Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Maine Chance


Lamoine State Park was a lucky chance.  We were moving across Vermont at a spirited pace looking for a stopover town that could help us with our chores – groceries, prescriptions, headlight replacement, propane fill, haircuts, laundry, various hardware items.  We needed more than a village; we needed Super Wal-Mart.  (Who knew you could get a haircut at Wally World?) 
With most of that accomplished (and full of shame for shopping there…but where else can you fit an Airstream in the barber’s parking lot?), we pulled up our planning tools and found a State Park with ONE remaining spot for two weekend days. Sold. Thank you, Christine for working with us.
Lamoine SP is across Frenchman’s Bay from Bar Harbor Maine and the Acadia NP. Turning off busy route 3, we could feel the road tension slipping away. We passed the stone and wrought iron fencing and slipped up to the check in station just as the sun slipped below the trees. While lovely Christine completed our paperwork, a pair of BMW touring bikes pulled in, their riders clad in black and yellow leathers.  We agreed quickly that Steve and Helen could share our campsite for the customary fee – they had to tell us about their trip.
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There was a dazzling display of camp making virtuosity as the ’Stream and their tent settled in just before the last glimpse of sunset.  Tonight was the “Super Moon” and it was climbing as we said good night.

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These two are well into 6200 miles on this venture.  OK, he shows it a bit more , but Helen was pushing Harley’s back when Steve was riding 10 speeds.
They have a rich life together and a lot more miles to ride.
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Of course, our tongue jack problems did not cure themselves overnight, so it was a day of wrangling parts, tools and a little colorful language before we had secured the three bolts and one butt splice required.
IMG_2477 The Airstream garnered an unusual amount of commentary here, so between times we conducted tours.  This bright spirit was hardly ten, but had Airstream dreams “after I hitchhike Europe my senior year.”
But I said Lamoine was a lucky chance.  Just when our allotted two nights were up, Christine found us a non-reservable waterfront site.  WOW, this is our view.

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Our neighbors brought us a bucket of clams dug right before our eyes (and totally sent us to the Google to figure how to cook ‘em).
And yes, there is a new dump and, yes, it has flowers, lots of flowers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

NEW DISCOVERY




Perhaps it is the dark brown-stained half log siding and the crisp newly painted shutters on the windows, or the crisp new shingles but Surely it is the window boxes with fresh blooms that marks this as the Best shower we have found among nearly a thousand campgrounds. There are two single showers, freshly painted by someone who cares, spotless, with neatly laminated instruction/suggestions and a breezy air of welcome -- little spa-like refuge in the North Woods.  

We are encamped in an open field “Horse Camp” at New Discovery State Park Vermont.  
 “The horsemen seldom come”, we  are told by the gracious park manager.

“You can swing your rig in there easy.”

We go through the usual – “Airstream? How Old?” dispelling concerns that Airstreamers are a snotty bunch with their “Airstream Only” parks.

 “Alabama? How Long?” dispelling who-knows-what stereotypes and, above all, trying not to be one of the over-torqued folks who arrive at a park anxious and short after a long day of driving.

We either One, pass muster as a pleasant couple and are given a careful selection of superior campsites to choose from or, Two, maybe we are down here in “quarantine” before being released to the general Vermont population.  After setup, we are enjoying our totally bug-free circle of surrounding evergreens, a long pleasant chat with our ranger hosts and we are wondering if it gets any better than this.  Oh yes, thanks for the kind donation of firewood.

Did I mention that the Dump has flowers?  

 Patty is just filling the water here.
 "Sewer stuff" is manly work.

We take a couple short hikes and consider staying the weekend.

  “HORSE WEDDING?”  No silly, the riders are getting married, but the whole of our little paradise is booked for the celebration. 

These ladies were just as surprised as we were about Horse Weddings, but their mounts were better behaved than most campers.

 So we hookup for departure, but not before the hitch jack fails and we have to use all our wiles and a couple tools borrowed from Ranger Don to get on our way.  Then we just high tail it for the Sea, stopping along the way to do some chores and book the last site at beautiful Lamoine State Park just across the Frenchman’s Bay from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

TOWING IN LARGE SCALE




We idled too long in New York and found ourselves with nine days to make our way to Acadia.  The Adirondacks, Vermont and New Hampshire are going to be a blur.  We are traveling on The Rand McNally large scale road Atlas.  We sought advice from Airforums friends and the suggestions were helpful but gave us even more reason to regret moving so fast. 

So we pulled out Rand McNally, cobbled together an off-Interstate route linking as many “Scenic Roads” as the two gentlemen provided.  What could go wrong?

Leaving our Adirondack layover at Lake Durant, we hurried through the rest -- the upper Hudson River, the lovely village of Brant Lake, climbs and curves and glimpses of ponds, tidy brown and yellow signs tantalizing us with new delights just down a side road.   North along Lake Champlain to Crown Point, we lunched at the State Park, climbed the Quadrecentenial Lighthouse adorned with a sculpture of Champlain by Rodin. 








You know that vacationers to Maine say that you can smell the Balsam just as you cross the state line?  Well, from the lighthouse overlooking the bridge to Vermont, you can smell the manure from the factory dairy just across the border and entry into Vermont can be confirmed within a quarter mile with the first placard announcing Vermont Maple Products.

 Pure Maple Syrup SOLD HERE.
favorite spot in Vermont.Vermont Maple Syrup Rustic


 
The Champlain Valley is as green and fertile and as picturesque as any we have seen. Postcard farms, red brick farm houses dating back 250 years, cropland everywhere, Holsteins all under roof, very few roaming the pastures.

This is Great! Rand McNally lead us on!  But as our trail of little green dots dipped Southeast at Bristol and the nicked the Green Mountain National Forest, we hardly noticed our road change from thin red to grey (ominous music here).  We followed the New Haven River past a significant falls with one confirmed topless sun bather.

“Eyes on the road, Mister.”

 The stream got smaller, the in-stream boulders larger and we purely did not notice that the road now slanted upward and had renamed itself Lincoln Gap Road. Now we all know about gaps; those are places where the hiking trails go Up in both directions and the roads go Down. They are narrow and steep and twisty and no place to haul a 7000 pound trailer.  We know this, but the road is well surfaced, except where it’s not and there is no traffic if you ignore that motorcycle whose driver was making that circular gesture near his head.

 We proceeded on.  In lowest gear, the transmission temperature gauge achieved a record number just as we reached the gap and found 60 cars filling the trailhead parking for the Long Trail.  We tipped over the gap and headed down what turned out to be the steep side.  Engine dumping unburned fuel out the tailpipe trying to slow us, trailer and SUV brakes heating up, all of these vapors streaming backward, the propane warning light in the trailer set up a piercing beeping. 

“Well it can’t be the smoke alarm.” (That failed last night and a new 9 volt didn’t fix it)

 “For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

We proceeded on...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Adirondacks in a Capsule

It's nigh on criminal to rush through country as beautiful as the Adirondack Park.  We have been wanting to spend a month (or two) here for a long time, but "we have promises to keep..." 

 At least we can take good advice and visit the Adirondack Museum near Blue Mountain Lake and perhaps a hike or two. 

Lake Durant
campground was a good choice. Rustic, well run, and, they tell me, typical of the scores of great spots in the park.



We were lucky to find that the famous Adirondack Museum (all 32 acres of it) would be open late 'til 8PM tonight and might be convinced to grill us a burger at the cafe overlooking the sunset on Blue Mountain Lake.  Done and Done! 





Even though the Park is all about being outdoors, the museum is a perfect way to soak up the history of logging, camping, and the special intertwining of  town and wildness that makes the park unique.  Also, you get to try out any number of Adirondack resting places. 

















Because we were moving fast and not planning in our usual anal retentive way, we left the well-stocked gift shop without one of those detailed maps or a trail guide.  We had only the word of a 76 year old local on the audio tour who assured us that Castle Rock Trail offered a great view and "anyone can do it."  We are going to call this episode "Hiking in Large Scale" 'cause we had only a large scale map that showed us the way to the trailhead.

 It's a loop trail and we took the path "less traveled" since modern kids seem to enjoy yelling at the top of their lungs on the first part of a trail. Insecurity?

 Our trail passed this quiet beaver flowage and by now the kids were climbing, and breathless.




 It was quiet and gentle most of the way, but the last three pitches were hand over hand, root pullers.









 The views were a reward, and appreciated, but where are the burgers?

 On the way back, we wandered the overhangs and little rocky rooms that gave the castle its name. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Along the Erie Canal

We have been sampling bits of the nearly 400 miles of Erie Canal towpath over the last couple weeks.  It's been good exercise on surfaces that are quite adequate and safely off road, but if there is any spectacular scenery, we have missed it.  We'll get back  here again after some serious research.  In the meantime, here is some of what we saw.


Near the western end, the modern canal is still navigable and each town provides a "harbor" for pleasure boaters.  It is even possible to rent "packets" and captain your own replica canal boat.  











We had so much fun with the ladies at the Albion harbor that we nearly didn't get on the trail.

There are lift bridges, tall bridges and little towns which now depend very little on canal traffic.



 









 

Except for providing cheap pizza and ice cream to a few cyclists.



Near Syracuse in the East, the Old Erie Canal has been abandoned and is protected by a long linear State Park.  It is more pastoral here, often single track along the tree shaded canal edge.



Yeah, Really!


And, of course, there are signs 
















...And our favorite, near a particularly beautiful B&B...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

WATER FEATURES

 

Our friend Rick, the Sultan of Solitude, warns us to escape camping crowds in summer, "Avoid water features."  
(I believe the Sultan also avoids electricity, paved roads and fee stations.)  We of little faith have slipped a ways off the shining path in the last few weeks.  We have seen a lot of water features but suffered only slightly.  

One of our bike rides along the Erie Canal returned us to a place Tom and Carole led us to years ago.  Behind the welcoming "harbor" at Holley NY and down a little path among tall trees is a surprising waterfall

 Holley-canal-falls-51d4ae924203c3402c004e6c 
The 35-foot fall is a "Waste Weir" diverting unneeded water from the canal.  A great lunch spot and a poignant memory of our earlier visit.

Of course, a week on the shores of Lake Ontario at Lakeside State Park qualifies as a water feature.  The spacious park was a perfect staging area for cherry picking, canal path riding,  cherry pie eating (at a place that has been baking pies for 200 years!)  and a visit to Niagara Falls.




And if size matters, The Canadian side of the falls is pretty impressive.
 


 "Totally worth the border hassle," she says.


"Marginally," he replies, remembering that travel writers have been warning travelers of taste and discernment AWAY from the Niagara area for nearly 150 years. 

 We took good advice and approached on the




The ride along the rim and through palatial neighborhoods was green and peaceful.  The Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit.  The last couple miles toward the falls are uphill, on the road shoulder, in heavy traffic and through a short tunnel.  We arrive at the overlook threading our way through a mass of humanity taking selfies over their shoulders. 

The views ARE breathtaking and so much more impressive from the Canadian side.

Obligatory picture of the "Maid Of The Mist"



Letchworth State Park  showed us grand water features which were nevertheless more intimate than Niagara and far less crowded. On our first round of waterfall peeking on Sunday, a nice crowd enjoyed the huge picnic area and grounds of the Glen Iris Inn.  

After the downpour that welcomed "Our Sister Beth" to the camper, the streams quickened and Middle Falls and Upper Falls roared while we had relative solitude.



"The Grand Canyon of the East" cuts down fast and deep so the walls are steep.

Side streams like Wolf Creek cut down more slowly and leave a series of hanging falls.

 


 "Lake Bethany" added yet another water feature...



The Pine Creek Bike Trail

is one of our favorite places and now we had a chance to share it with Beth and our niece Kristen.











This is the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania" and the underlying stone is less fractured; the walls are steep and forested to the top.  The bike trail follows a railroad grade at the bottom. No dramatic falls, just clear water, wildlife and an excellent surface to enjoy.  
Earlier Pine Creek Adventures

The water feature here was not so much the creek (which always has a gaggle of bike riders along its length), but the "Plumbing" which the Corps of
Engineers created for flood control and dilution of mine runoff pollution in the Hammond Lake area. 




We camped at Ives Run and the Sage of Serenity was quite right; the place was crammed with families enjoying the weekend water sports and the excellent facilities.  We were a mile away in the non-electric sites with a great view of the lake and just a little too much dust stirred up by the boat trailers.  Weekend over, it was the most blissful spot in the area.

The water feature review continues in the next episode, but we can't part without a word about our foodie find.

 The Cast & Crew in nearby Mansfield Pa "is not much to look at" to quote nearly all the reviews, but wait till you see the menu!  


 Your friendly chef is happiest in Improv mode and only reluctantly commits his creations to a Menu, but the reading is guaranteed to have you salivating.  We tried some menu items even though each category gives you a chance to trust the chef to impress you.  We gave him the nod for dessert and this was the delicious result.