High Water at the Lower Falls of the Swift River

High Water at the Lower Falls

After leaving Sabbaday Falls I headed east on the Kancamagus Highway. The Swift River runs parallel the the Kancamgus  on your left as we headed down the mountains. The water was high and really rushing. I actually drove right by the Lower Falls because I wasn’t expecting to be able to see them right there from the road. A but further down the Kanc I found a place to turn around so I could back track.

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Kayaking The Swift River

On my way back to the Lower Falls I passed a trail head with a number of trucks and vans parked by the road. Some had kayaks piled next to them but I didn’t see anyone around.  A couple of corners later I could see the  Lower Falls ahead and the kayaks were explained. There were at least a half dozen brightly colored kayaks being put in just below the Falls. They must be putting in here then kayaking downstream to meet the vans. I hurried to park because I wanted to get some pictures but in the few minutes  it took me to pull in the kayakers were long gone and out of sight.

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Lower Falls Picnic area

The parking area is beautifully maintained, fully paved and lined. There is a large visitor center with restrooms. The trails are really just short paths over to the river bank. A large wooden deck extends over the river providing a great view of the falls. During low water in the summer people swim here. But clearly the wild water from the spring run off makes it too cold and the current too strong for swimming at this time of the year.

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If You Go

The lower falls are not a world class waterfall by any stretch of the imagination. They are made up of a series of ledges and steps. In low water there are lots pools and beaches and people flock here to swim. It was fun to see the water volume giving these quiet, gentle falls a bit of life and energy. Definitely needs a return trip in summer or fall to see a different side of this popular destination.

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Wisconsin

Land of the Cheese. I’m going to say yes but I probably should say no. I didn’t get much sight seeing done as I was only there a few days. I think I may have touched on the visit when talking about Illinois and Chicago O’hare International Airport. So rather than repeat myself; let’s just say it’s the journey, not the destination!

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My brother retired from the Navy at the base in Wisconsin. He was stationed there and living in Kenosha so I had the chance to fly in for the ceremony and visit his home and that was about it. I’m sure there’s so much more to the state so let’s see what I can dig up.

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Wisconsin shares it’s shores with Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, 2 of the largest of  the 5 great lakes. In size Lake Superior is #1, Lake Michigan is #3, right behind Lake Heron.

Lake-Superior

Seems to me Lake Superior deserves a visit. It’s the largest freshwater body in the world and a great place to visit would be The Apostle Islands. 22 islands strewn over 450 square miles, they range from tiny Gull island (3 acres) to 10,000 acre Stockton Island.

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Heading south from the Great Lakes you’ll find the famous cheese country from Monroe to Mineral Point. Here the rolling hills and river valleys attracted dairy farmers starting in the 1800’s. Today it is the heartland of  Wisconsin’s dairyland where cheese making remains a generations-old fine art.

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In Ontario, Wisconsin you can explore the “Driftless area”  all  serpentine valleys, crooked rivers, craggy bluffs and limestone. The Kickapoo River best characterizes this geology. Sometimes called the “crookedest river in the nation”. One of the oldest river systems in the world, the Kickapoo winds for 120 miles to cover a 65 mile distance. It’s a lazy spring-fed river of easy paddling except during the spring run off.

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Running from Prairie du Chien to Prescott is the Great River Road or at least part of it. The 250 miles is only a fraction of the whole byway running the length of the Mississippi River. This stretch slaloms between the Mississippi and it’s towering bluffs. The road will take you through sleepy river towns, past busy barge traffic, braided backwaters, wildlife preserves   and birds, birds, birds. This is part of the Mississippi Flyway. More than 40% of the Nation’s waterfowl and shorebirds pass this way.

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In the southern end of the state, not far from Chicago, Illinois is Lake Geneva. The area has a resort-like feel and attracts vacationers from all over. The lake is a pristine spring-fed lake 22 miles in circumference. Being only 10 miles from the state line you can see how it would attract city weary residents of Chicago.

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There’s more, from the North Country to Circus World, Amish settlements  to Madison’s Dane County Farmers’ Market but I’ll leave some of that for another time.

The count is now 21/ 28. Only one more state to go.

Gillette Castle and State Park

The answer to Challenge #3 is….. Gillette Castle in Hamden CT.

Here is a post from March 2011 when I first saw the Castle.

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As we cruised south on the Connecticut River our guides pointed out a huge stone building on a bluff overlooking the river. With no trees to block the view it was hard to miss and certainly does look like a Medieval castle.

I had noticed signs on the way to the boat landing referring to Gillette Castle and Gillette Castle State Park but I had never heard of it before so had no idea what it might be.

According to our guides, Gillette Castle State Park is located in Haddam, Ct. The Castle was built by “William Gillette as a private residence. It is said he came to visit and was so taken with the views that he bought 184 acres and built this huge stone house.

William Gillette was an American and made his money as an actor, most notably playing Sherlock Holmes on stage.

Gillette loved showing off his estate and even had a railroad track with a working steam engine so he could show his visitors around the grounds.

In 1882 Gillette married Helen Nichols of Detroit. They were blissfully happy. She died in 1888 from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. According to our guides, Helen , on her death bed, begged him not to remarry and he honored that request. He was grief-stricken for years and in the Spring of 1890 was struck down by tuberculosis. By the time of his death he was almost penniless but he still had his home.

When Gillette died , he had no wife or children to inherit, his will precluded possession of the castle by any (and I love this) “blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded”.

Connecticut’s government took possession of the property in 1943 and renamed the home Gillette’s Castle and the land around it Gillette State Park.

The Castle is open during the summer and can be toured while the grounds are open all year. Even if the Castle is closed you can stand on the veranda and look out over the Connecticut River, enjoying the same views that so enamored William Gillette.

Essex Steam Train and River Boat Ride

Just because I’m back home doesn’t mean I’m sitting around resting on my laurels or anything else. No indeed not. It has been a very busy summer so far. I’ve been lamenting that I haven’t once been down to Chatham to chase seals or great white sharks, or to Bristol to check on the Osprey nest. Even my Great Blue Heron at Oliver Mill Park seems to have given upon me. I haven’t seen him at all since the out of control kayaker nearly ran him down.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was check out the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut.  I was waiting for the summer schedule when they had a combination train and riverboat ride. It seemed like the best use of time and money to do both. When I saw the schedule online on my return from my mini vacation I jumped on the chance to go.

The cost was quite reasonable. An adult ticket was only $26.00 for the combo. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I came prepared.  My GPS delivered me right to the  station where signs directed me to the gravel parking area.

I gave myself plenty of time because I wanted to get lunch out-of-the-way and in case I got lost. The Trackside Cafe was open in a vintage railcar.

They had pre made sandwiches in a cooler and hot dogs on a hot dog rotisserie. I opted for the hot dog, a bag of chips and a diet coke. Why is it that hot dogs taste so much better when you’re on an excursion of some kind. Anyway I enjoyed the ambiance of the little railcar while I ate my hot dog then went exploring.

The gift shop was tiny but across the way was a model train museum.

The sign  welcomed me to Little River Junction. It had a wonderful model train that you could play with. It wasn’t just a display behind a glass window. The multiple trains could be run at the same time and the various villages lit with glowing windows and miniature attractions. Really fun.

Outside, as I waited for the train , I met a fellow who was dressed rather outlandishly playing a ukulele.

He said hello so I answered. That broke the ice. He is “Ramblin’ Joe” a sort of street entertainer.

I think when it’s busy his role is to keep the waiting passengers entertained and answer questions for them. He is certainly hard to miss!

The train pulled into the station and the passengers from the earlier trip stepped out. Then the engine was uncoupled, driven back to the front of the train and recoupled to take us out for our ride. That process was pretty interesting and brought out the serious train buffs to photograph the whole process.

My seat was in the open air car. Passengers in this car are warned that this is a real steam engine and cinders and soot may fly into the windows and trust me, it did!

I paid special attention to the route and where the train crossed major roads or streets in case I want to “Chase the train” sometime. That’s how you get the great shots of a steaming locomotive traveling down the tracks. We stopped to let people off for Gillette Castle and another stop at Deep River Landing.

We passed several marshes and conservation areas that looked like interesting places to go bird watching but it was hard to get decent pictures from the moving train.

At the end of the line they did the recoupling again and we started back. I was wondering when and how the River Boat came into the equation when I saw the boat from the train window. Pretty soon we were at Deep River Landing again and they were telling us to get off the train for the Riverboat ride.

We could clearly see the riverbot as she approached the dock but our attention was soon diverted to the process of climbing down from the train.

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Is There Gold In Fort Knox?

A few months ago I saw a program called Brad Meltzer’s Decoded and the Episode was about Fort Knox and whether there was really  gold stored there or not. Of course they were investigating Fort Knox, Kentucky. I don’t know about you but I didn’t know there was also a Fort Knox in Maine. In fact since Fort Knox ME was built in 1844 it is actually the FIRST Fort Knox predating the Kentucky Fort Knox by around 70 years as building didn’t begin on the Kentucky fort until 1918.

Fort Knox was built to protect the Penobscot River Valley from Naval Attack. Located in the town of Prospect, ME, Fort Knox is also known as Fort Knox State Park or Fort Knox State Historical Site.

During the American Revolution and again during the War of 1812 enemy ships entered the Penobscot. During both wars Great Britain seized control of the river, fought battles in the surrounding towns and claimed the land for the British Crown.

To prevent history from repeating itself for a 3rd time, the American Government authorized the building of a fort on the Penobscot Narrows. This was the first and largest granite fort built in Maine. The design  was similar to later Maine forts such as Fort Popham on the Kennebec and Fort Gorges, Fort Preble and Fort Scammel in Casco Bay (Portland).

The fort saw two periods  of military activity. From 20-54 troops were garrisoned here during the Civil War. Around 575 troops from Connecticut lived at the fort for a month during the Spanish-American War.

No enemy ships ever appeared on the Penobscot during these wars.

More detailed information and maps of the fort can be found on their website: http://www.knox.army.mil/

The day we visited it was very hot and humid which we were told is very unusual so climbing around the grounds was quite strenuous but we had a good time just the same.

Combined with the Observatory at the top of the bridge, it made for a memorable stop.

Now to address the question in the title, Is there Gold in Fort Knox? I would say with some assurance that the only gold in Fort Knox, Me is the rich historical heritage of the site.  As for the  question of Gold in Fort Knox Kentucky, I will leave that to Mr. Meltzer and his crew to investigate.

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