Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Noelle, Sierra and I headed on a beautiful morning to explore part of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
refuge boundary
We drove north on Route 47 to Kimbles Beach Road and towards Delaware Bay. We started off with a hike on a portion of the Songbird Trail through the maritime forest.
Sierra and Mommy hiking
We stopped every now and then to look for birds,
Sierra the birder
but we didn't see a whole lot.

After our short  hike we headed down to the beach.
wlking the beach
It's a pleasant little spot
beach vegetation
with lots of stones for throwing into the bay.
throwing rocks into bay
throwing rocks 2
We found a few interesting shells, including this razor clam.
razor clam shell
We walked to the point where a small creek flows into the bay
creek mouth
and turned around. It was a pleasant way to spend a beautiful day with family!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cape May Point State Park: Blue Trail

After taking a day for relaxing yesterday, Noelle and I headed out to do some hiking. We decided to head over to Cape May Point State Park and take along our binoculars. Our first stop was the observation platform near the parking lot
Noelle birding
where we saw lots of turkey vultures and a few hawks, ducks, coots, swans, and a great blue heron.

After looking at the birds, we decided to hike the blue trail.
Noelle walks boardwalk
The trail was pleasant and wound through lots of small wetland areas
trees and water
on trail and boardwalk.
Noelle walking boards again
Every now and then we stopped to look for birds.
birding again
Besides birds we saw some hardy flowers still in bloom.
blooming flowers
At the turnaround point of the loop trail we caught some nice vies of the Cape May Point Lighthouse.
We had climbed to the top of it back in the summer of 2011, right before our move from Minnesota to New Mexico. When the blue trail got close to the beach, we opted to walk on the beach back to the parking lot instead of the trail. I found an interesting exoskeleton.
shell on beach
Could it be a skate?

We walked past the World War II era battery
on the beach and towards the lighthouse.
Noelle on beach
We used the restroom and then headed back to the observation platform where we saw lots more turkey vultures, but also a pair of bald eagles and a peregrine falcon!  We then got in the car and headed over to Sunset Beach to check out the shipwreck there.
After lunch at Wawa, we ended our date with a flight of beers each at Cape May Brewing Company.
Cape May brewing

Monday, November 23, 2015

Oxon Hill Farm

After waking up in a really nice hotel in Arlington, Virginia; we quickly crossed the Potomac River into Maryland for a visit to Oxon Hill Farm. Just a word of warning, the entrance to the park is a little bit tricky to find. After finding the park entrance we parked the car and bundled up for the brisk and breezy morning. We were greeted by some cows at the farm entrance
two cows
and walked an old farm road past a barn
Sierra and Mommy walking to barn
to the visitor center were Sierra played with some farm-themed toys while the whole family warmed up a bit. There was a nice mural inside featuring different farm animals, including a sheep.
Sierra and sheep
Sierra really appreciated the sheep!

After having sufficiently warmed ourselves, we headed back outside and walked through a few barns
brick barn
including one that contained goats.
We then headed down to the dairy barn for the cow milking demonstration. We admired a few of the cows in their pasture before the demonstration.
looking at cow
The ranger giving the demonstration offered us an opportunity to milk the cow and I took it. It was my first time milking a cow! After the milking demonstration we wandered around the farm a bit more,
farm overlook
checking out the various buildings
and admiring the animals.
The old farmhouse on the property dated back to the War of 1812.
farm house
The occupants even saw rockets crash down in their fields during the war.

Once we had toured the grounds, it was time to hit the road. We headed north through surprisingly light traffic and into New Jersey to see Pop Pop and Ta Ta's new house near the beach. I even got to see the sun set over Delaware Bay.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Petersburg National Battlefield

Yesterday the Grunwalds started our Thanksgiving road trip. This will be our first Thanksgiving with family since 2 months after Sierra was born in 2012 when we drove from New Mexico all the way to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. What a crazy idea that was! Here we are 3 years later doing it all over again. So far this trip has been much easier.

This morning we woke up, ate breakfast and headed over to the Eastern Front Visitor Center at Petersburg National Battlefield. We arrived in a light drizzle before the visitor center had even opened for the day and so we took the time to check out the small, but interesting, Jordan Cemetery near the parking lot.
Jordan Cemetery
When the visitor center had opened for the day we went inside and watched the park film. After the film had ended, Sierra found a place to color
colring in visitor center
and so Noelle and I took turns checking out the exhibits. After a trip to the restrooms we were off to walk the nearby Dictator Trail.
walking trail
Dictator Trail
We followed the trail through Confederate Battery 5,
down to some railroad tracks, and then over to the Dictator,
the Dictator
a mortar used by Union troops to shell the Confederates.

After returning to the parking lot, we embarked on a drive of the Eastern Front Battlefield. One of the more interesting stops was #3, the site of Confederate Battery 9 and examples of siege fortifications. The fortifications consisted of wooden stakes called fraise, trenches, and cheveaux-de-frise.
fort 2
There was also a soldier's winter hut
soldiers hut
and the sutler's store.
We then moved on to Fort Stedman
Fort Stedman cannons
and the site of Fort Morton which featured the remains of Taylor Farm.
The highlight of the Eastern Front was a trip to the infamous Crater. We walked the trail there
walking girls
past the tunnel entrance
tunnel entrance
and up to the edge of the location of the mine explosion on July 30, 1864.
monument (2)

After touring the Eastern Front we moved on to City Point and Grant's headquarters at the Appomattox Plantation.
We started by watching a film about City Point in the plantation home, toured the exhibits and then moved out into the wind and cold to tour the grounds. We walked the crepe myrtle allee
walking allee
and checked out the headquarters building itself.
Grant's headquarters
This is supposedly the only headquarters cabin in existence that dates to the war. It was moved back to the site from Philadelphia in 1981. I wonder if it had been to Philly after the war for the Centennial Exposition of 1876? We concluded our visit by heading into town for lunch before making the drive up I-95 and into Northern Virginia.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Roanoke Star and Mill Mountain Park

Today we started our road trip up north to Pop Pop and Ta Ta's new house in New Jersey. To break things up a bit we stopped at Mill Mountain Park and the famous Roanoke Star. We got a little turned around in Downtown Roanoke before finding the road that led up to the park. Once there we checked out the star
Roanoke star
and the view of Roanoke
Roanoke from star
from the viewing platform near the star.
Mommy and Sierra at star
We then had a chilly picnic lunch at the picnic area which just happened to be near the playground. Sierra had a chance to play for a bit
Sierra in tunnel
before we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then over to US-460 for our drive east to Petersburg.