Scenes from Glacier National Park: Day 3

The highlight of the third day in Glacier National Park was driving over the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Logan Pass trailhead. From this location, it was a moderate hike to the top overlooking Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain. The view from the top was incredible.

View of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain.

At this location, we spent an hour walking around and taking photographs. Someone on the ledge had powerful binoculars and spotted a mountain goat about a mile away (maybe the distance was shorter, but the goat appeared as a tiny white speck). I zoomed in with my telephoto lens as the mountain goat began its descent:

The long trek to Hidden Lake begins.

We spent about thirty to forty five minutes paying attention to the mountain goat. Some visitors were trying to "will" the mountain goat to come closer to our vantage point. Eventually, everyone got their wish:

After a long wait, everyone's favorite mountain goat makes its appearance above Hidden Lake.

The mountain goat found something interesting near these rocks.

After photographing the mountain goat, it was time to start trekking back to the trailhead (the trailhead further down to Hidden Lake was closed by park rangers due to bear sightings in the vicinity). Along the way, two more mountain goats appeared, this time a mother mountain goat with a baby mountain goat (a baby mountain goat is called a kid):

A mother mountain goat (a nanny) and her baby goat (a kid).

Approaching the beginning of the Logan Pass trailhead, it was clear there was something happening in the distance. A lot of people were looking out into the meadow about two hundred yards away from the trailhead. There was a grizzly bear in the vicinity! I captured the below photo with my telephoto lens at maximum focal length (400mm):

Grizzly bear seen from a distance.

As I and dozens of other visitors continued down the path toward the trailhead (Logan Pass Visitor Center), the grizzly bear was on the move. There were two rangers eyeing the situation. Eventually, one ranger blocked visitors from continuing down the path from the north and the other ranger blocked the path from the south, giving the grizzly approximately three hundred yards of space to cross the trail. I captured the below photo about a minute before the grizzly crossed the trail:

Grizzly Bear sighting at the Logan Pass trailhead in Glacier National Park.

It was a safe grizzly encounter and the rangers at Glacier National Park did a great job keeping people safe and letting the grizzly bear pass through without any issues.

After lunch at Logan Pass, we got back in our vehicles and drove back to St. Mary Lodge. After dinner, we departed for an evening photo session with nearby waterfalls.

The sun peeking through at Glacier National Park.

The final destination of the evening was near the Rising Sun campground to capture the sunset over St. Mary Lake. I spent a few minutes walking about, marveling at the beauty around me,

Contrast at St. Mary Lake.

We spent about forty five minutes setting up tripods, talking long exposures, and capturing the sunset. At the end of the evening, the sun illuminated the clouds and made for a spectacular light show. Below is my initial edit of the scene as it unfolded:

Sunset over St. Mary Lake at Glacier National Park. Note the crescent moon in the upper left corner.


My earlier recaps from Glacier National Park:

Day 1
Day 2

Scenes from Glacier National Park: Day 2

The second day in Glacier National Park was full of spectacular sights. Today's wake up call was 5:30AM, with a morning photo session at Avalanche Creek. 

Avalanche Creek at dawn.

At 11AM, we departed from Lake McDonald Lodge to travel over the continental divide. We stopped along the road a couple of times to take in views like this:

Passing near the continental divide in Glacier National Park.

 Tunnel view of Glacier National Park.

Tunnel view of Glacier National Park.

In the afternoon, we arrived to Saint Mary Lodge on the east side of Glacier National Park. After some rest and a late lunch, we were off to photograph some of the waterfalls in this area of the park (St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls).

A view of the bottom portion of Virginia Falls.

As we circled back to the beginning of the trailhead, I caught the sun reflecting off the mountain peaks:

Golden light. Trees are charred from a fire that burned through this section of Glacier National Park in 2015.

Scenes from Glacier National Park: Day 1

I am currently in Glacier National Park in Montana, visiting this park for the first time. The cell service and Wi-Fi here are spotty or non-existent, but I will try to provide some updates from my trip on this blog. 

Today (Day 1): I drove up from the Flathead Valley region toward the West entrance of Glacier National Park. I took an afternoon hike toward Avalanche Lake (about 4.5 miles roundtrip), which I completed in about two hours. 

In the evening, the group with which I am traveling stopped near the Avalanche lake trail to capture some long exposure images of Avalanche Creek.

Avalanche Creek in Glacier National Park.

Wildflowers growing near Avalanche Creek.

After dinner at Lake McDonald lodge, I captured a couple of images of the evening light and the lodge:

Home for the night: Lake McDonald Lodge.

Evening light at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

More photos to come from Glacier National Park as I edit them while on the road.

Visiting the Picturesque Town of York, Maine

Continuing south on the Maine day trip from Kennebunkport and Ogunquit, the last stop along the way was York, Maine. As I was driving into town, the temperature quickly changed from a high of 90 degrees Fahrenheit to a cloudy and breezy sub-70 degree afternoon. However, the cloudy weather and moody clouds made for a fantastic way to cap off the day.

Nubble Lighthouse

The first stop in York was the The Cape Neddick Light, which stands on Nubble Island. The lighthouse is commonly known as "Nubble Light" or simply "the Nubble".

Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine. 

Nubble Lighthouse. Do you see a person walking on the island?

The United States Congress appropriated $15,000 for the building of a lighthouse on the Nubble Island in 1876. The first illumination from the lighthouse occurred on July 1, 1879.

Fun fact: Nubble Light belongs to the U.S. Registry of Historic Places. The Voyager I spacecraft, which carries a set of 116 images/illustrations of Earth’s most important man-made structures and natural features includes a photo of Nubble Light as part of its Golden Record💡. Why was Nubble Light chosen to represent one of 116 images on Voyager? According to the Voyager Record’s Design Director Jon Lomberg, the record’s creators wanted to depict the diversity of life and landscapes on Earth:

The picture shows a seashore, emphasizing humans’ preferred proximity to water. The wave splashes might be used to deduce some details of our gravity, atmospheric composition and surface pressure. The buildings are similar to buildings in other shots, but the tower form of the lighthouse might even give a clue as to its function—lighthouses might be required on the shores of many worlds. We’ll never know how much of this is understood—or even if the record is ever found. But the handsome, rugged shore of Maine is a fitting snapshot of the beauty of our planet, whatever else it says.
— https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/maine-lighthouses-180951882/?page=3

A lone fisherman on the rocks at Nubble Point in York, Maine.

Views from Sohier Park (Nubble Point) in York, Maine.

Cliff Walk in York, Maine

The Cliff Walk in York, Maine was absolutely spectacular. There were very few tourists along the path and it allowed me ample time to take photographs. 

York Harbor Beach. The Cliff Walk is steps away.

The long days of summer call for reflection. Look closely: how many people can you spot in the photo? I also posted this photo on Instagram.

Curling toward the light on the York Cliffs.

One of my favorite compositions from the Cliff Walk in York, Maine:

Waves crashing against rocks at the York Cliff Walk. Also posted on Instagram.

A windy afternoon in York, Maine.

After I reached the northern tip of the Cliff Walk, I walked back in the same direction as I arrived. I stepped foot on the York Harbor Beach once again to capture the last light at the beach:

Last light in York, Maine.

Finding the Cliff Walk in York, Maine

Finding the cliff walk in York, Maine took a bit of an effort. First, Google Maps showing the surrounding area of York Cliffs led me astray—at one point I followed the GPS and arrived to a private neighborhood, hoping to find to a path to York Cliffs. However, all of the private houses in the area had no public access to the cliffs.

So, learn from my mistake... To get to the York Cliff Walk, head south on York Street and turn left on Harbor Beach Road. At the end of the road there is a circular roundabout with parking spaces and a public restroom.

To get to the York Cliff Walk, follow Harbor Beach Road to the end.

The detailed map from Google Maps is below. Note that the north end of the Cliff Walk is next to a private house and there is no public access to the York Cliff Walk there. You must start at the southern tip (York Harbor Beach pin below) if you want to traverse the York Cliff Walk.The GPS coordinates for the start of the York Cliff Walk are 43.132953, -70.638735 (43°07'58.6"N 70°38'19.5"W).

If You Go

The York Cliff Walk was a spectacular ending to an exploration of three towns in Maine: Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, and York. If you are traveling from Boston, I would recommend starting from the north (Kennebunkport) and traveling in the southern direction toward York if you want to visit all three towns in one day. See my other two blog posts below:

Images from Kennebunkport
Images from Ogunquit

Scenes from a Brief Stopover in Ogunquit, Maine

Departing from Kennebunkport, the next stop on the road trip to Maine was Ogunquit. This small town is known for its beaches and seascape views. 

Ogunquit (pronounced "Oh-gun-kwit") means "beautiful place by the sea" in the indigenous Abenaki (Native American) language. A few photos from this sea-side town are below.

Walking in Ogunquit. The main beach on the Atlantic Ocean is beyond the tree line; here, people are enjoying the little cove next to Beach Street.

View of the cove across the Beach Street bridge (far right).

Ogunquit Beach Lobster House. 

Detail on an Ogunquit storefront.

Ice cream stores are very popular in the summer time in Maine.

Rose Cove Restaurant in Ogunquit, ME. This is where I had lunch. Recommended lunch meal: fish tacos.

The Bread & Roses Bakery in downtown Ogunquit. Recommended stop for tasty treats and/or coffee.

A lot of pride in Maine.

Marginal Way

If you make your way to Ogunquit, ME, then Marginal Way is a must-see destination. Marginal Way is one of New England's only paved (and public) shoreline footpaths. It spans a little more than a mile long, connecting Ogunquit Beach to Perkins Cove to the south. Incredible sea views abound on this stroll. There are multiple entrances to the Marginal Way path, including one that leads to a "secret" beach. The land for Marginal Way was donated to the town of Oqunquit in 1925 and a non-profit organization was set up in 2010 to protect Marginal Way for future generations to enjoy.

One of the entrances to get to Marginal Way. 

A view from Marginal Way in Ogunquit, ME. 

Paddleboarders enjoying the Atlantic Ocean in Ogunquit Beach.

A tree grows on the Marginal Way path. 

If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of central Ogunquit Beach, head about a half mile on Marginal Way to discover this "secret" beach. 

Flowers are plentiful on Marginal Way. Gorgeous.

Perkins Cove and Perkins Cove Drawbridge

From center of town, I drove a few miles south toward a picturesque area of town nestled on Perkins Cove. Here, there are quaint shops and a wonderful drawbridge with amazing views in both directions.

Walking up the Perkins Cove drawbridge.

View from Perkins Cove drawbridge toward Ogunquit (looking Northwest).

 View from Perkins Cove drawbridge toward Perkins Cove/Atlantic Ocean (Southeast)

View from Perkins Cove drawbridge toward Perkins Cove/Atlantic Ocean (Southeast)

Quaint storefronts in the Sandy Cove part of Ogunquit, Maine.

Ending the photo set with a mystery: what is the inspiration/clue behind this CONFIDENCE sign? Is it in reference to someone or some event? 

If You Go

If you decide to visit Ogunquit, ME, I recommend parking your car away from the beach (there is $20 parking there and it's cheaper in the center of town; one example: the large lot at Blacksmiths Mall antique store charges only $5 for all-day parking) and walking your way around this town. Walking from center of town to the beach to Marginal Way shouldn't take more than two hours round trip (about three miles), even if you make a few stops along the way.

As for dining options: Amore for breakfast, La Orilla Tapas or Rose Cove for lunch, and Backyard or Bread & Roses Bakery for snacks or coffee.

The Charm of Kennebunkport, Maine

During my visit to the Boston area last month, I had the opportunity to take a road trip to Maine. I did some research on towns worthy of a day trip, and settled on visiting Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, and York. In this post, I share some photos from Kennebunkport, the town farthest north of the three.

Dock Square and Western Avenue

Western Avenue (Maine State Route 9) is the main road in the center of Kennebunkport. The majority of activity in Kennebunkport is in Dock Square, a colorful jumble of onetime fishing shacks that now house galleries, stores, and restaurants. 

A beautiful display of flowers in the Kennebunkport town center. 

Flowers growing inside these ship-shaped "pots" adorn Western Avenue (Dock Square) of Kennebunkport.

Colorful sign and American flag.

Cruising in style in Kennebunkport, ME. I did not catch the license plate of this vehicle, so am uncertain whether this is a local or a tourist.

Dock Square views.

One of my favorite images I captured in Kennebunkport is below. This lady was cruising through town on the bike, either making a selfie video or "Facetiming" with friends or family:

Morning bike ride and views in Kennebunkport, ME.

Harbor views in Kennebunkport, ME.

The gorgeous Kennebunkport Inn in the center of town. I would stay here or at least grab a drink in their outside patio.

Outdoor patio of the Kennebunkport Inn looks incredibly inviting. 

Cape Porpoise Pier

Departing from Dock Square of Kennebunkport, I continued driving toward Cape Porpoise Pier. From here, one could see the Goat Island Lighthouse in the distance.

At the edge of Cape Porpoise Pier. The Goat Island Lighthouse is seen in the distance.

Cape Porpoise Pier in Kennebunkport, ME.

Old boats at the edge of Cape Porpoise Pier.

If You Go

If you decide to visit Kennebunkport, ME, I recommend doing a loop around this town. Beginning on Western Avenue and explore Dock Square. Stop by Mornings in Paris for coffee and Rococo Ice Cream (6 Spring Street) for ice cream if you are visiting Kennebunkport in the summertime afternoon. Continue toward Cape Porpoise Pier to take in the views of the Goat Island Lighthouse. Continue the loop toward Blowing Cave Park (there is ample street parking here) to take in views of the George H.W. Bush Compound (summer home) in the distance. Finish your loop back through center of town and check out Snug Harbor Farm on your way back (separate post forthcoming).

Suggested itinerary through Kennebunkport, ME.

If you've ever been to Kennebunkport, which spots were your favorite and why?

Visiting the Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, RI

I visited Newport, RI in June 2018 and along the way stopped in two of the Gilded Age mansions: The Elms and Rosecliff. I chose these two mansions as I had visited The Marble House and the Breakers about seven or eight years ago and wanted to see a different set of the Gilded Age mansions. This post focuses on the Rosecliff Mansion, which is one of the smallest of the Gilded Age mansions in Newport, RI.

The exterior of Rosecliff from the backyard.

History of the Rosecliff Mansion

Rosecliff was built by Theresa ("Tessie") Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada, whose father James Graham Fair was one of the four partners in the Comstock Lode. Tessie was the wife of Hermann Oelrichs, American agent for Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship line. She and her husband, together with her sister, Virginia Fair, bought the land in 1891 from the estate of George Bancroft and commissioned the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White [1] to design a summer home suitable for entertaining on a grand scale.

The commission for Rosecliff occurred in 1899, in which principal architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. After Rosecliff was completed in 1902, at a reported cost of $2.5 million, Mrs. Oelrichs hosted opulent parties and displays of entertainment here, including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini. 

Rosecliff is now preserved through the generosity of its last private owners, Mr. and Mrs. J. Edgar Monroe, of New Orleans. They gave the house, its furnishings, and an endowment to the Newport Preservation Society in 1971. 

Interior Views of Rosecliff

The grand staircase in Rosecliff. Note how the architectural design of the top of the staircase resembles a heart.

Another view of the grand staircase at Rosecliff.

A grand piano in the ballroom.

"The Sea Monster" depicted in one of the framed photos.

A vase in a hallway between two rooms.

Dining room table.

Detail from one of the windows at Rosecliff.

Magazines on display.

Books and candles on an elegant marble table.

Bohemian Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement and Oscar Wilde’s Newport

During my visit to Rosecliff, there was a special exhibition on Bohemian Beauty and Oscar Wilde's visit to Newport, RI. This exhibition celebrates the ideas embodied by the artists, poets, and thinkers popular during the Aesthetic Movement (1870-1890), an important era of artistic experimentation in the United States and abroad. The exhibition features a selection of furniture, ceramics, wallpaper, glass, silver, paintings, and costumes illuminating the tenets of this “art for art’s sake” movement personified by its most influential impresario Oscar Wilde. 

Oscar Wilde portrait at the Rosecliff special exhibition Bohemian Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement and Oscar Wilde’s Newport

As for Oscar Wilde's visit to Newport, the Preservation Society of Newport County provides an overview:

In 1882 a 27-year old Oscar Wilde embarked on an 11-month tour of North America “to teach U.S. citizens the value of a good tea service and a well-hung picture in the family foyer.” He was sent to America to embody “fleshly poet” Reginald Bunthorne from the Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera “Patience.” Producer Richard D’Oyly Carte organized the visit to promote the play which was about to make its American debut. Instead, Wilde commenced playing himself. Upon disembarking at New York harbor, he purportedly told customs officials he had “nothing to declare except his genius.”

At the time of his tour Wilde was a proponent of the Aesthetic Movement in Britain (1870-90) but it would be another eight years before he published his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray and even longer before he produced a series of “devastatingly witty plays” that culminated in his most enduring artistic achievement in 1895, “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Bohemian Beauty explores the message of aestheticism that Wilde brought to the New England seaside town. He was invited by Rhode Island native Julia Ward Howe to speak at the Newport Casino on July 15, 1882 to lecture on “The practical application of the principles of the aesthetic theory to exterior and interior house decoration with observations upon dress and personal ornaments.”
— http://www.newportmansions.org/exhibitions/current-exhibition/bohemian-beauty/oscar-wilde-in-newport

One of the ceramic pieces at the Bohemian Beauty exhibition at Rosecliff.

The Bohemian Beauty exhibition runs through November 4, 2018 at Rosecliff.

Rosecliff in Popular Culture

The ballroom of the Rosecliff Mansion was used to film scenes for the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby, as well as other films such as High Society, 27 DressesTrue Lies, and Amistad

If You Go

Rosecliff is one of the Newport mansions that's open year-round. Confirm the schedule here.

I would recommend purchasing a ticket to Rosecliff with another Newport mansion, as you'll save some money doing so. Since most of the Newport mansions are within walking distance on Bellevue Avenue and don't take more than a couple of hours to explore, it's a good idea to see two mansions in a single day.

Location:
548 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840

Notes

[1] The McKim of McKim, Mead, and White is the architect behind The Boston Public Library.

Scenes from the Boston Public Library

I've been to Boston almost a dozen times but for some reason, I never ventured into the Boston Public Library (which is strange, because I love books and I love reading). On my latest visit, I decided to pay this venerable library a visit and brought along my camera. My visit was on a Sunday, when the library opened at 1PM. I waited outside the front door for about fifteen minutes, during which a line formed to enter the library. Once the front door was open, it was interesting to see people scamper to different parts of the library--some headed to the computers, others went to the music listening station, and others climbed the stairs to the second and third floors to pick out a table on which to set materials for a healthy study session.

History of the Boston Public Library

The Boston Landmarks Commission provides the following historical overview of the main building of the Boston Public Library, located at 700 Boylston Street, Boston MA 02116. 

The Boston Public Library is the main branch of the municipal library system. The earliest building on the site was designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead & White and constructed between 1888 and 1895 by Woodbury and Leighton. This is the second building to be constructed to act as the main branch of the Boston Public Library, which was established in 1852 as the first free municipal public library in the country.

The McKim Building has received two additions since its completion. The first was designed by Joseph McGinnis and constructed in 1918. This addition was demolished for the construction of the Johnson addition, designed by Philip Johnson and completed in 1971.

The McKim Building has a hollow square plan with rooms surrounding an inner courtyard. The McKim Building currently houses the research collection, the special libraries, the public documents library, the microtext and periodicals collections, stacks and the photo and prints collection. The Johnson addition has a plan consisting of nine squares, the center one open and covered with a skylight. The Johnson addition currently houses the circulating collection, the rare book collections, lecture halls, the office of the President and Trustees Room, the ordering and cataloguing departments and stacks.

Architectural grandeur took precedence over functional requirements in McKim’s design for the Library. It was majestically finished to serve as a “Palace for the People.” The Renaissance Revival style strongly contrasted with the Romantic architecture extant at Copley Square at its date of construction and the work of McKim, Mead & White during this period stimulated a nationwide Renaissance Revival movement in architecture.

The design of the Boston Public Library integrated art and architecture at a new level for an American municipal building, with sculptured elements by Augustus St. Gaudens and Domingo Mora integrated into the facades, statues by Bela Pratt flanking the front entry, and bronze entry doors designed and executed by Daniel Chester French. The interior of the building, finished in rare marbles throughout, is embellished with mural paintings by John Singer Sargent, Edwin Abbey and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. The design of the Johnson addition was intended to continue the monumental and classical design of the McKim Building simplified to a mid-century modern expression.
— https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/imce-uploads/2016-11/boston_public_library_central_branch_99.pdf

Interesting bit of trivia: the Boston Public Library is the second largest library in the United States by the number of volumes it contains, second only to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

Picking out a spot on the second floor of the library.

The cursive i in this image is not Photoshopped.

The red colors in this section of the library really stood out.

Detail from the interior of the library.

Bates Hall

Perhaps the most well-known section of the Boston Public Library is the Bates Hall. Bates Hall is named for the library's first great benefactor, Joshua Bates. The form of Bates Hall, rectilinear but terminated with a semi-circular apse on each end is a reminder to the design of a Roman basilica. A series of double coffers in the ceiling provide a sculptural canopy to the room. 

One of the entrances to Bates Hall.

The striking green lamps at Bates Hall.

Finding a spot under the lamp.

Wide view of Bates Hall.

View of Bates Hall in the opposite direction.

A great clock at the edge of Bates Hall.

Visitors walking the alley of Bates Hall.

The Grand Staircase and the Lion Sculptures

On the edge of the grand staircase in the Boston Public Library one will come across two lion sculptures. The two lion sculptures were executed by Louis St. Gaudens, each from a single block of Sienna marble.

Inscribed at the bottom of the sculpture are the names of the battles fought by the 2nd and the 20th Massachusetts regiments: Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Gettysburg. The veterans of the 20th Massachusetts and the 2nd Massachusetts regiments commissioned the two lion sculptures.

The lion sculptures in front of the grand staircase in the Boston Public Library.

A view of the double coffered ceiling and the great chandelier above the grand staircase in the Boston Public Library.

A side view of one of the lion sculptures and the grand chandelier.

Exterior Courtyard and Other Views

Nestled into the Boston Public Library's center is an open-air courtyard closely based on that of the sixteenth-century Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Designed in the manner of a Renaissance cloister, the courtyard is surrounded by an arcaded gallery. In the middle of the courtyard is a small plaza with a square fountain basin. At the center of the basin is Frederick William Macmonnies’ Dancing Bacchante and Infant Faun atop a granite plinth, surrounded by a circle of water fountains.

Open-air courtyard at the Boston Public Library.

A good place to study.

Viewing up.

A wide interior view of the Boston Public Library from the second floor.

An interior view of the Boston Public Library toward the Childen's library.

Loved this "The Plot Thickens" inscription on this ladder.

If You Go

The Boston Public Library (central location, known as the Boston Public Library McKim Building) is located in Copley Square of Boston (700 Boylston Street) and is open Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM, 9AM to 5PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1PM to 5PM on Sundays. The Library is closed on public holidays (full list of closures here).

I highly recommend visiting an ongoing exhibition at the Boston Public Library titled Breathing Room: Mapping Boston's Public Spaces located within the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center. This exhibition profiles some of wonderful green spaces of Boston (such as Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden) through time. This exhibition runs through September 30, 2018.

 

Visiting the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts

The Hammond Castle Museum is a unique structure located on the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The building was constructed between the years 1926 to 1929, by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. to serve as his residence. Its architectural style is that of a medieval castle, with elements inspired from French, Norman, and English castles.

About John Hays Hammond, JR.

John Hays Hammond, Jr. was born in San Francisco, California. His family moved to South Africa in 1893, as John's father was active as a mining engineer for Cecil Rhodes' mines in South Africa. In 1898, the family moved to England, where the young John Hays Hammond, Jr. fell in love with castles and life in earlier times. The family returned to the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

John Hays Hammond, Jr. showed an early affinity toward science and invention. When John Hays Hammond Jr. was twelve years hold, his father took him along on a business trip to visit Thomas Edison’s famous laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.  Edison took a personal interest in the boy and gave him an extended tour of the facility in response to the many questions he was asking. John Hays Hammond, Jr. came under the wing of Thomas Edison and Thomas Edison served as John's mentor in his early years. The two men stayed in contact their entire lives.

Over the course of his life, John Hays Hammond, Jr. was awarded over 800 patents (in comparison to about 1,200 patents that the much more well-known Thomas Edison held) for over 400 of his inventions.  Many of these inventions were in radio control, electronics, naval weapons, and national defense.

Hammond Castle Museum

As far as Hammond Castle itself, the Hammond Castle Museum website explains its origin:

Hammond Castle was built in the late 1920s by scientist, inventor, and interestingly enough, an art connoisseur of the highest order, John Hays Hammond, Jr. (1888-1965). Sitting high on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the castle brings together a unique combination of art, architectural elements and culture, backstopped by many innovative technological applications, yet unknown and unseen by the visitor.

Hammond was widely traveled, but had been exposed to the art and architecture of old European at an early age. He appreciated the eras spanning ancient times, through the medieval period, and into the Renaissance. He purchased a broad collection of artifacts for display, and created his residence around large stone archways, windows, wooden facades, and other architectural elements from the Old World. He was aptly described as a man of the future, but who chose to live in the past. The building he left behind is one of the truly unique structures on this continent, where visitors can experience being immersed in a true old Europe environment without actually being there.

His vision for the building was for it to be medieval in style—yet bridging several periods—so as to incorporate his expanding collection of stand-alone Classical antiquities through 16th century architectural elements. The project began when he retained the services of one of the preeminent architectural firms of the time, Allen and Collins, formed in 1904, and which maintained offices in Boston. Hammond’s project eventually came to the attention of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had purchased a large collection of medieval artifacts in 1925, and was so inspired by what Hammond had done, he launched his own similar project on a site above Manhattan. It was to eventually incorporate pieces from five different European abbeys, and is known today as The Cloisters, an arm of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Yet, as might be expected from an inventor, Hammond’s building was uniquely different. He included many features of his own design that were revolutionary and befitting the structure, and most are virtually undiscernible to the untrained eye. For example, Hammond’s collection of 15th Century facades was to be housed in the Courtyard being planned by the architects to meet Hammond’s vision of what a medieval village might be. Given the covered Courtyard was also to include tropical plantings, it was necessary to ensure a suitable level of humidity and space temperature. A pool was included to be the source of humidity. Steam pipes installed around the bottom perimeter of the pool to control water temperature, as well as to drive the correct amount of moisture in the air above. A green dye was also added as a decorative feature to obscure the depth of the water, which in fact, was a swimming pool. Overhead, steam-fed pipe-racks were installed just beneath the clerestory to offset radiant heat loss through the glass. Finally, a tropical rain downpour could be summed from above to water the vegetation, or if he preferred, a foggy evening.

Perhaps the greatest item in Hammond’s residence is the gigantic pipe organ, an instrument designed and built by a collection of world-famous organ builders over a period of ten years. Consisting of 8,400 pipes it was the largest organ installed in a residence in this hemisphere, and second in size only to an organ in a certain Philadelphia department store. The design of the wind boxes, as well as the placement and installation of the organ within the Great Hall were in keeping with Hammond’s style. As much as the instrument had meant to Hammond, he could not play it. However, he did invent a device included within the console which could record what was being played, such that it could be accurately replayed, much the same way pianos (a much similar instrument) were beginning to do at the time. The organ was a centerpiece of the Hammond’s entertaining, and some of the greatest organists in the world were invited to play the instrument. Many returned after his death to give recitals.
— https://www.hammondcastle.org/about/hammond-castle-museum/

The Hammond Castle was both John Hays Hammond Jr.'s personal residence (and that of his wife, the former Irene Fenton Reynolds of Gloucester, MA) and the headquarters of his commercial enterprise, the Hammond Research Corporation. The residence was ultimately transformed into a museum open to the public, because, sadly, John Hays Hammond Jr. and his wife had no heirs.

Photos from my visit to this excellent museum are below.

Exterior Views of the Hammond Castle

View of the Hammond Castle from the backyard of the residence. The backyard overlooks the Atlantic ocean.

View of the Hammond Castle from the front garden.

The arch: an element from the Roman times.

A statue of a lion guards the drawbridge to the Hammond Castle. 

An architectural element on the exterior of the Hammond Castle.

Ivy covering a window at the Hammond Castle.

A section of the exterior of the Hammond Castle.

The final resting place of John Hays Hammond, Jr, located in front of the castle. It is said that poison ivy covers the site because Mr. Hammond did not want to be disturbed in his death.

Near the main entrance to Hammond Castle. In the distance is the Atlantic Ocean.

Interior Views of the Hammond Castle

The Hammond Castle contains a room which has a pool. John Hays Hammond, Jr. used to take a dip here, sometimes jumping off from the second story ledge in the background.

The view of the courtyard and pool from the second story ledge.

Another view of the courtyard.

One of the interior rooms of the Hammond Castle showcasing some of Hammond's inventions. 

A newspaper clipping describing Hammond's invention of the "dynamic accentor," which allows for amplification of organ pipe tones. From the article: "This amplification is subject not only to general control, but also to fine, detailed control to a surprising degree. Thus, not only can the full power of the organ be increased, but also certain parts of the music, such as the solo voice, an inner part, the accompaniment or the bass (pedals) can be brought out with more power."

A full panel display of some of John Hays Hammond Jr.'s 800+ patents.

Detail from the interior courtyard in the Hammond Castle.

The dining room table. The majority of items at the Hammond Castle are antiques that have been brought over from Europe.

Another view of the dining room. To the left is the window that looks out to the courtyard and pool.

The library room where John Hays Hammond Jr. would conduct business meetings and read his favorite books.

Detail from the library room.

A guest bedroom. Mr. Hammond was a known prankster, and this room could be shut on all four sides by Mr. Hammond if he so chose.

Curiously, this staircase was built with for the convenience of left-handed persons. For right-handed people, it is a bit awkward to traverse.

Some of John Hammond's artifacts and memorabilia are housed in this room. 

Detail of a clock and painting depicting warships in battle. John Hays Hammond Jr. was a pioneering inventor of guided missiles for the United States Navy.

The famous great hall of the Hammond Castle. This hall entertained guests and contained the massive pipe organ that John Hays Hammond, Jr. had installed on the second floor.

Trivia

  • John Hays Hammond, Jr. was a strong believer in the paranormal and even promised that after his death he would return to this realm as a black cat.  Claims include disembodied voices, moving objects, uneasy feelings and full-bodied apparitions. The Hammond Castle was on one episode of a SyFy series called Paranormal Pioneers.
  • John Hays Hammond, Jr. used his radio control technology combined with gyroscopic stabilization to send a pilotless “ghost ship” around the Gloucester harbor, and then remotely controlled a yacht that sailed from Gloucester to Boston and then back again.

If You Go

The Hammond Castle Museum is open to the public primarily during the summer months. The summer season typically begins on Saturdays and Sundays in May, from 10 AM to 4 PM, with the last tickets sold at 3:30 PM. Beginning in June and extending through October 6th, Hammond Castle is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 AM to 4 PM, also with the last ticket sold at 3:30. The Hammond Castle is closed on Mondays and all U.S. public holidays.

Pro tip #1: After you purchase the ticket(s) to the museum, make sure to allocate ten to twelve minutes of your time to watch the film about John Hays Hammond, Jr. and the Hammond Castle, located in the back of the gift shop. While the film is of average quality, it reveals many things about the castle which you would not ordinarily notice while walking around it. As a bonus, you'll learn about numerous pranks that John Hays Hammond, Jr. conducted (primarily directed at his guests!) while living in the castle.

Pro tip #2: If you are driving from Boston, combine the visit of the Hammond Castle Museum with a visit to Rockport, MA. Based on my experience, you can traverse the entirety of the Hammond Castle and its exterior grounds in about one and a half to two hours, leaving plenty of options to continue your day trip further up the Massachusetts coast into Rockport. Rockport is only 7 miles away on State Route MA-127 from the Hammond Castle Museum.

Pro tip #3: During the months of July and August, Hammond Castle Museum hosts the "Thursday Night Candlelight Tours." With your general admission ticket, you can be guided by candlelight at either 6PM, 7PM, and 8PM on Thursday evenings. The guides will show you the rooms the Hammond frequented and tell stories about how John Hays Hammond Jr. and his wife, Irene Fenton Hammond, enjoyed their many years living in the castle.

Admission Fees

Adults $12.
Senior Citizens (65 yrs +) $10.
Children (ages 6 to 12) $9.

Location

80 Hesperus Ave
Gloucester, MA 01930

Exploring the Town of Rockport, MA

The small town of Rockport, Massachusetts is located about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Boston at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula. This charming New England town has a population of less than seven thousand but invites tens of thousands of tourists from the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world every year.

Main Street and Bearskin Neck

Rockport, MA is surrounded on three sides by water. The main street going through town, called Bearskin Neck, has dozens of quaint shops. Bearskin Neck is named after a legendary skirmish between man and beast, in which a menacing bear was slain and skinned with a knife. 

There are plenty of seafood restaurants in the vicinity, including the famous Roy Moore Lobster Company (I recommend getting the lobster roll here. There are actually two locations in Rockport: Roy Moore's Fish Shack is at 21 Dock Square, Rockport, MA 01966; Roy Moore Lobster Company is at 39 Bearskin Neck, Rockport, MA 01966).

Photos from my visit to the fishing village of Rockport, MA are below.

Rockport, MA preparing for the Independence Day celebration. 

Views of flowers on Main Street, Rockport.

A storefront with flowers and glassware for sale.

A gravel-lined walkway to a gallery on Bearskin Neck in Rockport, MA.

View of the main street in Rockport, MA: Bearskin Neck. 

With street names like "Tuna Wharf," you know you've made it to a fishing village.

One of the many galleries in Rockport, MA.

Helmut's Strudel in Rockport, MA. The delicious smells wafting out of this quaint shop were hard to resist!

An entrance to a store on Bearskin Neck.

Flowers in Rockport, MA.

Ladders and flowers.

The summer months are interesting in the New England area: weather can fluctuate rapidly. On this particular day, the day began with rainfall and was cloudy throughout the morning. However, by mid-day, the sun was shining bright. 

Cloudy morning.

Exploring the Headlands in Rockport, MA

One of the must-see detours in Rockport, MA is a walk along an area known as the Headlands. The Headlands are outcroppings of rock on the other side of the town, allowing you to take in beautiful views of the town.

To get to the Headlands from Bearskin Neck (Main Road), walk south on Mt. Pleasant Street and then turn left on Atlantic Avenue. (NOTE: Atlantic Avenue is a one-way road, so if you drive to the Headlands, take the next street south, Norwood Avenue and then look for parking on Old Garden Road near Old Garden Landing).  If you are walking on Atlantic Avenue, there will be a sign marking the trail to the Headlands from the last house on the street on Atlantic Avenue.

Map of Rockport, MA. To get to the Headlands (blue icon on the upper right), walk from Bearskin Neck via Pt. Pleasant Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. There will be a sign marking the trail to the Headlands from the last house on the street on Atlantic Avenue.

A few photos from the Headlands exploration are below.

Detail from a house on Atlantic Avenue. I suppose one of the men working for Rockport's Fire Department lives here.

Approaching the Headlands on Atlantic Avenue in Rockport, MA.

Rockport, MA as seen from the highest point in the Headlands.

Waves crashing on the rocks in the Headlands.

Enjoying the views at the Headlands in Rockport, MA.

Native daisies growing near the Headlands in Rockport, MA.

Wider view of the Atlantic Ocean and native daisies growing in Rockport, MA.

Old Garden Landing and Old Garden Beach

If you continue southeast from the Headlands, eventually you will approach Old Garden Landing and Old Garden Beach, a small sand and stone beach with an adjacent municipal park. This area offers an expansive view over Sandy Bay. There is a cozy grassy area at the Old Garden Landing and there are picnic  tables to enjoy a breakfast or a picnic lunch.

Views from Old Garden Beach in Rockport, MA.

Views from Old Garden Beach toward the center of Rockport, MA.

A view of Rockport, MA in the distance from the Old Garden Landing.

Walking in Rockport, MA

Rockport, MA is quite wonderful to epxlore by foot. From the Old Garden Beach, I took some of the other streets in town to get back. I took Harraden Avenue, Clark Avenue, and Norwood Avenue to get back into town center.

A few photos from that stroll are below.

One of the houses seen in Rockport, MA.

Another house seen in the "suburbs" of Rockport, MA. The patio overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining bright and this mailman was feeling the heat.

Harbor Views and Motif Number 1 in Rockport, MA

One of the most interesting facts about Rockport, MA is the structure known as Motif Number 1. Located on Bradley Wharf in Rockport, this structure is a replica of a former fishing shack well known to students of art and art history as "the most often-painted building in America." Motif Number 1 was built in the 1840s during the time that Rockport, MA was becoming a home to a colony of artists in the area. This shack (or barn, if you want to call it that) became a favorite subject of painters because of its favorable composition against the water. Motif Number 1 endures as a symbol of maritime life.

As for how Motif Number 1 got its name? Legend has it that the name is derived from an impulsive exclamation by the painter Lester Hornby. During his summer seasons in Rockport, Hornby noted that many art students chose the dilapidated shed on the edge of the inner harbor. Its prominence and its simple but interesting proportions made it a natural model for sketches and paintings, good and bad. One day when a student brought for criticism a pencil drawing of the house, Hornby exclaimed, "What! Motif No 1 again!" It has been called that ever since.

The original Motif Number 1 was built in 1840 but destroyed in the great blizzard of 1978. However, the structure was rebuilt in the same year. Today, Rockport takes pride that Motif Number 1 is the most painted building in the world.

Fun fact: in the animated film Finding Nemo, the dentist's office has a picture of Motif Number 1 hanging on the wall (see screenshot I captured from the film here), a tribute by director Andrew Stanton to his hometown of Rockport, MA.

Harbor views from Motif Number 1.

Motif Number 1 in Rockport, MA.

Harbor view with Motif Number 1 in the background. Motif Number 1 is known as the most painted building in the world.

A shed directly across from Motif Number 1 reminds you that you're in a fishing village.

Rockport, MA is definitely worth visiting on a day-trip from the Boston area. The pedestrian friendly streets, plenty of shops and restaurants, and gorgeous views have something for everyone. If you don't want to drive, there is always the option of taking the commuter rail from Boston's North Station. Rockport is the last stop on the Rockport line. 

Visiting the Spectacular Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

I spent four days at Myrtle Beach with my parents over the Independence Day holiday (July 4th). The time near and in the ocean was fantastic (great weather, warm water temperatures, and not as crowded as some beaches I've been to in the past). On our last day, we made our way south to visit Brookgreen Gardens.

I hadn't heard of Brookgreen Gardens before--the place was recommended to us by my parents' neighbors, who frequent the Myrtle Beach area twice a year. Brookgreen Gardens is a massive property on 9,127 acres; it consists of a wildlife park, beautiful gardens, and an awe-inspiring collection of sculpture. To put simply, Brookgreen Gardens is a botanical garden within which you may find wildlife and a spectacular art display.

A bit of history: Brookgreen Gardens was founded by Archer Milton Huntington, stepson of the railroad magnate Collis Potter Huntington, and his wife Anna Hyatt Huntington to feature sculptures by Anna (a talented artist) and her sister Harriet Randolph Hyatt Mayor, along with other American sculptors. Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington first visited the property in 1929 and were captivated by it and the surrounding area, purchasing the 9000+ acres. In 1932, Brookgreen Gardens was opened to the public. Brookgreen Gardens was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Below are a selection of photos I captured at Brookgreen Gardens.

The spectacular Live Oak Allée.

Live Oak Allée. In the background: Edward Francis McCartan's statue of Dionysus.

Trees at Brookgreen Gardens.

Native orchids growing at Brookgreen Gardens.

About 1445 works of American figurative sculpture are displayed at the Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington Sculpture Garden at Brookgreen Gardens. Overall, there are over 2,000 works of sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens, when including certain sculptures that are located indoors

Fighting Stallions by Anna Hyatt Huntington

The Brown Sculpture Court, seen below, is reminiscent of the Moorish architectural designs and reminded me of the interior courtyard of the Alhambra.

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Walking the labyrinth:

In addition to the beautiful sculpture, there are plaques with various poems throughout the gardens. Depicted in this section of the Brookgreen Gardens is "The Snare":

A handmade door frame.

Brookgreen Gardens is a spectacular destination and a must-see stop if you're in the Myrtle Beach area. If you get a chance to go on the hourly guided tour, I highly recommend doing so, as you will get an excellent history lesson of the grounds as well as highlights of the top ten to fifteen sculptures within the gardens.

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Brookgreen Gardens
1931 Brookgreen Drive
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Off US Highway 17 Bypass, between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island
phone: 843-235-6000

 

Observations at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What are some things that one can do in an art museum? I pondered this question on a recent visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Some immediate things that come to mind:

  1. Observe (look at) art.
  2. As a continuation of observation, read the accompanying banner about the art piece or listen to a segment corresponding to the art piece on the audio tour.
  3. Interact with art (if the piece calls for it and/or it is allowed).
  4. Makes a sketch (or sketches) of the art in front of you.
  5. Describe the art piece to someone in your vicinity (to an audience, such as a guide might do) or mention something about the art (or not) to someone in your vicinity to elicit a reaction.
  6. Take a picture of the art in front of you.
  7. Take a selfie in front of an art piece.
  8. Have someone take a photo of you in front of an art piece (or some architectural element of the museum).
  9. Go to a help desk to ask for directions or inquire about the latest exhibition. 
  10. Within the confines of a museum, go get some nourishment in the form of drink or food.
  11. Take a break from art—answer an email on your computer or phone, scroll through your Instagram account, read some brochures about the museum, or discuss something non-art related with your friend, partner, significant other, spouse, parent, sibling, or child.

What else would you add to the list above?

Take a look at the photos below. What else would you consider part of a visit to an art museum which isn't reflective in these photos?

Afternoon tea break at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

When a work e-mail calls...

Observing Claude Monet's Haystacks series.

A question subject to debate: landscape or portrait mode for capturing photos of art?

All Art Has Been Contemporary. (One can make the same claim about technology.)

"And then I said..."

"Can we discuss this some other time?"

Photo-op!

My favorite photograph of this set: the observation state of this woman is deep and transformative. 

You can't fly in a museum, but you can take photos of flying art.

A few questions for the reader:

Was it easy to characterize the photos above into the categories listed at the top of the post? Would some human activities belong to multiple categories? What are some of your favorite things to do in an art museum?

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All photos captured with the Canon 5D Mark IV + Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens.

Lunch at the Black Sheep Restaurant in Blue Ridge, GA

This past weekend, I took a road trip to the North Georgia mountains, stopping in Ellijay and Blue Ridge. While I didn't have a particular itinerary for these two cities, I did have a specific intention to dine at the Black Sheep restaurant in Blue Ridge, GA. 

The location of the restaurant is at the edge of town on West Main Street. The restaurant occupies the historic William Butt House (built around 1914), which was built by Colonel William Butt, a one-time alderman and Mayor of Blue Ridge, attorney, and member of the Georgia Legislature. William Butt and his wife, Fanny, were prominent and beloved members of the Blue Ridge community, and entertained celebrities like author Margaret Mitchell during their stay in the house.

I arrived to the restaurant around 1PM for a late lunch. I was kindly greeted by the hostess and the owner of the restaurant, Brandon Lofton. I asked to sit on the outside patio, which was lovely on this hot Georgia afternoon. 

I liked the design and simplicity of the menu; the choices were varied for both drinks and food options, but not overwhelming.

For lunch, I decided to order the burger and a couple of drinks. Below are a few images of my lunch at Black Sheep:

As for the drinks, I first went with the Grumpy Old Men beer followed by a classic Bloody Mary, which was absolutely fantastic.

An amazing bonus of the afternoon was live music by singer and songwriter Lindsay Beth Harper, who is from Blue Ridge. I captured a few photos of her singing as well as a video of one of her songs (pardon the shifting in focus that occurs during the video, I am very new to creating video).

As I walked around the beautiful restaurant, I captured a few more photos, seen below.

 

My dining experience at Black Sheep Restaurant in Blue Ridge, GA was fantastic. I am definitely aiming to come back for dinner next time I am in Blue Ridge, GA.

If you ever make your way to Blue Ridge, I highly recommend making lunch or dinner plans around Black Sheep.

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Black Sheep Restaurant Patio & Bar
480 West Main Street,
Blue Ridge, GA 30513

Hours of operation are:
MONDAY: Closed
TUESDAY to THURSDAY: 3PM to 9PM
FRIDAY: 3PM to 9:30PM
SATURDAY: 12PM to 9:30PM
SUNDAY: 12PM to 8:30PM.

For reservations, please call The Black Sheep Restaurant: (706) 946-3663

Exploring the Rugged Bell Mountain in North Georgia

This past weekend, I went camping in the North Georgia mountains near Hiawassee, GA. Along the way, I decided to stop by a nearby attraction: Bell Mountain. 

Bell Mountain is a beautiful, ragged peak that has a storied history. Here is the description of the mountain by T. Larry Gantt in “Through the Mountains" on August 14, 1883:

This precipice is of beautiful quartz rock, reflecting in the sun all the rays of the rainbow. From the valley below the mountain appears to lean over, threatening to topple from its foundation. Houses are built immediately beneath its eaves, and can be plainly seen by persons on the summit. But in exploring this pinnacle you must be very cautious, for as we before said, you are on a very sharp and narrow ridge and a false step would seal your doom. There is a path underneath the cliff that leads into a cave in the rock called the “Devil’s Workshop,” but it is a very dangerous place to reach, as you must clamber on a narrow shelf upon hands and knees, with not a bush to cling to. In places this shelf is but a few inches wide, and inclines over the precipice alluded to above. We went part of the way and turned back, as the view will not repay one for the danger. There are other curiosities on the summit, however, equally as great. We say one place where a large quartz boulder had lodged across a passage between the rocks, forming a large room, protected on every side from rain and wind. There are several “fat-man’s squeezes,” of all sizes and shapes. But the most wonderful curiosity is a large pillar of white quartz, that stands upon the brink of a precipice, its spire towering upward. No sculptor could have hewn a more symmetrical shaft. This pillar rests upon two small pedestals and it seems that the slightest pressure would send it crashing into the valley below. But its foundation is firm, for twenty men, we are told have worked at it with prizes without throwing the stone from its balance. Bell Mountain is a solid mass of the most beautiful crystal rock of all shades and colors. It is often taken for marble. We brought away specimens showing the various shades. We lingered for hours upon this wonderful peak of the Blue Ridge, drinking in the view and were loath to leave it. We will conclude this letter however, by advising all of our readers to visit Bell Rock Mountain, if they want to see what we consider the greatest curiosity in Georgia or the south.

More recently, in 1963, three men from nearby Murphy, North Carolina decided they could mine the top of Bell Mountain for minerals. Because of their ignorance, however, they failed in their quest and after only a short time there left a huge gaping hole on the top of the 3,400 foot knob that you can now see from miles away. The mountain has maintained this physical scar for over fifty years. 

After this mining disaster, the mountain was purchased by local resident Hal Herrin in an effort to preserve it from future abuse. The Hal Herrin Estate graciously donated the 18 acre Bell Mountain Summit to Towns County and on February 18, 2016 was formally named Bell Mountain Park and Historical Site and the observation deck erected was named and dedicated as the Hal Herrin Scenic Overlook. The scenic overlook is located at 3,424 feet above sea level. 

The location of Bell Mountain is 220 Shake Rag Rd, Hiawassee, GA 30546. To get there, take Shake Rag Road from US Highway 76 in Hiawassee for about two and a quarter miles. There is a parking lot at the top of the road. Actually, there are two parking lots: one is at the very top and there is another one 300 feet below (with warning signs that the last parking lot is up a steep incline!). Overall, the long and winding road to the top is worth it. The majority of the Shake Rag Road is very narrow and so I would NOT recommend going up this road to Bell Mountain in an RV or camper van; trucks, SUVs, and sedans are fine, though. The price of admission at the top: free.

Once you get to the top-most parking lot, it's a short walk up the stairs to see panoramic views of Lake Chatuge and the surrounding valleys.

Bell Mountain is covered in spray paint, from people's names or initials and their visit to the mountain, to more blatant graffiti. There are signs that any spray painting is prohibited and that violators would be prosecuted. However, I noticed people's initials and names from 2018, so it is apparent that people are not heeding the warnings, sadly.

A few photos I captured from the top of Bell Mountain are below.

I hgihly recommend checking out Bell Mountain if you're exploring the North Georgia area, especially near Hiawassee.

Earth Day Celebration at Blue Heron Nature Preserve

This past Saturday, Blue Heron Nature Preserve held its annual Earth Day Celebration. I've been coming to the Blue Heron both as a local resident (I come to BHNP by myself or with my dog) and as a volunteer for a couple of years—I've done volunteering both in terms of tree plantings, weed removal, and most often, photography.

This was the schedule of events for the 2018 Earth Day Celebration:

9 am - 10 am           Outdoor Yoga with Ronald Dill
10 am - 11 am           Volunteer Planting Event
10 am - 11 am           Children’s Camp Open House
10 am - 11 am           Forest Walk with with EcoAddendum
10 am - 2 pm           Local Artist Market
11 am - 2 pm            Native Plant Sale / Environmental Exhibits / Student Art Show
11 am - 12 pm          Bird Walk with Atlanta Audubon Society
11 am - 12 pm          Vamos Chicos Art Bus Demonstration*
12 pm - 3 pm           Neighborhood Block Party with Music, Food, and Activities
12 pm - 1 pm            Green Theater Performance
12 pm - 1 pm            Mini-Hive Inspection with Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association
12 pm - 12:30 pm     Turtle Sanctuary Dedication
12:30 pm - 1 pm       Art of Nature Opening
1 pm - 2 pm              Mini Critter Camp with The Amphibian Foundation
1 pm - 1:30 pm          Blueway Trail Groundbreaking Ceremony & Tour
1:30pm - 2:00pm      Farmer D Organics Gardening Talk 
2:00 pm - 2:30 pm    Blueway Trail Tour

While I didn't make all of the activities above, I captured photos of the outdoor yoga, volunteer planting event, the local artist market, the bird walk with the Atlanta Audobon Society, the turtle sanctuary dedication, and the Blueway Trail groundbreaking. 

Below are some photos from the 2018 Earth Day celebration!

If you're a local Atlanta resident, I highly recommend checking the urban oasis that is the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. There are a wonderful series of trails in the 30-acre park. Additionally, there are plenty of events that occur throughout the year, such as the Moonlight hikes, planting/weeding volunteering, and much more. Just check the calendar if you're looking for more information.

GrantMeFood: An Atlanta Area Supper Club

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending an Atlanta-area supper club called GrantMeFood, hosted by chef Grant Stevens. Here is how GrantMeFood bills itself on its website:

GrantMeFood is an Atlanta area supper club that unites a group of strangers in our home for an evening filled with incredible food and interesting conversation. We combine global cuisine with a farm-to-table approach to take you on an adventure of flavor and texture that'll change your life. Ok, maybe it won't change your life, but we promise it'll be fucking tasty.

Grant, in collaboration with his wife Ria, opened up their lovely home for an amazing four-course tasting menu. 

An amazing setting to host eight strangers around the dinner table.

Prior to arriving to the dinner, I emailed Grant asking if I could take a few photos of the dinner preparation and as the dinner was being server. Luckily, Grant responded in the affirmative.

The title of this particular dinner was "The Hangover Cure," and the following was on the menu that evening:

Course 1: Duck fat latke, tarragon and meyer lemon creme fraiche, quail egg, caviar

Course 2: Rabbit poutine with rabbit espagnole and fresh cheese curds

Course 3: "Ketchup and Mustard" - Pork cheek capaletti with pink peppercorn pork consomme,  wasabi and mushroom agnolotti with shitake and saffron broth

Course 4: Roasted banana cream, lemon and black poppy seed meringue, kiwi-matcha panna cotta

Below are a few photos I captured of Grant (and Ria in the background) preparing the finishing touches on the above courses:

And below, a few photos of the courses served that evening:

What was remarkable about the event was not just the incredible food that Grant and Ria prepared for the random selection of guests that attended, but the amazing conversation that our group had over the course of the evening. What was supposed to be a dinner that lasted from 7:30PM to 9:30PM ended up being an incredible evening where we talked and connected on various topics until past 2 o'clock in the morning! 

If you are interested in tasting incredible food in a warm, friendly atmosphere (and don't mind the serendipity that's involved with interacting with other strangers/like-minded foodies around Atlanta), I highly suggest checking out Grant's website and signing up for his mailing list, following the @GrantMeFood Instagram account, and liking/following the page on Facebook

 

The 2017 Inman Park Festival Parade

I attended the 2017 edition of the Inman Park Festival and Parade yesterday. It was a great day to see some colorful costumes, eat great food, and enjoy the festivities.

Below are a selection of my favorite photos from the 2017 Inman Park Festival Parade:

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Also see: photos from the 2013 Inman Park Festival Parade.

The 2017 Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival

Today I attended the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival, held in Blackburn Park in Brookhaven, GA. I came with my puppy, Penny, who received a lot of compliments herself.

The festival featured a number of food trucks, arts & crafts booths, and live music. I stayed around for the dog parade & costume contest, which had the following categories in 2017:

  • Artsy Bark (stepping outside the box, creative)
  • Cherry Blossom Awesome (your finest in pink)
  • Doggie Diva (sophisticated, stylish)
  • Super Hero Swag (need we say more)
  • #SquadGoals (Pet+Pet or Pet+Human Combos)¹
  • Best in Show (All will bone down to you if you win)

There were a number of creative costumes this year! Below, a gallery from the images I captured during the event.

If you attended, what was your favorite part of the festival?

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¹ The #SquadGoals category was won by "The Three Amigos," my personal favorite from the day.

The 2016 Atlanta Dogwood Festival

This weekend I attended the Atlanta Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park. On Saturday, I participated in the Mimosa 5K race with a few friends. It was a lot of fun—and my first time drinking mimosas after a race.

On Sunday, I came back to stroll around the park, see the artist/vendor booths, and watch the dog frisbee competition. Below, a few photos from the 2016 Dogwood Festival.

 

The 2015 Red Bull SoapBox Race

This Saturday, I went to watch the 2015 Red Bull Soapbox Derby in Atlanta, GA. About 2,000 feet of North Avenue were blocked off for the event, with ~1200 feet devoted to the race track.

After capturing a few mundane shots of the cars in the competition, i decided to shift gears a little bit and go for some panning shots of the soap box cars to show the motion/speed as they came down the hill.

Harry the Hawk, mascot of the Atlanta Hawks, began the festivities by running the course with the American flag during the singing of the "The Star-Spangled Banner":

Shortly after 12PM, each of the 40 soap box cars had a chance to go down the race course solo, competing both on fastest time and best skit/performance prior to the race downhill. 

The team I was rooting for was the Ramblin' Wreck, a superb replica of Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck (a restored Ford Model A Sports Coupe). Unfortunately, the Ramblin' Wreck popped a tire after the landing from the ramp along the course. Nevertheless, team Ramblin' Wreck pushed their way to the finish line, as seen here, much to the delight of the crowd:

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not have posted the best time in the tournament, but they had a fantastic skit (and great enthusiasm within the confines of the soap box):

A Red Bull endorsed vehicle about to head down the course. Notice the nifty suspension gear:

A wide angle view of the crow and the team called "Firefighters" making their way down:

Team "We Never Ride Dirty":

Team Chariot, which did not finish (DNF) the race. Less than a second after I captured this photo, the chariot wrecked:

Team Rollergirls Downhill Devils has an amazing looking car. Bonus points go to the detail, such as the blue shoelace and the curvature of the frame:

This is Team Yongsa's Dragon Breath, and they were incredibly fast, if this photo is any indication. Out of the 40 participants, they had the best (or second best) time overall (under 33 seconds):

Team Uber Atlanta had a beautifully minimalistic design of their car that finished in the top ten overall: 

Left shark makes an appearance:

Team Because Racecar (aka, team swag/mustache):

The Big Wrench:

When I first saw this car racing downhill, my first impression was a grill on wheels:

Empire Cocktail Crafters:

At the end of the race. Are you NOT entertained???

Bonus photo as I was walking on North Avenue. This dog wins some kind of Sartorialist award for best fashion/haircut.