We made a last-minute decision to join a friend for a drive out to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park to see the Fall colors. It was a bit chilly- Harlan acquired a park sweatshirt from the gift shop due to not dressing appropriately for the weather. We also were far from the only people to decide it would be a good day to see the fall colors, so it was kinda crowded. All in all a nice trip though.
Category: National Parks
Ugh, another travel day and this one would be long. Today we bid farewell to Maine and start heading south back towards home. Our destination is Wells State Parks in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. There isn’t really anything of interest here except it’s along our way and we get to stay in a yurt! But first we have to leave the Schootic Peninsula.
The kids had been working on their Junior Ranger programs for Acadia National Park since we arrived. They had to do lots of observations, a ranger program, and other fun stuff to complete the program. Before we left, we stopped by the ranger’s station and the kids got to prove their worth and get sworn in. Mom and Dad also got sworn in (I think we got credit for helping!). And then it was on to the road for us all.
The trip was long and mostly uneventful. Upon arrival at the park it was announced that everyone would be taking a shower. Showers had been a spotty experience since our arrival in Acadia since none of the campgrounds had them. Luckily, there were hot showers right across from our yurt. I’m not sure if we clogged the drains with our B.O. but we all felt better, or were instructed to feel better, by Amanda, post shower. Then it was lights-out! I had no problems going to sleep after the long car ride. I don’t think anyone else did either.
Today we packed up and headed over to the Schoodic Peninsula. If you have a vision of what Wild Maine looks like, this is probably it. Much less traveled by tourists, there aren’t as many tourist amenities over here.
The campground is newer here. It’s nice to have a fresh, new place to stay.
Before making it over to the Schoodic Peninsula we stopped at the Common Good Cafe, again, for breakfast. The threat of almost having twenty ukulele players on the weekends nearly came true. There were roughly twenty musicians playing instruments but the instruments were everything from formal to homemade, double-base to fiddle. It was quite awesome.
Back on the peninsula, we took a short along Lower Harbor Trail that overlooks Frenchman Bay. The tide was out so the kids spent time slipping on the rocks before giving up and just sitting down. Another star-filled night lulled us to sleep as another day is done.
Our last full day on Desert Island began with breakfast at Little Notch Cafe and Bakery. Quite tasty! Then we hiked up Beech Mountain to explore the historic fire tour that is open for tours on Saturday mornings only. We made it with just minutes to spare.
The tower was only in service a few years (from the mid-60s to the mid-70s) but replaced an older wooden shed that was on the same site. Desert Island has had several devastating forest fires in recorded history. Now fire watches are done by aircraft and satellite.
It should be noted that Harlan and Elise both hiked up Beech Mountain mostly unaided. They are both becoming accomplished hikers. Harlan is experimenting with rock climbing now, too. In the parking lot of Beech Mountain is a large boulder. Harlan wanted to climb it when we got there but was convinced to wait until we returned. Upon returning, Harlan noted there were two guys on top of the boulder. These guys were experienced rock climbers, Harlan was not. That said, he made it to within three feet of the top before needing help. One of the experienced
hikers climbers grabbed him and hoisted him up. He was quite proud of himself until he realized he’d have to get down. Because he had received assistance getting up, he was unsure of how to get down. A rescue mission was launched and Harlan eventually slid down holding on to me, the guy who had helped him up, and a tree. With everyone back on the ground we headed for lunch.
No trip to Maine can be complete without a visit to a lighthouse. We met this requirement at the Bass Harbor Light Station. This was followed by more shoreline rock climbing.
While Elise and I napped, Amanda and Harlan went to a nearby camp store to take a shower. We then went into town to get supper at the Quietside Cafe. Very yummy food and excellent service.
I had never heard of Great Falls National Park before a week ago when we put the park on our weekend agenda. Amanda said that there were waterfalls there that she’d like to see. I immediately checked Geocaching.com and found a few caches I’d like to look for as well as hiking trails to explore. Something for everyone!
The temperatures were a little cool but absolutely fantastic when compared to the winter weather we had been dealing with over the past several months. We packed a picnic lunch and headed out to the park around mid-to-late morning. After arriving at the park I made two unfortunate discoveries. First, the Geocache pocket query I ran of the greater Herndon area didn’t cover the park (nearest cache was over a mile away). The second discovery was we had no cellphone signal at the park. I noticed that on the western edge of the park was a hill that looked tall enough to get me out of the valley. Maybe I’d be able to download the nearby caches from there. Success! After climbing the steep hill to the ridge the weak signal was enough to grab the twenty closest caches. Now we could get down to business.
Our first stop (after the visitor’s center) was Overlook #1. Wow, I was taken aback by the view. I’ve seen lots of mountain waterfalls and even been in a couple mountain waterfalls but nothing like this.
Yep, that’s a lot of water coming through. I was able to grab a minute-long video since I felt still-pictures just wouldn’t do the scene justice. The views from overlook #2 and #3 were just as fantastic.
Harlan helped me find the answers to the Geocaches we were attempting (one Earthcache, one virtual, and one multi) as he does love to find caches wherever we go. This journey took us along the “River Trail” that was mostly smooth with interruptions of rocks and trees here and there. Harlan, being the two-year-old that he is, found a “pot hole” to hide in along the way. This pot hole probably took around 500 years to form (according to a nearby sign).
We ventured back to the Visitor’s Center with information in hand that we needed to find the multi (which was “hidden” at the front desk). Harlan went right up to the Ranger and asked for the cache. The Ranger was a little surprised but was very happy to see someone enjoying the game and the outdoors as much as Harlan does.
We toured the Visitor’s Center, which explains the history of the park including flood pictures that astounded us. Without being able to show you the pictures we saw I’ll just refer you to the earlier “falls” photo and then tell you that there were no falls during these floods. The water was so high that all the rocks are completely submerged and the water rises right over the shores. That’s a lot of water.
Oh, I finally started something I had been meaning to do since Amanda and I started traveling. I picked up a “Passport to your National Parks” book. It has a listing of all the National Parks and then provides pages for you to “cancel” your passport at each National Park. Guess we’ll just have to revisit all those places we’ve already been to so we can get the stamps in the book!
All-in-all this park was great. I didn’t get to do as much exploring as I would have liked but I’ll surely be back to take advantage of the hiking and biking trails that skirt the Potomac River. Of course on the other side of the river is the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail but that’s a different adventure all together!