Monday, November 29, 2010

“Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” Walks to Canada


In the last entry, I shared with you my experience at Niagara Falls. My journey did not end there though! My dad, sister, and me were filled with enthusiasm as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge which was our gateway into Canada. We did not use an automobile, but made the transit by foot.

I shall give two words of caution in case you also decide to make the same journey. First, check the weather forecast for that day before crossing the long bridge by bike or foot. (It looked clear when we started, but an hour later it started to sprinkle.) Second, make sure to bring change. It is currently $0.50 each way for pedestrians or those traveling by bike. We missed this important information and found ourselves lacking a quarter to reenter the USA! Thankfully there was a store nearby where we were able to get change.


The beautiful Rainbow Bridge was our key into Canada. We bypassed all the traffic by using our feet! The construction of Rainbow Bridge started on May of 1940 and was opened on November 1, 1941. The bridge abutments are 50 feet above water to avoid damage from ice in the winter.

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Welcome to Canada! Just grab your passport and push the door that says ‘Canada’ open. After approval from the authorities, you are free to pass into the country.

Canadian mountie Double decker bridge

Above to the left is a Canadian mountie and to the right is a double decker bus.

My visit to Canada was an unique experience and a chance to learn more about the country’s history. I learned that Canada is the second largest country in the world! It consists of 10 provinces and 3 territories. The current population of Canada in November of 2010 posted by Wikipedia is 34,600,000. The two official languages spoken in Canada are English and French.

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We had a great view of ‘Horseshoe Falls’ from the Canadian side. The water is so pretty with its greenish hue! The falls are a great source of hydroelectric power. The hydroelectric power produced in Canada is sold to the United States.

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When we spotted the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory, we just had to take a look. We shared some laughs as my dad picked up a giant 5 pound chocolate bar and pretended to take a bite. 

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In the photo above stands Elizabeth Mann writer of “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” in front of The Secret Garden Restaurant. I can just imagine that posted in a travel magazine! Who would of guessed that there was a Secret Garden Restaurant in Canada? It is a great place to stop while visiting Niagara Falls in Canada.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Niagara Falls State Park in New York

falls favorite

For every person there is something that stirs within them a thrill and a passion to do great things. This is what I feel when I travel or take on a new task. To go to new places, try new things, and dare to be adventurous is what moves the adrenaline through my body. I was made to be active and not passive. Not every day is adventurous and life is bound to be mundane at times, but when adventure comes your way embrace it.

I felt that thrill when I stood at the edge of the railing overlooking Niagara Falls. I had been there several years before, but somehow this was different. I seemed to have a new appreciation for this natural wonder. Time has not taken away the sense of awe over even the small things, but this was so much better than what I remembered seeing so long ago. The roar minimized the sound of my voice and it rang in my ears as I stood gazing at it.


Three thousand, one hundred and sixty tons tons of water flow over the falls every second. All that weight creates the roar that I heard. The falls are capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity. Niagara Falls contain the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and part of the Canadian Falls. The water from Niagara is used by both the United States and Canada for drinking, fishing, industrial cooling, and hydroelectric power generation. It is no wonder that in 1885 it became a national historic landmark.

The American Falls are 70-100 ft. (21-30 m) high depending if boulders are present at the base of the falls. The height is small compared to the width which is 1,060 ft. (320 m). Looking over the falls, I noticed that the water’s hue is a bit greenish. This is not a mysterious happenstance, but occurs through the process of salts and minerals dissolving from the fall’s power and thus being swept away unmercifully.

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Another key part of the attraction is Prospect Point Park Observation Tower. It allows for a trendy and modern way to view the falls. It is 282 ft. tall and has 8 million visitors annually. Now that is pretty incredible. Another option to view Niagara Falls is to go on The Maid of the Mist boat tour It is available for anyone who is adventurous and doesn't mind getting wet. Ponchos are a must unless you want to be soaked! The boat tour closes in late October, but reopens in May depending on the presence of ice.


To get another perspective, I walked to the top of the falls with my family. The walk up the stairway was a bit slippery and mist spewed forth from the grand waters (This is when a poncho would really comes in handy). When my heart beat quickened and the water’s thundering noise filled my ears. The changing colors of the trees increased the thrill of the experience. In this instance, I was not fearful of feeling small. It was quite the opposite for in feeling small it made God feel so big and gave me even more reason to be grateful that I can trust him in all things.

Traveling has taught me two things. Be flexible and be ready to embrace those spontaneous moments. Not everything needs to be planned. It is often the unplanned moments that we treasure most. Our mind goes back to them again and again to relish in the joy they brought us. That is the the beauty of memories. We can remember them whenever we please. So be ready to capture those spontaneous moments and when they do happen be prepared to enjoy every second of it. For it is those moments that make up what we call life.

Bible Verse to Ponder:      Jeremiah 17: 7-8

Blessed [is] the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and [that] spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Read about more of my adventures!

My book contains 38 tours of state parks, national parks, gardens, butterfly conservatories, farms, including Niagara Falls! Each tour page contains photos, facts , and a personal review of the attraction. I’ve used my own photos to make the pages come alive. To support my work, you can purchase a copy or click the Facebook generated “Like” button.

United States book cover

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge in Georgia

amicalola falls

Amicalola Falls State Park is one of Georgia’s most popular state parks. The dazzling 729-foot waterfall has helped the park to become one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders. It is no surprise that the Cherokee Indians named this waterfall Amicalola which means “Tumbling Waters”. After a powerful rain storm, water pours over the falls edge in a continuous stream. The falls tumble and weave through the hardwood forests until it descends over the ledge at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The forests surrounding the falls include 2,050 acres owned by the park.


The park includes more than eight miles of trails plus an Approach Trail that leads to the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail. Each trail varies in difficulty and length to provide for the different desires of hikers. We decided upon the shorter West Ridge Falls Access Trail (0.3 miles) to view the falls. For the more ambitious, their is a set of two staircases with 604 steps that escalade to the top of the falls.  

tire trail 2 tire trail

The West Ridge Falls Access Trail is made up of ground industrial tires. That is great for the planet and easy on the knees. The path can easily be repaired by adding more rubber. (Click on the sign above to enlarge.)

pick up truck 

You never know what you will discover when hiking in the woods. We saw this old pick-up truck that had crashed among trees! It remains a mystery until this day. It may have been a truck from the 1940’s that was speeding in attempt to get away from the police or it might have been smuggling moonshine. It is fun just imagining the possibilities!

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Amicalola Falls offers a variety of accommodations.  You can stay in a cottage, campground, or the lodge which has modern conveniences including internet connection. The lodge also has the Maple Restaurant that overlooks the Appalachian Mountains and serves country buffet style food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We stayed in the lodge and reserved the loft bedroom. The room had a bird’s eye view of the mountains.



After dinner at the Maple Restaurant, we decided to go out on another hiking expedition. We were in for a surprise when my brother spotted a Luna Moth resting on the ground! Luna moths are nocturnal creatures so it was exciting to see one when it was still light outside. It is also interesting to know that Luna moths are rarely seen due to their very brief (1 week) adult lives. I will never forget this special encounter.

Psalm 19:1  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Butterfly Fest at University of Florida in Gainesville

butterfly fest sign

ButterflyFest is a yearly festival hosted by the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida, which is home to the incredible Butterfly Rainforest exhibit. This year’s event was October 23-24, 2010. Next years festival will be October 22-23, 2011. Learn more at there website.


ButterflyFest is a free event that is dedicated to increasing awareness of Florida’s butterflies. The festival had many fun activities and vendors. The Festival had food vendors, nature books for sale, local honey, butterfly art and jewelry, and even a plant sale. In addition to all these activities, the festival invited speakers including Chip Taylor from Monarch Watch. For a fee, several different workshops were offered this year.

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The plant sale was a lot of fun. It was hard to choose which plant to buy! The butterflies and bees led the way and I finally chose Echinacea (photo to right). It is a great herb to have because it boosts immunity and fights infection. The photo to the left is Blanket Flower which is a native wildflower.

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Both butterfly host and nectar plants were sold at the plant sale. The right photo is wild lime, food plant for the Giant Swallowtail. The photo to the left is Anise Hyssop which is valued by many species due to its nectar value.

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Inside, the McGuire Center’s public exhibit showcases thousands of preserved and photographed species of moths and butterflies. It has every specimen imaginable from the largest of all moth species to the shimmering winged Blue Morpho.


This table inside showcased different species of butterflies and moths in stages ranging from egg to caterpillar and even an emerged Polyphemus moth.

moth viceroy


At ButterflyFest, I was able to meet the artist and author Mindy Lighthipe who I am friends with on Facebook. She specializes in watercolors with botanical and natural science themes. Her paintings were showcased at the Florida Museum of Natural History during ButterflyFest. I was amazed by the intricate details exhibited in her paintings of plants and butterflies. She uses live specimens, her own photography, and microscope dissections as a reference for painting.  Lighthipe lives in New Jersey and runs an art school called Studio 16.

Mindy Lighthipe’s website:

Mindy Lighthipe recently published a children’s book called Mother Monarch. It is about an adult female Monarch who faces various struggles during her quest for a milkweed plant to lay eggs on. The book is beautifully illustrated with her own watercolor paintings. Mindy Lighthipe was signing books at ButterflyFest and she signed mine as well.