More New Mexico Adventures

Traveling further south we stopped for a few nights at City of Rocks State Park. It’s kinda strange because you are driving through grasslands and fields and then these rocks just pop up out of nowhere.

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There are lots of cool rock formations to climb on and around.

 

You can camp right up among the rocks, but we chose the hook-up sites and had this great view of the rocks from our site.

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There were both cottontails and jackrabbits all over the campground.

One afternoon I took my bike on the trail that loops the campground.

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The trail was longer and hillier than it looked and I had forgotten we were still at a high elevation and it was nearly 90 degrees so I very nearly didn’t make it back. Boy that dry desert air really takes it out of you! Took me a couple of days to recoup.

We made a visit to Silver City which was supposed to have lots of cool artist shops, but most were closed on Tuesday. The few we did find had interesting stuff.

We had more great evening views.

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Sadly we had to leave New Mexico and head toward Phoenix so I could fly to Boise for my nephew’s wedding. On the way we stopped in Benson AZ at an Escapees Park. We love the Escapees parks for their friendly folks, reasonable rates, and especially their clean, cheap laundry facilities! This one had great desert views and we enjoyed the sunny weather.

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There were a couple of folks who had train displays. 

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On our way to Phoenix we needed a place to stop for lunch. Luckily we happened upon the Casa Grande National Monument. It was a great stop for lunch and a little exploration.

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Outside Phoenix we stayed at Lost Dutchmen State Park. We had heard so many good things about this park that we were disappointed when our spot turned out to be in a crowded loop. Riding through the campground we found other nicer spots but none were open for the 9 days we were staying. Luckily during the week it was quieter and less crowded.

Still the views of the Superstition Mountains as they changed in the evening light were great. While Chuck enjoyed those and some 90 degree days, I flew to Boise for highs in the 50s and a great visit with family.

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The happy couple cutting the cake that my niece baked for them. 
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I got to hang out with our beautiful daughters.
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A family photo at the wedding.

So after Chuck’s week of projects around the trailer and my busy week with family, it’s time to make some decisions about where we head next. There are so many possibilities that sometimes it can be daunting. We’ve had such a busy month that I think we need a few days to relax before we decide.

Valley of Fires

After Taos, we headed to Valley of Fires Recreation Area in Carrizozo. Here we were greeted by stunning views, a walk through black lava fields, and lots of wind. This place is definitely worth a stop, even if you just walk the path through the lava field.

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From the hilltop observation point you can see our trailer with the lava fields to the left.
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Looking south from the start of the lava trail toward the observation hill.
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These ropey strands of lava rock have a special Hawaiian name that I can’t remember. 🙂

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Looking back up from the trail you can see out great spot on the ridge. 
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The clouds and sun made for dramatic views.
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We had views of the lava field right out our windows!
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The clouds made for a spectacular sunset!

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Since we had been moving around quite a bit we opted to stay in our awesome site instead of moving closer to the other places we wanted to explore. This meant about an hour’s drive to White Sands National Monument but it was a beautiful day so it wasn’t bad.

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This is one of those beautiful national park buildings. It was built by the WPA in the late 1930s from adobe bricks covered with stucco.

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After a few miles you are driving right on the sand.

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We enjoyed walking barefoot in the dunes. The sand is super soft and it was cool and damp even though it was around 80 degrees out.

Another day we drove 45 minutes to Three Rivers Petroglyph Recreation Site. They have over 21,000 petroglyphs that were chipped into the rock over 600 years ago. They are so cool that it took us forever to hike the 1.5 mile trail. By the time we came back down we were the only car left in the parking lot!

This was such a cool area that we will have to come back. After all we missed the Smokey the Bear Museum and gravesite. Yes, there was an actual Smokey the Bear and he was from New Mexico. Who knew?

 

A few days in Taos

No matter how hard I try it seems like I’m only getting further behind on the blog. So in a last ditch effort to catch up I posted two blogs last week and now I’m blowing through the last month with multiple posts today.

We arrived in New Mexico to cooler, cloudy weather in the mountains north of Taos. We stayed a couple of nights at Eagle’s Nest State Park, part of New Mexico’s Enchanted Loop. There was some pretty mountain scenery heading through the pass and nice views from our campsite, but we didn’t do much exploring. At over 8,000 feet in elevation it was cooler than we wanted so we headed to the lower elevation of Taos at 6,900 feet.

The Taos Valley RV Park was kinda quirky and in need of some attention, but it got us close to the sights.

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Your neighbor pulls in from the opposite direction so their door faces you and you share the center strip. Behind the little fence is their table. It’s a little odd.

We walked on the Rio Grande Bridge, the most beautiful steel bridge according to the sign, in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. I had never seen crisis hotline phones out on a bridge, but it makes sense. We even spotted a big horn sheep.

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Afterwards we stopped at Taos Brewing Company for some food and beer. We found the coolest old truck in their parking lot. Someone is also putting in a collection of old trailers for overnight rentals. I would have loved to peek inside in all of them.

Another day we explored the Taos Pueblo. I expected the pueblo to have plaques explaining the history, but I guess you have to take a tour to get information, which we weren’t keen on doing. Still it was a photographer’s dream to just wander around.

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We walked around Taos’ central square but found it a bit touristy. We preferred the metal sculptures and Mexican imported goods at a shop on the outskirts of town. We also found a cool local t-shirt shop.

This has been our first stay in New Mexico and it’s left me excited to see more.

 

KY to OH to KS to OK

September 6 – 21, 2017

Even though it’s only been a few weeks since we left Ohio, it seems like a blur. We’ve made so many stops that it’s hard to keep them straight in my mind. So I’ll try my best to lay it out.

Originally we had planned to head to Shenandoah National Park and then onto the Outer Banks of North Carolina and down the coast into Florida for the winter. With Hurricane Irma churning out at sea we decided to head toward Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky instead. We figured we could re-evaluate after we had a better idea of what Irma would do and either head back toward Virginia or make a new plan. So off to Kentucky we drove.

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First stop Big Bone Lick State Park. We didn’t see much of the park because we only spent one night, but we did find that not one spot was level. There was mini-golf and a pool (closed for the season) so I’m sure this place is popular with families. Since the campground is up a very steep hill we didn’t even make the trek down to check out the lake.

Continuing on Chuck found the driving tough. The roads were in bad shape and crowded with semi trucks. I think Louisville must be a big shipping hub because the airport was filled with UPS cargo planes.

When we made it to Mammoth Cave we found a mostly empty campground. The ranger recommended a pull through spot with some sun for our solar and we got set up and rode our bikes down to the visitor’s center. There we found interesting exhibits about the formation and history of the caves and picked up information about cave tours that are friendly to those of us who are clautrophobic. 😉

On Friday we rode the gravel trail through the woods to a pond where I had my first ever sighting of actual frogs jumping on lily pads. Sorry no photo. On Saturday they have an open cave tour where you can go at your own pace which sounded perfect to me. It started at the cave’s historic entrance.

 

A nice big opening leading down a wide hallway into a massive room. This is just my style. While it was warm outside it was around 50 degrees in the cave. In fact you could feel a good breeze at the opening and in the morning there is often fog emerging from the cave. This large entrance goes about 1/4 mile into the cave with smaller passageways branching off.

 

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The hallway coming in
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In the middle are remains of old salt peter mining operations. On the right are memorials to fallen soldiers from WWI. 
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Proof I made it in the cave.
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The end of the big room.

While the caves were cool, above ground this was another woodsy, dark park. So we were glad to think about making our way somewhere with open, sunny skies. With Hurricane Irma still looming ominously off Florida’s coast we decided to ditch any hopes we had of staying east this fall and winter. Instead we set a course to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.

Stopping overnight in Tennessee, we found a site at Pin Oak Campground that was level enough to stay hitched up. That night the rains, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, moved in. I heard a drip in the night, but told myself it was outside and went back to sleep. In the morning we awoke to a huge puddle of water on our table and floor. The new skylight was leaking in a big way. Chuck removed the interior frame and water came pouring out. Water was running behind our aluminum walls and dripping out at the seams.

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Drips coming down from each screw and the wood framing is soaked.

It was a no-brainer to turn ourselves around and head back the way we had come, covering the 500 miles back to the factory in one very long driving day. Luckily the rain let off after a bit so we got some relief, but about 1/2 hour outside Jackson Center it started raining again. So after finding a spot we got to work tying a tarp over the skylight and turned on the dehumidifier to try to dry things out.

They couldn’t squeeze us in the next day, but did get us taken care of the following day. So more time spent hanging out at the factory. Not so bad as I do love it there. It’s sort of comforting and calming to be surrounded by lots of other Airstream trailers. We did more laundry, chatted with other folks who were there getting service, and found a few more things we needed in the Airstream store. 🙂

The most exciting part was meeting Brian and Leigh, fellow Airstream full-timers who started Campendium, a website with reviews and information about campgrounds. We discovered Campendium before we left Seattle, and it has been our go to source for finding places to camp, including those great boondocking spots. Chuck posts reviews of every place we stay on the site and was even a beta tester of their new app so it was so fun to meet them in person. So there was some good that came out of this return trip to Ohio!

We also decided to head straight for the southwest and skip Hot Springs. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to drive down crowded, bumpy I-75, I-71, and I-65 again. Instead we headed for New Mexico with a short stop in Wichita, KS for a visit with Chuck’s brother.

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Stop 1 – Lincoln Trail State Park, IL for one buggy, humid night. Thankfully we had hook-ups!

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Notice how high the front of the trailer is!

Stop 2 – Cottonwoods RV Park, Columbia, MO for one cramped night where we had to unhitch to get level.

Stop 3 – USI RV Park, Wichita, KS for 3 nights and a nice visit with family.

Stop 4 – Corral Drive-In RV Park, Guymon, OK. Finally some wide open views, but also very windy. This place is the best idea ever! Over a year ago Chuck and I said that someday we should buy an old drive-in movie theater and convert it to an RV park where you could watch movies. Well, someone did just that in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. Too bad they only show movies in the summer. It would have been so cool to watch one from our site!

Next stop, New Mexico!

Quiet Acadia

Schoodic Woods Campground
Nights: 7
Bikes: 1
Paddles: 1
Timeframe: 1st week of August

So I’ve gotten even further behind on posting—we visited Schoodic nearly a month and a half ago! Here’s a quick recap.

After the busy Bar Harbor area of Acadia National Park we reveled in the peace and quiet on the Schoodic Peninsula. This part of the park is about an hour drive away (or a hop on the passenger ferry plus the bus) so not a lot of folks bother to explore Schoodic. That was okay with us because it made for a nice, relaxing week.

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After our awesome campsite at Bar Harbor we were ready to be a little let down, but we found another great spot waiting for us. The campground at Schoodic Woods has only been open about 2 years and it is beautiful! There are lots of trees but also lots of open sky which is what we like.

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Our awesome pull through site could have fit two giant motorhomes!

Spaces are big and come with electric hookups, rare for a national park campground.

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Bathroom Building

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The bathrooms are the nicest I’ve ever seen.

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The architecture of the visitor’s center is stunning. This campground is a great find.

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Selfie along the loop drive.

This side of the park is set on a peninsula. The 6 mile, one-way “loop” road travels along the entire shore, but doesn’t connect back to itself. We drove it our first day, but it was even better when we took our bikes later in the week.

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Since the road has two lanes, both going in the same direction, cars have their own lane to pass you. We could peddle along soaking in all the water views and not worry about holding up traffic.

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Awesome water views!
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A lighthouse on one of the islands. That’s Cadillac Mountain in the distance, which we drove up when we were on the other side of the park.
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Pink Granite “beach” at Schoodic Point, the tip of the peninsula. 
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Be sure to stop at the Schoodic Education and Research Center to tour the small visitor’s center in this building. It has really interesting brick and stone work and was used by the military for top secret communications.

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When you get to the end of the road you exit the park and have to return on regular roads with no shoulders so we were glad the ranger recommended a bike path that cuts back to the campground. Unfortunately the bike paths on this side of the park are not as nice as those over on Mount Desert Island. These are made of loose gravel, which made the uphill going even harder, but we made it back.

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By the time we took the spur out to the point and the trail back to the campground we ended up riding 10 miles.

Off course all that exercise meant we deserved a treat. I got out the solar oven and tried a new recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars (recipe below).

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The delicious smell of cookies baking attracted this fellow who I had to keep chasing off.

Most of the kayaking around here is for those used to ocean waves, and the ranger recommended that we go to a pond outside the park. Thanks to Google, Chuck found a a protected area right off the Frazer Point picnic area recommended by a local kayaker. Mosquito Harbor turned out to be perfect and not at all plagued by its namesake.

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We did a better job inflating the kayak this time which made the ride even better. It was fun tooling around exploring the little nooks and crannies.

Just so you don’t think it’s fun and games all the time we did have to do laundry (found the biggest laundromat ever!) and defrost the refrigerator, which meant time for a tiny snowman. 🙂

On our last day we couldn’t pass up one more drive along the loop. This time we stopped at a beach we spotted on our bike ride.

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We laughed about the sign but once we got down there we understood. The beach was covered with round stones, golf ball to basketball size, and it was so tempting to take one, but we resisted.

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It was mesmerizing to listen to the stones gently tumbling as a wave came in and then the water trickling back out as the wave receded. It would make for a very relaxing nature sound CD!

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If Acadia wasn’t so far out here I think we would come back to this little corner of the Schoodic Woods! Who knows, maybe someday we will. For now we’re checking off national park number 12 and heading back to Ohio for some warranty work.

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Oh, and if you’re ever in this neck of the woods there’s a great little farmer’s market in Winter Harbor. 🙂

Oatmeal Nut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Yield: 12 cookies with kind of a chewy muffin texture.

Ingredients
1/3 cup gluten-free thick rolled oats (33g)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond butter (64g)
1/4 cup peanut butter (64g)
1/3 cup brown sugar (70g)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips (57g)

Instructions

  1. Line GoSun oven tray with parchment paper.
  2. In medium bowl beat peanut butter, almond butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda, salt and oats into bowl. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be very sticky!
  4. Scoop dough into prepared tray, smoothing out and leaving 1/2“ at ends (they puff up a lot and you don’t want them to hit the top of the tube).
  5. Bake in solar oven for 25 to 40 minutes (depending on your level of sun) or until top deflates a bit and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

If you want a regular oven version of this recipe I adapted it from: http://meaningfuleats.com/flourless-oatmeal-almond-butter-chocolate-chip-cookies-gluten-free-dairy-free/

Busy Acadia

Bar Harbor Campground
Nights: 7
Hikes: 0
Bikes: 2
Paddles: 1

Our first week in Acadia was spent in the busy Mount Desert Island area of the park surrounding Bar Harbor. Last winter when we made plans to come this way, we studied the camping options. Campgrounds in the park were full and private options were cramped and expensive. We settled on a no reservations, cash only, private campground with reasonable rates and hoped for the best. Online reviews of Bar Harbor Campground promised that you could get a site here even on a busy weekend. Since we didn’t really have a back-up plan in this busy area we were a bit nervous. We showed up on Monday just before check-out time and were rewarded with an awesome spot.

Talking to some other campers later, they said they’ve been coming here for 8 years and have never been able to snag a spot with a view. We watched during our time here and you could always find a spot, especially if you didn’t need hook-ups, but the view sites didn’t come open often. Lucky us!

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The campground was busy and other areas were noisy, but our little corner was peaceful and we debated staying longer. There were blueberries for the picking right out our door and the views couldn’t be beat.

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Blueberry picking with a view!

The town of Bar Harbor and the park itself were another story. On our first day we headed to Acadia’s main visitor’s center and found cars circling the parking lot. We managed to snag a spot and headed into the unimpressive visitor’s center. Expecting some sort of display about the park, we found only a movie, store, and information desk.

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So we figured we do the loop drive. We found cars and people crowding the famous Thunder Hole area, but at least there were a few parking spots.

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Crowds waiting to catch the explosion of water at Thunder Hole.
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Watching the waves crash against the rocks was mesmerizing.
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Acadia’s famous pink granite shore

We tried to stop at Jordan Pond, an area famous for it’s lovely views of the pond and popovers at the restaurant, but found absolutely no open parking spaces. We continued on to the top of Cadillac Mountain and were met with a line of stopped cars just waiting to get in the parking lot and again not a spot in sight. So we ended up just driving back down.

Another day we tried to go into Bar Harbor to walk around and visit the grocery store. Even though it was a weekday with no cruise ship in port (yes there are actually cruise ships here), the town was crazy! We’re talking Disneyland crowds crazy. Throw in parked cars making the narrow roads even more so and people crossing everywhere and it was just too much for us. Again we ended up driving right back out. The key to Acadia seems is to be ride the shuttle bus (we saw lots of folks waiting for buses) or go places after 3pm. So we settled into a pattern of lazy mornings at camp with excursions into the park later in the day and our experience greatly improved.

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Our new bike rack makes it much easier to haul our bikes to the trails.

With Chuck’s knee still on the mend after the Camden hike, we turned to other ways to experience this national park. Luckily Acadia is famous for it’s carriage trails, financed by and built under the direction of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The trails are covered in well packed decomposed granite that provides a nice surface for bike riding.

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Carriage road signage is a bit confusing. Looking at the map is a must!

Rockefeller had a vision for drawing people out into nature by installing a system of trails suitable for horse drawn carriage rides. Thus the trails are no steeper than what a horse pulling a carriage can handle. This makes one think that these are fairly flat trails. Do not be fooled. We found lots of hills that had our heart rates climbing with the slow steady inclines, but they were doable. The exception was the path connecting the visitor center to the trails. That spur was steep and I ended up walking my bike.

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We rode to several of the bridges built to complement the landscape. Each one was styled for it’s location (one even frames a waterfall) with stones chiseled and fit by hand.

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The three we saw were built in 1924, 1925, and 1926 and the stonework was impressive. Apparently the masons got so good at expertly fitting and facing the stones that Rockefeller told them they need to make them more rustic to blend with the landscape.

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The stone bridges were pretty cool, but other than that the trails were mostly riding through woods.

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One of the few spots you could see a view. 

One day we rode the Witch Hole Pond loop (about 5 miles) and another day a loop near Upper Haddock Pond (about 4 miles).  It was a nice way to get some exercise but not the spectacular views I expected.

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The coping stones lining the trail are lovingly referred to as “Rockefeller’s teeth.”

Although we never went back to Bar Harbor we did make it back to Cadillac Mountain. I got to drive the narrow, windy road this time and Chuck got to enjoy the views.

At 4:30 we found plenty of parking at the top and great views all around.

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It reminded us of the views in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

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We even got to watch a cruise ship make a giant u-turn and head out of Bar Harbor.

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Our neighbors in the campground told us about a nearby beach and one day we took our new kayak out for it’s maiden voyage. We’ve been thinking about getting kayaks since we started this adventure. At first we didn’t want anything tied on top of our truck. We thought we might look a bit like hillbillies plus we were at the top of our weight limit. When we upgraded our truck weight was no longer an issue, but we still wrestled with hauling kayaks while having easy access to gear in the truck bed. Chuck finally solved all our issues by finding a really good inflatable.

We’d had a cheap inflatable when the girls were younger that seemed to only go in circles, but this boat surprised us. Even though we didn’t have it quite inflated all the way (our newbie error) and the outer cover was a little crooked it glided effortlessly through the water. We got a whole different perspective out on the water. I think we’re going to like it.

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Everyone who goes to Maine talks about lobster. We’re not big fans, and since it’s expensive we figured why waste our money. We did however enjoy fish and chips and a salmon sandwich at Beal’s Lobster Pier while on a drive to the quiet side of Mount Desert Island.

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Lobster buoy decor

 

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We had views of the working harbor from the outdoor deck.

We also enjoyed ice cream sundaes at Udder Heaven which was right next to our campground. Thank goodness we didn’t go until the last day or we might have become regulars.

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We were sad to leave this relaxing campground. With water views and blueberries right out our door and ice cream a short walk away it was a good spot.

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Goodbye peaceful water view

But with reservations at Schoodic Woods, a more remote area of Acadia, it was time to say goodbye.

A Taste of Vermont

We were excited to spend more time in Vermont, especially since there was the promise of ice cream. 🙂 So we crossed that beautiful bridge, this time with the Airstream in tow, and headed further north on Lake Champlain to Grand Isle State Park. I picked this park because another full-time blogger (watsonswander.com) mentioned a cool bike ride in her post about the area, but we’ll get to that.

Grand Isle turned out to be a nice park, kinda like Keuka Lake. We had a big grassy site.

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You could bike or walk down to the lake area.

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And the grounds were well maintained. They even planted flower gardens.

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We were just outside of Burlington, and with all the small towns there would have been plenty to keep us busy for a week or more, but we only had a few days here and with rain in the forecast we had to make sure we got in that special ride.

This bike path is on a causeway that goes several miles right out into the lake. The causeway, built of large chunks of marble, originally was for trains, but now is a gravel bike path. There is one small section that used to have a swing bridge in the rail days for boats to pass through. Now it is crossed via a bike ferry. Yep, a ferry just for bikes! Of course it only goes about 200 feet, but it’s still cool.

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We set off mid morning and timed it just right. Several cars pulled in after us filling the small lot. As we swatted at the mosquitos we got our gear set and headed off downhill through the trees, spotting a snake a little too late (he looked like he’d been run over before us) and came out of the woods onto the causeway. At least the bugs were gone, but now we had to contend with a strong headwind. It was only a short distance to the ferry.

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After crossing, we continued on the causeway, fighting the wind and loose gravel. You are right out in the the lake for several miles with beautiful views. On the other side we were once again in the woods but came out at a city park. It was a good spot to rest a bit and enjoy the small schoolhouse.

Our plan was to follow the path into north Burlington and eat lunch. Leaving the park we headed in the direction we saw another biker take, but it turned out to be a spur and not the way through. That little detour added a few miles (and a hill) to our trek. Consulting the map we found the correct way, through a neighborhood, to reconnect with the path.

By now we were getting tired and hungry. The bike map showed a couple of locations with food. The nearest turned out to be a boat shack selling chips and candy bars. Not the lunch we envisioned. With a detour in the trail ahead our option was to ride several more miles to the next food or turn back. We turned back for the little park, stopping to eat the snacks that luckily I had packed. Then we retraced our path, back onto the causeway.

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This time the wind was at our backs so the going was much easier and soon we were at the ferry dock. With one last final push back up the hill to the parking area we loaded our bikes and headed back to camp to find food.

No wonder we were pooped–17 miles with no lunch! At least I earned a star for my longest bike ride and got in some exercise before our next stop.

We had a short drive to Little River State Park, but the last bit had us wondering if we’d make it. The good quality gravel road suddenly turned into a rutted narrow mess veering up a hill. It looked like you could keep going straight through a gate and we thought perhaps that was the way, but a park worker out tracking a bear assured us we needed to head up the hill. (Note, Chuck saw the bear pass about 5 feet from our window one morning.)

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This was true forest camping on a very hilly site above a reservoir. Since our site was so gloomy and dark we headed out each day. Chuck got to hating the bumpy dirt road. The sun could barely make it through the trees to offer any light (thank goodness we have good batteries!). Again we were reminded this is not our kind of camping, but we were here for other reasons. Ice cream! We planned this stop solely to make a visit to Ben and Jerry’s in Waterbury.

We were surprised to find it is also the home of Green Mountain Coffee which has a beautiful location shared with the Visitor’s Center in the old train station. Next door was a park filled with lots of folks out walking in the noontime sun. It was a nice spot to relax, but we were on a mission.

Ben and Jerry’s is a huge tourist draw, and they seem to have it down. We pulled in and were directed to open parking spots by teenage attendants in tie-dye shirts. As we walked into the tour building we had only moments to wait before the next tour. The tour guide has his spiel down so well he seemed like a robot.

Basically the $4 tour walks you up some stairs to watch an entertaining 7 minute movie highlighting B&J history, then into a viewing gallery where tv monitors play another short clip about the ice cream making process as you peer at the equipment below, and back down the stairs into the tasting room where you get a mini scoop of whatever ice cream they are featuring that day. For us it was AmeriCone Dream.

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My advice: skip the tour and read the very informative panels next to the patio that tell the same story. Then spend your $4 on ice cream at the on-site scoop shop where they’ll let you taste as many flavors as you want and “not even get mad” according to the girl directing folks at the front of the line. I couldn’t bring myself to try more than two even with her assurances. 🙂

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B&J are know for the large chunks of add-ins, the reason being that Jerry, or was it Ben, couldn’t taste the flavors so they kept making the chunks bigger until he could. Their top seller the last several years is Half Baked, a mixture of chocolate and vanilla ice creams with chocolate chip cookie dough and brownie chunks.

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I loved the graveyard where they have tombstones for all the retired flavors! I spent a good while reading all the funny epitaphs and wondering about some of the stranger concoctions. Note: they have RV parking so no excuses for not stopping. 😉

So what do you do after you’ve had huge scoops of ice cream? Go cheese tasting of course! Not far up the road was a Cabot outlet. Cabot is kinda like the Tillamook of the east. There is a big creamery where you can see the cheese making process, but this was just a tasting room/store.

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They must have had 30 different kinds of cheddar cheese for you to taste and I think I tried nearly all of them. We found a couple of favorites to buy. Next door was a Lake Champlain chocolate shop. We walked through, but after all that ice cream and cheese my tummy said enough so we passed.

One day we drove to Montpelier and toured the capitol building. The strange thing is that you can see the dome from the outside, but there is no rotunda on the inside. That shiny dome is just for looks. The downtown area seemed busy, in fact this whole area of Vermont seemed vibrant but pastoral.

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Vermont was the first state to outlaw slavery and is proud of it’s part in the civil war. It is a state of small landowners, many of whom got their start farming Merino sheep. They cut down the evergreen trees for grazing land, made good money selling the wool to the British, and built the lovely brick farmhouses you see dotting the countryside. Then the British stole some Merino sheep, took them to Australia, and undercut the price. So Vermonters turned to the dairy business which of course led to yummy ice cream. In place of the evergreens deciduous trees grew covering the hillsides with the lovely fall color and giving us maple syrup.

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Speaking of syrup, just outside of town we stopped at a Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. (Have you figured out yet that we basically ate our way through this place?) It’s worth it just to see the funny proprietor, Burr Morse, in a short video about the process and view his fanciful stump carvings.

One interesting fact is that darker maple syrup is not boiled longer, it’s from later in the 4-6 week season. Sap runs in early spring when it’s freezing at night and just above freezing during the day. They use tubing, not buckets, nowadays to gather the syrup which is put through reverse osmosis then boiled down.

And they don’t plant maple trees because it takes 40-50 years before maples produce sap for syrup so you just have to be lucky enough to have them on your land. We tasted the four different shades of syrup, each more intense in flavor than the next. According to Morse, use lighter syrup for pouring on your pancakes and the darker stuff in recipes to provide more maple flavor.

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It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!

Another day we drove to nearby Stowe. It was not all that impressive, mostly a tourist area with restaurants, shops and nearby winter skiing. It was spread out into several sections but there was a nice bike path linking the areas and I wished we had brought our bikes. We walked through a few shops and then went to Alchemist Brewing. They had a cool modern building. Tastings were free so Chuck tried a couple of beers while I was mesmerized by the canning machine. The weird names, like Heady Topper and Focal Banger, were fun.

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On the way back we stopped at Cider Hollow Cider Mill. As we pulled up we saw everyone sitting around eating bags of cider donuts so of course we had to try some. The building was mostly a retail store with all sorts of local canned jams, sauces, and other delicacies in addition to the usual souvenirs. Way in back we found them pressing apples into cider and tasted the yummy results. Chuck liked the cider donuts and I liked the maple taffy. I know, it seems the only reason we are in Vermont is to eat everything in sight! 🙂

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Of course on our last day we had to make a return visit to B&J. You’ll find flavors here that you can’t get in stores. This time Chuck tried the Maple Walnut which is only available at this location in a nod to Vermont maple syrup. I tasted their new almond milk based flavor, which was good, but opted for Triple Carmel Chunk. Good thing we’re leaving Vermont. I don’t think we can handle any more tastings!

Next we head out of the woods to the coast of Maine. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the ocean!