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High Rock Tower in Lynn, Massachusetts.

On our way out of Salem we made a fun stop in Lynn, Massachusetts, to climb up the hill at High Rock Tower Park. The tower is tucked into a densely populated residential area, and the approach that we used has no parking area (we found street parking). There are no informational or directional signs, so when we found it, then hiked up the hill to see it, I felt like we had discovered something special.

This approximately 5-acre piece of land has held an observation tower since the 1840s. The original tower was burned down in 1865. The current tower is 107 feet high and was built of granite in 1904. Since 2002 the observatory has been open to the public for views of the starry skies, from 8-10pm. It contains a 12-inch Meade telescope and visitors get a good look at the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the great storms of Jupiter.

If a person were to approach from the other side of the hill, there are wide streets and parking spaces. I don’t know why the map app sent us in the back way, but it was more fun. Up on top we found a small city park there as well, with a jungle gym for the kids and grassy lawn to play in. A few parents and kiddies were running around, but it was mostly abandoned. No one was appreciating the beauty of the place, the tower itself, the gigantic boulders of fascinating porphyry rock (a reddish rock with big crystals embedded in it) all over the site, or the incredible views. Will and I did appreciate all of that, however.

View of the sea overlooks Stone Cottage, also part of the site. There is a clear view of Nahant Bay, and the community of Nahant, on an island.

The Boston city skyline appears to the south, while standing at High Rock Tower.

Will then took me to see a ball game in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, at McCoy Stadium. That is the home (for now) of the Pawsox (the Pawtucket Red Sox), a team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. Of course seeing a hometown minor league game was fun, but there was the added excitement that we might get to see one of the major league players on the field, while they got up to speed after an absence from the Boston team. Will thought maybe Dustin Pedroia would be playing that night. Pedroia is one of the players who was a star when I was watching a lot of baseball about ten years ago, so it would be super cool to be able to watch him play.

Pedroia would be playing!

It was a warm night. We parked in a neighborhood and walked to the stadium. It felt wonderful to be sharing a small-town experience with all the other happy people walking to the game with us. Once we got our tickets and got inside the stadium, I checked the roster. Yep, Pedroia was on there.

We were hungry and I had fun standing in line for deep fried food and beer, all the stereotypes of baseball you could ask for. We found our seats and settled in. By the time we sat down the game had already started.

The Pawsox played the Gwinnett Stripers, from Gwinnett County, Georgia. I didn’t know anything about either team, but you can learn the players pretty fast by watching them during a game. These days of course you get up-close photos of the players, their positions and their stats up on the marquee every time they are at bat or make a significant play. That helps you learn. Another fun tradition is that each player picks a theme song and a few seconds of it are played as they approach home plate to bat. I learned who the country guy was, the hip hop guy, etcetera.

Hoping for a Pawtucket Red Sox run.

We had a pretty decent view of the field from our seats.

Stripers pitcher fixin’ to let loose.

Even though I only had my phone camera, I thought it did alright with capturing the scene.

The Stripers started off strong with three runs in the first inning, and another run in the the second. Pawsox gained momentum as they played, and by halfway through the game were clearly putting their hearts into it. That isn’t a way to win a game though. We finally got two runs in the 5th inning, but never caught up, and we lost the game 5-2.

I’m glad I got to see a game there. The team has been sold and is going to move to the city of Worcester in 2021. Once they move they will no longer be the Pawsox. It’s a pretty significant loss for Pawtucket, a small town that really doesn’t have much to brag about, or for the citizens to come together and enjoy.

After the game we hung around for fireworks. It’s a summertime tradition at McCoy stadium. Will’s mom is not a fan of the fireworks I hear, because it makes a lot of noise when many people are trying to get some sleep. I recommend being AT the game for the fireworks, because then all the light and noise go together, and it’s a lot of fun. After the show we walked back along the sidewalks to the car, in among many tired happy families heading home.

View of Nagasaki at night from the observatory

Friday afternoon, Ian and I shook off the somber mood of the Atomic Bomb Museum, and went out into Nagasaki to see what else there was. First of all, we were starving, so we had to find a place to eat. We rode the streetcar back toward the center of town. We wandered through streets for awhile, taking the time to poke into curious areas in our search for food. We found an underground market, but it turned out to sell mostly raw seafood, and we had no way of cooking it.

The underground market had many stalls displaying fresh fish

The eyeball of this huge fish was nearly 3 inches across!

After eating, we went to a landmark in Nagasaki called Spectacles Bridge, because the reflections of the two arches in the water look like round spectacles. There are several beautiful stone bridges along the river in that part of town. Spectacles Bridge was built by Zen master Mokusu Nyojo, and is the oldest stone bridge in Japan.

At one point in the river, rainbows of koi fish were hovering, as if waiting to be fed by people on the shore. A few people appeared on the stone ledge beside the river, and the fish moved to them in a group, sloppy carp mouths gaping above the surface.

Meganabashi, Spectacles Bridge, the oldest Chinese-style stone bridge in Japan

People cross on the stepping stones, and fish wait hopefully for food

We saw signs pointing up a hill, so we walked along narrow streets till we saw red painted beams of a temple above rooftops, and were able to find our way to it. We had discovered Kofuku-ji, the first Obaku Zen temple in Japan, its origins dating to around 1620. Interestingly, Mokusu Nyojo was one of the masters at this temple. This was the first of a series of temples built by Chinese immigrants determined to make a grand display of their loyalty to Buddhism, so that people would be less inclined to suspect that they were Christians (since Christianity was outlawed).

Tohmeizan Kofukuji

fabulous flower

Behind the temple was a cemetery that stretched far up the hill behind it. Ian and I climbed between the gravestones, through a maze of stone steps, trying to get a higher vantage point and possibly see the end of the cemetery. Hundreds of rectangular family plots are carved into the mountainside, each with its own hand-built, narrow, concrete and crumbling steps. But it truly was a maze! I would follow steps up to a dead-end, back track, try different steps to another dead end. I would spot a different path from there which seemed to lead higher, so I would go back down, try the new route, only to be stopped at another dead end. Ian was doing the same thing in a different part of the cemetery. He came down to where I stood and pointed to another section, “It looks like you have to start over there,” he said. I followed his hand, and saw that we would have to find the beginning of the trail from the other side of the temple grounds. So we hopped down all the little steps and walked through the temple grounds and buildings again, with an eye out for a way to get behind them to the path we sought. We made it all the way to the other side, but every path to the back was blocked.

Cemetery stretches up and out of sight on the hill behind the temple

Kofuku-ji closes at 5:00 pm. We discovered this when worried caretakers began stealing glances our way, and closing doors to areas we were no longer visiting. We were also feeling a little self-conscious about trying to get into a different part of the cemetery only in order to climb higher into it, and not for mourning someone’s passing or paying respect to the dead.

Farther along the Nakashima River are more stone bridges

We wandered back toward the river, and back to the streetcar line. Ian wanted to find the observatory at Nagasaki before nightfall, so we would be able to watch the sunset from the summit.

A shrine beside the river. The symbol of a swastika (called manji) in Japan, is the infinity character, and signifies a Buddhist temple.

For 1200 yen each (about $15) we purchased tickets for the tram that would take us to the observatory. We waited with a growing group of other sunset-seekers, and found vending machines to quench our thirst while we explored the shrines there. Our timing was good, and we arrived at the top while the sky was still light enough to illuminate the scene below us. A three-story circular building perches at the top of the hill, allowing viewers on the observation deck on the roof to have a clear view above the trees. We could see in every direction.

View of homes below the tram as we sailed through the air

People atop the building, looking out across Nagasaki city

The observation tower, with a restaurant and resting area inside, and an observation deck on top.

We remained at the observatory till it was completely dark, watching as lights below grew brighter. Then we rode the streetcar back to the train station, and made the long journey back to Sasebo.

Path down to the torii entrance to the shrine and tram boarding station

Stray cats waiting for the train with us

A sunset view

Ian, beside the river

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