The Greenbrier, 5:30 a.m.

We had to get back to Columbus this morning, which meant we arose before the crack of dawn and were treated to a view of the Greenbrier in the wee hours.  With wisps of fog shrouding parts of the grounds, absolute, not a whisper to be heard silence, and no living soul out and about, the Greenbrier assumed an almost mystical dimension that made you almost expect to encounter the ghost of Dwight D. Eisenhower.  But no ghosts appeared, so we loaded up the car and headed out toward I-64 West.

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Mummified

The mums are out in force at the Greenbrier, which adds some serious dashes of color to the already beautiful scenery.

This may be the perfect time of year to visit the Greenbrier, and the mums are only part of the reason.  The weather has been bright and clear, warm but not too hot during the day and cool in the evening.  The leaves are starting to fall, letting us feel them crunch underfoot as we walk the trails and walking paths.  Throw in the soothing clip-clop of horse hooves from the carriage rides, and you’ve got a beautiful place to spend a weekend.

Cactus Country

Boerne, Texas is in the Hill Country — drier than the coastal areas, but not quite desert, either.  Nevertheless, it’s a good climate for desert plants like cactus.  There’s a nice river walk along Cibolo Creek, where the cactus grow like weeds and the water is teeming with perch, bass, turtles, and “quackless” ducks.  It’s a good place for a morning walk.

Tubing It

Today we took an inner tube float trip on a segment of the Medina River in the Hill Country of Texas.  The river drifted lazily beneath a canopy of shady trees, the cool, crystal clear water felt good against the keister, and the ice-cold beers went down easy along the way.  There may be a more relaxing way to spend a Friday afternoon, but if so I don’t know what it is.

The wise river tuber carefully ties up to the cooler tube, by the way.

Keeping Maine On The Brain

We’re back from an all-too-brief trip to Maine.  We ate lots of seafood, hiked around, got out on the water, and gulped down as much of the salty, energizing shoreline air as our lungs could stand.  We enjoyed temperatures that never got above the 70s and evenings where the thermometer dipped down into the 50s, windshirts and hoodies were required attire, and windows were kept open for optimal sleeping conditions.

When I get back from a vacation, I always try to hang on to the relaxed vacation mindset as long as possible.  I hope to retain some Maine on the brain — for a few days, at least.

Aboard The Frenchboro Ferry

I’m a fan of the Maine State Ferry Service.  That’s because the MSFS provides regular ferry runs from points along the mainland to the islands found up and down the Maine coastline.  If you’re a landlubber like me and just want to get out on the water, you don’t need to charter a boat — you can just hop on a ferry and move from point A to point B the same way the locals do.


Yesterday morning Kish and I took a ride on the Bass Harbor to Frenchboro ferry. For a mere $10 a person, the ferry takes you away from the harbor, past islands and working lobster boats, to the tiny island town of Frenchboro.  If you’re just along for the ride, like we were, it’s a pleasant two-hour trip.  And if you see a porpoise, as we did, it’s an even better deal.


When the left the dock at 8 a.m. sharp, some morning fog was still hugging the islands, wrapping them like a moist gray blanket, as shown in the photo above.  On the open water, though, it was a brilliant, blue sky day, with lots of activity from the lobster-catching contingent.  


After we cruised into the snug harbor at Frenchboro, a gaggle of locals came on board.  For them, the ferry is routine stuff, and they sat up front, chatting away without a second glance at the no doubt familiar scenery.  Kish and I, on the other hand, sat in the back, the better to get unimpeded views of everything going on around us.  How often do flatlanders from the Midwest get a dockside view of a real working harbor and fishermen who think nothing of knocking back a can of beer at 9 a.m., the better to kick start their trip to the mainland?


When we looked into taking a ferry ride, the woman behind the desk at the ferry office recommended the Frenchboro ferry as more scenic than the Swan Island ferry, which uses a much bigger boat that also carries cars and trucks.  It was good advice.

Climbing Mt. Cadillac 

Yesterday we ventured over to Acadia National Park to hike up Mount Cadillac — the towering peak situated right on the coastline that is the first place in America struck by the rays of the rising sun.  It’s a popular destination that offers staggering views of the jagged Maine coast.  Most people drive up to the top — but heck, anybody can do that.  Hiking up is more fun and a bit of a challenge, besides.


We chose the south ridge trail, which begins along a road and, for the first mile of so, takes you through a dense, almost primeval forest.  At that point you emerge above the tree line and are exposed to the first of the sweeping vistas that this hike affords — with views that just get better and better as you gain altitude.  You follow blue trailblazing signs painted on trees and then on the granite of the mountain itself, as well as rock cairns that also mark the way.


The trail takes you along the granite spine of the mountain, shown in the first picture above, and you actually feel like you are moving from knob to knob on the gigantic backbone of a huge, hunched-over creature.  Eventually you are treated to a commanding view in all directions and can see dozens of miles to faraway peaks in the Appalachian chain.  You also pass a beautiful pond that is covered with velvety, impossibly green shoots, shown toward the middle of the photo below, and you wonder:  “what is that doing way up here?”


It’s not a difficult climb, but it’s a rewarding one nevertheless.  When you reach the top, having clambered up the last few rock faces, you can stare slack jawed in any direction.  The rocks at the top are covered with people, and no wonder — the scenery is spectacular.  It’s one of those spots that simply can’t be captured in a photograph.  But I’ll always remember it.