Thursday, July 31, 2014

Catoctin Mountain Park

My last morning on the road was bittersweet! I have a lot of projects and things I want to do at home, but it was so nice living in my van! The month had gone by so fast, it was hard to believe it was over and time to be home. I enjoyed my coffee and my book and the cool, almost chilly, morning!

Around 9 I headed down the hill to take a quick hike in Catoctin Mountain Park which is adjacent to Cunningham Falls. The hill was significant, I was in first gear! I haven't put the van in first gear since Trail Ridge Road!

I was able to pick up a trail map at the Visitor Center and although there weren't any mileages on it I could get a sense of how far the trails were. I decided to hike to a place where I could see Cunningham Falls. It was about 3 miles round trip, so perfect for a short hike before I drove home!

I left the park a little before 11, stopped for a quick snack in Leesburg and got home a little after 1! No traffic or other delays!

Getting home is always a bit overwhelming! I see all the mess and projects I need to do at home and then I haul everything in from the RV and further trash the house! It only took about an hour to unload, start the laundry, and clean the RV a bit. I took the RV back to Holly Acres and dumped and put it away. I was very happy to drive my Subaru again! It greeted me with new car smell! :-) I love my van but I have missed driving my Subaru! When I gift home I got the mail - the old mail that has been sitting in my mailbox for a few weeks, and there are several things I need to deal with. I got an early dinner and started working on my blog. I mostly have the posts from the trip all cleaned up and edited!

So, that's it for this summers big trip! Hopefully I'll have another shorter trip in a few weeks when I'm dog sitting and Selena and I go camping!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trail Magic

This morning I headed back up the park road (The one I'm not supposed to drive the RV on. The same one that I drove yesterday and no one said anything to me) to where the AT comes through the park. The parking lot was tight and even though it was empty at 9am on a chilly morning, I had trouble deciding where the best spot was that was out of the way and didn't take up too many spots!

I thought the AT went through the area I was in, but when I saw a sign that said "to AT", I followed it. Then I saw a hiker coming down. He looked like a thru hiker. I assumed he was a thru hiker and that he was hiking north so I followed him, thinking he'd lead me to the AT heading north towards Bear Mountain. When I finally caught up with him to talk to him he told me that the AT was actually way up the hill (about a half mile!) and you has to hike up to it, then go north or south! Ahhhh!!!!! Glad I asked!

Back I went up the trail and soon I found the AT. There were no signs indicating distances to anything so I just hiked north. I pulled up goggle maps and discovered that it's a significant trail distance to Bear Mountain, more than I had time for. I just planned to hike out about 2 miles and back. I had turned on MapMyRide despite the fact that my phone was almost dead, that way I'd know when I hit 2 miles!

The hike out was very quiet! I saw one section hiker heading south, but that was it! The woods were more open than in Massachusetts, drier, less moss and no mud! There were rocks and widely spaced trees! I reminded me of some spots in Shenandoah! It was a lot of up and down, but nothing too steep or long. There were no views, other than of the trees and rocks!

I was almost back to the road and the trail that went down to the parking area when suddenly an alarm or siren started going off. It was reverberating off the trees and rocks! It was loud and continuous and sounded very close. What?!?! I'm in the woods, why is there an alarm? I turned around to see if I could see something that was making the noise and almost on my heels was a Southbound Thru-hiker! He too was wondering what the noise was. We joked that maybe it was a fire alarm and we should evacuate! Where does one evacuate to when you are already outside?

Then I remembered that there is a nuclear power plant just across the Hudson River from where we were. I told the hiker this and he responsed with a sarcastic "well, that's swell!" LOL! I figured they were conducting a siren test or something.

Despite the horrendous noise of the siren, yes, it continued to go off, we struck up a conversation about hiking, where we each lived, etc. The usual "hey we just met in the woods let's chat" stuff. Soon we reached the road and thankfully the siren stopped. He said he was heading to the public beach (and showers) near where I'd parked so I told him I'd show him the way, since I was going that way. We walked together and talked about the trail and hiking and stuff. When we reached the parking area he decided that he'd reconsidered that shower he was thinking about and what he'd really like is a ride up the trail. He and his buddy had done 30 miles the day before and he was really tired, he knew if he could get ahead of his partner he could rest some. I happily agreed to take him since the trail crossing he needed to get to was right on my way.

Now, before anyone freaks out about my agreeing to invite a young man I'd just met into my car, which is also my house, let me explain a bit about thru hikers. Picking up a thru hiker isn't like picking up other hitch hikers. Most hikers are normal people, with normal jobs, who are out hiking right now. Most are very young too! There are many signs that the hitch hiker you are picking up is a hiker, not a scary axe murderer. One is that they are on or very close to a long distance trail. Another is that that have expensive gear that is covered in dirt and grime - if you frequent stores like REI and Eastern Mountain Sports you'll be able to spot this gear instantly. In addition their smell precedes them. Most hikers wear synthetic clothes and they have at most 2 changes of clothes, the synthetic fabric holds the odor no matter how many times it's washed or the hiker showers (which is not very often on both!). I was pretty sure the young man I was talking to was the genuine article and opted to help him out. It's just as much a leap of faith and trust for him to ride with me as it is for me to offer to help him. As the driver of the vehicle I hold a lot of power, I don't have to take him where he's asked me to, I could drive anywhere I want! Heck, I could get him off in dark corner and hurt him! So, it's putting a lot of trust into a stranger on both sides. Maybe if we did more trusting that people are genuinely good rather than bad, the world would be a happier place! Not that I'm gonna start picking up strange men at Wal-Mart and Truck Stops or anything!

Gnarly, that's the hiker's Trail Name, thought my van was the neatest thing ever! He was very excited to ride in it and totally got why I day hike and don't backpack! We chatted the whole way down the mountain to the trail crossing! I think the same thing that drives folks to hike 2,100 miles all at once is similar to what compels me to drive my RV around and look at stuff that looks a lot like other stuff I've seen!

Soon we reached the parking area. I filled Gnarly's water bottle (another act of trust on his part, he was going to get water from the jug someone left at the trailhead but I offered to fill it from my tank so the next guy could have water too! He had to trust that both the water in the jug and my water wasn't contaminated in some way!) and we both went our separate ways. I'll prob never see or hear from Gnarly again, although I'll be asking about him on Whiteblaze, I'd love to know when he makes it to Springer! Even though I only spent about 45 mins with him, it was a great time and I'm glad I was open to talking to him and helping him out. Trail Magic is the term hikers use when something goes your way at exactly the right time, I think Gnarly and I both got trail magic today!

After I left the trailhead I headed out of the park to NY17 toward the interstate. No more scenic routes, it was time to log some serious miles. Only problem was when I'd gotten in the van I was more worried about making room for my new friend than I was about my own post hike needs! I'd tossed my backpack on the bed with my phone in it - the phone was probably dead and I'd failed to turn off MapMyRide which was now recording my drive! Ugh! After passing up serveral good places to stop because I didn't see them in time I ended up on the highway! I got off the first chance I got and had to go about 5 miles into a neighborhood before I could pull over! Ugh!

After that I was on my way! A quick lunch stop, some traffic around Allentown, a fuel stop, some navigational troubles in Harrisonburg and soon I was heading south on US15 heading to Cunningham Falls State Park.

At this point I'm about 80 miles from home. I didn't want to go all the way home tonight because it was already 5:00 which meant that I'd encounter a ton of traffic between here and my house and it would probably be after 8 before I got home. I don't like arriving home late in the day because I have to unpack and get moved back into the house before I can do anything else. Also, the weather right now is wonderful! Cooler, no humidity, perfect for one more night of camping! Tomorrow it's going to be more summer like so I'll be happy to get reacquainted with my air conditioner!

Cunningham Falls is a very nice park! One of, if not the nicest park of the whole trip! Huge, level sites! Gravel surface so no tracking in crap! Paved roads throughout! After dinner I walked the whole campground, it's huge and all the sites are nice!

Oh, when I stopped for lunch I decided I needed to figure out exactly what the siren was that we'd heard out in the woods. I'd pretty much forgotten about it when we got back to the parking area and since everyone was acting normal I figured it probably wasn't a real nuclear emergency. It took some googling but I did learn that they did a test of the emergency siren at Indian Point Nuclear Plant today at 10:30 am and that the alarm was a continuous tone that lasted 4 minutes. Yep! That's what we heard! In process I found a pamphlet about emergency preparedness and it said that in the event of an actual nuclear emergency residents would most likely be asked to shelter in place. How would I do that in my RV? What about hikers? How would we know? I guess if it had been real emergency we would have noticed something amiss at the parking area, but maybe not.

 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail, or AT, is a long distance hiking trail that runs about 2,100 miles-ish from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Kathadin in Maine. The distance changes frequently because they re-route the trail. Every year hundreds of people attempt a thru-hike of the trail, starting at one end they hike the whole thing continuously. It takes about 6 months. Other people hike the whole thing in sections. They come out for a week or two or long, at a time and hike until they have to go back to work or back to real life. When Benton McKaye dreamed up the trail, he imagined it more to be a place where people could "dip in" and hike a little here, a little there. He hadn't been thinking of people backpacking and hiking the whole thing!

I have been experiencing the trail the way Benton McKaye had in mind! I have hiked a solid section of the AT in northern VA, but I hike the AT as a day hike - hike in a few miles and then back out. A few weeks ago when Dad and I were looking for a hike near Gorham and we finally fell back on the AT it was like meeting and old friend! The white blazes are the same in New Hampshire as they are in Virginia! I noticed the same thing when I was hiking in the Green Mountains on Sunday. I was thinking how cool it was the everywhere I went the AT was right there and I could just get out and hike! Once you are on the trail you don't really need a map, it almost always well blazed!

I was looking at the map and I realized that I could take US7 south through the Berkshires and then down to Danbury, CT and avoid the interstate in both Massachusetts and Conneticut! I've driven both the MA turnpike and 84 through Hartford and neither is much fun. US7 had to be better! And, the AT crossed US7, I could hike along the way!

I had to head west across Massachusetts to pick up US7 and in doing so I crossed the AT for the first time of the day! I'd planned to hike here and luckily there was a large parking area just off the trail! I wanted to hike to Upper Goose Pond because I'd heard of it through AT books and such, but it was going to be too far for a quickie hike while I'm driving. I ended up walking about 2 miles in, and 2 miles out, for a 4 mile round trip hike. I made MapMyRide work for this time so that was good! The hike started out with crossing over I90, the Mass Turnpike. It was neat standing on the overpass watching the big trucks zoom under me! One the way out I saw two thru-hikers trying to get the truck drivers to honk! On the way back a truck driver honked at me without me even trying to get his attention! The rest of the hike was nice, it was a typical woods - moss, rocks, leaves, mud - lots and lots of mud! Once I got back to the van it was off to my next hiking spot - Mohawk Mt. in Conneticut.

I don't have actual maps of the AT in this area, I'm using google maps and an old 2009 paper atlas with the trail marked on it to locate trail crossings. There's a good chance the trail has been re-routed since the map was made! Once I crossed over into Conneticut I knew that my trail crossing was going to be right after CT4. I didn't think there were any others so I was surprised when I saw a thru-hiker (once you know what you are looking for you can spot them a mile away!) sitting on a bridge under a white blaze and then I saw the parking area. I pulled in to check the map, it wasn't where I wanted to hike so I kept driving. When I got to the spot where I wanted to hike I couldn't find the trail. I drove past where I thought it should be, turned around and drove back, even drove down another road, but I couldn't find the AT! Ugh.

When I consulted the map again I realized that my trail hunting had lead me off route in a way that it would be easier to go around than turn around and retrace my steps. This detour was going to lead me right into Litchfield, CT and right down memory lane! When we lived in North Tarrytown, NY I went to summer camp at YMCA Camp Mohawk in Litchfield! While I don't remember anything about the town, I knew camp was nearby! I google mapped how to get there but didn't drove down there - it was even further off route and it seemed stalker-ish since I knew kids were there!

Soon I was back on US7, by now it had joined up with US202 and US6. I had decided I was going to take the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson this time. The AT also uses the Bear Mountain Bridge to get over the Hudson so I was going to be driving on the AT! Using US7 instead of the interstate had been a great plan, I will definitely do that again. The Bear Mountain Bridge, I'm not so sure of.

First there was driving US202 in Northern Westchester County! It was twisty, turning, with stop lights and sharp turns. It took forever. Then when I finally got to Peekskill, I really had to pay attention. New York has several parkways and they only allow passagenger cars because of low underpasses - some as low as 6-8 feet! Trying go over the Bear Mountain Bridge involved threading a needle between three of these parkways. Everyone else on the road knew where they were going and wanted to get there quickly so I knew if I got in the wrong lane I'd be stuck! Then there was the narrow twisty road leading to the bridge. The speed limit was excessive for the road and I encountered large dump trucks coming the other way! Roxy and I handled it fine, but it was more thrill than we needed! After the bridge was a traffic circle. I stayed on 202 because I knew I didn't want the Palisades Parkway. That was wrong. I had to turn around and backtrack. I did want the Palisades because it was also US6 right there. By the next traffic circle I got lucky and took the correct road into Harriman State Park, my destination for the night.

The park is huge and the campground was nowhere near where I'd entered! Finally I wound my way through the park and located the campground! It's a very nice park - lots of lakes and the AT runs right through it! The campground is far away from the AT though, so I'll have to save that for tomorrow, I passed right through it on my way in, but I was anxious to get to the campground and get a site since I didn't have reservations. The campground is nowhere near full, there are maybe 10-15 sites occupied, out of over 100! It's quiet and peaceful!

After dinner I rode my bike around the roads near the campground and went over to the beach day use area. There were a lot of people over there and it wasn't anywhere near full - the parking lot, picnic area and beach area were huge!!!! Here it was obvious that were close to NYC, it looked like the United Nations and no one spoke English! The one alarming thing was that there was a NYState Parks Police Mobile Command Unit in the parking lot. It looked deserted, but why do they need that so prominently displayed? Hmmm... I bet weekends get a bit crazy!

After my bike ride (prob about 8 miles, not sure though because MapMyRide quit on me again...I took a picture again, I think the app pauses when I take a picture, even if it's closed) I had some Ben and Jerry's - at a store today I picked up Liz Lemon Greek Yogurt and Salted Caramel Core - both are good but there's not enough lemon and too much caramel!

When I was a kid we came up to Bear Mountain several times, I'd like to get back over there and explore but I think it's going to be too far, too confusing to get there. I'm going to go back to the AT, maybe I can walk! Coming to Bear a Mountain as a kid could have been my first exposure to the trail, I can't remember!

 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Some days I love my van more than others, today was one of those days! As predicted it started raining around 5:30/6 this morning. It was pouring when I finally woke up. The campground was tucked down in the valley and even at 7 am it was still dark as night. I had no motivation to get out of bed. So I didn't. I got up and made the coffee, then curled up in the "living room" section of my bed and ate breakfast and read my book and enjoyed the rain and cool air! There were even gentle rumbles of thunder to add to the atmosphere! I enjoyed it so much I finished my book and didn't get dressed until after 9! It was still pouring when I decided it was time to go. This was just fine though because I wasn't plugged in or anything, I just started the engine and drove off! If you are going to camp in the rain a van is the way to go! I was able to do everything I needed to do and enjoy the rain without getting wet!

I can't remember when I found out about The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, but as soon as I did I knew I had to go there. It was on the agenda two years ago, but got pushed off when Mike died and I headed home. Today was finally my day to go! I was very excited!

I had it in my head that the museum was in downtown Amherst. It wasn't. It was at Hampshire College in the middle corn fields and dairy farms! It was easy to find and easy to locate parking for the van! It was just about lunch time so I grabbed a snack and headed in!

The lady was nice enough to believe me that I was a teacher, even though I couldn't produce instant proof, we have to turn in our badges over the summer so I don't have it, I told her I could email my principal, but she said that wasn't necessary, and gave me the teacher admission price!

The galleries were actually quite small. There were just three. One had an exhibit about Simms Taback, who has written several books I own so that was fun getting to know more about him and his art. Another exhibit was all about Harriet the Spy and the artwork in that book! Now I need to re-read that one! And the final area was devoted to Eric Carle himself. Part of the exhibit was about the new book "What's your favorite animal" and the rest was about Eric. Very interesting stuff!

In addition to the galleries they also have a small library where kids can read books and do paper/pencil reading response projects as well as an art studio where kids can have a go at trying some of the art techniques the illustrators use. And of course, there's a gift shop!

I would LOVE to work at The Carle, as it's called! Spending all day thinking about children's books and helping kids make art? Sign me up! When I quit teaching and move up here I guess I'll have to live close enough to MA to get to work at the museum!

Somewhere in the past few weeks I mentioned to someone that I was going to Amherst and they said that there was a very nice Rail to Trail right in Amherst. I looked it up and found that yes, in fact the Norwottck Rail Trail was right here! I looked up the trail on the Rails to Trails app and figured out a spot where I could pick up the trail - it was right by where I was and very easy to find!

The trail was lovely! Flat and paved - smooth pavement, almost no bumps at all! I started out going over a very long, and very cool bridge! I have no idea what river I was crossing, but it was a neat bridge! The trail went through many farms and most of the views were the Berkshires in the distance and big flat farms up close. I never would have thought of Massachusetts as farm country! Unfortunately, there was a bridge that was closed near Amherst so I had to turn around. When I got back to the parking area I rode the trail the other direction, the sign said it was a 1.5 miles to Northampton, and I thought the trail continued past there. There were signs pointing me to continue, but eventually I ended up on US5 in a not so good looking part of town so I gave up and turned around.

 

When I got back to the parking lot I wasn't done riding, I almost rode it again, but it looked like the storm clouds were brewing and severe storms were in the forecast so I decided not to risk it. I had attempted to use MapMyRide to tell me how far I'd ridden, but when I took my phone out to snap a picture my workout got paused so it didn't record the ride! From the mileage markers, I'm sure I rode at least 12 miles, probably 13 or even 14, however it took me less than an hour, so I doubtful it was much more than 12 miles.

By now I had nothing else to do but head to the campground. I'd found a KOA out MA66. It was only 9 miles away and I assumed it would be 9 miles of suburban sprawl. I was wrong. After about a mile of small college town it was 8 miles of cornfields and dairy farms! The campground is out in the middle of nowhere! The people are nice and I've got full signal on my phone and I was able to get my propane tank filled up!

Since I had a plug I ended up taking the bike off again to get my cord out so I went for another bike ride, this time on the country road right in front of the campground. There was a wide shoulder and few cars. It was a nice ride but I didn't go very far. I could tell it was going to storm soon and I didn't want to get caught in it. When I got back to the campground I rode around here - it's a huge campground! After I went for a walk, trying to get to the magical 10k! A storm was rapidly approaching and I made it back to the van just in time! While it was raining I ate dinner and planned my route for tomorrow. The storm blew through quickly and I was able to go back out and enjoy the crisp post storm air and get all 10k steps in!

 

 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bromley Mountain

This morning Mom & Dad and I were parting ways. They were headed west into New York to take a few days to catch up on the real life stuff - bills, emails, haircuts, etc - that they'd be neglecting while we were playing before meeting up with friends from Florida to keep playing and I was heading home, but in still had a few stops planned!

There was rain in the forecast for today and it showed up with a vengeance this morning! I'd checked the forecast before I got out of bed and it said there were storms in NY headed our way. I attempted to eat breakfast at the picnic table but I was just starting my coffee when I heard a rumble of thunder and decided I'd better unhook and stuff before it started to rain. I barely made it! I had to put my bike on in the rain! The rain came hard and heavy for a few minutes and then let up so I took the trash to the dumpster and went to say goodbye to Mom and Dad. While I was there the downpour began again! We looked at the radar and the really heavy stuff was not far behind and they still needed to hook up the jeep, so we said a quick goodbye and then quickly got on the road.

I was heading down VT100 all the way to Jamacia. Even in the pouring rain Vermont is a nice state to drive in! It didn't start raining until I was out of Waterbury, but when it did it was pouring!

My first stop was The Vermont Country Store in Weston. The Vermont Country Store says that they are "purveyors of the hard to find" and we used to get their catalog and it was always filled with interesting stuff. I was looking forward to a visit to their store.

When I got there the rain had stopped. Of course it did, a perfect indoor rainy day activity and now it wasn't raining. I took my raincoat just in case. The Vermont County Store is definitely something! They had so much stuff - penny candy, specialty foods, rugs, sheets, clothing, toys, books, speciality bath products, you name it, they had it! They also had displays of old appliances and cooking tools! It was a fun store to stroll through, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to get there.

Across the street is the Weston Country Market, or something like that. They are clearly trying to compete with the Vermont Country Store and not doing a very good job! That store was full of tacky touristy crap. I got bored quickly and decided to try and find something else to do.

I decided to head to Machester, maybe they had some nice stores or a place for a walk or bike ride. The weather was continuing to improve so when I spotted the spot where the AT/LT crossed VT11 I pulled in and parked. I knew there was a hike there that I wanted to do - Bromley Summit - but it was three miles one way, then I'd have to walk back. I wasn't sure I had time - or enough good weather - for six miles, but I decided to just hike out a bit and then come back.

Bromley Brook

The trail was really easy! Wide and flat, gentle elevation gain, no rocks to climb over. I found myself moving along pretty quickly and I realized that a 6 mile walk was really just a three hour deal if I kept moving.

About halfway up I passed a couple and we got to talking. They are both teachers and they live in the area. They said that in their district the average class size is 12-15. The teachers get grumpy if they have more than 18 kids. Vermont seems to begging me to move here! ;-)

Soon I came to a sign that said the summit was 1 mile away! The trail got steeper after that! Just when I was thinking that I had to be almost there the trail came out of the woods into a clearing. There was a sign that said "Bromley Summit 0.3". The last three tenths of a mile were up the ski trail! It was crazy steep and long. No rocks, smooth terrain, but straight up! Finally I got to the top! There used to be a tower up there but they had to take it down because it was structurally unsafe. Now all that's up there is the top of the ski lift, a warming hut and the trail! I wonder what folks do if they are hiking when the ski resort is in operation? You can't just hike up a ski trail when there are skiers!

Summit of Bromley Mt.

The hike back down was easy, but not as fast. I stopped to chat with two AT thru-hikers and soon was back at the van. It was 1:15 when I started up and I was back at the van heading out by 4! 6 mile hike in under three hours!

Now it was time to move on to Jamacia State Park where I was hoping to get a site! I couldn't make a one night reservation, but the guy had told me he had lots of sites. But first, a stop at the local IGA for Ben & Jerry's. Nightly ice cream is going to be a hard habit to break!

Jamacia State Park is very nice! They have about 40 sites, all wooded and secluded. No hook ups. They gave me a map with the available sites circled and sent me off to pick one. I'm in site 13 - big and wide, not as level as it could be, but centrally located, easy in and easy out! After I parked I had to go back up to the office to pay so I took the bike off to ride up there. On the way back I discovered that there's a Rail to Trail path right in the campground! I rode 1.5 miles down it - it's lovely! The West River flows beside it and there are rocks and pine trees on the other side! I wanted to ride further but it was getting close to dinner time and I was worried it would rain again. Hopefully if it's not rainy tomorrow morning I can go a little further.

Before I went back to the van I wanted to check out the swimming area. It was a beach area right at a wide spot in the river! It looked lovely so I went back to the van and got my bathing suit on! (This is now the 6th time I changed clothes today...having everything with you all the time is a blessing and a curse!) The water was cold and the sun had sank below the mountain so it wasn't a good time for swimming. I didn't get my hair wet even, but I did wash the mud off my calves from hiking!

I rode my bike back to the van, taking a loop around the entire campground. My shoes were wet from rinsing off the sand so I just changed into lounging PJs (clothes change number 7!) and ate dinner in the van so I wouldn't get more sand on everything! I did kinda want to walk the campground before it got dark but I was already over 20k steps for the day so decided I could sit and enjoy my book and my ice cream!

 

 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mountain Biking

Today was going to be a day of chores and errands, but we wanted to do something fun as well. We were thinking about a bike ride, but other than just riding the roads around Stowe there aren't many places to ride. One placed that had bike riding I'd the Trapp Family Lodge. Yes, *the* Trapp Family from the Sound of Music. They came here, to Stowe, VT and opened a lodge/resort. They have a large network of cross country ski trails that become bike trails in the summer.

Dad and I aren't into mountain biking. We like biking off road, but on smooth off road surfaces - like dirt roads or crushed cinders. The website seemed to imply that there were roads like that at the Trapp Family Lodge so we decided to check it out. We asked at the Outdoor Center if there were suitable trails for us - hybrid bikes, don't like roughy trail conditions - and we were told that "yes, just stay on the bold trails, they are "double track" and are like roads." He also told us that most of the bike routes were cross country ski trails in the winter. Ok! Sounded great! We paid out $10 trail use fee and headed out!

The first trail we were on was pretty good. It was wide, fairly smooth, and had gentle hills. It was clearly one of the cross country ski trails. It was definitely "off road" but it wasn't rough. Soon, however, we came to a fork and had to pick a new trail. We saw a loop on the map that we decided to try. We had to head up a hiking trail though. The guy at the outdoor center had told us that we coud ride on the wide hiking trails, which this was, so off we went.

The riding didn't last long however. The trail quickly got too steep and rocky to ride. There were so many rocks and roots and it was very steep. We both got off and walked. Soon though we reached another ski road - not the hiking trail, so it was wider and hopefully not as steep. At this point going back would involve retracing our steps, we knew the way we came was too hard to bike so we thought this would be easier. We attempted to ride. It was still very rocky - smooth hiking trail rocky, which is a bigger deal on a bike. And it was uphill. And it was still steep. We passed some folks who were walking and when they asked for a ride, I told the that they were the smart ones for NOT trying to ride a bike....I was really just on a hike dragging my bike along for kicks.

Soon we reached a cabin at the top. During the winter the lodge opens the cabin as a warming hut with a fire and hot soup! In the summer it was deserted. From the lodge it was downhill back to the real road. Ahhhh!!!! That should be easier. Wrong. It was not easier. Going down was almost harder. The bike had teamed up with gravity to move faster and faster wasn't better. The trail down was steep with rocks, roots and other small obstacles. You really had to navigate and try to miss rocks and then the bike would get going too fast! Finally I got off and walked the bike. Walking the bike downhill was harder that hauling it uphill, because again, gravity was helping.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, we reached the real road. It was a dirt road, but cars drive on it, so it was a lot smoother! We continued down, and then back up on a paved road to the car. The uphill part was about a 1/2 mile and it was steep, but it was no big deal compared to that trail. It felt like we'd been out all day, but it had really only been two hours. Dad didn't have his GPS so we don't know how far we bike hiked but it was probably under 4 miles.

We returned to the campground for lunch and then headed out for our errands. We are heading our separate ways tomorrow and I wanted to stock up on some Vermont things as well as have fresh veggies! We went to two farm stands and three grocery stores and there's still one thing I was looking for that I couldn't buy! But, I have a fridge full of farm fresh veggies and a stash of Vermont granola, chocolate, coffee and milk!

We took the scenic route back to Stowe through Smuggler's Notch so Mom could see it, then went to Pie-Cassa, a local pizza/Italian/American resteraunt for dinner. They had a yummy "tree hugger" pizza covered in veggies and garlic! Another bonus was thathey were right on the Stowe Rec Path! After dinner Dad and I got our bikes and headed off down the path while Mom took the car to IC Scoops, we'd meet her there! We rode about 7 miles on the trail (we rode from Pie-Cassa to the end, about 2 miles, and then back - 4 miles and then it was three miles to IC Scoops) in about 45 minutes! I felt like we were flying compared to this morning! Bike paths and paved or packed dirt roads are more our speed! The Rec Path was just as lovely tonight as it had been the other night! :-) Tonight there were fewer people though, I think they were all at the ice cream place, there was a huge line when we got there! The wait was worth it though, the ice cream was yummy!

 

 

 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Island Line Rail to Trail

A few months ago I saw a Facebook post about a Rails to Trails bike path in Burlington, VT that looked awesome. I knew Dad and I had to do it while we were in Vermont! We'd been planning to move to a campground closer to Burlington, however, we couldn't find anything, so since Burlington was only about 40 miles from Stowe we decided to just stay here.

Dad and I were going to ride our bikes and Mom was going to take a lunch cruise on Lake Champlain. This morning we drove into Burlington and quickly found the spot where Mom was going to get the boat, it just happened to also have bike path access! We were about 3 miles from the actual beginning of the trail, but the southern end of the trail was through an industrial park and not a scenic, so we were ok with skipping it!

After having a very hard time figuring out how to pay for our parking spot, Mom was on her way to the boat dock to wait for it to be time to go and Dad and I were heading up the bike path.

The first part of the bike path was along Lake Champlain, there were nice views of the lake, the sailboats and the Adirondack Mountains in New York! The next part of the trail was through a nice neighborhood! Many of the houses had lake views and it reminded me of Sleepy Hollow in New York! The final part of the trail was the best part - the trail went out on a causeway out into the lake! It was like riding on the water with views all around! The causeway extended about 4 miles, until there was a cut for the boats to get through. There was a bike ferry, but it cost $8 to take you across the 20 ft cut so you could ride the last mile of so of the trail. We decided it wasn't worth it so sat at the end & ate lunch and enjoyed the view! You could see Mt. Mansfield! It was hazy, but it was there!

 

We'd gotten there very quickly, only about 45 mins to ride 10 miles! But, that was because we were going with the wind. On the way back we'd be going into the wind! It was much harder riding back, but it still didn't take too long and we got back to the boat dock before Mom was due back so we rode out the other end. It was less than three miles to the true end so we figured it wouldn't take very long. The other end wasn't as ugly as we'd thought it might be, the path was by the water and went through several parks. The last mile or so however, we lost the trail. The signs had lead us out onto some roads that were winding through an industrial area with lots of traffic and not much to see so we turned around. We got back to the car soon after Mom did!

After the bike ride we decided to checkout some other parts of Burlington, the City Market food co-op, and a block or two of Church Street - a pedestrian mall. Burlington is a neat little city, it's got all the city stuff you need and it's got a funky feel to it. It's a college town, I'm sure that's part of it, and Vermont is just kinda weird! Burlington also has a diversity that the rest of Vermont seems to be lacking, I even found Nepali food in the prepared food section of City Market! The city is still very green, outdoorsy and crunchy! I liked it! :-)

After we finished in Burlington we hit the Wal-Mart, only Wal-Mart between NY and Gorham, NH! (If not the only, one of fewer than 5! Another reason to love Vermont, few big box stores - and those that are here seem to be concentrated - easy enough to get to if you need them, but not in your face all the time!), then the Shaw's in Waterbury before returning to the campground for dinner, Jeopardy!, and a little Big Bang Theory!