September 2015 – Mt. Jackson, Virginia

We left William’s house by 10:00 in the morning with a 3 hour drive to the Shenandoah Mountains.  In the spring we had traveled the eastern part of Virginia along the coast, at which time we spent a lot of time in the many Civil War battlefields in and around Richmond.  We had also visited the battlefields in Maryland at Monocacy and Harpers Ferry and Pennsylvania at Gettysburg.  So now it was time to finish out the eastern theater of the Civil War in western Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley.  In addition, I have driven by Shenandoah National Park many times in the past, but have never had the time to stop and visit, so now was our chance.  The trip south of Winchester was uneventful, even though it is longer than we like to do in a day.  It felt strange to be leaving William’s as it felt that we had a two week vacation staying there and we were heading back to “work”, although to be honest our lifestyle is now a year round “vacation”.  We got our first view of the Shenandoah Valley Campground as we drove by it on the Interstate.  It is located just off the Interstate within a quarter mile of the Mt. Jackson exit.  It is certainly “conveniently” located to the Interstate and would be perfect for an overnight trip for those traveling to Florida for the winter, however, it was way to close to the Interstate for my liking.  I could literally throw a rock from our campsite and hit the cars and trucks traveling 70 mph down the Interstate, especially since there were no trees blocking our view.  The campground itself is relatively new and very well laid out.  There are a number of pull through sites, even though we were mistakenly put onto a back-in site.  I am getting more comfortable with backing the RV and had no problem putting it into the site.  The staff were very friendly, even though they were unable to get our cable hookup working.  While this meant Kal could not get the sport channels with her soccer, we were able to get all the major stations with the antennae.  We were one of the few campers in the campground through the week, which was not too surprising, although I was surprised that it did not fill up on Friday night for the weekend.  This question was answered on Saturday, when a long line of motorhomes (around 20) pulled into the campgrounds.  They were a travel group moving north along the Appalachian Trail and we got to know one of the couples that pulled in next to us, since we had their assigned space (like I said we were supposed to have one of the pull through sites).  They all went to the Shenandoah Caverns in the afternoon, which was within walking distance of the campgrounds and had a catered BBQ dinner that night and church service Sunday morning.

Campsite Interstate

We pulled into the campgrounds on Monday in a light drizzle and the weather on Tuesday promised to be no better, so we decided to wait for better weather before visiting Shenandoah National Park.  Therefore, we traveled north towards Winchester to the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  This is the site of the Civil War battlefield between Union General Sheridan and Confederate General Early in October of 1864.  In this final year of the Civil War, General Grant was pressing General Lee around Richmond leading to the siege of Richmond and Petersburg over the coming winter, as we learned a lot about last spring.  In an attempt to relieve the constant pressure, General Lee ordered General Early to sweep through the Shenandoah Valley and bring pressure on Washington D.C. through Maryland.  General Early advanced through the Valley with little opposition as he bypassed Harper’s Ferry and moved through Maryland towards D.C.  This led to the Battle of Monocacy River where the Early defeated a Union army quickly brought out from D.C. and consisted mostly of 100 Day Men that had never seen battle.  Although they won this battle, it delayed the Confederates long enough for Grant to send reinforcements to protect Washington.  General Early was turned back at Fort Stevens, within sight of the capital dome and he retreated back to Virginia being pursued by the Union army.  The Union army was put under the command of General Sheridan with the orders to eliminate the threat by Early in the Shenandoah Valley.  Sheridan won a number of victories up the Shenandoah Valley over the summer and by September General Early was not considered to be a major threat.  In early October, Sheridan’s army encamped along Cedar Creek, south of Middletown with his headquarters around the Belle Grove plantation.  He left the army under the command of General Wright and went to Washington for a war meeting.  General Early had only two choices, to either retreat from Strousburg with the hopes of finding much needed supplies and reinforcements or to attack and capture the supplies they needed.  From on top of Signal Knob, the Confederates were able to see all of the Union forces which included a left flank that was not anchored by any natural features leaving it exposed.  Early decided on the bold approach and devised a surprise attack for October 19.  During the night of October 18, he divided his army into three columns and sent then to positions along the left flank and beyond where they could turn.  At 5 am in a heavy fog, the Confederates attacked the Union forces along Cedar Creek and caught them completely by surprise.  They quickly rolled up the left flank of the Union who fled back to their headquarters around Belle Grove.  The Union XIX Corps on the right flank had sufficient time to swing regiments into position to slow the Confederate attack and provide enough time for most of the supply wagons to flee Belle Grove, which was overrun by 7:00.  The Union army was forced back to a ridge north of Middletown where they began to regroup.  At this point the Confederates paused to rest their troops, especially since over a third of the soldiers were now pillaging the Union camps for much needed food and clothing.  By this time, General Sheridan had returned from his meeting in Washington after spending the night in Winchester.  Rather then retreating and leaving the field to the Confederates, he rallied his army by riding up and down the line to advance in a counterattack at 4 pm.  While part of his decision was due to his nature and reputation on the battlefield, General Sheridan was also concerned about the impact a major Union defeat would have on the Presidential re-election of Abraham Lincoln.  After giving fierce resistance all along the line, the Confederate left flank began to crumble.  This allowed General Custer to advance with his cavalry into the Confederate rear.  Fearing their retreat back across Cedar Creek would be cut off and after a long night of marching and day of fighting, the Confederates broke and General Early lost control.  The Union army quickly pursued the Confederates back across Cedar Creek and captured most of them around Strousburg a couple of days later.  Thus ended the last major threat from the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley, eliminating the food grown in this region which accounted for over 20% of the supplies General Lee needed in Richmond.

Established in 2004, the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is one of the newest in the NPS system and although there is over 3700 acres within the park’s authorized boundary, over 50% is privately owned.  The NPS acts as a coordinating unit with the other land owners, most of which are private foundations and the Civil War Trust to preserve the battlefield site.  Much of the National Historical Park is still a work-in-progress, which is immediately apparent since the Visitor Center is one end of a strip mall on the north end of Middletown.  Expecting more than this, we initially drove past the Visitor Center and had to get directions.  They don’t have room for a movie in the Visitor Center, so instead they have a topographic display of the battlefield with moving lights and a short presentation, which was actually very good!  They do have a driving tour of the battlefield with 10 stops from the crossings of Cedar Creek and following the advancing Confederates throughout the morning and the counterattack by the Union in the late afternoon.  There is a CD for the driving tour, which is well worth it, especially since they loan out the CDs so they are free.  The driving tour is along public roads, but there are no signs to point out the route, so you have to follow the directions given in the handout to find each stop.  Most of these stops are on private land with no parking except pulling off to the side of the road and in many cases your are asked to stay in your vehicle.  There are a couple of places you are allowed to get out and explore, for instance the Union trenches extending west from the Valley Pike, now US 11.  This trail is about a mile in length and travels alongside the remains of the trenches, which by 1864 both sides had gotten very good at, as evidenced by the huge systems of trenches around Petersburg and Richmond.  These trenches are not as impressive, however, they are well preserved and clearly evident.  You can also tour Belle Grove which is owned and operated by a private foundation, however, we decided we did not have time for.  We did walk around the grounds, which is still a working farm and ranch.  By the end of the driving tour we had a good understanding of the battle that took place on October 19, 1864 when General Sheridan was able to rally his troops and turn a stunning Confederate victory into a devastating loss, thus shortening the Civil War by denying General Lee much needed supplies during the winter of 1864-1865.

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We made the right decision since the weather on Wednesday was much nicer with the fog burning off by the time we got to Front Royal and the Skyline Drive.  We stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center where I bought the CD for Skyline Drive and a small book about the easy day hikes in the park.  The CD provided tidbits of information at most of the overlooks and trailheads, from history to nature to what you can see from the overlooks or hiking trails.  We also caught a presentation by a Park Ranger about the healthy black bear population in the park and what to do if we encounter one on the trails.

Day1BearTalk

We began our trip south on the Skyline Drive stopping at each of the overlooks to take in the view.  Since it was fall we could see to the west to the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia over 30 miles away.  We stopped at the trailhead for Lands Run Falls just beyond mile marker 9 on the drive.  This was listed as an easy 1.2 round trip hike down a fire break to Lands Run Falls, which is not the most spectacular falls in the park, but was promised to be an easy hike to it.  Unfortunately, the elevation change was over 300 feet and all downhill to the falls, with some pretty steep stretches.  Even with the light rain the past few days, there was not much water in the small stream, so the falls were not very spectacular, but pretty and worth spending some time exploring it.  Then we had to hike back up to the truck, which was just about all we wanted to deal with.  This certainly ruled out any of the “moderate” hikes listed in the book.

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After eating lunch at the truck we continued the drive to the next stop, which was the trailhead for Fort Windham Rocks just beyond the 10 mile marker.  This was also listed as an easy hike, but the elevation change was negligible.  It was an easy 0.8 mile round trip to the interesting rock formation named Fort Windham.  These were granite columns sticking up out of the ground with a side trail that took you to their top.  Much nicer walk.

Day1KalAtRocks

After the hike we continued taking in all the overlooks to both the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont hills to the east.  There is a total of 75 overlooks on Skyline Drive, which meant they were every few miles.  Therefore, by stopping and spending some time at each one, it was after 4:00 in the afternoon when we came to the first entrance station at Thornton Gap.  From here it was a short trip back to the campgrounds for the night.

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On Thursday, we headed back to Thornton Gap to continue our trip south on the Skyline Drive.  At this point, the first overlook was just after you pass through the only tunnel on the drive, which was quite an engineering feat for the time.  Today the inside of the tunnel has a concrete covering to stop water from leaking through the rocks which caused icy problems in the winter.  The most interesting overlook along this stretch was Stony Man Overlook, from where you can get a good look at Stony Man.  This is a rock formation on the front of Stony Man Mountain that looks like a face looking out to the west.  The Skyline Drive then continues to climb up near the summit of Stony Man, which is the highest point of the drive.  From there we took a self-guided nature trail to the top where you can walk out onto the same rock formation we were just looking at.  From here you get one of the best views to the west, north, and south.  We also caught up with a Park Ranger talk at the summit and enjoyed her presentation about the history of Stony Man, which has been a visitor attraction since the 19th century.  We also spent some time at the summit watching the ravens soar on the winds and enjoying the cool fall weather.

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After the hike, we again ate lunch at the truck before continuing the drive.  We went a short distance to Limberlost, which is another short hike through the woods.  This is a 1.3 mile loop trail that is nearly level on crushed greenstone gravel and boardwalks over the swampy areas.  This made for a very pleasant walk where you did not have to watch where you stepped and could just relax in the woods.  Once again these two hikes and the numerous overlooks to the east and west took most of the day and it was after 3 before we made it to the next entrance station at Swift Run Gap.

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On Friday it was time to finish the Skyline Drive even though the sunny weather was over and we were facing foggy, wet conditions in the valley, which would only be worst on the Skyline Drive.  Sure enough, we traveled in and out of the fog all day as we wound around the southern section of the drive.  We were not much interested in hiking in this weather, especially since the higher elevation overlooks were soupy to no visibility.

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However, after eating lunch in the truck we decided to try our luck with at least one trail, Blackrock Summit Trail just shy of the 85 mile marker.  This was only a 1 mile loop trail that went up along the Appalachian Trail and back along a fire road.  The elevation change was less than 200 feet, so it was an easy walk and we even met an AT hiker trying to make time on the trail for the day.  At the summit you come upon a talus slope of broken quartzite rock that is slowly making it down the mountain.  You can see many other rocky slopes on the surrounding hills and it was neat to get up close to one.  Of course, the view from here is also supposed to be spectacular, however, visibility was only about 10 feet, so we could not see much besides the rocks.  Due to the weather, we finished the Skyline Drive ahead of schedule, which was good since it was about 1.5 hour drive back to the campgrounds.

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On Saturday we stayed at the campgrounds and I worked on catching up this blog and Kal did the laundry.  We both got done in plenty of time to drive into Harrisonburg to an Applebees for dinner.  While we did eat dinner, our real reason was to watch the Auburn vs Mississippi State football game and the Texas A&M vs Arkansas game, which were being played at the same time.  So while we tried to watch football games on two different TVs over the bar, we sampled a number of sampler appetizers for dinner and a couple of beers (at least or me). Eating dinner this way not only lengthens the experience (since we had 3.5 hours to kill for the games), but is actually cheaper than buying two full dinners that we would have trouble finishing anyway.  Consequently, this is, in my opinion, a great way to watch the football games on Saturday without spending a lot of money.  I look forward to opportunities like this in the future, even though Auburn lost their game and will have to play the role of the spoiler this year.  However, Texas A&M remains undefeated so it was not all a disappointment.

Sunday we spent in the campground, as the weather continued to be foggy and wet with periods of rain.  There are a few attractions that we might see in the future, including President Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Library and the New Market Battlefield, but they will have to wait.

September 2015 – Baltimore, Maryland

The trip further south to William’s house outside of Baltimore in Hampstead, Maryland on Tuesday, was mostly along the Interstate and without incident.  We pulled in around 2:00 in the afternoon and William was there to welcome us.  We spent the afternoon looking at all the changes they had made since the spring including new wooden fence around the backyard, so now their dog Nicholas, could roam outside without a leash, and new patio doors providing direct access to the backyard from the dining room.  We once again set up the RV in their side yard even though we would be staying in their guest room for the next two weeks.

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Since we had held off doing laundry until we got to Williams, the main event on Wednesday was getting all the laundry done along with Kal packing for her trip to Birmingham on Thursday.  Except for making an appointment for the truck with the local repair shop, all I did was laze around the house and get back into playing the latest Final Fantasy game on the PS3 which is an on-line game (which is why I don’t have it) similar to WOW that Kal and I had played for years.  I was looking forward to spending a lot of time over the next two weeks playing the game.

Early Thursday morning, William took Kal to the airport on his way to work for her trip to her parents in Birmingham.  If you have been following her facebook posts you will already know that her mother had another stroke and her father had also suffered a minor stroke.  Her mom was still in rehab at the hospital and her dad was spending all day with her.  Her brother Phil and Shannon have moved into their house as well and it fell to Phil to drive his father around every day.  They certainly deserved a break from the difficult situation and were planning on leaving town on Friday for the weekend leaving Kal alone with her parents.  Thankfully, our daughter, Nikki planned on coming as well and spending the weekend in Birmingham so it would be the two of them.  Kal and Nikki had thought that they would spend part of each day with her parents at the rehab center with at least a few hours each day to spend with just each other.  However, once they got there they discovered that the rehab center was releasing her mom on Saturday, since the insurance was no longer going to pay for their services.  Everyone agreed that she needed to stay longer at the rehab center, but they had no choice but to move her.  Her father tried to find another facility, but ultimately, the only choice was to bring her home which surprised all of us, as we did not expect her to come home so soon.  In any case, Kal and Nikki were faced with the task of moving her back home and ended up spending all day, every day, with her parents.  It was a stressful 5 days dealing with doctors, nurses, and her parents.  Both Nikki and Kal were ready to leave when the time was up and both are more appreciative of all that her Phil and his family have to deal with on a daily basis.

For my part, the next few days were filled with working on the RV, watching movies, playing Final Fantasy, and watching soccer and football with William.  On Thursday, I cleaned the roof of the RV in the morning, watched a movie, and played on the PS3.  Since it was Kristen’s day off, I also helped her with a couple of chores around the house and yard and we all went out to dinner at Red Robin’s later that evening.  On Friday I gave the inside of the RV a complete cleaning including all the windows, as well as, the usual cleaning of the bathroom, kitchen, and floors.  Around 2:00 in the afternoon, I left the house to meet William at a co-worker’s house to play a round of disc golf.  I can tell I had not played disc golf in over 6 months as it was the worst I have done for a long time.  I am going to have to learn again how to throw these discs without them tailing off into the rough, where I spent most of my time looking for the disc.  It was still a lot of fun and a great way to spend the afternoon with my son.  After the game we grabbed dinner at Taco Bell, which Kal refuses to eat at, and headed back.  While getting ready for bed, Kristen ran into a large ground spider in the basement, which it turns out she is deathly afraid of.  Before going to bed she had to clean under the bed only to find another large ground spider under the bed.  She refused to sleep downstairs in their bedroom so spent the next couple of nights sleeping on the couch in the living room.  I am embarrassed to note that I did not offer them the bed in the guest room as I could have easily slept in the RV.  For some reason, it did not even occur to me!!

DiscGolf

Saturday is William’s day to watch British Premier League soccer in the morning and college football all afternoon.  We enjoyed watching both Texas A&M and Auburn win their second game of the season, although Auburn nearly lost theirs to Jacksonville State who they should have beat easily.  Between games, we did spend a little time clearing all the grass and weeds from around the house at the request of Kristen and did find an amazing number of spiders around the basement windows, so maybe her concern was not just hysterics.  We also found time to start up a role playing game that we had played in the spring that we will leave set up in the den so we can continue it over the next week.  Since Sunday was their day off, they spent the day doing chores around the house and yard including cleaning the basement and spraying for spiders, trimming the hedges outside, and other chores.  I cleaned the outside of the RV and then helped them with their chores.  I got William to give me a hand in once again fixing the trim on the rear boot of the RV.  It had continued to separate on the right side and had broken the trim on the left side, so it was under considerable tension.  I had previously put longer screws in the holes, but they did not hold.  I had thought the screws had pulled out and intended to put a bolt in it, although the owner at Camp-A-While had looked at it for me and suggested using a block of wood behind to give the screws more purchase.  Upon looking at the problem more closely, I realized the screw had plenty of purchase, the problem was it had been sheared off!!  Therefore, I decided to just put in more screws to see if it would hold it together.  We also took in the truck to drop it off at the repair shop, Hampstead Performance, so they could work on it first thing Monday morning.

Monday, I was once again on my own, so I watched a movie in the morning and treated the slide gaskets, sprayed graphite on the slide bars, and checked the lug nuts and tire pressures.  In the afternoon, I again played on the PS3 until William and Kristen got home from work.  Kristen took me to the repair shop that afternoon to pick up the truck.  In addition to changing the oil and fuel filters, they were able to access the code for the “check engine light” issue.  It was a general code that could have meant a number of minor issues.  Among these were the fuel filters and air filter, which they replaced, and the exhaust filter.  Since the exhaust filter should not need to be replaced until 100,000 miles and would be an expensive procedure, they manually had the truck cycle through its cleaning procedure which involved heating the exhaust filter to 1000 degrees to burn off any particles.  While the truck had been doing this about every week while we were driving it, which turns out to be more often then it should, this manual procedure does a better job of cleaning the filter.  Hopefully, all of this will fix the problem, even though it still cost over $700.

CornFields

On Tuesday I watched movies and played on the PS3 until we picked up Kal at the airport.  Wednesday, Kal and I had to get our bloodwork done so we could extend our medications so we printed off the forms we need filled to save on the insurance and headed back to the Urgent Care facility we had gone to in the spring.  Come to find out, since they are an Urgent Care facility, they had to categorize the visit as a “physical” which the insurance company would only pay for once a year!!  Therefore, we would either have to pay for the bloodwork ourselves or find somewhere else.  They directed us to another facility just down the road, where it turned out they did not deal with bloodwork at all!!  I am not sure what they did at this facility.  In any case, they directed us to a Patient First facility in Owens Mills, about 20 miles away and off we went.  Now realize, since we were getting our triglycerides checked we had not eaten anything since supper the night before.  By this point it was after 11:00 and we were both getting VERY hungry.  It turned out this is where we should have come in the first place last spring, as they made the entire operation very simple and easy, even to filling out the forms we needed to send in.  An hour later we were finally free to get breakfast, although by this point it was lunch.  After lunch we headed to Walgreens to get the prescriptions filled, only to find out they were for only 2 months.  Since that facility was not our primary doctor, they were limited to providing only 2 months, even though the Urgent Care gave us 3 months.  I am not sure how often the insurance company is going to pay for bloodwork, so they may turn into an expensive situation.  Once again the problem of dealing with health issues while living in an RV!!  It really upset me when we got the call on Thursday that our lab results were in and came with a requirement to have it retested in 6 months, when they only could provide 2 months of medicines.  We intend to check with the facility that Kal went to last summer in Tennessee that gave her a prescription for 6 months to see if we can get it extended on the basis of this latest bloodwork.  While waiting for the prescriptions to be filled we went to the store and filled the truck with gas.  We also discovered that they insurance company had changed it’s rules and would cover flu shots at Walgreens, instead of having to go to our primary doctor, which we don’t have, so we got those as well.  What we though would take most of the morning to get our bloodwork done had turned into an all day affair with it being nearly 4:00 before we got back to William’s.

On Thursday, I gave the truck a thorough cleaning inside and out, even though it will be dirty again within a couple of days of leaving William’s.  Friday was time to do laundry again, including the sheets on the bed and was another lazy day around the house.  Saturday was another day to watch soccer in the morning with William and college football in the afternoon, although William and I were able to make a run to the dump to get rid of an old refrigerator in between the soccer and football.  Texas A&M again did well in their game, but Auburn continued to show major problems losing badly to LSU.  I hate to admit it, but the best game I saw was Alabama against Ole Miss and not only because Alabama ended up losing the game.  I was very impressed with Alabama attitude of never giving up, even though they continued to make mistakes and turn the ball over.  They kept coming back to challenge Ole Miss and in my opinion was the better team, although Ole Miss kept getting all the breaks.  With a controversial on-side kick, Alabama was able to get within 6 points with just minutes to go and Ole Miss was unable to kill the clock.  Alabama actually had a chance to win the game, after being behind by 20 points twice in the second half, with 30 seconds left.  However, they had nothing left to give, throwing 4 incomplete passes to end the game.  The only bad thing was the game was not over until 1:30 in the morning and I was the only one to make it past 11:30 – Sunday was going to be rough.

The main project for our last day at William’s was cleaning out their storage shed which took a good part of the day.  After we completed this task, Kal and I took William and Kristen out to a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner.

WillAndKristen

September 2015 – Tremont, Pennsylvania

Our trip south from Binghamton to central Pennsylvania was all along Interstates, so it was an easy pull and thankfully the truck did not give us any problems with engine lights or anything else.  The trip was unusual only for the fact that we were traveling on Thursday to make a short trip to William’s house.  We pulled into the campground, Camp-A-While, where they had us assigned to one of their seasonal sites since they would be full over Labor Day Weekend.  The owners were great and we got into a long discussion of craft breweries and they were very interested in Hi-Wire Brewing, so we gave them a couple of bottles of the brown ale to try.  The campground is set within a forest and is set up kind of strangely.  They have a large number of seasonal campers, which means they leave their RVs all year on the site and rent the site for the entire summer or year.  The campground is split into two parts, one for the seasonal campers to the south and the other for the transient campers to the north with the offices and swimming pool in the center.  Since we pulled the RV for enough into the entrance that we were parallel to the office we had to pull all the way around the transient campsites in order to head the RV back to the south.  We easily found the seasonal site they had us assigned to and like all of these sites it was a back-in.  I am proud to say I am getting pretty good with backing the RV into a site, but this one proved to be trickier then I could manage.  Not only were we running over the flags and lights the campers across the road had placed all the way to the road, but I was afraid the ladder on the back of the RV was going to hit the ground since the site was uphill from the road.  After trying for over half an hour to get the RV into the site I gave up and pulled the RV back to the front of the campgrounds.  They had two other seasonal sites we could try, but they were surprised we could not get the RV into the first one.  So, I had to once again pull the RV all the way around the transient sites in order to turn it around and headed back down the hill.  The first of these two sites was so narrow with a large tree on one side that we would not be able to use the slide-out so it was out.  The second of the two sites was very tight, again with all kinds of stuff placed along the road that was going to be in the way.  We even tried to come at the site from both directions, but could not get it turned into the site.  This time I walked back up to the office instead of driving thinking if we could just get a pull-through site for one night, we would just continue on to William’s the next day.  The owner offered to park the RV for us and I decided to give him the chance.  He agreed that there was no way to get the RV into the last site and after backing it into the other alternate site only to realize that we could not put out the sides, he went back to the original site.  He was able to put the RV into this site with no problem and thankfully the ladder did not hit the ground.  In my defense, he ran over the flags and lights across the road that I was reluctant to do, but he did get it in.  The site is actually very nice and it was quiet for the next couple of days until all the seasonal campers showed up for the Labor Day Weekend.  The only disadvantage was, we were a quarter of a mile from the bathroom up a steep hill that was a challenge every morning.

Campsite

Since the truck had not given us any problems since the “check engine light” had gone out on Monday, we decided, on Friday, that we would venture out and look for a hiking trail in the old coal country of Pennsylvania.  The owners of Camp-A-While had a number of suggestions and gave us a nice brochure of hiking trails in the area.  We picked  a trail that was supposed to be on an “ecological park” close to Stanhope, but we were unable to find it according to the map we had.  So it was on to our second choice which was a section of the Schuylkill River Trail just outside, of all places, Auburn, Pennsylvania.  The trail is along the Schuylkill River using an old railroad bed which meant it was fairly level and about 1.5 miles long.  The two stream crossings on the trail used the old iron railroad bridges which were more massive then required for foot and bike traffic.  It was a pleasant walk in the woods that was a favorite of local residents to walk their dogs or take a short bike ride.  It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a beautiful late summer day.  After the hike we drove back to the campground passing through a number of small towns and were struck by the history exhibited in them.  They were obviously old mining towns that were still the homes for descendants of these coal miners from the 19th century when coal was “king”.  The homes were mostly two story brownstones right up against the street with electric, cable, and telephone wires crisscrossing everywhere.  It was also obvious that these towns were still recovering from that time period and it was not certain yet whether they would survive.  It made an interesting comparison with the textile towns you find in the south.

KalOnTrail

Saturday was spent watching football, working on this blog, and generally taking it easy in the campground, which was now filled with local seasonal campers enjoying the last holiday weekend of the summer.  They did have activities for the guests including bingo and a magician, but we decided to just relax in the campsite.  We did go out to dinner at a nice local restaurant, but otherwise just took it easy.  Sunday and Monday were also spent in the campsite.  We were both ready for a break from the hectic pace we had set for ourselves since January and looking forward to a couple of weeks at my son’s house without anything else to do except cleaning and fixing the RV.

September, 2015 – Binghamton, New York

At Arrowhead Marina and RV Park we were within a mile of Interstate 90, our GPS unit took us northwest out of the campgrounds before crossing the Mohawk River in order to skip the toll booth on the Interstate.  This meant we had about 15 miles until we met up with Interstate 88 of state roads.  We were no more than 5 miles on Route 5 when the engine light came on.  The truck seemed to be running fine and the last time this happened it was an out-of-date software on the emission control sensors, so we decided to push our luck and continue on.  When we got to within 3 miles of the Interstate we saw a sign for low clearance that was under 13 feet.  Our GPS unit is made for RVs and large trucks so it is suppose to choose routes to avoid clearances that are too low.  Upon checking the settings on the GPS I noticed it had all been reset, probably due to some update in the past and I was not sure the height setting was correct, but I was certain that anything below 13 feet could be a problem.  Not wanting to risk it, Kal took a hard right turn on a county road while I searched for an alternative.  The alternative only added a couple of miles on county roads, so we decided it was better than trying to go under the bridge.  Unfortunately, this county road went down and up a couple of very steep hills that had us worried with the engine light still on.  Obviously these hills caused the turbo to kick in and we noticed the truck was not making the loud noises when the turbo kicked in and although the truck did make it up the hills, it was all it could do to make it to the top of each hill.  This made us think the turbo was not working and was likely the reason for the engine light.  Once on the Interstate the truck performed well, even with stopping for over an hour for lunch at a rest stop.  We had to take a long lunch since the new campground, Beldin Hill Campground, would charge us extra for showing up before 2 in the afternoon and we had to leave Arrowhead before 11 with only a 2.5 hour drive.  In any case, we had no problems getting to Beldin Hill, even though the engine light remained on.  We set up the RV and proceeded into Binghamton to a Ford dealership.  Unlike everywhere else we have taken the truck to, the Ford service shop refused to do anything until the following week claiming to much work for their mechanic.  They would not even consider plugging in the computer to determine the error code claiming it would be a waste of $160!!  Seeing I was getting nowhere, I accepted a phone number for Ford Customer Service and called them to find another dealership.  They were not very helpful since I had trouble understanding the lady who seemed more interested in selling me a special deal for an oil change and tire rotation.  I actually had to refuse her twice.  She did contact another Ford dealership about 20 miles away for us only to find out it would again be next week before they could look at the truck.  She gave us the name and address for another dealership 40 miles away, but since she was obviously not wanting to deal with me any further, I just hung up totally disgusted.  By this point it was after 5, so we decided to grab a quick bite to eat and deal with the truck the next day.  We were only going to be in this campground for 3 nights which did not give us a lot of time to deal with the truck and with Labor Day Weekend coming up, extending our stay was out of the question as the campground was booked.  If only the truck would make it to William’s next week, we would have time to deal with it.  While we were driving to find a fast food restaurant, talking about what we were going to do, I noticed the engine light was no longer lit.  We ate dinner and drove back to the campground without the engine light coming on again.  Hoping this was a good sign we decided to minimize our traveling until we got to William.

Beldin Hill Campground is a very nice, medium sized campgrounds with pull-through sites and full hookups.  They have it well designed with 6 sites located right at the entrance for overnight guests, which meant there was very little traffic within the campground with people leaving and arriving.  Since we were staying multiple nights they put us in the middle of a meadow on a pull through site that was very easy to get in and out of.  The seasonal campers are located around the periphery, which meant they had all the shade, but I liked the arrangement.  We had an unobstructed view of the fishing pond and hills to the south.  Very nice.

Campsite

With the problem with the truck we dropped all plans for going anywhere and spent the next two days in the campgrounds, except for a quick run to the store (again with no engine light coming on).  I worked on the blog and Kal read and watched TV and we just took it easy.  I certainly hope we don’t have any more problems with the truck.

August 2015 – Schenectady, New York

The trip south out of the Adirondack Mountains was a simple since it was an hour and a half south on Interstate 87.  After traveling for the past two months on US and state highways, the Interstate was a nice change, especially since there was not much traffic.  We only had about 30 minutes of travel around the north of Schenectady to the Mohawk River and our next stop.  I was a bit concerned about our next stop, Arrowhead Marina and RV Park, partly because it was a marina on the river which can tend to be close to industrial parts of cities.  Also because it was a small RV Park with only about 40 sites and was the first place that did not take credit cards.  However, we were in for a pleasant surprise.  Arrowhead is at the end of a road across the river from the Interstate with a secluded location along the Mohawk River.  The marina is small and used by locals to store their fishing and pleasure boats.  The RV Park itself was nicely wooded with only about half of the sites occupied by seasonal campers who obviously took pride in their sites.  The transient sites were set apart from the seasonals in a circle.  All of the sites are back-in, but with a nice clearing in front it was no problem backing in the RV.  As long as I have room in front to swing the truck around I am getting pretty good with backing in.  It took only one shot and we were in.  None of the sites have sewer hookups, so we would have to use the dump station when we left in a week and my only suggestion would be to relocate the dump station.  It is conveniently located for anyone coming into the park, which is backwards, as everyone would be using it when the exiting.  You have to circle around to get to the dump station, which was just poor planning in my opinion.

Campsite

We selected this location near Albany because there are a number of National Park Historic Sites that we want to visit.  So on Tuesday we drove south of Albany to the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site.  You are probably aware that Martin Van Buren was our 8th President during the period of time between the Revolutionary War and Civil War when the country was still very new and trying to identify itself in the world.  You may not know that he was our first President that was born an American citizen since he was born soon after the Revolutionary War.  You also may not be aware that at that time political parties were not well established and politicians easily shifted between the existing parties depending upon the issue.  Political parties were also regional in nature.  Martin Van Buren is credited for creating the first truly national party, the Democratic Party.  I won’t go into much about his political career here (see the accompanying page if you are interested) except to say that he served only a single term as President, largely due to Panic of 1837 and resulting six year depression that the federal government was ill suited to handle at the time.  While in office he purchased his childhood dream of owning the Federal style mansion just outside of his boyhood home in Kinderhook, New York.  He named it Linderwald and gave his son, Smith, the freedom to remodel the mansion, while expanding it to accommodate his growing family.  Smith hired the renown architect, Richard Upton, to “modernize” the house which led to a unique structure.  If you are familiar with the Federal style of house, they are generally strictly symmetrical multi-story homes that often look the same from front and back.  Upton added a large addition to the back of the house with roof lines that did not match, a four story tower on one corner in the Italian style and a Gothic style front porch with columns.  Inside they removed the arched entry way in the center hall and the grand staircase, creating a very large entry hall on both the first and second floors.  Martin Van Buren took advantage of this large space by locating a huge table that could seat at least 15 people and used French wall paper that creates a mural of hunting scenes all around the room.  Van Buren was also big on gadgets and this table is the largest example in the house.  Sections of it folds up accordion style to create a number of side boards that would be placed along the walls for less formal occasions. It may seem strange for a house to have a room like this until you realize that Van Buren used it as a conference room.  Linderwald is located right on the busy post road between Albany and New York City and Van Buren had many visitors and political supporters and opponents over the years come for strategy meetings.  From this room he ran his attempt at reelection in 1840, his narrow failure to gain the Democratic nomination in 1844, and his final attempt at the Presidency in 1848 under a third party candidate for the Free Soil Party.  The National Park Service conducts a very nice tour of the home, which is well worth it due to all the unique features in the home, especially after the remodeling!!  Just watch your head so you don’t bump it as you move from the older to the newer sections. The most amazing aspect of the tour was to find out that after the family sold Linderwald it went through a number of owners, including a nursing home for a time, tea room, and antique store.  None of these owners made any significant changes in the house except for electricity and plumbing, including the French wallpaper in the entry hall.  Unfortunately the large table is a reproduction, but they found stored in the basement the original fireplace screens which are sheets of wood with paper scenes glued on them.  There is also a nice walk around the grounds with interpretive signs about the Dutch farming practices in the mid 1800s, of which you can still see evidence of today.

KalAtLinderwald

After the tour and eating lunch, we crossed the highway where they have a series of nature walks in the second growth forests.  While the hike was pleasant, it was also a disappointment.  There are a series of numbered sign posts along the trail to enhance the nature trail, however, due to budget cuts under sequestration, they are not producing the brochure for the public.  It was still a nice walk and got us back early in the afternoon to the campgrounds.

KalOnTrail

On Wednesday we traveled back to the north to the Saratoga National Historical Park, which is heralded as the turning point for the democratic movement around the world.  It also finishes the story of the Revolutionary War that we had been learning about at Fort Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Fort William Henry on Lake Champlain and Lake George. Following the failure of the Continental Army to capture Quebec in 1776, the British believed that the Revolution would be quickly handled.  They already occupied Boston and New York City and were determined to split New England, which was the most rebellious region, from the rest of the colonies with a three prong attack.  General Burgoyne would come south through Lake Champlain, General Lager would move east from Lake Ontario, and General Howe from New York City to the south.  Burgoyne easily captured Fort Ticonderoga in July, which greatly surprised General Washington who had been led to believe it could not be easily taken especially after fortifying Liberty Point across the Lake.  The Continental army was in a slow retreat south to Albany while Burgoyne tried to deal with logistical supply problems.  He sent a force to forage for supplies to Bennington, Vermont where they were soundly defeated in August costing him 1,000 soldiers and not relieving the supply problems.  General Lager was stopped trying to capture Fort Stanwix to the west and had to turn back and General Howe decided to take Philadelphia instead of moving north.  This left Burgoyne with a difficult decision and he decided to move on to Albany for the winter instead of retreating to Ticonderoga.  In the meantime, the Continental Army was being resupplied and reinforced with experienced units sent by Washington and large numbers of fresh militia units.  It would appear that the Patriots were not ready to give up on the Revolution.  Under the leadership of the Polish military engineer, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, they constructed defensive fortifications extending from Bemis Heights to the Hudson River where the steep bluffs created a chock point along the river.  Not knowing the true strength of the opposition, Burgoyne split his army into three columns on September 19, with one column continuing down the river and the other two columns heading west to attempt to outflank the Patriots on Bemis Heights.  Rather then staying behind their defensive work, Benedict Arnold convinced General Gates to send a regiment of sharpshooters and light infantry to engage the British from within the woods where they would have the advantage.  They engaged the center column of the British at Freeman’s Farm and were scattered after killing or wounding many of the British officers.  Arnold continued to send in fresh regiments throughout the day and with the addition of the right column of the British the fighting went back and forth across Freeman’s Farm until elements of the left column along the river arrived to take the field.  Technically the British had won the battle since they held the field, however, the Patriots retreated back to their defensive works and still blocked the British from Albany.  Hoping for reinforcements and supplies from General Howe, which never came, Burgoyne dug in building his own defensive work along the river and on Freeman’s Farm.  Over the three weeks, pickets from both sides continued to exchange fire with little result.  By October 3, the British were on short rations, while the Continental Army continued to grow, now outnumbering the British by over two to one.  Rather than retreating, Burgoyne decided to probe the defenses and sent about a third of his soldiers towards the Patriot’s position.  After advancing 3/4 mile they came upon the unharvested wheat fields on Barber’s farm and deciding that food was more important began to harvest the wheat.  Once aware of this activity Gates sent a large force to engage the British and drove them from the farm back into Balcarres redoubt, a strong defensive structure at Freeman’s farmhouse.  For the rest of the day the Patriots attempted to take the redoubt, but only managed to capture Breymann’s redoubt on the right flank of the British line.  It was here that Benedict Arnold led the famous charge into the redoubt, even though he had been relieved of command by General Gates days before over a severe difference of opinion on the conduct of the battle.  There is a monument erected at Breymann’s known as the “Boot Memorial” since it depicts a boot draped over a cannon with details of the heroic charge, all without naming Benedict Arnold!  Under the cover of darkness and heavy rain, the British retreated to the north towards Fort Edward.  General Gates, however, did not allow them to retreat but pursued them and surrounded them outside of present day Schuylerville.  After three days of negotiations, the British surrendered, which is significant because this is the first time in history that a British army, the best army in the world, was forced to surrender in the field.  It inspired the French that the Revolution stood a chance of succeeding and was a big reason that they formally recognized the United States and declared war on England.

BalcarresRedoubt1

As with all large battlefields, it takes a long day to explore it all and Saratoga was no exception.  Once again we purchased the CD for the battlefield tour which gave a lot of interesting information about each stop on the tour.    It is not surprising that none of the wooden and earthen defensive works still exist, especially since the land was back in crops the year following the battle, but the National Park Service has erected painted posts all along both the American and British defensive ramparts.  They have also endeavored to maintain the relative open and wooded areas, even though the open areas are no longer cultivated.  Along the tour you visit all the important points of the two battles and gain an appreciation for the strategic position chosen by the Americans.  The position of redoubts at the top of the bluffs and two water batteries along the river made this a bottleneck that the British would have to break through in order to reach Albany.  You also see the British positions along with their “Great Redoubt” above the river that would have stopped the Americans from advancing north as well.  A very interesting battlefield for this critical point in history that changed the outcome of the Revolution.

KalOnBluff

Thursday was spent in the campgrounds doing laundry and catching up on this blog.

For Friday we decided to do something a little different and went to explore part of the Erie Canal in the area, Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site.  This is a relatively small historic site that only takes a couple of hours to fully explore, but it is a must see for anyone interested in the history of the Erie Canal.  The Erie Canal was started in 1817 with construction extending both east and west from Rome, New York.  By 1823, the canal was finished in this area which is near the terminus outside of Albany.  As with many locations along the canal, there was a stream, the Schoharie Creek, where it joined the Mohawk River.  At the beginning the built a dam downstream on the Creek creating a relatively calm pool to pull the canal barges across the creek.  Initially this was done using ropes, however, they soon built a bridge for the mules to cross while pulling the barge.  However, by the 1830s the Erie Canal needed to be enlarged and by 1841 this section was completed.  However, instead of pulling the barges across the pool they redirected the canal further upstream where they built an aqueduct full of water to float the barges and a towpath for the mules.  Therefore, at this location you can see the remains of this aqueduct of which only 6 spans are still standing which is less than half of the original structure.  Since they redirected the canal you can also see both the original canal and the enlarged canal literally side by side.  You get an immediate comparison of their relative widths and depth since they continued to use the original canal as a feeder system to control water depth instead of filling it in.  By taking the half mile walk you can also see the double locks they constructed for the enlarged canal right along side the lock for the original canal.  From what I understand this is the only location along the canal where you can see both side by side.

Aqueduct1 KalOnTowpath

For lunch we drove along the canal to the east where it comes very close to the Mohawk River.  At this location is another double lock system, where they have restored an example of the many stores that lined the Erie Canal. Near here you can also see the modern lock system that has been installed on the Mohawk River, known as the Erie Barge Canal that is still used today.

CanalStore

Since we had cable at this campground and Kal had both the NBC Sports Channel and Fox Sports, we decided to stay in the campground so she could watch soccer on the TV.  Depending upon the campground, we cannot be certain whether she will be able to watch much soccer this year, so we took advantage of the opportunity and had a quiet day in the campgrounds.

Sunday was our last day in the area, so it was south again beyond Albany to the Catskills and the home of Thomas Cole National Historic Site.  I admit, I knew nothing about Thomas Cole before we visited the site other than he was an American artist in the 1800s.  Thomas Cole is the founder of the first truly American art form, known as the Hudson River School of Art.  If you have ever seen large landscape paintings done in meticulous detail that could take an hour to discover all the little details, then you are familiar with the Hudson River School of Art.  Thomas Cole journeyed to the Catskills seeking inspiration and sketches of the landscape.  In the early 1830s, much of this part of New York had already been logged and cultivated, except for the more rugged terrain such as the Catskills Mountains.  Thomas Cole found this juxtaposition of the tame and untamed to be a rich source of inspiration and he painted many scenes from the Catskills as did the many students of his over the years.  His home, Cedar Grove, in Catskills, New York, preserves and commemorates this history.  In the house and barn which he converted into his first studio on the property you can see some of his works and tools of the trade.  They are also in the process of discovering painted patterns along the walls in the rooms Thomas Cole used to display his art works to potential buyers, along with some of the original furnishings from the time of Thomas Cole.  I expected all this, but what I did not expect is they would also use the house for art shows.  Every year has a different theme and this year was contemporary art.  Therefore, there are pieces of contemporary art throughout the house, but most notably in the dining room and staircase.  While I am not a fan of contemporary art, they did have a couple of interesting pieces.  On the second floor landing the walls are covered with a series of paper squares making an idealized map.  Every piece is different and although you can see the roads, landscape, and rivers connecting throughout, each is an interesting montage of patterns, colors, and textures.  The other piece was a video of scenes of Niagara Falls being shown through glass panel backlit by a projector.  The projector is connected to the internet that uses the Stock Market to set the speed of the water in the video.  While we did not get to see it, the water will actually flow backwards when the market is dropping.  Fascinating.

CedarGrovePorch ColeLandscape ContemporaryArtMap

After lunch we went to explore some of the sites given in the brochure, Hudson River School Art Trail, which takes you to some of the sites depicted in Thomas Cole and some of his students paintings.  They are scattered throughout the Catskills and would take quite a while to see them all.  We decided to explore Kitterskills Falls and The Clove, which necessitated a drive up some steep and windy mountain roads into the mountains.  I was impressed with how rugged the Catskills Mountains actually are since they look quite rounded and tame from a distance.  However, since this was a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon it proved to be impossible to find any place to park our huge truck anywhere along the highway or the small parking lots that had available. The number of young families enjoying the creek was amazing!!  They need to provide some kind of walking trail just off the road because anything wide enough for foot traffic would be used to park a car!!  Thankfully, you could not go fast on these roads anyway, but you had to keep an eye open for pedestrians.  Once we failed at our attempt to explore The Clove and Kitterskills Falls, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the campgrounds.

August 2015 – Lake George, New York

The trip from Green Mountains of Vermont to the Adirondack Mountains of New York was the most challenging we had done pulling the RV over mountain roads.  Thankfully, the state highway followed a river most of the way, so the uphill and downhill grades were not too bad.  The truck handled it well, but for the first time we had trouble maintaining speed up some of the uphill grades.  I am still concerned about the turbo on the truck as it still makes a lot of noise that it did not do prior to the problem we had in Maine.  This was the first time we questioned the power, but until we get more experience of how it handles under a load we can’t know for sure.  We were a bit dismayed as we approached the campgrounds in Lake George as the area was much more of a “tourist trap” then we had ever stayed in.  The number of amusement parks, water parks, and mini-golf courses, not to mention the number of restaurants and gift shops reminded me of the Florida tourist traps along the beaches.  In fact, there was a small amusement park with rides and ferris wheel just across the street from the campground (they even had a show with a diving horse twice a day!).  However, King Phillips Campground is very large and the further we traveled back into the campground they more rustic it became.  Those RV sites near the entrance were packed in close with little room between the rigs, but those further in were spacious with lots of trees.  In fact, we were concerned that we would get lost trying to find our site, especially when the “road” became dirt and turned in such a way up a hill that we were not certain it was a road or a camping site until we were committed.  I had to back it up at one point to make a turn around another car parked very close to the “road” and nearly got it stuck in the dirt before the truck got enough traction to pull us around the corner.  Once we got to our pull-through site we were very pleased.  It had full hookups, but had more the feel of a state park with the room and tree cover.  Through the week we were there I was surprised with the number of families that were camping around us in everything from tents to pup-up campers.  Usually the large RV are separate from the tent campers, so it was nice to be all mixed together for a change.

Campsite

On Tuesday we took off to explore Fort Ticonderoga, which is the one location I wanted to visit while we were in the area.  I knew some of the history of Fort Ticonderoga from school and had heard a lot about it from our visits to other military sites in the past year dealing with the Revolutionary War or the French and Indian War.  For instance, I knew that General Knox had taken many of the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to drive the British out of Boston and that the Continental Army was not able to hold onto later in the war.  What I did not expect was that Fort Ticonderoga is administered by a non-profit foundation that has been restoring the fort over the years.  Today most of the fort has been restored to its historical condition, although restoration will continue to be an ongoing process.  In fact, restoration began in 1909, so much of the fort today is over 100 years old, where the original fort only lasted for less than 50 years!!  It is expensive to visit the fort, unlike the National Parks, but they put on a very good show.  There are programs throughout the day from military parades of fife and drum to musket drill demonstrations and onsite craftsmen making shoes and clothes.  All of the staff on in period clothes from the time of the French when it was called Fort Carillon.  It was only after the British captured the fort in 1759 that the name was changed to Fort Ticonderoga.  As we entered the fort they were in the midst of a musket drill demonstration.  While we had seen muskets loaded and fired many times in the past year, this was the first time there were three individuals that could demonstrate firing patterns to be used in open conditions or over walls like at the fort.  Immediately following this demonstration they had a tour that provided an overall picture of the many artifact exhibits within the fort.  Coming from exploring the ruins of Fort Saint Frederic and Fort Crown Point last week, the comparison with a completely restored fort.  Even though Fort Crown Point was nearly twice the size of Fort Ticonderoga, I really could not appreciate the magnitude and firepower by looking at ruins.  Over the years they have managed to obtain sufficient cannons and mortars to fully outfit the defenses at Fort Ticonderoga and it makes a VERY impressive display.  Granted the cannon are from all over being of French, British, Spanish, Dutch, and American manufacturers, but they are all from the time period.

InsideFort

After lunch ate at a picnic area outside the fort, we returned to the fort to spend the next couple of hours in the many exhibits they have.  There are exhibits about the medical practices of the time, the many firearms including the largest collection of muskets in the world of all kinds, and the cooking and eating utensils.  They had artisans making shoes and clothing that you could talk with.  Finally there was a short film about the history of the fort and a climate controlled room where they displayed original uniforms worn by both the British and French during the French and Indian War.  Fort Ticonderoga played a major role in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.  During the French and Indian War, the French built Fort Carillon to protect the access to Lake Champlain from Lake George as part of the defensive forts along Lake Champlain.  From here the French successfully defended access to the lake from attempts by the British in 1757 and 1758, leading to the largest number of casualties in North America before the Civil War in 1758.  However, in 1759 the French had to abandoned the fort due to a lack of troop needed to defend it and the British took over.  With the end of the French and Indian War, the fort was no longer needed and it fell into disrepair.  Thus at the beginning of the Revolutionary War it was relatively unattended and easily captured by Ethan Allen.  Most of the cannon were then taken from the fort by General Knox down to the Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston to drive the British from their occupation of the city.  The Patriots repaired the fort and built additional fortifications on Mount Independence on the east side of Lake Champlain.  However, they did not fortify Mount Defiance to the southwest which overlooked the fort believing it was not possible to pull cannon to this location.  When the British did exactly that in 1777, the Patriots abandoned both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.  This effectively ended any American hope of defeating the British in Canada.

Mortars

From there we got into the truck and drove the short distance to The Pavilion, which was the summer home and hotel of the Pell family that bought the property in the late 1800s and began the restoration of the fort in 1909.  Someday The Pavilion will be a great addition to the tourist attraction, but it has been closed for a number of years and is in very bad shape.  It will take a lot of restoration before it can be opened to the public. However, they have maintained the formal gardens behind the Pavilion that is enclosed by a brick wall.  The gardens were beautiful in the late summer with flowers of every color in all directions.  They also have an extensive garden outside the walls which is a demonstration of the gardens the soldiers living in the fort would have supplemented their diet.  They had every imaginable vegetable and herb growing along with apple trees in an old orchard.  Kal also saw some Ospreys overhead and was able to locate their nest which still had a young one just learning to fly.  She got some great pictures of them in the trees surrounding the area and in flight.

KalInGardens

Wednesday was spent enjoying the campground and working on this blog.

For Thursday, we decided to stay close and check out the Lake George Battlefield Park in Lake George.  This is a city park that protects the location of this battle during the first year of the French and Indian War.  At that time, both the British and French, along with their Indian allies, sought to control this important route between New York City and Montreal that traveled up the Hudson River, portaged over to Lake George, and portaged again to Lake Champlain on the way to Canada.  At the beginning of the French and Indian War the French had a major fort at Crown Point on Lake Champlain where the lake is narrowed by the peninsula named Fort Saint Frederic (which we visited last week).  The closest British fort was Fort Edward on the Hudson River.  In an attempt to attack Fort Saint Frederic, the British sent a fighting force of 1500 men north to Lake George from Fort Edward, in 1755.  However, the French had also sent a force of about 1500 men south from Fort Saint Frederic to raid Fort Edward.  After capturing supplies around Fort Edward, the French learned of the encampment of the British to their north on the south shore of Lake George and decided to attack them instead of the Fort.  Although initially successful in ambushing British reinforcements from Fort Edward, their attack on the entrenched position at Lake George was not successful and they had to retreat back to their fortifications at Fort Saint Frederic.  As part of a string of forts the British built Fort William Henry near this location in 1755, from which they staged multiple attempts to gain control of Lake Champlain.  This fort lasted only 2 years, because in 1757, the French laid a siege on the fort and after three days of bombardment they British surrendered the fort.  The French then systematically dismantled the fort.  Fort William Henry has now been rebuilt and is a major tourist attraction today, however, since we had just been to see the rebuilt Fort Ticonderoga we decided against visiting it.  In 1759, they began the construction of a new fort, Fort George, on the high ground to the south of Fort William Henry, however, once they began the massive construction of Fort Crown Point on Lake Champlain in 1760 all construction of this fort ended. All they had completed was the southwest bastion which you can still see today.  Exploring the park took only about 1.5 hours, so we had a nice picnic lunch at Fort George and returned to the campgrounds.

KalOnBattlefield

Friday was devoted to doing the laundry and cleaning the RV.

Up to this point we did not know what else we could do in the area.  In the past, I had pinned in GoogleEarth all the state parks and New York has a LOT of them.  But for some reason there are none in this part of the state.  Once I got on the Internet I found out why.  This entire part of the state is part the largest state park in the United States: Adirondack Park, with its own state agency to administer it.  Originally conceived as a means to protect the water resources of the state it grew into a massive conservation effort in the Adirondack Mountains.  Today the park encompasses 6.1 million acres, 52% of which are privately owned in towns, farms, businesses, and commercial forests.  The rest is all owned by the state, but all of it is strictly regulated by the Adirondack Agency.  Once I got only to their official website, I found a couple of great publications on the numerous hiking trails and driving tours you can take in the area.  Since we only had a couple of days left in the area, we decided to do a couple of easy hikes close to Lake George.  First we went to Charles Lathrop Pack Forest where there was an easy paved nature trial through old-growth hemlock forests.  It turns out that this forest is a demonstration and research forest owned by SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.  It was a great trail winding through some wetlands dominated by large old growth hemlock trees.  The most notable spot was The Grandmother Tree, which is a very large white pine that is over 350 years old.  It should be noted that although the hemlock trees are all over 100 years old, they are not old-growth in my definition since the entire area was cleared and farmed at one time, but for some reason this white pine was never cut.

KalOnTrail

After lunch we went in search of another nature hike along the Hudson River.  Although we never actually found the nature hike listed in the brochure, we did find a parking area along the river with trails laid out for cross country skiing.  This gave us access to a number of nice spots along the river, as well as, the forests along the riverbank.  I know from what we have learned about Lake Champlain that the Hudson River was part of the travel route between New York City and Montreal back in the 18th century, but from what I saw of the Hudson River it would not be navigable by anything larger than a canoe.  It was little more than rocky shoals in August, although I am sure it would be deeper during the spring and early summer.

KalOnHudson

For our last day in the area I had planned to take one of the driving tours in the Adirondack and possibly a short hike, but I began sneezing as soon as I got out of bed and did not stop all morning.  It was nothing more than a severe allergy attack, but I was not interested in riding around in the truck all day, so we decided to just stay in the campground for another day.