Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visiting and Creating National Treasures

This rambly post started out as a catalog of the nature shots from our recent Maine vacation. Then I flew off on a tangent about how nature was preserved and enhanced by the rich. Then it occurred to me that great parks were also created by the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). And finally I swerved to discuss what hiking and traveling means to me and the favorite places I have visited. Each one of these topics could fill many posts, but here's the current mess and perhaps I'll elaborate later.

I love visiting national parks, historic homes and beautiful gardens. Hiking gives me a feeling of challenge and peace at the same time. Exploring history stokes my curiosity and admiration for remarkable men and women. Looking at natural vistas, waterfalls, enormous sequoias, or mossy swamps rejuvenates my creativity. In all these situations, the stresses of the world fade away.

Some of the favorite places I have visited include: California's Yosemite, King's Canyon National Park, Route 1 corridor, and Mono Lake, Colorado's Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, Virginia's Monticello, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and now Acadia National Park and its surrounding gardens.

Thuya Garden
(named for the northern white cedar, Thuja occidentalis, woods that surround it) is a beautiful tended English style garden outside Acadia National Park. Along with the Asticou Azalea Garden (a Japanese style garden) that I long to see in bloom, it's a worthwhile stop on a trip to the central Maine Coast. I sound like a tour director. But really, they are tended by the nonprofit Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, and deserve a visit.

These gardens and the National Park itself are oddly a tribute to the very rich of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The gardens are preserved now in perpetuity thanks to the estate of Joseph Henry Curtis, a Boston landscape architect and civil engineer, who "summered" in this part of Maine for almost 50 years. After his death he donated the land to the preserve. Charles K. Salvage, a local landscape designer renovated and further designed the gardens with plants purchased form the collection of Beatrix Farrand.

Acadia's carriage roads and stone bridges were built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. over 27 years with his family fortune. It's odd owing thanks to the largess of Rockefellers, Carnegies and others who made their fortunes by exploiting and monopolizing labor and land, but then donated and created national parks and cultural institutions through their generocity.

I enjoyed camping in Acadia. But how would it feel to have "summered" here in your own beautiful home with servants and cooks? To build 45 miles of carriage roads and bridges because you love riding your horses around and wanted to created beautiful drives and views? This is not to say, this is only way to create these wonders. During the depression the New Deal's CCC created amazing roads, trails, and facilities.

"By March of 1933, 13,600,000 people were unemployed in the United States. In the face of this emergency, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two days after his inauguration, called a meeting of government officials to create a Civilian Conservation Corps. Roosevelt intended to put 500,000 unemployed youths to work in forests, parks and range lands across the country.

"In its nine years, the CCC employed more than three million men and left an undeniable imprint on the nation's landscape. The CCC built more than 40,000 bridges, planted two billion trees, restored nearly 4,000 historic sites and structures, improved thousands of beaches, roads and shorelines, and created 800 state parks."
from this website.

What could we accomplish if today's bankers did generous things with their money? What could we accomplish if we put the unemployed to work creating the most beautiful national seashore on the gulf coast? Let's go to glorious places and determine how to make the world a more beautiful place.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tagging Myself

Tagged myself with questions from Light and Macaroni.

What is your favorite "me time" activity?
Reading, whether on blogs, The New York Times online, or interesting books. I have joined 2 book clubs since I moved here a year ago. The favorite books I have read in them are: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Uncommon Reader. Both lots of fun. Right now I am reading A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail inspired by our recent trip hiking and biking in Acadia.

Favorite made-by-you item?
My photo albums. I must have at least a dozen. The first one begins with a few photos of my great aunts and uncles when they were young and ends at college graduation. The rest are much more detailed highlighting my early 20's courting through my and friends' marriages, and tons and tons of photos of my kids through the years. I actually was showing one of the albums to a friend who came for lunch yesterday. I love looking at old photos of my kids. It brings back so many great memories. My albums are detailed with dates and souvenirs (tickets, flyers, etc), sort of like simple scrapbooks. I have not been as diligent with this since the age of digital pictures, but every once in a while I order prints and get to work.

I also have a "holiday" album with the Christmas photo cards that we get from friends and family year after year. Each family has a few dedicated pages, and each year when I add the current photo I get to see the growth of these kids.

What is your "crap I have no time but must make something to eat" go-to meal? [Jessica (this set of questions originally came from her blog) says: I need more of these in my repertoire and am shamelessly hoping for new ideas!]
Pasta with whatever else is in the fridge: sauted onions and greens (maybe with a little sausage thrown in) and lots of Parmesan; zucchini, onions, garlic and olive oil; in winter canned tomatoes, sausage, and small white beans. If greenbeans are in the fridge, they go well with rice and soy sauce. Bok choy and scallions might call for asian noodles and a quick peanut/sesame sauce (peanut butter, vinegar, sesame oil, crushed garlic stirred with hot water).

One way you've changed that would seem most surprising to the other people attending your high school reunion?
I've become more serious, more concerned about the world. I think my efforts to live a greener, simpler life would be highly unusual for most of the competitive, consumptive people I went to high school with. Many got new BMWs for their 17th birthdays.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I loved dance and nature. I wanted to be Jane Goodall dancing through the wilds. But somehow I didn't believe that was a viable career. When I went to college I gave up dance when it conflicted with science labs.

6: The next craft you want to learn?
I'm going to shift this question a little to reflect more on the last one. I'd like to learn to better follow through on all the various ideas I have. I have great ideas all the time, but I don't pursue them or see them through. Also, I'd like to start baking my own bread, but not until fall. I don't want to turn on the oven in summer. We have no air conditioning.

7: Do you like having your photo taken? Why/not?
No, I don't like the way I look in photos. I appear heavier than I think I am. I love this picture from our recent vacation though. I look happy and I my husband looks totally in love with me! I have this photo in my mind now all the time. My son took it and I know it will forever be one of my favorites.

8: Current favorite color combination?
The beautiful greens of mosses in the forest. Here are 2 photos from our trip, the first at the side of a carriage road in Acadia, the second in a shade garden at Thuya gardens. Of course, the photos don't capture the intensity and beauty of actually being there.

Thanks Heather and Jessica. This was fun.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Acadia Adventure

Now we're back from Acadia National Park in Maine. We stayed at the Seawall Campground. This was our first time really camping in tents. I loved it. Here are a few pictorial highlights of the trip. I'll do some more thoughtful posts on our 2 weeks of summer travel over the next week.

The first full day we did our tough hike up Cadillac mountain on the North Ridge Trail. On the way up there was lots of time to stop to pick wild blueberries or identify trees like black spruce and Jack pine.

Occasionally I made the kids pose for pictures. They never like to do this!

We ate lunch at the top where a cold rain had started to fall. It was crowded with nonhikers who had driven up the mountain road. We quickly headed back down onto the less populated trails.

Day 2: Hiking the ocean side trails from sand beach to otter point.

Then we visited some beautiful formal gardens (Thuya and Asticou) right outside the park.

Finally, sunset lobster dinner at a local recommendation, Maine-ly Delights.

Day 3: biking and hiking on the park's carriage roads.

Overall, a terrific, energetic and beautiful trip. I'm planning the next visit in my head already!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vermont Vacation

I've been gone, but I'm back for the moment with too many things to say to get it all into one post. We spent last week with dear friends at their house on an island in Lake Champlain. It was amazing, relaxing and fun. We also visited Burlington and Shelbourne, VT.

Making chicken friends at a local farm that sells maple soft serve ice-cream.

Cooking chicken (not the same chicken).

Driving little boats.

Sailing boats.

Visiting bigger boats.

Doing a few chores.

Checking out some local art.

Hiking to a cliff to look for fossils.

Making s'mores.

Renee loved swimming and playing with C.

Jack loved sailing and caring for R.

We are so thankful for Reid and Jennie our oldest and dearest friends.