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New Gloucester & 2 Lights State Park, ME 7/29/17

New Gloucester, ME is the site of Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the last active Shaker community, with 2 elderly Shakers remaining. We visited friends with a summer cottage on the lake, but didn’t actually tour the Village.

Took a short hike into the woods around the lake:

Sabbathday Lake:

Then headed to Bates College in nearby Lewiston for a dance performance, followed by drinks and snacks at restaurant overlooking the Androscoggin River. Nice little riverfront park has a bandstand with this decor:

Next morning, we headed home via Cape Elizabeth to check out Two Lights State Park. The park is named for two nearby lighthouses, which you can’t actually see from the park. But you hike along the rocky Maine coast, and climb down to the crashing waves. There’s a playground:

The park was part of the country’s WWII coastal defense system with bunkers and this cement observation tower:

Trails through woods lead to the rocky headlands overlooking Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

You can climb down the rocks to get pretty close to tidal pools and the waves. Folks do some fishing there too.

There are lots of benches, and picnic tables and grills, tucked into secluded alcoves off the trails. Dinner with a view:

We left the park to drive down Two Lights Road to actually see a lighthouse, and the sandy beach below it:

 

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Hardy Park, Mansfield, MA 7/23/17

Hardy Park is a nice local area of conservation land, off of Maple St.

It’s a typical New England woodland trail, except for the chain link fence and towers of rail-car shipping containers. But you pass that bit of civilization and you’re immersed in nature, with a trail marker or two. We took the yellow trail to the green one, which goes by the ponds.

You get peeks at a small pond through the trees:

then come to the larger pond which has more open access:

Hmmm… that looks like a cistern and chairs across the way…

We had the entire trail to ourselves, except for the wildlife – that’s a pretty big toad.

Lavender flowers growing out of the water:

And a couple of nice resting spots:

We kept walking around to the far side. Lovely stroll, perfect day…

and reached those chairs…

Don’t know what this cement tube is, but it’s not a cistern.

Past this spot, the trail forks and we headed out onto the red trail, hoping we’d get some good views of the Canoe River…

Well, it’s the red trail, but no skittles in sight.

A butterfly:

and the trail out… but it’s too high above and away from the River, or the river’s too small, to see it. But there was interesting graffiti on a tree.

Great spot for nature, solitude, and easy 1 1/2 hour outing, including the sitting and admiring time.

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Easton Architecture and Gardens 7/1/17

Easton, MA has a wealth of architectural beauties. The H. H. Richardson district includes buildings designed by Richardson, who created Boston’s Romanesque Trinity Church.

Oakes Ames Memorial Hall

66 Main St.

We decided to explore the area to see The Rockery, a landscaped memorial cairn built in 1882 by Frederick Law Olmstead to honor Easton’s Civil War dead. The Rockery sits on the rotary overlooking 3 of the Richardson buildings.

Olmstead wrote that memorials of this type were “the oldest and most enduring in the world,” and with “the beautiful plants that have become rooted in them and which spring out of their crannies or have grown over them. . . are far more interesting and pleasant to see than the greater number of [monuments] constructed of massive masonry and elaborate sculpture.” He further explained that plants growing across the rocky buttress would symbolize peace taming war.

You can climb up the stairs or the ramp for an elevated view of the neighborhood:

From the Rockery, we headed to the Trustees of Reservations’ Governor Oliver Ames Estate:

36 acres of easy to meander meadows and ponds, plus the Governor’s mansion and carriage house:

And a garden and cottage with a fabric art piece:

and old, old trees:

and the fish pond:

Another pond, with a bridge to private property, gives a nice view of another Richardson building:

We walk around to Shovelshop Pond – the Ames family founded the Ames Shovel Works in 1803, nationally known as having provided the shovels which laid the Union Pacific Railroad and “opened the West.”

and a duck/goose brigade:

and a brightly colored fungus:

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San Francisco final day – 6/5/17

From Sequoia National Park back to San Francisco, to see the sights we missed before the parks.

Like the Hidden Garden Steps– a volunteer and community-based public art project to create mosaic steps, a public garden and a wall mural on 16th Avenue extending uphill from Kirkham to Lawton.

From art on the steps to art on the walls – the Mission District murals. Throughout the neighborhood, hundreds of walls and fences are covered with colorful works of art featuring themes ranging from cultural heritage to social political statements. It would take hours to walk and see them all! But here are some beauties:

Balmy Alley has some of the earliest murals from mid-1980s. A local museum has paint supplies and walking tour maps to the murals.

A local playground is walled in by murals, with a colorful dragon for climbing.

We drove through the Castro district, during Pride Month:

and walked to the historic Ferry Building:

And finished with a great dinner at Sam’s Grill – the 5th oldest restaurant in the country, from 1867:

 

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Sequoia National Park – 6/4/17

We stayed in the town of Three Rivers, about 10 miles outside the south Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park.

You’re at about 1700′ elevation at the entrance, sitting in traffic:

but climb to over 6,000′. We counted over 25 switchbacks/hairpin turns on Generals Highway with speed limit at 10 – 15 MPH. Because the road looks like this on the GPS:

Park map, and signs, say “Vehicles longer than 22 feet (including trailers) not advised.” Glad we never did this road at night!
First stop this day was Crescent Meadow, which you get to on the shuttle, passing this tunnel log.
John Muir called this meadow the Gem of the Sierras – the meadow leads to a lovely woods trail:

And wildlife! A black bear (with brown fur) just 20 yards off the trail:

The trail continues in among the sequoias:

We got to Tharp’s Log, a cabin built out of a hollowed-out fallen giant sequoia log in the Giant Forest. Hale Tharp grazed cattle in the meadow, and led early battles against logging in the area.  John Muir visited and stayed at Tharp’s log cabin.

Meadow near Tharp’s Log:

And the Giant Forest beyond:

More wildlife – a deer on the trail, and he just kept hiking near us:

We crossed the High Sierra Trail, but didn’t take the 60 mile trek to Mt. Whitney:

The rings on a cross section not only tell the tree’s age, but also the weather each year – narrow rings mean dry years, wide rings were damp:

Headed straight to General Sherman, the largest tree (by volume) in the world:

You can’t zoom out enough to photograph the whole thing:

From General Sherman, we took the Congress Trail, so named because of the clusters of sequoias – dubbed the House and Senate groupings. And hiked with another deer:

Many of the trees had fire damage, but this one was burned dead:

There’s a little waterfall along and under the path:

You can see a tree tunnel on the far side:

And then we reach The President tree:

This group is The Senate:

And The House:

And this might be Lincoln:

Fallen sequoias make great playgrounds, as we reach that tunnel tree:

Little lavender flowers blanket the forest floor:

How big? See this medium-sized tree outside the Museum? It would be 9 yards short of a football field, and would block 3 lanes of traffic on a highway.

On our way out, I loved these mosaic stone walls (that kept us from crashing over the edge on all those switchbacks), and then we got the view of Moro Rock, which lots of folks climb.

Near the exit, we stopped at Hospital Rock, which, according to Wikipedia, was once home to 500 Potwisha Native Americans, as early as 1350. In 1860, Hale Tharp and John Swanson were exploring the Giant Forest when Swanson injured his leg. Swanson was transported here where his injury was treated by local Indians. Tharp gave the spot its name after a second similar incident.

That red marking on the straight rock wall? Petroglyphs!

This “Community Kitchen” slab was where the native women ground acorns into flour – you can see the grinding indentations:

Then there’s a trail down to the waterfall, with stone steps built by the Civilian Conservation Corp:

Shrimp enchiladas for dinner:

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Kings Canyon National Park – 6/3/17

Kings Canyon National Park is less than 3 hours south of Mariposa. We stopped at one of the roadside fruit stands for a pile of peaches.

We reached the ‘thumb’ of Kings Canyon at the Big Stump Entrance, hit the Grant Grove Village Visitor Center, and headed behind the camping to Panoramic Point – a great spot but not even on the map!

Sat on a bench, enjoying the panorama, eating our sandwiches.

A gecko:

Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks are managed together as one park, set aside to protect the massive sequoias, most of which were destroyed by greedy loggers, who went bankrupt:

With this tour bus in view, you can get a sense of the scale of these sequoias:

Took in the North Grove Loop to Sunset Trail:

You really need a panoramic lens – or a wide angle – to capture the size of these sequoias.

This view of dogwood blossoms, sunlight, and sequoias felt like I’d fallen into a Monet – what would he have done with this landscape?

More trail, showing blackened bark. Old growth sequoias have such thick bark that fire seldom kills these trees; and fire is necessary for new growth – sequoia pine cones don’t open and drop their seeds without the heat from forest fires.

Most folks who hit this section of the park skip the near-solitude of the trail we just did, and head straight to the 1/2-mile paved path to the General Grant Tree.

The tree was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant, Union Army general and the 18th President of the United States. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” on April 28, 1926. On March 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the tree a “National Shrine”, a memorial to those who died in war. It is the only living object to be so declared.

The trail has other points of interest, including this Fallen Monarch tree trunk, big enough to walk through upright:

Centennial Stump was left after this 24′ diameter trunk was sliced up and transported east for the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876 –  where the easterners thought it was a hoax:

Grant Tree itself – the 2nd largest in the world:

Driving out to our hotel in Three Rivers, we get the views:

Moonrise over the pool and spa at Western Adventure Lodge:

 

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Yosemite – Bridal Veil Fall, Tunnel View, Sentinel Dome, and Mirror Lake 6/2/17

Headed straight for the short walk to the base of Bridal Veil Fall.

Early June, and we’re in peak flow season.

Morning view across from the Fall:

The trail gets steep, and soaking wet as you approach the Fall, so that the paved path is running like a stream:

Then off to Tunnel View, which gives a spectacular panorama of the whole Valley, plus an actual tunnel to drive through:

Down to Glacier Point Road to Sentinel Dome, a hike recommended for its full 360 views. This warning is for the Taft Point trail, we’ll go the other way:

There is a little snow on our trail, at the very beginning, but then we cross a stream and the snowy patches have melted:

Oh. My. Goodness! We can see the Dome! And there are little tiny people on top! How am I going to climb THAT!

The trail has a number of beautiful Jeffrey Pine trees, big, red bark, and a distinctly fragrant resin – stick your nose up between the plates of the bark and you’ll smell butterscotch!

By now the trail has left the soil path to traverse the rocky surface approaching the Dome. Cairns mark the path:

The path has taken us around to the less-steep, but shaded side of the Dome, where the scramble to the top is through a snow field!

Couldn’t take photos while trying to climb up slippery snow. A little scary, but oh so rewarding. We’re eye-level with Yosemite Falls:

Above Half Dome:

Surrounded by the Sierra Nevadas:

And there’s El Capitan:

This is Ansel Adam’s photo of the lone Jeffrey pine on top of Sentinel Dome:

And this is that same tree now, after it died from a drought in 1977, and finally fell in 2003:

There’s still life growing up here:

Elevation at the top of the Dome is 8,117 ft. It’s easy to wander around the dome, from view to view to view.

But it’s time to head down, back through the snow. You’ve got to dig your heel in to grab a foothold, one heel at a time. One grandpa helped his little granddaughters down by sitting on the snow, propping one girl on each thigh, and sledding them down on his butt – fast, scary ride for them. But as soon as they reached the bottom, they clamored to do it over and over!

Back down from the Dome, and we drove over to Glacier Point, where the views just keep on coming – including a view of yesterday’s Vernal Falls hike:

Back through Tunnel View, where the light has changed the scenery:

Then back up to the Valley to the Mirror Lake trail which crosses and skirts Tenaya Creek:

Half Dome looms above the lake:

We were here:

Folks resting on the rocks above the roaring creek:

A last view of Yosemite Falls through the trees:

Back to Mariposa for a one-man band in the Art Park:

And a little western flair:

 

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