Friday through Tuesday, August 27-31—Another Month, Another Year

Another month has rapidly escaped our lives, and with it, hopefully, the hot and humid weather. And, this Friday, August 27, I celebrated yet another birthday; I’m now 72. Kay played golf and we celebrated with ‘take-out” catfish dinners from Mulligan’s, half a carrot cupcake each, and vanilla ice cream. Both Saturday and Sunday were quiet, with few activities. We needed the downtime. Golf was on the itinerary for Monday (terrible score) while Kay attended to club board duties. The windows and soffits were cleaned after a long absence; it’s been difficult to schedule. A few butterflies did make their way onto blooms in the garden. They have been far and few this year—disappointing and concerning. Tuesday was all about running errands. We lead an exciting life when we’re at home.

Tuesday through Thursday, August 24-26—Catching Up and a Teaser

Big Boy 4014

It’s amazing how life can return to “normal” so quickly after a trip. We hit the ground running Tuesday morning, doing laundry, yard work, grocery shopping, car washing and vacuuming, and updating iPhones, iPads, and the computers; the latter seemed like it took forever. The heat and humidity was NOT a welcome relief, and it seems like summer extends longer each year, now through September. We both quickly signed up for golf with our respective groups. Regrettably, the Hot Springs Village pickleball courts are being resurfaced after only three years—the relatively new, expensive surface had begun to separate from the concrete pad!

Kay helped facilitate the Lady Duffers scramble Wednesday morning, and hung out at the pool in the afternoon. I worked on photos from our recent trip, and organizing and re-editing them was a bug chore.

On Thursday, I joined seven other hot and sweaty photographers from the HSV Camera Club at the Union Pacific railroad crossing of the Saline River in Benton, Arkansas. Our purpose for being there was to photograph the “Big Boy” locomotive. “Big Boy 4014” was delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad in December 1941. It is 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds. In order to negotiate curves, it is articulated (hinged) because of its length. It has 14 wheels! Here are some photos.

I almost forgot to mention that we are traveling again in a few days, this time by air, auto, and ship. The trip will be in two segments, the first being a land tour of parts of western Washington and Oregon—another “life list” item. More to come in future posts.

Sunday and Monday, August 22-23—More Family

After a bit of a late start this Sunday morning, we traveled through Virginia to middle Tennessee to visit our sister-in-law, Betty, my late brother’s wife. It had been some time since we last saw her, and it was so great getting to catch up on our respective lives, our childrens’ lives, and reminisce about the past. We all so miss Ronnie, who died way too early.

Monday morning we continued driving west to the greater Memphis area to visit daughter Jenny and kids. Regrettably, Harper was in school and Sutton was napping; Linc got our undivided attention. He is all boy, and decided that his “DD” was a pretty good fellow. It was the first time we really got to enjoy him and his antics. Jenny was doing great, and looking great (don’t know how she does it as a single mom with three under the age of 10, and two of those under the age of 3.

From west Tennessee, we crossed the now repaired I-40 “Big M” bridge, and arrived home about 4 o’clock PM. Now, after a couple day’s rest and a little golf, we have to prepare for our next adventure! More to come in the next update.

Getting close to home

Friday and Saturday, August 20-21, 2021— Family (cont’d)

Kay and I enjoyed some downtime Friday morning, before asking George and Nan to assist us with running shopping errands: REI, Costco, etc. And then, George provided a visual overview of his daily cycling route. It is in a business park, but since COVID, the streets are practically empty. There are enough hills to make the ride challenging. Back at their house, I grabbed the camera and long lens to photograph butterflies nectaring on their wonderful pollinator gardens. This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, black-form female, posed graciously for her portrait.

Still tired from all the activities of the last three weeks, including the drive from Seal Harbor, I spent the rest of the day doing a lot of nothing, including taking a short nap. George went for a bicycle ride, and Nan and Kay were busy all afternoon preparing food for a brunch tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and catching up like sisters do who haven’t seen each other in a while.

Sisters, Nan and Kay

Saturday morning I woke up with a swollen and feverish right elbow. Apparently, there are fleas outside in the gardens, one took a bite, and I had an allergic reaction. The result was a sluggish day in which I did not feel particularly bad, but certainly did not feel good.

Flea bitten elbow

There was a cancellation for the brunch, so the four of us ate the delicious food prepared yesterday: quiche, breakfast casserole, muffins, bacon, lots of fruit, etc. Kay and Nan continued catching up well into the afternoon and George cycled again. We all went out to dinner at a small upscale restaurant. The food was particularly good and it is the first time I had duck in several years—yum, yum!

Before bed, Kay and I talked about our travel plans, and though we were originally scheduled to stay through Sunday—and George and Nan had a full day planned for us—we opted to leave one day early (Sunday morning) as we were both ready to return home.

Thursday, August 19, 2021—Family

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, it was back on the New Jersey Turnpike, past Philadelphia, and across the Delaware Bridge. Delaware was my 50th state!

And then, it was through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, bypassing Baltimore and Washington, DC.

We reached Kay’s sister’s house about 3 PM near Richmond, Virginia, not having seen Nan and George for almost 2 years, and that was in Paris, France, in early November 2019 before COVID.

Their gardens are really awesome, and we enjoyed walking around admiring the blooms and bugs. And then, the rest of the day and evening was spent catching up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021—New York, New York

Having seen and done everything on our list, we opted to leave Acadia National Park and Maine a day early. Our next destination was near Richmond, Virginia, to visit Kay’s sister and brother-in-law. Too long to drive in one day, our objective was to make it past the city of New York before overnighting.

Seal Harbor, ME, to Cranbury, NJ

The car was repacked—throwing everything in one pile is considered repacking, isn’t it—water bottles and coffee re-filled, and we were on our way. Seal Harbor, our residence for the last three nights, is on the southern tip of Mount Desert Island, and getting back onto major highways requires an hour’s driving northwest, almost to Bangor, before heading east and then south.

We traveled from Maine through New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before reaching New York, New York, at 5 PM during RUSH HOUR. The GPS directed us right through the middle of downtown New York on Central Park Avenue, through the Bronx, across the George Washington Bridge, and into New Jersey.

Our route through New York City

While traffic was horrible, it was the cars and semis crowding into the exit lanes at the last minute, near the head of the line, that delayed almost everyone else (in elementary school, we called it “breaking into line”, and it was considered cheating).

New York City traffic during rush hour
George Washington Bridge

The New Jersey Turnpike toll road was great, though heavily trafficked, and seemingly there were a dozen toll stations along the way. We exited the turnpike just before dark and overnighted in Cranbury, New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 17,2021—Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Late getting up to full speed, we ate a light lunch at the Lighthouse restaurant. The apartment where we are staying is immediately below the restaurant, so we can hear nearly every step, chair scooting, etc. The food was really good.

Our final goal touring Acadia NP was driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac Mountain is the major destination for visitors to Acadia National Park. It is Accessible by car, and is the highest point on the east coast of the U.S. it offers magnificent views of a glaciated coastal and island landscape. With intense visitation through the summer months for the past eighty years, the summit area has sustained substantial loss of soil and vegetation. Several rare plants that inhabit the mountaintop may be threatened as a result, and they are now roped off.

From Cadillac Mountain we drove the Loop Road almost all the way around to walk through the  Wild Gardens of Acadia in Acadia National Park. The Gardens is maintained by a diverse group of community volunteers to reflect the typical habitats as found on Mount Desert Island. More than 300 native species are labeled to make identification easy in nine separate display areas. Many of the paths were closed, but a circuitous route was available to view the many native plants. No butterflies were observed.

Monday, August 16, 2021—Acadia National Park

After a somewhat restful night, we munched on leftover breakfast food before driving to Acadia National Park, our target destination for this whole trip. Acadia National Park is the only national park in the northeast, and is the eighth most visited national park in the US. Suffice to say, it was crowded, in fact, very crowded! Our plan was to catch one of the park’s shuttles, ride the Park Loop Road, and get on/off at significant points of interest. The 27-mile road is the go-to scenic drive around the east side of Mount Desert Island, connecting Acadia’s lakes, mountains, and shoreline. It provides access to popular areas such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Point, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. 

Acadia NP, generally contained within the oval

We were fortunate to find a parking spot at the Thunder Hole store, and walked to the rocky coastline to see Thunder Hole. The low tide negated most of the sound and splashing of waves. People were everywhere, and there were many families of five or more children, and couples with leashed dogs swarming the place. The coastline was starkly beautiful at low tide, but climbing over the boulders and avoiding the steep drop-offs was challenging for our old bodies and joints. However, a number of young folks were rappelling off the side of the shoreline cliffs.

Our next stop was at Otter Point and Otter Cliff, about 0.7 mile past Thunder Hole. Again, large crowds swarmed the place, but the coastline provided great photo opportunities. Otter Cliff is one of the most spectacular sights along the North Atlantic Seaboard. The famous 110-foot high Otter Cliff is one of the highest Atlantic coastal headlands north of Rio de Janeiro.

Jordan Pond was next. It is one of the park’s most pristine lakes, with outstanding surrounding mountain scenery. Glaciers carved the landscape, leaving behind numerous geological features. Jordan Pond proved to be the Acadia Park’s most visited attraction where visitors can canoe, kayak, cycle, hike, or enjoy a carriage ride. Kay and I hiked a bit of the loop trail. The Jordan Pond House serves famous tea and popovers, and all the dining facilities were at capacity.

The final stop for us was back at the Thunder Hole Store and the welcoming car. We were both hungry, and made our way to the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound on Route 3 at 1237 Bar Harbor Road in Trenton, Maine, just before the bridge onto Thompson’s and Mount Desert Island. This was deja vu for us as we ate here just a couple of weeks after getting married in 2000. Not much had changed. The row of wood-fired cookers out front smoking away and the big sign on the roof that says, “LOBSTERS” was still there. When we were here before, it was in the early evening with lights penetrating the darkness, and there was a chill in the air. The lobsters are still prepared the same—boiled in fresh, clean seawater over a wood fire. We were more prepared this time and managed to get every bit of succulent meat from the tail and claws, all without much of a mess.

Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound

Back at the “suite”, we spent a quite rest of evening, reliving our lobster eating extravaganza.

Sunday, August 15, 2021—Easternmost Part of US

We intentionally turned a short drive into a long one, at least time wise, as we drove from Millinocket to Seal Harbor, Maine. The drive was mostly east to Calais, Maine, through small towns and rural highways; Calais is on the border of the US and New Brunswick, Canada. We regretted not being able to cross the border to visit friends nearby in Canada, but the crossing is one-way from the US to Canada, and attempting to cross back in the US would impact our travel plans for September.

Millinocket, ME, to Calais, ME

At Calais, we stopped at Saint Croix Island International Historic Site. The tide was out; it is not too far from the Bay of Fundy which has the largest tide in the world. Saint Croix Island was the beginning of a permanent European presence in northern North America. A French expedition led by Pierre Dugua spent a cruel winter there in 1604-1605. Iced in by freezing temperatures and cut off from fresh water and game, 35 of 79 men died. As spring arrived and native people traded game for bread, the health of those remaining improved. Although the expedition moved on by summer, the beginning of French presence in North America had begun.

From Calais, we followed the US/Canada border southward to the coast, and visited both towns claiming to be the easternmost cities in the US, Eastport and Cutler.

Located on the most eastern point of the continental United States, West Quoddy Head Lighthouse is a stunning spot to see the first rays of sun in the country. The  lighthouse tower that stands today was built in 1858.

We then followed US Highway 1 down the coast, stopping occasionally at points of interest.

We arrived at our final New England destination on this trip, Seal Harbor, where we checked into our “suite”—and I use that term quite loosely!

Friday and Saturday, August 13-14, 2021—A Long Travel Day and Baxter State Park

After an early start from near Lincoln, New Hampshire, on Friday the 13th, we drove a combination of scenic roads and interstate highways to our tenth state on this trip, Maine. Our first destination in Maine was Millinocket, a small town near Baxter State Park where we planned to hike. We arrived at our motel in the early evening—suffice to say that motel ads don’t alway paint the most accurate description!

Lincoln, NH, to Millinocket, ME

Saturday, we awoke to a questionable weather day with thunderstorms and scattered showers forecast to occur off and on most of the day.. Our plans were to drive to Baxter State Park to view Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and to hike a trail that would give us the best chance to see and photograph a moose. However, before we traveled too far, a big sign pointed us in the direction of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. It is a US National Monument spanning 87,563 acres of mountains and forestland in northern Penobscot County, Maine, including a section of the East Branch Penobscot River. The monument is located on the eastern border of Baxter State Park. We had intended to drive the Katahdin Loop Road circumnavigating the monument, but there was really nothing to see except woods and water, and a number of anti-monument signs. 

After the attempt to tour the national monument, we drove to Baxter State Park. Baxter State Park is different in that it is devoid of significant infrastructure. The roads are generally unpaved, and the buildings are old, and g built of logs. It is a carry in/carry out park, meaning that anything that is carried into the park must be carried out, including ALL trash. 

At the tiny visitors center, Kay was advised that the best trail option was to hike to Sandy Stream Pond, but that only 5 permits were issued at a time for that trail. She was given some alternate choices for hikes in the likelihood that no permits for Sandy Stream Pond were available. We were not optimistic while waiting in a long line at the ranger station, but when we asked if permits were available, he affirmed that they were. Our was for 3 hours, but considering the drive was almost 30 minutes, the remaining 2 1/2 hours was consistent with what we had been told. The gravel road to the trailhead was a bit muddy, but when we arrived, it was virtually cloudless with bright sunshine. We lightly filled a day pack with water, required flashlight, camera, etc. and began the o.6 mile walk through the Maine woods along Sandy Stream Pond.

Diamond Willow hiking staff made by Kay gets lots of admiration

About halfway, we came to an observation area which offered great views of Katahdin while a couple of Cedar Waxwings were chased insects nearby.

Cedar Waxwings

After another 0.3 miles we came to the “big rock”, where moose sightings were frequent. There were dragonflies (which never lit) and damselflies, but no moose.

We waited for about 30 minutes until it began to rain (we packed light—NO raincoats), and visited with a couple of other hikers.

The hike out was brief, and the road out was muddy. However, on the way back to Millinocket to find a car wash, it rained hard, and washed away most of the mud. We ate great dinners at the motel restaurant before calling it a night.