A FINGER LAKES FALL

Comes fall, comes color, but where to seek it.  For years it’s been Vermont and I thought I’d go up there again but for some reason it wasn’t sitting comfortably.  I opted instead for the Finger Lakes which we hadn’t visited since 2003.  In early October we headed for Watkins Glen at the southern end of Seneca Lake, and about five hours driving plus any pit stops.  We had stayed in a B&B further up the lake previously but thought the Watkins Glen village would be a good base.  Also, my fantasy was to enjoy sunset while sitting on the town dock there and looking up the lake and at the marina.  It was a pleasant fantasy and it was realized.

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The number one attraction at Watkins Glen is the gorge within the state park.  In 2003 we hiked this 1.1 mile trail which rose 500′  through a  carved canyon and some 19 waterfalls.  I thought I would die before I got to the top (hey, that’s a forty story building) .  Since then they’ve added a transfer bus such that one can park at the top, walk down, and then bus it back to the car.  Great!  Except it only runs on weekends in the fall.  So, we just walked in a little way this time.

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The day being a little threatening we took off to drive west to Hammondsport at the south end of Lake Keuka, described as “America’s coolest small town.”  Well, that’s OK; we thought it was nice, and you could drive around its center square pretty quickly.  The stores and nearby houses converted to stores were in the Halloween mode.

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From there we went along the lake’s western shore, stopping for lunch at Swissy Castel Grisch and taking in the lake from the restaurant.

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With three more days of driving around Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka lakes we came across many scenic opportunities.  Here are three of them:

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In addition to the many falls in the Watkins Glen Gorge there are over a dozen scenic falls in the area of Seneca and Cayuga lakes.  We hiked into four of them and, while the water flow wasn’t great, they were enjoyable destinations.    Here’s one I particularly liked but I’m going to have to go back to figure out which one it was. 🙂

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My guide to the falls in the area was the Finger Lakes issue of Photograph America Newsletter which I have enjoyed using for many other locations.  I recommend it.

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Selected images from the trip can be seen in one of my galleries

by clicking here.

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FIRST LIGHT, FIRST COFFEE

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On weekend mornings Pearl and I have a little ritual.  I brew coffee while she’s having her breakfast and then we head to the sunroom to watch the light return.  On the way to the kitchen I’ve already turned on the music.  I know that the air I need is a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and some other rare gases but for me one more ingredient is needed: music, preferably classical which Pearl enjoys as well.  This morning it’s Dvorak’s Stabat Mater.  After her breakfast she joins me  for this adoration of life and the beauty that is there for us as we choose to see and enjoy.  Above, the return of early, warm light on the nearby woods through a garden room window.  I am at peace but feel ebullient about the day ahead … the caffeine, no doubt, but the total experience makes it worthwhile for having gotton up.

CHINCOTEAGUE FUN FOTOGRAPHY

In late November I returned for my fourth trip to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

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This time I travelled with eight others, all members of the South Jersey Camera Club.  This was one of the many field trips the club sponsors during the year, and it was a fun and productive trip.   Full Disclosure:  We broke out eaaarrrrly Saturday morning to capture the sunrise, and I discovered that my camera was still in bed … back home.  I had all but one of my lenses, my filters, and my tripod and all other gear that we carry … but … no … camera.  So ashamed.  Fortunately there were three other spare bodies available so the weekend wasn’t a total loss.  And, the companionship made up for it.

Our field trip leader, Pat, had us out on the grinder at (it seemed like) 4:00 AM, actually more like 5:45.  We drove out to the parking area for the wildlife loop road and proceeded on foot with our flashlights in pursuit of a 7:00 AM sunrise.  There was a wonderful ground fog above which the scraggly pines stood starkly.  Sure enough, the dawn light began to illuminate the Snow Goose Pool and we could begin to make sense of things.   The opening image above was one I captured just as the sun broke above the horizon.

Here’s most of the group that dawn.  There were things to photograph on both sides of the road. 

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Here’s another scene that morning before the sun had actually risen.  These two images show why it was good for us to be there at that time.  Our leader, Pat, and colleague, Larry, had both come down a day early and had scouted out locations for us.

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After that session we returned for breakfast and planned the rest of our day.  That included scouting out some interesting wading bird shots and also the famous wild ponies.

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The day concluded with pleasant relaxing around a bonfire on the beach in the long shadows of the setting sun. 

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After that a great group dinner in town which concluded with a small birthday cake for me, it being but two days after the event.  I was so moved that I offered a birth-inspired toast;

Here’s to the finest years of my life

Spent in the arms of another man’s wife.

My Mother, God bless her.

A splendid field trip with some wonderful people.

CHRISTMAS WITH A REGGAE BEAT

Barbara and I have been to the Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Oberndorf, Bavaria on a cold Christmas Eve and sung that timeless piece with the gathered assembly.

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Two weeks ago we experienced Silent Night played as a reggae arrangement.  Although it was warmer where we were I much prefer the colder version.

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We boarded Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas in San Juan and cruised to St. Thomas and then on down the windward island chain.  The ship was pleasant and beautifully appointed and the service was excellent.  It was not, however, as big or as classy as last year’s Freedom of the Seas so the lesson is: there are ships and there are ships.  It was a smaller ship this year but we had never experienced lines or crowds last year and certainly didn’t this year.

The first stop, St. Thomas, is a large set of shops plus lovely beaches outside the city, Charlotte Amalie. 

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One such is Coki Beach, northeast of Charlotte Amalie, facing the Atlantic but sheltered by off-shore Thatch Cay.  My family sunned and snorkelled here a lot of years ago and I was pleased to see it was still a nice destination.

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While at sea the ship offered many, many areas to enjoy quiet or sun or shade.  There were the raucous entertainments around the pool but there was another pool and other decks.  I considered entering the Sexiest Man contest by covering my body with $100 bills but there weren’t enough bills to cover my pot belly. Sic transit gloria.

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While sailing south toward St. Lucia we had the benefit of sunsets and twilight color during our wine-time on our little balcony.  It also served us for our wakeup coffee in the morning.

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At St. Lucia we joined in a van cab ride from The docking port, Castries, down through the fishing village of Canaries and on above the fishing village of Soufriere to the rain forest and its botanical garden.  The view along the way is of the awesome Pitons, a pair of volcanic spires.  They bracket Jalousie Resort where one enjoys a very private studio tucked into the mountain with your own small pool.  A call to the lobby when needed brings a golf cart for transport to breakfast or the beach.

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The plantation was owned by a fascinating international character, Lord Glenconner, ex-Eton, ex-Oxford, etc., a one-time presumptive husband for Princess Margaret before his adventures with island-buying and inn-keeping in the Grenadines, a mini-career with the Scottish National Party, and a return to the Caribbean to buy the St. Lucia plantation.  He later sold half of the property to a developer who built the hotel.  Glenconner then opened a restaurant there which he called “Bang Between the Pitons” because, as he would say,  “That’s where it is.”   He showed up at the Plantation restaurant every morning for breakfast where I met him, attired always in his trade-mark white Indian cotton.  He died in August 2010 and the world lost an original.  This summary is worth reading, particularly with the current interest in Downton Abbey.

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Deep within the lush rainforest is this sulpher-stained waterfall,  the sulpher being from the dormant volcano.  In fact the name of the nearby village, Soufriere, means sulpherous air.

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All kinds of tropical blooms do well in the rainforest.

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Returning home we were no longer on the sunset side but we still got to enjoy tones from the setting sun.

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A gallery of additional scenes including Guadaloupe, Antigua, and St. Croix can be seen by clicking here.

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THE SECOND SEASON

Last fall I was ordering some houseplants from Logee’s, a supplier of a broad range of unusual varieties.   While looking at all of the goodies I wondered where I could possibly grow/display more of them in my new townhouse.  Then it hit me…..a light garden, and here it is:

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This was a reawakening of a long term interest.  I’ve always enjoyed gardening.  I began to grow summer flowers in a window box outside my room at college, and attended my first flower show while in college in 1953.  After marriage and moving in to navy housing I went nuts with gladiolus in our 2′ x 4′ plot.  Then I tried raising snapdragons from seed.  I didn’t think they looked quite right so I asked a knowledgable friend who looked at the flat and pronounced them to be healthy chickweed  seedlings. 

At our first apartment in civilian life I built shelves for a bay window and filled it with house plants.  Shortly after that we moved into our first home which featured a large back yard.  I carved it up into small gardens and set out to raise the necessary dozens of seedlings under flourescent lights.   Here’s that early setup, circa 1965

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That worked so well that I built a three-shelf-high, 4′ x 8′ planter equipped with twelve 4′ long, dual-tube flourescent light fixtures so that we could enjoy flowering plants in the winter….the second season.  I raised all manner of gesneriads, impatiens, balsam, browallia and begonias which do well under low light levels, but I also brought stock and dwarf marigolds to fragant bloom along with other summer annuals.  It was about seventy-five square feet filled with color in the harshest depths of winter.  A business partner once told his secretary that when he died he wanted to be laid out in my basement.

I moved it to the basement of our next home and kept plants going in it and then in successor wall shelves for some thirty years.  I toiled through infestations of leaf and soil mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, cyclamen mites, red spiders, root rot, and mildew but I was finally brought down by thrips.  I just couldn’t get all the plants cleaned at once so I threw in the towel except for a two shelf cabinet in the family room until I moved last year.  If any of them showed problems they were evicted.  Tough love.

So, now I’ve started up again, and it’s a joy to walk into the sun room in the morning and see all the plants, vigorous, in bloom, perhaps even purring.  What triggered this post was the Streptocarpus shown below.  From flowerless it has burgeoned with over two dozen blooms.

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Also exciting for me is this Abutilon or Flowering Maple.  I used to see it in the Park Seed Co. catalog but had never tried it as it’s a full sun plant.  But, my friend, Nancy B., has a large specimen growing in her sunroom so I thought I’d try it.  It has done well under the lights, rewarding me with a few unusual blossoms.

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This Columnea (Gesneriaceae) is another joy for me.  I had this particular variety for most of my years of light gardening, keeping it going by taking root cuttings and developing them.  But it also fell victim to the thrips and, finally, my tiring of that struggle.  Then I found it in the Logee’s catalog and invited it to come back home.  The colors make me think of candy corn, and the blooms, of some exotic dolphin leaping from the water.

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