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Archive for October, 2008

Interesting weather we’re having. We arrived at our friend, Alice Rigdon’s place late Friday afternoon. She has a beautiful home out in the country, near Purcellville, Virginia. With windows on all sides of her house that sits on a rise, weather watching is wonderful. We saw a heron and a fox by her pond, as well as some deer. Saturday morning it began to rain and the rain varied from light drizzle to heavy downpours. We were out doing some chores during the heaviest rainfall, of course. Sunday, Alice took us for a drive along the Skyline Trail on the Blue Ridge Mountains. The northernmost 100 miles of it are contained in Shenandoah National Park. It was a cool, but sunny day, and the park was crammed with people and vehicles. 

View from Blue Ridge Skyline Trail

View from Blue Ridge Skyline Trail

Yesterday, we bid Alice a fond farewell and headed back to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Not too far from her home, I saw a bald eagle sitting on a fence by the road!  Wow, I was surprised. I think we’ve seen more animals in suburban/rural areas than we have in the wild on this trip. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy, cold and windy, not pleasant at all. We settled into our 3,000-foot campground and watched white-tail deer graze in our campground. We pitied the tent campers – it was really cold; in the low forties or high thirties at 4 p.m.

Snow on the trail

Snow on the trail

This morning we woke up to a surprise –snow. Not a lot, but enough to know it was quite chilly outside. After quite a bit of encouragement from Dave, I put on every bit of cold-weather clothes I had, and we went for a hike. I was surprised to see several other people on the trail. It was an easy 2.5-mile gentle downhill trip to a nice waterfall and a nice gentle uphill return. It was pretty chilly, but we saw a little sun here and there, which brightened things up. Tomorrow’s weather report isn’t much better, so we’re going to move on.

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The Gettysburg National Military Park is an impressive place. We started out in the visitor’s center, watching a short film, and were herded into the cyclorama room, a 360-degree space, surrounded by Phillippoteaux’s incredible painting of the Battle of Gettysburg. We can walk around, looking, as the narration describes the battle and lighting highlights relevant parts of the painting. A foreground has been created that fades into the bottom of the painting, creating an even more lifelike experience. It’s really well done. The museum is very extensive; more than we wanted to know about the Civil War, but something for everyone. 

Then we went on the drive around the grounds. This, too, has been handled well. The entire battleground has been left untouched. There are a few farmhouses and barns, but otherwise, grassy fields and small wooded areas. There are hundreds of monuments all over – monuments to particular battle divisions, to entire states, individual heroes and an eternal flame of peace. There are obelisks, men on horseback, men lying on the ground aiming their muskets, men hiding among the trees aiming their carbines, dead men, and a lot of eagles. It’s quite amazing and moving. One of the more unusual things we learned was that about 7,000 men were dead and maybe 13,000 wounded at the end of the 3-day battle. It was largely left to the town of Gettysburg to get the dead buried and nurse the wounded. Oh yes, and rebuild. The aftermath of war lasts so much longer than the war itself. 

Gettysburg fields

Gettysburg fields

General Longstreet

General Longstreet

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We had a pleasant couple of days, heading into the Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts. The road was quite pretty and we discovered Shelburne Falls, a small town that attracts tourists by converting an unused small bridge into a flower garden. It’s lovely. They also apparently diverted the river from its natural course so people could see the glacial potholes in the riverbed. I can’t say I found that too interesting. 

Wall in Shelburne Falls, PA

Wall in Shelburne Falls, PA

We had our first frost and our water hose froze, lying out on the ground overnight. So we headed a little south and a little west to Saugerties, New York, to the edge of the Catskills. The color was pretty good, but basically finishing. We went to Woodstock (you know, Yasgur’s Farm and us being stardust, etc.) and found it to be a town inhabited by a lot of older hippies and some younger free spirits. There were a lot of vegan cafes, funky shops (tie-dye wear, Tibetan goods, crystals), a few fancy galleries, an organic market. There was also the Center for Photography at Woodstock, of which Dave was a member. We visited on Sunday, and Dave obtained an appointment for a portfolio review on Monday. So we saw the town on Sunday and found it full of tourists, wandering the streets. Monday…not so much; it was mostly locals, some of whom looked most odd. I began to wonder what Woodstock the town was like before Woodstock the festival. Did a lot of hippies settle down here or do people just look the part to satisfy tourists? Were/are there communes in the area?  Is it real or part-put-on? 

View from Berkshire Hills

View from Berkshire Hills

We also visited Kingston, NY, a town originally settled by the Dutch in 1614. It’s old, with lots of old churches and buildings. We walked around a little and then drove north on the River Road and tried to find some Hudson River waterfront to look out at. Forget it. There was no place to pull over and look out over the river. Dave and I decided that you have to buy river front property to see the river. The only other option is to pay to visit a mansion that overlooks the river. This applies to many large bodies of water in New England and New York – there’s little public access. 

Angel

Angel

We went south again to Ricketts Glen State Park in northern Pennsylvania. But it was so cold, gray and windy that we never got out of the RV after we camped. Too bad – the park has lots of waterfalls. But lo and behold – gas is now under $3 per gallon!!! Wow, good news for us. 

Cheap(er) Gas!

Cheap(er) Gas!

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Hiking is beginning to wear us out. We intersperse a day of hiking with a day of mostly driving. On Saturday, we drove along the Kancamagus Highway, a beautiful stretch of 32 miles that goes by waterfalls, gorges and spectacular mountain and valley views. Of course, we were driving on it on the busiest weekend of the year for leaf peepers – Columbus Day. The traffic was pretty bad, but we had fun anyway. I began my leaf collection, that looks dried up after about 3 hours on the car dashboard. 

Let's fill up the dashboard with leaves!

Let's fill up the dashboard with leaves!

Sunday, we chose a flat, river trail to hike. It was pleasant, but it went up and down over lots of rocks and tree roots, and wasn’t very close to the river at all. We then accompanied the lamp in a meditation on the bittersweet beauty of autumn.

Contemplating the bittersweet beauty of autumn

Contemplating the bittersweet beauty of autumn

We moved west on Monday to a lovely campground in the White Mountain National Forest. Hancock Campground sits by the Pemigewasset River and when we walked over to check it out, we found that someone had spent a lot of time balancing rocks on boulders and other rocks. It was fun to look at and wonder how long ago the rocks had been placed. After some photographing, I started trying to balance some myself. Some were easy to place, some were difficult, some were impossible. It’s a very calming activity. Dave, in the meantime, was rock-hopping all over, photographing from the middle of the river. A nice happenstance.  

Photographing the balanced rocks

Photographing the balanced rocks

The next day was leaden and overcast. We drove west to the border of New Hampshire to see if the colors were better along the Connecticut River. They weren’t. We did see a very odd sight: a small New England town with a large missile next to the church. It’s a 70-foot high Redstone Missile (whatever that is). Other than that, the only interesting photographic experience we had was seeing the trees fading into the mist. 

The Warren Redstone missile

The Warren Redstone missile

Soft tones in the fog

Soft tones in the fog

 

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Tuesday turned out a little nicer. We went to Grafton Notch (mountain passes are called notches in New England) and did a really tough 2.1 mile hike. The brochure states: “Allow two to three hours to hike the Eyebrow Loop Trail” (it took us about 5 hours). The brochure states: “…the trail rises gently until it reaches the steeper precipice section.” (Maybe we underestimated the “precipice section” which involved steel cable handholds and a couple of steel ladders attached to rock faces.) Of course, the slippery tree roots and rocks are expected impediments; we just didn’t expect the trail to go straight up. Haven’t these people ever heard of switchbacks? But it was a good hike with a few great overlooks. I also now know what “blazing a trail” means in New England. A splash of paint is plastered on a tree or boulder every now and then, so you can follow a sometimes obscure path. It is a little tough to see when they choose yellow, since about 40% of the trees have yellow leaves right now. I have a trail aid now – a walking stick that was abandoned by someone else. It really helps to test if you’re about to step onto terra firma or an ankle-breaking hole. 

Mary on the trail

Mary on the trail

We hiked up there!

We hiked up there!

Wednesday, we drove into New Hampshire and down Route 16 that goes by Mt. Washington. This is a mountain famous for the worst weather in the country. It already has some snow on the top. There’s an online viewcam and usually all you see is white clouds. This would have been a great day to go up there, but between costing $27 to drive to the top and little interest, we didn’t go. We settled into our new campground and went for a drive. The hardwoods are quite a bit brighter at this end of the White Mountain National Forest. 

View from Bear Notch Road

View from Bear Notch Road

Flowing water

Flowing water

Today we went on another killer hike in Crawford Notch State Park. Luckily, a ranger told us to start the 4-mile loop with the Frankenstein Cliffs. “It’s steep and gravelly in places” he said. What an understatement. It was another path that ascended very steeply. We were out of breath for about a mile, rising about 1,300 feet. But we eventually reached some great viewpoints. Then we got to descend, which is much harder on my knees. Arethusa Falls was nice but we are becoming jaded about waterfalls; we have seen so many of them now.  

Frankenstein Cliffs

Frankenstein Cliffs

 

Fallen leaves

Fallen leaves

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Today, we had the most sun we’ve had for the past 4 days. That constituted about 2 hours over the 6 hours we were out. It’s very disappointing. The light has not been that great and the colors are very muted. Photographically, it’s completely different from our first two trips to New England, where the light was brilliant. 
New Hampshire Halloween decorations

New Hampshire Halloween decorations

We are hunkered down in a nice little campground (Pleasant River Campground) in West Bethel, Maine. We have gone north, south, east and west and the color just is not brilliant. The reds are not there. Today we went to our favorite place, along the Wild River. We talked to the campground hosts of the Wild River Campground and they said that the area was already past peak and the maples had dropped their leaves. It’s hard to believe because the past two times we’ve  been here was a week later than today. But the fact is, there’s hardly any maples in full color. Many of them look like they haven’t changed yet – they’re still green. The color range plus the dull weather has an impact on everything – back-country roads, cemeteries, reflective streams, etc. I’m very disappointed. (We’re my expectations too high? YES!) 

Ellis Pond

Ellis Pond

We did see moose. Yesterday, we drove north towards Rangeley. I took us off on a gravel road and Dave spotted a bull moose that made it across the road in front of us so quickly that we couldn’t even figure out where he went into the other side. However, when we stopped the car and turned off the engine, we could hear him snorting and splashing into the next bog. Dave went down the road to check the little stream and I went up the road a little. When I returned to the car, a female moose was peeking out of the bushes at me. I got my camera and kept the car between her and me. She came out on the road, looked at me, decided not to get any closer, crossed the road to the other side, and peeked out at me again. Then she disappeared. We drove on about 40 feet and there she was, in front of us. Then she disappeared into the brush. We stopped and listened, and heard her splashing away. So we did get to see some moose on this trip.

Moose

Moose

Blueberry

Blueberry

The rest of the time, we’ve driven around on some very nice roads, taken pictures of tree-laden mountains and rushing streams in dull light, taken short hikes on muddy trails, and had a nice lunch in a Rangeley restaurant. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer and sunnier. I’ll believe it when I see it. 

Water on Rocks

Water on Rocks

 

 

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After a very rainy Saturday, we had a visit from campground personnel on Sunday, telling us we might want to move from the bluff overlooking Frenchman Bay to a more protected spot. We did so and waited for the hurricane. What happened? Bupkess! (How do you spell that, anyway?) Torrents of rain didn’t fall. The wind didn’t even blow. So we drove into Bar Harbor and celebrated Dave’s birthday with a nice lobster dinner. 

Bar Harbor Lobster Shack

Bar Harbor Lobster Shack

There was no rain on Monday, so we decided to take a hike in Acadia National Park. The amount of rain that had fallen for days was still making its way down all the hills. There were waterfalls everywhere and temporary streams were rushing. After hopping nervously across a couple of them, I talked Dave into avoiding low marshy areas and going up and over Mt. Kebo (407 feet high – the bumps they call mountains around here). It was a short hike, but we were uncomfortably sweaty due to the high humidity.

Today was gloriously sunny, so we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain, that has spectacular 360-degree views of the area. We listened to a young, Spandex-clad French-speaking guy who had biked to the 1500-foot summit, have a long talk with someone on his cell phone. That’s a new, irritating habit of many people: to call someone to tell them they are at a tourist spot. So what? They seem to be incapable of just appreciating a moment on their own. We’ve seen several people chatting on cell phones while hiking. Is there anywhere left to enjoy quietness? 

View from Cadillac Mountain

View from Cadillac Mountain

 After that, we walked around Jordan Pond, which is one of the most enjoyable bodies of water I’ve ever seen. The north side of the lake has a pleasant gravel path, with many maples hanging over the edge of the water. The west end of the lake has a neat-looking pedestrian bridge over a small pond with a beaver dam. The south side of the lake is a quarter-mile of boulders, through which one clambers up and down. After that, hikers file along on a boardwalk that winds through a dark mass of boggy hemlocks. The east end has a little dam and a grand view of the long body of water with scads of jewel-colored trees clustered together on steep, craggy cliffs. To top it off, there is a long, grassy hill cleared of trees with a café at the top, so you can picnic or sit outside with a cup of tea and enjoy the view. 

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

It’s lucky we did what we could on Tuesday. Wednesday reverted back to grey skies with a threat of showers. We drove around to the south part of Mt. Desert Island, the quieter side, away from Bar Harbor. We tried lobster rolls for lunch at Southwest Harbor, a charming little village. Lobster rolls are chunks of lobster in a toasted bun with mayo and a little chopped lettuce. Very good. Dave thought about, but decided against, having fried cheesecake with chocolate fudge sauce on top. Talk about indigestion! We checked out a campground we had been considering moving to and found that it had closed for the season. I’m glad we didn’t haul the Lazy Daze down there.

Today, it began raining around 5 a.m. and is still pouring at 9 a.m. I think I’ll make some brownies; in place of the birthday cake that Dave never got.  

 

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