Tag Archive | wanderlust

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Knox

Day 54, Friday, September 7, 2018
Fort Knox State Historic Site, Prospect, Maine

First off, I just want to say that this is the “other” Fort Knox, and it is actually the original Fort Knox.  The one that most people think of when they hear Fort Knox is the one in Kentucky, which is adjacent to the United States Bullion Depository, which holds about half of the United States’ gold reserves. So now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on!

This Fort Knox was built between 1844 and 1869. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, there was some considerable anti-British sentiment lingering.  The Aroostook War in 1838-1839 revived that sentiment when military troops and civilians in Maine clashed with the British troops and subjects in New Brunswick; it was essentially a border dispute fueled by valuable lumber.  Never heard of the Aroostook War, you say?  Well, you may know it as the Pork and Beans War – because of course the mainstay of a lumberjack diet was said to be pork and beans (stay with me here, it gets better!)…  So apparently there were disputes over timber when some Canadians cut some trees on land that the Americans considered their land.

Then a hapless black bear wandered along and just wanted the lumberjacks to leave, or was looking for a meal; the bear was not interviewed about his side of the story….  So the bear comes along and attacks three Canadian lumberjacks and badly injures two; the Canadians then shoot and kill the bear.  The American lumberjacks nearby hear the gunfire and think the Canadians are shooting at them, so they shoot back. Thankfully no one was injured (by the gunfire at least).

Obviously, tensions are pretty high at this point and both sides start mustering militiamen in the area…  Diplomats got involved and saved the day, negotiating a treaty that would set the border in Maine, mostly along the St. John River, but also throwing in some border clarifications in New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota too.  And you thought these insane omnibus bills that Congress passes were a new thing, but nooo… This treaty also created a joint naval system between the Americans and the British to suppress the African slave trade off the coast of Africa.  Because, of course that seems related!

Tensions remained though, and a few years later the Americans started building Fort Knox along the Penobscot River.  Fort Knox was the first fort to be built entirely of granite and is nearly unchanged from the time that it was built.  It was never totally completed, and although it never saw battle, it was manned by regiments during the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  When the U.S. Government declared it excess property in 1923 and sold it, the State of Maine picked it up for a song, paying only $2,121!

These days it is operated as a State Historic Site and nearly the entire fort is open to the public!   I enjoyed wandering around and checking out all the rooms.  There is even a hot shot oven, designed to heat up cannon shots to fire at ironclads.

In 2018 when I visited, an $8 ticket got you access to Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.  What a deal!  And one final side note – I ate lunch that day in the picnic area at the park, and this adorable little guy was really, really hoping to grab a snack!  Don’t worry, I didn’t feed him, but I did get some photos of his antics!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 2

Day 53, Thursday, September 6, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I had another full day in Acadia National Park, and it happened to be my birthday!

I started out by checking out the Bass Harbor Head Light.  You might not know this lighthouse by name, but I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize it.  The Bass Harbor Head Light was built in 1858 and sits 56 feet above the mean high water mark.  In 1876, they added a fog bell and the tower.  The light was originally fitted with a 5th Order Fresnel lens, but a 4th Order Fresnel lens was installed in 1901 to give it more light. It had a range of 13 nautical miles (15 miles).

You can descend a wooden staircase to access the rocks below the lighthouse.  This is the best view of the light, so make sure you make the extra effort!  The rocks have plenty of tide pools to explore as well.  I love seeing all the little sea creatures in their natural habitat.  I spoke with a local man who was doing the stairs for exercise, and he gave me a great recommendation for where to get a delicious lobster roll – I tucked that tidbit away for lunchtime…

I went for a short hike on the Ship Harbor Trail to a small secluded cove, and saw only a few other hikers along the way. The view was nothing amazing, but it was nice to get a hike in the woods.  I did see a cute woodpecker and took approximately 927 terrible pictures of him!  The photo I included was my best bad bird pic of the day…  Then I headed over to the Seawall to explore the area.  It is a beautiful rocky beach, with picnic tables and plenty of space to stay away from the crowds.

By this point, I was hungry, so I headed over to Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound to try out their lobster roll!  I ordered a lobster roll ($19.95) and a blueberry soda float ($5.95).  They were both delicious!  I hung around and talked to the owner for a bit because it was raining – he was very friendly and even tried to convince me to move to Maine.  Believe me, I’m tempted!

Behind Charlotte’s are some goats that the kids will love, and an old family cemetery.  One of the tombstones said that the teenager died at the Connecticut State Hospital in 1872, and it made me wonder why the family chose to place that on his stone.  The owners of the restaurant have an appreciation for the history of the area, and maintain the small plot.  I found some deer munching on fallen apples too!

 

My last stop for the afternoon was at a lakeside swimming area.  It was too chilly to consider jumping in, but there were some hardier souls than me!

Acadia National Park really impressed me.  I loved the gorgeous shoreline and the natural diversity within the park.  I can’t wait to visit again!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Desert Island

Day 53, Wednesday & Thursday, September 5 & 6, 2018
Mount Desert Island, Maine

Much of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, which also has several towns and communities that are not within the boundaries of the National Park.  In my travels to and from the park each day, I stumbled upon places that were fascinating and worth taking the time to tell you about.  Here are just a few!

While driving through the village of Somesville, I had to stop at the Somesville Selectman’s Building.  This little building was built in the 1780’s by John Somes, son of Abraham Somes, who had settled the village in 1761.  Over the years it has served as a cobbler’s shop, post office, town office and museum.  The bridge in front was built in 1981, and the two together make for a truly picturesque landscape!

The Mount Desert Island Historical Society, which includes the Somesville Selectman’s Building, was closed that day, but perhaps one day I will get to see inside this beautiful building!

I also decided to stop by the Wendell Gilley Museum one afternoon because it was raining.

Gilley was widely known for his career in decorative bird carving.  The small museum had many examples of his carved birds and other bird artwork.  It was interesting because you got to see the progression of his work over time.  I was impressed by the art!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anything in the gift shop that was affordable, so I left empty handed.

This area had so much to see and do, and I would have loved to have more time there to explore.  I definitely want to get back to Maine soon!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Birthday Lobster

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Beal’s Lobster Pier, SW Harbor, Maine

When you are alone, holidays can be hard…  So I wasn’t sure what to expect from my road trip birthday.  Did I want to mark it in any way, or just let it slide by unnoticed?

Being in Maine at my birthday was fortuitous.  I had always wanted to try whole lobster, and what better place to experience it for the first time than Maine, where I could have fresh whole Maine lobster right at the source!

I asked around that morning and learned that Beal’s Lobster Pier was recommended as the place to be for Maine lobster.  It was near Acadia National Park, so when I finished my days’ touristing, I headed over to check it out.  I arrived fairly early; if I remember correctly it was just before 5, and it wasn’t too busy yet.  I let the man at the counter know I had never had whole Maine lobster, and he set to work picking out a good one for me.  And the sides, you can’t forget the sides…  Coleslaw, corn on the cob, and cornbread…

After I paid, I wandered out to find a table with my glass of Vinho Verde, and had the most incredible view of the harbor from my seat.  It was a warm evening, and I felt so at peace on the water, seeing the occasional boat come in.

My lobster came with instructions on how to crack and eat it, and I was so grateful!  I made sure to take a photo so I could have it in case one day I needed them.

My meal was amazing!  So fresh, and so simple, and easily one of the best meals I have ever had.  It was delicious, and I felt like it was a birthday dinner done right!

Note: For those of you in the know, this was the day before my actual birthday.  It still counts!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 1

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I was so excited to have two days in the park!

I drove in that morning and stopped first at the Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land.  I watched the movie about the park, got some postcards and of course got my passport stamped!

I decided to spend the day checking out the Park Loop Road, which runs for 27 miles through the park.  I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the east coast of North America.  It is also known as the place that is first in the United States to see the sunrise, although that is only true from October 7 to March 6 of each year.  That makes me feel better about the fact that I did not drag my butt up there in time for the sunrise, but I was there in early September!

Cadillac Mountain was still amazing, even during mid-morning when I was there.  The views are incredible and you can see in so many directions!  The barrier islands are beautiful!  The day that I was there they were doing a raptor count, although the gentle breeze was going in the wrong direction so most of the birds weren’t flying.  It was still interesting to hear them talk about their migration patterns and other raptor statistics!  It was neat to see the Cadillac Mountain granite, formed approximately 420 million years ago.  These are some very old stones!

The Park Loop Road is definitely a must do drive in the park; it takes you through the woodlands, by ponds, wildlife and the coast!  I enjoyed driving the scenic drive and not rushing it.  I stopped at a pond alongside the route and found a cute frog among the lily pads!

 

I found Sand Beach, which is, you guessed it!, a Sand Beach!  Being from Washington, where most beaches are rocky, I can appreciate the novelty of a sand beach.  I spent some time exploring it and wandering by the water.  There were several interesting jellyfish washed up, and some beautiful views!

I also stopped by Thunder Hole, but it wasn’t thundering.  It is a hole in the coastline, where the surf rushes in and apparently provides quite a show as it sprays high in the air!  You have to see it at high tide though, and it wasn’t high tide when I was there.  I was entertained by the two young men at the gift shop making the predictable inappropriate comments about Thunder Hole, but you could tell the cashier was not amused!

There is a trail that goes along the coastline for a while, and I enjoyed checking out the views of the water along the trail.  Even with the crowds, there is something peaceful about being close to the water.

My last official stop was at the Jordan Pond and to see the Jordan Pond House and The Bubbles.  The Bubbles are hills that someone, sometime in history, obviously thought looked like bubbles.  I wasn’t convinced, but it is probably as good a name as any.  When I get back to Acadia I want to hike to the tops of The Bubbles, which have some gorgeous views. That’s the trouble with these beautiful parks; there just isn’t enough time to do everything!  The Jordan Pond House is a restaurant that is famed for its popovers, another spot I will have to check out on a future trip!

 

That evening I had my early birthday dinner – that deserves its own post!

 

Acadia National Park History

Acadia National Park might be called the park that doesn’t know its name.  It was originally designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916, then became Lafayette National Park on February 26, 1919 during President Woodrow Wilson’s term of office, and finally became Acadia National Park with a formal name change on January 19, 1929.  In 2019, Acadia had 3,437,286 visitors in its 49,075 acres.

This stunning park takes up about half of Mount Desert Island on the mid-Maine coast, south of the town of Bar Harbor Maine, as well as part of the peninsula and portions of several outlying islands.  Native Americans have lived in the area for at least 12,000 years, including tribes making up the Wabanaki Confederacy, also known as the “People of the Dawnland”; the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki and Penobscot.  The tribes continue to play a significant role in the stewardship of the area today.

In 1613, French missionaries set up the first white colony on Mount Desert Island, but it was destroyed by an armed vessel from the Virginia Colony in what was probably the first act of aggression leading up to the French and Indian wars.  In the 1600s, a fur trading post was also set up, and French, English and Dutch traders all fought for control.  The French ultimately ceded Mount Desert Island to the English in 1713.

The result is a park with a diverse habitat including coastal regions as well as the tallest mountains on the Atlantic Coast (Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak there).  The diversity that exists there means that there is a wide variety of activities to do, including auto-touring, hiking, poking around in the tidepools, bicycling, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Cadillac Mountain rises 1,530 feet, and is considered the first place that the sunrise hits on the east coast of the United States.  There are a variety of animals that reside within the park, including black bear, moose, deer, porcupine, beaver, fishers, mink, turtles, otters, bats and many species of birds.

I had the opportunity to visit Acadia for two amazing days in September 2018, including my birthday.  I’ll tell you about my visit next!

 

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!

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.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara has a history of white colonial settlement that spans over 300 years.

The first fort on this site was established by the French in 1679; they named it Fort Conti, and it wasn’t occupied for long.  The French returned again to establish Fort Denonville between 1687 and 1688.  It wasn’t until 1726 that the first permanent structure was built; a stone building known as the French Castle that still stands on site today!  Additional structures were built between 1756 and 1758.  In 1759 the British gained control of the fort during the French and Indian War, and it was British until the Revolutionary War was won, and the Americans were the proud new owners of Fort Niagara.

Of course, the British weren’t known for giving up so easily and they briefly reconquered Fort Niagara between 1813 and 1815, during the perhaps not-so-aptly named War of 1812.  The Americans got it back at the end of the War of 1812, and Fort Niagara never saw combat again.

 

The Fort did continue operating as a peaceful border post, and American troops were stationed here during the Civil War.  It was common during the early years of the Civil War to parole enemy troops, with the condition that they not return to fighting for a year.  The parolees at Fort Niagara were put to work building stuff.  Troops were trained here during both World Wars as well, and the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1963.  Since then, the Coast Guard is the only military branch that is on site.

 

Of course, Native Americans from the Seneca tribe were in the area long before the Europeans came along.  The Seneca was using the area around Fort Niagara as a seasonal hunting and fishing camp through the 1600s.

While I was there, I got to explore the buildings, and I also got to see both a cannon firing and a musket firing demonstration!  Apparently they used to lob tennis balls into the water when they did the cannon firing demonstrations, but the Canadian government asked them to stop, so now the demonstration does not include a projectile.  That’s better for the environment!

 

This was such a cool place to visit!

 

Westport Weekend: June 2019

June 21 – 23, 2019

Last year I went to the beach at Westport, Washington on the weekend of the summer solstice!  We wanted to ring in the beginning of summer in style!  Now mind you, the coast in Washington in the summer is not guaranteed to be warm, and may be downright freezing, so don’t be expecting any photos of shorts and people lounging in the sand.  We still had a great time!

Lelani and I left work early on Friday and drove down; we were camping and wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to get set up and get dinner made.  Other friends were joining us too!  She headed down to my work to pick me up and we stopped off for lunch at Kona Kitchen, a great Hawaiian place near my work!  We soon found out that we might have been better off eating on the road…

As usual, traffic in Seattle on a Friday afternoon was terrible, but at least we were entertained by tracking our progress against “the head”…

We camped at one of the Loge Resorts (yes, my spelling is correct); if you haven’t been to one, they have been converting old motels into new hipster-chic facilities.  The one we stayed at had camping (both tent and small RV sites), hotel rooms, and a hostel dormitory.  There was a stage with music on weekends, fire pits, and communal BBQ’s.  It was a fun place to stay, and the tent site was covered; that came in handy because it rained!  Drawbacks were the fact that you were approximately 4 feet from your neighbor in the next tent site over.  My neighbor snored, so the earplugs I always carry when I travel came in handy.

Saturday we checked out the harbor, where we watched people crabbing and fishing, and listened to the seabirds overhead.  We went to the beach too, and enjoyed some time spent searching for sand dollars and walking the beach.  You don’t have to spend too much time searching for sand dollars there; you really just have to wander around picking them up, as the beach is covered with them!  If you go though, make sure to only collect the dead ones, which are already white or a faded tan color; the live ones are a purplish black color.

That afternoon we visited the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse – you can climb to the top and see the view, and the third-order Fresnel lens.  The lighthouse was completed in March 1898, and stands 107 feet tall with 135 steps to get to the top.  It is worth it though – that view!  Originally, the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse sat about 400 feet from the waterline, in the last 120 years, the beach has experienced significant accretion, so it is now about 4,000 feet from the water!  I always enjoy seeing lighthouses when I travel and I especially appreciate when I can climb to the top.

We also visited the Westport Winery; they have an extensive tasting list consisting of a few whites, lots of reds and several fruit wines.  They had a sparkling wine that I really liked, and I purchased a couple of bottles to take home.  That evening we made a delicious dinner of steak shish-ka-bobs and corn on the cob, and ate our dinner while watching a guitarist perform on the outdoor stage.  It was fun to see!

Then, before dark, we headed out to the beach to watch the sunset and have a campfire on the beach.  See all those clouds in the photo below?  That made for a pretty much non-existent sunset, but oh well!  It was still pretty, but it was soooo cold and windy that night!  I really had to bundle up!  Are you sure this is summer?

The next morning Lelani and I went for an early morning walk on the beach before we packed up our gear to head home.  We found a little restaurant downtown, where I had hashbrowns, eggs, and fried oysters; it was so delicious!  About noon, we got on the road for another long, trafficky drive home…  What a great weekend though!