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COVID Diaries: Day 111

After three days of rain last week, the blue sky has returned.  It was so cold and so dreary that I actually had to turn the heat back on in the house on Wednesday!  That is pretty rare with our mild coastal weather.

I had a four day weekend, and was soooo tired for my first two days off – worn out to the core.  I didn’t do much Thursday and Friday so I could build back up some energy reserves.  Is that even possible – can you bank energy?  It’s hard on me that I can’t travel.  It would be nice to take a week or two away, but what would I do with very little open and tourism destinations still asking people to stay away?  So meanwhile I’ll continue building up my vacation bank, and saving money for my early retirement.  What more can you do?

Independence Day was pretty nice, and I went for a long walk with Shelley in the morning, followed by lunch at a place with outdoor seating.  I did some yard work, then got a chance to go stand-up-paddleboarding with Lelani in the afternoon.  It was nice to try it again!  We talked and relaxed on the lake for a while.

As usual, I was in bed before dark, but apparently my fellow citizens wanted to light off copious amounts of fireworks to demonstrate their angst at being pent up for so long.  With no city sponsored fireworks show this year, the neighborhood booms were the worst they have been in years, and I wasn’t able to get to sleep until after midnight.  Things are just so different these days.

Sunday I got up early and did a long hike up to Oyster Dome with Lelani.  This has long been one of my favorite local hikes.  It’s a pretty tough one, with a lot of up up up, but the view at the top over the bay and the Skagit tidal flats is always a stunner!  We were early enough that it wasn’t too crowded, and we went a different route than I usually do, which took us back along a trail that was very quiet!  We clocked just under 4 hours, and when we got back the trailhead parking was packed!

I’m still lonely, but it has been nice being able to get out more.  Getting to see friends and getting up in the woods are both good for the soul.

 

COVID Diaries: Day 94

Hard to believe it’s been over 3 months of being mostly locked down.

I continue doing my long walks, sometimes with a friend and sometimes alone, and I hiked last Sunday.

I have been venturing out more into the world of indoor spaces – I went for cocktails with friends last weekend, and a late lunch after the Sunday hike.  Restaurants – what a concept!

Besides that, I have just been working – the pace has been a bit grueling as I have one less-than-pleasant project that seems to just be getting bigger by the day.  I am still enjoying my schedule of having every other Friday off – it is nice to have that extra day even if I’m not really going anywhere on those long weekends.  Hopefully that will change soon!

Circus Trip 2018: Friendship Hill NHS

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Point Marion, Pennsylvania

Who has heard of Albert Gallatin?  Anyone?  No?  Don’t worry, I hadn’t either…  Get ready for a history lesson!

Albert Gallatin was a Swiss man who immigrated to the United States in 1780; he started out in the U.S. as a surveyor.  He made his way to western Pennsylvania, which at the time was way out west on the frontier.  He purchased property and set about building his home in stages, with the first section being built in 1789.  He established himself as one of the richest men in the area; which apparently wasn’t difficult.  His neighbors were mostly poor farmers, who made whiskey with their surplus grain after the harvest; the whiskey became the local currency in what was essentially a cashless society.  Stick with me here, the whiskey piece is important…

Gallatin played an important role in the Whiskey Rebellion.  You see, after the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States was badly in debt as a result of the war.  The country needed money, and the best way to raise money?  A tax!  Never mind that we just spent years trying to win our independence, largely because of the taxes levied by the British.  Of course, the cashless western Pennsylvanians didn’t have cash to pay the tax, and whiskey was really their only marketable product, so they were a bit resentful of this new tax.  Resentful enough to tar and feather a tax collector or two.  They also resented that if they were accused of evading the tax, the nearest court that was approved to try them was in Philadelphia, over 300 miles away (I didn’t think Pennsylvania was that big of a state, but that’s a blog post for another time…).

Gallatin, being an educated and wealthy man, ended up getting unofficially appointed as the man who would negotiate on behalf of his neighbors; he always lobbied for the peaceful solution, but he wasn’t always successful.  Eventually, he succeeded in getting the Federal government to allow people accused of violations of the whiskey tax to be tried locally, which helped.  Gallatin continued to try to convince his neighbors to submit to the new tax, which became more of a pressing issue after President George Washington mustered up an army to go out to western Pennsylvania to quell the violence against the tax collectors.

Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, thought that Gallatin had been responsible for stirring up the locals and trying to evade the tax.  He tried to dig up evidence to charge Gallatin with treason, but everyone that he interviewed said that Gallatin had been urging his countrymen to pay the tax, and to abandon their violent tactics against the collectors.  Thankfully though, just as things might have erupted into a more widespread insurrection against the army, area men held a vote on whether to submit and pay the tax, and the measure was narrowly passed.  Gallatin, for his trouble, got elected to Congress!

He had clearly caught the eye of George Washington and others in the new United States government, and he served in the House of Representatives between 1795 and 1800.  On January 1, 1801, he was appointed by new President Thomas Jefferson to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.  He served until 1814, under both Jefferson and President Madison, and had two notable accomplishments during his tenure.  One was determining how to finance and pay for the Louisiana Purchase, the huge swath of land that Jefferson bought in 1803, for a cost of 15 million dollars.  After the war, the nation’s debt was $80 million, but even with the additional $15 million, Gallatin was able to reduce the national debt to $45 million by the time he left the cabinet in 1814.

His other achievement was the National Road.  Gallatin was a big believer in improving roads and infrastructure in the young United States, and he delivered a report to Congress recommending that roads and canals be built to increase commerce and travel.  He was able to create a plan that allowed the road to be built without the nation going more deeply into debt.  The National Road, originally known as the National Pike, stretched all the way west to Vandalia, Illinois.  It is now U.S. Route 40, and traverses the entire country, east to west.

If you thought Albert Gallatin is making you feel like a slacker already, there’s more.  He financed the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He served on the Commission that ended the War of 1812.  He also served as a U.S. Ambassador to France, and after he left public life, he founded a wee little bank that is now well known… as JP Morgan Chase…

Visitors to Friendship Hill can tour the home where he lived with two wives; Gallatin and his first wife eloped against the wishes of her mother.  Sadly, they were only married for 5 months before she died of illness in October 1789; she is buried at Friendship Hill, and you can walk out to see Sophie’s gravesite.  Gallatin and his second wife had six children; three of whom died in infancy.  The home was added onto over the years, with additions in 1798, 1823, and 1824.  It is built in the Federal style, and it is quite impressive in its size.  Sections of the home are exposed stone, stuccoed, and timber frame, which gives it a rather eclectic look.  Gallatin sold the home in 1832.  The furniture is not original to the home or the Gallatin family, but gives a representation of what it would have looked like in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

I enjoyed wandering around the home on the self-guided tour, and taking a walk of the grounds.  There are nine miles of trails on the site, and I saw a few people taking advantage of the park setting.  The home is high up on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River.  It is so peaceful and quiet out there!  I can’t even imagine how remote it would have been at the time…  Friendship Hill is certainly a less visited National Park site, with estimated annual visitation of a little over 25,000 people.  It was well worth the visit to learn about this now little known man in U.S. history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 68

The weather here is typical for Memorial Day, as in, it is raining.  It is a moderate yet persistent rainfall, with no breeze, so it is likely to stick around for awhile.  The forecast says it will start to dry up around 3 pm.

It’s been a mostly quiet weekend around here.  I watched a couple of movies: Dark Victory – a classic 1939 film with Bette Davis, which was excellent, but not at all what I was expecting from the title, and Cold Mountain, a Civil War love story that I have seen before, but it has been years.  I’m getting pretty close to finishing my latest puzzle.  I washed the windows on the first floor (at least the ones I can reach).

Saturday morning I went hiking; a new to me hike along the Mount Baker Highway called Horseshoe Bend.  It is a moderate hike for such beautiful rewards, snaking along the Nooksack River and offering stunning views of the river, and the raging rapids in several spots.  One day I want to visit the ‘real’ Horseshoe Bend in the Southwest, but for now, this works.

 

I also checked out out the mountain.  There’s still a lot of snow there, and a small slide was blocking the road, thus ending my exploration.

Mount Shuksan

Sunday I did a long walk at the lake and met some new friends.

Washington State is still mostly locked down, but it is apparent that people are growing restless with the government’s decisions, regardless of the politics that you associate with.  When the data being presented at the federal level does not match the data being presented at the state level, you start to wonder what the motivations are.  I could go down a long, winding rabbit hole, here, but I’ll refrain…  Government officials are on record here consistently saying that testing needs to increase in order to more fully open; however, testing has declined each week over the past several weeks in Washington, and our county health department is saying it isn’t worth the cost of doing more widespread testing on people who don’t have COVID symptoms.  It is no longer an issue of a lack of supplies.  So which is it?

I see more and more that people are just done with strict social distancing, and are starting to hang out with small groups or individuals, safely, by staying outside and not touching and hugging.  Regardless of your opinion, people are going to do what they want.

Happy Memorial Day!  My prayers and blessings to all those who served, and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

COVID Diaries: Day 60

The weekend had some ups and downs.

Friday morning I received some very sad news and it has been weighing heavily on me.  So when I got a call from Lelani asking me over for a patio dinner, I accepted.  We sat outside and enjoyed a sunny spring evening, talking and catching up in a way that is always impossible with a device.  We talked about all the places we will go once the world reopens.  We talked about road-tripping, and a vacation to Europe, and a trip to Kauai.  We will have to see which comes first!  I also really want to do an outdoor painting for my deck like the ones she and her daughter did!

Saturday morning I went hiking on the Chanterelle Trail in town, despite the threatening rain.  The sprinkles went largely unnoticed underneath the tree canopy, and I got my workout in with a 4.8 mile hike with a 1,000 foot elevation gain and a pretty view of the lake.  The switchbacks make the elevation gain manageable, and it felt great to be back out on the trail.  It was my first hike since COVID began, and it was sorely needed.  I even wore the new hiking pants I got a few months ago and hadn’t had an opportunity to try out yet.

The rest of Saturday was pretty lazy, but I made progress on my puzzle!  And read my book.  Cora has been “helping” with my puzzle, which basically means laying on strategic parts of it so I have to work somewhere else.  And then grabbing pieces to play with.  It isn’t as if she gets no attention!  Since I took the photos below, I have done quite a bit more!

Today was supposed to rain all day, but surprisingly the early morning showers cleared up for a nice, sunny afternoon.  I mowed the lawn and did a bit of yard work – the grass grows quickly this time of year!

Back to work tomorrow!  I even need to go into work for real too; my Surface has been having some trouble with freezing up, so our fantastic IT folks have configured a new one for me.  It will be a brief visit, but it will be the first time I have purchased gas since March…

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Sights of Cuyahoga Valley

Day 36, Monday, August 20, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Monday was my second day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I intended to make the most of my day!  I hadn’t slept well the night before though, so it took a bit to get going.

Me feeling pensive at the Streetsboro KOA

I started with a short walk to the Everett Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in Summit County, Ohio.  There used to be over 2,000 covered bridges in the county!  Sadly, though, this one is a reconstruction.  The original Everett Covered Bridge went over Furnace Run, and was based on an 1869 Smith Truss design, but the date of construction is unknown.  In the flood of 1913, the bridge was damaged, but repaired.  In 1975, a spring storm destroyed the original bridge for good.  A local fundraising campaign earned enough money to rebuild the bridge, and this historically accurate reconstruction was completed in 1986.

After checking out the bridge, I found a spot next to Furnace Run to relax for a little bit and watched some trail riders take their horses in the shallow water.  It was so peaceful!

Trail riders at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next up was a 3/4 mile (each way) walk to the Hale Farm, where the first buildings were constructed about 1825.  This living history farm is privately owned, and closed on Mondays, so I didn’t get to see it except from the fence line, but it was still a nice walk and cool to check out.  We don’t have anything that old at home in the Pacific Northwest!

I went over to Beaver Marsh to try my hand at wildlife spotting.  Jackpot!  The marsh has a wooden boardwalk going over it, so you can walk out over the water.  It was amazing!  I saw snapping turtles, painted turtles, wood ducks, song birds, a Great Blue Heron and lots of fish in the water.  I spent quite a bit of time in one spot, watching what I thought was a snapping turtle but wasn’t positive.  I wanted to wait to see if he would move – and he finally did!

It was a nice relaxing day, and I enjoyed seeing more of the park, and doing the series of shorter walks.  Even though I spent two days there, I still feel like there is way more to see there; I will certainly have to come back!

That evening I went to the grocery store to replenish my food, and spent another night at the Streetsboro KOA.  It rained hard that night!

Circus Trip 2018: Brandywine Falls

Day 35, Sunday, August 19, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

My first day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park I did some exploring.  I didn’t know much about Cuyahoga Valley before I went, so I was curious to see what it was all about.  I entered through a side road towards the middle of the park, although I didn’t know that at the time!  Later I learned that Cuyahoga Valley National Park is kind of a long, skinny park going through the valley, with some fingers of land going off to the sides at some points, and a main road traveling through it.

I stopped to check out the Happy Days Camp near The Ledges section of the park, which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression as a youth camp.  These days the building is used as an events center, but it was quiet the day that I was there.  Nearby there is also a community cemetery, which like many old cemeteries, has seen better days.  It was still cool to see it and wander among the old graves; the trail to get to the area from the parking lot even took me under the street through a culvert!

Next I checked out the Boston Store Visitor’s Center and got my passport stamp and some postcards.  I also got some information on hikes – the ranger explained that many of the waterfall hikes would be a bit disappointing in the height of summer, as many of the waterfalls dry up.  I decided to hike to Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot waterfall; the tallest waterfall in the park.  I left my car at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center, and headed down the Towpath Trail.

The Towpath Trail follows the old Ohio and Erie canal, which was built in the 1820s to provide an easier route to move goods to and from the Great Lakes.  I walked along the Towpath Trail for about a mile (best guess), and looked at the canal walls and the remains of the locks that evened out the water levels along the canal.  How cool!  It was a sunny, hot day, and there were a lot of runners and bikers on the trail, but not many walkers like me.  I turned off at the Stanford House, a historic home that was built in 1843 along the canal.  James Stanford originally settled the property in 1806, after coming to the area as a part of a survey group.  When he died in 1827, he willed his property to his oldest son George, who built the home and a number of outbuildings, including the barn which also still stands today.

After passing the home down a few generations of Stanfords and then their neighbors, the home was purchased by the National Park Service in 1978, who operated it as a hostel for several years before converting it to a community meeting space with overnight accommodations.  It is such a pretty property, and the trail to get to Brandywine Falls passes through it. You pass through a meadow, and walk through a forest with bedrock outcroppings, and cross over a little stream a few times on the way to the falls.  There were other people, but it wasn’t too busy except at the falls itself!

There are a number of good views of the falls from a boardwalk that is built into the bedrock, the falls are in between rock outcroppings.  It isn’t very tall based on my west coast waterfall standard, but it is pretty!

From the Stanford House the trail to Brandywine Falls is about 3.6 miles if you do the entire loop, but with starting from the Boston Store I would estimate you add another 2 miles round-trip.  That’s a pretty good hike!  There are some stairs, but the total elevation gain is only about 190 feet, so although the park rates it as moderate to difficult, I rated it as easy.  If you aren’t interested in hiking to the falls, you can park up above them and just take a short walk down the boardwalk to the viewpoint; that isn’t as fun, in my opinion!

After my hike, I headed back to the Boston Store, and got a sandwich and some iced tea to eat in the sunshine, before heading back to my campground for the night.  What a nice day!

 

Cuyahoga Valley NP History

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of our newer national parks, having been designated on October 11, 2000 by President Bill Clinton.  It is the only national park that began its public life as a National Recreation Area, having been designated as an NRA in 1974.  Cuyahoga Valley is unique in several other respects as well; it is the only national park in Ohio, located between Akron and Cleveland in a fairly populated area.  It was already filled with roads, farms, small towns and several existing parks before it became a national park, so the National Park Service coordinates with the towns and the metro park system to administer the park.

The land that Cuyahoga Valley National Park sits on has a long history of use by several tribes, including the Wyandot, Ottawa, Objibwe, Munsee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee, but the Lenapé Nation is considered the grandfather of many of the other tribes in the upper Ohio River Valley.  A series of treaties and white encroachment on their land pushed the tribes off the land in this area in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

White settlement began in the late 1700s, and increased when the Ohio and Erie Canal established a well defined trade path between Akron and Cleveland in 1827.  Towns and services sprung up along the path of the canal, feeding passengers and workers on the barges, and quenching their thirst at the taverns!  Farming and sawmills were also common in the area.  Even after the railroad came to the valley in the mid-1800s and greatly lessened the use of the canal, it still operated as a method to move coal to the Great Lakes for the ships there.  The canal was finally doomed when a flood in 1913 washed out large portions of its banks, and some of the locks had to be dynamited in order to release the floodwaters.

The park is located along a 20 mile section of the old Ohio and Erie Canal, and it’s towpath has been turned into the Towpath Trail, for walkers, runners and bicyclists.  The park also has dozens of waterfalls, including the 65 foot Brandywine Falls, which is the tallest in the park and the second tallest in Ohio; some of the waterfalls dry up in the dry season though.  There are historic buildings, and living history museums, and some old cemeteries scattered throughout the park.  A rebuilt covered bridge, a marsh and lots of wildlife round out the park!

The park has an annual visitation of 2,096,053 in 2018, and I was one of them!  I spent two days there in August 2018; I’m excited to share my experiences!

 

Circus Trip 2018: What I Learned in a Month

August 2018

By the time I was wandering around the Mary Todd Lincoln House in August of 2018, I had been on the road for a month, camping and living out of my car.  I was proud of myself, to be quite honest, because I had imagined all sorts of things going wrong, and having all sorts of meltdowns while parked along the side of the road, and none of that had happened.  I’m being a little dramatic here, but I had worried before I left that I wouldn’t be cut out for the vagabond lifestyle.  Would I be able to do this?

After a month, I felt like I had worked through things.  I felt comfortable being on my own.  I wasn’t freaked out about not having a reservation each night.  I was doing this!  So, to share the knowledge, here’s a few things I learned as a solo woman, road-tripping through the United States.

My car fitted out

  • When in Montana, get gas before you get down to half a tank.  Once, I had more than a half a tank when I departed for my next destination, but given my route, and the distances between towns with gas stations in Montana, I was down to about 20 miles left by the time I saw a gas station!
  • Very few people tent camp in the Midwest.  I was largely alone in the tent section of the campgrounds I went to, as a general rule.

My tent, Mellow Yellow, in Montana

  • Don’t leave your tennis shoes outside at night.  The torrential downpour when I was staying at Boonesboro State Park in Kentucky soaked my tennis shoes through and through, and got them muddy enough that I had to take out the insoles and wash them out in the campground shower.
  • Don’t forget your quarters when you go to do your laundry…
  • Ask the locals for their recommendations on restaurants, hikes, and other places to see.  Even if you don’t have time, you can always put it on the list for next time!

Minnesota Cider – Tea Time Loon Juice – so delicious!

  • Get to your campground before dark.  For safety purposes, of course, but also because it is hard to cook and find your things by the light of a lantern.
  • Know your car.  AKA, if you have a Honda CR-V, don’t open the back doors from the inside without unlocking the doors with the fob.  It sets off the alarm!  Apologies for the early morning wake ups, my fellow campers!
  • Try the local flavor – even if you are saving money by not eating out that often, be sure to check out some of the local fare.  There are fun breweries, good wines, and unique regional dishes all over!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

  • Some of those gadgets are a real lifesaver!  I traveled with an electric cooler that plugged into my car, converters so I could plug regular plugs into the car’s cigarette lighters, rechargeable battery packs, a rechargeable/solar powered lantern, and bug screens for my windows so I could sleep in the car with the windows down on hot nights!  There is so much innovative gear for camping and road trips!
  • Not everybody will be kind, or friendly, or safe.  But most people will. People will definitely look at you funny if you are camping alone.  Just get used to it; they probably don’t mean any harm, and they might even be jealous.

What would you add to the list?

#HikeYourOwnHike

#HikeYourOwnHike has been floating out there in the world lately.  It is meant to be a reminder to not compare yourself to others, and to not minimize yourself or your accomplishments based on what others can do or their opinions of you.

I was asked the other day when I started hiking and it got me thinking.  I mean, I went on little hikes when I was a kid, and have walked the trails in my woody Pacific Northwest city my whole life.  But when did I start really hiking?

I would say it was when I was dating my ex, in that period before I got married.  We started locally, and then did more on trips, when we visited National Parks.  It just kind of went from there, and pretty soon, I was a hiker.  According to the ex though, I was too slow.  He didn’t hike with me; he hiked ahead of me.  He complained that I didn’t keep up, and he just couldn’t be bothered with that…  He would wait for me somewhere up ahead.  The hike was a competitive thing for him, and I couldn’t compete at his level.  He made me feel that I would never be up to doing a long hike, or a really strenuous hike.  That I wasn’t enough.  Of course, that’s nonsense.

I kept hiking after we split.  Since that time I have done far more than I ever did with him.  I have hiked 10-12 miles at high elevation, with thousands of feet of elevation gain.  I have hiked all over the country.  I have hiked with friends.  I have hiked alone.  I have hiked in bear country with bear spray and bells.  I have hiked in rattlesnake country.  I have hiked in hot weather and cold.  I have hiked in the rain, and on snowshoes.  I’m not the fastest hiker.  I certainly haven’t been in the last year, when I was struggling through some pretty significant pain.  But who cares if I’m fast?  It isn’t a race.  It isn’t a competition.

For me, hiking is about seeing nature, standing at the viewpoint, taking way too many pictures, and spending time with friends.  It is about clearing my head, and smelling the mountain air.  It is about cracking open that can of wine at the glacial lake at the top, sucking in my breath as I wade into the freezing cold water, skipping rocks at the beach and watching the sun lower over the horizon.  It isn’t about miles, or elevation gain, or speed, or remoteness, although those are sometimes factors in the best rewards.

If you put one foot in front of another on a trail, you are a hiker.  Don’t let anyone else tell you that your version isn’t good enough.  Figure out what speaks to you and makes you happy, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.  Find people who are on the same page, but if you don’t have that, go anyway.  Life is too short and too complicated to burden yourself with comparisons.  You do you.  #HikeYourOwnHike