MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 5 – Gettysburg

After a fabulous time at MDSW the fun wasn’t over for three of us.


This is the house where we’d stayed for the last 3 nights.


We left Dona and Mary at the bus station in Frederick where they would take a shuttle to the airport, and Chris, Kathleen, and I drove on to continue the adventure.


Today’s plan was to see Gettysburg National Military Park.


A chat with Abe outside the Visitor Center.


Chris took a selfie with him.


We spent a short time in the museum before entering the theater at our ticketed time for the presentation of a film about Gettysburg. This was a powerful film narrated by Morgan Freeman.

I must say here that I continue to be impressed with the modern visitor centers in our National Parks and Monuments. The presentation of history, natural history, collections of artifacts, etc is superb.  If you take the time to absorb all that is presented there is a lot to learn.


After the film we were ushered into a circular room to see the Cyclorama. . It is a painting depicting Pickett’s Charge that was completed in 1884 and is 42 feet by 377 feet! The overhead lights go dim and you watch the sky lighten as dawn comes. Then you hear the story while different portions of the painting are illuminated, changing as the day (July 3, 1863) goes on and ends in carnage.

Here’s a refresher for those of you who remember as few details of U.S. history as I do.

The Civil War began in 1861 and the Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1-3, 1863, is considered the most important engagement. Troops commanded by General Robert E. Lee battled the Union Army, led by General George G. Meade. The two armies were on parallel ridges about a mile apart and on July 3 12,000 Confederate soldiers were sent across the open fields in an attack known as Pickett’s Charge. Over 5000 soldiers were killed within an hour and Lee retreated towards Virginia. This marked a turning point in the war and was (I think) the northernmost point reached by the Confederate Army.


The Park encompasses the land upon which the battle was fought, located around the town of Gettysburg and there are signs that point out all the critical places that armies occupied and where battles were fought.  There is a 24-mile Self-guiding Auto Tour with opportunities to stop all along the way.


You don’t have to have an Auto to take the Auto Tour.


At first i took photos of all the statues we came across but I soon learned that there are over 1300 monuments and statues in the Park. Each regiment has their own and there are many markers that explain  the significance of some of the sites.DSC_0737

We looked specifically for this one because Chris has an ancestor who was represented here.


We had bought an audio guide to be downloaded on a phone and listened to while we drove through the area. We couldn’t make it work and Kathleen did a great job of narrating the tour using the accompanying book. Kathleen is wearing her MDSW awarding-winning handspun Jacob sweater that I mentioned in one of the previous posts.

Virginia Mem.-Gen.LeeThis is the Virginia Memorial, including a statue of Robert E. Lee, at one of our first stops. I love horse statues.

IMG_9528At this site we saw a couple of groups of school kids having a lesson in Civil War history. We listened awhile to the guide who explained things that I never thought about (importance of flags and drummers as a way to signal, for instance) and then had the kids line up in formation and “right face, left face, etc” It was cute to see most of them turn together but there were always a few that went the opposite way. Watching them reminded me of when my oldest son was in middle school and his history teacher, who was a film buff in addition to teaching history, led the kids in making a film of Pickett’s Charge. The kids were dressed in home-made or scrounged clothing to look the part and carrying home-made weapons (that wooden rifle is still around here somewhere I think). The school band participated as well as some of the kids who owned horses. They played out the event and made the film out in a field owned by a local farmer. I took a photo of these kids to send Matt as a fun reminder about that, but it became less “cute” and more sobering the more we read and the more we delved into the history of what actually happened here. DSC_0754This is a view from where the kids are standing and where the Confederate troops were positioned on Seminary Ridge. Union troops were across the valley on Cemetery Ridge. This is part of a Valley that extends a couple of miles and there are significant points to the Battle of Gettysburg throughout. It is incongruous in this beauty to think of thousands of dead and dying men. And no one ever says anything about the dead and wounded horses. Add that in to the scene.

DSC_0771In this idyllic view you can see the Pennsylvania Memorial across the field and to the right. There are places along the route where you read (in the guidebook) about what the aftermath of a battle looks like–the biology of death–blood, flies, bloated bodies, etc.  I think that people need to hear that–does it help if we (they) are given mental pictures to try and  internalize the horror of war?  If kids hear that? What it really looks like? In person? Does it sink in at all what it means to kill another person? To be a bully in the most final sense?  This kind of atrocity is being played out in other parts of the world now. Do kids realize how lucky we are to live here? How about us adults too?

Traveling through history in such a vivid, visual way brings this out in me I guess. It seems that most historical events have to do with someone winning, someone losing, someone conquering. Kind of  like the newspaper. There isn’t much to say about normal people just living their lives. Off the soapbox now.


There were observation towers at a few places that allowed us to get an overview of the whole area and visualize the events that played out.

DSC_0779This is a view from the tower that includes, in the foreground, the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the home and farm of Eisenhower that he bought in 1950. We ran out of time to visit that.

DSC_0789This view is from Little Round Top, a point controlled by Union soldiers. The rock formation below is known as Devil’s Den and the foreground is Slaughter Pen. There was fierce fighting as Confederate soldiers in a line a mile long approached from the far ridge and the Union soldiers tried to defend it. That description is too simplistic; there is detailed documentation about each battle site and each battle.

DSC_0804I don’t remember details of this house but it is along the tour route.

DSC_0830Near the end of the tour we were at what is known as the High Water Mark, the farthest point reached by Confederate soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg.

IMG_9534From the Park brochure: “July 3…Some 12,000 Confederates advanced across open fields toward the Federal center in an attack known as ‘Pickett’s Charge’. The attack failed and cost Lee over 5,000 soldiers in one hour. The Battle of Gettysburg was over.”

DSC_0808Completed in 1914, the Pennsylvania Memorial is the largest State Memorial in the Park and is near the High Water Mark.


Union General Meade’s statue is nearby.

DSC_0838The auto tour was almost over. Instead of the 2-1/2 to 3 hours described in the brochure I think we were there for about 5 hours.

DSC_0846The tour ended at the Soldier’s National Cemetery, created after the battle, and where 3500 Union soldiers were later buried. Remains of 3,320 Confederate soldiers were removed from the battlefield to cemeteries in the South. Veterans from 1898 War with Spain to the Vietnam War are also buried here.


Graves of unidentified Civil War soldiers.


This cemetery is also the site where Lincoln gave his famous speech, taking two minutes  to speak these profound words, following a 2-hour speech  by Edward Everett, a well-known politician and orator from Massachusetts.


Whew! This was a sobering day. It was also very windy and tiring and we were ready to find a hot dinner and warm bed.


Dinner first. We tried one place that looked good but there was a 45 minute wait. Chris and Kathleen found another and we eventually had hot showers and warm beds.

Next post: Ft. McHenry and Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad.


MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 2 – Harpers Ferry

Here is Day 1–getting to Maryland. On Day 2 we woke up early with places to go, things to see. Our plan today was to take our fiber entries to the fairgrounds and then go to Harpers Ferry to explore some of the Civil War history of this area.QPAC4753

Chris drove and I got into my usual Road Trip mode–Map Book and phone.


Here is the destination. Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and  Shenandoah Rivers, where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia.


We were driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains and every time I said the name Shenandoah I felt like breaking into song (John Denver style).  Wikipedia says: “The Blue Ridge Mountains are noted for having a bluish color when seen from a distance. Trees put the “blue” in Blue Ridge, from the isoprene released into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to the characteristic haze on the mountains and their distinctive color.”

Also from Wikipedia: “Isoprene is produced and emitted by many species of trees (major producers are oaks, poplars, eucalyptus, and some legumes.”

Harpers Ferry

We were looking for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.


The whole town is in a National Historic District, but it is the lower part that is the National Historic Park.


The Park is spread out in non-contiguous sections and we did cross state lines a number of times.

West Virginia



We finally found the headquarters and Visitors’ Center where I got my lifetime pass to all the parks, monuments, etc in the National Park System. (That’s the only good thing about the last birthday.) Kathleen and I bought the National Parks Passport book that shows all the parks and historical sites region by region and has places to include commemorative stickers and “postmark” stamps. We took a shuttle to Lower Harpers Ferry where there many restored old buildings, some preserved as museums and others with modern shops inside.


One of the buildings on Shenandoah Street houses a bookstore and the others are set up as they would have been in the 1800’s or as museums.


We climbed the path past the ruins of the Episcopal Church…


…and the Catholic Church that was built in 1833.


This route happens to be part of the Appalachian trail so we were able to stamp our  passport books with the Appalachian Trail stamp!


The shops on the left in this photo are all occupied with modern businesses, mostly souvenir shops or cafes.


I saw this in one of the windows. As creepy as it is, it’s not nearly as bad as a doll in another window that looked like a crime victim or a participant in a horror movie. I took a photo but am creeped out enough by it to not want it in my blog post. Some of the people in this part of town have an interesting sense of humor.DSC_0157


This is a detail of the stone wall in the photo above.



The town became an industrial center between 1801 and 1861 with the construction of  the U.S. Armory and Arsenal. Below is a detail of the sign in the foreground.


Just below (in relation to this photo) is where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, the Potomac cutting through a slot in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


This is the confluence. There is a railroad bridge here and now a foot bridge that across the Shenandoah River.  The foot bridge is part of a system of trails including the Appalachian Trail, the north-south route along the crest of the Appalachians, and the 184-mile C & O Canal trail.   From the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP site: “Preserving America’s early transportation history, the C&O Canal began as a dream of passage to Western wealth. Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. Today it endures as a pathway for discovering historical, natural and recreational treasures!”IMG_9324

This is the view from the western end of the bridge showing the old towpath and here is a link from a bicycling guide which states “the canal’s towpath remains a favorite of hikers, joggers, and bicyclists”.


The overlook from the eastern side.


Mary and Chris are not checking their stock portfolios here. We have a group of friends back home who want to travel with us vicariously. We all have been sharing photos and updates.


We drove to another part of the park to see the Civil War battlefields and another view of the town.

Tulip poplar

I noticed this flowering tree.

Tulip poplar-2

Green flowers are so unusual. This is a tulip poplar which is actually more closely related to a magnolia than a poplar.

We spent only a few hours at this park where you could spend days exploring. But we made this trip for the FIBER. Next stop was a yarn shop in the town of Frederick where there was a sale promoting some well-known yarn dyers.



Mary  found one of her favorite indie-dyers there…


…who dyed these yarns. While she stood in line (a very long line) to make her purchases the rest of us walked around the area.


I enjoyed this window scene more than a couple of those in Harpers Ferry.


Preview of the next day.

Road Trip to CO – Mesa Verde

It has been a few weeks since we finished our road trip and there have been plenty of distractions since I’ve been back that have kept me from sharing the story. Now that the Olympics are on  TV I am trying to multi-task. But it’s hard to pull my eyes away from the TV at times.*  However I’m close to finishing–we are still in Colorado but once we headed for home we didn’t stop for much.

After we left Black Canyon of the Gunnison  National Park we looked at our trusty Benchmark map book for Colorado and saw that we could probably get to Mesa Verde National Park in time to spend the night there. So after driving through the marvelous San Juan Mountains it was a relatively short drive from Durango to Mesa Verde. We got there about 6 p.m. and found that there were plenty of open campsites.


We looked at the Park maps and saw a couple of 2-mile trails that we would have time for before dark. First we hiked up to Point Lookout at 8427′ elevation. This view is to the northwest with the San Juan Mountains in the background and the town of Mancos in the center.




…and Indian rice grass along the trail.




After getting hiking this trail we drove to the the Knife Edge Trail which follows a section of the precarious road built in 1914 which was part of the original main access into the park.



Dan took this photo of me with the booklet that described the plants and other features along this trail.



This is a popular place for park visitors to watch the sunset. We walked back to the car at dusk and it was dark when we found a campsite. With the dark it got cold and we didn’t have a working stove. We ate tuna sandwiches and went to bed. DSC_1358

This is what camp looked like in the morning.


There were deer around the camp in the night and at dawn when I got up.


Seen on my early morning walk.


We had learned when we paid for our campsite that the way to see the features for which the park is best known (the cliff dwellings)  is to sign up for one of the tours. We showed up the next morning for the Balcony House tour.


We were directed to follow the trail to the end where we would find a ladder and to wait there.


This tour is listed as the “most adventurous cliff dwelling tour” and we were warned that we would “climb a 32′ ladder, crawl through an 18″ wide by 12′ long tunnel, and climb up a 60′ open cliff face with stone steps and two 10′ ladders”. Not quite an Indiana Jones adventure but it did seem challenging for some of the tour participants.


Can you imagine what this was like when people really lived here?


I can see the challenge of being a mother of a toddler.

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived in the Mesa Verde area for about 700 years from about AD 550 to the 1200’s, first living in pit houses, then above-ground pole and adobe structures. The people built the cliff dwellings from the 1190’s to 1270’s and lived there for less than 100 years. It is unknown why, in the span of a generation or two, the people left the area.


Ranger Spenser was glad to answer questions and discuss his passion for the earlier residents of these dwellings.


Each village or homesite has a kiva built below ground or in the case of the cliff dwellings, into the rock floor.


This is the view across the canyon from Balcony House.


This is the same view with a longer lens. It was remarkable that when you really started to look (or got out the binoculars) that you could see dwellings in many of the cliff walls.


Here is another that we saw later in the day…


…and here’s the close up. This is known as Square Tower House, a 4-story building.


Remember the part about the 18″ x 12′ passage. Here it is…


…followed by the ladders…


…and steps up the cliff wall.

We drove through more of Mesa Verde, looking at some of the other sites, but knew that we needed to get on the road if we were to get home some time the next day.

Next post: Four Corners and Monument Valley.

*I still didn’t get this finished and now its the next day.

Road Trip to CO – Gunnison to Durango

We left home on Wednesday and planned to get home on the following Wednesday. This was Monday. We had driven the road north of the Gunnison River the day before and camped near the Blue Mesa Dam.


This campsite was essentially a parking lot for RV’s, but we just needed a place to eat and sleep so it worked.


The Black Canyon of the Gunnison became a National Monument in 1933 and was made a National Park in 1999, over twenty three years after I spent a summer in the area. It contains 14 miles of the canyon’s total 48 mile length.


I guess they’ll take anyone as a Park Ranger.


The canyon is so deep and narrow due to the power of the Gunnison River as it drops an average of 96 feet per mile.  The Gunnison loses more elevation in the 48 miles of the canyon than he Mississippi River loses in 1500 miles.


It is a sobering thought that the power of this river is forever harnessed due to up-river dams that lessen seasonal flooding. Therefore, build up of sandbars and more vegetation has changed the ecology of the canyon.


The Painted Wall was created over a billion years ago when molten rock flowed into fissures in the dark wall.


That molten rock cooled into crystals of mica, quartz, and feldspar. Amazing patterns were revealed as the river cut through the rock, forming the canyon.


Breakfast with a view.


I enjoyed the signs along some of the trails to help with plant ID.DSC_1151

I recognized this bush with it’s remarkable fuzzy seed dispersal method, but couldn’t quite find the name in the recesses of my brain. Mountain Mahogany.


I also recognized this as in the Mariposa Lily family. It’s called Gunnison Sego Lily.

We spent half the day exploring the canyon from the rim. There are no trails to the river in the Park. We saw a couple of trails when we drove along the north rim east of the Park, but they are not for the feint of heart or casual hiker. The rim views are spectacular enough. But we had limited time and needed to get on the road.

In the summer and fall of 1976 I worked  for the BLM in Montrose, Colorado. I had fond memories of renting a bunk house on property between Montrose and Ridgeway and spending weekends exploring the old mines and alpine meadows in the beautiful San Juan Mountains. I had never been back, but wanted to use this opportunity to drive through that country.


As we were driving down Hwy. 550 I wondered if I would recognize the place. The highway followed the Uncompahgre River but was on the wrong side of the river. Surely I would have remembered living right next to a major river like that. My memory was that the bunkhouse was up against a bluff and just south of the big house. We got to a point where the river shifted course for a brief period to the west side of the highway and there it was. I’m glad to see that they place hasn’t been torn down and, in fact, looks as though it has been fixed up. The bunkhouse is just behind the red truck and, yep, there is a bluff behind it.


The view heading south from the house. Not a bad place to spend a summer…or a life (if you can deal with snow).


We drove south into the San Juan Mountains.


I have memories of driving to Ouray and heading out from there towards Telluride to explore the mountains. I don’t think that these towns had the tourist appeal then that they do now.


This is one of the most gorgeous places I can imagine. It’s hard to get photos that do it justice.

From dangerousroads.org “In the state of Colorado…there’s a special highway built in the late 1880’s: the Million Dollar Highway, part of the San Juan Skyway. It’s one of the nation’s most spectacular drives…The road’s winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. Offering breathtaking mountain, valley and gorge views, the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most beloved roads in the country. This classic stretch of two-lane blacktop snakes its way through the San Juan Mountains, the wildest and most rugged peaks in the Rockies.”

From another website: “Originally built in 1883 by Otto Mears as a toll way from Ouray to the now abandoned town of Ironton, this two lane highway offers spectacular views of the San Juan Mountain Range, and Uncompaghre Gorge. The road was extended to connect Silverton and Ironton over Red Mountain pass, and operated as a toll road until the early 1920’s when it was rebuilt and became part of the present day US Highway 550.”


Can you imagine the road when it was first built?


Here a a panoramic view of the modern day bridge over Bear Creek Falls.


Originally the road connected Ouray with the Red Mountain Mining District to the south.DSC_0239

There are signs overlooking the site of the Yankee Girl Mine, one of the richest concentrations of silver ore found in the U.S. It started in 1882 and produced ore valued in today’s market at over one hundred million dollars, but lasted only about 16 years.


Just more pretty scenery.


This is taken from Molas Pass (10, 910′), the second of three passes on this highway going towards to Durango.


Loving the mountains.


Fortunately I don’t have to carry my camera gear the way William Henry Jackson did when he documented the West.

Onward to Mesa Verde where we would spend the night.

Road Trip to CO – Arches #2

We had only one day to spend in Arches National Park, but we took advantage of it all, hiking/walking/driving. I posted a lot of photos here, but there are more.


We spent the first half of the day hiking a 7-mile trail. After that we drove to various points of interest or overlooks where there were shorter trails to more arches.


We ended up hiking about 12 miles that day.DSC_0883

The scenery was all spectacular. DSC_0886

This is looking back at the parking area from the trail to Delicate Arch.


Much of the trail is walking across the slickrock.


Then the trail becomes almost a shelf that winds around the side of a cliff.


When you get the first view around the corner of that cliff you’re almost blown away (literally as well as figuratively). What a site! It’s absolutely amazing. I mean we saw a lot of arches and cool rocks and cliffs earlier in the day, but there was something about this one that is stunning. Maybe it’s because you see it suddenly as you turn the corner. Maybe because it stand alone with no other features near it.DSC_0898

Maybe it’s because of it’s size. In this photo there are people. Do you see how small they look?


In fact, there were a lot of people. It took some patience to get a photo of the arch with no people. That’s Dan sitting on the rock while others venture towards the arch. At this location the wind was so strong that it felt as though you could be blown backwards off the cliff.


Wind effect in my hair. It’s not standing up just from the sweat and 2 days of camping!


As is the case with most hikes, the trip back to the truck took a lot less time. At the bottom there are petroglyphs. These images of a horse and rider, bighorn sheep, and dogs were carved between 1650 to 1850.


We continued on the road through the park. This is an overlook across the canyon from Delicate Arch. You can see it right there in the center of the photo. The trail we took came from around the rocky cliffs at the left.


It was getting dusk when we got to the trails to see the last arches. These were relatively close to the parking lot so there were lots of people there. If you look closely you will see people on the rocks under the arches and on the trail. That gives you a sense of scale.




We followed another trail at this location…IMG_2675

…to get a different perspective…IMG_2680

…as the sun was going down.


Interesting manmade patterns.


We stopped at the visitor center to clean up and fill water jugs. I got in a bit of sheep showing practice before we left to find our camping spot for the night.

Road Trip to Colorado – Arches N.P.

The mosquitoes that had been relentless the night before (this post) were slightly less so in the morning.


However the surroundings were beautiful as the sun reached the west side of the canyon.


But we didn’t linger around camp. We packed up and drove just north of Moab to the entrance of Arches National Park.


The cliffs on the left side of the photo are part of Arches and that’s the Colorado River flowing our of the canyon in the center of the photo.


I had been here once or twice before but that was almost forty years ago. (Oh yeah, I was going to find my old slides and see if I have photos from back then.)

I don’t remember the names of all the arches. Besides sometimes I don’t want to know what names other people have used for formations. I like to enjoy them without always having to see or think of something that is not a rock. I’ll make up my own name if something comes to me.


We had one day to see the park and, knowing that it was going to be a hot day, we decided to start with one of the longer trails. Out and back on the more traveled trail would have been about 5 miles. We ended up taking the “primitive” route to come back and that was 7 miles.


I thought about giving up taking photos because it seem so hard to capture the grandeur, the color, the textures.


But of course I continued to shoot photos and I am sharing some of my favorites.



Distances are so deceptive in this country. We had seen these rock walls in the distance and I had thought, “it’s a good thing we’re not going there”. The “primitive route” took us around those and beyond.


Cairns are important in finding the trails over slickrock and through washes. Seeing those little rock towers kept us on track in places where the trail wasn’t obvious.




More from Arches National Park in the next post.

Hawaii, Day 6

After spending five days on the Big Island, my daughter’s family,  my older son and his wife, and I flew to Honolulu with the main goal of seeing Pearl Harbor together. Katie and her family would fly home that night, Matt & Kaleena were staying a few more days north of there, and I was flying home the next day. DSC_3662Unfortunately this is a blurry photo but I like the image. I sat in the row in front of Kirby on this short flight. We picked up a rental car (had to upgrade to carry all of Kirby’s luggage) and drove to Pearl Harbor.DSC_3673 The monument includes several memorials and museums and it would be easy to spend a full day immersed in this history …but not with a toddler on board. We chose to tour the U.S.S. Missouri while waiting for our assigned time to see the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. (Unfortunately all boat rides to the Arizona were cancelled due to windy conditions.)IMG_7842The USS Missouri was the last battleship built by the U.S. and was the site of the Japanese surrender, ending WWII. The ship also served in the Korean War and, after being modernized in 1984, in Desert Storm.DSC_3701The Missouri is now a permanent museum in Pearl Harbor.DSC_3693There were a couple of photo opps before entering the ship.USS Missouri

DSC_3704A lot of the ship is accessible and there is a wealth of information  covering the three eras when the ship was in use. It would be easy to spend several hours taking time to absorb everything. I have included just a few photos here.IMG_7862There is a display about the Japanese pilots who died in kamikaze attacks near the end of WWII. It is a moving exhibit but I don’t understand what can drive a young man to this end during that era any better than today’s suicide attackers (although I thing there is probably a world of difference in their reasoning). IMG_7864So sad…as are all parts of war.

There is a warren of passages below the main deck where people worked, ate, and slept. IMG_7868


IMG_7873The living spaces for 1600 enlisted men were spread throughout the ship.IMG_7876Part of the modernization in the 1980’s.DSC_3731Back on the main deck we looked up and saw…DSC_3732Katie, Kurtis, and Kirby.DSC_3738A disappointment was not being able to go to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. This memorial is directly above the Arizona that still holds many of the 1177 men who were killed during the bombing that sunk the ship. DSC_3686During the day my thoughts kept going back to the National Museum of the Pacific War, the moving exhibit in Fredericksburg, Texas (birthplace of Admiral Nimitz) that we saw in July (blog post here). It’s well worth your time if you’re traveling in that area.DSC_3746Toddlers don’t care about this stuff.  Chasing birds and picking up flowers from the lawn are more their style. (If I chose to make this blog more commentary and opinion this would be the point to discuss innocence and when/how does it change.)

After spending much of the day at Pearl Harbor, we found my hotel in Waikiki. Katie, Kurtis, and Kirby relaxed there while waiting to catch the red-eye back to California. I had one more day of exploring.