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Monday, October 2, 2023

Fall Hike in Promise Land State Park

 Monday, October 2, 2023

Hi Blog!

After leaving the White Mountains of New Hampshire, we made a stop along the Hudson River just below Albany, New York. We used that stop to visit Dave's brother and sister-in-law, Laird and Risa. We had a great take-out dinner Friday and a fabulous brunch on Saturday at the new and improved Cafe Madison. We also managed to play Chuck Luck! The visit was too short, but hopefully once we settle in the new house there will be more opportunities for visits.

On Sunday, we left the Capital Region of New York and stopped in upstate Pennsylvania at one of our favorite parks, Promised Land State Park. We typically camp on Pickerel Point, but decided to stay in the Beechwood Campground because it is closer to the small boat launch on Lower Lake. However, after back to back to back moves, we really didn't want to sit in our kayaks. We opted to take a hike instead. The nice part of being in the Beechwood Campground was we could just walk over to the trailhead.

The Little Falls Trails is popular with campers. Several other hikers had preceded us, knocking down most of the spiderwebs. However, one lone birch leaf spun on an invisible thread of spider silk.

The first part of our hike follows the East Branch Wallenpaupack Creek.

Looking back upstream from the bridge, we saw the spillway for the dam at the bottom of Lower Lake.

With all the recent rain, the creek was flowing briskly. The trees are beginning to show their fall colors.

Normally dry side channels now required a little rock hopping.

In all of our hikes, this is the first time we have come across woolly alder aphids. Woolly aphids are spectacular. They sit on twigs in large numbers and fly through the air like bits of fluff or feathers. Their aerial appearance has earned them common names like fairy flies, fluff bugs, and angel bugs.  Of course, they're not as angelic as their nicknames imply.

The “wool” on a woolly aphid is wax, produced by abdominal glands in order to make the aphid look less like a Happy Meal to its predators. The wax streamers shed water, make the aphid look like mold, and are distasteful and distracting. Several sources suggested that the strands also assist a woolly aphid when it’s aloft, helping it float in the breezes and disguising it as an airborne plant seed. 

We bid the woolly aphids goodbye and continued down the trail. A carpet of maple leaves hid the infamous Pennsylvania rocks.

After hiking to the end of the Little Falls Trail, we set out on the East Branch Wallenpaupack Trail. We were hoping to make it to Lake Paupack. However, we found the lake surrounded by private properties and were not able to get a good look at it. We made our way back to the Little Falls Trail. You can normally ford the stream here and pick up the Dam Ridge Trail. However, the recent rains had made fording a very wet proposition.

We hiked back to the bridge next to the Little Falls. 

In the photo below, Kathy is sitting on a bench at the far end of the bridge taking in the falls.

We thought this would make a great lunch spot. We listened to the falls while we ate our sandwiches.

After lunch, we continued down the near side of the creek. The high water flow was creating interesting new channels through the flats.

We left the creek behind and picked up the Dam Ridge Trail. After the hurricane came through a couple weeks ago, a number of trees were knocked down along the trail. Kathy practices a little trail yoga in the photo below.

The trail crossed right through a rododendron forest. If it wasn't for Dave's red shirt, Kathy would have missed the trail.

We connected with the Hemlock Trail, which is actually a forest road and fire break. It was nice to walk on the old woods road instead of all those rocks!

The hike ended at the far end of our campground, in an equestrian camping area. While there were no horse campers present, you could definitely smell that some had been here recently. Good thing blog posts don't come with a smell feature!

This may be our last blog for a while. We move to the South Philly KOA tomorrow. We plan to spend the next several weeks working on our new house, visiting more family and puppy sitting for our daughter. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Hello Again, Zealand Falls Hut!

We've loved hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire since we first hiked up here with our local Appalachian Mountain Club group in 2004.  In that year, we did a hut-to-hut hike in the Pemigewasett Range, starting with Greenleaf Hut below Mount Madison, and on to Galehead Hut, ending at Zealand Falls Hut before hiking out.  We were back to Zealand Falls Hut a few years later when we hiked all of the White Mountain Huts, but it has been a while.  We had only one day on this stop to do a day hike, and decided to hike up to Zealand Falls Hut, taking the Zealand Trail, following the Zealand River, which is very picturesque:

Our total mileage was about 6 miles -- 5.6 miles of trail directly from the trailhead to the hut, and another half mile of side ventures to see falls, ponds and streams along the way.

We always hope to catch the Fall color when we head south in September and October, but we never know what we will get when we make our campground reservations.  In this case, we were also limited by our desire to spend as much time in Newfoundland as we could.  As it turned out, we hit the Zealand Falls trail on what might be the prettiest day this Fall.  Over half the leaves have turned color.  Enough leaves have fallen on the trail to remind hikers that it is autumn, but not enough to obscure the trail or make it slippery.

The granite and limestone of the White Mountains, together with so many boulders rounded from glacial action and wild rivers, makes this a most scenic and memorable area for hiking:

About a mile into the trail, we came to a small cascade that gave us a preview of the pretty flatrock rivulets of Zealand Falls.  We stopped to admire it and Dave took a selfy:

This was a first:  a tree had encircled a large boulder with its roots and, eventually, toppled.  The boulder had peeked out above the roots, and when the tree fell it lifted its roots, leaving an open circle where the rock had protruded:

We crossed Zealand River perhaps eight times.  Three of them were by plain but sturdy wooden bridges.  The others were by rock hopping.  Here is one of the bridges, with Kathy perched up top:

The greatest highlight of the trail -- other than Zealand Falls at the top -- is Zealand Pond, which was so still today that it reflected everything around it. 

The bottom of Zealand Pond is a wetland that has been sculpted by beaver activity, and the trail tries to leave all of that undisturbed by crossing on a raised boardwalk:

Just across the boardwalk, Kathy spotted these orange maple leaves and declared that they were her best friends.  Kathy and the leaves embraced each other for this photo:

What a glorious Autumn landscape -- one direction --

-- and another:

We just couldn't get enough of the waters and the Fall colors.

We had started out early, and by 11:30 we reached Zealand Falls.  Here, Kathy stands below the falls themselves:

We hiked further up until we could walk out onto the smooth rock above the falls.  We were rewarded by this view to the East:

The view upstream was just as beautiful in its own way:

Zealand Falls Hut is one of our favorite huts.  We remember a family of two parents and three teenagers who we met in 2004 as they passed here on their mammoth through-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  It was pouring rain, and they hoped to shelter in the hut overnight.  Unfortunately, the hut was full and they had to tent in the rain; but it did not dampen their spirits.  We chatted with them about the adventures they had had so far on the A.T.

Today, the hut was empty, save for one Hut Croo member, who was busy cooking supper for the hikers who would arrive later in the day.  He still had, however, leftovers from breakfast and split pea soup from the prior evening's dinner, which we were able to enjoy with our sandwiches and water.  We exchanged stories with our host and Kathy purchased one of the unique AMC Hut t-shirts depicting Zealand Falls Hut.

After a short rest, we started back down the trail, but not before exploring around the hut.  We spotted the backboards used by Croo members to haul trash out and supplies back in to the hut each day.  Croo had autographed the backboards with their names, trail monickers and years.

Our hike back was uneventful -- save for the large number of hikers we met who were hiking up the trail.  We had started so early that we hardly met any other hikers on our way up to the hut.  However, by noon, many adventurers were out enjoying the spectacular Fall scenery.

One group of hikers was perhaps 25 or 30 6th grade students who were being led on an overnight hike to Zealand Falls Hut, where they would spend a -- no doubt exciting and noisy -- night camping out.  One group of kids decided to make trail art, including this maple tree constructed from -- you guessed it -- maple leaves:

We expressed our admiration for their artwork and their adventuresome spirit, then bade them good journey as we turned on down the trail.  Before too long, we were back at the trailhead, realizing sadly that our visit to the White Mountain trails was already over.  It only whetted our appetite to get back up here again soon to enjoy this very special place.

Until we see you on the trail here again, stay thirsty, my friends!

Winter Harbor - A Visit to U.S. Bells

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hi Blog!

After leaving Canada, our first stop in the U.S.A. was MainStay Cottages & RV Park in Winter Harbor, Maine. We had stayed in this park back in 2021 and just fell in love with the location. The owners Roger and Pearl are the salt of the earth. In 2021, we also got to be good friends with our neighbors, Ron and Brian. This last winter, we had a chance to visit Ron and Brian in Florida. They told us they were going to spend this whole summer at MainStay. We also wanted to get back there, so we told them we would see them this September.

In addition to several Happy Hours, home cooked meals and board games, Ron and Brian took us to see the folks at U.S. Bells. The bell foundry was established in 1970 by Richard and Cindy Fisher. Richard crafts the bells and Cindy runs the store and tours. Crafting runs in the family. Their son is a woodworker and their daughter-in-law is a potter.

As Cindy explained, first a pattern is made from wood or plaster that resembles the finished piece. Sand is packed around the pattern to form a mold impression. 

The molding sand is a mixture of fine sand, clay and a small amount of water. The sand is packed around a pattern and will retain an impression from that pattern much the same as leaving footprints in damp beach sand. The pattern board is removed leaving a sand mold into which they pour molten bronze. When the bronze cools, it becomes a solid casting. But first, you have to get the bronze really, really hot.

Bronze melts at about 1800°F, but it has to heat all the way to 2150°F to be sure it stays molten long enough to completely fill the mold.

The crucible containing 90 pounds of molten bronze is removed from the furnace and the floating slag skimmed from the surface. The metal must be poured smoothly but quickly into each mold to assure the castings do not ‘freeze’ before they are full.

The round "spru hole" on top of each jacket is like a funnel to direct the molten bronze into the mold cavity. The bronze is poured down the spru hole until the mold fills to the top.  Sometimes a little bronze leaks out onto the floor. The floor is covered with sand to catch any drips for easy clean up.

It doesn't take long for the bronze to cool. After the weights and jackets have been removed, the molds are broken open to reveal the new castings. These will be door bells or ship bells with traditional clappers inside.

These small round bells will be made into wind chime bells. These small bells have a clapper on the outside that swings in the wind, striking the bell much like a wind chime.

Sometimes, things don't go as planned. Several things can interrupt the casting process. If the sand is too wet or the bronze cools too quickly and freezes, the result is unuseable. Mistakes can be melted down again.

However, any little drips that hit the floor can't be re-used. They pick up too many impurities. They are gathered and sold to a scrap metal dealer. While Dave picked out our bell, Kathy asked if she could buy some scrap for an art project. Cindy picked up some of the spilled bronzed and gifted it to us.

Pictured below is our bell. We are not sure where in the new house it will hang, but that's part of the fun. If you are curious about how it sounds, here is a link to the U.S. Bell website for the Triple Wind Bell so you can listen for yourself.

We finished our adventure with some amazing lobster rolls. Our visit was all too short. We look forward to seeing Ron and Brian again in Florida. Until then, stay thirsty friends.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Story of Flip - 2005 to 2023

Eighteen summers ago, in 2005, at an overnight camp in the Pocono Mountains, a stray momma cat left her kitten in the care of a couple of summer camp counselors from Great Britain. The kitten loved to hide under the cabin and pounce on the campers walking by in their flip-flops -- so the foster counselor parents called her, "Flip Flop."  She was a character from the start:

At the time, our daughter was working as a Senior Counselor at the camp. On one of our visits, we got a chance to meet Flip Flop.

Fast forward to the end of summer camp, when the British counselors found out that they couldn't bring Flip Flop back to the UK until they were willing to pay for 30 days of quarantine at $35.00 a day! That was more than both counselors earned the whole summer. By this time, the camp was empty and only the senior staff remained to close up.

At this time in our lives, we already had three cats: Friskie, Millie and Luckie. Friskie was our oldest cat at 11 years, but he had constant health problems. While we were away for the weekend attending a Life on Wheels seminar about full-time RVing, we left Friskie with the vet so they could monitor his conditions. Sadly, we got a call at 9:00 a.m. letting us know Friskie had unexpectedly died in his sleep. Just two hours later, our daughter called and asked if we could adopt Flip-Flop; if so, she would bring Flip Flop home with her. One little friend walked out the door and another walked in; sometimes, you just can't fight karma.

When our daughter left for grad school shortly after that, Flip Flop became our cat. The first thing we did was officially shorten her name to Flip.

The next year Baxter joined the party.  In the photo below, Flip is in the foreground, with Millie and Luckie behind her. Sitting on the back of the recliner above them was our fat-cat Baxter.

Flip always loved looking out the windows. She was never a "people" cat like Baxter. When our niece Chelsea stayed with us, Baxter was enamored while Flip could care less.

When we sold the house and moved full-time into our Fifth Wheel RV, Flip claimed the couch.

However, Flip Luckie and Baxter had to share the bed:

Two years into our RV travels, in 2014, we lost our Luckie Cat.  He was about 17 when he passed away, a little old guy who lived his best scaredy-cat life.

We couldn't leave the cats in the Fifth Wheel while we traveled, so they had the whole backseat of our medium duty truck. Once we moved them from the rig to the truck, we would open their carriers so they could walk around, eat, drink and use the litter box. Flip rarely came out of her box, but when she did, Baxter gave her a wide berth!

Every once in a while, Flip would find something interesting out the back window of the RV. She would chatter and chirp at the critters. There was one road runner in Arizona that would jump up on the bikes and torment her.

While Baxter enjoyed walking around on a leash and meeting new neighbors, Flip never wanted to leave the trailer. We could leave the front door open, and she would poke her head out, look around and immediately go back inside. Having lived her early years outside at a summer camp, she had no interest in going into the wild ever again. The sky was just too big and there are scary things in the woods.

There was no doubt Flip was Queen of the Sofa and Picture Window -- so much so that Baxter dared not share the sofa with her, despite being twice her size and weight.

In 2017, we moved from our Fifth Wheel into the motorhome we now own.  Flip lost her couch, but gained a dashboard!  Now she dubbed herself Queen of the Dashboard.

Sometimes the sun was so hot on the dash, she had to jump down and catch a breeze coming in the front door.  In that case, she deigned to share the floor with Baxter, but you can see who got the softer mat:

Once we bought a sunshade for the windshield, she would spend most of her time watching camp TV, come sun or shade.

In 2019, Ruby entered the mix, a little kitten with Tortitude that we found in the bushes by a hospital in San Bernardino.  Luckily, the bed had enough room for a third occupant, so sleeping was generally a time of peace in our house:

As Flip grew older, she tended to be most content lounging (or sleeping) on the dashboard all day, with stretches only to eat and use the litterbox, before it was time to move to the bed for the nighttime.  At night, she occupied her own (queenly) pillow between our heads or -- when it was chillier -- moving over to Kathy's pillow to drape herself around Kathy's head.  Kathy liked to think that Flip did this out of love and generosity to keep Kathy's head warm, but we suspected that Flip did it to steal Kathy's heat for herself.  As Flip got older, it became clear that she loved any source of heat she could find.

It cannot be said the Flip ever entirely accepted the Youngsters -- Baxter and Ruby; she merely tolerated their existence in the same space.  But she made it very clear where HER spots were, and woe be unto a younger cat that attempted to steal any of them.  

Flip had a very commanding growl and screech that would throw fear into the heart of any being in her vicinity.  She had gotten used to receiving wet food for breakfast as soon as we got up, when we had to feed Baxter medicine and could not deny her similar food.  From that time on, Flip was in charge of the sleeping calendar.  She would move to the bedroom after dinner, and, promptly at 8:30 or 9:00 pm, she would come into the living room and yell at us that it was bedtime. She deigned to accept bedtime scritches from us, and then slept until 4:00 am when she would rise and perform her morning toilette.  If we were not awake by 5:00 am, she would start to cry, causing Ruby to rise and join her in the living room.  The two would conspire to walk on us until David got up (usually about 5:30 am) and feed Flip to stop her demanding screech.  By this time, Ruby would be ready to go out for a walk which, as soon as it was light, David would accommodate.  Meanwhile, Flip would use the opportunity to wake Kathy and cajole more treats.

Life was good for Queen Flip.

When she passed, it happened very quickly.  She had lymphoma, which finally reached her kidneys, and she weakened rapidly.  The vet told us that she was not yet in pain, but would be within days.  He recommended we say our goodbyes to her and let her fall peacefully to sleep.  The little spirit lay calmly with us and closed her eyes.  She was probably anticipating the joys of being Queen of the Heavenly Dashboard.