Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New England, Part 3: Southbound

Sunday October 14
Woke up in Massachusetts.  We had breakfast in the trailer and then grabbed a geocache.  Back in the car, we started playing a little game particularly fun in New England:  Can you learn to spell that state name before we get all the way across it?

Who can ever get the whole word "Massachusetts" on a postcard anyway?  Hmmm.  What's the abbreviation?  There's so many states that start with M!  There's Maine, that's ME.  There's Mississippi, that's MS.  There's Missouri, that's MO.  There's Montana, that's MT.  Minnesota is MN.  Michigan, MI.  Maryland, MD. Good grief!  That leaves MA for Massachusetts.

Is this spelling game too easy?  (Not for me.  I'm a terrible speller.)
What's the capitol then?  How about the state nickname?

Finally, an easy one.  Except for the capital.  The capital of New York is not New York.

Almost stopped in Hershey for the night but decided to keep driving.

Spelling is easy... but the capital is not Baltimore.

It's the mountain state. 

Finally, a place (for lovers) to rest our heads.

At the end of the day we had found geocaches in seven states! (Another game only possible in New England.)

Monday October 15
There are some things you just have to do. 
Even in the rain.
There are no words for this place, only pictures:

This photo says the most:

Rain in the valley means fog on the mountain at the visitor's center in Shenandoah National Park:

Twenty minutes later the view was clear.  We ate lunch at a turnout down the road.  I opened my kitchen curtains to a beautiful view as I made sandwiches; regrettably I didn't take a picture.

In the afternoon we hiked the Stony Man Summit Trail.  By that time, it was hard to tell that the day started out so rainy.

We barely made it to the Byrd Visitor's Center across before they closed for the day.  Not long after our arrival it started pouring outside.  Suddenly, the rain was louder.  We saw hail out the window! Oh well!  Getting a "souvenir" in Shenandoah is better than getting one while sitting in the driveway at home!  Brian was in the trailer working.  The kids and I watched a CCC video and browsed the exhibits while we waited for the rain to stop.

Exhibits at the Byrd Center not only gave us a greater appreciation for the CCC, FDR, and the work in Shenandoah but also brought our attentions to injustices to local people in the procuring of these lands.  While eminent domain is always controversial, it is even more painful when facts are contrived to secure land.  The displacement of Shenandoah's mountain settlers was not unlike that of the American Indians.  Not to the same degree, but many of the time-tested techniques were used to convince others that the mountain settlers weren't civilized enough.  A study was performed.  The conclusions?  The locals were simple, uneducated people cut off from "civilization."  They were relocated with little compensation for their homes or the livelihoods they left behind.  Until visiting the Byrd Center, I had no idea the cost of obtaining Shenandoah as a National Park.

As for hail damage, there wasn't any.  Brian said he didn't even think it hailed.  It's pretty weird to think it might have hailed on the building but not in the parking lot.  Who knows.  I'm sure glad we didn't have any hail damage.

Loft Mountain Campground was our home for the evening, the southernmost campground in Shenandoah.  Just a few feet off of the Appalachian Trail on a mountain ridge, it was cold and windier than any place we've stayed in the trailer.  The sunset there was amazing.

Tuesday October 16th
Early in the day we finished Shenandoah's 105 miles Skyline drive and headed straight (that doesn't seem like the appropriate word) curvy onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.


At the James River visitor Center we met a man with an ant car.

We landed at Roanoke Mountain Campground for the night.  Our site was small and required us to unhitch.  We used the "trailer free" opportunity to go into Roanoke for some dinner.  We love sushi but always feel wary about eating it when we're out of town. Wasabi's was worth the gamble.  I highly recommend the "lover roll" (spicy tuna inside; avacado outside.)

Roanoke has an enormous star on the mountainside that lights up at night.  We watched it as we drove around town, memorized.

Wednesday October 17th
Roanoke Mountain Campground was close enough to town that we had cell-phone internet.  This left us lingering in the morning.  Brian put in some work hours, the girls made a chipmunk house in the woods, Samuel and I went to town for errands. By the time Samuel and I got back from town we had decided we wanted to come back to Roanoke.  No one else disagreed.  Maybe we could convince some visitor's bureaus that campground wi-fi is good for tourism.

Before heading down the road we followed the star...
...to get a picture. There are kids in that picture. 

The next visitor's center on the parkway was the Mabry Mill area.  It was lovely but a bit crowded so our stay was short.  We left feeling spoiled by our recent visit to the Jarrell Plantation in Georgia.

Driving on the parkway during the early evening hours, we made little progress.  The sunset was so amazing that I couldn't resist stopping at the turnouts to take pictures.  I was driving so everyone else just had to put up with it.  The view was amazing.


At dark, the deer were getting thick and it was clearly time to pull off the parkway.  Needing both laundry and showers, we drove to Boon, NC to one of those brand-named privately owned kampgrounds.  We've never stayed at one before but I can tell you that we were feeling pretty desperate to even consider staying at one.  This particular location was on a steep hill right off of "Harmony" Road.  (Seriously.)  Let's just say I wasn't feeling so harmonious when we got there.  I took a quick look around and decided to take my shiny hiney back down the hill.  Fortunately, we found some really great dinner in downtown Boon (Hob Knob Farms) to lift our spirits.

Later, we found a quiet place for the night... and slept great. 

Thursday October 18th
The parkway greeted us with a thick pea soup and another reminder that the weekend was close.  (Gettin' kinda crowded.)
What splendid pottery and hand-crafted arts were for sale in the Moses H. Cone House!  If they had an online store then I would be in trouble. 
Our last stop on the parkway was to visit the Linn Cove Viaduct.

As we left the Parkway, we noticed more and more rhododendrons. Maybe we'll come back and finish the Parkway in the spring, I'm sure it will be lovely.

We turned off of the parkway and headed toward Pisgah National Forest where our friends were camping.  Maybe we spent too many days on the Parkway: it took a minute to get adjusted to normal traffic speeds and patterns; our previous 425 miles were spent at the break-neck speed of 35 to 45 miles per hour.

In the late afternoon we pulled into the Davidson River Campground, parked, and walked towards check-in.  Someone said "Are you the Sanders?"  Me:  "Um, yes?  I guess our reputation precedes us."
Maybe Twobikes know us even better than we know ourselves!  They left word with the front desk that we might be arriving.  We planned to make it to Davidson River on Friday but showed up on Thursday instead. The campground was almost full but the site across from Twobikes was available, perfect!

Friday October 19th
Brian spent his day telecommuting while the kids and I headed off for a day of fun put together by our campground concierge, Twobikes.

 A trip back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hit a few Pisgah area highlights:
Anyone need a ginger pill?

Curves ahead and curves behind.  It seemed like a piece of cake without the trailer though.  The hard part was remembering that we didn't have a toilet or kitchen sink with us. 

Looking Glass Falls
Sliding Rock
"Can we come back during the summer?"

While visiting the Cradle of Forestry Discovery Center, we learned about an evening play/Halloween event.  Poor Twobikes weren't feeling any better by the evening, so we headed back up the mountain for the "Legend of Tommy Hodges."  The event was well attended by locals who seemed to know all the details about how the play was different from last year's script.  When it was over our kids only had one thing to say about it.
"Can we come back every year?"

Saturday October 20th
Time to head home.  We lingered in the morning (at germ-safe distances) with our friends, longer than we intended (but still not long enough!) Twobikes asked about our route home.  Route home?  We'll naively follow our GPS, of course. 


I'm sure you can guess that following the GPS wasn't the best route.  We DON'T want to go back to Pisgah on that road again.  It's US 178, by the way.  I better remember it, too!  Especially if the kids want to come back for Sliding Rock in the summer and The Legend of Tommy Hodges in the fall.

Our second "naively following the GPS" incident on the way home nearly cost us some time in football game traffic.  We drove through Clemson just as the game was letting out.  Whew!  Barely beat the traffic!

Home again.  

It's a little late to do it now, but I am feeling the urge to go back and re-title these posts as "New England Scouting Trip."  Our list of places to visit continues to grow the more we travel.  We can hardly wait until we have the opportunity to visit New England again.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New England Trip, Part 2: Acadia

Sunday October 7th:
With renewed effort at reaching our destination before dark, we left Penn Wood at 6:20 am.  Our first stop for gas was in eastern Pennsylvania.  While filling up, an Amish buggy rode past... all of us were watching them and were delighted to see that the gawking was mutual.  (Until they noticed us looking at them and quickly ducked back into the buggy.)

We arrived at our overnight destination in New Hampshire before dark. (Whew!) Reinergirl (owner of a 1963 Overlander in mid-restoration) fed us a hearty homemade dinner and provided evening entertainment by way of puppies and kids home from college.  Her kids are a few years older than ours but seem to share similar interests.  Would you believe that two of our kids even share the same name?

Monday October 8th:
After some homemade scones and hot showers we left New Hampshire vowing to see our new friends again.  Reinergirl assured us we didn't want to miss the to the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, ME on the way to Acadia.  Something happened in Freeport, we got sucked in and stayed longer than we intended.

When we returned to the RV/trailer parking there was a note on our windshield from some Colorado Airstreamers.  They had parked beside our trailer with their Airstream and wished us happy travels. (Too bad we missed them!)

Arrived at Acadia at 8:00pm in the pitch black.  The campground was full but we found our name on the reservation list.  We were assigned A78,  next to another Airstream in A77.

Tuesday October 9th
Hiked Gorham mountain.  There are a few ways to get to the top of Gorham Mountain.  We chose the strenuous Cadillac Cliffs route.

...a kid's dream hike.  They wished their friends could be there, too.

During the busy season there are buses that run all over Acadia.  It would have been nice to catch a ride back to our car. Instead, we scurried back along the ocean path- barely made it in time to the College of the Atlantic for a tide pool ranger talk.

We heard about a shop in Bar Harbor with lobster flavored ice cream.

None of us feel any special need to try it another time.

Wednesday October 10th:
Carriage Road walk with ranger Anne Warner and our Airstream neighbors in A77. 

Anne closed our walk with a hope for our visit-that we all find "Acadia joy" which she described as an unplanned, unexpected experience of happiness.

A drive to the western side of Mount Desert Island landed us in Northwest Harbor for laundry and lunch.  Then, a little farther south, we stopped to explore the Wonder Land trail.

Aptly named.  
A place like no other we have been.  
A beach full of rocks, tide pools, and surrounded by evergreens.  
Could this place be more perfect?
Acadia joy, indeed.

To top off the day, we swapped trailer tours with A77 and also a 1960s Safari camped nearby.

Thursday October 11th:
(Quite possibly the most amazing day ever!)

Visited Wildwood Stables early in the morning to make reservations for a carriage ride later that day. Then, went to Seal Harbor and pretended to be locals.
The nice lady at the post office talked to us about the weather when I bought postcard stamps. We leisurely drank our coffee, munched pastries, and watched (actual) locals come in a coffee shop to get their breakfast.  We peeked in the store windows of Naturalist's Notebook and decided to make time for a return trip to Seal Harbor.

Our carriage ride was splendid (if frigid.)

For lunch we scored a table at the Jordan Pond House.  No one was eating outside on this blustery day. Their hot tea, popovers, and (my very-first-ever!) steamed lobster warmed us nicely.

After lunch, we traipsed back to Naturalist's Notebook. Loved everything!  The kids could hardly be coaxed away.   (They had a bird-identifying scavenger-hunt to finish, after all!)  We finally tore them away in time to hurry to the middle of the park for a beaver talk/watch. 

Dinner in Bar Harbor was some tasty Chinese food with a side of wi-fi.

From Bar Harbor, we drove up Cadillac Mountain to peek at the stars.  The smallest Sanders was already asleep by the time we reached the top. It was cold and oh-so-windy.    How strange to be at the top of a cold mountain in Maine- to look up at the stars and think of Hawaii (star gazing on Mauna Kea.) Amazing view! 

Friday October 12th:
Slept in.
Dressed in (many) layers in preparation for our whale watching tour.
Got to whale watching tour... found out it was cancelled for high winds.
Tried to sail on the Margaret Todd ship instead- but they cancelled for high winds, too.
Returned to "Naturalist's Notebook" in Seal Harbor to finish the bird hunt scavenger hunt.
Back to Bar Harbor for the 2:00 trip on the Margaret Todd.
Trip cancelled again (for winds.)
Walk along the shore in Bar Harbor.

Found rocks and tiny shells.
Had a lovely time walking along the path by the edge of the shore.
Went for a drive on park loop road.
Drove to Cadillac summit  (felt kinda lazy for not taking the hike.  )

 Took pictures.
Met new neighbors in the Acadia campground with a vintage Scotty trailer.

Saturday October 13, 2012
Set an alarm to go to sunrise on Cadillac Mountain.
At 6:00am we noticed it was already getting light as we were leaving.
Decided that the "sunrise" must not be the same as "first light."
Drove to Bubble Mountain for a hike instead.

Tried to get on the Margaret Todd for the 10:00 tour. 
High winds again.  Didn't sail.  The kids chased sea gulls instead.

Hiked the Hadlock pond trail with split log boardwalks.  

Started seeing signs about a marathon on Sunday.  Noticed that most of Park Loop Road was going to be closed for the marathon.  Decided it was time to head south.  Went back to camp, hitched up our trailer. Made a stop at the visitor's center for Jr. Ranger badges.

Left Acadia still looking for moose... finally saw one about 10 miles past the "moose next 17 miles" sign.  It took our breath away!  A truck drove past with four hairy legs sticking straight up out of the back!!!  No one got a picture.  The moment was not unlike the first time we watched "A Christmas Story."  Squeals of laughter and gasps of horror all at the same time!