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?

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.  
        If you are interested in learning more about this artist, viewing his works or being apprised of upcoming exhibitions please visit the Hiroshi Sugimoto page at Artsy.net.  Artsy is dedicated to promoting arts education and to making the world's art accessible to anyone and I'm pleased to provide a link to their site.

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/

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Williams Creek Trail near Lake City Colorado

        Williams Creek Trail, 9 miles from Lake City, Colorado, is a special delight—one of those rare trails which immediately rewards the senses and then gets even better.  

Rita and Annie start the hike on a June Day in the
Colorado Mountains.
My husband Tim, our dog Annie and I started along the trail under the shade of young aspens and soon entered a meadow with expansive views of the Continental Divide.  After crossing the meadow the trail enters an aspen, pine and spruce forest.  A small stream crossing and a hillside traverse led us past the trunk of a giant Douglas Fir Tree.  This tree, most of which toppled during a 2001 storm, still boasts massive exposed roots stretching uphill and downhill across the trail.  We stopped for photographs and continued on, crossing the creek again and then angling across a sidehill beneath cliffs and spires of volcanic rock. 

The roots of this Douglas Fir stretch across
the trail (next to Annie on the lower left).
The sidehill levels off and we entered a valley filled with the remnants of beaver ponds.  The beavers are long gone, bleached logs of their imposing dams and lodges are the only signs of their long-ago dominance here.  Mountain meadows are in the process of reclaiming the ponds, but a few mud bogs remain.  Annie delighted in these bogs, belly-flopping in the mud and lapping up the fetid water.

Annie asks:  "Should I play in the mud bogs, (to the left, not pictured)
or should I cross the old pond to dry land?"
She chose the mud bogs.

     We passed by the meadows and traversed a talus slope, evidence of a giant rock slide.  A long uphill climb alongside the slide led to the shores of a dried-up lake.  In days past this must have been a great destination for a backpacking trip but now a grassy depression is all that remains.  Did this former alpine lake dry up due to diversion of the water for some other use?  Or because the snowmelt no longer flows into this area?  We didn’t know.  We did know though—lake or no lake—this was an excellent place to stop for a lunch snack and a photograph.  

The trail climbs steadily alongside this old rock slide.

Rita and Annie enter the large open meadow that shows
evidence of being a former alpine lake.  

The area, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, also makes a good turn-around spot for a morning hike.  And so we did.  Whether you choose to hike for 1 hour, 4 hours or 12 hours, the Williams Creek Trail will reward you every step of the way.

This map shows the Williams Creek Trail near Lake City.
The black arrow points to the general area where we turned around.
The trail crosses Bureau of Land Management land which means
you may set up camp anywhere along the trail.

Williams Creek Trail joins the Alpine Gulch Trail for a total one-way trek of 13 miles (strenuous) and could also be done as an overnight backpack shuttle hike, leaving a car at both the Williams Creek and Alpine Gulch Trailheads.  The trail is dog friendly.  Our dog Annie enjoyed running over the rocky slopes, romping through the meadows, and slogging through what remained of the beaver ponds (mud holes). 

Read about other adventures in the Lake City area: