Last Beauty from This Year's Leaves

Last Beauty from This Year's Leaves
Last Beauty from This Year's Leaves

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tour of the Houston Ship Channel

The week before I arrived at Natalie's house, I started getting emails from her, describing things she planned to do and inviting me to come along. The first invitation I accepted was to join her Red Hearts Group, who,mostly are old lady paddlers I  know, to take a tour of Houston's Ship Channel.

So I cooked a quick,breakfast for Natalie and daughter Ellen before we set off on about an hour's drive to board the Sam Houston for the tour.  We had no traffic problems, a rarity in Houston,  and arrived a half hour early.  We had time to enjoy the area before the rest of our group and the other passengers arrived, including a few school groups. 

This build is almost completely covered in tile pictures- didn't try to decode it

I enjoyed these pelicans

The Sam Houston tied at its dock 

I enjoyed the blues and shades of whites- black of this picture of winter plumage
 laughing gulls sitting on a dock

We particularly enjoyed a group of middle school kids that were in the boat near us.   They were very  polite and engaged in the tour. They each had  with a little set of papers with them that gave interesting facts about the ship channel, asked them to find examples along the tour. Their teacher was kind enough to give us a copy.  

Natalie, Janice, and Christy enjoying the tour

The channel bounded on each side by storage units, ship tie-ups, parking for the tugs,
big cranes, piles of recycled stuff,  bulldozers and tractors, and even lots of vehicles

The day, which had turned overcast just before we arrived, but was back to partly cloudy, with dramatic skies, by the time the Sam Houston left the dock. We got to see several of the different kinds of ships that visit the harbor while, getting to imagine taking the ships back to their home countries. This was a very different view of these ships since I have paddled parts of Houston's Ship Channel and turning basin in the distant past - before 911 happened and changed our lives for the worse. At one time, I had a picture of me in my solo fourteen and a half  foot canoe under the bow of a big ship.

Oh course, I  ran around on the outside of the ship,for the entire outward leg and for most of the homeward one.  Wanted to be sure you got to see most everything. 

There is storage for lots of different kinds of products along the channel. 


This is probably for some kind of petrochemical storage

I know this is for grain storage

Then there were the ships and tugs. 

This one has big hatch covers - the white structures - it is loaded with cranes

This ship carries liquid petroleum gas (LPG)

This ship carries containers which are moved with cranes.  Tugboats help it turn
and move through the channel

A tugboat pushing a barge

This is a Ro/Ro (Roll on/Roll Off) ship - That black part in back is the ramp

A ship from  Singapore

Of course, I always notice the birds:

One of the few brown pelicans I noticed

I saw these laughing gulls,  but didn't realize I was catching this interaction

When gulls act like passerines

Laughing gulls and cormorants find plenty of places to rest

Other interesting sightings:

Huge piles of trash? recyclables- waiting to be shipped?

Juxtaposition of sea and land travel

Giant spools of cable

The new lifeboat pods - they have people seat belted in and can drop off the top of the ship

At the end of the tour, we retired to one of Houston's landmark restaurants, Ninfa's Original Restaurant. There we all I had different impressive meals - I had the adobo chicken salad - and excellent service.  The interesting tour, beautiful day, great conversion made for a wonderful day.

If you find yourself in Houston, be sure to register for a tour of Houston's Ship Channel. It's FREE! The Houston Maritime Museum is also planning to move to this site. And don't miss Ninfa's Original Restaurant. (Any other Ninfa's is NOT the same. 

The mandatory group picture - taken by some hapless person who got too close to us 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Once is Not Enough

Schoodic Peninsula was on my bucket list to visit.  Julie agreed to go over but, at first wanted to ride the ferry.  It costs twenty-five dollars per person so we decided to drive over.  It only takes a little over an hour and the drive is beautiful.  We planned to ride our bikes and Julie was dying to paddle in a bay.  But the ranger dissuaded her because she didn't have the right boat or a wet or dry suit.

So, after talking to the ranger about a fun route to ride our bikes, we set off on the auto tour which would eventually connect to a trail that would bring us back across the peninsula to the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center and its grounds are beautiful

Julie near the beginning of our ride - she wanted the house on the island

A view from the road

We enjoyed a visit with a pair of woman painters just before 

Julie was dying to hike to an island. We found the one below accessible at low tide, so we stopped and I waited while she did a hurried hike.

One of the pictures I took while I was waiting for her return

The pair of us at the end of the ride

We had biked only eight miles and taken time for a little bit of hiking and had eaten lunch, so we didn't get back to the Visitor Center until mid afternoon.  We figured we had plenty of time for a do over, so drove back around to look for pictures in the improving light.  We also had several places we wanted to hike.

One of the places we wanted to visit was a steep dirt road we had passed and where we found there were several trailheads. We stopped and did a short hike, looking for good vistas.  There were a few but the sun was still too harsh for good pictures.

Julie and the trail signs

We wanted to visit the Schoodic Institute, but were a few minutes too late to do so. So we went in search of the trailhead for a suggested trail that would give us beautiful evening views of the ocean. While looking for it, we scared a  bald eagle that was sitting in a tree,  feasting on a squirrel it had just caught.  We finally found the trailhead and set off for three different viewing points of the ocean.

Headquarters for the Schoodic Institute

Even the chimney had that most unusual brick/rock work

This statue was in front of one of the buildings used for training scessions

We found the perfect doughnut - no fat or carbs - it's actually a mushroom. 

We had to sit a few minutes and watch the tide come in - so peaceful

On the way home, just after sundown, we came upon a city dock. Lobstermen were bringing in their catches, while many other boats were tied up either to the dock or in the bay.

These boats looked like they had been set up to be painted

Lobster boats at rest

The lobsters were loaded into bins and taken off - they have to be purged and brought back to the temperature of the ocean before they are ready to sell

This scene is so iconic for Maine

We were both happy we had gone to Schoodic Peninsula.  It was beautiful and had very few people using it. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Acadia Day 1: A Three Rainbow Day

I spent most of Saturday acquiring Julie.  I had to drive to Portland and run a few errands, play a little, then collect her and haul her back to Acadia National Park. We stopped for supper and got back to camp past my bedtime.

Consequently, we got a late start to go paddling. The ranger suggested we NOT paddle Long Pond, which had been my choice, but rather to paddle on Eagle Lake, which was a much shorter paddle.  This was because Long Pond was going to be really windy. So Julie and I decided combine a paddle with a hike, since we could access the Carriage Road around Eagle Lake, then hike to Conners Nubble, and back on that the North Bubble Trail to our landing spot.

Boat launch site on the north end of Eagle Lake

It was almost lunch time by the time we put in.  Paddling we pretty easy, since we were mostly blown down the lake by the wind. We soon came across an old foundation with what may have been the wall of a basement that had beautiful arched doorways in it.  We stopped there to explore it and eat lunch.

Happy paddler - by Julie


A view through  one of the three arches in the front of the foundation 

This looked like a gun slit

Then we paddled to the south end of the lake, before angling a little towards the north end as we paddled  towards the far shore, letting the wind help ferry us across. The landing was easy to find and not to hard to find a way to shore through the rocks.

Julie at the landing for the trails

The carriage road is very easy hiking as it is mostly flat.  But when we turned off it, the path soon started climbing, then rose steeply through a rocky bluff.  But in only about a tenth of a mile, arrived at Conners Nubble which gave us  three hundred and sixty degree views of a mostly sunny sky.  While we were still enjoying the view back over Eagle Lake, a rainbow appeared from a dark cloud. The trail down to the edge of the lake was mostly easy, with only a few places where we had to leap down rocks, or pick our way.

The steep part of the trail looked like this for a tenth of a mile

Reward time - at Conners Nubble

The rainbow over Eagle Lake from Conners Nubble

View down to Eagle Lake

Beginning of the hike down to the boats

I waited until Julie left, so I could take pictures of her.  As I watched her turn around a point and head back to our put-in, another rainbow appeared.  After I took lots of pictures of that, I spent several minutes trying to remember the path I had taken through the rocks and backing my canoe out into navigable water.  Soon after that, I was paddling into a fourteen mile wind so didn't take any pictures.

Rainbow number two over Julie

But just after we got back to the put-in and were loading our equipment, the third rainbow appeared, this time a full one.  But it was too close to us for me to get the entire rainbow.

Rainbow number three  - from the boat landing

I had also put the previous picture on Facebook and gotten the comment that there was a second rainbow forming. So I almost had a four rainbow day.

We had just enough time left in the day to drive to Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunset.

Sunset was mostly cloudy - and windy and cold - but still enjoyable

A bit of sunlight snuck through the clouds

Bar Harbor and a cruise boat

Then it was back to camp for salmon patties and grilled squash from my garden all cooked by Julie over her campfire.

It was a very good day.  Our next adventure will be to bike and hike at Schoodic Peninsula.