Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Great North Woods

KI Road, East of Greenville, 10.12.10
We set out today to find Gulf Hagas. It’s a series of waterfalls that fall along the Appalachian Trail. Waterfalls and the AT! It seemed like a great idea. 
We headed east from Greenville towards Brownsville Junction on the KI road. About 20 miles in we came to a gate house and realized that it’d been shut down for the season. Awesome. We didn’t have to pay to get through. The road until now had been alright with occasional potholes. There had even been someone grating out all the washboards and bumps. But what we came to face was intense. 
At one spot Josh had to swerve so far back and forth across road so many times we both became car sick. The dog must have felt like a tennis ball. We finally ended up at Gulf Hagas. Prepared and psyched we started out. After about a 1/2 mile we came to a creek crossing that was mostly dry. We had heard that there was a stream to cross and we were lucky to have passed when it was dry. Or so we thought. 
Gulf Hagas, 10.12.10
After walking a bit further we came across the true stream crossing. Maybe 40 yards across. So, after sizing up our footwear I decided to go barefoot and Josh decided to try it booted. His boots are 12 inches high and waterproof. Wu was in it and thought it was the best day ever since we were in the water too. Several times he tried to take me down. The water was so cold that within a few yards I could barely feel them. Wu held me up a few times not realizing that we were actually trying to cross and weren’t playing. I made it most of the way before loosing my balance and dipping my boots and socks in the water. 
Josh made it about half way out before the water rose above his boot line. The moment it did he wished it hadn’t. After he got to shore and took them off he dumbed water out of each one. I did too, but not like he did. We hid our boots and set off even more determined barefoot.
We lasted about a half-mile. The ground was cold but not compared to what we had just endured with the stream. But we came to a sign and realized that we really had a long way to go and since we were barefoot maybe we shouldn’t risk it today. It was a great idea. Both of us trudge backed across the stream in our boots. And changed our shoes and began to dry out.
Katahdin Iron Works, 10.12.10
With that idea squashed for the day we headed east, again, for Katahdin Iron Works. It’s about 6 miles down the KI road. We expected to find another gatehouse but again it was closed for the season and we were free to explore. 

Across from the gatehouse was a Historic Site. We came across the old site of the Katahdin Iron Works mill. There was still an ore melting building and another brick outbuilding. They were awesome. The rock walls were all still standing and the area was well maintained. It was an unexpected find out in the middle of the woods. We walked and checked out every display board. Wu had a few leash training moments and after we felt that we had thoroughly check out the place we headed on back to camp. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mt. 10.10.10

Acadia is one of our most favorite places. I’ve been going there all my life and finally last fall Josh and I ventured there together. So, when we were thinking about moving to Maine in the fall we knew that we had to get to Acadia for some “leaf peeping” fun. 
We headed to the east and followed the scenic Rt 1 along the coast. The leaves were turning vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. Each pine tree seemed even greener. Ever turn revealed another landscape that belonged in a travel brochure. Quaint isn’t enough. 
Our first stop was the visitor’s center. We bought a pass and stamped our National Parks Passport. After three visits Josh finally was able to get his. Wu was accompanying us and we asked a few questions about where he was allowed. Off-season is great when you’re traveling with a pet. 
Top of Cadillac Mt. 10.10.10
The island was bustling with tourists. The leaves here hadn’t reached the peak change and already people were flooding here. I can’t blame them since it’s absolutely perfect. After getting a couple deli sandwiches and bring Wu for a walk we hit the Park Loop Road.
First stop, Sand Beach. This was the first time that Wu had ever seen sand or the ocean and we thought that it’s something worth showing him so we brought him down to the shore. It wouldn’t do him justice to say that he went wild. A craze took over him. He was into the water and was planning a swim when he realized that a wave was coming for him. He loves the water enough to keep going back for more. He dabbled and tried a drink. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do when he’s off-leash on the beach. 
Bass Harbor 10.10.10
Once we had wrestled Wu back to the car we headed down to Thunderhole. The tide was out and there wasn’t much for action. No crashing of waves or thunder to be heard.  It was still cool to see it at it’s lowest point. 

Jordan Pond House was too busy to make it into. I was a little disappointed at how busy everything really was. With Wu we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the carriage roads because there were so many people. We headed up to Cadillac Mountain. Stamped the Passports again and bought a few postcards. The wind was gusty up at the top. It was cold and we kept moving to stay warm. A quick shot of us together and we hopped from rock to rock until we it was too cold to stand. 
Wu was ever glad to see us and I was delighted that it wasn’t him that we had heard barking harassingly. He was just chilling and we headed off the east part of the island. With his hopes to swim crushed we decided to stop at a small stream and let him swim. He fetched sticks and ran up and down the shore. And after a few short minutes we had a happy dog. Off we went!
Our final destination was the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. There are two short paths; one leads to the ocean and the other leads to the lighthouse. The ocean path starts with wooden steps then ends in a pink granite stairway. It ends onto the rocky shore and you can scramble across the rocks to picnic or play. The lighthouse path is paved and leads straight to the light. It’s tarred and an easy walk. After snapping a few pictures and taking in the sun behind the clouds we decided to head home. 
When we finally got home we were completely relaxed. We headed up to bed early because we were heading north. 
Acadia NP 10.10.10

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Road East

9.11 Effigy Mounds, Josh & Wu
We were facing a 30+ hour drive with our cat, TomTom and our infamous dog, Wu. It was going to be an intense and long drive but we were determined to make it fun. Josh and I planned out a few stops across the country that were in National Parks, Monuments and Forests. Why not see the back road beauty of our country as we make our way halfway across the nation?

The first night we planned our stop in Decorah, Iowa. Neither of us had seen Iowa before and this was a great opportunity. It looked incredibly similar to Nebraska or Kansas or Indiana until we came to the Mississippi River valley. The hills were green and the trees were just beginning their fall change.

As early as we could manage we were on our way to Effigy Mounds National Monument. It's located in Harpers Ferry, Iowa with the Effigy Mounds nestled along the mighty Mississippi River. The road was very country and wound for miles through the hills.

The National Monument, itself, spread out along the terrace overlooking the river. It cost $3 per person for us to hike the trails and after paying the fee we headed to the northern area. There are miles of walking paths that follow the course of the river and meander to various groupings of mounds.

9.11 Fire Point Overlook
We stopped at several overlooks and enjoyed the leaves which were starting to turn. The overlooks were breathtaking and our favorite was Fire Point. The Mississippi had risen above it's banks and from Fire Point we watched the water race through the drowning treetops. At each stop we had a bird's eye view of the Mississippi River and surrounding woodlands.

It's easy to see why this area has been sacred for thousands of years and why past peoples created the earthen mounds that populate this area. The most popular mound shape we saw was conical. There were numerous mounds in other shapes like bears and birds which could be found too. Most of the mounds are raised just a few feet and wild grasses are allowed to grow nearly unhampered on their tops. The groundkeepers trim up to the edge of the mounds and help to outline and pronounce the mounds shape.

9.11 Effigy Mounds NM, Iowa
Since their discovery several of the mounds groupings have been excavated but still there is little known about the people that built them. The mounds themselves can be dated to be 1000-1200 years old with the conical mounds being the oldest. Most of the time the mounds held the burials of several individuals but there's no way to tell if it's family groups or otherwise. The history here was very interesting and there's still so much to be learned!

The mounds were well preserved and as we followed the path through the forest it felt peaceful and serene. It turned out to be a beautiful morning stroll with the sun just risen and the air still crisp and we were completely alone most of the time. It's moments like that when I realize how lucky we are. 

The rest of our morning was spent exploring and we made sure to get checked in at the Visitor's Center. The Effigy Mounds NM was another stamp for our National Parks Passport. As our adventure here came to an end we packed up Wu and headed east with only 1400 miles left to go...