de Young: Ramses

December 16 was another day to play tourists in our own backyard. This time our adventures took us to the de Young Museum. While the history of ancient Egypt is a fascinating subject, I have had little exposure to it. The exhibit we toured was “Ramses the Great,” a fascinating presentation. The exhibit runs through February 12, 2023. The pyramids were already ancient when Ramses ruled. The great pyramids were constructed between 2700 and 1700 BCE. Ramses was third king of the 19th dynasty (1292–1190 BCE) of ancient Egypt and reigned from 1279–13 BCE. His reign was the second longest in Egyptian history.

Ramses was known for his building campaigns and military exploits. Among his many building projects were the Abu Simbel temples and Per Ramessu, his family home on the Nile River. Ramses is said to have fathered 100 children. He reigned for 67 years and lived past the age of 90.

It’s also interesting to see how museum displays have evolved. Projected images make for some stunning and informative displays. I found myself reminiscing about the days when using multiple 35mm slide projectors was high tech. The digital age opens up whole new possibilities. There’s also a separate virtual reality exhibit where you can put on a VR headset, sit in a chair that simulates motion, and be whisked through the Abu Simbel temple.

After touring the exhibit, we had lunch at the museum cafe. We then drove the short distance to explore the Presidio Tunnel Tops, San Francisco’s newest park. We were impressed with the playground, a location we’ll return to with our grandkids when the opportunity arises.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

SFMOMA: Diego Rivera

November 22 was a day to play tourist in our own back yard. We had reservations to see the Diego Rivera exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We also included a visit to Salesforce Park, an amazing park situated 70 feet in the air and spanning four blocks.

Our outing started with a short drive to the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station. We were concerned about parking, but when we got to the station at 11 a.m., there was an abundance of empty parking slots. We rode the train into the city and got off at Montgomery Station. It was noon when we exited the BART station. Downtown San Francisco was like a ghost town. There were very few people and many of the restaurants were closed. We walked the short distance to SFMOMA and headed to Café 5 on the fifth floor.

We both ordered the Chicken and Cilantro soup and then found a table outside in the Jean and James Douglas Family Sculpture Garden. One of the gingko trees was in full fall display and the “Love” sculpture seemed to be calling me. I’m hearing “can’t buy me love,” by the Beatles.

The soup was delicious, although it was a bit tepid by the time it reached us. Our tickets for the Diego Rivera exhibit were for 2 p.m. so we had some time to explore the museum. The Oculus Tunnel by Olafur Eliasson was fun.

Then it was time to explore the Diego Rivera exhibit. I was able to pull up the audio tour on my iPhone and listen to the discussion about Rivera’s work. My hearing aids act as wireless earbud, which makes for easy listening. While I was aware of some of Rivera’s work, I had forgotten about his involvement with communism and the influence he had on the art world. It is quite an extensive display and well worth a visit.

One of the pieces on display is the Pan American Unity mural which is huge. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could photograph it in sections and stitch the sections together. My effort worked better than I had imagined, although I ended up losing some of the top and bottom of the work.

From SFMOMA we walked to the Salesforce Transit Center where we found our way up to the park, home to 600 trees and 16,000 plants arranged in 13 different ecological zones. I was intrigued with the “Bus Fountain” that dances to the movement of the busses on the lower level.

Playing tourist in our own back yard was fun. Sometimes we forget how much there is to see and enjoy here. We’re making a list of more things to do locally so stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to view more photos online.

Oban

Following our stay in Edinburgh we took the train to Glasgow and transferred to a second train to Oban. You can see a photo here of me with my carry-on bag and daypack in the Glasgow train station. We wanted to avoid checking luggage for air travel, so we packed light, or at least light for our purposes. That roll-on bag has my travel tripod and laptop computer, spare batteries, chargers, as well as clothes. For travel photography I use a Sony RX100. I also had a GoPro and a waterproof Olympus TG-5 for kayaking.

Our itinerary had us in Oban for just a couple of days before joining Wilderness Scotland for a kayaking adventure. Check out my other Scotland blog posts for more about that. While we were in Oban, we hired a guide to take us around a few of the sights nearby. Martin, our tour guide, did an excellent job of showing us some of the sights despite a grey rainy day. And then on the evening of August 25 we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary with dinner at Ee Usk, an excellent sea food restaurant on the pier.

After our kayaking adventure and hunkering down a few days with COVID, we returned to Oban where we rented an apartment. This gave us the opportunity to rest. Once we were feeling better, we explored more of Oban taking in a tour of the Oban Distillery, visiting the island of Kerrera, and visiting Dunollie Castle.

While Oban has some very fine restaurants, one of our favorite places to eat was MacGillivray’s Seafood on the pier. They serve excellent fish and chips, scallops and langoustine.

You can view many more photos from around Oban onlne.

Edinburgh

We landed at the Edinburgh airport on August 22 after flying from San Francisco to New York and then transferring to a flight to Edinburgh.

Our flight from San Francisco was delayed an hour and a half. Fortunately our connecting flight from New York was delayed as well. Transferring planes in New York was a bit stressful since we had to hoof it from one terminal to another, then pass through TSA inspection again with our luggage in tow in fear that we’d miss our connecting flight.

We spent three nights in Edinburgh; hardly enough time to see the city, but our preference is to minimize our time in cities and to explore the countryside. We found a Bed and Breakfast just off The Meadows that was convenient for walking to many of the sights we wanted to see. We also found the public transit system worked well. I wrote about our walk to Aurthur’s Seat in an earlier post. Edinburgh has so much to offer that it demands at least a few more words.

Having checked into our accommodations we were anxious to explore the city. We didn’t get far before hunger took over and passing a pizza joint we opted for pizza and beer to celebrate. Pizza on our first night in Scotland seems a bit lame, but so it goes. Over the next three and a half weeks we had the opportunity to enjoy much of Scotland’s culinary offerings from seafood to black pudding and haggis.

On one of the evenings in the city we made our way up the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle where we found our reserved seats for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Wow! What an extravaganza; so many bagpipes. The performance included military bands from all around the world as well as a Mexican Dance troop, Banda Monumental De México. This was quite an entertaining event. Highly recommended.

And of course, as a photographer, one of the things I like to do is to explore the city at dusk. Another adventure took me to Victoria Street and to a viewpoint of Edinburgh Castle.

And no visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to Dean Village. We had a lovely walk across town to Dean Village, a beautiful village right by the Water of Leith. You can view more photos online and read more posts about our Scotland trip as well.

Mendo Madness

We were hardly back from Scotland when it was time to pack up the kayaks to head for Mendocino. On September 20 we pointed our rig to Van Damme State Park to join our kayaking club for our annual Mendo Madness. Each year our kayak club takes over a good part of the campground for a week of paddling and socializing. There were about 70 of us, which makes for plenty of paddling opportunities with skill levels ranging from novice to expert, a great opportunity to get on the water with friends and to advance our skills.

On Wednesday we paddled up the Albion River. It’s such a peaceful feeling paddling on the quiet river past the redwood trees, with a variety of wildlife to view. We saw plenty of birds, but no seals or river otters.

On Thursday conditions were perfect to paddle on the coast, so we joined a group of experienced paddlers, launched from Russian Gulch, and paddled south exploring caves, tunnels and other features on the Mendocino Headlands. I had a GoPro camera mounted on my helmet, so stay tuned for some video of our paddling through caves and tunnels.

Our club has occasionally been referred to an eating club with a kayaking disorder. True to form there was an abundance of food with two pizza ovens and charcoal grills going. We came prepared to cook our own meals, but who wants to cook when you can simply nosh while sharing stories with friends. Friday night was Bourbon and Brine, hosted by two club members who are very creative mixing drinks suitable for the occasion. They were assisted by a half-dozen bartenders.

On Sunday, September 25, we broke camp to head for home. Passing through Cloverdale at noon gave us a good reason to stop for burgers, fries, and shakes at Pick’s Drive in. Great burgers.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Gylen Castle

Getting sick while traveling put a kink in our plans. On September 2, about 12 days into our trip, I woke up feeling quite ill. We had a COVID test kit with us and I tested positive. We were able to extend our stay at the Pennygate Lodge in Craignure. After a few days there we moved to an apartment in Oban for a few more nights. This meant we would not be spending time at the Iona Abbey as planned, but it did give us a few more days to explore Oban. Once we were feeling better, we decided a trip to the Isle of Kerrera was in order. To get to the island we walked the short distance to the Oban wharf where we hailed a taxi to take us to the Kerrera Ferry.

This is a small ferry that can only carry a dozen or so people. We ended up having to wait for a few crossings, which didn’t amount to much time since the ride across the channel takes all of 10 minutes. That said, if you do plan to visit the island allow plenty of time in the event that you end up waiting.

Once on the island it’s a two mile walk to Kerrera Tea Room and the castle. It’s a very pretty walk past farms and pastures overlooking the Sound of Kerrera. We passed through a number of gates, being sure to close them after passing through. At the top of a rise just before reaching the tea room we found a gate with a sign “It’s all downhill from here!”

It was just after noon when we reached the tea garden. Smoky Spanish Chickpea Stew and fresh bread were a welcome treat after the walk. After lunch it was a short walk to the castle where we spent some time exploring the ruins.

The castle overlooking the Firth of Lorn was built in 1582 by the Clan MacDougall, but was only occupied for a short time. It was burned by the Covenanters in 1647 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Once we had explored the castle and peeked through the windows, we made our way back to Oban and on to Kilmartin on the afternoon bus. You can view more photos online. Here’s the track of our walk on the island.

Arthur’s Seat

Our trip to Scotland started in Edinburgh on August 21. We spent a couple of days there to adjust to the eight-hour time difference. One of the popular things to do in Edinburgh is to hike to Arthur’s Seat. This is an ancient volcano in the hills in Edinburgh. This mountain was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” There are a number of car parks that give easy access, however, being on foot, we turned it into a healthy day hike. We started out from our accommodations near The Meadows and made our way across town to Holyrood Palace, then up the trail to Arthur’s Seat.

While only a 1000 foot climb, it was a challenge getting to the top. From there we had a panoramic view of the city below.

Our host at the Bed & Breakfast suggested we follow the trail down the far side to make our way to the Sheep’s Heid Inn for lunch. The sign over the door says the inn was established in 1360, making it one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs. We ordered the Pan-fired Wild Scallops ras el hanout, smoked haddock Florentine bonbons, celeriac purée, apple & fennel tartar. A delicious lunch after our walk.

When we returned to our lodgings, we discovered that we had walked 8 miles. It was time to take off our hiking boots and put our feet up. You can view more photos online.

Ancient Ruins in Kilmartin

Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. That seemed reason enough to spend a few days there. Some of the ruins date back more than 5,000 years. These include a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts, and castles.

There are a number of walks in the area leading to some of the features. So Saturday, September 10, we donned our hiking boots to go exploring. The most prominent features are a series of stone cairns which served as burial sites. These are oriented in a north-south line through the glen. We started with the Glebe Cairn and followed the trail to Nether Largie North Cairn, Nether Largie Mid Cairn, Nether Largie South Cairn, and Temple Wood.

The Nether Largie North Cairn has been excavated and you can climb down into the burial chamber through a sliding trap door. Once inside you can see the capstone with cup-shaped markings.

What is here today is not necessarily intact. Over the millennia, a number of the stones in the cairns have been taken away to be used as building material. The sites have been excavated for archaeological research and reconstructed to their present-day form. Even with all these disturbances it’s remarkable to visit these sites and imagine what life was like here 5,000 years ago, with a society that had people of prominence worthy of such elaborate burial. It may be the flow of metals being traded through the glen that gave rise to this society.

The Nether Largie South Cairn is perhaps one of the most interesting. Here you can climb down inside and imagine what sacred ceremonies may have happened here.

In addition to the Cairns, there are a number of standing stones throughout the glen and a circle of standing stones at Temple Grove. Following our exploration of the Neolithic sites, we made our way to the Kilmartin Church to explore some of the gravestones in the graveyard. The church was closed, but it was still quite interesting to see gravestones dating back hundreds of years. The Kilmartin museum was also closed for renovation, which was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been interesting to have additional information to help interpret the history of the glen.

Even though it was an easy walk through the glen, we managed to log six miles.

Carnassarie Castle

Today, September 11, marks our 22nd day of travel in Scotland. We’ve had many adventures over the past three weeks. Some of those adventures will eventually make their way into this blog, but for today, I’ll share our walk to Carnassarie Castle. And, of course, at the top of the news is the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. That caused us to revise our plans for returning to the Edinburgh airport for our flight home. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop us from lacing up our hiking boots and going on a walk after a hearty Scottish Breakfast at our B&B here in Kilmartin, Old Manse.

Our track led us along several country paths, up into the hills, through woods and past babbling streams. Then we climbed a hill to the castle where we spent quite some time going up and down many flights of narrow circular stairs to admire the view. The castle was built between 1565 and 1572 by John Carswell who had been granted the land by the Earl of Argyll. Carswell would become the Bishop of the Isles and was instrumental in translating the Book of Common Order into Gaelic, which became the earliest book to be translated into Scots Gaelic.

The overcast sky with threat of rain provided some nice soft lighting to set the castle in a surrounding landscape of green rolling hills and woods.

After climbing all the stairs and poking into rooms and windows, we found a spot to break out our lunch of cheese and crackers.

We returned to the town of Kilmartin by retracing our steps, walking by an apparently abandoned caravan which seems to have a picturesque spot along the track. Back in town we stopped at the museum café for a bowl of hot lentil soup, muffins and coffee. The museum is closed at the moment for renovation, but that didn’t deter us from enjoying a cool pleasant day in the area of Scotland known for its archeological significance, with ruins going back over 5,000 years.

Reunion in Bishop

In April 2017, my two brothers and I gathered together with our families to memorialize my father. We made a commitment to gather as a family on a regular basis. In 2020 we set our sights on Bishop in the Eastern Sierra and booked accommodations at the Eastside Guest House and Bivy. Then COVID-19 struck, and we scrapped our plans. With the pandemic easing up this year we decided to make another go at gathering. Family started arriving on Saturday evening, April 24, with people coming from Washington, Texas, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. My wife and I and our lovely Aunt Sue, being the hosts, arrived the day before to give us time to stock the larder with groceries. Eastside Guest House is an ideal location in the Eastern Sierra to set up a base camp for outdoor adventures. The facility has private rooms, a duck pond, a view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and a common room for cooking and meeting.

We had the barbeque going as guests arrived. Joann and Sue had prepared skewers of Shish kebab which we put on the grill as family joined us.

April 25. The Alabama Hills and Independence

The day started with Lemon Ricotta Waffles. I had arranged ahead of time to have a couple waffle irons available and, with plenty of family chipping in, we were serving waffles at 8 a.m. Waffles with whipped cream, butter, syrup, berries and lots of other goodies.

After breakfast we set up a sandwich station. Line up and make a lunch. Then we piled into cars for the drive to the Alabama Hills.

There is much to see on the drive south from Bishop. Some of our party made a visit to the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of the sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. A few of us stopped at the Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden and the Eastern California Museum in Independence. The museum has an amazing collection of native American basketry and the garden was looking very nice with many plants in bloom. We also took advantage of the delicious ice cream at the Eastern Sierra Ice Cream Company.

April 26. Big Pine Lakes

Monday morning everybody was on their own for breakfast. Take your pick of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, raisin bran, other packaged cereals, apples, oranges, and bananas. And if that isn’t enough you can walk next door to Schat’s Bakery for espresso and pastries. Then we again set up the sandwich station.

Several in our group were anxious to get into the High Sierra. Despite the fact that the trails are usually snowed in this time of year, it looked like we might be able to hike to one or two lakes in the Big Pine Lake Basin. We piled into our cars and drove to the trailhead at the end of Glacier Lodge Road.

My wife and I made it as far as First Lake at 10,000 feet. My two brothers and clan made it to Fourth Lake at 11,000 feet. We did find a few patches of snow on the trail, but nothing that required technical gear. First Lake still had some ice. The higher lakes were still frozen over. We logged 9.5 miles on our hike to and from First Lake. You can see a map on my GaiaGPS account. Those that went higher logged 12 miles or so.

April 27. Pleasant Valley Reservoir

With family members ranging in age from 3 1/2 to 84, we opted to do an outing close to Bishop to accommodate those not inclined to tackle a strenuous High Sierra hike. We found a level paved trail along Pleasant Valley Reservoir. This proved to be a lovely hike with opportunities to look for wildflowers and birds.

The more adventuresome drove up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and reported a lovely outing. Tuesday evening marked our last day together, and we had a birthday to celebrate.

The next morning we said our goodbyes and began our drive back over the mountains.

There is so much to see in the Eastern Sierra. I was sad to leave, but since we have family there, we manage to visit several times a year. The Eastside Guest House and Bivy was a delightful place to host our reunion. The large community room, while being shared with other guests, proved to be a great place to gather, chat, and look at family photos. And talking about photos, you can view more online.

%d bloggers like this: