Tag Archive | adventure

Astoria Weekend: A Fort and a Column

Day 3, Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday morning of our Astoria trip, we found a little breakfast place called Arnie’s Cafe, just south of Astoria (in Warrenton) and stopped for a bite. The food was delicious, and there was no wait! We must have gotten there at just the right time though because it got busy after we were seated!

After breakfast we headed to Fort Stevens State Park to explore. I have blogged about Fort Stevens before, home of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and a historic battery dating from before World War I. We checked out the beach first, and of course explored the shipwreck! The kids had fun writing their names in the sand and looking for shells and interesting rocks. Unfortunately, this stretch of the beach, on the open ocean, isn’t known for having many intact shells.

The kids took off their shoes and waded in the water, despite the fact that it was a pretty cool day! That’s par for the course in the Pacific Northwest I suppose, having your hood up and tightly cinched around your head, while wading barefoot in the ocean. It was windy!

After we had our fill of the beach, and needed to warm up, we headed over to the battery. The Fort Stevens battery was built between 1863 and 1864, an earthwork battery meant to stand as a sentry to the threat of invasion by sea, and to stand guard over the mouth of the Columbia River.  They were more concerned about invasion by the British though, as there were long standing territorial disputes in the region. The fort was expanded and the current concrete batteries were constructed in 1897.

Thankfully, invasions never came, but the battery was shelled by a Japanese submarine on June 21, 1942.  The shells fell harmlessly away from the fort, and no damage was done; the Fort Commander did not allow his men to even return fire.  The battery was decommissioned after World War II and the guns were removed by 1947; it became part of Fort Stevens State Park. It is open to the public, and young and the young at heart can climb up on its walls and explore its rooms and stairways.

And if you are like me, you can step off a step, suddenly discover you stepped wrong, twist your ankle, fall down, and skin your knee. Yep. Not often, but sometimes, I’m a real klutz. Oops. It really hurt! Of course, it also hurt my pride as the flash of pain left me unable to get up for a few minutes, and the nice man down below watched me hit the concrete and called up to ask if I was ok? Yeah… I will need to sit here on my butt in the middle of the path for a minute though! I was undeterred in my adventure seeking, and not willing to give up on our day, so I soon powered through the pain and walked it off. OUCH!

Our next stop for the day was the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 as a way to showcase the history of the area and its discovery in 1811, the column is 125 feet tall and has an internal staircase rising 164 steps to the top. You can buy balsa wood airplanes for $1 at the Visitor’s Center; the kids enjoyed climbing to the top of the tower to launch them off the top. What fun and the views are spectacular!

That evening, we endured a long wait at Buoy Beer Company, but the kids were entertained by the plexiglass in the floor that allowed them to watch a huge male sea lion lounging on the dock below. The adults were entertained by the ability to enjoy a beer anywhere in the brewery, so we could relax with a cold one while we waited for a table. The food was amazing – I loved my fish and chips! The Champagne IPA was delicious!

Our last adventure of the day was to catch the sun lowering in the sky, and to drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington. The bridge was opened in 1966 and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America at 4.067 miles long. The sunset was beautiful, and a nice end to a great long weekend, as the next morning it was time to head home and back to real life.  What a wonderful getaway!

Mammoth Cave NP History

Mammoth Cave National Park is located in central Kentucky.  It is named for its huge size; it is the largest cave system known in the world, at over 400 miles of explored passageways.  Cave exploration continues today, and new passages are found and mapped each year, so it really is anyone’s guess who large the cave system really is.  The whole area has many caves, so it is likely that some of these other caves are really just part of this one giant cave system!  The park was created on July 1, 1941 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the cave at that point had close to 150 years of exploration and commercial exploitation by then.

Mammoth Cave was first discovered by white settlers in 1797; the owners of the land discovered this and several other caves nearby.  It has been known to Native Americans for thousands of years; they were known to enter the cave to extract the gypsum deposits here.  Native Americans also buried some of their dead in the cave, the cool, dry conditions of certain areas in the cave were perfect for mummification; several Native American mummies were discovered in the cave during the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the mummified remains of a man who was crushed by a boulder while mining in the cave.

Mammoth Cave first became a commercial venture during the War of 1812, when British supplies of saltpeter were unavailable; saltpeter is a component in the manufacture of gunpowder – pretty important when we were at war with the British!  Slaves were brought in to mine the saltpeter deposits, but after the war, the demand dried up.  Enterprising owners decided to try their hand at the tourist trade and Mammoth Cave was opened up to tours by the 1830s.  Slaves guided many of the tours, and even after the Civil War, African American guides played an important role in the tourism industry and the exploration of the cave.

In the early 1900s, interest began mounting for the creation of a National Park; however, like many of the parks in the East, the land here was already long settled with thriving communities.  The process of buying these settlers out of their land and seizing other parcels through eminent domain created lots of bitter feelings that lasted years after the park’s creation.  As a result, Mammoth Cave still has the remnants of these communities, including old churches and cemeteries.

The cave system is a limestone cave, with many different features; parts of the cave are very dry – so dry in fact that one of the commercial ventures that was attempted in the 1800s was a tuberculosis sanitarium (it was short lived).  Other sections are wet areas, and the Green River even runs through a portion of the cave.  The cave is home to several species of bats (which are struggling with white nose syndrome, a fungal infection), eyeless fish, and a cave specific species of eyeless shrimp.  I know you are wondering, and no, there have been no woolly mammoths discovered in mammoth cave; it really is named for its giant size.  Caves are so interesting!

Mammoth Cave has several types of tours, from the Historic tour where you can see the original entrance to the cave and see the old evidence of saltpeter mining, to lantern tours and caving tours.  There is also camping and hiking on the surface as well!

Despite its easily accessible location, Mammoth Cave only receives about a half million visitors each year (approximately 533,000 in 2018).  I’m not sure why, but it was busy the day that I was there.  I will tell you about my visit in an upcoming post!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Churchill Downs

Day 29, Monday, August 13, 2018

Louisville, Kentucky

Most years, I sit in my living room on the first Saturday in May and watch the Kentucky Derby on TV.  Live from Churchill Downs, the field of colts and a few fillies attempt to become the winner of the Derby and have a chance at winning the Triple Crown, a title which has become the most prestigious in horse racing.  The Kentucky Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown, which also contains the Preakness and the Belmont, raced at other tracks around the country over a five week stretch.

I have always wanted to visit Churchill Downs, especially on Derby Day, to see the crazy hats and feel the excitement of race day!  I spent a few days in Louisville and had a chance to visit the racetrack, although there wasn’t any racing going on that day.  For $15, you can visit the track’s museum and get a tour of the track.  Considering that pre-sale event prices to the infield for the Kentucky Derby start at $65 and $85 on the day of the race, $15 is pretty good!  Of course, other racing days at Churchill Downs aren’t so expensive, so a typical day at the track can be pretty affordable if you aren’t betting and losing!  One day, I will be there on Derby Day!

Churchill Downs opened in 1875; after Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (William Clark’s grandson) leased the land from his uncles John and Henry Churchill, a prominent Louisville family for many years.  Clark sold subscriptions to the racing club, and used the money to develop the track.  Racing has occurred here since that time, with a number of changes to the track over the years.  The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875, which means that 2020’s Derby will be the 146th running!

The iconic twin spires on the grandstands weren’t placed until 1895, but have survived weather events since that time, including a tornado that damaged the stables.  The grandstands seat about 50,000, but it is standing room only on the infield on Derby Day and the crowds can grow to almost 170,000 people!

My tour ticket included an interesting movie on the history of the track.  They usher you into a large oval shaped room, and you sit on swivel stools to watch the film, which is projected on the wall above you all around the oval room.  You can swivel on your stool to get a better view of the scenes, and because it is above you, nobody’s head is in the way!  Then the docent took us out to the track – you get to see the grandstands, the saddling area, the track, the winner’s circle and the other views you see on television when you watch the Derby on TV.  They have plaques showing all of the names of the Kentucky Derby winners over the years, and marking the names of those who won the Triple Crown.  Of the 146 winners of the Derby, only thirteen of them have also won the Triple Crown.  Three of the Derby winners have been fillies.

The tour was a bit canned; they clearly have memorized a script and move the tour groups along pretty quickly, but it was really interesting to see the track!  The museum was cool too, with exhibits on the history of the track and the horses that have raced there.  They had a display of hats and the tradition of crazy hats at the Derby, a display of the horseshoes that race horses wear, and an exhibit on the history of African Americans in the Churchill Downs racing industry.  Thirteen of the fifteen horses in the first Kentucky Derby were ridden by African American jockeys, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight Derbies were won by black jockeys.  Of course, it took a long time for them to be recognized for these accomplishments.

One of the Derby’s three winning fillies

After the tour, I did enjoy the restaurant at the track.  They had a special where you could try a Mint Julep and keep the commemorative glass (which actually turned out to be a Kentucky Oaks stemless wine glass, rather than a traditional mint julep cup, but I liked that too).  I use it all the time!  I learned that I’m not a fan of Mint Juleps – I don’t think I’ll ever be a Bourbon girl…  I did learn that I love Louisville Hot Brown though!  It was a very messy sandwich, with Texas toast, turkey, bacon, tomato, cheeses and herbs all cooked together in a casserole dish, and it was so delicious!  The one at Churchill Downs was so full of gooey goodness I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a sandwich until I looked up the recipe.  I haven’t had it since, but maybe I should try to make it at home sometime!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

After my visit to the track, I drove around Louisville to check out some of the historic homes, and then went back to my campground to relax at the pool.  It was a fun day!

The pool at the Louisville KOA

 

 

 

Arizona Getaway 2019: Tombstone and The O.K. Corral

Day 2, Friday, March 15, 2019

Tombstone, Arizona

Our second day, we went to Tombstone.  I had long ago heard about it, had never been there and thought it would be interesting. I wanted to spend the day there!  Mom was game, as it had been a long time since she visited as well.

For those of you who are light on your Tombstone history, Tombstone is a mining town in Southern Arizona, and it is the infamous site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  The “good” guys, the Earp brothers and their buddy Doc Holliday, got into a gunfight with the bad guys, the Clantons and McLaurys.  That’s the sanitized version anyway.  The truth is a bit tougher to pin down.  The truth is that Tombstone was a lawless place, with violence and murders occurring regularly.  It wasn’t that difficult to get appointed as a lawman there; you just had to know the right somebody.  And once you were a lawman, you could deputize your friends and family!  And that’s what Wyatt Earp did.

The Earps didn’t have spotless records.  They had some honest dealings and some shady ones, including being pimps, card dealers and horse thieves.  Several of them also either solicited prostitutes or lived with them.  Doc Holliday made his living as a gambler and sometime dentist and his girlfriend was a prostitute too.  The Clantons and McLaurys didn’t have their noses clean either.  They were suspected of stealing horses, and according to the historical record, they were probably guilty.  But their offense that day in Tombstone?  Not checking in their weapons when they came into town. Which most other men probably didn’t do either.

There had been a lot of threats back and forth for months before the shootout.  After a lot of lead up and posturing, things were ripe for a confrontation, and it happened on October 26, 1881 at the O.K. Corral.  Except it wasn’t actually at the corral; it was more a small vacant lot between two buildings, one of which was C.S. Fly’s Photography Studio.  But that doesn’t sound as good.  The shootout at the Photography Studio?

In the end, after 30 seconds of shooting among nine men, three men were dead and three were wounded.  The three dead men were Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton.  Virgil and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday were wounded in varying degrees of severity.  The ensuing attempts at revenge continued into the next year; Morgan Earp was shot and killed in March 1882.  Did anything really get settled?

Mom and I stopped first at the historic Boothill Cemetery, where the three men who died at the O.K. Corral are buried, but there are many others there as well.  Tombstone was a rough place, and many of the markers explained that the grave’s inhabitant died at the hands of another.  Of course, others died in the usual fashion – like getting trampled by horses!  Or being pulled out of the jail and lynched.  Or opium overdoses.  Hardly anybody, it seems, lived a long life in Tombstone.

Mom and I ventured next to the O.K. Corral, where we enjoyed watching the shootout reenactment.  Admittedly, it is a bit cheesy, with the actors encouraging spectators to boo and cheer for the bad guys and the good guys.  It does help you realize that even with all the lead up, when you know it is coming and are actively trying to watch so you can see exactly what happens, 30 shots fired by six potential participants within the span of 30 seconds, with smoke and people moving, makes it difficult to figure out what truly happened.  No wonder they were never really able to figure out what went down.

We checked out the exhibits on Tombstone’s history, both before and after the O.K. Corral.  We toured C.S. Fly’s Boarding House and Photography Studio, where Doc Holliday’s girlfriend Big Nose Kate watched the gunfight unfold (gotta love history; I wonder what my nickname would be?).  Several cowboys who fled the gunfight did so through the door of Fly’s Boarding House, including Ike Clanton.

A hearse display

Be sure to check out the Historama presentation while you are at the O.K. Corral; it is dated, but still fascinating, and not just for its historical value.  How often do you see a revolving model of Tombstone, complete with a train, animals, mine shafts and other attributes of the town?  Did I mention it was narrated by Vincent Price?  Down the street you can tour the museum of Tombstone’s oldest newspaper, the Epitaph.  Your admission ticket to the O.K. Corral even gets you a free copy of a historic edition of the newspaper.

It was good to see the reenactment, but we did more on our visit that day!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Cataract Falls State Park

Day 24, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cataract, Indiana

Who knew that the Midwest has such small waterfalls?  I guess it makes sense, being that the Midwest is so very much flatter than the foothills and mountains that stretch out less than an hour from my sea-level home.  I left Marilyn’s house about noon, and made my way towards Indianapolis.  Cataract Falls was along the way!

Cataract Falls State Park contains the largest waterfall by volume in Indiana, a two fall combo that separately measure at 18 and 20 feet, and combine to create an impressive 38 foot cascade!  It is considered to be a little taller than that, because there are a series of smaller cascades over the course of the half-mile of Cataract Falls.  Alright, maybe impressive is a bit of an overstatement, especially for those of us who have seen waterfalls over 600 feet tall at home.  However, if 38 feet is what Indiana has to offer, I’ll go see it.  I wandered around and relaxed a little bit, but it was too hot to hike that day.

The park also has a covered bridge, which largely looks like the covered bridges near Dana, Indiana, except that it a solid red with no white accents.  The Cataract Falls covered bridge was finished in 1876, and is the only remaining covered bridge in Owens County.  It is unusual because of its construction with a Smith Truss design, rather than the more common Burr Arch Truss that is found on most Indiana covered bridges.  It was pretty, but given my experience from the day before, I waited until another man walked inside before I did.  I will probably always do this with covered bridges now.

I also stopped at the tiny community of Cataract just outside of the state park.  They have a historic general store, originally built in 1860, filled with various antiques and snack items.  I didn’t find any antiques I had to have but did purchase a few of their unique soda options – I bought two to try.  That’s one of the nice things about traveling – you get out of your comfort zone and try foods and drinks that you might not otherwise pick at home!

That evening I headed to my friend Will’s house, outside of Indianapolis.  That evening we had turkey tacos for dinner, the first time in almost a month that I actually made a home cooked meal, in a home, with more than a couple ingredients.  It was soooo delicious!

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana’s Covered Bridges

Day 23, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Vermillion County, Indiana

Marilyn and I got up for a day of Indiana countryside sightseeing.  We decided we were going to check out several covered bridges, as this tri-county area around Dana, Indiana is known for having many of them.  Unfortunately, the very first bridge we went to, at the Ernie Pyle Memorial Rest Park, we came upon a tragic scene.  I won’t revisit it here, because I blogged about it last year.

That day we visited a number of bridges, historic cemeteries, murals and the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum.  I’m going to divide the posts up by subject, and group the photos together.

Once we steeled our nerves again from our morning, we saw several more covered bridges.  They are gorgeous, each painted red with white accents, each with the same neat, black lettering indicating the year it was built, along with name of the bridge and sometimes the builder.  The earliest bridge we saw was built in 1873, and the most recent was built in 2006.  I suppose now they are probably maintained by the county, or a historical society, but it still seemed odd that they are all painted the same.

They are scattered all around, with some of the bridges off to the side of the road, and others still part of the road so you could drive through them.  One is close to an old historic mill that has been redeveloped – it is quite picturesque!  I got to see quite a bit of the countryside, the Amish homes, and even a few Amish buggies.

The history here is incredible!