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Blog for Victoria Bennett Beyer Photography

The photography blog of Victoria Bennett Beyer, featuring travel photographs from road trips across America and botanical photography of plants, flowers and leaves.

Boldt Castle, New York

Victoria Beyer

It’s tough to get a good picture of the mansion, because of all the lovely trees surrounding it.

It’s tough to get a good picture of the mansion, because of all the lovely trees surrounding it.

The island was originally Hart Island, and I learned hart is another word for stag. So there are stags adorning parts of the castle and the grounds.

The island was originally Hart Island, and I learned hart is another word for stag. So there are stags adorning parts of the castle and the grounds.

The castle is surrounded by lovely gardens.

The castle is surrounded by lovely gardens.

We drove up through The Thousand Islands region of New York, along the St. Lawrence Seaway. We didn’t have any particular plans, so we got some brochures as we stopped here and there, and we decided we had to see Boldt Castle in person. It’s a quick boat ride from Alexandria Bay to the island where famed hotelier George Boldt built a dream house for his wife, Louise, on Heart Island. When she died suddenly, just months before the house’s completion, he sent all the workers home and never stepped foot on the island again. The mansion fell into ruin for the next 77 years, until The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority purchased it and began to restore it.

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A portrait of Louise Boldt hangs over the fireplace.

A portrait of Louise Boldt hangs over the fireplace.

The inside is just as majestic as the outside of this grand house. With the original plans, the first two floors of have been restored.

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Grandpa takes a photo of a map of the area.

Grandpa takes a photo of a map of the area.

The top floors have not been restored, which shows just how much work had to be done. There are unopened crates with building supplies that were abandoned when all construction ceased. And there is graffiti everywhere from the years when it was empty - clearly this was a place for local kids to go hang out.

The power house is a castle in and of itself.

The power house is a castle in and of itself.

The water has risen past where it was in 1900 when construction began, and you can see that it has intruded into some of the structures on the island, including the power house, shown above. The children’s ‘play house,’ another mini-castle, has water flooding the bowling alley. It’s sad to see the areas that have been loving restored being damaged again, but the house sits higher up on the middle of the island, and so far is out of reach of the St. Lawrence River.

Old Fort Niagara, NY

Victoria Beyer

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Not far from Niagara Falls is Old Fort Niagara, one of the prettiest forts you will ever see. The French built it in 1726, but wanted it to look like a ‘House of Peace’ instead of a fort, so as not to arouse the suspicions of the Iroquois. It was later taken by the British, then the Americans, and once again by the British. It was returned to the Americans at the end of the War of 1812. That was the fort’s last armed conflict, and since then has served as a barracks and training station.

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Niagara Falls, NY

Victoria Beyer

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I live about five hours from Niagara Falls, but I have just seen it for the first time. It was as impressive as I had been expecting. It’s actually three falls, which you can see in the first picture: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the largest of the three, Horseshoe Falls. We rode the Maid of the Mist ship, which was fun but frankly, it was hard to see anything when we were close to the falls. But without my sight, I really focused on the power of the falls through the overwhelming roar. It was incredible.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Part 2

Victoria Beyer

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I have spent the last month revisiting all the photos I took last summer on our 7-week road trip across America. I took so many photos, and I even did a good job keeping up with them as I took them, but there are always some gems that slip through the cracks. How did I not notice the above image, from Great Sand Dunes National Park? It is my favorite, I think, from the whole trip. We just happened to be there on a day when storms were rolling through but not really dropping much rain.

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I like this one, too. The shadows the clouds are making are so dramatic.

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All these folks are boarding down the dunes with special sand boards you can rent a mile or so from the entrance of the park.

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Here, my husband looks like he has been walking in circles.

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And this one isn’t too shabby, either. I love how small the hikers in the distance are. It really helps give scale to the sand dunes.

I’ve added the first and last images to my shop if you need some pretty for your walls!

Cypress Gardens Has Reopened

Victoria Beyer

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I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Cypress Gardens in my home, Berkeley County, S.C., has reopened! It has been 3 1/2 years since a big storm wreaked havoc and the park was closed for repairs. The park is waiving admission fee for Berkeley County residents until the end of June! I don’t know when I will be back in South Carolina, but I can’t wait to see everything that has been done to restore this fantastic attraction.

I took this photo many years ago, from one of the trails at Cypress Gardens. It’s still one of my favorites.

Hartwood Acres Adventure

Victoria Beyer

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Last Friday I woke to a fresh layer of snow, undisturbed by wind, so I headed out to Hartwood Acres. It was still dark when I got there, so I sat in my car for a few minutes, eating a granola bar and sipping my chai. One person beat me out of the car and onto the trail, but he was out for a run, so I felt no particular hurry. As light began to appear, I began walking, stopping first at two lovely skeleton trees.

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I took Trail 1, and found myself looking out on a neighboring farm, so idyllic in the morning hush. I had been walking along with my new wide angle lens, but stopped to change it for the above shot.

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When I unzipped my bag, I scared a few deer and I froze, just enjoying watching them. Three trotted up the hill to the left of the trail on the photo above, and you can see one crossing the trail at a run. I assumed I had scared it, and stood still so as not to bother them any further. Then I saw something that surprised me - a coyote ran across the trail after the deer! The two animals looped to my left, and I spun around to watch the chase, which ended with the deer hightailing it through the forest behind me, and the coyote retracing its steps in a semicircle on my left, and crossing back over the trail to where it originally appeared, disappearing into the brush. My blood was pumping with the thrill of watching such an exciting moment before me. I had see the coyote’s tracks on the way up the trail, but I never guessed I would see one in action. I was so sorry I had the wrong lens on, which made the deer and coyote seem like little dots in the distance. They were in fact just about 200 yards away.

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By the time I got back to the paved trail, the sun was cresting the hills, bathing everything in a golden light. It was such a beautiful sight, especially after the dreary days that seem endless sometimes here in the winter.