Predicting Snow in Stowe

Working on a large piece of sculpture at the West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park, an artist stopped his work to talk to us about the process of carving over 6000 pounds of rock into a double fountain weighing more than a ton. He explained that this would be his last large piece of the year since all outside work would have to be completed within two weeks before the first snowfall.

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“Really? Snow in only two weeks?” we’d asked on September 29th. It was hard to believe that snow would be falling only three weeks after the beginning of autumn, but he was right. On Sunday morning, pictures of Stowe, Vermont’s brightly colored leaves covered in snow were broadcast on the morning news.

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I feel confident the artist met the deadline, adding another piece in the outdoor sculpture garden located behind the gallery.

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Over a dozen large pieces carved from local materials including walkways, seats and fountains were on display.

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Jigsaw like stone puzzles as well as metal sculptures were included in the garden as well as more practical pieces. Additional works will have to wait until the snow thaws next spring.

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If this art thing doesn’t work out for the man we spoke to, I’d be glad to provide a recommendation as a meteorologist.

Bridging New England

Our drive from Maine to Vermont wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable if we hadn’t decided to go on a covered bridge scavenger hunt.

The first bridge of the day we found was the Lancaster Bridge just off Highway 2 in Lancaster, NH.

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Not far away we located the Mt. Orme Bridge which connects the states of New Hampshire and Vermont.

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By the time we reached the forgotten village of Greenbanks Hollow and its bridge in Danville, Vermont, the blue skies of the morning had changed to gray.

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Coburn Bridge no longer serves vehicles but instead supports pedestrian traffic and commemorates the bridge’s history as a museum.

 

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The rain started falling by the time we left the museum at Coburn ending the scavenger hunt but one that can be continued on another day.

Chasing the Moon

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Photo of blood moon taken by John.

We decided to stay an extra night at Acadia National Park when we learned that Sunday, September 27th was to be the night of the blood moon.

I captured the rising moon over Bar Harbor on Saturday evening after dinner, and on our way back to the campground we made plans for joining the park ranger at Sand Beach the following night for the eclipse.

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Photo by Dee

What better place to watch the total eclipse of the full moon than over the ocean on a cool, clear night in Maine.

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Photos by Dee

However, Sunday night was more COLD than cool and with 20mph winds, we scratched the beach plan and instead parked overlooking the Atlantic and The Thrumcap adjacent to the Sieur de Monts entrance.

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Sitting in the car and out of the wind, we were able to watch the changes over a three hour period from full moon

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Photos by John

to blood moon.

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Photo by John

A moon worth chasing.

John’s photos were taken with a Canon G16 through the lens of a spotting scope.

Really…it’s 17 miles…all downhill

Right, a trail that’s ALL DOWNHILL. 

When John suggested we ride the Virginia Creeper, he said I’d love this trail since it was a 17 mile ride, all downhill. I thought he must think I’m not very bright since I’m sure that any trail that’s all downhill must be ALL UPHILL on the way back. When I mentioned my skepticism that a ride could be 100% downhill, he explained that for $11 a shuttle takes cyclists to the trailhead so yes, it was indeed possible to ride 17 miles…all downhill.

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We met at Sundog Outfitters in Damascus, Virginia and loaded our bikes on the trailer behind the brightly painted van and then rode to the trailhead at Mount Rogers Recreation Area with six other cyclists ready for the downhill adventure.

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For the first time ever, I shifted my bike into its highest gear and pedaled occasionally, but mostly rode the brake all the way back to Damascus on a beautiful, cool, early fall morning.

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We stopped at the old train station which has been converted into a museum.

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Walked on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

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And then had to check out The Creeper Trail Cafe since the most common question asked of cyclists after riding the trail is, “Did you eat a piece of cake?” According to locals, the cafe serves the World’s Best Chocolate Cake so yes, we ate cake…good cake, but not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.

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I didn’t think I’d ever be called a Creeper, but having ridden the Virginia Creeper, I guess it’s a term that describes me.

 

 

A Bushel or a Peck?

Driving from Maine to Vermont, we saw hand painted signs pointing the way to Burtts Orchard, a place to pick apples. So we took a slight detour and found the advertised orchard.

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I think the woman at the stand was a little surprised that we wanted to pick apples in the rain instead of just purchasing a bag of apples, but what fun is that? I can buy a bag of apples at any grocery.

So we were given a map indicating what type of apple was grown in each row with the ones ready for picking highlighted in yellow, an apple picking tool, and asked if we wanted to pick a bushel or a peck.

We decided a peck would be plenty, especially since they would be kept in the car until we returned home. Then we headed out to start picking.

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The first couple apples were pretty puny so we moved on to another row and got busy picking only apples deemed worthy. We picked McIntosh, Empire, Gala, and Honeycrisp, all traditional September varieties and even picked a few Golden Delicious and Fuji that were ready a couple of weeks before their usual October picking season.

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Of course, there was a little taste testing during the picking and after filling our bag, it was back to the stand to pay for our freashly picked peck. For less than $8.00, we left with fruit that we’d snack on all the way home. However, who can tell which apple is which? Was that a Honeycrisp or an Empire? Oh well, it doesn’t matter. We’ve started an apple a day habit.

Maine Eats

It’s strange that John never eats lobster EXCEPT when in Maine, and as soon as he hits the state line, he starts looking for a place to eat the state’s best known crustacean. Since we crossed the state line well after dark and past the closing time of most restaurants in York, his lobster obsession had to wait another day, but that turned out to be a good thing because we just so happened to be at one of Maine’s most famous lobster shacks at lunchtime. We got in line in Wiscasset at Red’s Eats around 11:30 and waited for about 45 minutes for a lobster roll and the first taste of Maine.

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A lobster roll, fries, onion rings, slaw and fried haddock (I don’t eat lobster) and we were officially welcomed to the state of Maine.

Once in Acadia National Park, a meal at the Jordan Pond House was required to make the visit complete. The traditional food at Jordan Pond House: popovers. Maine Seafood Chowder served with popovers and strawberry jam…yum.

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And we had to indulge in Maine’s most famous dessert. How could we pass on blueberry crisp topped with ice cream?

There was only one more meal needed to make the trip complete. Lobster at a traditional lobster pound. A place to sit on the dock, overlooking the lobster boats and a tank of the live creatures waiting to be served to diners. After a day at Schoodic Peninsula, what we found was not quite a lobster pound, no whole lobsters plucked from the tank and dropped into boiling water, (although there was a tank). No whole lobster, but a lobster roll (and a grilled cheese sandwich) eaten on a dock…the perfect setting.

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Lobster obsession satisfied until the next time we cross the state line.

Looking for a Comfort Station

Not long after my mother-in-law retired and moved to Marion County she told me she knew where to find every Publix grocery store in Ocala. While she shopped at Publix, the reason she mapped the locations was because she wanted to be able to quickly find a clean restroom if nature called while she was twenty minutes or more away from home. This advice is something we’ve used on many occasions as we’ve travelled around the state, but it doesn’t work everywhere.

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On road trips outside of Florida, I keep my eyes open for Cracker Barrel. A great comfort station for so many reasons.

They’re so predictable:

rocking chairs, checkers and holiday displays

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apparel from the local universities

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a large selection of candy which I can’t resist

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and of course, clean easy to find restrooms. Love Publix and Cracker Barrel.

A Very Different Beach

Going to the beach is a summer ritual for as long as I can remember. This year I’ve spent days on beaches in Amelia Island, St. Augustine, Ponce Inlet, Jupiter, Miami and Anclote Key, but the day Lisa and I spent on the beaches in Oregon was truly an amazing experience.

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We started the day with an early morning drive to Ecola State Park in attempt to escape the 100° temperatures in Portland. We were rewarded with a much cooler day, perfect for long sleeves and jackets.

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Apparently our first stop is where photographers take the money shot. As we were leaving the overlook to walk down to the beach, a van full of photogs with cameras, lenses and tripods invaded the space in an effort to get the perfect picture. (I don’t think mine look too bad for an iPhone with no special lenses or equipment.)

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Only surfers clad in wetsuits dared enter the icy Pacific waters. We stuck to a walk on the hard packed sand.

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Farther down the coast at Cannon Beach we walked out the the famous Haystack Rock.

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A great place to observe the sea life in the tidal pools.

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We even saw puffins nesting on the rock thanks to the volunteers and their spotting scope.

There’s really nothing like a day at the beach.

99 Ways to Celebrate the NPS

Yesterday the National Park Service celebrated the 99th birthday of the park system and posted a list of 99 ways to #FindYourPark. The list includes ways everyone can enjoy the parks. Suggestions are as diverse as writing poetry, rock climbing or taking a selfie in one of our National Parks. They also suggest you post pictures or videos on social media using the hashtag #FindYourPark.

Click here to find the complete list of all 99 ideas.

Here’s some examples of ways to celebrate:

Enjoy the spectacular views at Golden Gate Bridge National Recreation Area.

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Spot wildlife at sunrise at Canaveral National Seashore.

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Swim with the manatee at Crystal River National Wildlife Refugee.

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Follow the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail from the Missouri River

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to the Pacific Coast.

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Hug a tree at Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Parks. (Or just relax on the stump of one of the trees.)

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Take a late night walk through the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

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Take a selfie at Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

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How will you #FindYourPark?

Thanks to Meghan, Jonathan, and John for allowing me to post their pictures.

Preparing for a New School Year

For the first time since 1963 I did not spend the week before the beginning of the school year busily preparing for learning or teaching. I’ve either been a student, the parent of a student, a teacher or some combination of these roles for the past 50 plus years. This has traditionally been a week of shopping, organizing, and planning for a successful school year.

While I’m not preparing for school, I realized that I participated in many activities that were similar to those that would have occupied the pre-school week of the past.

Monday: The first day of the pre-school routine was intentionally very different from years past. As a celebration of the break in tradition, we packed a lunch and enjoyed a picnic from the middle of the lake. Instead of sleep being interrupted by a mind filled with lists of things to do, sleep was interrupted by the uncomfortable feeling of sunburn.

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Tuesday: Day 2 of pre-school started very different as John brought the catch of the day in to be cleaned before breakfast, but the afternoon was spent shopping, an activity not unusual for this week. However, instead of pens, pencils, notebooks and clothes for the upcoming school year, bathing suits and fishing lures filled our bags on this day.

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Wednesday: This day’s events actually were very similar to the way I spent time opening up a new school year. The day began at the library, but instead of loading up on books to accompany curriculum, I filled the reading list for an upcoming trip. Then off to Gainesville to the Repurpose Store looking for treasures from others’ trash. I guess some things will never change. And finally, a stop at Satchel’s Pizza where I investigated the “new technology” and toured a bus.

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Thursday: Alarm set for 5:30, the usual time for a day of work. Donuts from Tas-T-O, usually a requirement by the fourth day of pre-school. Then six hours of sitting around, but instead of sitting in boring meetings, I sat in various waiting rooms at Munroe Regional with my Mom and Dad while my Mom underwent a medical procedure. All went well with the procedure so we all left in good spirits, not always the case after attending a day of educational inservice training.

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Friday: Instead of meeting students and their parents, I met bloodsucking mosquitoes and other insects while riding my bike on the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Then the afternoon was spent researching and making plans…not for lessons to be taught, but for more adventures in the coming months.

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I can honestly say I didn’t miss any of the usual back to school activities, but it’s nice to know they prepared me well for this new adventure called retirement.