Sunday, June 12, 2016

From Tioga, Pa. to Emilie's Graduation in R.I.

From our dry camping site in Ives Run.
This Ring-Necked Pheasant lived nearby and would pass by Lady Blue every day.

Not easy to get a picture, though.
This is through the screen door.

This is from our back window on a very rainy day.
The view is towards Hammond Lake and the sunset.
I decided to focus on the raindrops on the window rather than the outside scene.
Our route was one similar to other years.
We head south to Mansfield , Pa and then east on Route 6.
This stop is at Winding Hills Orange County Park in Montgomery , New York.
From here we latch onto Interstate 84 , over the Newburgh Bridge.
From there it is Route 691 in Connecticut towards Meriden, then Route 66 to Route 147
and Route 79  south to Hammonasset Beach State Park in 
Madison, Ct.
This is a great park.  558 open sites like our dry camping spot above.
All are within walking distance of the beach.
There are some significant new additions to the park this year.
There is a giant new combination shower and concession stand building.
There is also a new renovation of their Meigs Nature Center.
We always look forward to getting together with Jan's sister Marsha and her husband Mark.
Avid bicyclists, they took time to take us on a tour of the Thimble Islands in Stony Creek , Connecticut.
A nice, sunny day with a little bit of wind.
The islands are part of Long Island Sound.
Our 45 minute tour takes us to see 25 inhabited islands.
The largest is 17 acres and the smallest is just big enough for a gazebo.
The islands are of a sturdy pink granite.
Some that are close to shore have water and electric from shore.
As you might imagine, we are talking about multimillion dollar real estate.
Some have been placed on pilings to avoid a repeat of the devastating 1938 hurricane.
All of these are occupied only in the summer.
Even if you do not take the island cruise, the small town is a beautiful visit.
Not what we expect sometimes close by the hectic Route 95 corridor.
But actually, there are a number of small coastal towns that are well worth a visit.
But , of course, our main reason for being here right now is to see the graduation of
Emilie, our first granddaughter.  
Her last performance with an accomplished concert band with a great conductor.

The ceremony was very nicely done at Ryan Auditorium at University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island.
Here is the proud graduate, ready to take on the world!!!
A lot of good friends in this class on a very happy day.
Is Gary a proud Dad?  You bet!
As is Mom Patti!
Grandma is super happy and proud!

Mom and Dad and Emilie.
Emilie was very creative with decorations on her cap.
After graduation a wonderful meal at Two Ten Oyster Bar in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.
Here is Grandma, Emilie, and friend Kyle.
Here is a link to the restaurant. Check it out for pictures that will make you instantly hungry.
What a great weekend for graduate, parents, and grandparents.
Way to go Emilie!!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, Virginia

Virginia is a very diverse state.  There are all of the historical sites from Williamsburg to the Civil War battlefields.  And then there are the natural wonders of the Shenandoah Mountains and Virginia farmlands.  And that's not spending a lot of time on some wonderful ocean side properties.
We leave Claytor Lake State Park and head north on Route 81 to Staunton. From there it is east on Route 64 to Afton and the entrance to the Skyline Drive MM 105.
If we had taken a right at the entrance, we would have been on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Skyline Drive The Skyline Drive heads 105 miles north to Front Royal ,and the Blue Ridge Parkway The Blue Ridge Parkway heads south for 469 miles through some of the highest ridges ( 6,000 feet) and links into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both drives follow the ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Skyline Drive has many, many scenic overlooks (75). This was a good time, late May, during the week.  The traffic was quite light and plenty of vacancy in the campgrounds along the Drive.
We were also quite lucky to have good weather with very little fog.
Our first overnight stop was at Loft Mountain, close to MM 80.
The deer are quite tame and we saw many in the campground.  
There are 500 miles of hiking trails in the park , including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
What is this???
There are many Appalachian Trail Hikers in the campground and this group is using that line that some of you remember Sean setting up in campgrounds. It is a tightwire setup and they were trying to walk across it with limited success.  The ballet looking moves you see are just practice for balance on the line.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get a picture of them on the line.  Sean, you should have been there to give them pointers.
Jan and I were impressed at the facilities for distance hikers.
We used the laundry. Large machines, clean and very efficient.
Near the laundry was the camp and hiking store. well stocked with all things needed for hiking and camping, including frozen meat packages for the Trail hikers who might want to live it up.
The showers were also right there. Clean , modern , and efficient.
Also, they had a large number of outlets to charge phones, etc.
Eustis enjoys the Spring views.
Every few miles is another jaw dropping view.
This is close to Big Meadows.  
Yes, we took a lot of pictures.
We will try to just post a very few,  Honest.
Next stop is Big Meadows which is a large stop along the way.  
It includes a gas station, a store and grill, the Byrd Visitor Center, a campground, a lodge, a laundry, a picnic area, and great views of the area including the deer and birds.
Jan and I were quite surprised at the nice spot we were given.  Very level, large, and good separation from other sites.  We expected a much tighter campground with very little yard area. 
Loft Mountain was $7.50 for one night with our senior pass.  Big Meadows Campground was $10 per night with our senior pass.
Campers should note that Big Meadows keeps a fairly large number of sites as non-reservation sites. That means that even in the busy season, you have a good chance of finding an empty site.
On the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, it is fitting to add a picture of John Muir, the great catalyst for many of the National Parks, beginning with Yellowstone. If you haven't had a chance, the Ken Burns series is a great video collection.   This picture was taken in his favorite Sierras.
Yellowstone was the very first park in 1872.  
FDR was very instrumental in the completion of the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive. FDR dedication  July 3, 1936.
His creation of the CCC, which we mention often all around the country, allowed a number of CCC camps along the drive working on the road and the stops along the way. 
Many CCC walls and buildings are still in evidence here.
As we often do at National Parks, Jan and I visited the Byrd Center, toured the museum , and watched a great movie about the Park.
If you read the quote above, you might think that it is from 2016.
Certainly very appropriate for our times, but note it is John Muir's quote from 1914!!
The first section of the Skyline opened in 1932 and people showed up bumper to bumper.
The Big Meadows Lodge was a very short hike from our campsite.
Like other parks, the lodge has one of the best views.
The living room area features a large fireplace, comfortable chairs, and access to the great view on the porch.  Some visitors were just sitting in the comfortable chairs, reading, and taking in the views.
The dining room was not serving at the time, but Jan and I headed downstairs to the Tap Room where we sampled some Virginia wine and local draft beer, and pizza---with a view.
It really was a short hike to the top.
Oh, stop squinting Bruce!
From 3700 feet. Near by is the Lodge and also a number of rental cabins.
Heading north from Big Meadows looking west into the valley.
Yes. We know some of you would definitely climb out onto those rocks.
The stone marker indicates the Appalachian Trail.  The stairs lead down to the trail, but don't count on stairs all the time.  All of the parking areas for trailheads were mostly full.  Maybe because colleges were out and students or graduates had some time before jobs or other classes began.
One of those CCC built stone walls from the 1930's.
We did not mention it yet, but campers take note that we saw no large units on the Drive.
This is the only tunnel, however, and we did have some larger camping units in the campgrounds.
This tunnel has a clearance of 12'8"
Also , remember that the speed limit is 35mph.
You really do not need to go any faster, but the 105 miles will probably take you at least 3 and more likely 4 to 5 hours.
We left the Skyline Drive at Route 211, just after the tunnel.
This heads west towards Luray(Luray Caverns) and Route 81.
The picture above is of the White House Farm in Luray, Virginia.
The white house is the small white building closest to the silo and dates to 1760
You might want to look at the link here to the White House Farm Foundation for education.
The White House Farm Foundation
Once onto Route 81 north, we go to Route 522 that bypasses Winchester, Virginia and heads north into West Virginia, Maryland(very few miles), and then to Breezewood, Pennsylvania on Route 70.
In Breezewood, we take Route 30 west and then Route 26 north to stay at 7 Points COE Campground on Raystown Lake.  There was a mandatory stay at a private park along the way due to a complete lack of available campsites for Memorial Day Weekend.
The people were nice and we had a great conversation with a workcamping couple there.
The picture is of the beach at 7 Points on Monday of Memorial Day Weekend.

The marina is full for summer.
A small section of the boat parking area .
No room at the beach parking either.
We were here in the Fall of 2015.
So different in the Spring.
A nice view from two of our windows at 7 Points.
Why are we heading north into New England?
Well, here are some of the reasons
Starting with the youngest,
4 month old Lilly!
3 year old Lucas!
11 year old Madison on the left
with friend and Keith's granddaughter Addie on the right.
Almost 18 year old Emilie in her gorgeous prom dress.
With Dad Gary
Youngest child Scott( no we are not going give ages).
With Rachel, Lucas, and Lilly.
Next youngest Alison.
With niece Lilly.
Next oldest Gary.
with results of a great fishing day.
Oldest ,Sean ,
Running in first Maine Marathon.