Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.
Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Distressing Defensive Driving Day - Thursday, August 15, 2019

When I planned this trip in March, I researched Volksmarches, activities, museums, capitals, and other points of interest. We decided that rather than move the RV every 1-2 days, we would set up "base camps" for a week and foray out (up to 1-1/2 hours away) to our bucket list items, take care of that part of our vacation, and move on to the next base camp.

The first reality check came when I tried to make reservations in February for June, July, and August in New York and New England. It was too late to get one week in most campgrounds, the weekends were booked. This led to splitting a one-week reservation in one campground, to making two reservations--3 nights in one campground, and 4 nights in another--in the same area.

Being unfamiliar with routes, grades, low underpasses, traffic, the narrowness of streets through old towns, etc., I did the best I could with our route. We use the Rand McNally Trucker's Atlas, 2019 version, and look at routes on Google Earth Street View if we're really unsure. We even drove one highway in advance to see if we should take it. None of that prepared us for today's journey from Lincoln, New Hampshire, to Rutland, Vermont.

Mt. Liberty, Mt. Flume, and Mt. Osseo (far right)
at Franconia Notch State Park, Lincoln, NH.
All was well at the beginning of the day. We decided not to take the route we had driven two days earlier, which was SR 112 from Lincoln, NH to Bath, NH. The road was narrow, curvy, had a 12% uphill climb and a 9% downhill. 

Instead, we headed up I-93 to Littleton, NH, and took U.S. 302 west toward Bath. I-91 was the route we took south. That in itself was very mountainous. 

I was driving and saw the exit for I-89 north, but didn't realize that was the highway we needed to take to get to U.S. 4 west to Rutland. I was distracted by traffic merging onto the interstate. 

We stopped at the Rest Area just south of I-89. Bob drove after our stop and I looked more closely at the map. I'm glad I did because I realized we were going the wrong way. With all the mountains and small roads, it would be a very long trip to go any other way than I-89 to U.S. 4 west. Bob turned us around at Hartland, VT, and shortly we were back to take I-89 north. Our exit for U.S. 4 west came up quickly and we exited.

This is where things started to get exciting. U.S. 4 is a mostly narrow, two-lane highway (one lane in each direction). It is the truck route through this area. That was both good and bad today. 

The speed limit on the highway varied from 25 (school zone) to 50. Bob was going the speed limit most of the time (except the really steep climb up toward Killington Ski Resort). 

Right from the start, a line of cars started to form behind us. Bob pulled over a couple of times when there was a big turn-out and it was safe to do so. We made it past the congested Quechee Gorge tourist area with no pedestrians darting across the road in front of us. 

Then we got to the mountains and things got interesting. Bob pulled over at a ski lift area to let more cars go by. 

At one point, there was a blind curve ahead of us where the oncoming traffic was on a downhill run. We were coming up on the curve when a semi-truck coming down and around the corner drifted two feet too wide into our lane. There was nowhere for us to go. We had a guard rail on the passenger side about one foot away. Bob and I were freaking out. Thank goodness, the driver of the semi got his truck under control just as he reached us. That was such a close call. 

Here's what else stressed us out:

  1. Construction zone with flagger and only one lane. This was the most minor stressor of the day.
  2. A pick-up truck coming toward us flashed his headlights at us. We were cautious and wondered what lay ahead. As we rounded a blind corner in a small town, there was a car stopped in the oncoming lane and a police cruiser with lights flashing behind them in that lane. We were just figuring out that the car and policeman were blocking the lane when the car behind the policeman decided to go around them and was coming at us head-on in our lane. Thankfully, we were going slower than the speed limit, because of the warning from the pick-up, and were able to slow down more so we wouldn't hit the oncoming red sedan.
  3. A wide load accompanied by a pilot car and two police cars was coming toward us. It was a straight stretch of road and we pulled over on the one foot of shoulder on our side and the wide load was able to do the same on the other side. We stopped and made the cars behind us stop too.
  4. Cars were turning left from the one highway lane headed west because there were very few left-hand-turn lanes. Some did not signal their intent very far in advance.
  5. Woodstock/South Woodstock, Vermont. A very charming New England town with NARROW streets, lots of summer tourist traffic, and traffic jams. Bob narrowly missed hitting one of the lime green "Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk" signs in the middle of the street with his rear-view mirror.
  6. By this time, Bob was asking rhetorically, "What else can this drive throw at me?" As soon as he said it, about six people came out from behind a tanker truck to cross at the crosswalk in front of us. One was in a wheelchair. Luckily, we saw them in plenty of time and slowed to a stop.
  7. When we got to Rutland, we found out the Vermont State Fair is going on and the main street was jammed with traffic trying to get to the fair parking. Sheesh.
We finally made it to our destination, set up camp, and then fell asleep in our recliners. It was supposed to be about a 2 hour and 45-minute trip. It took us 4-1/2 hours. 

In the next four days, we have to make the reverse trip on U.S. 4 to I-89 two more times with the pick-up truck, and then we have to traverse it again with the 5th wheel to head to Maine on Monday. Wish us luck.

I was too preoccupied to take photos today.

On the plus side, Iroquois Family Land Camping in Rutland is a very peaceful, bucolic campground. It will be our respite from U.S. 4! Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Audiovisual Hiking - Friday, August 9, 2019

Our senses were in tune with nature today as she serenaded us with the best kind of rock music: the East Branch of the Pemi River flowing over and around boulders. From our campground in Lincoln, New Hampshire, we made a short drive to the National Forest Service's Lincoln Woods Visitor Center on the Kancamagus Highway, known locally as The Kanc. 

Just so you know if you come to this part of the country, a parking pass (purchased at a kiosk) or a national park pass needs to be displayed in your windshield when you park in one of the trailhead lots.

After reading trailhead warnings about Lyme disease, ticks, and bear encounters, along with admonishments about what to take on the trail (compass, water, suntan lotion, etc.), we set out on our 6.8-mile round-trip "easy" hike to Franconia Falls on the Lincoln Woods Trail.

The 160-foot suspension bridge at the beginning was a plus. I love to bounce them up and down to make them sway. 

Bob in suspended animation.
Our rock concert, the East Branch of the Pemi River.
Immediately after the bridge, we turned right onto what used to be the railroad tracks used in clearcutting the forests in this area in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The clearcutting of trees fueled the local economy until the reality of deforestation set in. 

What happens when you denude the mountains of their forests?
1. Lightning ignited a fire in the slash leftover from clearcutting.
2. After the fire, massive rainstorms stripped the mountains of their soil in an erosion event of massive proportions.
3. Runoff from future rain caused more flooding. 
4. Textile factories downstream in Manchester, New Hampshire, were flooded and closed creating a substantial economic loss. 
5. This got the attention of legislators and businesspeople.
6. All of the above allowed the conservationists to get their program implemented. Their agenda was to have the federal government purchase private property to create national forests in 1911 when the Weeks Amendment passed.

But I digress. The trail is wide and in the trees, protecting us from the late morning sun. Many of the trails in the White Mountain National Forest are on old railway logging beds.

We are off to Franconia Falls Trail and from there
it's 0.8 mi. roundtrip to the falls.
The old railway bed.
Verdant greenery of the
White Mountains.
At our turn-off on the Franconia Falls Trail, fungi were prevalent. I liked the way they presented themselves on this rotted stump.

Fabulous fungi.
Well-marked trails.
Mushrooms or fungi? Or are they the same thing?
The Lincoln Woods Trail was easy. Once we turned onto the Franconia Falls Trail, the trail became more rugged. I was glad I had on my hiking boots. Roots, rocks, and mud kept trying to get in my way, and I did my best to sidestep them. The rock music around us kept right on playing. It was such a great remix.
Our music selection for the morning.
Bob at Franconia Falls hopping the rocks
trying to find a good viewpoint of the falls.
Franconia Falls finds many ways through these boulders. There are pools where people cool off. It was good to use caution on these boulders because the water was powerful and not all ways into the water were good. Warning signs were posted around the falls, and there was a memorial for someone who had died there.

Franconia Falls.
Water making its way through a chute.
Looking downriver, you can see Bob (barely) on the left.
There are also a couple of people in the pools below.
This water is powerful stuff. 
Looking upriver toward the falls. It was hard
to get a good photo!
After the hike, we went back to the 5th wheel and had tuna and avocado sandwiches. Bob put them together and we chowed them down. 

We then headed to the Lincoln Visitor Center at Exit 32 off I-93. Bob had been to it yesterday to pick up brochures and info on waterfalls. Wow! He sure found some great stuff to do and will keep us busy for the week we're here. 

The reason we went back today is that I left the one brochure we needed for The Kanc back in the rig. When I went in to pick up the same brochure, there was a note on the counter that certain postcards are free. You can write them on the spot, put them in their little indoor mailbox, and they will stamp and mail them for you. So I wrote one to Mom.

Back on the road, we saw the following sign. In fact, we have seen these signs on the freeway and just about every road up here. I'm hoping we see a moose,  but in a moose wallow, not on a roadway! 

We stopped at a couple of overlooks and learned some new things. A local pastime is to hike to the summits of the White Mountains over 4,000 ft. in New Hampshire and Maine. These hardy souls call themselves "peak baggers." (This is much like the 14ers in the Colorado Rockies, only in Colorado the mountains are much higher! There they have to do 14 peaks of at least 14,000'.) Some people sure have lofty goals!

Bravo and brava...quite the accomplishment!
And they did them in WINTER.
I think I'm a mountain tramp!
We couldn't wait to get to the next hike: Sabbaday Falls. The trail is touted as an easy 0.3 miles. They got that right. 

We LOVED this waterfall. It is very different from the last one we saw. 

The very easy trail.
Zen rock stacking.
Bob way ahead on the trail.
I get way behind taking photos.
This looks like a very old historical marker!
Looking up a dike (the dark-colored
rock) to part of Sabbaday Falls.
This is one of the more unusual waterfalls we've been to and it all has to do with the geology here. There was a sign that showed and explained it, but Bob and I were having trouble figuring it out. There are dikes and a fault, somehow this waterfall made a 95-degree turn and we're good with that!

This isn't the confusing sign. I didn't take a
picture of that one.
Quite a chute coming out from the falls.
This was a harder part of the trail.
But it was worth it.
Bob at Sabbaday Falls overlook.
We continued our drive on The Kanc, continually looking for waterfalls. The falls below are in the Rocky Gorge. So-so. Pretty scenery nonetheless. There is swimming here, but not right above the falls.

Rocky Gorge.
Close-up of the Rocky Gorge Falls.
Just down the road a few miles from Rocky Gorge is a series of waterfalls that is a totally different experience. This is the swimmin' hole where it seems EVERYONE shows up on a sunny day to cool off, picnic, swim, and pass the time. Wow! We got there around 4:00 p.m. The falls are in the sun in the afternoon. It looked like a grand time was happening here. The parking lot was packed and there is overflow parking along the highway just downriver from the main parking area. Just be sure you have a parking permit or national park pass in your windshield!

The place to be: Lower Falls.
I have included the photo below of the glacial erratic boulder because it really reminds me of our family camping trips in the Sierra Nevada of California when I was a child. We would camp near huge boulders like these that we could climb all over. Some of those boulders had big cracks in them that we could walk through or play Hide 'n' Seek around. GREAT memories.

Back to the present: Take a look at the following photos. This place looks like a blast! [Oops, back to the past: The photos below remind us of taking OUR boys camping in Oregon. We liked to camp near a place called Little Falls. There were all levels of rocks from which to jump or dive into a huge, deep pool. We'd go there as often as we could for weekend trips. Much like these families are doing here.]

Kids of all ages finding the right spot to cool off.
The awkward teens.
A rock slide into a shallow pool. 
This day is so enjoyable. It makes me think about how life works. In my case, we grew up on the West Coast, mostly southern California and Oregon. Our parents took us camping, hiking, and traveling. We went to places like Yosemite, the Mojave Desert, the beach, the Palomar observatory, the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Rainbow Falls, Devils Postpile, and we loved it. It was our normal. We were accustomed to it. Dad took us fishing. Mom liked to sit and paint lakes and mountains. But a person can become narrow-minded, think where they grew up is better than somewhere else. Until you travel and see things like this, you don't know how similar people (and places) really are. 

The yellow flowers below are blooming now in the mountains. Thank you to Nikki Tiffany for the identification of the goldenrod!

Goldenrod in bloom.
So, here we are in the middle of the forest, hardly any traffic, and we decide to go to Conway, New Hampshire, which is the other end of The Kanc from Lincoln. The Kanc comes to a T intersection and we were going to go one mile north to the town. HA! We got to the light at the intersection and the highway north is jammed solid with cars, trailers, and semi-trucks. Holy cow! It was 5:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Is this rush-hour traffic? Are these people coming up to the mountains for the weekend or vacation?  

We made a U-turn right there at the T intersection and high-tailed it back to Lincoln. Again, very light traffic. That's more like it. 

Two more overlooks later and again we had new knowledge of this foreign (to us) place. 
Plant zones along the Kancamagus.
Where does all the water go? Just like in the West where we have the Continental Divide that determines if water goes into the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean, here the divide makes the water go either into the Pemigewesset to the Merrimack, or the Swift River into the Seco River. It all ends up in the Atlantic Ocean, though. 

And that was our fantastic day on the Kancamagus Highway. As we drove into Lincoln, Bob asked if I wanted Thai or Mexican food for dinner. That would be Thai. We ate at Thai 9 and had a yummy, satisfying meal. 

Very good restaurant.
Lincoln Town Hall in New Hampshire.
When we drove by the restaurant below earlier in the day, there was a line to get in stretching down the sidewalk. We decided to go here for breakfast on Saturday morning. Hopefully, we'll get there when they open at 7:00 a.m. and can get right in.

Cute sign. It tickled my funny bone.
Driving into Country Bumpkins RV Campground, we saw this rainbow overhead. What can I say? The perfect ending to a perfect day? You betcha. 

Rainbow over the entrance to our campground.