Last Look and Eating Badly

My favorite view from the easily accessible overlooks at Cloudland Canyon

My favorite view from the easily accessible overlooks at Cloudland Canyon

These are the last of the photos I will share from a week ago when we went to Cloudland Canyon (I promise).  The sad truth is that that was the last time we did anything physical.  Well, other than my Friday morning yoga class and walking Tisen–the last vestiges of exercise in my life at the moment.

Tisen poses pretty well for me for the 2nd time in the same day

Tisen poses pretty well for me for the 2nd time in the same day

I was thinking about an article I read a long time ago where health researchers looked at evidence from anthropology findings about the life style of hunter-gatherers.  The theory went that since humans were hunter-gatherers for the majority of our history, our bodies are most likely geared towards that type of lifestyle and, therefore, for optimal health, we should emulate the variety in diet and level of exercise from that time in our history.  The one key difference was that they speculated that while there were periods of famine for our ancestors, the findings (based on other studies) suggested that our bodies response to starvation, while allowing us to survive, is contrary to long-term health, but that’s another discussion.

The canyon walls on the other side of the creek

The canyon walls on the other side of the creek

The point I am (slowly) getting to is that research suggested that hunter-gatherers spent most of the daylight hours walking, climbing, picking, and, well, gathering.  There were occasional springs and jogs, but most of the time our ancestors were in gentle motion.  I compare this to my lifestyle of spending 10-12 hours in front of a computer at a desk five days a week.  The only thing that could possibly be further from our ancestors lifestyle would be to sleep for 20 years straight, Rip Van Winkle style.

Closer look at the end of the canyon ridge

Closer look at the end of the canyon ridge

It strikes me as rather ironic that through all our progress and technology, we have jobs that keep us from doing what makes us healthy and we struggle to find time to get the exercise we need because we’re so busy working, but if we spent our day gathering food instead of making money to buy food, we’d get all the exercise we need.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting I want to go back to a hunter-gatherer world.  I’m not that fond of famine, ice ages, disease, and all the other things that kept life expectancy down to something like 30.  I guess that’s the big flaw in assuming that our bodies are honed to that lifestyle–the hunter-gatherers didn’t life long enough to have a lot of the diseases we struggle with today.

Vertical view

Vertical view

I contemplated all of this, of course, as I was eating a large hunk of a baguette slathered in about two tablespoons of Irish butter.  I found myself wondering why I am able to still tell myself “tomorrow I’ll eat better” and shove a week’s worth of saturated fat into my belly and think it’s OK.  The thought crossed my mind that it’s like committing suicide slowly.  I did a little googling, but I couldn’t find any “I’m about to eat badly” hotline numbers.  Then I went and dished up some ice cream.

 

iPhone panoramic from the second overlook

iPhone panoramic from the second overlook

Second Look

Tisen demonstrating he really does know how to pose

Tisen demonstrating he really does know how to pose

Getting from the first overlook at Cloudland Canyon to the second overlook is an easy walk.  The path is mostly asphalt and smooth and easy.  Since we’ve had a very late spring here, we even got to enjoy some late-blooming Hawthorn trees along the way.

I tried to get Tisen to pose for me as we made our way down the trail.  I need to do some more intentional dog training with him.  He’s really quite easy to train, but I have found I am very happy with our relatively casual relationship vs needing him to walk exactly where I want or constantly work to figure out my next command.  However, whenever Pat is walking him and I want to take his picture, I wish I had taught him a “pose” command.

For a second I thought I shot this at 70mm or so, but it was shot at 24mm--the other side of the gorge is close!

For a second I thought I shot this at 70mm or so, but it was shot at 24mm–the other side of the gorge is close!

I would like to be able to say, “Tisen, Pose!” and have him turn towards me, doing something cute like stick out his tongue and tilt his head or pick up his favorite toy, and then freeze.  As it is, Tisen walks down the path ahead of me with daddy.  I call to them to stop.  Pat, my accommodating husband, stops, turns, smiles and waits.  Tisen, however, continues to face the opposite direction.

Looking out of the canyon and into lookout valley

Looking out of the canyon and into lookout valley

I, of course, call Tisen to try to get him to turn around.  He invariably turns around, looks excited that I want to see him with his tail wagging like mad, and then tries to walk over to me.  Pat then tries to get him to come back to him to keep him in position.  This, predictably, causes Tisen to turn back around so his back is facing me once more.  And so it goes in this constant tug-of-war trying to get Tisen to both face me and stop moving.

Another view of the canyon

Another view of the canyon

Every once in a while, Tisen will pause just long enough for me to get a rapid-fire series of shots off.  Usually, in a series of 8 shots, I’m lucky if he’s holding still in one of them.  The rest will have various parts of his head blurred.  On this particular walk, he managed to pause for me in near perfect position in a puddle of Hawthorn blossoms.  He looks so happy; it makes me smile.

Vertical version

Vertical version

On the way to the second overlook, I was teased by a Pine Warbler who, I believe, was following just behind me, singing enough bars to get me to get my long lens in place and then fly just out of sight when I turned around to photograph him.  This happens a lot when I happen to have a camera with a long lens on it handy.  It’s one of the reasons I often leave the long lens at home.

The second Overlook is my favorite.  You can see down both sides of the gorge and off into the distance between the peaks that surround the canyon.  The sky usually does interesting things as a bonus–even in mid-afternoon.

Tisen almost walking out of the frame

Tisen almost walking out of the frame

 

The First Overlook

Panoramic view taken with the iPhone

Panoramic view taken with the iPhone

This is going to be a short post.  I’m writing at 11:15PM on Thursday night.  I just finished my “day” job 15 minutes ago (I guess that makes it a “day-and-night” job) and if I try to write my usual 500 words, I’m likely to end up writing this post in my sleep (yes, I’ve done that before–check this out).

Cloudland Canyon is one of those must-see places if you’re anywhere in the area.  They have nice facilities including campgrounds, a picnic area with restrooms, an interpretive center, a spectacular view, and lots of great trails, including backcountry trails.

Looking the opposite direction down the gorge

Looking the opposite direction down the gorge

That said, if you are having a low-energy day, there’s also the leisurely walk around the mostly flat path along the cliff top.  There are several nice overlooks that always make me feel like the $5 parking fee was well worth it even when the path around the cliff top is the only path I walk that visit.

Looking up the gorge at a rolling valley covered in dense green you can hear a distant waterfall

Looking up the gorge at a rolling valley covered in dense green you can hear a distant waterfall

All of the images in this post were shot from what I think of as the first overlook.  It’s only the first overlook if you start with this one.  🙂  I like to park at the far end of the cliff top path and walk uphill around the rim.  I don’t know why I like this, but it might be because even when the park is really crowded, there are usually still parking places in this end of the parking lot.

The other reason is because it’s a short walk from the car to the first overlook, so there’s a quick payoff.  One drawback is that the restrooms at that end are often closed, so stopping at the first set of newer facilities (in a concrete block building) may be imperative, depending on your situation.

Rocks and trees along the cliff top

Rocks and trees along the cliff top

A short walk down a dirt path followed by a steep descent down metal-mesh steps takes you to a panoramic view up one leg of the gorge.  I, of course, was standing there with my 5D Mark III and my husband’s T4i with a 70-200mm lens on it (don’t ask) hanging around my neck while I stood on the overlook creating panoramics with my iPhone.  I sometimes think I should get my husband to take a picture of this with his iPhone just so I can see how ridiculous it looks!

Tisen does not like metal-mesh steps

Tisen does not like metal-mesh steps

Looking Down

Centipede on moss

Centipede on moss

After spending  a half hour or so at the hang gliding launch ramp on top of Lookout Mountain on Sunday, we decided to take the time to drive over to Cloudland Canyon.  Although we weren’t up for a long hike, the flat, easy walk along the cliff seemed about right for us.

I’m not sure why exactly, perhaps it was the sudden realization that the path we were on was bordered by poison ivy, but I started looking down.  Not down the cliffs so much–well, maybe some, but the view from the overlooks is spectacular and looking straight out is usually far more interesting than looking down.  Plus, looking down always makes me feel a little weak-kneed.

Evening primrose with a few remaining drops of water

Evening primrose with a few remaining drops of water

Rather, I found myself looking down at the occasional wildflower growing by the side of the path, the insects hanging out along the way, and at the pine warbler who decided to show himself just long enough for me to get my camera in position and then flit off.

I guess I should be grateful for poison ivy because it’s taught me to look down, look at what’s at my feet, and pay attention to where I’m stepping.  Who knows, it may have saved my life a time or two.

I thought this was a rhododendron, but after googling, I think its a hawthorn flower

I thought this was a rhododendron, but after googling, I think its a hawthorn flower

But, poison ivy is one of those plants that you’re either indifferent to or it strikes terror in your heart.  I spent the first 30 years of my life pretty much oblivious to poison ivy.  I wasn’t allergic to it.  Then one day, I was weeding in the garden of our first house.  I looked down at the handful of vines I was holding in my gloved hands and realized I was holding a bouquet of poison ivy.  Unconcerned, I set them in the yard waste pile and thought no more about it.

The next day, the part of my wrist that was above my glove and below my sleeve broke out in a rash.  Pretty soon, I had a 2-inch tall welt that was, at close inspection, a mound of bump on bump on bump.  It looked like it had been skinned across the top and clear liquid oozed out of it at such a rate that it ran down my arm.  It was truly disgusting.

More hawthorn/rhododendron

More hawthorn/rhododendron

That was the first time in my life I took steroids.  But I was sure happy to have them as an option!  Every since then, I have broken out with poison ivy every summer whether I come into contact with it or not.  I blamed the dogs for many years, but then the dogs died and I still broke out.  I became paranoid–I frequently jump away in terror when I see a Boxelder sapling, which resembles poison ivy at first glance.

As an offshoot of my paranoia, however, I now notice more plants and creepy-crawly things than I ever noticed before I felt like I had to continually be on the look out for my sworn enemy.

I'm not sure what these are, but they were pretty

I’m not sure what these are, but they were pretty

Cloudland

We made it back to Cloudland Canyon for the 3rd time a weekend ago.  We managed to hike the West Rim trail after going there once completely unprepared to hike and once just to show friends the views from the parking lot overlooks.

This time, we went prepared.  Well, semi-prepared.  I decided to wear my monkey feet (as Pat calls them)–my black five fingers shoes–since they’re by far the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever hiked in.  However, they’re not so good on sharp stones and there were plenty of those.  That led to Tisen and Pat having to wait on me while I picked my way over the trail.

The other issue was that I opted not to bring a tripod, but I had a polarizer on my wide angle lens since we were hiking during some of the worst light of the day.  I love my polarizer when I need it.  I does wonders to cut out the bright reflections and remove glare from a scene.  However, there are two problems with a polarizer.  First, a stop and a half of light is a pretty high cost to pay when you are tripod-less.  Second, a polarizer works best when it is used at 90 degrees to the sun.  When hiking, one does not have control over what the angle to the sun is.  So, sometimes it does it’s thing well and sometimes it doesn’t.

The part I didn’t think about before taking off down the trail was whether I would want to remove the polarizer and, if so, what I would do with it when I did.  This meant I either had to shoot with it on or I had to recruit Pat to hold it for me.  Given that it was mostly overcast that day, I probably would have been better off without it.  I had to scrap many photos because of movement blur due to slow shutter speeds.

But enough technical talk.  Cloudland Canyon was beautiful that day.  With big puffy clouds appearing and disappearing as sunshine streamed around them one minute and rain streamed from them the next.

We got wet more times than I counted.  This was another thing I was unprepared for, rain.  It was so hot, I had no need for a rain jacket–the water simply steamed off of my skin.  But, my camera wasn’t that hot.  Fortunately, I had packed a wide-brimmed hat which worked well to shield my camera each time it rained.

Tisen did amazing on the trail.  He stayed much closer than he has in the past and stopped when told to stop.  He could teach Pat a thing or two.

After completing the 5 mile hike around the West Rim of the canyon, we got a nice shower on our way to the car.  We piled in as quickly as possible–the rain started to pour down hard about the time we were ready to go.

It was a great day.