The Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to “explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden. Just as all of us can oscillate between conformity and individualism, allow your photo to do the same.”
Here are some photos of anonymous people in crowds I’ve encountered in my travels.
Wednesday, January 31: It’s that time again – our January cocktail hour! 🙂 Please, come in out of the cold and make yourselves comfortable. I’m so glad the holidays are behind us and we can get back to the routines of everyday life. I would offer you a cocktail, my current favorite being a cucumber jalapeno margarita, but the ice maker in our two-year-old refrigerator has inexplicably stopped making ice. So, it’s either wine or beer. For those of you who don’t drink, I have sodas and seltzer water of various flavors. Or milk. There’s always milk. 🙂
I hope January has been good to you so far. Have you played in snow, gone skiing, ridden dog sleds or stayed in igloos? Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you learned anything new? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you started planning your adventures for the year? Have you had any winter getaways? Have you sung along with any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you undertaken any new exercise routines?
Our first two weeks of January in northern Virginia were wicked, with temps below freezing. A few light snowfalls made for icy messes outdoors. Although I’d made all kinds of exercise-related resolutions, I just couldn’t bring myself to crawl out from under my furry white blanket and leave my house. Mike has taken to calling me his Japanese snow monkey because he’s only seen peeks of my pink face enveloped in a swirl of white hair and fuzzy blanket. No matter. This cozy position under my blanket has been conducive to reading, as I finished 7 of my 45-book goal for the year. Of these, I especially enjoyed The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Whistling Past the Graveyard, and Follies.
The most rewarding and challenging thing I’ve been doing is preparing for my 2018 adventures. I have the following plans up my sleeve:
A road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: March 2-4 (a three-day weekend).
A road trip to the Four Corners area, the only point in the USA where four states come together: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. I plan to take a solo road trip to Colorado, visit my son in Denver and do some hikes there with him, then go on my way to visit Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Hoventweep National Monument, Four Corners Monument Navajo Tribal Park, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. If Alex could come with me for part of it, I’d be thrilled, but as he has to work, he may not be able to. Logistics will be tough, because I don’t want to drive him back to Denver once I leave there. I would also love it if my daughter Sarah or my sister Stephanie could join me for any part of the trip, but they have so many obligations, I’m not sure it’s possible. Mike does plan to join me for some parts of the trip, ending back in Denver, but we haven’t yet worked out those logistics either. I imagine the whole trip will take at least three weeks; I plan to do it in April.
A 4-5/day road trip to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY, possibly crossing the border into Ontario in late June. I might be able to meet my friend Mona Lisa for some part of this trip.
The pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I want to do the route that most pilgrims do: the Camino Francés (The French Way), from St. John-Pied-du-Port to Santiago de Compostela (769 km) or nearly 500 miles. I imagine it will take me at least 6 weeks, possibly longer, as I don’t plan to do it as a race! After I finish the walk, Mike plans to meet me in Santiago and we’ll visit Porto, Lisbon and Sintra in Portugal for our 30th anniversary. I even have an idea about renting bicycles in Santiago de Compostela and riding with Mike to Cape Finesterre, known in Roman times as the end of the world, but I haven’t researched yet whether that’s possible. I hope to do this in September-October.
I love preparing for trips as much as taking them. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far:
I attended a talk about the Camino by a fellow named Don Shaw at REI last night (luckily the talk made me miss the State of the Union Address, but I planned to boycott it anyway). He’s done the Camino five times using different routes. It turns out that he is also hosting a potluck at his house this Saturday to which I’ve already RSVP’d. He started the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino, which I joined in December. We have our first Camino group hike (8.6 miles) on Sunday, February 25.
Luckily, REI allows you to try out hiking boots and then return them if they cause discomfort. I bought a pair of size 8 Oboz Sawtooth low BDry boots and I wore them for a five-mile walk. My toes were hitting the end and my feet were killing me, so I’ve decided to return them. Last night, I bought a pair of Keen Targhee low boots in size 8 1/2 and walked in them today. They felt better, but I did feel my size 7 1/2 feet were sliding around in them a bit. I’ve been told that whatever boots I get, I need to put 100km on them BEFORE I do the Camino. So I need to commit to a pair and get busy walking!
I have stared increasing my walking distance as it has thawed outside. It’s not very inviting outside, as you can see from a walk on the Cross County Trail in early January. Drab, snowy, mottled and dirty, with mostly dingy skies: days like these simply don’t entice.
Cross County Trail
Cross County Trail
Cross County Trail
Cross County Trail
Cross County Trail
Walking in sub-freezing temperatures isn’t much fun, although a bit of blue sky does ease the pain.
I started an aerobics class to whip other parts of my body into shape: upper body, core, lower body. I’ve also asked my son to draw up a fitness plan of calisthenics and weight lifting to build strength to carry a 16-20lb backpack.
I’ve also finished planning our Pittsburgh trip and am reading now about The Four Corners area. I’ll write more about my planning on those later.
Family, photo outings, and restaurants:
Sarah went to her dad’s for Christmas, so even after we took our Christmas tree down, her pile of presents still sat in a pile in the corner of our living room. Laden with gifts, I visited her in Richmond on the 19th. She has been busy doing freelance work for Richmond Magazine, and she had an article due, so she couldn’t spend much time with me. Before I showed up at her house, I wandered through Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden so I could get my winter dose of color.
I especially enjoyed the cacti and succulent collection is on display in the West Wing of the Conservatory.
cacti and succulents
cacti and succulent collection
plants in the West Wing
plants in the West Wing
cacti and succulent collection
cacti and succulents
cacti and succulents
cacti and succulents
In the central Palm House, I enjoyed the palm and cycad collection.
palm and cycad
palm and cycad
palm and cycad
palm and cycad
palm and cycad collection
tropical plants in the Palm House
And in the semi-tropical East Wing, I wandered through tropical plants, including the orchid collection.
the semi-tropical East Wing
Outside, I walked through Asian Valley, which displays plants native to Asia and offers a place for quiet contemplation.
wicked witch on the Woodland Walk
When I arrived at Sarah’s, we enjoyed a glass of wine while she opened her presents (lots of cookbooks and a toaster oven), and then we went out to dinner at Sabai, which serves authentic Thai street food. Sitting at the bar, we shared an appetizer of Larb Gai: minced chicken seasoned with red onions, lemongrass, Thai chilies, basil, and mint in a spicy lime dressing. Sarah ordered Koa Soi Gai: Northern Thai style curry with bone-in chicken and egg noodles served with pickled mustard greens, red onions and spicy chili lime oil. And I ordered Pad Se Ew: Flat rice noodles stir-fried with egg, black bean sauce, shrimp and broccoli. The atmosphere was lively and the food was delicious.
drink at Sabai
Sabai – at the bar
Pad Se Ew
Koa Soi Gai
As for the rest of the family, Alex moved successfully to Denver and is trying to adjust to his new life there. Adam is working long hours at his job and, surprisingly, he loves it. It’s good to see him so busy and so enthused about work. As for me, I’ve been still attending Al-Anon and keeping the focus on myself, as no one else is my business (I keep having to remind myself of that). Overall, I’m thankful that everything is good for the moment. Taking life one day at a time.
Urban hikes & museum-going:
Mike and I did an urban hike in downtown D.C., stopping first at the Renwick Gallery. Our goal was to see the exhibit of miniature crime scenes called “Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” The exhibit was packed and the crime scenes so small that it was impossible to see anything. So instead, we just walked around the gallery, enjoying the other exhibits.
While waiting in a fast-moving line, we walked past The Blair House, the home of Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), founder and editor of The Globe (1830-1845), a newspaper which championed democratic causes and vigorous journalism notably during the administration of President Andrew Jackson in whose “kitchen cabinet” Blair loyally served.
At the end of this post are descriptions of the places, statues and art we encountered today. If you’re interested in them, you can read about them based on the picture captions.
I loved this fabulous Monopoly game made with fired clay.
I love this delicate piece that evokes a quiet forest in Japan.
Notice – Forest (Autumn)
Notice – Forest (Autumn)
The Renwick has a fabulous variety of art and installations.
Untitled #192 – burdock burrs & apple wood
Woman and Child
Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery
After the Renwick, it was quite a hike to the National Gallery of Art.
General Casimir Pulaski
Typewriter Eraser, Scale X
Puellae (Girls) by Magdalena Abakanowicz
ice rink in the Sculpture Garden
Aurora by di Mark Suvero
At the National Gallery of Art, our goal was to see the exhibit “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry.” How foolish it was to attempt to see such an exhibit on the last day it was open. Hundreds of people were in a long snaking line curled all around the perimeter of the museum. Instead of standing in that line, we opted to drop in on a small Edvard Munch exhibit.
Man’s Head in Woman’s Hair
Head by Head
Across the hall, we also dropped in on another small exhibit: “Posing for the Camera.” Many photographers were featured, but I especially loved two by Lee Friedlander of the photographer and his wife.
Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California
After this, we left by way of the fountain and began our trek back to the Renwick.
On our way back, we stopped for tapas and wine at Jaleo, one of my favorite D.C. restaurants.
As we continued on our way after lunch, we passed by the SunTrust Bank headquarters, where I used to work (the bank was called Crestar at the time) as a credit analyst.
I share the sentiments of this protester!
Movies & plays
As for movies, we haven’t been to many this month, mainly because we didn’t feel like going out in the cold. We loved The Post, which told the story of how The Washington Post, and the press in general, went up against the U.S. government during the Vietnam war over the Pentagon Papers. The press, a vital pillar of our democracy, is under attack these days by our divider-in-chief, so I’m happy when the press wins over the government. Especially in the case of Vietnam, the government lied to the American people for years; it was the press that finally revealed to the public the extent of those lies. The audience, a full house, cheered at the end of the movie.
Another movie we saw on Netflix was a quiet Japanese movie called Sweet Bean, which told of a doryaki pastry maker who hired a 76-year-old woman and the relationship that grew between them. I love Japanese movies for their delicate portrayal of human emotion.
Finally, at the end of the month, we went to a matinée showing at Theater J of Everything Is Illuminated; the play was based on the book of the same title by Jonathan Safran Foer. The main character goes to Ukraine in search of a woman who possibly saved his grandfather during the Holocaust. Some parts were hilarious, some sad; we loved it overall.
Then we went to Logan Tavern for a delicious early dinner. I took a picture of the Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup, but I was so hungry, I didn’t think to take pictures of my Trumpet Mushroom ‘Risotto:” cauliflower and squash “risotto”, chimichurri, fig balsamic, & crispy Parmesan. It was so delicious, I polished it off in one fell swoop.
I’ve been reading a lot, working on my memoir, and still trying to catch up on editing pictures and blogging about all my travels to Japan and Czech Republic. I haven’t begun to write about my solo trip to Cape May, NJ and Mike’s and my trip to Nashville, TN in December!
I hope you’ll tell me what you’ve been up to in January. I can’t wait to hear of your plans for the year, as well as your everyday lives and what you make of them. 🙂
Here are some of the details about the art shown above, as taken from signs at the museums, unless stated otherwise:
The Final Stop by Rick Araluce. Visitors find themselves transported to an anonymous subway station, an eerie subterranean world nestled within the gallery, where flickering lights and distant rumblings suggest the passage of trains and cavernous tunnels seemingly stretch for miles.
Parallax Gap by architects David Freeland and Brennan Buck. To create Parallax Gap, nine ceilings from iconic works of American architecture were drawn, printed at large-scale, and then suspended in layers above the Renwick’s Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon. The architects have challenged the medium’s typical role by transforming their drawings from two-dimensional illustrations to three-dimensional installations.
Shadow of Amboseli (2016) by Wendy Maruyama.
Monopoly (2007)- paint and ink on unfired clay by Kristen Morgin: Morgin’s illusionistic sculptures resemble found objects weathered by time, but they are in fact meticulously crafted assemblages made from unfired clay. Inspired by abandoned objects from people’s pasts, she investigates age, nostalgia, and value in culture – themes rooted in the mythology of the American Dream.
Notice – Forest (Autumn) 2002 – McDonald’s Neverland paper bag and colored pencil by Yuken Teruya born Okinawa, Japan. Teruya transforms paper bags into magical tableaux. He cuts the silhouette of a tree into one side, then bends the paper inward to seemingly take root, leaving the lacy holes above to evoke mottled sunlight. Teruya’s reuse of these discarded materials memorializes the trees in ingenious floating worlds and suggests a cycle of renewal.
Untitled #192 (1989) burdock burrs and apple wood by John McQueen.
Woman and Child (2002) by Akio Takamori, born Nobeoka Miyazaki, Japan 1950.
Raft (1997) by William Morris.
General Casimir Pulaskiis a bronze equestrian statue at Freedom Plaza,13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Pulaski immigrated to North America to help with the American Revolutionary War. He distinguished himself throughout the revolution, most notably when he saved George Washington’s life. Pulaski became a general in the Continental Army and reformed the American cavalry as a whole. At the Battle of Savannah, while leading a daring charge against British forces, he was gravely wounded, and died shortly thereafter (Wikipedia: Casimir Pulaski).
At the National Gallery of Art
Edvard Munch: Man’s Head in Woman’s Hair: It is unclear whether the woman is imagined by the man, or if the man’s head floating in the woman’s hair is a figment of her mind…Perhaps she is thinking of him sympathetically, or he is recalling a woman he encountered. One figure conjures the image of the other, producing the image of the thought.
Lee Friedlander: Los Angeles: Friedlander and his new bride, Maria, seem eager to embark on their journey together through life.
Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California: Maria Friedlander candidly wrote in the introduction to her husband’s 2004 book, Family: “There are no photographs of arguments and disagreements, of the times when we were rude, impatient, and insensitive parents, of frustration, of anger strong enough to consider dissolving the marriage… a book of pictures doesn’t tell the whole story.” Nevertheless, she concluded, Friedlander’s pictures are about “the celebration of the small moment that only Lee saw. [They are] Lee’s gift to me of my own private memoir in pictures. I look at it and feel the moments both revealed and evoked, the joy and the hard times – it’s all there.”
The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme challenges us to find the endless variety that one thing can contain. Here is my take on vintage signs on the Jersey Shore. These were taken in winter, when most of the places were quite deserted.
Thursday, December 28: It’s time for our December cocktail hour, so please, come in out of the cold and get cozy. Though Christmas is behind us, I can still offer up some holiday cheer, possibly a classic eggnog (will it be bourbon or rum?), a cranberry mimosa, a pomegranate Moscow mule, or just some red wine. For those of you who don’t drink, I have sodas and seltzer water of various flavors.
You may wonder why I’m even serving alcohol in my house. Maybe you’re even wondering if our alcoholic has been miraculously cured. No, because once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. It’s just that I’m slowly but surely learning that I must live my life as I see fit, that I cannot fix another person or make them into what I want them to be. I’m trying hard to let go and let live, and simply to move forward, one day at a time, asking for help from my “higher power.” Someone recently told me something wise: I have my higher power (however I choose to define that power). My son has his own higher power, and I’M NOT IT. Even though I like to think I can see clearly how to fix his problems, I have to let go and let him make his own decisions, even if they’re detrimental. Mainly, I need to work on myself, and figure out what I can change and what I can’t. What I can change is myself, and what I can’t change is everyone else.
I hope December has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you had any winter getaways? Have you encountered any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you embarked on any new endeavors? Have you been drinking enough water?
Over Thanksgiving, my daughter encouraged me to add an app to my phone to calculate how much water I should drink every day; it helps keep track of how much I actually drink. It’s called Plant Nanny, and I’m happy to say, I’ve been drinking more water than ever because of it. Normally, I have been drinking about one tall glass of water a day, mainly because I never get naturally thirsty, so I never think about it. I also don’t like to drink water because when I do, I’m always running to the bathroom! But now, since Thanksgiving, I’ve been doing pretty well. I don’t always drink the 6 large containers a day I’m supposed to, but I usually get to five, a big improvement. 🙂
I’ve been keeping track of area hikes organized by the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group. I ended up joining a 7.7 mile hike around Burke Lake on Saturday, December 2 with a fun group. I met a lady named Susan who has walked the Camino de Santiago. She belongs to a group called the American Pilgrims on the Camino – Mid-Atlantic Chapter. She told me about an event scheduled for Saturday, the 9th: a hike followed by a wine-tasting. I was thrilled to learn about this group and am now on their mailing list. The group is for anyone who has ever done the Camino or who wants to do the Camino.
Susan is the lady in the green jacket. Sadly, it turned out the Camino group hike on the 9th was cancelled because of snow and, since that was the group’s last event of the year, I’ll have to wait until they start meeting again in 2018.
On Sunday, the 3rd, Mike and I went to a special showing of a Belgian movie called Sum of Histories. It was being shown on this one Sunday as a pilot to see if American audiences would like it. The director and producer hope to release it in the U.S. next year. The director talked to the audience about the movie after we watched it. I loved it. It was about two professors who figured out how to send emails back in time. Rather than attempting to change big historical events, they send an email to alter what happened to one of the professor’s wives; she had been paralyzed by an accident as a child and he wanted to change what happened to her so she would live a normal life. It shows the domino effect that changes in the past have on the present and future, and how messing with the past can have unforeseen consequences.
Thursday, December 7 was Adam’s 25th birthday, and though we’d hardly seen him since our big altercation the previous week, I asked him if he’d eat his favorite fruit pizza if I made it. He said he would, so Mike and I took him out to dinner at Artie’s and then presented him with the fruit pizza. This has been his favorite treat since I started making it when he was a child. It has a sugar cookie dough crust topped with whipped cream & sugar, and various fruits, including strawberries, raspberries, bananas, crushed pineapple, and blueberries.
When he ordered a beer at dinner, I didn’t flinch. I’m no longer going to comment or even act like I notice when he drinks. I realize now it doesn’t help for me to try to control him, but I can remove myself if a situation gets uncomfortable for me. It was fine, and we all actually had a nice time together.
I continued taking my 3 mile walks. Scenes below are from a walk around Lake Newport and Lake Anne in Reston. I call it my two lakes walk. You can see it’s getting pretty drab and gloomy here these days.
When we had a snowfall on December 9, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a little snow on the bushes.
On another late afternoon walk, I found a beautiful sunset. I love the spindly silhouettes of winter trees against the pink-tinged sky.
trees at sunset
trees in my neighborhood
a tangle of trees
From December 12-14, I went on a solo mini-escape to Cape May, New Jersey. It was about a 4-hour drive. I think I must have picked the most miserable days of the year to go. It was about 33F degrees, near 0C, and fiercely blustery. The wind assaulted me with a vengeance as I walked around the town and on a trail at Cape May Point State Park. It didn’t let up at night, where I stayed on the third floor of the Pink Cottage, but groaned and hissed and sent the house swaying, shutters banging, all night. I was freezing with the small wall heating unit in the room, insufficient heat for this kind of weather. The second night, I luckily found a space heater in the closet, which helped. I loved this little getaway, as I always enjoy a solo road trip. 🙂 I’ll write more about this trip in January.
The Pink Cottage at Cape May
The Red Cottage at Cape May
My hike around Cape May Point State Park was wonderful and invigorating, but my fingers, toes and cheeks were stinging in the icy wind.
Cape May Point State Park
Cape May Point State Park
Cape May Point State Park
Memorial to Fishermen Lost At Sea, Cape May
On December 17, as we approached the winter solstice, I took another walk through the woods. It had become more drab and gloomy than it was in early December. That same evening, Mike and I went to see the Swiss movie, The Divine Order, about a young housewife who organizes the women in her small town to petition for the right to vote. We enjoyed it.
the woods in winter
the drab woods
the gravel trail
At least there were some glorious sunsets.
We’ve still been watching Longmire, Easy, A Place to Call Home, Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Ken Burns documentary on The Vietnam War, all of which we are enjoying.
Finally, we celebrated Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we went for a fabulous dinner and gift exchange at my sister-in-law’s house, which, as always, was beautifully decorated.
My sister-in-law’s mantle
close up of mantle
The table setting
beautiful ornament display
We should be better at taking pictures of the whole family on Christmas, but all we managed to get was a picture of Mike and me.
On Christmas Day, we opened gifts, ate my traditional Christmas brunch, and then played Rummikub, a game we found under the tree from Santa. We had a wonderful day all around.
On Wednesday, December 27, Mike and I took off on a road trip (10 hour drive) to Nashville, Tennessee. I’ll have to write more about this trip in 2018.
Alex, our oldest son, is taking off on December 30 to start a new phase of his life in Denver, Colorado. He has a friend there with whom he’ll share an apartment, and he already has a job lined up. I’ll be sad not to see him as much, but I hope it will be a good move for him, a fresh start.
In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy New Year and I’ll see you again in twenty-eighteen. 🙂
Sunday, November 26: Today is sunny but brisk, a perfect hiking day, so Mike and I take a trip to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for a post-Thanksgiving hike. Sarah and Alex went back to Richmond on Saturday and Adam is at work, so we have the day to ourselves.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is similar to the Four Corners area in the southwest USA, except that only three states come together: West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. Here at Harpers Ferry, the three states don’t actually touch, but are separated by the Potomac River and the Shenandoah Rivers, which merge here to form one channel. In the Four Corners, four states (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) meet at a single point. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes nearly 4,000 acres of land in Jefferson County, West Virginia; Washington County, Maryland, and Loudoun County, Virginia.
Today we will be walking in Maryland on the The Maryland Heights Trail. Before we leave the house, Mike proposes we walk the entire circuit on a map he’d printed out. There are two routes on the trail. You can choose one or both, and he hopes to do both. Since I’ve never been here and don’t know anything about it, I agree that it sounds reasonable, although I’m a little hesitant as my original plan was to go for about a 2 hour hike and then go out for lunch on our way home.
The Overlook Cliff Trail is 2.8 miles, or 2 hours round-trip from the trail head. The Stone Fort Trail is a loop that branches off the main trail and is 4.7 miles, 3 hours round-trip. Both of these distances are from the trail head, so the total distance is less as the Combined Trail is included in both sections. Mike estimates if we do both the Overlook Cliff Trail and the Stone Fort Trail, it will be 5.3 miles, or 3-3 1/2 hours. Since we don’t get to the trail head until 11:00 a.m., if we follow Mike’s plan, we won’t be able to eat lunch until 2:30 or 3:00. I don’t know if I want to eat that late!
There are only two small parking lots near the trail head to Maryland Heights, and we manage to squeeze in on the edge of one. We leave the car teetering precariously, two wheels on the asphalt and two perched on a couple of boulders in a kind of small gully. We cross the old canal to the towpath, where we walk a bit along the Potomac River to the other parking lot.
The park was declared a National Historical Park by the U.S. Congress in 1963 and includes the historic town of Harpers Ferry, notable as a center of 19th-century industry and as the scene of John Brown’s abolitionist uprising. John Brown (1800–1859) believed that armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States (Wikipedia: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park).
We reach the trail head, crossing the canal and the road to begin our ascent.
The hike promises spectacular scenery, geology, Civil War and transportation history.
The first bend on this combined trail offers a nice view of the Potomac. The trail is a continual ascent, with no flat areas at all.
Veering off the Combined Trail, we stop by the 1862 Naval Battery. Positioned 300 feet above the Potomac River, the Naval Battery was the first Union fortification on Maryland Heights. Hastily built in May 1862, its naval guns were rushed here from the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. Along with a detachment of 300 sailors and marines, the battery was equipped to protect Harpers Ferry from Confederate attack during Stonewall Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign in the spring of 1862, according to a park sign.
Thwarted that spring, Jackson returned to Harpers Ferry in mid-September 1862, during the Confederacy’s first invasion of the North. Jackson’s three-day siege included an infantry battle on the crest of Maryland Heights on September 13, in which the Confederates advanced south along the ridgetop. The Naval Battery guns were turned uphill to pound the crest, but orders to retreat forced the Federals to abandon the mountain and this battery.
On September 22, one week after the Union surrender at Harpers Ferry, U.S. forces returned to Maryland Heights to build fortifications at better locations on the crest and slope of the Heights. The Naval Battery lost its defensive importance and eventually became an ordnance depot.
After leaving the Naval Battery, we return to the Combined Trail and turn right.
We walk along until we come to a branch in the trail. We have already walked 40 minutes, all uphill. A sign at the branch tells us that the Stone Fort Trail, to the left, is a “strenuous but rewarding hike to the summit. The route passes Civil War forts and campgrounds, scenic overlooks and weathered charcoal hearths.” It also says the distance is 3.3 miles, or 3 hours round trip! That doesn’t even include going to the Overlook Cliff Trail, straight ahead, which is described as a “moderate but pleasant hike to a scenic overlook of Harpers Ferry and the Shenandoah Valley,” with a distance of 1.4 miles, 1.5 hours round trip.
So confusing! Mike had estimated the entire hike, doing both trails, would take 3 to 3 1/2 hours. This sign is telling us that from this point, after already walking 40 minutes, that if we go both directions, we’ll have to hike 4 1/2 more hours. So, adding the 40 minutes both ways, up and down on the combined trail, the whole hike is turning into nearly a 6 hour hike!!
Mike doesn’t believe this is correct, but I can see the trail and it looks straight uphill and very rocky. I’m dubious.
We decide we’ll go take the Overlook Cliff Trail. At this point, we walk a narrow, rocky descent to the cliffs overlooking Harpers Ferry.
The sign at the branch in the trail tells us that we are “hiking the same mountain road that defeated Federal troops descended on September 13, 1862. Despite a six-hour resistance upon the crest against a 2,000-man Confederate advance, Union defenders received orders at 3:00 p.m. to withdraw from Maryland Heights and “fall back to Harpers Ferry in good order.” Forty hours later, with the capture of Harpers Ferry by Stonewall Jackson, Union commander Col. Dixon S. Miles surrendered 12,500 men, including the 2,000 defenders from Maryland Heights.”
Now we going down and down the steep Overlook Cliff Trail. I feel like we’re descending nearly half of the distance we ascended to get up here in the first place. This means we have to climb back up to get back to the combined trail.
The trail is an easy downhill until we get close to the cliff, where we must scramble over boulders to get down. Finally, we have views of the Potomac River to our right, the town of Harpers Ferry ahead, and the Shenandoah River to the left.
A fabulous view is always worthwhile!
Harpers Ferry, formerly spelled Harper’s Ferry with an apostrophe, is the easternmost town in West Virginia. The town’s original, lower section is on a flood plain created by the two rivers and surrounded by higher ground. (Wikipedia: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia)
Harpers Ferry was named for Robert Harper, a millwright who continued a ferry operation here in 1747. The waterpower of the two rivers – harnessed for industry – generated tremendous growth in Harpers Ferry. By the mid-19th century, the town had become an important arms-producing center and east-west transportation link. John Brown’s raid and the Civil War brought Harpers Ferry to national prominence. Destruction from the war and repeated flooding eventually led to the town’s decline.
After leaving the overlook, we backtrack to the first intersection. We had agreed that we’d determine whether to do the Stone Fort Trail after we returned from the Overlook Cliff Trail. The Stone Fort Trail is described on another sign as “a more strenuous hike, steep in spots, to the summit. Along the way are weathered charcoal hearths and the ruins of Civil War defenses and military campgrounds. Scenic vistas reveal Maryland Heights as a strategic mountain citadel on the border between North and South.”
Apparently, according to the National Park Service website (different from the signs!), you “hike one mile uphill past Civil War artillery batteries and through boulders to the Civil War Stone Fort. The trail curves out of the Stone Fort past breastworks and descends steeply over one mile back to the green-blazed trail.” (National Park Service: Harpers Ferry Hikes).
I’m not convinced I want to walk uphill another mile and then downhill on a rocky slope for another mile at this point. For one, my stomach is rumbling, and two, I wasn’t expecting so much climbing! I suggest to Mike that we come another time and focus just on the Stone Fort Trail, now that we’ve already done the Overlook Cliff Trail. Luckily, he agrees and we begin our downhill walk, passing once more by the Naval Battery and its pretty grasses.
Now the path has become quite crowded, as the Overlook Cliff Trail is the most popular of the trails. We don’t see anyone walking up the Stone Fort Trail.
Finally, we finish our walk and manage to get our car out of the precarious spot. A group in a red sedan is waiting for our spot, but I don’t see how they will park there as the underbody of their car is so low to the ground. I warn them they may have a tough time. We have a Toyota RAV, so our car sits higher. As we drive up the road a bit and do a U-turn, we drive past to see the people trying their best to jockey into our abandoned spot. It looks like they’re either going to hit the cliff or get their car hopelessly stuck. Oh well, what can we do? We warned them. 🙂
On our way back, we stop in Purcellville to have lunch at Jose’s White Palace and Cantina. I get my go-to Mexican meal of a Chili Relleno and Mike gets Yucca Frita Con Chicharon (pork), the “Latin American alternative to French fries,” and a bowl of Posole Con Pollo soup (white hominy chicken and house-made sauce). Finally, food! 🙂
Total steps today: 13,102 (5.55 miles) – almost half of which was uphill!
Tuesday, October 31: It’s time for our October cocktail hour, and I’m ecstatic that the weather is finally getting cooler, the air is becoming more crisp, and the leaves are shouting their last vibrant hurrah before winter sets in. Farm market displays are bursting with fresh apples, pumpkins, gourds and pumpkin & apple butter. Everywhere in suburban yards, straw scarecrows stand on sticks, ghosts float overhead on tree branches, gravestones and skulls lurk in the shadows. It’s my favorite time of year, and on top of the normal October pleasures, I celebrated another birthday on October 25. I’m now the venerable age of 62, but still feeling much younger than that truth-telling number.
Topping off everything else, yesterday morning, there were the Mueller indictments. I don’t plan to say much about it here, but suffice it to say, this was a fantastic belated birthday present. I hope it will be the gift that keeps on giving!
Please come in and take one of my Pottery Barn furry blankets. Wrap yourself up; we’ll sit out on the screened-in porch. It’s cool but not yet too cold. While on our trip, Mike and I became a bit addicted to local Czech beers, especially Pilsner Urquell and Budějovický (Budweiser) Budvar. Mike managed to find the Pilsner Urquell here in the U.S., so I have those to offer. We also have red and white wines, seltzer water and orange juice (always a refreshing combination for those of you who don’t drink), Vanilla Coke Zero, sparkling water and of course my old standby, Bud Light Lime. 🙂
I hope October has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you encountered any new songs? Have you welcomed any visitors? Have you wandered or journeyed; have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you embarked on any new endeavors?
Our first week in October was the second week of our two-week holiday to Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic. From October 1st on, we were in Czech Republic, namely Český Krumlov and Prague, and we returned home on October 7. I’ve been writing, slowly but surely, about our trip on my Europe blog: in search of a thousand cafes.
At the same time, I’m alternating writing about my last 10 days in Japan (catbird in japan). It’s all slow going, but eventually the story will be told. 🙂 Throughout the month, I continued to follow Jill’s Scene, who just completed the Camino de Santiago in late October. She and her husband started the 800km walk in early September; I still have dreams of doing it myself in September-October of 2018. I continued to add to my notes about her journey, the weather and challenges she encountered. I haven’t wavered in my dream to do this next year.
As for books, I’m way behind on my goal to read 40 books in 2017. I basically didn’t read much of anything the four months I was in Japan. I was simply too busy. But as of this month, I’ve managed to read 20 books, finishing Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, which I enjoyed, and How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway, which was okay.
On the plane to Budapest and the flight back from Prague, I binge-watched the Emmy-award winning HBO mini-series Big Little Lies, which I loved. Listening to the opening credits soundtrack repeatedly, I became enamored of the song Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka. Now I’ve added it to my October playlist on Spotify. On my daily 3-mile walks, I listen to my various soundtracks, including that song, ad infinitum, as well as the podcast Modern Love from the New York Times column of the same name, hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR).
Strangely, I haven’t seen one movie in the cinema this month, but Mike and I did see Native Gardens at Arena Stage in Washington on October 14. Appropriately themed as a reflection of our current antagonistic political environment in Washington, the play is about two neighbors, an older stodgy white couple, the Butleys and a young couple of Latino background, the Del Valles (the husband is Chilean and the pregnant wife a native New Mexican). There’s a generation gap, a cultural gap, and a gap in the actual property line; when the Del Valles want to quickly replace the decrepit fence between the properties so they can have an outdoor BBQ for the husband’s law firm, a surveyor finds their property line goes another couple of feet into the Butleys’ yard, encroaching on Frank Butley’s beloved garden. A huge altercation ensues addressing issues of race, environment, and politics. Entertaining as pure surface comedy, it didn’t address in a serious way the actual political divisions we face in our country today.
Our youngest son Adam left for Melbourne, Australia right before we went on our holiday. He went for nearly a month to visit his girlfriend, Maddy, who he met in Hawaii. He informed us the day before he returned that he was bringing Maddy home with him. He had hinted at this before he left, but I didn’t know if it would actually happen. I went to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to pick them up on Wednesday evening, October 18, and since I arrived early to avoid the Beltway traffic, I spent an hour or so having a light dinner at Season 52 at Columbia Mall. Here’s a musical sculpture at the mall.
Adam, keen to show Maddy all around in one fell swoop, wore himself out quickly and ended up in excruciating pain from rupturing his eardrum, leaving poor Maddy to fend for herself. I told him that no matter how bad he felt, she was his guest and he was obligated to take care of her.
Despite the fact that, before he left for Australia, he was being disciplined, working hard, saving money and doing some interesting podcasts while taking a course on making podcasts, after he returned, he was suddenly ill, making no effort to return to work, and had his girlfriend here (who is very nice and seems to have a good head on her shoulders, by the way!). In my eyes, he was shirking all his duties and the promises he made to us to have a full-time job if we allowed him to live at home. Every day that he’s not moving forward in his life, career-wise, makes me feel like he’s completely irresponsible and we are total failures as parents, not demanding enough from him or having high enough expectations. Not only that, but feeding into the tension I feel is my fear he will be as indecisive as I have always been about my career. All of this has made for a tense atmosphere in the house since October 21, although I had to force myself let go of my anger and frustration and just accept that he is sick and his girlfriend will leave soon and he can get back to figuring out his life.
It’s so challenging to be a parent, especially when I had such horrible role models and when I seem to have no natural instincts for parenting.
Alex came down from Richmond and since Adam was sick and Maddy wanted to stay with him, Mike, Alex and I enjoyed a pleasant evening at Artie’s in Fairfax on the evening before my birthday. On my birthday, a Wednesday, Adam and Maddy invited me to go with them to sit at a park and then pick up pumpkins, but I can’t say I enjoyed it as the day was on their terms and I felt annoyed that I didn’t do what I wanted, which was to go see a movie.
The day after my birthday, I escaped the house and went to Baltimore to see my sister Joan, who was babysitting her 9-month-old grandson Elliott at my niece Kelsey’s house. It was fun to finally meet my little great-nephew, to have lunch out with Joan and Elliott, and to see Kelsey when she got home from work.
Kelsey and Elliot
Kelsey, Elliot and me
After my visit, I stopped in Bethesda, Maryland to have White Sangria and tapas at my favorite restaurant there, Jaleo. After dinner, I went to the Writer’s Center to hear an interview of author Alice McDermott by Bob Levey of The Washington Post. I always get inspired listening to writers talk. 🙂
On Friday night, Mike and I went out on our own to celebrate my birthday at Nostos Restaurant, which, according to the website presents a “fresh, modern take on Greek culinary culture.” “Nostos” is at the root of the word nostalgia and means a return to one’s origins, a longing for a special time in the past; the restaurant attempts to stimulate senses with a variety of traditional and new Greek dishes.
We ordered an array of mezedes, including: Avgolemono Soup (traditional chicken soup with egg lemon finish), Greek Beans (northern beans with scallions, parsley, olive oil and lemon), Garides Saganaki (sautéed shrimp with feta cheese, tomatoes, pine nuts and raisins), Haloumi Skaras (grilled Cypriot sheep and goat cheese served with greek style taboule).
Mike ordered an entrée of Mousaka (layers of thinly sliced baby eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and seasoned ground beef topped with a rich béchamel).
We shared all the dishes, accompanied by wine and dessert (Portokalopita: orange cake with vanilla ice cream). They brought out the cake with one candle, which I had to blow out. I was glad there weren’t 62 candles!
On Saturday, Mike and I went on a hike at Hawksbill Gap in Shenandoah National Park. Here are a few pictures of our hike, but I’ll write more about it in a separate post.
Hawksbill Gap summit
yellow trees at Hawksbill Gap
At the summit, we had great views of the valley. It has been unseasonably warm this October, so it didn’t seem the leaves were yet at their peak.
We went out to Lebanese Taverna for yet another family birthday dinner on Monday night, this time with Mike’s sister Barbara, Adam and Maddy.
And finally, to end the month, Adam and Maddy carved their Halloween pumpkins.
We had a couple of visitors on Halloween night, including one particularly funny group of dinosaurs.
Happy Halloween and happy autumn. Please do tell me about your month! I hope it’s been a good one. 🙂
Saturday, October 28: Today is a crisp fall day, just the kind of day I love and the kind that has been slow in coming this year. It’s been unseasonably warm throughout October, and now, thank goodness, it’s finally cool. Not cold, but cool enough for a hike.
Mike and I head early to Shenandoah National Park to get ahead of the crowds, arriving at Hawksbill Gap parking lot, already overflowing, by 10:15. We start our hike at the trailhead by 10:30 a.m.
We’re doing the Hawksbill Loop Hike, a 2.9 mile circuit with a 860-feet elevation gain and a 2-hour hiking time. This is a rather short walk in Shenandoah National Park, but it’s just right for our first hike of the season. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t hike in summer; I despise the heat and would rather stay indoors all summer long!
Sadly, the colors of the leaves are not as vibrant up here in the mountains as I hoped they’d be; people say the colors aren’t great because it’s been so warm and wet. Many of the trees are already bare and the leaves underfoot are mostly brown and dead.
I love the rocks covered in moss.
I love the weathered misshapen trees found in the mountains; their shapes are a testament to their steadfast resistance to the elements.
I always love bracket fungi, also known as shelf fungi, with their fruiting bodies, or conks, of interconnected rows. They are mainly found on living or dead trees or coarse woody debris, and sometimes look like mushrooms.
I love the ferns, moss and lichens on the rocks.
Some trees are so hardy that they grow on top of boulders.
ferns and moss
rocks in moss and ferns
a little autumn color
rocks, moss and leaves
the path ahead
moss and leaves
We continue along the path, with moss-covered rocks all around us.
fern and moss
Nearing the summit, we find a lone yellow tree glowing amidst the bare trees.
Many trees and branches are all a-tumble and askew in the forest.
And some of the trees have very strange and convoluted shapes.
We reach one overlook where we can see the valley with Massanutten Mountain on the other side.
view of the valley
views from Hawksbill
Hawksbill is Shenandoah’s highest peak at 4,051 ft. We finally reach the summit, which is packed. People are sitting around eating their picnic lunches. We didn’t bring a lunch because we plan to visit Old Bust Head Brewing Co. for a beer, accompanied by lunch from a food truck.
I love the white trunks and branches of some of the bare trees.
After making our way back down from the summit, we hop in our car and drive along Skyline Drive, stopping at several of the overlooks.
Mike at an overlook
Every once in a while, we find some brighter splashes of color.
At Old Bust Head Brewing Co., we eat nachos and chili from a food truck. Mike has a Chukker, or Czech Style Pilsner, which he got addicted to on our trip to Czech Republic, while I have an Apricot Belgian Wit. There’s a lot of activity at the brewery today because it’s overflowing with bikers from The Great Pumpkin Ride. This ride is sponsored by the Fauquier Trails Coalition, a non-profit organization, and is a fundraiser to extend and connect existing trails in scenic Fauquier County. It has options for 32, 53 or 67 miles.
I’m glad I got an October hike in before month-end. Steps today: 11,108 (4.71 miles). Now we have to find one for November!