Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Snowshoeing near Lake City, Colorado

                          Season's Greetings from One Day in America!
          Snowshoeing is one of my favorite outdoor activities and the mountains of southwestern Colorado provide a perfect venue for this winter sport.
          The photos below tell the story of two recent treks in the San Juan Mountains.

Our dog, Annie, leads the way on a trail through the
snowy spruce forest.

Reaching the rim.

Annie and I pose on a rocky outcrop with a killer view.
Annie doesn't appreciate the view but she loves
playing in the snow.


Zoomed view from the above photo.  Two of Colorado's 14,000 ft.
peaks dominate the skyline:  Uncompahgre (14308') on the right and
Wetterhorn (14016') to the left.

For more information on winter fun in and around Lake City, Colorado visit this website: http://www.lakecity.com/index.php/things-to-do/winter-in-lake-city


Another day of winter adventure dawns in the Colorado mountains.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, Pennsylvania


                      "The time to protect a species is while it's still common."
                                                                                                 --Rosalie Edge
                                                                                          
Hawk Mountain is located under the Atlantic Flyway, a
principal route for migrating birds.

         “Eagle, high over Five. Sharpy coming in over Owl’s Head.” 
          Dozens of pairs of binoculars rise, their owners heeding the command to scan the skies over the above-named ridges.  The directive sounds like code for incoming missiles, but the raptors filling the sky today are not military but avian—a majestic Golden Eagle and a sleek Sharp-shinned Hawk.  


Birders search the skies above ridge "Five", hoping
to catch a glimpse of an Eagle.



The view from North Lookout.

          I’m part of the crowd seated on the rocks of North Lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania.  We gaze skyward at the soaring birds, the tranquility of this moment belying the carnage which occurred here 80 to 100 years ago.  During the first decades of the 20th century thousands of migrating hawks, eagles and falcons were gunned down—injured and killed for fun by so-called “sportsmen”.  Horrified by reports of the wanton slaughter, New York socialite Rosalie Edge leased these woodlands in 1934 and stationed wardens in the area.  Ms. Edge invited the public to visit and to bird-watch; four years later Hawk Mountain became the world’s first refuge for birds of prey. 


Hunters in the early 1900s traveled to the mountain
along old horse-and-wagon trails.
This ledge is only 100 yards from the roadway, providing a
veritable shooting gallery for the hawk slaughter.
          Before leaving our rocky perch to hike the 1.1 mile trail back to the Visitor Center one more directive is issued from the Hawk Mountain intern staffing the lookout today:  “Incoming, directly overhead.”  It’s a Merlin, dive-bombing the owl statue standing guard over the spectators at North Lookout.
         Today it’s birds—not bullets—flying overhead, and the only shots being taken are photographs.  Thanks to Rosalie Edge the rolling ridges surrounding Hawk Mountain Sanctuary remain a safe haven—for both humans and raptors.


A spotting scope is trained on peaks "One" through "Five".

           Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is located in southeast-central Pennsylvania, near the Appalachian Trail.  Every day during the fall migration a staff member is stationed on the lookout to conduct an official bird count and to help visitors with raptor identification.  
          Crowds can be prohibitive on weekends during fall color season (most of the month of October).  November is my favorite month to visit the North Lookout.

Learn more about Hawk Mountain by visiting their website:  http://hawkmountain.org


Two tales of one trail.  The top photo was taken on the North Lookout
trail in September of 2013.  The bottom picture was taken on the
same trail in November of 2008.  If you're dressed for
the weather, November offers great views and no crowds.
(Bring along a thermos of hot chocolate.)



Friday, October 25, 2013

A 95 Year Tradition of Food and Fun at The Ephrata Street Fair, Ephrata, PA

Is that grease on the napkins?  You bet.  As one of the Akron (PA) Lions
used to advertise while tending the sizzling spuds:  "Crisp and mellow,
golden yellow, golly but they're good!"
         Begin one of my blog posts with a food photo?  Yes, if it's a dinner you can eat for only five days of the year.  During those days at the end of September, parts of Ephrata's Main and State streets are closed to host the largest street fair in the state of Pennsylvania.
         Crowds gather and walk the streets to find scores of food kiosks, games of chance, and both kiddie and adult thrill rides.  Several blocks away in the town park the agricultural tent houses livestock to show and sell, as well as canned goods to be judged.
         Now, about that special meal . . .  You can buy all the sausage sandwiches, barbecue and funnel cakes you can eat but none of it compares with the Akron Lions crispy fries and their signature sandwich—the toasted cheese burger.   Many decades ago the Lions sold grilled cheese sandwiches and hamburgers separately.  One day at the stand a bold Lion decided to pop a juicy burger inside his grilled cheese sandwich and, voila!, a delicacy was born.  Now the Lions sell upwards of 15,000 of these sandwiches at the fair every year, and they bring home ~$50,000 in profits for their charitable organization.  My father has been a proud Akron Lion for 54 years and, for many of those years, he worked the stand on its busiest nights.  When my dad sold sandwiches he picked up the tab for my annual toasted cheeseburger habit.
       You can still line up at the "Queen of the Midway" and order either a plain burger or a grilled cheese sandwich but, with those toasted cheese burgers staring you in the face, why would you?

Scores of people wait in line at the Akron Lions Stand for a chance to
sink their teeth (man at bottom right) into one of those tasty
toasted cheese sandwiches.

The Merry-go-Round attracts the younger crowd and their
parents on a stellar autumn evening.

         While the tradition of fine food at the Akron Lions stand will continue, another long-standing tradition at the Ephrata Fair is coming to an end.  For the past 42 years Walt and Joan Dembroski have been traveling from Florida to bring their "Fat Albert" wheel-of-chance game to the fair.  I played the game for 25 cents when I was in high school—back when Walt and Joan were young.  Now in their 70's Walt and Joan announced this would be their final year at the fair.  Huge crowds lined their stand every night, everyone plopping down their 50 cents, (or three tries for a dollar) for their chance to win a prize.

A piece of cheese is placed in each cup under the board's colors.
Walt places Fat Albert the rat in the cup at the center of the wheel
and gives the wheel a spin.  Which color will the rat run into?
On this spin it looks as though Fat Albert is heading for light yellow.

Another game of chance next to the Funnel Cakes.
Shoot a bullseye and take home one of these stuffed animals.


Crowds fill the midway on Friday night at the fair.

Sheldon's Gallery and Store welcomes fair-goers to Ephrata's Main Street.

         The Ephrata fair begins on a Tuesday night.  The Ephrata parade, filled with floats, marching bands, baton twirlers and more is the unofficial Wednesday evening kick-off for the festivities.
         Readers, did the town you grew up in have its own annual fair, farm show or carnival?  Do you have fond memories of special foods, exhibits, games or rides?
         Learn more about the Ephrata Fair by visiting their website: http://www.ephratafair.org/

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Touring the Hard Tack Mine in Lake City, Colorado


         Think your job is tough?  Then you haven’t spent 40 minutes touring the Hard Tack Mine near Lake City Colorado.  Tour guide Billy Tuggle shares the perils of mining with our group as we journey along a tunnel inside the San Juan Mountains.  Gold and silver miners were exposed to constant hazards, among them cave-ins and explosions.  Many of the men who set the charges in mines like this one never made it back to town alive.  




  We stop at displays along the tunnel, where mannequins re-enact scenes of chiseling precious minerals from the mountainside while Billy provides a comprehensive narration detailing their efforts.   Near the end of the tour we’re treated to a special surprise—an underground room filled with stunning examples of the gems extracted from the earth.


A warning.  Old mines are subject to
toxic fumes and cave-ins.

This grizzled "miner" is ready to drill into the mountainside.

         As we finish our excursion Billy shares a secret with us: this part of Colorado still contains traces of silver and gold, and Billy has discovered 500 pounds of silver-containing rocks in his travels of the San Juans.  When we leave the tunnel Billy’s wife Bobbi is waiting in the underground gift shop, where we can buy samples of the precious stones found in these hills.


"Know when to fold 'em..."  Even miners have to relax now and again.
My friend Shirley plays a hand in the miner's lounge.
         So go ahead and try your prospecting luck in the mountains of southwestern Colorado—but don’t become another mining statistic.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published a brochure detailing rules and guidelines for aspiring rock collectors.  Read all about it at this website:  http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/co/programs/minerals.Par.44677.File.dat/Rockhounding Brochure.pdf


The mountains of southwestern Colorado are dotted with the
remains of old mining townsites.

         The Hard Tack Mine is open every day from Memorial Day until Labor Day.  The rest of the year the mine is open by appointment.  Contact the mine at this number: 970-944-2506.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Death in the Utah Desert


         It’s a glorious summer day, seemingly perfect for hiking among the folds and formations of Utah’s Red Rock deserts.  But the temperature has climbed past 100 degrees and you’ve run out of water on the return to the trailhead.  And the sun—a warm blanket wrapped around your shoulders this morning—has by afternoon become an iron smelter encasing your body in a pot of molten ore.  You feel headachy, your pulse and respiration rise, you lose coordination and your pace slows.  You’re suffering from heat exhaustion and, if your body temperature continues to rise and the body’s cooling mechanism collapses, heat stroke will result.   Delirium, organ failure, convulsions, and coma will lead to death.

****

       Six people have died while hiking in southern Utah this summer, five of them on trails I’ve hiked and blogged about.  While my blog posts are filled with the wonders these trails have to offer, it’s only fair to point out that Utah's rugged wilderness can be as deadly as it is delightful. 
        Below is a brief synopsis of this summer’s tragedy on the trails:

The Wave (Coyote Buttes) on the Utah-Arizona border. 
         A husband and wife, ages 70 and 69, were returning to the trailhead when they suffered the effects of dehydration and heat stroke.  Their bodies were found 250 yards apart.  One week later a 27 year-old woman, on a fifth anniversary trip with her husband, lost the trail for two hours, then collapsed from heat exhaustion.  Her husband hiked out for help; by the time rescuers reached the woman she had died.


The Wave.  Notice the water bottle at the side of my pack.
I carried two 32 oz. bottles—and it was a January day.

Horseshoe Canyon (Great Gallery) in Canyonlands National Park. 
        A 73 year-old man, hiking alone, failed to contact his family at the designated time and a  search party was launched.  His vehicle was found at the trailhead and his body was found along the trail.  Heat stroke and dehydration were determined to be the cause of death.


The black arrow points to me as I hike into Horseshoe Canyon.
Notice the total lack of shade and water along this trail.

Spooky and Peekaboo Slot Canyons in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
        A 35-year-old woman, hiking with a friend, struggled in the heat on the way back to the trailhead.  According to the Salt Lake Tribune she had packed three liters of water and a 32 oz. bottle of Gatorade.  She and her companion became lost for two hours but eventually found the trail and were within a quarter mile of the trailhead when the woman couldn’t go on.  Her friend ran to the trailhead and called 911.  When she returned to the trail the woman had no pulse and was not breathing.  The friend performed CPR for an hour until medics arrived.  The victim was transported to a hospital but did not survive.


Tim and his friend Mark descend into Spooky Gulch.
Our destination is the trees at the canyon's bottom.
This was one hike we did complete in the summer
—with plenty of hydration.

Brimhall Double Bridge Trail in Capitol Reef National Park. 
        A 56-year-old woman, hiking with her husband, became ill on the trail.  Her husband hiked out for help but by the time emergency personnel arrived the woman had died.  Heat exhaustion/stroke is the presumed cause of death.

**** 

Of the four trails mentioned above, Brimhall Double Bridge is the only trail I haven’t tried.  Having previously suffered the effects of beginning hyperthermia I tend to avoid desert trails in the excessive heat of summer.  If summer is the only time you have available to hike Utah’s deserts I recommend drinking at least a gallon of water, and hiking in the early morning or early evening.  
Enjoy the eternal beauty of the desert but please... be careful out there, and prevent a dreamy summer day from turning into a nightmare.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cruising Lake Champlain with Whistling Man Schooner Company, Burlington, Vermont


          Lightening bolts branch across the lake.  A storm is brewing.  I tilt my head to gaze at the canvas sails reaching to the sky.  
“What are the chances this boat could tip?” I ask.  
“Impossible,”  replies the captain.
Captain Mike and first mate Tyler check the radar on their iphones, then assure me the storm is moving to the south and away from us.


Storm clouds building?  Not to worry.
Friendship sloops are built to handle the weather.
         I’m the only passenger this afternoon aboard the Friend Ship— a Friendship Sloop modeled after Maine sailing vessels first built in Friendship, Maine in the late 1800s.  Our craft was built in 1981.  It’s 46 feet long, weighs almost 19,000 pounds and has a 4,800 pound keel—thus the improbability of being tossed into the water.  
On the Atlantic coast these ships were built for fisherman and lobstermen.  In Burlington, Vermont, shipbuilders fashioned the boats for light cargo and recreation.  And recreation is the purpose of my sail today with Whistling Man Schooner Company, which offers daily cruises on Lake Champlain during the summer.  


My own private tour on the comfortable Friend Ship.
Captain Mike invites guests to bring their own food and drink;
wine and cheese are favored on the Sunset Cruise.

         As we sailed the smooth waters Captain Mike told of the history of Lake Champlain.  This waterway was important to the French and British in Canada as a way to transport goods to the Atlantic seacoast; therefore the lake became a critical strategic area during the battle with the British for control of the colonies.  
        George Washington sent men and boats (precursors to the US Navy) to capture the forts along the lake.  If they succeeded the colonial army would gain control of the lake—the most direct invasion route to British Canada.  However, if the British maintained their presence on the lake they would be able to divide and conquer the colonies.  We all know who won this conflict, but the historical significance of Lake Champlain is interesting none-the-less.


Burlington is the largest city in Vermont.  Views of Lake Champlain
abound in this hilly city.


Looking through the rigging toward New York State.

       Captain Mike also relayed his own history.  He worked for IBM for 29 years and was laid off in 2010.  One year later he landed a consulting job with IBM, but in the meantime he added to his lifelong love of sailing by securing his Captain’s license.  A year after that the Whistling Man Schooner Company went up for sale.  
“Should I buy it?” he asked his wife.  “Go for it,” she said.  
And so, Captain Mike quit IBM for good and began taking passengers for cruises on Lake Champlain.  He has no regrets:  “It’s a wonderful life,” he said.  
        I have to agree.  The storm has moved away and, on a warm July afternoon, there’s nothing better than relaxing on the deck of the Friend Ship while sailing Lake Champlain.


Captain Mike and Tyler, enjoying the sailing life.



The Friend Ship in dock and waiting for the
popular 6:30 p.m. Sunset Cruise.

To learn more about the Whistling Man Schooner Company visit their website:  http://whistlingman.com/

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover, Vermont


         I am alone in a 150 year-old dairy barn.  The floorboards creak.  The roof shudders and groans in the wind.  I glance overhead. 


          
          I could be trapped inside the plot of a Stephen King novel If these figures were suddenly to come to life.  But they remain immobile and impassive.  The creepy creatures surrounding me are all puppets, retired from performances in the Bread and Puppet Theater.  
         The theater was founded in 1963 by artist Peter Schumann of New York City.   This museum was created in 1974 and 1975 when the theater moved from New York to the tiny town of Glover, in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.  The puppets are all hand-made and they're used in performances and pageants throughout the summer.  And the bread?  Fresh-baked sourdough rye is offered for consumption after the shows.


The puppets are fashioned here, outside the barn.
(See the two puppets with raised arms on the lower right.)
The bread is baked here also, in outdoor clay ovens.  Loaves of
rye bread are lined up on the far tables, awaiting the night's performance.

Perhaps this puppet was modeled after one
of the museum's bakers.

          The museum’s brochure reads:  “...a stately and aging barn holds one of the largest collections of some of the biggest puppets in the world.”  This is a gross understatement.  “Aging” is hardly the word for the barn; decrepit is more like it.  “Largest collections” doesn’t even begin to describe the display here; you’ll never again in your life see such a massive assortment of puppetry.  “Biggest puppets”—another understatement; some of these creations approach 20 feet in stature.


Puppets of the revolution.
18 foot tall Ben Franklin and his cronies stand guard
in the loft.

         Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve traveled to many and varied places on this continent, both natural and man-made.  The Bread and Puppet Museum is in a class by itself.  I’m proclaiming this museum winner of a new category titled: “Peculiar, Curious, Freakish, Unconventional, Outlandish and Bizarre”.  Walk through the museum with me and see for yourself:


A scene from a peasant village?


I can't even begin to imagine what this
group of puppets is up to.


Many of the puppet displays had placards posting information
about the plays the puppets appeared in.
Although the words were in English, many of the signboard's
messages were unclear to me!


"The Help"  I get this one.


Are these grotesque characters part of a mardi gras celebration?


Musicians
Many of the performances are political in nature.
Perhaps these puppets have something to do with
class warfare?


Could this be the man in the moon?
But who is the menacing guy behind him?
        Travel to Glover and visit the Bread and Puppet Museum—at your own risk...  
        Learn more about the museum and theater and view the summer show schedule at this website:  http://breadandpuppet.org/museum

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Colorful Day in Albuquerque, New Mexico


         With its red and green chilies and blue, blue skies Albuquerque is a primary color wonderland.  


Dried red chilies adorn the entrance of an
Albuquerque eatery.

My day in New Mexico’s largest city began at the Gold Street Caffe where I ordered The Cowboy breakfast—scrambled eggs, smoked ham, and mascarpone cheese on a green-chili-cheese biscuit, accompanied by fresh salsa.  The meal tasted as good as it sounds, and the coffee was smooth and satisfying too.   
After breakfast I visited San Felipe Church, the oldest church in New Mexico and the anchor of the revived historic district “Old Town”.   The adobe structure with its stark white crosses jutting into the indigo sky proved irresistibly photogenic. 
From the church I walked to the Rattlesnake Museum at the other end of the square.  The museum owner must be a Steve Irwin fan; a video of the famed crocodile hunter played continuously while I was there.  Dozens of live rattlesnakes filled the museum, living out their lives in small terrariums.  Maybe it’s better than being hunted down, tortured, and killed for fun—as people do to rattlers.  
I left the museum and noticed a wedding party assembled on the lawn in Old Town square.  The bridesmaids wore brilliant red dresses and the groomsmen’s black tuxes were adorned with red carnations, bowties and cummerbunds.  After the ceremony the group posed in front of San Felipe.  I can’t say I remember their faces but their red, white and black attire against the backdrop of the sandstone church and bright blue sky comprised a stunning portrait.  


San Felipe Church—a splendid backdrop for any occasion.  

  Leaving Old Town I drove uptown to the University of New Mexico and visited the University Art Museum, featuring black and white seascape photography by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto
A short drive from the  University took me to Nob Hill, another restored district directly east of campus.  Just like Old Town the area is filled with shops.  Old Town, Nob Hill and the University are located along Historic Route 66, made famous by the 1946 Nat King Cole song, and then made obsolete in New Mexico by Interstate 40.  Historic Route 66 has seen better days.  I’m sure it’s also seen worse days, and now Albuquerque is trying to revive some of those better days again.  Most of the old motels—for better or for worse—still survive. 

                                                           ****

      Next on today’s agenda—an early dinner.  Driving north on 4th street, the neighborhoods changed from used car lots to pawn and payday loan shops, then to antique stores and feed stores, and finally to upscale therapeutic healing boutiques.  It was in this neighborhood that I found Casa de Benavidez.  I took a seat on the outdoor patio under a giant cottonwood tree and ordered the house specialty “our very famous sopapilla burger”.  It’s a hamburger with green chili, beans, lettuce and tomato in a sopapilla bun.   One bite of the juicy burger and I knew I had come to the right place.


Satisfy your southwest dinner cravings with
Casa de Benavidez's "very famous sopapilla burger".

The Sandia Peak Tramway was my after-dinner destination.  I arrived at The Tramway and watched the cars sliding along the 2.7 mile cable, up and down the steep mountainside.  “Do I really want to do this?”  I asked myself.  “Yes, I think you should.”  I answered.  So I bought a $20.00 ticket and waited for one of the cars to slide down the mountain.  The cars ascend 3,800 vertical feet to the mountain top at 10,300’ in elevation.  The ride is thrilling—at one point the cable car is suspended 1000 feet over the canyon below.   Thankfully the cars are fully enclosed, but the tramway operator unnerved a few passengers by saying he’d slow the car down to go over the part of the cable that was duct-taped.  Very funny.


The black arrow points to our car's shadow on
the rocks below.  The docking station is at the
top of the photo.  You can see how some riders
may have been nervous.


A Sandia Peak cable car approaches the docking station,
successfully navigating the 2.7 miles of cable—the
longest aerial tram ride in the world.

Temperature at the bottom of the cable car ride: 75º.  At the top: 48º.  I donned my jacket when we disembarked.   From the top of Sandia Peak the view stretched for 100 miles.  A paraglider prepared to shove off from the mountain top and as I boarded a car to descend he pushed off from the rocky cliff.  All things considered I think I’d rather ride the cable car to the bottom.  Our car operator informed us that only the most experienced paragliders are permitted to ride the tramway and take off from the mountain’s edge; the tram company has a list with the names of these authorized adventurers. 
But there are tamer ways to explore the wonders of Albuquerque.  Linger here, then return home with your own colorful memories from this vibrant city.


Paragliding into the sunset above Albuquerque.  An "expert" takes off
from Sandia peak.

        Make plans to visit Albuquerque by visiting this website:  http://www.itsatrip.org/