MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 7 Continued – The End

That last post was really long but I have so many photos that I wanted to include. The day wasn’t over when we left Assateague Island. We had a mission ahead of us.


Dona took this photo before we left California. You pass this sign on Highway 50 entering Sacramento from the west. We figured that if there was a sign for Maryland at this end of Highway 50 then there would be a sign at the other end too, so we drove to Ocean City.


We parked and started walking to find our sign. The beach and the Atlantic Ocean are just past the Boardwalk, so we have to go the other direction.


We were on the right track. We hadn’t seen any sign coming into town, but it didn’t take us too long to realize that we’d been facing the wrong direction to notice a sign meant for west-bound travelers.


A sign of interest, but not the one we were looking for.


A gorgeous old building.


We found it!


Mission accomplished.


We still had time in the parking meter so walked back to the Boardwalk. Do you remember the photo in the last post of this area 10 miles to the north of the Assateague National Seashore? What a far cry from the beach and the dunes. The beach here is just to the right of those light poles.


We stopped at a memorial to fire fighters…IMG_9662

…and reflected on the world. Then it was time for ice cream.


We found Dumser’s Dairyland. It was late in the day and we didn’t need to eat another meal out. We had plenty of food to use up back at the house because we weren’t going to be able to take it with us. But before heading to the house we drove a few miles south to the town of Snow Hill. Kathleen had heard that it was an interesting place to see. Snow Hill was founded in 1642 (you can’t say that on the West Coast) on the Pocomoke River. Although there was a disastrous fire in 1893 there are still pre-Revolutionary War structures in the town. We did not search out the various buildings but did a random, meandering tour through the old part of town and I found references to some of the ones I photographed later.


The Governor John Walter Smith House, a Queen Anne Victorian, built about 1889.




United Presbyterian Church, build in 1889.



River House Inn, built in the 1860’s.

That was it for adventure. Back to our house, clean up, pack up, and get ready to leave for home in the morning.


This is the house were we stayed the last couple of nights in Maryland.


We got on the road and I was navigating. Oops! Delaware? Right, I hadn’t paid attention that we’d be entering another state. I don’t think you get to count it as a visit unless you actually get out of the car though.


The rest of this is rather anti-climactic after this fabulous trip. Just photos taken while driving riding. Beautiful rural countryside.


Big round bales. You don’t see those around here.


More big barns.


There’s a Maryland sign that I don’t think I got when entering the first time…at least not from the plane.

That’s it. Back to California. We had an adventure to be remembered for a long time. We didn’t do any one thing that was all that adventurous, but Actually Doing It was the important thing. And spending this time with each other was a treasure.

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 7 – Ponies!

It’s been almost a month since we started embarked on this trip so I guess I’ve had extended enjoyment while organizing photos and thinking about the blog posts.  I don’t know how many people really read my posts, but there have been some who have asked “what about the ponies?”

Day 6 was spent learning about Fort McHenry and exploring Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad. We spent a comfortable night at our AirB&B in Berlin and got on the road in time to get to the Assateague Island National Seashore…  DSC_1017

…when the Visitor Center opened. The area is managed jointly by the National Park Service and Maryland Park Service.


Assateague Island is a barrier island that is 37 miles long and separated from the mainland by Chincoteague Bay and Sinepuxent Bay. The northern two thirds is in Maryland and the southern one third is part of Virginia. If you were a horse-crazy girl once then what you know about these islands is that there are wild ponies living there, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book, Misty of Chincoteague.  We had come to find the ponies.


Only part of  the island is accessible on a paved road that connects campgrounds and trails. We hadn’t gone far when we found them. Ponies!


Just pretend that you don’t know that they were in a parking lot near the bathrooms. Signs everywhere warn people to leave the ponies alone and don’t offer food. It’s the same kind of warnings that you read in Yellowstone about not feeding bears and packing food away. People are kicked and bitten by ponies and the ponies are hit by cars when they get used to people offering food.

These ponies didn’t seem to be going anywhere soon…


…so we walked to the beach.


We had made it to the Atlantic.


That is Ocean City, about 10 miles north. Can you see the ferris wheel and the amusement park in the middle of the photo? What a contrast when looking from the National Seashore.


The barrier islands are “among the most dynamic landforms on earth”. There is constant change. Assateague Island is moving west, at an accelerated rate after jetties were constructed near Ocean City in the 1930s.  At one time Assateague Island was to be developed, and in the 1950s a 15-mile road was created on the Maryland side of the island. A hurricane in 1962 wiped out structures and covered the road, and legislation in 1965 created the National Seashore.


The ponies are most likely descendants of horses that were brought to the island 300 years ago by farmers who took advantage of the natural “corral” made of water. Farmers were required to pay taxes on their livestock and by turning them loose on the island, they could avoid the tax. I usually try to be scientifically accurate about what I write, but there is some artistic license here. The documentation from the Park Service says that genetically these are HORSES, not PONIES. The small stature is a result of years of adaptation to a diet of abundant, but nutrient-poor salt-marsh grasses.


Sorry. I will continue to call them ponies while I’m talking about our visit. They are used to paparazzi. We were lucky to be visiting in the off-season and on a weekday. There were very few people around. It would have been a very different scene if the parking lots and roads were full.


The ponies wandered off and we drove on to find more.


This looked like a very old pony at an empty campground. The Maryland ponies are managed as wildlife are. From the brochure, “While action may be taken to end the suffering of a gravely ill, seriously injured, or dying horse, no measure are taken to prolong the lives of Maryland’s wild horses. As with other species of Assateague wildlife, horses that are sick or weak do not survive.” The population is controlled using a non-hormonal, non-invasive vaccine, administered by a dart, to prevent pregnancy. With this method the birth rate has been lowered to fewer than ten foals each year which maintains the population at under 125 horses.

A fence that separates the Maryland and  Virginia herds. The Virginia herd is privately owned and produces 60-90 foals each year. The foals are sold at auction after the annual swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island and the proceeds go to veterinary care, the fire department, and various charities. There are week-long festivities around this event and you can see videos at this link.


There are three nature walk trails through the marsh, the forest, and the dunes. We started with the marsh trail.



We spotted this osprey that had caught a fish.


We watched for quite awhile while it circled, still carrying it’s fish.


Diamondback terrapins.

American Oystercatcher-Laughing Gull

Two laughing gulls and an American oystercatcher…

American Oystercatcher-Laughing Gull

…who was not welcome.

Short billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher.



We drove down another road…



…where we saw a group of people gathered. From my Yellowstone experience (people stopping in the road when wildlife is spotted), I figured that that meant Ponies!


This group was a little more picturesque, being “in the wild” instead of “in the parking lot”.




There was a Pony Patrol volunteer with that group of people answering questions and making sure that ponies aren’t harassed.

We drove to the next trail–the forest nature trail.


Loblolly pines are the dominate forest species.




Poison ivy.





At the end of that trail we saw the same group of ponies, but from a different view. Notice the paddle-boarders in the marsh. What a great way to see the marsh and the ponies.

One more interesting pony fact: “The Assateague horses drink over twice the amount of water that domesticated horses will due to their salty food supply. All that drinking combined with a high salt diet contributes to their bloated appearance.”


We drove to the Dune Nature Trail.


Chris needed some beach time so Kathleen and I walked the trail while Chris enjoyed the beach, albeit a bit cold and windy.




Remember the road that I said was built in the 1950s? Part of it is still visible.





As we left the park we were faced with that age-old question.


“Why does the pony cross the road?”


Because the grass is greener?

This was another full day (and a very full blog post) but there is more Maryland scenery. That will be another post.


MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 6 – Harriet Tubman NHP

On Day 6 of our adventure we spent the first part of the day at Ft. McHenry National Monument. Then we headed for Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad in Dorchester County, Maryland. Maryland landscape-17

I commented in the last post that there is a lot of water in Maryland!


At this time Chris was driving and we didn’t know until we got here that driving across bridges is not one of her favorite things.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge

This is a 4-mile bridge across Chesapeake Bay.


Kathleen gave moral support from the back seat. Chris did just fine.


I rode shotgun trying to figure out where we were going and not wanting to miss any photo ops. It turns out that our Visitor Center was not on this map because it is brand new.

Harriet Tubman NM

The Visitor Center is co-managed by the State of Maryland and the Park Service. To fully experience the Underground Railroad site you can follow a driving tour 223 miles through Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. There is written and digital documentation to explain the sites along the way. But we didn’t know that when we made this plan. So we ended up seeing only a fraction of what is actually part of the Underground Railroad Byway.


The exhibits in the Visitor Center gave us a good understanding of Harriet Tubman’s life and the heroism that she showed in escaping slavery and then returning many times to rescue over 70 family members and friends.


A chilling quote that describes some of the anguish inflicted by one person on another.


At the last stop in the Visitor Center there is a video with modern era commentary about human rights and the fact that we still struggle.

Blackwater River

After leaving the Visitor Center we followed the Driving Tour map for a short way on our way to picking up Interstate 50. We drove through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, largely unchanged from the time when Harriet Tubman lived in the area.

Maryland landscape-29

Maryland landscape-37

There are signs along the way.


This is the Bucktown Store, closed when we drove by. Harriet was in this store when the shopkeeper threw a 2-pound weight at a slave who was fleeing the store, but instead hit Harriet, nearly killing her.

Bestpitch Ferry Rd.

The one-lane, wooden Bestpitch Ferry Bridge at the site of a former ferry landing. Agricultural and timber products were transported on rafts.

Bestpitch Ferry Rd.

Harriet’s knowledge of the waterways and survival in the marshes aided her in escape and rescuing others.

Marsh-Dorchester Cty

Marsh-Dorchester Cty

Marsh-Dorchester Cty

We inadvertently left the documented byway and followed country roads toward the Nanticoke River where we would turn north to pick up I-50.

Marsh-Dorchester Cty

I wish I knew what that very tall grass was on the side of the road.

Bestpitch Ferry Rd.

Modern farming. We saw a lot of these huge long barns and decided that they were probably chicken houses. Agriculture is Maryland’s largest commercial industry and livestock, particularly broilers (5-12 week old chickens), followed by dairy, are the leading products.

Marsh-Dorchester Cty

Drive-by photography.

Marsh-Dorchester Cty


This house is in the town of Vienna where we joined up with I-50.


This “beachy” comfortable house near the town of Berlin was to be our headquarters for the next two nights. Look familiar? Chris and Kathleen figuring out where to go for dinner. They found a seafood restaurant and I had salmon, grits, and sweet potato fries. Southern dining. I hadn’t realized until this trip how close to “The South” Maryland is.

Our first day of site seeing took us to Harpers Ferry and  immersion in Civil War era politics and strife. We had a wonderful diversion at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival during the weekend. Then we saw Gettysburg and were immersed in Civil War history for a day. Fort McHenry took us back into history, focusing on another war and also learning about the Fort’s role during the Civil War as well. Learning about the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman emphasized this sobering and grim part of U.S. history known as slavery. Maybe it’s like reading the newspaper–most of what makes “news” is not happy. These episodes of history depict the desire for power  and the struggle of those being oppressed.

I was ready to see PONIES! That will be tomorrow.

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 6 – Ft. McHenry

It is taking me a long time to tell the rest of the stories about this trip but I want to finish. One reason I do this is that it makes me sort through my photos and jot down some notes before I forget. I also do a little more research into the history part to solidify that in my brain, at least temporarily. That is also why I don’t get too it right away,  because I need the time. I left off in the last post seeing Gettysburg National Military Park and staying in the town of Gettysburg. We planned on two stops on Tuesday before getting to our final destination.

Ft. McHenry-1-2

The first was Fort McHenry National Monument. It’s on that point in the northwest quadrant of the map. Living on the West Coast I haven’t paid much attention to the geography of the East Coast. Until I started trying to figure out where we were going on a map I hadn’t realized how big Chesapeake Bay is and how much water is within the state of Maryland in the form of rivers and marshes.


I was driving this morning so just got a few shots through the windshield. Seeing signs for Washington stood out for me.


This is in Baltimore not far from Fort McHenry. I was surprised at how little traffic we had getting through this industrial area to the fort. In fact, we had little traffic and a relatively small number of people at all the national sites we visited. The wonders of off-season and mid-week travel!


We got to the Visitor’s Center just in time for the 10 minute film about the Battle of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, originally called “Defense of Fort M’Henry”, in which Francis Scott Key described the his sighting of the American flag over the Fort after 25 hours of bombardment by British ships.


The Star Spangled Banner was sung at the end of the film and people stood as the movie screen lifted, revealing the flag flying over the fort. My telling of this doesn’t invoke much emotion, but the film was so well done and the ending so dramatic that when Chris and I looked at each other we both had tears in our eyes.

After that one of the Park Volunteers invited everyone to come outside and participate in a flag ceremony.


Everyone lined up in two rows facing each other.


A flag was brought out of what looked like a large duffel bag and was carried down the line of people. When the entire length was being supported then we all stepped back.


This revealed a replica of the 32′ x 40′ garrison flag constructed by Baltimore seamstress, Mary Pickersgill for Fort McHenry.


Major George Armistead, who commissioned the flag, wanted it to be large enough “that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.” IMG_9573

We learned that the original flag, which is in the Smithsonian, was made of dyed English wool, except for the stars which were cotton (and are 2′ across!). There were 15 stripes, each 24″, because in 1794 Congress had approved two additional stripes for Vermont and Kentucky be added to the original 13. It wasn’t until 1818 that the stripes were reduced back to 13 to represent the original colonies and a star was added for each new state.


As the Park volunteer tested our new-found knowledge of the flag we rolled it back up stripe-by-stripe. We were then encouraged to learn more at the Fort.


Mary Pickersgill made two flags, the large garrison flag and a smaller storm flag, 17′ x 25′.


That was the one flying on this day. They use the larger flag on days with less wind.

Ft. McHenry-5

As we walked to the fort we saw this couple, an interesting contrast with the buildings in the background.

Ft. McHenry-9


Inside the Fort, many of the rooms on the lower floor have more information and interpretive displays.


I wonder what how you’d know!


I thought it was interesting to get this perspective. The glass case encloses part of the original oak cross-brace that was underground and anchored the original flagpole. The replica cross-brace above gives perspective of the size and the depth of the lower section.Ft. McHenry-18

The fort is star-shaped. These cannons point down the Patapsco River where the British bomb ships were stationed and toward Chesapeake Bay beyond.

Ft. McHenry-16

We could easily have spent more time at the Fort, absorbing more of it’s history, and driven around Baltimore to see the other relevant sites, but that will have to be on the list for a future visit.

Places to go. More things to see. Stay tuned.

Road Trip to CO – Nevada to Home

In the last post I wrote that we drove until dark and then kept going. We didn’t have a plan about where we’d stop and Dan just kept driving. (By the way, when I say that “we” drove I mean that Dan drove and I rode. I used to offer to drive but I don’t bother anymore on our trips. Dan likes to do the driving and that’s fine with me, since I’d rather be watching the scenery and napping when I get tired.)

Eventually, somewhere in eastern Nevada, Dan got too sleepy and pulled over. We didn’t try to stretch out in the back of the truck but slept in the front. After an hour or two I got too cold and uncomfortable (and bothered by someone snoring) and switched places with Dan so I could drive. When I got too tired and pulled over we both slept awhile until he recovered enough to go on.


The view when I woke up next.


Have you noticed that the Open Range signs in many places have cattle that look like dairy cows? The Open Range signs in Nevada show what looks like bulls.


Even along Highway 50 in Nevada there are Points of Interest.


It’s hard to see in this photo but there are remnants of a stone building surrounded by cyclone fence. One of the signs at Cold Springs (between Austin and Fallon) described The Overland Stage Station: “Constructed using the volcanic lava rock found throughout the area, the Cold Springs Stage Station was built in 1861. The original Pony Express Station was built 1-1/2 miles to the east of here in 1860. When the stage station was erected the Pony Express moved its operation to this building…Life at Cold Springs was not for the timid. The 2 to 3 man station crew endured the barest, leanest forms of living. They ate, lived, and slept in this crude structure for months at a time. Floors, when dry, were dirt and when wet, they were mud. Sanitary facilities were primitive. The handmade furniture was crude and utilitarian at best. There were no luxuries, only the necessities of life: food, water, and a firearm for protection.”




Additional signs explained the quick progression of communication and transportation milestones that occurred here between 1860 and 1927–the Pony Express in 1860, then the Overland Stage in 1861, telegraph in 1861, (dooming the Pony Express), and eventually the creation of Highway 50.


Here is one more sign. This one is provided by Trails West whose “primary activity is installing, and maintaining, distinctive steel-rail “T” markers along the many emigrant trails leading to California and publishing guide books to enable anyone to follow these trails from beginning to end.” They have placed over 600 markers along 2000 miles of trails.


Putting my iPhone in my pocket it took this photo.



Way back in this post I mentioned a Shoe Tree. Here is another west of Cold Springs. This one is even marked in our map book and described in this internet article.


Not to be a spoil-sport, but I’m not a big fan.  Sure, it is a curiosity and, in this case, a landmark, but I think I’d rather just admire a nice tree growing in the desert. To me it brings to mind the question is graffiti artwork or vandalism?


Sand Mountain is a 2-mile long, 6oo’ high sand dune that is 20 miles east of Fallon and is the site of another Pony Express Station.




Impressive house in Fallon…


..and an auto repair shop featuring a NAVY jet out front (representing Fallon Naval Air Station).


Seen on the highway and reminiscent of a twill pattern in weaving.


Just past Fallon, we left Highway 50, as it headed southwest, to get on I-80 toward Reno…


…and, eventually, home.


California! Only about 2-1/2 hours to home.


We drove about 2800 miles on this trip. It’s marked in pink. Our 2015 trip to Texas is in blue. Orange is to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in 2014 and Green was to Grand Canyon and beyond in 2013. Where to next year?

Road Trip to CO – Four Corners to Dark

Our 8 day road trip was almost over. We spent Monday night and Tuesday morning in Mesa Verde National Park but needed to be home on Wednesday. We decided to drive through Four Corners and Monument Valley–it wasn’t much out of the way and Dan had never seen the area (and I had been there just once).


Most of the photos in this post were taken from the truck window at 70 mph. I found that I could sometimes roll the window down (yes, roll, there are no push buttons in this truck), sometimes remove the lens cap, and sometimes turn the camera on, but not always all three of those things.


Four Corners is notable for being the only place in the United States where four states meet. It is also marks a boundary between the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation. The Navajo Nation runs the Four Corners Monument as a tourist attraction.


This is not the actual monument, but part of a sign about the surveying that began in the 1860’s. Wikipedia says, “the origins of the state boundaries marked by the monument occurred just prior to, and during, the American Civil War, when the United States Congress acted to form governments in the area to combat the spread of slavery to the region.”


The marker itself is in the center of this courtyard. Notice the line of people to the right. They are all waiting to take their photos over the marker. We didn’t join them, but walked around the outside where there are stalls in which Navajo and Ute members sell souvenirs. Then we got back on the road.


We took Highway 160 southwest to Kayenta where we turned north on Highway 163 to head back to Moab, but drive through part of Monument Valley. Wikipedia: “Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor…Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, ‘its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.’ “DSC_1416






Spectacular country for it’s rock formations. A tough place to live on the land.


This rock formation kept us entertained for many miles as we drove closer and closer to it. I think it is just north of Bluff, Utah. I have googled a variety of words to describe this near both Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah, but I don’t see any photos like this.


I do know the highway roughly followed the course of the San Juan River between those two towns. The rock formations that show up on-line are the Mexican Hat for which the small town is named and…


…Navajo Twin Rocks near the town of Bluff.


We continued to see red rock formations as we drove north toward Moab.DSC_1477




We hadn’t started the trip in Moab, but we’d been there just four or five days ago. I checked to see how long it would take to get home. I couldn’t get the phone to show me the route that we planned to take. We were headed to Highway 50 to cut straight across Nevada.


We passed Arches National Monument where we’d spent a day hiking


…and picked up Highway 50 at Crescent Junction.


The plan was to drive west until we needed to stop.


We’d seen some of this spectacular country but it looks different going the other direction.



We drove until it was took dark to take photos and then we kept driving.

To be continued…


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.