Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good times hanging with other fulltime families in Maine

When we arrived, this floating dock was resting on the beach.  Of course, we stayed long enough for it to float!
We learned that other full-timers were still hanging out in Bar Harbor during the time we were there, so of course we had to get together and have some fun!  Kimberly Travaglino (Fulltime Families) is so awesome for reaching out to and connecting with other families.  She organized a beach day at Seal Beach, where we (Travaglinos, McCloskeys, Bradshaws) sat around, snacked, and visited while the kids swam and played.  Of course, Margie did her best to win Jake over, but even chips didn't bring her success. ;)

When we left the beach, we decided to go into Bar Harbor with Kimberly and Margie and crew for some yummy blueberry softserve.  Upon parking, Steve got a phone call from Salt Lake City with a job offer!  Big day...and a chance to share it with friends!  We ended up heading out for pizza and finishing up with CJ's blueberry softserve....wow, soooo good!

We discovered we were all still going to be in the area another night, so Kimberly invited us over for potluck...and kickball!  We had a crazy good time, and Kimberly's team (my team) won, of course, aided by all the little people. ;)

We had so much fun that we forgot to take pictures, except this one of Margie and Jake "bonding"
Knowing that a job offer is on the table made this time together especially bittersweet.  Although Steve hasn't accepted the offer yet, we know that our time on the road is truly coming to a close.  And...the community that has taken us most of our time on the road to have finally built is special, so it is sad to say good-bye to that.  Guess we'll have to lure some of them out to visit us. ;)

Hiking in Acadia - The Precipice Trail

Yes, this is the Precipice Trail, straight ahead.
(By Steve) Since we were at one of the best places for hiking in the Eastern US, I had to take a solo hiking day to tackle the difficult trails of Acadia.   The trail that we saw the ambulances at on the previous Saturday was  the Precipice Trail.   We found out that a 22 year old female college student had fallen 60 feet and died there that day.  From what we heard, she fell from the part of the trail before the ladders, which is just a series of switchbacks.  I found out most of this information after I had completed the trail, but I would have not been deterred as long as the trail was still open.

Looking down on the rock pile section of the trail.
I took the free shuttle from our campsite to the trail head.  It took about 30 minutes to get there, including a bus change.  The trail is only about a mile, but it is almost straight up.  It begins with climbing a giant rock pile.  I'm sure I'm not the only one to miss the path on the rocks; I had to backtrack a bit to find the way up.  

They don't call this a hiking trail; they label it a non-technical climb on the sign.
The path itself begins with switchbacks up the rock.  It even goes down and over some before heading back up again.   The switchbacks take you about halfway up the cliff.   At this point, there are a series of iron ladders that take you the rest of the way.  Although the iron ladders are not hard to climb, I can see that they could be very slippery when wet.   This part of the trail was really fun; it was like a playground for grown-ups.   

It's a jungle gym for grown ups.
At the top of the trail, there are a few options to get down.  Since I didn't have to worry about getting back to the truck, I chose to walk the trail along the top of the ridge heading south and then head down on the Beehive Trail.   From the top, the views were magnificent.   You can see Bar Harbor, Sand Beach, and all the way down to Otter Point.   The weather was absolutely perfect, and I took my time enjoying the view.   

The view looking South from 3/4 of the way up.
The view looking North from 3/4 of the way up.
The path down the Beehive Trail is also challenging, but relatively easy compared to the Precipice Trail.   The hike itself was awesome, the view was incredible, and the weather was magnificent!  I didn't particularly enjoy riding the free shuttle all the way around the island from the Sand Beach stop to the Visitor Center as it seemed to take forever, but it was nice to not have to worry about hiking out & back to get back my vehicle.  I convinced Linda to come rescue me from the Visitor Center, so we wouldn't miss the junior ranger program that the kids needed to attend to get their badges.   

These were the biggest ones I found while I hiked along the ridge.\
The trail goes past this peaceful lake.
This is the top of the Beehive trail, which is how I got down.
This cannot be over emphasized given what happened two days before the day I hiked it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Acadia National Park

It was important to make it to Acadia before our annual National Park Pass expired at the end of the month. We chose Hadley's Point Campground, just 4 miles from the entrance, as our home base.  Not a great campground....we were parked in the middle of a field with water/electric hook-ups, but we did have great neighbors.  Of course, the backed up, flooded pay showers weren't impressive, but it turns out they were having septic issues.  The pool had a diving board and was "heated," according to the advertising, but it certainly wasn't heated according to Texas standards; in short, it was pretty darn icy!  Nonetheless, we still swam most days we were here, except the cold (60s), rainy day....but wouldn't you know, the pool was still plenty busy with other brave souls no matter how miserable the weather was!!  My only regret was not getting a picture of Genna jumping off the diving board.  She was so stinkin' cute up there, closing her eyes and jumping with reckless abandon, over and over and over again!!

Thunder Hole
We love amazing rocks!
Our first full day, we drove the loop road, stopping at Sand Beach (including dropping our new camera in the water--not naming any names!), Thunder Hole and hiking the Gorham Mountaiin Trail. Even though we weren't at Thunder Hole during its recommended peak viewing time, we still got a pretty nice show and heard plenty of "thunder."  The kids really enjoyed it.  We also really enjoyed the Gorham Mountain Trail, especially the blueberries along the trail!  We found a really loaded patch, so we all stopped to pick and eat.  Jake was adorable.  He has an extreme fondness for most berries, and these were no exception.  He got right into the thick of the bushes, searching for and picking his own berries!

Even Jake got into the act.
View of Otter Point to the South
View of Sand Beach to the North
On our second full day, we were a little bummed that the weather was so cold and rainy, but we got out anyway!  Our stop at Cadillac Mountain was altogether unimpressive, except in cold, blusteriness, due to the lack of view from the rain.  Afterwards, we decided to check out the walk around Jordan Pond.  It was still raining, but everyone put on raincoats and off we went.  Steve had told everyone to wear flipflops since it was going to be wet and rainy and we wouldn't be hiking, so we were not necessarily wearing great footwear.  Even if we had worn tennis shoes, they would have been completely drenched as there were large puddles covering the trail.  After a time, Genna started to get blisters from the shoes she'd opted to wear, so I decided to let her go barefoot.  Initially appalled, Steve acquiesced, and everyone except him traversed the remainder of the trail barefoot.  Everyone's moods improved because they were delighted to be doing something that is normally taboo.  The first section of the trail was pretty easy, followed by lots of rocks to traverse over, followed by endless wooden boardwalks that were quite slick with the rain and even rotten in places.  All in all, we moved slow as turtles, and our rain jackets were supersaturated by the end, but we made some awesome memories on this trail!  And Genna walked the whole way minus about 10 minutes at the end.  Not too bad!

Lots of fun to be had lounging on the rocks
Who knew a puddle could be so fun.
More amazing rocks
Thanks Shanan for taking this great shot of us.
Otter Point with the tide coming in.
Beautiful Kids!
Getting the last Junior Badge on this trip from Ranger Emily.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lobster in Maine

We forgot to take a photo so we stole this one from wikipedia.  Ours was even bigger that this one.
I'm not really sure why, but eating lobster in Maine was something on my bucket list.  I think I can blame Martha Stewart.  I remember looking through one of her Living magazines once upon a time, and there was a huge section on Maine, particularly Maine lobster.  It seemed like if I went to Maine, I should try it!  We heard there was a glut of lobster this year, so we were told it would be cheaper.  Not sure that I can say it was cheap, but then again, I can't say that I know what the regular going rate for lobster is.  Steve found a place to pull over along the road on the way to Bar Harbor and ordered a lobster roll for us all to share.  It was huge!  And...although it had to grow on me just a bit, it was really yummy!  Definitely tender and buttery, and the kids liked it, too.  Guess I can cross that off my bucket list.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Hampshire - Steve's birthday

We really needed to break up the trip from Vermont to Maine, so we ended up staying in a little RV park in Conway, New Hampshire called Green Mountain Camping Area.  Little did we know what a happening place this town is!  Traffic getting to the RV park was stop and go, so the last few miles took forever, it seemed!  This is definitely a hot tourist destination, with lots of shops and restaurants.

This is a cloudy view looking towards Mount Washington. 
The RV park itself was reasonable, with a playground and a swimming pool.  It was on the cool side, so we passed on the pool, but others were swimming!  Steve did shoot some basketball with Shanan, and was impressed because she was making shots left and right.  Maybe we will give her a chance to play on a team when we settle down.

It also just so happened to be Steve's 43rd birthday, so there were presents (Eagles glasses, of course, since he's a die-hard fan). Why he needed to open them lying down in bed, I'll never know....guess his old age is getting to him! ;)

Scored some nice Eagles glasses

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vermont - Day 2

For our second day, we headed back to Quechee to visit the Cabot shop.  Unfortunately, the factory tours are only available in Cabot, VT, and that is too far for us to go this time.  Nonetheless, the store has gobs of samples, and everyone had fun sampling the wide array of goodies---cheese, butter, chips and dip, crackers, cheesy popcorn, pretzels and dip, and lots of flavored syrups.  There were also plenty of little shops to explore. 

When we left the Cabot shop area, we drove to the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park.  Our National Park pass is due to expire at the end of the month, so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to use it!  It turns out that the park itself is free (the farm, however, is not), but the guided tours are fee based.  Even though we could have taken the tour for half price, we opted out.  The focus of the tour is advertised as strong on stewardship of natural resources and conservation, and well, our kids understand the importance of taking care of the earth pretty well after a year of travelling and visiting various parks.  We did, however, do the Junior Ranger program, and we enjoyed the perfect weather as we strolled the grounds.  Beautiful day!!  The best part, however, had to have been the cows that came over to the fence right next to the spot where we ate our picnic lunch at the parking lot.  Friendly cows!  The kids, all four of them, had so much fun feeding them whatever green things they could find to offer them!  The kids also played a rousing game of chase, even Jake. 

The day still wasn’t over yet, though!  Before meeting our friend Marilyn after work at Dartmouth, we popped into the King Arthur store.  Now, if you’re not a baker, you might not be into this, but I speak from personal experience when I say that you can tell the difference between King Arthur flour and store brand, or even other name brand flours.  There were only a few chocolate chip scone samples, but I have to say they were yummy, so much so that Steve ate & ate until they were gone.  Most of the products in the store are rather pricey, for sure, but it was still fun to browse!  And…Steve surprised me by getting me a rolling pin (I’ve used a nalgene bottle for a rolling pin for the last year) and a heavy duty baking sheet that won’t warp at higher temps, something I’d been looking for.  I was slightly hesitant ‘cause it won’t fit in my rv oven, but it sure looks like something more permanent is lurking on the horizon, and Steve was feeling generous, so I figured I’d better take him up on it. ;)

Linda scored a rolling pin and baking sheet.
And…we packed still more fun into the day.  We went to the green on the Dartmouth campus for the 
Farmer’s Market and to meet up with Marilyn.  Farmer’s markets are so fun and interesting!  We sampled lots of different foods (the strongest cheese I've ever tasted or hope to taste along with some very nice goat cheese, jams and jellies, pesto, black bean hummus, bread, etc.) and chatted with lots of interesting people.  I was spotted as a homeschooler…because I was wearing a dress, of course…lol!!  After trolling the Farmer’s Market, we grabbed a bite to eat with Marilyn, and then she gave us a bit of a tour of the library at Darmouth…one very cool library!  We made quite the interesting entourage through an ivy league school library with our crew.  Jake kept yelling, “bup” and “moo.”  We ended the day with some play outside, catching up with Marilyn, and trying to keep Jake from removing bricks outside one of the buildings on campus.  That boy keeps us on our toes!!

They have pianos all over Hanover to celebrate the anniversary of the symphony hall.
Marilyn holding up the Dartmouth library.
I have been friends with Marilyn for nearly 25 years!  It was great to see her again.

A rare photo of all of us. 
Another family shot inside the Dartmouth Library

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vermont - Day 1

When we left Massachusetts, we were Vermont bound.  We ended up spending time in Vermont so that we could hook up with an old friend just across the border in New Hampshire, at Dartmouth.  It really worked out well, though, because we thoroughly enjoyed our time here! 

We stayed at Getaway Mountain Campground in Ascutney, VT.  Although this RV park is nothing special, it was just fine for us.  It was easy to get into and easy to get out of, and it had a nice pool for swimming, as well as a little kid outside sandbox/play area.  From there, we daytripped to Quechee. Visiting Quechee Gorge is free, and although the Gorge itself is not really spectacular in terms of the view, it really is great fun for swimming!  We hiked the short but steep trail down from the visitor center, and at the bottom met a journalist, Ellen Fiedelholtz, who told us all the best spots to swim and jump as she’d been coming ever since she was a kid. She, of course, asked us all sorts of questions about what we do, travelling the US in our fifth wheel for the last year.  Afterwards, we played in the water for quite a while, swimming at first, then jumping into the deep portion repeatedly.  Even Genna got brave and jumped, too, with her lifejacket on, of course!  Soooo proud of how much progress that girl has made in the water this year!!

Queechee Gorge from the bridge
The rocks are quite rugged.   Along the bank, you can see how high the river was during hurricane Irene last September.
We all had fun jumping into the creek.
The water felt great!

Alyssa showing off.
Even Genna got into the act.
After much fun playing at Quechee Gorge, we ate a picnic lunch outside the Visitor Center, surreptitiously changed into dry clothes, and made our way to Sugarbush Farm in search of Vermont cheese and maple syrup samples.  Again, Sugarbush Farm is free, so that is always a nice perk!  One of the owners assisted with my cheese samples; it was truly interesting to taste the gradual, or not so gradual, progression of flavor with the increased aging times.  Genna was so cute; she would sniff the cheese before she would decide whether or not she wanted to taste it, and oddly enough, she ended up tasting about every other one of the 15 varieties available to sample.  We also got to taste four different grades of maple syrup, and I have to say that I’ve never tasted better.  Of course, I’m hardly a maple syrup connoisseur; it is expensive, after all, so my experience with it is limited.  But then again, it takes 40-50 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of maple syrup, so it is easy to see why it is on the pricey side.  We did take the maple syrup walk in the woods as well as watched the video to learn more about the process.  Ironically, one of the kids had just asked me why covered bridges were covered, and on the wall next to the video, there was an article about exactly that…in short, once the wooden bridges were built, they decided to cover them to help protect the bridge, so that it would last longer! 

This is where we sampled all the cheeses.   I wish I remembered to take photos while it was happening.
This pole shows the levels of snowfall for the last several years.
Although everyone, except Jake, had fun trying the various cheeses and syrups, I think the most fun was had outside with the farm animals.  All the kids got involved feeding the cows and goats grass and clover (why buy food to feed them when there’s so much free, green stuff around to offer?).  Jake was a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e.  He has decided that every animal is a “bup,” and every “bup” says “moo.”  He had a blast!  He totally got in on the action and was right in the middle of the girls, pulling grass and clover out of the ground and offering it to the animals, squealing with sheer delight.  Love, love this age!

We really enjoyed Sugarbush farm.
One of two wrecked covered bridges we saw in Vermont, due to hurricane Irene in 2011.