Old Trees, New Trees

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IMG_8876These pictures were taken from the same spot on the Gateway Arch grounds, looking north toward the Arch. The top photo was taken in October 2014, just before workers started removing all of the rosehill ash trees that lined the walkways. The ash trees were threatened by the emerald ash borer, and for that and other reasons, CityArchRiver, the group that is spearheading the renovation of the grounds, decided to remove them all at once.

They are being replaced by London plane trees, which are said to be much heartier and more disease resistant. The bottom photo was taken last week; the walkways and new paths around the Arch have been reopening in increments, and this area just became available a couple of weeks ago.

It will be a while, though, before the new trees will provide much shade.

(You can read more about the trees here, and about the overall CityArchRiver project here.)

Back To The Arch

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Construction of the new museum that will be mostly underneath the Arch grounds.

They’re making some progress on the Arch grounds. More than a year ago, contractors for CityArchRiver project started cutting down all of the ash trees, and when they did that, they closed off all of the sidewalks that criss-crossed the park. Just in the last couple of weeks, they reopened some of the sidewalks, and today—sunny, and although it was a chilly 35 degrees, it was the warmest it’s going to be over the next week—may have been my last chance to get over there before the end of the year.

It turns out only the north end is open, and not fully open at that. But it’s definitely better than it was over the summer, and it’s nice to be able to stretch your legs and not be confined to the construction zone right in front of the Arch legs.

According to the project’s website, most everything will be done soon except for the construction of the new museum and visitor center, which is scheduled to be done in the summer of 2017 (a little optimistic, maybe?). It will sure be nice when the whole thing is finished and all of the temporary chain-link fence and construction vehicles are gone. At least, by the time it starts to warm up again in the spring, we’ll have a lot more of the park we can walk in.

The Sandia Peak Tram

img_8044On the edge of Albuquerque, N.M., are the Sandia Mountains, the tallest of which, Sandia Peak, towers over the city and dominates the landscape. There is an aerial tram that runs from the base of mountain (elevation 6,559 feet) to the 10,378-foot crest, and I’d wanted to ride it ever since I learned of its existence. Yesterday, I got the chance.

The tram consists of two cars that can hold up to 50 people each, which travel a horizontal distance of 2.7 miles while climbing nearly 4,000 feet. The views from the peak are spectacular—supposedly you can see an 11,000-square-mile area—but the tram ride is equally amazing. It goes up the steep, rocky side of the mountain, over multiple canyons and rock formations that seem inexplicable. At one point, the tram car is more than 1,000 feet off the ground. The 15-minute ride, to me, seemed to last about half that time, but fortunately the ride is a round-trip, so you get a second chance at the scenery.

At the top, there are all kinds of activities, including a restaurant, multiple trails for hiking, and of course, during the winter months, skiing, with lifts on the east side of the mountain. Be warned, though, if you live your life at 600 feet above sea level like I do, it’s quite a change when you get up to 10,000 feet. Still, I’d hike up there every weekend if I could.

 

Compton Hill Water Tower

Near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Highway 44 in St. Louis stands the Compton Hill Water Tower, built in the 1890s to improve water delivery to city residents. The “guts” of the tower is actually a 140-foot-tall, six-foot-diameter standpipe. The city found that somewhat unsightly, so the brick and limestone tower was built around it. It no longer functions as a water tower, but the 179-foot structure is on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors who climb the 198 steps that spiral around the standpipe can get some great views of the city.

The tower is open the first Saturday of every month, and evenings during full moons. I’ve always wanted to visit, and today I finally made the climb. See the photos below for proof.

 

For more information on the tower,  visit this web page run by the city of St. Louis, or the Facebook page of the Compton Hill Water Tower Preservation Society.

Seagulls And Sunrises

This land belongs to the gulls
And the gulls to their cry
And their cry to the wind
And their cry to the wind
—David Gray

 

Michigan City. It’s a town of about 30,000 people, nestled in the northwest corner of Indiana, across the bottom of Lake Michigan from Chicago. My family has vacationed there for upwards of 20 years, and in that time feel like I’ve exhausted just about every local photographic subject. Except recently, I’ve discovered two (sometimes overlapping) themes that seem to present different opportunities every day—seagulls and sunrises.

So here are a few snaps I’ve taken this summer. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them. (As always, you can click on the thumbnails for a larger view.)

The Game After The Storm

It was 10 years ago tonight—July 19, 2006—that I had the best seats I’ve ever had for a baseball game, and it was one of the wildest nights I’ve spent at the ballpark.

My brother, who at that time worked for Anheuser Busch, which at that time was one of the better employers in St. Louis, somehow secured the AB Diamond Box tickets for that night and he gave them to me. Right next to the Cardinals’ dugout, just behind the photographers’ well. Truly amazing seats.

IMG_3568IMG_3573Unfortunately, as the players were finishing their pre-game warmups, the skies darkened, and it was clear—from the gray clouds in the background and from the weather radar that was put up on the scoreboard—that it was going to be a while before any baseball was played. The players rushed off the field, and, as the rain started to fall, the fans left the stands for relative safety inside.

 

As you can see from this video, “relative” is the operative word. The wind was whipping at near-tornadic strength, it seemed, and somebody got clobbered by this trash can. I was somewhere in that crowd, safe from the winds and the flying dumpsters.

IMG_3581The storm finally ended, and it was time to assess the damage. Unfortunately, the tarp covering home plate had been ripped up by the winds, so a long time was spent making repairs to the batters’ boxes. Finally, things got under way. The Cardinals played well; “Jimmy Baseball” Edmonds hit a home run, and they ended up beating the Braves 8-3.

(The night didn’t end so well for us, however; we got home to find that our power had gone out in the storm, along with much of the surrounding area. Luckily for us, though, it came on again the next morning. We’ve definitely had worse outages.)

The Captains’ Return … Returns!

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There have been 161 posts on Shoulblog so far. And the one that, by far, gets the most traffic over time is About That Statue, a series of pictures of the Lewis & Clark Statue on the St. Louis riverfront. The statue, named “The Captains’ Return,” was somewhat unique in that it was regularly inundated by Mississippi River water whenever the river rose close to flood stage. Because the river level is always changing, the sculpture seemed to be in a different setting every time you saw it, and it was therefore one of my favorite things to photograph in St. Louis during my lunchtime walks. I’m guessing that a lot of people saw the statue, Googled it to find more information about it or pictures of it, and were led to that blog post.

Unfortunately, though,  it’s apparently not a good thing for a bronze statue to regularly be underwater for long periods of time. A year or so ago, at the beginning of a long riverfront-renovation project, the city removed the statue, with the promise that it would be refurbished and relocated to a new spot at a higher elevation.

Recently, the statue returned to the riverfront, with a new finish and a new location. It’s now further south from Eads Bridge, and up on Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd., which itself was raised by two feet as part of the riverfront project. The statue is thus protected from many of the high-water events in St. Louis, but by no means all of them. Just this last December, it would have been completely underwater, for example. Still, if the goal is to prevent it from getting inundated every year, this location will work better. I’m just glad to see it back.

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