warmed up helps substantially when you’re on a bike.
The forecast for this week looks pretty miserable. Thunderstorms are expected for every morning until friday, when they drop their electrical charge and just become “rain storms”. This morning, however, was a great example on how not to get discouraged just because the forecast sucks. The temperature was warm, the air was thick. I actually ended up taking off my sweatshirt when I got to the overlook – it was that hot. The rain held off until just before I walked in my door (for the second time). In general, sunrise quality withstanding, it was a very promising beginning to an otherwise gloomy sunrise week.

As the sun rise came up behind the eastern hills, I started to see a possible opening in the clouds. I hoped that the hole was deep enough for the sun to be able to pop through. For a few seconds it looked possible, but in the end I only got some nice orange highlights.

That’s alright though, it just might be the most colorful sunrise I get this week.

The clouds had some interesting patterns that were forming over head. The eastern front, likely having dumped its payload over night, was being pushed out by the western thunder heads.

I could see the dark front approaching from the west.

The fog was thick over the Ohio River and it was starting to creep over across Lunken Airfield. You can see a small commuter about to take off while the gettin’s good. Next to the red lights. At this point it was only a matter of time until the storm arrived to make me eat my words about the morning being pleasant and dry.

The focus of today’s sun rise, and most of the last week, has to be Armleder Park. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the park (and dog park on the western side) are looking pretty water-logged. The water has advanced up to the center park “shelter”, and it even looks like it has crept up a foot or two. The Little Miami river has officially taken over the park. But this brings me back to the fishing theory that I touched on last week. I heard rumors that the park may have schools of giant grass carp swimming around, no doubt taking advantage of the soccer fields and prairie grass. Once the rains stop and the water recedes back into the river, I imagine that many large fish will find themselves hiding out in the “deep” part of the prairie – the small fishing pond near the soccer fields. I imagine this will be one of the best years to go pond fishing at Armleder Park. Who knows what monsters will end up taking residence in the tidal pool pond.

The river has become one with the flood plains. Even the fields in the back of the ridge are under water. The valley is having flashbacks of the massive river it used to hold.

This was a first. A huge jet took off from Lunken, definitely the biggest I’ve seen. As big as one you’d expect to travel on internationally. It seemed like a 747 class jet, as unlikely as that is.

A picture for the timelapse. The flooded prarie is starting to creep up the hill to the office buildings.

On the way home I stopped to take a picture of a tree that I have noticed in the past week. Now that the cherries and pears have dropped their blooms, the few blooming trees that are still blasting their colorful coats stand out. Most of the purple magnolias have dropped their pedals as well. But this one particular species bloomed two weeks later than the other magnolias. Its leaves are smaller, and the branches expand in a kind of planar pattern, rather than a blooming bush-like pattern. The pink is so vibrant, especially in low light. Does anyone know what these are? I may be completely wrong, perhaps it isn’t even a magnolia.

These purple hanging flowers must have bloomed in the last week. The bush is hanging across the sidewalk along one of the side-routes I take to get home. As I took this picture the rain started to pour down.

While I had the camera out I wanted to capture this wooden mushroom sculpture that always catches my eye. There are a handful of wooden sculptures in the neighborhood that appear to be carved out of the still-in-the-ground stumps of old trees. I’m not sure if this is a single hunk of stump, I got out of there before I got too soaked. Looking back on the picture, however, I think it is. You can see the ring of the original stump at the base of the mushroom.

Stats from this morning (curiously, it looks like Lunken had a power outage, the data is incomplete).
Sunrise: 6:47am EST
Visibility: 9mi
Temperature: 60F / 16C, (felt 15 degrees hotter than that with the humidity)
Sky: Overcast with cloudy holes, a western moving front
Sunrise: Muffled but orange. At least we got some color!
Bird Chatter: The cardinals were noticeably loud. There were several around dominating the spectrum, almost forcifully
People: A few runners were out taking advantage of the “dry” morning.


Sunrise 7: Ault Park (Japanese Maples and the Cincinnati Observatory)

(Sometimes you just get lucky.  A small commuter jet coming into Lunken AND a set of Canadian geese flying north for the summer).

This morning was another beautiful day in Cincinnati. The sunrise was similar to yesterday’s: clear, vibrant, and warm.  I arrived at the overlook with 5 minutes to spare, taking time to get set up for the show. Lunken airport was fairly busy this morning, and I actually “accidentally” caught a couple of sunrise pictures with airplanes coming in on approach.

There were these thick pockets of fog scattered through the valley.  This is the first time I’ve seen these since I started this project.  Typically the fog manifests itself as a smooth mist evenly distributed through the air.  Lunken had several pockets hanging out on the runway, interestingly enough.

(More pictures after the jump) (more…)


Sunrise 6: Ault Park (Mushrooms, Tulips, Coyotes?)

I almost couldn’t wait for my alarm to go off this morning. After the past two gloomy mornings I was ready for a clear, crisp, beautiful sunrise.  We checked the forecast last night and realized that there was supposed to be nothing but clear skies this AM. When the alarm went off at 6:20am, the skies were already starting to lighten up.  The birds were in full-on chirping mode, and I was starting to get that familiar nervousness that maybe today the sun would break the laws of physics and come up a half hour early.  I was also excited because Amanda said she wanted to come up to the overlook this morning! Before we left the apartment she even commented on how bright the sky was, it seemed like the sun was already coming up a full 20 minutes early. In hindsight, I ended up taking a lot of pictures – way more than I probably should have. I imagine I had some pent up energy after sitting through two rain storms 🙂

I arrived a bit early and caught the ambient atmosphere before the sun crested the hills. I rode my bike and actually beat Amanda, who came by car.  It was a chilly morning for sure, we brought hooded sweatshirts and our breathing left thick clouds of moisture hanging in the air.  The air was crisp and clear, and down below in the valley you could see a thick patch of fog to the east.

(More after the jump) (more…)


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) (more…)