Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nineteen Thousand of Our Closest Friends



The Visitor Center at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was pretty quiet when we parked the Airstream Friday afternoon. Signs were going up for the Crane Weekend starting next morning, papers were being shuffled, volunteers arriving.


As usual, there were just a few of us, all with binoculars strapped on.  Out the path to the comfy two story glass-walled Observatory, high walls screen the view, but the cacophony of  calls from the assembled masses of Sandhill Cranes was building and flocks of 6-10 were above us calling. It is hard to exaggerate the noise of 10 or 12 THOUSAND cranes, each loud enough to be heard 2 1/2 miles away. Cornell calls it a rattling bugle.  The Whooping Cranes are almost pleasant by comparison. 




The view from the observatory is breathtaking.  The pond in the foreground hosts hundreds of ducks of  many varieties, huge flocks of Snow Geese are feeding way off to the left by the tree line and all across the acres of cut corn in the mid distance are thousands of Sandhill Cranes in full voice.  Every so often a Bald Eagle makes a pass and stirs everybody up; a few deer will show themselves along the treeline. Way out there is a white dot of a Whooping Crane, another closer to the right.  

SEE VIDEO from this time last year   

We set up camp at the Joe Wheeler State Park FIFTY miles away.  (Planning was a little scant on this venture).  We were in storage with a winterized empty trailer two days before launch; all preparations went well except for this tiny planning error that had us up really early to travel back and watch the empty field fill with cranes.


Slide_whooper_and_sandhills_gl

There are about 20 Whooping Cranes at Wheeler this year thanks to the efforts of Operation Migration which over twelve years led small groups of newly hatched cranes toward Florida following behind ultralight airplanes. 
    
 

They established a new flyway which now hosts 100 birds.  There are fewer than 400 Whoopers now, back from lows in the teens.  So it is with a bit of a smirk that we report that 13 of these treasures were hanging out off-refuge by the ball fields near Chaz's fuel stop. 

Visit the refuge nearly any day between Thanksgiving and Valentines Day and you will find friendly volunteer hosts, just a small number of like-minded visitors and the same cast of thousands.  On Festival weekend, expect lots of folks from little guys enrolled in children's workshops, storytellers, songwriters and the Auburn Raptor Center folks with 6-8 of their feathered friends, bird enthusiasts of all ages, guys with camera lenses the length of your leg and ladies on walkers with iPhones and big smiles. 

 As we report often, it will be the stories we heard from our fellow visitors that will remain with us. We totally loved Brian "Fox" Ellis as John James Audubon and Meriwether Lewis; we offered to follow him around as groupies to hear the rest of the 30+ historical characters he portrays. (He's getting back to us on that.) 




Patty wore her Give a Whoop T shirt all around town in the evenings and marveled at the local pride in the refuge and  perhaps encouraged a few more to visit and support our Nineteen Thousand friends.





Monday, January 2, 2017

the day the music died


Our blog trailed off in mid-sentence somewhere in Maine in late June.  I first blamed the little tiff between Apple and Google that sent my  favorite Blogsy App into despair and eventual oblivion (and one less tech-savvy writer into mild hysterics.)   It might have been the niggardly data plan we had  in Canada or maybe that gifted Bloggers like Pilgrimage to Here,  and  Watsons Wander were traveling the same paths and reporting brilliantly. Whatever the reasons, the travelogue with pictures faded away. 

We have always shied away from shining too much light on the folks we engage on the road while maintaining that it is those people and their stories that light up our lives. Thinking back over a month in the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, spectacular park lands, warm citizens and tasty treats, it is still the Stories that we treasure above all. Here are a few guarded glimpses into lives we admire, people we met and a couple we did not engage and wish we had.

Mostly Airstreamers 

Last year's flood on the Cheticamp River destroyed half of the campground in the The Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Because it is far up the Sunrise Trail, the staff is very solicitous of indolent slugs like us who arrive without reservations.  They found us a tiny but usable site in the tenting area and proximate to the kids playground (which thrilled Patty.) We had barely unlimbered the camp chairs when the Airstreamers began to drop by. 



Ella Brown  http://silvermineandhis.weebly.com/ came by and had us in hysterics within seconds.  She and trick dog Charlie Button gathered a crowd as she reprised her totally unsanctioned performance at the Wally Byam International Rally pet show. She told us about that rally in flood-ravaged West Virginia and the generous outpouring of dollars and volunteer help provided by our  Airstream friends and a little about the totally internet based  We-don't-need-no-stinkin-paper NOVA unit. Long may they prosper.

In the assembled crowd was Laine Carpentier. Now Laine won't blurt this out, but she is one of the most famous and beloved creators of Teddy Bears in the world. As we shared some of our trailer hauling, craft show gypsy lives, some few hints emerged of a long life following dreams and seizing adventures.  Husband Bob filled in more details as he pulled in next morning with a fifteen foot Salmon rod anchored across the hood and windshield.

 "You know, I've caught 16 pound Salmon in  that little stretch just 70 yards from this campsite." 

The Cheticamp and especially the nearby Margaree are famous salmon rivers, luring fishermen from around the globe. Bob paged through his Fish Book -- pictures of big fish and big name fishermen from over his 20 years fishing here -- and momentarily took a call from buddies on the river about the fish they caught while he was sharing his time with us.  Into the mix were the highlights of their lives together -- commercial fishing all up the Pacific coast, an adolescence in the midst of the first surfing boom, developing lands near Aspen grub staking a free life, multiple Airstreams, an inordinate amount of bragging about his talented mate, heartaches and medical crisis and plans for the future.  On the last page was his Honorable Discharge; he would not want to be confused with Americans who crossed the border under a cloud.

In the crowd that first night was Stacy whose sparkling white Argosy immediately caught our eye.  It was just as bright inside, accented with bright colors and touches that proclaimed her creative insight and experience.  This is just one of several little trailers that she has restored "but this one is a keeper.  We have space for everyone in here." 
She was camping here while the two kids attended the French Language summer camp.  We were in instant grandparent mode.  There was a birthday party for Stacy with camping friends and we all trooped over for the school's evening recital (which would be entirely in French !!) 
  
HE shifted side-wise into the seat in front of us -- thirty-ish, slight of build, dark, with a short curly beard. I ventured a bon soir. He smiled shyly and looked back to his wife surrounded in the aisle. 
SHE wore a traditional scarf binding her hair, but nothing could mask the radiant smile she exchanged with a succession of well wishers.  She clasped hands warmly with the women, nodded appreciatively to the men whose faces popped up in the wall of bodies. Fluent French, halting English in torrents. Welcomes from the stocky ruddy-faced fishermen, effusive praise for her dress from his sturdy wife, "Your children are lovely" from the sleek sophisticated woman in French ..."so nice to see you..."
When she settled into her seat and exchanged a smile with her somewhat ill-at-ease husband, he cut his eyes to the old folks sitting behind.  Yet another radiant smile.  

The smiles and greetings continued through intermission and nearly closed down the aisle as we exited.  We were left in the joyous wake, marveling at the acceptance these Syrian newcomers found in this isolated, not-so-cosmopolitan little village. This, you will remember, was the summer of 2016 when a miasma of hate had found voice in America and everywhere we went in Canada new friends politely tilted their heads quizzically waiting for an explanation... 

Much later, I  stumbled on a survey of Canadians asked what characteristics made their country unique.  Canadians answered Diversity more frequently than Hockey. 

 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Days of Brine and Roses











Between the stones that guard the highway pullouts and along the Shore Path in Bar Harbor, beside the beaches nearly everywhere, in hedges at Campobello and along any path leading seaward are Roses, mostly red, but sometimes white, always fragrant, a sweet mellow undertone to the crisp bright scent of the tides.

This is our first trip to Down East Maine in Spring and it is paying dividends in Roses, and LUPINES!

We've assembled the usual suspects -- our beautiful daughter Joanie, husband Tim, gray-muzzled Lab Chance and, of course, nine year old mountain climber Anthony. Add in sixteen year old Cassie from the Alabama branch and let the giggling begin.

The Grands stayed at Seawall Campground near Southwest Harbor while the Gang of Four plus pooch luxuriated in a cottage in Bar Harbor.  Each day there was a  hike, a favorite like Hunter's Beach to show Cassie...


 



or a new, more challenging, one to show up the septuagenarians.

















  In between there was random rock climbing,  purposeful rock balancing and incessant rock throwing. 



 Lobster was  always under consideration, but  more often pizza on the run or fabulous vegetarian dishes by Joanie. Each meal at the cottage was followed by a stroll along the Shore Path to watch the sunset.






Some might say there was excessive high jinx...






But we were warmed by the bonding of the cousins each discovering what it's like to have a little brother or a big sister...






In Maine and especially near Acadia NP every turn exposes a picture  postcard scene. 








Shutters were buzzing most of the time and, yes, there were an inordinate number of selfies transmitted back to Peeps in Montgomery.  (Some of these images are from Cassie's portfolio EXCEPT the one of the chick photographer getting stranded by the incoming tide). 

The contest came down to finding a picture that captured all of the elements of "Stop! I see a picture."   That would be  1. A field of Lupines in bloom, 2. Boats in a harbor and 3. Lobster Traps.




But bragging rights aside, this is the one I'll remember...

 

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...