Qingyuan Mountain Hike in Quanzhou, China

One of the best adventures during my trip to Quanzhou was an early morning hike up Qingyuan Mountain. The mountain is favorite destination of locals and tourists alike. We arrived early so we would be there before the crowds. It was still dark as we started up the path. Eventually the “trail” became more of a staircase than a path. Climbing the stairs was a good workout. After an hour or so of hiking we arrived at Sky Lake. It was a beautiful little lake with an impressive visitors center on one side and function hall on the other. Much to my disappointment (I was hoping for a hot drink), the visitors center was not open yet. I was also looking forward to seeing the black swans and white swans that lived at the lake. Apparently it was even too early for the swans.

 

Sky Lake and the visitors center.
Sky Lake and the visitors center.

We continued past the lake where we noticed a sign for the Qingyuan Cave. We followed the trail to the cave, which took us higher towards the summit. Instead of an actual cave we found a small temple complex. A sign explained that the temple was built over or on the site of the cave, which made me happy since the temple site was very nice.

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Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-1

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Not only was the temple beautiful, the view from the temple was fantastic.

Quanzhou and the Jinjiang River
Quanzhou and the Jinjiang River.

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Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-8

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-5

Upon going back down the mountain we discovered the red roofed buildings in the photo above served hot tea and food.

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Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-15

We were hungry and thirsty so this place was a welcome site. We got a package of tea, a tea pot, a thermos of hot water and a small heater to keep the tea pot warm for 15 yuan. Much of the food looked strange (like chicken feet) or was not what I would consider breakfast food (like yams) and stuff I could not even identify. We did find some red grapes, orange slices and french fries to eat which tasted pretty damn good to us at that point. It was just cool enough outside so the hot tea really hit the spot.

On they way down the mountain we got some fantastic views of Quanzhou near West Lake Park.

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Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-17
The large modern looking building near the lake is the China Museum of Fujian-Taiwan Kinship. We stopped there for a short time on our way back to World City.

We took a different trail down the mountain so that we would end up at the Laojun Rock. Along the trail we observed numerous inscriptions carved into the rocks. The characters where painted red to make them easier for visitors to read. I think they were part of the Qi Feng Inscriptions mentioned on the Travel China Guide website.

Stone Statue of Laozi

Jennifer and I at the Stone Statue of Laozi
Jennifer and I at the Stone Statue of Laozi

The Laojun Rock is a beautiful statue in a very peaceful garden setting with a nice view of the mountain in the background. There is an incense burner in the viewing area which adds to the peaceful atmosphere of the exhibit.

The Qingyuan Mountain Website tells us, “The Song-Dynasty statue represents a man with a long beard-believed to be the philosopher Laozi (Lao Tzu), the founder and Saint of Taoism.” China Culture.org mentions, “He is credited with writing the seminal Taoist work, the Dao De Jing” also known as Tao Te Ching.

Qingyuan Mountain would definitely on the list of places to visit again during another visit to Quanzhou.

Kaiyuan Temple, Quanzhou, China

The first major sightseeing stop during my trip to China was the Kaiyan Temple in Quanzhou. It is an ancient Buddhist temple that was built in the year 685 during the Tang Dynasty. We took a cab which dropped us off at the West Street gate. There were a bunch of street vendors set up near the gate selling incense and other items. Once we went through the gate we were surrounded by bushes, hedges and ancient mulberry trees.

The temple grounds also has two ancient stone pagodas. The west pagoda is close enough to the gate to capture our interest right away. An article on the Website, China Through A Lens says,

The Twin Pagodas in Quanzhou rank the highest pair among Chinas stone pagodas. The west pagoda is called Renshou and the east one, Zhenguo. They stand on each side of the main hall of Kaiyuan Temple, some two hundred meters from each other.

Renshou Pagoda was originally a wooden structure constructed in 916 during the Five Dynasties. After it burnt down twice during the Song Dynasty, the pagoda was rebuilt, first of brick, then of stone. Its appearance and structure are basically the same as those of Zhenguo Pagoda, but it is only 44.6 meters high, or 4.18 meters lower, and was built ten years earlier.

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Jennifer with the Renshou Pagoda in the background.

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Close up of the carvings on the first level

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Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-6
Looking to the Zhenguo Pagoda at the east end of the temple grounds.

The sign at the gate explains why there are so many mulberry trees on the grounds. Legend says, “the land upon which the Quanzhou Kaiyuan monastery was built was originally an orchard of mulberry trees owned by Huang Shougong. Tradition holds that Mr. Shougong dreamed that a monk begged him to have his land as a temple. He replied, ‘If my mulberry trees bloomed lotus blossoms I’ll grant you the land.’ A few days later the mulberry trees really bloomed lotus blossoms.”

The smell of incense filled the air and  as we entered the temple courtyard.

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-7

We just stood still for a minute and took in the scene. People were lighting incense sticks and placing them in a ornate iron incense burner in the middle of the courtyard. Unfortunately it started to rain which put a damper on my photography.

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-8

Jennifer and I wandered over to the main hall of the temple.

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-9

The Wikipedia article tells us the main hall is known as the Mahavira Hall. Inside is the statue of the Vairocana Buddha. We were standing in the doorway admiring the statue of the Buddha when a monk walked by. I was surprised when he stopped and spoke enough English to invite us inside. After going inside I pointed to my camera and the statue in an attempt to ask him if I could take some photos. Much to my disappointment, he shook his head no.

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-10

The architecture on the backside of the temple was just as impressive. The back courtyard had a small incense burner plus covered boxes filled with dozens of burning candles. By that time it was raining harder, forcing us to keep under cover as much as possible.

In addition to people selling incense there were lots of people with disabilities asking visitors for donations. We approached a side gate that was crowded with beggars and vendors. One of the lady vendors gave me gave me a sample of the berries she was selling. It looked like a large blackberry and tasted great. It was not until I got home that I discovered that it was a Mulberry that she gave me. I wish I had taken the time to buy some from her.

I plan to go back during another trip on a day when the weather is better so I can take more photographs and learn more about the place.

 

2015 Reading List

AmazoniaIt was another good year for reading during which I finished 46 books. I enjoyed stories from several new authors like James Rollins, Brad Meltzer and John Heldt. I read more from some of my favorite authors like Dan Brown, Bernard Cornwell, William Dietrich, Stephen King and Tom Clancy.

Inferno by Dan Brown was a great book to start the year with. It is another Robert Langdon story and takes place in Italy. I learned a lot about many of the famous art works, buildings and architecture of Florence and Venice. If you enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, you will love this novel.

I discovered author James Rollins this year. His writing reminds me of Michael Crichton, which is high praise. The teaser on his Website for the book Amazonia says, “The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world’s most inhospitable rainforest: a former Special Forces soldier – scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death – who went in with one arm missing…and came out with both intact.” The story was just as fantastic as it sounds. I went on to read five other James Rollins novels during the year.

StormchildThe Fort by Bernard Cornwell tells the story of the Penobscot Expedition of 1779 during the American Revolutionary War. It is the story of an attack by the militia of the Province of Massachusetts Bay to take a British fort in Castine, Maine. The expedition and attack was a major screw-up. The American fleet was destroyed and the assault force ended up making a long journey over land to Massachusetts. Be sure to read my Blog article about the book.

I also discovered Cornwell’s “sailing thrillers” which takes place in the present day, unlike many of his novels. Of the three I read I enjoyed Stormchild the best. The Amazon Website description reads, “A British yachtsman sails to Cape Horn to reclaim his daughter from eco-terrorists.” But of course the plot and story has more depth than that one sentence description.

I’m ashamed to say that I got behind in reading Tom Clancy novels. I sure made up for it this year when a good friend recommended The Bear and the Dragon, featuring John Clark and Jack Ryan. It was so good that later in the year I went on to read Debt of Honor and Executive Order. Executive Order picks up right where Debt of Honor ended so it read like one long novel rather than two. Both are fantastic stories!

112263 Book CoverOne of my favorite stories of the year was 11/22/63 by Stephen King. King is another author that I had not read anything from in years. Instead of a horror story this is a time travel story. Jake Epping find a way to go back in time to 1958 and finds he can change the lives of people in the present by changing events in past. He ends up undertaking the difficult task to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, hoping that it would change the world for the better. It’s a great story and has become my new favorite Stephen King novel.

In December a friend lent me the book, The Journey by John A. Heldt. It’s the second book in his Northwest Passage series. After the unexpected death of her husband after a tough marriage, a 49 year old women returns to her hometown for a high school reunion. After visiting an room in a mysterious old house in town, she finds herself back in 1979. She encounters her younger self and has the opportunity influence the path she takes in life. It turned out to be a great story. Since I find the concept of time travel interesting I was hooked on his time travel stories and ended up reading three other books in the series.

  1. Inferno – Dan Brown
  2. The Temple of the Winds – Terry Goodkind
  3. Firefight – Brandon Sanderson
  4. Amazonia – James Rollins
  5. Sandstorm – James Rollins
  6. Altar of Eden – James Rollins
  7. Soul of the Fire – Terry Goodkind (Did not finish)
  8. Ice Hunt – James Rollins
  9. Deep Black – Stephen Coonts
  10. Subterranean – James Rollins
  11. The Fort – Bernard Cornwell
  12. The Roman Hat Mystery – Ellery Queen
  13. The Inner Circle – Brad Meltzer
  14. The Recollections of Rifleman Harris – Benjamin Randell Harris
  15. Piranha (Oregon Files) – Clive Cussler
  16. Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
  17. The Fifth Assassin – Brad Meltzer
  18. Scoundrel – Bernard Cornwell
  19. On Writing – Stephen King
  20. Stormchild – Bernard Cornwell
  21. A Bone in the Throat – Anthony Bourdain
  22. Dourado (Dane Maddock Adventure) – David Wood
  23. Crackdown – Bernard Cornwell
  24. The Lightening Stones – Jack Du Brul
  25. The Bear and the Dragon – Tom Clancy
  26. Grey Lady – Paul Kemprecos
  27. Dragon Seed – Pearl S. Buck
  28. The Martin – Andy Weir
  29. The Einstein Papers – Craig Dirgo
  30. The Tesla Documents – Craig Dirgo
  31. The Christos Parchment – Craig Dirgo
  32. Hadrian’s Wall – William Dietrich
  33. Adventure – Jack London
  34. The Sea Wolf – Jack London
  35. Scourge of God – William Dietrich
  36. 11/22/63 – Stephen King
  37. Getting Back – William Dietrich
  38. The Pharaoh’s Secret – Clive Cussler
  39. Debt of Honor – Tom Clancy
  40. Executive Order – Tom Clancy
  41. The Door Into Summer – Robert Heinlein ( re-read)
  42. Without Remorse – Tom Clancy
  43. The Journey – John A. Heldt
  44. The Mine – John A. Heldt
  45. The Fire – John A. Heldt
  46. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

Recollections of Rifleman Harris, (old 95th)

Rifleman Harris book coverBack in the summer I read an interesting historical non-fiction book titled, Recollections of Rifleman Harris, (old 95th). It’s the memoir of  Benjamin Randell Harris during his service the British Army during the Peninsular War Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars.

I downloaded this book from Google Books (for free) because I read that author, Bernard Cornwell, used this memoir as inspiration for the Richard Sharpe series. Since I have enjoyed many of the books in the series, I was curious to read the “source” material.

Rifleman Harris shares his experiences while participating in the 1807 Bombardment of Copenhagen, the Peninsula War in 1808 and the Walcheren Campaign (Netherlands) in 1809. After reading this story I was able to see where Cornwell used Harris’ experiences for his research and story inspiration.

Rifleman Harris first saw action during the Bombardment of Copenhagen. In the book, Sharpe’s Prey, Richard also participates in the 1807 Bombardment of Copenhagen.

In 1808 Harris was sent to Portugal during the Peninsular War Campaign and saw action fighting the French at Rolica and Vimeiro. In the book Sharpe’s Rifles, Sharpe also fights against the French at Roliça and Vimeiro.

I would highly recommend this book, especially if you are fan of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series.

Resources

Wikipedia Article: The Recollections of Rifleman Harris

Wikipedia Article: Sharpe (novel series)

Full Text eBook: https://archive.org/details/recollectionsofr00harr

Hike to Mt. Cube on the Cross Rivendell Trail

On July 3rd I joined a Meetup.com group for a hike to the two peaks of Mt. Cube in Orford, NH. Last September I hiked to Mt. Cube on the Appalachian Trail, which is 3.3 miles from the trail head to the south summit. This time we would take different trail to the top. The Cross Rivendell Trail is only 2 miles from the trail head to the South Summit. I liked the idea of a shorter hike and I heard the views are better along the way.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-1

Everything I head about the views on the way up are true. There are several scenic views along the trail.

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Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-5

One of the first scenic views faces Orford, NH and Fairlee, VT. I can see the cliffs of Fairlee peaking out behind Sunday Mt. in Orford.

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The view from the next scenic look out is even better.

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We can see Killington to the southwest.

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I can barely make out the ski trails through the haze.

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I can see most of Indian Pond behind that damn tree top. I also recognize the cliff face of Peaked Mt. up in Piermont, NH.

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Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-18

We were all hungry by the time we made it to the top. We wasted no time digging lunch out of our packs and settling down to enjoy the view and eat.

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I recognized the distinctive shape of Mt. Cardigan in the distance. The hike to Holts Ledge helped me to recognize the mountain.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-20Way off in the distance we could see the windmills at the Groton Wind Farm in Groton, NH.

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A visit to Mt. Cube is not complete without a trip to the North Peak for some awesome views to the east and north. It’s only about another half mile hike.

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Mount Moosilauke dominates the view from the North Peak.

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I like the view towards Lake Tarleton and Armington on the right. I’m pretty sure that’s Black Mt. in the distance on the left.

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We easily spent anther half hour to forty five minutes taking photos and enjoying the view.

I have no doubt I will take the Cross Rivendell Trail rather than the Appalachian Trail on my next trip to Mt. Cube.

Kayak Trip to McDaniels Marsh

In late May I went on my first kayak trip to McDaniels Marsh in Enfield, NH. I heard it is a wonderful place to see birds and other wildlife so I made sure to bring my camera.

It was one of those mornings with abundant sunshine, no wind and calm waters.

McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-1

At one point I broke off from the group to get photos of a Canada Goose. I soon found myself unable to paddle a direct course back to the group due to shallow spots and thick vegetation. I had to raise the rudder and find the deeper channels to work my way back to the group.

McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-4

At the far end of the marsh I noticed one in the thick grass and the other “patrolling” close by. They both kept an eye on me as I drifted by snapping photos.

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McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-13

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McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-5

The marsh is also home to numerous Red Winged Blackbirds. It was easy to hear their distinctive song, “conk-la-ree” above the other bird songs and sounds of the marsh.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the sunshine. It was easy to find Painted Turtles sprawled out on a stump while soaking up the sun.

McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-10

McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-15

McDaniels Marsh May 30 2015-16

This one took the big jump from the stump.

McDaniels Marsh is now on my list of places to kayak, although I hear the vegetation gets thick later in the season. It’s probably better to kayak there during the spring and early summer.

My First Year Turkey Hunting in New Hampshire

I purchased a hunting license this year for the first time since 1993. I was inspired to get a license when my friend Kurt offered to take me Turkey hunting. Back in 1993 the State of New Hampshire had just started stocking Turkey in the Upper Valley so I never had the opportunity to hunt them.

Spring Turkey hunting seems different from other types of hunting. You can use owl calls, crow calls, turkey calls and decoys to locate and bring the Turkey to you. However, Turkeys have fantastic eyesight and good hearing so hunters must dress in camouflage, sometimes use a tent blind, and be quiet and still while calling them within range of your shotgun. It’s easy for hunters to screw up by moving (unless you are in a blind) or making sounds that could scare the Turkeys away.

Hunters can tip the odds in our favor (compared to other forms of hunting) by becoming skilled in locating and calling a Tom Turkey in to your ambush zone for the kill. The box call seems to be the easiest to learn. The glass or crystal call for imitating a hen seems to be the most useful for calling a Tom once you have set up the decoys around your hunting site.

I had to get up at 2:30 am in order to meet Kurt and hit the woods by 4:30 am. It was already light by 5 am when we arrived at our hunting spot. We wasted no time setting up the decoys and finding a spot to sit that had good cover yet had enough of a view to shoot. Once Kurt started calling we heard a gobble in the distance, which meant the Tom Turkey heard the call. Judging from the direction of the gobble, the Turkey must have been in the woods at the far end of the field. After an hour, a Tom and two hens came out of the woods a couple hundred yards away. It was pretty intense as we had to remain still and quiet as they crossed the field to the decoys.

Naturally the bird approached the decoys way over to my right. This meant I had to swivel around (and move which could scare them all off) and shoot through a very small opening in the brush. It turns out that I made a good head shot that blew him over, broke a wing, and killed him quickly. I have no doubt that the real skill of Turkey hunting is in the calling and scouting skills. My new goal is to learn to call for next season.

Turkey hunt May 24 2015
20.5 pound Turkey with a 1 inch spur and an 8 1/2 inch beard shot by Mark Karl.