Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Gazing At Mount Tai

How to describe Tai mountain?
Its green towers above all of Qi and Lu!
Here the Creator concentrated divine beauty;
Its north and south sides split dark from dawn.
Chest pounding, you reach the birthplace of clouds;
Bursting eyes fill with birds returning to nest.
Someday I must climb to the very top,
Look down on all of the little mountains at once.

– Du Fu

In 2013 my husband and I visited his hometown of Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong in northern China. One of my favorite day trips from the area was to Mount Tai, a sacred mountain to the south of Jinan where emperors would journey to meditate and make sacrifices.

We cheated because we took a bus up to the halfway point, and then started our trek from there. Even then, it took us probably 3-4 hours to make the ascent, although we aren’t the most athletic people and we were taking it pretty slow. It was crazy to think of the porters who carry supplies and goods by foot from the bottom of the mountain all the way to the top! They must be in amazing shape!

On the way up the mountain there are various temples, vendors, and most amazingly inscriptions carved into the distant side of the mountain. How did they get up there to carve that?!

After all the sweat and sore muscles, you’re rewarded with views from up on high, and looking back at the winding, steep stairs that you climbed up you get a sense of accomplishment. I did that! I am amazing!

Climbing up the mountain is a popular activity for visiting tourists. A good walking stick is a must!

I don’t approve of graffiti at historical and natural sites but I thought this was kind of funny. It says “累死我了” – I’m damn tired!

I love this photo with the peaks disappearing into the mist (or pollution…. take your pick 😱). The winding staircase keeps on going and going….

Atop a sacred mountain, you can’t help but pause and reflect about the millions of people who have ascended these peaks before you, from ancient times on. I’m sure they saw different things from the top but the sole act of climbing this mountain makes me feel connected with them. It’s an experience that can’t be replaced and I hope that even after I’m gone this mountain will live on and on.

Travel theme: Frame

I love using framing to compose a shot; it adds another layer of depth to a photo that can really draw ones eye. Here are some framed shots!


Here cherry blossoms form a natural frame for the Jefferson Memorial. It was a gorgeous day to see the cherry blossoms, sunny and warm!


My alma mater, Cornell! Here Mcgraw Tower is framed by the trees leading up to Ho Plaza.


Another view from Cornell, this time from the A.D White room in Uris Library. Just look at that view of Cayuga Lake… it would be hard for me to study here, I’d be so distracted by the lookout!


Lastly, a shot from the top of Mount Tai. If you reached the top, that means you climbed up 5,000 feet! Or, if you’re like us, you took a bus to the halfway point and then climbed up those stairs. Or, if you’re really smart, you took the cable car to the top and enjoyed the views there… phew!

Travel theme: Mountains

To a short person like me (just a smidge under 5′) even hills can seem like mountains. And there were definitely times when I felt like walking up a hill was more like scaling a mountain of epic proportions (for Cornellians – slogging up Libe Slope through snow from West Campus to go to class during winter!). But for the sake of this week’s travel theme at Where’s my backpack?, I will stick to legit mountains and not just my little versions of mountains… or will I?

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of mountains – unless there’s a nice ski-lift bringing you up there!  Here in New York most people bemoan snow – unless they are avid snowboarders or skiers looking for fun. I love the powdery trees here – they look so serene even while there’s so much action going on between them.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about these amazing monasteries in Greece that are built atop mountains before… but that is just how fantastic they are. Putting a monastery on a mountain? I don’t envy the builders but the result is completely magical.

And now for something completely different – red rock mountains in Sedona, Arizona. The surreal landscape of Arizona was fascinating to me and my husband because it was totally unlike the scenery we’re used to in the Northeast.

DSCF2449And finally, a mountain of adorableness! Greece seems to have tons of stray cats and dogs running around, and this cuddly pyramid of kitties were just enjoying some sun… and dare I say… cat-napping?!