2018 Trailfest at Pinnacle

Last year the Southern Tier Running Club launched its first trail running event. I was so excited for this and I had to participate by running in the first ever STRC trail race. This year the STRC is launched its second brand new Trail Running event: Trail Fest at Pinnacle. I was equally excited for this event as well. I love seeing our running club grow and provide more events for our members and the rest of the running community. I did not run this event. I was able to be part of it in a different way.

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I started off the day volunteering and helping with race day set up. We had a great crew of volunteers out there making this event happen many of whom put in countless hours before race day. The Trail Fest at Pinnacle consisted of two races. The event kicked off with a 3.5 mile race and then that would be followed by a 7 mile race. Runners had the option of running one or both races.

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As start time for the 3.5 mile race began I took on a different roll. I would be providing race photography for the event. I was able to secure a ride out onto the race course to where I was ensured by our club member who designed the course that I would be able to capture some great images. He was right. It was a great spot. I was able to capture great still photos as well as time lapse footage and long video of the entire race. The best part for me as a photographer was that this location was where the 3.5 and 7 mile courses converged. So I could photograph the 3.5 mile race and then only readjust my set up a little bit and reposition and be able to photograph the 7 mile race without really even having to move much at all. I appreciated this aspect even more as the temperature rose to over 80 degrees.

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Although I loved this location for photographs I am not sure the runners appreciated me being there. For each race I was at the top of a tough climb. I am pretty sure some of the runners wanted to curse at me. No one really wants there photo taken as they struggle up a climb, but for me as a photographer it allows me to show what trail running is really about. It is about the grit and determination it takes to climb those elevation gains that others would avoid. It’s not always fast or fun but grinding out those miles with effort is what makes trail running the sport I love and other people love as well. Photographs might not be traditionally “good” photographs (My thoughts on that here: What IS a “good” Race Photo) but they show the amount of effort runners are putting into the course.

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Even photographing a race I make sure to get photos of a dog.

This year has really been about trying to add new dimensions to my race photography and many of the races I’ve photographed this year have allowed me to do that because of the way they were structured. This one was no different. Never before have I shot such long segments of video and time lapse footage at the same time as photographing a race. Never before have I secured a camera to a tree in order to record video from a different angle. I love being able to do different things for race coverage. I hope other people enjoy the variety of things I provide from races as well. As I am still processing the photographs from the race this post includes some of my favorites so far. Enjoy. I’d love to hear any feedback you have.

27 Miles on FLT with Friends

I have written often about how running has really been this synergy for me that has allowed me to combine many of the things I enjoy together in new ways. I have always loved getting out into nature, but previously I did not know very many people that loved getting out into nature the same way I did. Now that I have connected with and made friends with so many runners who enjoy nature the way I do it has opened up a whole new world of experiences for me. I can now spend hours and hours outside moving through nature with friends.

Previously I decided I wanted to challenge myself to go out on the trails for a long trail run that ended up being 31 miles (For that story you can link here Finger Lakes Trail Run/Hike). I went alone, because I didn’t know anyone else who I thought would enjoy that. After spending more time getting to know other runners. I decided I wanted to go out and try it again and invited some friends for a 26-mile adventure. It went from a solo adventure to a party of three.

 

This year I was already planning to run a trail marathon and a 50k so I hadn’t really thought about planning any independent adventures. Then my friends who accompanied me on the last suggested that I should plan another long run for us. I want to make this very clear for the record. I was asked to plan a long run for us to adventure on. It was Not my idea. Somehow, I always get the “blame” for these crazy running things that people in my orbit tend to be sucked into. So, I undertook the task of developing a plan for a run.

 

We wanted to run about 26miles. No Further. I was warned. I also wanted this to be a new adventure. We are fortunate to live near the Finger Lakes Trail that traverses most of the southern area of NY. We wanted to explore a new section of the FLT since we had explored one section last time. Part of the challenge of planning this run was the distance and the way the maps are laid out. I am not great at using maps and measuring distances and orienteering etc. On the FLT website, each map section shows its total distance. We knew where we wanted to end so we only had to plot the distance back to where we would start. The problem arose from the fact that the end point was just off of one map section and in the beginning of another map section and not right along the trail. So I had to estimate the distance we would travel on that new map section. Then subtract that from the beginning. If we had been able to stay only on one map section, we would have been able to know exactly how much we would run. Therefore, I subtracted the amount I thought we would run over onto the new map section from the beginning of the map section where we planned most of the run to be. I figured it would be a safe bet if we stated at Birdseye Hollow Park, It was right on the FLT, and we would end in the Sugar Hill State Forest area. Turns out my map skills were off a little bit, about 4 miles, and I would never hear the end of it.

 

I asked some more of our friends that we knew liked to do some trail running if they would be interested in an adventure that would be part run, part hike and likely take all day traversing 26 miles of the FLT. It turns out there are more people out there that want to explore 26 miles on the Finger Lakes Trail. Our number grew from 3 people last year to 5 people this year.

I am the kind of person who enjoys time alone on the trails be it running, hiking, or photographing nature, but there is something to be said for spending an extended period of time out in nature with friends. My wife and I have always enjoyed camping and hiking together, but now I was becoming part of an expanding group of friends that I can explore the wonders of nature with.

 

The beginning heading out of Birds Eye Hollow Park was a nice long relatively flat runnable section. We loved finding a really nice lean-to and camping spot during the early portion of the run. We were all anxious to reach the “Food Truck” at the halfway point. Then the never ending climbing started. When we reached the Sugar Hill area, we started to be ready to be done, some of us more than others. Then we eventually found the road and called it the finish line.

 

Combine running; nature, laughing, talking, and friendship with time, physical challenge, and exhaustion and you are in for a good time. Running, talking, and laughing with your friends while passing through great natural scenery is really a part of life everyone should experience. We weren’t out there to race; we were out there to just have fun and enjoy nature and enjoy each other’s company. I think that this is an aspect that gets lost sometimes in our overly competitive society. Have fun, enjoy the things you enjoy, and find some friends to share it with. I have been very fortunate to meet these friends.

Some of us have a tendency to have some sort of new unfortunate incident on every trail. Some of us get mad at the never-ending trails. Some of us we learned have never-ending song lyrics and dance moves that they let out on the trails. Some of us carry around a camera and photograph it all. Some of us are perfect steady companionship and put up with all the nonsense.

10 Days of Freedom

I went on a 10 day camping trip to the Adirondacks. I reserved campsites at two different campgrounds because I couldn’t get 10 days straight at one site. That is the extent of the planning I did for this trip. I had lots of ideas running through my mind of what I wanted to do, but I did not actual planning of what I was going to do or when I was going to do it. I am not the kind of person that needs to have an itinerary of my day planned out or me on trips, but generally I do plan when I am going to do big things during a trip. But for this trip I didn’t even know what the big things I was going to do were. I was just going to wing it and have a nice relaxing trip. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

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The more I thought about this trip leading up to it the more I thought about all the things I could possibly do during a 10 day trip to the Adirondacks. While I did not plan out specific details I knew in general what I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. So that lead me to reason 1 that I decided to camp at Meadowbrook Campground. It was the closest state campground to the High Peaks region as far as I could tell. So I would have less traveling. This worked out perfectly because I really didn’t’ have to drive far at all for any of the hiking I did even when I was outside the High Peaks region. Reason 2 I chose Meadowbrook Campground was that it had a trail that lead directly from the campground out into the forest and up a mountain. I figured I could run or hike that as much as I wanted with no travel involved at all. In my mind I figured I would be on that trail repeatedly. In reality I only accessed the trail one time and that was for my one and only trail run during the trip. I think this was in large part due to the fact that the mountain had no view at all. When I imagined it I thought it would be perfect for hiking up in the evening and watching the sun set, but since the mountain summit was completely forested there would be no watching of sunsets. Reason 3 for choosing to camp at Meadowbrook Campground was that it was only 4 miles from Lake Placid and I reasoned that would allow me to literally run into town any time I wanted. I wouldn’t even need to drive if I wanted to go to town. Running 8 miles in a day has become something I do regularly. Turns out I never did that at all, and I was kind of surprised as to why.

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I purposefully chose to go on this trip alone. I have camped alone before. I enjoy a certain amount of solitude. It is peaceful and relaxing to me. However, it turns out that going to a small relatively bustling tourist town, Lake Placid, alone is not peaceful for me. It is the exact opposite. It was extremely anxiety inducing. I don’t know if it is because I am generally an introverted person or what but wandering around this small town amongst the other tourists was very stressful for me. I could not relax. The only things I did while I was there was go to REI and a bookstore to look for trail maps and was not relaxing at all that made things worse, go down to the park by the lake which was better than being on the strip with all the businesses, and go to the small art gallery. The art gallery was the only place in Lake Placid where I felt relaxed and calm. I love the art scene and was able to just relax and enjoy the artwork. I only stayed in ton about an hour and a half and did not return. I learned there is a very big difference between solitude and being alone in a crowd.

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I imagined so many things that I could do on this trip: Run up mountains, Hike a mountain every day, Trail running, Photography, Read books, Write, Relax, Nap in my hammock. While I don’t need plans I think that I left my possibilities so wide open that even making a decision as to what to do was anxiety evoking at times. Sometime making the decision of what to do when you can literally do anything is the hardest thing to do of them all. I did manage to fit a little bit of everything into my trip but not as much of any one thing as I imagined I would.

I ran up a mountain. I hiked up 7 mountains. I did a little road running. I read 2 books cover to cover and started a third. I spent some time writing my book. I sat around relaxing. And best of all I took many naps in my hammock at whatever time of day I felt like it. I even slept in it out under the stars one night. A funny side effect of having so many things you would like to do and the very real possibility of doing them all is that you then have to pack like you might do any or all of them. And you have to pack like you might decide to do that one activity a lot if you want to be able to do it whenever you want as much as you want to. There was a real possibility that I would decide to hike every day or that I would run every day. Those two activities require certain types of gear and most importantly proper clothing to enjoy them. I literally packed just about all my running clothes and all my regular summer clothes which at this point are hiking clothes. I think I had one duffle back full of regular clothes and a separate one of the same size of jut running clothes. I give a lot of my friends grief for having a lot of running shoes, but I also have a lot of shoes. They are all just very task specific shoes and some of which I have had for a long time. I literally took a garbage bag full of shoes on this trip. I took multiple pairs of hiking shoes, road running shoes, trail running shoes, casual shoes, and a pair of sandals. It doesn’t help the packing situation when you have size 14 feet either.

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Also, in case you haven’t noticed the photographs accompanying this post I am also a photographer. This trip presented a plethora of photographic possibilities. I wanted to be prepared for them all. I would not want to be caught without a camera and miss out on a good photographic opportunity due to being unprepared. I have a bunch of gear but not all gear is suitable for each type of situation. I packed 2 DSLR camera bodies, 4 DSLR camera lenses, 2 mirror less camera bodies each with their own lens, 2 GoPros, 2 small tripods, and other assorted gear. If I am going to be running I need a camera I can carry and access while I am out running so a GoPro or small mirror less camera. If I am hiking up a mountain I probably will only be able to bring one camera body and one lens with me. If I am hiking a flat trail I have many more options available and could carry multiple camera bodies and multiple lenses plus additional gear.

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The purpose of this trip was to get out of the daily routine, to stop being stuck in a rut and just relax and enjoy life. I wanted some freedom. What I learned is that even if you have the freedom to do anything you want, you still can’t do everything that you want. Even on a trip with no limits on free time. No constraints. No plans. A trip where I was completely in control of what I would do. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things one might want to do. Even over a 10 day trip. The depressing thing about that is, if there is not enough time to enjoy all the things one might want to do when we have the freedom to just do it how in the world are we supposed to find time to do the things we love when we have all the time constraints that daily life places on us. I am not sure what the answer to this is. I feel like it has something to do with take time out of every day to do one thing that you love. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. It doesn’t matter if it is accomplishing a monumental task you never thought you would get done or doing some tiny seemingly insignificant thing. It doesn’t matter if it is extraordinary or mundane. Do what you love and love what you do. Find time and find peace in that.

I didn’t do all the things I imagined I would on this trip but I grabbed every minute of peace and joy I could and I embraced it with no regrets and it was a great trip.

Buck Pond Campground

After a week of adventuring out from my base camp near Lake Placid it was time to move north to my new camping location, Buck Pond State Park. I decided that since I spent the first week of my trip driving and hiking and adventuring I wanted to really try to get into the relaxation part of what this trip was supposed to be. This decision was made easier by the simple fact that this new location was farther away from all the mountains I was interested in hiking, thus making it more logically challenging.

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Part of this trip was supposed to be about trying to unwind and relax. You know, find yourself, as they say. What I decided to do is not leave the campground at all for the two days I was there, except to buy firewood which was super conveniently close by and made a great big fire for me to enjoy. So that is what I did. It was not as easy as I thought it would be. For someone who always feels like they should be doing something or accomplishing something it was not easy to just relax and enjoy what I was there to enjoy.

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I spent time exploring the campground. I went for a nice walk around the campground to get the lay of the land. The campground is situated between two large ponds / small lakes. The only thing that could have made the campsite I was at better would have been to be along the water. As it was my campsite was perfect for me. It was nice and secluded. The campsite it itself was huge. It was set back from the park road so I wasn’t disturbed much by passersby. I could really just sit there and relax and feel like I was alone in the woods. I spent a lot of time sitting or laying in my hammock and just relaxing / napping or reading or in some cases reading until it became a nap. I also enjoyed several beers while relaxing in the hammock or enjoying a campfire during my stay there. My first night there I was happy to learn that there were loons out on the lake and I was able to relax and sleep to the sound of loons calling. If you have never heard loons calling that is one thing you need to hear. It is mesmerizing.

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In the morning I got up and went for a run. I looped around all the park roads which was just about perfect for a nice 5k run. Later I went for a walk with my camera to see if there was anything interesting to photograph. I was really hoping to see some loons, which I did but they were too far away for any good photographs. I also spent a lot of time relaxing and reading.

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Since this was the relax portion of my trip I wanted to just try something new for me. I wanted to sit and enjoy the sunset. I wanted to try to capture the sunset as a time lapse photography series. This would be something new to me. I have photographed sunsets before, but never in this method. I really wanted to capture the subtle change in colors in the sky as the sun sets and capture the clouds moving across the sky over time. I thought I had an idea about how to make this work using my GoPro. It turns out I didn’t have it quite right. One factor I didn’t think about was the water. I purposefully included the water in the photos thinking that it would look good, however the changes in the water happen at a different time scale than the changes in the sky and while my settings were geared towards capturing the changes in the sky it did not occur to me to account for how the water would change and how that would look in the time lapse footage. While the footage I captured did not come out as I had hoped it was still an enjoyable experience and I learned something about this new process I was taking on. I challenged myself to grow as an artist and as a person. Even though I didn’t succeed in that task the process was a success because I began a new journey and learned something new.

Even though I didn’t have the end result I wanted I still want to share these images with you, because life is about more than the final outcome it is about the process and I want to share my process with all of you.

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Baxter Mountain

During this trip I camped at two different location because I couldn’t get a single 10 day block at one campsite. I had never done that before. I spent the first 7 days at one location and then I packed up and moved to a different campground in the Adirondacks. Check out time at the first campground was 11:00 AM but check in time at the next campground wasn’t until 3:00 PM. So after relaxing some and then packing up the campsite I decided to amuse myself by hiking up a mountain. Seriously, who does that.

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Baxter Mountain was listed in my guide book as an easy hike with a 2 mile round trip and 700 feet of elevation. That was exactly what I was looking for. Something that would not be very strenuous. Just a nice relaxing hike to pass the time and enjoy some nature before moving on to my next camp site. This mountain was reported to have some of the best views of the Adirondack high peaks relative to the amount of effort required to summit the mountain to enjoy them. I’d say that information was accurate. The views were great.

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One funny thing happened on this hike. When you are unfamiliar with a trail you often may not know where the trail starts or where the trail ends for that matter and thus you may not know where the summit of the mountain actually is.  AS I hiked the trail and began to get to where more of the vertical gain was I expected to reach the summit soon because I knew the hike was not particularly long. So when I reached an area with exposed rock and nice views and a family sitting there enjoying a picnic I assumed that I was at the summit so I found a nice quiet spot and sat down to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.

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The views were quite nice there. However, it turns out that assumption I made turned out to make an ass out of me after all. As I headed back to a trail to retrace my steps and head back down the mountain I realized there was more trail going away from the way I had hiked up.  Turns out I had not summitted the mountain, yet. I followed this trail farther up the mountain, not too far fortunately, and I reached what is actually the summit where the trail actually ends. And I made sure it ended there and did not continue farther. So I stopped here and enjoyed some more excellent views of the Adirondacks. That is one part that never gets old. The views are always stunning. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have otherwise at the true summit because I had already spent so much time where I first stopped and I had to head on out to my next campground. It was still a great time and an enjoyable hike and I learned something new. Do not assume you are at the summit just because you see someone stopped there.

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Mt Marcy Part 2: Running

Earlier this year a friend of mine and fellow runner posted online that he wanted to go run up Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks. He wanted to know if anyone would want to go with him. At the time I really knew nothing about what the rout up Mount Marcy was like. But it did sound like an interesting idea.

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I went to the Adirondacks with the idea in the back of my mind that I would possibly try to run up a mountain and that I would maybe even attempt it at Mount Marcy while I was there. I did get an opportunity to run up a mountain while I was in the Adirondacks, but I did not run up Mount Marcy. After doing a little reading about what the climb up Mount Marcy entailed and some realistic evaluation of my fitness level and running ability I decided it might be rash to just decide I was going to go run up this mountain sight unseen.

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I think that was probably a wise decision. I love trail running, but my weakness is definitely in climbing and Mount Marcy would require significant climbing. I did venture out to Mount Marcy and hike up to the summit. A journey that I highly recommend to anyone. While I was out on the trail Multiple groups of people ran past me on the trails. They passed me on their way up while I was working my way up to the top.  I was hoping that they would take long enough to reach the top and then hang out at the summit long enough that I would get a chance to talk to them when I arrived at teh summit myself.

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However, I would have no such luck. Before I was even clear of the forest and above the tree line the runners came back down. I wish I had been ready and was able to get more photos. Two groups completely passed by me before I could get my camera out and ready to get a few shots as they passed out of view. Luckily I was prepared for at least one of the groups and captured some nice images of a group of women running down Mount Marcy.

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When I arrived at the summit I overheard some of the other hikers saying that the runners were part of the Olympic ski team out here training. They were really kicking ass on the trails, both on the way up and on the way down. Granted I did not see them on the steepest rockiest terrain but they were making it look pretty easy running up the trail to the mountain summit.

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After hiking it and getting a little experience on that trail and learning the layout of the trail I think running it may not be out of reach. I think I know many runners that could put on a pretty good run up and down that mountain. I don’t know how much actual running I would do after the first several miles on the ascent, but the descent could be pretty fun. I have been known to organize groups of friends to do some fun (crazy) stuff. Maybe I will have to see if I can find some friends who want to go for a day trip to the Adirondacks and give this running up Mount Marcy thing a try. I am always looking for new experiences and that sure would be one.

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Mount Marcy

During my trip to the Adirondacks one hike I wanted to try to make sure I fit into my schedule was Mount Marcy. Mount Marcy is the tallest mountain in New York. The summit of the mountain is 5344 feet above sea level. The trail is 14.8 miles round trip. There is 3300 feet of elevation gain. I figured this would be a good day trip for me. This was also a hike that was covered in my guide book so I could glean some information about the hike from that and have an idea of what to expect.

The hike from the route I took started in the parking lot at the Adirondack Loj. There was not much elevation gain for the first several miles. During the first several miles you eventually reach the Marcy dam area which seems like a nice place to hang out; several groups of people were there. There is a water crossing with a bridge to take to traverse it.

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Most of the trail is quite a comfortable hike for what one might think it would be, knowing you are hiking up the tallest mountain in the state. It helps that it was in my opinion the perfect day for a hike. The temperature in the morning was cool and the projected high for the day was only 70 degrees. This is more my type of weather, especially on days I am going to be physically active.

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At one point myself and a pair of women arrived at one section of the trail where the trail went one way over a bridge over a stream and another way straight along the stream. We were all first timers on the trail and were not sure which way to go, so we decided we would all go up along the trail where it followed the stream. Turns out it didn’t matter as the trail eventually lead to a crossing of the same stream. The bridge was available for when the water was high. For the rest of the hike myself and the two women would pass each other back and forth as we took in fuel (runner brain) or slowed down at certain sections or stopped to take photos. It reminded me of a trail race where you pass the same people back and forth because you are each better at some sections than others. We eventually even arrived at the summit at about the same time.

There is a significant portion of the trail where you emerge from the forest and are out on exposed rock. You are now above the tree line on the mountain. This is where you begin to feel the significant change in elevation you have achieved. Where before I was comfortable, but obviously still sweating with exertion, now the wind was picking up and it was significantly colder. Luckily was I was expecting this and I was prepared. I have a lightweight EMS jacket that stuffs into its own pocket and is perfect for storing in my running pack for just such occasions. It did not take long for the exposure and temperature change to prompts me to stop and take the time to take my pack off and put the jacket on. That was a good decision; it made the rest of the hike much more enjoyable.

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The summit of this mountain was perfect. There weren’t even as many people there as I thought there would be. It was just about the perfect temperature despite being a little gusty. I found the perfect spot to hunker down behind a rock outcropping that protected me from the wind perfectly as it seemed to only be gusting from one direction. I sat and relaxed there for a while. I simply enjoyed the view. I continued to sit and rest and enjoyed a bag of trail mix I had thrown together (peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips).

As I tend to be the kind of person that cannot sit still too long, especially when out in nature and especially with such a scenic landscape to explore and photograph. There is quite a bit of room to walk around on the summit of Mount Marcy, however there are areas that are off limits because they are trying to allow for alpine vegetation to grow back. People are encouraged to stay on the solid rock surfaces. So I moved around the summit and photographed everything I could think of to photograph. I used my Nikon D300 with 50mm lens, my GoPro, and my Samsung S8 Plus. All of which capture great photos but have different ways they can be utilized for maximum effect.

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One of the things I love about being out in nature, other than just being there to experience it myself, is seeing other people enjoying and appreciating nature. There were whole families up on the summit enjoying the views together. There was a guy stretched out on the rock with his hood pulled over his head whom I am pretty sure was asleep. There was a whole group of young people up there together exploring the summit and I am pretty sure they were shooting some videos of each other. One of them asked me to take his photo with his GoPro because he noticed that I had a GoPro as well. Knowing that there are other people out there that enjoy nature the way that I do brings me a sense of peace and joy that I can’t really explain.

Eventually it was time to hike back down the mountain.

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