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!



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mt. Mansfield Summit

After last night's rain this morning was crisp and sunny! Yesterday's storms had ushered in a cold front! :-)

This morning Dad had some business for the resort they belong to Naples so Mom and I went out to do some stuff. First we went to the Cabot Annex here in Stowe to get the cheese we didn't buy yesterday at the factory. Then we found Lake Champlain Chocolates and had to check that out! Next up was the apple cider place - we'd found a coupon for 6 free doughnuts with $25 purchase so we took our reciept back and got free doughnuts! We stopped back at the campground to pay for our sites - we'd missed the guy yesterday, and signed up for 2 more nights. We were going to go to Burlington for a few nights, but we couldn't find a campground so decided to stay here - it's only 40 miles to Burlington. Last errand was the Post Office and Mom wanted to check out some of the stores in Stowe.

When we got back it was time for lunch...we ate cheese of course! I hadn't found any feta so I just put three different types of cheddar on my salad and it was quite tasty!

After lunch Dad and I headed out to the Auto Road up Mt. Mansfield. Mt. Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont! You can drive most of the way to the top via a road that is likely also a ski trail in the winter! You do have to pay, and it's almost as much as driving up Mt. Washington, but you get a bumper sticker here too!

Once you get to the top of the auto road, you still have to hike 1.5 miles, on The Long Trail, to get to the summit of the mountain. The Long Trail is this first long distance hiking trail in the US. It runs the entire length of Vermont and joins with the AT between the Massachusetts border and Killington. The hike to the summit is all exposed, above treeline, over rocks! These rocks are smooth and more flat and bigger than the rocks on Mt. Washington so it was a little bit easier walking, however, the wind was blowing pretty good and that made it more of a challenge to walk!


You had full 360 degree views almost the whole way! We did have to go over several false summits, which involved going up, then down, crossing the saddle and back up again. In several spots we were hiking right on the rocky edge, with the wind blowing. We didn't stay at the summit long, they close the road at 4:00 and you have to leave the top by 4:40. It had taken us almost an hour to walk to the summit, so we felt like we had to hurry back to get down.

We not only left the summit, but were back down at the entrance station by 4:40! We took a drive up and over Smuggler's Notch! What a fun road that is! It's very narrow and twisty and in several places it looks like the road dead ends into a pile of rocks! Just on the other side is Smuggler's Cave. We parked there and got out to explore. There was a neat rock cave that we climbed through! We kinda got stuck though and couldn't get all the way back to the car on the rocks so we had to go back the way we came.

One the way back to the campground we stopped at another local/natural foods store! Since I'd finished my yogurt I was now ready for some local milk. They had a pint from Mansfield Dairy here in Stowe. We pass the farm on our way in and out of town. We can smell the cows from the campground if the wind is just right! That's what I call local milk! :-) And it tastes really good! :-). (Just so you know, it's not raw milk it's been pasteurized and homogenized, so just like grocery store milk, only with flavor!)

After dinner we went back to Stowe for Art on Park, a weekly art show/sale that features local artisans. It was small, but there were plenty of interesting things to look at! We met a photographer who had some great pictures! She had a book of Stowe in all 4 seasons!

Between the abundance of yummy local food, the easily accessible hikes, the art and interesting people, I think Vermont is rapidly becoming a state I'd love to live in! I think my Subaru and I could be very happy here!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Taste of Vermont

Vermont is known for its dairy products and maple syrup, and I'm also discovering that there's a ton of other "Vermont Made" Food products, and today we tasted them all!

I started the day with Green Mountain Creamery Greek Style Yogurt and Nutty Steph's Vermont made granola that I'd brought yesterday and washed it down with some Green Mountain Coffee - Vermont Country Blend. I was off to a good start!

Our first stop of the day was Cold Hollow Apple Cider, a local place that is a huge tourist trap, but they have fresh, hot, apple cider doughnuts! We were skeptical as to how good they'd be, Mom and Dad had gotten some last time they were here and didn't remember that they were all that great. Turns out they remembered wrong! The doughnuts were pretty good!

Next up, Ben & Jerry's! I was skeptical about the Ben & Jerry's tour, I was thinking it would be a total tourist trap and I'd convinced myself that Ben & Jerry's wasn't really the socially minded company that they'd like you to think they are. The tour is definitely a tourist trap, but I did change my mind a bit about the company! I think they are trying to make a high quality product while supporting sustainable, fair, and humane agriculture and business practices. They have sold the company to Unileaver (spelling?) foods, however the Ben & Jerry's board of directors maintains a significant amount of control over the product. They are working to remove GMOs from their ice cream, and are supporting Vermont's attempt to require labeling on all products that contain GMOs.

After the tour we were walking to the Flavor Graveyard and I saw a Roadtrek RV (Roadtrek's are another van conversion) with a kayak on top, towing a car with another kayak on it and bikes. The doors were open so I decided to walk down and make friends. I really wanted to know where they had gotten the screens for the sliding door and the back doors. The owner - Vicki, from South Florida, was very nice! I met her dogs and got the tour of her RV! She took my email and said she'd send me info about the screens!

Next up was lunch! Driving in yesterday I'd seen a resteraunt at the corner of US2 and VT 100 - I don't remember the name of it, but it was really yummy! After lunch it was on to Cabots, with a quick stop at a farm stand!

I've been buying Cabots cheese for awhile now, they don't add and crazy chemicals or dyes to their cheese so it was the brand I'd settled on when I was looking for unprocessed foods. I almost didn't want to know how it was made because I was afraid I'd learn something that would make me not want to eat their cheese anymore. Thankfully, however, the tour only made me want to buy more Cabots cheese! The whole company is owned by the family farms that supply the milk! All the milk comes from small family farms - there's at least one family that allows people to come stay at their house and experience farm life! Talk about transparency!

The other thing I wanted to learn more about was maple syrup. I've recently started eating maple syrup and I love it so I had to buy some good stuff up here! I had no idea about the different grades and how they taste so I wanted to find a place where I could taste it. At the Cabots factory I picked up a brochure about the Bragg Family Farm. It was nearby so we headed over there.

While we were in Cabots, the predicted thunderstorms moved in. It was raining like crazy as we drove over to the maple syrup place. When we got there we discovered that their power was out! They still let us come in and sample, but we needed to use Dad's flashlight that he always carries on his belt! While we were standing in the store, in the dark, tasting maple syrup, there was a HUGE crash of thunder right over head! We were able to purchase some syrup - had to pay with cash since their register was down!

We returned to Stowe as the rain let up. The clouds and dampness lingered though. We stopped at one more farm stand and got some yummy carrots! We had dinner at a nice little Mexican place in Stowe and followed it up with more ice cream from IC Scoops! After we got back to the campground Dad and I did a couple laps to get in our 10k steps!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kancamagus Highway to Stowe, VT

It was time to say goodbye to the White Mountains. It's been fun, the mountains are lovely, but there's stuff to see in Vermont! I decided to take the scenic route across the Kancamagus and up through Franconia Notch. Mom and Dad took the more direct, but still scenic, route through Crawford Notch.

I made a beet salad from the beets we'd gotten from the farmers market and I needed feta cheese so my first stop was going to be the farm stand that is around the corner. Unfortunately, they didn't open until 11. I considered stopping at the grocery store in Lincoln, but since I was headed to Vermont - the dairy state of the east coast, I decided I should wait and get some here.

I only made a few stops along the Kancamagus - Sabbaday Falls and the Discovery Trail. Sabbaday Falls was very nice! It was 0.6 of a mile round trip - big wide gentle trail along the river , nice pine forest! The falls were very cool, it's a sharp bend in the river and the water comes down over big rocks! The Discovery Trail is a 1.5 interpretive loop. It's supposed to serve as the intro to the park, however, it was the ugliest forest I've walked through in the Whites. It was better than road walking as a way to get in steps, but the campground was a nicer walk.



I made one more stop in Franconia Notch at the site of the former Old Man of the Mountain. The Old Man of the mountain is the state symbol of New Hampshire, however, on May 3, 2003 the ledges that were lined up perfectly to make the profile of the face fell and now it's just a sheer rock face. At the spot where you can view where the old man used to be there is a park and a lake and tons of information! There's also a museum of souvenirs through the years that featured the old man.


Soon I was on my way out of NH and into Vermont! I hadn't paid a lot of attention to the route I was taking, I knew I-93 to St. Johnsbury and then US2. I had in my head that St. Johnsbury was only a couple miles from Franconia Notch so was quite surprised when suddenly I was driving in the middle of nowhere and the only mileges I was getting on the signs was "St. Johnsbury" and "Canada". Just after crossing the Conneticut River to get from New Hampshire to Vermont, I pulled into a rest stop to check the navigation. I had no signal on my phone. No signal meant no google maps! I had to break out the Atlas! Really glad I even I had a paper map! I was right on track!

St. Johnsbury was a mess! US2 would turn right, then left, then right, then go up a big hill, then down a big hill, eventually I hit construction and it was a dirt road! Soon though I made it out and US2 was a nice road the rest of the way to Montepelier. Vermont is a really pretty state - mountains, farms, cute little towns!

I made it to The Gold Brook Campground in Stowe a little before 3. Shocklingly before Mom and Ddf! I figured will all my stops they would have gotten here first. I didn't beat them by much, I saw them pull in before I'd finished hooking up!

They had a bit of drama on the way. Dad uses Microsoft Streets and Trips on his computer as his GPS and it had routed him to approach Stowe from the north and he got confused and had to turn around, in the process of turning around he jackknifed the jeep and blocked traffic for a little while trying to get it unhooked and back rolling again! Before that he'd been driving super slow because of all the bumps. He was not well liked among the locals in that area!

After Mom and Dad got parked and hooked up I took the jeep back to some farm stands I'd seen to look for feta. I didn't find any feta, but I found other goodies - yogurt, cookies, cheddar cheese, granola!

After dinner Dad and I went out to check out the Stowe Recreation Path - a five mile multi-use trail that runs right through Stowe. It was a very nice trail! Very scenic - lots of woods, farms, mountain views! It crossed the stream 10 times! It was even almost flat! There's not a single road I've driven on in the state that is flat, but somehow they got the bike path flat. It did have some up and down and we did gain elevation on the way out, but it was mostly flat.

After the bike path we saw that IC Scoops the "Stow-made" ice cream shop was still open, so naturally we had to sample it! WOW, good stuff! :-) All homemade - no gums or stabilizers! I had cherry, almond, dark chocolate - which is basically Cherry Garcia, only I think this one was better! Dad got pistachio and it was almost better than Ben & Jerry’s also! We'll do the Ben & Jerry's tour tomorrow, but I have a feeling our ice cream purchases will be made at IC Scoops!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Lake of the Clouds

The weather for Mt. Washington was forecast to be perfect - highs in the 50s, few clouds and little to no wind! Little to no wind is almost unheard of on top of Mt. Washington! A rare day!

It took about an hour and half to drive from the campground to the summit. It was sunny the whole way up, but when we got to the summit there was a big cloud and it was cold! We couldn't decide what to wear - we'd both brought all types of warm clothes, but the sun was strong and hot, if the sun was out we'd need to be dressed for summer, but if the clouds were blocking it, it was chilly! Hard to dress appropriately!

We headed out, going the correct way on the AT this time! The AT is hard to follow through the Whites because it goes in all directions in order to go over all the peaks and through all the notches, it's easy to get turned around and be going the wrong direction!

We had to go down to get to the hut and the trail was all rocks! Mostly small-ish racks you could step over and on. No climbing or rock scrambling. Many of the rocks moved however and just when I'd get a good pace going I'd hit one that moved and almost lose my balance. It was 1.5 miles and a 1000ft of elevation loss to the hut. Because of the rocks and going slow it took us over an hour to get there!

The hut was very nice, all enclosed, unlike Lonesome Lake which was separate buildings. Lake of the Clouds is the highest hut in the whole hut system so that's probably why it's all enclosed, it gets super cold up there!

We went back out to eat lunch on the rocks overlooking the lake! The sun was shinning and it was a very nice place to eat! Both Dad and I had full signal on our cell phones! This meant that I received a school email beside Lake of the Clouds! Just because it comes doesn't mean I have to read it! LOL!


We'd studied the map and found that we could do a loop to get back to the summit so we headed up a different trail than the AT. At first the trail seemed super easy - it was up, but it was more gentle, there were rocks, but they seemed smaller, more secure, and there was more grass. The views were different too! The mountains in the distance were blue, just like the ones at home, only much bigger!

Just when I was really enjoying the stroll through the rocks, the trail started to descend. Wait. What? Downhill? The summit was up. Why were we going down? We went down a ways and then came to the mouth of Tuckerman Ravine - this is one way up from the bottom of Mt. Washington. It's 4 miles with 4,000+ feet of elevation gain! Dad wanted to walk up it, which would have been great, except that once you walk up, you gotta walk down! And down is way harder than up!


We took in the view of the ravine and chatted with folks who were coming up - they looked very tired! The last part of our hike was the top 0.6 of a mile of the Tuckerman Ravine trail. This was also where we would gain 900 of feet of elevation. This is why the first part of the trip back was so easy. The trail was a rock field. Big rocks, little rocks, climbable rocks, step over rocks, rocks of all types! The big ones you had to climb up were actually easier! Overall it was actually a really fun trip up! I know I've said it before and I'll prob say it again, but I love my new Oboz shoes! They are so light and they grip so well! I felt almost like it was levitating up the rocks!


Soon we were back at the summit and headed down the mountain back toward North Conway. Yesterday when we were shopping we found an ice cream place - 18Degrees C - they advertised that they used only NH dairy, no corn syrup, no junk! We had to try it! We wanted to sample it last night, but they were closed. This afternoon was our chance.

It was a small shop and all the flavors seemed weird. They also had other ice cream treats - frappes, sundaes, Popsicles etc... We started by asking some questions and chatting with the owner. One of the ice creams was made with mushrooms. He told us not to turn up our nose until we tried it. We didn't try it. He had a pineapple pink peppercorn that was weird - he gave us both a taste and when we didn't like it, the guy seemed to start teasing us. When we finally ordered - me getting a chocolate and Dad getting coffee the guy started teasing us saying we were boring and that our order was so boring he almost fell asleep while he was preparing it. He was trying to be funny, but I found it rather annoying. The ice cream had good flavor - both the chocolate and the coffee tasted great, however the texture was funny, it was very grainy. It was not going to be our favorite ice cream.

We came back to the campground for dinner. We made a yummy stir fry, but the rice didn't work and was kinda gross, so we decided we needed another ice cream stop! This time it was back to Lickety Split since both Dad and I had enjoyed that the last time. I got the lemon sorbet again and it was very good! I'm starting to OD on ice cream a bit! Every day for 2 solid weeks! I may have to take a break! Of course we are heading to Stowe, VT which is practically the Ben & Jerry's Headquarters!



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lonesome Lake -Franconia Notch State Park

This morning was sunny very early and then the clouds rolled in. Then it started raining a little. Huh? The weather forecast had predicted sun? We were thinking we'd go back to Mt. Washington to hike, not a good day for that if it's raining.

With the rest of the days plans up in the air, we headed out to the North Conway Farmer's Market so see if they had anything we needed. We found a number of goodies and by the time we were done the rain was letting up. It was still cloudy though so we wandered the stores in downtown North Conway, since we'd been wanting to check them out!

Last year I had 5 Nepali children in my classroom - 2 who started the year with me and three more who joined as the year went on. It became a bit of a joke between me and the registar in our school that I wouldn't accept children who weren't from Nepal! We went into a mountaineering store and there was a trekking map of Nepal! Then we went into a fair trade clothing store and there were racks of skirts, scarfs, and bags all made in Nepal! I bought I skirt that was made in Nepal!

After we finished browsing we returned to the campground and had brunch with our farmers market finds - fresh eggs, an amazing sticky bun, and blueberry bread from the farm stand. Dad also fried up some old potatoes.

By now the rain had stopped and the clouds were kind of breaking up. We decided it was too late to head out to Mt. Washington so we headed back out the Kancamagus Highway to Franconia Notch State Park.

Franconia Notch is unique because the interstate runs right through it. It's a little like Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. The mountains in Franconia Notch are a lot more rugged - more jagged peaks and exposed rocks - than the mountains in the other notches.

We decided to hike up to Lonesome Lake. It was about a mile up there and there was an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut at the lake. There are several AMC huts in the Whites - they are places you can hike into and you can pay to stay and get dinner and breakfast. Like a backcountry hotel!


The trail up was very nice! Lots of rocks, but no rock scrambling or hand over hand climbing! The woods were mostly pine forest with lots if moss! Lonesome Lake is ironically named - being as it's a short, easy-ish hike there was no shortage of people to share the experience with!


At the lake there was a trail that went to the hut, and then it turns out it went all the way around! We walked to the hut and there were lots of people enjoying the sunshine by the lake! We walked up to check out the actual buildings - all the rooms are shared bunk rooms! The room I stuck my head in had room for 7! One was a triple decker bunk bed. I can't imagine paying over a $100 a night to sleep with 6 strangers (I mean, new friends...) otherwise I think it would be fun to do a hut-to-hut hike in the Whites! I need find 6 other people who I could stand to share a bedroom with and who like hiking...

After the hike we drove back to North Conway via the Kancamagus. This time we learned that the best views are heading east! You are going downhill when you are driving east so you get to see more!

It was almost 6 by the time we got back to the campground so we got Mom and went into North Conway for dinner at Horsefeathers - it was yummy! And then, of course, ice cream. We went to the Trails End location in Intervale and the flavors we got tonight weren't as good as what dad and I had gotten the other day!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Farm Stands and The Kangcamagus Highway

With Dad's wrist needing time to heal we decided to take it easy today and do some car touring. We started by checking out several farm stands we'd seen yesterday! Our first stop we hit the mother load! They had plenty of fresh veggies that had been grown on their farm as well as baked goods, ice cream, jams and jellies and other fun stuff!

We kept driving out the West Side Road where we messed up yesterday and drove up Catherdal Ledges - a large rock outcropping that had a view at the top! After that we were back in North Conway and went to The Local Grocer -an organic/local grocery store. They had a cafe and it was lunch time so we got lunch! The menu featured local/clean meats as well as both vegetarian and vegan choices! I had a yummy salad with falafel, feta and marinated onions! Mom ordered BLT and it had extra crispy, almost burned bacon and vega-ayse - vegan, egg-free, mayo. Bacon, and vegan mayo? Kind of defeats the purpose! LOL!

After lunch we had to sample the ice cream selections at Lickety Split in North Conway. Quite tasty!

After that we headed out the Kancamagus Highway. We didn't drive too far, but we made several stops. The first stop was at Rocky Gorge Scenic Area. Here there was a neat gorge with a bridge over it so you can see the whole thing! Also there was a one mile quickie walk around a small pond! It had a lot up and down and was in a pine forest with lots of roots! It was a nice walk!


After Rocky Gorge we headed down the Kancamagus to another campground where there was another short loop hike to a pond. We found the trailhead easily and headed out. Only we didn't get far. As soon as we got out of sight of the car there was a river that we had to cross. It wasn't deep, it would be easy crossing, however it definitely involved taking off your shoes and wading and neither of us wanted to do that, twice - once on the way there and once on the way back - for a 2 mile walk. We walked some rogue trails near the river to see if there was a better place to cross that didn't require getting your feet wet, but there wasn't so we decided to walk in the campground! There are hundreds of miles of trails in the White Mountains and we were walking a campground. Oh well!

We drove back to the campground via the Bear Notch Road. It had no traffic and several views! In a few places there were pull offs that could serve as overnight parking if you ever got up here and couldn't find a campsite. (In most places in North Conway they don't allow overnight parking, but over the weekend all the campgrounds are filled, if you came in without a reservation, if hoping to get a 1st come, 1st served, site in the National Forest you'd be screwed!)

When we got back to the campground it was early so we made dinner and then headed out to the LLBean outlet. Dad was still short on his steps so he walked the 1.4 miles from the campground to LLBean. It was along the shoulder of the highway, again, hundreds of miles of trails and he's hiking the highway!

We spent about 2 hours browsing the LLBean Outlet, Eastern Mountain Sports, and Orvis before heading back to the campground for fresh berries and cookies!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Frankenstein Cliffs & Arethusa Falls - Crawford Notch State Park

It was a chilly, but quiet in the campground last night. It didn't get light until after 7! The tall trees block the sun and it has to get high in the sky before it penetrates the campground!

It didn't look like Mom and Dad were up yet so after I finished my breakfast and chores I went for a quick walk around the campground. The river is nice, very skinny and shallow and the beach is rocky, but a good place to wade and tube!

After I got back from my walk, I went over to Mom and Dad's and they were up! Dad and packed and got ready for a hike in Crawford Notch! We headed out about 9:30 and hit traffic in North Conway. We determined that it's the two stoplights at the north end of town that clog things up!

We headed up 302 to Crawford Notch State Park. State parks in NH are different from other states. They are paid for by donation, no taxpayer dollars are spent! As as result they seem more rustic and wild. Crawford Notch is basically just some land and some trails. The trails were well marked, but it's not the big deal that state parks are in other states.

We'd planned a 5 ish mile loop to see Frankenstin Cliff and Arethusa Falls, the highest falls in the state! We headed up the trail toward Frankenstein Cliffs. It was dumb luck that we decided to do the cliffs first and boy were we glad! The trail up was crazy steep! I'm not sure they have heard of switchbacks around here! I was really hoping the down part of our loop would be gentler! Finally though we reached a view!


After the first view we were expecting several more, but one was 0.7 of a mile down a spur trail, which would have added a mile and a half to our hike, so we didn't do that, and the other was marked as being right there, but wasn't obvious so we didn't attempt to bushwhack who knows how far to see it.

After going up for what felt like a very long time, we finally started down! It was much gentler than the way up! On the way down Dad kept trying to test his new shoes - he'd find the steepest, slipperiest rock and walk on it just to see his shoes hold. One such rock was nearly vertical, wet, and had a shiny patch of wet, slimy leaves in the middle. I was surveying how I was getting across it and saw an easy way, then looked up and saw Dad traversing the steepest wettest part. Just as I looked up he hit the wet slimy leaves and went down! He kinda bounced back up and said he'd landed on his pack and wasn't hurt. I told him that's what he gets for showing off.

Soon we made it to the falls! They were very pretty! We stood at the base of the falls and you could look up and see the entire rock face with water cascading down it! We had a snack, sat for a little while, took some pictures and then headed out for the last mile of the hike!


After the hike we scouted another hike we'd found on the map, stopped for ice cream at Trails End Ice Cream in Barttlet, and found, but messed up, a way around the traffic in North Conway.

When we got back to the campground we got Mom and headed out to run some errands. The first stop was Camping World to get some parts for Mom and Dad's hot water heater that isn't working properly. It was at Camping World that Dad's wrist starting hurting. We figured he'd caught himself on it when he fell, even though he doesn't remember it. All though dinner and the rest of the errands his wrist was hurting more and more. We decided that it needed to get checked out so Dad handed me the keys to the car and off we went to the ER.

Since we had just gotten groceries I dropped Mom and Dad off at the hospital and took the food back to the campground, changed into my yoga pants, gathered some stuff we thought we'd need and headed back. The hospital was on the other side of the two stoplights in North Conway so I got extra "sit in traffic" time!

By the time I made it back to the hospital Dad was getting X-rays. I barely had time to catch up on my blogging before the Dr came back and said that his wrist was not broken, likely sprained or bruised. It could also be that he pulled a tendon or something when he hit his elbow. They gave him a splint and some heavy duty pain pills and sent us on our way!

We weren't able to fill the prescription - the two pharmacies close at 9 and it was 9:20! So hopefully Tylenol and ice will control the pain this evening! Hopefully it heals quickly!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Art & Charlotte

It was finally sunny and today we were heading out to North Conway to our new campground and to spend the day with some of Mom and Dad's friends from FL who have a cabin on Lake Ossippee.

I had plenty of chores to do before we left Timberland in Gorham - clean the excessive amount of bird poop off the windshield, dump the tanks, unplug, take the trash. Mom was busy making a pecan pie for Art! As soon as our chores were done we headed down the road!

It was only about 50 miles to North Conway, but the road went through Pinkham Notch and past Mt. Washington so it was a nice drive!

As soon as I got into North Conway I noticed that it was very touristy! Much more so than Gorham! And with touristy stuff comes tourists! There was a ton of traffic heading out of town, I figured that was a daily thing. Ugh. They do have a bunch of cute stores and an LLBean Outlet to check out!

We got checked into our site at The Beach Area Camping Area. It seems like a nice place, however all the sites are packed dirt so it's not very attractive. As soon as we got parked and hooked up we changed into our nice clothes and headed out to Art & Charlotte's lake house.

Art & Charlotte have a lovely house right on the lake! They have done a lot of work to fix it up and make it just right! We had an awesome lunch of lobster rolls (Charlotte makes a mean lobster roll, she treated us to them two years ago when we saw them when we passed through Yarmouth), fresh cucumber, fresh blubeerries and other yummy things! After lunch was of course my Mom's yummy pecan pie!

We spent the afternoon enjoying the view, the lake breeze and chatting! Even though they are Mom and Dad's friends from Floridia I enjoyed being with them and chatting! Soon, it was time for dinner! Charlotte had made a reservation at Krista's in Cornish, ME which was only about 30 minutes away. Krista's is a neat place, it's in an old house and it has a neat porch with about 4 tables on it! Our reservation was for the porch and it was neat to sit out there and enjoy the stream (even though it was extra noisy because of the recent heavy rains) while we ate! The food was very good! They had a lot of fish and fresh veggies and other yummy stuff!

After dinner it was back to the lake house for more pecan pie, sunset viewing, and chatting. Soon the sun was gone and it was time for us to head back to the campground!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rainy Day

When I woke up this morning it was rainy and yucky. I decided to take advantage of the yucky day and do laundry and post blogs. I figured that doing laundry on a rainy day wasn't an original idea so after breakfast I gathered my laundry and headed over to the laundry room. Turns out I was the only one doing laundry! Other folks were there using the internet, but I was the only one doing laundry. I was able to get all my blogs posted and catch up on some other internet stuff.

After my laundry was done I wrestled the sheets back on the bed! Trying not to get dirt in the bed is next to impossible, I get dirt on my shoes and then it gets tracked in and gets on my feet! As soon as my fresh clean sheets were on the bed, there was already big pieces of dirt in my bed! Ugh. By the time my laundry was done it was time for lunch and after lunch the rain had started to let up so we went out in search of someplace to take a quick walk. But first we stopped for ice cream! LOL!

There are tons of trails to hike around here but most of them have awesome views of the mountains and while the rain had stopped, the clouds were low and there wouldn't be any mountain views. So we decided to check out two state parks that were near Gorham - Moose Brook State Park and Jericho Mountain State Park.

Moose Brook was a nice park! It was small - only a few trails, some picnic tables, a natural swimming pool, and a good sized campground. Dad and I walked for about 30 minutes and explored most of the park. There were a lot of single track mountain bike trails, but that's not our thing!

The next stop was Jericho Mountain State Park. I'd looked up the park online and I saw that there were a lot of trails do I felt certain we'd find someplace to walk. We got there and learned that all the trails were ATV or dirt bike trails. Not our thing. There was a nice lake and we could have kayaked in it, but we weren't ready for that. Dad and I walked over to the lake and looked at it and then we headed out.

The AT crosses US2 a mile or so from our campground so we decided we'd bring mom back to the campground and go walk a mile or so up the trail and then walk back. We headed south on the AT and it was a gentle uphill next to a nice river! It was wide and gentle and just a trail through the woods, no views or anything, so perfect for a rainy day (although the sun was starting to come out, the clouds were still lingering). We walked up the to Rattle River shelter and then headed back to the car. We probably should have started with our "old friend" the AT!



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Presidential Rail Trail

The train came though at 1:00 am. Holy Smokes! It was loud! The train didn't blow it's whistle, but it must have been coming up the hill because the engine was chugging hard & sounded like it was coming right in through my RV! (The tracks are prob less than 100 feet down a steep ravine from my RV). I went back to sleep and 2 hours later the train came through again! Quiter this time, but it still woke me up!

When we were in Bar Harbor we were doing laundry and got to talking to a guy who was doing his laundry and he told us about the campground and about The Presidential Rail Trail that runs between Jefferson and Gorham. He said it was really great because you had views of the Presidential Range the whole way! It took a lot of research to figure out where it was and where to go to pick it up, but we thought we had figured it out.

Despite the forecast for rain we decided to try and ride the trail today. The whole trail was only 18 miles and we were going to have Mom drop us off and pick us up in Gorham. Also, we had read a review that said that after Route 115 the trail was very rough and not passable for hybrids, so we were going to start at 115, cutting several miles off.

When we got to the spot where we thought the trail crossed 115 we couldn't find it. We drove down the road that went parallel to the trail and we were about to give up when Mom saw it. Dad and I got out to survey it, the trail was very rough - gravel base, covered in grass and the weeds on the sides were growing over it. We decided it was impassable. I was using Google Maps (the rail trail was on the map, however it was indicated like a railroad, I had to know that it was not in fact an active railroad) and I saw another place ahead where the trail came near the road and we went there. Here the trail looked smoother so we went for it.

Despite being smoother and less overgrown, the trail was still rough! I suspect that this trail is more for snowmobiles, snowshoeing, & cross country skiing and all the rocks and such are covered by snow! We managed to bike it, but There were lots of rocks! I was not exactly heeding the advice of the guy in the bike shop in Bar Harbor to stay on paved roads only! Luckily my tire seems to have survived!

The trail was very straight and passed by many ponds that looked like they should have moose in them, but I didn't see any! After we hit the Castle Trailhead Parking area - 4 miles from where we started - the trail smoothed out significantly and was more suitable for bikes! We continued downhill, in and out of the trees, with some views, even though the mountains were covered in clouds!

As we neared Gorham the trail was open to ATVs and we encountered many. We had to cross a high bridge over the Androscroggin River and when we got over it we realized that we needed to get back over it to get to Gorham, or go on to Berlin. We weren't sure which option was the best, and we saw another guy on a bike (first one we'd see all day!) and we asked him what our options were. He seemed like a nice guy, very polite, but he had a pistol on hip! No idea why! Dad pointed out that a gun on his hip is better than a gun in backpack! Turned out the best option was to go back over the bridge and go down what looked like an overgrown trail just on the other side.

Turns out the trail on the other side of the bridge was not only overgrown, but very steep! We wrestled ourselves and our bikes down, it wasn't the easiest thing, but it wasn't too hard either. When we got to the bottom, the only option was to walk next to the tracks. We were pretty sure we wouldn't encounter a train, but it still felt very "Stand By Me". Soon we were at the road and we rode over to McDonald's to text Mom.

While we were waiting for mom we checked out the bike shop - it was tiny and the kid inside was quite the salesman. Soon we got in touch with Mom and headed over to Mr. Pizza for lunch & Gifford's Ice Cream. After lunch we saw three thru-hikers leaving the post office and trying to hitch a ride the 5 miles back to the AT. We didn't have room for all three so we left Mom at the Italian Grocery Store and picked them and took them to the trail! They were really nice and it was fun hearing about their hike! They will be in Maine either tonight or tomorrow!

After we dropped off the hikers & picked up Mom we headed up highway 16 toward Errol, NH to go to LLCotes - a big hunting, fishing & outdoor store. By this time the promised rain had begun and it was pouring most of the way! The road was next to the Androscroggin River the whole time and we were told there could be moose but we didn't see any. After LLCotes we continued around on route 26 to Grafton Notch State Park back in Maine. I'd been there a few years ago but I didn't get to see Screw Auger Falls so we stopped there and took a quick walk to see it and continued down the road. After a quick tour of Bethel, ME we returned to the campground for dinner!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Mt. Washington and Pinkham Notch

After last night's rain this morning was bright and sunny! We headed out mid-morning to get to the Mt. Washington Auto Road. It was a quick drive, and soon we were surrounded by huge mountains!

The road up is privately owned and they charge a pretty penny to drive up and they have a lot of rules! We got a CD audio tour and the first 10 minutes were instructions on how to drive the mountain road! Funny because it's about the same terrain as the entire state of Colorado and no one gives you any instructions for driving in Colorado!

For all the rules and expense the road is neat! It totally reminds me of Loveland Pass in Colorado! We paused a few times on the way up and soon we were at the summit! There are several tourist buildings at the summit, including a gift shop that is bolted & chained to the rock so it doesn't blow away!

Dad and I were going to take a quick hike on the AT, which runs right over the summit, to Lake of the Clouds Hut (an Appalachian Mountain Club wilderness hut that you can hike to and spend the night, for a fee of about $100 a night). I'd looked at the map and thought it was about a mile there for a 2 mile walk, I figured we could do that quickly.

Dad and I found the AT very easily and started walking. What we didn't realize is that we were walking north instead of south! The sign with the mileage to Mt. Kathadin should have been a clue! We were scrambling down a huge boulder field. It was another opportunity to test our shoes and realize how great they are! It was only about .2 of a mile to a trail junction and the boulder field ended, it took us 30 minutes to hike it! It was so slow over those rocks!

We came to a trail junction that pointed us back to the summit a different way so we took it and soon we re-joined the AT and we could see Lake of The Clouds Hut and the sign said it was 1.4 miles. Since we'd left Mom hanging around the summit with little to do we didn't want to spend too much time out there so we walked just a little way. The trail was entirely above the tree line and exposed! Even though today was beautiful - lots of sun, some clouds, fairly light wind, you could easily see how dangerous the area is in any kind of foul weather!

(Lake of the Clouds Hut is the white spot below the peak)

After we returned to the summit we wandered into the Summit House to use the bathroom and found Mom sitting at a table in the snack bar area happily watching the action and playing games on her iPad. She'd tried to text us (yes we had cell phone signal up there!) but neither of us had gotten the text.

Soon after joining back with Mom we headed down to have lunch at the cafe at Great Glen Trails, which was really good! After lunch we headed down the road to Pinkham Notch to the visitor center and two short trails - about a mile & a half total distance.

We drove to the Ellis Falls parking area and Mom dropped us off and headed back to Pinkham Notch. We hiked down more than 100 stone steps to see Ellis Falls. It was a neat river and a pretty cool waterfall!

When we got back up we headed toward Wildcat Ridge to pick up the AT and hike past Long Pond and then back to Pinkham Notch. This is where the fun started! In order to get the Wildcat Ridge Trail and the AT we had to cross the Ellis River. We started out rock hopping, which gave us yet another chance to fully appreciate our Oboz! I got to about the middle of the River when I decided that the rocks were just too far apart to step from one to the other so since I was on a big rock I sat down & took off my shoes. The water wasn't cold and it wasn't very deep either so I just waded from rock to rock! Dad soon also ended up taking off his shoes! Soon we were on the side, with our shoes on ready to proceed!

Once we got to the AT we thought it was going to be smooth sailing, however we were wrong. The trail was a poorly blazed rock maze. We were climbing over under and through rocks and there were no indications that we were on the right trail or not. I saw one white blaze, but it was old and worn and barely visible. Where there was dirt it was pretty packed indicating that it was a well traveled trail. I finally pulled out my phone and sure enough I had signal and I checked Google Maps - the AT was marked on the map and my "you are here" dot, was right on the trail, so unless the AMC had re-routed the trail and it wasn't in Google Maps, we were right! Eventually the rocks thinned out and trail mantainence was obvious, even though there were still no white blazes! I'm not sure what was up with the AMC and why that section isn't better marked! It's always these "short/easy" hikes where we get into trouble! Not sure what it up with that!



We were almost back to Pinkham Notch when some southbound Thru-Hikers caught us! We chatted with them the rest of the way! They seemed really excited and very clean - they were only 300 miles into their thru-hike, whereas the hikers I saw in PA were over 1000 miles into their hike!

From Pinkham Notch we headed back to the campground, making a few stops/detours to check out where things are that we will need later in the week!

As we left Pinkham Notch it started to rain and according to everyone we talk to it's supposed to continue through Wed, our weather channel and weather bug apps aren't on board with that forecast, but my bet is that the locals are correct. Not sure what there is do in the rain around here! Glad we went up Mt. Washington today!