Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The One Where I Went To Colorado

Alternatively, the one where we climbed mountains in the dark.

'Cause we are just that legit.

So last Wednesday my youth group and I left for Western Kansas to meet up with some other youth to head to Colorado to work on a Lutheran summer camp, getting it ready for the summer camps.

It was a ton of fun-- and a ton of work. I worked on staining first, and stained some sheds for about a day and a half. I still have stain on my arm. Apparently it doesn't come off. When all the available wood had been stained, I helped to clear a field-- which involved dragging branches and chopping up wood.

On Sunday, after two days of working, almost all the work was done-- it was our day to relax. The camp, situated in the Rockies, was right next to Cedar Mountain. So, a sunrise hike was planned. Now the trick to a sunrise hike is that the sun is supposed to rise once you reach the top of the mountain.

Which means that at 3:40 on Sunday morning, an alarm screeched as I tiredly climbed out of my lofted bed. It was pitch black, with a nasty cold wind. I dressed in as many layers as I had put into my duffel bag-- which wasn't much. I'm used to Arkansas weather, not cool Colorado summers.

Regardless, at four o'clock in the morning we left for the mountain. In my early morning-- late night really-- rush I hadn't even thought to bring a flashlight. So, I stuck close to a guy in my youth group who had had to the foresight to bring light.

The hike started out innocently enough, slightly uphill, but nothing challenging. Then, it got worse. The loose dirt changed into large rocks and we started to climb.

In the dark, mind you. It was difficult on a good day, but the lack of light simply added to the challenge.

Some struggle and one ladder climb later, we were at the top-- 900 feet higher than we had been when we started. It was even colder on the top of the mountain. The wind tore across the land, taking with it any precious body heat we had left.

After 40 minutes spent anxiously watching the eastern horizon, and wondering how long it took for frostbite to start, the sun finally decided to rise.

It definitely was beautiful, though the true wonder was lost on those of us who couldn't feel their extremities.

I'm pretty sure that's Pike's Peak-- there was snow on the top of it! It was sort of surreal, seeing snow, however far away, a week away from June. At least for this Arkansasan girl it was odd.

One of the mission groups before us hauled the wood to the top of the mountain to build this cross :) It was pretty, and a nice thing to see after the what I believe was death defying ascent.

That is just one short story about the amazing time I had up at the Lutheran Valley Retreat. It was amazing to see my first mountains. :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fresh Bread

Hello there! It has been far too long since I last posted and I don't even have a good excuse. I've just been laying around the house, catching up on my sleep, unpacking from college, playing Zelda, and well, taking pictures ;)

My family and I recently went to an old car show.

It was in this field, and the sun was quite warm. Regardless, there were a lot of old, cool cars. While I can't understand all the money that they spend making these cars so spiffy (I would much rather buy a new lens), I can still admire their beauty.

I've wanted to make some bread for a while. I love making bread from scratch by hand. It's so rewarding to take some basic ingredients, flour and the sort, and turn it into a delicious loaf of bread in no time.

The bread I made had rosemary and thyme in it-- it really gave it good flavor.

At first I tried to make one long braid with my dough. It proved to be slightly too long for the sheet so I decided to cut it into two smaller braids.

After some rising and baking in the oven, two aromatic loaves were ready to be eaten. I melted some butter and brushed it on top of them. They looked so amazing, fresh from the oven, glistening with butter.

Suffice to say, they were gone in no time ;)

So! I have broken my sad no blogging streak only to say that I won't be able to post for a while. I may get one more post in, but then I'm off to Colorado for a mission trip with my youth group! I'm so excited :D I've never been to Colorado, and rest assured I'll come back with a tonnnnnn of photos to post :D

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mon Jardin

My garden for those qui ne parle pas francais couramment. ;)

Thursday was the first day in a while where I was able to sleep in.

And so, of course, I woke up at eight in the morning. Feeling completely rested, I got up, bemoaning my inability to be a good teenager. Which I guess is a good thing seeing how I have less than a year left to be a teen. O.O

Okay, moving on....Getting up at that ridiculous hour of the morning has its perks. As I was walking to the kitchen, I glanced outside. The early morning light was gracing the back of our yard-- fresh, bright light highlighted the blanket of green.

I didn't do much editing on any of the pictures. I liked the way they turned out, straight out of the camera. There was natural contrast in the early morning light.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm becoming a little over the shallow depth of field! Before getting my SLR, all I wanted in life was a shallow depth of field, and a blurry background. Now, however, the shallow depth of field seems too shallow at times and it's difficult to get my entire subject in focus. I've begun to experiment with a wider depth of field.

How do you determine depth of field??

1. The main way to manipulate depth of field is your aperture. Low # (say f/2) equals shallow depth of field. The larger the number, the larger portion of your photo that is in focus. The benefit of having a low number is that it allows more light into your camera-- which allows you to have a decent shutter speed. If you up the aperture to a large number, you either need an increased ISO or a longer shutter speed.

2. Focal length! Basically, the larger the number, the easier it is to get a shallow depth of field. For me, if I zoom in to like 55 mm on my lens, my background is really blurry. If I stay at 13 mm, the background is barely blurry.

That's the basics! I could go a lot more in depth, but I want it to be understandable to those who don't really know much about photography. I know when I was first starting out, technical terms often confused the meaning of an otherwise helpful article.

The picture below was my favorite of the bunch. I'm trying to take pictures that are interesting without using shallow depth of field as almost a crutch. The picture below was shot at f/5.6 at 55 mm. Because I wasn't realllyyy close to my subject, I had a slightly larger depth of field.

Sorry if any of this is confusing! I've never tried to explain photography tips/techniques-- something I'm going to start to do.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Free Time

Home sweet home!

After approximately twenty hours in a car, I am finally back home :) Granted, long car rides have a habit of helping me be productive. On the way to Iowa, I wrote out some blog posts. On the way back home, I messed with one of Einstein's theory of special relativity equation, manipulating it trying to affirm that nothing with mass can travel the speed of light. I've been told this fact before, but really wanted to mathematically prove it. ((no one will probably notice but I am missing a square root sign, something that I added after I took the picture. The result still stands))

Granted, my result is 'indeterminate' which in Calculus means try something else. However, I'm living in the blissful ignorance that my little scribblings actually gave me a result.

I could go on for pages about special relativity, faster than light travel, quantum mechanics, and everything else but! I'll spare you guys.

This is an adorable wild bunny rabbit my cousin has half-way tamed. My cousin puts out food for her, and she shows up at least once a day. She even brought her baby this time-- I didn't get a picture but rest assured he was ball of fluffy adorableness.

While in Iowa, I went to a zoo with my cousin and her boyfriend. It was around noon-- aka the worst time of the day to take photos. There were areas of intense brightness and dark shade. It was almost impossible to try and account for both-- most of my pictures came out with harsh areas of light and darkness. A couple of them, turned out decent.

There was this little petting zoo, full of sheep, goats, and a stubborn lama which turned its back on us and refused to turn around.

While I love zoos, sometimes they can be depressing. There was this little fox guy, in an indoor cage. The walls were painted in a mock-Arizona desert feel, as if to mask the fact that he'll never see the sun again. There were no windows; no outdoor part of his cage. He was stuck inside and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

Other animals-- especially at larger zoos-- have much better surroundings; cages that don't even resemble cages at all. It's not like I'm against zoos-- just the smaller ones that don't have the money to adequately support the animals.

On the way home, we stopped at a huge military cemetery-- it was started shortly after the civil war. The gassy hills offered an unique perspective of the graves.

I still can't believe that it's summer vacation-- I keep expecting to go back to Hendrix in like a week. Speaking of in a week, in a week I'll be in Colorado! least I'll be on the way to Colorado!! I'm going there next Wednesday with my youth group. We'll be fixing up a Lutheran summer camp, and doing a community pancake breakfast-- I'm excited :D

I don't say this enough but, to whoever might be reading, thanks for stopping by! :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Road trip 2.0

On the road again!

Yup, traveling once more. On Saturday I left Hendrix—don’t even get me started on saying goodbye to my freshmen year—and headed home. Sunday morning, we loaded up and took off for Iowa to visit relatives.

If you remember—which you probably don’t and I can’t blame you—last time we went to Iowa we made an unintended detour to Arnold, Missouri when our van broke down.

Well, here we are, same van, same trip, and hopefully a different result. The ride is, as always, long and somewhat boring but it is giving me a chance to catch up on blogging! Granted, there is no wi-fi signal out here on the road so I can’t actually post blog entries. However, I can write them and get the pictures ready. =)

We packed sandwiches in the morning for lunch. Last time we had to eat outside of a courthouse because we couldn’t find any other picnic tables in the town. This time, my father spotted a sign for river access, and on a whim swung off the highway. We twisted around and down through the trees, ending at a launching dock and a river. There was no picnic tables or really anything, but we made do, enjoying the beauty of nature.

On the way to the launching dock, I had spotted an old metal bridge, half-obscured by a mass of clinging vines. The road leading to it had been gone for a long time and so the bridge stood like a mystery, alone in the trees.

As we were leaving, my father stopped the car and I hopped out, pulling up my camera and taking some pictures of the old bridge.

I loved the worn-down look of it; how it had fallen into abandonment. I would have loved to get a closer look, but that would mean hoping over the guardrail, going down a steep hill, and then climbing up another one all the while hoping that there was no poison ivy or snakes lying in wait. Besides, we still had six hours to go. So I took some pictures and then headed back, mulling over the bridge. It was in the middle of what is now a national forest—why was such a big bridge built in the middle of nowhere? There were very little signs of human activity.

While I’m used to shooting nature, another area that has really caught my interest is structures in disrepair. I love stumbling upon an old house, the walls crumbling in, the plants eagerly taking over. I love the old stories that encircle the structure.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

That One Where We Went Rock Climbing

Funny story.

I’m actually writing this post on a Word document as we hurtle down the highway heading up North.

I don’t have an internet connection, so I figured that I would start writing now, and then post it when we reached our destination. Nine or so hours in a car can tend to get monotonous ((is it bad that when I look at that word I go ‘is the sequence bonded and monotonic?? Can I prove it’s convergent??’ Yup. That’s bad. Cal II has officially taken over my brain)) so to break up the boredom I decided to go through my photos and edit them.

We spent our few days of freedom, squashed between the end of finals and graduation, fully becoming true Hendrix students—aka nature loving hippies. I love Hendrix, but I noticed that after a year of living there, I’ve been changed. Walking barefoot is no big deal; I turn off lights whenever I leave a room; I use the terms ‘yeah man’ and ‘dude’ way more than I should (it’s a wonder my friends haven’t staged an intervention yet). Suffice to say, Hendrix is slowly turning me into a hippie.

Anyway! So, my friends and I were sitting around, wondering how to spend our days of freedom.

‘Hey man, don’t you think it’d be fun to climb Pinnacle?’ I suggested. Climbing Pinnacle, a nearby small mountain, was something that I had wanted to do for a while. I had seen a couple pictures on Facebook of someone who had climbed it and it looked beautiful. What was not pictured was the hellish ascent of deadly rocks that it took to reach the beautiful overlook.

So, blissfully ignorant, we set off, loading my car full of people and heading towards Pinnacle. We set off rather late—but doing the math in my head I figured we would have enough time to get up and down before sunset. Of course, this math in my head figured in an easy, quick jaunt up the mountain. We arrived at the mountain with semi-good hiking shoes and high hopes. What was notably missing was water bottles and realistic expectations.

It started off deceptively easy. The signs made no sense so we just picked a path a direction at random and started off. We were on level ground, circling the base of the mountain. There was a cool wind, and the verdant trees offered amply protection from the falling sun—the weather was perfect for a hike.

The trail wasn’t overly difficult—but it was tricky. Rocks and tree roots were strewn across the path, just waiting to catch your foot, twist your ankle. So it became a bit like driving—take your eyes off the path and you might end up tripping and falling. Since my eyes were forced to scan the ground, I spotted this beautiful luna moth. It made such a convincing leaf that I had to point it out to my friends, whose eyes merely passed over it.

Since it was dead, it was really easy to photograph—a morbid side effect.

When the trail continued to stay more or less level, we started to get worried. When were we going to start going up? We hurried along, expecting the trail to gently start rising. We finally reached the turn to began to lead us up the mountain and eagerly we pressed on. The path became slightly challenging—steeper than it had been but overall not too difficult. Happy that we were finally going uphill we continued up the winding trail.

And that is when, after a non-assuming bend in the dirt path, things got a little complicated.

The gentle incline stopped abruptly, and we were faced with a steep, rocky hill, with no end in sight. The slope wasn’t vertical but it was a formidable 35/40 degree incline. The rocks were large and for the most part, steady and held our weight. There were some parts where I had to use my hands for leverage and pull myself up. Other times I had to wedge my foot in a crack to hoist myself up on another rock. Scattered on the rocks were strips of red and white—trail markings.

We started off with such confidence and zip in our step—after all, how much further would we have to climb?

Thirty minutes later we stopped, panting as we leaned against the rocks.

The view was beautiful and made us forget about the bruises, the aching muscles, and the dry throats. We seemed fairly high up—we couldn’t be far from the top. A couple of guys were picking there was down, and we asked them if we were close to the top.

They laughed. ‘Oh, you’re about halfway there,’ they said with a smile, continuing on down.

Sighing, we resigned ourselves to more strenuous climbing, and continued on. After more swearing, sweating, complaining, and wistful thinking of water, we finally reached the top. Where I promptly collapsed on the rock and spread my arms out, catching the cool breeze.

I couldn’t stay lying down for long though—I had to see the view. I actually took a panorama-- I'll have to post it later!

Suffice to say, the view was worth the crazy ascent.

While the setting sun made for beautiful golden rays that danced across the land, it also served as a warning. Wait too long, and tempt fate by climbing down the mountain in the dark.

So, with only a couple of minutes spent catching our breath, we continued down. The path we used to get down was a different one—one that was drastically easier than the path we took to get up.

If only those signs had made sense we could have skipped the whole rock climbing bit. Though, I have to say, while I might complain about the rocks, and show off bruises, it was fun, in a challenging sort of way.

We took a second to catch our breath and I whipped out my camera to capture the beautiful light of magic hour reflecting off of my friend’s face.

We hurried down the easy path which should’ve been labeled ‘beginners’ in bright red paint at the very start of the trail.

With shaky legs and tired bodies, we finally came full circle and reached the parking lot. Collapsing into the car ((okay, maybe that was just me; the others took off running at the sight of a water fountain)) we set our sights on dinner—Chinese food.

Michael, who was from the area, directed us to this little hole-in-the-wall authentic Chinese restaurant. It was tucked away in the corner of an Asian supermarket hidden at the end of a dark strip mall. We parked in the mostly deserted parking lot and made our way in, getting there just in time to get food before they closed.

Cheap, authentic, and delicious—a perfect way to cap our night. =)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sunset over the Cliffs

Reveling in our new found freedom, my friends and I decided to check out 'the cliffs', an overlook that we had heard about through some friends.

It was this rocky outcropping that overlooked this large lake. After only a little difficulty in tracking it down, we got there just as the sun was setting-- the term 'magic hour' has never been so applicable.

We had just said goodbye to all of our friends-- each scattering off to different states for the summer. There is just a handful of us who have to play at graduation and thus stay longer. It's like being on a ghost campus-- everyone is gone, the parking lots are empty, the campus deserted. There are just a few seniors and band/choir members who hang around.

We climbed down a little trail past the main overlook to find the rocks. They were slanted a what was almost a forty-five degree angle. The sloped with the curve of the hill, towards the water. We perched ourselves on them, gazing out over to water, lit with the warm light of the dying sun.

People had come before us and decorated the rocks. Colorful painting sprawled out over the slick rocks.

The creativity and skill surprised me; the angle was awkward, I don't know how they managed to get such beautiful results.

I stayed away from the edge, grasping onto the rocks. It's not that I'm afraid of heights, I'm just afraid of harsh drop offs that end in rocks and a painful death.

We must have been close to a military base-- military grade planes kept flying over us a regular intervals.

We stayed up there for a while, chatting as we watched the sun set, wishing that we could have shared this experience with all of our friends. Band affords us the surprisingly fun opportunity to stay on campus with no work or responsibility to hold us back from having fun. This fun is paradoxically set against the bittersweet goodbyes of all of our friends.

Once the sun set we patiently watched as the stars began to pop into existence. Finally we reluctantly made our only slightly precarious way back up the hill towards the road. We had, of course, worn footwear that was totally appropriate for scaling rocks-- flip flops.

So today hopefully will be spent hiking the nearest mountain-- aka really kind of tall hill. Expect more pictures :)