Sunday, October 29, 2017

A "walking tour" in Vermont...well, that sounds intriguing...

Having never been to Vermont before, the idea of a 4-day adventure walking 8-10 miles per day between Bed & Breakfast Inns (B&Bs) sounded intriguing.  This was scheduled to coincide with the changing of Fall colors, and as some may know, timing that is a bit like trying to time the stock market…sometimes you win, but sometimes not.  In our case I think we were total winners!  The balance between having great weather and timing the “peak” (as the locals and weathercasters seem to refer to it) was just perfect, and over the course of the time we were there, the colors became increasingly varied and vibrant, all the while the weather was sunny with afternoon temperatures in the high 60s and low-to-mid 70s.

First a bit about the logistics and how this was structured…  Several B&Bs partnered together to provide a combination of hospitality (what they’re typically known for), transportation (of luggage mostly, but occasionally people), and route planning.  Each B&B provided dinner, breakfast, snacks for the hike, and a detailed map with directions (sometimes with street names, sometimes with physical descriptions of navigational markers.  The hikes themselves were on dirt backroads for the most part, with occasional short jaunts on the shoulders of paved highways into and out of towns (I think the largest town we visited had a population approaching 3000).  Once you headed off in the morning, the innkeepers took your luggage to the next inn where it would be waiting for you that afternoon when you check in there.

Each day, and each B&B provides a uniquely different experience, all of which were extremely positive and wonderful.  Unlike chain hotels where everything is identical and predictable (and for the most part devoid of personality), these B&Bs were structures with varied pasts, dramatically different stylings and esthetics, and a different culinary experience very personal to the innkeepers and their interests.  All innkeepers were husband-wife teams, and each presented different strengths and priorities when it came to their hospitality experience—some were more food-oriented, others more amenity-oriented, and others more homey/hospitality-oriented.  All of the food we had was excellent.  One of the innkeepers was from Japan, with a lineage of chefs in her family going back to when they cooked for the Emperor of Japan.  Our dinner was traditional Japanese faire, cooked to order, and easily the most authentic and surprisingly unique meal we had.  Another innkeeper had a brother who owned his own bakery…you can guess what sorts of things were available for desert and breakfast!

Enough about the comforts of home and the exquisite cuisine…what about the walking?  That too was a surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable experience.  The terrain was varied with uphill and downhills, but for the most part was simple walking through the backroads of rural Vermont.  The landscape varied from thick forests to open meadows, numerous streams and ponds, and the occasional country home.  These homes were occasionally modest, but more often than not they were spectacular structures with ornate and detailed craftsmanship.  Most of the homes looked timeless, but there were also some very modern and impressively designed buildings.  Each day’s hike took 4-5 hours and provided extended opportunities for quiet conversation, contemplation, and restful departures from the normal routines back home.  This was all about slowing down, taking notice, and drinking in the beauty of what around us.  Anyone with normal fitness could easily manage this walking tour.

One quick story about the homes… we were nearing the end of one of our walks, we past a home with a fairly long driveway and an open front yard area.  An elderly man yelled out that we only had a short distance to go.  He then asked where we were all from.  Not being able to hear the yelling back and forth, he started up the driveway towards us, and we started down the driveway from the road toward him.  We met in the middle and sat on his rock wall and chatted for a while.  He had a beer in his hand and offered us cold beers too, and he really meant it!  We chatted with him for a while and concluded that one of his past-times must be to stand out in front of his home about this same time each day in order to engage with the walking-tour participants that go by his property.  It was a great experience and indicative of the friendliness of everyone we encountered during our trip.

Separate from, and in addition to the walking tour, we had time to drive around and see some of the sites in the area as we traveled to and from the airports (we flew into Vermont, but flew home out of New Hampshire).  New England is known for, among other things, covered bridges, and we saw a number of them.  In fact these are numbered and there are people who have made a point of seeing every one of them much like some people try to visit every state in the union.  These bridges were each unique in their own way, and quite interesting to stop and look at--especially for someone from Southern California that doesn’t get to experience these historic treasures on a regular basis.  Similarly, old barns and structures along the way also provided great opportunities to create photographs…the older and crustier the better! 

Another wonderful aspect of this trip was visiting the small towns…VERY small in some cases.  It was almost as if these quaint environments were created as part of some Hollywood-themed amusement, but what made each town so great was their authenticity and the historic provenance each had.  Again, for someone from the Southern California metropolis, this experience was at the other end of the spectrum—and very much appreciated for being so.

I’ve tried to give you my best sense of this extraordinary experience condensed down into a brief synopsis.  If you’ve been to New England, particularly in the Fall, then you know all too well the magic that is there—and which I think explains why so many people live there and tolerate the harsh winters.  But if you haven’t visited, like I hadn’t, it’s really a place you must see and enjoy on a personal level yourself.

If you’d like to see my photographs full-screen and/or order print enlargements, visit my website gallery—

I always appreciate comments and feedback so feel free to share.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It's Time I Tell You About Montreal...

I know, sounds like a click-bait subject line… Our culture is increasing shaped by social media and to get attention among the caucophony of daily communications, using click-bait has become almost ubiquitous.  Anyway, guess what happened in Montreal?  (see, I just can’t help myself!!)

The only time I’ve been to Canada was at the tail end of an Alaskan cruise a few years ago.  In that instance we spend a couple days in Vancouver, no where near long enough to do it justice, but long enough to walk through Stanley Park, and then take a ferry ride over to Vancouver Island and tour the Butchart Gardens and the area around the Empress Hotel.  I thoroughly enjoyed what we experienced there and knew that returning to Canada was something I’d be very much be interested in doing…

So when it was suggested that we load the front-end of a trip to Vermont to see the Fall colors with a trip to Montreal for several days, I was all in!  Driving to Montreal from Vermont (which we flew in to) was easy, and at least while we were in Vermont was also very scenic.  The border crossing into Canada was remarkably simple and quiet.  The border facility had several lanes, but only one was open, and given the fact that there were only 3 or 4 cars in line, it was all that was needed to be open.   A quick check of passports and some routine questions about destination and purpose, and we were on our way.

Montreal is the most populous municipality in the province of Quebec and the second-most populous in Canada. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary”, it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is on the Island of Montreal--didn’t know Montreal was on an island?  neither did I…  In 2016 the city had a population of 1,704,694, but the metropolitan area has a population of over 4 million. French is the city's official language and is the language spoken at home by 49.8% of the population of the city, followed by English at 22.8% and 18.3% other languages.  Montreal is the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.  No matter where we went, we were able to speak English without any problem—tourism was obviously a huge industry from what we saw.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention before going too far,  that a city as large, old, and culturally diverse as Montreal cannot be adequately visited in only three days.  So my “summary” of the experience is really that, a summary of a whirlwind experience in this fabulous city.  Most of our travel involved walking since we stayed very close to the downtown (“Old Montreal”), but we also took their Metro, which is a rubber-tired, underground rapid transit system and the main form of public transport in the city.  And of course we took the HopOn-HopOff bus which is a “must-ride” option when available because it typically gives you a quick overview of many of the key sites to come back and visit.  There was of course also the option of a horse-drawn carriage for those seeking a slower, more romantic pace.

Easily one of the highlights of Montreal is it’s many spectacular churches and basilicas.  Below is The Notre-Dame Basilica.  Its main construction work took place between 1824 and 1829.  On its completion, the church was the largest in North America. It remained the largest in North America for over fifty years.  The interior of the basilica was overwhelming in grandeur and inspiration, with its deep blue vaulted ceiling decorated with golden stars, intricate wooden carvings, stained glass windows, and a 32-foot pipe organ with 7000 individual pipes, four keyboards, 92 stops.

Beyond the incredible architecture in the city, the museums, shops, and restaurants were too numerous to count, or to highlight here.  Suffice it to say we never got bored, nor ever went hungry!  One of our days was spent at Montreal’s Botanical Gardens.  This facility not only included fabulous gardens, but also an Insectarium, as well as Montreal’s Biodome.  This entire complex was adjacent to the Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, the first Olympics event awarded to Canada (they’ve subsequently hosted the Winter games in 1988 and 2010 in Calgary and Vancouver respectively).

So I think I need to stop here before I can no longer refer to this as a summary of our visit to Montreal.  To see more photographs, and to read some of the details of the different landmarks, just head over to my website’s Montreal gallery  
( ) where you’ll also be able to order enlargements, prints, notecards, etc. if you’re so inclined.  

And of course I’d highly recommend you consider a trip to Montreal if you haven’t already had the good fortune to visit there—it’s a spectacular place!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two of San Diego's Gems--La Jolla and the San Diego Zoo

According to Wikipedia, La Jolla is a hilly seaside community within the city of San Diego.  With approximately 7 miles of curving coastline along the Pacific Ocean, La Jolla is home to a variety of businesses in the areas of lodging, dining, shopping, software, finance, real estate, bioengineering, medical practice and scientific research.   The University of California San Diego (UCSD) is located in La Jolla, as are the Salk Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Scripps Research Institute.  La Jolla is most notable for its compelling ocean front setting, with alternating rugged and sandy coastline, and wild seal congregations.

During the Mexican period of San Diego's history, La Jolla was mapped as pueblo land and contained about 60 lots. When California became a state in 1850, the La Jolla area was incorporated as part of the chartered City of San Diego. In the 1890s the San Diego, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla Railway was built, connecting La Jolla to the rest of San Diego. La Jolla became known as a resort area. To attract visitors to the beach, the railway built facilities such as a bath house and a dance pavilion. Visitors were housed in small cottages and bungalows above La Jolla Cove, as well as a temporary tent city, erected every summer.  La Jolla became an art colony in 1894 when Anna Held (also known as Anna Held Heinrich) established the Green Dragon Colony. This was a cluster of twelve cottages designed by Irving Gill, who had moved to San Diego only a year earlier and later became San Diego's best-known architect.

I’ve been to San Diego many times, but regrettably have never stopped at La Jolla until this trip.  Walking along the coast was beautiful and unlike similar walks here in Orange County.  There are several caves in the rocky coastline and even a long flight of steps in tunnel that ends up inside a cave at the water’s edge.  La Jolla reminded me a little of Laguna Beach with its many shops and restaurants—quite a bustling central business district. 

Not too far away is Mission Bay, another scenic area in San Diego.   The next morning’s agenda was a short drive over to the San Diego Zoo to attend a special morning breakfast and presentation.  After that it was time to walk around the rest of the zoo and check out their latest exhibit, Africa Rocks.  it was good just not what I thought it would be.   It’s been a while since I’ve visited the zoo.  I forgot just how expansive and diverse it is—hence its reputation as being world famous!

Click here to see more photos from my Southern California galleries.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Up Up and Away!!

Any visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico should surely include visits to Old Town, Casa Rondena Winery, the Sandia Peak Tram, the BioPark, and just about anywhere along the Rio Grande River.

But nothing quite says Albuquerque quite like the internationally renowned Balloon Fiesta.  Having grown up in Albuquerque, it was easy to take this spectacle for granted.  My first photoshoot of the balloons was in 1976, using Kodacolor film and my Pentax Spotmatic F.  A lot has changed since then.

Since the first “Balloon Fiesta” in 1972, which included only 13 balloons, the event quickly outgrew its original venue, and after moving several times has settled on a 360 acre venue (launch field alone is 80 acres) called Balloon Fiesta Park.  Today over 700 balloons, and remains the only major balloon event where the spectators are allowed on the grounds with the balloons and their pilots and crews.  

You can literally touch the balloon gondolas and feel the heat, and the roar, of the propane burners.  It’s hard to describe the combination of excitement and amazement, and the pictures barely do justice to the feeling of being there.  That’s why over 100,000 people pack the venue to be part of the action each day of the week-long event.  The attendance reported for the last day’s mass ascension was estimated at 130,000.

This annual event is in October, and now would be a perfect time to get your plans and reservations in place...but don't wait too long!

To see my entire collection of images, visit my website gallery at:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Grass Valley--not really in a valley, and more forested than grassland

Grass Valley, which was originally known as Boston Ravine and later officially named Centerville, dates from the California Gold Rush, as does nearby Nevada City. When a post office was established in 1851, it was renamed Grass Valley the following year for unknown reasons. The town incorporated in 1860.  Grass Valley is the location of the Empire Mine and North Star Mine, two of the richest mines in California. George Starr, manager of the Empire Mine, and William Bowers Bourn II, the mine owner, donated mine property which became Memorial Park.

Many of those who came to settle in Grass Valley were tin miners from Cornwall, England. They were attracted to the California gold fields because the same skills needed for deep tin mining were needed for hardrock (deep) gold mining. Many of them specialized in pumping the water out of very deep mining shafts. This followed the disastrous fall in tin prices as large alluvial deposits began to be exploited elsewhere. Grass Valley still holds on to its Cornish heritage, with events such as its annual Cornish Christmas and St Piran's Day celebrations.   Pasties are a local favorite dish with a few restaurants in town specializing in recipes handed down from the original immigrant generation.

We stayed just two blocks off of their old town historic center.  Very quaint businesses lined both side of Mill Street and Main Street.  This area, along with the historic area of nearby Nevada City are welcoming to a robust tourism trade.

The Empire Mine State Historic Park is an amazing combination of forested beauty and mining history…preserved for visitors and future generations to enjoy and appreciate.  Its 367 miles (yes, miles) of deep mine shafts form a maze that is impressive in its complexity and magnitude.  A model of the mine exists in the visitors center, and was once a closely guarded secret by the owners and engineers who managed the mine’s activities. 

It was in 1850 that prospectors found gold-bearing quartz in Grass Valley.  Traditional placer mining methods (water-washed) were ineffective, and instead “hardrock” methods were needed.  Many immigrants from Cornwall England came to the area to employ their special knowledge of this method in the local mines.  To move the ore-laden cars underground, manual labor was replaced with mules who lived in underground barns until they became too old to work.

The mine closed during World War II when many of its miners enlisted.  It reopened in 1945 but with gold pinned to its 1934 price of $35/oz, it was more costly to mine than the gold was worth.  The mine closed its final time in 1956.  The Empire mine was one of the largest, richest, and longest-operating gold mines in California.

To see my entire Grass Valley collection, visit my website gallery at--

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Fullerton Arboretum--an urban respite

It was my first visit to the Fullerton Arboretum.  I’ve heard of it before, but somehow never made a photography outing there until now.  Have I been missing a treat!  This 26 acre jewel is packed with trails, trees, flowers, lakes and streams, benches to rest on, along with full facilities including a museum, classrooms, nursery, and plant sales area.  Not all of these were open today during my visit, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and the main attraction (for me anyway) was all the outside areas.  There is also a historical house on the property referred to as Heritage House.  Here's some history of the arboretum based on their website...(

In the fall of 1970, a group of faculty members and a group of students at Orange State College (later to become California State University, Fullerton) began to discuss the idea of a arboretum to be developed on a parcel of land at the northern end of the campus. Most of the area was a field of wild mustard along with diseased citrus trees. A group called the Arboretum Committee was formed and to everyone’s surprise and delight won a Disneyland Community Service Award for its environmental efforts. In 1971 the Associated Students of Cal State College began a drive to raise funds for the future project. In the following year, after substantial lobbying by interested citizens, the California State University Trustees considered setting aside land for a future botanical garden, the first of its kind on university land in the state. This was followed by the formation of an Arboretum Society which began a series of fund-raising activities on campus to build a fund for the future botanical garden. Originally, planning for the project was passed to students and faculty at sister CSU campus, Cal Poly, Pomona where landscape design and related fields were part of the curriculum.

On Sunday, December 11, 1977, Dr. C. Eugene Jones presided over a formal ceremony which included a flag raising by Boy Scout Troop #74, music by the Orange Empire Barbershop Chorus and speakers CSUF President L. Donald Shields and City of Fullerton Mayor Duane Winters. The groundbreaking was led by Commission President Martha McCarthy, Teri Jones of the Friends and other commissioners. When trees were sought for foresting the grounds in the early 1970’s, a program called Trees for Arboretum Growth, TAG, was begun and hundreds of memorial trees were planted. Although the grounds were open to the public before that time, the official opening ceremonies and ribbon-cutting took place on Sunday, October 21, 1979.

For some years the Friends supported plans to build a Visitors Center on the grounds to include areas for community use, a museum and classrooms. A new nursery/greenhouse and plant sales area was completed in 2004. With support from the city, generous private donors and civic groups the long anticipated groundbreaking was held and construction of the Visitors Center begun in the fall of 2004, fittingly during the 25th anniversary year of the official opening of the Arboretum to the community.

I hope you enjoy this variety of photographs from my outing.  My full collection can be viewed on my website gallery at:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Huntington Library--an incredible, must see Los Angeles destination

If you have never been to the Huntington Library in San Marino, you owe it to yourself to set aside a day and head up there with a good friend or loved one.  The experience of it's vast gardens along with it's library of rich paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, and books makes this a top-5 destination of places to visit if you're new to the area.

“The Huntington”, as it is known by the regulars, is a collections-based institution established by Henry Huntington (1850–1927) with a focus on 18th and 19th-century European art and 17th to mid-20th-century American art. The property also includes approximately 120 acres of botanical gardens, most notably the "Japanese Garden", the "Desert Garden", and the "Chinese Garden".  According to Wikipedia, Henry Edwards Huntington, a landowner, businessman and visionary, was born in Oneonta, New York, and was the nephew and heir of Collis P. Huntington, (1821–1900), one of the famous "Big Four" railroad tycoons of 19th century California history. In 1913, after relocating from San Francisco to Los Angeles,  Henry purchased more than 500 acres of what was then known as the "San Marino Ranch”.  Huntington's interest in art was influenced in large part by his second wife, Arabella Huntington, (1851–1924), and with art experts to guide him, he benefited from a post-World War I European market that was "ready to sell almost anything". Before his death in 1927, Huntington amassed a collection, then worth $50 million.

I’ve made numerous trips to the Huntington over the years, and each time have enjoyed myself immensely.  Whether strolling through the vast and richly cultivated gardens, resting on one of many benches under shade canopies of its innumerable mature trees, or marveling at the many paintings, sculptures, or manuscripts, the Huntington is one of Southern California’s most treasured destinations.    I could go once a month and never tire of the experience…

My entire collection of photographs from the Huntington can be viewed at: