Maine – Part 4 (August 14 – 19, 2019)

On Wednesday, August 14th, we returned to the USA from St. Andrews, NB. We drove 233 miles to Boothbay, ME where we spent five nights at Shore Hills Campground. When we went through Customs to re-enter the U.S., the Border Guard asked Phil if he had any fruits or vegetables on board. When Phil replied that we only had some that we’d brought into Canada with us, the Border Guard asked to inspect the inside of the fifth wheel. Once inside, he only looked inside the refrigerator and confiscated two lemons that we had bought in the US. Apparently citrus fruits can’t be brought into the US from Canada, even if they originated in the US. The rest of the drive was uneventful but was quite slow, taking over five hours. We passed through a number of small towns including Camden, ME, where the traffic was bumper-to-bumper for quite a while. Our campsite in Boothbay was quite long and we had a lot more space between us and our neighbors than we had had at our last two campgrounds. For dinner, we got takeout seafood from Karen’s Hideaway.

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Jan’s view following Phil through Camden, ME in bumper-to-bumper traffic

Thursday was spent addressing a number of domestic needs. We drove to Augusta, Maine’s state capital, to get some routine maintenance on the Mazda. We took advantage of being in a big town by stocking up on groceries at Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and Shaw’s. On our return trip, we drove to Bath, ME to pick up a prescription at Walgreens.

We spent Friday in Camden, ME, an hour’s drive from Boothbay. Camden is an affluent coastal village on Penobscot Bay, in Maine’s MidCoast region. We had intended to begin the day with a hike in the Camden Hills State Park but, since it was raining, we spent the first couple of hours exploring downtown Camden instead. We parked at the Visitors’ Center by the picturesque harbor, visited a number of stores along Main Street, and then walked along the High Street Historic District where there are many 19th-century homes that have been beautifully maintained. At noon, we began our hike on the Mt. Megunticook Trail. The hike was a 5-mile out-and-back trek to Zeke’s Overlook. It was of moderate difficulty and included an elevation rise of over 1,000’. It was a good workout but was somewhat disappointing in the limited number of scenic viewpoints. By the completion of our hike, our legs were exhausted. We returned to Karen’s Hideaway for takeout seafood again, as we were too tired to cook dinner.

On Saturday we visited two nearby seaport towns, Bath and Wiscasset. Both have long histories, dating back to their exploration by Samuel de Champlain in 1605. Both towns have been long-time centers for shipbuilding and lumber. Tourists are attracted to these towns by their large collections of 19th-century architecture. We visited Bath first and strolled along the historic shopping district on Front Street, just a block from the Kennebec River. We had a late lunch at Bruno’s Pizza. Then, while Jan did some shopping, Phil visited the Linwood E. Temple Waterfront Park. As we left Bath, we passed a giant lobster on the roof of the Taste of Maine restaurant. We next did a quick visit to Wiscasset, which proclaims itself as the “Prettiest Village in Maine.” We drove by a large number of beautifully-restored homes from the 1800s.

St. Andrews, NB (August 5 – 14, 2019)

On Monday, August 5th, we left Lubec, ME and drove 70 miles to St. Andrews, NB (a.k.a. St. Andrews By-the-Sea). The village of St. Andrews traces its roots to the days of the Loyalists. After the American Revolution, New Englanders who had supported the British were made to feel unwelcome and moved a short sail away to the peninsula of St. Andrews.

Crossing the border into Canada took us about 30 minutes and Phil was asked a lot of questions by Canadian Border Services. Jan was in the car right behind Phil so she got less questions. Monday was New Brunswick Day so, when Phil’s GPS directed him to drive down the street one block away from downtown St. Andrews, he encountered cars parked on both sides of the narrow street. Fortunately, the few cars that had been trying to drive in his direction pulled over to the curb and allowed Phil to get by.

We will spend nine nights at Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping. The campground is at Indian Point, the easternmost part of St. Andrews, on the edge of Passamaquoddy Bay which connects to the Atlantic Ocean. We had reserved an oceanview pull-through site. However, these pull-through sites were different from the usual ones. Rather than leave the truck parked in front of the fifth wheel, we were required, after disconnecting, to move the truck to behind the trailer. The sites were quite narrow and, after disconnecting the trailer the first time, we discovered that there was not enough room to open our off-door living room slide. We had to reconnect and move the trailer a few inches forward. The next challenge was to squeeze the truck and car in behind the trailer. We managed to get them both parked, with the Mazda slightly intruding on the neighbor’s site. However, due to the tight fit, we had to walk sideways to get between the vehicles.

After getting set up, we enjoyed sitting outside with a strong breeze coming off the bay. That evening, we went for a walk across the road to the beach access.

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Panorama of Passamaquoddy Bay at low tide

On Tuesday morning we walked downtown along Water Street and visited many of the shops. We also strolled out on the wharf where the whale watching and sport fishing cruises depart. We then ate lunch on the patio at Water Street Diner and enjoyed people watching while we waited for our food.

We returned to the beach after dinner and experienced it at high tide for a change.

On Wednesday, the weather had turned quite a bit cooler. We went for a 4.4-mile hike along the Van Horne Trail which was an easy path that took us from Water Street, near the campground, to Katy’s Cove. At the beginning of the hike, we spotted a nearly all-white fawn along with a group of does. We detoured along the way for a hike through Pagan Point Nature Preserve to the beach.

That evening we went for a long walk along the coast and up Prince of Wales Road. There were lots of deer grazing in the fields and neighborhood yards. The deer obviously felt quite safe as they allowed us to walk very close to them. We visited the Kingbrae Garden, a 24-acre public garden on the grounds of a long-gone estate. Although the gardens were closed, the café was still open so we were able to explore the plants and sculptures in the parking lot.

On Thursday morning we went downtown to the St. Andrews Farmers’ Market. We strolled past the many stands and purchased some produce and snacks.

That afternoon we strolled the beach at low tide and walked out on the point nearly to the end. We only stopped when the footing became too slippery. This long stretch of land is completely submerged at high tide.

On Friday we drove 30 minutes to the neighboring town of St. Stephen. Our first stop was at the weekly Community Market where we only bought some snacks. We strolled along the downtown district and stopped at the Chocolate Museum. St. Stephen hails itself as “Canada’s Chocolate Town.” We had intended to take a tour of the museum but the next tour was going to be in French. We visited the gift shop and admired a sculpture that had been carved out of a 500-pound of chocolate. Ultimately, we decided not to wait for the next tour in English and opted, instead, to visit the local covered bridge. The Maxwell Crossing covered bridge, built in 1910, was not as interesting as the ones we had seen in Iowa last fall. That evening we walked around St. Andrews again. We visited the Pendlebury Lighthouse that was built in 1833 and operated until 1933.

On Saturday we returned to the Van Horne Trail. This time we hiked from Water Street to the eastern side of Katy’s Cove, then returned via the shoreline until we reached the Pagan Point Nature Preserve.

For dinner, we walked downtown and ate at The Gables Restaurant. This clapboard structure was named for the three-gabled roof line and built as a private residence in 1870. Since then, it has been a rooming house in the 40s, a guest house in the 50s & 60s, a rock and roll burger joint in the 70s & 80s, and as The Gables Restaurant since 1989. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the bay. It started to drizzle as we were finishing our meal but, fortunately, the rain didn’t last long.

On Sunday we visited Ministers Island. We drove across the bar and hiked five miles around the perimeter of the island and a loop near the mansion, Covenhoven.  The island is only accessible during a 5-hour window centered on low tide. During this time, cars can be driven to the island across a rocky bar that is underwater at other times.

Reverend Samuel Andrews bought the island for £250 pounds sterling in 1790, thus the name “Ministers Island.” The island remained in the Andrews family until 1891, when a large parcel was sold to Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne built a 50-room mansion (Covenhoven), a circular bathhouse that led to a natural saltwater pool (when the tide was up), the largest heated greenhouses in Canada, and a 3-story state-of-the-art barn.

On Monday, Jan toured the Kingbrae Garden. This 27-acre public garden opened in 1998, using the former grounds of a long-gone estate that had a history of fine gardens. The Garden features a cedar maze, two ponds, streams, a wide array of birds, butterflies and insects, a woodland trail through an Acadian forest, animals, sculptures, and more. For lunch, we returned to the Water Street Diner and sat on the patio to people watch.

We spent much of Tuesday preparing for our return to the U.S. on Wednesday. In the afternoon, we visited the St. Andrews blockhouse and gun battery. This is the only remaining blockhouse in Canada from the War of 1812. When the war broke out, the citizens of St. Andrews had little fear of an invasion by their neighbors across the bay in Maine. The main threat was of privateering. In wartime, governments licensed private businesses and ships to seize enemy vessels and cargoes, as well as to loot homes and businesses. The battery consisted of three “18-pounder” guns (named after the weight of their shot) that overlooked the entrance to the harbor. These guns could fire as far as Navy Island, across the harbor. The blockhouse was constructed soon after. From inside, soldiers armed with muskets and a small cannon could defend the battery. The defense worked. Although privateers captured many ships at sea, they never attacked St. Andrews. After touring the blockhouse, we went down on the beach and watched lots of people digging for clams in the low tide.

It was with regret that we had to leave the Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping campground. Although it was an adjustment to our body clocks being in the Atlantic time zone (one hour later than Eastern time), we certainly enjoyed being able to sit outside every afternoon and enjoy the cool breezes coming off the Passamaquoddy Bay without having to deal with mosquitoes. Jan went outside early on Wednesday morning to capture a picture of the sun rising over the bay.

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Maine- Part 3 (July 28 – August 5, 2019)

On Sunday, July 28th, we drove 46 miles to the Sunset Point RV Park in Lubec, ME. Our pull-through site was significantly smaller than the one in Harrington. There was only slightly more than enough room between our neighbors to allow us to extend our awnings. We had to park the car in front, right next to the truck. Our picnic table and fire ring were across the road, near the water. Despite the tight quarters, we had very nice scenery around us. Johnson Bay was directly across the road from us, as well as to our right. We also had a small pond behind us. After getting set up, we sat outside and enjoyed the nice breeze.

On Monday, we drove across the FDR Memorial Bridge to Campobello Island. Although it was a very short bridge, Campobello Island is in New Brunswick, Canada and, thus, required us to clear Canadian Border Control.

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View of FDR Memorial Bridge connecting Lubec, ME and Campobello Island, NB

Our first stop was at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park. The park is the only one of its kind in the world – jointly administered, staffed and funded by Canada and the U.S. The focal point of the park is the Franklin D. Roosevelt summer home. FDR spent every summer on Campobello Island from the time he was a 1-year-old until he was stricken by polio at age 39. His parents, John and Sara Roosevelt, built a cottage on the island in 1885. When Franklin and Eleanor were married, Sara purchased the neighboring cottage for them in 2007 as a belated wedding gift. After watching a video at the Visitor’s Center, we took a guided tour of the 34-room Roosevelt Cottage. All but four of the furnishings in the cottage are originals. Following the Roosevelt Cottage, we walked through the first floor of the neighboring Hubbard Cottage. Both cottages have fabulous views looking out of Friar’s Bay.

We next drove to the observation deck at Liberty Point but, unfortunately, the fog kept us from seeing very much. We hiked a 1.2-mile out-and-back trail to the SunSweep Sculpture. SunSweep is an international art project consisting of carved granite sculptures in three locations across North America. Each location (New Brunswick, Minnesota and Washington state) require the viewer to pass through both Canada and the U.S. to reach them.

After a brief stop at the Friar’s Head observation deck, we visited the Mulholland Point Lighthouse which was erected in 1885.

We then drove to the other end of the island and visited the Head Harbour Lightstation. This lighthouse is on an island that is only accessible by foot during a period of 1.5 hours of either side of low tide. Reaching the island required climbing up and down long ladders and crossing a wide expanse of slippery rocks. The fog began to roll in as we got to the lighthouse. This activated the foghorn that was nearly deafening from up close.

Our final stop on Campobello Island was a return to Friar’s Head which gets its name from the stone pillar on the beach directly below the observation deck. Native American Passamaquoddy legend referred to this rock as the Stone Maiden. The legend speaks of a young brave leaving on a long journey, telling his lover to sit and wait for his return. The brave was gone for many months and the maiden grew very upset as she sat on the beach below the head. When the brave finally returned, he found his maiden turned to stone, forever to wait and watch. Tucked under the crest of the headland, the Friar is only visible from the shore and is only accessible at low tide. We hiked down a trail to the beach and then had to work our way down to the Friar over seaweed and algae-covered rocks that were very slippery. Phil got close enough to take a picture but turned back when the rest of the trek would have been entirely over wet seaweed.

After dinner, we sat outside and watched the sun set over Johnson Bay.

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View of sunset from our campsite

On Tuesday we drove to West Quoddy Head State Park. We hiked a 4.5-mile loop that consisted of the Coastal, Thompson, Bog, and Inland Trails. The Coastal Trail ran along high cliffs above the Bay of Fundy. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick that it was difficult to see very far.

At the end of the hike, we visited the lighthouse at West Quoddy Head, the most easternmost spot in the U.S. The present lighthouse was erected in 1858.

On Wednesday we drove to the Bog Brook Cove Preserve in Cutler, ME and hiked the 3.5-mile Norse Pond Trail. First, the loop trail led us to Bog Brook Cove where we enjoyed exploring the beach. Our return took us to the banks of Norse Pond.

On Thursday we drove to the Boot Cove Preserve in Lubec, ME and hiked the 2.4-mile Boot Head Trail. This loop trail first took us to the beach at Boot Cove, then followed the rocky coastline to a platform above Brook Cove. Although there was still some fog on the water, it was clearer than it had been on previous days.

On Friday we drove to the Cutler Coastal Public Land and hiked 4.8 miles on the Bold Coast Trail. When we reached the shore, we continued up the coastline and enjoyed many views of the Bay of Fundy from the rocky crags. This was our clearest day of the week and we were able to see Grand Manan Island, NB off in the distance. When we stopped for a snack, we spotted several porpoises swimming below us.

On Saturday, August 3rd, we drove to Eastport, ME, the easternmost city in the United States. The drive took nearly an hour, despite the fact that Eastport is only three miles away from Lubec by boat. Eastport, settled in 1780, is the home to the deepest natural seaport in the continental U. S. Eastport, currently with a population of only around 1,300, was once a busy coastal trading center, second only to New York City as the busiest port in the U.S. It was once the Sardine Capital of the World, home to 18 sardine factories as well as the largest sardine cannery in the world. We walked around the historic district on Water Street, where many of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of these buildings were built in a hectic year after an 1886 fire destroyed the previous downtown. We wandered through the adjoining neighborhoods where many of the houses date back to the 1800s. Many of these old houses are in rough shape but some are being renovated.

We chose to visit Eastport on August 3rd because it was National Mustard Day. Eastport is home to Raye’s Mustard Mill, one of the last stone mills in America, where the family has been cold-grinding mustard seeds and bottling various mustard concoctions since 1903. Other than receiving a 10% discount on purchases at the Raye’s Mustard gift shop, we found no other evidence of any National Mustard Day festivities.

For dinner, we visited Becky’s Seafood, a food truck in our Lubec neighborhood, and had a delicious order of fried scallops.

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Becky’s Seafood

On Sunday we returned to the Bog Brook Cove Preserve and hiked the 3-mile Ridge Trail. Access to the trailhead required driving a mile on a narrow and very rough gravel road. Fortunately, no one was coming the other direction. The trail took us along the coast of Moose Cove. We didn’t see any moose but did find evidence on the trail that moose had come that way. The trail included a panoramic vista from a high ridge above the cove, as well as a walk on the stony beach at low tide. We spent the afternoon preparing for Monday’s move to St. Andrews, NB.

Maine – Part 2 (July 14 – 28, 2019)

On Sunday, July 14th, we left Trenton, ME and drove 44 miles to Sunset Point Campground in Harrington, ME where we will stay for two weeks. Although we moved northeast, in Maine this is referred to as Downeast Maine. The term Downeast comes from the days when ships were powered by sail. East Coast ships heading northeast along the coastline had strong prevailing winds at their backs, making it an easy “downhill” run to the farthest eastern ports. Sunset Point Campground is located on tidal shores in a rural environment near many small fishing villages. The largest nearby town, Machias, is 24 miles away and has a population of only 2,400. The 20 sites at the campground are fairly private and have covered picnic tables. The campground sits on the edge of a bay that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. After getting set up, we strolled down the trail to the bay. We returned that evening to see the sunset.

On Monday we drove to South Addison, ME where we hiked the 3.8-mile Ingersoll Point Preserve Loop. The first 1.5 miles were an enjoyable hike through mossy forests and along coastal shores. However, after we reached Ingersoll Point, the trail became largely overgrown and was actually impassible in places due to the muck. We ended up blazing our own trail through the thick forest to bypass the swampy areas before reconnecting with the trail.

On Tuesday we drove to Beals, ME where we hiked the 5.8-mile loop at Great Wass Island Preserve. We had originally only planned to hike the 4-mile out-and-back Little Cape Point Trail but, when we reached Cape Cove, we decided to hike the entire loop. After hiking two miles on the Little Cape Point Trail, we reached the shore and then had over a 2-mile walk up the shoreline to the Mud Hole Trail. The walk on the shoreline was the hardest part of the hike. It required climbing over many large rocks and walking on beaches with many smaller rocks, with no protection from the sun. We were very happy when we returned to the forest for the 1.5-mile Mud Hole Trail. The entire loop took us a little more than 4 hours and gave us a great sense of accomplishment when we finished it.

On our return home, we stopped at Bayview Takeout, a highly recommended seafood stand. We ordered a small basket of fried clams, sweet potato fries and coleslaw. Everything was tasty but the fried clams were the best we’d ever had.

With sore muscles from Tuesday’s hike and a forecast for rain, we chose to visit the town of Machias on Wednesday, rather than do another hike.

Our first stop was at the Burnham Tavern, built in 1770 and deemed by the Department of the Interior as one of 21 homes having the most significance to the American Revolution. In early June 1775, the residents of the small settlement of Machias found themselves with a dilemma. Following the battles at Lexington and Concord, the settlers were informed by the British that their lumber was to be shipped to Boston to build barracks for the British soldiers. If they refused, they faced hunger and the wrath of Lieutenant Moore, commander of the armed British vessel Margaretta which sat in the harbor with its guns leveled at their homes. If they complied, they would have betrayed the American cause. A group of townsfolk gathered at Burnham Tavern and debated their options. Ultimately, a plan was adopted to capture Lt. Moore as he attended church the following day. However, Lt. Moore saw the men arriving with pitchforks and scythes and managed to escape back to the Margaretta. As soon as the commander was aboard, the Margaretta began to move down river toward open water. Forty settlers, armed largely with farm implements and a few muskets, followed in two merchant vessels, the Falmouth Packet and the Unity. In the ensuing battle Lt. Moore was shot and the Margaretta captured. Burnham Tavern then became a hospital to treat the injured from both sides. This “Battle of Machias” was the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. Today, the Burnham Tavern is a museum and contains many furnishings circa 1780.

When the rain stopped, we continued on to visit Jasper Beach in Machiasport. Jasper Beach is a very unusual beach as it’s made up of billions of smooth rocks of varying colors. When the waves roll in and out of Howard Cove, the ocean makes a singing sound as the waves tumble the rocks. Getting to and from the water was quite challenging, as the dunes of small rocks were quite unstable and difficult to climb.

We next stopped at Fort O’Brien. Following the capture of the Margaretta, the Machias townspeople built this fort to protect the town from British attacks. Although the fort was not involved in any action during the Revolutionary War, it was overrun and burned down by the British in the War of 1812. The fort was rebuilt and manned in 1863 to protect the town from Confederate raids but saw no action during the Civil War.

Our next stop was at the Nathan Gates House, built in 1810. It is one of the few remaining seafaring houses left on the Machias River.  The adjacent Cooper House was constructed in 1850. Today these homes are maintained by the Machiasport Historical Society. The Gates House contains an incredible collection of old photographs, period furniture, housewares and much more memorabilia. The Marine Room has models of vessels, artifacts and a fine marine library.  There is also a large genealogical library on the second floor. The Cooper House houses recreations of an earlier Machiasport post office and one-room schoolhouse. There is an extensive collection of antique tools used in woodworking and local industries.  For such a small town, this museum was truly impressive.

Our final stop was at Bad Little Falls Park in Machias. Apparently “Machias” is a native American word that means “bad little falls.” The small park is in the middle of town and contains a bridge and overlook above the churning Machias River.

On Thursday we drove to the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben, ME and hiked the 2.5-mile Hollingsworth Trail. This loop trail starts with a hike through upland forest and cedar swamp before reaching the shore of Pigeon Hill Bay. We were able to see the Petit Manan Light in the distance. After relaxing in the chairs set up at the shoreline, we continued on the trail back through the forest to the parking lot. The recent rains had resulted in standing water in many places along the trail and these posed a challenge for us to get around. Despite that, it was an enjoyable and fairly easy hike.

On Friday, July 19th, we returned to the Schoodic Peninsula portion of Acadia National Park. Since there were no long hikes in that area that we hadn’t done previously, we decided to do two shorter hikes. We started with a 1.9-mile out-and-back hike of the Sundew Trail on the grounds of the Schoodic Institute. The trail included several outshoots to benches overlooking rocky cliffs above Frenchman Bay.

Our second hike was the Acadia East Trail, a 1.2-mile out-and-back hike that took us to the summit of Schoodic Head. We had hiked a different trail to this summit on June 17th when Jason was visiting. Although the East Trail was shorter, it was steep. The trail rose 374’ in the first half mile and had many switchbacks.

On Saturday we had intended to attend the Bold Coast Sea and Sky Festival in Machias. However, with temperatures that reached 92 degrees, we decided instead to stay indoors and enjoy the air conditioning. After dinner we did drive to Machias to listen to the live music. We watched a brother duo, Pitch Black Ribbons, perform for a couple of hours. We were surprised that the crowd was so small (less than 100).

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Sunday was a very rainy day but the rain helped to lower the temperature somewhat. When the rain stopped around 4 pm, we decided to do a quick hike at a nature preserve five miles from our campground. The easy 2.8-mile loop was lovely and took us through a mossy forest and out to Alaska Cove. However, despite the temperature having dropped to 78 degrees, it was extremely humid and we sweated profusely throughout the hike.

On Monday we decided to do a more challenging hike. We drove to Cherryfield, ME and hiked the 4.8-mile Tunk Mountain Ridge Trail. The out-and-back hike took us past two lovely ponds and up to the mountain top where there were impressive vistas. The ascent of 889’ was the most we’d done this summer and our legs felt quite heavy by the end.

For dinner we ordered a couple of whole lobsters from the campground owner. They were delicious!

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Lobstah!

Tuesday was a rainy day so we took a break from hiking. We took the truck to a local tire dealer to get them to look at one of our dually tires that has had a slow leak for several months. They discovered a short screw in the tread, as well as a loose valve. They resolved both issues for $15. In the afternoon we visited Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls. This store, shaped like a blueberry, sells everything imaginable made from Maine wild blueberries. Phil ordered a slice of blueberry pie. Jan got a needham, a Maine classic candy that combines coconut, sugar, chocolate and potato. We learned that Maine once harvested more potatoes than any other state.

On Wednesday we drove to Sullivan, ME and hiked 4.4 miles in the Long Ledges & Baker Hills Preserves. These preserves have numerous short trails but we managed to link them together to make a long loop. Although it was about three weeks prior to peak wild blueberry season in Maine, there were enough ripe blueberries on the bushes along the trail for us to have an enjoyable snack as we hiked.

On Thursday we visited Roque Bluffs State Park and hiked a 2.2-mile loop. After a picnic lunch, we relaxed on the sandy beach (a rarity in Maine) and enjoyed wading in the cold water.

On Friday we hiked the 3.2-mile Black Mountain East Peak loop near Franklin, ME. Initially, we had a very difficult time finding the trailhead. Our GPS first took us up a road that turned out to be a private drive. After other unsuccessful attempts to find our way, we ultimately ended up driving up an unpaved, single-lane road for two miles. Once we finally found the trailhead, we headed up the trail which rose 869’ in elevation, most of it in the first half mile. We faced some challenging rock climbing in places but managed to make our way to the summit. There were many beautiful vistas along the way.

Saturday was our final full day based in Harrington. We spent the morning in Machias. Our first stop was at the Machias Valley Farmers’ Market. The name was a misnomer as there were no farmers there. In reality, it was just a flea market where people had tables full of their old junk. We quickly walked past all the tables and then left. Our next stop was at the Machias River Preserve where we did a 3-mile out-and-back hike along the Machias River. It was an easy hike with only a few hills. The afternoon was spent preparing for our move to Lubec, ME on Sunday. We had whole lobsters for our last dinner in Harrington.

Maine – Part 1 (June 10 – July 14, 2019)

On Monday, June 10th, we drove 175 miles from Lancaster, NH to Hermon, ME where we stayed at Pumpkin Patch RV Resort for four days. Although the drive was shorter than usual, it involved mostly winding state highways that took us through numerous small towns with frequently changing speed limits. We had dinner at the café next door named Just Down the Road and the food was very good.

Hermon is about eight miles outside of Bangor, ME. After a full day of rain on Tuesday, we spent Wednesday exploring Bangor (pronounced bayn-gor, not banger). Our first stop was the Paul Bunyan statue. At 31 feet high and 3,700 pounds, this is the largest of many Paul Bunyan statues across the U.S. Bangor claims it is the birthplace for Paul Bunyan, although there are those in Minnesota who also stake that claim. Our next stop was Riverfront Park where we walked along the Penobscot River Walkway. Since Bangor is a fairly small town, we next decided to continue walking to the home of Bangor’s most famous author, Stephen King. Although it is only one of Stephen King’s home, the gate was open so someone was at home. The house’s architecture and wrought iron fencing seemed consistent with Stephen King’s horror genre. There were other lovely homes in the neighborhood.

On Thursday, rain was forecast so we opted to stay close to home. We drove to the Hermon High School and hiked the Hermon Recreation Trail. This easy, 1.7-mile out and back trail connects the high school and the elementary school. It was rather muddy and buggy but provided us with some exercise. There was a potluck dinner at the campground that evening.

Friday was Phil’s 65th birthday. We drove 37 miles to Trenton, ME where we will spend a month at Timberland Acres RV Park. The campground is quite large and we have a very long pull-through site. Trenton, ME is only a few miles from Mt. Desert Island, home to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

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Phil’s 65th birthday blueberry pie

Our stay in Maine represents the 41st state we’ve camped in since beginning our full-time RV adventure. We plan to knock off a few more states this fall on our return trip.

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Updated US map showing where we’ve stayed in our RV

On Saturday, June 15th, we drove to the Bangor airport to pick up Jason who came to stay with us for a week. We then drove to Bar Harbor where, after much effort looking for a parking spot on the crowded streets, we ate dinner at Route 66, a 1950s-themed restaurant. We both had lobster rolls and Jason had haddock smothered in lobster sauce. It was all very good.

On Sunday we drove the Park Loop Road through Acadia National Park. We stopped at numerous overlooks, including Sand Beach where we hiked the 2.2-mile out-and-back Ocean Path along the coast. Our final stop was at the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The view was magnificent but we had not brought our warm clothes and the strong, cold wind kept us from spending much time there.

Although the majority of Acadia National Park is on Mount Desert (pronounced dessert) Island, there is a portion of the park east of Frenchman Bay on the Schoodic Peninsula. On Monday we drove to this section of the park. We made a couple of stops at scenic overlooks, then hiked a 3-mile loop consisting of the Anvil Trail, Schoodic Head Trail and Alder Trail. The sky was a gorgeous blue, making for breathtaking views.

That evening we drove to Seal Cove to watch the sunset. Because of the location of the cove, we were only able to see the sun drop below the trees but, since it was low tide, we enjoyed climbing on the rocks. We even saw several seals swimming in the cove.

On Tuesday we hiked the Beech Mountain Loop. This loop consisted of the Beech Mountain Loop Trail, Beech South Ridge Trail and Valley Trail. We mistakenly started out on the Beach Mountain Cliffs Trail and, although this provided us with some beautiful views of Echo Lake, it added an extra .7 mile to our hike. Upon getting to the correct trail, the Beech Mountain Loop Trail required some challenging climbing up a fairly steep ascent over boulders and tree roots. There was a fire tower at the top of Beech Mountain. The descent on Beech South Ridge Trail was steep in places but the Valley Trail was rather easy. Our hike, including the early mistake, was 3.7 miles.

On Wednesday we decided to take a day off from hiking and, instead, took a 2¾-hour boat cruise around the five islands that make up the Cranberry Islands. The scenery was beautiful and we saw lots of waterfowl, seals and a few porpoises. We stopped for 45 minutes on Little Cranberry Island where we visited an old Congregational Church.  The last part of the cruise was up the Somes Sound, the only fjord in the Lower 48, where we sailed past beautiful estates.

For dinner we ate at Rose Eden Lobster, an authentic Maine lobster restaurant with only outdoor seating at picnic tables. We each had a 1.25# whole lobster, an ear of corn and more steamed mussels than we could finish. Jan also ordered a blueberry soda that was very tasty. The food was delivered in a bucket, along with bibs, seafood cracking tools and instructions on how to eat a whole lobster. It was messy but delicious!

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Phil & Jason with our lobster dinner

After dinner we returned to Bar Harbor and hiked across the harbor to Bar Island. Bar Island is about a half-mile off the coast of Bar Harbor but can be reached by foot 1½ hour on either side of low tide. Low tide was at 7:11 pm that day and we arrived around 6:30. Those who stay on the island too long risk being stranded until the next low tide unless they want to foot the expensive fare for a water taxi. After reaching the island, we did a mile-long up-and-back hike to the summit where there is a scenic overlook of the harbor and town.

Since rain was forecast for Thursday afternoon and all day on Friday, we left at 10 a.m. on Thursday for our last hike with Jason. Unfortunately it began to drizzle as soon as we were leaving but we decided to do the hike anyway. We hiked a loop consisting of Bald Mountain Trail and Parkman Mountain Trail. Based on the reviews on our AllTrails app, we hiked the Bald Mountain Trail first. This proved to be a wise decision since it required a lot of climbing up boulders and climbing the wet rocks was easier than descending them. The reviews had talked about fantastic views from the summits of Bald and Parkman mountains but both summits were socked in with fog. The descent on Parkman Mountain Trail wasn’t as steep but the rain and lichen made the boulders slippery. Since we were already wet, we sometimes simply sat on the rocks and slid down to the landing beneath. The hike had begun on a carriage trail that runs up the mountain so we knew that we would have to return on this carriage road. Unfortunately, we hadn’t realized that the Parkman Mountain Trail crossed the carriage road several times before it reached the section of road we wanted. As a result, we hiked parts of the carriage road twice before realizing we were on the wrong section and having to backtrack. When we finally reached the right section of the carriage road, we didn’t recognize it and continued down the trail to the highway. This required an additional ¼-mile hike to the parking lot. These extra adventures extended our hike to a total of 5.2 miles.

On Saturday, June 22nd, we drove Jason to the Bangor airport for his return to Nashville.

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On Sunday we decided to hike the Great Head Trail, near Sand Beach. It was a sunny day with temperatures in the low 80s. The parking area at the trailhead was full so we had to drive to Sand Beach and, even then, had to park ¼ mile up the road from the parking lot and hike across the beach to the trailhead. The first half of the hike was fairly easy but, as we got near the coast, it became quite rocky and required climbing over boulders in numerous spots. However, the views of Frenchman Bay from the crags were spectacular. The hike, including crossing Sand Beach, was 2.4 miles.

On Monday we decided to get an earlier start on our hike. However, the weather was perfect and Acadia NP was very popular. We had to drive around several parking lots before finally finding someone backing out of a spot at Jordan Pond. We hiked the easy Jordan Pond Trail along the edge of the lake, then turned north up the Bubbles Trail which was quite challenging. The first part of this steep climb had lots of rock steps but, as we neared the summit, there were a couple of cliffs where we had to use our hands to help pull ourselves up the boulders. We were grateful for the assistance Jan received from a younger couple to scale these spots. The views looking back at Jordan Pond were beautiful. After reaching the summit of South Bubbles, we snacked by Bubbles Rock, a large boulder hanging over the edge of a cliff. The rest of the hike was much easier. The total hike was 3.7 miles.

As much as we’d enjoyed our many hikes, Jan’s desire to spot her elusive owl had not yet been satisfied. After dinner on Tuesday, we took an easy 2.5 mile hike on the Jesup Path and Jesup Trail. A reviewer on AllTrails had written that he always saw owls on this hike. The highlight of the Jesup Path is a long boardwalk through a heavily-forested wetlands. We were fortunate to spot two owls sitting together on a branch a short distance from the boardwalk. We later identified these as juvenile Barred Owls.

On Wednesday, Jan’s girlfriend, Sheila Gaskin, arrived to spend a week with us. On Thursday, Jan and Sheila took the free shuttle bus to Bar Harbor and spent the day exploring the shops. Phil joined the girls in Bar Harbor for dinner at Route 66. We then strolled along the pier and enjoyed views of the bay.

Friday was a warm, sunny day. After a stop at Schooner Head overlook, Jan and Sheila spent a couple of hours at Sand Beach while Phil hiked the 3-mile Gorham Mountain loop trail. Sand Beach was a very popular destination so Phil had to drive nearly a mile up the road just to find a parking spot. After Sand Beach, we drove the rest of the Park Loop Road with stops at Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain.

On Saturday, June 29th, we drove the loop around the western half of Mount Desert Island. We first visited Southwest Harbor but the views were less than ideal since the water was at low tide. Our next stop was at Bass Harbor where we visited the lighthouse that was established in 1858 and is still in operation. We continued on to the little fishing village of Bernard. We came to a dead end and had to turn around in the driveway of a house. There were three kids holding a sign advertising the opportunity to touch live crabs for 50 cents. Phil took them up on the offer and quickly understood why the boy was wearing protective gloves. Even though the crabs were small, their pincers were quite sharp. Our final stop was at Seal Cove but, unfortunately, we didn’t see any seals.

On Sunday we returned to Jordan Pond for some souvenir shopping, then visited the small fishing villages of Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor. We stopped at the Acadia National Park sign for pictures. We went out for dinner that evening at Finelli’s Pizzeria. During our wait of over an hour, Jan and Sheila relived their college days on the pinball machine.

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Sheila and Jan at park sign

Monday was our day for a whale watching cruise which was advertised at being between 3 and 5.5 hours in length. The weather was much nicer than forecast. Upon boarding the boat, we learned that the cruise would be over five hours. We sailed for two hours into Canadian waters of the Bay of Fundy to get to where whales were thought to be feeding. When we stopped, we started to see whales all around us. Initially we only saw the spray from the whales’ blowholes as they re-surfaced. Then, as we got closer, we began to see their backs. Many of the humpback whales showed their flukes (tails) as they prepared to dive. Since the coloration of each humpback’s fluke is unique, the naturalists are able to identify them and track their movements. In total, we saw 17 whales of three different species (8 fin whales, 5 humpback whales, and 4 Minke whales) but, because we were in the middle of them for over an hour, we saw the same ones surface near us many times. The fin whales are an endangered species and, at over 60 feet in length, are the second-largest species on Earth.

Tuesday was Sheila’s last full day with us. She and Jan took the shuttle bus to Bar Harbor again and did some more shopping. They had lobster rolls for lunch.  There were rain storms off and on throughout the afternoon.  Phil joined them for dinner at Jalapeño where we all had lobster quesadillas.

On Wednesday, we visited a furniture store in Ellsworth to look at La-Z-Boy recliners but, after finding one we liked, learned that the tariffs on Chinese goods have driven the prices up astronomically. After stopping for enormous “small” ice cream cones at the Blueberry Hill Dairy Bar, we drove Sheila back to the airport in Bangor. On the way home, we stopped at another furniture store.

Thursday was July 4th and the temperature was in the upper-80s. We attended the campground BBQ and had a nice conversation with another couple who have been full-timing for five years. We then retreated indoors to enjoy our air conditioning.

Friday’s forecast called for another hot, sunny day so we decided to get going earlier than usual for our hike. We left home at 9:30 am but it was already close to 80 degrees when we began the hike. We hiked the 2.5 mile Champlain North Ridge Trail that took us to the summit of Champlain Mountain and back. The trail provided almost non-stop vistas of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay. However, it rose 833’ to the summit, mostly up granite rock facings with very little shade. The sun radiating off the rock made it feel even hotter than the air temperature. Jan struggled with heat exhaustion for much of the hike and was very relieved when we got back in the car with the air conditioner running.

After Friday’s experience, we decided to be more mindful of the weather on future hikes. On Saturday, we left the house at 7:30 am and chose a shorter hike with more shade. We hiked the 1.8 mile Flying Mountain Trail. The beginning of the hike had a fairly steep incline but there were ladders and rock steps most of the way. We ate our snack at a Somes Sound overlook, shortly after reaching the Flying Mountain summit. The remainder of the hike was largely downhill, including a stop at the beach which was near low tide.

On Sunday we were back to doing a more challenging hike. We hiked a 4 mile loop that started on the Man O’ War fire road and then turned onto the Acadia Mountain Trail. The Acadia Mountain Trail included an overlook of Somes Sound and a waterfall before turning steeper, with numerous scrambles up granite rocks. Jan had a couple of adrenalin rushes when she needed to climb up rock faces close to steep cliffs but managed to complete the climbs successfully. The views from the summit, which required a 682’ ascent, were quite impressive.

Monday’s hike focused more on endurance, rather than rock climbing, as we walked 6+ miles on the Eagle Lake carriage road. Between 1913 and 1940, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed and directed the construction of 57 miles of carriage roads (free of motor vehicles) and stone bridges for use by hikers, runners, cyclists, and horseback riders and carriages. The hike was entirely through the woods and included views of Eagle Lake for about half the distance.

After taking a day off for dentist appointments, Wednesday found us back on the trails in Acadia National Park. We hiked a 3.5-mile loop that included the Gorham Mountain Trail, Bowl Trail and Ocean Path. Phil had hiked this loop previously when Jan and Sheila were at Sand Beach but this was Jan’s first time. We spotted a small snake that slithered across the trail.  A large insect, later identified as a Great Golden Digger Wasp, hitched a ride on Jan’s backpack.

On Thursday, July 11th, we had a very active day. With rain forecast for Friday and our departure from Trenton coming on Sunday, we had a few activities left on our To Do list. We began the day with a hike of the Day Mountain Trail. This 3-mile out-and-back hike took us to the summit of Day Mountain and beyond. It was mostly through the woods but there was a spot near the summit that provided a beautiful panoramic view of the Gulf of Maine.

We then hiked the Compass Harbor Trail, an easy 1-mile out-and-back trail to a harbor near downtown Bar Harbor. The trail took us through the remains of the mansion formerly owned by George Dorr, known as the father of Acadia National Park.

After getting cleaned up, we took the shuttle bus back to Bar Harbor for some last minute sightseeing and shopping. We walked the short Bar Harbor Shore Path that took us along the shoreline with Frenchman Bay on one side and impressive estates and hotels on the other. We hadn’t checked the weather forecast and, thus, had failed to dress properly for the much cooler weather. Despite this, we enjoyed a happy hour dinner outside on the patio of a restaurant on Main Street.

On Saturday we took an easy 2-mile hike on Lower Hadlock Pond Trail. The entire hike was in the pine forest that surrounds the lake and included a stop at a small waterfall.

After spending the afternoon preparing for our departure, we went to Travelin’ Lobster for lobster rolls. We stood in line to order for about 20 minutes but the wait was worth it as we were rewarded with enormous portions.

On the Road to Maine (May 9 – June 10, 2019)

On Thursday, May 9th, we left Tennessee and headed north to Indiana to visit Phil’s 99-year-old mother and his elder sister, Barb Anderson, and her family. We drove 295 miles the first day to North Bend, OH where we spent the night at the Indian Springs Campground. The following day we drove 258 miles to Elkhart, IN where we spent five nights at Elkhart Campground. We had a pull-through site at the end of a row so we had a large grassy area outside our door.

We visited Phil’s mother each day at the Hubbard Hill Retirement Center. At age 99, she spends most of her days dozing but we were able to spend some time conversing with her.

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The rest of our time was largely spent relaxing. On Saturday we went to dinner with Barb & Dan Anderson and Emily & Cody Hall. On Monday we drove to Shipshewana, IN and visited several Amish stores, including Yoder’s Meat and Cheese where we loaded up on unique groceries. On Tuesday we were hosted for dinner at the Andersons.

On Wednesday, May 15th, we drove 252 miles to Streetsboro, OH where we spent three nights at the Streetsboro / SE Cleveland KOA. The campground was very nice but recent rains had made the ground of the pull-through very muddy.

On Thursday, we drove to Canton, OH to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The exhibits were quite interesting but we had no trouble seeing everything in about two hours.

On Friday we drove into Cleveland and visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This museum was designed by the famous architect I. M. Pei who, coincidently, died the day we visited. Its distinctive pyramid-shaped design had six stories and there were exhibits on each floor. We spent four hours visiting the museum but could easily have been there longer.

On Saturday, May 18th, we drove 220 miles to North Tonawanda, NY, located between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where we spent four nights at the AA Royal Motel and Campground. This was a no frills campground tucked behind a small motel but it had decent-sized pull-through sites. Although not inexpensive, it was considerably less expensive than the other campgrounds near Niagara Falls and was adequate for our needs.

On Sunday we visited Niagara Falls. Although we knew the attractions would be crowded on the weekend, the weather forecast for Sunday called for a high of 82 degrees vs. highs around 60 degrees on Monday and Tuesday. After an unsuccessful search for cheap parking, we found a parking lot near Goat Island in the Niagara Falls State Park and shelled out the $30 parking fee. We walked across the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island and, after seeing the lines for the Cave of the Winds attraction, decided to get our tickets immediately. We had 25 minutes until our assigned time for the Cave of the Winds so we used this time to walk to the viewpoint for Horseshow Falls. We then returned to the Cave of the Winds entrance. After watching a short film on Nikola Tesla’s design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system at Niagara Falls, we stood outside in the hot sun for another 45 minutes before entering the elevators down to the walkways below the falls. Unfortunately the harsh winter had destroyed some of the wooden walkways but we were still able to get close enough to the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls to get somewhat wet. Since the tour did not include ponchos, we chose not to go as far up the walkways as some other braver souls who got completely drenched.

We then walked out on the observation deck. Since this attraction was not fully open for the season, there was no admission charge.

We had originally planned to take the Maid of the Mist cruise to the falls but it was also not yet open for the season. However, we could see that the Hornblower Niagara Cruise was operating from the Canadian side so we decided to take it instead. We walked across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada where Phil had a humorous exchange with the Canadian border guard about being a Texan who doesn’t own any guns. After purchasing our tickets for the Hornblower cruise, we were issued red disposable ponchos that only provided protection down to our knees. The cruise began with a short visit near the American Falls but the fun really began when we approached the Horseshow Falls. The boat passed close enough to the falls that we were soon soaked below the knees. It was a very fun experience and we were glad we had done it on a warm, sunny day.

After returning to the USA via the Rainbow Bridge, we found our car and drove back to North Tonawanda. We had a dinner of delicious chicken wings at Sawyer Creek Restaurant, near our campground.

On Tuesday we visited a couple of less well known sites in Niagara Falls. Our first stop was at the Second Coming House of Prophet Isaiah. Until a few years ago, Isaiah Henry Robertson was just a middle-aged home-builder who had moved to Niagara Falls to buy cheap houses. He’d fix them up, then flip them for a profit. Then God spoke to Isaiah and told him that Isaiah was actually in Niagara Falls for a very important purpose: because it was where the world would end in 2014. God told Isaiah that he would guide Isaiah’s hands to transform a run-down Niagara Falls house into a carnival-colored showplace, a beacon to catch people’s attention so they could be saved. At the time of the Apocalypse, every person on earth will fly past his house and those that accept Christ as their Lord will be saved. The next stop will be Goat Island, which divides the American and Horseshoe Falls, where Jesus will separate the saved from the damned. The latter will tumble into the Niagara Falls whirlpool, transformed into the Lake of Fire.  Although the Apocalypse didn’t happen in 2014, Isaiah is still a believer and will bless the cars of sightseers.

Our next stop was the Third Street Art Alley with numerous murals lining the alley.

We then drove to Lockport, NY where we walked along a portion of the Erie Canal and watched a cruise boat sail through one of the locks.

Upon returning to the campground, Phil washed the road grime off of our trailer and both of our vehicles. It was long overdue.

On Wednesday, May 22nd, we drove 195 miles to Verona, NY where we spent two nights at The Villages RV Park at Turning Stone, an enterprise of the Oneida Indian Nation. The campground was beautiful with lots of trees and ponds throughout. After dinner we visited the Cross Island Chapel, which claims to be the world’s smallest church and seats only two people.

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On Thursday we visited the Turning Stone casino. We each got a guest card with a free $10 credit to get us started. We both played the slot machines and, although we went through the credits quickly, quit when we were at breakeven on our own money. We did invest a little bit at the casino by purchasing a couple of cannoli for lunch. We then watched the action in the Bingo room but discovered that it was more complicated than we were used to. We considered joining in the game but learned that we were witnessing part of a four-hour session. The next session wasn’t going to start until another four hours so we decided to pass.

On Friday we drove 137 miles to Lake George, NY in the Adirondack Mountains where we spent a week at Ledgeview RV Park. We had anticipated the trip would be almost entirely on interstate highways I-90 and I-87. Thus, we were surprised when Phil’s GPS had him exit I-90 several exits before reaching I-87. It got even more interesting when the new routing directed him to drive up a steep road that was closed to through traffic. We spent most of the next hour talking to each other over our cell phones and comparing the routing instructions we were getting from our respective GPS’s, which were often quite different. Since Phil’s GPS is configured to select routes that will accommodate our RV’s height, we were hesitant to follow Jan’s GPS routing. However, there were some times when the directions on Jan’s GPS seemed less scary than Phil’s so we took our chances and went those ways. We drove the next 25 miles over fairly small county roads with numerous sharp turns and stop signs. When we finally connected with I-87, we were within about 20 miles of the campground. We were very happy when we completed the drive which, although a shorter than usual drive, had been rather stressful.

The campground was quite scenic and heavily wooded with very tall trees, although we had requested a site in an open area so we could use our satellite. It appeared that every site was filled for Memorial Day weekend but many of these campers vacated on Monday.

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On Saturday we drove to Prospect Mountain and drove up the 5.5-mile Veterans Memorial Highway to a parking lot near the summit. There was a free shuttle bus available but we opted to hike the steep trail to the top. From the summit, we had 100-mile views of Lake Gorge and the Adirondacks. There were remnants of the Prospect Mountain Cable Incline Railway which was at one time the longest cable railroad in the world. It was built in 1895 to transport wealthy visitors to the Prospect Mountain House, a hotel previously accessible only by horse-drawn carriage. The hotel went out of business and eventually burned down but its fireplace is still visible. Upon returning to the parking lot, we discovered a service road that led up another mountain. Since our hike to the summit had been so short, we decided to hike this road which led us past several radio towers.

On Sunday we drove into Lake George and walked the Lakeside Parkway along the southern edge of Lake George. It was a hot day so we took several breaks and enjoyed the views of the lake.

On Monday we drove to Bolton Landing, a small neighboring town, to watch their Memorial Day parade. After the parade, we decided to stroll along the downtown shops to allow the traffic to clear out. As it turned out, we ended up following the crowd to Veterans Memorial Park and arrived in time for the Memorial Day commemoration ceremony.

On Wednesday we drove to Pottersville, NY and toured the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves Park. The stone bridge is the largest marble cave entrance in the eastern U.S. and is still being carved by the beautiful Trout Brook. We did the self-guided nature trail that covered ¾ mile and over 500 stairs of irregular rock, timber and root. It even included a small climbing wall that we both scaled. We followed a map that listed 20 stops and provided descriptions of each. The attraction had been open for the 2019 season for less than a week and the owner was still clearing uprooted trees and doing repairs to the walkways that were damaged over the winter. He told us that, although there is always damage caused by the winter weather, the ice they had last November was the worst he could remember. The scenery was beautiful and we were able to get very close to the rapidly flowing water.

That evening we went to opening ceremony of the annual Lake George Elvis Festival. Lake George has been hosting one of the largest Elvis Festivals in North America since 2014. In total, there are over 50 Elvis Tribute Artists performing during the five-day event. It is apparently no longer politically correct to call them Elvis impersonators. The tickets for a weekend pass range from $129 to $269. Even a single headline show was too pricey for us, $60-80, so we limited ourselves to the free opening ceremony where nine of the so-called “headliners” performed two numbers each.

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Finale with all nine Elvis Tribute headliners

On Friday, May 31st, we drove 124 miles to Fairfax, VT where we spent three days at Maple Grove Campground. This small, family-run campground only has 26 RV sites and nearly all of them are filled with seasonal campers. We had requested a pull-through site, although all the sites appeared to be back-ins. Fortunately there was no one in the site that would have backed up to ours, so we were able to pull forward through that one into our site. The campground is heavily wooded with very mature trees. We were unable to use our satellite dish but the proximity to Burlington, VT enabled us to get a lot of over-the-air channels.

We spent Saturday in Burlington. The skies were somewhat overcast but the temperature was ideal. Our drive into Burlington took us through the campus of the University of Vermont. The campus sits on a hill above the city, providing views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. It’s a big campus with beautiful buildings and grounds. Our first stop was at the Burlington Farmers’ Market, which has been held every Saturday since 1980. It was clearly a popular attraction as we had to drive around quite a while to find an open parking spot. More than 90 vendors have stands offering seasonal produce, flowers, alcohol, crafts, prepared foods and more. The prepared food stands offered a wider variety of ethnic foods than we normally see at other farmers’ markets. We also strolled through the neighborhood by the market and found that a lot of old warehouse buildings have been repurposed as storefronts for offbeat products.

Our next stop was at the Church Street Marketplace. The city offers two hours of free parking in the nearby garages but it took us two trips through the garage before we managed to get a spot. The Church Street Marketplace is Burlington’s award-winning open air mall with historical architecture, festivals, street entertainers and over 100 places to shop and dine over many city blocks. We discovered that we had arrived during the Burlington Jazz Festival and there were stages set up at various spots throughout the marketplace. We had lunch at an outside café and could hear the music from up the street.

Our final stop for the day was at the Waterfront Park. Again, we were able to park for free in a nearby parking garage. We walked along the boardwalk that ran the length of the marina. We took time out to sit on a swinging bench and enjoy the views of Lake Champlain with the Adirondacks in the background. The scenery was beautiful.

The weather on Sunday was very overcast with quite a bit of rain. We started the day by visiting a covered bridge in Fairfax that is still in use. We then walked the trail through the Fairfax park.

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When the rain started, we decided to take a drive through the Lake Champlain Islands. Lake Champlain stretches more than 100 miles from the Canadian border and forms the northern boundary between Vermont and New York. Within it is an elongated archipelago comprising several islands – Isle La Motte, North Hero, Grand Isle, and South Hero – and the Alburg Peninsula with bridges connecting the islands and the mainland. We stopped at Hero’s Welcome, a large general store that offers a little of everything in several buildings. They even have a dock for customers who come by boat. Jan managed to do some early shopping for Christmas.

On Monday, June 3rd, we drove 94 miles to Fairfax, NH where we spent a week at Riverside Camping and RV Resort. As we started to set up, Phil discovered that the 10-foot long slide in our hallway and bedroom wouldn’t extend. He had heard a concerning noise when he extended this slide in Vermont but had been hopeful that there was no real problem when he was able to retract the slide without any problem on Monday morning. Without this slide extended at least about 8”, we are unable to access the bathroom, the bedroom or the hall closet. Although we were able to use the campground bathroom, the only clothes we had available were the ones we were wearing and the weather had turned considerably colder. Phil called our RV dealer to ask if there was a manual override to allow us to get the slide open. While we waited to hear back from the dealer, Jan searched the Internet for a solution. When we did hear back from the dealer, it was suggested that Phil climb up on the top of the slide and use his electric drill and a flexible bit to rotate the motor. There is very little space between the top of the slide and the ceiling. Phil had to squeeze into the crevice and slide his body to a point where he could reach the motor. Although he isn’t claustrophobic, it was still a very uncomfortable feeling. Unfortunately his efforts didn’t result in any success and the dealer told us we would need to find an RV technician to fix our issue.

Phil spoke to the campground owner and got business cards for four nearby RV techs. One of our neighbors, who has been RVing for 30 years, dropped by to see if he could help and ended up suggesting that we select Craig Beane RV Service.  Phil called Craig Beane but only got his voice mail. Since we couldn’t access our bathroom, we then headed to Rite Aid to stock up on toiletries. Craig’s home was only a few miles away so we drove there but he wasn’t at home. Shortly after returning home, Craig returned our call and suggested a possible solution. This necessitated Phil climbing back into the hole but, again, the suggestion didn’t work.

We were fortunate that we did have access to our air mattress which is stored in the basement. However, since the air mattress covers the heating vents in the living room and we had no pillows, we had a very cold and uncomfortable night’s sleep. We woke up Tuesday morning with no idea as to how long it would take to get our issue fixed. Phil called Craig again and Craig agreed to come right over. Upon his arrival, Craig quickly diagnosed our problem as a broken gear and he thought he had the right part back at his facility. Unfortunately, Craig quickly determined that he was too “thick” to fit into the hole. Luckily he had an assistant who was thin enough so he ended up doing all the hard work. Once they returned with the part, it took over two more hours to replace the gear box and readjust the cables. We were incredibly relieved when the slide finally moved and we could access the bathroom and bedroom again. Although the service call was not inexpensive, we hope to be reimbursed for all but the deductible by our extended service contract provider. Considering the alternative of sleeping on the air mattress again and the need to go clothes shopping if the repair hadn’t been completed timely, it was money we were more than willing to spend.

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Phil supervising the RV Techs (notice the foot of the tech laying on top of the slide)

On Wednesday we were finally able to get out and do some sightseeing in New Hampshire. We started by visiting the Mechanic Street Covered Bridge and the Mt. Orne Covered Bridge, both in Lancaster, NH. The Mechanic Street Covered Bridge was built in 1862, with repairs to the abutments in 1967, and is still open to passenger car usage. The first Mt. Orne Covered Bridge was built in the 1860s or 1870s but was destroyed by a log jam in 1908. The current bridge was built in 1911 and rehabilitated in 1983, with vehicles up to six tons still allowed up to cross using the single lane.

We next drove to Littleton, NH where we spent a couple of hours exploring its downtown. Littleton’s downtown is a bit of a trip back in time, with a Main Street brimming with businesses and small shops to browse. Running parallel to Main Street is the Ammonoosuc River. Our first stop was at the Riverwalk Covered Bridge. This long pedestrian bridge across the river was completed in 2004. We then ate a delicious lunch at Millers Café & Bakery, adjacent to the bridge. In 2009, Millers Café was recognized as one of the Food Network’s 50 Best Sandwiches in the USA.

After lunch we strolled up Main Street. Our first stop was at the Pollyanna of Littleton sculpture, the centerpiece of the historic downtown. We had seen banners throughout town declaring Littleton as “The Glad Town.” As we were taking pictures, a local resident approached us. He invited us to the Official Pollyanna Glad Day on Saturday, June 8th, and showed us a copy of the agenda for this annual full-day celebration, including a sing-along and the Pollyanna Glad Day wave. We asked him about the connection between Littleton and Pollyanna. We learned that a hometown author had written the two Pollyanna books.

Our final stop on Main Street was at Chutters, a huge candy, fudge & gift store. Its claim to fame is the world’s longest candy counter, which measures 112 feet long.

On Thursday we drove to Shelburne, NH and hiked the 3-mile Mount Crag Loop. The loop was created by three different trails but it was well-marked so we had no trouble finding our way. The trail to the summit of Mount Crag was pretty much a non-stop climb of moderate steepness. It was quite buggy so we resorted to wearing our mosquito netting that we had purchased for our Alaska trip but had never used. The view from the summit was spectacular, with snow on some of the distant peaks. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the summit.

On Friday we drove to the White Mountain National Forest and attempted to hike a loop formed by the Valley Way, Brookside and Air Line trails. Our AllTrails app shows this loop to be 3.5-miles and of moderate difficulty. The Valley Way trail was quite pleasant, with a moderate incline along a fast-flowing stream with lots of waterfalls and rapids. Our difficulties began when we reached the Brookside trail. The path required us to cross the stream and it took us quite a while to find a place where we could do this safely, without wiping out on the slippery boulders. Shortly after crossing the stream, the trail required us to cross back over again. Finding a way to get across this time required even more effort. Although the trail continued to provide beautiful views of the stream, the ascent become much steeper and required lots of climbing over tree roots and rocks. Although the tree markers and proximity to the stream had us confident that we were still on the Brookside trail, we had no Internet service so we couldn’t refer to the AllTrails map to see if we had missed the cutoff for the loop. Phil had taken a picture of the trail map when we started the hike so we knew we could connect with the Air Line trail at the Madison hikers’ hut. However, we didn’t know how far that would be. After hiking for 3.75 miles, we met some hikers coming down the trail. Phil asked them how much farther it was to the Madison hut and their only response was “a ways,” which was not very helpful. We decided to give up and return down the Brookside trail. Rather than have to cross the stream again twice, Phil had the idea to blaze our own trail on the west side of the stream. This proved to be a mistake and we ultimately had to give up and find a way across. Our desire to get back to our car outweighed our concern for safety and we took considerably less time in selecting our paths across the stream on the return. After some wandering around in the woods, we finally picked up the trail again and worked our way down. We were exhausted by the end of our hike, which turned out to be 7.5 miles of mostly hard climbing. In hindsight, we discovered that the trail marker for the cutoff to the Air Line trail only had the name of another trail, something that was not shown on the AllTrails map.

On Saturday we returned to Littleton to do some shopping. While there, we decided to do a short hike, the Kilburn Crag Trail. This was a fairly easy 1.4 mile out-and-back hike. The trail was quite muddy in places but we were generally able to find firmer ground along the edges. The end of the trail provided a beautiful panorama of downtown Littleton surrounded by mountains.

Sunday was our last full day in New Hampshire. We went out trying to find the campground’s nature trail but never did find it. However, we did meet some of the seasonal campers and were invited over to join them in a game of corn hole. After being beaten rather badly, we opted to return to our air-conditioned trailer rather than enduring the mid-80s temperature.

Back to Rocky Top (April 2 – May 9, 2019)

On Tuesday, April 2nd, we began our trek back to Tennessee. While Jan went to a 9 am doctor’s appointment, Phil got on the road by 8:30 am and completed the 360 mile trip to Livingston, TX by 3:30 pm. Although he had intended to completely miss Houston, the GPS took him over a portion of the dreaded tollway around the northwest corner of the city. Fortunately it was about 2 pm when he hit the tollway and traffic was fairly light. The tollbooths were rather narrow but Phil managed to get through them without incident. Since Phil drove around 62 mph on I-10 and Jan was able to drive closer to the 75 mph speed limit, Jan was able to arrive only about 30 minutes later than Phil despite leaving Kerrville quite a bit later. We spent the night at the Escapee’s Rainbow’s End campground, which is where our mail forwarding service is based. Phil arrived early enough to be able to pick up our mail in person.

On Wednesday morning, we headed out for our 257 mile drive to Vidalia. LA where we spent the night at the River View RV Park and Resort. The campground is on the edge of the Mississippi River, directly across the river from Natchez, MS. Our site was in the northern part of the campground and was quite nice. We were able to watch barge traffic on the river. Unfortunately, the southern portion of the campground had suffered flooding and this eliminated the use of the sewer at our site.

On Thursday, we drove 258 miles across Mississippi to Eutaw, AL where we spent two nights at the Jennings Ferry Corp of Engineers campground. Although we had stayed at numerous COE campgrounds previously, this one was unusually big rig-friendly as it had numerous long pull-through sites.

On Saturday, we drove 183 miles to Fort Payne, AL where we spent the night at Wills Creek RV Park. Although we had counted on a fairly short drive, we ran into a traffic mess in Birmingham. Although Jan’s GPS was telling her to take the Hwy 459 bypass, Phil’s GPS told him to stay on I-20 through the city. When Phil saw the electronic signs saying that through traffic should take 459, he was already in the I-20 lane and was unable to take the bypass. We soon discovered that I-20 was closed due to road construction and we were forced to exit onto downtown streets. With the GPS now useless, we drove around a while before we found a detour sign. We then got behind some semis and followed a circuitous route through the city that eventually led us back to the interstate. When we arrived at the campground, the owner met Phil and told him to drive around and pick out whatever open site he wanted. We managed to get set up before the rain started but, once it started, it rained pretty much non-stop all night.

On Sunday morning, the rain had stopped and we managed to make the 175-mile drive to Heiskell, TN with only a few drizzles. We spent two nights at the Escapee’s Raccoon Valley Campground. We always stay at this campground the night before getting service work done at our dealer’s facility. We had originally planned to only spend Sunday night there. When we then heard from the dealer that they wouldn’t be able to work on our rig until Tuesday, we extended our stay for a second night. Our son Jarrod and his fiancé, Jess, were traveling through the area and joined us for Monday night. We were all awoken rudely by the LP alarm that went off twice in the middle of the night.

We arose early on Tuesday morning and had blueberry pancakes to celebrate Jess’ birthday. After breakfast, we drove to RVs for Less for our service work. The biggest part of the work involved getting portions of the rig repainted and the dealer doesn’t have an indoor paint booth, so the length of our stay was largely dependent on how many dry days we would have.

We ended up spending six nights on the lot at RVs for Less. Fortunately the weekdays remained rain-free so the paint work was able to be completed without interruption. Since we had to answer the service techs’ occasional questions related to our other issues, we stayed close to home for most of the entire week. Friday, April 12th, was our 16th anniversary and we celebrated with dinner at the Copper Cellar restaurant in Knoxville.

anniversary

The work on our rig was largely complete by Friday afternoon but, since the bill wasn’t finalized until Monday morning, we ended up staying a couple of additional nights for free. One of our service issues related to very weak water flow through our kitchen faucet. After much testing, we were advised to buy a new faucet so, on Sunday, we went to Lowes and purchased one. Unfortunately, we discovered that the hole for the sprayer was 1/8” too small. We had to wait until Monday morning to have a service tech expand the hole so Phil could finalize the installation.

Since we hadn’t known how long we would be at the dealer, we had to wait until the weekend to make reservations for our next stay. After striking out at a couple of campgrounds, we made reservations for four nights at Duvall in the Smokies in Sevierville, TN. Since it was only a 31 mile drive from the dealer, we waited to leave until almost noon on Monday.

Duvall in the Smokies is a small, but very nice, family-run campground that runs along the Little Pigeon River. We had an adequately long, paved pull-through site. The campground was very well maintained and there was bluegrass music piped through speakers planted throughout the campground. After getting set up, we made a shopping trip to the Tanger Outlet Center.

After dinner, we headed to Dairy Queen for dessert. We arrived at 7:58 pm but saw that they had a special on two medium-sized dipped cones and/or sundaes for $4 after 8 pm. We waited until after 8:00 to place our order. In addition to enjoying this bargain, we did an online survey that earned us a free dilly bar. This was such a great deal that we repeated the experience on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Then, on Thursday, we collected our three free dilly bars.

Although we had planned to visit Dollywood, we decided to save the money instead and spent the next three days hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. On Tuesday, April 16th, we hiked the Clingmans Dome trail. Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies and the highest point along the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail. It is also the third highest point in mainland Eastern North America. Although the hike was only one-half mile each way, it was quite steep. There was a concrete observation deck at the end of the trail that, after climbing a circular ramp, provided a 360-degree panora