Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Camping in the Adirondacks

In June, Mike took off for a three-day weekend and we had planned to head to the beach. Unfortunately, the weather on the coast predicted rain, so we decided to head north instead! Neither of us had been to the Adirondacks, so we had no idea where to stay or what to do. We ended up picking a campground near Schroon Lake called Eagle Point Campground. It was quiet, right along the lake, and practically empty - perfect! Our first night it stormed all night, but we woke up to clouds in the morning and decided to go on a hike. 
We decided to tackle a fairly popular hike that hits two of the high peaks, Cascade and Porter Mountain. It is 5.6 miles round trip with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We made breakfast at the campsite and had about an hour drive to the trail head, so we got started around 11am. The trail has a register (which was a new idea to us) at the start that we signed with our names, phone number, and expected days of the trail. At the end of our hike, we signed that we had made it back safely to the start of the trail. 

 We decided to hit the summit of Cascade first. Most of the trail is in the woods, but in the last half mile you come out on to the bald top. Unfortunately, we got to the top and were completely socked in with clouds! I was so disappointed. We hung around for a while, ate our lunch and hoped it would clear. It did partially, but we couldn't wait forever, so we went down the trail back towards Porter. 

 This was taken close to the summit of Porter - the views were amazing as the clouds cleared! The trail down from Cascade to Porter was very interesting. At one point we thought we had accidentally left the trail and stumbled on a creek. There was so much spring run-off from the winter's snow on the mountain that it turned the trail into stream!

 I was so bummed that we didn't get to see the views from Cascade because of the clouds.. so I convinced Mike to go back the half mile to go to the top again. He loves me so much haha.
 Top of Cascade again - without clouds!

 After a few summit photos, we went back down the trail. My knees were achy by the end, but we enjoyed it! We enjoyed a yummy dinner in Lake Placid before heading back to our campground for a very good night of sleep. 

 The next morning, Mike made pancakes from breakfast as I plotted what trail we could tackle. I just want to take a second to say how much we loved our campsite! We could see the lake and mountains peaking through the trees behind our tent. The campsite itself was nice and large, with plenty of room for another tent even. Our site (number 22) was close to the bathroom but away from other people (we couldn't see another tent from our site) which was perfect. The campground has a small beach, showers, and very inexpensive boat rentals ($20 for a kayak for the day - awesome!) which we didn't have time to take advantage of.
The town of Schroon Lake is just ten minutes down the road. It's a cute, small town that has a grocery store, a few restaurants, a gas station, and a few shops. We got milkshakes at Stewart's - which we learned is best described as a hybrid gas station ice cream shop. They were only $2/each and they were delicious! But I digress. We loved this little campground and will likely be back again!

 We couldn't see another camper from our site! I'm not sure if it was just a slow weekend because it was early in the season, but we were glad for the peace and quiet. 
  My favorite camping buddy. 
 The views from our tent were hard to beat.  

 We took it slow on Sunday morning, as we were a little sore from our hike the previous day. 
 Eventually we packed up camp and went out for another adventure. We chose to hike Severance Mountain, which is located just a few minutes north of Schroon Lake. The trail starts out by going through a tunnel under the highway (super cool - I can't believe I didn't take a photo) and then winds up the hill to an overlook. It's a little under 3 miles round trip and we would have stayed longer if it weren't for the mosquitoes! They were downright awful! Mike had eleven bites on just one of his arms by the time we got back to the car. Next time, we'll be sure to pack the bug spray. 
  Considering our lack of proper planning, we thought it was a great trip. We loved the Adirondack region and can't wait to plan more trips there in the future. We also stopped at two National Park Sites on our way up and back, the Saratoga Historical Park and the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site. Our one regret was not bringing the kayaks, if we were for more than two nights we would definitely bring them. The entire trip was fairly inexpensive as well. Because I'm always being asked how we travel so much, I broke down the cost for our entire trip.

Camp site fee - $52
Dinner out on Saturday - $35
Ice Cream (twice haha) - $10
Souvenirs - $12
Gas - $48
Hiking, National Park Sites- Free

We brought most of our food with us, ate pancakes for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. Our first night I brought some leftover rice and chicken that we heated up on the stove. Not very glamorous, but our whole weekend trip was $157. For everything. That's less than the price of a hotel room for the night at the beach! So that's how we do it, we sleep on the ground and eat tuna sandwiches for lunch. But we get to see really cool places together, so we're okay with it. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains National Park || Days 3 & 4

On our third morning we woke up to the sound of rain drumming on our tent, but we were determined to make the best of it! Our plan for the day was to drive to the Cade's Cove area of the park and explore. 
Because of all the rain, there were beautiful waterfalls flowing down from the mountains right off the side of the road. The drive to Cades Cove was a real treat!

 This part of the park has an interesting history. The Cades Cove valley was settled by Europeans in the 1820's, where their families farmed and lived on the land for over a century. However, in 1927 the government started purchasing the land in an effort to make a new national park. Many willingly moved away, but some families resisted but were eventually forced out of the valley.  Today, the valley is full of old cabins, churches, mills, and other remnants of the farms and people that once lived there.

 Cades Cove is a scenic 11-mile one-way loop that winds through the valley. On Saturday and Wednesday mornings, they close the road until 10am to allow for people to walk and bike the road. If we visit the Smokies again, we'll definitely bring the bikes with us!

 The Smoky Mountains have many of these oddly shaped but beautiful cantilever barns. Very different from our traditional red barns (with hex signs, of course) in Southeast Pennsylvania! 

  It stopped raining for a few minutes, so we got our stove out to make lunch. Unfortunately, it started raining about five minutes into our lunch-making efforts.. but the views from the picnic area were nice! 

This picture makes me smile - we were tired, cold, wet, and hungry so these Ramen noodles felt like the best thing in the world! Travel isn't always glamorous, but it's an adventure. 

One of the wonderful parts about being in the Smokies in the spring was the wildflowers! There were incredible flowers everywhere, including these wild orchids. The diversity was amazing!


One our fourth day, we woke up to more rain and impending storms (with predictions of hail and 50-60mph winds).. so we decided to tear down camp a day early and head to South Carolina. We did a lovely (but wet!) hike to Grotto falls before hitting the road. 
 The trail goes right behind the waterfall! 

The trail head is on the historic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which is actually an old road. We absolutely loved this one-way drive through the mountains, it was stunning! It features old cabins, an old mill, and multiple hiking trails. At one point I made Mike stop so that I could take photos of the stream.. he told me later I was gone for almost 45 minutes. Oops. 




 Our drive out of the park was supposed to feature spectacular views, but unfortunately, we saw mostly fog. It made for some lovely moody photos though!

 As we excited the park near Cherokee, NC we were greeted by a herd of elk grazing along the road!

Once we were out of the park, we made a small detour to Mingo Falls. This gorgeous 120 foot tall waterfall is only a short hike (.4 miles round-trip) up a few stairs to this amazing beauty. It was a perfect end to our time in Great Smoky Mountain NP!

Our overall thoughts were that we loved the park. The end of April was a nice time to visit, as it wasn't too cold or hot, the park wasn't crowded yet, and there was some life starting to appear in the forest. We were disappointed by the amount of rain we experienced, but that was unavoidable. We had a great time regardless, and hope to get back one day when the sun is shining! 
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