Friday, June 3, 2016

Washington State: Kurt Cobain Memorial Park

Park Entrance 
A view from the park entrance. 
Pretty small, but powerful if you're a Nirvana fan

My wife and I were heading to the ocean and I made it a point to stop by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park on the way. I heard about this place being built and I've wanted to check it out for a while now. Being from the Seattle area Nirvana and the grunge music was huge when I was growing up. I was a major fan of Nirvana as well as Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, & Pearl Jam growing up. The death of Kurt Cobain hit the fan community pretty hard here!

We stopped by the park and my first impression was that it's pretty small. It's located at the end of a dead end street. I read that Kurt Cobain grew up a couple of blocks away from this park. The park isn't fancy by any means, but I have to say it is pretty cool for a fan to spend some time in the same area where Kurt hung out.

The main sign at the park giving a little history
of the area and Kurt. "His spirit flows with the tide
twice daily" 

Under the Bridge

"Cobain immortalized the bridge through music,
but now the bridge immortalizes Cobain" — Rachel Thomson

Back of Sign

Something in the Way
The sign showing some of the lyrics that were
inspired by Kurt's time hanging out under the bridge

Kurt Memorial

Some of Kurt's quotes on this granite memorial headstone
including "Drugs are bad for you. They will fuck you up"
(but the city mayor found the profanity offensive and
had the word "fuck" sandblasted away)

Air Guitar

Kurt's Air Guitar

KC Memorial Guitar (Back)
The backside of the "As You Were" memorial

KC Memorial Guitar (Front)

The front side of the "As You Were" memorial

All in all, the park was pretty cool to see because I'm a huge fan. I wouldn't suggest driving to Aberdeen just to see this memorial, but if it's anywhere near a drive you're currently on...stop by and check it out!!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Virginia: Old Blandford Church & Cemetary

Old Blandford Church

A view of the church from the outside...looks simple enough

Again while on my business trip I made some time after work to visit this place. I just heard that it was one of the nearby attractions, but didn't think it was going to be much to see. The first issue I had was that when I looked at the hours, it was only open until 5PM. I got off work and headed straight there thinking I would still have plenty of time to check everything out. I found out when I arrived that you're only allowed inside the church on one of their tours. Even though the tour had already started, they let me buy a ticket and join them in progress. The church itself isn't too large, so I was surprised there was an actual tour of the place.

I joined mid-tour and found out quickly it was pretty much all for the stained glass windows done by a fellow named Louis Comfort Tiffany. Check out a website about this guy here & his Wikipedia page here. I can now see why they only let folks inside with a tour guide. The stained glass windows are just plain amazing! The guide gives a lot of history about each window (every window in the church is a Tiffany stained glass masterpiece) and describes the detail that went into each piece of art. As you're looking at the window, you can see more and more detail that would probably be missed if there were no guide there. Another reason I can see for the tour guide is that these are basically priceless pieces of art now...they wouldn't want anyone doing anything stupid to them.

Tiffany Window

This window commemorates the state of Missouri.
I took this picture before they told me that no photos were allowed....oops
Unfortunately a picture just doesn't do it justice!

The church itself was built in 1735, but abandoned in 1806. After the civil war "The Ladies' Memorial Association" turned it into a memorial for the confederate soldiers that died. There is a stained glass Tiffany window for each of the confederate states. The Blandford Cemetery, one of the oldest and largest in America, is resting place of some 30,000 Confederate soldiers who lost their lives during the Siege of Petersburg.

Virginia Battle Flag

Outside the church with the Virginia battle flag

Once the tour was over, I headed out and checked out the confederate cemetery on my own. The cemetery is very large, so I drove my rental car around and stopped at some of the more interesting sites. Check out the photos below:

Blandford Cemetary

Tombstones...Large & Small

Several tombstones in the cemetery 
ranging from very small to quite large

Cemetary View

Confederate Memorial Arch

The Memorial Arch at Blandford Cemetery, constructed in 1913

Tombstone Flags

Some of the different flags of confederate soldiers from different states

Another Cemetary View

Angel Headstone

An angel headstone

Bolling Family Mausoleum

The Bolling Family Mausoleum

The visit was a lot more interesting that I originally thought it was going to be. I was in awe of the stained glass inside the church and checking out the cemetery was a very solemn experience. In school of course we would be taught about the civil war, but I never gave it too much thought after that. In my child's mind at the time slavery was bad and the good guys from the North won the war and freed the slaves. Of course there was a lot more to that, and visiting places like this really help wrap your mind around all the sorrow and realities that go along with war. I would recommend anyone in the area to make this visit...just go before the last tour starts if possible :)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Virginia: Petersburg National Battlefield (Eastern Front)

Battery 5
Part of the Confederate Battery 5

I was in Virginia for a work related trip, but wanted to make the most of it and visit some historical sites. Unfortunately I had to work during the day and didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted to at the Petersburg National Battlefield. I got off work at 4PM and headed straight over to the Petersburg National Battlefield Eastern Front Visitor's Center because it closes at 5PM. At first I thought this was a little early, but after I arrived I found out only the visitor center closes at 5PM, but the park stays open later.

The staff inside the visitor's center was very nice and helpful. I watched a short informational film inside the visitor's center, which I really recommend to anyone who is going to visit this park. The film is informative and will get you in the right frame of mind when going out to explore the park.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised that all the historical spots are part of a driving tour. I was given a brochure which explained details of each of the spots. You take your own car on the drive and go at your leisure. The first spot is right behind the visitor's center and is the Confederate Battery 5.

Battery 5

Another canon from the Confederate Battery 5
located behind the visitor's center

I have to confess that I was in somewhat of a hurry. It was still cold out and I was looking forward to eating dinner. I still wanted to see as much as I could, but wanted to do it at a fast pace. The nice thing about the driving tour is that it's self paced. I decided to only stop at a portion of the areas I thought looked interesting enough because of this. If I had the time, I would have taken much longer and probably walked around the trails at each of the areas. I love historical sites like can just feel the history as you're walking around.

My next spot on the journey was Battery 9. This stop has a lot to look at. There is recreated siege fortifications and samples of what soldier's shelters looked like. There are educational boards to read and we learn here that this is the place black union troops had their first major success of the war in Virginia.

Battery 9 Memorial

"At the Confederate Battery 9. Black troops captured this position
during the first day's fighting"

Log Cabin

Battery 9 Siege Fortifications

Example of the siege fortifications

More of Battery 9

Siege fortification with a canon

Battery 9 Continued

More of the siege fortifications

Battery 9 Continued

Soldier's Hut
Example of a soldier's Hut used by Union soldiers here during the 
winter of 1864-65. Four men would occupy a hut like this...
thousands of these huts were built during the seige of Petersburg!

After looking around I then drove my car to the next spot I decided to take a look at...Fort Stedman. Here are a few photos taken there:

Fort Stedman Canons

Fort Stedman

Fort Stedman View

Next up, right down the road was Fort Morton. Not much to look at except a row of canons:

Fort Morton

After getting in my care and heading down the road a bit more, I came upon "The Crater". The short video I watched at the visitor's center and other stuff I've read about the siege of Petersburg all mention "The Crater". Union forces dug a tunnel under the Confederate line, then filled it with 320 kegs of gunpowder. There was a massive explosion in the early morning which immediately killed 278 Confederate soldiers. What could have dealt a death blow to the Confederates turned out to be a Union disaster. Union soldiers didn't take advantage of the surprise and when they did end up attacking, the Confederates were able to regroup and maintain their line. All in all Union casualties were 3,798 and Confederate casualties were 1,491. 

Mohone Monument
Monument at "The Crater"..."To the memory of William Mahone...
A distinguished confederate commander whose valor and strategy at the 
battle of the crater July 30, 1864 won for himself and his gallant brigade undying fame"

The Crater
The remnants of "The Crater"

This was the last of the historical spots that I visited. At the end of the driving tour before exiting there was one last monument that I checked out before leaving:

Massachussetts Monument

"In memory of the soldiers and sailors from Massachussetts who lost their 
lives in the armies of the Potomac and James in various battles in Virginia 1861 - 1865"

All in all a pretty cool visit. I would recommend this trip to anyone in the area. The cost is a nominal $5, but well worth all the history you're able to see and take in. I just wish I had the entire day to leisurely visit each of the spots and take the walks down each of the trails.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Leavenworth WA: Christmas Lighting Festival

Downtown View

Looking down the main street of Leavenworth with the
crowd and the lights

I've lived in Washington State my entire life with a few exceptions while in the army and as an exchange student. I've even lived in Wenatchee, which is a town just down the highway from Leavenworth. While we've visited Leavenworth quite a few times, we've never checked out the Christmas Lightning Festival.

Leavenworth is a small town with a Bavarian theme located in the Cascade Mountain Range. It's a beautiful little slice of Germany with some amazing scenery. The town features quite a few shops and has some great local wine tasting.

The Christmas Lighting Festival brought about 15,000 people this year to this tiny town that has a regular population of about 2000. The entire town was packed everywhere we went. The sound of Christmas was in the air as bands played Christmas music from the main gazebo/stage in the center of town. Santa and his helpers can be seen throughout the day and there are many extra vendors out selling their products. Snow was plentiful and the smells were delicious.

Parking was difficult to say the least. Because so many people were here for the festival, all the usual public parking spots were full. We ended up parking at the local high school a few blocks away and paid the $10 fee. We ate at King Ludwig's Restaurant right when we arrived. We were starving after the long drive there and just went to the first place we could find. The German food and atmosphere were great, but the price was on the spendy side.

Downtown Leavenworth

A view of downtown when we arrived

We didn't go in too many of the shops just because of all the people. It was pretty crazy, I've never seen so many people in this tiny town before. We did make it into one of the local wine shops. My wife did their wine sampling and my friend and I had some "Gluhwein", just like we used to have when we visited the Christmas Markets in Germany.

After that we waited until the ceremony which starts at 4:30. The kids choir finished their songs and then the mayor came out and did a little speech. Santa Claus came out and said a few things, then some folks brought some lit up stars to the gazebo from each side of the crowd. They had a count down...and then over half a million lights lit up the town. The site was pretty amazing and beautiful!


A view of the gazebo with the entertainment in full swing

To the Left

A view to the left before the lighting

To the Right

A view to the right before the lighting

Lighting Tree

The lights start to turn on

Downtown Lights

The lights start coming on the buildings

More Downtown Lights  

Another view of the buildings and their lights

Gazebo - Center Stage

The gazebo and it's lights

We're glad we went, but probably will never do it again just because there were just too many people there.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Washington State: Olympic National Park (Olympic Hot Springs)

We've lived in Washington State for most our lives, but had yet to visit the Olympic National Park. So we decided to pack up and go for a little hiking adventure. We weren't sure what to see or where to go, so we just picked an address we found on google and headed out.

We ended up going to the Elwha Valley portion of the Olympic National Park. I was surprised that in order to drive up to the trail head that we had to pay $20 for parking. Once parked we headed out with a couple of backpacks, loaded with water and snacks for our day hike.

Appleton Pass Trailhead

The trailhead marker at the end of the parking area

We started our hike with nowhere in particular to go, we just wanted to get out of the house, see some nature, and get a little exercise.

Appleton Pass Trail

The start of the trail is wide and well maintained

The start as you can see above is an easy trail with a slight incline. We headed out and just enjoyed the scenery. Not knowing what to expect and hoping that we may see a waterfall or two. The day was nice and the scenery was amazing.

Trail Bridge

This was the first bridge we came across along the trail

The first bridge we came across along the trail was pretty big. In the picture above you can see our friend standing in the middle of the bridge. We kept going soaking up all the scenery and nature.'

The Forest

Here you can see the trail is smaller and trees are everywhere

We continued through the forest...amazed at all the large trees everywhere. In the picture above you can see how small our friends are with all the trees around them.

Log Bridge

The second bridge (well more like a large log) that we came across

After crossing the second bridge we decided to take a break and eat snacks...and drink water. This is one thing that is important to bring...water! There are no water fountains or any other service areas out on the trail. This particular spot was pretty cool, we enjoyed the running water all around us and even a little waterfall as well.

Mini Waterfall

Some girls hanging out in front of the small waterfall

After our short break we continued to head up the trail. We then started to smell what I'm going to describe as a strong sulfur smell. We came across the first natural hot spring on the trail. We had already seen a couple people walking back on the trail with towels around them as if they had just finished swimming. We now see that they were probably hanging out in the hot spring. There were a few people in there when we arrived. We had to go up and stick our hands in to feel just how hot it is. It felt pretty similar to a hot tub. This is just one of several hot springs I've read that are located around the park. The water is heated from the earth's interior.

Hot Springs

Looking up at the hot spring from the hiking trail

Nature's Hot Tub

Folks just relaxing in the hot spring

We continued hiking up the trail for a while, but then decided to turn around and head back. We realized we could have used some more water along the way, we finished ours on the way back and were still pretty thirsty by the time we arrived at our car. Our total hike was a little over 8 miles. More than we had planned for a first time here, but we were enjoying ourselves so much that we just kept wandering around. From the trailhead to the hot springs is about 2.4 miles.

When we got back to the car we all drank a bunch of water we had left in the car and ate more snacks. On the drive back we stopped to take a quick picture of what we thought was a dried up lake due to drought conditions, but I later read was a dam removal for the Elwha River restoration. You can take a look at the pictures below to see the dramatic difference now that the dam has been removed.

River Restoration

Dam Removal

We all had a blast and look forward to checking out a lot more of the hiking trails that the Olympic National Park as to offer. The place is beautiful!!