Visiting a Fiber Farm and Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Sadie, Larissa and Mia model their hats

During our full time RV travels, from time to time I have heard Mark tell people that he “traded his nice, complete wood shop for some knitting needles.” Yes, Mark is a knitter and he has spent much time on knitting projects as we have toured the country. There have been hats, scarves and coasters. He likes to have a nice coaster for his ever present drink and he can never throw away a scrap of yarn no matter how small. Traveling to so many different places has afforded us the opportunity to visit a number of different yarn shops and a few farms. My role as the knitter’s wife is to pick out attractive looking yarn combinations. After multiple frustrations, I gave up my own attempts at knitting when I was about 17 years old, vowing I would never touch knitting needles again which I haven’t. But I like to help pick out the yarn and enjoy watching him create. Plus wearing the hats and scarves that he makes are a real bonus too. Above is a photo of three of our great nieces at Christmas time last year wearing hats that Mark made.

Feeding one of the llamas

We have visited a number of yarn stores during our cross country travels. One of our favorite visits was while staying in New Hampshire. Our campground was not too many miles from Maine and Mark found out about a place called “Sunflower Farm of Bethel” located in Western Maine. We took off one day for a drive in the country to this farm and yarn shop. The owner has a variety of unique sheep including Icelandic, Cormo and ones that originated from Norway called Gotland. In addition there are llamas and alpacas all producing fibers that after processing are sold in her shop. She gave us a tour of the farm and introduced us to her animals. In the photo above I am feeding one of the llamas as we arrived at their lunch time. Below, Corinne feeds her hungry sheep.

Corinne feeding her sheep at Sunflower Farm

I think my favorite fiber is from Alpaca and they are also one of my favorite animals. I cannot resist their adorable faces like the one pictured below. Mark bought a variety of new yarns to try. Corinne uses natural dyes for her yarns and some yarns are left the original color of the sheep’s wool. We also left with some fresh and colorful eggs from her chickens.

Alpaca at Sunflower Farm
Buying yarn at Sunflower Farm

As we were leaving, Corinne gave us a good tip for some where else to visit in the nearby area – Grafton Notch. She said it was a beautiful state park with of course one of my favorite things – waterfalls. We saw two falls flowing in a narrow gorge with lots of water after recent rains. I am standing next to one in the photo below. It has a rather strange name,
“Screw Auger Falls” and is one of the more popular waterfall areas in Maine.

Grafton Notch State Park in Maine

Our drive in the vicinity of the state park brought us by a covered bridge that I couldn’t pass up stopping to visit. The historic Sunday River Bridge from 1872 is also known as the “Artist’s Covered Bridge” because of its reputation as being the most photographed and painted of the covered bridges in Maine. It also appeared to be a great wedding spot as it had been decorated and set up for a wedding to be held later that day. If I was a bride getting married, I would be more than happy to get married on a covered bridge. It seemed like the perfect setting. The signs at the bridge entrance announced a welcome to wedding guests and “Pick a Seat Not a Side, You are Welcome by the Groom and the Bride.”

Sunday River Bridge in Newry, Maine

While camping in New Hampshire I was happy to find out that the Appalachian Trail was less than two miles down the road from us. This portion was called the Rattle River Trail and conveniently featured a parking area and a 1-1/2 mile fairly easy trail to a shelter. It would be a great opportunity to walk part of the trail. In the photo below, Mark walks through the woods towards the shelter.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

The 2,190 mile long Appalachian Trail (AT) has 250 backcountry shelters which average about eight miles apart. Most of them like the one we visited consist of a roof, three walls and a wooden floor and are on a first come, first serve basis. They are usually located near a creek or spring which was the case with this one.

Standing in front of an Appalachian Trail shelter

The thing that fascinated me most about the shelter was the notebook located there. Inside were pages of entries written by hikers on their experiences and thoughts of being on the trail. Below is a photo of one of the pages. In one entry a hiker is sad to only have 300 miles of the trail left.

Page from the shelter notebook

As we were hanging out at the shelter a young couple came by. They started the AT separately at the beginning in Georgia and then met some where along the trail. They were finishing the hike together and were close to being done as the ending point was in Maine just one state away. We applauded their great achievement and they agreed to have their photo taken. The young lady explained that her mother was meeting her at the parking lot for a visit. When we got back to the lot later after our hike we saw that her mother was throwing a little birthday party for her out of her car.

Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail!

During our hike I really enjoyed seeing all the mushrooms in the woods along the trail. They were fluted and colorful ones I had not seen before in my travels. When I did some research later, I found out they are called
“Woolly Chanterelles” and although attractive looking, they cause stomach distress. Although I know wild mushroom gathering for eating is popular with some, I don’t think I would ever be comfortable collecting them, even if I was with those familiar with the edible varieties.

Woolly Chanterelles

I will close with a photo from the entrance to Timberland Campground, our stay in New Hampshire. This campground featured something rather different than the norm – its own fire engine. In the late afternoon, staff would take any interested kids for a ride on top around the grounds. A nice way to end the day!

Timberland Campground’s Fire Engine

The Scenic White Mountains of New Hampshire

After spending almost a week in the White Mountains of Northern New Hampshire I wished for another week. I loved the scenery and wanted to spend more time sightseeing. But alas, we had reservations in Vermont and it was time to move on. I have said this before, but one of the hardest things about our RV travel is leaving places that we still want to explore. Since we were trying to see all of the New England states in a certain time period, we needed to move on. Although our campsite in New Hampshire was not one of my favorites, I loved walking down to the river next to the campground. A walking trail went along the shore with views of the mountains and forest.

The White Mountains are New Hampshire’s playground. People love to vacation here and enjoy many outdoor activities. The rivers, creeks and waterfalls are popular places and I don’t think I have seen people having more fun in the water than here. Armed with a brochure called “Waterfalls and Covered Bridges of the White Mountains” we set out to explore including the Kancamagus Scenic Highway, one of the favorite drives in the state, especially in the fall when the leaves change. In the photo below, Mark relaxes next to Jackson Falls, a series of small waterfalls with a number of happy swimmers. While in Jackson, we also checked out the Jackson Covered Bridge.

Jackson Falls

My favorite waterfall on this trek was Sabbaday Falls which has several drops through a narrow gorge. A series of stairways and bridges offered us different views of the rushing water. It is a real beauty.

Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls

We stopped at Rocky Gorge, another favorite swimming area. Kids were jumping off the cliffs into the gorge below. As I watched the action from a nearby bridge, myself and another “mom” had some anxiety watching the kids plunging in, even though they weren’t our kids. It looked like they were having a great time. One young boy was even jumping in with his arm in a cast. In the photo below, one of them is jumping into the water.

Rocky Gorge

Along our drive down the scenic byway we were on the look out for covered bridges. After a wild goose chase off our route trying to find one listed on the brochure map we gave up but did eventually come upon the Albany Bridge pictured below. It was built in 1858 and renovated in 1970.

Albany Covered Bridge
Mark checking out the Albany Covered Bridge

We ended our drive on the Byway at an overlook of the scenic White Mountains.

View of the White Mountains along the Kancamagus Highway

We next stopped for a short walk to Lower Ammonoosuc Falls (that’s a hard word to pronounce) which was a raging torrent after all the rain the area had recently experienced. The falls are low angle cascades that flow down a series of ledges beside a rugged granite wall. I loved sitting next to the rushing water and experiencing its power. It is also a favorite swimming area when conditions are right.

Lower Ammonoosuc Falls
Lower Ammonoosuc Falls

Glen Ellis Falls is one of the most popular falls in the White Mountains. There were a few more steps to get down to this one, but definitely worth it. It plunges 65 feet to a beautiful pool below.

I hope you enjoyed our trek as we explored some beautiful areas of New Hampshire. I will close with a sunset view from the river at our campground.

Exploring New Hampshire: The Worst Tour Followed by a Great Tour

Sitting in a large van with a group of people, I tried to enjoy a four hour tour along country roads in the dark staring at the side of the road. As we drove, our driver and guide shined spotlights out the window into the woods hoping to catch a glimpse of our elusive target. We were on a moose hunt with hopes to catch several sightings during this nocturnal journey. As the evening wore on and my eyes blurred, the hope of a sighting faded. Eventually, a female moose was spotted by some (not me) for a few seconds before running into the trees. This was followed by a second sighting where we caught the back end of a male moose before it hit tree cover. The best view was our last stop where a female with her young stood for a few minutes allowing everyone to get a peek. Sound fun? Not really. It was long, boring and the moose hard to see in the dark, even with spotlights. Plus, one of the participants monopolized the guide with comments and questions, talking continually the entire trip.

The Gorham Moose Tour Company is one of the few that has permission from the state to use spotlights which are normally illegal. Moose are more active during the early evening making sightings more possible. As the sign above shows, moose on the road are a concern where collisions happen on a regular basis. We saw this sign frequently as we drove around the northern part of the state. Besides the threat of cars, something else is killing off moose in large numbers here – winter ticks. These ticks appear on moose in the fall and feed on them through the winter with calves the most likely to die as thousands of ticks can infest a single animal. It was sad information to learn.

View of Mount Washington from Visitor Center

A ride up Mount Washington was a must do for me while visiting the White Mountains. This is the highest mountain not only in New Hampshire but in all New England. It is famous for having some of the most extreme weather in the world. There are four ways to get up the 6,288 foot peak – by private car, tour van, cog railway or strenuous hike. Driving your own vehicle comes with some restrictions on the privately owned road as not all vehicles are allowed. I chose to take a tour which provided narration and a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery. The road climbs 4,600 feet in eight miles at an average grade of 12%. In the photo above, the peak is not the highest looking one but is the one to the left in back. The road to the peak can be seen in the righthand corner.

Historic U.S. Forest Sign

It was an enormous task to build the road which opened in 1861. The nearest source for supplies was eight miles away. Black powder was used as an explosive as dynamite was unknown at the time. Blasting holes had to be drilled by hand and tons of gravel and rock also had to removed by hand. Horse drawn carriage was the first to ascend, but in 1899 the first car made it up. This was a steam powered vehicle known as a “Locomobile” driven by F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora of Stanley Steamer fame. The trip took them two hours and ten minutes on a rutted, rocky road, much less than the six hours it took a horse drawn carriage or wagon. Below is a photo of the Locomobile.

Locomobile, first car up Mount Washington

In 1902 the first two gas powered cars reached the summit. In 2017, a record was made when a Subaru driver drove the road in five minutes and 44 seconds. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the top. Along the way we passed through four different ecological zones: 1) Hardwood forests, 2) Spruce and fir forests, 3) Balsam firs stunted by heavy winds and 4) Alpine with no trees and low growing plants.

Mount Washington Road

The road is narrow and winding with a one mile long section unpaved. With cars passing it became tight and with no shoulder or road barrier at times it seemed like accidents could be frequent here. But our guide told us that accidents are actually quite rare.

Mount Washington Summit Sign

Above is a photo of me at the summit sign with the visitor center and museum behind. Having good views from the mountain can be iffy due to frequent clouds and inclement weather. I kept track of the weather forecast on the mountain before choosing a good day and time to come. Located on the mountain is the observatory and weather station which is manned year around. It was here that the highest wind speed record at 231 miles per hour was recorded on April 12, 1934.

Mount Washington Weather Station

The summit is known as the “World’s Worst Weather” with hurricane force winds, lots of precipitation and very cold temps. An example of this is in 2004 when the temperature registered -43.6 degrees, winds at 87.5 mph with a wind chill factor of -102.59. The primary summit building is designed to withstand 300 mph winds and other structures are actually chained to the mountain.

Located on the mountain is the rock building that once housed the “Tip-Top House,” a former hotel. Built in 1853, it is the oldest surviving building in the summit area.

Tip-Top House

The Mount Washington Cog Railway has been running for 150 years beginning in 1869. It is the world’s first mountain climbing cog railway train. At one time more people came up the mountain on the train than they did by the road although that changed as automobiles became more popular. The train is accessed from the west side of the mountain, a different location than the beginning of the road. In the photo below the train can be seen in the distance inching up the mountain. If we had stayed longer, I would have liked to take the train up too on a different day. It would have been fun to experience it both ways.

Driving back down the mountain requires taking it easy on the brakes which the sign in the photo below emphasizes. This was a great tour to a fascinating historic location. I hope you enjoyed coming along!

A Year on the Road

On August 25 we hit an anniversary – one year of traveling with our RV on the road!   We reached this date while staying at Boston Minuteman Campground, located in Massachusetts.   I thought it was interesting that Massachusetts was our 25th state to visit, so we are now halfway through our goal of visiting all the states.  To clarify, we won’t be able to visit them all – Hawaii is out of reach and at this time we don’t have the desire to make the long trek to Alaska, but the remaining 23 seem to be doable.  It has been quite a year – we have stayed in 49 different campgrounds, visited many historical sites, museums, National Parks, State Parks, towns, cities and attractions.  Below is another picture of our anniversary site, with perhaps the tallest and densest trees we have camped under!

During this past year we visited the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, listened to folk music in Arkansas and Cajun music in Louisiana.   We saw the swamps and bayous of the South and antebellum mansions in Mississippi.   In Alabama we camped right next to the waters of Mobile Bay and enjoyed the turquoise ocean and white sands of the Florida Panhandle.   We walked the historic streets and sat in the squares of Savannah, Georgia.  While in South Carolina we visited the only tea plantation in America and discovered lots of history in the narrow streets of Charleston.  While traveling through Virginia we saw the homes of former presidents and the first colony at Jamestown.  We explored Philadelphia with family and camped in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.  In Maine we visited a new National Park and on scenic drives admired miles of rocky coastline.   We discovered beautiful waterfalls in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and traveled up to the tallest mountain in the Northeast.   These are just a few of the many highlights during a year of exploring and learning much about this wonderful country we are blessed to call home.   In the picture below, we got a warm welcome when arriving to our park near Mobile, Alabama.

I was thinking recently how different each state is as they each have their own look, “feel” and culture.   I can just tell I am in a different state and not because of the welcome sign on the road.  They really have their own uniqueness and that is one of the things that makes exploring such an adventure.  There is always that anticipation of what the next state will be like and what we will find there.   During our year of travel, a few of the states we had visited before, but most were new to us and there has been much to appreciate in every state we have been.   Some touched a special place in my heart and I found myself a little sad when leaving.  But I always reminded myself that there would be more memorable and special places to come and this has truly happened.   It can be hard to leave a great place behind, but without moving on, we would not have explored 25 remarkable states.  Below is a picture of the park we stayed at in Louisiana, one of our favorite states and the place where we experienced a surprise snow storm in December.

So, traveling and sightseeing aside, how has it been living in a 21-foot trailer?   It can certainly be a challenge.   The lack of space for all our things is probably the biggest challenge but there are others.   The ability to move around freely inside and spread out is tough.   Our comfort is compromised, my days of lounging on the couch like I did at home while watching a movie or reading a book are a thing of the past.   Trying to prepare food and cook in a small kitchen area can at times elicit some groans from me as I struggle to manage the ingredients I am cutting up or finding space for a dish or pot.   Since our refrigerator is small we can only fit limited amounts of food so grocery shopping has to be more frequent.   When trying to find something in our long, deep food pantry, I often have to take stuff out and stack it on our bed, as I reach my arm into the dark space trying to feel for that can or box.

Above is a picture of a scene that awaited us when we arrived in Vermont, another challenge we have dealt with from time to time.   Although we try to secure everything when moving the trailer from one campsite to another, a few times we have found frozen food items on the floor or even one time a cabbage that somehow popped out from the refrigerator and ended up near our bed.   On one stop we found our large glass mixing bowl in pieces on the stovetop.   The shattered dishes pictured above we discovered after arriving in Vermont.   I didn’t expect Corelle Ware to break into so many tiny pieces.  We do use paper plates and bowls from time to time, but for some things dishes are better.

For the most part we have tried to stay at least a week or more every where we have been, but that time goes by so fast and it seems before we know it, it is time to pack up and move on to the next spot.   The life of a nomad is certainly an interesting one.   There are always new places and situations to become accustomed to.   We have been fortunate to find quiet and pleasant neighbors at every place we have stayed.   It has been nice to talk to other travelers and find out about their experiences, where they have come from and where they are traveling next.  Some have had some good tips on places to camp or attractions to visit.   It is always great to share expertise on the road!   We have met a few full time travelers, but most are seasonal who are only RVing for part of the year or taking a short vacation from their home.  The RV park owners and staff have also been kind and helpful and have never lost our reservations!  I have to admit that as we drove to each new location, I would wonder if this would be the time that we would be told, “Sorry, we don’t have a spot for you!”   We were blessed with few issues along the way that have hampered our progress.   Below is a picture from our last campground in Maine which featured a lovely area to sit and walk along the waterfront.

Where do we go from here?   Although I had good intentions, my blog has continued to be so behind, because I always have much I want to write about making it hard to keep up.   Although we left Maine the first part of August, I still have more to write about our time in that wonderful state.   We have since had shorter stays in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and our current spot in Rhode Island.   We will be visiting Connecticut next and then start making our way to the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountain states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.   We plan to visit those states through the rest of September, October and into early November.   We will then begin our trek back to California where we look forward to spending the holiday season.   Below is a sunset picture at our campground in New Hampshire.

We thank you for taking the time this past year to check out the blog and for the comments you have made.  It can get lonely on the road so it is much appreciated to hear from you!