… 33 Miles Later

The thing about backpacking is……. sometimes it’s not even that fun.

I mean who ever heard of walking up and down hills for hours on end carrying 40 pounds on your back with nothing to look forward to at night but your own stench and a bed that’s just not quite as comfortable as the one you left at home? Who said it was fun to get blisters on your feet and scrapes on your legs, to get soaked in the rain and baked in the sun, to get lost and to run around in the woods just to find a campsite for a little rest before doing it all again the next day?

But somehow I always want to get back out there.

The Plan

RRG map

I decided somewhere along the way that it’d be a pretty neat idea to thru-hike the Sheltowee Trace trail. That’s the 319 mile trail that runs through the Daniel Boone National Forest (plus a little in Tennessee). So to start preparing, my friend Clyde and I decided to test our hiking limits with 33 miles of backpacking over 3 days.

Day 1

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Bright-Eyed and Bushy Tailed at the Gray’s Arch Trailhead

Day 1 was exciting and fun. Until it wasn’t. We kept a fast pace but stopped at all the cool places along the way like Gray’s Arch and Hanson’s Point for photo-ops and a little R&R. All was well until we were 10 miles in with 3 miles yet to go and a heap of uphill in between. Our trek up onto the last ridge nearly put the nail in the coffin, but we persevered and eventually made it to camp.

Gray's Arch

Forever salty that the “Gateway to the West” stole its design from our very own Mother Nature. Where’s the credit, man!?

Trees actually plants

If you squint real hard, it almost feels like you’re flying over a forest

casual break

♫ “Sit beside a mountain stream – see her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies” ♫

Hammock in sunset

Hold on to those sweet fleeting rays of autumn sun, for winter will soon be upon us

fire

The night is dark and full of terrors

(10-7-17) Moon Landscape Indian Ridge

Howl at the moon, if you like. We all deserve to run with the pack

Day 2

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Still kickin’ somewhere along the Indian Staircase Ridge

Day 2: The middle child. Not too good, not too bad, prone to getting lost. Yeah, we got lost. It was my second time on the Osborn Bend Loop, and it was my second time losing the trail, but half an hour of bush-wacking straight south and we were back on track, only a few scratches worse for wear. The day ended with a couple miles of stream walking which turned into stream tromping as night grew closer and we still hadn’t found the campsite. Finally we stumbled on a big group of campers…on the site we’d planned to use. So we hiked back a little and set up along the shore before the rain hit.

drops

Pro Tip: check that your new treatment drops come with the dropper top before getting mid hike and realizing you have to eyeball “eight drops” of chlorine and phosphoric acid

snake

Watch your step, or you just might lose it

bathroom

Take advantage of modern ingenuity when given the chance. Squatting is fun, but sitting is funner!   *more fun

(10-7-17) Hornet Nest

Ah, my jellyfish brethren are returning. Greetings, comrades!

2nd camp

Day 2: Saturday, Oct 7 2017 6:22PM – Campsite on Swift Camp Creek

Day 3

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Soaked to the bone, but Clyde stays strong

Boy, did the rain hit! We stayed dry through the night, but once morning came and we had to pack up, there was simply nothing to be done. We got soaked. Everything that could absorb water, did. By the time we got to the car, my boots were becoming cisterns and my clothes had gained several pounds. The rain aside, Day 3 was hard. We were tired and sore and blistered and chafing. It was an 8 mile hike back to the car, but we made it in 3.5 hours. As tired as we were and with as much uphill as we had, we got out on sheer I-don’t-want-to-be-here-anymore determination. And yet, I want to do it all again even now.

I’ll leave you this time with a quote from our favorite headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

“Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

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5 Tips for a better RRG Adventure

Tip #1: Follow the Sun

(Hint: It’s not too hard, He’s got a pretty regular schedule.)

 

 

Tip #2: Take the High Ground (it’s better in battle)

(8-26-17) Climbing Eagle's Nest

This may or may not be 100% staged

Clyde hystack

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” -Clyde, in triumph

Tip #3: Perform pagan rituals around a campfire

(i’m mostly kidding here)

 

Part of the “it was a weird night” series.

Tip #4: Hang Out Under the Stars

(Ft. The milkiest ways I’ve ever seen)

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(9-9-17) Milky Way, with clyde and aaron

Tip #5: Most importantly, go somewhere new and Just Explore!

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As always, thanks for reading! Hike hard and walk lightly,

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PNW and the Great Beyond

Seattle was great and all, but a breath of fresh air is what I was really after – the wind in my hair, the smell of sunshine in the morning – or something like that anyway. So I went on a few adventures to satiate that need. Each one could easily have it’s own blog post, but for everyone’s sake I’ll cram them all in here.

Bayview State Park (so it begins)

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Just a bunch of hooligans at the beach

And on the fifth day (of the week) we journeyed North toward the land of the not-quite Americans: Canada. Except we didn’t quite make it that far. We stayed the night in a quaint little park town called Bay View, situated somewhere between Everett and Bellingham on Padilla Bay. The cabins were rustic one room shanties with four beds apiece, but we managed. In truth a hammock would have suited me just fine.

We wasted some time on the beach before turning in for a bonfire, where we proceeded to piddle around being a little too warm or a little too cold before turning in for bed. I probably had a few too many hot dogs and marshmallows for my own good, but there it is.

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Catching the sun, some say it’s impossible

One of my favorite pictures of this trip came at about 1:30am when Stephen and I stumbled around in the dark trying to find a cool spot for a long exposure on the beach. I’d say we had a lucky stumble.

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The Afterglow

The next morning we took the long way back home hitting all of the restaurants, ferries, and cool bridges on the way. One beautiful spot we came across was deception pass. I don’t really have a fear of heights, in fact I may even have an attraction to them, but boy does this bridge play with the eyes. I felt every foot of elevation walking across this one with only a thigh-high rail to hold me back.

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Deception Pass – aptly intimidatingly named

Oregon, my Love

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Maybe it’s too early to judge, as my time in Oregon is limited to a single day’s hike, but I think it’s at least safe to say that I have a crush on this hike. Daniel and I stole a car (actually it was just David’s car), and drove down to the Columbia River Gorge just over the Washington border and into Oregon. About half an hour out we started seeing staggering Basalt cliffs covered in vegetation and waterfalls flowing like endless rain into a paper cup. I nearly wrecked the car from excitement. We parked at the Eagle Creek Trailhead and walked 6 miles of the trail before turning around and walking all the way back. In that 6 miles, we saw over 20 (count ’em, 20!) high caliber waterfalls. The trees sagged with the weight of their moss, and the river roared down below us. Everything was mystical and magical in just the right way.

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Unnamed falls

 

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Punchbowl Falls

 

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Twister Falls

 

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Tunnel Falls

I could go into details of each waterfall, tell you all about my treacherous journeys down to the river searching for the perfect shot, but I think I’ll just leave you with the pictures. They say enough.

The Big Kahuna – Mt. Rainier

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This mountain is a beast! It may only be 14,000ft high, but with a prominence of over 13,000ft, it’s the biggest thing around by far, and it shows. This picture was taken from 25 miles away!

We wanted to climb it. More specifically we wanted to hike to Camp Muir, the base camp for people attempting to summit. Getting to Muir though still meant a 4 mile hike, in snow, with an elevation gain of nearly a mile. That’s a 25% grade in case you were wondering. So, we did our research, rented snowshoes, threw together a backpack and went on our way.

We also rented a sweet cabin for a couple nights, because who doesn’t love hot tubs!

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I was a little intimidated when we first arrived at the trailhead. At the base of the mountain the weather was nice, and the ground was not covered in snow. Twenty minutes of driving up the mountain and we realized the hike might be a little different. Paradise, the resort/trailhead, was covered in 15ft of snow. Wowee.

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David (~5:30am), not quite sure what he’s gotten himself into

But with snowshoes on feet and ski poles in hand, we started up the hill. (That is, after I nagged everyone to turn around and wait for me to get a group pic).

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Bright eyed and bushy tailed

There’s not much to say about dawn on a snowy mountain besides it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

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Clouds above us, clouds below, sunrise and mountains in between

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Prayer on the Peak (he’s not actually praying, nor is this the peak, but I liked the sentiment and the alliteration)

 

As we sloughed up the mountain, the sun beat down relentlessly. We were grateful at first, but only later did we realize the err of our ways. Two coats of sunscreen were no match for fierce snow reflection. I managed to sear off the underside of my nose, and I’m still pulling dead skin from the insides of my ears.

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Peak on Blue

I know what you’re thinking. ‘That mountain doesn’t look all that tall.’ I had the same thought, but as we went up and up and up, the mountain never seemed to get any smaller.

Finally we made it to Camp Muir, a smattering of little stone structures partially hidden under lots of snow. We joined the crowd of exhausted bodies at the top and hunkered down for a little food before heading back down.

 

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Camp Muir

The experienced and adventurous hikers brought snow skis with them. We were not those hikers. We came down the mountain the same way we came up: the hard way. A couple more hours of hole punching and knee grinding later and we were back on solid ground once again, amidst the horde of mid-day tourists looking for a little fun in the snow and a nice family photo-op.

 

Hike hard and walk lightly,

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Seattle (the drizzly city?)

It’s Day 3 of my adventure in the Pacific Northwest (mainly just Seattle so far), and I’m enjoying every minute of it. “All it does is rain there” they said. Well my first day they were all proven wrong with beautiful sunshine all day long. But the second day had a hefty handful of drizzle and a fair bit of chill. The third day has yet to show it’s true colors, but it sure looks pretty out. Actually it just started raining again, oh well. Did I mention this is my bedside view?

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Queen Anne’s view

I am graciously lodged with some friends for the week (friends in tech who can afford an amazing cityscape view up on the hill), and boy is that great. The massive sun room window lets in all the light so I can never sleep in, but that’s probably for the best.

Anyway, if I had to describe this city in a few words, it would be airplanes, Space Needle (spooce noodle), and tantalizing. The first two are pretty self explanatory. There are literally planes in the air all the time everywhere. Every time I look up, I can see one in the sky over the city. They also have cool seaplanes which by some witchcraft are both boats and airplanes (don’t ask me how).

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And of course we all know about the Space Needle, but nobody really knows what it is. Some theories suggest it’s actually used for transmitting all of our government’s secrets into space in hopes that more intelligent life will come save us from ourselves. Fingers crossed.

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Finally ‘tantalizing’ is maybe not the descriptor you’d expect. Here’s what I mean: I’ve been here three days. I’ve seen plenty of cool city attractions. All in all, I’d say actually one of my favorite big cities, but what I’m missing is some adventure in the fabled rain forests of the Olympic peninsula or the mountains which surround the city in all directions – Rainier, Olympus, Glacier and the lot. These mountains are what I find tantalizing. Every time I look out at the city, way off in the distance, just past the sky scrapers, I can see natures sky scrapers just waiting to be explored. But enough of that. I have no set plans, but I sense we’ll get to those behemoths in the near future.

 

Here are some other neat things I’ve seen so far. 

The Great Gum Wall

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Somewhere deep within Pike Place Market, there is a wall encrusted entirely in the gum and saliva of its previous tourist victims

Space Needle

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The mythical Space Needle (colloquially referred to as the Spooce Noodle)

Elliott Bay

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Part of the Puget Sound which stems from the Pacific Ocean. Boats/Cranes in the front, The Great Wheel in the back

Lake Union

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Just some lake or something. Home to all the geese in the city, and apparently a hefty chunk of sailboats as well

Anyway, I’ll be back later with more on the sights of the PNW. In the meantime

Explore,

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Eagle’s Nest: Red River Gorge (4/28/17)

Picture this: Spring has sprung in a major way, but I’ve been stuck inside all week pulling all nighters, writing 20 page papers, and just generally wallowing in the reclusiveness of end-of-school madness. It was past time I got out of the house to revive the recently absent adventure in my Fridays. So as I do, I grabbed a friend, grabbed a camera, and hit the road. Next stop: Eagle’s Nest.

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Eagle’s Nest (Red River Gorge)

If you’ve ever wondered (as I have) what it’s like to live in a hole hundreds of feet up the shear face of a cliff, look no further than Eagle’s Nest. At the low, low cost of just 20 panic attacks a night, you too could sleep in the coolest sandstone bed this side of the Red River!

Waterfalls like Honey Nectar

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Unnamed Waterfall

Wow talk about beautiful! We went into our Eagle’s Nest expedition with only a few GPS coordinates and the promise of a good view, but we were not expecting the gloriousness of this waterfall.

Absolutely mammoth, double shelved and spitting into the wind, it was a sight to see. The rocks below, both black and sand, were accented by the green growth between them. The mist from the falls started tight, then whipped in the wind to form ghostly dancing figures above before spiraling out in all directions as light spring kisses on the ground and on our faces.

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A picture simply cannot do it justice, and yet here I sit trying to make that happen anyway. The show must go on.

Up Top (The View that was promised)

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Standing in awe of our horizons

Just a couple of cool cats having fun, dirty knees and a gentle breeze. The view from topside at Eagle’s Nest has quickly become one of my favorites in the Gorge. A slightly less dense hill in the middle really gives the green expanse a focal point, bordered on both sides by the Red River in a horseshoe-esque bend. Top Notch.

The Nest

We did eventually make it into the nest after a bit of exploring and soaking in the sights.

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Hanging from the nest (some sort of primate instinct I guess)

Don’t focus too long on my leg or you might get a headache. Much of the photography on this hike was spent playing with my new Rokinon 14mm wide angle lens, which I have no idea how to properly use. As evidenced by the above picture, the wide angle distorts depth perspective a little, and my left shin got caught in the cross fire. Pencil thin and long as a bird’s, I’m sure soon to become an ostrich if I’m not careful.

The rest of the hike was a little boring, as far as hikes go. I left my camera in the bag and we just enjoyed traipsing through the woods and making our own path until we stumbled on the real trail and eventually looped back around to the car.

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Plant growth on the second shelf of the waterfall


All in all a wonderful new hike with waterfalls and cliff side views to rival any in the Red River Gorge. 

Explore,

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Caves, Cracks, and Cavernous Places

A Little Background

There’s just something exciting about weaving your way through underground passageways, in the dark, confined by thousands of pounds of rock on all sides. It’s a rare experience and one I’m not likely to pass up.

Most cave locations are kept secret in the mind vaults of previous explorers, and to top it off, they’re almost all on private property. This makes for an interesting challenge, almost a puzzle if you will, piecing together internet accounts, word of mouth, and topography clues to pinpoint exactly where a cave entrance might be. Then comes my favorite part, the scouting, sometimes done at night to increase the adrenaline and avoid the prying eyes of crotchety landowners. So grab a headlamp and strap on your boots, cause we’re going cave huntin’ baby!

*Unfortunately, I won’t be discussing the specific locations of any of these caves. That clearly ruins all the adventure and also subjects the caves to potential vandals, which I refuse to have on my conscience. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorites. 

Saltpeter Cave

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Entrance to the Saltpeter Cave

This cave has been around a while. Well I suppose that’s mostly true for all of them, but this one has been widely known and frequently visited for a long time. It’s a popular spot for teens looking for a place to secretly drink, smoke, or maybe perform satanic rituals. Located near Temple Hill in Barren County, Saltpeter cave is a true classic. Though I in no way condone the vandalism that occurs there, it does produce and certain creepy vibe, especially when visiting at night, something my friends and I have been known to do.

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The cave troop on a summer expedition 

Saltpeter cave generally follows a horseshoe shape, with both entrances opening on the bank of a creek. Inside has several offshoot passageways, some containing gypsum and saltpeter (previously mined and used for gunpowder). You’ll also find a plethora of spray paint with names, dates, Harambe memes, pentagrams, and several guiding arrows (hint: some arrows lie). At one time, there were guided tours through this cave, but those have long since been discontinued. If you find yourself lost in these passageways, just remember: always take the left wall and you should theoretically make it back out.

KKK Cave

This cave is one of my favorites. Actually that sounds indicting. What I mean to say is, this cave was quite the challenge to find, which made the discovery that much more exciting. The general location was based on internet accounts. From there we learned through word of mouth of a more specific location, but the final discovery was just sheer luck. A friend and I had a hunch based on a few hints, and one day we were just walking the stream and stumbled on the entrance.

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Klan Carving

Internet accounts put the Ku Klux Klan carving to be at least 60 years old, and if we can infer anything from the dates on the wall, it may be much older. A terrible part of the south’s history, but a very cool discovery.

Glasgow Cave

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Spelunking for Deuces

We were forced to come up with a few of the cave names by ourselves, and admittedly this wasn’t one of our more creative ones. But if you’re looking for an interesting crawl through some town history and a little bit of extra trespassing on the side, this is the cave for you.  This cave runs under parts of downtown Glasgow and is rumored to have both been connected to the old jail and been a part of the underground railroad, connecting to some of the oldest houses in the area. The exit does happen to come out in a drainage culvert of a fenced in property, so be prepared for a sneaky Shawshank-esque escape to freedom.

Peanut Butter Cave

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Peanut Butter Flowstone

Aptly named for its oddly enticing stench of peanuts, Peanut Butter Cave in Park City is home to several beautiful formations such as flowstone, stalactites/stalagmites, and “cave bacon.” It’s also home to quite a few cave crickets, so mind your head. I know very little about the history of this cave, only that it has the remnants of powered lights and has somehow become an acceptable place to dump old appliances and trash. More’s the pity.

Notes

I’ll say this: caving is something that I enjoy greatly, but it can be very dangerous to the explorers and the environment. If you go in caves, do not touch the formations. Do not disturb the bats. Know your own limits, and be prepared. Tell someone when and where you’re going. Be safe.

 

But also……Explore,

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Kentucky River Extravaganza (3/3/2017)

Overview

The Kentucky River is pretty cool (albeit a little dirty), in case you weren’t already aware. It’s got bridges and dams aplenty. It’s got cool rocks and high cliffs galore. So in light of all these interesting destinations, a friend and I decided to dedicate our Friday adventure solely to attractions along the river with an end goal of catching High Bridge at sunset.

The Original Plan consisted of six locations. We ended up taking out two along the way based on time and location constraints. What I’ve laid out below is the best of the best, and some other stuff too.

Raven Run

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Raven Run Waterfall

Raven Run is a beautiful nature sanctuary between Lexington and Richmond on the Kentucky River. It has a network of trails boasting of cliffs, creeks, waterfalls, and wildlife which culminate in an overlook of the river. 10/10 highly recommend, although try not to sneak in after the gates close at dark because the gatekeeper will find you and mistake you for some hoodlums who had recently given him trouble and tell you he never wants to see you around the sanctuary again.

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Growth in the Underbrush

Lock and Dam #9

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Pigs and Such

We came. We saw. We were too scared to hop a fence and trespass through somebody’s pig/mule field to get a better look at the dam. What a cop-out, I know. Maybe next time.

Old Danville Pike Bridge

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Old Danville Pike Bridge

This whole area is amazing. I found the bridge just surfing around on Google Earth looking for some cool picture spots. Lo and behold, there are a bunch of interesting things here, and the bridge is closed to traffic which made it substantially easier to explore.

Across the river is a pretty beat up RV park, and tucked up in the cliff behind the park are some old foundation and chimney ruins. I imagine (not having done my research) that the area used to be full of roadside attractions when the Old Danville Pike was the main road.

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Chimney on a Hill

Speaking of the main road, on the north side of the river, there is a huge hill between Old Danville Pike and the current US 27. With a little bit of climbing onto the old terraced bedrock and a lot of uphill hiking, we discovered that the hill actually opens up to a beautiful view from directly above US 27.

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US 27 over the Kentucky River

 High Bridge (the crown jewel)

Finally, we made it to High Bridge with plenty of time to spare. We walked around the park to find the best vantage point of the bridge and came up with this:

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High Bridge at Sunset

Maybe not the best shot of the bridge there ever was, but the sun was in a great location so I’m satisfied for now.

After some park exploration, we shifted our focus to the bridge itself and climbed our way down below. This is where the magic happens. The shear magnitude of this superstructure really comes together with the raw sight of every beam connection and truss plate, with the complexity of steel that makes up this behemoth of a bridge.

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The Underbelly

As the sun set, we went up top and strolled all the way across the river, 300ft above the water, just to say we did. It was calm up there. It was nice. What a day.

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Explore,

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