Post-Holiday Report

2016-01-08 14.05.49I love Sundays—especially during football season.

I love going to church no matter what the season. But in the afternoons, when football’s on, I’m guaranteed a nap.

Today, though, Craig was happy about the Steelers’ win last night and didn’t care a whole lot about the afternoon game today, so we went for a walk instead of falling asleep in front of the TV.

It had been raining off and on all day, so we were prepared to get rained on. But instead, we experienced a few flits of snow… and a whole lot of wind. But we stayed dry, so that made us happy.

2016-01-08 13.59.55We’ve been walking fairly regularly this winter. Friday we went to the Paw Paw Tunnel again, hoping to see some fun ice formations, since it’s been a little colder the past few days. We had a nice hike to the tunnel, went over top of the mountain, and then back through the tunnel in the homeward direction. Stopping to take a photo or two along the way.

Then we explored the Town Creek Aqueduct at another nearby stop along the same C & O Canal Trail, near which we discovered another interesting trail that we might check out another day. (Took no pics there.)

school house kitchen
School House Kitchen (photo from their Facebook page)

Continuing our exploration, we meandered into a little burg called Old Town, where one of the first things you see is a school. Except it’s not—it’s a repurposed school building. One of the new purposes for the building is a restaurant, the School House Kitchen located in the original school lunchroom. In another area, they restore antique cars.

Craig and I loved the concept and decided to stop for lunch. We didn’t expect much, and so weren’t disappointed. Basically, it was the quality of food you’d find in a school cafeteria. But it was 2 pm, we’d walked up an appetite, and it was a fun place to stop. We wish the owners success!

2016-01-08 14.05.20None of this, however, is worth writing home about. I only mention it because: 1) it’s been over a month since I blogged; and 2) it’s a good excuse to use some of the nice pics I took.

Since my last post, we’ve had Christmas and New Year’s Day – but no snow. I was thinking recently of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which, thanks to a spell cast by the white witch, it was always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas. The way the Christmas hype begins in October but the temperatures this year felt more like April than December, it occurred to me that this season, it was always Christmas but never winter.

2016-01-08 14.06.41-2
I don’t recommend climbing these stairs.

Despite wet, gloomy weather without so much as a whiff of winter, we had a lovely Christmas. We drove to the Cleveland area on Christmas Day, where we visited with Craig’s family at his sister’s house before taking everyone out to eat at an Asian buffet that evening. When I say “everyone,” that includes not only Craig’s whole family but also our oldest and youngest daughters (Emily and Rustie, respectively), whom we don’t often get to spend time with. After dinner we went to the Holiday Inn where we met up with Shelley and her family, who’d recently arrived from Virginia, and watched the kids swim in the pool for a while before bed.23847923796_fe2ed0c502_n

Shelley & Scott recently acquired (if that’s the right word) a four-month-old foster baby, whom we met for the first time and found thoroughly charming. She’s truly a sweetheart! Because they can’t post photos of her in public, they have to be careful with family pics. But I thought they did a great job with this one!

Bennett with spoonsThe next morning we had breakfast at the motel restaurant with not only Shelley & Scott & the grandkids, but also with our son Art and his wife Jennie, as well as my sister and her husband. We had to wait a long time for our food, but that merely gave us adults a chance to chat and the kids to entertain the rest of us.

We then went back to Craig’s sister’s house in Parma for the official Anderson Christmas. It was one day late because Art & Jennie weren’t able to be there on the 25th, but I don’t think anyone cared about the delay. After the festivities, we went back to the motel where the kids—along with Craig’s nieces this time—did some more swimming.swimming

Art & Jennie had to go home that night, and Shelley & Scott left the following morning. But Craig & I went to Rustie’s apartment for a while before the three of us went to my brother’s house, where we had “Smithmas” with him and his wife, our daughter Emily, and my sister and her husband.

I don’t know how many more Christmases we’ll be able to visit with everyone, and we very much enjoyed being able to do it this year. We’re also very thankful that we have families to spend the holidays with—and that everyone enjoys one another’s company.

New Year’s Eve was uneventful, but on New Year’s Day, we went to a wedding! Not the usual way to start the new year, but it was a lovely wedding and a happy day.

I have many things to be thankful for, but I’ve rambled on long enough. And besides that, I’m out of pictures. Maybe in my next post I’ll talk about some of the books I’ve been reading. That would be appropriate for a writer’s blog, wouldn’t it?

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In Which I Relate Past a Adventure, With Photos and Everything

Yes, I know there’s no SEO value to either the title or the content of this post. I’m just going to tell you a story and not try to sell books, okay? (But if you want to hop over to Amazon and buy one or four, I won’t complain.)

On or about May 23, when our son Art and his wife Jennie were visiting us, we took a trip to the Paw Paw Tunnel. (I mentioned a visit there with the grandkids in a blog post earlier this spring.)

At the risk of boring you and taking up too much space, I’ve decided to share some of the information provided by the national park people. The first sign is kind of hard to make out, but you should be able to read the history of the place in the other two, if you feel so inclined:

sign 1 06.20.015 Sign 2 06.20.15 Placard 06.20.15

 

As shown by the sign below, there’s a trail that goes over the mountain instead of through the tunnel.

sign for Tunnel Trail 06.20.15When we were there with the grandkids, we were a little concerned about that “steep and strenuous” bit, so we just walked through the tunnel, went a little farther (where the kids caught salamanders in the canal and climbed the rock wall and otherwise had fun), then turned around and went back through the tunnel again. But when we were there with Art and Jennie, we decided to take the trail instead.

I didn’t bring my camera that day. Yesterday, though, Craig and I went back and retraced our steps (some of them, anyway) so I could illustrate the story.

This is a national park, and trails and things are pretty well marked. From the parking lot, you go up a path to the C & O Rail Trail, and there’s no question where to go from there:

signs along C & O trail 06.20.15

Because we wanted to go to the Paw Paw Tunnel rather than the town of Paw Paw, West Virginia, we went to the right and followed this trail for about half a mile:

C & O trail to tunnel 06.20.15It’s an easy walk along flat ground, nice and shady. You can’t see from this picture, but the Potomac River is on the right and the remnant of the old canal is on the left.

It was a hot, humid day, and entering the tunnel was a cool relief. In fact, the air temperature grew cooler even before we were inside.

Craig entering the tunnel
Craig entering the tunnel

Using flashlights, we walked through the 3,118-foot-long tunnel. We’ve made the trip often enough now that it felt familiar yesterday. It’s truly an amazing engineering accomplishment. I’m glad the park service has restored it and made it available for people to see.

Here’s a view of it from the other side (below).

Other side of the tunnel 06.20.15After leaving the tunnel, you follow the boardwalk and then it becomes a regular trail again. A short time after that, the Tunnel Trail joins it.

trail on the other side 06.20.15

 

 

 

There’s a sign telling you about the tunnel trail and pointing you in the right direction. So, last month, Art, Jennie, Craig, and I went up the trail, and yesterday, Craig & I did the same.

The tunnel trail took us back the way we’d just come, climbing to the top of that sheer rock face in the pic above, but it was a fairly gradual climb. Nothing “steep and strenuous” right off the bat.

Then we came to an intersection, and the sign was a bit confusing:

horseshoe arrows 06.20.15All four of us looked at it. All four of us said, “Huh?”

The trail continued on past this sign, and a wide gravel road joined it, going the opposite direction from what we wanted to go.

We were all in agreement: keep going straight.

The picture below left shows the trail we took last month; the one on the right is the road-like thing that went the wrong direction. Not only that, but isn’t the narrow path supposed to be the right path, and the wide road the one that leads to death?

the wrong way 06.20.15 this is the right way 06.20.15

 

 

 

 

 

I’m happy to report that neither trail lead to our deaths. However, the one we chose last month led to… well, it’s like this.

We followed it up and up and up and up (yes! steep! strenuous!), until… where’d it go? Oh, look, here it is! Take a zig to pick it up again. Climb some more, up and up. Pant, pant, pant… sweat, sweat, sweat. Brush away the gnats that get in the eyes, ears, and mouth. Climb, climb, climb.

Now, where’d that trail go? Anybody see it? Cast about in different directions.. Over here, guys! Climb some more. Where’s Dad? He’s back there resting. Who’s got water? (One of us, at least, had the presence of mind to bring some.)

Dad’s quit gasping quite so desperately, so it looks like he’ll be okay.

Pressing on…

After losing the trail the third or fourth time, it dawned on us that we maybe should have taken the road instead. But we’d meandered around enough that the chances of finding our way back the way we came were pretty slim. Better to keep going and try to figure out how to get back to the car.

I won’t give you a step-by-step description, but we wandered awhile. And, I have to admit, I enjoyed it. I might be the only one of us who did — everyone else was a bit put out by the situation. On second thought, Art might have had fun too, but with him, it’s kind of hard to tell.

After awhile, we found what appeared to be a hunter’s four-wheeler trail, though it didn’t seem to have been used in a couple of years. After a discussion about which way to go, we decided to go the left and see where it took us.

At least it didn’t take us upward again. After awhile, Art & Jennie were a little ahead of us, and Jennie called back, “There’s a road up there — I mean, a real, paved road! But I don’t know what road it is.” I replied, “Any road is good enough for me.”

The fact is, in this part of the country, you can’t ever get seriously lost. It might seem like wilderness, but you can’t go too many miles without coming to a house, a farm, a road, or something. But it had been a long, hot walk, and I wasn’t disappointed to learn there was an end in sight.

So, we came out onto the road, and a sign on a tree across the street caught my eye. What? Does that say what I think it says?

Are You Lost 06.20.15Apparently we weren’t the first people to follow the wrong trail! I don’t know who made the sign, but I’m thankful to whoever it was.

We followed the directions, which were a bit vague, but accurate. Here’s a picture of the dirt road mentioned:

road up the hill 06.20.15The directions said to follow it “to the top of the hill,” and, in fact, it started climbing immediately. Craig asked Art & Jennie if they’d mind going back to get the car for him. “This old man’s climbed enough hills for one day. You can come back and get me.” They agreed and took off up the hill. I waited at the bottom with him.

And waited. And waited.

Turns out it was quite a walk from there. They did, in fact, find the trail at the top of the hill, but it was a long hill, and it was along way back to the parking lot from there. By the time they finally made it back to the car, they were glad to sit down! And we were glad to see them when they came down the road toward us.

And it was the only vehicle we saw the whole time we waited. If we’d been looking for a kind stranger to come along to help, we might have been there till dark.

Craig and I wanted to try it again and do it right this time, so that’s why we went back yesterday. With a camera.

Go ahead and laugh at us for taking the wrong trail. When viewed with the benefit of experience, that horseshoe-shaped arrow on the sign makes sense. But all four of us were confused by it, so it wasn’t just me. Is there a lesson here? I’m not sure, unless it’s that the majority isn’t always right.

Hazy hills of West Virginia as seen from the dirt road going up the hill to the trail (which is in Maryland).
A glimpse of the Potomac River as soon from the road to the trail
A glimpse of the Potomac River as seen from the dirt road — the Potomac marks the boundary between West Virginia and Maryland.
road to the tunnel trail 06.20.15
The road to the trail
The place where the trail meets the road
The place where the trail meets the road
The Potomac as seen from the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail
The Potomac as seen from the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail (town of Paw Paw in the background)
The town of Paw Paw as seen from the trail (through a zoom lens)
The tunnel entrance as seen from the trail
The tunnel entrance as seen from the trail

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that when you follow the correct trail, it lives up to its “steep and strenuous” reputation (if you’re old like us), but it was a very enjoyable walk. We’ll definitely do it again sometime when it’s cooler out.

Not long after we left the tunnel, though, we started hearing thunder in the distance. First a little, far away, then a little more, a bit closer. It started sprinkling rain before we got to the car, but we never got wet. Except for sweat, which pretty well soaked us — some rain might have felt good! But I wasn’t disappointed that we weren’t caught in the woods by a thunderstorm.

All in all, it was a nice Saturday afternoon.

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It’s a Visual World

kids 1990
Family shot taken in the fall of 1990. I think. It was about then, anyway.

I’ve never been an avid photographer. Just ask my family. You know, the family whose lives I failed to chronicle on film like a normal parent? Yeah, that family, the existence of which is supported by very little photographic evidence.

In Easter finery, 1992
In Easter finery, 1992

Note that I said very little, not none. I took these photos out of my thin family album and scanned them as proof that I did, in fact, take the occasional photograph. Craig and I are both camera-shy, so I’m not showing you any shots that include us.

Because I don’t have a lot of photos on hand, I often have a hard time illustrating my blog posts. So I’ve been trying to make an effort the past couple of months to take more pictures, so when I blog, I’ll have images on hand.

But then, having images, I didn’t produce any words. Hmmm… perhaps some day I’ll get this figured out.

Today, instead of writing a post and then searching for images to illustrate it as I usually do, I’ll post some photos and then try to think of something to say about them.

I took these on March 20 and called them “The First Day of Spring.” Except it was actually the day before the first day of spring. Either way, they don’t look very spring-like.

1st day of spring 2015 - 11st day of spring 2015 - 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a false start or two, spring finally did get here, as you can see:

magnolia tree 04.13.15Here’s the magnolia tree we were told never blooms.  True, it didn’t bloom last year, but it made up for this year. It got nicer than this before it was finished, but I was so happy to see the blossoms, I took the photo before they were fully open.

magnolia blossoms 04.13.15We took advantage of the beautiful weather one Sunday afternoon recently and took a hike along a short portion of the Great Allegany Passage. A person with a lot of time and ambition can hike or bike this old rail trail from Pittsburg, PA to Cumberland, MD, where it meets up with the C & O Canal Towpath that can be followed into Washington, DC.

Not being that ambitious, we merely walked from Frostburg, Maryland across the state line into Pennsylvania and then back, a distance of 6 or 7 miles.Borden Tunnel 04.13.15

Oh, no, wait — we never did cross into PA, but stopped just past the Borden Tunnel.

There are several tunnels along this trail. This one was wide enough to accommodate two sets of railroad tracks, though they’ve long since been torn up. About five miles north of this one is the Big Savage Tunnel — it’s three times as long as Borden, but only wide enough for one train at a time. We didn’t get that far along the trail, though.

048Earlier, with the grandkids, we visited the Paw Paw Tunnel on the aforementioned C & O Towpath. I didn’t have my camera that day, but my daughter had hers, and I’ve stolen a couple of her photos.

And no, the kids weren’t supposed to be on those stair step rocks. But seriously — wouldn’t you climb them if you were there?

Our trip to Paw Paw Tunnel was a lot of fun. Maybe someday we’ll get up to Big Savage to see which we like better.0431

The photo on the right shows the trail along the far side of the Paw Paw Tunnel, with a remnant of the C & O canal alongside it. This is the same trail that will take you (if you’re hardy enough to follow it) from Pittsburgh to DC. If you want to make the trip, let me know. I’ll meet you at Cumberland to cheer you on.

The stinker 04.12.15When we followed the trail near Frostburg, Craig stopped to rest on a rock that seemed to be placed there just for that purpose. I tried to convince him to strike “The Thinker” pose, but he wouldn’t do it.  Then he said something about having indigestion. So I suggested he strike a pose similar to “The Thinker” but half-sitting/ half-standing, and I’d entitle it “The Stinker.” I thought that would make a great addition to my blog, but he wouldn’t play. What a spoil-sport.

They say (“they” being people who love cliches) that a picture is worth a thousand words.thinker If that’s true, then this post now imparts more than 11,000 words’ worth of information.

Though I like photos, I’m not as visually oriented as it seems most people are. I’d rather read written instructions than watch an instructional video. I much prefer to read a book than see the movie version. And I’m not into YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram.

A lot of authors are producing book trailers these days — little video blurbs about their books. This baffles me. It makes sense to use a movie trailer, but I don’t get why you’d make a video about a book. It’s not the same medium, and it doesn’t quite compute in my mind how one relates to the other. Having no video snippets to use makes it very difficult to produce a trailer that doesn’t look hokey. I suppose it’s possible to do, but I’ve never seen one.

What do you think?

 

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