Getting back out on the Trail!...

         Hello friends,

         Well, I am pretty happy to say I had a very successful and amazing time getting back out for a few days in the backcountry of Shenandoah National Park this past week!  It felt great to get back there this Spring as I was unable to make it there last year during this time.  And as always, Shenandoah did not disappoint in the least!  

         I arrived on a very wet, foggy day to find the true freshness of Spring revealed in the cleansing rain.  It was magnificent!  The Park is so alive right now with bright green, beautiful white Dogwood blooms, early season wildflowers such as violets and wild geraniums, gushing waterfalls thundering in Spring flood, and although a great many were beginning to leaf, there was still a lot of purple between 1,000-2,000 feet elevation from the Redbuds!  I spent both of my nights in different parts of Shenandoah's Federally Designated Wilderness areas - the first, off of the Mount Marshall Trail, which was a new trail for me, and the second... Yep, I couldn't resist the calling of my home away from home off of the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail.  Both hikes also included short stints on The Appalachian Trail, always a cool feeling to set foot on :-)

         After a damp, but glorious first night, the remaining day and a half I spent there was wonderfully warm and sunny with cool breezes carrying wafts of wild Lilac through the air.  Talk about bliss!  All in all, I covered roughly 12 miles, taking in the delights of the Spring mountains.  I caught my first glimpse of a Shenandoah Salamander(a species only found here), making friends with him in the rain on my first night.  I heard a pair of Barred Owls hooting "Who Cooks For You, Who Cooks For You All" across the forest at each other in the night.  The morning and evening chorus of birdsongs added extra serenity to spending time with the Dogwoods and Wildflowers.  And the rushing flow of the waterfalls was a welcome refreshment to the spirit.

         I wrote in my journal on my second morning, something profound, yet so true in relation to my thoughts of what I may hope to see and photograph while here... "You can plan for this, you can plan for that, but you can never prepare for what Nature will show you."  She is full of surprises and wonder and challenges, all of which are good for the soul.  Until next time, my beauty...

                                                                                                            Brandon Kline  

Hiking to "A Home Away from Home"...

         In correlation with yesterday's blog pertaining to Earth Day and National Parks Week, guess where I'll be while you're reading these posts Monday April 24th-Wednesday April 26th this week??!

         Well, if you guessed Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, you are correct!  Yep, I'll be dusting off the backpack and getting back out on the trail for a few days as I make my annual Spring migration to Shenandoah to soak in some of the best Mother Nature has to offer in honor of Earth Day!  As I write this, I am still in debate as to where exactly I'll be hiking these few days, but if I am lucky I may just catch the magnificent display of Redbuds and Dogwoods in the Park's Northern District before the blooms are over.  And who knows, I may just have to go visit my "home away from home"...

         "This backcountry locale in my "backyard" National Park, Shenandoah, has become a home away from home for me.  Since the first time I camped near this serene waterfall I have returned more than half a dozen times to date (and only planning on adding to that over the years to come).  Right here, I have enjoyed some of my most profound and intimate moments of experiencing immaculate Mother Nature.  And the fact that it lies within a section of Shenandoah's Federally designated Wilderness, makes it even more special.  Hiking 3.5 miles in darkness the night before, I awoke on my first morning here and rolled out of my hammock, slid down the carved out hollow right next to me and photographed this magical moment at dawn.  The most amazing black bear encounter of my life has taken place right here, as a young juvenile played and foraged for nuts in late Autumn not more than 20 yards from me for a good 10 minutes or so!  I have been here in early Spring to celebrate Earth Day and seen these Falls booming at 2-3 times the volume you see here.  At the perfect time in October, this forest is ablaze with Maples, Hickories and Oaks.  And, every time, whether it be amidst the intoxicating smell of fresh Spring rain, or Autumn leaves in the cool air, and the deafening sound of the falls as I hear nothing but them aside from an occasional owl hooting, I can lean back and lose myself in dreams under the stars and the moonlight... This place soothes my soul, this is living folks, this is real magic!"

                                                                                                        Brandon Kline


"A Home Away from Home"

The Sweet Songs of Spring...

         Perhaps when you look at this image, despite the pretty flowering trees dispersed throughout, it just seems like a big mess.  That's ok, sometimes I feel that way too.  In fact, I debated a lot over making this photograph part of my collection.  After several views though and transporting myself back to this moment in a place I treasure every Spring, it hit me.  The very reason I composed the scene the way I did was to encompass everything I could in the frame about this place that is special to me this time of year.  

         Picture yourself sitting peacefully in this tangled mess of forest bursting with new life, it is a beautiful Spring morning with the perfect mixture of a warm sun and a cool breeze.  Vibrant green surrounds you, such as the leaves of this young Sugar Maple hanging right in front of you, destined to be a majestic Autumn dazzler someday.  As you look all around, purple and pink dots of the Redbuds are everywhere, entrancing you with happiness.  And front and center, growing just enough year after year to work it's way into this clear open view, is the White Flowering Dogwood, brilliant as can be.  Unable to resist smiling with the joy of this re-birth of the forest, you just sit there and take it all in, the air filled with the sweetest scents of lilac and fresh flowers wafting in the breeze and the morning chorus of the birds rejoicing these sweet songs of Spring!

                                                                                                                   Brandon Kline

"Sweet Songs of Spring"