Sunset in the Outer Banks

It’s often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Whoever first uttered these words obviously did so before the preponderance of cell phone images and social network photo sharing. I’m a bit old school when it comes to photography. I relish capturing a moment in time and returning to it again and again, discovering new details and observations.

Last weekend, I took this sunset photo along the Currituck Sound in Outer Banks of North Carolina in the town of Duck. During the summer months, Duck’s population explodes with vacationers, but throughout the spring and fall, the place returns back into a sleepy coastal town. As we walked along the boardwalk, the stillness along the water was absolutely deafening. God’s creation was magnified in that moment. Today, I wanted to share a little of that serenity with you.

102414 OBX Duck, NC 014 web

Do you ever stop and consider the stories behind photos? What types of images speak to you?

By the way, I’ve added this image to my Photography Shop. There you will find a collection of my work, available for purchase on high quality wall canvases. I have two hanging in my office at work. Recently a coworker commented that they were so beautiful that they looked like oil paintings. These make beautiful additions to any home or office.

High Point Hike #5: Driskill Mountain, Louisiana

Driskill Mountain is the fifth trek in my Hike America series. I’ve always wanted to visit every state, but I’ve only made it to about half of them. What better way to see the country than to hike all across it. I plan to hike a major trail in each of the 50 states, typically to the highest point in each one.  Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end!

As you may have read in my previous blog, my family and I recently returned from a road trip across the south. As with any expedition I take, I study the state high points map to determine whether we will be passing within any reasonable distance of a one of these highest peaks. With Driskill Mountain residing just a few miles off of I-20 on our way to Texas, there was no way I could pass up a chance to visit the towering 535-foot summit of the Bayou State. In addition, this would likely be the one and only time my family would get a chance to join me on a high point climb.

One of the unique aspects of exploring each state high point is that you end up discovering places you likely would have never visited otherwise. As we exited I-20 and headed down state road 507, we quickly left civilization entirely. The winding country road took us through farmland and dense forest into the heart of Cajun country. An occasional car would pass, and a few folks waved at us like we were locals out for a joy ride.

The trail head is located behind the Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, a quaint country church and one of few buildings around. As we exited the car, the sound of stillness was overwhelming. There was not a soul in site. We passed beside the church cemetery to enter the trail, which leads you through a winding stretch of towering timber. The sun faded between the trees, as sunset was just a couple of hours away.

IMG_3071It’s a short 1-mile trek to the top, but I was surprised to discover that the path led us through rolling hills and a decent bit of elevation change. The wide and well-maintained trail consists of quartz sands in parts, but it is well marked and easy to navigate. On this humid October day, we were huffing and puffing, as sweat dripped from our faces.

I’m not sure why, but I made the absurd decision to bring a stroller with us, thinking our seven-month-old would want to remain in his seat during his first high point adventure. I figured, “It’s Louisiana. It will be a fairly flat, just a nice little stroll over to the high point.” What was I thinking?! To top it off, guess who started begging for an unobstructed view of his surroundings while thinking that Dad had lost his mind? I ended pushing the stroller filled with our belongings up the hills while Karen managed to carry Ryan in tow. Thankfully no one was around to see our ridiculous parade, and it’s a journey I will be hearing about for many years to come.

At the top, I was pleasantly surprised to view a small glimpse of the surrounding “mountains” through the tree tops. Who knew Louisiana could boast such lofty peaks? The overlook view was a bit obscured because of the dense summer foliage, but an opening provided a slight view of the surrounding area.

As I placed my foot on the high point marker, I crossed high point number five off my list. While 535 feet pales in comparison to many of the other high points, I was pleasantly surprised with this hidden gem of a trail. What better way to visit Louisiana than from the top.

The journey continues…



3,000 Miles Later

After two weeks on the road, it is great to be back with you today at Trail Reflections. Karen, Ryan, and I recently returned from a memorable 3,000 mile Big Texroad trip that included quality family time, a bit of Texas culture, a blast from the past, a photo with Big Tex, and a whole lot of tasty food. I love to plan and take unique road trips that offer a change of scenery and time spent with family and good friends. When I say “plan,” I prefer to have a loose framework in place with flexibility to alter course as interesting spots arise.

Our first stop included our usual trek to Tennessee for quality time with both sets of Ryan’s grandparents and two of his great-grandparents. While in town, attending the disastrous Tennessee football game would be the low point of the trip. Nevertheless, the grandparents marveled at his new-found ability to effortlessly crawl, stand up, and nearly walk.

After a few days in Knoxville, we drove southwest to the Jackson, MS suburb of Clinton, the small town where Karen spent some of the most memorable moments of her life. It was the first time I had the opportunity to visit this quaint town in the heart of the south. With childlike wonder and pride in her voice, Karen drove us out to the soccer fields where she won a state title nearly two decades ago and to the schools and church that had such an impact on her over the years.

LABack on the road, we traversed the entire northern portion of Louisiana, stopping at a Shell gas station where I halfway expected tumbleweed to whisk by and an old western showdown to break out.

Our next stop was to the middle of nowhere, literally. I mean when are you ever so close to Louisiana’s highest point – Driskill Mountain? As some of you may recall, my lifelong goal involves hiking to each state high point, and this trip provided the ideal opportunity to knock out the towering 535 foot summit. More about this next time, but I have now completed five high points.

We successfully emerged from the middle of nowhere, and hit the road onward to Denison, Texas, the town of residence where most of Karen’s extended family live. Denison is about an hour north of Dallas, just a stone’s throw away from the infamous Red River and the Oklahoma state line. My only other time to visit was two-and-a-half years ago for Karen’s grandfather’s funeral. Quite honestly, we didn’t want our next visit to be another funeral, as we wanted the family to meet Ryan while he is in the cute baby stage and not at his high school graduation.

familyPlus the trip offered an excellent excuse to eat a real steak and Texas beef brisket. After consuming arguably the tastiest steak my taste buds have ever encountered for lunch, we spent the evening catching up with Karen’s extended family, including her maternal grandmother, Karen’s only living grandparent on either side. Of course we parents are the side show, as Ryan took a liking to the Texas folks and they to him. We were able to connect with many aunts, uncles, and cousins that we hardly ever have the opportunity to see.

OU-TexasSaturday was a bucket list day, as I took in my first ever Red River Shootout – Oklahoma versus Texas – in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. After a summer-like, Texas weather greeted us the day prior, fall suddenly arrived just in time for one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Since I was born in Oklahoma, I have always considered the Sooners my second favorite college football team behind Tennessee. Fortunately, Karen’s cousin Jeremy is the biggest OU fan in the world, and he and I had a blast watching Oklahoma defeat the Longhorns at one of the most unique sporting events I have ever attended.

Afterward, we explored a bit of the famed Texas State Fair, although it was extremely crowded with fans clad in crimson and burnt orange that it took us over half-an-hour to purchase two Fletcher’s corn dogs. The line was packed in like sardines, I was just hoping that no one in line had been in contact with any Ebola patients. But as I discovered, you can’t attend the State Fair without downing a couple of the scrumptious dogs.

Sure, there were other aspects of the trip that weren’t always ideal, including listening to a fussy baby who was undoubtedly sick and tired of being on the road and having to adjust his internal clock to central time. Of course we had luggage, baby clothes, and a bassinet to pack, shuffle around, and carry in-and-out of hotels.

However, there is something reinvigorating about escaping your normal routine, traveling to unfamiliar spots, and connecting with people you don’t often get a chance to see.

My time on the road helped me to mentally refocus on some yet-to-be-achieved goals and to gain a clearer perspective of the big picture. The trip also gave us a chance to experience real life, something we often forget to do while buried in work and technology.

3,000 miles is a quite a journey, but one that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Do you ever take time to hit the road and leave the daily routine behind? If so, how does a trip help you refocus and reenergize? If not, what holds you back?