Observation Tower at Governor Dick

Observation Tower at Governor Dick

Here's a place I've been anxious to revisit. I first visited Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick back in my Amish Road Show days. I'll post the original video further down. That was kind of a crazy time because Zoe was just a baby and had just starting to walk. Basically, we needed out of the house. It was fun, but she screamed the whole way back to the car, and it was slightly less than enjoyable. 

So the other weekend we returned with both kids older and accustomed to a decent hike. The park is located just south of Mount Gretna, Pa on Pinch Road. About a 1/4 mile south of Mount Gretna Road (Rt. 117) you will see a pull-off that provides access to the firetower. If you go another 1/2 mile or so down Pinch Road you'll find the entrance to the Environmental Center Parking Lot. This is where we like to park if we can. With over 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian use there's more than one way to get to the tower.

Panoramic view of the Observation Tower rising beyond the Trees at the edge of the wildflower fields.

The most direct hike is up a service road, but there are plenty of trails to branch off on, and most of them are not really stroller friendly that i saw, just a heads up. Our crew made our way through the wildflower fields. There were plenty of flying and stinging insects around, but for the most part they didn't bother us. That's where I got my Insta360 Nano out and started recording. Check out the video below to see what came next ... 

The climb up the tower is not too bad. The kids did really well with some help and guidance. I guess a lot of people don't realize it's ladders, not stairs. As you can see, when you get to the top you're in a cage. I had my selfie stick with me so I got to poke my Insta360 Nano just a little bit higher. Take a look at the view on the south side of the tower ...

There is a lot I still don't know about this park. However, that's just a reason to visit again. I know that the Park offers a wide range of nature based and  other educational programs. They also work with the Public Schools a good bit as was the desire of the late Clarence Schock. Be sure to stop by their site for more details on all of the activties, rules, and other information about the park.

 

Blast from the past ...

Like I said, this was our second trip up here. Just over five years ago I came up for my Amish Road Show site. This was back when I first got my GoPro Hero 2. Such a proud moment. Check it out ...

Kilgore Falls - Pylesville, MD

Kilgore Falls - Pylesville, MD

As we kick off August there are definitely hot days ahead. This time of year we love chasing waterfalls and finding cool creeks to splash around in. One such waterfall isn't here in Lancaster, but if you're local or near the area it's worth exploring to beat the heat this summer!

This waterfall is just across the border in Pylesville, MD. It's known by multiple names, but you can find it on Google Maps by searching for Kilgore Falls. This is the second largest free-falling waterfall in the state of Maryland, and it is a beautiful sight.  Check out the image below ...

 

To access the Falls you will have to park at the Falling Branch Area of Rock State Park. There is a small 28 spot parking area on Falling Branch Road that fills up quickly, so be sure to get there early as they strictly enforce their no parking policy along the road and in the grass. This is a very popular area, so get there early and avoid weekends and holidays. It actually took us two trips to see the falls. The park grounds are open sunrise to sunset, but the parking lot is open at 8am from March through October, and 10am from November to February.

Once you park the falls trail is approximately a 1/2 mile single track hike to the falls. It is NOT wheelchair or stroller accessible, and large coolers are also discouraged. The trail is narrow, rocky and filled with roots, but it's not a strenuous hike by any means. The kids had no problem keeping up, until the falls tired them out of course.

That's because swimming and wading are permitted at the falls. No lifeguard is on duty and cliff jumping is highly discouraged as people have been seriously injured here before.  You should also note that there are no picnic tables, no restrooms, and no trash cans. Keep it light going in and make sure that you leave nothing behind.

This isn't the tallest waterfall I've ever seen, but it is a gorgeous area. Don't just take my word for it, I had my Insta360 Nano along for this adventure. Checkout what I capture below ... 


360 view on Kuula.co

Below you will find a 360 photo I captured with my Insta360 Nano. Not the best 360 photo I've ever captured, but I good sense of what it's like at the base of the falls.

More of Rock State Park

In the event you can't get into the parking lot, or maybe you're looking for more adventure, the main section of Maryland's Rock State Park is home to the King and Queen Seat Overlook. A really fabulous rock outcrop with a stunning view of the valley 190 feet below. Check out this short video ...

Follow Along and Share With Us ...

More Fireflies ...

More Fireflies ...

We're still chasing fireflies. I can certainly admit that it is one of the great joys of summer for me. Since one of my other great joys is photography I've been having a blast capturing these interesting little critters.

After a few adjustments to the settings last evening I set my camera on time-lapse mode and walked away. I wanted to capture a number of images so I could stack them together, have a short time-lapse clip, and just generally be able to play around with them a bit. I enjoy experimenting with turning photos into videos in different ways. The result is the composition video and images below. Enjoy!

 

Photos:

1300 - Fireflies and house on hillside

This next one I took a step further and edited with Topaz Impressions by Topaz Labs. It's a really cool stand-alone program and photoshop plugin that makes your photos look like paintings. Sound Interesting? Check out the link below the photo and try out the free demo!

1300 - Firelfies Impressions Version
 
 

Catching Lightning Bugs

Catching Lightning Bugs

It's that special time of year when the Lightning bugs (or fireflies) are coming out and looking for their mates. That's right, these little critters are flashing around the field in an attempt to attract a mate. While they're out the kids and I thought we would have some fun and take their picture. 

After the sun had set, but while the sky was still burning orange to the west the pasture came to life. Not just lightning bugs, but they're the most fun to chase around when you're a kid! Even if you're prenending to be an adult.

1274 - Lightning Bugs - Dusk Landscape

Appreciating that not everyone gets the opportunity to chase lightning bugs through a field at will I thought it would be fun to grab my Insta360 Nano. I captured some 360 video as we chased these awesome little insects around the yard, check it out ...

One of the things I keep telling people about this camera is how convenient it is to pop onto your phone and just start recording. Not only that, once you hit record you can just hold the camera in your hand and pay attention to what you're doing. I keep telling people, you gotta give it a try! Instead of staring at the screen you get to enjoy the moment AND watch it later. 

Under the Stars

Under the Stars

Growing up here in the Lancaster County countryside I remember being able to see the stars as a kid. No particular night stands out to me, but we've always had a sky full of stars when the clouds cooperate. Now that I'm older I understand that not everyone gets to experience a starlit sky without a considerable amount of effort and planning. 

I always enjoying sharing my photos of the stars. I'm not the best night photographer, but it is a challenge I like to experiment with now and then. With some of the 360 gear and software that came my way this winter I'm very excited to have some fun experimenting as the nights become more tolerable. Long waits for long exposures is a lot of fun, but it's not my favorite thing to do on cold winter nights.

 

Back when I first got my Nikon D5100 I was very excited. Finally, oh finally, I had a camera that would be able to capture the stars. It was actually the first thing I tried to do with it. I had no idea what I needed to do, it was my first time operating a DSLR, and yet ... there they were. All three of them! By some twist of really dumb luck (or some say "natural intuitive ability")* I managed to capture a picture of three blurry stars in the sky. The next night in an attempt to recreate the same stupidity I meticulously returned all of the settings to where they were the night before, and for some reason I couldn't seem to capture a single star. Which kickstarted my efforts to actually learning how to use this fancy new camera.

I only really use the D5100 fro 360s these days. Below is a 360 I captured one night last summer. At the end of the lane the white fence surrounds a one room Amish/Mennonite schoolhouse. To the right of the lane you can see the silos of the neighboring farm silhouetted on the Horizon. My localized and modern take on Starry Night. As a salute to one of my favorite artists of course.

 

VR Brings YOU into the field with me ...

This year I have been spending a lot of time and energy on 360 photos and videos. I've been fascinated with the medium for a few years now. I think it's a very interesting way to  Below are a few recent experiments where the basic idea was to convert 360 photos into 360 videos with the intent to create more depth to the experience. It's about as close as you're going to get to the experience without me actually bringing you along for some stargazing. 

These experiments were both a lot of fun to capture, and I always seem to walk away with more inspiration for next time. For the best experience I would recommend finding a Google Cardboard or other VR headset to watch it on YouTube!!