Saturday, September 23, 2006

New England

Home--the word has many meanings. Our RV is home when we are on the road and it welcomes us after a day of sightseeing or visiting. Our house is home when we are in Colorado. And the United States is home. After two months in Canada, we are very aware of being back home. We are again using our own language, familiar units of measurement, the American dollar, our prices for gasoline and food, our television with news that really affects us. When we drove off the ferry that brought us from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, to Bar Harbor, Maine, we were very glad to be back home.
This is our first time in New England. It is so beautiful. In many ways the landscape looks like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which isn’t surprising, since they are all part of the same land mass. But Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have more mountains and more granite cliffs. And the many broadleaf trees are beginning to turn magnificent shades of red, orange and yellow. The colors are just small patches here and there, but they are dramatic.
Our Cat Ferry from Yarmouth arrived on Mount Desert Island, Maine, about 7:30 pm. Our RV park was about three miles away. Still, after going though customs and signing in, we were setting up in the dark. It’s not easy to see the bubbles in the levels to check how we are doing. But everything worked out fine. That isn’t our favorite way to get settled, however. Maybe we will never have to do it again. We are usually in place no later that 2 PM.
Mount Desert Island is where Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are located. The park is beautiful, wonderful. We were so impressed after just a few hours here, we applied to be park volunteers next fall. We thought we were tired of sightseeing, but the park has so much to offer, we couldn’t wait to explore it. We drove the loop road, hiked the ocean trail, and marveled at the fog and the clear views of lobster fishing boats while hiking. We drove up Cadillac Mountain, highest point along the Atlantic seacoast from Maine to Argentina. If we can’t come back as volunteers, we will visit again as tourists when we haven’t already been on the road for three months. What makes Acadia even more attractive is Bar Harbor, a town with numerous great restaurants, bookstores, shops of all kinds, and Wal-Mart 14 miles away.
We made a one-day visit to Freeport, Maine, home of LL Bean. Their store there is truly amazing—open 24 hours a day, with a mammoth camping and clothing store, a separate building for hunting and fishing, another for biking and boats, plus an outlet store. The camping store has the biggest selection of items we have every seen. The town also houses numerous other outlet stores.
It was on to New Hampshire, where we spent four days in the White Mountains. They may not be the Rockies, but they are beautiful. The White Mountains, part of the Appalachians, are much older mountains than the Rockies—more rounded from centuries of weathering. These are the first true mountain streams we have seen since leaving Colorado—clear water rushing over rocky stream beds.
We hiked the trail at the Franconia Notch Flume—a narrow gorge with a rushing stream. Beautiful. The trail is wooden boardwalk to make it safe to walk along the steep walls of moss-covered rock. We had the area fairly much to ourselves on a cool, sunny day.
One day we hiked on the Hale Brook Trail toward Mt. Hale in the Zealand Wilderness. We are truly impressed with New Hampshire hikers. They put those of us who hike in the Rocky Mountains to shame. These trails go straight up the mountain—no switchbacks here. And the trail surface is full of rocks and tree roots.
Another great day trip was riding the Mount Washington Cog Railroad. Mount Washington is 6288 ft high, highest on the east coast. Since 1859 the cog train has been climbing straight up the side of the mountain. It goes up an average grade of 25%--that means 25 feet uphill for every 100 feet traveled. The steepest part—Jacob’s Ladder—is a 37 ½ foot grade. That means someone at one end of the train car is 14 feet higher up the mountain than someone at the other end. The small engine used one ton of coal each trip up the hill and 1000 gallons of water. In September seven trips a day are made, with each train holding 60 passengers. Most trips were nearly full.
At the mountain top you can see parts of Maine, Canada, New Hampshire and Vermont, sometimes getting a glimpse of the ocean about 200 miles away. Often, however, the mountain top is shrouded in cloud. Mt. Washington, on yearly average, experiences days of hurricane force wind two out of every three days and has some of the worst weather . The Appalachian Trail goes through the White Mountains and crosses the summit of Mount Washington. The trail has numerous large stone cairns (rock piles) to guide hikers during snow and fog.
From New Hampshire, we traveled south along the eastern side of Vermont, then across the southern part of the state on Vermont 7. What a pretty state, heavily wooded and very few people driving on the roads--the state has fewer people than all others except Wyoming. Most of the people we met were very friendly: clerks and cashiers in the stores and the seasonal wokers at Molly Stark State Park. We spent four days there relaxing, getting our exericse on the trail to the Mt. Olga fire lookout tower, having the truck serviced, doing laundry and shopping for groceries.
Each day we spent in New England, a few more leaves turned red, orange or yellow. We watched them drift quietly to the ground. It really looks like fall and it is beautiful.
We definitely want to return to this part of the country, hopefully spending time there in late September and early October when we can really see the fall colors.