Sunday, May 31, 2015

Flood at Chatfield Reservoir in Littleton

The month of May has been an excessively rainy one for Colorado this year.  It rained almost every day, and the high Rockies had snow showers all month long. It is the result of an El Nino weather pattern from the Pacific Ocean and is supposed to last most of the summer.  (All photos, and photo collages, in this post, will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

The good news is that the four years plus drought that Colorado experienced recently is over, the fire risk is low, and the rain has revitalized the forests and the grasses on the plains that had been affected by the drought, and has filled the reservoirs.

The bad news is the increased risk of flooding if this weather continues longer. As you can see in the photo above, the Chatfield Reservoir is flooded, six to eight feet over its normal level.

The Chatfield Reservoir and dam sits inside Chatfield State Park--a beautiful expanse of open land surrounded by the foothills. There are many miles of hiking and bike trails, a boating marina, fishing, horseback riding, camping, and much wildlife within the park. The reservoir and dam were built by the Army Corps of Engineers, as a response to a disastrous flood that occurred in 1965, and they own and operate it. In addition to flood control, it serves as one of the water supply sources for the city of Denver. Construction of the project was begun in 1967 and completed in 1975.

The dam measure approximately 13,136 feet in length, with a maximum height of 147 feet.

The water has a controlled release into the South Platte River on the other side of the dam.

Although it is sad to see many of the park's amenities flooded, as you can see in the photo collage above, I am glad that the reservoir and dam were built so that the combination of excessive rain and snowmelt is not causing the South Platte River to flood. Although the river is running high, so far everything is well controlled. It is sad to see the same storm system has brought so much flooding and loss of life in the state of Texas and Oklahoma, and the state of California which is suffering a severe drought is not getting any of this rainfall.  My house sump pumps have been working overtime, and I heard a couple neighbors, who did not have a sump pump, got some water in their basements.  When it rains heavily for hours, flash floods can happen quickly!

Even with the bad weather, there is still beauty to be seen. We spotted a couple of pelicans asleep on a log in the Chatfield Reservoir lake. They enjoy catching the large and small wide-mouth bass, crappies, lake trout, and walleye fish that live in the lake.   Over 200 species of birds live or migrate through Chatfield, which makes it a favorite destination for bird watchers.

In my neighborhood, around 7 miles away from the Chatfield Reservoir, we are seeing the creeks and gulches flowing heavily with water from all the rain and mountain snowmelt. Everything in our valley is so beautifully green from all the moisture.  New life is abundant in Spring, and along a trail I spotted a deer, lying under a lilac tree, who was about to give birth!

One thing for sure, a month of rain makes one yearn for and anticipate seeing blue skies and the shining sun to appear again! I will appreciate the beautiful weather of summer even more than ever this year.

How has the weather been in your area this Spring?

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The National World War II Museum

My husband and I took a trip to New Orleans in February (you can read part one and part two on these highlighted links, and a side trip to antebellum plantations on this link), and one of the places we visited was the highly acclaimed National World War II Museum. located in the central business district of New Orleans, Louisiana, at 945 Magazine Street.  Museum exhibits offer visitors an opportunity to experience the war through the eyes of the men and women who lived it. Interactives, oral histories, personal vignettes all add a very meaningful perspective to a visit.

(All photos, and photo collages, in this post, can be enlarged for easier viewing if clicked on)

As we were staying in a hotel in the French Quarter, we took a streetcar a few stops across town to the museum. As you can see from the collage above, the museum is ranked by Trip Advisor as the number 1 attraction in New Orleans, and as the number 4 museum in the country, and the number 11th in the world! You can see a model of the museum building in the lower right corner of the photo collage.
The 4D movie we saw on our visit was called "Beyond All Boundaries," narrated by actor Tom Hanks.  The movie is an optional feature, but I highly recommend it as a refresher to the history of WWII. It is shown in a specially built theater that makes the film "come alive" with many effects. A preview of this movie can be seen on this Youtube link.

The museum has been designated by Congress as the official WWII Museum of the United States. It is located on a 6-acre campus and presently consists of five soaring pavilions that house historical exhibits, on-site restoration work, a period dinner theater, and restaurants. The construction of two more pavilions is planned in the coming years.

Actual vehicles and equipment used in the war are on display in one of the pavilions... 

Some of the land vehicles on display...

...and some of the airplanes, used in the war, are also on display, hanging from the high ceiling.

An elevator takes you up to one of two levels, where you can walk along gangplanks and see the airplanes and other exhibits.

On level two you are at eye level with the airplanes...

 ..and level three you look down on the airplanes--it is a wonderful way to see their size and all their details.

There are also actual jackets worn by the WWII pilots of the airplanes on display, along with stories about the missions they flew.

Another optional feature we experience was the Final Mission of the USS Tang Submarine. in this intimate and personal experience 27 visitors per "patrol" are given a "watch bill" representing a specific crew member, and many will be "enlisted" to perform specific tasks to navigate through the battle. My husband and I manned the torpedo launches. At the end of the experience, the visitors will find out if they were among those lost or one of the few survivors of the sea battle.

The submarine fleet  made up just 1.6% of the Navy, but it destroyed more enemy ships than any other single type of vessel

Another feature of the museum is a "train ride" where you are picked up from your home town and sent off to report for service in the armed forces.

After disembarking the train you go to a kiosk where you get the "dog tags" and description for a soldier that you can now follow through the exhibits.

 The 3D walkthrough exhibits of the war-torn battle areas of both Europe and the Pacific were mesmerizing to the walkthrough! You find out the role the person, whose dog tag you carry, played in the war.  It makes the experience very personal.

There were many short films to watch and many artifacts on display

At the end of these exhibits, one could listen to actual recordings of WWII veterans telling their personal stories of their experiences in the war, in the Oral History Database.  You can also listen to a few featured on the web site on this link.  There was also a database for the Medal of Honor recipients of WWII.

All of the United States services were represented-- the Marines, the Army, the Air Force. the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines.

On this Memorial Day weekend let us remember the 407,316 brave men and women who gave all for our country during their service in World War II.

The number of deaths and wounded around the world of both military and civilians as a result of WWII is mind staggering. Let us hope and pray that there will be an end to all war. That all countries, religions, races can one day learn to live in peace!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

True Heroes

I am so very proud of my nephew Patrick--pictured on the right in the photo collage above--who participated on Sunday, May 17th, 2015, in the first-ever "Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb."  He and another 999 participants climbed over approximately 2,000 steps to go 90 stories high in the new One World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, that was built to replace the Twin Towers that were attacked and destroyed on 9-11-2001.  The participants were from 26 states and four countries, male and female, firefighters, military members, friends and family members of fallen first responders, among others.  My nephew was honoring his father, my brother, who was a New York City firefighter for almost 30 years. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was formed to honor Stephen Stiller, one of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9-11.  His heroic story can be read on this link.

Captain Billy Burke. photo source.

The Tower Climb was also in memory of firefighter Captain Billy Burke, who lost his life on the 27th floor of Tower One, as he was helping two trapped men, one of whom was in a wheelchair, trying to escape the burning building.  Tower Two had already collapsed and Tower One was soon going to do the same, but Capetian Burke told the other firefighters to leave, as he would stay with the men on the stairs.  His last words were: " Keep going, I'm right behind you."  Captain Burke's sister came from Florida to do the climb--you can read her story and see a video of how she trained for the climb on this link.

Building For America's Bravest video can also be watched on this link.

To participate in this event my nephew had to pay an entrance fee and he also fundraised to support the foundation "Building For America's Bravest" that builds smart homes" for catastrophically wounded soldiers, most who are double, triple and even quadruple amputees. The smart homes allow amputees to be able to live as normally as possible with their injuries. One such veteran, Army Sgt. Bryan Dilberian, a triple amputee, who lost both legs and his left arm, when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011,  joined in the Tower Climb today, climbing up the stairs on his prostheses! You can see a short video interview with him and read his story on this link. My nephew was very inspired when he saw Bryan climbing the stairs, and when he saw him complete the task!

Patrick has made my family proud before, as he is also a brave mountain climber when he is not teaching high school language arts classes, and being a loving husband and father of two daughters. I blogged about his ascent to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on this post.  He has since climbed Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Washington. He also entered the Tower To Tunnel race last year but a last-minute injury prevented his run.  Never-the-less, the money he raised for that event went towards the Tower to Tunnel Foundations' many wonderful charity causes.  Patrick made the 2,000 plus step Tower Climb climb in 27:28 minutes, accomplishing his goal of doing it in under 30 minutes. Patrick, you are a true hero among heroes!  We are so proud of your accomplishments!

If you would like to donate for this very worthy cause, Building For America's Bravestyou can do so on this link. These men gave so much and deserve our support to help live the rest of their lives as functionally as possible in a handicap accessible home of their own. The waiting list for such a home is so long--please consider helping these true heroes.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Oak Alley and Evergreen Plantations

Beautiful Oak Alley Plantation is an antebellum sugar cane plantation located in Vacherie, Louisiana, at 3645 Highway 18 (Great River Road), along the Mississippi River.  It is one of the most popular and most photographed of the Louisiana plantations, due to its alley of 300-year-old live oak trees that line its front entrance. It is a mystery who first planted the oak trees, that long ago, but their canopy of branches has made this one of the most dramatic entrances to a home along the Old River Road.  (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

The back entrance to Oak Alley Plantation.

During my husband and my visit to New Orleans this past February (see post Part 1 and Part 2 to read about our experiences in New Orleans), we decided to take a side trip to visit a few plantations. We booked through The Old River Road Plantation Adventures company, and they picked us up at our hotel early one morning on their tour bus.  The driver/guide was a very interesting man of Cajun descent who was a wealth of information on all topics related to New Orleans, and the plantations we were going to tour, telling us about Code Noir, daily plantation life, slave auctions, customs of the day, Creoles and life in antebellum New Orleans. He kept us entertained with many stories as he drove the approximate 40 minutes towards Vacherie.

The Oak Alley house was originally known as Bon Sejour and was built in 1839 by Jacques Roman, where he lived along with his wife Marie Therese and children. until his death in 1848 from tuberculosis. His wife and then oldest son managed the estate but lost everything after the Civil War and they put the house up for auction in 1866.  It had successive owners and by 1925 was purchased by Andrew and Josephine Stewart. who were able to produce sugar cane again on its grounds.  When Mrs. Stewart passed away in 1972 she left the house and grounds to the Oak Alley Foundation, which opened them to the public.

We went on a half-hour tour inside the house. led by a guide in era costume.

 Portraits of the first owners and period furniture and accessories on display inside.

More views inside the house and of the porches and grounds.

Evergreen Plantation is located at 4677 Highway 18, in Edgard, Louisiana. The plantation includes 37 contributing buildings, all but eight of them antebellum, making it one of the most complete plantation complexes in the state and in the south.

The main house was constructed in 1790 and renovated to its current Greek Revival style in 1832. It was a privately owned operating sugar cane plantation until the depression in 1930 when it became bank-owned.

It also has several alleys of stately live oak trees on its grounds, although they do not lead up to the front of the house as they did in Oak Alley.

The Evergreen trees were draped with live moss that gently swayed in the wind.

Among the outbuildings are a separate kitchen, two "garconniere" where young bachelors of the family or guests could stay, two"pigeonnier" for keeping pigeons, which were a sign of status among the plantation holders, an overseer's cottage and late 19th century barns. We toured the inside of the house, but photography was not allowed.  You can see photos of the interior at this link.

The most haunting of all are the 22 original slave quarters arranged in a double row configuration.

Here, African slaves were housed, two families to a cabin. They labored in the sugar cane fields and in the big house for the plantation owners until they were emancipated after the Civil War. After the Civil War freed African Americans continued to work on the plantation and lived in the quarters until 1947.

One of the homes was open to the public.

All that was left inside was the bare floor and walls and dividing the fireplace in the middle. 

Outside this cabin were informative placards that describe the roles the African slaves served on the plantation, the archaeology project held here, along with...

...the history of the antebellum era and the role of the freed African Americans. Click on the photo collages to enlarge them to read this interesting information.

It was sobering to think about how human life was bought and sold in those days, and of the lives of those who lived here.

After visiting the two plantations we had lunch with our group, and then our Louisiana Plantation Adventure guide dropped us at the optional Cajun Pride Swamp Tour. The boat tour guide was a native Cajun who told us many fascinating stories about growing up and living on a bayou. This swamp is privately owned and is now a wildlife refuge. The guide told us about a terrible hurricane in 1915 that swept through this area, where many unidentified bodies were buried right where they were found, along the shore of the swamp.

Unfortunately, the weather was too cool for the alligators in the swamp to be active, but we did see some interesting wildlife:

We witnessed a dramatic struggle between a fish and a Cormorant bird, that went on for quite a while. The bird was victorious and eventually swallowed the fish whole!

We were also amused by quite a few raccoons who followed along the shore as the boat passed by.

They were obviously hoping someone would toss them a treat!

Taking a peek into life, both past and present, along the mighty Mississippi River in Louisiana were very enjoyable, and a nice side trip to take when visiting New Orleans. As the song says: Old Man River certainly "keeps on rolling along."  

Before we left New Orleans we visited the new National World War II Museum. I'll share highlights of that visit on my Memorial Day blog post, coming in a few weeks. In the meantime, I want to catch up on our life back in Colorado. We have snow for Mother's Day again this year, but thankfully the weather will return to the '70s and low '80s in a few days and I think that will be the end of frost until the fall.

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