Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Well, that's it for Turk Mountain. Great hike. Now I just have to find my car again. When I arrived, mine was one of only a few cars in the lot. Upon my return, I found hikers had even resorted to parking their cars along Skyline Drive.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Mountain Laurel

I'm always amazed by any plant that is able to produce new growth this late in the year. So that's why I stopped on my way down Turk Mountain long enough to photograph this mountain laurel. I have to say it's one of those shrubs I most associate with the Blue Ridge mountains even though I know it's widely cultivated. Does it grow where you live?

"The plant was originally brought to Europe as an ornamental plant during the 18th century. It is still widely grown for its attractive flowers and year round evergreen leaves. Elliptic, alternate, leathery, glossy evergreen leaves (to 5" long) are dark green above and yellow green beneath and reminiscent to the leaves of rhododendrons" (Wikipedia).

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Hickory Nut

Pignut hickory, I think. There were several such nuts scattered along the Turk Mountain trail about halfway between the summit and the trailhead.

Friday, November 8, 2019


Someone I met on Turk Mountain's summit commented on how the rocks there appear almost marble-like in appearance, probably because of the pink color. But I think it's actually quartzite.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Turk Mountain summit . . .

and the view looking out over the famous Shenandoah Valley.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

First Takes

We haven't quite reached the summit of Turk Mountain yet (shown above) either literally or figuratively. As predicted, I got up yesterday morning at 3 a.m. to go do my duties as an election officer and did not return until  late last night. Or was it early this morning? In any case, the election is over and we had a good turnout (40+%) in the precinct I worked, and it was obvious that Democrats had made a concerted effort to get their constituents to the polls. Early results indicate Democrats won back control of both houses of the state legislature.

What is it like to be an election officer in such a hot political climate? Tiring, I can say that without qualification. I was on my feet for --what?-- nearly nineteen hours, with only a fifteen minute break for lunch. During that time, I welcomed people of all political stripes to the polls, checked to make sure they were properly registered in the precinct where they hoped to cast their votes. (Not all were so registered and not all showed up at their correct polling sites. In some cases, we had to redirect them to other nearby polling places.) I also helped make sure their votes were properly accounted for by both our election machinery and by hand counts at the end of the day.

Will I serve again in 2020? Almost assuredly, despite the fact that there will be not just one but no less than THREE separate elections, necessitating even more long days and nights to come. So if any of you are considering serving as an election official where you live, I hope you will. It's not for everyone; I can see that. It will demand above average patience, fortitude, as well as strict attention to detail. But for all that, you also will have the pleasure of working alongside some other wonderfully dedicated and long-suffering people.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Rock the Vote!

Very rocky as you pass under the summit of Turk Mountain. There is also something peculiar about these rocks that I will tell you  about after we get to the top and where it begins to be more apparent.

By the way, today is election day here in the USofA. And as I am an election officer, I will be incommunicado until possibly as late as the wee hours of tomorrow morning. So here's hoping all you registered voters out there show up at the polls. No excuses. Vote! :-)

Monday, November 4, 2019


Turk Mountain
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

While Asters—
On the Hill—
Their Everlasting fashions—set—
And Covenant Gentians—Frill! 

--Emily Dickinson

Sunday, November 3, 2019


Decided to head over to Shenandoah National Park and climb Turk Mountain a few weeks ago. This was before the trees began to change colors. The Park gets crowded once those leaves change. So you have to go when you can. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019


I think this is a pretty nifty way to transition from the historic Johns Hopkins Hospital to the newer more modern hospital, creating this wonderfully industrial and yet almost Queen Anne-like corridor that now greets thousands upon thousands of patients, doctors, scientists, and just plain tourists every year.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Medical Rounds

According to legend, it was here at Johns Hopkins' historic hospital that the idea of doctors making medical "rounds" originated, visiting patients in wards surrounding the rotunda.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Christus Consolator

"Lithographs that ran in the local newspapers the morning the [Johns Hopkins Hospital] opened show an open rotunda, with octagonal design work in the center of the floor. Soon after, that centermost spot was covered over by a 10 1/2-foot Carrara marble Christ statue that has stood there ever since. Donated in 1896 by William Wallace Spence, a Scottish immigrant and one of the wealthiest businessmen in Baltimore, the statue is an exact copy of the Christus Consolator that Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen executed for Copenhagen's Frue Kirke in 1821.

Why the nonsectarian Hospital acquired the religious symbol is open to speculation, but the day Hopkins opened, University President Daniel Coit Gilman publicly asked for someone to come forward and donate a copy of Thorwaldsen's work. It is believed the gift was sought to offset criticism from the more conservative element in late 19th century Baltimore that the Hospital had no religious affiliation. Whatever the case, getting the artwork in place was a major feat.

'Jesus came in through the north door,' according to the Hospital's first door man, William Thomas, who remained with the Hospital until he died in 1958. The statue had been pulled from the wharf on a wood sled drawn by four horses, all the way up Broadway to the Hospital's north entrance, then slid down a short corridor to its present position. Through the years, Hopkins employees have rubbed the statue's toes in passing, and patients often pray before it. It has become a symbol of compassion and hope" (www.hopkinsmedicine.org).

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


I'll take you inside Johns Hopkins Hospital tomorrow. But first I wanted you to see this analemma stationed outside the front doors. This is cool! I think it's the first one I've seen. I've seen plenty of sundials before, but this is the first one I've seen quite like this. And it works! If you could enlarge this photo, you would see that the bead's shadow falls precisely at the time this photo was taken adding an hour for Daylight Savings Time. :-)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


"Initial plans for the [Johns Hopkins Hospital] were drafted by surgeon John Shaw Billings, and the architecture designed by John Rudolph Niernsee and completed by Edward Clarke Cabot of the Boston firm of Cabot and Chandler in a Queen Anne style. When completed in 1889 at a cost of $2,050,000 (US $50.8 million in 2016), the hospital included what was then state-of-the art concepts in heating and ventilation to check the spread of disease" (Wikipedia).

Monday, October 28, 2019

Eager Park

Have you ever been to Baltimore, Trump's favorite American city? Yes? Well, then you know that it's more than slums. There are those, of course, but there is so much more. So much that I can't even begin to describe this so-called City of Neighborhoods

What I can share are these photos of Eager Park and, beginning tomorrow, a few favorite scenes from my recent visit.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Road Home

That's another wrap. Mt. Norwottuck was my last climb before heading back to Virginia and making a lightning quick trip to Johns Hopkins University. Next stop--Baltimore, Maryland.

Saturday, October 26, 2019


Passed through a field of these on the way down from Mt. Norwottuck's summit where they were thriving in a clearing underneath power lines.

Nature lies disheveled pale,
With her feverish lips apart, -
Day by day the pulses fail,
Nearer to her bounding heart;
Yet that slackened grasp doth hold
Store of pure and genuine gold;
Quick thou comest, strong and free,
Type of all the wealth to be, -

Friday, October 25, 2019


Judging from the number of acorns strewn along the trail leading to and from Mt. Norwottuck's summit, I'd say there is going to be a pretty good mast this winter. Others agree.

"Experts say the region appears to be experiencing a 'mast year.' Certain conditions, including the weather, cause the trees to produce more acorns every few years.

Marjorie Rines, a naturalist with Mass Audubon, says there are 'tons more around' and they've been 'coming down pretty hard and fast.'

In Boston, some residents have contacted the city's Constituent Service Center recently to ask that street sweepers clear acorns in their neighborhoods.

Mark Ashton, a professor of forest ecology at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, says it is a mast year, but not a big one" (www.usnews.com).

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Met these folks as I was leaving Mt. Norwottuck's summit. Don't mind the dog. The young man assured me that his dog just likes "kisses."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Horse Caves

Okay, I will admit to a few blank pages in my book of knowledge of early American history. One of those missing pages has to do with Shays' Rebellion. So as I stumbled upon the so-called Horse Caves just shy of Mt. Norwottuck's summit, I was a bit perplexed to learn how, according to legend, some of the men fighting with Daniel Shays in Shays' Rebellion hid out in the these caves after their defeat at the hands of the Massachusetts militia. 

But who in the heck was Daniel Shays? And what was his so-called "rebellion" about? That's what I wanted to know.

Here's Wikipedia's summary of the matter: 

"Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in Western Massachusetts in opposition to a debt crisis among the citizenry and the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades; the fight took place mostly in and around Springfield during 1786 and 1787. American Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led four thousand rebels (called Shaysites) in a protest against economic and civil rights injustices. Shays was a farmhand from Massachusetts at the beginning of the Revolutionary War; he joined the Continental Army, saw action at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Battle of Bunker Hill, and Battles of Saratoga, and was eventually wounded in action.

In 1787, Shays' rebels marched on the United States' Springfield Armory in an unsuccessful attempt to seize its weaponry and overthrow the government. The federal government found itself unable to finance troops to put down the rebellion, and it was consequently put down by the Massachusetts State militia and a privately funded local militia. The widely held view was that the Articles of Confederation needed to be reformed as the country's governing document, and the events of the rebellion served as a catalyst for the Constitutional Convention and the creation of the new government.

The shock of Shays' Rebellion drew retired General George Washington back into public life, leading to his two terms as the first president of the United States. There is still debate among scholars concerning the rebellion's influence on the Constitution and its ratification."

So now you/we know. And we've seen the caves. :-)

Monday, October 21, 2019


Leaving the Fobert Frost Trail now and taking the New England Trail to the top of Mt. Norwottuck where a surprise awaited me.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tilted Ege

Robert Frost Trail
Holyoke Range State Park, Massachusetts

"Erosion occurring between the eruptions deposited deep layers of sediment between the lava flows, which eventually lithified into sedimentary rock. The resulting 'layer cake' of basalt and sedimentary sheets eventually faulted and tilted upward. Subsequent erosion wore away the weaker sedimentary layers a faster rate than the basalt layers, leaving the abruptly tilted edges of the basalt sheets exposed, creating the distinct linear ridge and dramatic cliff faces visible today. One way to imagine this is to picture a layer cake tilted slightly up with some of the frosting (the sedimentary layer) removed in between. One of the best places to view this layer-cake structure in the Holyoke Range is on Mount Norwottuck" (Wikipedia).

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Late Walk

When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

-- Robert Frost

Robert Frost Trail
Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Massachsetts

Friday, October 18, 2019


Robert Frost Trail
Mt. Norwottuck, Massachusetts

“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”
― Robert Frost

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Robert Frost Trail

Ah, my last hike in Massachusetts this past month took me to the summit of Mt. Norwottuck by way of a short stretch of the Robert Frost Trail: "The Robert Frost Trail is a 47-mile (76 km) long footpath that passes through the eastern Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts. The trail runs from the Connecticut River in South Hadley, Massachusetts to Ruggles Pond in Wendell State Forest, through both Hampshire and Franklin County and includes a number of scenic features such as the Holyoke Range, Mount Orient, Puffer's Pond, and Mount Toby. The trail is named after the poet Robert Frost, who lived and taught in the area from 1916 to 1938" (Wikipedia).

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


The end of my trek along the Norwottuck Rail Trail was also its beginning, namely the old railroad bridge across the Connecticut River. Some of you may recall some images I captured last year when I was here (below).

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


There are precious few things I enjoy more than a good long walk on a beautiful day under a canopy of trees. Fortunately, most of the Norwottuck Trail is blessed with a wonderful canopy. Friends who live here in western Massachusetts, though, tell me that the weather begins to turn at around this time so that there are not so many pleasant warm days. On the other hand, they also say that the cross country skiing can be a blast. :-)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Trailside Inn

"The building itself is a recently restored 1865 farmhouse style house with Italianate characteristics that was awarded the City of Northampton's Historic Preservation Award. The restoration and the interesting stories behind it were the subject of a segment on House & Garden Television’s (HGTV) acclaimed series, Restore America" (www.sugar-maple-inn.com).

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Freckled Fox

Next time you're in Florence, Massachusetts, you ought to stop for a bite to eat here. I heartily recommend the Reuben sandwich and Cape Cod chips.

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Back on the Norwottuck Rail Trail again. According to Wikipedia, "the rail bed was acquired by the state [Massachusetts] in 1985 and developed into the trail in 1993 . . . The name of 'Norwottuck' was the result of a suggestion by the Hadley Historical Commission, who believed that the name corresponded to the local Native American tribe, the Norwottucks. It was also the term for the entire area.'

Friday, October 11, 2019

Childs Park

Northampton, Massachusetts

"Bequeathed by Annie Childs in 1950, it is a place for quiet reflection and for savoring the smells, sounds, and sights of nature. Its 40 acres boast three large lawns and two natural ponds. An Italian-style garden house presides over the rose garden and the nearby formal garden [above], while the pine woods and giant ferns hide some wonderful surprises. The park is managed and maintained by the Childs Park Foundation" (childspark.org).