Out To See
11 Feb 2015

Mount Rogers: Ponies in the mist

Virginia No Comments by Christina Cooke

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A herd of about 150 ponies lives atop Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. Though they accept veterinarian check-ups once a year and salt licks on occasion, they’re otherwise wild and don’t care much about humans. 

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For the record, though, even from a distance – wild horse babies multiply the adorability factor of any hiking trip. (That’s nursing happening right there…) 

03 Oct 2014

Bull City Pride: 2014 NC Pride parade and festival

North Carolina No Comments by Christina Cooke

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Named America’s Most Tolerant City by The Daily Beast in 2012, Durham, North Carolina, has a strong sense of Pride. The city hosted the state’s first Pride parade back in 1981. Since then, the event has become the largest LGBT event in North Carolina and the five surrounding states. The 2014 parade took place this past Saturday.

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Revelers in feathers boas and rainbow tutus and sparkles and wigs, on floats and on foot, filled the streets around Duke’s East Campus and Ninth Street. Bands played, music blasted and spectators and participants whooped and danced.

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I attended the parade as part of a street photography course with New York City documentary street photographer Harvey Stein, offered through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (loved it, would highly recommend!).

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20 Aug 2014

Backpacking Mount Mitchell: when you start at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down (and up, and down)

North Carolina 4 Comments by Christina Cooke

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My sister Laura and I hoisted on our backpacks atop 6,684-foot Mt. Mitchell — the highest point east of the Mississippi River — and lumbered 4.5 miles north along a ridge to a camping spot at Deep Gap. While the hike along the Black Mountain Crest (aka Deep Gap) trail was not horizontally challenging, we did find ourselves navigating a lot of steep vertical change.

Though we were away from “civilization” for only 24 hours, we managed to see a lot:

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The hike took us up and over Mount Craig (at 6,647 feet, the SECOND highest peak east of the Mississippi), Big Tom, Cattail Peak and a place called Potato Hill. 

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One of the highest and most bio-diverse landscapes in North Carolina, Mount Mitchell State Park contains more than 65 rare plant species.

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A couple especially steep spots required the assistance of rope.

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Just past prime, but still pretty.

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Wood like bone.

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Butterfly closed… NBD.

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Butterfly open… WHAT?!?! 

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Translation: sweat the small stuff, not the bears.

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On top of Big Tom, named for Thomas “Big Tom” Wilson, a famous guide and bear hunter who found the body of Dr. Elisha Mitchell in 1857. That’s all the plaque said, so that’s all I know.

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We managed to not dress in identical outfits on this trip. It’s the small victories we celebrate.

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How do you make sure no one sets up a tent right beside yours? Act weird and take up space!

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Success!

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Losing at gin (While optimistic, aiming for a seven-card run is not a winning strategy.)

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The solitaire that followed the gin.

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When epicureans go camping…
(Also: Heat-and-serve Tasty Bites are perfect for when your campsite is miles away from a water source.)

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Laura thoroughly enjoyed her insulated mug of jaipur vegetables and jasmine rice. She also thoroughly enjoys this vest.

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The winds blew strong all night, and clouds swirled around the summits we passed over on the hike out in the morning. 

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Lichen on a tree trunk.

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Descent

25 Mar 2014

Mirlo Beach: Dare to Dream the Impossible Dream

North Carolina No Comments by Christina Cooke

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Two decades ago, Mirlo Beach was a thriving oceanfront community on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, located along NC-12 between Nags Head and Cape Hatteras just north of Rodanthe (the village featured in the 2008 film Nights in Rodanthe). The sand along this stretch of shore has been eroding at a rate of 14 feet per year, however, putting the place in jeopardy.

When the house pictured above — appropriately named Wave Breaker — was built, it was three streets back from oceanfront. No longer. (Note: Wave Breaker has since been moved.)

Needless to say, Mirlo Beach is NOT the first place you’d choose these days for a nice, relaxing vacay.

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People who own houses in Mirlo Beach — mostly out-of-towners— are currently begging the NC legislature for a beach nourishment program to replace the eroding sand.

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 Bulldozers are tasked with maintaining the dune separating NC-12 through Mirlo Beach from the ocean. The day we drove it (during a Nor’easter, it so happened), the bulldozers — Sisyphus-like — scooped sand off of the road at the same rate it blew back on.

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Note: I visited Mirlo Beach as a fellow with the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources based out of Montana.

05 Dec 2013

Off-season in Glacier National Park

Montana No Comments by Christina Cooke

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The distant peaks of Glacier National Park through the remains of a burn

For us, hiking Montana’s Glacier National Park for three days in late November meant a multitude of ill-informed mid-hike discussions about the sleep patterns of bears. We didn’t even think about the fact we might need bear spray or other protection until we’d hiked 6 miles into middle-of-nowhere Bowman Lake and saw this sign:

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Only then did we realize we had no idea when exactly bears lie down to sleep for the winter.

According to this National Park Service site, Glacier’s approximately 300 bears start hibernating in “late autumn.” But when you think about it, the words “late” and “autumn” are pretty open to interpretation, especially given the contradictory facts that snow covered the ground (it’s winter!) and the first day of winter is December 21 (it’s definitely autumn).

The best I can figure after extensive research (i.e. reading the NPS link above), the bears were either sleeping or in a state called “walking hibernation” during the time we were there. Apparently, about two weeks before the animals settle in for winter, they wander around half-sleeping toward the 8000-foot elevation where they’ll eventually make their dens.

(Fun facts: During hibernation, bear body temperatures drop to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, they breathe once every 45 seconds and their hearts beat 25 times every minute. And since their hibernation isn’t as complete as other creatures, they also pee, poop, give birth and nurse.)

In light of all the information/misinformation flying around (mostly perpetrated by me), I’m glad my father passed along this article, about a grizzly mauling a father and daughter in Glacier, AFTER we’d returned.

Here are a few photos from our three days exploring the park on foot.

HIKE TO AVALANCHE LAKE

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Avalanche Lake and the peaks behind it

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Where the water  meets the ground.

DSC_1064  Delicate ice sculptures on the frozen water.

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Me by the lake (photo by Donnie)

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Frozen Avalanche Creek, which we followed up to the lake

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Tree roots by Avalanche Creek 

HIKE/CROSS-COUNTRY SKI TO BOWMAN LAKE

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We had to carry our skis a couple miles along the 6-mile road from North Fork of the Flathead River to Bowman Lake, along the western edge of the park, before the snow got thick enough for us to put them on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Donnie, pumped about the snow we had yet to find.

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Donnie shredding the snow we found.

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Bowman Lake, the midpoint of our day.

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Headed back through the pine forests as the sun set.

HIKE TO SNYDER LAKE

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We hiked through freezing fog in the lower section of our straight-up hike to Snyder Lake.

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Once we ascended above the freezing fog, the trail became snow-covered, the weather sunny and the sky blue.

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Snyder Lake was beyond those trees and frozen.

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D. Kolb and a mountain that might be but probably isn’t Gunsight Mountain. 

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DSC_0238  Portrait of a stump and its cute little hat

LAKE McDONALD

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Some sunset sneaks through the low-lying freezing fog. (Freezing fog was definitely a theme of our trip.)

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     Toothpicks on a hillside.