Sunday, October 25, 2015



On a late October afternoon, the Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion took a side to trip to the capitol of Maryland... Annapolis, the home of the United State Naval Academy.  The Midshipmen were playing Tulane and the town was buzzing with activities.  Seldom has an unplanned side trip proven so much fun!


We discovered four major reasons to visit Annapolis.  First the town is simply charming.  It has a New England coastal hamlet combined with an old college town feel to it.  There are shops and stores, restaurants and bars, all catering to the eclectic and the sublime. 


 Second, it has an enchanting harbor located on the Severn River just off the Chesapeake Bay.  Annapolis is the home of all sorts of sea craft, from the largest to the smallest.  Any boat is welcome to dock in the small harbor that seems to fit nicely in the midst of storefronts. 


Third, Annapolis is the home of the United State Naval Academy.  Founded in 1845, the academy has educated some of the most dedicated members of our armed forces.

 Finally, Annapolis is the home of one of the finest named restaurants ever opened.  Even if the food and service found here were not exemplary, the name of this restaurant alone should bring throngs of visitors. 


We begin our visit by walking the streets and stopping in various shops that drew our attention.  Of course the FBWG needed a new hat for the winter....if you don't have hair, you know what a I mean.  What a great store.  But then as we left the store we heard the hot licks of an electric guitar and discovered one of the best street performers I have ever seen.

But his street concert was interrupted when my faithful hiking companion pointed to the sign which led us to that wonderfully named restaurant.  We were hungry and this was the place to eat in Annapolis.   From our upstairs table by the window, we got to see the Annapolis Harbor while supping on some of the best cream of crab soup ever made!

Turns out there are no discounts for customers who are named "Buddy" and the restaurant owner is not even named "Buddy". Seems that he named the place after his fishing about that?!
Having topped that cream of crab soup with some peel and eat shrimp, the FBWG was ready for a hike.  Setting off to explore the Annapolis Harbor and the US Naval Academy we put in about 2.5 miles.

Every time Navy scored a touchdown, the good ole boys at the Fleet Reserve Club sounded a ship's horn causing most ever boat in the harbor to respond by blowing their horn.  
Navy beat Tulane that day 31-14, just sayin...

Adding some money to the parking meter, we decided to visit the United States Naval Academy and proceeded through security and was granted our clearance.  Having seen Harrison Ford in Patriot Games movie, I understand why they are so security conscious. True to form every inch of that campus is covered by a security camera.  But we were able to stroll all over campus and it was a great walk. 
In a strange way the campus reminded me of Virginia Tech.  All the buildings had similar architecture and had a common colored stone veneer.    

Not wanting to miss the harbor views, we strolled over to the wharf and walked around the point down the banks of the Severn River.  The walk offered great views of the Annapolis Harbor as well as the distant Chesapeake Bay.  Boats were everywhere.

There is something about sailboats that I find majestic.  The Severn River is the host of many sail boats, both large and small.  Sails dotted the horizon as far as we could see.

Along the wharf were several memorials and monuments to Midshipmen and their service to our country.

I  was especially drawn to the memorial named "Gate to the Sea".  It really looked like it was a gate to the ocean and true to form there were ships sailing in the distance illustrating the allure of the sea.
 I really could have spent hours at this spot watching the vessels sail both near and far.  It was a magical setting.  

As we rounded the point, we followed a fast moving sail boat up the river and the contrast of the boat against the fall colors proved to be a nice scene to capture.
Turning into campus, we set our sights on the  green dome gleaming  in the distance and strolled our way into the older part of the Naval Academy. 

In the middle of campus is a square in which a gazebo is located in front of a large church.  The stroll way crossing the square was adorned by a beautiful orange tree. 

In the square is the Herndon Monument named for a Commodore who lost his life saving lives on a sinking ship off Cape Hatteras on September 12, 1857.  It is the site of the Herndon Climb. The monument is covered with lard and first year plebes try to retrieve an cap from the top of the monument.


Looking to the left we saw the decorated home of Vice Admiral Walter E. Carter Jr., the current Superintendent of the Naval Academy. Nice digs!  
One of the main focal points of the campus of the Naval Academy is the Chapel which holds the crypt of legendary Naval Commander John Paul Jones.  


Many of the stained glass windows are dedicated to revered Admirals.  I caught a very nice reflection in the one on the western side of the building.  
On the other side of the square is another interesting building.  Mahan Hall is in the center with the clock tower.
Taking the Stribling Walk across the campus square from Mahan Hall, we arrived at one of  the main assembly areas the Midshipmen. Oddly named Tecumseh court is in front of Bancroft Hall.
Not realizing the significance of the decorated statue in front of Bancroft Hall, I did not photograph one of the more unusual monuments on the campus.  The statue is a replica of the figurehead of the USS Delaware presented to the Academy by the class of 1891.  It is regularly decorated by Midshipmen on game weeks and it said to grant favors to those who give in a left handed salute.

The impromptu trip to Annapolis just whet our appetite for a return visit.  I really wish I had more time to explore the Naval Academy and Annapolis but we shall return someday.  If you get a chance, take a trip if only to eat at Buddy's!


An education conference meeting in Baltimore took the FBWG and his Faithful Hiking Companion off the trails this weekend....but you know what I say...."A hike is where you find one"!

We got to spend some time in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Federal Point and at historic Fort McHenry.


 Baltimore Inner Harbor is really a park created around an harbor.  Many interesting boats, shops and sights, all accessed by a brick walk stretching for over ten milesIt is within walking distance from both sports stadiums. 

Looming above the Inner Harbor is a  promontory which looks like the remnants of a small fort.  In truth it is Federal Point, a historic park which has been preserved.  From this point are the best views of the Baltimore Inner Harbor and the skylines of this great city.  It is a nice hike from the walk ways surrounding the Inner Harbor to Federal Point but the view is worth the effort.  If you don't feel like walking it is an easy ride with parking surrounding the park.
 If you find yourself visiting this city, make the hike from the Inner Harbor to the Federal Point.  You really have not visited the Inner Harbor until you have visited Federal point.

Centered in the middle of the Point is a large American flag which can be seen from all parts of the Inner Harbor reminiscent of what we would soon see at Ft. McHenry.  The park was the site of Baltimore's celebration of the ratification of the Constitution where 4000 people showed up.

The park provided a nice combination of late summer flowers and late fall color.  It contains a nice play ground and historic statues commemorating the defense of Baltimore in the War of 1812.

The Point is not only within walking distance of the Inner Harbor it is the centerpiece of a neighborhood of restored homes and offices.  I think it would be a great place to live and work. 


From the Point you can see the vibrant life of the port of Baltimore and the neighborhoods that surround the Inner Harbor.  

We also ate  at Bubba Gump Shrimp...a great waterside restaurant themed around the iconic movie Forrest Gump.  The food was good but a trip into the souvenir store allowed me to make political commentary on the state of public education policy in North Carolina and support one of my favorite candidates.



 We all know the story of our National Anthem but somehow you cannot appreciate the song without visiting the place that inspired its lyrics.  Fort McHenry is just a few miles from the Inner Harbor and is a wonderful place to visit and interact with the history of our nation.

War broke out with Britain in 1812. British Forces landed at North Point but were fought to a stalemate on the outskirts of Baltimore. 

Needing the artillery of British fleet to break the stalemate required the elimination of Fort McHenry which stands strategically guarding the Baltimore Harbor.
 Seeking to obtain the release of a friend detained by the British, attorney Francis Scott Key sailed in the midst of the British Fleet on the eve of the bombardment of Fort McHenry.  Being detained on the ship, he watched in horror as the fort was bombarded throughout the night.  As dawn's early light revealed the result of the bombardment, Key looking through a spy glass was relieved to see that the fort had not fallen.  He penned these famous words. The fort is now a national historical monument and is restored to allow the visitor to understand the importance of the battle which inspired the lyrics of our National Anthem.
"O say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at twilight's last gleaming?"

A mile loop surrounds the fort which we took to provide us with a nice hike before visiting the fort.  We took many interesting photographs.  We were greeted by a white pigeon playing with a grey squirrel.
Old Glory dominates every aspect of a visit to Fort McHenry.  The large flag blowing in the wind is something that a photographer cannot resist.  I must have photographed this scene from 50 different angles.
"Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming."


"O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave?"

We were treated to the Pride of Baltimore as she sailed by the fort.  It was a nice contrast to the busy port of Baltimore that featured various pleasure craft interspersed with commercial vessels anchored in the harbor.
From the seawall, we could see Old Glory flying high about the gun emplacements as we followed the walk around to the backside of the fort.
"What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, as it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam in full glory reflected now shines in the stream: Tis the Star Spangled Banner, O long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Time has eroded the earthen ramparts but the old fort still is an imposing site as it bristles with cannon pointing in every direction.

On the back of the fort the loop path diverges at a wonderfully burnt orange tree.  From here you can see how the fort rises on the ridge and can see in the distance one of the more unusual features of the park.

Orpheus, the Greek god of music is the subject of a massive tribute to Francis Scott Key erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle.  What a naked mythological god has to do with a military fort is beyond me.  Thankfully it is on the backside of the fort and you have to walk around the fort to see it.  

Entering the fort on an inner loop walkway, we passed by the seaward battery. These guns are period correct and provide a gunner's view of the harbor. The bomb ships of the British were arrayed in front of the current modern bridge standing about 2 miles from the fort.  

These guns had a maximum range of 1.5 miles and were useless to counter fire against the bombardment of the fort.

Entering the Fort through the sally port, we got a close up view of the extremely large Star Spangled Banner.

The fort is French designed as a five pointed star.  It was built between 1797 and 1800 on what was known as Whetstone Point replacing a fort that had long protected the Baltimore Harbor.
There are cavernous magazines at every point which protected the ammunition and powder needed for the fort's guns. 

The interior of the fort contained the administrative buildings that housed a garrison of 1000 officers and men who were commanded by Lt. Colonel George Armistead on September 13, 1814 when it came under a twenty-five hour bombardment by the British Fleet

Despite the ferocity of the bombardment, very little damage was done to the fort.  In fact only four men were killed and 24 were wounded.  Standing in the far corner of the ramparts, I read of the death of two of those soldiers as I looked back on the fort recalling a line in the anthem:  
"O thus be it ever when free men shall stand between their loved homes and wars desolation."


The fort currently exhibits gun emplacements installed after the civil war.  These 15" cannon were state of the art at the time and are known as Rodman Guns. 

From the ramparts of the fort, the peaceful activity of the harbor can be observed.   Many sail boats were leisurely passing by.

Fort McHenry is now at peace.  The answer to the question posed by Francis Scott Key in his first verse of the anthem is answered in the fourth verse and today is apparent to all who visit this site.  
 "Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation!  Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, In God We Trust.  And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"