Coastal Connecticut at Christmas

Dinosaur Park

Nothing says Christmas like a giant dinosaur, don’t you agree? Such an oddity, a park filled with life-sized replicas of these ancient beasts. Closed for Christmas and definitely worth revisiting.

In Connecticut for the holidays with some time on our hands? No problem, Kelsey and I decided to take a trip up the coast. Themes were to be the lighthouses and historic sites along the Boston Post Road from New London, CT to Watch Hill, RI and that’s what we did. Continue reading

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A Lighthouse Hostel: Point Montara

Point Montara

How cool is it to spend the night at a lighthouse? If I have to tell you then you lack romance in your heart! It’s awesome!!! Happily I’ve done it several times and twice along the California coast.

The appeal lighthouses hold for me is complicated. Do I understand it?!

First, they’re usually at land’s end overlooking the sea and typically in a tortured locale. The waters are rough or weather tends to be wild and/or the waters nearby are riddles with obstructions. Second, it was often a remote, isolated and hard working life that accompanied the choice of managing a lighthouse. Neighbors were few, towns were distant, and life was lonely. Still, there is a sense of romance in being alone on land and fighting the elements with light to keep safe those men at sea. 

I’m sure it wasn’t romantic in life but from a distance it seems special. Work was physical and hard, the hours and conditions were terrible, and the never ending boredom  must have been mind numbing. Perhaps I’d have found it a romantic life it I’d had automated equipment, a broadband connection and FedEx delivery. Then again, if I had those things they wouldn’t need a lighthouse tender. Darn!

This lighthouse is at Point Montara just south of San Francisco on the coast. It is the second I’ve stayed at in the area. Pigeon Point Lighthouse is the other. Within the Hosteling International network there are many lighthouse hostels but along California’s coast I’ve now stayed in both.

Perhaps I should set as a goal to stay in all of HI’s lighthouse hostels? 

Hmmm … that’s food for thought!  Continue reading

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North Peninsula Seashore: Point Reyes

Point Reyes

My hunt for lighthouses will never end. Why? Because invariably I’ll find another gem like Point Reyes Lighthouse. It’s perched high on a cliff, is stunningly beautiful and is in the engagingly wild.

One reason I am passionately in love with the Bay Area peninsulas is the natural beauty preserved in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. This may be the single largest set of parks in one geography managed by the National Park Service. The variety, the extreme beauty, and the wonderful accessibility of it all is very appealing. Recently I finished visiting all these parks so it was time to branch outward … or should I say upward.

Today’s outing was to the next park north of the GGNRA cluster. My destination was Point Reyes National Seashore. When it comes to national and state parks it’s remarkable how quickly you can leave civilization; how soon you can lose cell coverage, be among farms, drive on slow remote roads. When you enter Point Reyes you want to have a full tank of gas!

This park has a distinct geography which is heavily influenced by the San Andreas Fault. Rarely can you see the fault as vividly as along Point Reyes. To the west of the fault are rolling hills and amazing seashore. I made a point of visiting every corner of the park and believe me, it took time. The area is vast and progress can be quite slow but after you arrive you have no doubt but that it was worth every minute of effort. (Recheck gas gauge.)  Continue reading

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From Atop Coit Tower

Coit

The Ferry Building sits at the end of Market Street in San Francisco and has been the primary fixture of the Embarcadero forever. The clock tower highlights it on the waterfront. Behind is the Bay Bridge.

Special things stand out and catch your eye. If it’s a tower on top of a hill then it grabs your attention any time you’re near by. Coit Tower is such a place and it stood within easy walking distance of where I disembarked from Alcatraz. 

Coit Tower stands in Pioneer Park atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.  (For me, that last sentence was loaded with place names from my youth.) 

The tower itself was built with a $100,000 donation from Lillie Hitchcock Coit to be used by the city to beautify San Francsico. The interior of the tower is lined with 1930s paintings promoting California agriculture; the work was funded by the WPA to support the arts during the Depression. I’m not sure the tower ever served much of a practical purpose but it certainly achieves its funder’s ambition. It is beautiful and views from the top are remarkable. A tiny elevator takes a few people at a time to the observation level and below are examples of what can be seen.

Continue reading

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Prison in the Bay: Alcatraz


Alcatraz

Isolated a mile off shore from San Francisco and separated by cold, rapidly flowing waters, Alcatraz was supposed to be inescapable. How amazing that now every year there’s a swim meet with hundreds of participants; it starts on Alcatraz and ends at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Alcatraz was first a U.S. fort guarding the Golden Gate and in the 1930s was converted to the nation’s maximum security prison which it remained for 30 years. After that it suffered neglect and an Indian land-rights kerfuffle before being taken over by the National Park Service. It’s now one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions. 

This little island is a pretty special piece of land. While it has almost no resources, its position in view of the bay entry and its isolation from nearby populations gives it distinct attributes. How Alcatraz could be used was nicely summed up in its history: fort, prison, protest platform and national treasure. 

My ambition for visiting was just to wrap my head around its character and to take pictures of those things that interested me from the period. It’s the prison period which stands out most and with good reason, that’s the last extended purpose the island was put to. A few pictures are shown below. 

Continue reading

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Two Loops Around Newcastle

Spire

Atop a government building was this tower but far from unique, this city expressed it's artistic character in many way.

After a day’s rest from my 84-mile walk I was feeling somewhat regenerated. My ambitions were small for this transition day. I thought a walking loop around town would be just right after which I’d hop a train to Edinburgh. I never should have talked with the hostel staff. I never should have learned about the £4.80 Daily Saver. I never should have been tempted to go on a grander Newcastle adventure. Continue reading

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Another Day Tying Up of Loose Ends

Loose Ends

The Cathedral of Liverpool is a colossus! It’s the largest in the UK and fifth largest in all the world. I have yet to climb it’s tower, experience its inner vastness, or hear its incredible organ but twice I’ve admired it from afar.

Yes, northern Wales has been the recent theme but I’m based in Liverpool and I’m not likely to ignore that fact. Besides, there’s much still to see so it would be silly not to squeeze in as much as possible. Tomorrow is Snowdon Mountain and Friday I relocate to Leeds to spend the weekend with family. If Liverpool is going to happen then today’s the day.

Much like Cardiff, Liverpool is packed with things to see and do. Previously I had focused on the Beatles, Albert Dock museums, and famous buildings. This time I packaged together many top sites into a walking tour which I started only after  a boat ride around the River Mersey. Knowing that most everything opens at 10:00 and closes at 5:00 I planned to fill every minute with activity … and this I did! Continue reading

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Lake Superior Waterfront

Lake Superior Waterfront

A first for me, three lights in one shot! Two can be seen at the ends of the piers; the third stands tall in the foreground. These together serve to guide boats from Lake Superior into the harbor of Duluth under the bridge below.

My drive across the great middle of this country ended when I arrived at Duluth on the extreme southwest shore of Lake Superior. For a city whose average annual temperature is 37 degrees, I found the climate in mid-April to be very comfortable.

Lake Superior WaterfrontSo much did I enjoy being in the Duluth area that rather than check-in and regroup I decided instead to keep driving along the famed North Shore Drive. It was a beautiful excursion! The road shoots north from Duluth along water’s edge. I followed the road to Two Harbors where I found its namesake lighthouse. As usual at day’s end I was fighting the fading sun so I opted to take this silhouette shot of the  lovely light. Two Harbor Lighthouse now operates as a bed and breakfast and, had I only known, it could have been my home for the night! The sign which read  “Rooms Available” still burns in my brain.  Continue reading

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Wet Coast in a Storm

Wet Coast in a Storm

Along the coast of Oregon and Washington and against the coastal range can occasionally be found rainforest conditions. This stretch is within the Redwood Forest but the densest is the Hoh Rainforest in Olympia National Park.

Our comfortable sunny weather was about to turn wet as we headed north toward the Oregon border. Actually “wet” isn’t strong enough. After driving many hours through the lovely winding roads of the Shorline Highway, we turned inland just above Fort Bragg and the weather became soggy. Continue reading

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Point Bonita Lighthouse

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Inside is the light-bending centerpiece of all oil-fueled lighthouses, a Fresnel lens. To be seen far at sea it was important to channel all light into one horizontal beam. This French innovation was used in lighthouses worldwide.

Since 1968 I’ve wanted to visit this lighthouse which has guided ships to the Golden Gates for almost 150 years. From 1968 to 1971 I lived in the Bay Area while my father attended law school. Even then before the government started to free-up lands and build parks there was much to see and do. However, my recollection is that this lighthouse was off-limits and remains fairly inaccessible even today. Nowadays you can visit Point Bonita Lighthouse but only for three hours each Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The bridge span to the lighthouse can only support two people at a time. Continue reading

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