Sunday, 3 November 2013

Following Fall

We knew we’d chosen wisely to leave the frosty Albion Hills. Ice, 1/2 inch thick, fell off the top of our slide! Grass and branches were frozen into a spikey sculpture near a dripping tap. Dixie was burrowing her nose into the glazed grass as if it were snow. Time to go!

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As we headed towards the border I tried to see the familiar views through the eyes of a tourist, Lake Ontario, Hamilton Harbour and across into the warehouse district of Buffalo. It feels great to be back in travelling mode. With sandwiches and water at the ready, we were able to motor all day with only a couple of rest stops at highway-side parks to stretch our legs. Dixie loved exploring the unfamiliar smells of local leaves like,  Butternut, Yellow Poplar and Hickory. We enjoyed the colours illuminating the hills as we experience a second autumn.

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Cabellas’ parking lot in Wheeling West Virginia provided a free overnight stay. Unlike other Cabella’s we’ve stayed at, the lot was noisy with transport trucks and lacked any scenery. I picked up some new waterproof hiking boots for myself and  a pair of cozy slippers for Chris.  It is always a treat to see the huge aquariums bountiful with local fish and turtles at Cabellas.  We decided to take the scenic route down to Stonewall State Park. The first half hour of twisty, hilly roads was enjoyable. The elevation provided gorgeous views of small farms, colourwashed woods, country churches and grazing cattle and sheep. The further we travelled the worse the roads became, narrower with cracked pavement and steep switchbacks. There were no options of turning back so we persevered. The views were grand but the tension of the roads and stress of driving them trumped our enjoyment. Note to selves: Take the back routes in the flat states only!  Some of the towns were classic old American, some so small yet patriotic and some so run down and in sad decay. It was with relief that we pulled in to the resplendent Stonewall Resort State Park. Our quiet site looked out over a serene lake, framed with saffron, scarlet and persimmon coloured trees. Ahhhhhhhhhhh…this feels more like it!

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                           Scary drive!                                                              Scary Halloween!

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                                                                     Our view from the campsite.

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Our first full day was overcast and rainy and happened to be Halloween! We  drove  in to the nearest town Weston, where we shopped for fresh veggies, fruit and meats, the food supplies that could not be carried across the border. We toured the Trans-Allegany Lunatic Asylum, a sanctuary for the mentally ill built in the mid 1800’s. The name seems offensive to our 21st century’s knowledge of mental illness but the name has been preserved as part of the history of these institutions of the past. The building and grounds  are quite beautiful although time has taken its toll. It’s enormous scale is difficult to imagine. It once housed over 2400 patients at one time. Check out www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com

The plans of architect Richard Kirkbride were used to construct hundreds of these across America. The grounds were self sufficient communities with gardens, farms, medical care, recreation and eating facilities and patient rooms. The building style was such that its beautiful architecture, soothing colours, many windows including some cut-glass that cast rainbows, would in theory, lift the spirits of the patients and nurture them back into good health. It is sad to think back on the manner in which many people were treated, especially many who were housed with illnesses like Tuberculosis and bound never to enjoy freedom again. The working facility closed down in 1994 and the town’s economy suffered as a result. The institution in Weston is one of a handful of  such places in the United States that remain open to the public to illustrate a window into the past. Respect for the mentally ill is a fundamental philosophy in the preservation of this historic property.

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We had a marvelous time at the Stonewall State Park and stayed for four nights. We hiked some great trails, enjoyed a buffet breakfast at The Lodge, huddled beside our campfires under a blanket of stars and settled in to relaxing travel-mode. Chris saw fifteen grazing deer one evening when he drove up to the top of the park to buy firewood. The peace and tranquility in the park was broken only by the sounds of the wind rustling the leaves or the crunching of foliage along the trails.

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                                                                              See CC in the distance?

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                Hickory nuts litter the ground and provide winter feed for the numerous plump squirrels

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We lost another family member this week. Ian is the devoted husband of Dot and proud and caring father of Elizabeth and Alastair. Al is Danielle’s partner and you will recall stories of the family in my Australia posts. Chris and I are honoured to have known Ian and pleased to have his legacy in our family. We will both remember Ian’s constant smile, his intriguing stories, his laughter, his family tales, his passion for life, travel, nature and adventure. He lost a courageous battle against mesothelioma, a disease that resulted from years in a job he loved, working on ships. Life is full of irony and so unfair in its untimely taking of lives of wonderful people like Ian. His positive outlook and enthusiasm for life will forever inspire all who knew him.

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1 comment:

  1. i am soo excited to be traveling with you both again. i can just smell the air with your photos and hear the 'dueling banjos' in the distant hills
    ..nice tribute and the perfect end shot xo

    ReplyDelete