Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walking Wednesday - A Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is said to be the most photographed bridge in the world. I'm not sure about that but the Art Deco design makes it one of the prettiest. Construction began on the suspension bridge across the Golden Gate Strait in 1933.  The 4200 foot long span opened on May 27, 1937 as the longest bridge span in the world. It held that honor until 1964 when the Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in New York.

I love to walk across bridges and the Golden Gate has been on my bridge list for a while. On a recent trip to San Francisco with my sister-in-law I got to cross this bridge off my list!

We spent the first few days in Sonoma Valley walking and wine tasting and then we headed into San Francisco to finish off the week. Our first stop as we came into town was to walk over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Although we later learned that parking is very limited we actually lucked out and parking was a breeze. Heading south across the bridge from Sonoma Valley (on Highway 101) we took Merchant Rd. exit and parked just beyond the employee parking lot. This was a small parking lot in front of the Battery. It was just a short walk under the tunnel to the visitor's center. From the visitor's center you get a really good view of the bridge. We lucked out and didn't encounter fog like you see in a lot of photos of the bridge. It was a bright sunny day!

It was a pleasant walk over the bridge with no great incline to walk up like so many bridges. On this day bikes and pedestrians shared the same walkway. It wasn't really a problem since the bikes stayed on the inside and the walkers were near the railing.

It wasn't a very long walk - maybe an hour to walk over and back. Of course we had to stop and take dozens of pictures along the way.

It's a long ways down....

Even though the visitor's center was packed with tour buses it seems most people were happy to just get a look at the bridge from a far. There weren't that many people who actually walked over it. They missed out on a great view of the bay and the surrounding mountains.

A few tips:

  • There's no shade so bring water and sunscreen.
  • There are restrooms at the visitor's center but none on the bridge!
  • The Transit Police ride back and forth over the bridge and they're available if you need help.
  • Pedestrians need to walk near the railing to avoid the bikes. (Some go pretty fast!)
  • Vehicle traffic is very noisy. You might consider wearing ear plugs or headphones. 
  • If you drive your vehicle over the bridge you'll have to pay an electronic toll. You can either purchase a toll pass OR pay online after you've crossed the bridge. Check out All Electronic Tolling on the Golden Gate Bridge for complete info.
  • If you drive beware that parking is very limited. We lucked out finding a parking place but you may want to check out Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll find info on parking and public transportation. 
  • Open times and other important information on walking the bridge can be found at Sidewalk Access for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Don't be content with just driving! Get out of your car or off the bus and take a walk...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lost Dog Found - An Adventure in Italy

One of my favorite memories of our trip to Italy was the day we found the little black Scotty looking dog.

We were in Rovereto, Italy at the southern edge of the Alps and we were looking for Geocaches. Our quest to find a geocache brought us to a park that was right beside an animal rescue place.

Arcadia Associazione Relazione Uomo- Animale Onlus

We parked and walked up the hill to a picnic area.So the clue to finding the geocache was 'under a rock'. Really? There must have a million rocks around. We didn't find the geo but I did spy a little black dog running around.

Riserva naturale provinciale - Laghetti di Marco

There were several people from the rescue place out looking for him and we stopped and talked to them on the way back to our car pointing out that we'd seen the dog further up the trail. They thanked us and we hopped in our car and got back on the road.

And what do we see on the main road? This silly little dog darting across the busy traffic almost getting hit by a big truck. John pulled off the road and I got out and coaxed him over to the car. It took him a few seconds but he finally jumped in the back seat and sat right by me. He looked so happy like he was finally home!

We drove back to the animal rescue and one of the guys came out and got him. That little doggie did not want to get out of the car! After a little pulling and tugging we finally persuaded him to  hop out.

This was the last view we had of him. He was looking back like he couldn't believe we weren't taking him home with us. Oh my gosh, I almost cried having to leave him there...

John said, "Thank God we're in Italy" because if we'd had been closer to home he knew I would have taken that little guy home with me. Yes I would have!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church - Fernandina Beach, FLorida

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church is the second oldest African American Church on Amelia Island. The church was founded in 1870 by Rev. Lewis Cook and met in member's homes until a church was constructed in 1878. The the original wooden structure burned on February 11, 1907. Under the direction of Rev P.A. Callaham the current building was completed on the same spot by November of that same year. A mere six years later in 1913 the mortgage was burned. Pretty impressive!

On the naming of the church one of the members said, 
"call her New Zion and she will never grow old".

The corner stone was laid in 1907.

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church
10 South 10th Street
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Information on the history was found at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday Walking - Our First 20 Mile Walk! Baldwin Rail to Trail

I like to walk but last year if anyone told me I'd walk 20 miles in one day I'd have had a good laugh!

But walk 20 miles we did! Whoop-Whoop!

This is all in preparation for our trip to New York next month. We'll be joining about a thousand other folks in  The Great Saunter a 32 mile walk around the shoreline of Manhattan.  

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

The Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail runs 14.5 miles between Imeson Road Trailhead and Brandy Branch Road Trailhead. There's several places to stop along the way including the Helsema Road trailhead, Baldwin Station and Camp Milton Historic Preserve.

Our walk started at the Helsema Road Trailhead on the Baldwin Rail to Trail. We walked 12 miles round trip to the Imeson trailhead, back to Helsema and then four miles towards Baldwin Station and four miles back to Helsema.

A total of 20 miles! 

The Baldwin Trail is a nice flat paved over railroad track that runs mostly through farm land.

This little black cow followed us for quite a ways on our walk.

We walked under a tunnel of sorts and there's even trail for horseback riders that runs along the side of the walking trail.

Our First Bike Encounter

There are no cars allowed but walkers and bikes share the trail. And on this walk we had our first run in with a bicyclist. Signs at the trailheads instruct everyone to stay on the right side of the trail. The idea being that faster traffic can pass on the left.
You can hear the bikes coming up behind you and most of the riders call out "passing on the left!" which is great. Unfortunately one woman on a bike didn't see us because the visor of her helmet was obscuring her vision and she plowed into us.
It's weird how things like that seem to go in slow motion. All of a sudden she was there falling to the ground between us.  Thank God she wasn't going very fast! She pretty much missed me but John caught it on the arm and foot. Poor lady she was so embarrassed and apologetic but we were none the worse for wear.
She got back on her bike and we went back to walking. But after that I was a little paranoid and couldn't help but turn around whenever I heard a bike coming up behind us.

A Few Tips For Long Distance Walking

  1. Start by walking 1 -3 miles a day on most days.
  2. After you're used to walking short distances daily begin adding a longer walk once a week. We did a few 6 miles walks then moved up to an 8 mile then 10, 17 and finally our 20 mile walk. 
  3. Stay hydrated! Sweating and drinking plain water tends to wash the minerals out of your body so consider a sports drink. We take Lemon-Lime Gatorade in a 3 liter hydration system that's in John's Deuter backpack. Plus I carry powdered Gatorade and a water bottle as well. 
  4. High energy salty snacks are a must. We take a snack mix of dried fruit, salty nuts and pretzels. We also take a few bananas and PBJ sandwiches are nice and portable. 
  5. Think about eating a good (not heavy) meal at some point in a long walk. We stopped back at our car after 12 miles and ate the picnic I'd packed. Turkey, ham and cheese sub sandwiches with lettuce, pickles and black olives.  
  6. Take frequent rest stops. At the beginning of the walk we stopped for about 10 -15 minutes after each 3 miles. The last three miles I think we stopped for about 5 minutes every mile. 
  7. For ladies consider taking something like a P-Style along. We don't have the freedom to pee on a tree like the guys but there are products available that make it possible. Carrying something like the P-Style means you don't have to drop your drawers and squat behind a tree! When it's a two mile walk (that's forty minutes!)  to the nearest bathroom you'll be glad you've got one with you. 
  8. For me I need a walking partner. If John wasn't encouraging me along the way I'd have stopped at 12 miles! 
  9. Plan on a really good high calorie meal after your walk. Even if weight loss is your goal you need to replenish your body. I burned 2100 calories on this walk. 

You don't have to walk 20 miles but lace up and take a walk today!

Check out Maple Hill for other outdoor posts:

Saturday, April 9, 2016

St. Mary's African Methodist Episcopal Church - Armstrong, Florida

Last week we took a nice long walk on the Palatka-to-St. Augustine rail to trail in St. John's county. After reading the history of this rail road line and that it passed through the historic town of Armstrong I knew this would make an interesting walk.

Armstrong Historic Community

The town of Armstrong is one of  the oldest African American communities in St. John's county. The small community was settled about 1886 around a sawmill. By 1900 it was a thriving agricultural community shipping potatoes by rail. Timber and turpentine was another big industry for the small community.

While walking the trail you can see the location of the train depot, the Armstrong post-office and the Sand Cut Camp which was for railroad employees. You can also see the remains of St. Mary's AME Church.

St. Mary's African Methodist Episcopal Church

The original church was a wood frame building constructed in 1914. This building was destroyed by fire in 1915 and the members met for the next ten years in homes around town. The present church and bell tower was built in 1925. I can just imagine the excitement of the congregation when their new building was finished.

The picture on the sign shows the church in 1985.

This is what the church looks like now. If you peer closely you can just barely make out the remains. The woods and undergrowth are threatening to completely over take the abandoned building. 

(I could have gotten a better picture if I had gotten off the trail and tramped through the high grass and underbrush. But this is Florida and that means ticks! So, no way...I stay on the trail.)

Take Time to See the World Around You!

 I often wonder if any of the bicyclist that blew by us have ever taken the time to stop and peer off the trail to see the ruins of this tiny church. Walking is a nice way to  view the world around us at 3 miles per hour.

Get outside and take a slow walk to see what you can see!
Counties:St. Johns
Length:8.5 miles
Trail end points:FL 207 and CR 207 (Spuds) to (nearly) I-95 in Elkton

You can see other churches and cemeteries by checking out:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review - Deuter Airlite 16 Hiking Backpack

Over the last year or so we've bought and tried out several back packs trying to find one the would work for our day walks. I think we finally found it!

I'm going to let John tell you about this new backpack and what he thinks.

Deuter Airlite 16 Hiking Backpack – 1st impression Review
By John B

My wife and I enjoy walking in the city, suburbs and backwoods.  We have successfully met our annual goal of walking 500 miles together and have managed to boast it up to 600 miles annually these past few years.  Most of our daily treks are 5 miles or less.  This year we are challenging ourselves to walk the New York City “Great Saunter”.  A 32 mile walk around the Manhattan Rim inMay. 
For this we needed a new day pack.  We have tried several varieties and they all have had the same two issues.  Little structural support leaves the contents collecting to the bottom of the pack and no ventilation makes for a wet and uncomfortable back. 
We researched the day packs and finally settled on the Deuter Airlite. Our purchase was through Ebags and the transaction was quick and easy.  Shipping emails were timely and accurate.  We received the day pack on Friday after much anticipation. 
Sunday morning, we set out for a 10 mile walk from downtown through the suburbs, parks, and bridges.  It was a beautiful spring day with clear skies and a high of 76o

Material – The material and workmanship on the stitching is excellent.  I found no stray stitching or loose threads.  The stitching was well supported and has the look and feel to last us a long time.

Packing – The bag has one main compartment for storage.  This provides able space for our lunch, snacks, first aid and windbreaker.  The narrow design prevented the typical clumping at the bottom of the pack.  There are two compression straps on the back to hold the items in place.  After lunch, these proved useful to keep the contents in place while walking.
There is a second pocket at the top of the pack for small items that need to be retrieved quickly.  The pocket is deep enough to prevent items from falling out while the pack is lying flat.  This pocket is good for cash, band aides or a quick snack.

Handle – Most day packs have a strap at the top for carrying to your car or other transfer spot.  These usually have enough room for one or two fingers.  The handle on the Deuter was large enough for my entire hand.  This was a much more comfortable design.

Large carrying handle

Hydration - Each side of the outer skin has a water bottle elastic mesh.  The open designed allowed for any condensation from the bottles to drip off the bags keeping the pack nice and dry.  The location just behind each hip made it easy to retrieve my bottle while continuing to walk at stride with little issue.  Returning it to the pocket was just as easily handled. 
The pack is made to contain a hydration system, but we have not used one to date.  Maybe this fall on our Europe adventure.

Water bottle holders on each side plus a place inside
the pack for a water hydration system.
Walking sticks fit nicely on the pack.

Balanced – The first mile proved the pack to be well balanced with its 3 point system.  There is a cushioned pad at the waist as well as one for each shoulder.  I found by adjusting the tension of the shoulder and belt straps made for easy and quick adjustments.  The pack held firmly to these areas with no rubbing or irritations to my shoulder or back.  There was also an elastic chest strap that worked in harmony with the shoulder straps.  This is a very impressive simplistic design that works very well.

This elastic band around the chest expands as you move.

Airflow – This was a pleasant surprise.  I chose the Airlite because the images on the website showed a webbing between the pack and the users back.  I did not pick up on the concave design nor the cross fitted spring wire frame keeping the pack off of your back.  This design worked excellent for ventilation.  Although the mesh does stay against your back, it is vented and keeps perspiration from building up on your shirt and back. 

The best feature! The pack doesn't sit against the back
allowing for cooling air flow.

Hip Side Pockets – There was another model that had small side pockets on the hip strap.  I did not select this option, but after our trek appreciated the idea.  Our snacks were packed on my back.  If I was walking solo, I would have had to remove my pack to retrieve them.  Since I walk with my wife, this was not an issue, but might be something for others to consider.

Rain cover – We did try on the rain cover and it fits over the full pack will.  The elastic fit snugly over the pack and looks to be of good design.  It did not rain on our first outing, so its design still remains to be tested. (It did rain on our next outing and the rain cover fit nicely and kept the pack dry.)


            No Hip Pockets

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

17 Miles Walk Along the Palatka to St. Augustine Rail to Trail

Dotted all over the country and even around the world old, abandoned railroad lines are being given new life as walking and biking trails. The Palatka-to-St. Augustine rail to trail is eight and half miles long and runs through the towns of Armstrong, Elkton and Vermont Heights in northeast Florida. On Sunday we took a round trip walk on the trail for a total of 17 miles. 

The Palatka-to-St. Augustine trail is open to foot traffic and bicycles but walkers were well out numbered by bikes. Even so the trail was well marked with one lane for bikes and the other for foot traffic. 

The First Few Miles

The first few miles of the trail runs along State Road 207. There was no shade! It made us glad we started early to beat the Florida heat. 

There were several interesting, abandoned buildings along the trail.

A few beautiful farms along the way. I wonder if they're glad the trains are gone?

Finally We Found the Shade!

Most of the trail ran through shady woodlands. This made for a pleasant walk.

Since we did a round trip walk we ended up back on the sunny part of the trail around noon. But at least there was a nice breeze so it wasn't so bad. 

It took us 5 hours and 23 minutes to walk 17 miles. That time doesn't include a few rest stops and lunch. 

This is about half the distance we'll be walking next month in New York when we do The Great Saunter.You can read about that here-The Great Saunter - A Slow 32 Mile Walk Around Manhattan Still need to do some training!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Walking Tour of Evergreen Cemetery - Jacksonville, Florida

Back when I was a teacher I used to take my students on a field trip for a walking tour of Evergreen Cemetery. The tour was a scavenger hunt of sorts with a map with picture clues and directions to follow. Along the way the students would learn to not only follow directions but some of the history of our city as told through those early burials.

On this tour some of the grave markers were chosen for the historical significance or to show the meaning of tombstone icons other markers were chosen simply to keep the kids on track. The goal was to get out of the classroom, have fun and hopefully learn something along the way!

Evergreen Cemetery is the oldest, fully operating cemetery in Jacksonville, It's also the largest with 170 acres that includes a large Catholic and Jewish sections. The first burial took place on April 8, 1881. The year before on October 26, 1880 a right of way through the cemetery was granted to the Jacksonville-Fernandina Railroad and a depot was built on the grounds complete with holding vaults for bodies awaiting burial. The train still runs through the cemetery but the depot is gone and the holding vaults are no longer in use but the long history of Evergreen is just waiting to be explored.

Here's a few highlights from the walking tour:

William Sherman Jennings
Jennings was the 18th Governor of Florida serving 1901-1905

Rev. Dr. Robert J. Bateman
Died in the sinking of the Titanic 

Bateman born in England, became a Baptist minister at age 21 and later moved to Jacksonville.  After visiting relatives in England Bateman and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Ada Balls, embarked on the Titanic traveling second class. 
As the ship began to sink Rev. Bateman put Ada into the last lifeboat. Later Ada recalled her brother-in-law's words: "Brother forced me into the last boat saying he would follow later. Brother threw his overcoat over my shoulders as the boat was being lowered away and as we neared the water he took his black necktie and threw it to me with the words, "Goodbye, God bless you!"
Bateman's body was recovered by the cable laying vessel the Mackay-Bennett. On May 6, 1912 his body was sent to Jacksonville and interred in Evergreen Cemetery

Calvin E. Knight
Steamboat Captain

By the 1870's steamboats were busy on the St. John's River between Jacksonville and Palatka. The boats carried freight and an influx of settlers to Florida as well as tourists coming to view the exotic scenery and wildlife. After the arrival of the railroad in the 1890's the steamboats on the river slowly declined and became obsolete. 

Joshua L Burch

Victim of the Yellow Fever Epidemic

The first case of Yellow Fever was confirmed in Jacksonville in July of 1888. The disease causes liver damage and jaundice and could kill a person in a matter of days. By August 1888 Jacksonville was under quarantine. Nothing and no one was allowed to leave the city, not even mail could be sent off. We now know that Yellow Fever is spread by mosquitoes but at the time they believed it spread person to person. On September 12, 1888 twelve prominent business men and government official died of Yellow Fever. That day was referred to as Black Friday.  By December of 1888 over 5000 people had been ill and 400 had died as a result of the Yellow Fever Epidemic.

Napoleon B. Broward

Broward served as Sheriff of Duval County and then he served as Governor of Florida from 1906-1910. One of the largest bridges in Jacksonville is named for Napoleon B. Broward. 

Henry DuPre Bounetheau 
Died May 3, 1901

Bounetheau was one of the seven victims of the Great Fire of 1901 that ravished the city of Jacksonville. The fire began when a spark ignited drying moss at a mattress factory. It quickly spread from one wooden building to another to destroy 146 city blocks. By the time the fire was brought under control over 2300 building were destroyed, 10,000 people were homeless and seven residents were dead. 

Henry thought the fire wouldn't reach his home and if it did he could escape to the river. He did leave his home but returned to retrieve a photograph of his mother because it was the only one he had. His body was found days later floating in the river. 

Cummer Mausoleum 

Ninah Cummer is best known for the Cummer Art Museum and Garden that she founded on Riverside Ave. in Jacksonville. This Egyptian Revival Mausoleum was constructed for Ninah and Arthur Cummer's baby daughter DeEtte who died in 1909 at 17 days old. 

This is just a small look at the history that can be found in Evergreen Cemetery.

Take a walk and visit a local cemetery and see what you can learn about your town. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Great Saunter - A Slow 32 Mile Walk Around Manhattan


We Did It! To See Our Walk Click HERE!

Have you ever heard of the Great Saunter? 

First of all saunter means to walk along in a slow, relaxed manner. What makes it great is that you walk 32 miles through more than 20 parks and along the beautiful waterfront of Manhattan's incredible shoreline.

 Yep 32 miles and it's not a race or a competition. If you make it to the finish line all you'll get is a certificate and the satisfaction of knowing you did it!

Apparently about a thousand people participate in this urban hike that's been held the first Saturday in May for 25 years. The Great Saunter is put on by the Shorewalkers, a non profit group dedicated to preserving New York City's shores and wetlands.  

We Took the Plunge!

I first read about the saunter a couple years ago and although the idea intrigued me the thought of walking 32 miles sounded a bit much. Not to mention the cost of getting from Florida to New York. For some reason everything came together this year and we decided to take the plunge and sign up. 

I've never visited New York other than to change planes and one night spent in a very expensive hotel near the airport due to a canceled flight. John on the other hands has been there many times on business. He's never wanted to spend vacation time somewhere associated with work but he agreed the Great Saunter sounded interesting. 

So we paid $30 to join the Shorewalkers club, lucked out on two fairly cheap plane tickets and reserved a hotel near the start/finish line. We're committed now!

Training Time!

Now we love to walk. A couple of miles after dinner at night and a 10 or 12 mile walk on the weekend. But 32 miles in one day?

Whew! We knew we'd need to work up to it so training time began.

We've been working on adding distance to our walks plus keeping up a good pace. The Great Saunter starts at 7:30am and we hope to finish within 12 hours. We'll have to keep a 3 mph pace so we'll have time for a few breaks along the way.

It's a little scary committing to such a long walk. But we're going to give it our best shot! If we don't complete the 32 miles we'll still have a weekend in New York including a stop at Junior's Cheesecake.

Tomorrow we'll tackle a 17 mile walk. I'll update our progress as we move towards the Great Saunter!

This year's Great Saunter will be held on Saturday, May 7, 2016. For more information about The Great Saunter check out the Shorewalkers site.

Will we see you there?

Above the Clouds in San Marino - One of the Smallest Countries in Europe

This is an excerpt from my journal as we were traveling from the Cortona area in Tuscany to San Marino:

Leaving our lovely airbnb run by Anna Marie and Aldo we took a crazy drive up and down 2 or 3 big mountains on our way to San Marino. Beautiful landscape, huge stone mountains and lush velvety hills. Cows grazing, tiny villages, stone houses, row after row of freshly turned soil, bare grapevines, and twisty, hair pin turns. We stopped on the side of the road and ate egg salad sandwiches. Only a few cars passed by. Nice and quiet countryside...

This is just one of the many old stone buildings we past on our drive.  Surrounded by vineyards or freshly plowed soil many of the building were vacant.

San Marino

On our loop through Italy we found ourselves too close to San Marino to pass up a visit. How could we miss a visit to one of the smallest countries in Europe? You can even stop in the post office and for 5 euros they'll stamp your passport a rarity for those who covet such things.

The tiny country of San Marino is completely landlocked within Italy. This 24 square mile country sits high above the clouds in the rugged Appennines Mountains,  For spectacular views take the cable car up to Mt. Titano the highest point in San Marino.

Cable car through the clouds.

It was an eerie experience riding the cable car up through the clouds. We couldn't see anything out the windows except white misty clouds. At least I couldn't see the ground. A plus for someone afraid of heights!

Terror in the cable car!
 Well not really but it did make for an interesting ride.

It  was such a strange sensation looking out over the sea of clouds below the city. Like we were in some mystical city above the clouds.

We arrived late in the day so the town was pretty deserted. It made for a peaceful, unhurried walk but we did miss out on seeing the cross bowman and the flag exhibition.  Also most of the stores and restaurants were closed.

Main square with the Liberty statute and the Palace of the People.

Getting Lost is Half the Fun!

Don't be fooled into thinking that you can't get lost in San Marino. I mean how can you get lost in a country that's only 24 square miles? It's easy as we found out. Has to do with the fact that San Marino is 24 square miles of up and down and round and round mountains!

Fortunately we came across a bus driver who spoke a little English and he helped us find the way to our hotel. (As you can see it involved a lot of hand signals!) "Do not get off the main road!" was his very precise command!

The sun had set by the time we took the cable car back down the mountain. As you can see it was a lovely evening with the moon rising over the clouds.

It was a wonderful visit above the clouds in San Marino.

Travel Monkey