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Circus Trip 2018: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock, Vermont

Besides a section of the Appalachian Trail, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park unit within the state of Vermont.  So it makes sense that it would be an interesting one!

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is named for the three families that owned this property, and each impacted the farm and the nearby community of Woodstock, Vermont in important ways. 

The son of the first family who lived at the farm on Mount Tom, George Perkins Marsh, grew up seeing the environmental destruction that had been caused by deforestation in Vermont, both for sheep grazing and for industry, as wood was still a primary means of making the fires that were used to process glass, soap, and wool.  It was estimated that by the time Marsh was born in 1801, over 95% of Vermont’s forestland had been logged.  He saw the erosion and loss of fish habitat that occurred on his own property and began to understand the future impacts if people didn’t change their ways.

Frederick Billings grew up reading George Marsh’s writings, including his book, Man and Nature, and was impacted by the call to action of saving America’s forestland.  He became an attorney and purchased the farm in 1869, planted trees and set about creating a sustainable dairy farm, along with carriage paths throughout the property with scenic vistas through the forest.

One of Frederick Billings’ granddaughters married a Rockefeller, and inherited the farm in the 1950s, thus giving Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park its third name.  The Rockefeller family had long had a tradition of conservation and contributing to the idea of setting aside public land that would not be developed.  Laurance and Mary Rockefeller continued that tradition on the Billings farm.  They set about to remodel and modernize the mansion and farm, and opened the Billings Farm to the public in 1983.

The Rockefellers donated their residential property to the National Park Service in 1992, a donation that included this fabulous Victorian mansion with all its incredible furnishings, as well as 555 acres of forested land on Mount Tom, where the mansion is located.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is now a unit dedicated to conservation and operated closely with a private foundation that operates the Billings dairy farm next door.

When I visited, I did the tour of the mansion, which was truly one of the most spectacular historic mansions I’ve seen so far.  I was fascinated.  The fact that the Rockefellers donated all their furnishings made it a place that could be enjoyed for its ornate architectural beauty, its incredible artwork collected by the family, and the remaining evidence of the family’s life there.  So often we see mansions that are decorated with period pieces and we aren’t able to see that people – families – actually lived here.  They lived here with their hobbies, and collections and favorite books.  And they lived here with their letters to friends, family snapshots, their favorite comfy chair, and the hideous plaid carpet.  You can see the life lived in this mansion, and honestly, beyond the expensive art collections, it isn’t that much different than yours and mine.

I definitely want to return, and see more of the mansion and the property surrounding it.  It has several miles of hiking trails and carriage paths, and it would look spectacular during the fall colors!  Of course, I also wanted to see the village of Woodstock, Vermont, so I went there next!

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 231

Fall is certainly here in full force, and I’ve been in a pensive mood.  Day 231 of the lock down – I never would have thought…  So I thought I would bring to you another round of COVID observations.

  1. Cheetos and pineapple hard cider aren’t the best food and booze pairing I’ve ever had.  But it’s not the worst either.
  2. There is something inherently depressing about the first day after the time change when the sunset occurs before you are off work.  It’s worse when you haven’t even put on shoes that day…
  3. There is something quite odd about realizing that you are very drawn to a man’s face in the grocery store… And then you realize it is because he doesn’t have a mask on. 
  4. We are all unintentionally jerks sometimes.  That’s just human nature.  You are going to screw up and all you can do is apologize and hope they forgive you.  But when you are a jerk intentionally, then it’s time to look very deeply into your own heart and reevaluate your values…  Because something ain’t lining up.  There seems to be a lot of this going around lately…
  5. I saw a wine advent calendar at the grocery store tonight.  If I place it in a prominent location at home, does that count as decorating for Christmas?  Asking for a friend…
  6. I think the black squirrels in my yard gained a competitive advantage over the gray squirrels this year.  Maybe it has something to do with the bunnies.
  7. Raking and mowing the lawn in fall is the equivalent of bringing on the rain by washing your car.  Except with wind.
  8. At some point I reached the point where my heart has been so scarred that I wonder if I will ever trust anyone ever again.  I’m still trying…
  9. The fate of the world may one day come down to a battle between the people who put two spaces after a period and those who only put one.  I’m a two spacer…
  10. Overall, 2020 still blows… 

The red rocks of the southwest are sounding pretty good right now.  I hope you are all hanging in there! 

Me at Valley of Fire State Park…

 

Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

Travel Bucket List

COVID has given me a far amount of time to fantasize about retirement and the things I want to do once I get there. And mind you, I’m not planning to wait until I’m 65! I’ve been coming up with my bucket list… Some of these might not have to wait until I’m retired, but some are harder to do in a standard two week vacation slot, especially if you want to take the time.  Here are some of mine (in no particular order)!

  1. Drive US Highway 20 from coast to coast
  2. Drive Route 66 from start to end
  3. Take a river cruise through the wine country of Europe
  4. Visit the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island
  5. Take an Antarctic cruise
  6. See the Grizzly bears at Katmai National Park
  7. See the Northern lights in Europe (or maybe Alaska)
  8. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru
  9. See the Great Wall of China
  10. Visit Petra in Jordan
  11. See the Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia
  12. See the Egyptian Pyramids
  13. Visit Cappadocia in Turkey and take a balloon ride
  14. Visit Auschwitz in Poland
  15. Go backpacking
  16. Do a multi-day trip on the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park
  17. See the night skies at Chaco Culture National Historic Park
  18. Do an African photo safari
  19. Hike in New Zealand
  20. Camp and snorkel at Dry Tortugas National Park
Treasury petra crop.jpeg

The Treasury Building at Petra (photo from Wikipedia)

What’s on your bucket list?  Have you been fantasizing about travel during COVID-times?

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 207

Last weekend I got to have what was probably the last the last hurrah of mountain hiking before the pass closes, the snow falls and I am confined to the lowlands until next year’s season.

Audrey, Jena and I spent a fabulous day hike at Blue Lake, a spectacular out and back hike with views of the larches. Larches are one of the only types of conifers that lose their needles in the winter, so they give a beautiful fall color show. Blue Lake did not disappoint – it certainly deserves its own post!

We stayed the night in Winthrop, one of Washington’s small mountain theme towns. We poked around and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather, and laughed more than I have in a while. Good girlfriends soothe the soul.

This weekend has been quiet – just yard work and housework. There’s always a project or two at home that I should be doing!

Circus Trip 2018: Saratoga National Historical Park

Day 47, Friday, August 31, 2018

Saratoga National Historical Park, Saratoga Springs, New York

Saratoga National Historical Park was designated in 1938 to preserve the site of the Battles of Saratoga, the first significant campaign of the U.S. Revolutionary War.  Fought in 1777, this series of battles defeated a major British Army, and resulted in France recognizing the independence of the United States of America.

 

British General John Burgoyne led his army south from Canada into what is now New York, with the intention to meet up with another British Army moving north from New York City and a third force marching east from Lake Ontario.  Unfortunately for Burgoyne, the other two armies never arrived and he was surrounded by American forces in upstate New York. He attempted to break out, fighting two different battles over the course of a few weeks in September and October 1777 on the ground several miles south of Saratoga, New York.  He did not succeed.

Burgoyne eventually retreated to Saratoga, which is now known as Schuylerville, and surrendered his entire army there on October 17, 1777.  After Saratoga, Burgoyne returned to England and was never given another commanding position in the British Army.  The French entered into the war after Saratoga as well, sending not only money, but supplies and soldiers to support the cause.

When I visited, I started at the Visitor’s Center, checked out the exhibits and watched the film of the battle.  It was interesting to learn about it; as I haven’t read much on the Revolutionary War.

Then I did the scenic drive around the battlefield and saw it from various vantage points.  Informational signs explain how the battle unfolded.  It was so interesting to imagine what happened here in 1777.  It is so peaceful now, but it was anything but peaceful during those pivotal few weeks!

I also visited the General Philip Schuyler House, which is near the battlefield in the nearby town of Schuylerville.  Schuyler prepared the defensive plans for the Continental Army prior to the battle, but was replaced before the battle by General Horatio Gates.

The home was built in 1777, and is largely as it was when it was built.  The home has no electricity or indoor plumbing even!  It is owned by the historical park and is open in the summer, but it was closed when I visited, so I just took photos outside.  It’s such a cool house!

Visitation for Saratoga National Historical Park is about 65,000 annually, so even during their peak period in the summer, there really aren’t that many people there. I only saw a couple of people outside of the Visitor’s Center the entire time I was there. It was interesting to see!

COVID Diaries: Day 185

It’s now officially been more than half a year of this COVID lockdown…  Half a year…

I took a few days off and did a mini-getaway.  I left last Friday, and was intending to be away all this week. These were the first days off I have had since early March.  Of course, 2020 had other plans, and a giant cloud of smoke blew in from the wildfires and settled everywhere leaving an aftermath of gunky, yellow air.  First I moved my plans away from the fires, but I still wanted to go.  I really needed a break!

So I had the seats taken back out of the car and put the bed back in and hit the road for some Washington Coast time.  I camped, and walked the beaches, and looked for shells and sand dollars.  I ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and fish and chips, and fish tacos, and an incredible gyro!

I checked out Willapa Bay, Long Beach, and Cape Disappointment.  I spent some time reading while bundled up on the beach; it gets cold at night along the coast in September!  Plus, all that wildfire smoke blocked out the heat from the sun…  There are two lighthouses there, but the smoke/fog meant I could only see one.

All in all, it was a nice break.  I needed some time to process things, and reset.  I ended up coming home early though, since my Oregon Coast campground was quite close to a fire that hadn’t been contained.  Best to just reschedule that for another time…  Hopefully I’ll be traveling again soon.

 

COVID Diaries: Day 172

September…  2020 is 2/3rds over!  Maybe I’ll survive this year yet!

COVID leaves me a lot of time to think.  Some are ridiculous thoughts like suggesting to my staff that we have a PEEPS diorama contest at work next Easter (this idea was wholeheartedly embraced).  Some are more serious, like putting in the work I need to do in healing.  I started seeing a therapist again, for all the things I bottle up.  We talked early on about how I have experienced an incredible amount of loss in the last few years (to put it mildly)…  I don’t often swear on this blog, but a phrase one of my former employees often said comes to mind…  “What fresh fuckery is this?!?  I think it’s going ok, but that work is damned hard.

I’ve been feeling a bit of writer’s block and it’s making it hard to be more active on this blog.  I’m hoping to get my writing mojo back, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself.

I’m still getting quite a bit of hiking in, with weekly forays into the mountains.  That is good for my soul…

I also keep up on my typical walks and even a swim in the lake!  Two girlfriends and I hired a fitness coach to design a core strength workout routine that we can do at home. I get plenty of cardio in, but I need to do more strength training.  So far it is going well but my quads sure did hurt!

And big news!  I planned a little trip coming up.  The seats are coming back out of the car and the bed is going back in!  It has been since early March that I have traveled, with the exception of one two-night camping trip in the next county down, and do I ever need it!  I’m going to do some days of high desert and then hit the coast for some camping at the beach.  Variety!  I haven’t traveled alone in almost two years, except for one work conference, so I’ll have to get back into my solo groove.

I hope you are all having a good Labor Day Weekend, so far!

Circus Trip 2018: Horse Racing Museum and Hall of Fame

Day 47, Friday, August 31, 2018

National Museum of Horse Racing and Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs, New York

I have long been interested in horse racing.  I suppose it is a natural offshoot of my love of horses.  So when I saw that there was a horse racing museum nearby, I was in!

The museum was founded in 1951, and celebrates the achievements of Thoroughbred horse racing in the United States.  Each year, 8-10 horses are inducted into the racing hall of fame, and are recognized as the best of the best.  Horses like Man O’ War, Secretariat, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Cigar, Seabiscuit and War Admiral.  If you follow horses and Thoroughbred racing, these names are surely familiar to you!

The museum was an interesting venture into the history of horse racing, which traces its roots in America back to 1665!  I enjoyed wandering around learning about the various Hall of Famers, and learning more about the history of the sport.  They had a lot of memorabilia!

After the museum, I found the Spring Street Deli a few blocks away and had the Funny Cide – a sandwich with steak, provolone, portbello mushroom and a horseradish sauce.  It was delicious!  If you are wondering why there is a sandwich called the Funny Cide, he was a New York bred Thoroughbred who is a favorite among the locals!  He was foaled in 2000 and currently lives out his retirement at the Kentucky Horse Park, at their Hall of Champions.

What an interesting dive into horse racing history!

Happy 104th Birthday to the NPS!

Today is the 104th birthday of the National Park Service.  Founded on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service manages 419 units within the system, of which 62 have the highest designation of National Parks.

The National Parks Services has over 20 designations for the sites they manage, including National Monuments, National Battlefields, National Historical Parks, National Parkways, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, and more!  I have been fortunate enough to visit 34 National Parks, and at least 127 of the 419 units (although I’m probably missing a few here and there).  One day I would like to say I have visited them all!

In celebration of NPS’s birthday, here are a few of my favorite National Parks photos!  As you can see, it is hard to choose just a few!