Schoolhouse Saturday – the Grant Creek School

Moved to the museum at Fort Missoula in Missoula, Montana, in 1976, the Grant Creek Schoolhouse was originally located north of Missoula in the Grant Creek drainage.  Built in 1907, by John Rankin, it served the farming community of the Grant Creek drainage until 1937.

The Grant Creek schoolhouse was named after Richard Grant, a man who brought his family to Hell Gate in 1858 and settled along the creek that bears his name today.  Wood for the first school came from a sawmill owned by John Rankin, as did the wood for the construction of Fort Missoula.  Three of the Rankin children – Mary, Edna, and Grace – attended the school and Harriet became one of the teachers.  It is said that Janette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress, was also a substitute teach at Grant Creek School.

The school pictured below is actually the second Grant Creek Schoolhouse.  The first school was probably built before 1880, and the second school replaced it in 1907.  Many of the teachers for the school lived on nearby ranches and farms.

Grant Creek School

Grant Creek School


The attached porch was used as a cloakroom and storage for wood for the wood burning stove.  There was no well or indoor plumbing and students had to carry in buckets from the nearby creek and use outhouses that were located behind the school.  In the classroom itself, there were teaching aids such as a globe, maps, and a piano and during recess the children could play on the swings or in the baseball field.  Students who rode horses to school, tied them to the trees that surrounded the school.

Today, the school has been restored to its 1920s appearance and the porch has an exhibit on the history of the school and provides a view into the restored classroom.


Until the next adventure…


Schoolhouse Saturday – the Reese Creek School

Built in 1904 for $452.50, the Reese Creek School is one of seventy-seven one room schoolhouses built throughout Gallatin County, Montana between the 1890s and early 1920s.  Prior to the schools being built, classes were often held in private homes or in log cabins.  After Montana achieved statehood in 1889, it took just four residents from a community to petition the state government for financial assistance to pay for a teacher’s salary and room and board.  Because of horse drawn transportation, it was dictated that schools could be no more than five miles apart.

Reese Creek School (District 17) - 1904-1965

Reese Creek School (District 17) – 1904-1965

Reese Creek was named for the John E. Reese family who filed for a homestead under the Homestead Act of 1853-1864.  Early settlers arrived from the Salt Lake area via the Virginia City gold fields and the community grew to include a blacksmith shop, cheese factory, general store, and an L.D.S. church.  It was one of the first areas in Montana Territory to raise grain.

Until the next adventure….

The Lighthouses of the Kennebec River

On the last Saturday I was in Maine, I had the opportunity to go on a “Lighthouse Lover’s” boat tour through the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.  After boarding the boat, finding a seat up on the top deck, and receiving some safety instructions, our captain pushed away from the dock and we were on our way.

It wasn’t long before we came to our first lighthouse, Doubling Point Light, built in 1898, one of four lighthouses built that year to provide navigational aids up the Kennebec River to the “City of Ships,” Bath.  Manned and maintained by the United States Lighthouse Service for nearly 40 years, there were only two keepers that served at the Doubling Point Light, Merritt Pinkham (1898-1931) and Charles W. Allen (1931-1935).  As time passed, the government determined that it would be more efficient to run the Doubling Point Lighthouse from the nearby Kennebec River Range Lights and the Doubling Point Light station, excluding the lighthouse itself, was sold for $2,200 to a private owner. The United States Lighthouse Service (USLHS) continued to maintain and operate the lighthouse until 1939 when the USLHS was taken over by the Coast Guard.

Doubling Point Light on the Kennebec River

Doubling Point Light on the Kennebec River

After rounding a bend in the Kennebec River, we came upon the Kennebec River Range Lights, also built in 1898. It is the only pair of range lights in Maine with two towers that have identical lights.  As a captain would bring his ship upriver, he would know that he was in the channel and still on course when the two lights were aligned.  In 1990, the Kennebec River Range Lights became one of the last light stations to be automated in the United States.

The Kennebec River Range Lights

The Kennebec River Range Lights

Squirrel Point Light House was next on our journey downstream on the Kennebec River.  Like the Doubling Point Light, the Kennebec River Range Lights, and Perkins Island Light, Squirrel Point Light was also built in 1898.  Squirrel Point received its name around 1717 when then Governor of Massachusetts, Samuel Shute ran aground at this spot aboard his frigate, The Squirrel, illustrating the tricky combination of tide and currents at this spot in the river.

Squirrel Point Lighthouse

Built in 1898, the Squirrel Point Lighthouse was one of four built at the same time along the Kennebec River.

The last lighthouse we got to see (before the weather turned) was the Perkins Island Light, built in 1898 like the previous lighthouses we had seen.  Perkins Island Light was built facing the town of Phippsburg.

Perkins Island Light

Perkins Island Light

Unfortunately, this was where the good weather on our trip ended and we hit a bank of fog that quickly obscured our views of not only the lighthouses, but also the shoreline.  Thicker than pea soup, the fog allowed us to only see about two boat lengths in front of us making navigation difficult and photography next to impossible.

Thick fog on the Kennebec River put a quick end to our lighthouse tour.

Thick fog on the Kennebec River put a quick end to our lighthouse tour.

Due to the limited visibility, this was where our boat tour ended and we started making our way back up the river to Bath.  Because the cruise was shortened, we also cruised back up the Kennebec River to the Bath Iron Works for water views of the ship building site including views of the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), a guided missile destroyer of the United States Navy.

The USS Zumwalt

The USS Zumwalt

My one complaint about the tour is that they offered rain checks for another tour when the weather is better.  While this is a great idea for people that live close, it doesn’t do much for people that are on vacation.  It would have been nice to offer even a partial refund to people that couldn’t take advantage of a rain check.  That being said, I still planning on attempting the trip again the next time I ever get to Bath.

Until the next adventure…

The “Eye of God” – Eastern State Penitentiary

A typical cell at Eastern State Penitentiary.

A typical cell at Eastern State Penitentiary showing the “Eye of God”

Imagine the only daylight you saw for 23 hours a day, came through a single small skylight in the roof of your cell and you had no contact with other people (either other inmates or even the prison guards).  Imagine that every single time you were led out of your cell, you had a hood over your head so that you couldn’t see any part of the building that you were in.  This was the way life was for inmates at Eastern State Penitentiary when it was first built in 1821.

In each cell, the “Eye of God” (suggesting to the prisoners that God was always watching them), a single glass skylight placed on a slanted wall near the rear of the cell, provided the only daylight into the cell for the inmates.

I can’t imagine what being incarcerated in this prison must have been like (I really can’t imagine what being incarcerated in any prison would be like, but I know I wouldn’t like it one bit).

Until the next adventure…

From Costa Rica to Starbucks – the Doka Coffee Estate

While celebrating my birthday in Costa Rica, my mom and I had the opportunity to visit the Doka Coffee Estate in Alajuela, Costa Rica.  Since I am a huge Starbucks aficionado (just ask the baristas on Canyon Road in Puyallup, Washington), I thought this would be a great way to learn about the beverage I enjoy so much and visit a real working coffee plantation.  Coffee production first began in 1779 and the first exported beans to the United Kingdom happened in 1843 by William Le Lacheur Lyon, captain of the English ship, The Monarch.


Coffee Seedlings

After a brief stop at the seed bed to observe and learn about the development process of the plant and the history of the coffee plantation, it was on to observe the oldest humid coffee processing plant.  Declared to be an Architectural Heritage for Humanity in 2003, the coffee processing plant operates by hydraulic power.


Coffee peeling machinery

After the grains are classified and de-pulped, it’s off to the fermentation tanks where the fermentation process provides significant taste of the coffee that will soon be enjoyed by many.


Fermentation tanks

Once the fermentation process has been completed, the coffee is then dried – either in the Guardiola or on the patios under the sun.  After the drying process is complete, it is then stored in sacks in the bodega (coffee house) until it is exported or roasted in country.

Mechanical coffee dryer

Mechanical coffee dryer (Guardiola)

Using the sun to dry the coffee.

Using the sun to dry the coffee.

Once the coffee is dried it is stored in the Bodega.

Once the coffee is dried it is stored in the Bodega.

Some of the coffee is roasted and then packaged by hand on site for tour participants to purchase and take home to enjoy; however, the majority of the coffee produced (I believe it is around 40% of all the coffee produced) is exported to the United States.


Until the next adventure….






Standing on the Edge – Poás Volcano National Park

It is quite a surreal feeling to find yourself standing on the edge of an active volcano and watch the steam from that volcano rise towards the crater rim on which you are standing, bringing with it the obnoxious odor of sulfur. That is just the experience you may enounter if you make a visit to Parque Nacional Volcán Poás (Poás Volcano National Park) in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica.

Established on January 25, 1971, Poás Volcano’s main crater is 950 feet deep and frequently has small geyser and lava eruptions. My mom and I visited Poás Volcanao twice during our week exploring Costa Rica, the first time was early in the morning with our cousin before we split off from the people we were travelling with and the second was with a tour group operated by Grey Line Bus Tours that was part of a day tour to the Doka Coffee Plantation, Poás Volcano, and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens (more on the coffee plantation and the waterfalls in another post).

I was glad that we had the opportunity to visit the first time early in the morning as the second time we were there (with the tour group) the clouds and mist had moved in and you couldn’t see down into the crater at all (unfortunately, as much as we would like it to be so, nobody has control of the weather). Our first visit was under a gloriously blue sky and you could observe the steam seeping from the lake in the active crater.

There are two other inactive craters in the park as well, Von Frantzuis crater and the Botos crater; which, has a cold, deep lake in it surrounded by the vegetation of the cloud forest. I didn’t get a chance to see the other two craters on either trip to the volcano as we were short on time and I didn’t want to get left behind. Oh well, something to look forward to seeing if I ever get the opportunity to go back again.

The park is among the most develped in Costa Rica, with a paved road leading right up to the visitor’s center (which houses a cafe, restroom, gift shop, and a small informative museum). Even people with mobility issues can make it out to the crater rim as the walkway is wide and is wheelchair accessible. From the visitor’s center, it is a short 15-minute walk to the crater and the rain-fed sulfuric lake below. There are warning signs near the crater rim advising visitors to spend no more than 20 minutes at a time near the edge of the crater due to the sulfur gas emissions in the air.

As far as volcanic activity goes, there were moderate eruptions in the early 1950s and some brief periods of activity in 1989. when the access road into the park was closed. The park was temporarily closed in May 1994, when the volcano showed some signs of activity and in July and August 1994 when it rumbled to life once more.

If you are planning a trip to Poás, and aren’t taking your own vehicle, it is worth it to know that the majority of tour operators don’t arrive at the volcano until fairly late in the morning, making it difficult to see anything before the clouds and mist have had a chance to move in, obliterating your view down into the crater. If you aren’t driving up to the park yourself, try and find a tour groupd that arrives before 10am for the best chance of being able to stand on the rim of an active volcano and peer down into the active crater.

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Torrey Log Schoolhouse

Construction began on the Torrey log church on September 18, 1898.  Local settlers provided the labor, materials and cash for this unique log structure that had a steep hip roof, square bell tower, flared eves, and a pink sandstone foundation.  On December 19, 1898, the school opened for the first time in the 21 x 37 foot, one-room building providing an education for the children of Torrey and the surrounding ranches.  The building wasn’t just used for school and religious services though, it was also used for dances and civic, social, and religious meetings until two red sandstone buildings were constructed, one for a school and one for a church.

Use of the original log building continued both by the LDS church and the community until the 1970s.  The LDS church deeded the log building to the local Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in 1990, with the provision the the building was to be moved from Church property  Since that date, the building has undergone major renovations and restoration and continues to be used for religious, civic and educational functions.

Torrey School - September 18, 1898

                                                         Torrey School – September 18, 1898

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Grass Valley School

Originally built at 2325 Miner Street, the Grass Valley Schoolhouse was built around 1901 in a design typical of other schools being built in Colorado at the same time.  The bell in the tower was not only used for calling children in from recess, as it also served as a fire alarm for that area of Idaho Springs.  The schoolhouse also held various meetings and community functions before the school was closed in 1917, after which, it was converted into apartments.

Grass Valley School (1901-1917) Clear Creek County, Colorado

Grass Valley School (1901-1917) Clear Creek County, Colorado

The owners of the building gave it to the Historic Society in 1894 and the society convinced the city to save the school from demolition and renovate it to be used as a city hall.  The school was moved to its current location in 1986 and is now the cornerstone of the downtown improvement district of Idaho Springs.  In addition to being the City Hall, the old Grass Valley Schoolhouse also houses the Idaho Springs Police Department and the Idaho Springs Municipal Court.

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Independence School

Around 1864, the first school in the Fort Lupton area began in an abandoned log cabin, that had a cellar where the children and their teacher could hide in the case of an Indian attack.  A new log school house was pieced together in 1867, using whatever materials the farm families could find.  In 1875, the school was moved to a second log structure.

First named the “Acorn Academy” by the school children, the school name was changed to the Independence School sometime between 1890 and 1893.  The first teacher was Mr. John Perry, whom the ranchers and farmers had difficulty finding funds to pay in the first years of the school.

In January of 1900, population had grown significantly and it was voted upon to build a new brick school house that still stands today just south of Fort Lupton.

Prior to the schools relocation to its current location, the school was converted into a two room home, after which it became a house for migrant workers before eventually being left vacant.  The Watada family donated the school to the South Platte Valley Historical Society in 1998 and it was moved seven miles north to where it still sits today.  It has been restored with the help of a Colorado State Historical Fund Grant, and today the school is open for historical events and classes.  Since 2000, children, ages 7 to 16,  have had to opportunity to attend historical school sessions and learn what it was like to attend a school in the 1800s.

Independence School - 1875-1900

                                                          Independence School – 1875-1900

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – The Democrat Gulch School

Originally located in the Idea School District near the southern Morrow-Gilliam County line, the Democrat Gulch School served students in the area from 1885 until the mid-1930s.  The school was relocated to its current site in 1976 and restored as a local historical monument.

Democrat Gulch School - Built 1885

Democrat Gulch School – Built 1885

Until the next adventure…