Category Archives: travel

Transforming work into play

Holmes Co. OH, Millersburg OH

The prairie on the hill.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Several years ago, our lifetime friends Dave and Kate built their dream house on a hill overlooking Millersburg, Ohio. They picked the perfect spot.

From that lofty vantage point overlooking a lovely valley, Dave and Kate can see the county courthouse clock tower, the school where they both taught, and the hospital where their children were born.

The setting is marvelous, the view fantastic. Still, through hard work and creativity, the couple has managed to improve their surroundings, not only for themselves but for the wild things, too.

About five years ago, Dave decided to turn work into play so to speak. He kicked the cows out of the five-acre, pastured hillside that surrounded the house. His goal was simply to let nature take her course.

Before the European invasion 300 years ago, a dense, mature forest covered most of what is now Ohio. Dave wanted to test an old theory that the land would replenish itself if allowed to go fallow.

So instead of cows grazing, grasses, plants, and seedlings began to sprout freely. Today, the results are impressive, producing rewards that even the amiable couple could never have imagined.

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On an all-too-brief return to our Ohio haunts, Dave led me on a walking tour of his mostly-spontaneous prairie. We traversed a looping pattern of mown paths that crisscrossed the rolling hillside topography.

Up and down and around we walked. All the while Dave pointed out some of the changes that had already naturally occurred. In some spots, he had helped things along with saplings and young trees he had planted. He checked on them like a mother hen guarding her chicks.

Of course, he encaged the plantings with wire mesh to stymie the ubiquitous and free-ranging deer that nibble the tender and tasty leaves and stalks. Sometimes it worked.

Wildflowers and plants now flourished in the prairie plots where heifers used to munch. The floral growth attracted appreciative pollinators that flitted and buzzed about while we ambled along. Bees and butterflies, flies, dragonflies, and damselflies all made appearances.

Holmes Co. OH, Millersburg OH

Eastern Bluebirds.

Several pairs of eastern bluebirds tended to their nests in boxes Dave had erected. Some had eggs, some second brood hatchlings. Others were empty. When we cleaned out an old nest from one birdhouse, a bluebird pair began building anew a short time later. Dave’s face glowed.

At the bird feeders, Ohio’s smallest to largest woodpeckers and several species in between vied for the suet offerings. Both pileated and red-bellied even brought their young to learn to forage for the protein.

On the parameters of the property, red-tailed hawks dove from shaded oak perches, unsuccessful in snagging a mammal breakfast. An indigo bunting began its song but stopped short, a typical behavior this late in the summer.

Cedar waxwings preened in the morning sunshine on dead ash snags. American goldfinches harvested thistledown for their late-season nests.

The gnarled, amber trunks of giant Osage orange trees served as living statuaries in the young reclaimed landscape. Their coarse-skin fruit hung lime-green and eerie, like so many Martian brains.

Once dormancy dominates the prairie, Dave will mow down this marvelous and necessary wildlife habitat to eliminate the human-made nuisance multi-flowered rose bushes. Of course, he’ll save the trees, both those he planted and the multitude of volunteers that are thriving.

That adage is coming true. Left to grow on its own, this come-what-may former pasture is an ever-changing habitat for all things bright and beautiful. The environmentally friendly owners couldn’t be more grateful.

Holmes Co. OH, Millersburg OH

Sunrise valley view.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under birding, birds, column, friends, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, rural life, travel, writing

Young Photographer

young photographer, Longwood Gardens, seeing beauty

I was intrigued by this teenager’s keen interest in photographing the beautiful flowers at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. We kept running into one another as we wound our way through the many colorful displays of flowers, pools, fountains, and outdoor gardens.

From my long-lived experience as a father, grandfather, teacher, and school principal, photography wasn’t a top priority for most teenagers. This young girl was the exception. After I took this shot of her capturing yet another lovely flower, I spoke with her parents, who stood at a distance, proudly admiring their daughter’s unabashed desire to photograph the gorgeous floral displays.

I showed them this photo and identified myself as a retired principal. Curious, the girl came over to us and viewed my shot of her shot of the flower. She smiled, and I showed her another shot I had taken nearby of a glass ceiling with steel girders. She liked it, so I answered a question she didn’t ask but was on her face. I had taken the abstract-looking photo while others were busy observing the apparent displays all around them. I looked up.

That was my photographic tip to this inspiring and aspiring youngster. “When others are looking one way, you look the other,” I told her. “You never know what inspirational subjects you will find to photograph.”

Next week, my Photo of the Week will be an example of that ditty of advice. For now, “Young Photographer” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, travel

Surrounded

Surrounded.


My wife and I have always been enchanted with this lovely farmette at Judy Gap, West Virginia. The charming setting flashes into view on U.S. 33 as you round a downhill curve traveling west. The plain, white farmhouse with the sweeping front porch certainly stands out. However, it is the regiment of matching and neatly maintained red outbuildings outlined in white that really catches the eye.

The picturesque scene certainly conjures up a multitude of questions. What purpose does each building serve? Why are they situated every which way? Do the owners know just how gorgeous their property and unique set of structures are? Do they fully appreciate the beauty of both the setting and their artistic contribution to it?

As a stranger, I’ve never had enough nerve to stop to ask these intrusive questions. Instead, I am content to both admire and share the Currier and Ives-like scene.

“Surrounded” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under architectural photography, human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, travel

Mere observation brings renewal

Lakeside OH, Chautauqua Lakeside

The fountain in front of Hotel Lakeside.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’m sitting on a bench beneath the shade of a determined sugar maple tree, perhaps its verdant growth encouraged by the view I’m enjoying. Who or what wouldn’t be heartened with these delightful surroundings.

Youngsters set sail on skiffs, their teenage teachers guiding them into and out of the steady east wind, tacking, and turning this way and that, the multi-colored sails energized by the steady lake breeze.

Only weeks ago a much different scene played out in this same location. One nor’easter after the other pounded the shoreline that now houses a single-file line of dinghies slotted between wooden four by fours.

The shoreline lost, as it always does, against such strong forces of nature. So did the dock, which had its securely anchored metal benches washed overboard.

Today, however, is different. The lake breeze is just stiff enough to keep Old Glory and the nautical signals continually flapping and a lone great egret working overtime to a new upwind fishing spot.

Beyond the pier’s end, a cigarette boat slices with ease through the small waves of Lake Erie. Sun worshippers, fisher-people, and swimmers all bask in the sun-drenched day, thankful the oppressive heat and humidity of recent days have been replaced by these ideal conditions. Not a single contrail pollutes the all-blue sky.

Purple Martins and tree swallows also sail over all the human aquatic action, skimming the latest hatch of Mayflies from the air.

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Parents and proud grandparents stand along the shoreline or in the pavilion watching their sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters sail away on the blue-green water chop. In a matter of minutes, they safely return, smiles replacing any lingering fear of their maiden voyage.

Just off of the end of the reinforced breaker wall of native limestone, fishermen bob in their bass boat, casting and recasting without success. They soon move on to calmer and hopefully more productive waters.

Back on shore, walkers stroll the sidewalk that runs the full length of the shoreline that makes Lakeside lakeside. This Ohio resort town, appropriately known as the Chautauqua on Lake Erie, is bustling with activity on this Sunday afternoon.

Lifetime Lakesiders gather on other shaded wooden benches like they have for decades like their parents and grandparents did before them. Only the seats are different. The view, the busyness of recreation, education, arts and crafts, and entertainment of the friendly, gated community unfold all around them just as it did when they were children, too.

Bicycles and golf carts wait patiently for their drivers and passengers in the green grass along the blacktop’s edge. The bikes stand unlocked, and ignition keys dangle freely in the carts. Such is Lakeside.

Daring teenage girls try their hand and legs at paddle boards, nimbly dropping to their knees when their hesitation takes hold. They eventually regain their confidence and return to their paddling.

The Westminster chimes of the clock tower atop the nearby pavilion bong 3 p.m., followed by bells singing “How Great Though Art.” Behind me, a gurgling fountain lures a toddler away from her mother until she beckons her daughter to the spotting scope aimed at Perry’s Monument on Put-in-Bay.

These few minutes spent observing, absorbing, listening, looking, appreciating all that is Lakeside, Ohio renews my body, mind, and spirit. Given this setting, that’s what is supposed to happen.

You don’t have to be at Lakeside to garner these healthy, in-the-moment results. But it sure helps.

Lakeside Chautauqua, Lakeside OH, swimming

Fun in the sun.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under architectural photography, birds, column, family, human interest, Lakeside Ohio, Ohio, photography, travel, weather, writing

Weathered

weathered storefront, old store, Mill Creek VA

Weathered.

There’s an old adage in photography that goes something like this: When others are shooting the obvious, look around, look behind you, look up, look down. I try to remember that when I focus on a particular subject matter, be it a landscape, sunrise, sunset, or wildlife. Another perspective might bring you greater rewards.

Such was the case when I stopped to photograph a church in rural southwestern Virginia. Rolling, high hills lined with Christmas trees served as the backdrop of the distinctive country church, which was outlined in bright, red paint. It made a very satisfactory photo.

However, when I turned to return to the van, I spotted this old, weathered building across the road. I loved its unique character, especially the age-dappled clapboard siding sandwiched between the two tones of green. I wondered about its history. What was its original purpose? Was the building being used for any reason now?

The old building’s aged appearance jumped out at me. “Weathered” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under architectural photography, human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, travel, Virginia

Never a dull moment at Lakeside, Ohio

throughthehollyhocksbybrucestambaugh

The waterfront at Lakeside.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There’s never a dull moment at Lakeside, Ohio. That’s quite a statement for a sleepy, little village on the shores of Lake Erie.

Don’t misunderstand. That doesn’t mean the residents are rowdy. Just the opposite is true for this Chautauqua town.

In the summertime, Lakeside bursts with energy and activities, planned and spontaneous. There’s never a dull moment because there’s just so much to do for any and every age level. I’ll let the activities speak for themselves.

The Lakeside programming offers vacationers and residents a multitude of sponsored options that enrich the body, mind, and soul. Founded in 1873 as a Methodist Church camp, Lakeside has evolved into a summer destination for thousands of folks across the country.

shuffleboard, Lakeside OH

Shuffleboard, a favorite Lakeside pasttime.

Lakeside is a place that welcomes all who come to relax, learn, meet new folks, enjoy entertainment, and commune with others and nature. It’s why we keep going back year after year. Now that we’ve moved to Virginia, my wife and I make Lakeside our guaranteed summer vacation.

Since Lakeside is a gated community during the summer season, it’s a safe place to be for one and all. Kids are free to roam its crisscrossed streets that run the mile length of the cottage-filled community.

They won’t be alone. The community swells to 6,000 or more residents at summer’s peak. Making new friends is easy. Besides, the 300 year-round residents are glad to have the company.

Planned programs and classes for toddlers to teens to senior citizens fill each day. Choosing which activities and events to participate in creates an estimable problem. You won’t hear “I’m bored” at Lakeside.

Children can attend arts and crafts classes, build model boats, or enjoy a game of shuffleboard with family and friends. Lectures, bible studies, morning worship, and walking tours enlighten the adults.

For those who love the water, Lakeside offers swimming in its new pool that includes lap lanes, a kid’s area, and water slide. There’s even a children’s splash park down by the dock.

The waterfront is really where the action is at Lakeside. The dock is the go-to place for sunbathers and fisherpersons alike. Lifeguards standby for those who choose to swim in the lake. Sailors young and old navigate their own boats.

sunset, Lakeside OH

Sunset on the dock.

You can fill your day with more casual options, too. Take a leisurely walk along the shore while enjoying beautiful flower gardens, lovely cottages, and gorgeous views of Kelley’s Island, and Perry’s Monument at Put-in-Bay. Or sit on a park bench beneath giant shade trees and dream the day away.

In the evening, Hoover Auditorium takes center stage with a variety of programs that captivate the entire family. Admission costs are included in the gate fees.

If the weather cooperates, sunsets draw people to the dock for picturesque photo ops. Sunrises are just as spectacular rising over the lake with their pinks and blues.

A farmers market offers up local produce and delicious homemade goodies two mornings a week. For those less worried about their diet, freshly made donuts and hand-dipped ice cream bring many smiles.

As for my wife and me, we’re more than content to sit on our favorite sweeping front porch that dominates the front side of the guesthouse where we stay. At the corner of Third and Walnut, we have a first-class view of all that Lakeside has to offer.

I’m always happy but never surprised to spot long-lost friends walk by. That reconnecting alone nurtures my body, mind, and spirit to the full.

sunrise, Lakeside OH

Silhouettes at sunrise.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under architectural photography, column, family, human interest, Lakeside, Lakeside Ohio, Ohio, photography, travel, writing

Celebrating the freedom to be kind

Fort McHenry, Baltimore MD

Fort McHenry.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Long ago, someone once tried to trick me with a skewed question. “Do the English celebrate the Fourth of July?” was the query.

My answer went something like this: “Well, the English have a July 4th like the rest of the world, but I doubt that they celebrate it.”

The Fourth of July is Independence Day in the United States. It’s a day of traditions: family gatherings, picnics with hot dogs and hamburgers, baseball games, and fireworks, although the latter is often spread out over a period of days depending on planned community events.

American flags are flown, and many decorate their houses with red, white, and blue buntings. Some communities hold parades with high school bands, fire trucks, decorated floats, and troupes of children riding patriotic adorned bicycles.

In typical American fashion, fireworks on the Fourth of July began in 1777 during the Revolutionary War with England. They weren’t the only flashes and booms in the sky then. Muskets and canons were also fired as ways to increase the commotion and hopefully boost the morale of the rebelling colonists.

A few years later during the War of 1812, Baltimore, Maryland had a life or death situation louder and fiercer than any fireworks. On September 13, 1814, the British Navy opened fire on Fort McHenry, the primary protective garrison of the city’s harbor. Much like today, Baltimore was an essential Atlantic coast port. Its defense was vital against the British, who had just burned the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

The fort withstood a horrific 27-hour bombardment by the British fleet. Francis Scott Key, a noted attorney, witnessed the attack from a ship in the harbor. When the smoke and mist cleared in the morning, Key saw the stars and stripes still flying from the fort, and was moved to write a poem about the battle. That poem became the lyrics for the “Star Spangled Banner,” our national anthem.

My wife and I recently visited the fort with a friend. As I watched a replica of the original flag flap in the morning breeze, I thought about the importance of celebrating the Fourth of July. It’s much more vital than food, fun, and colorful pyrotechnic displays.

In these current, trying times, when everyone seems to be talking and fewer people listening, I recoiled at the unnecessary squabbles going on in families, private and public meetings, in the media and on social media. Much of it is not pretty, and too much of it is hurtful, divisive, and driven by fear, not fact.

A person I recently met gave this suggestion: Treat people kindly in the moment. It might be the only time you have with them. She was right.

This Fourth of July, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we began listening to one another without bias, without interruption, without labeling, without being dismissive or rude or worse? After all, we are one nation, made up of many peoples from many different origins, languages, races, religions, beliefs, and backgrounds. That is as the Founding Fathers envisioned in the words of the U.S. Constitution.

So let’s carry on with the usual Independence Day activities. As we join together with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers, let’s begin again to converse with one another with civility, kindness, respect, and appreciation, whether we agree or disagree with what is said.

That’s how a community as small as a family and as large as a nation should behave in order to thrive. In accomplishing that, we really will have something to celebrate on the Fourth of July besides Independence Day.

grocery store sign

A sign for many cultures.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under architectural photography, column, history, holidays, human interest, news, photography, travel, writing

Beauty all around

Longwood Gardens

Beauty all around.

This young woman posed at different locations in Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. As I walked around the lovely gardens of the sprawling estate with my wife and dear friends, we kept running into this couple. Given the setting of the flowers, greenery, and the curving walk leading right to the impromptu photo shoot, I had to take this shot.

“Beauty all around” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under Photo of the Week, photography, travel

Inspired by water from a rock

Rock Spring Cabin, Shenandoah NP

The view from the cabin.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Life is a mystery.

I hiked the short trail with one thing in mind. I wanted to find the old cabin and take a photo of its chimney if it indeed had one. As so often happens in life, discovering what I was looking became secondary in this trek.

I took my time on the trail, soaking in all the glorious sights and sounds that I encountered along the way. There was a lot to absorb.

Rock Spring Cabin was a short distance away from a crude hut built for hikers along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. From the cabin’s covered front porch, the Page Valley played out in the patchwork patterns of fields far below.

The cabin at Rock Spring.

The primitive log cabin did indeed have a stone chimney. I snapped my picture and headed for the spring of Rock Spring Cabin nearby.

When I arrived, I was stunned at what I saw. I stood there in both amazement and disbelief. There, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, cold, clean, crystal clear water gurgled from beneath giant boulders as old as time. Human interaction, of course, had to plumb it with a PVC pipe.

Instantly, my mind flashed back to my childhood. I thought of the Old Testament Bible story of Moses striking a rock and water gushing forth for the assembly of disgruntled, thirsty Jews wandering in the desert. That ancient story always struck me as a blend of awe, mystery, and miracle.

I contemplated the moment. I couldn’t help but wonder why here at this spot, more than 3,000 feet above sea level did water run from rocks? The earth does fantastic, mysterious things. Explanations are not always required.

Still, I reckoned the answer to my rhetorical question. Clearly, the rock strata folded long before human history began and forged a channel for the water table below.

Yet, there was something mystical about the rock spring, its waters trickling down the steep slope far into the valley below. I mentally traced its path from small stream to a creek that formed a tributary to the Shenandoah River. Farther north, it met the broad Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and then flowed east through rapids and placid waters alike, passing the nation’s hectic capital into the Chesapeake Bay and on into the Atlantic Ocean.

Noisy ravens awakened me from my lively daydreaming. Apparently, they viewed me as an intruder. Not wanting that title, I returned to the main trail, warblers, and thrushes flitting and singing in the leafy canopy high overhead.

I walked a short distance down the trail, and the raven followed me, swooped low, and continued its nasal banter. It was only then that I realized that I was not the target of its raucous concern.

A motion drew my eyes downward. Not 30 feet away a young black bear grazed along the forest floor. My head instinctively swiveled in search of the mother bear. I saw only trees, plants, and rocks.

black bear cub, Shenandoah NP

Young black bear.

I gingerly stepped a few feet down the trail where I could get a better view of the cub, likely in its second season given its size. One click of the camera shutter and the bear spied me and bounded down the hill towards the spring. Overflowing with wonder and joy, I headed in the opposite direction for the parking lot.

I went searching for a cabin and found so much more. An emerald forest. Water from a rock. Agitated ravens. A frightened bear cub.

Life is a mystery waiting to be solved.

Appalachian Trail, Rock Spring Trail

The emerald way to Rock Spring Cabin.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under birds, column, human interest, nature photography, photography, Shenandoah Valley, travel, Virginia, writing

Mountain Laurel with a view

mountain laurel, Grayson Highlands SP VA, Whitetop VA, SW VA

Mountain Laurel with a view.

Traveling with friends, we wanted to reach the overlook at Grayson Highlands State Park near Whitetop, VA, before a front moved through bringing heavy rains. We just made it.

We were pleasantly surprised to see not only a marvelous view but that the Mountain Laurel bushes were blooming. No other clumps of them were in blossom as we drove up the mountain. These beauties just made the view all the more impressive.

The mountain range far in the distance is the Blue Ridge.

“Mountain Laurel with a view” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under human interest, nature photography, Photo of the Week, photography, travel, Virginia, weather