Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Landsford Canal State Park, 5/14/2017

Andrew Jackson State Park (SC) is a short distance (5 miles) from the home of our dear friends, Angela and John. This is the second time we have stayed there while visiting them. We had dinner together every night while we were there and had a blast hanging out together and catching up on each others' lives. 

Angela suggested an afternoon visit to nearby Landsford Canal State Park (Catawba, SC) where we could spend some time outdoors enjoying the natural beauty and historic ruins there. The 448-acre park is home to the well-preserved ruins of a canal system that made the Catawba River commercially navigable from 1823 to 1835. The channel runs for two miles parallel to the river and bypasses the rapids. It is the best preserved of the 19th century river canals in South Carolina and is the uppermost of the four constructed on the Catawba-Wateree River. 

The park was quite busy when we visited (Mother's Day) with families picnicking and enjoying the beautiful weather. Fishing, boating, playground equipment, and hiking are the primary activities here. 

We made a quick stop at the Gift Shop/Museum and then proceeded to hike 1.5 mile (each way) Canal Trail

The trail follows the historic tow path for the canal along the Catawba River. Below are photos of Angela and her husband, John, with my John and Sadie. (Sadie was very excited that she got to go with us as leashed dogs are permitted here.)

The canal was dug by hand, labor-intensive work! The commercial riverboats were long and narrow, so the canal was just wide enough to accommodate them. 

Water diverted to the canal flowed back into the Catawba River

The other unique aspect of Landsford Canal State Park are the rocky shoals spider lilies. The park is home to the largest known stand in the world! A flower species found predominantly in the SE of the US, the peak blooming season is May to June. The Spider Lily Overlook (along the Canal Trail) provides a great spot to see them. 

A resident pair of nesting bald eagles make the park their home. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one perched in a tree on the opposite shore of the river.

Several streams flow toward the Catawba River, and during the construction of the canal they were channeled under culverts like this one. This avoided damage to the canal bed. 

grist mill, built in 1810, was owned by William Richardson Davis. It was used to grind grain and saw lumber using water power

The Upper Lifting Locks were built using 16th-century design techniques. The locks enabled boats to overcome a 36-foot elevation in the river. Built with rough-cut stones and fieldstones, they were faced with finished granite (from a nearby quarry).

Passing through here was the most heavily traveled road in Colonial America that linked towns near the Great Lakes to Augusta, GA. The road followed ancient animal paths and trails used by Native American traders and warriors for centuries. 

When we reached the end of the trail, we retraced our steps back to the gift shop. We stopped for a few moments to check out the diversion dam (some remnants remain today). It was built of loose stones on the river bed. It did not cross the entire river, but was designed to keep a sufficient water flow through the canal when the river was low.

I was so glad we visited this park. It's the kind of place we love, natural beauty and historical significance. I never knew anything about river locks in SC during the 19th century. And the rocky shoals spider lilies are something to see! Check it out if you are in the area during May-June. It was a fun time with good friends. 

For additional information about Landsford Canal State Park, visit their website at

Stone Mountain Heights RV Park, May 6 to May 11, 2017

Rating:  3.25 on a scale of 5

Location: This RV park is just a few miles to the main entrance of Stone Mountain Park, the primary attraction in the area that we wanted to visit during our 5-night stay near Atlanta, GA. But it was also only about 15 miles from Atlanta which enabled us to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site and the High Museum of Art. We did have to make a u-turn to get to the entrance as there is a median dividing the road there. We driving through the QT gas station, so it was not a problem. 

Lot size: We had site #10, a full hook-up, drive through, at the front of the park. There was a large tree on our lot and a picnic table. There was little privacy but this was not a problem for us as we spent most of our time seeing the sites in the area.

The park is, however, quite large, and there were many nice back-in sites available in shaded and sunny sites. Many folks live here seasonally or full time. 

Amenities: The park has wifi, but no cable TV. We were able to pick up many broadcast channels due to our proximity to Atlanta. The laundry room had 6 washers (one large capacity) and 6 dryers, although there was very little space to fold. It was very busy when we did our laundry on a Wednesday, but served our purpose. 

Work was underway while we were at the park to open the pool. 

Cost: $225

Management: The office is closed on the weekend, so when we arrived Saturday around noon our information was in an envelope for us. When the office opened Monday, we paid the balance due and provided pet information (vaccination records and a photo of our dog.) I had called in advance to see if we could have mailed delivered to the park. I was expecting it to be delivered Monday or Tuesday, but it arrived Friday (before we did!) The office held it for us, which we very much appreciated. Overall, everyone here was friendly and helpful.  

General Comments:  This park accommodated our needs, but I did not give it a very high rating because it lacked ambiance and is located in a very busy area. We chose to stay here because the lovely campground at Stone Mountain Park is more costly. If I traveled here for a family vacation though, I would definitely stay at the Park campground.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

High Museum of Art, 5/09/2017

During our short stay outside of Atlanta, we decided to make an afternoon visit to the High Museum of Art. Located on Peachtree Street in Midtown, it is the leading art museum in the southeastern US with over 15,000 works of art in its permanent collection. When we paid our admission fee ($14.50/per) we learned that a 45-minute museum tour was starting in a couple of minutes. Our guide, Ellen, was very knowledgeable about art in general, and museum pieces in particular. It turned out we were the only ones on the tour, which was perfect!

Ellen provided us with the history of the museum and took us to select works of art. The Atlanta Art Association was founded in 1905. The prominent High family donated their daily home on Peachtree Street to house the collection in 1926. An additional building was built next to it to house the growing collection in 1955. 

In 1962, 106 Atlanta arts patrons tragically died in an airplane crash at Orly Airport in Paris while on a museum-sponsored trip. The French government donated this Auguste Rodin sculpture, The Shade, that is displayed outside in memory of the victims. Also on display outside is House III by Roy Lichtenstein (1997). 

In 1983, a 135,000 square foot building costing approximately $30M, designed by Richard Meier, opened, although only 52,000 square feet of the museum is display space. It is gorgeous with light streaming through the huge windows and is a division of the Woodruff Arts Center, the cultural district of Atlanta. 

In 2005three new buildings designed by Renzo Piano ($124M) expanded the museum's size to 312,000 square feet. There are interior walkways between the buildings on multiple levels. 

The High focuses on collecting the following:
African Art
American Art
Decorative Arts and Design
European Art
Folk and Self-Taught Art
Modern and Contemporary Art

Ellen, our museum guide, took us to the following works of art. She provided us with fascinating information about the artists and insight into their work. The first piece we saw on our tour with Ellen was this interesting still life featuring pears and peaches (very fitting for GA!) by Coosje van Brugger and Cloes OldenburgBalzac Pentanque (2002). Loved it.

These large ceremonial African masks are worn by dancers and held in place with a rope (clenched in the teeth of the wearer) near the bottom. Pretty amazing. Be sure to check out the video at the exhibit. Three Nwantantay Masks (1986-1987) were created by Yacouba Bonde and are typical of masks used by the people area. Also shown is this interesting painting in the contemporary art section is this painting, also showing a mask (although it is not covering his face). It is by Fahamu Pecou and is entitled Native Tongue/Oghe Oyeku (2015). 

This piece appears to be a piece of fabric, but is actually a cloth sculpture constructed of discarded aluminum from the necks and tops of local liquor bottles and copper wire. The artist, El Anatsui, says this piece represents a universal yearning for liberty and freedom. The title of the work is Taago and was completed in 2006.

Two more pieces we liked in the African Art section, is this Epa Headdress (20th century) from Ekiti, Nigeria, by a Yoruba artist. The second  (1950s) by an Igbo artist (also Nigerian) is a shrine sculpture for Mami Wata (mother or water). 

The relationship between good/evil and redemption/destruction are common themes of Anselm Kiefer's works of art. This piece (Dragon) portrays the delicate line connecting the night sky with the seashore of the constellation, Draco. In the German myth, the evil dragon can only be killed by the pure of heart. Note the heavy layering of paint in the lower portion of the painting. 

This life-sized horse of burned and crushed steel and barbed wire was crated by Deborah ButterfieldUntitled, (#3-95), 1985, She describes the form of the horse as a "stand-in for herself" (or self-portrait).

We took a walkway that afforded great views of Atlanta to see this piece in the Folk and Self-Taught gallery. This piece, Horse (2009) is by Gregory Warmack, aka MrImagination. Check out the dreadlocks constructed of bottle caps. What an imagination!

This white marble sculpture, The Veiled Rebekah (1864) by Giovanni Maria Benzoni is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen anywhere. The delicate carving of the veil is stunning. 

The last work of art Ellen, our guide, took us to see was this oil painting by well-known Impressionist artist, Claude Monet. Entitled Houses of Parliament in the Fog (1903), it represents Monet's penchant for representing the intangible, in this instance, fog. 

After thanking Ellen for her artistic insight, we continued our own tour of the museum. Below are just a few of our favorite pieces. 

Claude MonetAutumn on the SeineArgenteuil (1873)

Paolo di Giovanni Fei John La Forge, Untitled (1904)
                    Two Angels, St. Francis, And
                    St. Louis of Toulouse (1375)

In the 1830s, Native American leaders traveled to Washington, DC, to renegotiate resettlement terms with the US government (ultimately unsuccessful). The head of government affairs, Thomas L. McKenney, commissioned Charles Bird King to paint portraits of the proud leaders from 1831-1834. A fire in 1865 at the Smithsonian Institute destroyed almost all of the original paintings leaving only color lithographs of McKenney's historic work. 

Following are additional random pieces we also found interesting (basically in chronological order). 

Piano (1876) by HalleyDavis  Tall Clock (1860) by 
                      and Company, Boston Gustavo Herter

This fancy Secretary (1880-1884), William SWooton, was similar in design to those used by John D. Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, President Ulysses S. Grant (and others of wealth and influence).

Frank Lloyd Wright. Window (1912) 

Joseph Stella Walter Darwin Teague
                            Purissima (1927) Nocturine Radio (1934)

Mark Rothko, No.73 Jackie Winsor,  Double Bound
                    (1952) Circle (1971)

Judy Pfaff, Apples and Oranges (1986)

Ron Arad, Blo Void I Chair (2007) 

Jamie Hayon, Green Chicken Benjamin Rollins Caldwell,
                     (2008) Lightbox Benches (2014)

The Museum Gift Shop had lots of interesting items on sale, but I only picked up some postcards of some of the pieces we saw. 

We always enjoy a good art museum as we spend most of our time on outdoor activities. The architecture alone of The High makes a visit worthwhile. We do not normally do tours, but we enjoyed this one as Ellen provided perspectives I never would have imagined otherwise. 

For additional information about hours or operation, exhibits, or more of The High, check out their website at The museum is closed on Mondays.