Saturday, November 18, 2023

Fall 2023 in pictures and videos


The most bizarre sunrise of my life, complete with sunspot (look in the upper part of the haze band, right of center).

My 75th birthday has come and gone.  2023 has been an eventful year.  As I've posted, I published my long-delayed AT memoir in April, and then my long-standing mega-novel in August.  Between those two projects I traveled to New England, where I spent a month and a half hiking, including touching base with the New England National Scenic Trail and extending my personal continuous footpath to the state of Rhode Island (connecting my 27th of the 50 US continental 'states' [counting DC]).

I also had the distinct privilege of helping the Dartmouth Outing Club maintainers repaint the summit sign on top of Mount Moosilauke.

I even got a stripe of orange paint on my hiking stick as a 'souvenir'.  Here's the video I posted at the time:

Since July, I've mostly been sticking close to home enjoying the sunrises and fall color.  The bizarre sunrise shown in the headline photo ought to be made into a video.  I took a couple dozen photos as it evolved.  It happened on November 8th, and not only provided an amazing distortion, caused by multiple stable layers in the atmosphere, but it was also the first time I've 'seen' a sunspot (with the aid of my 40x Canon Power Shot point and shoot camera).  Here's a look at a later image, with the sunspot very apparent, having moved above the haze layer:

The sunspot was a big one, at least twice the size of our whole planet Earth. When I noticed the spot on the images, I went to the internet to check.  Real time sunspot data comes from NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) satellite.  At that site, you can customize a video of this huge sunspot moving left to right - at least until the Nov 8-9, 2023 data are taken off the site and archived.  Here's the procedure:

  1. Go to the SOHO Movie Theater link.
  2. In the 'Image' menu box, select "hmiigr"
  3. 'Resolution' 512 or 1024, take your pick.
  4. Click on 'Dates' and a drop-down calendar appears.  Click first on November 8, 2023, then click again on November 9, 2023.  That fills the form with the start and end dates.
  5. Click 'Generate' and the first of the images in the sequence appears.
  6. Beneath the image click the 'Play' button and the animation scrolls repeatedly.  Customize as you wish.

The 'authorities' give each sunspot a number.   This one was number 3477, and here's's image with each sunspot annotated with its number.  I've rotated the image to appear as the sun appeared in my photos taken at about 40 degrees north latitude (i.e., with the north pole at the 10:20 o'clock position.)

The venue where I witnessed this exotic sunrise is the same one where, on the exact date of my birthday, I was treated to this spectacular display--one of the most outstanding sunrises of my life:

It truly was a special day.  Here are the two videos I took this day, no editing, just raw:

And as reported in the second video, I had just learned a few days earlier that I was going to be a grandpa for the first time (assuming I live until June 2024.)

At my age, I make no such assumptions.  Just look at this:

Falling (tripping, stumbling, losing my balance, etc.) has become an increasing part of my 'repertoire'.  This recent fall with face-plant on the ground gave me the honor of the first full black eye I've ever had.  It looks a lot worse than it feels.  But I've always said, with the miles of hiking I do on rugged rocky trails, and especially this time of year with the new-fallen leaves obscuring treacherous 'holes' and obstacles, that the way I will eventually die is by falling and cracking my head open on a rock.

The new Social Security Actuarial Life Tables tell the story.  We 75-year-old men are a dying breed.  And it is getting worse.  Covid has accelerated the process.  I thought I'd compose a little 'doomsday' message to myself, compiled from the stats on that site, just for fun:

But on a happier note, speaking of the new-fallen leaves.  The display here on the Blue Ridge of Virginia did not disappoint, as can be seen in the videos.  Color is all but gone now, as of the date of this post (which is the first day of firearms deer-hunting season).  Yesterday I went out and cherry-picked some of the last of the best:

Still life with purple wood aster and acorn shell on red maple leaf

And finally, I did do one walk that didn't feature autumn leaves or rocky trail.  It was a walk on water; and I've done it once before.  

Love that Chesapeake Bay Bridge 10K run.  It's the one day of the year when the American Discovery Trail can be walked between Annapolis, MD and Maryland's Eastern Shore.  In my new 75-79 age group, I finished 20th.  And there were 15,503 finishers (in all age groups combined).  It was a chilly day, and the hassle of waiting in line for transportation to the start and from the finish diminishes the experience.  But I will probably come back next year and try to beat my time.  Or maybe I'll be walking it with my new grandchild.  Never too soon to start the hiking life!

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