Blueberry Mt. Hike, Benton, NH

On April 16th our Meetup.com activities group explored a trail we had not been on before. We went up Blueberry Mt. in Benton, NH. We had been to nearby Black Mt. many times. We heard from another hiker in our group that Blueberry Mt. was a little bit easier and had slightly different views than Black Mt. It was about 2.5 miles to the summit but the elevation gain was a lot less than Black. Mt.

View of Black Mt.
View of Black Mt. from the summit of Blueberry Mt.
View west towards Vermont.
View west towards Vermont. I think those are the mountains of Groton State Forest.
View towards Mt. Cube in Orford, NH
View towards Mt. Cube in Orford, NH. You can just catch a gimps of Lake Katherine.
View towards Peaked Mt. in Piermont, NH and the cliff on Rt. 5 in Fairlee, VT.
View towards Peaked Mt. in Piermont, NH and the cliff on Rt. 5 in Fairlee, VT.
View of Killington Ski Resort 50 miles away in Killington, VT.
View of Killington Ski Resort 50 miles away in Killington, VT.

 

Links to more info about Blueberry Mt.:

 

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

I just finished reading the book Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. As the title indicates, he was the first person to circumnavigate the earth while sailing alone.  By no means did he take the most direct route. He pretty much followed the trade winds and major currents.

He made plenty of stops, which made for an interesting story. He would often stay for a week or more at places he stopped at. In some cases it was because he enjoyed his time with the people he met. In other cases he was waiting for the trade winds and weather to improve. It took him about three years to complete the 46,000 mile journey.

I created a Google Map with his major stops and dates that he arrived at each place.

Examples of his adventures include:

  • Early in the trip Captain Slocum got so sick that he imagined he spoke to the ghost of the Pilot of Christopher Columbus’s ship, the Pinta.
  • His ship was chased by pirates off the coast of Morocco. Watch  Colin Hazlehurst’s recreation of the trip using Google Earth.
  • The Spray ran around on a beach in Uruguay.
  • Natives in the Strait of Magellan tried to board the Spray at night. They left when they stepped on the carpet tacks he had spread on the deck to surprise them. Later they chased him in their canoes and he had to shoot his rifle at them in order to scare them off.
  • He survived a horrendous storm on the west end of the Strait of Magellan near Cape Pillar and got blown south. He had to sail back to Punta Arenas (a port in the Strait) then try again to sail through the maze of island into the Pacific.
  • His sails got shredded in the Pacific Ocean during a storm.

As I mentioned earlier, Slocum made visited many remote and exotic places along the way in addition to major ports of call. Many of the people he met had heard of his journey and were happy to invite him to stay. He met Fanny Stevenson (the wife of author Robert Louis Stevenson) at Samoa. He met the explorer Henry M. Stanley in East Africa and many other prominent people of the era.

I am amazed at the amount of information and resources about the book and Captain Slocum’s journey are the Web.

  • There is a website with the domain name joshuaslocum.com about his life and the journey.
  • I found a wonderful 45 minute documentary video about his life, the Spray and his journey on YouTube.
  • I discovered a wonderful YouTube playlist showing the Spray in Google Earth sailing each leg of the journey.

I recommend this wonderful story to anyone who enjoys history, sailing or adventure stories.

Luoyang Bridge, Quanzhou, China

During my last day in Quanzhou I took a bike ride on Fenghai Road with the goal to visit Luoyang Bridge. The bridge is one of the four ancient bridges in China and is a major attraction in Quanzhou.

Luoyang Bridge
Luoyang Bridge from the Qiaonon Community side of the river.

The Travel China Guide Website says, “Construction of the Luoyang Bridge started in 1053 and was completed in 1059. The project of building the bridge was led by Cai Xiang, the governor of Quanzhou who was also one of the four famous calligraphers in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Built with granite, the bridge features ship-like piers and a unique method of reinforcing the foundation.” Essentially they raised oysters near the piers so the liquid they “secreted would help to bind the piers and the footstones together.”

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-2

Each end of the bridge has two statues on either side of the bridge. I had to stop for a minute to admire the impressive workmanship that went into them.

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-3

Partway across the bridge there is a small building surrounded by trees, statues and stone tables inscribed with Chinese characters. The ChinaCulture.org Website says, “Many stone tablets from past dynasties were erected near the middle pavilion on the Luoyang Bridge, including stone statues of pagodas and warriors.

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-4

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-6

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-12

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-5

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-7

After a pleasant stop at the middle pavilion I continued my journey across the bridge. I wanted to get a closer look at the stature on the far side. I suspected it is a statue of Cai Xiang, who led the project to build the bridge.

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-9
Statue of Cai Xiang

I enjoyed some wonderful views (a bit hazy but still nice) of the Quanzhou skyline during my walk back across the bridge.

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-10

Like so many things in Quanzhou, this photo showing the modern skyline with the bridge and fishing boats is an interesting combination of the old and the new.

Luoyang Bridge January 13 2016-11

I would like to visit the bridge again when the sun is out and the sky is blue so I can take more photographs. It would also be nice to see the bridge at low tide so I can see the “ship like piers” mentioned in the Travel China Guide website.

 

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.

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-4

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-1

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-2

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

Quanzhou and the Jinjiang River
Quanzhou and the Jinjiang River.

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-7

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.

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-14

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.

Qingyan Mt Hike January 9 2016-18

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.

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-1
Jennifer with the Renshou Pagoda in the background.

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-2

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-3
Close up of the carvings on the first level

Kaiyuan Temple January 5 2016-4

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