Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bear Mountain 2015


Last weekend I volunteered with the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference NYNJTC , I took a class on Building Stone Crib Walls (Trail U 1005). It was tough work.
The class and work project took place behind the The Bear Mountain Inn, shown above. Rooms go for 216USD per night (AAA/AARP rate)
A closeup of some Bear Mt. Inn stonework.
This was the view from the work project location. It was a beautiful weekend and there were lots of families out enjoying the great weather. This photo was early Saturday morning before the hordes descended. Even with lots of people in the park, it didn't seem over crowded.
This is some of the work done by the experienced volunteers. The Bear Mountain Trails Project will demonstrate all the different kinds of stonework one may come across on trails such as steps, stepping stones across small streams or marshy areas, retaining walls, waterbars, etc..
Another view of their work, a retaining wall.
This is some of the section of wall I was given to build, I didn't get very far. We were given instructions, some handouts detailing terms and proper technique and a lot of hands on training. It was a 2 day commitment and way too much thinking for me to do on my day off. Not to mention that rocks are heavy. I was so tired at the end of each day, I was sorry I had given Gina (the chauffeur, you met her here) the weekend off.

Current Blooms:
These are from the Rain Chain Garden.



Then and Now Photos of the Heathers, planted in 2013.
The Bayberry(right rear above) has died and been replaced with a Red Twig Dogwood. The Erica x watsonii "Truro" (center in below photo with mauve flowers) has exceeded expectations, but the rest of the plants are just fine. So far early spring pruning has worked out well. There is a purple Echinacea to the left that has done so well I may move it and back-fill it with another dwarf heather.

Beers in the Fridge:

Sixpoint Brewery's Resin is a very hoppy and very strong can of Imperial IPA at 9.0 % ABV and 103 IBU (bitterness scale). Not my cup of tea.

Meanwhile the Woodchuck cider is not a beer, but it is very good, sweet yes, but not bad when your in the mood for it. Very subtle raspberry flavor.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Favorite Movies


The NY Times has a list of their 1000 best movies here. I ran across it as I was trying to find movie synopsis from the NY Times TV schedule for some of my favorite movies because some of their quips are a scream.

Here are some of my favorite movies that I just reeled off the top of my head. I could watch these movies anytime. While looking up the dates of the movies, I was reminded of the other movies made by the major actors in the films, I could have made this list so much longer.
  •  Charade (1963) Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn. Enjoyable theme music, lots of funny lines, witty dialog and suspense.  TCM says "everything you'd expect from a Hitchcock film except the famous director's name above the credits" Directed by Stanley Donen.
  • The Fifth Element (1997) Bruce Willis, Chris Tucker. Sci-Fi Shoot-em-up. Chris Tucker is a hoot, Bruce has tons of funny lines too.  Spoiler Alert: Bruce saves the day.
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947) Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, Myrna Loy. The Uncle did it. One of the better bits of dialog is listed here.
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941) Humphrey Bogart as Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade. Lots of big stars.
  • The Big Sleep (1946) Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall. Bogart as private eye Phillip Marlow created by Raymond Chandler. There was a 1978 remake with Robert Mitchum playing Phillip Marlow, as the NY Times might say in their TV Schedule "miss it"
  • The Princess Bride (1987) Directed by Rob Reiner. Tons of memorable quotes. Inconceivable!
  • Houseboat (1958) Cary Grant, Sophia Loren. Cary is rude to Sophia, Sophia slaps Cary, Sophia becomes nanny to Cary's kids, they live on a tiny houseboat, everyone gets the wrong impression, and then surprisingly they fall in love.
  • Hot Fuzz (2007) Simon Pegg, Nick Frost. Just now noticed that Bill Baily is in the movie. FYI a Comedy. This one came up while I visiting my mom.
  • The Last Samurai (2003) Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connely. Tom plays a Civil war hero who travels to Japan to train soldiers, gets captured by a band of Samurai and eventually is accepted because of his warrior spirit.
  • The Third Man (1949) Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, zither music, gritty post-war Vienna and a chase through the sewers. Shot on location, the Ferris wheel is still there and you can go on a Third Man tour that include a tour of the sewer and a visit to the museum. I'll have to add that to the list of things to do in my Vienna post.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

August Doldrums


Things have been pretty humdrum since coming back from our adventure. Though compared to some other real adventurers, our trip was just a walk in the park. I just finished reading Death in the Sahara by Michael Asher, a French expedition's attempt in the late 1800s to cross the Sahara ends in the death of almost all the expedition team. They were surveying for a railroad that was to go from Algiers to Timbucktoo and were harassed by Tuaregs there and back. Now I am reading The River of Doubt by Candice Millard, recounting Teddy Roosevelt's South American tour and exploration of an uncharted river. Teddy would have poo-pooed our Peruvian Trip, his only instructions to the man in charge of putting together his South American tour was that he refused to be the "thousandth American to visit Cuzco".

Current Blooms:
 Dwarf Coreopsis in one of the troughs
Another Coreopsis, this one at the edge of the Peony Garden, not a dwarf, but shorter than the yellow specimen we have in another garden.
 Japanese Sedum in a trough with Mountain Rock
 Thyme and Dwarf Campanula (white flowers) in a hollowed out rock

Beers in the Fridge:
 Nice and crisp, can't decipher the aroma, once rinsed sweat sox? Great on a summers evening reading the paper.
 Wasn't planning on buying a Peruvian beer, but earlier in the summer the store on my way home just happened to have a case of Cusquena blocking the aisle and I felt obliged to partake. The bottle caps have a drawing of Machu Picchu and the bottle has interlocking Inca stonework on it. It is not bad, just a tad sweet for me.  The Hofbrau Original is very good and reminds me of our trip to Munich.
Also have Sweet Action on hand, currently my favorite summer brew.

What I took on my Summer Vacation:
 Most of these items went in my North Face large duffel. There is a Bill Bryson book there, but I didn't actually take any of his. I took Travel with my Aunt by Graham Green, Monsieur Pamplemousse by Michael Bond and 2 books by Georges Simenon. I pretty much used every item of clothing except the bathing suit. I also packed a pair of approach shoes which took up some space. It was neither as hot nor as cold as I had expected it to have been, but I was prepared for both.
In my day pack I took the first aid kit, our medications, gadget wires and chargers, snacks which I took too many of, a point and shoot, my iphone and the rain jacket.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Machu Picchu 2015

We arrived to Machu Picchu as do most people, by train to Aguas Calientes and then a shuttle bus from town up the switchbacks. The bus leaves you not far from the entrance gate of Machu Picchu and right in front of the hotel we stayed at. You can walk up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes and I saw more people than I expected doing so. The shuttle bus only costs $19US for a return ticket and it takes about 30 minutes.
It was a bumpy ride.
This is the road the buses take, there are stairs connecting the switchbacks for those who want to save twenty dollars. We arrived on the Peru Rail Vistadome 601 at 9:25AM. We were at our hotel, the Sanctuary Lodge way before 11, left our bags since the room was not ready, walked 50 feet and started our 3 hour tour with Jose, yes a 3 hour tour. We had lunch after the tour at the hotel and went back to Machu Picchu on our own to explore some more.  Jose went home to spend what was left of his day with his family, it was Fathers Day.

Machu Picchu
Some things aren't as impressive when you see them in person, like Manneken Pis or Camelot (it's only a model), but Machu Picchu certainly impresses. The Spanish did not destroy this Inca site, only the jungle and that left all the pieces behind, just not in their proper places. Whereas all the other Inca sites we had already seen had been broken up and taken away for Cathedrals or homes.

Machu Picchu is split up into sections, an Urban section and an agricultural section.
When you first arrive most folks are taken to the terrace below the Guardhouse where you can get sweeping views of the whole site like these. The city wall and dry moat in the foreground separated the urban and agricultural sections.

 This is a view of the lower slopes of the Eastern Urban Section.
 The main gate into the Urban Section.

The Urban section is broken down into groups of buildings called Conjuntos. From the quality of the stonework you can tell how important the dwellers/user of the structures would have been.
 Here you have a better view of the city wall, stairs, dry moat and the canal bringing water into the city.
 The canal extends into the city. This is Conjunto 2 and contains the Temple of the Sun, middle right in the photo above.
The Temple of the sun was built on top of a large rock and had 2 windows, one facing east for receiving the sun on June 21 the winter solstice. Beneath the Temple was a natural cave where remains of sacrifices were found.

 The quarry is in the Western Urban Section, all chips and flakes from working the stone were used in building foundations for the terraces and the structures to allow for drainage. The abundance of stone is listed as a reason for the selection of the site.
This is the Temple of the 3 Windows in the Sacred Plaza, Conjunto 4, also in the Western Urban Section. The Principal Temple to the right in the photo did not fare as well as most of the other structures in Machu Picchu, due to poor preparation of the foundation, the east wall has settled.

The Main Plaza here separated the Western and Eastern Urban Sections. Huayna Picchu (Young Mountain) is in the right of the photo in the backround. It can be climbed, but the trail is precarious. Access is limited to 400 people a day, you are required to sign in/out so they know who fell off the mountain.
If you look closely in this photo you can see people ascending Huayna Picchu.
 The Sacred Rock Plaza with 2 Wayronas (3 sided buildings) just visible on the left and an unfinished temple platform is in the photo center. Just past the Sacred Rock Plaza is the trail to Huayna Picchu.

A collection of photos from the Eastern Urban section, these structures are more rustic, though there are some well made walls of course facing the rich part of town.

 The Artisans wall is the exterior wall of Conjunto 16 and faces the Sacred Plaza.
Two mortars found in the Eastern Section, their purpose unknown, there were other similar structures filled with water which acted as mirrors used to view the night skies.
 This is the Temple of the Condor, Conjunto 17. The condor body is on the ground with a white stone collar and the natural rock in the background makes up the Condor's wings.
Looking North West towards Huayna Picchu.

Detail of stonework used to tie doors shut.

 Looking back towards the Agricultural Section. The Guardhouse and terraces for crops.
The arty-farty Guardhouse shot.
 Another view incorporating the quarry.

Water Management
The Inca brought in water from a spring through a small canal 2500 feet long and delivered it to 16 fountains.



They also had canals to drain the terraces and move water away from the site to reduce erosion and prevent mudslides.

Intipunku, The Sun Gate
 If you look close you can see the Sun Gate in the notch in the photo below.
The Sun Gate is where hikers who do the Inca Trail first arrive, the hike is timed to get the hikers to the gate when the sun is rising over Machu Picchu. It is a very impressive sight when the morning mist burns off.
 The Sun Gate itself, a couple of rough stone columns is not too impressive, looks more like a bunch of hippies hanging about in a park.
 The view is why we are here, the whole site spread out in front of you. We started up to the Sun Gate the morning of our second day at 6:30AM and were back by 8:30. The distance to the Sun Gate at 2720M is about 1.25 miles and the elevation change is around 1000 feet. My fitbit clocked the round trip as 6810 steps and 91 flights of stairs. The trail is mainly a roughly paved stone path with occasional steps and one or 2 places where a railing would have been welcome.
 This is the view from the ruins of a Security Station about halfway up to the Sun Gate. Not quite as good as from the Sun Gate, but if you couldn't make it any further you wouldn't be missing out on too much.
This is the Security Station seen from the Sun Gate.

After returning to the hotel and having breakfast we had time to go back to Machu Picchu one last time, but we had tired of all the steps and decided to spend some time in Aguas Calientes. After cruising the souvenir stands for awhile we waited for the train and caught the Peru Rail Vistadome 204 train at 1:37PM back to Ollantaytambo. From there we were driven back to Cusco.