Robert Moses SP, NY, Pt. 2

Friday, July 3

I prepped for the first of two private Independence Day celebrations (both, naturally having to do with good food)—my famous breakfast casserole in the Omnia oven, which usually “rests” overnight after assembly. Then we headed out for our bike ride, early-ish again (but after running the generator for an hour or so) to beat the heat, and managed to put in close to 16.5 miles. This time, the picnic area was closed, and we didn’t do every camping loop, shearing off ~ 3.5 miles from the total possible. Our plan is to stay off the roads tomorrow when we imagine there will be plenty of traffic, boats and lake craft (being trailered to put-ins) and campers all over the place.

We took it easy all day, and for lunch, re-heated some previous dinner leftovers paired with crackers, helping to empty the fridge—we’re challenged between keeping the fridge nice and full so it won’t work so hard off the battery, and having room for juice, leftovers, and other necessaries. But the trailer’s battery level indicator hasn’t read below 3 bars, with the help of the generator, which is so beautifully quiet, even some neighbors commented on the whispering noise level.

Once again Jack headed in to Massena because we had a tonic emergency—not enough to see us through July Fourth. I put on my hiking boots and explored beyond our “front yard” woods, where I thought I could see blue water between the tree trunks. Beyond our forest patch is a giant dam holding in an expanse of the St. Lawrence Seaway? River? at the top of the Eisenhower Lock (indicated by those things resembling low-riding, brown boats in a chain along the waterline). 

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On one side of the dam, the ground fell to a mown area with a gate, beyond which was the end of a road; on the other, a small rocky beach could be accessed. A couple of the camper kids were fishing in a nearby cove along the shore, and a farther cove had a bunch of kayaks, floats, etc. ready to launch—I figured they belonged to the folks in one of the sites ‘round the curve toward the BH, as I’d seen many of their toys in and around their big RVs.

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I walked off the dam the opposite direction (with lots of poison oak growing in the mown hay) toward the gate I guessed led to the extension of the connector road to our site’s Road A. Sure enough, off the road to the left, I was able to walk back to our site.

As it cooled off a bit, we set up our chairs and watched the people flow into the campground, including a corn-hole-playing group of young men with a boat across from us.

By the end of the day, we were surrounded and the place was packed full. I wouldn’t trade any space nearer the BH or the water for our relative privacy on site 78.

For dinner, Jack grilled half of a chicken treated with a dry rub, and I made a salad and some rice, and we had our GnTs and enjoyed a campfire until the mosquitoes came out in greater numbers (around dusk) and we once again retreated indoors.

Saturday, July 4 (Happy Independence Day)

The breakfast casserole was excellent for our brunch and did nicely as leftovers for dinner on our final night at Robert Moses SP (Sunday, July 5). We had run the generator a lot yesterday, so needed fuel, and Jack (bless his little bald head) drove back in for more firewood, ice, and fuel. We laid low all day while those around us partied, shot off crackers and poppers and smoke things (despite the rules saying these were not allowed) until time for our special holiday dinner: filet mignon steaks with a zucchini bake in the Dutch Oven, and the final bit of potato salad. 

After savoring our celebratory meal, we sat outside watching the fire and being astonished that we could see the rising of this 2020 July 4th Full Moon through the trees. That’s all the fireworks we are interested in, quite frankly.

It was a nice lounge-ish day for the holiday, and we had only to hope no one would set the campground on fire with the signs (and loud noises) of the season. Many of the rules at this SP are blatantly ignored (too many tents and/or vehicles on a site, laundry and hammocks stretched between trees, generator times, quiet times) because they’re not enforced. But hey. It’s a big holiday for some folks, so I guess enforcement isn’t worth the effort.

Sunday, July 5 was departure day for most folks. We stayed indoors behind our tinted windows most of the morning, watching everyone drive out or pack up their sites. At times the departures were like a parade. We didn’t see the dump station line-up, but bet it was significant.

By about noon, the place was nearly empty—although there were still many sites in use. When the roads seemed safer (around noon-thirty) we headed out for a final bike ride, replicating the #1 bike ride, for about 20 miles again (skipped the cabin area). The day was very humid and somewhat overcast, but no threat of rain this time.

When we pedaled past the Long Sault dam there was no outflow hitting the river side this time. Also, when we rode down the boat launch slope at the Hawkins Pt. VC, we met a goose family at the bottom, browsing near the parking lot. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same ride.

Also, when stopped for a water break at the Hawkins Point VC under a picnic shelter, we noticed some swifts? swallows? flying into their mud nests and I caught one going in to feed the young:

Also, we had missed this interesting sign on our former journeys:

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We returned for showers in some seriously overwhelmed bathhouses, badly in need of mops and refreshed supplies. It appeared that summer interns of about high school age were on cleanup duty, and they were doing it like interns mostly do—half-assed. But the showers felt good and no one was waiting and that was great.

Jack built a fire and I built a “dump cake” in the Dutch Oven, which we ate after dinner when it had cooled a bit. It was okay, but I think I can improve on the theme. For dinner, I re-heated the zucchini bake and the breakfast casserole in the Omnia and we ate in front of the fire. 

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As we were watching, something bright/neon orange shone through the woods and we figured it was some sort of freighter in the lock. So we walked along the campground loop to the waterfront (primo) sites and saw a long, low-slung ship emerge from the lock system. It looked like a giant Jelly Belly, it was so orange.

By the way—Jack and I have been testing our blood-oxygen levels (with a pulse oximeter) and our temperatures weekly since before we left home. Both have been staying normal for us each, and we are feeling fine. The good news is that, since our bicycling activities have begun, each of our pulse rates has slowed, as expected with good exercise.

Since we didn’t quite make it through all of our firewood (before the mosquitoes chased us indoors again) and since we were leaving next day, we gave our extra wood to the neighbors.

Next stop—back to Vermont to visit another private campground: a place called “Waterhouse” on Lake Dunmore, where we have a riverside (not lakeside) site. 

If you missed Part 1 of this two-part post, click here and catch up.

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These little guys surprised us by popping up inside the Clam screen house the morning we departed.

 

Robert Moses SP, NY, Pt. 1

Arrived late Monday the 29 after a lovely drive along back roads west and north, north, north. We could see Canada during much of the end of our drive, but no way to get there. Saw the bridge across the border and waved goodbye for at least another year. 

We were in a relaxing, shady spot (site 72) with our utility side to the road and our “front yard” being very pretty woods. We set up the Clam for our toy barn and storage shed. Although the site was far away from the bathhouse and offered no services, it was a nice and secluded spot near the end of the sites along Road A. In this site, however, spiders abound and we were constantly running into and through webs—even 5 minutes after we’d passed the same way. Also, the underside of the awning became gradually covered with the long-legged insects I’ve always called “mosquito hawks,” or “mosquito eaters” (actually a type of crane fly) all paired in reproductive bliss. It was a very creepy sight, but they’re good insects, so we left them to their six-legged-sex.

The BH is nice and clean and offers one single toilet/shower room (primarily) for the nearby handicapped site. In addition, the gang facilities reside on each side: women’s has 3 toilets (with the handicapped one having its own sink inside the stall) and two sinks; and a separated shower/dressing area with two showers. Water is hot, but delivered with a push-button system that offers merely a short burst of water for each push.

On Tuesday, June 30 we rode around all the park’s paved roads, ~21 miles, at a (mostly) gentle pace. Since the day was totally overcast, we took raincoats on the ride but it never rained. The wind off the water (St. Lawrence River or St. Lawrence Seaway—can’t learn the difference, if there is a difference, because all the visitor centers are closed) was significant, making for a good, strenuous pedal when we headed toward the water out Barnhart Island Road toward the Frank S. McCullough Jr. and Hawkins Point Visitors Center and Boat Launch (open). We rode further down the road to Hawkins “point” hoping to see water, but the end is taken up with un-accessible government property.

One possible theory about the Seaway vs. River breakpoint is that there is a lock system that converts the water levels from low (maybe the River side?) to high (maybe the Seaway side, dammed by the Long Sault Dam and part of the FDR Hydro project system?). More on the lock system later. Of course, the main visitor center for the Long Sault Dam is also closed.

The nature center we rode past (Eugene L. Nicandri Nature Ctr.) on Robinson Bay Rd. was closed, and while the hiking/footpaths to overviews, observation areas, and storyboards are open, they looked to be swarming with mosquitoes and well protected from any cooling wind.

As we checked out the northern-most picnic grounds (close to a CA/US border crossing checkpoint marked “road closed” with a tent in the middle of the road) we noted that the picnic area had an enormous pile of firewood cut, split, and piled randomly. There was no personnel around, and many newly-built picnic tables, so we thought it odd that the gate was open.

During our return to the Barnhart Island bridge at about 2 PM, we watched a UPS truck cross the border from Canada, and pass us headed toward the office/beach road. Even though it was a day early for our bike rack part to be delivered, we hoped the UPS guy was going to drop it off at the office as the tracking info had predicted for tomorrow. 

The UPS truck passed us again as we took photos on the Barnhart Island Bridge, so presumably, it had made a stop somewhere behind us. Sure enough, Jack checked the tracking info, and it was marked as “delivered at 2:02 PM.”

Once back at camp, Jack hopped into the truck and drove back to get the package, some firewood, and ice, and returned ready to roll on fixing the bike rack. As a further omen of good luck, he saw a bald eagle flying over the water near the bridge.

Our celebratory dinner was foil-wrapped pork chops with potato, onion, carrots, and celery cooked to perfection on the grill, with GnTs and a lovely fire to accompany—that is, until about 9 when the mosquitoes chased us inside.

Wednesday, July 1 (Happy Canada Day)

We enjoyed watching a resident turkey hen with poults hanging around. I saw her and the brood two times on Wednesday, and several additional times during our stay, including deep in our “front yard” woods. Also, there are multitudes of black squirrels (as well as chipmunks and small, quick red squirrels) all over the place—including one black squirrel with a blonde/red tail whom I was unable to photograph despite many efforts to do so.

We didn’t take a ride on Wednesday but went instead to Massena for a laundromat, groceries, and fuel for the generator. Generator hours at Rbt Moses are from 9 to 11 AM and 5 to 9 PM, and we’ve been taking full advantage since our site is very shady and we are enjoying little solar gain on the panels. Which, of course, is just as well since it’s been so hot.

We asked the nice laundromat lady if there was a local library with wifi—btw, it’s a beautiful, clean laundromat, with fans blowing, doors open for air, 24/7 opening hours, and offers good machines that run well and get things clean—so it was well worth the effort. But she reported the library is closed. 

She suggested a nearby Tim Hortons and so we went there for a bite to eat and the upload of my Sugar Ridge blog post. Unfortunately, we had a marginal meal and a long, tedious, frustrating blog upload. 

Back at camp, Jack worked on rebuilding the bike rack and I started readying the groceries for staged storage and a Dutch Oven fennel and chicken thighs dinner—one of our favorite camping creations. We took notice as people began to fill the empty spaces in the campground, preparatory to the holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 2 was forecast to be in the low 90s, so we rode early after a light breakfast to get a hoped-for 20 miles in before the swelter began. Got waylaid on the ride as we watched a small tug-like boat go through the Eisenhower Lock headed south (low water/river direction). It was so small we were unable to even see it for the majority of the water-lowering process while it was in the lock itself, and only knew it was done when it left the lock.

We began to ride out toward Hawkins Point again to (possibly) see some good birds (we din’t). Not even halfway there, I caught sight of the tugboat motoring along the nearby river headed southwest. Motoring upriver was an enormous freighter that appeared to be carrying aluminum slabs from the Alcoa plant down the way, and we figured it was headed for the lock. (When we were able to see it more closely, those long lumps of aluminum turned out to be huge wind turbine propellers.)

So we turned around and rode back to the large parking lot for the public to view the workings of the lock, and dismounted the bikes to watch the long process of the ship—entering the low end of the lock (as below);

. . . rising as the water was introduced to the lock (as below);

. . . and exit again at the high water side, headed north to Canada. 

The ship was called the Volga, run by BBC Chartering, flying the US flag, a Canadian flag, and one additional we couldn’t see nor identify. It blew its deep-throated horn as it left the lock, and the kids watching with us waved.

While we missed it when watching the tugboat’s traverse of the lock, we noticed a newly-erected (thin) osprey nest atop a tower across the way from the lock infrastructure. The resident osprey atop (I managed to forget my binoculars this ride) made some typical osprey noises, and took off when the big ship entered the lock, but we were unable to see if there was anything additional in the nest. 

As we watched, the sky began to darken significantly. Since we’d left Roomba open due to the prediction of no rain and high temps, we hastened back to button up our site. By then it was lunchtime, really hot (although not the 90+ predicted degrees) and terribly humid, so we called off the remainder of our ride, logging almost 9 miles. Instead, I lubed the bike chains and then made some potato salad out of leftovers, while Jack got more ice, and we read and lazed about for the rest of the day, eating the potato salad with the leftover chicken and fennel for dinner. During the day, we also watched lots and lots more people arrive.

This travelogue has been broken into two parts for upload ease. Please click here to see Part 2.

Sugar Ridge CG, Vermont

June 25-28

This private campground, run by Kirk and his family (who are very nice people) is madly overpopulated. We’d been here before, however, and knew what to expect—Sugar Ridge was one of the stops we made on that same maiden voyage coming back from Canada and our trailer pickup in the spring of 2015. It was chosen this year because we were unable to book any stays in Maine due to Covid19.

Many of the Sugar Ridge sites are for seasonal folks who leave their rigs in place, with built-out platform/patios, fences, etc. The noise level is significant as there are many children on bikes screaming around the hills, and dogs who don’t like the looks of each other.

Our site (MO489—MO for Mohawk, the road we’re on) however, is nicely tucked away, although (oddly) the fire ring and the electric/water pedestal are on the ‘wrong’ sides of the site for normal backing-in. For the way we wanted Roomba to be situated near the back, we barely had enough electric cabling to go across the living space to hook up, and there was no possible way for the water hose to reach. Our left (driver’s side) trailer tire was right next to the fire ring.

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Happily, we have a Solo stove and ended up being just fine. We set up the Clam (screen house) behind the trailer, and that left a nice secluded, circular fire area. During the first day, we were heartily impressed with the small, quick red squirrels in the woods, who set up a call-and-response series that sounded like the percussion of a rap song when they got into sync. It was kind of amazing.

A huge maple, along with truly excellent water are easily the highlights of our site. The uphill couple are one of the seasonals, and sit a good 10-15 yards away, well-separated from us by trees. Downhill, however, is a narrow tent site (could conceivably be for an RV but for the incredibly steep grade down from the paved road) which is only thinly separated from us by greenery, including the magnificent maple.

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A significant downside of our site was the “bathhouse,” a VERY SMALL, old wooden structure that was not tidied very often. It had one toilet, one shower stall, and two sinks. A bathhouse we visited on our way out of the campground was significantly more modern, clean, and capacious. Also, hardly anyone anywhere on the grounds wore face masks, although we nearly always did so, especially when heading to the bathhouse.

We had to pay for wifi to be able to check for messages from the folks at Arvika about the bike rack part (cell service was marginal in camp). It was incredibly fiddly to switch devices without buying a second subscription, however, so Jack mostly had wifi and I mostly didn’t.

In any event, we finally reached the Arvika guy, and he reported that he had found the part in stock and had gotten it painted. He reminded us of their troubles with UPS crossing the border, but assured us he’d do his best to get it to our next stop in New York. Jack called Robert Moses State Park to get the address and see if they would accept the delivery, and when we got the “thumbs up” from them, he relayed the info to Arvika.

On our first full day, we rode the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail down to St. Johnsbury. Unusual for a rail bed, the trail was significantly downhill—perhaps a 3% grade—for the 8.5 miles between Sugar Ridge and StJ. 

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In StJ, we tootled around a while and found a tavern (Kingdom Taproom & Table) and got an excellent IPA and an enormous southwestern style salad—mine with chicken and Jack’s with beef; both delicious.

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It was while we were eating our lunch outside on Main Street in St. Johnsbury that Arvika called with the price and shipping details for the bike rack part. Jack gave him a credit card number, and he promised we’d get a tracking number when it was shipped.

Any thought that we’d do the entire Lamoille Valley Trail’s 32-ish round trip miles (with the Sugar Ridge accessway being kinda sorta midway) from StJ to West Danville and back evaporated after lunch. Despite the temps climbing into the high 80s, we killed it back to Sugar Ridge, totaling circa 18.75 miles including our in-town riding.

By the time we’d returned from our ride, a young family with a controlling dad, cowed kids, and overweight mom—with both adults being heavy smokers—were in the process of moving in, trying to set up an enormous tent they’d never erected before. Next door to them an RV arrived, and it became obvious they were all family or close friends. As their stay wore on, the smoking couple and their kids didn’t actually spend much time next door, thank goodness—just enough to make our air space unpleasant with second-hand smoke in the mornings and evenings—because there were several sites that all had some linkage, and most of our neighbors’ time was spent elsewhere.

We showered and left the campground to go visit the memorable gas-and-gourmet shop we had ridden our bikes to years ago: Marty’s First Stop. We fueled the truck and checked out the butcher shop and the vegetables, and came home with some delicious salmon, asparagus, and tabouli, prepared to a T and enjoyed around our fire with adult beverages.

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We got onto the trail early the next day and headed the opposite (uphill) direction, toward West Danville. When we’d gone to Marty’s First Stop back in 2015, we’d exited the campground onto the highway and pedaled down a huge hill, then carried our “take” in a backpack up the hill in a long, slow, hot slog up to the campground. 

Well, guess what we discovered 5 years later? There’s an easy access point to Marty’s off the West Danville end of the Lamoille Valley Trail. We also passed a notably vast area of mown lawn, on both sides of the trail, without a house in sight. It was like a state park’s picnic grounds with the trimmed lawn around stately old trees, but not a picnic table or charcoal grill in sight. 

Eventually, we came upon a huge yellow estate home with nearly as much mown lawn in front of it as that which we’d passed already. It must take “the help” 4 days to mow it all, and by the time they finish, they would have to begin all over again. It was an amazing sight.

We also spooked a Cooper’s hawk off the ground (possibly off a kill?) along the trail.

A couple of miles before the end of the trail, we saw a dam, a covered footbridge, and lots of blooming lilies in a pond identified as “Joe’s Pond.” Joe, evidently, was a native American (called “Indian Joe”) who lived 1745?-1819, but there was little more information to be found about him or the pond named in his memory. We crossed the road and the remainder of the ride was along one side of an enormous lake, which we were surprised to discover was also Joe’s Pond. It was a pretty setting at the end of the improved trail.

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The rail bed continues beyond the end we found, and there are plans to connect “our” part of the trail with another already-developed part, but we’ll have to return in a few more years to discover if the plan for the full Lamoille Valley Rail Trail has come to fruition. Happily, the return trip was all downhill, so we clocked an easy 17.5 miles for the day, with an average speed of nearly 12 MPH.

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We hadn’t been back and showered long when the first rains hit. So we prepared a quick dinner of Jon Beegle’s pulled pork heated with part of a can of mushroom soup, baked potatoes, and the last of zucchini grilled after the potatoes came off.

On our final whole day at Sugar Ridge, we decided to ride the entirety of the Lamoille Valley Trail, stem to stern. The question was whether to end the day easy or hard—we chose easy and went to the St. Johnsbury end first, clocking an amazing average speed of 16.75 MPH. We had a drink of water, then turned around and headed uphill for the entire 16-ish miles to West Danbury. It was Sunday and we’d gotten an early start (9am) so we didn’t share the trail with many folks.

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We had another encounter with the same? Cooper’s hawk. This time, after scaring it up off the ground, it did not completely leave the territory. Instead, it followed us. And I would swear that it was chasing me (being slower) along the path. It didn’t, however, vocalize at all, which I would have expected from a Cooper’s that was protecting its nest. Anyway, we saw it (or a pair of them?) at least 4 times along the short distance I would have expected to be a nest territory.

Just past the Joe’s Pond memorial footbridge (at the West Danville end) I wasn’t paying attention and hit a ridge of packed sand that turned my front wheel and I went down in the gravelly sand. I wasn’t going fast, and there wasn’t much gravel, but I still banged my knee and cut it open slightly, and landed pretty hard on my left side. 

But no irretrievable harm was done, and I got back on and we carried on to the end of the trail. We drank some more water and headed the opposite direction.

Shortly along our way back, we arrived at a food truck called Sambro’s, and we were glad they were serving on a Sunday because it was lunchtime and we were hungry. All of their service was to-go, so we got burgers, potato chips, and drinks and we carried our meals to a shady table in the little park at the swimming hole end of the pond, where there was a pavilion and parking, and where, yesterday, we’d seen a couple of kayaks launching. The burgers were enormous and juicy and messy and delicious. The meal went a long way to healing my scraped knee and bruised ego after the fall.

Then we rode back to the access point to Sugar Ridge, climbed the steep, loose gravel-and-sand roadway to the paved road to camp, and were delighted to see our Smoker family was gone.

Another group, however, was beginning to get into place next door. What at first appeared to be a group of about 3 or 4 20-something guys in three cars, offloaded a 10 x 10, some firewood, and an enormous tent. And then the rains began. We got the Clam closed up and under shelter just in time for the heavens to open up like we hadn’t seen to date on this trip. It was a true gully-washer—and we looked next door and realized that it was just one guy trying to put up the huge tent in the rain by himself. Everyone else had disappeared. 

Frankly, it was kind of like watching a car wreck as you pass by—we could barely take our eyes off him trying to get these long hoop-poles erected and set, only to have the hoop collapse when he went to another corner to get a pole to bend properly. Meanwhile, the bathtub style bottom of the tent was rapidly filling with water. And a gust of wind would come along and nearly knock down the 10 x 10, or alternately, its canopy would fill with a pool of water and pull it off the frame. 

If it weren’t for Covid19, we’d have gone over to help the poor guy out, even in the deluge.

Eventually, the downpour abated and we went off to take our showers—I had so much sand and grit on my left side from my spill, I was hard-pressed to find a way to sit that didn’t leave a filth smear behind. We had packed up much of the outdoors gear before the downpour, so we kept dinner simple and used leftovers for a pasta.

Next day, we left Vermont for New York, heading way north in the state and over to the St. Lawrence for seven nights (that would have been spent in Canada, if we’d been able to get there) at Robert Moses State Park—where we hoped to link up with the fix for our bike rack so we would not have to dis-assemble the bikes to pack them into the camper a third time. At least we have 5 good days in which we might take delivery.

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Ashuelot River Campground, NH

June 22-24

The first thing I don’t want to forget to report is that we saw a low-flying, close-our-overpass bald eagle en route from Gilbert Lake to Swanzey, New Hampshire. Of course, I didn’t get a photo of it, but it was very cool to see so close.

We arrived later than we expected to Ashuelot River Campground—a private campground we’d visited driving home from picking up our trailer from Safari Condo during the spring of 2015. You can read more about our first stay at Ashuelot and the Swanzey/Keen area at my blog post here.

But en route, our path was blocked by an unknown emergency and we detoured along a rutted, mostly-dirt road over a mountain and through the streams.

We drove slowly, primarily because we had not the first clue where we were going—but also to keep the jostling of the trailer to a minimum. Eventually, we made it back to the road blocked by the emergency and carried on our merry way (after letting the oh-so-patient drivers behind get past the slow-moving snail of a blue blockade we fondly call “Roomba”).

The campground, still managed by Chuck and Laura, has been considerably expanded. Many more sites with electric and water line the banks of the river, and many folks were floating, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing along the river.

Our campsite is perfect (#35) because there was hardly anyone nearby, and we made it into a pull-through so our “view” was of the river and Roomba was parallel to the shore. It was a nice, flat site.

In our planning for Camping in the Time of Plague, we had been informed that Ashuelot was accepting only guests who were “self-contained.” Although we do have an on-board toilet, we use the “closet” as a pantry. It would be difficult to either convert it to its intended use (unnecessary to date) or to use it for both functions.

Knowing this, we purchased a portable camp or boat toilet, and we figured out how to fit up our screen house, with its drop-down rain curtains, as our privacy area that would include use as a private shower.

By the time of our arrival, however, Chuck and Laura had built small toilet houses with running water and porcelain fixtures—and had hired someone to come in every 4 hours between 8AM and 8PM to disinfect them. There was no hot water, but what delightful news, and right across the road fro our site, too. There was even a roomy dishwashing station on the structure.

Relieved that the only use we had to make of the screen house was for showers (using the shower port already on the utility side of the trailer), we also were gratified that there was plenty of room for the screen house to be properly set up. The utility side also turned out to be the sunny side, so we got the extra boost of having the screen house shade the trailer.

It was plenty hot in NH, so we ran our AC almost constantly. Next to the river, there were also plenty of mosquitoes. 

Despite asking everyone to self-check-in, Chuck and Laura had opened the office to a limited number of people at one time, so it was easy to access the campground’s free wifi around the office. The wifi was robust, so it was easy to get a good signal by sitting outside in Adirondack chairs or along the porch.

Our first full day there, we planned to return to the Ashuelot River Rail Trail that connects Keen to Swanzey. Upon uncovering the bikes, however, we found there had been a major failure of our bike rack. 

The problem could have been so much worse—but it was bad enough. One vertical side of the aluminum tube (in the shape of an upside-down “U”) that actually holds the rack onto the front of the Alto had snapped in two right at the fitting that secures it to the trailer. The opposite vertical part of the tube was bent at the same spot. If it also had broken, who knows what would have happened to the bikes and the trailer. (In the pic on the right, I tried to remove or at least lessen the distracting effect of the background. Hope I didn’t make it even more “noisy” for you by mistake.)

So instead of riding the trail before the heat and humidity set in, we called the bike rack manufacturer (Arvika), to see what might be done. Our goal was to get them to overnight the part to us, but the timing was tricky—located in Canada, Arvkia would be celebrating a Quebec holiday the next day, making it impossible for it to reach us before we left Ashuelot.

While the guy on the other end of the line (who happened to be the owner) promised to see if he had the part in stock, and if he did, whether or not it had been painted—we gave him our schedule and discussed shipping to our next destination campground in VT (whom we’d already called to see if they could accept such a shipment).

There was nothing to do but carry on until we heard back from him. So we rode our bikes. As before, we rode from Swanzey to Keen on the Ashuelot River Rail Trail (about 6 miles).

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We got to Keen before lunchtime, so we had a snack sitting in the shade outside the pub we’d visited 5 years ago. Then we checked our map (a more thorough one than what we’d had before) to find out how to continue north from Keen. The updated map was excellent, with many cycling trails outlined on the Monadnock Region Bicycle Routes map.

Wending our way through town on the Industrial Heritage trail in Keen, we saw these cool bike rack-cum-park bench structures.

They marked the beginning of the rail trail to Walpole—another 7 miles one-way—on the Cheshire Rail Trail, which was excellent up until we climbed quite steeply uphill (wondering how a train might have managed the grade) to a road crossing called Aldrich Road. Although we did cross Aldrich and go another 2 miles to a capped landfill, the footing from the north side of Aldrich until we gave up was terrible. Enormous rocks proud of the surface, deep sand, and tough gravel made those 2 miles of the ride not any fun at all. If you head north out of Keen toward Walpole on the Cheshire, take our advice and turn around at Aldrich Road.

Back at camp, we’d logged ~25 miles at an average speed of 10 MPH. It was in the mid-80s by then, and we’d had a couple of snacks along the way, but we’d missed lunch. Happily, we had taken some lamb chops out of the freezer and accompanied them with baked potatoes (grown by John and Mary) and grilled baby zucchini. It was an excellent endpoint for a strange and vigorous day.

After our ride and before it was cool enough to get into the screen house to shower, I lounged beside the river while Jack went to the office area to get wifi and see if Arvika might have found the part we needed. Once the site was shaded, we discovered our shower house rig worked out great. We didn’t even need to heat the water—between the hose baking in the sun and the ambient heat of the day, it was an excellent, private, roomy, and wonderful shower.

Not having been able to reach Arvika, we realized there was no option but to figure out how to pack the bikes into the trailer to transport them. So we spent our last day engineering the fit, and how the rest of the pack would work when the bikes took up space we usually use for other gear.

We did a “dry run” by taking the front wheels off the bikes and wrapping them (to keep grease from painting a new color scheme inside the trailer) in enormous leaf bags we obtained from the local grocery store despite Chuck’s warning that the locals didn’t really appreciate interactions with visitors from other states during Covid-19. Once we figured out how to do it and where everything would go, we settled down to an easy pasta dinner while the bagged bikes cooled their heels outside.

The pack up morning was stressful as we tried to keep the bikes safe and the interior of Roomba from getting ripped, punctured, greased, or dented. We had most of our bedding packed around the bikes to keep them from bouncing around. For my part, being in charge of the interior stowage process, I had to remember an entirely new procedure to be sure this or that would go there before we cut off access to that or the other.

Lesson One for Camping in the Time of Plague: ADAPT. Think smart, stay safe, consider options, and adapt to whatever arises.

All things considered, we did a pretty good job of adapting to not having a bike rack. The bikes (and Roomba) made it without incident to our next destination, Sugar Ridge Campground near Danville, Vermont.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to note that we’d discovered President Trudeau had extended the closure of the Canadian border, making it impossible for us to keep our service appointment at Safari Condo—the stay afterward at the Canadian campground we’d reserved was likewise, toast. Instead, we’ll “drop back and punt” and stay at Robert Moses State Park in New York for those 7 days. In addition, the group for whom I edit and layout their quarterly magazine officially canceled their annual meeting (which I’m expected to attend) due to Covid-19. This year, it was to be held in Pittsburgh, one of my favorite cities. While we will stay at the campground we’d originally reserved near the site of the convention, and while we will ride the Great Allegheny Passage as we’d planned, I won’t need to pull out any of the “nice” clothes I brought along to wear as an employee of that group during their big annual meeting.

Again: Watchword = adapt.

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Gilbert Lake State Park, NY

Among our favorite campgrounds is Glimmerglass State Park, at the end of Otsego Lake opposite where Cooperstown resides. But when we made our reservations, the pandemic had not hit the US, yet Glimmerglass was already booked solid for this week in June.

What a fortuitous bump! We discovered Lake Gilbert State Park, slightly farther from Cooperstown than Glimmerglass, to the south and west. Gilbert is much smaller than Otsego but still lovely and popular. 

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 Our site, #2, gets quite a lot of morning and early afternoon sun, necessitating some AC, but it is elevated and relatively private. John, Mary, and Riley are next door in site 3. The only disadvantage of the two sites was that J&M were next to a dusty grail trail going right beside them up to a ball field (not marked on the maps) that no one appears to ever use. The staff, however, would drive up there occasionally, casting dust in J&M’s living space.

The camp area we chose is one of 2 in the campground (called Hilltop) and is grassy and open, with stately trees scattered around the middle and a large bathhouse with 4 private toilet/showers and the usual men’s and women’s group areas. There is also a dishwashing station, and a washer and dryer, but we had some reservations about the clothes washing area, as it’s outside with the dishwashing area.

When we checked in, the group bathhouse areas were closed, but the 4 private rooms were disinfected several times daily. By the time we checked out, the whole bathhouse was open.

There were 4 large RVs there when we arrived and it became obvious they were all together. None of them wore masks the whole time we were there, and they gathered at one site or another to eat and party together. This only got annoying on Friday night when “Green Shirt” had a few too many beers and began talking VERY LOUDLY and being quite obnoxious. One family among the group had mounted a large boar’s head on a step ladder at the hitch end of their rig, and upon its head was an enormous MAGA hat. ‘Nuff said.

Along with Riley, there were a number of dogs there—most were well-behaved—with whom Riley wanted to be friends. So he’d whine and bark sometimes upon seeing some of his species about, which, in some cases, set the other dogs to barking.

The days we were at Gilbert Lake were sunny and quite warm, but there was little humidity. Every afternoon gray clouds would roll in and we could hear thunder in the distance, but it only showered on us once. Riley has anxiety issues with thunder, but on only one evening did he need his “thunder jacket,” actually a dog life vest for water, to ease his discomfort.

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The calm after the storm

The downsides of Gilbert Lake for bicyclists are 2: First, the state of the paved roads is terrible (broken up, patched, and pitted); and second, there are no rail-to-trail conversions anywhere in the area that we could find.

On the 19th (Juneteenth) Jack and I took a short 7-mile tour of the area, sticking to the pubic roads in the campground, checking out the enormous cabin area (33 or so, some of which were built by the CCC back in the 30s or 40s), the beach and concession areas (beach open, concessions closed), and the lower, larger camping loop (called Deer Run maybe?). That camp loop was partially open with 3 RVs in sites, but the staff were doing work around the loop, probably preparing for the July 4th holiday-goers. That campground area is closer to the lake’s beach and is the home of the only dump station in the entire complex.

Saturday the 20th, Jack ran in to the nearest village (Morris) to do a reconnoiter and some laundry. Other than the laundromat, there’s nothing of significance in Morris (not even a grocery store). Meanwhile, I took a ride to check out the path circumnavigating the lake. Signs warn folks from entering, calling it a service road, and the folks at the camp store said there weren’t any bike trails on site, but I took my bike around anyway—John and Mary had walked Riley along the path and reported it to be okay for bikes, so I rode. A spot or three needed some extra care to avoid roots or rocks, but it was just fine.

I did 2 loops of the ride down the hill to the camp store and back to the point where I joined the lake road, circumnavigated the lake, and then climbed back up the steep hill to Hilltop. On one of the tours of the camp store, I saw a Cooper’s hawk lift from the ground near the road and make some effort to get airborne. My guess was that it was carrying something it had caught by the road. 

All told, my ride was about five miles each loop, with the lake path being a bit over a mile. One time I did the lake trail counter-clockwise, and the other time I did it clockwise.

Jack got back around 11:30 and John came puffing up to get the car to go back and fetch Mary & Riley. Mary had twisted her ankle and fallen down on her knee along one of the hiking paths, ending up with a significant scrape on her knee and a sore ankle. She was fine, only embarrassed, but walking was a bit of a challenge for her.

After lunch (and ministering to Mary’s wound and resting her ankle) we all set off for Cooperstown. Mary thought that a gentle walk around the town would ease some of the stiffness and swelling in her ankle, which John wrapped with an Ace bandage.

A stroll and an ice cream later, J&M drove up toward Glimmerglass, and Jack and I hit the grocery store for the goods to make a Dutch Oven dinner for us all the next day, on our final night together.

On Father’s Day Sunday, J&M headed north to link up with Mary’s brother at a half-way point for them both. Jack and I had a lazy day reading and napping. Every day of our stay we heard and saw a Cooper’s hawk circling overhead—possibly a mate to the one I saw on my solo ride on the 20th. 

I fixed the DO goulash dinner for us and we enjoyed the meal and a quiet evening around the fire, which, as usual, included some distant thunder, some gray clouds, and a sprinkle thrown into the mix. 

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On June 22, we packed up our houses on wheels. J&M headed south, back to Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA en route to their home and garden; and Jack and I headed north and east to New Hampshire and an old friend, Ashuelot River Campground in Swanzey, NH.

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Pine Grove Furnace, PA

We departed for our next great travel adventure on June 14, headed to Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania. We waved goodbye to our housesitters, gave the pups a final scratch behind their ears, and got away around 9:30 AM. The early departure allowed us to roll into camp around 4 PM, including stops for lunch etc.

Traveling heavy, we packed some extra stuff and equipment on this trip to adapt to Camping in the Time of Pandemic—trying to minimize grocery shopping in strange towns, we carried a lot of freeze-dried “hiking” food packets. There were also campgrounds along our anticipated itinerary that only accept campers who are “self-contained,” meaning the bathhouses were closed to limit transmission of Covid-19 (and the attendant cleansing requirements that common sense and visitor safety required).

So we also carried on board a new, freestanding camping toilet (although our Alto has a toilet on board, we use that cabinet for food storage—it is what we call our “pantry”) and we experimented prior to departure with converting our screened shelter into a private bathhouse, to be set up at the utility side of our trailer where the exterior shower access is. 

We also packed in lots of hand sanitizer, extra paper goods, and disinfecting wipes for use when the campground bathhouses were actually open. And face masks, of course.

So we arrived at our good old friend, Pine Grove Furnace State Park, at which we’ve stayed several times in the past. For more about the campground and state park, see the prior post about it that you can access here.

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Our site this time at their Charcoal Hearth Campground was #48, the first in the “no dogs” section, and John and Mary—our companions from home who will be sharing this adventure for the first 10-ish days—had the last “pets allowed” site so they could accommodate the canine member of the family, Riley. All of the sites at this campground lack water, so there are potable water spigots scattered around, and we stopped at one to fill our water tank. We did have electricity, although there are some sites without, and others without that are designated tent only. Each of the two loops of the campground has its own bathhouse.

Our bathhouse there was open and very well cared for by the staff—clean and tidy, and with a scheduled “deep clean” on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when they closed down for a few hours. Masks were required in the bathhouses, the camp store, and the ranger’s office. Although we did not get into the Appalachian Trail Museum this time (a very neat visit) they were also open on a limited schedule and face masks were required inside. They also limited visitors because it is a rather small space.

We took a bicycle ride down to the actual charcoal furnaces, and read the storyboards about the process, and the AT follows part of an old rail bed that carried the charcoal from the furnaces to points of sale in PA back in the day. Now the rail bed is a “hiker biker trail” and goes from the furnaces to the smaller of the two recreational lakes, called Fuller Lake, then along a paved road (with little vehicular traffic) to the larger of the State Park’s two lakes, Laurel Lake.

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The route we took, to Laurel Lake’s dam, was about 5 miles one way, and upon our return we went to the camp store to have an ice cream. There, we were harassed a bit by a couple of yahoos sitting in their car in the parking lot, smoking stinky cigarettes. They were “talking between themselves” but loudly enough for us to hear that they were dissing us for wearing masks. They also commented on what they assumed was our political bent, our level of fear for a virus that they believed did not exist, and how their governor had spooked the residents of the Commonwealth about the danger by shutting everything down and only opening businesses back up slowly and carefully. We ignored them until they drove away, taking their cigarette smoke with them (but leaving their trash on the ground next to where they’d parked).

The next day (June 16) we trundled with our bikes out to Gettysburg, and unfortunately, found the visitor center closed. To really grasp the enormity of the Civil War battle that took place there, and to appreciate all the monuments to those involved, one really must see the diorama of the battlefield that is the center point of the visitor center experience. 

But we rode along a part of the battleground Jack and I had not seen before, with the hope of riding through the cemetery, but bicycles are not allowed in the cemetery. Also of note is that the map of the battleground used for the “auto tour” or the self-guided tour is not even remotely accurate. We got turned around a few times because the distances indicated were never to scale, and many of the roads on the map were unnamed.

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Also, a problem was the scarcity of open restrooms and comfort stops available due to the pandemic.

But it was a beautiful day and we noted that places like Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields are the exactly appropriate spots for the statues to both northern and southern players in that long-ago conflict—as opposed to those Confederate statues of the Jim Crow era that have been erected in the public squares of 9/10ths of the southern towns in the United States. Just sayin’.

Since the battlefield is in PA; since every state involved in the battle sent monuments to their lost sons; and since PA sent 34,000+ soldiers to the battle, the PA monument is understandably impressive. Each of the brass plaques holds many, many names, and the brass plaques are everywhere in and on the monument. Jack was looking for some of his family names among those listed, but did not find any, even though he knows some of his ancestors fought in the war.

As we’d done in the past (and since the town of Gettysburg is right in the middle of the historic area) we had lunch at the Lincoln Diner, right near the rail station at which President Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg to deliver his famous address. The diner had a large back room in which we were able to be appropriately distanced from one another and others, and the wait staff were all wearing masks. 

In the end, Jack and I cycled longer than John and Mary, who wanted to stroll around the historic town a while after lunch, and we clocked almost 15 miles that day, climbing Little Round Top and Big Round Top mountains, as we’d done last time we cycled the battlefield.

On our third and final full day at Pine Grover Furnace State Park, John and Mary stayed local to hike with Riley along some of the many beautiful hiking trails at the SP, while Jack and I drove to Newville (about 15 miles away) to embark on another repeat cycling experience for us, the Cumberland Valley rail trail. 

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The Durfs home, across from the  Trail Head in Newville, explains a lot.

On our last visit, the total length of the trail was in the neighborhood of 20 miles. Plans for extensions on both ends were mapped, but at the time, the plan was in its infancy.

This time, we noted both ends of the trail had been lengthened, and so we were able to cycle from the Newville Trail Head all the way south to Shippensburg proper, past Shippensburg College, to the new Trail Head and rail depot, where we took a Kind bar break and admired the sculptures and the beautiful day.

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We really worked the pedals heading back to Newville’s Trail Head, where the newly-paved section right at the picnic area/Trail Head was still cordoned off for reasons not at all obvious to us. But as we’d done on start toward Shippensburg, we rode along the grass as instructed by the signs, and bypassed the newly-paved Trail Head section to see how far the extension to the north went. 

What we found was a shorter but still significant extension, although the scenery was not anything to shout about, as it ran along a high-tension electric wire easement, and had no shade at all. At the end, we got to a sign (see pic below) that we thought was amusing, in that the “exit ramp” was a grassy downslope.

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In all, we made 25+ miles at a very good pace (11.91 mph) for our third time out on the bikes since we rode our local, New River Trail on May 3—weather, Blue Ridge Parkway construction, and home-bound chores preventing any kind of a head start on the cycling season back home.

On Thursday, June 18, we packed up and drove ~6 hours (again, with stops) to Glibert Lake State Park in New York.

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Pettigrew State Park, North Carolina

January 3, 2020, Friday: It was a warm night so we slept with the ceiling fan/vent exhausting and awoke to 65 degrees outside and in the low 60s inside.

One final note about Carolina Beach SP that I forgot to mention in the prior post: They close and lock the gate at 6PM. When Jack was checking in, this was mentioned, and when he asked what we might do if we arrive back and find the gate locked, some general arm-waving and vague references to a “driveway” were made, but we never followed up.

When we returned from Michael’s Seafood on our last night at Carolina Beach, it was 6:45. So we wandered around some of the turn-offs from the main road in front of the gate, and at one point ended up turning around in some poor soul’s driveway. 

For the record, if you go past the park entry off Dow Rd. The first right past the Park Road is, indeed, a gravel driveway, but it goes past a house and becomes the cut-through to get behind the gate and into (as well as out of) the park after hours. Sheesh!

Anyway, we left Carolina Beach SP, and en route, we encountered 75 degrees at 10AM, and clear driving the whole way to Pettigrew State Park. The temps were cooling by the time we arrived around 3PM.

Site 13 is in the sun (for solar gain as there is no electric or water at the sites) and nearest to the bathroom (the loop bathhouse remains closed in the winter, but there’s a heated toilet at the ranger’s office). By the way, the folks at the office are incredibly nice). You can get ice when the office is open, and firewood is on the honor system right at the camping loop.

Hal and Dawn (fellow Alto owners) were already there, as were the mosquitoes, which were pretty bad with the wet, warm weather. We put up the screen house and pulled out the Deep Woods Off to save my ankles, still bumpy from bites sustained at Hunting Island. David, Holli, and their dog Digby joined us shortly after we arrived (another Alto-owner family).

First thing, I took the dogs for a walk, and we ended up at the boat launch, where the sun was setting.

In nearby (relatively speaking) Edenton, NC, were additional Alto owners, Karen and Steve, who wanted to come for the birds but didn’t want to de-winterize their camper. Instead, they stayed at a BnB in Edenton, about 35-40 minutes’ drive away. We’d made a reservation in Edenton for us all to gather for dinner at the Edenton Bay Oyster Bar—one of the past registration sites of the Bike NC Spring Ride.

Needing fuel to even make it to Edenton, we googled nearby stations and found the one highlighted didn’t exist. So we had to go farther away from Edenton en route to dinner to get fuel, resulting in our late arrival to the party. Moral: Don’t trust solely on Google in this part of the state.

Very nice dinner—got some excellent seared scallops on risotto, and returned to the camper for a much-needed sleep.

January 4, Saturday: Overnight the rain began and it really pelted down. We were not looking forward to trying to spot migrating birds in the wet, but we all dressed for it and headed out in separate cars, once Karen and Steve got to Pettigrew and joined us around 9:30AM. Despite the rain, the temperature was quite warm. Got away, headed to Mattamuskeet around 10 after deciding that we’d try to find a cafe for lunch rather than packing our lunches along.

During the long drive to the Visitor Center (it’s actually called the “Refuge Headquarters”) on Lake Mattamuskeet, we saw a bunch of American kestrels and kingfishers, and I spotted one perched bald eagle—very wet and unhappy-looking—along the way. We stopped at the informational kiosk at the top of the VC drive to see loads of water birds (mostly ducks) in the wetlands (mergansers, “redheads,” mallards, pintails, herons, egrets, etc.). But in the area pretty far from the road (needed binoculars to see them) were a gang or three of tundra swans—but no snow geese that we could see. And where we’d seen several bald eagles in the wetland on prior trips, we didn’t see any this time.

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Strangely, the VC was closed so we not only were unable to speak to any rangers or biologists to get tips on where to find the big flocks of birds, but also couldn’t get the general introduction to what we might see and experience while there—this VC has a great display and lots of information about not only birds but also mammals, fish, trees, etc. Too bad those who hadn’t been there before couldn’t experience that.

So we drove around the opposite (far) side of the primary wetland (slightly closer to the tundra swans) and then headed to lunch. Found Martelle’s Feedhouse in Englehard and had a quite nice and filling (and warm/dry) lunch. Many of the local hunters and residents were there, so we knew it was going to be good. They served all kinds of seafood, Eastern NC BBQ, sandwiches and burgers galore, plates and smalls, and everything you might imagine at a “feedhouse.” I got a pork tenderloin salad that was superb.

We were headed to Pungo Lake, where we’d seen the most of the arctic birds in the past when we saw a white patch on the muddy landscape alongside the road. There seemed to be an access road to get closer, so we took it and got our first close-up look (and listen) of tundra swans.

Unfortunately, we spooked them as we peeked around the tree line, but it was quite breathtaking to see these enormous birds fly and sound the alarm. 

It was still rainy: When the actual rain abated, a fine mist fell steadily. So we retreated back to the cars after watching the enormous birds a while and resumed our trek to Pungo.

In another 40 minutes of driving along state rt. 45, we got to the Pungo Lake preserve, driving in at the south entrance, where the main road takes a sharp turn and the “straight” roadway turns into Pat Road. The pavement turned to mud and the pools and puddles on the road were quite deep and numerous. But at least the rain had stopped.

We saw a huge flock of tundras in a cornfield at the far side of a thin, raised bank of trees and bushes. We pulled the cars onto the verge and all piled out to cross the stubble field and use the line of vegetation as a “blind” to get closer to the swans. We saw several piles of bear poop in the stubble field, just as is the case back home.

As we approached the line of trees, however, we found that there was a deep, moderately wide canal between us and our “blind.” But a couple of us jumped the ditch and were able to take some photos of the swan gang. We stood there in the relative dry watching the birds landing, taking off, and just hanging out.

We thought that, logically speaking, Pat Road should somehow link to Phelps Lake from Pungo as the two are relatively near one another. But bouncing along the mud lane simply landed us in front of a “No Trespassing—Private Property” sign, so we turned around and bounced back to Route 45 North and drove around our elbows (it seemed) to get back to camp.

I took some shots of the sunset as the sky cleared and the rain clouds dispersed.

Everyone elected to eat dinner separately, and although Hal suggested a campfire, he reported that the mosquitoes were ravenous so we all nixed that idea. In our camper, at least, we turned in early.

January 5, Sunday: At 6AM it was 42 both in and outside the camper, so we cranked the furnace and crawled back under the Rumpl blanket. Didn’t get up until late, and Hal and Dawn headed back to NOVA around 9:30 because Hal had to be at work on Monday.

As they were pulling out, Karen and Steve arrived to see what the pulse of the group was. It wasn’t until about 11 that Jack and I decided to pass up the opportunity for more bird-finding in favor of taking more time to hike around with the dogs. Everyone else elected to drive around some more, although the two cars-full went on separate adventures. Karen later reported seeing a bald eagle. David and Holli headed back to Pungo and later reported good sightings of swans, but also snow geese (which I was sorry to miss).

At the end of the campground along the walk to the Plantation is an interesting hollowed-out tree that Jack can stand inside. He held the dogs with him and they were both intent on some sound or smell within (probably a squirrel). Jack himself was unmoved by squirrel scent.

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We took the pups along the boardwalk from the Plantation to the ranger’s office, and then along the 2.8-mile trail to Moccasin Overlook. Along the grassy trail, however, we encountered a lot of pooled water, and some dogs we were worried had no invisible fence restraints, so we turned around early. In all, it ended up being about a 2 mile trek.

The wind came up and there was significant chop out on Phelps Lake. But it dried things out a bit as the temperatures began to drop.

Around 2 Alison and Andy showed up from Raleigh, just to see what all the bird-fuss was about, and after chatting a while, they headed off to Pungo also. I loaned them my binoculars and when we saw them again, they reported lots of arctic bird sightings and a very satisfactory trip.

I threw the ball for Mischief for a bit and Holli and David discussed sharing a bonfire and some adult beverages, and we set up for that and had a lovely evening with them and Alison and Andy. We set up behind the trailer on the slight rise where Jack had taken down the screen house, so we were high and dry.

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At about 7 the party broke up and Jack and I ate chili and “take and bake” rolls for dinner.

January 6, Monday: Holli and David rolled out of camp around 8:30 and we decided to delay breakfast until we were on the road. Jack had a special mission: to find the butcher who had made the sausages we ate when Edenton was the host site of the Bike NC Spring Ride a few years ago. He had done his research and thought we might have it pegged with directions to get there and an opening time of 10AM.

Tragically, Grandma’s Sausages was out of business. An elderly gent taking the sun in a carport next door to the shop kept trying to sell Jack the business or the building, even though Jack kept insisting that all we wanted were some of Grandma’s sausages. He said his wife used to run the business but had to stop, and now they were trying to sell it.

Sausage-less, we headed along back roads to Ahoskie, NC, where we ate lunch at a Golden Skillet. It was quite the place for “regulars” to gather, and Jack really enjoyed his chicken livers.

We kept to the back roads to NC Rt. 4, which is the Kerr Lake/North Bend Federal Campground road, and we crossed the dam and entered one of our most happy places. While our favorite peninsula was not open in the dead of winter, the loop available to us had a warm shower house sporting private toilet/shower rooms. Site #78 was relatively level so we could leave the truck hitched as we anticipated leaving for home the following morning.

Set up was minimal, so we grilled some bratwursts and re-heated leftover roasted veggies and potatoes for dinner. Then we walked down to the lakeside and watched the sun set as the evening star appeared.

The forecast for back home was for up to an inch or two of snow/sleet/icy mix early Tuesday, so we kept up with John via text and delayed deciding whether to head home the next day (as scheduled) or not.

January 7, Tuesday: The rains came in the night and the deluge continued most of Tuesday. We had only paid for one day as they would not refund if we decided to leave after spending just one night. But the gate attendant said as long as we paid by about 3PM, it was okay to delay our decision. We saw a total of 2 other campers, so there wasn’t any chance someone would come in and kick us out of our site.

At about noon, John texted that they’d gotten a slushy mix that was making driving on the mountain less than ideal. He said if we were to encounter trouble, it would be getting in our driveway.

While it was still pouring down with rain at North Bend, we decided to stay another night, and I walked with the dogs in the deluge to the front gate to give them another $10. The furnace was on when we got back, so my jeans and the dogs were able to dry out in comfort.

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We listened to our audiobook, took nice warm showers (knowing that the water at home was turned off) and simply chilled out for the day. The rain stopped around 3PM when the wind whipped up to blow away all the clouds. We fought the wind down to the beach where a previous camper had created some rock-balanced towers that were pretty neat in the back-lit dusk.

January 8, Wednesday: The temperatures dropped like a rock overnight and we quickly broke camp at 34 degrees under a clear, bright sky, as we were surrounded by frosted leaves carpeting the woods. Initiated the 3-ish hour drive home at about 9-9:30, and were able to begin the long process of re-heating our 48-degree home in the mountains by about 2PM on January 8, 2020.

Carolina Beach, North Carolina

December 29, Sunday: Took our time on the drive to Carolina Beach State Park in North Carolina, near Wilmington. Arrived at dusk, and set up in site #34. Our “home” for the next 5 nights was deep and wide, well-separated from neighbors. A large graveled (tent-pitching?) area behind where the trailer sat had a lovely live oak branch cascading across it—Jack had to watch his head going back and forth to the bathhouse, but it was quite a nice addition to the amenities. We tied the dog run to it and later, used it to “air out” some of the dog bedding.

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Although our drive was dry, we found many mosquitoes upon our arrival in the waning light. It was rather damp in the air and on the ground all around. We had leftovers for dinner.

Because we arrived at dusk late on a Sunday evening, we didn’t discover the “shortcut” to the bathhouse until the next AM, right off the back of our site. Likely because of the holidays, Jack found the men’s side of the bathhouse to be messy, with too-little paper anywhere to serve. On the women’s side, not much was out of order and the facilities were just fine, including several semi-private showers. In the showers, however, I found few hooks on which to hang stuff (and the bench was small). In several of the showers, they had retro-fitted wooden covers over what I assumed had once been vents or windows, and these had closures on which to hang a shower kit and a net bag to keep clothes off the bench and dry.

December 30, Monday: There was more rain overnight, but we slept until the dogs got restless at around 7:30. Toasted some of Jack’s good bread, showered, and put up the awning, etc.—things we didn’t get around to during our late arrival.

Headed into Wilmington for groceries and lunch. Ate at a Mexican restaurant called Corzano’s, which I thought meant “deer’s” or “stag’s” or some such, due to the images on the sign. When I tried to translate it, the closest word I could find that was a real Spanish word was Corazóno’s, which means “heart’s.” Not sure how that fits, but I tried translating “hart” (another name for a deer, especially a male deer) but the phrase “corazón a corazón” means “heart to heart.” 

So I guessed that Corzano must be the surname of the person or family who owns the restaurant. In any case, our meal was delicious, with portions so generous I had to take some of my fajita burrito back to camp. They have excellent salsa, too.

I took a long walk with the dogs to the second (of two) camping loops. At the top of this loop are some cute (very small) cabins, which appeared popular. My guess is that one would need your own camping gear to stay in one, but I did not peer into any windows.

I found that this second campsite loop was mostly closed off. Not sure why, but not counting the cabins, it’s a small loop with its own bathhouse, and some pretty nice unserviced sites interspersed. In front of the gate was site #46—if one can live with an unserviced site, 46 has a beautiful, deep (private) access point to the Snow’s Cut Trail that traverses the high bluff of the Snow’s Cut River (a tributary of the Cape Fear River). I imagined that carrying a couple of camp chairs out to the bluff would make for some quite lovely sunset-watching with an adult beverage. But the downside would be that the vast trail system at the park is quite popular and that trail would be rather busy. 

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Boat on Snow’s Cut River

Because of the weather and the shady site, we ran the generator for ~3 hours to get our battery up to snuff for the night furnace. We ate leftover game hen & winter vegetables, and added some rice to the mix for our dinner.

December 31, New Year’s Eve, Tuesday: Another “good sleeping” night as the overnight was nice and cool (high 40s) and we decided to sleep without the furnace. Getting out from under the Rumpl blanket was another matter—it was 52 inside, so we hopped up to turn on the furnace and get the space warm before arising at around 8:30 to a lovely, crisp, and clear day. 

The cool temps for the rest of our stay kept the mosquitoes at bay.

In the wee hours, we’d been awakened by a horrible caterwauling and decided it was coyotes on the hunt and it sounded like they had caught their prey. 

Piddled around for most of the day. I wanted to try a breakfast casserole in the Omnia oven, so we’d gotten the ingredients at the grocery and I used the remains of Jack’s bread (going stale) in the mix. The recipe requires refrigeration overnight, so we put the Omnia with the ingredients ready-to-cook into the back of the truck to stay cool overnight. I will include the recipe I used below for anyone with an Omnia that wants to cook a delicious breakfast casserole—if you have space and weather to keep it cold-ish overnight.

I ate the leftover burrito from Corzano’s for lunch, and with the dogs, we headed to the Snow’s Cut Trail to see how it fit with the rest of the trail system. Our goal was to get to the Visitor’s Center and see the carnivorous plants, but the place was closed. In summer there’s a trail where you can spot them growing in the wild, but in the winter they are invisible in the wild and dormant. But apparently, the VC has an indoor display of them in an artificial environment. Even though the VC was closed, the restrooms were accessible so we took advantage and then carried on exploring more of the trails, clocking 2.6 miles total.

Saw lots of interesting plants, fungi, and flowers along the way.

For evening chow, we cooked the remaining half of kielbasa, and I roasted the second “round” of winter vegetables I’d prepared before we left home. This time, I roasted them for less time and they were much better—more flavorful and less mushy—than the first round had been (less time = 35-40 minutes). Got the opportunity to use one of my Christmas presents: a portable Dutch Oven steel cooktop with raised sides for wind protection. The legs are adjustable and can even be removed, leaving a 4-inch rise so the cooktop can be used on a picnic or other table without fear of burning up everything below.

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Enjoyed some kick-back time in the chill of evening, and rang out 2019 with a dram of whisky.

January 1, 2020, Wednesday: The dogs got restless around 5:30-6 on this morning, so we got up a bit earlier than normal to 44 degrees outside. 

After walking and feeding the dogs, I got out the Omnia from the “cold storage” in the back of the truck and cooked it on medium-low for about a half our, then turned it up to medium-high for the last half-hour (or so). Took it off the heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes while Jack grilled some toast to accompany. It was pretty delicious.

We tried to air out the dog bedding, but the site is shadier than expected, and it was quite cool all day, so our need for “sunshine and summer air” wasn’t exactly what we got. Later, we offered an Alto tour to someone who asked to see inside and thawed the filet mignon we’d brought along, in anticipation of our New Years Day meal.

We enjoyed a lovely bonfire, some good wine, and a delicious meal of grilled filets, “smokehouse” style green beans, and potatoes au gratin. Very nice (and hopeful) way to launch us into 2020.

January 2, Thursday: Another chilly night. We again awoke to 44 degrees outside, and only 49 inside. Ate a reprise of the breakfast casserole heated in a frypan, and took a very long hike to Sugarloaf Dune, “a prominent pre-Colombian geologic feature.” I have included the storyboards we read below in case anyone wants to read more about it.

The various trails to get there wind throughout the park and were marked on the map as being ~2.5 miles one-way. The ones we chose went mostly through what I might call “piney savannah”—we traversed the Campground Trail first, then connected and continued along the Sugarloaf Trail past Grass Pond, Lilly Pond, and Cypress Pond. We hit the Swamp Trail on the return (which was not swampy).

While the trails are well-marked, it’s a good idea to take one of the trail maps with you so you can see your options and choose your path.

After the hike, we took showers, and Jack began to pack for our departure. For dinner, we headed into Wilmington to Michael’s Seafood, and the place was packed. We sat on the back (enclosed) patio with enormous gas-flame heaters to keep it useful in winter. But the space was incredibly loud! It was difficult to hear yourself think. We both had shrimp and grits, and although it was tasty, Parkway Grille in Floyd does a better job of shrimp and grits (IMHO).

One final thing I should mention, especially for those who travel with dogs: There are trash and recycling bins all over the camping loops. Literally every 50-75 yards or so, there’s another 4-bin “station” for both garbage (including dog poop bags) and recyclables (single-stream). A true luxury if you’re walking and picking up after dogs.

Given these bins are just wooden containers, I had thought to myself, “Well, I guess they don’t have a raccoon problem here (see the prior post from Hunting Island, SC)!” But they do, indeed, have raccoons, as we saw a troupe of the pests traversing the campground just prior to leaving. I wondered how they managed to keep them out of the garbage . . . 

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Omnia breakfast casserole

Bread: you’ll line the lightly oiled bottom of the Omnia’s silicone liner with sandwich-width sliced bread cut in cubes/chunks. You can use store-sliced bread or homemade, white or multi-grain, crust on or off. How much you need depends on what type of bread you use. I used about 2 slices, chunked up and fit flat on the bottom. The bread should form a relatively unbroken “mat” at the bottom, approx. .5 to 1 inch thick.

  • ~7 eggs
  • ~1.5 c milk
  • ~ 1/2 c store-bought pico de gallo
  • ~ 6 grilled sausage patties, crumbled (or about 1/3 of a “loaf” of ground sausage, fried & crumbled)—can also use ham or cooked, crumbled bacon, etc.
  • 1-1.5 c shredded sharp cheddar
  • Cayenne and chili powder to taste
  1. Spray olive oil lightly on the Omnia silicone liner
  2. Drain the liquid from the pico de gallo as you assemble the rest of the casserole
  3. Mix the eggs with the milk and any spices or herbs you want to add
  4. Place the bread in one layer on the bottom of the Omnia
  5. Sausage on top of the bread
  6. Pico de gallo next
  7. Some of the shredded cheese (save some for the top)
  8. Pour egg mixture over all—the amount should cover easily but not drown the rest of the ingredients. Use a fork to press everything down and get some air out.
  9. Top with the rest of the shredded cheese.
  10. Let rest overnight in a cool place/refrigerator.

Pre-heat the bottom (separate) cooker (7-10 minutes?) before adding the Omnia on top.

Cook on Medium/Medium low for about a half hour. Raise temp to Medium/Medium high for another half hour.

Once steam begins to come out of the holes in the top of the oven, give it another 5 minutes and test with a knife to assure the eggs are solid.

Remove from heat and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

Serve with toast or fruit.

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About Sugarloaf Dune — At 55 ft. Above sea level, Sugarloaf Dune is part of an ancient sand dune ridge that formed when sea levels were higher. It was named Sugarloaf in 1663 because it resembled a mass of crystallized sugar. The name caught on and Sugarloaf has been on navigational charts ever since. Throughout history, the dune has been a landmark for river pilots traveling the Cape Fear River.

American Indians inhabited the area around Sugarloaf from 6,000 BC until their decline [due to disease brought by Europeans and being forced west by white colonists—LC] in the early 1700s. Artifacts and remnant mounds of shellfish from these former inhabitants can still be found in the area today.

Sugarloaf played an important role in the defense of Fort Fisher and Wilmington during the Civil War. In the winter of 1864-5, about 4,500 Confederate troops encamped here. A one-mile line of heavy earthworks stretched from Sugarloaf on the edge of the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean. Confederate earthworks can still be seen in the park today.

Twenty-five years after the Civil War, a pier located at the base of Sugarloaf Dune became a major transportation link for the area. A local steamer called “The Wilmington” made regular stops at the pier, often carrying up to 500 passengers. An open car railway then carried passengers from Sugarloaf along what is now Harper Avenue to the boardwalk for a day at the beach.

Before the park was established in 1969, the Sugarloaf area was used and misused by the general public. Four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, and beach buggies trampled the fragile dune vegetation and caused major erosion. Today, exposed tree roots are signs left behind by the activity of the past.

This historical landmark is still being threatened. You can protect it:

  • Stay on the designated trail
  • Do not climb or walk on the dune face
  • Keep out of the fenced areas
  • Report any damage or misuse to a park ranger

Help the park protect Sugarloaf Dune for future generations to enjoy. [Hear, hear!]

Winter Grinch Gathering – South Carolina

December 23, Monday: After celebrating Christmas with family on Dec. 21, we departed Meadows of Dan. We had taken the unprecedented step of draining the water pipes in the log house. We ran one electric heater in the kitchen and one in the water stove/pressure tank building. The weather forecast while we were gone was for mild weather until the week of our return (January 6-12). We were unable to engage a house sitter on short notice, so we bundled the dogs and their gear for the trip (I had previously transferred my red-tailed hawk, Blizzard, to my apprentice for the season, so I was birdless for the first time in 28 years).

We’d arranged to meet John and Mary at Hunting Island State Park in SC to be away for the holidays. We left after my third post-op appointment in Blacksburg and I got the go-ahead from the nursing staff there to leave town.

Our first night was a midway point somewhere between Charlotte and Charleston at a Pilot/Flying J truck stop with a Wendy’s attached. We awoke Christmas Eve morning to lots of holiday lights on both sides of our little trailer, as two enormous semis had scrunched in on either side of us, and they left their running lights on. Since we were running our own furnace, we didn’t hear much of the noise of their arrival or engines—just background to our sleep.

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Christmas Eve day: The first thing we noticed about Hunting Island State Park was the standing water everywhere. There had been a storm that dumped 7 inches of rain, and much of the park and the campsites were flooded. It was difficult to even see the paved drives because there was so much water everywhere. While all the “waterfront” sites and the premium areas near the beach were useless (with many folks awaiting the reconnaissance of the park ranger to see what sites they might move into) John and Mary’s and our sites were uphill and mostly dry, back off the beach.

The signage around the park is pretty awful, too, and there is but one dumpster at the exit area of the campground. That’s the only place to throw away doggie poop bags, so we set aside a collection/trash bag onsite, hung from a tree—and periodically disposed of the poop as we hiked around.

Our site, #168 presented us with an interesting uphill slope on which it was difficult to level the camper front-to-back. But the site was large enough to put up a dog run, although we elected not to erect the screen house. While the site offered both elec and water, we remained winterized and so used the electric only.

The really great news about this campground was that all over the park the wifi connectivity was robust. When lots of folks are online, of course, there was a dip in power. 

The really bad news was that it was infested with raccoons, and we saw a troupe of them ambling down a tree across the road from us, and into the woods. You cannot leave ANYTHING out for any length of time at all, lest the pests get into it and strew it all about. And, of course, the dogs went crazy when they spotted the beasties (there was also a ton of squirrels, but they were at least not so invasive).

Before dinner and to learn our way around, we took the dogs for a walk along the main road to where John pointed out a long-legged waterbird wading in the creek nearby.

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We strolled over the dune and to the beach—en route, in the looser sand of the dune area, the sand burrs were prolific, and all the dogs picked up the spiny devils in their paws. Riley had an especially bad go of it, as his fur is long. Removal was as hazardous to the human as pick up was to the canine.

The tide was out and we had a nice stroll along the beach (no sand burrs there).

Mary and John (and Riley) had set up several sites along from us, and Christmas Eve evening, we went to their site to share leftover lasagne, which Mary had made to take to John C’s down in NC for a meeting. It was delicious.

Christmas Day: We awoke to see 7 of Santa’s 10 (rein)deer out our front window, taking their leisure after a hard night delivering gifts to the world’s children.

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While we had hoped there would be the option for a seafood Christmas Dinner, with the rains and long drives to get here, none of us was able to get into town to obtain shrimp or whatever. 

We did take a drive out to the Visitors Center, and walked along the beach amongst what the locals call “The Bone Yard.” This strip of shoreline had made the news a short time before we arrived, as the state decided to bulldoze some section of the beach (not where we were) for safety. 

To access the area we crossed a bridge over shallow water (since the tide was out). Under the bridge, we saw a wading waterbird that offered a pretty neat reflection photo op.

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The Bone Yard was a section of shifting sands in which the carcasses of trees figure prominently in the landscape. Some were freshly drowned, others had been there long enough to have become bleached or bark-stripped. It was an amazing sight, and I took lots of photos. We also saw a very small horseshoe crab shell and a starfish. We really loved that part of the walk.

Our Christmas Dinner was Chorizo/Kale soup with Jack’s special bread, and J n M ate with us at our site. We enjoyed a bonfire and exchanged gifts.

Many, many people bring their dogs here to camp, and one of those Mary had met before we’d arrived stopped in during our bonfire hour and said, “I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but you’re Mary, right? Over at your site the raccoons are getting into your trash and coolers and making a mess. You might want to go back and interrupt them before they do real damage.”

Up they jumped and were able to save everything except some grapes stored in a cooler. They had quite a mess of garbage to clean up, though. Bloody raccoons!

December 26th (Thursday): Shortly after arising and using the bath house, a water main was either shut off or damaged during the staff’s management of the floodwaters. No fresh water anywhere in the campground.

The State Park offered many walking trails through neat mixed woods (palmettos and long-leaf pine) and we found some rudimentary maps around and about. John wanted to try one of the forest trails that would end up at the lighthouse. 

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We were almost stymied by an enormous pool right in the middle of the trail, not terribly far along the walk, but we managed to bushwhack around it.

The second, deeper and wider pool, however, confounded us. We could see no real manageable way to bushwhack around with the dogs (and the ticks were out, too) so we turned around and walked back to the car, parked at an access point off the main road.

So we drove to the lighthouse instead. Once there, first on our agenda was to use their restrooms. 

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Upon our return, we lounged a while and Jack roasted some game hens on the grill while I fixed some roasted winter vegetables in our Dutch Oven as John prepared some hassle-back potatoes in his DO. Delicious meal, and another campfire (solo stove).

December 27th (Friday): With another camper we had met (she also had a dog and camped nearer the waterfront in a conversion van) named Donna, we headed into town for fresh seafood, lunch, and a visit to the grocery store.

Back when my parents lived on Lady’s Island (nearer Beaufort than Hunting Is.) we frequently visited a little place along the main road called The Shrimp Shack. You order at the window and try to find a place to sit either inside or out. The place was still open, some 20 years after my parents had moved away.

Naturally, their shrimp was the best (I had a “shrimpburger” which is like a crab cake sandwich, only with shrimp instead of crab). But anything you order at the window is bound to be delicious. 

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Across the road is a fresh seafood place with shrimp boats moored alongside (another throwback to when my parents lived there, still in operation) and that’s where we got fresh shrimp to skewer and cook on the grill.

After our grocery stop, I took a lovely walk with the dogs as the shadows grew long at the beach. Saw some neat sand patterns, too.

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December 28th (Saturday): Fellow Alto owners, Hope and Elaine joined us in the campground coincidentally—with their two beagles. Their 2114 was “perched on an anthill” in a different section of the campground, elevated quite high above the road (and still-pooled rainwaters). 

We walked with them and Donna and her standard poodle along the beach all the way to the lighthouse. The tide was going out on our way to the lighthouse, so we had limited choices to get there. But the sand was wide and firm on our return to the campground. Elaine found several sharks’ teeth in the sand and we all looked for shells and more teeth on our way back to the campground. But she was the lucky one.

We all brought our own leftovers to J n M’s site just as the rain began to pour in the evening. We crammed ourselves under the awning, and for the most part, stayed moderately dry. It was fun spending more time with Hope and Elaine, whom I’d met for the first time this past October at the Watauga Dam informal Altogather. 

Soon after we’d finished our meals, the rain abated somewhat, and we all called it a night. Mary, John, and we were all set to leave in the AM, while Hope and Elaine were staying additional time at Hunting Island SP. J n M had a long drive all the way home, and we were headed more northeasterly to Carolina Beach SP, near Wilmington, NC.

 

Trip’s End

Sunday, Apr. 21

We finally got a break in the weather, but most of the Alto crowd had left. Jack and I headed to South Hill for foodstuffs enough to fix dinner for John (arriving without Mary, who has fallen under the weather, or possibly the pollen) and additional Floyd friends, Brad and Ellen. 

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Because we’re settled and they’re arriving in the afternoon and likely won’t be set up before dinner time, we texted with them to let everyone know we’d handle dinner for all of us. We found the fixins for the fennel chicken dish we like to cook in the Dutch oven, and we also got some pork loins to grill for Mary and Allen who were coming to the campsite on Monday. 

I began cooking circa 5:30, completing it by around 6:30, and served directly from the Dutch oven, with Omnia heat-and-serve rolls and roasted potatoes. Afterwards, we cranked the Solo fire, and the Karl & Hari crowd came over from loop C to share.

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It was another glorious sunset, with the sun peeking below the clouds and shining brightly on the end of our peninsula, making the trees look like they were about to combust.

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No good sunset is complete without a good reflection photo off Roomba (it’s a thing with the Alto models that have lots of windows).

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Here’s a gallery of photos I’m calling “Sunset After the Storms”

Monday, Apr. 22

First thing in the morning, I watched an adult bald eagle fly over. The day dawned cold (47 degrees) but I was outside watching for birds and enjoying the clear morning by about 7. I wasn’t the only early bird, as a couple of fishermen were plying the waters near our site also.

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Before lunch, we took a bike ride with Brad and Ellen while John took a kayak paddle-about. We toured around the campground, and across the hydro dam, where we stopped both coming and going to watch bald eagles and osprey and enormous fish near the dam. I could have watched the birds all day.

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Instead of going back to the campground, we turned right at Rt. 4 and headed to the tailwaters of the dam, where there were tons and tons of birds all doing wondrous things, just carrying on with their birdy lives. We got off our bikes again to watch eagles and osprey and herons and cormorants and so many more. Saw this heron trying to hide while roosting in a tree.

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Returned to eat a late lunch and enjoyed the sun. Even though the breeze picked up as we ate, the sky was incredibly blue-blue, and the sun was toasty hot.

Allen and Mary came for dinner around 6, and we grilled a pork loin. John, Brad, and Ellen brought their own dinners and we all ate together. Everyone enjoyed another campfire, topped off with a celebratory dram to mark the end of our trip, as well as Brad’s (Apr. 24) and Jack’s (Apr. 26) birthdays.

Tuesday, Apr. 23

Naturally, on the day we must leave, the temp soared to 52 degrees and the wind stayed dead calm. Heard several lonely loon calls in the early AM.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning and said goodbye to Brad and Ellen around 8:30. Watched a contest between a lone loon with a fish, versus an entire gaggle of cormorants. The cormorants were doing a tag-team “harass the loon so it drops its fish” game, with much of the action happening under water. The loon would dip below, with 2 or 3 of the cormorants flying over to where it dove and diving after it. The loon would pop up again and other cormorants would fly over to it and dive after it when it dove for cover again.

Finally, the loon surfaced and up-ended the fish so it would go down its gullet, and suddenly, all the cormorants looked like they were bored, as if they’d had nothing to do with the loon at all. They all went different directions after the game was won by the loon.

Once the water warmed up a bit, John took a final kayak tour before he began to load up for departure. We ate an early lunch and began breaking camp in earnest around noon.

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Just as we were nearing our own departure time, we saw a Canada goose family swimming by. The water was a bit choppy by then, but the little goslings were pretty easy to see. The hard part was getting the youngsters and both parents in my camera’s frame at the same time. But I finally managed.

It was an uneventful drive back home, and we parked Roomba in the driveway near his garage overnight. All was well with the house and critters and we were thankful for Surya, our house sitter. Naturally, the first thing Mischief wanted to do was play ball. 

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I grabbed some meat and went out to see how Beebs (redtailed hawk) was doing, and she seemed quite keen on the food, but not so sure about me.

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Thus the 2019 Spring Trip comes to a close. It was wonderful and fun and so very exciting to share with so many of our friends and to meet new friends along the way. 

More adventures to come—watch this space for the next peregrinations we undertake with our Alto camper.