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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Around Lake Galena in Peace Valley Park

Today was beautiful, and warmer than the last few days.  Having most of the day available, we decided to hike around Lake Galena in Peace Valley Park - a 6.5 mile walk.

Peace Valley Park is a 1,500 acre park located near Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The park surrounds Lake Galena, a 2-mile long by .5 mile wide manmade lake:

Lake Galena was created by the damming of the north branch of the Neshaminy Creek in the 1970's, in order to decrease flooding downstream and to provide recreation for local residents. It was named, "Lake Galena" because of lead ore, which is found in the area. A local area was once referred to as "New Galena" because of the lead mines that were there. The waters of Lake Galena now cover the largest mine pit and other, smaller mine sites in the valley.

Lead was discovered in the area in 1860 when two people digging a post hole came across a large rock. When split open it glistened and they brought it to a blacksmith who smelted it and determined that it was indeed lead. Rich veins of lead and zinc ore, and some gold, silver, uranium and copper were mined periodically along the North Branch of Neshaminy Creek in this area from 1860 into the 1930's.

Legend has it that long before mining operations began in 1860, Lenni Lenape Indians fashioned implements from lead found in local creek beds.  One such creek - "Bullet Mold Creek" - may have been where lead ore was smelted to make musket balls for Washington's army during its encampment at Valley Forge.  An old frame building known as the "cannon ball factory" lends support for another legend that cannon balls for the Union Army were made here during the Civil War.  The high cost of pumping water from the largest mine pit contributed to its closing in the 1830's.

While one can imagine that lead pollution is an issue affecting the lake, an environmental study actually found much higher pollution and related issues due to fertilizers in the runoff from local farms.

Most of the trails are paved and multi-use.  However, some trails are primitive, and, due to low lake waters at this time of year, it was also possible to walk along the flat shoreline.  We did a little of each.  In one secluded section, we ran across this makeshift camping shelter:

We had hardly started our hike when thousands upon thousands of geese approached overhead from the north in great flocks that didn't so much resemble flying V's or wedges, but great swarms.  As the geese approached the lake, some smaller wedges broke off to the east, other wedges broke west, and still others approached and landed on the lake.  Here, several hundred geese are parking overnight on the lake, raising quite a ruckus:

The County has installed many birdhouses throughout the park.  Primitive, but homey, they provide shelter for some of the more than 250 species of birds that have been spotted here:

Almost to demonstrate the park and lake's attractiveness to birds, we caught sight of this great blue heron, who went almost unnoticed upshore from the lake to our right as we passed on the trail:

Cattails were plentiful in some damper areas, although most have succumbed to the season and weather.  Here, one hardy fellow stands proudly, as if to say he is a lone survivor:

As we hiked around to the head of the lake, we got a look at Neshaminy Creek as it empties into the lake:

The other direction from the bridge over the lake's inlet, we could see some geese gathering in the mud flats.  As we passed, another squadron of geese approached, and signalling, landed right amidst these squatters:

There are at least a half dozen fishing piers on the lake, and fishing is permitted except at the inlet of Neshaminy Creek.  Here are views across the lake from one pier --

-- and down the lake from another:

While David took some photos, Kathy paused to adjust her hiking socks:

The bottom of the lake is bounded by a huge earthen dam nearly a half mile long, complete with path along its crest:

From the dam, we could make out a flock of seagulls congregating for some sort of mischief near the north bank of the lake:

To the west, glinting in the descending sun, we saw Neshaminy Creek where it flowed out of the lake and through a wintry looking wetland:

The hike was a good stretch for us after too many days of logistics, chores, errands and socializing. We felt tired but stretched by the time we got back to the truck.  A pot of hot chili awaited us as we returned home!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Paying Our Respects to the World Trade Center

Friday, November 14, was the day of our arrival in New York City to join our Brit friends Jane and Kim for a mad tour of Manhattan before the play we saw Saturday.  We decided to spend Friday afternoon visiting the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, also known as the World Trade Center Memorial.

The memorial and museum commemorate the attacks on September 11, 2001 that killed 2,977 people, and the earlier World Trade Center bombing of 1993, which killed six. The memorial and museum are located at the World Trade Center site, on the former location of the Twin Towers that were destroyed in two of the four attacks on 9/11.  One other attack damaged the Pentagon, and the fourth attack, Flight 93, was foiled by passengers and crew and crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  In saying all this, we recognize that most readers already know this, but it is always important to remember the key facts that are being memorialized.

The National September 11 Memorial is intended to be a tribute of remembrance and honor to the people killed in the attacks.  The memorial consists of a large, open plaza containing a field of trees, interrupted by two large voids containing recessed pools that mark the footprints of the Twin Towers. The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapet walls that form the edges of the Memorial pools.  The name of its design is, "Reflecting Absence." It was dedicated on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, and officially opened the next day.  It had over 1 million visitors in the first three months it was open.  It would be hard to imagine the number of visitors it has seen in the three years since 2011.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum is intended to serve as the country’s principal institution for examining the implications of the events of 9/11, documenting the impact of those events and exploring the continuing significance of September 11, 2001.   The Museum is an underground museum which has various artifacts of the attacks and pieces of steel from the Twin Towers, such as the final steel, which was the last piece of steel to leave Ground Zero in May 2002. It is built on top of the former location of the Sphere, a large metallic sculpture by German sculptor Fritz Koenig of a globe.  It stood in the middle of a large pool between the twin towers:

The Sphere was battered but intact after the September 11 attacks, and has since been moved to nearby Battery Park.  The following photo by Mario Kaupe shows the Sphere in its present location and condition:

A smaller sculpture of the Sphere greets visitors as they enter the main hall of the Museum.  Two of the original tridents from the Twin Towers are located in this pavilion. One of the walls of the underground museum is an exposed side of the slurry wall, the retaining wall that holds back the Hudson River and that had remained unbreached during and after September 11. Other artifacts from Ground Zero include wrecked emergency vehicles, including a fire engine bent completely out of shape from the collapse, pieces of metal from all seven World Trade Center buildings, recordings of survivors and first responders including 911 phone calls, pictures of all victims, photographs from the wreckage, and other media tools used to detail the destruction including the crashes, collapse, fires, jumpers, and clean-up.  The museum, which is part of the Memorial and accessible from the plaza, was dedicated on May 15, 2014 and opened on May 21, 2014.

On May 10, 2014, the long-unidentified remains of 1,115 victims were transferred from the city medical examiner's office to Ground Zero, where they were placed in a space in the bedrock 70 feet below ground, as part of the 9/11 Museum.

We started our visit at the pools amid the field of trees.  From the Memorial, there are striking views of the new One World Trade Center, which was nicknamed "Freedom Tower" during initial work.  It is now the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. and the fourth-tallest in the world. Its steel structure was topped out on August 30, 2012, and on May 10, 2013 the final component of its spire was installed, allowing it to reach a symbolic height of 1,776 feet in reference to the year of signing of the Declaration of Independence. The building just opened on November 3, 2014 - only 11 days before we visited.

We captured several views of the striking new building, which is to the left in this first photo:

The Memorial Pools are themselves very striking, and we could not help pausing and reflecting on the losses of September 11 when we thought of the fact that the pools sit on the footprints of the original World Trade Center towers:

Two of the names etched on the borders of the pools were particularly touching because someone had left remembrances in each of them:

Here, Kim and Jane are photographing one of the pools:

You enter the Museum from the street level, and it is marked by a building above ground, but the vast majority of the Museum lies below ground.  It extends all the way to the bedrock that originally underlay the Twin Towers.  The photo below shows part of the slurry wall that bounded the "bathtub" created to hold the waters of the Hudson River back from the foundations of the towers.  Also in the photo below is the "Last Column" to be removed from the WTC site in the demolition and reconstruction:

One touching part of the Museum is devoted to photos and memorabilia for each of the victims of the attacks:

For us, perhaps the most powerful exhibit in the Museum was the one memorializing the losses on Flight 93 when it crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The exhibit features recordings and transcripts from the cockpit, crew and passengers' cell phone calls to family members as the slow realization came over them, first, that they had been hijacked, and, then, that the hijacking was part of a larger attack, and, finally, that they were undoubtedly to be sacrificed in one last attack on the nation's capital - probably the U.S. Capitol Building.  The recordings preserve the poignancy of the passengers' feelings as they realized they must take action to save others, while they themselves had no hope.

We came out of the Museum dazed and sobered.  Night had fallen, and we took one last look at the new WTC tower --

-- and one last look at the Memorial Pools:

The organization of the Museum left a great deal to be desired.  The exhibits did not flow well and did not start out with an understandable overview and timeline of the events.  Artifacts were simply thrown at visitors without context, and it was only at the end of the visit that the portion of the Museum that described the sequence of events could even be reached.  We felt that this clearly was the work of a committee of competing interests and intentions, and we hope that the Museum will be reorganized by a unifying vision as soon as possible.  However, despite the Museum's substantial weaknesses of presentation, it is an incredibly powerful story that must be experienced.  We were extremely grateful that we had had a chance to visit the entire Memorial and Museum.

Manhattan Madness!

Hi Blog! It all started innocently enough. Our friends, Jane and Kim, who are from the UK, were planning a holiday. First, they wanted to go someplace warm like Hawaii, but it was just a little too far. (That's a lot of time zones from London to Maui.) The Caribbean was the next best destination, so they booked their flights.  In order to get there, they had to change planes at JFK Airport in New York. They thought, hey, since we're going all that way, why not stay a couple extra days in New York on our return and see our friend Hugh Jackman (a/k/a Wolverine) in his new play, The River? Oh, and, by the way, we'll see if Dave and Kathy can join us. And thus a brilliant holiday was formed. We can only report second-hand on what the beachy part of their holiday was like since they didn't invite us to come along on that leg of the journey (a situation that has since been rectified). Here is a glimpse of their island paradise.

Our story begins on Friday, November 14, 2014, with a with a train south to Philadelphia in order to catch another train north to New York City.  Upon arriving, it was just a short walk up 8th Avenue to 42nd and Times Square. We dropped our bags and picked up Jane and Kim and headed out to find adventure. As with all meetings of Merry Pranksters, the first order of business was to eat. So, on our way to the National September 11 Memorial Museum, we stopped for some Mexican food at Mariachi's. From left to right - Kim, Dave, Jane and Kathy.

After lunch, we stopped at the newly opened One World Trade Center. As you can tell from our attire, it was a bit brisk in New York City this past weekend.

We spent several hours walking around the museum and memorial. There was so much information to take in that we felt overwhelmed at times. Rather than try to summarize our experience in this blog entry, we are going to do a separate entry just for the museum and memorial. By the time we finished, it was getting dark. After a jolt from Starbucks, we found ourselves in Little Italy looking for the perfect "Little Italian" restaurant. We picked Caffe Napoli. As you can see, we had lots of yummy things to choose from.

After a quick subway ride back to the hotel, we called it a night. The next morning, we took off in search of more adventure, but first, we had to carbo-load at Roxy's Dinner. Then it was back to the subway and down to the South Ferry Terminal home of the Staten Island Ferry. Here, we are all bundled up and about to enjoy one of the best free activities anywhere.  Yes, the ferry ride is free!

As soon as you leave the south terminal, you get an amazing view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

A quick trip to the other side of boat and you get to see Lady Liberty.

If you hang out in the back of the boat, you get the New York City skyline.

Just wait a few more minutes, and you can have both the Statue of Liberty and New York City in one photo.

The ride takes about 25 minutes, so there is plenty of time to re-enact the "I'm the King of the World" scene from "Titanic":

Where the Hudson River meets the Upper Bay is very busy. There are loads of ferries, tugs and barges all making their way this way and that.

No sooner did we get to Staten Island than we turned right around and got back onto the boat for the return trip. There's not much to see on Staten Island, and besides we needed to get back to the hotel to freshen up for our date with Hugh. None of us knew very much about the play The River by Jez Butterworth -- other than the fact that Hugh Jackman was in it. We looked for liner notes in the Playbill, but there weren't any. Apparently, the author, Jez Butterworth, doesn't want to include any notes.  In fact, he doesn't even name his characters.  Hugh plays the Man and Laura Donnelly plays the Other Woman.

The Man likes to fly fish and waxes lyrically about said hobby, which made Dave and I feel very comfortable. The Man also seems to have relationship issues. We see various scenes set in The Man's cabin by a river. We’re left to wonder if the action takes place over different weekends. Is the Man reminiscing about past lovers? Or will he, like the Bear Grylls of Broadway, use the knife dangling from his belt to slice and dice his girlfriends the way he slices and dices a piece of fish? Performed in a semi-circle, we spent most of the time looking at the back of Hugh. It seemed fitting that the last thing we saw as we left the theater was the back of Hugh.

"The End"!

It wasn't really the end, just the end of the show. After a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner, it was off to Tagine, a Morrocan restaurant. We were just in time to catch the sun setting in the building across from our hotel.

After dinner, we took one last stroll around Times Square. Got a few shots of the Chyrsler Building

and this New York City subway car that was rescued from the Mojave Desert by Asics Running Store.

We bid a fond farewell to the bright lights, as Jane and Kim had an early morning flight. On Sunday morning, we took our morning "coffee walk" in Central Park and, after a hearty breakfast at the Brooklyn Dinner, we made our way back to Penn Station and began our journey home.

Thanks, Jane and Kim, for sharing your adventure with us!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Skippack Creek Trail

Hi Blog! On Sunday, November 9, 2014, we returned to Evansburg State Park.  You see, on Friday, our daughter Katie, along with her puppy, Maggie, paid us a surprise visit. Well, it wasn't really a surprise, she called and told us she was coming. But it was not something we scheduled in advance. Katie happened to be in the Philly area for a seminar and decided to stick around for a few days to visit with family and friends. Maggie had been cooped up for a few days while Katie seminared and needed a good romp in the woods. We looked around for dog friendly trails and discovered Evansburg State Park. On Friday, we hiked a few of the trails with Katie and Maggie, but didn't have time to tackle the whole 5 miles of the Skippack Creek Trail. We made a promise to ourselves that we would return. Here is Kathy at the trailhead.

We got a late start.  It was 2:00 p.m. by the time we hit the trailhead. The sun was pretty low. Winter is coming John Snow. We can see the signs all around us. Most of the trees have lost their leaves, but there was still some color to be seen. This little dusty rose-colored specimen caught Dave's eye.

The land on which Evansburg State Park is located was originally part of a massive tract of land purchased from the Lenape (Delaware) Indians by William Penn in 1684. The land was quickly settled by German Mennonites. They fled religious persecution in Europe for the religious freedom, promised by William Penn in his colony. The Mennonites cleared the land of its old-growth forests and built farms, stores and mills that were powered by the waters of Skippack Creek. Here is Dave just before we crossed the newest bridge across the creek.

The Skippack Creek Trail is a loop that takes you down the north side of the creek, across a bridge and up the south side. You then have to cross another creek and hike down to your starting point. Here is a look up the creek from the first bridge.

As we hiked along the creek, we could see a number of places where old mill races were. Accordingly to one of the many historical markers we passed, there were seven mills along the creek in the area that is now Evansburg State Park.  There are also a number of mature trees in the area. We particularly like the stately sycamore trees with their white bark shining in the sun.

The creek runs pretty slow in the fall. In some sections it was so still you could see the reflection from the far side.

The area in and surrounding Evansburg State Park remained largely rural until World War II. The growth of suburbs and industry changed the landscape of the Skippack Valley. Evansburg State Park was established in 1979 to protect the rural qualities of the area and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the people of southeastern Pennsylvania. However, you can still find remnants of the old factories. Here Kathy climbs atop the "Skippack Pyramid."

The trail on the north side of the creek where the visitor center is located is wide and well marked. As we traveled along the south side of the creek, the trail narrowed and was hard to find in a couple places because of all the leaves on the ground. At one point, the trail hugs the side of a steep bank.

Here we came upon a section of trail that was still brightly colored.

We kept looking for wildlife, but all we encountered were fellow hikers.  Most of whom had never been on the trail before and weren't really sure how to get back to their cars.

Here's a little more color.

As we headed back down the north side of the creek, the Skippack Creek Trail follows an existing horse trail for about a half mile. Horse trails can be a little mucky and one must watch carefully where you step. At one point, we had to stand to the side as a large trail ride passed us. There must have been at least 20 riders. Here is the end of the "train." You gotta love the straw hats!

Here's one last look back at the creek before we head to the rental car. (Don't worry. Great White is fine, just in the shop for its annual inspection, tune up and bath!)

There's a crockpot waiting for us back at the rig. Tomorrow we hope to see the movie, "Interstellar." The Eagles are playing on Monday Night Football - E A G L E S!