Catoctin Mountain Park

I recently went hiking with some friends at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland.  I had never been before, but had always thought about going as I would drive by the entrance on my way to Cunningham Falls.  It was MLK Day weekend, so entrance to National Parks was free, but it looked like the park doesn’t charge for entrance anyways.  Also, just as an FYI, they close the park road during the winter so you can only park at the Visitor Center and hike up the trails from there.

So we started at the Visitor Center and hiked up, up, up to the Thurmont Vista.  The vista is like 600 feet up the mountain with a beautiful view of Thurmont, MD.  During the summer you can drive up the mountain and park closer to the vista, which would allow you to avoid the 600 foot, one mile climb.

Here are my pictures from the hike:

Mossy Green Hillside
Enhanced Hillside
Trail to Thurmont Vista
Snack Break at the Vista
View from the Thurmont Vista
Me and the Vista
Hiking Girls
Summit! LOL
Trail options
Sun and Shadows on the Mountain
Greenery in the Winter

DC Monuments Under the Full Moon

FDR Memorial

I recently joined the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group.  I had been following their events on for a while and finally decided to attend their 4 mile Monuments in the Moonlight social hike.  They organize their hikes into groups by pace.  I was having trouble deciding which pace I should do, moderate or social?

As I was standing there at the meeting spot in the crowd of 90 people, I still wasn’t sure which group I wanted to be in.  But the leader pointed out an area for the photography group to stand.  I walked straight to that point in the grass with my new Nikon.  I didn’t realize there was going to be a photography group on this hike and I was very excited.  I had purchased a digital Nikon before my trip to Europe last month, but I had no idea how to use most of the features.

The lady that was to lead the photography group had an extra tripod that she let me use.  I hadn’t taken good pictures with a good camera properly since high school and I was excited to get back into it.  I was very lucky she had an extra tripod, as it is very hard to take good night time pictures without one.

I ended up having a blast!  It was a chilly night with a breeze, but it was clear skies with a bright moon.  A perfect night to walk around the National Mall.  The other members of the group were very helpful and taught me how to use my camera.  Without further ado, here is my attempt to get back into photography:

National Monument, Washington, DC
Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol Dome
Photography Group in the Soup Line at FDR Memorial
Korean War Memorial
Stone of Hope – MLK Memorial
Mountain of Despair – MLK Memorial
TJ Memorial
Tidal Basin & the Monument
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Side Patio of the Lincoln Memorial
Full Moon and the Monument, from Lincoln Memorial
Vietnam Memorial
Vietnam Memorial and the Monument under the full moon
The National Monument
Full Moon and the National Monument
Gifts & Cafe
Lincoln Memorial

A Very Full Day in Venice, Part 1

I woke up to the noise of the water bus shifting gears outside my window.  My bed was gently shaking from the loud boat activity outside.  I popped out of bed and ran to the window to take in my view again.  Ahhh, Venice!
Please note the pretty graffiti flower.

I met two of my roommates while eating a quick brekky and we decided to find our way to St. Mark’s together.  I was delighted to follow the auzzie guy with a map, while the girl from Quebec, Eve and I took pictures as we walked down the sunny yet crisp Venetian alleyways. 

We were following signs for the Rialto at first and it turned into a bit of a game to find the signs and the correct direction to take at every turn.  Sometimes the sign is a plaque high up on the wall of a building and sometimes the word Rialto is spray-painted on the ground with an arrow.  It’s not uncommon for scaffolding to be covering up the sign you’re looking for, as a lot of these ancient buildings are being renovated. 
We turned a corner into a small square and I smelled fish.  Lots and lots of fish!  We had arrived at the fish market, which is right next to the Rialto Bridge.  We wandered through the fish market and then the veggie market, which are right on the Grand Canal. 
Mercado de Pescado

As we walked by a fishing boat, a fisherman threw out a box of small fish on the sidewalk and the seagulls came from every direction for a feeding frenzy!  Those fish were gone in 60 seconds.  The fisherman was entertained that my new friend and I were taking pictures of the scene, so he threw out another box of fish for our entertainment.   We smiled and waved to him and headed up and over the famous Rialto Bridge.

The bridge is not very pretty because of the stores built on the middle of it.  The bridge is iconic and a landmark in the city, but it’s not my favorite bridge.  It provides a nice view of the canal, and it’s one of the only ways to cross the Grand Canal when you’re in that section of Venice, so I guess it’s important, but ugly just the same.
Me on top of the Rialto Bridge


We began our hunt for S. Marco signs after the bridge and found ourselves in the sunny Piazza San Marco in no time.  We were in awe of the size of the square and the buildings around the square compared to everything we had just walked past in the rest of the city.  Venice is not a city for the claustrophobic, but Piazza San Marco can provide relief from the small alleys and squares in the rest of the city.
Venetian Masks – for masquerading.

Eve finished up her sandwich before we could go into St. Mark’s basilica.  As a joke she threw bread crumbs at our feet so the pigeons would jump at us!  Very funny!

At this point, there is a gap in my camera pictures, because inside the basilica you are not allowed to take pictures, which we respected.  It’s a very beautiful church with beautifully patterned marble on the wall, which almost had a psychedelic appearance.   The floors are extremely worn out marble mosaic, with tiles sinking in.  In fact, the floor is very uneven, so keep your eye on where you’re going.  This is good advice if you’re as clumsy as me…


Next stop was the Doge’s Palace.  I skipped paying to go up the Campanile tower and walked towards the beautiful opening of the piazza looking out on the beautiful Venetian Lagoon.  It was a beautiful sight with blue skies and lots of sunshine.  Across the lagoon you can see St. Maria’s Basilica to the right and the Abbazia Benedettina church off to the left on Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore.  There are usually lots of gondolas lined up here to take you around under the Bridge of Sighs, which is a covered bridge that takes you from the Doge’s Palace to the prison, which I was on my way to see.
I walked in and paid to get into the Doge’s Palace.  I decided this was my one touristy thing for the day that I would pay for.  Coming from Washington, DC where almost everything touristy is free, I was having trouble adjusting to all the fees in Europe to see the sites. 
I won’t walk through the palace step by step, because it’s huge, it’s beautiful, and you have to see it for yourself.  Also, it would be boring to hear me talk about it all, but I’ll tell you about my two favorite rooms.
Me and the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile Tower.

First, was a room with maps of the world all over the walls and two gigantic 5 foot globes in the middle.  I stood and stared at these centuries old maps of the world and took note of the ancient interpretations of the shapes of the continents and the former designations and territorial lines for the Americas.  I would love to have copies of some of the maps in this room.  Not to mention, a 5 foot leather hand painted globe of the ancient world?  How cool is that?

Second favorite room, was the The Sala del Maggior Consiglio, which is a very large hall, with beautiful paintings on every wall and the ceiling.  It’s just gorgeous and you can imagine it full of Venetians doing important things back in the day.  For a 360 degree view of the room, try this link:
After going through the entire Doge’s Palace and prison, I was tired, but I didn’t feel like stopping and resting.  I wanted to see the Santa Maria basilica, partially because it’s free and also because it’s on a peninsula with a beautiful view of the water on all sides.  So I grabbed a spinach calzone with sesames on top and ate it while I walked all the way to the bridge I needed to cross to the other side of the canal.
Saint Maria’s Basilica


I walked by Peggy Guggenheim’s museum and then found myself at the basilica on the peninsula.  I was exhausted!  I looked at my map and realized that I couldn’t have walked any further away from my hostel at this point.  So I tried to pick the most efficient route back to my hostel, but in Venice there is no most efficient route, unless you have a boat.  I guess I could have sprung for a 10 euro boat bus ride, but I wasn’t sure which boat to get on… I found the map of the boat bus system to be very confusing.
A girl at my hostel had told me she doesn’t even pay for the bus, because no one checks your ticket.  She just hops off and on, but I didn’t even know which boat to hop on and didn’t want to end up in Morano or something.  So I hoofed it back towards my hostel.  As I passed through a churchyard I ran into a Canadian dude from my hostel.
Boy with a Frog, at the tip of the peninsula.

I smiled and said hello and he asked what I was doing.  I explained that my legs were turning to jello and I needed to find the hostel and rest.  He walked with me a bit of the way, helping me with his map, but we split up when he go near a church he wanted to see.  He tried to convince me to come in and go up the tower for the best view of Venice, but I couldn’t muster the energy to consider it.  I trudged on towards my hostel and eventually collapsed on my bed.

Me and the view of Doge’s Palace from Saint Maria’s
It was late afternoon and I knew I needed to rest for some Venetian bar hopping I wanted to do that night.  So I rested with little thoughts of Venetian spritzers in my head.  Olives, Aperol… zzz…