Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jessica's Legacy: Living the Dream - October Road Trip Journal

Starting out, leaving home in the early, misty morning.
For this blog post I'm sharing one of Jessica's journal entries that covers her 2006, 10-day road trip to capture photos of several waterfalls around Pennsylvania. I'll let her words speak for her....

October Road Trip
by Jessica Novak

In October 2006 I spent several days traveling all around Pennsylvania discovering waterfalls. I began planning this trip in September basing it on the book, Pennsylvania Waterfalls by Scott E. Brown. I started in the north, then headed west, spent the weekend in Baltimore, Maryland, and ended the trip east of my home, State College, Pennsylvania.

October 3rd, I packed my car full of food, clothes, a tent, sleeping bag, and my camera equipment, excited and anxious about where the roads would take me. It was a cool, early morning. The strong maple trees lining the asphalt road outside my house were all mystified by fog. I brought only the book and an atlas to navigate where my car’s solid bands of rubber would lead me, thus, making zero plans except to simply take in the experiences to come.

Music blasting, windows down, hair in a mess, I left State College at roughly nine in the morning heading to Warren County for stop number one, Bent Run Falls. Nearly three hours away from home, laid a quiet, masked, fine horsetail slide. The water’s path seemed to be dancing through the bulky rocks.

A very easy, effortless hike to this waterfall made for a short visit but I plan on coming back here to explore what the area has to offer. The suspense was building up all day long so by accident I put hunger on the back burner for awhile until my stomach growled. I spent an hour or so sitting on a log, overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir munching on some carrots and a pb & j sandwich.

Since the sun was already starting to set, I took advantage of the dense, clammy, warm air to wander without any intention. At first I was timid, but my curiosity was overwhelming. I glanced down a steep embankment where water lay between two trees. A boat appeared to my left, peacefully floating, enjoying the same moment I was in. The ripples behind created a “v” in the water connecting those trees. “Beautiful,” I said. “Absolutely beautiful.” I explored a bit more, took some weathered, out of date brochures from a forgotten, beaten up tourist booth, and made a quick phone call home while I had a pay phone available.

The water looked so picturesque with the shy colors of the sky glistening across it, when suddenly the best moment happened, the kind of moment when a photographer gets so excited, with butterflies in the stomach, palms sweaty with excitement. I brought my Pentax up to eye level and gazed through the viewfinder. I patiently waited for the right time to snap the photograph. The wind began to pick up sending the boat's ripples far into the lake. The butterflies began flapping their wings and instantly, I held my breath and tripped the shutter.

Stunning, I thought.

The sun had dropped behind the horizon so I set my camera in the car to progress to my next destination, Hector Falls, 25 miles from Bent Run falls. Unfortunately this area received a great deal of rain the week prior, so the gravel road up to Hector falls was covered in a good foot of mud.

As I approached the bottom of the road, a set of rusty railroad tracks became a highlight through the thick vapor. Revving my engine, I slowly turned the steering wheel thinking that if I could get enough momentum, my car would make it up the incline, relying on the tracks to lend a hand. My car made it five feet past the tracks, and then got stuck. I laughed to myself and decided to get a good night’s rest for an early rise, saving my energy to walk up the gummy terrain in the morning so I put my car into reverse and slowly backed out of the mud concerned about where I would sleep.

I slept in a hotel parking lot next to a flickering streetlight that night. At one point I woke to the sound of rain beating against the sunroof. A gentle smile was born as I watched the raindrops play on the curves of the car. It was the most tranquil moment of the entire trip.

I drifted off for a couple more hours until the sun began to rise, waking me as it crested the mountains. With a big yawn and an aching body I crawled out of the backseat for barely a minute to stretch and thank the spot for keeping me safe. The paved land and fields in the distance were drenched but seeing the view in the light was breathtaking. Ahead of me was a field of shimmering wheat, the color of gold, blowing in the wind.

In awe, I climbed into the driver’s seat and headed for Hector Falls. I started to think about how muddy the road was, then my playful side appeared because I knew that I could basically play in the mud all day long!

It was a very long, and dirty walk up Scenic Drive but it was pleasant. The path in front of me seemed to fade away and lose itself in the mist. I snatched a good number of photos along the way, attempting to capture the thickness of the soft pulp beneath my rubber-soled boots. The mist was so intense that beyond the unexplored steps ahead of me, beyond the unfamiliar trees, my surroundings turned into a jungle.

I paused for a minute at an arrangement of coarse, broad rocks to eat some dried out carrots and a piece of bread.  Unexpectedly, my rapid steps caught up with me. Sitting there, I found myself tired and desperate to find Cherry Run Road, the home stretch to the falls. I continued to amble for hours, but wasn’t making any headway. 

I had a slight hunch about bad weather approaching, despite the fact that a few hours earlier the morning sky was a prominent solid blue with hardly any clouds. I looked above me, and to my surprise, the sky’s golden blue glow was no longer apparent. Instead, it was full of dark, angry, aggressive storm clouds. As a result, I decided to head to the car and come back at a different time. I made it down the road, racing against the rain. I had just enough time to snap some quick pictures of the railroad tracks, when sure enough, with only seconds to spare, the rain came pouring down as I hopped into my car. It was as if the downpour could explain, in ways that I could not, exactly how I felt about not being able to see this unique waterfall.

Nevertheless, I had to persevere with my adventures, so I planned my route through Warren County to find Logan Falls, about 30 minutes away. When I reached the steep mountain road, the directions given in the book made me laugh. I found my way just fine until the directions read, “…and drive to a grassy parking lot on the right.” I drove beyond the mileage the book gave, keeping my eyes peeled for any type of parking. To my dismay, I couldn’t find it, and turned around to look again. The parking lot was a tiny spot, not much bigger than my car, in between some trees, with the grass almost to my knees.

Slightly humored, I got my stuff together, looked at the book for trail directions, and read, “from the grassy parking area, plunge into the woods and proceed straight down slope toward Logan Run.” My smile dropped as I looked around. “Just plunge into the forest…right…hmm” I kept thinking. I was surrounded by forest and whichever way I chose would take me downslope towards the sound of water. So, going on intuition, I plunged right into the fern covered woods. After a bit of zigzagging, I arrived at the falls. It looked so different from the photo, running much more full than I expected.

I went crazy taking pictures here. There were so many photo opportunities! Two rolls of film went quick. Three more went even quicker when I started exploring. Eventually, I wanted to get to the other side of the river but was afraid of crossing on moss-covered rocks with a 25-pound backpack, and camera in hand. Determined though, I threw my shoes to the other side and started to hop the rocks. The last I jumped on was larger and more steep than it looked from the other side. When I jumped on it I lost my grip, letting my feet frolic about in the water for a moment. Finally I made it to the other side, set up shop, and caught some of my best photos.

The smell of the damp air, the sound of the water rushing over the edge of the rocks, my shutter capturing a memory of those moments. It was a beautiful spot, and I would love to go back there sometime to explore. Keeping the sun in mind, I zigzagged back up, trusting in my feet to lead me in the right direction. On the way back up, I had a whole different perspective on the forest. Occasionally, to my right and left there were boulders the size of mansions. I felt like a little ant caught in NYC but without any problems, I made it back to my car safe and sound. Full of joy and completely revived, I switched the car back on, and listened to my techno CD while I planned the next route I would take.

After a rough morning trying to find Hector Falls and not exactly the best night’s sleep, I started to get aggravated. I let my aggravations get the best of me in trying to find Springfield Falls, the next waterfall, located in Mercer County, an hour and 45 minute drive. It took about two and a half hours, leaving me little time to photograph the area. After I drove around in circles for awhile, I got myself all twisted around and decided to take some time to eat a good meal at a restaurant perched alongside the road.

I ate a delicious pasta dish with all sorts of things thrown in; tomatoes, mushrooms, spices, alfredo sauce and blackened chicken. The spices on my tongue sent shockwaves to my soul. I became engulfed in my meal. When I finished I took time to write in my journal. I wrote about mostly my thoughts I had throughout this whole trip so far and mentioned some things about the restaurant. One thought was about the table to my left where two girls were gossiping with each other. All I could really do was smile on the inside and appreciate my adventures away from that.

After this restorative, hearty meal I changed into some pj’s and drove around trying to find somewhere to sleep. I stopped at this parking area that looked similar to the one I stayed at the night before so, thinking it was just another hotel parking lot, I curled up and fell asleep. Soon thereafter, I had a strong intuition to drive around the parking lot to feel out my surroundings. Everything looked fine so I parked again and shut my eyes. When the sun came up in the morning, it was light enough to see the sign above my car. In large bold letters it read, “metal factory.” Once again, I laughed at myself and understood the bad vibes I got the night before.

I quickly made my way out of there to get back on the road to Springfield falls. I stopped off at a little shop in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions. Sure enough, the elderly gentleman knew exactly where I wanted to go. He gave very good directions, and boy, was I relieved!! The falls were right down the road, so it wasn’t long before I made my way to the bottom of the falls, set my camera up, and soaked up the environment around me.

Everything was wet from the rain the night before, overcast clouds, and little wind. Perfect for photography, I thought.  Ideal conditions! I spent a couple hours there. It was one of my favorite places. I had seen the photograph in the book so I had an idea of what to expect but when I reached the base of the falls, a tree had fallen, ruining the shot that I was hoping to capture. I tried my best to work around it, but had to include it in many of my shots. It was these shots that caught the most attention because of the tree. Funny how the mind of the photographer and artist becomes blind to a good piece of art when it isn’t what they imagined it would be.

Again, I found a nice flat rock to lie down on and unwind while I had some lunch. My simple sandwich and carrots was nothing like the meal the night before but it’s important to have an appreciation for the basic necessities of life. I walked back to my car after I ate, and headed to Alpha Falls in Lawrence County. About half an hour later I pulled into the parking spot. I was greeted by a dog from across the street. He stared me down and barked until he couldn’t bark anymore, then decided to plop down underneath a tree, waiting and watching to see what I would do. I snapped a photo or two of him, and a sign warning of high cliffs with my mom in mind. Then, I made my way down some wooden stairs.

For the first time during my adventures, I felt uneasy here. As soon as I stepped off the last stair, a strong energy wave hit me. I think it was probably due to the cliffs surrounding me. I felt at any point the rocks were going to come tumbling down on me. However, I still took advantage of the cliffs’ textures disregarding the uneasy feelings and followed up with some interesting photo opportunities.  The falls weren’t running with much water so I photographed here and there, then headed back up the stairs, carving my name into the railing. This spot, for some reason, got me thinking a lot about the family I will have someday, hoping to bring them here to share the experiences that I’ve had on this trip.

Half a mile up the road, there was a little waterfall called Kildoo falls. This place also had a different vibe to it but the vibes weren’t consistent. It felt like a rollercoaster ride while I was there. I didn’t have my shoes on yet so I sat on some old stairs leading to a collapsed house. No glass, no concrete, no furniture left behind, nothing but the wood of the roof and the concrete steps to the forgotten front door. Around the house is where the rollercoaster ride began.

At first when I was walking around the area, I felt calm, but when I walked to the back right corner of the house, I passed a big drop off where, at the bottom, bright yellow flowers flourished, but only in a small square area. After passing that, I began to feel uneasy, almost panicked. Yet, when I went across the street, the waterfall had a pleasant look and feel to it.  It was a split horsetail with each path of water falling over a heavy undercut. The undercut allowed me to easily make my way behind the falls. Seeing the world through a water window was something to behold. Even though I felt content at the falls,  I didn’t spend a long time here either because of the vibes; some I trusted and others I didn’t want to feel.

Since I didn’t stay as long as expected, this gave me time to read about the other two waterfalls that I wanted to discover around this area. The first one was Breakneck Falls. After I read the description, I decided not to go alone because there is a lot of rock climbing involved close to the falls. I would like to visit this place sometime in the summer though since I can get some photos of rock climbers and people kayaking. The second was Hell’s Hollow Falls. I chose to skip over this one as well because it was getting later in the day, the trail was too long for the length for the time allotted, and the forest seemed like it would be more photogenic in the spring or summer time, so I left it for another trip. 

There were three places, about two and a half hours away in Fayette County, that I wanted to see before spending the weekend in Baltimore, Maryland. An awfully productive day was coming to a close, and I was getting extremely tired at this point. I sure wasn’t used to all this hiking but it was well worth the effort. I had a longer drive ahead of me to my next spot so I called it an early day.

On the way down to the southwestern part of Pennsylvania, the clouds around the horizon were building up to enormous, thick, powerful storm clouds. The sunset’s orange glow made the edges of each cloud look unbelievably fierce. I didn’t realize that they were major storm clouds at first and happily snapped away at them thinking they were so "cool." The longer I drove, the larger they became until I was engulfed by dark clouds and lightning. The huge gusts of wind were enough to push my car across the lanes! I chose to stay in a hotel room that night and called home so they wouldn’t worry. It was nice to be inside for the first time in awhile. I was able to get a shower and re-pack my things. It was a good break and made me realize how much we take for granted from day to day.

I woke up the next morning, ironically with the sun again to find that all the bad-tempered clouds had moved on. It was amazing to me that after only a couple of days of "living with the sun," its clock was kind of set in my subconscious mind. I could tell the approximate time of day, approaching weather conditions, even slight temperature drops very easily.  It was interesting to have that ability.

The first place I stopped at in Fayette county was what I thought to be Ohiopyle Falls. I ended up at a part of the Ohiopyle River somewhere down the road from the actual falls. The area had a unique contrast between the rocks and the trees. Evenly layered rocks led me to a winding river. I took a couple self-portraits here and ate some food. There wasn’t much to see without wandering off  the rock river and up the mountain. I was excited to get to Ohiopyle Falls, so without wasting a second longer, I traveled to the actual falls. This place was intense!

I had a wild time photographing the river and the waterfall. A class of school children were having a field trip while I was there. Being around the kids made me focus even harder on my photos. I remember passing by these two girls and they both looked at me. One said, “Ooh, look it’s a photo person!” The other girl threw a look at her and said, “No, it’s a photographer!” After I heard her say that, I felt so proud, being that it was the first time I was referred to as a photographer by someone I didn’t know. It made me smile for the longest time.

The falls were so powerful. They pour down the river at a shocking 288 tons per heartbeat!! In person this place was extreme but difficult to photograph. There are three viewing platforms on the left bank but other than that there wasn’t any way to get closer to the water since the spray was so strong. I worked with what I had though, and took some decent shots while I was there. I had only one more place left before seeing my friend, so a few hours later I searched for the final one.

The last waterfall I stopped at was Cucumber Falls. It’s only a few miles from Ohiopyle Falls. I wasn’t impressed with this waterfall. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous here but there wasn’t anything that made it different or more spectacular than some of the other areas I’ve been to. The trees surrounding the falls were twined into a big mess that didn’t match the area. Also the water unfortunately wasn’t running full so it was just 9 inches across the rock ledge. This is definitely a spot that I will come back to at a later date because the ground was covered in rhododendrons, and it was fairly easy to get to, so I can only imagine it as a full waterfall with the rhododendrons all blooming. 

Knowing I was going to go back another time and eager to get to Baltimore, I packed up and headed back to my car. To my surprise I ran into a photographer! Nothing in hand, step-by-step he descended to the base peeking around the leaves. We started talking and I was in awe of how much he knew about and how well he knew cameras and photography in general. He gave me some very good tips.  The first was to watch the wind with long exposures because the slightest movement in the trees will record. He also said that when shooting in the autumn, your obvious focus is the fall colors so check out the area and plan your shots before bringing equipment. We talked for about an hour going on and on. Truly inspiring man! 

Nonetheless, I couldn’t wait to see my friend, Laura, in Baltimore. I wanted to avoid the rush hour traffic so I said my goodbyes, thanked him for the wisdom he shared with me, and went on my merry way.

Laura and I have been friends for years but when she moved down to Baltimore for college, we grew apart. When I called my friend to ask for exact directions, she had no idea where I was coming from so the drive became more and more frustrating. It was a decently long drive and I ended up hitting the traffic anyway. About to give up, I pulled my car to the side of the road trying to figure out where I was, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw two girls running down the road. They had seen me drive by and ran to catch up with me. Laura left a class to meet me so she had her roommate drive my car to their dorm rooms. My rest and relaxation weekend began.

Laura took me around Baltimore on Saturday, to see various shops, and visit with her other roommate, Jen, while she was staying with her family. Almost immediately this place helped me to find who I wanted to be even though I only saw few parts of Baltimore and met just one person so far. It sounds cliché but during those three short days I became the type of person I wanted to be forever for a variety of reasons. The art vibe that surrounded me day in and day out affected me the most. Art is contagious. When someone is near me working on a form of art, I get inspired as well.

The girls painted all day Saturday while I worked on my photography. They told me that they felt like I went to school with them since I was blending in so well! That was so different and so refreshing to hear because in past schools I always felt like an outcast. We ended up celebrating a little bit later that night with a couple of drinks but the later it got, the more anxious I was to take some more pictures. I already missed living outside, constantly hearing water instead of people. 

I wandered around the commons taking all sorts of pictures but one thing that I noticed was that I wasn’t the only one doing artwork at four in the morning! There were people standing in the stairs painting, others sitting at the bench drawing, it was wonderful to not be seen as an outcast any more.  The people here were free spirits like myself. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted. Purely magical! 

Sunday came quite quickly though. I packed up my belongings and headed out of town with an awakened spirit. It was a trip I will never forget.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Take a gander at this little beauty inspired by beautiful Nature!

New necklace inspired by beautiful Nature!
I recently had the good fortune to take a long, wonderful walk across some of the beautiful farmlands of Pennsylvania. My husband and I took a picnic and we walked across wide open fields and up to a pond that we love to visit.

View from the open fields. Isn't it breathtaking?!

The pond. So beautiful.
Along the way we saw a beautiful bird circling above, and we think it was a golden eagle. She circled several times high above our heads, and a little while later we came upon four feathers that probably came from this species. I picked them up and looked closely at them - they were a beautiful dark brown with barely perceptible bands of black. Some of them had white tips. Gorgeous.

Beautiful bird circling high overhead.
So after squishing around in the lovely early spring mud, we made our way back to the car.

Spring runoff making lovely squishy mud and beautiful reflections.
Gorgeous place!
Whenever I go walking in this place, I am always just a little sad when it's time to go home. But I brought the beauty of it along with me, and started working on a new peyote stitched cabochon necklace, inspired by the colors in the feathers from the winged one who soars so close to the sun.

Tea-stained sun/moonface cabochon
I wanted to bring some of the brown color to the sun/moonface hand-carved bone cabochon I planned to use, so I soaked it in some good black tea for a while, checking on it every few minutes. Doesn't take long for the bone to soak up some color.

Then I chose the colors of the beads, trying to restrain myself to about three colors (those of you who know me well know this is a huge challenge, because I LOVE color, lol). I picked copper, cream, and black - the colors in the petrified wood cabochon that I chose to go along with the sun/moonface.

Here you can see the beautiful colors in the petrified wood cabochon.
I wanted a bit of a geometric design, so I used copper seed beads to illustrate the wave of love coming from this little sun/moon person. I added a collar of Czech glass flower and leaf beads. Then I added cream colored beams like the sunlight we saw slanting over the farmlands, and a bit of black for contrast and balance.

This piece includes peyote stitch around the cabs, line stitch every two beads on the background, and stop stitch on the textured background. Gemstones include beautiful agate and tiger's eye for the color in the bird feathers we saw, onyx, and natural shell as well as some bone beads. The backing is soft black ultrasuede.

The finished necklace, isn't she beautiful!
The finished piece includes a necklace of twisted seed beads with a couple of copper colored accent beads. Necklace length is 23 inches, total with cabochons is 30 inches. Slips easily over the head to sit about mid-chest.

This piece will be on display at the Bellefonte Art Museum May 17 - visitors are welcome from 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Come see it and try it on! Feels wonderful!

It's for sale, and will go up on Dreamkeeper Creations after the 17th.

I am grateful for the lovely inspiration that Nature offers. And I LOVE doing this work, which mostly feels like play. 49 and a half hours encompassing thousands of beads, most of which were sewn down one by one or two by two. Frank Sinatra crooning along in the background. Good times!