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USA

Ladew Gardens

Maryland, USA

Topiary.
Almost at fun as shrubbery.
We went on a day trip to Ladew Gardens to see what was supposed to be an amazing topiary garden. We weren't impressed specifically with the topiaries.
Butterfly

Butterfly


The gardens were ok in the sense that there were some flowers, lots and lots of butterflies, a bunch of quiet hidey-hole areas, and it was pretty. But there weren't so many or so many kinds of flowers that we were impressed by the flowers. There was no sense of quiet serenity as the gardeners were using some loud machines in various places that disturbed the silence. The topiaries were mostly boring geometric shapes. There were some swans, one display called "the hunt," a buddha, and a pirate ship that at least were somewhat interesting, but not so much more. There wasn't some amazing view. Really, the best part was all of the butterflies. Maybe in some other season it's better.
Buddha

Buddha


The people who run it are well-organized though. The map guided us right around to all of the different areas, which we all well-marked. The bathrooms were clean. The lady at the counter told us it would be about an hour to walk around the gardens, and that was pretty accurate.
What I liked better than the gardens though, was the house tour. It's also a bit disappointing in that the house isn't really that old, and the guy who lived there didn't die so long ago. The tour guide could have known him personally, for all I know. But, the guide was knowledgeable and did a good job explaining the family history, why he decorated the whole place in the theme of "the hunt," and how he used each of the rooms in the house.

Overall, I'd say it's way overpriced for an hour of walking around mediocre gardens and an hour-long house tour that doesn't feature anything super-significant. But, if you have free tickets or something, it would be worth a couple of hours to stop by and see.
Butterfly

Butterfly

Posted by spsadventures 09:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Camping in Kumbrabow

We arrived at Kumbrabow State Park Tuesday evening, after the park office was closed, but well before dark, That's ok, because there's a self-check-in. We were able to put money into a box and get ourselves registered, plus grab some firewood. There are 13 campsites, about half in the woods and half around a small clearing nearby. All of them have some access to the creek, but we picked one right on the creek, but also on the clearing side so that we'd have a good view of the stars, when they came out. We set up our tent, unpacked our food, and hauled water from one of the pumps nearby. These are old-fashioned mechanical pumps that you have to work at in order to get water out. But, the water is clean. The lady at the office told me that they have the pump water tested monthly, just ot make sure. Unfortunately, my evening was shortened a bit by me not feeling so good (not related to anything at the campsite), but it just meant that I slept well. I got up the next morning feeling much better. We had poptarts-breakfast of champions- and then went for a hike. We started on the Raven Rocks trail, thinking that it was short, so we'd be done quickly and then do one of the longer trails. Well, the first leg of the trail would have been easier in an elevator. It was steep. We made it up, realized we'd done like the first 10 meters of distance as the bird flies, but were already panting. The rest of the trail wasn't so steep, although it was definitely uphill, and we felt that. It was also a bit overgrown. At the time, I speculated that they just hadn't cleared the trail yet for the year, which we later found out ot be accurate. The real problem was that it wasn't marked at all. Sometimes we thought we might have veered off onto a goat /deer trail of some sort, but we were still on the path. Of course, the advantage is that we really felt like we were in nature. We couldn't see or hear any signs of civilization other than the path, which if you decide is a deer path, doesn't count. We didn't run into any other people. It was very easy to feel unplugged. We stopped at a viewpoint with a great view of trees. Civiliation just didn't seem to exist. We continued on the Rich Mountain fire trail, which was wide enough for a vehicle to come through, so we figured it would be easier to follow, even though it also wasn't marked. It was easier to follow, but also had yet to be maintained for the year. It was covered in tall grasses. Fortunately, we didn't find any ticks on our bodies afterwards. At one point, there was a lookout tower with a great view of the surrounding area. We pulled out our lunches and enjoyed the scenery. The wading through the underbrush, the uphill, and the heat (although it wasn't too bad) were taking a toll on us, so we decided to take a shorter path back. The Meatbox Run trail had been maintained for the season. It was extremely well-marked, was clear of underbrush, and still had great views. Also, from where we werre taking it, it was downhill. It may have been my favorite trail. All of the trails had good scenery, some wildlife, nice forest, and good air though. My legs may have been a little scraped up at the end, but I have to say that I really enjoyed the hiking.

When we finished hiking, we saw our first other human being since we set out hours before- a park ranger. After a brief chat about the condition of the trails, we went to the playground at the picnic area. It was completely empty, so we enjoyed the swings, seesaw, and other equipment without being bothered by crazy kids, but I imagine that this is a great place to take kids. The rest of the afternoon, we chilled, read, slept, and just generally appreciated the peace and tranquility. This evening, we not only got the fire started, but also got to enjoy it. We made smores, canned beans, canned mac-n-cheez, and took advantage of the serenity the fire provided. It wasn't a completely clear sky, but since we were in the middle of nowhere, whenever the clouds moved over a bit, we could see a ton of stars behind them.

Overall, I think this is a great place to go camping. The sites are rustic enough that you feel unplugged (no electricity, no automatically running water), but nice enough that you aren't stressed by "roughing it" (clean outhouses, pumped water, a fire pit already with a grill on it). if you really need some electricity and running water, you can always go to the office area where they have showers (quarter operated), flush toilets, lights, and you can buy ice from the office (when it's open). It was quiet for us, but we went in the middle of the week while school is still in session. It probably gets more traffic in the summer, but still might be small and out-of-the-way enough to maintain some of the sense of solitude.

View

View


View

View


Dinner

Dinner

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Not quite Europe, but still a nice vacation

So this isn't quite Europe, but it was a vacation day. We started off the morning with breakfast at Ruth and Chick's in Annapolis. It's this little family-owned diner right across from the statehouse. When you first walk in, you notice that one of the tables is roped off and says "governor's office." Apparently, a lot of politicians, including the governor, like to pop over for food. There are even a bunch of meals named after various local politicians and other people. We got there for breakfast, but could order anything on the menu. My friend got french toast- very breakfasty, but I went for the mozzarella sticks and broccoli baked potato- perfect for 9am. Then came the awesome part. They are known for their pies and as this was a birthday vacation, I had called ahead and ordered some oreo pie. We got this huge, delicious piece. Even working together, we couldn't finish it. But it was so good. I get why people rave about their pies. Half in a food-coma, we headed across the bay bridge and over to the Chesapeake Nature Center. We rented kayaks from the nicest bird-nerd lady. I love how incredibly passionate she was about birds! She was able to tell us exactly where to paddle in order to see everything, and told us what birds lived where. She was a lot of fun. We went down to the kayak area, pulled our boats off the rack, and set off. The wetlands were very calm and we were the only ones out there until about the time we decided to turn back. It was extremely relaxing to be on the water, in the sun, surrounded by the sounds of nature. We saw all sorts of different birds, but heard even more than we saw. After enough time chilling on the lake, we were fully refreshed and ready to stop sunburning. We pulled our kayaks out and headed ovedr to the raptor sanctuary part of the park. There, we admired the owls and other birds they keep in large cages. I feel like a bad 90s "free bird" joke goes here. Maybe: like a free bird, we got back on the road. We went just across the Talbot county line and stopped at the Wye Mill. The museum was supposed to be open, but the door was locked and knocking didn't do anything. We took a look around, although with the museum closed, there wasn't so much to see. Just up the road, we also visited the (new) Wye Oak. I remember learning about the Maryland state tree in 4th grade, and am a bit sad that I didn't get to see the original before it died. The roots that were left behind were huge, and I'm sure I can't imagine how huge it must have been. From that disappointing site, we drove north towards our next stop. The plan was to get some food on the way, but we were so full of breakfast pie and so dehydrated from the time on the lake that we weren't really that hungry. As we started to see signs that we were getting close, it occurred to me that hiking on an empty stomach might not be the smartest idea. So, we pulled over at a random pizza place for a 3pm lunch. Next, was a short hike to Turkey Foot Lighthouse. We knew the lighthouse itself wasn't open, but wanted to do the hike and see it from the outside. We discovered that it has a cool view of the ocean below. As we wanted to do as many things on the "Maryland Bucket list" as possible, the plan had been to stop in Baltimore for crabs on the way back, but having just forced ourselves to have a 3pm lunch, that wasn't particularly appealing at the moment. I guess the moral of the story is that Ruth and Chik's pies can really fill you up! We made a quick stop in the park by the Gaithersburg Arts Barn, and finished our Maryland day.

Kayaking

Kayaking


Birds

Birds


Ducks

Ducks


Owl

Owl


Wye Mill

Wye Mill


Where the Wye Oak was

Where the Wye Oak was


Turkey Point Lighthouse

Turkey Point Lighthouse

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Pitt Stop

From Terre Haute, the drive to Pittsburgh was pretty nice. I'm surprised at how much longer I could have driven considering I hadn't done so much “distance driving” in St. Kitts.

Again in Pitt, I saw people. We also went to eat at this very cool restaurant, Zenith Tea Shop. It is an antiques store for most of the week, but it is also a vegetarian restaurant for Sunday brunch. You get to sit at antique tables and use old tableware while looking at all of the neat antiques all around. Very cool.

After Pitt, I took the bus to DC. For the next two weeks, I was mostly in DC packing for my next adventure. Sorry that I didn't do so many touristy things to write about, but I had a lot to get done and a lot of people to see. From DC, I drove up to Newark to fly to Israel, the next long-term stop on the SP adventure.

Zenith Tea Shop

Zenith Tea Shop

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

SNOW!!!

You don't expect to be writing about snow in a blog about the Caribbean. However, Thursday, I left San Fran for Indy, but got snowed into Chicago. As I had been wearing 2 hats, a ton of shirts, a coat, 2 pairs of socks, gloves, and all sorts of other clothes in the frigid 40-50 degree F San Fran weather to keep warm, I was surprised at how well I did in the Chicago snow. I think the difference was the long underwear. In Terre Haute, I also got some boots.

It was great to see so many old friends in Terre Haute and also to eat at Exotic Thai twice.

From a tourist perspective, I didn't do a whole lot there, but I can comment on the Days Inn- It's a reasonable hotel. The room was clean, but old. The service was good. It was nice to be able to pull the car right up to the door to unload all my junk. (I was on the first floor.) I think you'd get a cheaper rate calling to book than trying on the internet. That's about all I've got on it.

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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