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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The C&O Canal Towpath - an Easy, Work-Related, Day Hike

For the vast majority of posts on this blog, I’ve avoided posts about work.  Sure they work their way in from time to time, as they did when I traveled more often – see the "road trips" label, where I wrote about my Japan trip or my last Yosemite trip, for example; but still it’s an infrequent occasion.  And I would never have expected to do something blog-worthy at my current position, as a program manager on a construction site…

We have started working in earnest on some storm water management concerns, and for two or three months we’ve known that we were going to have to follow our watershed channels down to the C&O Canal and the Potomac.  That day finally came a few weeks ago on a Friday – we’d planned ahead so we could dress appropriately for a hike into the woods and potentially into some muddy areas.

Our plan was to walk the canal towpath to see if
we could find any locations where our streams might have crossed under the canal.  Some historical resources say that when they designed the canal, their plan was to cross over streams rather than incorporating them into the waterway.  We walked for a kilometer or so and didn’t find any features of that sort.

From Google Earth we had seen that the natural route of our channel entered the Potomac just downstream of the Little Falls Dam and pumping station, in the little waterway that is set up as a kayak course.  After we had explored the towpath, we walked down into those areas, but we literally came up dry in our search for an outfall.

Our next stop was to drive up to Glen Echo Park to see if we might hike back into the canal area with more success of finding our objectives, but the whole property there is fenced in, so we had no success.  We did enjoy a brief walk through there, and I took a photo or two of the carousel.  By coincidence, we met some of the NPS employees that we have been working with on this project and had a good chat with them about the project and its potential impacts.

We went back downstream and parked near Lock 7, again walking a short way down the towpath to get a sense of whether our outfalls passed under the canal – we didn’t find any evidence of this, but it was interesting to check out the old lock houses as we walked by them.  Apparently, if you are a brave soul, you can stay in these facilities overnight.

Eventually we found what we were looking for, but we had to bushwhack a parking place and then go into some brush.  Our outfall runs down a steep hillside in the Palisades, and runs into a culvert, through a tunnel, and then exits after passing under Canal Road.  The culvert dumps onto a paved streambed, and then goes into a plunge pool to take its velocity down; then it finally makes its way into the canal.
Our mission was accomplished at last, after a total of about 2 miles of walking with negligible altitude changes.  We had found the route of our stormwater and the location where it enters the canal, although we didn’t expect to find exactly that scenario.  We were able to take a look at the condition of our stream and make some judgments on the work we need to do upstream in order to manage our runoff.  That is going to be a fun part of the project coming up.

By the way, there is a NPS link here with the official information about the C&O Canal National Historic Park:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SFO Touring Day 2, Part 2

After our refreshing pints at 21st Amendment, we got back on the road.  The pace of our touring may have me remembering things a little bit out of order.  We headed directly across the peninsula, through the Haight District, past the Panhandle, and then to Golden Gate Park. 

There is a small island there that Brian enjoys visiting, and he wanted to show it to us – plus it was convenient to the Beach Chalet so we could stop in there if needed…which we did.  The feature of the island is a collection of wildlife, including raccoons, squirrels, and a host of birds, perhaps including the “Wild Parrots of San Francisco,” but we didn’t see any that day, neither up in the Presidio nor in the Park.

We took some time enjoying the botanical displays and the old windmill, and headed over to the beach.  The Chalet was too crowded, so we headed up the hill to the Cliff House, which I had visited with Brian back in 2010.  We walked down from the new parking lot and visitor center at the top of the hill, above the Sutro Bath ruins.

It just happens that the ruins are one of my favorite sites in San Francisco, and I was glad for the chance to look them over.  Brian and I had spent a couple of hours checking the place out in 2010 – there’s an old blog post here:  If memory serves, we also made our way down to the Cliff House for refreshments that time as well.

We grabbed a spot in the cafĂ© and had some beers and Popovers(!) – I think all three of us share a passion for this pastry.  The Cliff House is one of the few places I know us where they are always available, so we had some.  Also, since Mary likes to make them from time to time, we picked up a pack of their mix – Brian had sent us one a while ago, and we had them for breakfast…now we have a pack at the ready for another batch sometime!

Refreshed, we rolled out to our next stop, Coit Tower, a must-see tourist sight.  Traffic was a little backed up, so Brian let us out while he waited in line for parking, and we walked up.  We enjoyed the view, but didn’t take the time to check out the restored murals or go up in the towers, since we’d seen them before.  Seriously, the view is enough to make the stop worthwhile, and Brian arrived just in time
after we’d finished a walk around the summit. 

It was getting on towards dinner time, and we’d planned to drive down to North Beach to take a walk and then enjoy one of the restaurants there.  It was a beautiful evening, and diners and strollers were out in full force.  We chose a place and had some wonderful pasta dinners, then walked a short way for dessert at an espresso joint.

There are lots of shared memories about North Beach, Mary and I had been a few times and remembered the espresso place from one of our visits.  Of course, Brian has been to many of the places up there, so we enjoyed talking about fun times there.

Dusk was upon us, and Mary and I needed to get back to East Bay.  Brian offered to drive – much appreciated – so we got to go across the new Bay Bridge (hey, I even have a post on that – right here:

There’s an old saying that San Francisco is everybody’s second home town.  As far as American cities go, that is definitely true for Mary and me, and we’re lucky to have friends there who call it their actual home town! After a full day of sightseeing, we had fully refreshed our memories of the place, and at last the vacation was over – all that was left to do was to drive down to San Jose the next morning for our flight home.

Monday, July 28, 2014

SFO Touring Day 2, Part 1

The neigborhood garden at Portrero Hill.
Busy work week last week, but now I’m back to finish up with a final few posts about the trip Mary and I took to Northern California in May. Today my post will follow-up on the two days we spent touring around San Francisco – I wrote about the first day already, and I’ve also posted about the fine breakfast we had to start day 2, which we spent under the oversight of our most excellent tour guide, Brian. 

Brian and I were stationed in Berlin together during our Air Force days.  He also keeps a blog, and although I’ve linked to his post about the day we spent together before, I’ll go ahead and refresh our rememories here:  A read of that post will let you know that he is a skilled and experienced tour guide, and however much we paid for the experience it was well worth it, and I’ll have to recommend him again for any touristas that would care to join him.

After Dotties we got on the Streets of San Francisco for some sightseeing in earnest, and made our first stop at a fun building that doubles as an art project.  The structure was rendered unstable and unoccupiable in the 1989 earthquake, and the owner has never made the seismic upgrades that would be needed to put it back into use – at least that is our theory.  There are installations of furniture on the exterior walls, perhaps stuff that was left behind inside of it, and Brian tells us there’s always something new.  This time it was a sort of frieze of old piano parts.

From there we went to the Portrero Hill neighborhood, where there is a street that is just as crooked, but less well traveled, as Lombard Street.  We took a look around, and discovered a fantastic community garden at the top of the hill.  We spent a lot of time admiring the garden patches – and a fantastic urban view of the Mission and Castro districts.

Our next stop was over to the Mission District, by special request.  Our friend Cathy used to live in the neighborhood there, and she hosted us a few times in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, so we asked to drive through the area for old times’ sake.  We stopped at the house for a minute and then walked over to Mission Dolores Park, and we checked out the Golden Hydrant.

Surprisingly, Wikipedia doesn’t have an article about the hydrant, so I want to make a note of it here.  Apparently, the pipes connected to it didn’t break during the 1906 earthquake, and it was used to save the neighborhood and mission.  It’s worth a stop for the view across the park and to pay respects, so we did just that.

By now it was past noon, and we’d begun to feel the need for refreshment.  Brian took us down to the 21st Amendment Brewery – again, by special request – and we sat outside to enjoy a pint of Hell or High Watermelon, an occasion that I dutifully recorded in a previous blog post here:

As I am writing this, I am recalling how indulgent Brian was as a host, and there are a few more stops I need to write about.  I guess I’ll stop here for the day and pick it up here tomorrow!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dottie's on TV

I wrote about Dottie's True Blue Cafe this morning, and as I mentioned in the post, Mary's and my visit was not the first time I'd been there.  I was in San Francisco in the summer of 2010 and met up with Brian for breakfast when Dottie's was located in the Tenderloin District.  Here's a link to Brian's post from that trip.

Now, the place has also been featured on the Food Network - also at the former location.  In that episode, they showed how the chili was made - and the dish that comes out at the end looks great...may have to get by there for lunch sometime!  Here's a little YouTube snippet:

Back to Dottie's

I reckon I still have four or five posts left to make from our vacation to the west coast back in May.  So today I'll check off one from the list - after our drive up to Mendocino and our first day back in the Bay area, we'd arranged to meet one of my Air Force friends, Brian, for breakfast and sightseeing.

Brian keeps a blog called Breakfast at Epiphany's about his exploits at unique breakfast joints in San Francisco.  On the one hand, having ready access to so many fine venues is great, but on the other, there are so many great venues so it can be hard to choose which one to go the end, I recommended that we join him at one of his favorites, and one I'd been to with him before - Dottie's True Blue Cafe.

Dottie's is famous for a couple of things - great breakfasts are the primary one, and there are menu items and daily specials on a big board.  It also was famous for its location in the Tenderloin District, although it has moved to a new location recently - still in the Tenderloin.  Finally, it's notable for the long lines outside - often people will wait for an hour or more to get in for breakfast there!

When we arrived via a short walk from the BART station, Brian was already waiting in line there.  So we had maybe 20 minutes or so to wait until we could be seated.  I was really impressed with the new location - more seats, looks like a bigger kitchen, and all that.

The line outside is still a colorful experience, too, although not quite as entertaining as it had been before.  I suppose that is going to strike some people as a good thing, and some as a bad thing.  Different strokes!

After we were seated and had started catching up, Brian gave us the orientation briefing about the menu and the board.  He's written so often about ordering the specials that we all did just that - Mary and I both chose the Sweet Potato Tart, and Brian picked the black bean cakes (I think they are a favorite).  Money shots follow:

Breakfast at Dottie's simply doesn't disappoint.  I'd go there quite frequently if I lived in San Francisco...I think I might even make excuses to have business meetings there on weekdays.  And as a matter of fact, Brian has already been back there on his rotation since we made our trip to Dottie's together!

Meanwhile, here' a link to his blog post about the day - I'll have another post about the rest of our activities together soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Update - Backyard Hops in Alexandria

Last year, I planted two rhizomes, one each of Goldings and Willamettes. The Goldings produced a few cones, but not many - and that was okay because it was a first year plant.  The Willamette didn't produce any cones, although it and the Goldings bine grew to well over six feet tall.

This year, I transplanted both of those bines, and I added another Goldings rhizome.  The transplanting must have been tough on the plants, however - the Goldings especially.  Even the second year plant is doing worse than it did in its first year, and there are no cones.

The Willamette, on the other hand, has produced a cone or two, but these are not well formed and they are small.  There aren't enough of them to do anything with anyway - I am only seeing a half dozen or so.

I think that I may take these out to Hawksbill Cabin and replant them somewhere so that they can be a decorative plant.  I'll restart my hopyard with some Cascade rhizomes from Dan - his are doing so well.  And although I don't have any photos, our friend Bill has a robust little hopyard going too, from Dan's rhizomes.