Expedition Mt LeConte: Scenes From The Trail, 3 pics

Last month’s visit to Mt LeConte was my first hike on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains. It had also been a long time since previously experiencing Southern Appalachia at 5,000 ft. above sea level. This post includes notable scenery from the Alum Cave Trail.

Ash Tree Composition 1
Ash Tree Composition 1

In the last mile or so of our hike to Mt LeConte Lodge, we reached an elevation of 6,000 ft. This is about the time we started noticing the Mountain Ash trees, which were full of large clusters of reddish orange berries.  Veterans I was hiking with mentioned it was rare to see the Ash berries so profusely displayed.  We also began side-stepping ash berry laden bear scat on the trail.  The ash berries appeared to be quite the bear treat.  I heard later local mountaineers will gather ash berries, sweetened just after the first frost, to make pie filling.

Cliff Top Sunset
Cliff Top Sunset

After dinner Friday evening, I hiked up to the Cliff Top area to stakeout a spot to capture the pending sunset. In addition to the polarizer I used for the Alum Cave shots, this was the next opportunity for me to try my new 150mm hard graduated ND filter.  I was hoping for a little more cloud drama, but was pleased with how the filter brought the sky portion down 3 stops to closer match the landscape.

Alum Cave Trail Root Composition 1
Styx Branch Root Composition 1

Saturday morning I hiked up to Myrtle Point to catch the sun rise. I hit a soft spot on the outward edge of the trail and immediately dropped about 4.5 ft., landing on the ball of my right foot, facing the trail.  Luckily, I didn’t break my foot or damage my camera.  After breakfast though, it was a long and painful hike back down the mountain; 2,500 ft. over 5.5 miles!  The last two miles were relatively flat, but also the most difficult; my foot and knees were about worn-out.  Along this stretch, I did stop to rest, and capture a very interesting root structure just above the Styx Branch creek bed.

Thanks for stopping by today!  Click on an image to see a higher resolution version from my portfolio site.

An Elegant, Intelligent Design – 2 pics

Japanese Maple Abstract 2

Recently, I’ve given a lot of thought to the natural structure of trees (see On Wood on Wood) and how this pattern is repeated throughout nature.  After capturing these images last week of century old Japanese maples at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, curiously I began to look online for an explanation on this natural phenomenon.  What I found is utterly fascinating!  I hope you will read on, and be inspired as you learn a little more about the elegant, intelligent design blueprint found in nature.

Japanese Maple Abstract 1
Japanese Maple Abstract 1

After a moderate amount of digging, two primary explainations emerged – Fractal Geometry and the Fibonacci Sequence or Golden Mean.  The later will have to be discussed in a later post.

Fractal geometry emerged 100 years ago as mathematicians struggled with formulas which described and visualized a curve. A the time Georg Cantor and Helge von Koch offered formulas which visualized how self-simulation (extending a basic structure by repeating itself, each time on a smaller scale) is used to create infinitely complex branching structures.  During WW1, Gaston Julia would apply a feedback loop to a simple formula to create an even more complex set of numbers, the Julia Set.  Unfortunately, the huge amount of numbers was too complex to visualize.  Enter Benoit Mandelbrot in the 1980s.

History of Fractal Geometry

While working at IBM, Mandelbrot made further mathematical refinements to the Julia Set and applied the emerging power of computers to iterate his equations millions of times.  The results were then applied to a visual graph.  Thus the Mandelbrot Set and fractal geometry was widely introduced to the world.  Suddenly, we had a new tool to see previously hidden structures reoccurring over and over again, throughout the natural world and the heavens above.

Japanese Maple Abstract 2
Japanese Maple Abstract 2

We can see fractals in the systems which distribute life sustaining resources – circulatory, respiratory, neural and renal systems; and, in clouds, steams, rivers and lightening   As life grows, Nature uses a simple fractal code to instruct biological networks how and when to branch.  There’s beauty not only in the visual aspects of the branching tree images in this post, but also in knowing there is a natural order (albeit mathematically) underlying our perceived chaos.  Spiritually, there seems to be something going on here.  Perhaps this supports the case for God’s hand in the world – an elegant, intelligent design.

Thanks for taking time to read this post.  For a deeper dive, see PBS Nova’s Fractals The Hidden Dimension.

Hammock’s Beach State Park

Bear Island is a short ferry ride from the launch at Hammock’s Beach State Park in Swansboro, North Carolina.   It’s also part of the Boque Banks, just south of the better known Outer Banks.  The ferry approaches the mainland side of the island through a vast estuarial marsh. A 3/4 mile trek to the seaward side of the island takes you through dense scrubs and tall dunes.  Along the way I came across a beautiful windswept live oak tree.  A cold front brought large dramatic, thick cloud formations.  With all the beauty and drama already in place, a group of passing pelicans added a nice touch to an already spectacular image.

Bear Island Live Oak Landscape
Bear Island Live Oak Landscape

Northeast of the park, the historic White Oak River empties into the Atlantic.  Visiting the area last weekend with my Scout Troop, we camped at Cedar Point Campgrounds near wetlands at the mouth of the river.  I captured the image below the in the marshes just behind our camp area.  The trees offered an interesting shape with contrasting limbs and trunks against a dense backdrop of pine, undergrowth and grasses.  Careful processing of the tone curve created a nice extended range of tones.  Larger versions of the images can been seen on my portfolio site by selecting the image.

Cedar Point Marshscape 1
Cedar Point Marshscape 1