Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Losing Yourself in Lost River State Park

White Oak to Cranny Crow Overlook Hike

We didn't get lost in Lost River State Park -- the trails are well marked. The White Oak Trail to Cranny Crow Overlook is a 6 mile total (out and back) trail in Lost River State Park, a lovely park that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. Cranny Crow consists of big rocks at the edge of a ridge, creating an open 270-degree panoramic view to the south, and is one of West Virginia's iconic overlooks.

Although it's a popular hike for the park, with its commanding views of the surrounding countryside from 3,200 feet, and alltrails claims it's "moderately trafficked," we only encountered one other couple, on their way down as we were beginning our climb up the 954 elevation gain, which means that not only did it feel as if we were the only two people and a dog on the mountain -- we probably were!

Check in at the park's visitors center to grab a trail map, and then head back down XX to the stables, where you'll pick up the trail head and which offers ample parking spots. As you head up the gravel trail (it's not quite smooth enough to be a road), you'll encounter an orange/red blaze at a T-intersection. Head right (left takes you elsewhere around the park).

You'll gradually start your climb up to the peak, but the trail brings you upward gently. You'll have a slight elevation gain, and then the trail flattens out a bit. Later in the hike, the elevation gain increases more sharply, and switchbacks lead you up the mountain.

You'll most likely encounter deer. This is bear country, and of course, there's skunk, fox, and other forest critters. We smelled the skunk, in fact. Luckily, we didn't encounter it.

Along the way you'll get glimpses of the view through the trees. About halfway, there's a shelter with a nice view, a nice place to stop but don't turn around there. Keep heading up.

Along the way, keep your eyes open. There are a number of really pretty wildflowers I noticed. Having a barking coonhound ensured we weren't going to see any wildlife, although we did see the white-tail-end of a deer bounding away, which drove Newt into a frenzy.

When you get to the top of the hike and see the stone shelter through the trees and the view beyond,  you'll suddenly realize, "this is the West Virginia of John Denver's song." This is almost heaven -- or as near to it as you'll get on this earth.

Lost River State Park is located near the site of the 1756 Battle of Lost River, a battle fought during the French and Indian War.

It’s also home to the Lee Cabin, the home of Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, a Revolutionary War general and father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee. The restored cabin is across the creek from Lee Sulphur Spring, known for its sulfuric smell and rumored healing properties.

There're 23 miles of hiking trails at Lost River State Park, providing an unparalleled opportunity to study nature, given the abundance of flora and fauna found in the park. You can rent cabins at the park, and there is a swimming pool, horseback ridding, hiking, picnic tables and a few fun-looking playgrounds.

Whether you rent a nearby home, stay in a local bed and breakfast inn, or rent a cabin in the state park, exploring the state park's 23 miles of trails or the nearby George Washington National Forest, could take up several days and makes a nice weekend trip from Washington DC or Baltimore, with only a 2.5- or 3-hour drive, respectively.

Know before you go: Wear sturdy hiking boots, as the trail is muddy in places, icky with horse poop, and extremely rocky and uneven -- you'll appreciate the ankle support.

Getting there: 321 Park Dr, Mathias, WV 26812-8088

Hours: Dawn to dusk.

Website: https://wvstateparks.com/park/lost-river-state-park/

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fredericksburg Murals

During a recent visit to the quaint city of Fredericksburg, VA, I noticed a number of murals. Since a visit to York PA and an exploration of that city's murals, I've gained an appreciation for this art form, and now look for murals on all my travels!

The American Canoe Association painted a mural of the Rappahannock
River on the side of the building that serves as their headquarters.

These are the ones I was able to stop and grab photos of! Unfortunately, I don't have descriptions of all of them. Where I was able to locate descriptions, I've included those in the captions.

I love this contrast of the historical scene to the left and contemporary
times on the right on the side of the Spencer Devlin Brewing Company.

This mural depicts Fredericksburg as if looking from Chatham
Manor. The mural resembles a postcard from the 1930s.
Painted by Mirinda Reynolds and Carol Coffman.

Mirinda Reynolds’ second downtown mural, “The Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862,"
depicts a pivotal moment in the Civil War: more than 17,000 soldiers died
in Fredericksburg, represented by the 17 leaves floating around the mural.

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Beginning in March, I started a series of posts about Fredericksburg, VA. To see others in this series, click on the label "Fredericksburg" below this post.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Visiting Mary Washington's House

George Washington purchased this house for his mother from Micheal Robinson in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1772 for $275. Mary Ball Washington spent her last few years in the white frame house on the corner of Charles and Lewis Street.

New evidence indicates that Mary Washington actually lived in a fairly small house. The portion
to the left of the door was her home. The rest of the current house was added later, when it became a boys school.

Close to her daughter Betty's home at Kenmore, Mary would walk the few blocks to visit her daughter frequently.

Mary Washington would have walked down this path and out her back gate to go visit her daughter at Kenmore.

Later in his life, on his visits to Fredericksburg, George Washington was a frequent visitor to his mother's home, and, in April 1789, came to this house to receive a blessing from his mother before his inauguration.

Photo courtesy Mary Washington House Museum

A visit to Mrs. Washington in her home became a regular stop for distinguished visitors to Fredericksburg. Among those stopping by to pay their respects were John Marshall, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, Marquis de Lafayette, and members of the Lee family. (These are American legends. Incredible!) She lived in this home until her death later in 1789.

Photo courtesy Mary Washington House Museum

The house we see today at the site is larger than the cottage Mary would have known. Evidence in the walls themselves (different building methods and materials) indicate that the part of the house to the left of the current front door (as you face the house) was what Mary would have lived in. The other parts of the house were added later, when the property was converted into a boys school.

Photo courtesy Mary Washington House Museum

While on the tour, our tour guide mentioned Mary Washington's "staff" and "help" several times. I asked a question to clarify, whether by "staff" she meant paid servants or enslaved individuals. The tour guide readily acknowledged she meant enslaved individuals.

Photo courtesy Mary Washington House Museum

I love touring house museums and the big homes and former plantations of this country. Many of these places are making great strides in acknowledging the lives and contributions of those who were in forced servitude at those sites, and I was initially disappointed that on this tour the Mary Washington House didn't even acknowledge that Mary's comfortable lifestyle was due entirely to the contributions of those individuals she enslaved.

I was bothered enough to write to the manager of Mary Washington House, Michelle Hamilton, who responded promptly.

Hamilton noted that little is known about the six individuals that Mary Washington enslaved when she died in 1789, other than that their names were Old Bet, Little Bet, Lydia, George, Tom, and Frederick. There is no evidence that Mary Washington owned an Irish indentured servant while living at the property.

Following Mary Washington’s death in 1789, the individuals were given, per her will, to various members of the Washington family. After 1789, Old Bet, Young Bet, Lydia, Tom, and Frederick, disappeared from the historic record. Hamilton has been researching their lives past 1789, but hasn't been able to find anything.

She was able to trace George. He was living at Mount Vernon in 1789, having been loaned to George Washington. George worked in the mansion gardens and was called George Gardener. He had fallen in love with an enslaved woman, named Sal Twine; together they had several children. George Washington accepted George Gardener as part of his inheritance following his mother’s death.

In 1800, George Gardener was freed as part of George Washington’s will. Sadly, Sal Twine and their children were not freed -- they were part of Martha Washington’s dower property -- enslaved individuals she brought with her from her first marriage. After 1800, George Gardener seems to disappear from written record -- he likely had been forced to leave the area because of laws against freed slaves living near their former homes. Sal Twine and her children remained enslaved for the remainder of their lives.

Hamilton noted that the tour at the Mary Washington House is being currently revamped. "We are working on including more on the lives of the enslaved workers who resided at the property," she said. She also promised to ensure that the tour guides received additional training. It's clear that the house museum was already researching the lives of the individuals Mary Washington had enslaved on the property, but I'm glad I brought this to their attention. So much matters, in a word or phrase: enslaved individual versus servant, staff or help.

Getting there: 1200 Charles St, Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Hours: March - October Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday noon - 4 p.m.; November - February Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday noon - 4 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 24-25, 31 and January 1

Website: https://www.washingtonheritagemuseums.org/

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Beginning in March, I started a series of posts about Fredericksburg, VA. To see others in this series, click on the label "Fredericksburg" below this post.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Walking the Delaware Canal North of Lumberville

The 60-mile long Delaware Canal towpath runs from Easton to Bristol and is a National Recreation Trail.

Once trod by mule teams pulling cargo-laden boats along the canal, the towpath is used today by walkers, joggers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, fishing enthusiasts, and bird watchers.

The author, doing what she does wherever she goes in the mid-Atlantic region! Photo courtesy Lisa Schwartz.

The Delaware Canal runs from the Lehigh River at Easton (home of The National Canal Museum and terminal end of the Lehigh Canal) south to Bristol. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania built the Delaware canal as part of its Main Line of Internal Improvements to carry anthracite coal, limestone, cement, and lumber from the northeastern reaches of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. 

Spurred by the early success of the Erie Canal in New York State, which had opened in 1825, the Delaware Canal opened in 1832.

What's cool about this canal, beyond its lovely scenery, is that it still has most of its original locks, aqueducts, and overflows. According to the National Park Service, it was the "longest-lived canal in the country." 

The workings of the lock seem remarkably intact and functional.

We picked up the towpath in Lumberville, where a truss walking bridge spans the 800-foot wide river. 

A home in Lumberville adjacent the canal towpath.

Lumberville, PA, just seven miles north of New Hope and the stretch of the canal we walked a couple years ago, was settled by Colonel George Wall, a Revolutionary War officer and Bucks County Sheriff. 

Originally named Wall's Saw Mills and Walls Landing, its name changed when William Tinsman purchased the lumber mills in 1869; the mills are operated by his descendants to this day.

Azaleas bloom along the canal in Lumberville.

For most of our walk, we were in easy sight of the Delaware River. In fact, the canal runs parallel to the Delaware River from Easton, where over the years, it transported millions of tons of anthracite from the privately developed Lehigh Canal to the city and port of Philadelphia.

The truss walking bridge. Originally a covered bridge spanned the river
at this location but floods in the 20th century washed them away.

Know before you go: Across the Delaware River, the 70-mile long Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal State Park is one of central New Jersey’s most popular recreation corridors for canoeing, jogging, hiking, bicycling, fishing and horseback riding. The canal and park are part of the National Recreation Trail System. Together, the Delaware Canal State Park and the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park have formed a series of looping trails connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey, using five bridges. 

Historic homes along the canal are lovely.

By simply parking in one of several areas located along the loop trail, visitors have easy access to the canal towpaths in both states, and can ride, walk of jog a complete loop back to their car. Loop trail connection bridges are in the Pennsylvania towns of Uhlerstown, Lumberville, Center Bridge, Washington Crossing, and Morrisville.

Website: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/delawarecanal/
Several inns, such as 1740 House in Lumberville, pictured above, take advantage of their location along the canal.

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Made possible by Visit Bucks County

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Biking through Historical Doylestown

There are numerous ways to get a sense of an area. One way to get to know Doylestown a little better is through a bike tour, offered by Encore Rides. During the personally guided tour, we pedaled around scenic Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County and and a town steeped in history that offers some great daytrip destinations, such as the Mercer Museum, the Michener Art Museum, and Fonthill Castle, among others. 

Doylestown is known for being the home of author James A. Michener, architect and archaeologist Henry Chapman Mercer, lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II and his protege Stephen Sondheim, Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and pop-rock star Pink.

The bike tour took us through the picturesque streets of Doylestown, starting near the fabulous Mercer Museum and Michener Art Museum to the cemetery to see the late greats of Doylestown, past the war memorial, Fonthill Castle, then over to Highlands to visit Hammerstein's beloved home (now a bed and breakfast), and then back to the library where the tour at started.

The former town prison, across the street from the Mercer Museum, has been converted into the James A. Michener Art Museum. Outdoor sculptures provide the clues that this gothic castle-like structure is now dedicated to art, while the original 30-foot high stone prison walls provide a stark backdrop.

Archaeologist and local genius Henry Chapman Mercer designed and built three "castles" in Doylestown. The Mercer Museum, a structure built in poured concrete, is the home to Mercer's collection of early American artifacts. It also houses a collection known as "Tools of the Nation-Maker," one of the most important of its kind in the world.

Fonthill (also known as "Mercer's Castle") was Mercer's dream home and houses his collection of artifacts from around the world, including tiles thousands of years old. The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works is an operational facility using the tools and techniques used by Pennsylvania German potters in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The borough also boasts a small music conservatory, writers' and artists' organizations, and other cultural activities.

Know before you go: You provide your own bikes. Come dressed for biking and for the weather.

Getting there: Starting locations vary, depending on the tour.

Hours: See Encore Ride's website for tour times.

Website: http://encorerides.com/bike-tours/

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Made possible by Visit Bucks County