I turned sixty-one yesterday, which sounds like a vast age until you reach it. And although I joke about being old, I don’t feel it.
To celebrate, The Engineer and I spent a long weekend visiting Hocking Hills, one of Ohio’s many beautiful state parks.
We did not camp. I tell you this because when I mentioned we were going, several people asked if we were camping. Well, no, because it’s winter in Ohio, and we camp in a tent! It was 11F on the first night and only warmed up on our last day.
The Engineer has, like, a gazillion points at Holiday Inn from all his traveling for work so we stayed there.
Neither of us had been to Hocking Hills before, though I’d heard it’s beautiful. It turns out “beautiful” doesn’t cover it. The park is breathtaking, awe-inspiring, full of waterfalls, gorges, caves, and other rock formations.
Darling Daughter and Partner drove over on Sunday to hike with us. I was so pleased, not just because she’s my daughter, but also because they seem to genuinely enjoy and look out for each other. It warms my heart to see them together.
We hiked from Ash Cave to Cedar Falls, only about three miles, but the snow made it more challenging than you might expect.
Here are a couple of pictures of Ash Cave. I’ve no idea who the people are in the photos; I was just grateful we were there in the winter so there weren’t hundreds. Hocking Hills is an extremely popular park, so popular that when we stopped by on Saturday to pick up some maps, the parking lot at the visitor center was almost full even though the temperature didn’t get much above 20F that day.
There’s a fire tower at the mid-point of the hike, and although it’s no longer used, visitors can go up it if they want. (I didn’t.)
I was stunned and impressed when DD was the one who climbed to the top. Meanwhile, I admired the clouds.
Eventually, we reached Cedar Falls.
Seeing these spots in winter was incredible because we could walk on the ice right up to the rock formations.
The park had ice carvings near the trailheads of Cedar Falls and Ash Cave, and I was particularly taken with the ear muffs someone had provided for Big Foot.
After DD and Partner left, The Engineer and I celebrated the day, each in our own way — him with a beer, and me with a flight of margaritas.
In researching our trip, I had looked at trail maps from several sources including two apps, the paper maps provided by the parks, and a tour book. They mostly contradicted each other, which resulted in our hike the next day going from an expected three miles to over five. (This is why you always bring fluids [which we didn’t] and snacks [which we did].)
We were, however, warned about the ice … repeatedly and with good reason. This was one of the smaller patches.
There were several places where we did more crawling than hiking, and at the largest (about ten feet long covering the whole trail), I slid down the embankment and walked on the river ice, which wasn’t as glassy.
The Engineer risked life and limb crossing the ice patch, while I fretted what I would do when he broke his arm or leg since there were very few other hikers and no cell service.
We hiked from Old Man’s Cave to Whispering Cave, going up and down steep embankments over ice and snow, and it was worth it to see views like this.
For our final hike yesterday, we were going to walk around Rose Lake. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the lake trail and were only able to hike the access trail down to the lake and back up.
Still, we can hardly complain when the trail runs through a cathedral forest like this.
We might have missed the trail, but we saw plenty of signs.
I’ve written before about my fondness for old barns, especially those with Mail Pouch Tobacco ads painted on the side. This affection extends to other “ghost signs,” and apparently I’m not the only one (click through for more examples).
Mention Cleveland to most folks, and you’ll usually get one of two snickering comments: “Oh, you mean you live near the ‘Mistake on the Lake?'” or “Isn’t that where the river caught fire?”
Well, yes, the Cuyahoga River was once so polluted, it did catch fire. That fire, the one you sometimes hear about, was back in 1969, and the worrying thing is, it wasn’t even the first time the river burned. Things have since improved, and although I don’t think I’ll be taking a dip in the Cuyahoga anytime soon, I would be open to kayaking it.
I’ll be the first to admit the city still has its issues, and that’s okay by me because it means us locals can generally enjoy the area’s many attractions without crowds.
One of the best attractions (and perhaps most surprising to those who don’t live in the area) is the Cleveland Museum of Art, home to more masterpieces than one might expect and totally free thanks to the foresight and generosity of its industrialist founders.
To me, the Art Museum is the crown jewel of Cleveland’s University Circle museums, and today I met my childhood neighbor and friend Sue for a wander around.
Sue and I had both recently been enthralled by the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition, and ostensibly were visiting the art museum to visit the artist’s works there, as well as catch up on each other’s life.
We did both, but in the process I was struck by several pieces of art I would have sworn I’d never seen before despite visiting the institution every few years.
Of course, there were also some old favorites on display as well.
Because we were there for Van Gogh, we headed to the gallery that focused on the Impressionists. There we found this gentleman, painted by Georges Seurat as a study for “Bathers at Asnieres, about 1883-84.”
Then it was cotton candy clouds in “The Pink Cloud, 1896” by Henri-Edmond Cross.
Camille Pissarro is also represented, and I was absorbed by his “Edge of the Woods near L’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1879.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Impressionist gallery without Monet, and though Cleveland has one of the huge water lily paintings, I was drawn to this one, “Low Tide at Pourville, near Dieppe, 1882,” because it reminded me of the white cliffs of Dover. When I looked on a map, I could see why. Dieppe, while not directly across from Dover, is close enough that it probably shares a geological history to its English counterpart.
Although I didn’t photograph it, Sue and I took a moment to view the famed water lilies painting and realized we’d both visited the museum in 2015 to see the special exhibit of all three paintings of the triptych on display together. (The other two panels are owned by museums in Kansas City and St.Louis, and the three panels traveled to those cities as well before the individual pieces were returned to the institutions that owned them.)
Then, ah, yes, there were the Van Goghs.
And, then there was this, which I’m sure I never saw before in my life!
Sue and I also admired this Calder, “White Loops and Red Spiral, 1959.” (There is also an Alexander Calder mobile, but I didn’t take a picture of it).
For the most part, I realized the paintings I was drawn to were by artists whose names were familiar, even if the paintings weren’t. While I’d like to think this means I have an eye for art, it’s more likely I have an eye for styles I recognize.
Below is an example of this, painted by Andrew Wyeth, it’s called “End of Olsons,” painted in 1969 as the final work produced at the “rustic Maine home” of a family he befriended.
It was good to see some female artists represented!
After all the paintings, it was time to visit some old friends, so we headed to the two small niches containing the Tiffany glass and the Faberge items.
Below are two views of the same Tiffany window, as well as some examples of the company’s lamps.
I didn’t take any pictures of the Faberge items because I couldn’t seem to get a good perspective, but they are decadent and bedazzling.
And we didn’t explore the other half of the museum, heading instead for lunch in the little onsite cafeteria, although I did pop into the Eastern art area to take a photo of this glorious prayer niche.
I also took a picture of this, which I think is just a vent or access door to the heating systems or something. They’re all over the building, but I thought it was wonderful that something functional could also be made so beautiful.
Finally, on the way home, I caught this image of one of the wonderful arched bridges on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
My route to the museum takes this route, which is through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, another Cleveland treasure. These gardens are designed and cultivated by 33 different cultural or nationality groups along Martin Luther King, Jr. and East Boulevards in Rockefeller Park. The gardens were mostly vandalized and ruined when I first began visiting the museum, but in recent times, they have been cleaned up (and also, I think, extended). You can read more about them here.
Thanks for allowing me to share one of the reasons I love where I live.
Well! We have been busy! After camping with Darling Daughter and partner, we were home for a week or so, and then back on the road again for Labor Day weekend (the first weekend in September).
I worked Friday, but we’d been warned we had to make it to Illinois to help a friend of ours celebrate his retirement from United Airlines. He’s been a captain flying mostly overseas for many years, but hitting 65 meant leaving that job behind.
He and his wife chose to celebrate with a fly-in pig roast at their grass strip — the same place our group congregates before heading to Oshkosh each year.
Unfortunately, it became clear on Friday morning that the weather in Illinois was not going to be conducive to visual flight rules flying on Saturday. And since The Engineer is not instrument flight rules current, this meant a road trip.
We left bright and early Saturday morning after throwing our camping gear in the van on Friday night. I’m embarassed to admit that since we knew this trip was coming, we’ve left it in our foyer since the last camp trip (with Darling Daughter and Partner).
It was a long drive (about seven or so hours), but we had all day and made stops as needed for meals and to stretch our legs, arriving in plenty of time for the evening’s festivities.
And although I loved seeing many of our friends from around the country at the party, I have to admit I enjoyed the day after more. It seems the older I get, the less I enjoy being part of a crowd for more than an hour or two.
So a Sunday hanging around the hangar chatting to whoever was around was just fine with me.
It really was wonderful to be able to visit with friends we only see once in a while.
I also enjoyed being able to sleep in before going for a late breakfast on Monday, and then packing up for our trip home.
We took the backroads instead of the freeway, stopping to spend a night in Marion, Indiana where we used up some of The Enginner’s many Holiday Inn points for a room, and went out for a Mexican meal.
Illinois and Indiana is farm country — mostly corn and beans — and the country roads are mostly narrow and straight.
After arriving home Tuesday evening, we got up to a day of preparing for our camping trip on Thursday.
First, I visited my mom, who is once again in lockdown at her nursing home. They have had four staff cases of COVID (most, if not all, of unvaccinated people) and one resident who tested positive after she exhibited symptoms.
Fortunately, none of the other residents have tested positive (so far), but this means Mom is spending most of her time in her room again, with no group activities.
How long will this go on, and why has protecting ourselves and others from illness become a political football?
And that’s all I’m saying on that subject.
In addition to seeing Mom, it was time to put in our second strip of Formic Pro in our three hives, so we did that too.
Also, we had to go flying.
I know …. such a shame, but someone has to do it.:-)
We decided to fly for dinner to a rural strip with a restaurant. We often visit there for breakfast, and their evening meals proved to be as filling (and cheap) as their breakfasts.
Plus, it was so nice to see trees again after all the corn and bean fields!
The sunset was magnificent!
Thursday, it was off to the campground, which proved to be a welcome haven from our busy month.
We set up our big tent in a beautiful spot in the shade of several large pines at the end of one of the roads. I say “big tent” to differentiate it from the smaller one we take to Oshkosh. They are identical except for size, with the little one being a four-person, much more suitable for loading in the plane, when weight is a concern.
The “big tent” is an eight-person, and it’s huge! The Engineer can stand in it, and he’s 6’3″. I got it for a ridiculously low price on Craig’s List, and we’ve been referring to it as the “Taj Mahal.” But in Illinois, a friend of ours called it the “Garage Mahal,” a name I think will stick.
Here it is in all its glory.
I also recently invested in a double pie-maker. We had a small single one, but I came across a book with all sorts of delicious sounding recipes to make in a pie maker, so I decided to splash out on a bigger one too.
Here are the samosas we made on Thursday night in our new cookware. I’m very proud I managed to not burn them.
We used one of those cans of croissant dough for the first ones (and then I made a chocolate croissant with the small bit of leftover dough). The Engineer also used the little round pie iron to make another samosa using the filling in plain, old white bread. (Well, it wasn’t actually plain, old white bread. It was the rather expensive white bread I buy because it actually has flavor, nutrition, and texture, but that’s sort of beside the point.)
Anyway, The Engineer said the second samosa was as good, possibly better, than the first.
The next morning, I once again used our Kelly Kettle to make tea. I know, I know — I go on about this piece of equipment, but it’s so fast compared to making tea on our old camp stove.
So I’ve dressed up the picture with a shot of the pine cones we used for kindling, honey from our bees, the tea pot and cosy I pack with our gear, and the freebie fan I got from Seltzerland and used to create a draft for the little fire.
Friday, we rented a canoe, and discovered Grumman — the maker of F-4 Wildcats and F-6 Hellcats (World War II combat planes) also made canoes.
Of course it was The Engineer who made the connection between the name on the boat and the aircraft-style rivets.
When we stopped for lunch, The Engineer discovered this.
He’s very observant, that boy.
I, on the other hand, am in charge of research, and all I could find (with a very quick search online) was that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water does some kind of sediment survey using these markers.
Enlightening, that bit of information is, isn’t it?
The canoeing made us thirsty, and we retired to a local(ish) brewery. The place seems to be in the middle of nowhere, or at least a lot of farmland, but it was filling up when we left, so people seem to be finding it.
Here’s a view from the patio (before the groups of people began to show up). The owners have clearly spent a lot of money to make their brewery dream come true because the place was full of comfy seats and fire pits by which to enjoy your beverage.
The beer was good too.
If you’ve never heard the term “mufflehead,” it refers to an mosquito-like insect that invades western Ohio in early summer. They don’t bite, but appear in such great numbers as to be more than a little annoying.
Now they have a brewery named after them. Go figure.
Dinner that evening was our household specialty, which consists of chopping up some kind of sausage and throwing it in a pan or wrapping it in foil with potatoes, carrots, onions, and any other vegetables we happen to have on hand, along with a few dabs of butter. We put it in the fire and let it cook until done.
This time, the potatoes came out a little charred, but thankfully, my husband claims to prefer them that way.
On Saturday, we met our friend MJ at the local fairgrounds for the LCBA End of Summer Classic. Along with the educational sessions on bees, this beekeeper group had organized a Corvette Cruise-In, a Classic Car and Bike Cruise-In, Amish buggy rides, fair food booths, door prizes, vendors, and a variety of other activities.
We concentrated mostly on the bee presentations, though I did manage to find time to spend probably more than I should have on raffle tickets. I can’t feel too guilty though; the money goes to the organization, and they present several of these events a year.
Also, I won a basket, though I’ve not yet had time to see exactly what’s in it.
After the Summer Classic, we all drove back to the park for the “Friends of Findley State Park Tasting in the Woods,” which I’d seen on the park website a few days before.
I’ll admit Ohio hasn’t had a history of producing great wines, but when an opportunity arises to drink wine and eat pizza in a beautiful setting while supporting a worthy endeavor, you take it. Travel magic, right?
The people were friendly, and the three of us (The Engineer, MJ, and I) each found several wines we liked.
I should have taken a picture of the two delicious pies we consumed, but we scarfed them down so fast there wasn’t time.
Eventually MJ had to make her way home, and The Engineer and I meandered our way back to the campsite for one last campfire.
Since it was probably our last camping trip of the season, and thus, our last camping trip fire, I made a cherry pie to celebrate.
The next morning, after one last Kelly Kettle cuppa, we went for a short dam hike. (Sorry. I couldn’t stop myself from phrasing it that way.)
A few photos of wildflowers because they looked pretty, and soon after that, we were packed up and on our way home.
It’s been a busy few weeks. We were away two weekends in a row and have had a lot of social engagements when we’ve become accustomed to having few (and for a long time, none).
Plus, immediately after Oshkosh, my co-worker was on vacation, which meant I picked up an additional day at work. You wouldn’t think one day would make a big difference, but it did, coming just when peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini were coming in full force.
That meant one day spent making and canning hot pepper jelly, and another making and canning zucchini salsa.
Of course, both days were over 90F, making those endeavors that much more enjoyable.
Still, the work had to be completed, and we are once again fully stocked with salsa and jelly.
I also hoped to make zucchini relish, but found I didn’t have time (nor inclination). I got around the lack by the simple expedient of ordering some Slawsa. The grocery store where I work used to stock this condiment, but cut it just before I discovered how good it is. I found another store that carried it, but they seem to have dropped it too, so I was forced online.
Ah, well, needs must, and ordering online was better than another sweltering day in the kitchen.
We spent one weekend away in Columbus, fitting in a events we couldn’t have done a year ago (and may or may not be able to do in the near future).
First, The Engineer was able to finally redeem his certificate for an hour in a 737 simulator at Take Flight Ohio. Darling Daughter and I bought this form him for Christmas in 2019, but COVID interevened, postponing his “flight” until now.
I think it was probably the best gift we ever gave him.
We were also able to fit in dinner with Darling Daughter and her partner, before traipsing back to our hotel for the evening.
The next day, we went to Seltzerland — kind of like a beer festival, but with alcoholic seltzers. I’ll just say it was a beautiful day and a fun event, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it on a regular basis, though we did get a lot of cool swag.
If we hadn’t been fully stocked with coozies before (we were), we are now.
Saturday was completed with a passable Indian meal.
Then, on Sunday, we stopped to ride a few miles on a rail-trail we’ve been exploring. It’s in Holmes County, which is said to have the largest population of Amish and Mennonite in the world. Or maybe it was in the U.S.
I just looked it up, and the two websites I consulted say Holmes county actually has the second largest population in the country.
Doesn’t matter. What’s interesting is the rail-trail there was designed to accomodate both bikes and buggies.
For some reason, I feel like I mentioned this before in a post, so if this is a repeat, I’m sorry.
Here’s a picture from when we first rode the trail last year.
We’ve made plans to go back a few times to complete the trail because it’s a nice one.
The following week was full of work and canning and visiting Mom, and then it was Friday again, and we were off once more, this time for a camping trip with DD and her partner.
We went to Salt Fork, an Ohio state park that’s very popular, especially with boaters, because it’s around a huge (HUGE!) reservoir. Wikipedia says the lake is 2,952 acres.
Truly, there are many things you can do very well at this park — archery, swimming, boating, kayaking, horse camping, RVing — but tent camping isn’t one of them.
First of all, there’s very little shade. Secondly, there are possibly six sites suitable for tents unless you are the hardy type who prefers primitive camping.
Call me a wuss, but these days if I’m spending more than a few hours somewhere, I like to have running water.
I know there were only about six decent tent sites in the “developed” part of the campground because we looked.
Our site looked good on the reservation website, but turned out to contain one long tarmac pad almost parallel to the road, and two small grassy areas on either side of it, which left very little space to pitch tents.
The pegs from ours ended up about an inch from the road.
Still, we enjoyed ourselves, cooking over the fire and making tea using our Kelly Kettle.
Man, I love that thing. And I think we finally have the knack of starting the fire and keeping it going.
Did I mention the weather was hot? So hot, in fact, we had to leave our unshaded campsite to visit a microbrewery Saturday afternoon. 🙂
Specializing in German-style brews, staffed with friendly, courteous people, and with plenty of shaded, outdoor seating, the brewpub was a great find.
Plus … pigs. The wooly sort. Although — full disclosure — the only pig we saw was wallowing in the mud with its eyes closed beneath a tree.
Not that I blamed it — that mud did look cool and inviting.
Wooly Pig (the brewery, not the farm animal) also had a food truck, and food trucks are one of my favorite things about visiting small breweries. Something about the symbiotic partnership of two small businesses just makes me smile.
Also, they had loads of colorful zinnias that were full of pollinators!
It was our kind of place. Even The Engineer, who tends to prefer British-style beer, admitted to liking it.
We liked it so much, in fact, we stopped the next day for lunch on our way home.
By now, you may be wondering what’s up with the bees, so I’ll give you a quick report. That’s all I can give you because bees don’t like it when you bother them with a full hive check in hot weather.
I think I may have mentioned it’s been hot.
And yet, we know all three hives are full of bees because they look like this.
The pictures below are of the first OH, Girls split, taken from different angles so you can see just how many bees there were on the hive.
It’s cooled down slightly, so the beard is a bit thinner now. Think goatee or soul patch instead of the full ZZ Top/Lumberjack version above.
This morning we had a quick look at just the honey supers, stealing five more frames from the original OH, Girls hive, and taking them down to two supers by removing five other lightly filled frames.
Goldenrod is just starting to bloom, and we can smell the honey being made from about four feet away. It smells of butterscotch (some people say old socks, though I’m not sure where they get that from!).
We’ll have a better idea about the hives’ statuses when it cools enough to do a complete check. With any luck, they’ll have a good fall harvest and make plenty of honey for themselves. Although I do love Goldenrod and Aster honey, I’d rather they have enough for the winter.
Meanwhile, come Monday, we will be treating them again, this time with Formic Pro strips. The weather is predicted to be below 85 for the next few weeks, making it possible to switch up our treatment method to this one.
Because we’ve had issues with bees dying, including several queens, when using formic acid strips, we do the longer 20 day treatment of one strip for ten days followed by a second strip for another ten days. It’s slightly less effective, but we’ve found it results in a much lower mortality rate.
Also next week, we plan to extract the frames we’ve pulled.
Sometime after that will come the second batch of mead.
And I still need to research wax rendering. I’m not completely satisfied with the methods I’ve tried, and I’d like to use the candle forms I won to make some candles.
So, as you see, there’s been no actual news. We’ve just been very busy, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
Today, I didn’t get dressed until noon. Oh, I was up – drinking tea, doing laundry and dishes, and writing about Harriet.
Still, spending a third of the day in one’s nightie does tend to make one feel rather slothful and slovenly.
Fortunately, I was able to convince The Engineer we needed a walk.
We are lucky to live within driving distance of several parks, with many trails at our disposal, and today I had a hankering to see the heronry.
The males return each year in late winter to scout a nest site, and the females follow a few weeks later. Courtship involves the mail finding sticks to present to the female.
After the pair builds the nest, the female will lay three to seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents until they hatch in late April or May. The heronry is a busy place in early summer, with so many mouths to feed!
We have been to the spot in the past, watching the harried parents try to keep their hungry offspring happy, but today, we saw the courtship behavior!
It was too chilly to stand and birdwatch for long, however, so we drove to a trailhead to start our walk along the river.
The trail follows what used to be the towpath for the Ohio-Erie Canal, and so follows the river, with the now-empty canal on the other side. Behind the wall you see in the picture above, there used to be a gristmill.
As we walked, we saw mounds of snowdrops.
We have enjoyed cycling this path many times, but it’s a different experience to walk it on a cool, spring weekday, allowing more time to take photos.
Whenever I pass this little ruin, I wonder about the person who built it and what it was. The pretty part is stone, but there’s also a bit made of concrete block, so it can’t have been abandoned that long ago.
The river is wide in parts, but shallow. We tend to see a lot of empty bottles and cans, especially on the parts where there are little beachy-like banks. A few years ago, The Engineer began bringing a plastic bag to fill for recycling. And we always seem to fill it.
In fact, on Sunday, we filled the bag twice because we found a recycle bin ♻️ at our turnaround point!
But what amazes me is the number of little plastic bags of dog poop people leave by the side of the path. I mean, why bother bagging it if you’re going to leave it? Do they think there’s some kind of doggie cleanup brigade that patrols the path?
Today, we explored an offshoot of the main trail. It connects to another park system, running directly above the main trail in parts. It’s higher than it looks in the photo, but I was still surprised it was there because I’ve cycled the main path for at least fifteen years and never knew about the offshoot.
The second path leads to a former quarry, where sandstone was cut for the canal, and later for buildings in Cleveland and Akron. They also cut millstones for the German Mills American Oatmeal Company of Akron, which became the basis for Quaker Oats.
This signpost was at the edge of the quarry.
And the path eventually led to the top of the quarry.
These tracks are left from a narrow gauge railway, used to transport the stones to a feeder canal where the heavy cargo would be loaded on a boat for further transport.
I took a picture of this tree because I liked the way the roots look, and the way it seemed determined to grow, even as those roots clung to the earth, trying to find the support it needed to do so.
Lastly, I include these two photos because both made me smile. The first is because someone took the time and dirtied her hands to smile at us.
And, the second because seeing green buds on trees in spring is a joyful occasion.
I hope you take the opportunity to enjoy the season too.