Our Scotland Adventure – Day 6

Welcome to Day 6 of our Scotland adventures, which was set aside for the famous Rosslyn Chapel.  Owned by the St. Clair family, the chapel was built as a place of worship for the family.  It fell into disrepair after the Reformation and actually served as stables for Oliver Cromwell’s army when they attacked Rosslyn Castle.  Queen Victoria later visited the site and declared that it aught to be preserved for the country, so it was rededicated and repairs began.  The site became a tourist destination after The Da Vinci Code book and subsequent movie were released which feature the chapel as the ending point of the story’s elaborate scavenger hunt through history.

While we were able to tour the inside of the chapel and see the numerous intricate carvings they do not allow photography on the interior, so I can’t share any of those amazing sights.  But we did make a full lap of the exterior of the chapel so I have several of those to share.

This is the doorway that Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou enter in The Da Vinci Code.  They also filmed in the tombs below the chapel’s altar but did modify the space a bit to fit the story line.

This is the back side of the chapel which faces away from the recently constructed visitor center.

This side door was originally used as the ladies’ entrance when men and women were required to used separate entrances and worship in segregated sections of the building.

Signage outside the chapel showcased the history of the site and the architecture of the structure.  It is believed that the original plans were for the chapel to be larger with a cross shape, but when the founder of the chapel, William St. Clair died construction ceased.

Inside the visitor center the displays decode some of the numerous carvings inside the chapel.  When the chapel was built many people could not read, but the carvings told visual stories designed to provide moral instruction.  The story of the Apprentice Pillar told by one of the hosts while we were inside the chapel was one of the most interesting to me.

Although just a short walk from the chapel, the Rosslyn Castle ruins are not open to the public so having seen the chapel, we headed off to our next destination – the Secret Herb Garden.

The Hubs discovered this little gem online and knew I’d enjoy stopping here.  He was 100% right!  The rustic seating area in front of the building certainly spoke to me but the chilly fall temps led us inside to find lunch.

The simple herb displays as you approached the door were super adorable and may just need to be recreated for our deck this summer. 😉

Inside we were greeted with a quaint little shop and eatery which serves simple fares made with local produce and ingredients.

I was quite tempted by these lovely cakes at the register but opted to order the tomato soup instead, with a cupcake for desert.

While we waited for our food I browsed the displays, which featured gardening wares, pottery, artwork and even a few decor items.  This is where I found the plaid pillow that is now in our guest room.

This little stool really called my name and I seriously debated bringing it home, but ultimately decided to pass since our we had already added a suitcase to our luggage collection on the trip!

Our lunch was delicious – literally the best tomato soup I’ve ever had.  The Hubs tried a quiche with salad and said it was quite good as well.  The Summer House lemonade we discovered here was so good I had to get another before we left so I could enjoy it on the road.

Plus the lovely fresh blooms on the table made everything even better.

And that cupcake…. yeah it was fantastic as well.  I wish I’d asked for the recipe!

After eating we toured the grounds where I spotted numerous items I’d love to have carted home to my garden!

This metal fire stand was exactly like the ones I’d seen at several of the castles we’d toured and I literally drooled envisioning it filled with trailing flowers in my yard.  It honestly hurt to walk away from it knowing it was too big to take home.

Inside the green house I discovered another amazing seating area, perfect for groups and fun parties.  There were several table setups throughout the green house, each surrounded by the lush plants.

This bank of cosmos brought so much color and fragrance to this little area and I was thrilled to see several other varieties of flowers like this dahlia still blooming so late in the season.

I wandered the paths of the green house noting how they had the plants arranged in various ways throughout the space, including a growing wall which seemed to be doing quite well.

I also spotted several wicker forms around the green house that added a bit of whimsy and charm to the setting.  I may try to recreate the triangular design to act as supports for my taller flowers this summer.

Behind the green house was another courtyard space.  This one was bordered by raised beds and a lovely wicker style trellis.  I’d love to create something similar to this when I develop the lower area of our yard in the next year or two!

There was also this interesting little guest house, created from a large tank.  Dubbed “The Tub” it fit the setting perfectly and was a fun way to reuse material into something functional beyond it’s intended purpose.

The building behind The Tub is the herb drying room where they preserve herbs and flowers which are then used within the café and for sale in the shop in the form of herbal teas and other products. This space is also is used as an educational classroom with courses on various subjects including growing herbs, bee keeping, candle making, foraging as well as Festive and seasonal courses.  I was quite bummed that I wasn’t able to attend any of those activities while visiting.  Further out was another garden space with rows of a variety of flowers and herbs.  This space also featured some unique garden art!

These gigantic thistles were a bout the size of my fist.  I asked the guys in the shop about them but they didn’t know any of the specifics about them – so if anyone reading does, I’d love to learn more!

Heading back toward the shop I spotted these graduated retaining walls and thought it was a great simple design.  I may incorporate something like this when I develop that lower area of the yard as well.

The last sight at this location was the owner’s home, which was still being landscaped but was absolutely charming.  It looks like it could have been on Fixer Upper and was a perfect fit for this country setting.

Full from lunch we headed toward our next destination in Cumbria, northern England.  Check out our other Scotland adventures:

And our travels through Iceland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

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Our Scotland Adventure – Day 4

I’ll be wrapping up recounting our Scotland adventures this week, starting with Day 4 which includes Inverness and Sterling.  Since we had arrived to our lodging after dark the day prior I made sure to get a shot of the building in the morning before we left.  I’m sure at some point it was a grand home, but it has been retrofitted to house guests and functions.  Before we left town I requested that we stop by the castle, which I had spotted on the way back from Loch Ness the evening prior.

Situated on the highest point it’s quite imposing.  Today it is used as the regional court house, so it’s not open to the public for tours but there are plans to convert it into a tourist destination when a new court is constructed. It’s been the scene of several dramas over the course of history including being seized by Bonny Prince Charlie’s forces before the battle of Culloden.  And when Mary, Queen of Scots visited in 1562 and the castle had been entrusted to the Governor’s Captain, who refused Mary entry.  This caused great offence, which led to his execution and head being displayed on the castle wall for all to see.

I circled the castle, enjoying the views of the quiet streets and quaint shops below which had yet to open for the day.

On the other side of the castle was the river Ness which flows to Loch Ness and more views of the city.  While on this side I found a tour group that we had spotted at Culloden the day prior.  I trailed behind them catching bits and pieces of the guide’s descriptions of the local history including stories of Nessie sightings.   He shared the history of St. Andrews Cathedral which is visible across the river.  It was the first new Protestant cathedral  completed in Great Britain after the Reformation. There were supposed to be spires on the two front towers but a lack of funds delayed that portion of construction and they were never completed.

Looking the other direction down River Ness was more shops and pubs, including the Highland House of Fraser, which made my little Outlander fan heart do a pitter patter. 🙂

We had other sights to see so we left Inverness behind and headed toward Sterling, further into the highlands.  Along the way we saw numerous fields of grazing sheep and several more castles poking above the treelines.  I would have loved to stop and investigate them all but we didn’t have time.

We quickly realized that this highway is a major agricultural transit route, as evidenced by the tractors and massive produce loads we spotted along the way.

A few hours later we arrived at Sterling and headed straight for the castle.  It took us a few tries to figure out the right road to be on as the GPS seemed a bit confused.

On our way up the hill toward the castle we spotted this young musician playing the bag pipes in traditional Scottish attire.  We also chuckled at the decal on the back of the tour bus who arrived at the gate just ahead of us.

As we headed inside the castle we had to pause as the guards let a car pass through the narrow tunnel in the fortress’ thick wall.

We purchased our tour tickets and headed inside through another fortified wall.

Inside the castle was a lovely courtyard where activities for children were being held as part of “living history month” including jousting and shinty.

We opted to leave the courtyard to the kids and check out the architecture instead, like this rounded turret lookout.

We headed inside the castle to the rooms inside the outer walls, which each had displays of court life.  Along the way we spotted these fire hooks which would be used to pull down burning beams to keep the fire from spreading.

Down the hall was a display of clothing worn by the King and Queen featuring exquisite fabrics and adornments – including a suggestive addition to the King’s lower half!

There were additional outfits on display further inside the castle.  These were likely worn by courtiers or nobility who were at court.

We headed over to the great hall which had a similar roof structure to the one we’d seen at Edinburgh Castle.  There were several people dressed in period attire as part of the living history activities so we watched them interacting with the other tourists and waited our turn for a photo op.  I got to meet Mary, Queen of Scots and sit at the table next to her for a brief moment.

Next we toured the rooms inside the main building of the castle.  One area held the  crown jewels and relics in a large display case inside of a vault, but no pictures were allowed in this area but you can see a glimpse of it in this clip done by the Scottish historical preservation society.  We also toured Queen Mary’s apartment including the small side room where her son was born.   Several of the other areas where photos were allowed boasted ornately decorated ceilings with carved busts and symbols.  These spaces were part of the procession of rooms that guests would travel through before seeing the King and were meant to impress and showcase his authority, wealth and right to rule.

The throne room was filled with elaborate replica tapestries depicting the hunt of the unicorn beneath the ceiling painted with busts of the King’s heritage.  The tapestry showing the unicorn in a small enclosure is one I remembered as the cover of a historical novel I read a few years ago.

The unicorn symbol continued in other designs around the castle including these paintings above the fire places.  It was often featured with the lion of England to symbolize the joining of the two countries.

Beyond the thrown room was the bedchambers of the King and Queen.  We learned that these spaces were also ceremonial and meant to showcase wealth rather than function. The royals usually did not sleep in these beds, and used smaller chambers attached to the space with less elaborate decor.  One of the side bedrooms had a bed that was not dressed and it was interesting to see it’s construction of rope supports.

We also toured the newer chapel – the last building constructed at the castle.  It was sparsely furnished so I didn’t take many photos here but I was intrigued by this display sign that described the chapel built just outside the castle for James VI’s baptism.  Displays in a museum section of the castle depicted other changes made to the castle over the centuries and changing monarchs.

The displays also included several replicas of the wooden busts seen on the ceiling in the King’s chambers and this interesting quote about nobility.

The tour continued with the kitchens, where sculptures showed the daily activities that took place here.

Signage in the space noted that kitchen work was performed by men rather than women and that there were two kitchens – one for the monarchs and principal courtiers and their servants and another for the rest of the castle’s population.  The signs also depicted the hierarchy of the castle ‘food chain’ and who got what portions.

Back outside we enjoyed a small garden at the back of the castle where Queen Mary likely wandered during her time at the castle.  The view from the walls of this garden were spectacular.

And off in the distance we could see the William Wallace monument, which was our next destination.

As we finished our lap of the castle I noticed these carvings on the newer section of the palace and thought it was interesting that sea creatures were depicted in such a permanent way so far from the coast.

Before we left we stopped into the little gift shop where I found this adorable Highland Coo.  He was quite pricey, but I couldn’t resist that face and so he came home with us, along with one of those gold bells you see in the background!

We headed over to the William Wallace monument but learned that it had closed about a half hour before we arrived. Luckily we soon realized that we could still access the uphill trail to the monument.  We decided to make the trek even though we wouldn’t be able to go inside the monument.

The hike to the monument was certainly UP HILL but there were these fun carvings at each of the switchbacks along the trail which gave us a good excuse to pause and catch our breath.  Each celebrated aspects of Scotland’s resources, history and culture.

I fell in love with the highland coo carving in this grouping.  If I could have fit it in my suitcase I would have brought it home and added it to my gardens!  Maybe I can find something similar online this season instead.

The view of the monument changed as we made our way up the hill, and seeing it through the trees just below the top of the trail was impressive.  We made the final portion of the climb huffing and puffing but satisfied.

Once at the top we took in the detail of the structure including the Victorian style statue on the side of the tower and the thistle design above the doors.

The view across the valley back toward Sterling Castle was breathtaking as the sun began to fade – and not because we were still winded from the trail!

After our bodies remembered how to breath normally, we headed back down the hill and decided to drive back toward the castle to get some photos of the cows we’d seen in the field below the stone walls.  The light was fading fast and the cows were completely uncooperative to my kissy noise calls and faux offers of treats.  Perhaps they knew I was a tourist since I didn’t have the accent in my voice.  Since I wasn’t willing to enter the field where they were at with out a property owner’s permission and there was no one around to ask, this was the best shot I could get.  It’s not horrible, but not exactly what I was wanting either.  It’s tough to work with uncooperative models! 😉

We headed to our hotel for the night to rest up for the next day – a trip to Doune Castle which is Castle Leoch in the Outlander series for a photo shoot with a local photographer.  I’ll be sharing that experience soon, but in the meantime stop by tomorrow for the following day’s visit to Roslyn Chapel!

Check out our other Scotland adventures:

And our travels through Iceland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Our Iceland Adventure – Day 1

I’m finally finding time to sort through and edit the hundreds of images from our trip to Iceland and Scotland back in the fall.  We took the trip because I won a contest on another blog which included airfare to Iceland and a cash prize for accommodations.  We decided to add Scotland to the trip since it was nearby and held interest for both of us.  We planned the whole trip around my nephew’s wedding in Virginia since we had to fly out of an east coast hub and the timing worked for both the Hubs and I to be gone for a long stretch during that time.

Fall in Iceland is very similar to fall in Alaska – cold and often wet, but filled with amazing scenery.  We landed in Keflavík early on a Saturday morning thanks to a red-eye flight.  The airport had very modern architecture and reminded us of an IKEA store with a maze of shopping areas, resturants and gates to navigate.  We picked up our rental car and headed straight for the capital city of Reykjavik, which is about 40 minutes away, for some sightseeing.  The first stop was Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish, which is the city’s main landmark.  It is also the largest church in Iceland and one of the tallest structures in the country.

It was an overcast, rainy and windy day so the church’s smooth grey basalt stone blended into the sky.  Because it was so early, nothing was open yet, so we wandered the grounds around the church noticing it’s details, like the statue of Leifur Eiríksson in front of the church, which was a gift from the US commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s parliament and the modern clean lines of the clock at the top of the tower.

Iceland has seen a huge boom in tourism in the past several years so it’s often crowded at attractions like this, but the weather and early morning kept everyone at bay and we practically had the place to ourselves.  I was a little bummed we couldn’t see the inside and the massive German organ which has been used for a variety of famous recordings, but we couldn’t stay long as we had a full schedule of things to see in the couple of days we were there.

Having seen all of  Hallgrímskirkja that we could, we wandered the nearby streets taking in early morning life in Reykjavik.  A few blocks away I spotted this cute little pub with classic Icelandic style including a turf roof and rustic but modern vibe.  I wished they had been open so I could sample their fare – or get a warm drink.

Across from the pub was this public water closet, which required payment to use.  We’d never seen anything like it but thought it was a smart concept given the masses of tourists the city sees each year.

We got back in the car and drove down to the city’s waterfront in search of the Solfar Sun Voyager, a modern culture of a viking ship.  I’d hoped to catch a shot of it at sunrise, but obviously the weather had other plans. We met a Taiwanese tourist there who was by herself and obliged when she asked if I’d take a photo with her.  I’m pretty sure we both looked like drowned rats, but it was fun to experience another culture taking in the sights.

We had planned to check out a weekly swap meet where the prices were rumored to be the best, but weren’t able to locate it despite several laps of the city.  During one of those laps I spotted this church and asked the Hubs to stop for a few minutes to let me investigate.

I discovered that it is Landakotskirkja, the cathedral of the Catholic Church in Iceland.  You’ll notice that bot churches have “kirk” in the name.  We quickly learned that was a standard throughout the country, just as “foss” is part of all waterfall names.

The classic architecture make it seem much older than it’s 1929 consecration.  The only Catholic school in the city was located right next door and featured charming cottage style buildings.  I was drawn to the ornate door of the church, which had a unique handle that the door had been modified around.

Since most attractions wouldn’t open for a few more hours and we had time at the end of our trip to visit Reykjavik again if we wanted to, we decided to head out into the countryside toward our hotel for the evening, which was a couple of hours drive away.  As we left the city, the scenery quickly changed to wide open expanses of mossy landscape, dotted with structures, the occasional farm and power lines to feed the other side of the island.

We stopped for lunch along the highway at a lovely little café, where we enjoyed baked brie sandwiches, the BEST mushroom soup I’ve ever had and a wonderful hot chocolate for dessert.  We encountered several interesting vehicles on the road which we assumed were operated by the local wilderness or extreme adventure tour companies.  We’re accustomed to large vehicles accessorized for wilderness travel and the situations you may encounter doing so, but these rigs took it to a new extreme with massive tires and a variety of extra lights, even for us Alaskans.  But it’s better to be prepared when in the back country, especially in remote areas where help may  not be able to easily reach you and it’s certainly a new experience for tourists who likely only encounter small scale vehicles.

By late afternoon we arrived at Stracta Hotel in Hella, where we would be staying for two nights.  I was delighted to discover there was a small herd of Icelandic horses right across the street from the hotel.  Seeing this special breed up-close was at the top of my list for this trip and this was the perfect opportunity to spend a few minutes petting them.  They quickly realized we didn’t have any treats for them and lost interest in us, but I stood in the rain for a while longer admiring their unique features.

After checking in and getting our bags to the room, we explored the hotel’s café and gift shop before hopping on the wi-fi to check messages.  Jet lagged from the overnight flight and weather, we decided to take a quick nap to recharge.  Refreshed from our rest, we headed back to the café for a delicious farm-to-table style meal over candlelight and discussed our plan for the next day including more country side driving, waterfalls, a historic turf house and the black sand beaches and basalt pillars of Vik.  We called it a night soon after so we could further acclimate to the time zone and get an early start in the morning.  I’ll be sharing those adventures next so be sure to stop back by to see them!

Check out our other Icelandic adventures from Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.  Then see our travels through Scotland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2 here and here and Day 3.

Exploring Homer

This past weekend I headed down to Homer to photograph a wedding and had a couple of hours to explore before the ceremony.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, which was a welcome change to the constant rain we’ve had in south central Alaska for the past several weeks.

Since I was only in town for a few hours I opted not to rent a car.  Instead I decided to focus my sightseeing on the Spit, which is easy to walk.  Although I’d been to Homer before I hadn’t had time to wander and check out all the little shops so this was a rare treat.  I started at the Seafarer’s memorial which is dedicated to those who are lost at sea.  Fishing is a big part of this region and with that comes the risk of not making it back to safe harbor.  The base of the statue was covered with trinkets and messages from loved ones and friends of those honored here.  Nearby there is a bell that is tolled during ceremonies when names are added to the plaques contained in the memorial.

Nearby the memorial was this uniquely decorated laundromat for an RV park.  The wall had an eclectic assortment of things from the region including buoys, urinals used as planters and even a petrified moose leg.  It’s definitely one of a kind!

My next stop was the iconic Salty Dawg Saloon.  I waited several minutes to get an unobstructed shot of the lighthouse style building and original log cabin.  I also took a quick tour around the inside of the cabin, which is virtually wallpapered with messages written on money and a variety of other items.

Back outside I took a peek at the less famous side of the Salty Dawg, which had an adorable free form garden containing a variety of nautical accents.

The shops were grouped in clusters up and down the road, including this batch which were built on a pier over the waterfront.  It reminded me of the Outer Banks in North Carolina where I used to visit often when I lived on the east coast.  Looking out from the deck of the pier you can see RV’s parked near the shoreline.  Since the Hubs wasn’t with me I texted him to say that I wanted to plan a long weekend road trip in an RV here next summer.

I popped into one of the shops on this boardwalk called Sunken Treasures.  They had a great inventory of nautical and Alaskan items including these fun signs.  The sunny days one is sooooo me! 🙂

One of their shop windows had cracked and rather than try to hide it they had embraced it and added an inspirational quote to follow the curve of the crack, which mimicked the curves of the mountains across the bay!

Out on the deck were several spots to sit and enjoy the food options available.  Most included some sort of repurposed fishing equipment, like this table.

A little further down the road was this cool cabin style store, which looked like a cross between an Alaskan Mountain Man’s hunting lodge and a Viking Hall.  I almost came home with one of the cute stringers of carved fish displayed out front, but decided to save my money for another trip we have coming up.

Up and down the main road were a variety of artistic and unique signs, including this massive milepost and hand-painted Salmon Dawgs ad.

I had to chuckle at the ingeniousness of this shop owner’s signage, which can be changed by just moving the velcroed N to indicate if they are open or “nope”…

Another shop I stopped in, called the Blue Urchin.  There were a lot of unique items here too, but the ones that I fell in love with were small vintage style bells that will be added to the ends of driftwood garlands I plan to make from driftwood collected on our many adventures.  In fact they had one just like what I’ll be making for sale in the shop, so I snapped a picture for inspiration.  I’ll share my finished garlands when they are done.

Another fun thing I spotted was this classic truck parked outside one of the many small eateries.  There were two older gentlemen standing nearby discussing the truck who were surprised I showed interest until I told them I have a 1955 F-100 at home. 😉

After my sightseeing was done I made my way to the end of the Spit to have lunch on the deck at Lands End, where the wedding reception would be held.  On the way there I passed the ferry terminal docks which were occupied by a swarm of seagulls who were in constant chatter.  All I could think about was the Finding Nemo scene were all the seagulls chant, “Mine. Mine. Mine!”

The sun was out in full force when I made it to the hotel.  I’ve stayed here with my family when we traveled through Homer to take the ferry to Kodiak.  It’s THE landmark for the Homer Spit.

I snagged a table out on the deck with a fantastic view of the bay and watched the boats go back and forth.  Although I couldn’t enjoy a cocktail since I still had work to do it was a much enjoyed little break with my Dr. Pepper fix.

While waiting for my lunch I spotted several sailboats crossing the bay.  It was so peaceful to watch them glide across the water in contrast to the fishing boats that powered toward the marina leaving waves in their wake.

Lunch was a cup of clam chowder and this amazing caprese stuffed mushroom.  It was just the right amount to keep me full until dinner at the reception.  And it was well complimented by the sunshine and surf.

It was only a couple of hours, but it was a wonderful little mini-vacation as summer begins to wrap up.  I hope we get to enjoy a few more beautiful sunny days like this before the white stuff arrives!

 

Traveling Momma

I’ve been traveling most of this week for events in three cities across Alaska.  That means there hasn’t been much time to do things at home or blog, but I wanted to share a few images from my overnight trip down to Juneau.  I’ve been to Juneau several times now for work, including a visit where the hubs got to join me and we stayed a few extra days to see the sights like this, this and this then toured downtown and visited the famous Red Dog Saloon. This trip was all work, but I did catch a pretty sunset just after take off on the way down and a quick view of the mountains along the way.

12Since we arrived late at night I quickly settled into my room and hit the sack, but in the morning I awoke to a lovely view of the channel and the Coast Guard boats.  Luckily our event was happening right next door so I got to check out the view as I walked over too.

3Once the event was done I considered stopping in at the Alaskan Fudge Company to get some of their cranberry white chocolate bark, but I didn’t have a rental car and had several heavy bags to carry on the 6 block walk from the convention center which would put me another 5 blocks downhill from our local office.  It was about that time that the wind and rain that had been forecasted decided to make an appearance so I opted to lug my gear and aching feet straight to our office instead and get some work done.  It is no-spend April after all and skipping the calories is probably a good thing anyway.

I’ve got one more event tomorrow and then things will be back to the normal schedule.  After all this work I’m certainly looking forward to the massage I have scheduled on Saturday, which is also a freebie thanks to a trade I did with an in-home masseuse a few months back!

The hubs has been working on a big project while I’ve been gone so I’ll be sharing that next week and check back tomorrow for a big announcement! 😉

Our Hawaiian Adventure – Part 2

Today I’m sharing our experience at the Volcano National Park.  We started the day by going out to the overlook we’d visited the night before which was located at the Jaggar Museum.  It was amazing to see the view during the day, having first seen it in darkness under the glow of Kilauea.

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In addition to interesting exhibits about volcano stats there were several artistic depictions of Pele and other Hawaiian gods at the museum.  As someone interested in Greek and Roman mythology I found these very interesting.  This one was so large I had to use the panoramic option on my phone to get it all in one shot, which distorted Pele’s face a bit.  Hopefully she’s understanding and forgives me.

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This was one of my favorite depictions of Pele interacting with the water goddess.

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There were also depictions of the stories about Pele’s vengeful nature such as this.

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I also found the statistics about the local volcanos interesting, especially when paired with other famous volcanos for reference. 5

There were several displays of various types of volcanic materials which showcased the diversity needed to study these evolving formations.

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Although I hadn’t considered it before, this display showing how geologists can determine the temperatures of lava from its color made perfect sense.

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There was an active seismic monitor for all of the local stations at the museum along side an area where you could jump or stomp to create your own “earthquake” on a separate monitor, which was fun to test.  This legend of how different seismic activity are depicted was good info – especially for those of us who live on the ring of fire!

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This damaged uniform was on display to showcase the dangers of working around volcanos – even for the professionals.

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It was amazing to see historical photographs of how residents of the island have lived alongside the volcanoes as they change the landscape.

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It’s easy to see why people would come to watch the eruptions, they are amazing and so little was known about the dangers that it wasn’t really considered.  I thought this display should have been titled ignorance is bliss!

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Even Mark Twain stuck around to watch the action and described it in his writings and drawings.  24

At one point while we were touring the museum several visitors, including myself started coughing occasionally.  Just as I noticed that others were coughing consistently as well,  the ranger on duty went around closing the windows and doors noting that the air quality had decreased on her monitors.  Because the air quality was changing, we finished up inside and decided to head out to the other areas of the park.  Outside the smell of sulpher was stronger than it had been when we arrived so I snapped this shot of a sign about the formation of the caldera and we headed to the car.

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Next we visited the steam vents, where pressure from the lava turns rain and ground water to steam and it is released through cracks in the ground.  There was a strong sulpher smell here as well.

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We walked out a short trail to see the steaming bluff, where vents in the side of caldera release steam up the cliff.

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The view across the caldera showed where the lava had pooled in times past and gave a different vantage point of the active portion of the crater.

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There were dozens of these pretty orchids growing everywhere along the trails.  I was surprised to see them growing like weeds, when we have to coddle them in Alaska to keep them alive.  I later learned these are not native plants, but bamboo orchids brought in from Asia.

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Next we walked the trail to the Sulpher Banks, where we saw more steam vents on either side of the path.

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Eventually the trail opened to a meadow along a hillside where mineral deposits from the venting steam have colored the rock.33 34 35 36

We also saw many of these flowering bushes, which apparently like the sulpheric conditions and are often the first plants seen on new lava flows.

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We stopped for lunch at the Volcano House, where we enjoyed the view as we ate and it seemed appropriate to try the “volcano” drink while doing so.

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After lunch we headed down the Chain of Craters Road to see the other sites in the park.  Starting out it was a beautiful road through a lush rainforest, but soon we were crossing several ‘recent’ lava flows like this one from the 70’s. You get a whole new perspective on the massiveness of the flows when you’re standing among its formations and caves.

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These forms in the lava are called tree molds and are created when the lava flows around a tree which eventually burns leaving a cavity in the cooling lava.

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There were several areas where the road had been cut back into the landscape through a lava flow which sat as an impressive reminder on either side of the road.  But the it also created uniquely beautiful landscapes along the way.44

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At the end of the road is a sea arch formation created by the pounding of the waves against lava deposits.  I’ll share a video of this location on my Facebook page later today for you to enjoy.  The view out the other side of the lookout was just as amazing.48 47

Although the lava can be devastating to vegetation, it also becomes home to new life as it cools and solidifies, creating pockets where seeds gather and grow such as this interesting flowering bush. We later learned the legends surrounding this plant also involve Pele, you can read about them here.  There were also some pretty yellow flowers that gave quite a pretty contrast to all the dark lava.

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Looking back up the hill we had traveled down it was easy to see the course each lava flow had taken and imagine the sight it must have been as it coursed down over the ridge toward the sea.

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When we stopped at one of the pull offs we realized that the road had previously been covered by a lava flow a few feet away. If you look carefully you can see patches of pavement that survived in the left side of this picture.

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Our final stop was the lava tunnel, which you can walk through. You’d never even know it was here if they didn’t point it out as it’s at the bottom of a dense rainforest area.  It was cool to see the roots from the plants above hanging down from the rock and considering the whole structure had been carved out by molten lava.

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Upon exiting the tunnel we went up a small set of stairs and found ourselves on this beautiful trail where the birds were in a constant chatter of songs.  At the end of the trail there was a sign about the many unique creatures that call this spot home and aren’t found anywhere else in the world – such as the happy face spider.  I wouldn’t want to interact with him but he’s still cute.

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We had a bit of time to kill before sunset so we decided to check out the Muana Loa lookout on the suggestion of someone we’d met the day before not knowing that the road became more primitive as you climb the mountain. We drove for several miles on this single lane road, spotting numerous wild chickens but not much else. When we finally made it to the top just before sunset we found a stone structure with a view of the caldera and signs describing an intense hike to an overnight cabin farther up the mountain.

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We enjoyed a beautiful sunset from atop the mountain and then headed back down.

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Which proved to be even more of an adventure than going up the mountain!

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Once we’d found our way back to the main road, we decided to get some dinner and looked up a delicious Thai restaurant. The food was so good it didn’t last long enough to be photographed but I did get a shot of my passion fruit margarita, which was so fresh it had seeds – those little black dots you can see there.

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We ended the evening back out at the overlook watching the glow in the caldera and listening to the rumble of the lava. This time I had the DSLR and got several good shots of the steam rising from the crater along with a few videos as well. I’ll share one of those on my Facebook page as well.

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Next up will be our adventures in Kona where we saw a sea turtle and swam with the manta rays!  Until then enjoy reading these other Hawaiian legends you should know about before visiting

Juneau: Part I (The Red Dog Saloon)

When I sat down to write about our trip to Juneau I realized that we’d actually done so much it would make for a very long post if I shared it all at once, so I’ll be doing several installments, documenting each activity we did over the next few days.

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One of the first things we did was visit the world famous Red Dog Saloon. Established during the territorial gold rush days, the saloon has been a part of Juneau for decades. Although it’s been housed in several different locations around downtown over the years, it still has that saloon feel with swinging doors and sawdust floors.RedDogBalcony

Just about every visitor to the saloon has left a mark, literally. Names and dates are carved and written on every surface in the place. No surface is safe, even the emergency lights.

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Local artifacts such as Wyatt Earp’s gun and souvenirs from visitors also cover the walls and ceiling, including life preservers from each of the Coast Guard ships that have docked there – including my hubby’s old boat, the Mustang.  My personal favorite was the bear chasing ‘someone’ up the pole in the middle of the room.

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Since we’d already had dinner when we visited we shared a cup of chowder and ordered a couple of drinks. Although the duck fart sounded interesting I opted for the glacier margarita, which was pretty good.

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We enjoyed listening to the singer, who often paused mid-lyric to tell a story or chide someone. And I couldn’t help but chuckle at his tip jar – the blind puppie fund, which later changed to estrogen!

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The entire place had a truly laid back, Alaskan style, but the best way to sum up the Red Dog Saloon is this sign.  In fact it’s so perfect they offer it on t-shirts and other merchandise in their gift shop.

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So if you find yourself in Juneau with a few hours to kill this is a good place to do so.  Kick back, read the writing on the walls, marvel at the odd collection of items and definitely enjoy a cup of chowder. 🙂