• C Bracknell

Maine ATC Conference Trip August 2 – 12, 2017


Waterville, Maine was our destination and the event was the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's biennial conference. We left at 7:30 on Wednesday, August 2nd and made our lunch stop at the Pennsylvania Visitor Center just north of the Maryland state line on I-81. We got a table with shade and there was a slight breeze. It was pretty comfortable for the time of the year.

Our night's stop was at Locust Lake State park near Hazelton, Pa. This was the fourth time we have camped there. It works out that it is a comfortable day's drive from home. We ran through a very heavy rain storm with a little hail in it about five miles before our exit. It was coming down so hard that a number of motorist had pulled off onto the shoulder. I kept going hoping for a bridge overpass as to avoid any possible hail damage. I've seen what it could do to a vehicle. I did not come upon one until after the hail had stopped. Fortunately, it was not that bad.

We got to the campsite about 3:45 after driving 435 miles and over seven hours with a lunch and gas stop. We did not set the tent up right away, because rain drops were still dripping from the trees. We wanted the tent to stay as dry as possible for folding up the next morning.

Yes, I said “tent”. It had been a few years since we tent camped. Back in 2011, I decided that regular tent camping was not my preferred mode of camping. When fierce thunderstorms come through in the middle of the night, tents just don't give a secure feeling under big tall trees. Twice this has happened to us. Once in 2007 in a state park near the Dells in Wisconsin and again in 2009 near Hot Springs, Arkansas, we were in a tent when one hit. That's when I decided I wanted a little more around and above me that a couple of layers of fabric and fiberglass poles.

Initially, I bought a mini van with enough space in the back to have a place to retreat to when such an occasion arose. In 2011, I built a plywood teardrop camper on a trailer frame I had been using as a utility trailer. We really enjoyed using it. Not just for the comfort, coziness, and security, but also for the conversations we had with other campers and travelers. We used it in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisianan, Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine. All total, we have stayed in it approximately 132 nights in it during the three years we used. It is now in dry dock for a repair from some water damage.

We decided that for the month we spend in Florida that it was not as practical if there were several days of rain and it was damp and breezy. We bought a 12' X 20' nylon tarp to expand the living space in case of rain. Still, there was just so much lying down in the pod or sitting under a tarp in foul weather that was enjoyable.

In 2013, we bought a 14' travel trailer and rainy or cooler nights became more tolerable. In 2016, we traded up for a 17' camper. It was for three reasons. The primary one being the sleeping arrangements. In the 14' one, the bed was crossways thus making the inside person have to crawl over the other one or the other person would have to move or scrunch up.

The second reason was that the dining table was also the base of the bed and the seat cushions and back were the mattress. In order to use it for dining, we had to unmake the bed. We did resort to building a small pedestal table which plugged into the floor in the smaller camper. It was small, but allowed us to keep the bed made up. When the weather was good we usually at outside anyway, except for breakfast. With the 17' camper, we could leave the dinette set up all the time. The newer camper has a camper queen mattress with space on both sides thus allowing to access the bed from side. .

The third improvement was the addition of a bathroom vanity with upper and lower cabinets and a mirror. None of which was in the former. This allow us to leave toiletries and other supplies in the bathroom. Additional storage is always a benefit.

Our old Redhead tent from Cabellas, after many years of faithful service finally needed a new fly, but it is difficult, if not impossible to replace just a fly. We purchased a new Columbia tent from Dick's Sporting Goods last year just for such an occasion as this – where we were just going to camp for a few days (two days going and one returning - we stayed in a dormitory for six days).

It was a tough decision not to use the travel trailer. It has a nice queen size bed, a inside bathroom, a refrigerator, a gas range plus a TV and stereo system and air conditioning if we had electrical hookups. You won't find that in most tents. The other side of that was that the dormitory rooms were $70 a night (70 x6 = 420). A campground would have been about 35 dollars ($210) and to stay on campus with no electricity would have been ($120)

On the other had, it takes over two and a half times the gas and not as quick and maneuverable as the Nissan Rogue we drove this trip. We did have to carefully decide what we had to bring and find space for everything.

It was too early for supper, so we decided to take a walk around the lake. There was a paved trail, which also made it nice for biking. There was an adult and a few kids in swimming and two or three kayaks out on the lake. The rain shower had cooled things down, making it much more comfortable.

Thursday morning I was up at 6 am. I fixed breakfast while Rhonda got a few more minutes on the cot. After we ate, I washed dishes (utensils, one pot and a coffee cup). Rhonda began putting away the bedding and folding the cos. I joined in with the taking down and packing up and we were on the road before 8 o'clock and in route to the Poughkeepsee, NY. area.

Last year, the Rail to Trails Conservancy named the Hudson Valley Trail Network as the 29th Hall of Fame trail. It starts in New Paltz. NY as the Hudson Valley Trail, crosses the Walk Over bridge and follows the Dutchess County Trail to Hopewell Junction for a total of almost 18 miles.

I started out at Tony Williams park and Rhonda met me after a small blimp in directions at the Walk Over Bridge parking lot for lunch out of the cooler. She decided to walk part of the bridge rather than unload her bike and have to put it back on the rack. I rode across passing a good number of other users of all types. There were mother pushing strollers, joggers, a man in a wheel chair and of course a few other bikers. There was even a couple police officers out with a group of youth on bikes. It must have been some kind of police explorer group.

A quarter of a mile from the bridge, the trail turned sharply right (south) and there was a thirteen mile marker indicating that it was that far to the end at Hopewell Junction. The mileage post were at every half mile. It was ideally suited for urban walkers because there were numerous benches along the way. It appeared that most of them were donated in memory or in honor of someone, because there were plaques on each one.

When I got to the end Rhonda was waiting in a parking lot in the shade near a restaurant. She was just out of sight from the trail, so after riding around some at the end, I had to give her a call to find where she was parked. Her written directions had not directed her to the old depot where there also was parking.

From there we drove a short distance to Sylvan Lake Beach Park where we had reservations for camping. When I emailed the manager to make reservations a few weeks earlier, I was asked what site I wanted. Not knowing anything about the park, I told him that I wanted a shady site near the restroom/shower. When we arrived, we were given a nice shady site down near the lake, but it was 75 yards from the restrooms (not that good for middle of the night trips). The only tent sites near the restrooms had water and electric. The site we got was over priced at $35, but it was convenient to the trail and not that far from the next day's connection with I-84.

After we unloaded a few things from the car and I got ice, I went for a swim in the swimming area of the lake. They had a rule that no one could be in the water without an adult being close by; either in the water or on the beach. Rhonda came down and read in the shade of the big sign that had all the rules. The water was clean looking and quite refreshing after an 18 mile bike ride at about 88 degrees. As I first waded in to my waist, I saw two hand size blue gills down near my knees.

We put up the tent and fixed supper after it cooled down a little. The lake looked pretty after dark with the lights shining in the water on the opposite side of the lake. With all the windows zipped down in the tent, the cooler night air crept in and I got a pretty good night's sleep after a busy day.

The next morning we had egg salad, smoked salmon and pimento cheese on toast (separate pieces) and was on our way again before 8. It was a short trip down the Taconic Parkway to I-84

It was a less than pleasant drive around Boston and over to I-95. We got into two or three traffic delays and there was about seven or eight dollars in tolls. We arrived at the campus of Colby College in Waterville around. 3:45.

We picked up our registration packets and got our dormitory room key. Fortunately, there was temporary parking near the dorm where we could unload our baggage, ice chest and food and snack boxes. I also pulled out the plastic ground cloth and tent fly and laid it out on some rocks in the rear of the dormitory so it could dry and not mildew.

We had bought meal tickets for two breakfasts and one dinner One of my complaints is that the meals are always over priced: breakfast $8, lunch $8 and dinner $15 and it isn't exactly fine dinning. Rhonda and I, both feel that the dining hall is a great place to mingle with other hike club members up and down the east coast, but exorbitant prices discourages some people. We planned to fix some of own meals and eat out some. In a number of places, Rhonda and I can split a fifteen dollar meal and get quite full.

The rooms were not air conditioned, but there was a fan. We opened all the windows in our room and out in the common area and it was quite comfortable by bedtime.

At supper time, we drove downtown to look around and after asking around, found a nice seafood restaurant on the Kennebec River called the Lobster Trap. We split a platter with shrimp, scallops, clams, oysters, and halibut. We still came out under fifteen dollars each.

Back at the college, we went to the conference reception in the athletic complex, which is also where the exhibits were set up. While mingling, we ran into one of our club members who we did not know was attending the conference. We did not stay very long – it had been a long day which started at 5:40 am. I was ready for a shower and a prone position.

Saturday's breakfast was poorest I'd ever seen at one of these conferences. The eggs were over cooked and there was one choice of breakfast meat and that was a patty that looked kind of like sausage, but it was just ground pork. The coffee was good and they had some great muffins.

We attended four very good workshops during the day. The first one was titled “The AT experience: What ever happened to the “Unaided Effort”. It was about how the through hike experience had changed since the adoption of the NPS Comprehensive Plan for the Management of the AT. The main idea in the plan was to have the AT be a place of remoteness, and self-reliance so it would be a challenge. Limited improvements and structures was apart of that philosophy. Now with cell phones having Apps of all kinds including weather updates, maps, gps and such it makes it somewhat of a different experience from even just 20 years ago. One example was given that you can even order pizza in some places and have it delivered to the trail head.

The second morning workshop had been canceled, so we went to another one called “Walking for Sunshine”. It was presented by a through hiker by the name of Jeff Alt. He also wrote the inspiring and very entertaining book titled “Life Lessons from the Trail”. His slide show and narrative was extremely worth the hour and a half.

Jeff is a talented speaker, hiking and camping expert, and an award-winning author. His award-wining books include: A Walk for Sunshine (an Appalachian Trail memoir), Four Boots One Journey (a John Muir Trail memoir), Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun, and his new National Park youth book series, The Adventures of Bubba Jones. Alt’s adventures have been featured in media nationwide including: Discoverychannel.com, ESPN’s Inside America’s National Parks, Hallmark Channel, CNN-Radio, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, LA Times, USA Today, Backpacker Magazine, Fitness RX for Men, Woman’s Health, the AP, the Chicago Sun Times, Scholastic Parent & Child, and many more.

Alt is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). Alt has shared his transformational “Lessons from the Trail” with thousands. He just filmed a Tedx Talk about his Appalachian Trail journey. Alt holds a master’s degree from Miami University in Ohio and a degree from the University of Toledo. He continues to host the annual Sunshine Walk, 5k Run and Roll inspired from his Appalachian Trail journey. Alt has been hiking since his youth. He has walked the entire 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, the 218-mile John Muir Trail with his wife, and he carried his 21-month old daughter along the coast of Ireland on a family hike. His son was on the Appalachian Trail at 6 weeks of age.

The afternoon session was another interesting topic on “AT Season: Tracking Phenology from Georgia to Maine. “A.T. Seasons” is a citizen science based monitoring project that uses the power of observation to bring people and nature closer together. By helping to track and document the seasonal life cycles of plants and animals along the AT corridor, volunteers are helping AT managers and their partners to better understand how changing climates may be impacting the AT and its resources. One very good example given was a bird that migrates according to the change in daylight hours is impacted by the fact that a caterpillar eats leaves of a tree which is impacted by temperature. If the tree leafs early due to warming weather (early spring, if you will) and the caterpillar also come out to eat the leaves because of the early spring, then the bird that depends on it food by feasting on the caterpillar gets there late because its migration is triggered by day length (which is always the same).

The remainder of the afternoon was taken up by the business meeting which included the treasurer's report, the “state-of-the-trail”, service awards, approval of the board of directors, amending the bylaws and unveiling the revised and changing format of the future biennials.

The evening meal was pretty good with a good salad bar and some fairly good vegetable and pasta dishes. The brownie and ice cream was a proper dessert. (the ice cream was from Gilford's, a Maine dairy that had won a number of awards.

The story of Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream goes back to the 1800s, when an industrious young man named Nathaniel Main from Pawcatuck, Connecticut, started a home delivery milk and ice cream business from the back of his horse-drawn wagon. Fifteen years later, Nathaniel’s oldest son, Chester, got involved in the family business. Eventually, Chester’s daughter, Audrey, married her college sweetheart Randall Gifford and together they forged a splendid path that led to Skowhegan, Maine, and to the birth of Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream. Randall and Audrey shared a common love of family and life’s simple pleasures that remains at the core of the family business today. They also grew up in the dairy business and from early on, were steeped in the tradition of delicious old-fashioned ice cream. After running a small milk business and ice cream shop for 17 years, they pulled up roots and moved to Randall’s home state of Maine…bringing their passion for ice cream right along with them. They purchased a small dairy in Farmington in 1971, and three years later purchased another dairy in Skowhegan, where the Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream plant remains today.

The family began creating small batches of creamy ice cream using Audrey’s parents’ recipes for strawberry, peach, wild blueberry, and coffee. The first seasonal ice cream stand was opened in Skowhegan, followed by another in Farmington. Eventually, Randall and Audrey sold the milk portion of the dairy business to Oakhurst Dairy. Their sons Roger and John took over the ice cream portion of the business and transformed the milk plant into a world-class ice cream factory.

It quickly became clear that Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream was something truly special. Made with fresh milk and cream from local dairy farms, it had that old-fashioned, rich flavor that won the hearts of children and families alike. At the time, the business was making 10,000 gallons annually with a core of six determined employees. Eventually Roger and John started to introduce the ice cream to a broader audience. In 1987, they carried their product across state lines and, over time, added three more ice cream stands in Bangor, Waterville and Auburn. Today, Gifford’s sells 1.7 million gallons of ice cream each year and serves more than one million cones each summer from five family-owned and operated stands. The company offers 100 unique ice cream flavors, frozen yogurts, sherbets, and sorbets. The ice cream can be found in grocery stores, independent ice cream shops, colleges, universities and restaurants all the way from Maine to the Mid Atlantic, to the Mid-West and as far West as Nevada.

When you have five generations of ice cream making history behind every flavor, it’s no wonder that Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream has received its share of national and international awards. But perhaps most importantly, Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream brings you back to those carefree days when your only worry was how many more days until summer. It’s why we like to say our ice cream is a vacation from the every day.

The evenings entertainment was a native humorist and storyteller by the name of Tim Sample. He told his humorist stories in the true Maine dialect and was labeled as “Maine's Humorist Laureate” by Charles Kuralt.

Sunday breakfasts was much better. Real link sausages, better looking blueberry pancakes and a little better prepared eggs. There also fruit, cereals, muffins, and juices which I failed to mention before.

We ran into Marvin and Hollis Kirkman, our friends from Sevierville, Tennessee and PATH club members at breakfast. Hollis was in the club when I joined back in the early 80s. They are in their 80s and travel quite a bit. They had stopped in Vermont on the way up to attend a wedding and were going on to Quebec to visit a distant relative after the conference. Marvin is always interesting to talk with because he still reads a lot and is well versed in a number of topics.

The Sunday workshops we attended were “Summer songbirds of Maine” which was good and pretty much the talk and slide show one would expect based on the title. We also went out to the edge of the campus to see if we could see or hear and identify some birds. Since the middle of the day isn't the best time for birding, we did not identify but two birds; one by sight and sound and one just by its song.

The second session was “Why walking matters: Benefits of walking; Improvisational skills in long distance hiking. It actually was much broader and encompassed the preparation both mentally and physically of long distance hiking. The presenter, Tom Jamrog, was a triple crown hiker (AT, CDT, & PCT) also told about getting DNA testing to help better get insight into our health and how it can give information to improve what we can do physically.

After lunch, Rhonda took a break from the workshops and I went to one some of the historical and cultural of the 100 mile wilderness. The second session was “Save crossing of Maine's brooks and streams. The session ended with a discussion and a brief survey regarding charging a small fee to pay for the canoe crossing of the Kennebec River. The ATC has contracted with an individual to provide a safe crossing of the river at Caratuck, which is 151 miles from the top of Katahdin. They have provided this service since 1986 after a hiker drown in 1985 trying to wade across. The contract for the service is over $30,000 a year. If you want to read more on this interesting aspect of the AT, check out this link: https://thetrek.co/crossing-the-kennebec/

We went to a Asian buffet in town for supper. They had an impressive variety of dishes. I controlled myself. I did not have a huge appetite, since I had sat in workshop sessions all afternoon.

The seven o'clock entertainment was the showing of the documentary film on Grandma Gatewood from Ohio, who was the first woman to through hike the AT. She was interviewed before she died in 1973 and a small film company used the tapes, pictures and her journal to put the documentary together. She hiked the trail three times, the first time in 1955 at the age of 67, She was one of the more notable characters of trail history and lore.

The Colby College Alumni Jazz Band was the eight o'clock performers. We were not sure about it being jazz. Neither one of us are big fans of jazz, certainly not Rhonda, but we found that it wasn't all that jazzy and extremely enjoyable. They were a 15 member group with saxophones, trombones and trumpets accompanied by drums, a keyboard, a bass and lead guitar. The band leader's adult daughter sang several songs accompanied by the band and her husband was the sound man. They performed songs like You are the sunshine of my life (Stevie Wonder), Georgia on my mind, Elvira, Danny Boy, Make me smile (Chicago), In the Mood, Celebration (Kool and the Gang).

Monday morning we went on an organized group hike along the Kennebec River not far from town. All the participant were very congenital and I was able to identify a few wild flowers for the group.

We went down to McDonald's and got a couple of side salads to have with some tamales we heated up in the microwave off the common area of the dorm. Afterward, we rode the bikes down to a store kind of like Big Lots called Marden's, mainly to have a place to ride and to see what kind of merchandize they carried.

We had a bike ride scavenger hunt scheduled for six o'clock, but Rhonda decided to withdraw. I ate something light early and went down to meet the leader at the athletic field house. There were six signed up but an older lady and myself were the only one there. As we left the lot, we had to descend a good hill. As soon as the lady saw what she eventually would have to ride back up, she decided not to go. The leader and I continued on.

The ride was on cross country ski trails owned by the town. The leader was 10 years younger and an amateur bike tour leader. He made a comment that I was doing great to be almost 70 years old. I did all I could to keep up. It was a good hour workout to say the least. I would have been better off on a mountain bike rather than my hybrid.

The seven o'clock entertainment was the showing of the film “Walk in the Woods” based on the Bill Bryce book of the same name. I missed a little of the first part because of the bike ride. Rhonda was sitting near the back so I found her easily. It stared Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. There were a number of inaccuracies and obvious writer blunders, but was pretty funny. It would have been better if I could have understood or heard more of Nolte's lines. Between his rough voice and the sound level in the auditorium it was hard to tell what his lines were some of the time.

The eight o'clock was a band playing for contra dancing. Contra dancing was much like square dancing. We watched and listened for a short while, but if you not participating it wasn't that entertaining.

Tuesday, we were scheduled for a six and a half hike that was partially on the AT, but we discovered that a mistake had been made when it was listed. It was actually a ll mile hike with a three hour round trip drive to it and back, so we decided to cancel.

It was raining that morning so we decided to do laundry and check out the Goodwill store and restock a few of our groceries. This worked out great.

After lunch, we decided to drive to the Belgrade Lakes area west of Waterville. Our next door neighbors in the dorm told us they had been over there and walked some of the trails and rented a canoe. Our first hike was up Mount Phillip near the village of Rome. It was on the northern end of Great Pond. From the rock ledges at the summit, we got good view of the lake. Afterward, we hiked French Mountain and looked down into Long Pond. The views was very reminesent of my hike of the AT in Maine back in 1995 and 96.

On our return trip to Waterville, we drove down to the lake's edge where we had seen a realtor’s sign for a lake cabin for sale. There were some nice homes (probably summer only) along the lake. It was just what one would expect for a lake house in Maine. We drove through the little tourist village of Belgrade just to see what was there.

Tuesday evening's eight o'clock entertainment was a three member band called Dreadnaught that sang and played. The program described their music as follows: “Utterly uncompromising multi-movement prog-rock opuses, gritty bar band Americana, experimental electronic music, music for ad agencies and radio stations, and even music for orchestras”. The leader has composed a good number of songs for his band and for other singers and narrators. It was ok, but I like an occasional song that I can recognize. Also the sound wasn't the best on the lead singer's mike and I had a hard time understanding some the lyrics.

I did some research on the internet and found a rail trail along the Kenebec River about 40 miles west and decided that I could add another trail to my collection and see more of the Maine countryside. It was described on Traillink.com as follows: The quiet Kennebec Valley Trail (a.k.a. Anson to Bingham Trail) boasts surprising claims to fame: the 14.6-mile trail traces the river and Indian path taken in 1775 by Benedict Arnold, on orders from General George Washington, to capture Quebec from the British. It also follows a former narrow-gauge logging railroad, which then hauled freight and passengers up around Moosehead Lake, Maine's largest. At one point the trail is bisected by the 45th parallel. The surface is largely packed dirt and crushed stone. Despite intermittent rolling dips from ATV use on the sandy stretches, the trail nevertheless delivers a good mountain bike ride. While the trail has only been fully developed from south of Solon to Bingham, additional undeveloped (read: less manicured) trail miles stretch north from the North Anson cemetery, nearly doubling the overall length. North of Solon, tremendous views of the Kennebec River compensate for occasional rough going on the trail. The river is so wide in places, you may have to remind yourself you're traveling alongside a mighty river and not one of Maine's beautiful lakes. Listen for the cry of loons, especially around dusk. If you're really lucky, you may even spot one up close. At an electrical generating station near Arnolds Landing (north of Solon), the trail spans a former railroad bridge across the Kennebec. North of the landing the trail runs within feet of the river for long expanses. Unless you're carrying a GPS, you won't be aware when you cross the 45th parallel—the theoretical midpoint between the Equator and the North Pole. You'll eventually emerge at the Bingham trailhead on Goodrich Road.

Tuesday evening, I wrote several notes describing the bike ride and put it on some of the attendees bicycles I had seen around the dormitories. The next morning as we were preparing to drive out to the trail, a lady named Fran, about our age, approached me and said she had gotten one of the notes and said she wanted to go. I told her I had no idea the condition of the trail surface. She had a quality bike and said she had ridden that distance a number of times.

Rhonda dropped us off at a dirt parking lot where the trail began in Bingham. As we were taking the bike off the rack, Rhonda suggested to Fran that she could go with her and ride north toward me from the other end and be able to turn around when she wanted to, but she insisted she wanted to ride the entire trail with me. As we started out, a ATV came out from the trail on to the road. I asked him about the trail and he said it was in pretty good shape, just some wallowed out places from the ATVs

A little way down the trail I stopped to take a picture of the trail sign and told Fran to go on, I would catch up. When I pulled back out onto the trail I did not see her down the trail and there was a fairly long vantage point. I said to myself – boy, she must have really taken off. As I approached a small wooden bridge, I saw her bike lying on the trail. As I got to the bridge I saw her pulling herself back up onto the side of the trail. My first thought was that she had seen a flower or something down toward the creek by the bridge and went to check it out closer. She told me she hit one of the boards on the bridge wrong and the bike threw her off the trail right at the end of the bridge. If it weren't for a couple of small trees down the bank, she would likely have ended up in the creek. It was about a 10 foot drop to the creek. I helped her back on to the trail and asked if she was all right. She said she was and we continued on.

The trail had a number of “rolling dips” as the description said and there were some sandy spots which made our pedaling harder. When we got to about the halfway point, she was ready to quit. Fortunately, there was an intersection near by where I could return with the car. I left her beside the road and I continued down the trail. A short time later, Rhonda called me and said she was at about the six and a half mile point according to her bike computer and was turning around and heading back to the car. I conveyed to her the situation with Fran and would probably catch up with her before she got back to the car, which I did. Back at the car in North Anson, we loaded the bikes and went back to retrieve Fran

After loading her bike, we head back toward Waterville. We stopped at a roadside cafe/store a short distance south of Solon for lunch. She wanted to buy us lunch, but I had gotten two trail lunches from the cafeteria that morning. We ate it while she waited for her taco salad. We did let her pay for an ice cream sandwich we got for an additional dessert.

We stopped in the interesting little town of Showhegan and spent about an hour walking around checking out the shops. I bought a pretty nice guitar for thirty dollars in sort of an antique and thrift shop together.

Our next door dorm neighbors were Kip and Harriet Kilpatrick from Atlanta, Georgia. Harriet was very friendly and we made friends quickly. They had flown to Boston and rented a car. Kip was and experienced hiker and had hiked the AT from Georgia to Grayson Highlands over at Mount Rogers. They had bought a meal plan which included all the meals. During the week, they had decided to take some spontaneous excursions around the area, including two to the coast. They ended up giving us three trail lunch tickets, two dinner tickets and one breakfast ticket. We had dinner in the cafeteria on Wednesday night. We moved everything we did not need for the night to the car after supper.

Thursday morning, we carried all our remaining items to the car and Rhonda turned in our room keys. I went to the cafeteria and used the one breakfast ticket to whiff down a quick offering and then used the trail lunch ticket to fix two sandwiches for our road trip. Our destination for the day was Tobyhanna State Park in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. This was on our way to a trail south of Wilmington, Delaware. The campground was very neat and well laid out. We got a great tent site near the bathhouse/restroom. It had been almost a seven hour drive from Waterville.

Friday, what a day. I got up at a little after six and started breakfast. Rhonda joined me after she had folded the linens and broke down her cot. I had hot oatmeal waiting for her. We got everything packed before a light shower started. Just before we started to leave, I realized that I could not locate the shorts containing my wallet. We did some searching all around and even unfolded the tent. I knew it had to be in car or on the site and the site was easily eliminated. Later on the road, I remembered I had removed the belt from the shorts and stashed the wallet in the pouch on the back of the driver seat.

After leaving the park, we saw a directional sign down the road a ways indicating the direction to the Pocono Raceway. Since it was not that far away, we make a detour and went down to see it (just to say we did). The second Pocono race of the season had just been held back on July 29th. It is a unique track, in that it is a triangle or tri-oval. We stopped at the entrance briefly and turned around.

We made a big mistake by getting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike without an Easy Pass. We ignored or maybe didn't understand an "Easy Passes Only" sign. We weren't sure what that meant. We found out what that meant down near Philadelphia when we exited the turnpike. We were told the charge was $39.95. for about a 85 mile trip. What a surprise. Live and learn.

The trail we were heading for was the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Trail which ran from Delaware City, Delaware to Chesapeake City, Maryland. The map I printed before I left home did not give enough detail so we stopped for lunch at a McDonald's so we could use the Wifi to get more information. Rhonda, nor I, could get a connection so we just had to go with the information we had. I drove to Chesapeake City to begin the ride since Delaware City was closer to where we had a hotel reservation. I wanted to camp somewhere in Delaware, but most of the places were booked up or required two nights reservation. It would have completed my quest of camping in all of the lower 48 states.

The canal construction began in 1804 and had several set backs before its completion in 1829. At that time it was only 66 feet wide and 10 feet deep. There was a tow path in which teams of mules and horses pulled barges, sloops and schooner through the canal using locks. Cargoes included practically every useful item of daily life: lumber, grain, farm products, fish, cotton, coal, iron, and whiskey. Packet ships were eventually established to move freight through the waterway. One such enterprise—the Ericsson Line—operated between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and continued to carry passengers and freight through the canal into the 1940s. The cargo tonnage peaked in 1872 with more than 1.3 million tons transiting the canal.

In 1919, the canal was bought by the federal government for $2.5 million and designated the "Intra-coastal Waterway Delaware River to Chesapeake Bay, Delaware and Maryland". The purchase included six bridges plus a railroad span owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. They were replaced during the 1920s by four vertical lift spans and a new railroad bridge.

Responsibility for operating, maintaining and improving the waterway was assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District. In the mid-1920s, work began to move the eastern entrance at Delaware City several miles south to Reedy Point, Delaware. All locks (except the one at Delaware City) were removed and the waterway was converted to a sea-level operation at 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and 90 feet (27.4 m) wide. These improvements cost $10 million. Two stone jetties at the new eastern entrance were completed in 1926. (The sole remaining lock at Delaware City — a stone structure, resting on wooden underpinnings, with a wooden floor — would eventually be preserved and, in 1975, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[5])

The "new" canal opened in May 1927 with great celebration, yet plans already were underway for further expansion as the sizes of ships and amounts of cargo continued to increase. The Philadelphia District took over operation of the canal in 1933. Between 1935 and 1938, the channel was again improved: it was deepened to 27 feet (8.2 m) and widened to 250 feet (76.2 m) at a cost of nearly $13 million. The project was also expanded to include a federal navigation channel 27 feet (8.2 m) deep and 400 feet (121.9 m) wide for some 26 miles (41.8 km) in the Upper Chesapeake Bay, from the Elk River to Poole's Island.

Through the years, as the sizes and tonnages of ships using the canal continued to grow, accidents and one way traffic restrictions strained the canal's capacity. Between 1938 and 1950 alone, eight ships collided with bridges. In 1954, the United States Congress authorized further expansion of the channel to 450 feet (137.2 m) wide and 35 feet (10.7 m) deep. These improvements began in the 1960s and were completed in the mid 1970s.

I started out about 1 o'clock. Fortunately, it was only about 80 degrees and overcast. Also there was a light breeze blowing off the water. Occasionally, it was blowing right at me, but it didn't last long and was never that strong.

After Rhonda left, she headed to the east to meet me in Delaware City. In riding the trail, I discovered that it was not totally level. There were a few hills to climb. The reason for one of the climbs was to go around a marina called Summit North near Lum's Pond State Park and east of US 301. I also saw that the trail was called the Michael Castle Trail.

When I got to Delaware City, after 3 o'clock Rhonda was waiting where the trail came out to the street. She had walked around the main street and the old canal and lock before I arrived. She was in the parking lot of Kathy's Crab House. I was curious what crab dishes were on the menu other than crabs. When I saw they had crab bisque with potatoes and asparagus and a crab Manhattan style chowder, I called Rhonda to come in so we could share a cup of each because this is the area crabs are famous. Both were very good. Kathy's place has been there since 1984. If is had been supper time, we probably would have a supper there.

When we left there, we drove downtown a couple of blocks before heading to our hotel. There were private boats, cabin cruisers, and a fire and police boat. Many of the shops were not open, but all the restaurants were. The prominent one was Crabbie Dicks Pub and Grill.

Our hotel was up near I-95 south and southwest of Wilmington, it was listed as Newark, Delaware. It was in a cluster of hotels. After I showered and dressed we tried to drive to the nearby Applebee's, but realized that even though it was only a block away we would have to get back on a busy expressway to get there. We decided to walk.

Saturday, we had the arduous task of driving home by way of Baltimore and the DC area, fortunately, it went reasonably smooth with the use of the GPS and Rhonda's guidance. We stopped and split a delicious breakfast at Denny's not far down the road. When we saw that we were not far from Harve de Grace, Maryland, where my nephew lives, I called my brother to get his phone number and found out he was not at home. He was at their house in Franklinton. They had a new baby girl who we had not seen.

We made it home in good time and unpacked the car. We had driven 2314 miles since we had left home eleven days earlier. Maine is always a beautiful place to visit. We probably should have schedule a few more days to explore more since it was such a long drive.

Dutchess County Trail

Walk Over Bridge  -  Hudson River

Kennebec Valley Trail

Great Pond

C & D Canal Trail


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