Saturday, July 13, 2013

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

After our visit of the Stonewall Jackson Shrine we headed back to Noelle's brother's house to get Parker and pack the rest of our stuff into the car. We then hit the road headed south towards Tennessee. We drove through Richmond and were making really good time when I realized that we would probably have time to visit Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. And so, that's just what we did.

We pulled into the parking lot there and fed Sierra her lunch on a blanket in the grass. It was pleasant experience, but unfortunately it looked like rain by the time she had finished. We packed up the blanket in a drizzle and headed into the historic site to check things out. Our first stop was the surrender house where Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. Grant.
McLean House
We couldn't both go in at the same time since we had Parker and so we took turns. Noelle and Sierra went in first. While they checked out the surrender house I walked around with Parker a bit to check out the sites. I found the headstone of the grave belonging to Fayette Meeks.
Meeks Grave
By the time I finished exploring it was my turn to check out the surrender house.

The home was simply decorated, but interesting. Of particular interest was the room where Lee and Grant met to discuss the terms of surrender.
Surrender Desk
After the surrender house we strolled the grounds of the rest of the "town" of Appomattox Court House. The site was really interesting and there was much more to it than I had imagined. There were a few old law offices
Woodson Law Office
and houses.
Cannon and House
There was also an old tavern
Clover Hill tavern
with an interpreter playing the banjo on the porch.
Sierra enjoyed the music and seemed intrigued. Interestingly, the banjo player struck up a conversation about Andrew Johnson.

From the tavern we walked to the outskirts of town to the first meeting site of Grant and Lee.
Meeting Spot
While I would have enjoyed spending more time exploring, we decided at that point that we had better head back to the car. We planned to get as far as Roanoke and with Sierra we wanted to make sure we wouldn't get into a hotel too late.          

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield: Stonewall Jackson Shrine

Yesterday I left Washington, DC as my training was over. Originally Noelle and I had planned that she and Sierra would meet me in DC and we would walk around and tour the monuments and memorials. However Noelle was not feeling well, plus rain was in the forecast. Instead, I took the train into Fredericksburg where I met Noelle and Sierra. We spent last night at Noelle's brother's house in Woodford, Virginia. Woodford just happens to be the site of the Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson Shrine, the house where Jackson died. It is a unit of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield and so Noelle and I decided to pay a visit today.

We left Parker at the house so we could more thoroughly enjoy the site. There was a stone monument outside the home marking it as the place of Jackson's death.
Stonewall Jackson Monument
The home itself was open and so we took a look inside.
Outside Home
On the bottom floor was an office.
Inside Jackson House
On the upper floor was the room in which Jackson died.
Bed where Jackson Died
He had been shot by a fellow Confederate soldier in an accidental act of friendly fire. We browsed around the rest of the interior of the home and then headed back outside.
Behind Home
The shrine is a small but interesting site and I would recommend a visit.       

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fairmount Park: Valley Green

Mom and Dad offered to watch Sierra, and so Noelle and I had an opportunity to do something by ourselves. This was something we haven't done in a while and it was good to get out out and spend some time alone, though it felt strange to be without Sierra. We decided that, despite the heat and humidity, we would go for a hike. Originally I thought Evansburg State Park would be a good destination, but I decided that I didn't want to drive that far and we headed to Valley Green instead after getting a water ice at Rita's.

We parked near the Valley Green Inn where we ate our water ice on a bench and watched all the really tame birds being fed bread. There were lots of Canada geese
Canada Goose
and mallards,
and among all these familiar birds was some sort of duck we could not identify.
Unknown Duck
After finishing our cool treats we hit the trail. We walked along Forbidden Drive.
Forbidden Drive
There were surprisingly few people out on the path, probably due to the heat. We found a set of stairs leading off the drive and decided to figure out where they led.
Springhouse Steps
It turns out that they led to an old springhouse.
Old Springhouse

From the springhouse we continued to follow Forbidden Drive towards Lincoln Drive. Every now and then we passed an old mileage marker
Eight Miles to Fairmount
and a few bridges.
Stone Bridge Over the Wissahickon
Finally we decided to use a footbridge to cross the Wissahickon.
Wissahickon Creek
Once on the other side of the creek we followed a well-worn footpath that closely paralleled the creek.
Noelle on the Trail
We soon found ourselves at some interesting sites. The first was a monument to the first baptism of the Church of the Bretheren in America.
First Baptism Monument
From the monument we crossed the Fingerspan, a functional piece of art that is also a bridge.
Noelle on the Fingerspan Bridge
Shortly after crossing the Fingerspan we could hear lots of people and big splashes. We were at the infamous Devil's Pool.
Devil's Pool

I remember being younger and spending a lot of time hiking the Valley Green trails. There was a legend that the Devil's Pool was bottomless. It obviously isn't, but it is still deep enough to allow people to (illegally) jump into the small creek. We watched as people of all ages and races jumped into the water.
Jumping Into Devil's Pool

Some even dove in which made me cringe a bit. Luckily we did not see anyone get injured during the time we watched.

After about 15 minutes of watching we started our hike again. Shortly after leaving the Devil's Pool we could see the Valley Green Inn and then we were back to the car. We then drove into Chestnut Hill where we walked around a bit and bought some books at the public library book sale. Then we headed into Mt. Airy where we ate dinner at the excellent Earth Bread + Brewery. We got two delicious flatbread pizzas and a s'mores flatbread fro dessert. The beer was excellent as well. If you ever find yourself in Northwest Philly, I would highly recommend Earth Bread + Brewery.             

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

This morning Noelle, Sierra, Mom, Dad and I took the train into Center City to see the Liberty Bell and the Magic Gardens. I've long been obsessed with what some people call "art environments" and the Magic Gardens have been on my bucket list. Sierra enjoyed making friends on the train. We got off at Market East and then headed over to Independence Mall. There was a long line to see the Liberty Bell,
Waiting in Line for the Liberty Bell
but luckily the line moved pretty quickly. We got a family photo at the famed icon of freedom
Family Photo at the Liberty Bell
and then headed to the park behind Independence Hall to feed Sierra her lunch. There was a band playing across the street from the park and Sierra seemed to enjoy listening to the music. She even danced with Pop-Pop for a little while.
Sierra Dances with Pop-Pop

After Sierra's lunch it was time for ours. We headed to South Street where we stopped in at Jim's Steaks.
Noelle at Jim's Steaks on South Street
Back when I was in high school and college I spent a lot of time down on South Street and ate at Jim's quite often. The steaks are still excellent, though it seems the lines are longer now. From Jim's we walked west on South to the Magic Gardens. The Magic Gardens did not disappoint. While the $7 admission is a bit high, especially considering there is no admission fee to such art environments as the Concrete County Park and Wegner Grotto in Wisconsin, I feel the money goes to a good cause in promoting folk art. Dad decided to stay outside,
Dad is Locked Out
but the rest of us enjoyed visiting all the little grottoes and traveling the corridors.
Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens Path

Magic Gardens Window

Mom at the Magic Gardens

Noelle in the Shade

Magic Gardens Corridor

Magic Gardens Mosaic

All-Encompassing Magic Gardens View

Noelle on Magic Gardens Stairs

Even Sierra really seemed to enjoy her visit!
Daddy and Sierra in the Magic Gardens

Sierra Loves the Magic Gardens