Home Too Soon

Somewhat unexpectedly, here we are back home. Sometimes camping just becomes a pain in the ass. That’s when it’s time to pack up and head home. That’s the situation in which we found ourselves.

Upon leaving Fundy National Park, we were geeked to return to the States and revisit Acadia National Park. We’ve been there just one time, and it was an odd one, coinciding with the government shutdown in October 2013. The park was officially closed, but we could duck beneath the barriers on foot or with our bikes. In many respects, it was ideal – zero car traffic – we cycled the scenic drive with abandon. But, the Visitor Center had been closed, and we felt like too many stones were left unturned.

So, we rolled in to Acadia on a Monday morning in late October, expecting to camp for five days or so, and check out everything we missed the first time around. Who would think that the campground would be full? The loop that allowed reservations was completely booked! We were assigned a site for one night in a section due to be closed the next morning. There was some hope that it would remain open for at least one more day. So, we grabbed the site, leashed Jezzy up, and headed off on a nearby trail. To get a glimpse of the ocean at least.

What a relief! We could camp one more night. So, we decided to hike the Ocean Path Trail, combined with Gorham Mountain to soak up as many great views as possible. We were not disappointed.

A few hearty climbers were working one of the steep faces, so we stopped to watch. Believe me, there wasn’t much room to inch your way up that crack between the rocks.

One popular stop along this trail is Thunder Hole. The tide rushed into a narrow crevasse, and the backsplash can be quite powerful. We were not there when the tide was high enough to provide a good show, but check out this video from YouTube. Wow! https://youtu.be/voWhZRtBgF4. (This is not my video)

To find a great aerial view, we decided to detour up to Gorham Mountain. Good choice!

Altogether, it was a good day on foot – about 9 miles, great scenery, and blue skies. Success.

Our plan, upon leaving the campground the next morning was to stay in a nearby Bar Harbor campground to continue our exploration for the next few days. However, the only campground open within miles was a total dump. With at least one day of rain coming, we were unwilling to spend it in some nasty parking lot of a campground.

Instead, we landed at Pawtuckaway State Park, NH, an absolute gem of a park. We tucked into a solitary site in the Turtle Island campground (yes, an actual island), and hunkered down for rain.

At least, we enjoyed sitting outside, enjoying this pristine Park from the shelter of our awning. We congratulate ourselves every week on our good fortune in owning this awning. Because it attaches directly to the Campsh@ck, it’s very durable for wind and fowl weather. We can still cook outside, eat outside, and not feel trapped when we have day after day of crappy weather. It’s a godsend both to our camping life and our marriage.

The following day brought another change of plans. The New York State Park we planned on staying at for a night or two, was actually closed. The only thing open were some rental cabins. We were fortunate to find a nearby private campground where we pulled in, just as darkness fell. Our site was right alongside a creek, which was jumping with salmon. We could actually have reached in, and grabbed dinner, had we not been so bushed. Sadly, they had just winterized their bathrooms, so what we were directed to use instead was cold, odd, and nasty. Enough said.

Camping options for the rest of the trip were nonexistent. So, we ground our teeth, and drove eleven hours home.

Here’s a map of our campsites for reference. Sorry I haven’t done this all along. I think you can touch on the mappoints to find the campgrounds.

https://tinyurl.com/y8q4yyqp

Home. House and yard work awaits. But, it was a spectacular trip.

Fabulous Fundy

When we initially started planning for our trek into Canada, on the top of my Must See list was the Bay of Fundy. This basin between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is known for having the highest tides in the world. Admittedly, the numbers don’t quite match up to the visual reality – a 12 meter tide (over 48 feet) is not like standing on the edge of a pool that is empty then 48 feet deep six hours later. Yet, it’s striking. Here are the commercial docks in Alma at low tide. And again, a bit later as the tide creeps in…

We watched them all sail at high tide a day later.

At low tide, we could walk out on the shoreline for about a quarter-mile.At high tide, the water extended all the way to the distant wall in the photo.

Low tide. High tide.

None of these photos were taken at the moment of highest or lowest tide, but it’s amazing to see. We were so lucky to be at Fundy on October 14, which was the start of the fall lobstering season. (Oct-Dec. The other season is April-July) That meant that at 2am (the first high tide of the day) the commercial fleet leaves the wharf. Fireworks! A bagpiper, dressed in a lobster suit and kilt! All the Alma townsfolk, some dressed in pajamas and blankets. We were happy to drag ourselves out late on a cold night to witness this event, the lifeline of the local economy.

The dock had been busy the day before, with boats being loaded with dozens of traps, each filled with fish guts, heads, and other assorted goodies that lobsters love. Some were strung together, as many as 20 to a single buoy. Smaller craft have traps/buoys on a 1/1 basis. It’s big business on any scale. Lobsters collected here supply not only the local market, but everywhere North Atlantic lobsters are available.

At 2am, the sleepy crews joined their ships, carrying backpacks with their personal stuff for a few days. A few obviously looked like they came directly from a warm bed to the dock. I inquired, and was told that the first run would last about three days. Ships would then return to port, empty traps, reload, and head back out. In and out as long as he season lasts. It must be extremely hard work in raw weather.

The stark beauty of the Fundy shoreline is special. We wandered from point to point (breaking our no-driving-in-the-truck rule) and found terrific views at every turn.

As you can tell. These were shot on different days. We did have one sunny day while we were there and it fortunately coincided with our visit to Hopewell Rocks. This would be a great sight anywhere, but being able to walk around the base of these spectacular formations at low tide was unworldly.

i can’t tell you how happy we were to have a sunny day for this excursion. We had thought about hanging out here for the six-hour, low-to-high tide experience, but just couldn’t swing it with Jezzy. By the time we included out travel time to the site, it would just have been too long of a day for our girl. So we elected to wander the base at low(ish) tide. I think we made the right decision.


They warn you about the mud there. I made a few mis-steps, and will probably be cleaning this out of my boots forever.


I’ll w up now. I took a hundred photos, and would still be sitting on the shore somewhere along this amazing coast if I could figure out how to do that. It is beautiful. Stark and rugged.

But one last note. Quietsolopursuits, this is for you. We wandered through some of the other campgrounds (we were at Headquarters Campground, the only one still open at this time). In the Point Wolfe Campground, we found this fabulous thing – I don’t know the name. Kind of like the oTENTiks we found in other Parks, but designed for one or two. I want one! Just another reason to return. Inside it had a sleeping platform, and kind of a gear trampoline suspended above. Or, perhaps you sleep on the trampoline and stow your stuff below??

We’re headed on to our last few days before plowing home. It’s hard to find open campgrounds, and we’ve developed another serious leak which is drowning our new floor somewhere from below. Time to shut off all water and head home. ☹️☹️☹️

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

About 225 miles from Halifax on the northern tip of Nova Scotia lies this magnificent National Park. We’ve spent four nights here – ambit of sunshine, some clouds, a spot of warmth, and some very cool nights.

I’m tired of my voice, so just enjoy these photos….

We took a hike one day, and were treated to some of the most intense autumn color I’ve ever experienced. About seven miles of splendid color, much of which was supplied by low-lying blueberry plants, whose dark scarlet leaves dominated the scene.

Along the way, there was an old survival cabin, equipped with two wooden bunks, a woodstove, two old sleeping bags, and a lantern.

What was really fun was the notebook with a stub of a pencil for inhabitants to leave notes for those yet to come. Lots of people commented about moose sightings (oh, sure…) and weather conditions. But this one made me laugh.

Tomorrow, we move on. This has been a great stop.

California Days

Has it really been two weeks since I last posted? Joshua Tree seems like a distant memory, but I’ll try to recreate the high spots of that, and our travels since.

Our hideway site in Joshua Tree was perfect. We love being tucked in among the rocks in such an unusual landscape. We called this our King Kong Kampsite.20180319_110540728641496.jpg Everywhere you look, there are people scrambling up and around these crazy boulders. They have a stubbly granite surface which is very grippy, which makes it easy for one to feel like Hillary on Everest. Well, we didn’t actually get very high off the ground, but it feels high. Green Valley pals Deb and Tony joined us for a day of scrambling around in the sun.

 

 

20180313_133824-1311166515.jpgThere’s a vast difference in the scenery between the east and west side of Joshua Tree. We decided to wander over to the west end for a hike, and couldn’t have been more amazed at the difference in scenery. No granite boulders, but Joshua Trees everywhere (go figure!) There was so much greenery! 20180314_122021788052877.jpgThe Panorama Loop hike was our destination, and we were undeterred by the Ranger’s warning that the forecasted 50mph wind gusts could be a problem on the exposed mountainside. Ha! I thought. The first blast that hit me in the face made me want to drop on all fours for safety. But the views were incredible.20180314_1229371045669474.jpg Snowy peaks were visible across the Cochella Valley.20180314_1356151829682667.jpg20180314_155832808471924.jpg Descending back to the Trailhead, we passed what must be the granddaddy of all Joshua Trees.20180319_1106242085002328.jpg Next time we visit the Park, we may camp on this end to make further exploration a bit easier.

We spent two nights cold rainy nights in the Oak Grove Campground in the Cleveland National Forest. The weather dampened our spirits a bit, but the 40 or so Boy Scouts there for the weekend seemed to have a great time. As they were packing up to leave, I could only imagine how exhausted the leaders must have been. Organized chaos.

On the way to our next stop, we passed by an incredible sculpture place. Who could pass by this spot without stopping to see these treaures? 20180318_092523505329847.jpg20180318_092452833497834.jpgThere was a full-sized stage coach, complete with passengers AND four horses that was jaw-dropping. I bought a $10 ladybug for my garden in exchange for the time we spent viewing these amazing artworks. I’m ashamed to admi that I lost the card with the name and location of this fabulous sculptor. But, you will recognize it if you pass by, for sure.

Get us to the beach! We were craving some warm sunshine, and figured that our next stop at San Clemente State Beach would be just the ticket. While we did get the sunshine (for the most part), the warmth eluded us. But, it was perfect for beach walks. Watch out for sharks! From a rocky outcropping about 150 yards off shore, we could hear seals barking, although we could only see them with our binoculars.

 

 

20180321_121542-11481871097.jpgI probably never would have heard of San Clemente if it weren’t for the fact that Nixon’s Western White House was located here. Seems crazy that I can walk on the beach and see it, but here’s the view of it from the beach. 20180319_133041-1618857943.jpgOld photos in the visitor center show that, during Nixon’s years, it was the only house along the bluff to the south of the State Park. Now it’s jammed with houses of all shapes and colors. Surfers still reign here – there’s a nice beach-y vibe to this area that we like a lot.20180319_124006222710642.jpg20180319_113023219599090.jpgHow is it possible that it’s been weeks since we actually have ridden our bikes? We decided to visit San Juan Capistrano, and utilizing the miles of bike paths seemed to be the best way to go. The wide packed-sand multi-use trail along the beach is a blast on a bike.20180320_1131191542769736.jpg It’s busy with walkers, gawkers, surfers, and moms with strollers. This photo makes that statement look like a lie, but we did find a non-congested stretch or two. Along the way were a few great viewpoints.20180320_1159561934629678.jpgThe busy highway also has its own separate two-lane bike path and pedestrian walkway.20180320_15210954269708.jpg Many of these California communities have made it easy to stay fit – there is a genuine vitality here that we just don’t see elsewhere.

The Mission at San Juan Capistrano is the summer home of cliff swallow, which migrate each spring to SJC from Goya, Argentina – a 6000 trip. March 19 is the ‘official’ return date. We were there on the 20th, and there was nary a swallow in sight. Hope they made it back in time for the official parade and Festival scheduled for the 23rd.

The Mission is a gorgeous place. Parts of the original church were destroyed only six years after completion by the earthquake of 1812. The alter from the back wall was saved, and appears in one of the photos below. It’s spectacular.20180320_1305382000215669.jpg20180320_1304271336934057.jpgPortions of the original structure still stand. I had to laugh at the two girls taking glamour shots of themselves in front of  the old section. 20180320_130637-1819951110.jpgPeople and selfies – it’s out of control! The Mission seems to do a brisk tourist business – it’s beautifully restored, and worth the few dollars it takes to visit.

 

 

No bicycle outing would be complete without a brewery visit. Docent Brewing, an IPA temple, fit the bill perfectly! We had fabulous brews and sandwiches. One of the best brewpubs we’ve ever visited – and we’ve been to many!20180320_14085012269542.jpgWe just bummed around the rest of our five San Clemente days. Sometimes it’s nice just to be lazy. There weren’t many campers in our area of the campground – most of the showers and bathrooms seemed to be locked. A few of the others seem to be inhabited by the regular gathering of homeless folks to live in the Park during the day. Most would leave for places unknown for the night, returning faithfully at 7am the next day when the Park reopened. But a few locked themselves into the individual bathroom stalls for the night. While we weren’t ‘inconvenienced’ by this, it did make me a bit uncomfortable. The worst part of it were the ones who smoked – nothing worse than using a stinky, smoke-filled bathroom. I can’t believe the Rangers aren’t aware – there must be a tacit agreement to overlook this inhabitation. As you can probably tell, I’m kind of conflicted about how I feel about this. It was creepy knowing that people were sleeping in the bathrooms all night long, although I have a lot of sympathy for their plight.

One new thing we did see here were these food recycling bins, which look exactly like the regular green recycling bins at many facilities.20180321_094049-1754401314.jpg Seems weird to just dump food scraps – apparently we weren’t the only ones who weren’t used to this, as these green bins had more cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes than food scraps in them. Ironically, there weren’t any recycling bins in the Park anywhere that we could find, which just magnified the confusion.

We couldn’t have moved on to a more different location – from sea level to 5500 feet at Mt San Jacinto State Park, a gem of a campground in the San Bernadino Mountains, near the town of Idyllwild.20180323_164800387251762.jpg It’s cold up here, in spite of the brilliant sunshine. Although nearly deserted when we arrived, it filled up yesterday with hikers from the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses a few miles from here. This perhaps is one of the nicest, most pristine campgrounds we’ve visited – the bathrooms are spotless, and there’s not a speck of litter anywhere. It’s definitely someplace we will return.

We hiked up the Devil’s Slide yesterday, enjoying panoramic views from many places on the trail. 20180324_1212331506636580.jpg20180324_131908411954111.jpgFabulous hike – about five miles roundtrip, with 1700′ of elevation. There are many places where the effects of the constant wind were evident. Tree trunks have been twisted by the constant forces of wind and sun. They are swirled like a barber pole.20180324_113502703562467.jpg We were above the snowline when we reached about 7300′, and with a brisk wind and temps in the 30s, the snow sure wasn’t melting any, even with all that sunshine. This was the first time we have hiked anywhere where a Backcountry Wilderness Pass was required. There’s no fee for the permit – I think it’s more of a counting device.

We wanted to find a hike where we could take Jezzy along – our 94 year old pup (human years, according to our DNA report) has slowed down significantly in the past year. About four miles is her limit, and we try to keep it to an easy stroll. The Iyllwild Nature Center seemed like the perfect place to do that. What a gorgeous county park, complete with its own campground. We would definitely consider it next trip. We found these gigantic pinecones – that’s John’s iphone alongside for size comparison.20180325_135947996377917.jpgJezzy also located a mortar rock, used by native peoples hundreds of years ago to grind grains, or in this case probably acorns, for food. With the accumulated water from the recent rains, the depressions really stood out.20180324_1633042030260130.jpgThis is our last night in California. We cross the State Line tomorrow back into Arizona, and begin our slow trek back to Michigan. As always, we have the feeling that much has been left unseen and undone. Pretty sure a return trip is in our future.

Hikeathon

It was with relief that we moved to the cool, clear air of Payson AZ from the yellowish smog of the Picacho Peak area. Being at a much higher elevation (about 6000′), it seemed obvious that we should spend our time exploring the many hikes in the area. So, we did.

Our base for four nights was the Houston Mesa Campground in the Tonto National Forest. Other than the Camp Host, we were the only campers in this 100 site campground. What a change from the packed Picacho Peak State Park! This campground is a gem.

Day One: The first hike we selected was a bust. Called the Monument View hike, we hoped for something with sweeping vistas of the Mogollon (Muggy On) Plateau. Nope. What we got was a walk through a hard-packed ravine where trail motorbikes must often race around. 20180305_1221191162682630.jpgIt was quite a disappointment. The best thing was this huge boulder alongside the road. It was impressive, just sitting there all by itself.20180305_133210117398971.jpgThe rest of the hike? Meh…

Day Two: It seemed like a good idea to take a hike with a bit of elevation involved, since our legs had finally recovered from hiking at Picacho. So, the Military Sinkhole Trail seemed like an obvious choice.20180306_1248171357081767.jpg We started at the bottom, and hiked a rocky trail up and up. 20180306_1206231361577040.jpgThe number of downed trees in the forest was amazing – I understand now how all this brush can fuel a forest fire – some of these trees had obviously been down for years, if not decades.20180307_124845119157993.jpg Thick carpets of pine needles and leaves made the path soft underfoot. When we finally arrived at the top, we were puzzled as to where the sinkhole actually was. John consulted Google, and we located it across the street from our scenic lunch spot. 20180306_121912369153406.jpg20180306_1218501013557682.jpgSadly, the sinkhole itself wasn’t photogenic in the least – there really was nothing there to see. But, what a gorgeous hike.

Day Three: The most popular hike in the Payson area is the Horton Spring Trail, according to Alltrails.com. Why not? This was totally different than the other two, as it followed Horton Creek up to its source. For four miles we followed along the rushing, cool creek – past small waterfalls and rocky outcroppings in the creek. 20180307_1148421088939701.jpg20180307_122622357031273.jpgAt one point, we passed two large wooden teepees. This photo doesn’t do them justice – somebody had to work hard to erect them – the logs in the big one were huge! I’m hoping it was a Scout project of some type – I really wanted to wade across the creek to examine them more closely, but there just wasn’t a spot where I felt I could cross without likely falling and filling up my boots!20180312_121604922202610.jpg Horton Spring is at the end of the hike – the water pours out of a rock from an artisan spring. Amazing. Most of my photos were a bust, so just take my word for it that it’s a gorgeous area, and a cool walk in the woods was the perfect activity for the day.

We were really sad to leave the Payson area after four nights. There’s a lot to explore here, and the cool air was much to our liking. But, we had a return date at Lost Dutchman State Park for a few nights. We took in a Cubs spring-training baseball game (Cubs beat the LA Angels 6-1). In case I don’t get to see the Detroit Tigers this year, this may have to satisfy my baseball game watching urge. We had pretty mediocre seats, but it was still fun.

Lost Dutchman has a trail that has intrigued us since the first time we saw it. It reaches from the campground up to the Flatiron – a peak at about nearly 3000′ above. 20180308_14364265722636.jpgIn a distance of about 3 miles, that’s a lot of elevation! It truly was the hardest hike I’ve ever done – the Trail was crowded with adventurers on a Saturday morning. There were even some paragliders out early on that Saturday morning. You can barely see one of them in this photo.20180310_084531-1144373445.jpg The crowds made things easier and harder at the same time. It was beneficial to have others around to point out the best handhold or route up an uncertain path, but it also led to a few logjams where we had to wait for our turn to haul ourselves up a particularly rough area. It took us exactly three hours to get to the top, and my legs were like jelly! Wow – what views! But, I never want to hike that one again. Once and done!20180310_0957441415430516.jpg20180310_1231401012063050.jpg20180310_112648-1939817177.jpg20180310_1133121389221668.jpgNow we’re holed up at Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. It would be tough to find a more beautiful campsite.20180311_155250-12087199245.jpg20180312_094446-11588087552.jpg We’ve got five days to explore the area – revisit a few of our favorite spots, and find a few hidden gems.