Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Adventure in Beats and Bass

So, there was no trail hiking going on last weekend. We had a visitor in town.

Not me personally, but in a move remininscent of the Platinum weekly events of yore, Philadelphia nightclub Fluid invited Mr. J Majik of the U.K. to their intimate, yet emotionally explosive venue just off of South Street.

Now, if there's anything that defines me just as much as the great outdoors and photography, it's the sound of hard-hitting, sub-smashing, bassline-booming, dancefloor-filling, soul-flying drum'n'bass.

It's been in my blood for about 15 years now- from collections like The History of Our World by DJ DB to A Soldier's Story by Dieselboy to Disturbance by Concord Dawn. (and I was able to capture this moment of drum'n'bass-fueled nature's lightning show at Starscape 2008.

I'm not as up-to-date on the new stuff these days, but when you hear that an artist like J Majik is coming to town, you drop everything and throw yourself into the vibe.

Which usually means cancelling all physical activities the morning after.

I danced myself sick. And so did alot of others. Congratulations to Defcon, Circle Management and Fluid for throwing a great party! The days of Thursday night Platinum events with Dieselboy, Dara and AK1200 are gone, but thanks to these guys and sites like Philly D'n' it looks like the Philly scene is still very much alive.

Friday, September 12th, 2008. This is, again, not to be missed. Calyx is one of the new guys I've been turned on to. His "Follow The Leader" track from '05 is a tech-step masterpiece. It's got a growling bassline that takes no prisoners.

See you on the Trail (or on the Dancefloor).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Trail Story of Another

Here's an account of a Delaware columnist's adventure on both the Sensory and the Swamp Forest Trails at Lum's Pond.

To follow up with my story, I still have not yet contacted Columbia regarding my massive boot failure in the middle of last week's hike. It's on my to do list, I promise.

This Saturday looks like great weather, although I can't do a big drive because of plans later in the afternoon. Maybe a shot at the Brandywine Creek trails? I'll have to look into it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Passion (or the Curse)

"Photography Kills."

"You Can't Live With It...You Can't Live Without It."

"A Picture says a Thousand Words, but I can't say the same about the Photographer."

Let's face it, those of us bitten by the photography bug know all too well the euphoria of the rush and the pain of the addiction. It's a serious affliction, this image-seeking, light-metering, manual-focusing behavior.

But the rewards are well worth the sacrafice, and many times these results come from days on the trail.

This guy knows.
This is Benjamin Burner of Burner Photography. He's got a blog and website of his hikes and photographs (alot of wide majestic mountainscapes and grand views of the Sierra Nevadas and Yellowstone area). Check it out - and he's been working on a photo book.

Until my next chance to hit a trail for the Trail Challenge, I'll drop in some pictures and thoughts from my other travels around this planet. At the top of this post is a shot from the edge of the Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, Philippines.

And here's my own description of my personal style of photography:

Documenting an Event (no matter how trivial) helps to mark it's fleeting existence in time and human memory. Even the smallest Event, with a supposedly minute significance to outside observers, is, by definition, the Here And Now for it's immediate participants. This gives this Event a meaning and significance far surpassing any prior Event, therefore deeming it worthy of Documentation. A Documentation of this sort allows one to acknowledge this meaning and significance, to recognize its place as a Moment in Time for it's participants and preserve its existence in the collective memory of society."

"Whether it's on the other side of the planet or in our own kitchen, I guess we're always in Discovery mode- of what's inside and outside of ourselves- through the the uses of letters, words and sentences as well as shapes, lines and color. Hopefully, my blog has been a vehicle for sharing some of that discovery to my readers, as well as a catharctic activity for myself...even if not all of the pictures rank up in the category of Fine Art. (Originally written for What's Up in Our World)

Ansel Adams says: "Do not depreciate the importance of a snapshot. While to many it is the symbol of thoughtlessness and chance, it is a flash of recognition. It represents something of value in the world, which -for many reasons- we wish to perpetuate. It represents something seen, it may have real human and historic value. The more we look, the more we see... the more we see the more we respond. When we begin visualizing our response to our world in terms of images we become photographers in the most rewarding sense of the word."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Lums Pond, Fort Delaware and Port Penn

[Wild Berries at Lums Pond State Park]

Today was forecasted to be the most gorgeously non-hot, low humidity day we’ve had in a long while, so I decided to get right into it and tackle a few trails. From where I live, the farthest park with Trail Challenge trails are about 2 hours and 20 minutes away, but with the 2008 Opening Ceremonies in Beijing (which were mind-blowing from a production and choreography standpoint) I didn’t want to get up so super-early to do those long drives (I will have to eventually, but not just yet!)

I decided to do the 4 trails located in the Lums Pond and Fort Delaware/Port Penn Park, since both are only 40-some minutes away and only a few minutes from each other. These trails would be the Swamp Forest (7.4mi), the Sensory (0.1mi), the Prison Camp (.9) and the Wetlands (1.5) for a total of 9.9 miles. As is turned out, I did slightly more than this because of a curious lack of navigational clarification at various points.

A Personal Note to the State of Delaware: I know you’re a real small state and enjoy that sort of small-town- everybody-knows each other-aura, but if you’re going to try and solicit visitors to come to your state parks, you’ve got to stop behaving like everyone knows this place like their backyard. Most of the “addresses” on the brochure and website read something like “Route 9, Port Penn”. Thanks. That’s like saying “Market Street, Philadelphia” for those of us non-residents. But enough of that now.

Most of these parks open at 8am, so a little after 7 I headed out to hit first the Swamp Forest at Lums Pond. A few minutes down I-95, a little on Route 1, and after a few bends and curves, I drive right past it. The first indication of being close to the main entrance is a big “Do Not Enter” sign. Nice touch. After missing the entrance, you have to do a bit of Jersey-style maneuvering to get yourself back on track. Inside, I pay to park and find a parking spot right in front of the Nature Center, the starting point for the quick .1 mile Sensory Trail:

“Stop by the Nature Center and pick up a blindfold and tape recorder (available Memorial Day through Labor Day). The aim of this short, wooden-railed boardwalk is to let you use senses other than sight to experience nature. "Touch, Sound or Smell" stations along the way are part of the fun. Afterwards, remove your blindfold and enjoy the view of the "whale wallow," a seasonally flooded coastal plain pond that is home to a host of interesting plants and animals. This handicapped-accessible trail begins and ends behind the Nature Center.”

Which was closed. No blindfold or tape recorder for me, so in the spirit of the experience I closed my eyes and felt my way along the wooden walkway (with ample wooden railings to hold on to.

Most of the “Touch” senses involved early morning dew and the sticky threads of several dozen spiders who had apparently made the wooden Sensory Trail railings into their overnight accommodations. Once done, I consulted the park map, put on the daypack and headed off to the Swamp Forest Trail:

“This trail circles 200-acre Lums Pond, which was built by the Army Corps of Engineers to hold water for the locks of the original C&D Canal. The main starting point is by the pond near the Nature Center, but there is access from many points along the loop. Hike through woods and fields and across 26 bridges. Keep your eyes open for beaver, fox, deer, muskrat and large wading birds. Be aware that following heavy rain, this trail remains very wet.”

Be also aware that this trail is so incredibly poorly marked, you probably going to do a lot more than 7.4 miles. Yes, maps are available but they’re not exactly to any sort of scale and there are signposts out on the trails that don’t correspond to the maps in anyway, so the best of luck to you if you do this. My advice would be to consult the map every few minutes, or else you'll find yourself at other 3-way intersection with no markings whatsoever and have no clue where you're supposed to go. But I found it eventually, with some very pretty scenery and soon got into the hiking groove.

A few minutes later, an odd sensation under my right foot mandated some closer attention and I look down to find this happening to my wonderful, time-tested Columbia boot:

This situation might quickly have been put into the “Houston, Abort Mission” category. However, I found that the inner sub-sole was more than adequate to protect against sticks and rocks and actually lessened the shoe weight dramatically and added a more tactile feel of the root-filled trail surface. So, the dead tread went in the backpack and on I continued. I'll contact Columbia tommorow.

[An adventure-filled life on trails around the world comes to a bitter end for this poor sole soul!]

On the pancake-flat ground, the going was easy through marshes and wooded areas, across bridges and along the lake then... into a field… A field filled with Cricket players but no trail markers at all.

It took some map work and guessing to stay on track and not get hit by flying frisbees from the disc golf players. The trail then led down to a boat ramp and through some picnic areas before ducking back into the woods and returning back to the original start position.

[Each trail has it's own punch tool to mark your card with. I initially printed out my card at home, but picked up a real one at the park office. I'm glad I did because using these punch tools on a 8.5x11 sheet of printer paper might be a bit difficult.

Also, in every one of the 4 trails I did, the punch was located such that a person so inclined could walk a total of .0001 miles from their car and still get the 4 punches needed to "prove" he or she did the trail. The Honor System in Full Effect.]

[Lots of insect life around the shores of Lums Pond]

The entire trip, even with all the picture-taking, gear failures, and route-guessing took me a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes.
After re-filling the canteen with water at the Nature Center and doing some stretching ( my hips and upper legs were screaming at me towards the end), I got back in the car and headed to Fort Delaware.

The Prison Camp Trail:

“In addition to its Civil War fort, Pea Patch Island boasts the state's largest nesting site for egrets, herons, and ibis. For spectacular views of the birds, hike the nature trail that winds through the woods to an observation platform overlooking the northern side of the island. Begin to the north of the fort. It's important to note that the boat to the island runs on weekends from late April through September, and Wednesday through Sunday from mid-June through Labor Day.”

It’s also important to note that the transportation to and from this island is managed by crack-heads.

But it’s a fun way to get around! It costs $11 a person for a round-trip ticket to Pea Patch Island. Actually, it’s only the first leg that you pay for (they take the ticket from you when you board the boat). I guess they figure if you’ve gotten yourself to the island somehow, you deserve a free ride back!

It was a beautiful ride on the water, with sunny blue skies and a nice stiff refreshing breeze from the motion of the boat.
After disembarking, you walk over a boardwalk and load into another vehicle (almost Palawan-style).

[An exterior and interior view of Fort Delaware]

A guide briefly introduced us to the prison (sort of a not-as-creepy Eastern State) and the various buildings surrounding it, but no mention of any trail. I inquired inside, and another guide took me back outside to show me a wooden post a few dozen yards away where the trees started. Off I went. The trail was wide and well-kept and went through some very pretty ivy-covered forests along the stone breakwater. A wooden “Heronry stand” yielded an elevated view, but no visible “heronries”.

The trail looped around and met up with it’s beginning. (Of course, this wasn’t noted at all, and I just about took the wrong turn and went around again in an endless, looping Heronry nightmare). I took a stroll around the back of the Fort and found a lone heron catching fish in the moat.

Back at the dock (I walked the road back, since no truck was in sight), the boat was just about to leave so I picked up my pace to catch it and was almost aboard when I discovered that this same boat that I had taken over, was not, in fact, heading back to Delaware, but to New Jersey. Now there’s nowhere in the world that I would wish more to NOT arrive at unexpectedly, so off the boat I go to wait with the other Delaware-bound folks. Again, communication could be better!. 45 minutes later (at a time not exactly listed on the printed boat schedule), it showed up and took the remaining ones of us back to the Delaware shore.

[My fellow travelers, waiting for the ferry. During the wait for the not-so-on-schedule ferry, we were entertained by a trio of way-beyond-drunk fisherman in a motorboat.]

On to The Wetlands

“Begin the interpretive trail on Route 9, across from the Port Penn Interpretive Center. On this easy trail, you can take a closer look at the relationship that existed between the wetlands and Port Penners in the past, and recognize how the land continues to influence the lives of the people here today.”

The Port Penn Interpretive Center (on Route 9, as they say) is located just behind a massive construction-orange temporary electronic LED sign flashing something alarming like “Road Closed Ahead…Beware of Dog” or something. Whatever it said, it distracted me enough to miss the building, and continue on past a crab place called “Kellys” and out towards the water.

When a second massive construction-orange temporary electronic LED sign re-itterated it’s message, I figured it was time to call. (Phone numbers are on the brochure, thankfully!) The man who answered the phone was friendly and told me that the building was located at the corner of Market and Liberty (“...on Route 9” he added…yes, I’ve got that…).

Turned around, back past the crab place called “Kellys” and found a quaint little building with a museum and nature information. The man I talked to on the phone met me at the door and showed me where the trail started, gave me a map and some information on birds and plants that I would see and even offered some bug repellent.

Before I took off, he said “You know there’s a place back up the road, it’s got the best crab cakes you’ve ever’s called Kellys”.

The Wetlands trail starts off the first few yards paved, then opens up into an elevated wooden walkway over an endless sea of cattail plants.

It then heads into a wide path with dense vegetation on either side before cutting across a small parking lot and out onto a skinny strip of land. There were people in the water with nets, and I saw at least 2 buckets filled with colorful freshly caught crabs. The trail then came to an unanticipated stop where a 6-foot wide section had been completely washed out. Not willing to risk life and limb camera for this endeavor, I headed back.*

[Where the Sidewalk Trail Ends]

At one point, the trail runs by somebody's private backyard with a whole plot of beautiful sunflowers. I know it's Delaware, so thank you for not shooting me for trespassing.

The friendly guy at the Center greeted me and let me refill my canteen at the water cooler in the museum. He showed me a few of the things he had on disply and I told him about the washout at the end of the trail. Then it was off to Kelly’s.

I drank $3 Yuenglings out of a Mason jar next to a guy in a John Deere hat drinking Old Milwaukee out of a can.

And the Crab Cakes were fantastic.
A good day.

*You can blame the strike-through jokes on Mr. Lady (Whiskey in My Sippy Cup)

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Official Marketing, Rules & Prizes

Delaware State Parks and Nemours Health & Prevention Services are working together to encourage children and families to take the Delaware State Parks Trail Challenge and support Nemours "5-2-1, Almost None" initiative, plus win great prizes!

With more than 80 scenic miles of trails in ten state parks, hiking is easily accessible throughout Delaware. The state's relatively mild terrain makes hiking here something that everyone can do, whether you're young or old, a novice or a fitness fanatic. And it doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment. All you really need is a good pair of shoes — sneakers are fine for short hikes.

Once you're hooked on hiking, you'll want to take the Trail Challenge. Hike 15 designated state park trails, measuring almost 40 miles, within twelve months and win the Golden Boot Award! Successful efforts will be rewarded with a distinctive patch and a certificate. To complete the challenge simply take along your Trail Challenge card, locate the trail punch station along each trail, and use the coded punch to mark the appropriate space on your card. If you miss the marker at any park, contact the park office.

Submit your completed Trail Challenge card by December 31, 2008 to get a pedometer and be entered in a drawing for three great prizes!

1st Prize
5 day/4 night stay in a year-round, fully-equipped cottage that sleeps six in a spectacular natural setting in an Ohio State Park, plus $1000 for travel expenses!

2nd Prize

4 day/3 night cabin stay at Tuckahoe State Park in Maryland, plus $600 for travel expenses. Enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing and more!

3rd Prize
3 day/2 night cabin stay at Trap Pond State Park in Delaware plus $400 for travel expenses.