Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Walk the Redwood Forest of Muir Woods

I am not much of a “back to nature” kind of guy. It has been close to 20 years since I have gone camping, and I am cool with Bear Mountain being the extent of my hiking experience. But Muir Woods National Monument is a totally different experience.

William Kent - By unknown; image from Collection of U.S. House of Representatives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John Muir - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/John_Muir_Cane.JPG

Only 12 miles north of San Francisco, Muir Woods is an old growth Redwood forest. The land was purchased by William Kent in 1905 to prevent it from being turned into a reservoir. It was designated as a National Monument in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt, and it was Mr. Kent who introduced legislation to form the National Park Service in in 1916. The Woods were named after John Muir, who is known as America’s first environmentalist. He founded the Sierra Club and advocated for the protection of natural lands in the late 1800’s.

The valley of trees
Old giants tower above
 Walk below in awe

If you have never actually seen redwood trees, I can tell you that my pictures don’t really do them justice. They can grow to over 300 feet tall and more than 20 feet in circumference. Here they envelope the valley alongside the Redwood Creek, giving almost constant shade and quiet to the paths below. I walked up to the northern end of the main trail, just past the Cathedral Grove and sat on bench. Surrounded by these giants, and the sound of the creek and the breeze passing through the leaves, it was peaceful, except for the voices of people passing by. It is not hard to imagine what it must have been like to walk along the valley before it was developed.

People walk and talk
Not thinking about others
Or the giants here

Sitting in the quiet, it is also interesting to observe how other people react to the woods. Some come through and fill up the valley with jarring noise. It is as if they are here only because this is another Bay Area sight to check off of their list. Take some pictures, buy a souvenir and spend an hour walking and talking about where you are going next.  Others come through respectful of the place and people around them. If not actually whispering, they speak in soft tones, look at their surroundings and move slowly and thoughtfully. Me, I sit here writing down my thoughts and enjoying the place that is the Muir Woods. I get stares from some people and smiles from others.

The wood really is red

Redwood trees grow here
For a thousand years they live
We pass in seconds

Can you see the bear that got caught in the tree?

How about this bear?

Notes on the Hike: The main path goes north for almost a mile from the visitor’s center. It is wither paved or a wooden boardwalk for that entire length. This makes it an easy hike for everyone – about a two mile round trip. If you want more adventurous experiences, there are many hiking trails off of the main trail that will take you through and over the mountain.
Getting There: Take California 101 north from San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Take Exit 445B to CA-1 north. After 3.5 miles (uphill) turn right onto Panoramic Highway. Travel 0.8 miles and turn left onto Muir Woods Road. The entrance will be on the right after 1.5 miles.
Tours: There are many tours to the Muir Woods available from SF. The advantages are that you don’t have to worry about parking or driving along what to some might be nerve wracking mountain roads. The disadvantage is that they limit your time there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Museums of Buffalo and Corning New York

At the end of my trip along the Erie Canal I had the chance to spend some time exploring Buffalo, New York, and to stop at the Corning Museum of Glass, in corning New York. I had not visited Buffalo in about 45 years, and I was impressed with some of the things I got to see.

Albright-Knox Gallery

By Danielle Sauers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I started my day in Buffalo with a visit to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Located across from the entrance of Buffalo State College, and alongside the Fredrick Law Olmsted designed Delaware Park, Albright-Knox’s classical and modern buildings are a beautiful home to its collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. Its original building was built in 1905 as the home to the collection of modern art owned by John J. Albright, a Buffalo industrialist whose businesses included coal, asphalt and electrical power. In 1962 Seymour Knox II, chairman of the Marine Midland Bank and Woolworth’s & Co. organized the funding for an expansion of the gallery. He donated over 700 pieces of art, and the name was changed to The Albright Knox Art Gallery. His interest was mostly in Modernism and Abstractionism, and he greatly added pieces in those genres to the galleries’ collections.

John J Albright by Edmund C. Tarbell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today the Gallery hosts an excellent collection of 20th and 21st Century art, mostly on display in the building built in 1962. The original building houses galleries that are primarily used to host temporary exhibits by artists alive today.

Detail from Someday We Can by Shantell Martin

Along the Niagara River

The heart of Buffalo’s history is its role in shipping and transportation. It sits at the head of the Niagara River, along the shore of Lake Erie. It was the western terminus of the original Erie Canal, so it became the place where goods were transferred between lake ships and canal barges. It also became an industrial center because it is so close to the Niagara Falls, where Thomas Edison built one of the first large hydroelectric generating plants. By the late 1950’s things started to change. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1957, and ocean going ships were able to sail directly into the Great Lakes. The Erie Canal was no longer needed to ship goods to and from the Mid-West. During the 1960’s industry started to leave what is today called the “Rust Belt” for other places. Buffalo became one of the poorest cities in the country.

Today Buffalo is trying to revitalize itself. This effort includes the development of its waterfront, much of which had been cut off from the city by highways. The most successful of these attempts is Canalside Park, which sits under the Buffalo Skyway at Lloyd Street. Built along what was the western end of the original Erie Canal. Canalside includes lakeside walking and biking trails, kayak and boat rentals, and a ferry across the Buffalo River to the Times Beach Nature Preserve. There is also the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. The Park is home to the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Little Rock, the destroyer U.S.S. The Sullivans, and the U.S.S. Croaker, a Gato-class submarine. All are open to the public. There is also a naval history museum and a very good restaurant – The Liberty Hound, which has an excellent selection of beer on tap.  


Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse

Two-and-a-half miles north of Canalside, along the Black Rock Canal, is a small, little known gem – a boathouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Designed in 1905, the boathouse wasn’t constructed until 2007. I sits just south of the Peace Bridge, the major crossing between Canada and Buffalo. There is also a path up to a pavilion that sits just below the bridge, with great views up and down the Niagara River.

The Corning Museum of Glass – Corning NY

By User:Stilfehler (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Home to both the history and future of all things glass, The Corning Museum of Glass is really a must see stop if you are traveling along the Southern Tier of New York State. Presenting both industrial and artistic uses and histories, its exhibits and galleries are informative and beautiful. There are exhibits into the history of industrial glass that cover its different uses and strengths. You can watch artists creating glass vases and bowls and doing fine “fire work” to make detailed statues. You can take classes in glass blowing, and even design a piece that the artisans will create for you. The galleries contain some of the most beautiful examples of glass as art in the world. 

Glass Blowing Demo

Nocturne 5 by Karen LaMonte

Chess Set by Gianni Tosso Jews vs Catholics - I saw this set for sale when I visited Venice 20 years ago

Getting There:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery – 1285 Elmwood Ave. Buffalo NY. Entry -$12 for Adults, $8 for seniors, veterans, students and youths.

Canalside Buffalo – 44 Prime Street, Buffalo NY. Interstate 190 to Elm Street (exit 6); or Skyway/Route 5 to Seneca Street; or NAFTA Metro Rail to the Erie Canal Harbor Station.

Wright Boathouse – Take Porter Ave west. Pass the entrance to the Peace Bridge, and cross over I-190. Turn right onto Rotary Row, and gravel street that looks like an alley. Bear right at the fork and you will arrive at the parking lot for the Westside Rowing Club and the Wright Boathouse.

Corning Museum of Glass – Take Route NY-17(I-86) to exit 46. Follow the signs to the Museum. Adults $19.50, Students, seniors, AAA, and military $16.50.