Wordless Wednesday: Georgetown in early fall


Enjoying the canals and streets of Georgetown in Washington, D.C., last weekend

And that final shot? The top of the famous stairs from “The Exorcist”!


Advertisements

Beauty in an unlikely place

Lush flowers and greenery.
Stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.
Seagulls flapping gently overhead, their calls muffled by the bay.
Gorgeous expanses of water lit up at dusk.

You’d never know you were . . . at a former prison.

The remains of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, in fact — one of the most infamous buildings in the world.

I didn’t expect our ferry ride to the island to include such gorgeous vistas, but nearly everywhere you looked was a beautiful and unexpected scene. In fact, some of my favorite photos from the trip — which included Yosemite and Sequoia national parks — came at a spooky jail.

Who knew?

I think it was all about the juxtaposition for me. Side by side are beauty and dreariness, pain and hope.

Side by side

Side by side - cell and bird

Located just over a mile offshore of the city in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island was once home to the iconic high-security prison once believed to be “escape-proof.” A little family research on my dad’s part discovered relatives who served time at Alcatraz before it shuttered in 1963, and it has served in many capacities both before and after its life as a penitentiary.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986, Alcatraz is now primarily a tourist attraction — and a very popular one at that. We took one of the last boats over on our recent trip and were some of the last off the island before darkness fell. I couldn’t believe the crowds and wandering tourists; I was among them, of course, and the place was cool, but all this attention for a former prison?

It’s a mythical one, though. And in addition to its storied history, the property today is surprisingly beautiful. The gardens were impossible to ignore. Roses, succulents, lush grasses and fruit . . . exquisite! blooming! This purple thatch of flora is visible from the shore, and I had no idea what it was until we got almost close enough to touch it. And totally by accident.

You never know where a random door will lead you.

Main Alcatraz

Purple flowers

Sources note the gardens were once planted by families of the original Army post and later tended by prison guards’ loved ones, but the grounds became wild after the prison officially closed. They’re now being restored by staff and volunteers, who have even discovered original plants still growing where they were planted — 100 years ago.

Alcatraz garden

Rose garden

Skyline II

It’s an interesting place. A creepy place. A spot with a fascinating history — one that extends all the way into the present. My dad has become something of an Alcatraz scholar, and judging by the crowds? He’s not alone.

Tower and flag

Bright blooms

Admin Building

Just, you know, wouldn’t want to spend the night there.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Mirror Lake, Yosemite

Mirror Lake view

Rocks at Yosemite

Up at Half Dome

Beneath Half Dome

Mirror Lake II


Despite being far from outdoorsy, we managed to hike a mile up to lovely Mirror Lake in Yosemite — a gorgeous spot reflecting Mt. Watkins, Tenaya Canyon and more. As the lake becomes more of a meadow (or dries up completely) in summer, we were lucky to find it still flowing in late May.

And speaking Yosemite (are we ever not speaking of it?), Monday actually marked 150 years since the Yosemite Grant was signed by President Lincoln — an action setting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove aside for the State of California to preserve and protect, a first from the U.S. federal government. The grant established the groundwork for the creation of Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. Yosemite officially joined the ranks in 1890.

Just a bit o’ history for you. Happy Wednesday, friends!