I woke up this morning and peered out the window to see a dark gray/blue overcast sky. The warm weather had me excited so I decided to take my chances and see if there was going to be a sunrise this morning after all. I was hoping that maybe the light cloud layer that rolled in late last night was still around, but as it turned out the sky was filled with thick gray rain-filled clouds.
I left for the park with a light drizzle lapping the pavement around me. This morning the weather was so warm that I actually wore shorts and a sweatshirt – no hat, gloves, long pants, double socks, or facemask! In fact I’d say that this morning’s sunrise ride was one of the most pleasant trips up to the park if for no other reason than I was able to truly appreciate the ambient sounds with more novelty since I was not wearing my winter facemask.
The wet atmosphere held a steady 52F as I worked my way up to the overlook in Ault Park. The air was sweet and smelled like spring. With no sunrise in sight, I casually strolled through the gardens and took some pictures of the desolate ground that has already started to show signs of life. There are several pieces of the gardens that look barren right now, but in just two short months they will be exploding with garden life as the plants take advantage of the warm humid sub-tropic microclimate of Eastern Cincinnati.
The birds were loud and flirty this morning in the warm air. No doubt they too detect the first comings of spring. I found buds in the trees, especially the magnolias. Their buds are already the size of my thumb and will be bursting open in white and purple blooms in just 6 short weeks. Mentally I’m still prepared for winter, but in the back of my mind I know that spring is almost here. With spring comes green life, organic growth, colorful blossoms, and so many insects to find. I’m looking forward to Armleder Parks prairie and the 10′ high stalks of meadow grass & compass flowers.
Songbirds preparing for winter. The amount of bird activity in the park this morning was unusually high. Red headed woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays, robins and mourning doves, crows, and chick-a-dees to name a few.
The forecast must be a bit harder to predict during the seasonal change. This is two mornings in a row now that I would have expected a decent sunrise but instead was met with a dark cloudy sky. The forecast had mentioned a 38% cloud cover which should have given me a beautiful dynamic sunrise sky. Instead I got a dark winter atmosphere that eventually broke a little bit as I was heading home.
In fact, it was so dark this morning that half of my pictures seemed to come out a bit blurry. Oops! Some days are like that though and it really makes me appreciate the brighter days that make the pictures turn out so well! That’s the one thing about this camera, for all it’s great qualities, that could use some improvement. It’s hard to get a decent macro picture in low light, even while resting the camera on the ground. This is a bit of a “light” post because we’re about to head up north for some good old fashioned family Christmas festivities. Thanks for reading!
Be sure to check out about halfway through this post where I cover some light ideas regarding the vineyard history in Cincinnati and a future “Cincinnati Vineyard Sunrise” series.
For the rest of this post, including all 17 pictures and the old stone structures at Ault Park, please click to continue if you’re on the front page! (more…)
This post comes a day late as the holiday festivities have had us pretty busy! Thursday morning was, of course, the holiday of Thanksgiving. For the past two years my wife has participated in the Turkey Trot, a 10k through downtown Cincinnati that has been going on for 102 years. It’s quite an event because 15,000 people quickly come together for the race before high tailing off to their family lunches, dinners, and football games. It’s seriously impressive just how many people come out for the Thanksgiving race, the only bigger race I’ve seen in Cincinnati is the famous Flying Pig Marathon.
After a long streak of thunderstorms, the forecast had finally put the weather for Thursday morning at a confident 9% cloud cover in clear skies. There was a bit of a mishap in the forecast and what ended up happening was that Thanksgiving morning was gloomy, misty, and wet. I think what actually happened was that the clear skies warmed up the ground and there was actually just lots of FOG. But the fog lifted up a few hundred yards into the sky and simulated low-lying cloud cover. When I originally left for the sunrise, the sky was a deep dark blood red, signifying that a high humid sunrise was on the schedule for the morning. By the time I got to the park, however, it was apparent that the sky was full of fog. It was a relatively warm, wet, and dark sunrise.
Either way – Happy Thanksgiving! Today, the day after Thanksgiving, the fog has finally lifted and the skies are clear and the weather is great.
More empty streets. It took about 15 minutes for all the runners to funnel out across the starting line, and another 15 minutes before the first runner started to make his way towards the finish line. I’m always surprised by how fast some of these runners are!
I haven’t had a morning like this since April or May! With the wind whipping by my face as I careened down the back side of Mt. Tusculum on the way to Alms Park, my ears started to hurt from the cold. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the temperature had dropped down to the low 40s sometime during the night. This was by far the coldest morning in months!
Between the poor sun display and the knuckle-aching cold air, I only took two pictures this morning. I’m also including in this post a few other pictures from the last few days. There are a couple from two night-ago’s Alms Park Sunset that will provide some nice symmetry with this morning’s Alms Park Sunrise. The other handful are of a local family of white tailed deer that have been hanging out in our back yard over the past two days. I’ve been working from home on my thesis research so I’ve been watching the local deer activity as a welcome break. I find it kind of surreal that there is such a healthy population of quarter-ton mammals that share the neighborhood with us humans. More on that down below 🙂
On my way to Alms Park, I could see the sky behind the wooded neighborhood turning a deep glowing pink. The high humidity in the air coupled with some clouds in the lower atmosphere resulted in a a pre-dawn display that I could just barely make out behind the houses. It did, however, light up the rest of the sky with a subtle purple hue. By the time I got up to the park, however, the pre-dawn purples had been replaced with an orange/yellow. The sun didn’t come up for another 10 minutes, it felt like, but by the time I realized that the sun was actually risen, I could tell it was climbing up behind the low-laying cloud bank. I was a bit disappointed because I had high expectations for this morning’s sunrise. Yesterday morning was rainy and overcast, but the sky cleared up in the afternoon and the result was crisp and sunny weather. Even last night’s sunset was relatively clear, a condition I hoped would stick around until this morning. In the end, however, the clouds took over the sky and there wasn’t much of a sunrise. I will say, however, that the cold bite really woke me up!
I find it fascinating and kind of freaky (if I think too hard about it) that there are several hundred mammals that weight more than I do casually roaming through the local forests and neighborhoods. The local proximity of the old-growth forests in Ault Park and Alms Park definitely provide a kind of “home base” for the animals. These white-tailed deer have become somewhat of a fascination to me over the last year. I’ve always known they were around, but what I find so neat is that when you really look for them, they’re seriously everywhere. If you stay in your apartment all night, and then get in your car and drive to work, and repeat every day without ever going on a walk through the neighborhood at dusk, you probably would never notice them more than a couple times a year when they decide to run out in front of traffic or take a nap in your front yard. However, if you start really looking in yards and at the edge of the forest, you can find them on a nightly basis during the summer and early autumn. You can find them laying down in front yard gardens, running loudly through the obvious “deer trails” through the local patches of forest, and darting out in front of late afternoon traffic. They’ve become kind of sloppy, too, as the docile “humans are ALRIGHT” traits start to become more pronounced, and the “be careful and quiet so that we can live” traits become less important. Sometimes I think a drunken college student has stumbled through the thicket behind our place, when in reality it’s just a young deer with a rack that he doesn’t know how to handle.
I’ve never heard of any “deer attacks” in Mt. Lookout, other than the occasional poor guy who gets hit by a car (that would be a car-on-deer attack!). This makes me believe that the deer are generally flighty, not aggressive, with a touch of docility. The females especially seem to be the most passive. I can typically approach a female, slowly, and get within 8-10 feet of her before she starts giving me strange looks. When she finally does get spooked, she typically only walks a few yards away, huffing obviously in an annoyed kind of tantrum. “Can’t you see I’m grazing here!?”. The bucks (males), on the other hand, are much more strategic in their movements. Upon approach, they will kind of group up and literally “high-tail” it back into the forest (high-tail’n it = run with their tails in the air, exposing the bright white under-side. Obviously a signal to other deer that it’s time to get the heck out). But what’s funny about the bucks is that they will stop about 30 yards away and position their heads to be able to see where I am. When I approached these two bucks pictured above, they ran into the forest and emerged in the middle of the neighbor’s yard about 40 yards away. I didn’t even realize they were carefully watching me until I loudly cracked my way into the edge of the forest (I’m no more quiet than the deer are). It was then that I saw their heads popping up over the hill, waiting to see what my next move would be. I’m glad they’re not equipped with laser guns.
This reminds me of a story. I’ll never forget the time I was walking through the forest in Alms Park, last autumn, minding my own business and looking for the coral patterned hedge apples, when I encountered a massive 14-point buck trucking loudly through the fallen leaves. I heard him coming from about 100 yards away, with obvious disregard to who heard him coming. Being a large animal with no local predators beyond a few scarce coyotes that don’t seem to make it up to the mountain very often, he was carelessly banging his rack around on branches and rooting through the pile of leaves on the ground. I even heard him kick some forgotten glass bottle. Through the naked branches I could see a brown blur and it was covering some serious ground.
I was sitting at the ruins of an old recreational shelter (that may even be a ruin from the old 1800s vineyard, I haven’t confirmed either theory) when I heard the ruckus. He was moving straight towards me from the bottom of a small valley that the stone overlook would have looked out across. I was curious what would happen if we were to meet (at this point I didn’t realize just how huge this thing was) so I kind of crouched down behind the 3-foot stone wall. I also grabbed a harvested softball-sized monkey-brain (hedge apple) that was sitting nearby, either to offer as food or, as last desperation, as a weapon if I needed it. 30 seconds later I poked my head up and saw the massive buck, with at least 14 points on his rack and twice my weight, heading straight for the shelter ruins about 30 yards away. He hadn’t spotted me yet. By this point I had waited way too long to make a move and the realization came over me that startling him would probably be something I should avoid.
He cruised right up to the other side of the old stone wall that I was crouching behind and stopped. I could hear him breathing and I could also tell he was weighting his options. I also realized that I was sitting only 4 feet, to my left, from the walking trail inside this stone wall that formed a perfect little “U” with the closed-end to my right. As I sat there on edge, floating in my pool of adrenaline, I couldn’t help but be simultaneously in awe at how close I was to this magnificent animal. At this point, I wondered what it was that the buck was thinking about. Could he smell me? Was I too loud? Is he just messing with me? In hindsight, the buck was probably thinking to himself “well I’m really trying to make it over to Sandra’s den on the other side of the hill. She always has the best acorns and if I’m lucky she’ll have some more of that delicious fungus from last week. I could make better time if I hopped on the old walking trail and “high-tailed” it, but I might run into some of those large noisy nomadic mammals I keep seeing in the forest. I’m not sure I have the energy for that. Maybe it’s best to stick to the side roads…” In my mind, I sure he’d choose to go left on the path, and soon we’d be face to face and only 4 feet apart, with a stone wall to my left, right, and back. At least he’d be just outside kicking range, I assured myself. Do deer even like hedge apples? In my head I pictured a startled deer rearing back on his hind legs, and me yelling “Surprise! Here’s a Hedge Apple!” while simultaneously throw/handing it to him in a part-diplomatic part-defensive move. I’m not sure that’ll go over well.
It took all the gusto I had to slowly, and quietly, raise my head over the top of the wall. Fortunately he was looking straight ahead and I came up just behind his shoulders to his left side. He was massive and the top of his back came up to about a foot and a half above the three foot all that I was hiding behind. I heard him give a loud huff, and then the leaves started to rustle as he began moving. He chose to continue on the route he was on, crossing straight over the walking path, and continuing into the forest. Within 6 seconds he had disappeared into the brown background, and within 20 seconds I couldn’t hear him any longer. As it turns out, even deer yield to oncoming traffic.
So I guess the point of all of this is that out there, in the forest, every day and all afternoon, there are isolated and independent packs of male and female deer just hanging out, watching us humans go about our busy lives. How do the males go about courting the females? Do they leave chemical markers as a kind of note for other deer that say “hey this lawn is pretty tasty, and the old lady doesn’t care if you get pretty close to the house. No dogs.”? Yeah, you’re right. Probably not.
So the bucks pictured above showed up in the backyard two days ago. Yesterday afternoon, in the same location, these two (and later a third) showed up to graze on the fresh grass and Kudzu. There were two females and a young fawn. These pictures are through the window into our backyard. I’ve noticed a pattern in deer behavior that is probably well known among hunters. The females tend to stick together in a foraging herd, while the males (bucks) tend to stick together in their own nomadic (and probably territorial?) bachelor party. I would like to think it isn’t a coincidence that the bucks showed up one day, then the does showed up the second day. They’re probably on shifts or something.
I finally was able to remove the screen from my window without spooking them too much. Here’s a much more clear shot (along with the first picture at the beginning of this post). The third female came out from behind the building to the right. Didn’t know she was there.
The sunrise this morning was overcast, quiet, and dark. There was a bit of orange display happening just above the horizon and the sun poked through a hole for about a minute before rising up into the clouds. There were many patches of sky along the horizon that provided some excellent lighting scenes, but they were impossible to capture on the camera.
Great Ohio Bike Adventure, 2011. This was left behind and now that I see it is a decade old, I regret not picking it up and leaving a note. Hopefully the person who left it remembers where they last saw it and come back for it! The Great Ohio Bike Adventure (GOBA) is a week-long bicycle trip around a different loop in Ohio every year. I’m tentatively hoping to try it out next year.
Over the weekend we camped with some friends and family. On Sunday we visited a small town in Indiana called Metamora. I had never heard of the small town before, but my mom had visited with my grandfather many years ago. I didn’t have my camera, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures! I was really surprised to find out that the small town is maintained as a “canal village” that dates back to 1838. The “whitewater canal” is still intact and you can ride a passenger boat that is pulled along on the tote path by two 2,000lb Belgian horses. There is also a train rides along the rail line on the tote path to take passengers down a 15 mile trip through the Indiana countryside. The buildings were all in the familiar 2-story mid-1800s architecture style that I’ve come to recognize as the midwestern hallmark.
There was one thing that was curious to me and I found myself thinking about this morning when I was heading into work. There was one building that was titled the “I.O.O.F” building. I recognized the IOOF acronym, although I’m not sure from where. On my way to work this morning I took an alternate route through the heart of historic Madisonville, where there are many buildings from the late 1800s that have seen better days. I passed right by a small 2-story brick building and was surprised to see, sitting at the apex just below the roof, the words “I.O.O.F”. As it turns out, IOOF stands for Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is a fraternal organization dating back to 1811. There are 51 chapters still around in the United States, and I’m sure that the Metamora chapter is still around. I swear I’ve seen another I.O.O.F building at some point in the last year, either in Cincinnati or up around the Columbus area. A quick google search reveals many buildings around Cincinnati. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out and see what else I can find. It looks like the particular building I saw this morning, located on Mathis street, isn’t even included on the previously linked registry.
This morning’s ride up to Ault Park was cool and wet. At first I couldn’t tell if the sky was overcast or just hazy, but once the atmospheric light started to open the sky up, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to see a sunrise. There were small spurts of rain and a quiet wind. There was only a single other patron of the park who chose to venture out into the potential elements this morning.
As I finished my cup of coffee, I felt the wind start to pick up and then quickly die off. I looked out toards Lunken and saw a wall of rain moving towards me. I decided that if I was going to make it to work, now would be as good of a time as any to pack it up and go! I ended up getting into work slightly wet but the downpour that was threatened never seemed to kick into full gear. As I write this, the skies are breaking up and I can even see some patches of blue.
This morning was a cool, quiet, overcast summer sunrise. There were highlights of pink in the mid atmosphere but the sun didnt make any kind of appearance. That’s OK though because sunrise 86 was enough of a show to last me over for awhile!
I enjoyed the dark morning light and my morning coffee. Today’s actually a special day, too! It’s my birthday! Another year older, and I find myself even more glad that I started the Ault Park Sunrise project. It has been a great creative exercise for me and has also enabled me to explore the local history of my area and meet some great people. Indeed it has truly become a kind of journal for myself, something that I will look back on many birthdays from now with nostalgia and pride. I hope that the thought of this project conjures up feelings of mobility, freedom, and the passionate pursuit of personal exploration (both internal and external).
Tonight, even though it’s my birthday, I’m working late on my thesis software project. I brought along the “3-amigos” to join me while I listen to Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats and delve into the guts of RTCmix and PyEvolve.
We visited friends up in Columbus, Ohio last weekend and on the way back I made a stop at the local carry out. I always try to pick up some beer that I can’t get down in Cincinnati. Typically this includes some Lagunitas (pictured right) or a local Columbus micro-brew. The store was actually out of Columbus Brewery’s India Pale Ale, and the guy behind the counter suggested Elevator Brewery‘s 3 Frogs IPA. I have been impressed with this beer as it shows elements of a well balanced classic IPA but I’ve only had one so far, so my opinion of it still needs time to develop. The middle beer is the “Double Dog Double Pale Ale” from Flying Dog Brewery. It clocks in at an impressive 11.5%, just barely under the max ceiling of 12%, a limit you can’t exceed if you wish to sell beer in Ohio. This was a birthday present from a friend of mine, a great present indeed! The third beer is Lagunitas’ Undercover Investigation Shut Down, one of my all time favorite brews from one of my favorite breweries. I’ve been bugging Lagunitas for months now to try and coerce them to sell their brews down in Cincinnati, but apparently there is some strange stale mate between the distributors in Ohio so for now I have to drive to Dayton or Columbus to snag ’em. Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale is a healthy American Strong Ale that clocks in at almost 9.9% ABV and has the alluring crisp house flavor that I’ve come to appreciate in Lagunitas’ beers, resulting from their unique strain of brewer’s yeast. The history behind the Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale is rich and hilarious, and you can check out the video here. Quality is kind of awful, but the audio is intact.
Interestingly enough, these three beers range from all sides of the country: west coast (Lagunitas), east coast (Flying Dog), and the midwest (Elevator).
Here comes another short sunrise post. I had an appointment early this morning so I’m writing this in the late afternoon! This morning was much cooler than I would have expected. The park was quiet and wet and dark, and it made for a peaceful sunrise even though the sun stayed hidden behind the clouds. There were several storms that came through over the weekend and it seems like the clouds are still hanging around.
Just as I was about to leave, the wind picked up and blew an opening into the sky above me. The blue sky shined through the clouds and gave me some hope that the day wouldn’t be all gloomy and gray. As I write this (Tuesday afternoon) the skies are bright blue with small patches of puffy cumulus clouds. I have great expectations for tomorrow’s sunrise.
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??
In a couple weeks they will be marble sized, perfect for collecting 🙂 (If you’re on the front page, click to continue – including the WWI memorial) (more…)
I have a morning appointment today so the trip up to the park was quick and pleasant. The air was again very wet and the sky was overcast. But it felt like this morning was a bit warmer than yesterday. It may be that I’m used to the cold already, or it may have been the humidity – but either way the morning was rather pleasant. The morning air was thick with humidity. It was the kind of humidity that is thick and sticky, where the acoustic sounds of the environment seem muffled and it feels more private as you move about through the park. It was almost foggy, but not quite. Armleder Park was mostly visible, giving me the impression that the haze was more evenly distributed rather than patches of thick fog.
I hung out at the overlook for a few minutes but once again got the itch to ride around through the park. The sky was pretty dark again and the trees were still dripping with rain or dew. I rode around to the back of the lawn where I checked out some of the tree displays and informational plaques. There is a specific species of conifer that has always drawn my attention but I haven’t taken the time to look at closely. I wondered if it is the same species of conifer that towers over the playground area and drops small little pine cones, but I can’t tell simply by the shape of this particular (smaller) tree. If you’re on the front page, click to continue –> (more…)