Sunday, September 25, 2005

Peek a boo! Can you see our buddy the praying mantis? I'll give you a hint, from this angle, you can only see his head, antennae and front legs.

Here's a closer look at him. I had to spin the plant around slowly enough with my left hand to get this shot. Such a weird angle, too. I was leaning over the potted plants as well as the garden plot closest to the garage. Mind you, I was watering the other plot by the tree in front with the sprinkler at the same time.

I had to water the garden before we left on our trip, so I gently sprinkled the plant away from the mantis. He gingerly rose, stepped up onto the cactus leaves and moved out of the way so I might water the plant. His green wings were exactly the same color as the cactus leaves. If his body and praying arms hadn't been a contrasting tan color, I would have missed him.

There he goes. He climbed up the hanging plant ropes and up to the rain gutters. I haven't seen him since. Sad, too. When we arrived home from Maine, there was a spider the size of one of the Christmas cactus leaves who had spun a web the length from the rain gutter down to the gladiola leaves about 8 feet below. I hope the spider didn't get the mantis.

This is a small bush with the only tiny pink and white blossoms it has had since being transplanted from Mom's garden. I've forgotten the name of the plant, but I picked it out for their place while we were at the Freulingheisen Arboretum plant sale a few years ago. This particular plant is a volunteer that was growing between the slate steps at Mom's. It is now very happily growing next to my garage.

Although the rose bushes pop out a bloom here and there, the only other blooms in the garden are coming from the geraniums that are still in the pots from my bedroom's window seat. I'm still debating whether to bring them back inside when the first frost hits.

This was our last purchase before the Maine trip. Allow me to introduce you to the Coleman 40 quart Powerchill thermoelectric cooler. It was a great deal at Walmart online (US$70 or so including the car charger as well as the wall outlet adapter--most places charge you extra for either). It held way more than we needed for the week, and with freezer packs, it kept the food cold for long periods without a power hook up. John and I were pretty impressed with it. As far as size goes, it took up half of John's back seat (he has a Jetta). The really useful part about the cooler is that you can switch the hinge position of the door to open it from the other side. We mainly used it like a cooler, and not like a wee fridge as shown here. The only caveat is that if you're going to use it on a road trip, bear in mind that you have to keep the side with the fan (shown here as the top) well ventilated. It significantly heated up the car, so we drove with the windows open often during the trip.

Friday, September 23, 2005

John and I drove up to Maine for a week-long vacation from 10-18 Sept. We stayed in Freeport for our L.L. Bean pilgrimage and shopped heartily. We knew it would be a long drive to Bar Harbor, but didn't know there would be road construction from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor. Ellsworth had a Bean factory store, which we also visited, of course. The gas there (and mostly everywhere else but NY) was US$0.20 cheaper or less than in NJ. When I arrived home, I sent an email to acting governor Cody about it. I have yet to receive a reply. In the photo above, you can see that we stayed in a lovely cabin in the woods. Our idyllic spot was in the Southwest Harbor neighborhood of Mount Desert Island. The Maine residents pronounce it Dessert Island. You can also see that we tried out John's new bike rack that held the front of the bike without the wheel. Having to replace the wheels each time we wished to ride was a bit of a pain, but it wasn't that bad. We biked three times and hiked most days. It rained a couple of days, and one day we rested due to my overestimating how much biking I could handle. The hills aren't for people who are out of shape. Overall, it was very relaxing. We would go back and hike and bike places we hadn't seen.

On our first day at Acadia, we drove the Park Loop Road to get the lay of the land. The prime attraction of the park is the 1530 ft. peak of Cadillac Mountain. This view is northeast from the top of the peak. It was very windy at the top.

More views from the Eagle Lake Carriage Loop Trail.

That's me biking away on the carriage trail at Eagle Lake.

Eagle Lake, and one of the many mountains of the park in the background.

We hiked what seemed to be a thousand granite stairs cut into Homan's Path on our way up the steep trail to Dorr Mountain. We started at the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which were much smaller than I had thought they would be. We also visited Sieur de Mont Spring, which was underwhelming as well.

This is the view from the Dorr Mountain Trail. We chose not to climb to the peak, but took the Ladder Trail instead.

One of the few examples of wildlife we saw on our Maine trip.

John captured this snake on film. We have yet to identify it. If you know what it is, please let us know.

This is no trick of photography or funny angle. There are two sets of iron ladders built into The Ladders Trail that descends 1270 feet from the peak of Dorr Mountain to sea level at The Tarn (a large pond). The railing gives hikers the impression they should take the descent facing away from the ladder, like a set of stairs. We chose to use it as a ladder and found it easier than some of the granite staircases cut into the mountain.

This is the narrowest space I wish to traverse. We had to remove our hydration packs in order to pass through. Thankfully, it was a short squeeze.

Remember Poe's "The Bells?" Each successive set of stairs reminded me of the mind-numbing repetition of the poem.

In each shoreline view, we could see tiny white, yellow, and red dots on the water. These are the identifying bouys from the thousands of lobster traps in the shallower parts surrounding Maine's coast and coastal islands.

Ah, the famous Thunder Hole. Rumor has it while the tide roles in and there's some chop to the water, thunderous noise rises from the half-covered arch. We visited it three times, each during the predicted noisy hours, but to no avail. Just the lazy lapping of the waves and the voices of many elderly tourists complaining about the lack of thunder.

This boat made the rounds in Bar Harbor, carting wealthy tourists between Bar Island and the Porcupine Islands. The island directly in back of the boat is Burnt Porcupine Island.

The textural contrasts from the surf tumbled rocks to the granite cliffs to the lush, dark evergreens make Newport Cove a particularly attractive hiking destination. The water is so clear you can clearly see the shapes of the stones in the tidal waters.

A view of Sand Beach on the Ocean Path hike northeast from Thunder Hole.

Up here, the coastline is rocky and the water blue and cold. However, even on a foggy, drizzley day like 15 Sept., it's still beautiful.

On the ascent to the top of Great Head, we used our trekking poles to hike through the white birches. Wouldn't this make a great Camelbak ad? We should send them the photo. For those who need to know, he's wearing the Rim Runner.

At the top of Great Head, it was rainy and foggy. On the right, you can just make out the edge of the surf on Sand Beach below (about 150 feet down).

On the hike back to Otter Point from Sand Beach, we fought off the thick fog for a good photo here and there. This was one of the best.

We didn't see many birds except the seagulls and some blue herons. Oh, and there were the crows or ravens. Nevermore...

We biked around Witch Hole Pond and Eagle Lake, so I'm not sure which one this is. But the last day at Acadia, it rained lightly, but didn't stop us from riding probably the least strenuous carriage roads in the park.

We didn't see many of the leaves changing, but during our bike ride on the Witch Hole carriage road, there was a small grouping of trees. The grasses at the bottom of the photo were red at the roots when they were growing in the water.

On our way home from Vermont John took this photo from Hogback Mountain at sunrise. By the time we were in upstate New York, the sun was out and shining brightly