Wooden canoes in the Adirondacks

What a beautiful way to escape the mid-July heatwave – a week in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains with our canoe friends.  The annual gathering of wooden canoe enthusiasts took place at Paul Smiths College, a beautiful wooded campus that overlooks St. Regis Lake.

So much takes place at this annual family event.  We enjoyed a guided tour of White Pines Camp, a restored Adirondack Great Camp that once was the summer White House of President Calvin Coolidge. It is a magnificent rustic compound of comfort built a century ago.  This photo is of a serene tea house on the camp nestled on a tiny verdant island with spectacular views of the lake and surrounding pine forest.

There are plenty of activities for kids at Assembly. Jim lead a Geocaching Adventure for the kids and they had a blast looking for the hidden caches around the campus.  After learning how to set coordinates on the GPS and how to use a compass, the kids were rewarded with a treasure full of glow sticks which they used to light up the fort they had built in the woods on the hill.


A wildlife expert from the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center led a canoe tour of Barnum Pond and the adjacent bogs filled with exotic plants such as wild orchids and pitcher plants.  Loons called out with their distinctive tremolo, and we parked our canoes at the bog edge while our guide got out and jumped on the bog to show the massive form of plants and trees sway back and forth over the water it covered.

Our favorite paddle of the week was with friends across Lower St. Regis Lake to Spitfire Lake, out to Upper St. Regis Lake and then a short portage to Bog Pond and another to remote Bear Pond.  A bald eagle looked down upon us from his perch in a tree before flying off over our canoes.  A family of loons kept their two babies close to them and shared the lake with us as we picnicked from our canoes.

And as always, we enjoyed seminars, conversation and campfires with our canoe friends from all over the USA and Canada.  Jim and Betsy took photos of the annual Paddle By and Salute which is a parade of beautiful wooden canoes.  (See the full Flickr album of the Paddle By).  We were all treated to a birling (log rolling) demonstration by the students taking the summer Lumberjack course.  One student put on his protective metal shoes and leg guards (that looked like the tin woodsman) and chopped through a 2 ft diameter log in about 5 minutes.

Below are a few of our favorite photos from this year’s Assembly. Many more photos of the Adirondacks and events from Assembly are posted on another Flickr album (click here).

The Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is a non-profit membership organization devoted to preserving, studying, building, restoring, and using wooden and bark canoes, and to disseminating information about canoeing heritage throughout the world.  To see photos from past WCHA Assemblies, click here.

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Eastern State Penitentiary


Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.  Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.

The Chester County Camera Club enjoyed a visit to experience and photograph this fascinating piece of history.  Betsy had fun creating “ghost images” of inmates of the past.

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Longwood Gardens

One of the great gardens of the world, Longwood Gardens provides more than a thousand acres of beautiful landscaping and spectacular floral displays.  Located in the historic Brandywine Valley in Chester County, Pennsylvania, it includes a 4 acre conservatory that features spectacular seasonal plants and flowers as well as year-round displays of orchids and cacti.  Fountains, unique treehouses and a carillon tower add to the experience of Longwood Gardens.

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Grounds for Sculpture


A treasure of fascinating sculptures set amidst beautifully landscaped gardens is less than a hour from Philadelphia.  Grounds For Sculpture is a 42-acre public sculpture park located in Hamilton, NJ. It was founded in 1992 on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds by J. Seward Johnson to promote an understanding of and appreciation for contemporary sculpture for all people.  It includes a wide variety of amazing sculpture, with many surprises awaiting visitors as they explore the grounds.  Walkways and woodland paths wind throughout the park, with a variety of sculptures tucked away in unpredictable places.  And there are quite a few friendly peacocks strutting throughout the grounds, including an amazing white one.

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Philly Graffiti

There is an abandoned coal pier next to the Delaware River in Philadelphia that has become a continual canvas for graffiti artists.  Beautiful spray-painted archways lead down to the water and a view of the Philadelphia skyline.  We joined fellow members of the Chester County Camera Club on a cold winter morning to try to capture some of the beautiful street art.  So enjoy it here, as it will never appear the same again as new colorful designs continually cover up yesterday’s art.

To see more photos from our previous visit, as well as some Icelandic Graffiti, click here.



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Sailing and Sea Turtles

Two days after our son Kenny graduated high school in 2007, the Wilson family went on a wonderful Hawaiian adventure. On one of our days there we joined the crew of the Alii Nui (Hawaiian ruling chiefs) for a snorkel sailing adventure and sailed toward a place called Turtle Town.  As soon as the sailing catamaran came to a stop we saw a large sea turtle  swimming at the surface.  We donned our snorkel gear and fins and jumped in.  Almost immediately we saw green sea turtles. They were very big and slowly swam by us – we could follow them until they dove down too deep.  Back on board we enjoyed a delicious lunch of fish, chicken, salad and fresh pineapple along with complimentary wine and beer.  It was a great day!

We then stopped at the Maui Ocean Center which featured numerous displays of exotic fish and sharks. A naturalist taught us how to say the name of the Hawaiian State Fish: “Hunuhununukunukuapua’a”

For more pictures and to see the rest of our Hawaian adventure, including a bike ride down a volcano and swimming with Manta Rays, click here!

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Halloween in New Hope

Expect the unexpected in New Hope any time of year, but be prepared for scary and amusing (and sometimes disturbing) sights when the leaves start to fall and Halloween majic is in the air.  Of particular creepiness is a collection of hand-painted dolls by local artist and photographer Queen Morbid.  These disturbing and twisted dolls are on display at craft gallery Mechanic Street Mugs on Mechanic Street. PA. The dolls may be gruesome, but the owner and his dog are quite friendly!

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Keene Pumpkin Festival

Keene Pumpkin FestivalEvery October in Keene, New Hampshire.  Local families and visitors from afar are all welcome to participate by bringing a carved pumpkin to display at the Keene Pumpkin Festival. Rows of bleachers line the main street and hold thousands of jack-o-lanterns.  And at the town square, a huge scaffold is erected to hold a tower full of pumpkins. Last year there were 16,186 lit jack-o-lanterns- quite a sight!



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Brightside Garden

We live in a beautiful area of Chester County, Charlestown Township.  There is a community garden at Brightside Farm, and for a nominal fee, residents can get a plot that has rich soil, plenty of sunshine and water. It is a lot of fun to watch the vegetables and flowers grow, and a great place to meet friends and neighbors.  The variety of plants is amazing!

The garden is maintained by volunteers, and  we helped out by making the signs.  Jim cut up some old picket fencing, and Betsy hand-lettered the names for 53 garden plots.

This year for a project for the Chester County Camera Club, Betsy made a wreath of flowers from the garden, and hung it on one of the old barn doors at Brightside Farm.  It only lasted a few days, but we really enjoyed the colorful display of summer!



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Wooden Canoe Assembly

There is no display of  canoes that can rival the abundance of elegant, historic and finely crafted wooden canoes as there is at the annual Assembly of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. Every summer, about 300 canoe enthusiasts and family members gather together for four days to learn about and enjoy these beautiful boats.  The Assembly features workshops and programs on canoe building and restoration, paddling skills, wood canoe history, kids’ programs, group paddling excursions and lots of friendship and fun.

This year’s gathering was at beautiful Paul Smith’s College set on the banks of the Lower St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks. All the beautiful canoes are set on the lawn overlooking the lake to be enjoyed by all.  And there is great paddling right from the campus.  We enjoyed a canoe trek to Keese Mill and Black Pond in search of loons, and a guided paddle with a naturalist on Barnum Pond and Heron Marsh. The sunset over the lake during our evening paddle was accentuated by the call of Redwing blackbirds and the soulful tremolo of the loon.

A favorite activity of the kids is the annual “hands on the teepee”.  Each year a different color hand print adorns the giant canvas teepee set up on the green.  There are quite a few handprints from Kenny and Alex from years past!

The winds kicked up during the day and presented a challenge to get across the lake.  And the winds did not cooperate for the final evening which resulted in cancellation of the annual “Paddle By” canoe parade.  The photos of the Paddle By in our album are from last year’s Assembly. But that did not stop us from enjoying music and laughter with lots of friends at a campfire overlooking the lake.  It is always bittersweet to say good-bye to our paddling friends from all over the country and Canada (and one from England!) but we know we will see them and share canoe trips and laughter once again next year.

The Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is a non-profit membership organization devoted to preserving, studying, building, restoring, and using wooden and bark canoes, and to disseminating information about canoeing heritage throughout the world.

For a  complete gallery of photos, check our webpage under Events.  And there are more photos from this year’s assembly as well as past years on our Flickr Page.

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