Category Archives: My Travels

Day 7 – The Berwickshire Coastal Path

After a restful night at Rhovanion B&B in Coldingham, David and I laced up our hiking boots, grabbed our trekking poles and headed towards the coast.

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Today we’d be exploring a portion of the Berwickshire Coastal Path – a 28-1/2 mile hiking route which works its way from Cockburnspath to Berwick – taking in dramatic cliff top scenery complete with arches, stacks and crumbling castles.

With the second highest cliffs on the east coast of Scotland, this area boasts one of the most dramatic coastlines in Britain. 

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A scenic one-mile walk down the Creel Path from Coldingham to St. Abbs would connect us to the main coastal route, where we’d be making a 4-mile loop that would take us past St. Abb’s Head and Pettico Wick before returning us to the Visitor’s Center.

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The Creel Path has a long history, having been in daily use for over a thousand years. It is said that men from Fisher’s Brae in Coldingham worked their boats from St. Abbs shore and carried their fishing gear down the well worn pathway, later returning with creels of fish.

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One portion of the path had me feeling like I’d just entered Hobbiton – complete with an enclosed canopy that created this amazing circular tunnel.

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From ancient times, until the early twentieth century the east coast of Scotland was home to a massive herring industry, with tens of thousands of workers migrating – often on foot – up and down the coast following the herring shoals and the attendant fishing fleet. 

It was amazing to think that we were walking the same route, but this time, out of pure enjoyment.

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Our first glimpse of St. Abbs, Scotland. Even on this overcast day, the green fields were vibrant!

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Starting down the Berwickshire Coastal path.

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We arrived in St. Abbs to find this quaint little harbor with it’s extensive set of sea walls – protecting it from the fury of the North Sea.

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A view to the north, past the harbor and towards the rocky coastline. 

The scenery is dramatic and quite beautiful, but the sea has a wildness about it that even this lovely day can’t disguise.

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A large and well-placed estate perched high above the rocky coastline.

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After heading around the massive estate, we found ourselves at the start of the circular route.

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Entering the St. Abb’s Head National Nature Preserve

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This picture doesn’t quite capture the beauty nor the height of these rocky promontories. 

Not being a lover of heights, I found myself praying that I wouldn’t be blown off the cliff top by a large gust of wind – an unfortunate but common accident.

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After climbing steadily uphill, we were amply rewarded with an amazing view of St. Abb’s harbor.

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Lovely but dangerous dropoffs!

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You may not be able to tell from this photo, but the cliffs depicted here are about 60 meters (over 180 feet) tall.

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Watching a dive boat out on the water. This area offers some of the best diving in all of Britain.


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More colonies of sea birds nesting on the cliffs and in the crags.

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Looking south towards St. Abbs – the view from up here was amazing!

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On the coastal path and arriving at St. Abb’s Head lighthouse – situated on a rocky promontory approximately 80 meters (240 feet) above sea level.

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An aerial view of the coastline and the lighthouse (not taken by me) that adequately depicts the ruggedness of the coast.

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Meeting some furry friends along the way.

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Chatting with some others folks who had walked up from St. Abb’s harbor for a bit of bird watching.

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Looking north to Tun Law Forts – the highest cliffs on the Berwickshire coast.

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Our first glimpse of Pettico Wick Bay…beautiful!

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Another view of Pettico Wick…simply stunning!

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In the foreground, the hillsides are covered in wild flowers.  In the background, the hillsides are covered with tiny cows!

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Coming down off the hills and towards the path that’ll take us to the visitor’s center.

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Taking a fiver at a quaint little cafe in St. Abb’s while waiting for our Cullen Skink – a soup made with smoked haddock.

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David taking one last look at the harbor before heading back to our B&B in Coldingham.

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Back on the Berwickshire Coastal path – this time headed south towards Coldingham Bay. 

I fell in love with this beautiful home, boasting an amazing view of the North Sea.

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Coldingham Bay and its secluded and awarding-winning beach –  popular with the local surfers!

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Another glimpse of Coldingham Bay beach. Can you see the surfers on their boards?

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As I’m writing this blog post, I find myself still haunted by one particular image from that day on the Berwickshire coast. While walking through St. Abbs, David & I came upon this bronze cast- a memorial –  depicting a group of women and children looking out towards the sea.  As fate would have it, this coast of Scotland suffered a tragic maritime accident that surpassed even the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Black Friday, October 14, 1881 commemorates the worst fishing disaster in Scotland’s history.  A ferocious hurricane devastated the fishing fleet off the east coast and claimed 189 lives.

This hauntingly beautiful sculpture (one of four) was created to depict the exact number of women that were widowed (93) and children left fatherless (267) – looking out to sea for their loved ones that never returned.

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TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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Day 6 – Meandering into Scotland

Today marks our final day in England and our last morning at Fenham Farm Coastal B&B. In preparation for the day, we headed for the breakfast room to fill up on another delicious English breakfast before a busy day of exploring.

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The main house is in the background…the lovely breakfast room…in the foreground.

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All set up and ready for breakfast.

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A wonderful room with coastal accents and lots of information for the curious traveler.

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The innkeepers – Watty & Gill Curry – a lovely husband and wife team…and part of the family of Christ!

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Saying goodbye to Fenham Farm – our favorite place to stay!

Farne Island - Glad Tidings 6

If today had gone as planned, you would have found David and I aboard the Glad Tidings – a tour boat harbored in Seahouses, England – that would have taken us to the Farne Islands for a day of bird watching.

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Located right off the Northumberland coastline near Bamburgh, the Farne Islands are one of Europe’s most important seabird sanctuaries. The islands are home to more than 20 different species, including puffins, eider ducks and three species of tern. Many of the birds are extremely confiding and visitors can enjoy close views. 

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Both David and I were hoping to see our first puffin, but this was not to be!  With rain in the air and wind whipping up a lot of wave action in the North Sea, all boat tours were cancelled for the day. 

As a second choice, we decided to meander through the English countryside, starting our day at Bamburgh Castle just south of Holy Island and offering a commanding view of the Northumberland coastline.

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Coming around a bend in the road, this is the first view we got of the massive castle.

Spanning nine acres of land on its rocky plateau high above the Northumberland coastline Bamburgh is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country.

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Once home to the kings of ancient Northumbria, Bamburgh Castle is one of Northumberland’s most iconic buildings. 

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Entering the castle grounds through the impressive gatehouse.

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A small section of the inner ward…heading towards one of the many entry doors!

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A bronze cast of the entire castle and extensive grounds.

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One of the displays in the China Room.

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More china…very similar to the Spode Tower I use at home.

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Entering the King’s Hall.

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What a spectacular room. You don’t see this everyday!

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North end of the King’s Hall.

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Helmets from the armory.

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Can you imagine this? Even the horses wore armor at one time!

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You can’t really tell from this angle, but the people who wore these suits of armor must have been very small.  Most appear almost child-size to me.

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A lovely sitting room with spectacular views.

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Deep in the lower levels of the castle…the main well is located right behind David’s right shoulder.

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An amazing array of weaponry – spears, swords, rifles and crossbows.

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And of course….every castle must have it’s dungeons.

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These torture chambers were much more gruesome than I had imagined they would be.  I was happy to leave this sight behind!

To see an aerial view of Bamburgh Castle, you can watch the video below:

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With the weather getting more blustery and the rain now falling in earnest, we decided to head inland to the small, rural village of Wooler.  We were hoping to visit a local art gallery, brimming with photos and handicrafts from local artisans. 

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Hmmm? Do we drive through this flooded roadway or don’t we? Of course we barreled crept through, but wondered what other surprises waited for us up ahead!

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This very ancient bridge most definitely was a surprise and could be accessed only one car at a time. Notice the sign…nothing wider than 2.0 meters could pass over the bridge.

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The lovely village of Wooler…looking down High Street.  Finding the art gallery closed for the day, we opted to walk around town and found a delightful place to eat lunch before heading north.

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Just a short way up the highway, we came upon this welcome sight… Scotland…we’re  finally here!

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Shortly after arriving in Scotland, the sun decided to show its lovely face!  It turned out to be a perfect day for visiting Eyemouth Harbor and Gunsgreen House – a historic house like no other.

Built in 1753 by notorious smuggler John Nisbet, the architecture included a number of secret hiding places where Nisbet housed his smuggled goods. The most smuggled item was tea, and the house contains a ‘tea chute’ right through it’s core where the leaves were stored away from prying eyes.

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Sunny day, but still a little chill in the air.

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Looking back up the River Eye towards Gunsgreen House.

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A friendly harbor seal that came in for a closer view!

Leaving Eyemouth, we headed a few miles inland to Coldingham where we would be spending a couple of nights at Rhovanion B&B.

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What started as a gray and gloomy day, had now turned into a beautiful and sunny evening and a perfect time for a stroll to the beach.

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There’s nothing better than a light supper by the seaside…

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…especially when this is the view before you!

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TO BE CONTINUED…

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The Happy Wanderer(s) – Day 5

We woke up to cloudy, gray skies and light drizzle – typical English weather – but nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for today’s adventure. We were going to explore Holy Island of Lindisfarne!

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According to the official website, “In 635AD St. Aidan came from Iona and chose to found his monastery on Lindisfarne. The Christian message flourished here and spread throughout the world.  However Holy Island is not only a centre of pilgrimage. Its tranquility, spirituality and scenic beauty attracts a multitude of visitors to its shores every year. Undoubtedly, it is the jewel in the crown of Northumbria.”

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Holy Island is linked to the mainland by a long causeway. Twice each day the tide sweeps in from the North Sea and covers the road.  But during daily low tides, the causeway clears of water and “safe crossing times” are calculated so that visitors can reach the island by car.  Nevertheless, travelers should remain vigilant if crossing near the extremeties…hence the warning sign above.

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The tide is going out in this photo and it is perfectly safe to drive across the causeway at this time.  However, if the tide is coming in and has reached the causeway before you…

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….you may become one of the many tourists that have to be rescued from their cars every year!

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For those who may chose to embrace this crossing as a holy pilgrimage, there is the Pilgrim Way – A clearly marked route that links the mainland to the island across the sands and mud.

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David and I chose to drive across the causeway and paused to read about some of the history of Lindisfarne before walking towards the interior of the island.

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As we left the parking lot and made our way down a public footpath, we came upon this pastoral sight – Lindisfarne Castle – perched upon a natural rock outcropping. Quite breathtaking!

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Continuing down the lane, we were greeted by these beautiful flowers – Red Valerian – growing in the moss atop on of the many stones walls.

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David – waiting for me to catch up and join him on the journey.

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We were just one of many tourists making our way down the lane to the castle.

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You don’t see this everyday!

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My husband at the kissing gate but he failed to pay the toll.  Too many people…no kisses today!

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Looking up at the castle walls and the arrow slots (or loops).

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Entering the castle through the portcullis.

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The dining room – notice the domed, but very low ceiling.

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One end of the kitchen.

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Small work area but quite a view from the window!

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Ducking to get through the low doorways.

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One of the bed chambers – beautiful barley-twist spindles on the bed, side table and candlesticks.

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I believe this was a music and sitting room.

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Out on the bailey and taking a look at the marvelous view….

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….out over the bay and towards the priory ruins, situated at the upper left of the photo.

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On our way to the lime kilns, we came across dozens of these lovely creatures…much bigger than the ones back home!

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Another beautiful snail  – carrying his home on it’s back!

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The lime kilns at Castle Point on Holy Island are among the largest, most complex and best preserved lime kilns in Northumberland.

These kilns produced quick lime for a variety of uses such agricultural fertilizer, mortar for buildings and whitewash.

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David…peering out from inside the kilns.

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Hiking on the castle field and sharing the view with dozens of sheep that wander freely across the island…

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…while trying to avoid the hundreds of calling cards that they left behind!

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The backside of the castle as viewed from the entrance to the Gertrude Jekyll gardens.

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Thank you, Gertrude, for the natural beauty that you created and left behind for all to share in.

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A wet and cold day in early June, but the gardens were still lovely.

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Looking at plants that are new to me and definitely do not grow in Minnesota!

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Heading back towards the town square with a view of the priory ruins in the background.

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Another view of the priory…sitting in this same location since 635 AD. Amazing!

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Retracing our route past the line of poles that mark the Pilgrim Way and back to our B&B before we head out for dinner in Beal.

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The wine menu at The Barn in Beal.

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Starting out with a small appetizer – venison pate’ served with Barn Chutney and endive.  Very rich and yummy!

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David’s trio of lamb with vegetables in demi-glace’.

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I’m not sure why I’m looking so doubtful…

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…the seared pork medallions with baby vegetables and blood orange jelly was scrumptious!

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After a full day of hiking and a delicious and satisfying meal, it was quite a relief to arrive back to our room for some much needed rest. 

Tomorrow was going to be another busy day!

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TO BE CONTINUED…..

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The Happy Wanderer(s) – Day 4

After a wonderful and deliciously filling English breakfast – farm-fresh eggs, sausage, beans, bacon, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes – 

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it was time to say goodbye to the proprietors of Carraw B&B, Kevin & Leah, pack our few bags and head east towards the coast.

map day 4We would eventually head north to Beal (point D on the map), but before going there, we would spend the morning at Aydon Castle (point B) and the afternoon on the beach in Seaham (point C).

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Setting our GPS for Aydon Castle, we were immediately redirected off of the main road and onto a lovely one-track lane. The first time I traveled to England, I was terrified of these tiny lanes and feared that I would perish in a head-on crash!  But this was now my third time traipsing across the English countryside and I was not daunted in the least.  David, however, sat in the passenger’s seat with eyes as big as half dollars!

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Within half an hour, the road opened up and before us sat Aydon Castle – one of the finest and most unaltered examples of a 13th century English manor house. Set in a beautiful and secluded Northumberland woodland, it was originally built as an undefended residence, but almost immediately fortified on the outbreak of Anglo-Scottish warfare.

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Here I am, taking a look at the outer fortified walls of the castle. They’re definitely showing signs of age, but I guess that’s to be expected – they’re over 700 years old!

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Entering through the outer gates of the castle and amazed that many of the buildings are still intact.

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David in the inner courtyard.

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The manor house is on the left and the servant’s quarters and barn, on the right.

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My favorite part of the estate – the orchard!

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Another view of the orchard and manor house (not taken by me).

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Walking around the perimeter of the grounds and listening to the sound of the river below.

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Can you guess what this hole in the wall is for?

Here’s a hint:  inside the building, this is where the bathroom’s located.  You got it right…this is the sewer…leading out of the castle and down to the river below. Ugh!

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Inside the great hall of the main manor house.

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Can you imagine trying to stay warm with just one fireplace in each room? Brrr!

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The kitchen area with a fireplace that filled the far wall.

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One of the many sleeping chambers.

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Up on the rampart walk that surrounds the inner courtyard.

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I was increasingly intrigued by the plant life that had found a way to survive (without soil) in the tiny nooks and crannies on the castle walls and along the ramparts.  These were some kind of petite violet, growing in a bed of moss. Beautiful!P1060520

A new seedling that’s just beginning to take hold.

After a couple of hours at Aydon Castle, the weather has begun to change (for the worse).  Time to get back in the car and head to the coast – Seaham – a sea glass mecca.

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My favorite beach for picking sea glass – once the site of a Victorian-era glass factory.  After years of dumping slag glass into the ocean, beautiful orbs and smooth discs of multi-colored sea glass now dot Seaham’s pebbled shores.

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Looking to the north towards Sunderland. Lots of gravel to search through…lots of sea glass waiting to be found!

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It’s just like picking agates along the shores of Lake Superior…except there’s tea and scones waiting for us when we’re done here!

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Bending down to pick up a lovely piece of sea glass.

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This aqua beauty is a keeper!

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I found another amazing piece…this one deserves to be photographed!

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An amazing English “multi” that will make a lovely piece of jewelry one day.

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Introducing David to my English friend, Robert, and his dog, Lucy.

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Interesting caves…waiting to be explored!

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David – my spelunker – checking out the inside of one of the many sandstone caves.

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Feeling very content with our little stash of sea glass, we headed back to our peppy VW and headed north towards Beal. 

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Our route took us through a number of historical coastal towns.  Looking out over the North Sea was the beautiful Warkworth Castle.

Not wanting to pass up another historical ruin, we decided to make a U-turn to take a closer look at this ancient building…

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…only to discover that our VW was capable of time travel!

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A few miles further north and we found ourselves, once again, on a single-track lane…this time contending with cows that were in no hurry to go anywhere!

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With the weather getting foggier and the rain falling in earnest, this sign was a welcome sight!

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Fenham Farm Bed & Breakfast – a lovely oasis on this rainy and foggy day.

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Heading to the main house to check in to our room – the Sandpiper – formally the cow byre!

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Rustic and modern – all at the same time!

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Camera tucked inside my jacket, we take one last walk to the beach before the day is done.

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David’s ready to head out too!

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These guys obviously don’t get much company…they were quite taken with our presence.

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Looking out over Foulwork Burn…hoping to get a glimpse of Holy Island through the haze.

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There it is….Holy Island and the Lindisfarne Priory…waiting to be enjoyed on the morrow!

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TO BE CONTINUED…..

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The Happy Wanderer(s) – Day 3

Imagine building a stone wall – 8 to 10 feet wide and 15 feet high – stretching from the Irish Sea (on the west) to the North Sea (on the east) and covering a mind-boggling distance of 73 miles.  And did I mention, you don’t have any modern tools to accomplish the task – just those implements that would have been in use during the second century A.D.

This is exactly what the Romans did under the leadership of Emperor Hadrian.  Beginning in 122 A.D. the emperor ordered a protective, fortified wall – now called Hadrian’s Wall – built all the way across Roman Britain, separating them from the barbarians to the north.

Today – almost 2000 years later – many of the stones have been carted away and recycled into other buildings, but the wall is still there for people to explore.  And for those who love history and enjoy  hiking, the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail was created for folks just like you.

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This historical trail stretches from coast-to-coast and passes through some of the most beautiful parts of England – from rolling fields and rugged moorland to the vibrant cities of Newcastle and Carlisle.

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David & I woke up on the third day of our journey feeling refreshed, revitalized and raring to go! Today we would be tracing two thousand years of history across the beautiful English countryside and following in the footsteps of Roman centurions who had lived and worked on the wall centuries beforehand.

Knowing that we’d be able to cover only a small portion of the path in one day, we chose to begin our hike at Housesteads Roman Fort and head west for 3-1/2 miles, ending our journey at Steel Rigg. 

This particular route was said to offer some of the most dramatic sections of wall, with strenuous walking and several steep slopes.

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With our trekking poles in hand and our rain gear tucked away in David’s backpack, we headed out for the day.

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The start of the walk took us immediately uphill – heading towards the ruins of Housesteads Fort – located at the top of this hill. 

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The ruins of the fort were quite extensive and stretched out across the entire crest of the hill.

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Housesteads had been strategically placed and the view from the top was amazing!

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Entering the Commanding Officers house

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Headquarters

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The granaries – held stores of food including flour for making bread for over 800 soldiers.

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The Granaries – side view

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The Communal Latrines…I promise never to complain about having only one full bathroom in my home!

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Near the north gate

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The gate leading to Hadrian’s Wall Path

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The Wall stretching out as far as you can see!

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Looking back towards Housesteads Fort

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Wet weather up ahead! The English don’t seem to mind the rain. Many of the hikers didn’t even wear rain gear.

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Grag Lough and more rain ahead.

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Crag Lough from a different angle.

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David…looking over the edge of the cliff!

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Walking into the rain and hoping that I don’t slip and tumble down into Sycamore Gap!

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Taking a breather near the bottom of Sycamore Gap

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Walking carefully down the uneven pathway.

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Cutting through the gap on the way down the crags.

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The Peel Crags in the background.

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Arriving at Steel Rigg and feeling great!

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Leaving through the kissing gate. Wait!  You forgot something…..

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You have to pay the toll!

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TO BE CONTINUED……

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The Happy Wanderer(s) – Day 2

After more than 24 hours of traveling, David and I had arrived safely in Edinburgh.  We were both quite tired, but knew we needed to adjust to this new time zone as quickly as possible. The best way to accomplish this was to ignore our exhaustion (easier said than done!) and not even think of sleeping or resting until some time in the early evening.  With that thought in mind, we picked up our rental car – a peppy little VW Golf – and headed south towards England.

untitledHaving had a bit of experience driving on the “wrong” side of the road, I became the designated driver and David, the wide-eyed, gawking passenger. It was a glorious day for traveling – sunny and bright with just a bit of chill in the air.

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After bypassing the city of Edinburgh, we hopped onto the A68 and drove through the Scottish Borders – a rural area full of lovely little villages and fields dotted with frolicking sheep. Unfortunately, our nice weather disappeared the further south we traveled.

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It didn’t take long for fatigue and hunger to catch up with us, so we stopped for a late lunch at a quaint little restaurant – The Caddy Mann. This inauspicious building held a much-guarded secret…it served the best slow-baked Borders lamb this side of Edinburgh.

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Fork-tender and swimming in a pool of au jus..I savored every morsel!!

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David had the medallions of pork with a mashed potato, haggis & rutabaga gratin – scrumptious as well!

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After lunch, we continued south to Melrose – a quaint border village nestled along the banks of the River Tweed and home to the beautiful and almost complete ruins of Melrose Abbey – a Gothic-style abbey founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks.

P1060432Melrose Abbey from the west.

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The south transept window.

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Up the spiral staircase to the observation deck.

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A roof level view.

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Walking on the extensive grounds of the Abbey.

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A beautiful view of the Abbey from the south.

Once back on the road, we continued south but had to make a quick stop at the scenic overview between the border of Scotland and England.

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David on the Scottish side of the border saying …so long for the present!

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Me on the other side of the border saying…hello England!!

With the fatigue of traveling beginning to take it’s toll on us, I was glad when we finally arrived at our destination.

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Carraw Bed & Breakfast – our home for the next two nights!

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We stayed in the Vindolanda Room – named after the Roman Fort built along Hadrian’s Wall almost 2000 years ago! The room had once been part of the original stone barn built many years before – notice the rugged stone wall behind the bed.

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I fell in love with the old wooden beams above our heads!

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And the view from our bedroom window was nothing short of spectacular!

We went to bed that night wondering what amazing sights tomorrow would bring.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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The Happy Wanderer(s)

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

Chorus:
Val-deri,Val-dera,
Val-deri,
Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
Val-deri,Val-dera.
My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
“Come! Join my happy song!”

I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev’ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o’er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky.

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 When I was just a little girl, my Gramma Rose taught me this song – The Happy Wanderer. Well, not just me.  She taught the song to all of us Weinberg kids – a brood of seven wild and rambunctious children with enough energy to run a small factory! You see, Gramma Rose had spent more than a third of her life as a Girl Scout leader and in her 30+ years of scouting, she’d acquired quite a selection of tunes, all of which she lovingly taught to her grandchildren, providing us with a musical heritage, so to speak.

Many times, while we were tromping through the woods near our family’s cabin or driving down the highway to visit our relatives in Chicago, one of us would begin to sing as a means of passing the time.  We had quite the repertoire of both folk and silly songs – I Have a Dear Old Grandpa; A Peanut Sat on the Railroad Track; Land of the Silver Birch; The Far Northland; Granny’s in the Cellar…to name just a few!  One day, if I’m in the mood and you ask me real nicely, I may just sing a couple of them for you…if you’re lucky!

But of all the songs we ever sang, this one – The Happy Wanderer – was my favorite.  I loved the catchy Ompah band tune written shortly after World War II by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller.  You can listen to the tune on this video:

The chorus always made me laugh. As a matter of fact, it’s written in such a way that when sung properly, the third line – Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha – sounds just like a person chortling!  But more than anything, it was the last stanza that really spoke to my heart –

“Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky.”

Little did I know then, that these lines would one day be more than just the lyrics of a song – they would become a prayer of sorts and a deep longing in my heart.

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About a year ago, David and I were blessed with an unexpected monetary gift. Of course, there were bills to pay and a hundred and one things around the house that needed fixing which clamoured to be taken care of.  But in a moment of weakness inspiration, we opted to do something rather impulsive with our windfall – we decided to live out the words of my favorite childhood folk song…we were going to “go a-wandering!”

For 16 glorious days – from June 4th to June 20th – David and I became “the happy wanderers” as we drove and hiked through the hills and dales of northern England and into the Highlands of Scotland. We filled up our senses with the sights, sounds and smells of this amazing island and came home richer than when we left.

Over the next 14 days, I will be sharing a daily photo recap of our adventures. I hope you all enjoy the journey…..

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Day 1 – Minneapolis – Chicago – Over the North Atlantic

Breakfast at HHH - Minneapolis.

Today is going to be a looong travel day and we’re beginning fairly early at the HHH terminal in Minneapolis also known as Terminal 2.

Waiting to catch flight to Chicago.

We’ll fly from here to Midway airport in Chicago. From there, well catch the train to one of the downtown stations, transferring to another train that’ll take us to O’Hare.  We saved a bit of money doing it this way and it gave us the opportunity to move around and stretch our legs before taking our overnight flight to Dublin.

Taking a break at O'Hare.

We’ve arrived at O’Hare with lots of time to spare.  We’ll walk around as much as possible and still have time to take a quick snooze before we head across the Atlantic.

Waiting for our flight to Dublin.

More waiting!  Four hours until our departure.

Our flight is being called!

Our flight is being called for boarding!

Arrive in Dublin @ 8am (about 2am back in MN).

Arrival in Dublin @ 8:30am (about 2:30am back in MN).

Freshening up in Dublin.

Freshening up in Dublin while waiting for our final flight to Edinburgh.

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You’ve got to be kidding!!  This is the plane that’ll be taking us to Edinburgh. Thank goodness I took out traveler’s insurance!

In Edinburgh...finally!

Our safe arrival in Edinburgh….finally!

TO BE CONTINUED…………….

 

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A Season of Change

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love most about Autumn.

It has it’s own particular smells and sounds that I look forward to each year – the acrid, but not unpleasant smell of decomposing vegetation and the crunch, crunch, crunch of leaves as I walk through the woods.  And the colors!!  Have I mentioned the colors? 

In my opinion, the Fall palette is a true feast for the eyes – orange, yellow, red, russet, burgundy and brown.  Brilliant and shocking…earthy and restful! But more than these, what I savor most is the gentler pace of life that embodies these months of September through early November.

After the sunshine and heat and the hectic pace of summer activities, Fall is a time for slowing down – a winding down of the activity clock – and a time to prepare the heart and home for the long, dark winter that follows closely on the heels of Autumn. There’s always a bit of panic inside of me, knowing that months of extreme cold and darkness are just around the corner. But before they arrive, God opens up His storehouses and gives us all an amazing gift – ABUNDANCE!

Everywhere I look, I see the generous hand of our Creator…

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Bushes and brambles laden with ripe berries;

Fields of corn ready to be harvested;

Apples trees littering the ground with ripe fruit;

Deciduous leaves -yellow, orange and red – putting on a display of color that fills our senses with awe and wonder;

The recent harvest of brightly-hued squash and and pumpkins piled high at the local Farmer’s Market;

October sunsets – rivaling the turning leaves with their own ethereal display!

For four to six weeks each Fall, His flora is displayed in all of it’s glory and then like clockwork, a subtle change begins to happen.  The temperatures begin to fall; the angle of the sun declines;  the days grow shorter and all of Nature inhales one last, deep breath.

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In a last flurry of activity, I cut down the frost-blackened flower stems in my perennial garden and cover them with protective layer of leaves. 

I fill the bird feeders and watch as the residents from the northern boreal forests make their annual pilgrimage down South. I pull out my wool socks and sweaters and I make thick, hearty soups and bake chewy-crusted breads filled with grains and seeds. 


And I bake pies…lots and lots of pies!

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When the leaves have all fallen and the grain harvest is in, I find myself trudging through the frosty fields of corn stubble – my Springer spaniel leaping and racing before me in search of pheasants; a small 20-gauge shotgun resting in the crook of my arm.

When the gales of November start blowing (and they really do!) I curl up on my couch and I read book after book, sipping on hot, spiced tea to counter the chill that threatens to creep into my house and aging bones! And before I know it, the past summer and all of it’s activity becomes just a fading memory.

The weeks pass, the white flakes begin to fall in earnest and all of Nature exhales one last time. It’s time for the yearly rest that God has ordained, so the earth lays down it’s thick blanket of downy snow, then gently slips into the long and silent, white sleep of winter.

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“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”.

Genesis 8:22

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Go West, Young Man…

For those of you who’ve come to this blog post expecting to read about Horace Greeley and westward expansion – harshly depicted in the photo below – you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

I don’t even know who Horace Greeley was, and I don’t remember anything much from Mrs. Nygard’s 6th-grade social studies class regarding westward expansion, other than the saying, “Go West, young man”.  But even this I got wrong.

According to a reliable source, the real quote is, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country,” from Hints toward Reforms (1850) by Horace Greeley. There. You learned something new today. So did I!

Actually, I’ve been sorting through dozens of folders from an old Mac computer and finding hundreds of photos that had been downloaded, tucked into folders and sadly, forgotten.

I’m having a wonderful time digging them out and transferring them to my desktop computer; reminiscing about yesteryear and completely awestruck by the natural beauty of the West.  Some of the photos are just too beautiful to view alone, so I’ll be sharing them with you here. Photos like this:

And this…

In an earlier post, I spoke of our van’s propensity to always travel West. Well, these photos are living proof that we’ve been there many times and have fallen completely in love with the mountains and streams of western Montana.

One day soon, my husband and I are going to celebrate his retirement by pulling our little pop-up camper to the edge of the Madison river and set up camp for a month or so.  And the only noises we’ll hear, will be the gurgling of the mountain streams, the hoot of the great horned owl and howling of coyotes each evening.  Oh yeah…and the chattering of our teeth as we wake up in our unheated camper each frosty  September morning!

After 35 years of teaching, my husband will consider it pure bliss! I will too, as long as the grizzly bears keep their distance…miles and miles away from us!

This travelogue is a compilation of several trips we’ve taken in the past 8 years, so don’t be surprised when you see how our kids (and big D. & I) have aged!  Sit back and enjoy…

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Our trips out to Montana always start the same.  The plan is to be packed the night before;  exiting our home at the crack of dawn. In truth,  we’re lucky if we’re on the road by mid-morning!

As we’re driving through Floodwood, Walker and then Detroit Lakes – it doesn’t yet feel like we’re on another road trip. But once we’ve reached the North Dakota border, everything changes.  The pine and hardwood forests disappear, the plains open up before us and the world becomes this huge open expanse where we can see for miles and miles in all directions. It’s quite an awesome sight!


Like death and taxes, our first stop in North Dakota is always at the Wal-mart in Jamestown, where we pick up our supplies for the road – sketch pads, colored pencils, bottled water, Kraft “squirt” cheese and crackers!  I’m not kidding!  No vacation is complete without these road-trip survival items…especially the Easy Cheese!

When we were young and foolish, we’d drive like fiends and try to make it to Miles City, MT on the first day.  Now that we’re older and wiser, we stop in Mandan and camp at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.


Located right on the banks of the Missouri River, the park has dedicated itself to the reconstruction, development and interpretation of the historical sites of old Fort Abraham Lincoln and the On-a-Slant Indian Village. There’s lots of history here and it’s a great educational experience for the kids. Who ever said that learning can’t be fun too?

In the summer months, there are also historical reenactments for the history buff and horseback riding for the adventurous.

The girls and I took the horseback riding trip one hot summer day. We plodded slowly along  a well-worn path and about 40 minutes later, had reached the top of the butte and the site of the original fort.  The views of the surrounding countryside were spectacular!


For those of you who thought that North Dakota was a boring state…I hope I’ve correct your erroneous thinking!  The beauty of the West starts before you’ve even reached the Montana border!

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After Mandan , our next stop is the wayside rest near Medora, in western North Dakota.  It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve pulled into this rest area and seen the same sights…the natural beauty of the area still takes my breath away!

The views of the painted canyons are breathtaking!

One of us always poses for a picture at the scenic overview;

and the picnic tables are a perfect place for us to take a break and grab a bite to eat!

One year, as we were returning home from our annual Montana pilgrimage, we were fortunate enough to see these here for the first time ever.

Truthfully, they were a bit too close for my liking AND they disobeyed the traffic signs!

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After we’ve refreshed ourselves and walked the dog, we’re back in our vehicle and headed towards the Montana border.

Upon crossing the border, we’re about to embark on the most difficult part of our journey – the drive through eastern Montana.  For the next 5 hours, we’ll be following the path of the Yellowstone River which we can see from the interstate, as it meanders for hundreds of miles.

Scrub and semi-arid to desert conditions cover large areas of eastern Montana. It’s pretty desolate here and all you’ll be seeing is sage, rabbitbrush, shrubby cinquefoil, snakeweed and prickly pear cactus. We’ve now entered rattlesnake county and are especially diligent to watch for them when we stop along the way.

Since all of our travels involve our children, I try and make sure to have something for them to do while in the car. If  I forget to bring something to keep them occupied, they will eventually stare at me like this,  thinking “Why does my mother keep sticking that camera in my face?”

But I don’t despair…our first glimpse of the mountains is only 334 miles away!  By the time we’ve reached Big Timber, the snow-capped Rockies are looming straight ahead.

Another hour on the road and we’ve arrived in Bozeman.  This is a fun and somewhat cosmopolitan city and there’s a lot to see and do. Often times we’ll take a walk down Main Street and window-shop or stop for lunch at a local eating establishment.  Our favorite is Burger Bob’s with their perfectly cooked burgers and waffle fries.  Mmmmm!


Occasionally, we’ll make a full day of it, heading on over to the Montana State University campus and the Museum of the Rockies.

There’s  something for everyone here – Dinosaurs under the Big Sky;  the Taylor Planetarium; a living history farm; the Northern Rocky Mountain History exhibit and several traveling exhibits.  There’s also incredible photo archives of the native Americans and pioneers that settled the West.  We loved it!

After leaving Bozeman, our route now takes us in a southward curve, towards Yellowstone National Park.

There’s a couple of highways that’ll take us there…we prefer Highway 287 through Four Corners and Ennis.  The roads here are wide open and the views are spectacular.  We’ve also gone due south out of Bozeman, on highway 191 towards Big Sky. The drive is lovely, but most of the road winds through tight canyons and the two lanes are very narrow and have no shoulders…not my cup of tea!

Whichever way we decide to go, we almost always end up at the West Fork Cabin Camp, located on highway 287 North, about 35 miles south of Ennis, MT.  We know we’ve reached the right place when we find this bridge to cross…

For those of you reading this blog…if majestic mountains; clear blue sky; sparkling , pure rocky mountain rivers; and (oh yes) large, beautiful trout excite you, then the West Fork Cabin Camp on the Madison River is the place for you!

We found this campground by accident and it really is a hidden gem! The camp offers 20 tent sites, 24 RV sites and 11 cabins.  Within 30 minutes of your cabin you can fish 13 of Montana’s finest streams and 13 lakes. We’ve stayed here on a couple of separate occasions, and as you view the following pictures, I’m sure you’ll see why this is such a great place to visit.

A cold, misty morning on the Madison river. On this particular day, we woke up to 30 degree temps and frost in the camper…in August. Come prepared!

The kids are fly-fishing for the first time and seriously ready to catch some trout!

Yes…ones that look like this!

Making sure the boots don’t fall down!

He’ll figure this out yet…

The smallest catch I’ve ever seen! “Mom…is it a keeper?”

Livvy…first time out and looking good! My advice: bring boots…the water is freezing!

Caught in the middle of a caddis fly hatch!

Second trip to the river and working the riffles…

A tired fisherwoman taking a rest.

Joining the group….our own Montana Mary!

She’s got the knack…this one IS a keeper!

Great day on the river!

Sunset over the Madison

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If it’s too windy for fishing, we’ll often take a ride over to West Yellowstone for an ice cream treat or take a ride through the Park.  It’s a quick 37 miles jaunt.  On our way there, we pass the famous Quake Lake. There’s a sad story here but if you want to learn more about the origin of this unusual lake, you’ll have to stop at the Visitor Center and discover it for yourself!

Upon entering the Park, we usually find an out of the way road to drive and if we’re lucky, we may even see some wildlife…

This elk was so close to the truck that I almost hit it!

I don’t know where this coyote was heading, but he wasn’t disturbed by our presence.

New tree growth after the last fire…

We take these warning signs very seriously!  Our life or health may depend on it! If we’re lucky enough to see some buffalo, we always view them from the relative safety of our car.

Take a look at the size of these creatures…

After we’ve seen enough wildlife and have tired of fighting the summer traffic jams in the Park, we’ll head back to West Yellowstone and join the hoards of folks that are buying their fill of official Yellowstone souvenirs…all made in China.  Not our family…we prefer the green foam buffalo horns that are made in Taiwan!


All joking aside…it really is a fun if not kitschy town with an old-fashioned candy store on every block, hundreds of overpriced hotel rooms, and enough Yellowstone  National Park t-shirts to clothe all the folks West of the Mississippi!

If this travelogue has encouraged you to plan a trip out West and you find yourself near Yellowstone National Park, make sure to plan a visit to the town of  West Yellowstone.  No trip out West is complete until you do!

You just never know what you’ll find there…




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Wordless Wednesday #5

Sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow!

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Filed under Montana, My Joys, My Travels