Dan Hartford Photo: Blog https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog en-us (C) Dan Hartford Photo dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Sun, 15 May 2022 21:53:00 GMT Sun, 15 May 2022 21:53:00 GMT https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/img/s/v-12/u747240511-o764576718-50.jpg Dan Hartford Photo: Blog https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog 118 120 LR016 - Quick Develop vs. Basic Panel https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2022/5/lr016-quick-develop-vs-basic-panel QUICK DEVELOP vs. BASIC PANEL

The Quick Develop panel in the Library Module contains controls used to select an adjustment preset, pick a different crop ratio, change white balance and for basic toning.  In the “Saved Preset” section, you select from one of several items in a pull down menu.  For white balance and basic Tone Controls you use stepping buttons.  These controls seem to be, and in many ways are, redundant with controls in the Basic Panel in the Develop Module but there are differences.

Quick Develop Panel

LR017 01 Quick Develop PanelLR017 01 Quick Develop Panel

The Basic Panel in the Develop Module controls many of the same things as the Quick Develop panel does.  You can pick a profile, change white balance and adjust tone controls using sliders.

LR017 02 Basic PanelLR017 02 Basic Panel

Differences between Quick Develop and the Basic Panel

All of the controls in the Library Module QD (Quick Develop) panel also appear in the Develop Module Basic Panel but they work differently.

Images applied to

In the library module grid view, the default mode for image adjustments is “auto-sync” whereas in the Develop module and the other Library module views the default is “single-image”.  With auto-sync, changes you make are applied to ALL selected images whereas with single-image, changes only affect the one Active photo.

Stepping Buttons vs Sliders

The first noticeable difference you’ll see is that the QD panel uses stepping buttons (you see no “value” numbers) whereas the Basic Panel uses sliders (and you can see as well as type in actual numeric values)

QD uses Stepping Buttons

LR017 03 QD 2LR017 03 QD 2

Develop Module uses Sliders

LR017 04 Basic 2LR017 04 Basic 2

The single arrow stepping buttons are 1 step and the double arrows are 3 to 5 steps each.  What a “Step” is varies from control to control but should be considered as a “just noticeable” amount.  For example, 1 step in the Exposure control is 1/3 (or 0.33) stop and the double arrow is 1 full stop. 

Sharpening and Saturation but no DeHaze or Texture

You may notice that “Sharpen” and “Saturation” are missing from the QD panel set of controls  However, if you hold down the “Alt” key (”Option” on a Mac) the Clarity and Vibrance buttons change to Sharpening and Saturation.

You’ll also notice that the QD panel is also missing “Dehaze” and “Texture”.  If you want to those tools, you’ll have to use the Basic Panel.

Quick Develop behaves differently than Basic Panel

On the surface sliders vs. stepping buttons seem to be a trivial difference but there is more to it than meets the eye.  When you make a change in QD, that change is relative to the prior value in each affected image whereas in the Basic panel it is an absolute value. 

Here’s what that means.  Let’s say you have a single image selected that has an exposure adjustment of 0 (i.e. you haven’t changed the exposure).  Then you click the “increase” stepping button for Exposure (single arrow in the QD panel).  This will increase the exposure 1 “step” on that image resulting in a new exposure of 0.33 (1/3 stop).  Similarly, if you go to the Basic panel in the Develop Module you can move the slider the equivalent of “1 step” from 0.0 to 0.33 (or just type in 0.33).  So far they are the same thing.

Now, after putting the exposure back to zero, go back to QD and select 3 photos that already have different exposure adjustments and click the “1 step” increase for exposure again. This will increase the exposure on all 3 images by 1/3 stop as shown below.

Original Exposure      New Exposure
0.0                                 0.33
0.5                                 0.83
1.0                                 1.33

Now, after putting them all back to their original values, let’s do the same thing in the Develop module.  There we turn on Auto-Synch so any change made to the active image is also made to the other selected images.  We then select the same 3 images on the film strip and change the exposure on the active image from 0.0 to 0.33 (equivalent of 1 step) as we did before.  Here’s the result:

Original Exposure      New Exposure
0.0                                 0.33
0.5                                 0.33
1.0                                 0.33

Here you see that the change is no longer relative to the original value each image had, but is the absolute value I moved the slider to.  That’s a very different concept.  Don’t forget to turn “Auto-Sync” off.


  • Changes in both the QD panel and Basic panel appear in the History Panel of the Develop module and can be undone using <Ctrl> Z (Mac: <Cmd> Z), or the Edit -> Undo command on the menu.


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) :QD Basic Basic Panel DanLRBlog Lightroom Classic LrC Panel" QD Quick Develop Quick Develop Panel Quick Develop vs. Basic Panel Stepping Button Stepping Buttons vs https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2022/5/lr016-quick-develop-vs-basic-panel Sun, 15 May 2022 17:44:56 GMT
LR015 - Grid Cell Shading https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2022/4/lr015-grid-cell-shading Canvas Color and Shading

The grid itself (in the central section) contains a wealth of information (depending on your customization preferences).  Each image is in a rectangular cell.  The canvas (background) of each cell is used to optionally show selected metadata about each photo.  The color or shade of gray of the canvas areas are used to convey additional information.

Grid View SampleGrid View Sample


Full Color Canvas (has color label)
A full color canvas denotes a non selected image that has a color label regardless of its participation in a stack.  If the image is the active image (first one below), there is a thin colored line between the image and the background canvas denoting the color label.

Grid Color Label ExamplesGrid Color Label Examples


Gray Canvas Shading Meaning

Grid Canvas Shading 2Grid Canvas Shading 2

1) White - active
The image with a white canvas is the “Active” image.  Another way to think of this is that it is the “Most Selected” image.  Commands or actions that are designed to operate on only one image are applied to this one only

2) Very Light Gray - also selected
Images with a very light gray canvas are also selected.  Commands or Actions that operate on multiple images at once will be applied to all selected images (including the active image).

3) Medium Light Gray - not selected, mouse over, not expanded stack
Images that are not selected and are not part of an expanded stack but have the mouse pointer over the image.  In other words they may be the top image of a collapsed stack or not in a stack at all but either way are not selected and have the mouse pointer over the image.

4) Medium Gray - not selected, no mouse over, not expanded stack
Same as Medium Light Gray but without the mouse pointer over the image. Very subtly darker than with mouse over.  Hardly noticeable.

5-6) Dark Gray - not selected, expanded stack
A dark Gray canvas denotes a non selected image that also happens to be part of an expanded stack.  These images get very subtly lighter canvas when the mouse pointer is over the image (not shown).


Posted 4/19/2022


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) DanLRBlog DanLRTip Grid View Canvas colors Grid View Canvas Shading Grid view Shading Lightroom Classic Lightroom Classic Grid view Lightroom Classic Grid view shading Lightroom Classic Stacks Lightroom Classic Tips LrC Stacks LrC Tips LrC` Shades of gray Shades of gray in Grid view Stacks` https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2022/4/lr015-grid-cell-shading Tue, 19 Apr 2022 19:33:02 GMT
LR014 - LrC Tip01 - All Photos Really https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2022/4/lr014-lrc-tip01-all-photos-really Tip01 - How to show all images, including those in collapsed stacks

LrC Tip 01 – All Photos Really

4/14/2022 – (LrC 11.2)


LrC (Lightroom Classic) has a special collection at the top of the “Catalog” panel in the Library Module called “All Photogrpahs”.  However, when you select it, it does not necessarily show you all the photographs.  In the screen shot below, you will notice that the “All Photographs” special collection indicates the there are 105,160 photos known to LrC.  But after selecting “All Photographs” and then selecting all the images in the grid, the counts at the top of the film strip show that there are only 50,107 images being shown.  What happened to the other 55,053 images?

Screenshot 1Screenshot 1

Well, the answer is that when you image stacks, the images buried in collapsed stacks are not shown when you select the “All Photographs” special collection.  In most situations this is desirable as the reason you put images into stacks and collapsed those stacks was to hide all but the first image in the stack as they are for the most part redundant with the top image.  In other words “out of sight, out of mind”.  But, there are times when you actually do want to see “ALL” your images regardless of their stack participation and position in the stack.


The solution to this problem comes in the form of a Smart Collection.  As it turns out collections ignore stacking when displaying images.  So, what we want is a Smart Collection that selects all images.  Here is such a Smart Collection

Screenshot 2Screenshot 2

This Smart Collection has a single rule which select all photos where the star rating is >= 0 stars.  In other words, every photo. 

If I click on this Smart Collection rather than the standard All Photographs special collection I now get them all.

Screenshot 3Screenshot 3

Now you can see that the Smart Collection is providing all 105,160 images as the current source.  Of course, the same as with the “All Photographs” special collection, you can still narrow down your selection through the use of the filter bar but you are working with the entire set of images – including those buried in stacks.


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) All Photographs Collapsed Stacks in LrC DanLRBlog DanLRTip Lighroom Classic Hidden Images Lightroom Classic Lightroom Classic Stacks Lightroom Classic Tips LrC LrC hidden images LrC Stacks LrC Tips Seeing Hidden images in LrC Showing hidden images in LrC Showing images hidden in LrC Stacks Stacks https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2022/4/lr014-lrc-tip01-all-photos-really Thu, 14 Apr 2022 23:05:56 GMT
LR013 - KEYWORDS for People https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2021/12/lr013-keywords-for-people KEYWORDS for people

Updated 4/24/2022

In LR there are many ways to do the same thing, each with pros and cons.  Some make more sense to some people and other methods make more sense to other people.  Here is what makes sense to me and what I use.

Note:  As of version 6, (and CC 2015), LR offers a “face recognition” feature.  Just be aware that when you use the LR Face Recognition tools the end result is a Keyword for each person you care about.  Prior to LR6, this was a manual process.  The changes brought in with LR6 is that LR itself helps find faces in images and suggests who each person is through face recognition programming.  But, however you do it, either with our without using the Face Recognition tools in LR, the net result is that there are keywords that represent people.  And that’s what this blog is about.

Note:  I strongly recommend that you use full names with dashes or underscores between first and last name because at some point you’re going to have duplicate first names as well as duplicate last names among the people you’ll be adding.  By following the example (note check boxes), I can search for “Dan-Hartford” and get only that one person rather than all the other Dan’s and/or Hartford’s including images shot in Hartford CT.  I talk more about keyword phrases in Blog LR016.


The problem

At some point in time you will have so many images of people you know that you start having trouble finding them when you want to.  Usually this happens with photos of family members and close friends but can extend to co workers, and famous people you encounter (e.g., My Selfie with Obama). 

What is typically desired is a not too complicated way to be able to find photos that have specific people in them and even better specific combinations of people.  For example, find all the photos that have BOTH Fred and Betty in them, have ONLY Fred and Betty or any other combination or people.

Concept of the solution

The key to this problem utilizes keywords, text filters, and smart collections and is really quite simple once you get the concept.  What we’ll do is create a keyword for each person we want to track by name.  These keywords of individual people may be nested into groups such as Family, Co-worker, Politicians, Performers, etc. but all must be under a common parent KW which in my example is KW “ALL-PEOPLE”.  In my example we using the “x” family with 4 members, April, Bob, Charlie, and Dawn.


Assigning the Keywords

This is not as difficult as it might seem, even if you have, literally, thousands of images.  Perhaps you even have some prior keywords set up (like one keyword for each combination of people) to help you zero in on the photos you want.  Or, you can use the LR Face Recognition tool (as of LR6) to help find them or just add them manually.  Then, using the Grid view in the Library module, simply click, shift click, or Ctrl/Option click to select images that contain a certain person and assign that persons keyword to those images.  Then go on to the 2nd person, etc.  In this way, if you have an image with 3 people, it you will get 3 keywords – one for each person.

Set Up

Once your images with people have been assigned keywords (with or without face recognition) you can use filters or smart collections to quickly retrieve images of the people you’re looking for if you set it up properly.

Start with the “ALL-PEOPLE” keyword, then within that create a KW for each grouping of people that interests you.  Some examples are a group for your immediate family, one for extended family, one for friends, one for Co-Workers, etc.  In other words look at the people you wish to identify by name and see what sort of natural groupings they tend to fall into.  I name these groups with “KWList” at the end of the name to assure they are unique.  Then place a KW for each person within their group.  This whole thing will work a lot better if you use full names with hyphens or underscores instead of spaces.  For example “Fred-Smith” rather than “Fred Smith”.  See Blog “LR016 Keyword Phrases” for a discussion of keyword phrases.

When talking to many people on this topic, it turns out that many want to be able to include or exclude images depending not only on the named people they know but also the existence (or non-existence) of other people in the photos.  To accommodate this, you may want to add two more “names” to your structure within ALL-PEOPLE but not in one of the sub groups.  These two pseudo people are “Unknown-Person” and “Crowd”.  An Unknown-person is someone prominent in the image that you just don’t happen to know the name of (or maybe don’t care).  “Crowd” is the existence of a crowd of other people in the image, like at a concert or sporting event.


For complex mix and match selections you’ll also need two more KW’s that are not under ALL-PEOPLE.  One for people you want to include and one for people to exclude.

For my examples, I’ll be using this people structure which contains 4 known people (the “x” family) as well as the extra keywords I just discussed.

What follows are examples of various mix and match scenarios to demonstrate the concept.

Case 1 - One Named Person (text filter)

(Regardless of other people in the image)

This is the easiest.  Just open your filter bar (“\” speed key toggle the filter bar on or off).  Select Text filter type tab then “Keywords -> Contain -> the name of the person”.  Here’s an example looking for all images that have April in the image.  As soon as you finish typing the persons name those images will show up in your grid


In my example images, the first letter of each persons name is on the cartoon figure in the images.  “U” is for unnamed persons, and “crowd” indicates that there is also a crowd of people in the image. 

For this test case, you could also click the right facing arrow to the right of the name “April-x” in the Keyword list.  This will create a metadata filter (rather than a text filter) and will accomplish the same thing but for various reasons I prefer typing in the text filter.

Case 2 - Any of Several named people (text filter)

(Regardless of other people in the image)

The process here is the same, except you use 2 or more of the specific people keywords in the text filter.  For the text filter use “Contain” to get images that have ANY of the named people.  In the example below, images that have either April or Charlie or both are found.


Case 3 - All of several named people (text filter)

(Regardless of other people in the image)

Use “Contain All” operator in the text filter to get images that have ALL the named people.  In the example below an image must have both April and Charlie to be shown.


As you can see, all the images have both April and Charlie.

Mixing and Matching People

The above examples are simple cases that most people already know how to do.  Where the trouble comes is when you want to do more complex mixing and matching some with exclusions.  For example I want all images of Dave as long as they don’t also have his ex-wife Darlene in them.  Or, I want images of Dave and his new wife Debbie, but just the two of them – no one else can be in the image.

To accomplish these sorts of complex cases we’ll need to establish two Smart Collections as well as making use of those special KW’s I mentioned at the top of this blog and in some cases also a Text filter.  As a reminder, a Smart Collection is a group of images that meet the criteria set forth in a set of rules.  You create the set of rules then LR automatically keeps the collection populated with the images that meet that set of rules.  As discussed above, we need two parent keywords which define lists of people to INCLUDE and to EXCLUDE respectively.  We drag the KW’s for individual people to one or the other of these parents and then use a smart collection to show the images.

Here are several different cases of mixing and matching people. 

  • Case 4 - Images that have anyone on the INCLUDE list with or without others as well
  • Case 5 - Images that have anyone on the INCLUDE but without anyone on the EXCLUDE list
  • Case 6 - Images that have anyone on the INCLUDE list but no one else
  • Case 7 - Images that have all on the INCLUDE list but no one else

Smart Collections for complex selections


This Smart Collection will return images where one or more of the people on the “INCLUDE” list are in the image as long as non of the people in the “EXCLUDE” list are in the image



This Smart Collection will return images where one or more of the people on the “INCLUDE” list are in the image as long as no one else is in the image as well.  “No one else” means no one listed with a keyword that is within the “ALL-PEOPLE” parent keyword


Case 4 – Any INCLUDE list person

(Regardless of others in the image)l

We saw this already as case 1 and 2, but let’s do it a different way which in many ways is easier than typing names in a text filter.  This time we’ll use our INCLUDE keyword list and one of our new smart collections.  All we do is drag the KW’s for the desired people down to the “PEOPLE-INCLUDE” parent and then click on the “PEOPLE: INCLUDED minus EXCLUDED” smart collection.  In this case I dragged April and Charlie down to the “INCLUDE” list.


The result is all images that contain either April or Charlie, regardless of any others in the image.


To add another person to the mix, just drag their KW to the INCLUDE parent. To remove someone from the mix, drag their KW back up to “”OurFamilyKWList” parent

Case 5 – Any INCLUDE list person minus EXCLUDE list people

(regardless of others in the image)

This case is done the same way as Case 4, except that we also drag the KW’s for people we want to exclude to the EXCLUDE list.  As we left Case 4, we are seeing all images that have either April or Charlie.  But now we want to exclude images that also have Bob in them.  So, we just drag the Bob KW down to the exclude list.  Now we’re seeing all images that have either April or Charlie in the image as long as Bob is not also in the image.  Compare the screen shot below with the Case 4 screen shot and you’ll see that images that had Bob in them are now excluded


Case 6 – Any INCLUDE list people but no one else

So let’s take this one step further and get all the images that have either April or Charlie but only if they don’t have anyone else in the image as opposed to just not having Bob.  First we’ll drag Bob back up to where he belongs, leaving April and Charlie in the INCLUDE list.  But this time we use the “PEOPLE: INCLUDED EXCLUSIVLY” smart collection


Now you can see that we have images that have either April or Charlie but only if the image does not have any other people from the ALL-PEOPLE parent.  You’ll notice that images with KW “Crowd” are being excluded as “Crowd” is under ALL-PEOPLE.  If we decided that April or Charlie as part of a crowd is OK then we just drag KW “Crowd” out from under ALL-PEOPLE (for example into “PEOPLE-EXCLUDED” just to keep “Crowd” nearby to drag back later).  Now we have April or Charlie without other folks except for “crowd”.


Case 7 – All INCLUDE list people but no one else

This is actually the same as case 6 except we add a text filter for “Keyword -> Contains All -> (names)”.  The list of names in the text filter are those that must all be present in the image.  So, continuing where we left of in case 6, if we only want the images that have both April & Charlie (with or without the crowds), we add a text filter listing April and Charlie.  As you can see below, we now just have the images that contain April and Charlie, with or without the crowd but as long as no one else in the “All-People” hierarchy are also in the photo.



As you can see, simply dragging keywords in and out of the INCLUDED and EXCLUDED keyword parents and picking one of the smart collections gives you a broad spectrum of mix and match options for folks which can be further narrowed by use of the text filter.

At this point, I’m hard pressed to come up with a likely case that this model doesn’t handle.  Of course there are some off-the-wall cases like “must have April and Charlie but not if both Bob and Dawn are also in the photo” (Bob without Dawn is Ok as is Dawn without Bob), but maybe one of my readers will rise to the challenge and point one out.

When you’re done with your mix and match searches, don’t forget to drag your people keywords back to where they belong.


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) DanLRBlog Excluding People Finding groups of people in LR Just certain people Keywords Keywords for People Lightroom Lightroom Classic LrC Managing people in LrC Named People Only People People Keywords Some people but not others https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2021/12/lr013-keywords-for-people Mon, 13 Dec 2021 23:25:35 GMT
Big Sur Coast #01 https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2021/4/big-sur-coast-01 MARCH 2021

4 Days on the Central California Coast (Big Sur) #01

This travel-blog is for a 4 day trip from our home in the San Francisco Bay area, down to the Big Sur area in March 2021.  We stayed the 3 nights at the Big Sur Lodge which is pretty much in the middle of the Big Sur Coastal Region.

Entire Trip map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip

Detail of places mentioned along Central (Big Sur) Coast
02 Map Central Coast02 Map Central Coast

One Year Later

It was almost exactly 1 year earlier that we took our last trip which was just prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns.  Who would have thought that it would take a full year before the light at the end of the tunnel even came into view.  This isn’t to say that we are out of the dark tunnel but we can see the end.  Vaccinations are well underway (now that we have a competent government in the White House), Ellen and I have both had both of our doses more than two weeks earlier, and spring was around the corner.  So, even though we had not been to a dine-in restaurant for over a year and are still wearing masks and using gloves when punching in numbers on public key pads or wrangling gas pump handles, we decided that the time had come to venture out into the world, just a bit, to see how things go.  Not to mention a March birthday ending in a zero for Ellen. 

We thought about this a bit and decided pretty quickly that we are still not ready to navigate airports and sit in a (supposedly well ventilated) metal tube with 300 strangers for many hours.  We also wanted to start easy with just a few days – sort of a test run – and be close enough to home in order to be able to bail at any time and get home the same day.  This of course limited our options to a driving trip in the 300-500 mile range.  So, as it was still winter in the mountains (and we’re not winter people), our choices were either the rugged coast north of San Francisco (Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties), or the world class Central California Coast south of Monterey (Commonly called the Big Sur Coast). 

As my wife's dad lives in Sonoma County, we tend to go north more often than south, and we hadn’t been to the Big Sur area since 2011, so we decided to go down there and booked 3 nights in the Big Sur Lodge in a cabin with a kitchen (so we could avoid restaurants most of the time), living room with fireplace, and separate bedroom.

We left Palo Alto mid morning so as to get to the North end of the Big Sur Coast around lunch time where we could gas up and eat in Monterey, Carmel, or Pacific Grove.  We pulled into Carmel around lunch time but even on a weekday it was just too crowded – couldn’t even find a parking space, so we headed further down to Pacific Grove which is much less pretentious, is less expensive and one can find parking places.  We found a charming little restaurant in an old Victorian house with both indoor and outdoor seating.  However, upon inquiry discovered that the heaters in the outdoor section were all out of propane and as it was pretty chilly we decided to do our first indoor dining experience in over a year.  We also discovered that in that year technology had passed us by once more.  As it turns out, there are no more paper menus.  Now you only get a laminated card on the table with a QR code.  One scans the QR code with your smart phone and you read the menu on line.  Assuming of course that your phone is not in the car and after going to get it, discovering that the phone’s camera does not react to QR codes as the phone is too old.  Even the waiter couldn’t get it to work.  So he recited the menu to us verbally – which he couldn’t do very well and resented having to do at all.  What a waste of time and quite inconvenient.  Come, on guys, print a few paper menu’s for us dinosaurs.  But, we got fed, filled the gas tank and headed into the target area.

Big Sur Coast

The Big Sur Coast in Central California is generally thought of as extending 71 miles from just south of Monterey Bay down to around San Simeon. Along this stretch of rugged coast line, the Santa Lucia Mountains rise directly out of the Pacific Ocean to a height of nearly 6,000 feet, making for one of the most spectacular coastlines one will ever see.

Sometimes these dramatic seaside cliffs have eroded into sea stacks (small rocky islands just off the mainland) and many of these have subsequently formed sea caves and sea tunnels.  I presume most of these have names, but for the most part people just refer to them by what beach or river they are nearest to.  They are literally all along this coast.  Pull off the road in one of the many parking areas and look closely – you’re very likely to see one.  Depending on the direction of the arch, in some cases early or late in the day the sun illuminates the inside of the arch making for a very dramatic scene.

Around every curve along this stretch of 2 lane road one will find a stunning view, each one surpassing the previous one.  One will also find dense redwood forests, hidden (and not so hidden) beaches, waterfalls, sea stacks caves and arches, flowing streams and an iconic bridge.  What’s amazing is that all of this is within a few hours drive for about 7 million people who live in the San Francisco or Los Angeles areas – not to mention the thousands of visitors from across the world.

It is among the top 35 tourist destinations world-wide and receives about the same number of visitors as Yosemite National Park, but offers only limited bus service, few restrooms, and a narrow two-lane highway that for most of its length clings to the steep coastal cliffs.

As one can easily imagine the ruggedness that makes this coast so visually awesome also made it impossible to traverse in older times.  Due to this most transport during those times was done with boats going up and down the western edge of North America or along “roads” set up by the Spanish missionaries to get from mission to mission which for the most part were on the east side of the coast range.  This mission to mission road was (and in many places still is) called “El Camino Real” (the Kings Road) and is roughly the route of US-101 today. 

During that time, what is now the Big Sur coast was left to the Native Americans.  The actual coast was mapped to some degree to aid nautical shipping but beyond what you could see from a ship at sea, not much was known about the area.  And, this brings us to the name “Big Sur”.

Like the names of most things in the southern half of California, the name “Big Sur” comes from the Spanish.  The original Spanish-language name for the mountainous terrain south of Monterey was El País Grande del Sur, which means "the big country of the south."  Later, English-speaking settlers anglicized and shortened the name to just "Big Sur" as the name for their post office which then became the name for the entire area.

Little Sur river meets the Pacific
Little Sur River meets the seaLittle Sur River meets the sea

Crashing Waves
04 c031_2804 c031_28

California Route 1

Other than a strip of land along the coast, most of the land to the east, including the Santa Lucia Mountains is the Ventana Wilderness.  The only road that services the Big Sur area is California Rt-1 running North-South hugging the coast between Carmel Highlands (just south of Carmel and Monterey) and Cambria (just south of Hearst Castle in San Simeon).  Between these two end points there are no roads going over the mountains toward the east and unless you have a boat or plane going west is quite damp. 

The interior region is mostly uninhabited and the sparse year-round population (around 1,800 people) are scattered along the lower western slope of the mountain range.  Other than 4 small settlements near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park there are no villages or settlements and even those 4 settlements are really not more than a restaurant, gas station, campground and sometimes a motel.

The region was considered one of the most inaccessible areas of both California and the entire United States until 1937 when – after 18 years of construction - the Carmel-San Simeon Highway (now labeled CA route 1) was completed.  California Rt-1 through this area has rightfully been called the "longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States" and "one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world”.  Quite a reputation - but accurate and well deserved.  While officially it is a portion of California Route 1, when built it was known as the Carmel San Simeon Highway.  In Los Angeles the road right along the water is known as the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) so many folks from that area just apply the same name for the portions further north even though that is not technically correct.

Along with the ocean views, this winding, narrow road, had to be cut into the face of towering seaside cliffs in places and with numerous bridges over rivers crashing down the steep slope of the Santa Lucia mountains.  The highway was actually considered quite an engineering feat as most prior studies had declared a coast highway through the area impossible to build. 

With such a precarious landscape to plant a road on, keeping the road open is a constant battle.  The highway has been closed more than 55 times by landslides.  In May 2017, a landslide blocked the highway at Mud Creek near the San Luis Obispo County line. The road was closed for 16 months and reopened in July, 2018 only to be closed again in late January 2021 by another even bigger landslide.  Even though CalTrans (California state roads department) had been working around the clock to stabilize the mountains after the August 2020 Dolan Fire, a strong winter storm washed a big chunk of the road south of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park at Rat Creek into the Pacific Ocean.  So, now a 23 mile stretch of highway 1 is closed to traffic with a re-opening date of April or May of 2021.  Of course there is always a bright side.  With the highway closed, no traffic can come into the Big Sur area from the Los Angeles area without going all the way up to Monterey first.  This has greatly reduced the tourist congestion which is good, unless you’re trying to run a business there.

The suggested direction of travel for sightseeing is heading south from Carmel.  This puts the Pacific Ocean (where the dramatic scenery is) on your right.  This also puts 95% of the pull offs, vista points, and scenic overlooks on your right which makes it much easier to pull into a parking area on the spur of the moment than having to make a left turn across what could be a steady stream of traffic.  No matter which way you head on the road, be sure to take a look behind you as you go as sometimes the view looking the other way is better than the one in front of you.  Many a time I’ve glanced over my shoulder and spied a sea arch or dramatic cove which wasn’t visible from my direction of travel.

Typical rocky coastline scene
Big Sur Coast North of Bixby Br.Big Sur Coast North of Bixby Br.

State Parks and Hikes

From a terrain perspective, the Big Sur Coast starts with Point Lobos State Park which sits between Carmel By the Sea on its north side and Carmel Highlands on its south side.  Now don’t be confused by the name.  Carmel Highlands is not high up on the mountainside.  It is right along the coast highway – so why it’s called highlands is a mystery.  However it is a fully developed suburb, so I don’t really consider the Big Sur scenic road to start till after you pass through Carmel Highlands. 

Even though we didn’t stop at Point Lobos on this trip I’ll talk just a bit about it.  Its main feature is that it is always either closed or crowded.  It is quite scenic once you get inside with Monterey Cypress and Monterey Pine forests, rocky coastline, tide pools, rocky coves, and sandy beaches with plenty of hikes and trails.  However even somewhat off season and in the middle of the week they have to meter the cars entering the park using “a one out – one in method” resulting in a long line of cars idling on the shoulder of CA-1 waiting to get in.  Sometimes the wait is measured in hours.  To make matters worse – at least for photographers - they don’t open till somewhat after sunrise and start shooing people out before sunset  which are the best times for photographing the spectacular scenery.  So, by all means go if you’ve never been before but go in the middle of the week in mid winter and don’t expect to be able to be there for sunset (or sunrise for that matter).

Once you get south of Carmel Highlands, you’ll find yourself out in nature.  As you proceed you’ll come across a string of state parks with many miles of trails, interspersed between widely spaced private homes evidenced by the end of a long driveway going either down toward the ocean or up into the mountains, or a mailbox or sometimes a privacy fence.  However, most of the time what houses there are tend to be well hidden from road.

All along the road, even outside of the parks, there are many places where there is enough shoulder to pull off the road and find a trail out to the cliff edge or down to the water or on the other side up into the mountains.  These are well used by surfers and divers as well as just plain tourists.  Just look for some cars parked alongside the road for no apparent reason and you can be sure there’s a path to some scenic overlook or down to some sort of beach.  One caution for these non “park” trails is that many are just a narrow gap through the vegetation (unmaintained other than just by people walking on them) and much of that “vegetation” is poison oak.  So, try not to brush up against the plants, wear long pants, and use both preventative and post contact topical or you’ll have a very uncomfortable night later on.  Poison Oak is also along the trails in the parks, but those trails are usually wider allowing you to avoid contact with the plants.

Crashing Waves

The central California coast, geologically speaking, is a jumble of rock masses from literally dozens, if not hundreds, of different places.  The chunks of crust you find here have ridden a long series of geologic plates from different parts of the world and been jumbled up here as those plates slid under the North American plate more or less scraping off what was on top and piling it all up in what are now the Santa Lucia Mountains.  At the same time, rough seas and heavy winter storms have been eroding these mountains and coastline washing the looser soil and small rocks out to sea and leaving bigger chunks in the crashing surf. 

No matter where you stop you will see waves crashing into half submerged rocks or the cliffs that rise directly out of the ocean.  On calm days the water more swirls around the rocks but on rougher days the sea crashes over these rock formations in a rather dramatic fashion.

Calm waves at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP coast 2Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP coast 2

Churning surf flowing over wall of rock
Big Sur SurfBig Sur Surf

Sometimes you can feel a wave hitting a rock head on
Wave on RockWave on Rock

Garapata State Park

The first State Park you come to after Point Lobos is Garapata State Park.  Like most of the parks along this road it was someone’s ranch not too long ago and many “ranch” things like old barns and machinery are still present.  Unlike most of the State Parks in the area, Garapata doesn’t have its own “park road” into the park or any sort of entry gate or pay station.  It is just a series of parking strips along CA-1 that have trails leading away from the road.  One of the most popular is the bluffs trail which follows the top of the cliff edge with dramatic scenes.  There are also trails leading up into the mountains on the east side of CA-1. 

We stopped at the Sorbanes Trailhead, which is about in the middle of the park.  On Google Maps this is marked as Sorbanes Point Trails: Gate 8.  There’s another “Sorbanes Point Trails” gate further south.  We had been informed of an old barn a short distance up the trail to the east so decided to give it a try.  Turns out the barn wasn’t that old and was corrugated metal.  Not too bad but not what I was expecting.  However, near the barn was a nice scene of the trail going through a canopy of trees.

(Not so old) barn
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Sorbanes Canyon Trail (just east of gate 8)
Garapata State Park TrailGarapata State Park Trail

On the coast side of CA-1, the Bluffs trail comes very close to the highway at gate 8 so we took a walk out to the edge.  Our trip this year was the day after a rainstorm had blown through the central California area (including the Bay area) and the storm left behind a somewhat thick fog which gave the views quite a mysterious soft appearance.  Sometimes the fog was too thick to drive more than 25mph but at other times thinned out enough to see a mile or so.  As it turned out, even though there was no ground fog over by the barn, just across the road on the bluffs side, it was still socked in.

Foggy coastline from Bluffs Trail
Foggy day at Garapata State ParkFoggy day at Garapata State Park

On the stroll back to the car we met a full wedding party consisting of maybe 15 to 20 people coming down the trail the other way in full wedding attire including spike heels (on the muddy trail), strapless dresses covering shivering young women, men in tuxedo’s and one photographer in hiking boots and a warm jacket.  But, as cold they were, everyone looked happy.

Notley’s Landing Viewpoint

Continuing to the south our next stop was at Notley’s Landing viewpoint.  Like most viewpoints, trails and beaches this one is not marked with a name.  I was only able to determine the name after we got home using GPS coordinates and Google Maps.  As it turned out there was a big sea tunnel visible through the fog from this pull off.  The ocean was still quite rough from the storm with large waves that crashed into a little cove – totally covering it in a mass of white just in front of the sea tunnel.

Wave Crashing into cove through fog at Notley’s Landing
Rough Sea on Foggy Day near Big SurRough Sea on Foggy Day near Big Sur

Sea Cave at Notley’s Landing
Arch and Rough Sea on Foggy Day near Big SurArch and Rough Sea on Foggy Day near Big Sur

Bixby Bridge

A bit further south from Notley’s is the famous, and photographically iconic, Bixby Creek Bridge, commonly referred to as just “Bixby Bridge”.  It is one of the most photographed bridges not only in California but in the world due to its aesthetic design, graceful architecture and magnificent setting.

Prior to the completion of the bridge residents of the Big Sur area to the south were virtually cut off during winter due to blockages on the often impassable Old Coast Road which led 11 miles inland.  When completed in 1932, at a cost of under $200k ($3.2 million in 2019 collars), it was the longest concrete arch span in the California State Highway System (360 feet) and also the highest single-span arch bridge in the world and it remains one of the tallest.  In fact at 260 feet it is 40 feet higher than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Interestingly, the two massive, vertical buttresses (supporting pillars) on either side of the arch, while aesthetically pleasing, are functionally unnecessary and were placed there to make the bridge look more substantial.  An alternate plan for a bridge upstream would have required an 890 ft. tunnel along with a 250 ft. bridge, but it was rejected in favor of the current bridge location closer to the sea.  Some of the reasons were that the upstream plan would have been less safe, less scenic and more destructive to the environment.  

The next planning decision was what to make the bridge out of.  The debate over a steel bridge vs. a concrete bridge went in favor of the concrete design which would cost less in materials, would be easier to maintain, would fit in better aesthetically with the terrain, and would allow more of the bridge cost to be paid to workers rather than suppliers.  After all it was the depression and the New Deal.  Let’s hope we can get back to valuing people over profits.

While the bridge was completed in 1932, the actual highway was not completed until 1937.  So, even though there was this wonderful new bridge, what traffic there was still had to contend with the Old Coast Road (dirt in summer, a muddy bog – and closed - in winter) which meandered 11 miles inland.  This old road was one lane in most places (just one lane, not one lane each way),  And, to put things in perspective, the 30-mile trip from Carmel to what is now Andrew Molera State Park (10 miles south of Bixby Bridge) would take three days by wagon or stagecoach.

Bixby Creek Bridge from North end pull off
Bixby BridgeBixby Bridge  

Bixby Bridge from east on Old Coast Road
East view of Bixby BridgeEast view of Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge from pullout south of the bridge
16 7d2R04-#083416 7d2R04-#0834

Old Coast Road

From Bixby Bridge to Andrew Molera State Park is an 8 mile drive along CA-1.  Along the way are many scenic pull offs.  The photo of the Little Sur River meeting the ocean near the top of this article was taken in this section.  A naval installation at Point Sur including the unimpressive Point Sur lighthouse (check the Internet for occasional guided tours of the lighthouse) is also along this section. 

However, if it hasn’t rained in several days, you have 4WD vehicle with decent ground clearance, won’t need a bathroom for several hours, and are up for an adventure, you should consider the Old Coast Road.  This is the 1 lane, dirt/mud road that preceded the opening of CA-1 which provides views of the Bixby bridge from the east side, goes through several old growth, never logged Redwood forests, does not skimp on sharp curves and is quite a scenic drive.  Do not start this drive past mid afternoon or if it has rained in the last day or two.  Don’t even think about it at night.  You will not see many houses (I think we saw two), there are no services, and on our drive (started at 11:00 am on a Sunday) we saw exactly 1 other car through the entire 12 miles.

The north end of this road connects to CA-1 right at the North end of Bixby Bridge.  It climbs up the north side of Bixby canyon for a bit under ½ mile providing several views of the bridge from the east side.  This section of road is mostly 2 lanes and not muddy.  Even if you don’t intend to drive the whole thing this section is worth the views of the bridge from the “other” side. 

From there the road narrows, and drops down into the valley eventually crossing Bixby creek 1 mile from where you started at CA-1. 

Bixby Creek from Old Coast Road bridge
Bixby River from Old coast roadBixby River from Old coast road

From there the road starts up the other side of the canyon and starts going through several patches of old growth Redwood forests.  In a few heavily shaded low spots what was a hard pack dirt road morphs into a muddy swamp,  Our sunny Sunday was 4 days since it had rained and the mud was maybe 4 inches deep in places.  Drivable with 4WD but I wouldn’t chance it with a 2WD vehicle.  Just take it fast enough to not get stuck and slow enough to maintain directional control.  If you’ve driven in 3 or 4 inches of snow much (you east coasters) this is about the same and comforting how quickly it all comes back to you.

Old Coast Road through one of several forest areas.
Old Coast Road through old growth forestOld Coast Road through old growth forest

Eventually you rise up onto a plateau of private ranch land (and pass one of the two houses we saw) with wide open meadowland carpeting the rolling hills.  At this point you are pretty high up on the flank of the mountains.  After a few more turns, the ranch land gives way to the natural scrub vegetation and you start getting vista’s all the way to the coast.

View to the Pacific from Old Coast Road
19 5d3R04-#761419 5d3R04-#7614

Andrew Molera SP beach from Old Coast Rd.
Andrew Molera State Park beachAndrew Molera State Park beach

From here the road drops down and rejoins CA-1 right across from the entrance to Andrew Molera State Park where you can find a bathroom.  Speaking of bathrooms – if you decide to take the Old Coast road in the other direction, starting at Andrew Molera State Park, when you arrive a Bixby Bridge at the other end there will be no bathroom.  Our journey on the Old coast road was about 2.5 to 3 hours including photo stops.

Andrew Molera State Park

Like many of the State Parks and preserves along the California coast, the Andrew Molera State Park was recently a private ranch subsequently donated to the state.  It is located where the Big Sur River meets the Pacific Ocean and is mostly an undeveloped park. 

The property was part of the Rancho El Sur land grant, and later owned by California pioneer John Bautista Rogers Cooper and his descendants.  Cooper's grandchildren Andrew and Frances Molera inherited the property in 1918 and popularized artichokes in California.  Andrew died in 1931 and in 1965, Frances sold the property to The Nature Conservancy, stipulating that the park to be created should be named for her brother.  The park has miles of trails, beaches, a walk in campground and “the most reliable surfing area in Big Sur”.  In the winter they take out the bridges so to get to the beach entails wading across the Big Sur River which looked to be over knee high (we didn’t).

Having been a working farm/ranch as recently as 1965, many of the buildings are still present.  Some of these buildings are now used for various environmental groups such as Ventana Wildlife Society.  The oldest building on the property (and in the entire Big Sur area) is the Cooper Cabin built in 1861.

The White Barn
Andrew Molera State ParkAndrew Molera State Park

Oak tree in field in front of White Barn
Oak, Andrew Molera State ParkOak, Andrew Molera State Park

Main ranch road – hiking trail
Andrew Molera State Park 2Andrew Molera State Park 2

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

About in the middle of Andrew Molera State Park, CA-1 starts following the Big Sur River and veers away from the coast.  The Big Sur river goes up a valley which is for the most part parallel to the coast but behind a ridge.  This causes a distinct change from being right along the ocean part of the highway.  For one thing that ridge cuts off the incessant wind that one finds right on the coast.  The second feature once you get in behind the ridge is that the climate is much more hospitable to the growth of Redwood trees.

It is along this section that you will find the only real services between Carmel and San Simeon.  There are four clusters of businesses along this stretch in between sections of forest.  Each one basically consists of a gas station, eating establishment, gift shop, and a campground and/or rustic motel.  If you plan to overnight in the area, this is where you’ll wind up.  Make reservations well in advance as once spring hits, the entire area is sold out till late fall.  This is also the area you’ll come to for a meal or to spend some time in a bar.

All the restaurants offer outdoor dining and take out and a couple had an indoor dining room open at limited occupancy due to the pandemic.  The menu choices were somewhat limited and maybe 25% to 50% more expensive than the same thing in Pacific Grove. 

Near the south end of this stretch, just before the road diverges from the river and climbs over the ridge back to the coast you’ll find Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  The park has a large campground as well as many hiking trails and swimming holes along the river (in designated locations).  The park is best known for its groves of Redwoods and abundant hiking trails.  One of the redwoods named “the Colonial Tree” is estimated to be 1,100 and 1,200 years old,

Big Sur River, behind Big Sur Lodge
Big Sur River, Pfeiffer Big Sur State ParkBig Sur River, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

This park is somewhat developed and has been in state hands since 1933.  There is a café, sort of upscale restaurant, souvenir shop, motel and several dozen modern cabins, some with kitchens, fireplaces, and separate bedrooms.  There is also a pool for those staying in the motel or cabins.  As mentioned the lodging is quite pricey – especially in peak season – but may be worth the splurge for a special occasion.

Cabins at Big Sur Lodge
25 Big Sur Lodge Cabins25 Big Sur Lodge Cabins

On this trip to the area, we stayed in one of these cabins for 3 nights.  As we weren’t quite sure about the restaurant situation in the area we opted for a cabin that included a full kitchen and as long as we were splurging, got one with separate living room including a fireplace for which they provided a free bundle of wood each day.

The first known European settler in Big Sur was George Davis, who built a cabin in what is now the park.  In 1868 Native Americans Manual and Florence Innocenti bought Davis' cabin and land for $50.  Then, in the winter of 1869, Michael and Barbara Pfeiffer were on their way to the south coast of Big Sur when they were forced to stop for the season in the Sycamore Canyon area near present-day Big Sur Village.  They liked the area so much they decided against moving on the following spring. They brought their four children with them: Charles, John, Mary Ellen, and Julia and subsequently had four more, William, Frank, Flora, and Adelaide.  I guess those winters can be long.  As the children grew up, got married and moved out, some acquired their own land holdings in the general area which is why just about everything has a Pfeiffer name in it somewhere.

In 1930, John Pfeiffer was offered $210,000 for his land by a Los Angeles developer who intended to build a subdivision.  Fortunately Pfeiffer wanted to preserve the land he and his family had grown to love, and instead sold 700 acres to the state of California in 1933 – and thus we now have Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Right next to the state park is something called “Big Sur Station” which is a multi-agency facility (Caltrans, National Forest, and CA State Parks) that includes a visitor center (closed for renovation when we visited).

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach is National Forest land, but is managed by the California Coastal Commission.  As such none of the federal or state park passes work there.  It’s also why the turn off onto Sycamore Canyon Road is unmarked.  If you head south on CA-1 from the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for 1.1 miles you will find a small road coming in on the right.  There is a large yellow sign there saying “NARROW ROAD – No Pedestrians - No RV’s – No Trailers” – believe them!  You’ll have to navigate a very sharp hairpin turn to the right to get onto the road down to the beach.  This is more like a U-Turn than a right turn.  If it’s busy you may want drive past the road and find a wide spot for a U-turn on CA-1 and come back to the turn from the other direction. 

Sycamore Canyon Road is 2.2 miles of winding single-lane pavement.  There are five spots along the road where two vehicles can pass each other.  So, when it is busy this can be a bit challenging if other drivers don’t understand to concept of letting opposing traffic go by before entering a one lane section.

Suffice it to say, this is a very popular destination as it is one of only places along the Big Sur coast where you can drive to a beach.  As it also features great sand and 2, magnificent sea caves very close to (or actually part of) the beach at low tide it is a popular destination for photographers as well as beach goers in general.  On a limited number of days in December and January photographers crowd the beach to obtain pictures of the setting sun visible through one of the arches.

The $12 per car parking lot at the beach accommodates 65 vehicles and is usually full on summer and holiday weekends and on most other days near sunset.  If you’re after sunset photography here, plan to get down to the beach one or two hours ahead of time as otherwise your sunset will happen while you’re sitting in a line of cars waiting at the pay station for some other car to leave.  During the summer, a shuttle operates from the US Forest Service headquarters at Big Sur Station to the beach.  It is a short walk from the parking lot to the beach. For the record, don’t confuse Pfeiffer Beach with the beach at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (where McWay falls is).

The beach itself is around 1 mile long and according to Wikipedia is known for purple patches of sand that are occasionally visible, especially after rain.  Since Pfeiffer Beach is on Federal land, nudity is legal and state nudity laws and state park nudity regulations don't apply. The north end of the beach is sometimes clothing optional. 

This beach is also quite famous for strong consistent wind.  Man, does it blow.  Don’t even think about changing lenses out there and bring your sturdiest tripod along with your lead shoes.  Staying closer to the cliffs is less windy but also tougher to photograph the sea arches from there. 

Double Sea Arch at Pfeiffer Beach
Double Arch at Pfeiffer Beach 1Double Arch at Pfeiffer Beach 1

Wind whipped waves crashing into rocks at Pfeiffer Beach
Surf , Pfeiffer BeachSurf , Pfeiffer Beach

Keyhole Rock, Pfeiffer Beach
Single Arch Sea Tunnel at Pfeiffer Beach 1Single Arch Sea Tunnel at Pfeiffer Beach 1

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

The farthest south we could get before hitting the road closure was about 4 miles beyond Julia Pfeiffer Burns Stat Park a bit past Lime Creek.  I talked about the massive landslide which caused the road closure earlier in this article so won’t bother with it again.  Suffice it to say that if we had wanted to see points further south such a Lime Kiln State Park. Sand dollar Beach, Ragged Point, Elephant Seal Beach, Hearst Castle at San Simeon and the entire southern half of the Big Sur Coast Region, we’d have to backtrack all the way back to Carmel, head east from there to US-101, head south to Pasa Robles, then east back to the Coast Highway and then north again to the southern end of the road closure.  This would be a 4.5 hour detour.  We didn’t.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and its main feature is McWay Falls.  In addition to the falls, the park also contains Redwood groves with some trees topping 300-feet that are over 2,500 years old.  The park is named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns who lived in the area for much of her life until her death in 1928 but who never actually owned any of the land of the park that now has her name.  I’ll tell you about that in the McWay Falls section below.  The 3,762-acre park was established in 1962.

Unfortunately due to fires this past summer, the only part of the park currently open is a small parking lot, the bathroom and the trail to McWay Falls viewpoint.  The rest of the park is closed due to last summer’s fires.

McWay Rocks sea Arch from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Vista Point
Single Sea Arch,  McWay Rocks, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkSingle Sea Arch, McWay Rocks, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

From Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Vista Point
Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP coast 1Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP coast 1

Double cove Beach just north of McWay Cove
Double cove Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkDouble cove Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Waves, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, South of McWay Cove and Anderson Creek
Big Sur Surf 2Big Sur Surf 2

McWay Falls

McWay falls is arguably one of the most beautiful and most photographed small waterfalls in the world.  It is 80 feet tall, with a year round flow from McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, that falls into McWay Cove.  During high tide, it is a ‘tidefall’, a waterfall that empties directly into the ocean. The only other tidefall in California is Alamere Falls.

Nestled into a hillside opposite the falls are the remains of Waterfall House, long-gone but for its imported palm trees, foundations, steps and terraces.

The house was built by the Browns.  Back in the 19th century huge tracts of California wilderness were deeded to pioneers willing to work it (homesteading).  One such tract was a big chunk of Big Sur going to Christopher and Rachel McWay who first homesteaded the land in 1887. They worked the land for decades, finally selling it in 1924 to the Browns, who built themselves a modern (for the time) home called Waterfall House.

The Browns used the place as a getaway until 1956, when they packed up and moved to Florida (what fools).  When Lathrop Brown who happened to be FDR’s college roommate and best man at his wedding) died a few years later Helen gave the entire property to the state, but with a couple of provisos:  First, it would be a park named for one of the old pioneers, her good friend Julia Pfeiffer Burns.  Second, Waterfall House was to be turned into a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Big Sur.  But she stipulated a time limit on the museum’s creation – if it wasn’t done within five years, the house was to be razed. When five years passed with no museum, the house was taken down.

The remaining terraces and foundations are still there, with the bottom level now a viewing station for McWay Falls and the magnificent coast to the south.  From the parking lot there is a short trail that goes through a tunnel under the Coast Highway and out to the cliffs above McWay Cove.  From there the trail is just sort of carved into the side of the cliff and at some spots is actually a wooden boardwalk hung out over the edge.  At the end of this trail is the area where the house and gardens had been with great views of the falls and cove with the falls being almost head on.  There are palm trees (unusual for this climate) left over from the when the Brown’s lived there as well as all sorts of exotic flowers – now gone wild.  This area has lots of room for visitors and plenty of places from which to see and photograph the falls (and take those selfies). 

Unfortunately you can no longer get to that location.  In February of 2021 the last section of the trail leading to the house site was closed ‘due to trail erosion that has caused dangerous conditions’.  So now the trail just abruptly ends with a formidable chain link fence just before where the boardwalk section starts.  You can still see the falls from the current end of the trail but it is more of a side view than what we used to get further down the trail.  There is now only short section where you can get a clear shot of the falls and as one might expect that section is in high demand.  I hope this closure is only temporary

McWay Cove and Falls from the house site (2011)
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McWay Cove and Falls from the house site (2011)
McWay Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park CAMcWay Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park CA

McWay Falls from the 2021 end of the trail
McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkMcWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park


The region is protected by the Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, which preserves it as "open space, a small residential community, and agricultural ranching."  Approved in 1986, the plan is one of the most restrictive local-use programs in the state, and is widely regarded as one of the most restrictive documents of its kind anywhere.  The program protects “viewsheds” from the highway and many vantage points, and severely restricts the density of development. About 60% of the coastal region is owned by governmental or private agencies which do not allow any development. The majority of the interior region is part of the Los Padres National Forest, Ventana Wilderness, Silver Peak Wilderness or Fort Hunter Liggett.

If you go

If you decide to go, avoid the peak summer season and holiday weekends as the road is often jammed with people taking in the scenery.  This makes it hard, if not impossible, to find space in the vista parking areas, and frustrating to be stuck in a line of 20 to 30 cars behind a slow RV driven by someone from the plains where this is their first experience driving a curvy mountainous road in a vehicle that is way too large.  In the summer months there is often a 20 mile traffic jam extending from Big Sur Village all the way up to Carmel where there are a few strategically placed traffic lights to assure that traffic doesn’t flow too freely.  The time to go is in the spring and fall.  It’s easy to tell when the high season is.  Just look at the prices for a room.  If the price is outrageous, it’s off season.  If the price is ludicrously outrageous it is a shoulder season.  And, if the room rate is approaching the cost of your car, then you’re in high season.

You should also be aware that aside from WiFi in restaurants and motels, there is no cell service from Carmel Highlands all the way down to San Simeon.  So, you may as well turn your phone off.  If you plan to use your phone’s GPS with something like Google Maps, be sure to download the map to your phone before you leave home as once you lose cell service Google maps can no longer get the map you see from its servers.



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Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford unless otherwise stated (some from a trip in 2013).  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)




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SW Deserts #04 – Whitesands, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/11/sw-deserts-04 MARCH 2020

Desert Southwest #04 – White Sands & Petrified Forest

This is part 4 of a 3,246 mile driving trip we took in early March 2020 to the desert SW of the USA.  On this trip we visited Lone Pine, Alabama Hills and Manzanar all on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains in California, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Tombstone Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, White Sands National Park also in New Mexico and a quick run through Painted Desert – Petrified forest National Park in Arizona.

This installment is for the last part of the trip where we visited White Sands and Petrified Forest.

Entire Trip map
05 Map 1 - Whole Trip05 Map 1 - Whole Trip

Carlsbad Caverns marked the eastern extent of this trip and the next day we started heading back west toward home. 

Carlsbad Caverns to home
06 Map 9 Carlsbad to Palo Alto06 Map 9 Carlsbad to Palo Alto

Carlsbad to Alamogordo

The drive from Carlsbad to Alamogordo (near White Sands) was only 150 miles so even on 2 land roads was under 3 hours.  Our route had us go north on US-185 but then rather than go all the way up to Roswell and cut across on I-70 we turned west on US-82.  This road is 2 lanes (one each way) and in many regards is similar to RT-66 – except with no towns to speak of.  The first 2/3rds was flat and straight across the desert but then it climbed up into the Lincoln National Forest and got a bit curvier.  And, compared to an interstate it was much more interesting.  It eventually rose up to around 8,700 feet which is not giant but respectable. 

As we climbed, the scrub desert gave way to pine and fir forests and the air got cooler.  But, except for one or two small towns near a ski resort there was not much in the way of civilization which was quite nice.  What made it especially nice was that I-70 (140 miles further north) takes the bulk of the east-west truck traffic.  So, US-82, the road we took, was empty.  In our entire drive until we descended into Alamogordo we didn’t come across any vehicles going our way and only 2 or 3 going the other way.  Now, this is how driving should be.  All in all it was a very pleasant drive.


Alamogordo, with a population of around 30,000 is quite unremarkable.  So, why does that name sound so familiar?  We’ve all heard of the place, but maybe can’t quite recall why it sounds familiar.  Well, the fact that the name translates to “Fat Cottonwood” doesn’t help.  As it turns out, it got its name from the location of the Trinity Test site.  Still drawing a blank?  The Trinity Test site was the location of the first test of the Atom bomb in 1945.  The top secret “Manhattan Project” research site where the bomb was invented is closer to Los Alamos, 350 miles away, to the north of Santa Fe.  “Trinity” was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device which occurred on July 16, 1945.  The test was conducted about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what was then the US Air force Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range but is now part of the White Sands Missile Range.  So, that is why we remember the name Alamogordo.  I guess the folks who built the bomb – or as they called it “the gadget” –didn’t want to be too close to it when they set it off.

For the bomb test, the only structures in the vicinity were the McDonald Ranch House and its ancillary buildings which scientists used as a laboratory for testing bomb components.  A base camp was constructed, and there were 425 people present on the weekend of the test.  The Trinity site is at the north end of base but the city of Alamogordo is right next to the base nearer its southern end.

Speaking of the missile range, route US-70 cuts across the south eastern corner of this facility (and is where the entrance to White Sands National Park is located).  Roughly twice a week, when they test something, they close the highway for an hour or two.  This is usually known in advance and announced in the newspaper, on TV and the radio and I imagine on other medial platforms as well.  It is just one of the things you get used to if you live nearby.

Today the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) has some claim to fame in its own right.  NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia landed on the Northrop Strip at the missile range in 1982.  This was the only time that NASA used WSMR as a landing site for the space shuttle. 

Although not an actual part of the WSMR, next to is Spaceport America.  Spaceport America is an FAA-licensed spaceport directly west of and adjacent to U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range.  This facility is the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, designed and constructed specifically for commercial use that had not previously been an airport or federal infrastructure of any kind. The site is built to accommodate both vertical and horizontal launch aerospace vehicles, as well as an array of non-aerospace events and commercial activities. Among other tenants, Virgin Galactic is using it as their base of operations.  Spaceport America is owned and operated by the State of New Mexico, via a state agency.

White Sands National park

White Sands National Park is actually in what was part of the Bombing and Gunnery Range approximately 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo. The park comprises the southern part of a 275 sq. mi. field of white sand dunes and is the largest of its kind on Earth.

Like Joshua tree, White Sands was first a National Monument, designated in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover.  It became a national park in 2020 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019.  Wait a minute.  The year 2020 sounds familiar.  Holy cow, that’s just this year!  As we visited in March, I’m not entirely sure if it was a monument or a park when we visited.

The park itself is 145,762 sq. mi. of which 115 sq. mi. are the dunes themselves.  So what’s so special about these sand dunes?  Well I’ll tell you.  Most sand dunes are made of silica sand commonly known as beach sand.  This is the stuff you see along many ocean boundaries, and in various deserts.  However the sand dunes at White Sands are made of Gypsum Crystals.  Regular (non crystalline) gypsum is what they make sheet rock out of so you are probably within a few feet of a bunch of it right from where you are sitting. 

Even though there are many different kinds of sand, such as black or red volcanic sand, Gypsum Crystal ‘sand’ is much different than regular sand.  For one thing, regular sand is usually a muted yellow color whereas Gypsum Crystal sand is blinding white with a bit of a sparkle to it when hit by sunlight.  Another difference is that when you walk on regular sand your feet tend to sink in and if you are ascending a dune, even slide backwards some with each step.  But this sand behaves differently.  When you step on it, it compresses just a bit but is quite solid just below the surface.  Like walking on a concrete slab covered with a half inch of regular sand.  According to the park brochure water holds this vast dune field together. The top couple of inches, having been dried by the sun, are very sand like.  However, it is moist just a few inches below the surface.  It seems the dunes stay moist even during the longest droughts.  This is probably caused by the gypsum crystals becoming water tight when they are moist and there is a bit of weight on them from the couple of inches of loose sand on top.  The moisture acts like a glue causing the gypsum crystals to interlock with each other and become quite solid. 

The depth of gypsum across the entire field is about 30 feet below the bottom of the little valleys between the dunes.  From this level the tallest dunes are about 60 feet high making them quite climbable.  As these dunes are more solid than normal sand dunes they are easy to walk on and are great for sliding down on plastic snow saucers or just a piece of cardboard

About 12,000 years ago, the land within the Tularosa Basin (where the dunes are now) featured large lakes, streams, and grasslands.  Ice age mammals lived by the shores of Lake Otero, one of the largest lakes in the southwest.  The dune field formed about 7,000–10,000 years ago.  It was created when exposed gypsum in the mountains to the west was dissolved by water from rain and glaciers and then eroded into gypsum grains.  These grains were then transported eastward by wind and water runoff into this geographical depression.  As is the case with most sand dunes these blow around a bit as the wind changes but in general they just move back and forth within this area.

When you enter the park from the highway, after stopping at the visitor center for a map, there is a single road leading to the dunes.  This road is paved for a while then becomes a Gypsum Crystal road made up of the “sand” compressed by the daily passing of hundreds of cars.  They do run a grader over it from time to time forming a bit of a ridge along the shoulder so you’ll know where the road actually is, but other than that it’s just the gypsum.  About 6 miles in, the road makes splits into a 3.7 mile loop with large graded parking areas all about. 

White Sands National Park is the most visited NPS site in New Mexico, with about 600,000 visitors each year.  Three picnic areas are available, as well as a backcountry campground with ten sites for overnight camping in the dune field.  Five marked trails totaling 9 miles allow visitors to explore the dunes on foot.  In these cases a trail is a series of flags stuck in the dunes spaced such that from each flag you can see the next flag in each direction.  This works well in the daytime but is a bit more challenging at night. 

After driving from Carlsbad and checking into our hotel in Alamogordo we killed some time in town as we didn’t want to be on those snow white dunes in mid day light.  We left town around 4:30 and headed over to the park where we arrived around 5:00 and got out to the dunes around 5:30.   There were people there but it was not crowded by any stretch of the imagination.  Kids were sliding down the steep slopes on snow saucers or cardboard near the parking areas.  Others were setting out their picnic dinners and one could see the odd form of a hiker out on the dunes.  The wind was calm and there were some high thin clouds struggling to stay intact in the dry air rising off the desert. 

We drove to the far end of the loop and found a trail head.  Grabbed the gear and headed out.  As advertised, walking on the dunes was way easier than, say, the sand dunes in Death Valley.  In the windswept valleys between the dunes the footing was quite solid and some grasses and small scrub bushes were eking out an existence.  At first glance those areas looked like they were covered with vehicle tracks.  But upon closer inspection it was natural ridging due to the winds racing along between the dunes and scouring the bottoms of the little valleys.

Wind ridged valleys between the dunes

For photographic purposes we wanted to put some distance bet Gypsum sand dune #1Gypsum sand dune #1
ween us and the people closer to the parking areas so even though the flags marking the trail are on top of the dunes we walked in these lower valley areas between the dunes.  But, of course that doesn’t give much of a view of the dunes going off into the distance.  So after about a mile or so, we trekked back up to the tops for a look see.  The idea was to take advantage of the sunset over the mountains to the west with the dunes leading off to those mountains.  Not as many puffy clouds as I would have liked but a few could be seen way off over the distant mountains. 

But we were still a bit early for the sunset which provided an opportunity to do some more intimate photography.  Although the plant life was scarce and animal life nonexistent on the dunes, there was some opportunity for exploring form and texture with the camera.

Wind ripples in the sand
Gypsum sand dune with woman in blackGypsum sand dune with woman in black

Dune ridges
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Small peaks of wet sand resist wind
Gypsum sand dune peaksGypsum sand dune peaks

After waiting for the sun to go settle onto the distant mountains, it was time to try for the sunset shots.  Unfortunately the clouds were not really doing much and were too far away anyway and even though we had small flashlights, they would be useless in trying to find the next trail flag once it got dark.  And, as is attested to by many signs it is very easy to get lost in these dunes at night.  So I took a bunch of shots for the heck of it and we started to head back.

The first batch was while the sun was still visible above the horizon and kissing the tops of the dunes warming the color from its normal cool white to mellow amber.

Sun starting to set

Sunset over White Sands #1Sunset over White Sands #1

However shooting into the sun like this is rarely successful for my taste but I figured that things might get a bit more interesting once the sun was below the horizon.  And it did.  Of course once the sun is below the horizon and you enter the blue zone the color cast changes from yellowish to blue.  In this case the sun made the clouds a bit more interesting as well.

sunset over White Sands #3sunset over White Sands #3

Well, now that it was really starting to get dark and we were still a half mile or so away from the parking lot we picked up the pace while we could still make out the flags to guide our way.  But I kept looking over my shoulder to the west to see what was happening with the sunset.  During this time the clouds had started to come in over the mountains and the last rays of the sinking sun caught their underside and lit them up quite nicely.

sunset over White Sands #4sunset over White Sands #4

Just as it became pitch dark, we were close enough to the parking lot to be able to see headlights from cars which was good enough to keep us heading in the right direction and finally made it back to the car without a problem.  As I was shifting my gear into the car another couple came in from the dunes and stopped to say thanks.  Turned out they had hiked in further than we had and had neglected to bring any lights with them.  And, each time I turned around to check out the western sky, they caught sight of my head lamp and thereby could follow along.

If you go to White Sands National Park, check local resources as both the park and U.S. Route 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces are subject to closure when tests are conducted at White Sands Missile Range which completely surrounds the park.

Code Talkers Museum, Gallup, NM

After leaving Alamogordo the next day, we continued heading back to the west and spent the night in Gallup, New Mexico.  Gallup has a population of a bit over 21,000 (2010 census).  Most of the population is Native American, with residents from the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes.  Gallup is the most populous city between Flagstaff and Albuquerque, along the historic U.S. Route 66. 

Gallup was founded in 1881 as a railhead for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. The city was named after David Gallup, a paymaster for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.  During World War II, the city fought successfully to prevent 800 Japanese American residents from being placed in wartime internment, the only New Mexico city to do so.  Gallup is known as the "Heart of Indian Country" or "The Heart of Indians" because it is on the edge of the Navajo reservation and is home to members of many other tribes as well.

We needed a place to sleep somewhat near The Painted Desert – Petrified Forest so that we could get there before the light got too bad and Gallup was the nearest city of any consequence to the parks.  Well, as long as we were in Gallup we looked for something of interest to see and found that there was a WWII “code talkers” museum in the Chamber of Commerce building.  This museum is in an old train depot with a gift shop and meeting room on the first floor and offices plus a small museum containing a collection of memorabilia from World War II on the second floor.  Among other things, this museum showcases the contribution of our Native Americans to the war effort.   During the war in the Pacific the Navajo Code Talkers used their native language as the basis for communication.  As this language was not based on any other European or Asian language it was too difficult for the enemy to decipherer.  No view upon WWII is complete without knowledge about this individualized skill that saved the lives of thousands, and if you had or knew someone who served in the Pacific WWII theatre, they would testify that this small group of warriors saved more lives than any other aspect of American soldiering.

Choctaw soldiers in training for coded radio and telephone transmissions (Image from Wikipedia)
14 Code talkers 114 Code talkers 1

Comanche code talkers of the 4th Signal Company (Image from Wikipedia) 15 Code talkers 315 Code talkers 3

Painted Desert

(Note: the rest of this blog consists of photos and experiences from this trip in 2020 as well as a trip in 2013).

Our final destination on this particular trip was a re-visit to the Petrified Forest National park in Arizona.  As I understand, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest were at one time two separate parks but over time as they both grew they wound up touching each other and are now both included in the Petrified Forest National Park.  The Painted Desert part is on the north side of I-40 and Petrified Forest part is on the south side.  The main (only) paved park road goes north-south through both of them and Interstate 40 slices through going east/west.  If you ever find yourself traveling along I-40 across northern Arizona don’t miss the opportunity to jump off the freeway and see these parks.  The park entrance is literally at the end of the freeway exit ramp so not wanting to detour from your route is no excuse.

We got to the park around 9:15 am mid May on the 2013 trip and a bit later on the 2020 trip so in both cases the light was already past it's prime for photography.  But the Painted Desert was so gorgeous with all the striated colors in the rolling landscape I shot photos anyway.  Surprisingly, many of them came out OK but I sure do wish I'd been there closer to sunrise or sunset.  In the Painted Desert part of the park you are on the top of a mesa, looking down into the landscape that extends off into the distance as far as the eye can see.  The literature says this is the southern edge of the Painted Desert but even so it was pretty spectacular.

Painted Desert From Tiponi Point
01 5d3R01-#217501 5d3R01-#2175

Volcanic landscape from Tawa Point
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The Painted Desert is a set of badlands that run from near the east end of Grand Canyon National Park southeast into Petrified Forest National Park. It is most easily accessed at its north end its own exit on I-40.  The Painted Desert is known for its brilliant and varied colors that not only include the more common red rock one sees throughout the American Southwest, but also shades of pink, blue, gray, and lavender. 

It was named by an expedition under Francisco Vázquez de Coronado on his 1540 quest to find the Seven Cities of Cibola, which he actually did locate some 40 miles east of where the park is now.  However, contrary to the common wisdom of the time, the cities were not made of gold.  By the time Coronado got to the Seven Cities of Cibola he was somewhat short on supplies so sent an expedition to find the Colorado River which could be used to find a settlement for supplies.   On the way to the river they passed through an area of wonderland colors which they named El Desierto Pintado ("The Painted Desert").

The desert is composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region. Thin resistant lacustrine limestone layers and volcanic flows cap the mesas.

Stratified layers from Kachina Point
Painted Desert 1, AZPainted Desert 1, AZ

And, from Pintado Point
Painted Desert 2, AZPainted Desert 2, AZ

As we had on our prior visit, we entered the park on its north end where the park road is an exit on I-40.  This is the end that first goes through the Painted Desert on the north side of I-40 and then continues on into the Petrified Forest on the south side of I-40.  There are 9 scenic overlooks in the Painted Desert part of the park before crossing old RT-66 and I-40 into the Petrified Forest section.  However, I must say that there was plenty of painted desert on the south side as well and to be honest many desert vistas south of I-40. 

From Katchina Point
03 5d3R01-#221503 5d3R01-#2215

From Kachina Point
Painted desert from Painted Desert InnPainted desert from Painted Desert Inn

Where the park road crosses the path of old Rt-66 there is a little pull off and a sign but it just looked like the rest of the desert.  As much as I tried I could not detect a more level strip that could have been where the road was.  However, they were kind enough to place the rusted shell of a 1930’s or 1940’s touring car near the sign just so it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time making that stop.  I also liked a concrete block with an embedded car grill near the sign.  I wasn’t impressed enough to bother taking a photo there but seeing as how I now find myself writing a paragraph on the location I grabbed a couple of shots from the internet (Google Maps). If you’re keen eyed you may be able to make out some modern trucks on I-40 in background.

Route 66 marker.  I suppose the line of telephone poles marks the side of where the road was
02 Rt66 Sign & Car02 Rt66 Sign & Car

The Grille
01 Rt66 Grille Monument01 Rt66 Grille Monument

Painted Desert Inn

The Painted Desert Inn is one of the few remaining establishments built in the late 1800’s by Fred Harvey and which came to be known as “Harvey Houses”.  If you recall much about American History (when they taught such things in school), that was a period of westward expansion accompanied by massive railroad projects to link up the continent starting with the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869.  Fred noted that on long trips “out west”, finding a place to eat when traveling on the trains was sketchy at best.  This was before dining cars on passenger trains were introduced and the only option for a meal was a roadhouse located near the railroad’s water stops.  These typically consisted of nothing more than rancid meat, cold beans and week old coffee.

Fred set out to change this as well as to make money with a string of high quality restaurants with good service at railroad meal stop locations in the west.  After a failed attempt to build a few cafes in Kansas in 1876, in 1879 Fred convinced the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) to give him a contract for several eating houses on an experimental basis, starting in Florence, Kansas.  These were so successful that he was able to rapidly expand into a chain of restaurants (said to be the first chain restaurants in the US) that eventually numbered 84.

Painted Desert Inn – “Harvey House”
Painted Desert Inn #4Painted Desert Inn #4

The company and its employees, including the famous waitresses who came to be known as Harvey Girls, successfully brought new higher standards of both civility and dining to a region widely regarded in the era as the "Wild West". The popularity of the Harvey Girls grew even stronger in 1946 when Judy Garland starred in the film version of Samuel Hopkins Adams’s novel The Harvey Girls.

Railroad officials and passengers were impressed with Fred Harvey's strict standards for high quality food and first class service and as word got out passenger traffic significantly increased.  As a result, AT&SF entered into subsequent (mostly oral) contracts wherein he was given unlimited funds to set up the series of what were dubbed "eating houses" along most of the railroad routes.  At more prominent locations, these eating houses evolved into hotels, many of which survive today.  By the late 1880s, there was a Fred Harvey dining facility located every 100 miles along the AT&SF.  What made this work was that the Railroad agreed to transport fresh meat and produce free of charge to Fred’s restaurants using its own line of refrigerator cars.  Fred Harvey even establish two dairy farms out west (the larger being in New Mexico) to assure a constant supply of fresh milk. 

Harvey's meals were served in sumptuous portions that provided a good value for the traveling public; for instance, pies were cut into fourths, rather than sixths, which was the industry standard at the time.  The Harvey Company and AT&SF established a series of signals that allowed the dining room staff to make the necessary preparations to feed an entire train in just thirty minutes.  Harvey Houses served their meals on fine China and Irish linens.  Fred Harvey, a fastidious innkeeper, set high standards for efficiency and cleanliness in his establishments, personally inspecting them as often as possible.  It was said that nothing escaped his notice, and he was even known to completely overturn a poorly set table. Male customers were required to wear a coat and tie in many of Harvey's dining rooms.  The Harvey Houses served free meals to GIs traveling on troop trains during World War II.

Later, when dining cars were added to long haul passenger trains, the Fred Harvey Company was contracted to operate the rolling version of his restaurants which the AT&SF advertised as “Fred Harvey All the Way”.

Even with the fine cuisine and spotless facilities, one of the most enduring things about Harvey Houses were those “Harvey Girls” who served the meals. The recruiting advertisements called for "young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent, as waitresses in Harvey Eating Houses on the Santa Fe Railroad in the West."  In exchange for good looks, manners, and service, women found well paid employment, adventure, and oftentimes, marriage beyond the opportunities of home and farm.  At that time The West was pretty uncivilized but these women had to maintain a reputation for femininity and morality strictly enforced by their employer.  All donned a standard uniform of black or white starched skirt, high-collared blouse, with a bib and apron; they served their patrons with practiced precision.  Harvey Girls contracted for six, nine, or twelve months of service and received a salary, room and board, tips, and free tickets on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. In addition to previously unheard-of salaries for unskilled women at the time, they gained a sense of pride and independence.

One of the best preserved Harvey Houses is the "Painted Desert Inn" in what is now the Petrified National park where it has been restored and is open as a museum.  Inside we ran into a ranger who told us the Fascinating story of the place.  Then, when he saw we were actually listening and interested, took us around back and unlocked some doors into rooms where the "Harvey Girls" lived while they worked there and told us what it was like for them.  Quite fascinating. 

Painted Desert Inn Lobby
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Living Quarters for a “Harvey Girl”
Guest room, Painted Desert Inn Harvey HouseGuest room, Painted Desert Inn Harvey House

Petrified Forest

Now, I've been to many "petrified forest" attractions in many different parts of the country before.  In most cases you may see a bump in the ground that they say is a petrified tree stump, or you may see a little fragment of something here or there.  In these places the vast majority of the petrified wood you see is in the gift shop.  So, my expectation was that this park would be somewhat similar.  Maybe a few more fragments scattered about as the Park Service may be more diligent in keeping relics from wandering off but I didn't expect much.  In fact, I presumed that the most interesting thing would be watching a few trains go under a bridge on the main park road.

One of the first turn off’s was to some petroglyphs called “Newspaper Rock”.  I’ve seen a bunch of those before but as long as we were here, might as well check it out.  Well, it turned out to be a dud.  You can't get close, they're at a weird angle to where you're standing and it’s just one smallish rock.  They do have a scope to help you see them, but we’ve seen much better elsewhere.

Newspaper Rock
Painted Desert 6, AZPainted Desert 6, AZ

However, from then on, every turnout had great views of the Painted Desert landscape - each one with different formations and colors - or had tons of petrified logs, or both.  Between the two trips we stopped at just about every turn out and took several of the shorter loop trail walks.  On the 2020 trip though our plans were thwarted due to a bridge being rebuilt stopping us at Blue Mesa.  To get to the southern half of the park you’d have to backtrack all the way back to I-40, then loop all the way around the park and re-enter at the southern entrance.  This would add more than an hour and would then also require back tracking once again when leaving so we opted out of that.  However on our 2013 trip we were able to do the whole park.

After the disappointing petroglyphs, the next major attraction is Blue Mesa.  In terms of petrified wood, there are entire petrified logs lying around as well as smaller chunks. By small, I'm guessing over 100 pounds each as most all of the "carry-able" pieces nearby the trails had been stolen and carted off by tourists long ago. We won't go into my opinion of people who do that sort of thing other than to say it's not high.  Not only was there loads of petrified wood to see, much of it had incredible colors and patterns. A real delight to see. 

Unlike the reds/oranges of the Painted Desert section, here the color palette is in the blue/violet range
Blue Mesa #3, Petrified Forest NPBlue Mesa #3, Petrified Forest NP

Blue Mesa Textures
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Blue Mesa Dome
Painted Desert 8, AZPainted Desert 8, AZ

Piece of petrified log at Blue Mesa
Petrified Tree #1Petrified Tree #1

After Blue mesa, on our 2013 trip we continued on through the rest of the park.  However on the 2020 trip the road was closed just south of the Blue Mesa turn off due to a bridge being missing.  So, the rest of these photos and descriptions are from the 2013 trip.

While there are many named pull off spots south of Blue Mesa the one that stands out is the Crystal Forest.  This location has a several trails, including a self guided accessible trail through the area. 

The Crystal Forest area was once covered in sparkling quartz and purple amethyst crystals that developed in the hollows of the logs as the trees petrified.  Unfortunately, in the late 1800s, before the establishment of Petrified Forest National Monument, many ancient logs were dynamited by those seeking the semi-precious gems.  Massive petrified trees were blasted into the small chips you can still see scattered about alongside the trail.  But, much of the forest is still present.

While the bark of these petrified trees is quite similar to the petrified logs at Blue Mesa and other pull outs, what makes these special are the interior of the logs which can be seen where they have broken apart. 

Petrified log, Crystal Forest
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Real sense that there was once an actual forest worth of trees (Crystal Forest Area)
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In bright sun, the crystallized quartz and amethyst sparkle and almost glow with color as the light refracts through the crystal structures. 

Crystal forest
Petrified Forest 6, AZPetrified Forest 6, AZ

Turned to Stone
Petrified Forest 7, AZPetrified Forest 7, AZ

The core of the log
Petrified Forest 8, AZPetrified Forest 8, AZ

Crystallized Bark
Petrified Forest 2, AZPetrified Forest 2, AZ

The Painted Desert and half of the Petrified Forest marked the end of the destinations for this trip.  We spent that night in Needles and the next day drove back home on the same route we use for most all of our southwest trips (through Bakersfield, up I-5, over Pacheco Pass to US-101 and then home).

I hope you enjoyed reading about our visit to several desert locations in Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico and that you’ll follow along on future trips it we’re ever allowed to go anywhere again.


On the days covered in this episode, the world kept going.  The last 3 days of the trip saw the President declare that the death count would be no worse than that of the common flu.  And when the numbers kept going up he said, “Well, this was unexpected”, “We're prepared, and we're doing a great job with it”, and “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away”.  Two days later the US suspended all travel into the US from Europe for 30 days.

When we started the trip there were 16 confirmed cases of COVID19 in the US, by the time we got home there were close to 1,300 and on the day I’m writing this there are 7,345,406 confirmed cases.  In terms of COVID19 deaths, there had been one the day we left, 37 known or probable by the time we got home and today over well over a quarter million with no end in sight.

By the time we returned home, nothing had been shut down.  We still had not heard of “Shelter in Place”, one could still go to a ball game, concert or movie and could travel to most places in the world.  Face masks were suggested only for first line medical workers and deemed not needed for the general public.  It wasn’t until 2 weeks after our return that any business or travel restrictions were put in place.



This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/2020-03-desert-sw  (all images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford unless otherwise stated (some from a trip in 2013).  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)




dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Alamogordo Atizona blog Blue Mesa Code Talkers museum Crystal Forest dan hartford photo dantravelblogdesertsw2020 desert sw Gallup Gallup NM Harvey Girls Harvey House Kachina Point New Mexico Newspaper Rock Painted Desert Painted Desert Inn Painted Desert NP Petrified Forest Petrified Forest NP Petrified Wood Pintado Point Tawa Point Tiponi Point united states White Sands White Sands NP WhiteSands WhiteSands NP https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/11/sw-deserts-04 Fri, 27 Nov 2020 22:19:01 GMT
SW Deserts #03 – Tombstone & Carlsbad Caverns https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/10/sw-deserts-03 MARCH 2020

Desert Southwest #03 – Tombstone & Carlsbad Caverns

This is part 3 of a 3,246 mile driving trip we took in early March 2020 to the desert SW of the USA.  On this trip we visited Lone Pine, Alabama Hills and Manzanar all on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains in California, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Tombstone Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, White Sands National Park also in New Mexico and a quick run through Painted Desert – Petrified forest National Park in Arizona.

This installment is for the Tombstone & Carlsbad Caverns part of the trip.

Entire Trip map
01 Map 1 - Whole Trip01 Map 1 - Whole Trip

After leaving Joshua Tree National Park, the five and a half hour drive through Phoenix to Tombstone was uneventful.  We really had no reason to stop over at Tombstone other than getting all the way to Carlsbad in one long drive was too much and Tombstone was about in the middle and sounded more interesting than either Phoenix or Tucson.  So, Tombstone it was.  And, as it was Tombstone why not spend the night at ad “Dude Ranch” called the “Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch”.

Joshua Tree to Carlsbad Caverns
02 Map 7 - JT to Carlsbad02 Map 7 - JT to Carlsbad

Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch

The guest ranch is located 2.5 miles from town in the Tombstone Hills of Cochise County. The ranch itself is built in the image of an old western town. The guest rooms line “Main Street” and each room is styled after a famous building form the folklore of the wild west.  For example, you can stay in the “Grand Hotel”, the “Marshall’s Office” the “Blacksmith’s” or even the “Jail”.  For some reason that I’m still trying to figure out, we were assigned to “Miss Kitty’s Whorehouse”. 

On the first floor of the “Grand Hotel” is the “Old Trappman Saloon” complete with swinging doors a massive bar to slide a whisky down along with a vintage pool able as well as card tables where Arizona Bill or Wyatt Earp will teach you how to play 5 card draw, Texas Hold ‘em or Faro (Wyatt Earp’s game).  They bring in live western music 2-3 nights a week.

We were only there one night so didn’t have time to take advantage of their “ranch” activities.  As a dude ranch they offer activities such as horseback riding at several different levels of riding skill, shooting and archery lessons and tours into the Dragoon Mountains to explore where Apache Chief Cochise and the Warrior Geronimo had a stronghold.  They also offer trips to Wilcox or Sonoita and Elgin for wine tasting and visits to Kartchner Caverns.

Old Trappman Saloon, Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch
07 7d2R04-#006707 7d2R04-#0067

Good Advice
06 5d3R04-#697006 5d3R04-#6970

Guest rooms along Main Street
Guest rooms, Tombstone Monument Guest RanchGuest rooms, Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch

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04 7d2R04-#005204 7d2R04-#0052

Tombstone, Arizona

After leaving the guest ranch the next morning, we went on into the actual town of Tombstone for a look around.

There are certain town names that have become synonymous with the “Wild West”.  These are places like Dodge City, El Paso, Deadwood, Virginia City, Cody, Durango and the best known Tombstone, Arizona. 

For those of you too young to remember the age of Westerns on TV and in full length feature films (mid-late 1950’s through early 1960’s, these town names may not mean much.  But to us old geezers, who can forget the Shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp, the Hole in the wall gang, Kit Carson, the Lone Ranger and many more.  Much of this real, as well as made up, folklore took place in Tombstone. 

As far as Wild West towns in the USA go, this one is probably the most recognized even though its role in the Wild West era was more toward the end of the period.  It was a big mining town, and it had plenty of cultural activities (like an opera house) for the rich folk, and a great selection of saloons, gambling halls, and other less respectable places for the grittier types.

But it is most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral made famous by the 1957 movie, “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” starring Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday as well as the 1993 movie “Tombstone”, starring Kurt Russell.  Both of these movies give great representations of how events went down back in the day and have cemented Tombstone as the epitome of the Wild West.

Tombstone has a current population of around 1,400 and they are milking their Wild West connection to the hilt.  Today Tombstone offers a glimpse into the past with historic attractions such as museums, history tours on foot, by stagecoach or trolley, underground mine experiences, paranormal adventures, shopping, dining and of course gunfight reenactments!

We got there around 10:00 AM when the town was just starting to open for the daily influx of tourists.  The store keepers were putting their signs out,  The museums were unlocking their doors, the stage coach was just pulling up to the old hotel to await paying customers and the decked out actors who stage the many shows and demonstrations in town were arriving in the street to drum up business.  But, it was still a pretty quiet time as most the tourists had yet to show up.

Main street Tombstone, waking up in the morning
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Waiting for the first customers of the day
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Actors hawking their shows
Drumming up business in tombstoneDrumming up business in tombstone

Now there’s a combination you don’t see very often
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White’s City

After our evening at the dude ranch and morning exploring Tombstone we headed east, through El Paso, another 434 miles to the Town of Carlsbad New Mexico.

The Carlsbad Caverns are 28 miles from the town of Carlsbad.  Right at the entrance to the park is another town called White’s City which also has lodging and is only 7 miles from the caves, so why didn’t we stay there you may ask? 

White’s City had its start in the 1920s as a commercial resort owned by Charlie White. Currently it is an unincorporated community with a permanent population of 7 as of the 2010 census.   The town sports a café, grocery store, gift shop, gas station, RV park, and a motel.  It should be noted that in the gift shop you can get your fortune read by an automated “Zoltar” which is about the most exciting thing one can say about this town. 

But of course there is some history.  Folklore has it that White’s City was founded by James (Jim) Larkin White who is credited with the discovery of the caverns.  However this is not the case.  The town was first settled in the early 1900’s by Charlie White (no relation to Jim White).  Charlie (born in Kentucky) was a college educated and successful businessman with many varied enterprises in several New Mexico towns. 

One day, Charlie was on a family vacation to visit the Carlsbad Caverns, when he had the idea to purchase the land adjacent to the dirt road leading to the caves. With very little capital and a great vision, “White’s Cavern Camp” was established.  White’s City Cavern Camp originally consisted of a single home, 13 visitor cabins, and a fueling station. Years later (approx. 1963) the name was changed to White’s City and the city was officially registered as a recognized Census-designated Place in the state of New Mexico.

During the Great Depression, the Pueblo Motel was built to expand capacity for travelers. Charlie also opened a car garage, a drug and grocery store, and a museum to help serve Carlsbad Caverns’ visitors.  Over time, descendants of Charlie White eventually took over the family business and grew the city to have more attractions and offerings. Other attractions that previously existed early in White’s City’s history included a chair lift ride up to the top of Walnut Canyon, a melodrama theatre, The Million Dollar Museum, the Velvet Garter Saloon, and other tourist-associated shops.

It is not entirely clear why there isn’t a real town here or nearby on US-62 to cater to the Carlsbad Caverns crowd as there certainly is demand.  But the theory goes that good ol’ Charlie was a shrewd businessman and even though funds were scarce he did manage to buy up all the land along the highway in both directions in order to prevent any competition from gaining a foothold.  That is why you need to go all the way to the town of Carlsbad to find any sort of selection of lodging restaurants and other “proper town” amenities.

When we visited Carlsbad Caverns on a 1973 camping trip (we were living in Boston at the time), we had planned to camp in White’s City but when we got there it was well over 100 degrees and the campground was just open desert with picnic tables.  Not even a bush let alone anything resembling a tree for shade.  So, even though we were poor college students we decided to spring for a motel. 

There were two motels in town at that time.  One was contemporary and priced at about 4 times more than any motel we’d used on the entire trip.  The other was well past its expiration date.  Probably was the original one from 1920’s or 1930’s.  A long skinny building one room deep and maybe 30 rooms wide.  It was hard to tell how long it really was as other than the first 10 or so rooms the rest of the building had literally collapsed into a pile of rubble.  But the price was just very high rather than bank breaking ludicrous.  The room had a double bed the shape of an old horse on its way to the glue factory.  There was a separate bathroom with no door and a dresser but you couldn’t open the drawers more than a few inches as they hit the bed.  In fact, the front of the dresser was so close to the bed that you couldn’t walk past it to the bathroom without climbing on the bed. 

But we were out of the sun and the room had Air Conditioning – or at least that’s what the front desk clerk told us.  Yes, there was a unit stuck in the wall that was wheezing and groaning as it attempted to fight off the 100+ degree air outside.  Had there been a TV or radio in the room the noise from the AC unit would have completely drowned it out.  It was actually what is called a swamp cooler rather than a proper air conditioner. 

For those of you not familiar with swamp coolers here’s a comparison.  A proper air conditioner has a set of pipes containing a refrigerant (used to be Freon).  This fluid goes through a compressor and set of expansion coils.  The compressor squeezes the refrigerant making it hotter and a fan blows that heat outside.  Then, once inside the room the refrigerant goes through a device that lets the refrigerant expand which causes it to get very cold and a fan blows air over those cold refrigerant pipes and into the room.  On the other hand, a swamp cooler has a fan that blows air into the room but in front of the fan is a sponge like material that has water dripping through it.  In other words it’s like sitting in front of a fan with a spritz bottle of water.  It does cool the room (a bit), but also fills the room with moist air making everything clammy.  But, it was what it was and even as bad as it was it was better than sleeping in a tent that had been in the sun all day.  That old motel is now completely gone.

But, this trip we stayed in the town of Carlsbad, 28 miles away. 

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns is in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and is the most well known limestone cave in the US.  It is not the largest, longest, or deepest but is the most popular cave in the US.  This is probably due to it being discovered and opened to the public earlier than many other larger cave systems – some of which are also in Carlsbad National Park.  The park itself contains over 119 named caves three of which are open to public tours. Carlsbad Caverns is the most famous and is fully developed with electric lights, paved trails, and elevators. Slaughter Canyon Cave and Spider Cave are undeveloped, except for designated paths for the guided "adventure" caving tours. 

Another cave in the park is Lechuguilla Cave which is well known for its delicate speleothems and pristine underground environment. Over 120 miles of Lechuguilla Cave passages have been explored and mapped so far and they aren’t done yet.  Some of those passages have descended to a depth of 1,600 feet, making it the second deepest limestone cave in the U.S.  But to protect the fragile environment, access is limited to scientific expeditions only.  In addition to Lechuguilla, other cave systems in the US are also larger than Carlsbad such as Mammoth Cave (KY), Jewel Cave (SD) and Wind Cave (SD).  But, Carlsbad is far and away the first one that springs to mind when thinking about large caves in the US.

There are two ways to get into the cave.  You can either hike in through the natural entrance or take an elevator from the visitor center.  The hike in route descends 750 feet (vertically) over a 1.25 mile steep narrow and twisty pathway with many switchbacks.  Until the elevator was installed in 1955 the hike-in route was the only way into the cave which wasn’t so bad.  But the hike back out again was a bit more challenging.

Profile of Carlsbad Caverns cave system showing hike in trail (where bats are flying out) and elevator from visitor center (vertical white line)
12 Map 8 - Carlsbad Caverns12 Map 8 - Carlsbad Caverns

Although Native Americans had known about the cave for hundreds, if not thousands, of years there is no evidence these native peoples explored deep into the cave.  But they were certainly aware of its existence.  Eventually Spanish and European Americans began settling the area.  In their explorations they soon stumbled upon the gaping mouth of what is now known as Carlsbad Cavern.  Several of those individuals claim to be the first to have entered the cave, but they have mostly been forgotten by history.

The first credited cave exploration happened in 1898 when a sixteen year-old cowboy, Jim White, was rounding up cattle one evening and spotted smoke from a wildfire off in the distance. He went into high alert as even then fires were a serious event.  In order to report back to camp about the fire, he rode closer to gather information.

As Jim approached the smoke, he noticed something strange: he couldn't smell the smoke, hear the crackling of flames, or feel the heat of fire. Jim realized he wasn't seeing smoke. He was watching thousands-upon-thousands of bats which led Jim to the mouth of the cave.

Figuring that the other cowboys would give him a hard time he didn’t tell anyone about his find.  But, his curiosity got the better of him and on a day off went back to the cave with some pieces of wood and wire to fashion a ladder.  So with a lantern in one hand and the other hand gripping the twisting and turning ladder he got to a floor 60 feet down and started to explore. 

At first, Jim was very uncomfortable in the cave which is indicated by some of the names he assigned to formations nearer the entrance.  He named the first drip pool Devil's Spring.  That was soon followed by the Devil's Armchair, Devil's Den, and Witch's Finger.  These features are still easily seen today as you walk down the natural entrance route.  As he spent more time in the cave, Jim became more comfortable with his surroundings. His naming became more matter of fact: The Big Room, and Left Hand Tunnel." There were some places that sparked Jim's imagination though.  He named the "King's Palace" and even found a royal family in residence.  Other places he named are New Mexico Room, Queens Chamber, Papoose Room, Green Lake Room, Totem Pole, Giant Dome, Bottomless Pit, Fairyland, Iceberg Rock, Temple of the Sun, and Rock of Ages.

After a bit, Jim started to lead tours into the cave for the brave of heart as people did not believe his stories.  Eventually he tricked a newspaper reporter to come out to the area and convinced him to come along for a cave tour.  The awestruck reporter couldn’t believe what he had seen and returned later with a photographer to capture some of the sights in the cave for publication. 

Now, you have to remember that there was no lighting in the cave at that time and flashlights hadn’t been invented yet.  So, the only light they had were basically candles, a flaming torch or perhaps a lantern so the illumination went maybe 10 to 15 feet making the grand views of the large rooms we see today impossible to see back then.  But, once it hit the papers, people started coming. And have been coming ever since.

What Jim might have seen with his candle or lantern light
Kings Palace #2, Carlsbad CavernsKings Palace #2, Carlsbad Caverns

Same scene as we see it today
Kings Palace #2, Carlsbad CavernsKings Palace #2, Carlsbad Caverns

When we visited the caves in 1973 you could only see it on one of a half dozen or so guided tours.  As I recall the place was mobbed.  Each tour group was 30 or so folks and there were dozens of them in the cave at a time.  If you wanted to take more than one tour you had to ascend back up to the visitor center when one ended and then go back down for the next one.  But with so many people it was impossible to get onto more than one tour -- or if you were lucky (and rich) -- two on the same day as they all sold out quite quickly each morning. 

As I understand, it is even more crowded these days.  So, as we were just there, why did I say “as I understand”?  Well, if you’ve been following along on these blogs you’ll know that we visited in early March of 2020.  At that time the COVID19 virus was a “thing” but as of the day of our visit, there were only 402 known cases in the US.  There were some cruise ships with outbreaks but nothing was shut down, there was no shelter in place orders, no one talking about wearing masks or social distancing and the president was saying things like “… no worse than common flu” and “just stay calm, it will go away in a few weeks” and we were just introduced to Dr. Fauci. 

But despite the White House being in a state of denial, people were starting to become concerned.  Maybe not enough to abandon dining out or going to a movie, but apparently enough to postpone taking driving vacations.  Then add that it was just the beginning of the tourist season in the Southwest as the kids were still in school and still too early for major tour companies to start their tours for folks from other countries. 

Given the “Grand Central Station at rush hour” experience we had in 1973 we arranged to be at the visitor center when they first opened in order to book some tours.  Through prior research we had discovered that the bulk of the cave, including the “Big Room” no longer had guided tours, you just walked through at your own pace.  However the only way to see the Queens Chamber was on a guided tour.  So, we booked space on the 11:00 am tour.  There were about 20 people on this tour and the tour lasted nearly 2 hours. 

After the tour we headed back up to the visitor center to get some lunch, then went back down to do the self guided areas arriving in the big room a bit after 2:00 pm.  And we were all alone.  There was no one else down there!  Well, almost no one.  We spent over 2 more hours walking and photographing the “Big Room Loop Trail” and in that entire time we saw a total to 2 other couples.  One young couple passed by me and my tripod as I was shooting a feature.  We spied the other couple on the other side of big room when we were near a high point with a view of most of the room.  To be honest it was both amazing and somewhat spooky.  Great for photography as there were no other people getting in the way and I didn’t need to be concerned about blocking the pathway with my tripod as there was no one to block.  But that primal part of the brain was concerned at being 500 feet underground, in an unfamiliar landscape, and for the most part all alone.  Sure am glad there wasn’t a power outage.

Many people are surprised that the lighting in the caverns is not colored as it used to be.  Well, as it turns out, the lighting in this cave (which has been redone 3 times) has never been colored.  So what about all those photos from the past showing colors?  Well there are three probable causes of this.  First is that many caves around the world do utilize colored lighting and people may be remembering other caves.  The second is that in the black and white era of photography, many photographers hand tinted their photos to add some color.  But the most common cause of this is that different types of light photograph differently.  For example, florescent light (which had been used in places in the cave) tends to photograph green where incandescent lights tend to photograph with a yellowish tint.  Then add to that the choice of film.  Outdoor film is designed for white light and is what most people on vacations were using.  This film exaggerated the yellow color cast from the incandescent lighting.  On the other hand if the visitor was using indoor film, it blocked the yellowness of the incandescent lights but kept the greenish of the florescent lights.  One also can’t discount the possibility that professional photographers who procured permits for commercial photography in the cave brought their own color lights for the photo shoot.  So, all told, many old photos look like colored lighting was present when in fact it was not.

Now comes the hard part – picking the photos to show you.

Papoose Room
Kings Palace Papose Room., Carlsbad CavernsKings Palace Papose Room., Carlsbad Caverns

Queens Chamber
Kings Palace #7, Carlsbad CavernsKings Palace #7, Carlsbad Caverns

Big Room #11, Carlsbad CavernsBig Room #11, Carlsbad Caverns

Small Reflecting Pond
Big Room #14, Carlsbad CavernsBig Room #14, Carlsbad Caverns

Top of the Cross (seating area for Cave Talks)
Big Room #15, Carlsbad CavernsBig Room #15, Carlsbad Caverns

Mirror Lake
Big Room #18, Carlsbad CavernsBig Room #18, Carlsbad Caverns

The Totem Pole (Big Room)
Totem Pole, Big Room #25, Carlsbad CavernsTotem Pole, Big Room #25, Carlsbad Caverns

Pillar of Light, Big Room
Pillar of Light, Big Room, Carlsbad CavernsPillar of Light, Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns

Flowstone in the Big Room
Flowstone Big Room #21, Carlsbad CavernsFlowstone Big Room #21, Carlsbad Caverns

Rock of Ages, Big Room
Rock of Ages, Big Room #22, Carlsbad CavernsRock of Ages, Big Room #22, Carlsbad Caverns

Lions Tail
Big Room #06, Carlsbad CavernsBig Room #06, Carlsbad Caverns

Flowstone, Big Room
Big Room #23, Carlsbad CavernsBig Room #23, Carlsbad Caverns


I hope you enjoyed reading about our time on PEI and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/2020-03-desert-sw  (all images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Big Room blog California california desert Carlsbad Caverns Carlsbad Caverns National Park Carlsbad National Park Carlsbad NM Charlie White dan hartford photo dantravelblogdesertsw2020 desert sw Fairyland Flowstone James White Jim White Lions Tail Mirror Lake Papoose room Pillar of Light Rock of Ages The Totem Pole Tombstone Arizona Tomstone Monument Guest Ranch Top of the Cross united states White's City https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/10/sw-deserts-03 Mon, 12 Oct 2020 23:13:43 GMT
SW Deserts #02 – Joshua Tree National Park https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/9/sw-deserts-02 MARCH 2020

Desert Southwest #02 – Joshua Tree NP

This is part 2 of a 3,246 mile driving trip we took in early March 2020 to the desert SW of the USA.  On this trip we visited Lone Pine, Alabama Hills and Manzanar all on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains in California, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Tombstone Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, White Sands National Park also in New Mexico and a quick run through Painted Desert – Petrified forest National Park in Arizona.

This installment is for the Joshua Tree part of the trip.

Entire Trip map
01 Map 1 - Whole Trip01 Map 1 - Whole Trip

After leaving the Manzanar Internment Camp near Lone Pine, we headed south, back down US395, through Barstow and down to 29 Palms just outside of Joshua Tree National Park.  Joshua Tree is 50 miles east of Los Angeles but coming in via the Owens valley we bypassed all the LA chaos. 

Manzanar/Lone Pine to 29 Palms/Joshua Tree
02 Map 3 - Lone Pine to 29 palms02 Map 3 - Lone Pine to 29 palms

Joshua Tree National Park

We spent 2 nights in Twentynine Palms giving us one full day in the park.  We limited our visit to the northwestern portion of the park which is where most of the major sights to see are located.  The side by side towns of Joshua and Twentynine Palms border the north edge of the park on its western side with an entrance road into the park form each.  These towns have copious options for hotels and restaurants and are quite convenient to the park. 

Joshua Tree Park Map
01 Map 6 - Joshua Tree Park Map01 Map 6 - Joshua Tree Park Map

Our Route in Joshua Tree NP
03 Map 4 - Joshua Tree03 Map 4 - Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National park straddles two desert ecosystems in Southern California – The Mojave and the Colorado deserts.  The park entered the National Park system in 1994 but had been a National Monument since 1936.  The park itself is roughly 12,000 square miles in area making it slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island.  But, unlike Rhode Island, it doesn’t get 2 Senators or its own 2 members of congress.

Camping in the 1950’s

As a kid in the 1950’s our family visited the then National Monument many times.  We always seemed to camp in the Belle campground and as I recall it was site 7 (or maybe 9).  Belle was (and still is) a dry campground.  The only stuff you can drink is what you bring in with you.  There is no piped in water.  Not too far down the road is the only other campground whose name I remember from the mid 1950’s which is White Tank.  White tank always intrigued me as a kid for two reasons.  First of all, in that time period, TV and movies were ripe with World War II shows and in all my watching of those shows I never did see a white tank – and no army tanks of any kind could be found in the White Tank campground either.  The other intrigue was that White Tank had water spigots (still no flush toilets though) –so why we kept camping in Belle and having to schlep over to White Tank every day to fill our green army water tanks – you know the kind that you’ve seen on the back of army jeeps in WWII movies – was a mystery.  My dad shopped a lot in Army-Navy surplus stores for our camping gear.

Belle Campground, Site 7 (or is this 9?)
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The Meeting to Two Deserts

The Southwest US, once you get away from the coast consists of a patchwork of deserts with lots of different names. However, the main ones tend to fall into a gap between the Sierra Nevada mountains going north from Barstow and the Santa Ana range going south from Los Angeles.  These tend to form the western edge of the desert region as they block the moisture coming in from the Pacific Ocean.  Now, one could argue that the Coast Ranges going from Los Angeles to near the Oregon border cause the big California Central Valley to also be a desert region and that is true.  However, with the entire central valley being irrigated farm land it usually is not included when we talk about the deserts of the American Southwest. 

As the wet Pacific air rises to get over these formidable mountain ranges it loses its moisture as rain or snow on the western flank of the mountains making what’s to the east of these mountains a desert.  On the east side of these deserts are basically the Rocky Mountains.  This range blocks the very wet air masses coming up from the Gulf of Mexico from getting to these deserts.  This leaves the middle between these ranges quite dry which is why they are deserts.  The difference between these deserts is mostly due to altitude but also other meteorological factors that cause each to have a different ecosystem of flora and fauna.

The two deserts we’re talking about in terms of Joshua Tree national park are the Mojave desert and the Colorado section of the Sonora Desert.  For reference the southern end of the Sonora Desert is well down in Mexico and includes all but the NW corner of Baja California.  In Mexico it goes up both sides of the Gulf of California all the way to Joshua Tree at its northern end.  It extends east covering the southern half of Arizona three quarters of the way to New Mexico.  The north western section of this desert is called the Colorado Desert.  The Mojave Desert picks up at the north end of the Sonora Desert and continues up the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains to Death Valley.  To the west it goes as far as Lancaster near Los Angeles and to the east it goes across the southern tip of Nevada to Arizona – including Las Vegas.

Map of major desert areas in SW USA and northwestern Mexico
04 Map 5 - Western Deserts04 Map 5 - Western Deserts

The Sonora Desert is called “low desert” and typically resides below 3,000 feet elevation.  The Mojave is “high desert” and is typically above 3,000 feet.  Joshua Tree National park straddles this boundary.  Most of the eastern part of the park is in the Colorado Desert portion of the Sonora Desert and the western part of the park is in the Mojave Desert.

As you go east from the boundary between the two deserts toward the Colorado River and Arizona, you lose elevation and as a result the temperatures get higher.  And going the other way you gain elevation and there are cooler temperatures, more rainfall and thus more vegetation.  But in the summer, either way you go, it can get damn hot so Joshua Tree is best visited in the late fall through spring..  On our trip at the beginning of March it was quite pleasant.  Not too hot for hikes and no need to carry a jacket in the evenings.

Joshua Trees

The park is named for the Joshua trees (Yucca Brevifolia) which are native to the Mojave Desert but can certainly also be found in some portions of the Sonora Desert where the elevation is right. But, first a bit of history.  You may be wondering how they got such a name.  The story goes that upon seeing them, Mormon settlers were reminded of a biblical story of Joshua reaching his hands to the sky.  Sounds to me more like what a Saguaro cactus looks like but what do I know.

Although Joshua trees are found throughout the Mojave Desert including parts of Death Valley and along many of the highways that traverse the southwest corner of the US, the park exemplifies Joshua Tree forests found throughout the area. 

Joshua Tree Forest at Juniper Flats
Juniper Flats Joshua Tree GroveJuniper Flats Joshua Tree Grove

Lone Joshua Tree casts its shadow
Joshua Tree and ShadowJoshua Tree and Shadow

Joshua Tree framing small boulder pile
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A Bit of History

The earliest known residents of the area were the people of the Pinto Culture (8000 to 4000 BCE).  These were hunter-gatherers but little else is known about them.  Of course then the climate was much different than today so there was much more to hunt and gather than what we see today.  The Pinto’s were followed by the Serrano, the Cahuilla, and the Chemehuevi peoples, also hunter-gatherers who lived around what is now the town of Twentynine Palms.  A fourth group, the Mojave, used the local resources as they traveled along trails between the Colorado River and the Pacific coast. 

In 1772, a group of Spaniards led by Pedro Fages were the first Europeans to lay eyes on Joshua trees.  This occurred while pursuing native converts to Christianity who had run away from being enslaved at the mission in San Diego.  By 1823, the year Mexico achieved independence from Spain, a Mexican expedition from Alta (now Los Angeles), is thought to have explored what later became the park.  Three years later, Jedediah Smith led a group of American fur trappers and explorers along the nearby Mojave Trail, and others soon followed. Two decades after that, the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican–American War (1846–48) and took over about half of Mexico's original territory, including California and the future parkland.

White settlers began moving in around 1870 (5 years after the end of the Civil War). In 1888, a gang of cattle rustlers moved into the region and hid stolen cattle in a box canyon at the aptly named Cow Camp.

Throughout the Anglo occupation, water has been in very short supply in this part of the world.  There are no flowing rivers or lakes and what little rain falls quickly disappears into the sandy desert floor.  Every now and again though a rock jumble forms sort of a basin where rain water collects but that’s about it.  These large puddles are called “tanks” (Ahhh, so that’s what the “tank” part of White Tank Campground is).  As ranchers moved in during this time they looked for these tanks and oftentimes helped out nature with crude dams to allow the water level in the tank to go higher.  Sometimes they just built a dam to make a tank where there was none before.  But, they also dug wells which was hit and miss at best. 

One of the hikes we took was out to Barker Tank which is one of those created by a dam and is somewhat larger than is typical of the area.

Barker Tank. You can see on the rocks how high the water can get – but evidentially not often
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Adobe walls form cattle watering trough just below Barker Dam
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Between the 1860s and the 1940s, 300 small pit mines populated what would become the park area.  The most successful, the Lost Horse Mine, produced gold and silver worth about $5 million in today's dollars.  Another, whose name seems to come right out of an old John Wayne movie is The Desert Queen gold mine .

The park itself got its start in 1936, when a local committee persuaded state and federal governments to protect the area. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the power of the 1906 Antiquities Act to establish Joshua Tree National Monument at about 1,289 sq mi.  In 1950, the size of the park was reduced by about 453 sq mi to open land to more mining.  Then in 1994 the monument was redesignated as a national park under the Desert Protection Act which also added 366 sq mi.  In 2019 (hey, that was just last year!), the park expanded by another 7.1 sq mi under a bill included in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.

Geological Formations

In addition to Joshua tree forests, the western part of the park includes some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California's deserts.  The dominant feature being mounds of bare rock broken up into loose boulders perfect for rock climbing and scrambling.  Many times the flat land between these boulder piles is forested with Joshua trees which together with the boulder piles make the landscape otherworldly.

Boulder Pile near Cap Rock
Boulder Pile Near Cap rockBoulder Pile Near Cap rock

Looking for a way down
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And with such a wealth of these boulder piles strewn about, it was only natural that some would obtain unique and even human or animal like shapes – even more so when you’ve been out in the desert sun too long.

Cap Rock
Cap Rock.  Joshua Tree NPCap Rock. Joshua Tree NP

Mushroom (left) and bear or lion (right)
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Rear View of an elephant
Elephant Rear, Joshua Tree NPElephant Rear, Joshua Tree NP

Skull Rock
Skull Rock, Joshua Tree NPSkull Rock, Joshua Tree NP

The numerous boulder piles are wonderful for scrambling around for those of any skill level.  There are flat sandy pathways between for the less ambitious, couch sized boulders for the little ones, and on up to those requiring ropes and technical climbing skills to get to the top. 

One area formed by these boulder piles is Hidden Valley.  Hidden Valley is a 55 acre area which at that time was full of grasses and is surrounded by natural rock formations on all sides except for one gap which formed the entrance to this natural corral.  The story goes that in the late 1870’s, brothers Bill and Jim McHaney formed a gang called the McHaney Gang.  With the help of a little bit of dynamite they closed off the one exit except for a narrow passageway where they could put up a fence and gate.  The McHaney gang rustled cattle from Arizona and horses from California and drove the herds into this area for rebranding and eventual sale in other states.

Steep walls kept cattle from wander out of Hidden Valley
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The grass in Hidden Valley is now gone
Joshua Tree and rocksJoshua Tree and rocks

Trail leading to narrow gap in the walls surrounding Hidden Valley
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On to Tombstone

The next day, we headed east into Arizona and the town of Tombstone. 

So, what happened in the world on our day in Joshua Tree and drive to Tombstone you may ask?  Well, let’s see.  Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US is now at 217 but it’s still okay to fly to most of the world.  Still no Shelter in Place orders or any large scale testing going on.  A bit of Q&A screening at airports is taking place.  Restaurants, movie theaters, bars, sporting events and concerts are all still operating as they had.  And, the federal government is calling the COVID-19 a hoax, a Democratic plot and insisting it will be gone in a few weeks of its own accord.



I hope you enjoyed reading about our time on PEI and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them. PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS AS I ENJOY HEARING YOUR REACTION TO WHAT I'VE WRITTEN

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These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/2020-03-desert-sw  (all images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Barker Tank Bear Rock Belle Campground blog California california desert Cap Rock Colorado Desert dan hartford photo dantravelblogdesertsw2020 destert sw Elephant rock Hidden Valley Joshua Tree Joshua Tree National Park Mojave Desert Mushroom Rock Scull rock Sonora Desert TwentyNine Palms united states White Tank Campground https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/9/sw-deserts-02 Sat, 19 Sep 2020 18:21:51 GMT
SW Deserts #01 – Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, Manzanar https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/9/sw-deserts-01 MARCH 2020

Desert Southwest #01 – Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, Manzanar

This is part 1 of a 3,304 mile driving trip we took in early March 2020 to the desert SW of the USA.  On this trip we visited Lone Pine , Alabama Hills and Manzanar (all on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains in California), Joshua Tree National Park in California, Tombstone Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, White Sands National Park also in New Mexico and a quick run through Painted Desert–Petrified Forest national park in Arizona.

This installment is for the Lone Pine/Alabama Hills/Manzanar portion of the trip.

Entire Trip map
01 Map 1 - Whole Trip01 Map 1 - Whole Trip


Racing a Pandemic

We left Palo Alto on this 10 day trip on March 1st, 2020.  For those of you who are paying attention and can remember back to March there was something else getting some attention worldwide. 

So let me recap the months leading up to our departure.  Starting on December 31st and into January there was talk of a new virus in Wuhan China.  During January:

  • The CDC started screening incoming passengers at 3 US Airports (JFK, SFO, and LAX)
  • The first confirmed case in the US was found in someone who had recently been in Wuhan
  • China locked down Wuhan with a quarantine of the entire area (no one in, no one out)
  • The World Health Organization of the UN (WHO) declares a Global Health Emergency
  • By the end of January there were 8 confirmed US cases and no deaths
  • The White House stated:
    • “U.S. experts are on top of situation 24/7"
    • “We think we have it very well under control”
    • “The U.S. has very little problem with five cases”.

In February:

  • Inbound passengers from the China province where Wuhan is located were required to self-quarantine for 2 weeks
  • Inbound passengers from other areas of mainland China were screened and had their temperature taken at the airport
  • A 3,600 passenger cruise ship was quarantined in Japan
  • The US declared it as a health emergency
  • The death toll in China surpasses that of SARS from 17 years ago
  • The CDC warned that this may turn into a pandemic
  • Confirmed cases in the US went to 74
  • I know it seems much longer ago but the first week of February was when Trump was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial
  • We were introduced to Dr. Fauci
  • The White House stated:
    • “The virus becomes weaker with warmer weather, and then is gone"
    • "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA"
    • "Within a couple days is going to be down close to zero"
    • “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done"
    • “The virus will disappear one day like a miracle"
    • "Everything is really under control and we've done a great job”
    • "We've taken the most aggressive actions by any country”

On the last day of February the first Coronavirus death in the U.S. was recorded in Washington State.  We left on our trip on the next day on March 1st.   You’ll notice that other than restricting some international air passengers coming into the US not much was going on here.  There was no one suggesting shelter in place, no suggestions that masks should be worn and “social distancing” was what the family did in relation to uncle Fred after last year’s Christmas party.  So, even though caution was prudent and we weren’t planning to go to any real cities or take any airplane flights there was no reason not to go on the trip as planned.

Route for this episode
02 Map 1a Palo Alto to 29 Palms02 Map 1a Palo Alto to 29 Palms

Getting to Lone Pine

After leaving Palo Alto on March 1st, we headed down through the central valley and following our typical route turned left in Bakersfield and climbed up over the Tehachapi’s on CA-58 and then swung North on US-395 up into the Owens valley on the Eastern side of the Sierra’s to Lone Pine.

Most of this days travel was bright and sunny with temps in the mid/upper 70’s along with a modest breeze coming from the north.  However, after we turned north on US-395 we spotted some heavy clouds coming up over the Sierra’s and sweeping down the Owens Valley toward us.  As we went the clouds got darker and darker and the head winds became stronger and stronger as the outside air temp gauge on the dashboard dropped to the mid 30’s.  The mid 30’s?  In March  in southern California?

And now some light rain was coming down as the clouds closed in completely swallowing the mighty Sierra Mountains.  Then a fog bank swept over us limiting visibility and reducing our speed from 70 mph down to under 30 mph as we were now following an 18 wheeler on a two lane road and with the fog no chance (or desire for that matter) to pass.  The temp was still dropping and was now hovering at around 33 with that obnoxious little snowflake icon next to it.  We had chains with us but I really didn’t relish putting on chains with only 20 or so miles to go so I was quite content to follow along at 30mph in the mud spray of the truck. 

We found our motel without much trouble, found a place for dinner and called it a day.

During this days travel:

  • Governor Cuomo of NY announced that state's first COVID-19 case in a woman who had just come back from Iran
  • Oregon confirmed its second case in the same household as its first case
  • Rhode Island Department of Health announced two suspected cases in two folks who had traveled to Italy in mid-February. 

But, our drive and restaurant lunch in Bakersfield and dinner in Lone Pine was nothing out of the ordinary.

Lone Pine

Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, Manzanar route
03 Map 2 - Lone Pine area03 Map 2 - Lone Pine area

Lone Pine is a modest little town with a population of just over 2,000 (2010 census).  The town is named after a solitary pine tree that once existed at the mouth of what is now called Lone Pine Canyon. 

Prior to those pesky “white” people arriving the area was the territory of the Paiute people.  The first white invasion occurred when a family built a cabin here in 1861.  Over the next couple of years others arrived and a small settlement developed.  Lone Pine got its own post office in 1870. 

Things in Lone Pine were pretty quiet until March of 1872 when a massive earthquake hit the settlement and killed 26 people, destroyed most of the town and formed Diaz Lake.  At the time, the town had 80 buildings made of mud and adobe of which 60 were destroyed and the remaining 20 were heavily damaged.  But the town pressed on.

During the remainder of the 1870s, Lone Pine became an important supply town for the many silver mines in the area including one of the largest in the country at the time.  In support of mining and smelting, in 1883 the Carson and Colorado Railway line was constructed from Belleville, Nevada, across the White Mountains to Benton, and then down into the Owens Valley, through Lone Pine and ended in Keeler (17 miles SE of Lone Pine). The arrival of the C&C rail line, with its engine "The Slim Princess" along, with a stagecoach station in Keeler gave a major economic boost for the area.

But Lone Pine’s main claim to fame came through the movie making industry.  In 1920, a movie production company came to the Alabama Hills just outside of Lone Pine to make the silent film The Round-Up.  Other companies soon discovered the scenic location, and in the coming decades, over 400 films, 100 television episodes, and countless commercials have used Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills as a film location.  Notable films shot here in the 1920s and 1930s include:

  • Riders of the Purple Sage (1925) with Tom Mix
  • The Enchanted Hill (1926) with Jack Holt
  • Somewhere in Sonora (1927) with Ken Maynard
  • Blue Steel (1934) with John Wayne
  • Hop-Along Cassidy (1935) with William Boyd
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) with Errol Flynn
  • Oh, Susanna! (1936) with Gene Autry
  • Rhythm on the Range (1936) with Bing Crosby
  • The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) with Gary Cooper
  • Under Western Stars (1938) with Roy Rogers
  • Gunga Din (1939) with Cary Grant

In the coming decades, Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills continued to be used as the setting for mostly Western films, including:

  • West of the Pecos (1945) with Robert Mitchum
  • Thunder Mountain (1947) with Tim Holt
  • The Gunfighter (1950) with Gregory Peck
  • The Nevadan (1950) with Randolph Scott
  • Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) with Spencer Tracy
  • Hell Bent for Leather (1960) with Audie Murphy
  • How the West Was Won(1962) with James Stewart
  • Nevada Smith (1966) with Steve McQueen
  • Joe Kidd (1972) with Clint Eastwood
  • Maverick (1994) with Mel Gibson
  • The Lone Ranger (2013) with Johnny Depp

Through the years, non-Western films also used the unique landscape of the area, including

  • Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) with Robert (Bob) Cummings
  • Samson and Delilah (1949) with Hedy Lamarr
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) with William Shatner
  • Tremors (1990) with Kevin Bacon
  • The Postman (1997) with Kevin Costner
  • Gladiator (2000) with Russell Crowe.

Now I don’t know about you, but even though I wasn’t around in the 1920’s, 1930’s or 1940’s I am old enough to remember several of these older movies and stars from re-runs on TV in the 1950’s and early 1960’s as well as most produced in the 1950’s and beyond.  Any of you remember the “Million Dollar Movie” TV show which played a full length feature movie on TV every weekday afternoon in the mid 1950’s?  When I was sick at home these movies became a highlight of an otherwise terminally boring day lying in bed with a sore throat, rash or fever. 

But the most important movie filmed in and around Lone Pine is said to be director Raoul Walsh's High Sierra (1941), starring Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in the role that moved Bogart from respected supporting player to leading man.  Cast and crew lodged in Lone Pine, and Walsh shot various scenes in and around Lone Pine.  For the film's mountain chase scenes, Walsh took everyone to nearby Mt. Whitney, where pack mules lugged camera equipment up the mountainside.  On a slope on the side of Mt. Whitney, a group of twenty men from the studio worked four days to clear a path so that mountain-trained mules, packing cameras and other equipment, could get up to the shooting area.  For one scene Bogart had to run three miles up a mountainside over the course of two shooting days. For another scene Walsh ordered all the big boulders removed from the path of Bogart's final fall, but the little ones remained which did not make Bogart happy, and he complained about that plenty.  Bogie especially did not want to trek up that mountain over and over for take after take.

Today, there is an interesting Museum of Film History in the town of Lone Pine.  This museum contains countless artifacts from the shooting of those old films including cameras, props, costumes and much more. It is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area and are a bit nostalgic for the golden era of film making.

Alabama Hills

The next day, March 2nd, broke crystal clear with a bright warm sun rising over the Inyo mountains to our east.  Across the road from our motel were the Alabama Hills sitting in front of the Sierra Mountains which had received a blanket of snow overnight down to almost our level.  What a difference a day makes. 

Sierra’s and Alabama Hills from in front of our Motel in Lone Pine
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We checked out and headed into the Alabama Hills just outside of town.  Even though the film crews used Lone Pine as their base camp, the shooting was mostly done in the Alabama Hills.  In fact if you remember pretty much any western coming out of Hollywood you can bet that it was shot either in the Alabama Hills or in Monument Valley Utah with Alabama Hills being a far more popular shooting location.  Its popularity stemmed from several factors.  It is less than a day’s drive from Hollywood, has very predictable and usually clear weather through most of the year, has an actual town with hotels and restaurants to support the film crew and cast, and it has easy access to a very “western” landscape with the towering Sierra mountains in the background, often times with a mantle of snow.  It is really ideal for shooting westerns.

The Alabama Hills is BLM land (not ‘that’ BLM, this one is Bureau of Land Management) and it consists of a low range of hills and rock formations. Though geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada, they are part of the same geological formation. 

The rock formations are mostly rounded contours which contrast nicely with the sharp ridges of the Sierra’s to the west including Mount Whitney which is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.  The topography itself was quite conducive to movie making as it includes plenty of boulders to hide behind during shoot outs, flat plains for chase scenes, plenty of tallish rock formations forming narrow canyons for stunt men to jump down onto unsuspecting riders passing by or to ambush a stage coach.  Many of these familiar western movie areas have flat smooth roadways next to them from which they can use truck mounted cameras to race along with the action.

But putting all the movie stuff aside, although the Alabama Hills is not an overly large area it does have interesting rock formations, including many natural arches all back dropped by the mighty Sierra Mountains.

Typical rock formation with the Sierra’s in the background
Alabama Hills rock formation and Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain range #3Alabama Hills rock formation and Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain range #3

Many small arches can be found in the Alabama Hills
Alabama hills small archAlabama hills small arch

Can’t you just see a gang of bad guys galloping through this ravine chased by a posse of good guys?
Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain range from Alabama Hills #1Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain range from Alabama Hills #1

More typical rock formations
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Cute double arch on the ridge
Alabama hills double archAlabama hills double arch

Mobius Arch with Snow Capped Sierras in background
Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, CAMobius Arch, Alabama Hills, CA


We exited the Alabama hills at its North end, closer to the town of Independence so that we could take a look at the Manzanar Internment Camp. 

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that required people of Japanese ancestry living along the Pacific coast to be placed into one of ten “relocation” camps.  One of these camps was Manzanar, 7 miles north of Lone Pine. 

More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at Manzanar during World War II from March 1942 to November 1945.  These camps were not filled with criminals nor were they were used for prisoners of war or for illegal immigrants or for terrorists or spies.  They were used to warehouse law abiding American Citizens who happened to have ancestors who came from Japan.  Along with what we did to the Native American cultures, and recently with the immigration camps, these camps are a major black mark on American History. 

During WWII we were fighting the Japanese, Germans and Italians as the major enemy powers.  But, for whatever reason we only imprisoned descendants of Japan – not Germans and not Italians.  And, we didn’t even include those Japanese in Hawaii where the Pearl Harbor attack actually took place and is one of the closest US owned land areas to Japan.  But, putting all of that aside, we as a country created these camps, rounded up those citizens and forced them to leave their homes and businesses – most of which were sold for pennies on the dollar as the buyers knew the sellers had no choice and we have to live with that as part of our history.  So, keeping places like Manzanar around to tell that story in the hopes that it will not be repeated is a good thing. 

But, the Japanese weren’t the first folks here.  Long before the internment camp the area was home to Native Americans who lived mostly in villages near several creeks in the area.  Ranchers and miners formally established the town of Manzanar in 1910.  Manzanar translates to “apple orchard” in Spanish.  We don’t know why such a name was given to this place as there were never apples grown anywhere near it.  But, it sounds much more attractive than “desolate empty desert” so I guess that is something.  But the settlement was abandoned by 1929 after the City of Los Angeles purchased the water rights to virtually the entire Owens Valley. 

The Internment camp was created in March 1942 and the last residents of the camp left in November 1945.  After the war, the government removed most of the structures and buried the gardens and basements.  As time passed, Manzanar was further buried, both in sand and in memory as the desert reclaimed the land.  One would look over the landscape and presume nothing was, or had been, there.  But, if you took a closer look you might see the stub of a pipe sticking up out of the ground that had been a water faucet where children splashed water on their faces in the heat of the summer.  An exposed foundation slab shows a Childs footprint where they walked on the wet cement. 

In the 1980’s and 1990’s former detainees became concerned that the memory of the camp and events related to it were fading away so worked to protect Manzanar and to establish it as a National Historic Site.  After much work, Manzanar National Historic Site was established by Congress on March 3, 1992, to “provide for protection and interpretation of historical, cultural, and natural resources associated with the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II.”  While Manzanar is best known for its wartime history, this story can’t be told without including layers of larger themes of American history, including displacement of native peoples, the settlement by ranchers and farmers, water wars, and the consequences of prejudice which all meld together as part of the history of the site.  This all gives context to the stories of those who were incarcerated there, and as a national historic site it is now recorded and preserved for current and future generations.  But the primary focus of the site is the Japanese American incarceration era.

The camp site is situated on 6,200 acres leased from the City of Los Angeles, with the developed portion covering approximately 540 acres.  The residential area was about one square mile, and consisted of 36 “blocks” of hastily constructed, 20-foot by 100-foot tarpaper barracks.  These barracks provided zero insulation from the over 100 degree summer days nor the freezing cold winter nights. 

Recreated barracks building
15 5d3R04-#678715 5d3R04-#6787

Each barracks building was split into 20-foot by 25-foot "apartments" for a family.  The construction did very little to keep the wind and sand from coming through the wide gaps in the walls – and the wind blows almost constantly and fiercely.   Each block had 14 barrack buildings, a recreation hall, mess hall, small ironing building, small laundry building, women’s and men’s bathhouse buildings each of which had a shower area, sink area, and toilet area.  It should be noted that the toilets were just lined up in an open room with no partitions or doors.  Not having partitions or stalls in the shower and toilet area was one of the hardest things for the Japanese to deal with. 

Typical barracks “apartment”
Barracks, Manzanar Japaneese Internment CampBarracks, Manzanar Japaneese Internment Camp

The mess hall in each block was large enough to serve 300 people at a time.  Each was assigned a cook from the block who then could recruit other staff members to help out.  Of course, some “cooks” were better than others as some had actually been a cook in a restaurant.  But, some blocks didn’t happen to have a real cook in their midst so someone with absolutely no experience was just appointed.  It soon became well known which blocks had the good food and which didn’t and residents would accidentally find themselves in a mess hall line in a block other than their own.  Well, after all, one line looks like another and these camps had plenty of them.  You had to wait in line to eat, to go to the bathroom, to take a shower and to do the laundry.  About the only thing you didn’t have to wait in line to do was to get into another line.

Mess Hall with seating for 300.  Kitchen is seen in the back, beyond the tables
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In addition to the residential blocks, the camp had a high-school auditorium, staff housing, chicken and hog farms, churches, a cemetery, a post office, and other necessary amenities that one would expect to find in most small American towns.  What one didn’t usually find in most American towns were the eight watchtowers manned by armed Military Police, and a five-strand barbed wire fence around the whole thing.

There’s no place like home in an “Apple Orchard” with armed guards in watchtowers
manzanar watch towermanzanar watch tower

Although this was a prison in most senses of the word, there were many differences.  There were no locked cells (well no locked anything for that matter except the outer gates).  The residents had access to mail – both in and out – were permitted to “own” things, could decorate and appoint their living area as they desired, could purchase items through mail order and were free to wander the site at will.  As part of this “deal”, each camp was intended to be self-sufficient.  So, cooperatives and small businesses sprang up to provide some semblance of normal life.  Most blocks had some sort of Co-Op store, a beauty and barber shop, shoemaker, lending library and more – including a camp newspaper (censored of course).  Most of these were run out of personal living spaces.

Recreation of men’s latrine/shower house (left) and mess hall (rear)
Manzanar Japaneese Internment campManzanar Japaneese Internment camp

As one would imagine with so many people living in close quarters illnesses such as measles, chickenpox, whooping cough, and diarrhea swept through large portions of the population.  Eventually a hospital was built but before that people were just treated in their barracks which had no heat, no running water and no bathroom facilities.  Once the Manzanar Hospital was built though, it included a kitchen, operating rooms, treatment wards, laboratories, and other facilities.  All medical treatment in Manzanar was provided at no charge.

Among the enterprises run by the inmates, was the Manzanar Children's Village, an orphanage housing 101 Japanese American orphans.  As we know, Japanese families and individuals were rounded up and shipped to these camps, but as it turns out that wasn’t all.  In order to deter terrorist attacks and spies passing military secrets to Japan, we also grabbed children out of orphanages.  These orphanages were in the Los Angeles area as well as locations in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska and the Japanese children were shipped - under armed guard – to Manzanar.  This included infants who just happen to look Japanese.  You really have to be careful of those infant terrorists and spies.  But the Manzanar orphanage was such a success that other camps sent newborns from unwed mothers to Manzanar from those other camps.

One hundred and forty-six Japanese Americans died at Manzanar.  Fifteen were buried there, but only five graves remain as most were reburied elsewhere by their families.  The Manzanar cemetery site is marked by a monument that was built by stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943. There are 3 inscriptions on the monument, written  in Japanese.  They read, "Soul Consoling Tower",  "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese" and "August 1943".

Manzanar Memorial Tower
Buddhist Monument, Manzanar Japaneese Internment campBuddhist Monument, Manzanar Japaneese Internment camp

Strings of Paper Cranes placed around the monument in memory and for good luck
Paper Cranes for good luck.  Manzanar, CAPaper Cranes for good luck. Manzanar, CA

While many left the camp voluntarily when it closed, a significant number refused to leave because they had no place to go after having lost everything when they were forcibly uprooted and removed from their homes. As such, they had to be forcibly removed once again, this time from Manzanar.  The last Manzanar internee left the camp at 11:00 a.m. on November 21, 1945.  It was the sixth of the 10 camps to close. 

Although the Japanese Americans had been brought to the Owens Valley by the United States Government, they had to leave the camp and travel to their next destination on their own.  The WRA gave each person $25 ($355 today), a one-way train or bus fare, and boxed meals to those who had less than $600 ($8,521 today).

After the camp was closed, the site eventually returned to its original state. Within a couple of years, all the structures had been removed, with the exception of two sentry posts at the entrance, the cemetery monument, and the former Manzanar High School auditorium, which was purchased by the County of Inyo. The County leased the auditorium to the Independence Veterans of Foreign Wars, who used it as a meeting facility and community theater until 1951. After that, the building was used as a maintenance facility by the Inyo County Road Department.

The Manzanar Historic site was identified by the United States National Park Service as the best-preserved of the ten former camp sites.  For you music fans, here is a link to a song about Manzanar sung by Tom Paxton and Anne Hills which is worth a listen - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOqvmT4YhsA

Today’s COVID19 Update

While we were visiting the Alabama hills and Manzanar:

  • Trump held a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • The United States confirmed 13 more cases, bringing the total number to 102
  • There were 5 more US deaths bringing the total number to 6
  • At his rally, Trump declared that Covid-19 was no worse than the common flu.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Lone Pine area and will come back for my next installment


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/2020-03-desert-sw  (all images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) alabama hills blog california desert dan hartford photo dantravelblogdesertsw2020 destert sw lone pine manzanar manzanar relocation center united states https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/9/sw-deserts-01 Fri, 04 Sep 2020 23:08:12 GMT
Canadian Maritimes #04 – SE Nova Scotia & Cape Breton Part 2 https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/8/canadian-maritimes-04 OCTOBER 2019

Canadian Maritimes #04 –Cape Breton Part 2

This is part 4 of a trip we took in October of 2019 to the southeastern portion of the Maritime Provinces in Canada.  On this trip we visited Halifax, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton.  We flew into and out of Halifax Nova Scotia but the rest of the trip was by rented car. 

Three major destinations on this trip
01 Map 00 - Overview01 Map 00 - Overview

This installment is the second part for Cape Breton Island (or just Cape Breton as most call it).

Where we went on Cape Breton
02 Map 07 - Cape Breton Route Map02 Map 07 - Cape Breton Route Map

Cape Breton Historical sites (Continued)


Nova Scotia’s colonial history was largely shaped by decisions made in Europe. When the War of Spanish Succession was settled with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Britain was given control of mainland Nova Scotia and France was given Ile Royale, what is today known as Cape Breton Island.  On the eastern side of Cape Breton, the French found an ice-free, sheltered harbor to act as a base for France’s interests in the cod fishery and to serve as an important trading outpost because of its proximity to Europe and colonies in both New England and the West Indies. They named it Louisbourg, in honor of King Louis XIV.

Over the three decades, they surrounded the town and garrison with massive stone walls that would make it one of the most extensive fortifications in North America.  This 2.5 mile long wall measuring 30 feet high and 36 feet thick in places cost so much to build that the French king joked how he expected to be able to see it from his palace in France.

During its peak Louisbourg was the third busiest port in North America and was considered the jewel of France’s holdings in the new world.  To the lower class in France Louisbourg represented hope and prosperity and many of France’s poor and impoverished took the bait, leaving their homes behind and set off for a chance at a better life.

Despite the towering walls, the Fortress of Louisbourg had some weaknesses that its engineers struggled with.  While the fortress was well defended against attacks from the sea, it was vulnerable to land-based assaults, and when France and Britain went to war again in 1745, this weakness was exploited.  The attackers this time were New England militia who saw Louisbourg as a direct threat to their colonies and the nearby fishing grounds.  Remember, in 1745 New England was still a British colony.  They erected siege batteries on the hills overlooking the fortress and through a series of bombardments and assaults, forced the defenders to surrender.

A few years later in 1748 a treaty returned Louisbourg to the French.  It also prompted the British to establish a new fortress at Halifax to counter the French presence in Cape Breton.  Over the next decade, French and English forces battled for control of Nova Scotia during the French and Indian War and the Seven Years War.  During this time, in 1758, the Fortress of Louisbourg once again fell to the British. 

But the Brits already had plenty of forts in Nova Scotia so even though they waged a major battle to conquer Louisbourg they had no intention of occupying it or using it for their own benefit.  They also didn’t want to take any chances of a future battle once it was returned again to France so they literally destroyed the town and dismantled the fort, and even shipped some of it off to Boston to construct Louisbourg Square and other buildings in that city.  They completely flattened the place leaving absolutely nothing standing and promptly left.

You following this?  French -> New England Brits -> French -> British (who destroyed the place then left) -> French (at least on paper).  I guess the residents just kept a stock of both British and French flags and changed them out whenever the town switched hands.

The site was designated a National Historic Site and partially reconstructed in the 1960s.  When the town and fort was originally constructed, they brought French architects and engineers over form France to do the planning and construction.  As it turned out the French at that time were great record keepers and all the plans and drawings (what we’d now call blueprints) were dutifully shipped back to France for approval and all these documents were filed away (and for the most part forgotten about).  But when, in the 1960’s, it was decided to reconstruct Louisbourg they found this archive of documents which allowed them to do a 100% accurate reconstruction.  I mean, these plans were really detailed.  They showed pretty much every beam and board and even included specs on what types of wood to use for each part of the building, how those pieces would be fastened together, and how many nails were to be used in each.  This reconstruction has become the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America, with archaeologists, and engineers and historians working together to recreate the town as it was in the 1740s era.

Current Louisbourg site map
14 Map 09 - Louisbourg14 Map 09 - Louisbourg

Inner courtyard of the fortress
fort Louisburg #3 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)fort Louisburg #3 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Reconstructed street in the town area
Fort Louisburg #4 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Fort Louisburg #4 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Docent in a Louisbourg (upper class) home showing off the automatic “spit” rotation device used to keep the meat turning in the fireplace for even roasting
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The inner courtyard of the fortress
Sentry, Fort Louisburg (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Sentry, Fort Louisburg (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)


The history of coal mining on Cape Breton began in the early 1700’s when coal was needed in Louisbourg for the French to construct the Fortress.  At that time coal was extracted from exposed seams along the cliffs and then in 1720 the first below ground mine was officially opened at Cow Bay.  From 1784 to 1820, coal was mined on a small scale by either the colonial government or through lease by private individuals.

In 1826 the Duke of York was granted sole right by the Crown to all coal resources of Nova Scotia (wasn’t that nice of them as I’m sure the Duke could use the income).  The Duke subleased these rights to a syndicate of British investors called the General Mining Association who then sank shafts mainly around the town of Sydney. The Association built workshops, company houses, a foundry and a railroad to North Sydney. In 1856, the General Mining Association surrendered its mining rights and the province invited independent operators to apply for leases and subleases. From 1858 to 1893, more than 30 coal mines were opened, producing 700,000 tons in the last year.

In 1873, there were eight coal companies still operating in Cape Breton. The miners were paid from 80 cents to a $1.50 per day and boys were paid 65 cents.  At Glace Bay there were 12 mines.  In 1894, the government gave exclusive mining rights to an American syndicate, the Dominion Coal Company.  By 1903, the Dominion Coal Company was producing 3,250,000 tons per year. By 1912, the company had 16 collieries in full operation and its production accounted for 40% of Canada’s total output.  This was a big economic deal for Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.

However, over the last 30-50 years, worldwide demand for coal has been on a steep decline and mines closed one after another.  One major causes of the collapse of the coal mining industry was a strict federal restriction on emissions which was implemented recently.  While great for the environment, this has been quite traumatic for the blue collar workers both in the mines and in the support industries.  When these new restrictions were put in place, resulting in most of the Cape Breton mines shutting down, the government put in a retraining program for the displaced miners.  Quite a few of them were retrained as stone masons, and carpenters and formed a large portion of the workforce used to re-build the fortress at Louisbourg.

In order to preserve their legacy and tell their story, in Glace bay a group of miners got together and established this museum.  It’s quite well done.  There are some modest exhibits in the museum building but the main attraction is the underground mine tour.  In this area the massive coal seam tilts downward as it goes out under the sea.  So, rather than spend time, energy and money on acquiring land and mineral rights from farmers and residents most of the mines acquired a modest amount of land by the edge of the sea and ran their mines out under the ocean.

In order to build this museum, due to environmental restrictions they weren’t allowed to acquire an existing mine so they dug a new one for the express purpose of making it part of the museum.  In other words they dug a museum that just happened to look and act just like a mine.  But there were no restrictions on building museums.  In fact, during construction they sold the construction debris (i.e. the coal) at a good price which actually paid for the whole project.  But, make no mistake, this is a real mine, not just a facsimile or “for show” mine.  It contains several spurs of tunnels and is quite authentic. 

This mine is modeled to represent mining in the 1930’s.  When you take the tour they give you a hard hat and cape as mines under the ocean tend to drip.  The tour shows how coal was mined by pick and shovel with steam drills for drilling holes for the dynamite.  The coal was hauled out with “pit ponies” who pulled carts on rails (rails were later taken out due to guest safety issues).  The tours are led by retired miners many of which are the last of several generations of miners. 

In the tour they describe conditions and methods.  One interesting fact is that in the 1930’s they had “pit boys” working underground along with the men.  These kids, some as young as 8 or 9 years old had special jobs that didn’t require physical strength.  First of all they tended the pony’s who stayed in the mine for 9 months to a year at a time.  There was an area in the mine that was used as a corral for these small horses and the kids made sure they had food and water and – you guessed it – cleaned up after them. 

Another job for these kids was “door guard”.  In a 1930’s mine, well before forced air ventilation, managing air flow in the tunnels was a significant challenge unless you wanted a lot of dead miners.  Mines had at least two entrances at significantly different elevations.  As we know warm air rises compared to cold air.  So the idea was that cool air would enter the mine through the lower entrance and then had to be channeled through the matrix of tunnels eventually exiting at the higher entrance.  When this was done properly, the natural convection kept fresh air flowing through all parts of the mine. 

But, a mine is not just a single tunnel like a circular drive.  Rather it is a labyrinth of interconnecting and crossing tunnels.  So, to keep the air flowing through all the tunnels they installed solid wooden walls at strategic locations with doors that could be closed to force the air the way they needed it to go.  One of the jobs of these kids was to assure that whenever a door was opened to allow passage of a load of coal or group of miners to pass through, that the door was quickly re-closed as soon as the cart passed by.  Even though this was not a physically taxing job, it was considered one of the most important jobs in the mine as if a door wasn’t reclosed in pretty short order you’d find a dozen dead miners someplace further down the mine due to an accumulation of various poisonous gasses that escaped from the rocks as they were dug out.

When you enter the mine, you go through one of those airflow blocking doors and are in a concrete lined tunnel about 6 to 7 feet tall.  The only portions of such a mine that used concrete liners are at the entrances where the tunnel is near the surface.  As you descend the concrete disappears, the water starts dripping and the floor becomes mud.  But not only that, due to the height of the coal seam the ceilings get lower.  After a short bit, only the shortest people on the tour could stand upright.  The rest of us had to bend over to keep from banging our helmeted head on the cross beams that hold up the roof.  Eventually the tunnels got down to well under 5 feet high.  Now, as a 5’ 9” person, a ceiling of around 4 ½ feet doesn’t sound too bad but after 10 to 15 minutes of staying leaned over it was becoming quite uncomfortable.  I can’t imagine doing it through an 8 hour shift. 

Only the entrance, where the tunnel is near the surface is concrete lined.  One of the rail cars used to transport coal and workers
Entrance Tunnel, Glace Bay Miner's Museum (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Entrance Tunnel, Glace Bay Miner's Museum (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Typical tunnel with sea water leaching in, mud floor and low ceiling.
Mine Tunnel Glace Bay Miner's Museum(Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Mine Tunnel Glace Bay Miner's Museum(Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

About the only “power” tools they had was a hydraulic drill used to drill the holes for the dynamite
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Our Guide demonstrating use of the hydraulic drill
Hydraulic Drill demonstration Glace Bay Miner's Museum (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Hydraulic Drill demonstration Glace Bay Miner's Museum (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Cape Breton Highlands and Cabot Trail

In many countries whose roots stem back to colonization by Great Britain, with the notable exception of the US, not only do they drive on the wrong side of the road but they designate roads as “trails” or “tracks”.  Cape Breton has 6 named scenic “trails”.  We drove a few parts of several of them but did the entire “Cabot Trail” which is the only noteworthy one of those we drove or partially drove.

Cabot Trail
01 Map 10 - Cabot Trail01 Map 10 - Cabot Trail

The world famous “Cabot Trail” (actually a road) is a 186 mile long loop that runs from near Baddeck in a north west direction, across the peninsula to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It then follows the coast line north and into Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

As mentioned earlier, the land on Cape Breton gets higher as you go from the south to the north, with the northern end of the western most peninsula rising into actual mountains and including the 366 square mile Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  When the Cabot Trail hits the northern edge of the park it turns east roughly following the park boundary till it hits the other side of the peninsula at which point it turns south terminating at the Trans Canadian Highway near the town of St. Anns about 22 miles north of where it started. 

This is the “clockwise” direction and the one suggested by most travel guides.  However, it is the suggested direction as it puts you on the inside lane along the winding road cut into sheer cliffs on the coast which is a bit less stressful for tourists not used to mountain road driving.  As such there is usually more traffic going this direction.  However, the counter clockwise direction is said to have better coastal vistas  - especially on the west side – as you your coming down from the mountains and can see long distances of coast line as you descend.  Either way lives up to its reputations as one of the world's most scenic drives, with stunning ocean vistas, old-growth forests, prehistoric rock scarred by glaciers, and the mysterious Cape Breton Highlands.

On one day we drove about 1/3 of it in the counter clockwise direction before turning back in order to have time for dinner and to make our evening concert.  On another day we did the whole thing in the clockwise direction as we were already nearer the south end of the loop.  This is one of those drives that you can do in a day but can also spend 2 or 3 days at it if you like to take strolls on the many beaches and take advantage of the many hiking trails.

Here is a potpourri of sites along the way. 

By the time we drove the Cabot Trail, the fall yellows were raging.  And to be honest if I ever had the opportunity to drive the Cabot Trail again in another season it would pale in comparison to seeing it in full fall Technicolor color.  Those of you who live in fall color country will probably react with a “that’s not so great, you should have seen (fill in location) in (fill in a year)…….” sort of remark, and you may be right.  But here in the west we have real mountains – so there.  We heard that on the day we arrived, the reds along the Cabot Trail were at their peak but by the time we got up there, 3 days later, the reds had started to fade but the yellows were going full tilt.

As we drove along, we often encountered signs that we found interesting.  Of course I can’t remember any of them now, but one was so good that after we passed it, and thought about it a bit we turned around to go back and take its picture.

North Gut Cemetery
North Gut Cemetery (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)North Gut Cemetery (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Okay, when we got home I had to look it up as I was pretty sure this wasn’t a cemetery for parts of people’s insides.  As it turns out a “Gut” is “A narrow coastal body of water, a channel or strait, usually one that is subject to strong tidal currents flowing back and forth. A gut may also be a small creek”. 

We never saw anything resembling a town of North Gut.  No outpost, building or any sort of manmade architecture other than the road and the cemetery.  I imagine there must be some sort of settlement but maybe it was off in the woods someplace.  But, where the road dipped around the end of North Gut bay, and crossed over a small creek, it was quite lovely.

Creek in a meadow in North Gut near St. Anns
05 7d2R03-#926105 7d2R03-#9261

South end of North Gut Bay near St. Anns, where a creek flows in
North Gut Bay #6 at St. Anns, (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)North Gut Bay #6 at St. Anns, (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

South end of North Gut Bay
North Gut Bay #5 at St. Anns, (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)North Gut Bay #5 at St. Anns, (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

North Gut Bay
North Gut Bay at St. Anns (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)North Gut Bay at St. Anns (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

It seemed that around every curve in the road was some sort of stream, river, creek, lake or  pond.  Sometimes the water was rushing down a steep slope but in most cases the water was quite placid.  There didn’t happen to be much wind this day so many of these bodies of water proved quite photogenic with the fall colors reflected in the smooth as glass water surface.

Unknown pond near Hunters Mountain
24 7d2R03-#9353-9355 HDR24 7d2R03-#9353-9355 HDR

Barrachois River
Barrachois River (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Barrachois River (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Lake O’Law
26 5d3R04-#648826 5d3R04-#6488

Another Pond near Hunters Mountain
Fall Reflections Cape Breton IslandFall Reflections Cape Breton Island

As the Cabot trail is a loop that goes up one side of a peninsula and down the other, you are by the Gulf of St. Lawrence much of the way.  However, on the east side of the peninsula the road tends to be a bit inland only offering glimpses of the gulf where it has to skirt around a bay or inlet.  On the west side though, especially the northern section, it is in many places right along the coast where the highland mountains dive down to meet the gulf.

Cabot Trail along west cost of the peninsula in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
28 5d3R04-#651728 5d3R04-#6517

Pillar Rock Beach, on west side of the peninsula above Petit Etang
Pillar Rock Beach (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Pillar Rock Beach (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

East side of peninsula near Ingonish
07 5d3R04-#633907 5d3R04-#6339

The Cabot Trail road goes across the peninsula along the northern border of the national park, climbing up and over the spine of the mountain ridge and the “highlands plateau”.  In some places you have grand vistas overlooking a patchwork of yellow trees interspersed with sections of green evergreen trees like a carpet extending to the horizon. 

Highlands Plateau, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Fall color carpet over MacKenzie Mountain area hills (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Fall color carpet over MacKenzie Mountain area hills (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Creek carved valley, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Yellow and Green Valley (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Yellow and Green Valley (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

But then in other places the road just meanders through the forest crowding in on the right of way from both sides with a palette of green, yellow, orange and red.  But then you go around a corner and what had been a “tree canyon” opens up onto a view of a hillside carpeted with a pattern of colors as it ascends to the sky.  A little bit further you find yourself in an intimate glen with a burbling creek gliding through the woods on its way to the sea, or just an interesting structure nestled in the trees forgotten and ignored except by the passing photographer.

Lone Shieling Area, Cape Breton Highlands National park
Cabot Trail, Lone Shieling Area #1 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Cabot Trail, Lone Shieling Area #1 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Old, abandoned garage being swallowed by the woods near Rear Little River
Garage (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Garage (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Hillside ablaze with fall color near Cape Smokey
Fall Color Hillside, Cape Smokey (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Fall Color Hillside, Cape Smokey (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Colorful hillside ascending from Ingonish Harbour
08 5d3R04-#634508 5d3R04-#6345

Green and Yellow blend together along highway in warmer valley where color change was just getting started
Cabot Trail, Lone Shieling Area #2 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Cabot Trail, Lone Shieling Area #2 (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Tranquil Glen near Lone Sheiling
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A turn in the road and another hillside ablaze in color (Near Indian Brook)
Indian Brook Hillside (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Indian Brook Hillside (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

I hope you enjoyed our visit to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton.  If you enjoyed reading this series, take a look on my website (links below) for travel blogs for other trips we’ve taken.  I’ll leave you with this one last shot, taken from the deck of our rental cabin early one morning

View from the cabin in the early morning
23 5d3R04-#6451-6453 HDR23 5d3R04-#6451-6453 HDR


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) blog Cabot Trail canada cape breton Cape Breton Coal Mine Cape Breton Highlands National Park cape breton island Cape Breton Miners Museum at Glace Bay Coal Mine dan hartford photo dantravelblogmaritimes Fall Color at sunrise Fall Colors Fort Louisbourg Fortress Louisbourg Glace Bay Miners Museum Hydraulic Drill Louisbourg Miners Museum North Gut Bay North Gut Nova Scotia nova scotia NS https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/8/canadian-maritimes-04 Wed, 12 Aug 2020 20:57:27 GMT
Canadian Maritimes #03 – SE Nova Scotia & Cape Breton Part 1 https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/7/canadian-maritimes-03 OCTOBER 2019

Canadian Maritime’s #03 –Cape Breton Part 1

This is part 3 of a trip we took in October of 2019 to the southeastern portion of the Maritime Provinces in Canada.  On this trip we visited Halifax, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island.  We flew into and out of Halifax Nova Scotia but the rest of the trip was by rented car. 

Three major destinations on this trip
01 Map 00 - Overview01 Map 00 - Overview

This installment is for southeast Nova Scotia and the first part for Cape Breton Island (or just Cape Breton as most call it).  After our visit with some friends on PEI, we headed out to our final destinations of this trip – the southeast shore of Nova Scotia and the island of Cape Breton. 

Prince Edward Island, Southeast Nova Scotia and to Cape Breton route
02 Map 06 - PEI to Cape Breton02 Map 06 - PEI to Cape Breton

Southeast Shore of Nova Scotia

After leaving our hosts on Prince Edward Island we head south for a one night stop over on the southeast coast of Nova Scotia before heading to our final destination on Cape Breton Island.  We really didn’t have a real reason to go down to Liscombe on the south shore other than to break up what would have been a long drive but decided it would be interesting to add another sightseeing stop on our trip.  So we booked a night at the Liscombe Lodge which was sort of a resort type operation.  It was nice but not having much time there (got there just before dinner, left the next morning) we didn’t really have time to go out in one of their boats or take one of their numerous hiking trails but we did play a bit of ping pong. 

During our time in Halifax as well as on PEI we were somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t as much fall color as we had hoped.  An odd tree here and there with some color was about it.  But as we left Liscombe on our way to Cape Breton we started to see a bit more color.  In the San Francisco area of California, where we live, fall color is not a “thing”.  Yes, there are some well colored trees planted along some of the streets but the native trees don’t put on any sort of fall show.  There are parts of California that are magnificent in the fall like Aspen groves in the Sierra Mountains whose vibrant yellow color is shocking in its intensity and other places in the state where red’s and gold’s proliferate and the desert wildflower blooms in some springtime’s are magnificent – but we only visit those areas.  So, stopping to photograph red, orange and yellow trees was definitely on the agenda.  Not knowing what the fall color situation would be on Cape Breton, as we toured the Halifax area and PEI, not wanting to miss what may be our only opportunity, we stopped at several “ho hum” locations to photograph what Northeasterners get to see every year.  But, I haven’t shown you any of those photos as Cape Breton delivered the goods (see next installment in this series).  But, on the way to Liscombe and then again on the way out, we still stopped at some fall color spots for a few photos.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Even though there were some nice patches of fall color it was not what I would call spectacular or even up to par with what I remember in New England every fall for the 10 years I lived there.  But it was there, and so were we, and photographing in the digital world is cheap so why not stop the car and rip off a few shots.

Fall color along the St. Mary’s River near Stillwater, NS
Fall on St. Mary's River (NS, Canada)Fall on St. Mary's River (NS, Canada)

NOPE (No Open Pit Excavation) over some oak (I think) saplings near Stillwater, NS
NOPE (No Open Pit Excavation) sign near Stillwater (NS, Canada)NOPE (No Open Pit Excavation) sign near Stillwater (NS, Canada)

On the way out of Liscombe and always on the lookout for something interesting we noticed a sign for the Sherbrook Historical Village.  Well, as we were in the town of Sherbrook at the time, we figured it probably wasn’t too far off our course so we made the turn.  And, we were right, it was just a few blocks down the road.  But, being mid October they must have either closed for the season or at least moved off their summer schedule as the sign on the gate to the parking lot indicated that they were currently closed.  Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

But, lo and behold there was another sign pointing down the road indicating that there was an historic sawmill down there someplace.  So, just to be sure it was in the same time zone we goggled it and indeed it was just a mile or so further on.  So, why not. 

And there it was.  An historic water wheel powered sawmill – also closed.  But, one could wander around outside and even though we did not get to see the “Saw” part inside we were able to see the “Mill” part outside (well at least the water wheel part) so it was not an entire loss.

McDonald Bros Sawmill Waterwheel, Sherbrook, NS
04 5d3R04-#620604 5d3R04-#6206

McDonald Bros Sawmill Waterwheel, and mill pond, Sherbrook, NS
McDonald Bros. Sawmill Waterwheel 2McDonald Bros. Sawmill Waterwheel 2

But daylight was burning and we had a bit of a drive to our rental cabin at the far end of Cape Breton Island and neither our GPS nor Google Maps seemed all the certain exactly where it was so we wanted to assure we got there while it was still light out.

Cape Breton Island

After waiting for 30 minutes at the drawbridge over the channel that makes Cape Breton an Island we entered Cape Breton at its southern end. 

Where we went on Cape Breton
08 Map 07 - Cape Breton Route Map08 Map 07 - Cape Breton Route Map

Wait a minute.  Why is cape Breton an Island?  The dictionary defines cape as “a point or extension of land jutting out into water as a peninsula or as a projecting point”, and an Island as “a body of land completely surrounded by water”.  So how can it be both?  Well I need to tell you that I wasn’t able to find out.  All evidence is that it has been an island since the first humans showed up so how it became “Cape” Breton is a mystery.  But theories abound.

One theory is that the full name - Cape Breton - came from Capbreton near Bayonne France, but more probably from Cape and the word Breton, the French demonym for Bretagne, a French historical region.  But this too is challenged as when the name first appeared the area was occupied by the British, not the French, and it is unlikely for the Brits to name a major land area after their arch enemy the French.  As an alternative argument, the earliest form of the name appeared on Portuguese maps as "Bertomes" which at that time meant “The English” and referred to the region which John Cabot and his Bristol Englishmen discovered on their voyage of 1497...therefore our today’s Cape Breton would mean 'Cape of the English'.  But this still doesn’t explain the “cape” part of the name.

Cape Breton Island is just east of the smaller Prince Edward Island (PEI).  Although PEI is 50% smaller in area the Cape Breton, PEI is its own province but Cape Breton is just a part of Nova Scotia.  Cape Breton contains 4 of Nova Scotia’s 18 counties and has around 15% of the population. The southern part of the island where the only road bridge onto the island is located is rolling farmland and the island gradually slopes upward as you go north.  The northern end of the island is a mountainous area called “the highlands”. 

Much of the middle of the island is occupied by the 424 square mile Lake Bras d’Or (“Arm of gold” in French).  This lake is over 63 miles long and is rated as one of the largest salt water lakes in the world.  There is a very narrow isthmus, barely one third of a mile wide which separates the lake from the Atlantic Ocean at its south end so it is pretty obvious that it was recently a giant bay rather than a lake.  I suspect that with global warming and associated ocean level rise this isthmus may be breached in short order.  But wait a minute.  The middle arm that heads up north to the town of Bras d’Or seems to have a channel between the north tip of that arm and the open sea.  And look, the northwest arm actually does open to the sea without the need of a channel.  So, not only is cape Breton an island but Bras d’Or Lake is a bay.  I guess Geography was not a popular subject in these parts when things were being named. 

A bit of History

Cape Breton's first residents were likely archaic maritime natives, ancestors of the Mi'kmaq who lived there for several thousand years and continue to live there to this day.  Their ocean-centric lifestyle on the eastern edge of the continent however made them among the first indigenous peoples to discover explorers and sailors venturing out from Europe.  The Englishman John Cabot possibly visited the island in 1497 but histories and maps of the period are of too poor a quality to be sure whether Cabot visited Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island.  But that didn’t stop Cape Breton from applying his name to a major highway as well as many other land features. 

Over the centuries, the native population traded with European fishermen and didn’t put up much of a fuss when fishermen began sticking around in small settlements (circa 1520’s).  But of course no good deed goes unpunished and as a part of the French – Anglo war (1627-1629) the area was claimed by European countries.  But treaties with the natives didn’t come along till several decades later.  I’m not going to bother going over all the French, English, Scot, and Portuguese wars that came and went and the number of times the island changed “ownership”.  But it wasn’t until 1713 before anything resembling permanent European settlements were established that weren’t abandoned later.

Cape Breton wasn’t incorporated into Canada until 1820 when it was merged into Nova Scotia against its will.

During the industrial revolution Nova Scotia and Cape Breton became centers for coal mining and steel mills and those industries fueled the economy.  However as is the case in the US, over the past 25 years the island has consistently lost industrial investment and jobs.  In December 2018, Canada announced regulations to phase-out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030.  This pretty much ended any semblance of an industrial based economy on Cape Breton and subsequently mine after mine closed down.  However, the closing of the coal and steel industry coupled with the presence of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which buffers the pristine northern half of the island from its more commercialized southern half, have no doubt contributed to the island's very positive ratings for ecological stewardship and great scenery.

Finding our Cabin

Once we got over the bridge and onto the island we decided to head directly to our rental cabin on the other end of the island after stopping to pick up groceries.  As I mentioned earlier our GPS was providing some strange looking directions.  Google Maps was also providing strange, but significantly different directions.  One had us go up the west side of a large peninsula and then cut all the way across the peninsula - on what looked like cow paths on the map - to the east side where the cabin was.  The other had us go up the east side (the cabin was on the east coast of the peninsula), but then hang a left and wander around again on marginal looking roads before reconnecting with the eastern edge of the peninsula.

Ok, deciding on trusting to blind faith in technology we headed north on the proscribed road following the recommendations of the GPS that at least had us on the correct side of the peninsula.  We carefully watched the “next turn in” box as it counted down, 1 mi, 0.9 mi…..0.5 mi, 500 ft, 200 ft, 100 ft, zero ft.  Time to turn left.  Wait a minute – not only is there no road there it’s a sheer cliff where the road we were on was cut through a ridge.  Ok.  Maybe the GPS was off a bit so let’s continue a bit and if we don’t see a road a bit further on turn around and try going the other way, back south at bit in case we missed it.  Well no road (not even a driveway) in a couple of miles either side of where it told us to turn.  Ok, let’s see what the other GPS has to say for itself.  Hmmm.  It has us turn on the same road name as the first GPS but placed it 5 miles south back the way we had first come.  Ok. Let’s give that a shot.  So, we backtracked to the turn and were pleased that there was no cliff but at the spot where we were to turn there was just what looked like it had been a single lane dirt road 20 years ago but was now completely overgrown with brush and trees growing up in the middle of the one lane track - and a locked gate. 

Ok, let’s go back north again and see if we can find someplace to ask (as there certainly wasn’t any such place for many miles the way we had come).  So turn around again.  A mile or so further along than we had gone before we saw a sign saying “Cape Dauphine Next Left”.   Wait a minute, wasn’t that part of the address of the cabin?   Quick find that paperwork.  Yep, Cape Dauphine.  Well, even though both GPS were still insisting that we turn around and go back the way we came, we decided to give this a shot.  So, we made the turn onto a well graded dirt road wide enough for two trucks to pass with plenty of room to spare.  Both GPS’s showed that we were indeed on a road that they knew about but kept telling us to turn around and that our destination was close to an hour away in the other direction.  About 3 or 4 miles down this road I glanced down at the GPS’s and now both were saying that our destination was just 2 miles away in the direction we were heading.  We hadn’t passed any intersections of any kind coming in from side, no change in the road itself, no boundary signs, no nothing.  For some reason neither GPS thought that road went through.  But we arrived with plenty of daylight to spare and moved in.

The cabin was near the north end of Cape Dauphine (which is a peninsula) right on a bay (actually the bay that connects to Bras d’Or Lake) and the fall color was starting to get impressive.

View from Cabin
Autumn Sunrise in quiet Cape Dauphine Cove, (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Autumn Sunrise in quiet Cape Dauphine Cove, (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)

Scottish Roots

One of the more interesting aspects of the colonization of Cape Breton is the Scottish influence.  While England had by far the largest impact on the settlement of the eastern half of northern North America, the Scots carved out what is now Nova Scotia as their strong hold on the continent.  As it turns out the name “Nova Scotia” is Latin for “New Scotland” and was applied to this area in 1621.  Although there were occasional Scots among the early settlers, they did not come in large numbers or establish permanent communities until 1773 when emigrants from the north-western coast of Scotland arrived in Pictou lured here by the name “New Scotland”.

The early Scottish settlers were attracted here by the prospect of owning their own property free from landlords.  Scotland, like Ireland, was over-populated and unable to support their population making emigration a necessity, even though they lamented leaving homes and relatives behind it was better than starving at home.  But, after 1820, thousands of Scottish families were actually forced to emigrate during ‘The Clearances’.  The Clearances was a period when landlords, eager to consolidate small properties into large profitable sheep farms evicted their tenants.  Nice guys.  But around 1840, after most of the evictions had been completed, Scottish emigration to Nova Scotia virtually ceased.  It did not resume in any significant way until the late 1800’s when many Lowland Scot coal miners came over to work in newly-established mining towns.  In all these later cases, they spoke English and a Lowland Scots dialect and were quickly absorbed into the prevailing culture.

As groups of Scot settlers arrived they tended to settle in towns and villages made up of others from their home towns in Scotland.  Of course when they came they brought their language and customs along with them and as they were isolated in homogeneous communities their customs and the Scotch Gaelic language persisted and is still in wide use today.  In fact in many parts of Cape Breton, Scot Gaelic is a primary language used in conjunction with English in everyday life.  This isn’t to say that there aren’t a few isolated pockets of French where remnants of the Acadian’s still live and they speak French, but for the most part it’s Gaelic and English.

Gaelic is an ancient and treasured language, but it is one of those that is dying out. There are very few places in the world where Gaelic is still spoken as a language these days. Some areas of Ireland, of course, still maintain the use of the language (but they now call their version of the language “Irish”), and the same is true in Scotland. The residents of Cape Breton also are going out of their way to speak Gaelic – known colloquially as Nova Scotia Gaelic.  Gaelic had become nearly extinct after the 1900s when an education act forbid schools to use or teach it. But, the locals kept the language going in secret and it is now making a comeback.

As most of you know, Canada is a bilingual country where both French and English are official languages.  As such, all civic sings – such as road signs – must be in both French and English as are all legal documents.  However, there is one place in Canada where this is not true.  In Cape Breton everything is in English and Gaelic (not French).

09 Gaelic Sign09 Gaelic Sign

Musical Cape Breton

Over the years, Cape Breton communities such as Christmas Island, Whycocomagh, Mabou, Grand Narrows and West Bay, where the residents were primarily Gaelic-speaking retained their enthusiasm for Gaelic song and story, as well as for piping and fiddle music – even if they had to do it underground when the language was banned.  Most families have some sort of musical gift rooted in the Scottish tradition.  Indeed, it is believed that there is a fiddle in every home on the island; not to mention the fact that at least one person in almost every family is believed to be a proficient musician.

In addition to music, story-telling and the recitation of historical lore and genealogical connections are part of most family gatherings such as kitchen parties.  Kitchen parties are a wide spread tradition on the island where families will host a ceilidh (believe it or not pronounced ‘kay-lee’).  A ceilidh is a party involving plenty of drink, food, music, and dancing, and has very definitive Scottish roots. The name is a Gaelic word meaning a gathering of people, and most likely originated in the 18th Century, when the Scottish settled here. The ceilidh is a big thing in Cape Breton, and there is a huge focus on music in these gatherings.

World’s largest fiddle at the cruise ship dock.
17 7d2R03-#934717 7d2R03-#9347

And, this brings us to the reason for our trip.  There is an 8 day, island wide Celtic music festival on Cape Breton each fall at the peak of the fall color season.  This festival is called Celtic Colours and features some international artists as well as many, many locals. 

As the coal industry plummeted, the island struggled with how to keep its economy going.  About the only thing left from an economic standpoint was a bit of farming and tourism.  But, with a short tourist season (basically May-Sep) and a topography not conducive to opening ski resorts for winter tourism they were on a downward trajectory.  But, after some brainstorming they determined that it would be a great help if they could somehow extend the tourist season through October – but how.  They didn’t really have the resources to compete with New England for fall color tourism,  There’s nothing to attract eco-tourism or even high adventure tourism and even though there is a lovely national park it’s not enough to get people out to this off the beaten path destination. 

So, they took a look at what they had that no other place did and it was their Scot Celtic culture.  So, they created a music/dance/folklore festival timed to take place in mid October at the peak of the fall color.  And just to make sure there was no mistake they named it “Celtic Colours”.  This festival was created in 1997 and has grown in popularity ever since.  By the way, for those of you who follow basketball, the Boston Celtics is pronounced “cell-tik” but everywhere else in the world the word is pronounced “Kell-tik”.

On our visit in 2019 they had 42 formal concerts in addition to 300 community events such as dances, traditional meals, tours, workshops and a plethora of other activates.  These concerts and events take place literally all over the island in local fire halls, parish halls, community centers, school rooms, and just folks houses.  In some cases they literally move the fire trucks out of the firehouse to accommodate a dance.  So, let me tell you.  Trying to figure out where to stay and which concerts or events to sign up for was quite a challenge. 

Map of the Celtic Colours festival venue’s in 2019
07 Map 08 - Celtic Colours Map07 Map 08 - Celtic Colours Map

We didn’t spend the entire 9 days there but rather planned out a modest 5 day itinerary.  We booked a musical concert for each evening as well as cultural events during a few of the days leaving other days for just plain sightseeing. 

Even though we enjoy and listen to a fair amount of Celtic music, other than the Chieftain’s (festival opening “BIG” concert in the hockey stadium) we were not familiar with most of the bands and performers.  We were able to find some samples online but for the most part we had to trust to luck.  But we had to have some way to narrow 42 potential concerts down to 5.  So, as we strongly prefer groups with singers rather than just instrumentalists we narrowed the field down by looking for groups where the photo on the Festival website showed the group with microphones.  Well, it was better than random guessing.  For the most part it worked out pretty well.  The Chieftain’s, who we did know, were wonderful as were the many guest artists they brought on stage with them throughout the concert.  Over the course of the week, one group we saw was way too raucous and loud for us – and didn’t have a singer, but for the most part the bands were good and had some songs mixed in with the reels, jigs and hornpipes.  Lots of fiddles, concertinas, all sorts of bagpipes, guitars, and a whole bunch of instruments that we could not identify.

However finding these venues was at times a challenge.  The address in the book was something like “Fisheries Building, Eskasoni” or “St. Mary of the Angels Parish Hall”.  For the 2nd one, Googling came up empty (at least empty on Cape Breton).  There is a St. Mary’s Church on the island but nowhere near the pin number on the festival map.  But we wanted to be able to use our GPS to get us to these spots so it was important to have something to type into the destination box and names like those listed just weren’t found.  Using street view on Google Maps near where the pin on the festival map was not only didn’t find a parish hall, it didn’t even show any buildings at all along that stretch of road.  And, in a couple of these cases, our GPS came up blank as well.  So, we just drove down to the town and looked for a bunch of parked cars and as it turns out we were able to find the venues without much trouble as most were right on the main highway through that town.

Of course the word town in many cases is a bit generous.  In one case the “town” was just the one parish hall building, just plunked down along the highway in the middle of nowhere.  Probably some farmer donated a corner of their farm to the church for the parish hall.  No actual church though, just the meeting hall and the name of the “town” became the name of the farmer who donated the land.

But the concerts were great and we must have chosen well as everyone was packed and we now have a definitive study of the relative merits of a wide variety of uncomfortable folding chairs.

Cape Breton Historical sites

During the day we tried to visit historical sites and museums.


In the town of Baddeck is the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.  This modern museum follows the life and inventions of the prolific inventor, including much of his personal life.  As we know he invented many things across many disciplines such as aircraft, kites, and artificial respiration.  But he’s best known for his work in audio with his invention of the telephone.  I didn’t know this, but it seems he first became interested in the science of sound because both his mother and wife were deaf. His experiments in sound eventually let him to want to send voice signals down a telegraph wire and as we all know, that resulted in his invention of the telephone.

Graham era telephone switchboard
Switchboard, Highland Village Musum (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)Switchboard, Highland Village Musum (Cape Breton Island, NS Canada)


The Highland Village Museum (An Clachan Ghàidhealaich for you Gaelic speakers) is an outdoor living history museum dedicated to Nova Scotia’s Gaelic folk-life, culture, and language located in Iona.  It sits on 43 acres of natural landscape overlooking the Bras d'Or Lake in Central Cape Breton.  Even though you can visit this place on your own like any other museum they scheduled some special tours as part of the festival (one of the 300 cultural events).  This was an extended tour through all the buildings on the site with an in character, in costume docent in each building who talked to us as if we were just a neighbor dropping in for a chat.  This tour included many extras not normally provided to general museum attendees.  For example in one house they treated us to tea and biscuits they had just made over the wood fire in the big fireplace.  In another house they showed us, and allowed us to take part in, softening woven fabric in the traditional manner (video for those reading this on my website).  The presentation was quite interesting and really gave a sense of life on the island in the 1800’s. 

Docent in a traditional house
Docent #2, Highland Village Musum, Cape Breton IslandDocent #2, Highland Village Musum, Cape Breton Island

In one house we were invited to participate in the singing of a “Waulking” song while “fulling” (waulking) cloth. This practice involved a group of women rhythmically beating newly woven tweed or tartan cloth against a table or similar surface to soften it.  Simple, beat-driven songs were used to accompany the work.  A waulking session often begins with slow-paced songs, with the tempo increasing as the cloth becomes softer. As the singers work the cloth, they gradually shift it to the left so as to work it thoroughly. A tradition holds that moving the cloth counter-clockwise is unlucky.  Typically one person sings the verse, while the others join in the chorus. As with many folk music forms, the lyrics of waulking songs are not always strictly adhered to. Singers might add or leave out verses depending on the particular length and size of tweed being waulked. Verses from one song might appear in another, and at times the lead singer might improvise to include events or people known locally. The chorus of many waulking songs consists of vocals, in which some of the words are meaningless, while others are regular Gaelic words, but sometimes have no meaning in the context of the song.

Some of the folks on our tour participated in a Waulking session
(video if reading this on my website)

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General Store
General Store, Highland Village Musum, Cape Breton IslandGeneral Store, Highland Village Musum, Cape Breton Island

Blacksmith shop
Black Smith, Highland Village Musum, Cape Breton IslandBlack Smith, Highland Village Musum, Cape Breton Island

Well, his portion of our trip has turned into a blog too long for one segment, and this looks like a good spot end part 1.  In Part 2, we’ll explore some more historic sites on Cape Breton including a tour inside an undersea coal mine as well as a tour of the highlands.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) ns alexander grahm bell museum blog canada cape breton cape breton island celtic colours dan hartford photo dantravelblogmaritimes highland village museum mcdonald brothers sawmill music on cape breton nova scotia sherbrook stillwater waulking song waulking the cloth https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/7/canadian-maritimes-03 Fri, 31 Jul 2020 19:22:00 GMT
Canadian Maritimes #02 – PEI https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/6/canadian-maritimes-02 OCTOBER 2019

Canadian Maritimes #02 –Prince Edward Island (PEI)

This is part 2 of a trip we took in October of 2019 to the southeastern portion of the Maritime Provinces in Canada.  On this trip we visited Halifax, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton.  We flew into and out of Halifax Nova Scotia but the rest of the trip was by rented car. 

Three major destinations on this trip
01 Map 00 - Overview01 Map 00 - Overview

This installment is for PEI (Prince Edward Island).  After spending several days in Halifax we hit the road for PEI.  The bridge to PEI is less than 3 hours from Halifax mostly on 4 lane highways through a nondescript landscape of farms, fields, rolling hills and a forest or two, and not many places to stop for lunch.  However in route we did find some of the town names quite interesting.  There was Shubenacadie, Stewiacke, Bale Verte, Jolicure, and my favorite – Sackville. 

Halifax to Stanley Bridge (PEI)
02 Map 04 Halifax to Stanley Bridge PEI02 Map 04 Halifax to Stanley Bridge PEI

The last (and only other) time I was in PEI was in 1968 when I was a student in bad standing in Boston.  My live-in (runaway) girlfriend at the time had a sister who had moved to Charlottetown on PEI so I volunteered to drive her up there in my 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon for a visit.  Six hundred miles each way.  In January.  With virtually no money.  And who says young folks have no sense.  Well, long story short, somewhere along Trans Canadian Highway in New Brunswick between the middle of nowhere and the edge of nowhere we wound up in a “white out” blizzard.  Now who would have thought that it might snow in Canada in the middle of January?  But there we were – going nowhere. 

But, lo and behold there was a small ratty motel on s little hill all by itself just ahead.  We managed to slip and slide up the hill and into the parking lot and they had one room left.  But there was nothing else for miles around in any direction.  But, we were well prepared.  After all, I was a Cub Scout once.  Our dinner that night was stale packets of saltine crackers, with ketchup, mustard, and relish in those little packets that I had liberated from a Burger King the prior summer and stashed in the glove box for just such an occasion. 

The next day we crept along till we came to the ferry dock as there was no bridge at that time.  Now, the ferry has a summer schedule and a winter schedule, and this being January they were on the winter schedule which as I recall was once a day each way – and they don’t sail in bad weather.  But after spending many, many hours with the car in line and us in a waiting room with vending machines we finally made it on board for a middle of the night rock and roll voyage to the island.

Confederation Bridge

So, why did I tell you all of this?  Well, on this 2nd trip in October it was beautiful fall weather, no rain (let alone snow), and they now have a bridge.  The bridge is named the “Confederation Bridge” and it opened in 1997.  At 8 miles long it is the longest bridge in Canada.  It also happens to be the longest bridge in the world that goes over ice-covered water.  So, given my first experience, having a bridge was quite a luxury.

When PEI joined Canada in 1873, the Canadian (then the Dominion of Canada) constitution was amended to require that the federal government supply efficient steamboat service for the conveyance of mails and passengers between the Island and the mainland throughout the year.

Ferry service came and went over the years on different routes and with various degrees of reliability and comfort.  The winter server was especially bad using primitive “iceboats” (ice breakers).  In 1915 (maybe 1917) they implemented a “railcar” ferry service where you could stay on the train during the ferry ride which was vastly more comfortable than the hard benches of the boat itself, and a car ferry opened in 1938.  But as time went on it became more and more apparent that boats weren’t the answer anymore. 

Various proposals for a fixed link (a bridge) can be traced as far back as the 1870’s. It took another 100 years or so, till the 1980’s, for there finally to be a proposal which would result in the construction of a bridge and that required an amendment to the constitution to replace the “steamship service” with an all “weather bridge”. But built it was and has been in operation since 1997.

Once we crossed the bridge and onto the island itself, we still had to cross the entire width of the PEI to get to our destination on the north shore in a place called “Stanley Bridge” where we had arranged to stay with some friends we had met on our Ireland trip.

So, off we went following the instructions provided by our GPS.  Almost immediately we were off the highway and following narrow country lanes wedged between farm fields.  I seriously think our GPS was on an acid trip that day.  Turn left, turn right, turn right, turn left.  If it weren’t for the sun hitting my left ear through the window I’d have sworn we were going in circles.  In fact at one point I pulled over to look at the GPS map a bit bigger to see if we were even headed in the right general direction.  But we were so we dutifully followed the electronic voice and actually did wind up at the house whose address I had plugged in.  Never would have found it otherwise.

Prince Edward Island History

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is an island next to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick but it is also its own province making it one of three Canadian Maritime provinces.  It is the smallest Canadian province in both land area and population, but interestingly it is the most densely populated with 158,158 year round residents.  In fact in terms of size it is not even the largest island in Canada and only ranks in at number 23.

The mainstay of PEI is farming which produces 25% of Canada's potatoes.  Other important industries include fishing and tourism. 

Originally part of the home territory of the Mi'kmaq, it was subsequently claimed by France, then Britain and finally incorporated in the Federation of Canada as a province in 1873.  The island has several informal names such as "Garden of the Gulf", referring to the pastoral scenery,  It is sometimes also referred to as the "Birthplace of Confederation" or "Cradle of Confederation", even though it was the seventh Canadian province.  However, it is one of Canada's older settlements and demographically still reflects older immigration to the country with Scottish, Irish, English and French surnames being most common.

Speaking of the French, a Frenchman, Jacques Cartier, was the first European to see the island.  And in 1604, the Kingdom of France laid claim to the lands of the Maritimes, including Prince Edward Island, establishing the French colony of Acadia.  The island was named Île Saint-Jean by the French.  The Mi'kmaq of course never recognized the claim but welcomed the French as trading partners and allies. 

During the 1700’s the French and British were fighting it out in many areas of North America.  On PEI they engaged in a series of battles.  The French formally ceded the island and most of New France to the British in the Treaty of Paris of 1763.

The British Initially named the island St. John's and it was administered as part of the colony of Nova Scotia until it was split into a separate colony in 1769.  In the mid-1760s, a survey team divided the Island into 67 lots which were allocated to supporters of King George III – all in England - thus making all the residents “tenants”.  This was not met well with the settlers on the island who were unable to gain title to the land on which they worked and lived. To add insult to injury, and in true British fashion, these absentee landlords charged the locals exorbitant rent and provided little in return.  This feudal system in tern dissuaded new settlers from wanting to come over from Europe.  As a ploy to get more settlers the British governor of St. John’s (what PEI was called then) got the colonial assembly to rename the island to “New Ireland”.  But the home office back in London put the kibosh on that idea pretty quickly.

So what else of interest happened here.  Well, during the American Revolution, PEI was raided by a pair of American-employed privateers using armed schooners out of Beverly, Massachusetts.  During and after the American Revolution, the governors of St. John put a fair amount of effort into attracting British loyalist refugees from the rebellious American colonies and this effort met with some success as many took up the offer.  As it turns out, one of them, Edmund Fanning, wound up being the 2nd governor of the colony.  Under his rule, a large number of Scottish Highlanders came over in the late 1700’s giving St. John’s the highest proportion of Scottish immigrants in Canada.  And, of course these folks came speaking Scottish Gaelic and bringing Highland culture with them.  To this day, they say that the traditional Scott culture  present on the island is stronger than in Scotland itself as the settlers could more easily avoid English influence than those in actual Scotland could being adjacent to England.

The island officially changed its name from Saint John’s to Prince Edward Island in 1798.  This was to avoid confusion with other St. John’ in the area such as the cities of Saint John in New Brunswick and St. John's in Newfoundland.

It wasn’t until 1853 that the Island government passed the Land Purchase Act which empowered them to purchase lands from those owners who were willing to sell, and then resell the land to settlers for low prices. This scheme collapsed when the Island ran short of money to continue with the purchases.

In 1864, Prince Edward Island hosted the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first meeting in the process leading to the Quebec Resolutions and the creation of Canada in 1867. However, PEI did not find the terms of union favorable and balked at joining in 1867, choosing to remain a colony of the United Kingdom. In the late 1860s, the colony examined various options, including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion unto itself, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States, who were interested in Prince Edward Island joining the United States.

In 1871, the colony began construction of a railway and, frustrated by Great Britain's Colonial Office, began negotiations with the United States.  In 1873, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism negotiated for Prince Edward Island to join Canada. The Dominion Government of Canada assumed the colony's extensive railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony's absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure.  Prince Edward Island entered Confederation on July 1, 1873.

Our hosts on PEI

Even though PEI was the 7th province to join Canada, as a result of having hosted the inaugural meeting of Confederation, the Charlottetown Conference, Prince Edward Island presents itself as the "Birthplace of Confederation" and this is commemorated through several buildings, a ferry vessel, and the Confederation Bridge (constructed 1993 to 1997).

Our guided tour of PEI area near Stanley Bridge.  (My GPS died so dotted line is a guess)
03 Map 05 - PEI Excursion03 Map 05 - PEI Excursion

On PEI we stayed with a wonderful family, the Croziers, that we had met on our tour of Ireland a few years ago.  They were the greatest hosts.  They invited some of their clan in and prepared a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner for us.  Thanksgiving in Canada is pretty much the same as in the US but it is in mid October rather than the end of November.  Then they spent an entire day taking us on a sightseeing tour of their part of PEI.  Now, that is Canadian hospitality.  I hope that some day they venture out to the San Francisco area and we can return the favor.

They have a lovely house on the shore of a peninsula sticking out into New London Bay in the town of Stanley Bridge. 

View from their backyard of sunset over the bay
Backyard Sunset.  Stanley Bridge, PEIBackyard Sunset. Stanley Bridge, PEI


Cavendish Beach

Our first stop was the very nearby Cavendish Beach which is at the western end of the PEI National Park.  Prince Edward Island National Park is located along the north shore of PEI, fronting the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Established in 1937, over time it has grown to about 37 miles long,  It is definitely a seashore of park with broad sand beaches, sand dunes, both freshwater wetlands and salt marshes which is a haven for birds. 

As you know from reading this, our trip to the area was in October of 2019.  What you may not recall is that Hurricane Dorian clobbered PEI in September of that year and the area of Cavendish was quite heavily damaged.  Whole swaths of forest were ravaged and the clean-up/salvage crews were quite busy cleaning up the mess. 

We first visited the west end of the Cavendish Beach area and its very lovely beach.  A bit on the cold and windy side in mid October but in the summer I’m sure it is jam packed with people enjoying the broad warm sand, gentle surge of the waves and the fantastic views.  This is a nice sandy beach backed by small grass covered dunes.

West side of Cavendish Beach
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Boardwalk leading to fresh water lake (Lake of Shinning Water)
Cavendish National Park Board Walk (PEI, Canada)Cavendish National Park Board Walk (PEI, Canada)

The east end of the Cavendish part of the park is completely different.  Here eroded red sandstone cliffs plunge directly into the bay with no beach at all.  The erosion of the cliffs has resulted in all sorts of fantasy shaped contours, pockets, caves and outcroppings – all in a brilliant red that contrasts beautifully with the blue water below.

Eroded red sandstone bluffs at east end of Cavendish.  West end beach can be seen in background
Cavendish National Park East Beach (PEI, Canada)Cavendish National Park East Beach (PEI, Canada)

Eroded cliffs
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Green Gables

Many of you may be familiar with Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery who wrote the Green Gables novels in the early 1900’s.  Cavendish is where the Green Gables farm and house are.   The house, which has been incorporated into PEI National Park, was designated as a National Historic Site in 1985 and it can be toured.

The Green Gables farm was owned by the MacNeill family, who were cousins of author Lucy Maud Montgomery. The farm's name is derived from the rich dark green paint of the gables on the farmhouse. The main exterior walls of the farmhouse are painted white.  Montgomery visited the farm as a young girl and based the location of her best-selling Anne series of books on the Green Gables farm.  She drew romantic inspiration from the house, as well as the surrounding area, including the "Haunted Woods", "Lovers' Lane", and "Balsam Hollow."  Upon Montgomery's death in 1942, her wake was conducted from the living room of the Green Gables farmhouse.

There is a modern visitor center where you can book a guided tour.  While waiting for your tour of the house to start, there are displays about the author and many of the characters in the book (or the actual people those characters were modeled after).  There is also a Lego model of the house on display. 

One is usually allowed to roam around the grounds in order to discover the places described in the books, but due to the hurricane most of the property was still closed for clean up and safety inspections.  However, we were able to get to the entrance to Lovers Lane where I could get a photo over the barricade.

Lego model of the House of Green Gables
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Green Gables house
Anne of Green Gables House (PEI, Canada)Anne of Green Gables House (PEI, Canada)

House of Green Gables Sitting room
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Lovers Lane
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North Rustico Harbor

North Rustico is a small fishing harbor on the north shore of PEI facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It was incorporated in 1954 but changed its status to a town on in 2013.  The town is known to locals, as well as many others, as "The Crick" for some unknown reason.  The population as of 2016 is a whopping 607 people which I guess is enough for “town” status. 

Like many small towns, North Rustico has a claim to fame.  Each year it holds a Canada Day celebration on July 1.  The event usually attracts in excess of 10,000 people, which packs the town quite full and parking must be a nightmare.  . The festivities include a parade down main street as well as a boat parade on Rustico Harbor. The day is completed by a fireworks display over the bay.

The village of North Rustico was founded circa 1790, around a small harbor and was home to a remnant Acadian population who fled British capture and deportation during the Seven Years' War.  English, Scottish and Irish settlers moved into the area during the remainder of the 18th century and throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  The name Rustico comes from Rassicot, the name of one of the first settlers from France. 

The fleet here are the smaller to mid size fishing craft.  Probably single boat family operations.  The harbor has around 40 craft that call North Rustico their home port but this includes pleasure boats as well as working boats.  Although there are some seasonal residents that just show up in the summer, most of the 344 dwellings are year round.

So, now you know all there is to know about North Rustico. 

But it is a very charming low key fishing village that is off the tourist track.  You don’t see ice cream, popcorn and corn dog stands.  You don’t see booths selling harbor cruises or souvenir shops full of T-Shirts and baseball caps, and best of all you don’t see throngs of tourists.  Of course we were there off season.  Wikipedia says, “In the summer, it is one of PEI’s most popular destinations. On a warm summer evening, dozens of people can be found strolling the town's waterfront boardwalk.” But even so, I doubt it’s all that different in mid season, even with “dozens” of tourists. – expect of course for Canada Day. 

Small fishing craft in the harbor
North Rustico Harbour (PEI, Canada)North Rustico Harbour (PEI, Canada)

Working Wharf
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Sport fishing
Fishing Rods (PEI, Canada)Fishing Rods (PEI, Canada)

Lobster traps waiting for the season.
Waitng for lobster season, North Rustico Harbour (PEI, Canada)Waitng for lobster season, North Rustico Harbour (PEI, Canada)

Typical small commercial fishing business
Lobster traps, Boats, and Buoys (North Rustico PEI, Canada)Lobster traps, Boats, and Buoys (North Rustico PEI, Canada)

Through the lobster trap
Through the lobster trap (North Rustico  PEI, Canada)Through the lobster trap (North Rustico PEI, Canada)

French River

On our tour led by our friends, we came to another picturesque small fishing village called French River.  According to a sign at a highway overlook on the other side of a small bay,

“French River is one of PEI’s most famously picturesque fishing villages.  Among the area’s most unique features is the contrasting yet complimentary combination of water view and farmland within a single vista.  It’s this gentle mix that has led French River to become one of the Island’s most sought after locations for artists, photographers, and visitors alike.”

The French River inlet is also known as “Yankee Hill”.  It seems that the area was used by American fishing vessels whose crews would buy supplies from an American merchant there.  This name is also given to the nearby pioneer cemetery and an adjoining farm.  Approximately 25 American sailors drowned during the Yankee Gale in 1851 and are buried in the Yankee Hill Cemetery.

French River also seems to have had a hand in the fox farming business.  During the 1930’s and 40’s, Fox Farming became quite popular and profitable in certain areas of PEI, including French River.  Records show that there were at least 9 farmers operating fox ranches here at that time.  Of course in the fox trade the product is the fur not the meat and in the case of the PEI most of the fur was sent back to Europe for women’s fashion.

French River fishing village
French River (PEI, Canada)French River (PEI, Canada)

Cape Tryon Lighthouse (near French River)
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Along our wonderful all day tour, we also passed all sorts of churches, farms, forests, and vistas way too numerous to go into here, so I’ll just leave you with a shot of a church and a sign in front of a church that was pointed out to us.

St. Mary’s Church, Indian River
St. Mary's Church, PEI, CanadaSt. Mary's Church, PEI, Canada

Sign in front of a church in Malpeque
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I hope you enjoyed reading about our time on PEI and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


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These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Anne of Green Gables blog Canada Cavendish Cavendish Beach Confederation Bridge dan hartford photo DanTravelBlogMaritimes French River Green Gables Indian River New London Range Rear Lighthouse North Rustico North rustico Harbor PEI Prince Edward Island St. John's St. John's Island Stanley Bridge https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/6/canadian-maritimes-02 Mon, 22 Jun 2020 21:17:34 GMT
Canadian Maritimes #01 – Halifax & Area https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/5/canadian-maritimes-01 OCTOBER 2019

Canadian Maritimes #01 –Halifax

This is part 1 of a trip we took in October of 2019 to the southeastern portion of the maritime provinces in Canada.  On this trip we visited Halifax, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton.  We flew into and out of Halifax Nova Scotia but the rest of the trip was by rented car. 

This installment is for Halifax and area.

Three major destinations on this trip
02 Map 0 - Overview02 Map 0 - Overview


Where we wandered in Halifax
03 Map 01 - Halifax03 Map 01 - Halifax

From our home base near San Francisco, we had an uneventful flight to Halifax where we picked up a rental car a bit before midnight and drove the 20 miles to our Hotel in downtown Halifax where we spent several days.  During our stay in Halifax we wandered around on foot, took a Duck Tour, went shopping for a yoga mat on the other side of the bay and took two driving excursions along the coast to the east of the city.

Halifax is the capital of the Nova Scotia province. It had a population of 403,000 in 2016 – making it a bit bigger than Tulsa Oklahoma.  As the capital of the province, Halifax is of course a major economic center for the Atlantic coast of Canada.  And understandably has a large concentration of governmental buildings as well as private businesses who need (or want) to be near the center of government.

Even though Halifax has a robust economy with a mix of shipping, manufacturing and government, it also has a fair tourist trade as well.  Many cruise ships make a stop here and dozens, if not hundreds of restaurants, shops and hotels have opened to cash in on the ever increasing number of visitors.  The skuzzy old area along the downtown waterfront has seen a major gentrification and transformation into the tourist center of town.  There is now a wide harbor walk where you can stroll 2.5 miles along boardwalks, floating docks, and asphalt promenades along the edge of the water which are lined with tourist shops, restaurants, and lodging of every variety.  And this tourist area continues to take over more and more maritime facilities as it extends in both directions.

So, why Halifax instead of any number of other harbors along the east coast of Canada one might ask.  One of the things that made Halifax a significant seaport was a lucky state of geography.  As it turns out, Halifax harbor is the closest large harbor to Europe (by ship) in North America that does not freeze over in the winter.  In terms of location it is two days closer to Europe and one day closer to Southeast Asia (via the Suez Canal) than any other North American East Coast port.  Add to that the fact that it is a year round port and you can understand its popularity throughout modern history. 

For being so far north it is quite unusual for harbors not to freeze, especially considering harbors much further south that do freeze such as Boston, Portland and New York.  This strange phenomenon for a harbor so far north and where the winters are quite chilly is due to the harbor being over 65 feet deep throughout its length.  In the clutches of winter it is the only Atlantic seaport in the country of Canada that remains open for shipping.  Another nice feature of the harbor which made it even more popular in the sailing ship era was that the tidal surge in and out of the harbor is quite weak with very low water level change between high and low tides.  

But, let’s look at a bit of its history.  Of course the area was inhabited way before the European’s arrived in the 1400’s.  In the US we call these people “Indians” or “Native Americans”, in Canada they are known as the “First Peoples” – a much better term in my opinion.  For the most part between the 1400’s and mid 1700’s Canada followed more or less the same trajectory as did the US.  This time frame was filled with wars against the native inhabitants, westward expansion by the settlers, differences of opinion resulting in small wars between various European countries trying to claim territory, Etc.  As for Halifax itself, it was formally established in 1749 by the British which of course started a war – this one called Father Le Loutre's War. The war began when Edward Cornwallis arrived with a fleet of ships to claim the area for Britain and to establish a port for the Hudson Bay Company which was funding much of the occupation of North America.  This, it turned out, was a violation of earlier treaties with the Mi'kmaq tribe that was signed 23 years earlier in 1726 after some warfare.  Pretty much the same pattern as in the US where we invaded the native lands, had some wars, signed some treaties and then disregarded those treaties later.  Well, when Cornwallis arrived he brought with him 1,176 settlers and their families to start the town. 

So, here come the Protestant British to settle an area that had been given to the Mi'kmaq, and to which the Acadian’s and the French also had a claim.  In other words, a dicey situation.  So the first thing that Cornwallis did was to build a string of protective forts, including one on Citadel Hill in Halifax (1749), one in Bedford (Fort Sackville- 1749), Dartmouth (1750), and Lawrencetown (1754).  All of these are now inside the greater Halifax Regional Municipality.

The Citadel

The Citadel sits atop an expansive hill overlooking the city of Halifax and provided the main defense of the city from 1749 through 1906.  During that time frame it was rebuilt four times.

The first iteration of the fort on the hill was built by Cornwallis in 1749 which was just a wood garrison typical of frontier forts of the time.  With the fort for protection, this new community felt secure, much like a whole series of other British settlements throughout Nova Scotia.  Not too long after, the French had regained control of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island nearby, and the British believed they would attack the mainland and they didn’t care for that idea.  In fact the British deduced that Halifax, with its deep ice-free harbor, would be the prime target for the French.  As it turned out, climate, not the French artillery, posed the greatest threat to the wood fort as the French never attacked.   Fog, rain and cold winters along with neglect over time contributed to the decay of the old wooden fort.  But even as the fort withered away, Halifax itself continued to grow, becoming the capital of Nova Scotia when representative government was granted to the colony in 1758. 

By1761, the first Halifax Citadel was in shambles, due to decay.  Work began on a new fort that year, but luck was not on their side.  Plans for the new Citadel required that the top 40 feet of the hill be removed and that job fell to the soldiers stationed there.  I’m sure they were thrilled.  “Hey guys, it’s a nice summer, here are a few shovels - go remove the top 40 feet of that hill”. 

But there were very few soldiers stationed there and not much progress was made.  Even though 1,000 soldiers came up from Massachusetts to help out, winter set in with little progress to show for the summer worth of work.  Well, there’s always next summer.  But before then the French attacked St. John’s, Newfoundland.  So, here in Halifax, resources were diverted away from rebuilding the fort and put to work on harbor defenses on Georges Island in the bay and the Halifax and Dartmouth shores for fear of a naval attack.  And so it went. 

It wasn’t until the outbreak of the American Revolution in the 1770s for focus to shift back to Halifax’s land defenses and the Citadel.  Now remember at this time there was no “Canada” or “USA”, it was all just British colonies with a few French enclaves thrown in for good luck.  Well, as it turned out, many Halifax residents had come from what later became New England to the south, and supported the US revolution.  Fearing the Americans would launch a land attack and be joined by the local US revolution sympathizers, British troops led by Captain William Spry, finally constructed the new fort on the hill, using an expanded version of the plans from 1761. The highlight was a large octagonal tower, which served as a barracks for 100 soldiers.

Like the fort before it, this second Citadel never saw battle.  By 1784, it too was in ruins due to neglect and Nova Scotia’s climate.  Well, as we know, the best remedy to get neglected forts fixed up is a good war and the British and French obliged with renewed hostility.  This then put in motion the effort to build a third fort atop Citadel Hill.

By 1794 the French and British war was well underway, albeit nowhere near Halifax.  However when Prince Edward (Duke of Kent) arrived as commander-in-chief of British forces in Nova Scotia he felt that the French might attack this strategic British naval base.  And so he started construction of the third Citadel.  Although plans for the fort were approved in 1795, a shortage of men and material (after all there was a war going on) meant work did not really get underway until 1796. By then, the old fort had been leveled and the hill cut down by 15 feet.

Four years later the new fort, the first one to be set directly atop the hill was completed. This one was smaller than its predecessor and was made primarily of earth and timber.  There were just three major buildings within its walls: a barracks, a provision store and a powder magazine.  And much like the first two this one never saw battle either.  They tried to keep it up over the years with many repairs, including patchwork during the War of 1812 but by 1825 it too was in ruins.  So, planning began for number 4.

During the 1820s, tensions between Britain and the United States were running high. So much so, that Britain believed US forces would try to seize Halifax, possibly by land, if a war broke out. Once again, they set out to strengthen the town’s defenses, but this time was different. This time, they decided to build a permanent fort that would protect this vital naval base for generations to come. And in August 1828, work began on a fourth Halifax Citadel.

This one is a star-shaped stone fortress and was expected to be finished in just six years.  However flaws in the design caused delays in construction and the Halifax Citadel was not completed until 1856, 28 years later.  Like the citadels before it, this new fort never saw battle, and advances in weaponry would soon render it obsolete.  This is the one that is still there today.

In 1906, the British handed it over to the Canadians.  During World War I, it served as soldier barracks and a command center for Halifax Harbour Defenses.  It remained a temporary barracks for troops in World War II, and was their last glimpse of Canada before heading overseas.  Today, the Halifax Citadel is among the nation’s most significant and beloved historic sites. Operated by Parks Canada, it has been carefully restored to its Victorian-era glory.

We spent several hours in the Citadel, including a wonderful docent led tour, some exploring on our own and a close up view of the daily firing of a cannon at noon.  What’s funny is that when the fort was built and the daily noon firing tradition was started, the cannon they used had a clear view of the entire harbor over the tops of the city buildings.  However now, the cannon seems to fire right into the side of a tall office building.

The site is currently “manned” by docents in authentic period clothing worn by soldiers of the time.  As in most militaries, there are different types of these soldiers who wore different uniforms.  The black uniforms were mostly for the guards.  The red seemed to be more for what we’d call the infantry or foot soldier, etc.  We were told by our guide wearing a red uniform that these garments are quite accurate; not warm enough in the winter and way too heavy in the summer.  About the only thing (other than modern restrooms) that was admittedly not an accurate representation of the period is that today the “soldiers” are mixed gender whereas in the 1700’s it was male only.  But interestingly enough, if you look at the uniforms, most could be considered unisex by today’s standard.  The kilts worn by the males, serve equally well on the females.

Docent guarding front gate of the Halifax Citadel
Guard, Halifax CitadelGuard, Halifax Citadel

Our tour guide telling us about the brig
Docent, Halifax CitadelDocent, Halifax Citadel

The cells of the brig served double duty, also being used for cannon placements.  One of the punishments for inmates was to move a stack of cannon balls from one side of the cell to the other.  And then move them back again – all day long. 
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Many school groups visit the Citadel as part of their history requirement. 
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The Citadel is quite well restored
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Preparing to fire
Getting ready to filreGetting ready to filre

Just after firing the daily shot announcing noon.  Notice the office building in “the line of fire”
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Halifax was primarily a naval base from a military perspective.  So, of course a fort on the top of the hills should have a couple of masts.  These were used to raise various flags as a way to send messages to other forts in the area as well as to the population of the town.

Two signaling masts on the hilltop fort
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The Town Clock (sometimes called the Old Town Clock or Citadel Clock) just outside the fort, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the urban core of Halifax.  The idea of a clock for the British Army and Royal Navy garrison at Halifax is credited to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent in 1800. It is said that Prince Edward, then commander-in-chief of all military forces in British North America, wished to resolve the tardiness of the local garrison.

The clock went into operation in 1803.  It sits in a three story octagon tower built atop a one story white clapboard building. It was erected on the east slope of Citadel Hill facing Barrack (now Brunswick) Street. The clock face is 4-sided displaying Roman numerals. As with most clocks the "4" is shown as IIII for aesthetic symmetry and not as IV.  The mechanism uses three weights along with a 13-foot pendulum.  To this day the weights are manually winched up twice a week.   Its bell strikes hourly and quarterly and the durability of the mechanism (which dates to the original installation) is attributed to its slow movement.

Halifax Citadel Clock Tower
Halifax Citadel Clock TowerHalifax Citadel Clock Tower

Harbour Walk

Once we’d exhausted seeing the Citadel, the other main area of Halifax we visited was the waterfront, about 4 blocks from the hotel.  As is the case in most all harbor cities, the waterfront was the historical center of commercial and naval activities.  In other words it was a bustling working harbor supporting the growing city.  Eventually though, the shipping business moved from the manual loading and unloading of ships to containerized shipping displacing large numbers of dock workers and this in turn led to property deterioration as businesses moved elsewhere in the harbor.  Over this same period, Halifax declined as a fishing port.  So, all in all things were not looking too good for the Halifax waterfront. 

Then in 1960, the Harbor Front Highway project was proposed right along the shore that would cut off the waterfront from the rest of the city.  In fact, if you look at many harbor side cities in North America at that time, many actually built such highways along the shore.  One of these was San Francisco where a freeway from the Bay Bridge was to go along the shoreline, right over the top of Fisherman’s Wharf and all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.  The first section of this was actually built but was severely damaged in the 1986 earthquake and subsequently was torn down to everybody’s delight.  In Halifax though, a community led movement got the proposed highway project replaced by a more progressive strategy for their waterfront. 

The resulting Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk is a roughly 2 mile long public footpath that stretches from a Casino at the north end to an immigration museum at the south end and by the looks of things may be extended further.  In addition to these two book end attractions you will find a lovely maritime museum and some historic ships you can tour near the middle.  Of course this is in addition to the ubiquitous snack stands, restaurants, hotels souvenir shops, marinas and excursion booking kiosks.  Mostly the Harbour Walk is between the city buildings and water but one place it is out over the bay due to construction and at another place is actually a floating dock you walk on.

Typical section of Halifax Harbour Walk
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Small Marina’s dot the length of the Harbour Walk
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At some spots the walk is out over the bay.  Here you can rent a snooze in a hammock
Hamocks on Harbourside Walk, HalifaxHamocks on Harbourside Walk, Halifax

For those of you with kids, you may be familiar with Thomas Train children’s books.  Well, not to be outdone, in Canada there is a similar series of books called Theodore Too which are based on a tug boat.  And here it is in real life

Theodore Too tug boat from a series of children’s books
Theodore Tugboat, Halifax, N.S.Theodore Tugboat, Halifax, N.S.

And, what self-respecting city doesn’t have modern art installations in high tourist areas.  Now usually I don’t care for these sorts of things that much but in this case I found the art quite amusing (which was its intent).  This art is by Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg and consists of three modern street lights doing very human activities.  One shows the street light taking a leak over the edge of the dock.  The other two depict a drunk who fell down being looked over by a concerned friend.

Taking a Leak,  Fallen Drunk, Concerned Friend
The Way Things Are sculpture (Halifax)The Way Things Are sculpture (Halifax)

“The Bicycle Thief” metal sculpture in front of a bicycle shop
Red Bike Pile (Halifax Harbourwalk)Red Bike Pile (Halifax Harbourwalk)

One of the things we enjoyed while traversing the Harbour Walk are the reflections in some of the newer buildings that line the walkway.

Hotel reflection in office building window
Halifax Building ReflectionHalifax Building Reflection

Harbour Walk reflected in building window
Halifax Harbourwalk reflectionHalifax Harbourwalk reflection

Immigration Museum

At the south end of the Harbour Walk is the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.  I don’t have any photos of this museum but it tells quite a remarkable story which is barely known to those of us in the States – and in many ways quite different then our Ellis Island in New York Harbor. 

The museum occupies a former ocean liner terminal which also served as the “immigration shed” from 1928 to 1971.  Yes, 1971.  Pier 21 is Canada's last remaining ocean immigration shed. The facility is often compared to Ellis Island (1892–1954) in terms of its importance to mid-20th-century immigration.  Canada’s eastern coast also had other 19th century immigration sheds such as Grosse Isle, Quebec (1832–1932) and Partridge Island in Saint John, New Brunswick (1785–1941).

This is not a particularly large museum but is quite well done.  The museum shows visitors what it was like to immigrate through Pier 21 between 1928 and 1971. Visitors can open replica children's trunks to see what five immigrant children might have brought with them to Canada, walk through a replica of the colonist train cars that newly arrived immigrants boarded for the next stage of their journey, and even dress up as some of the key staff and volunteers at Pier 21.

Among other things, you can see a replica of the inside of a transport ship used to bring immigrants across the Atlantic showing sleeping quarters and dining facilities for the immigrants.  This was quite interesting.  In one exhibit they had a ships dining hall table set up as it would have been at the time.  This was a table for 4 people.  There was a pressed white table cloth.  Each place setting had a china plate, bowl, saucer, tea cup and water glass.  The chinaware was painted with an intricate design.  For silverware there was a knife, several forks, and several spoons.  All was topped off with a neatly folded and pressed white cloth napkin.  It really looked like one of the posh table settings in the Titanic movie.  The question asked by our guide was, “Whose dinner table was this?”  Captain?  Officers?  First Class passengers? 2nd class passengers? 3rd class immigrant class passengers? Or Crew?  .  The group all guessed at one of the first three but in reality it was typical of the 3rd class immigrant class.

Unlike NY’s Ellis Island, Immigrants coming into Canada where “processed” much more quickly.  But one of the biggest differences is that in the US, once you were approved for entry you were just released on the streets of your entry city.  For some period of time they required you to have a “sponsor” which many times was just a name and address you got from who knows where.  This is how ethnic ghetto’s sprang up in New York, Boston and Philadelphia among others.  Due to language, and economics, new foreign arrivals just tended to gravitate to the areas where previous immigrants from the same country were living.  However, in Canada, things were done differently.  When you were released from the immigration shed (usually in under 24 hours) your family group was paired up with a family somewhere in the country with whom you and your family would stay for a while.  These were usually places in the middle of the country where they needed more people.  it was very rare for new immigrants to be released into their arrival city.  These sponsoring families throughout the country were paid by the government and they would help the immigrants get acclimated to life in Canada, would help them learn the language, find a job and get a place to live for their own within a specified amount of time. 

To make this work, the government had immigration trains that would pick up the immigrants right from the Immigration Shed and take them all the way to their destination depot where the sponsoring family would meet them at the station.  That is the reason that immigration port cities such as Halifax never had those waves of new people deposited in their midst forming country by country ghetto’s like in New York.  It is also why diversity in Canada was more homogeneous rather than isolated to specific areas.  Of course there were problems as there are with any government run program but all in all it proved to be a pretty good system.  

One of the stories we were told involved the Immigration train.  Once you boarded the train, you were not allowed to get off till you got to your destination station which in most cases was several days away.  So, they would give the immigrants boxed meals to take on the train for the journey.  The contents of these boxes were usually donated by companies as a way to get the new folks acquainted with their products and as such would be more inclined to buy those same things once they got settled.  Ok, sounds good but sometimes the best laid plans just don’t work out.  It seems that the Kellogg’s company was one of the suppliers and they put boxes of corn flakes into these meal boxes.  That makes sense.  You can eat them dry as a hand held snack, or add milk in a bowl.  Well, it turns out that in Germany and much of Europe the only thing corn is used for is pig feed.  People don’t eat corn.  So, the good old Kellogg company got known as the pig food company and pretty much all the cornflakes wound up being thrown on the floor.  Not to mention that this fostered a sentiment of “what kind of country did we come to where they treat new comers so bad by giving them pig food?”

Another story was of a family whose meal box contained things to make sandwiches.  Well, many of the European’s had never heard of bread that was pre-sliced and white.  After all, bread was heavy, very dark in color and came in a loaf.  So, what was this flat thin white stuff?  Well the obvious answer was some sort of weird napkin that was so poorly made that it fell apart when you tried to use it. 

Several families figured out how to use their new Canadian dollars to get folks standing on station platforms to go buy some better food for them and bring it back to the train.  In fact many prior immigrants from similar countries who had landed in such places came to the station just to provide that sort of aid to their fellow countrymen and knew what to get them.  Sausage was a well-received item – especially for the Germans.  So with sausage in hand, and with that weird mustard in their boxed lunch – it was just like home.  But that mustard was just awful.  Not only was it a strange color, and too thick, it tasted horrible.  What is wrong with the people in this country – Not only is it freezing cold and they don’t even know how to make a loaf of bread they can’t even make edible mustard?  So, the mustard jars went out the window of the train as it sped along.  But then the oddest thing happened.  Folks who had houses or farms near the tracks kept finding all these mostly full peanut butter jars in their yards and fields.  Very perplexing.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum is more or less in the middle of the Harbour Walk.  This museum includes a traditional indoor museum but also a few ships floating at docks nearby.  There is the CSS Acadia and the museum ship HMCS Sackville. 

The museum itself is not a very large, museum, but is very nicely done with some very interesting exhibits.  I recommend the guided tour but you can certainly do it on your own. 

One of the focus points in this museum is on model replicas of historic and modern ships which can be seen throughout the facility.  Many of these representing historic cruise ships are on the 2nd floor and are quite large – in the 8 to 20 foot long range.  They also have a model building room with a glass observation window so you can watch expert model builders doing their work.  It is quite difficult to photograph these models, which are in glass cases, due to reflections of the overhead lighting but I was able to get a few shots.  Here’s one of a quite large model cruise liner.

Model of an early cruise ship
Halifax Maritime Museum.  Halifax, NS, Canada 2019Halifax Maritime Museum. Halifax, NS, Canada 2019

Along with the expected exhibits, there were some that I found especially interesting or unique.  One was a live sailors parrot named “Merlin” who is a Rainbow Macaw.  Then there was the Fresnel lens from the Sambro Island Lighthouse off the south coast of Nova Scotia, and a room of small boats one whimsically being attacked by a Kraken (giant squid) and a couple of others I’ll talk about later.

Fresnel lens from the Sambro Island Lighthouse
Halifax Maritime Museum.  Halifax, NS, Canada 2019Halifax Maritime Museum. Halifax, NS, Canada 2019


Re-creation of original marine supply hardware store inside the original building (gray box is a manually operated fog horn)
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One of the interesting things that I had forgotten was that the when the Titanic went down, Halifax, being the nearest full port to the sinking site, became the recovery operations center.  In the museum there is a pretty extensive exhibit devoted to this disaster.

As we all know the Titanic is considered one of the greatest marine disasters in recorded history.  The ship left Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 on her maiden voyage and 4 days later struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and the “unsinkable ship” sank.  The first vessel to arrive at the scene was the Cunard Liner RMS Carpathia and she was able to rescue more than 700 survivors.  Shortly thereafter the White Star Line dispatched the first of four Canadian vessels to look for bodies in the area of the sinking.

On April 17, Halifax sent a ship with a minister, an undertaker and a cargo of ice, coffins and canvas bags to recover bodies.  They found and recovered 306, 116 of which had to be buried at sea.  Several other Halifax based recovery ships followed.  The majority of the bodies were unloaded at the Coal or Flagship Wharf in Halifax and horse-drawn hearses brought the victims to the temporary morgue in the Mayflower Curling Rink.

Of those bodies, only 59 were returned to their families.  The remaining victims were buried in three Halifax cemeteries.  Most of the gravestones, erected in the fall of 1912, were paid for by the White Star Line and are plain granite blocks.  In some cases, however, families, friends or other groups chose to commission a larger and more elaborate gravestone.  All of these more personalized graves, including one with a striking Celtic cross and another being a beautiful monument to the “Unknown Child”, are located at Fairview Lawn Cemetery.

But, none of the graves were for the fictional Jack Dawson from the movie.  However in the Fairview Cemetery where 121 of the Titanic victims are buried, there is a grave labeled "J. Dawson".  The real J. Dawson was Joseph Dawson, who shoveled coal in the bowels of the ship.  But this nuance seems to be lost on the thousands of tourists who each year descend on this cemetery to see where the hero of the film is buried.  Local tour guides each year keep track of how many people ask them how to find this grave site and at the end of each tourist season the guide with the most requests is treated to a beer.

Another transfixing exhibit is dedicated to an event that happened mid-way through WWI that almost destroyed the city.  This was not an attack by an enemy air force or navy but rather was self-inflicted.  This was the December 6th, 1917 Halifax Explosion.

It seems the ship the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship which was laden with war bound high explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbor to Bedford Basin.  The Mont-Blanc was under orders from the French government to carry cargo from New York City via Halifax to Bordeaux, France and was trying to join an Atlantic convoy.  At roughly 8:45 am, she collided at low speed, with the empty Imo.  Neither ship was severely damaged but on the Mont-Blanc, the impact caused some benzol barrels stored on deck to fall over and break open.  Benzol is a highly flammable fuel (a variation of which is now used as an octane booster in gasoline).  These barrels were stored on deck as they were deemed to hazardous to be in the cargo hold.  This benzol flowed across the deck and down into the hold leaking vapor as it went and was eventually ignited by sparks.  It’s not clear if the sparks came from the collision or from the reversing of the engines.  At any rate, a fire started and quickly got out of control with all that Benzol sloshing around. 

Several ships came to lend assistance with rescue operations and firefighting.  They even had started an effort to tow the damaged ship away from a pier it had drifted into to keep the pier from catching fire.  It was then, 20 minutes after the initial collision, when the fire reached the munitions stored in the hold of the Mont Blank and explosives do what explosives do and it was a whopper of an explosion. 

The blast devastated the entire Richmond district of Halifax which is a kind way of saying that it leveled it.  Approximately 2,000 people were killed outright by the blast, debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and an estimated additional 9,000 others were injured.  The blast was the largest man-made explosion in history, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT (20% the size of the Hiroshima atomic bomb).  Nearly all structures within a half-mile radius of the ship, were obliterated.  A pressure wave snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, created a tsunami, and scattered fragments of the Mont-Blanc for miles in all directions.  Across the harbor, in Dartmouth, there was also widespread damage.  The tsunami created by the blast wiped out a community of the Mi'kmaq First Nation people who had lived in the Tufts Cove area for generations.  Airborne debris from the explosion went mostly south and east of the explosion site some tearing into homes and businesses nearly 5 miles away.

Relief efforts began almost immediately, and hospitals quickly became full. Rescue trains began arriving the day of the explosion from across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick while other trains from central Canada and the northeastern United States were impeded by blizzards.  However help did arrive.  The city of Boston mobilized their Red Cross organization who sent a large contingent of doctors, nurses and other disaster experts to Halifax by ship, thus avoiding the snow bound rail lines.  Construction of temporary shelters to house the many people left homeless began soon after the disaster.

The initial judicial inquiry found Mont-Blanc to have been responsible for the disaster, but a later appeal determined that both vessels were to blame.

Debris fall
Halifax Maritime Museum.  Halifax, NS, Canada 2019Halifax Maritime Museum. Halifax, NS, Canada 2019

Fragment from the Mont-Blanc hull found embedded in the wall of a house 2.5 miles away.  It was discovered decades later when the roof was being replaced
Halifax Maritime Museum.  Halifax, NS, Canada 2019Halifax Maritime Museum. Halifax, NS, Canada 2019

What used to be a city
Halifax Maritime Museum.  Halifax, NS, Canada 2019Halifax Maritime Museum. Halifax, NS, Canada 2019

What used to be “home”
Halifax Maritime Museum.  Halifax, NS, Canada 2019Halifax Maritime Museum. Halifax, NS, Canada 2019

Out on the piers by the museum are a couple of ships.  One is the HMCS SACKVILLE which is the last of 269 corvettes built for WWII of which 123 were built in Canada.  This one has been restored to her wartime configuration and is the last one still afloat.  These ships were mostly used in submarine hunting. 

Depth charge launchers, HMCS Sackville
HMCS Sackville, Halifax NSHMCS Sackville, Halifax NS

Peggy’s Point

While staying in Halifax we drove out of town on two occasions.  The first was a late afternoon trip down to Peggy’s Cove to take a look at the lighthouse at sunset which was highly recommended for photographers.  The second time was a full day trip where we went back to Peggy’s cove to take a better look at the village itself, but then continued along the coast to the east winding up in a town called Lunenberg

Our excursions outside of Halifax
01 Map 03 Peggy & Lundenberg P1 Full enhanced01 Map 03 Peggy & Lundenberg P1 Full enhanced

Peggy’s Cove and Lighthouse

Peggy's Cove is a small community on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay about 26 miles from Halifax.  It was established in 1868 and has remained a fishing village ever since but in recent years has become a very popular day trip for tourists visiting Halifax.  It is only one of many such small fishing villages along the shore outside of the city but this one is exceedingly charming – and I might add picturesque.  On our first visit we arrived a bit before sunset and went straight to the lighthouse just dashing through the village itself so as not to miss the last light on the lighthouse itself

There is Peggy’s Cove, Peggy’s Point, and Peggy’s Lighthouse.  So, who was Peggy?  Well it seems no one knows for sure.  The first recorded use of the name in regard to this area was in 1766 where Peggs Harbour is mentioned.  But the records from the time do not include anyone of import with that name.  The best guess is that since Peggy’s Point marks the eastern side of the entrance to St. Margaret's Bay, and many times people named Margaret call themselves Peggy, that that must be where the name came from.  OK, but St. Margaret is not a saint one hears about all that often, so who was she?  Well, she was a real person (1045 – 1093) who was also known as Margaret of Wessex, an English princess and a Scottish queen.  Margaret was sometimes called "The Pearl of Scotland". Born in exile in the Kingdom of Hungary, she was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the short reigned and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England.  So, now you know.

But, that’s not the only story.  Another story suggests the village may have been named after the wife of an early settler. This popular legend claims that she was the sole survivor of a shipwreck at Halibut Rock near the cove.  Artist and resident William deGarthe said she was a young woman at the time while others claim she was just a little girl too young to remember her name and the family who adopted her called her Peggy.  The young shipwreck survivor married a resident of the cove in 1800 and became known as "Peggy of the Cove".  Visitors from around the bay eventually shortened that to Peggy's Cove.

The village itself was officially founded in 1811 through a land grant of more than 800 acres to six families of German descent who relied on fishing as the mainstay of their economy but also farmed where the soil was fertile.  In the early 1900s the population peaked at about 300. The community supported a schoolhouse, church, general store, lobster cannery and boats of all sizes nestled in the cove.  Today the population is smaller but Peggy's Cove remains an active fishing village.  In recent years the economy has been “buoyed” by a robust tourist trade and is quite a popular destination for artists and photographers from around the world.

Rentals going up
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Ready for the foot weary
Peggys Cove Chairs (NS Canada)Peggys Cove Chairs (NS Canada)

Hunger & Thirst
Green Dory at Peggys Cove (NS Canada)Green Dory at Peggys Cove (NS Canada)

The setup and the shot
35 7d2R03-#9013 - 5d3R04-#6064 Pair35 7d2R03-#9013 - 5d3R04-#6064 Pair

The Old and the New
Marooned Dory, Peggys Cove (NS Canada)Marooned Dory, Peggys Cove (NS Canada)

House on the cove
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Living on the cove
Peggys Cove, NS, CanadaPeggys Cove, NS, Canada

Peggy’s Lighthouse is an active lighthouse and an iconic Canadian image.  It is one of those “everyone has photographed iconic post card” shots for the area.  Its draw of artists and photographers has made it one of the busiest tourist attractions in the province of Nova Scotia and is a prime attraction on the Lighthouse Trail scenic drive.

This is a classic red-and-white lighthouse which is still operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.  It sits on an extensive granite outcrop allowing views from all sides.   This lighthouse is one of the most-photographed structures in Atlantic Canada and one of the most recognizable lighthouses in the world – and for good reason.  Whether you are at eye level from the town behind it, on the same level from the granite plateau it sits on, or are below it near the water shooting up at it – it is as picturesque as they come.  But be careful.  Not only watch your footing when scrambling around on the rocky outcrop looking for the ideal composition, but watch out for sneaker waves if you are near the water.  Despite numerous warning signs of unpredictable surf, several visitors each year are swept off the rocks by waves.

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
Peggys Point Lighthouse, N.S.Peggys Point Lighthouse, N.S.

After scrambling around on the rocks for an hour or so trying every angle I could find as the light faded, I finally figured it was enough.  Especially as no matter where I stood or how long I waited, there was always a bevy of people around the lighthouse distracting from the scene I envisioned.  In fact in the shot above there are 3 tourists walking in front of the lighthouse but I waited till they were obscured behind that top rock in the shade.  Just 1 or 2 seconds when they were all hidden.  So, with the last bits of light after sunset receding I clamored back up the rocks toward the parking lot.  On the way, I turned around for one last look before driving back to Halifax in the dark and decided to grab one last shot.  Didn’t even bother setting up the tripod.  You know, one of those “I’ll never be here again, so why not take one more shot” sort of things.  When I got back home it was not that great of a shot as there were a half dozen folks standing at the base of the building.  But, I really liked that one person off to the side.  So, I darkened the entire lighthouse to pure silhouette (thus hiding the people in front of the lighthouse and turning the lone person on the side also to silhouette as well and it became one of my favorite shots of the trip.

The winning shot
Peggys Point Lighthouse Sunset SilhouettePeggys Point Lighthouse Sunset Silhouette


Lunenburg is another picturesque fishing village a bit farther down the south shore of Nova Scotia.  Founded in 1753, the town was one of the first British attempts to settle Protestants in Nova Scotia in an effort to displace the French colonial Roman Catholic Acadians and indigenous Mi'kmaq.  The economy has always been based on offshore fishing and today Lunenburg is the site of Canada's largest secondary fish-processing plant. The town flourished in the late 1800s, and much of the historic architecture dates from that period.

In 1995 UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site. UNESCO considers the site the best example of planned British colonial settlement in North America, as it retains its original layout and appearance of the 1800s, including local wooden vernacular architecture.

Prior to 1753 the native Mi'kmaq lived in the area.  Then around the 1620’s French colonists, who became known as Acadians, settled in the area.  The Acadians and Mi’kmaq lived peacefully and some intermarried creating networks of trade and kinship.  When Edward Cornwallis, the newly appointed Governor of Nova Scotia, visited in 1749, he reported several Mi’kmaq and Acadian families living together in comfortable houses and said they appeared to be doing well.  The town was officially named in 1753 after the Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg who had become King George II of Great Britain.

Britain and France who had been battling each other in Europe in the 1700s eventually signed a Treaty in which France ceded the part of Acadia (today known as peninsular Nova Scotia) to Britain.  But the French and native inhabitants of the area did not welcome this development.  So, to guard against Mi'kmaq, Acadian and colonial French attacks, Cornwallis ordered the town destroyed – which it was. 

So now that those pesky French and Mi'kmaq were gone, the British sought to settle the lands with loyal subjects, and recruited more than 1,400 Protestants from Europe in July 1753 to populate the site.  And, those settlers arrived with 160 soldiers to build the town of Lunenberg.

During the American Revolution, privateers from the colonies raided Lunenburg, including a 1782 raid which yet again devastated the town.  In retaliation British officials authorized the local “Privateer Lunenburg” (sort of a volunteer national guard), to raid United States American shipping.  It’s not clear if they followed through and if so did any damage but in general the local ships from these privateer groups were no match for the ships of the US fleet.

But, all that aside, it is another very popular destination for photographers and artists.  And again for good reason.  The town sits on one side of skinny bay where you have a splendid view of the town from the other side – if you don’t mind trespassing along a well-worn path on the edge of a golf course.  The waterfront of the town is chock full of colorful vintage buildings behind a bay full of moored boats.

Lunenberg boats in the harbor
Lunenburg Harbour #4 (NS, Canada)Lunenburg Harbour #4 (NS, Canada)

Red clapboard fish processing “factory”
Lunenburg Harbour #2 (NS, Canada)Lunenburg Harbour #2 (NS, Canada)


I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Halifax and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/5/ canadian-maritimes-01

Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/maritimes-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) blog Canada Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Ciotadel Clock dan hartford photo DanTravelBlogMaritimes Halifax Halifax Citadel Halifax Explosion Halifax Harbour Walk Halifax Maritime Museum Lunenberg Maritime Museum in Halifax Nova Scotia Old Clock Tower Halifax Peggy's Cove Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Peggy's Point Peggy's Pont Lightrouse Pier 21 Immigration Museum The Citadel https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/5/canadian-maritimes-01 Tue, 26 May 2020 22:42:21 GMT
Greece #07 – Syros & Aegina https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/4/greece-07 APRIL 2019

Greece #7 –Islands of Syros and Aegina


This is part 7 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for some days on our own in Athens and surrounding areas, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.


This installment contains the islands of Syros and Aegina.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip


Islands & locations visited during the cruise portion of this trip.  This episode is for Syros, a swing by Cape Sounion, and Aegina
03 Map #04b 3 Islands03 Map #04b 3 Islands


In this episode I’ll be covering the islands of Syros and Aegina as we close out our tip.  After seeing Athens, the northeastern section of the Peloponnese peninsula, sunset on Cape Sounion, and the islands of Poros, Folegandros, Santorini, Paros, Delos and Mykonos we were quite interested in seeing if these last two islands would be more of the same or something different.  Well, to be honest, although Syros was quite charming and interesting in its own right, it was – after all – another Greek Island -- and in many regards similar to others we had seen.  Aegina on the other hand, while also similar to many of the other islands was a bit less interesting with less to see.  But we’ll start with Syros.

Syros Island

Our travel path on Syros
04 Map #07a Syros04 Map #07a Syros

Syros is a 32 square mile Greek island in the Cyclades, in the Aegean Sea with a population of roughly 21,507 (2011). The largest towns are Ermoupoli, Ano Syros, and Vari.  Ermoupoli is the capital of the island and of the Cyclades.  Our ship docked in Ermoupoli but we ventured up the hill to Ano Syros for some sightseeing.

The city of Ermoupoli is built in a natural amphitheater flowing down to the harbor.  The architecture is mostly neo-classical buildings, old mansions, and white house’s ascending up the hillside from the harbor.  It was built during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s.

The history of settlement on Syros goes back at least 5,000 years, to the Early Bronze Age of the Cycladic civilization. This is when the hill-top settlement of Kastri began.  Kastri, dated by archaeologists to 2800-2300 BC, was one of the earliest settlements in Greece that was protected by stone walls with rounded bastions.  Like the rest of the area, Syros was occupied and controlled by a succession of empires that we’ve seen before including the Phoenicians, Romans, Ottomans and several others, however it did not play an important role during antiquity nor the early Christian years.  It was not even a diocese at a time when even the smallest islands possessed their own bishop.

Let’s see what other trivia I can dig up on Syros.  Ah, here’s one.  In the Middle Ages, following an agreement between France and the Holy See with the Ottoman authorities, the Catholics of the island came under the protection of France and Rome and so Syros sometimes was called "the Pope's island".  Okay, not all that interesting, but it was all I could find.

So, who might you know that counted Syros as home?  Well again, not a long list here.  The only one I found mentioned is the philosopher Pherecydes who was the teacher of Pythagoras of triangle fame.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a popular place, just no one famous called it home.

Later on and due to its position in the Aegean sea, Syros became known as a maritime way-point. Moreover, the special social, religious and institutional conditions prevailing on the island, led residents to be considered neutral at the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821. As a result, Syros became a secure shelter during the Revolution, attracting many Greek refugees from Asia Minor, Chios, Spetses, Psara, Aivali, Smyrna, Kydonia, Kassos and other places. These refugees built the city of Ermoupoli, down by the bay below Ano Syros.

As we all should know by know if you’ve been following along, Greece won its independence and shortly thereafter, in 1827, Syros became part of the newly founded First Hellenic Republic and later (1834) the Greek Kingdom.   And, here it sits today.

After docking in the town of Ermoupoli in the middle of the night as was the typical routine, we spent the entire next day touring Ermoupoli and Ano Syros (a hill top town that was once a separate village but has now blended together with Ermoupoli).  Ermoupoli was founded during the Greek Revolution in the 1820s, as an extension to the existing Ano Syros township, by refugees from other Greek islands because of the War.  It soon became the leading commercial and industrial center of Greece, as well as its main port.  Eventually Ermoupoli was eclipsed by Piraeus in the late 19th century.  In the following decades the city declined.  Recently, its economy has greatly improved, based on the service industry.

When you look at Ermoupoli from the bay, you notice that it descends from two prominent hills, each with a large structure on top.  As it turns out both of these buildings are in Ano Syros

Ermoupoli and Ano Syros from bay.  Left hill topped with St. George’s Cathedral and right hill topped with the Church of Resurrection
05 5d3R04-#5193-V205 5d3R04-#5193-V2

This is a somewhat quiet (tourist wise) town with laid back streets, idyllic views and a turquoise bay.  Many home are built right on the edge of the bay making a plunge into the Aegean sea on those hot summer days a backyard affair.

Houses built right on the bay make it easy to take a swim on a hot summer day
Ermoupoli waterfront #1Ermoupoli waterfront #1

With our guide we first did a walking tour of Ermoupoli.  Our first stop was at the Monument of Resistance.  Most of us are aware of the French Resistance during WWII, but Greece also had a robust underground army, with some branches being armed and others not, but all defying and making life difficult for the Germans.  Throughout Greece there are many monuments to the resistance including one in Ermoupoli.

Ermoupoli monument to the resistance
Resistance Monument, SyrosResistance Monument, Syros

Ermoupoli has a great number of architectural marvels. Exquisite specimens of Neoclassical architecture, old mansions and whitewashed houses ascending the hill and near the harbor are marvelous churches, known as the jewels of Syros architecture.  Now, when touring Europe one can quickly acquire an aversion to ABC (Another Bloody Cathedral) and Greece certainly has its share of churches and cathedrals.  But every now and again one area stands out from the others in some aspect of their churches.  It is not exactly clear why this is.  Perhaps at one time there was a tit for tat where each congregation had to one up the congregation down the street in an continuous escalation of one-upmanship.  Ermoupoli seems to be such an area.  Of course we didn’t go into every church in town, and I’m sure our guide led us to the most spectacular ones, but I was impressed.

One such church is the Dormition of the Virgin Mary which was built in 1828-1829. It is a three-aisled basilica without a dome. Inside the church is the icon of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary which is the work of Dominikos Theotokopoulos (aka El Greco).  One of the first works of El Greco, it dates back to 1562-64.  But what I liked in this church was the blend of colors which was greatly enhanced by light coming through large glass windows along the top of the side walls and the mix of opulence (gold pulpit) and simplicity (straight back wooden chairs instead of pews).  The ceilings in the side galleries are painted a light blue with star like gold designs and the ceiling in the central gallery contains an iridescent – almost electric like – blue when the light hits it right.  The columns are made of a green veined stone which offset the gold pulpit and throne and rich brown tones of wooden railings and chairs.  Really quite impressive

Church of Dormition of the Virgin Mary
Church of the Dormition in ErmoupoliChurch of the Dormition in Ermoupoli

Central and side gallery ceilings
Church of the Dormition in Ermoupoli #2Church of the Dormition in Ermoupoli #2

Bishop’s Gold throne
Church of the Dormition #4Church of the Dormition #4

Another elaborate church just a couple of blocks away is St. Nicholas.  This one is a Byzantine Church that was built between 1848 and 1870.  Saint Nicholas, who happens to be the patron saint of Ermoupoli, stands out for its lavish interiors and impressive architectural structure.  Some features include the icon of St. Nicholas that was silver-plated in Moscow, the despotic marble throne, the pulpit and the marble iconostasis designed by George Vitali.  Like the church described above this one also has a rich palate of color and many of the design features are the same as the other one.  For example, the blue ceiling with gold objects is quite similar as are the chairs in place of Pews among other things.  Like the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church, St. Nicholas has large clear windows, including a large circular skylight but it also has some stained glass windows as well.  When we were there that stained glass cast gorgeous colored light into the interior.  It lit up a silver chandelier in blazing gold and a 2nd floor alcove behind it in crimson red.  It also cast rainbow like light patterns in several patches of the floor adding to the color palette and making for a very beautiful sight.

Interior of St. Nicholas is in many ways similar to Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church
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St. Nicholas Church silver chandelier tuned gold by light through a stained glass window.  2nd floor alcove in background turned red by light from a different stained glass window.
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St. Nicholas ceiling motif similar to that of Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church
Arched ceiling,  Saint Nicholas Church, ErmoupoliArched ceiling, Saint Nicholas Church, Ermoupoli

We were visiting these churches the week before holy week which includes Good Friday and the subsequent Easter holiday.  Due to this, as evidenced by a cleaning bucket on a chair in the photo below, pretty much every church we visited was in the midst of being cleaned and spruced up by parishioners to make it ready for the ceremonies of the upcoming week.  According to Greek City Times, “Holy Friday is the most sacred day of Holy Week and is a day of mourning.  It is the day that commemorates the Passion of Christ, with his funeral.  In the evening there is a procession and the Epitaphio (tomb of Christ) is carried around the church and surrounding streets, accompanied by parishioners holding candles.”  That must be a wonderful site to see but, alas it would be the following week.

Colored light from stained glass windows play on the chairs and floor
Stained glass colors on chairs Saint Nicholas Church, ErmoupoliStained glass colors on chairs Saint Nicholas Church, Ermoupoli

Another charming church (well cathedral) is St. George which sits at the top of one of the hills overlooking Ermoupoli in the town of Ano Syros.  While you can drive to Ano Syros, the streets and alleys of the hill tops are way too narrow for vehicles so it is foot traffic only.  Our bus let us off at a high point where we visited St. George’s Cathedral and then wandered our way down through charming narrow passage ways to a lower part of the town where our bus picked us up. 

St. George’s is quite nice it its own right but is done in more pastel colors than the other two we’ve talked about.  It is also a bit more formal.  For example it has regular pews rather than just chairs and it is not as cluttered, nor ornate as the others. 

St. George’s Cathedral in Ano Syros
St. Geeorge's Cathedral, Ano SyrosSt. Geeorge's Cathedral, Ano Syros

As we wandered down the streets of Ano Syros enjoying the quiet charm of an area not overrun with tourists, we encountered several locals at their homes.  Of course they spoke no English and we spoke no Greek, but with a few common words we told them where we were from and we wished each other well.

Streets of Ano Syros
Ano Syros stepped walkway with green doorAno Syros stepped walkway with green door

Now that’s a lot of dog
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Watching the world go by in front of his home
Ano Syros manAno Syros man

Ermoupoli waterfront at night
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Ermoupoli with Ano Syros above at night
Ermoupoli waterfront at night #1Ermoupoli waterfront at night #1

Aegina Island

During the course of our trip, I had been showing folks some of the images I had taken at the Temple of Poseidon when we were on our own.  You already saw these images in part 3 of this Greece series of travel logs and there’s one at the end of this edition.  I think that may have caused several of our group to ask if we could sail by Cape Sounion which was only a small detour in our route between Syros and Aegina.  So, Athena, our tour guide, prevailed on the captain to leave Syros I bit earlier (but still in the middle of the night) and to swing by the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion just after sunrise. 

Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion from the ship
Morning at the Temple of PoseidonMorning at the Temple of Poseidon

But, our next – and last – port of call before returning to Athens for our flight home was the island of Aegina where we docked in the town of Ag Marina. 

Our walking route in Ag marina on Aegina
22 Map #07b Aegina22 Map #07b Aegina

During ancient times Aegina was a rival of Athens, the great sea power of the era.  It is roughly a triangular shaped island, with an area of 33 sq mi and has a population (2011, including some smaller islets nearby) of under 6,000.  So, it’s not one of the more populated islands. 

Two-thirds of the island is an extinct volcano.  The northern and western sides consist of stony but fertile plains, which produce luxuriant crops of grain, with some cotton, vines, almonds, olives and figs, but the most characteristic crop of Aegina today is pistachio.  Another economically important industry is sponge fishing.

But, to be honest it’s not all that an impressive island.  Maybe we’d just seen too many gorgeous islands already and were just burned out on Greek Islands, but there really just wasn’t all that much of interest to see here.  I think the only reason our ship stopped here is that it is quite close to Athens for our departure the next day and they needed to find a place to kill some time between Syros and Athens.

But, here we were for around 4 hours before heading back to Athens or our departure the following day.  Like I said, really not much to see here.  There is a wharf area with a flock of pleasure boats and a fair number of fishing boats (some of which were interesting), and a cute church at the end of a dock.  There is a street that goes right along the water and a couple of other shopping streets of little interest or character.  A few side streets were a bit charming but several leagues less so than what we’d seen on other islands.  In other words, a very nondescript town.  Of course that didn’t stop us from roaming around a bit to see what we could see.  Mostly we saw other members of our group roaming around as well. 

Pistachios are Aegina’s claim to fame
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I presume these are sponge fishing boats
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Holy Chapel of Agios Nikolaos of Thalassinos Greek Orthodox Church at the end of a dock
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An almost charming street
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Off the commercial street. A sort of home furnishings store
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I think the horse agrees that this is not an exciting town
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I hope you enjoyed joining us through this 7 part travel log series of our trip to Athens and several Greek islands and will come back for future travels.  Don’t forget you can also see prior travel series on my website at www.danhartfordphoto.com/ under the “blogs” menu.

And, I’ll close with my favorite shot from the trip

Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion
Temple of Poseidon with setting sunTemple of Poseidon with setting sun


I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Delos and Mykonos and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Aegina Aegina Island Ano Syros blog Church of Dormition of the Virgin Mary cycladic islands cycladies dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelbloggreece Ermoupoli Ermoupoli Syros Greece greece greek islands greek orthodox church St. George's Cathedral Greece St. Nicholas Syros Syros Syros Island https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/4/greece-07 Sat, 11 Apr 2020 21:40:04 GMT
Greece #06 – Delos & Mykonos https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/3/greece-06 APRIL 2019

Greece #6 – Delos and Mykonos Islands

This is part 6 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for some days on our own in Athens and surrounding areas, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

This installment contains the islands of Delos and Mykonos.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip

Islands & locations visited during the cruise portion of this trip.  This episode is for Delos and Mykonos
02 Map #04b 3 Islands02 Map #04b 3 Islands

In this episode I’ll be covering the two side by side islands of Mykonos and Delos.  Mykonos is a populated island with towns, farms, places to stay, and restaurants.  But Delos is no longer inhabited.  In ancient times Delos supported quite a big population but now the entire island is an historic site.  We docked at the town of Mykonos but our first adventure here was to the island of Delos.

Delos Island

From the city of Mykonos it is about a 30 minute ferry ride over to Delos across a channel separating the two islands.  On our day, the ride over to Delos was quite fine.  We caught the 8:30 ferry right near where our ship was docked.  The wind was starting to kick up making for some choppy water, but for the most part the wind was going our way so the ride over was not too rough.  It was a bit too breezy to be out on deck though and unless you like looking at water, not all that interesting a view.

Delos is a small rocky island roughly 2.8 miles long and 3/4 of a mile wide with no potable surface water and no farmable land.  Even though it is quite desolate, it has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC when people lived on the hill tops where they could keep a watch on the sea for pirates.  Of course that made it quite inconvenient to get to their fishing boats in the morning and to carry their catch back home in the evenings.  These were piratical Carians and they were eventually expelled by King Minos of Crete.  The Mycenaeans who came later (end of 15th century BC) felt a bit safer so they moved on down closer to the sea – and closer to their boats.

Then along came the era of the Greek Gods.  As it turned out, Delos was declared to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis who were twin children of Zeus.  For those of you who don’t have your Greek Gods straight, Zeus was the ruler of all the Mount Olympus Gods.  In turn, Apollo was one of the Twelve Olympians.  In other words these were not just run of the mill Gods, they were part of the upper tier of gods.  As you probably know, each Greek god was the god of something.  In the case of Apollo, he was the god of light, harmony, balance, healing, medicine and archery, as well as music and poetry.  Artemis – his twin sister – was the Moon Goddess.  And as Delos was their birthplace it became a very important center in the Greek culture and attracted a thriving community of followers who built homes and businesses here in order to be closer to the Gods and have some of that Godliness rub off on them.  And, all of this was despite it being a wind swept rocky wasteland with little in the way of mineral resources and even less use for agriculture. 

But, not content to leave well enough alone, along came government interventions.  The city-state of Athens decided that the conditions on Delos were not really worthy for the proper worship of the gods.  So, they ordered a number of "purifications" to make things right.  The first purification took place in the 6th century BC by the tyrant Pisistratus who ordered that all graves within sight of the temple be dug up and the bodies moved to another nearby island.  Okay, we can’t have dead bodies lying around and upsetting the main gods of the time.  But then things got even weirder.  In the 5th century BC (during the 6th year of the Peloponnesian war and under instruction from the Delphic Oracle), the entire island was purged of all dead bodies.  Well, I can understand that one of the Gods may decide to leave the temple for a stroll around town, and “god forbid” they should happen to stumble upon a grave stone. 

But, it seems that was still not enough.  They then ordered that no one should be allowed to either die or give birth on the island due to its sacred importance and to preserve its neutrality in commerce.  Huh?  Well, it seems that if no one is born there, and no one can die there, then no one can claim ownership of any land through inheritance.  But even that wasn’t the end.  Four years later, all inhabitants of the island were removed to Atramyttium in Asia as a further purification and to leave the Gods to have the entire island just to themselves.  I suppose that worked out okay for the Gods - if you don’t count the thousands of tourists who now show up every day.

But things move on and Greek management was replaced by Roman management so to speak.  Even though Delos is quite desolate with no productive capacity for food, fiber, or timber, and limited fresh water the Romans brought it back to life.  In 166 BC the Romans converted it into a free port.  This was partially motivated by seeking to damage the trade of Rhodes, at the time the target of Roman hostility. In 167 or 166 BC, after the Roman victory in the Third Macedonian War, the Roman Republic ceded the island of Delos back to the Athenians.  But then the Greeks, never missing an opportunity for trade, allowed Roman traders to come and purchase tens of thousands of slaves captured by the Cilician pirates or captured in the wars following the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire.  In fact, Delos became the center of the slave trade, with the largest slave market in the larger region being maintained here.

But, even with all these comings and goings, Delos was quite modern for its time.  As fresh water was a scarce resource on the island, they create an extensive system of aqueducts, wells and cisterns as well as a sewage system.  They also built many niceties like theaters, sports complexes, had paved streets as well as community halls and the like. 

It was also around this time that Delos was declared a free port resulting in a massive influx of people as all the commercial activity in the eastern Mediterranean flocked to the island.  Rich merchants, bankers, and ship owners from all over the world settled here.  This in turn attracted builders, artists, and craftsmen to build and decorate luxury houses and commercial buildings.  These were richly decorated with Frescoes and mosaic floors and inlaid walls not to mention statues and fine carved stone work adorning the structures.  All in all, the island became the greatest commercial center of the world.

Well with all this commercial activity, booming economy, and being the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos became quite important in ancient Greece. 

Map of Delos (As it was)
03 Map #06b Delos (then)03 Map #06b Delos (then)

The excavations on the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean with many of the artifacts on display at the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

When you arrive in Delos, you first notice how massive the ruined city laid out in front of you is.  You also notice how much of it is still visible.  Much like Pompeii in Italy, it is impossible to see the whole thing in one day as it is just too big.  But you can get a good flavor of the place over the course of several hours.  We were on the island for about 2.5 hours (9:30 am to Noon).  The first half of the time we were with our guide on a guided tour of the part of town south of the ferry dock called the theater district.  Then for the 2nd part of our time we were on our own and mostly wandered around the part of town north of the dock, including the museum.

Map of Delos (Present day)
05 Map #06a Delos (current)05 Map #06a Delos (current)

Our walking route on Delos
04 Map #06cb Delos (Route)04 Map #06cb Delos (Route)

After a bathroom break at the dock we headed to the first place you come to which is what had been the central plaza, or town square of the town called an “agora” (meeting place).  As the breeze stiffened a bit, we stopped here for a talk about the history of Delos.  Not much of this area is left standing except for the marble paving that formed the courtyards and streets of the area. 

Central Agora near the docks
Delos Archeology Site #1, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #1, Greece

I have no idea what this is or was, but it certainly is interesting
Delos Archeology Site #3, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #3, Greece

From this main agora area near the ancient harbor, we headed to the south, toward the amphitheater and through the section of town that has the most remnants of buildings, mostly housesm of all levels from modest one room affairs to significantly larger multi room, multi level villas with courtyards in the center. 

Typical “Street” through area of modest homes
Delos Archeology Site #5, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #5, Greece

The walls of all the buildings are now shorter than they had been when in use due to natural forces as well as the repurposing of stone blocks from older structures to build new ones.  But, in most cases they are tall enough to give you a sense of the rooms.  Over the centuries, adornments like statues as well as household items like pots and tools have been looted or moved by archeologists to museums or other safe storage locations.  However, some were either recreated or re-positioned back into various dwellings to give the viewer an idea of what sort of things might have been in such houses.  But, the artifacts are not typically placed where they might have been, but rather just set out on the floor somewhat haphazardly more like a garage sale.

Some houses have real or replica artifacts displayed in them
Delos Archeology Site #4, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #4, Greece

Enough wall left to show alcoves where items were stored or displayed and a bit of a fresco
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In some cases of the larger and more luxurious villas, there are still remnants of marble support columns that can be seen throughout the site.  During this era, Greek columns were not one long solid piece of marble, but rather they were made of shorter sections stacked on top of each other.  While much more practical to build them this way, they are less stable over long periods of time due to wind and earthquakes.  Most columns have completely toppled over but many have just lost some of their upper sections.  In a few cases, like those on the left below the whole column is still intact including the top plate which supported cross beams holding up the roof or a second level.  However, most of the columns have mostly or partially collapsed leaving various column heights.  As you look out over the city, you see these columns poking up haphazardly above the rest of the ruins

Columns of various heights sprout from the ruins throughout the site
Delos Archeology Site #7, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #7, Greece

In addition to columns every now and again you find an intact window or door frame.
Delos Archeology Site #10, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #10, Greece

Most of the buildings were typical of each other but a few were of special interest from an archeological perspective.  One is the House of Dionysus.  The House of Dionysus is a fine example of a large and lavish private villa from the end of the 2nd-century.  It’s not clear who had it built or owned it but they must have been pretty well off as it was originally built on two levels (you can still see the remains of a stone staircase to the second level).  It was over 21,000 square feet which is pretty big even by today’s standards.  Of that area almost 6,000 square feet of flooring was covered with mosaics.  The highlight of all of this is the central courtyard.  The courtyard is rimmed by elegant marble columns used to support the 2nd level which probably featured an open balcony all around the courtyard. 

Marble columns surrounding the central courtyard of the House of Dionysus
Delos Archeology Site #8, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #8, Greece

The main feature of interest in this courtyard is the mosaic floor depicting Dionysus riding a tiger.  The god is presented with wings, a crown of ivy, and is seated on the back of the tiger around whose neck is a wreath of vines and grapes.  He (Dionysus, not the tiger) is holding a staff decorated with a ribbon as though it were a spear.  On the ground is a fallen silver wine cup which relates to his god role.  Some say that as the silver wine cup seems to have been discarded, meaning that Dionysus had renounced being a god to become a Daemon.  But putting that aside, among other things he was the god of creative power that fertilizes nature and by granting humanity the divine gift of the vine allowing them to become equal to the gods for a short period of time.  In other words, Dionysus gave them the gift of wine and drinking too much of it made them feel like god till they sober up.  But, being the “wine god” made him quite popular.  On Delos (and next door Mykonos) he was worshiped as Leneus – the god of the grape harvest – and as Baccheus – God of mystical drunkenness and orgiastic ecstasy – how’s that for a business card title?

But, back to the mosaic floor.  The craftsmanship of this mosaic floor is remarkable.  It was made with semi precious gems, glazed ceramics, terracotta, and natural stones.  The mosaic pieces were all fashioned into pieces measuring roughly one millimeter square (much smaller than normal for that period), allowing for an elaborate color scheme and sharp detail.  To add to the almost painting like look, the mosaic pieces were held in place by glass paste mortar mixed to match the colors of the mosaic pieces, thus disguising the space between the stones. 

Over the centuries the floor has lost much of its luster and the original floor has been moved to a museum and has been replaced at the house with a replica.

Dionysus mosaic floor replica
Delos Archeology Site #9, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #9, Greece

As the wind picked up a bit more on our way on up to the theater we stopped at several other houses with special features such as the House of the Trident.  But we’ll skip those and move on to the cisterns and theater (or theatre if you prefer).

Fresh water on Delos was a problem from day one.  Probably not an issue for the God’s who lived there as they could just conjure up a cup of wine when desired, but for the regular folks who took up residence it was an issue.  There are no rivers, lakes or ponds on Delos but it does rain.  So, in order to survive, the Greek engineers came up with a very clever system of cisterns, aqueducts, and underground channels to catch, store and deliver water.  In fact most all the homes had running water and some sort of sewage system.  Much of this was built in the 3rd century BC such as a large cistern near the theatre which is the largest on Delos at 27 feet deep and with a capacity to hold nearly 71,000 gallons of water.  Much of the water that fed this cistern was collected from the outdoor theater through an underground system of channels.  This cistern was originally covered with marble slabs forming a sort of patio.

Large cistern near theatre
Delos Archeology Site #15, GreeceDelos Archeology Site #15, Greece

Speaking of the theater, Delos had quite an elaborate one.  In Ancient Greece, theaters were outdoor affairs built around one side of a circular or semicircular stage or platform.  The seats ascended up a hill and were divided into an upper seating section (26 rows) and a lower seating section (17 rows) for a total capacity around 6,500.  All the seats were stone benches which, except for the “premium” first row, had no back rest. 

This particular stone theater was built between 296 BC and 240 BC making it a 56 year construction project.  The excavation of the Theatre was undertaken in 1882 and published in 2007 making for a 125 year gap between the research and the resulting paper.  Well, we’ve learned a lot about how to conduct archeological digs since 1882 but back then they just sort of “went at it”.  For example, any marble architectural members in their way were just moved to the orchestra or into a nearby field without being recorded or documented and leaving no information about where it came from.  So, we now have hundreds of unidentified building stones scattered around the surrounding area that can’t be put back in place.  The result is that this theatre is in quite poor condition with little hope of it being restored.

Theater at Delos
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First row of benches had back support for honored guests
Delos Archeology Site #13 (theater seats), GreeceDelos Archeology Site #13 (theater seats), Greece

Sometimes one has to wonder about the mental state of folks who manage historical sites such as Delos.  For some unknown reason they decided that it would greatly enhance the visitor experience if they randomly plopped down modern sculptures in the middle of the most popular ancient buildings on the site.  I can’t imagine what they were thinking but many (perhaps most) of the most interesting buildings had some totally inappropriate modern art construct right in the middle of it.  For example, below is a section of the same photo of the theater from above before I cloned out the intrusion.  Except for the theatre photo, in most places I was able to find an angle that didn’t include the art work.  For example position myself so the sculpture was obscured behind a column or piece of wall.  Or, I just didn’t take a shot of that building.

Totally inappropriate modern art in the middle of an archeological site of historic import
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After our guide led time we were left to wander the rest of the site on our own.  Turns out the bathrooms are at the other end of town in the museum and as we hadn’t seen that end of town yet, we headed that way as the wind got stronger. 

The north end of town hosts the famous Lions of the Naxians.  These lions were given by the Naxians to the Sanctuary of Apollo around the end of the 7th century – more or less.  They were situated on a natural terrace along the road leading from the north port to the Sanctuary.  This was quite impressive to the pilgrims as most had never seen a lion before.  They don’t currently know how many of these lions there were but they think it was between 9 and 19.  We can still see replicas of 4 or 5 of them with another 3 or so empty pedestals. 

During the Hellenistic era of the island’s history, the island’s sanctity gave way to an intensely commercial and cosmopolitan scene and it is very likely that the lions were moved further south during this time frame to make room for the construction of lavish villas.  The original terrace was probably destroyed in the 1st century BC at which time parts of the lions were used as construction material on a wall built in 67 BC to protect against pirates.  However, reports show that up through the 18th century parts of the lions were still visible.  In 1716 some Venetian visitors saw one of the now headless lions and it reminded them of the lion of St. Mark.  So, they had it transported to Venice where it can still be seen in front of the Arsenal with an “exceptionally ugly added head” (quote from a sign in font of the lions in Delos).  Parts of lions were discovered in 1886 and 1893 although most of the pieces were found in 1906.  It was then that they were placed on high bases so as to be at the original height of the old terrace.  Then in 1999 they were moved to the Delos Museum and replicas erected on the pedestals in their place.

Lions of the Naxians
Delos Lions #1Delos Lions #1

Many of the artifacts collected from Delos have found their way to museums all over the world, with a large number in Athens.  However, there is also a museum on Delos that has many original pieces from the site.  Other than the lions, the most interesting are the mosaic floors and the artwork from walls.  We talked a bit about the mosaic flooring above but here are a couple of museum shots, one of a mosaic floor and one of a wall

Fresco removed from the wall of one of the houses
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Mosaic floor removed from one of the houses
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As it was mid April, in these latitudes that’s prime spring time.  Even though Delos is a pretty barren landscape and as we were told always windy (which it was), the profusion of wild flowers was astonishing.  As I wandered around I found myself taking more photos of the flowers than the ruins.  As you have seen, pretty much every photo includes wildflowers growing out of every nook and cranny giving the ruins and the landscape a pop of color that folks coming in the height of tourist season won’t have.  This added splash of yellow, pink, purple and red waving in the breeze like the wheat fields of Kansas did wonders to offset the drab gray/brown color of the stone buildings and general look of the natural barren landscape.

The density of the wild flowers was astounding
Wild Flowers at Delos #1Wild Flowers at Delos #1

Mostly yellow but with a fair amount of purple and a smattering of Red
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Wildflowers add some color to the ruins
delos Archeology Site #21 Greecedelos Archeology Site #21 Greece

Literally all over the place,  here are some of those red ones I mentioned
wild Flowers at Delos #3wild Flowers at Delos #3

Our return boat ride to Mykonos was quite a wild ride.  As mentioned throughout this travel log, the wind had been picking up since we had arrived.  But now it was time to head back to Mykonos with a whipping cross wind coming around the islands from all directions.  It seems that this was not an uncommon occurrence as in each seating section of the boat was a fellow standing at the front with an arm full of barf bags keeping a keen lookout for anyone in distress.  It seems the boat operators had a great plan.  The guy’s in charge of cleaning the boat after each run were the ones given the opportunity to keep watch with an arm full of those bags.  Talk about motivation!

I must say, many of those bags were put to good use as it was quite a ride with the nose of the boat becoming airborne 15 feet or more before slamming down into the trough of the wave.  Add to this a fast paced side to side rolling motion of perhaps 30 to 40 degrees and it was all you could do to stay in your seat.  Sort of like riding a cork in a washing machine.  About an hour before we were to board the boat for the ride back to Mykonos, our thoughtful guide, Athena, passed out sea sick pills to the entire group and for the most part everyone took advantage.  And, those that didn’t wished they had.  But, although many were green, our group all made it without needing a bag.  I can’t say the same for other tourists on the boat though. 


The city of Mykonos on the island of the same name and where our ship was docked is pretty much a typical Greek island town.  Having seen so many so far on our trip, it was not all that exciting.  However, had this island been nearer the beginning of our trip rather than nearer the end we would have found it quite pretty and fascinating. 

Mykonos is about 33 square miles with a permanent population of around 10,000 (2011 census).  The largest town of course is Mykonos which lies on the west coast and where tourism is the major industry, especially as it is the only place you can use to get to Delos.  Appropriately enough the nickname of the place is "The Island of the Winds".  But, in its own right, Mykonos is known for vibrant nightlife and for being a gay-friendly destination with many establishments catering to the LGBT community.

Carians seem to have been the original inhabitants of the island with Ionians from Athens coming along next in the early 11th century BC.  During this time many people lived on barren Delos as well which meant that Mykonos became an important place for supplies and transit for the Delos population.  Even though it had a bit more ability to sustain itself than Delos, it was, however, a rather poor island with limited agricultural resources.

Like most islands in the area it was occupied and owned by many different empires over time including the Romans, the Byzantines the Catalans, and the Venetians in 1390.  Then along came the Ottomans.   In 1794 a battle was fought between British and French ships in the island's main harbor but I don’t know who won or who was on the side of the Ottoman’s.  But, the Ottoman’s hung around till 1830 when Greece became an independent state.

In Greek mythology, the island was named after its first ruler -  Mykonos - the son (or grandson) of Apollo and a local hero. The island is also said to have been the location of the “Gigantomachy”, the great battle between Zeus and Giants and where Hercules killed the invincible giants having lured them from the protection of Mount Olympus. According to myth, the large rocks all over the island are said to be the petrified corpses of the giants.

But we were here to see the sights.  For folks staying a few days on the island, its beaches are said to be some of the best with soft white sand.  But we only had the late afternoon, from about 3:30 till dinner on our Delos day to see the sights. 

The north end of the town of Mykonos is built along the shore of a semicircular bay but most of old city sits on the south side of this bay.

Map of Mykonos and our walking route
26 Map 06d Mykanos26 Map 06d Mykanos

Along the shore near the docks
Red display boat, Mykonos IslandRed display boat, Mykonos Island

Lovely beach
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One of the main attractions here is an area of town called either “Little Italy” or “Little Venice”.  This non vehicle section has rows of fishing houses lining the waterfront with balconies hanging over the sea. The first of these was constructed in the mid-18th century. They originally belonged to rich merchants or captains and had little basement doors providing direct access to the sea.  This along with underground storage areas led people to believe that the owners were secretly pirates.

Little Italy or Little Venice
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The non sea side of Little Italy has the traditional narrow walkways with stone pavers where the spaces between the stones are painted white.  Although some of these buildings are rental units, most have been converted into bars and cafes as well as shops and galleries.

Typical Little Italy walkway catering to the tourist industry.  Post card anyone?
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Little Venice is considered one of the most romantic spots on the island and many people gather here to watch the sunset. The area attracts many artists who come to paint the picturesque coastline.

Another main attraction is a row of windmills on a little hill overlooking the bay.  It seems that all of these are now residences of one kind or another.  It was hard to tell if they were rentals or locals live there – or some of each.   Although there are windmills scattered all over the island, these six in a row, right in the middle of tourist nirvana are the most popular. 

Three of the six windmills
Three Mykanos WindmillsThree Mykanos Windmills

Windmill overlooking another section of town
Mykanos windmill and archMykanos windmill and arch

As you can see by the little crosses on my Mykonos map, this town, like most Greek Island towns, is chock full of churches.  Some are quite small and others large, but most are old and some are quite ancient.  One such ancient church is the Paraportiani Orthodox church. Its name literally means "Our Lady of the Side Gate" in Greek, as its entrance was found in the side gate of the entrance to that area if town.  The construction of this church started in 1425 and was not completed until the 17th century. This whitewashed church actually consists of five separate churches which are joined: four churches (dedicated to Saint Eustathios, Saint Sozon, Saints Anargyroi and Saint Anastasia) are at ground level and constitute the base of the fifth church that has been built above them.

Paraportiani Orthodox church
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As one wanders through towns and villages all over the world, especially those who owe their continued existence to tourism, you of course wander through the areas of town that cater to the tourist trade.  In these sections of town, everything is pristine with freshly painted buildings, attractive shops and end to end restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.  Even so, it’s also interesting to venture into sections of town that have not been groomed to perfection.  Here you can find scenes more evocative of how people there actually live in real life.  You find buildings that are kept up and middle class but you also find ones that have fallen from grace and need some tender loving care. 

Well manicured residence in tourist section of town
Two way Mykanos stairwayTwo way Mykanos stairway

More middle class complex of homes with evidence of everyday life
Small Mykanos squareSmall Mykanos square

Seen better days
Needs Paint in MykanosNeeds Paint in Mykanos


I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Delos and Mykonos and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) blog cycladic islands cycladies dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelbloggreece Delos Delos Island greece greek islands greek orthodox church Lions of Delos Lions of the Naxians Little Italy Mykonos Greece Little Venice Mykonos Greece Mykonos Mykonos Island wildflowers Windmill windmills of Mykonos https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/3/greece-06 Mon, 16 Mar 2020 01:15:18 GMT
Greece #05 – Santorini https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/2/greece-05 APRIL 2019

Greece #5 – Santorini Island

This is part 5 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for some days on our own in Athens and surrounding areas, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

This installment contains the island of Santorini.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip


Islands & locations visited during the cruise portion of this trip.  This episode is forSantorini
02 Map #04b 3 Islands02 Map #04b 3 Islands

Santorini Island

Santorini (officially Thira or Thera in classic Greek) is the most popular of the islands depicted in my Greece travel log series.  It is shaped like a backwards letter “C”.  At one time the island was a regularly shaped mountain top sticking out of the sea.  But then, in one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history (the Minoan or Thera eruption) which occurred about 3,600 years ago in 1316 BC (more or less) all that changed.  In that eruption the mountain literally blew its top and the resulting caldera sank below sea level and was filled with water.  What remains is just the rim of this caldera on the north, east and south sides.

This eruption took place at the height of the Minoan civilization and may have led indirectly to the collapse of that civilization on the island of Crete (68 miles to the south) due to a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.  Even today the island is the most active volcanic center in the South Aegean Sea.

But that eruption was not the end of volcanic activity at the island as many eruptions have come and gone over the years.  More recently (relatively speaking) in 1707 an undersea volcano popped up in the middle of the sea filled caldera forming a new island called Nea Kameni and it continues to shake and bake.  Moving into modern times there have been 3 more eruptions, the last being in 1950.   Then in 1956 there was a serious earthquake in Santorini.  But, notwithstanding recent earthquakes along with steam and carbon dioxide continuing to be released, the official line is that the volcano is now dormant. I wonder if the Santorini Tourist Board had any part in that designation. 

Between January 2011 and April 2012, small tremors and reports of strange gaseous odors prompted satellite radar analyses of the area.  This analysis revealed that the magma under the “dormant” volcano had doubled (swelled by 353 million cubic feet to 706 million cubic feet) in that time frame.  This also caused parts of the island's surface to rise out of the water by a reported ¼ to ½ foot. Scientists say that the injection of the new molten rock was equivalent to 20 years’ worth of “regular” activity.  Yep, “dormant” as they come.

Being the remnants of the rim of a volcanic caldera, the inner slopes of the island are very steep with little or no buildable or farmable land near the sea.  As such pretty much all the development has been on the top of this caldera rim, many hundreds of feet above sea level and on the more gentle outer slopes.  As with most Greek islands, building on the tops of the mountains also helped keep local pirates from attacking the residents.  The slopes on the outer side of the caldera rim are more reasonable so that’s where you find more farms, shipping ports, the airport, and paved roads from the coast to the top.  It is also where you find the less tourist oriented towns and villages.

Santorini Island, town of Fira at top of caldera wall
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Historically Santorini supported a modest amount of agriculture of which a bit of wine production is still present.  But in today’s world the economy is based on tourism.  In fact if you ever discuss a trip to the Greek islands the first island asked about is usually Santorini.  In the summer it is not uncommon for there to be 4 large cruise ships anchored in the bay, not to mention numerous other smaller cruise ships.  Then add to that the tourists who book lodging on the island and you wind up with quite a crowd in the narrow streets of the popular towns. 

The main “tourist” town on the island is Fira.  Even though the actual town is on the top of the caldera walls 1,300 feet above sea level it is where most of the cruise ships come in.  Down at sea level, Fira has a very narrow strip of land called “Old Port” with a dock, a bunch of souvenir stores, kiosks hawking guided tours, a whole bunch of snack bars, a half dozen restaurants and at one end a small hotel.  If you come by ferry from Athens or another island, you’ll land a bit over 2 miles south of Old Port in a place sometimes called “New Port”.  This is just a set of massive concrete docks with a constant flow of large ferries coming and going.  Our ship anchored just off of “old port” so that’s where the tender dropped us off.

Small hotel at one end of Old Port
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From Old port there are three ways to get to the actual town of Fira on the top of the caldera wall 1,300 feet above you, and where the real action is.  If you are very fit you can take the walking path up to the top which includes 588 stair steps.  Or you can book a ride on a donkey to the top.  I should point out the donkeys use the same stair studded pathway as the hikers, so if you decide to walk, watch your step.

Donkey and walking path to the top including 588 stairs
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Or you can queue up for a cable car ride to the top.  The cable car can handle 1,200 people per hour but from what our guide told us, in peak season when cruise ships are in port the queue for the 3 minute cable car ride can be as long as 3 or 4 hours.  And that, my friends, explains all the tourist junk shops, snack bars and restaurants in Old Port.  But, as discussed in my prior sections of this Greece Blog series, we were here in mid April which is just before the start of tourist – and cruise ship – season.  So, our wait for the cable car was roughly 5 minutes.  Timing is everything in the highly mobile society of this century.

Three minute Cable car ride to the top
Fira cable car, Santorini islandFira cable car, Santorini island

The town of Fira at the top of the cable car is, well, quite touristy.  In fact the cable car deposits you smack dab in the middle of the most touristy section of town.  What a coincidence.  Most of the interesting streets are narrow walkways between shops of every conceivable variety.  The main tourist walkway more or less follows the edge of the cliff but with pathways forking off in both directions.  A block or two inland from this rim path one finds the vehicle streets that in turn have very little in the way of tourist shops. 

Santorini and Fira is “tourist land”
Fira, Santorini IslandFira, Santorini Island

As Santorini gained worldwide popularity, the city has crept farther and farther down the steep slope of the caldera.  So now there are many side paths that lead you down the side of the caldera.  These little side lanes are just waiting to be discovered.   As you depart that main drag, you quickly loose the kitschy tourist vibe as shops and stores give way to hotels, restaurants and B&B’s with magnificent views around every corner.

Hotels, Restaurants, and B&B’s cascade down to slope of the caldera
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However one has to be somewhat careful.  It is quite easy to wander down some of these lanes only to discover that you have descended several hundred feet below the rim requiring you to climb back up.  Knowing that, and detecting that you are descending, you find yourself saying, OK – I’ll just go down to that next bend in the lane and turn back.  Then you get there and notice that the next visible section around the bend is only a hundred feet and there’s this interesting building at the next bend.  So, you say – OK I’ll just continue to that next bend, but that’s it - no farther.  But the story repeats and finally, there you are 300 feet below the rim.  But, you don’t have to go back up the same way you went down and can discover more delights on your return trek – just with a bit more huffing and puffing.

Don’t go down farther that you can walk back up
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Fira is the capital of Santorini and is the main town on the island.  However, other than stunning views, and lots of tourist shops there are only a few things to see here.  But if you are planning to stay on the island it is a good hub as it is centrally located, has plenty of lodging opportunities and has loads of restaurants and bars. 

As is the case with most Greek towns, Fira has its share of pretty churches such as the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral and Saint John the Baptist Cathedral among others.  In addition, near the south end of town is the Thera Prehistoric Museum which conveniently is right next to the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral.  This museum contains many of the artifacts excavated from the ruins of Akrotiri farther south on the island.  The museum has more pots, pottery and other household items than you can shake an antique stick at, but the highlight is the frescoes of the blue monkeys.  This fresco is a mystery since historians say there is no evidence that there were ever monkeys of any variety on Santorini.

Blue monkeys fresco in Thera Prehistoric Museum
Mural, Thera Prehistoric MuseumMural, Thera Prehistoric Museum

Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral
Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral #1, Fira, Santorini IslandOrthodox Metropolitan Cathedral #1, Fira, Santorini Island

Saint John the Baptist Cathedral
Saint John the Baptist Church,  Fira, Santorini IslandSaint John the Baptist Church, Fira, Santorini Island

After our visit to the museum we boarded our bus for a tour of the rest of the island.  Our first stop was at the ruins of Akrotíri, about 6 miles south of Fira and on the southern portion of the Caldera Rim. 

The town of Akrotiri was destroyed in the Theran volcanic eruption sometime in the 16th century BC and, like Pompeii, was buried in volcanic ash which preserved the remains of fine frescoes and many objects and artworks.  The settlement has been suggested as a possible inspiration for Plato's story of Atlantis.  Starting in 1967 Akrotiri has been excavated and extensively studied.  Now the village is protected inside a massive building that covers the site and includes heating and air conditioning as well as raised walkways for the visitors.

The earliest evidence for human habitation of Akrotiri can be traced back as early as the fifth millennium BC, when it was a small fishing and farming village. By the end of the third millennium, it had expanded significantly. One factor for its growth was it being strategically located on established trade routes with other cultures in the Aegean like Cyprus and Minoan Crete.  Over time it became an important point for the copper trade and along with that processing copper.  This idea explains the discovery of copper molds and crucibles.  Akrotiri's prosperity continued for another 500 years with paved streets and an extensive drainage system.  The arts flourished in this time frame with the production of high quality pottery, painting and copper items.  This all came to an end sometime between 1570 and 1500 BC with the volcanic eruption of Thera.

Akrotiri Dig
Prehistoric Akrotiri Site #2, Santorini IslandPrehistoric Akrotiri Site #2, Santorini Island

Akrotiri Dig
Prehistoric Akrotiri Site #1, Santorini IslandPrehistoric Akrotiri Site #1, Santorini Island

From Akrotiri we backtracked to the north toward Fira with a side trip to the hilltop town of Pyrgos Kallistis.   It is located in the Mount Profitis Ilias foothills and is surrounded by vineyards producing renowned Assyrtiko white wines.   To be honest, I really don’t recall much about this town, even when reviewing the photos I took there.  But, apparently it has some nice churches and many traditional charming whitewashed houses.

From there we continued on up north and did a loop around the northern part of the island arc.  Along the way we passed many quaint villages and farms.  During this ride much of the commentary by our guide was concerning the growing of grapes and production of wine on the island.  Now, as we live very close to California’s Napa and Sonoma wine region, hearing about the prowess of Greek Island wine was not all the impressive.  But, one thing about it I found quite interesting.  Here in California the vines are grown on long wire fences maybe 4 feet tall and oriented for the optimum sunlight hitting the vines.  In fact all the wine growing we’ve seen in various parts of the world has the vines on one sort of trellis or another.  But here in Santorini apparently that wouldn’t work well due to the constant winds.  So, they don’t use any sort of structure to hold up the vines.  Instead the vines are laying right on the ground (less wind at ground level) and formed into wreath like circles.  Well, we just had to get a photo of that so we implored out guide to make an unplanned stop at such a field for a photo op.

Wine Grapes grown in wreath like circles on the ground
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Our next, and last real stop before returning to Fira, was at the gorgeous town of Oia.  Possibly the most picturesque of all the Greek towns we visited on this trip.  But we only had a bit over an hour here – I really wish we had a lot more time, including sunset and less time in Fira – but at least it wasn’t high noon although 2:00 pm isn’t much better than noon for photography.  As it turned out, after Oia we headed back to Fira where we were given several hours of free time on our own.  I would have very much preferred to have those hours in picturesque Oia rather than kitschy Fira.

Had we not been in a tour group, we would have stayed longer in Oia for some of that wonderful golden late afternoon light the city is known for.  But, alas it was not to be.   However, we did have an hour or so and off we went to the main tourist street of town.  We knew it was the main tourist section of town as it was squeaky clean, every single visible building was picture perfect, every inch of storefront was a tourist oriented business of one form or another and there was a sea of tourists plying this walkway along the edge of the caldera. 

As we walked along it became apparent that pretty much every place in the world where you can buy postcard pictures of Greek islands, most of the pictures on those postcards were photographed here.  Scene after scene that came into view as we walked we’d seen before on a postcard someplace.  And, rightly so.  The views were magnificent.  Snow white buildings with Greek Blue trim carved into the steep hills and cascading down to a blue sea below.  There were also Blue domed white churches interspersed between pale earth tone houses.  It would be hard to argue that Santorini owes its popularity to the town of Oia.

As an aside there is a theory about why so many Greek buildings are snow white with blue accents and domes.  First there is a practicality to the white.  The white color is made of white lime water so that rainwater be collected and used.  But there is also an historical reason for the white and blue.  It seems that during the 400 year Ottoman rule of Greece the Greeks were not allowed to fly their white and blue flag. In defiance they painted their entire housing complex in white with blue domes and trim giving the village an effect reminiscent of their banned flag.

Blue domed white church in Oia (who hasn’t seen this on a postcard?)
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Church bells looking out into the caldera
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An older section of town
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Red trimmed church bells and crosses.  Tourist shop in background
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Earth tones intermingled with the classic blue and white make for a very pleasing scene
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After leaving Oia and spending a couple of more hours looking at tee shirts in Fira, we headed back down the Cable car, took a tender from the dock at Old Port back to our boat in time for dinner on board.

Fira in the late afternoon golden light I wish I had at Oia (taken from our ship)
Fira on Santorini Island #2Fira on Santorini Island #2



I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Santorini and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way)


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Akrotiri Akrotiri Dig blog Blue Monkeys Fresco cycladic islands cycladies dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelbloggreece Fira Fira Cable Car greece greek islands greek orthodox church Oia Oia on Santorini Old Port Santorini Santorini Island Thera Prehistoric Museum https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/2/greece-05 Thu, 13 Feb 2020 17:42:28 GMT
Greece #04 – Poros, Folegandros, Paros https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/1/greece-04 APRIL 2019

Greece #4 –Islands of Poros, Folegandros, Paros

This is part 4 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for a few days on our own in Athens and surrounding areas, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

This installment contains the islands of Poros, Folegandros, and Paros.  Poros and Folegandros were are first 2 islands followed by Santorini.  I’ll get to Santorini in a later edition so included our 4th island, Paros, in this edition.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip

Islands and Locations visited during the "Cruise" portion of this trip

01 Map #04b 3 Islands01 Map #04b 3 Islands

Our Ship

Our ship, The Callisto, was originally built in 1963 as the Marina but was converted into a cruise vessel in 2000 and then Renovated in 2015.  It holds 34-passengers with a crew of 17 giving a 2:1 passenger to crew ratio.  This is what is called a no-frills vessel that is more akin to a private yacht than what one would be typically think of as a cruise ship.  It's not hard to imagine the life of Aristotle Onassis (or Jackie O, if you prefer) as you wander into the ship's central lounge, with its bar, plush chairs, oversized windows, and rich wood paneling.

While some cabins only had portholes we opted for one with picture windows.  All the cabins are somewhat roomy (for ships that is) and are up to date with en-suite bathrooms, showers, individually controlled air conditioning and a TV (although you can only get reception when near a city.

We boarded late in the day after a walking/bus tour of some Athens highlights.  Then after our safety lecture we sailed off into the sunset.  Well, actually we sailed off into a gloomy overcast but that doesn’t sound as good as sailing off into a sunset.

Leaving Athens
Fisherman, Marína ZéasFisherman, Marína Zéas

Our ship, the “Callisto”
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Callisto Lounge
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Sailing off into the gloomy overcast
Storm brewing in AegianStorm brewing in Aegian

Poros Island

Our first island stop was on the island of Poros where we docked in the town of Poros.  Poros is just barely an island as it sits a mere 656 feet across a channel from the Peloponnese Peninsula.  But, an island it is.  The entire island is around 12 square miles and it hosts around 3,700 residents. 

A thousand years BC, Poros -- which at that time of course was a city state, or in this case an island state -  was home to the most important naval base of the region.  Moving forward in time, during the 5th century, the Persian Empire annexed it along with much of the area.  The folks up in Athens took exception to this and thus were drawn into a conflict.  At the beginning of this Peloponnesian War, Poros offered asylum to an anti-Macedonian politician who eventually became the tyrant of the region.  

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the Ptolemies of Egypt occupied the area,  Moving along our timeline, the Romans took over (86 BC to 395 AD) during which time the Island was continuously harassed by Aegean Sea pirates.  Then, the Venetians came long around 1484 and used it as a strategic port in their sea battles with the Ottomans.  At that time Poros became the most powerful city of the wider area, also governing several other islands.  In that time frame the island had about 15,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities in Greece. But the Venetians moved out in 1715 when the Ottomans came in.  You keeping track of all this?  Anyway, the occupation by the Ottoman’s was much later in Poros than in the rest of Greece.

Then the Greek revolution came along in 1821 and Poros had an important role due to its strategic position. The Greek revolutionary leaders often met in Poros to discuss and plan their future actions.  In September 1828, the ambassadors of England, France and Russia met in Poros with Ioannis Kapodistrias in order to determine the borders of the future Greek state, which was established two years later, in 1830.

The upshot of all of this is that there is a lot to study in high school history class but also, like many areas in the region, we have architecture from antiquity to the present with influences from Greek, Persian, Roman, Venetian, Ottoman, and Egyptian styles.

We arrived after dark and would be leaving bright and early the next morning so our only time on the island would be at night.  Still being pretty early in the travel season, the only tour boat in town was ours and the locals had not yet fully entered into tourist mode.  Many of the shops were still being made ready and were in the process of being painted, or putting in new display cases and the like.  So, it was really quite nice to see it more the way the residents have it when the tourists are not overwhelming the streets.

But, several shops, stores restaurants and taverns were open so it wasn’t really deserted either.  Being our first stop on the cruise we ventured out to see what we could see.  The town is built on a knob of a hill with narrow streets, walkways, alleys and pathways snaking between buildings with little regard for straight lines or right angles.  Other than the main drag right along the waterfront, most of the other passageways are too narrow for vehicles and many have steps which are also not too convenient for cars. 

As one approaches the town by boat, the most prominent (and famous) landmark is a clock tower built in 1927 that sits on the top of the hill.   But, as time was limited and we were a bit tired from traipsing around Athens before boarding the boat we didn’t make it all the way to the tower.  Rather we wandered through a maze of narrow streets in the lower regions of the town.  During our wandering, one thing that caught our attention was the proliferation of small churches and chapels.  There seemed to be one on every block.  And, each one was different than the others.  This will be seen again on other islands and stems from the days where affluent families had their own church or chapel built just for themselves so they wouldn’t have to mingle with the lower classes.

The houses were also quite remarkable in their differences.  Houses are built on different levels based on the slope of the hill, built to fill irregularly shaped lots due to the irregularly routed streets, and in different architectural styles.  Altogether though, they form a cohesive sensibility that is, as they say, quite charming. 

Approaching the town and island of Poros
Poros HarborPoros Harbor

Tying up the ship
Tying up at Poros IslandTying up at Poros Island

Local tavern on Poros waterfront
Poros Night LifePoros Night Life

Typical Poros street (one of the wider ones)
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Small neighborhood church
Poros back street at nightPoros back street at night

Another small neighborhood church
Poros bell towerPoros bell tower

However, in true Greek form, in addition to the small churches scattered throughout the neighborhoods, Poros also has several, let’s just say “full size” churches.  One such church located near where the ship docked is a Greek Orthodox church called Ekklisia Evaggelismos which I think translates to Evangelical Church. And, as it turned out, even at 9:30 at night it was open and welcoming to guests. 

The outside of this church is pretty plain and modest but the inside is a marvelous mix of painted patterns, antique artifacts, exquisite carpets, and an elderly priest who was most eager to show us his church.  Even though this priest did not speak a word of English and we did not know a word of Greek he led us around pointing out various beautiful items.  As some of you may know, the alter in a Greek Orthodox church is behind a wall dividing it from the pews.  Some portions of services are conducted in front of this wall for all to see but apparently some of the more sacred portions of the service are conducted behind the wall and out of view.  Apparently the alter section of the church is too sacred to be seen by the masses and is kept out of view.  But this Priest was so delighted that a flock of Americans would see fit to visit his pride and joy of a church that he opened the door to the alter area for us to see its grandeur and splendor.

Outside of Ekklisia Evaggelismos
Ekklisia Evaggelismos, Greek Orthodox Church.  Poros Island, GreeceEkklisia Evaggelismos, Greek Orthodox Church. Poros Island, Greece

The Ekklisia Evaggelismos priest
Ekklisia Evaggelismos priestEkklisia Evaggelismos priest

Every surface is painted with murals or graphical artwork
Ekklisia Evaggelismos painted arches, Greek Orthodox Church.  Poros Island, GreeceEkklisia Evaggelismos painted arches, Greek Orthodox Church. Poros Island, Greece

Area in front of alter room, including pulpit
Ekklisia Evaggelismos, Greek Orthodox Church.  Poros Island, GreeceEkklisia Evaggelismos, Greek Orthodox Church. Poros Island, Greece

Alter room (behind the wall)
Ekklisia Evaggelismos Alter,  Greek Orthodox Church.  Poros Island, GreeceEkklisia Evaggelismos Alter, Greek Orthodox Church. Poros Island, Greece

Folegandros Island

Folegandros (also Pholegandros) is a small Greek island that is more or less off the beaten track for cruise ships.  Like all the other islands we visited it is in the Aegean Sea and is part of the Cyclades which also include Sikinos, Ios, Anafi and Santorini islands.  It is only12.5 square miles but hosts 765 residents in three small villages.  Being a much less visited island, the Internet does not have a whole lot of information about the place but here’s what I found.

Little is known about the ancient history of Folegandros other than it was at one time its own city-state.  It was conquered in 1207 by the Venetians and remained under the rule of Venice until 1566, when it was taken by the Ottoman Turks. The Greeks reclaimed it in the 19th century.

On our visit we docked in the small village of Karavostasis, but most of our time on this island was spent in the town of Folegandros which is up on the ridge line of the island a little over 2 miles from the dock.  This was our first real island sporting the island architecture and color scheme which typify Greek Islands.  We saw some of this in one small section of Athens but here it was now in its natural habitat, so to speak.  What makes this architectural style so unique are the whitewashed stucco walls trimmed by a rich deep blue taken from the Greek flag but accented with brightly colored window frames, trim and doors. 

As we wandered through the village, it was quite interesting to see side by side structures where one was meticulously maintained and the other had seen better days.  Now, if this island was not quite so “off the radar” of the tourist trade, I’m sure the town council would have taken care of those more run down facades and taken more care with the overall appearance of the towns.  For example, in one quite lovely street, there was copious crabgrass growing between the paving stones.  Or, maybe they just hadn’t gotten to it yet for the season. 

As mentioned we were really a bit ahead of the real start of tourist season and as Folegandros is not one of the more popular tourist islands they had not yet “opened for business”.  A few small restaurants that stay open for the locals all year were open and one or two small stores were also open while they were getting the shop ready for the season, but not much more.  But, we had the whole place more or less to ourselves which is much better for photography. 

Facing the beach in Karavostasis.  Seems like a constant battle with pebbles washing up onto the patio by waves and then being swept off the patio by the residents.
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Folegandros is at the top of the ridge, away from seaside attacks of marauding pirates
folendandros Island, Greecefolendandros Island, Greece

Surveying the world in Folegandros
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Guest hotel awaiting the arrival of ‘path less traveled’ tourists
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Some units not so well kept
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Most units very well kept
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Old church facade
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Fine balcony railing in Greek Blue
Blue balustrade & Lace curtainBlue balustrade & Lace curtain

A few doors and windows are an offsetting color to the standard blue
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Family Church in Folegandros
Family church, FolegandrosFamily church, Folegandros


Paros Island

Paros, including numerous uninhabited offshore islets is a bit over 75 sq mi of land and in ancient Greece was the city-state of Paros.  Historically, Paros was known for its fine white marble, which gave rise to the term "Parian" to describe marble or china of similar qualities.  Today one can still see abandoned marble quarries and mines, but Paros is primarily known as a popular tourist spot.

Paros is basically a single mountain rising 2,375 ft. from sea level and sloping evenly down on all sides to a maritime plain.  This mountain, and Paros, is made up of mostly marble although some other minerals can be found here and there – mostly there.  It seems also that due to its location and topography the straight between Paros and Naxos is quite windy making it a favorite windsurfing location.

The main city on Paros, and logically its capital, is Parikia which is situated on a bay on the north-west side of the island.  In town, houses are built and decorated in the traditional Cycladic style, with flat roofs, whitewash walls and blue-painted doors, window frames and shutters (like we saw on Poros) making for a picturesque town.  Unlike Poros though, most all the buildings are well kept and attractive. 

Above the central stretch of the seafront road, are the remains of a medieval castle, built almost entirely of the marble remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo. Similar traces of antiquity, in the shape of bas-reliefs, inscriptions, columns, and so on, are numerous on the island.

As was usually the case, we docked along the downtown waterfront where we were led on a walking tour and also wandered around on our own.  Among the sites we saw was the town's principal church, the Panagia Ekatontapiliani, which literally means "church of the hundred doors").  I didn’t see a hundred doors.  The church is said to have been founded by Saint Helen, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (ruled 306–337) during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land when she stopped to worship at a chapel on the island.  Its construction dates to 326 which predates the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire in 391 and some artifacts from that time can still be seen. The site was badly damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century, but was gradually restored. The origin of the church's name is obscure, as it does not have one hundred doors, or gates, or windows.  Maybe 100 roof tiles but that’s unlikely to be responsible for the name.  One theory suggests that it is a corruption of the name "Katapoliani" meaning "Lower Town church" as it lies by the sea in the lower part of the town of Parikia.

Panagia Ekatontapiliani
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Panagia Ekatontapiliani
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No clue
Panagia Ekatontapiliani Cburch demon.Panagia Ekatontapiliani Cburch demon.

Ceremonial Bells
Panagia Ekatontapiliani Cburch bellsPanagia Ekatontapiliani Cburch bells

Continuing on our foot trek we strolled along the waterfront toward a white windmill we could see in the distance from our boat.  Windmills in Greece were used extensively from the 16th until late 19th century and can still be found on most of the Cycladic islands.  They were quite practical on these islands due to almost continuous gusty winds that blow through the area.  Most of the mills were used to grind local agricultural grains such as wheat and barley.  To make the gears turn they used cotton fabric (canvas) sails which is the same material they used for sails on their ships.  These sails are attached to skinny spokes radiating from the hub of the wind mill.  The flour produced by the windmills was sold to local bakeries, given back to the farmers for their own family use or transported on ships to other areas around the country or abroad.

Typical Cycladic Islands windmill
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Church of Zoodohos Pigi along the waterfront
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The Sea in this area is quite pretty.  When in the shadow of a cloud or on an overcast day it is a deep foreboding dark blue. But, where the sun shines on it, the color morphs into a lighter blue and in the many areas where there is white sand or marble rock in shallows the sea turns a fantastic turquoise color. 

Multiple colors of the sea
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Dark and light sea
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During our stay on Paros, our program included a bus tour which made a loop around the northern half of the island.  During this tour we stopped at an abandoned marble quarry, the inland hill town of Lefkes and the seaside town of Naoussa.

Paros is the main source of what is called Parian marble.  This variety is white and translucent with a coarse grain and has a very sought after texture.  In fact the marble used for the Venus de Milo is believed to have been extracted from a quarry on the island. 

The celebrated marble quarries lie on the northern side of the mountain anciently known as Marathi (afterwards Capresso).  The marble, which was exported from the 6th century BC onwards, was used by Praxiteles and other great Greek sculptors. It was obtained by means of subterranean quarries driven horizontally or at a descending angle into the rock. The marble thus quarried by lamplight was given the name of Lychnites, Lychneus (from lychnos, a lamp), or Lygdos.  Several of these tunnels are still viewable but we didn’t stop at one where you could go inside.  The major part of the remaining white marble is now state-owned and is only used for archaeological restorations.

The quarry we stopped at was just labeled “Ancient Marble Quarries” so I don’t what its actual name is or was.  But, it has a wonderful driveway.  This driveway is around 620 feet long (a tenth of a mile), wide enough to accommodate a truck and entirely paved with Parian marble.

Marble driveway
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Entrance to mine tunnel
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Our next stop was the mountainous village of Lefkes which was the first capital of Paros. A walk around its beautiful narrow streets is impressive; especially with lightening striking the mountain tops just above the town and the sharp crack of thunder rolling across the town. But so far no heavy direct rain. 

The first residents in Lefkes were immigrants that came from Crete and along with some locals decided to build a village on a mountain and away from the pirates.  On the hills around the village are windmills, many of which have been restored and at the edge of the village, there is the church of Agia Triada with famous belfries.

All transport in Lefkes is on foot. There are two parking lots at the entrance of the village, where you can park but once inside the village proper you’re on your own.  Walking around the paved alleys of the village is an exceptional experience.  You are sure to see Limy stone benches, buildings of folkloric architecture, bougainvillea's in almost all houses along with various other plants and flowers. 

As you walk around Lefkes you will find that the main “streets” tend to go sideways across the slope so stay somewhat level but the connecting paths between them are steep.  In addition, many times even a main street dead ends at a “tee” forcing you to go either up or down.  But, just like the Grand Canyon, one must be cautious when heading down as one must then come back up and if you need to meet the bus at a certain time, this could prove quite challenging.  So, we mostly headed up so that getting back to the bus would be downhill.   As you walk around, you discover that most of the pathways between buildings meander.  Each time you go around a little bend in the walkway you discover some new architecture or feature along the next short section of buildings.  But, then the path turns a bit more a few hundred feet farther on leaving one to wonder what surprises lie just around the next corner.  So, you go up and around the next corner saying “we’ll just take a peek and then head back”.  But after being rewarded with some new interesting sights you again wonder what is just past the next corner.  And, the process repeats.  But around one of those curves we found a side street off to the right that after a few more twists and turns led us back to our meeting spot.

Lefkes is quite crowded in the tourist season we were told but as we were ahead of the tourist season it was just us and the locals.  Again, quite nice to see a place in peace and quiet rather than elbow to elbow with shiploads of selfie stick toting tourists who’s only goal in traveling the world is to get more “likes” on social media than their friends.  But, enough of that. 

With the thunder still booming and lightening flashing along with some drops being blown in from somewhere we were happy for it to be time to get back on the bus.

A main Lefkes “street”
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Turn left or right?
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Making use of all available space
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Red and blue
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Our final stop on the loupe tour was the quant fishing village of Naoussa.  This picturesque fishing village is located in a large bay on the northern tip of the island.  While the town itself spreads out over the hills the epicenter for visitors is the little harbor.  This area is considered to be one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades island chain.  One of the main reasons for this is that despite catering to tourists they have kept the historic section of town true to its traditional historical character and roots.  This is manifested in the appearance of whitewashed stucco buildings bedecked with flowers, along meandering narrow pathways paved in stone slabs outlined with white paint.   Add to the mix small churches and chapels and a collection of traditional fishing craft in a small harbor guarded by the remains of a Venetian castle and it just exudes charm.

From reading some tourist blogs it seems that in July and August you might as well be in Grand Central Station at rush hour.  Some say that you even have to wait in line just to walk along the promenade by the harbor let alone trying to find a place to eat without a several hour wait.  It sure is great to be retired and able to travel off peak season.

But, off season the weather can be fickle.  As we wandered around the harbor, that line of thunder storms caught up to us.  Now, when I tell you the skies opened I’m not kidding.  After the rain hit, we found and ducked into a bar/bakery to ride it out and boy did the rain come down.  Small rivers snaked across the bakery floor, the boats in the harbor bounced up and down and waves came over the promenade.  But, only for about 20 minutes which was enough time for a pastry and some hot chocolate. 

Now, I’ve had the same rain poncho for probably 10 years or more.  I modified it with Velcro down the sides between the snaps to keep rain from getting in and it has served me well.  I carry it in a pouch hanging on my camera bag so that it’s easy to get to.  And when I slip it on it covers me but also covers both my cameras hanging on my shoulders, as well as my camera bag and tripod.  But over the last couple of years it just hasn’t seemed to keep moisture out as well as it had.  In decent rains it has started getting clammy in side.  Well, this rain put it over the edge and is when I finally decided that this would be its last trip and I’d have to find a replacement – which I have since done.

After the rain, it was time to find our way back to where they said the bus would be.  It was only 4 or 5 blocks so not that big a deal.  But, to get there we had to cross Naousa Blvd which leads from the waterfront up the hill.  There was only one problem.  Naousa Blvd had morphed into the Columbia River, complete with white water rapids.  I mean this thing was raging.  Maybe one to three feet deep at spots and just roaring down the hill.  Apparently this was a common occurrence as it didn’t seem to bother the locals at all.  The shop owners just sealed their front doors and put up a sign to come in the back way and the folks needing to get to the other side knew that there was a bridge a few blocks away put in for just that purpose.  So, like the sheep we are, we followed the locals, found the pedestrian bridge and crossed on over.

Cute little harbor
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Venetian Castle at the entrance to the harbor

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Fisherman fixing his net
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Typical street
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I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in these 3 islands and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them..


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These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

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Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way.


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) blog calisto (ship) church of the hundred doors cycladic islands cycladic islands windmill cycladies dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelbloggreece ekklisia evaggelismos (poros) folegandros folegandros greece folegandros island greece greek islands greek orthodox church greek windmill karavostasis lefkes lefkes greece lefkes paros lefkes paros greece marble naoussa naoussa greece naoussa paros naoussa paros greece naoussa village panagia ekatontapiliani parian marble parikia paros paros island poros poros island venus de milo marble windmill https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2020/1/greece-04 Thu, 23 Jan 2020 23:17:11 GMT
Greece #03 – Athens Area https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/12/greece-03 APRIL 2019

Greece #3 – Areas Near Athens

This is part 3 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for a few days on our own in Athens and surrounding areas, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

This installment is the final installment of our time based in the city of Athens and is focused mainly on 2 excursions we took out of town with a hired guide (see bottom for info on guide).  The first excursion was a loop drive through the northeastern section of the Peloponnese Peninsula and the other was a drive with our guide to the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounio.  I’m also including a bit more on Athens attractions photographed at night that were left out of the prior sections of this blog series.  Subsequent sections of this blog series will be for our voyage through some of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip

Peloponnese Peninsula

Peloponnese Route
01 Map #02a Peloponnese Peninsula01 Map #02a Peloponnese Peninsula

Several months prior to our trip, we had arranged for a day and a half with a local private guide (see bottom of this blog for contact info) who would take us to several spots not included on our Road Scholar itinerary both within Athens as well as outside the city.  Many of these Athens locations were included in parts 1 and 2 and were taken with this wonderful guide.  But in addition, we spent a day and a half with the guide driving outside of Athens.

As with all such plans, one must trust to luck that the weather on the days you schedule for a guided tour will be suitable for that purpose.  To aid that, one does some research on typical temperatures and average rainfall at different times of the year when planning the overall trip.  But what you get on any particular day is unpredictable that far in advance.  Of course, one could delay the booking for special tours till a few days before hand where the weather could be a bit more predictable but then there is the risk that the chosen guide would not be available.  So, we booked our tours several months in advance.

Out first day with the guide was a full day driving tour of part of the Peloponnese Peninsula and as luck would have it, the weather was not at all cooperative.  Our guide picked us up at our hotel right after breakfast and off we went under a heavy overcast with intermittent drizzle and this turned out to be about the best weather of the day.

Corinth Canal

The Peloponnese Peninsula is actually now an island due to the cutting of the 4 mile long Corinth Canal which runs across the Corinth Isthmus from the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea and splits the peninsula from the mainland making it an island.  This canal was dug at sea level so ships could sail through without the need for locks.  This canal cut what had been a several day voyage around the peninsula into a few hour passage through the canal.

Although dreams of such a canal persisted throughout antiquity, the first ruler to make a proposal to actually dig it was the tyrant Periander in the 7th century BC.  But his project never really got going and they built a stone “overland portage road” across the isthmus instead.  This road was constructed such that ships could be pulled on rollers across the isthmus and believe it or not this was still faster than sailing around the peninsula.  I guess having a large supply of slaves is useful when implementing a transportation system that relies on dragging ocean vessels across 4 miles of hills.

Several hundred years later, in the first century BC, another plan for the canal was hatched but abandoned after the surveyors screwed up their calculations.   And, on it went.  The philosopher Apollonius of Tyana prophesied that anyone who proposed to dig a Corinthian canal would be met with illness or early death.  And apparently he wasn’t far off the mark.  Subsequently three Roman rulers considered the idea and all suffered violent deaths.  Then Julius Caesar considered digging it and was assassinated before he could begin.  Caligula, the third Roman Emperor, commissioned a study in 40 AD from Egyptian experts who claimed incorrectly that the Corinthian Gulf was higher than the Saronic Gulf.  As a result, they concluded, if a canal were dug the island of Aegina would be inundated.  Caligula's interest in the idea got no further as he too was assassinated before making any progress.

The first actual construction commenced in 67AD when the Roman Emperor Nero himself dug the first basket full of dirt.  The Roman workforce, consisted of 6,000 Jewish prisoners of war who started digging from both ends while another group drilled deep shafts at the ridge for probing the quality of the rock.  After digging about a tenth of the required distance, and keeping the prophecy intact, Nero died and the project was stopped.  Several other Greeks and Venetians considered completing Nero’s project but never got started.

The project that would eventually complete the canal didn’t get going until after Greece gained formal independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830.  The project itself got going in 1881 and after overcoming geological issues and the bankruptcy of the original builders, it was finally completed 1893.  The final canal is 4 miles long and 70 feet wide at water level.

Now in Nero’s time, 70 feet wide was plenty for both the commercial and military ships of the era, but very few modern ships can squeeze by in that width, even with alternating one way traffic flow.  Then add to that periodic closures due to landslides and it is no surprise that it failed to attract the level of traffic expected and has never been a financial, commercial, political, or military success.  But it has proved to be a wonderful draw for tourism – and we obliged by making it both our first and last stop on our day’s outing.

By the time we got to the canal after leaving Athens in the morning, the mist and light drizzle had become a heavy solid rain.  But undaunted and with a “past it’s prime” poncho I ventured out onto the bridge over the canal.  This is the highway 8 bridge (1 lane each way) with a pedestrian walkway on either side.  The walkway is about 5 inches lower than the roadway and on the outside of this walkway is a vertical steel kick plate with little drain holes at the bottom.  Well, needless to say, those little drain holes had not been cleaned out in about forever and this resulted in the walkway being a 5 inch deep river.  But being the intrepid photographer that I am, my mind was set on getting a photo from mid span so I waded in, so to speak, trying to straddle this “walkway river” with one foot on the road way and one on top of that kick plate which sort of worked.  But, once at mid span there was no way to take photos in that “doing the splits” sideways position.  So I deftly put both feet on top of the kick rail and with one hand holding onto the handrail so I wouldn’t fall over backwards and shot one handed with my other hand.  But it worked.  And I made it almost all the way back off the bridge before my foot slipped and my shoe got soaked. 

But all was not lost.  Later, at the end of our excursion, it was still quite overcast but had stopped raining.  So, I had our guide change our planned route back to Athens so that we came to this same spot again.  This time the photography was much easier, and with nowhere near as much fog nor – thankfully – as much water on the walkway.

Corinth Canal in the pouring morning rain
Corinth Canal on rainy dayCorinth Canal on rainy day

Corinth Canal (late afternoon)
Corinth Canal From Rt 8 Bridge, Isthmia, GreeceCorinth Canal From Rt 8 Bridge, Isthmia, Greece

Upside down draw bridge

At each end of the Corinth Canal is an upside down drawbridge.  Okay, let’s take a step back and look at draw bridges in general.  There are several types of drawbridges that in one way or another move a roadway out of the way so that ships can pass by.  Most of these tilt upward from the edge of the waterway from one or both sides.  Others lift straight up using tall support towers.  And, still others rotate sideways either from one of the banks of the waterway or from a pivot point midway in the water.  I’m quite sure that most of you have seen these various types of drawbridges. 

Well the Corinthian canal has another kind at each end.  These work on the same principle as those that lift straight up like an elevator but in this case the roadway goes straight down under the water allowing ships to pass over rather than under.  Now, that is just plain weird.  So, after our guide mentioned this type of bridge we had to go and see one.  As I said, there is one at each end of the Corinthian canal.  At the south end it is in the town of Isthmia and at the north end it is between the towns of Loutraki and Corinth and that is the one we visited.

As luck would have it, a ship came by while we were there so we had an opportunity to see it in operation.  Indeed, it worked as described.  The roadway surface is wooden planks which would not have been my first choice for an underwater bridge but I guess they have a reason.  The bridge went down,  The ship sailed over it.  And the bridge came back up.  Well as you can see in the photo below, most of the water escapes between the decking boards as there are solid railings on the sides.  So, once the bridge comes back up, many times there are fish flopping around on the deck which must be grabbed and thrown over the side.  Just one extra duty of the bridge operator.  Is it any wonder there aren’t that many bridges of this type to be found around the world?

Bridge surface before being lowered
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Bridge before being lowered
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Half way down
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Just below the surface
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Here comes the ship
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Epidavros Greek Theatre

As we continued our loop, our next stop was at the town of Epidavros, famous for its Greek Theatre.  Epidaurus was a small city in ancient Greece and is said to be the birthplace of Apollo's son Asclepius the healer.  The town was essentially a health spa where Greeks came to be healed or rejuvenated.  The area of the town where this was done is known as the sanctuary and was situated about five miles away from the actual town and the theater, constructed in 4th century BC, is part of the sanctuary. 

The sanctuary was quite popular and prosperous and that prosperity enabled Epidaurus to construct many civic monuments including this huge theatre that gained fame for its symmetry and beauty.  The ancient theatre of Epidaurus was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. The original 34 rows were extended in Roman times by another 21 rows with a seating capacity of 12,000 to 14,000 people making it a pretty large venue.  As is usual for Greek theatres (as opposed to Roman ones), the view of the landscape behind the performance circle is an integral part of the theatre itself and is not to be obscured.

The seating is divided by a walkway between the lower section and the upper section.  The lower section as well as the first row of the upper section was for the well to do which of course included government officials.  The remainder of the seats in the upper section were for the riff-raff.  All the “seats” where just stone blocks.  However the first row of both the upper and lower sections also had stone backs which I’m sure was quite a luxury. 

But the main attraction and claim to fame of the theatre is its exceptional acoustics.  Unamplified dialog in the performance circle can be heard almost perfectly throughout the entire seating area. Famously, tour guides have their group scatter in the stands and show them how they can easily hear the sound of a match struck at center-stage.  A 2007 study by the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that the astonishing acoustic properties are the result of how they designed the seating.  The rows of limestone seats seem to filter out low-frequency sounds, such as the murmur of the crowd while at the same time amplifying the high-frequency sounds from the stage.  The acoustics are so good that the theatre has been put back into use and now hosts many different types of events.

By the time we arrived at the theatre, the rain had abated to an intermittent drizzle, so we were able to see and walk around the theatre.  In terms of ancient Greek remnants, this theatre is in remarkable condition thanks in part to some successful restoration projects.  The entire seating area is intact and quite usable if you’re willing to sit on stone slabs with no back support as was the custom for us riff-raff. 

Epidavros Theatre from the area behind the performance circle
Ancient Epidaurus Greek Theatre #3Ancient Epidaurus Greek Theatre #3

View from the top with double arched entrance gates at either end of seating area
Ancient Epidaurus Greek Theatre #2Ancient Epidaurus Greek Theatre #2

Stone Block Seating
Ancient Epidaurus Greek TheatreAncient Epidaurus Greek Theatre


After leaving Epidavros we headed west to the town of Nafplion on a bay at the north end of the Argolic Gulf.  Its claim to fame, other than being the first capital of the Greek state between 1823 and 1834, is that it is said to be one of the most beautiful towns in the area. 

As one might guess, Nafplion has some mythology associated with it as well.  In this case it was said to be founded by Nafplios (ergo, the name of the place) who was the son of Poseidon.  Those Greek gods really got around.

But in reality, records of the town show that soldiers from here participated in the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War.  But during the Roman occupation of the area not much interest was paid to the place and if declined.  But it came back to life during the Byzantine era.  Along the way Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors ruled over the area and brought their architectural styles as well as cultural influences to the town.  This has left a mishmash of overlaying ancient walls, castles, monuments, statues, fountains, and architecture to delight those who choose to pay attention.

After arriving in own we drove along the waterfront to a restaurant our guide was fond of and which overlooked the water front and had a wonderful lunch in an outdoor tent while we watched the rain pour down.  Fortunately this tent had clear plastic walls which did a fine job keeping the heat from portable heaters in and the rain out.

By the time we had finished lunch, the rain had come and gone a few more times, but at that moment had petered out leaving only the flat light of a dark overcast day.  But, the streets were wet, which added a bit of interest to images and the lousy weather was keeping the tourist count to a minimum – which also improved our photographic opportunities.

The historic portion of town is not that large and is quite easy to walk in an hour or less.  There is a lovely mix of wider streets for car traffic, pedestrian only streets for shopping and narrow alleyways. lined with colorful buildings.

Wider street for auto traffic
Leof, Vasillisis Amalias St, Nafplion, GreeceLeof, Vasillisis Amalias St, Nafplion, Greece

Pedestrian only shopping street
Vasileos Konstantinou St, Nafplion, GreeceVasileos Konstantinou St, Nafplion, Greece

Narrow Alleyway
Narrow Nafplion street, GreeceNarrow Nafplion street, Greece

Even on a dreary day the architecture of the town is quite colorful with each building sporting a different color scheme but mostly in muted earth tone colors such as pale yellow, salmon, beige, light brown, tan, light gray and of course white.  All of this is trimmed by doors and windows of offsetting bright blue, green, burgundy, and peach among others.  Now add in an array of small shops topped by dwelling with misaligned balconies each of which is surrounded by a black ironwork railing and filled with potted plants and you have a very charming display.

Multi colored buildings along with shops below
Boumpoulinas St,, Nafplion, GreeceBoumpoulinas St,, Nafplion, Greece

Balconies add to the visual appeal and charm
Boumpoulinas St, balconies, Nafplion, GreeceBoumpoulinas St, balconies, Nafplion, Greece

Entrance to one of the guest houses
Atheaton Traditional Guesthouse, Nafplion GreeceAtheaton Traditional Guesthouse, Nafplion Greece

Cape Sounio & Temple of Poseidon

01 Map #03a Cape Sounio01 Map #03a Cape Sounio

The next day we hooked up with our guide again for a half day/evening adventure.  We started with a walking tour of areas around the Acropolis, including the Plaka and Anafiotika Area which I covered in Part I of this Greece series of blogs.  After our walk we hopped in the car and he drove us out to Cape Suounio which is about 43 miles southeast of Athens at the southernmost tip of the Attic peninsula. 

Cape Sounion which translates to "Cape of Columns" is famous for the Temple of Poseidon.  This temple is one of the major monuments of the Golden Age of Athens. It sits on the edge of a cliff surrounded on three sides by the sea.  The earliest literary reference to this location is in Homer's Odyssey where the story recounts that on a return trip from Troy the helmsman of the ship of King Menelaus of Sparta died at his post while rounding "Holy Sounion, Cape of Athens."  Menelaus landed at Sounion to give his companion full funeral honors (i.e., a cremation on a funeral pyre on the beach).

The current temple of Poseidon was constructed in 444–440 BC. This was during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles who also rebuilt the Parthenon in Athens.  It was built on the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic period.  As with all Greek temples, the Poseidon building was rectangular, with a colonnade of marble columns on all four sides of which 15 of the original 36 remain standing.

By the time we left Athens a bit after 6:00 pm the clouds from the prior day’s storm had started to break up which was a good thing as the purpose of going out to Cape Sounio was to photograph sunset at the Temple of Poseidon.  Well, given that Athens is a fair sized city and we were leaving at the height of rush hour the traffic was horrendous and Sunset does not wait for traffic.  So, after sitting in stop and go traffic for what seemed an eternity, once we hit some open road outside of town we had to put the pedal to the metal so to speak to make it in time.  Add to that the fact that the park closes at sunset – or when the guy manning the ticket booth decides that it’s close enough to sunset – which would prevent us from even getting a view of the temple, let alone a sunset shot.

Upon arrival we grabbed our camera gear and scurried up the trail, just in time to nab a ticket as they were getting ready to close the gate.  Once inside the gate though, you are allowed to hang around for about another 30 to 45 minutes before they clear you out.  But we made it in before they closed but the sun was just about to splash into the Aegean Sea.  There is a short hike up a roadway which passes the temple on its east side of the temple itself.   The actual building is roped off so you can only get within about 15 feet of the columns.  The temple is also built on a marble platform that sits several feet higher than the area where you are allowed to stand on the east side so you are for the most part shooting upward.  However on south side was a mostly level rock area which was higher and more even with the floor of the temple offering a side lit view.  Now, remember that rain storm from earlier?  Well, that rocky area on the south side was chock full of puddles making for great reflection shots

Temple of Poseidon with puddle reflection
Temple of Poseidon with ReflectionTemple of Poseidon with Reflection

But, time was short as the sun was quickly sinking into the sea so no time to wander around looking for the optimal shooting angle or camera settings.  Just shoot a few frames, move to another spot, shoot a few frames, and move again.  But the light was fantastic for those 15 minutes as the sun disappeared.  After the puddle shots I move around to the east side to see if I could get a shot of the temple with the setting sun behind it.  Before heading down the slope on the east side, I stopped and grabbed a few images with the sun setting off to the side of the temple.

Temple of Poseidon from south east corner
Temple of Poseidon with setting sun #1Temple of Poseidon with setting sun #1

But what I wanted was a shot of the temple with the sun setting behind the temple and in between columns.  So, I moved around to the right some more such that the sun was directly behind the temple.  However, there was no place we were allowed to get to that was not well below the base of the temple and as such the horizon and sun were blocked by the base of the monument.  Not what I wanted.  And, time before the sun disappeared was escaping at an alarming rate.  So, I set the camera on 10 second self timer, refocused and set it to manual focus, cranked up the shutter speed to 1/1000 sec to account for how I was about to shoot.  To allow for a decent DOF (Depth of Field) I set the aperture to f/8.0. I would have preferred f/22 for a deeper DOF and for the star burst effect but with that fast a shutter speed the needed ISO and resulting noise would have been horrendous.  Even so, I had to crank the ISO up to 3200.  As I teach my students, photography is all about compromises.

I then put the 3 legs of the tripod together, turned on live view, hit the shutter button and raised the tripod with camera on top way above my head holding just the bottom tips of the legs.  On my particular model camera, I don’t have an articulating LCD screen so with the camera waving around in the moderate breeze 6 feet above my head perched on the extended tripod held by my up-stretched arms I more or less had to guess at how to aim it while I waited for the 10 second timer to trip the shutter.  After hearing the shutter click, bring the rig down, check the LCD, adjust exposure a bit and repeat.

Some shots had the sun hidden below the temple, some had it hidden behind a column.  Some had too much camera shake.  But, after about a half dozen attempts I finally got a good one.  I even lucked out that as the camera swayed in the wind the instant the shutter clicked the sun was just peaking over the base of the temple and gave me a bit of the star burst I had wanted.

The winning shot
Temple of Poseidon with setting sunTemple of Poseidon with setting sun

One last grab shot as the guard ushered us down the road and locked the gate behind us.
Temple of Poseidon SunsetTemple of Poseidon Sunset

Athens at night

In part 1 of this blog series on Greece, we saw some night shots of the Parthenon on the Acropolis taken from our hotel room as well as Hadrian's Gate at night.  Well, after our whirlwind shoot at the Temple of Poseidon we drove back to Athens for some night shots.  One of our stops was Hadrian’s gate which we saw before but we also stopped at a couple of other locations.

One of our stops was at the Athens Panathenaic Stadium.  This is the modern track and field stadium.  This sporting venue seats 45,000 and is the only such facility in the world built entirely of marble

The original stadium on the site was a simple racecourse c. 330 BC, primarily for the Panathenaic Games. It was rebuilt in marble by Herodes Atticus in 144 AD with a capacity of 50,000 seats.  After the rise of Christianity in the 4th century it was largely abandoned only to be excavated in 1869.  It was then used for the Zappas Olympics in 1870 and 1875. After being refurbished once again and upgraded to a capacity of 80,000 it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was the venue for 4 of the 9 contested sports. Subsequent renovations reduced the seating capacity to 45,000.  More recently it was once again used as an Olympic venue in 2004. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place every 4 years. 

Athens Panathenaic Stadium lit up for night tourists
Panathinaikon Stadium at night, Athens, GreecePanathinaikon Stadium at night, Athens, Greece

From there we drove up to Filopappou Hill.  This hill is a very popular vantage point for views of the Acropolis – about 0.2 miles away – as well as much of the city.  We parked in the lot (now approaching midnight) and I asked our guide how much of a walk is it to the vantage point.  “It’s just a short way”, he said – and he was correct.  However, what he forgot to mention was that the short walk included about 50,000 stairs up the side of a mountain.  But, huffing and puffing, I made it and the views were spectacular.  From here you are looking down on the fully illuminated Acropolis.  You can also see most of the Panatheniac Stadium, also lit up for night viewing.  And you can see vast areas of the city laid out in all directions.

Parthenon and Acropolis from Filopappou Hill
Acropolis at night from From Filopappou HillAcropolis at night from From Filopappou Hill

Parting shots of Athens

On our last day in Athens, with the Road Scholar group, we rode the bus as well as walked through some neighborhoods to the north of the Acropolis such as the Psyrri and Monastiraki areas.  So, just a few parting shots of life in Athens. 

Rainy street in the Psyrri neighborhood through the bus window
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Gyro stand in the Monastiraki Area
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As we’ve seen before, Athens has a serious graffiti problem.  Some is quite artistic but much of it is just ugly tagging.  Couple this with the economic woes the country has undergone recently and you wind up with many abandoned buildings covered with graffiti.

Abandoned, graffiti covered building in Monastiraki Area
Abandoned in Monastiraki AreaAbandoned in Monastiraki Area

Old bookstore in the Psyrri Area
Psyrrí Area book storePsyrrí Area book store


I hope you enjoyed reading the first part for Athens and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


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Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way.

Thanks to our tour guide, Vasilis Germanis who drove us on a full day tour of the Peloponnese peninsula (in the rain), led us on a walking tour of the Anafiotika area of the Plaka, drove us out for a sunset shoot at Poseidon’s  temple on Cape Sounio and a night shoot at various locations in Athens   www.phototoursinathens.com



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Acropolis Acropolis at Night Athens Athens at Night Athens Panathenaic Stadium blog Cape Sounio Corinth Canal dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelblogGreece Draw Bridge Epidavros Epidavros Greek Theatre Greece Greek Theatre at Epidavros Nafplion Panathenaic Stadium Athens Parthenon Peloponnese Peninsula Sunset Temple of Poseidon Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio Temple of Poseidon Sunset Upside down draw bridge https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/12/greece-03 Mon, 23 Dec 2019 23:31:45 GMT
Greece #02 – Athens (Part 2) https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/11/greece-02 APRIL 2019

Greece #02 – Athens (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for a few days on our own in Athens and surrounding area, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

This installment is part 2 of our time in the city of Athens.  Subsequent sections will include some areas near Athens and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip

Map of our wanderings in Athens
02 Map #01a Athens route02 Map #01a Athens route


Roman Agora

The word “Agora” translates roughly to Meeting or Gathering place.  Typically though the term refers to open markets where people from a wide area come to buy and sell goods, but also a general hang out place.  In the area around the Acropolis there are two of these and I am constantly getting the names mixed up.  One is called the Roman Agora (aka Market of Caesar and Augustus) and the other is the Ancient Agora

The Roman Agora is just north of the Acropolis and quite close to the Anafiotika area we talked about last time. The main entrance is on the west side through the Gate of Athena and an inscription on this gate says that Julius Caesar and Augustus provided the funds for its construction in the 1st century B.C.  On the east side was a secondary entrance accompanied by a public restroom (what a concept) and an astronomical observatory called the Tower of the Winds.  While the Tower of the Winds is intact, the remainder of this site is not much.  Just some of the columns which had formed the portico, a fair amount of the Gate of Athena Archegeris, and some old marble flooring are left.

The Tower of the Winds - which is officially the Horologion of Andronikos of Kyrrhos (if you can get your tongue around it) - is an octagonal building, maybe 3 stories high at the east end of the Roman Agora and is still quite intact.  It was designed by a famous astronomer (Andronikos of Kyrrhos) to be an elaborate water clock (on the inside), sundial (on the outside), and weather vane (on the top). The nickname "Tower of the Winds" is derived from the personifications of the 8 winds carved on the 8 sides of the building.  Although the building is intact, the water clock inside is missing.  So, all you can see, other than some explanatory signage are slots in the floor that channeled water for (or from) the clock.

The agora itself continued operation till some time in the 19th century, but no one is quite sure exactly when it stopped operation.  When in operation the main feature of the agora was a large rectangular building with an open central courtyard surrounded by an iconic portico with shops of various kinds.  At some point a concert hall, several stories high, was erected at one end of the Agora, pretty much blocking much of the view of the Agora itself.

East end of the Roman Agora
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West end of the Roman Agora and the Gate of Athena Archegetis
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Some remaining columns of the main building
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Ancient Agora

What is known as the Ancient Agora predates the Roman Agora but this one has some important history to it.  If any of you were awake during history class in high school and assuming your school acknowledged anything that happened outside of North America before the First World War, you may know that Greece is said to be the cradle of democracy world wide.  Well, this is the place where that idea started and took root.  That’s pretty impressive credentials, globally speaking. 

As was noted above, an “Agora” was a meeting place or market place.  But in ancient times it was much more than just a market.  It also served as a civic center, government center, central park, artist conclave, a gathering place to exchange philosophical and political opinions and a place to stand up and make a speech to whoever would listen about whatever it was that moved you.  It was also the place where elections were held, government officials announced policy, trials were conducted, legal verdicts were announced and in many cases punishment applied.  And, during the “classical era”, among all these other goings on, it was at the heart of the democracy movement that lives on today.

One can just imagine Greek philosophers like Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates wandering these paths followed by a flock of their students hanging on every word and being challenged by the philosopher at every turn.  This Agora really was at the center of the Greek Universe and utilized by all strata of Greek life.  For free Athenian citizens (which of course leaves out the slaves) participating in such “common” activities as those taking place in the Agora was not just a civic and social duty, but a privilege and an honor.  At the time, there was a Greek word used to mock those who avoided participation in the common citizen activities.  That word was ‘idiotis’ which translates to ‘he who acts on his/her own’.  Today that word is just plain ‘idiot’.

The Ancient Agora sits below the northwest corner of the Acropolis and the current site is a bit under 3 acres making it quite a bit larger than the Roman Agora which came along later.  The best view of the site is from the Acropolis where you can take in the entire grounds all at once, but to really appreciate what’s there you have to pay a fee and go onto the grounds themselves.

Excavations have found that this Agora contained several notable buildings including the city’s arsenal, the Tholos (where the elected generals lived at public expense) and numerous stoas.  Stoas were massive covered porticos designed for public usage, where merchants could sell their goods and where people could catch some shade on a scorching summer day.

One of the features of the Ancient Agora is that two of the old Grecian buildings are intact and pretty much in good condition.  In most of the other sites one is left to ones own imagination about how it must have looked when all the parts were still standing way back when.  But, here you can actually see what it was like and in one case even walk around inside the completely restored building. 

The restored building is the The Stoa of Atallos. This building was completed in 138 BC but then destroyed in 267 AD and then rebuilt in the mid 1950’s.  In its heyday it was the main commercial building or shopping center in the Agora – there were others but this was the ‘big daddy’ of them all.  There are enclosed rooms along the back side of this two story building but the entire front half is open to the outside behind a long row of columns.  Today this building houses a museum and some governmental offices.

The Stoa of Atallos
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Open portico inside the Stoa of Atallos
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The second building that is intact is on the top of a small hill and is the Temple of Hephaistos.  While most other buildings from ancient times were destroyed by invading armies or just abandoned and left to decay on their own, this one owes its good fortune to being continually in use from the 7th century until 1834.  During that period it served as the Greek Orthodox church of Saint George Akamates.  This is a very traditional style building from the era and in that regard is quite similar to many others like the Parthenon – albeit on a smaller scale.  You can’t go inside this building but can walk all around it quite close.

View of Temple of Hephaistos from the Acropolis
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Temple of Hephaistos
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Temple of Hephaistos from the middle of the agora
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Even though we have these two standing buildings, most of what’s visible and known of the Ancient Agora was a mystery until the American School in Athens began excavating in 1934.  Before that, much of the site was covered by a refugee camp made up of Greeks who fled Turkey during the events following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The excavations uncovered most of the 30+ known major buildings from the ancient Athenian Agora, along with thousands of artifacts. Conservation efforts have restored thousands of pieces of pottery, studied thousands of marble statues and reliefs, and analyzed the remains of human and animal bones to give a better understanding of what life was like in the ancient Athenian world.  This excavation is ongoing each summer with a digging team made up of qualified students from many different disciplines.  Most of their day is taken up squatting in the hot Greek sun, pick axing through layers of never-ending dirt, and sweeping all of the dirt and rocks away to reveal pottery, walls, bones, and coins, but most often, just more dirt.


The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on top of a flat topped rocky butte.  The top of this rocky protrusion contains the remnants of several ancient buildings the most famous being the Parthenon.  When someone says “Acropolis” we immediately think about Athens but the word itself is generic.  Many Greek cities have an Acropolis.  The word acropolis means "highest point in the city”.  Although the term acropolis is generic and there are many others in Greece, the significance of this one is such that it is commonly known as "The Acropolis" without qualification.

Going back in time, there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, well before the Greeks, or anyone else, contemplated building massive monumental size buildings on its top but it was Pericles in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site's most important structures including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.  The Parthenon and the other buildings were damaged seriously during the 1687 siege by the Venetians during the Morean War when gunpowder being stored in the Parthenon was hit by a cannonball and exploded.  Okay, here’s another great idea:  Store your high explosives in a building visible from everywhere in the city.

The best known structures at this Acropolis such as the Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike were built on the flat top, but several other structures like theaters were built just below the towering cliffs of the butte but all where on the South side.  However the Ancient Agora (talked about above) and Areopagus Hill are on the Northwest side. 

The Areopagus is a round top rock outcropping also known as Mars Hill or Ares Rock.  In classical times, it was used as a court room for trying the most serious of crimes such as murder, wounding, arson, and religious matters.  And for some unknown reason it was also used to try cases involving olive trees.  Boy, if you murdered an olive tree, you were really in trouble.  Ares was supposed to have been tried here by the gods for the murder of Poseidon's son Halirrhothius. 

But, getting back to the Acropolis itself the sides on the south, east and north are tall sheer cliffs descending down to where normal people lived but at the west and northwest sides it is more tapered.  So, it was at this end that the entrance was made.  In keeping with the grandiose mantra of the times, they didn’t just build a set of stairs and a gate.  Instead they built an elaborate entry structure with wide marble stairs flanked by temples on both sides as the way to get up on top.  Of course during ancient times you really had to be somebody to be allowed up there at all.  This wasn’t a place where the riff raff of town could come to spend an afternoon chatting it up with the gods.

The centerpiece of the buildings is, of course, the Parthenon, visible from most of the city.  The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena (and after whom the city was named), and who was the patron god of the city. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power. It was completed 9 years later in 438 BC.  It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece.  Much of the decorative reliefs which adorned the structure have been moved to the museum and replicas put in their place.

The Parthenon itself replaced an older temple of Athena that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC.   Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon has served several different purposes over time.  It has been the city treasury,  the treasury of the Delian League, which later became the Athenian Empire and in the final decade of the 6th century AD, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  After the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque and later an Ottoman ammunition dump which the Venetians managed to blow up severely damaging not only the building but much of its sculptures.

Since 1975 numerous large-scale restoration projects have been undertaken; the latest is still underway and is expected to be completed next year, in 2020.

Parthenon on the Acropolis from our Hotel Room
Parthenon at night from Divani Acropolis HotelParthenon at night from Divani Acropolis Hotel

Some (replicas) of sculptures have been inserted where the real ones were removed to the museum.  This one is supposed to look like it is holding up the roof
Parthenon #4Parthenon #4

Another building that is somewhat intact is the Erechtheion or Erechtheum on the north side of the top of the Acropolis.  This one was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.  The temple as seen today was built between 421 and 406 BC.  Erechtheus was mentioned in Homer's Iliad as a great king and ruler of Athens

On the north side of this building, there is a large porch called the Porch of the Caryatids with six Ionic columns and on the south side of the building is the famous "Porch of the Maidens", with six draped female figures as supporting columns. The porch was built to conceal the giant 15-ft beam needed to support the southwest corner after the building was drastically reduced in size and budget following the onset of the Peloponnesian war.

Porch of the Caryatids on North side of the Erechtheion building
Erechtheion temple #2Erechtheion temple #2

Porch of the Maidens on South side of the Erechtheion building
Erechtheion templeErechtheion temple

Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum is an archaeological museum focused on the findings on the archaeological site of the Acropolis in Athens. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.

The museum, first completed in 1874 was on the Acropolis itself.  It was expanded in the 1950’s but still remained on the top of the Acropolis next to the Parthenon.  However, as excavations have continued on the site this museum ran out of space.  In addition the museum itself was covering up a significant area of the Acropolis which itself could contain additional artifacts and ancient structure remnants from the Roman and early Byzantine era of Athens. 

To remedy this, building a new, larger, museum had been discussed for decades but those discussions went nowhere.  However those discussions were pushed into high gear due to the United Kingdom.  On many occasions, the Greeks had requested the British to return Parthenon Marbles and artifacts which the Brits had come by in a “controversial manner” (in other words they stole).  By the end of the 20th century many such requests from ancient countries such as Egypt, and much of the Middle East were being agreed to by various western countries.  So, the Brits – in true British style – suggested that they’d be happy to return the loot if only Greece had a suitable place to house and display the items.  Well, that got the attention of the sluggish Greek legislature and moved the discussions of building a new facility off the back burner.

So, a new museum was to be built but this time it would not occupy space on the top of Acropolis.  Rather, it would be built below and just outside the fenced off historical reserve.  But, as with any such undertaking, things got messy.  They decided to hold a competition for the design of the new building which was held in 1976.  This competition was restricted to entries from Greek.  At it turned out none of the entries were deemed to be viable.  So, another competition was held in 1979 which produced the same result.  It turned out that these results were due mainly to the designated piece of land being unsuitable for that purpose. 

So, ten years later, in 1989, a third competition was announced and this one was not restricted to entries from Greece.  In addition, the architects could choose one of 3 potential sites for their design.  This competition was won by an Italian architectural firm using the large unused old police barracks opposite the Theater of Dionysus. The barracks were built on public land and a limited number of surrounding private houses were needed to free up the necessary space. The main building of the old barracks (the neoclassical "Weiler Building") was to be renovated for the Museum of the Center for the Acropolis Studies and would wind up next door to the new Acropolis museum.

But, due to various delays throughout the 1990’s, the only progress was the demolition of the prior buildings on the site and the excavation for the foundation.  But then this too was stopped upon the discovery of sensitive archaeological remains (foundations of ancient buildings) being discovered.  As one of our guides later said, you can’t dig a post hole in central Athens without hitting a buried historic structure so it should not have been a big surprise to find such when excavating for a large building.  But surprise it was.  In fact, this “discovery” caused the design competition to be annulled in 1999.

So a fourth competition came about which was won by a New York firm in association with a Greek firm.  But strangely enough, the fourth competition also had no provision for the preservation of the ancient site underneath which had caused the demise of the 3rd competition.  But once this was noticed, and a fair amount of wrangling was undertaken, all was put to right and the new plans were modified so the new building would be elevated above ground, on pillars.  So work could be started once again.

During excavation it turns out that there are at least 3 layers of modest, private roadside houses and workshops, one from the early Byzantine era and another from the classical era.  Once the layout of these ancient features were established, suitable locations for the foundation pillars of the new building were agreed upon and actual construction could commence. These pillars go all the way down to bedrock and float on roller bearings able to withstand a Richter scale magnitude 10 earthquake. 

The new museum opened in June 2009 with close to 4,000 objects.  It took over 4 months to just move artifacts the 300 yards from the old museum on top of the Acropolis to the new museum.  To do this required the use three tower cranes.  At this juncture, Greek officials expressed their hope that the new museum would help in the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from Great Britain.  As far as I know, so far, it hasn’t.

Uncovered foundation from ancient structures under the front entrance to the museum
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Much of the museum flooring is glass, permitting light and visibility down to lower floors and area below the building
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Original columns from the acropolis.  I think these are from the Porch of the Maidens
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Parthenon from Acropolis Museum
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Relief from Parthenon
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National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of locations around Greece from prehistory to late antiquity. It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world and contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity worldwide.  It was first established by the governor of Greece in 1829 and since that time has been in several different locations.

During World War II the museum was closed and the antiquities were sealed in special protective boxes and buried, in order to avoid their destruction and looting and were put back on display in 1945.

Steer head handle vase, National Archaeological Museum, Athens GreeceSteer head handle vase, National Archaeological Museum, Athens Greece

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Greek sculpture shadowGreek sculpture shadow

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Bronze horse and child riderBronze horse and child rider

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iPhone’s  I, II, III, and IV
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I hope you enjoyed reading the first part for Athens and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way.


Thanks to our tour guide, Vasilis Germanis who drove us on a full day tour of the Peloponnese peninsula (in the rain), led us on a walking tour of the Anafiotika area of the Plaka, drove us out for a sunset shoot at Poseidon’s  temple on Cape Sounio and a night shoot at various locations in Athens   www.phototoursinathens.com



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Acropolis Acropolis Museum Ancient Agora Areopagus Athens blog dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelblogGreece Erechtheion Greece National Archaeological Museum Parthenon Propylaia Roman Agora Stoa of Atallos Temple of Athena Nike Temple of Hephaistos Tower of the Winds https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/11/greece-02 Thu, 14 Nov 2019 23:12:38 GMT
Greece #01 – Athens (Part 1) https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/9/greece-01 APRIL 2019

Greece #01 – Athens (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a trip we took in April of 2019 to Greece.  Except for a few days on our own in Athens and surrounding area, the bulk of the trip was an organized Road Scholar cruise through several Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea. 

This installment includes the locations in Athens: Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Gate, Athens Central Market, the Plaka area and the Anafiotika area.  More of Athens, a few areas near Athens and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea will follow.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Trip01 Map Full Trip

Map of our wanderings in Athens
02 Map #01a Athens route02 Map #01a Athens route

Our trip to Greece started in Athens as most Grecian trips do when using international airplane flights to get to Greece.  We arrived in Athens several days prior to our formal Road Scholar tour which itself included a day in Athens but then the tour boarded a small ship to do island hopping in the Aegean Sea. 

As we were not renting a car on this trip, we decided to find a hotel in the main tourist area of Athens and, as it happened, the hotel our Road Scholar trip booked us into for their portion of the trip was within a few blocks of the Acropolis.  So we made arrangements with that hotel (Divani Palace Acropolis) for several nights ahead of when the formal tour started.  This was a very nice, upscale and pricey hotel but one could not ask for a better location. 

Even though we had neglected to request a room with an “Acropolis view” ahead of time when we checked in they had one free and we got it.  We were on the 4th floor (which would be the 5th floor in the US where we designate the ground floor as 1 rather than 0).  The hotel is on a street that runs North-South where the Parthenon ruin on the Acropolis is about at the north end of the street about 3 or 4 blocks away.  So to see the view you had to go out on the balcony and look off to the left.  But, by setting one leg of my tripod on the balcony wall I could get the whole Parthenon in the shot without me or my camera falling 5 stories into the street.

Parthenon from our hotel room balcony
Parthenon at night from Divani Acropolis HotelParthenon at night from Divani Acropolis Hotel

More on the Acropolis later.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

About a 15 minute walk from our hotel is the National Gardens and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  On our first morning in Athens, still a bit jet lagged, we decided to just take it easy with a stroll in the vicinity of the hotel.  We first headed over to the National gardens which is a serene 38 acre wooded park with a myriad of pathways.  Inside this park, of course are the requisite statues and monuments (but thankfully not too many), a very small free zoo, playground, several small ponds, fountains and several botanical garden type of features.  As far as central city parks go, this one is very pleasant, well kept, and clean, albeit in many regards it is quite unremarkable.  However, as it was a warm day, strolling through a wooded park in the shade was a good idea.  Of course this didn’t prevent us from buying ice cream while we were there.

Vine covered arbor
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Nearby this park is the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  This World Heritage site is a bit less than 20 acres of open space in the middle of the bustling city.  Although they list 11 “attractions” at the site including remnants of an old Roman Bath, a couple of houses, and some walls, the main thing to see here is the temple itself.  Hadrian’s Gate is also listed as part of this site but it is actually outside the fenced in area and you can get to it without having to pay the entrance fee for the Temple site.  Even though you can see and photograph the temple from outside the fence with a long lens, you’re always going to have tourists between you and the temple which sits on higher ground than outside the fence.  So, in order to shoot from closer without tourists in the way we paid our fee and went on into the site. 

Once inside, we found that there was a rope line twenty or so feet away from the temple preventing you from getting right up to it.  This turned out to be a mixed blessing.  On one hand it prevents people from being in the temple itself, and in your photos of the temple, which was wonderful.  But, on the other hand if you move back far enough to get the whole temple in the shot (even with a super wide lens) that rope barrier is in the shot.  But it turned out not to be all that intrusive to have it present and much better than having to clone out tourists.

So, let’s talk about the Zeus temple itself.  The temple has only 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns but even so, they are impressive.  Along with the entire complex, the columns were constructed on a scale more grandiose than was normal for the times with columns over 55 feet (17m) tall each having a base 5.5ft (1.7m) wide.   This temple, dedicated to Zeus, was built around 550 BC on the site of an earlier temple.  That original temple was demolished after the death of the greatly disliked emperor (Peisistratos) who had it built.  The new temple was started by his two sons (Hippias and Hipparchos) in 520 BC.  What a way to honor dear old dad than to tear down his masterpiece and replace it with a more grandiose one?  These brothers intended their new temple to be bigger and better than any other built to date. 

But things didn’t go quite as planned.  The brothers took after their tyrannical dad and were overthrown 10 years later when Hippias was thrown out of the country.  By that time only the massive platform and a bit of a few columns had been constructed. And thus it remained for the next 336 years during the era of Athenian Democracy. Apparently the Greeks thought it was in bad form to construct these massive edifices while the population was not doing so well.  What a concept!

It wasn’t until 174 BC that King Antiochus IV, who presented himself as the earthly embodiment of Zeus, revived the project. The design was changed to be a bit more modest and the building material was changed to the more expensive but higher quality Pentelic marble.   However, this project too ground to a halt in 164 BC with the death of King Antiochus.  At that time it was only about half done.

Serious damage was inflicted on the partly built temple by Lucius Cornelius Sulla's sack of Athens in 86 BC. While looting the city, Sulla seized some of the incomplete columns and transported them back to Rome, where they were re-used in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. A half-hearted attempt was made to complete the temple during Augustus' reign as the first Roman emperor, but it was not until the accession of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD that the project was finally completed around 638 years after it had begun.  And we think it takes a long time to build a freeway.

After that, it seems that every time Athens was sacked by some new invader, they damaged or stole major parts of the temple.  Fifteen columns remain standing today and a sixteenth column lies on the ground where it fell due to a storm in 1852. Nothing remains of the cella or the great statue that it once housed.

The temple was excavated in 1889–1896 by the British School in Athens, in 1922 by a German archaeologist and in the 1960s by another Greek archaeologist.

What’s left of the Temple of Olympian Zeus
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Ornate carved marble adorns the tops of the columns
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The Parthenon on the Acropolis between 2 isolated columns of the Zeus temple
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Hadrian’s Gate (Arch)

In one corner of the Temple of Olympian Zeus complex is Hadrian’s Gate but this one little section is outside the fence that enclosed the area you have to pay to go into.  But it is still considered part of the same complex.

Officially it is “The Arch of Hadrian” but everyone calls it “Hadrian’s Gate” or “Hadrian’s Arch”.  It is a monumental gateway resembling a Roman triumphal arch.  Hadrian (76 ad – 138 ad) it turns out was Roman emperor from 117 to 138 ad.  So why does he have a gate in Athens Greece?  It seems that when he visited Athens in 124 he really liked the place.  It didn’t hurt that prior to that visit he had been granted citizenship and given other honors by the Greeks.  And, in return he treated the Greeks quite well and adopted a more or less hands off policy and let the Greeks run their own affairs for the most part.  However, he did help them re-write a part of their constitution, and used the power of Rome, as well as subsidies, to aid Greek international trade.  He also funneled a fair amount of Roman wealth to Athens in support of public games, festivals and competitions.  He also sponsored the construction of public facilities like a large library, aqueducts, roads and various monuments around town.  In other words sucking up to the emperor has its benefits and in return he was quite well liked by the Greek government and the population of Athens. 

The impetus for the arch is not entirely clear but it is probable that the citizens of Athens or another Greek group were responsible for its construction and design.  When built it spanned a major highway that led to the center of town and thus was dubbed “Hadrian’s Gate”.  The entire thing is made of Pentelic marble, same as used in the construction of the Parthenon and many other notable structures in Athens.  The arch was constructed without cement or mortar from solid marble, using clamps to connect the cut stones.

Over time though, streets got moved and traffic re-routed leaving Hadrian’s Gate in a somewhat  awkward place – at least photographically speaking.  It isn’t really in the open space of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Nor is it arching over anything like a road or river.  Instead it sits sandwiched between a major traffic thoroughfare through town on one side, and the fenced in Temple of Olympian Zeus on the other side.  If you look at it from one side you’re looking at it across a 6 lane boulevard with cars, trucks and busses zooming by along with overhead wires for the electric busses.  If you look at it from inside the Temple of Zeus complex on the other side you have that boulevard behind the arch along with a drab collection of 4 and 5 story buildings obscuring the view of the Acropolis in the background.  And if you try to photograph it from atop the acropolis it is just lost in the jumble of buildings at the end of a street.

Telephoto view of Hadrian’s Arch from atop the Acropolis
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This state of affairs is very annoying from a photographic point of view.  But, where there is a will there is a way – or so they say.  With the help of our guide, after a long day seeing other sites in and out of town, we went over to Hadrian’s Gate near midnight when there was less traffic; no throngs of tourists loitering under the gate and the cloak of darkness obscured those pesky wires and background clutter.  I set up my tripod on a very narrow median divider in the middle of the road and, by timing the traffic flow from a nearby traffic light and using a slow shutter speed I finally got a decent shot of this monument by utilizing the lights from the vehicles as part of the composition.

Hadrian’s Gate at night
Hadrian's Gate at nightHadrian's Gate at night

Central Market

On another day, among other things, we took a cab over to the Central (or Public) Market they call the “Varvakios”.  It was only about 1.6 miles from the hotel but we figured we’d ride there (especially as we weren’t quite sure exactly where it was) and then walk back. 

The market is open every day, except Sunday, from early morning till late in the evening.  It was built in 1886 to accommodate the many vendors that would sell their products in improvised stalls at the foot of the Sacred Rock and has been running ever since.  In it you will find mostly historic shops some of which have been there and run by the same family for 50 years or more. 

The market is divided into sections on both sides of Athinas Street.  On one side of the street is the partially open-air produce stalls and on the other side are the indoor fish and meat markets.  Next to the produce market are 2nd hand stores.

The second hand stores are indoor shops with store fronts facing the produce market and with their merchandise spilling out onto the walkway.  I say they are indoor stores but they are so jammed with items from floor to ceiling that I doubt a shopper could actually get inside.  These second hand shops sell every conceivable type of knick-knack you can imagine from musical instruments, to 1950’s tin toys.  You name it and they’ve got it.  And, it’s all jumbled together in a mash up of color, vintage, and use with no discernable pattern, rhyme or reason.

Second hand shop
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Second hand shop
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The main meat, fish and produce markets are quite lively – especially in the mornings when locals from all around Athens and its suburbs descend on the market to stock up on the freshest goods.  People selling, people buying, people haggling, venders calling out to shoppers passing by extolling how much better their goods are than the next fellow’s.  Even though I didn’t understand a word they were saying (come on, I can barely muddle along with a few Spanish words, let alone Greek) it was actually quite obvious what they were saying.

The produce section was what one would expect with many recognizable fruits and vegetables but also some I’d never seen before.  All were nicely displayed with little price signs stuck in.  Keep your credit card in your pocket though – this is a cash environment.

Produce Market
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More Produce Market
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The meat market part is indoors with several long wide aisles with the shops along each side.  Due to more recent health regulations, parts of the shops are behind glass windows where the rough cutting is done.  However, in front of each ship is a 2 to 3 foot butcher block stocked with cleavers and knifes that looked amazingly sharp.  “That steak looks pretty good, but too big”.   WHACK  “Is that a good size for you?”  Or,  “I only need half a chicken”.  WHACK.  “There you go.  Want a bag or just wrap it in paper?”

Now to be honest, if you really want a lesson in anatomy, this is a good place to start.  I’m used to seeing steaks, chops, ribs and roasts but there were animal parts hanging on hooks that I could only guess at – which wasn’t quite as bad as some parts where I knew exactly what it was but could not imagine eating it for dinner.   “How many meters of intestines can I cut off this sheep for you?”   I’m telling you, it was really fascinating – in a morbid sort of way – and afterwards we were not really much interested in finding lunch.

Cutting steaks
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Meat on display
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The Fish portion of the market shares many of the same qualities that are found in the meat market with a few bonuses added in.  However, here they don’t seem to have the requirement to have glass between you and the meat.  Most of the seafood is laid on large sloping display tables filled with ice.  This is not a good place for flip-flops.  Every 15 to 20 minutes they hose off the fish and that water, along with the melting beds of ice the fish are displayed on, drains out of holes in the bottoms of the display cases and onto the concrete below.  This concrete slopes down to the middle of the aisle where it runs down the length of the building to a drain somewhere.  In other words all this water is right under your feet.  I wonder what genius thought up that one?   The upshot is that the concrete is always wet and full of fish slime.

Just like the meat market there are more fish types than I thought could coexist in one area but there seemed to be a preference for the squid and octopus types.

Typical Fish Market stall
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Old woman, Athens Central MarketOld woman, Athens Central Market

Plaka Area

Up against the northeast side of the Acropolis is an area of town called “The Plaka”.  As it turns out The Plaka is the oldest section in Athens and being right next to the Acropolis has become one of the most visited areas of the city after the historic ruins.  It is mostly a pedestrian only area but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a motor bike fly by or be accosted with a delivery truck of one variety or another.  According to the Internet, at one time it was the nightclub district of town, but most of those clubs closed down when in the 1970’s the government outlawed amplified music in the Plaka in an effort to get rid of undesirables.  It seems that this worked out and now the area is mostly restaurants, jewelry stores, tourist shops, cafes, and a few taverns.

Once you get off of the two main commercial avenues and start wandering around the less touristy areas you’ll find that this is a very nice residential area.  It is said that it is one of the most pleasant areas of central Athens to live in.  It helps greatly that all utilities have been placed into underground tunnels so you don’t have any overhead wires obstructing the scene (greatly appreciated by photographers) and they can do maintenance in the tunnels without having to dig up the streets. 

Main tourist street in The Plaka
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Residential side street in The Plaka
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Just off the main drag of The Plaka
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Local Tavern

Anafiotika Area

One sub-section of the Plaka Area is a tiny neighborhood called Anafiotika.  As you probably know, the Acropolis is built on top of a flat topped butte with sheer vertical cliffs on all sides.  At the base of these cliffs are steeply sloped sections created from stone that has eroded off those cliffs along with debris thrown over the side when they leveled the top of the Acropolis and built their various temples and monuments.  One such area is the Anafiotika on the northeast side of the Acropolis.

I haven’t been able to verify this on the Internet and Wikipedia has a different story, but one of our guides told us that the Anafiotika area is actually “unofficial”.  According to this story, the city forbade people from living on this sloping rock debris pile as it was too unstable and so close to the Acropolis that it would offend the gods – not to mention the danger from more rock eroding off the cliffs above and landing in the area.  But, from time to time someone would erect a shack on the rubble and move in.  To combat this, every few days the police would send a cop up there to chase these squatters off and dismantle the shack.  This continued for quite some time. 

As the story goes, on one such occasion, one of the cops discovered that a family had moved in with a couple of kids and that the kids were quite sick.  So, he decided to let them stay till the kids got better.  But soon others heard about this so they went up and joined them.  When the cops returned a few days later several dozen shacks had been set up and there were almost a hundred folks now calling it home.  Well, that was a bit more than the cops cared to deal with so they just let it be. 

And, so it went.  The city still considered it off limits but more and more people were building ever more permanent structures.  People just kept moving in and it didn’t matter that there were no city services such as water, sewers, electricity, mail delivery, police protection, fire protection and probably no property taxes as it was an area that was not open to land ownership or construction.

Now this is where it starts to correspond more to what I found on the Internet.  Most of these people moving in were immigrants who came from the island of Anafi as construction workers on the refurbishment of King Othon's Palace.  This first wave was followed by workers from other Cycladic islands in support of subsequent restoration projects around town.  When these waves of Greek Island construction works came in, they of course built their homes in the style they were used to on the Islands making the area look and feel like what you find on the islands.  This is generally called Cycladic architecture, and gives the feel of the Greek islands in the heart of Athens.  Mostly the houses are small cubic structures with snow white stucco walls, leaving only narrow pathways between them and festooned with plants and flowers. 

Cycladic style houses with narrow pathways between
Red, Gray, Blue doors.  Anafiotika Area of Athens GreeceRed, Gray, Blue doors. Anafiotika Area of Athens Greece

Some have a more modern look and have more living space
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But, being an “un-official” area, there were no planned streets, no surveyed “lots” and no building permits.  People just built where ever they found a patch of unused ground.  So, what passes for streets are usually quite narrow and in many places are just narrow gaps between houses barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side.  More like a maze with random twists and turns than a laid out city plan.  Many of these so called streets end up at a ladder to the next level, become steps, or dead end at a terrace, where one can sit and enjoy a view of the city.

Narrow walkways meander haphazardly between structures
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Street in the Anafiotika area
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Over time, inflows of people from different areas introduced different architectural styles and colors to the environment.  But, being a quasi “unofficial” area, the city does not do much maintenance.  It seems that most of the maintenance of the “public” areas are done by the people who live nearby – or not.

In need of repair
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Graffiti abounds in Athens, but no place more so than Anafiotika
Anafiotika area grafitti AlleyAnafiotika area grafitti Alley

In 1950, part of this neighborhood was torn down for archeological research and in 1970 the state started to buy houses, but they didn’t tear them down, they just boarded them up (more or less).  Today there are only 45 houses remaining in addition to crumbling ruins of houses purchased and abandoned by the state.  Even today, it’s not clear if this area is still designated as official or not.  For example, there is no mail delivery and many city services don’t extend to parts of this area.  Many of the streets have no names and the houses have no address (they are just referred to as "Anafiotika 1", "Anafiotika 2, Etc."

Graffiti extends into the boundary area between Anafiotika and the rest of The Plaka
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Café’s and small shops blur the boundary of Anafiotika
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I hope you enjoyed reading the first part for Athens and will come back for more as I get around to publishing them.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-all  (all images)

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/greece-trip-2019-favs  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way.


Thanks to our tour guide, Vasilis Germanis who drove us on a full day tour of the Peloponnese peninsula (in the rain), led us on a walking tour of the Anafiotika area of the Plaka, drove us out for a sunset shoot at Poseidon’s  temple on Cape Sounio and a night shoot at various locations in Athens   www.phototoursinathens.com



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Acropolis Anafiotika Area Athens Athens 2nd hand store blog Central Market (Athens) dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelblogGreece Fish Market (Athens) Greece Hadrian's Arch Hadrian's Gate Meat Market (Athens) National Gardens (Athens) Parthenon Plaka Plaka Area Produce Market (Athens) Temple of Olympian Zeus https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/9/greece-01 Sun, 08 Sep 2019 00:02:04 GMT
Anza-Borrego https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/anza-borrego FEBRUARY 2019

Anza-Borrego State Park (CA)

This travel log is for a short excursion we took down to Anza-Borrego State Park in the most southern part of California in February, 2019.  We drove down from our home in Palo Alto (near San Francisco) and spent the night in Palm Desert (near Palm Springs) where our small Rental RV was delivered to us the next morning.  We then drove the RV and our Volvo to the park which was only another hour or so away.

Where is Anza-Borrego?
01 Map 1 - Anza-Borrego SP Position01 Map 1 - Anza-Borrego SP Position

The park itself
01 Map 2 - Anza-Borrego SP in SoCal01 Map 2 - Anza-Borrego SP in SoCal

Anza-Borrego State Park

At 650,000 acres (1,015 square miles), Anza-Borrego State Park is California’s largest state park.  It sits in the northwest corner of the Sonora Desert which itself extends south through much of northwest Mexico.  Wikipedia claims that the park is in the Colorado Desert but it turns out that the Colorado Desert is but one section of the larger Sonora Desert.  The Sonora Desert is claimed to be the hottest in Mexico, but in the US the Mojave Desert (centered about halfway between Las Vegas (NV) and Barstow (CA) takes that honor.  As an example, the average high temp in the Mojave Desert in July is 116f (47c) and in the Sonora Desert (or at least Anza-Borrego part) it is “only” 103f (39.4c) – and remember that is the “average” for the month.  I suggest not going to either in mid summer unless you like being baked like a Thanksgiving Turkey.  But we went in February when the temps were quite moderate.  Didn’t need a jacket at night or shorts during mid day which was just about right.

The park itself surrounds the town of Borrego-Springs and the park headquarters, visitor center-museum and main campground are right next to the town.  As you drive around the park you will find yourself passing through this town many times as you go from one trail head or overlook to another so if you’re not roughing it, finding a place to stay in Borrego-Springs is a good choice (not that there are many other choices).  Here your options range from 50’s style motels on up to high end golfing resorts.  If you have an RV, your options range from just a flat patch of desert up through luxury trailer parks with attached golf courses.  Where ever you decide to stay, book early if you are planning to go anytime near peak wildflower season (mid February through mid March)

You can get into the park from the Salton Sea to the east of the park on either CA78 or S22.  The Salton Sea is just south of places like Indio, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley.  You can also get into the park from the west on CA78 from places like Escondido, Carlsbad, and (with a bit of meandering) San Diego.

Other than these main roads into and through the park along with RT S2 which more or less goes down the west side of the park, most other roads in the park are not paved.  There are actually over 500 miles of unpaved roads in the park.  Many of these dirt roads are passable in good weather by a regular car with normal or high ground clearance (leave your Ferrari home).  However, some require a Jeep type of 4 wheel drive vehicle.  Check in at the visitor center or one of the ranger stations for info on what roads to avoid in your particular vehicle type and/or current weather conditions. 

On our trip, we mostly stuck to the paved roads but did take to a half dozen or so dirt ones using our Volvo XC70.  This is a 4WD cross between a small SUV and a station wagon and never got stuck.

As far as we could tell, most of the publicized attractions (popular trails, easy access attractions, services, and overlooks) are in the northern part of the park and centered around Borrego Springs.  In fact, for the most part we stayed pretty much on or north of CA78. 

If you are wondering about the name of the park, it was actually 2 parks that merged.  One was Anza State Park named after the 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the other was Borrego State park where Borrego is Spanish for sheep.

Where we traveled in and around the park
02 Map 3 - Anza-Borrego Our Track02 Map 3 - Anza-Borrego Our Track


There are 4 developed campgrounds, of which 2 have drinkable water but interestingly enough,  3 have showers which leaves one to speculate what sort of water you’re showering with at the one with showers but no drinkable water.  But, one of the 2 with drinkable water is restricted to folks who bring horses.  So, unless you bring your horse, there is really only 1 campground with drinkable water.  That one is the Borrego Palm Canyon campground which is quite close to town and the visitor center.  But, as one would expect, it is also the largest (119 non group sites many of which have hookups) and the most densely populated.  All the other campgrounds around the park have between 10 and 16 sites with sites more widely spaced. 

In the undeveloped campground domain, there are 8 campgrounds, of which 7 have pit toilets and only one has picnic tables.  Of those, only two have designated sites and the rest you just find a patch of desert that strikes your fancy within a perimeter and set up camp.

So, if you like having a few modern conveniences - like drinking water - you’re stuck with Borrego Palm Canyon campground.  If you’re Ok drinking out of our own water containers that you fill up at Borrego Palm Canyon, but still like the idea of a nice shower after hiking all day, you can add Tamarisk Grove to your list.  Another interesting thing is that in addition to 16 tent and RV (<21ft) spaces at Tamarisk Grove they also have 11 one room rustic cabins you can rent.  These have an electric light but no power outlets or inside water.  They come with a table, a couple of chairs and wooden sleeping platforms (no mattress though). 

We had rented a small RV (van conversion with a bathroom and small kitchen) and as we don’t like being in crowded campgrounds with RV’s the size of small cities we opted to “camp” in the Tamarisk Grove campground rather than the more popular Borrego Palm Canyon Campground.  Our campground was quite pleasant.  This campground had spigots for non potable water as well as hot showers and flush toilets.  The van had a good size fresh water tank so for the most part we left it there and toured around in our Volvo.  The campground has shade structures at each site but also the Tamarisk trees provided some shade.  Even though the campground is right by a road, there was virtually no traffic after dark. 

One of the reasons we opted for this campground (about 15 minute drive from town) rather than the bigger one right next to town was that I wanted to do some night sky photography and it was much more likely to be dark where we camped.  There was still some light pollution but not nearly as much as the big campground.  The Milky Way wasn’t “out” at night when we visited, but at least I got to give the technique a try on the one cloudless night of our trip.  It was quite windy that night so my tripod vibrated a bit and the stars were not as sharp as I had hoped.  I really do need to get a different lens if I’m going to do this sort of photography, but it was worth a shot (no pun intended).


Route S22 East of Borrego Springs
Anza-Borrego wildflower bloom 2019Anza-Borrego wildflower bloom 2019

One of the main attractions at Anza-Borrego, especially this year, are the spring wildflowers.  As it turned out, due to a wet winter with late spring rain 2019 had what they call a “super bloom”.  It was so prolific that it was covered by national news media including most the national as well as local TV news programs.  Of course, when we planned our trip we didn’t know this was coming and the timing for our trip was dictated by family obligations rather than aiming for the peak bloom season.  As it turned out, and we knew ahead of time, we were about 2 to 3 weeks ahead of the peak wildflower week which is usually late February to early March and we were there in early February.  In fact when we were there the people who study these things predicted only a slightly better than average bloom due to the heavier than normal winter rains, but that was it.  We figured we’d catch maybe just the beginning of a decent bloom, which we did. 

But many times nature does what nature does and while we were there, a pretty significant rain storm blew through (more on that later).  This late soaking is thought to have upped the predicted average bloom into a superbloom which exploded a few weeks later.  But, even though we were early for the superbloom, there was a short stretch along RT S22 east of Borrego Springs that had some nice patches of wildflowers conveniently located right along the paved road.  In the park there are 346 genera in 92 different plant families, and hundreds of these are flowering species of which a dozen or so were in bloom during out trip.  I particularly liked the Desert Lily.

Desert Lily
Desert Lilly,  Anza-Borrego SP, CADesert Lilly, Anza-Borrego SP, CA

Desert Lily
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More Desert Lily
Desert Lilly,  Anza-Borrego SP, CA #2Desert Lilly, Anza-Borrego SP, CA #2

In the spring there are several websites that can tell you where the flowers are.  You can also just ask at the visitor center and they’ll mark the current locations on a map.  If you are planning a visit with this in mind, be prepared for two things.  First is to be disappointed if you miss the peak or it doesn’t materialize that year and second, be ready to share your experience with a large number of like minded people.  The peak bloom period is the busiest time in the park with pretty much every campsite and motel room booked out well in advance.


When one thinks of desert areas the image of cactus tends to spring to mind.  Even though cacti are quite prevalent in the deserts of the American Southwest, as you saw above there are many other types of plants as well.  But, unless these other plants are flowering, they many times stay well hidden underground (especially in the summer) to avoid the moisture sucking dry heat. 

But cacti have adapted to the brutal summer sun and heat.  Cactus are one of many types of succulents that thrive in arid places and Anza-Borrego hosts several types.  Most of these plants have extensive root systems to collect what little rainfall comes their way but their main adaptations are that they are like water bottles and are able to store water inside for months or years.  They have also adapted by not having leaves that allow water to evaporate out of the plant.  Instead, most varieties have spines or thorns to keep thirsty animals from biting into the plant to get that stored water. 

While there doesn’t seem to be those tall saguaro cactus made famous in movies that look like people with their hands up.  There are several other types in abundance such as Agave (succulent), Ocotillo, Cholla (mostly Teddy Bear but also Golden, Silver and a few others), Barrel, Fish Hook, Yaqui Mammillaria, and Beavertail (a Prickly Pear look alike but without spines)

As you walk around desert areas, even on established trails, it’s best to have thick sole hiking boots and wear long pants.  It’s amazing how easily a cactus spine on the ground can go right through a standard sneaker sole.  And, even though there are only a few types of cactus where the thorns actually shoot off the plant at you if you get too near, you really don’t want to brush up against one with bare legs.  Fortunately, we avoided these misfortunes but did happen by a few very unhappy folks who learned this the hard way.  This really is a “look but don’t touch” environment.

Ocotillo Cactus
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Don’t brush up against these guys with long or short pants
cactus spines, Anza-Borrego SP CAcactus spines, Anza-Borrego SP CA

Teddy Bear Cholla
Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus,  Anza-Borrego SP, CATeddy Bear Cholla Cactus, Anza-Borrego SP, CA

Hikes & Drives

As is the case with most wild lands type of National and State Parks, Anza-Borrego State Park has some attractions you can drive to as well as many hiking trails  Hiking trails rang from the All access Nature Trail  by the visitor center (level, < ¼ mile, paved)  to a 12 mile strenuous hike with a 2,000 foot elevation change.  Needless to say, we skipped the 12 mile hike but did manage several others. Maps, guides pamphlets, and advice can be had at the visitor center.

Desert Gardens and Coyote Canyons

After we saw and photographed the section of RT-S22 with the wildflowers, we needed to find a place for a picnic lunch.  The free visitor guide we picked up at the Visitor Center was quite handy in this regard as it shows where such things are located.  North of the town was just such a picnic table symbol on the map labeled “Desert Gardens”,  This was along a dirt road that then extended further north up into what was labeled “Coyote Canyons”.  Well that sounded nice so off we went.  It wasn’t too hard to find the dirt road as it was just an extension of Di Giorgio road from town. 

On the way, in non park sections near town we passed a couple of “resort” style upscale trailer parks with attached golf courses, some citrus farms and some palm farms.  Eventually the pavement ended and we were on a sandy unpaved road suitable for pretty much any car or SUV. We were no longer surrounded by the presence of man but were basically moving up the eastern side of a valley. 

This valley was about a mile wide with various forms of cactus and other plants along the bottom of the buff colored hill rising up to our right.  As we drove along, we would pass through different sections where a specific type of cactus would proliferate.  Then a bit farther would be a patch with another kind.  This was kind of interesting as even subtle changes in altitude, orientation or soil conditions create habitats more suited to one variety than another.

Not too much longer we arrived at the “Desert Gardens” picnic area.  To be honest, given the name, I expected an oasis sort of thing, with some sort of spring and a palm tree or two.  But it was really just more of what we’d been seeing.  There were half a dozen or so picnic tables spread out up the hillside in between clusters of Ocotillo Cactus – many of which were in flower – with a patch of Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus nearby.

Flowering Ocotillo
Octillo in bloom, an-Borrego SP CAOctillo in bloom, an-Borrego SP CA

Teddy Bear Cactus
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Teddy Bear Cactus – cute name, not so cute thorns
Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus,  Anza-Borrego SP, CA #3Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus, Anza-Borrego SP, CA #3

After our picnic lunch we continued up Coyote Canyon on the dirt road for another mile or so until we came to a place where the dirt road forded a decent size stream.  The stream itself wasn’t too bad for driving across but the banks were pretty steep and sandy so you couldn’t just get up a head of steam and plow across the stream bottom.  So, we decided to turn back.  As we were turning around a jeep came along and went right on through with no problem – must have been a rental..

Where the road crosses a stream
15 Coyote Canyons Stream Ford15 Coyote Canyons Stream Ford

Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

Starting from very near the big Borrego Palm Canyon Campground (near the town and the visitor center) is the trail head for the Palm Canyon Trail.  This is a 1.5 mile hike up a valley to a lush palm oasis.  And, of course, 1.5 miles back to your car.  This is one of the most popular kikes in the park.  At the trail head are much appreciated restrooms and you can also pick up a trail guide from a little box on a post.  The trail guide refers to numbered posts on the trail and describes what you’re looking at. 

The trail guide says to leave 2 hours for the round trip.  Ha!  Well, maybe for younger folks but as is the usual case for us old geezers, we have to take these estimates with a bit of humor.  In our case this 3 mile, 2 hour, hike took 3 hours so I guess, all things considered we average 1 mile per hour.  I’ll have to remember that.

Although the trail is going up the canyon it is not particularly steep or strenuous.  Although it can get quite warm as most of the time you are in direct sun with no shade nearby.  There are a few ups and downs and at one spot near the Oasis you have to scale a boulder maybe 3 or 4 feet high (high enough to need your hands) and slither through a narrow gap between some rocks.  Then there is a sort of steep decent of maybe 20 or so feet back down to the stream – or you can skip that decent and enjoy the view of the oasis from your higher vantage point.

The trail roughly follows a small stream that you have to cross from time to time but many times this burbling water flow is out of site and out of hearing range.  But at times the trail is near the stream and many hikers sooth hot feet in the cool water.  We were there in February so I don’t really know if the stream dries up in the summer or if it’s fed by a year round spring up the valley. 

We started this hike somewhat late in the day, around 2:30pm with a storm threatening to blow in from the west.  It was still quite sunny and warm as the clouds hadn’t arrived yet but you could see them building up over the tops of the hills.  So, fully laden with camera gear for me and hiking poles for my wife, off we went.  

The first section is pretty level and is on an alluvial plain which forms from sand and gravel that is washed down the narrow parts of the valley and then spreads out - fan like - once outside the valley walls.  And, as we had picked up one of those trail guides we stopped at the numbered posts to read about whatever was there.  The first post, #1 warned us not to touch the cactus which was good advice and explained how cacti work.  #2 was about plants with leaves vs. no leaves and how they each cope with desert conditions.  #3 was about flash floods and on it went. 

At one point, we happened by a throng of folks all gazing at a hillside.  Among the throng was a ranger with a spotting scope.  Apparently there was a mother “Peninsular Bighorn Sheep” with a baby “over there”.  Even with instructions (“see that lighter colored rock with the dark sand below it?  Well go up and a little to the right of that rock and you’ll see the lamb laying in the shade of a bush”).  Even with my longest lens I could not find the darn critters.  So, I took a peek through the spotting scope and indeed there it was, but still couldn’t locate it with my camera.  The mother and lamb are theoretically in this photo someplace, but the devil if I can find them. 

There’s a mother and baby Big Horn Sheep on this hillside someplace, but I can’t find them
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However, I was able to spot a very happy Ocotillo in full leaf.  The leaves on this type of plant burst out within 24 hours of a good rain and grow to full size within 5 days.  The chlorophyll in the leaves soak up energy from the sun and sort of charge the batteries of the plant.  Once it has been dry for several weeks the leaves whither and fall off to prevent water loss.

Ocotillo in full leaf
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We also found an equally happy Chuparosa
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Borrego Palm Canyon Oasis
Palm Canyon.  Anza-Borrego State Park, CAPalm Canyon. Anza-Borrego State Park, CA

On our hike back to the car we came to a fork in the trail and a sign pointing left saying “To Trail head”.  There was also a sign pointing right that said “To Trail head”.  Well, since both trails seemed destined to arrive at the same place, with neither showed distance, and we had come up on the one to the left we took the trail to the right.  Not a good choice.  Rather than just meandering down the valley along a different route, this one decided to go up the side hill of the valley before heading in the right direction.  But even then the trail kept going up and down to get across smaller valleys coming in from the side.  Add to that the fact that it was getting dark and we had not brought our flashlights and there was that approaching storm which was starting to blow bits of rain in from a few miles away.   But we eventually made it back to the car just as the last remnants of twilight faded into night and without the rain catching up to us.

Pictograph Trail

The Pictograph Trail is an easy 1.0 mile (one way) trail once you get to the trail head.  To get there you leave paved route S2 in Blair Valley and head east.  At the turn off is one of those rustic campgrounds with pit toilets, no water, no tables and no defined campsites.  In other words just a flat piece of desert with a cinder block outhouse along a sandy dirt road.  From S2 it is 5.5 miles (30 minutes) on a sandy, one lane, dirt track.  Again, most normal cars will be OK if you don’t go too slow in parts with softer sand and take the little detours around low spots where water collects after a rain.  It’s good to have GPS on this dirt road as the area has many unmarked forks off one way or another and it’s not always obvious which is the correct one.

There are actually 3 scenic attractions listed along this dirt road.  Marshal South Home site, Manteros Trail, and Pictograph Trail.  We just opted for the Pictograph Trail.  Once on foot you go up a not too difficult trail a couple of hundred feet to a low spot between two taller hills then once past that a very gradual descent into a broad desert valley on the other side.  Again, there are all sorts of plant life and if it’s not too hot and you watch carefully you’ll see some lizards and other small critters scurrying about.

It took us about 40 minutes to get to the pictographs.  They are carved and painted onto the flat side of a large bolder that at one point rolled down the hill and landed there.  According to a sign by the trail head, the meaning of the various drawings is not really understood but the sign says they used red pigment to denote female and black to denote male.  The sign also says that this site may have been used for rites of initiation for young boys as well as for young girls as some of the graphics seem to relate to visions and spirit helpers.

Plant strewn little ridge one climbs from the parking lot
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Several different cactus species line the trail
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Pictographs etched into flat side of bolder
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Narrows Earth Trail

The Narrows Earth Trail is a self guided nature trail with a trail guide you pick up at the trail head.  Unfortunately there were none in the box so we just made up a story at each numbered sign post.  This is a very flat 0.5 mile loop trail that travels over an alluvial plain and just a bit up into the canyon from which the plain formed.  Along the trail, of course were all sorts of cactus but also varying geologic forms which we couldn’t interpret without a handy guide.  But it was a pleasant walk nonetheless. 

Narrows Earth Trail, Alluvial Plain
Cactus Wash, Narrows Earth Trail, Anza-Borrego SPCactus Wash, Narrows Earth Trail, Anza-Borrego SP

Not sure what made these holes
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Palm Slot

Palm Slot is not listed in the pamphlet as a hike, but is shown on the map.  It’s a little tricky to find as it is not really marked.  There is just a small gravel parking area on the north side of route S22 just inside the eastern border of the park.  Of course that is not going to help you much as the border of the park is not marked either.  However you can more or less detect the border of the park as there is a subtle change in the Asphalt on the road.  That little parking area itself is a bit below the road height so unless there are some cars present it is quite easy to miss the entrance. 

This little parking area is pretty much right on the rim of a sheer cliff down a few hundred feet to a canyon bottom below, which in itself is a nice but not great scenic view.  But, off to the left of that little parking area there is a somewhat hidden dirt road.  It’s not all that hard to find but isn’t immediately obvious when you first drive into the lot.  So, here is where it gets interesting.  The road goes down the side of that cliff to the riverbed at the bottom of the canyon at a pretty steep angle.  Then add to that the observation that it has not seen a grader in quite a while.  There are some deep ruts from erosion that one must either skirt around or straddle between your wheels as well as some undercarriage threatening boulders in the road that one must dodge.

Although we did see some regular sedan type cars that had gotten down the road, I can only assume that they were able to make it back up again which in many regards is a bit trickier due to patches of loose gravel that compromises traction.  I would probably not do it in a car that doesn’t have 4WD.  But our trusty Volvo handled it with aplomb. 

Once on the sandy riverbed at the bottom you can go straight across and up a much smaller bank on the other side to someplace called Calcite Mine, or you can turn right, and go down the valley in the riverbed (not even sure this is an official dirt road) or you can turn left and go up the valley toward Palm Slot Canyon – which is what we did. 

The going was quite easy – especially considering that descent into the canyon.  Some places it was a single dirt lane between large boulders or what are low islands when there is water in the river and at some places it widens out and you can take your pick of 3 or 4 tracks to follow.  We were kind of wondering if we’d know when we got to the slot canyon at all.  But, no worries, it became obvious when we arrived at a spot that was too narrow for a car to fit through and there were 3 or 4 other cars parked there. 

Once on foot, it was a quite pleasant hike along the canyon bottom with sheer sandstone cliffs rising on either side.  Now, to be honest it doesn’t hold a candle to the slot canyons near Page Arizona (e.g. Antelope Canyon) but it certainly did qualify for the word “slot” in its name.  Some places were wide and others quite skinny.  There were a few spots where you had to navigate up what would be a small cascade or waterfall if there was water but for the most part pretty easy.  Another nice feature is that through much of the walk you are in the shade.  We spent about an hour and three quarter on this hike.

By the time we got back to the car, most of the other cars were gone and as none were strewn around the bottom of the canyon apparently they all made it back up the hill to the paved road – As did we.

Natural Bridge over trail
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Little dry “waterfall” to go over
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Narrow “slot” section
Palm Slot Canyon, Anza-Boreggo SP, CAPalm Slot Canyon, Anza-Boreggo SP, CA

Just the right size
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Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail at Yaqui Pass Summit

This trail is just a hair south of the Yaqui Pass Summit.  Well, “summit” may be a bit of an exaggeration as it tops out at 1,725 feet, and Borrego Springs itself is at 597 feet.  From Borrego Springs the paved road (S3) gently rises over a distance of 10 miles.  The other side of the pass is steeper and a bit twisty as it goes down into a valley where the Tamarisk Campground is (where we camped).  In case you care, William (Bill) Kenyon was a park supervisor for some time. 

The trail itself is a 1.0 mile loop from the quite large parking lot.  Actually I’m pretty sure the parking lot had some other purpose in the past such as maybe a hotel was there once or maybe it was a staging area for equipment used to build the road as it is way too large and flat to have been built for just being a parking lot.  It is officially also designated as a campground but with no marked sites, no toilets of any kind, no tables and no trash cans – and for that matter, no campers – it is just a large gravel parking lot.

The hike is quite easy and pretty level along the top crest of the ridge (I won’t call it a mountain even though it has a “pass”).  There are some nice views of the valley below and the surrounding landscape and what we have observed to be a typical collection of desert plant life. 

I don’t know what this was, but it seems to have not been successful at this location
Dried out.  Yaqui Well Nature Trail, Anza-Borrego SP, CADried out. Yaqui Well Nature Trail, Anza-Borrego SP, CA

Ocotillo and some variety of Cholla cactus
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California Barrel Cactus cozying up to a Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus
California Barrel and Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus, #1, Yaqui Well Nature Trail, Anza-Borrego SP, CACalifornia Barrel and Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus, #1, Yaqui Well Nature Trail, Anza-Borrego SP, CA

Fonts Point Lookout

Fonts point lookout is a short walk of about 200 yards up a little hill from a parking area that is in turn about 4 miles up a dry wash conveniently well traveled by cars.  We went up there twice.  One time we were too late for sunset and for our trouble had to drive back down that dry wash in the dark.  The second time we were in time for sunset – except for the overcast sky to the west totally obscuring the sunlight. 

Fonts Point is a peninsula of land with serrated badlands below.  No where near as impressive colors as the Painted Desert in Arizona that has a profusion of colors, here at Fonts Point it is mainly a buff color affair with some muted reds in the distance.  In good light I’m sure it is way more impressive but even in flat light the erratic, mazelike landscape is quite interesting.

Serrated landscape from Font’s Point
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To the west from Font’s Point
Below Fort Point #1, Anza-Borrego SP CABelow Fort Point #1, Anza-Borrego SP CA

To the east from Font’s Point
Below Fort Point #2, Anza-Borrego SP CABelow Fort Point #2, Anza-Borrego SP CA

Borrego Springs

We already talked about the town of Borrego Springs at the top of this blog.  But to continue, it is a low key desert town catering to a good tourist trade.  There is the requisite grocery store, gas stations, bank, restaurants and a few art galleries that I won’t bore you with. 

Not very much I would consider as remarkable in this town, but I did find two photographically interesting things to shoot here.  One was a little church on the outskirts of town in the Spanish Mission style called St. Richard’s.  While it looks very much like it came from the period of Spanish exploration of California, it was actually built in the 1950’s. 

Saint Richard’s Church
St. Richard's Church, Anza-Borrego, CASt. Richard's Church, Anza-Borrego, CA

The other interesting subject we stopped to photograph was a small herd of rusty mammoths.  Artist Ricardo Breceda has created various pods of critters scattered around the edges of town.  This pod was of mammoths but in other locations there are pods of  wild horses, saber tooth tigers, a 350 foot long serpent using the desert as its ocean, desert tortoises, and a variety of dinosaurs, among other things.  In our driving around town we stumbled on the horses, serpent and mammoths, but only stopped to photograph the mammoths.

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The definition of the word ‘desert’ is that the area receives less than 10 inches of rain per year.  You’ll notice that the definition does not have anything to do with temperature or elevation.  You can have high deserts as well as low deserts.  You can have hot deserts as well as cold deserts.  Much of Greenland is technically a desert as are portions of the Arctic.  However, in most cases when we think of deserts we conjure up scenes of the American Southwest, Northern Africa and the Middle East.  In these deserts the conditions that result in minimal precipitation also wind up making those areas quite hot .  Thus our mistaken notion that deserts must be hot places.  And, Anza-Borrego is certainly one of the hot deserts.

So what about that low precipitation concept.  Low precipitation does not mean no precipitation.  Even the driest deserts get some rain from time to time.  Most get a smattering every year but some can go many years without any measurable rain.  Anza-Borrego does get some rain almost every winter.  On average they get between 5 and 6 inches of rain per year with most falling from December through March, plus the single month of August.  Dec, Jan, and March average around 0.5” with Feb and Aug having 1 to 1.5 inches.  So, being there in February it was not too surprising to get some rain.

On the day before we were to leave the park, rain was predicted to start late in the day and continue over night.  Since it was going rain overnight we thought we’d maybe bail a day early and head up to Palm Springs where the next day we could take the gondola to the top of a nearby mountain (weather permitting)  So, we headed into town (once again) for a stop at the library where we could get some internet to see if we could get a room in Palm Springs for the night.  But, as is apparently common in Borrego Springs, the entire town had no Internet.  But we had our mobile phone and soon discovered that rooms in Palm Springs at that time of year, and on short notice were outrageously priced, so we gave up on that idea. 

But with the rain coming in, there really was no point spending the last night in the campground and then rushing the following morning to get out early enough to drive up to Palm Desert to return the RV and then drive back home.  So, we booked a room in Indio, (near the RV drop off point) for the next evening.  We figured that the next day we’d do indoor stuff in the morning and if the weather cleared we’d see some more stuff in the park after lunch, then collect the RV in the campground in late afternoon and head out.

After making all the hotel arrangements, there was still plenty of day left, and it hadn’t started raining so we drove back for our 2nd visit to Fonts Point which I talked about earlier, and from there drove back past the campground again to a place called Palm Canyon. 

Ok, if you’re confused join the club.  It seems that dozens of attractions in this park have the word “Palm” and or “Desert” in the name and this is just another one of them.  This is a dirt road that goes up into a couple of canyons.  Not the most interesting drive we’d taken, but it was pleasant.  At the end of the canyon you can continue of foot pretty much all the way to Mexico if you wish.  But we were just driving around, keeping an eye on the clouds as we did.  One does not want to be caught up one of these canyons where the road is basically just the river bed when rain is washing down th canyon from above.  But, we were careful and even though there was some drops blowing in from the approaching storm there was no problem.

Rain storm coming in (Palm Canyon)
Desert Rain. Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego SP CADesert Rain. Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego SP CA

Well, that night it rained like crazy as predicted.  We were very happy to be in an RV rather than a tent. 

The next day (our last day in the park) rain was expected to continue till mid day so we planned an indoor activity. We drove all the way down to the southern half of the park to a place called Agua Caliente Springs which happens to be in a county park.  There they had a campground/trailer park with a couple of nice pools - one indoor and one outdoor – both heated by thermal springs.  The pools were standard swimming pool designs so you really wouldn’t know that they were thermal pools rather than just heated swimming pools.  But, as it was pouring rain outside, being indoors at a pool was superior to playing cards in the cramped RV. 

We left the pool around lunch time and as cooking burgers on an outdoor campfire in the rain was not all that attractive an option, after we left the pool we decided to find a restaurant for lunch.  The closest eating establishments we could find on Google or our GPS were in the town of Julian, about an hour’s drive away and for the most part in the right direction.  After heading north on S2, we arrived at the junction of CA78 where we could turn right to get back to our campground or turn left to go the 11 miles to Julian.  So left we went. 

Even though we were quite hungry we never made it to Julian.  About 5 miles down the road toward Julian we came upon a police cruiser parked sideways across the entire road with its red and blue lights flashing.  Just beyond the cruiser was a raging river.  It’s not clear if there used to be a bridge there or not, but there certainly wasn’t one there now and the water was well over 6 feet deep and moving quite aggressively.  So, on to plan “B”.  We retraced our steps and headed back past our campground and on to Borrego Springs (once again) for some food. 

Now nourished, and with the rain stopped, we headed back to the campground, put all the loose things away in the RV and started the drive out of the park to our newly booked hotel in Indio.  So, once again through Borrego-Springs (hopefully for the last time) and headed east on S2 toward the Salton Sea.  But wait a minute.  Just outside of town, the road was blocked with saw horses and a sign saying “Flooding  Road Closed”.  Now what?  The other way out to the east would add another hour and it wasn’t even clear if that road was even open anyway.  And, going out the West side would be an extra 2 to 3 hours and again not clear if those roads were even open.  Not only that, but I couldn’t find any road closure info on the Internet. 

While we were stopped there looking bewildered a passerby stopped behind us and said that they had just tried the other east exit and it too was closed so that’s why they came here to try this way out.  So, what to do?  But all was not lost.  Another car came by from beyond the closure and stopped as well.  Turns out this was a local who lives in Borrego Sprints.  She was very nice, and told us not to worry, the road was not flooded, just a bit muddy where dry washes flow over the road when it rains, “Happens all the time when it rains”, she said.  It had been flooded overnight but as the rains had stopped a few hours earlier the water flow had dissipated and just the wet mud was left.  She said, there would be no problem with either the RV or the Volvo. 

As it turned out she was 100% correct.  When we got to those usually dry washes, the road was indeed covered in mud, but by slowing down to 5 or 10 miles per hour, there was no problem other than a mud splashed car or RV.

So, we made it out of the park with no further issues and to our hotel.  Well, “no further issues” if you don’t count a flat tire on the Volvo achieved at the entrance to the hotel which couldn’t be dealt with till the next morning.  But that’s another story.


I hope you enjoyed reading about our visit to Anza-Borrego State Park and will stay tuned for our next adventure this past spring to Greece.


This blog is posted at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

         https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/anza-borrego-trip-all   (all images)

         Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way.

dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Anza-Borrego Camp Grounds Anza-Borrego State Park Anza-Borrego wildfilowers Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail blog Borrego Palm Canyon Trail Borrego Springs Cactus California California Desert Coyote Canyons dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelblogAnza-Borrego Desert Gardens Desert Lily Desert Rain Desert Wildflowers Fonts Point Narrows Earth Trail Ocotillo Cactus Palm Slot Pictograph Trail Ricardo Breceda mammoth Saint Richards Church Sonora Desert Sonorian Desert Southern California Teddy Bear Cholla Wildflowers https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/anza-borrego Wed, 21 Aug 2019 21:32:08 GMT
LR012 - Sync LR Classic Keywords to LR Cloud https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/LR12-Sync-LR-Classic-Keywords-to-LR-Cloud Synching Keywords from LR Classic to LR Cloud

August 2018 (valid as of LR8) [REVISION 1 - revisions in blue]

04 Classic to Cloud Logos04 Classic to Cloud Logos

Let’s start with a bit of background and assumptions. Starting in October 2017 - when LR7 was branded with the name “LR Classic” and the name “Lightroom” changed to mean a new cloud based product -  Adobe has been supporting two different products which are both under the heading of Lightroom.  One is Lightroom Classic which is the most recent iteration of a product that was first introduced a dozen or so years ago.  The 2nd product is just plain Lightroom which I’ll call Lightroom Cloud (LR Cloud) to distinguish it from Lightroom Classic (LR Classic). 

LR Cloud has essentially the same purpose of LR Classic, but is an entirely different product.  Some of the main differences are:

  • LR Classic references images on your computer whereas LR Cloud stores your original images in the Adobe Cloud
  • LR Classic is one program that can run on a Mac or PC whereas LR Cloud has apps that can run on a Mac, a PC, an Android or Apple Tablet, and Android or Apple phone, or through a web browser
  • LR Classic has many more features than LR Cloud.  For example: printing, maps, web page creation, printed paper books, publish services, hierarchical keywords, more metadata access, smart collections, folders, etc.
  • LR Cloud manages your original images for you on Adobe servers (you no longer place images into folders), including their backup whereas with LR Classic you need to do your own folder management and backups of your images.
  • LR Classic supports hierarchical keywords whereas LR Cloud only has linear (flat) Keywords, but LR Cloud has an Artificial Intelligence engine (they call Sensei) which can detect common subjects or items in images without the need for keywords.

In order to have the rich feature set of LR Classic, but the “LR on all your devices” convenience of LR Cloud on the same images you need to have the two eco-systems work together.  Adobe has facilitated this by providing a way to sync images between the two systems.  You can read my blog on how to do that here How to use Lightroom CC together with Lightroom Classic

The key to this though is having LR sync selected images between your LR Classic system and the suite of LR Cloud applications.  In their promotional material Adobe touts this as 2-way sync, but that is a bit misleading.  What is going on is that if you have an LR Classic based workflow, you select images in LR Classic that you want to participate in the LR Cloud eco-system and place them into a collection in LR Classic that is marked to sync.  Once that takes place a “smart preview” of the image is created behind the scenes (if one doesn’t already exist) and that Smart Preview is copied to the cloud where the LR Cloud apps can get to it.  If changes are made to the image in either eco-system those changes are synced back to the other eco-system.  On the other hand, if images enter the Lightroom world via the LR Cloud eco system, those images get automatically copied to LR Classic and placed in a default folder and automatically are added to one or more synced collections. 

For image edits – meaning changes to what the image looks like – this works pretty well as long as you leave enough time for the syncing to take place, don’t sync too many images at one time, and the sync process doesn’t get hung up.  How long syncing takes of course depends on your Internet speed and how many images you are syncing.  For single images, with modestly good Internet speed, we’re talking about less than a minute. 

What they don’t make very clear is that there are many things present in both LR Classic and LR Cloud (sometimes with different names) that don’t sync back and forth as one would expect or as one would desire.

What syncs back and forth (for images and Virtual Copies):

  • Develop module / Edit Panel changes
  • Star Ratings
  • Pick/Reject flags
  • Titles
  • Captions
  • Copyright text
  • Capture date/time
  • GPS coordinates
  • VC’s from LR Classic arrive in LR cloud as a separate image but still sync with the VC in LR Classic


What syncs 1 time only (Values taken from when Smart Preview first created)

  • Camera settings (of course these can’t be changed so not an issue)
  • Keywords (flattened list)
  • Location data (Country, State/Province, City, Sublocation)

What never syncs

  • All other metadata fields such as:
    • Copyright Status
    • Creator
    • Job information
    • Contact info for image creator/owner
    • IPTC Data (headline, Subject code, etc.)
    • Etc.
  • Collection/Album hierarchy
  • Collection custom sort order
  • Publish Services
  • Snapshots
  • Keyword Synonyms
  • Stacks
  • Etc.

What syncs differently

  • Videos originating in LR Cloud, sync to LR Classic (one way)
  • Videos from LR Classic do not sync to LR Cloud
  • No video metadata syncs  (including metadata that would sync for still images)

But, even so, syncing is a good thing if one understands what does and doesn’t sync and how to work around some of those issues.  The main pain point in Lightroom syncing though seems to be Keywords and Location data (Country, Sate/Province, City, Sub location).  But there is a lot of confusion about this as witnessed by discussions in Lightroom forums about how it does (or doesn’t) work.  For example if you select a bunch of images in LR Classic and add them to a Synced collection, they will arrive in LR Cloud with keywords.  But then if you change any keywords in either eco-system those changes never migrate back to the other eco-system. 

So, what is going on and how do you force keywords and location data to migrate from LR Classic to LR Cloud?

As I mentioned earlier, when images are synced what is actually syncing is a Smart Preview for each synced image.  Smart Previews are actually reduced size DNG files.  They were introduced as an option in LR Classic several versions ago as a way to allow you to edit images in the Develop Module of LR Classic even when the disk drive containing those images was not connected to the computer.  Part of this was that as soon as the original images were again connected to the computer, it would catch up with any changes that needed to be written to the image files.

So, here’s what happens.  When you sync an image in LR Classic, it must place a Smart Preview of that image into the Adobe Cloud.  But, that leaves two situations.  One is where you had already created a Smart Preview for that image on your own (let’s call these user smart previews).  The other situation is where you didn’t in which case LR will automatically create one for you (let’s call these automatic smart previews).  Now this sounds like a trivial distinction but it does have ramifications. 

You can see if an image has a User Smart Preview by looking below the histogram in the Library or Develop module in LR Classic.

01 Histogram01 Histogram

But this screen won’t identify images that have Automatic Smart Previews – it only shows you if there is a User Smart Preview.  You can also use the filter bar to search for images that have User Smart Previews as well as using rules in Smart Collections.  There are no filters or options in Smart Collections to seek out images that have Automatic Smart Previews.

You can, however see all images that are synced with LR Cloud which will include images with either kind of Smart Preview.  You do this by looking at the “All Synced Photographs” standard collection in the ‘Catalog” panel (Library Module).  Of course there may also be other images, not synced with the Cloud, that have User Smart Previews but for this discussion, that is beside the point.

02 All Synced Photos02 All Synced Photos

In order to see which synced images have which kind of Smart Preview we can apply a metadata filter for field “Smart Preview Status”.  After selecting this in the filter panel and clicking on the “All Synced Photographs” standard collection we can then pick either “Has Smart Preview” or “No Smart Preview”.  “Has Smart Preview” means ones with User Smart Previews.  There is no filter for Automatic Smart Previews but as we selected the “All Synced Photographs” collection, any images that don’t have a User Smart Preview, by the process of elimination must have an Automatic Smart Preview.  So, another way to say this is that with the “All Synced Photographs” collection selected, the “Has Smart Previews” filter means those synced images that have User Smart Previews and the “No Smart Preview” filter means those synced images that have Automatic Smart Previews.

03 Synced Metadata Filter03 Synced Metadata Filter

So why does this matter?  As mentioned, whenever a smart preview is FIRST created, all the pertinent metadata pertaining to the image that happens to be saved on disk (not just the catalog) in or with the image file is included in the smart preview.  However, after that point in time many metadata changes, such as keywords, do not seem to be updated in the smart preview and are not synced with the cloud.  So, how do you get keyword and location changes you make in LR Classic to sync back to LR Cloud?  The answer depends on which kind of Smart Preview you have.

If your image does not have a User Smart Preview (i.e. has only an Automatic Smart Preview) in LR Classic perform the following steps:

  1. Remove the image from the “All Synced Photographs”: standard collection (which will also remove it from any other synced collections in which it participates) and wait for the sync process to remove it from cloud
  2. If you don’t have “Automatically write changes to XMP” checked in the catalog preferences screen, force metadata changes to the image file (or XMP side car file) by clicking the “metadata mismatch icon” (3 horizontal lines with a hollow down arrow) on the image thumbnail in the grid. 
  3. Then add the image  back to the at least one synced collection and let it sync to the Cloud
  4. All your LR Classic keywords and location fields present when you re-add the image back to the first synced collection will be in the Automatic Smart Preview generated by LR and will migrate to the cloud but will not update thereafter (in either direction).

If your image has a User Smart Preview (i.e. shows as “Has Smart Preivew” in the metadata filter or under the histogram) removing the image from all synced collections and then re-adding it does not refresh the keywords in the Cloud because no new Smart Preview needs to be built.  In this situation perform these steps:

  1. Remove the image from the “All Synced Photographs” standard collection (which will also removed it from any synced collections it may also participate in)
  2. Delete the User Smart Preview (menu:  Library -> Previews -> Discard Smart Previews).
  3. If you don’t have “Automatically write changes to XMP” checked in the catalog preferences screen, force metadata changes to the image file (or XMP side car file) by clicking the “metadata mismatch icon” (3 horizontal lines with a hollow down arrow) on the image thumbnail in the grid. 
  4. Now you can optionally re-create a User Smart Preview if desired, but either way, drag the image back to a synced collection and let it sync to the cloud. 
  5. This will force a one time reload of the keywords and Location metadata to the cloud but will not keep them synced thereafter unless you repeat this process.


  1. Keywords that sync to the cloud include not only the explicit keywords assigned to the image(s), but also all their parents regardless of your choices in the edit keyword panel.  So, even if you uncheck “Include on export” and/or “Export Containing Keywords” you get them all.
  2. Synonyms will not sync to LR Cloud at all
  3. As of this writing, I have not determined a workaround for syncing in the other direction (Cloud to Classic).  In other words if I make keyword changes in LR Cloud, how to get them synced back down to LR Classic.  If someone has a way to do this short of just re-doing it in LR Classic, let me know and I’ll update this blog.
  4. Adobe has not documented or acknowledged any of this.  The fact that keywords and location data, and perhaps other metadata, get added to Smart Previews when the a Smart Preview is first created may have been unintended by Adobe and at some point in the future they may decide to “fix” this oversight and stop such data from being added to the Smart Preview at all.  The user community however is pushing Adobe to go the other way and to embrace Keyword and other metadata syncing and make it work automatically in both directions like they have already done for image adjustments, star ratings, capture date/time, pick flags, and perhaps a few other items.



dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) Blog DanLRBlog Keywords Lightroom Lightroom Classic Lightroom Cloud Sync Sync Keywords https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/LR12-Sync-LR-Classic-Keywords-to-LR-Cloud Thu, 15 Aug 2019 21:01:31 GMT
Western Europe #09 Near Amsterdam https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/western-europe-09 AUGUST 2018

Western Europe #09 – 4 towns Near Amsterdam

This is part 9 - and the final segment - of a trip we took through Northwestern Europe in August of 2018.  This edition includes the towns of Zaanse Schans, Zaandam, Marken and Volendam all of which are within about 30-60 minutes of Amsterdam by Bus or Train.

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Combined01 Map Full Combined

Map of 4 towns in this edition in relation to Amsterdam
02 Map Blog #802 Map Blog #8

“Amsterdam can be thrilling, but any native will tell you that to really experience everyday life in the Netherlands, get out of town. In postcard-perfect Dutch villages like Edam, you can mellow out like a block of aging cheese”.  I don’t recall where I got that quote from.


Marken is a bit over 30 minutes by car from Amsterdam’s Central Station and you can get there by bus with only a stop or two.  The towns of Marken and Volendam are often bundled together as a day’s outing for tourists staying in Amsterdam as they are only a short ferry ride apart.  But as far as we were concerned, as it turned out, the only one worth seeing was Marken.  So, I’ll spend most of my typing about Marken and much less on Volendam.

As of 2012, Marken had a population of 1,810, making it a small village.  It used to be on a small island but due to the addition of a thin strip of land supporting the only road in or out, it is now a peninsula.  Its main attraction are the characteristic wooden houses dating back to the 19th century.

When Marken was an island in the Zuiderzee, during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s its inhabitants were the focus of considerable attention by folklorists, ethnographers, and physical anthropologists who regarded the small fishing town as a relic of the traditional native culture that was succumbing to the modernization of the Netherlands. 

But going back in time, the main purpose of this little island town was as a harbor for whaling and herring fishing.  But starting in the late 17th century, the Zuiderzee began to silt up making it more and more difficult to run a fishing operation from this harbor.  To make matters worse, the town was eventually almost completely abandoned when the entire Zuiderzee was walled off from the North Sea.

Then in the late 1950’s (yeah ‘19’ fifties) a causeway from the mainland to the island was constructed allowing cars and trucks to reach the town.  And then came the tourists looking for a glimpse of the past.  This was not lost on the few folks who still lived there and they went to work sprucing the place up while at the same time implementing strict zoning restrictions to keep modern architecture from polluting the ambiance of the town. 

What makes Marken such a marvelous little town to visit is that it really does live in the past with its well restored and maintained traditional buildings, and low key atmosphere.  Another thing that makes it so nice to visit is that it is distinctly not overrun with tourists. 

As one meanders through the narrow streets and walkways some barely wide enough for a bicycle one marvels at the architecture designed for the environment.  Some buildings are built on little hills or on stilts to keep them above what had been frequent tidal flooding.  As is the case with many small villages, Marken too has its own color scheme.  I’m not sure why this is, but it could be as simple as those were the only colors available at the local hardware store over several centuries.  And that in turn was due to what the local paint mill could produce with readily available minerals and dyes.  In Marken, the outsides are a mix of black and dark green.  These were the paints that were most weather resistant.  However the insides brightened things up with yellows and blues.

Of course the center of such towns was, and still is, the harbor.  Here you’ll find some traditional homes, a few traditional shops and a couple of nice restaurants along with the ferry dock.

All in all, Marken turned out to be a wonderful way to spend the best part of a day outside of Amsterdam

Cluster of houses in Marken
18 7d2R03-#495018 7d2R03-#4950

Unique door knocker
Wooden Shoes on green doorWooden Shoes on green door

Narrow Marken “streets” barely wide enough to ride a bike down
Marken House GapMarken House Gap

Marken church.  Note model sailboats hanging over the side pews
21 7d2R03-#496121 7d2R03-#4961

Outskirts of Marken
22 7d2R03-#498222 7d2R03-#4982

Marken Harbor
23 7d2R03-#498923 7d2R03-#4989

Houses along edge of Marken Harbor
Marken,  Harborside hoursesMarken, Harborside hourses

Large house converted to restaurant along Marken Harbor
26 7d2R03-#502626 7d2R03-#5026

Another Marken Restaurant on the waterfront
27 7d2R03-#505327 7d2R03-#5053


The 2nd town I mentioned at the beginning is Volendam and the dichotomy between it and Marken was jarring.  Like Marken, it too is an historic fishing village, but unlike Marken it has been overrun with uncontrolled tourism.  In fact as Rick Steves said “Volendam — is grotesquely touristy…mix Killarney and Coney Island and then drizzle with herring juice”, and I couldn’t agree more.

One gets between these two towns on a very pleasant ferry ride of about half an hour.  As it turns out, our I Amsterdam City Card I talked about in part 8 includes a free one way ride on this ferry but you first have to get a boarding pass by showing your City Card at the ticket booth on the dock.

The town's promenade is lined with souvenir shops, indoor/outdoor eateries, and Dutch clichés.  Some have kept to the traditional styles seen in Marken but most have infused modernity into their establishments.  Now throw in cheek by jowl restaurants all with what seems to be identical menus full of ‘designed for tourists’ entrees, thrown onto plates as quickly as possible.  Then put a ‘carny barker’ out front of each accosting tourists and funneling them into his eatery and you get a good sense of Volendam.

The attention given by the city leaders to the service industry can be summed up quite simply by example.  There is only one public restroom along the entire waterfront, and it closes before dinner time.  As there were no signs leading to it, I’m not even sure it is public.  It may just be the restroom from one of the shops or restaurants that happens to have an entrance from outside around back.  For such a high tourist area we were amazed that we had to ask in 4 different shops before anyone could tell us where the restroom was and even then they directed us to the one mentioned above which was closed (this was just a bit before 6:00 pm).  We finally just went into a hotel/restaurant, pretended to be restaurant patrons and found a restroom.

After our comfort break, it was time to find some dinner.  After scanning the stomach churning menu at restaurant after restaurant along the main drag, waaaaaaay down at the end of town, a bit down from the clamor of the tourist section we did find a place to eat that had not entirely succumbed to the tourist frenzy and had a halfway decent meal. 

After dinner, on our walk to the bus stop on the edge of town for our return to Amsterdam, we thought we’d see examples of nice traditional cottages and houses along the way.  But, once you get a block off the main harbor side tourist drag, there isn’t even the pretense of keeping with traditional styles.  We could have been anywhere with strip malls, liquor stores, and just plain old 1950’s houses. 

We would have been much better off to spend more time in Marken and just skip Volendam altogether.

Coming into Volendam on the Ferry from Marken
28 7d2R03-#507728 7d2R03-#5077

Piece of the main tourist drag along the harbor
29 7d2R03-#508629 7d2R03-#5086

Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans is an open air conservation area and museum on the east bank of the Zaan River, north of Amsterdam.  In the states we would know this sort of an attraction as a “living history center”.  The site is an easy 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station followed by a short walk.  Being so close to Amsterdam, it is one of most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands.  At around 75 acres, it is a fairly large site but even so it can get quite crowded.

The site sits on the banks of the river and depicts life in late 19th century.  Most of the buildings were saved from demolition throughout the country, meticulously restored and relocated to this site.  The site consists of around 10 operating windmills, 7 craft workshops, 6 museums, and 7 shops all of which are operational and open to the public.  Each is run independently by a family and as such some have admission fees and some don’t.  Most of the for fee attractions took our I Amsterdam City Card which was quite nice.  If one ignores the credit card readers and electric lights, the factories, shops and stores are all operated by docents in period attire as they would have in the 1800’s. 

Even though the buildings are originals, I’m sure that in the 18th and 19th centuries they were not as pristine, perfectly painted, and with manicured gardens as they are now presented.  So, in that sense it's not a very authentic depiction but rather it is an idealized re-creation of a Dutch village from the period.  However, it is quite fascinating seeing the inner workings of various types of windmills and seeing how crafts and domestic goods were made before industrialization. 

In addition to the windmills stores and workshops, on the edge of the site is a new regional museum.  There are also a fairly large number of restored houses – not open to the public – which are rented out to either long term tenants or as short term tourist rentals.  Some of the folks who work the windmills and workshops in traditional ways live in these houses on the site.

As a foreigner, my idea of Dutch windmills was that they were used to pump water through canals and then out of the low (below sea level) lands and over to the other side of the famous dikes.  But, it seems most windmills were used to power factories of various types.  Here at Zaanse Schans, there are several examples of this.  Among others, there are windmills for spice grinding, lumber sawmill, paint factory, seed oil factory and grain grinding. 

Paint mill windmill in action (Sawmill De Gekroonde Poelenburg)
Wind powered sawmill.  Zaanse Schans, NetherlandsWind powered sawmill. Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

Paint Mill (windmill) grinding stone
Wind powered paintmill.  Zaanse Schans, NetherlandsWind powered paintmill. Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

Windmill gears in motion at paint mill
Windmill Gears.  Zaanse Schans, NetherlandsWindmill Gears. Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

In addition to the windmills one can visit various workshops and see how things were made in the past.  Here we have a bakery, a wooden shoe factory, cheese factory, pewter foundry, weavers, a cooper (barrel maker) and Cocoa workshop.  One can also visit several small (single house) museums such as a recreation of a bake shop, a grocer, clock and watch museum, and paper manufacturer museum. 

Hand Loom in Weavers House (Het Wevershuls)
Hand loom in Weaver's house.  Zaanse Schans, NetherlandsHand loom in Weaver's house. Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

Farm House (De Catharinaq)
Farm house recreation.  Zaanse Schans NetherlandsFarm house recreation. Zaanse Schans Netherlands

Lathe for making wooden shoes
Wooden shoe making lathe.  Zaaanse Schans, NetherlandsWooden shoe making lathe. Zaaanse Schans, Netherlands

Finished wooden shoes for sale
Wooden shoes for saleWooden shoes for sale

Houses for rent
Zaanse Schans foot bridgeZaanse Schans foot bridge

Three windmills through window of Spice Mill Windmill
Three windmills in windowThree windmills in window

One of several Spice Mill grinding wheels
Spice grinding wheel of Zaanse Schans windmillSpice grinding wheel of Zaanse Schans windmill

Hoist at cocoa workshop
Green HoistGreen Hoist


Zaandam is one of many cities that form the suburbs of Amsterdam.  Like Zaanse Schans, it is located northwest of Amsterdam’s Central Station by train about a third of the way to Zaanse Schans.  As far as suburban cities go it is incredibly unremarkable.  Just a typical suburbs with shopping malls, dentists offices, schools and churches.  So, why am I bringing it up here?  There is one eye catching building in this city that I just couldn’t resist photographing.  I had heard about it beforehand and my local guide (see bottom of this document) was willing to take us there for some photography.

This building is really just an 11 story hotel in the Inntel chain with 160 guest rooms.  But the architecture makes it look like a neatly stacked pile of nearly 70 individual traditional houses.  All but one of these houses in this pile are painted in one of the four traditional shades of Zaan Green and some even show a bit of red tile roof.  Each one depicts a different style of traditional house ranging from a typical notary’s residence to a worker’s cottage. 

However one of the houses is painted blue.  This one was inspired by “The Blue House” by Claude Monet which he painted in Zaandam in 1871.

Inntel Hotel in Zaandam made to look like a pile of traditional houses
Inntel Hotel, ZaandamInntel Hotel, Zaandam

Each individual “house” depicts a typical traditional house style of region
Inntel Hotel zaandam #2Inntel Hotel zaandam #2


I hope you enjoyed reading about charming Marken, the should have skipped Volendam, historic Zaanse Schans, and the unique hotel in Zaandam section of our NW Europe trip.  This installment is the last one for our August 2018 trip through northwestern Europe and I hope you enjoyed coming along with us after the fact.


This blog is posted at:


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/n-europe-trip-all  (all images)

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/n-europe-trip-fav  (subset of images)

Check out my travel blogs for other trips under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .

Thanks for reading – Dan

(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way.

Thanks to our tour guide, Roelf Foppen for showing us great spots at Zaanse-Schans and the Inntel Hotel in Zaandam.  You can find tour info for him at https://www.withlocals.com/experience/zaanse-schans-windmills-photography-tour-5e962ad7/?adults=2&children=0 or see his photos at www.roeloffoppen.photography .


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) amsterdam blog dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelblognw-europe marken netherlands volendam western europe windmill zaandam zaanse schans https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/western-europe-09 Sat, 10 Aug 2019 23:17:04 GMT
Western Europe #08 Amsterdam part 2 https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/western-europe-08 AUGUST 2018

Western Europe #08 Amsterdam Part 2

This is installment 8 of a trip we took through Northwestern Europe in August of 2018.  This edition is part 2 for the city of Amsterdam. 

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Combined01 Map Full Combined

Where we wandered in Amsterdam
02 Map Blog #7 Amsterdam02 Map Blog #7 Amsterdam


Our hotel was on the block right next to the Museum Plein park where the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum museums are as well as one of the more popular “I Amsterdam” signs is located.  It is also just a few blocks from the large Vondelpark which is a 120 acre city park with lakes and ponds and meandering pathways. 

So, let’s start with the Vondelpark.  Like Central Park in New York and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Vondelpark is a large city park great for meandering, biking or to have a picnic.  Among other attractions is an open-air theatre, a playground and several food service facilities. It’s also a wonderful people watching location.  It was opened in 1865 and originally named Nieuwe Park (meaning “New Park” in English) but later, when it was no longer “new”, it was renamed to Vondelpark, after the 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel.

People enjoying a day in the park
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The second park that was nearby was the Museum Plein Park, a block from our hotel.  The area of the park was originally a wax candle factory and marshy meadows.  After the completion of the Rijksmuseum museum in 1885 they started construction on the park adjoining the museum property but before that, in 1883 the area hosted the International Colonial and Export Exhibition.   In 1999 the park was redone and now includes underground parking and an underground supermarket. In the winter, the pond becomes ice skating rink. 

But, most famously the park hosts the most photographed iteration of the "I Amsterdam" sculpture/sign which was erected in 2004 in support of a major “visit Amsterdam” campaign.  This marketing campaign was immensely successful.  In fact it was too successful as Amsterdam became overrun with tourists.  Due to the onslaught of tourists the City Council shut down the campaign in an effort to actually discourage visitors from coming and had the “I Amsterdam” sign removed in December 2018 to reduce overcrowding from the “selfie” crowd and as the sign seemed contrary to the image the city was trying to convey.  I don’t have a photo of the sign, but I am sure you seen it before.

We had many occasions to walk through this park on our way to various attractions and on one of those times we encountered the “bubble man” entertaining throngs of kids.  He had a couple of sticks connected with 2 cords and each cord had loops tied on so that with one dip he could produce a prodigious number of bubbles to everyone’s delight.

That’s a lot of bubbles
Amsterdam Bubble ManAmsterdam Bubble Man

Kids and bubbles
Attacked by BubblesAttacked by Bubbles

Another park we visited (this one for a fee) was the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens (Hortus Botanicus).  This is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world established in 1638 as an herb garden with medical plants for local doctors and pharmacists.  One impetus for creating a medicinal herb garden was that a Plague epidemic was rampant in other nearby cities and they needed a place to grow the herbs thought to help victims.  By the second half of the 17th century the garden had a rich collection of plants completely unknown in Europe. They were brought here from all over the world by the traders of the Dutch East India Company.

Today, it has more than 6 000 different plants. Some of the plants are quite unique like a 2000 year old agave cactus and a 300-year-old Eastern Kape Giant Cycad.  The recent addition of a big new hothouse creates conditions for three different tropical climates.  The garden is a quiet and relaxing place to visit on a warm afternoon and is typically not overrun by tourists.

Amsterdam Botanical Garden
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Victoria Waterlily
Victoria Water LilyVictoria Water Lily

Flower Market

On one of our days in Amsterdam, we decided to head over to the Portuguese Synagogue in what had been the Jewish section of town.  But rather than just head straight there on a bus or tram we decided to wander through the flower market on the way so took the tram by our hotel down to the canal where the flower market is.  In August, the tulips are not blooming so the market was not as colorful as it is in the spring.  But we wandered through some stalls selling every conceivable color and variety of tulip bulb.  So, of course we purchased some.  One has to be a bit careful though.  Only certain ones are packaged for entry to the USA and without that packaging your bulbs will not make it through customs.

Bulbs for sale in the flower market
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Munttoren Tower

As we continued we encountered the Munttoren (mint tower).  It was once part of the Regulierspoort which consisted of a gate with a tower on each side and was built between 1480 and 1487 as part of the medieval city wall. Back in the 17th century, the tower was used to mint coins.  However, after a fire in 1618, only the guard house and part of the western tower remained. The Munttoren was rebuilt in Amsterdam Renaissance style around 1620. The carillon consists of 38 bells that chime every 15 minutes.

Nybttoren Tower
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Zuiderkerk church

Not too much further on our walk we spied another wonderful tower planted right at the end of a minor canal but it was on the opposite side of a major canal.  So, we had to first find our way across the major canal, then across a minor canal and then find a bridge over the target canal to photograph from.  It turned out to be well worth the effort.  The tower turned out to belong to the Zuiderkerk church built in the 17th-century. The church played an important part in the life of Rembrandt and was the subject of a painting by Claude Monet.  The Zuiderkerk was the city's first church built specifically for Protestant services.

Zuiderkerk church
Zuiderkerk church AmsterdamZuiderkerk church Amsterdam

Portuguese Synagogue

So, on we went crossing canals, admiring old buildings, wondering about the purpose of various moored canal boats and dodging bicycles.  But eventually we arrived that the Portuguese Synagogue. 

The Portuguese Synagogue which is also known as the Esnoga, or (wait for it) Snoge (isn’t that a great word?).  It is a late 17th-century Sephardic synagogue completed in 1675.  Esnoga is the word for synagogue in Ladino, the traditional Judaeo-Spanish language of Sephardic Jews.  The Amsterdam Sephardic community was one of the largest and richest Jewish communities in Europe during the Dutch Golden Age, and their very large synagogue reflected this. The synagogue remains an active place of worship and of course is also a popular tourist attraction.

Many Jews came to Amsterdam after escaping persecution and execution in the periods leading up to and including the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.  This group was known as the "first modern Jews" because they were the first to distinguish between religious and secular spheres of their individual and collective lives. 

The building is quite interesting.  It was built in 1671-1675 and has an outer wall to shield it from the city and then has a massive temple just inside these walls.  It is still in use today and has kept the old ways.  No electricity, women seated upstairs separate from the men, etc.  The main room is lit by 1,000 candles during services, most of which are placed in 3 massive chandeliers.  It takes a crew many hours just to light all those candles

Portuguese Synagogue
Portugese synagoge, Amsterdam, NetherlandsPortugese synagoge, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Portuguese Synagogue
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Portuguese Synagogue lighting system
Candle, Portugese Synagoge, AmsterdamCandle, Portugese Synagoge, Amsterdam

Around town

In our wanderings around town we happened upon many other interesting things in this beautiful city.  In addition to a few whose photos I’m including below, we visited:

  • Joods Historisch Museum  across the street from the Portuguese Synagogue which presents the history of Jews in Amsterdam
  • Cruised by the old market square on our city canal tour
  • Visited the Van Loon Museum which was the family home of the fellow who founded the Dutch East India Company in 1602,
  • A stroll through a corner of the mobbed Red Light District

Below are some other sights we encountered on our excursions through the city

Modest Hotel by a canal
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Typical Street Scene
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Quite interesting facade
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Rare case where buildings are right at the edge of a canal
Amsterdam canal and buildingsAmsterdam canal and buildings

Pub near Red Light District
The Grasshopper RestaurantThe Grasshopper Restaurant


I hope you enjoyed reading about the Amsterdam leg of our NW Europe trip, Please check out my other travel blogs under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .


This blog is posted at: 


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/n-europe-trip-all  (all images)

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/n-europe-trip-fav  (subset of images)

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way).


I’d like to thank Chris Page of Amsterdam Photo Tours who provided a private dusk-night custom photo tour of Amsterdam for us.  Many of the dusk and night shots from my 2 Amsterdam blogs were shot from places Chris led us to and that we might not have found on our own.  You can find info about his tours here http://www.amsterdamphotosafari.com/


dan@danhartfordphoto.com (Dan Hartford Photo) amsterdam amsterdam botanical gardens amsterdam canals blog bubble man (amsterdam) dan hartford photo dantravelblog dantravelblognw-europe hortus botanicus netherlands portuguese synagogue vondelpark western europe https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/8/western-europe-08 Tue, 06 Aug 2019 21:43:34 GMT
Western Europe #07 Amsterdam part 1 https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2019/7/western-europe-07 AUGUST 2018

Western Europe #07 Amsterdam (part 1)

This is part 7 of a trip we took through Northwestern Europe in August of 2018.  This edition is Amsterdam part 1.  There was so much to say about Amsterdam that I had to split it into 2 sections.  It seems that each time I thought I