Author Archive for Roy Barnes

Unique Hiking Experiences Near Spokane, Washington

Iller Creek Conservation Trail Credit Roy A Barnes

With a drought plaguing much of the U.S., it was comforting to be able to go back to the Spokane area and see lush and lively greenery plus more of Mother Nature’s offerings.  I hiked three areas easily accessible from Spokane, being challenged on one, getting quite a nature lesson during another, and acting on my love of railroads in yet another.

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Exploring Spokane’s Historic Spots, Part I – Downtown Heritage

Spokane Clock Tower and River

As a mining, agriculture, and forestry hub, beginning in the late 19th century, Spokane has played an important role in shaping the Pacific Northwest, despite being overshadowed by other cities in the region like Seattle and Portland.   But I found that the city offers so much colorful history and character via its downtown and three of its residential neighborhoods.  In this first part, I’ll share with you what I found exploring the vibrant downtown, where history comes alive at the turn of many corners.

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The Positively “Off Key” Aspects of Key West

Key West Sunset

In Key West, I found a place where its quirky aspects made it very memorable amidst all the sailboats, warm and breezy tropical conditions, outdoor cafes lining the city’s main drag Duvall Street, where the words “I’ll have Key Lime Pie” are uttered over and over.  The following aspects resonated more with me than the typical tourist quest to find “Margaritaville.”

Why did the Key West Chickens cross the road?

Key West RoostersI soon found out while walking in Old Town that one doesn’t just share sidewalks with droves of locals and tourists wearing shorts (whether they look good in them or not), but many other two-footed creatures who have ditched their short shorts altogether — chickens.   While these fowl have been around for almost two centuries, their numbers especially grew in the 1950s after Cubans fleeing their homeland brought them for use in cock fighting and food consumption.

Chickens multiplied over time after cock fighting was outlawed and grocery stores provided easier access to eggs and poultry.  The roosters don’t just crow with the sunrise either, as I found out at 2;30 a.m. in my hotel room.   Nonetheless, there’s been an uneasy tolerance for the chickens’ presence here because they do feast on pesky insects, even though they have irritated many locals because of where they choose to poop, trespass, etc.  This has resulted in various plans and schemes to deal with them over the years in what’s been called the “Great Key West Chicken Controversy” or “Key West Chicken Wars.”

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Exploring the Castles of North Wales

Caenarfon Castle

The country of Wales may only be the size of Massachusetts, but just like its counterpart across the pond, every nook and cranny is full of history.  500-plus castles can be found in this part of the United Kingdom, in various degrees of disrepair and/or restoration, often seen on the hillsides as one speeds down the busy motorways.   I explored four unique castles, and came away amazed at the history and atmosphere of each venue.

A sense of déjà vu at Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle from a High Tower Credit Roy A. BarnesThe coastal city of Conwy, about 45 minutes drive from Manchester’s airport, proudly displays its old medieval walls, many of which can be walked on like that of the Great Wall of China.  And more conspicuous than the walls is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Conwy Castle.

It was built by Edward I from 1283-1289 at great expense (some £15,000 – equivalent to £15 million today) to help serve as one of his “Iron Ring” castles that helped to keep the English safe in Wales while fortifying his new empire there. The exterior and interior walls remain relatively intact, and I found them to be quite an experience walking through the various rooms from the king’s chamber, dining hall, kitchen, and prison.   I felt as if I were back in medieval times, especially when I went inside the castle chapel, where the soundtrack of Gregorian monks was playing in the midst of displays about Christianity’s role in that time.  I also was fascinated by the countless arrow slits carved into the walls, expecting a shooter to be taking aim.

Two fortified gateways and eight towers help make up the grandness of this place.  Four of them contain high towers where I got stunning views of the city, sea, and Conwy Mountain.   And as I walked up the spiralling staircases to get those views with only the help of ropes to keep me from falling, I could feel a sense of “home sweet home” in each part of the structure.

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The Canton of Luzern is Steeped in Legendary Views and Stories

View along the Enchanted Zyberliland Trail Credit Roy A Barnes

The city of Luzern is just a 45 minute train ride from Zurich, one that I found more than worth the effort when experiencing much enchantment and stunning views of the waters and mountainous regions surrounding it.

The Entlebuch’s Enchanted Plums

Residing west of Luzern is the Entlebuch, about 35 minutes by train at the stop called Schupfheim.  It’s made up of eight villages and spans some 154 square miles and contains many of the Alps’ rolling foothills:  roughly one per cent of Switzerland’s land area.  One fourth of this area is now protected moors (highland marshlands), which exuded a pleasantly eerie feeling amidst the fog, making me wonder if any monsters were lurking there.

The first settlers here came in the 11th century, but for the last two centuries, one passed-down fairy tale has captivated the locals involving a plum-like fruit called the Zyberli.  It’s featured in a five year old-plus German book Zyberli-Gschicht.  As a big fan of children’s stories, I got to visit this land, where, according to the story, little people known as the Bargmandli used to pan for gold for their valley masters (Talherrens), and in return for making the latter rich, they would receive the Zyberli fruit.  But this would end as the egotistical Talherrans chopped all the fruit trees down so they could build bigger thrones for themselves, making the little people leave, leaving the Talherrans without more gold.

I started out on the three mile circular trail in the town of Romoos at the Hotel Kreuz, and soon came upon a newly planted Zyberli tree on a lawn.   My path then took me outside the town center to the Forest Gate, where I would then embark on long and winding dirt roads that were wet with dead leaves from a steady drizzle, which I navigated with my walking pole, opening and closing many gates.

Little feet symbols were plastered along the trail to make sure I didn’t get lost, leading me to such places as the school for the Bargmandli, where actual kids convene to get lessons on acting responsible in the forest amidst beautiful and peaceful surroundings that include a natural babbling brook soundtrack.

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