Monday, April 28, 2014

Ricketts Glen SP - Day 2 - Recap (Part 4)

Adams Falls and a Recap
As a short side trip from the parking lot before leaving, Adams Falls was a very pleasant surprise. Despite being perhaps jaded by what we had seen so far, this was one of the most interesting falls due to the incredible geology. The constricted entrance to the falls channeled the water into a relatively narrow cascade that had carved out a very nice plunge pool at the base, including one easy to see bowl where the water had scoured out a near perfect circle.
Adams Falls with plunge pools

The rock walls surrounding the falls pinched in from all sides.
Adams Falls

Even though swimming isn't allowed anywhere in here due to the danger, I'm thinking this would be a great place for a dip on a hot summer day...
Adams Falls

Of all the photogenic spots we had seen during the day, this was one of the best. 
Adams Falls pool, side feeder stream and cave (w/ice)

After spending a few more minutes admiring Adams, and not wanting to leave, we headed back to the cars, packed up and headed home. We were on the road by 2:35pm and home before 6.

The quick summary is that it is hard to imagine a much nicer hike within such a modest drive from home. Virtually every step of the hike was a good one. I am partial to water of any kind, and in that respect this gets unbelievably high marks. Its also perfect for photography, with non-stop opportunities for great shots.
Stream and rocks

The level of trail design and maintenance that you see here is certainly different from what you will see in many if not most places. Due to the traffic it gets, and the fact that it is one of the gems of the Pennsylvania State Park system, it is extremely well maintained. It has had a ton of work done over its 100-plus year existence. Most inclines have stepping stones or in many cases actual stone stairs. Solid bridges accompany any stream crossings. Paths range from well groomed dirt all the way to flagstone paths. Things are very well marked and it would be practically impossible to stray off the path (unintentionally).
The best paved path section

The trail, while I would not consider it difficult at all, is not a stroll down a country lane. There are a lot of steps, and slippery spots where the stones are wet and muddy. People with a fear of heights would have unavoidable issues in some places, with narrow rock ledges and exposed stone staircases climbing up rock walls being a frequent part of the trail. From an elevation standpoint, it was only about 150 feet up from the parking lot to Waters Meet, a stretch that contains three named falls, and that section could be done by anybody. The more difficult part is the 700+ feet of elevation gain up each of the two glens to the plateau at the top, but that happens in pretty manageable stages.
Huron with stone stairs

I don't know a whole lot about geology (despite having taken a college class many years ago), but I am fascinated by it. This is one of those places where the rocks in and of themselves are almost as cool as the water.
Geology above Shawnee

I would love to see this at different times of year. I am sure there will be less water in the stream in the summer, but everything would be green. For this trip, Spring hasn't really come to the glens yet, and the only significant green stuff we saw were the hemlocks and other evergreens. While things at home are well on the way to leafing out, they really aren't here as of yet, so the hardwood forest parts had not gotten over that bleak winter look. I'm sure Fall here would be amazing as well, but fallen wet leaves could make the footing pretty treacherous. I completely understand why the trail gets closed in winter. Way too dangerous.

Final verdict - In its own way, this is as nice a hike as I have been on. The Blacks Hills of SD and the Badlands of ND were a very different kind of beautiful, and Acadia is a different kind of magnificent water treat, but it is hard to imagine a more lovely waterfall/mountain stream hike. Especially within three hours of home. Scenery and photo ops get top marks. Climbing (which I am not a huge fan of) is very manageable and almost goes unnoticed. You won't get sweeping vistas here, nor will you get that otherworldly western terrain, but the rewards here are immense, and this has to be as good as it gets for eastern forest hikes.

Ricketts Glen SP - Day 2 - Ganoga Glen (Part 3)

Highland Trail and Ganoga Glen
At the top of Glen Leigh, we turn west onto the Highlands trail to cut across the top of the plateau and pick up the Falls trail at the top of Ganoga Glen on the other side. There is an earth cache up here that we won't be doing as I do not have the information ready to go with regards to multiple additional way points, and don't want to slow us down while I figure it out. No matter, I already know we will be back at some point, and I will be ready then. Midway along the Highlands trail we pass through Midway Crevasse, a cool spot where a huge piece of rock formation has broken off from the parent ledge 50 yards or so to the north and made its way downhill, fracturing as it went.
Midway Crevasse

Ganoga Glen is the steeper of the two sides (by a little) but we are going downhill on steps and switchbacks, so the hiking remains easy. The distractions remain spectacular as well. There are ten named waterfalls on this branch, including six big ones. 

Even the smaller ones are gorgeous, and could be the single centerpiece of a hike any other place.
Oneida - perfect "block" fall

Wave after wave of scenic beauty is becoming a bit mind-numbing. Almost. Until we get to Ganoga Falls, which at 94 feet is the crown jewel of the hike. Again, pictures do not do it justice, and the sound of the water pounding down the cliff and the feel of the cool mist spray is missing. I'm not sure what words would describe it properly. Awesome, the most overused word in the English language, would actually fit here very well. Not awesome in the "good" sense. Awesome in the "jaw-dropping-wow" sense. It was weird standing at the top. You could get to within a few feet of the edge on a rock ledge, and doing so and looking down didn't scare me at all. But standing back and watching Dave and Leo do exactly the same thing was bordering on terrifying. Its a very long way down onto a lot of rocks. Falling would be bad. Watching somebody else fall would also be bad.
Ganoga - view from the top

After an appropriate amount of gawking and picture taking, we followed the steps and switchbacks down to the bottom where we did more of the same, followed by a brief lunch of PB&J sandwiches and sourdough pretzel nuggets. Everything tastes better outdoors on the trail.
Ganoga (94 feet)

On the Glen Leigh side, we saw a few other people but not many. By the time we are coming down Ganoga Glen in the afternoon there is a steady trickle of people heading in both directions. Not exactly the Los Angeles freeway (which apparently this can be like on a nice summer day), but a routine occurrence. We have timed the hike perfectly in that regard as well it seems. I would have expected more people on a perfect Spring day. The handful we are seeing is no big deal, and every waterfall is not obstructed by swarms of other people taking pictures and wading around in the pools.

Seneca/Delaware was another combination falls like Shawnee/Huron which had some great geology, and great trail construction around the exposed rock walls.
Dropping into Seneca/Delaware

The remainder of the Ganoga side went all too quickly, with Delaware (37'), Mohican (39'), and the final pair of Tuscarora and Erie at 47 feet each.
Mohican (39 feet)

When we do come back, and we plan to, we will hike this the other way around, coming up Ganoga Glen and down Glen Leigh. It is a shame to have to approach any of these falls from the uphill side. As you come down, many of the best views of the falls are behind you. This is mitigated somewhat by the wonderful views you have of the glens opening up below you as you descend.
Tuscarora (47 feet)

1:12pm - We arrive back at Waters Meet, about 2:45 after reaching this point on the way up. We have done about 5.2 miles out of 7. My legs feel great but my feet are starting to feel some soreness. Nothing uncomfortable or alarming, just my feets' way of telling me that this isn't the same as sitting at a desk all day every day. It feels good.

2:02pm - We arrive back at the trailhead after a quiet walk back along Kitchen Creek. There is one last waterfall just below the parking lot on route 118, Adams Falls, and we will check that out before leaving. Especially since it is part of one of the two earth caches Dave and I are doing...

Next...Adams Falls and a Recap

Ricketts Glen SP - Day 2 - Glen Leigh (Part 2)

Waters Meet to the top of Glen Leigh
As we move upstream from Waters Meet, we can immediately see more waterfalls above us. They are coming one after another now, and the short stretches of stream between them are peppered with smaller falls and rapids. Its an embarrassment of riches from a scenic standpoint.
B Reynolds from beside (40 feet)

We are definitely climbing more now, but it is easy going, and I am almost oblivious to that fact due to the amazing scenery. At most of the falls, and in some other spots as well, the trail climbs up very well maintained sections of stone steps. This gives your quads a little bit of a workout, but is significantly easier than climbing the same kind of slope on a steeply angled dirt trail. That and the fact the we stop to admire every new waterfall and scenic spot, giving us lots of small breaks, makes the effort seem like nothing.
RB Ricketts (36 feet)

Between RB Ricketts and Ozone, we stop suddenly when Leo says "you don't see that every day." Very true. What you don't see every day is a porcupine from a distance of about 6 feet. This guy was waddling along right next to the trail, heading uphill away from the stream, and couldn't have been less concerned by our presence. Clearly a creature comfortable in its own skin, or its own coat of three inch needles as the case may be. When we stumbled upon him and then stopped to look at him, he didn't change course, break stride at all, or attempt to pick up the pace. He just kept waddling, ducked under a fallen log, and kept going up the hill.

The next large fall we came to was Ozone, a very nice one, and one of the larger ones it seemed, but I'm not sure how tall it is. The State Park handout from the trail head says 60 feet, which might be somewhat of an overstatement, but is probably a good number all told from top to bottom if measuring continuous water-travel distance and not pure height. The large wooden signs at a few locations on the trail all have it listed at 20 feet, which seems definitely too low a number (but probably is a good number for pure elevation difference). Whatever the truth is, it was a spectacular one.
Ozone - how high? (20? 60?)

The view from the top of Ozone was one of the better ones on the day, because the stream below the fall was very picturesque. As usual, anything with a panorama, or anything with a view up or down just doesn't translate into photos very well at all. Everything looks compressed and less spectacular. Scale gets lost.
Ozone - view from the top

Huron (41 feet) and Shawnee (30 feet) are a pair of nearly back to back falls separated by a rock walled alcove, like a small amphitheater carved out of the rock. The secluded alcove was one of a dozen or so places where we saw decent sized patches of ice, despite it being April 28 on a 55 degree day. This was one of my favorite spots of the day.
Shawnee - wedding cake (30 feet)

The last large fall on the Glen Leigh side was FL Ricketts, a 38 foot classic wedding cake, with the water spilling down a series of rock ledges like it was flowing down a staircase.
FL Ricketts (38 feet)

11:25am - We reach the top of Glen Leigh and its eight named waterfalls. Twelve down, ten to go. When we left the parking lot it was barely 40 degrees. Now it is probably mid to upper 50's, with bright blue sunny skies and a nice breeze. We couldn't ask for a nicer day. The hike is absolutely living up to its hype so far, and there is much more yet to come.

Next...Highland Trail and Ganoga Glen

Ricketts Glen SP - Day 2 - The Hike (Part 1)

Falls Trail and Highlands Trail
Monday dawned sunny and cool, with a temperature of 39(F) degrees at 7:00am. It seems like the three of us were all more or less awake to varying degrees well before 7, but we were not rushed for time, and so didn't get moving too early. We showered, had breakfast at the hotel, fiddled with gear, made sandwiches for lunch, and were on the road to the park by around 8:15am. Mifflinville is 32 miles and 40 minutes south of the park, and it was a pretty drive through mountain ridges and farmland. I had scoped out a few geocaches along the road to the park, but we were all anxious to get to the business at hand (and these weren't new counties), so we made no stops. By 9:10 we were parked in the lot off route 118 at the south end of the Falls Trail, and we set out at 9:25am.

Our hike, as shown on the map, is the classic Ricketts Glen hike. Kitchen Creek, coming down off the Allegheny Front, has carved a series of "glens" into the side of the mountain. Dropping nearly a thousand feet from top to bottom, the creek tumbles over 22 named waterfalls, and countless smaller ones, over a three mile north-south distance. The hike is in the shape of a "Y", with the Kitchen Creek section below the junction, known as Waters Meet. Glen Leigh is on the east (right) of the "Y" and Ganoga Glen is on the west (left). We hiked counter clockwise; up Kitchen Creek to Waters Meet, up Glen Leigh, across the Highlands Trail at the top of the mountain, down Ganoga Glen, and then back down Kitchen Creek to the starting point. All told, this is a 7.1 mile hike. There is about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, but most of that occurs as you climb one of the glens (between Waters Meet and the top), and happens over a distance of about one mile. I'm not crazy about climbs, but 1,000 feet doesn't seem too bad. We shall see...
At start...

9:25am - Setting off up the trail, I was immediately struck by two things; it was a lovely location, and it was quite chilly. I hadn't packed particularly well. Other than a couple of thin sleeveless hiking shirts, I only had a fleece vest (not enough for cold arms) and a much heavier fleece jacket (very quickly too warm). Or a rain jacket that would have quickly become my own personal sweat lodge (skip that).
On the trail

It is 1.8 miles from the route 118 trail head to Waters Meet, and the first mile or so of that was a very modest up hill grade. We walked along a beautiful noisy stream gurgling over rocks and small waterfalls too numerous to count. In any other spot, this would have been noteworthy enough, but knowing what was up ahead, this section of the stream was unfortunately all too easy to discount. This section also had the only traditional cache on the trail, but it was good to find one here (there are also a few earth caches, two of which we did successfully, but that comes later...).
Kitchen Creek, the flat part

There are three named falls below Waters Meet. The first is "Murray Reynolds", at a modest 16 feet. As the first one we came to, it seemed very big, and would be by most standards. It is actually one of the smallest named ones on the hike, but is a good one. It is a pair of chutes coming down around a central rock pillar, with a nice pool at the bottom. If it weren't 45 degrees with the stream temps near ice water, I am sure Leo would have gone swimming...
Murray Reynolds

The second is "Sheldon Reynolds" at 36 feet, or more than twice the size of the first. If that was "wow", then this was "WOW." This is maybe a cataract fall at the top and a cascade at the bottom. We are only two falls into the 22, but I am in awe. A quick look at the map shows that there are eleven more waterfalls bigger than this.
Sheldon Reynolds

The third is "Harrison Wright" at 27 feet. Different once again from the character of the previous two, and would seem to be a textbook curtain fall. We have gotten lucky (partly by plan). We couldn't have guessed that the weather would have been absolutely perfect, but since it is mid-Spring after a wet winter and Spring, there is a good amount of water in the stream, making the falls show themselves at their best.
Harrison Wright

10:32am - We arrive at Waters Meet. Standing near the bridge we can see more falls in both directions, a modest one off to the right on the Glen Leigh side, and a big one off to the left in the distance. There is amazing scenery everywhere you look. It is a bit overwhelming. We are not making very good time given that the hiking has been very easy thus far, but it is understandable due to the amount of stopping, gawking and picture taking we are doing.
Waters Meet - Ganoga Glen (L) and Glen Leigh (R)

10:35am - After a brief break, we set off up the Glen Leigh branch...

Next - The Glen Leigh branch.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ricketts Glen State Park - Day 1 - Geocaching

Tuscarora (47 foot)
Ricketts Glen State Park in northeastern Pennsylvania has been on the gang's list of must-do hikes for a long time, but we have never actually gotten around to getting there. About a month ago, Dave, Leo and I agreed to pick a couple of days, put it on the calendar, and make it happen. So we did.

The primary appeal of Ricketts Glen is the fact that it is one of the best waterfall hikes anywhere, with a 7.1 mile lollipop loop hike that passes 22 named waterfalls of at least 10 foot drop. Many of these falls are in the 30-50 foot range, with a 60-footer and a 94-footer as the crown jewel. To quote the Falcon Guide Hiking Pennsylvania (3rd edition): "Here's the bottom line: Ricketts Glen is the best hike in Pennsylvania. It may also be one of the top hikes in the East."

The plan ended up being a travel day on Sunday to get up to the area, stay in a hotel Sunday night, and do the hike and then drive home on Monday. Work commitments for Leo, and an aikido seminar in Reading for Dave meant that we would end up taking two cars and meeting at the hotel in the evening. Dave and I would go together to Reading first thing in the morning, where he would do his thing and I would spend a few hours geocaching. When his seminar ended late in the morning, we would make our way northwest from Reading, geocaching in a few new counties before making our way to the hotel to meet Leo.

We ended up with a couple of beautiful Spring days, sunny, breezy and cool. Perfect for being outdoors. I was actually chilly in the morning while driving around West Reading, finding 20 easy caches by the time Dave was done.

We didn't have a completely firm plan leaving Reading, but I had mapped out a series of caches in half a dozen new counties. We had decided we would set out and see where we felt like going next as we went along. First stop was Elysburg in Northumberland county, where we found two caches. Our choice at this point was to work our way N/NE from here (toward the hotel), or to head west across the Susquehanna. It was still early, we had plenty of time to kill, so we went for the Susquehanna.
The Susquehanna at Shamokin Dam

We drove to Sunbury, crossed the river at Shamokin Dam, and stopped for a walk along the shoreline and a trio of caches, including a cool one on the dam itself. Despite the chilly wind, the shore and the dam were packed with fishermen. This checked off Snyder county.
Shamokin Dam

Next we drove north along the west bank of the river to Lewisburg, where we found a Union county cache at the Bucknell University football stadium. The next few west bank counties would have taken us all the way to Williamsport and beyond, so we retraced our route back to Elysburg.

Heading north into hilly farmland, we crossed into the southern tip of Montour county and found two caches there, including one at a quaint little rural cemetery and one atop scenic Sharp Ridge. The view off the back slope of the ridge down into a stream valley and series of secluded hollows was spectacular.
Sharp Ridge

Heading east toward Catawissa, we crossed into Columbia county and found a few caches there, including an odd one in a place called Hooded Grave Cemetery. This was a tiny little roadside graveyard with perhaps 40 or 50 graves, most dating from the 1800's. What made the place unusual were the two "hooded" graves; plots that were covered in wrought iron cages. According to the cache description, some say that these strange graves are simply ornamental. Other local legends say that the cages are to keep vampires in.
Hooded Grave (Vampire cage?)

The last cache of the day (bringing my total to 31 on the day in 6 different counties, including 5 new ones) was on a tank at a VFW post in Catawissa. We found this by accident. We had stopped at a market down the street to buy sandwich stuff for lunch on the trail the next day, and stopped here as we drove by just so I could take some pictures of the tank. While here, we found that there was a cache on the tank courtesy of the geocaching app on the iPhone. Finding a small magnetic thing on a tank isn't much easier than finding one on a locomotive but we found it shortly before giving up. I am not up on post-WW2 armor, but a quick check of Wikipedia would seem to show that this is an M48 Patton tank from the mid-50's (the Walker Bulldog was similar in shape but smaller and had 5 road wheels, not 6, and a later low-production heavy had 7...). [Edit 5/17/14 - This is an M60 Patton not an M48, the last US main battle tank before the M1 Abrams. It has the more modern gun, different turret shape, different gun mantlet etc. Definitely an M60]
"Think Tank!" in Catawissa [M60 Patton]

A short drive later and we were at the hotel in Mifflinville (near Bloomsburg), where we met up with Leo. The remainder of the evening was spent grabbing dinner at a local sports bar, chatting about the next day's hike, and the inevitable topic of "what next after this?"

Next...Day 2; The Hike

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Geocaching Lessons

It seems I may have forgotten how to geocache. After finding one traditional cache, one earth cache, and two virtuals on our Maine trip last Fall, I hadn't done anything until the Washington trip last weekend. Finding even a few virtuals was fun, and logging them reminded me of a number of caches near to home that hadn't been dealt with.

Looking at my calendar of open dates (calendar dates having never found a cache), I saw that 4/21 was my last open date between now and the end of April, so I decided to get out and find a cache after work. I chose to go after one very close to where my own "Wide Open Spaces" cache used to be, since I know that this area gets very overgrown in the summer, and it would be much easier to get now rather than later.

I threw old clothes on. Drove. Parked the car. Got out. Fired up the GPS. Took a few minutes to remind myself how to actually use the GPS. Realized that the only caches loaded in it were 480-some miles away in Maine. And that the batteries were just about dead. Fired up the Geocaching app on the iPhone instead. Saw that I had 7% battery life on the phone. Found the cache easily enough. Realized I hadn't brought a pen to sign the log with. Felt silly. Started walking back to the car. Realized it was an ammo box, and probably had a pen in it. It did. Felt silly again. Signed the log. Went home.

I would update my stats if I remembered how.

Hopefully the next one will go more smoothly.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Washington DC Postscript - Georgetown Cupcakes

In my writeup of our trip, I managed to overlook Grace's favorite part; a not-so-quick side trip to Georgetown Cupcakes, where they film the TLC show "DC Cupcakes". Grace loves cooking shows in general, and baking shows specifically, and she has watched this show off and on (along with Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars and all the others). At the start of the trip she surprised us by telling us that the one thing that she really wanted to do was go to Georgetown and buy cupcakes. That sounded fine. Then she told us that because they are so famous the wait to get in the door is typically anywhere from 1-3 hours. Yep. Hours. That sounded less fine.
Almost in the door...

Having been chased out of the National Gallery by our bored kids, we had a few hours to kill before a planned late dinner (the aforementioned crying disaster), so a side trip to Georgetown by cab seemed reasonable. If the line was too long, we wouldn't stay, but at least we could look around the area a little.
Mission accomplished

The line, as promised was out the door and up the block, but didn't look too horrible, and we had been walking most of the day, so standing around resting for a while wasn't bad. In the end, the line didn't move very fast, but one hour and fifteen minutes later we were in the door and buying cupcakes.
The priceless gems...

The things we do for our children. (And the cupcakes were awfully good...)

Washington DC - Sightseeing

After seeing Julia Child's kitchen and then having a very good lunch, we spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the Mall, seeing various monuments, memorials and other tourist landmarks.

The World War Two memorial is a very nice plaza. This one felt special, since Dad was a WW2 combat veteran. There was a central pool with fountains, around which was a ring of walls and pillars with the names of all the states, territories and allied countries that fought together, along with bronze vignettes representing all different types of troops and roles that people played.
Minions at the WW2 Memorial

I made it a point to find the Pennsylvania marker, as well as the one for the Philippines. We have Pennsylvania roots going back into the 1700's (that's a long time for Americans), and Amparo's family in the Philippines lived through the Japanese conquest and occupation, and had relatives who were part of the Bataan Death March. While looking around, we saw a plaque with a mortar gun team, which reminded me of a story Dad told, and used to laugh about. After completing basic training, he received specialized training as a mortar gunner at Fort Benning, Georgia (1944). After shipping out and arriving in France, he spent the rest of the war as an anti aircraft gun team loader, and never fired a mortar again after leaving the States.
Mortar Team

The Lincoln Memorial was the next major stop, and was a beautiful spot on a beautiful day.
Lincoln Memorial

It was crowded, as can be seen, but not bad by normal standards from what I understand.
East across the Mall from Lincoln

I have always admired Lincoln...
Lincoln. Big Lincoln.

And I think the Gettysburg Address is brilliant. Elegant. Powerful.
Gettysburg Address

My family had no direct involvement in the Vietnam War, and I was too young to remember the tail end of it, although I was alive at the time. That being said, it was impossible not to be incredibly moved by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial is brilliantly conceived and executed, a simple wall of polished dark gray stone, carved with the names of all the fallen. The mirror like qualities of the highly polished stone make it surreal to behold, as if you can see through it, or into it.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall)

Lee Teter's famous painting Vietnam Reflections takes on even more meaning for me now, having been there and seen the inspiration.
Vietnam Reflections, by Lee Teter

As we wandered the monuments and memorials, I found three more virtual geocaches, bringing my total for the trip to five. If I had planned ahead of time, I am sure I could easily have gotten more, as the National Mall must be the motherlode of virtual caches. The three that me and the little cachers bagged were at the WW2 memorial, the Lincoln memorial, and the Vietnam memorial. Next time I'll plan ahead...

The last major piece of the trip, before returning home in time for Easter Sunday, was a trip to the National Gallery. The kids were tired (somewhat) and bored (definitely) by this point, but I hadn't been in years, and Amp and I wanted to at least take a couple of hours to quickly cruise some of the 19th and 20th century galleries. Cole, Bierstadt, Homer, Eakins. Gaugin, Cezanne, Matisse. Pissarro and Monet. Van Gogh (including a new "green wheat field" acquisition reminiscent of Starry Night, but in greens and in daylight). The time in the museum was fantastic, sullied only by the more or less constant backdrop of "are we done yet". Next time perhaps we do a day trip (without kids) and spend the whole day here. I could very easily do that and love every minute of it.

The last part of the trip was a badly bungled dinner at the restaurant at the hotel (Fire and Sage at the Marriott Metro Center), which we ended up getting mostly comped for, but not before Julia (tired and cranky to begin with at this point) was brought to tears by a half hour (additional) wait for cheeseburger sliders that came out raw, got sent back, forgotten about, asked about, sent back out raw again, and got sent back again with a "check, please" as the final result. How hard can it be to cook sliders beyond the darn-near-raw stage? If you put a tiny little beef patty on a grill, it almost instantaneously becomes "medium", doesn't it? I guess not. Anyway, Daddy and Mommy get very angry when you make our little angel cry. Next time we stay at the Grand Hyatt, like we did the first time. The hotel itself was fine, but unfortunately will go down in family history as "the place the made Julia cry at dinner." Zero stars out of five

The plan had been to sleep over Friday night and come back Saturday late morning, but after the dinner fiasco, it was agreed that we would bail on the last night and sleep in our own beds. We left the hotel at 8:30pm and were home by 11. Kids were asleep by 11:10 I think. Maybe 11:05. And we got to watch an episode of Game of Thrones. So a good trip with an unexpected, but OK, ending. We all woke up after sleeping in Saturday morning refreshed and remembering the good stuff.

I really enjoy these Washington trips. We have done 5 days in two stays over the past couple of years, and have still barely scratched the surface of everything there is to see. And there are certainly advantages to going in the Spring or Fall rather than summer, when the temperature (and humidity) are much more manageable.

I already have a list of things I would like to see next time we go.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Washington DC Day 2 - Julia Child's Kitchen

Since we had decided to make this trip relatively spur of the moment, not a tremendous amount of planning went into what we would do once we got there, other than "see the sights". But as we were taking a quick look at the various museums to see what they had to offer, one thing jumped out at both Amp and I as something that we really wanted to see: the Smithsonian Museum of American History had Julia Child's kitchen. Not a replica or a recreation. The actual kitchen.
Sink side with oven

In 2001, three years before her death in 2004 at the age of 91, Julia donated the entire kitchen from her Cambridge MA home to the Smithsonian. Everything except the flooring was taken apart, brought to the Smithsonian, and reassembled as part of a "Food in America, 1950-2000" exhibit (ceiling, walls, pots, pans, knives, gadgets, everything). This is the kitchen in which they filmed most of her shows over the decades, and there were still metal rails along the tops of the walls in a few places where they used to hang the TV lights during filming.
Stove side

I've been a foodie for a long time, and have always loved Julia Child. I was too young to know her from the French Chef days of early food TV, but I'm very aware of what she meant to food, wine, and home cooking in America. Everybody cooking on Public Broadcasting channels, Food Network, or anywhere else on TV owes a huge debt of gratitude to this pioneer. And she was hilarious, intentional or not.
Far side with books

The kitchen itself, viewed through Plexiglas windows and doorways, was familiar from some of her later shows (which I did watch regularly in the 1990s), and was entirely utilitarian. Other than the fact that it must have been considerably larger than most kitchens of its day, it had very little in common with today's modern high end kitchens. Knives and tools were hung up on simple racks, or stood in jars. Pots, pans and various other things were hung from pegboard which had been mounted on the walls. It some ways, it looked more like a workshop than a kitchen (which I guess in some respects it was).
"Batterie de Cuisine"

It was especially neat to see the small bookcase near one of the doorways, filled with a variety of cookbooks, including many of her own (with "Kitchen" handwritten on the spine), as well as video tapes, phone books, and the other paraphernalia of everyday life.
Julia's own books

Having already been to this museum on our last trip (to see the Star Spangled Banner flag, etc), after touring the Food exhibit and a couple other things, we went to lunch (fantastic Vietnamese food out of a food truck), and then spent the rest of the afternoon with more sightseeing... [more to come]