Monday, April 30, 2018

THE GARDEN OF FLOWERING FRAGRANCE: Chinese Garden at the Huntington, San Marino, CA

Zigzag Bridge in the Chinese Garden, The Huntington, San Marino, CA
In the Chinese Garden at The Huntington, in San Marino, California, the exotic plants, beautiful small lake, complex of pavilions, teahouse and tea shop, stone bridges, and waterfalls, make one feel transported to another time and place. Built in the style of traditional scholar gardens in Suzhou, China, it is the perfect harmony of nature and architecture.
Tea House
On a recent warm afternoon, Art and I went there with a friend, beginning our visit with a delicious lunch from the garden restaurant of pot stickers, wontons, and a rice bowl, which we ate outdoors on the patio at the edge of the lake. (There were also tables inside the tea house.) We watched a pair of geese swim while colorful koi glided through the shallow water below. A heron flew overhead.(The Huntington gardens are are great place for bird watching.)
Flowering tree
Around us, trees were beginning to blossom, and along the paths plants were covered with bright flowers. The Chinese name of the garden, Liu Fang Yuan, means Garden of Flowing Fragrance and the look and smell of spring was everywhere.
Stone bridge is framed by a wooden window
After our lunch we circled the lake, stopping to admire the view from the various bridges and pavilions. In typical Chinese style, windows of the structures were designed to frame the view and were works of art in themselves.
Pavilion of The Three Friends is seen through the waterfall
At each turn there were views to admire. On one side of the garden a waterfall tumbled over a ledge and had a walkway underneath. On the other side of the lake, water cascaded down the hill creating a small stream.
This natural stone sculpture is titled Patching Up the Sky
Throughout the garden groups of rocks have been artfully arranged to create miniature landscapes. And everything is named--from the buildings, to the sculptures, to the groves of trees. (The Pavilion of The Three Friends seemed like the perfect spot for a picture of the three of us.) Throughout the garden benches were strategically place for resting and enjoying the view. And although there were quite a few other people strolling the paths, the garden felt tranquil and evoked a sense of peace.
Water lilies grow on the 1.5 acre lake
The Huntington, originally the estate of railroad magnate Henry Huntington, is famous for its library of rare manuscripts and its art collection, as well as its many gardens. I have been to the Huntington numerous times, but it is so big  there is never enough time to see everything in one visit. The Chinese garden is a relatively recent addition.  (It opened to the public in 2008.)  I had not had a chance to visit it before so this was an ideal opportunity.
Lattice window looks out of the garden
Afterward, we visited the Japanese garden, with its raked stone zen garden and amazing collection of bonsai, strolled through the rose garden, just bursting into flower, stopped to take a look at the exhibits in the Dibner Hall of the History of Science (with its display of 250 copies of Darwin’s Origin of Species in its many editions and translations), and ended our day with a walk through the Desert Garden, where the cacti and succulents were in glorious bloom. I’m glad I finally had a chance to visit the Chinese garden. It was the perfect beginning to a spring afternoon at the Huntington.

For information about visiting the Huntington, click HERE.
Walkways in the Chinese Garden are created with a mosaic of dark and light stones

Monday, April 23, 2018


In the Kilauea Iki Crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
A week ago, on our trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, Art and I were hiking across what felt like a moonscape–the hardened lava at the bottom of the Kilauea Iki Crater in Volcanoes National Park.  It had not been our first plan for the day, but when we woke up in Hilo that morning to pouring rain, we decided to take the 45 minute drive to the volcanoes and hope for better weather. We did encounter some rain, but found the cool, mostly misty air perfect for hiking.
Beginning of Devastation Trail
We started our day with a short hike from Crater Rim Drive along the Devastation Trail. The path goes through a vast cinder field, created when a violent eruption of Kilauea in 1959 covered the area in scorching cinder.
Cinder deposit on the Devastation Trail
The thick rainforest at the beginning of the trail shows what disappeared when the hot cinders rained down. Since then patches of trees and flowering shrubs have begun to regrow, seemingly out of nothing, and were home to flocks of noisy birds.
New growth on top of the cinders
We also encountered a pair of pheasants, introduced as game birds and now gone wild. We had hoped to see some nene geese, Hawaii’s national bird, but had no luck. Signs along the path admonished us not to pick berries because they are the nene’s food.
Beginning of Kilauea Iki trail across crater
We then drove back toward the Kilauea Iki Crater trailhead and began the four mile round trip hike down into and across the crater. After descending 300 feet from the crater rim, we followed the path across the crater, marked by piles of stones (ahu), then climbed back to the rim and followed the rim path back to our car.
Hikers are dwarfed by the expanse of the crater
We were reliving a hike we had done on our first visit to the island twelve years ago. At that time there were still places on the crater floor where steam was leaking out and we could put our hand on the surface and feel the hot rock. Then, as now, we were amazed at the amount of new life that has begun to grow between the cracks.
Flowering plant growing up from a crack
Than after a stop at the Visitor Center and lunch at the Volcano House Hotel, we drove to the end of the Crater Rim Road to the Jagger Museum for a view of the Kilauea caldera and the current eruption.
Active eruption of Kilauea Volcano, viewed from the Jagger Museum
On the way there we passed a number of steam vents.(The Crater Rim Road, which circles the caldera is closed after the Jagger Museum on because of noxious fumes.)  From the overlook we watched the pool of red-hot lava churn and burst into the air releasing a giant plume of smoke visible for miles. I used my binoculars to get a close-up view of the exploding lava–bubbling like a giant witches’ cauldron. Inside the museum we learned about the science of volcanoes and how they are formed.
Smoke and steam vents viewed from Byron's Ledge
In many ways we picked the perfect day for a visit to Volcanoes National Park. It was not too hot and not too cold, and not too rainy.  At an elevation of 4000 feet at the Visitor Center near the crater rim the air can be quite chilly, although nothing like the weather at the top of Mauna Loa, at 13,677 feet, the highest point in Hawaii. Hawaii is the only place in the United States that you can see an active volcano. If you visit the Big Island, the volcanoes are not to be missed.

Friday, April 13, 2018


With my family at Gettysburg, PA, July 1997
Seven years ago today, on April 13th, 2011, I published the first post on THE INTREPID TOURIST. Since then there have been more than 300 posts, published once a week, usually on Monday. My first post was inspired by a family trip to Gettysburg where we witnessed a reenactment of the Battle of Herr's Ridge, complete with all the noise, smoke, (no actual ammunition), soldiers and their families. I had written the article shortly after our visit in 1997 but it had never been published. So, I decided to use it to launch the blog.
Reenactors at Gettysburg included families of the soldiers dressed in clothing of the time
I thank all of you, my loyal readers, for your encouragement and interest through the years. And I thank all my guest posters for adding their unique experiences and trips to far away places.
Happy Traveling for another year!
Our tickets gave us a close-up view of the battle (the year on the ticket is incorrect--it was 1997)

Monday, April 9, 2018

BIRDS, BEACH AND SUN: A Spring Weekend in La Jolla, CA

Surfers and gulls at La Jolla Shores, California
Until I moved to California I never knew how to pronounce La Jolla, the beach town just north of San Diego famous for swimming, surfing and beautiful ocean views, not realizing the “j” sounds like “h” and the two “l’s” are like a “y”. The correct pronunciation is “ la hoya”.
Hang gliders above La Jolla
Brown pelicans
Recently, on a warm weekend in March we spent a weekend at La Jolla Shores and enjoyed walking along the sand, exploring tidepools, and observing birds and seals from the cliff top path at nearby La Jolla Cove.
Cliff top path at La Jolla Cove
On our first day we headed north along the sand toward the Scripps pier. (The buildings of the Scripps Research Institute are on the bluff above.) Fleets of pelicans zoomed overhead, sharing the sky with hang gliders, who had launched themselves just up the coast at Torrey Pines. The tide was out and flocks of gulls and shorebirds patrolled the water’s edge looking for tidbits in the sand.
Marbled Godwits
Beyond the birds, where the waves were breaking, surfers in wetsuits waited for the next big wave.  We stayed dry. It was early spring and the water was cold--although apparently not for swimmers we saw making their way between the buoy markers.
It was a great day for photography. Broken shells, bits of seaweed, and even a jellyfish had washed up on shore, creating nature's own abstract compositions.
Nature as artist--one stone with kelp washed up on the sand
On the next day we went in the other direction, following the path along the top of the cliff at La Jolla Cove. Hundreds of cormorants perched on the rocks below, many of them tending nests.
This Brandt's cormorant has three hungry chicks to feed
We continued around the point and walked to Children’s Beach, now taken over by seals and sea lions. 
Sea Lions enjoying the sun. (Sea lions have external ears; seals do not.)
People are no longer permitted to use the beach but a walkway along the breakwater provides a close look at the animals–who were mostly sleeping and enjoying a warm day in the sun--just as we were.

For my report on a previous visit to Jolla Cove, see my post for February 10, 2014.
Our shadows from the walkway above the tidepools on the other side of Children's Beach

Monday, April 2, 2018

SPRINGTIME IN WALES, from the Memoir of Aunt Carolyn

Clwydian Range from Cileaire, Wales
Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1950.  She went on from there to spend a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and nephews (including my husband Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching, she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today.  The piece below, from her book, describes a typical weekend driving excursion from Mold, the town where she taught in Wales. 
The national flower of Wales
Spring comes early to our valley. Children come in with arms full of daffodils, which grow wild in the woods. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales.
On Saturdays I often rented a car with Muriel and a few friends and would spend the day driving through the beautiful mountains and valleys of North Wales. We would picnic at some scenic spot.
From Mold the road rises gently to the Twlch (the top) which overlooks the lovely Vale of Clwyd. This is a land of green valleys and stonewalls ringing tiny farms. Most areas of the countryside are good only for grazing and pastures for sheep and cattle. The Clwydian Hills are the highest point between Mold and the Snowdonia Range.
We pass through the small village of Ruthin (pronounced Rithin), which boasts a castle, now transformed into a tourist hotel.
Farther on is the town of Denbigh, also with the ruins of a castle. Charles I was born here. Another interesting site here is the cottage where Stanley, the explorer who found Livingstone in Africa, once lived.
Swallow Falls near Betws-y-coed
Crossing the Conway River, we often turn south to Betws-y-coed. Remember the “w” is an “oo” and “y” as in “it”. “Coed” is all one syllable. Now you can say it! Betws-y-coed is the most famous beauty spot in the Snowdonia region, the area surrounding Mount Snowdon, a national park. The falls here tumble beneath a leafy overhang of many trees and are bordered by lacy bracken, a large wild species of fern.
We continue on to Capel Curig and then to Llanberis Pass. Here the dark hills are barren on either side. We can hear the sound of bleating sheep and the rush of streams falling from the hills. Stone walls follow the line of the road. It is a sad and lonely place, especially in the rain. At the top of the pass two small inns stand near each other. We are grateful for a cup of tea and the sandwiches we have brought along. When we leave, the sun comes out and a great valley sweeps down before us, and the brown hills are outlined against the sky.
Llanberis lies at the foot of Mount Snowdon. At 3,500 feet, it is the second highest peak in Great Britain. One side is very rugged and steep. It is said that Hillary of Mount Everest fame practiced on this side. Many climbers use the other more gentle slope. A small cog railway steams to the top during tourist season. The view is fantastic when the weather is bright, but the top of Mount Snowdon is often hidden by clouds, even in fine weather below.
Conway, above the estuary
Not far from Llanberis is the town of Caernarvon and its famous castle, the most impressive and largest of the Welsh castles. The quickest way home from Caernarvon is back across the Menai Straits bridge and along the coast road bordering the Irish Sea, passing Bangor, Conway and Llandudno and on to Colwyn Bay and the town of Rhyl. There we must turn inland for home.
Mold is only ten or fifteen miles from the coast. We can always tell when there is a storm at sea when the gulls come sweeping in from the coast.