Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Camden Maine

Sure, Sure... Camden Maine. "Archetypal Maine Seacoast town"  There will be Lobsta Pots... And shoppes ..and B&Bs. Yeah, yeah


 But you didn't say there would be wooden Masts, lots of them .. And Wooden Boats, beautiful ones... And a waterfall, the only stream in Maine that drops directly into the Sea... And ROSES, shoulder high walls of roses perfuming the air .   

 Proud churches 

 Clever merchants.


    And at least one merchant telling it like it is...



   We loved walking the town, visiting the Library and the friendly Camden Hills State Park.  The weather was blustery and raw for a couple days -- we nearly got blown off the summit 0f Mt Battie -- but when our last day dawned sunny, We (meaning Patty) decided it was time for some Maine hiking to the summit of Mt Megunticock.  YOU pronounce it, I spelled it.


   The trail was UP ....and ROCKY....



 But there were these...


 And the view was worth it...


Friday, June 10, 2016

Glimmerglass State Park

Glimmerglass, what an evocative name! Like Fern Cliffe, or Worlds End or Hearts Content, we would want to visit there if it were located in South Beach.  We nipped into Glimmerglass State Park after a day driving in the cold wind and rain.  We stopped fifty miles short of Adirondack Park because on June ninth they were predicting SNOW.


I'm assigning you the last electric site, said the cheerful attendant circling our map.  And THIS is the oldest covered bridge in the United States. WOW. 

 We set up quickly and hunkered down, enjoying the electric heater and delivering six or eight babies binge-watching Call the Midwife.    Next morning was windy but sunny.  Al needed relief from his post-partum cabin fever, so we were off wandering mown paths through hayfields, along trickles leading to beaver ponds...


Then this... 

It was built in 1825 on the newly patented Burr Truss and served one of the three entrances to Hyde Hall.

The road leading across the bridge is shaded by venerable Maples, gnarled and scarred but witness to two centuries.  In the silence we could nearly hear the oxen grunting, the harness creaking and the cart wheels bumping toward the mills.  

On the hill overlooking the full length of Lake Otsego, the first of several George Clarkes built his 50 room limestone mansion Hyde Hall.  It was built in stages in the English Neoclassical style (think Downton Abbey) no foundation plantings, gravel to the door step, unimagined elegance within. 

 As we approached the newly renovated gatehouse "Tintop", we were debating whether to sacrifice time and treasure to tour the inside.  We normally don't enjoy tours of "stuff" acquired by the landed gentry no matter how unique.  We love to hear the history of the land, a little gossip about the family, but when talk turns to wallpaper and China patterns, we are staring out the windows. So we were undecided until we saw this sign

OK Brendan "one of the two or three greatest houses in America."  Bring it on.  The video aerial tour and the glimpses of the grand rooms as well as the warmth and wit of the Lovely Joan won us over and loosed the purse strings.

The Hyde Clarke family lived in the home for 130 years before giving it up in 1963 as the Glimmerglass park was begun.  After a couple decades of disuse, it was slated to be dynamited before a trust took it over.    Joan told us there was a great deal to be restored and "sometimes re-restored" but she added that the view down the lake from the porch of the "cottage wing" was best part.  That's hard to dispute.

The grandest rooms were perhaps less grand than the video would suggest ..

...but amazingly, most of the family's furniture and art was present.  (One local citizen removed a precious marble fireplace when the dynamite plan was announced, but returned it when the restoration began.)  Overall, there was much traipsing through dusty corridors and work in progress.  Another tour member was astonished by the progress in the ten years since her last visit, so plan to check back later...or just bring a snack and relax on the porch and drink in the view...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Malabar Farm

Two helicopter pilots were sitting at a bar...(LOTS of really bad jokes start that way, but this story is mostly true.)

Sooo, my personal Cobra pilot and I were doing what we usually did between times in RVN -- planning how we were going to spend all this combat pay and what we were going to do with the rest of our young lives. We had been reading Louis Bromfield's Malabar Farm. The Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and, by now, famous screen writer and friend to all the Hollywood glitterati had turned to farming three properties in middle Ohio. He wanted to develop a sustainable model for American agriculture and he had the resources and the pulpit to help that happen. For two young city kids these ideas were fascinating, and we spent hours planning how we might follow these principles and carve out a similar lifestyle for our growing families. To be sure there were big four wheel drive vehicles, a couple Airstreams and perhaps a small landing strip in these plans, but the central image we held on to was an evening stroll around the property after a pleasant day's labor, the sun setting, a golden glow on the fields, our beautiful wives by our sides, a passel of kids and dogs strung out along the path.  

 Of course, Life intervened, other dreams developed and lives followed different paths, but until just recently I felt that evening walk was still in our diminishing future. Yesterday one aging helicopter pilot and his beautiful wife, an Airstream in tow, turned into Malabar Farm State Park with only the whisp of that dream remaining. We took the wagon tour of the grounds with a multi-generational group that were a little unclear on where their food came from, so the Farm Manager had to back down his presentation to the basics. He was enthusiastic about our desire to walk the farm at sunset and directed us to a "primitive" campsite that was everything we could have dreamed of.

We settled in, enjoyed a meal at the truly excellent Malabar Farm Restaurant

Took in the long view from the top of Mt Jeez   
and walked the farm roads, 

 the wood lots,

 ...the sugar bush and the rocky ravine that the glaciers missed.  The sun dropped low and Deer peeked at us from the cover of hay fields, only their back lit rosy ears giving them away. It was all that we could have hoped for except for the company of our missing friend.
The night sky was brilliant and the only sound in our campsite was the soft nickering of the neighbor's horses.
Our new friend Korre offered us an early tour of the Big House.  We found next morning that he came in on his day off, a kindness we will always remember along with the details about the Bromfields, their glamorous guests and the building of the house.


The Malabar Farm Restaurant is a restored stagecoach inn build around 1820.

Nearby is the produce stand designed by Bromfield where produce is cooled by flowing spring water.  James Cagney was a frequent guest at the farm and reveled in talking with the patrons and mostly giving away the store ( and reimbursing the farm from his own pocket.) Our visit to Malabar was far too brief, but we will re read Malabar Farm and Pleasant Valley  and return again, perhaps to view the Fall colors or during sugaring.      

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hiking --always part of the Plan


 Gentle readers will recall that these two septuagenarians had gleefully agreed to host their attractive and preternaturally agile granddaughter for a Spring Mountain trip.  She reports:

The hiking went well. I even got the Grands to take off on a rocky, uphill 5 mile adventure and no one complained the whole time.

That complaining starts HERE with the uphill and rocky part. The trail to Russell Field Shelter is convenient to our campsite but it is a Horse Trail and Rocky and Uphill.

OK, not all of it.

   The powers had scribbled a note on the trail sign warning that the shelter was closed due to aggressive bears...ominous music here and sounds of PaPa planning an early turnaround...

Despite portending doom, some folks were having a great time...

Near lunch time, while eating snacks and keeping a weather eye out for marauding bears, we heard the Bear Attack Report from three AT hikers who spent the night at Russell Field with the park's bear expert and another Ranger.  It seems that folks who camp in their tents away from the shelter and keep a food supply handy should not be surprised when a bear snurfles about their tent fabric in the night.  Now when this happens -- and this is the important part -- don't kick the bear in the snout!

And, oh yes.  I think that hike was WAY over five miles...

Hiking on the Blue Ridge

Emilyn continues...

As the temperatures were dropping we decided to head to higher ground at the Mount Pisgah Campground off the Blue Ridge Parkway. There we found our first showers in four days (don't tell Mom) due to our wonky water heater. With our one full day there I was able to convince the grands to take a simple 2 mile stroll through the Frying Pan trail and up a road to get a view of the mountains from a fire tower. The view from the top was well worth it, but it was no casual walk to get there. We had ups and downs and rocks and narrow paths on the clearly seldom used trail. This was followed by a mile up the gravel road where we broke for trail mix and apple before the climb up 8 flights of stairs. We voted to take the road back to our camp where I fixed Snoopy Casserole in our own frying pan...


 The trail is named for the communal frying pan shepherds left hanging in a tree in the gap.

 We are nearly always overdressed to start a's a blood thinner thing...

Emilyn at work on the wonky water heater

After a brief stop at 4,980 ft we descended to Cataloochee for a potentially rain-filled week. Thankfully the forecast was wrong. We had beautiful days of fishing (well, more like casting practice) on the Palmer Branch and exploring trails to the Woody House, Palmer Chapel and climbing up the hill to see the Caldwell Cemetery. The rest of our time was filled with card games and cooking lessons.... I'm getting Meme and Papa in condition for their Maine trip with Anthony who I can only assume has more energy for trails and will want to play just as many games...


 Best trip ever, Emilyn