The sun was out and Cadillac Mountain was waiting for us. It was a great day for a hike and since we lost our reservation to drive up, we chose to walk to the top. The Cadillac South Ridge Trail was described as a moderately challenging 6.7 mile out and back trail. We felt we had a pretty good chance of summiting the 1,548 foot peak with enough energy left over to get back down again.
A sticky, muddy, puddle-strewn trail climbed steadily up, finally opening onto a mostly smooth, rock path. There were views in every direction and plenty of rock cairns and blue blazes marking the way. With the exception of several semi-intimidating rock scrambles (which required some booty-scooting on the trip down), we reached the summit right about noon. Perfect timing!
We’ve reached the northernmost point of our trip and are comfortably settled in a spectacular log cabin overlooking the Mt. Desert Narrows body of water. We have plans to visit Maine’s Acadia National Park and hope to get together once more with friends Jeannie and Jeff…but other than that, we may just sit and enjoy the view from the deck.
Our host assured us there would be space for Minnie, and Reg backed her in like a pro. While he tended to all the details of parking her for the week, our host gave me a tour of our temporary waterside home. What a special place this is. Gorgeous inside and out…we may never leave!
After breakfast we took a short morning walk around the point, returning to enjoy a quiet Sunday watching the tide roll out…and then back in.
From our front porch we could see the finger of land across the water hiding Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park. Curious, we drove around and found a trail to explore, looping through the grounds and offering views of coastal tide pools, towering forests and an occasional wildflower.
Taking advantage of another beautiful day, we thought we had found the perfect outing. A short ferry ride from Portland, Maine took us across Casco Bay to Long Island where a 6-mile walk awaited. We packed our lunch and cashed in on the senior ticket rate, excited about our big, cheap adventure. Expecting a trail through the woods and along the shore, we were disappointed to find the walk followed a paved road through mostly residential neighborhoods. Even worse, there was not a public restroom to be found. Posted signs warned of poison ivy making a discreet duck behind a bush too risky for me. We called it quits and raced back to the dock to catch the next ferry back to the mainland, reminding us that you can’t win them all!
The weather took a turn for the worse, dumping buckets of rain. The perfect day to check out Freeport’s main shopping attraction.
With the return of the sun, we took a chance on another island walk. A 7-mile portion of the West Side Trail took us by foot from Fels-Groves Farm Preserve, across the bridge over Casco Bay and a circle around Cousins Island. We hoped for an expansive ocean view at trail’s end, but once again our expectations were dashed. However, we enjoyed the walk and appreciated the bench (where we ate our lunch) and the congratulatory signpost at the end.
We have one more week to enjoy the great state of Maine. This morning, Reg and I woke up to a new, gorgeous view through the trees and across the water to Mt. Desert Island that sits adjacent to Acadia National Park. We’re taking another lazy Sunday before joining the sightseeing crowds. More to come…
First stop in the state of Maine – a short, 2-night visit with friends and former California neighbors Jeannie and Jeff at their lovely coastal home. Although the weather wasn’t looking good Friday morning, we donned our raincoats (just in case) and set off on a path through the 295-acre Beech Hill Preserve, hoping to take in the 360° view of Penobscot Bay, Camden Hills and the St. George Peninsula. Our hopes were dashed upon reaching the summit of Beech Hill as the clouds closed in.
We were able to have a look at the 1913 restored sod-roofed hut and the remains of a stone circle. Jeannie captured our hiking memories with her photos.
We tidied ourselves up and went out for dinner at Archer’s, a terrific seafood restaurant with a harbor view, where our evening began with drinks and Oysters Rockefeller. Thank you so much Jeannie and Jeff. It was sad to say goodbye, but you gave us wonderful memories and a perfect introduction to the state of Maine.
New Hampshire was not a new state for either of us, but for Reg it was a bit of a homecoming. As a 7-year old, Reg attended second grade in a K-12 school in Bethlehem, a small community not far from our campground. The school still stands although it now serves only elementary school students.
With six days to fill we worried that we might not be able to fill our time once we visited Mt. Washington, but Franconia State Park saved the day. Hiking trails galore! Here are a few photos of our favorite spots.
Our first stop took us on a walk to see New Hampshire’s iconic Old Man of the Mountain, a series of rock cliffs stacked on a peak that together depict a man’s profile. Little did we know that the Old Man had crumbled and fallen away back in 2003, leaving just a smidgen of rock at the top. The state has done its best to honor their fallen hero, creating a rather extravagant memorial plaza where visitors can squint to see what was once a great ”man.”
The walk up Franconia Notch State Park’s Flume Gorge was pretty spectacular. Tickets are required for the roughly 2-mile Flume Path that leads up a series of wooden stairs and along raised walkways to the top of the gorge. It must get pretty crazy in the summer months, but we were able to easily enjoy the views.
We weren’t the only hikers trekking up the trail to Lonesome Lake, but once we arrived it was just us and one lone fisherman hanging out lakeside. The 1.25 mile trail was uphill all the way. If the weather had been a little nicer we might have opted for the extra mile or so around the lake, but fearing drizzle and wet rocks on the downhill trip, we simply ate lunch and headed back.
We caught the trailhead for 2.8-mile Liebskind’s Loop at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Normally we start our hiking in the morning, but this was an afternoon walk for us and the bugs were out in full force. Just as we began to wonder why in the heck we were climbing yet another mountain, we came upon an impressive sheer wall of rock that led us to Brad’s Bluff, a spectacular viewpoint. Thinking we were taking a shortcut back we scrambled steeply down George’s Gorge, a rock-filled chute that abruptly ended at a pretty little waterfall. GPS couldn’t help us so we had no choice but to turn back, (adding another half mile to the hike) and take the well-marked route back to the car.
Upon leaving Vermont the only thing stopping us from reaching our goal was the state of New Hampshire. A relatively short drive across the border took us into New Hampshire and our riverside site just outside the small town of Littleton.
New Hampshire is home to the White Mountains, including the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, 6,288 ft. Mt. Washington. Mt. Washington is well know for it’s weather extremes…some claim it has the worst weather in the world.
There are several ways to summit Mt. Washington. Mountaineering purists may want to hike to the top, a 4-5 mile journey that will take the most experienced hikers about that many hours of walking…each way. The Cog Railway offers a 3-mile ride up and down the mountain although we found the tickets to be as steep as the climb. Our choice was to drive the Mt. Washington Auto Road at a cost of $53.00, roughly 25% of the cost of two tickets for the Cog Railway.
It was a hair-raising drive on a sometimes narrow road with steep drop-offs. But we made it and I’m pretty sure all the other drivers did too. We had an extremely nice day; we were told we’d enjoy a 360° view with a visibility of 100 miles. We posed for our photo, enjoyed the view, bought lunch – a chili dog for Reg and clam chowder for me and chatted with a young man hiking the Appalachian Trail. By then it was starting to get cold and it was time to head back down the mountain.
From the Wilmington/North Pole KOA Campground that is. Love this oversized campsite about 10 miles northeast of Lake Placid in New York State.
Less than 2 miles down the road a collection of hiking trails known as the Flume Trails branch off above a narrow channel where the Ausable River roars through. We chose the Flume Knob trail, a 3.1 out and back trail with nearly 1,200 feet of elevation gain leading to a 180° view. How hard could it be?
It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to quit a trail as badly as I wanted to give up on this one. Impatient with the heat, humidity and swarming bugs, I struggled uphill behind Reg who kept calling back to me, “We’re almost there!” And then, finally we were. The view was every bit as good as promised. I snapped the photo of Reg as he carefully made his way back down off the knob. Fortunately, it wasn’t as scary as it looks.
The following day we debated the pros and cons and finally decided to drive up the Whiteface Mountain Highway. We thought it strange that visitors must pay a hefty fee to drive the scenic highway. It’s a short 5-mile drive that snakes up 2300 feet and offers ”grand vistas of Adirondack Park” and “panoramic views that stretch from Canada to New Hampshire.” Watching the sky, we were skeptical that the weather would allow us such expansive vistas.
From the parking lot at the top, guests can opt for an elevator ride to the summit. We chose to walk by way of what was named the Alpine Nature Trail, an odd name for the walk across a rocky mountain spine. While we were able to enjoy misty views (the bottom left photo shows a bit of Lake Placid, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics) the stretch from Canada to New Hampshire was a no-show. Click here to learn more about the drive up Whiteface Mountain.
The Canadian border stretches invisibly through the St. Lawrence River just off the northern shores of Wellesley Island State Park in New York, our next stop where we had three full days to explore. Our approach to the park was from the south, via Interstate 81, crossing from mainland New York over the U.S. portion of the St. Lawrence and then quickly exiting onto the state park roads.
Rain was predicted for our first day so we took advantage of the dry morning to check out the camping area. There are six different camping loops throughout the park and 431 sites. We leisurely wandered up, down and all around, surprised to see that nearly all were empty. It took us nearly two hours.
The Minna Anthony Common Nature Center sits on a finger of the island and is the hub for multiple color-coded day hikes. We chose the coastal River Trail (green) which wrapped all the way around the point and eventually connected to the East Trail, eventually leading us back to the nature center and the end of a five-mile hike.
The Thousand Island Park community on Wellesley Island was founded in 1875 as a Methodist campground. As the infrastructure developed, the area quickly grew into a summer resort. By the end of the 18th century nearly 600 cottages had been built. In 1982 Thousand Island Park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. I‘m a sucker for big old Victorian houses, so we rode our bikes the five short miles to check out the neighborhood.
Today there are about 40% fewer cottages than there were at the peak, but those that remain surely have stories to tell. Many have been beautifully restored while others await some TLC. Many appeared still closed up, awaiting the short summer season.
Letchworth State Park, the Grand Canyon of the East, covers over 14,000 beautifully forested acres that stretch roughly 17 miles along the Genesee River gorge in western New York state.
The park campground was not yet open for the season, so we got an early start from our nearby KOA campground and spent one day exploring numerous hiking trails that wove up and down throughout the park.
Scattered among the grounds are 15 descriptive panels and 60 commemorative medallions marking the locations of the projects FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps completed in the 1930s and early 1940s. Some, like the bridge below, still stand today. Others, like the fireplace, have been renovated.
We have one more day to fill and another New York state park to share with you before moving on. Where will that be?
We felt like our two nights at Trough Creek State Park in south central Pennsylvania took us into the wilds. With just an electric hookup, we got a little closer to our camping roots, toting in bottled water for drinking and needing to be mindful of not overfilling our gray- and black-water tanks.
The park had a surprising number of interesting features that we were able to make a day of exploring. Just down the road was the Ice Mine, a curious space between hillside rocks where cold air flows through creating ice and a natural refrigerator effect.
Balanced Rock remains perched at the edge of a cliff above Great Trough Creek, seemingly defying gravity. Called an ”erosion remnant,” it has refused to fall, creating corny photo opportunities for some.
Our next two-night stop was in northern Pennsylvania at Leonard Harrison State Park, known as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Another small park accessed by way of two-lane roads passing through tiny roadside communities, we once again felt somewhat isolated.
We spent the morning safely hiking the Turkey Path which, despite the numerous warnings of a steep, dangerous trail, was a little muddy but not too scary. We had hoped that we could get down to Pine Creek, but after descending a set of 70 stairs and almost there, we were met with a closed sign.
We’ve always felt a little spoiled by our Oregon state camping options, but we were throughly impressed with Pennsylvania state parks. We’ll soon be checking into a New York state park and are curious to see how it stacks up. I’ll let you know in a few days!