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The weather people really oversold the coming storm. Wind and hard driving rain? I didn't see it. It snowed a few flakes higher on the hill and there were a few gusts of wind, but the big storm just didn't show.
What did show was a very hardy and fit group of trail runners and beautiful light in the forest. That combination resulted in a great day and the opportunity for beautiful photographs.
Many thanks to Roger, Jerry and all of the volunteers that make such a great event possible.
A big thank you also to all of the runners who somehow manage to remain positive and happy running on such steep and rugged terrain. You all make my job so much easier.
The nice weather we were hoping for on Friday never materialized. In the evening the sky turned leadened and a cold rain poured straight down. So much for a dry race on Saturday. Much to my delight, dawn arrived with broken clouds and a lovely sunrise. Maybe it wouldn't be such a wet day. I arrived at Taylor Mountain just as the five milers were getting ready to start, but I was able go get ahead of them on the trail. Everything was very wet from the night before and parts of the trail were extremely muddy. The runners were looking at an exciting but dirty day. I think that's what a lot of them live for.
The wild flowers were abundant and exquisite.
There were fox glove
everywhere in deep shades of purple, pink and white.
Hummingbirds and bees
kept me company darting in and out of the flowers as I hiked up the trail. There were many other signs of animals on the trail, especially deer and elk tracks. The bear scat kept me whistling and clapping as I approached each blind curve. I had to watch my step so I didn't stomp on the slugs and centipedes.
I had the trail to myself for about an hour till I met the first runner, #914 Van Phan.
She finished her 50k (31.07mi) in 5:55:32. The weather stayed beautiful until noon and I had met most of the runners on the trail at least once. The sky then began to darken and the rain gathered strength. Soon the trail ran like a small river and nearly everyone and everything was drenched. The only thing that wasn't soaked was the spirit of the contestants. Almost everybody that I met on the trail had a smile, a cheerful word or a thumbs up for the camera. The trails that Evergreen Trail Runs select for their events are so interesting and beautiful that it takes more than a bit of rain to dampen the runners spirit.
It was raining lightly as I drove out of Seattle toward Snoqualmie Pass. I left early to make the three and a half hour journey to Lake Chelan for the 2012 Echo Valley Mountain Bike Race put on by Roger and Yumay from the NW Epic Series and 4th Dimension Racing. As I approached the pass I thought, "Oh great, another race in the rain!" Much to my delight, the rain quit shortly after starting down the east side and the weather improved the farther north I went. The Columbia River and Lake Chelan were beautiful in the morning light.
It was great to see many old friends as I entered the campgrounds and staging area for the race. Everyone seemed happy and excited as they checked their bikes, made final adjustments and prepared themselves physically and mentally for the Endurance 30/60 miler. They greeted teammates, friends and kindred spirits with high fives and hugs.
The ride started with a long climb up a dusty road with the snow covered Cascades in the distance,
before turning off on to the single track trails through the tree and brush covered hills above the lake. Many riders commented that the Echo Valley course was faster and less technical than the Stottlemeyer race, but many still found jumps, fast turns and steep climbs to challenge their mountain biking skills.
Even before the race was complete I overheard people talking excitedly about the third race in the NW Epic Series, the Capitol Forest 50/100 to be held on August 25, 2012.
I can't wait to see you all there.
The ripples glittered softly as the first cries floated across the lagoon in the pre-dawn stillness. A snowy egret and a blue heron were hunting in the shallows of the bay while brown pelicans dove for their breakfast in the deeper water offshore.
High atop a weathered snag in an untidy nest of twigs and grass, a mother Osprey called to her mate sitting in a nearby tree. The pleas of three chicks nestled beneath her soon added to the discordant song greeting the new day.
I listened for almost an hour, waiting for one or the other adults to heed the entreaties of their near fledglings, but neither seemed in a hurry to leave.
Finally with much raucous protesting she flew off, seemingly to find breakfast, leaving her mate to guard the nest. She returned fifteen minutes later, but to the dismay of her offspring , she only brought back a stick to reinforce the nest.
The sun was getting higher in the sky and the younger osprey were starting to sound desperate when the male finally lifted from his perch and flew out of sight around the curve of the lagoon.
He soon came gliding back with a fresh fish wriggling in his talon, but instead of flying to the nest to share his catch, he dropped into a nearby tree.
He slowly killed and ate his fill while his family waited impatiently nearby. The mother was left to console her chicks the best she could.
Eventually he either ate his fill or tired of listening to their appeals, leapt from his branch and soared over to the nest to feed his hungry family.
With his paternal duties done, he flew back to the solitude of his branch.
Shooting weddings is always a source of stress. What if my equipment fails or I miss that all important shot? Add the potential problems of travel to a destination wedding in rural Alabama and you have all the ingredients for a recipe that could give the most stalwart photographer ulcers. Delayed flights, lost equipment bags or an unmet and uncooperative groom all loomed in my imagination as I planned my trip.
The Flight to Birmingham went off with only one minor glitch which was remedied by a very understanding and helpful flight attendant. "No I really can't gate check my camera bag." "Yes sir, just leave it up front here and we'll figure out someplace to keep it safe." What a relief.
I'd driven across Alabama when I was much younger and only had a vague memory of interstate highways and rest areas. I did not remember the natural beauty that truly is Alabama. The area around Bessemer and McCalla, southwest of Birmingham, marks the southern geographic terminus of the Appalachian mountains. The high rolling foothills are covered with hardwood timber and grassy glades resplendent with wild flowers. The deep valleys are filled with innumerable ponds, lakes and streams. This verdant land is home to deer, turkey, fox, geese and much, much more.
With my equipment intact and my travel fears allayed, it was time to meet Beau and his family. They are the true genteel south, have never met a stranger and make you feel instantly at home.
This was to be a barn wedding on the family farm and both the bride and groom's families were on hand to transform a basic equipment shed into a party palace.
Party lights and streamers strung from rafter to rafter and billowing drapes adorning the doorways, bestowed an air of elegance on the wedding venue.
The wedding was to take place at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon and the rehearsal was held at 4:30 on Friday.
Having the rehersal at the same time gave me a great preview of what the light would be for the wedding.
Everyone seemed to know their lines and places so the rehearsal was quick and the party moved up the hill to the family home and the rehearsal dinner around the pool.
The morning of the wedding dawned clear and warm and any anxiety about the weather and an outdoor ceremony were quickly dispelled. Both families again gathered to put the finishing touches on the decorations and I met the bride on site at 2:30 to take bridal portraits and group photos of the bride with her attendants. The farm provided many different and unusual backgrounds both rustic and elegant.
The ceremony started right on time with about 200 guest in attendance. The bride looked beautiful walking down the isle with her proud father who performed the ceremony, after an opening prayer by a dear friend.