Autumn Colors

I have always wanted to see the mountains of the eastern United States if the full fall colors since I first arrived in South Carolina many, many years ago. In the past three years I have had all the ability to go, with no true ties to hold me here, the only concern I needed to take care of was the care and feeding of my three furry room mates. Yet, when the opportunity arose this year . . . I truly leapt out the door!
It was not a long drive . . . about 5.5 hours . . . and I did not get a chance to enjoy the sights of climbing up the mountains, but I did enjoy the winding road and cooler temperatures. I hit the hotel, checked my cameras and equipment, and got ready for the new day, which arrived WAY too early!!
I was up at 4:30 AM and out of the room and in the car by 5:15 AM. I knew EXACTLY where I wanted to go for the sunrise having done my research carefully. I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway in a matter of minutes and to my destination within 40 minutes. It was a fascinating drive, through the winding road, through the fog and sunken clouds, accelerating around the turns with all the windows of the car down and the wind shifting from side to side as a sped through the mountains. I only slowed once for two does standing in the opposing lane who watched me now creep by, then I was rocketing off again!
So . . . the parking area had three other cars in it as I arrived. Now my primary need was to find the trail in the dark! I didn’t want to turn on the bright flashlight, I was quite enjoying the dark. It was a full moon this morning, but as I climbed the mountain, a patch of clouds had moved in from the northeast and the moon was playing hide-and-go-seek with the ridges and valleys. I donned my wool skull cap, the one I had with the three LED lights on the front, switched it on, and in a very pale halo was able to locate the trailhead as a hole through the undergrowth and forest. I was off . . .
It wasn’t a long climb up the trail but I thanked myself many times for the workouts over the past three months to shed 30 pounds on the elliptical machines. I barely broke a sweat and topped out exactly as I had hoped.
Before me was a wonderous view . . . the moon had chased away the clouds and now hung over the forest clad mountains and ridges. This shot looks south and east, and although dark it is an exact image of the rock shelf I was standing on. I stayed here for awhile, watching this sight as it drew towards the rising of the sun, breathing in the cool night air and listening to the woods around me . . . for a short time I was just at peace!
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But . . . although seeing the moon like this was a bonus I had not planned on, I was here for the sunrise. So I packed up my gear and headed for the other side of the mountain.
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This is the view I was searching for  . . . to be positioned in . . . for the coming sunrise. Now all I needed to do was to patiently sit and wait . . . and watch (and keep wiping the condensate off my lenses and neutral density filters . . . seems that changing mountain temps can cause havoc on glass lenses!!)

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And you wait . . . and the colors rise with the sun . . .
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And then . . . if you are not ready . . . if you are not watchful . . .  suddenly the sun is up . . . and you are standing in the new day.
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And remember the side of the mountain . . . the side that earlier was cloaked in darkness, bathed by the moon . . . it now glows in the morning light as the valleys fill with the fog of early day.
I returned here the next morning . . . I wanted to witness more of the moon, to feel the sunrise again . . . and I hope you like the photos from then as well!
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Not every day is a great photo day!
So I pack up all the camera gear again, say goodbye to all my fellow crazy photographer associates that had assembled with me to see the sunrise and slog down the mountain again. It sounds tedious . . . but here is what the sunrise brings to the mountains an the fall . . .
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The colors of autumn are now exploding around me. I spent five days in the mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway . . . roaming through Virginia all the way south to Asheville, NC. I would have liked to see more . . . but as I know now . . . there will be a return to the mountains next year!
Matt
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