Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 2

8/23/17

acadia_map

With a little planning the night before, we decided to go to the Pretty Marsh area of the island and paddle up the West side. I think we combined two different versions of directions and ended up targeting a launch somewhat North of the marsh itself (10). This lead to some confusion early on as we didn’t seem to be ‘leaving’ the harbor where we expected to start, but instead were just heading up the cost. Fortunately, this wasn’t a navigation test – we were just going to paddle up the coast a bit and then return. Also, there may have been some help from a phone GPS in determining what we were actually doing. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 1

8/22/17

acadia_map

There’s a one-way driving & biking loop that goes around a good chunk of the park. We started out with that to get a feel for the place. First stop was heading up Cadillac Mountain (3) for a quick walk-hike to the view of the island and Bar Harbor. Our next pull-off was at the Thunder Hole (5) – we happened by right at high tide, which is the right time to be there. We climbed around on the rocks for a bit, but the day was apparently not right for the booming wave crashes that the location was known for.

Parking along the loop was obnoxious, particularly in the prime areas. So long as we had parked for the Thunder Hole, we took a walk back to Sand Beach which is apparently *the* beach in the park. We descended into the little harbor to see the beach, stood around for a bit acknowledging that indeed it was a beach and then headed back. We weren’t really planning on swimming or just laying there, so I’m not exactly sure what else we expected. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Travel Days

8/19/17

Campsite
Wellesly Island State Park campsite on the edge of the St. Lawrence River.

We left Grand Rapids around noon on Saturday after taking a bit longer than planned to pack up (aka gather all the paddling gear). We crossed into Canada at the Blue Water Bridge, and then drove pretty much straight through to Thousand Islands National Park and crossed back out to the US at Wellesley Island State Park in New York. It was supposedly about a 8-9 hour drive, but with stops and all, we got to the park just before 11:00. We setup camp, went and showered (it’s a nice campground, with hot showers) and went to bed.

8/20/17

We spent one day at Thousand Islands on the US side. On a combination of our interest in paddling to something notable and the visitor center guide’s recommendation we drove up to Alexandria Bay and put the kayaks in the water at a public boat launch.  It was at the end of Crossman St. and we parked on the street a few blocks away, if you’re wanting to look it up.  This was supposedly one of the few free launches in the area and it did not appear to get especially heavy use.

Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle from the grounds / island entryway

From there we paddled out into the St. Lawrence River and turned right to head toward Boldt Castle. The Castle is on Heart Island, which has a small harbor for private boats to dock as well as the commercial tour docking location. We pulled the kayaks up on shore and locked them to a lamp-post (probably an unnecessary precaution, but given that they were our way off the island it seemed prudent).

Admission to the castle was $10 and we spent the extra to get the audio tour. We spent a few hours walking the grounds, following the audio tour stops. The one line summary is that the entire island, including the four story (accessible, a few more total) castle was built up by George C. Boldt to display his love for his wife Louise. But, as it turns out, Louise died and he immediately stopped all work on the castle, so it was left unfinished and unmaintained for years. Unfortunately, I goofed and erased all my pictures from Heart Island, but it was a neat place to poke around for a bit.

When we got back on the water, we paddled the rest of the way across the St. Lawrence River to the boathouse and then turned upstream (West) to paddle among the many islands.  The only interesting part from a paddling perspective was that right around Stony Crest Island we hit current that was 3-ish MPH – notably different than everywhere else we had paddled. We crossed back to the south side of the river there, but not without getting swept downstream in a stronger current and some standing waves just off of Stony Crest which pushed us back around the East side of the island. This was weird, because the river there didn’t seem any different than anywhere else we had paddled and most places were nearly still.

Once we got to the Southern banks on the river, we continued West some more.  I wasn’t running a GPS, but I think we went about 3.5 miles upstream from the castle. The wind had picked up a good bit as well as the current in some places, and with no specific destination in mind, we turned back somewhere around the mouth of Swan Bay. The trip back was faster, being down wind, down current and having fewer islands to thread through.

The drive back to camp took us by a small town, and I had packed some frozen venison chunks, so we stopped off at a grocery store and got some vegetables and skewers, returned to the campground and made a fantastic sunset shishkebab dinner.

Dinner
Venison kebabs for dinner. Grand Rapids back-yard Bambi!

8/21/17

The next day we headed out crossing back into Canada to continue toward Maine. We first spent a bit of time attempting to scope out some additional paddling right near the campground, but our attempt to find a launch led us down a long dirt road ending in a cluster of private residences with no water access in sight.  Thousand Islands was about in the middle of the trip, so there was another 8-9 hours drive to get to Acadia anyway.  We made it to Mt. Desert Island kind of late and checked into our nice little room at the Belle Island Hotel which was going to serve as our home for the next week.

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 5 – Sunrise and Travel

Most of the last day is taken with the drive home, but we did get up early and go catch sunrise from a new spot.  This time, just after (heading to Tennessee) the Newfound Gap Overlook.  Since we didn’t do much Sunday, I’ll use this post as a wrap up.

  • Wednesday night – drive to Gatlinburg
  • Thursday – hike Huskey Gap Trail, early night, no sunset
  • Friday – hike Rainbow Falls, Aquarium in the afternoon, dinner at Smoky Mountain Brewery
  • Saturday – hike Mt. Cammerer, Sunset Photography
  • Sunday – sunrise photography, hike Grotto Falls, hike Laurel Falls, Cades Cove
  • Monday – sunrise photography, return trip

Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 4 – Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Cade’s Cove

Mill

We started early on Saturday and went up to Clingman’s dome for a chilly (as expected) sunrise.

After that, we headed over to the Roaring Fork Motor Trail to the Grotto Falls trail head.  It’s a moderate hike and climb at 2.6 miles round trip with 585 ft of elevation.  We had been there once before on the first trip to the Smokies and were not able to visit on the second due to the Motor Trail being closed that time.  Grotto falls is a neat one in that you can walk behind the falls.  With a little bit of scrambling into the river below, you can also get a pretty well aligned shot of the falls.

The second stop was at Laurel Falls en route to Cades Cove.  Laurel is an easy hike, 1.15 miles, all paved (somewhat poorly in places) to a more pour-over type falls.  There’s also the option to scramble around a bit at the falls to get down to the second level and again out into the river a bit.

This trip up was special – we found a black bear cub just before the top of the trail.  It was down over the steep edge of the trail, so it was hard to see and hard to get pictures of. Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 3 – Mt. Cammerer

Despite avoiding the weather the evening before, day three was the real day of questionable weather.  Having been to the park a few times before, and wanting to explore something new, we took a drive to the Eastern end of the park to hike up Mt. Cammerer.  I think we were a bit guided by the theory that it was going to be the drier side of the park.

The East side of the park may have been drier, but it was not dry.  The hike starts heading up through a campground and then along the river.  For the first mile or so it was dry, but then it started to rain lightly and more or less kept on dripping until we were maybe a mile form the peak.  At the top, we were reminded that the visibility from within a cloud is very limited, so whatever view we might have been hiking to was to remain a mystery.  On the up side, there is a mostly whole fire watch station at the top, so we had a chance to sit down, dry out a bit and wait for the rain to pass. Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 2 – Rainbow Falls & Aquarium

Apparently I started to write this (day 1 was written then), but then took a six month hiatus, so though I can track what we did based on pictures, I don’t recall exactly what the rationale was for doing the various things on various days.  So, for some reason which I now longer recall, we decided to do Rainbow Falls Friday morning.  We had hiked this two trips and three years prior.  I remembered it having some nice views along the river in the first portion and it’s one of the taller (maybe tallest) falls in the park.  I was also fatter, so I remember it being more challenging.

The trail was markedly different his time on account of the fire that burned some 10,000 acres of the park and Gatlinburg six months earlier.  Apparently, due to winds at the time, the fire spread pretty quickly, but also was not able to fully burn down much of the forest.  As a result, the underbrush was mostly missing and the windward side of the larger trees were heavily scorched, but they were mostly still standing and still had canopy up top.  The falls area itself appeared to be untouched by the fire. Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 1 – Husky Gap Trail

First day of an extended weekend trip to the Smokies.

Janet and I had done a very similar trip to this before in 2015, so it was relatively predictable.  Drove overnight Wednesday to get to Gatlinburg and then got a hotel on the outskirts of Smoky Mountain National Park to do some hiking and picture taking.  The 2017 version started a bit later than typical – we left Chicago at about 1AM or maybe a bit later.  Janet drove for a while and I think I took over somewhere just south of Louisville.  We got to the park visitor center around 11AM.

Our day 1 hike was up Little River Trail, continuing onto the Husky Gap Trail which was reportedly good for wildflowers.  There wasn’t a specific destination for this one, we decided to turn around where it meets up with Sugarland Mountain Trail, which made it about a 10 mile round trip.

Continue reading

Woot! Bag of Crap

It’s been about a year since capturing a Bag of Crap.  Got this one on Christmas morning (1AM Christmas Eve to be exact) and it arrived on New Year’s Eve.  Again, I have mixed feelings on the fun of getting random stuff vs. the wasteful marketing scam that it is.  This one has nothing of real value, and really nothing that’s even that exciting or interesting, so I’m just packing it all into a single picture:

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What we have…

  • A cup holder pack of Spic & Span wipes.  I guess that’s useful, if somewhat irrelevant.
  • Ruggies – pads to keep rugs in place.  These would be useful if I had rugs, which I might have it the former owners of my house had not seen fit to put carpet in the kitchen, but that’s a different story.
  • A CD of Marlene Dietrich who was a German actress & singer.  I may listen to this out of curiosity, but don’t hold your breath.
  • The standard flying, screaming woot monkey and not as standard woot.com tote bag.

There you go, $10 well squandered.  Please do not take this post as an endorsement of wasting money on bags of unknown junk.