Monday, August 29, 2011

Storm Chasers (chased by)

As most know,the east coast was hit by hurricane Irene over the weekend. The forecast for West Virginia was supposed to be perfect, so we hooked up Anna and headed West. In all honesty, we had already planned on going out with Anna for the weekend. This was the last weekend before Halle starts kindergarten, and we wanted to get one last trip in. Our destination? Seneca Rocks. Irene, however decided to push a little further inland than the weather guys thought it would and we had a lot of clouds and a little drizzle to contend with. Seneca Rocks looked like a Japanese print from our campground across the street.

Right up yonder holler is the tallest mountain in West Virginia. We thought, why not go and check it out? What we forgot to take into account was that the cloud ceiling was about 3400 feet. Spruce Knob is way higher than that. Are my knuckles white? The 30 feet of visibility was comforting since the left side of the road dropped straight down into the trees and there were no guard rails.

So at the top, we were way up in the clouds. There is no way around getting wet in this situation. What to do, but go for a stroll.

The path through the woods was an absolutely lovely walk.

This fire newt didn't seem to mind the weather. He was out for a stroll, making the best of it. too.

The view from the observation tower was truly wonderful. I could see my house even better here than on top of Mount Evans a few weeks back.

Dropping out of the clouds brought us back into fairer weather.

By the next morning the cloudy skies and drizzle had gone north and we went about seeing the sites. Seneca Rocks is a very popular rock climbing destination. We hiked it instead of climbing it with ropes. There are many cool hikes in this area. Up the road in yonder opposite direction is one of our countries best kept secrets - Dolly Sods. Dolly Sods is a wilderness area and offers some spectacular hikes. We did not make it there this trip, but hope to go with the girls in the near future. Even further up yonder way is Harpers Ferry. We wanted to visit it on the way back home.

Honestly, the day could not have been more perfect. The weather was cool with low humidity and the crowds were sparse due to the hurricane that had just gone through.

Many years ago I worked for a historic restoration company. One of my projects, while there, was fabricating the windows and exterior mill work for this building you see here. I was very proud to see it looked so good after all these years. How would it not? I built them exactly as the originals were, from wood of the same era. During one of the numerous flood the water was past those third story windows.

Most people know Harpers Ferry because of John Brown and his armed insurrection. There is a reproduction of the building that it took place in. Oddly, historic buildings were often taken apart and put on exhibit. More than once they were "lost" between exhibitions. This same fate fell upon Lincoln's boyhood home.

Walking the old streets is a cool step back in history. Harpers Ferry was a major player in the American Industrial Revolution. Many successive floods and a civil war, followed by more floods ended that era. The population today is half what it was before the Civil War.

For architecture geeks, there is a great deal to admire.

Railroad geeks will find the town interesting also. After Harpers Ferry we headed off to find a campground. Right next door to Harpers Ferry is a gigantic KOA. We pulled in and did an immediate U turn right back out of the place. Camping like sardines is not my bag. Next we headed to our 'go to; state park, Greenbrier, just west of Fredrick, MD. Unfortunately the gate was locked tight. All Maryland state parks were closed due to 'storm clean up.' We saw no evidence of storm damage that needed clean up. Instead we moved on to a private campground literally 15 minutes from our house. Good Sam's was very good to us. Though the campground was full with seasonal people(in HUGE fifth wheels that never move) we were given a nice site almost all to ourselves.

There was a good deal of 'storm clean up' that needed to be taken care of at Ramblin Pines, and to make up for the closed pool, we got free mini golf. Halle is a natural, even if her stance, poise, grip, and swing are all wrong. Ava is an ace hitting par at every hole.

Beth, well, like her Dad, takes the golfing very serious.

Hey, give me back my ball!!! I want to play another round.

Even though, not a perfect weekend, it was perfect to me. With Ava turning thirteen I feel my trips with her are reaching their limit quickly. I will take every one I can get, even if the weather is not perfect and if things do not go as planned. I hope we can squeeze a few more weekends in before the year comes to an end. Halle starts kindergarten tomorrow, so as far as we are concerned the summer is over for us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Another Restaurant Review? No, Two.

I will not lie, I love to eat. I think I have been very open about that on this blog. When I find a good meal, I like to share my experience with anyone that will listen. I need to tell you about two super places. I hope you all visit both. Sorry neither have websites, but both are on Facebook.

The first is Prost. Not Prost in Aberdeen Maryland, which is also way beyond good, but the one on Main Street in Frisco Colorado. Being about 80% German, I am drawn to any restaurant offering German food. Like the percentage of German in me, 80% of the time it sucks. To my total astonishment, Prost exceeded all my expectations.

The menu is simple Gausthaus fare of sausages, cucumber salad, potato salad, and an awesome Tellar plate(cheese, cured sausage, pickles, and bread). The draft beer is as good as it gets, real imported draft beer. We loved this place so much that of the seven days in Frisco, I visited five of them. Nothing like a weisswurst and a liter of beer at 9017 feet!

The second place needing to be highlighted is actually one of my five favorite restaurants (oddly two of my top five are in Taos) The Guadalajara Grill is a flat out 10ten10. The food is a perfect distillation of authentic Mexican and New Mexican cuisine. No bullshit TexMex here!!! I am always so excited when we pull up that I forget to take out my camera.

They have all the usual stuff on the menu and also some great specials. Chili beef colorado was my pick for the night. Not even a smear of sauce remained on my plate.

We come once or twice a year and this guy remembered me. He asked me why it has been so long since I came in, he even asked why I cut my hair off. I was astounded he remembered me, because lots of long hairs come in. I think it is in the dress code there. They do a brisk business and there must be a flood of faces. I told him I live in Baltimore and in all honesty it has not been that long. I asked if he would deliver to Baltimore. It is under consideration...

Once again, super clean operation. The place is no frills, but the kitchen is spotless, and food flawless. Just like the arrival excitement, once the food hits the table, I loose all focus of taking photos. Maybe next visit.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On (with) Reservation

I have debated how to write about our visit to the Taos Pueblo. As someone of Anglo descent, I probably have no place talking about Indian affairs. I should probably keep my mouth shut and just talk about what a fascinating and educational visit it was. Unfortunately, this goes against my nature.

After many visits to Taos, we finally went over to the Pueblo to check it out for ourselves. A few visits ago we met a young man from the Pueblo attending the same wedding as us. In conversation, he told me if I every come back, to look him up and he would show us the "real Reservation life". He promised to take us to parts that very few Anglos were allowed. Unfortunately, Christopher has taken a job working in the gas drilling business out of state. He lined us up with a young lady that would show us around. Turns out she showed us the same three spots all the tour guides show the tourists. We saw the North Plaza above.

We saw the cemetery. This is said to be the spot where Federal troops bombed the church which was filled full of women and children. Some Pueblo inhabitants killed Charles Bent, governor of Taos and went there to hide. The Pueblo filled the church with human shields and in this game of Mexican Standoff, the Pueblo people lost. Since then, the church has only been used as a graveyard.

There is no electric or running water in the old part of the Pueblo. The houses are used only during feast days and important celebrations. Each family has their house for these times of use. Many families seem to have shops open during all the other days of the year. Cold coke, turquoise jewelry, silver jewelry, blankets, and all the usual indian tourist junk was for sale.

Many of the buildings are very picturesque. There is a great deal of restoration going on all over the old section.

Just about all the buildings are in very good shape for 1000 years old. However besides a few photo opportunities, there is not much to see. There is not much going on either.

All the buildings are closed off to the general public. All over the place there were signs saying "restricted area, no entry". For $40 for the family with the camera, I kind of expected to see a little something besides the outside of the Pueblo and the inside of tourist shop. Maybe if Christopher had been around to show us, it might had been different.

Somewhere half way through the tour, I realized we could have just looked at the photos on Google. I learned more about the Pueblo via Wiki than I did on our rather expensive 20 minute tour. The continuous line of cars pouring in must bring in a rather large amount of money each day. The casino at the entrance of the Reservation looks to be doing a swift business also. My impression of reservation life has always been of server hardship and poverty. I guess the Lakota should build themselves a Pueblo and offer up daily tours to the tourist like us. They too could have a captive audience.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thares Gold in Dem Hills

Actually there isn't any gold. Well, there might be gold, but not in an significant quantities. There is however quartzite and some mineral deposits related to quartz formation in the area.

I learned later after this hike that had I gone a little higher on the mountain, I could have hunted for garnets. Oh, well, I was just out for a stroll, looking to see what I could and maybe finding some cool stones along the way.

Another fine day in northern New Mexico.

I could clearly see this old quartzite works 3/4 of the way up. It looked like a great destination.

Going up I followed what were just goat trails. Well, probably not goats, but something that makes a narrow twisting trail easier on four legs than just two. Though not as high up as Frisco Colorado was, the elevation kept me knowing that in my chest, I had a beating(throbbing) heart.

The ore bin was covered with images much like petroglyphs. I did not realize it, but a four wheel drive road lead right up to it. With a little determination, I probably could have driven the rental Camry right up to it. That's what rental cars are for right?

This is the stuff they were mining here in Pillar. That vein, which runs much wider in other area of the mountain, is quartzite. There is some cool mica seams running in the rock also. The waste rock looked like finely ground aluminum. It was actually kind of surreal. I could not seem to get a good photo of way it reflected light.

One thing about rock hunting is the constant scanning of the ground...

... the eyeballs get tired going from rock to rock. Tailing piles like this are places I love to search through. Often, in the hunt for larger deposits, the discarded rock hold some some very cool specimens. There are entire mining operations that do nothing but work the waste of previous operations.

The hike netted me a few interesting rocks, but it really netted me a nice relaxing morning in the mountains.

After the hike, I was very hungry. I thought I was in need of a tamale, so I stopped into Mary Janes. The item on the menu catching my eye was "the Mexican Burger". The tamale would have to wait. So would the chili rellano, the frito pie, and the burrito Rio Grande.

They tell me that for thirty years they have been serving up food in this same location. It is nothing fancy, but it is very friendly and extremely clean. The line of people stepping up to order and take away was brisk the entire time I was there.

So here is the Mexican Burger. It is your ordinary run of the mill patty fried till very well done. They then wrapped it in flour tortillas. There is cheese inside and on top, along with green chili sauce, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and more chilies. I have never had a burger so good in my life. Hands down, this concoction has blown all previous burger experiences away. I thought the street cart burger in Mexico City with bacon, ham, roasted pineapple, and hot salsa was the best, but Mary Janes Mexican Burger jumped clearly to the top.
This is not the last fantastic meal or adventure. Stayed tuned for more to come.

"it's just 'RAFTIN'"

Day two in El Prado and I felt my energy level rising like the morning sun. You can feel the solar power as soon as it hits your face. Warm, fresh, and a new. For some reason, I always notice it is a new day in Taos. Back home I just wake and begin my day. Jonathan had a high energy day planned for us. It was his daughter's seventh birthday, and as a celebration we were going to raft the Rio Grande.

I think the following song should be playing in the background as you read. I was humming, whistling, or singing it out loud all day long...

The Rio Grande grinds down through the mesa West of Taos. Almost as soon as it enters New Mexico from Colorado, it begins cutting down into the bed rock. It makes for some awesome rafting. Now my rafting partner, Perry, had to straighten me out about rafting. I kept calling it "white water rafting". All the "rafting" trips I have taken in my life, have always been "white water rafting". There were class III to class IV rapids involved, sometimes even some FIVERS. The chances of death are always in the cards. Every year some person does die in "white water rafting" mishaps on the Appalachian rivers . They just call it "rafting" here. When raging, you might get some class 2.5. It has been very dry in New Mexico, and the river is very low. So Perry, it is just "rafting".

So here is our crew, except for Leslie. Sasha, the birthday girl, is in the center. Jonathan in the white was our guide. Birch, standing to the right was along as was his daughter Adelaide. What a great bunch to spend the day with.

Perry and I got to take the kayak. Perry kicked butt all day long never slacking on the paddle. For a five year old, he put out a very impressive performance. He was also an excellent help at reading the class I rapids.

Halle was strictly along for the ride. Going for a ride down the river suited her well.

Sasha and her best friend Adelaide, sure enjoyed the ride too...

Occasionally the girls were asked to paddle. But pretty much the entire trip involved relaxing ..."across the Rio Grande O, across the lazy river"...

Our hosts. So much THANKS to both of you!!!

The whole family was a glow after the trip. What a way to have an awesome vacation. It is only half over. Life is real good in Northern New Mexico.

.."across the Rio Gande O, across the lazy river,. across the Rio Grande O, Across that lazy river"...