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 rail lines along the bay.
I’m experiencing a bit of withdraw from not taking pictures of the sunrise for three days! We’re out skipping about the West Coast right now so my internal clock has been trying valiantly to get re-adjusted. I tried to get up early yesterday to catch the West Coast Sunrise but my jet-lag caused me to sleep right through the alarm.
We’re staying in a neighborhood in San Francisco called Nob Hill. This morning my alarm didn’t go off correctly (I think I actually disabled the alarm with my face because I slept with my phone under my pillow) so I woke up right at sunrise (5:45am local time). In San Francisco (and any big dense city), as a local girl told us: “We don’t have yards, we have roofs”. There is roof access on the small 4-story bed and breakfast that we’re staying in so I headed up to the top of the building to see what the sunrise looked like. It was indeed a pretty sunrise, but unfortunately the taller buildings close to the bay eclipsed the direct view of the sun. Not satisfied with a simple silhouette, I decided to venture out in to the city by myself to see what I could find.
I thought about catching a bus to the bay (only a 15 minute walk) because it only costs $2 and comes with a transfer that I could use for the return route. I ended up jogging to the Ferry Building down market street. I am lucky to be staying so close to the eastern shore of the island that provides a great viewpoint of the sun.
The streets were bustling by 6:00am when I arrived at the Ferry Building. The ferries were bringing commuters from the other side of the bay by the boatload. I was pleased to find that I didn’t miss the sunrise. While showing up ten minutes earlier would have been ideal, the haze over the water provided a beautiful orange/blue colored sky.
The seagulls around here are like domesticated cats. They stare back at you. I do not doubt I could walk up and pet them, but to be honest I’m a bit scared to try. I can walk up and stand next to them and they hardly even pay attention to me.
I walked along the rows of piers and watched the merchants set up shop. The “Embarcadero” strip along the bay is a historic gem of the city. One thing that has impressed me so much about San Francisco (not that I should expect differently from such a healthy city) is that they have really gone out of their way to not only preserve so much historic relics from the past, but also actively use them in daily business. While there are plenty of modern “hybrid” buses in the city, the early 1950s rail cars are heavily used for daily commuters.
We’re off to go check out the Anchor Steam Brewery. Stay tuned for more sunrises, I hope this isn’t the last 🙂
Here are some pictures from the sunset two nights ago. These are down by Fisherman’s Wharf, close to Chrissy Field looking West across the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sunrise 40: Ault Park (Achievement Unlocked! and Alms Park Sunset #3 with Mountainous Cumulus Clouds)
I made it! This morning was officially the 40th sunrise that I documented in Eastern Cincinnati. I’ve been thinking about this morning for the past few days, wondering what if anything I could do as a special tribute to the milestone. At first I started big. I considered waking up an hour early and driving over to Devou Park in Cincinnati to take a nice “capstone” sunrise picture of the Cincinnati Skyline and sunrise over the Ohio River. But I realized that heading up to Devou Park, while a powerful sentiment indeed, was too far outside the context of normalcy for this project. All 40 sunrises, except for the flying pig marathon day, had two things in common: Eastern Cincinnati and my bike. I decided that the most appropriate sunrise this morning would be one where I went back to the roots of the project and reflected on the past 40 days. The morning ended up being overcast and gray anyway. I grabbed my coffee and a notebook and rode up to the park. Oh yeah, I also made a facebook page. “Like” it if you want to, I’m not exactly sure what to use it for yet.
Oh, one more thing. The last half of this post has pictures from Alms Park sunset last night. The sky was busy all day yesterday (as I learned from the sunrise fronts). Last night was no different, but as the sun set and the air-cooled, the towering cumulus clouds looked like mountains on the distant horizon.
I’ll be down there this weekend for the Memorial Day Race 5K. Amanda designs the shirts 🙂 Put on by the Cincinnati Running Club. Amanda is running, I’m volunteering. We’ve got some friends coming into town who are probably going to run it too!
The sunrise this morning was gray and non-existent. I chose to focus most of my time on writing some of my thoughts that have been bouncing around throughout the extent of this project. I’d like to go back and look at various statistics relating to the project, but for now I don’t have time before heading in to work. Number of pictures, bike shots, words, words / day (I seem to have got more chatty as the project went along), traffic statistics, grouping pictures together by color, looking at the overlook picture time-lapse, etc. The sky stayed the same color, a muted gray, throughout the entire morning. The ambient light drifted about until it was darker when I left the park than when I got there, or so it seemed.
Zoom of Lunken Airfield. See the green break in the forest at the end of the runway, in the middle of the picture? Where the green grass looks like it jumps up into the trees? That’s where I saw the sunrise yesterday morning on the bike trail. I didn’t realize you could see it from here.
The first thing I did was look at some of the original goals of the project to see where they stand now. Looking back on the project it is interesting to see various themes slowly start to gain momentum. At the beginning of the project, I took fewer pictures with fewer words. I focused a lot more on my immediate surroundings in the park. The flowers, mushrooms, views, bike, bench, trees, sky, rain, birds. As the sunrises continued, and I became familiar with the Heekin Overlook, I started to venture out a bit more. I explored the arboretum, the pavilion, the trails, and the blossoming cherry trees. Eventually I broke out of the boundary of the park and started exploring more of the neighborhoods. The first taste of inquiry looks to be the morning I looked at the old Bell Systems building on Delta Venue. That fateful day that I found the Crusade Castle can be viewed as the day when a shift was made into exploring not just “look what is around” but “look what is left over from another era”. This active history theme led to several “Saturday Explorations”, including the trip to Armleder Park through East End, and R.K. LeBlond Estate & Norwood Industry Hunt. I also used this theme to turn historic inquiry back at the familiar things in Ault Park, including the search for Murdock Fountains (ongoing…) and the World War I memorial bench.
So back to some of the original goals of the project. How did I do?
- 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Check! This is the most basic and important goal – and it feels absolutely incredible to know that I did it without compromise. I missed only two weekly sunrises – one due to a viewing and one due to an active electrical storm. On both days I was able to still write a post up using other material.
- Explore the parks and the city. Check! This is evident throughout the entire project. Both of these goals are far from complete, but I have made significant progress both in the appreciation of the Queen City’s Emeralds and the city herself.
- Create a new routine, new habits. Check! Looking back, the first half of this project was much harder than the second half even though I put more effort into the second half with all of the research and extra miles put on the bike. I’m also waking up early on my days off – something that I didn’t think was possible until this project started.
- Appreciate more detail in every day. Check! Carpe Diem personified. I hope I’ve started something that will continue throughout the rest of my life.
- Become more comfortable on my bike. Check! By my guess I’ve put close to 200 miles on the bike just accounting for the daily ride, and another 300 miles with the extra exploration. I’ve also gone through a new tire, new crank, and new pedals.
- Kill Over-sleeping. While I am still susceptible to over-sleeping I have a new control system imposed on it that is working as long as I have accountability for the sunrises. This is the entire reason the project website exists. Mostly Check!
It is worth noting that this is the first time in my entire life that I have consistently waken up before 6:30am with only a single exception that I can remember. When I was in seventh grade (fifteen years ago) I would routinely wake up at 5:30am to watch The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. Strangely, there must have been a kind of personality shift that happened during the summer between seventh and eighth grade because I never did continue this “morning person” routine. For me, it is of great personal accomplishment that I was able to complete these 40 days of morning wake ups. It proves (to me) that I can accomplish something drastic and life changing. Any time I come up against such a challenge in the future, I can think back to project Ault Park Sunrise and remember the feeling of balance and satisfaction that this project has given me.
There are several things that have changed in my daily routine that I can directly attribute to this project.
- Mornings are now much easier than before
- I now go to bed at a reasonable (and consistent) time
- — which enables me to get excellent sleep most of the time
- I’ve started reading before bed more consistently. Although I don’t typically get very far, I fall asleep without issue
- My legs are much stronger. I feel like a mountain climbing machine.
- I have a much higher cardio capacity. I imagine I could run 10 miles with my feet pain being the only constraint.
- I’ve consumed less beer overall, and more craft beer. This is important to me. I rarely have more than two beers at a time during the week, and I enjoy them thoroughly because I’m able to focus on quality over quantity. This reminds me of Ben Franklin’s thirteen virtues that I often find myself thinking about.
- I notice with a much higher sensitivity when my diet gets messed up. Bloating and fatigue from eating fried food or too much food is immediately apparent the next day. I don’t mean to be snobbish, because my diet is far from perfect, but I am happy to know that I am becoming more in tune with my body’s natural cycles and energy.
- I have more energy overall – I am no longer fatigued after a 20 miles bike ride. In fact I have more energy it feels like.
- I’ve played way less PlayStation 3. I attribute this more to good allocation of free time, and less to a dwindling desire for playing video games.
- Purpose-driven creativity. This project has provided an outlet for daily creativity in writing, research, photography, and/or human interactions.
- I’ve met many local neighborhood citizens and learned about several new perspectives on life. I’ve always been comfortable talking to strangers (a natural gift I imagine) and making them feel comfortable – this project has allowed me to improve on this skill
- A higher threshold of overall creativity. This project, from the beginning, has grown into several new directions while still maintaining much of the original framework laid out by the constraints (sunrise, Ault Park, bike, convenient and quick).
- I am more comfortable with my writing and understand a bit more about my strengths and weaknesses.
- I’ve learned a lot about flower and tree identification thanks to the feedback I’ve received on this blog from several friends. Thanks guys 🙂
One thing that stands out to me is just how quickly these 40 mornings have gone by. 40 is a big number. I remember thinking, at the beginning of the project, that perhaps it was too big of a number. Could I even do it? I can’t do 3 sunrise mornings, how can I do 40? By having the days numbered and also having this journal to look back at my daily logs is a new thing for me. I can remember each sunrise going by and recall each individual memory. And yet here we are, 40 days later, on the other side of the project. The sun has shifted far to the left from where it started, it rises 65 minutes earlier, and the trees that started the project naked are now flush with their summer green. The quickness in which the time seemed to have passed during the life of this project has better prepared me to take advantage of as much as I can of the finite days I have left in the future. I’ve always known that there was peace in the mornings but I couldn’t figure out how to make it real. Sure, it is annoying to get up early. I have to go to bed at an “unreasonable” time (although at this point I’m completely exhausted so it is no longer unreasonable). I can’t drink a beer after 10pm. This commitment requires planning and foresight and a real effort to put the pictures online and write up an entry. But in the end, the payoff is several multiples more than any discomfort. Hell, I could do this all day!
A final thing I want to add is that exploring an area on a bike is a modern experience that everyone should at least try once. There is nothing else like it. By exploring in my local vicinity, I am able to piece together local history and cause-and-effect theories that are familiar enough to store in my head easily. In any human inhabitance, there are remnants of days-gone-by. From the buildings to the artifacts, memorials to the water fountains, churches to the headstones. The higher the human density of an area, the deeper the web of interconnectedness. It makes me wonder how fulfilling it would be to do a “sunrise project” in an old, small, midwestern farm town with a deep history but a limited space to explore it. A complete picture (or at least a well-rounded one) of the history of the town may be more attainable because there would be fewer human sub-cultures, systems, booms, and industries.
So what’s next? Hard to say at this point. I’ve had a blast with this project so far so at this point at a minimum I’m going to keep up the morning ritual and write-ups. Perhaps I’ll start to become a bit more socially-oriented and try to recruit more people to meet me up at the park, although that might be a stretch. Now that the 40 sunrises are up, I am also free to explore different sets of constraints. I gave some thought to doing a Lunken Airfield sunrise week after the beautiful atmospheric conditions down on the bike trail, but that might be asking a lot considering how grueling it is getting back up the hill. I’ve also thought about picking different places around the city and traveling there to do the sunrise, as opposed to what I do now – start at Ault Park and then venture out into the city if I have the time.
I’ve also got a host of interesting places to check out on the East Side. I’d be lying if I haven’t kicked around the idea of doing a kind of city bike tour (thanks for the idea, Tara!). To really make it work it would be nice to have a set of wireless radios that clip to your helmet. It’d also be a kid of bring your own bike situation so I’m not sure if there would be any interest in it.
When I get the time I’m also going to post up detailed explanation of my workflow in case anyone else would be interested in doing a project like this on their own. You need nothing other than a camera and a computer. The script that I’ve written to process and name the pictures takes most of the busywork out of the ordeal. I now spend 85% of my time at the computer writing these posts rather than messing with naming, resizing, and re-orienting the pictures. It also puts a copyright notice on each image.
Thank you to everyone who has followed this project, no matter how big or small. This project is largely a personal feat, but I’d be lying to say that it doesn’t help immensely with the motivational drive knowing that there are other people out there that check in every once in awhile to see the pictures and read my crazy rambles.
Here’s to 40 more 🙂
Some pictures from last night’s Alms Park Sunset. I felt it was fitting to have the 40th sunrise post also include beautiful pictures of the setting sun.
Two days ago I mentioned how it would be nice to get the Columbia Tusculum homes in the setting sun light. I find myself in this exact situation just two days later. For the rest of the sunset pictures – and if you’re on the front page – click to continue –> (more…)
This morning was a beautiful clear sunrise unlike any that I’ve seen for the past three weeks. Before the last batch of storms I remember seeing several of the bright orange displays but it has been a rare morning that has a cloud cover < 15%. At 6:10 am, a full 20 minutes before sunrise, the sky was so bright it felt like the sun was already coming up.
I’d like to add a quick note before I continue. This morning was sunrise 26, but I actually did have a sunrise 25 on saturday morning. I took so many pictures and did some extended research into a few things that I discovered. The post isn’t quite done (I fell asleep last night before finishing it) but I’ll have it up later this morning. For this reason I decided to make this morning’s sunrise a quick trip. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately so it was nice to focus more on the view and less on the camera. If you get a chance, be sure to check out sunrise 25; I’ll link it here (and it’ll be on the frontpage) when I publish it.
For the sunrise this morning, the atmosphere was clear and the air was warm. The valley down below had thick pockets of fog and for a few minutes I had to talk myself out of riding down to the bottom of the hill and taking the morning pictures through the fog. One of these days I’ll get down into the fog! I’m waiting on that seasonal fog that comes around a few times a year. We’re coming due in the next few weeks and I can’t wait. There is nothing quite like exploring the forest and neighborhood in a fog that provides only 10-15ft visibility. The fog stays around he overlooks (especially Alms Park) well past four hours after sunrise.
If you’re on the front page, click to continue. –> (more…)
As you may or may have not noticed, I wasn’t able to post a sunrise picture this morning. Today we found ourselves out of town for a funeral and viewing of a family member. I imagine it was a great sunrise this morning, but there will be many more to come! Amanda and I were feeling a bit beat after getting home tonight, so we decided to head up to Alms Park to check out the sunset. We learned our lesson last time that you’ve got to arrive 20 minutes *before* sunset time if you want to actually enjoy it :). Alms Park was as quiet and peaceful as ever. The trees and bushes were a lush green and there were only a couple of people walking around enjoying the crisp spring air. Perhaps everyone was out celebrating Cinco de Mayo? 🙂
The eastern view of Alms Park looks down the Ohio River into the bend. Downtown Cincinnati is just behond the bend, and you can actually see the tip top of the Great American building and Carew Tower over the Kentucky Hills on the other side of the river. The overlook certainly reminds me of the Heekin Overlook in Ault Park with the open top and wooden supports. (If you’re on the front page, click “more” to continue with more pictures) (more…)
After the rain we had over the night, I was expecting to wake up to a gloomy wet morning. When I woke up I was happy to discover that there were light clouds in the sky but no rain. The forecast said today would have a “100%” chance of thunder storms. As it turns out they were correct, but the front didn’t move in until about 09:15am.
The dawn light had some definite color to it. (More after the “click to continue”) (more…)