Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for May, 2011

Blue Heron Coal Mine in Cumberland River Valley

After walking along the beautiful Cumberland River, decided to take a break in an abandoned coal mining town.

Today this old mining camp has been restored as an historical tribute to the people who lived and worked there…kind of a museum to Old King Coal. No. 18 Mine Blue Heron is located in the hills of Kentucky near Stearns in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Carved in the side of a mountain, it overlooks the Big South Fork of the beautiful Cumberland River.

Since this stop was in the winter time, the museum was not open, but still could enjoy the atmosphere of the mining camp. There wasn’t another living person around that day so had the freedom to move at a leisurely pace along the paved walkways in this re-created mining town.

…”I owe my soul to the Company’s Store.” That was the life of the coal miners in this small town of Blue Heron  from 1939-1962. From this isolated location, everything they purchased had to come through the Company Store. Instead of cash, miners would “draw scrip”, unexchangeable credit vouchers which could only be used at the company’s store. Coal companies had their own scrip coins with their personal emblem , thus indeed miners did end up owing their soul to the Company’s Store. They had no way to establish cash savings to find another workplace.  Luckily, some coal mines gave their miners a choice of cash or scrip for payment, and eventually the United Mine Workers Union forced them to discontinue the use of scrip completely.

Stops along the way contained recordings of the miners’ stories and provided a resting place as well.  The voices heard were those of long ago residents of Blue Heron as they shared their stories and memories of life at the mining camp.

Just looking into the entrance of the Blue Heron Coal Mine gave an understanding of what these miners faced each day. Inside there were figures of miners picking, drilling, and loading.  One of the recordings there described the mine as “dark as a dungeon, camp as the dew,” as singer Merle Travis portrayed the mines in his 1946 recording.  Outside this entrance the coal cars and locomotives were originals from the mining camp.

Was exciting to walk across the old tipple bridge to get a bird’s eye view of the area. This tipple was able to screen, separate, and load about 400 tons of coal an hour.

Sometimes over 200 men worked in this camp. When they got off work, most headed to the big bath house so they could shower and change their clothes before heading home for the day.  That saved a lot of coal dust in the houses! Workers actually went on a two day strike to get a bigger bath house, but of course didn’t get paid while on strike. Imagine their families really appreciated the cleaner workers coming home at night.

Learned a little more about the life of a coal miner…their living and working conditions. Next time perhaps will take the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, which reaches the heart of the canyon along the Cumberland River and drops passengers off for a visit to the Blue Heron Coal Mine.  Add a Coal Miner’s Lunch all wrapped up in a bandanna for a better taste of the mining experience.


Bryce Canyon – Angel’s View of the Hoodoos

Come fly with me! Fly over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.  Several years ago when leaving a winter afternoon of hoodoo adventure in Bryce Canyon, noticed an old log air hangar way back in the field. On the roof, painted in large yellow letters, were the words Bryce Canyon Airport.  There was a sign that said, “Airplane Rides $25.”  Well, that sounded too good to be true, but was in the mood for some high flying adventure so decided to check things out. Walking amongst the hoodoos was thrilling, but wanted to experience the thrill of soaring overhead these strange looking rock pillars.

As it turned out, they were closed for the day, but was assured that in the morning, there would be a good chance for a flight as long as weather permitted.  So for once, it was up early so as not to miss this chance to glimpse an angel’s view of the hoodoos.

For thirty minutes the pilot glided the two seater, single engine prop at 1,000 feet above the beautiful snow capped Bryce Canyon.  Still smile just thinking of this ride of a lifetime over some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery.   The pilot pointed out highlights of the canyon and told tales of the hoodoos as well.

Nowhere in the world are there more hoodoos than here in Bryce Canyon. These strange formations are said to be over 60 million years old and once covered by the seas. Freezing and thawing are responsible for their criss-cross designs and slow erosion. While it is interesting to learn the geological formation of these strange creatures, it is also fascinating to hear the Indian legend of their formation.

A Piute Native American myth tells that when the animal legend people, who lived in Bryce Canyon long ago, displeased the coyote, he became angry and turned all the people into rocks.  To them this beautiful Bryce Canyon means, “red rocks standing like men in bowl shaped canyon.” Ebenezer Bryce, the man for whom the canyon is named, described it as “a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

As we soar over the landscape, it is so breathtaking that for a short while forgot to take some pictures to remember this flight later in life.  Soon the camera was snapping and angled to catch the bottom of the wing so you could actually see the photos were taken in flight.

The time passed so quickly and soon we were back on the ground.  The pilot’s wife presented me with a souvenir coffee mug that had a picture of Bryce Canyon wrapped around it.  Ah! Morning Memories!  This day had to be a preview of what life will be like in Heaven soaring with the angels. Adventures like these are definitely ones you will  remember for the rest of your life.

Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia

Enjoy Your Life!  That was the theme of Gampo Abbey, a small Buddhist Monastery situated along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. This was certainly a place where it was easy to enjoy the beauties of nature as well as the peaceful environment on the Northern tip of this island.

Fiddle Farm Bed & Breakfast became the starting point for this adventure. While visiting the other boarders in the evening, Arlin, a young geologist, discussed his plans to go to the Abbey in the morning for a one month stay. Here he would relax and develop an openness of mind and heart by plunging himself into a time of meditation. He was to call the Abbey for pick up, but there was a problem that day so this gypsy volunteered to drive him to the Abbey – but then, only with the Abbey’s approval.

Having been here before, Arlin was a great travel guide.  With his background in geology, he pointed out and explained the rock formations along the way. One of the breathtaking spots very near the monastery was Cathedral Rock.  This was viewed off a three hundred foot drop into the vast Gulf of St Lawrence. Have to be careful not to get too close to the edge!

Then came the beautiful white Gampo Abbey trimmed with red. Arrived just in time for lunch, which today was salmon – their one meal of the week where meat or fish was served.  The beautiful salad really caught my eye as it was made from the various plants in the yard and garden of the Abbey, and even had flowers mixed in for beauty. Turned out the flowers were also quite tasty. They did explain that they studied the plants in the area so they knew which plants were safe to eat and which were poisonous. Lucky not to have any poisonous plants that day!

Seating for the meal was at long plain tables with benches. Everyone served themselves and when finished, washed their own dishes. Arlin volunteered to serve me that day, but personally felt it would be an interesting part of the experience to follow their example.  While washing my dishes, also got to talk to others on the retreat and felt very welcome.

Then toured the shrine rooms elaborately decorated with Buddhas and pictures of leaders of their Tibetian section.  This was where they meditated nine to ten hours a day while sitting on rugs on the floor.  The aim was to make their mind blank and then allow that space to be filled with the beauty and blessings existing in their present world.  Silence was an important part of their training.

Everyone participating in the retreat must agree to abide by the five Buddhist principles: avoid killing, stealing,  lying, sexual activity and intoxicants. Everyone must participate in the daily schedule and observe silence. Heads were shaved on men and women alike, and both wore the garb of monastic life. No outdoor shoes are allowed inside the Abbey, just slippers.

Gampo Abbey is a very powerful place to become a loving, caring person interested in helping others. Relax your mind and listen to the world around you so you can enjoy the moment.  One important question they pose is: What is the best use of each day of our lives? That would be a great question for us to ask ourselves every morning.  Enjoy your life!

Bigfoot Tracks Through Indian Camp

“Someone is looking in the window. It looks like a big ape. Help!”  shouted a shivering Cassie as she pulled the covers over her head. Cassie had good cause to be alarmed as her window was six feet off the ground.  If someone was looking in, they had to be very, very tall.

Cassie’s Dad, Bill, didn’t seem the least bit frightened.  “Perhaps it is just another visit from that creature called Bigfoot.  Sure would like to get a close look at him.  Be quiet and maybe he will hang around here for a while.”

Just yesterday, Jack had been telling him about an experience he had while in the Indian Camp area where Bill lived.  That evening, Jack and his coon hunting friend were sitting under a tree with a six pack of beer when all of a sudden they heard a strange sound.  At first they thought it was an owl, but decided it didn’t really sound like an owl after all.  There were sounds coming from two different areas and they almost seemed to be talking to each other.

All of a sudden, there was an ear piercing scream that scared both of them so bad their hearts were pounding as fast as an old John Deere tractor going full speed ahead. Time to call an end to hunting that night!

When they were heading back home, they found huge footprints along Indian Camp Run. They were about 20″ long and it appeared that whatever made these tracks was taking very big strides, so likely it was quite tall. Often the tracks would disappear into the stream making it seem that the creature was very intelligent and trying to confuse the trackers.

After hearing these stories, Bill was even more curious. Perhaps Bigfoot was trying to learn more about humans. So Bill decided to go outside and check around the house.  Over the fence in the orchard, he saw a large apple tree shaking and apples falling to the ground.  Was Bigfoot getting an evening snack?

What was that strange smell?  He had never smelled that strong odor before. It smelled like rotten eggs.  Jack had said that Bigfoot gave off a smell like rotten eggs or sulfur so perhaps it really was Bigfoot out there.

All Bill hoped was that he could get a glimpse of him.  Once his eyes got accustomed to the dark, he could see at the far side of the orchard, a very large creature climbing over the fence.  It was about 8′ tall and looked rather shaggy from a distance.  When it turned to look back, its red eyes shone like large fireflies.  Then… it was gone!

The Indian Camp area seems to be a prevalent spot for spotting of Bigfoot activity. Will Bill locate the elusive Bigfoot?  Maybe Cassie will see him looking in her window sometime soon…if she ever sleeps without the covers pulled over her head again.

Bottle Houses of Prince Edward Island

People who live in glass houses should never throw stones!  You certainly wouldn’t want any stones in the area where this unusual Canadian attraction has three different structures made of glass bottles.

Edouard Arsenault was a native of the area and lived in Cap-Egmont, Prince Edward Island, Canada all of his life.  His occupations varied from fisherman to carpenter to lighthouse keeper. After receiving a post card from his daughter of a glass castle on Vancouver Island, Edouard decided to recycle glass bottles in a very unusual manner. After collecting bottles from restaurants, dance halls, friends and neighbors, he spent the winter months in his basement cleaning the bottles and removing the labels. There aren’t many pop or beer bottles in his structures as those bottles at that time still had a deposit refund when returned.

When he was 66 years old he began construction of his first bottle house, a six gabled house composed of nearly 12,000 bottles.  This interesting arrangement of glass bottles measures 20′ by 14′  and is in three sections.  Carefully cementing 300-400 bottles per row, Mr Arsenault used bag after bag of cement as he carefully arranged the beautiful patterns. Everywhere you experience the serenity and beauty of the flowers he enjoyed.

The second house, a tavern, was constructed in a hexagon shape. Built in 1982 this is a much smaller house using 8,000 bottles. The pillar of bottles, viewed through this open door, stands near the bottle bar. This bottle cylinder is the only original part actually constructed by Edouard. Originally this building was used to house the souvenirs and special bottles that he did not want to be part of the structures. Today you will find here his personal collection of bottles that he felt had extra special features.

The chapel was the third and last building completed before his death.  It is a real work of art. Approximately 10,000 bottles form the chapel, complete with pews and altar. It was situated so that sunset streams in behind the altar giving a feeling of peace to those who visit.

Due to the terrible winters on Prince Edward Island, it was necessary to reconstruct these buildings in the late 1990s.  The same bottles were used in the original design.  The roof and center of the tavern are the only two that are almost completely the original structure.

A beautiful Acadian garden path meanders through the houses and ends up at the present gift shop.  Here you can find many locally made gifts as well as Prince Edward Island souvenirs.

These beautiful Bottle Houses are a real inspiration of what can be done with recycled products in our environment… and a lot of creativity.  Plus, they reflect beauty from every angle!

What the Wind Picked Up

The wind was picking up as Angela hurried from her car at Bryce Canyon.  She threw on her backpack, picked up a walking stick, and headed to take a closer look at the Hoodoos near the Queen’s Garden.

While the wind was whirling the fog down in the canyon, she noticed the same man who had tried to start up a conversation with her yesterday at Zion. Angela kept on enjoying the scenery with one eye, while keeping one eye on the stranger.

Strolling down rough paths among the hoodoos was a great adventure. These tall rock columns ranged in size from a human to a ten story building. The Paiute Indians called these colorful hoodoos “Legend People,” who had been turned into stone as punishment for evil deeds.

The enchanting hoodoos cast their spell on Angela, temporarily causing her to forget about the mysterious stranger. A glance showed him following!  Was it a coincidence they were on the same path?

While rounding another hoodoo, the man spoke to her. “Hello, please stop so we can talk.  I believe I know you.”

Angela continued down the path hoping to see some other hikers. Unfortunately, on this cold, windy day there was no one in sight.

Now Angela was not the fastest hiker as she had a very heavy backpack. Before long the stranger caught up to her and blocked her path. What could she do? This called for a backup plan that she only used in an emergency.

Her backpack was actually jet powered.  With one turn of the knob, Angela went straight up and away from her pursuer.  Wow that was a close call, she thought.  However, she didn’t notice the stone arm extending from the hoodoo, which caught her jet pack and knocked her to the ground.

Angela was getting up slowly from the ledge where she landed and with dismay saw the stranger moving quickly her direction.

“Finally,” he said, “I have caught up with you.  My name is Jack Windt.  I have been following you for a few days just to get a chance to talk to you.  For years I have been trying to find my sister who left home when she was fifteen. No one has seen her for five years and you look just like her.  I had to see if you were my sister!”

“Oh, my,” remarked Angela. “I am not your sister but she must be very special.”

“Yes, she is my only sister and our Mother is very sick. Mom was hoping I could locate her and bring her back home.”

“Maybe I can help you.  I am a private investigator and have access to many police computer records.  Guess the wind picked up another interesting case for me.  Time to start searching.”

And that is exactly what she did!

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