The North Maine Woods – Days 6, 7, & 8

Day 6 – Exploring Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park

Waking up in Bar Harbor was wonderful. We made some breakfast and got ready for our day before hopping on the 9:40 AM shuttle bus into Bar Harbor. We spent the morning walking around and visiting a few shops, including the Bar Harbor Tea Company and Bark Harbor, where I spent way too much money on Reagan. The owner at Bark Harbor was excellent, and she was more than helpful when picking out what gifts to take home to our ever so energetic pup.

Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We had passed a place the night before that we wanted to try out for lunch, so we stopped in at Bar Harbor Beer Works. We ordered the biggest pretzel I have ever seen in my life, my second ever beer flight, and some burgers that were simply mouthwatering. To top it off, since it was just the beginning of their down season, we had no wait to get a table. After lunch, I got ice cream at CJ’s Big Dipper (Jake did not as he doesn’t like sweets).

After our bellies were full, we decided we wanted to go check out Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole is in Acadia National Park, which is a short bus ride from “downtown” Bar Harbor. Before we reached Thunder Hole, we stopped at Sand Beach, where the sand is mainly made up of shell fragments and the water is a brisk 55 degrees in the summer. We did go out to touch the water, but there was no way we were going for a swim. However, there were people going out into the water.

From Sand Beach, there is an ocean-side trail that you can walk to Thunder Hole, and then on to Otter Cliff (about a mile), but we decided to hop back on the bus since it was raining and I had a few bags from shopping.

When we arrived at Thunder Hole, I was expecting some big crashing waves and water being catapulted into the air, but that was not the case. We were told it was low tide so it was not that impressive. They were right. I was able to get some beautiful pictures and a video at low tide, but we decided we needed to come back at high tide when the water would be more active and exciting.

Before hoping back on the bus, I stopped in to the gift shop (which was super hot inside because the AC was out) and bought some waters and a few postcards. The bus picked us up and dropped us off at the entrance to the campground on the ocean side, and we walked up to our campsite.

We changed our clothes and had a drink before hoping right back on the bus back into Bar Harbor for dinner at Stewman’s Downtown, which was right on the water. Once again, the food was incredible and the views were wonderful. We ended up sitting right next to a couple from New Jersey, but the husband had worked in Richmond many years ago.

After dinner, we were deciding what we wanted to do since the buses stopped running at 7:45 PM, so we called an Uber to pick us up and take us back to Thunder Hole, as it was now high tide. Luckily, we got the same driver as the night before (Steven) and offered him $30 to turn off his Uber to take us to Thunder Hole and then to the campground after. You are only able to get cell service in the town of Bar Harbor, so we wouldn’t have been able to get a ride back unless we offered him some money to help us out.

Steven happened to be a professional photographer and decided to walk down with us to the water to get some pictures. I was quite disappointed when we returned to Thunder Hole and the water wasn’t any more impressive than low tide. The pictures that we had seen of Thunder Hole were pretty neat and our experience (at both low and high tide) was alright, but what the travel brochures and information on Thunder Hole seem to neglect to mention that the best times to visit, to see in its glory, are when storms (and I mean big storms, like hurricanes) are approaching.

We left Thunder Hole and headed back to the campground, but Steven missed the turn and we ended up getting a nice little detour around the island. Once we were back at the campsite, we made some dinner and started packing everything up. We were getting up at 4 AM to see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, so we made sure everything that we could pack was packed and ready to go.

Day 7 – Cadillac Mountain & Cape May, NJ

Our alarms went off at 4 AM, we dressed and finished packing up. We were on the road by 5 AM, and a good thing too because when we reach the top of Cadillac Mountain people we already there and picking their spots for an epic sunrise. Cadillac Mountain is a part of Arcadia National Park and looks over the entire island and down on Bar Harbor to the east. When the sun rises you are the first to see it on the east coast of the U.S., as it is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard.

Hundreds of people ended up being there for the sunrise and it was a beautiful sunrise. There were some clouds blocking right where the sun came up, but it was still beautiful.

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When we got back to the truck, we set our destination to Cape May, New Jersey as our “halfway” point back to Northern Virginia. It was a long and interesting ride (about 12 hours). We saw several accidents that held us up a little bit, but we finally arrived around between 5 PM and 6 PM. New Jersey was much more humid than Maine and the mosquitoes were out in full force.

After setting up camp at The Depot Travel Park and taking showers, we grabbed an Uber, and headed out to dinner close to the beach. We decided on Iron Pier Craft House, and sat at the bar. The entire place was neat looking with Edison lights throughout with an old school feel, and they even had a guy playing music. There was a Bachelorette/Birthday Party gathered at the bar as well, who were super entertaining to watch the entire time we were there.

IMG_0252The food was pretty dang good. We had a cheese and fruit platter to share, then Jake ordered their Sushi and I tried the Shrimp Mac and Cheese. Everything was so good! Once we paid our check, we decided to walk to Washington Street, which is a few pedestrian streets of shopping. I was able to grab a shot glass to add to my unhealthy collection, as well as a few gifts for family. It was a really nice night so we enjoyed walking around for a little while before getting a Lyft (no Uber was available) back to the campground.

Unfortunately, the campground did not allow campfires so we sat under the awning and had a few drinks before we decided to call it a night and head to bed. The next day was to be a bit shorter travel wise.

Pros of The Depot Travel Park:
– Nice, well kept bathrooms
– Electric and water at every site
– Quiet

Cons of The Depot Travel Park:
– No campfires allowed
– 5 MPH speed limit, very strict (Jake’s truck idols at 10 MPH)
– More of an RV park – no other tent campers
– Not much of a camp store, just a check in house

Day 8 – The Drive Home

At 3 AM we were awakened by the tornado sirens that were triggered by the storms rolling through that night, which if you’re camping and those go off, it’s a little scary. Trying to go back to sleep was a little difficult after that but we managed. It was a rainy day when we climbed out of the tent. It took us a little while to pack up because of the rain and we were exhausted. Once we did, we left the campground and had breakfast at Dock Mike’s Pancake House (which is cash only btw). The service was very quick and the food was pretty dang good too!

We gassed up the truck and caught the 10:30 AM Lewes Ferry to Delaware, an hour and a half trip. The ferry was nicely equipped with a restaurant, a bar, and a gift shop.

After picking up Reagan in Maryland and eating some lunch, we finally arrived home around 6 PM.

Our plan is to one day go back to Maine to spend more time in the North Maine Woods and Bar Harbor, as one week is not enough time to explore either place.

We are excited to share our next adventure with everyone sometime in 2019!

The North Maine Woods – Days 1 & 2

The North Maine Woods – Days 3, 4 & 5

 

 

 

The North Maine Woods – Days 3, 4 & 5

Day 3 – Closing the Gap on the North Maine Woods

Day three started out by eating breakfast, packing up, and taking showers. Every day that we stayed in a place with a bath house we made sure to take showers right before leaving. We never knew if the next place we camped would have showers or not.

I was also able to get some pictures of the lake before we left:

At check out, the owner gave us some directions so we wouldn’t get stopped by a closed gate and have to backtrack, which would cost us time and sunlight. When we left the store, a Vanagan was parked right next to us outside and Jake went into full fangirl mode. The owner came out of the store right after us and Jake immediately started up a conversation and allowed us to take a peak inside. It was in almost perfect condition.

We left the campground and, at the suggestion of the campground owner, we traveled around Mooselookmeguntic Lake. The next couple hours were spent on a combination of dirt roads and paved roads until we reached 201 North. We had planned on taking a different route to Jackman, Maine, but taking 201 definitely saved us some time.

By this time, I was pretty upset that I had yet to see a moose, and we were on Day Three!

Jackman, Maine is located in Moose River Valley, population 862 (2010 census), and 15 miles from the Quebec border; it is the largest town in the region. Jackman is well known for ice fishing, snowmobiling/four wheeling trails (also their main transportation), snowshoeing, and working forests (similar to that of the North Maine Woods). We made it to Jackman at about 12 PM. There are only two gas stations in Jackman, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out where to fill up diesel, and as for grocery stores, there is only one so we didn’t have a choice of where to stop to grab the few essentials we needed.

9 - Jackman, ME - 09.03.2018

Since it was lunch time and we were getting a little hungry, we decided to eat at Four Seasons Restaurant and Lounge, one of only three restaurants (that we saw). They have an area to sit down to eat inside, as well as a bar area but don’t expect a four star restaurant; we sat outside since it was nice and cool. We ordered potato skins to share, Jake order the hot atomic wings, and I got a grilled chicken sandwich. The food was alright, seemed to be a lot of bar type food, but it was still good.

When we were done with our meals, we started plotting our route to Twenty Mile Checkpoint to the North Maine Woods. There were a few locals sitting outside drinking, so Jake being the extrovert he is, strolled over to them to ask for directions with the Atlas. Not two minutes later Jake was best friends with a local named Wild Bill. He was hammered, but he still knew his stuff. Wild Bill was hilarious and we learned that he had lived in Jackman his entire life and never crossed the “lookout” south of town. Everyone in the town knew him and he knew them, who he kept instigating us to flick off with him, which we did. He also challenged us to a cornhole game which they apparently call “bean bag toss.” We lost. Badly. By the time we were ready to leave Wild Bill had told us some really bad, yet funny jokes, as well as nicknamed me “Hairdryer” (thanks Jake).

Taking Route 15 / Route 6 out of Jackman, we FINALLY encountered our first moose of the trip. She came running out of the forest and was about to collide with us when she turned and ran parallel with us in the ditch before she slowed down and crossed the road behind us. She was beautiful and huge! Even though she was running beside us three feet lower in the ditch, her head was right at the passenger window so I had an amazing view of her! We were very lucky that she turned at the last minute and didn’t hit the truck. Hitting a moose, or a moose hitting you, is just as bad if not worst than hitting deer in the southern states. Unfortunately the encounter happened so quickly I didn’t have time to take a picture, but here are some to give you an idea of how big even small moose are.

We continued on to Northern Road north to Pittston Farm north of Rockwood, Maine, where we set up our home for the night. As soon as we finished setting up it started to storm, which lasted no more than 20 minutes. Our awning came in handy as we were able to lower it and put our chairs under it to wait out the rain. When the rain did stop, we walked to the main house to get water, see where the showers were, and to check out their museum. Jake prepared fish tacos once the rain stopped and we sat by the fire enjoying each other’s company the remainder of the night.

Pros of Pittston Farm:
– Dry firewood
– Neat museum
– Groomed ATV and snowmobiling trails
– Nice sites for campers
– Year round camper sites
– Gateway to the North Woods at twenty mile checkpoint across the river.

Cons of Pittston Farm:
– Store was pretty much empty (it was the end of summer season)
– Pit toilet outhouses throughout campground
– Only showers (2) were at the main house
– More suited for campers than tent camping
– Looks uninviting when arriving

Day 4 – The North Maine Woods

On the morning of Day 4, we packed up and took showers before crossing the North Branch Penobscot River to the 20 Mile Checkpoint into the North Maine Woods. We paid our day fee at the checkpoint, $15/person/day fee and entered the woods!

Our next stop was Eagle Lake Tramway. The Golden Road took us most of the way there, then took a few smaller roads to Caucomgomoc Lake. The only down side to traveling so much each day is we didn’t stop too long in some of the places we went, so we ended up just driving by the lake and on to the Eagle Lake Tramway.

Ran into some logging trucks as well…

We used the atlas to navigate the access roads until we spotted signs leading us the rest of the way. Recently, a parking area has been cleared so the walk to the Tramway is only about a mile (20 minutes or so). At the parking lot, Jake grilled up some lunch before we headed out to the Tramway.

The Eagle Lake Tramway was extraordinary! Built to haul pulpwood (spruce trees) between Eagle Lake and Chamberlain Lake, the Tramway was basically a railway system that ran for six years before being abandoned in 1907. From 1927 to 1933, the Eagle Lake end of the Tramway was modified as an end station or terminal of the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad, which was used to haul pulpwood south. The two engines are the only survivors from its operation. The engines (Ghost Trains), cars, and additional parts of equipment can still be found here today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, volunteers restored parts of the Tramway to bring it back to life, as time, the harsh weather of Maine, and souvenir hunters had battered its existence.

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Leaving the Tramway, we hiked the mile back to the truck and continued on to our campsite for the night. We couldn’t seem to find the campsite we had been looking for from our Atlas, so we stopped at a ranger station where the rangers gave Jake directions to the only campsite close by that was accessible by motor vehicle. It took us a little time to find it, but once we did it was definitely worth the detour to find it.

Using the Atlas, I directed Jake about ten miles from the rangers station where, after some confusion of where exactly we were, we made a left onto an overgrown road with a sign that read “Umbazooksus East.” We picked up a few pinstripes, and at one point we were about to try and turn around thinking this was not the correct road. But the dense bushes and trees finally gave way to a clearing that had been perfectly manicured by the North Maine Woods (Bureau of Parks and Lands). It was perfect. A nice shelter with a picnic table, a clean and well constructed pit toilet, and two convenient campsites.

We hopped out of the truck to look around, and that’s when I noticed a grassy walkway that led away from the campsites. I followed it to an opening that was right out to a beautiful waterfront campsite. I called for Jake and he came running down to the campsite, which is when we noticed a moose, standing in the water looking directly at us. Jake ran to get my camera and I was barely able to get a picture as he ran off.

80 - Umbazooksus East, ME - 09.04.2018

We positioned the truck so that we had a nice view of the lake and quickly set up. Of course by the time we had made the trip to Maine, most of the lakes had already been partially drained for the winter season, but our view was still spectacular.

For firewood, Jake cut down a dead tree with his handy battery powered chainsaw that he bought solely for this trip. He had a fire going in no time with enough wood for a nice little fire in the morning.

We made chili and cornbread for dinner while we watched an amazing sunset right over the lake. We could not have asked for a more perfect setting or a more perfect night.

Pros of Umbazooksus East Campsites:
– Well maintained
– Two picnic tables / fire range
– A well constructed pit toilet
– Absolutely stunning views
– Sunset was picture perfect
– Quiet and relaxing

Cons of Umbazooksus East Campsites:
– Rough road driving in
– No firewood provided, must find and chop your own
– Muddy near the water, but it was also drained in September

Day 5 – Out of The North Maine Woods and on to Bar Harbor

The morning of Day 5 was probably my favorite. Breakfast was bacon and eggs right on the water, and the temperature was just right.

After packing up the truck, we left our campsite and headed out of the North Maine Woods. Not long into our drive,  a mama bear and her cub crossed the road in front of us. It was so exciting to see them as my list and number count of the animals we had seen during our trip was low! We had now seen two moose, two bear, and one deer.

While on the Golden Road, we stopped at the Abol Bridge Campground & Store to grab a snack and to take pictures of Mount Katahdin, which is the beginning of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Maine. The view was incredible and one of my favorites for sure.

We continued on, through a few villages and towns before we reached I95 South and civilization (which was weird after not seeing many people for a few days). We took I95 South to Bangor, Maine, where we stopped for lunch at Sea Dog Brewing Co. for lunch. Since the weather was perfect we sat on their porch overlooking Penobscot River while eating a few appetizers before our meals came. I also tried my first flight. Of course all of the food was delicious, and any leftovers we had went in to our refrigerator in the back of the truck for later.

After lunch, we headed east to Bar Harbor. Everything in Bar Harbor was beautiful. We decided to stop in the town before heading to our campground to walk around (since we had been in the truck for many hours), see the cruise ships, and go in a few shops. We also came across, from a distance, a natural land bridge that is only accessible during low tide that crosses the harbor to Bar Island. As much as we wanted to drive across and explore, our schedule just didn’t allow us the time so we observed from afar.

We headed to our campground to get settled and take some much deserved showers. Once we arrived at Blackwoods Campground, however, we discovered that the campground did not have showers, only a place to use the restroom. So before we could set up, we drove back out of the campground and down the street to a bathhouse where we had to pay (in quarters for time) to use the shower. Jake’s shower cost us $2 and mine cost us $6, go figure.

The bathhouse also sold firewood, so we grabbed some of that as well before heading back to the campground to set up. After we had set up we decided on taking the shuttle bus (which was free btw) back into Bar Harbor for some dinner.

We had a delicious dinner at Testa’s Restaurant. We ordered Crab Stuffed Mushrooms to share; Jake had two very large lobster with corn and red potatoes. Because I’m allergic to lobster (or so they say) and scallops I had crap soup and a salad, while jealously watching Jake devour his lobster. Everything was amazing, as we expected it to be. The food in Maine did not disappoint in the least bit.

Since the buses had stopped running at 7:45 PM, we took to the only available Uber (Steven, cool dude) back to the campground for a night cap before passing out for some much needed sleep after a pretty long day. The next day we planned on spending doing some shopping, exploring Bar Harbor as much as possible, and eating some more amazing food, so we needed all the sleep we could get.

Pros of Blackwoods Campground
– Campsites are well maintained with fire ring and lots of trees
– Free shuttle bus stop to and around Bar Harbor
– Campground is right on the Harbor/ocean, short walk down trail
– Bathrooms are nicely maintained (only toilets and sinks)
– Amphitheater with shows in the Summers
– Tours are offered in the Summers
– Always a breeze since it’s right on the water

Cons of Blackwoods Campground
– No showers in the campground
– Do not have a store or sell firewood
– Campsites aren’t very private, close to all neighbors
-No cell service outside of main Bar Harbor (unless you have AT&T apparently)

The North Maine Woods – Days 1 – 2

The North Maine Woods – Days 6, 7 & 8

 

The North Maine Woods – Days 1 & 2

As most of you know, Jake and I like to go on adventures and this year was no exception. After purchasing our Colorado and rooftop tent we wanted to do something that not many people have done before. We decided to head to The North Maine Woods and do a bit of off-roading to get away from people and relax in the quiet, yet beautiful landscape that is the North Maine Woods.

The Set Up

Jake purchased a 2017 Chevy Colorado Duramax Z71 CCSB in early 2017 and decided he wanted to put some work into it to make it more of an off-roading vehicle.

First, he wanted a mild lift yet reliable suspension, so he purchased a Bajakits Chase Kit from Bajakits. Next he installed tires/wheels that would be tough enough to handle the terrain that we would be traveling, which is when he purchased a set of Relations Race Wheels wrapped in BFG A/T KO2 275/70/17s. As for the protection, he installed 589 Fabrication front and oil pan skids.

After a pretty miserable weekend beach trip to Cape Lookout, North Carolina (we camped on the beach in a ground tent), we decided that a rooftop tent would be much more beneficial (especially since the wind was so brutal on our tent) for off-road camping. We saved our pennies to have a custom modular bed rack built, by Alexander Fabrication, where the rooftop tent would be mounted to.

Once the rack was complete, we were able to mount our tent on top. We purchased our tent from Tuff Stuff 4×4, the Delta RTT two person. We have plenty of room for both Jake and myself, and Reagan when she comes with us. Even with the three of us it is pretty spacious.  We also purchased the Tuff Stuff 4×4 4.5 x 6 ft awning to give us a little shade and shelter in the case of some wet weather or the brutal sun.

On top of the rooftop tent, Jake positioned two Bogue RV 100w flexible solar panels which charges a 100Ah bed mounted deep cycle battery for us to have power while on the road. He is able to remotely control and monitor the solar panel using a Victron 75/15 SmartSolar charge controller. Because we were going to be pretty secluded, we purchased a Snomaster Expedition 75qt refrigerator that runs off the solar panel and the battery to keep food cold when having a cooler is not sufficient.

Getting gear from the bed of the truck was a chore with the rooftop tent sitting over it, so Jake installed a Bed Slide. The bed slide allows us to pack and unpack with ease every time we moved locations.

Our set up time of 30 minutes includes setting up the tent and the awning, hanging lights, making the tent bed, and setting up the camp kitchen, which Jake built out of a Pelican case to make cooking while traveling more efficient. Break down time also takes about 30 minutes.

Day 1 – The Drive to New Hampshire

We started out on a Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, leaving the house around 6 AM, heading north. Not much to tell when your first day consists of sitting in the truck for 11 hours. But as always, the beginning of a road trip can be very exciting! We traveled through Northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire in one day.

Vermont was beautiful. We didn’t spend much time in the state, and we never saw one building that wasn’t a house. Once we crossed the state line and river into New Hampshire, we saw the first town in at least two hours.

We also drove through my very first covered bridge.

Since we left the house early, we arrived at our first campground around 5 PM, Branch Brook Campground in the Town of Campton, New Hampshire. We had only called when we were a few hours away and they only had one site open (it was Labor Day weekend so everything was booked, and I do mean everything).

We checked in at the front gate, bought some firewood at the camp store, and headed back to our campsite. Our campsite was about a half mile from the front of the campground in a field with three foot high weeds and each campsite had been mowed out. The only bathroom was at the camp store, so if we needed to use the bathroom it was a “pop and squat” situation.

We situated the truck close to the fire pit and began to unpack. But not before we somehow (and by we I mean Jake) locked the keys in the truck. A great start to our vacation. Luckily, we had the back sliding window open to allow for the refrigerator to plug in to the truck while we were driving. We pulled out some tools we had brought in the case of an emergency and loosened the rooftop tent to slide back so Jake could fit between the tent and the cab. He was able to reach his arm into the cab of the truck, but he could not reach the door handle. I went back to the tools and found a 3/8 inch extended breaker bar which Jake was able to use to reach the rest of the way and pull open the door handle. Crisis averted.

Now that we were back on track, I started to set up the tent/awning while Jake unpacked the kitchen and started making dinner, Paella, which was delicious! Jake took the leftovers to our neighbors, who on one side were so drunk I’m not sure they had enough room for food. He went to the other neighbors and offered as well, and was engulfed by a cloud of pot. Not sure how they turned down food, but they did.

Trying to sleep that night was difficult as there was a party going on pretty much the entire night, but the mattress was comfortable and it didn’t get all that hot or cold.

Pros of Branch Brook Campground:
– Family friendly with playground, pool, baseball/softball fields
– Pet friendly
– Store with standard camp conveniences
– Close entry gate from 9 PM to 8 AM
– Bath house is nice and seems to be able to accommodate a full campground

Cons of Branch Brook Campground:
– Back sites are in open fields with weeds three feet high
– Bathrooms/bath house (only 1) is at the front of the campground, 1/2 mile away from back sites
– Wet fire wood
– Only two cars per site, so others parked their car in our campsite

Day 2 – Journey to the North Main Woods

We got up at 7 AM, ate breakfast, and were packed up by 8:30 AM. Before leaving, we stopped at the bathhouse to take showers and were on the road by 9 AM. The day was beautiful! Clear skies and open roads were a nice start as we headed to Sandwich, New Hampshire. Sandwich is a small community of about 1,330 people, located in Carroll County. The Historic Sandwich Notch Road is also found here; established in 1801 as an interstate highway that allowed farmers and craftsmen to travel from Vermont and northwestern New Hampshire to the coastal area of New Hampshire.

In the New England area, passes or gaps (like the Cumberland Gap in Virginia) are known as a Notch. We traveled through the small town of Sandwich, which had some of the most beautiful houses and views I have ever seen. Jake and I noticed that most of the houses were also connected to their barns. After doing some research (when we had cell service), we learned that in the New England area it is common for the houses to be connected to their barns, or as they call it “continuous architecture.” This style of building helped to avoid the harsh winters of New England. Instead on constantly shoveling snow to create a path to the outlying structures, farmers/homeowners are able to reach the buildings through interior connections.

As we traveled down Sandwich Notch Road and entered White Mountain National Forest, we crossed over two notches and three watersheds. The views were beautiful!

Our next stop of the day was in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, population 247 (2010 census). The Waterville Valley Resort resides here and is a yearly getaway destination spot for many people in the New England area. We stopped to take some pictures and a snack break on the tailgate of the truck.

Leaving Waterville Valley, we drove down Tripoli Road (closed in the winter). It was very busy since it was Labor Day weekend, and the road was completely full with people parked on the side who were camping for the weekend. There were portable bathrooms and a trash service available, but we didn’t see any rangers patrolling this area; it was definitely a local party spot.

When we reached the end of Tripoli Road, we hopped on I-93 north where we drove through the Franconia Notch which was eight miles long between the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges. Although we didn’t stop, we were able to get some breathtaking photos of the Notch. The Franconia Notch is located in Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountain National Forest. If you are ever so inclined, you can stop at the Flume Gorge Visitor Center and take the Cannon Mountain Areal Tramway on a spectacular eight minute ride to the summit of Cannon Mountain. While at the summit, it is said on clear days that you can see views as of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Canada, and New York. There is a plethora of activities you can enjoy with the State Park as well, including a visit the to Sky Museum, swim at Echo Lake, hike a part of the Appalachian Trail, etc.

We continued a few miles further where we took Route 3 (Daniel Webster Highway) through Carroll to Whitefield, New Hampshire. We weren’t actually planning on stopping here, but we noticed a vinyl shop as we drove by, so we stopped to look around at Chris’s Nostalgia Shop. We ended up buying about five or six vinyls, and the guy who owns the place (Chris, obviously) was super knowledgeable.

By the time we left we were getting a bit hungry, so we stopped in Lancaster, New Hampshire for a bite and a drink at Copper Big Brewery. The brewery is located in an old brick bank, right on the banks of the Isreal River. We ordered some food and a few beers, which was all amazing! And we sat at a table right next to the bank’s old vault. It was a neat old building, the perfect place to have a brewery. There was also a patio where you could eat/drink outside as well, right next to the river.

Nash Stream Forest was our next destination, so we left Lancaster (driving by their County Fair on the way) continuing on Route 3 to Route 110, where we traveled through Stark, NH and another covered bridge.

From 110 we hit Route 16. We turned off Route 16 onto Drummer Pond Road to do a little off-roading through Colebrook, NH. There were several windmill parks as we drove through the forest, including around Mount Kelsey.

Fun Fact: The nations first real wind farm was located in New Hampshire, on Crotched Mountain in Francestown.

We headed north to Route 26 to Dixville State Park where the Dixville Notch is located. We pulled off on a little pull off to take some pictures of the notch. We the continued up the road about a half mile to another pull off where we took pictures of the notch from the opposite side.

At this pull off, we also took pictures of the famous Balsams Grand Resort, which was sadly under construction, so we could not get any closer. But the resort was beautiful and sits right on Lake Gloriette. I’m sure in the winter months it is absolutely breathtaking with fresh snow and views. Right now, the Balsams is working on adding on one of the largest ski expansions in New Hampshire and the North East, with “2,200 ski able acres of alpine terrain.”

Turning south back down Route 26, Jake and I headed towards Errol, where we stopped and got some ice cream (Moose Tracks of course) before heading to South Arm Campground on the eastern shore of Umbagog Lake, finally entering Maine. We unpacked and set up, which many other campers complimented on how fast we did. One thing I did notice by our second night, is we got a lot of looks and compliments on the roof top tent setup.

The campground was very accommodating and everyone was so nice! So nice, in fact, that some of our neighbors asked if we wanted to smoke “the devils lettuce” with them. We declined.

We grabbed a few bundles of wood, which we paid for the next morning since they were technically closed, and started dinner. Jake always plans our meals out pretty meticulously, so we always eat very well, sometimes better than at home. This night was no exception as we had lasagna in the dutch oven. It was damn good.

As we ate our dinner, we planned out the next day, since we would be entering the North Maine woods and leaving civilization behind.

Pros of South Arm Campground:
– Lots are nicely maintained; each site has concrete fireplace
– Almost all lots are either on the lake or have a view of the lake
– Bathhouses are a little older but nicely maintained
– Site are large enough for at least two tents, and pretty flat
– Pet friendly
– Very quiet, quiet hours aside
– Lots of trees and natural feel
– Boat launch/dock/beach
– Very friendly staff/owners
– Dry firewood

Cons of South Arm Campground:
– Office/store closes at 5 PM
– No cell reception
– Store is sparse, but we were there at the end of the season

The North Maine Woods – Days 3, 4 & 5

The North Maine Woods – Days 6, 7, & 8

 

 

 

Off-Roading Flagpole Knob, Virginia

Since purchasing our 2017 Chevy Colorado Duramax Z71 CCSB, we have been taking her off road on a few adventures. One of the first trips was on Flagpole Knob, Virginia, just west of Bridgewater right on the Virginia and West Virginia boarders. The Flagpole Knob trail is known for its rocky terrain and is impassable to vehicles with a low clearance (for example the ford explorer in the video below). These trails have become very popular with Jeep owners, which is credited to their solid axles that make it easier to articulate off road.

Mind you, this trail is for intermediate to advanced off-roaders; Jake and I were very lucky to ride away with only a few pinstripes. A few essentials you should be sure to bring along include, but are not limited to: tools, tow chain or rope, spare tire, two way radios or a phone (service is spotty), etc.

Our set up consists of the following: A Bajakits Chase Kit from BajakitsRelations Race Wheels wrapped in BFG A/T KO2 275/70/17s. As for the protection, we upgraded to 589 Fabrication front and oil pan skids.

Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Day Six

With only a few days left in Cancun, Jake and I had two days of excisions left. On day six, we got up pretty early with a couple of our friends and met up with our guide, who took us out on to the beach to a small fishing boat waiting in the water. We were going to do a half day of some fishing! I get pretty sea sick, but I was hopeful I wouldn’t this time (not a smart move, should have bought that Dramamine).

The four of us climbed on board and we set off to about 200 yards from land where the water was choppy, but no where near as rough as it would be farther out. I didn’t last five minutes before I started getting nauseous. While the two fishermen set out lines to find the fish (called Trolling), I chummed for them, a few times; I’m pretty sure they thought it I was pathetic.

After about an hour of no bites, and me heaving over the side of the boat, we dropped anchor and got in the water near the shore where the water was calm and some beautiful coral reefs were below the water. Sadly, we did not bring our go pro so we were not able to get many pictures, which I was very disappointed about.

Once we were back on the boat, we took off back to the resort. Thankfully, I did not get sick on the ride back, I contribute this to the fact that we weren’t idling down the coast, we were moving quickly over the waves, which I thoroughly enjoyed. When our feet were back on dry land, we headed inside to take showers and lay out by the pool for a little while (where Jake and I promptly fell asleep under a canopy for a couple hours). The entire wedding group was going out to dinner that night (as most were leaving the next day), but after Jake and two of our friends (the same two who went fishing with us) went out to the touristy area to visit one of the local restaurants that also happens to have a cenote.

On the way, we came across a really neat art exhibit that was set up on one of the side streets by several artists. I found one guy that I thought was really cool (Daniel Violante Paramo), and I plan on purchasing one of his pieces; one day, when I have the money haha.

When we arrived at the restaurant/cenote, we found out we were not allowed to just sit and have drinks, but they did allow us to go in a see the cenote, which was very neat. This one wasn’t like the one Jake and I went snorkeling in, it was dry, so we were able to walk around in it.

Since it was November 2nd, All Souls’ Day (Los Fieles Difuntos), the local shops and people were gearing up for another celebration that night. There were many “alters” set up on the streets with offerings, including food, candles, flowers, incense, liquor, photographs, food, and personal belongings of the deceased. Other offerings include painted skulls (probably why so many of the shops sell them) and death drawings.

Calling it a night, we headed back to the resort. The next day we were heading over to Cozumel, a little island where many cruise ships dock.

Day Seven

Thankfully, we were able to sleep in a little bit on Friday before walking to the ferry that would take us to Cozumel. I bought some Dramamine the day before so I was ready for another boat ride across the very choppy, but beautiful, water. We walked for about 20 minutes down Calle Quinta Avenida, where we were asked probably 50 times if we wanted to buy tickets to Cozumel (which we already purchased from the guy who sold us the excursions packages on Day Two).

I was so overwhelmed by all the people trying to sell us things I felt like I needed a nap. I get it, selling is their livelihood and it’s how they put food on the table and support their families, but I was so over it by day seven.

Once we arrived at the ferries we were surprised that there were many different companies. We found our line and waited only a few minutes before we were allowed to board. We headed up to the top deck and found our seats. I was getting a bit nervous because our snorkeling reservation was at 11 AM and as we left the dock it was just about 10:15 AM. We also we unsure of where to go once we got to the island, so my anxiety was a bit high; I do not like not knowing.

When we made it to Cozumel and were off the boat, we headed in the direction of the tourist excursions. We finally found a guy wearing the same shirt as the man who sold us our excursions and he pointed us in the right direction. We had only five minutes to run to our boat for our snorkeling excursion, but we made it. I was super excited!

Then I saw our boat. It was tiny, and the glass bottom that we were supposed to be able to look through to see the colorful Gulf of Mexico floor was covered in a layer of algae that no one could see through. The start of the day was not going well. But we paid for the excursion, so might as well go and attempt some snorkeling anyways.

Our boat loaded up with about 15 people or so, way more than I thought could fit, and we set off for some coral reefs. We past several cruise liners (which are enormous when you’re at water level looking up) and finally made it to our first spot to jump in. Right before we were in the water, we discovered that somehow (Jake) the GoPro card was not put back in the GoPro (Jake) after uploading the videos and pictures to the laptop (Jake). So this was so be our second trip snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico without the GoPro; I was not happy, but at least I wasn’t sea sick this time.

After the initial shock of not being able to use the GoPro, we jumped in the water and began exploring the waters beneath us. I was hoping that there would be more sea life than there was the day before, but we were a little disappointed to tell you the truth. Of course there were some neat things to see, but I had set my expectations so high it just wasn’t at all what I expected.

Luckily, one of the guides was taking pictures and we were able to get some pictures together, as well as pictures of some of the sea animal life.

About an hour in the water, we all headed back to the boat and took off back to the dock and unloaded. I was happy to be back on dry land, and even happier to go change into some dry clothes at the near by Hard Rock. Once we were both changed, we headed to a scooter shop where we had reserved a scooter (on Day Two) to ride around the island. Initially, I was going to ride with Jake because I have never driven a scooter (or motorcycle) before by myself, but somehow Jake talked me into renting a second one to drive all by my lonesome. I was terrified. And I do mean terrified.

When the paperwork was completed, we had our keys, and the employee showed me how to work the scooter, we were off. I was still terrified. At one point I had meant to slow down at one of the traffic circles and ended up speeding up instead and cutting off some people (sorry!), so I was really glad when we were able to get to the side of the island that had no traffic. Jake and I even raced a little bit, which was great fun! And of course, Jake is always able to get the most ridiculous videos of me; at the suggestion of one of my friends I even added the theme song from Sons of Anarchy

When we reached the east side of the island we stopped to take a couple pictures…

…then headed on to eat some lunch at a little sea side restaurant called Chen Rio. Of course the food was, once again, excellent! We even saw an alligator chillin’ in a little cove.

Once we had our food babies, we hopped back on the bikes and set off back to the western part of the island. We passed some of our friends on their scooter as we headed back to turn in ours. All in all, it was a great experience, but I don’t think I enjoy driving in Mexico. If you think DC traffic / driving is bad, go to Mexico.

0301-2018-053732540658678760 (1)We headed back to the ferries as the sun was starting to set, and the cruise liners were heading out as well. They were incredible floating cities to see as they started up their engines, blew their horns, and glided through the water to their next port.

JellyFish hanging lampsWhen we landed back in Playa del Carmen, we began our walk back to the resort. Of course we stopped in a few shops along the way to grab last minute gifts and souvenirs. My favorite shop was the JellyFish lamp store. These lamps are made from materials natural to the Yucatan Peninsula. “Regional gourds (Langerina Sicecaria) and local jicaras(Crescentia cujete) are combined with seeds, seashells, stainglass and blown glass to make beautiful lamps.” We bought one for our neighbors for taking care of the pup while we were gone. We should have bought one for ourselves, but packing space was limited, so we didn’t.

We also stopped at the Tequila House (or Tequila Hacienda) where they also had a Tequila Museum where I have never seen more tequila in my life. So naturally, we bought some.

Then back to the resort we went, satisfied with the amount of alcohol we purchased. We also bought some at the duty free shop the next day once we reached the airport. So we were not lacking the in the tequila department.

Back at the resort, we took some showers and headed down the the resort’s cigar bar where we relaxed with the Bride and Groom and some friends before we departed the next day. It was the first time in our entire trip when it sprinkled for a couple minutes. After a few drinks we decided to call it a night and we all headed back to our rooms for our last night in paradise.

Day Eight

Our last morning at the resort was bitter sweet. We had everything packed and ready to go by 9 AM, luckily our flight wasn’t until about 3 PM so we were able to order some room service then hang out by the bar until our shuttle picked us up around noon.

Then we were off to the airport. It was bitter sweet leaving, we absolutely loved our time at The Royal in Playa del Carmen, but we missed our sweet pup. Jake says he was ready to go back to every day life, but I was secretly trying to figure out a way to stay and start my own business so I’d never have to leave. Any ideas?

When we left the Cancun airport it was a sunny 80 degrees; our flight back was smooth and quick. We landing in DC around 8:30 PM (EST), where it was 45 degrees and raining. Bleh. Welcome back to reality.

Stay tuned for our next adventure!

Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:

Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Day Four

Day Four of our Mexican adventure was dedicated strictly to the beach! The weather had been amazing every single day since we had arrived, so it was time for a beach day. Our friends who were getting married had the Presidential Suite, so they were able to grab us a few cabanas right on the water next to the beach volleyball court. I actually don’t think I went swimming in the water once that day, we were having too much fun playing volleyball and laying in the cabanas.

Around 3 PM I headed inside to get ready for dinner and the Bachelorette party! We had dinner with all the friends and family of the Bride and Groom at EL MEDITERRÁNEO, which was absolutely excellent!

As we finished our meals, we all started to separate into two groups for the night for the Bachelor and Bachelorette parties! They were a blast! Lots of dancing and salsa to go round!

 

To be completely honest, I don’t remember the end of the night, not because I drank too much (because I promise I didn’t, Mom) but because I was so exhausted I just don’t really remember the end of the night. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the chips and queso in the 24 hour game room though.

Day 5

The Big Day!!! While the bride and the bridesmaids prepped for the walk down the aisle, the groom, his men, the family, and all us friends hung by the pool for pretty much the entire day. Vacation is tiring, btw. Some people need a vacation from their vacation, but this trip was the right about of site seeing and the right amount of lounging.

And so the festivities began; we made our way down to the venue

At promptly 5pm, the wedding party made their way down the aisle, and Renee was an absolutely stunning bride! A beach wedding, at sunset, with clear skies and clear water as the backdrop, as if out of a magazine. Stunningly perfect!

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The reception began with a cocktail hour while the wedding party took pictures. The cocktail food was fantastic; stuffed mushrooms and some other mouth watering delights. A banana daiquiri also had it’s place next to my plate the entire evening.

After dinner, the dancing, and the garter and bouquet toss (which I caught, opps)…

…came the cake cutting. Even the cake was delicious.

Renee and Rolf’s wedding was perfect. The food, perfect. The setting, perfect. The weather, perfect.

Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:

Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

We were up bright and early, with not a cloud in the sky, and ready for our adventure to Tulum, Grand Cenote, and Coba!!! Our van picked us up “almost” on time at 8 AM, and it was a full bus load. After picking up one other couple, and the van was at max capacity, we headed out to meet up with all the other groups at a little cenote that was owned by the touring company.

 

They had a little shop where you could buy some Mexican related gifts (like skulls, T-shirts, and ceramic items), a little snack bar, and a cenote, but you couldn’t swim in this one. For a minute, Jake and I thought this was the Gran Cenote we were supposed to do some snorkeling at, but it wasn’t (thank goodness). After a half hour or so, I was a little let down that this was how our adventure was starting, but we finally got back on the van and were on our way.

Our first stop: The Tulum ruins

Also known as “The Walled City,” in the Yucatec language, Tulum means “wall.” According to many researchers, in the Mayan language, Tulum was originally called Zama, which means “dawn.” Though Tulum’s rediscovery is credited to explorer Juan José Gálvez in 1840, the city was only later called “Tulum” by two explorers, John Lloyd Stephens (American) and Frederick Catherwood (British) in 1841. Their book, “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,” describe the events in more detail.

Our van parked 20 minutes later at Tulum Beach, where we walked about a quarter mile or so the entrance to the ruins.

We entered the ruins through one of the five doorways which were cut through a seven meter thick limestone wall that surrounds the entirety of the ruins on three sides (I’m pretty sure we entered the exit though). The fourth side sits on a 12 meter (39 ft) high cliff overlooking the Caribbean coast.

 

We walked along the path that was mostly shaded by the trees, passing many iguanas ranging in size from inches to feet. Our tour guide mentioned that the iguanas are seen as protectors of the ruins, but mainly because they are able to bask in the sunlight and warm their cold blooded bodies. After visiting in 2012, a Guatemalan film director and photographer, Alejandro Ramirez Anderson, suggests in his blog (in Spanish) that the iguanas have been inhabited by the spirits of the founders to protect the ruins:

“Hoy, cuando uno llega a Tulum,
la antigua ciudad está habitada por iguanas, 
como si los seres que la fundaron se hubiesen metamorfoseado
para seguirla custodiando discreta y clandestinamente.”

Translation:

“Today, when one arrives in Tulum,
the ancient city is inhabited by iguanas,
as if the founders of this city had metamorphosed
to continue protecting it, clandestinely.”

 

When we finally emerged from the trees, we came upon multiple buildings that were well preserved and protected by the iguanas. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and described (in three languages no doubt, Spanish, English and German) in great detail what some of the buildings were uses for. Sadly, you cannot climb or touch these ruins like others in Mexico, but they are the most visited and, in my opinion, very beautiful.

 

The most important, and tallest, building is the Castillo (or Castle). It sits on the cliffs imposing an authoritative stance with a view of the ocean and coast for miles. It is by far the most famous of the buildings, and is also referred to as the lighthouse.

 

At the base of the Tulum ruins, is a beach, where many locals as well as tourists are able to lay in the sun, swim, and snorkel. The Mayans used this beach to dock their ships as trade around the Yucatan Peninsula was important to the Tulum settlement. We were told that the beach here gets very crowded, which it definitely was the day we were there. It was hot out too, so that made them worse, so we did not climb the stairs down.

 

Admission Fee: $59 pesos / person
Parking Fee: $70 pesos / car
Hours of Operation: 8 AM to 5 PM
Location: Carretera federal 307 Cancun – Chetumal Km 230Tulum 77780, Mexico

0301-2018-053932542192658444Both Jake and I were getting very warm, so we decided to head back to the van, where we found the Santa Fe Tulum Beach Club which sat right on the beach. We ordered some drinks and a couple little feral cats (one a kitten) came out from under the porch for some food. Me being me, pet both of them. There were so skinny it made me sad, and I wanted to love on them, so I did. We noticed our group was heading back, so we paid our tab and climbed back onto the bus for a quick 20 minute drive.

Our next stop: Gran Cenote

And grand it was indeed! By far Jake and my favorite place of the day! A cenote is described as a natural sinkhole formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater, or as the locals call it “Secret Swims.” The name cenote means “sacred well,” as the Mayan people consider cenotes sacred waters. The water is fresh and crystal clear as it has been filtered by the earth’s natural elements.

 

At this particular cenote you can swim and snorkel, as well as dive if you’re so inclined. Jake and I decided to snorkel. We changed clothes, rinsed off, and made our way downimg_4479 into the cenote. It was absolutely beautiful before we even got in the water. We rented snorkel gear and a locker to put our belongings in, the hopped in the water, which is not as warm as the ocean water for sure.

There was wildlife everywhere, turtles, fish, plant life, etc. And the stalactites and stalagmites were breathtaking. At first we were swimming in water about ten feet deep, then it opened up and became this massive under water cavern that took your breath away (or that could have just been me trying to breathe with snorkel gear for the first time).

When our time was up, we turned in our gear, retrieved our belongings, and climbed back up the stairs to the grassy area where we changed back in to dry clothes. At the entrance to the cenote, there is also a small kitchen / snack bar where you can buy drinks and order some food. However, they did not have much food to order and they were out of pretty much everything to make you food with, but we did ask for a cheese quesadilla, which was AMAZING!!! I’m not sure if they have more food other times of the year, but from our experience don’t expect a meal, just snacky foods and bottled drinks.

Admission Fee: $120 pesos; and $150 pesos for divers
Parking Fee: $0
Snorkel Gear: $80 pesos
Scuba Diving Rentals: Click here
Hours of Operation: 8 AM to 6 PM
Location: In Tulum take the road to Coba just under 4 kilometers. Right side of road. (They don’t actually give you an address)

 

Then it was back to the van. And we were starving, even after splitting a quesadilla, so thankfully we made a stop to eat near the Coba ruins at a hole in the wall restaurant called Restaurante Nikte Ha where all of the tour groups were eating lunch (I think the company owns this place as well, which makes it cheaper for them), but the food was pretty good, and it sat right next to a really pretty lagoon (pictured above)! After lunch, we were back on the van for, literally, a one minute drive to the entrance to the Coba ruins.

Our last stop: The Ancient Mayan Ruins of Coba

img_3911Coba means “waters stirred by the wind,” which seems appropriate as there are two lagoons that surround the ruins. The Coba ruins are not as popular as other ruins because of its location, which is a shame because I enjoyed them more than the Tulum ruins for sure. It is also one of the ruins that are still un-excavated and covered in trees, which I enjoyed because that meant it was more shaded than Tulum.

After entering, we walked an easy walk to the beginning of the ruins. Most of the ruins that have been excavated include the Nohoch Mul structures (the main pyramid), Conjunto Pinturas (the spiritual area), and the Macanxoc structures. Coba also has one of the largest systems of stone causeways called sacbéob or “white roads,” 16 open to the public but more than 50 have been discovered. These roads lead to the largest pyramid, Ixmoja, and other residential areas along the way that are part of Nohoch Mul.

 

We spent a great deal of time with our tour guide who explained (again in Spanish, English, and German) what each of the structures were. I found the information quite entertaining, especially when discussing the two ball courts. They use to play ōllamaliztli, a traditional Mayan ballgame where a heavy rubber ball that weighs roughly nine pounds is propelled (without using hands) through a ring. Our tour guide told us that as a ritual, the captain of the winning team was sacrificed to the gods, which was a huge honor.

 

Our tour guide left us here to either walk, bicycle, or bike taxi to Ixmoja, the heart of the city. Jake and I each rented a bicycle and rode to Ixmoja pyramid, where we parked our bikes to look up at the 137 foot pyramid above us. Then, we began to climb. With 120 steps to the top, the Nohoch Mul pyramid is the tallest temple on the Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza (a more popular site to visit) has only 91 steps to the top of the Kulkulkan Pyramid.

It took us no time to reach the top, maybe three minutes, tops. But we were also booking it, not using the rope in the center for balance and we are both in decent shape so we didn’t need to stop to take a break. When we reached the top the view was magnificent! You could see for miles in every direction, which made sense as to why they would want to build pyramids so tall.

 

We sat on the top of the pyramid for a few minutes before we decided to head back down. The climb down was much more slow and it was steeper than I remember it being going up. I had to grab the rope once or twice when going down a large step, but otherwise we were down almost as fast as we had gone up. Don’t get me wrong though, it was steep and you had to be careful, definitely had to step with more of an angle than you would going down steps in your house. Kids were going up and down the pyramid as well, so definitely doable without falling, unless you weren’t careful.

We were told by the man who we booked the tours through, that 2017 was the last year they were allowing people to climb the ruins at Coba, so that sold us. Now, I think he was just telling us that so that we would go. I’m glad we did though because it was a great little adventure through Mayan history.

img_3921We rode the bicycles back to the entrance and headed out to our van. We still had some time before our groups needed to be back at the vans so we stopped at one of the little shops outside of the entrance. I ended up buying a cute little handmade dress for my niece. I’m sad that she will eventually out grow out of it, being she is only a few months old, but it is probably one of the most beautiful things I had seen made down there, and she can keep it for when she has kids one day (a very long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long time from now). The handmade items are much more interesting and beautiful than the factory made ones for sure.

Admission Fee: $38 pesos
Parking Fee: $15 pesos
Bicycle Rentals: $25 pesos / bike
Bici Taxi Ride: $100 pesos round trip
Hours of Operation: 8 AM to 5 PM
Location:

Once back in the van we started to drive through some of the slums and homes in the area. For a second I was worried because I wasn’t sure where the driver was taking us, but we stopped at a little Mayan village where some Mayan villagers still live. They offered to sell us some of the things that they make daily, which is how they make their living. The children try to hand you flowers and hand drawn pictures for money as well. I was absolutely devastated by the conditions that these people were living in, but they also knew nothing else. I meant to take some pictures here, but I was so shocked at how these people were living that it slipped my mind. To give you an idea of the state of the village, the primary school was a one room, concrete shack and the roof had collapsed.

Now, I have found a few other blogs of people who have seen these local Mayan villages, but their pictures of the villages are much nicer than the one we were taken to. Here is one that I found where the experience of the writer was much better than ours and the villagers seem to be much better off.

I did end up buying a very beautiful necklace from one of the villagers, then it was back on the van to head back to the resort. It was about a two hour drive, which included dropping some of our group members off at their resorts as well.

Enjoy a little video I put together of our excursion:

We learned a lot of this excursion too. I believe we paid the excursion company about about $350 total for the day (not including snorkeling gear or locker rental), it included transportation, Tulum, Gran Cenote, lunch, and Coba, as well as a guide at Tulum and Coba. Thinking about it, we did some math:

Tulum Admission: $59 pesos / person = $118 pesos
Tulum Parking Fee: $30 pesos / car = $30 pesos
Tulum Guide: $1441 pesos / group (you can negotiate this price, although each ruin has a display with an explanation, so you don’t really need one)
Gran Cenote Admission: $120 pesos / person = $240 pesos
Snorkeling Gear Rentals: $80 pesos / person = $160 pesos
Locker Rental: $20 pesos
Lunch: $96 / person = $192 pesos
Coba Admission: $38 pesos / person = $76 pesos
Coba Parking: $15 pesos
Coba Guide: $250 pesos / group
Coba Bicyle Rentals: $25 pesos / bike = $50 pesos

Total: $2,892 pesos or $150 U.S. dollars (not including transportation)

We definitely learned our lesson here. From now on, whenever we go anywhere, we are going to just go ourselves and save ourselves some $$$. If you don’t want to worry about transportation, then the excursion are the way to go!

Once we were back at the resort, the Bride and Groom, as well as some of their family and friends had finally arrived, so we went out for some drinks and dancing! It was quite an eventful day, and there was more fun to be had!

Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:

Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Day One

I cannot tell you how excited I had been for this trip. I had not had a vacation in more than a year, so a break and some TLC was definitely needed FOR SURE! Mind you the only real reason we are going to Cancun this year is because of two of our favorite people were tying the knot! So we decided to make this trip into our vacation! And it was worth it!!!

Preparing for the trip was simple, although I did have to renew my passport which had been expired for at least five years. That process was frustrating.

Our flight out was at 6:40 AM, so we had Washington Flyer pick us up at 4 AM. New regulations now suggest you arrive at the airport three hours before an international flight, but since we needed to check our bags and the ticket counter didn’t open until 4:15 AM we figured we would be alright arriving a little after 4 AM. Our first leg was to JFK. Which is beyond me why we needed to fly up to New York just to fly back down over D.C. We landed right as the sun was coming up which was absolutely beautiful.

We had a nice little layover that gave me some time to score some excellent New York img_3838postcards (using Postcrossing), as well as grab a drink or two (yes before noon, no judging, it’s our vacation). We sat waiting for our flight for about an hour at the gate. In that time, a fellow passenger waiting became unresponsive. Luckily, another passenger was a medic and was able to take his vitals and keep the wife calm. But what really irritated me is that emergency personnel were called, and it took close to 20 minutes for two Port Authority police officers to arrive, not even medics. Anything could have happened in that time, the man could have died. He woke up right before they arrived, which let me tell you was a relief, even for me. I ended up contacting JFK once we were home to let them know that it should not have taken that long AT ALL, and that I hope they take preventative action to make sure response teams are much faster next time.

We finally boarded our 10:30 AM flight and were off to Cancun!!!

Four hours later, we were flying into the Cancun International Airport. FINALLY!!! After months of preparing we were finally there, and ready for some serious relaxation!

img_4488After going through customs, we stopped at an ATM, then headed out the door to meet our ride, LOMAS TRAVEL, who our travel agent through DestinationWeddings set up for us. If you ever travel anywhere that is remotely touristy, make sure you follow the directions you’re given when leaving the airport to find you ride. There were at least 30 people trying to offer us rides to our hotel; our agent told us that some will even say they are with the transportation company you are looking for, so just ignore them or say no thank you. Since we followed the directions and we knew who we were looking for, we didn’t have any issues finding the right people.

Our ride to the resort was about an hour, and our van made one stop to drop off the other couple riding with us, they were from Missouri. And then, a little after 3 PM…

WE ARRIVED!!!

As soon as we got out of the car we were offered drinks by the resort staff, and after waiting a few minutes were able to check in. We upgraded to a garden view suite, which at $20 extra bucks a night we were all over. They gave us our wrist bands (which you will later find out how much we disliked them), gave us a map of the resort, then had the bell hop take our bags to our room, drinks still in hand.

Everything was beautiful; the room, the view, the entire resort.

Once we were settled, we headed to grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants on the resort. Did I mention it was all inclusive? As many drinks and as much food as you want!!! Ricon Mexicano is in one of the corners of the resort, right on the beach, and next to the road access to the ferries for the cruise ships. We arrived just before the taco bar was closing for the night, so we weren’t able to get the tacos, but both Jake and I decided on some authentic enchiladas, yum!

To end the night we walked to town, Calle Quinta Avenida (the touristy part), to look around and explore. We found a neat cigar shop (The Cigar Factory) where they roll the cigars from scratch right in front of you. At one of the shops, they had tanks filled with little fish called Garra Rufa fish (aka Doctor Fish) that you could put your feet in for 20 minutes and they would eat the dead skins of your feet; I only lasted about ten minutes. But it was definitely neat! The town was also preparing for Halloween (Día de las Brujas) on October 31, All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos) on November 1, and All Souls’ Day (Los Fieles Difuntos) on November 2, which is also known as the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). The celebration of Día de Todos los Santos and Los Fieles Difuntos is bigger than Halloween in Mexico. It was really exciting to see all of the decorations going up for the celebrations to begin in only a couple days.

We didn’t spent too much time out as we were exhausted from traveling, so we headed back to the resort and crashed.

Day Two

I woke up early this morning and decided to head down to the resort gym for a run. Sadly I only made it about two miles before my foot started aching (stress fracture, ouch), so I stopped, and headed upstairs to start our day.

Before day two of our Mexican adventure, we grabbed some breakfast at SPICE (another restaurant on the resort) which was more of a buffet styled restaurant. We also stopped in at the little store in the resort where I bought a couple Mexican blankets, and Jake bought himself some sunglasses, they were offering a deal, so might as well. We also made our dinner reservations with the front desk, at one of the two restaurants you needed to make a reservation for, and the place only had two times available, it was booked solid.

We walked to a store, called Mega, that was recommended to us where we could buy some coffee grounds, which was kind of like a Walmart. They do actually have a Walmart down the street, but we didn’t feel like walking that far.

We headed back to the “touristy” area where we ended up finding a mall of sorts (Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall), where we did a little bit of shopping to pick up some gifts. The mall had some of the typical shops that you would find in the U.S., including Pandora, Forever 21, American Eagle, Columbia Sportswear, and even Starbucks. The top floor had more of a general shopping area (kind of like a small Target) which had every day items as well as some more Mexican related gifts. The building itself was pretty neat though.

As we made our way back up the street to head to the resort, we were stopped by a man who wanted to sell Jake a Harley Davidson shirt. So, of course, we followed this guy into his little shop (which was also behind another shop and smaller than our bathroom) and ended up buying the shirt from him. I figured out after our trip that there was a Harley Davidson shop in the mall, but we somehow missed it.

On our way out, the guy suggested that we talk to his buddy about doing some excursions, so we listened to his spiel, which was about 45 minutes. We ended up signing up for three excursions, 1) Tulum, Grande Cenote, and Coba, 2) A fishing and snorkeling trip, and 3) Snorkeling on Cozumel, and scooter rentals. I think the total for all three was about $600 or so. We were told that the bus / van would pick us up from our hotel, without even asking which hotel we were staying at. This is when we realized that those fun little resort bracelets were what the locals looked for so they could try and sell tourists their products.

Once we were done spending money, we headed back to the resort to grab some lunch, take a couple shots, see the beach, and check out the pool.

We spent a little bit of time down at the pool before our 6:30 PM dinner reservations. There are two pools in the main area of the resort (and a third smaller pool off in one of the corners of the resort) and it’s where all the action happens. The smaller of the two pools has a swim up bar where Jake and I decided to spend our time, where we met another couple, from Dallas. We hung out with them for a bit before we headed inside to get ready for our dinner date.

There are only two restaurants on the resort that you need a reservation for, and one of them is Maria Marie. Also, you have to pay for lobster (good thing I’m allergic) and any top shelf or more expensive wines (basically non-house beverages).

img_3867Jake and I dressed accordingly, which was a nice dress for me and khakis and a button up for Jake. We arrived on time for our reservation at Maria Marie, and the place was basically empty, which was odd since they were booked that night when we made our reservation earlier that day. Jake ordered me a very nice bottle of wine (yup we had to pay for it) and we ordered our appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Yum!

(pictured right – we clean up alright>>)

Maria Marie

The other restaurant you must made a reservation for is Chef’s Table, which is also like an $80 charge per couple. We never ended up eating there.

After dinner we headed back to our room and pretty much fell asleep around 8 PM. I’m not sure why we were so tired, but we were. That’s alright though, because the next day were were going on a 12 hour excursion.

Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:

Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Christmas Town, December 16, 2107

I have always loved Christmas, a great trait I inherited from my dad no doubt. The festive decorations, the lights, the peppermint hot chocolate, decorating the Christmas tree, enjoying time with family, etc. I have a new little niece to celebrate with this year as well, so I am super excited to enjoy spending some time with her. But one thing I hadn’t done before was explore Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. Luckily, Jake’s parent’s live close enough that we can stay with them for the weekend and drive down to the park for a day.

You can purchase either “Single Day” tickets, of “Fun Cards”, or “Bounce Tickets” from the Busch Gardens website, and you can also upgrade if you are so inclined. The ticket prices vary depending on when you want to attend, so the closer to Christmas the more expensive they will be. I happened to buy ours in mid-November when they were having a sale for $25/person, definitely worth it. The only downside to buying them so far in advance is you have to select the date you want to go, and you may not know the weather situation of that day. The weekend before we went it ended up raining and snowing, so good thing we didn’t go then; although it may have been neat to go while it was snowing.

Did I mention Busch Gardens Christmas town has over eight million Christmas lights, making it the largest Christmas light display in North America? Yup! (Check out the side show at the end of the post with some of the Christmas lights)

It was a nice, clear day on December 16th, and it wasn’t too cold either, 46 was the high. I definitely needed a few layers and I ended up putting on a sweatshirt under my coat right before we entered that park, but walking around the park kept me warm so I didn’t need my gloves until after the sun went down.

The park opens at 2 PM, so we arrived about 30 minutes before hand to give us some time to park and get to the entrance. I’m glad we arrived early too, because while on a ride around 3:00 PM (Mäch Tower) we could see that the line to pay for parking was super backed up and the lots were getting pretty full.

Christmas Town Map

Once we had our maps in hand, we decided to head over the Oktoberfest to eat some lunch at Das Festhaus’, but first we stopped at the Highland Stables in Scotland. The Clydesdales were beautiful!

img_4362We then took the train and walked to Das Festhaus’ where they just so happen to have a show at 2:30 PM, “Deck the Halls.” We grabbed some lunch, which included some excellent bratwurst, and sat down to enjoy the show. Since we were there when the park opened, it was not as crowded which was nice. To be frank, I enjoyed the show, and the live band and singing were pretty good, but it was super cheesy (I guess it was more for kids?). I almost spit out my cider when the dancing gingerbread men came on stage.

Once the show was over, we headed back out into the cold where we rode the bumper cars and Mäch Tower before walking through Mistletoe Marketplace (also known as Der Marktplatz during the regular season) where both Jake’s mom and I bought a painting.

We then continued to New France where one of only two open roller coasters were open, Invadr. Invadr just opened this past summer, so it was exciting to ride a coaster I hadn’t Invadr.jpgridden before. The line was backed up all the way to the entrance, so we ended up waiting about 45 minutes or so, but the ride was worth it. Invadr is Busch Garden’s first wooden coaster (mind you it is supported by steal, so it really only feels like a wooden coaster) and was built next to Le Scoot (which was not running). I am a little sad that when I return in the summer Le Scoot will no longer be flowing through the woods as it use to. Now, Invadr will be roaring by; so now you have Invadr on one side, and Alpengeist on the other.

img_4424After the minute long ride, we had a few minutes to waste, so we headed over to Acadia Traders where Jake did some Gem Mining, then we dipped some candles in colored wax at Caribou Pottery. Busch Gardens definitely does not lack when it comes to activities for the entire family to do, that’s for sure.

'Twas that NightThe next show was at 6 PM, “‘Twas that Night” on Ice at the Royal Palace Theatre. While we were waiting for the show to start, Jake and I picked up a couple crepes and some hot chocolate and lattes at Coffee & Crepes (original, I know) to keep us warm throughout the outdoor show. It was excellent for sure! The lead, Elvis Stojko, a World-Champion figure skater, along with the entire cast made the entire experience exceptional. A must see, especially for the kids. (I wish I could post more from the shows, but they ask for no flash photography or recordings of any kind take place during some of the shows)

img_4394The show ended around 6:30 PM and we wanted to go to one last show, all the way in England, so we booked it back to the park entrance, basically, and made it to “Scrooge No More,” a musical take on “The Christmas Carol“. This show was by far our favorite!

There was so much more that we wanted to do in the park, but definitely not enough time in one day. I would suggest if you want to do Christmas Town to do it in two or three days. With all of the rides, shows, and shopping, you will not see or do it all in one day. I believe if you have Annual Passes you will be able to get a 50% off discount for Christmas Town, so might as well take advantage of it so you’re no rushing to get through the park in one day.

You can also still purchase tickets to visit through January 1, 2018.

Here is this year’s map: (Christmas Town Map PDF version)

After the Sun Went Down

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Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

Out in West Virginia, on the Allegheny Plateau, lies 17,776 acres of an ecosystem that you would normally find in Northern Canada, known as Dolly Sods Wilderness. For Jake’s 30th birthday, he decided he wanted to backpack through the wetlands, the sweeping vistas, and the very (very!) rocky plains.

Dolly Sods Wilderness

On Friday, Jake and I started our journey out to the Monongahela National Forest where you can find Dolly Sods. It was about a three hour drive for us from Northern Virginia, and we lost cell service right as we were going into West Virginia. This area is also known as the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ). At 13,000 square miles, this zone sits on the West Virginia/Virginia boarder (and a small part of Maryland) and helps to aid in scientific research as well as military intelligence. Neither of us never really mind when we don’t have cell service as it is nice to not to be connected 24/7.

About five to ten minutes into West Virginia is a small town called Wardensville (population 271 as of 2010). We have passed through this town a few times to go skiing at Snow Shoe for a weekend. The town is very quaint with several shops including a little coffee shop (Lost River Trading Post) that also sells antiques and hand made items by local artists. Jake and I usually stop in there every time we are driving through. On one trip, we stopped in to grab some coffee and walked through the shop as we were waiting. We came across these old triangular blocks that were labeled “antique abstract art” with what were quite obviously tire marks on them, and they were selling them for $200. Jake and I both just broke out in laughter as we knew exactly what they were and they were no antiques. We ended up bringing it to the attention of the woman working that they were in fact old car ramps, and that $200 might be a stretch. Aside from the amusing mistake, it is our favorite place to stop when we are in the area, and they do sell some great things!

Once we past through Wardensville we hopped on Route 48 (the WV Super Highway) for about ten miles before we took the exit to Patterson Creek Road, about 45 minutes away from Dolly Sods. We finally reached Forrest Road 75 (the entrance to Dolly Sods), you are about five miles from the parking lot where the Bear Rocks Trail begins in to the Wilderness. Jake also got to do some “off-roading” as we drove up the mountain.

Fun Fact #1: Dolly Sods Wilderness is named after the Dalhe Family who used the open grassy fields (also known as sods) in the mid 1800s for their sheep to graze.

Fun Fact #2: Later, in August 1943, the U.S. military began using the land for training; many of the artillery and mortars shell shots are still on the land and have yet to be found. In 1997, before the land was open to the public, a highly trained team surveyed the trails and campsites for the shells. They found 15 shells, some of which were still live and exploded on site. Because of the potential danger, the forestry service asks that hikers stay on existing trails and campsites to avoid the threat that the undiscovered shells pose.

After taking in the view from the top of the mountain, we went in search of a place to camp for the night before we headed out on our backpacking adventure the next morning. All of the campsites were taken, so our only option was to camp further than 300 feet from the road. Which didn’t happen. We ended up camping about 50 feet from the road, hidden in some trees.

Mountain Top Views

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First Night Camp Site

Did I mention Reagan came along as well? This pup has energy for days!

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The next morning (HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY JAKE!!!), we got up with the sun, packed up our tent, and ate breakfast (Biscuits & Gravy and Scrambled Eggs with Bacon). For those of you who have not tried Mountain House freeze dried foods, you need to, even if you don’t backpack or camp. Around 8:30 in the morning, we set out on our 15 mile hike through the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

And let me tell you, the weather was amazing! For the end of August I was expecting temperatures to be more like something in the high 80’s or lower 90’s for the more mountainous areas, but nope, try like to high 60’s. I was a little worried about wearing the shorts I had purchased just for this trip, but they worked perfectly. Both Jake and I ended up having to take off our hoodies and backpacked in short sleeves (although when we stopped to take breaks we got a little chilly).

We started out on the Bear Rocks Trail (TR522) for 2.3 miles.The terrain was beautiful! We began going downhill and through a little meadow, then crossing Red Creek before starting the steep uphill trek before heading into a fern field. We crossed through wooded areas, meadows, hollows, and rises before reaching out first trail intersection, Raven Ridge Trail (TR521).

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We stayed on Raven Ridge Trail for about 1.5 miles through mostly wooded areas, before we turned on to Rocky Ridge Trail (TR524) (the name should have been a warning). Rock, rocks, rocks, rocks, upon boulders and more boulders. Basically, this trail was made up on huge boulders on the ridge on the mountain. We reached a beautiful clearing/overlook that looked down in to the Canaan Valley. It was such a clear day you could see for miles!

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After a little break to take some picture and down some water (Reagan too) we were back on the trail, trekking over boulders and small rock cairns (which in the case you didn’t know, are “a mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline). At this point we had backpacked about 5.5 miles when we came to another trail intersection (Dobbin Grade Trail TR526) but stayed on Rocky Ridge Trail over Harman Mountiain to the intersection of Harman Trail (TR525).

We continued on Rocky Ridge Trail for another 1.6 miles to the intersection of the Breathed Mountain Trail (TR553), Big Stonecoal Trail (TR513), and Forestry Road which leads down to Canaan Valley. This is where Rocky Ridge Trail end, so we turned onto Big Stonecoal Trail into the woods. Jake and I believe this was some of the prettiest areas of Dolly Sods Wilderness, as it is mainly wooded with heath (which are “dwarf shrub with small leathery leaves and small pink or purple bell-shaped flowers”) and sphagnum bogs (a type of soft moss, also used for potting and packing plants). They were really neat to see because it is not the type of vegetation you would normally see so far south of Canada.

As we descended down Stonecoal Run, we passed several campsites before we crossed over Stonecoal Run where we stopped (after 9.4 miles) for Jake’s Birthday lunch! We had Mountain House Chicken and Dumplings for lunch, yum yum. Every time we use freeze dried food we are pleasantly surprised by how good the meals actually are. For dessert, somehow I was able to sneak in (and not crush) two Hostess Cupcakes and a candle so Jake was able to have cake and blow out candles on his birthday.

After we cleaned up, refilled our water at the nearby stream, and made sure Reagan was set, we were back on the trail to complete the last five miles.

We continued down stream, still on Big Stonecoal Trail, where we came upon an area with thick rhododendron, and we soon passed a very beautiful waterfall where people we layed out on the rocks. At the next intersection, we made a left and continued on Rocky Point Trail (TR554) (yet another sign of the rocks we were about to encounter) towards Red Creek, now heading back north around the base of Lion’s Head. Unfortunately, Jake and I were unable to get up to Lion’s head as the bottoms of my feet and ankles were becoming badly bruised by the rocky terrain.

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At mile 13.2, Rocky Point Trail ends and we continued on Red Creek Trail (TR514) for 1.4 miles. The last mile was by far the most difficult, as our feet were tired and bruised, and we were hungry and exhausted. And when I say “our” I mean mostly mine. Okay okay okay…my feet were tired and bruised, Jake’s we fine. The man could probably have kept going another few hours honestly. Me… I was on the verge of tears. Ok, there were tears.

But we made it; 14.6 miles to the Forks of Red Creek. There were many waterfalls where the two creeks came together, and the water was ice cold. The Creeks and Runs in Dolly Sods Wilderness carry what is known as blackwater. Blackwater is usually a, “deep, slow-moving channel flowing through forested swamps or wetlands. As vegetation decays, tannins leach into the water, making a transparent, acidic water that is darkly stained, resembling tea or black coffee.” It was perfectly fine to drink and it felt so good on our tired feet.

After setting up camp right on the creek (which Jake did, I could barely walk), we ate another Mountain House freeze dried food (Pasta Primavera), and fell asleep before the sun went down. Reagan was also a tuckered out pup and was asleep before the both of us, nestled under her blanket.

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The next morning, we slept in a little bit and had another Mountain House breakfast; Breakfast Skillet and Granola. After packing up camp, we went down to where the two creeks met and took some pictures. Even got a nice photobomb picture from Reagan.

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Because my feet were so sore, bruised, and torn up, we decided to cut our six and a half mile hike back to the truck, down to about four and a half miles. We headed north up steep rocky terrain then through two meadows. At the end of Red Creek Trail we turned right onto Blackbird Knob Trail (TR511), and hiked through many boggy and muddy areas, until we came across some gorgeous uphill meadows. The end of the trail was very muddy, and you could see where the fogs was rolling in as we found our way out of the wilderness, right by the camp ground, to Forrest Road 75. Doing this was easier on my feet since it was flat road, and we walked the final two miles back to the parking lot where the truck was parked.

Even though the last day was cut short, we had such an incredible time and saw some wilderness that is not common in the United States. The pup was exhausted and pretty much slept the entire way home, which if you know Reagan you know how much of a relief that is.

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Jake and I are planning our next trip out to Dolly Sods hopefully next summer to see Lions Head and to explore more of the trails we did not get to  backpack on during this trip.

Here’s a short video of our trip…

Ride to Poolesville, MD and Shepherdstown, WV

Getting Ready to Leave 2Getting Ready to LeaveJake’s parents came up to visit us this past weekend, so we took the opportunity to take a ride. It was a hot day, and I mean HOT. We lathered up in some sunscreen, and made sure we had extra to bring with us.

Once we made a few stops to stock up on ice, water, and Gatorade, we made our way to White’s Ferry in Leesburg.

White’s Ferry is the last of 100 ferries still running across the Potomac River, from Virginia to Maryland and back. It was originally named Conrad’s Ferry, but was later changed when it was bought by Elijah V. White, who named his ferry boat in honor of his former commander, Confederate General Jubal A. Early.

The prices of the ferry vary depending on how you plan to cross: Cars One Way: $5.00, Cars Roundtrip: $8.00, Motorcycles: $3.00, Bicycle: $2.00, Pedestrian: $1.00, Trucks: Varies. If you plan taking White’s Ferry anytime soon, be sure to bring cash to pay for your way.

Fun Fact: In 2007, Clutch released a song named after the ferry called “White’s Ferry.” In the song the lyrics describe riding through the country roads of Maryland and Virginia and crossing a river where “the water is trickling” and the, “Wizard of tickets is always glad to charge a pilgrims fare.”

Homesteaf Farm sign.jpgOnce we rode off the ferry, we put in our coordinates for Homestead Farm, right outside of Poolesville, MD. We wanted to arrive as early as we could so the heat wasn’t too overwhelming, but it was blazing hot at 10 AM when we arrived. We grabbed two boxes to collect blackberries and made our way to the fields and started picking. After only 30 minutes or so we had about ten pounds of blackberries, so we figured that was enough.

We were drenched in sweat as we walked back to pay for our pickings. They also had an area where you could purchase pre-picked fruits and vegetables, so I bought a cantaloupe and some corn.

During other times of the season and year, Homestead Farm offers Pick-Your-Own Strawberries, Tart-Cherries, Blueberries, Peaches, Apples, and PUMPKINS!!! More than likely, come October we will be headed back to picks ourselves a pumpkin for Halloween.

GoatIf you take your kids, be sure to let them feed the goats and the chickens. The goats were super friendly and even let you pet them.

Once we cooled off,  we jumped back on the bikes and set out on an hour ride to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The ride was fantastic with excellent views and a beautiful landscape.

As we were riding into Shepherdstown, you would not have known you were riding into a college town. The only giveaways that Shepherdstown is a college town are the few buildings that you see. Otherwise, it is a very sweet and quaint town, loaded with history and beautiful sites.

Blue Moon CafeIt was finally time for lunch!!! So we parked the bikes and made our way to Blue Moon Café. Now, from the outside you can’t really tell it’s even a restaurant, as it is surrounded by trees and vines; it is very unique looking. We went inside, and asked for a table out in their outdoor garden. We were taken to our table, and let me tell you it was beautiful! And even though it was hot, the coverings of the trees, the stone work, and the water running though garden made it feel almost 15 degrees cooler.

Our table was situated under a little pergola with a great view of the garden. The Town Run that flows through the town, also rolls through the garden and under the restaurant. It was nice to eat and hear the water flowing through, it was very relaxing.

Before our meals arrived, a storm moved in. Luckily we were under the pergola that was covered, so we were able to enjoy our time outside without getting wet.

When the rain stopped, we paid our bill and headed out to see some of the town. As we crossed the street and the Town Run, we passed the Little House. The Little House was built in 1929 and is ten feet high by 9-1/2 feet wide, with 5 1/2 foot ceilings, with five rooms including a full kitchen, with a piano, a fireplace, and bedrooms. The house made us feel like giants.

We continued to the main part of town to grab some coffee before jumping back on the bikes to head home. It was a great day with great people.

Over the next few days I made about four blackberry pies, as well as many blackberry mojitos, which were all delicious!