“K” is For Korean Friendship Bell-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

Arriving two days before we would set sail on our partial World Cruise Adventure, afforded us the opportunity to explore the Los Angeles area. With an eye toward nature, scenery, history and culture in all of our research, I had feared we would have to spend the day by the hotel pool. How very wrong I had been! My sleuthing had uncovered a plethora of activities which would meet our desires and keep us busy from morning until night. Our first stop on Day 2 of our trip, would be the Korean Friendship Bell.

We were momentarily lost as we looked for the entrance to the bell. Indeed, we soon discovered that many locals have never even been to this beautiful location. The GPS had given us the location only as far as old military barracks. As we looked out over the San Pedro harbor, we realized that the Korean Friendship Bell was actually the next entrance over and up a steep roadway which lead to the most beautiful open park and stunning views of any area that I have seen.

A plaque at the entrance describes how the US had acquired such a gift. The pavilion took ten months to be built by Korean craftsmen “to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. independence, honor veterans of the Korean War, and to consolidate traditional friendship between the two countries”. From the tree which had been planted by the Korean President himself, to the carefully curated landscaping, and the concrete circles which once held cannons, I wanted to explore everything.

I also felt the spiritual connection of this special place and the friendships which had been born between two nations. This seemed to be a location for quiet contemplation. I witnessed a quiet reverence as many approached the bell.

Build atop old bunkers and resting peacefully on a high knoll, overlooking the sea gate from which U.S. troops once sailed into the Pacific, the bell site affords an unsurpassed view of the Los Angeles harbor, the Catalina Channel and the sea terraces of San Pedro hill.

The 17 ton bell sits inside a beautifully painted pavilion.

Also known as an Emille Bell, the bell is patterned after the Bronze Bell of King Songdok, which was cast in 771 A.D. and is still on view in South Korea today. This bell remains among the largest of its kind in the world.

With a height of twelve feet and a diameter of 7-1/2 feet, the bell is made of copper and tin, with gold, nickel, lead and phosphorous added for tone quality.

Four pairs of figures, each pair consisting of the Goddess of Liberty holding a torch, and a Korean spirit , are engraved in relief on the body of the bell. Each of the Korean spirits holds up a different symbol: a symbolic design of the Korean flag; a branch of the rose of Sharon, Korea’s national flower; a branch of laurel, symbol of victory; and a dove of peace.

The bell is rung each year on: Independence day, July 4, National Liberation Day of Korea, August 15, 9:00a.m.-12 Noon and New Year’s Eve, September 17 to coincide with bell ringings around the country to celebrate Constitution week, also on January 13 for Korean-American Day. The Bell is also rung 13 times on the 1st Saturday of the month at 11:30 a.m. There is no clapper inside the giant bell, instead a large wooden log is pulled back and allowed to strike the bell’s side.

The bell is set in a magnificent pagoda-like structure which was constructed on the site by thirty craftsmen flown in from Korea. It took them ten months and costs $569,680. Everything about the pavilion is symbolic. There are twelve columns representing the twelve designs of the Oriental zodiac. Animals stand guard at the base of each set of stairs leading to the pavilion.

Bring a picnic, revel in the beauty of the open ocean and plan to spend some time exploring the walking paths which surround the pavilion. Be warned though, it is always windy at this location.

Korean Bell of Friendship and Bell Pavilion
Angels Gate Park
3601 S Gaffey Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 548-7705

“K” is for Kalkaska-Exploring Northern Michigan

It was pouring with rain the day we traveled through Kalkaska.  I needed a K for our alphabet tour as we made our way through several Northern Michigan towns, on a two day adventure.  As soon as I saw the giant 17 foot long fish, located near the old railroad depot now turned Nature Museum, I knew that I needed  this picture.  Truth be told, unless you count the gas station and convenience stores there weren’t many other options for exciting photos of this tiny town.

Taking this picture made me smile as imagined what people were thinking as they saw me standing in the pouring rain, holding a letter for no apparent reason.  It was likely the most entertainment in the town in a while. Curiosity generally gets people talking.  It is often the way we often start discussions about our ABC adventures. Although Kalkaska attracts many visitors, most people were smarter than us on this day and didn’t get out of their cars.

With a population of just over 2,000, Kalkaska is the kind of small town most people just drive through unless you know someone or are coming to explore the great natural beauty which surrounds the town.   Still, rain or shine, Alan and I don’t miss opportunities and now I have a picture with a giant fish to prove it!

These kinds of oversized oddeties exist all across the USA, there quirkiness is worth capturing as part of the fabric of our country.  Even though they seem out of place, there is often more than meets the eye and such was true for the giant fish which was dedicated in 1966.  It has become an icon to welcome people to the area.

The Kalkaska County website boasts that there are “561 square miles with 80 inland lakes and 275 miles of streams and rivers.  Kalkaska is well known for its wide open spaces and of course for its trout fishing.  It is so celebrated there is a festival which honors the Brook Trout, which also happens to be the state fish of Michigan.  The National Trout Festival is held the last week of April annually.  Earnest Hemmingway also frequented the area and I would have never realized that unless I had stopped to read the historical information located near the the giant fish.

Summer and fall are not the only time people come to play. With an annual average of 126 inches of snow per year, winter is also popular giving way to activities such as skiing, sled dog racing and snowmobiling.   It is no wonder that this area is described as natures playground.

Like the stories still to be told of the area, I hope the giant fish, which catches travelers and reels them in, holding them spellbound to enjoy the unspoilt beauty will be here for many generations.  If you find yourself wanting to slow down and take in a little more of the area, try Trout Town Tavern for fish and chips or smoked trout pate’ and be sure to grab a picture, you may only pass this way once!