The Beauty Around Us

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Easter Vacation – More Assateague Island, VA

On Saturday, March 31st, after another scrumptious breakfast at our hotel, we once again drove to Assateague Island and visited the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We saw deer off in the distance, crossing through the wetlands.

_LG25608We watched deer pass through the marshland, as the sun rose.


Bob said one of the deer had antlers. I didn’t see that deer.

In addition to the deer, we saw egrets, a view of the Assateague Island Lighthouse from Toms Cove, several water birds at Toms Cove and a belted kingfisher (!).


Assateague Island Lighthouse,
as seen from Toms Cove

_LG25617Bufflehead Duck at Toms Cove

_LG25620More egret

_LG25625Belted Kingfisher

We spent about 30 minutes at the wildlife refuge.

Several hours passed by, after we left the wildlife refuge.




Photo obtained here.




We didn’t return to the hotel until 4:20 pm, at which time we discovered that the Easter bunny had been in our room.

20180331_202039671_iOSThe Easter bunny left us a small Easter basket.

Around 5:30 pm we went for one last drive through the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We saw birds, the Assateague Island Lighthouse and, while on the Wildlife Loop, a pair of Sika Deer!

_LG25716Long-Legged Wading Bird

_LG25723Great Blue Heron

Assateague Island Lighthouse

_LG25729Sika Deer

One could make the assumption that we did very little this day. How wrong that assumption would be, as you will discover in the next several blog posts about our Easter vacation.

Easter Vacation – Assateague Island, VA


Located on the East Coast along the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland and Virginia, Assateague Island is the largest, natural barrier island ecosystem in the Middle Atlantic states region that remains predominantly unaffected by human development.  The Virginia portion of the island is designated as the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the exception of 448 acres in the refuge’s Toms Cove area maintained by the National Park Service. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the southern end of Assateague Island should not be confused with Chincoteague Island, the neighboring island to the west with a residential community on it. One must drive through Chincoteague Island in order to reach Assateague Island.


On Friday, March 30th, we ate breakfast at the hotel.  I had scrambled eggs, bacon and a waffle.  Boy did that waffle smell good, as it cooked!  I added strawberries, along with some whipped cream, to the top of my waffle.  As is customary at most, if not all, Best Western hotels, breakfast is complementary.  Best Western Chincoteague Island provides an excellent breakfast for its guests.

At 9:00 am we drove to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The Best Western Chincoteague Island is less than 1 mile from the entrance to the wildlife refuge.  Admission to the refuge is $20.00, which is good for multiple days.  We didn’t have to pay the admission fee, as I purchased a National Park Service senior pass in February, when I turned 62 years old. We drove to the Toms Cove Visitor Center at the Assateague Island National Seashore, where I got our Passport to Your National Parks stamped and purchased a page of souvenir stamps. Assateague Island National Seashore (Virginia) is the first National Park that we have visited, since purchasing the Passport.

We made two round trips along Beach Access Road. We saw several northern shoveler ducks, several egrets, and one great blue heron.  We didn’t see any ponies.

_LG25589Male and Female Northern Shoveler Ducks

_LG25574Close-up Picture of Egret

_LG25578Egret in Water

Egret on Tree Branch

_LG25582Great Blue Heron

We returned to the hotel around 11:00 am. It was a windy, overcast, rainy, and dreary day. The 55 degree temperature, though, was nice. Weather conditions improved in the afternoon, so we returned to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

In additional to making several round trips along Beach Access Road, we walked the Woodland Trail.

The Woodland Trail is a 2-mile round trip.  We saw a few ponies off in the distance, during our walk on the trail.

IMG_20180330_135122Chincoteague Wild Ponies
(Photo by Bob)

_LG25595An Assateague Wild Pony

The trees along Woodland Trail have been destroyed by a southern pine beetle infestation.

MVIMG_20180330_142904Southern pine beetles cause much devastation.
The only thing that fell during our walk was a few rain drops… No branches or trees.
(Photo by Bob)

We drove around the Wildlife Loop two times.  The Wildlife Loop is a 3¼ mile loop and is a great place to observe wildlife, especially waterfowl and wading birds. It is open to walkers and bikers throughout the day, but vehicles are only permitted to drive on it from 3:00 pm. till dusk. This trail is paved and wheelchair accessible.  We saw very little wildlife during our two drives.  On the second trip we did see several deer crossing through a marshy area. I didn’t have my camera with me on that drive. The deer, though, would have been too far away for a good picture.

Easter Vacation – Warren, PA to Chincoteague Island, VA

March 29th was the start of a long weekend getaway. We were on our way out of Warren, PA at 5:30 am, en route Chincoteague Island, VA.

We stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s in Clearfield, PA. We used an order kiosk there for the first time. We had to pay at the counter, as the cashless mechanism was off line. After eating our bagel sandwiches, hash browns and beverage of choice, we were back on the road at 7:45 am.

It was a foggy drive, with dense fog at times.

This was the view on I-99 at Osterburg, PA at 9:06 am.

The fog was even more dense, as we descended the Town Hill mountain range on I-70 in Pennsylvania. The fog was close in, making me feel a little bit claustrophobic! The fog left us, after descending Town Hill.  Driving conditions were good rest of the way to Chincoteague Island.

The drive would have been more interesting without the fog. It is a beautiful drive from Pennsylvania to Maryland. Because of the fog we saw very little of the countryside.

We entered Maryland at 9:55 am and crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Annapolis shortly before noon.

Crossing over the Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge is 4.3 miles long.  I suffer from gephyrophobia, the fear of bridges.  I am particularly fearful of long and tall bridges.  My fear originated many years ago, while crossing a bridge in Maine.  I was boxed in, nowhere to go.  Looking through my rear view mirror, I saw a truck closing in quickly.  It was not slowing down.  The truck rear-ended me.  Thankfully, myself and a passenger did not sustain any injuries.  We were both quite shaken, though, by the experience.

My fear of bridges has lessened over time.  I used to grip the steering wheel, if I was driving (or the door handle if I was a passenger), so tightly that my fingers would turn white. Nowadays I sometimes close my eyes, if not driving, or take several deep breaths, if driving, while crossing a bridge. I am not fearful of all bridges.  If traffic is light and I can see the end of the bridge, I have no fear.

We ate lunch at IHOP in Chester on Kent Island, MD.  Bob ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.  I had a BLT sandwich.  We were back on the road at 1:00 pm.

We arrived in Virginia, via Route 12, shortly before 3:30 pm. We made it to our hotel, the Best Western Chincoteague Island, by 4:00 pm. We checked in and got settled in our room.  We decided to go for a bicycle ride, after relaxing for a short time in our room.

We brought our folding bicycles with us to Virginia. After removing the bicycles from their carrying bags, unfolding them, and adjusting the seats we went for a short bicycle ride. Best Western Chincoteague Island is the closest hotel to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We rode our bicycles almost to the refuge entrance, a distance of about 1/2 mile.

On the way to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, there is a very nice view of the Assateague Channel.

20180329_212421844_iOSAssateague Channel

Returning to the hotel, we ditched the bicycles and drove to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Our hotel provides several outdoor bike racks.
This particular bike rack was located behind the hotel.

We drove along Beach Drive to the Assateague Island National Seashore.

We made it to the beach.

We ate dinner at the Chincoteague Diner and Restaurant, which is located conveniently next door to the Best Western Chincoteague Island hotel  We have eaten at this restaurant during past Chincoteague vacations.  The food has always been good.  Service, though, can be on the slow side.  I just think life is slower on an island than it is on the mainland.  A slower lifestyle is one of the reasons that we keep coming back to Chincoteague Island.

After dinner we returned to the hotel, where we spent rest of the evening.

Oh, the hotel.  I should probably tell you a little something about the hotel and our room.  We like the Best Western Chincoteague Island hotel.  This was our third or fourth stay at this hotel.  Off season a room rate of approximately $90+tax is reasonable, especially when Discover reward point gift cards are used to defray some of the cost.  The hotel location is quiet.  As is customary at most, if not all, Best Western hotels breakfast is provided on a complementary basis.  The hotel provides a good selection of breakfast items, hot and cold.  The hotel and the rooms are clean.  The hotel staff is very friendly. We selected a two queen bed room with balcony for our 3-night stay.  Best Western Chincoteague Island is our go-to hotel, whenever we vacation on Chincoteague Island.

Stay tuned for more blog posts about our Chincoteague Island vacation.

Blue Ridge Cemetery

This past Saturday I joined the Taphophile world, according to my sister-in-law.  In other words, I became a cemetery enthusiast.  Bob is my second set of eyes, while looking for burial plots.

Since early January, I have been building my family tree.  I discovered that many of my ancestors are buried in cemeteries that are within a 2-3 hour drive of my home in Warren, PA.  Some of my ancestors are buried even closer than a 2-3 hour drive.  One such cemetery is the Blue Ridge Cemetery in Barnett Township in Forest County, PA.

That cemetery is only a hour’s drive from our home.

We drove on a bumpy, dirt road for a couple miles before reaching the cemetery which is located on Blood Road.

_LG25531Blue Ridge Cemetery
Can you make out the steel pipe in front of the break in burial plots?
My family members’ burial plots are in front of that steel pipe.

We found eleven family members buried at Blue Ridge Cemetery, all from the maternal side of my family tree:

Great-Grandparents Benjamin F. (1859-1936) and Lula M. (1873-1930) Leslie
Great-Uncle Noah Leslie (1888-1964)
Great-Uncle Harry D. Leslie (1899-1979)
Great-Aunt Elizabeth R. (1897-1960) and John E. (1892-1968) Gregg
1st cousin 1x removed Andrew F. Gregg (1919-1920)
1st cousin 1x removed John A. Gregg (1933-1964)
1st cousin 1x removed Larry E. Gregg (1937-1937) (note story below)
1st cousin 1x removed Ruby A. (1918-2002) and Walter W. (1906-1992) McKinney

I plan to visit cemeteries, from time to time, at which my ancestors are buried. I chose to visit Blue Ridge Cemetery first because this is the site of Ruby McKinney’s final resting place.


Ruby A. McKinney’s final resting place

In 1987 Ruby mailed me a blue notebook full of names and birth dates of family members, as well as a couple stories about family members.  That notebook has become invaluable to me, as I build the maternal grandfather’s portion of my  family tree.

One of the stories in the notebook is the heartbreaking story about the birth of Ruby’s brother, Larry E. Gregg.

Before leaving on our drive to Blue Ridge Cemetery, I had not yet completed my great grandparents’ ancestry profiles.  What a surprise I had, when I discovered that Benjamin F. and Lula M. Leslie are buried at Blue Ridge Cemetery!

20180324_162616561_iOSMy Great-Grandparents Final Resting Site

I plan to return to Blue Ridge Cemetery, when the snow is gone.  At which time, I plan to take photographs of each of my family’s burial plots.


Papalia Family Photo Session

I conducted a family photo session yesterday afternoon, my first since late December last year. My friend Janice messaged me about a month ago.  Janice wrote that she was having a surprise 60th birthday party for her husband John.  She asked if I was available to take a few family photos.  I was available and accepted the photo assignment.



John arrived at his surprise birthday party,
accompanied by his oldest son and one of six grandchildren.


All five children and six grandchildren celebrated John’s 60th birthday.

_LG25519Papalia Family

John celebrated his 60th birthday with not only immediate family members.  Some of his extended family shared in the celebration as well.

Untitled-1Papalia Immediate and Extended Family

_LG25526John, Janice and their six grandchildren

Thank you, Janice, for thinking of me to photograph your family.  You have a wonderful family!  I hope that John enjoyed rest of his birthday surprise.

Picturesque Red Barn Torn Down

On Wednesday, February 14th, a woman by the name of Anne contacted me via private message at my Linda Gross Photography Facebook page

Anne: Please contact me about photo(s) of the Cochranton red barn…thank you.

Anne provided me an email address and telephone number.

MeWould you please leave a comment on the particular barn that you are asking about? Thank you.

Anne responded this morning to my question.

Anne:  This barn has now been prepared for “relocation” on the Cambridge Springs Riverside Hotel site. Brew pub planned by Jason and Deanna Howles. It had 3 cupolas and sat very close to a narrow dirt road going up Bell Hill….very sentimental for me as sight of it meant we were almost to my grandparent’s home…now I am 78!

After a quick search for “barn” on my Flickr photo page, I found the barn to which Anne referred.  Anne’s description of the barn, as having 3 cupolas and sitting very close to a narrow dirt road, helped tremendously.  Another quick search, this time on Google, yielded the following article regarding plans for a brewpub at the former site of the Riverside Inn located in Cambridge Springs, PA.  The historic Cambridge Springs Riverside Inn was destroyed by fire in May 2017.

I wrote back to Anne.

MeI stopped posting to Linda Gross Photography in July 2015. I photographed the red barn picture to which you refer on March 12, 2016.  Picture(s) of that barn may be shared on my The Beauty Around Us Facebook page, which replaced Linda Gross Photography. I didn’t look on that page, preferring to search for “barn” on my Flickr photo site. I have two pictures of the barn. I believe it is the barn to which you refer.

I shared the two barn pictures with Anne.

Here is the barn, as it stood on March 12, 2016.

_LG20125 4x6Cochranton Red Barn
March 12, 2016

The barn has now been torn down.

I telephoned Anne and informed her that I had found pictures of the red barn to which she referred.  The reason Anne contacted me was to ask if she could purchase a print of my picture.  I am emailing Anne a copy of the picture, free of charge, so that she can make the requested 5×7 print.

I never know what sharing a photograph on the Internet will bring to me.  The sharing of a barn picture made MY day today, which happens to be my 62nd birthday, as well as the day of a woman whom I know as Anne.

A Lot of Grazing Going On

First there were four deer that would wander through our yard to graze. Now, only one deer, the smallest of the four, wanders through our yard.

_LG25471Grazing in front of our shed


Walking past our wood pile


This deer comes around most days and sometimes more than once a day!

_LG25469There is grass to graze on in between the bushes.

I see you!

I hope that the other three deer are OK.

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