SENIORS JOURNEY TO PANAMA



Seniors Awed By Natural Wonders

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We all know about the Panama Canal, but little about the rest of Panama. I discovered that there is a plethora of natural wonders throughout Panama.  Now it’s time to include Panama on our senior travel bucket list.

The country has a super natural park called Darien, the Chiriqui Highlands, a Caribbean archipelago of calm waters called Bocas Del Toro and a major highlight,  the Arenal Volcano. Volcanologists have previously declared Arenal the third most perfect volcanic cone in the entire world. Have you ever seen a “perfect volcanic cone” up close?

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Panama is the perfect vacation destination for senior travelers with an enthusiasm for the beauty and diversity of the natural world. Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama’s rugged landscape. Mostly un-navigable, many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas.

 Abundant Bird And Wildlife Await Senior Visitors

Amphibians, mammals and reptiles are abundant like turtles, hawksbill, monkeys, raccoons, paca and leatherback. Bird species are also in abundance like the yellow warbler, tiger-heron in Paridita and Parida Island. Among the sandy beaches and lush island vegetation reside four types of turtles and hundreds of varieties of orchids.

Kuna Indian women wearing native costumes with Mola embroderies cutting up bananas in their village on Corbisky Island, San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala), Caribbean Sea, Panama

If one was to write a travel slogan for this uniquely “S”-shaped country that connects North and South America, it would go like this: “We’re not Colombia. We’re not Costa Rica. We are Panama.” I read somewhere that ships do not cross the Panama Canal going from east to west, but rather from north to south.

Within the last 100 years, the building of the Panama Canal and the Pan-American Highway have both spurred the country’s growth and development. And in this century, the love of all things green is turning tourism into a thriving industry.

Popular Extreme Tourism Destination

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Gone are the days when all visitors saw of Panama was the view from the deck of their cruise ship as it navigated the canal. Now it is on site and up close for senior visitors who seek adventure and sites that can be found nowhere else on the planet.

People from practically every culture on earth make up Panama’s population of 3 million. Nearly half live in Panama City and like San Francisco, you’ll even find a Chinatown there. By the way, the Panama hat actually is made in Ecuador, but buy one anyway, they are way cool.

Panama is a popular destination for what is called extreme tourism. There are excellent conditions for trekking, rafting, rappelling, kayaking, surfing, canopy tours and various safaris throughout the country.  Panama is still one of the best-kept travel secrets in the world with outstanding natural beauty and an astounding biodiversity. jeb

SENIORS RETURN TO BAVARIA



Bamberg, a Bavarian Treasure

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I recently came across a site listing the Top Ten places to visit in any country.  Bamberg was #8 for Germany.  I had never heard of Bamberg so it was time for this senior to go exploring.

Bamberg is a town in Bavaria 40 miles north of Nuremberg. It is said to be one of Germany’s most beautiful old towns and a “Bavarian Treasure.”

It is located in Upper Franconia on the river Regnitz close to its confluence with the river Main. Its historic city center is a listed UNESCO world heritage site and as such, jeb would head there first to inspect this part of the city.

With a population of just over 70 thousand including 13 thousand students, the city has much to offer senior visitors. The Regnitz flows right through the middle of town before it flows on into the Main River. Senior visitors will find Bamberg to be a rare German city, having escaped Allied bombing during World War II. Thus it is in fine shape.

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Seniors View Seven Hills And Seven Churches

Bamberg extends over seven hills, each crowned by a beautiful church. This has led to Bamberg being called the “Franconian Rome,” although a running joke among Bamberg’s tour guides is to refer to Rome instead as the “Italian Bamberg”.

The Old Town of Bamberg is listed as a World Heritage Site, primarily because of its authentic medieval appearance. One of the main attractions is the Bamberg Cathedral constructed  in 1237. Another is Michaelsberg Abbey built in the 12th century and is on the summit of one of Bamberg’s “Seven Hills.”

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The Altenburg castle is a former residence for bishops and is highly popular with senior tourists. The Little Venice area bordering the river displays classic examples of half-timber construction and German architecture.

Bamberg can claim many historic anecdotes but perhaps most unique is its status as the final resting place of a Pope. This fact is unique because apart from Pope Clement II, no other Pope is buried north of the Alps.

Bamberg A UNESCO Heritage site

The lush green countryside around Bamberg is a charming setting for the seven-hilled town, and in 1993, two decades after the town celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of its founding, Bamberg was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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The historical fabric of the old town in Bamberg remains generally intact, with over 1000 buildings listed as protected monuments. But there’s more to Bamberg than architecture: with modern shops, a buzzing nightlife, nine breweries producing over 50 different types of beer, and active and varied cultural program including a world-class symphony orchestra, the town is a perfect place for a short break.

 Senior travelers, plan to spend a few days in Bamberg as you are exploring Germany.  You will find a town full of amenities that will remain with your memory for a long long time. jeb

Filed under : Editors Choice, Europe

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB



Seniors, Let’s Go Spelunking

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One I’ve been to, the other is on my bucket list. My wife and I experienced Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. This senior had always wanted to see that Cavern. I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, we did not stick around the see the thousands of bats that come out at dusk.

Living in Arizona, I appreciated the fact that Carlsbad is called the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it.” That’s very close. Carlsbad Caverns in the Chihuahuan Desert are one of the world’s deepest, biggest and most decorated caverns ever found.

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They’re most famous for the “Big Cave” and its Big Room—a massive 14 acre space filled with unusual calcium-carbonate cave formations.  Visitors can see the Bottomless Pit, Giant Dome, Rock of Ages and Painted Grotto – formations created when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone.

Caving, also traditionally known as spelunking in the United States and Canada and potholing in the United Kingdom and Ireland, is a  recreational pastime of exploring wild cave systems. Speleology is the scientific study of caves and the cave environment. Just thought you might like to know that.

 Senior Spelunkers Like Mammoth

mammoth cave signOne means to get a feel for a cave you have not yet experienced, is to watch  a good video. Mammoth Cave National Park has a history traced back to 1791 and is a World Heritage Site as well as an  International Biosphere Reserve.

Mammoth is  said to be the World’s largest cave with 390 miles that have been explored and perhaps that many more still to be discovered. Near Brownsville, Kentucky, if you are a senior spelunker, Mammoth is the place for you.

Senior visitors can explore the vast chambers and complex labyrinths, sometimes climbing up hundreds of stairs and steep hills. The more adventurous types can take “wild” tours where visitors explore muddy crawls and dusty tunnels. Check out Fat Man’s Misery, a section of the Cavern that is only 18 inches wide at the hips, which is like walking through a shallow trench, or take a tour lit only with paraffin lamps.

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Son Doong Is The Biggest

My wife and I visited Wind Cave in South Dakota. They turned out all the lights and said “listen.” In the total darkness you could hear your own heartbeat.

Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is so big it contains a jungle and a river. Son Doong remained undiscovered until a local man found it in 1991. It is now touted as the largest in the world.

Mammoth is still the longest and Krubera Cave in Georgia the deepest with an “unknown bottom.”

Happy Spelunking!  jeb

SENIORS VENTURE TO AUSTRALIA



Seniors Get Wet in Daintree Rainforest

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Senior travelers, did you know that there was a rainforest in Australia?  Yes, Cape Tribulation is home to the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, the 135 million year old Daintree Rainforest in Tropical North Queensland.

It’s a place where the most ancient of wonders meet as the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef merge together. You can link the two by foot along the choice of rainforest walks or if you’re after some adventure try jungle surfing or sea kayaking.

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Senior visitors will find Daintree is straight north of Cairns on the east coast of Australia where along the coastline north of the Daintree River, a tropical rainforest grows right down to the edge of the sea.

 Seniors Discover Animals Found No Where Else

The Daintree Rainforest is home to a wide range of animals, and like Madagascar, some not found anywhere else on the planet. Mossman Gorge in the Daintree National Park, features fresh mountain water cascading over round granite boulders.

Senior botanists can study unique flora and fauna including the Boyd’s Forest Dragon. A short stroll along walking tracks and swinging cable bridges brings you to panoramic views over the Gorge. It’s neat that one can visit two World Heritage Sites in just one day that includes the Great Barrier Reef.

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Stroll along pristine Thornton’s Beach away from the crowds. The Daintree is home to diverse wildlife species including the Cassowary, Kingfishers, Sunbirds, the Ulysses butterfly and Australia’s largest reptile, the Saltwater Crocodile.

Cape Tribulation is where the rainforest meets the reef. Stroll along the Kulki Boardwalk and enjoy the views over magical beaches. There are tours that travel north along the Bloomfield Track to Stingray Bay and Cowie Beach with their unique mangrove systems and tidal pools. Most of the surrounding areas are national parks that feature an array of unique and native plant and wildlife.

 Daintree Discovery Center Welcomes Senior Visitors

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Bloomfield Falls is another special place, with indigenous rock art is present near the falls. Easily accessible by short walking tracks, and guides can explain how the local people lived in this area. Check out the tours that leave regularly from Port Douglas, traveling to the Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation and the Bloomfield Track.

Cape Tribulation was named by legendary explorer Captain Cook when the Endeavour struck a reef to the north of the area. The Cape features some truly stunning scenery with long stretches of pristine beaches set against the picturesque backdrop of Thornton Peak and Mount Sorrow.

The Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia. The Daintree Discovery Center celebrated its 21st birthday in June 2010 with the arrival of its 1 millionth visitor. So you see, it is not to be missed. An easy drive from Cairns or Port Douglas, visitors will find the Rainforest exhilarating and memorable. It’s going on my travel bucket list.  jeb

SENIORS DISCOVER THE GERMAN BAVARIAN ALPS



Seniors Awed In Berchtesgaden

mqdefaultBerchtesgaden, pop. 8,000, in the German Bavarian Alps, is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich. It is one awesome scenic destination for senior travelers.

A walk through Berchtesgaden’s historic town center and a visit to the royal castle and its abbey church is time well-spent. The oldest quarter is found on Nonntal Street. The local cemetery is rich in the principality’s fascinating history where local guides can connect grave sites or memorial plaques with numerous interesting local or internationally renowned residents of Berchtesgaden.

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This village in the German Alps has several ski slopes and a top-notch bobsled track. The emerald-green lake Königssee near Berchtesgaden is surrounded by steep walls of rock, with the 1800-meter east wall of the Watzmann towering above its west shore.

Seniors Visit Berchtesgaden National Park

Half of the terrain Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria is covered by the Berchtesgaden National Park. This park is actually what led me to the village.  Founded in 1978 it is a great destination when you like activities in amazing nature and great mountains. “Haus der Berge,” the new National Park Center in Berchtesgaden, opened its doors in May 2013 and sees itself as the gateway into Berchtesgaden National Park.

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Watzmann, Germany’s 2nd highest mountain is nearby, and next to the village is Lake Königssee where senior visitors can take a fun cruise on the lake. A major site not to be missed is the salt mines deep underneath the ‘Salzberg’ mountain where a secret world exists.

For many years, only the salt miners in Berchtesgaden were allowed to enter the complex tunnel system. Today, part of the mine, which has been in operation for over 500 years now, is open to all visitors of adventure who wish to get to know the place where the famous Bad Reichenhall brand salt originates.

Seniors Enjoy The Eagle’s Nest

watzmannAfter that tour to the salt mines, board a breathtaking bus journey up the Kehlstein road and a luxurious brass elevator up through the rock into Kehlsteinhaus, known in English as the Eagle’s Nest. Senior visitors can enjoy its impressive views and its excellent cuisine.

Seniors will discover that this site combines a unique example of historic architecture and a stunning alpine setting. The Eagle’s Nest was a present to Hitler and became a legend in the postwar period.

So bring along your hiking shoes, sufficient memory chips for your camera and enjoy some wonderful Bavarian food, the pleasant folks who live there and most of all, the magnificent scenery in all directions. jeb

SENIORS VISIT TARPON SPRINGS, FLORIDA



Seniors Visit World’s Sponge Capital

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So how did I come across Tarpon Springs, Florida?  Well actually Mike Rowe did it with his TV show, ‘Dirty Jobs’.  He was on a boat marked Tarpon Springs and they were gathering sponges. It did not look like all that dirty a job to me, but then again, this senior was not on the boat.

Just 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg and found along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, Tarpon Springs was named for the fish found in abundance in nearby waters. But it also is known as the “sponge capital of the world,” and for its 51 miles of waterfront allure.

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“At one time, the sponge industry was the largest industry in Florida,” said George Billiris, an international sponge distributor who has been a part of the Tarpon scene for most of his 72 years. “It was larger than citrus.” The sponge industry is at its lowest ebb since 1946, a condition caused by a lack of divers.

Today it’s impossible to picture Tarpon Springs without its Greek heritage. From St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church to the baklava-laden bakeries that line the docks, this is a true Greek community. Dedicated in 1942, after the sponge boom had largely ended, the Orthodox Church has presented a lasting edifice of Greek influence in this town for the past 70 years.

Senior Visitors Meet Greek Americans

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Tarpon Springs, a city in Pinellas County, Florida with a population of 25,000, has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US.

One visitor writes…”I spent a Saturday afternoon browsing shops full of Greek souvenirs, Greek bakeries, Greek Lace shop, and of course Greek restaurants. Had a great meal at Hella’s of a Gyro and Greek Sangria! Finished off with cheesecake Bakalava which was to die for! Hellas has a bakery attached to the restaurant so get some to take home. When I was there about noon, the sponge divers who had just come in and their catches were an awesome site. Fun place to spend a few hours.”

I was impressed that there were six historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Arcade Hotel, Old Tarpon Springs City Hall, Old Tarpon Springs High School, Safford House, Tarpon Springs Historic District and the Tarpon Springs Greektown District. Wow. That is impressive!

Spongedock District and Greektown…

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The first place I would want to check out is Greektown and the entire Sponge Dock District. Senior visitors will want to stroll through Greek Village at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks loaded with over 100 businesses. It is said that in Tarpon Springs, you will find some of the finest Greek Restaurants, markets, and bakeries in the entire country.

The Tarpon Springs Aquarium features a spectacular living reef, once the domain of divers only. Live coral, sponges, sharks and a variety of fish come together to form this truly unique undersea oasis that is one of Florida’s most exciting marine attractions. jeb

SENIORS STOP IN RIPLEY OHIO



Seniors Visit Historic Village

images-1Senior friends, let’s visit Ripley, a village (I do love villages) in Brown County, Ohio along the Ohio River about 50 miles southeast of Cincinnati. Around 1,800 folks call Ripley home.

 Senior visitors will soon discover that Historic Ripley was put on the map as a place where thousands experienced freedom by way of the underground railroad. Ripley gained a reputation throughout the United States for its strong beliefs in the abolition of slavery.

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Prominent citizens were active in the underground railroad movement. Hundreds of local people were active in aiding fugitive slaves from the early 1800s onward. The Ripley Anti-Slavery Society was just one of several groups helping those individuals escape to freedom.

Of historic significance are the John P. Parker House, which sits along Front Street and faces the Ohio River and the Rankin House, which sits atop a hill overlooking the River.

Ripley’s history began in 1812 when the village was founded by Colonel James Poage. A Virginian, Poage obtained the land on the banks of the Ohio River through a 1,000-acre land grant for his service in the Revolutionary War.

Colonel Poage originally named the village Staunton in recognition of his hometown. The name of the village was changed to Ripley in 1816 honoring General Eleazar Wheelock Ripley, an American commander in the War of 1812.

Senior Historians Take In Ripley

RipleyOH_MainStSenior visitors will enjoy two outstanding museums in Ripley, The Tobacco Museum and the Ripley Museum. Rooms within the tobacco museum include the HALL OF FAME Room recognizing individuals who have played important roles in the tobacco industry.

The Ripley Museum is located in an 1850′s home featuring 10 rooms with collectibles dating from the late 18th century up to the mid-20th century.

I discovered that Ripley is home to Seven Newman (The Worldwalker) and get this, the first man to walk solo around the world. What a feat. He could write many travel blogs like this one.

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One of the best shows in Ohio year in and year out is the Arrowheads and Indian Artifacts of Hard Stone and Slate display that is said to be one of the best anywhere in the county. If you an historian interested in Civil War history, be sure to check out a very rare Wiard 3-inch rifled cannon.

Restored in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, this cannon honors the memory of the Brown County citizens who sacrificed, fought, and died for the Union cause. Ripley gained distinction as being the only town in the United States to have soldier’s organizations fighting from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.

As you meander across the country, stop by Ripley for a visit.  It is full of history, amiable folks, historic sites and some great food.  Enjoy your visit. jeb

SENIORS DRAWN TO MAINE



Acadia National Park Worth The Visit

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This senior read recently that Acadia National Park covering 60 sq. miles is one of the most revered among the 58 national parks in the US. It also is the oldest National Park east of the Mississippi River. Actually the park exists out of different islands and is located in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Back in 1919 it was called Lafayette National Park and in 1929, the name was changed to Acadia. The park encompasses approximately 47,748 acres in three main areas.

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Samuel de Champlain was sailing down the coast of Maine in 1604 and noted this large off-shore island. He named it Mount Desert Island. It is the largest island off the coast of Maine and the second largest (behind Long Island, New York) on the eastern seaboard.

 Seniors Visit Bar Harbor

Widely known as the home of Acadia National Park, the town of Bar Harbor, a small seaside resort on the northeastern side of Mount Desert Island, draws about two million visitors each year yet only has an approximate year-round population of about 10,000. Bar Harbor, has a unique relationship with Acadia National Park and is well worth a visit as well. Still, all the beauty of Maine comes together in Acadia National Park.

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The scenic Summit Road as it is called officially opened in 1931. It meanders along the north and eastern side of the mountain for approximately 3.5 miles until reaching the top.

The park is home to some 40 different species of mammalian wildlife. It is also known as home to over 50 percent of all the vascular plants in the state of Maine. Senior hikers will discover a host of popular hiking trails from very easy to strenuous.

Bar Harbor, has a unique relationship with Acadia National Park and is well worth a visit as well. “Together, they are like conjoined twins, both born of the same mother – and she is the land and ocean combined.”

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Mountains, conifers, and wildlife meet the ocean in a spectacle that, once seen, is never forgotten. You will certainly note Cadillac Mountain in the park, at 1,530 feet, the highest point along the entire North Atlantic seaboard.

Rockefeller Got Involved

Many well-to-do folks like John D. Rockefeller, Jr., played a critical role in developing the park. He was instrumental in the building the famous carriage roads (1915 – 1933) and donated over 11,000 acres of land.

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There have since been countless others who have donated their time and resources towards the continued realization of this dream so that we may all experience its raw natural beauty.

Eagle Lake, at 436 acres, is highly popular and is the largest fresh water lake in the park on Mount Desert Island. It has a maximum depth of 110 feet.

For a cool summer getaway, seniors traveling in the northeast will want to head towards Maine to visit Acadia National Park.  jeb

SENIORS TRAVEL IN AFRICA



Seniors Enjoy Kruger National Park

krugerparkKruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,633 square kilometers in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa. Senior folks go there planning on seeing the BIG FIVE wild animals and are not disappointed.

There are a host of Kruger Park Tours available and a wide range of costs. There are Budget, Five Star, Four Star and even a Three Star Safari, depending on how much you want to pay. The Kruger is the ideal Big Five safari destination, especially for a first safari.

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Established in 1898 and now home to 140 different animal species, the Kruger attracts nearly a million visitors per year. The majority visit the south and central areas of the park, staying in a large number of National Park-run rest camps.

South African National Park Attracts Senior Visitors

Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. I wonder who counted all of them.

Officials make no bones about the fact that their main concern is wildlife; Homo sapiens are a necessary nuisance. Although an effort is made to service visitors’ needs, such as providing escorted game drives, the facilities and park infrastructure are undergoing a massive upgrade.

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So when do you go? The summer months (October to April) are hot and often balmy. Winters are warm and mild, although senior visitors going on night-drives will require warm clothing. A major rule in Kruger is that all visitors must remain in their vehicles unless in a designated area.

No part of the body may protrude from a window or sunroof or any other part of the vehicle. An arm hanging out a window might result in a stub, therefore vehicle doors must be closed at all times.

 Historical Game Reserve

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The park is full of history and was first proclaimed back in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve by the then president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. Today it is said that Kruger Park is South Africa’s most exciting African safari destination, steeped in legend and history with amazingly vast landscapes and spectacular African wildlife.

Fodors notes that “There’s no getting away from it, and it’s worth repeating: visiting Kruger is likely to be one of the great experiences of your life.” Frommers adds that “Kruger also has a number of archaeological sites, the most interesting being the Thulamela Heritage Site, a 16th-century stone-walled village overlooking the Luvuvhu River in the north.

Historical sites relating to early European explorers and Kruger’s beginnings are also dotted throughout the park.” So if you have Africa on your mind, consider a safari to South Africa and Kruger National Park. jeb

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB



Seniors, Let’s Go Mushrooming

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Have you ever been mushroom hunting, senior friends? I have done it dozens of times in Iowa. Most of the time I get lucky and find a few spongy Morels, which are my favorites. We would not have any trouble finding mushrooms in Kennett Square, a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Grab your coffee and let’s go…

The town, just off of Hwy 1, is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World. Over 51% of the nation’s mushroom crops are grown in southern Chester County. Mushroom farming in the region produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a week.

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To celebrate this heritage, Kennett Square has an annual Mushroom Festival, where the town shuts down to have a parade, folks tour mushroom farms and have a good time. Now in its 29th year, the annual fest is expected to attract more than 100,000 mushroom aficionados. Highlights of this year’s festival include the National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship.

Seniors Discover Long Mushroom Growing History

Kennett Square’s founder is credited with introducing mushroom growing to the area. He grew carnations, a popular local commodity around 1885, and wanted to make use of the wasted space under the elevated beds. He imported spawn from Europe and started experimenting with mushroom cultivation.

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Did you know that mushrooms grow from spores, not seeds, that are so tiny you can’t see individual spores with the naked eye? I know from visiting a mushroom grower that they prefer dark, cool, moist, and humid growing environments, so a dark cave with high humidity is a great place to grow them.

I learned that every 10 weeks, the beds inside the mushroom rooms are filled with compost mixed with spores, and covered with peat moss. The spores germinate and create a thick web of white threads called mycelia. Cocoa shells from a Hershey’s chocolate plant in Hershey, Pa., are just one ingredient in the compost that mushroom growers use to feed the fungi.

 We Could Grow Our Own…

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Welcome to Phillips Mushroom Farm, in Kennet Square the largest grower of specialty mushrooms in the US. Now you can tell a Shitake from a Maitake or an Oyster from a Baby Bella.

We could drop by Kennet Square and the Mushroom Capital and pick up a kit to grow our own shitake and oyster mushrooms. Of course we could also purchase several varieties to take home.

Actually I think I’ll just head for the timber to find my beloved morels. jeb

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