Category Archives: Other Adventures

Topics or adventures of interest to us that are not necessarily hiking, outdoors, or non-motorized in nature.

Isle Royale National Park 07-Jun-2017

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Since we’d all journeyed way up to the North Shore, almost everyone agreed that we needed to behoove ourselves of this oppotunity for a daytrip to Isle Royale National Park. The park is only accessible by boat and we lucked-out in that the transportation boat, the Seahunter III, was starting its season the week we would be visiting.  The Seahunter III is a 65-foot twin diesel vessel that provides passenger service between Grand Portage, Minnesota and Windigo, Michigan, the park headquarters on the southwest end of the island.  There was some trepidation about riding a small boat across a large lake but conditions on our day of travel were sunny, clear, and glass smooth.

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A Week on the North Shore (Minnesota) 03-Jun-2017

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Our family is scattered across the United States and follows different schedules and lifestyles, so arranging a get together involves solving numerous multi-body problems.  Our animating criterium was for a place where we could all be together but still have different things to do (because, inexplicably, we’re not all hikers).  A secondary criterium was for that place to be new and different (for most of us at least).  So, after considerable back-and-forth,  but without any major ruptures in the familial fabric, we settled on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We had been there once years ago to hike Eagle Mountain, Minnesota’s high point, and the LovedOne’s brother and sister-in-law had visited when they worked in Minneapolis, but this shore was terra incognita for the rest.  The North Shore is also home to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), a tread that Backpacker magazine has ranked among this country’s top ten trails. The Chicago Tribune calls it the Midwest’s Appalachian Trail, although many think it’s more scenic than the actual Appalachian Trail.

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Santa Fe Trail (New Mexico) 22-May-2017

Our second day in Santa Fe dawned bright and clear but for some reason we couldn’t gather the enthusiasm for a hike. Perhaps that second helping of southwestern chili peppers at dinner – while delicious – was ultimately ill-advised? But what to do – other than air-out our hotel room? Fortunately, I’d been reading Hampton Sides’ excellent Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West (Doubleday, 2006) which recounts the history of Kit Carson, the Santa Fe Trail, and our appalling treatment of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest who got in the way of Manifest Destiny.  So we thought it might be good to visit two extremes of this story along the Santa Fe Trail: Fort Union National Monument to the east and, a little closer to Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park.

Fort Union

What struck us most about Fort Union, which was in use between 1851 and 1891, was the huge wind-swept area in covered and how poorly its adobe block construction has stood the test of time.

Fort Union National Monument New Mexico

The remains of the main post and depot

Fort Union National Monument New Mexico

The parade ground with the remains of the Post Commander’s house beyond

Fort Union National Monument New Mexico

The remains of Officer’s Row

The most enduring part of the fort is the maximum security block of the military prison, because it was constructed of native limestone.

Pecos Pueblo (Cicuye)

By the late Pueblo period – the last few centuries before the Spainards arrived in the Southwest – people in the valley shared by the Glorieta Creek and the Pecos River had congregated in multi-storied towns overlooking the streams and fields that nourished their crops. In the 1400s, these groups gathered into Pecos Pueblo, which became a regional power. Needless to say, the arrival of the Spainards, with their religion and their diseases, changed all of that. Although Cicuye had a population of around 2,000 and extended for a quarter-mile along the ridge, what stands out today are the remains of the mission church that the Spainards plopped down on top of the pueblo’s remains.

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Remains of the Spanish mission church atop Pecos Pueblo

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Wall detail, Spanish mission church

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Door detail, Spanish mission church

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Roof beam detail, Spanish mission church

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Convento foundations in the foreground, Spanish mission church to the left

It’s not until you walk to the end of the tour path that you find an obvious pre-Spanish construct, a renovated kiva.

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Renovated kiva, with the Santa Fe Mountains in the distance

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Interior of the kiva

We found the lessons from history these visit provoked to be an instructive way to spend a fine day in New Mexico. Another important lesson from recent history was to go easy on those chili peppers…

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Mill Creek Falls (Oregon) 12-May-2017

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Well, after three gloriously warm and sunny days, we were pitched yet again into the damp gloom of either a late winter or an early spring, but certainly not an early summer.  One of the old jokes about Oregon is that summer doesn’t really start until the 4th of July and this year that might not be a joke (if it ever was).  But, on the upside, all this sky water has made our local waterfalls really, really energetic.  So, rather than lament our moist meteorological fate, we decided to explore part of the trail connecting the Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) with Lost Creek Lake and simultaneously visit two local waterfalls – 173-foot Mill Creek Falls and 240-foot Barr Creek Falls – conveniently located within a quarter mile of one another.

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Around the U.S. by Train: Sunset Limited (March 2017)

Amtrak Sunset Limited Los Angeles California

The Sunset Limited starts in New Orleans and takes the most southerly route in the U.S. all the way to Los Angeles, California. Those who stayed awake during high school history class will remember that this southern route was made possible by the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, not to mention the Mexican-America War of 1846-48.  The train left the station at 9:00AM, so we had the whole day to observe its passage through the wet, coastal plains of Louisiana, into the pine forests of eastern Texas, and on to the clenching humidity of Houston, Texas.  Night fell after we left Houston and the light didn’t return until we’d reached Del Rio, Texas and started into the scrub deserts of West Texas.  We made a stop in Alpine, Texas (which I’d last visited a few years ago enroute to Big Bend National Park) and then pressed on to El Paso, Texas.  Beyond El Paso, the tracks run right up to the Mexican border, right up to pieces of the new (but likely futile) border wall, and soon enter New Mexico.  The Amtrak station in Deming, New Mexico stands out for being a lonely little open shelter with two benchs in a gravel parking lot.  Night fell again just as we reached Benson, Arizona and that was it for any more sightseeing on this trip.

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Around the U.S. by Train: Crescent (March 2017)

Amtrak Cresent New Orleans Louisiana

The Crescent, which actually starts in New York City, picked us up in DC in the late afternoon and whisked us over the Potomac into the South. The sun set while we were having dinner on the train and by next morning we were making a station stop in Atlanta, Georgia. After that we swept through a series of small Southern towns, including Anniston, Alabama (home of the Anniston Army Depot, the only depot capable of performing maintenance on heavy-tracked combat vehicles) and Birmingham, Alabama (home of the Sloss Furnaces, a National Historic site). As the sun set, we crossed Lake Pontchartrain on what seemed like a very narrow railroad tressle, went past the aboveground Greenwood Cemetery, and arrived at Union station in the Big Easy in the early evening – ontime after 1,152 miles on the rails.  There are several Marriott-related hotels in downtown New Orleans, so we tried our taxi driver’s patience as we caromed around looking for the right one.  After that, we opted for a late dinner at the hotel, and called it a day.

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Around the U.S. by Train: Capitol Limited (March 2017)

Amtrak Capitol Limited Washington DC

The Capitol Limited left Chicago in early evening for our overnight ride to DC and we had dinner on the train. Daylight had completely evaporated by the time we passed through Southbend, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio was a blur at midnight; and a gloomy, overcast dawn didn’t emerge until we reached Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Snow had started to appear as we approched Chicago but it was thick on the ground in eastern Pennsylvania and western Maryland – this would be the most snow we’d see on the whole trip. We wound our way along the Youghiogheny River, then passed through Martinsburg, West Virgina over to the North Branch of the Potomac River and then followed that to Harpers Ferry, West Virgina – where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Potomac and John Brown made his stand.  From there we paralleled the main Potomac River and the old C&O Canal right in to Washington, DC’s wonderfully restored Union Station for an early afternoon, ontime arrival after 780 rail miles.

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