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Up the Down to East the West

Posted on Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Dave!Since this was a work trip and my work is indoors, I didn't really equip myself for outdoor adventures. So when I woke up to pouring rain and realized neither my jacket nor my hoodie were waterproof, hiking in Acadia had to be scrapped and I needed new plans for my Sunday.

I didn't want to stay in my room all day so I decided to drive somewhere interesting. But where? Someplace far away so most of my time would be in a dry car instead of the wet outdoors. At first I thought I'd head inland in hopes of better weather. But the weather service said it was raining there as well. Bar Harbor is the furthest north I've been in Maine... so maybe up the coast? I decided to Google the area, which is known collectively as "Down-East" (or "Downeast") to see what's there.

And that's when I saw it.

Two hours and twenty-one minutes north of here is the USA's easternmost point... West Quoddy Head Light (lighthouse). I've already been to the southernmost point of the Continental USA in Key West, Florida, so why not?

I decided to head UP* the DOWNeast to go to the EASTern most point in WEST Quoddy.

That's more than a little confusing, but okay. Off I went. The drive isn't that bad, but the gusting wind and driving rain meant it was slow-going. And when I finally got to West Quoddy Head Light? I don't know what "gale force winds" means**, but this is probably what they are talking about. There were times I was almost blown over while trying to walk it was so bad. The rain was relentless, which meant I had to seek cover to wipe off my camera lens ever 60 seconds. Plus? The sun was blotted out, so it was dark.

All in all? Probably not the greatest idea I've ever had, but I made it. Achievement unlocked. Apologies for the blurry photos but... rain and all that...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

In case there was any doubt as to your standing in the easternmost point in the USA, they have a gravestone(?!) to make it official...

West Quoddy Head Light Easternmost Point

Interesting to note that the door to the lighthouse was open. I thought that maybe somebody was working there so I was going to shout "Hello?" but decided it'd be best not to scare anybody if they were up there. Which seemed doubtful because mine was the only car around. One thing was for sure... I was not going to go climbing up for a look when the lighthouse tower is not open to the public. Something tells me that's an invitation to getting shot...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

I tried to photograph the ocean, which was not looking friendly at all, but the wind kept knocking me off balance. Only one photo really turned out (rain splotches and all). Alas it's not that interesting to look at...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse Ocean

With nothing else to do, I got back in my car and headed back down (up?) to Acadia. Guess my day was over.

My room back in Bar Harbor overlooks a brook. A brook where ducks like to hang out at all hours. For the most part they're quiet, but every once in a while a fight will erupt and much quacking will ensue. When I got back, there were far more ducks than usual with far more quacking going on...

Ducks!

Ducks!

Ducks!

Annnnnd... the end.

I suppose now I should plan a trip to Northwest Angle, Minnesota so I can check off the Contintental US northernmost point. Then I need to take a hike to Cape Alava in my home state of Washington so I can check off the Continental US westernmost point. It seems the completist thing to do, doesn't it?

   

*People in Maine would never say they were going "up the coast" like this. To them, up is down because Downeast is up. I found this out when people at my work kept saying things like "You came down from Boston today or yesterday?" and "When are you headed back up to Boston?"

**Turns out these were probably not "gale force winds" after all because Wikipedia says that a "gale" is 39 to 54 mile-per-hour winds. Well, whatever. They were very strong winds, that's for sure.

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Squirrels, Beaches, Baubles, and Bubbles

Posted on Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Dave!"Hey, you're half-way there!" I said.
"Ugh. Is it worth it?" he replied.
"You get to see a giant rock hanging over the edge of a cliff and a glorious view of Jordan Pond, so I'd say it's worth it." I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
"Hmph. Okay..." he huffed, as he walked past.

Yesterday I shot everything on "Full Auto" because I was tired. Today I thought I'd get creative and use my own camera settings. It's a decision that would come back to bite me in the ass* but dems da breaks. Still. I did play around with HDR** a bit, so that was fun.

But before we get to all that... first a word about squirrels.

I love the little guys. They're industrious, clever, cute, and move like magic. And they're everywhere in Acadia. I took tons of photos of them all day long, which is easier said than done given how skittish they are and how quickly they move...

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

Needless to say, photographing squirrels through the underbrush is a manual-focus affair.

My first stop this morning was Sand Beach. You know that sand beaches are rare in Maine when they are inevitably called "Sand Beach." Sure enough, as advertised, there's sand...

Sand Beach!

From shortly after Sand Beach there's a trail that wanders along the coast for two miles. I did a walk-drive kind of thing. Sure the rocky coast is pretty, but it looks much the same as the rest of Maine's coast, which I've seen a lot of. Occasionally there's a a small difference. Like a seagull wandering into the shot...

Acadia Coast Trail!

Another thing that was different? Something... I don't know what to call it. I was wandering along the rocks when I spotted what I thought was a tiara or some kind of jewelry bauble glinting in the sun...

Pearl Ice!

Turns out it was ice. Weird ice that had somehow formed to look like pearls! Crazy stuff I've never seen before...

Pearl Ice!

Another animal (other than squirrels) there's a lot of in Acadia right now? Deer. I know this because they kept bolting in front of my rental car. Not just once, but three times. I was driving 35mph (the speed limit) which is probably too fast given that these creatures would have had to have been scraped off my grill if my reflexes were any slower...

Deer!

My next stop was Jordan Pond. It's home of the Jordan Pond Restaurant, which is famous for popovers that are apparently more addictive than cocaine. I wouldn't know, because the restaurant was closed for the season (like most things in Acadia just now). The pond, however, was open...

Jordan Pond!

Jordan Pond is so pure and clear that it's used as a drinking water source. Which means you can't swim in it or have pets near it. The sun was not at an optimal angle for me to photograph the clarity, but I gave it my best shot...

Jordan Pond Clear Water!

Jordan Pond Clear Water!

An interesting feature of Jordan Pond is the sea-foam (pond-foam?) that had frozen at the water's edge...

Jordan Pond Frozen Foam!

Jordan Pond Frozen Foam!

After goofing around at the pond photographing a lot of squirrels, I headed to the Big Event of the day... a hike up the Bubble Mountains.

If you scroll back up to the first photo of Jordan Pond I posted, you'll see two twin "mountains" in the background. Those are the "Bubble Mountains" and are easily hike-able. The trail is tricky in parts and has a bit of a rise, but pretty simple overall. The trees along the way had lost all their leaves but were still pretty to look at. I can't fathom how beautiful they must be in the Fall...

Bubble Trail!

The trail itself was interesting for two reasons. First, water forms around the rocks embedded in the trail, which then freezes, expands, pushes the dirt away, then melts. Leaving all the rocks in little holes...

Bubble Rocks!

Second of all, water also freezes in crystalline shapes all along the trail. You see it everywhere, and it's really cool to look at...

Bubble Trail Ice Crystals!

I decided to hike the "South Bubble Mountain" because it has a feature that's entirely too cool. "Bubble Rock" (also known as "Balanced Rock"). When you cross the crest of the trail, the rock isn't that impressive. Looks kind of like a massive baked potato...

Bubble Rock!

But then you climb around to look at it from a different angle, and it's a different story...

Bubble Rock!

Uh. Wow. Definitely worth setting up an HDR photo so I could shoot into the sun and still see it...

Bubble Rock!

If you keep going past Bubble Rock, there's a great view back down to Jordan Pond. That's where I met the ladies from the blog Love Maine Adventures who were soaking up the view and taking photos. They asked me to take a photo of them with their camera, which I did. Then I decided since I was shooting HDR that I would ask to experiment with them and shoot some "people HDR" photos, which are tricky because everybody has to stand perfectly still. They were nice enough to grant my crazy request and did a great job...

Love Maine Adventures Ladies!

Love Maine Adventures Ladies!

I was going to call it a day because the trail down to the Jordan Pond overlook had CAUTION signs on it. But Love Maine Adventures encouraged me to risk my life and give it a try because they said it really wasn't that dangerous. Turns out they were right, it wasn't. And the view was great...

Jordan Pond Overlook Trail!

Jordan Pond Overlook Trail!

Jordan Pond Overlook!

As I headed back down the mountain, I took once last look at Bubble Rock as I passed... and saw something strange. Right beneath the rock was my rental car all the way down in the parking lot! If you scroll back up to the second Bubble Rock photo I posted, you can actually see it there... I just hadn't noticed! Here's that same photo, but zoomed in...

My car from Bubble Rock!

When I got back down to my car, I looked back up and took a reverse-angle shot. You can just make out Bubble Rock through the trees. It's smack-dab in the middle of this shot...

Bubble Rock from my car!

Curious to see if I could see Bubble Rock around the trees, I hopped in my car to backtrack so I could take a look. Sure enough, when I zoom in on maximum...

Bubble Rock from the bottom!

And, hey... if you zoom in even further, there's people there!

Bubble Rock People!

And thus ended my second day in Acadia. Time for a nap!

   

*The last time I used my camera, it was so I could photograph the eclipse back in August. In order to do that, I had to cover the lens with a piece of plastic that blocks out much of the light, then shoot at an ISO of 64,000. In a rookie mistake, I never reset my camera, and I didn't notice until I was half-way through my adventures today. Luckily, I shot some of the photos on "Full Auto," because a nice chunk of the photos from today where I tried to get creative were ruined because they were shot at grainy 64,000 ISO. Keep that in mind as you pour through all the photos in this entry. There could have been a lot more of them!

**High Dynamic Range... a photo technique where you blend photos together so that bits that are too dark and bits that are too light are evened out. I talked about it here.

   

Bass Harbor Head Light

Posted on Friday, November 17th, 2017

Dave!My work, which was supposed to start on Saturday was moved to Tuesday. So much for trying to catch an early flight home. Which is actually not such a terrible thing, because it gave me a chance to check another U.S. National Park off my list... Acadia*.

I wasn't able to leave Portland until 11:00am so I didn't make it to Bar Harbor until 2:00pm... three hours later. It's a boring but easy drive that goes by in a 70mph blur. Once I got to the park and checked into my super-cheap lodging (it is off-off season here now, so everything is either closed or cheap) I only had two hours of daylight left so I made a run for the Bass Harbor Head Light (or "lighthouse" to non-natives).

So far as lighthouses go, it's not a very impressive one. But it's at a killer location.

I decided to bypass the lighthouse keeper's quarters and head down to the shore before the sun set. A very rocky beach is not something you want to be navigating in the dark...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

I passed this poor tree which has seen better days. He fell over and cracked in two over another equally unlucky tree...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

The area is kind of like a real-life game of Myst, with cool wooden stairs leading down the cliffside...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Good thing I wore my hiking boots. The rocks would be a lot tougher to climb over in tennis shoes. That being said, they sure are some beautiful rocks with the fading sun kissing them...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

On the right-hand side there you can spot a buoy bobbing in the water. It has a bell on it that dings softly as the wind blows. This adds a kind of nice atmosphere to the whole scene.

And then there she is... the Bass Harbor Head Light...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

After goofing around the rocks for a while, I made my way back up and around the keeper's quarters to get up close and personal with the actual lighthouse. As I said, it's not particularly impressive, so far as Maine lighthouses go...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

And yet... such a pretty location...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Unless you need to use the bathroom...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Pretty high on my bucket list is to come back to Acadia when the leaves are changing. If the trees are this pretty without them, they must be amazing in the Fall...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

The drive back to my hotel was replete with quaint photo opportunities of coastal Maine living. I could only nab one of them before the sun was gone...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Not bad for my first two hours in the park!

Hopefully the weather tomorrow is as accommodating (and rain-free) as it was for me today.

   

*Acadia which, to my horror, I keep hearing pronounced outside of Maine as "Arrrcadia" for some reason. "Arcadia" was the Duran Duran splinter group. If you want to talk about one of the most beautiful parts of Maine, you have to drop the "R" when you say it.

   

Sleepless in Other Portland

Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Dave!My flight landed at Boston Logan International Airport at 5:30 in the morning. Needless to say, I was not able to sleep on the plane. I never can for some reason unless it's drug-induced. Problem is that sleeping pills make it impossible for me to deal with time changes, so I'm better off just doing without. I was tired, but the drive up to Portland (which I refer to as "Other Portland" since I am a West-Coaster and "Portland" to me is in Oregon) was dark, cold, and boring.

I arrived around 8:00am, which is way too early for hotel check-in (at least it is here in the USA... everywhere else on earth they always seem happy to check me in if I arrive really early so long as they have a room available). Since I was still not feeling well after being sick yesterday, I tried to book a cheap hotel room in Boston to get a few hours sleep, but they won't let you retroactively check-in yesterday so you can just stay the current morning. At least not online. I tried calling a hotel, but that was confusing for everybody involved and I gave up.

And so breakfast it is then.

Followed by three-and-a-half hours sitting in the hotel lobby trying not to fall asleep. At least not before I finally got a room and took a three hour nap.

Rather than go into a coma I decided on an early dinner.

There's a lot of things to love about Portland. The transitional period from Fall to Winter is definitely not one of them. It's windy. It's bitter cold. It's rainy and wet. And there is puddles of water everywhere in Old Town, which means you end up drenched from passing cars no matter how careful you try to be.

Other Portland is, however, a food paradise for me because they excel at three of my favorite foods...

    PIZZA. I have no idea how Portland became a "pizza city" but here we are. My favorites are OTTO (seriously, their butternut squash and cranberry pizza is sublime), Micucci's Italian Grocery, and Flatbread Company (which has some of the best desserts on earth).
    VEGGIE BURGERS. Again, no clue as to why Portland ended up being a mecca for custom veggie burgers, but this is the place. Many restaurants have frozen patties from local favorite Blue Mango (which, oddly enough, do not contain mangoes or anything blue)... but a surprising number of restaurants craft their own. My favorite in the city are from B.GOOD, but there are many others.
    ICE CREAM. Perhaps it's the proximity to Vermont two states over or something, but some of the best ice cream I've ever had has come out of Portland, Maine. Oddly enough Portland, Oregon is also a great "ice cream city."

I opted for a B.GOOD veggie burger because it was the shortest walk and many ice cream parlors are closing early in the wintertime. Not that ice cream doesn't make an awesome dinner, mind you.

I should have pushed my way through and not taken a nap because now I'm not tired and probably won't be able to sleep tonight. Oh well. I've got a day to recover because work doesn't start until Saturday.

Pleasant not-dreams.

   

In Sickness and In Sickness

Posted on Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Dave!I'm off to Maine and I didn't think to pack last night.

Luckily, my flight is a red-eye flight and so I had time to stuff some clothes into a suitcase and drive over to Seattle with plenty of time to spare. Mostly because I didn't want to drive over in the dark, so I left early. Which meant I ended up with five hours to kill.

I decided to start off with a quick sandwich at "KidFuckers"... a restaurant chain I hate supporting, but it was on the way and easy, so a foot-long veggie and cheese sub it was.

My colon, which I recently found out is perfectly healthy, decided to punish me for my food choices just 45 minutes later. I was sick, sick, sick. Apparently from food poisoning. And if you have to be sick while away from home, I highly recommend the bathrooms at REI, which are large, clean, and usually unoccupied.

Instead of shopping for last minute gear for my upcoming vacation, I instead spent three hours in a parking lot eating Imodium and Pepto Bismol.

Then another two-and-a-half hours sitting in the airport trying to recover. I'm still not there yet, but maybe five hours in a plane hurling across the country will fix me up?

One can only hope.

Jenny in Suitcase

Jake in Suitcase

I should have listened to my cats and stayed at home.

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Oddly Devious in Trying Times

Posted on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Dave!With all the crazy shit that's going on in this country right now, I'm afraid to turn on my television, look at a newspaper, or even go online. I've been beaten down and just don't want to hear it any more.

The bad news is that bad news is unavoidable now.

And so I'm reading all the Tarzan books again, starting with the brilliant original, to take my mind of everything...

Tarzan of the Apes Book Cover

Yes, it's a bit dated... the thing was published in 1912 for heaven's sake... yet it's surprising just how well it holds up. Incredibly imaginative and engaging fiction that's very different than so many of the stupid "Tarzan" movies that were inspired by it. The Lord of the Jungle is far from the grunting ignoramus he so often gets portrayed as on the silver screen and television. He's smart, crafty, and can be oddly devious when the need arises.

Much like the apes who raised him.

If you've never read the original book that started it all, I highly recommend giving it a read. It's just the ticket for escaping these trying times.

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Marvel Cinematic Rank

Posted on Monday, November 13th, 2017

Dave!When I put in my two cents on Thor: Ragnarok, I mentioned that I was questioning if it were my new favorite Marvel Studios movie. Ultimately, I decided it just couldn't be. When The Avengers came along, it was my every comic book fanboy dream come true on the screen. The magic from that movie hasn't gone away. Yet.

But then I had somebody ask me... How would you rank the rest of the Marvel movies then?

Well, this is how... at this moment, anyway...

  1. The Avengers (A+) — My comic book fanboy dream come true. Not much else I can say.
  2. Thor: Ragnarok (A++) — Hilariously funny while staying true to the character. A complete surprise.
  3. Captain America: Winter Soldier (A+) — Technically Marvel's #1 movie because it was just so flawlessly put together.
  4. Captain America: Civil War (A++) — If The Avengers was my fanboy team-up dream come true... this... this is the cherry on the top.
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy (A+) — A D-list team given one of the best Marvel movie treatments.
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger (A+) — Brilliant origin story that plays on nostalgia rather than blind patriotism.
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (A+) — Everything you want a Spider-Man movie to be.
  8. Doctor Strange (A) — Mind-bogglingly brilliant, beautiful, and fun.
  9. Iron Man (A+) — The movie that started it all. Still holds up today.
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (A) — A terrific follow-up to the original made great by Baby Groot.
  11. Ant-Man (A) — A complete home-run for a character that doesn't seem movie-worthy.
  12. Iron Man 3 (A+) — A great Shane Black spin on the character that pays off because Robert Downey Jr.
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (A) — Though I enjoyed it, this was not the movie I was hoping for. Ultron was not made at all scary enough for a villain to take on The Avengers.
  14. Thor (B+) — Timing issues aside, this is an underrated gem of a movie.
  15. Thor: The Dark World (B) — I actually liked this movie a great deal, it just has a hard time when pitted against the others in this list.
  16. Iron Man 2 (A-) — Again... I really liked this movie (hey, it introduced us to Black Widow and Rhodey!), but it just falls short in comparison to the others.
  17. The Incredible Hulk (B) — A decent-but-not-great movie that feels divorced from the rest after the role was switched to Mark Ruffalo.

Interesting to note how some movies rank higher when I grade them, but lower when compared to other movies in the list. Iron Man 2 with an A- rating, for example, comes in below Thor: The Dark World with a B rating. On its own merits, Iron Man 2 had so much to love with Black Widow and Rhodey coming onboard. But it's just not as good a story as what we got with Thor: The Dark World (though, admittedly, not by much).

But what's even more interesting to note? There is not a clunker on that list. I love all the films. Marvel is firing on on cylinders, and the movies they release just keep getting better and better and the universe they're building continues to grow.

And they show no signs of slowing down. Still to come? Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, Spider-Man 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3.

And, if rumors are to be believed, we may actually finally get a Black Widow movie after 2019, so.... bonus points.

   

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