Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Walk in the Parks

Today I am bringing you much closer to home by showing you Great Falls Parks. Last Wednesday was before Hurricane Florence was expected to bring lots of rain to our area. I thought it might be interesting to do a before and after post about the water flowing along the Potomac River at Great Falls.
 Above you can see the water today. For someone who has never seen Great Falls you may be wondering, gee, why do they call it the Falls? This is from the number 3 overlook.
 When we went to do the "before" shoot last Wednesday (this is also at the number 3 overlook) the river was at the highest level that I can recall seeing it! We did get some rain from the hurricane but not nearly as much as they had predicted. I was mightily relieved that we did not get the amounts they were foecasting let me tell you!
 Today, for a change of view we went over to the other side of the river which is in Maryland. On that side it is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. To see the Falls from this park you need to walk a little ways along the tow path and then across a couple of pedestrian bridges onto Olmstead Island. This view (above) is from the viewing platform on the island looking across the Potomac to the Number 1 Overlook on the Great Falls VA side.
 Last Wednesday from the number 1 overlook I was intrigued by watching that yellow barrel being tossed and turned by the angry water. Oddly, it stayed trapped there for quite some time.
 Today, this was the view from the number 1 overlook across to MD. If you are clever you can click on this photo and make it larger and then you can see the people standing on the MD side viewing platform.
 Here's another shot from last Wednesday taken from the number 1 overlook. Really, I think there was more water there last Wednesday than there was today. It has been a long and rainy summer. Notice the sky color last week. Today we finally had a blue sky sunny humid day.
 Okay, not to bore you with too many water shots let's change it up a bit. This was our first visit to the park on the MD side. This very long park features the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which runs from Cumberland MD all the way down to Georgetown in Washington DC. In the portion of the park we were in they are currently extensively renovating a portion of the canal which is why this canal boat is moored in a dry canal. I read that when the renovation is finished a visitor to the park will be able to take a ride on a mule drawn canal boat.
 This is the Great Falls Tavern, an historic building which now houses the visitor center for the park. Anticipating high water levels from the hurricane the building was sandbagged a couple of weeks ago which you may notice.
 The Potomac River has many small islands which force the water into smaller gaps. This was the view today crossing one of those pedestrian bridges I mentioned earlier when traversing Olmstead Island. That water was running fast and furious and looked as though it was a washing machine that someone had emptied way too much detergent into.
 A little up river from the Falls area is this aqueduct. Look at that amazing difference between calm water and angry water!
 On one of the signboards showing what the different vegetation in the parks is I discovered that this is Wild Oat grass. I am showing it to you because for forty minutes this morning before we left I was weeding my own garden. And this looks remarkably similar to what I was yanking out! But when left to grow and go to seed in it's natural habitat it does look quite appealing.
 Last week as I passed along the track to the number 1 overlook at Great Falls I noticed another photographer setting up his tripod and camera to capture images of this amazing growth on an old tree. So today I took a few minutes to also notice it and photograph it.
Finally, putting it all in perspective, here is the flood marker on the Great Falls side of the park. That's the river in the background...safely in the background. The marker shows the years when the Potomac overflowed it's banks. So even though all those photos today make you wonder where the Falls are (they are buried under all that muddy water) it is really not so bad at all.

We'll be back to Maine on here in my next post.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Summer Roadtrip Part III St George Peninsula

On this first morning at the East Wind Inn in Tenants Harbor I thought I was up early but this painter already had quite a lot on his canvas so clearly he was up earlier. It was pretty much low tide.
 Wandering around this was the view of the backside of our Inn (the white building) which was, as promised, located right in the midst of a working harbor.
 The sea is at the center of life in this area. All those lighthouses are there for very serious reasons. Even so, there are still fishermen lost at sea. This was a lovely memorial to them that we found in the grounds of the Marshall Point lighthouse. Do you see the stone cairns in the right background?
 Moving on we headed to the Owls Head Light. As you can see we were not to be blessed with blue sky weather. It was a pretty good climb up steps to this one - this is taken at the halfway point.
 And rounding out our first day on the St George Peninsula we stopped to admire St George fighting the dragon. We did see a number of these rusted sculptures around the area but no plaques telling us of their origin or story.
Next morning we woke to a foggy morning. The Grange buildings are still important in the area. The flower pots, like most in the area, are carefully tended. It was about 7.30 am when I was taking this shot thinking I had plenty of time to roam and find the best angles but a car pulled in and disturbed my tranquility. Later I discovered that it would be the site for a farmers market tent to set up on this day.
 I liked the quiet reflection here.
 The same small inlet.
 And across the road...did I mention it was lowtide in the mornings?
 However, when the tide came in, the boat floated. The fog, as you can see, actually got more dense as the day went on.
Now I have to tell you, this was my favorite lighthouse to photograph. The Marshall Point Light is located at the entrance to Port Clyde Harbor. Movie buffs may recognize it as it appeared briefly in the 1993 movie "Forest Gump". But on this misty midsummer morning the summer wildflowers and the mist gave it a special appeal for me.
 Marshall Point Light.
 Each time I passed this point on the road I admired the setting and the colors. It being a somewhat busy road during the day I took advantage of the early hour and pulled over to dash back and take a quick shot. When the mist was not hanging about that blue roof was a vibrant eye-catcher.
To close I'll leave you in the dead center of town.

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Summer Road Trip Part II - Portland and Beyond

Warning, in this part of our roadtrip we visited a number of lighthouses. You can't go to Maine for the first time and not visit just would not count as a trip to Maine!

 On this day we headed from Freeport down to visit the various lighthouses around Portland. This is Portland Head Light albeit taken from a different angle than most photographs show it. But I am leading in with this one as I have a little mystery for you. Just to the top left of the keepers house you can see a smaller lighthouse out in the bay. It shows in no other photo I took and nor can I find mention of it in any of the written guide books I picked up. So here is your chance to shine your light (get it?!) - can you identify it for me please?
 This is the more frequent aspect you see this lighthouse photographed from. I read that it is the most visited, photographed and painted lighthouse in New England. Now I have to add that at least another couple also claim similar billing. Oh well. On this day the weather was variable but we did at least stay dry. Why this was important was that this was a Saturday and lighthouses are a very popular location to have an outdoor wedding. We saw our first here at Portland Head.
 Our next stop was for the Cape Elizabeth Light - which is actually "Two Lights". Parking, as in most places, was in high demand and trying to find a good view of either of the Cape Elizabeth lights defeated me. Instead, I am showing you some of the pretty wildflowers that we found in many areas around Portland.
Continuing on we found the Spring Point Ledge Light near to South Portland. It is at the end of a breakwater which we started along but then retreated. The lighthouse was not open to tours that day but there were a number of people fishing from the breakwater along with some interesting seacraft and other sights. It was at this stop that we watched the CAT, the high ferry from Portland ME to Yarmouth Nova Scotia come in to berth at Portland Harbor.  Again, if you want to chime in and identify the building on the left side please do. Wedding # 2 was going to happen overlooking this lighthouse some time after we left. Since we did later get rain I hope the timing worked out for the wedding party.
 Our last lighthouse for this day was the Portland Breakwater Light ("Bug Light"). It was a constant challenge for me on this day to try and get my best shot as, being a summer Saturday, there were people everywhere. While I was waiting in vain for these folk to move away from the lighthouse another local photographer came along and commiserated with me. We both agreed that the sail boat in the background made a good shot and, oh well, you have to seize the moment. Now you might be thinking that this small lighthouse is somewhat insignificant but check out the design. The architect for this, Thomas U. Walter, was also the designer of the U.S. Capitol's east and west wings and the current dome. Wedding #3 had already happened overlooking Casco Bay.
 Leaving lighthouses behind we rattled our way over the cobblestones of old town Portland and arrived at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum. Part of the experience at the Museum is the ability to take a short ride along the shore of Casco Bay in the restored rolling stock. You roll gently along for a mile and a half and then come to a halt while they disengage the locomotive and then reattach it at the other end of the train. Here the conductor is making sure that we stay within the open and closed carriages while the locomotive is moving past us.
 Once #7 was back on the correct line we could get out and watch while the fireman supervised the recoupling process. Those may be weeds in the background but their bright yellow color created a good contrast to the darker colors of the railroad rolling stock and the fireman.
 On this day the locomotive in use was #7 , built in 1917, from the Bridgton & Saco River Steam Railroad. This stop was specifically for the interest of the navigator who is a very keen railroad enthusiast. He later told me it was fitting we visited that day as it was the 50th anniversary of the Fifteen Guinea Special which was the last steam-hauled train on British Railways. The light drizzle of rain did not impact our visit too much.
 The next morning we said our goodbyes to the Freeport area and were all set to get on the road to head north when I realized I had not documented the Big Indian located next door to where we had been staying. This towering 8' wide by 30' high fiberglass, plaster and steel rod statue has stood here on the side of route 1 in Freeport since 1969 and is a well known landmark. It was originally commissioned by the owner of the Casco Bay Trading Post and intended to draw people in to the business. Constructed in Pennsylvania the trip north of the Big Indian was a draw itself creating much slow traffic with motorists gazing in awe as they passed the big flatbed trailer. On the  NJ Turnpike state troopers pulled it off the road and requested it wait until dark to continue the trip as it was causing a traffic hazard with all the rubbernecking. The Trading Post owner retired in 1989 closing the business but the Big Indian remains. Now it is a conundrum to try and figure out how to photograph it with all those unsightly wires as the backdrop.
 We took a quick break from route 1 and pulled into Wiscasset. This pair was also taking a quick break.
Driving on again our next stop was for the Permaquid Point Light. As we pulled into the parking lot the heavens opened and we were stuck in the car while the rain poured down for more than 30 minutes. This is another of the "most visited and famous" Maine lighthouses. Looking out across the picket fence surrounding the keepers house and into the Muscongus and John Bay you can still see the rain hanging there.
 The lighthouse is not a tall one and we did take the opportunity to walk up the spiral stairway into the light area. For safety reasons this is very carefully controlled and only five people at a time can go up. While waiting our turn I noticed a cutting from a newspaper story dated December 2013 (with photo) reporting on a recent wedding here, yes, right here. The bride (in full long wedding gown) and groom, two witnesses and the officiant ascended the steep stair ladder and the wedding ceremony took place in that tiny confined space. Oh, also notice the seagulls perched on the roof. As we waited out the rainstorm we could see the gulls up there but speculated they must be fake as they stayed resolutely in position all through the downpour. But no, I guess it is just a favorite perch as the entire time we were there the seagulls came and went but there were always some perched on the rooftop of one or more of the buildings.
 This photo I took from high up while in the lantern shows the rocks at low tide. It is a very real danger that the lighthouses are there to alert for.
 Somewhat behind schedule because of the time lost to the rainstorm we did at last arrive at our destination, Tenants Harbor, where we would spend four nights at the East Wind Inn. A small working, fishing and boating harbor village on a peninsula near Rockland we hoped for fine weather during our time there.

To be continued.