Cedar Waxwings And A Sign Of Spring At The PPl Wetlands

It was nice to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania after my visit to Puerto Rico. I have always said you don’t have to travel far to find the beauty of nature. I did see many wonderful things in Puerto Rico. There was beautiful scenery and I saw many exotic birds  on my trip.   But there is also so much beauty here too, even in Winter.  And I went looking for, and found some, of this beauty at the PP Wetlands yesterday. Trees and mountains along Susquehanna River

It was a mostly sunny and seasonably cold morning. The temperatures were in the low 20’s.  We had some warm weather while I was gone and there was no snow on the ground.  I immediately noticed how swollen the Susquehanna River had become. trees along river

The heavy rains and melting snow had it reaching the tops of it’s banks. As I walked in the wetlands and found most of the canals and ponds were still frozen.  Even though they were now lifeless, they still had a unique beauty to them. ice covered pond in wetlands

I heard a few birds in the distance, woodpeckers, crows and black-capped chickadees, However I did not see a single bird or other critter until almost a mile into my walk. I saw  these two red squirrels scurrying through the underbrush. pair of red squirrels

I continued my walk to the river lands section of the preserve and frozen Lake Took-A-While.frozen lake Took-A-While

I still wasn’t seeing any  wildlife. I knew the water birds would be gone because  the lake was frozen.I was surprised  there were none  of the  usual winter birds commonly seen here. bridge and lake under cloudy sky

This changed when I walked to the river trail. I first noticed a few woodpeckers in the trees. woodpecker on tree branch

I soon walked into a flock of one of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwing. cedar waxwings in tree

These birds are very social and can be found in large flocks, especially in winter.cedar waxwing in tree

They feed mainly on fruits and can be seen fluttering among the tree tops in small flocks in the summer. This flock was larger than the ones I have seen in the summer. There were about thirty birds in it and they were searching for the few remaining berries on the trees. cedar waxwings in branches

And as I have often  observed before there were now other birds in the same area. I noticed  that different species of birds tend to  travel together, probably for safety, in the cold of Winter. I saw a few tufted tit mice, 

and nuthatches in the same vicinity as the cedar waxwings. I watched the birds for a while enjoying the fluttering of the cedar waxwings in the trees over my head. nuthatch in tree

After observing this group of birds I only saw a cardinal and a few sparrows on my return walk. It was still a pleasure seeing the waxwings. On my return walk I  looked for, and found this, a first sign of Spring. A skunk cabbage sprouting up in wetlands! skunk cabbage sprouting cedar waxwing on branch

It is now mid February, and we may still get some frigid weather and snow here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but the sun is higher in the sky, and the worst of Winter is over. Spring will arrive soon and Nature will put on it’s greatest show of the year. And I will be sure to be outdoors and watch it arrive. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike including some more of the beautiful cedar waxwings. PPL Wetlands hike February 17 2018. 

tree lined frozen pond

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.     Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: So Much To See In Enchanting Old San Juan

After my tour of the historic Castillo San Cristobal,  I  again wandered off to explore the streets of old San Juan. I first made my way through  the now familiar Plaza Colon and it’s towering statue of Christopher Columbus. trees and Christopher statue Plaza Colon

I decided to walk up one of the most famous streets in  old town San Juan, El Fortaleza.Colorful cobble stoned street

Like all the streets in old town it was paved with blue cobblestones. These pretty stones were brought from Spain and used as ballast on the ships. Once in San Juan they were removed from the ship and were replaced  with gold for the journey back to Spain. The residents used the discarded  cobblestones to pave the streets. 

shops on cobblestone street

The  street is now lined with many small shops and upscale stores, selling all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, electronics,  luxury goods and any other thing that can be sold  to tourists from the cruise ships,gist shop old San Juan

and restaurants and outdoor cafes of all types  ranging from  five star gourmet  to local eateries. outdoor cafe old San Juan

I followed the busy narrow street and found myself once again at the Governor’s mansion near the old front  gate to the city. There is no motor vehicle traffic allowed on the street near the mansion.  cobblestone street leading to Governor's mansion

Next to the mansion I saw what I thought was  a church. I love to visit churches, temples and mosques on my travels and tried to enter. The door was locked.Hospital and shrine House of Health operated by Servants of Mary nuns

A friendly caretaker approached,  told me the chapel was closed, but  he would see if the nuns would allow me to visit. Shortly a young nun appeared and waved me inside.photograph of Blessed Mary in hospital

I remember very little Spanish from my high school days.  The  nun spoke no English.  She was  kind and friendly and we communicated through gestures. She lead me to a beautiful  chapel and she left me alone to  take photographs. shrine and chapel House of Health Servants of Mary

As I was leaving I encountered the young nun who was now accompanied by a middle age nun. I tried to explain to them that I was taught by Bernadine Sisters as a child. My attempt was not successful.  Statue in House of health

A third older nun now appeared.  I again  tried to explain to them my schooling by Bernadine nuns. Finally the young nun got the caretaker, who spoke English and we had a wonderful conversation with the help of our translator. We laughed about the nuns who thought me  and how they  hit us with a ruler when we were bad. One nun laughed and pointed to the oldest one. She shook her head, no, not her. We all laughed.  We also talked about the the 1960’s  television show, the Flying Nun. They, of course, all heard about it. Three Servants Of Mary sisters

Now I was their friend and the oldest gave me a tour of the facility which was a convent and hospital for the old and poor. She took me to a balcony with spectacular views of San Juan bay, and the Governor’s Mansion. It was truly a blessed experience which I will always cherish.  I learned the building was built in 1524. The nuns cared for the sick here for over 125 years. Here is a link to some more photographs of my wonderful encounter with the sisters and their mission. . Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Convent February 9 2018.

I next  walked to  the Puerta de San Juan or the main  gate   and up atop the old city wall. The views were again spectacular. view of San Juan bay from city wall

I saw  more sculptures, old houses and some beautiful flowering gardens. sculpture old San Juan

I made my was back to the park in front of  “El Morro” when I decided to begin my return journey. park and view of "el Morro"

I meandered through the pretty streets,calamari and rice revisiting many of sites I saw the day before. I wish I had time to visit the many museums in the city. I did stop for a nice, and reasonably priced snack, calamari and rice, with all the lemonade you could drink a restaurant located in one of the museums. 

I returned to my hotel mid  afternoon and spent some time editing photographs and exploring the many art filled rooms at the Inn. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike through old San Juan. Puerto Rico  Day Two: San Juan afternoon hike.

I wanted to see the  sunset and decided the best place would be  the high ground of “El Morro”  It was a beautiful evening in Puerto Rico. Huge billowing cumulus clouds floated on the ever present trade winds. 

I walked along the old city wall and came to a beautiful cemetery situated above the Atlantic Ocean. 

I spent a few minutes taking in the serene scene.  And I was delighted to watch a rainbow appear over the ocean. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to YouTube. Cemetery video.

I walked up to an old battery wall near the fortress and joined a group of local residents and tourists also waiting for the sunset. Unfortunately clouds moved and we only caught a brief glimpse just before it set. It was still a  great place to be. 

I  walked back along Fortaleza Street  enjoying the sounds of tourists and residents at the many cafes, bars and restaurants.  I ate dinner at a quaint  French restaurant, Trois Cent Onze,  recommended by a friend. The food was excellent. I finished my meal and returned to the streets which, despite a passing showers were still alive with the sounds of folks enjoying the warm tropical evening. 

It was an uphill walk to my hotel but I soon heard the crashing of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the rocky shore. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan evening walk. February 8 2018.

I also listened to the music rising up from San Sebastian street from a balcony in my room.  I was tired  and soon  fell asleep listening to the sounds of music and partying that lasted until sunrise. Here is a link to a video of the sounds of San Sebastian Street from my room.

“Fall in love
with the energy
of the mornings

trace your fingers 
along the lull
of the afternoons

take the spirit 
of the evenings
in your arms
kiss it deeply 

and then
make love
to the tranquility
of the nights.” 
― Sanober Khan

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Puerto Rico Day Two: San Juan: Castillo San Cristobal

After a light breakfast at my hotel, I began my second day in San  Juan by heading to the massive fort that prevented me from observing the sunrise earlier in the  morning.view of ocean and Castillo San Cristabol

Construction of Castillo San Cristobal was started by the Spanish in 1634 and took over 150 years to complete. It was the largest fortification in the New World. 

I was able to enter the castle with my admission receipt from my visit to “El Morro” the day before. entrance to Castillo San Cristobal

Once inside I again learned so much history about the fortress and San Juan  from the many exhibits throughout  the castle. They ranged from the defenses of the fort to how the soldiers were housed and fed. soldiers sleeping quarters

The fortification was built because of land assaults on San Juan by the Dutch and British in the 17th century. This newer  fortress protected the city for the next 300 years 

I roamed the many passages and tunnels throughout the fortress.tunnels in castle

Along the way I visited the dungeon which had these drawings on it’s walls. They were probably made by some poor soul awaiting a long prison sentence or execution. You probably didn’t wind up in the dungeon for petty crimes. drawings of ships on dungeon walls.

There were spectacular views from atop the walls of the fortress, including this view of the Capitol of Puerto Rico. View of capitol of Puerto Rico from castle walls

While enjoying a view of the ocean from one of the casements I saw a rainbow form over the water. The weather is usually sunny here this time of year but there were a lot of showers during my visit.rainbow over ocean

The exhibits told the history of how the lives of the  soldiers who defended the fort changed over the years, ending with the American troops who were stationed here in World War II. flags waving in wind

Once again time prevented me from seeing all there was to offer in this spectacular and historic fort.clouds and city view from fort

Hopefully I will get the chance to return to San Juan and visit it again. But there are so many countries to explore and I am running out of time. So I am glad I can share this visit with my blog readers. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the castle. Puerto Rico Day Two Castillo San Cristobal. February 9 2018. clouds over castle

 

On 
My 
Travels 
i have been 
A guest in 
Many castles 
Yet the 
Monument 
Which i 
Find 
Divine 
Is the oasis 
Where the heart 
And the silence 
Intertwine.”

~silent lotus” 
― silent lotus

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: Up Early In San Juan But No Sunrise For Me.

Despite the night long celebrations on San Sabastian Street I slept well my first night in San Juan. I was up before my alarm went off,  hoping to see a sunrise. I thought I could see it near Castillo San Cristobol, the large fort to the east of my hotel. clouds over ocean near walls of fort

Sunrise was around 7 a.m. and I hurried along the wall overlooking the ocean to be on time. Well, as I approached the fort I realized it was obscuring my view to the east and I would never get around it to see the sunrise. narrow San Juan street

Instead I walked back down toward the cruise ship pier again on the narrow cobblestone streets. Christopher Columbus statue old San Juan

I came upon the Plaza Colon where a towering statue of Christopher Columbus overlooks the plaza. The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and gifts shops but there was no activity at this early hour. colorful buildings old San Juan

I made it to the pier where I found a contrast of the old and the new, a  sail ship and a gigantic cruise ship. sail ship and cruise ship in morning sunlight

This is were you can also find more contrast between the old town and the new growth from tourism. There was a Walgreen store next to a Sheraton Hotel,hotels and stores in old San Juan

and there even was a Ralph Lauren store. Philadelphia doesn’t even have one of these anymore. Lot of tourists dollars flow around here. ralph lauren store old San Juan

I meandered through the streets of San Juan observing the colorful buildings and many shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants, of course, closed at this early hour.outdoor cafes in old San Juan

I next  walked back up the steep streets to Norzagaray street were the entrance to my hotel is located. It is the last street along the massive wall that was built to protect the city. graffiti old San Juan

I noticed the many building located below the wall, next to the ocean and remember reading about this residential community, La Perla.La Perla sign along Atlantic Ocean

The guide books I read said to stay clear of this poorer neighborhood, so, of course, I had to visit. I walked through the narrow old gate into the village and found a few folks who were pleasant and friendly.old gate in wall La Perla

The buildings were run down and appeared damaged by the hurricane. Unfortunately it appears many of the residents could not afford to make  repairs.colorful house on street in La Perla

I walked to the ocean and enjoyed watching and listening to the waves crash along the rocky shore.

I also watched a large cruise ship enter San Juan Bay, giving an illusion it would crash into  “El Morro” .cruise ship near "El Morro"

I made my way  up the steep road to Norzgaray Street and back to my hotel. I spent some time exploring it’s many room. All adorned with the art work and sculptures created  by  the owner, Jan. I had  a small breakfast and was soon off for more explorations of the wonderful city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.  Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan morning walk. 

room in Gallery Inn

“Life is an experiment in which you may fail or succeed. Explore more, expect least.” 
― Santosh Kalwar

 

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Fly Eagles Fly! Football, Family And Philly

 

In addition to my love of the outdoors, travel, reading and a lot of other things I  am also an avid Philadelphia Eagles football fan. Have been since I started watching them with my  dad when I was about  six years old. Philadelphia Eagles flag

Well the Eagles made it to the playoffs this year , and my baby brother Mike, also an avid fan,  and I decided to travel  to my favorite city, Philadelphia, to watch the game last weekend. William Penn statute atop City Hall Philadelphia

It was a cold and snowy start here in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday.  The roads were icy and snow covered when we departed. However, we left the snow behind once we drove through the tunnel  under the Blue Mountain.   But we couldn’t escape the cold. It  was sunny and  windy with temperatures in the upper 20’s when we arrived at the DoubleTree  Hotel in downtown  Philadelphia. I love this city. view of Philadelphia skyline from hotel room

We checked into our hotel and, after settling into our room, decided to have lunch in the downtown. My nephew Charles recommended a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from our hotel, El Vez.

We walked the bustling streets of the city and found this popular restaurant. It was a good suggestion as we enjoyed our meal and the company of many Eagles fans getting ready for the big game. We shared an interesting, and delicious crab and cactus taco and I had the sea bass tacos as my main course. Awesome. The food was excellent as was the atmosphere of the restaurant. crab and cactus salsa

After lunch I took a quick walk in the cold brisk Philadelphia sunshine to Rittenhouse Square,  one of my favorite parks in the beautiful City of Brotherly Love.Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia

My love for  this city  began with a visit to the zoo when I was around five years old. It has continued all of my life. I have spent many days walking it’s streets. Still, there is just so much to see and I find something new on every trip to this historic city. . Broad Street and City Hall Philadelphia

Rittenhouse Square did not have the crowds of people who gather here in the warmer months but there was still some folks out and about  on a frigid day in January.  I enjoy watching folks go about there everyday affairs in big cities. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk in Philadelphia.  Walk to Rittenhouse Square. Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia

After a short rest at our hotel my brother and I boarded the express trains in the Philadelphia subway for the ten minute trip to South Philadelphia, the home of the Philadelphia  Eagles. subway Philadelphia

The train cars were packed with excited Eagles fans and there were numerous Eagles chants roaring from the fans on the short trip to the Philadelphia Sports Complex. 

We arrived at the subway stop near the stadium and mingled with  the thousands of fans tailgating in the frigid air or making their way to the Lincoln Financial Field or the “Linc” in the January sunshine. Lincoln Financial Field

The excitement of the Eagles fans was everywhere along the ways.  Philadelphia has the greatest fans in the world,  my humble opinion anyway. 

There was a lot of security  both in the parking lots and at the entrances but fortunately it was not needed. police officer on horse

We entered the stadium and roamed through the crowds, taking in the festive atmosphere. Lincoln Financial Field

As we made our way to our seats once again the reality of the recent loss I have endured  crept into my mind.   I remembered the first time I walked to these seats, It was the night  the stadium opened and I attended the game with my brother-in-law Charles. It was a wonderful experience. Sadly I reflected on those memories realizing he will no longer share them with me. I was again reminded of the emptiness the tragic loss of my sister and her husband has made in my life.  Their loss  will always be with me as I roam this Earth. But I also know they would want me, and the rest of their family, to live and enjoy life. It will not be easy.

I reflected on the past and was thankful to have such good memories.  The excitement of the start of the game soon had me cheering the Eagles with the  70,00 other crazy fans in the stadium. football players on field

It was a close and exciting game but I will admit I was cold. The shouting, applauding and jumping helped a bit but my toes and fingers were still frozen. Lincoln financial Field

We endured the cold and it was worth it. The outcome of the game came down to the final play The Eagles defeated the Atlanta  Falcons by defending our goal line in the final seconds of the game. The stadium erupted when the Falcons failed to score. We endured the cold and it was worth it. We made our way back to the subway and our hotel in the company of crowds of ecstatic Eagles fans. 

After warming up for a few minutes we soon taking a taxi to another restaurant recommended by  my nephew Charlie, Buddakan. We meet his brother, my nephew Brandon, and shared  another  delicious meal and good conversation about family, football and Philly. Statute of Buddha

It was about ten o’clock when we finished eating and my brother Mike and I took a quick walk to Independence  Hall the birthplace of our great Nation. I have been here many times before, at all hours of the day and night, but I still get goosebumps when I stand in this hallowed place. I always reflect on how Jefferson, Franklin and Adams stood in this same spot as the created our Nation. I love this city and it was a perfect way to end a very memorable day. Here is a link to some more photographs from the game. Eagles Game January 13 2018.

Independence Hall lit at night

“Sport is friendship; sport is health, sport is education, sport is life, sport brings the world together.” – Juan Antonio Samaranc

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It’s Still Fall; But More Like Winter At the PPL Wetlands.

The sun, here in the Northern Hemisphere, is still four days away from it’s  farthest position south  on the  horizon.  Which, of course, means the beginning of Winter. Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania   11:28 a.m Thursday December 21 to be exact. snow and ice covered pond

The past few years our  weather has been unusually mild in December. This year, however, it has been colder with temperatures plummeting into the single digits this past week and we had  a few inches of snow. Which made for an early  Winter walk at the PPL Wetlands yesterday. snow covered evergreen plant

The waters of the canals and ponds in the wetlands are no longer covered in green  duckweed . They are now completely covered in ice and snow. snow covered pond

Last week, despite the cold, I was able to see a variety of bird species on my hike. But not a single mammal. This time I was greeted by this female white tailed deer just as I began my walk. white tailed deer in weeds

And it was one of the last mammals I saw on my hike. As I walked through my usual paths along the canals and ponds there was not much wildlife activity. snow covered path

I did come across a few downy or hairy woodpeckers feeding on the berries of the poison ivy vines. It is remarkable how a plant that is so harmful and useless to  humans provides food for the wildlife in Winter. downy or hairy woodpecker eating poison ivy berries

I also saw this male cardinal, another year long resident here at the wetlands.male cardinal in tree

As I walked toward the river lands area of the park I did not see any of the usually plentiful chipmunks. And the few squirrels I saw were very secretive and scurried quickly through the trees. I did start to see some of our birds that remain for the winter such as this bluejay,blue jay in tree

and I believe this was a black-capped chickadee. black capped chickadee in flight

I walked into the riverlands and found that Lake Took-A-While  was also  now frozen over  and snow covered. And a source of food for  blue herons, ducks, geese, cormorants and kingfishers that live here in the summer was gone. frozen snow covered lake

Most of these birds had migrated south but I still saw a few flocks of geese flying overhead, probably from the open waters of the nearby Susquehanna River. Canada geese in flight

But this too may soon be frozen,  as I saw ice already forming on the river. 

I walked back to the wetlands and saw a few more birds on the ways, including a flock of titmice,tufted titmouse on branch

 a red bellied woodpecker,red bellied woodpecker

and this flicker. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my walk. PPL Wetlands birds December 16 2017.flicker on branch

I didn’t find anything interesting or unusual on this hike, as I often do in the Spring and Summer, but it was still nice to get out and see the Winter wonderland of the PPL wetlands and riverlands. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike PPL Wetlands December 16 2017.black-capped chickadee in flight

“Silence can always be broken by the sound

Of footsteps walking over frozen ground
In winter when the melancholy trees
Stand abject and let their branches freeze
” 
― Merrill Mooresnow covered berries

 

 

 

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Valley Forge: A Much Too Short A Visit To Such A Historic Place

I was in the Philadelphia suburbs  this past weekend, attending some Christmas shows with family and had a few free hours on Sunday morning.  Looking for someplace to hike, I decided to visit a park which played a crucial role in our Nation’s history.  It was in second or third grade that I first learned about how General George Washington and his troops endured the hardships of Winter at Valley Forge.tree lined visitor center

I have driven to Philadelphia countless times over the years and had always planned to visit this National Park, and I finally had the opportunity on Sunday.  The park is located about 20 miles from  central Philadelphia. It was cloudy and cold when I arrived at the park.  I first stopped at the  visitor center to learn a little about the history and layout of the park. tree lined visitor center at Valley Forge

I learned from the very helpful staff that there were a number of  automobile routes and hiking  trails in the park. I spent about a half hour reviewing the very informative exhibits about  Washington’s encampment in the Winter of 1777/1778. exhibits and displays at visitor center

There were also many displays of historical artifacts from encampment and the Revolutionary War. I could have spent many hours at the visitors center but I only had a few hours  available and so set out for a quick hike through the park grounds. Revolutionary war rifles on display

I left the parking area and followed what I thought was the trail to Washington’s headquarters.  I walked along the road and immediately noticed the large ancient trees, many of them oak that are found throughout the park. tree lined trail at Valley Forge

I love to see old trees and enjoy walking near them. I also found a few critters that also enjoy them, such as this squirrel, squirrel with nut in tree

and this large hawk that I saw flying overhead. I followed him and was able to capture this photograph of it in one of the large trees. hawk in tree

At first I thought I was on the Joseph Plumb Martin trail but didn’t recognize any of the landmarks on the map. It wasn’t until I saw the National Memorial Arch that I realized I was on a different trail,  County Line Road. National memorial arch at valley forge

I wasn’t disappointed since it was a nice walk and I loved the old trees and scenery. old leafless tree on trail in Valley Forge

I knew I would not have enough time to see all of the sights so I decided to turn onto Gulph road head toward the sight of Washington’s permanent headquarters near the Schuylkill River. Tre lined Gulph road in Valley Forge

I was amazed at the size of many of the red oaks trees along this road and imagined that some of them may have towered over the troops stationed here that cold Winter in  Valley Forge at the founding of our Nation. Here is a link to some  photographs fro my hike. Valley Forge hike part onelarge red oak tree

I walked up a trail to an artillery park where the small cannons used in the Revolutionary war were centrally located in anticipation of a British attack. Fortunately the attack never came.Revolutionary war cannon

Washington spent the Winter training the inexperienced young army and, although they endured many hardships, emerged as a much better fighting force in the Spring. There were replicas of the troops cabins scattered about in this area of the Valley Forge park. 

After inspecting some of the huts and cabins I realized i would not have time to visit the permanent headquarters of General Washington. I had to settle for this monument which marks the locations of the temporary tent headquarters when Washington first marched to Valley Forge. 

As I made my way to the Joseph Plumb Martin trail, I encountered many other folks enjoying the history, natural beauty and scenery of the park on this cool December morning. I  can only imagine how beautiful it is in the Spring and Summer. 

Along the way I came upon this old building at the entrance to an old cemetery .

I stopped in to take a quick peek  at the cemetery and I hope to return to explore this ancient burial ground. 

I finally passed the beautiful Washington Memorial Chapel and again was unable to visit for lack of time. 

The trail back to the visitor center parking lot ran along a busy highway but was still lined with ancient trees. I know it was a short visit to such an important place in our Nation’s history , and this post does not do it  justice, but I hope to return soon for a longer, and more intense exploration of this landmark in our history. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Valley Forge part two. tree lined road Valley Forge

“Our Men have all got comfortably covered in their Huts and Better quarters are not in the World…” Tench Tilghman to John Cadwalader, Valley Forge, 18 January 1778wood casbin at Valley Forge

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Idaho Day Four: Idaho Falls To Salt Lake City, On The Road Again

 After experiencing the total solar eclipse on Monday , I slept well in my budget hotel in Idaho Falls, falling asleep thinking of plans to view the next total eclipse which will be closer to my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2024. Econo lodge room Idaho Falls

I awoke early ,  packed, but before heading to Salt Lake City, I decided to drive to downtown Idaho Falls to take a closer look at the famous falls.Water tower near pond downtown Idaho Falls

I parked at the local library and walked to the river walk along the Snake River. waterfalls on Snake River Idaho Falls Idaho

The sun had not yet risen and it was chilly, in the low 50’s  considering it  was close to 90 degrees  the afternoon the day before. The falls were visible from the start of the river walk.LDS Mormon temple in distance along Snake River Idaho Falls

Even though it was early, around 7 a.m the river walk’s paths  were  busy with walkers, bikers and runners enjoying the beautiful view and unique grass sculptures. There were a number of hotels in the area and I hope to return to this city someday and stay at one of them, within sight and sound of the falls. grizzly bear shrub Idaho Falls Idaho

The sun rose as I was walking across the Snake river  from the LDS Mormon Temple.Sunrise LDS Mormon temple Idaho Falls

Again I wish I had more time to explore and enjoy the city but I had to move on, it was a 3 1/2 hour ride to Salt Lake City and I hoped to visit some sights along the way. So I returned to my hotel, checked out and was on the road again. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk. Morning walk photographs.Snake River falls Idaho falls

I was soon heading south on Interstate 15 and found little traffic on the highway. I enjoyed the passing scenery, many buttes, hills and ridges of the high desert.View of high desert Idaho on Interstate 15

I wanted to get to Salt Lake City early so I would have time to explore the city but I soon made my first detour. I came upon the Shoshone Bannock Casino and saw a sign for a museum. I love museums and I am especially interested in all Native American history and culture. Fort Hall Casino Idaho

Unfortunately, Google maps misdirected me and I drove a few miles out of my way but enjoyed a nice conversation with a member of the local tribe and got to see some of the old building associated with the old fort that was located here. old house at Fort Hall Idaho

I eventually found the museum and spent about a half hour learning about these two Native American tribes and their peaceful co-existence and love of  the land they lived on. Native American couple on horse pack in traditional attire

And also about the sad history of how they were mistreated by the new “immigrants” and how many of the  treaties made with them were  broken.  And, as I have said so many times I wish I had more time to spend in this museum. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the museum. Shoshone-Bannock Museum PhotographsShoshone Bannock tribes insignia

I was back on the highway and made good time until I got into Utah. Road construction slowed me down to almost a dead stop and it took me almost an hour to travel 15 miles. traffic on Interstate 15 Utah

But this is what travel is about, unexpected delays, sights and situations.  Once I was out of the construction I again made good time but was I late in arriving at my next planned stop, Antelope Island, in the Great Salt Lake. Antelope Island Utah welcome sign

I had wanted to visit this famous lake since I first saw a photograph of people floating in it’s salty waters in elementary school. I had come close twice before, once on a cross country trip I took after I graduated from law school. I tried to make it to California but I ran out of money in Jackson Hole Wyoming and had to head home. Salt flats near Great Salt lake utah

I also was planning to visit the lake on another trip across country, in 2011, but torrential rains caused me to change my plans. So I was very excited to finally see this beautiful lake surrounded by mountains . view of Great Salt lake

I would have loved to have had the time to take a swim in the lake , but, wanting to get to Salt lake City, I decided to visit the famous Garr Ranch and the bison that roam this section of the island. view of horses, clouds and mountains near Great Salt Lake

The scenery on the island was spectacular. I would love to return and hike some of the many trails that crisscross the island. Here is a link to some more photographs on Antelope Island. Antelope Island PhotographsBuffalo in grass on Antelope Island

I spent about an hour on the island when I realized my gas tank was almost empty. I mean empty.  There are no gas stations on the island.  I just made it to the first gas station after I left the island  before I ran out of gas . I was on the road , finding heavy traffic again, and watched some rain clouds move in from the south as I neared Salt Lake City. Here is a link to some more photographs from my drive to Salt Lake City.  Drive  from Idaho Falls photographs Highway near Salt lake City Utah

It was now late afternoon, later then I wanted to arrive, and I decided to first check into my hotel near the airport.  I was debating with myself whether I wanted to drive into the downtown traffic to do some sightseeing or just call it a day  since I had a very early flight the next morning. While checking in, the girl at the front desk informed me there was a train from the airport to the downtown. After getting settled in my room I drove to the airport, returned my car, and was soon on the green line train to downtown Salt lake City. inside train car on way to Salt Lake City from airport

It was now raining outside, as our train made the 15 minute ride to Temple Square, making about five stops along the way. View from train on way to downtown Salt Lake City

Fortunately, the rain had stopped as I departed the train and I soon found my way to the famous LDS Mormon Temple. Temple downtown Salt lake City

And the even more famous Tabernacle Building. Mormon Tabernacle building Salt Lake City

I have enjoyed so much wonderful music performed by the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir and it was truly a joy to sit in this building. Organ and interior of Mormon Tabernacle Salt Lake City

I walked around the beautiful grounds of Temple Square and was impressed by the many beautiful displays of flowers which were planted everywhere. flowers on Temple Square Salt lake City

The grounds were crowded with visiting Mormons, tourists and even local folks, like this couple who found the lake and surrounding gardens as a good place for wedding photographs.Couple posing for wedding photographs Temple Square

It was getting late, and starting to rain again and I decided to eat in one of the few restaurants on the Temple Square grounds and was pleased to have chosen the Roof  Restaurant and it’s spectacular views of the Temple. 

And the food, served buffet style was very good too. I ate way too much, and I think I am still walking off the many delicious desserts I sampled. Here is a link to some more photographs from my dinner at the Roof Restaurant. Roof Restaurant photographs. desserts at Roof restaurant Salt lake city

After dinner, I made my way back to the train stop in a light rain, and after a short ride to the airport, I was picked up and returned to my hotel. I finished packing and was soon asleep since I had an early flight.

I was up early the next morning, at the airport and soon,  heading home. I  hope  to see, at least one more during ,my lifetime , one of the most amazing natural phenomena that occurs on our planet, a total eclipse of the sun. It is amazing. Here is a link to some more photographs from my brief visit to downtown Salt lake City.  Temple Square photographs.

“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.” 
― Amit Ray,

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My First Total Solar Eclipse And AWEsome It Was

I guess the way to begin this post is to say the total solar eclipse I experienced was not what I expected. I had visions of the moon bringing total midnight darkness to the middle of  day. Not how it happened. I t happened very differently  but still so awesome. More on this later but now first on  how and where I got to  observe it. corona of sun during total eclipse

I was up early in my $387 dollar a night Econo Lodge in Idaho Falls. Actually, although overpriced for the eclipse I had a  nice clean room and the staff was very friendly and  welcoming.  I was up early, around 5 a.m. and worked on a blog post until sunrise, around 7 a.m. here in southern Idaho, had a coffee and some oatmeal and was on the road heading north to Rexburg, a town in the path of the longest totality of the eclipse. highway with no traffic Idaho Falls

I was surprised to find so little traffic, with the reports of traffic jams in Oregon and warnings from park rangers to avoid traffic and stay at my hotel and watch it. cars at parking lot southern butte Rexburg Idaho

I, of course, wasn’t taking this advice and, after talking with a few local photographers I met, took their suggestions that anything in the Rexburg area and particularly two buttes west of the city, would be the best place to view the eclipse.  I was told I may not get there with the traffic but I was surprised to find  my way to the town Menan and it’s two buttes with very little traffic.parking lot northern Menan Butte Idaho

There were two buttes the first I reached was private and they were charging $40 dollars to park. I was told the northern Butte was the better location so I drove on and found a large parking lot and no fee to park.parking lot Northern Menan Butte Idaho

There  were a lot of vehicles, buses and campers but no were near what I was expecting. I arrived early, around 8:30 am and decided to hike the northern Menan Butte before the moon arrived to block the sun.trail to Northern Menan butte summit Idaho

The local Idaho officials sure went out of their  way to accommodate the visitors. Police directed and slowed traffic, fire fighters and emergency folks were at the ready and rangers provided water, eclipse glasses and information about the eclipse and the natural environment of the butte. emergency tent at solar eclipse

I began my walk up the butte, were many folks were going to observe the eclipse.  Canadian couple waiting for solar eclipse

I decided, on my way to the summit, that after my climb, I would set up near this group of photographers and astronomers, who had the big cameras and telescopes, and observe the eclipse. photographers at Menan Butte Idaho for total solar eclipse

I walked up the sandy, slippery and rocky path to the summit of the butte, having to admit I took a few breaks along the way. trail sign for Menan Butte at solar eclipse

Aside from a few birds, including a hawk, the only critter I saw on my hike  was this beetle. beetle on ground on trail

There was a steady stream of climbers, of all ages, and from all over the country and world. trail up to Menan Butte summit

I was glad to see the many families struggling up the winding paths with their children, with some dedicated fathers even carrying infants. trail up to Menan Butte summit

The hike took about and 45 minutes to reach the top and I enjoyed the view on some rocks near the summit.View from atop Menan Butte summit Idaho

It was a much easier,  and quicker,  hike back down the butte and I returned to my car around 10:15 am. , 15 minutes before the eclipse was to begin. View from atop Menan Butte Idaho summit

I heard the excited voices of some Asian tourists shouting it had begun and put on my protective glasses to watch the moon begin it’s two hour journey across the face of the sun.  I took this photograph of some of the many folks who climbed the butte to watch the eclipse. People atop Menan Butte Idaho watching total solar eclipse

I walked over to the group of photographers and set up my camera equipment. I am not, by any means, a professional photographer, I let the cameras do the work fir me, and was worried I had purchased an incorrect eclipse lens. I did take a few photos of the start of the eclipse with this being the best result .Moon starting to eclipse sun

I spent the next hour taking peak at the ever diminishing disc of the sun through my protective glasses and watching a slight change in the intensity of the sunlight.moon eclipsing solar disc

It was amazing how, even at 95% of coverage of the solar disc, the intensity of the suns rays were still blinding without the glasses. Folks in the group next to me did  notice a change in the shadows cast by the diminished sunlight,shadow cast during total solar eclipse

and there was a slight noticeable change in the lighting  in the landscape.lanndcape during start of total solar eclipse

However at totality everything changed so quickly. It was wonderful and magical. view of sun during total solar eclipse

The skies rapidly darkened  and the sun became a black hole in the sky surrounded by a halo of bright light. It was amazing..view of total solar eclipse

Mars and Mercury appeared and a red sky, as seen on the eastern horizon at sunrise, and the western horizon at sunset, ringed the entire horizon. I was glad I was on the flat plains of Idaho to  view of horizon during total solar eclipseobserve it. 

There were shouts of joy from the group of people around me, dogs barked and babies cried. The temperature dropped and I reached for my IPhone to take this video, which can be seen on my YouTube channel at this link https://youtu.be/k0M_iZCyGv0I also reached for one of my cameras, my Canon 5D Mark III and took this and a few other photographs. 

The two minutes of totality went so fast,  I didn’t get a chance to take  any landscape photographs of the butte as I planned and I missed seeing some of the stars other folks near me said thy had seen. It never good totally dark, just a late twilight feeling. Still something you could never really exactly describe without experiencing it. 

It was a truly remarkable experience, but if I could do it over, and when I see my next one in 2024, I will  spend more time enjoying it and not try to video or photograph this fantastic cosmic event.  Here is a link to some more photographs of my visit to Menan Butte to watch the eclipse. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-Three-Solar-Eclipse-At-Menan-Butte-August-21-2017

As soon as the shadow moon  moved  just past the sun it once again became bright and you now again had to use the eclipse glasses to watch the event. After about ten minutes I decided to leave this area and get to the highway to finish watching the eclipse there, in hopes of avoiding traffic. Unfortunately, the local police directed me, and others with the same idea, in a northerly direction where we ran into a lot of traffic. I decided to try a shortcut from looking at Google maps on my IPhone but soon came to a dead end.

A local resident explained to me that my best bet would to re-trace my path and make my way to the major highway. I did and found the major highway route 20 with traffic at a standstill. All back roads heading south were also congested. 

I decided to head back to the nearest town Rexburg, which to find something to eat and explore the town until the traffic subsided.  I found traffic in the town to be heavy and all of the restaurants with long lines of folks doing the same thing as me. I waited in line at a Thai restaurant where I had a nice lunch. 

After lunch I walked the streets of Rexburg for a bit and got back on Route 20 for my journey back to Idaho Falls. It was congested, but moving traffic for 15 of the 20 mile trip but traffic stalled again 5 miles from my hotel. I once again took to the back roads and this time did find my way to the hotel after driving some rural roads. 

It was late afternoon when I arrived, and after a meal at a nearby Mexican restaurant I was back at my hotel. With a long day planned early in the morning I was soon fell asleep reflecting on the marvelous eclipse I had experienced and thinking about plans to observe the next, visible much closer to my home in Pennsylvania in 7 years. Here is a link to some more photographs from my drive back to the hotel. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-Three-Drive-to-hotel-August-21-2017 

 

Nothing is there beyond hope
Nothing that can be sworn impossible
Nothing wonderful, since Zeus,
Father of the Olympians
Made night from mid-day
Hiding the bright sunlight
And sore fear came upon men.
[Perhaps written having seen the eclipse of 6 Apr 648 BC.] 

 

 

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Total Eclipse Of The Sun: The Journey Begins. Utah And Idaho Are Beautiful States.

As a child, my first interest in the sky and stars was when my dad took me outside on a cool, clear July night and showed me the Milky Way. I fell in love with the stars and spent many clear nights observing the stars, moon and planets. . So when I heard there would be a total eclipse of our star, I knew I had to see it. So I mad plans to head to Idaho to make sure. Idaho has some of the least cloudy skies in the country. I began my trip early Saturday morning from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton airport. airplane at airport

It was a nice flight, with a short layover in Detroit and I spent it like I always do, watching thee changing landscape pass beneath me and thinking about the folks who live there and how they live their lives. This trip was a bit more comfortable since the seat next to me was empty. Why couldn’t that happen on my trip to Australia.  Here is a link to some photographs I took from the plane. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-One-Airplane-photos-August-19-2017-landscape from airplane

I landed in Salt Lake City around 10:00 am and I was soon in my rental SUV, a Highlander, heading north on the scenic highways of Utah. The traffic was very heavy until I reached Ogden. highway in Utah

I was hungry and stopped in the tiny town of Tremonton where is was surprised to see the large corn fields growing in the dry hot climate. The temperatures were near 90 and the grass along the interstate highway was parched.cornfields and mountains in Utah

I found a tiny restaurant, J. C.’s Country  Diner where I stopped  to have a very hearty and delicious breakfast and enjoyed some wonderful conversation with my waitress , some local folks and the owner.  My waitress convinced me to try the local corn and I did. It was awesome. small diner in Utah

I continued my journey, with surprisingly, light traffic through the mostly desolate countryside. I heard reports of traffic jams in Oregon but none so far on my journey. desolated building in Utah

I entered Idaho and continued through the “high desert” country wishing I had more time to explore but I had over three hours of driving to get to Twin Falls and I had a few stops planned on the way. highway sign  into Idaho

The first was in the small town of Hazelton Idaho. I first became aware of this town in elementary school when looking up my home town of Hazleton in an atlas.sign about Hazelton Idaho

I always wanted to visit and today I did stopping for some  fuel, coffee for me and gas for the car. buildings in Hazelton Idaho

I took a quick walk through the quiet town wondering if any of the folks ever thought about the other Hazleton. Some cool old buildings and this old truck  along the streets of this small town.old white truck Hazelton Idaho

I now drove through areas cultivated by irrigation from the Snake River and saw crops of corn, soy beans and I am not sure what this is, I think Swiss chard. crops being irrigated in Idaho

And of course potatoes. potato crops in Idaho

And there were some other interesting sights. Seeing this tin man reminded me I was not in Pennsylvania anymore .tin man sculpture Idaho

I drove to the tiny town of hunt to visit the location of a darker part of our Country’s history, the Minidoka Japanese Internment Camp. Internment building Minidako camp Idaho

As I walked past the guard tower I couldn’t help be reminded of my recent visit to Auschwitz and the horrors that occurred there. Fortunately our Nation is a Nation of laws and even though is was wrong to round up these United States citizens, they were not mistreated, and  our Government did try and provide them, pretty much everything  but what is most important, their freedom.  It was still far too high a price for these Americans to pay. guard tower Minidako Idaho

I will try and do another blog post on my visit here but two things occurred on my walk I would like to mention, first, I saw a hawk in the sky, and too a few photos. I checked the photos and discovered I had my close up setting on the camera. Disappointed I looked up and saw a sky filled with the majestic birds. A birder Facebook friend identified them as Swainson Hawks. hawk in flight

I was amazed at watching these birds soar through the sky, and as I walked along the replicate barbed wire fence I thought of the imprisoned Japanese Americans and somehow felt this was some of the departed saying they are now free. barbed wire fence

Then as I walked along the fence I noticed a dragonfly. It hovered around me and then alight on the barbed wire. Again an interesting sign, I will say more in my post on my visit but for now here is a link to some photographs I took on my walk. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-One-Minidoka-August-19-2017dragonfly on barbed wire

I left the camp and it was not later than I planned almost 4:00 pm. I did not arrive at my hotel, a Quinta Lodge in Twin Falls until almost 5:00 pm and found my room was still not ready. I decided to talk a quick walk to the Snake River Canyon rim and was treated to a spectacular view of the river. Here is a link to some more photographs from my drive to Twin Falls. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-One-Travel-to-twin-Falls-August-19-2017-Snake River Idaho

I  hadn’t known a lot about this area and soon learned much of the history at the visitor center. Bridge over Snake River

I was tired and hungry and finally checked into my room after 6:00. After unpacking, recharging my electronics and taking a quick hot shower, I drove over to a nice restaurant Elevation 486.Snake river idaho

Unfortunately, the restaurant was crowed and I couldn’t get a seat with a view but I still had a nice meal and then wandered along the canyon rim for a while before I drove back to my hotel.  I think I was sleeping in ten minutes. It was a long day but it was sure great to be back on the road. Glad you were able to come along. Here is a link to some more photographs taken after diner at the canyon rim. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-One-evening-at-Snake-River-rim-August-19-2017Snake river

 

Adventure is worthwhile.”- Aristotle

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