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St Johns 2022

It seems that every 4 years we make an opportunity to vacation in St John Virgin Islands. This year we planned a trip as Eric said it was his favorite vacation. We were joined by Skip, and Eric’s friend James – making a party of five.

Just prior to our planned departure Virgin Islands tourism changed the testing requirements from having a positive COVID test 5 days prior to departure to 3 days prior.  Given the holidays and lack of personnel to conduct tests it was a stressful time for Kathryn as she tried to line up appointments and testing capabilities.  If you thought trying to schedule a covid vaccine was tough, wait until you try to get tested. It took a miracle, but we pulled it off.

  • NYS Thruway to Syracuse
  • Flight toAtlanta
  • ATL to St Thomas
  • Taxi from the St Thomas Airport to St John via ferry
  • Take a 10 mile taxi across St John Island to the house

On January 7 for his birthday, Eric went parasailing with his buddy James.

Eric had his birthday meal at his favorite restaurant, Skinny Legs

Our weather was typically 82 with blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Water temperature was mid- – to hi 70s. For a couple of days we were sidelined by short rain showers (which is a good thing in St. John -recharges the water cistern for the house) so we slow rolled the trip to the beach

The boys wanted a day out of the sun, so Skip, Jim and Kathryn went snorkeling. Lots of wind, making the north shore murky, so we decided to go to the less popular east end. We started at Hanson Beach (saw a turtle and some rays) then went to rocky Haulover Bay South which was very clear and had some nice coral. Now the guys are having a good after-dinner pitch game.

We went back to Hansen Beach and did some paddle boarding and snorkeling. Saw some rays and a large sea turtle. After seeing the turtle, James said “now we can go home” but I don’t think he meant it.

Our house had a nice balcony which encouraged sitting out during the night times.  We would hear absolutely no traffic or road noise. Island life is nice. ( just wish the neighbor would turn off all those d### outside lights!).  People leave their outside lights on all night. Especially here, on St. John. It’s not like anybody or anything is going to sneak up on them through this nasty underbrush or even on these crazy roads.

January 11  we went to Maho Bay which is usually not one of our favorites because there tends to be more people there. However we saw MANY turtles ( around 9), including a HAWKSBILL turtle (which is on the endangered list) so it was totally excellent.

Early dinner on the porch; we brought down a lot of food, including all our meats, which was a very good decision. We just paid >$2 for a single tomato for our tacos and $5.99 for a half gallon of milk. Rum is cheap, though.

We went to Leinster bay where we saw 5 turtles, several rays, lots of fish, a couple star fish, including a star fish with 6 points. Since then I have had some communication with the person reputed to be the “Island’s expert on sea stars” and she said ” You are very lucky. These are very rare.” She wanted details on where, I think she is going to go look. I am excited about my sighting.

Skip’s last day on the island and by tradition, he got to choose which beach. So at his request, we returned to Salt Pond Bay, where we started our vacation. Snorkeling was much better this time, the swells had calmed, the water was clearer, there were lots more fish visible and several turtles present

All week, Eric and James have been saying how much they are looking forward to going back to school. just now they got an email saying Hilbert College is going to remote classes for two weeks. We are happy to have Eric home for an extra fortnight, but sorry for their disappointment. But they are taking it well.

For our last day of vacation, we went shopping in Cruz Bay, had lunch at Skinny Legs in Coral Bay, then enjoyed the sunset at Hawks Nest Bay.

Our last sunrise from Coral Bay, St. John, USVI, at least for now. It seems Mother Nature is trying to make us regret leaving St. John. The weather forecast says it will be -2 when we land in Syracuse and there is a winter storm watch for Sunday/Monday with 8 or more inches of snow, gusty winds, and temperatures in the teens. Winter, here we come!

Since it is about -12 here this morning, and it was about 82 when we left St. John, we are dealing with a 94 degree difference in temperature. Since we are missing St. John, it might be of interest to note the changes we observed since our last visit.  

  • It rained every day we were there. That’s right, every day. Short intense showers that did not interfere with our plans, but relieved our anxiety about showers and toilet-flushing
  • Mosquitoes are present.
  • We saw many more turtles than we have ever seen. We saw more turtles this trip than we have in all our previous trips combined. In fact, we saw turtles at almost every beach we snorkeled
  • There seems to be significantly less coral and less fish overall
  • A lot of people are snorkeling without using fins
  • The goat population in Coral Bay has exploded
  • We were unable to get bananaquits to come feed; I saw one in the tree, but that was all
  • Food on St. John is even more expensive. $6 for half a gallon of milk, $8 for a small block of cheese, etc. I didn’t even look at the cost of meat
  • Skinny Legs is generally so busy you have to wait for for a table, at any time of the day
  • Love City Market is bigger
  • There are a couple new restaurants in Coral Bay including a pizza place which serves kick-a## drinks
  • Vi’s is not open; no conch fritters to be had
  • There is a new ferry that goes in and out of Crown Bay, which is only 10 minutes from the airport, and saves that drive through Charlotte Amalie to the Red Hook ferry
  • There is a new gas station just outside Cruz Bay on Center line Road
  • There is a lot of building happening in Cruz Bay
  • People who fly Delta get their own line through Customs. We were told “Delta paid a lot of money” to get special treatment for their customers

Winter Camping at Burbine

It has been a few years since I have been winter camping. I met Matt for an overnight camping at Thomas Burbine Memorial Forest which houses a disc golf course, nature trail, fishing pond and a lean-to. It was a short and easy hike to the lean-to as we dragged our sleds filled with camping gear and firewood. Matt and I had camped here at in March of 2020 at the outbreak of COVID. During that visit the lean-to was plagued by mice – which annoyed Matt as he stayed in the lean-to but were just noises to me as the mice scuffled in the leaves. After a brief inspection we declared the lean-to to be mouse free. Staying in the lean-to made life easier as it provided seating and made packing up in the morning much more convenient. Overnight temperatures were in the high twenties and we received a slight snowfall – just enough to make sliding the sleds out easier and reveal the deer and fox prints made that morning.

The day after this popped in my head:

No hooting owl
Or coyote’s howl
No breeze across my face.

A day’s gone by
I don’t know why
I find I still think of that place.


Trail Camera Coyote

We’ve been monitoring our trail camera for almost two years now; lots of deer pictures with the occasional turkey, fox, raccoon and coyote. All our coyote images have been at night until we captured a picture of this plump coyote out strolling during the day.

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Howe Caverns: Rich Nethaway Tour

BillieJo and I attended a special tour of Howe Caverns with Rich Nethaway as the guide. The promotional information is listed below.

There are only two true keepers of the history and stories of Howe Caverns: the cave walls and Rich Nethaway. In 1969, at the age of 16, Rich began his vocation as a tour guide. His career at Howe Caverns has spanned five decades; making him the longest term employee in Howe Caverns’ history! His deep institutional knowledge of our cave’s history is positively unparalleled. On Sunday, November 21, 2021, it is with great pleasure and pride that we present the opportunity for guests to take a trip back in time and to enjoy a special edition presentation of the Traditional Cave Tour. Join Rich, in our Main Lodge, as he talks about some general local history and the evolution of our property over the years. Guests will then descend into the cave to take a full Traditional tour. The journey will wind through limestone corridors, cavernous galleries, under massive boulders, and will include a short boat ride on our underground lake, as you learn about Mother Nature’s handiwork; carved over countless millennia. During your tour, Rich will share little known historical facts, interesting geological information, point out formations not seen on our current traditional tour, and share anecdotes from the cave. After the tour, you are invited to a short Q & A session with Rich in the Café dining room where light refreshments will be served.Do not miss this special and unique opportunity. It is the ultimate historical experience that only Rich can offer.

The cave is 52°F year round. A jacket or sweatshirt is recommended.
-The cave tour consists of a 1.25 mile walk with a 0.25 mile boat ride. There are 139 stairs up & down throughout the cave.
-Must be age 16 or older to attend.
-Program duration will be approximately 3 hours.

Sunday I went on the Rich Nethaway caverns tour. There were 12, including 6 staff. rich talked about all the changes to the buildings and then we toured the cave. Rich segregated formations into primary, secondary and tertiary groups. He identified formations from all 3 levels along with relevant history ( flights, floods, events). I enjoyed being in the cave again. – it was a nice way to spend 3+ hours.

Venice FL

The 13th – 20th we traveled to Venice Fl to celebrate Tom and Debby’s birthdays – Tom turned 70. Tom & Debby met our incoming plane at Tampa and the four of us rode to the Beachcomber vacation rental on 720 Golden Beach Blvd., Venice, FL 34285. We had a great apartment with a small galley kitchen, bath, 1 bedroom, a living room and balcony looking west to the gulf.

We enjoyed walking the beach, watching the sunsets, reading, walks through town, too many restaurants, and a 2 hour kayaking trip through mangrove swamps.

Early November on the Homestead

The 1st two weeks of November have been sunny and warm with temperatures in the low to mid-50s. We took advantage of the weather and in addition to playing lots of pickleball we accomplished several homestead chores.

The last hurrah with the lawn mower mainly to mulch leaves and avoid raking. Afterwards I pulled the cab from the truck, loaded the mower onto the truck using my folding ramp and took the mower to GKS for annual servicing. In years past I always loaded up the mower using the hill by the barn and whatever planks or plywood was handy for a ramp. The problem was that if we got significant snowfall before the mower was done, then I couldn’t get the mower unloaded on the hill; hence the fold-able ramp for unloading the mower.

Kathryn and I cut 3-4 face cord of firewood, mainly off our trails. There are a lot of dead ash and several ‘leaners’. The woods were pretty moist so I was careful where I took the tractor. We cut a large ash tree from just behind Kincaid’s house that we had to carry 40 yards to reach the carry-all. We also cut an apple tree from Ridge Trail, ash from Dead Apple Trail, the Four Corners, the pasture entrance to North Trail. A full load on the carry-all is just about 1 face cord.

We had a week of down time as the JD 2020 under went a through tune up.

Kathryn bought dog houses to shelter the beasts whenever we are gone. Not as insulated as the original Dad & Kathryn dog house that was made for Choice, but also not as heavy.

Howe Caverns and the Underground Empire

I just finished reading Underground Empire about Howe Caverns and I have enjoyed it immensely.  I don’t know if the feeling of nostalgia is due to the my recent SCS 50th year high reunion or that I could relate to so many of the people and places described in the book. It has been a splendid read and I wrote a letter to the author. Dana Cudmore, was a year behind me at Schoharie school and worked as a guide at Howe Caverns with brother Robert.  I wrote a letter to Dana about all my memories which Dana labelled as a Cave Country Boyhood..

From the early 1950’s until the mid-1960’s my family owned a dairy farm which abutted Howe Caverns property. Surrounding our farm was land owned by Nethaway, Vannatten and Sagendorf families. AS a pre-teen I drove a team of horses for the Nethaways. I learned to ice skate on Jimmy Vannatten’s pond, My sister Barbara was (and still is) best friends with Hope Sagendorf and my other sister, Jeanne, attended school prom with John Sagendorf.

My dad used to cut hay from Howe Cavern’s land. Spring times when my father would till new fields we would pick rock and joke that moving the really big ones would lead us to The Garden of Eden. In 1958 the Caverns made a promotional film which used some of our family farm and four cows.  The picture shows an actor and camera man setting up along a stone fence line for some farmer wisdom about the discovery of the cave. 

Locally us kids had a  horse posse including Bobby Beavers, Joyce Nethaway, Hopi Sagendorf and occasionally Carolyn Rehberg. When my ponies escaped, we would frequently find them at the Caverns mooching treats and affection from the tourists. One of the reasons I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 18 was due to proximity to Howe Caverns. With no shoulders along the country roads, my parents were certain if I was riding a bike I would get hit by a tourist. So, from age 5 on they entrusted my fate to Nip, my pony. I guess they figured his sense of self-preservation would extend to me as well. David Reynolds was one of my close friends growing up.

My parents played cards with ‘Bud’ Tillison owner of the Howe Cave Luncheonette and Grocery.  I recall it only having 3 small tables. I remember Bud giving me an ice cream while he and my dad visited and as a youngster, I felt it couldn’t get any better.  Carolyn (Rehberg) Schlegel says she could recall that Bud designated a spot to tie a horse while the kids went into the store to buy a treat.

I see Carolyn (Rehberg) Schlegel often playing senior’s volleyball and was telling her of your book.  The Rehberg family was active in Yo-Sco-Haro Riding Club and served as 4-H leaders, The Rehberg farm was located at Lester Howe farm and the suspected Garden of Eden.  Carolyn relayed a story told by her father Albert (Al) that when blasting was done for I-88 one of the blasts sounded a different ‘thump’ associated with settling earth.

When I was 13 my family sold the farm to Lester Hay and built a house across the Schoharie Creek from Terrace Mtn.  Bill Dodge, SCS Biology teacher, sponsored our informal outing club –the Schoharie Pit-Plunging and Cliff-Climbing Club which undertook activities on Terrace Mountain and Partridge Run and canoeing Schoharie Creek and canoe racing on the Susquehanna. 

Lester Hay later married my sister, Jeanne and fathered Mark and Matthew Hay who worked as tour guides at the caverns.  In fact, many of us worked at the cavern.  My sisters, Barbara and Jeanne worked at the snack bar.  My cousin Karen Muller worked there as well.  My sophomore year in school I joined the largest guides class ever assembled at the caverns and was trained by Don Reynolds.

As a junior and senior (SCS Class of 1971) I went caving with Bill Dodge and other friends exploring Balls, Knox, Van Viets, Spider, Benson, and Przysiecki caves.

Somewhere in the late 1970’s my brother Robert, father Clifford and brother-in-law Lester Hay salvaged an engine and winch which was used to clear the sink hole known as Sinks By The Sugar Bush. There were 50 gallon drums, punctured to allow water to drain, which was lowered for men and gear as well as to pull out the tailings as they tried to clean it out.   We were always told they found some of Lester Howe’s items in a grotto near or at the sink.  We believe the engine and winch that were there dated back to late 20’s or early ’30’s as the engine was a ’20s vintage.  It was a 6hp “Novo” with a capstan for rope and drum for cable. 

The book has been a real joy to read. I feel blessed that I was able to grow up in the prosperous hay days of Howe Caverns and the book enabled many pleasant memories for me.

Kathryn Competes at the Huntsman Senior Games

Our volleyball team finally got to meet face-to-face, seconds before we went on the court. We won a couple games, lost a few, worked a couple matches and overall had a loft of fun. We have some good talent on the team and we will get better as we get to know each other. The weather is cooler than expected and it rained all day yesterday but in our down time I have been able to swim laps, play pickleball, and soak in the hot tub – this complex is well equipped – and run a little. Two more early matches today!

We lost to a couple of the top ranked teams yesterday BUT the games were competitive. Even took team ranked 2nd (maybe 3rd, I lost track) to a final score of 24-26. Almost had them. Looks like I may miss tomorrow’s track event, which I am really bummed about but it is same time as final match in pool play (which will determine who we go against in bracket play). Day off today so heading out to Zion with Deborah Hansen and teammate Mary.

Did well in the 1500 m. Felt bad I had to give up a volleyball game to get to the track event, but taking Gold helped me feel better. Got a silver in the 100 m and bronze in 400m. My times were pretty good. Then we threw together 4 strangers for an exhibition relay race which was SO much FUN. Deborah and Sandy were my cheer squad. It was A Really Good Day.

My competitions finished, Deborah Hansen and I went back to Zion National Park for a nice hike on the Emerald Pools trail and a short horse ride.

Van Gogh Buffalo

Kathryn wanted to visit Eric before she left for the Huntsman’s Senior Games. While in Buffalo we visted the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit. Beyond Van Gogh is a truly immersive experience. The show breaks barriers by incorporating both still and moving art. Van Gogh’s master pieces come alive, appear, and disappear, flow across multi-surfaces, the minutia of details titillating our heightened senses. The show is projected on every surface around you, this makes you feel as though you have stepped directly into a Van Gogh painting. The show took about 1 hour and was accompanied by a beautiful score.

Adirondack Scenic Rail Bike

We joined our friends, Jim & Pam, on the Adirondack Rail Bikes in Thendara. The rails are closed off to other traffic. The trip covered 7 miles in total which took two hours of pedaling. The ride included both slight grades as well as level sections of track.

Below Kathryn and Pam check out the rail bike. A line-up of rail bikes. Kathryn and Pam pretend to be pedaling. A section of colorful trail. Using the round about to reverse the rail bikes. Jim & Pam discuss the return trip.

The weather couldn’t have been better and the fall colors were just beginning to emerge.