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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hiking the Pickering Creek Trail

Today is Sunday, December 28, our last day in the little cottage in Historic Yellow Springs.  We decided to find a local hike and then finish off with a visit to one of our favorite brewpubs.

For the hike, we chose a walk on the Pickering Creek Trail, near the Natural Land Trust's Binky Lee Preserve.  This section is called the "Bridge to Bridge Trail."  David shows off the trailhead sign:

The trail follows Pickering Creek, which winds through northern Chester County south of Phoenixville, ending in a dramatic falls that can be seen on the road between Phoenixville and Valley Forge National Park.  Here, Kathy welcomes our arrival at a bridge across Pickering Creek:

The bridge at the other end of the hike (hence the name, "Bridge to Bridge...") spans the creek to permit Pikeland Road to unroll to the east toward the Binky Lee Preserve:

The creek itself is quite picturesque;

We hadn't even started our hike on the trail when Kathy spotted some deer browsing in a nearby field.  They paused at alert just long enough for us to snap this photo:

The trail is maintained by the local township, but clearly has some loving patrons, because we noticed some unique improvements - such as this unique birdhouse with character:

More evidence that the trail has attentive patrons is seen in the many signs that identify local trees. This tree and its signs were unique because the older, wooden sign appears to be the only survivor of what was apparently an earlier generation of tree identification media.  In this case, the old and new signs identify a box elder.  The more modern sign describes bark, leaves and fruit, and describes the most unique identifying characteristic as well as some interesting facts about the tree.

To a casual observer, this photo seems to be simply another view of Pickering Creek.  However, to us, it marks the location where we spotted a large red fox scampering across the creek and up the opposite bank.  Unfortunately, the fox was too quick for us to get a photo of him (or her).

The trail boasts a few small, hand-made hiking bridges:

Our hike was an out-and-back.  While we walked up Route 113 and through Pickering Grove Park to reach the trailhead, we decided to circle back to our cottage along Art School Road.  This gave us a chance to enjoy more colonial-era farmhouses - brick, stone and wood frame, innumerable stone fences, farm fields, and view of the tower and hill above the village.

The hike built up a powerful thirst, so we repaired up to the road to Sly Fox Brewery and Restaurant to sample the latest beers brewed by Sly Fox.  We selected two big beers to purchase and save for sharing with friends later, and returned to the cottage to pack up for the long trip back to Fredericksburg, Virginia tomorrow.

Historic Yellow Springs

Hi Blog! As you know, we left our rig down in Fredericksburg, Virginia and drove back up to Pennsylvania in order to spend Christmas with the family. Since we no longer have a stick and brick house, we had to rent one. We found a cute little country cottage on Art School Road in the village of "Historic Yellow Springs."

First settled in 1722, Yellow Springs (now known as Chester Springs) was named for the color of its iron-enriched waters.  During the colonial period, Yellow Springs attracted up to several hundred bathers a day and remained a spa resort until 1865, except for four years (1777-1781) during the Revolutionary War.

The first Inn (founded in the 1750s) served as General George Washington's headquarters at the Battle of Brandywine. For four years, Yellow Springs was the site of the only hospital officially authorized by the Continental Congress. The hospital ruins are just behind the original inn building, now known as "The Washington," on the left.

Just down the road is The Chester Springs Studio - a vibrant arts center. Founded in 1978 as an offshoot of Historic Yellow Springs, the Studio grew in reputation as a nationally-known home for the visual arts, particularly in the areas of painting and ceramics. Unfortunately, they were closed for the Christmas holiday.

Just across from the studio is Connie’s House which dates to the late 1800’s and was originally a post office and general store. It is now used for exhibitions and artists’ residencies.

The Iron Spring Gazebo, originally built circa 1839, but recently renovated, holds the iron springs in its center well. When the non-profit Historic Yellow Springs was founded in 1974, the Gazebo became the symbol that embodied the village’s rich heritage.

Everything in Yellow Springs began with the Iron Spring. It was these mineral springs, the original “Yellow Springs”, that most likely drew Native Lenape to the area millennia ago. As early as 1722, colonial settlers filtered into the area to “take” these mysterious waters. Through the 18th and 19th century, the springs formed the basis for a thriving spa industry that drew visitors in search of rest, healing, and inspiration. Here Kathy is about to enter the Diamond Spring - a spring rich in magnesium.

It didn't take us long to figure out why they called this the "diamond" spring. :)

As we followed the path from the Diamond Spring to the Jenny Lind Spring, we passed an oriental bog garden, originally built in the 1920s for the art students to sketch.

Jenny Lind was a Swedish opera singer often known as the "Swedish Nightingale". One of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century, she performed in soprano roles in opera in Sweden and across Europe, and undertook an extraordinarily popular concert tour of America beginning in 1850 with P.T. Barnum as her manager. Here is the front of the Jenny Lind Spring House, which houses a sulfur spring that the singer is said to have frequented when she stayed in Historic Yellow Springs while performing in Philadelphia.

I am not sure if I was Jenny Lind that I would like these cloudy yellow sulfur springs named after me.

After the springs closed in 1865, the buildings and grounds served from 1869 to 1912 as a Soldiers' Orphans School for the children of Civil War veterans.  When the number of Civil War orphans declined to the vanishing point, the Orphan School was put up for sale and remained on the market four years before the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts purchased it in 1916. From 1916 to 1952, thousands of students from the United States and abroad attended the school. Art students sketched and studied in the Portico which connected the Lincoln building and the Washington building, which now together comprise the Yellow Springs Cultural Center. 

From 1952 until 1974, Yellow Springs village served as the headquarters of Good News Productions, a company dedicated to producing Christian films. Some commercial films, most notably The Blob starring Steve McQueen, were also made there.

In 1974, the Cincinnati Museum of Art was formed to purchase and care for the site, which it continues to run as a museum village that is free and always open to the public. Different parts of Yellow Springs currently function as a museum for rotating and fixed art and historical exhibits, a cultural center for musical events, speakers, and exhibitions, a hotel/catering complex, an art school, an elder hostel, summer camps, and gardens and meadows where visitors may enjoy the surroundings. We certainly enjoyed our stroll around Historic Yellow Springs.

Christmas in the Cottage

All of us convened for the Christmas holiday at a little cottage in Historic Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania, some 30 miles outside of Philadelphia.  From the outside, the cottage, though clearly old and with character (note the cupola), was not overly impressive.

However, inside it was cozy and exuded country charm:

We got there first on Christmas Eve, and we started immediately to decorate the cottage for the arrival of the rest of the family on Christmas Day.  The stockings, which were hung by the chimney with care, had a noble spirit looking over them.  It may not have been a reindeer, but it came close. When we pointed out the stuffed deer to little William, he responded, "Why?"  I guess we had pretty much the same question.  But whatever sacrifice the deer made added to the charm of our stay.

Next to the fireplace, our little RV Christmas tree stood noble with its decorations and all the presents scattered at its feet:

Decorating is hard work.  Here, Kathy takes a snack break:

David added an extra traditional touch by stringing some holly berries that Sir William picked for us. The string of berries graced the tree.

We had a good night's sleep and awoke Christmas morning to a scrumptious country breakfast:

The family arrived, including Maggie Puppy and Bubu the Not-Quite-a-Dog.  Kathy volunteered to take the grandpuppies out for a walk to stretch their little paws after their long ride:

We observed all the standard Christmas traditions, such as opening prezzies, etc.  The family stayed overnight with us, and on Boxing Day, William volunteered to make pancakes for everyone.  He agreed that Kathy could be assistant chef:

What sunny winter day is complete without a stretch of the legs?  We found a trail up the hill behind the cottage and William led the way:

He and Katie led the rest of us in exploring the ruins of a colonial building used as a field hospital by General Washington when his troops wintered over in Valley Forge:

Here, Weina, Kathy and Bubu gave us a holiday pose:

Meanwhile, everyone poked around and clambered over boulders strewn about the Yellow Springs community property.  Here, Kathy, Katie and William inspect one mysterious mound:

After the hike, Katie and Matt drove to a local train station to pick up our niece Chelsea, who travelled down from New York City with her friend Troy to spend Boxing Day with us and then a little additional time with William & Co. in Delaware the next day.

Here, Chelsea and William show why they each deserve the nickname, "Wild Thing":

After spending an afternoon with too many Christmas cookies and too many showings of the "Muppet Family Christmas," we all walked over to the Yellow Springs Inn, just 100 yards or so from our cottage, to enjoy a warm, scrumptious dinner in a wood panelled room, warmed by a log fire:

After dinner, the young crowd bade us goodbye and headed back to where they were staying in Delaware.  As we cuddled in bed, Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap, our brains settled down to dreams of the next day when we would see William & Co. again down in Delaware.

Merry Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Eddie and George Save Christmas!

Eddie and George woke up this morning WITHOUT ANY ELECTRICITY!  Kathy and David noticed it, too.  After David cranked up the generator, George wandered over to the rig next door to see what was the trouble.

"Campground didn't pay the electric company so they shut off the power."

Eddie and George knew that already, because, when we arrived at the campground on December 1, there were two huge portable propane generators perched strategically near the two bathroom facilities.  "Hmmm," Eddie had confided, "I don't like the look of this."  Kathy agreed, so David and George had strolled down to the office to find out what was what. "Oh, [mumble mumble mumble]," the campground host said.  That explains it all.

Twice since we arrived there, the propane generators failed and had to be serviced.  Each time, David clambered out on the truck and started our own gasoline generator.  We were all comfy as children all snug in their beds, with visions of Christmas in Philadelphia dancing in our heads.

But it was not to be so easy.

The neighbor elaborated further to George this morning.  "Seems the campground didn't pay the generator rental people either, so one generator got pulled. Everyone in the campground has to move over to the other end, so the last remaining generator can supply us."

"Hmmm," Eddie said when George returned and reported.  "I wouldn't want to share that one little power source with about 40 other rigs."  Neither did George.  Nor the humans for that matter.  Nor, even, Baxter and Flip.

David and Kathy thought about leaving the cats for five days to rely on power to recharge the batteries so the propane heater could see it through.  In fact, they thought about the risk of losing power and heat, and what might happen to the water (I mean ice) in the fresh water tank.

"Nope!" Eddie exclaimed, "We can't stay here."

George responded, "You're right, Eddie.  Let's counsel the humans."  Well, it didn't take much counseling for Dave'n'Kathy to agree with the bears.  The cats were way ahead of all of them and were already searching for new campgrounds on the internet.

We found a KOA down here in Fredericksburg.  Dave marched down to the campground office and informed the staff we were leaving early today, and demanded a partial refund.  The three chagrined campground workers didn't even protest.  "Sure," the desk guy said, processed it, and said, "The credit will be on your credit card in a week or so."

"That was easy," David reported to Kathy, the bears and the cats.  "Let's see if the credit actually comes through."  David responded to the desk guy and the other workers:  "Just one word of wisdom. Make sure you get your paychecks.  Preferably in cash."

So suddenly it was MOVE DAY.  "Batten the hatches!  Hoist the mizzen!"  Kathy yelled.  Flip and Baxter ran for the bedroom.  David went out and battened and hoisted.  Kathy threw the cats into their carriers and the bears under the covers.  The ship set sail and followed the wind south down I-95. Except for about 18 construction zones and the accompanying traffic congestion, it was smooth sailing.

We docked at the Fredericksburg/Washington South KOA.  Eddie and George leaped out of the rig and helped plug in the electric.  Here, Eddie is examining the connection while George waits for the readings on the UPS:

Sure enough.  "We got POWER!" Eddie yelled.  "And its 50 AMPS!" George contributed.

This was mighty good news.  We all rushed into the rig and gathered around the Christmas tree to see it spring to life with a mighty force of electrons:

George and Eddie decided to wander outside to our picnic table, which was scenically posted right on the banks of a beautiful pond.  The two admired the bucolic view.

"Eddie?" George whispered.

"Yes, George," Eddie returned.

"I think this is going to be a good campground."

"Indeed," Eddie rejoined, "But you know what's even better?"

"What," George queried.

"I think we saved Christmas for the humans," Eddie concluded.

"I do believe you're correct," George observed.  "And not only that, the cats and we are going to be mighty comfy all through the New Year."

The Bluebird of Happiness flew by the two bears and, as if in agreement, swooped down onto its perch and sang a little song:  "God Bless Us Everyone!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For Auld Lang Syne

For times gone by, my dear,
for times gone by,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For times gone by.

Dear friends and family,

This time of year, we think about all the friends and family we're thankful for, and we try to reach out to them.  In years past, it was holiday cards.  More recently it's been holiday blogs and e-mails.  Even so, it's sometimes hard to come up with a theme we think might be meaningful.  We'd really like to put in a letter everything we find dear about each one of you, but that seems a bit impractical.  We decided the next best thing might be a quick summary of the highlights for each month of 2014, emphasizing our family and friends.  After considering all this, we realize how wealthy we are in companionship and love!

January - Trip to Ecuador & Peru

We flew to Ecuador in December 2013 and stayed through early January, which gave us lots of holiday and vacation time with our daughter-in-law Weina, our son Matt, their son William and our daughter Katie:

And, as a family bonus, we had a chance to stop and see our niece Hannah and her partner David - and we made a new friend, Fil (at right in photo):

February - Mardi Gras in Galveston

We decided we didn't want the chaos and crowds of New Orleans at Mardi Gras, but we heard that our favorite campground on the Gulf Coast, in Galveston, organizes a group to attend Galveston's Mardi Gras.  So we joined - and BOY did we have fun.  George and Eddie, who of course must make an appearance in any review of the year, model all the bling we collected:

March - Biloxi & Myrtle Beach

Continuing east on the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic as we moved north this Spring, we stayed in Biloxi for a spell and enjoyed its beautiful beaches and parks, fully restored from the Katrina devastation:

Not to be outdone, Myrtle Beach entertained us with a huge street rod show.  Here, Mater makes a cameo appearance

April - Uncle Howard's Memorial Service & a Visit with Dick and Evie

David's Uncle Howard passed away last year, and his family organized a memorial service for him on Bainbridge Island in April.  In addition to giving us a chance to remember all of the wonderful things Howard represented in our lives, we also had a chance to catch up with loads of West Coast cousins on David's mom's side of the family:

May - Philly Broad Street Run, & a Visit with Karen and Connie

Matt and Katie have always wanted to run in the Broad Street 10-Mile Run in Philadelphia, and we joined them for that in May.  We think the race injured all of us for life, which you can see from the photo of our deformed bodies below immediately after the race:

We've formed friendships with a few other full-time RV couples, and we had a chance in May to join up with Karen and Connie Stoll at Letchworth State Park in northwestern New York state.  It was a lot of fun catching up with them and exploring the waterfalls of the park:

June - Jen's Wedding & a Visit with Laird and Risa

June was the month for a huge family event, when our niece Jen Miller got married to Drew Gobrecht. They shared with us this photo of their new joint family, including Kathy's sister Eileen and her husband Tom, Michelle and Thomas O. Miller (Jen's sister-in-law and brother), Jen and Drew, and in the front in the photo below, Jen's paternal grandparents:

The after-party for the wedding was - just as Michelle's and Tom's wedding party in November 2013 - a real blast.  Jen and Drew's wedding photographer caught David in the act of splitting his pants as he joined nephew Ryan in a demonstration of some smooth dance floor moves, to the consternation of all who witnessed it:

We recuperated from the wedding in time to join David's brother Laird and his wife Risa in one of our many "exchange programs" in the last couple years.  Whenever our RV is planted somewhere within reach of Albany, we take turns visiting each other.  Below, someone (guess who?) is gloating over his or her victory over the rest of us in a take-no-prisoners game of Chuckluck:

July - Lots of Time with Katie, William and Matt!

We also visited Matt, Weina and William in Toronto in late May and early June to help them move to their new apartment, and to help Matt care for William while Weina returned to China to bring her dad to Toronto for a long visit.  Here, their dog Bubu took a selfie of himself with Matt, William, Katie, David and Kathy.  Note the beautiful painting by an Ecuadorian artist, which also appears in the photo above from January in their home in Ecuador:

August - Backpack with Nick, Puppysitting & Another Visit with the Torontoans

August brought a landmark backpack in the Adirondacks with nephew Nick.  We were lucky to have lean-to shelters to sleep in because it rained each night.  Here, we all settle in before dinner at our campsite:

Our grandpuppy Maggie also got into the act more than once in 2014.  We puppysat for her a stretch in New Haven in August while Katie traveled to present a paper at an annual Ecology conference. One of our many puppy hikes was to East Rock.  Kathy and Maggie willingly took the heroic pose overlooking the Connecticut countryside:

Later in August, we were back in Toronto for one last visit with Weina's dad ("Laoye") before he returned to China in early October.  Here, Laoye, William and Weina share a relaxing moment at a park on Center Island in Toronto on Lake Ontario:

September - Schroon Lake with Katie, Risa and Laird

In September, it was back through the Adirondacks (again) to Schroon Lake, where we hosted Laird and Risa for another episode of "Exchange Program" and a return bout of Chuckluck.  Before they left, they had a chance to see Katie, who drove up with Maggie Puppy to join us for the Adirondack 10K Run.  While Katie and Maggie were with us, we took a hike up Severance Hill, near our campground, and Katie snapped these photos:

No race souvenir is more appreciated than a photo.  Luckily, the race photographer grabbed this photo of the three of us before the race:

October - Birthday Weekend in Finger Lakes

In October, we started a new tradition.  Little William's birthday is in October, as is Matt's, so we joined Weina, Katie, William and Matt at Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes for a Big Birthday Bash Weekend!  Luckily, we grabbed a photo of the climax moment:

We hope to make this an annual event.

November - Thanksgiving in Toronto

Again, the highlight of November was Sir William & Co. in Toronto, where we joined him, his mom and dad, and Katie (the Founder of the Feast) for a huge Thanksgiving repast.  Below, Katie joins Weina and William for a little something to eat on one of the days of our visit:

December - A Visit with Eric and Ginny, Nephew Ryan, Cookie Baking & the Pollyanna Party - not to mention Christmas!

We can't believe it!  The year is winding down and it's already December.  But already we've had more than our share of adventures this month.  We started with a bang by spending the first week of December with another RV couple we are friends with - Ginny and Eric Lajuene.  They stayed at the same campground we are staying at outside Washington D.C. and joined us in innumerable hijinx, including a visit to the ICE! Display at the Washington National Harbor across from Alexandria. Here, Eric, Kathy and Ginny are preparing to endure the 9F cold temperatures of the exhibit:

We also shared a scrumptious turkey dinner with them before they headed south ahead of us.

Not to be outdone with that, we got TWO big days with nephew Ryan and his parents, Kathy's brother Steve and his wife Lea Ann.

THEN we hit the annual McNee Family Cookie Baking Day in suburban Philadelphia, where we rent a little space in the Cupboard Under the Stairs from Kathy's sister Eileen and her husband Tom.  Here, the Cookie Crew enjoys a well-earned rest after laboring all day in the Cookie Kitchen:

On Sunday, December 19, we'll be joining our kids, William the Conqueror, Katie and all of Kathy's family for a huge Pirate Pollyanna Party.  Then a wonderful Christmas dinner with Katie, Matt, Weina and William.  And, last but not least, the two of us will ring in the New Year grooving to some cool jazz at Blues Alley in D.C.'s Georgetown section before waking up to that imponderable, mysterious new year - 2015.

We wish each of you health, happiness and the joys of being with ones you love for the whole coming year.  Be sure to keep us posted on your adventures.

Kathy & David