Sunday, June 26, 2011

Turkeys in the yard

Not quite as dramatic as a moose, but still…

Yesterday, I was relaxing in the hammock on our back porch, reading a book, when Jeannine alerted me to the presence of some creatures crossing our lawn.


Unfortunately, I did not have my good camera handy, so I was only able to get a few shots with my pocket camera, and those were through the screened porch windows.

Nonetheless, you can still see that not only are there two adult birds, but either six or seven young ones with them. I'd never seen a "family flock" like this before.

They crossed the yard in silence and then were gone into the woods. -- PL

Saturday, June 18, 2011


For a long time, I have been wanting to see a moose. 

Not in a zoo, but in the wild… or what passes for "wild" in this area. I have heard other people's stories about seeing mooses -- Steve Lavigne says they are fairly regular visitors to his neighborhood in Maine. I've seen many a deer, but never a moose.

One of Emily's favorite children's books when she was young was Jan Brett's "Annie and the Wild Animals", and in it a girl makes corn muffins and feeds them to various animals, including a moose. Em was, for some reason, really into the moose thing, and I think it may have influenced me. I recall that when we would drive around in the more rural areas out here, we would look at every pond and marsh and swamp to see it there might be one of these majestic creatures lurking within.

Well, a couple of days ago Jeannine and I decided to take a day trip up to Williamstown to see the Camille Pissarro show at the Clark Art Museum, and also do a bicycle ride on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail which stretches from Adams to Pittsfield. We weren't sure which to do first, so, to give us more time to ponder the options as well as optimally situate ourselves so we could go either way at the last minute, I decided to take Route 116 up to Adams instead of going the usual way to Williamstown, which would be to head up to the Mohawk Trail and go through North Adams.

And I'm REALLY glad I did.

Because as we were driving through Plainfield, past a small swamp which extended on both sides of the road, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye on the north side. Could it be…?

I slowed down, looked back, and sure enough -- it was a moose!

As quickly as I could, trying not to lock up my brakes and noisily SCREECH to a moose-frightening stop, I did a three point turn in the middle of the road, and eased the car onto the verge of the road as close to the moose as I dared, about thirty feet away. I fumbled with my camera, trying to get it out before the beast got spooked and left. Fortunately, not much fumbling was required, and rolling down my window, I got several decent shots.

The moose did not appear to be overly nervous about us being there… it just kept dipping its large head into the water of the swamp and pulling up various dripping water plants, which it casually munched on.

It wasn't until another driver also stopped to peer at the moose that it apparently decided it was time to seek another place to eat, and ambled off into the woods, doing that amazing thing that large wild beasts can often do -- within a few seconds it was lost to sight in the dappled shade of the trees.

As Jeannine put it later, "That's one more thing you can cross off on your "bucket list"!" -- PL

Friday, June 17, 2011

A wedding anniversary trip

Jeannine and i celebrated our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary this past week, and took a trip to an area of New Hampshire we'd driven through once or twice, but never explored to any significant degree -- the "lakes region", specifically Lake Winnepesauke. Searching online, I found an inn which looked like it had nice views of the lake, and got us a room with a balcony. And it turned out to have a beautiful view of the lake, as you can see here.

Unfortunately, the weather was not terribly cooperative -- it rained much of the time that we were there. And I had not realized until the morning we left for New Hampshire that it was the beginning of "Bike Week" in that area, so we had to put up with a greater-than-normal number of Harleys with modified exhaust systems (which seemed to be about ninety percent of them) blasting down the road by the inn.

So we didn't go swimming in the lake, which we'd had fantasies of doing during the warm and sunny day we drove up there (the ONLY warm and sunny day of our stay), but we still managed to have fun. 

On our first full day there, which was rainy, we took a drive north about fifty miles to Franconia, NH, to see the "Robert Frost Place", a small home once owned and lived in by the poet Robert Frost and his family, and now a museum devoted to Frost and his life and work. It's off in the woods down a dirt road, and probably a spot very conducive to writing poetry (or anything else). Here's a view of the house, with Jeannine taking a photo.

 (This image was made from several shots stitched together in Panorama Maker 5, and as such exhibits the odd distortion of perspective often typical of these things -- the road that Jeannine is standing on does not bend like that, but is instead a straight road.)

Her'e another view from the back side of the house.

And here are a few views of the inside of the house.

I'm pretty sure the desk in the center of this photo was Frost's writing desk.

There was also a short "poetry trail" in the woods behind the house, where every so often one would find markers with appropriate poems (or segments of poems) of Frost's. Jeannine and I took this walk…  

… and spotted these beautiful little flowers near the end of it.

This is the second Robert Frost home that we have visited in the last year -- now there's only one more to go, in Derry, NH. I suspect we'll get to that one soon.

(I have to include this photo -- I took it through the side window of the car as we were driving up to Franconia and saw this dramatic vista of raw mountain rock.)

The weather on the following day was nicer, though still intermittently sprinkling. I suggested we go to visit the so-called "Castle in the Clouds" in nearby Moultonborough, NH. The "Castle" is the main building on the former estate of shoe manufacturing magnate Thomas Gustave Plant and his wife Olive, and is now a tourist attraction. It is situated on top of a mountain which has spectacular views of Lake Winnipesauke. (For more information, go to

When we paid our admission at the bottom of the mountain, we were told of a beautiful waterfall not too far off the road about a quarter of a mile ahead of us. As both of us love waterfalls, this was something we had to see, so we parked and walked the short trail to the first waterfall, which you can see in these photos…

… and then decided to clamber up the steep and slippery stone path to the second waterfall, which I actually liked more than the first. Here's a shot of Jeannine taking a photo of that second waterfall.

Continuing our drive to the top, we stopped at a scenic overlook where I got several photos I used to create this panoramic view of the lake.

Actually, to say that we continued driving to the top is not entirely accurate. About four-fifths of the way up, all visitors have to stop and park near what was once the carriage house for the estate (now a visitors' center and cafe), and board a tram to complete the ascent to the "Castle".

The house was lovely, and although I don't think I would fairly call it a "castle", it was certainly distinctive, occupying a spot which afforded it commanding views of a landscape of great beauty. Here are some views of the house, inside and outside. Unfortunately, I only got one decent shot of the outside, and I am not sure why I didn't take another shot or two so you could see the whole house. But this image of the exterior shows about half of it, and gives you an idea of what kinds of views are to be had there. 

This is one of the guest rooms...

... and another bedroom...

I liked the pattern in this wooden flooring...

Jeannine pointed out to me the neat decorative painting of the ceiling in the dining room...

I'm not exactly sure WHY this kitchen sink is shaped the way it is, but I thought it looked cool...

Instead of waiting for the tram to take us back down to where our car was parked, Jeannine and I opted to walk the short trail back down to the carriage house, where we decided to try the cafe. And I'm glad we did, because it lived up to its billing as an "award-winning" eatery. 

The cafe is actually situated in the old horse stalls in the carriage house, and they have left many of the original fittings, including the iron bars separating the stalls…

 ... the drains in the floors…

 ... and even the horses' water troughs, one of which was right near our table. 

And the food was great! I highly recommend this as a place to visit, and eat.

We packed up the next day, and left the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee behind. But there was one more place Jeannine wanted to stop before we got home, and that was the Shaker Village in Canterbury, NH. It was an interesting place, and the people there were very willing to share their knowledge of the Shakers and their history. 

I wish I had some shots of interiors and Shaker artifacts I could share with you here, but they had some curious restrictions on photography. I asked a woman who was working in a woodshed, building the oval boxes the Shakers were known for, if she could explain the "no photos" rule, and she told us it was because of the potential for theft. As she explained it, the people running the museum were concerned that people could take photos of some of the valuable Shaker artifacts, post them on eBay for sale, then come back and steal them when they had sold. I asked if this was a big problem in reality, and I think she said that it had happened at least once… she wasn't too forthcoming with details.

I could sort of see the logic… sort of… but the restriction on the taking of photos for THAT reason seemed kind of, well, silly… given the nature of cameras these days, which can be easily concealed and surreptitiously operated. You can even get a camera which looks like a pen, stick it in your shirt pocket, and walk around taking video with no one the wiser. It seems to me that this "no photos" policy just punishes innocent people who have no intention of stealing anything, but just want a record of the interesting things they'd seen… and it does not at all prevent malefactors from sneaking photos if they really want to.

Regardless, it was an interesting place to visit. -- PL

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bear butt

So a couple of days ago, I left the house to go and get Jeannine one of her favorite morning drinks, a latte from Dunkin' Donuts. About a mile from our house, in a rural neighborhood, I saw a large, dark shape shambling across the road roughly a tenth of a mile up ahead of me.

I immediately recognized what it was from its profile -- a large black bear. And I immediately kicked myself for not bringing my good camera with me, because I probably could have had thing ready to shoot in a few seconds, and caught a cool image of the animal in profile as it crossed the road directly in front of me.

Instead, I had to fumble in my belt pouch for my little Pentax camera, and by the time I had gotten that out and ready to shoot, the bear had already crossed the road and was moving off into the shade of the trees in someone's yard. Not in any great hurry, mind you.

I did manage to get a few shots, which give you some idea of the bulk of this beast. Unfortunately, they are all bear butt shots. -- PL

Sunday, June 5, 2011

... to Dover, NH, and points north in Maine

So, after escaping from Boston, Jeannine and I headed north, to our old "stomping grounds" of the Dover/Portsmouth area. We were pretty hungry, so instead of heading directly to our place of lodging -- the Cliff House in Ogunquit, ME -- we stopped off at one of our favorite seafood restaurants, Newicks, in Dover. We got great seats near a window and had Newicks' always-fresh seafood.

It had been some time since I'd stayed at the Cliff House with Jeannine, and it had changed quite a bit, including a whole new building (which is where we were staying). We had a nice view of the ocean from the balcony off our room, even though -- at least early each morning -- the ocean was covered in fog, as you can see in this view from the balcony.

But within a few hours, it cleared up and we could sit out there and watch the waves. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around on the rocks -- not on these vertical rocks…

… which are the cliffs from which the Cliff House derives its name, but on the safer, more navigable rocks to either side of the cliffs. I took many photos of interesting rocks, and did a little bit of sketching. Actually, I only did two sketches, and here they are.

I was hoping to do more, but I was too lazy.

I did manage to capture a few decent shots of waves -- here's one I shot from our balcony using the camera's zoom lens (love the colors)…

… and another bit of "crashing wave action" caught by the camera's high-speed "burst" function.

I even got myself in one shot. 

I never get tired of looking at these rocks by the ocean. They fascinate me with their shapes, patterns, and colors.

At one point -- I think it was on our first day there -- I was out on the rocks looking for good angles in the morning, while there was still quite a bit of mist on the ocean, when I heard the sound of a boat engine, and this lobster boat came slowly chugging out of the mist.

It's certainly not a rare sight on the coast of Maine…

… but I thought it was kind of cool.

Sometimes the rocks can seem barren, almost a moonscape, devoid of life… but then you look a bit closer, and there is quite a bit of life. This large spider (one of many on the rocks) paused in its rapid scurrying to and fro to allow me to snap a portrait shot…

… and one day on the way back to our room, I spotted these bluets growing among the rocks…

… and this bright lichen growing ON the rocks.

We had a great time, and ate lots of good food -- even went to "Johnny's Oarweed" in Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, the restaurant at which a pre-TMNT Kevin Eastman once worked as a lobster cook, and we had a lovely meal on a beautiful day sitting outside by the ocean.

However, I neglected to do one important thing while we were there, and I regret it -- I didn't call my pal Steve Lavigne to see if we could get together. Sorry, Steve! -- PL