After just a week of foreign (Canadian) travel, we ducked back across the Border into New York for a brief romp through the Adirondacks and Vermont. I was a bit cheesed off to have two lemons and two of the best-selling tomatoes I’ve had all summer (purchased from an Amish roadside stand near Montreal) confiscated at the Border. I was really tempted to just eat those two tomatoes on the spot – it really broke my heart to lose them. The funny thing was that the Border guard was from Grand Rapids – attended the high school just a few miles from our house. By the time we were finally released to cross into New York (after a brief search of the Campsh@ck), we were punch, and ready for something good to happen.
So, rolling into Durant Lake State Park in New York was just what we needed to lift our spirits. What a gem! We had a giant site, well-separated from our neighbors.
The big letdown? It rained every day. We had a hard time finding a break to go for a hike (but we managed). Nearby Blue Mountain Lake offered a great trail to Castle Rock, which offered a great view of the surrounding area. For us, it’s always more fun to hike with some ups and downs in elevation. There’s something wonderful about reaching a point where there’s a break in the scenery, and a whole world opens up in front of you. It’s addictive, and it keeps up coming back for more hikes.
We had the same experience at our next stop at Moreau Lake State Park, a short hop down the road. Again, we had a gigantic campsite in a quiet campground. New York State Parks rock! Even those with aging facilities still provide a great camping experience, primarily due to the layout of the campground itself.
Our hike at Moreau Lake took us to a high spot above a dam on the Hudson River.
What we thought would be a six mile jaunt became a ten mile grind, featuring a face-plant by me in the middle of the trail. Luckily, nobody was around to witness my downfall (literally)! Ten days later, the scabs and bruises have nearly disappeared.
We were lucky enough to be camped at Lake Moreau during the weekend of their annual Nature Festival. Every environmentally-related organization has a booth or demo. Both kids and adults had some hands-on learning about groundwater, recycling, raptor rehabilitation, and more. For a small community, it was an impressive display.
One disappointment we experienced was the surprising lack of fall color. It must be too early, but we were foolish enough to hope for a splashy show of red and yellow. Nope – wherever we looked, it was just green….
Our next stop was a quick two-night hop to Winhall Brook Campground, around the end of Lake Champlain in Vermont. What a spectacular drive this is – a tidy two-lane rolling road past some extraordinarily beautiful rustic farmland. This would be a drive worthy of a day trip in any season. Sprawling farms, roadside stands, and farmer’s markets all provide plenty of fodder for speculation about packing up and moving to a new state.
Again at Winhall, we dealt with rain as well as the possibility of some severe weather. During our previous week at Moreau Lake and Durand Lake were in rustic campgrounds. Cloudy conditions, rain, and heavily wooded campsites meant that we had no opportunity to use our solar panels to recharge the batteries in the Campsh@ck, so, we were nearly depleted after six days. So, for the first night at Winhall, we elected to have an electric site, to give us a much-needed power boost. But, the site we were assigned was VERY low, and already mushy from recent rains. The forecast was for heavy rain during our second night, so we packed up and moved to a quiet site on much higher ground. Good choice. We were pounded by a big storm, and would have been submerged at our original site. In the 20 days or so that we had been on the road, we had significant rain for at least 13 or 14 days. Everything we owned was damp, or just outright wet. Enough!
Originally, we planned to spend a few nights with our old T@DA pals Cathie and Jay at their home in St. Albans, VT. Would it be possible to arrive a few days early? We honestly couldn’t face breaking camp with a bunch of sodden gear, and setting up again in the rain. Whew! They took us in. Happy times commence.
Cathie is a volunteer at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, so that was our destination for our first day of exploration.
We looked and looked, but in six miles of hiking, we saw nary a bird, fish, or turtle. There was one comatose bee on a stalk of goldenrod, but that was about it. Dreary skies made for few decent photo opportunities, so I don’t have much to show for this day. But, this would be a great place to explore at a busier time of year. There is one area here with lots of sugar maples, and we got to see how maple syrup is harvested in these days. Think it’s individual taps pounded into a tree, dripping into a bucket? No, it’s actually yards and yards (probably miles) of blue vinyl tubing wound through a groove a trees. Taps are connected to various parts of the system into the trees. When the sap begins to run, a portable pump is rolled onsite, and it pulls the sap from the trees. Who knew?
Here’s a real conversation starter….when was the last wolf in Franklin County, VT killed? Why, I’ve got the answer right here…it’s possible that trusty Vermonters have documented every facet of early life in the 14th State.
John and I have tried to visit as many State Capitals as we can. So, after the rain finally cleared on our third day, we headed off to explore the State House in Montpelier. Here are two fun facts. Montpelier is the only State Capital in the US that doesn’t have a McDonalds. It’s also the smallest city to be a Capital, with a population of only 8000 (give or take a few). The State House itself is stunning, with its gold-plated done.
The best tidbit I picked up during our tour? The Governor’s chair is crafted from wood from the USS Constitution. No one but the Gov him/herself is allowed to sit in the chair, and it was impossible to get a photo of it, no matter how I tried. But, it was impressive. We had a great tour of this gorgeous building. Although we were unable to view the rotunda, photos inside the State House show the elaborate wooden framework that supports the heavy done, plated in actual gold. The current State House was constructed in the 1850s. Probably few modern buildings feature gold domes these days – it’s amazing how many State capitol buildings actually do.
Oh, how I would love a peek at this. As you can see from the exterior photo above, renovation is in process, to be completed next month. A brand new 14-foot statue of Ceres will Grace the top. The former statue, crafted in pine had nearly rotted away – the new version is mahogany.
Our last full day in Vermont was spent chasing the elusive, migrating broad-winged hawk, which passes through Mount Philo State Park every year. Often, thousands of hawks are seen on a single day in this area, but we were shut out. Zero sightings. The buzz among the birders was that most of the hawks were already gone. In exchange, we had a beautiful, sunny, cool day with spectacular views. I did see one red-tailed hawk though. (I know, I know…big deal)
In the distance is Lake Champlain, which separates one corner of New York and Vermont. Unlike the Great Lakes which surround Michigan, this lake is chock full of islands and shallow reefs. It must be a kayaker’s heaven. These islands are dotted with small towns, full of fall activities – cider mills, pumpkin patches, and the like. It’s an idyllic setting, although one best absorbed in small doses. Norman Rockwell-ish, but beautiful.
Tomorrow, we head back into Canada – Quebec City, the Bay of Fundy, and the Maritime Provinces. Loonies and Toonies. Bonjour and merci beaucoup. Away from a comfy bed, great friends, and dry towels. Back to iffy showers and damp campgrounds…
Man, we had fun.
Note: if you are reading this soon after its posting, you won’t see any links to locations or reference tags. I’ll get back and add these when I can.