Maine (29 September – 2 October)
I’m going to try a different format and just summarize our adventures in a given state and provide photos, rather than go day-by-day. I promise to try and not include as many mushroom photos, but there are so many different kinds of mushrooms and they do fascinate me. I really do find them harder to identify than birds. I thought again about buying the Peterson guide to mushrooms but I just don’t think the drawings are good enough for me to compare my photo against their drawings.
We left New Brunswick (Campobello Island) and headed to Mount Desert Island – home to the city of Bar (Bah) Harbor (Harba) and Acadia National Park. Our designation, of course, was the park. This is a beautiful park along the rugged Maine coast. But it is also a very popular national park. When we were here in June 2014 it wasn’t too busy. This time, wow, were there ever a lot of people here. Maybe it was because of the fall colors or maybe it was due to the three large cruise ships (which probably held at least 3,000 people each).
The park only has two campgrounds – Blackwoods and Seawall. We stayed at the Seawall Campground. This campground is located in a less popular part of the park – off the park driving route and the carriage trails. Despite its location, our particular loop (Loop C) was mostly filled. We were here for two nights. Might have stayed longer but the campground closed on 1 October. The other campground doesn’t accommodate RVs or vans as well. Jack really doesn’t like the Blackwoods campground. As I mentioned before, I don’t think the National Park Service does a good job designing campgrounds.
Before reaching Acadia National Park we stopped at Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge – part of the Maine Coastal Islands NWR system. We hiked the Birch Point trail – about 4.3 miles round trip. It was a beautiful day for a hike – sunny, warm, little wind. There weren’t many birds out – mostly Black-capped Chickadees and woodpecker or two.
Once at the park we did hike a portion of the carriage trails – we estimate about 3.5 miles. These are really nice, wide trails. When we got back to the van we found that our Yeti cooler was leaking water. The drain plug hadn’t been turned tight enough. The items in our suitcases were wet so we off we went to Southwest Harbor (a town on Mt. Desert Island) to find a laundromat. We went to the Village Washtub. Joey, the proprietor (we think he’s originally from New Jersey), was entertaining. A very friendly guy. Once our clothes were dry we decided to have lunch at the Little Notch Bakery – yummy pastries and pizza. Afterwards we went to check out some of the park’s other highlights (nature center with its trails and garden), Otter Point, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole. Well we did stop off at the nature center and walk the Jesup Trail, but the other places were so crowded we skipped them and went back to the campground.
We primarily drive the backroads on our journey. The population of Maine, according to our 2018 Road Atlas, is approximately 1.38 million people. The largest town is Portland with approximately 67,000 people. Wow, that means that 1.31 million people live elsewhere in the state. After driving these backroads and passing through quaint villages we think we know where some of these people are hiding. There are a lot of little villages that we encountered. And a lot of homes along the road, but not part of a village. Maybe you could say one long linear community.
I do love a lot of the distinctive homes we’ve seen here, especially along the coast – large, old homes. Some of these homes are huge. Would love to know the history of some of them. And as I mentioned before there are a lot of antique stores in Maine. A little something for everyone I guess.
This is also the lobster state. When you look out along the coast you see a lot of floats marking the location of lobster pots. Maine has the greatest quantity of “American” lobsters. The lobster season is year-round, but most are caught between June and late December when the lobsters are most active. To be harvested they need to be at least one pound. Approximately 5,800 licenses fisherman place up to 3.0 million pots in Maine’s water each year. A fisherman is restricted to 800 pots. In 2017, over 110.8 million pounds of lobsters were harvested. That is a lot of lobsters.
Speaking of lobster, we passed a small food wagon in Wiscasset (small town along Hwy 1) and saw a long line. I went on line and found that the food wagon is famous for its lobster rolls (no mayo added) with over a pound of lobster per roll. The food wagon is called Red’s Eats (see: http://www.redseatsmaine.com/) and it is the #1 “Home of the Lobster Roll”, according to their website. We didn’t stop. Sorry, but I don’t like lobster.
We decided to stay in a hotel for a night and catch up on emails, blogs (mine), pay bills, etc., and for me – to soak in a bathtub. I love baths.
We are off to New Hampshire for a few days to check out the fall colors. We hope the leaves are changing. We had a remarkable amount of color on Mt. Desert Island, with more color it seems overnight.
But first – I’ve really gotten into taking photographs of mushrooms/fungi. So, I’ve decided to include my mushroom photos at the end of each state’s summary. That way, if you really don’t care about mushrooms you can just quickly by-pass these photos.
Mushrooms Seen in Maine
New Hampshire (2 October – 5 October)
Rain, rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Despite all the rain it was beautiful out with all the fall colors. While the trees are not quite at their peak, the multi-colored views were stunning nonetheless. We decided to find a campground early and just veg out along Highway 113. The campground of choice was Jigger Johnson Campground in the White Mountains National Forest. For a Forest Service campground this campground wasn’t cheap – $24.00 a night. Luckily we get it for half price with Jack’s Golden Age Pass. I will admit the campground had showers and flush toilets. Not a vault toilet to be found. This is not typical of a lot of Forest Service campgrounds we’ve encountered in our travels. We had a nice campsite with no adjoining neighbors. I think most of the peepers (people out enjoying the fall color) stay in hotels. There aren’t any lodges along Highway 113, which is a National Scenic Byway within the National Forest, but the next highway over has plenty of accommodations, including ski resorts.
We visited a number of the scenic outlooks and points of interest along Highway 113, including Rocky Gorge, Russell-Colbath National Historic Site (the first homestead in the area), Sabbaday Falls, Lily Pond, C.L. Graham Outlook, and Hancock Outlook. We drove the Bear Notch Road both ways – that road had some nice scenic pullouts. The colors along this road and Highway 113 were beautiful. I think my favorite spot was at Lily Pond. The colors just popped out along the road view and reflected in the pond. And there were a lot of people looking (peeping) at the beautiful foliage as well.
The second night we spent at Big Rock campground (another Forest Service campground). This campground is much smaller (less campsites) and better for tent campers than for large rigs. Plus, no showers or flush toilets – and still they charged $22.00 per night. I wonder if this is the autumn peeper rate or the amount they charge in the summer as well. I suspect this is their annual rate regardless of the season.
Most of the vehicles we’ve seen are from the eastern U.S. – primarily New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. There was a splattering of other states represented, but few from the Midwest or the west coast. I told Jack that is because residents of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, etc. are hunting.
We did see more warblers here than in Maine, including a Black-throated Green, Palm, Yellow-rumped, and Pine. There was also a beautiful Blue-headed Vireo at Rocky Gorge. This is my favorite vireo species. Unfortunately, the birds were moving through so fast that I couldn’t get a decent photo of any of them. Plus, they like to hang out in the upper reaches of the trees. And these trees are tall. One morning an American Robin was trying to take a bath in a puddle near the restrooms in the Jigger Johnson campground. We came up to use the facilities and the bird flushed. While inside, the bird returned. When I came out if flushed again. I walked off a short distance and the bird returned. Then Jack came out and the poor bird took off again. I wonder if it ever got its bath. And there have always been Black-capped Chickadees. I think without these birds we would have missed a lot of the warbler species, as the warblers aren’t calling or singing. The chickadees like to sing – “chicka-dee-dee-dee” so we know to look up and find them. When we do that, we generally see other bird species – warblers, kinglets, nuthatches (although they are generally quite vocal too), and vireos. These other birds, for the most part, are silent – stealth migrators.
One more hike for the White Mountains National Forest – Lincoln Woods. We set out under partly cloudy skies, but that soon changed to overcast skies. At least the weather was cool enough that we didn’t sweat too much. We hiked to the Franconia Falls – about 3.2 miles from the parking lot. We countered a group of young people along the way with full backpacks (remote camping?). I told Jack they could talk about how ill prepared we are if the weather changes and it started raining, or if one of us was injured somehow. Jack was carrying one bottle of water and I had my fanny pack with my camera and bird book, and oh yeah, my wallet. Like that would do me any good on the trail. And no raingear between us. At the end of the trail on one of the interpretive boards is a list of 10 essential items to bring along on a hike. We had none. Sad, because we know better.
After our hike we drove into the town of Lincoln New Hampshire set on getting lunch. We were surprised at how many condos, lodges, resorts, etc. are here. I guess this is a popular skiing area in the winter. One resort did have a gondola running. That would be a great way to see the fall colors. We stopped for lunch at Thai 9. If you love Thai food and you are ever in Lincoln, New Hampshire, check this place out. They serve some of the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot of Thai food. Hmmm. Maybe we should go back for dinner. I had the yellow curry, chicken. Yummy.
Our last night in New Hampshire was spent in another Forest Service Campground – Wildwood. This is a small campground with only 26 campsites. We chose #17. The cost here is only $18.00 per night, or for us seniors $9.00. This campground closes on October 8th (at noon). At Acadia National Park the Seawall Campground closed our last day there. We were told to be out of the campground by 10:00 am – that was a hard closure. No if, ands, or buts. Be out.
Tomorrow we head to Vermont for five nights. We already have our reservations as not many campgrounds are open this time of year and we didn’t want to be without a camping spot. Many closed mid-September. Not sure why since the fall foliage is such a big deal. Surprisingly, not many people are camping, which is good for the local motels, hotels, B&Bs, and hostels.
Mushrooms Seen in New Hampshire
I know, I know. But there have been A LOT OF MUSHROOMS.
Vermont (October 5 – October 10)
Cold this morning. I couldn’t seem to get warm all day long. Hope that doesn’t mean I’m getting a cold. We made our way into Vermont, stopping for groceries in the town of Barre, Vermont. Every town we pass through we ask each other “Could you live here?” The answer to Barre was no. Vermont is similar to Maine in that there are a lot of houses and villages along the road routes. Vermont, surprisingly, has a smaller state population than Alaska. We are #47, Vermont is #49 in state population. Guess which state is #50?
We took Highway 14 north from Barre. This route shows scenic on the map and we weren’t disappointed. Vermont is quite hilly, or at least what we call hills, (the Green Mountain state), and those hills were ablaze with color – reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens. Beautiful, spectacular!!! The only problem – narrow roads with very few turnouts. And I’m sure the Vermont residents aren’t happy campers this time of year when people come to enjoy the fall colors and don’t drive the speed limit, which surprisingly is only 50 mph on many roads. We pull over a lot when we can to let other vehicles pass. Many of these back roads have lots of twists and turns (curves) so double yellow lines and no passing. Not that those lines stop anyone from passing. We haven’t seen a police cruiser yet on Vermont roads.
We are staying two nights at Lake Cami State Park. We camped at this state park in 2014. Not many people here for a Friday, and this being a long weekend (formerly Columbus Day, now Indigenous People’s Day – yeah I bet they are celebrating). The park closes on Monday (October 8th). We did a short hike on the park’s nature trail, even flushing two Ruffed Grouse. And there were Yellow-rumped Warblers seemingly everywhere busily feeding alongside the trail.
We head next to Gifford Woods for three nights, however, we might not stay there the entire time. I guess the questions becomes just how much “color” do we need to see to be satisfied? Will have to wait and see.
Day 2 in Vermont we hit some different back roads, and even drove through Stowe, Vermont. Boy was that town ever busy – bumper to bumper traffic. They were having an Arts and Craft Festival, plus the attraction of the historic village. In fact, several towns we passed through were having some type of festival or farmer’s market. The traffic coming into Stowe (luckily we were leaving) was unbelievable and not all of them were from Vermont. Madness. Again, we didn’t stop. Not sure where we would have parked.
We stopped at a small waterfall. Nothing too spectacular (as far as drop), but nice nonetheless. Funny how everyone seems to love waterfalls. The parking lot, which isn’t too big, was almost full when we arrived.
Another place we stopped was the Robert Frost (poet) Interpretive Trail. Robert Frost used to live in the nearby town of Ripton. The interpretive trail was about a mile long. The Forest Service did identify a few trees, but other than that nothing of the natural environment was interpreted. There were some Robert Frost poems on plaques along the trail. The poems were tied to the setting and one included his famous poem about the road less traveled and another his lament of miles to go before he sleeps and promises to keep. Sorry, I’m not much into poetry. The one I liked best was very short and about a secret.
The last stop was Costco near Burlington. What a madhouse. That was the worst experience I’ve ever had in a Costco. Talk about rude, rude people. One lady was pushing her cart down the isle at a good clip looking left and right, rather than where she was going. I guess everyone else needed to be sure to get out of her way. I encountered only one courteous person. A sad commentary.
Along the way, there were some places with a lot of vibrant colors and others not so much. There would be hillside after hillside of color, often framed with a gorgeous valley or stream. The scenes are quite spectacular and photos really don’t capture the beauty – kind of like taking a photo of ‘our’ Kachemak Bay and the backdrop of mountains and glaciers. Reality is so, so much better than a photo.
A number of towns we passed through were having Chicken Pot Pie dinners on Saturday night. We thought we might stop at the nearby town (near to our campground) of Enosburg Falls to see if they were having such a dinner. Darn, no luck.
Day 3 in Vermont again was more backroads for more color. We drove over Smuggler’s Notch near Stowe Vermont. Foggy. Could barely see the car in front of you let alone the beautiful fall colors. When we got to Stowe the traffic didn’t seem as bad as yesterday until we reached the main drag, then all bets were off. Busy, busy, busy. Once again, we continued on, although the allure of an Arts and Crafts Fair pulled at me. I resisted. I know if we stopped I would find something I think I couldn’t live without. Turns out we can live without a lot of stuff in our lives. To find out, go camping in a small van for 6+ months out of the year.
We did stop at the famous Ben and Jerry’s (B&J) ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont. Madness reigned. We stood in line for at least 20 minutes to get a dish of ice cream. For you B&J lovers the ice cream was good, but I’ve had better. I prefer Tillamook ice cream to B&J. A small dish of ice cream went for $4.85 – ouch. I could have bought a pint or more for that much at a grocery store. But we did need to “experience” the B&J madness, although we didn’t do the tour as the line for tickets was long and the wait was over an hour.
We continued on with our foliage tour but then it started to rain and it was so foggy we decided to just veg out at the campground – Gifford Woods. This campground is much busier than Lake Cami campground. Both are operated by Vermont State Parks. We did get a refund since we decided to stay here only two nights, rather than three. Hopefully tomorrow we will have no rain, no wind, and no fog. And if the stars are aligned, sunshine. The colors seem to “pop” out more when the sun is shining.
We did do a short hike on the Appalachian Trail that runs through the campground. However, it was wet, rocky, and had a lot of exposed roots. Not conducive to safe hiking so we turned around after about 1/2 mile and returned to our campsite.
Day 4 in Vermont wasn’t much different than day 3 except for the route we took to check out the fall colors. Before we got to Vermont I was concerned we wouldn’t have a lot of fall colors to observe. When we passed through Vermont and New Hampshire on our way to New Brunswick, Canada the leaves hadn’t really changed at all. While much of the foliage had turned colors , what I didn’t count on was rain and fog. The rain isn’t so bad, but the fog really obscures all but the immediate views. Needless to say I didn’t get a lot of photos taken today.
We did stop off at a pottery store (D. Lasser) and checked out the beautiful, creatively designed pottery. There were a couple of pieces I wanted to buy but that would mean either mailing them to Homer or carrying them back with us (and we still have a ways to go before returning home). So I opted to save my money. I could still stop by tomorrow on our way to New York and the Catskill mountains and buy a piece or two or buy it on-line.
We didn’t do much birding while in Vermont, unless we happened to be hiking. And we didn’t do a lot of hiking. I hope to change that as we move onward and southward. Also, I hope to take less photos of mushrooms. Yeah right. Jack did by me this pocket guide of familiar North American mushroom.
Mushrooms Seen in Vermont
As I mentioned, tomorrow we had south with plans to stay at a state campground in the Catskill Mountains. We haven’t made reservations and they are open until October 23rd so hope there will be a spot or two in their 219 site campground (7 loops – yikes!!!). I’m sure not all the campsites will be available for use as parks generally close off a loop or two during the off-season. I hope the sun shows itself tomorrow. Sorely needed.
Until then …
IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD