Thursday, May 18, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 299

 Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl, Mexico, ca 1950s

Today’s postcard is one that was among the large group of travel cards that I got from friends about a year or so ago.  The picture is of two large volcanoes in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt in the states of Puebla and Morelos, Central Mexico.  The photograph is credited to J. Kipi Turok.  The unused card was published by Ammex Asociados, S.A. and printed in Mexico.  Because most of the cards in the lot date around the 1950s and 1960s, it is likely that this card is from that era. 

The mountain at the upper left is called Iztaccihuatl (can be spelled without or with accent marks), the White Woman in English, or sometimes Mujer Dormida, Sleeping Woman.  In the foreground at the right is the companion volcano, named Popcatépetl translated as the Smoking Mountain.

Popcatépetl, located about 43 miles or 70 km southeast of Mexico City, is an active volcano that has erupted more than 15 times since the Spanish arrived in 1519.  The peak at 17,802 ft or 5,426 m high is the 2nd highest major peak in Mexico.    Since 1993 smoke has been constantly seen coming from the crater.  As recently as a 2016 the mountain was spewing lava, rock and ash.  Early 16th century monasteries founded by the Spanish are located on the slopes of the mountain and are now listed as a World Heritage site. 

Iztaccihuatl, also a volcano, is dormant.  Scientists think that this volcano last erupted about 11 thousand years ago.  It is 17,160 ft or 5,230 m tall and is listed as the 3rd highest mountain in Mexico.  Although the Aztecs or other earlier people may have climbed the mountain, the first modern recorded ascent was in 1889.  Snow and glaciers are permanent year round features. 

There are several legends or myths about these two mountains. One Aztec myth tells about Iztaccihuatl, a princess, who fell in love with one of her father’s warriors, Popcatépetl.  Her father, the emperor, sent Popcatépetl to war in Oaxaca and promised him his daughter’s hand in marriage when he returned.  Iztaccihuatl was falsely told that her lover had been killed in battle whereupon she died of grief.  When he returned and discovered that she had died, Popcatépetl took her body to a spot outside Tenochititlan.  Some say he did this in the hope that the cold would wake her but instead he froze to death.  The gods covered them both with snow and changed them into mountains.  Iztaccihuatl’s mountain is called White Woman because it resembles a woman lying on her back.  Popcatépetl’s rage at losing his love is shown by the volcano raining fire on the Earth.  There are various versions of this particular story and also other similar but slightly different tales about these two mountains. 


Many thanks to friends who share postcards.

For additional information, see:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 298

Sinclairsholm, Skåne, Sweden, ca 1908

A side trip to a local antique mall netted this Axel Eliasson vintage postcard showing the front of Sinclairsholm Castle in southern Sweden.   The card is unused and has the number 4142 on the reverse in the lower left corner.  It was printed in Germany and distributed in the United States by the Swedish Importing Company of Worcester, Massachusetts.  All early color postcards were hand tinted or painted before mass printing.  

The original castle was constructed mainly of wood and completed in 1626.  There are been at least two major fires that resulted in changes to the outward appearance of the castle.  Today the main portion of the building dates from 1788.  One of the things that makes this particular card historically interesting is that the building has the French Chateau style mansard roof, designed by Mauritzberg From, that was the result of a major renovation completed in 1880.  There was another fire in 1904.  In 1956 a second major renovation and restoration project replaced the French Chateau style and restored the building to its original 1788 design, seen below in a Google Image.  It has a completely different look making the Chateau style a sort of historical oddity of less than 100 years.

Sinclairsholm, Skåne, Sweden, as it appears today
[photo:  Google Images and

Anders Sinclair or Sincklar (1555-1625), A Scottish nobleman, was a Danish privy counselor in the late 1500s to the early 1600s under the Danish king Christian IV.  He was also an envoy to England, a military colonel and the governor of Kalmar, Sweden following the Danish capture the city.  He  was also the holder of extensive fiefs in Denmark.  After he married Kirsten Kaas in 1600 he left the court and established this estate named for him.  Construction appears to have been begun around 1620 but not completed until 1626 a year following Sinclair’s death.   His son, Christian Sinclair (1607-1645) took over the ownership.  It was later purchased first by Jochum Beck with ownership changing hands a couple of times until 1808 when it was acquired by the family Gyllenkrook who have passed it forward in the family.  Through marriage it is now the estate of the family Barnekow and owned by Johan Barnekow. 

My family members may find it fun and interesting to note that among all the properties that he held, Anders Sinclair at one time exchanged one of his fiefdoms for Hammerhus on the Danish island of Bornholm since that island is where my paternal grandfather was born and lived until he came to America in the 1890s.  In 1982 we visited Bornholm and walked around the ruins of Hammerhus.  

Part of the Hammerhus, Bornholm ruins, Denmark, 1982

It is always fun to find some connection to places, events and people.   Postcards offer peeks into the past that often result in unexpected surprises. 

For additional information, see:

Friday, May 5, 2017

Middle Fork Snoqualmie 2017, prequel

Since our October 2016 hike to Middle Fork Snoqualmie was mentioned in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie, 2017 post, but it did not get separate billing at the time, I thought perhaps an explanation might be helpful. 

The October hike was one of the later hikes of the season and the trail was extremely muddy.  WTA crews were hard at work improving and making repairs to the trail.  Part of the large parking area at the trailhead was being used as the pad for a helicopter and there were stacks of supplies ready to transport to selected sites along the trail.  We encountered several stacks of wood as well as gravel piles.  

Three members of the WTA crew and a nice new bridge over a creek. 

One usually expects the forest trails to be quiet and peaceful with bird song and soft sounds of rushing river water or breezes through the trees but on that day the noise and wind from the chopper was all we could hear.   It was fascinating to see how the pilot could thread the load down through the large trees, 150 to 200 feet tall, to a small spot on the trail.  The waiting WTA crew ready to grab the cable and unhook the load once it was safely down.  

 That day we saw mostly mushrooms and mud. 

 Bright red berries

 Mushrooms growing near logs, on logs, and in the wet ground everywhere

Unusual deep purple blue mushroom

 Lots of squishy, wet mud everywhere . . .

Thursday, May 4, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 297

 Isola di Favignana, Italy

One of a few beaches and azure water lagoons found on this island, this postcard was sent by my friend who lives in Italy.  It is of Isola di Favignana one of three islands just off the west coast of Sicily.  The island is famous for tuna fisheries and is a popular tourist area that can be accessed by hydrofoil from the mainland.  The photograph is attributed to Antonio Noto with the publisher given as Favonia Editrice – Mare Favignana.  

The Italian Global Postal Service stamp, below, is for use on postcards only and has to be mailed in a special yellow and black GPS box.  The postcards are sent to a central hub for sorting.  The average time for a postcard using one of these stamps to reach a destination in the United States is supposed to be around 18 days.   This card took 3 months to reach me.  

Anciently this island was called Aegusa or “goat island,” which made me wonder if there were wild goats living there once.   Today the name is derived from an Italian word, Favonio, describing the local winds.  The island was a stopping point on trans-Mediterranean trading routes used by the Phoenicians until the defeat of the Carthaginian army during the First Punic War.  A major naval battle took place just off the shore when two hundred Roman ships defeated a Carthaginian fleet of 400 ships.  The Romans sank 120 ships and took 10,000 prisoners.  One legend says that so many dead washed a shore that the northeastern shoreline was called Red Cove for the bloodshed; however, the name actually comes from the red clay on the beach not from blood. 

Favignana was captured by Arabs during the early Middle Ages and used as a base to mount the Islamic conquest of Sicily.  Later Normans took possession of the island building fortifications there as early as 1081.  During the 1400s Giovanni de Karissima was granted the island and called himself the Baron of Tuna for the plentiful tuna found offshore.  The Spanish also fished off these waters from the 1600s onward.  Besides the fishing there are Calcarenite quarries found here.  During the 19th century stone was exported mostly to Tunisia and Libya. 

Island economy suffered between the two World Wars but in recent times tourism has turned things around.  Because the island is very rocky there are few beaches like the one shown on the postcard.  It is, however, a popular site for scuba diving and snorkeling and the calcarenite rock caves are famous.  The island also has an active working lighthouse at the westernmost point of the island.  The original lighthouse was built in 1860 and shaped like a turret.  In 1904 it was rebuilt as a tapered cylinder with a balcony and lantern with a spiral staircase of 200 steps inside.  In 1935 the tower was renovated and the height was reduced to 125 ft or 38 m.

As always, many thanks to my friend who sent the card.

For additional information, see:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Middle Fork Snoqualmie, 2017

 Map showing the Middle Fork Snoqualmie trails

This is a lower elevation trail not too far from the city.   There is a nice newly paved access road for most of the way to the trailhead.  There are two remaining short sections of the road left to pave and they do have rather large pot holes.  At the trailhead there is ample parking and a privy.  We hiked here last fall when the Washington Trail Association (WTA) was working.  That was the day of noisy helicopters as supplies were being dropped from above down to the work crew.  

 Crossing the bridge over the river

 View of the river from the bridge

The river was high and running fast with rapids

Our hike last week was on a cloudy day with periodic sun breaks mixed with some sprinkles of rain.  The trail was very muddy in places and the WTA is still working on parts of it.  There were 22 people in the work crew making it larger than other crews we have encountered on a weekday.  As usual we kept track of hikers and dogs coming up with 10 hikers and one dog.  Wildlife included one toad, and a varied thrush that flew across the trail in front of us almost close enough to touch.  We heard lots of bird song in the forest although the birds were well hidden.  

Western Toad

Notice how cleverly Mother Nature has allowed this toad to blend in with the leaf covered ground. We almost didn't see him but he jumped and then held very still until after we moved on down the trail.

It is still pretty early for wildflowers this year; however, we did see salmon berry, skunk cabbage, trillium, bleeding heart, yellow stream violets, colt’s foot, and one we originally thought was twin flower but turned out to be slender toothwort (cardamine nuttalli)—something I had never seen before.  The trilliums were soggy from the rain; however, we still managed to get some pictures.  Lily-of-the- valley and Solomon’s seal was in abundance.  They had buds but no flowers yet.  Those two plants growing in our garden in town are already in bloom.  

 Salmon berry

Skunk cabbage

 Bleeding heart

 Yellow stream violet


Fern fiddle-heads unfolding

 Colt's foot

Slender toothwort

We went about 5 miles round trip.  If it had not been quite so muddy we might have continued on a little further but as a second hike of the season it was a perfect distance.  I feel like my legs are pretty strong due to the skiing we did during the winter months but hiking uses some different muscles so it takes a while to transition. 

There were a few downed trees, some had not yet been cut and the trail cleared so we had to do a little climbing over too.

 Impressive rock cliff

Peek-a-boo view from trail

Scrag with woodpecker holes and conks

This is not the rain forest but the moss covered tree and the mud sure made it seem so.

When we got home Bob took brush and water to the boots and we popped our hiking pants into the washer to pre-soak the mud off.  A possible consolation, members of the work crew we stopped to chat with had far more mud covering them than we did.  From my observation, trail work is very hard physical labor; lifting big rocks, digging out mud pits, building wooden turnpikes, carrying supplies from the drop points to the work site.  WTA is a volunteer organization.  The folks we met and talked with (both men and women) were mostly retirees with just a few younger members.  Bob says the crews usually have more of the younger people on the weekends.  If you see them working, thank them, and if you have an inclination to help, sign up with the WTA.  The trail will be wonderful when the work is completed and not so muddy once the dry season starts.  

A few of the WTA crew working

Thursday, April 27, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 296

 Dolomites, Italy

When one of the guys working on our house remodel and now a friend, said he was going to Europe to meet with his cousin and climb some mountains I asked him to send me a postcard.  This card with a beautiful view from the Dolomites was what arrived in the mailbox from him.  His note says that they climbed the highest peak in the Sella Group, Piz Boè, 10,338 ft or 3,151 m.

The postcard photograph is attributed to   An alphanumeric code appears at the lower left on the reverse:  TR 39.025.  There are two stamps on the card.  The top one is an Italian stamp featuring an architectural drawing of Plazza del Plebiscito, Napoli and the bottom one is Polish with the close up of a flower identified Lilium L. 

1.  Plazza del Plebiscito, Napoli
2.  Lilium L.

The Sella group is located in the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy between the four valleys of Badia, Gherdëina, Fascia and Fodom and divided between the provinces of South Tyrol, Trentino and Belluno.  It is possible to drive around by car crossing over Campolongo Pass, Pordoi Pass, Sella Pass, and Gardena Pass.  The Sella Ronda ski lift makes it also possible to ski around the entire plateau-shaped massif.  Each winter there is an alpine ski touring race called Sellaronda Skimarathon that covers 42 km or 26.09 miles.  Mountain bikes use this same route during the summer.   In addition to the cable lift shown in the photo there is also a funicular from Pordoi Pass.  The most famous ski routes or tours descend from summits through Val Mesdì and Pordoischarte.

There are 8 numbered long distance footpaths running across the Dolomites.  Most of these long trails take approximately a week or more to hike.  There are huts along the way for overnight stays.  The most popular and best known of these trails is Alta Via 1. 

The front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces during World War I ran through the Dolomites.  Today there are open-air war museums at Cinque-Torri (Five Towers) and Mount Lagazuoi.  Protected paths created at the time of World War I are visited today by many people. 

Many thanks to our friend for sending the card.

For additional information, see: