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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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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Journey’s End

Thursday, January 11, 2018 •

Jack spotted a Cooper’s hawk perched near our site as we drank our morning beverages. There are tons of owls we heard talking to one another last night and this AM—Jack is pretty sure they’re barred owls, as the hoots are not quite deep enough to be great horned owls.

The warm morning (high 40s) has caused a thick blanket of fog over all at dawn. The moon was bright and clear, but all around the ground is fog. At the dock, once the fog lifted (a little wind and a little sunshine) “our” swans were heading in small groups over to the feeding grounds.

We had a leisurely beverage time followed by oatmeal for breakfast, not being in any great hurry to leave, even if we are in a parking lot. When Barbara and Mike were nearly ready to hitch, Barbara gave me a bit of a tutorial on the caravan mover from Safari Condo, and I made their Moon Shadow trailer dance around the parking lot.

We got away in the 11 range again, looking forward to a nice shower at North Bend. With an uneventful drive (saw various raptors) we arrived at North Bend around 2 and Mike and Barbara, who had stopped for fuel, were shortly behind us. We set up in site 51 again, with them next door, in 53. It was really nice to set up our awning, but we did not unhitch nor do a full set-up inside. Rain was imminent, so the awning was nice, and then we had our lovely showers.

B&M had a look around at the varied sites in this open section, showered, and then joined us for a glass of adult beverage and some cheese and crackers. I fixed a “taco pie” recipe (I’d found it on the back of a cheese package) that called for crescent roll dough in a tube for the crust. I fixed it in the Omnia according to the directions, and then (because I used the silicon liner) dumped it on a plate on its head to serve, but it is not a recipe I’d repeat. Camping with a taco salad on the menu, having pre-mixed the taco meat (as I’d done this time) would be far easier and much more tasty. I definitely missed what the recipe for the pie left out (lettuce, tomato, salsa) and I found the crescent roll crust to be too sweet (and it got kind of hard on the bottom).

Anyway, it was a good experiment, and we’re not throwing the leftovers away, but it will be challenging to get back home. Jack figures it would be good sliced while cold and re-heated in a frying pan, accompanied by eggs for an “upside down day” type of dinner.

Read for a while after dinner and hit the hay early, with the rain fully in gear, pounding against the roof, blowing through the trees and a little under the awning. But that’s camping!

Friday, January 12, 2018

The rain kept us awake off and on during the night, but we never had to crank any of the heaters. Early, we decided against the propane furnace (and piled some stuff in front of the exhaust ports outside under the awning) and figured if needed, the electric heater would do (and we have a remote control for it).

But the sleeping was mostly warm, with both of us kicking off our sleeping bags during the night. When we arose around 7A, to a gray foggy day, the temps were 65 inside and 58 outside. Don’t need to bundle up to go for the morning ablutions.

Honda and Roomba are filthy with road grime, even after the rains, so Jack wants to mount an expedition to find a drive through, self-serve car wash en route. The forecast is for very cold nights again in Meadows of Dan starting tonight, and we didn’t see any options for car washes on our way. So we thought we would just re-hitch and take Roomba into Floyd when the weather eases and wash up there.

Got home and our house sitters were still there, so we moved my car and parked Roomba in front of the garage, intending to back it up to the house for unloading (and if the weather cooperated, maybe a hand-wash?). We chatted with our helpers until the rain began again (among the discussion topics was the death of the “box” that runs our internet and TV) and backed Roomba up the drive when they’d gone. I managed to get everything that would freeze out of the camper and the truck, and we left everything else for a dryer day. The house was plenty hot and the rain came down in earnest, but we called to see if a service worker might be in the neighborhood to replace our internet box.

Happily, 20 minutes later, Rocky showed up and he efficiently replaced the old with a new one, and set us all up for weekend entertainment. While he was moving in and out to fetch stuff from his truck, we just left the front door open, it was so warm.

But not for long. By dark, the temperature was plummeting (although the rain had stopped) and we knew that by the morning, we’d have to build a small fire in the kitchen for extra warmth.

It was great to snuggle with the dogs and settle back into the good old home routine. But the birds will be memorable forever. Maybe we’ll go back next year? Maybe we’ll find migrating birds elsewhere. Who knows what next January will bring?

Next up: a trip in April to eastern Virginia, to camp with Alto friends at First Landing State Park near Virginia Beach. At least we won’t have to think about packing for freezing weather.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018 •

Colder night (30 degrees) than expected, but all of us slept well. I was out on the boat launch dock by about 6:45A and the others came around 7:15 or so. There were lots of swans in more-or-less the same configurations as the day before, and as the sun came up, their noise levels increased. We noticed many, many more different kinds of birds today compared to yesterday AM. Gulls, many differing types of ducks, herons, and, far far away near the eastern shore, two bald eagles fighting—one stayed put and, noting by his body language and movements, was eating a catch I couldn’t see even through binoculars. The other came and went, harassing the lucky eater to no avail. I heard their cries at one another several times when the interloper would come calling and get rebuffed.

It was well past 8 with the sun shining brightly (and warming things on the dock) when the swans began moving off the water. After a while, we all decided to get warm at the campers, have breakfast or coffee/tea. It was colder in the parking lot closer to the still-deep snow than it had been out on the dock.

After breakfast, we readied ourselves to head to Mattamuskeet Lake Wildlife Refuge, and over Alligator sound to another refuge. Jack drove the gang today, and we left around 11.

The bridge over the Alligator sound/river is closed for repairs starting today through about January 19. The detour is not quite 100 miles—awfully glad I don’t live around here (or need to deliver packages to those who live around here) because that’s an enormous distance to add to a commute or delivery.

In our meanderings we took some side roads, and discovered a lovely small inlet called Frying Pan. Mike and Barbara got all excited about this find because it looks quite good for kayaking, and even has a parking area and a boat launch to access the bigger water. Oddly enough, the parking area is off Frying Pan Road.

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In our search for the road, we passed a juvenile bald eagle at the edge of a cultivated (but currently fallow) field. We missed our turn and by the time we passed the eagle again, an adult had landed next to it. We didn’t see any kill or other items of interest, but the two were just standing there, apparently in some sort of face-off. So that sighting amounted to 4 eagles for the day.

We got to Mattamuskeet and hopped out of the truck along the roads to see the small ponds/wetlands around the visitor center, and saw many and varied species of water birds, including tundra swans. We did not spot any snow geese but saw Canadas, and among the ducks and other waterbirds, we noted pintails, goldeneyes, teals, scaups, coots, and more. Not many mallards, no egrets, but many great blue herons.

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En route, we saw a mammal, long and slick, with a long-ish tail. We thought, before it disappeared into the water along the road, that it might be a river otter. We also postulated nutria, as we know they are here as invasives and pests. Jack suggested it was bigger than that, but smaller than a beaver.

As we drove closer toward the visitor center, we saw two nutria, which are significantly large, but not as big as what we’d seen earlier. One of the critters was right beside the road, nibbling on the stalks and roots of the water grasses that grew close to the edges of the water.

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Inside the VC, we confirmed that what we’d seen earlier was a river otter.

Outside the window of the VC, we also saw a woodcock, merrily foraging in the lawn! One of the rangers invited us to her office to see more clearly, and I took a couple of pix there, then went around to the front porch and had the opportunity to take an even better photo.

A group of elderly folks on an airport-style bus were there, too, and they crowded the poor woodcock (all the time calling it a wood duck) and finally chased it away. Stupid, ugly Americans.

There were a few picnic tables under the trees, but one was getting a bit of sun, so we had our lunch there. The average temp at the warmest part of the day was upper 50s, so we still needed a jacket, but it was a very nice picnic.

We spent a lot of time on the back side of the marshy area (called, oddly, Wildlife Drive) taking pictures of some great blues (one of which had caught a small snake, but carried it away into the wetland before we could capture a photo of it) and collections of diverse groups of species. The cacophony was higher-pitched, less volume, and more varied than we’ve heard with the masses of swans and geese we’ve encountered so far. Lots of small duck vocalizations.

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Nearly at the end of Wildlife Drive, we saw another adult bald eagle, sitting on a low snag. None of us had enough lens-power to photo it, but we all were able to see it through binocs. Without going back into the main drive to the VC, where there is hardly any passing space, let alone turn-around space, we would not be able to get closer to it.

Needing fuel, we mapped our way to a small burgh called Englehard, which (happily) was en route to our next destination: the enormous “void” on all our maps called the Alligator Wildlife Refuge, encircled by a “scenic drive.”

Refueled (they are very very proud of their fuel down here and price it accordingly) we found the scenic drive and it was long, flat, straight, and boring. Once we passed a couple of open fields that did not hold any snow geese or tundra swans, we were enclosed by pine forest, much of which had been burnt (intentional or accident?) and signs saying the area was a bombing range for a nearby military base.

Still hopeful to see something new or special on our drive, we did spot a gang of maybe 4 egrets sitting in a snag—big blobs of white in a drowned tree in the middle of a wetland. Passed by too fast to grab a photo, but it reminded me of the “hairy” egrets we saw while we were cycling around Assateague Wildlife Refuge last April.

Mike spotted another juvenile baldie sitting in one of the burnt snags near the road, sunning himself. So that made 6 bald eagles for the day. Later, Barbara spotted a mature redtailed hawk with a lovely white breast, just a little rust color up near its shoulders and throat, solemnly watching us stare at it.

Also along the way we saw many kestrels along roads with open fields beside them; and even a couple of merlins doing their hard-pumping thing over the fallow fields. I really lost count of the non-eagle raptors, because I was trying to see kestrels soon enough to point them out to Barbara, but we were in the back seat of the Honda (which is surprisingly roomy and comfortable) and I never saw them soon enough. We also saw a few red shouldered hawks, possibly 2 other redtails, and at least one Cooper’s hawk. Many, many great blue herons were spotted along the roads and near by in fields and along ditches.

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This great blue was captured at the Mattamuskeet Visitor’s Center, but it’s emblematic of all the many that we saw along ditches and in fields next to the road.

Disappointed at not being able to find all the “scenic” or the “wildlife” around the refuge’s scenic drive, we headed homeward about 4:30, and with only spotty cell service, tried to find a place to eat that was different from where we’d eaten last time, in Columbia.

We thought Englehard had a marina seafood place, but were unable to find it by the time we reached there (about 5:30) so headed on to Columbia to the place we’d eaten before, in the Columbia Crossings Center (at the intersection of 64 and another major road, 94). While the food is as good as we remembered, it is a bit grody and the people are not very friendly. They were offering a fried chicken and “country steak” buffet, and a couple of specials, but we ordered off the menu, getting a variety of seafood. Tasty, but a strange atmosphere. Barbara overheard a conversation when some young folks came in as we were headed out, obviously looking for a place to have a beer (there’s a “tavern” next door and affiliated with this “family” place). The waitress evidently asked her manager, “Can I tell them we’re closing at in a half hour?” When the hostess demurred, she said, “What if they stay here drinking and chatting until after closing?”

That was the extent of the overheard conversation, but we were not impressed with the staff’s capacity (or willingness) to serve their customers.

Finally got home about 8P, after a 250-mile day. Jack and I cracked out the whisky for a wee dram before bed, and we read until about 9:30. Set the thermostat again for 50 and hit the hay. Forecast has changed from rain all day tomorrow to rain only in the afternoon/evening. We called Lacey (housesitter) to let her know we’re planning to hit North Bend for Thursday night en route home, and not arrive back until Friday. All’s well with the world (and with the tundra swans).

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Capital 2 Capital Trail Day 1

So, I must apologize. Yowl identifies as female. I mis-gendered her yesterday in my post. Today, I return with apologies to Yowl.

She is ready for a bike ride!

Meanwhile, the storm that brewed and stewed last night never came. I don’t think it even rained, although it might have done so, but only a little.

We ran the AC all night on a fairly high temp (around 74 degrees) with the fan going on Auto, so that the white noise of the fan running (instead of stopping and starting) would lull us to sleep. Not that either of us needed much coaxing.

Stayed asleep until around 7 and arose to have tea and coffee – we started in our “nook” under the Big Front Window, and finished up outside in the breeze in the screen room. Although it was humid, the general feel was grand.

We heard from our fearless leader, Alan, who has been primarily responsible for putting together this informal ride, that due to forecast weather for tomorrow’s trek from Williamsburg all the way to Richmond along the trail, he thought we might postpone until Saturday. Evidently, the forecast for Sat. is much nicer. We have no set plans, so we responded to his email that a postponement would be fine with us. 

Around 10 we saw some clouds building up, and thought we might go for a bike ride. The rain came before we had set off, and we debated for some time about whether to head back to bed for a nap or hit the Capital Trail. We decided to ride.

Ride: Always a good choice.

The rain was not heavy or any problem at all – in fact, it felt great, as the temperatures had risen, even though the sun was behind the clouds. We set off toward Jamestown, approximately a 7 mile journey.

It is so totally lovely to be riding along a nicely-groomed, completely paved path. It is truly a touring bicyclist’s fondest dream to have this type of infrastructure. With the sprinkles, very few people were out using the path, so we were able to meander side-by-side for most of the way. 

Got to Jamestown (mile zero) and looked at some maps and some historic markers (you might remember that we’d done the whole tourist thing at Jamestown just a month or so ago) and turned around. We had passed a couple of side trails that looked interesting, so we decided to explore the one called the Powhatan Creek Trail, that left the Cap2Cap heading through a cornfield.

The Powhatan Creek Trail winds through deep woods.
One of several deer seen along the Powhatan Creek Trail.

It was really a neat trail, entering the woods after the cornfield, and skirting some suburbs and housing developments. We saw numerous deer, some nice cypress swamp, bridged several wetlands, and then got ourselves throughly lost. Our hope that the Powhatan Trail would circuit back to the Cap2Cap was dashed when we ran out of trail during recess at a public elementary school. 

Of course, we never retrace our route unless there’s no option, so we pressed onward and found ourselves back at Rt. 5, at the Five Forks intersection (Ironbound and Rt. 5) with no Cap2Cap in sight. 

We rode the shoulder westward along Rt. 5 (toward Richmond) until we got to Jamestown High School, which we remembered as an option along the Cap2Cap, and in pretty short order, we found ourselves on familiar ground again. As we paused to assess what the heck we thought we might have done (think a triangle’s hypotenuse), a serious raucous was happening among some blue jays just off the path ahead of us.

I think Jack might have been a bit perturbed as my attention was stolen from his hypothesis about our journey by a Cooper’s hawk emerging from the raucous area, with 4 jays following it, as it carried what I have to assume was a baby jay in its talons, across the trail and across the road. Wow.

From the school, it was just 4.5 miles back to Chickahominy Riverfront Park, and by this time the sun was shining fiercely, and all moisture on the ground was evaporating and rising into the air, which our lungs, preferring oxygen to H2O, didn’t much appreciate. It was most definitely lunch time, so we beat a quick retreat back to Roomba, and spent the afternoon fighting off squirrels and lounging in the screened-in porch. 

I have never seen such bold, brazen “wildlife” before. First, one was investigating the handlebar bag on Jack’s bike. 

View from the screen room.
Pesky creatures.
Exhibits no fear.

That made Jack remember that he had some energy bars in his kit bag, left inside the car. No problem unless the energy bars include chocolate. So he got up to chase away the intruder, and then went to the car, opened the back gate, and took the energy bars into Roomba to stay cool. Thinking surely the squirrels would not get into our car, he left the gate open to keep the interior of the car a little cooler. 

Lo and Behold! A slight rattling noise alerted us, sitting no more than 5 feet away, that the devil in a gray suit was inside the car, escaping with a baggie of trail mix from the FRONT SEAT! Who knows how long it had been rummaging around in there . . . 

It decided to have another try, after Jack retrieved our trail mix from its grubby little paws. 





THWARTED!

You just cannot leave a thing lying around with these obnoxious squirrels as neighbors! I really REALLY want to bring my hawk up here and teach the local tree rats a quick lesson in survival. Of course, I have no doubt that many camping tourists through the years have thought how funny, cute, and special it was to get “up close and personal” with the squirrels by hand-feeding them or leaving bread or peanuts lying around so they’d come closer. I just hope they don’t chew their way through anything on the car or, goddess forbid, on Roomba.

We spent the rest of the afternoon until dinner time with fans blowing on us in the screened room, watching the osprey out over the river, reading our books and snoozing (when we were not chasing squirrels away). 

As the day cooled and the campground filled up with weekenders, we began thinking about dinner. After a nice shower, Yowl and I returned to the screen room and electric fans, and we readied for chow by having a chilled, frosty beverage as the Brie warmed and the lamb burgers rested in the spice rub Jack had coated them with, in anticipation of grilling. 


All this while a young groundhog visited – the same young groundhog, I’d guess, that Jack saw getting chased by some of these very aggressive squirrels yesterday.


Which reminds me: as Yowl and I were walking back to the screen tent earlier today, we saw a couple of adult bald eagles harassing an adult osprey carrying a fish. I have to guess that the baldies wanted to poach the fish from the osprey. But the osprey was faster and more agile than the lumbering baldies. The whole group disappeared upriver so I don’t know how the contest turned out.

These guys were hanging out at the Roomba site today, and the final photo is a neat looking river edge around a bend from us. Breezy evening with solar and LED lights in the screen tent. G’night all –