Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome, Spring!

          Today, at 12:57 p.m. Eastern Standard Time we mark the Vernal Equinox, the beginning of spring.  But we don't need the calendar to tell us what we can already see and feel—lengthening days,  greening landscapes, warming sunshine.

          It's that time of year when we plan both gardens and summer vacations.  And, for me, it's also time to change the header photo on my blog.  While picking a header for spring, I've decided to use this post to showcase all my header photographs.  Click on any picture to enlarge.  Click on the links to view previous posts.  Enjoy!

A pair of Sandhill Cranes fly across the marsh in
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico.

The "Holy Ghost" panel, artwork from The Ancients.
The Great Gallery, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. 

A group of Convict Tang swims by, off the waters
of Kauai, Hawaii.

A day at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Cathedral Valley Overlook, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Half-Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Fisher Towers trail silhouette, near Moab, Utah.

The  mountains of Southwestern Colorado, near Lake City.
This was my original banner photo.

In addition to travel, Tim and I enjoy gardening.
These pictures are a montage of several year's worth of
jack-o-lanterns carved from our garden's pumpkins.

The San Juan Mountains in Winter,  near Lake City, Colorado.

Snowshoeing is a great winter activity in and around Lake City, Colorado.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ides of March at the Ed Ball Lodge, Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida

                                      “Beware the Ides of March”
                                                                    William Shakespeare,  from Julius Caesar, 1601


                 Until Shakespeare penned that line warning Julius Caesar of his impending death, the Ides—a day on or about the middle of the month—was not necessarily an ominous date.  For a woman traveling alone, however, any day has the potential to turn dangerous.  I frequently travel alone and am ever vigilant regarding untoward, unseemly, or unsafe circumstances.  

               The date:      March 15, 2007, The Ides of March.  
               The setting:  Ed Ball Lodge, an imposing 75 year-old structure in Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida.

               The story:     I didn't sleep well last night in this lonely place and woke with a sore back and a stuffy nose.  I entered the dining room for breakfast and noticed only a few other solitary travelers sharing the cavernous space with me.  Sitting by the window, I watched the mullet jumping in the Wakulla River, wishing them a better meal than the mediocre fare offered here.

      After paying the bill I wandered into the lobby to look at old pictures on the wall and to read about the history of the lodge.   A well-dressed, well-groomed middle-aged man left breakfast shortly after I did.  Although he didn't seem suspicious I noticed that he, too, lingered in the lobby, perusing the photographs and paintings.  He seemed to be watching me from the corners of his eyes.  I felt a pang of unease.  And for some reason this thought occurred to me:  
     “ This man is waiting for me to go upstairs and he's going to follow me.” 
      From the lobby a set of stairs led to a large landing; from there a left turn led to another set of stairs and our rooms on the second floor.  At the top of the stairs you could turn right to access a hallway of rooms, or left to enter a perpendicular hallway and more rooms.  My room was on the perpendicular hallway (the top of the “T”).  Two alcoves off this hallway—one to the right of the "T" junction and one to the left—provided seating areas with windows overlooking the river.  
      I decided to wait for the man to go upstairs first, and after several more minutes of shuffling around in the lobby he did indeed ascend the staircase.  But then this thought occurred to me:  
     “He’s going to be waiting for me upstairs.” 
      And so I waited too.  Five minutes later another diner, a woman, left the dining hall and walked upstairs.  I had now been in the lobby for 20 minutes and wanted to get back to my room, check out of the hotel and be on my way.  And so, 30 seconds after the woman had gone up the stairs I followed in her footsteps. 
       When I turned left at the top of the stairs, entered the perpendicular hallway to my room and passed the alcove off the left arm of the "T" there he was, just as I knew he would be.   Again that feeling of something being not quite right came over me.  My heart quickened.
      "But where is the other woman", I wondered, "She should be just ahead of me." 
       This mysterious man, obviously waiting for me to appear, approached me from the alcove and said:  
       “Excuse me, I’m supposed to be meeting a Rachel Norville here today.  Are you her?  Do you know anything about that?”   
        At that exact moment the woman I had followed up the stairs appeared from the alcove on the right arm of the "T" and strode down the hall toward her room.  As she passed us I told the man, loud enough for the woman to hear:  
      “No, I’m not Rachael and I don’t know anything about it, or your supposed meeting– I'm sorry!”   
       And…. the man, seeming flustered, left and walked down the hall toward his room.  I had been counting on the fact that the woman I followed up the stairs would still be in the hallway when I got there, and luckily she stepped out from the alcove at the time the man confronted me to ask if I knew anything about “a Rachel or a meeting”.  Who knows what may have occurred, had I been alone in the hallway?  If he truly was supposed to be meeting someone at this hotel and he thought I might be that person why didn’t he ask me at breakfast, or when we were both downstairs in the lobby? 
                  Was this, potentially, one of those unsafe circumstances?  My intuition told me it could have been, and that's good enough for me.   As I said, a woman alone has to be mindful of anything out of the ordinary, and I did considered this situation worthy of that designation.  No, I didn't hear anything later on about criminal activity occurring at or near Wakulla Springs State Park, and I suppose this story would have more clout if I had.  But I offer this report as a cautionary tale to women travelers to beware.  And to be careful out there.

   To read about a delightful experience at Wakulla Springs State Park, visit this account of my wildlife-spotting boat ride, the evening of March 14: