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Doc Holliday Trail and Annie’s Tree – a story of darkness and light

Doc Holliday’s Trail and Annie’s Tree – a story of darkness and light.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

At 6,000 feet above sea level, I am gasping for air.  I am also, as my father used to say, “getting old and soft.”  Now I’m only two-hundred feet up in my relatively easy three-hundred-foot climb on the Doc Holliday Trail to Glenwood Springs’ historic Pioneer Cemetery.  It sits on a lower ridge-bump of 8,095-foot-high Lookout Mountain that stands above and the Colorado city of around ten-thousand people.  My flatlander-endurance is poor in the thin air as I trudge onward.  The view is refreshing as I pause to take in the scope of the city below… okay… I stop to get my breath.  But, I gotta keep going, The Beckster is getting ahead of me on our upward trek to see the West’s version of outlaw/lawman, John Henry “Doc” Holliday’s gravesite.  He was born in 1851 in Griffin, Georgia but died in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  But where is he now?

Looking across the city of Glenwood Springs from the Doc Holliday Trail.

Looking across the city of Glenwood Springs from the Doc Holliday Trail.

What awaits us at the end of the short journey is a controversy, but I want to see it.  Even though I am huffing and puffing I continue, The Beckster is tough, so must I be.  The view to the right is beautiful as I stop again to choke down a bit of thin air.  Clouds hang below the surrounding peaks as the occasional drop of rain pops onto my face.  The smell of sage and pine and moist air waft past at intervals as we walk the hard-packed, red-dirt and narrow rocky road.  A couple of walkers pass on the trail.  I assume they are local… don’t know.  Maybe they’re tourists too.  Locals often walk here.  Ahead is the evidence.  On a gnarled pinon pine hugging the upper bank of the cut, hundreds of colorful streamers twist and bob on the light breeze.

On the way down the hill, a walker passes Annie's Wishing Tree, a prominent landmark in Glenwood Springs that is becoming famous around the world.

On the way down the hill, a walker passes Annie’s Wishing Tree, a prominent landmark in Glenwood Springs that is becoming famous around the world.

They are striking as they dance on a background of cloudy-grey sky and remind me of the prayer ribbons and flags you see in photos of Nepal along the route up Mount Everest.   These are wish ribbons.  Most were placed there by Annie Zancanella who lives just down the slope. In her two battles with cancer, she found solace in tying ribbons to the tree on which she played as a child.  “I spent my childhood playing on the mountain and walking with my father on his evening stroll up there,” she told me.  “Now that my family has all passed I still like to walk that trail daily and think of them and my happy childhood.”

She started putting ribbons on the tree, using them to represent her own wishes, dreams, and prayers in her fight against cancer.  After participating in a successful, non-traditional treatment program at Northwestern University in Chicago, she traveled to cancer centers in the USA to share her success story with university hospital students.  Collecting ribbons from young patients at those hospitals she brought them home and tied them to the tree.

“It was just pretty much my ribbons from my heart being put on it,” she says, “And then I realized that I needed to spread this happiness…”  She started taking bags of ribbons to the children’s hospital where she volunteered each month.  The kids would write their own wishes, dreams, and prayers for her to take back to the tree and tie for them. She would then take photos and show them to the kids.  Their words were on display for the world to see.  The project grew.

Annie's Wishing Tree is a landmark along the trail to the Pioneer Cemetery.

Annie’s Wishing Tree is a landmark along the trail to the Pioneer Cemetery.

Now others follow her lead by leaving wish ribbons, prayer streamers and mementos for others who are challenged by health issues.  Since that time she has continued to fight.  “I have had some more recent struggles with cancer but I’ve been able to keep a smile on my face and motivation in my heart.”

Ribbons were added by unknown hikers after Annie created the Wishing Tree.

Ribbons were added by unknown hikers after Annie created the Wishing Tree.

I came to the hill looking for the story of death, of disease and of legend.  Now I’ve arrived to unexpectedly find a story of life, of adversity and of hope.  In my mind, I am attempting to blend the two narratives into one.  Annie is my daughter’s age.  Her story strikes a father’s heart.

The record of the tree is strikingly symbolic to the history and name of the route, The Doc Holliday Trail.  It’s antithetical to Annie’s story.  Holliday is said to have traveled to Glenwood Springs for the purported healing benefits in the springs of the area.  His sickness was then called consumption, now we know it as tuberculosis.  It was the reason he left his home and dental practice in Atlanta to start wandering the west in hope of a climate that would help or cure him.  His travels between Georgia and Colorado would be captured in legend; card games, gunfights, the OK Corral with Wyatt Earp, his death in a hotel room in Glenwood Springs.

The current marker replaced an earlier stone placed in the 1950s that had incorrect information.  Cards, whisky and tokens are often found at the site, left by admirers.

The current marker replaced an earlier stone placed in the 1950s that had incorrect information. Cards, whisky, and tokens are often found at the site, left by admirers.

After a life of hell-raising, gambling and fighting he would not “die with his boots on.” They say his last words, while looking at his bare feet, would describe the irony in dying in bed at the age of 36 years, “Now, that’s funny.”  He was destined to die a more gentlemanly death, shoeless, and in bed in 1887.  His burial in the Pioneer Cemetery on top of the ridge is a matter of opinion.  Others say he was interred in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Griffin, Georgia after his father had him shipped home to a family plot.  In any event, he left plenty of legend for both.

The marker in Glenwood Springs is referred to as a memorial since Doc’s exact location in the cemetery has been lost to history.  He may or may not be here, but still, the site and its view across the Colorado skyline is worth the hike as is a stroll through the rest of the burial

Holliday's memorial stands at the point of the cemetery.
Holliday’s memorial stands at the overlook point of the cemetery.

 ground.  The area is a carpet of rocky, iron-red dirt, highlighted with short pinyon pines, cedars, sagebrush and white marker stones.  A smattering of lawn covers a central square of memorials and graves suggesting families still visit and care for those interred here.  If the cemetery were a ship, Doc’s grave would be the wheelhouse at the point of the ridge with the balance of the site stepping up the slope toward the top of Lookout Mountain.

Harvey Logan cThere, up the hill from Doc’s spot, stands another marker for a well-known character of western lore, also the adverse of the symbolic tree.   Harvey A. Logan, 1867-1904, is known to most folks know as Kid Curry, an associate of Robert L. Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, and his partner in crime, Harry A. Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid.  Logan rode with Cassidy’s Wild Bunch at the turn of the 20th century.  One account of Logan’s death says he shot himself in the head after being trapped by a posse in Parachute, a town forty miles to the west,

Up the hill from Holliday's marker is the pauper's section of the cemetery where Kid Curry's stone is found.

Up the hill from Holliday’s marker is the pauper’s section of the cemetery where Kid Curry’s stone is found.  If he is really there is disputed.

and was buried there.  Others say he was traveling through Glenwood Springs, became ill and died.  Either way, he died… somewhere in Colorado.  And, now there’s a marker for him in the paupers’ section of Pioneer Cemetery.

Time passes quickly as we survey the grounds.  The sky is looking more threatening.  I am tired and still slightly out of breath, it’s starting to rain.  The view is exemplary and the rain isn’t hard, but it’s time to go.  We need to say goodbye to Doc.  Local ghost stories tell how folks leaving whiskey or cards or tokens for Doc receive a “Thank you,” as they stand and listen quietly.  I have no whiskey, nor do I have a deck of cards nor trinkets.  Perhaps a compliment will work.

Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan, part of Butch Cassidy's gang, has a marker in the paupers section of the cemetery.

Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, part of Butch Cassidy’s gang, has a marker in the paupers’ section of the cemetery.

“He Doc!  You have a great mustache!”

I listen quietly as raindrops increase… nothing… not a peep.

“Wait,” I say…  I lean over the iron picketed fence, “That IS you, right Doc?”

Looking at The Beckster I say, “Doc’s not talking.  Didn’t work.  Well, back to the car.  I’ll try the same trick in Griffin, Georgia when we get home.”

She stares at me in mock disgust and turns to the trail to walk back down.  She has a knack for ignoring my jokes.

“But he really did have a great mustache,” I affirm, following her along the path.

She pays no attention to my explanation and continues on.  The lady has class.

 Looking down on the neighborhood rooftops I imagine driving a horse-drawn hearse up this route.  It would be a tight squeeze, but possible.  Was this the main route back in the day?  I don’t know but I do know that another route from Cemetery Creek and our start point is driveable by car, complete with parking spaces… but it’s blocked by a gate.  And, this walk is good, we need the exercise… no… really.

Older marker for cemetery

A carved stone plaque describes the residents of the necropolis including multi-racial immigrants and freed slaves.

We pass Annie’s Wish Tree again.  A long, magenta streamer catches my attention.  It reads, “1 Year Cancer Free * Annie 4/18/14 – 4/18/15.”    The young lady is an inspiration.  Now she is planning a volunteer trip to impoverished areas in Africa to help children in Tanzania.  When she comes home she will carry more ribbons that will blow in the mountain breezes – waving and asserting hope – 130 feet directly down the slope from Doc’s marker.  Doc Holliday’s Trail and Annie’s Tree are a story of darkness and light.

I hope Annie is doing well.  Her story now lives on with the others who are linked with the trail and the cemetery and the hill.  Her story gleams brightly among them as she illustrates as she says, “It’s an absolute goal of mine to continue to inspire others and for my wishing tree to bring happiness to all who stumble across it!”

I’m glad I did… stumbled here.  For me, I think of my daughters and grandchildren and pray that they will have a measure of Annie’s determination and drive.

Doc Holliday’s story is dark and deadly.

Annie’s story shines with hope.

Annie has grit.


Here are other things to do and study in Glenwood Springs.

Our thanks to Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association for photos and to Annie Zancanella for background in this story.  We were not compensated for coverage of the location and attractions.  – JB

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My father never stopped

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By JD Byous

My father never stopped at the Grand Canyon.  My father would — not — stop.  Never.  Ever.  Never-ever… unless of course, he had to use the bathroom and then it was a Whiting Brothers gas station to fill up and find relief.  Cruising down Route 66 twice each year I would drool, yearn and whine that we might turn on Route 64 from Williams, Arizona to see the hole in the ground that I’d been told about in school, read about, and wished to visit.  Didn’t happen.  Not once.  The 120-mile round trip would add almost ten percent to our drive to Eastern Oklahoma and the visit with family.  His last trip through was to move there, the destination of all of our trips.  He died a few years later.

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As the sun rolls past the colors change, just like they are advertised to do.  Fabulous.

Well…, not really never-ever.  I do remember one side trip.  We did stop at Meteor Crater after I had hounded for several hours.  I wore them down, I guess.  That’s another story, however… That was when my mom made a statement that would place a bookmark on my eighth year of life… “It’s nothing but a big hole in the ground.”  She actually used an expletive somewhere in the sentence.  However, you think about it, she’s right.  But, oh, what a hole in the ground.  I was hooked on large, naturally excavated terrain with that viewing.

But I digress.

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Meteor Crater, just a big… hole that I find fascinating.  More to come in another blog.

Fast forward fifty-plus years… Okay, make that almost sixty-plus years.  But, I am finally here.  As always, time is short, and to make it worse the Beckster and I have some kind of bug.  I do not feel like touring, I’d prefer to lay in the motel and whine.  But, the road calls.  Time dictates and demands, “See it now ‘cause you may not be back for a while… or ever.”  So we go.

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An odd, pockmarked rock on the south rim.

We leave Sedona in the morning heading out on route 89a and up its famous switchbacks that I dubbed, The Hairpins.  The road reminds me of a shoestring.  It twists and turns and loops, so crooked that, as my father used to say, “You can see your tail lights as you round the bend.”  This road is definitely bendy and loopy, not for the faint of stomach.  The Hairpins climb from the junction of Pumphouse Creek and Sterling Canyon then past 6,639-foot, Mexican Pocket Mountain then dumps you onto the long plateau that leads to Interstate 17 and Flagstaff.  At Flagstaff, we follow US 180 to Arizona 64 and we are here – two and one-half hours later.

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Mather Point Overlook.  Nice folks, but one must look beyond the spilled drinks and crowds because the beauty is there.  It’s worth it.  One look and you forget your immediate surroundings.

We are here.  Yes, we are.  Along with what appears to be half the population of the Western Hemisphere.  At Mather Point, we park at the Visitors Center lot.  A short walk and we on the overlook.  People are scrambling everywhere… I mean, everywhere.  Hanging off of the rails to pose for pictures, on outcrops of rocks to our left… posing for pictures, off of the overlook a few hundred yards to the west… posing for pictures.

Selfie sticks flash in the sunlight looking like a rerun of the battle scene on Braveheart.  And, children running everywhere, climbing on rocks, climbing on rails.  My inner-parental-self stands, stunned and silent.  Coffee or some other brown runny substance rolls from a coffee cup on the concrete path ahead.  The aroma of coffee wafts up, affirming the contents.  I hope that the Beckster doesn’t get a whiff.  We’ll be searching for a McDonalds, because, as you know, they make the best coffee.  It’s a Beckster thing.

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Looking north from Mather Point Overlook.  A man in a red shirt hangs near the edge for a prank photo.  It HAD to be a guy in red.

Then it hits me.  Blamm!  The view.  It’s 10 a.m. and past the “sweet” light of the morning and it’s beautiful.  No, bad example, exquisite.  No, not enough, still.  Wow!  That works, just, wow!  Clouds cover the Northern Rim.  Rain falls from the patches of blue and white fluff.  The red-orange banding along the mass of mesas, cliffs, and side canyons are like a light show in rock.  Grab a camera.  I alternate between DSLR and smartphone.  It’s hard to get a bad shot.  I am impressed.  I am really impressed.  I wish my parents were here.  They should see this.  They would have liked this big hole.

We no longer feel ill.  Somehow the bad has been erased so we point our pickup east along the rim drive.  As the sun climbs and the clouds move the scene changes.  I had read how the colors change with the day.  Oh, my God, what have you done here?  This is beyond words.  Each turnout and overlook has its own phenomenal view.  At one stop, a raven poses for me, then squawks a rebuke when I’ve overstayed my welcome.  We move on.   If I were shooting film we would have burned through several hundred dollars in emulsion and processing fees.  Man, I love digital.

Navajo Jewelry shop Navajo Reservation

Navajo Jewelry shop Navajo Reservation

Before we know, we arrive at the Desert View Visitor Center, the end of the line.  The views and the images are still great.  Just one more picture and we need to head back.  We’ve burned through the entire day.   Down the road we make one more stop, a Navajo jewelry stand.  Here a Viet Nam veteran and his wife offer beaded jewelry, dream catchers and pottery.  As the sun drops low it is cold so we keep moving, but after buying gifts for the kids and grandkids and earrings for the Beckster.  Oh, and something for me, a stone circle pendant.  I like it.  It’s made by nice people, or at least sold by them.  I wish we had time to stay and talk but the road calls.

Mary Colter's Desert View Watchtower

Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower marks the end of the view sites on the South Rim Drive.

It is a great day.  I am ready for a nap but we still have to drive the Hairpins after dark.  The Grand Canyon?  I will be back.

Too bad Dad couldn’t be here.

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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Beaufort, it’s a view to dine for.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

Beaufort, South Carolina is Southern, small and sophisticated…. it’s a view to dine for.  The deck where we sit once jutted out over the water.  Today the water is two-hundred feet away, separated from the restaurant by yards and yards of twentieth-century fill dirt.  Since Gus, The Travel Dogg blogger is with us, we’re invited to the umbrella-covered tables in the back of the eatery… and the best views.

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The pet-friendly deck at Beaufort’s Panini’s Restaurant is a pleasant waterside venue.

The 1919 Beaufort Bank Building, now Panini’s On The Waterfront Restaurant, still has one of Beaufort, South Carolina’s best vantage points of the harbor.  From our table, past the hoagies, Frogmore penne, and crab cake salad, the boats list lazily as the spring breeze flows in from the ocean to the east… sleep-inducing.  Tourists and locals rest in strategically-positioned porch-swings that deliver leisured views from Henry Chambers Waterfront Park.

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Clams and Rigatoni in the center, Chicken Salad Panini on the left with a Meatball Parmigiana Hoagie on the right.  All with Southern sweet tea.  Life’s good.

The scent of the brackish water and marsh mud accent the aroma of clams and rigatoni that wait in front of me.  Dog friendly and a gluten-free menu…  I am in heaven.  Usually, they bring a doggy menu for the pups, but today they are out of the pup-centric treats.  Gus doesn’t mind a few nibbles of people food.

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The harbor next to Henry Chambers Waterfront Park.

The spot is fantastic… but the history of the town is even better.  Beaufort was founded in 1711.  James Oglethorpe and the original settlers of Savannah and Georgia had stopped here on their way to start the new colony in 1732.  Though first settled by the English in 1670, the southeastern corner of what is now the United States, was still a frontier.  The reason for Oglethorpe’s visit was to create a new adjoining colony to prevent the Spanish from moving up the coast from Florida, a welcomed buffer for the Carolinians.

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Bay Street in the downtown section serves as the main thoroughfare in the historic district.

Previously, in 1566, the Spanish created the nearby town of Santa Elena and stayed for 21 years.  Oglethorpe’s actions would act to nullify the Spanish claim to the area.  Before the Spanish, in 1662, French explorer and Captain Jean Ribaut brought a group of Huguenots to the same spot, creating the first Protestant settlement in what is now the United States.

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Greek Revival architecture is common among the homes and businesses in Beaufort.

Ribaut left a few soldiers and sailed back to France to gather reinforcements.  The left-behind troops went to work and built their own ship which took them back to France as well.  Unfortunately, without a compass, they wandered their way eastward and resorted to cannibalism to finish out the trip.  It was the first ship built in America to cross the Atlantic Ocean… eventually.  The location of the town was found under a Parris Island Marine Base golf course.  The Spanish had built their town over the ruins of the French, which is… I am told… par for the Spanish.  A stroke of genius.

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A iron-willed flamingo stands guard at the front of a Bay Street business.

The site is a short trip down the waterway from Beaufort toward the ocean.  Parris Island is a place where US Marines are proud to have been… and graduated… from.  Basic training there has hardened thousands of Leathernecks, both in times of peace and in war since 1915. As a result, Marine Corp caps and bumper stickers are easily found along Beaufort’s Bay Street which serves as the main thoroughfare and attraction in the Historic District.  On the other side of town is the Marine Corps Air Station.  This is a Marine-centric town.

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The chief of Bay and West Streets soaks in the sun while waiting for the next tourist to pass.

It’s always been a military town.  The British had just finished barracks for soldiers in 1732 when Oglethorpe dropped in with his hundred-or-so settlers.  The travelers were given the new facilities to stay in while Colonel William Bull accompanied Oglethorpe on a scouting expedition to establish Savannah.  They joined their leader a few weeks later in 1733.  Soldiers and Sailors occupied the location until the end of the American Revolution when they were asked, not too politely, to leave.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, the city was captured by Union troops who held it to the end.  At that time the town was said to be void of white Southerners, leaving it to the black population before the Federal’s amphibious landing.

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The John Cuthbert House, now known as the Cuthbert House Inn, was built in 1811.  During the Union occupation in the Civil War, it was owned by US Army Brigadier General Rufus Saxton. (Wikipedia)

One rebel resident had been in the thick of fighting before.  William Henry Cory had been born in Chapham England near London.  Before emigrating to Beaufort he had survived the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade made famous by poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson who wrote,

“Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward…,

and continues later,

“Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.”

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The 1855 painting by William Simpson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava,” depicts the battle and cavalry charge in which William Cory participated.

In Cory’s new homeland he served as an officer in the Virginia Infantry in the Confederate Army.  He is buried in the St. Helena Episcopal Churchyard.  Beside his headstone are two flags.  One is the Union Jack, the other is the Confederate Battle flag.

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How much is that Piggy in the window?  I fell in love with the swine.

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I love the rocking horse too… but it won’t fit in a Ford Focus.

Today the town is a favorite of tourists from Hilton Head and Savannah.  Art shops, restaurants, and odds-and-ends stores line the main street.  They hold some very good art, great food and interesting treasures that I can’t live without but can’t afford.  There’s a rocking horse and pig that I have my eye on.  They won’t fit in my Ford Focus… oh, well.  I’ll have to pass.  Ooohh!  Ooohh!  It’s an Irish shop.  Irish tweed hats and shillelaghs.  Do I need them…? No… but I gotta look.

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I’ll have to pass on the Irish hat.  Wool is too warm any time of year in Savannah… But the Beaufort hat on the basket head…  it’s mine.

We’ve also “gotta look” at the architecture.  Especially the old styles.  The Verdier House stands on the northwest corner of Bay and Scott Streets.  The Federal-style home was built in 1804 by a French Huguenot planter and businessman named John Mark Verdier.  To me, it looks to have a lot of Greek Revival features, but the former is listed in the guide books.  It was the Union Army adjutant general’s headquarters during the occupation.  Today it is a museum that displays the history of the town as well as household items of the era.

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The vernacular Regency/Greek Revival home of Huguenot,  John Mark Verdier, was built in 1804.  You can find it at the corner of Bay and Scott Streets.

A few blocks to the north is The Arsenal that serves as the Beaufort History Museum.  Built in 1798 it houses paintings, uniformed draped mannequins, and docents eager to tell the stories of the area.  On the east is the Old Point neighborhood where antebellum homes sit among moss-covered oaks beside narrow, walkable lanes.  It’s worth the stroll.

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Hint: For real Southern iced tea you must add the sugar to boiling hot tea, stir it until it dissolves, then cool it and add the ice. At Panini’s, it’s an unofficial umbrella drink.  Photos don’t lie.

If you like the South, sweet tea and old South charm, this is the place.  Sit back on Panini’s deck, watch the boats bob on the river, and enjoy a cool Southern iced tea.

Y’all come back.

 

 

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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Drive, click, plan… drive, click, plan!!!

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

…Tips to make your travel pics sing.

by Jim Byous

Calculate, anticipate, concentrate.

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Sunrise plus 30 minutes. Gearin Road near Dahlonega, Georgia.

Mental notes were being jotted down in the back of my noggin’;  light, sky, color, the fall of shadows.  I had traveled down the same roads in North Georgia a number of times over several days.  As is normal on any other trip, at home or on assignment, I am always searching for pictures.  And, I always carry my Galaxy S 5 cell phone to capture scenes that I may want to photograph later with my Nikon. — In some instances, I don’t need the Nikon, but that’s another story.  And no, neither company pays me to mention them. —  Anyway… while traveling  I watch the track of the sun and shadows… if I have time.  Later I retrace my route and when the conditions are right I grab as many images as possible. It’s a bit like harvesting ripe fruit in one outing.  Here’s the first part of my usual game plan.  This series will run throughout the next few blogs here on Southeastern Bound.

1. Find the right locations

If possible scout ahead and plan your route.  On a recent trip, I had passed this ancient mill site,  photo 1, several times on trips to and from the gold mining town of Dahlonega, Georgia.  The old Gilstrap Mill is on the road of the same name a few miles from town.  Each trip the light is high, but the location and composition was natural and easily seen.  The challenge is that the light does not “sing.”  The sky is blue but dull.  If time was tight I probably stop to capture what I could.  In this instance, it is not an issue.  Later in the evening clouds drift over the area.  After a weather check, I make plans for a sweep through the area the next morning.  Clouds should be dotting the sky in the pre-noon hours.

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Photo 1, Sunrise plus 90 minutes.  The old Gilstrap Mill near the gold mining town of Dahlonega, Georgia,

I’m not a morning person but getting great images sometimes requires a sleepy, early-morning, groping walk to the car.  As I drive down the drive the dawn slowly brightened.  As my tires hit the main road the sun’s first rays come over the ridge to the east.  A few blinks-and-yawns later the lighting over the hilly terrain pumps a dose of adrenaline into my system… either that or the coffee finally kicked in.  The day is started.  Great photos seemed to be on every turn.  So many shots, so little time.

Systematically I drive, shooting different locations as the sun slowly crawls above the horizon.  I make sure my route keeps the mill scene within the acceptable time for lighting – the time from sunrise to sunrise-plus-two hours.

As a historian and photographer, this is a primary location on my list.  The building has been partially restored by the owner with the historical integrity intact… a handsome relic that seems to freeze time.   Snuggled in a gap beside a sloping hill, a bend in the road and the briskly-running, oddly-named Wahoo Creek, it represents a time in Georgia when many of the small rivulets in the area were harnessed to grind grain.  It is now one of the few mills still standing.

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Photo 2.  The frame of the Gilstrap Mill water wheel remains in the shadows. The watercourse is now dry and flanked by trees, one decayed to a  stump.

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Sunrise plus 10 minutes.  The intersection of Gearin and Gilstrap Mill Roads, a different angle of the same hill in photos 3a and 3b.

Both history and aesthetics are important to the records that I make.  Too many historical images are simple uninteresting shots, images used for scholarly reports with little concern for artistic qualities of the scene.  I want to record the building but to also create an image that will look great on my – or any – wall, photo 2.  As is true in real estate, in landscape photography the most important thing is location, location, location.  That and light.

Therefore, like finding the right storefront on the right street in the right town, finding the correct picture location can be broken down to within a few feet.  You must find the area, then the site, then the spot, then the square foot that makes the best image in the correct light.  In photos 3 and 4, the difference in showing power lines next to the trees was a matter of moving closer and several feet to the left.

You will notice the straight cut of limbs on the tree to the right of the frames.  This was done by the power company because inches outside the edge of the photo the wires were obvious.  My first position of choice, away from thorns and spine laden plants, was directly below the lines.  Unfortunately, there was no way to get the photo without them showing.  I had to buck up and push into the brush to get this image.

1 1 1 1 moon with woman duo sm

Sunrise plus 120 minutes, light cloud cover in the east blocking the direct light. The Moon with a Lady Reclining Over the Trees, photo 3a on left, was mildly difficult to capture. Positioning under power lines, guide wires, brush, and a barbed-wire fence required a determined photographer… who carefully watched for snakes.  Taken in at the same stop along Gilstrap Mill Road in another season, photo 3b shows the same trees complete with power lines, wires, brush and fencing for comparison.

Calculate the light for your photos, the angle, the intensity.  Where will the sun move if you wait or come back on another day?  Will clouds enhance the scene?  My most frequent suggestion is “pray for clouds.”  Anticipate which locations you might want to capture at different times.  Will the shadows be better in the morning or in the evening?  Which is the most important scene to catch?  Concentrate.  Consider all of the above conditions, locations, and options.  To grab a memory card or film roll of great shots, plan it out… even if you have to plan on the fly.

Coming soon, More of the Game Plan,  Tips on composition.

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