Friday, April 6, 2018

Indulge in These Tasty Hawaiian Treats

         Skip the Luau the next time you're in Hawaii and head straight for the island's specialty sweets—Shave Ice and Malasadas.

         Shave Ice is like a snow cone, only 100 times better.  This is not your scoop of crushed ice with syrup poured overtop, oh no.  Shave Ice consists of several scoops of ice cream—your choice—on the bottom of a giant bowl with thin shavings of ice layered on top.  The feathery ice is flavored throughout with syrups or other sweet ingredients.
         On a hot Hawaiian afternoon there's nothing better than the Kona Coffee Special I ordered from The Big Island Shave Ice Company: a bowl of Kona Coffee flavored ice cream, topped with a mound of ice shavings flavored with chocolate/carmel syrup, and slathered with whipped cream.  If you're cravings run to the lighter side you may choose a fruit-flavored ice cream and syrups ranging from guava to watermelon.

Shave Ice with a Smile!
Our enthusiastic server hands Tim a grape-coconut-key lime concoction.

         Now, how about those Malasadas?  Hawaii is a multi-cultural state and a group of Portuguese immigrants brought their delicious donut recipe with them to the islands.  This Portuguese confection is made of egg-sized balls of yeast dough deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar.
         You may order your Malasadas plain or filled with chocolate, coconut cream, bavarian creme or fruit jelly.  And the great thing about Malasadas is they're good with whatever weather Hawaii throws your way.  On a cool and showery Hawaiian Day a box of warm Malasadas is the ultimate comfort food.

Fresh out of the fryer.  Tex's Drive-In, in Honokaa on the Big Island, serves
Malasadas 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. all day, every day.


         Luau, schmuau.  Skip the pork and pig-out on Shave Ice and Malasadas.  These Hawaiian delicacies are worth a side trip to the local food truck or shopping plaza.  And they're good with breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Peace in Union: Galena's Priceless Treasure

         My previous post posed this quiz:  The Smithsonian wants it.  Galena has it.  What is it?

         Any guesses?  See the answer below.  The mystery item is the painting titled Peace in Union, a representation of General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on April 9, 1865.

The original Peace in Union.  I'm afraid my photograph doesn't
do justice to this expansive and impressive piece.

         In the early 1890s former Galena resident turned Chicago newspaperman Herman Kohlsaat commissioned artist Thomas Nast to paint Lee's surrender.  Nast was a well-known 19th century illustrator, political cartoonist and artist who originated the images of Uncle Sam and Santa Claus.
         After two years of research Thomas Nast presented his painting to the city of Galena on April 9, 1895, thirty years to the day after the end of the Civil War.

         What sort of research went into this painting?  Nast discovered the different personalities of Grant's Generals, and their reverence for Grant or disdain for Lee or for the proceedings is apparent in their expressions.  Nast also knew that General Lee arrived at the courthouse nattily attired in his best uniform, while General Grant—true to form—sported scuffed boots and a worn jacket.

         These details are easily evident on the massive and impressive original 9'x12' canvas.

         Representatives from the Smithsonian Institution have visited Galena three times to try and convince the good citizens of Galena to sell this painting to the Smithsonian's American History Museum.  But the museum's reps have been unable to put a price on this historic masterpiece, and Galena isn't selling.
         After all, Peace in Union is without doubt the most famous representation of the most important moment in American history.

         Upon entering the Galena and U.S. Grant Museum visitors are escorted into a room to view an introductory video.  Life-size holographic images of Ulysses and Julia Grant appear on the screen to welcome patrons to the museum and to the town.
         Throughout the presentation Julia affectionately refers to Ulysses as "Lyss".   At the end of the video Ulysses turns to the audience and says:
         “History doesn’t just happen, it’s made by people like you and me.”  Yes, that may be true.
         But some folks, “Lyss”, make a lot more history than others.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Honoring President Ulysses S. Grant on President's Day

The Grant home in Galena, Illinois on a bright blue October day.

         “Reports of Grant’s problems with alcohol are greatly exaggerated”, said the docent at the Galena and U.S. Grant History Museum in Galena, Illinois.

         I didn’t go to Galena expressly to learn about Ulysses S. Grant.  Galena is known as one of those “coolest small towns in America”, filled with art galleries, shops and restaurants.  
         As I drove into town on a crowded art-festival weekend last October I noticed the Grant Homestead and stopped in for a tour.  An hour later I had acquired new-found appreciation, admiration and respect for our nation’s 18th president.  

        The next day I visited the Grant Museum where the friendly and knowledgable docent was only too happy to dispel the notions many of us have about the Grant Presidency.  

        Yes, Grant struggled with alcohol, having developed a fondness for drink when he was stationed at a lonely outpost in the Pacific Northwest during his first stint in the army.  
         And yes, due to his naivete´ about business Grant’s administration had its share of corruption and scandals.

         Despite the above-mentioned problems those who knew Grant describe him as a decent, honorable and trusting man who, as President, navigated the country through reconstruction after the Civil War and was an early proponent of civil rights for freed slaves and American Indians.

        And let’s not forget his accomplishments on the battlefront.  While serving in the Mexican-American War Grant won every battle he was engaged in and this later caught the attention of President Lincoln, who had his own war to attend to.  Grant enlisted in the Civil War in 1861 and in 1864 President Lincoln tapped Grant to be his Lieutenant General in charge of all the Union armies.            
         According to those who worked with him Ulysses S. Grant was the right man at the right time.  He possessed the unique combination of strategic thinking and execution to win the Civil War.

         While the Civil War has been exhaustively studied and researched and you can find facts and statistics about the war in numerous publications, it was the details of Grant’s private life which proved most fascinating to me.

Did you know:

  • Julia Dent Grant was born into a wealthy slave-owning family in St. Louis.
  • Grant’s family (from Ohio) did not approve of Julia because her family owned slaves.
  • Julia Dent’s family, on the other hand, did not approve of Ulysses because he was from a lower station in life and would “never amount to anything”.  How about winning the Civil War and serving as a two-term United States President—does that count toward “amounting to something”?
  • In spite of their parent’s objections Julia and Ulysses had a reportedly very happy marriage.  How nice.
  • Julia was well-educated, was the first wife of a president to be called “First Lady”, and the first to have her own Press Secretary.
  • Julia was a good friend of Susan B. Anthony’s and fought for women’s suffrage.  How about that for a First Lady’s “issue or cause”?
  • General Grant loved his cigars and smoked up to 20 cigars a day.  
  • Sadly, Grant died a painful death from throat cancer at the young age of 63.  Most certainly the cigar habit, coupled with his alcohol abuse.

         General/President Ulysses S. Grant considered Galena his adopted home town and Galena has certainly returned the favor, embracing Grant and his legacy.

         I enjoyed learning about Grant on this trip and am now tempted to read the 900 page book Grant by Ron Chernow which, ironically, was released the day after I left Galena—so no, I didn’t jump on the Grant Bandwagon because of this book.  However, I’m on the bandwagon now, and invite others to join me.  If you’re ever traveling through Galena, Illinois, be sure to stop at the Grant Home and the Grant Museum.  You’ll be glad you did.


A little quiz which will be answered in the next post:

The Smithsonian wants it.  Galena has it.  What is it?

To read the fascinating answer to the above quiz, click here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Are You a Winter Curmudgeon?

win-ter >n.  the coldest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from December to February.

cur-mudg-eon >n.  a bad-tempered or surly person.

          Remember when you were a kid and someone mentioned a snowstorm?  I do, and this was my reaction:  Sledding!  Snowman-building!  Snowball fights!
         And an ice storm was even more exciting:  Skating on the streets!  Or, at least an evening of skating, toasting marshmallows, and sipping hot chocolate at the local pond.

         As an adult, well, I sometimes have the opposite response to a forecast of winter weather:  
Shoveling, ugh.  I'd better not have to shovel out the chicken coop again.
Driving, ugh.  I bet the roads are a mess; how am I going to get into town to run my errands?
        And if there's ice:
Slipping and falling, ugh.  It's dangerous out there; what if I fall and tweak my back, or break a bone?  As for driving on ice?  Forget about it.

         I pondered my reaction to our latest snowfall and came to a starting conclusion:

I'm becoming a winter curmudgeon!
         Now, don't get me wrong—I still love to play in the snow.  It's the adult responsibilities, and also winter's hazards, that get me down.

         The cure for curmudgeon-ness?  Get outside and enjoy a bit of winter fun.

         That's just what Tim and I did last week as we skied the cross-country trails at Devil's Thumb Ranch and snowshoed Rabbit Ears Pass, both in Colorado.

Double Pole Cross-country Ski Trail at Devil's Thumb Ranch, Tabernash, Colorado.

Tim starts out on Ranch Walk Trail at Devil's Thumb.

A picture-perfect winter day.

Sunset over the Continental Divide.

Snowshoeing Fox Trot Trail at Rabbit Ear's Pass, east of
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

On the snowshoe/ski trail at 9429 ft. Rabbit Ears summit.

Farewell to another day of winter action and adventure!

         With the right clothing and the right attitude winter's wonders are every bit as amazing to this adult, as to the wide-eyed kid she once was.

         If you're lucky, yes, lucky enough to see snow this winter, promise yourself to partake of a day of winter adventure.
         And if you need more inspiration to get outside this season, please check out this blog where you'll be treated to a showcase of winter scenery from the mountains of New Hampshire:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I'm Dreaming of a White the Utah Desert?

         While northern Utah's mountains—known for "The Greatest Snow on Earth"—await their first major snowfall, a winter solstice storm blanketed Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with 6-8 inches of the fluffy white stuff.

          Enjoy these red-rock snowscapes.  Wishing you a white Christmas—if only in your dreams.

Balanced Rock,  Arches National Park

Turret Arch, Arches National Park

North Window Arch, Arches National Park

Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A November Hike in the San Rafael Swell of Southeastern Utah

         November is the perfect time for a desert outing and last Sunday six friends and I hiked the Horsethief Canyon Trail in The San Rafael Swell.  I've posted stories from this hike before, but this was the first time the goal was the overlook—a 7 mile out-and-back trek.  Our group spent four hours exploring this part of "The Swell" and during that time we encountered only two other hikers.
         If the San Rafael Swell was located in another state—Iowa for instance—it would be the premier tourist attraction.  In Utah however, The Swell competes for visitors with our state's 5 national parks and 7 national monuments.  Therefore those of us who live in southeastern Utah have this 1,280,000 acre recreation area mostly to ourselves.  And that's okay with me.

        Below are the photos from last weekend's Swell hike.

The trail into the canyon.

This trail has it all, a sandy wash, desert vegetation, rocky spires, and...

... slickrock hiking.
Also plenty of interesting rocky shelves along the way.

The view from the overlook.

The dogs—Annie (left) and Lucinda—loved this hike too!
As a matter of fact, Horsethief Trail was Annie's first desert hike.
Read about it here.

The group hangs out at the overlook.

Weather-sculpted features along the trail.

Annie (left center) leads the way out of the canyon.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What Is There To Do After You Arrive in Isle Royale National Park?

Another day of action and adventure dawns in Isle Royale National Park.

         A Yellowstone tour guide once told me: 
         “Get out on the trails and you’ll have the park all to yourself, because most of the tourists spend all of their time in the gift shops and bathrooms.”

         In Isle Royale National Park it’s exactly the opposite.  People go to Isle Royale to experience the outdoors and immerse themselves in it.  Everywhere you look you see backpacks, kayaks, canoes, day packs, hiking poles.  
         Visitors to Isle Royale don't snap selfies from scenic overlooks or drive around gawking at the sights.  They don't drive at all, because the park prohibits motor vehicles.  If you want to experience Isle Royale you'll have to walk or paddle your way around.  Because of this, Isle Royale has one of the longest visitation averages (the amount of time a visitor stays) in the country.

         Although the 45 mile-long island boasts 165 miles of trails and is dotted with backcountry campgrounds Tim and I didn't bring our backpacking gear on this trip.  We stayed in Rock Harbor Lodge on the eastern end of the island.  From the lodge we accessed the park's trail system, rented a canoe, and booked an excursion on the Sandy, a 30 person sightseeing boat.

         In my previous post I explained how to get to Isle Royale National Park.  The following photos will help to answer the question posed in this post's title.

         The Sandy offers sightseeing tours to remote parts of the island and to various off-shore islands.  We chose a half-day excursion on the Sandy to Moskey Basin, home to Rock Harbor Lighthouse and the Wolf-Moose Research Center.

The Sandy (green and white boat) is docked in front of Rock Harbor Lodge.

The research project documenting the interaction between wolves and
moose on the island is the longest continuous study (almost 60 years)
of any predator-prey system in the world.

Every antler tells a story.  Researcher Candy Peterson shares her stories from
40 years of researching the moose-wolf dynamic on Isle Royale.

The trail to the lighthouse passes through a green-glowing moss-lichen forest.

Rock Harbor Lighthouse heralds the entrance to Rock Harbor passage.

         We hiked trails to the east and west of Rock Harbor Lodge.  Some trails hug the shoreline of Lake Superior or inland bays, others traverse the deep woods of the island's interior.

Elevated boardwalks on the Scoville Point trail resemble balance beams.
Here I'm perfecting my Simone Biles (US Gold-medal winning gymnast)

Scoville Point is the easternmost point on Isle Royale.
After reaching the point we take a break to read and relax.

Along the Tobin Harbor Trail Tim stops to watch a loon and her chick.
If you've never heard the call of a loon in the wild you are missing
out on one of the great things about being alive.

         Isle Royale is a paddler's paradise.  You can chose to circumnavigate the island or paddle the many miles of inland lakes, streams and coves.

No, these fancy stream-lined kayaks aren't ours.  The Ranger III transported these
vessels to the island for two men from Michigan, who planned to spend a week exploring the island.

Tim and I rented this canoe and paddled the relatively
calm waters of Tobin Harbor.

        I have to add that a unique aspect to this park is the absence of cell service.  That's right, no cell service anywhere on the island, even in the lodge and visitor center.  I noticed something extraordinary while walking the footpaths and trails of Isle Royale—people looking up instead of down, truly noticing their surroundings, engaging with those around them instead of with people far, far away.   It was so social.  And so pleasant.

        Isle Royale may not have the grand scenery of a Yellowstone, Yosemite or Grand Canyon.  But the entire park is designated wilderness and it's a place that invites visitors to get out of the indoors, to explore and discover the world around them.