Mornings in the Park

Went for a bike ride last Wednesday.  Here are a couple of pictures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Morning sun cuts through the leaves and the lingering mist

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
At Widewater

The water levels in the river are quite high, but well below flooding levels. This is near mile 8 of the towpath.

 

Managed to get from Pennyfield Lock to Bethesda on the towpath and the Capital Crescent Trail.  It was a more laid-back ride this time, but for some reason more tiring.

Linda McKenna Boxx

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA couple of months ago I wrote about a trip to Ohiopyle in Pennsylvania.  During that visit, we happened to go to the Ohiopyle State Park Visitor Center.  It was nice to see the display in there honoring the work done by Linda McKenna Boxx.

Linda served as board president and volunteer executive director of the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) that over the years brought together different trail groups to create the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). My friends and I rode the GAP on our bicycles in 2016 from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area.

My first interaction with Linda happened in 2009 when she reached out to me for permission to use one of my pictures in the Trail book that was being prepared for that year. She wanted to use a picture of Riley’s Lock that I had taken. I said yes, and the only thing I requested was that they send me a copy of the trail book when it eventually came out.  There was no other form of payment involved.

She reached out to me once again in 2016, before my bike ride on the GAP.  This time they ended up using two of my pictures. After seeing the book, I decided that I wanted a few more copies of the book to share with my fellow riders before the ride because there was a lot of useful information in it.  I was going to pay for these copies, but Linda would not accept any payment. She also shipped the books to me for no cost.  You are now one of us, she said. And she wished me a good ride, and requested that I take lots of pictures.

That was the last time I interacted with her.  It appears that she has now stepped down from her positions in the ATA.

I have started supporting the GAP with regular donations.

Another Fine Morning in St. Louis

I was waiting at the corner of Washington Avenue and Tucker Boulevard for the lights to change so that I could cross the intersection.  I noticed a disheveled chap in a light colored shirt and long pants standing on the median of the road making random motions as if he was a little distracted.  He looked at me for an instant and then went back to what he was doing.  He then yawned.  I wondered where he had spent the night and if he had gotten any sleep.

Yes, it is another morning in St. Louis, and time for another run in the city.  This time I had decided to find a route that started close to the apartment.  Internet searches the previous evening revealed a loop that was a little longer than 5 miles in length, but it seemed go through neighborhoods that we had little knowledge about.  I was not sure if I should take the risk.  I had gone to sleep remembering the route, but undecided about where I would actually run.

I woke up earlier than I expected once again.  By sheer coincidence the sun was rising, same as the previous morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could start this run early since I did not have to first drive to another location.  It was only at this point that I finally decided that I was going to try out the route I had seen on the computer last night. If something about the path bothered me somewhere along the way, I would change direction.  With the city roads being set to a grid, I could generally figure out where home was, and a new direction to take in case the need arose.

I headed west on Washington Avenue.  The sidewalks were generally empty, but I encountered a lot of cars at the intersections.  People were coming in to work.  At 14th Street, I turned south.  All was quiet and there were very few people outside.  I saw the sign on a building for St. Louis University.  There were older, more classically styled, buildings around.  St. Louis has a slightly rundown feel to it.  There are signs of construction all over the place, and quite a few buildings are surrounded by fences that keep you away. I passed a memorial for the place where the American Legion was formed, and a sign that said “Liberty is not License”.  Then it was past the stadium when the St.Louis Blues play their professional hockey home games, next past a major bus stand, and finally over a bridge across the railroad tracks.IMG_20180806_071601056It was interesting to note that one of the freight cars was marked “Saskachewan!”, a reminder of one of my adventures of last year!  The station for Amtrak trains is to the right of the picture.

I was the only person crossing the bridge.

The neighborhood changed on the other side of the bridge.  It had older houses and apartments and generally looked less well off.  The streets were empty.   Pretty quickly I came up on a wide road called Chouteau Avenue, also Route 100.  It sounded vaguely familiar from my Internet investigation.  (Apparently this road is also the Historic Route 66.)  I turned east to head back towards the Mississippi River.IMG_20180806_072721179Pedestrian traffic continued to be light but commuters were definitely streaming into the city in their cars.  I had to be careful at the intersections.  I also did go past the buildings of the Purina worldwide headquarters during this stretch.

As I got closer to the river,  I had to make a decision about where I wanted to turn back north in order to head back towards the downtown areas.  When I got to the intersection with First Street, there was a moment of hesitation on my part because Chouteau Avenue began to look more rundown.  The buildings ahead of me looked like they were in states of disrepair, and the sidewalks were generally overgrown with grass.  After taking stock of the situation – seeing that there were no people simply hanging around who might be bothersome, and noticing that there were vehicles moving on the road, I proceeded.  I noticed that a small section of one of the buildings had been renovated into office space.  It was interesting to see this, because the rest of building still looked like it was falling apart.  Perhaps rents were cheap.  The trusses for the railroad bridge crossing the river also looked like they were in bad shape.  Certain sections seemed to be falling apart.  It looked like the railroad company was only taking care of those sections of the approaches to the bridge that they still happened to be using.IMG_20180806_073248751_HDRIMG_20180806_073304205_HDRI reached the end of Chouteau Avenue and the road that ran along the waterfront pretty quickly, and was happy to see that I was at one end of the stretch of waterfront area associated with the Gateway Arch, an area meant for tourists.  I ran along the waterfront, past the Arch, and up to the Eads Bridge.IMG_20180806_073712298_HDRIMG_20180806_073753851I passed a work area where there were barges and a towboat next to shore.IMG_20180806_073523995_HDRThe last stretch of my run was across the Mississippi on the Eads bridge.  Traffic was streaming into the city from across the river.  There was a somewhat narrow walkway next to the road.  Pieces of broken glass and empty cans of beer littered the pathway.  But there was nobody around.  So I proceeded on to the bridge, looking behind me occasionally to see if there was somebody else who was following me on the walkway, and also looking out for people approaching me.  It was quite possible for somebody who was strong enough to throw me off the bridge!IMG_20180806_075517585I reached the train station for the Casino I had seen on the other side of the bridge.IMG_20180806_080057893IMG_20180806_075937762The place I had reached was called East St. Louis, and folks are in general cautioned to be more careful when they are in these parts.  But the only other people I saw were a few tourists who were waiting for a train to take them into town.

The last part of the run was back across the bridge.IMG_20180806_080404802The Eads bridge terminated at Washington Avenue.  I just had to follow the road to get back to the apartment building.  It was a little after 8 o’clock when I returned, and the streets were getting crowded with people by this time.  It was already beginning to get hot and humid, and I was sweating up a storm as I used the fob to gain entry into the air-conditioned foyer of the apartment building.

Harpers Ferry Forever

Some of you who may have read my previous blogs could be wondering about the motivation behind this trilogy of blogs on Harpers Ferry.  My first inclination had been to write only this particular blog that I am about to pen, and this was based on a trip that we had made to the town very recently. But then I realized that I have been experiencing Harpers Ferry and writing about it for some time.  Some history in this regard was needed before proceeding.  The earlier blogs on the topic of Harpers Ferry, and the background material needed for them, flowed quite naturally from this realization.

If you are a regular reader of my blog,  you know by now that Harpers Ferry has been a part of my weekend runs for several years on the C&O Canal, although more frequently in the past than in current times.   But one does also occasionally wander into the town itself from across the river, either when one decides to cross over the river to the tip of Harpers Ferry, to the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah, or when one goes into town for tourism purposes when we have visitors from other parts of the world.

Thus is was that we found ourselves recently visiting the place twice this year, in quick succession, accompanying visitors. You would think that such visits into town would tend to become monotonous, but the amazing thing is that I am finding new things about this place called Harpers Ferry.  I am actually beginning to get a better sense for what life must have been for people living here in times past, starting from when Robert Harper moved to the area in the 1760s.  I am now also more fascinated by the history of the town in the simplest sense of the word, i.e., in terms of how people lived there rather than in the sense of its place in history, about how the town grew and even prospered before the inevitable impact of the passage of time, and even about simple things like how the layout of the town changed over the years (there were actually even a few canals that flowed through town at one time or the other).  Perhaps a day can come when I can even get a sense for how people generally felt about their lives in Harpers Ferry.

So what is it that has roused my enthusiasm about the place you ask!  As background for getting a better insight into my frame of mind and my thinking about this subject, I will note that one of the first things worth knowing about current Harpers Ferry is that the National Park Service (NPS) has done a bang-up job bringing the town back to life, both physically and virtually, after its having been destroyed over and over again by floods, something that almost led to abandonment.  Today, people only live in the upper parts of town above the flood lines.  The lower part of the town is dedicated to the tourists.  Besides the mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, there are still many previously abandoned buildings of the old town that remain in this lower part of town.  In spite of having been to Harpers Ferry many times, this was the first time I discovered that many of these abandoned buildings have been converted to museums.   Each building addresses a different aspect of the town’s history and background.  This is a work in progress, but the NPS have already done an excellent job.  There is an attempt to cover all aspects of life in a little town over the entire period of its existence in a systematic way.  Of course, significant turning points in history, like John Brown’s insurrection, and the important battle that took place in and around the town during the civil war, are prominent subjects for presentation, but one also learns about the life of ordinary people, including the experience of blacks at that time in history,  or the commercial story of the town (as noted, it was once a prosperous town), the functioning of the armory that the town came to be identified with, and the impact of the railroad and the floods on the town over the years.  You can feel like you are living the experience.

With more and more trips to the town, I might actually begin to remember what I see and read in the museums and be able to relive those times in my mind rather than just remember the experience of being in the town!   This year was the first time we walked through the ruins of Virginius, a little island on the west side of town that at one time was Harpers Ferry’s center of commerce.  They made good use of the power of the waters of the Shenandoah to fuel the commerce and help the place flourish, by diverting some of the water into tunnels under town in order to use its power. But ultimately the river was not controllable!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Site of water inlet from the Shenandoah into Virginius
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Waterways below the ruins at Virginius

For the first time, we found the original site of John Brown’s fort, originally a guard and fire house.  The site is on top of an embankment that once used to carry a railroad line into town.  (The remains of the railroad track can still be seen under the sand in places.)  The embankment runs parallel to Potomac street.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Marker at the original site of John Brown’s Fort

John Brown’s fort has itself been moved around quite a bit over time, even to places outside of Harpers Ferry. It has come to rest in its current location near the confluence of the rivers most recently.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
John Brown’s Fort

And then we discovered the site of the original buildings of The Armory behind the embankment I mentioned earlier.  None of the armory buildings still  remain, having been razed to the ground to support a railroad yard more recently in time.  But you can walk in the area and get a sense for the place.    There are markers that tell you a little more about the place itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Picture of buildings on Potomac Street taken from across the armory site and beside the Potomac river

It turns out that after all these years I am still learning new things about Harpers Ferry.  I even have a better appreciation for how the place must have looked in different times.   I will be back, and hopefully I will continue to have my curiosity piqued, and I will actually remember some of things I read, and I will also continue to learn.  Maybe Harpers Ferry will remain with me forever!

Harpers Ferry (2/13/2005)

This note was written in 2005.  As you can see, I considered what I had accomplished that day very significant at that time, when it fact it could be considered just another minor milestone in the story of my life.  But perhaps it did also affect my psyche in a way that led me to the place I am today. Who is to say!

As a point of reference in time, I got my first digital camera only a month after this outing on the C&O canal towpath.

********************************************
I reached my Destination today, February 13, 2005. Alleluia and Glory be!!!

Some of you may know about the historical town of Harpers Ferry, located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers in West Virginia, at the meeting point of the three states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. It is a beautiful town located on a hill. It saw a lot of action during the civil war. It was the site of an armory in those days, and John Brown also staged his unsuccessful insurrection there to try to free the slaves. Lewis and Clark went through Harpers Ferry on their way west, picking up weapons and other supplies. They even had a boat made out of iron in Harpers Ferry for their trip. That particular project was not successful…

The B&O railroad crosses the Potomac at Harpers Ferry. The railroad lines emerge from a tunnel on the Maryland side and split in two directions, over two bridges, as they cross the river, with the bridges passing on opposite sides of the town of Harpers Ferry. These bridges over the waters are an impressive sight. There are also remains of older bridges across the rivers to be seen around the town. The rivers are wide and the waters very rough. This is white water territory! Over the centuries, the waters have cut a notch through the mountains, and there are cliffs and hills all around. It is both pretty and powerful at the same time.

We have visited Harpers Ferry a few times in the past. I have noticed the C&O canal towpath during those trips and made note of the fact that the trail runs all the way up from Washington, DC. I remember thinking to myself at that time that it would be extremely cool to come up the towpath from Montgomery County by bike. Well, I have done it, not by bike, but on foot, and not all in one day, but over a period of months. It is my destination!

When we were growing up in Madras, there were a couple of books that I loved to thumb through. Both were travel books and had lots of pictures in them. One of the books was of travels in the USA and the other was of travels in other parts of the world. There is a picture from one of the books that has been stuck in my head – it shows a train crossing a bridge over a river and the railroad track splitting off in two directions on the opposite side of the river. In my imagination, this is the town of Harpers Ferry.  I remember that when we first visited this town, this was the image that came to mind. The thought, most likely a figment of my imagination, was that this was something that I had seen in books as a child, but now was fortunate enough to experience first-hand. Yes, this is my destination!

Harpers Ferry is at mile 61 on the towpath, and quite far away from home. This is probably the limit of where I can get to comfortably without stretching myself too much. In fact, I had to get on the highway at 6:40 am to make sure that I got there at a reasonable time to start the run. This is yet another reason for me to consider this as a destination. I will pause at Harpers Ferry for a while, take a measure of what I have done on the towpath thus far, and consider setting other goals for the future. Meanwhile, there are miles to be covered over and over again, and trips that will surely give me new experiences with the River.

The run between Brunswick (mile 55) and Harpers Ferry took me from a familiar set of surroundings into new and different territory. So far the canal has mainly run through heavily wooded areas, and the river has tended to be a quiet beast for the most part, showing itself occasionally through the branches of the trees. As one gets closer to Harpers Ferry, the towpath is right up against the river. The area is completely open and there are very few trees around. You are running on an embankment completely exposed, about 20 to 30 feet above the river on one side, with the dry canal bed just a few feet below you on the other side. You realize the magic of the system of locks, that allows them to maintain the waters of the river and the canal at different levels. (This area has quite a few locks because of the significant drop in the level of the river.) As an added bonus, you have the B&O railroad on the other side of the canal, and I saw quite a few freight trains rumbling by. This place tends to be noisy – there is also road traffic from route 340. You also pass by the little town of Sandy Beach which is essentially a row of houses parallel to the canal, railroad tracks, and road, with its back up against a hillside.

On the way back from Harpers Ferry, as I pulled out of the parking spot under the shadows of the cliffs of Maryland Heights, I decided to take the road less traveled. I turned off the highway onto a local road, led by a sign that simply said “Brunswick” and “Route 478” on it. I did not have a map in the car, and did not have a clue about route 478, but I decided to be adventurous anyway. I ended up on a fairly empty road running past the railroad tracks. I went though the little town of Knoxville, with its traditional main street and its multicolored row-houses, and eventually ended up in Brunswick, MD, at its sprawling railroad yard. I drove over the tracks and into the parking lot for the towpath by the river. Although I had run past it in the past, this was the first time I had actually driven to the lot. It looked safe. Next time I will know where to park in Brunswick.

So, faithful readers who have stuck with me through my travels and through this long essay, this is the end of a stage in my travels. Who knows where the next voyage (if there is one) is going to take me. I have seen many faces of the River, and hopefully the next time you visit us, I can take to the spot on the river or canal that best fits what you wish to experience – whether it is quiet and solitude, whether it is unimaginable beauty, whether it is awesome power and fury, or whether it is just a simple picture of the timeless flows of a wild and untamed river that has always been, and will continue to be.

Until whenever – Adios Amigos!
kuria
***********************

As you can see from the pictures I took with my analog 35mm camera during my run, I did not actually enter the town of Harpers Ferry that day.  I only saw it across the river as I ran on the trail.Scan-29Scan-30

Regular readers of my blog will also know that I have traveled further along the towpath in the years that have passed since that day, including a trip that covered the entire distance from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area – the Great Allegheny Passage from  Pittsburgh to Cumberland, and the C&O canal towpath from Cumberland to DC.  I do not consider Harpers Ferry that far away from home these days.  Times and perspectives have changed.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

I personalized this week’s challenge in its interpretation – to try to find pictures from various recent travels that derive a significant part of their character from the presence of lines in them.  I was moderately successful, I think!

This is a picture from the window of our hotel room in Reno, NV, during a trip early in 2017.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of a hotel in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  The lines on this hotel came to life in the early morning light.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines on the sand dunes of Mesquite Flat in Death Valley, CA, are the only natural ones that I have in this collection of pictures.   You will notice that these lines are the only ones where there are curves that are obvious.  (There is probably a lesson somewhere in there!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA couple of months later we visited the New England area. This picture shows the lines on one of the trains on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. The engine is at a different angle than the carriage because it is stopped at the edge of the slope.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALines and angles dominate the picture of this covered bridge over the Ammonoosuc river in Littleton, NH.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines on the Icefields Parkway dominated my six day bike ride through the Canadian Rockies in the later half of 2017.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken in St. Louis, MO later in 2017. It should not be difficult to guess what the subject matter of this picture is.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken at Middle of the Earth, just outside of Quito, in Ecuador on the equatorial line in November 2017.DSC00743This picture is of a corridor in the Design Hotel in Chennai in India at the end of the year.  This is considered a “boutique hotel“.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the lines on the Boeing 787-9 that we saw at Charles de Gaulle airport on our way back from India.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines of the roof at this gas station in Effingham, IL, caught my eye during a road trip earlier this year.  Yes, we had some late-season snow in our part of the world, but it is all over now!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

More Impressions of Chennai

Including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, where I grew up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Letting sleeping dogs lie
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A banyan Tree in IIT
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Chital deer in IIT
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Monkeys at the IIT stadium
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Besant Nagar beach scene
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
At a roadside shrine in the evening
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
On St. Thomas Mount
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Passing Central Station
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Front of Kapaleswara Temple
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Vendor of flowers in front of the temple
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Early morning at the entrance to the Phoenix Market Center