Morning Light, Golden Light & Milky Light

Morning Light, Golden Light, and Milky Light

Some thoughts on three different experiences at Town Creek Indian Mound.

Town Creek Indian Mound has a definite presence in its isolated corner in Montgomery County. Every time I come to the site I have a unique experience. I used these three photographs as they represent sunrise, sunset and the Milky Way. What I like about being here  is the lack of modern “civilized” sounds. All one can hear are the sounds of nature, no cars, planes or voices, just one with the surroundings and at night no artificial light to mar one’s view of the sky. Time slows down where you can live in the moment and that’s all that matters…

Morning Light ­– April 4, 2014

Standing in the field in front of the Indian mound this morning waiting for the sunrise I was listening to distant woodpeckers drumming on hollow trees in response to each other. One bird was on the left and the other drumming off to the right. The stereo drumming echoed off copses and hollows surrounding the ancient place. In the center field of my hearing a turkey gobbled off in the distance in the gathering dawn light. Hardly any human sound interrupted the morning chorus of the songbirds, just the occasional distant car traveling to work on the highway. These words hardly touch the experience.

Sunrise at Town Creek Indian Mound

Sunrise at Town Creek Indian Mound

 

Golden Light – August 23, 2014

My last trip to Town Creek was back in April, six months ago when spring was just giving its promise of new growth, warmth and a respite from the grey winter months. It was early morning; the sunrise brought out Pileated woodpeckers who were drumming to each other, calling each other to the cycles of the awakening spring. The air had a magical feeling, a newness rising, life starting over, and growth about to begin.

This evening was once again magical; it was during the golden hours of the last sunlight, now in late summer, growth is coming to an end and life is in the early stages of going dormant, wildlife is preparing for leaner times. Mourning doves were calling to each other, the melancholy sounds floating from the edge of the field. Towhee declaring their territory broke into the melancholy coos of the doves while the breeze was matching the sound of the rushing creek on the opposite side of the mound.

The Lodge at Town Creek Indian Mound
The Lodge at Town Creek Indian Mound

 

Milky Light – October 17, 2015

Waiting for the darkness to become complete I am under the open sky within the stockade with friends. We are eagerly waiting for the Milky Way to make its appearance. I drove across the river to the Indian Mound do some astrophotography.  This is one scene I have been planning since this summer and my new interest in photographing the nighttime sky. My goal was to frame the galactic core of the Milky Way over the lodge on the mound. As we waited patiently planning out what we wanted to accomplish the sky darkened and the crescent moon dipped below the tall straight pines standing guard behind the mound. Finally the hour came and we jumped into action doing some light painting on the lodge so it would show up in the photograph. We didn’t get lost in all of the technical aspects though. We did have time to wonder and gaze at the heavens at the incredible expanse of space and stars didn’t make me feel small, it made me feel like we were interconnected with everything and everyone.

The core of the Milky Way over the lodge at Town Creek Indian Mound
The core of the Milky Way over the lodge at Town Creek Indian Mound

This area is rich in history of many Indian cultures, Town Creek being one of the more recent. You can visit the site at their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/towncreekindianmound

Or their web site:

http://www.towncreekindianmound.com

A Tale of Two Dogs

The Tale of the Two Dogs

 

This story goes way back and I actually am posting photographs from  the era of this backpacking trip. In the mid-70s I was introduced to a beautiful back country area in southwestern Virginia. By the late 70s I was so serious about the activity every weekend I could get out backpacking rain or shine. This is about one particular trip 30 years ago in 1985.  I always took my black lab along on my trips and often I would backpack solo. This was one of my solo excursions plus an extra dog.

Two dogs ready for a hike.
Doc, on left; Cody, on right: Both dogs have their packs on and are ready to go!

My sister was out of town so her dog Cody, and my lab Doc, were my hiking companions for the weekend. Cody was Doc’s brother, but from a different litter and they spent a lot of time together. Cody was a bit more mischievous than Doc, but both were well behaved dogs. Both dogs had their own backpacks for carrying their food, dishes, and toys for the trip. They had to carry their own weight; I didn’t have room or want to carry the weight of the food two labs can consume over a weekend. We started out late morning on a sunny Friday.  I had planned my trip in the Mt. Rogers recreation area and camp at one of my favorite spots at Cabin Ridge. That morning we had a long hike in, most of it uphill as I started out at the Appalachian Trail from a parking area on the northern side of the recreation area hiking up Pine Mountain.

 

After our five mile trek we arrived and I set up camp. After arranging everything I sat down in the tent and then stretched out on the sleeping bag. That was a mistake as usually when I am in a horizontal position; I fall asleep (especially when I was younger.) Back then (as I do now) I usually let my dog run free if there aren’t many hikers on the trail. This day was one of those so both dogs were off leash to run off their extra energy and they were off leash at camp. When I awakened from my accidental nap I was aware of the silence around the camp and thought the dogs were asleep. I crawled out of the tent and didn’t see any curled up black furry mounds anywhere near the camp. I glanced at my watch and saw it was 3:00 p.m. I was camped at the edge of a fir forest bordering an alpine meadow along a ridge. One could see for miles along many ridgelines that are surrounded by seas of dark heavily scented firs.  I looked around and called the dogs, but there was no response nor could any black tails running around the grassy meadows be seen. I quickly became concerned. Doc normally stayed around camp and I never had to worry about him running off. Cody on the other hand was a little more mischievous as I mentioned before and had been known to get Doc into trouble. After a half hour passed I began to panic and started methodically hiking different trails and back along each compass point. I asked the few hikers I ran into if they had seen two black dogs with to all negative responses. Back then the area was not as well-known as it is today so there were not many hikers or horseback riders to ask. I finally returned to the campsite at sunset without finding the dogs and had the most fitful sleep.

A view from my tent.
The campsite at Cabin Ridge.

I kept waking up the entire night hoping the dogs had returned. At daybreak I got up and started looking again and wondered what my next move should be. Was I going to have to leave without the dogs? Eventually I would have to go, I had to work. Around 11a.m. a couple of horseback riders came by the campsite heading down Cabin Ridge back down to Massy Gap. I asked about seeing the dogs and they replied no. My heart sunk even lower as I sat down on a log next to the fire pit at my camp. About a minute later I hear a voice shouting “Hey fella, are these the dogs?” I look across the meadow at the distant horsemen and see two black tails sticking above the tall autumn brown grass heading in my direction. They were coming up from the lower elevations of Massey Gap, who knows exactly where they had been or what they had been up to. My heart jumped for joy, the dogs were returning from their all-night adventure. Now I didn’t have to tell my sister I lost her dog! I was so relieved and exhausted we packed up and headed out a day early, all the anxiety, miles of searching, and stress had made enough excitement for one trip. Both dogs stuck right by my side on the hike out too tired to romp and roam around during the return hike.

Scenic landscape.
A view from Rhododendron Gap looking back at Pine Mountain. We hiked from the obvious valley on the right to the top of Pine Mountain to get to this point.

 

All the photographs are from the Mt. Rogers area in 1985-86   Kodak Ektachrome 64 transparency (slide) film

© Matthew H Irvin

Matthew Irvin & Photo Dog Jackson – Photographers and writers