Posts tagged Garden

Onomea Trail, Big Island, HI 1/5/18

The Onomea Trail was an unexpected delight. It’s just off the Old Mamalohoa Highway, about 10 minutes north of Hilo.

It’s a steep, but not difficult, trail down to Onomea Bay, with gorgeous plants and views along the way.

wild Bird of Paradise flowers


fuzzy piggy-back ride

At the bottom of the trail, you reach the Bay:

We found a broken-open coconut, fallen from one of the palm trees on the shore:

Best snack ever – ocean-salty coconut!

This rocky promontory provided more views:

with tide pools:

Back to the trail which crosses through the middle of the Botanical Gardens. We met the Garden’s security guard, a retiree who sits on a beach chair, reading and listening to music, where the Onomea Trail crosses one of the Garden trails. He seemed eager to chat, and  guided us to some of the plants inside the fenced off Garden that we could see along our trail.:

Past the friendly guard, the trail takes you down some stairs to the spot where the Onomea Stream reaches the ocean:

And views of the Twin Rocks formation:

We were there at low tide, so the point where the river meets the sea was somewhat obscured by the rocky sandbar, but what a beautiful spot.

Family photos!


Final view as we climbed back up the trail to the car:

I’m sure the Botanic Garden is wonderful, but this spot is natural and free!


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Hilo, HI – Liliuokalani Gardens

After a day/evening at Volcanoes National Park, we spent the night in Hilo. This is the view from our Hilo Reeds Bay hotel:


And banyan trees in front, along Banyan Drive:


Also on Banyan Drive is Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, a 24acre park/Japanese garden. In 1907, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, donated the original 5 acres bordering Hilo Bay for a public park. It was dedicated in 1917 as a tribute to Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants who worked in the sugar cane fields. FYI – she was the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, thanks to the coup organized by American business interests including Sanford Dole (cousin to the Dole Pineapple Company). Cool fact, she wrote the Hawaiian ballad Aloha Oe in 1878, recorded by Bing Crosby, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Spongebob, etc.

The Gardens are beautiful, with bridges, walkways over water, stone urns, and views across the bay to snowcapped Mauna Kea.


Mauna Kea rises above Hilo Bay



High water flooded out some of the walkways


Mauna Kea, above the gate



Stone pagoda





lots of cats hiding in the gardens


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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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Bodega to Napa to Yosemite – 5/30/17

Headed into to the town of Bodega, CA, where Hitchcock filmed that scene of the schoolchildren being attacked in The Birds:

The Potter School (1873) is still there, a private residence:


Back on the road, with a stop for fruit at a market, right next to the Guayaki Yerba Maté factory – we’ve had that!

One of the great things about racking up miles on the rental car is that we get to search out places to check out to break up the long drives. Santa Rosa is a great stop, where we toured the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, a national historic site. Burbank (1849 -1926) was born in Lancaster, MA but settled in Santa Rosa and spent his 50 year career as a horticulturalist. He worked to expand the world’s food supply, and introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants — including over 200 varieties of fruits, many vegetables, nuts and grains, and hundreds of ornamental flowers – including the Shasta Daisy. The gardens are free, and lovely:


Next stop, The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus, once the largest stone winery in the world. Gorgeous building, with oranges growing in front, and a crazy corkscrew collection on display:



Back on the road through Napa Valley, surrounded by grape vines climbing hills or filling fields.


The town of Napa has a nice riverfront park, and lots of restaurants – but we hit the supermarket for sandwiches to go.


From grapevines to windfarms, until we’re climbing higher:


And then Yosemite as the day is waning:

We’re just driving through on a long, winding road to get to our hotel in Mariposa, and stop at an overlook. An overwhelming, my cup runneth over overlook:

The winter’s heavy snows have turned the Merced River and waterfalls (or is it just snowmelt?) high, fast, and wild:


Drove through a tunnel to a waterfall at Cascade Creek:


An info panel showed this early 20th century ad for 36-hour wagon trip to Yo Semite:

Can’t blame them for enduring a 36-hour drive to see this place – What a planet!




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Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Park, Cliff House + 5/29/17

Stopped to enjoy the sights on the way to Golden Gate Park. Look, a cable car! (never rode one – the wait to board was insane, and the bus prices were much better!)

Rode past Japan Town, and waited for a bus by a tree-stump chair (doubleclick any photo for full size):

Victorian homes along the way were impressive, especially the one with giant tree festooned in wind chimes:

Reached Alamo Square, a hilltop park that looks out on the famed Painted Ladies Victorians, built 1892-1896 – well known from the opening credits to Full House.

Another bus, and we reached Golden Gate Park, 20% larger than NYC’s Central Park, at over 1,000 acres – and 3 miles long! Hiked a short way through fuscias to the Conservatory of Flowers:

Inside were all kinds of tropical plants, plus a butterfly den:

Interesting sculptures in the dell outside the Conservatory. Segway tours of the Park are popular:

Golden Gate Park is home to so much:

We walked past the crowds at the Academy of Sciences, and into the DeYoung art museum, which is hosting an exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love 1967.

The deYoung, and its special exhibit, were very expensive (and time consuming), so we checked out the lobby, and took the free elevator to the tower’s observation deck. Also experienced our first “All Genders simultaneously” public restroom – no urinals, all private stalls, all genders sharing the mirrors/sinks. And the universe did not implode.

Next stop – the Park’s Japanese Tea Garden – gorgeous!

More sculpture by the deYoung, on our way to the next bus:

Headed towards the Pacific side of San Francisco, walking up the hill along the ocean.

… towards the Cliff House, an historic (1858) restaurant with ocean views.

Next to the Cliff House are the ruins of the Sutro Baths (1894-1964), a massive public bath house, and freshwater swimming facility. It included 6 saltwater swimming tanks of varying sizes, shapes, and water temperatures, tiers of bleachers seating thousands of spectators under glass and steel. This is all that’s left:

There are delightful hiking trails from this Lands End visitor center, down to the ruins or along the cliff:

Then you round a bend in the trail, and get this:

Next bus – past another interesting church:

Back downtown to Union Square :

… and the historic St. Francis Hotel, which was badly damaged in the fire following the 1906 earthquake. The staff provided meals to the people displaced by the 1906 catastrophes right in Union Square, bottom photo on right:

Classy lobby, bar, and a famous grandfather clock, admired by Shirley Temple in the photo. The plaque describes the hotel’s history of washing guests’ coins so they wouldn’t soil their elegant gloves. And they still provide that service. Really.

Finally, found Maiden Lane, which houses the only San Francisco building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It had been an art gallery, shop, many things, but is currently unoccupied. It has a curved stairway/ramp, similar to his design for NYC’s Guggenheim Museum:

I think that’s enough ground covered for one day.

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Alcatraz Evening tour 5/28/17

Alcatraz Island, a mile out from San Francisco, became a military fortress in 1858, then a Civil War prison in 1861. The island is home to the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast, first built in 1854. Alcatraz served as the notorious federal penitentiary from 1934 until 1963. While the national historic site is free, the ferry ride will cost you – and they book up early! These are from the waiting-to-board area. Doubleclick any photo for full size.

Views from the ferry:

Approaching Alcatraz:

This “Indians Welcome” graffiti is from the 18-month occupation by the Tribes of All Nations group from 1969-1971, protesting The Indian Termination Act, which forced Native Americans to move to cities and assimilate, in an attempt to end the special relationship between the U.S. government and Native nations. They also demanded reparation for the many treaties broken by the US government and for the lands which were taken from so many tribes. During the occupation, President Nixon rescinded the Indian termination policy, and established a new policy of self-determination, in part as a result of the publicity and awareness created by the occupation. Graffiti remains, and is regularly repainted by relatives/descendants of the occupiers, to preserve this piece of the island’s history.

Some buildings are in disrepair; others are being renovated.

Alcatraz has some lovely gardens on its slopes:

More Native graffiti:

The tour includes a free audio-guide, told by a narrator and by actual former inmates and guards. Chilling and fascinating. No attempt at rehabilitation, only punishment. “Break the rules and you go to prison; break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”

The hallways between cells are named for famous streets, like Broadway and Michigan Avenue. The cells housed some famous prisoners, like Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, and even Whitey Bulger ’59-’62.

We learned about a lot of escape attempts. If you could dig your way out of your cell, you faced the most dangerous challenge – swimming the frigid choppy waters to San Francisco. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught alive, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as “missing and presumed drowned.” One escape used this spacer to spread the uncuttable bars apart:

Inmates did take up hobbies to pass the monotonous time – including crochet (pink!) and painting.

Here’s the guards’ uniform:

Most prisoners were assigned to work in various jobs on the island – laundry, factory, etc, and did get some recreation time outdoors:

Prisoner accounts said that when the wind was right, they could hear the sounds from the city in their cells, especially the sounds of celebrations on New Year’s Eve.

A dummy was used to hide one escape, made through that tunnel carved under the sink through the ventilation grate:

Prisoners did go to the mess hall for meals; the kitchen knives were stored on this rack with outlines, so guards could tell immediately if a knife was missing:

Prisoners who broke the rules at Alcatraz were placed in The Hole, a block of bare cells, secluded in total darkness for 23 hours/day. Birdman spent 6 years in solitary in The Hole.

“Its size was approximately that of a regular cell-9 feet by 5 feet by about 7 feet high. I could just touch the ceiling by stretching out my arm… You are stripped nude and pushed into the cell. Guards take your clothes and go over them minutely or what few grains of tobacco may have fallen into the cuffs or pockets. There is no soap. No tobacco. No toothbrush, The smell – well you can describe it only by the word ‘stink.’ It is like stepping into a sewer. It is nauseating. After they have searched your clothing, they throw it at you. For bedding, you get two blankets, around 5 in the evening. You have no shoes, no bed, no mattress-nothing but the four damp walls and two blankets. The walls are painted black. Once a day I got three slices of bread-no-that is an error. Some days I got four slices. I got one meal in five days, and nothing but bread in between. In the entire thirteen days I was there, I got two meals… I have seen but one man get a bath in solitary confinement, in all the time that I have been there. That man had a bucket of cold water thrown over him.” – Henri Young testifying his experiences in “The Hole” at Alcatraz during his 1941 trial.

In 1963, due to the costs of maintaining/repairing Alcatraz, the prison was closed:

We stayed for a presentation on Shivs & Shanks – the weapons prisoners made and how they used them – usually to intimidate other prisoners:

The final presentation was on the revolutionary design to the cell doors – guards could open/close them from a contraption at the end of the cellblock. No more standing in front of cell juggling keys and getting attacked by an inmate.

In the dark, our docent explained the doors and treated us to the intimidating sound of the cells slamming shut:

Fascinating – highly recommend the evening tour. And still shaking my head at the inhumane treatment.

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Prescott Farm, Middletown, RI 12/31/16

Just up the road from Newport is Prescott Farm, site of a Revolutionary War raid that captured British General Prescott without a shot fired. This site has a number of restored farm buildings, including a windmill used for grinding grain.




This is the guardhouse, which didn’t do too good a job of guarding General Prescott:



The windmill has two huge mill stones, doubling its productivity. This coastal region relied on wind power while inland mills dammed streams to harness water power. img_9450

The farm does have a little stream:

img_9453 img_9454

There are demonstration gardens showing the typical 18th century gardening techniques. The walkways around the beds use broken seashells for gravel:


The stream empties into a pond where ducks struggled to climb onto the ice:


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