Friday, August 31, 2012

Company's Coming!

Company's HERE! It's Theresa and Chuck, Eldy's sister and brother-in-law. We're really glad to see them! They arrived at 10:00 this morning, and were rarin' to go and do something. They said they want to hike and bike, bike and hike. All in one day? Well, maybe not, let's do a hike today and see how it goes. Let's get going!

So we did! There was just one small, slight problem..Theresa had bad knees and she freely admitted that they would probably bother her, but she REALLY wanted to see some sights. She brought plenty of pain medicine, she said. She was prepared! So we started out easy...a short Beech Mountain hike of about .7 of a mile, but a quick ascent and then a more gentle loop back down.  Piece of cake!

We are ready for more, they said. OK...We'll do the Beech Mountain hike to the fire tower...That's got some AWESOME scenery! What we DIDN'T remember, is that the Beech Mountain hike to the fire tower is a STRENUOUS hike. We thought one of our hiking books said it was a "moderate" hike. What we did remember is, last time we did this, (Sparky and Eldo), we went the wrong way on the hike out of the parking lot and ended up doing an almost three mile hike up to the fire tower and back. This time should be easier if we went the correct way and the total distance would be about 1.8 miles, both hikes put together. That sounds pretty good, everybody agreed..Let's do it! Eldy asked, Sis, are you ok to do this? Yep! So off we went up the side of Beech Mountain., 839 feet high and a popular hike, judging by the number of people we met going up and down today. We made sure to take plenty of rest breaks.
Chuck and Eldy taking a break
Theresa and Chuck were awed by the scenery. Sparky and Theresa stopped often to take photos and catch our breaths. Sparky's knees were still worn out from that overly long bike ride the other day, so her knees were in empathy with Theresa's. We stopped for a picnic lunch about 3/4 up the trail. Wow!

We get to the fire tower, and normally, it's closed most of the summer. Today, we got lucky and it was open another two levels. Only six people at a time can be on the tower. Up we went to admire the view. Sparky was a little nervous about rusty girders, skinny railings and swaying movement in the tower, so she got a fast photo and headed down.
Our picnic view
Second level firetower view
There were two volunteers from Friends of Acadia giving a short talk about "Leave No Trace" at the base of the tower. We appreciated their efforts in trying to educate the public. Leave the cairns (the stone trail markers with indicator stones) alone, don't build new ones, stay on the path, pay attention to trail restoration area efforts by not walking on the roped off areas, don't walk off the trail and around obstacles making your own new path and things like that. They had interesting photos of all the crazy stone works people build in Acadia trying to be "cool" and "artistic." It was kind of sad, in a way, that people try to change God's environment  to suit themselves instead of appreciating it the way it is, and leaving it untouched as much as possible for future generations.

Some guy had his dachshund running around behind him on the trail, no leash. That caught their attention right away and they called him on it. He made a feeble excuse that he had the leash with his trail partner. Sparky said, "I'll bet that's one tired pooch at the end of the day!" And the dog's owner said, "Aw, heck, he can run this trail twice and not be tired." Too bad he's not following the "Leave No Trace" principles. I'm sure he lets his dog run wherever he wants to, trampling the vegetation and pooping and peeing wherever he wants. Gr-r-r-r.....(That's Sparky, not the dog, clarifies Eldo.)

Back down we came, it was extremely rugged and rocky--rough finding places to place your feet, and it was necessary to take large steps down onto very rocky terrain. It was tough! Even with hiking sticks! After we got back, it was time for R & R...a little wine, a little beer and a LOT of ice!
Nurse Sparky got out the ice pronto for Theresa's knees
Hope those little pills work for Theresa 'cuz she wants to bike the carriage roads tomorrow! Sparky says, we will NOT being doing the Giant Slide Loop (where she lost her keys).....We'll see what the "kids" are up for...(They are both in their fifties...YOUNGSTERS!) We finished up the day with a dinner at Seafood Ketch, a great little restaurant down at Bass Harbor with the best homemade bowl bread and clam chowdah!  See you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's a Miracle!

Bar Harbor, ME    High:  73   Low: 51 (!) Good sleeping weather!

[No great photos today...Too busy practicing with the camera to get any nice ones, so will share a few miscellaneous taken in the last few days.]

Sparky is back to normal, knees are not hurting, she is bounding up and down the RV steps like a 50 year old youngster! (Make that a 62 year old, and you got it right, clarifies E.) Thank you, Eldo! And thanks to three Aleve and a good night's sleep!

Sparky still took it easy today, just in case...but things seem to be fine and dandy. Which is good, because Eldy's sister and brother-in-law arrive tomorrow, and they want to fill the next three days with LOTS of activity...a bike ride, a hike or two, they want us to plan a full agenda. Okey dokey! Can do!
We MIGHT visit Thunder Hole, but so far, in the three times we've been there, not enough wave or wind action to make an impression or the thunderous sound you are supposed to hear. When the wind, the tide, and the waves are just right, the water comes rushing through into a hole under a rock ledge and slams back out with a BOOM! and a HUGE tall splash. Pretty spectacular, they say!
Thunder Hole Watch
Today, we made a trip to Walmart and stocked up for picnics on the trails, tried to find a zero gravity chair that Walmart was selling for 30.00 a piece. They had a bunch of them a few days ago, but today they were sold out-- for the remainder of the summer. Bummer! They have them online, but they are selling for 19.00 more. Hmph! They seemed to be really nice chairs. About the same quality as the ones selling at Camping World for over a hundred bucks.

Sparky took another Canon in the Parks photography class today at a different location in Acadia--Sieur de Monts. It was terrific! Again, she signed up for the beginning class. This time it was a different instructor, Dan Cornish, from Montana. He was funny and a delightful instructor. He had everybody's name memorized with one time around in introductions, and there were several VERY hard to pronounce Asian and Indian names! Sparky can hardly remember her own name let alone a group of twelve people. Dan's the man! Today was the VERY LAST class for the Canon young people. You could tell they were ready to wrap it up. It has been a long summer for them, traipsing all over the country teaching many workshops at each national park they visited. It's a terrific program with free rental equipment, and most of Canon's lens and camera line there for workshop participants to try out for FREE.
Lots of lichens and mosses in the woods
Dan went over the basics, which was much needed again for Sparky....She is still a little rusty on F stops and shutter settings, but she practiced diligently. Dan had some great tips, but Sparky was struggling with the settings on her camera and things not turning out right at the time, so she missed the boat on a few things. Not the first time that has happened. (Sort of like missing a whale breech while fiddling with the camera? asks E.) Sort of...We practiced freezing action with shutter stops, lighting aspects with white balance, and some other stuff. Sparky wished she had attended more classes while the Canon staff was there...But we were away for a few days during some of them, and busy a couple of other days, injured for one. Sparky just wasn't sure how much repetition would happen with staying in the same skill level. But the guys and gals did a terrific job of teaching, bringing their own individual styles and tips to each class, so staying in the same skill level was very beneficial. If Sparky runs across these workshops again, she'll definitely take multiple classes at the same skill level 'cuz she needs LOTS of repetition!

On the way out of Sieur de Monts, Sparky made a wrong turn...(totally expected that, says E.,) and ended up going on the Park Loop Road past the Precipice Trail parking lot. Eldy had the NERVE to ask, "You didn't go the wrong way on the one way, did you?" Sparky is not THAT bad! On second thought, that might be entirely possible and has happened, says she.  But no, she didn't this time. (Woman, you are going to drive me to an early grave, worries E.) Heck, I'm worried myself! says Sparky.

The Precipice is the trail that is STRENUOUS with iron rungs, rails, and drop off ledges and where a hiker died from a fall a few weeks ago. A bunch of paramedics were there, the fire truck, several ranger vehicles. Apparently, there was another fall today. Sparky asked later at the Acadia Sieur de Monts center what happened. Somebody fell, but it was not life threatening....Whew!

Sparky is going to do a BIG HIKE on her own in a few days, but it WON'T be the Precipice. Eldy says she will have to sign a waiver for her family before he lets her go, but it's not that bad a hike, really it isn't! It's gonna be the BEEHIVE and BOWL hike--some iron rungs but a short and sweet climb.  More about that in a few days! Stay tuned! First, a family visit....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paybacks are Hell!

Bar Harbor, ME    High:  77  Low: 53 (!)  Rainy

You know how some people say that it takes the second day for a bout of physical exercise above and beyond normal to catch up with you? (I believe I say that, says E.) Yes, he does, but for Sparky, it was the very next day that her body said, "You did WHAT? Did you REALLY think you were going to get away with biking 18 miles and not expect trouble?" HA! The photo below is the infamous Giant Slide Loop where Sparky rode it one and half times yesterday, trying to find her keys.
Part of the infamous Giant Slide Loop
Sparky is "stove up" today..It wasn't too bad this morning, she was walking around going, "Hmh! This isn't too bad for as much as I did yesterday...." As the day went on, her knees got worse, the tendons on one side of one knee got REALLY cranky, and she ended up barely able to walk! Not fun going in and out of the coach. RV steps are NOT handicap accessible. (Handicapped? Did you say HANDICAPPED? Eldy is shocked. Sparky never will admit to hurting or having pain, or arthritis.) He was a sweetheart and ran errands for his honey today, up and down, down and up the stairs.."Honey, would you please get me....?" and he did--all day long....So today was R & R the knee, take Aleve, and hope to feel better in the morning...And let's put on the knee brace for good measure.

Sparky doesn't like feeling like this at all! It reminds her of the time when she was in her thirties and decided to take up road biking...she was going to do some kind of harvest bike ride in South Bend, IN that went all the way up to some harbor/winery town in Michigan, a distance of about 95 miles. Did she train for this ride? Well, sort of....If you count about 10 miles a couple of times a week..Did she have the right kind of bike to do this ride? No, she didn't. Don't remember what kind of bike it was, but it wasn't light....Sparky was working and raising two kids at the time, so bike training was sporadic. Off she went on the wonderful harvest countryside ride...There was a lot of motivational stuff with this ride...A dance at the end, wine, cheese, hors d'ouvres, dinner, a great group of people....It started out really fun!

It's a good thing they had a sag wagon...About 60 miles into the trip, Sparky's knees went into lockjaw mode, whatever it is that knees do when they've had enough. Sparky rode the rest of the way in the sag wagon, and spent that evening with her knees on ice and her feet in buckets of ice water. Everything was swollen up so bad, she had to watch the dance from a sitting position. Sparky had to boogie in her chair, seated. That about killed her....

So today was a brutal reminder, that THE OLD GRAY MARE AIN'T WHAT SHE USED TO BE! (Boy, am I glad SHE said that, says E. I wasn't even thinking it!) Unh-hunh! But she's gonna work herself back into shape just as soon as possible. After the knees get back to normal. No more 18 mile bike rides without working up to it first. Sparky did such a dumb thing in the first place because she thought she knew where to find her lost keys from the first ride out in the morning. She didn't. (I tried to tell her folks, if she can't find her way out of a paper bag, she most certainly isn't going to find a set of keys in Acadia National Park! but NO-O-O-O, she didn't listen.) Sparky thinks she will listen next time, she doesn't like hurtin'!
a utillitarian bridge over a culvert, Sparky saw this twice yesterday
Sparky has to get back in the pink ASAP as Eldy's sister and brother-in-law are coming for four days pretty soon and they want to see and do just about everything that was in the blog! Well, almost...or some....or a few things...The activity director has to get back on her feet, PRONTO!

[Sorry about the lack of photos today...I knitted, I rested, we ate ice cream to feel better, (anything to help my Sparky feel better, explains Eldo.) I reported my keys lost to the park service. Fat chance, lady, they said.  No, they didn't. Just kidding. They were very nice, and sympathetically clucked their tongues when I told them my story....sigh!]  If anybody finds a set of 2 black keys to a Honda with one being a valet key on the key ring, a bazillion grocery store customer discount plastic cards and two small silver keys, and they find it on the Giant Slide 8.2 mile carriage trail ride, it's Sparky and Eldo's car keys!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bikin' the Giant Slide Loop Carriage Road--TWICE

Bar Harbor, ME     High: 81   Low: 62

Oh, yeah...This is gonna be a good story today...Well, depending on how you look at it. From Sparky's viewpoint, it was BAD. From Eldo's viewpoint, it was BAD. From the blogging world's viewpoint, it could be humorous, it could be sympathetic or empathetic, it could be, HOW COULD YOU BE SO CARELESS!?

Sparky decided to go on a serious bike ride today, more than the usual number of miles. How about 8.2? How about it's higher in elevation than any other carriage road in the system, taking you on the shoulder of Parkman Mountain to an elevation of 780 feet? THAT would be a GREAT workout! That's good. Sparky decided to go alone, as Eldo doesn't enjoy steep inclines and his bike is not working properly--the gears are messed up and it doesn't shift right. That's bad. We're gonna get it fixed--soon! That's good. Sparky had her little book with her AND a map. That's good. The weather today was beautiful! That's good.....Sparky had no trouble finding the parking lot on 198 for Parkman Mountain. That's great! Here's Sparky at the beginning of the trail ride.

Sparky set out on her Trek hybrid which she just got last week. That's good. Riding up on the hills and inclines is SO much easier now, with a lighter bike. Sparky got a really great trade in value on her old Navigator Trek comfort bike. That was REALLY good. The new bike was less than what we paid for for the old bike three years ago.That's REALLY REALLY good. Sparky maintained a fairly level ride for the first 3.2 miles. There were many pretty things to see....The sun is Mother Nature's spotlight early in the morning. This little seedling picked a tough spot to grow. Sort of like the expression, "Bloom where you are planted", wouldn't you say?
Several things caught Sparky's eye....This fern was spotlighted in the forest....

The leaves are just hinting of what is to come this fall....Bet it's incredible here at Acadia....

That was good. Sparky came to the seven little bridges encountered on a previous, shorter bike ride. She enjoyed seeing them again...That part was good.

The climb started....

Past the Chasm Brook Bridge...Not one of the prettier bridges in the park, but still nice...Sparky climbed and climbed, passing several interesting trails along the way.

And finally, the summit! The views were spectacular, as always....That was GREAT! Sparky stopped to have some water. Whew! Made it!

Should be an easy downhill descent from here on out. It was...With more fabulous views on the way down....

Sparky got back to the parking lot for a total of 8.2 miles today and went to get in the car...No keys...that was bad. Sparky searched and searched, emptying out pockets, dumping everything out of the fanny pack, including the bazillion acorns she had collected for a craft project. Looked everywhere around on the ground. Searched her pockets and fanny pack again and again. They've got to be here somewhere. NO KEYS. Now it's REALLY bad....Sparky did not have her keys and no way to get home. Luckily, she had her phone and there was a cell signal in the parking lot. In a lot of places in the park, there isn't. She called Eldy. Eldy was very patient and understanding. THAT was REALLY good. Eldy had to take THREE buses to get to the side of the island where the Parkman Mountain parking lot and Sparky were. It took almost three hours riding the buses and making the transfers. That was bad.....

In the meantime, Sparky decided to head BACK out on the SAME trail and redo the SAME route. That was a BAD idea..Sparky's normal bike rides are anywhere from three to six miles, tops, on these carriage roads. NONE of them are flat rides. Back for 3.2 miles on fairly level terrain, BACK past the seven little bridges on uneven, hilly terrain, BACK up to Chasm Bridge where she had stopped and had water. MAYBE the keys had fallen out of the fanny pack there beside the bridge. One could only hope....Sparky made it to the bridge. NO KEYS....By this time, she was exhausted, having biked WAY many more miles on up and down steep terrain. She couldn't go any further to complete the whole trail. Eldy texted Sparky and let her know he was back in the parking lot, with the spare set of keys.  Sparky headed BACK down the hills again...adding another total ten miles to the already 8.2 she did earlier. Eldy was waiting patiently, sitting in a camping chair in the shade....Bless his heart!

By the time she got close to the parking lot, she was ready to cry from exhaustion. For some reason, the road back to the parking lot didn't look like any level terrain coming back! It seemed to go on for ever and ever! Sparky panicked and thought she wasn't on the right trail to come back to where the car was parked. It seemed just too long. She could hear the highway down below, so she walked her bike through scratchy pine needles and branches, skirting around fallen logs, through the woods, straight down to the highway below. When she came out in the clear, she saw the Parkman Mountain parking lot sign just ahead! YAY! Made it! That was good!  Eldy wasn't mad, THAT was good....Sparky's knees hurt. That's bad. Gonna take some Aleve and ice 'em...That's the ticket! Maybe somebody will find the keys and turn them into the ranger station....Maybe not......Sigh.....What a day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The 2012 American Folk Festival in Bangor

Bar Harbor, ME   High: 80  Low: 59

How about a FREE festival in Bangor for something to do today, Eldo? He said, "Let's go!" So we did. Festivals are always great fun. Great for people watching....Sparky almost labeled this post "Doggy  Style" because of this photo below...But that would have opened up a can of worms AND a BUNCH of spam, so she didn't. But it sure would have shot the pageview numbers up, ya think? This little chihuahua was wearing STAR sunglasses, and I guess he rides with his owner on the bike as in bicycle, everywhere the guy goes. The lady was asking the rider if the dog ever falls off, and he says something about the dog is attached to a harness on his chest. M-m-m-m, ok.....on to the festival....

This little guy was really watching the Lakota hoop dancer very carefully. He then turned around and gave me a big smile when he saw my camera. Would have been a nice shot, but we were more interested in the music, he and I. Kindred spirits.....

Festivals are great for foodies like Sparky. Lots of ethnic foods, wraps, tacos, Greek food, and "bad" food like homemade potato chips. Just for the record, Sparky and Eldo didn't have any....And a festival is great for entertainment. This festival had four stages, one was HUGE--the railroad stage....
One of the performers was a steel guitar player by the name of Aubrey Ghent. He was terrific!
What was really cool, was an American sign language interpreter was there on stage with him. She was bogeying to the music while signing. Sign language is such a beautiful language, and she was so expressive while  doing it. Some people might feel that that takes away from the focus on the performer, but it was so well done, Sparky didn't feel that way at all. What a wonderful service to provide to the festival goers!

The festival was packed with entertainment from all over the world from Friday thru Sunday of this past weekend. In case there were lots of groups you wanted to see, and you didn't want to miss one playing at the same time as another, there were multiple performances from them. Everything from  steel guitar, blues, doo wop,  Irish dance, western swing, bluegrass, and a "cajun style Hank Williams" a.k.a. D.L. Menard and Friends...

to a Ghanian Dance group--the Akwaaba Ensemble.....they had wonderful energy, put out really good vibes, and obviously enjoyed playing their music, dancing and drumming for the crowd....Sparky just loves African music and the drums!

to a high energy, top notch Columbian group called Grupo Rebolo, who had a standout trumpet player really kicking up the energy along with a great lead singer....

to some highly skilled fiddlin' and old time buck dancing...a dance that looked like a cross between clogging and tap dancing performed by a six time national champion buck dancer. Boy, did his feet and legs move in all kinds of motion! Buck dancing is also known as flat footin' dancing and is a traditional Appalachian style of solo dancing in a very small area. A dancer adds extra stomps, kicks and taps to the beat of the music in a very individual style.

And then there was a Lakota Indian, Dallas Chief Eagle, from South Dakota (our now home town) who did the Lakota Hoop Dance. A young woman, who just graduated from high school, was a national champion hoop dancer and she performed the Hoop Dance as well. He gave a wonderful speech beforehand about going to the "inner world" instead of the "outer world" to find harmony and peace within oneself and with others. He talked about how technology (the outer world) causing more harm than good in many ways as far as humans losing touch with nature and themselves. He relayed some sad stories about personal loss related to that. It was a beautiful dance and fascinating to watch.

Along with all the international entertainment provided all weekend long at four different stages, there was a marketplace for all kinds of cool stuff being sold, and a narrative stage where Maine guides were giving talks about all kinds of things related to sports and recreation in Maine. Sparky visited a tent where a woman of world renown was demonstrating the art of tying fishing flies. She wanted to find the guides giving talks about fishing and sportsman camps to ask, HEY, WHERE ARE THE MOOSE YOU GUYS KEEP TALKING ABOUT? but she didn't. They were busy giving talks on hand crafted baskets, creels, and decoys.

The admission to this festival was free, but the promoters were hoping for help in keeping the festival going. The cost to put on this size festival with all the international entertainment runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the "bucket brigade" was out and about suggesting a minimal donation of ten dollars a person to keep the festival coming back year after year.

We had a GREAT time at the festival today, and hope people will go check it out next year, when it comes around again. Fabulous entertainment, food, and lots of people = lots of fun.....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

We're BA-A-A-C-K!

In Mount Desert Narrows, Bar Harbor, for another weekly special of 99.00 courtesy of our Thousand Trails membership affiliation with Encore Parks. Now, the holiday weekend is coming up, and we can't extend another week at the 99.00 special, so the park is offering a 99.00 three day, Labor Day weekend special. We'll take it! We're here till Sept. 3, when we leave heading towards Michigan for most of the month of September.

First thing we did when we got back to our site, was settle in and talk to our neighbors, Jerry and Betty across the way. Nice couple, Betty teaches at an online college, so Sparky pumped her for information. This might be something Sparky would be interested in doing.  Jerry asked us if we had seen any moose. Eldy tried to wave him off with his question, as Sparky was a LEETLE bit frustrated with the lack of moose sightings up north the past four days. Looking for moose is a subject not to be broached at the moment, but Sparky handled the questions and suggestions of where to look with patience. Eldy sighed with relief. Apparently, we needed to go all the way to Aroostook County where there ARE moose, or so they say....  :-) Just a little too far for us to drive around on a wild goose moose chase, so we're back at Acadia, back at our same site at Mount Desert Narrows. It feels like home by now and the office people were glad to see us. ) Of course they are, we're good paying customers at this point! And Sparky, "you've got mail!" Woo-hoo! It's fun to get mail when you are on the road. Your bills have a hard time catching up with you! (She's just kidding...) Some yarn to make my sister some festive hats....

The next thing we did today was check out another hike....the FLYING MOUNTAIN hike. A 1.4 loop trail, considered "moderate"...that means to Sparky and Eldo that there is: 1) uneven terrain with roots, rocks, boulders, steep climbs or all three, 2) we're gonna get out of breath doing it. There was, and we did. Get out of breath. But it's good for us!

The trail surface was forest floor....Some of it...

Rock ledges, but not many....Some boulders to climb, but not many....

Some beauty in the woods....
Some great views at the top...
A couple of cool geodetic markers at the summit..Not sure what they mean or how old they are, assuming that it's some kind of a surveyor's mark....

Some great views coming back down a steep descent....
some more beautiful sightings in the woods....

pretty little ferns just starting out with the beautiful lichen

And a gravel fire road leveling out on the way back to the parking lot...Whew! These hikes may be short, but there's a lot of UPS and DOWNS to get your heart a pumpin'!

Finding the trailhead: From Somesville, head south on ME 102 for about 4.5 miles, past the St. Sauveur Mountain parking lot. Turn left (east) on Fernald Point Road, go one mile to the parking lot at the foot of the gravel Valley Cove Fire Road.  Trailhead is on the east side of the parking lot. The Island Explorer bus does not stop here, by the way.
The trail is moderate because in just .5 of a mile, you reach the 284 foot summit and all the views. You can see Northeast Harbor from up above, the mouth of Somes Sound, and the Cranberry Isles. It's a wonderful view up there with the kayakers coming around Fernald Point and the boaters coming and going through the sound. If you keep going past the summit, views of Acadia, Penobscot, Sargent and Norumbega Mountains are there, along with a view of the cliffs of Valley Cove. We saw a bald eagle today while stopping to enjoy the view, but couldn't get a picture of it, it was too far away. A great hike, a great way to see Acadia and yet another spectacular vista on Mount Desert Island today......

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Breathing Balsam

We are in Abbot, Maine, south of Moosehead Lake for four days...hunting for moose, although we've just about given up on that quest. We're at the Balsam Woods Campground in Abbot. This is a BEAUTIFUL campground, run by a young personable couple, Matt and Jaime Snyder, who are working very hard to make this a top notch campground. We think it already is!

It's a small campground, 70 (?) sites, but the shady sites are VERY wide...gravel and grass, with plenty of room between sites. Trees are not a problem at all for getting in and out easily. The park accommodates tent campers, trailers and a few big rigs. Some sites are on the short side as far as length goes, but we managed to fit in one nicely with our 40 foot Tiffin. Full hookups, 50 amp, cable and wifi access at every site.  They have ATV trail access right from the campground. Eldy is wishing he had an ATV about now. Sparky is glad he doesn't. :-)  No chance of seeing moose on a noisy ATV!  There are thousands of miles of ATV trails here in the area and of course all over northern Maine. Nice new picnic tables with fire rings as well. It's a beautiful park with LOTS of big balsam evergreen trees. The air is so clean here, it's wonderful to take a deep breath and smell the trees.....The campground is located off busy roads and back into the woods, so it's quiet, no traffic noise on the outside. It's also not far from Greenville--25 minutes, Bangor--an hour, and Bar Harbor--two hours. Hiking trails on nearby mountains are plentiful--Mount Kineo, Big Moose Mountain, the Appalachian Trail and more, along with a few waterfalls in the area.

The Snyders go out of their way to accommodate requests and be hospitable to guests. They are a warm and friendly couple and we hope the campground will continue to grow and develop under their excellent management. Not sure if there is room for any more sites, but they have made a LOT of improvements to the park. They have a brand new septic system. They have updated their wifi for the next range of improvements coming through the area in the future and currently have five access points in the campground for great wifi signals at any site. The pool is a nice size, 20' X 50' and very pretty.

There's a wonderful playground with modern equipment for kids. Small laundry, but very reasonably priced. There's a large general store stocked with lots of supplies. They have a snack bar, too. Clean and modern restrooms with free hot showers. That may seem like a given, but some places up north do charge for showers! You can bike ride in the park, but you can also head out on the two lane county road, Pond Road, outside the park which has been newly paved. It's a dream to ride on but plenty hilly for exercise and not very busy. There's a public boat launch within a mile to kayak on Piper Pond, which is decently sized for an enjoyable hour or two paddle. There's also a tiny beach at Piper Pond for swimming. The campground also rents out kayaks! Greenville has the Northeast Guide Service for more exploratory whitewater rafting, kayaking, and moose hunting trips.
Plenty of space between neighbors!
The FREE wi-fi is fast during the day but slows down a bit at night. Our mi-fi Verizon card works, but  it's a little on the slow side. AT & T phones are in and out with the signal. You have to stand in a certain place in a certain spot in the rig to get a decent signal or the call gets dropped. Seems like you get one or the other here in Maine...decent wi-fi and poor cell service, or vice versa. Or sometimes both are crappy!

We like it here very much....and would definitely recommend it as a great place to stay as you venture further into Maine. It's very difficult to find a nice campground for a big rig with FHU (full hookups) the farther north you go in Maine. This is a great destination in a good location for exploring the area. We were so busy talking about hunting for moose, that our stay is up here. We've been here four days with nary a moose sighting. All we have to show for it is Sparky has a bad case of chiggers all over her feet. So it's back to Bar Harbor's Mount Desert Narrows for our last ten days in Maine.....
Sunset over the mountains in Greenville last night

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Quest for Moose is Abandoned!

Abbott, Maine    High: 79  Low: 59

We went for the third day, hunting for moose....This time we decided to get deep into the heart of Baxter State Park. The local literature says, "If you haven't had your fill of moose by the time you get to  Lily Bay State Park, (just north of Greenville) head over to Kokadjo and try Lazy Tom's bog...." Etc., etc., etc. We tried those tried and true moose view sites to no avail. It's time for more serious, in depth moose hunting strategies! We're game...heh, heh, heh....

We decided to go further, all the way to Baxter State Park. People talk about spotting moose in and around Baxter a lot. It's an hour and a half drive from Abbot at Balsam Woods Campground, where we are staying, to Baxter State Park. We took highway 6/15 to highway 11 north to Millinocket, and continued to 159 north into the state park. The roads are not the best, but they are a LOT better than coming into Baxter on the west side. Speed limits of often lower than 55, slow the trip way down, but that's ok, we're retired, we like scenic drives.

On the way, we saw some beautiful scenery....stopped at a little roadside park for lunch with one picnic table and a beautiful view of Maine's mountains in the distance.
We drove on....We saw this little bridge out of the corner of our eye and stopped...It was a narrow suspension bridge, built especially for snowmobilers so they wouldn't have to cross on the regular highway roads over this particular river.
And on we drove....

We spot this really cool rock, with Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine at 5,268 feet, in the distance. It was painted on both sides, with more painted boulders behind it. Very cool!
And on we drove, we're getting closer! We finally reach Baxter State Park, and here is the first thing we saw......And no, it was NOT a moose! This is a warning sign about the road that goes through the park. It's narrow, barely enough room for two vehicles passing each other, and it's NOT paved. They say it's graded regularly during the summer, but heavy rains can wash out the road at any time.
Here are a few things you need to know about Baxter State Park, which we did NOT find out from the ranger entry station after paying 14.00 non-resident fee to get into the park. You know how parks usually have a Park Loop Road, or the main road that traverses through the park with pull outs and vistas and scenic views? Guess that's maine-ly national parks. Because this one has almost zero pullouts, trails are poorly marked, and to add insult to injury, the governor of Maine who bequeathed the land for this state park specified the roads were NEVER to be paved, that it was to stay WILD forever!

Two vehicles can barely pass each other on the narrow, gravel road, there are MANY blind curves, people do NOT follow the 20 mph speed limit, and heaven forbid you should come across a grader (we did) which takes up 3/4 of the road! There is no place to safely pull out to see the many ponds in most cases, the few parking lots we encountered were spaces for three, maybe four cars, and you have to hike in to see the ponds or views for the most part.

This is a HIKER'S destination...people come to hike Mount Katahdin, which is spectacular, and to hike the trails that connect to the Appalachian Trail which starts or stops at Mount Katahdin depending on which direction you are going. The park has lots of rules. No vehicles over 9 feet high, 7 feet wide, or 22 feet long are allowed. There are no flush toilets, there is no electricity or RV hookups. Cell phones are unreliable. No pets. Motocycles are prohibited. No shower facilities. No convenience stores. No gas stations. No water spigots. You carry everything in and carry everything out, including personal hygiene items. No trash receptacles.  OK, got it. Wish we had read about this park ahead of time. Wish the park attendant had told us it was a 12 mile drive back to the pond where moose can be seen on occasion if we HAD gotten a moose pass. More about that later.

When we checked into the ranger station and paid our fee, we asked about moose. They give out MOOSE PASSES, good for three hours at a time to watch at the Sandy Stream Pond. They didn't have any available, but the ranger told us a couple other ponds to try. Maybe later, she'd have some, she said. So we traveled deep into the park on another road. The road never opened up, what ponds we could see, we were barely able to get off the road onto a narrow side patch of gravel to get out and look for moose. There are no paths down to the ponds except for one or two that we saw.

We kept driving....
And driving and stopping.....

And driving some more.....
No moose...It was getting late in the day.. We stopped back at the ranger station. Still no moose passes available to go to the Sandy Stream Pond. She let us go back anyway. Twelve miles later, we dead ended in a parking lot. No pond. Lots of tenters and hikers. We asked where the pond was. It was a hike of about 3/4 of a mile back into the buggy woods. Nope. Not going to do that. Sparky was already bitten in a bunch of places. Not worth it. There was one more place to revisit while there was a half hour of daylight left. We decided to go back to a really boggy marsh as the sun was setting. It was near the beautiful Abol River Campground. Sparky got some photos of a fly fisherman at the Abol River Bridge......
and the fantastic view at the bridge....
and a log truck barreling down on the bridge....

You gotta watch out for these log trucks, they own the roads up here. Seriously, they do. Many of the roads up here are privately owned by the logging companies, and they are in terrible shape from all the heavy duty truck hauling..They don't always stay on their side of the road, either! (Ask us how we know!)

The last bog we visited....It looks like the perfect place for moose to dine, too!

No moose....Time to go home, kids!

We tried....We looked high and low today.

We thought about getting up at 4:00 AM (Sparky, only for about two minutes) to try the early morning time since all our efforts have been at dusk, but we figured we probably wouldn't see any then, either! So, with a little bit of disappointment in our hearts, but some great photos of some of nature's bountiful beauty, we headed home for the night.....