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Shenandoah and the Two-Way View (Day 82)

October 9th, 2009 Comments off

Shenandoah is a National Park made for old people who don’t get out of their cars. There’s nothing to do there besides pull over and look out over the side and see the valley with farms and towns in it. Valleys, sorry. One on each side. They don’t change much.

shenandoah_overlookEvery quarter-mile there’s an overlook. And every overlook has this exact view (in essence).

But at least the old people are genteel. At least the local ones are. And with the photography, I just went with the old standby: leaves. I’m guessing Shenandoah is pretty brilliant by the end of October. Wasn’t as colorful as New England had been a week or two earlier, though. I suppose these things take time.

shenandoah_skyline-drive-leavesAnother couple weeks and Skyline Drive will be on fire (figuratively).

I also sort of went on two hikes. The first was to White Oak Canyon, which my Reader’s Digest book suggests is the park’s scenic highpoint. To me, the highpoint of it was getting 2.3 miles in, seeing the first little waterfall, and having the locals there tell me it wasn’t worth it to keep going, because the rest of the waterfall was going to be even less spectacular. I guess it hasn’t rained much in Va.

But, whatever, there must be hike photos, so:

shenandoah_white-oak-leavesTrailside leaves.

shenandoah_white-oak-turkeysJust after it occurred to me that this would be a pleasant enough place for turkey hunting with Sgt. York, I stumble onto these guys. Gary Cooper, however, did not make an appearance.

shenandoah_white-oak-cascadeThis is more stunning than the waterfall was.

shenandoah_white-oak-bridgeEh. It’s a bridge.

The couple at the waterfall also insisted that I should hike up to Hawk’s Bill Peak, the highest point in the park, so I did. It was a short hike. Here’s evidence it happened:

shenandoah_hawks-billThe compass tells you where the forest is on fire.

And then I headed south and out of the park, never to return again.

shenandoah_yellow-by-roadSomehow the yellow seemed significant at the time.

shenandoah_bobcatJust because you can’t see it doesn’t mean this isn’t a photo of a bobcat.

It really *was* a bobcat.

bkd

New Hampshire Has Leaves and Then I Leave New Hampshire (Day 74)

September 29th, 2009 5 comments

It’s silly to hold this against Vermont, but if I’d spent one day less in Vermont, I could have spent one day more in New Hampshire. Hopefully that’s my biggest regret of the trip. It might be in first place so far.

I needed to end the day in Maine, as close to Acadia National Park as possible, so decided to just run through one of the Reader’s Digest drives, end up at Mt. Washington — because I love a good drive-up mountain peak –, and then head east into the far corner. The plan was executed to precise specifications and many leaves were photographed.

I don’t know if Acadia will have leaves. I should probably read up on it. Some of the trees in Maine have already dropped their leaves and are therefore considered “No-Fo’s” — no foliage. Anyway, here’s to closing down New Hampshire and going back one day to do some hiking because it looked like it’d be a lot better than Vermont.

Not that it’s fair to blame Vermont. It’s really well manicured there.

Eh, so campground: stayed at the Hancock Campground in the White Mountains National Forest. As I’ve come to expect from all NFS campsites, I was parked right next to a river. Mostly heard rain falling, though, at least until about the time I got out of bed truck sleeping bag cot bed. Nice leaves there, too (not pictured).

new-hampshire_presidential-ridges“The Presidentials” are peaks in the White Mountains named after presidents. I think these might be among them.

new-hampshire_leaves-succotashThis is about the fourth one of these I’ve uploaded now. They all remind me of sweaters Cliff Huxtable would wear. That or succotash.

new-hampshire_side-mirror-leavesOne day I’m gonna take a side mirror photo that works!

new-hampshire_sabbaday-fallsSabbaday Falls, named after the Sabbath Day. Photo taken on Monday, which is holy in no culture.

new-hampshire_sabbaday-falls-bridgeThey always build foot bridges over waterfalls out here.

new-hampshire_red-leavesLeaves. Finally.

new-hampshire_bend-in-roadA bend in the road.

Really I just wanted to post some New Hampshire photos with blue skies in them (sorry, Chad). Then Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New Hampshire. Naturally you can take a toll road to the top: $23! Which, of course, is a full buck cheaper than the one in Vermont. BUT — it’s 3.5 miles longer, mostly paved, and ascends to a peak that’s like 2,000 feet higher. And they give you a CD to listen to on the way up that tells you how to use low gear to avoid overheating.

It got really cloudy near the top, and cold and windy.

new-hampshire_mt-washington-glenThe base of the mountain, right by the toll booth.

new-hampshire_mt-washington-towerObservation tower on top of the mountain. Winds 20-30 mph, mostly cloudy (just not in this photo).

new-hampshire_mt-washington-and-meOn top of *yet another* state.

new-hampshire_mt-washington-clouds-roadHeading down, above the clouds.

Yeah, so I gotta go back and visit New Hampshire some time. The hike up to Mt. Washington looked worth it — it’s high enough to be above the treeline and if you have a clear day, the views would be pretty amazing. Hopefully the hike starts around 4,000 feet, of course, and hopefully you got a sweater handy. Just that it’s cold and windy on top there is all.

bkd

Sunday Driving Through New Hampshire (Day 73)

September 28th, 2009 4 comments

Woke up in a hotel in White River Junction, Vt., rainy as promised. Got in the car, drove across the river to Hanover, N.H. and ended up in the middle of Dartmouth’s campus. It looked like an Ivy League campus — basically the same as USC, but with worse weather. IMHO.

First stop of the day came in Orford, which the Reader’s Digest book said was representative of all New England towns. But I think I missed the turn into town. Stopped at this church anyway (it was Sunday after all):

new-hampshire_orford-churchWet road — a recurring Day 73 theme.

From there, headed up Highway 10 till I got to Haverhill Corner, at which point I got out of the car to take a photo of another church.

new-hampshire_haverhill-corner-churchAnd only one power line in front of this one!

Yeah, and then I guess I could keep talking about how I stayed on the same highway for a while, except that would be uninteresting. And I’m all about mad hooks and, I dunno. It’s a little cold right now. I should do these exclusively at night. Meh.

new-hampshire_tree-tunnelThe tree tunnels are different here. They all look like the opening scene of a horror movie set in 19th-century New England.

And then I — nothing. I did nothing. I think the next photo is from the town of Bath, except you only see the inside of *something*. It could also be in a horror movie if you wanted it to be. Or not. Either way’s probably fine. [BTW, it’s now evening.]

new-hampshire_bath-bridgeThis would be the *inside* of the (covered) bridge. No cars allowed since ’99, though, which kind of kills it.

new-hampshire_pemigewasset-riverI think this is the Ammonoosuc River. I suppose I could just make up a name.

new-hampshire_swiftwater-bridgeThe Swiftwater Bridge. You can still drive over it.

new-hampshire_swiftwater-cascadeMy kingdom for a blue sky. Oh well. It’s not much of a kingdom.

Just FYI, I like(d) New Hampshire. It has two things that Vermont doesn’t:

  1. Rivers!
  2. Places to park so you can get out and take photos.

Huge. Anyway — Highway 112 is a fantastic drive. Blue sky, yes, would’ve ruled. As stated: oh well. Keeping on keeping on:

new-hampshire_hwy-112The, uh, highway.

new-hampshire_hwy-and-dry-bedThe parallel lines of road and riverbed describe the dual nature of nature and non-nature.

new-hampshire_hwy-overhangsMore leaves. If you’re getting tired of them, maybe skip Day 74…

So then I ended up at this place called Flume Gorge. I don’t know who runs it — it seems to be on NFS land and the visitor’s center says something about a state park, but somehow it costs $13 to get behind their barricade and take a two-mile walk. It was about this time that it started raining kind of harder, which did not result in discounted admission to the two-mile walk.

new-hampshire_pool-and-bridgeThe Pool.

new-hampshire_bridge-and-fallsSame bridge, same falls.

new-hampshire_avalanche-falls-topDifferent bridge, different falls.

new-hampshire_flume-gorgeAnd then the gorge.

Meh. These photos looked better last night than today. Maybe they’ll be good again in another week or two.

bkd

Green Mountains: Short, Colorful, and Full of Tree Prisons (Day 72)

September 27th, 2009 2 comments

A tree prison is a prison made out of trees, not a prison *for* trees. Although we probably need those.

Nice weather, enough time to recuperate from the Big Slide hike, so time to head for the hills. Since the hike up Mt. Mansfield would’ve taken me to a place I could *drive* to, I decided to hike up the other side of the valley to a destination called Elephant Head, which struck me as a name you could call a person who had a big nose, big ears, and hopefully tusks.

When I’d talked to the park ranger the day before about hiking, he asked me what kind of hikes I like and I told him I’m good for anything so long as it’s not a long, steep ascent through trees that keep you from seeing anything the whole time. He informed me that *that* was all they had in Vermont. He wasn’t kidding. Note to self: you don’t have to go hiking if you know you’re not going to enjoy it. Ah well. Just wondering how many more times I’m gonna have to learn that lesson.

BTW, it’s raining here this morning.

Took almost no photos on the hike, except for at the top of it (at the Elephant’s Head). The photos are all of sides of hills with mostly green, but also orange and yellow trees. Ah, leaves!

elephants-head_sidehillThe close-up ones turned out better.

elephants-head_mt--mansfield-viewSee? BTW, this is Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in all Vermont. Granted, you can fit all Vermont into a good-sized Costco, but still, the highest.

Anyway, not pictured: the trail you had to take in order to get here. This is where the aforementioned “tree prison” comes in. 2.5 miles hiking straight uphill (close enough) and over slick granite rocks (because they were wet) while tripping through complexes of exposed tree roots (at least they provided hand-holds) to get to *this view*.

Y’know, as a westerner I always figured that east coast hiking must be lame because of how short all the peaks were and the lack of altitude sickness and all that. Turns out the east coast makes up for it by hiking straight uphill all the time. Hat’s off, east coast and whoever the masochists are who go out and do the “Long Trail” (a 272-mile trail from the top to bottom of Vermont), just wow. BTW, these trails would be *fun* (for me) if not for the tree prison aspect. Climbing up roots isn’t a bad thing, unless doing so is rewarded solely by a view of more tree trunks, at which point it just feels like the trail engineers are mocking me.

Once I got down off the Elephant’s Head, I drove down to the ski resort and shelled out $24 (!) to use their 4.5-mile “toll road” to drive up to (near) the top of Mt. Mansfield. The price is ridiculous, but it was definitely the most interesting thing I did while in Vermont. You’re driving through the ski resort up the hill and then once you get to the parking lot, it’s only a mile walk/rock scramble up to the true peak. And for some reason Mt. Mansfield has multiple peaks, all of which are named after face parts. The real peak is called The Chin. The Nose and The Adam’s Apple (for reals) are not as high.

mansfield_stowe-liftSee? Ski resort.

mansfield_the-noseThe high part there is The Chin. The house-like part there is the top of the Stowe gondola. I should’ve seen whether that was cheaper than the drive.

mansfield_trail-landscapeThe trail. Off to the left you can see all the way across Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks in New York and to the right you can see all the way across, er, a state line and see the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

mansfield_alpine-colorsI just liked the colors here.

mansfield_looking-southThe trail is not unpopular — although it was fun to listen to the people who hiked all the way up here gripe about everyone who just drove up.

mansfield_me-at-topI am the highest point in all Vermont. And scowling because of the wind.

The hike over to The Chin was really cool, even if it *was* crowded (it was the first Saturday of fall and everyone knew that Sunday’s weather was going to be awful). $24 is a lot to pay to drive up a silly road, but I still figure it was better than a 2.5-hour walk/climb through a tree prison. Probably. It would’ve killed me to have gone through that and gotten to the top only to be stuck in a mob of tourists. Probably worth it.

bkd

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fall

September 24th, 2009 No comments

adirondack_roadSome random road that my GPS told me to get on.

Driving into the Adirondacks was pretty. Heck, *the Adirondacks* were pretty. And if my transmission would’ve only taken one week longer to get fixed, they probably would’ve been even prettier. ‘Course, the days are already too short, so — you know.

bkd

PS, I know it’s only because it’s part of a headline, but it’s a relief to finally be able to legally capitalize the name of a season.

Categories: northeast Tags: , , ,

Up Into the Northwoods (Day 53)

September 11th, 2009 3 comments

Understanding that it is the suspected home of Coal Dunkirk, I stayed the night of Day 52 in Bemidji, Minn. I liked how everyone there (as well as everyone north of there) talked like Frances McDormand from Fargo (ah heck, like a lot of characters from Fargo).

The drive from there to Ely, where the canoe trip would kick off, was pleasant enough and mostly looked like this:

road_to_elyAnd every little town has an identical, small, white Lutheran church in it.

mn_lutheran-churchLike this one.

Made it to Ely in mid-afternoon. Nice enough town, totally tourist-dependent, and a little scared-looking. I don’t know what I mean by that, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. Looked like every business was on the brink of bankruptcy, I guess. Maybe that’s what I mean by it.

ely_main-streetSee? Scared.

Got there, registered with the outfitter, who put the canoe on top of my truck, then took a tour through the bait shop. It turns out you don’t really fish for trout in Northern Minnesota, you only fish for pre-historic things that are better left unseen by the light of day. And it turns out that things that look like that sometimes bite on leeches. That morning, I’d never seen a leech before in my life. By evening, I owned a big ol’ sack full of ’em!

leech_bagLook at ’em go!

Stayed that night at the outfitter’s bunkhouse (btw, I used Voyageurs North as my outfitter and they were very cool, mad props), where I met some people from Wisconsin. The Wisconsinites also talked sort of like Frances McDormand from Fargo. Their leader was impressed (or appalled?) that I was going out to Boundary Waters by myself and gave me some firecrackers to throw at bears when the time came.

And then I slept badly.

bkd

Norbeck Byway and the Needles Highway (Day 51)

September 7th, 2009 No comments

My favorite part of South Dakota was driving these two roads. You see the best parts of the Black Hills (even views of Mt. Rushmore!), get to drive through dynamited tunnels, and it’s got interesting bridges: unexpectedly cool. The road goes from about Mt. Rushmore (actually Keystone, a town) into Custer State Park, then heads up north back out of the park to — well, to the park boundary.

norbeck-byway_pigtailFor some reason these are called pigtail turns. You go over the bridge, do about 270 degrees, then go back under the bridge. And if I’d thought about it a little more, I would’ve stopped and taken some better pictures.

norbeck-byway_rock-tunnelAnd there are all these cool one-lane tunnels. Not pictured: the tunnel itself frames a view of Mt. Rushmore (but there was traffic behind me, and…).

norbeck-byway_wild-donkeyUn burro salvaje!

needles-highway_needle-tunnelEvery biker’s true passion: taking photos with a buddy. This was the narrowest tunnel on the Needles Highway — about eight feet wide.

needles-highway_needleThis formation is known as “the needle”. It’s probably better without the shadow, but I wasn’t waiting four-to-eight hours just to find out.

Anyway, point being: cool drive. I think the Black Hills could adequately be covered in a day, though: cave, Crazy Horse, Rushmore, Norbeck/Needles, and you’re out of there, heading toward… huh. There’s not much else around there. Tja.

Also: the rock formations that are the Black Hills’ signature (apparently) reminded me some of the Sächsische Schweiz south of Dresden, except that the “Schweiz” has a big ol’ river, castles, old bridges, and very quaint towns in it. Maybe South Dakota could look into adding some of those. (The similarity of the rock formations is sort of uncanny, though.)

bkd

Red Grade Road (Day 46)

September 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Once at my brother’s house in Sheridan, the key thing was to sleep in. That accomplished…

I should just start with the second paragraph.

There’s this road, “Red Grade Road”, that’s not far from my bro’s house (in Sheridan), which is “in the sticks” (according to my niece), but not as in the sticks as the road. The road turns to dirt quickly and then heads up the hills. It’d probably be a great place to camp on the weekends or snowmobile or fish. Here are some photos:

sheridan_black-tooth-mountainBlacktooth Mountain — supposedly my brother’s going to hike to the top one day.

sheridan_red-grade-roadDirty Truck = Happy Truck. At least, that’s my current working theory.

sheridan_red-grade-cloudsThey have clouds in Wyoming also.

The cool thing about Sheridan and the whole area around it is that it looks (to me) exactly like you expect Wyoming to look. Rugged high-country, grassy hills broken up by stands of trees and, in the distance, snow-capped peaks. I’ve heard it said (or maybe read) that when people are thinking of Wyoming, they really mean Montana. Not so true as it turns out. It would not have been hard to imagine that Big Whiskey was going to be the next town up the road at any point (although I think the movie was probably filmed in Alberta). Anyway — it’s a landscape that looks like it needs cowpokes, outlaws-turned-sheriff, saloons, brothels, five-cent whiskey shots, etc., etc. Feels like the West, and not the overrun one like we got in California.

IMHO.

bkd

PS, Sheridan is also cool b/c my brother lives there.

PPS, I enjoyed getting to sign my nieces’ permission slips for their first (actually second) days of school.

Hard Drivin’ and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody (Day 45)

September 2nd, 2009 8 comments

Stayed the night with Jon and Erin in Victor, Idaho. I was particularly impressed by their mature lifestyle that was a clear departure from how a college student might live. In the morning, we had breakfast!, which, somewhat confusingly for me, did not consist of high-fiber Pop Tarts:

IMG00055-20090830-0831They have more kids than I do.

Then it was off to the open road. From Victor, headed onto Highway 22, which goes steeply and windingly over Teton Pass (not sure if that’s the name, but it seems like it could be) to Jackson, Wyo., which is a town whose amazingness seems a little lost on me. Maybe because I never get out of my car when I’m there.

From Jackson, the road headed north back up through the parks — Grand Teton and Yellowstone. A couple things about Grand Teton. One, the mountain itself looks pretty cool:

grand-tetonAnd you don’t even have to get out of your car to see ’em.

The other is that in order to get from Victor, Ida. to Sheridan, Wyo., no matter what the fastest route goes through Grand Teton and Yellowstone, which becomes somewhat less cool when all 50 or so miles grinding through Grand Teton look like this:

grand-teton_trafficFine: not quite *all* 50. But pretty close. And it’d be nice if there were a highway somewhere in this country that wasn’t being re-surfaced.

It’s also repeatedly disappointing that people don’t understand that when they’re driving slowly through national parks, you’re supposed to use the pull-outs. I think it makes complete sense to be doing 20 under the speed limit while driving through Yellowstone — but if there’s someone behind you, get out of the way. OTOH, I got to practice tailgating and high-beam flashing quite a bit, so maybe I should just be glad for the experience.

Once I escaped the parks, it was a pretty easy shot over to Cody, Wyo., home of the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, a museum that sort of tells the story of the West. They have, for instance, the biggest collection of firearms I imagine could exist under one roof:

cody_museum-firearms (1)Then multiply by 48.2 to get the full effect.

The great thing about the firearms wing of the museum is that you learn that you don’t know anything about the history of firearms. I figure learning what it is that you don’t know is probably about as important a thing to learn as anything. Museum also had big exibits on western art (

cody_museum-bear-hunters (1)No, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have taken the photo straight-on.

), the Plains tribes of Native Americans, the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, natural history of the West, and a temporary exhibit on Lewis and Clark. I liked that the museum was unapologetic. The displays are all professional and the write-ups show the sort of scientific detachment you’d expect from a museum, but there was no sense of emotional manipulation around any of it, which could have been easy to do from a number of directions. It’s a solid half-day museum (but kind of expensive: $15/adult).

Oh, also: I had some fantastic New Mexican food in Cody. No photos and I can’t remember the name (there’s only one New Mexican restaurant on the main drag in Cody), but it was pretty fantastic.

From Cody you have two different ways to get to Sheridan: 14 and 14A. Supposedly 14A is prettier, so I headed up that direction. The road goes through Mormon flat-land farm towns for a while, but eventually takes a sort-of dramatic turn and heads up into the hills.

highway-14aAs always, I think the bug splatters make the photo.

It was pretty, winding, and steepish. Would probably make a fantastic sled hill in the winter. It got up high enough that there was a patch of snow next to the highway in one spot. Near the top, there’s a turn-off to go visit the Medicine Wheel. After driving a mile and a half off the highway to visit it, though, they inform you that you can’t use the road that goes to it and have to walk the last mile and a half. Feeling used, I declined.

Driving down out of the mountains, I encountered family after family of deer, most of whom were galloping single-file across the road at inopportune moments. The three closest calls I’ve ever had with deer came within about a half-hour of each other on this little stretch of road. It’s like they have this death-wish. And it probably doesn’t help that they built fences on either side of the highway such that the deer appear to be trapped on the road. OTOH, if they’d just stay *off* the asphalt.

highway-14a_deerBambi’s mom: none too bright.

And it’s good to know that my brakes work. By the time I got off the hill, I was getting pretty mad at the road. I think an hour a day of winding mountain roads is plenty. Three or four hours is probably too much.

Finally rolled into Sheridan a little after 8 PM, got to my brother’s house, and had some leftover beef stroganoff that was really good. Pretty tired, though. I appreciate roofs and permanent structures now more than I used to.

bkd

Bison as Refugees and the St. Ignatius Mission (Day 42)

August 29th, 2009 3 comments

Do bison need a “refuge”? Is there an underground railroad that guides the bison *to* the refuge? From whom are they taking refuge? From where are they refugees? And if it’s a refuge, shouldn’t they get to go wherever they want rather than getting shoved around by National Bison Refuge employees from giant pen to giant pen? And if you’re going to invite people to drive around the refuge full of bison, shouldn’t the bison put on a show? Or just do something other than stand there grazing?

But for their relative rarity, they don’t seem all that different from cows. And the refuge seemed more like an internment camp. Nice skies though.

national-bison-range 1OTOH, bison strike better poses on the horizon.

national-bison-range 3I was sort of excited about bison when I saw them, but after the third herd: oh well.

And then the Reader’s Digest book suggested I go to the Catholic mission in St. Ignatius (it’s maybe an hour north of Missoula) because of the church there.

st-ignatius-mission-church 2This is the outside of the church.

st-ignatius-mission-church 1This is the inside of the church.

st-ignatius-mission-church 3This is also the inside of the church.

Pretty cool for a 120-year-old Catholic church on an Indian reservation next to a dying logging town. Pretty cool for most Catholic churches, actually. The paintings were done by the original missionaries’ cook, who didn’t have any training as an artist. Although I’m guessing he made more money as a cook than he would have as an artist. You know, just realistically and all that.

Ended up getting down to a campground at Spanish Creek, a few miles north of Big Sky, almost at the bottom of Montana. National Forest Service campgrounds rule — another campsite on another river and within a small (13-site) campground for a reasonable ($13) price. And the number 13 keeps out the superstitious riff-raff (my theory — I can’t prove this).

bkd

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