Early December snow fell on Alleghany County, North Carolina. We got about six or eight inches, with deeper drifts in the usual spots. Of course, as a photographer, as the flakes start to fall, and it becomes apparent that we’re going to get some serious accumulation that will stick around for a while, I start thinking about the best spots to shoot, and how to get there before they’re disturbed, especially by other humans.
And I start checking the weather forecast to figure out when and where the light and snowscapes are going to be best, thanks to clouds, wind, and all those intricately interwoven variables we just can’t know.
December 9th, 02017
My father and I started on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the gate near Mahogany Rock Road, at the base of Bullhead Mountain. Technically, I can easily hike here from the house, but I wanted to save some time and get to some good spots while the conditions were good — and potentially before anyone else got there.
As I continue to travel the world—and spend more time exploring my own big backyard right here in North Carolina—I’ve come to realize that I can apply my academic training, professional experience, intelligence, and creative abilities in a combined effort over the next few decades to produce what I think and believe will be experiential documents worth consuming as materials for lifelong learning and understanding. I am conceptualizing an ongoing series of experiential documentation, taking appropriate form over time as ebooks, print books, magazines, interactive apps, websites, and perhaps even videos.
This concept first came to me when I was looking at a map of the United States and thinking about the difference between national parks and national monuments. Based on my personal experience onsite at various national monuments, coupled with my research and perusal of the maps of these monuments and the surrounding areas, I realized that I would love to commit to exploring and documenting a sense of place in each of these areas—demonstrating their importance as sacred spaces for maintaining the natural order of our relationship with the environment and all other species with which we share it.
So, to put a stake in the ground, I created a map of all the US National Monuments. (Yes, there is at least one that does not appear in the image.)
Inspired by my recent trip to Helsinki, which included a stay at the hostel on Suomenlinna, I decided to add UNESCO World Heritage sites to the map. I figured it would be interesting to see how many UNESCO sites in North America are within reasonable proximity to US National Monuments, thus allowing me to combine several locations into exploratory experiential documentation journeys of 1-3 months in duration.
On Sunday, July 5, we went for a hike in one of my favorite places on this planet (Stone Mountain State Park) on a section of what is becoming one of my favorite trails, the MST. One of the many reasons I love Stone Mountain is that it is such a photogenic rock:
But on this day, we skirted around the rock and headed for the base of the escarpment, just past Widows Creek.
I’ve used Strava for quite some time to track my bicycling efforts, and recently I’ve discovered that it is also pretty good for tracking hikes. So, I thought I’d track my Sunday “stroll” up the escarpment. Results below, and here.
With my father, I had done the hike before in reverse, one way — from the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Stone Mountain backpackers’ parking lot. On the 5th I wanted to go up and back, hoping to turn around at the ruins of an old mountain shack. Continue reading Hybrid Learning: Get Soaked