Consider this a continuation of my previous post; same vacation, different day.
This was actually one of the last things we did while I was over there; a nice little walk in the woods. That picture doesn’t do it justice—the walk started in the “it’s not spring yet” portion, but as we made our way downhill, we started to see actual greenery.
We had pretty good luck with the weather—it was nice and sunny while we were at the top of the hill; the wind picked up a bit right as we were getting to the shore of the reservoir, just enough to give the trees some fun movement.
Reservoirs are a fun bit of infrastructure; for the most part, they don’t really look like infrastructure, right up until they really do.
There’s little pieces that are obviously man-made, sure, but for the most part, it’s easy enough to just let nature handle it.
And then there’s the unofficial pieces that people add.
And, despite the signs posted every fifty feet along the path on the way in, ‘this is our water supply, don’t swim in it, people drink this,’ there’s always a rope swing.
I recently had the opportunity to visit a friend of mine over in Connecticut. I’ve never been to New England before (the closest I’d been previously was an hour spent in a New York airport, and given that I can’t even remember which airport it was, it clearly wasn’t the most fun visit), and I was pretty excited to see the sights.
The first place we went that made me glad I’d brought my camera was Wickham Park; it’s up on more of a hill than I initially realized, which made for a good panorama at the top.
A bit lower down, there are a few different ‘gardens’ around the park; the first one we wandered around was the ‘marshland’ theme, if I’m remember correctly.
Honestly, I think the top and bottom of the hill were the best parts; the gardens in between were… not all that impressive.
The “Oriental Garden”, for example, featured a rather sad pagoda and a very slimy pond.
I also didn’t bother taking any pictures of the “Irish Garden,” which looked like what happens when someone in the 1930s makes a garden, and it becomes too ‘historic’ to tear down for being a racist caricature. An aesthetic that was rather undercut by the sign at the end, which says it opened in 2016.
The “Scottish Garden” was a bit more interesting in the statuary, but rather lacking in actual plant life.
When we visited, I read through the pamphlet a bit, but it mostly boiled down to a list of all the different gardens, a brief mention that it was named after the rich fellow who’d established the place, and the fact that it’s a private park, owned and maintained by Bank of America on behalf of the family’s estate. (“Everything around here is owned by some bank of another,” I was told.)
But hey, it’s sitting on some pretty land, and I do like seeing parks that’re at least somewhat open to the public, so who am I to complain?
Joshua Tree National Park has been on my ‘places to visit’ list for quite a while. Honestly, I’m not sure how it wound up there, but I’m happy it did – from what I saw, it’s a pretty cool place.
(I was told by a friend that you should really try to stay for the whole day, especially sunset, and just see what it all looks like with different lighting conditions, but unfortunately wasn’t able to do that this time; next time, though…)
The park was established in the 1930s by FDR. At the time, the Works Progress Administration – among other things – was running a poster campaign intended to inspire the American people, I believe along the lines of ‘look at all this neat stuff our country has!’
As far as I can tell, Joshua Tree didn’t get any of those posters, unfortunately; something about the federal government very busy all of a sudden.
A lot of the posters that were produced are lost now, more’s the pity. It was an interesting aesthetic, and I’m a big fan of the whole “advertising for the national parks” thing.
Apparently somebody else was as irritated by all this as I was, because there’s a modern imagining of what a WPA poster for Joshua Tree would’ve looked like; they’re for sale in the park’s information center.
Fun fact about the Joshua Tree: they don’t form rings in the way that other trees do; when scientists want to figure out how old one is, the preferred method is to measure the height, then divide by the species’ average growth rate.
The moral of the story here is that our national parks are a treasure, and we should continue to support them. (And expand them! Write to your congresspeople about it.)
After all, who doesn’t love a whole bunch of beautiful nature?
This past weekend, I finally got a chance to visit another of Oregon’s tourist destinations: Detroit Lake. It’s a pretty cool place — used to be a valley, and then, y’know, industry happened; two dams later, there’s a lake. Normally the water level is a bit higher, but (I’m told) there was a storm early in the season, for which the folks in charge of the dam1 drained some water so they wouldn’t have overflow problems. Unfortunately for them, the fish were spawning at the time, and wound up taking advantage of the raised river level, and per the “don’t kill thousands of fish” directive, they were then required to maintain that higher river level. So the reservoir drained faster than usual, and the season got cut off earlier than usual. Bit of a bummer for the local businesses.
Presented in no particular order, some of my favorite photos from the trip:
- US Army Corps of Engineers, maybe? ↩
You may not have heard, but there was an eclipse recently. While I wasn’t going to go out and buy one of those expensive camera filters for doing proper eclipse photography, I did have an extra pair of eclipse glasses and some duct tape, so I made do. (The photo above is without the filter; during totality, which I was in the zone of, you can look at the event with the naked eye… or the naked lens.)
This is right before totality began – just a sliver of the sun was still showing, but without a filter, that’s still a lot of light.
I was switching off lenses throughout – I had a prime lens with the makeshift filter attached, and a kit zoom that I used when I wanted no filter but didn’t want to deal with the duct tape. This is that kit zoom, no filter, at its maximum zoom level.
Finally, here’s what it looked like through the filter.
I’m not going to talk about it being a ‘life-changing experience’ or anything, but I will recommend checking out some of the recordings – I believe NASA put out a 3D livestream that I assume is archived somewhere, and lots of better photographers than I am got some good photos, I’m sure.
And hey, next time there’s going to be an eclipse in the US, go check it out.1
- But, y’know, make sure to get your campground reservations a year early or so. ↩
Technically speaking, this is part of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, but that’s a bit long of a name, and I rather like “Quarry Cove” better. I’m also quite happy to have had another opportunity to get my camera out.
After Barcelona, we got on a plane to Venice, the final stop on our tour of Europe.
From Madrid, we made our way to the train station and hopped aboard the high-speed train to Barcelona, our next destination.
Night trains are convenient in that you kinda just wake up in your destination, but not super great in that it’s still a horrendously uncomfortable way to sleep.1
But hey, it got us to Spain, so who am I to complain?
Leaving Budapest, we went to the airport instead of the train station and, following a good deal of waiting,1 hopped aboard a plane for Portugal. We landed in Lisbon, figured out a bit of how the public transit network works, and then headed to our hotel to sleep off the jet-lag. I’m calling that ‘day zero.’
The semester in Austria is done! But why go home right away – if I stay a bit longer, the price is “changing my tickets home and whatever I spend traveling around Europe,” which is a significantly better deal than “buying a ticket to Europe, whatever I spend traveling around Europe, and buying at ticket home from Europe.”
My mom didn’t really have the first option there, but she’s been wanting to go to Europe for quite a while, and “well, my son is already there” turned out to be the motivation she needed to plan out the whole route we’d be taking and hop on a plane.1
Thus begins the Whirlwind Tour of Europe.2 First stop: Budapest.
So my time here in Austria is coming to an end.1 As a bit of a last hurrah with the folks I’ve been here studying abroad with, a couple of us went over to Votivkirche, the big fancy church you see above that we saw every Tuesday and Thursday on our commute to and from the University of Vienna campus where we were taking German.
It’s been a while since my last post, but the weather has been getting colder and colder, and my focus has been more and more on writing the various final papers for my classes. Which is, y’know, not the most exciting thing for people to read about.
But we’re still going for the occasional tour: this week, we spent some time in the Upper Belvedere, one of the many palaces the city has to offer.