Category Archives: plants

Those mysterious Mima Mounds, with bonus wildflowers

The odd landscape of the Mima Mounds.

Mima mounds are one of those quasi-mysterious landforms that no one really has an explanation for. They occur in various places in North America and elsewhere, but the landform itself is named after the mounds on the Mima Prairie, which happens to be just down the road from where I live (I’m northeast of Olympia, Washington, and the mounds are about 10 miles south of Oly). This area is also one of the few examples of native prairie left in western Washington, as well as a prime example of the mounds.  It’s now preserved as a Natural Area Preserve by the state of Washington, and as a Natural National Landmark by the federal government.

Some of the theories of Mima mound formation, as posted on the visitor kiosk.

I’d been there once before not long after I moved to Washington, then I completely forgot about it. Which is really too bad, actually.

But the real draw for me, especially this time of year, is the flowers. Of course. I saw at least a dozen different kinds. Here are some of them.

Siberian miners lettuce. A ubiquitous woodland flower, found this time in the woods near the parking lot.
Desert parsley.
A serviceberry shrub. A similar species back east is known as shadblow.
Western serviceberry blossoms.
Salal. Another common woodland plant, related to both blueberries and rhododendrons. I found it at the edge of the prairie this time.
Camas plants are scattered like this all over the mounds.  The yellow blossoms are western buttercups.
A close up of a camas bloom stalk.
The violets grew in patches, not scattered all over like the camas.
Death camas, so-called because the bulb is poisonous. The bulb is almost indistinguishable from the regular blue camas, so the Indians used to dig these up and get rid of them when they were in bloom, which was the only time it was easy to tell them apart.

And two other non-flower photos.

Not a flower, but this unfurling fiddlehead was just cool.
It’s not often you find a sky as open as this in western Washington.

Oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced like lima bean, not like Lima, Peru.

Over the mountains to sunshine

It’s no secret that this has been the wettest winter on record in western Washington (almost 45 inches of rain between October 1st and April 30th – our average, for well over a hundred years of record-keeping, is closer to 35 inches for the entire year), and one of the coldest. There’s no argument that it’s been incredibly depressing as well (and personal reasons have made it even more so for me).

So, when the weather forecasters for this past week noted (with great cheer) that it was supposed to get to and over 70dF on the west side of the mountains for the first time this year on Wednesday and Thursday, and even warmer, with lots of sunshine, on the east side, I thought, you know what? Screw it, I’m going camping.

Of course, when I thought about the east side of the mountains, my first idea was to go back to the Okanogan, which almost feels like home after the time I spent there researching my first two Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. I was also hoping it would nudge me back into writing the third Tale, which has sat there a few chapters in whining at me for longer than I want to think about it, due to those personal reasons I mentioned above. That didn’t really happen, but at least I got to spend some time in the sun, in nature, and to see lots of spring wildflowers.

The first place I went for flowers wasn’t on the way to the Okanogan, not in the region proper. At some point in the past I had picked up a flyer titled Wildflower Areas in the Columbia Basin, and one of them was about ten miles southeast of Wenatchee.

That turned out to be something of an adventure, as the photo of the Rock Island Grade Road will show. At my first sight of it, I thought, oh my gosh, I hope that little dirt road climbing up the side of a canyon isn’t the one they’re talking about, but yes, it was.

The Rock Island Grade “Road”, looking back towards the Columbia River from where I saw so many wildflowers.

It wasn’t the steepest, narrowest road I’ve ever driven, but I think it’s the steepest, narrowest dirt road I’ve ever driven. The recommended place to stop was about two and a half miles up, and the flyer hinted that there was a parking area. Ha. And what it turned out to be was a place for locals to go up and shoot cans, with all of the attendant garbage. That said, it was also literally carpeted with wildflowers. I managed to park Merlin as close to the edge of the road (not, at that point, hanging over the cliff) as I could, in case someone else came by (no one did, thank goodness), got out, and this is what I saw.

Spreading phlox spreading everywhere along the Rock Island Grade Road.
A phlox close-up.
And another. One of the things that makes phlox one of my favorite wildflowers (and garden flowers) is the infinite variation of a simple five-petaled flower in such a limited color palette.
The yellow flowers are wild radish. The purple ones are blue mustard. Both are tiny, but were profuse.
Yakima milkvetch, which was a new one to me.
And the first of more balsamroot I’ve ever seen in one trip before, which is saying a fair amount.

After I made my way cautiously back down to the highway, I headed back to Wenatchee, then north along Hwy. 97, which borders the Columbia River. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon by then, so I stopped at Lincoln Rock State Park, the first of three parks with campgrounds north of Wenatchee. I’d never camped there before. All of the sites are within sight of the river, and it was a peaceful, warm evening. I sat out in my lawn chair and just absorbed it all. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera chose just then to give up the ghost, and apparently I’d forgotten to bring the spares, so I have no photos of that.

And that was my first day east of the mountains this year.  More tomorrow.

I found a new park today!

This afternoon, since it wasn’t raining for a change, I decided to go down to my new neighborhood and explore around. Before I left, I checked the city of Lacey’s website to see if I could find any interesting trails close to my new place. I found what I thought were two, marked them on my map, and headed out.

The first one was something of a bust. I found the park all right, and I found what I thought was the beginning of a purported mile and a half trail that was supposed to lead from this park to views of the Sound, but the trail itself petered out pretty fast, and I couldn’t find anything else that looked like a trailhead.

The trail that petered out.
The trail that petered out.

So I headed on to the other possibility, which was actually only two miles from my new place. Woodland Creek Park has a nice little lake, a senior center, a community center, a disc golf course, and playgrounds and picnic shelters, and is located at one end of a six-mile rails to trails path that leads from Lacey to Olympia. Not only that, but the trailhead was easy to find.

Geese at Woodland Creek Park.
Geese at Woodland Creek Park.
The lake at Woodland Creek Park.
The lake at Woodland Creek Park.
A very bright maple tree.
A very bright maple tree.

First, I walked over by the lake (the trail doesn’t go all the way around it, alas), where I saw a flock of Canada geese bedded down on the grass. Then I took the paved path leading to the long trail, which T’d into it. I could go either left or right, and I’m not sure why I went left when I knew the main trail went right, but I’m glad I did.

It was peaceful and quiet out there. You always know you’re home when you’re on a first name basis with most of the plants you see. Or at least I am. The pavement gave out soon, and there was a sign saying that this part of the trail was not developed yet. The path was still smooth and lined with the gravel and pebbles leftover from where they’d pulled the railroad tracks out. Eventually I reached a small bridge over a stream, with some rather unfortunate graffiti (edited out of my photo because I found it offensive), and, on the other side of the bridge I could still see the old rusted railroad tracks.

The rails to trails path.
The rails to trails path.
Oregon grape berries.
Oregon grape berries.
I've never seen a purple fire hydrant before.
I’ve never seen a purple fire hydrant before.
The end of the trail.  See the railroad tracks?
The end of the trail. See the railroad tracks?
The disc golf course at Woodland Creek Park.  Part of it, anyway.
The disc golf course at Woodland Creek Park. Part of it, anyway.

That’s where I turned around. It was probably a bit under a mile one way. I managed to get back just in time not to get rained on, which was a good thing. Next time I come here I’ll have to walk the other way and see what I can discover. All in all a very good day.

I’m glad to have a good trail like that near my new home. And a pretty little park, too.

The view from where I'm staying (until I get into my new place the first weekend in November) this evening.
The view from where I’m staying (until I get into my new place the first weekend in November) this evening.

September 17: Across into Big Sky Country

I got a fairly early start this morning, mostly because the sun came over the horizon and hit Merlin square in the windshield [g]. Today was an Interstate day, mostly because there’s really no alternative to I-94 in southeastern Montana without going way out of the way.

This is actually in North Dakota, just before the Montana state line.  Anyway, I find it amusing.
This is actually in North Dakota, just before the Montana state line. Anyway, I find it amusing.
And on into Montana.  I've lost track of how many states/provinces I've been through at this point.
And on into Montana. I’ve lost track of how many states/provinces I’ve been through at this point.
Sunflowers!
Sunflowers!
Classic southeastern Montana scenery.
Classic southeastern Montana scenery.

I’ve driven this stretch before, and there’s not a whole lot to say about it. I stopped for lunch in Miles City (named after one of the generals who finally caught up with Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce back in 1877), and didn’t stop again until I arrived at Pompey’s Pillar. I know I’ve posted about Pompey’s Pillar here before, in 2012, which was the last time I was in this neck of the woods, but I do find it fascinating, and it was interesting to see it this time of year (the last time I was here it was June, and all the early summer flowers were in bloom). The other thing I didn’t realize from when I was here before is that modern-day travelers approach the pillar from the opposite side that Clark and company did (this was during the part where he and Lewis split up on the way back to Missouri so as to explore more territory). It hadn’t even occurred to me where the river was [wry g]. So that was interesting to me.

Pompey's Pillar itself as seen from the highway.  It was named after Sacajawea's baby son, nicknamed Little Pomp by William Clark.
Pompey’s Pillar itself as seen from the highway. It was named after Sacajawea’s baby son, nicknamed Little Pomp by William Clark.
Seeing Clark's graffiti will never get old.  Well, it is old, but you know what I mean.
Seeing Clark’s graffiti will never get old. Well, it is old, but you know what I mean.
Looking back from the signature towards the Yellowstone River.
Looking back from the signature towards the Yellowstone River.
A better view of the river.
A better view of the river.
I've never seen pink snowberries before, but that's what they said they were at the Pompey's Pillar visitor center.
I’ve never seen pink snowberries before, but that’s what they said they were at the Pompey’s Pillar visitor center.
Pearly everlastings at Pompey's Pillar.
Pearly everlastings at Pompey’s Pillar.

From there on it was just plowing on to Billings, the largest city in Montana, where I planned to get a motel room, get Merlin’s oil changed (for the third time), and go to the grocery store. Also to do laundry, but due to the fact that the motel’s laundry facilities weren’t available, that didn’t happen. I got to Billings about three in the afternoon, spent the rest of the afternoon getting stuff done, and that was my day, I’m afraid.

I did check when I went online this evening to see if the Beartooth Highway, which among other things was Charles Kuralt’s choice for the most beautiful highway in America, is still open for the season (it goes over an almost 11,000 foot pass, so it’s only open in the summer). The Montana DOT website said it is, and since I’d planned to drop down into Yellowstone for a day or two (pass that close to the park and not go? Inconceivable! [g]) and it’s actually the most direct route coming from this direction, I thought, why not? I’ve never driven it before.

August 23: Two bouts of serendipity, and wishing for more than a few words in French

I woke up to a world that didn’t look like it rained a single drop yesterday. Not a cloud in the sky (for the morning at least – it did cloud up and shower just a bit this afternoon and started coming down good again about bedtime) and Goldilocks temperatures (not too hot, not too chilly).

I drove north on Trans-Canada Hwy. 2 until I saw a sign that said Grand Falls. That sounded interesting, so I got off the freeway (basically Canada’s answer to the Interstate) and drove down into a cute little town with an enormous waterfall right in the middle of it. A sign nearby said that during the spring freshet, the waterfall has 9/10ths of the volume of Niagara. Of course it’s late August now, but it’s still pretty darned impressive.

Grand Falls, New Brunswick
Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

My next stop was for lunch in the town of Edmundston, then a few miles almost to the Quebec line, where I saw a sign that said Jardin Botanique. Well, even I can translate that! The New Brunswick Botanic Garden, complete with butterfly house, was charming. Absolutely charming. The late summer flowers were in full bloom, the grounds were beautiful, and it was just the right size to while away a couple of hours on a perfectly sunny afternoon.

The entrance to the New Brunswick Botanic Garden, just outside of Edmunston
The entrance to the New Brunswick Botanic Garden, just outside of Edmundston.
Inside the butterfly house at the New Brunswick Botanic Garden
Inside the butterfly house at the New Brunswick Botanic Garden.
What the butterflies in the previous photo look like when they're in flight
What the butterflies in the previous photo look like when they’re in flight.

I had an interesting conversation with a gardener in the potager (kitchen garden) section of the place, my first real attempt at a conversation with someone whose English wasn’t much better than my all but non-existent French (northern New Brunswick isn’t quite as Francophone as Quebec, but almost). Anyway, I asked her what those berries in the photo were, and she told me they were related to blueberries, but needed to be cooked with a lot of sugar so they wouldn’t be disgusting (her word) [g].

 The subject of my first discussion with someone whose English was only slightly better than my French.
The subject of my first discussion with someone whose English was only slightly better than my French.
 An artichoke, which is apparently hardier than I gave them credit for
An artichoke, which is apparently hardier than I gave them credit for.

There were some rather odd sculptures, apparently a temporary exhibit, and a stonehenge, my second one of the trip (the first one was back in Washington state at Maryhill). And just a lot of lovely scenery.

The rose garden was pretty much over for the season, but the fountain was still pretty
The rose garden was pretty much over for the season, but the fountain was still pretty.
A view of the aboretum
A view of the arboretum.
Flocks and flocks of phlox
Flocks and flocks of phlox.
A sedum I'm not familiar with
A sedum I’m not familiar with.
Monkshood, which is one of my favorite perennials because it's such a true blue
Monkshood, which is one of my favorite perennials because it’s such a true blue.
 A view of the garden pond and gazebo
A view of the garden pond and gazebo.
 Isn't that an amazing dragonfly It's about 3 inches long and you can just see its transparent wings.
Isn’t that an amazing dragonfly? It’s about 3 inches long and you can just barely see its transparent wings.
 Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn't it?
Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn’t it?
My second stonehenge of the trip
My second stonehenge of the trip.

I crossed over into Quebec right after I left the garden, and all of a sudden everything was monolingual – in a language I don’t speak! I’ve never been to a place where my native language isn’t the primary language before, let alone driven there. It’s a good thing I had a couple of weeks worth of bilingual road signs before I arrived here, because at least I recognize most of the common road words (sortie for exit, convergez for merge, directions, that sort of thing). Anyway, buying gas (about 10 cents more a liter in Quebec than in the Maritimes) and getting a campsite were interesting exercises, too. The campsite is right on the water, and very lovely.

Now they're taunting me with moose in French!
Now they’re taunting me with moose in French!
The view from my campsite tonight, over the St. Lawrence Seaway at low tide.
The view from my campsite tonight, over the St. Lawrence Seaway at low tide.

I decided planning was the better part of valor, so I have reservations in Quebec City’s hostel for three nights starting tomorrow. That has me leaving QC on Saturday, Christine, Elizabeth and Marna, so it looks like I actually won’t get to Ottawa until at least Monday, and Mississauga after that, depending on whether I actually spend time in Montreal or not. I hope that works out for everyone!

August 12: History, lots and lots of history, oh and two gardens

Today was a very full day, even though I drove less than 100 miles for the entire day. I started my day at Grand Pré, which means Great Meadow in English. It’s one of the first sites of the expulsion of the Acadians, back in the mid-18th century. It’s a UN World Heritage Site as well as a National Historic Site, and the museum there tells the story of the Acadians.

Before today, my entire knowledge of the Acadians is that a bunch of them wound up in Louisiana and became the Cajuns. Now I know a lot more of the story, and it was moving and sad. I’m not sure what all to say about it without putting my foot into it, except that I kept thinking about what’s going on with the Syrians today.

The other two things were that I’d had no idea that the Acadians reclaimed lands from the Bay of Fundy in similar ways that the Dutch have in their country. It was fascinating to learn about how they’d done it over a period of over a hundred years, and so long ago. And then there was the Longfellow/Evangeline connection – yes, she was fictional, but apparently his poem brought a lot of attention to what had happened to the Acadians, and so she’s become something of a cultural symbol.

The gardens surrounding the memorial church, etc., were lovely, too.

Anyway, I learned a lot at Grand Pré, some of which I was not expecting to learn.

The Evangeline statue and the memorial church at Grand Pre.
The Evangeline statue and the memorial church at Grand Pre.
Part of the gardens at Grand Pre.
Part of the gardens at Grand Pre.
The Longfellow bust at Grand Pre.
The Longfellow bust at Grand Pre.
Looking out over the polders/reclaimed land at Grand Pre, complete with the two red Adirondack chairs that seem to exist at every viewpoint in the Canadian national parks.
Looking out over the polders/reclaimed land at Grand Pre, complete with the two red Adirondack chairs that seem to exist at every viewpoint in the Canadian national parks.  ETA:  I am informed that in Canada, those chairs are called Muskoka chairs.
A view back from the lookout towards the memorial church at Grand Pre.
A view back from the lookout towards the memorial church at Grand Pre.

And so it was on to Annapolis Royal.

I drove past this today, something else I'd never known about before.
I drove past this today, something else I’d never known about before.

Annapolis Royal is about fifty more miles down the road, where I visited two National Historic Sites, Port Royal, which was supposed to be a living history site about a French fort, but which, according to a fellow visitor who went on about it for quite a while, was no longer what it was because Stephen Harper had eviscerated the National Parks. The site was still there, but the re-enactors are apparently no more. It was still really interesting, though.

The reconstructed fort at Port Royal.
The reconstructed fort at Port Royal.
Inside Port Royal, which was sort of the Canadian French version of Old Bent's Fort.
Inside Port Royal, which was sort of the Canadian French version of Bent’s Old Fort.
Those window panes are made of animal hide.
Those window panes are made of animal hide.
My first turned leaves of the trip. Holy cow.
My first turned leaves of the trip. Holy cow.

Then there were the historic gardens in Annapolis Royal, which were really lovely. No Longwood, granted, but then I expect not many gardens could stand up to Longwood. These were smaller, and have been there since the 1930s, and were absolutely filled with glorious flowers.

The perennial borders at the Historic Gardens.
The perennial borders at the Historic Gardens.
Unlabeled (I wish I knew what variety these were!) lilies at the Historic Gardens.
Unlabeled (I wish I knew what variety these were!) oriental lilies at the Historic Gardens.
A reconstructed Acadian house at the Historic Gardens.
A reconstructed Acadian house at the Historic Gardens.

My last stop of the day was at Fort Anne, right on the river in Annapolis Royal. It’s the oldest National Historic Site in Canada (so now I’ve visited their first national park, Banff, last summer, and their first national historic site today), but what struck me as funny was that they were refurbishing the officers’ quarters/museum in the fort, and at the moment it’s all covered with modern-day waterproofing plastic film.

The tyvek-wrapped officers' quarters at Fort Anne.
The tyvek-wrapped officers’ quarters at Fort Anne.
The powder magazine at Fort Anne, built in 1708 and the only entirely original building at the fort.
The powder magazine at Fort Anne, built in 1708 and the only entirely original building at the fort.
The view from Fort Anne, down the Annapolis River.
The view from Fort Anne, down the Annapolis River.

Fort Anne is a classic on-the-waterfront star fort, just like Fort McHenry in Baltimore, although it’s considerably older and there aren’t as many buildings. The redoubts definitely looked familiar, though. The museum had an absolutely gorgeous needlepoint tapestry inside. I never did find a date when it was done, but apparently it’s fairly recent. It’s spectacular, too.

Half of the dropdead gorgeous needlepoint tapestry at Fort Anne.
Half of the dropdead gorgeous needlepoint tapestry at Fort Anne.

By the time I left Fort Anne, I was pretty tired, so I drove the last 25 miles down to Digby, where I’m ensconced in a very nice hostel, with wifi and showers. I will continue on around the coast tomorrow, and probably wind up in Halifax in two or three days.

I can’t believe it’s been eleven weeks today since I left home. Criminy.

August 9: Canada. Finally. And some serious tides.

I finally crossed the border from Calais, Maine, to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, early this morning. No problems, even when I told the nice gentleman manning the station that I planned on being in Canada for a couple of months [g]. He just told me to have a good time and waved me on.

Success, success, I did it, I did it!  I finally made it to Canada.
Success, success, I did it, I did it! I finally made it to Canada.

I stopped at an ATM and got myself some usable money, then headed north on Highway 1 towards then through St. John, on my way to Fundy National Park. No, not that kind of fundie, but the Bay of Fundy. Anyway, it’s one of those places I’ve always sorta wanted to see, and the park seemed like a good place to do it.

I saw another one of those weird UFO thingys again today.  About 1 pm local time (I'm now *four* hours ahead of home) at Fundy NP.
I saw another one of those weird UFO thingys again today. About 1 pm local time (I’m now *four* hours ahead of home) at Fundy NP.

I got here about lunch time and found a little bakery in the hamlet of Alma, just outside of the park, to eat lunch. I may have to go back there in the morning for a sticky bun for breakfast, though, because they looked delicious. I then went looking for a room for the night, even though it was so early, because a) it’s a third night, and b) I wanted to spend the rest of the day in the park. I found one here in town, next door to the bakery, actually [g].

Then I went exploring. I like Fundy National Park. It was low tide when I got here, and all the fishing boats at Alma’s harbor were kind of tilted on their sides in the mud. But I went walking in the park, to see a waterfall (which a lady on the trail described as stunning, but well, I think that was overstating it pretty hard – it was a cute little fall, though, even though I couldn’t get a decent photo of it), and to get some views of the bay with the water surging in. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. But when I got back to Alma just now? The boats in the harbor were afloat! That tide really is pretty impressive, actually, which I suppose it should be given that it’s the greatest tidal change in the world or something.

The motel is right on the water, and they have a bunch of Adirondack chairs overlooking the bay, and I think I’m going to spend an hour or so out there this evening. It looks like a great place to watch the stars.

But I’m going to have to get my jacket out. Believe it or not, the high here today was in the low seventies (F)! With a breeze! It’s so wonderful. It truly is.

A view of the bay.
A view of the bay.
Bunchberry berries.  They're a kind of dogwood that's a ground cover as opposed to a tree.  I saw these blooming in the Canadian Rockies last summer.
Bunchberry berries. They’re a kind of dogwood that’s a ground cover as opposed to a tree. I saw these blooming in the Canadian Rockies last summer.
A replica covered bridge (built 1992 to replace one built in 1910) near Wolfe Point in Fundy NP.
A replica covered bridge (built 1992 to replace one built in 1910) near Wolfe Point in Fundy NP.
The Bay of Fundy from Herring Cove, Fundy NP.
The Bay of Fundy from Herring Cove, Fundy NP.
And another view of the bay from the same place.
And another view of the bay from the same place.

August 2: More lighthouses, more beach, more plants, more everything seashore

This morning I got a fairly early start, and, after a quick stop at a grocery store, I headed back north along U.S. 6 (the Cape’s backbone highway). The advantage of getting up and out before eight in the morning is that the roads aren’t crowded.

My first stop was at Nauset beach and lighthouse, the parking lot of which was full by the time I got to it yesterday. The sky was gorgeous this morning, and while the lighthouse itself wasn’t open to visitors, it was still pretty, perched up on its cliff where it had been moved back not once, but twice in its 150 years of existence.

A whalebone gate and a weird-looking house near Nauset Light.
A whale’s jawbone gate and a weird-looking house near Nauset Light.
Salt marsh and water at Nauset.
Salt marsh and water at Nauset.
More cool skies over the Cape.
More cool skies over the Cape.
Nauset Lighthouse.
Nauset Lighthouse.

I then went for a hike at Great Island, on the bay side of the cape, which looks very different from the ocean side. The trail was about four miles long, but I don’t think I went more than a mile and a half or so one way. Part of the trail crossed a huge dune, and it’s really hard to walk on all that loose sand. On the other hand, the sand is this lovely golden color and the views were pretty amazing.

Salt marsh and water at Great Island.
Salt marsh and water at Great Island.

The next thing I knew I was back up in Provincetown, where I ate a picnic lunch. It started to rain just as I finished up, which was good timing, and I thought I’d like to go and see the Pilgrim monument and its associated museum. I didn’t count on everyone else thinking that would be a good idea on a rainy day, too, and it was impossible to find a parking place within a reasonable walking distance, so I had to bag that. I did manage to get a picture of the monument, which is by far the tallest thing in Provincetown. This is where the Pilgrims landed before they decided it probably wasn’t the best place to start a colony and went on to Plymouth.

The Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown.
The Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown.

Provincetown is also the gay mecca of New England, and is famous for its drag queens and nightlife and so forth. All I can really tell you about that is that there are rainbow flags everywhere there. I liked that. The Pilgrims are probably spinning in their graves ululating at high pitch, to quote Lois Bujold (she was talking about Beta Colony and John Knox, IIRC), which amuses me vastly.

My last little hike for the day was at Pilgrim Heights, a few miles south of Provincetown, which, in good national park tradition, was a nature trail with plant labels. I saw bayberries and Virginia creeper and oaks and pines – and a little red berry with no label! I’m going to have to look that one up. The berries look like currants, but the foliage looks like plums. I’m wondering if it’s beach plum, but if it is, people make jam out of it, and, wow, it would take a gazillion of those tiny things to make just one pint.

Whatever this is, it doesn't look like Googled photos of beach plum.
Whatever this is, it doesn’t look like Googled photos of beach plum.
Bayberries, the stuff they make candles from.
Bayberries, the stuff they make candles from.
The trail at Pilgrim Heights.
The trail at Pilgrim Heights.

After that, I was chilled (yes! really!) and damp, so I came on back to my campsite and read for a while.

Tomorrow I will say good-bye to the Cape, after stopping in Hyannis to visit the John F. Kennedy museum, and drive up and around Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts, which has some history I want to explore, and to meet up with Ann from the Bujold list at an eggroll restaurant for dinner.

July 27: Another literary hero and two months on the road as of today

Today I drove more winding backroads, crossing into New York state, until I reached a bridge over the Hudson River. My photos of it aren’t very good, but I tried…

Another state.  I think this is #19? 20?
Another state. I think this is #19? 20?
Over the Hudson River.
Over the Hudson River.
A view of the Hudson from the other side.
A view of the Hudson from the other side.

Then I wound down the eastern side of the river until I got tangled in some serious traffic, er, made it to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, where Washington Irving built his house, and set the most famous of his short stories.

No, that so-ridiculous-it’s-fun (at least for the first couple of seasons) TV show of the same name isn’t filmed here. It’s actually filmed in South Carolina, but it is set here. And apparently there’s been a small Twilight-esque run on this place in the last few years because of it. Not to the extent that Forks, Washington, has been taken over, but enough that the lady who sold me my ticket to visit the house looked like she wanted to roll her eyes at me when I commented on it.

Irving was the first person in the United States to make his living writing fiction. He wrote a lot of other things, too, history and satire and so forth, but it was his fiction that made his name. His house was the second most visited home in the 19th century, after Mount Vernon.

It’s a pretty cottage (Irving’s word), described by our guide as a pastiche of many architectural styles, from Dutch to Spanish. The front door is all but encased in wisteria, ivy, and bad hair day (trumpet) vine, and it took an act of will for me to get through it [wry g]. I did remember that from my first visit here, in April, 1981, with my mother while I was visiting my parents during the year and a half they lived in Connecticut.

According to the plaque, this sycamore tree on the Sunnyside property was alive during the Revolutionary War.
According to the plaque, this sycamore tree on the Sunnyside property was alive during the Revolutionary War.
The front of Sunnyside, almost smothered with wisteria on the left and trumpet vine on the right.
The front of Sunnyside, almost smothered with wisteria on the left and trumpet vine on the right.
The back of Sunnyside, with the docent who took us through.
The back of Sunnyside, with the docent who took us through.
Believe it or not, this is Sunnyside's ice house.
Believe it or not, this is Sunnyside’s ice house.

It was fun to see the house again, though. It stayed in the Irving family (Washington Irving was a bachelor, and he left the house to his nieces) until the 1940s, over a hundred years after it was built, and it was purchased not long after that by the Rockefellers and preserved as a historic site, so it’s in much the same condition (and filled with much of the furniture) it was in when Irving died.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, as I always do this sort of thing. The last time I was here it snowed that night and knocked the power out at my parents’ house. Too bad we couldn’t split the difference between that visit and this one. The house itself isn’t air-conditioned. Thank goodness for thick stone walls. It could have been much worse inside than it was.

After I left Sunnyside, I headed for Danbury, Connecticut, and listee Irene, who offered me a bed for a couple of nights. Her parents hosted the listee curry party at Denvention in 2008, which was great fun, and we’ve corresponded off and on ever since. She has a nice place nestled on a hillside, and I hope she’s having as nice a time hosting me as I have being her guest.

Tomorrow I shall explore around Danbury (Irene has to work), and then on Friday I am headed for the Connecticut coast and Mystic Seaport. Beyond that, we’ll just have to see.

July 15: An overwhelmingly enormous and gorgeous garden

Today was the day I finally got to go see Longwood. Katrina’s been posting photos of the huge estate garden originally owned and developed by Pierre DuPont back around the turn of the last century for a long, long time, and I have been drooling over same about that long. At any rate, I’ve been wanting to see Longwood for years, and it was the one thing I wanted to be sure and do while I was visiting here.

It’s a two-hour drive up across the Pennsylvania border to Longwood, and on the way we stopped at a place where Katrina knew of eagles. We saw several, and this is the best photo I got (cropped and enlarged to a faretheewell) of a baby eagle.

See the immature eagle? Although he does seem to be behaving himself.
See the immature eagle? Although he does seem to be behaving himself.

Then it was on to Longwood, where we spent the rest of the day walking around in the 90dF humidity looking at everything. We ate lunch there, and got ice cream, and stayed until almost dark. I was absolutely exhausted by the time we left (according to Teri’s phone, we walked over five miles), but it was so worth it. What a gorgeous, gorgeous place. I think I’ll let some of the almost 300 photos I took speak for themselves.

The rainbow border. It runs from blue flowers on one end to red ones on the other. It's *amazing* and long, and there were so many flowers that I don't normally see because the climate's so different.
The rainbow border. It runs from blue flowers on one end to red ones on the other. It’s *amazing* and long, and there were so many flowers that I don’t normally see because the climate’s so different.
I don't remember exactly where this little dude was, but he was adorable.
I don’t remember exactly where this little dude was, but he was adorable.
The other end of the rainbow borders.
The other end of the rainbow borders.
And one of a bed of gorgeous red cockscomb blossoms.
And one of a bed of gorgeous red cockscomb blossoms.
This little fellow is an anglewing butterfly. He was along one of the walkways.
This little fellow is an anglewing butterfly. He was along one of the walkways.
A variegated hydrangea.
A variegated hydrangea.
The Italian water garden.
The Italian water garden.
One of many, many in full bloom waterlilies in the conservatory courtyard.
One of many, many in full bloom waterlilies in the conservatory courtyard.
A lotus growing with the waterlilies. I don't think I've *ever* seen a lotus in blossom before.
A lotus growing with the waterlilies. I don’t think I’ve *ever* seen a lotus in blossom before.
One of the many, many tropical plants in The Conservatory That Ate New York. Seriously, you could have fit twenty little Tacoma Seymour conservatories in it and still have room left over.
One of the many, many tropical plants in The Conservatory That Ate New York. Seriously, you could have fit twenty little Tacoma Seymour conservatories in it and still have room left over.
A rainbow sherbet hibiscus flower in the conservatory (there were a dozen different kinds of hibiscuses there.
A rainbow sherbet hibiscus flower in the conservatory (there were a dozen different kinds of hibiscuses there).
The meadows. Which were also full of flowers.
The meadows. Which were also full of flowers.
A whole bunch of liatris in the meadows.
A whole bunch of liatris in the meadows.
This is the atrium of Mr. DuPont's house, and the biggest split-leaf philodendron I've ever seen.
This is the atrium of Mr. DuPont’s house, and the biggest split-leaf philodendron I’ve ever seen.
Purple martin houses fully occupied in the idea gardens.
Purple martin houses fully occupied in the idea gardens.
Flower beds in the idea garden.
Flower beds in the idea garden.

And on the way back to Teri’s house we drove over the Susquehanna River at sunset. It was a great ending for the day.

The Susquehanna River at sunset.
The Susquehanna River at sunset.