Fall’s first days

_C1_4813.JPGThousands upon thousands of motorcyclists rolled into town this past week for Bikes, Blues and BBQ, but for the first time since I moved here, I mostly skipped it. The rally has an oversupply of photographable characters, not least one fellow in a Viking helmet who buzzed around on a scooter waving around a plastic hammer. But I wasn’t really feeling the earsplitting roars and smattering of white supremacist symbols that also tend to come with it. I hiked this morning instead.

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_C1_3497.JPGThe first time I walked around Lake Wedington, back in April, the lake and the waterfall draining it were overflowing with rainwater. I had to turn around about halfway down the trail because of it. Now we’ve gotten hardly any rain weeks, so I wanted to try again.

The water was mostly still, steaming in the early morning and disturbed only occasionally by a solitary circle of ripples. The trees have begun losing their green. A motorcycle occasionally drove by on the lake’s other side.

When I got to the end of the lake’s dam, suddenly there were a lot more of those ripples. Little black shapes hopped out of a quiet cove every few feet, one after the other. They disappeared so quickly that I’m still not sure if they were frogs or little fish, fleeing from a bigger fish or pouncing on prey. They popped up silently and constantly for at least the 20 minutes I sat watching.

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_C1_4765.JPGThe waterfall was a trickle, but I still couldn’t go any further. Spiderwebs more than a foot wide slung across the path. I knocked one down, made lots of noise when I walked into another, and saw yet another further along. You win.

_C1_4774.JPGThanks for looking, and happy fall.

Dan

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In the wind

IMG_2872.JPGHappy Hispanic Heritage Month from here in Fayetteville. The city’s Chamber of Commerce marked the occasion with a two-parter festival. The first part yesterday brought sunshine and Argentinian dance. The second part today was cut off by blustery winds and a strong afternoon downpour, but not before its parade had a chance to circle Fayetteville’s square.

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IMG_2924.JPGThe event was officially apolitical, but celebrating Hispanic heritage almost seems like a political statement in itself these days, given the intense focus on immigration and policy and our president. I wrote up an article for today’s paper about how deferred action for childhood arrivals, the Obama-era protection from deportation given to hundreds of thousands young immigrants, stands a decent chance of becoming a law in Congress now. We’ll see what comes of it.

IMG_2943.JPGA programming note — this blog now has a companion Facebook page. You can get to it by clicking here. Give it a like, if you like, and you’ll find some of the classics from this blog’s annals, a first look at some shots before they’re blogged, and an easy link to prints and cards, if any of these images ever strike your fancy. Only 99 days until Christmas and all that.

Thanks, as always, for looking.

Dan

The center of the world

_C1_3223.JPGThis mountain bears the likenesses of some of the most influential people in United States history and took more than a decade to carve. It’s a striking and masterly monument, without question. But even more impressive, at least to me, is the other history tied to Mount Rushmore and the rest of South Dakota’s Black Hills.

From a geological perspective, some of this rock is about half the age of the planet. Some of it is the rounded and durable granite you see above. Other outcroppings have been squeezed and deformed, sometimes until the original rock layers are vertical, and sparkle in the sun with countless flecks of mica. All of it is topped with rugged pine and spruce that give the Black Hills their name.

As for humans, they’ve been living around here for at least 12,000 years. The hills are therefore heavy with myth and religious significance, including ties to Oglala Lakota creation stories. A holy man named Black Elk called this place the center of the world, and his people called Mount Rushmore The Six Grandfathers, referring to the earth, sky and four cardinal directions, which might make Rushmore something like seizing and then carving into the Sistine Chapel. The U.S. swore it wouldn’t take these lands but broke the promise because of gold. (The U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 ruled several tribes were owed compensation now worth more than $1 billion because of this, but they haven’t taken it, preferring to get at least some of the land back.)

Despite all of this, it isn’t hard to see much of the Black Hills as they have been for ages, even just around the corner from the monument.

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IMG_2719.JPG(Note the climber there in the lower middle)

The Black Hills also hold more wonders hundreds of feet underground, and I don’t mean that gold. Wind Cave National Park, about 20 miles south of Rushmore, holds at least 150 explored miles of passages that could connect to several times as many unexplored miles, according to the National Park Service. Those passages are often brimming with formations called boxwork — tangled, glittering, translucent blades of calcite about the width and sturdiness of tortilla chips. I couldn’t photograph it adequately, but try to imagine this coating the walls and ceiling around you:

IMG_2681.JPGSome chambers feature calcite in other forms, like spiky frostwork and little rounded blobs called cave popcorn, or, in this case, both:

IMG_2682.JPGIn the end, all of the Black Hills’ contents have something to offer. Just remember where you’re standing.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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