Fall 2022 – Supporting Our Trails

I am a lifelong environmentalist.  For almost two years now, I’ve been registered with the National Park Service as a trail steward in Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I’m supporting our trails.  I’m responsible for keeping tabs on the Cedar Ridge Trail, observing and reporting whenever any major trail work needs to be done.  The NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail, or MST, also follows the Blue Ridge Parkway through Doughton Park before it turns to descend the escarpment into Stone Mountain State Park.

So I also spend a lot of time hiking on the MST, unable to help myself, staying in “observe and report” mode as I also explore opportunities for beautiful photography and timelapse captures.  I’m working on an essay describing my adventures finding and protecting several Carolina Lilies along the MST in the park (stay tuned!).  This adventure was the catalyst for me getting to know the leaders of the Friends of the MST a little bit better.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ben Erlandson Photography (@beerland)

The MST is a state treasure, running 1175 miles from Clingmans Dome to the Outer Banks.  On the sections I’ve hiked, I have to say that is an excellent trail.  In order for the MST to stay excellent, it needs a lot of maintenance: volunteer hours and donations of dollars.

In addition to volunteering, I’m raising funds for the Friends of the MST by selling special edition signed and numbered prints of several recent photographs I’ve captured along the MST, either in Doughton Park or Stone Mountain Park.

Fundraiser Details

One of the things I like most about these signed matted prints is that, if you want to frame it, it is a standard sized mat, which means it will be easier to find a frame you like that fits the decor of the space where you choose to hang it.

There are twenty-five prints total: four sets of five numbered prints, and five individually numbered prints.  The prints I’ve created are mounted, matted, and protected in a cellophane sleeve, as shown here:

One of the signed matted prints for sale.

Profits beyond cost for the matted prints will be donated to the Friends of the MST.  If I sell all the prints, the total donation will be $1,375.00.  If I can raise this total by the end of November 2022, I will personally round it up to an even $1500.00!

If you’d like to purchase one or more prints, they can be shipped anywhere in the United States, or picked up in person at my studio office in Sparta, NC.  I’ve included a purchase link for each photo print, which will take you to my Square checkout site for ordering online.

Beware: Prints are available on a first come, first served basis!!!

Below you’ll find a description of each photo print available.

MST – Doughton Park (series of 5)

Print size is 8 x 12 inches, gray matte size is 12 x 16 inches

$100 – Purchase this print

The MST is just out of the frame, to the right of this big rock.  This is one of the most iconic spots in Doughton Park.  I love the way the light hits the grass.

Fall Colors Over Stone Mountain (series of 5)

Print size is 8 x 12 inches, gray matte size is 12 x 16 inches

$100 – Purchase this print

This is a great view of Stone Mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway, near one of the overlooks.  You can’t see it, but the MST goes down through that valley.

MST – Doughton Tree Rock (series of 5)

Print size is 8 x 12 inches, gray matte size is 12 x 16 inches

$100 – Purchase this print

This is one of my favorite trees in Doughton Park.  Where I was standing to take this shot, the MST runs directly behind me.  I’ve always enjoyed capturing natural shadows on different surfaces.  It’s like a sun signature, perhaps?

MST – Bluffs Cloud Mirror (series of 5)

Print size is 8 x 12 inches, gray matte size is 12 x 16 inches

$100 – Purchase this print

This is one of my favorite photos in my collection.  Seriously.  I came up on this familiar spot after a particular rain with lingering puddles, and got lucky enough to capture this shot.  This is the Bluffs.  One of my sanctuaries.  Clearly shown is the trail marker for the MST.

Stone Mountain (1/1)

Print size is 9 x 12 inches, light gray matte size is 16 x 20 inches

$150 – Purchase this print

This is one of the better shots of Stone Mountain I’ve ever captured from below grade.  If you didn’t know, Stone Mountain is a monadnock, which is “an isolated hill or ridge or erosion-resistant rock rising above a peneplain.”  It’s one big solid rock.  I love how the black and white shows off its beautiful texture.

MST – Storm Clouds Over Doughton (1/1)

Print size is 9 x 12 inches, light gray matte size is 16 x 20 inches

$150 – Purchase this print

This is a shot straight down the MST, headed southbound, or eastbound, toward the ocean.  One of the best things about Doughton Park (and all of the escarpment) is the constantly dynamic skies.  Never the same skies twice.  Every second should be savored.  This is also what makes Doughton such a great spot for timelapse captures.

Unknown Creek Reflection (1/1)

Print size is 9 x 12 inches, light gray matte size is 16 x 20 inches

$150 – Purchase this print

I’ve always been interested in capturing reflections.  Sometimes it’s best to slow down, be still, and look down!

MST – Foggy Morning Spider (1/1)

Print size is 9 x 12 inches, light gray matte size is 16 x 20 inches

$150 – Purchase this print

The open corridor of the MST is a haven for spiders.  With all the fog we get up here, this is a very common scene.  The early bird gets the morning dew (or fog) on the webs, with perfect angles of light!

MST – Wildcat Sunrise (1/1)

Print size is 9 x 12 inches, light gray matte size is 16 x 20 inches

$150 – Purchase this print

Basically every time I go to Doughton, I visit Wildcat Rock.  Since I was a small child.  So, I’ve been coming to this spot for over forty years.  This is a sacred space.  The MST runs along the pasture on the left, which is where the Storm Clouds shot mentioned above was captured.

Costa Rica: Three Days Of Chirripó

Day 0 – Dec 28, 2018

We’ve been at the house near Dominical for several days now, almost a week.  It’s a nice change of pace to head to San Isidro de El General, where we are to rendezvous with Walter, our guide who will lead us to the trailhead and ensure that we’re properly registered for the trek.  The drive to San Isidro is rather calming. In the vehicle with me are my father, my brother-in-law, and my nephew, who is currently nine years old. We speculate that upon completion of our trek, he will be in the running for being the youngest person to summit Cerro Chirripó this year.  Just in the nick of time, since our calendar year is almost over.

Not surprisingly, it’s rather easy to find our meeting place—Panaderia y Cafeteria Mi K-fe—however, there is some consternation over where to park the vehicle.  We end up being able to park next to the cafe, and we head in to get some lunch. I order a cafe con leche and huevos rancheros. The waitress brings a cart to the table and makes my coffee on the spot.

Cafe con leche
Huevos Rancheros

My father has been communicating with Walter, and he joins us soon after we arrive at the cafe.  Walter is quite amicable, and I find out later he is 72 years old, even though he only looks about 55 years old.  He tells me more about Mi K-fe: it’s a local chain with ten or so locations, essentially a franchise, and if I understand correctly, the one in which we sit is the original.  We finish lunch, and the first stop is to fuel up at a gas station in San Isidro since our vehicle is almost empty. We get a brief experience of rush hour in a Costa Rican city (the second largest in San José Province) before we continue up the road to San Gerardo de Rivas in the Talamanca Mountains. Continue reading Costa Rica: Three Days Of Chirripó

Timespace: Early December Snow

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.

Continue reading Timespace: Early December Snow

Creative Concepts: Ecological Experiential Documentation

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.)

Map of United States National Monuments
Map of United States National Monuments

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.

Continue reading Creative Concepts: Ecological Experiential Documentation

Hybrid Learning: Get Soaked

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.

Strava Log of Stone Mtn MST hike
Strava Log of Stone Mtn MST hike

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

Share This