Happy Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving! or Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s day! We are in Canada and Thanksgiving and Columbus day are on the same Holiday. It seems really weird for us to hear people wishing other people a Happy Thanksgiving on a Monday, much less in early October! But it was a day to be thankful for after all!

We started our day by visiting Niagara Falls! Our first stop was the behind the falls experience. It was a little unnerving to walk through a tunnel realizing how much water was flowing just feet over your head! But the sights were quiet nice.

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We thought the view from above was even better. This is one of my favorites!

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The Canadians clearly were lucky in that you can see Horseshoe falls as well as the American falls so much better from the Canadian side.


The afternoon was a fun afternoon of wine tasting in the Niagara region. Starting with the Wayne Gretzgy distillery and ending with a very nice pork chop on our grill back at the camp ground. At this point vacation is basically over and we have two days of driving to get back to Decorah. I’m almost sure the adventure is not over yet. So stay tuned for further updates.

Rainy drive to Green Lakes State Park

After a fitful night of sleep due to the on again off again rain, and in between the rain the wind blowing the rain out of the trees along with many leaves. We finally got up and decided to head down the road. It was just lightly raining when we broke camp, but as we drove west toward Syracuse NY we drove in and out of fairly heavy rain. Nothing nearly as bad as the moment we arrived at our campground!

It wouldn’t be a good trip if you didn’t get to use your raincoat. So we put them on and used the dump station and added some fresh water. Do I look happy or what?


When we found our site, it was basically a shallow river. Despite our excellent rain coats we were pretty wet by the time we got backed in and leveled up. I was wearing my crocs for some dumb reason so my feet ended up soaked too. I decided to do some work, which was a mistake, as something broke, so I couldn’t run my Saturday updates.

We thought about heading out to a brewery for dinner and the hope of watching MNUFC take on LA Galaxy. In the end our internet was good enough that we decided to make chili and stay in. The Loons miraculously won, so that is something. Their playoff hopes, however dim, are still alive.

The morning was cool and partly sunny but very windy. I spent the morning working on my problem and finally found the solution I needed. Jane took a walk around the campground. We had hoped to bike along the Erie Canal, but it was way too windy and cool.

Green Lakes state park

Then I got the board book for the Luther board meeting and saw the schedule for Thursday, so we called another audible and decided to head out to Niagara Falls today, which will allow us to arrive in Decorah on Wednesday instead of Thursday. You gotta stay flexible when you are on the road.

Franconia Notch Stat Park

Onward to New Hampshire! We have turned the corner and started heading back west. We got to Acadia a day early to try to maximize the nice weather, and are doing the same to try to enjoy some New Hampshire “leaf peeping.” Personally I’ve now done enough leaf peeping to last me a while, but everywhere you turn there are hillsides full of vibrant colors. Jane has a higher level of enthusiasm and can’t get enough of the leaves.

Here is a beautiful view from “Height of the Land,” one of our first stops in New Hampshire.

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We arrived at our campground at Franconia Notch State Park. It is a very compact campground and took a lot of fancy driving for Jane to get our camper backed into our spot. Its one of the most unlevel spots we have had and took some stacking skill on my part to get us level left to right. But it was a beautiful site, with a nice fire pit.

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After a long day of driving it felt good to go for a short hike at Artists Bluff. It was a good workout of climbing over rocks to get to the top where we could see hill sides in every direction, a small pond and even some of the ski slopes. It had turned quite windy so we didn’t stay on the bluff as long as we might.

Instead we headed back to camp, got a couple of bundles of wood, and made a nice campfire with happy hour and some burgers on the horizon. This will be our last campsite with no electric hookup. Also no place to dump, so we’ll have to haul our gray and black water with us to New York.

We have reservations for three nights, but we are anticipating leaving a day earlier as it is supposed to rain and we can drive to Syracuse and break up the drive to Niagara.

The highlight of day 2 at Franconia Notch was the hike to the Flume Gorge. This was a fun hike through a granite and basalt gorge. covered bridges and walkways. Fall colors were everywhere despite the overcast day.

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When the hike was over we still had a drive on the “Kanck”. A well known highway with lots of turnouts. This weekend is a long weekend with Columbus day and Canadian Thanksgiving, which seems to be widely celebrated in the Northeast. So it is one of the busiest weekends of the year for leaf peepers. But despite the crowds there was plenty of beauty to go around.

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We stopped for lunch in North Conway at a restaurant that was featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives called Barley and Salt. We had the Thai chicken tacos which were really delicious and which I am determined to recreate when I have more than a camper kitchen to work with.

By the time we got back to the camper, which was round 6pm it was starting to rain so we packed up the chairs and had everything stowed and ready to take off in the morning. The rainy night was a perfect night to use some of the left over ragu in the freezer. We both feel like we we are in the home stretch now. We will be in Decorah in six days. The time has flown by, but looking back at our initial stops in New York feels like a long time ago!

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise

I woke at 1:15AM, three and a half hours of sleep left. Darn, I did math, now my brain is awake. Breathe slowly and try to get back to sleep. 2:30, wonder what time it is now? 3:30, really? just sleep until the alarm goes off already! 4:30 both of us are awake but we might as well just lay here for 15 more minutes! Finally, my iPhone alarm goes off and I accidentally hit snooze – as if! I’m so used to just waking up at 5:30 every morning, that when I need to set an alarm to get up earlier my whole system breaks down. So why all of the fuss?

We had a reservation to watch the sunrise on Cadillac mountain! It is the first place to see the sun come up in the USA. I guess that is a cool feature. The recommendation from all of Jane’s research was to get there an hour before sunrise, which was very good advice because of course the sky starts to glow well before.

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It is so cool to be sitting up there looking at the ocean and all of the little islands, and everyone around you is whispering, because its dark and nobody wants to spoil the vibe. We watch a cruise ship come into the area waiting to deposit its passengers in Bar Harbor for the day. We hear lots of fishing boats heading out, and we can see lots of moving points of light on the water.

We can tell there are some clouds on the horizon so there should be some nice color. And there is!

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6:35 comes and the sun is obscured by the clouds on the horizon, but we wait a bit longer and are rewarded with a glorious sunrise! The volume level goes up all around us, and people leave their spots and start wandering around more. Everyone seems very happy! A beautiful sunrise and the promise of a new day.

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What a great way to start your morning. Next we think that maybe some Popovers from the cafe at Jordan’s pond might be a good way to celebrate a successful sunrise, so we stop, but sadly they do not open until 9. It is only 7:30, so we head back to the camper for some pancakes instead.

Later some more hiking and another trip to Bar Harbor to find the internet. My coffee grinder has broken down, so I’ll try to see if I can find a replacement or at least by some ground coffee for future mornings. We only have a week left, time has gone so quickly.

Acadia Day One

Lets get going by 9 Jane said. No problem, time for coffee and morning puzzles etc. My watch and phone said it was only about 8:15 and Jane was pacing, “ready??” Her iPad said it was 9:15. Some of our devices had not made the switch from Atlantic to Eastern timezone. Not surprising given the lack of internet connectivity around Acadia.

The result was that we got an early start on our hike up the Beehive Trail, which was good because we definitely beat the rush. Here are some pics to highlight our hike/climb.

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Yep, this hike features vertical climbs up metal rungs. A couple were even past vertical. I must admit that the pictures definitely look more dangerous than it felt at the time.

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The climb was definitely worth it as you could see forever, and it was beautiful.

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With the hike finished we headed back to the camper. The sun and solar panels had already done their job of recharging the batteries for the camper. We had worked up an appetite so I cooked some hash browns, bacon and scrambled eggs on the griddle.

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Acadia has highways, park roads, and carriage roads. The last are thanks to the Rockefeller’s from way back. The carriage roads are for bikers and hikers and horses only. So it is a great way to see the park free from traffic. Getting to the carriage roads from our campground, however, is a bit of a challenge. We had to start on one of the park roads for a few miles and then walk our bikes up the bank to the carriage road once we got there.

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We really enjoyed Jordan’s pond and Eagle Lake and the Bubble Pond… The fall colors were really brilliant

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The last bit of our ride was back to hiking. To get from the carriage road to the highway that brings us back to our campground required some fancy maneuvering!

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With plenty of exercise for the day, we rested for a few minutes and then went in to Bar Harbor where we had a dinner reservation. Bar Harbor was busy I can’t imagine what it is like there during the summer months. But we found a brewery with good WiFi to catch up on a few things and then walked around the shops before heading to Geddy’s for some calamari and pizza.

It was not a late night, as we need to get up at 4:45AM to drive up to Cadillac mountain to watch the sunrise…

Halifax for Jane's big six oh

Halifax has a nice food scene and a pretty boardwalk along the bay. We saw several cruise ships leave and arrive, and got to try a local specialty. A Donair.

A Halifax Donair shares some history with a Gyro, except that they are made from beef and have a special Halifax sauce. Crispy thin sliced beef with a creamy, sweet, garlic sauce with plenty of tomatoes and onions. We split one from a shop on the boardwalk so as not to spoil our appetites for Jane’s birthday dinner.

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The boardwalk was fine, but I wouldn’t say spectacular. We found a nice Irish pub for some drinks, and they had a live band. So it was fun to sit and listen. Not as cool as the ceilidh back on Cape Breton, but still good.

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Birthday dinner was at The Bicycle Thief restaurant. It was a very nice meal, Jane had Seared Atlantic Halibut with brown butter & parmigiano fregola, charred asparagus, vino bianco, roasted sweet tomatoes, lemon & caper beurre blanc. I had Old-School Lobster Thermidor, Whole NS Lobster, wild mushrooms, shallots, Brandy crema, gratinéed with breadcrumbs, gruyère & parmigiano, truffle spaghettini & fresh asparagus. Both were delicious. We had a nice bottle of Chardonnay from Long Meadow Range in Anderson Valley. For desert we split the Creme brulee… slightly warm, with a really crispy crust, in short perfect. Top that off with a little sip of Port or Courvoisier and you have completed a near perfect meal.


Today our goal was to explore some of the other state parks and hikes near Watkins Glen, verifying whether Ithaca really is “Gorges”, and try out a few wineries on the shores of Cayuga lake. It was a good day!

We started out with the Gorge Hike at Robert Treman State Park. We were there early enough to get some beautiful morning light.

The Gorge Hike at Robert Treman SP

The hike takes you to the top of Lucifer Falls, and then you descend The view looking back and up is also amazing, but then you realize you have a lot of climbing to do to get back where you started. But it was such a beautiful morning and we almost had the trail to ourselves.

Lucifer Falls from below

After this hike we made a quick stop at Buttermilk Falls just on the edge of Ithaca.

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We were noticing that the falls were a bit dry compared to the descriptions and other pictures we have seen.

Both Jane and I have been to Ithaca before, back when Kaia was doing her college search. But, that was in much cooler weather. It was nice to be able to explore. The motto of Ithaca is “Ithaca is gorges,” and it is a very pretty town, very hilly, but areas and paths along the waterfalls leading right to campus.

A beautiful walk from downtown to campus

We headed over to the shore of Cayuga lake at Taughannock Falls state park. We at our sandwiches and enjoyed the lake, and I answered a couple of emails on my iPad. Our post lunch hike was to the falls. It was a nice flat hike leading back to the falls, where we also saw a group of Perigrine Falcons circling. These falcons can dive at speeds of 200mph to knock out their prey!

Although high, the water flow at these falls was very low. So after our hike we continued north along the lake to check out some wineries: Sheldrake Point, the Thirsty Owl, and Buttonwood grove. All had great views of the lake so we could sip and enjoy the view. We thought that the Thirsty Owl should be introduced to the Thirsty Otter in Balsam Lake. We are learning that there are lots of good wines in the region if not what we are used to. Most are more of a German style like a dry Riesling or even a dry Gewurstraminer on the white side. While the reds tend to be a little more traditional, but with Cab Franck being a bit more prevalent. We definitely found something to like everywhere.

We finished our wine tasting a little too early to head back to town for a dinner out. So we stopped at a the Finger Lakes Distillery along the way to enjoy the waning sun and more lake views, and a cocktail.

Finger Lakes Distillery

Next stop Stowe Vermont!

Day One Cabin to Indiana Dunes NP

Mostly just a travel day, but with a short hike at the end. Going through Chicago is never fun, but gave us the quote of the day from Jane: “Oh my gosh we are getting passed by an Oscar Meyer Weiner!”

Passed by the Oscar Mayer truck

The Indiana Dunes National Park is the newest National Park. It is located right along the shore of Lake Michigan, with plenty of beaches and sand dunes to explore. Here we are on the beach, Jane is pointing at downtown Chicago, which we could just make out through the haze.

Downtown Chicago from Mount Baldy

It was a very nice campground, but no electricity so we decided to cook over an open fire. We had bought a bundle of wood at the gas station but it was very wet, so it was a struggle but we eventually had enough coals for some turkey burgers. It was a very nice night to enjoy the fire, but we have a long day of driving to get to New York so it was an early night.

Relaxing campfire

Westward Ho!

Instead of camping our way to California this Fall we decided to make it a four day drive. We stayed in, gasp, hotels! This is really our first driving trip where we have used hotels since the pandemic. The verdict? Its nice to pull your accommodations with you!

Our first night was a very nice lodge in Spearfish Canyon South Dakota. Although the lodge was nice it was kind of a bummer because we had a nice hike planned, but I had injured my foot just a couple of days before we took off and I couldn’t walk more than a few yards without a lot of pain.

We did see some pretty cool sheep on the hillside!

We left at O-dark-thirty on day two of our adventure and had the pleasure of scraping ice off our windshield for the first time in a very long time! Today’s drive would take us across Wyoming to a lodge just outside of Dutch John Utah. The area is better known as Flaming Gorge. It was very pretty but our lodge was quite remote and felt even more so because we were clearly in the after season. Only one restaurant in the area was open.

Even thought it was isolated, we had a very pretty view out the picture window of our cabin. Here is a nice Sunset shot!

And to follow up, here is a sunrise photo from the same spot.

A long drive down I 15 brought us to Cedar City Utah for our third night. We headed up to Brian Head, a ski area and did a short little hike. My foot was feeling better by this time, but we still didn’t want to do too much. I love this shot of the show against the beautiful red rock! Our hotel was a Baymont tonight, and I’m not sure why, but the hotel had a some special “mini-rooms” even the door was about ¾ of a normal width. This was our room for the night. The saving grace for the hotel was that it was near a brewery and a really excellent pizza place! I had a chicken pizza with white sauce and pistachios! Truly amazing.

Our last day was the final push to Indio. But we made a quick stop at Kolob Canyon to take a short hike. Maybe some of the most spectacular views yet.

This was a great way to do the trip out this year. We averaged about 6-7 hours of driving a day with time at the end of each day for a short hike or some site seeing.

Superior Fall Colors

Timing the fall colors is a tough game to play. It’s hard to predict when they will peak because there are so many factors at play. Jane did all of the research and tried to make a reservation for next week, but could not find a good campsite. So we reserved for this whole week thinking we would use part of our reservation. Then I found out I had other commitments at the end of the week so we had to push our time further forward.

The results speak for themselves.

We arrived on a very gloomy and rainy Sunday afternoon. But discovered our campsite was just 100 hundred yards or less from the shore.

Bean and Bear

The next day was cool and clear so we did the 7.5 mile bean and bear hike near silver bay. The colors we almost there but not quite. Still it was a very beautiful hike, although Jane lost her Yellowstone hat from the vantage point where we took this photo.


A shorter hike on another clear day, but further north near Lutson had amazingly vibrant fall colors.

Temperance River

On our final morning we took the short hike to the Temperance River gorge. It had a beautiful waterfall, and we enjoyed watching an Arctic Loon try to fight its way upstream.

Devils Tower

The road home runs through Devils Tower National Monument. A monument who got its name from a misunderstanding between the Native Americans name “Bear Lodge” and the white people.

Nothing about this tower says evil/devil. But apparently after the army slaughtered all of the bison the area was a stinking pile of carcasses and the army colonel described it as Devil’s Tower. There is a movement to change it back, predictably opposed by Wyoming members of congress. You can read more about it on the park service website

As is our usual practice we spent the last night on the road at a KOA so we could have a nice easy way to clean out our tanks for the long trip home. This KOA shows a movie every night — Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You may remember that this monument featured in that movie.

This is a popular spot for climbers. Except for the month of June when it is not open for climbing out of respect to the Here are some climbers coming back down.

The title picture for this post was taken at 6 AM as we pulled out of the park to being our 13 hour journey back to Wisconsin. This was a fantastic trip, made even better by our traveling companions. Where will we be five years from now? Who knows, but it will be an adventure.