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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Great Smoky Mountains & Asheville

I left Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA at 10:30 AM. I traveled 81 to 40 to 74 to 441 and arrived at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6:30PM. The drive was very pleasant with very little traffic and no delays. I stopped often. I don’t push it. It was a long day in the car, but I’ll be here for six days enjoying the park and the AT as well as drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway and of course all the breweries in and around Asheville. One of my favorite breweries, Innovation, is in Sylva, which is 20 minutes away. It is at least 10 degrees warmer here. I’m comfortable in a t-shirt.
I didn’t have a fire, because instead I crashed. Eight hours in the saddle demands sleep. First I ate, drank and was merry. I didn’t unhook the trailer from the car, because tomorrow I will find a better site. This one is in direct site line of the lights in the bathhouse. The sites here are backwards. The fire pit and table are on the driver side of the camp, which means they are on the backside of campers, whose p-doors open on the passenger side. At daybreak, I made some tea and walked the campgrounds. I found a perfect site, which would allow me to use the Scamp to block the bathhouse. I did the switcher-ohh and set up on B-29 for the next five nights. Done! After setting camp, I drove up to Clingmans Dome. Halfway up I was in the clouds. I turned around and saved this for another day, I have five more. I set off on a brewery tour. I first stopped at Food Lion to do some shopping. My first stop would be The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin, NC. It was a nice drive on familiar roads, then new ones to Lazy Hiker, a neat setup with a food truck, an outside band shell, ample parking, and outside seating. I had a flight. I took a growler of their Amber Ale.  I drove this far distance so now my trip is home and I have another stop, Innovation Brewery, one of my faves. I found it easily as I came in from another direction, but immediately recognized where I was. I had come out this way once before on my way to Atlanta. Parking and walking into Innovation was like walking into Burley Oak. I was home. I immediately asked if they had any smoked beers. “No” was the barkeeps reply and “sorry about that” he added. “I have missed it too,” he added. I got a flight and took the un-smoked rye home. Their midnight rye is to die for. While at Innovation the other bar patrons provided great conversation and the name of a new brewery down the road, The Sneak E Squirrel Brewery came up. I remember driving by it and chuckling about the name. I didn’t get to the part of brewery and pub below. I saw this on my second passing and looking for it, since I had just heard about a new brewery in the Asheville area, surprise, not. I got a flight. Yes, I’m flying. I’m having a great conversation with the barkeep when the two of the guys from Innovation come in. We acknowledge our mutual surprise at seeing each other again. They are opening a new brewery soon, a year or two, and are doing research. They had been to OC and had missed the whole RT 50 brewery collection.  One of the things I live about touring is visiting breweries along the way. By the time I got home it was 6:30, twenty-four hours later. I set my trophies, the three growlers, on the picnic table.  Yes, three growlers. I know I came with two. At Lazy Hiker, they wouldn’t fill my growler, so I had to buy one of theirs. I have to remember to carry the growlers of the places I will be visiting. Or not. It was dark when I got home. Since I forgot to get something out of the freezer for dinner, I made a chopped salad. It’s time for a fire and a growler.
Since I’m in the western part of the Eastern Time zone, my sun in the morning appears later and sets later. I’m quite a distance from Berlin. I woke at 6:30, it was dark and very lightly sprinkling, barely noticeable. I went back to sleep. I woke to harder rain at 10:45. I guess everything is catching up to me.  Went back to bed and stayed there in the warmth till 12:30. The rain had stopped and I needed breakfast. I put on water for tea and went to put up the awning so I could sit outside. It is balmy and comfortable, except the light misty rain or heavy mist. I have breakfast clean up in the breaks of rain. Accompanying the rain has been at times heavy winds that swirl around driving the leavers this way and that way. A pile of leaves over there in a few minutes is now in another location. Tree twigs are everywhere, so I walk around a gather them and fill the fire pit.   I eventually have more than can fit so I make a pile next to the pit. As I’m sitting under the awning reading, the rain gets heavier. I cover the wood and fire pit with a tarp and repair to the Scamp. I get back into my PJ’s and get into bed to read. I read, I nap, I read, I nap. This is a very civilized day in spite of the rain and wind.  I grill a trout and have some asparagus and potatoes to accompany the fish. No fire as it is pouring now. I can hear the stream even more and the rivulets by the Scamp and off the Scamp provide a jazzy percussion. In bed I read and turn out the lights and lay there. Maybe I sleep, maybe not. It is dark. The sound of the stream is melodic and hypnotizing; and oh so soothing. Since I’ve left the curtain open the sun wakes me at 6:45. It’s not up but it light is present and the sky is clear. I bound out of bed and go outside. WOW!  Wet but warm and the sky is clear. This is going to be a good day. I clean last night’s dishes, clean the Scamp, hang the rugs on the line, hang the tarp, and the rope mat in front of the Scamp. I put the awning away and have breakfast outside. After cleaning up, I take off on a pretty little hike behind the campgrounds along the Oconaluftee River. I feel as if I’m walking on the set of The Last of the Mohicans, which was filmed here in the Smoky Mountains. The melody of the river, newly swollen from the heavy rains that started at 4 and ended at midnight. The birds skittering about and the ubiquitous rhododendron played beautifully with the music of the river. After this invigorating 2 hour sojourn, I came back replenished the water and then took a shower. It was early as I headed up Newfound Gap Road, the road that goes through the Smokies from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. I stopped along the way. I had abandoned this trip on Tuesday because of the fog. No fog today. The vistas were spectacular. The road was a good NP road like all of them. Logging was a blight on the Smokies until they became a NP, just like out west. We may be getting better about commerce and the environment, or least more aware. Today I was headed to Clingmans Dome. The seven-mile ride from the main road was a roller coaster ride. The hike and I mean hike up to the Dome from the parking lot was killer. It had to be ¾ of a mile at an 8% grade. There were many benches along the way for the wayfarer to rest weary legs. I enjoyed the task as I had already had a good hike, so I was warmed up. I kept a steady pace all the way to the top and to my surprise the Dome, which looked very much like the platform at Shark Valley in the Everglades. I walked the circular ramp to the ultimate goal, the Dome and the 360 view of the Great Smoky Mountains NP. I picked the perfect day to be up here. I could see forever. Since it was getting crowded with all the folks I passed on the way up, I descended. I continued on the Newfound Gap Road until I came upon a gaggle of cars whose occupants were pointing and oohing and aahing about something, so I stopped. A bear was foraging in the woods. I chuckled as I had stopped to see a bear as people in Assateague stop to see the ponies. I drove to Sugarlands, which is the Tennessee side of this road. I turned around and drove home.
The night sky was full and the fire warm as I killed the three growlers. Friday was another glorious day. I did some chores in the morning and then headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Smokies to Asheville, 87 miles away. It took me 2 ¼ hours to get to 12 Bones, which was my first stop for lunch and their great ribs and sides. I love the ambiance, too and the crowds always out the door. I headed to Wedge, just across the river and again the place was closed. Their hours suck, for me anyway. I’ve only been to Wedge once and like the whole atmosphere, but it is on the outskirts of town and not walkable. I drove into town and found a 24 hour parking lot for three dollars across from the bus station. First I went to Cucina24 to make dinner reservations for 7:30 at the Chef bar. From there I walked to Wicked Weed and sampled a few new brews and grabbed a four pack of Tyranny. From there I found the bookstore and got George Ted Koppel’s new book, Lights Out for his birthday. After that I headed to Lab, one of Cait’s favorite spots and enjoyed a flight there. Nothing to take with me from there. After that I was heading to the car when I saw that Thirsty Monk was open, so I went in. Downstairs was a Belgium tasting room, while the ground floor was NC and American brews, and upstairs a specialty cocktail lounge where the bartender made her on tonics and sodas and wild drinks, a true mixologist. I enjoyed an excellent flight and found the Rye on Rye dynamite. Unfortunately for me, they did not allow growlers and didn’t have what was on tap in bottles. The Thirsty Monk is an all day kind of place with the three floors of distinct beverage offerings. It was my first time there. It was across the street from Jack in the Woods a bar with good music I was going to after dinner at Cucina 24. I dropped my goodies off in the car and watched the dramas unfold at the bus station. Asheville is an interesting town with an obvious gulf between the haves and the have-nots. With all the breweries and restaurants and fancy shops, it is bizarre seeing so many homeless and down and out in the streets too rubbing elbows with the musicians who are everywhere. The whole inner town reminds me of Times Square, but with hills. It is action filled, busy, at times loud, but always going. The other thing I will never get used to about Asheville, is that when you immediately leave the town you are on a two or three lane highway going 70 MPH. I can only reiterate I’m glad I didn’t retire here, I couldn’t have stood the NYC atmosphere. It is certainly a great place to visit. After a quick rest, I walked the block to Hi-Wire and walked away with a couple of 750’s of the Russian Imperial Stout and a six-pack of the Rye IPA. Instead of walking with them, I took them back to the car and grabbed a bag to carry my loot from the next four breweries I was heading towards. My first stop was Twin Leaf Brewing, which I had visited just after it had opened. I got a growler of their Old Gaffer, English style ale, which is very good. From there, I walked down the block to a new brewery for me, Catawba. It was quite the place, huge and packed. The only thing I could get there was a six-pack of White Zombie, a satisfying white ale. I walked around the corner and there was Green Man, a real hippies kind of place with International soccer on the televisions screens. Slim pickings in the carry out area, so I just got a three-pack of their Leaf Blower. My last stop before dinner was Burial, another new brewery for me. This visit was a total leap of faith in that I couldn’t taste a beer that looked intriguing, Scythe, Rye IPA, while I did have a taste of the Hermit Saints Saison. One note was the labeling at Burial was brilliant and worthy to show the gang at Burley. It was seven and I walked back to the car, deposited my loot and changed for dinner and the music club afterwards. Cucina24 is a lovely restaurant and I was seated at the Chef bar by the open fire pit, warm and cozy. I could see the whole operation from my seat and that was fun. I saw a head chef, a sous-chef, a salad and cold plate chef, and a pizza and brick oven chef. The coordination was superb. A waiter took my order and I had a Tyranny from Wicked Weed. I started with a local duck country pate, followed by a local beet salad, and finally a rabbit for dinner. Dinner was fabulous. I walked around the corner to the Jack in the Woods and got a seat at the bar at 9. I ordered a Rye Girl, one always needs a Rye girl. A female singer was warming us up for the band. She had a guitar that looked as if she should be playing Bonnie Raitt music, but instead she was wailing and moaning through songs like a weak Joni Mitchell. Not the stuff you need to hear, unless you want to slit your wrists. Disappointment was further met by the main group that took forever to get ready and then get their beers. I left, knowing this was not going to be good, especially from what I was hearing as they warmed up. Since I had a long drive home, about 1 ¼ hours, so instead of one more, I left and got home at midnight and had a fire and enjoyed the last of my Bunker C from Burley and then headed to bed as the moon descended behind the mountain on another clear sky filled with stars.
It has been so nice returning to the Smokies every night. The cars on the road can’t be heard because of the roaring stream and they look like fairies with the white lights passing along and broken by the trees and adds to the magic. Saturday was another glorious start. The sun cleared the eastern mountain at 9AM. Being in the valley provides protection but not full light since it goes down the western mountain at 4PM. Not much sun during the day, like Yosemite. I had decided to tour breweries west of Asheville. I drove to the furthest destination, Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City. I liked the brown ale and Spearfinger, which I took with me. I had a good conversation with the brewer and we discussed their expansion and plans. I have loved the positive attitude these small businesses have.  I still have a bottle or two of their Trail Magic Belgium ales, so I just tasted them this trip. Potent beers these Trail Magic Belgiums.  I headed back to Sylva to get a couple of growlers of Innovation’s Rye and an elk burger and another growler of Prison Shank from Sneak E Squirrel. I drove to Waynesville and started my tour at Frog Level Brewing, which has a beautiful location on a river and they use the backyard fantastically. I took Nutty Brown Ale and Salamander Ale with me. From there I headed into town to visit Tipping Point and Boojum. At Tipping Point I had a flight and left with their Rye IPA. I walked down the pretty Main Street to Boojum, a new brewery for me. They had lots of experimental beers and stouts. All were good. I took the Imperial Pumpkin Ale and the Dark Zone Milk Stout. My last stop was BearWaters Brewing where I had a lovely Sunburst beer and took a growler of it home. Beer touring was done and it was time to go home. I decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway back to camp, thus avoiding Cherokee. I love driving this road as I feel as if I’m in a low flying plane as I look down into the valley. I got home in the dark, made a fire and sat and had a beer, Innovation’s Rye. That’s why I got two growlers. I prepared dinner and did some clean to start my departure for Cait and George’s house Sunday morning. It was cold and even colder when I woke up Sunday morning. I quick and easy pack up and sorting of beers and I left camp at 9:30. I took a road that had me drive through Nantahala National Forest and a gorgeous white water rafting river. The drive the Marietta was easy and I was at Cait’s house by 1:30. My daughter looks so beautiful and pregnant. It was good to be with them and share our stories of their trip to Thailand and with the elephants and me and my trips to the Great Lakes and this current one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A weekend in Staunton, VA

I arrived at the Staunton KOA in Walnuts Hills just before noon on Friday the 13th. Four Shakespeare plays in three days, Yippee! So far on this trip I haven’t had the door of the Scamp facing south, which would be very advantageous this time of the year. In fact both sites had be facing due north. Advantage is sun rises on bedside of Scamp and it sets on tableside. This is a very nice campground. I have easy access to Staunton, which is what I wanted and easy access to road to next destination, the Smokies. After setting camp and taking a shower, I headed to Staunton, easy peasy, 15-20 minute ride. Got reacquainted and on way to the brewery I knew was across from the Black Dog Bike Shop, I found another brewery, that had a parking spot available in front of it. Shenandoah Valley Brewing was across from the railroad station and the Depot, a fun restaurant. I had a flight and took a growler of their Valley Rye IPA. I do love rye beers. There was a hint of smokiness to it. The owner was an old Navy guy who retired here to brew beer. Refreshed, I went to the glass blowing studio and perused their floor stock that was for sale. I walked next door to the brewery and it was closed. They open at 4PM. I didn’t want to wait. Tomorrow they open at 1PM, so I’ll wait till then. I drove home and had a glass of Rye IPA and some Taramosalata on rosemary crackers while sitting outside in the brilliance and warmth of the sun as it set. Then without warning the chill descended and drove me indoors to enjoy the western sky from the cocoon I call home. All in all, the Scamp is very comfortable in these conditions. The hi’s are mid 60’s while the low’s are low 30’s. Again glad I’m going south and out of the mountains. I will be returning back through the mountains in mid December though.
I drove into town about 5PM, little to no traffic. I get into town and onto East Beverley and find a parking spot. I decide to go to the Redbeard Brewing Company, the one I missed earlier and have waited for since I heard it was going to be a brewery, two years ago. The place was packed. It turned out they were introducing a trio of Moriarty beers, all at 10.0% abv, YIKES! I had three small glasses of their normal beers and loved all three. I had a tasty English Brown Ale, A Black Rye IPA, and a sweet potato IPA. I will go back for the Rye and taste the deadly trio. One of them got great reviews from those around me. I left there, reluctantly, and headed to Zynodoa for dinner. I sat at the bar as I had last time I was here. I sat on the corner next to a very lovely couple from Washington and had a house here. Zynodoa was their favorite eatery and they knew everyone. Ironically they always ate the same food, so when the oysters they normally had were replaced by scallops he was flummoxed. I had the duck pate to start and a Covina prepared with local veggies. We had a grand conversation and the time flew. At 7:20 I headed to The Blackfriars Playhouse to enjoy a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. I know the play, but have never seen it performed. The playhouse is magnificent. It is a bit different from the two theaters in England. The stage has a flat back with two big grand wooden doors on either side of a large opening in the middle draped with large velvet curtains. Above, three balconies from which musicians are playing as entertainment and accompaniment for the pre show buffoonery that usually mark a Shakespeare play. A man and a woman on stage and she is trying to clean up his act, his mouth as it were, so he promises to keep it clean and of course she takes over as a bawdy wench. He of course must bite his tongue. This serves as a great segue for them to remind us that we are about to see an adult love story, not a childish churlish romance like Romeo and Juliet, but an adult love story. When the play opens A&C are frolicking in a tame Plato’s retreat environment, with a eunuch fanning the pair as they roll around on a large fluffy rug and lots of pillows speaking of politics as they enjoy each other, sex and politics, strange bedfellows. Around them watching and partaking themselves are aides from both A&C entourages. It is quite the hook to capture the audience. The story we all know all too well unfolds and concludes, as we know it must and will, and always has. The production was first rate and the cast obviously enjoyed itself as they interacted well with the audience. Their wasn’t a groundling area per se, but they did have 6-7 chairs onstage on either side. It was to these audience members the cast interacted. After the play, I came home; I was exhausted so I fell right into bed. I sleep better on the road it seems. I woke twice to my own heater going on, though I was snug as a bug in a rug. I didn’t wake to hear campers leaving. I crawled, not hopped, out of bed, it was 8:30. I made tea and oatmeal, which always warms the camper instantly. I stepped outside, it was very cool, but not as windy, but still windy. I’m in a valley now so there is more protection. The sun is bright and warm in a cloudless sky. I take a walk bundled up. I forgot my scarf, damn!!! I just forgot to pack it. I have to put a scarf in the Scamp and leave it here! I walked by the playground, the pond, to the bathhouse and spoke to one of the owners. He and his wife had worked a KOA in Delaware Water Gap before coming down here to run this one. I knew the area, not the KOA, well since I used to canoe from Milford to the Gap and beyond once to Washington Crossing. I strolled back to my site and noticed the fire of the campers who had just left was still going. I grabbed my shovel, gloves, and fire tongs and went over to collect all the burning and none burned wood in the shovel and brought it back to my pit which was filled with twigs I had gathered. What a treat to have a little fire, because I wasn’t planning on making a fire until Sunday, since I was doing these plays all night. I got my chair and tea and sat facing the fire with my back to the sun, delightful.
Big day today, two plays, a matinee and an evening show. I didn’t plan on coming back between shows so I packed clothes for the evening performance. I started the day at noon at the Shenandoah Brewery and a glass of the Rye to start the day. I had a nice chat with the owner and his wife. A dream comes true for both of them. They have a great brewery in a fabulous location. I strolled the back streets of Staunton and arrived at the Bistro for lunch. Satiated, I ambled to the theater and enjoyed the pre show entertainment and prepared for another viewing of The Winter’s Tale. The staging was fine, Time was hilarious, and Autolycus was brilliant. Having seen Jeremy Irons do this in Stratford in 1986, I have a high bar for this play. The performance was very satisfying. After the show I went to the car for a growler and walked to the Redbeard Brewing Co to get a growler of their Black Rye IPA. I tasted the deadly Moriarty trio of a Jim Beam Aged, Hillcrest Aged, and Beam aged with coffee. All three are out of my league as for taste. Burley would love it. I had good conversation with fellow travelers enjoying a flight and some locals hankering after the deadly trio. I went back to the car to drop off my bounty and to change for the evening.  I found my way to Aioli, a tapas restaurant and sat at the bar. Soon after I arrived the place filled and more than half the folks were going to the theater. I’m glad I got here a bit early so I can eat leisurely. I liked this place when I was here before and it was even better this time. It isn’t easy finding good tapas, but I’m lucky here. I have plenty of time to stroll to the theater and enjoy more of the preshow and the assembly of the audience. Saturday night at The Blackfriars, what an event. Tonight’s show is Henry VI, Part 1.  I saw this as part of four plays, All three parts of Henry VI and Henry VIII, in London a number of years back. This cast had fun with it and all the swordplay and use of entire stage. A beautifully action packed and sensitive play all at the same time. A tricky job well done. Rather than hang in Staunton, I drove home to have a fire and enjoy some good beer calmly. I slept through the night again except for one time when the heater came on. I woke and jumped out of bed at 8:30 to start the tea and make my oatmeal. It is another cloudless sky and warmer day than yesterday.  It’s Sunday morning and the campers are scurrying out and heading home of to next destination. I love sitting in my cabin enjoying tea or a book or the computer and watching the rigs exit and the morning activity that wanes at about mid morning when the camp settles in for some calm before the afternoon influx of new campers.
Two observations: airplanes and railroads. The highways are ubiquitous, thanks Ike.
Wherever I camp I hear the railroad horns over and over and over again.  All through the night as I sit by the fire or lie in bed, I hear the freight train passing through. Also The nighty skies are filled with airplanes, not like at home in Berlin. The airplane traffic makes the night sky different.
I woke at 8:15 very refreshed and ready to head to the Smokies. My last day in Staunton was glorious. I visited the glass blower again and then proceeded to the Depot for brunch before the show. I then stopped across the street at the Shenandoah Valley Brewery for a glass of Valley Rye IPA and a growler of same said beer. I deposited my booty in the car and walked up to the theater. Today’s performance was going to be packed as the bus unloading students from a local high school. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was on stage for today. The perfect way to end this culturally delightful weekend. I love this play for so many reasons, the biggest being the year we performed it at MBHS. There was a good audience and Bottom did not disappoint the demanding crowd. After the show I drove home and spent the night at home, having a salmon and zuke dinner followed by a roaring fire and the Big Broadcast as I enjoyed my Black Rye IPA. Now it’s off to the Smokies.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 Trip

The packing for these trips is getting easier and I’m developing a system to make the packing more efficient. Now when I look at a place in the car or Scamp, I know what I need to pack to fill that space. One thing is certain, I’ve packed less. Trying to make it simpler.  This trip is going to take me out to the Virginia mountains, let me enjoy some Shakespeare, drink some beer in Asheville while residing in the Smokies. From there to my daughter’s house, in Marietta, GA, to enjoy Thanksgiving with her, her husband, and my son. I haven’t seen her since she told me she is having a baby boy at the end of March. After that I’m going south through Tallahassee to the Gulf Coast via Panacea. I’ll be following the coast to New Orleans and then follow the Mississippi to Memphis and on through Nashville and home by December 19. That’s the plan any way, let’s see what happens.
After I had considered the car and Scamp packed, it started to rain. It rained all night and very hard at times. I still had to put the bikes on the roof and last minute stuff, always. The rain let up enough so doing the last chores was easy peasy. I took a shower and hit the road at 8:30 AM. I had to stop at the Labs to give blood, but it was on the way. The trip was foggy and misty and heavy at times. One thing I’m not used to is almost seeing the gas gauge move down. It is like I have a gas leak or something. I realize as I get gas and watch the mileage, I’m fine. I’ve been driving the other car for so long I’m used to better gas mileage.
The Skyline Drive is shrouded in fog with a trace of rain. Every once and a while a clear patch happens and then back under the shroud. The view to either side is like looking into a steaming cauldron. The trees are pretty striped of leaves, especially after this rain. The leaves abandoned the trees around my house, so I knew it was time to go south. The rain helped out here at Shenandoah NP’s Big Meadows campground.  The section that is open is a third full and I find a sweet spot with access to walking trails. The rain has stopped. It is very foggy, but not cold. I’m in a t-shirt and long pants. A sweatshirt makes it more comfortable, but not necessary. I’ve set camp, turned on the heater, and made lunch.
At 4:20 the clouds cleared and I saw blue skies. Since it is getting darker earlier, I started dinner: succotash, grilled trout and asparagus. The sky was so clear, every star was visible. Fall camping requires that one be vigilant about the fire. I would have slept through the night had it not been for the wind rocking the awning. I debated putting it away and nixed the idea. In the morning, I relocated the clothesline and dispatched the awning. May need it tomorrow as I hear it may rain in the afternoon. 
I packed lunch and snacks for my hike to Rapidan Camp, Hoover’s retreat. I packed a banana, a PBJ on raisin bread, a YooHoo, a hard-boiled egg, two Nature Valley bars, and water. Hoover created this place so he and his cronies and other political leaders could discuss matters in a relaxing atmosphere that included fishing. One of the cabins on the camp is called The Prime Minister’s. Streams were created to provide the president and his guests access to fishing spots.  It is a unique camp and a precursor to Camp David. The hike took me along the AT, Appalachian Trail. I left the AT to follow another trail to Rapidan Camp. I found a silver lining in that rain from yesterday. The Rapidan River was running violently and loudly, lucky me. When I hike I have a pair of ski poles. When I hike I am concentrating on making each limb do twenty-five percent. Once upon a time I’d end a hike and my legs ached. After a time, I started using ski poles and found my legs didn’t ache. Now I feel like a hike is a full body workout. When I arrived at the Camp, I was alone. I walked around surveying ‘my’ grounds. I decided to lunch on the Prime Minister’s Porch because it overlooked the President’s cabin and most of the camp. When I went to see what time it was, I saw it was Wednesday November 11. I was doing Vet’s Day at Hoover’s Camp, Cool.  I have always loved this camp. I was introduced to it twenty years ago. Since then I have gained a whole bunch more respect for Hoover after reading the President’s Club. After the hike, I drove back to the store for supplies. I picked up more postcards, stamps, and wood; and then after getting water from dump station; I finally returned to camp. I only had a couple of hours of daylight left. I set my outside kitchen with the water, split more wood, and prepared the table for cocktails. I started a fire. I assembled some wild boar pate, rosemary crackers, and a Burley Oak beer. As I sat by the fire I wrote postcards and enjoyed happy hour. As the sun was setting the sky was gentle, not ravishing I was reminded of my recent trip to NYC where I went to a soup and salad place I used to go to when I lived in NYC. I got a chopped salad and it reminded me about how I loved them, how I was not eating as much salad as I should, so I decided then and there to eat more salad, chopped salads. So in the past week, I have been eating salad. Tonight was to be a salad. I made a monster salad of spring lettuce, spinach, tomato, celery, carrot, onion, mushroom, hard-boiled egg (from lunch), tuna, herbs, oil and balsamic vinegar. I didn’t finish dinner.  After dinner I spend some time gazing upwards, but even with a good fire and good music, I must go inside for it is getting cold out and I’m glad I’m going south. I am in the mountains so that adds to the chill, too. Being inside the Scamp is so luxurious. Read myself to sleep. The harsh winds woke me at around 2AM. I’m glad I put everything away and kept the awning down. The Scamp was rocking a bit as the wind howled and I could hear the tree limbs swaying and rubbing. I left the curtains open facing east and the sun woke me me, the wind was still howling and blowing and the morning was rough. I went out to watch the sun rise and the sky was a glorious pink and absolutely beautiful, which told me the day was going to be a challenge, but I knew that already. After enjoying the sunrise, I went back to comfort of my bed and slept till 9:15. It was grey and windy as I made breakfast. After breakfast I washed last night’s dishes and this morning’s too. I took a walk around to see the hearty souls, especially those in tents. Some young children were running around chasing leaves and laughing and frolicking as their grandparents looked on.  Since it started to rain, I decided to take a drive into the Shenandoah Valley. I went back north on the Skyline Drive to 211 and into Luray, when the rain stopped. I followed 340 South eventually to Eakins, though Stanley and Shenandoah. I passed over many creeks and the Shenandoah River until I got to 33 East and to the Park entrance. The sky had cleared and bright blue skies were finally overhead and it was filled with wispy white feathers of clouds. The passage on the Drive today was clear and those vistas were visible and I enjoyed them on my drive along the Drive.
It’s 6:23 PM. I have just finished cleaning up the dinner dishes. Everything is done from dinner. It feels like it should be 9 PM. Fall camping is different. What I like about camping is the fact that I have to be vigilant always. I have to be aware of the weather. I live outdoors; the weather is crucial. I may have the Scamp, but most of my living is outside. I have to be aware of everything from water to propane to groceries, to wood, to gas, etc. It is being constantly on. The result means that because I’m so on, I’m also on with my senses like sight and the beauty around me, sound when I hear a hawk or waterfalls or the owl, the smell of a fire or fresh rain, the touch of setting camp and the wood, the taste of food cooked outside. Since my return, I’ve read some, I’ve chatted with the camp host and his wife, I’ve puttered about, cooked and cleaned up dinner. Now it is time for a fire and to gaze at the stars. It is a brilliant evening and it is only 6:42 PM. Had a great fire and retired early. Did some reading and slept through the windstorm. When I woke people’s stuff was all over the place from the wind. Still windy and more for the rest of the day. Packed up and hit the road by 9AM. Had a lovely scenic drive down Skyline Drive to Waynesboro and a short hop to my next campground. I chose a KOA because it is close to Staunton and none of the SP’s were open. This KOA isn’t bad and I have a sweet spot pretty much alone as the big rigs go for the bigger sites. I can go where tenters would go. It’s noon and camp is about set. Off to take a shower and prepare for this big Shakespeare weekend in Staunton.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Huron and Erie

As I drove down 123 South, I passed a lone bicyclist. At the junction of 28,I found a dozen more, an army of cyclists. They were going north and I south. It was a worthy hand off. They north and me south. I was heading for Lake Huron via the bridge. Got some smoked, fresh and spread trout. Funny how this works. Trout on both ends of Superior tour, but not in middle. Took 23 South after the Bridge. Getting passed all the schlock, I found a steady pace and fine road. Some overlooks, but they were occupied. Stumbled upon a public beach that was not announced. I did a U-Turn and backed the Scamp towards the beach. I used the Scamp to change from street clothes to beach clothes. Back on the road, some chores and heading to Harrisville SP. Stopped at a quarry view overlook. Amazing how the land has been carved out for calcite and all the freighters in harbor. Moving on to Alpena, I was looking for a brewery, but it was closed and another one was a month from opening. Nearest brewery 20 minutes south of Harrisville.  A man could do well with a brewery here, unless the folks here don’t drink beer. When I finally arrived at the SP, I was very lucky to get the last spot on the beach. I faced the Scamp East so I could enjoy the sunrise from bed. After setting a minimal camp, I took a walk and then a swim. I grabbed my book, a beer, and a chair and spent the end of the day on the beach with the sun warming my back. Dinner was fresh trout. I cleaned up and broke the minimalist camp and headed to Oscoda, 20 minutes further south to the only brewery in the area, Wiltse’s Brew Pub. It was Monday night in America. The place was packed and apparently they were down two servers. It took fifteen minutes before I could request a flight and fifteen more to get it. Forty-five minutes later I leave with a growler of good ale. Forty-five minutes??? Should have been more like fifteen. I got back to camp, set a good fire and lay out on the table looking heavenward. The sun woke me as planned and I hurried to the beach to watch it ascend from the lake. Magnificent!!
When I went out the seagulls en masse greeted me. Last night I skinned and boned four chicken thighs. I took the skin and bones out to the beach and fed the gulls. It was glorious and chaotic as they laughed and laughed. They were disappointed with my banana skin.
I went back to sleep until 8:30, had breakfast and took a swim. I read some and then took a shower. When I started to break camp, I discovered I had a flat tire on the Scamp. I changed into working clothes and found my Jeep Lug wrench didn’t fit the Scamp lugs. I borrowed a lug wrench from my neighbor across the street. Changed the tire, broke camp, set up everything to hit the road, and took another shower. Within a couple of miles out, I found a shop to fix the tire. While that was happening, I walked to NAPA, down the road, and bought a lug wrench. Got back and tire was fixed and I hit the road once again. I was an hour and a half behind intended time. I was heading to Caseville and a brewery named Thumb Brewery. When I got there at four, I found they were closed for the season. There are not many breweries in this area. Also driving Lake Huron is frustrating because when I am on the lake, I am looking at houses. The entire shore is house after house after house. BORING!!!! Lake Huron is like the East Coast. I really miss Lake Superior. And no Breweries!!! Lake access is very limited and exclusive. Seems like the temperature has risen ten degrees from my last three weeks. Doing one night stands to get through this non-scenic route around a lake. I found Sleeper SP, which was empty and took whatever site I wanted. In this case 150, simply because it was in the middle of it all. I had lake trout for dinner, the Yankees in Tampa, and a fire. I have a tree cover so not a good look at the evening sky.
It has taken three days to civilize me. After three weeks on the savage and wild Lake Superior, crossing the bridge has been life altering. Lake Huron is a different lake. It is civilized. Also the first four breweries were either closed or not opened yet. The flat tire, well I was not in good spirits. Lexington Brewery was closed and it wasn’t until Port Huron did I find some brew, Thumb Coast Brewery. Good stuff and spoke with the brewer. Tasted a new brown ale with maple syrup not yet ready for sale. Very good!! He told me about a new brewery down the road on my way to Algonac SP. Took a Lost Souls growler with me. Harsens Island Brewery didn’t have a license to fill growlers, darn. Drove by the campsite and got a view of possible sites. One I spied was available; took it. Big, very big ships going by on the way to Lake Huron through Lake St Clair from Lake Erie. I am looking at Canada. This is what I mean by civilized, especially after my Lake Superior experience. I am going to be blowing through Detroit and Toledo to get to the East Harbor SP. Then I blow through Cleveland to get to Geneva-on-the-Lake SP. Civilized.
I had the Scamp facing east so the sun would wake me. It rose over Canada. Had breakfast and took a sweet twenty-mile ride. I got home, took a shower and broke camp. Did some shopping before I hit the Interstate hell known as 94 and 75 heading through Detroit and Toledo to the sanity of Erie Circle Route 2 to 163 and East Harbor SP. Stopped briefly at Ottawa NWR and saw lots of pretty birds including some eagles. East Harbor SP has 600 campsites!!! I found a beautiful site away from it all facing east and with some shade. In another part of the park 300 seniors are camping together as some festival, but it is on the other side and mostly this weekend, though they are coming in. I’m in a section usually used by tenters and folks who don’t need full hookups: electric, water, and sewer. I’m happy with just electric or nothing. Being with those big rigs is weird and scary. Hung up my bike clothes, which I washed this morning and my other wet things. I had lunch, I set up the hammock and took a nap. Very delightful. Took a walk, had dinner, listened to the game, had a fire, the moon appeared. Woke and took the route around the peninsula of Marblehead and saw the lighthouse. Headed to Geneva-on the Lake. Drove through Sandusky, so depressing and then to the opulence of Amherst. Went through Cleveland to drive by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as one does through Springfield Mass. I follow the coast road stopping here and there. All the history I took and literature I have read is coming at me on the road signs and historical markers. Saw some eagles. Stopped at Willoughby’s Brewery in Willoughby, Ohio. Took away lots. They had a very good smoked porter as well as other tasty beers. I get a sweet spot at Geneva. Since it was Friday I knew the two breweries in the area would be open. After a swim and dinner I headed out. First stop was the Cornerstone in Madison, Ohio. I took away a lovely white ale. Reminded me of Iceland and Sweden. The next stop was though hither and yon on such backwoods roads I couldn’t believe there was a brewery here with music as advertised. When I came over a hill, I saw an establishment that could only be a brewery and the parking lot was packed. I wandered a curious path from the outside patio, which was packed with folks dressed as if they were at a wedding to a bar that was a bar and not the tasting room, adjacent, that I was looking for. I got a ten selection flight. Took it out to the patio, where the action and the band was. It was a freaking wedding reception. How wonderful. Theater and beer. No a wedding and a beer. Same same. After the bridesmaids had there dance, the bride and groom danced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. After that, the band took a break and I left with a six of IPA from Cellar Rats Brewery in Madison, Ohio. . Had a fire and as I went to bed, I felt some raindrops. Good, bedtime anyway. No sooner had I cleaned up, secured everything the winds kicked up, the temperature dropped and it poured. I adjusted the awning and dove inside to close all windows and vents. Then the thunder and lightning came. The heater came on. I went to bed. I woke to a soaked campsite. After breakfast I walked down to the lake and took a swim. I love the water after a rain, cool and so refreshing. Got back to camp and finished the Willie’s Long Story. Brilliant!! I looked up and saw black clouds. Cleared the clothesline and secured everything out to in or under awning. Another deluge. Lucky the Yanks had a day game against the Mets. After the Yanks won and the rain tapered off, I took a nap. I woke at seven to clear skies and warmer air. Had a great fire and good beer and music on this Saturday night. I woke early Sunday with the sun coming in at my feet. I break camp and wander up Route 5 to Presque Isle SP. This is such a pretty and unique peninsula. It makes Erie PA, Erie PA. A perfect harbor. I continued up Route 5 to Evangola SP. I get a very sweet spot overlooking Lake Erie due west. The sunset was spectacular. I was wrong when earlier I said The sunsets over Lake Superior were in the water. The sunset tonight was into the water and a lot clearer than in Lake Superior. Lake Superior sunsets were hindered by the fires out west. Had a great fire and view of the moon over Lake Erie. I woke and left early; I had a long drive ahead of me to Taughannock Falls SP on Lake Cayuga, near Ithaca. The SP is in Ulysses, which seems obviously appropriate, as it is where I will end my travels. I plan on being in Berlin tomorrow night. I left Lake Erie at Blasdell, nine miles south of Buffalo, which I could see from the lake road. Followed 20A and 20 across to Seneca Falls and followed 89 to the Falls SP. The drive along 20A was over hill and through dale. It was a meandering path with steep hills in both directions. Warsaw was particularly interesting since trucks had to by pass it because of the terrain. I went through pretty little towns along the road when I discovered the Naked Dove Brewery in Canandaigua, NY. I got a flight that they served like a winery, one pour at a time with an explanation. I took a growler of their unique Local Hop beer, which is excellent. Once I got to 89 South, I came upon one winery after the next. WOW!!! Then I came upon the Boathouse Beer Garden overlooking Lake Cayuga. They had 21 taps of local NY beers. They were planning to host their first Oktoberfest and soon will be brewing their own beers. I took away a lovely IPA from a brewery in Honeoye, NY. I took a site at the Falls SP and then headed out to see these fabulous falls. I followed a very unique and well-marked and annotated trails through the gorge to the falls. These are spectacular falls that remind me of some spectacular falls out west and in Iceland. I was amazed they were here as well as this gorge. A miniature Grand Canyon, very miniature. This is good place to end my journey. I split the log that I have used for splitting other wood that I picked up at Presque Isle  early in my travels. I also cut up the emergency wood I had. Big bonfire tonight.
I woke early and drove the eight hours home.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Heading South from Lake Superior

 The clouds were passing through as they were chased away by blue skies. Then the sun came out and it was too hot. Camp set, I had some grilled lake trout for lunch. After splitting some wood for tonight I took a ride to L’Anse, drove around the quaint little forest town. Saw the shrine to Bishop Baraga on the way into town. Followed town roads out along coast to Aura and Pequaming. These towns hold wonderful beautiful secrets. They are quiet and gorgeous. The road hugs the Keweenaw Bay and is one dream cottage after the next. I discovered a phenomenal stretch of sandy beaches. This is such a protected bay and has to have been a haven for the Indians for many centuries. Another neat thing I saw were fish cleaning stations. Very civilized.  When I got back to camp, only one new camper. The campground of 75 sites has 10 being used. Now this is camping.  The best sign I saw were school buses filled with little darlings going home after the first day of school.
Woke at the crack of dawn, because the sun was coming in the window. First time this trip since I’ve been in woods. On the lake facing east, the sun wakes you up. Since I packed up the night before, it was just breakfast, hook up, dump, get water and I’m on Hwy 41 to Bay Furnace by eight. Into the sun, sweet. The drive is interior and easy. I get through Marquette without a hitch and onto 28 East. I make many stops along the coastline of beaches. I take a swim, I drive on to another beach, take another swim. The weather is incredible the water is gorgeous. It’s ten in the morning. I get to Bay Furnace and set camp by eleven and then have some smoked whitefish for lunch. Running out of fish so I inquire. From the camp host and he tells me of three shops just as I enter Munising. Two are closed and one is open. I inquire about smoked lake trout or fresh trout and am told only the Native Americans can sell it in Michigan.  I didn’t know this. I tell her of where I have bought and she tells me they are Native owned. The two closed shops are Native. As I’ve been driving around I’ve seen lots of houses with huge smokers in their yards. Maybe I should stop in at one that is cooking. After lunch I do a quick laundry and hang it to dry, wash the front of the Scamp, and head out up to Pictured Rocks National Lakeside. Munisink is a funny little town that serves as one of the ends of the Rt 58 Superior Lake drive. I first stop at Sand Beach and am sorry I forgot my swimsuit. Then I retrace my steps, which is so common on these adventures, back to 58 to Munising Falls and Miners Falls. The end is at the shore to walk paths to observe the storied Pictured Rocks. Magnificent!! Plan on a cruise to see them better. Another beach, filled with agates and wood constructed into tipis along the shore.  Mind blowing scenery and landscape. I decide to head home and save the trip to Grand Marais for tomorrow. Get some wood and stop at a brewery in Munisink; Shooter’s the Firehouse Brewery. When I sat down at the bar, a guy came up and said, “Long way from home?” I looked at him quizzically. He was referring to my Burley Oak t-shirt. They had been there and had liked it. We had a fun talk about breweries in the area and they left. Asked for a flight of what was available, three and found the stout the best. Stuff I would have preferred to drink was gone. I went back to camp, had dinner and took a trip to Marquette to visit five breweries there. It’s a nice drive in both directions.
I got to three of the five.  My first stop was Chocolay River Brewery which was a funky country bar restaurant on the lake just outside Marquette proper. They had a fine selection of Saisons, a very good IPA that I took home in a growler and a fine pale ale. My next stop was Ore Dock Brewing Company in town and a good ole brick building refurbished to be a well-stocked brewery. My takeaway from there was a glass, a six pack of Reclamation IPA, and a growler of a Harvest Saison. My last and favorite stop was Blackrocks Brewery which a fabulous quartet and a female singer who was GREAT!! Had a flight and loved their Scottish Ale, which I took home in a growler along with a glass in which to drink it. I stayed here for the music and missed to other two breweries: Vierling and Upper Peninsula Brewing. Next time. Got home had a fire, drank some of my booty and went to sleep just as it started to rain. Woke to a sunny morning, had breakfast and went down to the lake for a bath before setting out to cruise the lake and look at the painted rocks along the coast. The rocks were gorgeous, like the Paint Pots in Yellowstone as was reminded me by a friend. The size, scope, and color were astonishing and told so much history of this planet. Having already been to the Falls and overlooks, I now saw where I was and continued up the coast on the water. Water was rough and just like the ocean. When we docked I headed back on East 58 to Grand Marais. I stopped an scenic overlooks, the Dunes, and lighthouse before weaving along this scenic drive. When I arrived at Grand Marais, I found the Lake Superior Brewery and stopped for a flight, a sandwich, and a wool cap. It’s getting cold up here and I forgot my cap at home. Great night as the sky cleared and the stars came out in force. I found my bearings when I found the Big Dipper and then the Little and North Star. I broke camp in the last of the sunset and put the horse blanket on the picnic table, got my Vietnam poncho liner and watched the sky while the tipi fire warmed me. At 5:30 in the morning, the heater that came on awakened me. It was cold!! I woke at 7:30 to a light rain. Oh was I glad camp was deconstructed. Took a quick shower after breakfast and hooked up and headed out for Tahquamenon Falls SP near Whitefish Pt. Glad I have the new cap too. Got a great site.
I’ve been asked how I pick a site. First it has to be available for the number of nights I require. I like outside sites in loops so I have nature to my back and not another camper. I like a clear sight of the sky. I want my camper door to face south. I want some trees around not a forest when possible.
I left Bay Furnace at 8:30, shopped, got gas, got cash, and arrived at TFSP and set camp by 12:30. Sweet!! I had made some extra chicken the night before and hard boiled 2 eggs for lunch. Planning ahead, haha. After lunch, headed for the Grewat lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Pt. I took a leisurely drive through Paradise, aptly named, to the end and the museum. An amazing story about how these lakes have been so savage. Walked out to the point where a pair of plovers was protected this year. I spoke to the fellow there about the plovers at Assateague. He said how it was the model because of its success. From the point, I looked west and into the NW winds and saw 2-3 foot waves breaking on the shore and to the SE, a calm bay. I walked into the wind back to the overlook on the beach by the museum. On the ride back I picked up some wood and as I approached my camp, I saw a fireplace full of wood. It was at a site across from me. Apparently the young couple abandoned the site and left the wood, for me. Now I had twice as much wood as I had thought I would have. It’s cold up here and I need a good roaring fire tonight. Smoked trout for dinner.  I had decided on a bike ride back to the museum for Saturday. Weather was perfect and no wind. I roads are flat with a few undulations, so the 45 mile round trip to Whitefish Pt and back was smooth and wonderful. Took shower and nap upon return. The noise of the hiking campers woke me in the late afternoon. I cooked dinner and had a fire while I listened to the Yankees drop a third to Toronto at home, Yikes!! Sunday  was the most glorious of the three days and I had decide to do the hike from the Lower Falls to the High Falls since the trails would be more empty of hikers than yesterday. It must have been like Times Square on that one long trail from the lower to high falls. It was a mile to the lower falls and then four to the high falls. I snacked along the way, had lunch at High Falls and decided to venture onto another path but realized about a mile in I didn’t have time so I turned around and hiked home. In all it was a twelve mile hike. I showered and broke camp after dinner. The Yanks had finally won a game so I listened to the Big Broadcast while enjoying my last night on Lake Superior and a wonderfully full sky of stars. It is with a sad heart I have to leave Lake Superior tomorrow morning and head south to Lake Michigan.