Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cass Scenic Rail Road: Gorgeous Scenery at Bald Knob

Missing summer, so I'm recalling a memorable day trip we took during a vacation in West Virginia a couple years ago for this holiday week post.


Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers scenic train rides to the top of Bald Knob. It also transports passengers back in time to relive an era when steam-driven locomotives played an essential role in local industry.

The history of Cass follows the evolution of the lumber companies that inhabited the valley and operated the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Mill. Once a symbol of the economic power, the mill building has been victim of two major fires in 1978 and 1982. The mill operation was enormous during its heyday between 1908 to 1922. It produced an impressive 1.5 million feet of lumber per week.



The Cass Scenic Railroad was built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass. The locomotives are the same Shay locomotives used in Cass and in the rainforests of British Columbia for more than 50 years. Many of the passenger cars are old logging flat-cars that have been refurbished.

Once everyone's on board, the train heads off through the trees and begins to climb up the mountain. The train soon passes through the first switchback, reverses up a steep grade, and ascends to the second switchback where the process is repeated, and then finally into open fields and Whittaker Station. The switchbacks allows the train to gain quick altitude, and in this instance, the train is traversing a grade of up to 11 percent, or 11 feet in altitude for each 100 feet of track. A 2 percent grade on conventional railroads is considered steep!

Whitaker Station


The Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association has recreated a logging camp representing the 1940s era at Whittaker Station, showing both the living quarters and the equipment used by the loggers. The centerpiece of Camp One is a Lidgerwood tower skidder, one of only two examples left in the world. These huge rail car-mounted machines carried logs out of the woods on aerial cables for distances up to 3000 feet.



For the full 4 ½ hour trip (there and back) to Bald Knob, you will leave Whittaker Station and proceed to Oats Run for the engines to take on additional water at a spring. The train then climbs up the mountain, finally reaching Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. The overlook at Bald Knob provides a spectacular view at an altitude of 4,700 feet.



During our hour-long stay at the summit, we saw a deer bound out toward the train, like a trained dog. Very cute. The train engineers had appropriate deer treats for the deer. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the lovely view and dreamed about renting the cabin and staying up there for a relaxing stay. (Unfortunately, my sons nixed the idea because there is no electricity or cell phone connection.)

Tip #1: Dress warmly for this excursion, even during the summer. Temperatures are refreshingly brisk at higher elevations, 10 to 15 degrees cooler at Bald Knob. Wear dark clothing, since steam locomotives tend to produce light-colored soot.

Tip#2: Bring your own food and coolers and eat on the train. There is a small concession stand at Whittaker Station, however, NO food is sold at Bald Knob. You can also purchase a box lunch from the Last Run Restaurant located at Cass.



Getting there: 242 Main Street, Cass, WV 24927

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on the train.

Websites: http://www.cassrailroad.com/ and http://mountainrailwv.com/choose-a-train/cass-scenic-railroad/cass-scenic-railroad-rates-schedules

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 



Saturday, December 23, 2017

Having a Blast at the Hoover-Mason Trestle

Beginning in late November, I started a series of posts about Lehigh Valley, PA. This is the third of this series. To see others in this series, click on the label "Lehigh Valley" below this post.




So long-time readers of this blog know that I'm pretty much fascinated by any history -- whether it be of rail trails and the rail roads that preceded them or of the origins of a long-abandoned ghost town. So it should be of no surprise to anyone that when presented with the opportunity to tour the old blast furnaces of the former Bethlehem Steel mill, I was, quite literally, ecstatic!


The cool thing is that Bethlehem has turned what was an eye-sore into a community asset. A community concert pavilion uses the blast furnaces -- called the Stacks -- as a backdrop. The Bethlehem Sands Casino and Hotel is based at one end of the former steel mill, with an outlet mall and restaurants overlooking the river and several of the old buildings. Community events and festivals are held on the grounds of the former steel mill, including a music festival in the summer and Christkindle Market in late November and December.



The town also has erected the Mason-Hoover Trestle -- similar to the High Line Park in New York City -- so that visitors can explore the remains of the steel mill and the four intact blast furnaces from 45 feet up in the air.



Opening 20 years after the last blast furnace went silent, the 45-foot high Hoover-Mason Trestle is a 1650-foot elevated linear park on the reclaimed industrial site of Bethlehem Steel. The trestle was originally an elevated narrow gauge rail line for raw materials, built around 1905, making this a rail trail.



As you stroll along the trestle, gazing up at the aging machinery, you are immediately faced with the enormity of the machinery. It's overwhelming. Signs posted along the trestle help you learn about the steel industry -- the working conditions, a little about who the laborers were (immigrants, mostly), how steel is manufactured, and how the furnaces worked. It's really quite fascinating!



Bethlehem became a center of heavy industry and trade during the industrial revolution. The Bethlehem Steel Corporation, founded in 1857 and based in Bethlehem, was once the second-largest steel producer in the United States, after Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel. Bethlehem Steel was also one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world and one of the most powerful symbols of American industrial manufacturing leadership.



The steel mill supplied armor plate and ordnance products during World War I and World War II, helping build 1,100 warships. After roughly 140 years of metal production at its Bethlehem plant, Bethlehem Steel ceased operations on 19 November 1995, in the face of overseas competition and declining demand.



Now the steel mill has quieted: birds now live and sing where once the din of the machinery and the heat would have driven them away. It's quiet now, a place to learn about and remember the hard work and sacrifice of the steel mill workers, whose efforts literally built America.

Getting there: SteelStacks, 711 First Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Stairs and elevator located between the Bethlehem Visitor Center and the Levitt Pavilion.

Hours: Daylight

Website: www.steelstacks.org/about/venues-at-steelstacks/hoover-mason-trestle/ and http://hoovermason.com/#/



For other day trip destinations in Lehigh Valley, go to the Blog's Find a Great Place to Day Trip or click on the Lehigh Valley label below.

If you enjoy this blog, please tell your friends about it!

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips! And follow us @midatlanticdaytrips on Instagram to find up what we're up to between blog posts!


Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow a Bonus at Winter Lights!



There are few things as magical as the first snowfall of the year, especially when that happens in December, and the enthusiasm for winter and snowflakes is running at its highest. The sparkle of the snow just accentuates the excitement of the holiday season: the anticipation, the plans to get together with good friends and see family, the wonder of it all...



Holiday lights just make the first snow fall even better!



We were planning on seeing the Winter Lights holiday lights display at Seneca Creek State Park, in Gaithersburg, MD, anyway, and as the snow fell late Saturday afternoon, even debated on the intelligence of heading out on potentially slick roads as the temperature fell below freezing.



With the blog in mind, we went anyway, and now we're glad we did! The snow reflected the lights, coating the ground with a smooth coating of white.



Winter Lights winds some 3.5 miles through Seneca Creek State Park. The magic of Winter Lights is how the road curves and changing landscape (wooded areas, hills) reveal its 380 illuminated displays and 65 animated vignettes.



At one point, as the road traveled by the park's lake, lights displays reflected in the still lake water. Lovely indeed!



Many of the illuminated displays echo common holiday lights displays -- toyland, stuffed bears, Santa and the reindeer, and snowflakes, but look for the more unusual sailboat on the lake, the beaver cutting down trees, and the sly fox! With or without snow, this holiday lights display is one of our favorites!



Getting there: Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878

Hours: open nightly November 24 through December 31. Please note that the festival will be closed on December 25. Sunday - Thursday: 6 - 9 p.m., Friday & Saturday: 6 - 10 p.m.

Website: http://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/leisure/winter-lights-festival




Do you love to day trip? Share this blog with your family and friends on FB -- here's the link: www.MidAtlanticDayTripsBlog.com

For other day trip destinations, go to the Blog's Find a Great Place to Day Trip!

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips! And follow us @midatlanticdaytrips on Instagram to find up what we're up to between blog posts!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 



Saturday, December 9, 2017

Animals, Animals Everywhere at ZooLights!



There are few holiday light displays with elephants, cuddlefish, naked molerats, and orangutans, but ZooLights at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC is one of them! And unlike many (most?) other holiday lights displays, this one is completely free.



I love holiday lights displays -- that's how I get into the holiday spirit, and having the chance to stroll leisurely through the lights, enjoying the bedazzling spectacle, with a cup of hot chocolate in my hand (or wine -- you can purchase wine there as well, hint...) is really a treat!



The National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution. The best-known residents are the giant pandas, but the zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more.



 Expanding knowledge about the needs of zoo animals and commitment to their well being has changed the look of the National Zoo. Today, animals live in natural groupings rather than individually. Rare and endangered species, such as golden lion tamarins, Sumatran tigers, and sarus cranes, breed and raise their young – showing the success of the zoo's conservation and research programs.



But it's worth noting that on this trip to the zoo, you're not really seeing the REAL animals, other than nocturnal critters in the Small Mammal House and Reptile Discover Center, where you can go to warm up after you start feeling too cold. You're there for the lights.



In addition to simply walking and enjoying the lights, you can take part in some activities as well:
  • Make your own s'mores: warm up as you roast marshmellows over a roaring fire and enjoy your handiwork!
  • Take a merry tour on the Zoo Choo-Choo, a trackless train that whisks guests around the Great Cats exhibit and features gorgeous views of the holiday light displays. 
  • Take the plunge down one of the 150-foot-long snow-less tubing tracks. 
  • Hop on to your choice of 50 animal figures on the Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel.


Next weekend: GRUMP Holiday Market Dec. 15 to 17, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.: A European-style outdoor market featuring local artisans, will be located at the Zoo’s Connecticut Avenue entrance Dec. 15, 16 and 17. This alternative art and crafts holiday show features gifts for all ages, from handmade clothing, jewelry and books to home accessories, including prints, upcycled decorative pillows, glass art and more.

Getting there: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008. Take Metro! Woodley Park - Zoo Metro Stop is a scant .4 mile away. You could park, but it's a popular event and parking could be dicey.

Hours: Friday, November 24, 2017 to Monday, January 1, 2018, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.



Do you love to day trip? Share this blog with your family and friends on FB -- here's the link: www.MidAtlanticDayTripsBlog.com

If you enjoyed this post, go to this page to keep exploring all the other interesting places the Blog has visited! And share the Blog with others!

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Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 



Thursday, December 7, 2017

Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

n late November, I started a series of posts about Lehigh Valley, PA. This is the second installment of this series. To see others in this series, click on the label "Lehigh Valley" below this post.




In Bethlehem, PA, there's a unique museum, inspired by a unique woman who was born just as the Civil War was ending. Annie S. Kemerer, born in 1865 just south of the town, lived and loved beautiful things. She married and had a son, but she outlived both her son and her husband. Throughout her life, she dedicated herself to collecting beautiful objects, and from her collections came the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts.



Housed in three connected 19th-century homes in historic Bethlehem, the museum, true to its name, offers a variety of interesting exhibits on the decorative arts -- i.e., functional items that are, simply, beautiful, such as the collection of antique mirrors.



At the time we visited, an exhibit of "trees around the world" was on display, making it fun to explore interpretations of other cultures through each tree. Almost every room was decorated for the upcoming holidays and most had their own trees -- some whimsical, such as the Antarctica Penguin tree in an area that catered to kids; some breathtakingly beautiful, such as the France Tree in Annie's former parlor.



Annie married into a prominent Bethlehem family; she and her husband had one son. Annie and her family enjoyed surrounding themselves with beautiful furniture, paintings, and decorative objects. After the untimely deaths of her son and then her husband, she became a recluse but continued to be an avid collector of antiques. Through her generous bequest, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts was established in Bethlehem after her death in 1951.



Her extensive personal collection includes lovely examples of Pennsylvania German textiles, exquisite furniture, priceless Bohemian glass, and her breathtaking 200-piece wedding china.

Through March 2018, there's a fun exhibit, entitled "Gilded," which looks at luxury items such as Bohemian gold-enameled glassware, Sterling silver tableware, mercury glass, handcrafted jewelry and spoons by Bethlehem-based silversmiths, metallic mirrors, and artwork mounted in gilded frames.



The second floor of the vault houses the distinguished Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collection, 44 structures and 6,000 pieces, making it one of the largest antique dollhouse collections in the United States. Notably, the dollhouses were also decorated for the holidays! This collection, spanning the period from 1830-1930, recounts 100 years of architectural and decorative arts history.





Getting there: 427 N New St, Bethlehem, PA 18018

Hours: Friday - Sunday from 11 am - 4 pm

Website: https://historicbethlehem.org/?historic-site=kemerer-museum-of-decorative-arts



For other day trip destinations in Lehigh Valley, go to the Blog's Find a Great Place to Day Trip or click on the Lehigh Valley label below.

If you enjoy this blog, please tell your friends about it!

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips! And follow us @midatlanticdaytrips on Instagram to find up what we're up to between blog posts!


Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Where to See Holiday Lights in and near Maryland

Going to holiday lights displays has become an annual tradition for me and my family. Check out the places to go to enjoy the magic of the holiday season!

Brookside Gardens "Garden of Lights"

But the fascination with the lights made me wonder -- how did the extravagant lights displays come about?

As our holidays celebrations evolved, so did our fascination with lights displays. They became bigger and brighter....

The custom of lights at Christmas goes back to the use of candles that decorated the Christmas tree in Christian homes in early modern Germany, in the mid-1800s. Christmas trees displayed publicly and illuminated with electric lights became popular in the early 20th century. By the mid-20th century, it became customary to display strings of electric lights as along streets and on buildings. In the 1960s, it became popular to outline private homes with such Christmas lights in tract housing.

Eventually the research led me down the rabbit hole of wondering what happens to all those discarded lights? Is there a way to possibly recycle them? Christmas lighting does lead to some extensive recycling issues -- and most, unfortunately, find their way into local landfills.

Symphony of Lights


The good news is that there's a place that actually wants our old, broken Christmas lights! Every year, more than 20 million pounds of discarded holiday lights are shipped to Shijiao, China (near Guangzhou), which has the distinction of being "the world capital for recycling Christmas lights." I suspect there's little competition for that title!

The combination of cheap labor and low, or no, environmental standards made it profitable for local companies and factories to recycle the lights. As late as 2009, many factories would simply burn the lights to melt the plastic and retrieve the copper wire, releasing toxic fumes into the local environment. However, now a safer technique is used, which involves chopping the lights into a fine sand-like consistency, mixing it with water and vibrating the slurry on a table causing the different elements to separate out, similar to the process of panning for gold. Everything is recycled: copper, brass, plastic and glass.

More and more cities in the United States are setting up sensible alternatives and schemes to recycle Christmas lights, with towns organizing drop-off points for handing in old or discarded lights. As you take down your lights displays, please look for these places and turn in your old lights, so that they can be responsibly recycled, rather than lasting an eternity in a landfill somewhere.

Happy Holidays! 

Lights on the Bay


Howard County's Symphony of Lights

Symphony of Lights is a dazzling display of more than 100 larger-than-life animated and stationary holiday light creations, made up of more than 250,000 bulbs that you enjoy as you drive through the grounds of Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD.

Getting there: Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, Columbia, MD (use Merriweather Post Pavilion entrance off South Entrance Road); take Interstate 95 to route 32 West. Route 32 west to Route 29 North. Route 29 North to Exit 18B (Broken Land Parkway). Continue through 2 lights and make a right onto Little Patuxent Parkway.

Dates and times: November 23, 2017 - January 1, 2018, Wednesdays through Sundays only; 5:30-10 p.m., including holidays.

Winter Festival of Lights

Winter Festival of Lights is Prince George’s County, Maryland’s spectacular drive-through Christmas light display featuring more than a million twinkling lights in Watkins Regional Park.

Getting there: Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Dates and times: November 24, 2017 - January 1, 2018. Hours: 5-9:30 p.m.

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens

This year, the Garden of Lights, Brookside Gardens’ holiday outdoor light exhibit, celebrates its 20th season as a Baltimore/Washington, DC area family holiday tradition.

During just one month a year, Brookside Gardens is illuminated with more than one million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, fountains, sparkling snowflakes overhead and more.

Getting there: 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD 20902

Dates and times: The grounds of Brookside Gardens are open every day of the year. The Garden of Lights is open November 25, 2017 - January 1, 2018, Sunday - Thursday: 5:30 - 9 p.m., Friday - Saturday: 5:30 - 10 p.m., open every night except December 24 & 25.



Annmarie Garden of Lights

The walking tour takes visitors on a spectacular stroll beside handmade one-of-a-kind Christmas light sculptures featuring mythical beasts, wild animals, pirates, illuminated works of art, and more. The event includes nightly entertainment.

Getting there: Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center, 13480 Dowell Road, Dowell (Solomons), MD.

Dates and times: December 1, 2017 - January 1, 2018, 6-9 p.m. (closed Dec. 7-9, 14-15, 24-25)


Winter Lights at Seneca Creek

See more than 350 illuminated displays at Winter Lights at Seneca Creek along a 3.5-mile drive through the park. Driving through the enchanted forest setting, you will experience an array of displays that light up the night. Making its debut this year is a new frog prince display, nestled among traditional festival favorites that include a Fantasy Castle and magical unicorn fountain, Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, and the North Pole.

Getting there: Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road Gaithersburg, Maryland. From I-270, take Exit 10, Clopper Road (Route 117). Turn right at the light, proceed for approximately 2 miles. The park is on the left.

Dates and times: November 24 - December 31, 2017 (closed December 25). Sunday - Thursday (closed Monday) 6 - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 6 - 10 p.m.

Lights on the Bay


Lights on the Bay

The Lights on the Bay display is a 2-mile scenic drive along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Sandy Point State Park with approximately 70 animated and stationary displays illuminating the roadway.

Getting there: Sandy Point State Park, 100 E College Pkwy, Annapolis, MD 21409

Dates and times: November 19 2017 - January 1 2018, 5 - 10 p.m.


ZooLights, National Zoo


ZooLights

ZooLights at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. features sculptures of many of the Zoo’s most popular animals, including giant pandas, Asian elephants, gibbons, a sea lion, an octopus, and a Komodo dragon. Visitors at ZooLights will enjoy winter-themed activities, a laser light show, musical performances, train rides, tubing and animal exhibits. Visitors can warm up inside the animal houses and enjoy nocturnal animals. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discover Center, Think Tank, and Kid’s Farm will be open every night.

Getting there: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.; the main entrance to the Zoo is along Connecticut Avenue. There are also two entrances at the east side of the Zoo, near Rock Creek Park. One is off Rock Creek Parkway, the other is at the intersection of Harvard Street and Adams Mill Road.

Dates and times: November 24 2017 -January 1, 2018, 5-9 p.m.; closed Dec. 24, 25 and 31.

Brookside Gardens "Garden of Lights"

Do you love to day trip? Share this blog with your family and friends on FB -- here's the link: www.MidAtlanticDayTripsBlog.com

For other day trip destinations, go to the Blog's Find a Great Place to Day Trip!

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips! And follow us @midatlanticdaytrips on Instagram to find up what we're up to between blog posts!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!