Returning to Ohio

August 10 – 31, 2017

After our wonderful visit to Acadia we had 3 weeks to make our way back toward Ohio for our September service appointment. We decided to take a route through southern New York and Pennsylvania rather than retrace our path through upstate New York. Sadly that meant no return visit to the land of Amish fry pies. 😦

From Schoodic Woods we headed down the Maine coast back to Freeport and Winslow Memorial Campground where we restocked and did a few chores. Our next stop was Schodack Island State Park along the Hudson River in New York. We read there was a kayaking trail so had high hopes. The park turned out to be an overgrown jungle. There were vines climbing up the trees, dense brush crowding the paths, bugs and mud.

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Our little slice of the jungle!

We went to take a look at the kayak launch site. You had to drive down a dirt path under the canopy of jungle, slide your boat down some boards while you navigate steep stairs, and then launch off the dock ramp into a muddy stream. It was so muddy that they had a rope to pull your boat back up onto the dock ramp. A sign warned that if you got stuck in shallow water you should not get out of the boat because you would get stuck in the muck. You had to just sit in your boat and wait for the tide to come back in. Needless to say we did not go kayaking.

We did ride down a trail that left near the boat dock and paralleled the river, but because of the dense brush there were no views. It was humid and dark and buggy and kinda creepy. This place reminded me of the sci-fi shows where the plants go crazy and take over everything. I half expected one to send out a vine and wrap me up.

On the plus side they had nice, new bathrooms with a book exchange and the Good Humor Ice Cream truck came right through the campground.

Our next stop, Bald Eagle State Park in Pennsylvania, also promised kayaking. The open skies were more to our liking.

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We got the kayak out twice for paddles on the lake and took a bike ride up to the lodge in the park.

 

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Beautiful views from the new lodge.

On laundry day we found a great little coffee place that served a delicious breakfast made with local ingredients and a laundromat with a chandelier.

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With some rainy weather came a stunning sunset!

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Next up was Maumee Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. We had such a relaxing stay at this park back in early June that we decided a return visit was in order.

We enjoyed daily bike rides (spotted a deer) and this time we made a visit to the Toledo Art Museum (free and worthwhile).

Our next stop was P&S Trailer. Airstreams ride close to the ground which makes for great towing, but also means you have to be careful you don’t hit the tail end when going up or down inclines. We’ve bent both skid plates on the back bumper so we knew we were hitting things and once Chuck even had to pound back into place the metal surrounding our water tank. In Bar Harbor we barely made it into that beautiful water view sight, clearing it by less than an inch. So we knew a lift kit was necessary, especially since we tend to like places that are down rutted, dirt roads.

Before on the left and after on the right with the 3″ lift installed.

It turned out to be a bigger job than P&S anticipated. They had never lifted a trailer as new as ours and the positioning of the axles in relation to the tanks was different so it took a bit longer than expected. That meant a stay at a hotel which felt pretty strange after all these months in the trailer, but we made the most of it enjoying unlimited hot water for showers. It also meant finding places to kill some time while they were working. We ended up walking around the Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial Library in nearby Fremont. The gates, relics from the White House, were pretty cool.

Our last stop before hitting the Airstream factory was Alum Creek State Park, another stop picked for the possibility of kayaking. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great so we spent our day running errands with a stop for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream on the recommendation of my sister. Thanks Val!

Next up we return to the Airstream factory for Labor Day weekend and our warranty service.

 

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.

Welcome to Maine

Since I’m about a month behind, I’m going to attempt to get caught up by using less words and more pictures. I’m a wordsmith at heart so we’ll see how that goes…

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Welcome to Maine – The Way Life Should Be – Open for Business

We have a sweet solar set-up that allows us to camp without hookups or a generator but after our forested site in Waterbury, VT our batteries were at the lowest point we’ve hit yet, 40% charged. Usually we’re never much below 60%. Our lithium batteries can go down to 20%, but once you get there they shut off. That means no power to run important things like the water pump, monitoring systems, and the composting toilet exhaust fan. So 40% made us a bit nervous, especially since we were expecting more cloudy weather and a partially shaded site with no hook-ups. Chuck decided to try charging the battery from the truck while we drove. We’d never switched this option on before so we weren’t sure what to expect. When we stopped for lunch and checked the monitor it didn’t seem like it was working, but when we arrived in Freeport, ME and got all set up we were miraculously back to 100%. Yipee!

Winslow Memorial Park Campground
Nights: 4

Winslow Memorial is a city campground right on Casco Bay. Our site was just across from the waterfront sites so we had a little view.

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We enjoyed walking the trail through the park to a point where you could look across to the Freeport Marina. The ocean scenery was a welcome change from all the forest views we’ve had lately.

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There were three other Airstreams in the park that you can just see at the end of our row.

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Another camper told us L.L. Bean was just up the road and it was open 24 hours. We hadn’t realized we were so close so we decided to go check it out. We drove down the country road and suddenly we were in a huge crowded shopping mecca. We were not expecting this at all! L.L. Bean has a huge flagship store, plus an outlet store, a home store, and a bike/kayak store. Then there are about 100 other major shops, from Corningware to Patagonia to Ralph Lauren. It was a bit overwhelming, but it was interesting walking through L.L. Bean. It reminded us of REI back home. Sadly, somehow we missed the giant L.L. Bean boot so no selfie shot.

Continuing our eating theme, we made a couple of trips into Portland. It was funny to us how much this east coast Portland reminded us of the west coast Portland, both in look and feel. We had to find Tandem Roasters since Chuck liked their coffee so much at Vergennes Laundry.

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We tried the famous Holy Donuts. I’m a big donut fan, so this place with a line out the door had me excited, but after two bites I threw mine out. They are made with potato so they have a weird texture, kinda heavy and chewy. Chuck liked his lemon blueberry one, but the plain ones he got for breakfast the next morning ended up in the trash too. I guess potato donuts aren’t our thing.

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We went to Allagash Brewery on the recommendation of another blog (chapter3travels.com). With generous free tastings we could see why this place was popular and Chuck bought a few bottles of his new favorite, Dubbel. They even had an Airstream food truck on site.

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We stopped at Whole Foods so I could stock up on some of my favorites and found this Airstream parked out front.

Seems like this area is full of Airstreams!

Camden Hills State Park
Nights: 7

Working our way further north along the Maine coast brought us to Camden, but on our way Chuck spotted a car wash with a big RV bay so we had to give the trailer and truck a much needed wash.

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Our site was on the main campground road, across from some piles of gravel, and next to the dump station but since most of the sites were in the trees we were happy to have sun. We have learned that we are so much happier when we have a view of the sky, plus it is good for the solar.

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We found this funny water spigot coming right out of a rock in the campground.

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Camden was another busy town filled with summer tourists. We walked along the waterfront and down the main street one day enjoying the views, but the rest of the week we tried to stay away.

There are so many lighthouses in this area but I settled on seeing just one. I picked the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse because it has a cool 7/8 mile walk out to it on the breakwater. When there is a really high tide it gets covered so you can’t walk out.

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You can’t even see the lighthouse out there when you start.

It was a great day to enjoy the water. The fog was moving across the bay in waves and the sailing boats would disappear and then reappear.

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The whole bay is covered in buoys, each with different colors and stripes, marking each lobsterman’s traps. We saw one boat zig-zagging the bay hauling up traps to check for lobsters.

One day we drove the popular Mt. Battie Auto Road in our campground to the viewpoint. Nice views without any work.

So on another day I made up for it by dragging Chuck on a short hike in the campground. The path to Ocean Lookout was listed as moderate and only 1 mile long, but we soon found it was quite steep and the trail was filled with rocks and roots. You had great views from the top, but coming back down was killer on Chuck’s knees. 😦

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Mushrooms on the trail.

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On an easier walk we explored the shoreline in the park.

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Wow, I guess we did a lot during our time in this part of Maine. We’re excited for our next stop. Acadia National Park here we come!

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!

 

Crown Point NY

For most of the country Memorial Day marks the start of the summer season and time for enjoying the outdoors. But in Seattle summer doesn’t really start until after the 4th of July. In fact you’re almost always guaranteed rain for the 4th and often into the first half of July. There are even years when it seems to rain regularly all summer long. In our short-lived tenting days we’d make a reservation for a campground in August and even then we often had rainy, cool weather which is what led us to trailer camping in the first place.

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Somehow, I thought it would be different in the Northeast. I thought we’d have more sunny spring weather and June would get hot. Well, not this spring. It’s been especially wet, we’re talking flood warning wet, and we’re sick of it. And to make matters worse Seattle has been having beautiful warm weather. Guess that’s what we get for being so smug in our lovely southwest winter sunshine while they were freezing away up there. 🙂

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After rain turned our campsite at Keuka Lake into a puddle, and rain kept us inside at the Adirondacks, we were treated to more rain (2 inches in 24 hours after an already wet few days) and another flooded campsite at Crown Point. We were thankful this site had a gravel pad that was slightly elevated, but even the pad was one giant puddle. At least it did finally stop raining and eventually dry out.

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Our campground, Crown Point State Park, was near the southern end of Lake Champlain. The lake runs 120 miles along the New York/Vermont border. Crown Point sits on the New York side with beautiful views of the bridge.

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After a very wet day in the trailer we decided to get out. Our destination Middlebury, a small college town on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain. Over the scenic bridge and along the country roads we drove. We were barely into Vermont, but already we felt a difference with New York. I’m not sure how to explain it, but somehow it seemed friendlier. Folks smiled more and seemed more accepting and relaxed.

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Our first stop was the farmer’s market and we were not disappointed. Unlike some markets we’ve been to this one had actual farmers with lovely looking produce, baked goods (the bread table smelled wonderful!) and a few crafts. There was a steady stream of customers, but selection was still good at 10:30 and the musician was actually pretty good. As a bonus it was Red, White and Blue day meaning free berry shortcake!

Next up we walked through the quaint town enjoying the stone buildings and made our way to the river. This spot has been a quarry and hub of industry because of the power the rushing water provided. Today it’s a scenic park.

We decided we needed food, so even though it was looking like rain, we headed away from our parked truck to a restaurant on the river. As soon as we got inside the rain started pouring down. Funny, the name of the place was Storm Cafe. The food was fabulous. I had the most amazing BLT made with local ingredients. The rain wasn’t letting up so finally we just went for it and headed back to the car with no coats or umbrellas and got soaked. At least it wasn’t cold rain!

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Lunch at the aptly named Storm Cafe.

Across the street from our campsite was Crown Point Historic park with the remnants of two old forts. First the French occupied this site and then the British. We finally got some sunny weather so we rode our bikes over and had a fun time poking around and reading all the information plaques.

We also walked across the bridge and took our picture while we stood in separate states. Notice I picked the friendly Vermont side. 🙂

There was a cool monument in the campground and one day we found the door open so we climbed the circular staircase to the observation area at the top.

For the 4th of July we headed back into Vermont to the town of Bristol. I just love a small town parade and this one was awesome!

Another day I drove into Vergennes, VT and walked around the small town. The Vergennes Laundry, which is actually a wood-fired bakery, is not to be missed. Their cardamon rolls were amazing and Chuck loved their coffee. It’s from Tandem Roasters in Portland Maine which we’ll have to check out when we’re there.

So far we’re liking Vermont. We’ve got another week here so let’s hope the weather continues to improve!

The Adirondacks

We’d heard of the Adirondacks. The picture in our minds was filled with cabins, folks sitting on huge porches in Adirondack chairs, kids swimming in lakes and mountain views. Of course in our minds it was sunny too, but our late June visit didn’t quite match up.

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Yes, that’s a down vest I’m wearing over my fleece.
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A storm brewing over the lake.

The area was rainy, green, filled with trees and, like most of the northeast, it reminded us of the northwest. If the weather had been a bit nicer we would have rented kayaks and got out on the water, but the wind and rain kept us inside much of the time. That’s ok, I’m not sure I really wanted to venture into the very brown water. It looked like tea which is kinda what it is. All the leaves and pine needles soaking in the water turn it brown.

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This was one of the more open sites at Fish Creek Pond State Park.

On one of the nicer days we went to The Wild Center, a sort of science center about the Adirondacks. They recently opened a new area where you walk up into the different levels of the canopy so we did that before it started raining.

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It wasn’t exactly what we expected. We thought we would be walking above the canopy of the forest looking down into it but it was more looking out into the forest. The interactive exhibits along the way were pretty good though and I liked bouncing on the bridge.

Inside they had displays about the glaciers that formed this area and creatures that lived in the waters, including lots of fish and otters.

These little painted turtle freeze solid in the winter and thaw back out in the spring. Weird but true!

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That fuzzy looking thing is a real live porcupine.

All the kids seemed to be enjoying the place and even though it was kinda interesting, I’m not sure it was worth the $20/person admission. Seemed a bit steep but we’re finding most things cost more out east.

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The daily campground entertainment. 

Back at our campsite we snuggled inside, watched tv, and took a bike ride around the lake when the weather cleared a bit. This is the first campground that had an ice truck. It drove along ringing a bell out the window and campers would come running. The driver hopped out of the truck to get ice for you or the girl riding in the trailer served up snow cones and ice cream. It was kinda a pain because the camp road is only wide enough for one vehicle (even though it’s two way) and they held up traffic a lot, but ice cream right at your site is pretty sweet!

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Not a bad view.

Even with ice cream right at your site, Adirondack camping didn’t impress us. If it had been warm and sunny we might have felt different, but our short, four day stay only reminded us that we crave sunshine and open views. Somehow camping in the woods is not our thing anymore. Bad news since I think we have more of it coming our way in Vermont and Maine. We’re just hoping the weather improves!