The Beauty Around Us

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Thanksgiving Week Vacation Day 3

Today (November 23rd) is day 3 of our Thanksgiving week vacation.

It was raining at 5:30 am this morning.  I saw lightning and heard a roll of thunder (just one).  It was 61 degrees outside.  The temperature would drop throughout the day.

By 7:15 am we both had showered and gotten dressed.  Bob made a cheese omelet for breakfast.  I made instant oatmeal.  We both had hot beverages, coffee for Bob and tea for me, and orange juice.

After breakfast, we went for a short drive.  Our first destination was the nearby Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island.  We followed the Beach Access Road to the Toms Cove Visitor Center, where we turned around.   We saw a few egrets and great blue herons, as well as ducks.  We saw horses too, way way off in the distance.  I didn’t take any pictures, as the dim lighting wasn’t conducive to good quality photography. 

Our second destination was the Veterans Memorial Park back on Chincoteague Island.  The park has a good view of the Assateague Lighthouse.  Again the lighting was poor for photography, although I did get a decent picture of the boardwalk and gazebo.  Bob captured a nice picture of me inside one of the gazebos. 

Veteran’s Memorial Park Boardwalk and Gazebo

Veteran’s Memorial Park. If you look closely, you can see Assateague Lighthouse in the background.

We returned to Tranquil Shores, our rental airbnb, from the park to await the sunny skies expected at 3:00 pm this afternoon.

My most enjoyable activity, during our downtime, was sitting on the screened-in porch preparing draft blog posts.

My work station

I must admit it wasn’t easy to keep my attention on my blog, when I had such a beautiful view of the marsh to look at.

Today’s lunch was leftover Sloppy Joes, coleslaw and cottage cheese.

After lunch we drove to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island.  We followed the Beach Access Road to Assateague Island National Seashore, stopping for photo ops.  

Snowy Egret

Great Egret

Do you see the difference between these two egrets?  The Snowy Egret has yellow feet and a black beak.  The Great Egret has black feet and a yellow beak.

Cormorant – Pose 1

Cormorant – Pose 2

Cormorant – Pose 3

We made it to the Atlantic Ocean.

Leaving the beach we made our way back up Beach Access Road.  We stopped at the parking lot for the Wildlife Loop.  We went for a walk on the Marsh Trail.  The trailhead is close to the parking lot.  The trail is .6 miles one way.  There are no side trails or confusing intersections, so there is no way to get lost.

The Wildlife Loop Marsh Trail is flat and an easy walk.

The highlight of our walk was seeing a wild pony at the trail’s overlook platform.

a Chincoteague Wild Pony

The Wildlife Loop Marsh Trail Overlook Platform is in the background. The wild pony was behind the overlook platform on the right side.

We made a loop out of the trail by walking along Wildlife Loop back to the parking lot.


From the refuge we drove to downtown Chincoteague and stopped at the Robert Reed Waterfront Park.  The park is decorated for Christmas, complete with a huge Christmas tree.  

The statue of Misty the horse greeted us, as we approach the Robert Reed Waterfront Park.

“Christmas by the Sea” at Robert Reed Waterfront Park

The lights are on the Christmas tree and, I believe, the lights were turned on November 16th. We will try to return to the park at nighttime to check out the lit Christmas tree.

Bob photographed me sitting on one of the “Love” chairs.

These four Adirondack chairs are 10 feet tall and weigh more than 500 pounds.  The chairs arrived in Chincoteague in the summer of 2014 and promote the state’s “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism slogan.

It was a lot easier getting into that chair than getting out of it!

Late in the afternoon we returned to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and drove around the Wildlife Loop.  The Wildlife Loop is open to vehicular traffic between the hours of 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm.  Earlier I transferred images from my camera to my iPad and had forgotten to return the memory card to my camera.  I am glad that we didn’t see anything remarkable during our drive; otherwise I would have been upset that I didn’t have a memory card!

Tonight’s dinner was take-out fish, onion rings and hush puppies from Captain Zach’s Seafood. 

My dinner from Captain Zach’s Seafood

Dinner was delicious.  Even the pickle tasted really good.

Thanksgiving Week Vacation Day 2

Today, November 22nd, is the second day of our Thanksgiving week vacation.  Breakfast was from 7:00 am-10:00 am today at our hotel — the Best Western North East Inn, located in North East, MD.  We went downstairs for breakfast a little after 7:00 am.  Because of COVID-19 breakfast wasn’t the hotel’s typical full hot breakfast, served buffet style.  Breakfast was still good, though, with selections individually wrapped.  I had a hot egg and bacon sandwich, applesauce, a banana, orange juice, a chocolate chip muffin, and a cup of tea.  Bob picked up similar selections.  We carried our breakfast to our room on a tray and ate there.

We checked out of the hotel around 8:40 am and began the last leg of our drive.  Today’s destination is Chincoteague, VA.  As was the case yesterday, the GPS is programmed to avoid highways.

We made a bathroom stop in Cambridge MD at the Dorchester County Visitor Center.  A monument caught my eye.

This is the “Flying goose” monument fountain.

You can see the “Flying Goose” from several viewpoints or see it up close.

“Flying Goose” monument fountain

Returning to our car from the “Flying Goose” monument, we spotted a lighthouse off in the distance.

View of Choptank River Lighthouse from Dorchester County Visitor Center

We hopped into the car, drove 1 mile to Long Wharf Park and parked the car.

Bob and I with the Choptank River Lighthouse in the background

Choptank River Lighthouse

Choptank River Lighthouse

and one last photograph of the picturesque lighthouse

Choptank River Lighthouse

At 12:15 pm we met Tom and his girlfriend, Ellen, for lunch at Evolution Craft Brewing Company in Salisbury, MD.  We sat outside and ate our lunch.   

Lunch with friends at EVO Brewery in Salisbury, MD

Bob ordered a pulled pork sandwich with French fries; Tom ordered a brisket sandwich with French fries; and Ellen and I ordered  Brioche French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream. 

Brioche French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream

A little background … Tom graduated with Bob’s brother, John, who is 9 years older than Bob.  When we got together for lunch, I believed that I had never met Tom and that Bob and Tom hadn’t seen each other since high school.  During lunch Tom mentioned John’s 50th birthday, and I had a vague recollection of a photograph taken during John’s 50th birthday celebration.  I found that photograph, upon our return home.

Photograph Taken on the Occasion of John’s 50th Birthday (October 2000)

Apparently in October 2000 Tom, his wife Anne (who died in May 2019), and Bob and I celebrated John’s 50th birthday together.  The four of us are in the back row on the left.  

… Fast forward to 2018 …  

Bob and Tom became Facebook friends in August 2018.  Tom and I became friends on Facebook a few months later, in January 2019.  Tom likes photographs that I share on Facebook.  He has left many complimentary comments over the years.  We message each other occasionally too.  It was via Facebook Messenger that we made plans to meet on our way to Chincoteague, VA.  Tom, Bob and I believed an outdoor setting would be the safest way to meet, given COVID-19.   

… Back to the present …

Our respective lunches were delicious, and we enjoyed our time with both Tom and Ellen (whom we met for the first time today).  We hope to meet up again one day. 


I think it was 2:30 pm when we left the brewery.   We drove to Food Lion in Oak Hall, VA.  We picked up a few groceries and then drove to Tranquil Shores, our Airbnb rental in Chincoteague, VA.  We arrived at the rental shortly before 4:00 pm and got settled in.  Tranquil Shores is home through Saturday, November 28th.   

Our Airbnb rental was cleaned to COVID-19 standards.  We could smell the disinfectant, when we walked into the house.  The house was spotless.  When we stayed here before, pre-COVID, the refrigerator wasn’t completely emptied out in between guests.  The refrigerator was completely emptied, when we arrived today.  The empty refrigerator, in and of itself, gave me that little extra feeling of safety.

Tonight’s dinner was Sloppy Joes, coleslaw and, for dessert, cheesecake.  We purchased a small platter that contains 8 slices of cheesecake, four different flavors.  We will enjoy cheesecake for a few days this week. 



Thanksgiving Week Vacation Day 1

Today, November 21st, is the first day of our Thanksgiving week vacation.  We departed home at 6:10 am en route Chincoteague, VA.  Bob programmed the GPS to avoid highways.

About an hour later we stopped at Sheetz in Ridgway to pick up breakfast….egg burritos and coffee for Bob; egg sandwich and orange juice for me.

We made a brief photo stop in Biglerville, PA at the Historic Round Barn & Farm Market, a family owned and operated farm market that was built in1914.  It is one of only a handful of truly round barns surviving today. 

The Historic Round Barn

This barn is located only 8 miles from Gettysburg, which we have visited several times.  We saw this barn for the first time today.  We didn’t go inside today, but we did stop and shop on our way back home (more about that in a later blog post).

Our next photo stop was at Fisherman’s Park at Conowingo Dam, where we saw several eagles, lots and lots of vultures and a couple other birds.

The Conowingo Dam is a hydroelectric dam in the lower Susquehanna River, located near the town of Conowingo, Maryland.

Three vultures in a row

There was a sign at the dam that warned “Vultures may cause damage to vehicles. Park at your own risk.”

I have shown only four vultures.  There were lots and lots and lots of vultures everywhere you looked.

a lone cormorant

A Great Blue Heron flew by.

The highlight of the stop at Conowingo Dam, though, were the eagles.  I had seen photographs on Facebook of the Conowingo Dam eagles.  I read that the end of October to the beginning of January is the time to visit the dam, if you want to see eagles.  I have wanted to see the Conowingo Dam eagles for sometime now.  I was not disappointed.

These two eagles were perched in a tree near where we parked our car.

I took several photographs of eagles in flight.

Eagle in Flight

Eagle in flight

Eagle in flight

Two eagles in flight

and my favorite eagle picture …

Two Eagles, one with a fish

From Fisherman’s Park we drove over the Conowingo Dam.  It was a short distance to our hotel.

We checked into the Best Western North East Inn in North East, MD around 2:30 pm.  The hotel is our home for the night.  We will drive from here to Chincoteague, VA tomorrow.

Tonight’s dinner was take-out at Hunan Wok, located across the road from our hotel.  Bob ordered shrimp with broccoli; I ordered Sweet n Sour Chicken.  Both meals were served with Roast Pork Fried Rice and Egg Roll.  Our meals were reasonably priced and tasted good.  We ordered by phone and drove across the road to pick up our take-out dinners.  We ate in the comfort of our hotel room.

Erie Zoo

While in Erie this past Wednesday, in addition to driving around Presque Isle State Park, we visited the Erie Zoo.

Since the Erie Zoo reopened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to gain admittance one has had to make an online reservation.  No online reservations are required for admittance throughout the month of November.  I like being able to go to the zoo on an impromptu basis.  When we arrived at the zoo, we learned that admission was free for the day.  We have a season pass, so the fact that the zoo was free that day had no bearing.  However, we did wonder if the zoo would be busy, given that admission was free.  There were very few other people at the zoo.

This is a video that Bob took with our GoPro7 camera during our visit to the Erie Zoo.

I took a few pictures too, which I will share.  Some pictures are better than others. I really do not care to take pictures through glass or fences.  I have such a difficult time capturing a good picture.  I battled with the sun, too, and it played a part in diminishing the quality of the pictures as well.

Patagonian Cavy

Barbados Blackbelly Sheep

Canadian Lynx

Amur Leopard


Southern White Rhino



Black-Handed Spider Monkey

Bornean Orangutan

All rides, Gift Shop, and concessions are closed for the season.  The zoo will close for the season on November 30th.


Presque Isle State Park

Bob and I drove to Erie PA yesterday morning. While in Erie, we visited Presque Isle State Park.  As we drove around Presque Isle, we made a few photo stops.

Our first stop was at the Presque Isle Waterworks Lighthouse.

Waterworks Lighthouse

This “lighthouse” is actually an emergency intake tower.  It is often mistaken for a lighthouse.  Bob and I have always referred to the tower as a lighthouse.

Our next photo stop was at Perry Monument.

Perry Monument

The Perry Monument commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie, in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry earned the Battle of 1812’s greatest naval victory.

Bob and I sat on the wall surrounding Perry Monument for a short while.  We enjoyed the bright sunshine and warm temperatures.  Boy, though, was the wind strong! I put my hood up to tame my hair that was blowing in the wind.

Bob and I at Perry Monument

Our next stop was at the North Pier Lighthouse.

North Pier Lighthouse

Seagulls were congregated in front of the lighthouse.  I am sure that they were enjoying the sunshine too.

All of a sudden several seagulls took flight!

North Pier Lighthouse

Right before taking this photograph, I had changed the settings on my camera to take pictures of birds in flight.  I had my camera poised, ready to press the shutter button.  A voice behind me said “I don’t mean to be an a$$, but …”, just as I took this photograph.

North Pier Lighthouse

I didn’t mind him being an a$$ at all!

Our last stop was at Horseshoe Pond.  There are several houseboats moored at Horseshoe Pond.

Horseshoe Pond Houseboats

Of all the houseboats at Horseshoe Pond, this houseboat with a replica of the North Pier lighthouse is my favorite.

Horseshoe Pond Houseboats

From Presque Isle we drove to the Erie Zoo, the subject of my next blog post.

Nature Play Area

I have had this blog post in mind for almost two weeks, ever since my granddaughters and I visited our local Audubon Center.  I wanted to share a few photographs of my granddaughters, as it has been a while since I did so in this blog.  Also, I wanted to showcase the Nature Play Area at the Audubon Center.

According to its website the Audubon Community Nature Center “is a 600-acre wetland preserve that includes over five miles of trails, a native tree arboretum, picnic areas, a natural play space, and educational gardens for you to explore daily from dawn until dusk. … The Nature Center itself is home to the Blue Heron Gift Shop and three floors of interactive exhibits, including live animals, which inform and engage visitors of all ages. …  You can visit Liberty, a non-releasable Bald Eagle, in her enclosure near the [Nature Center] building.”

The Audubon Center is located approximately 12 miles from our house at 1600 Riverside Road in Jamestown, NY.  We walk the trails and visit Liberty frequently.  We have visited the Nature Center building, as well, but just a few times.  This blog post, though, is about the nature play area only.

The nature play area is located near the Nature Center building.

In Mar 2016 the nature play area had a tunnel made out of a tree and stepping “stones” made out of trees.

Mar 2016
Our granddaughters climbed through and on the tree tunnel.

Mar 2016
Bob and our granddaughters check out the stepping “stones” made out of trees.

I can’t recall if there was anything else to play on in the nature play area during our visit in March 2016.

During our visit to the Audubon Center on October 7th the girls found three new additions to the nature play area.

The girls had fun pretending they were stuck in this shelter.

The girls are sitting on Tank, a 12-foot and 1,500 pound concrete turtle.

Last fall, Tank the Turtle was created and donated to the Audubon Nature Center by Mike Whitmire of Whitmire Block and Outdoor Living, Starbrick, PA.

Spotted Salamander

The most recent addition to the Nature Play Area is this spotted salamander, which was also created and donated to the Audubon Center by Mike Whitmire of Whitmire Block and Outdoor Living.  The spotted salamander measures roughly 14 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.  The spotted salamander had not yet been named.



Allegany State Park Day Trip

Well, we made it to Allegany State Park after all the day after our day trip to Letchworth State Park.  (See today’s earlier post about changing our destination, when en route to Allegany State Park.)

Allegany State Park is located near Salamanca, NY.  The park is divided into two sections: the Red House area and the Quaker Run area. The Red House Area is the northern half of Allegany State Park. Its attractions include Stone Tower, Red House Lake, the Thomas L. Kelly Covered Bridge, and the Tudor-style Administration Building. The Quaker Run area is the southern half of the park. Its attractions include Quaker Lake, Science Lake, an Amphitheater, and Thunder Rocks.

Allegany State Park is a frequent destination for Bob and me, as the park is less than an hour’s drive from our house.

With the exception of one weekend camping trip several years ago, our visits to the park last only a few hours. We visit various attractions, which I photograph.  We sometimes shop at the gift store and eat lunch at the Red House Restaurant, both of which are located in the Administration Building. I would like very much to spend a weekend, once again, at Allegany State Park.

We entered Allegany State Park from Interstate 86 and entered the Red House Area on ASP Route 1.  We gained free entry by showing our New York Empire Pass.  It would have cost us $6.00, if we did not have an Empire Pass.

ASP Route 1 Overlook

Red House Lake

Thomas L. Kelly Covered Bridge

Thomas L. Kelly Covered Bridge

There is a new trail off ASP Route 3 that goes on the other side of Science Lake.  The trail was opened in late Spring or early Summer this year.  We hiked some of the trail, for the first time, during our visit to Allegany State Park.  I learned afterward that there is a kiosk at the front of Science Lake that provides information about “school in the woods” ruins that can be reached by hiking the Science Lake trail.  We didn’t hike far enough, so we didn’t see the ruins  … next time 🙂

Science Lake Trail Trailhead.  The creek feeds Science Lake.

The trail was well marked. The blue hiking sign indicates that the trail is easy.

Science Lake Trail; Science Lake in the distance.

The people who built this trail did an EXCELLENT job!

Feeding Science Lake

Science Lake, with fishing platform in the distance

Science Lake Trail.  This is another  instance of a well-built trail.

The trail was a bit rocky in places.  Some rocks were strategically placed, though, to keep one out of the mud!

Looking across Science Lake

OH!  I see the kiosk that provides information about the “school in the woods” ruins!

The bridge over Science Dam was fenced off several years ago.

It would be nice, if funds were made available to make repairs to the dam / bridge.  A great loop trail would then be possible around Science Lake.

Bob hiked over to the bridge.  I stayed on the trail.  This is where we ended our hike.  We turned around and returned to the car.

One last parting picture of Science Lake


While we were at Letchworth State Park the day before, I remarked often about “so many people” being at the park.  My oft-spoken remark, while at Allegany State Park, was that there were “too many bugs”!  No bugs bothered us, while at Letchworth.  We should have applied bug spray, especially before hiking behind Science Lake.

Leaving Science Lake, we continued on ASP Route 3 past Quaker Lake.  We exited the park onto Interstate 86, just 10 miles south of where we entered the park.


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