Friday, August 22, 2014

Travelogue – losing a river

How does a river get lost? Since I went to Lost River Gorge, the question is appropriate. In this case send the river down a gorge (steep walled narrow canyon, similar to yesterday's flume) and drop some huge boulders into the gorge. In contrast to yesterday, the water flows under the boulders instead of over. So, lost river. In addition, those crazily piled boulders make a series of “boulder caves” – little rooms and passages under the boulders. Some of them are accommodating, others – such as the “lemon squeezer” – are not. Those I passed by, especially when my knees told me they weren't so pleased about that hands-and-knees thing. My slacks aren't either. Of course, all the kids around me thought these little caves were pretty cool, especially since their parents couldn't follow them. That made me wonder about the signs that said children under 12 should be accompanied by their parents at all times. Who thought up these rules?

Here's a view to a cave opening, which is why I didn't venture into many of them.

This time I had my jacket with me. I also carried my umbrella through the gorge, though I didn't need to open it.

To get to the gorge I drove the Kancamagus Highway again. I was glad I had stopped at the scenic overlooks yesterday because the clouds were so low today they covered the pass.

After lunch (again, one I brought with me) I headed down the K-Hwy one more time. This time I stopped to hike to Franconia Falls. This time the trail was straight with a gentle grade – it had been the route of a lumber train. In many places the railroad ties still lay in the path.

Alas, this trail was much longer than I had thought and the falls weren't spectacular. A steady light rain had started when I got out of the car, so I had my umbrella with me – and I used it. The whole hike was over 3 hours.

Since this was in a national forest I had to get a day-pass for my car. That's when I hit an issue that seems to be more prevalent lately. The stand to buy the pass was self-serve – stick your money in an envelope, then tear off the window hanger and display that in your car. The issue – nobody around to offer change. Don't have the right number of singles? You could go back into town (about 10 miles) for change or you could slip a $5 in the envelope when the fee is only $3.

I'm not going to complain too loudly about the National Forest Service getting a couple extra bucks out of me. But I had a similar experience at the laundromat a couple days ago. The machines didn't take coins, they took an “easy card” – one put bills (not coins – and again I didn't have singles) into the machine and out popped a card. Each washer and dryer deducted from the card. Put too much on the card? Use it when you come again. Not coming again? Sorry, we don't make change. I gave the card to my B&B hosts.

I encountered a parking structure in the Detroit area that didn't give change. When I didn't have the exact coins I went into the adjacent movie theater and asked for the difference. They gave it to me though I had to wait for a manager. But that is an incentive to never park in that structure again.

I hope I don't see this trend expand.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Travelogue – circling Franconia

Thursday, August 21

I have no idea why I thought leaving my jacket behind today was a good idea. The sky was cloudy and the temp a bit lower than yesterday. Yet, I specifically excluded the jacket when packing for the day.

That exclusion was felt when I took the aerial tram to the top of Mt. Cannon. At the top the temp was in the low 60s F and the breeze was definitely there. Even though it was a bit chilly the views were pretty good.

I had a bit of lunch at the top (inside, where it was warm) and more lunch in my car, which I had brought.

The next stop was the Flume Gorge. The trail is two miles, part of it through a narrow gorge with a cascading small river. I took lots of pictures so my hike took two hours rather than the suggested 1:15. The gorge was formed first from a bubble of magma that formed hard granite. That cracked and was filled with a magma of a softer basalt. Once the whole thing was exposed in one of the ice ages the basalt eroded much faster than the granite.

I did not need my jacket while hiking the gorge, though I did carry my umbrella (which I didn't have to open).

It was about 4:00 when I left the gorge. I headed back to the B&B on the Kancamagus (Kan-ca-ma-gus) Highway (a 2-lane road) through the White Mountain National Forest. I stopped at a few scenic overlooks.

Today I made a big loop encircling the Franconia Range. I drove over 100 miles.

Though I finished writing yesterday's adventures while in the laundromat, I didn't have time to sort through photos to be able to post. I've taken about 125 photos in 2 days.

Travelogue – weather 99% perfect

Wednesday, August 20

No way to know when I bought my ticket for the Mt. Washington Cog Railway what the weather would be like two weeks later. But the guidebook said reservations are recommended, so I bought online. The railway's website said there is no refund due to weather. So if it is so foggy at the top you can't see beyond your hand, well, too bad.

But it wasn't foggy, or cloudy, or rainy, or cold (though I put my jacket on), or snowy (yes, I'm told that happens year round), or windy, or otherwise stormy. And visibility was quite good! The train staff complemented us on bringing such great weather with us. So why isn't my weather rating 100%? Well... it was a teensy bit hazy. And we can probably blame that on pollution from Buffalo – or maybe Detroit. Yes, I'm aware how lucky I was.

I got to the Cog Railway base station at 10:15, later than the website suggested, but in plenty of time to change my reservation for a ticket and be on board for the 10:30 departure. Two trains spaced about a minute apart, each with about 100 passengers, went up the mountain at 5 miles per hour, covering the 3.5 miles in 40 minutes. We then had an hour at the top to gaze at the scenery and eat lunch (I brought mine, a snack bar was open). The ticket also came with a pass to the extreme weather museum at the top. I thought why would I want to spend time there with so much fantastic scenery to see? So I didn't bother. Then again, if the weather was extreme during my visit (and it is known for its extremes) it might have been better to see extreme weather in a museum than be out in it.

A view of a train. They still run a steam engine once a day. But the one I rode is less than 10 years old and runs on biodiesel, including used oil from area restaurants (though not enough to smell like French fries).

On the way down the brakeman explained that the engine and passenger coach are not coupled together. There are two reasons. First, the grade is so extreme the pieces of the traditional coupling would come undone. Second, if the engine become a runaway no one would want the coach to follow. So if the engine lets go, the brakeman can stop the coach.

A view from the top.

As the track was being laid the workers built sleds that fit over the cog-path. At the end of the day they would sit on the sled and swoop to the bottom. Most of them would do the 3.5 miles in 4-5 minutes. The record was 2 minutes 45 seconds, or 60-80 miles per hour. Better than a roller coaster because it was all downhill.

When I was in college there was an art sale – students were able to purchase posters of famous paintings. I think I spent $25 (big money on a student budget at the time) for six posters. I had them mounted on stiff backing and hung them in my room. I still have some (maybe all?) of them and at least one is on display in my house. One of those is a 19th Century painting of Crawford Notch.

I passed through Crawford Notch today. This is what I saw from a scenic overlook.

I also saw Flume Cascade and Silver Cascade, both conveniently viewable from the road and less than 0.2 miles apart. I did get out of the car to see them. This is the Silver Cascade.

Then I went on to Arethusa Falls. This wasn't so convenient. The falls were almost 2 miles from the road and the trail was steep. I certainly got my exercise. The whole hike was 2.5 hours. And at the top I saw this:

I had supper at a nice, yet funky, place. I'm currently sitting in a laundromat – 2 weeks done, one to go.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Travelogue – shipbuilding

Some things can't be explained. After putting up with the racket the CD player was making every time I turned on the car, I very much noticed this evening when it didn't. The next time I turned on the car it made its clicking noise on only two of the four attempts to reset itself. And the time after that... The player took a much longer time to attempt a cycle. Then I realized it wasn't attempting, it was actually doing – the row of circles for the six CDs it holds blinked one at a time. Once it settled down I turned it on – It worked! I could hear my CDs again! I think I'll let the current set play through (though they had been in the player for a couple months before the trip) before attempting to swap in new ones. Why it stopped working and why it started again on day 13 of the trip will remain a mystery.

My main reason for choosing a B&B in Wincasset last night was to see the Music Wonder House this morning. It is a mansion in town filled with all manner of mechanical music boxes. Or was. It closed last May. The website didn't mention the closure. I went back to the B&B to get my car and the closure was a surprise to the owners.

Oh well. Onward. I went to Bath to see the Maine Maritime Museum. To get to the museum one drives past the Bath Iron Works, who currently make big toys for the Navy. The museum is on the site of a shipbuilding company, active 1894-1920. They closed that year because they made wood sail boats and iron steam boats finally became more profitable. Switching from one to the other wasn't possible because two completely different sets of workers were needed.

I got there in time for a tour, then wandered through the existing buildings – blacksmith shop, mill and wood shop, pattern shop, paint shop, and a Victorian home (owner of the shipyard next door). The whole thing showed how many different kinds of workers were needed and how coordinated their efforts needed to be.

When a designer finished the design, he painted the floor of the pattern shop, then drew the ribs of the ship on the floor. Others would use those marks to make full size patterns of the ribs. Those patterns would be put on ships to find trees of a close enough shape. The trees would be brought back and milled and cut to the pattern. The mill had openings on both ends of the building to give workers room to maneuver the wood.

This company contracted out the sail work and the rigging – the ropes that held it all together. Rope was made in a long narrow building and the ropemaker walked from one end to the other and back as he worked. A sign said a prominent ropemaker in town walked well over 100,000 miles during his career.

As I looked through the displays I kept thinking my dad would be fascinated by it all.

This strange piece of art represents the Wyoming, the largest ship made in this yard. The U shaped piece at the far end is the actual size of the prow of the ship. The flagpoles represent the six masts (though they would have been taller). Behind me is another strange sculpture showing the stern. All of this is on the spot where that ship had been assembled.

There has been shipbuilding in Bath for more than two centuries. At one time a seaman would see Bath-built ships in every port around the world. It is an ideal place due to the depth and width of the Kennebec River (one didn't want to launch a ship and have it run aground or crash into the opposite shore). One more feature in its favor is the gentle slope leading to the river to allow for easy launching.

I went for a late lunch in Bath, then headed out of town. The drive to North Conway, New Hampshire was a bit over 2.5 hours. I'm now in the White Mountains area. This photo is just a few miles before the NH border. It is in the city of Naples, ME looking down the length of Long Lake towards the mountains.

I'm a bit surprised (yet pleased!) by the level of trust around here. I got to my B&B, the Spruce Moose, and found the owners were out. There was a sign by the desk explaining why they weren't there and listing my room number and where the stairway was. Beside that was a phone and a number to call. Alas, I had to leave a message, so simply said I had arrived. I took my bags up to the room. The key was in the door. I left for supper. On my return I met the owners and she showed me around and told me all that I needed to know.

There was also a lot of trust last night. I asked the owner for a key to the room. He said, “I can give you one but you won't need it.” I stuck the key in my pocket and decided not to lock the room.