Monday, October 31, 2016

The Split Rock Light on the North Shore of Lake Superior

We've been wanting to camp here for months and although it's late October... we finally made it!

The Split Rock Light was built in 1910 and guided ship traffic on Lake Superior.

" At the turn of the 20th century, Lake Superior’s Minnesota shoreline was a dark and isolated place northeast of Two Harbors. As shipping traffic blossomed, so did concerns about this remote stretch of coastline. Mariners advocated for a lighthouse to help captains keep their bearings, but it took a catastrophic November storm and the loss of lives and multiple vessels to convince the U.S. Congress to build what would become among the most recognized and beautiful landmarks on Lake Superior – Split Rock Lighthouse." -

The Story of Rocky

I've managed to collect about a dozen goofy things that have ended up on the side of the road this year.  I'm saving those for a Road-side Oddity post in December.  Here's one that bears special recognition as it is interwoven with my family history. 

This goofy little guy is made up of two round spheres and wears a hard hat.  It is a miner made in the likeness of two spheres of taconite.  Taconite gets this shape as a result of the rolling mill processing.  A virtual home run in that it is easy to load into rail cars, ships and steel mills... 
This little statue is the symbol of taconite.  What's that you may ask... Well before taconite came to be the world's source of the raw material for steel came from very rich deposits of Fe (iron ore) that almost always existed in deep shaft mining.  Rarely were "open  pit," mines viable with low grade ore. 

So faced with the dilemma of escalating mining costs as shafts got deeper and the realization that abundant sources of low grade (12 - 15% iron) reserves were plentiful materials scientists and geologists were in a race to avert the end of iron mining in the US by applying a solution to this seemingly intractable problem.  Imagine how differently our economy would have been if some very bright people from around the world hadn't put their minds to this challenge.  

This little miner 'Rocky' sits proudly alongside the Silver Bay welcome sign in Minnesota.   There is a down side to the magic of taconite though.  Liberated minerals found with the Fe can also travel through the processing and cause health problems and environmental concerns once placed back into the environment. 

Rocky Taconite...

The mining industry has provided a decent living for thousands over the past 120 years or so in this area.  I worked summers in these mines and learned how hard, dirty and demanding this work was.  After operating a jack-hammer for a summer putting up barrier fence and swatting biting insects around old mine shaft cave-ins in the remotest places, it was for me, a darned good motivator to go to college! 

The legacy of this success was unforeseen by anybody in the 1950's.  This is an example of a roaring success in mineral processing with no idea of what this would look like when it was over.  There are ideas on reclamation and land use that may bring positive end states to these extractive industries. I think it's really up to all of us to bring that about.  So let that be an interesting data point.  The next big thing carried off successfully could have serious unintended consequences for any of us or all of us. 


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Last camping trip of '16 on the North Shore

Destination: Split Rock Lighthouse - arrived Friday night!

The last chance to get in a camping trip for this year.  This is Gooseberry Falls by trail about 6 miles from Split Rock.

The lower Gooseberry falls...

A different view of the Upper Gooseberry falls.  The trail is pretty steep but the views are rewarding!

The audible part of the Split Rock Light

Our campsite was just beyond the island in the picture.  Night time temps were 32F so it was a little chilly.

The visual part of Split Rock.  This light came about after the storm of 1905,  That blizzard sank many ships with loss of life and cargo and was the motivation to build this light. 

We hiked the Split Rock River and bumped into several locals... Here you see a Pileated Woodpecker.

Many lake freighters are over 1000 feet long! This one was "down-bound" Headed to Two Harbors for a load of iron ore.

I discovered the Superior Trail on this trip.  A very nice hike indeed!

The 5th falls on the Split Rock River. This is a really nice hike, I recommend it if you ever get the chance.
The squad tent got some ice on it, time to put it away until next year...  I explored Silver Bay and few more North Shore haunts.  If I get a chance I'll post some "Road Side Oddities next week."  I hope you like the pics!


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Farewell to Lisbon

Portugal was fantastic.  After a whole day of traveling... good grief, the outbound and inbound connections at EWR were so tight that we walked on as the last passengers.  ATC delays made the long haul connections almost impossible.  BUT, we made them. 

The final resting place of Vasco da Gama is the incredible  Jerónimos Monastery

We checked out the LX Factory in Lisbon.  This is a great idea and I hope it takes off in other parts of the world.

Yours truly mugging for United... 

Gosh I really liked Sintra!

Winging it home after a great visit to a beautiful country.
We made it back!  It's getting colder...  The beauty of fall will turn into the snowy months of winter.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Life is Good

Walking.  We've walked around 15 miles of Lisbon.  From the water front to the green areas to the North, out to the LX... Lisbon is a very livable city with a cultural vibe that is easy appreciate. 

Dom Pedro in Rossio Square.

I like the artist's composition.  This fountain is in Rossio square and I think it is beautiful.

The Castle of St George.

Another square adorned with another king...
AML  Miss you NLO and JRO, and to the best traveler SEO AML 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


It's hilly and cosmopolitan, and the river Tajo runs past it.  Looking at Portugal it is incredible to realize that this is the land that gave the world: Magellan, Vasco do Gama, Henry the Navigator, Carmen Miranda, Antonio Salazar, Steve Perry, and a host of others so numerous it makes you wonder why this little country?  How about inventions?  The astrolabe, the galleon, the first airship - come on...marmalade and tempura!

OK, an amazing place.  If you ever get the chance - go to Portugal.


The Christ the King statue is visible from all of Lisbon.

A typical city scape.  This is near The Museum of Decorative Arts.

In the Palace Yard... the largest square in Europe, sits King Jose I.  We had a wonderful lunch off the piazza and enjoyed another 4 star day!

Alfonso Albuquerque 

Inside the church at the Jerónimos Monastery

The courtyard inside the monastery

The view from the second story walkway.  The detail in the carvings is amazing!
 I hope you like the pics. 


Monday, October 17, 2016

What is it about Sintra that everybody loves?

Sintra is a picturesque, almost storybook, Portuguese town that is set amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra range. This is a slightly cooler climate than Lisbon and it gets a bit more wind because of its elevation. This enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, to construct exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and decorative gardens.  See for yourself!

The town hall is the first thing that catches your eye as you walk from the train station.

The National Palace was was extensively used by the nobility of Portugal between the 15th and 19th centuries and born witness to the growth of the country and the incredible world wide navigation and exploration. Imagine living in a town that was the epicenter of some of the most fantastic news of "The New World." The Palace’s most distinctive exterior features are the two huge chimneys that extend from the kitchens.  While inside the state rooms reflect the extensive history of the palace.

The Palace of Sintra.  The residence of the Portuguese royal family circa 12th century.

The Swan room..

These are the chimneys that channel smoke from the kitchen

Several cielings are adorned with the most fantastic ornimentation

Pena Palace is the best attraction of Sintra. This 19th century palace was designed by a king who was passionate about the arts and wished his royal retreat to reflect that of an opera. The exterior is painted vivid colors, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures.

I took this pic from the castle wall of the old Moor ruins

The main entrance to Palacio da Pena

Amazing colors create a  surreal experience

King Ferdinand II built this amazing palace in the 1800's

Details like this carving abound

Dining service

Frescoe like sea shells and broken tile

Typical interior furnishings

Ornate carvings everywhere!

The Quinta da Regaleira is a decorative stately home but the main attractions are the elaborate grounds. The gardens are filled with mystic symbolism and hidden features which include secret tunnels, Gothic towers and stone fortified walls.  How many can you spot?


The tiles are unique and expertly placed

Can you see the mirror in the library?

A remote chapil

The artistry in the glass work is still vivd

So beautiful

So amazing!

The alter is ornate and crafted exquisite detail everywhere

Another view

The structure is unlike anything I have ever seen

Monserrate Palace’s styling was strongly influenced by the North African and Indian designs and was constructed and owned by three notable Englishmen, who used the house as a summer retreat. The house has wonderful intricate carved details and the high vantage point provides wonderful vistas over the carefully arranged gardens.

Yet another surreal structure

Inside the chapil

Along the hallway

The West wing...

A happy gargoyle...

The East Wing

Mid level in the center of the building

The center dome

Guest rooms flow from the second floor around the cupola

The back yard...

India was the inspiration for the architectural details...

AND Sintra is a wired town!

The Palace of Sintra again...

Town hall

I hope you all enjoyed the pics,  Sintra is like a trip to another world.  A surreal town unlike any other we have every seen.   The world is full of amazing places - and this is one of them.  If you every get the chance to visit Sintra please do.  I hope you find it as wonderful as we did!  If we could figure out a way to live here we surly would! Beautiful, delightful, fantastical and a bit mystical - immersed in history and culture - Sintra.