Thursday, September 14, 2017

Maine's Baxter State Park/North Woods

 Wow - it's been a while (since April!) since my last blog post, but I'm definitely excited to be sharing this one. At the end of August, Daniel and I took an "end of summer/end of camp/last hurrah before school starts/my birthday celebration" camping trip to the North Woods region of Maine, where we stayed right outside of Baxter State Park.

We tent-camped at the Big Moose Inn and Campground, which was only about 15 minutes outside of Baxter State Park, very reasonably priced and (for the most part) very quiet - aside from when a bachelor party moved in for the weekend. The inn was a basically a minute walk from our campsite, and had sitting areas/free wifi which came in handy with googling driving directions, but other than that, we also enjoyed that there was no distracting cell phone service around the campground area. This campground was also situated between Millinocket and Ambejejus Lakes, which were true beautiful Maine lakes, with beautiful sunsets, deep blue water and the sound of loons.

A few campsite shots for fun:

This area of Maine holds a lot to do outdoors-wise and a lot to see! When we were planning our trip, all I wanted was to be able to 1) get a lot of sleep to catch up from camp 2) decompress and unplug from the "real" world and 3) be surrounded by fresh air, pine trees and mountains - and this certainly fit the bill. Mount Katahdin (which is the highest peak in Maine and marks the end of the Appalachian trail) is the most impressive thing Baxter State Park boasts, and though we had no intentions of climbing it, it was absolutely awe-inspiring to always be in its midst. Almost everywhere we went, there was beautiful sights of Katahdin, in all its glory, looming in the distance, with miles and miles of trees spread before it... but you'll see what I mean about that in a minute!

Before we even reached our destination of Millinocket, ME, we made a short pitstop on our drive up at the Wells National Estaurine Research Reserve in Wells, ME along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. For anyone who doesn't know - an estuary is the mouth of a river/the ocean where the tide meets the stream, so it's its own very interesting ecosystem! We did a short walk down through the estuaries and then out to the coast of the Atlantic, where there was some small tide pools, and you could honestly see for forever in every direction. It was beautiful, and very quiet and not at all populated. Highly recommend the visit.

Now, once we got into the Baxter State Park region - our first full day was spent doing just that: our first day in Baxter State Park! That day was spent doing a short hike to Cranberry Pond, a visit to the Stump Pond and Abol Pond parking areas (where we saw tons of tadpoles as well as two loons), and a hike on the Blueberry Ledges trail (which was not very ledge-y or blueberry-y... this trail was a bit of a bummer).

Just outside the entrance to the park

Katahdin in the distance as you enter the park

Togue Pond when you first enter the park

Cranberry Pond

Stump Pond (and Katahdin)

Abol Pond
The next day we did a 5.4 mile hike at Gulf Hagas, about an hour from our campsite, which is billed as the "Grand Canyon of the East," boasts many, many beautiful waterfalls and is just outside of the interesting "Katahdin Iron Works" which are some remnants of a long-gone booming community.

Once on the trail, it crosses over a stream, and then joins up with the Appalachain trail for a brief period of time before splitting off to the waterfalls/official Gulf Hagas section. Once we got out there, we did a little waterfall exploring before finishing up our loop hike.

Katahdin in the distance as we head for the trailhead

Stream crossing

Day three was one of my most favorite, because we got the chance to visit the newest, most recently protected National Monument - Katahdin Woods and Waters. Katahdin Woods and Waters features a few trails and opportunities for recreation, but the main thing that's a "must do" is to drive the 16 mile loop road around the area and take in the many view points. All of these stop offs offered either peaceful waters to take in, or simply stunning views of Mount Katahdin. It was nice to take in so much beauty without too much effort - though 16+ miles of dirt-road travel can be pretty taxing.

So many wild blueberries!

Just wow!

Millinocket Lake - where we stayed - in the distance

The next day, we decided to do a mountain. Once we got to the park, a lot of the day use parking lots were full (we got there around 10am and were told these lots had filled at 7am... blah!), so we only had a few options for hiking and ended up doing Sentinel Mountain, which was a 4.8 mile out and back hike, which included walking along the edge of Kidney Pond for parts of it. Most of the hike was fairly flat until the final ascent to the summit... and once we hit the top, we had our lunch break before turning around. And honestly, this was probably my favorite hiking day, because there is really nothing like the overwhelming sense of peace and feeling of being a part of something greater than yourself than what I feel at the summit of a mountain.

Katahdin over Kidney Pond

Loons in Kidney Pond

At the summit

Finally - we hit the last day of our stay, which was also my birthday! Sadly, I don't have any photos to commemorate this day - but I do have a sweet t-shirt and AMAZING memories! We went whitewater rafting in class IV and V rapids in the Penebscot River, which included two runs of a section of the river and a lunch afterward. On the trip, we also had some chances to float in the river, swim through some rapids, do lots of "surfing," and even jump off a cliff into the river... it was just truly so much fun and such a memorable birthday!

And that wrapped up our stay in Maine's North Woods. The next day was our day of traveling all 10+ hours back to NY, where we arrived happy to have comforts of home and truly refreshed!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Travel Review: A Night in Lake Placid

A few weekends ago, Daniel and I decided to take a short overnight weekend trip as a break from how incredibly busy (and somewhat stressful) life had been throughout the month of March. With the end of March being a strange time weather-wise New York, we decided to head up to the Adirondacks, where it was still very winter-y, versus the wet, muddy, spring transitionary time we were experiencing at home. Based on the multitude of winter-based activities available, we decided upon a one-night excursion (Friday - Saturday) to Lake Placid!

Friday morning and afternoon were majorly spent driving up to Lake Placid (it was about a four and a half hour drive from where we live) with the occasional "coffee and snacks" stop. By the time we arrived and checked into our hotel (we got a great rate on the Hampton Inn there thanks to my dad sharing his hotel points), it was almost 4 o'clock. Rather than diving into activities, we decided to just go exploring, get something for dinner and spend the evening relaxing in our ridiculously gorgeous hotel room. I didn't get any pictures of it, but it was hands down the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in.


Our Hotel

Across Mirror Lake from our hotel

We wrapped up the night lounging in the hotel and eating Thai Food from Nicola's Bangkok Thai!

Saturday morning we started off by walking up to Main Street to visit the Olympic Museum! It was a cute little place to walk around... we learned some things about the Olympics we never really knew, and they also encourage touching things, playing with things, et cetera!

Such as this speed skating situation where you try to keep up tempo... Daniel attempted to document it and instead just captured me laughing at myself.

You can also play your own game of curling...ish. Daniel "won" but afterward, looking back at the photos, I realized he cheated! You weren't supposed to touch the "ice".

And we did a little bit of bobsledding...through the ages!

This is Daniel's bobsledding face...

The museum is downstairs in the complex, so we took a stroll upstairs to check out the ice arena where a hockey tournament was taking place!

And there was this giant Connect 4 game so we had to take a minute to play!

From there it was off to Whiteface to ride the gondola to the Little Whiteface summit (not the full summit)! It was incredibly foggy the entire time we were there so we didn't anticipate a view, but wanted to do the experience anyway! We definitely want to go back to experience it another time when there's a view, too.

Here are some of the photos from the gondola ride:

So. Cold.

I love this picture of Daniel!

And here are some photos from the top. It felt like such a winter wonderland!

From there, we rode the gondola back down, and then it was off to our third and final stop of the day - High Falls Gorge! This is a privately owned waterfall walk... though I'm not the biggest fan of that premise, it was nice to walk somewhere that was maintained and easy during winter. This place honestly reminded me a lot of Watkins Glen, except there wasn't a single soul in sight... which was fantastic. And all of the ice that had formed on the water through there was breathtaking!

And that's it! That concludes our 24 hours in Lake Placid!