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Georgia Mountains Getaway

It’s spring, and Jackie and I wanted to get out in the motorhome to enjoy it before summer season hits, so we planned a week in the Georgia mountains. Since our Panama City Beach vacation has been cancelled we thought it would be good to explore more state parks near home. And a good choice it was. First stop was Talullah Gorge State Park in northeastern Georgia. It took us about 2 hours early on a Sunday morning to get here, but it seems like we are much farther from the metro area as we drive into the bright green mountains.

Wildflowers, Waterfalls and Wallenda

 

As we checked in at the campground we noticed a “Campground Full” sign posted, but we soon figured that must have been for the weekend, since the place nearly emptied out by Sunday evening. Nice level spot with lots of room and we made camp easily. This site has water and electric, which is just fine. The weekend before the trip the motorhome got a good scrubbing – thanks to Jackie and her brother John, who both worked on cleaning the van to a sparkling white.

 

Talullah Gorge and Falls are just below a Georgia Power operated dam and Sunday was to have an aesthetic release of water, a much larger volume of water than normal that would make the falls much more robust. We wanted to see that so we started out on the path that led to the first overlook, a rock outcrop high above the gorge. As I was standing at the rail, snapping some pictures of the falls, I heard gasps and commotion behind me only to look down and see Jackie falling forward into the iron rail and down on the rocks.

The overlook that caused problems

While looking at the falls, she missed the step off the wood platform and couldn’t recover her balance as she fell forward. Although she banged her head darn hard into the rail, it was hugely fortunate that it was there. So many folks helped check her out (a nurse who was hiking the trail, several other visitors, the park rangers who hustled down the path and the EMTs that we called to have Jackie looked at). Several ice packs, bottles of water, some time laying back on a bench and lots of TLC later she walked out to the parking lot with the EMTs as we all made sure she was just fine.

So that is how our week’s adventure started off – a bit of a scare. As Jackie said, “we have hiked all around the US on much more difficult terrain!” but it is a reminder to walk while watching the path and stopping to watch the scenery, not both.

 

 

 

After some ibuprofen and a good night’s rest Jackie felt up to trying the hike again. The hike to the bottom of the Gorge is mostly a series of stairways down to the lowest level. Before you reach the lowest platforms there is a very cool suspension bridge about 80’ above the river that has some great views. We noticed that the waterfalls were just beautiful with the normal flow of water, but later witnessed much larger volume as they did another aesthetic release.

 

The hillsides were loaded with mountain laurel in bloom and a few remaining rosebay rhododendron blossoms. Sweet shrub, speedwell and a few trillium were also in bloom. The cool air in the gorge felt good as we made our way up the many, many steps back to the top.

After lunch back at camp, we drove north a few miles to the town of Clayton. The old main street was filled with cute shops and eateries and one stop just called out to us: Farmhouse Donuts. We only bought 4 donuts, but they were so delicious and calorie-laden (it involved caramel, peanut butter cups, Bavarian cream, apple filling, whipped cream, chocolate sauce) that as dessert and again with breakfast, they more than did the trick to satisfy our sugar craving.

 

 

The next day we headed back to the Interpretive Center and took the North Rim trail up and along to Inspiration Point. It was at this spot that Karl Wallenda in 1970 made a crossing of the gorge on a cable, without nets or safety harness and performing two headstands along the way. The remains of the dismantled tower lay along the rim at that spot. To give you a sense of how high up you are, we were looking down on a dozen turkey vultures who were catching the updrafts and thermals. Quite something to watch them zooming around, banking and gliding on the air currents. Kodi came along with us on this hike, but he was happy when we turned back and headed for the car. One last wildlife sighting was a large king snake making his way along the meadows edge. Cool.

 

Dropping Kodi off at the motorhome, we drove off in search of another waterfall hike – somewhere near Lake Rabun heading toward the town of Tiger. As we serpentined our way along the shoreline of Lake Rabun we fell in love with the gorgeous homes and boathouses that lined the lake. Clearly out of our price range.

 

 

   

 

 

We found the parking spot at the trailhead for Angel and Panther Falls in a National Forest campground. A good choice for a future visit. The trail to the two falls was supposed to be a mile in, but it sure seemed farther than that as we climbed upward along the stream on a mostly narrow, root-filled trail. But it was worth it to see both of these refreshing and beautiful falls. Again, the stream was lined with loads of blooming mountain laurel and we spotted a few native azaleas just finishing their bloom. We clicked the GPS tracking on our new Fitbit Charge 3’s at the far end of the falls, only to find that it was indeed a mile each way. Sure seemed like more.

 

Well after that hike we needed some refueling. Drove a bit further to Clayton again and parked ourselves at the Universal Joint – a converted gas station with a wonderful outdoor patio. Jackie was in heaven when she saw they had her favorite on tap: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The zippy pimento cheese sandwich she had with it just made her whole day. I had a delicious Brisket Dip sandwich with Bell’s Oberon – a beer that I will definitely have again.

 

One final stop on the way back to camp was in Tiger at “Goats on the Roof” – a roadside attraction not to be missed if you have kids. A whole lot of goats were really grazing on the rooftops, with connecting bridges to all sorts of other rooftops. Ok, then.

Black Rock Mountain

Midweek it was time to pull up and head further north to Black Rock Mountain State Park. This trip was close enough to home that we didn’t trailer the car, Jackie just drove behind. Made it a bit easier on the motorhome, too. I realized that was a smart move as we wound our way up the Black Rock Parkway – a very twisty road with lots of blind curves. Fortunately no one else was coming down the mountain and I was able to negotiate the curves with gusto.

 

The campground is perched along the ridge of the mountain and our site is a nice pull-through 2-level spot. Not a lot of negotiating room around here though. There are some awesome sites further along the ridge with loads of hybrid rhododendrons in bloom, but I really wouldn’t want to have to drive to the far reaches in our motorhome.

 

Some of the trail hikes we did here are a bit short, but still a lot of elevation changes. Norma Campbell Cove trail was filled with trillium, native azalea, false solomon’s seal, true solomon’s seal and some columbine. Ada-hi Falls trail downward on stairs and slopes to the falls was lined with a new wildflower for me: white clintonia, with galax, saxifrage and moccasin-flower. The Black Rock Lake trail was fairly easy and flat around the lake past Greasy Falls and also wildflower-lined. We hope to try a portion of the Tennessee Rock Trail before we leave the park – since it is supposed to have a great view to the north to Tennessee and across to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

   

Our hiking here was in short bits, but the views from the several overlooks are spectacular. The green mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest spread out before you as you look toward the southern Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. Wow.

We drove down the mountain to have lunch in Clayton, this time at the Rusty Bike Cafe. It was a very busy spot with locals and we ordered blackened chicken sandwiches that were quite filling. Needing to work off that lunch, we hiked around the Foxfire Heritage Center, a celebration of the mountain lifestyle made famous by the student-written magazines and books from the 60’s and 70’s. The relocated and restored cabins in this mountain hideaway tell a unique story that continues through classes and activities today. It was nice to visit a place and story that inspired much of my early outdoor education activities as a naturalist.

 

 

Since rain is expected for later in the week, we are heading to Franklin, NC to meet with Vickie’s sister Sharon and sample two breweries on our list: Lazy Hiker and Currahee Brewing. As it turned out, the day was just beautiful weather and we enjoyed both breweries.

 

Along the way in Otto we had to stop and wander through Culpepper’s Salvage to see if there was anything we could repurpose or use at home. An absolutely fascinating place to poke around if you need any old beams, windows, iron fence, knobs, lights … well, you get the idea. Picture-rich spot.

 

 

   

Sharon took us toward Highlands to stop at my brother’s favorite place in town: Wilderness Taxidermy. This workshop and museum of trophy animals, fish and mounts was loads of fun to look at and we enjoyed chatting with the taxidermist working on an elk mount.

 

  

Back at camp it was a quiet, starry night … until it wasn’t, early in the morning. The predicted thunderstorms and rain hit hard and we spent the morning having a second cup of coffee and plotting the final day on the mountain. Hikes were out of the question in the rain, so we are going to hang out at an indoor flea market in Clayton, then gather our things and prepare for the trip down the mountain and back home. We did manage one short walk along the road to an overlook between rainstorms and found a new friend warming himself on the roadway: a red salamander. Never have seen such a bright orange critter, and not too sure he was happy about the selfie.

It was a terrific getaway week in the Georgia Mountains. We enjoyed spring wildflowers, waterfalls, challenging hikes, green mountain vistas, some good beer with family and learned a little more about life in the Appalachian Mountains.

If you want to see what it’s like from the driver’s seat going down the road from Black Rock Mountain, watch the new video “Leaving Black Rock Mountain” – but hold on tight, it is a wild ride.

Upcoming adventures that await us are a retirement party on our deck for three of our teaching colleagues who are joining our ranks and another Caribbean cruise with Dad, Jeff and Vickie. This cruise was to have been on the Oasis of the Seas, but the fallen crane damage in port canceled that cruise, so we are now booked on Harmony of the Seas heading to the newly opened Perfect Day at Coco Cay, St. Thomas and St. Marten. Can’t wait. Stay tuned for more “Happenings,” pictures and stories.

 

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Chill’n in Florida

Here it is spring already and 2019! I know, we have been quiet since we got back from our Maine trip and the Halloween cruise, but that doesn’t mean we have been hibernating all fall and winter. We winterized the motorhome after hosting family for Thanksgiving, we had more family with us for Christmas and have spent some quality time with our grandsons.

 

I made a trip to Hilton Head to check on Dad, we made a few improvements to the house, I crafted several more glass totems and Jackie was busy with crochet projects.

 

Oh, and I found a great resource to convert blog pages into hardbound books: PixxiBook.com  This is a relatively new service that I highly recommend if you have anything online that you want to memorialize in print form.  I easily created 4 volumes of our adventures thus far and have these great books to flip through and remember the people and places we visited.  You can see one volume of the book at: mypixxibook Vol 4

But the worst news was when we had our reservations cancelled to St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach for this summer. The damage from Hurricane Michael has been pretty devastating to the area and the campground has only limited sites available, so the decision was made to cancel all reservations for the year and open it to walk-in (drive up) only. That’s pretty risky when you have to drive 6 hours with fingers crossed that you can find an opening when only 30 of the 200 sites are even available to campers. So St. Andrews is off the schedule this year.

About that Florida Chill

Our first camping adventure is to Big Lagoon State Park in Florida (west of Pensacola Beach next to Perdido Key) for an early adventure with family (Colin and Rachel’s school is on spring break). We uncovered the motorhome, rinsed and sanitized the water system (and yes, the hot water does flow!), checked to see that the fridge works, put air in all the tires and packed up for about a week along the Gulf coast.  Now we consider ourselves pretty sharp, but I don’t know what we were thinking when we packed our gear for this trip.  We had bathing suits, flip flops, snorkel gear, beach chairs and umbrellas, paddleboards and a kayak all loaded – but as we rolled out on Saturday the temperature was 40 degrees!  Needs to warm up a bit.

It didn’t get much warmer as we approached Peridido Key and it was overcast and breezy.  But we made camp in a very nice campsite and caught up with Judy, Craig, Colin and Rachel once they arrived.  Naturally, we all had to explore the trails, boardwalk and waterways the next day to see what fun we could get into and we all quickly learned that it was not at all swim weather, or paddleboard weather, or kayak weather (Gulf water temperature was maybe 63 degrees).

 

   

 

A short drive into Pensacola for lunch followed our hike, but this was St. Patrick’s Day and we weren’t sure what to expect along their entertainment district.  No problem, we had a nice walk along Palafox Street and stopped in at World of Beer for some good food and cold beer. After placing orders for several flights of beer we were told, “no flights today” so settled for some pints of local brews instead.  I ordered the deal of the day: an amazing andouille sausage sandwich with slaw that was huge and the table shared wings and a big pretzel.  One last stop at Perfect Plain brewery for a flight (I liked the Carrot and Ginger Saison) and we were set to head back to the campground.

 

 

The forecast said we would be warming to the mid 60’s with some sunshine soon, so we decided to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum the next day and then check out the beach on Perdido Key.  We spent a lot more time exploring the museum than we expected, since it was a great (and free) attraction.  I recommend you visit if you are in the area and have a look at some amazing aircraft, including the Blue Angels, of course.  But aircraft ran the spectrum from helium balloons to WW1 and WW2 aircraft, Vietnam-era Hueys, Coast Guard helicopters, a Marine One helicopter and plenty of jets.

Yes, Nixon is onboard.

Later in the afternoon we tried the beach for maybe a half hour, but it was just too windy and chilly.  Maybe tomorrow.  Oh, but those plans got changed to be a Segway tour around historic Pensacola in the morning, which turned out to be sunny and warmer.  Now Jackie and I have done a Segway tour in Washington, DC, so we figured we had this one nailed.

And, yes, we did just fine the six of us zipping behind our tour guide along the streets and sidewalks of downtown like a swarm of bees buzzing along.  However, about midway through the tour I got a little flummoxed and lost my balance forward just a bit.  If you know how Segways operate, you know that is the instruction to go faster, so zipppp I go forward a lot faster than intended.  I tried to dig in my heels to slow down, but meantime the curb came up fast and I was soon bouncing and spinning circles, dragging around the road.  Finally let go, got my foot untangled, dusted off my pride and we got going again.  Yep, I have a few brush burns on my knee, but otherwise lucky that was all.  Oh, but hotshot nephew Colin had an encounter with a bush that left him sprawled on the ground later, so it isn’t always smooth running on these “simple” scooters.  Emerald Coast Tours did a great job of showing us the historic district and we learned a lot (for instance, did you know Pensacola was the first colony in the New World – before Plymouth Rock and Jamestown?).  I was surprised to learn that Andrew Jackson was Florida’s first governor – wasn’t he a Tennessee native?

Well, I needed to recover after that, so we found one more spot for lunch, Big Top Brewing, and had ourselves a flight and some fish tacos.  Beer was good, tacos were tasty, but it was the first time I had mullet fried in a taco.  Was I eating bait?  Actually, the Hawaiian Lion Coconut Coffee Porter was good.  Before we ended the day around the campfire we tried about an hour at the beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore, but it was windy and chilly despite the sun.

   

 

Last day in camp it was sunny, upper 60’s and we all went different directions for a while, bike riding, walking along the lagoon, and an aborted kayak attempt.  Finally packed into the car and over to the beach at Gulf Islands NS (with our senior passes it was free admission), and spent the afternoon in beach chairs.  It is a gorgeous beach, but it was just a bit too early to enjoy the water.

Just a bit nippy, eh?

 

Dinner was a great spot along the water in Pensacola, the Oar House, where we started with drinks on the patio but moved indoors when the sun went down and it got cold again.  The grouper po’ boy I had is a serious contender for best grouper sandwich.  This one was a monster slab of grouper on a bun with remoulade sauce and lettuce – a big mouthful for sure.  Judy had ahi tuna, Craig had shrimp and grits, Colin shared some of his fried oysters, which were very soft and tasty – everyone enjoyed the food. This place was fun and would be an ideal spot in warmer weather, with a big outside bar overlooking the marina.  Good choice.

 

 

 

 

We got ourselves packed up and out of Pensacola the next day, which of course was a cloudless blue sky, and were soon headed north to Montgomery, Auburn and Atlanta.  And of course to welcome us home, I-285 started with a wreck, major backup and plenty of traffic.  But it was all good.  Pulled in, unpacked some stuff, ate a quick dinner and off to bed.

 

 

Consider this a successful first camping adventure of the 2019 season, even if we miscalculated the Florida panhandle temperatures in March.  We might just try next year’s week in Grayton Beach State Park but with far less of the watersports gear (in fact, none).  But seriously, isn’t March a little early for a school to have Spring Break?

What’s Next?

We have plans for May camping in the Georgia mountains and might head to the Okefenokee this fall, but no big multiple-week trips have been planned out.  Of course our BrewCrew will be volunteering at the Kennesaw Beer Fest in April and we plan to host a final retirement party for one last group of our good friends who are saying goodbye to teaching.  Gosh, retirement is rough.

Thanks for reading along – check out some of the previous posts and enjoy the photos.

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Halloween on the High Seas

Here we go again with a Caribbean cruise, and just a week after returning from our Leaf Peeping in New England adventure!  Yes, crazy.  But this cruise should be a blast, with Jack (Dad), Jackie and first-time cruiser John (Jackie’s brother).

Of course the first objective is to board the ship quickly and early, get a drink (especially the colorful,  fruity kind), then take and send a selfie to everyone back home.  That was pretty easy actually, and we met John while getting checked in and headed for the Lido deck and got our drinks to celebrate!

I think the sail away on that first day is the most exhilarating, as the ship navigates the inlet and the shoreline slowly slips away with all your thoughts of things back home.  And with it, cell service, so the phones start to disappear and you direct your attention to the open sea.

The cruise was another break for Dad, although his current independent living is a pretty sweet deal for him.  But they don’t have a casino at home, so that is always a big attraction for him on cruise ships.  And he has quite the luck – overall doing much better than I did at craps.  I tried a new strategy that Jeff tried on our Alaska cruise, and I did hang in there for over 2 hours one night, but I think I paid for Dad’s winnings!  Ah well, it was fun just the same.

This was our first cruise over Halloween and we really didn’t know what to expect.  We thought we were clever packing some masks to wear to dinner, but soon saw that we were outdone by some pretty elaborate costumes.  John looked snappy in his pirate outfit, but there were many more aboard with us.  Kids (yes, there were school-aged kids aboard) were dressed up and even had a special onboard trick-or-treating night.  Certainly was festive fun.

~Halloween Cruise 2018 (64)

Two days at sea gave us a chance to relax on the pool deck, as the temperature was in the 80’s and sunny.  Yes, I did the water slide again, although it was a bit chilly. One nice sunny day was spent at Princess Cay and we were snorkeling around, checking out the reef full of fish and coral.  A  decent sized barracuda was hanging around the spot, but once there were enough swimmers, he moved on.

At Nassau, a port we have visited several times, we all wandered ashore to the Straw Market and the Woodcarver’s Alley.  Not exactly our style of shopping, but it was an experience nonetheless.  Oddly, we were the only ship in port and for some reason we were at the farthest pier.  It did give us a chance to work off some of the great food we have been eating.  We found out later that Dad had met some nice ladies on-board who shared a nice group picture.

The only spot of bad weather was just an afternoon drizzle off the northern Florida coast, but the worst of it stayed off our bow.

All of us ended the cruise in good spirits, glad to have been in sunny, warm Caribbean waters for a week and totally ready for the coming colder, colorful fall back home.  I know Jackie and I will be just fine spending a few weeks at home and not changing ports, cities, campgrounds and state locations every day.  But no complaints at all … it has been an awesome adventure-filled fall for us.

I have no idea what the next adventure will be, but stay tuned as our retired life’s adventures continue.  Time to get started with the planning … 

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Salem Harbor to Shenandoah Valley and Home

Another episode in our continuing adventure to see the fall colors in New England (and sample plenty of craft beer along the way).  Yes, our wonderful site on the Salem harbor waterfront was really windy last night, so much so that we pulled in the slides to keep from rocking around.  But not much rain and it was clear and chilly in the morning. Did the whole disconnect, hitch-up and head out routine on our way back through Salem and off to Rhode Island.  

We made it around Boston and then Providence to mid-state to connect with an old friend.  It took a little maneuvering to get the motorhome in and around the stone walls to the farm, but with some help we settled in next to the horse paddock at Laurie and Brian’s place.  Actually worked out great – a good long walk around the farm with the dogs, delicious dinner and conversation to catch up and back to our own place on a darn chilly night.

Woke to another sunny, chilly morning and it was time for a repeat of the hitch-up, head out routine.  This was going to be a pretty long haul to get us into Pennsylvania and close to another brewery on the list: Yuengling Brewing.  Lots of historic rivers and bridges to cross on this drive from Connecticut to New York and Pennsylvania: Connecticut River, Hudson River (impressive), Delaware River.  Quite a few hills and mountains and very scenic, but not much of the fall color yet. As we headed to Scranton, Jackie checked on her phone to confirm the details of Yuengling in Pottsville, just a little further on.  Well, it looks like we were gonna cut it close if we wanted to make it there by closing time at 5 – but then Jackie said it looked like winter hours meant it closed at 3. So we were out of luck and out of time for that brewery.  

I was impressed with the mountains around Scranton and how cool the landscape was as we drove through the Poconos and closer to Harrisburg.  We decided to stop for the night at a KOA – pull-through site with full hookups. Very nice spot that was only 2 miles from the AT, not that we were planning to hike it, but it must have been close to where our nephew Adam made it (so proud).


I have to take a moment to say that this, like all our adventures, is a true partnership.  Yes, I do the driving, but Jackie is busy navigating, checking ahead for the best gas prices, calling ahead to some of the breweries to ask about parking, and being an extra set of eyes when we get into tight situations (including the very tricky gas stations).  We each have our set-up and pack-up routines, which helps us remember everything and we aren’t afraid to double-check each other. Anyway, it does take two when you drive a rig like this. And then there is the whole hitch/unhitch the car routine.

So that brings us to another day on this series of travel days.  Not too many pictures to share, as it doesn’t work to shoot while moving along and besides, who wants to see an interstate highway?  It was a good start leaving the KOA, sunny and in the low 40’s. We did not stop in Hershey to see chocolate world (another time perhaps), nor did we stop at the Lindor chocolate factory that we saw at the last moment, but we did have a nice drive.  Southern Pennsylvania heading toward Harrisburg was filled with small farms, the barns and silos dotting the landscape. Green fields were sprinkled between brown cornfields, most in mid-harvest. As we slipped into Maryland and West Virginia, the traffic increased and the hills were a bit more rolling.  We crossed yet another important river: the Potomac.

Into Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley was just amazing.  Blue skies, green pastures, old homes and farms all with a dark green backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Very cool, but no hint of fall color here. Jackie got back on the navigation and located our next destination: Devil’s Backbone Basecamp and Meadows.  We first learned of the DB Vienna Lager while pouring at one of our beer festivals back home and knew we wanted to stop here. Plus, Adam stopped here on his AT hike and said it was great.  Up and over the ridge from Staunton, I think it was Rooster Gap, we found our country road and wound our way along. Wow, there is a winery, wait slow down, there is a cidery. A distillery, a brewery …. Gosh the choices.  But we kept on until we found basecamp and checked in.

This is a pretty new operation, the campground just opened this year.  But is has generous room for rigs, full hookups and dump station, and lots of tent sites for AT hikers and others.  The grounds have a bandshell, outdoor bar, lots of outdoor seating, a distillery, breakfast spot and of course their tap room and brewpub.  So we walked around with Kodi, who met lots of folks, had ourselves a beer and relaxed a bit in the sunshine. We both liked Gold Leaf Lager, I enjoyed the Cran Gose, a cranberry sour and we made plans to come back for dinner.  Dog back in camper, cat fed and we went back for a flight each and a delicious meal. I mean great!

The only moose we saw on this trip:

Jackie ordered nachos with smoked chicken, I ordered a smoked top round (shaved) on Cibatta au jus.  Both were amazingly flavorful. On the flights we sampled Trail Angel Weiss (was best with the nachos), UK Lager and Vienna Lager (good with the beef) and a Brut Lager that was very dry, light and crisp.  Saving it for last, we tried their Hibiscus Hard Lemonade (6.3%) which was really quite nice. A stop in the gift shop and then a welcome walk back to the camper in the dark. We really like where this spot is going.  Definitely worth a stop if you are driving nearby.  We learned that the next day the campground was booked with vintage VW Campers … now that would have been fun to see.

Merlin is getting anxious to be home — and we have one more stop before home, somewhere near Bristol, Tennessee.  Might not be blog-worthy, we shall see.

As we left the valley at the DB Basecamp it was one wild ride.  The hairpin turns and switchbacks on the road up the mountains, and then back down again were a thrill (Jackie disagrees).  Crossed under Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Mountains and the AT again. The mountains were green, the sky blue and just a bit of mist was rising from the James River as we followed along.  What a gorgeous day, but no hint of fall color here.

As we get closer to closing the loop on this trip approaching Knoxville, we end where we began, with a home Tennessee football game causing traffic and trouble.  No campsites between Bristol and almost Chattanooga were available. We didn’t make advance reservations for this last part of the trip, since we weren’t sure how far we would drive.  So, as we sat in some nasty traffic in Knoxville, we made the decision to push on to home. It made it an 11 hour driving day, but when we pulled in (at our non-moving house), it felt good.

So at the conclusion of this 28-day “Big Loop” to see fall colors, we will have driven through 16 states, two countries, a total of over 3,800 mile (not counting the car excursions) and sampled oodles of craft beer and ate great regional food.  It was definitely worth it – all the driving, all the gasoline, the cold nights and the rainy mornings. We caught up with old family friends, did a few hikes, had our share of pumpkins, apples, fall festivals and scary Halloween decorations, saw some new wildlife and definitely got to see all the beautiful colors of fall.  Phew! Now one week to do the laundry and pack swimwear, shorts and t-shirts for a cruise to the Bahamas with Dad and John. I guess we are just a bit crazy. Thanks for reading along.

Until the next adventure …

Oh yeah, there are just a few photos that didn’t make the blog the first time around that I thought I would share:

Walking and picture-taking in Acadia:

The rungs, iron rails and walkways of the treacherous Precipice Trail:

The vintage campers from Salisbury Beach State Park:

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FISHY AND WITCHY in coastal Massachusetts

We woke to a nice sunny day and met some of the rally campers. Nice group of 100 or so campers, with all sorts of teardrops and Shastas, most with some very unique decor. Loved it. Our mission was to drive to Gloucester Harbor (or as my brother said Glaa Stah Ha Bah) and find some good fried fish. Winding through towns like Ipswich and Essex we noticed the dates on the Federal, colonial and salt box houses – all from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Wow. Very cute towns. Gloucester was a mix of those and Victorian manors, and very much a working town with fish processors and ice houses along the harbor of boats. Gordon’s was the largest, of course, but there were also a lot of lobster boats, too. A loop drive in East Gloucester hugged the rocky Atlantic coastline, dotted with some pretty impressive homes and Inns. We made time to stop at the Fisherman’s Memorial – a very recognizable statute that faces the open harbor and lists all of those lost at sea. Keep thinking of the movie “Perfect Storm.”

At the main harbor, just down from City Hall and downtown we found Cape Ann Brewing and Pub along the waterfront. Well, that just called out to us for sure. An order of fish ‘n chips each and a flight of six pours and we were set! First of all, the beer battered haddock was melt in your mouth good. Fries and slaw just as tasty. Good beer selections were Honey Pils, a New England IPA, Oktoberfest and Rockporter. But we found the Pumpkin Stout and Scottish Ale to be the best. Kind of getting to like some of these ales, especially in the colder weather.

We were told that last night the late-nighters around the campfire watched skunks wandering through camp (a little livelier than the roadkill we keep seeing), so we might be out after dark watching for these critters.


Sunny morning, but rain is moving in quickly, so we dump, hitch up and roll to Salem. We walked about a little last night, but really didn’t do a good skunk hunt. Probably best. The drive to Salem was pretty quick, with a stop at Costco to gas up (good price and easy pull-thru). Our campsite is a bit unusual. The city of Salem owns a park on Winter Island at the mouth of Salem Harbor. It is the site of Fort Pickering, a boatyard and small marina. We face out to the harbor from this parking spot, which is a really cool view – plus we have water and electric. We are also maybe a mile away from downtown Salem.

With the car, we drove into town and tried to see as much of this town know for its witch trials but what was also once the 6th largest city in the world.

The spotty rain kept the mood pretty creepy as we visited the House of Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home and then roamed the cemetery where the accused witches were buried. The town is an odd mix, with lots of tightly packed colonial houses from the 1600’s near the water and downtown is filled with brick buildings from the 1700 and 1800’s.

Since it is October, the witches and their many shops of wands, hats and potions were quite busy.

After a few hours we were getting hungry and found a nice brewpub Salem Beer Works for grub.

Lots on tap, so we had a flight of Cookie Stout, Excellent Porter, BHZ Festbier, Octoberfest and Boston Red. The Festbier and Boston Red were winning flavors, in our view. Jackie had a Pig Pig Cheese Cheese sandwich (pulled pork and cream cheese), I had a fried haddock sandwich that was soooooo good. Oh my goodness, we have been eating much too well on this trip.

Back at our waterfront spot on the harbor it looks like a rainy windy night in store. We are ok with that and plan to load up and head out to meet with some very special old friends in Rhode Island. So far the fishy, witchy Massachusetts coast has been lots of fun.

Thanks for keeping up with our Northeastern Adventures!

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MAINE TO MASSACHUSETTS

It is now Day 5 in Acadia National Park and we roll out in the morning, heading to the upper coast of Massachusetts. If you haven’t been following along from the start of this trip, be sure to scan back to some of the first postings to see our travels from Atlanta north to Canada and across to Maine.

When we last left off, Jackie was washing some essential clothes in dishpans on the picnic table. Those got draped over a drying rack in the living room and two days later are still damp. Rain was expected yesterday and indeed it rained all night and the day started just as wet. That’s ok, we needed a break day to shop and do errands instead of exploring the coast. Sounded like a good day for hot oatmeal so with the generator running, all the phones now charging, microwave heating the oatmeal and electric water heater on, we put a Keuring in the coffee pot and …… nothing. Oops moment again. All electric down. “Captain, I’m givin’ her all I got.” Time to run a diagnostic.

Generator was running just fine, it just wasn’t sending current – and since we went past 30amps, something we know not to do, it was probably a circuit breaker. Flipped the breakers one at a time, no change. Turned everything off, then back on again. Nothing. Ok, read the manuals again and scan for the solution. Ahh, there is another flip switch on the side of the generator that needs checking. Yep, reset that and we are back in buisiness. Another reminder that you have to watch everything.

Still raining, and pretty hard, so we packed up the dirty laundry (except those on the “drying” rack) and went in search of a cell signal and laundromat. Still colorful and scenic along the coastline, but much rougher water and getting pretty socked in.

Just off the island (Acadia and Bar Harbor are on Mount Desert Island) we found a Walmart and laundry. Bought some fresh groceries, then filled a washer and dryer at the laundromat while checking online. I was able to post two blogs and check emails, Jackie downloaded another eBook and we learned about Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida panhandle. Yikes, not good.

Since it was still a nasty, cold, wet day, we headed for downtown Bah Ha Ba. Crowds were down and we heard that only one of 3 scheduled cruise ships actually decided to stop in port. But the bus tours were still moving around. I had lobster in mind, not knowing if it was in season or not. Plenty of shops advertised it, so we chose Side Street Cafe and loved it. Nice big lobster roll with the meat from two lobsters! Jackie had halibut tacos and we both sampled local beers. I tried Belfast Lobster Ale (seemed appropriate) and Jackie had the Real Ale from Atlantic Brewing. That was a nice brown ale we liked from around the corner. Their beer is so good that we walked around to buy some of their Thunder Hole nut brown ale to take back home. On the way, passed a large rafter of turkeys, again!

Rainy night back in camp, but we are pretty full, so just crackers and good Vermont cheese and apples and tucked in for the night.

That brings us back to Day 5 and what to do. The laundry that didn’t make it to the dryer is still damp, there is lots of condensation dripping down the windows and it is still wet outside. Water is running low onboard, so quick, simple showers will have to do. Clearing is forecast for the afternoon and we have decided to drive around to find the only lighthouse on the island. Let’s see how that goes. Probably more turkey sightings.

Cold morning to start off, overcast and spotty rain as we began our last full day in Acadia NP. We did drive west around Northeast Harbor and then down past Southwest Harbor to the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse. Almost unimpressive size-wise (we are used to these tall structures) but we did have a good look at it and the ocean.

Back around the island we stopped at a couple other ponds and searched for beaver and loons, but all we saw were turkeys once again.

We found a delightful little bakery “The Notch” and picked out a crusty french round and two blueberry tarts for later. At the campground we walked the trail to the waterfront with Kodi and took pictures and had a last look at the coast. No sunny afternoon, however, and temperatures were dropping. Good night for tomato soup and toasted cheese with that crusty bread and Vermont cheese with bacon! And blueberry tarts!

Morning again, but thankfully no rain overnight. It was 43 degrees out, so time to hitch up and start south. Tried to drive the coast road as much as possible to Augusta and Portland and passed through some really cute towns, several of which were having their fall festivals, and over some really cool bridges. And more turkeys along the roadside! They don’t even rate their own “crossing” road sign, but there they are. Unfortunately, the rain started up again and it was a wet drive to Portland.

We made a swing through Freeport with hopes of stopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store, but it was Saturday and the whole town seems like one big shopping mall – the expensive kind. One look at the tight streets and full parking lots and we decided to keep moving and shop online. I did see the big boot, though. But our goal of finding a brewery was rewarded with a small industrial park in Portland that had six breweries within walking distance.

We hit Allagash and Foundation breweries for some flights and met some great folks. Allagash had a raspberry chocolate beer (Ganache) that I liked, Jackie had an ale aged in oak barrels that was light in color and really good (Curieux). Haunted Manor was a Maine exclusive dark, hoppy porter that was tasty, too. At Foundation Brewing we thought the Helles Lager was very flavorful and I liked their Chai Swizzle Gose. Quite a crowd at all the breweries for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

An hour’s drive or so through New Hampshire’s small coast and into Massachusetts to find Salisbury State Park and our campsite. Front gate had a note to just go find your reserved campsite and we soon learned there was a Vintage Camper Rally going on. How nice that our site was adjacent to the main event tent. Yippee!

We took Kodi for a quick walk along the inlet and the beach, then back to the van where electric hookups means everything gets charged and we have heat. Good thing, too, since it is going down into the low 40’s tonight. We are here for two nights, with a day exploring around Gloucester Harbor tomorrow.

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OF PRECIPICES AND PORCUPINES

We have arrived at our big destination for this trip, Acadia National Park in Maine.  After our arrival day, driving through Bar Harbor and dodging the tour buses and cruise ship tourists, we set camp in Blackwoods Campground.  Nice wooded spot in the spruce woods, dry camping but we have a full tank of water and plenty of propane. Of course we had rain overnight, so the chairs and footstools we set out got wet once again, but they will dry.  Cold and dreary morning, but we set out anyway to explore.

Our first stop on the loop road, some of which is one-way only, was at Jordan Pond.  It has the only restaurant in the park and the pond (more the size of a lake) has two mountains as the backdrop known as the bubbles.  This morning it was pretty socked in, so we really couldn’t see much. Nice gift shop where we might end up buying some long-sleeved tee shirts.

As we drove further on and upward along the roadway to Cadillac Mountain’s summit, the air started to clear and by the time we reached the top it was clear blue skies east toward Bar Harbor, but still low clouds on the west side.  Wisps of mist and cloud would roll over the summit from time to time. We had a gorgeous view of the harbor, the cruise ship in port and the out islands. The pictures will tell you how awesome it was. We walked around the summit trail, down along the rocks for a better view of the harbor and back to the car.  We continued along the loop road to the visitor’s center, watched the short film and then continued on the loop road until we got back to the motorhome to eat lunch and let Kodi out.

Since it had turned out to be a much nicer, sunny afternoon, I thought we should try one of the hiking trails.  Our book listed the Precipice Trail as challenging but about 1.7 miles and I thought it sounded like fun. When we reached the start of the trail, Jackie was very cautious, in fact she really didn’t think we were up for it, but I was a bit stubborn about it and said we should try.  Well, I might have been wrong on this one. It was definitely a challenge, mostly because it was way longer than it should have been. I am certain it was closer to 3 miles before we were done.

 

So what was it like?  Well definitely more of a rock climb than a hike.  We climbed our way up a boulder field, over some big rock faces using iron rungs and grips, along other sheer rock slabs, under boulders, up stone steps and down stone steps … it really was a workout for us both.  We reached an intersection where the trail either continued further up the mountain (ohhh, no) or down to the roadway. But that trail back to the road still went up! It was a long way back. But we did have one cool moment that ALMOST made it worthwhile.  While chatting for a break with some other hikers headed the other way, we spotted a porcupine ambling along. Seriously. He seemed as curious as we were and we quickly snapped pictures. Further along we saw another porcupine, or perhaps the same one. He might have made faster progress than we did.

Ok, once back in the car and headed back to camp, I was told firmly to listen to the advice of my partner in these adventures and if it was a “no way” then that is what it should be.  But we both kind of admitted it was a huge personal challenge to have done it. We both took showers and hit the sack pretty early.


Day 3 in Acadia was a rare sunny day that got rather warm – upper 60’s.  We heard it was to be nice, so we packed a lunch and hit the loop road along the shoreline to see some of the rocky coast.  

Sand Beach was just that, a nice sandy cove. Thunder Hole was rather tame, but loaded with the tour bus crowd. It is a spot where the surf roars into a slot in the cliff and makes a big splash and a lot of noise.  But not if the water is calm like today.

 

The coast has lots of cool vistas and the rocky shore is very picturesque with the clear, dark water. We circled back to Jordan Pond and got to see just how scenic it is. But crowded, with parking spots at a premium.

One cool bit of architecture is the gatehouse beside the gated carriage roads put in by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  

We had lunch at the edge of the ocean in one of the coves, then drove around to the town of Bar Harbor to play tourists.  Just as crowded as the first day we drove through, but the harbor is a pretty sight. A different ship was in port today and if you were careful, you could spot many of the crew around town on shore leave (seemed like the hospitality and entertainment group).  After buying some long-sleeved t-shirts we found our way to a wifi spot that served beer. Yes, we found yet another brewery: Atlantic Brewing. Actually, their beer was darn good. We loved all their ales, but particularly the Weiss and Scottish Ales. Blueberry Amber Ale was a close second.  We met some folks from Michigan and had a chat about beer and some of the places we saw and that was fun.

Since we have yet to find a laundromat, Jackie washed some essentials back in camp and we hope they will dry by morning.  What started as shorts and t-shirt weather today has quickly turned to much colder air and we expect 50’s and rain for the next few days,  Who knows, maybe it will change. It was a good day all around.