Night Rider - West Virginia by sam taylor

Night Rider - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Sorry for the radio silence this week, this one wasn’t intentional - and sets the tone for todays note as well. The reason I didn’t talk with y’all sooner was that I was locked out of my website - due to a new phone. In the world today, we have to have security on things, and so many of those things run through our phone - so here we are.

How does that relate to the note? I’m getting tired of our things “running us” vs us running things. I’m tired of if my phone is messed up, that can have a negative impact on my day, and i’ll spend time and mental energy trying to figure out why it makes the wrong noise, or isn’t tracking my bike ride correctly. If the cable tv or internet is down, we’re confused about what to do with that time. That’s backwards as all get out - and I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve never made a memory on my phone. I’ve never looked back fondly on a good binge watching session.

Today’s image wasn’t made by a particularly good comment on a meme somewhere. We were there. We were doing it. Charles has a bike with lights on it - and he was riding in the dark. A little bit risky, maybe, but wow did it look cool - and boy, did we have fun hanging out and watching the stars wheel by. The experience was authentic, and didn’t need “two-factor authentication” to make it happen.

Hope folks have an authentic - present - weekend.

Who Is Your Decorator? (Holly River Falls) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Who Is Your Decorator? (Holly River Falls) - West Virginia

Good Friday Afternoon!

Some of the upside of all the travel I’ve had (and been able) to do is realizing that some places seem to have it “figured out” when you go to their parks. Holly River may be one of those - I had never camped at Holly River, it was a little too close to home to get excited about camping it when I was a kid - but Carmen and I made a trip of a few weeks back, and had a blast!

It also meant that I was able to get into some back-corners that I had never seen in a park that I have visited many, many times.

While these falls probably don’t count as a “back corner”, they are an example - this was the first time I had laid eyes on these falls. We had been there and not had enough time, or it was winter and the water was too cold, or too high. This day was perfect - we were hot enough to be excited about being in the water, and wow - when we got to the amphitheater that holds this beauty, it was easy to see what makes this one special.

I love these places - where the moss is growing on the rocks, and the rhodo crowns the rim of the bowl. And even though this is a “front country” spot in one of the more popular parks in the state, we didn’t see a single person on our hike. Not bad.

Hope folks have a great weekend and bit of adventure - school starts for us next week!

Who Is Your Decorator? (Holly River Falls) - West Virginia

Summer Reflections on Beaver Creek - West Virginia by sam taylor

Summer Reflections on Beaver Creek - West Virginia

Good Wednesday Morning!

I know it seems like the schedule has been a little lumpy - because it has. This end of summer has been more hectic than most, what with daughter starting a new school, trying to sort out paperwork from the wedding, trying to organize family and social stuff for the end of the year, and the start of a new semester for me as well. I’ll also admit that I’m pushing hard on my dissertation research - trying to get it on the ropes and ready for a big push when the snow starts flying (but hopefully that’s a long way off).

In the meantime, we have been picking off fun and adventures where we can - I’ve been really, really into cycling this summer, and somehow we keep finding new things to see in old places, places we’ve been to a hundred times.

Is today rambling? Maybe a little - but I wanted to let y’all know that I promise we are going hard out here, and finding the time to talk with all y’all has been challenging.

So, good morning!

Sometimes the image you want isn’t the most convenient. I was wading the creek barefoot - and my feet aren’t that tough - to get here. But I could see the reflections setting up from the bank, and knew this was “the right spot”.

How is your summer shaping up?

Talk to y’all on Friday.

Stop and Lets Visit A While - West Virginia by sam taylor

Stop and Lets Visit A While - West Virginia

Good Friday Afternoon,

It’s been yet another rancorous week in our little country, another week where the divides between rural and urban, coasts and interior, and racial issues have come up for the… too many to count time.

I’m not sure what to make of all of it - I’m not sure that I recall any time in my lifetime where folks can’t seem to find any common ground on any of the issues that face us. Have the divides between rural and urban become that large? Are middle class and poor people in the city that different from those in the country? I call out the rural/urban because, when you look at the data, that’s really where the splits are - and I have said, having lived in both, that blue-collar folks in the city have much more in common with blue-collar folks in the country than they do with other urbanites.

I’m lucky - I have friends that are definitely on the other side of the political aisle that I can talk with, respectfully, and can often find common ground on. The most ardent gun owners don’t want to see mass shootings. The most fervent miners and drillers don’t want to see pipeline explosions or water pollution. But somehow, those conversations aren’t making their way up to the talking heads, to the pundits, to the bloggers, or to the politicians.

Maybe if we were doing the old fashioned way, stopping by, sitting on the swing, and having a talk with each other, we’d find more empathy and more places to work together than screaming at each other on the internet.

Stop, and lets visit a while.

Hope folks have a great weekend.

Maybe, If I Climb High Enough, I Will Find Myself - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Friday Morning!

And just like that, it’s August. It has been one heck of a summer, without a lot of time for introspection. Running around like that, it can be easy to lose your way - you lose track of what you are working toward, what makes you happy, what you want for your life, consumed in trying to just “make this thing go” - whatever the “thing” that day is.

I’m working toward helping my daughter be a empathetic, confident young woman, who believes in her ability to learn and do anything she wants. I’m working toward being present in my own life, making conscious decisions on spending time with people I love, and engaged in things I enjoy and care about. I’m working toward being a good husband, who spends time and is engaged in my marriage.

These things are easy to say, hard to do, and easy to lose track of - like walking around in dense woods and trying to trace the shortest path somewhere.

What does all this have to do with today’s photo? Well, metaphorically, “getting up so you can see the lay of the land” is something we all need to do - and that’s what these towers were all about. Practically, this was exactly what I’m talking about - taking time with my wife and a great friend, and going out in the dark and having a great experience. Time spent with people I love, engaged in things I enjoy and care about.

And maybe, if I keep working, if I climb high enough, I can find myself.

It's Not Perfect, But It's Close - West Virginia by sam taylor

It's Not Perfect, But It's Close - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning -

It’s starting again, earlier and earlier - and no, I’m not talking about Halloween decorations or people talking about fall. I’m talking about the folks running for election in 2020, already starting to carve out what they think they can take credit for.

Where I’m standing, I don’t know that anyone at the national or state level has much to crow about. Folks are going to try and tell you that WV has improved so much in the last few years - but only when you compare it against all-time historic lows. Folks are going to try and tell you that they are bringing in businesses and improving infrastructure, but the roads in my area are hammered, there aren’t sufficient resources to respond to the floods and other natural disasters, and all of the improvements are in temporary industries (pipelines and such) that will lead to permanent extraction, but only provide work for a short time.

The real point is that no one, absolutely no one, from outside of this state has done anything for anyone inside this state in a very long time (FDR?), and very few people inside this state have done anything for anyone inside this state (other than themselves) in about the same period.

If change is going to come to this place, it’s going to have to be from the inside out - not the other way around. We don’t want handouts. We don’t want gun regulations. We don’t want urban crowds and wall-to-wall connectivity. But, a fair shake, and industries that have a skin in whether people make it here or not would be a nice start.

If we could ever figure this stuff out, the rest of the problems would sort themselves out - because otherwise, this is a pretty incredible place to live.

Hope ya’ll have a good week.

Change Is Slow (Until it Isn't) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Change Is Slow (Until it Isn't) - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

The forests or WV feel “eternal” - unchanging. That you could leave a place, come back in 10 years, and see nothing different, other than taller trees. Sometimes the culture feels that way too - one of the things I love about this place.

The thing is - change seems slow here, until it isn’t.

While we were out on our break, I saw news about flooding in Morgantown and talked first-hand with folks about flooding in the Thomas/Davis region, where the Blackwater hit it’s highest level since the mid-1990s - and the second round of heavy flooding in 2 years.

I’ve been noticing these things all around the state. Things seem to be getting wetter and storms rougher. I’d never heard of “training” thunderstorms until maybe 10 years ago, now it’s a phrase I hear all the time. I was reading the FEMA findings from the 2016 floods, and one of their conclusion was “the 2016 flood was not a rare, 1 in 1,000 year event”, but are in some cases more like every 20 years - a scary thing to think about.

On a more widespread scale, I can see some of these changes in the woods. It’s rare to find an elm or an ash tree in the woods these days - taken out by parasites and pests that like the warmer, wetter weather. I worry that I may live to see the end of the hemlocks too. Everything I read says that climate change will change the makeup of our forests, a change that may be slow, but also will be of huge impact to this place.

What’s my end message?

I don’t know. These problems seem so intractable, so big, that it feels like the only thing to do is what folks here have been good at for ~2 centuries: adapt. Learn what grows and what doesn’t. Learn how to take advantage of the warmer and the wetter.

But that doesn’t mean something won’t be lost. My grandmother told me about what a loss it was when the chestnut tree died off. It’s scary to think that might have been minor, compared to what we are seeing.

Talk to y’all on Tuesday.

Hello, Friend - West Virginia by sam taylor

Hello Friend - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning!

It was incredible to spend a whole week out in the mountains. Up every morning, knowing exactly what I needed to do that day, and then going to bed tired and satisfied.

We finally had one day to just cut loose and go do what we wanted, and we took bikes up the absolutely beautiful Tri-Rivers Rail Trail from Holcomb to Woodbine, WV. This has always been a piece of ground that had a lot of mystery and interest to me - you see, when I was a kid, this was the railroad track, and there were no roads or houses on that side of the river, which meant there wasn’t a good way to get there without “getting in trouble”. It was super exciting to be on a piece of “new ground” 15 minutes from where I grew up.

As we approached the Woodbine end, it felt like a time warp - ~6 miles to the mouth of Cranberry - another spot that was always hard to get to by any of the ways that were in my reach as a teenager.

Getting there, the Turkish Cap Lillies were in full bloom, and the butterflies were flitting about. These two in particular kept circling around each other, and then landing on flowers right next to each other.

Glad to get back to the woods.

Hello, Friend - West Virginia

Watching the Future Stretch Out In Front Of Us - West Virginia by sam taylor

Watching the Future Stretch Out In Front of Us - West Virginia

Hi Everyone -

So, we haven’t been on here in about a week, but I promise it’s for a good reason. The lady featured in so many of my images and stories - my travel partner, best friend, second brain - Carmen, and I were married on 7/13!

Today’s post will be all about that - I promise, we’ll get back to talking about the state and the places - but today, I want to try and thank a few folks. We worked hard to source things locally to support the wedding and the reception. A short list of folks we want to thank/folks who helped make it all possible - in alphabetical order -

Jodi Hollingshead (As You Are Boudoir Photography) for going “embedded” with us over the weekend, and capturing photos all along the way.

CB’s Hole in the Wall - These folks catered our reception, including delivery to our party tent. The food was delicious, and right on time. I know it was a lot of work for those folks (40 pizzas!).

New Hope Community Center - The folks at the New Hope Community Center helped us with so many things, going above and beyond with our rental of the space.

Rosewood Florist - Flowers, just the way we wanted them. And a cool “clothespin factory” t-shirt!

I have other folks to thank too - to close out for today, my friends Sam Beto, Richard Walton, and Brandon and Lacey Sheets, who fed hungry people “in the field” for our ceremony, and also made breakfast for the hearty folks who camped the reception. Waking up on a cool summer morning to the smell of bacon and hashbrowns is pretty fantastic.

To everyone who came out, thank you thank you thank you. We had a blast, and we know how hard and far folks came to be part of it with us. We had folks travel in from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and North Carolina, and it means so much to us.

Finally - today’s photo - we had our wedding ceremony as a very small ceremony in this place. Carmen and I have spent our time in the woods and wilds, and we wanted a place that celebrated that.

Excited to be here, watching the future stretch out in front of us. Love y’all, and we’ll get back to “normal” on Tuesday.

I Miss The Life I Once Had - West Virginia by sam taylor

I Miss The Life I Once Had - West Virginia

When I was a teenager, I was ready to get moving. To make some money, to go to college, to get out of the country, to see the city, to be on the move.

I had worked the field, I had weeded and harvested the garden, I had mended the fences, re-roofed the barns and sheds, split the wood. I learned which parts of the field to work at which times of day, cause it stayed in the shade, or had the breeze.

I would work for all the neighboring farms, doing labor and putting that money away for college and a car.

That work was hard, cutting the hay on the steep parts of the field with a scythe, and then raking it down where the rake and baler could get to it. That work was hard, dragging and cutting downed trees from in the woods, making firewood out of it, and walking it up to the truck to haul to the house. That work was hard, running the brushcutter (an old Stihl - I can still recognize the smell of two-stroke gas) to pull out the stands of multi-flora rose and blackberries from the fields, and finding yellow jackets nests, and trying to get the thing over my head so I could run away.

Then, at the end of the day, I’d grab a bar of soap and go to the river, getting a cool down and a bath at the same time.

I ran away from all of that, just about as fast as I could. It’s been ~20 years since I harvested a garden. I can’t remember the last time I ran over a yellow jacket nest.

And I miss all of it.

I miss the clarity of purpose. I miss the feeling of doing hard work, getting a reward, and knowing the job is done, even if for a little while. I made it - my work is in my mind now. I get paid to think, to know stuff - which after talking to my Dad, who had worked hard labor in the mines and the mills, had come home with hurt shoulders and torn muscles - was the goal all along.

But I hate the feeling of grinding, with no end in sight. No matter what I write, no matter what contribution I make to “the discourse”, it will never have that feeling of accomplishment that I got from standing by the truck, drinking a quart of water, and looking back over that field.

Its a strange dream, but I dream of being able to return to the farm, to take the rust off the scythe, to get the vegetables from my garden, to mend the fence, to split the wood.

I Miss The Life I Once Had - West Virginia

Friday Night at the Campground - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Tuesday Morning!

It has been a rough summer for stargazing around here. It’s rained, or been cloudy, or, the few cloudless nights I’ve been out, been a full (or near full) moon. So, I was super excited to get a clear weekend, with good weather (when was the last time that happened?!?) and be able to take the youngster on her first camping trip of the summer (and her first in a more than a year!).

It wasn’t without a few wrinkles. A sleeping bag may have been forgotten, and it may have been cold for June (I could see my breath), but the fire was joyful, and the stars were perfect.

I do wish this one fellow would have doused his lantern when he went to bed, but the outdoors is everyone’s and if that made him and his crew sleep a little better, then I’m OK with it. I just used it to illuminate our spot a little more.

Hope folks have a great rest of the week,

Friday Night at the Campground - West Virginia

Splendour in the Mountains - West Virginia by sam taylor

Splendour in the Mountains - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

I’ve written paens to West Virginia, to the creeks and streams and rocks, and to the mountain laurel and her beautiful, delicate flowers. There are a few magical weeks in West Virginia when all of them show up, and the weather is warming and the forests smell incredible, and it’s a glorious time to remember what it is to live in this place.

I absolutely adore the flowers on the mountain laurel. The rhodo are beautiful, but the tea-cup delicacy of these flowers, with their little spots inside thrill me every year.

I’m that rare grown man that has a favorite flower, and get excited every year when they come around.

It also helps to remind us of our transience in this place - they are here for a short time, and then they are gone, like the cherry blossoms in Japanese literature. It is our job to make the most of that short time, to shine as beautifully as we can.

Hope folks have a gorgeous weekend,

Splendour in the Mountains

p.s. - It is not lost on me that “She Loves Flowers” ran Tuesday, and here I am “I love flowers!” today.

She Loves Flowers - Arizona by sam taylor

She Loves Flowers - Arizona

Good Wednesday Morning -

So, I’m marrying this girl in about 3 weeks. I can’t believe it, and I can’t fully explain how excited I am. I’ve been around the block a few times, and to feel like “you got this one right” is a pretty great feeling.

She is smart, she is thoughtful, she is tough, and while I used to say “and she plays outside with me”, it’s probably more true that I also play outside with her. She has been my partner for a while now - both in work and in life - and she never ceases to amaze me with her perspective and her energy.

She organized the trip where I got this photo. Put together a whole trip to the desert, because I had been swamped, buried, stressed out, and all I had to do was show up. That’s what kind of lady she is - thoughtful, resourceful, smart, and kind.

And I get to marry her.

When we are traveling, it’s interesting that she and I don’t want to photograph the same things - I love the landscapes, the big views. She loves flowers. You’ll find her standing in the biggest views, the most grand landscapes, checking out the tiniest details, and trying to learn what they are called, where they live.

She loves flowers. And I love her. :-)

She Loves Flowers - Arizona

Lush - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Friday Morning!

There is just something about the hidden corners, nooks, and crannies of West Virginia.

I grew up in Richwood, WV (or, better said, near Richwood). I have been up and down the road between Richwood and Marlinton more times than I can even start to count.

Strange then to be rolling along and see water somewhere that I’ve never noticed it before!

We found a spot to turn around and snuck back down, found a wide spot, and then hiked up into the woods, using the culvert as a marker point - and found one of the prettiest, lushest, greenest little streams I’ve seen.

To know a place like the back of your hand and find new, beautiful surprises. That’s what this place is about.

Hope folks have a great weekend, I have a couple mini-projects in work that I hope to start sharing with y’all starting next week!

Lush - West Virginia

Cascade - Maryland by sam taylor

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Good Tuesday Morning!

It’s felt a lot more like early Spring than “almost Summer” the last stretch, but the cool temps and the rainy weather has made the woods green, lush, and gorgeous.

Waterfalls are a big feature in this part of the Appalachias - we have all the ingredients. Water, steep terrain, rocks, and time. Waterfalls were my “gateway” into real, serious photography, where I worked to understand the equipment and polish my technique.

It’s a little bit of a shame, then, that the “waterfall market” is oversaturated, because I do love shooting them. What do I mean about oversatured? Well, there are so many people taking so many photos of waterfalls that several of the galleries and shows I’ve been involved with actively have discouraged the submission of waterfall images.

I also get a little frustrated at folks who ask basic questions about how to photograph these - the “internetting” of knowledge has made it so that people just ask bluntly “what were your settings, how did you do that”, versus doing a bit of homework on their own and figuring it out.

Oh well, better to lead than follow.

And as long as I find them fascinating, and the hikes to them are quiet, I’ll keep making images of waterfalls. ;)

Cascade - Maryland

The Dividing Line - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Friday Afternoon!

Ever since Dolly Sods became the “it” place for DC-ites to travel to - likely because Shenandoah was too full - it has fallen off of our list of places to travel. I head to the woods to get away from people, and driving FR75 on a summer weekend is a total dice-roll as to whether you can find a place to park, let alone a place to camp.

That said, it is undeniably beautiful, and when Carmen and I had a random early-season day to travel there with a bad weather forecast (did you know that storms drive away crowds?), we decided it was time to visit an old, but recently very popular, friend.

After making some jokes about the rattlesnake spa that probably exists below this overlook, we noted the rain bands and storm clouds gathering in the distance. Water is such a part of West Virginia that I always think about how rain on one side of the ridge is headed to the Chesapeake Bay, and rain on the other is headed to New Orleans. The dividing line.

With a big thunderclap, Carmen roosted me from my reveries, and we retreated to the Jeep.

Until next time, old friend.

Handed Down (Lower Falls Pendleton Run) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Handed Down (Lower Falls Pendleton Run) - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning!

I have been thinking about “what we give to our kids” a great deal over the last little while. My parents gave me a great many skills for the wide-world today - they encouraged my curiosity and creativity. They taught me not only skills, but how to learn new skills, which is possibly the most valuable thing they ever taught me.

My Dad and I had a lot of shared interests growing up - mainly centered around being outside, and working outside, but I know that my love of cars and machines is greatly due to him. That said, we also had a lot of things that I didn’t totally get from him. He has the greenest of thumbs, and I haven’t had a successful garden as an adult. He went around the world to end up back on our mountain in central West Virginia - and he hasn’t left willingly (i.e. for fun) ever since.

I’ve been thinking about this with my daughter lately. I want to take her to the woods. I want to teach her how to hike, and read a map, and get lost and find her way home.

But what if she doesn’t like any of that?

What if she doesn’t like learning?

What is she doesn’t like getting sweaty and dirty?

What if she isn’t at all like me?

Unfortunately, as of this writing, I don’t have the answers to those questions.

That said, I’m going to try and teach her “how to learn”, and I’m going to work hard to keep her curious.

If I can succeed at that, I’ve probably done ok. If that’s the one thing I hand down to her, that will be worth it.

Hope folks have a great week,

Handed Down - West Virginia

The Phoenix - West Virginia by sam taylor

The Phoenix - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

I hope it goes without saying that I love this place. I have written at length about what I love about this place, and early summer in West Virginia may be the best thing in the world - the flowers, the smell of hayfields after rain, seeing the haze build on the far off mountains.

My mom has a saying that seems applicable, if paraphrased here - “you love the sinner, you don’t love the sin” - I love this place, but that doesn’t mean I love everything about it.

I don’t love how it feels like every decision people make is a trade-off between staying here and struggling and leaving and making it. I don’t like how the people that stay make decisions between working and providing for their families, and taking jobs that hurt their health, or the quality of the place we live. I don’t like watching our state government alternate between stagnancy and mean-spiritedness.

I do think it’s a matter of time, before the people that live here start to pull together and realize that it’s us that makes this place what we want it to be - not outside investment, not tourists, not folks chasing dollars into and then out of the state. If we start to see that, then maybe I’ll live long enough to see what this place could really be.

Today’s image immediately made me think “Phoenix!” when I saw it through the viewfinder - and then immediately the idea for today’s post was born. West Virginia, and her mountains, and her people, rising - like the Phoenix.

Hope folks have a great weekend,

The Phoenix - West Virginia

Bridge To Nowhere (and can't wait to get there) - Maryland by sam taylor

Bridge To Nowhere - Maryland

Good Tuesday Morning!

I've made a lot of jokes about "nature therapy" in here, and have always said that hiking and biking and climbing and camping were the solutions to most of my problems. 

Depressed?  Go to the woods.

Stressed?  Go to the woods. 

Insomnia?  Go to the woods.

It has always been a place to recenter myself, and find what I'm happy about.  Enough so that I keep pondering whether a day-job change is in my future...  but more on that later.

This last weekend, we went to the woods, did some work, hung out on the farm.

My blood pressure was down 15 points between Friday and Monday.

That was pretty eye-opening for me.  Maybe taking the bridge to nowhere was the right choice.  A trail that starts in the middle of nowhere and ends in the middle of nowhere.  So the name seems to make sense to me.

Bridge to Nowhere - Maryland

Beauty Run - West Virginia by sam taylor

Beauty Run - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Between the green and the rain, it seems that Summer is upon us here in the Mountain State. I sure am glad of that too. It’s going to be one heck of a summer - family stuff, travel, work on the farm, work at work ;), and then culminates with my daughter starting high school.

All of that put together has meant that my “going out to shoot” time has been a bit curtailed, and that I have to make the most of that time when I get it. That’s actually been kind of a nice thing for me, in that it means I have to work harder to find beauty in unexpected places, or to try and find new perspectives on old things.

Today’s image is a bit of all of those - a chance to re-visit an old place, and find something unexpected when I do.

To my knowledge, this little ephemeral stream doesn’t have a name. I call it Beauty Run.

Beauty Run - West Virginia