Thursday, June 30, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 253

Traquair House, Peepleshire, Innerleithen, Scotland
[Front view of Traquair House, CKTH10, printed and published by Jarrold & Sons Ltd., Norwich]

The set of postcards shared this week come from the travel card collection sent by Jim and Kelsey.  The card above shows the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland, Traquair House.  It was built on the site of an old hunting seat, used by Scottish Kings as early as the 12th century, but this fortified manor house is probably not that old. 

When the peace of the Border region was threatened after the death of Axeander III in 1286, Traquair House became an important key in the defense of the Tweed Valley against English invasion.  Ownership changed often, sometimes under control of the English and at other times the Scottish throne.  James Stuart (1480-1513) the illegitimate son of the Earl of Buchan inherited the estate in 1491.  Stuart later obtained letters of legitimization and married the heiress of the Rutherfords and by so doing received the estates of Rutherford and Wells in Roxburghshire.  Traquair House was the family seat of the Earls of Traquair for four centuries.  In 1875 it passed to a cousin of the Stuarts, Henry Constable Maxwell, a direct descendant on the female side.  The current laird of Traquair is Catherine Maxwell Stuart.  

Front of Traquair House with the Peebles Ex-Servicemens' Pipe Band
[photo:  Joan Gibson, Pilgrim Press Ltd., Derby, #17549B]

How big is this house?  There are 50 rooms including a Drawing room with ancestral portraits, a dressing room decorated to show what life was like in former times; a Museum room containing a mural dated from 1530; the King’s room where Mary, Queen of Scots stayed in 1566; the Still Room where breakfast was served; the Dining room, added in the 17th century; a chapel built in 1829; and a library containing more than 3,000 books. 

Traquair House Library 
[TH 6, printed & published by Jarrold & Sons, Ltd., Norwich]

The fifth Earl, Charles Stuart, installed the bear gates at the main entrance in 1738.  The gates were closed in 1745 after the Scottish rebellion and the Earl vowed they would never open again until a Stuart king returned.  

The following anonymous poem is printed on the card reverse:  

"Dool an' sorrow hae fa'en Traquair, 
  An' the Yetts that were shut at Charlie's comin' 
He vowed wad be opened nevermair, 
  Till a Stuart King was crooned in Lunnon.

"Gone are the Stuarts o' auld Trquair,
  Green is the Avenue rank an' hoary,
And the Bears look doon wi' an angert glare,
  On the "Steekit Yetts" an' the vanished glory."

Bear Gates
[PPL/84463/X, printed in Great Britain by J. Arthur Dixon]

Trivia:  There is a recently planted maze in the gardens.  An annual fair is held on the first weekend in August.  Ale was brewed at Traquair during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and in 1739 a 200-gallon copper vat was installed in the brew house located under the chapel.  In 1965 Peter Maxwell Stuart started the Traquair House Brewery using 18th century domestic brewery equipment that had once been used to make beer for the house.  Best known for the two main brands, Jacobite Ale and House Ale, the brewery also makes a range of other beers. 

For additional interesting details, see:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Owyhigh Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park

 Owyhigh Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park

Our most recent hike was to Owyhigh Lakes in Mt. Rainier National Park.  This turned out to be a little more of an exciting adventure than we anticipated.  Bob checked the weather and trail reports before we left home and everything looked clear, no closures, cool, cloudy but possible sun, a perfect day for walking in the woods.  The elevation at the trailhead is 3750 ft (1143 m).

An ominous (to me) sign warning that we were in bear country greeted us in the parking area.  Bob laughed.  Mountain goats and marmots can also be found in the park.  We heard marmot whistles but didn't see any or any goats this time.  About halfway up to the lakes we saw an eagle soaring below us. 

It is a 7 mile (11.2 km) round trip with an elevation gain of 1570 feet (479 meters) and would be a test to see how well I could do on a longer hike with more upward gain.  Everything was going along smoothly.  The trail has a nice surface of needle-strewn dirt.  It is fairly wide and has almost no roots or rocks. There are six switchbacks spaced far apart so although the trail keeps going steadily up the grade is never as steep as some of the trails we have been on.  

 Pink Coralroot (wild orchid)

 Twayblade (another orchid)



Right away we started seeing wildflowers and hearing lots of birdsong.  This is an old growth forest that has never been logged and has not experienced a fire for at least 300 or 400 years, perhaps 500 years.  That is a guesstimate based on the huge size of the trees and the lack of any fire evidence like blackened stumps or trunks. 

View point looking at Governor's Ridge

This trail is less popular than others in the park that have views of Mt. Rainier.  The little lakes are tucked in between to other two mountains, Tamanos and Governor’s Ridge.   Once we reached a viewpoint we could see plenty of snow on Governor’s Ridge.  We met one man coming down and asked him about snow on the trail.  He told us that there were some patches of snow near the lakes but nothing that should cause any trouble.  Okay.  We continued forward and upward.  Several downed logs had been cut and the trail cleared.  We crossed some nice wooden bridges over streams.  The trail got a little narrower.  

Pretty little streams and small waterfalls were found along the trail

 There were nice sturdy bridges across the streams

Lots of rivulets coming down the hillsides

Bob sitting on cut log from downed trees

The first hazards were encountered in the form of downed trees that had not been cut.  We climbed over some.  Then came a large downed tree that had to be climbed around, and another and another.  A couple more people had passed us going up and some came down.  

We started seeing small patches of snow off to the side of the trail. 

We asked people coming down about the snow.  “Oh, just a little here and there,” was the response.   Around a corner the trail disappeared into a snow patch.  There were a lot of dark needles in the snow and it was hard to guess where the trail went.  We headed off in a straight line, noticed water running under the snow and turned back to see if there was another way.  Bob post-holed (breaking through the surface of the snow that had been hollowed out by the water underneath); his boot touched the water, snow all the way up one leg.  His other knee hit the snow bank.  Fortunately he wasn’t hurt and was able to get his leg out of the hole.  We looked around, back tracked to where the snow looked thicker and found what seemed like boot tracks crossing the snow.  Using the trekking pole to test the snow we proceeded cautiously across and located the trail free of snow.  A bit further on, crossing some more snow, we came to fast running Tamanos Creek with a damaged one-log bridge. 

There was a large snow bank on the other side of the stream and we couldn’t see the trail at all.  It was time for lunch and there was a log just off the trail by the bridge so we decided to eat something and think about options.  We didn’t know how much snow was ahead; we estimated that we were pretty close to the campground and the lakes.  While we were eating a man came across the snowfield on the other side and instead of crossing on the bridge forded the stream using two trekking poles.  We asked him about fording the stream because the bridge didn’t look too safe and also about the snow.  He assured us that once we crossed the stream we would see tracks in the snow and we could find the trail.  He didn’t think the bridge looked safe enough to cross so he had opted to take the water route.  He also told us that there were glacier lilies and anemone by the hundreds in the meadow by the lakes.  We had hoped to see both.  Common sense was telling us to turn back but we were lured by the carrot so to speak and decided to go forward. 

While we were talking with him a couple of people came up and crossed the bridge.  A young German man we had met going up came down and crossed the bridge.  He asked us to take his picture on the bridge and walked back forth on it while Bob took photos of him.  I told Bob I was pretty sure if I crossed in the stream I would slip and fall in so I was willing to try the bridge.  Bob went first, reached out and I only had to go a few steps before grabbing hold of his hand.  Then he went to the next rail post and pulled the cable handrail taut so I had something to hang onto.  We got across and now had the snow to deal with.   

The snow was more prevalent than we had been led to believe.  The first person we talked with at the beginning of the trail had micro-spikes for walking on snow and I was sure wishing I had some by this point.  The temperature was warming up and the snow was very slippery and slushy.  However, we did keep on and were richly rewarded with the beautiful meadow filled with flowers, gorgeous mountains, warm sun, a nice rock to sit on and lots of photos to take.  It was a truly awesome and spectacular high mountain basin at 5300 ft (1610 m).  

 Pink Heather

 Yellow Glacier Lilies

 There were thousands of these delicate, beautiful lilies all over the meadow

 Blue Violets

 Yellow Violets

 One of the first flowers to come up after the snow melts, Anemone (aka Mop Head)

 Anemone just beginning to bloom

Anemone bloom fully open.  These were scattered all throughout the meadow.

 Heart leaf Springbeauty with pink stripes

 Single Delight, Waxy Wintergreen

 Underside of the Single Delight

This is just a small sample of the many growing in large groups, the most Coralroot we have ever seen

The trip up took 3 ½ hours with an additional ½ hour lunch break.  The trip down was 2 hours.  Without the downed trees and snow hazards it would not have taken quite so long.  We did not see any bears.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 252

Florence, Italy, 2016

My friend went on another cycling trip, this time to Florence, in the Tuscany region of Italy.  While there he bought a new bike and also had time to select this postcard.  The photo on the card is attributed to Massimo Moscarelli and the card is an Edizioni la Cupola, Via delle Magolie, Firenze [Florence].  The picture shows the wall and bridge with a view of the city of Florence.  The bridge, Ponte Vecchio, seen on the right side of the photograph, spans the Arno River and was first built by the Etruscans.  The current bridge was rebuilt in the 14th century.  It is the only bridge in the city that survived World War II intact.

The Etruscans had a small settlement here in 200 BC that was destroyed in 80 BC during a political dispute with Rome.  Julius Caesar re-established it as a settlement for his veteran soldiers in 59 BC and called it Fluentia since it was built between two rivers.  It was built in the style of an army camp in the Arno River valley on the main route between Rome and the north and quickly became what would be a commercial hub today.  In medieval times Florence was one of the wealthiest cities and a center for trade and finance where the powerful Medici family held the political power. The Italian Renaissance was born in Florence and it was called one of the most important European cities between 1300 and 1500.  Most of what we recognize as Florence today was built during the Renaissance and the name was changed to Florentia meaning flowering.

Like most older European cities it has experienced periods of war and changes in government over a period of centuries.  Before the Bubonic Plague or Black Death pandemic of 1348 Florence had a population of about 94,000 with about 25,000 of those persons engaged in the wool industry.  Today metropolitan Florence is the most populous city in Tuscany with 382,000 inhabitants and over 1,500,000 in the greater metropolitan area. 

These three stamps below were used to mail the card.  

1.  Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard) 1865 – 2015, sesquicentennial commemorative; 2.  The Sisters of Saint Paul, 1915-2015, centennial commemorative;

3.  San Filippo Neri 1515-1595 honor--the decorative edging looks brown here but on the stamp itself it is gold colored.

The cards my friend sends from Italy show such warm, sunny, beautiful views.  The area is rich with history as well as scenic and culinary delights.  With many thanks as always to him for sharing the postcard and the stamps.

For more information, see:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lake Dorothy & Rattlesnake Mt., Stan's Overlook, 2016

 Lake Dorothy

Week before last we went with friends to revisit Lake Dorothy and this past week Bob and I went to Rattlesnake Mt., Stan’s Overlook.  We’ve been to both places before but at a different time of year.  I had forgotten how many stairs there are on the Lake Dorothy trail.  Although we didn't count them Bob estimated there were at least 100 steps.  It is a rather steep trail and erosion has made some of the steps very high and consequently they are difficult to go up and come down.  Trekking poles are a definite help.  This time there were some downed trees to climb over or around as well as plenty of roots and rocks to watch out for.  Lake Dorothy is about a 4 mile round trip hike with an 860 foot elevation gain.  The lake and views were lovely once we got there.  Lots of wildflowers in bloom too. 

 Camp Robber Creek

Bob & Ron with invisible misery whip saw by the big cedar tree

 Pink Wintergreen in bud

 Queen's Cup

 Bog Orchid

 Coral Root (also an orchid)

 Canadian Dogwood also called Bunchberry

 Twisted Stalk

Native Red Columbine

Blue Columbine

 A section of the trail to Stan's Overlook

The hike to Stan's Overlook is 5 miles round trip with a vertical gain of 1100 feet however we left a camera on top of the car and only realized it after we had gone about ½ mile up the trail.  We turned back to get the camera, hence we ended up with a 6 mile round trip and 1300 feet vertical gain.  The territorial and mountain view from Stan’s Overlook is especially nice.  There are two benches and a picnic table there and it made a perfect spot to have lunch before heading back down.  There is logging higher up and parts of the rest of trail beyond the overlook are temporarily closed.  The trail crosses the logging road in a few places and we saw and heard several logging trucks going down carrying big loads of recently cut trees.

View from Stan's Overlook

There were so many beautiful flowers blooming, some are shown below.  Yes, there was some mud and standing water in places but not bad.  The plus was that this trail is mostly free of rocks and roots and is wide enough in many places for two people to walk side by side.  It only has one short section of steps so even though we climbed higher it was easier for me.  I really do not like stairs on hiking trails.  We didn’t see too many people going up but by the time we got back to the car we had counted 34 people and 8 dogs.  Our wildlife sightings for the day included one frog and several birds.  

 Fox Glove (Digitalis) in showy group and close up


First Fireweed in bloom this year

Pink Wintergreen in full bloom


 Twin Flower

Lush section of Sword ferns