Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Finishing Up August and Needing to Travel

Sunrise Clouds over Key West ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last week, we spent a few days in Key West FL which seemed a fitting way to finish up the month of August and bring about the end of summer. There is something poetic about traveling by air along the coast of Florida and then over water along the Keys. So much is visible from the skies, and, of course, I have long been fascinated by the magnificent views of clouds from the window of a plane.

Several years ago, we flew into Miami, then rented a car to drive along the Overseas Highway to Key West. What a fabulous journey that was. Along the way, we enjoyed a magical, tropical passage. The flight from Miami to Key West is much faster--only a few minutes.

Both the highway and the air provide unforgettable memories for reaching the southernmost point of the continental USA. For the traveler with only a few days, air travel is best. But for those with time to spare, the
Key West near Sunset Point ©Mary Montague Sikes
Overseas Highway is an unique experience.
Leaving Miami ©Mary Montague Sikes
Approaching Key West ©Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg Celebrates 300 Years

When I looked over the Virginia Gazette Daily News Release this morning, I noticed a link to photos in celebration of the 300th anniversary of Bruton Parish Church. How amazing. In our part of the world, a building with a history of 300 years is quite unusual.

Then I remembered that the iconic Williamsburg landmark which has been photographed and painted thousands of times is part of my "Snapshot in Time" book about the Williamsburg Inn. For these little books, I like to focus on a few side trips that make visits to these old hotels memorable. Bruton Parish Church is one of those focus stories.

Here are two brief segments from my book:

When local residents consider the dramatic stories of Colonial Williamsburg, Bruton Parish Church is one of the buildings that usually comes to mind. In continuous use since 1715, the salmon-colored brick structure is among the most historic buildings that line the streets of Colonial Williamsburg today. The current building is the third of a series of "houses of worship" dating back to 1660. The first structure at Middle Plantation (the name for Williamsburg before it was incorporated in 1669) was most likely built of wood.

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, and Patrick Henry were among the men of the Revolutionary War who attended Bruton Parish Church. During the Battle of Yorktown, the church was used as a hospital or a storehouse, possibly both.  
"Bruton Parish Church" ©Mary Montague Sikes

I enjoy living close to Williamsburg where history thrives in the restoration area. Taking a stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street and heading down side streets never gets old. How fortunate Bruton Parish Church,  Williamsburg icon has survived for 300 years.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bryce Canyon - A Picnic for the Photographer's Eye

"Pink Cliffs Rising" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Bryce Canyon is a truly exotic destination. The glowing pinnacles rise up from the canyon providing a picnic for the photographer's eye. When viewed from atop the rim, the scene becomes a wonderland of magic.

Our daughter arranged (a year in advance) for us to stay at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon, and it was a wonderful choice. The original building, designed in the 1920s by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, has been restored and is a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The furnishings in the lobby were commissioned to replicate the original hickory furniture. The food in the Lodge dining room was good but pricier than that at Zion Lodge. However, it was convenient to be able to dine at facilities near the rim of the canyon. A guide book says visitors can see 60 million years of geologic history in the amazing formations. We were impressed with the wide walkway that edges the canyon with benches along the Rim Trail. However, there were no guardrails.
"Lodge at Bryce Canyon Lobby" ©Mary Montague Sikes

We used the shuttle to go to several of the lookouts. The elevation at Bryce is well over 8000 feet. At the nearby Agua Canyon overlook, it is 8800 feet. Since this is double the altitude at Zion, we never quite
adjusted during the shorter stay at Bryce.    

As I look at my notes and photographs, I'm already longing to return to the Utah National Parks. There are so many things we did not visit or get to see. It is truly the place for photographers, both amateur and professional.
"Natural Bridge" ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Agua Canyon Sign" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Call Her Captain" and "Live Your Dreams"

Our daughter, Alicia, is featured in the cover story for the Summer issue of the the South Carolina Honors College magazine, AHA! "Call Her Captain" is the title of the article. We are very proud because she has worked very hard on the way to become a pilot with a major airline. For a woman, that was not an easy road.

"You can be anything you want to be." 

Over the years, I've told that to my children and to the students I've taught. I like it that Alicia is promoting women in aviation. She encourages the little girls who fly with her to get interested in becoming pilots.

Alicia grew up in a time when opportunities for women were finally beginning. They no longer needed to choose between teaching or nursing.
I'm glad the little girl who dreamed of flying while she sailed through the air on the swing set in our yard has fulfilled that dream. I'm glad she was competitive and played football with the boys and participated in "Pass, Punt, and Kick" when the other little girls didn't.

"Live your dreams. Believe in your dreams." These are the words I have on the desk in front of my computer. What important words they are.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Zion National Park Features Overwhelming Beauty

"Journey to Zion" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Zion National Park is every bit as majestic, rugged, poetic, artistic, and overwhelming as I had expected. No wonder one of the first Mormon settlers stood in awe and gave the canyon, the name of Zion, a place of peace from the Bible. The massive faces of red rock rise high in spectacular formations that bring forth feelings of wonder and reverence in those who plod and climb the trails. The Virgin River over a few million years has carved out and sculpted the magnificent canyon that we see today.

How brave and daring the first settlers were to trudge into this terrain and become farmers of fruit trees, corn, and tobacco. What a magical place it must have been some 9,000 years ago when the first humans are said to have occupied the region.

"Virgin River View" ©Mary Montague Sikes
The altitude was a bit of a problem for us when it came to hiking the trails at Zion. Since we live near to coast of Virginia, basically at sea level, it takes a few days to acclimate to the higher altitudes, around 4,000 feet at the Zion Lodge which was one of the lowest elevations we encountered. That meant hikes were more tiring.

We enjoyed using the shuttle system which is free and operates from mid-March to late October. It runs along a six-mile scenic drive inside the park. Guests with overnight room reservations at Zion Lodge are permitted to drive inside the park, but no further than the Lodge during the months the shuttle is operating.

During our time there, we did the Riverside Walk which was easy, very hot, and scenic. We also took the hike to the Lower Emerald Pools which ends at the lower pool and three waterfalls. The trail was busy with crowds of visitors, most of whom were conversing in foreign languages (Russian, French, Dutch, and more).

Our last day at Zion, we took the Angels Landing trail which was hot but not too hard until the point where chains are built into the rocks to aid climbers to the top. I had read a lot about this trail which is paved part of the way and longed to journey there to take photographs.

"Along the Trail to Angels Landing" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Angels Landing" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Our visit to Zion was hot, exciting, tiring, invigorating, and memorable. Now I long to go back and photograph the things we missed. I can hardly wait to get back my art studio to start painting from my new reference photographs.