Tag Archives: History

Post Rock Fences in Kansas

I saw these limestone fence posts, called post rocks, on a recent drive to western Kansas.

I saw these limestone fence posts, called post rocks, on a recent drive to western Kansas.

I’ve lived in Kansas most of my life, but I hadn’t seen more than a few limestone fence posts until this past weekend when I saw miles of them as I drove west in a section of the state I’d never visited before.  It has been estimated that at the peak of their use, there were about 40,000 miles of these stone post fences in central Kansas.  In the last  quarter of the 19th century, ranchers and farmers needed fences to keep the cattle from wandering onto cropland, but wood was scarce. Providentially, there is a bed of limestone buried only a few inches beneath the top soil, which is about about 18 inches in thickness, the perfect dimension for fence posts. It was easy to shape the soft stone, which hardened, enabling the posts to resist weathering in the elements.

About Post Rocks in Kansas.

More about Post Rock Fences and Where to Find Them.

 

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Filed under History, Kansas, Life, Photography, Travel

“Whale” You Help Me?

Whale mural, Kapa'a, Kauai.

Whale mural, Kapa’a, Kauai.

I grew up in Kansas, far from any ocean (though I was born within a stone’s throw of the Potomac River in Virginia), so visits to the ocean were rare, and I didn’t see a whale until I was an adult. But once I did, I was hooked. Who can resist the majesty of whales, their power and grace? I admit, I’m a landlubber, so the pull of the traveling the deep, blue sea is lost on me, but I love the creatures that live within it.

Some of my best photos of whales are of murals…I think these are all of Humpback whales. Can someone help me identify them?

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

I don’t have any good photos of a recent whale watching trip my husband and I took off of the Na Pali coast of Kauai, because my camera had to be put away in a waterproof area because of the 17-foot swells (as tall as the boat!).  Also, I spent at least fifteen minutes with my face in a bucket, my first time ever being seasick, after having been on ocean-going ships dozens of times. The captain warned us that the sea would be rough, but I thought I was an old salt and wouldn’t have any problem. Wrong!  Had an entire pod of whales been performing the Nutcracker Suite within feet of the boat, I wouldn’t and couldn’t have looked up from my beloved bucket.

After my stomach calmed, I did see a month-old humpback whale breaching time after time very close to the boat, it was wonderful! (Sadly, no photo.)  You could tell this baby was having such a fun time.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

In addition to being in the right place to see whales, you also need to be there at the right time. One February, we watched Humpback whales off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.  They winter in Hawaiian waters.  Then that summer, we saw Humpback whales in Glacier Bay of Alaska, their summer feeding grounds.  In January 2013, we looked for whales off of the coast of South Africa, too, but it wasn’t the right season, alas.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Sadly, there are still whalers in modern times.

Whalers Museum in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

A List and Photos of Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises.

“In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” which inspired inspired Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” film, directed by Ron Howard, scheduled for release in 2015.

About the novel “Moby-Dick.”

History of Whaling.

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Official Spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny.  It's a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. It’s a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park, located in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. The park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen.  I didn't make it to the top. Not in my shoes.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park, located in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. The park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen. I didn’t make it to the top. Not in my shoes.

Nineteenth century writer Robert Louis Stevenson has done as much as anyone for popularizing Pirate Lingo so, of course, he’s my choice for spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19. There’s a lot of pirate talk and bravado in Stevenson’s book, “Treasure Island.”

Stevenson was from Scotland, but he traveled widely and spent some time in California.  He honeymooned in a cabin with bride Fanny, sleeping on hay, on Mt. Saint Helena in Napa County in the summer of 1880.

A year ago, I trekked to the site of the Stevenson honeymoon cabin, which is now gone but is marked with a granite book monument in a California state park named after Stevenson. My husband decided to read in the car, so here I was hiking alone, not a good idea, but it was a lovely late afternoon in a beautiful forest. I knew it was going to be a steep mile up the mountain, so I shouldn’t have worn flip flops, even though they were sport flip flops. I also worried about spotting mountain lions, or worse still, mountain lions spotting me first.  And on top of that, we didn’t leave any time during our visit to Napa (wedding!) to visit wineries, but I was determined to see this memorial — all for you, dear readers.

The Granite Book Memorial Says:

On the left side:

THIS TABLET PLACED BY
THE CLUB WOMEN OF NAPA
COUNTY MARKS THE SITE
OF THE CABIN OCCUPIED IN
1880 BY
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
AND BRIDE WHILE HE WROTE
THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS

On the right side:

DOOMED TO KNOW NOT WINTER
ONLY SPRING, A BEING TROD
THE FLOWERY APRIL
BLITHELY FOR AWHILE
TOOK HIS FILL OF MUSIC,
JOY OF THOUGHT AND SEEING,
CAME AND STAYED AND WENT
NOR EVER CEASED TO SMILE.

                                                R.S.L.

 To Stevenson Memorial is 2 miles round trip; to summit of Mt. Saint Helena The trail to the Stevenson Memorial is two miles round trip from the parking lot of the Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park.  The trail to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena is 10 miles round trip with 1,300-foot elevation gain.  I only made it to the memorial.


To Stevenson Memorial is 2 miles round trip; to summit of Mt. Saint Helena
The trail to the Stevenson Memorial is two miles round trip from the parking lot of the Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park. The trail to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena
is 10 miles round trip with 1,300-foot elevation gain. I only made it to the memorial.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. I couldn't find any information about when this memorial was placed.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. I couldn’t find any information about when this memorial was placed.

A bench is a welcome sight on the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mt. Saint Helena in California. The first part of the hike is a series of steep switchbacks.

A bench is a welcome sight on the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mt. Saint Helena in California. The first part of the hike is a series of steep switchbacks.

To read my 2012 post about “Talk Like a Pirate Day” click on “Robert Louis Stevenson Talks Like a Pirate.” In that post is a link to an earlier post I wrote about the origin of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

About Robert Louis Stevenson in California.

About Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park.

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Drive-By Tourist in Boston

My daughter, son-in-law and I were stuck in traffic during Boston rush hour after leaving the Museum of Science. That's when I saw the Bunker Hill obelisk.

My daughter, son-in-law and I were stuck in traffic during Boston rush hour after leaving the Museum of Science. That’s when I saw the Bunker Hill Monument.

Earlier this month, my daughter, son-in-law and I left the Museum of Science in Boston at the beginning of rush hour. Stuck in traffic, I was happy to see that I could notch another site on my tourist belt without leaving the car when I saw the Bunker Hill Monument through the windshield.  On my left was Bunker Hill Community College. I leaned out of the window and grabbed a couple of shots. I was going to straighten the photo I included here, but that would have cut out some of the signs. In the sky, you can just make out a jet airplane, which you can see when you click on the photo to see it full size.

The obelisk commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place in the Charlestown area of Boston during the American Revolutionary War. The Americans lost the battle, which took place on June 17, 1775, but the British lost so many men, including many officers, that it was a Phyrric victory in which the gain was small but the cost was very high. The order “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was made popular in stories about the battle of Bunker Hill, although that wasn’t the first case in which that phrase was used.

The Bunker Hill Monument stands 221 feet (67 m) high on Breed’s Hill. The Marquis de Lafayette laid the cornerstone on June 17, 1825, the fiftieth anniversary of the battle.  Daniel Webster delivered an address during the cornerstone dedication. Soil from Bunker Hill was sprinkled on the graves of Lafayette and his wife. Some day, I need to return to visit the Bunker Hill Monument site on foot.

About the Battle of Bunker Hill.

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Historic Theaters

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

It was love at first sight when I saw The Rialto Theatre.  I was introduced to this old beauty when I visited my friend Jan in South Pasadena, California, in the 1990’s. I’ve taken many photographs of “The Rialto” since then, but may not get the chance much longer if it isn’t saved.  This venerable theater opened in 1925 but it is now closed and in danger of demolition, as are many old theaters.  A scene in Robert Altman’s movie film “The Player” was filmed in The Rialto’s back alley.  “Scream 2″ also featured The Rialto.

The Rialto is beautiful even in its decay.   Like so many old theaters, it was decorated grandly.  It has a fanciful Moorish, Egyptian and baroque motif. When I wrote an article for the Kansas City Star’s magazine about Orval Hixon, who photographed vaudeville stars from 1914 to 1930, I saw photographs of many glamorous theaters that have now fallen into ruin or are gone.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the “old days,” an evening spent in the theater was a beautiful experience beyond what was being performed on the stage or shown on the screen. Some of the first movies I saw as a child was in The Orpheum, a gorgeously decorated old theater in Wichita, Kansas, which was originally built for vaudeville shows. Like many entertainment legends, these old theaters needs more than face lifts to keep them alive.  Sometimes only the marquee sign is all that’s saved from an old theater.

Some of the theaters, such as the ones in Hawaii that I photographed, might not be grand, but they have their own charm. Farm workers and U.S. servicemen were among their clientale.

It’s bittersweet seeing these old cinema relics, whether they are grand cinema palaces or more humble screens. I’m grateful many of these historic theaters are still standing, but who knows for how long? People watch films on their computers and even on their phones these days.  When people do go to the theater they want a great sound system, recliner seats, cup holders and even 3-D screens.

Jan and I and our husbands planned to see a movie at The Rialto in the early 2000s, when the theater was still open, but when we got to the box office we were told that the projector was broken.  So we walked across the street to a video store and rented a VHS movie to watch at home. Sadly, I never saw a movie at The Rialto before it closed.

Here’s a slide show of theaters I’ve photographed in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan and Missouri.  There is information about each theater when you click on the photo.  CLICK ON ANY THUMBNAIL PHOTO TO BEGIN THE SLIDESHOW AND SEE THE PHOTOS FULL SIZED.

Click on Cinema Treasures for a guide to more than 30,000 movie theaters from around the world, including theaters that are now closed.

Click on I’m Not Ready For My Close Up to read about my brief appearance on the Big Screen in the movie “fling.”

Here’s a blog that documents grand old theaters, many sadly in advanced decay.  After the Final Curtain

About the theaters featured in slide show:

The Rialto, South Pasadena, California

Friends of The Rialto

Friends of The Rialto Facebook Page.

Sebastiani Theatre, Sonoma, California.

Michigan Theatre, Escanaba, Michigan

Gem Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

Aloha Theatre, Kainaliu, Big Island, Hawaii

Honoka’a People’s Theater, Honoka’a, Big Island, Hawaii

Honomu Theater, Honomu, Big Island, Hawaii

Na’alehu Theatre, Na’alehu, Big Island, Hawaii

Park Theatre, Estes Park, Colorado

Screenland Crossroads Sign from old Isis Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri.

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Filed under Entertainment, History, Movies, Photography, Travel

Cookie Contest 2013

Click on the link to check out a cookie contest presented by Belle Grave Plantation at Port Conway in Virginia, the birthplace of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. Belle Grove is now a Bed and Breakfast.

I was born in Virginia, too!  Okay, so I’m not in the same exalted circle as Madison…

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Hugging Giant Trees

The California Tunnel Tree is the last living tree standing in Yosemite National Park with a tunnel cut through it. The tunnel was cut in 1895 to allow coaches to pass through it, although they could have gone around it. The tunnel was mainly a marketing scheme to attract visitors to the grove. Tunnels are no longer cut into trees, because it weakens the tree. The Wawona Tunnel Tree fell in 1969.

In September 2012, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park in California to see the giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the biggest trees in the world. This blog post is my virtual tree hug.

Standing among the massive sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove, I could easily understand how this forest became the inspiration for the national park system.  Mariposa Grove, near the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, contains about 500 mature sequoia trees. Giant sequoias are thought to be the largest living things on Earth and are among the oldest, too, some possibly older than 3,000 years.

The Bachelor and Three Graces: Four sequoia trees, three of them growing very close together, with the “shy” bachelor standing a little apart from the girls. Their roots are so intertwined that if one falls, they would all likely crash down.

Only some living specimens of the ancient bristlecone pine are older than the sequoia.  Some bristlecone pines, found in the mountains east of Yosemite and at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, are more than 4,600 years old.

Sounds as if I need to plan a trip to see the bristlecone pines, too.  I also need to re-visit the coastal redwoods.  The tallest tree in the world is the Hyperion, a coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) along the coast of northern California.

I took a lot of photographs of the giant sequoia, but my photographs can’t convey the majesty of these awesome giants. You must visit Yosemite to experience the sequoia yourself! (But humor me and look at my photographs anyway.)

There are three named giant sequoia groves in Yosemite.  South of Yosemite, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park also contain massive sequoia trees.

Tuolumne Grove is one of three named giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park.

In the midst of the U.S. Civil War in the early 1860s, many people, concerned about commercial activities in the Yosemite region, pushed the U.S. federal government for protection of the area. The 38th United States Congress passed a park bill, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864, creating the Yosemite Grant. This is the first time the U.S. federal government had set aside park land specifically for preservation and public use, setting a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park.

The small egg shaped and egg-sized pine cone at the front left belongs to the Giant Sequoia, the largest living entity on earth. The long pine cone comes from a Sugar Pine, which produces the longest pine cones in the world. The three round pine cones in the back may be cones from the Jeffrey Pine. These pine cones are all from northern California.

Naturalist John Muir and others lobbied Congress for the Act that created Yosemite National Park on October 1, 1890. The State of California retained Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. Muir and his Sierra Club continued to lobby the government to unify Yosemite National Park to better protect the area from grazing and logging.

“In May 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped with Muir near Glacier Point for three days. On that trip, Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove away from California and return it to the federal government. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that did precisely that,” according to a Wikipedia account.

Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, including Named Trees.

Giant Sequoias Facts.

National Park Service Brochure of Mariposa Grove.

About Yosemite National Park.

 

The Giant Sequoia named Grizzly Giant is estimated to be from 1,900 to 2,400 years old and is the oldest tree in the grove. It has a volume of 34,010 cubic feet and is thought to be the 25th largest tree in the world.

Sap oozes in the giant sequoia tree known as the California Tunnel Tree in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. The bark of the giant sequoia is nearly resistant to fire, because the sap is water-based and non-resinous. The sap contains a chemical called tannic acid, which protects the tree from fire, insects and bacteria.

The Faithful Couple are two giant sequoia that grew so close together that their trunks have fused together at the base, which is an extremely rare occurrence.

The Massachusetts tree, one of the most famous trees in Mariposa Grove, fell in 1927. Tannic acid in the wood preserves the tree from decay, which is also why sequoia was such a popular logging wood.

A photograph can’t convey the massiveness of these giant sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park.

Shuttles bring tourists to visit Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park.

Numerous fires throughout the decades nearly severed the trunk of the Clothespin Tree, creating a space in it large enough for a pick-up truck to drive through.

Here’s a collage of some of my Yosemite National Park photographs.

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Robert Louis Stevenson “Talks Like a Pirate”

A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent.

A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent.

Yes, it’s that time of year again — Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming soon.  Brush up on your sailor slang, pirate patois and buccaneer bravado.

My first thought when I saw the 1950 movie “Treasure Island” wasn’t “Hey, me hearties, I love how those pirates talk.”  I had a school girl crush on one of the actors — Bobby Driscoll, the boy who plays Jim Hawkins, and I swooned over his more upper crust accent. (By the way, I’m not that old. The 1950 movie was many years old when I saw it.)  I became smitten with the fantasy of finding treasure, of treasure maps, of being a stole-away.

I have Robert Louis Stevenson to thank for my adventure fantasies. Stevenson published “Treasure Island” in 1883. Since then, more than fifty movies and television shows have been made adapted from the book. No wonder there’s a “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” which is September 19. (See the link at the bottom to my post on “Avast, Me Hearty! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!”) A National Geographic story throws cold seawater on the concept of pirate speech, claiming that most of what we think of pirate speech came from the 1950 movie, as spoken by the Long John Silver actor who spoke in his native dialect from southwestern England, which is where Silver came from. So it’s not a stretch to think pirates, many from southwestern England, did speak that way. I’ve linked the NatGeo spoilsport article at the very bottom of this post. Argggh!

Sailboats anchor in Frank Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The dark sailboat looks a little like the fictional pirate sailboats that sailed the Caribbean Sea waters in the movies. Caribbean pirates are said to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”

I didn’t make a plan to follow Stevenson’s literary footsteps, but I have stumbled onto a few “Treasure Island” locations. On a trip to Savannah, Georgia, my husband and I visited “The Pirates House,” now a restaurant. This charming old building is reported to be where some of the characters of “Treasure Island” got together to plan and plot, and where Captain Flint is claimed to have spent his last days.  Legend says that Captain Flint’s ghost haunts the property.  We didn’t see old Captain Flint, but we got out of the building before nightfall!

Pirates from long ago have achieved a romantic patina, but they were ruthless murderers and thieves.  We identify with the adventure and the hunt for treasure rather than the pirates themselves.

“The effect of Treasure Island on our perception of pirates cannot be overestimated,” wrote David Cordingly in his book Under a Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates: “Robert Louis Stevenson “linked pirates forever with maps, black schooners, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.  The treasure map with an X marking the location of the buried treasure is one of the most familiar pirate props.”  Stevenson popularized the nautical slang “Shiver My Timbers,” an oath that Stevenson’s archetypal pirate Long John Silver exclaimed.  Characters in other works, such as Popeye, changed the phrase to “Shiver me timbers.”

Robert Louis Stevenson visited northern California, the Hawaiian Islands and died in Samoa, but I haven’t found any evidence he visited Catalina Island. A 1918 “Treasure Island” movie was filmed on Catalina Island, which has its own history of a treasure map and hidden gold.

At a theater production I attended of “Treasure Island,” the playbill noted that “Shiver My Timbers” and other such oaths were child-friendly substitutions for more salty language.   Child-friendly or not, “Shiver My Timbers” was an actual nautical exclamation, describing the shivering or splintering of the ship’s boards, either from storms or battle.

On a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I found a history of Treasure Island in one of the tourist brochures, which led me to the story of Owen Lloyd. Treasure Island — The Untold Story Other areas have claimed to have inspired Stevenson, included Napa, California, where he honeymooned with Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, after their wedding in San Francisco.  A park there is named after him, which I’ll be visiting soon.

Stevenson was the son and grandson of lighthouse engineers, but he preferred to leave the safety of shore behind him when he became an adult.  He was a frail person, who spent much of his youth in the “land of the counterpane (bedspread)”  Despite his poor health, he traveled widely, spending a lot of time on sailing ships, saying “I wish to die in my boots…..”  He got his wish, dying too young at age 44 in Samoa where he had made his home.  Stevenson is ranked the 25th most translated author in the world, ahead of fellow Victorians Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe.

Savannah, Georgia, is mentioned several times in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, “Treasure Island.” Some of the book’s action was said to take place in “The Pirates House,” one of Georgia’s most historic buildings. The building is now a restaurant, where meals are served in a multitude of charmingly ramshackle rooms, and tales of ghosts and pirates add to the atmosphere. My husband and I ate lunch there on a cheerful sunny autumn afternoon, so it took a little more imagination to conjure up menacing pirate spirits.

About Robert Louis Stevenson.   About “Treasure Island.”

The history of “The Pirates House” in Savannah, Georgia.  Shiver My Timbers.

Here’s a card I designed in honor of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I made a stab at a little Pirate Talk in the inside text.

Robert Louis Stevenson — Napa Valley’s First Tourist
A post I wrote in 2008: “Avast, Me Hearty! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!”

“Talk Like a Pirate Day” Busted: Not Even Pirates Spoke Pirate

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The World’s Largest Key Collection, Estes Park, Colorado

This photograph shows part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, which is thought to be the world’s largest key collection. The Baldpate Inn is south of Estes Park, Colorado.

Friends gave us a list of six restaurants we should try in the Estes Park, Colorado, area during our too-brief visit this summer. One restaurant on the list was The Baldpate Inn, which was described as “a soup and salad bar and great desserts.” Wow, was that description inadequate! I love quaint, historic, charming, quirky and unexpected. The Baldpate Inn was all that. Plus, the food was great. My grandparents ran a hotel in Sturgis, South Dakota, built by my great grandparents, which we often visited, so I have a great fondness for old hotels and inns.

The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Inn is seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.


The Baldpate Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the home of the World’s Largest Key Collection. The inn also attracts as many hummingbirds as it does diners. Hummingbird feeders are hung outside of the dining porch as well as on other porches at the inn. I love hummingbirds and was lucky enough to be seated next a feeder, which was mobbed. Hummingbirds are territorial, but these hummingbirds made temporary peace as they dined.

A hummingbird visits a feeder outside the dining porch of The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

We wouldn’t have searched very hard for The Baldpate Inn, because it was just a soup and salad bar, after all, but fortunately we happened to drive by the sign to the inn on our way back on Highway 7 to Estes Park from Brainard Lake. The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is also a bed and breakfast. The inn is built from hand-hewn timber from the property, so the inn has a rustic mountain ambiance. After the delicious lunch, we ordered rhubarb pie with ice cream for dessert. We usually don’t order dessert, but we wanted to linger a little longer to watch the hummingbirds and admire the mountain view. (I love home made rhubarb pie, so it was no hardship.)

From The Baldpate Inn website: “The Inn was named after the mystery novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by Earl Derr Biggers, who upon visiting the property stated that the inn was so similar to the heretofore “imaginary” Baldpate Inn, that the Mace’s hotel would become the “real” Baldpate Inn. In the novel, each of seven visitors traveled to the closed-in-wintertime hotel, and thinks that he or she has the only key to the Inn. In keeping with the story line of the novel, the Mace family gave each visitor to the Inn their very own key.

Hummingbird feeders hang along the dining room porch of The Baldpate Inn. There’s a crowd of humans on the inside looking at the crowd of hummingbirds on the outside.

This tradition continued until the outbreak of World War I, when the price of metal became so expensive that the Owners were no longer able to give keys away. The loyal guests who returned yearly were so disappointed that they began their own tradition of bringing a key back to the inn with them each year. It is said that the competition between guests became so fierce to bring the best and most exotic each year that the Maces decided to begin a display of all the keys.

The Baldpate Inn’s photography collection features autographed photographs, taken by the original owners, of presidents and celebrities.

This was the beginning of the world’s largest key collection. The collection boasts over 20,000 keys including examples from the Pentagon, Westminster Abby, Mozart’s wine cellar, and even Frankenstein’s castle to name a few.”

In the dining room you can see The Baldpate Inn Photograph collection, which features autographed pictures of U.S. presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Bush), movie celebrities, (Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, Roy Rogers), captains of industry (Henry Ford, Randolph Hearst), folk heroes (Wild Bill Cody, Weston the Walker), and world renowned figures (Thomas Edison, Tetrazinni, Jack London).

The Baldpate Inn Dining Room.

These photographs are primarily the creative work of two of the Mace brothers Charles (one of the Inn’s original owners) and Stuart Mace, both professional photographers.

The next time we return to Northeast Colorado, I want to stay at The Baldpate Inn so that I can explore every nook and cranny, investigate the key collection more thoroughly, look at every photograph, enjoy the view, eat more pie, watch the hummingbirds, attend the plays in the outdoor theater and just hang out.

The Baldpate Inn Website.

Here is a small part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s Largest Key Collection.

A sign for theater productions is displayed on the porch of The Baldpate Inn. You can also see a hummingbird feeder. In cooperation with the Estes Park’s Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies, The Baldpate Inn presented live theater perfomances of two romantic comedy stage plays this summer.

The Baldpate Inn library looks like a cozy place to read in the cool mountain mornings and evenings. Stone fireplaces keep the inn pleasantly toasty.

The Baldpate Inn Dining Porch.

Hummingbirds are territorial, but they made temporary peace at this feeder at The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

This giant key is part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s largest.

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Leap of Faith in the Wisconsin Dells

I was lucky to get this shot as a German Shepherd makes the leap made famous by Ashley Bennett in his father Henry Hamilton Bennett’s 1886 photograph “Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock” in the Wisconsin River Dells.

On a recent driving trip through Wisconsin and Michigan, I was reminded in the Wisconsin Dells of how much progress has been made in photographic technology.  Photographers owe a debt to the early innovators, such as nineteenth century Wisconsin photographer Henry Hamilton Bennett.  Bennett originated the concept of photojournalism, invented a stop action shutter (which he called the “snapper”), improved the speed of the chemical exposure process and created other photographic innovations.  His photographs attracted throngs of tourists to the beauty of the sandstone gorges of the Wisconsin River Dells.  (The city of Wisconsin Dells is also now the self-proclaimed Waterpark Capital of the World.)

Bennett is considered one of the top landscape photographers of the 19th century, although I confess I’d never heard of him even though I’ve read a lot of history about photography. So I’m making up for that deficit now.

In 1886, Bennett took his iconic shot of his son Ashley jumping the five and a half feet from Stand Rock to a ledge and back to show how his shutter could freeze action. Ashley had to jump seventeen times before his father thought he had the perfect shot. Some people initially thought the photograph was a trick, because in those days capturing an exposure took a long time, which is why everyone looks so glum in their portraits. They had to stand still, not moving a muscle. Photographic chemicals took a while to react to light. Any part that moved during the long exposure time would be a blur.

In 1886, Ashley Bennett jumps from a ledge to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin River Dells in a demonstration of his father Henry Hamilton Bennett's new stop action camera shutter. The photograph is called "Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock."

In 1886, Ashley Bennett jumps from a ledge to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin River Dells in a demonstration of his father Henry Hamilton Bennett’s new stop action camera shutter. The photograph is called “Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock.”

When people saw Bennett’s numerous gorgeous shots of the gorge, they swarmed to the Wisconsin Dells, where they could get their own photographs taken as they made the leap. This, after paddling boats to the site, under the direction of a guide.  Eventually, tourist leaps were stopped because of the risk. (Think of the lawsuits!) Now tourists (such as myself) watch a German Shepherd make the leap. You have to be quick to take your own stop-action photograph, because the dog makes the leap only once. I was lucky to get a full-body view as the dog leaped in his return to the ledge. There’s a net below the gap to catch any dog that doesn’t make it, but our guide assured us that no dog has ever fallen. Bennett’s photograph makes the distance from rock to rock look a lot farther. Even so, call me chicken, but I wouldn’t make any leap father than a foot at that height.

Here’s my first attempt to photograph the dog leaping from a ledge to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin Dells. The leap looks scarier in this photograph than in the shot when I captured the entire dog spanning the gap.

There’s plenty more to learn about Bennett, photography and the Wisconsin Dells.   Here are the links. You make the leap.

Wisconsin Dells History and Information.

More about Henry Hamilton Bennett.

The Stand Rock photograph was featured in Terrence Malick’s opening credits of his movie “Days of Heaven.”

Terrence Malick’s blog post featuring Henry Hamilton Bennett’s iconic photograph of his son Ashley jumping to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin Dells.

In the center of this photograph is Chimney Rock, one of the sandstone formations along the Upper Dells of the Wisconsin Dells section of the Wisconsin River.

Photography Prints

For a full resolution version click here: Dog Jumping From Stand Rock in Wisconsin Dells.

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