Friday, April 1, 2016

Dogfish Head Brewery

Today was our last day with the family. We decided to take the ferry over to Delaware and visit the Dogfish Head Brewery. Noelle, Sierra and I had been to the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach 2 years ago, but never to the brewery in Milton. We saw lots of Northern gannets flying behind the ferry, but it was a somewhat rough ride as we reached the deep water on the Delaware side of the bay.
on ferry
noelle on ferry
We made it to shore without any major problems and got some lunch in Lewes before heading over to Milton and the brewery.
dogfish head brewery

We arrived and were greeted by the steampunk treehouse.
steampunk treehouse
We opted not to take the brewery tour since Mom, Dad, and Katie had to be on the ferry at 4:15. We all got our four free samples at the tasting room.
stamp and sample
sample 2
Sierra and I had our photo taken at a photo booth set up there.
daddy and Sierra
Then we shopped for a pint glass and some some stickers. After leaving we said our sad goodbyes and hit the road. We reached Washington, DC just in time for rush hour traffic. Eventually we made it out of the DC area and are stopped for the night in Front Royal, Virginia. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cox Hall Wildlife Management Area

Today Noelle, Sierra, Mom, Dad and I headed over to the Cox Hall Wildlife Management Area to check things out. The area is the location of the former Ponderlodge Golf Course,
golf course closed
which my Dad has fond memories of playing back in the day. The course closed about 10 years ago when the owner failed to pay his taxes on the property. The state of New Jersey turned the land into a wildlife preserve by planting the sterile fairways with native grasses, trees, and forbs.

After parking the car we set out on a paved path that looked to me like an old golf cart path.
Sierra and grandparents
We saw some turtles in a small pond,
looking in pond
an interesting butterfly,
butterfly on flowers
and even Sierra's favorite: a frog. There is a large pond nearby where the clubhouse once stood. In the middle of the pond is an island on which sits a gazebo.
creepy gazebo
There had once been a bridge leading to the island, but due to vandalism the state tore it down some years ago. We walked all the way around the pond and headed back to the car on a different path through oaks and pitch pines.
trail through woods

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cape May Point State Park and South Cape May Meadows Nature Preserve

Today Noelle and I went on a date to explore Cape May Point State Park and its environs. We headed to the park and immediately looked for birds at the observation deck near the parking lot. We didn't see a whole lot from that area and so we headed over to the trails. We opted to start our hike on the yellow trail. We passed some nice views of the Cape May Point Lighthouse
Cape May Point Lighthouse
and over to some ponds
pond and birds
birder Noelle
where we spotted some mute swans, northern shovelers, and Gadwalls. We also saw two muskrats and a lonely cottontail rabbit.
rabbit in leaves
We walked some boardwalks,
Noelle on boardwalk
then passed an area that is closed for nesting birds
closed area
before heading over to the nearby South Cape May Meadows Nature Preserve.

The preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy and contains similar habitat to what you find in the state park. The area was once a neighborhood that was often flooded. We walked the trails and looked for birds.
birding again
We saw another muskrat
muskrat
and a Canada goose on her nest right off the trail.
goose on nest
Then we headed to Wawa for lunch which we ate at a picnic table near the Fisherman's Memorial
fisherman memorial
and the Coast Guard station. We saw lots of interesting birds including brants, a short necked goose species, lots of mergansers, and double crested cormorants.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

East Point Lighthouse

After doing a little bit of shopping in Millville and grabbing some lunch; Noelle, Sierra, Mom, Dad and I headed over to East Point to check out the lighthouse there.
East Point Lighthouse
The lighthouse is very interesting. It was built way back in 1849 at the mouth of the Maurice River. We braved the strong winds to explore the area a little bit, but didn't spend too much time reading the interpretive signs
Mom reading sign
or enjoying the beach.
cold wind

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fort Washington Park

It's cherry blossom time in the Washington, DC area! While Noelle, Sierra and I opted to avoid the big crowds near the tidal basin, we got a chance to see some cherry trees blooming at Fort Washington Park, just south of our nation's capital.
cherry blossoms
under cherry tree
We woke up in Staunton, Virginia this morning and made the drive east to the DC area. Then we headed south to Fort Washington, Maryland. We arrived at the park hungry and ate lunch in the parking lot
parking lot picnic
before beginning our exploration of the fort, formerly the Warburton Manor estate.
warburton manor


After lunch we passed Battery Decatur
Battery Decatur
and checked out the visitor center, inside the old Commandant's House.
yellow house
We stamped our passport books and headed out to the fort.
fort entrance
You pass over a dry moat, through a large door
walking into fort
and into the parade grounds. We checked out the fort jail
in jail
and then headed down into the casemate.
old casemate door
After climbing back up to the parade grounds we admired the view from the gun positions.
old cannon
There was a great view of the interior of the fort
entrance
and down to an old battery.
people exploring
We walked around some,
Sierra and Noelle walking
exploring little nooks and crannies of the fort.
gun

Soon we headed out of the fort itself and down a hill towards the Potomac River.
stairs
We stopped at the battery we could see from the fort.
ruins
daddy and Sierra
There were two large earthen rooms that I'm guessing were ammunition magazines.
magazine
Then we headed down to lighthouse 80.
lighthouse
After looking at the lighthouse we climbed the hill back towards the visitor center and past the fire control tower
Fire Control Tower
to the parking lot for the resumption of our trip to New Jersey. It was another great off-the-beaten-path visit to the DC area!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Newton Bald Trail

Today was my last hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at least for a while. As I mentioned in a post back in February, the Grunwalds are headed north to Minnesota in a few weeks. Today, however, I thought I would savor one more hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. I arrived at the trailhead for the Newton Bald Trail just before 8 am.
trailhead
I gathered my pack and hit the trail. The hike was a long, but gradual, ascent. I saw the first wildflowers of 2016 along the way: some hepatica.
1st wildflowers

Before I knew it, I was at the intersection with the Mingus Creek Trail.
at mingus creek
I sat and ate a snack at the junction and then continued on. The trail skirted the summit of Newton Bald. I decided I would make the short bushwhack to tag the summit on the return trip though. I passed Campsite 52 and continued on to the Thomas Divide Trail. At Thomas Divide I made a right to hike a short .4 mile section that I missed the other two times I had hiked in this vicinity. I reached the junction with Sunkota Ridge
last junction
and then promptly turned around to head to the summit of Newton Bald.

The bushwhack involved a hike along an undefined ridge up to the highest point of the mountain. It is no longer a bald though, and so there are no distant views. I took a photo at the highest point,
Newton Bald summit
rested a bit, and then made my way back to the Newton Bald Trail for the descent back to the car. The hiking went very fast. There's not a whole lot to divert one's attention yet this time of the year. most wildflowers have not yet emerged and the wildlife is not very active yet. I did find a nice snail shell though.
snail shell

Once back at the car, I changed into my sandals and headed over to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to claim my Hike the Smokies reward pins. Over the course of our 3 years in Tennessee, I've manged to hike just over 500 miles in the National Park and have therefore earned all three pins.
hiking pins
After claiming my prizes, it was a long drive back to Greeneville. Of all the things that I will miss about living here, perhaps the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be the greatest.