Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wine and Wandering Ways

On Sunday I met with my friend Kelly to visit a winery in Markham that we'd not been to before. It was tucked away behind the railway line and had no signs directing it from the main road. I'd spotted it a few months ago when I came across the tiny village for the first time. We'd packed up cheeses, salami, crusty french bread, knives, plates and napkins and hoped they would let us have our picnic while drinking one of their bottles of fine wine. Wineries rules on this vary from place to place but since there are so many of them in the area our plan was to try this one first and if they didn't allow food to be brought  in, well, we'd simply move on until we found one that did. Luckily they had no issues with this and indeed we noticed quite a few other folks who'd brought their lunch with them. I spotted hummus, cream cheese, crackers, fruit and even a Subway sandwich on other tables.
We decided to try tasting all of their wines and by the end were feeling quite a buzz. Some of them were superb. I particularly liked their Pinot Grigio, a wonderful apple wine, superb for mulling or adding to apple pie, and their most expensive, the 2009 Limited Reserve Tannat, a smooth, velvety heavy red wine which had me licking my lips and wanting more, but at $79 a bottle it would remain a dream. We finally decided on their 2008 Buddy's Bistro Red, a lighter fruity red wine loaded with flavor. We picked an outdoor table and spent a lovely time eating, drinking and chatting while enjoying the views. Their website is here.
We later left feeling sated and happy and decided to check out another winery on the other side of Delaplane. Unfortunately it was closed but we were almost in Rectortown so made for that little place to walk our lunch off.
As we later drove back to Marshall we stopped at an old abandoned house which I pass going to and from work every day. Getting out of the car we walked up the hill to peer through windows and open doorways. A neighbor from across the road came over to chat. Ivas told us the house had been empty for about 15 years. he'd grown up watching the old place which had been built by hand, brick by brick, even mixing the mortar, by the family that had owned it.
 He told us a story of it once being the local party house and being prevented by his father from going over there, only to look out the window later and see Dad walk up the driveway with a sixpack in hand. It had quite a reputation back in the 70's and 80's but when the owners aged and finally passed away, the children argued over control. The poorer country kids wanted to patch it up and live there but the rich city kids wanted to sell it and didn't want them living there. A stalemate ensued and the place stood empty, slowly being taken over by the vines, creepers and local wild animals. Ivas has been watching it crumble and doubts that is really worth saving at this point. What a shame.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Ghost Ships of Mallow Bay Revisited

On Saturday Barb and her friend Tomas joined me for a kayak exploration of the Ghost Ships of Mallow Bay. I visited these 4 years ago by crossing the Potomac since back then it was really the only way to access them. Now a park area has been created by the hulks with a boat ramp and kayak launch making it much easier to see them. We were a little early as the tide was still quite high. The water would not drop as low as my previous trip because of the full moon, this affects the tides, but we were still confident of seeing quite a few of the ruins. We had some time to kill and decided to paddle down the coast to look for fossilized sharks' teeth, something I've wanted to do for years. As we paddled out of the still bay water into the river we met up with two other kayakers who were river keepers making their way on a 9 day journey from DC to St. Catherine's Island. Click here for the link .The guy on the right in the top photo on their page is the one we spoke to who greeted us joyfully telling us we were the first kayakers they'd seen since beginning their journey.
Again my trusty iPhone was my only camera and I used it for all photos and video on this blog in its waterproof case. It's only shortfall is that the zoom is rubbish so I was unable to get photos of the beautiful bald eagles we saw sitting in the trees by the river and soaring overhead.
We landed on a small stretch of beach and set to scouring the sand, shells and small pebbles for the elusive sharks' teeth. We weren't really sure of what we should be looking for, so many images on the internet looked different and we had little concept of their size.
Tomas found a stone that we thought was a pretty good representation of a tooth but soon we were picking up driftwood, pieces of metal and anything else that caught our interest. I took a short video of the water washing over my phone, click here. We sat and had lunch and then noticing that the tide was turning we decided to head back towards the shipwrecks.
The water had calmed down a lot since we first started and the going was easy. We passed another small beach area where we saw a family of upturned rear ends and guessed they were also looking for shark's teeth. Tomas decided to paddle towards them to ask what they looked like and Barb and I both followed. We were glad we did, these guys were experts in their field and were finding a lot of them. Within a few minutes Barb had one and touched me by saying I could have it, knowing I was desperate to have one. I asked her if she already had some, and she said yes, at home, some that she'd bought! There was no way I was taking her first find from her and I really wanted to find my own but they were eluding me. Tomas found one too and I wandered down the beach wondering if I'd ever be lucky too. But soon enough I spotted a black shard poking out of the sand and having found my first was soon picking up others, as excited as if they'd been chunks of gold. Yet time was against us and we had to leave if we were to see the ghost ships before they were once again covered by water with the rising tide.
I found nine in total and keep them in a metal 'pot' which I'd found earlier on our first beach. We wondered if these may have come from the ship wrecks and been washed down river.
We got back to the ghost ships and the water was low enough to paddle around these lonely majestic hulks, timbers jutting out of the water with huge metal poles studding the water.
I paddled around slowly. It was hard work in some areas as the weed was thick, clinging to my paddles, making them heavy. I was pleased to see this, meaning that any boats with rudders would be unable to get close, and therefore ensuring it would not be too heavily populated with visitors. I saw some other kayakers and was amazed to see them skirting the perimeter of the wrecks and not venturing in to explore. Their loss.
As I made my way slowly alongside them they reminded me of vast skeletal remains of huge beasts, with rib cages poking into the air.
There's 3 great links below to articles explaining the ship wreck, the biggest in the western hemisphere, and possibly the world.
Ship Graveyard Immortalized in Water
The Sordid Story of the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay 
Fossil Guy's Trip 2005
And here is a video link:

I also knocked up a video  and that can be seen here.

The water was slowly rising and the hulks started to disappear from view, almost as though they were sinking once again, or dropping below the surface as though going to sleep. As I pulled my boat up on to the ramp I wished them a silent, 'Good Night".

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Stroll in the Meadow

On Sunday I had a very odd urge to clean the house so I went along with it for a few hours until it wore off and then thought a more leisurely activity was more fitting for Sunday, the Day of Rest. So Kota Kat and I went out for a walk.
Kota feeling very happy with life. We strolled around the fields, him enjoying jumping through the tall grass and chasing butterflies while I took photos of flowers and the bugs that were enjoying them Bugs, Heidi, bugs!.
All the photos below were taken and processed on my iPhone. I still can't get over how amazed I am with this gadget.