Sunrise 102: Ault Park (Ash Trees, Beechmont Dragstrip, Project Autumn Tree)
The weather this week in Cincinnati has been downright beautiful. After the couple weeks of overcast and stormy skies, we’ve been blessed with a streak of clear skies with cool mornings and warm afternoons. This feels very much the same as biking in the early spring at the start of this project because the mornings are chilly – between 40 and 55F – but the afternoon warms up to the high 70s.
This morning in the park was another pleasantly cool and misty morning. The Cincinnati Fog made an appearance but stayed down in the lower basin of the valley, providing a true clear sky sunrise. These clear sky sunrises are a beast unto themselves because of how early the sky lights up, and how quickly after sunrise the oranges give way to the bright yellows of a full day sun.
I arrived at the overlook this morning about 15 minutes before sunrise, which is now somewhere beyond 7:40am it seems, and the horizon was already overflowing with a deep orange gradient. I went out in a tshirt this morning, braving the chilly elements. I found that the 45F temperature didn’t bother me as much as I thought. I could have used a light pair of gloves, but overall it wasn’t uncomfortable. The first warm cup of Trader Joe’s medium roast coffee certainly helped.
I met Dave and Penny, a gentleman from Mt. Washington and his young golden retriever. Dave filled in some information about the old drag strip and the beechmont levee. I didn’t actually realize that Beechmont Ave. was built on top of a levee. I know that there is a levee system between Lunken Airfield and the Little Miami River, but what I didn’t realize is that the levee takes a sharp turn and continues toward Mt. Lookout, running between Armleder Park and Lunken Airfield. Dave said that in the 1970s when he originally moved to Mt. Washington, there were no trees on the levee so it was obvious. Now, however, the forest has matured and it is harder to see it. Interestingly, however, Dave mentioned that “Old Beechmont Ave” still exists in pieces at the foot of the levee on the Armleder Park side. That old drag strip that I learned about over the summer utilized the pavement that was once part of old Beechmont. That makes a lot of sense, thanks Dave!
One final thing before I post the few pictures from this morning’s sunrise. I have a new idea for a focus for the remainder of this Autumn’s sunrise posts. As the Cincinnati forests change their coats into their autumn shades, I’m finding myself picking out patterns in the tree-lined background to my morning rides. Just as I observed the various species of trees break out into bloom in a well syncronized seasonal change into spring, I’m noticing the many local species of trees that are changing colors (or even blooming) together while their green brethren hold out until they are ready. I’d like to focus on a specific species of tree for a morning and find all the locations in the neighborhood where this tree has found a home. In the forest, in yards, and placed in the park and the city boulevards by the park service.
One specific tree that has piqued my interest has been the ash tree. After talking with Aaron the horticultural, who takes care of the gardens at Ault Park, about the ash beetle’s western-moving front across the region and the defensive (but inevitably futile) measures they’ve implemented in the park, I’m finding myself seeking out local ash trees if for no other reason than to create a memory of a tree that my grand children may very well not know in their lifetimes as a native tree. They’re also known for their beautiful fall display, and I find it sad because many of the ash trees that I’ve found so far seem dull and withering. It is apparently of high probability that most of the trees I’ve seen so far are already infected with the beetle and there are no known ways to cure the tree. The only thing that can be done is give the tree a treatment that merely prolongs the life of the tree a few more years. Apparently Mt. Washington has already lost most of their ash trees, and western Cincinnati are just starting to receive their first positive contact reports :(. Interestingly enough, Ault Park has become a test ground where each ash tree is treated with a different anti-beetle program. Hopefully one of them is successful and can be used to save the trees that have not yet been infected.
Along the boulevards along the major residential roads that connect to Ault Park there is an interesting happening. Principio Ave is lined with fading ash trees, something I never realized until I picked them out this morning. I spoke with a local woman about the trees, and she told me something interesting. A few years back the city removed many of the ash trees because they were already dead or almost dead. The ones that remain today were the strongest, but they won’t last much longer. But what I find interesting is that this spring the city planted new young trees in place of the lost ash. You can find them all around the neighborhoods because their young trunks are still protected by white plastic so that the local population of hungry deer don’t get to them. I believe they are a kind of maple, but I didn’t check them out in detail (yet). I’m mentioning this because I am curious about what kind of tree is going to replace the ash tree in our local neighborhoods and boulevards, and also why the ash tree was chosen in the first place? I imagine there are many things that a city planner has to think about when designing a neighborhood’s arbor makeup. The ash trees do seem like a perfect size – large enough to be magnificent, colorful in the autumn, but not so large as to rip up sidewalk and otherwise be destructive.
That’s much more than I expected to cover regarding the ash tree, so when I do the “ash tree sunrise” in the next week, there may be a bit of repetition. Oh well, I’ll consider that a rough draft. I’ve mentioned previously that every autumn I notice this specific species of maple that explodes in this bright orange hue, but only for three or four days. I’ve still got my eye out.
The dawn at Heekin Overlook. Roughly 15 minutes before sunrise.
Looking over Lunken Airfield towards the Ohio River. See that giant plume of fog in the far background? That’s the Ohio River! The fog just piles on high in the air above the water.
A vertical shot encapsulating more of the orange->blue gradient of the sky.
A vertical shot of “First Light”
A closer view that shows the layers of forest and farmland buried in the mist.
See what I mean? In about 10 minutes the orange sunrise is gone and the sun takes a full-on yellow look. This is in drastic contrast to days like Sunrise 101 where the high humidity can make a sunrise last for an hour or longer. In this sense I’m defining a sunrise duration as the amount of time it takes for the light to cycle from deep purple to orange to yellow. This is relative to where the viewer is standing, of course.
I noticed that the third and final missing bench in Heekin Overlook has been replaced. I learned from Dave that the wood that these benches are made out of is a rain-forest hardwood called “teak“. Teak wood is valued as being water resistant and historically has been used for creating ships. And there you go!
Sunrise 67: Ault Park (Beechmont Dragway?)
This morning’s sunrise was almost identical to yesterday’s sunrise. There was a low atmospheric layer of foggy stratus haze that obscured most of the light. For the few minutes before sunrise you could see these bursting rays of light arcing up through the upper atmosphere, but they disappeared before I could get a decent picture of them. The sky was blue up above me and the moon clearly visible.
This week’s weather is calling for mostly hot and humid days with scattered thunder storms. I’ve been really interested lately in watching how the morning sunrise weather changes with the air pressure. Early last week the mornings were gray with fog sitting down in the lower valley basin. As the thunder storms built up in the tri-state, and finally broke with intense action, the fog disappeared (or, probably more accurately, moved higher into the atmosphere). As a side effect, the day following the major storms was perfectly clear with no clouds in the sky. The next day had slight whisps of clouds, and the following day had a beautifully mixed set of 40% cloud cover with all kinds of formations. It was on that day that I got some of the best sunrise pictures of the month.
The point of all of this is the following. Yesterday and today were gray and boring. But today it looks like we’re in line for some heavy thunderstorms that may stick around for a few days. I can’t wait for the first sunrise after the heavy summer storms. The post-storm sunrises never disappoint and are always unique and colorful. You can’t have the best ones without first having a streak of boring ones 🙂
Down below to the left we see Armleder Park (For some great pictures of the park, check out last Friday’s post). To the right we see Lunken Airfield (pictures from last week). See that patch of forest in the middle? That’s where the 4-lane Beechmont Avenue runs out to Mt. Washington and Anderson. The gate that I highlighted yesterday, located on the back side of Lunken Airport’s 5-mile bike trail, will open up to a connector trail that will go under Beechmont Avenue and over to Armleder Park. This will give cyclists, runners, roller bladers, and dog walkers access Armleder Park from Lunken Airfield.
This is a picture of the gate that I took yesterday. You can see on the left side, beyond the gate, there are markers that show that the construction crew is working diligently on the path. Due to all the flooding that occurred during the spring, I’m wondering if they’ll have a hard time meeting their Fall 2011 deadline.
So the interesting thing about this new trail is that they are building it on top of an existing lane. There used to be a small gravel access road that ran along the levee. I always wondered what the heck that road used to be. It was, at one time, important enough to be paved and have a gate protecting access to it. The gate is old and almost overrun with vegetation now. I had a few theories:
- An ancient bike path that simply ran out of funding.
- Satelite images show that it connects, somehow, to Beechmont Ave. Perhaps an old Lunken Airfield trail?
- An access road for something off in the woods?
- Part of the old Little Miami River gate system? There are strange wooden and metal structures hidden in the woods off of the levee that look like they were once used for loading ship or something. Jury is still out on what they actually are, but I’ve been told they had to do with the old lock system that controlled the river before they re-routed it out of Lunken Airfield’s Campus.
Well, that’s about it as far as my ill-informed theories go. Check out the Google Map and see for yourself. The “new trail” is the blue line and you can see how it continues over into the forest on the other side of Beechmont Ave.
Yesterday I was poking around the Cincinnati subreddit and got into a discussion about this Armleder / Lunken Connector. I asked if anyone knew what used to be back along this trail. I honestly didn’t expect to find anything out, but the user jOhn33y informed me that there used to be an old drag strip back in the forest that operated from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s before being shut down due to noise ordinance violations. Interestingly enough, one YouTube commenter says that as a boy he remembers asking his mom why they shut down the race track, and she replied “the rich people on the hill didn’t like the noise so they shut it down”. Also reminds me of the stories I hear about the old Grandin Ave Viaduct over Delta Ave, but that’s a story for another day.
Map Image and Beechmont Dragway Logo are from Queen City Motorsports Historical Page
Now that I look at the satellite map, it makes perfect sense. The actual drag strip was on the other side of Beechmont Ave so I can’t say for sure whether this trail was simply alternate access to the strip, part of the racing strip in general, or something else entirely. Either way this opens up a new piece of Eastern Cincinnati history that I was completely unaware of. Once these storms die down I plan on exploring the old Drag Strip to see what still remains. There is some footage on YouTube of someone else’s exploration, as well as an old silent film (with audio commentary removed due to copyright violations… grrr). Here’s some awesome old footage of the 1960s drag strip:
Sometime after these thunder storms die down I’ll go exploring back there to see what still remains of the old drag strip. There’s some footage on YouTube but there looks to be much more to the site than just the small area where the video is taken. The original source for all of this information is from this Queen City Motorsports page.