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Forest Glen :: National Park Seminary

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Once upon a time the land surrounding Washington, D.C. was forested. Residents escaped the summer heat of the city for the highlands of Forest Glen just over the border between Washington and Montgomery County Maryland. In 1894, a  posh boarding school for young ladies was shaped out of a rustic country inn. The private school flourished until 1942, but women’s expectation for higher education evolved from sororities and social status — the finishing school atmosphere — to professional degree programs in science, education, medicine, design and the humanities. The posh school for girls closed.

During the post Viet-Nam war era, the buildings were converted to a U.S. Army research facility and recovery home for soldiers.  The structures were neglected during the Army’s ownership.

Now the buildings at National Park Seminary are offered for sale as spiffy condominium apartments and row houses.

Photographs displayed on this blogpost by L. Peat O’Neil © 2009-2016

Resources on the history of National Park Seminary:

 
Video: Black and White images of the Seminary
All photographs displayed on this blogpost © L. Peat O’Neil 2009-2016
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Written by patwa

05/12/2015 at 10:04 pm

Caribbean Island Hopes to Use Steam for Electric Power

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Will There be Geothermal Electricity for Nevis?

On April 28, 2009,  the St. Kitts and Nevis Democrat, a newspaper published in Nevis at that time, reported that the West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. was issued a Geothermal Resource Concession  by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) and signed a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Nevis Electricity Company Ltd.  The Geothermal Resource Concession is for a renewable 25 year term and grants West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. (WIPN) the right to develop and produce electricity from the geothermal resources on (or under) Nevis.
Geothermal power generation in volcanic areas. Image from www.mhi-global.com

Geothermal power generation in volcanic areas. Image from http://www.mhi-global.com

In that 2009 article, it was reported that Kerry McDonald, CEO of West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd., said  “West Indies Power will now be able to start building the geothermal power plants that will supply Nevis and the other islands in the northern Caribbean with low cost, reliable, renewable, clean energy for the foreseeable future.”

 

They were off to a great start, but the momentum failed. In 2012, Time Magazine reported the project was stalled. By 2015, geothermal resources development for Nevis had advanced to the point that the Caribbean Development Bank was considering financial support.

Nevis plans to use its geothermal resources to generate electricity which could power air conditioning systems.  Hot water could fuel cool air in resort hotels. As the IADB reported in 2013, tourism is the reliable artery that feeds the Nevis economy and hotels on the island consume a stunning amount of electricity powered mostly by oil with limited wind-generated power.

Hot Water :: Cool Air

People have been tapping into geothermal energy for cooking and heating forever. Settlements near geyser fields made good sense to Stone Age ancestors. Think of geothermal as steam power sourced from Earth’s interior.  The thermal energy is drawn from beneath Earth’s crust, at various distances below the surface.  Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” spins a story about traveling on the hot rivers of the surface deep into the earth’s molten rivers called magma.

Geothermal springs in the Zhupanova River area of Kamchatka. Image from en.kamchatka.info

Geothermal springs in the Zhupanova River area of Kamchatka. Image from en.kamchatka.info

Volcanic areas produce reservoirs of steam and hot water.  In Iceland, steam is tapped for residential heat and hot water.  Steam geysers are for visitors to enjoy in remote areas of Iceland, as at Yellowstone National Park in the USA and the Valley of the Geysers north of Zhupanovo on the Pacific coast of the Kamchatka peninsula in Siberia.  

 

 

 

Written by patwa

01/11/2015 at 12:27 pm

People Met on the Road

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One of my an indelible travel memories is listening to a guy on the beach at Playa Manuel Antonio, in Quepos, Costa Rica in late December, 1981.  Travelers from France, Canada, Asia, the USA and locals from San Jose were gathered at the nightly campfire and sipping on Heineken green stubbies.  He told our spellbound group about working in [somewhere in the Middle East] assembling grenades that would be shipped to Iraq via Israel.  This was during the Iran-Iraq War. The work was through a sub-contractor and well paid, enough to fund his flight to San Jose from [that factory place] and months of living on $10 a day which, at the time,  covered beachside rustic lodging, excellent meals, beverages and even bus rides to the capital city.

 

Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Playa Samara, Costa Rica

At another beach in Costa Rica, I believe it was Playa Samara,  there was a Canadian fellow who worked as a gold miner during the warm season up in the Yukon or NWT and spent his winters in Central America.  He said gold mining was one of the worst jobs in the world, coughed violently to prove it, then tapped another Marlboro from the red pack.  The villas, cabanas, swimming pools and restaurants depicted on tourism websites in 2016 did not exist at Playa Samara in 1981-1982.

And who could forget Max, the French-Canadian chopping every day at  a massive tree stump on the shoreline which he shaped into a throne facing the water?

Playa Manuel Antonio

Other folks enjoying the low-key, sustainable lifestyle in Costa Rica back before the tourist masses changed Costa Rica’s coasts forever financed  their Winter travel by working in Alaska’s salmon canning factories.  They headed down the Pacific Plate to trade savings gleaned during double-shift work all summer for relaxing months of winter sunshine on the Pacific Coast of Mexico or Costa Rica.  At the time, many of the other Central American countries were too dangerous for nomads because of civil wars and external paramilitary interventions like the illegal activities paid for by American taxpayers through the nefarious acts by US government officials and their myrmidons in the  Iran-Contra scandal.

Another memorable encounter was the terrifying hostel owner at Simanindo on Samosir Island  in Lake Toba, Sumatra.  He tried to imprison my friend and I in his very scary hostel. As a precaution, I always ask to see the room before agreeing to rent a room.  As we walked through the dim rabbit warren of dirty cement-floored stall-like spaces,  I noticed the rooms had peep-holes and spotted English phrases scratched on the walls that indicated previous “guests” had been prisoners.  We beat a determined path to the exit and chatted tensely with the owner until he reluctantly moved aside and let us leave.   Was this guy renting rooms in the town jail or extorting money from hapless backpackers?

We hiked at top speed for more than an hour. In the dark, we set up the tent in a cow  pasture. In the morning, the kind lady-farmer invited us to have coffee and bananas at her airy house.

Local map of Lake Toba and Samosir Island.  Simanindo is on the north-east coast of Samosir Is.

Written by patwa

28/10/2015 at 8:52 pm

Greenbriar River Bike Trail, West Virginia

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Greenbriar River, West Virginia

Crossing the river on the Greenbriar Trail. Image from www.local.wv.gov

Crossing the river on the Greenbriar Trail. Image from http://www.local.wv.gov

 

Cruise along the Greenbriar River Bike Trail and you ride the roadbed of steel rails that no longer exist.  Building bike trails on railway beds creates an easy gradient for cyclists, with smooth climbs, easy descents.

The Greenbriar River Trail runs beside the river of the same name for a stretch of 77 miles (124 km) from the settlement of Cass to North Caldwell.  One hundred years ago the towns along this railway line were active, the communities thriving, or even bustling fueled with enterprising immigrants from faraway countries and newly or almost-free slaves from the nearby Southern states.  Proclamations and edicts such as the end of slavery in the U.S. may have been issued, but the reality of freedom would need decades for real effect.  All along the river, people made a living harvesting local resources  for those who owned land — cutting trees, mining coal and grinding corn on water mills. And the resources rolled on the river or the railways to markets in other places.

Imagine what an amazing network would exist if every decommissioned stretch of railway in North America was converted to a bike trail!  We could bike safely across the continent, easy peasy!

Don’t forget to wear blaze orange or hot pink jackets or vests during hunting seasons in West Virginia.  When I rode this trail a stretch of months ago, I could hear hunters taking pot shots in the woods.  Did they know the bike trail exists?

Wikipedia states “the Greenbrier is the longest untamed (unblocked) river left in the Eastern U.S.”  which is a sad thing to learn.  Culverts, dams, spills, canals, diversions steal the vitality of the other long rivers in the Eastern U.S.

 

Written by patwa

09/09/2015 at 1:01 am

Robert Louis Stevenson in Calistoga, California

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Roaming in the California Footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson

 

My affair with Robert Louis Stevenson started early, I was  five or six.  Daddy read Treasure Island aloud from a thick volume with illustrations by N. C. Wyeth while  we three girls took turns sitting next to him on the couch.  Little me enjoyed a kindred imagination and the vivid alternative worlds where adventure happened every day.  More of that, please!

Perhaps unconsciously, I’ve followed that path, seeking outdoor thrills and ultimately creating opportunities to assuage that addiction to the adventurous options life offers. Stevenson wandered the world, so to follow his footsteps could take many months, probably years.  I planned a journey in California dogging Stevenson’s tracks during 1879-80 while the young writer waited to marry Fanny Osbourne, who needed a divorce first.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

After a stop in Santa Cruz to photograph the house where I lived for a while back in the day, and a brief stop at San Gregorio Beach to dip my toes in the Pacific, I nosed the rental south on 101 past artichoke fields and cattle ranches. Wind tilted the few bicyclists braving the blustery day.  More than a decade had passed since I’d visited this region. Development had been contained, leaving the shore visible where the road passed close.  Nature’s whiplash had gouged portions of the cliffs and flooding had eroded the roadbed, but highway department trucks and workers gave the sense that government was attentive to the problem.

Carmel-By-the Sea was my first destination.  This picture-perfect secluded upscale community that nurtures the American impulse to shop was a colony for Bohemians and artists back in the 1880’s, a place where Stevenson would have fit right in. Nor did I have any trouble blending in with the Keds and khaki-clad locals frolicking with their dogs on the beach. After lunch on the shaded patio at The Village Corner, I poked around the courtyards of Carmel and discovered  a charming design store selling accessories for Beatrix Potter style gardening.  Carmel is still an artist’s colony.  In another courtyard studio, the artist Lisa Bryan-Day showed me watercolor sketches of horses while we sipped Napa’s fruit.

At sunset I ambled through Mission Trail Park, a nature zone opposite Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo, aka Carmel Mission.  The meandering trails pass surprisingly close to the back gates of high-end real estate. When I focused on the woods or scanned the distance for the Mission’s red tile roof, it didn’t take much imagination to place Stevenson in the landscape leaning against a pine tree, smoking and considering the evening light.  There’s no proof that Stevenson prowled these same hills, but Carmel is on the way to Point Lobos where Stevenson spent happy hours staring at the raging waves. According to his diaries, he would ride a donkey out from Monterey and stay with the goatherds camping in the Carmel Valley.

Point Lobos State Park

Point Lobos State Park

Just a few miles south of Carmel, Point Lobos juts into the Pacific. I could have biked or walked, maybe done something about that lost muscle tone, but I chose the soft bottom solution and drove through an early morning rain shower. The spectacular feast of colors that composes the Pt. Lobos landscape startled me with elaborate painterly compositions of wind bent cedars, sage green lichen on rocks along the path and purple seaweed massing in the turquoise ocean below.  As I tromped along, a bunny dashed across the path.  I stopped to paint two water colors trying to capture the purples, blues, yellows, greens,  vermillion,  and  orange. One picture more or less succeeded, but the other was a pale wet mud pie. Perhaps watercolor painting is also a use or lose condition.

A baby deer stared out from a thicket that barely screened the beige backs and legs of its older relatives. I froze in my tracks to watch.  Eventually, the fawn turned into the brush to hide. Intermittent sunshine formed sparkling jewels of light on the Spanish moss hanging from trees and on the knee high grass in the meadows. At sea, rocky remnants of  earthquakes created a coastal barrier over which the water thunders, splashes and recedes. On Sunday morning, I headed to Monterey which lays large claims on Stevenson’s fame though he only stayed here for three months while his beloved Fanny Osborne completed divorce proceedings. A large sign on the waterfront asserts that Stevenson  composed the plot to Treasure Island while walking that beach. Yet, in Napa Valley there was an historical marker that claimed he used a lookout point there as the model for Spyglass Hill.

Pacific House, Monterey State Historic Park.

Pacific House, Monterey State Historic Park.

The sailor’s flophouse where he lived in 1879 has been fixed up and  renamed Stevenson House.  I pressed close to the glass cases to scrutinize the writer’s silver flask, wallet, and pocket knife. The knife had all the recognizable Swiss army knife features and one curious addition we don’t need today, the button hook. My heart clutched briefly to see the man’s personal items – his lighter/flint box, a silver box that may have stored cigarettes and another for calling cards, a green velvet jacket laid out on the bed in the room Stevenson probably occupied. The quill pen and ink stand seemed too ceremonial; surely all that countryside trekking required a portable notebook and pencil.

While the well-informed state historian plied me with facts about the Stevenson family dining table that came all the way from Scotland to Samoa where Stevenson died  and then back to California with Fanny and her children, I studied Stevenson’s photograph.  By the lines on his face, I could tell he was a man who laughed.

Monterey was a fishing and and whaling port in Stevenson’s day. Undertaking a whale watching cruise thus seemed in character, albeit with a group of intense and rather humorless tourists clad in expensive waterproof jackets and brand new sneakers, instead of in the company of salty dog sailors.  The whale watchers clustered at the bow commanding their chunk of railing until the captain asked everybody to move back. A handful of passengers huddled in the cabin, their stomachs churned by the winter wave action. While the marine biologist blared from the loudspeaker that the whales have super sensitive hearing, she praised the boat captain for staying back far enough so the whales wouldn’t hear the engines.  What about the loudspeaker announcing every blow spout, I wondered, don’t the whales hear that? But then I come from the contemplative school of silent nature watching, which I imagine Stevenson shared.

Wrapping up my day in Monterey, I sped north to Napa Valley and Calistoga where Robert and Fanny Stevenson enjoyed the first weeks of their marriage. Calistoga sits among thermal geysers where Native Americans once built sweat lodges and contemporary sybarites soak in hot mineral water or mud wraps. Calistoga strives to conjure its past by cultivating a quasi-frontier era  vibe with signs and store names. The railroad track that the Stevenson entourage traveled over still runs through town. Not sure what happened to the trains.

Stevenson’s ailments would have profited by the mineral baths. During his California visit he suffered from pleurisy, eczema and episodes of acute illness probably brought on by malnutrition and stress.  Not one to miss a hot soak, I signed up for a mud bath which effectively ended thinking and action that day.

On the morrow, I browsed through the Silverado Museum  in the St. Helena Public Library Center. Volunteers lovingly tend a collection of letters, manuscripts, memorabilia, even the lead soldiers Stevenson played with as a child and his wedding ring. During my walks around town, I searched for cornerstones in St. Helena’s older stone buildings that might fix them to 1880, but saw only  handsome examples of 20th century local prosperity.

 

Intent on muscling up hills or down glens, I decided to hike up Mt. Saint Helena where the newly married couple occupied an abandoned mine manager’s cabin for several months in 1880 while Robert wrote The Silverado Squatters.  Today, the area is part of  Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.  About a  half-mile up  the trail, far enough that some effort is required, a polished stone monument of an open book on blocks of granite memorializes the site where the miner’s cabin stood.

Monument to RLS on site of miner's cabin in RLS State Park.

Monument to RLS on site of miner’s cabin in RLS State Park.

Another plaque I had seen in the area avvered that Mt. St. Helena was the spyglass hill in  “Treasure Island‘ which was written after he, Fanny and her children went to live in the Stevenson family home in Scotland later in 1880. Right above the mining cabin site marker I climbed a rocky promontory which offered a clear view of the surrounding landscape. It was easy to imagine Stevenson settled in the chair-like embrace of the yellow orange rock, smoking and staring down at the Napa valley.

Back at the Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga,  I turned to my lifelong companion of the imagination, Robert Louis Stevenson,  to keep me entertained until sleep.

Details:

Carmel has no street addresses. Locations are identified by the nearest cross streets.  Inns, hotels and guest houses are clustered around the shopping area. I stayed at the Tally Ho Inn (Monte Verde & 6th Streets) across the street from its more expensive and better known sister property, The Pine Inn Hotel.

Carmel:  The Village Corner Bistro

Carmel area: Point Lobos State Reserve  Extensive network of trails for self-guided hikes.

Carmel Visitors Center

Calistoga:  Indian Springs Resort and Spa, 1712 Lincoln Ave.

Calistoga: Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery

Calistoga: Sharpsteen Museum

St. Helena: Gillwoods Cafe 

St. Helena: Tra Vigne

St. Helena:  Silverado Museum

Monterey: Stevenson House.

Monterey: Monterey Bay Aquarium

 

Written by patwa

08/08/2014 at 8:09 pm

Da do ron ron an’ taliban 1985

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Is this a photoshopped cut and paste image? Really real?

Written by patwa

24/04/2014 at 1:23 am

Cross Creek, Florida

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I ate Miz’ Rawlings grapefruit this morning.  Sweet and juicy, a far cry from the thick skin commercial varieties sold in grocery stores.  The best tasting Florida citrus are thin skinned and crack open when they hit the sandy turf. The fruit from Cross Creek was chock full of seeds too, obviously not bred for travel to faraway markets.

“Nutmeg grapefruit is the breed,” says Lee, a tour guide at Cross Creek,

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house. Cross Creek State Historical Site, Florida. image from Wikipedia.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house. Cross Creek State Historical Site, Florida.
image from Wikipedia.

author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ farm in north central Florida.  He wandered barefoot through the writer’s house and citrus grove, leading a dozen tourists through the historic property.  “Sand sticks in running shoe crevices, not to bare feet,” he says, dusting his soles against his tattered pants legs. Lee’s aw-shucks, gee-willikers style brings to life Rawlings’ backwoods characters in popular books like The Yearling and Cross Creek.

Rawlings won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for The Yearling. Beloved by many young readers, the novel tells of local boy Jody Baxter’s coming of age in Florida’s hard scrapple northern pine country near Ocala Forest.  Her novel displayed contemporary realities in realistic voice and bridged subject and stylistic antipodes. The 1938 Pulitzer book, John P. Marquand’s The Late George Apley, hewed closer to 19th century novel forms and subject matter, while John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the Pulitzer winner in 1940, was a thoroughly modern novel rooted in vernacular voice and character.

When she came here in 1928 with first husband Charles Rawlins, both journalism graduates from the University of Wisconsin, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was a neophyte Floridian who thought she could live off the orange grove.  The farm was planted with pecan trees, which she ordered cut down to plant citrus.

 

Written by patwa

20/01/2014 at 8:21 pm

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