Fall At Franklin Park Conservatory

I spent a morning this week wandering around Franklin Park Conservatory. They are ready for fall – including their annual Pumpkins Aglow event which takes place evenings this month.

It was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm blue sky day and was perfect for examining pumpkin displays, fall mums and even their outdoor model railroad collection.

Here are a few pictures from this magnificent day. There are a handful of displays with skeletons in action.

Then there are the trains in a magnificent outdoor model railroad that celebrates miniatures, trains and nature.

Are there any Thomas fans in the house? They even have a Thomas engine for the littles to enjoy.

And a black cat or two mixed in for good measure.

But my favorite things here are the pumpkin houses. This one is especially nice.

I doubt I make it back for Pumpkins Aglow this season but would encourage you to go check it out! Get your information here.

Seventy Years Of Lucy

The groundbreaking television show I Love Lucy premiered on this day in 1951. Seventy years ago. It was the first tv show to air in ten million homes and has aired in over seventy countries since then.

I visited Lucille Ball’s hometown this spring and have written about things to see and do there as well as how the show changed television history. Their influence during these early years of television is remarkable. Lucy’s on-screen parter was also her real life husband and business partner Desi Arnaz. Together, they built an empire that gave us the studio audience, multiple cameras, syndication and even shows like Star Trek and Andy Griffith.

You can read about the impact that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had on television history here.

My Jamestown visit was loads of fun. The National Comedy Museum is located here and there’s a wonderful local history museum in addition to the Lucy attractions. Lake Chautauqua provides great opportunities for outdoor recreation and you’re close to Lake Erie.

I highly recommend staying at the Doubletree in downtown Jamestown because that puts you within walking distance of most attractions. You get free parking and it’s a good neighborhood. The Lucytown Tour takes you past Lucy murals, statues and landmarks including her childhood home. For me, the best part was seeing the recreated TV sets and watching their old home videos at the Lucy- Desi Museum.

Before you go, be sure to spend some time watching a few episodes of the show! I watched the entire series this winter and had a great connection to the sets, props and other artifacts on display at the Lucy Desi Museum.

Blackwater Falls State Park

The highest state park in West Virginia is Blackwater Falls State Park. It’s situated between Thomas and Davis and is worth the drive. In fact, I have found a new favorite place.

With miles of trails for hiking, there’s much opportunity to get your boots muddy. There are year round activities including boating, geocaching , fishing and plenty of snow sports. Plus there are cabins and lodge rooms to extend your stay.

The lodge is being renovated now and I am dying to go stay there. It appears to be a massive overhaul of the mid century facility. They call it “The Lodge In The Sky” because of the elevation and I think that’s the best name for it.

I spent an afternoon wandering around on foot and in the car, exploring the park. The views are stupendous, the trails are in great condition and the place is easy to navigate. While there is picturesque beauty everywhere you go, the star of the show here is a 57 foot waterfall.

It reminded me a little of the Hocking Hills State Park near my home. The rock outcroppings, foliage and trails attracts large crowds of sightseers every year as well.

At Blackwater, the amount of visitors caused them to build a system of wooden steps and landings, presumably to protect the ecosystem from so much foot traffic and to make it easier for people who don’t really hike to access the views.

It isn’t exactly a hike but it would be challenging if you aren’t typically active or in good shape. Round trip it isn’t even a half mile but it’s important to remember that what goes down must come up in this instance. You’ll walk down a wide trail and a bunch of steps on the way to the view. Then you have to walk back up.

It’s a gorgeous view but there are many other pretty views in the park and I would like to see more of them.

Want to learn more? Visit their website here!

Thomas, West Virginia and Wind Turbines

Last Columbus Day weekend took me to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. On the way home, I arrived at an intersection with a sign pointing toward Thomas, West Virginia. My friend Mike had advised me many times that I needed to visit Thomas and since I had no schedule, I took the exit and went in search of this place.

I didn’t even look at the map. I just followed the signs and had a great time doing it. You can read some about that visit here.

One of the beautiful things about traveling alone is that there was no one freaking out in the passenger seat because you don’t know how long it will take to get there, what there is to do once you arrive or the minor detail that you don’t even know how you’ll get to your actual destination from this mountain village.

I really liked it there but many businesses were closed either because of the holiday, the fact that some small tourist businesses are simply closed on Mondays, or because of Covid. So I swore I would go back some day.

I considered spending last weekend down there until I realized there was nowhere to stay. Every cabin and Airbnb was booked and probably had been for months. With literally no room at the inn, I made it a whirlwind day trip.

First of all, town was busy and every establishment seemed to be hopping. Truth be told, it was too busy for my tastes but I still enjoyed the atmosphere and the hippy vibes that emanate from this place. People are friendly, there’s a terrific historic walking tour and you feel welcome everywhere you go. I was also glad to see them bouncing back after the pandemic had been so damaging to their economy.

Luckily, I had a couple of other things on my radar that took me out of town. This is another benefit of traveling alone. No one was disappointed because we had to switch to Plan B because the original destination was crawling with people.

One place I visited was Blackwater State Park. The other activity involved a closer look at some of those giant wind turbines that are popping up in wind farms across the country.

I saw these last year but didn’t stop for a closer look or for pictures and have kicked myself ever since. My pictures aren’t great but you get the gist. You’re really high up on a mountain and close to some of these monstrosities.

To be perfectly honest, these things give me the creeps. The sheer size and design remind me of some kind of futuristic end of the world movie plot. They are oddly quiet with just a gentle whirring noise and a gearbox the size of a compact car. The blades are about a hundred feet long and I can’t help but wonder what might happen to them in a tornado.

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale comes to mind.

Anyway, when you leave Thomas and start heading north, you find yourself climbing a mountain and almost at eye level with one of these bad boys. There are places where you can pull over for pictures.

Tomorrow we visit Blackwater State Park where the foliage is changing and the views are stunning.

Forest Giants

This weekend found me stretching the limits of what I consider a day trip. Two days in a row I took longer trips including Saturday to Bernheim Forest near Louisville, Kentucky.

Why would I drive four hours one way to an arboretum when there are perfectly good arboretums much closer?

I’m so glad you asked.

The purpose of the trip was to visit a trio of famous forest giants. Meet Mama Loumari with her children Little Nis and Little Elina. A third baby giant is currently living in Mama’s belly.

Mama is the largest and has the most picturesque setting of them all.
Then there’s Little Elina.
And Little Nis, the smallest but perhaps my favorite because of the surreal quality of the reflection in the water.

They are the creation of Danish artist Thomas Dambo and have been on loan since 2019. They are located throughout the forest and are constructed of recycled wood from the region.

Dambo is a world renowned recycle artist based in Copenhagen. He has placed these trolls or forest giants all over the world including here in the US. If you are in Florida, Maine, Tennessee or Illinois there are trolls nearby!

And now I want to see them all.

They are incredibly realistic with expressions on their faces that seem almost human. The smooth, weathered wood is used in such a way that these sculptures have texture and dimension. They seem alive.

It’s easy to imagine they wake up at night, roaming the forest at will until sunrise and droves of visitors send them back to their stations along a woodland trail.

I was there late morning on Saturday. My next trip will be timed better both for avoiding the crowds and for better sun positioning for my pictures.

These guys are well worth a visit. Not to mention, Bernheim has been around for ninety years. With public art displays, a children’s garden, fire tower, education center, canopy tree walk and a cafe, it would be easy to spend an entire day here. There are forty miles of trails and plenty of places to stop and rest, read a book or just soak in your surroundings.

The loop to see the giants is about two miles. There also is limited parking near each giant if someone in your party has mobility issues.

Get this. Suggested admission is just $10 per car. That’s all you will pay to get in and wander around as long as you wish. I considered lunch at the cafe but the line was long and I was burning daylight with other places to visit so I skipped that. They have light sandwiches and salads including a vegan option if that’s your thing. It looked like I could have eaten for around $10 but I suspect you could pack a picnic if you wish.

Learn more about Thomas Dambo on his website and more about Bernheim Forest at theirs.

There is a lot to do in the Louisville area and you’re not far from Lexington where there’s even more to see and do. I actually really enjoy Lexington and would like to go back one of these days. My advice is to stretch this visit into a long weekend and take your time exploring Bernheim and the region.

No Contest

If it’s a contest, it looks like Count Chocula is winning. I spotted this display in the store last night and couldn’t resist snapping a photo. I got a sugar high just from standing there but it was a fun walk down memory lane to a time when I wanted cereal because of the characters on the box.

Ok. I still respond to great marketing and sort of wanted to buy one of these even though I don’t eat cereal. After all, the only thing scary about this trio is the nutritional content!

I have been busy running around and adventuring for the last few days but promise to get you some fresh stories about this weekend’s fun, more from the DC trip and the last two Chillicothe ghost walk stories. Stay tuned. It’s all coming soon.