Friday, November 29, 2013

Lyon Arboretum

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Here's a slideshow of the University of Hawaii's Lyon Arboretum, at the uphill end of Oahu's Manoa Valley, next door to Manoa Falls. It's at the same city bus stop as Manoa Falls, so it's just as easy to get to: Ride bus #5 to the edge of suburbia, get off and walk uphill, and follow the signs. Or, of course, you can just drive there if you have a car, which I didn't. Then go to the little visitor center next to the parking lot, drop a few bucks in the donation box, and get a map. You're going to need the map, because you'll probably get lost. I did, briefly, and I almost never get lost. Having a map at least gets you un-lost eventually. There's mobile phone service around the visitor center -- some of the plants in the adjacent garden even have QR codes to scan for more information -- but cell service quickly fades out once you're in the forest, sadly preventing me from going on an Instagram rampage while wandering around, or from checking Google Maps while I was lost.

I'd love to be able to tell you all about all the tropical plants here, or at least about the ones I have photos of. The place is kind of overwhelming, though. I spent a couple of hours here and felt like I'd barely scratched the surface. I skipped most of the various side trails and took the main trail to the far end of the arboretum, trying to find the waterfall. Which is a different, and much smaller (and less impressive) waterfall than Manoa Falls. This seems to confuse visitors a lot. I had a group of Japanese tourists ask me for directions to Manoa Falls, and they were a bit crestfallen to find out they were in completely the wrong place. I gave them directions and later ran into them on the Manoa Falls trail, and they thanked me for pointing them in the right direction. So I felt like I'd done my good deed for the day.

It would be really easy to spend an entire day here, taking it slow and just wandering around looking at things and filling up a memory card with flower photos. Though I'd recommend taking the Manoa Falls trail too, for contrast. If you only visit the Lyon Arboretum, you might come away thinking this is what a regular Hawaiian rainforest looks like, and not realize how much selective planting and pruning and manicuring has gone into it.

Most plants aren't labeled, so knowing your way around tropical plants would enhance the experience, I'd imagine. I was surprised to learn that a heliconia is not quite the same thing as a banana plant, if that gives you some idea of my inexperience with tropical plants. The arboretum specializes in heliconias, ginger plants, palms, and bromeliads, among other things, so it wouldn't hurt at least know what those look like.

Two items of practical advice. First, there are mosquitoes. Wear DEET, or cross your fingers and try some supposed DEET alternative, or wear long pants & sleeves and hope for the best, whichever option you prefer. Second, it rains a lot here. 165 inches per year, or nearly half an inch per day, on average. The arboretum is just a few miles up the road from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, but it's not unusual to have torrential rain here while it's sunny at the beach. Oahu microclimates are like that. At least the rain isn't cold, and individual storms don't seem to last long, so you can sort of work around the weather and explore between downpours.

chimney fountain (twitpics)

Chimney Fountain Chimney Fountain Chimney Fountain

lovejoy fountain (even more twitpics)

Lovejoy Fountain Lovejoy Fountain Lovejoy Fountain Lovejoy Fountain Lovejoy Fountain Lovejoy Fountain Lovejoy Fountain

keller fountain (more twitpics)

Keller Fountain Keller Fountain Keller Fountain Keller Fountain Keller Fountain Keller Fountain

carwash fountain (twitpics)

Carwash Fountain

Some old Twitpics from several years ago, back when having a phone that combined a camera and Twitter seemed like a magical new thing, full of artsy possibilities...

Updated 9/17/14: Except that they aren't Twitpics anymore, as Twitpic's shutting down in a few days. Sic transit gloria mundi, or something.

Carwash Fountain Carwash Fountain Carwash Fountain

MSL, 2 years ago

Two Black Fridays ago, I was in Florida for the launch of the Curiosity mars rover. I've posted launch photos, photos of the rocket, etc, before, but just recently I remembered I'd posted a series of phone photos on Yfrog as part of the tweeting component of the tweetup. I had to do a bit of searching to find my old Yfrog account, which I really haven't used since I upgraded to an Instagram-capable Android phone. So these were all taken with a rather subpar Blackberry camera, but they still sort of capture the spirit of the event.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Vancouver Lake expedition

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Here's a slideshow from Vancouver's Vancouver Lake Park, mostly of the far side of the lake near where the road peters out. I always forget there's a lake this big in the Portland area. Partly because it's up in Vancouver, and partly because it's your basic Pacific Northwest wetland nature area, the same as everywhere else but larger, and with the ongoing water quality issues of a suburban lake. It's not exactly Crater Lake, is what I'm saying. These photos were taken back in 2007, the same "mini-roadtrip" week that I went to Crater Lake, which may be why posting these didn't seem like a high priority. I had actually forgotten I'd ever been to Vancouver Lake until I ran across these photos in an old iPhoto library recently.

Since my visit there wasn't particularly eventful, I think we'll just go ahead and dive into the Oregonian historical database instead. (If there was a database of the Vancouver Columbian newspaper, that would be even better, or at least more comprehensive, but as far as I know it's not available online.) Most of the news items in the database are fairly routine: Hunting and fishing reports, real estate ads, farming news, occasional drownings, that sort of thing. I tried to only include items that stood out from the crowd or seemed relevant to why today's lake is the way it is, so hopefully it's an interesting list, as far as these things go. The pattern that emerges over the last century or so is one of Vancouver looking west, seeing this big lake, and thinking it ought to be useful for something or other. One grand scheme after another was proposed and argued about endlessly, and yet in 2013 much of the lake and the surrounding area still looks like the back of beyond, even though it's right next to the city proper.

For clarity I've broken the news items out into pre-1965, 1965-1983, and post-1983 sections, for reasons that will be come clear after the jump.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Foster Botanical Garden

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Here's a slideshow from the Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu. It's a large slideshow because the place kind of fascinated me. I was expecting to see (and photograph) a lot of flowers, but this botanical garden is focused more on trees. Enormous tropical trees, a grove of palm trees of all descriptions, and a whole section of commercial trees that produce products you vaguely knew came from plants, including black pepper and various other spices. I enjoyed visiting because almost everything was unfamiliar, but I later ran across a blog post by someone who enjoyed it for exactly the opposite reason: Having grown up in Jamaica, many of the plants here brought back childhood memories.

I already knew the garden had a baobab tree, and that was actually a big reason I decided to visit. It's possible I'd read The Little Prince one too many times as a kid, but I was absurdly pleased to see a real live baobab tree. Being in the middle of a stand of coffee trees was ok too. I posted a couple of Instagram photos from the coffee thicket so people back home in the rainy and coffee-mad Northwest could see what it's like, but I think that may have elicited more jealousy than curiosity.

There's also a strychnine tree, believe it or not, set well back from the path so visitors can't just walk up to it and give it a hug or lick it or something. It occurred to me that a botanical garden in Hawaii, featuring a bunch of toxic plants, and run by elderly volunteer ladies-who-lunch, would be the ideal setting for a series of cozy murder mystery novels. It's probably been done already. I haven't checked.

The garden does have a greenhouse with orchids and other smaller plants. I seem to have just missed the blooming of a giant corpse flower (so named because of its disgusting odor). This is probably just as well, as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Everyday Sunshine

As a general rule of thumb, Portland's public art buyers don't usually go for conceptual stuff. Abstract stainless steel whatzits are still the safe choice here, made by the same usual suspects who've been making them since the 70s, and who will happily cobble together yet another one whenever a new public works project needs to burn its one percent for art. Our subject today is one of the few rare exceptions to the rule of thumb, one which made a quick cameo here in a post back in 2006:

... I've finally figured out something that's been puzzling me for months now. At several spots along the streetcar line, and at other locations in the Pearl, there are these motion-sensored spotlights with solar panels attached, aimed at the sidewalk. Sometimes they trigger and click on when you walk by, which can be a little surprising. There's one on SW 10th around Stark or Alder or Washington that clicks on and illuminates a manhole cover in the sidewalk. The first time I saw this it startled me. I thought it must be some sort of inexplicable homeland security measure or utility maintenance aid or something. Turns out the spotlights are part of an art installation titled More Everyday Sunshine, by Harrell Fletcher. It all makes sense now. I had a feeling it might be art, but it isn't labelled anywhere, and the equipment for each light is quite utilitarian, so it was hard to be sure.

I like the fact that the spotlights come with no signs or explanations attached, adding a touch of mystery to ordinary downtown streets. Knowing their purpose is like belonging to a secret society, without all the funny handshakes and world domination. The Tribune dug into this mystery in a 2007 Stumptown Stumper, which included a brief interview with their creator. The lights have also gotten a five-star Yelp review, oddly enough, which is possibly the Internet's only source of art criticism even less authoritative than the humble blog you're reading now. Elsewhere in the blogosphere (a word I haven't used in years, to be honest -- is there still a blogosphere?), More Everyday Sunshine is the nightcap on someone's tour of interesting Portland attractions and it gets a mention in a post at The Hallucinogenic Toreador that also covers murals from China's Cultural Revolution and a few of the author's ideas for future art projects.

This post took a while to create. At first I only had some daytime photos of the solar panels and lighting gear, which aren't very photogenic, and I had no pictures of it actually in operation. I felt this post couldn't go live with just the daytime photos, since I wasn't really capturing the essence of the thing that way, and I take that seriously for some reason. It's not that I wasn't trying to get proper nighttime photos, mind you. I wandered around a couple of times trying to get various spotlights to trigger, hopefully without arousing suspicion and getting tasered by Officer Friendly, or having to explain this quixotic internet quest to random Midwestern tourists who want to meet a real live Weird Portlander. I finally got a couple of spotlights to light up this evening, and I got a few photos, so this post could finally move forward. One photo shows an illuminated shrub outside an apartment building at 11th & Columbia, while another shows a pool of light on the sidewalk at 5th & Mill. Neither one is really all that spectacular, but I think they get the general idea across. I tried a few other spotlights but they wouldn't come on for me. So either some of the lights are out of order, or I just haven't figured out the secret trick to making them light up on command. The fact that a couple of them came on suggests that I'm probably not a vampire. So that's encouraging, at least; with my luck I'd end up as the sparkly sort of vampire, which would be embarrassing.

The RACC page for More Everyday Sunshine includes a detailed artist's statement:

As a kid I would go for walks with my father and he would point things out to me. He seemed interested in everything—an architectural detail, an old tree, a geological formation, a historical monument, an unusual shop or restaurant. Features otherwise hidden to me would be revealed and made significant while spending time with him.

Over the past eight years I have worked on projects exploring the dynamics of social spaces, communities, and environments. These projects have taken the form of installations, publications, educational activities, and public art pieces and have involved a variety of populations: middle school students in Oakland, office workers from the City of Richmond, local residents from the Sunset District in San Francisco, students living in dorms at the University of Washington, shoppers at a mall in Pleasanton, urban gardeners in the Mission District of San Francisco, among others.

My project for the Streetcar Alignment brings together my early memories of walks with my father, photography, and my involvement with community based art projects. To do this I will install a series of solar powered lights on motion sensors to literally highlight aspects of the neighborhoods that the streetcar will be running through. The units would be attached to pre-existing street car poles and operate from dusk to late evening. It’s evident that these neighborhoods already have cultural and aesthetic qualities that define them.

The idea draws strictly on what the various neighborhoods along the alignment already have—unusual architecture, old signs, specific trees, old fire hydrants and infrastructure, etc. I will choose several locations to just light a circular spot on the sidewalk that a person could walk into and for a moment stand out for their own visual or gestural significance. In a way, the lights would act as real time photographs of interesting aspects in Portland’s nighttime urban environment.

If you want to track down the spotlights yourself and see if you have better luck triggering them than I did, I came up with a list of locations from one of the RACC public art maps. They're only along the streetcar's NS line as it existed in 2004, so there's nothing on the Eastside or along the South Waterfront extension.

  1. SW 5th & Mill (platform spot)
  2. SW 4th & Montgomery (drinking fountain)
  3. SW Park & Market (tree knot)
  4. SW 10th & Mill (bench)
  5. SW 11th & Columbia (flower bed)
  6. SW 11th & Jefferson (tree)
  7. SW 10th & Yamhill (library bench)
  8. SW 11th & Yamhill (face in molding)
  9. SW 10th & Washington (manhole cover)
  10. NW 10th & Couch (manhole in sidewalk)
  11. NW 10th & Hoyt (downspout)
  12. NW 11th & Flanders (building vent)
  13. NW 11th & Irving (bench)
  14. NW 16th & Northrup (metal in asphalt)
  15. NW 21st & Northrup (word on back of building)

For extra credit, see this 2003 Mercury story on Fletcher's And Even More Everyday Sunshine, a photographic exhibit at the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice in downtown Portland. That was a decade ago, though, and it's probably long gone by now. I haven't worked up the nerve to go in and check.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

He'eia State Park

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So here's another stop on the big bus ride around Oahu, this time from the windward (i.e. greener and wetter) side of the island. He'eia State Park is a bit of shoreline on Kane'ohe Bay, across the Ko'olau Range from Honolulu. The Ko'olaus look impossibly high and rugged from the windward side, and it's hard to believe the highest point is only around 3100 feet. I stopped here for the scenery, but the park also offers kayak rentals, snorkeling, and a large rentable meeting hall that seems to be a popular local wedding spot.

In a few of these photos you'll see what looks like a sort of breakwater or seawall structure out in the bay. This is the wall of the He'eia fishpond, an ancient aquaculture structure built by native Hawaiians an estimated 600-800 years ago. Fishponds were a common form of food production then, but many fell into disrepair after Western contact. The He'eia fishpond has seen restoration efforts, though invasive species are still a problem, and the environment here is the subject of ongoing research. A nonprofit organization now manages it in conjunction with the landowner, the omnipresent Kamehameha Schools / Bishop Estate. They offer tours, but I'm not sure you can just show up unannounced and wander around taking photos; I couldn't find a trail over to the fishpond, so I don't really know one way or the other.

Monday, November 18, 2013

autumn fog

semi-scenic seattle

A few Instagram photos from a quick trip to Seattle last weekend. I ended up staying at a chain hotel on Aurora Avenue, a few miles north of the big bridge over Lake Union, vaguely near where the funeral was at. As you can see in the top photo, it's not exactly the most scenic part of town.

The hotel offered a strange ironing board with the iron permanently attached, I suppose to prevent people from stealing the iron or something. I'd never seen this before. Is this new, or have I been staying in the right sort of hotel all this time?

These quibbles aside, it's a fantastic location, because there's an Ivar's just two blocks south, on the far side of a giant Sam's Club. It would've been easily walkable if the weather hadn't been so terrible. It's not the one on the Seattle waterfront, of course, but the fish and chowder are the same, which is the main thing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial

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When I was in Boston a while back, I spent a couple of nights at a hotel right at Logan Airport, a short skybridge trek from the main terminal. It turned out that the airport's 9/11 memorial was across the street, so I made a brief visit to it. Both of the planes that hit the World Trade Center towers took off from Logan Airport, and many of the passengers and crew aboard the planes were from Boston, so a memorial of some sort was obviously needed. But dealing with such a sensitive topic wouldn't be easy, and the local authorities didn't rush it. The memorial didn't open until 2008, and it's striking for how delicately, even gingerly, the memorial design treats its subject. I'm not sure I would have found it at all if my hotel hadn't been next to it. It's not in a place where airport visitors will stumble across it unexpectedly while going about their business. It has to be sought out deliberately. If you persevere and locate it, you'll see a landscaped plot with several paths, and a small glass cube set well back from the street. There's a small plaque indicating this is the memorial, and an inscription on the sidewalk refers obliquely to "the events of September 11th, 2001". The long winding paths aren't in any hurry to get you to the cube, and meander around the landscaped area. When you get to the cube, nothing about its exterior says "memorial" at all. Only once you're inside do you see the lists of names of those on the two flights. As you might imagine, the memorial's lightly visited. In the few days I was there, I didn't see a single person (other than myself) visit it.

Of course not everyone's a fan. It made a conspiracy site's list of the "Top 5 Worst 9/11 Memorials", which points out that this memorial strongly resembles an Apple store. I will allow that this is true. It's actually a decent list, and a couple of the others on the list are genuinely terrible. Although from the site's standpoint anything that doesn't say "false flag" probably counts as a bad memorial.

I started out thinking this was a strange memorial myself, and considered writing a snarky post complaining about it. Then I started thinking, ok, what would I have done differently, if somehow I'd gotten the job to design it? Would it be a better memorial if it didn't tiptoe around the subject quite so much? Maybe if it was somewhere in the airport where travelers -- who might be afraid of flying anyway -- could stumble across it and be surprised? If it was anything at all like the hideous 9/11 memorial in Portland that I griped about a few years ago? Well, no, none of the above. I get that it's a sensitive topic. This post sat around in Drafts for about a year, while I tried to figure out the right tone and the right timing. I didn't want to post it near 9/11 (since I've already said everything I ever want to about that day), or too close to any of our many military-themed holidays, and then I put it on extended hold after the Boston Marathon bombing so as not to seem exploitative. So like the actual designers, I'm pretty sure I would have erred on the side of endless trigger warnings and chances to back out, and the most understated and least graphic treatment I could pull off without seeming to downplay the "events". And I probably would have said "events".

Wallops Island Rocket Garden

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Outside the of NASA's Wallops Island visitor center are a few old rockets on display. It's nothing on the scale of the rocket garden at Kennedy Space Center, but the displays were kind of interesting so I took a few photos. And thanks to the magic of the interwebs, I can tell you a little more about some of them.

The (relatively) big rocket out front is a Little Joe, which was used in 1959-1960 to test the launch escape system for NASA's Mercury capsule. After some early hiccups, these test launches were conducted here at Wallops Island (including a couple with monkeys on board), before the Mercury program moved to Cape Canaveral for "real" launches. Apparently this is one of only two or three surviving examples of the rocket, since very few were built in the first place. The odd name for the rocket refers to a particular dice combination in craps, supposedly because the rocket engine arrangement reminded someone of it. I doubt you could get away with a name like that in 2013, but I imagine gambling references seemed quite applicable to rockets in 1959. Anyway, here's a documentary about the Little Joe program:

Little Joe: Mercury's First Steps from James Duffy on Vimeo.

The other rockets on the grounds are smaller sounding rockets, used for suborbital research into space or the upper atmosphere. There's an Aerobee 150, which was used from 1946 thru 1985. A vintage Air Force film details an Aerobee test flight at White Sands, NM, studying the effects of zero gravity on mice and monkeys:

Nearby is an Astrobee F, a solid-fueled successor to the Aerobee 150, which was used 1972-1983. Elsewhere on the grounds are a Nike-Cajun sounding rocket, and something the signs just call a "Four Stage Reentry Vehicle". Based on a little googling, this might be a Trailblazer II rocket, which was used to study the physics of objects reentering the atmosphere at high speed.

I think I may have missed a rocket or two on the grounds. A 1994 Usenet thread in rec.models.rocketry mentions a Scout D rocket here. The Scout was a solid-fueled rocket used to launch satellites from Wallops Island and elsewhere from 1960 thru 1994. I'm pretty sure they don't have one of those now; It's much taller than even the Little Joe rocket and I'm fairly sure I would have noticed it. In any event, here's a two-part documentary about the Scout program, made around the time the program was starting to wind down:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Duniway Park expedition

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It occurred to me recently that I'd never done a post about SW Portland's Duniway Park even though it's more or less in my neighborhood, on Barbur just outside I-405. I figured I could rectify that, since had a few photos of the park lying around, and more importantly the library's Oregonian database to rifle through. The park's best known today for its running track, but there's more to it than that, and the area has an interesting history.

Suppose you were standing at the Duniway Park track and were transported a century back in time to the year 1913, possibly thanks to a new Nike shoe with a flux capacitor in the heel. You would recognize absolutely nothing about the area. You'd also fall a substantial distance, and you wouldn't like what you landed in.

The present-day park is laid out as couple of flat terraces with a steep slope between them: The lower one containing the main running track, and the upper one another running course, some picnic facilities, and the park's lilac garden. The ground drops steeply again on the other side of Barbur. (The adjacent ivy-choked forest is also part of the park, but it's not the interesting part for our purposes here.) West of the park along Sam Jackson Park Road is a canyon formed by Marquam Creek, which flows down out of the West Hills and into a pipe, flowing deep under Duniway Park and on to the Willamette River. Looking around today's park, there's nothing to suggest there was ever a creek here.

It's hard to imagine this now, but Duniway Park was once Marquam Gulch, a steep gully at the south edge of downtown Portland. A high railroad trestle crossed the gulch at 4th Avenue, where today's Barbur Boulevard now runs. Like much of South Portland in those days, Marquam Gulch was a poor Italian and Jewish immigrant neighborhood, with little houses clinging to the sides of the gulch. It also served as a municipal garbage dump, of an unclear degree of officialness. It's unclear whether it was a neighborhood first and then a city dump, or vice versa, or both at the same time, which I can't rule out considering the time period. Presumably there's still a layer of century-old garbage down there somewhere, preserved for future archeologists.

A few links about the bad old days of Marquam Gulch:

  • An Oregon Historical Society page about immigrant groups in the early 20th century. I'm always leery of accounts that generalize "The Russian Jews did X, while the Italians did Y", but it's an interesting article nonetheless.
  • A Portland Police Museum account of a 1907 homicide case gives a sense of what the Marquam Gulch area was like at the time. The page includes an 1885 photograph showing the old 4th Street Bridge, which carried pedestrians and a long-vanished railroad over the long-vanished gulch. The route of the old railroad became today's Barbur Boulevard, so the location of the old bridge is now the eastern edge of Duniway Park. The whole situation is kind of hard to visualize.
  • An old 1909 USGS publication, Structural Materials in Parts of Oregon and Washington, notes there were also rock quarries operating in Marquam Gulch at the time.
  • The neighborhood in Marquam Gulch may not have been strictly legal. A brief Oregonian item from April 1893 mentions the O.R.& N. railroad trying to keep squatters off its Marquam Gulch land. The court case at hand concerned accusations of trespassing against a gentleman referred to simply as "An Italian, with an unpronounceable name."
  • The 1904 tale of a stabbing in Marquam Gulch, which began with children arguing over a bag of peanuts, and which escalated into an adult knife fight, though it's possible ill feelings betwen the two familes extended further back to the old country. The victim and perpetrator were both Italian, and the Oregonian luridly claimed that "VENDETTA COMES TO OREGON".
  • Officially sanctioned dumping began around 1914. It was argued that Seattle was dumping garbage in gullies already, and it was working out ok for them, even in nice neoghborhoods. And more importantly, it was cheaper than building a new garbage incinerator, though that eventually happened at what's today's Chimney Park. Property owners were already outraged by October of that year, claiming the stench from the Marquam Gulch dump was intolerable, and the city had unwisely promised no odors.
  • Illegal dumping was prevalent as well. An item from March 1915 explains that one offender was caught when she dumped a pile of rubbish in the "forbidden grounds" of Marquam Gulch that included letters addressed to her. In related news, let's all agree that City Sanitary Inspector Salisbury had quite a thankless and disgusting job.
  • A 1910 proposal would have run a railroad spur up Marquam Gulch, enabling the creation of a new warehouse district there, thus improving an area the paper called "practically worthless". Nothing seems to have come of the proposal.

The conditions at Marquam Gulch led to calls for reform of some sort or other. In 1916, local schoolchildren were recruited to write letters to the city council, begging for a proper playground so they didn't have to play in the gulch or in the street:

Mike Sholkoff writes in part: "In South Portland there are many children killed every year. The children pick things out of the dumps and sell them to the junk man for 5 and 10 cents, and then have to pay hundreds of dollars for doctor bills. A playground would cost about $60,000, but that isn't much when it saves many chidren's lives. Portland is the second cleanest city, but if the gulch were gone it could come first."

"Honorable Mayor and Commissioners," writes Harold Johnson, "I think that South Portland should have a playground for the following reasons: There is no place for us children to play except in the streets and you know that isn't 'safety first.' Just about the time that we have a good game going the cop comes along and chases us away. If you can't give us a playground take away the cops. It wasn't so bad while the cops walked, but you can't tell one Ford from another until a cop jumps out. Just think if you were a boy how much better it would be to have a playground than to play in the streets. I am willing to work for it."

This and similar efforts eventually led to today's park, which was dedicated (in a partially built state) in August 1918. A November 1919 article "Dream of 20 Years is Realized in Duniway Park", explains the long history of the project, with a map of the planned facilities, and a photo of the Southern Pacific trestle where Barbur is now. The project was funded by a voter-approved 1917 parks levy, which specified fixing Marquam Gulch as a top priority. It was originally proposed to name the park for Mrs. J.F. Kelly, who campaigned to create it. She declined the honor, however, and asked that they let her name the park instead, and "Duniway Park" was her choice.

Duniway Park is still one of a very short list of Portland city parks named for women. Named for Abigail Scott Duniway, a notable women's suffrage activist of the early 20th century. Others include the new Elizabeth Caruthers Park in the South Waterfront, and Vera Katz Park in the Pearl District. The latter isn't really a city park, per se, but I'm having to stretch the definition just to bring the list up to three. Although obviously there may be some I'm not aware of.

Duniway's brother, Oregonian editor Harvey Scott, was deeply opposed to her suffrage campaign, and the two feuded bitterly. Despite being wrong about a broad range of social issues of the day, Scott was memorialized with a smug-looking statue near the top of Mt. Tabor.

I haven't come across any mention of what became of the gulch's previous residents. As far as I can tell, the Oregonian didn't see fit to report on that little detail, much less inquire into why there were so many desperately poor people in the city.

The newly created park still didn't resemble today's park. Much of the park was below the grade of SW Barbur, and most of it consisted of baseball fields. A 1938 aerial photo at Vintage Portland shows the old gulch partially filled in, and the old trestle replaced with an earthwork structure to carry Barbur. A 1934 photo gives another view of the site of the present-day running track.

All of this reworking and reimagining hasn't done wonders for the local street grid. A page about the Marquam Gulch area at ExplorePDX digs into this and discusses why current maps of the area often sport inaccuracies, including roads that don't actually exist in the real world.

When World War II broke out a few years later, the Oregon National Guard camped in Duniway Park & the South Park Blocks in 1943. Not because of World War II necessity, but as part of a PR exercise coinciding with the movie premiere of Irving Berlin's This is the Army (which is on YouTube here). The park was used again for the same purpose (but without a movie premiere) in 1944; the Oregonian ran two photos from the encampment, one of GIs peeling potatoes, and the other of soldiers marching through mud lugging enormous duffel bags.

The current layout of the park dates to 1965 in an agreement between the city & Portland State College (now Portland State University). The agreement allowed PSC to use part of the park as team practice facilities, but without the city giving up title to the land. The land was raised to its current level at this point; the article mentions "Most of the fill material will be donated and will be from excavations for the Foothills Freeway", better known as Interstate 405. The running track went in at this point, and the baseball fields were removed.

In 1970 this was the staging area for a big protest march, part of the People's Army Jamboree, an event opposing the national American Legion convention in town. The Jamboree was smaller than first envisioned because the state government-sponsored Vortex One music festival drew many of the city's hippies and freaks and longhairs away to frolic at Milo McIver State Park on the Clackamas River near Estacada. This march became known for a nationally broadcast flag burning, which an Oregonian letter writer suggests was staged for the TV cameras.

Later in the 1970s, the park and its running track became a focus of the fitness craze. In 1977, a groovy new YMCA building opened next to the park. It was a YMCA for decades, but was sold a couple of years ago, and has bounced around between a few owners and operators since then. It's a cool building, unfortunately with a few decades of expensive deferred maintenance to sort out. Until recently it was the Duniway Park Athletic Club (which I was a member of) until the club was evicted in a dispute with the building's owner. So it's anyone's guess what happens next with the building.

Around 2005 or so (based on the date in the PDF), a Portland State engineering class studied daylighting Marquam Creek, that is, restoring it to flow above ground once again. The study is light on specifics and doesn't indicate how that would happen in an area as extensively modified as this. Digging out the fill dirt and restoring the old gulch would be a lot of work, and probably very expensive. Letting the creek flow on the surface through today's park would be interesting; it might mean a little waterfall at the edge of each terrace section, and salmon trying to leap up the falls. And then grizzly bears show up, just like in all the nature shows about Alaska. That could be cool.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Battle Green, Lexington

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It's time for another set of Boston photos, this time from the town common in Lexington, MA, commonly known as the Battle Green due to the Revolutionary War battle that happened here on April 19th, 1775. I lost track of how many monuments, statues and plaques there were in the common itself and the surrounding neighborhood. This photoset includes many prominent examples, but I'm sure I missed a few. Beyond this historic district, though, Lexington comes across as an average suburb. That really shouldn't have surprised me, but it did somehow. As with the Old North Bridge a few miles west in Concord, the modest scale of everything is striking. For all its eventual historical importance, the number of people actively involved at any point in the entire war was quite small. I don't mean to go off on a history lesson here; if you're curious, and somehow missed the entire term of 8th grade history that covered the American Revolution, or you grew up outside the US, there are much better sources of information than some random internet blog. I just wander around taking photos and trying to describe what's in them. For more obscure topics, the describing part involves linking to "authoritative" sources, which can sometimes be hard to find. As for Lexington, though, perhaps half of all the historians in America have already written a book or two about the Revolutionary War, or so it seems. There's a vast range of facts and opinions out there, and you can google for it just as well as I can. But feel free to enjoy the photos while you're here though.

Vantage Petroglyphs

Here's a slideshow of the Vantage Petroglyphs, a collection of ancient Native American rock carvings currently located at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park visitors center, near Vantage, WA. These carvings were once located dramatic location on a columnar basalt outcrop next to the Columbia River, but that site was flooded when the ___ dam went in. The petroglyphs were rescued, Abu Simbel style, and moved to their current location. Rock art near rivers was a fairly widespread practice; an Oregon Lakes & Rivers article "Paddling for Petroglyphs" details a number of examples that can only be visited by boat. Those less accessible examples likely haven't received the same level of casual vandalism that you can see here, but affords little protection against determined thieves, like the ones in recent cases in California and Nevada, and those are merely a couple of high profile cases where the thefts were publicized and the thieves were caught.

In putting this post together, I was surprised by how few authoritative sources of information I've been able to find online. There are, of course, a lot of academic works about the art and crafts of Northwestern tribes, but much of it seems to be either not online, or behind an expensive paywall. And then on the other hand there's no shortage of free but useless web pages out there, some of a New Agey crystals-n-dolphins bent, and others catering to the sort of crusty old Tea Party dudes who feel a need to hoard arrowheads for some reason, and resent the dang gol-durned gummint for telling them not to.

Anyway, here are a couple of items that were a.) available online at the time I posted this, and b.) seemed authoritative and reliable, at least going on my incomplete knowledge of the subject. At least neither proposes that those who carved the Vantage Petroglyphs must have had help from ancient aliens or wandering Vikings or any such thing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Boston Public Garden

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While I was in Boston a while back, I wandered into the city's Public Garden to look around for a bit. Formal landscaped gardens like this were very popular in the 19th Century, and into the early 20th. Looking around, I was immediately struck by the idea that Portland's Laurelhurst Park -- which is rather fancy by Portland park standards -- is a cheap imitation of Boston's Public Garden, or at least a cheap imitation of the general style. Boston has a lake, we have a smaller lake with water quality issues. Boston has meticulously tended lawns and flowers, we have grass and many rhododendron bushes. They have swans, we have lots of Canada geese and a couple of herons. They have famous Swan Boats, we... don't. They have a famous bridge over their pond, we... don't. They have statues and fountains scattered around the garden, we have this 1980 stainless steel whatzit. And so on.

Boston as a whole kept reminding me of Portland, in the sense that it felt like I was now seeing the original and realizing I lived in a low-budget, semi-skilled imitation. It wasn't like that all the time, mind you; there's nothing in Portland anything like the North End, for instance, and Portland seems to have quit with the imitating after 1950 or so. But I saw resemblances every so often, and it was disconcerting. I imagine this is what a trip to Paris is like when the only Eiffel Tower you've ever seen is the silly Las Vegas one. At least the beer's better here, and it snows a lot less. So there's that.

There's more to the park than what you see in this slideshow. I more or less made a beeline across the park, heading from Boston Common toward the Back Bay neighborhood, since I was actually trying to find some coffee at the time. Thus I didn't walk around the entire pond, or track down every last exotic plant or obscure Victorian statue hidden down a side path. I suppose I could have done that, but I think I captured the gist of the place. And to reiterate, I needed coffee. You know how it is.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Assateague Island

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Since I've been on a vacation photo kick lately, here's another slideshow from coastal Virginia, this time from the south end of Assateague Island National Seashore and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge next door. After I checked in to my Chincoteague Island hotel, I decided I wanted to at least dip my feet in the Atlantic a little, so off to the beach I went. Assateague Island is the ocean-facing barrier island due east of Chincoteague Island, and the two are separated by a channel of shallow water and salt marshes. So it's a bit of a drive, with a few sights here and there to stop and take photos of, which I of course did. At the beach itself, well, I'm not really keen to be That Guy who lugs a big camera around at the beach, taking photos of who knows what. That's right up there with White Van Metal Detector Guy in the rogues' gallery of suspicious-looking beach denizens. So I switched to phone photos, and didn't take a lot of those either, since I actually don't like having people in my photos and it was hard to avoid there.

Atlantic barrier island beaches like this are all variations on a simple theme: Long flat straight expanses of sand, a low rise behind the beach with some low shrubs (assuming developers haven't had their way with the place), and behind that a wide expanse of salt marsh between the barrier island and the mainland. So the beach here reminded me a lot of the Canaveral National Seashore down in Florida, which I already had photos of. I did the toes-in-the-nice-warm-Atlantic thing though, which was the main goal here. Ahead of photos, even, if you can believe that.

If the names "Assateague" and "Chincoteague" sound familiar, it's either from avidly reading my other blog posts here of late, or more likely from the famous series of young adult books about the islands' wild ponies. I never read any of the Misty books as a kid, but I seem to recall grade school classmates being obsessed with them. And then begging their parents for ponies of their own, probably. The books, while fictional, were based roughly on real people, horses, places, and events. If only I'd done a little more research ahead of time, I would've learned that two of the famous horses, "Misty" and "Stormy", were taxidermied and are now on display at the ranch where they once lived. This seems like a hilarious bit of macabre bad taste. If only I'd known, I would have carved out a bit of time to go visit the former children's book stars in their, um, retirement. I mean, where else can you see something like this? It's not like they've taxidermied the former stars of the Harry Potter movies, at least not so far. Not giggling would be the hard part. Or at least not giggling to a disruptive degree.

Every year, ponies from the island are herded and made to swim across the channel to Chincoteague Island (even though there's a perfectly decent bridge they could walk across) to be auctioned as a fundraiser for the local fire department. This has become the area's largest annual tourist event. I understand the need for some sort of herd management. As in the Western US, wild horses are an introduced species with no natural predators. Furthermore they're an introduced species that the public has become attached to, so removing them isn't a viable option. Thanks to the lack of predators, the unchecked population grows until it outstrips the local food supply, and the public won't stand for starving horses any more than it would accept the absence of horses. So they've taken to auctioning "excess" horses every year, to keep the herd size manageable. (Which is what the BLM does in Oregon and other western states, somewhat controversially.) The pony herd on the Maryland part of the island (kept separate from the Virginia ponies by a fence) is on birth control, believe it or not, which keeps the size of the herd down in a somewhat less picturesque way.

This business about ponies is not really a digression, because one of the books ("Stormy, Misty's Foal") centers around the real-life Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, which also played a key role in the protection of the National Seashore. Much of the island had been platted for development, roads had been built, and some construction had begun when the storm swept through and flattened everything. Instead of rebuilding everything at taxpayer expense, which is what usually happens, the federal government acquired the island and handed it over to the National Park Service to run as a public beach park. Possibly this was due in part to sentimental attachment to the ponies. It's not clear what would have become of them if Assateague Island had been converted into vacation homes and trinket shops.

The adjacent wildlife refuge protects an extensive area of salt marshes, along with the historic 142' Assateague lighthouse (both of which I have photos of), and inland parts of the island where the local pony herd tends to hang out, which apparently are closed to the public. The lighthouse was closed for renovation when I was there; I didn't really mind since I've never really had a thing for lighthouses. I'm not going to make fun of people who do, though; I have wayyy too many posts here tagged 'bridge' for me to go around casting that particular stone.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Longfellow Bridge

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Here's a slideshow of Boston's ornate 1907 Longfellow Bridge, which connects downtown Boston (and the Beacon Hill neighborhood) with central Cambridge across the Charles River. I walked across on a sunny Friday afternoon back in July 2012; the bridge is now closed for an extended and much-needed $260 million renovation project. The rust and disrepair shown in many of the photos should be a big clue why this is happening. Media accounts claim this closure is the Traffic Apocalypse. Which is odd, because it's widely believed that every day in Boston is the Traffic Apocalypse. Everyone says so, even local residents, who presumably are the ones causing all the Apocalypse-ness.

The thing is, I can't actually corroborate this stereotype about the city. I had a rental car for most of the week I was there, but I was out in the 'burbs during that part, and driving in suburban Boston seemed just like driving in suburban anywhere else. It wasn't a problem. I suppose it's probably worse if you try driving in downtown Boston, which I didn't do. But I did walk all around the central city and nobody ran me down in a crosswalk, deliberately or otherwise, or tried to bean me with a beer can as they drove by. I walked across the bridge and survived to tell the tale, and nobody swerved to try to hit me on the sidewalk, or even pretended like they were going to. Not a single Bostonian, drunk or otherwise, tried to shove me in front of a bus just for the lulz, something a coworker tried to warn me about when he heard where I was going. There was about the level of honking you'd expect in any major East Coast city, and I never saw honking escalate into a road rage incident, not even mild fisticuffs. I never saw anyone deliberately ram anyone else, or aggressively tailgate anyone, NASCAR-style, which immediately puts Boston ahead of both Washington DC and Atlanta in my book, just going on things I've personally witnessed in those cities. Honestly, driving in Boston was fine.

The great thing about central Boston, though, was that I could get anywhere I needed to go on mass transit, generally on the 'T', the local subway, the Red Line of which crosses the river on the Longfellow Bridge. So driving in the allegedly worst city in America to drive in is completely unnecessary, as far as I can tell. And as with driving, I can't corroborate any horror stories about Boston's mass transit, such as the one in the Kingston Trio song "The M.T.A". Here's a free travel tip: If you stay at a hotel at Logan Airport, you can take the Silver Line to downtown Boston for free, or at least you could when I was there. The Silver Line, the city's only bus rapid transit line, is an odd hybrid: When you get on, it looks like you're just getting on a regular bus. It takes a freeway tunnel under the Charles River, makes a couple of bus-like stops, and then converts from diesel to electric power and drives the rest of the way to South Station in a dedicated subway-like tunnel.

A curious thing about the bridge is that it looks for all the world like it's a drawbridge, but it actually isn't. Its main piers, mid-river, give the impression that the span between them ought to open, and the turrets look like somewhere a bridge operator would sit, munching endless Dunkin Donuts and waiting for the occasional mega-yacht heading upriver toward Harvard. It's all a sham, though. Purely ornamental, for display purposes only. This is the sort of fakery that drove modernist architects batty back in the early 20th Century, and rightly so I think.

An even curiouser thing is that the main piers are designed to evoke the bows of Viking longships, in memory of Leif Erikson's visit to the Boston area circa 1000 AD. Wait, what? Don't remember that one from history class? There's a reason for that. This alleged visit was an eccentric pet theory of a Eben Horsford, a 19th Century Harvard chemistry professor, who today is best known for inventing the modern formula for baking powder. Horsford had little success in selling his idea to other scholars; annoying little details like the total absence of archeological evidence probably didn't help his cause. That didn't deter him from promoting the Vikings-in-Boston theory to the general public, aided by his considerable baking powder fortune, and he found a willing audience. It's been widely argued that the vogue for all things Leif Erikson in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had an ugly ethnic undercurrent to it. Columbus, you see, was one of those icky Italian Catholics, just like the poor immigrants then arriving in Boston by the boatload. Whereas Erikson was entirely noble and selfless and enterprising, as far as anyone knows, I mean, it just stands to reason, and of course his hair and eyes were the right color, and he probably never touched a clove of garlic in his entire life. So the Viking theory had its fans among the local Brahmin aristocracy, and funding and official approval were easy to obtain. Thus, today Boston has Horsford to thank for a Leif Erikson statue on Commonwealth Avenue, the bridge piers here, and a nature park in Newton, MA, formerly the site of a local amusement park, which in turn was named for a nearby legendary lost Viking city of untold riches that Horsford rediscovered, and which totally existed in real life. Supposedly.

Rainbow Bridge, Hale'iwa

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On my recent trip to Oahu, I spent most of a day riding bus #55, which loops around the eastern half of the island. After a few earlier stops including Turtle Bay and Waimea Bay, I decided to stop in the little North Shore town of Haleiwa for lunch. When I got there, I couldn't help but notice this little arched bridge at the edge of the town's little downtown area. So naturally I had to take a few photos of it.

Hawaii's generally not a land of interesting bridges, as the local geography doesn't favor them. For the most part the islands' rivers and streams are too small to require anything beyond simple utilitarian bridges, and the channels between the islands are too wide to bridge at all. Hale'iwa's "Rainbow Bridge" on the little Anahulu River is a rare photogenic exception to the rule. In the early 20th Century, Hale'iwa was a popular seaside resort at the northern terminus of Oahu's cross-island railroad, and the town was a popular weekend escape from the (relative) hustle and bustle of big-city Honolulu. The bridge dates to the town's resort heyday, which I imagine is why it's more decorative (and presumably expensive) than it strictly needed to be.

After taking the bridge photos, I stopped at a nearby food truck for a plate of garlic shrimp. It was delicious. I usually don't like shrimp, so that's saying a lot. And yes, I'm blogging my Instagram food photos. Somehow it feels a little less vain and self-absorbed when they're also vacation photos. I think. Anyway, after that I stopped at a famous shave ice shop, and I have an Instagram photo from there too:

So I can recommend their tropical combo with condensed milk on top, in case you're ever in Hale'iwa and feel like getting a shave ice.

Anyway, about Hawaii and bridges, I said earlier that the islands are too far apart to bridge, but Wikipedia's "Channels of the Hawaiian Islands" article indicates that all but one of the inter-island channels are no more than 30 miles wide, which is shorter than the Channel Tunnel or Japan's Seikan Tunnel. The ocean between the islands is also up to 6100 feet deep in places, much deeper than any existing undersea tunnel, which is kind of a problem. Still, if you could figure out a way to deal with that, tunnels might be technically possible. It's just that it would cost many tens of billions of dollars, and Hawaii only has a bit over a million people, and most of them live on Oahu, and inter-island flights are quick and cheap. So this is more of an SF novel plot point than an actual idea. Imagine, in an alternate timeline, an inter-island bullet train network serving the fabulously rich Kingdom of Hawaii, the Switzerland of the Pacific. Possibly created with advanced alien technology, or built by domesticated krakens, or something.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Chincoteague Causeway

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A few photos of the long, winding Chincoteague Causeway , which connects Chincoteague Island with the mainland. My hotel was on the island, and the NASA center is on the mainland, and I lost track of how many times I drove back and forth along this route. It's kind of a fun drive, actually; there are a few elevated bridge portions, but much of the route is a very low causeway that feels more or less like you're driving along right at water level, as if you're zipping across the marsh in a hovercraft or something. It probably didn't hurt that my rental car was a fast little Fiat 500, and going anywhere with it made for a fun drive.

As the story goes, when the road to Chincoteague Island opened in 1922, the grand opening drew a large number of motorists to the island, who were then stranded there when bad weather damaged the road. The road was eventually repaired and reopened, but it still wasn't up to the job and was replaced with an improved bridge in 1940. Time and traffic and salt water eventually took their toll on their replacement, and it in turn was replaced in 2009.

The original bridge first crossed the much smaller (and aptly named) Marsh Island, which has just a handful of houses. From there a truss swing bridge connected to the main island. That bridge was an iconic image of the island for many years (although, let's be honest, it wasn't exactly the St. Johns Bridge or the Golden Gate or anything). The replacement project went ahead and ripped it out anyway, and lots of junky beach tourist knicknacks suddenly became valuable collector's items.

The new causeway now detours around Marsh Island (with a short spur bridge connecting it to the causeway) and it avoids the island's downtown, instead connecting to the road that continues out to the beaches of Assateague Island, further east. I never saw firsthand what traffic was like with the old bridge, but just looking at a map and comparing the two routes it stands to reason (I think) that the new bridge is a big improvement. Even if it never shows up on t-shirts and collector spoons and shot glasses like its predecessor.

fire twirling, waikiki

Here's another Vine clip from Hawaii, this time of a little fire twirling outside the local Hello Kitty Seafood Buffet, which exists. Not only does it exist, I went there for birthday number four-zero a few years ago, just to do something silly and not entirely age-appropriate. They seem to be downplaying the Hello Kitty angle now, and the fire dancers are new. Apparently they put on a mini-show on the lawn out front, promising more of a show inside if you choose to patronize their fine establishment. Which is in addition to various licensed Sanrio characters wandering the restaurant and posing for photos with kids and Japanese tourists. I'm fairly certain there is no exact equivalent to this place here in Portland, or probably anywhere else for that matter.

friday night fireworks, ala wai harbor

Because it's Friday night, here's another recent Vine clip from Hawaii, this time of the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Friday night fireworks show, taken from next to the Ala Wai boat harbor. Only bad thing about this clip is the little note saying it was taken 41 days ago. Sigh.

Manoa Falls

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When I was in Honolulu back in September, one thing I wanted to do was tear myself away from the beach and the urban jungle for a bit and go find a hiking trail. Manoa Falls was the obvious choice. It's one of the tallest accessible waterfalls on Oahu, and the hike to the falls is short and fairly easy, though slippery and muddy in parts. The thing that really sold me on Manoa Falls is that you can get there on the regular Honolulu city bus system, which was important since I elected not to rent a car. All I had to do was walk from my hotel over to the Ala Moana Mall and hop on the bus #5, which heads up mostly-suburban Manoa Valley. The bus turns around at the point where suburbia peters out. At that point you can get off the bus and walk uphill into the rainforest, where you'll soon encounter both Lyon Arboretum (about which a separate post is coming) and the Manoa Falls trailhead. If the place looks vaguely familiar, apparently both Jurassic Park and Lost shot a few scenes here. The falls may also look familiar from an earlier post of mine with an Instagram photo and a Vine clip from the falls. I think I said at the time that photos from the "real" camera were coming soon. "Soon" turns out to mean "a couple of months later", but that's still pretty punctual by my usual standards.

I'd only visited one other Hawaiian waterfall before, 'Akaka Falls on the Big Island, and that was wayyy back in late 2000, and all I had was a crappy point-n-shoot film camera at the time. I figured this time I was going to come prepared. I don't usually lug a mini-tripod or remote shutter widget along with me, but I had the notion that I wanted to do some long exposure waterfall photos (See for example: Majestic Falls, Wahclella Falls, Yacolt Falls, and Cedar Mill Falls). All that preparation (which is a lot by my usual standards) turns out to have been overkill. Even though I barely missed a huge downpour just before I arrived, there wasn't enough water going over the falls just then to pull off the classic long-exposure waterfall look. Which is fine, I mean, them's the breaks, and it's still a waterfall in the middle of a tropical rainforest. I thought it was pretty great, and nowhere near as overrun with tourists as I was led to believe it would be.

There's a great article about the Manoa Falls trail at Exploration Hawaii (although you'll end up reading more of their articles, and wonder where the last three hours went.) Here are two more hike reports worth reading; the first one has a photo of the falls with much more water. Although looking at that photo, I'm not sure the long exposure trick would have paid dividends then either. I'm starting to think the only way to be sure would be to move to Hawaii and come here every so often for new photos, and come back later if I don't quite get the shots I have in mind. As if I needed another excuse to want to move there.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR

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Here's a slideshow from the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, near the southern tip of the Eastern Shore. I stopped here on my way from Norfolk, VA up to Wallops Island back in September. I'd taken a redeye flight from Portland, with an early morning layover in Charlotte, and I was a bit out of sorts. (Protip: Don't assume US Airways will give you a pillow and blanket just because JetBlue had them on your last redeye flight.) I'd stopped for breakfast at the little restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (yes, on), but I decided I needed to stop and walk around a bit, so I turned at the wildlife refuge sign and had a look around.

It's primarily a migratory bird refuge, but early September isn't prime bird watching season (as far as I know), so most of my photos are of butterflies and a nearby abandoned artillery battery. The visitor center had a small butterfly garden behind the main building, and most of the photos come from there, but it seemed like there were butterflies everywhere, to a rather surreal degree. I noticed the butterflies all along the Eastern Shore, so I can't blame this entirely on jet lag. Maybe what I picked up on is actually the Northwest's relative lack of butterflies. I'm not sure, and the Questions & Answers page from the North American Butterfly Association is vague about what regions have larger or smaller butterfly populations. The Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory has been doing butterfly research here for several years, and several TripAdvisor reviews of the refuge mention the butterflies, so it's probably not just my imagination.

There are also a couple of photos of an enormous "cicada killer" wasp that was bumbling around on the visitor center lawn. I'd never seen one before, or any sort of bee this large for that matter. As a West Coast resident, I didn't realize the USA had bees this size. I figured (correctly, as it turns out) that I would've heard of these creatures before if they were as dangerous as they looked, so I stopped for some close up photos. A refuge volunteer wandered by to see what I was doing & was amused that I was so fascinated by a mere cicada killer. Every time an East Coast person says something like this, I always want to respond with "Oh yeah? We have wolves." Which is true, though I've never actually seen one in the wild.

The coastal battery in a few of the photos is Battery Winslow, part of the former Fort Custis. During World War II, it (along with Fort Story in Virginia Beach), defended the entrance to Chesapeake Bay from shipborne evildoers. This involved several concrete batteries sporting huge cannons, pointed seaward and able to put very large holes in anything that strayed too close to Hampton Roads. This is more or less the same role Fort Stevens played at the mouth of the Columbia River here in Oregon. Fort Custis morphed into an air force installation shortly after WWII, and was finally deactivated in 1980. The US Fish and Wildlife Service took it over a few years after that.

I'm not a military history fan by any means, but abandoned military bases can be a good source of mysterious concrete structures, slowly being reclaimed by nature. That tends to be photogenic, so I'm willing make a detour to see something like this. I"m not sure a warm sunny day was the right time to visit, though. The battery seems to call for a cold, gloomy, blustery day, and black and white photos, and maybe some angsty musicians or runway models posing unhappily in front of it. Maybe as an album cover, with an equally gloomy vinyl LP inside.