Dog Mountain Road Trip – Day Four (June 2, 2022)

Today’s the day the others were leading up to . This morning at 10:00 AM, Sweet Potato and I arrived at Dog Mountain.

Artist Stephen Huneck made a name for himself with woodcutting artwork featuring dogs. After a serious illness, he had a vision to build a “Dog Chapel” as “a place where people can go and celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs.” When he and his wife passed away, their family and friends turned created the Friends of Dog Mountain organization to preserve the land as a place where people can bring their dogs.

That’s where Sweet Potato and I spent our day.

Dog at the Dog Mountain entranceway.

Dog Mountain has three main attractions:

  • The Stephen Huneck Art Gallery, where you can purchase his artwork.
  • The Dog Chapel, described as “a symbol of peace, love, and remembrance.”
  • Hiking trails, where you can enjoy hiking with your four-legged friend

There are also picnic areas, a dog agility course, and an “Angel Dog Scenic Overlook.”

Sweet Potato and I made a quick visit to the art gallery and made a small donation to help support the enterprise, from there, we headed over to the Dog Chapel.

The Dog Chapel is a small two room affair. The main room has four pews, stained-glass windows, and a cadre of wood-carving dogs at the front. The stained glass window at the front features an “Angel dog”, the other windows, three on each side, feature a dog from one of Huneck’s art pieces, and a single word naming an attribute of what dogs bring their owners.

It’s a non-denominational affair (“All Creeds, All Breeds, No Dogmas Allowed”). It’s a sacred place for a dog owner.

The walls of the chapel are adorned with photos of beloved dogs and notes their owners have left. Along with Sweet Potato, I was also traveling with the memories of three other dogs. Fonzi, the dog I shared with my brothers. Wylie, the first to become my dog. And Maxtla, the first dog Amy and I got together.

I have no photos of Fonzi, but I left photos of Wylie and Maxtla, plus one of Sweet Potato to be added to the collection.

After our visit to the Dog Chapel, Sweet Potato and I headed out on the hiking trails. I allowed Sweet Potato to choose our adventure.

There are three main trails running around the property. The blue trail is the easiest one, and is the most directly accessible. We completed about 95% of that trail before coming across one of the entrances to the yellow loop.

The yellow trail looks to be about twice as long as the blue one, it’s an intermediate difficulty trail. As soon as we encountered it, Sweet Potato immediately turned and off we went.

About halfway around the yellow trail, there’s a turn where you can go onto the red trail. This is the most difficult of the three and goes over the top of the hill, connecting two parts of the yellow trail. I thank Sweet Potato for her consideration in choosing to stay on the yellow trail.

A recurring motif in the art and on the spires atop the various buildings was the presence of an “angel dog,” reminding viewers of our lost friends.

After spending the morning and the first part of the afternoon visiting Dog Mountain (and making a couple purchase at the gallery), Sweet Potato and I headed out to explore more of area.

On Wednesday, we hiked a few miles on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, starting in St. Johnsbury and heading toward Danville. So today, we headed toward Danville to explore the other end of the trail. (Eventually it will cross the state, but for now, it only runs 15 miles between those two towns.)

We found a parking spot at the Joe’s Pond Beach and as luck would have it, found the end of the trail right about the same time we were ready to head back to the hotel for the evening.

Dog Mountain Road Trip – Day Three (June 1, 2022)

Not having any specific schedule for the day, we slept in a bit today. Breakfast was at the hotel (Sweet Potato scored a couple pieces of bacon) and were on the road to Vermont at 10:30.

The drive was largely uneventful, with rain most of the way.

At quarter after two in the afternoon, we arrived in Vermont.

The first stop in Vermont was in Bennington. I didn’t really have a strong reason for stopping here, except that my brother’s family used to live here, but no longer knowing their former address, I settled for sending them a photo of the Bennington Battle Monument.

The monument is in honor of the 1400 men from New Hampshire, led by General John Stark, who came to Bennington in August of 1777 to help defend the newly created state of Vermont. As you can see, Sweet Potato was overwhelmed with awe and preferred to look up at General Stark’s statue rather than pose for any silly photo op.

Sweet Potato looks up in admiration of General Stark

We arrived in St. Johnsbury around quarter to six. The temperature was close to 30 degrees cooler than Binghamton just a day earlier, and given the clouds and chance of rain, the decision was made to hold off on going to Dog Mountain until Thursday.

Between the late start and long day in the car, Sweet Potato wasn’t ready for dinner yet, and honestly, neither was I. So based on another local recommendation, we went to the trailhead for the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. I’m told this will eventually cross the state, but for now it only goes from St. Johnsbury to West Danville. We only really had time to go in a mile and a half, perhaps two, but it was pretty.

Trailhead sign

As with the Westmoreland Heritage Trail on Tuesday, this was built on the land from a former railroad right of way. From the width of the tunnels, as well as the clear spaces, my assumption is this was a single track with some sort of schedule so trains would only travel one direction at a time.

Sweet Potato pauses in a pedestrian underpass under Interstate 91.

One of the things I found interesting was that the rail trail ran right up against people’s backyards. In these cases, there was usually a pathway cut into the hillside to make it easier to get to the trail. One enterprising home owner used the location to advertise a landscape business

There was a lot of lush plant growth along the trail

Some of those “Elephant Ears” are bigger than Sweet Potato!

Dog Mountain Road Trip – Day Two (May 31, 2022)

We were off to a relatively early start today, we were on the road at 9:15, headed to Binghamton, NY; about half-way between Pittsburgh and Saint Johnsbury.

Shortly after noon, we visited a rest stop near Loganton, PA. There was a lone picnic table in the area where pets were allowed, so this seemed like a good opportunity for lunch. Sweet Potato was happy to be out of the car and jumped into my lap several times and made more than one attempt to climb onto the picnic table. (The fact my sandwich was on the table may have added to her interest….)

We crossed the New York state line a little after 3pm and Sweet Potato decided we needed to stop for a photo op

Sweet Potato loves New York

Talking to the hotel’s desk clerk, I learned that Binghamton University has a nature preserve with some hiking trails. It’s not the Smokey Mountains, but it was a nice little slice of nature after a day on the road. We’ll keep it mind for future trips to Binghamton.

A very small squirrel, with ridiculous digital zoom and plenty of pixilation, but also only about four inches high. Perhaps a baby?

I consider myself lucky to have captured this photo. The bird took flight before I hit the shutter button, so you can’t see the markings. But I believe the orange marking with a yellow stripe makes this a red-winged blackbird (I originally thought Baltimore Oriole, but the red-winged blackbird makes more sense as it wasn’t anywhere near Camden Yard.)

Red-winged Blackbird (and not a Baltimore Oriole)

Any time I run across a walkway through a wetland, I find myself reminded of Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder and the admonishment to “stay on the path.”

Stay on the Path!

Dog Mountain Road Trip – Day One (May 30, 2022)

I’m taking Sweet Potato on a trip to visit Dog Mountain, in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. Stephen Huneck was an artist who created art (mostly in wood cuttings) which featured dogs. When he passed away, he specified in his will that his estate should be used to create a public dog park (150 acres!) where anyone can bring their dog.

Why am I taking my dog to Vermont to go to a dog park? Two reasons really. First off, if you had a dog, and wanted to take a brief vacation, why wouldn’t you go to a place named Dog Mountain? Second, and perhaps more importantly, Sweet Potato spends a lot of her time waiting for humans to be done with work, this is an opportunity to let her “dog it up” and have some stories to share with her friends in her old age.

Today’s leg of the trip took me to Level Green to wish Mom a Happy Birthday in person.

While I was there, I took Sweet Potato for a walk along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, which is built on the former right-of-way for the Turtle Creek railroad.

Sign explaining that the Saunders Station depot was named for the family farm established by King Saunders in the 1800s. The farm was sold to developers in the 1990s or early 2000s to create Level Green’s “Kings Manor” neighborhood.

Growing up, I always somewhat assumed Saunders Station Road was named for a train station, but the above sign is the first actual confirmation I’ve had.

Aside from running across a couple flatbed cars which derailed near the Saunders Station Road crossing, I never saw a train on those tracks. (Now that they’ve been replaced by a bike path, the odds are I never will.)

Sweet Potato and I walked in a North-Easterly direction toward Murrysville. We were somewhat time constrained and only walked about a mile out, but there were still things worth seeing.

Less than a quarter mile from the road, the Heritage Trail crosses underneath the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of graffiti. What surprised me was that not all of it was random tagging. I suspect the pop-culture images (e.g. Dexter and Homer) may be something that was done for the Heritage Trail project, but I’m not entirely certain.

Then there’s this one. I recognize “Squidward” as a reference to Sponge Bob Squarepants. But “Squidward Tortellini” seems an odd thing to scratch into a railing.

I’ve driven past this house on Abers Creek Road any number of times. I just knew it looked like it was made of stone. I had no idea of its historical significance, nor that it was called “Valley Tower” until I ran across this sign.

Sign explaining that the “Valley Tower” on Abers Creek Road was designed by Pittsburgh architect Henry Horbostel.

Vampires and Health Care

Vampires are, of course, unable to enter a dwelling to which they have never been invited to enter. So for a time, it became common for ambulance companies to be staffed entirely by vampires; after all, only a fool would turn aside the local aid society.

This arrangement has become less tenable however as humans have become addicted to increasingly noxious chemical concoctions.

(Image by Phil Gyford. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

Midwest Radio

I like to listen to the radio during the day. It provides a nice level of background noise without being nearly as distracting as working in an open plan office.

But, about a week ago, I got bored with the local stations I’ve been streaming and told my Google device to “Stream a random radio station from somewhere in the midwest.”

To my surprise, it worked.

The first song I heard was Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” OK, it’s a oldies station. This is consistent with “somewhere in the midwest.”

Next came a station break and the DJ had what I can only describe as a brogue. It had been a while since St. Patrick’s, but OK….. I don’t know what schtick he’s in the middle of, so I’m not gonna judge.

The next commercial break, I heard more people with what I decided were probably Irish accents, but the ads were targeting the farming community (plowing contests, farm supplies and the like). The brands weren’t anything familiar, but there are still some regional banks and supermarket chains. So I kept listening, wondering where this station might be located.

Google had identified the station as “Midwest Radio 96.1 FM” so I put those words into the search box.

And yep, it turns out the station really is out in the Midwest.

Midwest Ireland that is!

So, I may have a new favorite radio station.

(Image via, public domain image under Creative Commons Universal license)

Tracking Billionaires’ Planes

So, this is fun. CNet did a story about a college kid wrote a bot to track the whereabouts of Elon Musk’s private plane and post it on Twitter. Musk offered him $5,000 to take it down, the kid counter-offered, asking for an internship, but Musk apparently wasn’t interested.

So, the kid now has an online store selling merchandise with an image of Musk smoking “something” with the slogan, “I know how high Elon is.”

So, would you like to know the location of Elon Musk’s plane?

Not interested in Elon Musk? He also has trackers for the planes belonging to Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. (It looks like he’s set up trackers for a number of other planes as well.)

(Photo via flickr user Anna Zvereva, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wordle strategies

Like many folks, I’ve jumped into playing the “Wordle” daily word-puzzle. I think what impresses me most about it is that, not only is the game engaging, it also doesn’t appear to be monetized. (It does utilize the Google Tag Manager, but that just seems to be so the game’s creator can find out how many people are playing it — answer: A LOT!)

My usual approach to the puzzle is to start with something like STARE; a word with a lot of common letters. Assuming I get any letters right, my next step is to think up another word which uses those letters as my next guess, and so on.

Today, I used a different strategy. My first guess yielded three letters (albeit, with none in the correct position). For my second guess, I used five entirely different letters. This time I had two letters right, and one of them in the correct position.

At this point, I had all five letters; I just had to figure out where four of them belonged. And I was able to solve the puzzle in three guesses. (It generally takes me four guesses, sometimes five.)

I’ll need to consider whether to continue with this strategy or go back to the old one.

What strategy do you use?

Wordle 211 3/6


Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Oh, the random stuff that pops into my brain…. What was the name of Pavlov’s dog?

Turns out I’m not the first to wonder that. In 1992, a researcher named Tim Tully went to Russia to visit the last location where Pavlov worked and wrote an article about his search for the dogs’ names (it turns out there were at least 40).

The article includes photos of the dogs, with their names (technically, photos of the photos in an album), but only lists a few of them in the article text.

Doing a bit more searching I found a Quora article which has the full list of the dogs’ names. Some of them translate as names we might give dogs today (Buddy, Clown, Jack, and the like).

  1. Bierka
  2. Nalyot
  3. Golovan
  4. Arap
  5. Arleekin (Clown)
  6. Avgust
  7. Baikal
  8. Barbus (Big Dog)
  9. Box
  10. Chingis Kahn
  11. Chyorny (Black)
  12. Diana
  13. Drujok (Buddy)
  14. Ikar
  15. Iks (X)
  16. Jack
  17. Joy
  18. Jurka
  19. Krasavietz (Beauty)
  20. Laska (Ferret)
  21. Lyadi (Lady)
  22. Martik
  23. Mikah (Nice Girl)
  24. Milord
  25. Moladietz (Good Boy)
  26. Murashka (Cute Little Thing)
  27. Nord
  28. Norka (Mink)
  29. Novichok (New One)
  30. Pastrel (Fast One)
  31. Pingiel
  32. Rex
  33. Rijiy I
  34. Rijiy II
  35. Rogdi (Old Russian Prince)
  36. Ruslan
  37. Tungus
  38. Umnitza
  39. Valiet (Jack)
  40. Zloday (Thief)

Leaving Facebook

The Washington Post ran an article recently with the title You’ve decided to quit Facebook. Here’s how to migrate your online life elsewhere. That’s a little misleading as the article covers more than just the how, but also gets into some of the complexities of leaving, and even why leaving may not be practical for some folks.

And it is difficult. I’ve been on the verge of leaving Facebook for several years. Partially because I have no great need for Mr. Zuckerberg to track me in more and more detail. Partially because of the potential to lose entire days of my life scrolling through the feed. Partially because I’ve seen enough to be convinced that social media is indeed responsible for the spread of misinformation and the resulting social ills.

But it’s tough to leave. As that article points out, there’s a huge network effect. Which is to say “I’m on Facebook because that’s where most of my friends are online.”

I held off on joining Facebook for a long time as I didn’t see the purpose of a “micro-blogging site” as Facebook and Twitter were described at the time. I already had an active blog, and didn’t see much point in posting things twice. (Indeed, with my own blog, I own my words as opposed to letting someone else make money from them.)

The turning point came in 2009 when a friend’s baby was born, and the announcement went out on Facebook and I only found out when another friend forwarded the news.

I’ve been on Facebook ever since. Posting memes, letting people know what’s going on in my life (most of our friends found out via Facebook when my wife and I got engaged).

Over the past several years, I’ve been reducing my presence on Facebook. I still post things that made me laugh, photos of my dog (who also frequently makes me laugh), and Facebook pages are still an effective way of promoting various other activities.

And it’s still how I keep up with what my friends are doing. Kid photos, news of my nieces and nephews, vacation photos, and more.

But I tend not to share my day to day routine. If something requires more than a sentence or two (e.g. “Glorify the Lions“), I’m more likely to put my words on a site I control (i.e. one of the “Chaos and Penguins” sites). Instead of Facebook Messenger, I’ll send text messages or emails when it’s possible.

I don’t know if I’ll ever completely leave Facebook, but I doubt I’ll ever fully embrace it again.