2/17/2008 – Cherries in the Snow: The Legend of Mary Pinchot Meyer

I was reminded of this old email that I had sent to family and friends because of some recent news that I blogged about.  I will explain at the end.
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Ok, I am being overly dramatic! It is not a legend. It is merely a curious story. The particular name in the title has the remote possibility of attracting the attention of suspicious people who like to keep track of activities on the Internet – even though the story is quite old at this point. Anyway, back to the story.

If you were running along the C&O canal near Washington, DC, (just north of mile 1 on the towpath), you might come across a small white cross leaning against a tree trunk beside the trail. On the cross is a card. The card indicates that this is a memorial to Mary Pinchot Meyer.IMG_4171IMG_4172IMG_4173The cross appeared on the trail some time last year and is at the location where she was killed while walking along the towpath in 1964. She was 43 years old when she died, and the cross appeared on the towpath 43 years after her death. Nobody has yet admitted to putting the cross there. Who was Mary Pinchot Meyer? She was John F. Kennedy’s mistress at the time of his death. If you look it up the Internet, you will find a few conspiracy theories surrounding her death. She apparently used to keep a diary that included an account of her affair with JFK. Various people were interested in this diary after her death and went looking for it. Her ex-husband, Cord Meyer, was a higher-up in the CIA and was involved in the search for the murderer. The person who was brought to trial for killing her was acquitted. Just another story on the towpath…

By the way, if you are interested in a really good (but completely humorless) movie about the kind of people who came together to form the CIA during that time, I would recommend The Good Shepherd directed by Robert De Niro.

I finally worked up the courage to do the Potomac tour on foot in the area of Washington DC this morning. Basically I ran on both sides of the river at Washington, DC. Working my way south on the towpath from Fletcher’s Cove,

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Early morning on the Canal near Georgetown

I crossed over into Rosslyn on the Virginia side of the river at the Key Bridge (named after Francis Scott Key),

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Early morning view from the Key Bridge
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A view of Roosevelt Island from the Key Bridge
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Crossing the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the Mt. Vernon Trail in Virginia

and then followed the Mount Vernon trail south, past Roosevelt Island and the various bridges that span the Potomac.IMG_4182IMG_4189IMG_4190I followed the trail as it paralleled the George Washington Parkway all the way to Gravelly Point Park at the end of the longest runway for Washington National Airport.  I spent some time at Gravelly taking pictures and watching the planes landing and taking off.IMG_4195On the way back, I crossed over the river at the 14th Street Bridge into Washington DC.IMG_4210IMG_4212I got off the bridge close to the Jefferson Memorial, and then worked my way back up north along the river, past the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center and the Watergate buildings, to the beginning of the towpath. I then followed the canal back to Fletcher’s Cove.IMG_4222Next time I come to this area I will try to explore the trails on Roosevelt Island, and also try to find the trail along the edge of the river north of Key bridge on the Virginia side.
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Today’s Postscript: Coming back to Mary Pinchot Meyer, mentioned in the first section of the above email, the cops tried to pin her murder on a black person, Ray Crump, who happened to be in the general area.  Dovey Johnson Roundtree, the subject of my previous blog, was the one who was able to get Ray Crump acquitted of the crime.  It was quite an achievement for a black woman lawyer in those days!

Since I wrote the original email, I have been to this area, and traveled this path, several times on a bicycle.  I have taken the 18 mile long Mt. Vernon trail all the way to Mt. Vernon.  I have however not been to Roosevelt island yet!  I have also walked the trail on the Virginia side of the Potomac up to the Chain bridge under very trying conditions.  That was the subject of another email blast, an email that I might rediscover some other day.

By the way, I have not seen a memorial to Mary Pinchot Meyer in subsequent years at that location, but this could possibly be because I have not been on that section of the towpath at the right time of the year.

The Spider’s Web (8/19/2007)

Jeff French and I were lifting this ugly piece of furniture over the stairs at the entrance to the apartment building. It was an oddly shaped green table, with a backsplash and long legs, and it was also quite heavy and ungainly to carry. We were going to Apt 13 on the ground floor, but the brilliant designers of the particular apartment building had put in steps to first take you up about half-way to the next floor and then back down again to the level of the apartment. (The thinking process behind such a design is mind-boggling!) So, here we were lugging this monstrosity up the stairs – when the backsplash that I was holding on to (which I should not have been doing in the first place) separated from the table. I lost my grip and the table landed on the steps. Luckily it did not have too far to go. It hit my thigh as I fell back against the steps and sat down. Never mind – not much harm done other than a bruise and some soreness in the thigh.

We then somehow got this thing into the apartment and were greeted by the fellow who lived there. He seemed to be somewhat incoherent. He had bandages on this foot, had some trouble walking, and was apologizing profusely about not being able to help. Jeff thinks that the person was doing this because his pride had been hurt because he could not help, but I think that this dude was still drunk from the previous night (or maybe he also had something that morning). His wife kept telling him to get out of the way, but he kept on getting in the way, until he had to stop because of the pain.

The couple tells us that they want this huge table in their small kitchen. We manage to get it in there, but there is not enough room. When we finally get the table against the wall, we see that there is not enough space to open the door of the fridge completely. (The dude is going to have a hard time getting that beer from the back of the fridge!) There is nothing more to be done about it, and Jeff tells the guy not to call us later to take the table back. We then also deliver a computer table to the folks. We barely manage to get this other rather forgettable piece of furniture into the apartment, this time without it falling apart in our hands. The thing is very heavy because it is made of particle board, but unfortunately it is not very strong. I wonder how long the table will last. Fun times at the furniture program!

I was out in the back yard yesterday afternoon, standing on a ladder trying to take pictures of the beautiful white flowers on the Crape Myrtle tree,IMG_2146when I noticed the robin standing on the lawn.IMG_2136I got down from the ladder and tried to walk across to the other side of the bird to take its picture with the right lighting. But the bird did not cooperate. It kept moving in the same direction that I was moving in, parallel to me. Eventually I had to give up. It was when I looked back towards the deck that I noticed a nest under the deck, on top of one of the beams that held the deck up. I could see the tiny beaks of the babies facing upwards in the nest, as if expecting some food to be delivered.IMG_2140I was convinced that the bird I had encountered had in fact been trying to lead me away from the nest. Anyway, when I came back later the bird was in the nest trying to feed the young.IMG_2154Another robin was sitting on the neighbor’s fence with stuff in its mouth, but it flew away when it saw the humans. The first robin stayed put in the nest looking at me. It was not about the abandon its young that easily. Another cycle of life begins under the deck.

I have been trying to get some inspiration to write during the past few weeks, but all I see in front of me when I sit down in front of the computer has been a blank page. There are too many cobwebs in the mind, and it is difficult to escape the spider’s clutches. My mind is out of whack. Anyway, I did a run on the C&O Canal towpath from Brunswick to Harpers Ferry this morning in an effort to loosen some of the cobwebs. It was a cool cloudy morning, and it was positively cold on the bridge at Harpers Ferry with the wind blowing between the cliffs.IMG_2160The waters are low on the PotomacIMG_2161and there were a few intrepid folks who were making their way towards the middle of the river by trying to climb over the exposed rocks.

Much of the murky green water that is a fixture in this section of the canal is gone but not all of it. It is a good breeding ground for skeeters, but none bothered me during this run. (What in tarnation are skeeters, you ask? You will have to find out yourself.) I had company from the freight trains on the other side of the canal, including a monster train led by 5 or 6 diesel locomotives pulling more than 130 cars (yes, I stood there and tried to count them all!). I still feel a rush when one of these trains roars by blowing its horn, shaking the ground, and causing dry branches and other things to drop out of the trees. This is what you call POWER, baby! I managed to even get myself in position to take a picture of a locomotive rushing out of the tunnel at Harpers Ferry.IMG_2168OK, so I get my kicks out of some very simple and perhaps silly things! What is the harm? I need to get my laughs before the spider gets back….

Visit to Camden Hills State Park in Maine

We had the opportunity to visit the Camden Hills State Park in Maine during our trip to New England earlier this year, and the chance to hike a couple of mountains (or perhaps they should be called hills!) in the park.  I got to take pictures from some locations that took into consideration differently scaled perspectives of the scene in front of us. I did this by zooming into the scene in front of me to different extents to change the scale of the shot.

Here is a panoramic rendition of a view from Ocean Overlook on the Megunticook trail in the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (You can open the picture in the intended resolution for viewing by clicking on it.  The picture should open in a new tab.)  If one were to take a different picture of the same scene with a different scale factor, you can zoom in on the details of the bay on the left hand side of the original picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA further scaling would reveal the town of Camden at the right side of the bay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, if you scale the picture even further, you can even see the individual boats on the left side of the bay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you take another look at the panoramic picture (preferably in its full resolution), you can also see Mt. Battie (a smaller hill) at the center of the picture.  If you look at this part of the picture zoomed in, at a different scale, you can see the road up to the top of Mt. Battie more clearly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you continue to scale the picture, you can make out the tower on Mt. Battie a little better. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is another example of the effect of scaling.  If you were to take a picture from Mt. Battie of the Ocean Overlook on the Megunticook trail, it can look like this from a distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you zoom in to a different scale, you can see the details of the people sitting at the overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is clear that one needs to have a closer look at the picture in order to be able to make out the details and make any definitive statements about them.

If you have not done so, you should see this short video about scaling in the context of the universe that we live in.

From a philosophical perspective, one can see that you are likely to make mistakes if you do not have the right perspective on what you are seeing or experiencing. You should not accept any statements regarding such details from a person who has not done the necessary homework in this regard.

If it’s Tuesday, we must be on our way to the White Mountains of New Hampshire

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Morning at our motel near Acadia (sunrise happened too early for us to be able to make it to Cadillac Mountain)
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Hike for the morning in Acadia National Park
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A section of the climb up Champlain Mountain
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Beaver Dam Pond, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor and Bar Island as we climb
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On Champlain Mountain
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Following the cairns for the trail on the way down (the trail head is next to the pond)
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Section of trail on the way back
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Lunch stop
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Stormy sky on the way to the White Mountains
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Our place for the night

And if it’s Wednesday….

If it’s Monday, we must be visiting Mt. Desert Island

Spent most of the day in Acadia National Park.

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Breakfast from a nearby bakery consumed in the park on Thomson Island
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The Beehive Trail that Angela took
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View of Otter Cove
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On Gorham Mountain
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View into Newport Cove
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Otter Cliff in the distance
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Hiking down Gorham Mountain
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Hiking down Gorham Mountain
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Near Thunder Hole
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Otter Cove
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Jordan Pond
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View from Acadia Jordan Pond House
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Northeast Harbor
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View from Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

And if its’ Tuesday

If it’s Sunday, we must have arrived at Mt. Desert Island, ME

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Hiking up the Megunticook Trail, Camden Hills State Park, ME, in the morning
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View from Ocean Lookout, Camden Hills State Park. ME
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View of Camden from Mt. Battie, Camden Hills State Park, ME
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Lunch stop for Lobster Rolls in Lincolnville, ME
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View during lunch, Lincolnville, ME
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From the Shore Path, Bar Harbor, ME, in the evening
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Dinner at Jalapeno’s Restaurant, Bar Harbor, ME
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Sunset on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

And if it’s Monday….

Bridging the Gaps

I am a big fan of bridges, and I admit that I have taken too many pictures of them.  I think that some of the bigger ones, especially the suspension bridges, are marvels of engineering design.  The fact that we have figured out ways to use the laws of physics to construct these gigantic, and often beautiful and majestic, structures to leap across wide open spaces and voids in such a seemingly effortless manner (a perception that is deceptive) is remarkable.  The manner in which the roadways hang in the air, suspended from cables attached to elegant piers that rise from the ground or the water into the air to tower over the bridges themselves, is amazing.  And many of us take these structures for granted while using them in our everyday lives, with not an appreciation or understanding of, or interest in, the ingenuity that went into their construction.

But having said all that, I would like to take a different tack for this week’s challenge.  I will just focus on some more down-to-earth “bridge” encounters from our recent trip to New England.  These are simpler bridge stories from the other end of the spectrum.  The physics involved is quite simple in many cases.  These pictures will show that as far as the simple act of walking or hiking is involved, there are many basic ways that are used to bridge obstacles that may appear in front of you.  In some cases, even the simple rocks found in nature will offer you a bridge!

The following pictures are from the Camden State Park in Maine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is from a hike up Gorham mountain on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese bridges are a few of the many on a trail in the Flume Gorge area in New Hampshire.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis bridge carries a trail across the Winooski River in Montpelier, VT.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABridges, in many different forms, are an essential part of our lives today.