Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spruce Knob - High Point of West Virginia

We planned a trip to West Virginia: (a) because we'd never been there; and (b) because this appeared to be a good time to catch the fall colors in this beautiful state. The state high point is Spruce Knob, 4,863 feet, in the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and Monongahela National Forest, one of the more beautiful parts of the state. And state high points are something I'm interested in. 

It was October 24th, a little late in the fall color cycle, but many of the leaves were still on the trees. We left Sutton for an approximate 2 1/2 hour drive to Spruce Knob. In Riverton, a dot on the map and not much more than that on the ground, we took a paved side road which indicated that Spruce Knob was 12 miles. I was not optimistic of making it all the way. Our drive so far had been a mixture of drizzling rain at times, which turned into snow at higher elevations. I was pretty sure our two wheel drive compact car would get halted by snow and icy conditions at the higher elevation. As we drove, the two lane road transitioned into a one lane road and we felt like Israelites passing through a sea of hard-wood trees. Both on the way up, and the way down, we stopped many times for "just one more picture" of the fall colors that were so breath-taking. 
Two lane road heading up into the mountains.
Amazing fall colors.
Now a one lane road and a joy to drive.
As we get higher, snow starts to accumulate on the ground.
As I feared, the drizzly rain turned into a steady snow as we got higher and the beautiful fall leaves were either covered up by or knocked off the trees by the snow. Heart in mouth, I drove on, fearful that the next bend would present roads too slick or too covered with snow to continue any further. Several times I thought we'd about gone as far as we could, but we kept going. 
As we got higher, we found more snow and fewer leaves on the trees.
More and more snow was sticking to the road.
Hard-wood trees transitioned to spruce. 
Finally, 11 miles up the road we had a turn off to Spruce Knob (the main road continued on to a lake), one more mile to the summit. The road got a little steeper and the snow accumulation greater. Our little car, the engine that could, kept going and we were not slipping and sliding and finally made it. 
Looking at Spruce Knob from the road.
The summit is not a bare point of rock towering over the surrounding terrain, but a parking lot, with an outhouse, some trash bins and a sign welcoming you to the state high point and pointing you to an observation tower 900 feet distant. Spruce trees (thus "Spruce Knob") surround the parking lot obscuring any views, I guess creating the need for the observation tower. 
At the summit.
Judy opted to stay in the car, as the temperature was 24 degrees and snow was covering the ground. I opted for a quick walk to the tower. What views there might be on a clear day were shrouded by the clouds, but I did get a beautiful view down on the snow draped spruce below. For a Southern Californian that does not get into snow often, this was magical. 
A nice place to be when it is 24 degrees outside.
Not the first one to be here today. But we were now alone.
An interesting transition from rocks to trees.
Summit observation tower, framed by spruce.
Looking down on the spruce from the tower.
On our drive back down the mountain we ooed and awwed and stopped for many more pictures and I saw what appeared to be a fisher or mink cross the road. I got out of the car to investigate and saw it go down a hole just off the side of the road. 

We stopped near Seneca Rocks, 20 miles from Spruce Knob, to view the beautiful sentinel from a distance, but opted to continue on as we didn't have time to do any hiking if we wanted to do justice to our last destination. At Seneca Rocks, it was sunny and the temperature was a balmy 47 degrees. What a difference a little elevation can make. 
Seneca Rocks
We drove another 33 miles to Blackwater Falls State Park and into an even thicker snowfall. Fortunately the falls are just a short distance from the road down a nice trail. The falls were magical viewed through the lense of dense snowflakes. It felt like we were inside a little snow-globe and someone had just shaken it. You can see from Judy's hair that the snow was accumulating pretty fast. 
Trail down to Blackwater Falls overlook.
The canyon walls covered in pines and snow.
Blackwater Falls viewed through a living snow-globe.
Christmas come early. One of Santa's cute elves. 
A respite from the falling snow.
We stopped for a view at Pendleton overlook and got a gorgeous view of the Blackwater canyon. 
Blackwater Canyon from Pendleton Overlook
Then while Judy stayed in the car, I opted to hoof it to Lindy Point, supposedly 10 minutes down a four-wheel drive road. I walked 25 minutes without reaching it, and turned around in order not to incur the wrath of my sweetheart waiting in the car.  But again, this Southern Californian enjoyed the walk through this magical white forest with the gently falling flakes and the peaceful surroundings. It felt like Narnia, where is the lamppost? There is nothing quite like the first snow of the year, when the colors of fall are enveloped by the newly fallen, soft, snow, before the snow turns to ice and sludge and bitter cold. 
The road to Lindy Point.
Transition from fall to winter.
A creek crossing made more difficult by low-hanging, snow-covered boughs.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Red Leicester Cheese

Red Leicester is cheese made from cow's milk with a reddish color from added annatto, a vegetable die made from the husk of the fruit of the annatto tree which is found in South America and the Caribbean. Red Leicester was originally made in Leicester, England, starting in the 17th century. The added coloring was originally provided by carrot or beet juice and was a way of distinguishing it from cheeses made in other parts of England. There are no legal requirements that it be made in Leicester, or even England, and there are apparently versions of it produced in North America. Leicester, where I spent a little time as an LDS missionary 37 years ago, is the same area that Stilton is made. Red Leicester was originally made from surplus milk once all of the desired Stilton was made, as Red Leicester has a longer shelf life than Stilton. Red Leicester is made in a similar manner to cheddar, but it is more moist, crumby, and mild. Most counties in England had a cheese using the county name. Counties in the south and southwest of England usually had recipes evolving from Cheddar cheese, such as Gloucestershire. Counties in the north of England usually had recipes evolving from Cheshire cheese, such as Lancashire. Leicestershire cheese, which Red Leicester was originally called, was sometimes described as a cross between Cheshire and Cheddar cheese.
I got the cheese from Trader Joe's. It was made in England and had added chili and red bell pepper. The chili and red pepper provided even more of a reddish tint than pictures of Red Leicester without those ingredients I've seen on the internet. I found it very soft, with quite a bit of crunch from the bell pepper and a little bit of heat from the chili. The traditional Red Leicester is made from unpasteurized milk, and this was not, but likely because of U.S. regulations making importation of unpasteurized cheeses difficult. It is aged anywhere from 3 to 12 months and I am assuming this is on the lower end of the scale as the age is not listed. I enjoyed it, but it is not a cheese I would jump on regularly. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos - Sarajevo

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the Serbian Orthodox cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus, used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Sarajevo
It is difficult to get a photo of the entire building because of surrounding structures.
The prominent bell tower is front and center, the central and larges dome is just visible to its right and three of the four corner domes are visible. 
Close-up of the bell tower.
More of a side photo.
Construction started in 1863 when Sarajevo was part of the Ottoman Empire and it lasted for eleven years. Most of the construction cost was paid for by local Serb merchants. Russian Tsar Alexander II sent craftsmen to help with construction of the iconostasis. The iconostasis is not finsished: there are still many empty spaces where icons need to be placed. It has five domes, one central and four on the sides, one on each corner. The central dome is the largest of the domes. However, the tallest part of the cathedral is the belfry, or bell tower, which is over the entrance to the cathedral and is centered at the front of the cathedral. There was unrest among the Muslim population when the church tower rose higher than many of the Sarajevo mosque minarets. Dedication of the church was postponed a year because of security concerns as a result. The dedication took place on July 20, 1872. The original roof was made of lead, but during World War II Austrians removed it and replaced it with sheet metal. Later it was re-roofed with copper. Damage from the Bosnian War was repaired using funds donated by the Greek Republic. 
Judy with the iconostasis behind her. Note the openings still waiting icons. 
Staircase leading to a pulpit.
Looking into the central dome.
The altar behind the iconostasis.
Painted decorations.
Variations in decorations on a corner.
Decorations on the underside of an arch.
More corner decorations. 
Ceiling decorations below the dome. 
Wonderful and varied marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
An icon on the iconostasis.
Icon on the iconostasis.
Icons on the iconostasis: Jesus and John the Baptist.
Stained glass window
Stained glass window
Stained glass window
Stained glass window - St. George and the dragon.
The history of the Orthodox church in Bosnia & Herzegovina began in 1219 when Saint Sava founded the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Eparchy of Zahumlje and Herzegovina was part of it. The Ottoman Turks abolished the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1463. It was restored again in 1557 by Suleiman the Magnificent and abolished again in 1766. From then until 1880 the Orthodox in Bosnia were under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At that time, it appears they may have been part of the Patriarchate of Karlovci. Then in 1920, after World War I and the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, it was once again under the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

Sarajevo is a place of convergence of a number of major religions: Islam, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. Like convergent tectonic plates, which are the centers for earthquakes and volcanoes, Sarajevo has seen its share of civil upheaval over the years. 
A building across the street from the cathedral showing un-repaired bullet holes.
Another building across the street from the cathedral with bullet holes. 
As a result, Sarajevo is sometimes called the "Jerusalem of Europe" or the "Jerusalem of the Balkans," much like Jerusalem in Israel which is also a place of convergence for the same religions, as well as Judaism. For a long time Sarajevo was the only major European city to have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue in the same neighborhood, which is the Old Town or Bascarsija. I have done previous posts on Sacred Heart Cathedral and Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in the Bascarsija area of Sarajevo. We also tried to visit the Jewish synagogue in Sarajevo, but it was the Sabbath and we could not get in. 
Sarajevo Synagogue, across the Miljacka River from the other church buildings mentioned above.
The cultural mix is what makes Sarajevo so fascinating, so varied.