Saturday, November 10, 2012

Winterizing (a long overdue post about a process that took way too long!)

(I’m writing this post on May 27 – I should have written it back in November so I’m going to post date it!)


One of the many tasks of RV ownership is winterizing when the weather turns cold.  In my RV in particular all the water pipes are exposed under the coach and highly susceptible to freezing. 

Since this was my first time going through the winterizing process, I wanted my dad to help me so I headed down there over Columbus Day weekend in mid-October.  This felt a little early to winterize as some years we don’t get our first freeze until well into December, but I was ultimately glad I started this simple process sooner rather than later.

There are several ways to winterize your RV and I’d decided that the best way for me was to pump RV anti-freeze (not toxic like automotive anit-freeze) into all the lines, traps and tanks and by-pass & drain the hot water heater.   This way would enable me to re-winterize on my own, should I decide to undo the winterizing to camp (if it got warm) and Dad had an extra 2 gallons of RV anti-freeze he wasn’t going to need (he drives his RV to southern FL to winterize it).

I’d use the water pump on in the RV to get the anti-freeze into the lines but I needed a special joint to attach a hose to the input on the water pump, luckily Dad had a extra that he gave me.  Our 1st step though was to get a section of plastic tubing that we could put the joint on.  A quick trip to Lowe’s, with the joint to test it, and $2.00 later we were ready to go. 

We got back home and the 1st step was to by-pass and drain the hot water heater.  I unscrewed the panel, turned the valves and we were ready to go out and unscrew the anode rod to drain it.  When we got out there we discovered that in order to unscrew the anode rod we needed a 1 3/4 inch socket.  Dad had every other socket imaginable, but not that one.  He thought maybe he had it in the socket set at his RV, so we got in the car and drove the 3 miles over there and looked, but nope, he didn’t have it.  We even checked Home Depot, but they didn’t have it.

So, we decided that we’d just pump colored water through the system to practice and then I’d do it for real once I was able to drain the hot water heater.  We made some colored water and pumped it though the system, it was very easy and straight forward.  It’s definitely helpful that I can open all the faucets without leaving the bathroom!  I had to hold the hose in the bottle of water to keep it from floating to the top.

The next weekend I went to Lowe’s to try and find the socket that I needed to remove the anode rod.  I walked in and quickly found the socket that I needed – and it was available all by itself, not part of a set of other sockets that I probably don’t need!  Then I of course need a drive and and a drive extender.  I ended up buying more tool than I needed, but the good news is that now I have a weapon should I need one.   After Lowe’s I stopped by the RV storage lot to try and get the anode rod out.  After spending a long time trying to figure out the ratchet feature of the drive and making sure I was turning it in the right direction, I realized that I the rod was screwed in too tight for me loosen on my own.  I was going to have to find someone to help me.

The next weekend, it ended up that my parents needed to bring  me something and we decided to meet at Wegman’s in Fredericksburg.   I could drive Roxy and then Dad could loosen the rod!  Perfect!  When my parents arrived I handed Dad my ginormous drive and socket and he proceed to unscrew the anode rod – it was quite easy for him and within seconds the rod was loosened to the point that water came shooting out like geyser, covering him with water and bits of calcium deposit!  Luckily it wasn’t hot!  Next time I need to remember to run some water inside 1st to release some of the pressure!  We replaced the anode rod but I tightened it down so I could remove it again when I was ready. 

By the next weekend it was really getting to be time to get serious about winterizing, October was almost over and November would certainly bring colder temps.  I’d hoped to get in some more camping, but that didn’t happen.  I was planning to finish off the winterizing job when they started predicting that Hurricane Sandy would hit my area.  Everyday the weather prediction got more and more dire.  I’d been through Hurricane Isabel and I wasn’t too worried – usually the weather forecasts around here are overdone and they send everyone into a panic over what usually turns out to be nothing.  Still, I was in a bit of a quandary over what to do – I knew that if I winterized we’d probably lose power and water and I’d be forced to live in my RV and I wouldn’t have the resources I needed, but if I didn’t winterize, we’d get a basic rain storm.  The complicating factor was that it was supposed to get really cold right after the storm – if I left it un-winterized I wouldn’t have much time to winterize it later. 

I’d decided that I would just winterize and hope for the best.  I drained the fresh tank, drained the hot water heater, ran the water out of the lines and started to pump anti-freeze into the lines.  It was here that I discovered that the water pump needs be primed after it has run dry and somehow the RV anti-freeze wasn’t doing the trick.  (to be honest I didn’t know that this was the issue at the time – I just knew that the pump wasn’t pumping the anti-freeze but it had been pumping the water.  I had a different theory at the time, but it was wrong!) I decided I needed water in the tanks to make the pump work so I drove the RV home and put a few gallons of water in.  The pump then worked just fine and I was able to put antifreeze in all the lines.  While I was home however, I decided that I’d really kick myself if Hurricane Sandy hit and I *could* have had 30 gallons of fresh water, but didn’t have it, so I turned the hose on and filled her up. 

So, I once again had attempted to winterize the RV and returned it to the storage lot un-winterized.  This was getting comical. 

Hurricane Sandy scored us 2 days off from school and a lot of wind and rain but no serious damage or disruptions.  We were lucky.  A few hundred miles north and it was a different story.  I was glad I’d taken the over-prepared route!

By now it was absolutely time to get the coach winterized. I ended up having to go over after school one day to drain the fresh tank and make sure all the lines and traps and tanks had anti-freeze in them.  It only took  few minutes and it was finally done!

Just two days after I finally got the RV winterized we had our first freeze of the season!  Perfect timing. 

(Since I’m writing this in May and have now un-winterized, I can say that I did it perfectly – it was a cold winter, whole weeks of below freezing temps, but nothing burst!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thornton River Hike

Had a lovely night at Matthew’s Arm! It was dark and quiet and chilly!  A nice change from the Wal-Mart! :-)

The great part about camping in the park is that I can get an early start on my hike!  I was up by 7 and on the trail by 9!  It was a chilly morning and I was kinda wishing I’d brought my fleece pants to put on over my shorts when I was eating breakfast!  It was comfortable as long as I was moving, but sitting at the picnic table eating it was really cold!

I checked out of the campground and moved the van over to the Elkwallow Wayside.  They had some nice parallel parking spots just perfect for Roxy!  I got the rest of my stuff together and headed out. 

The 1st mile was uphill and it was nice because it warmed me up!  I was moving at a good pace and the first few miles just flew by! I was 1/2 way though the hike and it was only 11:15! When you estimate hiking times you assume a 2 mph hour pace and then add an hour for each 1,000 feet of elevation change.  This hike was 10.6 miles and had 1,100 ft of elevation change so it should take about 6 hours to hike.  I’m usually a slow hiker so I figured it would take me at least 6 hours, probably more like 7 or 8 to finish the hike.  You can imagine my surprise when I was back at the van at 2:30!  10 miles, 1,100 feet, in 5 1/2 hours! WOW! I didn’t even feel like I was hiking super fast, it didn’t tire me out like I expected it to. 

While this hike was rated as “strenuous” in my guide book, I will say that it was A LOT easier than some of the shorter hikes Dad and I did in the Adirondacks!  1,000 feet of elevation change over 10 miles is a lot different than 1,000 feet over 2.5 miles!  And, interestingly enough those short steep climbs took almost as much time as my 10 mile loop!

The 1st half of the hike I saw no one! I had the woods all to myself!  I could tell that I was the 1st one to come down the trail too because of all the spider webs! Luckily the sun was hitting them just right so they glistened and I could see them in time to swing my hiking stick at them!  Walking into a spider web is never fun – you have to get that invisible web off you and then you always wonder if the spider might be crawling on you!

Just passed the halfway point in the hike I crossed the Thornton River for the 1st time.  I decided that it was a good place to stop for a rest and to eat snack so I puleed up a log and sat by the edge of the river.  The river was almost dry, mostly just a bed of rocks, but it was still a pretty spot in the quiet peaceful woods!

Not long after I sat down another hiker came up the trail.  He was wearing a fanny pack and had a large stick, almost more of a branch, stuck in the waist band of the fanny pack.  The stick was about 5 feet long and sticking out in front of him.  It looked rather dumb and I was wondering what purpose the stick was serving.  It was too flimsy to be a hiking stick, and it looked like he’d clearly put it there on purpose.  I was wishing I could have gotten a picture of him but there was no way to do it discreetly.  As he headed up the trail I was glad I’d stopped so he could pass me, now I wouldn’t walk into any more spider webs, he’d break through them 1st.  And that’s when it hit me what the stick was for!  It was sticking out just enough in front of him that it would hit the web before his face did!  Genius! 

A few minutes after “Spider Web Stick” Man passed me a group of about 15 Asian Women came along.  They were in the middle of crossing the creek when the rest of the group – the 15 Asian men, came along.  They were all yakking with each other in their language, although a few did say “Hi” to me.  One even peeked in my backpack and declared my carrots, sugar snap peas and hummus healthy. (Thanks, I was unsure until I got your approval!) I was sitting on a log, mostly in the middle of the trail so I was suddenly surrounded by a huge crowd of folks all speaking in a language that I didn’t understand.  One minute I was enjoying a quiet morning by a peaceful river and the next I’d been transported to a busy park in Tokyo or something.  It was a little “Twilight Zone”.  The large group had finally passed me by and I was planning on sitting there a bit longer to put more space between us, but I could sit hear them so I looked over my shoulder and discovered they’d stopped for lunch a few feet from where I was sitting.  I quickly threw the rest of my carrots in my backpack and started hauling ass up the hill to get away from them.  I never encountered them again!

Quickly I arrived at Skyline Dr and then the harder part of the trail started.  Hiking is 95% mental and 5% physical (or something like that), and that’s what happened after Skyline Dr.  There was a spur trail up to the AT, and in my head “spur trail” = “easy”.  Ummmmm…no.  The spur trail was steeper than the trail up out of the Thornton Hollow!  And it was longer than I expected!  Also, I had in my head that once I hit the AT I was almost done.  Again, not quite, it was still 2.6 miles.  And, most of those 2.6 miles were downhill. 

I’d hiked this section before and I knew how grueling that downhill was but I didn’t remember until I was about 1/2 way through it.  The last time I hiked that section I’d done an 11 mile day hike (and I was not in the physical condition to handle that) and I had crappy boots.  It was during that downhill that I seriously considered taking off my boots since I was pretty sure walking on the trail barefoot would have been less painful.  And then I saw a bear!  My 1st “on the trail” bear!  So it was an exciting day!

Today however, there were no bears along the trail and my feet weren’t hurting as bad, but my legs were! I ended up pulling out my phone and playing a little Dave Matthews Band to cheer me along.  I didn’t use my headphones, just the external speaker and dropped the phone in my pocket. I didn’t see any other hikers so I didn’t disturb their enjoyment. 

I was really excited when I got back to the RV at 2:30!  A big hike like that in just 5 1/2 hours is HUGE for me!

The RV was sitting in the sun so was hot, hot, hot.  Just because I could I decided to take a shower!  So fun to just be able to shower where ever, when ever! 

Once I was cleaned up I started driving home.  I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I needed time at home this weekend. 

I got home around 6 and quickly unloaded and took the RV back to Holly Acres, dumped (I filled the tank this trip!  I’m pretty sure I put in a lot more water than I needed to (for the toilet chemical) after the last dump), and was home by 7:00! 

It was a great quickie trip & hike! Looking forward to more fall camping in the coming weeks! :-)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Matthew’s Arm

When Dad and I were hiking in the Adirondacks I realized that I needed to start including more elevation gain & loss in my workout routine so decided to try and do a hike that included at least a 1,000 ft of elevation change at least once a month.  I figured I could Septembers hike in this weekend since I already had the RV out for Back to School Night. 

I left school a bit late and had some traffic to deal with, but that was ok because I was stopping at the farm to get my CSA stuff.  Leigh had told me that he puts the boxes of stuff “by where you turn off the paved road on to the farm driveway”.  When you go to the farm you turn off a paved road onto a dirt road and then from the dirt road on the farm driveway.  So was Leigh calling the dirt road the farm driveway or was he calling the dirt road the paved road?  This could go either way.  I found a place to park the van off the paved road and decided to head in on foot – it’s about a mile back to the farm.  I was almost to the farm when I encountered Leigh heading out in the farm van to put the shares out and go to Manassas for the pick up.  He offered me a ride back to the real paved road – I accepted mostly because I wanted to get the CSA stuff quick and get to the park.  I’m so glad I did!  It’s clear that Leigh drives this road in his truck regularly…I’m pretty sure he hit 40 mph – on a one lane narrow dirt road – and I know we caught air at least once!  It was like a 2 min roller coaster!  When we got to the paved road he pulled the shares out and I got my stuff and was on my way!

It was after 6 before I got to Matthew’s Arm but I was lucky enough to get the last spot in the “wifi” area! There’s a handful of spots at the top of the mountain that have great cell reception!  Turns out I got the site right out from under someone else who was trying to claim it!  1st come, 1st served! 

It looked like it might be hard to back in but somehow I just put it in reverse and cut the wheel and popped it right in on the 1st try!  I was amazed with myself!

By the time I went down to register and pay and walked back it was almost 7:00 – generator hours end at 7 and I needed to microwave my dinner!!!!  I pretty much ran up the hill, getting back at 6:55!  I managed to get dinner heated and the generator off by 7:01! I had a partial back up plan – I’d gotten eggs at the farm and I could have made scrambled eggs – I even had an onion, a green pepper and some potatoes all of which I could have cooked up on the stove, but I didn’t have any oil or seasonings.  Gotta keep that stuff in my “always gets packed” basket.

By the time I was done with dinner it was dark!  Gets dark early these days! I like it because it gets dark closer to my bedtime! I did get in a walk around the campground before chores, blogging and now reading!

Tomorrow I’m planning a 10.6 mile hike in Thornton Hollow – which is advertised to be some of the best bear country in the park!

Back to School Night: RV Style

This is my 11th year teaching and since I live so far away from my school I’ve never been able to go home between school and an evening event. Until now. :-)

Thursday I drove my RV to school with plans to stay at the Chantilly Wal-Mart, just minutes from school!

After school I ran out to get propane and Noodles & Company for dinner and then came back to school in hopes of grabbing a level parking spot in the lot.  Usually when I drive the RV to school I park on the street away from the main parking areas but it’s not level so I turn the fridge off.  Tonight however I wanted to get the fridge going since the blue ice in the cooler was thawing. 

There were a bunch of level spots available when I got back and somehow, miraculously, I was able to shoehorn the RV into one of them!  These spots were painted on before the days of SUVs and big cars! I frequently have a hard time getting my Saturn VUE into just one spot so getting the RV in felt like an achievement!  I was worried about it being tight for the person who parked next to me but luckily a friend of mine (who’s parents have a RoadTrek) came along soon and parked next to me! :-)

In between showing off the RV to the kids playing on the playground and teachers returning for Back to School night I was able to eat my dinner, do a little Facebooking, listen to the new Dave Matthews Band Album and get my bed ready and other “chores”.  It was a nice break from school!

It was so nice to not be watching the clock worrying about getting home super late (the event ended at 8:30, which is what time I usually go to bed and it’s at least a 45 min drive home!).   Left school at 8:35 and I was at Wal-Mart in bed (with my book and my phone!) by 8:45! YAY!

The Wal-Mart wasn’t bad…it was more the airplanes that kept me up than anything else.  I shoulda been able to predict that – Dulles is a few miles away and sometimes the planes rattle the trailer at school! It wasn’t my best night of sleep, but it was way better than the night in Allentown back in July! :-)

It was so nice to sleep in a full hour from when I get up at home! I got all ready for school and had an 8 minute commute!

Now I’m kinda looking forward to evening events at school! :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Propane Tank Needs to be filled too ya know…

Last weekend I spent some time loading and packing Roxy for this week’s adventures.  I was especially concerned about getting everything I thought I might need because I’d pretty much completely unloaded it when I got back from the Adirondacks.  I took a bunch of stuff over and got it put away, I even took Roxy out for a “joyride” to fill up the fuel tank so I wouldn’t have to do that after school Wed.  I thought I was prepared as humanly possible and all I’d have to do Wed night was fill the fresh water tank and pack the food and the last minute stuff .

Wednesday evening I, of course left school late, and was feeling crunched for time when I finally got home around 6:00.  I got the RV leveled and started turning things on – the propane then the battery.  When I connected the battery I randomly decided to check the tank levels and noticed that the propane tank was registering E, as in empty. WHAT?!?!!

I was pretty sure I’d had a partial tank of propane when I put it away so I was kinda worried that maybe there was a leak.  However, the more I thought about it I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d checked the propane levels.  But, I was still convinced that there’d be *some* when I put it in storage. 

I attempted to light the stove and it wouldn’t light. grrr…

I wasn’t sure what to do – take it to get propane?  Take it to get serviced?  Try to go camping without propane? (which means no coffee, no shower, no generator, no fridge…all the comforts of home…without propane this is just a vehicle!).  I called Professor Pleasure-Way (aka My Dad). 

We talked about possibilities and random propane leaks that spring up while RVs are in storage are rare so that seemed like an unlikely option.  As we talked we realized that I’d spent 23 days/nights using the RV since it’s last propane fill.  All but maybe 5 of those nights were dry camping meaning the fridge ran exclusively on propane and I used the generator.  Ummmm…yeah…the tank is empty…you used it all!!!!!  DUH!

I got the RV all packed up, put my food for the weekend in a cooler and went to get propane after school Thurs at the UHaul in Chantilly!  I learned a lot about how the system works and I’m not sure it was filled properly the last time…  I’m not sure what’s correct and what’s not, I think I need to do some research on propane systems so I can be more educated about how it works so I know if they are doing it right!  Propane is so important to RVing, but it’s also dangerous so I want it done right!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Couldn’t Help Myself…

When I was shopping for my RV I was thinking I’d end up buying an older model that would come to me with many miles on it and be rather beat up.  I decided that I’d cover the whole thing with stickers from places I’d been or with fun sayings, kinda like an old suitcase.  When I bought Roxy and she was basically brand new I decided that my sticker plan would have to wait a few years until she is more beat up. 

But then I saw this, on Cafe Press:












I just had to have it and I had to put it on Roxy!



I hope that folks who see it get a chuckle, and they see the irony! :-)

I also hope that this isn’t the start of a very slippery slope! :-)

Friday, August 10, 2012


As soon as Susan could get away from Fredericksburg after Mike’s Memorial Party she and Leah fled to her Dad’s house in Oswegatchie, NY.  It just so happens that Oswegatchie is on the way back to I-81 from Rollins Pond!  A series of texts and Facebook messages and I knew where to go and when to be there – luckily it was very easy from the main road since I couldn’t get to Facebook and had to rely on memory!

Since it was only 50 miles and Susan had plans for the morning I hung out in the campground! I finished my book, said goodbye to Mom and Dad who were heading to meet some friends and took a walk through the campground to scout spots for next time! Despite giving Mom and Dad and hour’s head start I still caught up with them at a rest stop just past Cranberry Lake!  This gave me another shot at teaching them to properly pronounce “Osewegatchie”, they just can’t make their tongues say it and butcher it every time – adding letters or calling it names of other towns in NY!

I arrived at Susan’s house to a warm welcome from Leah…she chained me up and threw me in the dungeon!

After Susan sprung me from the dungeon, (the yard equipment shed) and helped me out of the chains, (the hose), we went on a tour of town.  There’s not much to the town, and most of it I’d seen on the way in, but it was fun to see it and put a place to all the names I’d heard over the years!  We saw the smallest hospital in NY – where both Susan and Judy were born, Susan & Judy’s high school, the arena where folks play hockey, Star Lake, the grocery store, the post office, the drug store, the motel, the spot where the gas station used to be, where her Dad used to hold court as a Justice of the Peace and various friends houses!  I’m pretty sure it took longer for me to type that than it did to see it all! LOL!  All kidding aside, Oswegatchie is a beautiful place right on the edge of the Adirondacks, I totally see why Susan would run there after the tragedy of Mike’s death and why she’d consider moving there!

When we got back from our tour it was time for lunch! Susan’s Dad had made pizza and salad and it was yummy!  During lunch some friends stopped by and after that a few more friends stopped by!  I took this opportunity play with Leah and let the adults visit.  We watched part of Willy Wonka and then it was time to play pretend!  I love how creative Leah is these days! She’s really gotten into pretend play and it’s so much fun! 

Susan and I had some time to chat before I had to tear myself away and head down the road. Before I left Susan wanted to take some pictures and  think she got a great one of Leah attempting to strangle me.  I swear she does like me and is usually happy to see me! :-)

I was still an hour from I-81 and I didn’t really have a plan for where I was staying that night. I knew it was too far to get home and was hoping to find a Wal-Mart or something.  When I got back to where I had cell coverage I looked up to see what I could find.  All the Wal-Marts were off route and didn’t look as appealing.  Susan’s dad had told me there was a Wal-Mart in Cortland, it wasn’t in the database so I thought I’d go there and then I could enter it and get my subscription extended.  A few miles after I’d stopped in a “parking area” I came to a rest stop.  This rest stop had a State Police Outpost just like Clifton Park, hmmm…I wonder if all the rest stops have police present?  I wonder if they all allow overnight parking?  I decided I’d stop at the 1st rest area after Syracuse. 

I pulled into the Whitney Point rest area around 7:00. I was anticipating that I’d stay the night so tried to be strategic when I parked.  I almost pulled into the car area – so I wouldn’t take space from the truckers – but the sign said “Trucks & RVs” and the truck area is easier to get in and out of so I went over there.  They had a large parallel parking area that overlooked the valley, I was able to pull in there and pull all the way to the top so I was both visible to truckers and out of their way!  I wasn’t taking up a truck lane, I had a great view, and I was level!  There was a State Police outpost and there were a lot of trucks that looked like they were bedded down, either for the night or a long rest.  I attempted to ask someone if overnight parking was allowed but there was no one around.  I decided that it would probably be fine to stay the night and made some dinner and took it to the picnic table to eat! After dinner I tuned the TV and watched some Olympics, The Middle and Modern Family.  As the evening wore on more trucks arrived and few left!  By the time I called it a night around 10:30 the truck lot was full and so was the parallel parking area!  I guess overnight parking is allowed!

I actually got some decent sleep and woke up ready to drive the last 350 miles!  I headed down I81 into PA and then picked up 15 in Harrisburg and came on into Prince William County!  At the last rest stop I noticed the toilet was flushing funny…turns out the black tank was within about a cup of liquid from being totally full!  Good timing! I got home around 5:00 and did a basic unload of the RV, just what I needed for the night.  I had a meeting this morning for school and so tomorrow is set aside for emptying and cleaning the RV!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Biking, Kayaking, Swimming

Wash, rinse and repeat! That’s the story of life here at Rollins Pond! It’s kinda like summer boot camp with whatever activity you want to do all day every day!

This morning I did some RV chores and ran the generator so I’d have power tonight since I wasn’t driving anywhere and then I went to get my site for tonight.  I’m glad I’ve been able to score a lake front site every night, but it’s a pain going back and forth everyday!

Dad and I were going on a guided kayak trip that went from Rollins Pond boat rental to Fish Creek Pond.  The trip ended at the Fish Creek boat launch and we were going to have to get the kayaks back so we took the Jeep to Fish Creek and then rode our bikes back to the Rollins Pond boat launch.  

The kayak trip wasn’t what I was expecting, it was better!

We paddled the length of Rollins Pond – which seemed a bit backwards to my dad and I, but we followed along.  Soon we turned onto an outlet and we paddled down into another lake!  The outlet was a bit narrow in places –it was a lot like a trail, but with water! The water was also rather low so we did a little dragging of the kayaks, luckily it was high enough for the boats to float so it was easy to drag!  

The next lake was Flatwood Lake and it was big like Rollins Pond!  We paddled through that lake to another outlet! This outlet was deeper and longer and there was a bit of a current to keep us moving without a lot of paddling!  Eventually the outlet ended and we were in another lake!  This time we were in Square Lake.  It was not square, but that’s ok! 

My dad and I were quite glad that we had a guide for this adventure since we never would have figured out the route on our own!

We paddled across Square Lake and then came to another outlet – this was Fish Creek! The guide told us how to get from Square Pond back to Whey Pond which is a short portage from the boat launch – next time!

The float down Fish Creek was nice – it was wider than the other outlet and there were more people since it’s close to Fish Creek campground!

Soon we were at the Fish Creek boat launch and we pulled the boats out and loaded them on the car.  We took the boats back to my site so we could launch them on the beach and kayak some more before we had to turn them in! 

After we drug the kayaks to the beach Dad went to take the car back to his site and I went for a swim!  I love having the lake right here to go swimming in!  I can swim out as far as I want and then back and I can swim anytime I want! I wish I had a swimming lake near my house! A real swimming lake, with no rules or set swimming area. 

While Dad was taking the car back a tree fell over the road right in front of their site! They got it cleaned up real quick though!

Eventually Dad came back and we kayaked part of the lake that we didn’t get to Sun because we were chased in by the thunder!  We discovered the A loop of the campground!  Very nice sites in there!

We turned in the kayaks and rode our bikes back to Mom and Dad’s site and it was time for dinner and campfire!

Tomorrow we depart.  :-( I’d like to stay another week but…  I’m planning to come back here next year I think… 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ampersand Mountain

Last night finally got chilly!  After the rain moved out the cool breeze moved in and overnight the temps dropped!  It was nice to snuggle under my big comforter! I finally made myself get up because I had stuff to do!

The first item on the agenda was to get re-upped with the campground and get a new site for tonight.  I went to talk to the gal but I couldn’t reserve my site because their phone line was broken and they couldn’t take a credit card and I didn’t have enough cash.  Oh well, it was no big deal I could just take care of the campsite tonight, she was sure the sites would still be available. 

The next stop was the Dodge dealer, Upstate Dodge, in Saranac Lake to see if they could read the code on the check engine light.  They were very nice, very eager and willing to help.  However, they didn’t have the current Sprinter software and couldn’t read the code.  He did however give me the number of a Sprinter service place in Syracuse that I could hit on the way home. 

Dad had met me at the Dodge dealer and then he went to the Grand Union grocery store, I was heading there to meet him but went to the wrong Grand Union! The store I went to was close to the Advance Auto Parts, so I went in and got them to try and read the code for the check engine light.  Their tool would connect, but it wouldn’t read anything. 

I then completed my last town errand, go to the ATM and get cash to pay for my site for the next two nights and have enough for tolls on the way home. 

I called my guy at Mercedes of Chantilly, since I was trying to get in touch with him, I left him a message, but at this point there wasn’t much I could do.  If I made it to Syracuse I was going all the way home and just let “my” guys deal with it. 

Dad had given up on trying to meet up and  he went out to the trail head and as soon as my errands were done I followed.  We found a pull out for me to park in and went back to the trailhead. 

Ampersand Mountain was a nice “medium” hike – 2.7 miles one way with 1700 ft elevation gain, most of it coming in the last mile! The 1st mile was almost flat! It was a nice walk, and the climb wasn’t as difficult as Cascade Mt. or maybe it was just shorter. Ampersand however is not one of the 46 high peaks because it’s “only” 3030 feet high!

On the way up the mountain I met a guy who was hiking really fast but he slowed down to talk to me – turns out he was a retired teacher who is now a outdoor guide!  The company he works for is Adirondack Connections and it was started by another teacher who got sick of teaching and started a guide business!  Can’t wait to check out their website!

The steep part of the trail was certainly steep! It was hand over hand climbing in a few places, but most were not that scary!  Finally we came out onto the open rocks of the summit!  Just like Cascade Mt. Ampersand had 360 degree views!  It was hard to take pictures because the clouds were low, but we could see everything – lakes and mountains! We could see Mt. Marcy and Whiteface and plenty of other peaks that I don’t know the names of! 

The trip down was just as slow as the trip up, but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be!  Soon we were back at the car and headed back to the turn out where we’d parked my RV. 

When we got there we discovered that I’d been parked in! There was a roofing truck that had been pulled over and needed a tow!  There was a tow truck there getting ready to tow it away.  I probably could have gotten out, but it was easier to just wait.  I was glad I’d “parallel parked”, otherwise the truck and the tow truck couldn’t have gotten in.  

Once the trucks were gone, Dad and I hopped into our cars to head out.   He then realized I didn’t know where we were going so came back to tell me.  I turned the key once in the ignition so I could open the window, we chatted and then I got my other stuff ready.  When I sat down to drive I finished turning the ignition on and lo and behold, the check engine light went out!!!!!!  YAY!!!!  I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of error!

When I got back to the campground I got  my site for tonight squared away – tonight I’m in 197 and it isn’t anywhere near as nice as 191!  In order to get close to level I’m only a few feet from the road! It’s an ok site, but it’s not as good!

I also got a return call from my guy at the Mercedes dealer, his suspicion is that the check engine light’s problem is a “sensor” issue and that it’s probably fine to drive home and deal with it when I get home.

This evening my dad built a fire because my Mom wanted Smore’s, we were sitting around the fire and my dad says “No TV, no internet, all you can do is sit around the fire and fart!”  And my Mom added “and blow us all to kingdom come.”  

ADK: Ampersand Mt 8.6.12

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rollins Pond

I got up this morning and got ready to head out.  I chatted with the guy at Meadowbrook and figured out how to transfer my reservation, well sorta, I can make a new reservation for Rollins Pond and apply to the state and they will give me my money back for the Meadowbrook reservation eventually.  I was able to get a waterfront site at Rollins Pond for tonight, I’m going to have to change sites everyday but that’s ok because I’m going out each day anyway and I’d rather have a lakeside site that I can swim right from than stay in the same site. 

It was about 10:30 by the time I made my way from Meadowbrook over to Rollins Pond and got parked up in my amazing site!  I’m in site 191 tonight and it’s just perfect!  It’s got a long “driveway” and then ends in a large flat spot.  I was able to turn the RV so that the sliding door opens to the water and it’s perfectly level!  There’s no one else around so I have total privacy!

It’s been sunny and warm almost all summer up here, until today.  The forecast was for another hot muggy day with severe thunderstorms and heavy rain this afternoon.  As I was coming into the campground the rain started.  But, it let up and it got to be mostly cloudy, but dry and the sun was peeking out. 

Dad and I decided to rent kayaks and explore the lake!  Rollins Pond is a medium size lake – it’s 1.7 miles long, but it has a lot of little coves and “bumps” in the shoreline.   We rode our bikes down to the boat rental place and as we were arriving the wind was picking up and the clouds were moving in.  We were wondering if this was a good idea.  We decided as long as it wasn’t thundering it would be ok and launched the kayaks.   The wind wasn’t quite so bad as we made our way around to the 1st cove. 

We paddled along the campground side of the lake and looked for our sites.  Just when I found mine – had look hard to see it through the trees, the rain started.  It crossed my mind to beach the kayaks and hide in my RV, but I was prepared to be wet and it wasn’t cold and there wasn’t any thunder.  It was just a little mist at 1st, then harder, and harder and harder!  Soon it was pouring rain!  We were out in the middle of the lake and the rain was coming down hard!  It was pretty cool to see the drops hitting the water and it sounded almost like hail, but it wasn’t.  Almost as quickly as it started it began to clear up! Soon it was sunny and muggy! 

In the break of sun I decided it was time to beach the kayaks and go for a swim! I found a rocky spot with a nice beach and pulled my kayak up on the sand.  Dad was a ways back but he soon caught up and beached his kayak.  He climbed to the top of the rock and told me it was an island!  I decided I needed to swim around the island so headed out!  It was a long way around, but it was a good swim.  We got back in the kayaks and headed back towards the boat rental place, but kept checking out things on the shoreline as we went.  

We found a big cove away from the main body of the lake and there was a mamma loon and her baby hanging out.  They didn’t seem to mind that we were there and we ended up getting closer than we meant to.  By this time I could see big thunderheads forming above!  They were HUGE and quite cool.  As neat as they were to see, it was making me nervous because I didn’t want to be out on the lake in a thunderstorm!

We kept paddling around the edge of the lake, I was heading to the bottom of the lake and then around.  I saw the boat launch place on the other side of the lake and was happy that we were close in case the weather turned ugly.  Then there was a clap of thunder!  I looked back at Dad and he pointed to the opposite shore, where the boat launch was, and off I went.  It was def a  “see how fast you can paddle” situation!  I didn’t seem to be making much progress and it started raining!  Also out in the middle of the lake it was windy.  Hmmm…maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to go across the lake just then, we might have been better off just hugging the shore.  Finally the other shore got closer and closer! We made it across and beached the kayaks and we were getting ready to turn in the paddles and the life jackets when the sky started getting lighter!  There were no more claps of thunder and by the time we got on our bikes to go back to our site the rain had stopped and the sun was out.  Figures. 

Since it wasn’t storming when we got back I went for another swim at my site.  Dad decided he needed to test out out his new life jacket he’d gotten at LLBean so he came over too.  The lake by my campsite is very shallow and you have to go way out to really swim.  It would be a great spot if you had small kids, they could have plenty of space to play in the water without getting too deep!  I swam back and forth in front of my site a few times and then decided I was waterlogged and it was time to get dry. 

I got cleaned up and then packed a few things to take to Mom and Dad’s coach for dinner/evening.  As I was packing to leave the wind started picking up again – it was a nice cool breeze and it was very pleasant at my site.  I rode my bike to their site and as I was setting out, I heard thunder!  Mom and Dad’s site wasn’t quite as nice because they were running the generator and it was noisy.  Soon though the storm blew in proper – the wind was whipping off the lake and the rain came fast and furious. 

The rain has cooled things off significantly!  Tomorrow should be really nice – highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s! Yes, that’s right, the 40s! ahhhhh!!!!!!  Tomorrow Dad and I are hiking Ampersand Mountain – it’s "”only” 3000 ft high but we have to climb 1700 of those feet so it won’t be much different from Cascade Mt. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Transition Day

Since this trip up here was such a throw together thing we kinda pieced the reservations together.  I found a spot that was open the whole time and just took it.  Mom and Dad couldn’t get into my campground and they found space at the KOA and then a site at Rollins Pond Campground.  Rollins Pond is way out past Saranac Lake! It’s about 20 miles of windy road from my campground!  We were realizing that this is going to present a challenge and trying to figure out what to do, but I figured I’d just drive back and forth. 

I started the day with a leisurely breakfast, a luxury I usually don’t get on vacation because we are trying to do stuff! Then I did my RV chores, dumping & putting on water.  Then by about 11 I headed over to Hannaford where I was going to meet Mom and Dad when they got there. 

The Adirondacks are having a heat wave.  Of course they are.  It was 100* a one point today.  Still cooler than DC, but not exactly comfortable. Spending the day parked in the Hannaford parking lot was not a way to beat the heat! 

We took care of our shopping and decided to head out to the campground.  This got a bit confusing because we decided to leave Roxy parked in my campsite here and then they’d drive me back after dinner.  Dad had to pull off on the side of the road near the campground so I could hop in since he had the car attached to the motorhome and was afraid he’d get stuck if he pulled into the campground. 

After what seemed like a very long drive, we arrived at the campground.  We had to drive through one huge campground to get to Mom and Dad’s campground.  Almost all the sites were right on the lake!  With water access!  It was fabulous!  Their site is way back up in the campground so it took a long time to get back up in there!  Their site isn’t on the water and I quickly discovered that the only way to access the water was through a site!  Boo. 

Dad and I rode bikes to the end of the road and then down the road a bit – it’s a great park for riding your bike!  We found a lakeside site that was unoccupied and decided to squat and use the water access.  The lake was great!  I would LOVE to have a site right on the water where I could swim every morning and every evening!  The sun was even setting over the mountains and it was setting up to be a nice sunset! 

We decided that it would make sense for me to move out there, rather than stay here.  I’m hoping I can score a lake front site but we’ll see.  If we can’t make it work legally, as in I get my own site and hopefully get reimbursed by The New York State Department of Conservation or I’ll just park on Mom and Dad’s site – it’s plenty big enough for both of us and I can hide behind them!

Friday, August 3, 2012

1st Two Adirondack Peaks

There are 46 “High Peaks” in the Adirondacks.  A popular activity among hikers is to climb them all! Today I climbed one and drove up another. 

My biking buddy Greg left early this morning, I didn’t even talk to him this morning, he was gone when I got moving.  I was kinda glad because it meant I had my picnic table back!  I enjoyed meeting him and helping him out a bit, but I do like my space!

Dad and I met back at the Ski Jump a little after nine and drove to the trailhead.   Our plan was to climb Cascade Mountain – which the book says is one of the easiest of the 4000 ft + peaks in the High Peaks region.   It was 2.5 miles one way with about 2000 feet of elevation change. 

We started at the same time as three older guys, one of them looked to be about 80!  We ended up behind them for awhile, they offered to let us pass but we weren’t moving much faster than they were and I knew they’d be on our tail.  I’d rather be the end of the line, even if the line is moving slow than feeling like I have someone breathing down my back.  There was a single gal who set out just ahead of us and soon we caught up with her while she took a break.  We’d noted that she was from Annapolis and I struck up a conversation with her. A quick 5 minute conversation was all it took to lose the other guys since they kept walking, so we were able to put space between us.  We saw them again at the top!

The whole way up the trail was rocky and more challenging to navigate.  There was a lot of rock hopping and some light climbing.  In a few places the trail went up sheer rock faces you had to just walk up!

Right at the end we were up above the treeline and it was all rock!  Just up, up, up the rock. It reminded me of climbing Sentinel Dome in Yosemite last year.  It was mostly easy rock scrambling,  but there was one tricky spot that almost did me in. You had to climb up and there wasn’t much to hold on to or any place to put your hands or feet!  I finally found a hand-hold and pulled myself up and rolled over on to the solid ground, but I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. 

I’m glad I did make it though because at the top the view was outstanding!  360 degrees!  Mountains as far as the eye could see!  It was kinda hazy so the pictures didn’t really come out, or do it justice, but it was really nice!  And it was cool and there was a breezy, I mean wind. 

The bad part about climbing a mountain is that you have to get down.  I think they ought to install zip lines to get down, but then there’d be even more people climbing the mountains.  I dislike going down on a good trail, on a rocky trail like this I was fearing the worst.  But, it wasn’t so bad!  There were a few times on the rocks that I simply had to sit down, but overall it wasn’t so bad!

After the hike we were heading to the KOA to get Mom to drive up to the top of Whiteface Mountain – the only peak you can drive up.  On the way over there my check engine light came on again.  grrrrrr…..  We did a little research, but since the van is under warranty it needs to go back to the Mercedes dealer and there aren’t any close.  I hope it doesn’t do damage to the engine getting it in.  So annoyed. 

The drive up Whiteface was nice – lots of views and again 360 degree views from the top!  There was a little trail at the top that you could walk up (or down) it was rugged and they had big railings!  On my fitbit I had logged 185 floors for the day – just 15 away from 200!  This trail looked like I could easily get the last 15 in so I hiked down a bit and then climbed back up – amazingly I turned around at exactly the right spot because when I got to the top I had 203 floors! 

They closed the mountain at 6:15 so we got herded out just when the sun was getting nice and the storm clouds were building and looking cooler by the minute.   We drove down and had dinner at a local place – the food was good but there was unadvertised ground beef in my marina sauce and it took forever to get the food!

Tomorrow Mom and Dad have to move campsites because the KOA is full.  They are moving to a place out from Saranac Lake so we’ll check out that area.  I think the mountains diminish and there are more lakes over there!

ADK: Cascade & Whitetop 8.3.12

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Avalanche Lake

This morning I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to get ready, Dad needed time to pack his new backpack and we really didn’t know where we were going yet.   As I was getting ready Greg came over and we chatted a bit and I showed him the RV.  While we were chatting he mentioned how he was just going to stay in Lake Placid for the day and how nice it would be to ride around with an unloaded bike.  I caught on real quick that he was planning to spend another night “sharing” my camp site.  At first I was a bit irritated and felt like I was being taken advantage of.  Then I decided I’d just ask him to go halvs-ies on the 2nd night.  That way he wasn’t just mooching off me.   Before I left to meet dad he came over and asked if he could stay another night and when he did I suggested he go 1/2 on the campground fee, he agreed and gave me some cash and asked me if I could keep his cream in my refrigerator for the day.   I agreed.  Then I hatched a plan – subletting my camp site for reduced rates to long distance bikers and hikers to make money to support my RVing!!!!  It’s probably not allowed! 

Dad and I were going to meet at the Ski Jump to go hiking.  Since Lake Placid hosted the Olympics in 1980 all the Olympic venues are still here, they use them in the winter for training and competition, but in the summer they are tourist attractions.  At the Ski Jump they charge you $30 bucks and let up ride up to the top to see what they ski jumpers see.  They also have a large parking lot with no signs that dictate who can park there and for how long.  The only rule appears to be “no overnight parking”.  When I pulled in this morning the parking lot was empty so I selected a good spot to park and left the RV there all day!  No one seemed to care!

We drove out to the Adirondack Loj (lodge, it’s just spelled phonetically), which is a campground, lodge and trailhead parking run by the Adirondack Mountain Club.  There were several hikes in this area that looked good and we still hadn’t decided yet.  It cost $10 to get in and park! Crazy! The parking area was huge, and almost full.  I’m glad I didn’t drive Roxy down there though. 

We looked at the trail descriptions in the information center and decided we’d go to Avalanche Lake.  It was advertised to be a 10 mile round trip hike, but it was mostly level with only 700 feet of elevation change.   It was also advertised as the most spectacular hike in the area. 

We set out on the wide, well worn trail and it wound through the woods.  The woods were nice, but they looked a lot like the woods in Virginia.  I wanted to see something different.  Soon we reached Marcy Dam and we got a great view of Mt. Marcy – the highest peak in Adirondacks – and several other peaks. 

Then it was back into the woods.  These woods seemed more “woodsy” – and different from Virginia!  Lots of rocks, moss, ferns, etc.   Soon though the trail got very rocky and we were more rock hopping than walking.  The ADK (as the Adirondack Mountain Club calls themselves) has done a great job of building the trail through here!  A lot of labor has gone into building rock steps and log steps and installing ladders over the rougher parts!  The last mile of the trail was a showcase of their mad trail building skills!

The lake was pretty cool!  The two mountains on either side have sheer rock cliffs that come right down into the water! There is very little shore line and walking around the lake is quite difficult.  We found a nice spot for lunch, even though it involved a big climb up a steep ladder! 

After lunch the hike back went fairly quickly, until of course the last mile, which seemed to take twice as long as the other miles!

Back at the Ski Jump I took a quick shower (that’s got to be the coolest thing about an RV, showering anywhere you want to!) and then we went back to Mom and Dad’s RV for dinner, internet time, and some Olympics.  When I got back to my campground I tried to tune in to the Olympics, but I don’t get any TV channels here (edited to add: I forgot to turn on the antenna boost, I prob could have gotten channels!). Mom and Dad have cable at their campground, but here I’m dependent on “over the air” channels and Lake Placid probably doesn’t have their own. Oh well, I already know who won and by tomorrow I should be able to watch the replay on my phone!

ADK: Avalanche Lake 8.2.12

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Road Trip: Part 2

Hard to believe that it is just now Aug 1.  Feels like July lasted a 100 years.   Yesterday, July 31, I headed out for part 2 of my summer trip.  The part that was never on the radar or planned – the spontaneous, I have about a week before I start getting into school meetings and stuff, where can I go part of the summer.  I was debating between either The Finger Lakes area of NY or the Adirondacks.  I finally settled on the Adirondacks because the weather was cooler here, especially at night, and Mom and Dad were able to work meeting me there into their schedule.  They stayed in Acadia/Bar Harbor pretty much the whole time I was in Virginia!

I’d randomly picked Lake Placid as a destination and found a state campground that was right in the middle between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and they had a site that could accommodate me and it was available the whole week!  I quickly booked 9 nights and started packing!  The campground I picked didn’t have sites that Mom and Dad would fit in so they found a site at 2 different campgrounds in the area – one for Tues-Fri and the other for Sat-Wed.

It’s 576 miles from my house to Lake Placid. Google Maps said it would take 10 hours.  My dad says the limit for a days drive in an RV is 500 miles.  I knew I was pushing it to try and do the whole drive in one day, but I really didn’t want to take more than that since my time was limited.  I was up at 5 am – out the door by 6:30 and had high hopes for making Lake Placid in one day.  That is until my check engine light came on about 40 miles into the drive. 

Sprinters can be hard to service – most places won’t touch ‘em – so I knew the best thing to do was to drive to the Mercedes Dealer in Chantilly (right by my school) and get them to look at it.  The book listed all kinds of dire warnings, even said that if you drive too long with the light on the vehicle won’t start anymore! ugh.  I was only 20 miles away at this point and since I wasn’t sure why it came on or what damage driving 1000+ miles was going to do, I knew it was the only option. 

Luckily, it was a light malfunction.  Nothing was wrong, they did update my software though.  By 11:30 I was on my way!  I made great time, getting to Albany in just about 8 hours (google maps says it should take 7 hours & 20 mins – that’s not accounting for stops).  

I knew when I went to the Mercedes dealer that I wasn’t going to make it to Lake Placid last night, it was just too far and I’d lost too much time, it would be after dark by the time I got there and I didn’t want to pull in late and negotiate an unfamiliar campground.  I’d found a Wal-Mart in Albany, but it was a bit off route.  Mom and Dad however, have a friend who lives up here and he told them about a rest area on I-87 that has a state police outpost and allows overnight parking!  It was right on route, I could pull off, sleep and be on my way in the morning!  Perfect!

I arrived a little before 8 and parked in the truck lanes – it was mostly empty.   I took a quick walk to survey the place and locate the State Police, then went back to the RV to figure out the TV and how to get NBC so I could watch the Olympics.  That took a phone call to Mom and Dad, but eventually we figured it out and soon I was in bed watching Michael Phelps & the Women’s Gymnastics Team make history!   This was the perfect night to stay up late since I wasn’t expecting a good nights sleep! 

The truck next me ran his generator all night, which made for good white noise and blocked out the highway noise!  I actually got some good sleep, slept through the truck on the other side pulling out and a new one pulling in! I was up early and back on the road!

I’d enjoyed I-87 from the NJ border to Albany – it was a wide smooth road, nice service plazas, there was scenery, not a lot of traffic, I was thinking it was the best portion of road I’d driven all summer.  Then I drove I-87 north of Albany.  Oh man!  The mountains!  It just got prettier and prettier with each mile!  I think next time I go to Maine I’m going to figure out how to get there by way of the Adirondacks!  I’m so glad I didn’t try to come in after dark last night I would have missed out on the best drive of the summer!

I arrived in Lake Placid around 11:30.  The town itself is very touristy – a lot like Bar Harbor or Jackson Hole – but all around there are hiking opportunities and lakes and streams!  My campground is close to town and rather empty – which surprised me, although there are train tracks that run right behind and a train came through this afternoon, this could be why there’s no one here, or it could be that it’s Wed.   My site was supposed to be “back in” but it’s a huge field and I decided to make it a pull though!  It’s even level!  And I have 3G service on my phone!

Dad was going to meet me in Lake Placid since Mom was doing laundry.  I drove up to the Hannaford and parked and walked into town – probably more than a mile but it wasn’t far enough to get me to 10,000 steps for the day.  We met up and did a little exploring on our way back to their campsite on the other side of Lake Placid.

After dinner we came back into town and got my RV from Hannaford and then came to my campsite.  Soon after we arrived we were approached by a man on a bike asking if he could share my site.  He’s biking from Seattle to Portland, ME and he’s on a budget so wanted to just share space.  I really didn’t care because I wasn’t using the grass “tent area” of my site and he was welcome to it.  I didn’t feel like I had to worry about him being a murderer or rapist – if I said no and he went got a site he’d still be next to me!  I agreed that it was ok and we started chatting – turns out he’s a former Park Ranger!  He worked in Glacier NP as a backcountry ranger!  He was fun to talk to and I enjoyed meeting him!

I am a bit perplexed though by his ability to just brazenly ask to share my space.  While I’m happy to share, and it’s no skin off my nose at all for him to pitch his tent and sleep here, he’s kinda mooching.  No, not kinda, he is mooching.  I’m on a budget too and I paid for my site fair and square, so who is he that he can come up and ask me to share?  I have the same issue of sorts with Thru Hikers and “trail magic” – I’m more than happy to help a hiker if I encounter them when they are in need, but when hikers come to expect that others will help them it seems to me to cross a line of sorts.    Biking is fun and a neat way to see the country, just like hiking, but you shouldn’t have to depend on the kindness of others.  I hope I’m making sense. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Change in Plans

Friday morning we left The Big Moose Inn and headed for Acadia.  Just outside Millinocket we stopped a truck stop that Mom and Dad thought they had been to 6 years ago and gotten good pie – they weren’t sure because it wasn’t in the right place.  When we arrived we discovered that in addition to pie they had cell phone coverage which means internet!  It was there that I learned that a close friend had passed away suddenly leaving behind his wife, another close friend, and their 3 year old daughter, who is like a niece to me.  It was a huge shock and I wasn’t sure what the right next move was. 

We were headed to Acadia by way of Bangor and we were on I-95 south which would take me directly to Fredericksburg where my friends live.  I was very close to just not turning onto 395 and heading south.  The problem was that I had no plan, I was out of water and I needed to dump and all my clothes were dirty.  I was not prepared at all for a sudden 2 day journey.  I also had no idea what Susan and her family were planning and for when, I thought maybe I could wait it out a bit until I heard.   I stopped in Ellsworth for fuel and groceries – the groceries were hard because even then I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be sticking around on vacation for long.  While in Ellsworth I texted with Susan’s sister and learned of the plans they were beginning to make – I realized I wanted to be there sooner rather than later.  I second guessed myself the whole way into Blackwoods campground, wondering why I was driving all the way out there when what I really wanted to do was drive south. 

Sometimes, in these situations you make decisions you don’t really understand, either at the time or even later, and that’s what happened here.  Somehow I decided that I should stay in Acadia until Sunday – Sunday afternoon in fact was the thought at the time.  Dad and I could hike Saturday and then maybe even have lunch on Sunday before I headed out.  I think some part of me was knee deep in a river in Egypt here (that would be de-nile)

Saturday dawned sunny and hot!  Dad and I were planning on hiking a one way hike I’d wanted to hike the last time I was in the park in 2009 but the day I had to hike it (my last day in the park) it was foggy and this hike went up over the mountains and had views of the ocean, not a good one for a foggy day! 

We’d planned to both take the bus and meet at the nature center – he would take the bus from his campground and I’d take the one from mine. I needed to be at the bus stop in the campground by 8:45 to catch the 8:50 bus.  At 8:20 I randomly decided to check the battery level in the RV.  It was down to 1/3.  hmmmm….  Shouldn’t be that low after just one night, it had been full the night before.   “hmmmm…maybe I should run the generator for a few minutes to charge the battery before I leave”   So since it was after 8 and I could, I popped the generator on and ran it until exactly 8:40.  When I turned it off however, the power went out in the whole coach.  WTF?  The battery wasn’t working at all.  So I started the generator again.  But it cut off in about a minute.  It was time to get the bus so I pulled the battery disconnect switch, just to be sure nothing would go off or drain or anything and ran for the bus. 

I was surprised when I got on the bus and Dad was there!  He’d taken the early bus so got to go the scenic route!  I pulled him off the bus and we went back to the RV to figure it out.  It took a little while and reading the book and checking and double checking and pulling my bed apart and crawling on the floor and standing on our heads but Dad finally found the battery reset button and pushed it and there was power!  We ran the generator until it was time for the next bus and all was peachy! Not sure what happened, but it seems to be fixed!

The hike was lovely!  I had a hard time enjoying it though because I knew that Susan and her family were going through hell back at home and I felt bad for not hightailing it there and enjoying the hike.  But, one thing you can take from Mike’s sudden death is that life is too short not to enjoy.  Aside from being a bit hot, the day was perfect for this particular hike.   In the middle of the hike we walked around the edge of a freshwater lake and there was a perfect spot for lunch and a quick swim!

On the way into town on the bus before the hike my phone connected and I was able to get texts and emails.  I had an email from Susan which was 2 sentences – one of which was “I can’t wait to see you!”  That snapped me out of my denial that something horrible had happened and I decided that I wasn’t waiting until Sunday afternoon, I was going to get up Sunday morning and drive as far as I could and then finish it off on Monday, hopefully getting there by mid-day. 

Sunday morning I was up and out of the campground by 8:30!  The 1st part of the drive went pretty smooth and I felt like I was moving along making good time.  I stopped a few times but never shut the engine off because my stops were so brief.  I stopped for fuel in Lowell, MA about 2:00 and after that things went south with the drive.   I got on the MA Turnpike and went about 10 miles before I ran into a 20 mile back up.  ugh.  I was inching along.  Google maps said that it would take an hour to get to my exit but it only took 30 minutes so that was better than I expected!  Then Connecticut was just bad.  By then it had started raining and folks in CT must not know how to drive when water is falling from the sky just like in DC!  It was back up after back after back up.  I missed my exit because I thought it was the next one and had to take the scenic tour of industrial Danbury to get to the Wal-Mart where I’m staying.  But, because of my detour I got to see an amazing rainbow!  The rain had stopped and the sun came out and it was awesome!  It was a full arch – even a double in a few places!  I didn’t get a good picture but I got one of part of the rainbow over the Wal-Mart!

Once at Wal-Mart things started looking up.  I was told that I was allowed to park overnight, despite the sign saying that I’d get towed and the store closed at 11:00, which means that it will get quiet tonight (the 24 hour stores stay noisy).  The Wal-Mart had my DEF (it’s a diesel thing) and it was much easier to get into the tank than I expected!  Made that light on the dash go out!  I was also able to figure out how to replace the turn signal light bulb that had burned out and Wal-Mart had the appropriate replacement!  I love it when I spend my “campground fees” on stuff I need! :-)  I heated dinner in the microwave with the generator running and the battery didn’t pop when I shut it off! 

After my 2nd trip into Wal-Mart we got a doozy of a thunderstorm!  It was my 1st in the RV!  It was actually quite cool!  Lighting all around, thunder that shook the vehicle, rain!  I was right in the middle of it, yet protected!  I didn’t feel like I was in danger, so I hope I wasn’t!  It’s still raining a bit and the rain has cooled things off!  It has the set up to be a nice night in the Wal-Mart parking lot! I’m the only RV here, which makes me a bit anxious, but my phone has coverage so I can always call for help!

My plan is to be up early tomorrow AM and on the road.  Google maps says it’s still 7 hours to Fredericksburg and I’d like to be there before Leah goes to bed at 7:00.  Today took 10 hours and it was only supposed to take 7. 

The rest of the week I’ll probably be with Susan and her family, celebrating Mike’s life.  I’ll prob still be living in the RV but I probably won’t be blogging.  I’m not sure what’s happening with the rest of the summer, I may drive back north after things settle, I may stay in Virginia, I’m not sure at this point. 

Acadia Hike 7.14.12

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Baxter State Park: Appalachian Trail Hike

One interesting thing about this area is that while Baxter Peak is over 5,000 ft high, the surrounding area is rather flat!  There are 10 miles of the AT that are inside Baxter and over those 10 miles you only gain 600 feet of elevation!  It’s practically flat!  Since Dad and I weren’t hardy enough to make it to the top of Katahdin and back (we both could make it to the top, it’s the AND BACK down that’s the issue!), we decided to hike the rest of the AT in the park. 

We drove to the Abol Bridge store and found where the AT crossed the road.  Dad and I set off and Mom took the car back to the campground.  She was going to pick us up later at the Katahdin Stream Campground.  The first part of the trail was flat as promised.  It was a little nerve wracking knowing what we got into yesterday and wondering if we’d run into something similar today, a thought that was much more daunting considering the mileage we hoped to cover today.  Lucky for us the AT really is like the interstate of hiking trails and it was in perfect condition for us!

Soon after we started we got to a registration kiosk and we were signing in when another hiker came up.  We asked if he was a thru-hiker and he said he was and that he’d started on Dec 16 and hiked all the way from Key West!  WOW.  That’s crazy! Said he wanted to give his grandkids something to think about or something like that.  We congratulated him on making to nearly the end and he sat down to rest while we walked on, we expected to see him again but we didn’t. 

The trail meandered along the banks of the West Branch of the Penobscot River, which is very wide and slow at this spot.  It was a nice walk, flat trail with a few “PUDS” (pointless ups and downs).  After about 3.5 miles the trail turned north and followed a more exciting creek/river.  The river had lots of cascades and pools and waterfalls! 

About 4 miles in we came to a spot where we had to ford the creek!  We were prepared for this with Tevas and Dad even had his dry bag.  We reached the spot and couldn’t see the white blazes on the other side of the creek!  We knew the trail went on on the other side so we made our preparations to ford – changed out of our boots, put electronics away, stowed stuff in the dry bag.  I crossed first and it was actually rather easy and I didn’t even get my pants wet!  The cold creek water felt great on my feet!  Once on the other side though I started looking for a blaze.  I couldn’t find one in the direction I thought we needed to go!  uh-oh.  A repeat of yesterday.  I turned around and walked the other way and discovered a blaze!  phew!  Later when we hiked on we saw that there was a spot where you could see the white blaze from the other side if we’d looked more carefully!  The AT is nothing if not well marked!

Right after we put our boots back on and put everything back where it normally goes, I looked at the map and learned that we had another stream to ford in a mile!  Kinda wish I’d seen that sooner but oh well!

The 2nd stream crossing was more exciting!  It looked easier from the bank, we could see the white blaze on the other side and there were some big rocks that made it look like you could rock hop.  I changed out of my boots and prepared to go across.  I got about a 1/4 of the way across and probably could have made it without getting wet, but the step was a little too big and I was afraid I’d miss so I sat down to try and get to the next rock, my foot slipped and I ended up waist deep in running water!  It actually felt really good and I didn’t mind being wet.  Since I was already wet I didn’t worry too much about the rest of the crossing and kinda made my across slipping and sliding and lacking all grace.  I was about 1/2 way across when I looked up and saw 6 thru hikers standing on the other side looking for how to get across!  How embarrassing to be practically swimming rather than fording and have an audience!   The thru-hikers (on their last 10 miles by this point) pretty much levitated across.  Only one took off his shoes and he didn’t even get his feet wet! 

I talked to the hikers for a few minutes and congratulated them on making it all the way from Georgia!  They were upbeat and excited and it was fun to be a small part of their hike! We saw them again later at the campground but didn’t talk to them. 

After the 2nd stream crossing the trail went up more and there were 2 falls – Big Niagara and Little Niagara – then we reached Daicey Pond.  We had to walk up a small hill to get to the pond but it was worth it! Dad sat on the porch of the library and chatted with some other folks and defended our stuff against attack chipmunks, while I went for a swim in the cool crisp lake water!  It was awesome!  Any hike that includes a swim stop is a great hike! I swam with a view of Katahdin for about 30 minutes then sat on the dock to dry eating a snack and watching the tadpoles!  There were a ton of tadpoles, all in different stages of development. 

Soon it was time to hike the last 2.3 miles to the campground.  The 1st mile went fast – we were refreshed from the break and still cool from wet clothes.  The 2nd 1.3 not so much.  It felt like the trail was just winding around and not getting anywhere, but finally we came out on the road and walked up to the campground to wait for Mom. 

When Mom got there she told us that the Roaring Brook area was open (it had been closed yesterday because the parking area had reached capacity – this is the area where most dayhikers park to hike Katahdin) so we decided to take our moose hunt over there so I could see the other side of the mountain.  Mom had made dinner and brought it so when we got to Roaring Brook we found a picnic table and ate our pasta salad and crackers before heading down the nature trail.  It was only about a 1/2 mile to a boardwalk with a great view of the basin on the “back” side of Katahdin!  It was a very cool view but the light was horrible since we were looking west and it was about an hour from sunset!  There was however a cow moose out in the pond and she was close enough I could get some pictures – they came out pretty good, even though they are grainy!

Baxter is an amazing place, but tomorrow AM we are heading south to Bar Harbor & Acadia NP!

Baxter State Park: AT Hike 7.12.12

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baxter State Park

This morning we drove into the park to explore!  Baxter is a different breed of park from other state parks, it’s totally wild and unspoiled!  There are a ton of rules, many of which keep out most people!  There are strict vehicle size limits, no motorcycles allowed, all the roads are dirt, there are no stores, no gas, no food, not even any potable water (there’s plenty of water, but it all must be treated before you drink it!)!  There are no flush toilets, only outhouses.  No trash cans, you bring it in, you bring it out.  Between the rules and the fact that it’s so remote, there aren’t many people there, just lots and lots of wilderness! 

Mt. Katahdin is the crown jewel of the park.  It rises over 5,000 feet from the surrounding area, most of which is flat.  There are several other mountains in the range, but they all just shoot up out of the ground, they are not part of a chain of mountains or anything.  The area around the mountains is mostly flat and filled with ponds, bogs, pine forests and mosquitoes. 

The park road goes about 50 miles around and then you have to drive another 50 miles to get back to the highway.  We decided we weren’t going to drive the whole road, just part of it, and explore. 

When we arrived at the park entrance station the ranger had a lot of questions for us – where were we going, what were we doing, who should we call in case of emergency, etc.  We then had to turn in out parking pass on the way out so the rangers knew who was in and who had left. 

We stopped at a few ponds and got out to look and take pictures.  We found the Katahdin Stream campground which is where the AT crosses the road and then goes up to the top of the mountain.  It’s funny how this is the end of the AT and the big finish for many hikers, yet it seems like no big deal in the park.  Other parks I’ve been to make such a big deal about the trail going through but here, where it should be a big deal, it’s not.  It was fun seeing some of these places myself since I’ve read about this park so much in different AT books that I’ve read! 

We got to Kidney Pond in time for lunch and lucky for us it was the perfect lunch spot!  There were some rustic cabins you could rent and they were along the lakeshore and there was a small picnic pavilion where we ate lunch.  The pond was lovely and there was a nice breeze blowing. 

After lunch dad and I decided to take a quick walk around the lake.  The sign said it was about 3 miles and we knew it would be mostly flat.  The first part of the trail was flat, but very rocky and hard to walk on because you had to hope from one rock to another.  If it wasn’t rocks slowing us down it was roots!  As we went around the lake more of the surrounding mountains revealed themselves to us!  We could see about 6 big mountains as we walked!  Kidney Pond was surrounded by mountains!  I was thinking I wanted to go for a swim in Kidney Pond but I didn’t have my backpack and pockets were loaded down with electronics – between my keys, my fitbit, and my phone! 

Soon we’d walked most of the way around the lake and got to the Kidney Pond Outlet Trail (also called the Kidney Pond Cutoff Trail on the trail signs).  It all started out fine – we were making good time – the rocks were fewer and the roots were smaller!  Then we came to a spot where the bog bridges (logs that had been laid down to walk on so you weren’t waist deep in mud) were at odd angles and there were a bunch of blow downs.  It was tough getting past it, but we did, and the trail got better just past it.  Then we came to another spot where the weeds were so overgrown we couldn’t see the trail very well, but we kept seeing blue blazes on the trees or these orange markers we’d seen at the 1st trouble spot.   Then we came to a spot where we had to ford the creek.  The ford wasn’t hard, but we had to take off our shoes and we couldn’t see where the trail went on the other side.  We consulted the map and determined this was likely the spot for ford and went for it.  Sure enough right after we forded there were orange trail markers and then a blaze!  The weeds got worse.  We were up to our necks in weeds and brush.  I was trying not to think about the snakes and other critters that live in the underbrush, while at the same time wondering what had happened here and why the trail was so overgrown.  We kept seeing blue blazes though so we were on the right track. 

Until the blazes ended.  We saw one, but we couldn’t find another to know where to go.  The whole area was so overgrown it was almost impassable.  We were still up to our necks in weeds, yet there were no blazes.  No signs of a trail. We bushwhacked around and couldn’t find the trail.  Finally we thought maybe we should head to the river and hike in the river since it crossed the road like the trail did.  We were going to do that, but then we couldn’t get to the river, it was too overgrown.  We went back to the blaze we’d seen and decided to head in the general direction of the road.  Soon we came out of the weeds into the trees, and there, we found the trail!  It was there that Dad’s GPS finally connected with the satellite and was useable also. 

The last 0.8 of mile of the hike we were able to stay on the trail, but it was overgrown as well.  There were bog bridges and the bridges were covered with weeds, but we knew we were on the right track so it was easier.  Eventually we did come to the road and we made it back to the parking area!

We collected Mom, who we’d left to defend her candy against the platoon of attack chipmunks who live at Kidney Pond, and drove a little further down the road to Ledge Falls and then we headed out, back to the campground for showers and dinner at the restaurant here.  When Mom and Dad were here 6 years ago they discovered the wonderful restaurant at The Big Moose Inn which is why we are staying here.  It wasn’t open last night so we had to go tonight.  It was very good and I left fuller than I’ve been in months! 

After dinner Dad and I walked to the lake near the campground and then stopped in the General Store that’s right here to ask some questions.  While we were there I picked up the local Bangor newspaper which had a picture of the destruction from a flood 2 weeks ago.  A major flood that had occurred just 45 minutes from where we were.  I then remembered that when I made the reservations here I’d checked the weather forecast and it was raining and there were flood warnings.  hmmmm….  I asked the gal in the store if the flood that was on the newspaper could also have caused Kidney Pond area to get flooded and take out trees and then get overgrown and she “yes”.   She was surprised to hear about the conditions over there – she said it’s usually wide open and very easy to walk. 

The newspaper also had an article about yesterday’s brush fires.  Apparently they were caused by burning debris that flew out of truck heading down 95.  Apparently, the truck had a container of debris and when it was lifted onto the flatbed truck they realized the container was too tall and wouldn’t fit under the underpasses on the highway so they cut it shorter with welding tools.  Well, the welding process caused some of the debris to catch on fire and then the burning debris flew out.  

As interesting as today has been tomorrow we are, hopefully, sticking to something tame and hiking 10 miles of the AT in Baxter State Park.  Hopefully this is like the hiking “superhighway” and it will at least be passable!

Baxter State Park 7.11.12

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Baxter State Park

One of the places I didn’t get to visit the last time I was in Maine was Baxter State Park.  Baxter is the home of Mt. Katahdin which is the end (or the beginning) of the Appalachian Trail.   We are not planning climb Katahdin – it’s a 10 mile round trip hike with 4,000 feet of elevation change and it’s not just straight walking, there’s lots of rock scrambling and hand over hand climbing and then there’s the “knife edge”.  This time we are just exploring and hiking other trails. 

I was up early this morning and took a walk around the campground before we headed out to drive north. 

We had some errands to do before we could depart – I needed fuel and Mom and Dad had to get the mail and return something at L.L. Bean and then Mom needed a new computer mouse.  We all left the campground in separate vehicles to accomplish our tasks and met up again at the Staples.  I was quite excited when I got fuel because my app told me that I’d gotten 19.5 MPG!  Amazing!

We quickly finished our errands and started north on 95!  I-95 in Northern Maine is totally different from I-95 in Virginia!  There were many places where the only vehicle I could see was my parents RV!  The only other things I could see was sky and trees! I’m not sure what caused them, but there were about 5 brush fires burning on the sides of the road.  Only one of the fires had a fire truck – the others appeared to be being fought by folks who pulled over and got their own fire extinguishers. I think northern Maine is the only spot on  a I-95 where you can park your car on one side of the road and walk across without getting killed!

We arrived at our campground a little before 4.  We were excited about this campground, Big Moose Inn, because Mom and Dad had been here 6 years ago and thought they couldn’t fit in the campground, but when I called to make a reservation I was told that they would fit.  As a bonus we had electricity and it was only $15 per person per night! We were worried that it was too good to be true, and it almost is.  It seemed like quite a stroke of luck that we got a preferred site so close to Baxter for so cheap!

The campground is very tight and we weren’t sure that Dad could get his RV in.  Also it’s not level – not only downhill but also full of pot holes – making it hard to even begin to level the RV!  We spent about 20 minutes planning how Dad would bring the RV in and it turned out to be easier he thought it would be!  He had to put down his boards and use his air levelers to get level, but the leveling was easy.  I on the other hand, pulled my RV right in with no pre-planning before I started, but it took 20 minutes, my high tech boards that dad made me, both Mom and Dad working on it, and moving the fire circle to get my RV level.  But, it is spot on level with the bubble in my level exactly in the circle!  Not sure it’s ever been that level before!

After we parked up we decided to go hunting for moose!  We packed a picnic dinner and headed out!  We realized that we were out too early for moose so explored a bit first.  We discovered the Abol Bridge Campground, which is a commercial campground just outside the park and it has AMAZING views of Mt. Katahdin!  WOW!  The best sites in the campground were empty too! AND, it’s cheaper than the place where we are staying (they don’t have electricity, but as we learned later, we don’t really have it either, we just paid for it!)  Next time I’m staying there!  We headed back down the road to the moose watching spot, which also had some great views of Katahadin, and found a cow moose heading to find dinner in the the pond!  We watched her for awhile until it got dark.   As we headed back to the campground we realized we should have eaten our picnic dinner when we made it!  It was all good though, now we had lunch all ready for tomorrow!

We got back around 9:00 and made a quick pasta dinner and in the process discovered that the electricity here is crap – when you put a load on it it cuts out! Dad mad a few trips to the management to complain.   It’s late and it’s time for bed, but we are still planning our day tomorrow!

Katahdin Sunset 7.10.12

Monday, July 9, 2012


Last night after dinner we drove into Freeport to see if the Bootmobile was still around.  This year is L.L. Bean’s 100th anniversary and they are celebrating all summer.  They somehow created a “Bootmobile” that looks like a signature L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Shoe on wheels! It was quite a sight to see!  I think they should outfit it as an RV, which made me think of all the times when the kids were driving me crazy and I’d say “I have so many kids I think I need to go live in a shoe!”  L.L. Bean is open 24 hours, however they are the only store in Freeport open past 6:00pm!  We got there around 7 and all but the Gifford’s Ice Cream store were shut tight!  Lucky for us all we wanted was ice cream and to shop at L.L. Bean!

Even though we went to L.L. Bean last night we returned this morning!  This time the outlet was open as well as the other touristy shops nearby.  I tried on 2 pairs of hiking boots, I’m considering replacing mine, but am not convinced they need replacing, neither of which seemed like they were something that I needed.  I looked at a new day pack, but the one I have is fine.  Ended up not buying a thing at L.L. Bean!  Amazing.  I even shared the gift card I’d gotten as a “Happy Trails” gift, with my dad!

After a morning of shopping we went to Yarmouth, which is just a few miles from Freeport to have lunch with some of Mom and Dad’s friends from Florida, Art and Charlotte.  Charlotte had a fixed us some yummy Lobstah Rolls with fresh lobstah!  YUM!!!!  They have a great townhouse right on the water and we sat and watched the tide come in as we ate! 

After lunch we ran a few quick errands – the grocery store and a search for diesel fuel (I have about 50 miles left before I’ll run out...and we were surprised that we couldn’t find any diesel in Freeport, turns out there’s a service plaza about 30 miles up the road that I can go to), Dad and I went kayaking in the Casco Bay. 

The Casco Bay has huge tides!  At high tide the bay is full of water.  At low tide, it’s a mud flat.  You can only rent the kayaks 3 hours before and after high tide.  Lucky for us high tide was a 4:30 this afternoon! We got in the kayaks at exactly high tide, so we only had 3 hours!  We kayaked about 4 miles around the bay.  We went up the Little River but there wasn’t much to see so we went out around an island that was a Osprey Sanctuary and it had a Osprey nest high in a tree.   By this time the tide was starting to go out, we could see the water level dropping on the rocks!  We paddled against the tide up to the end of the bay – it wasn’t very far, and then coasted, more or less, back to the beach.  At this point I drug my boat out of the water and tied it up so I could go for a swim.  Dad paddled around the cove a little.  The water was a bit chilly, but refreshing!  It was salt water, but it was more like swimming in a lake than a regular beach.  

After kayaking and swimming it was time for dinner.   Since I waited to leave until after my CSA pick up I have a lot of fresh veggies we’ve been eating up.  The problem is that what works for me by myself doesn’t seem to work for the three of us.  We planned dinner last night around my eggplant and when I pulled it out of the fridge I realized it was tiny and wasn’t going to be enough.  Then tonight we were going to eat the broccoli I got but it was all yellow and not good looking – it tasted ok, but was def “off” a bit.  Not sure what was up with that since the other broccoli I’d gotten was great.  I love my CSA, but I think a one person share is just that!

After dinner we took a walk around the campground.  With all the driving and doing other things my step count has fallen off – I’m shooting for 10,000 steps a day, and when I’m at home I achieve it but lately it’s been tough.  Last night before bed I paced in the RV for about 50 steps to get myself over that magic 10,000.  Even with our walk I wasn’t quite there so I walked up the road a bit on my way back to my campsite to get to 10,000! 

Tomorrow we will be driving again, heading up north to Baxter State Park, home of Mt. Kathadin, the northern terminus of the AT!