20 June 2008

Sunshine, good times, and friends!

At about 5:15 AM, (this would be on Thursday, June 19) we got good news and bad news. The good news was that the sun was shining brightly; the bad news was the the sun was shining brightly in our eyes and it was 5:15 AM... Not surprisingly, we were able to get back to sleep for another hour or two. We found that the Trapp Lodge had the best shower on our trip so far - great water pressure, hot, hot water, and big fluffy towels. A wonderful way to start the day! Since we were kind of out in the middle of nowhere, we opted for the huge European style buffet breakfast at the lodge. Great idea! I had a healthy bowl of Muesli (with added flax seed, for those of you who worry about my eating habits) and a big plate of fruit. Oh, and also possibly the best blueberry muffin I've ever had and a teeny little croissant with homemade raspberry jam and strawberry preserves. Kim had fruit, granola, meat, cheese, and a cranberry muffin. Our iced tea gave us our morning shot of caffiene and we were good to go. It was probably after nine before we left, but we didn't have a big travel day planned. On our way to Burlington, we realized that we had forgotten to check out the Flavor Graveyard at Ben and Jerry's, so we took our first detour of the day. The Flavor Graveyard is where all of the permanently retired B&J flavors have been laid to rest. It was pretty funny! Since we were stuffed from breakfast, we were able to resist the very strong temptation to have ice cream...for now, anyway.

We took US 2 into Burlington, which took us just forever! We barely drove through town, just passing by the University of Vermont and the hospital. We took an unintended side trip to the Intervale, which we have no idea what it is, but we're quite sure they were not expecting cars on what appeared to be a bike path. We were in search of the Grand Isle ferry, which we eventually found. We had to laugh, though, because when we were at Ben & Jerry's at 10:30 and we found out that the next Burlington ferry didn't leave until 11:45, we opted to go for the Grand Isle ferry instead, since it left about every 12 minutes or so and we could get on it much sooner. It probably won't surprise you that we were on the 12:30 ferry... On the ride over we saw huge osprey nests and we got dumped off in Plattsburg, NY. Our plan was to find a grocery store and get a picnic lunch for our hike in the Ausable Chasm, but then we found ourselves in front of a restaurant called Gus's, which was advertising Red Hots. From somewhere deep in my memory banks, I seemed to recall reading about this place in Road Food, so we stopped and got the book out of our backseat library (right next to our backseat bar). Sure enough, there were THREE Plattsburg eateries in the food bible, so we read about all of them and decided to try the red hots, aka Michigans, aka chili dogs (from where I come from, anyway) at a place called McSweeney's. We had barely gotten going down the street and were trying to ask Jill where to go when we drove right past it. U turn! It was a great choice! We had our virgin Michigans and shared an order of onion rings. Yum! But the best part was talking to our hosts, JoAnn and Stephen. They were so nice and friendly and their food was great! We shared our road trip book with them and hopefully they'll find time to take a road trip of their own someday soon. JoAnn and Stephen, thanks for the hospitality and have a wonderful trip to North Carolina for your nephew's wedding!

Soon we were in the Adirondacks, and they were so pretty! We passed an interesting little sculpture park that had lots of sculptures but we could not figure out how to get in there. We had passed it, turned around, drove past again, and still never found a driveway. So we just pulled off and got a couple of pictures. Soon after that, we passed a sign for Ausable Point, so I quickly turned in, because I thought that's where we were going. So I was a little premature, but it was so odd to see marshes up here that look so similar to those at the beach. Well, except for the minor detail of mountains in the background... Anyway, we were still searching for the Ausable Chasm and sincerely hoping the rain would stop just anytime. We were in need of a hike to walk off our red hots!

Soon enough, we were rewarded, or at least we hoped that was the case. We saw the big signs for Ausable Chasm, but they looked so much like the signs at Natural Bridge that we were a little bit concerned that it might turn out to be another underwhelming adventure.
It was raining pretty hard when we got there, so we donned our rainy day gear (such as it is) and our ball caps and went into the visitor center. Can you imagine that we were the only ones there, except for the workers? We just laughed when they tried to sell us rafting tickets. It may have been 61 degrees... We got extensive instructions and several maps for our $16 'tour' and we were thinking we had really been had. We ended up having a great time and seeing nature at its finest. And we weren't with the 200 children who had been there earlier in the day! First we saw a structure called Elephant's Head, which you'll have to agree was very aptly named. Then we crossed the bridge and got a good peek at Rainbow Falls. So far, so good! We walked on down a path that had been recently restocked with wood chips, so it was soft and smelled great. And by then it had even stopped raining! Soon we were standing above Elephant's Head and looking back over where we had started. There was a LONG set of stairs that we had noticed when we were over there (hoping that we would not have to go down them, since that usually means you have to come back up them) when we noticed something odd. The last few sections of stairs were broken and the last 'step' was about 20 feet! Turns out that in 1996, the area had flooded so badly that all of the footpaths and all but two bridges had been washed away, which means that the water had risen to at least 150 feet in the gorge! There were lots of different geologic features to the chasm, and the trail was well marked with signs telling about each feature and how it had been formed. There was so much moss and millions of ferns - it was lush with greenery and dripping with water. The earthy smell after the rain was wonderful, and the peaceful, quiet walk was a great way to spend the day. Until we had to climb up as many stairs as we had come down! We saw the place where the rafters put in and noticed a sign saying the park closed at 4 PM. It was about 3:50 at the time, and no one had mentioned any time limits to us! Amazingly, a shuttle bus arrived to take us back to our car (the only one left in the lot) so we were safe!

Since my friend Katy was expecting us sometime after five, we thought we'd better make our way to the ferry back to Vermont. On the way, we saw an incredible rainbow (yes, it started raining again just as we finished our hike) and we got to the ferry about 10 minutes before it was to leave. In the meantime, I called my Looper friends Diane and Louis. If you haven't been reading their blog, please do - there's a link to it on this blog. Diane and Louis are friends of mine from Durham, and they are taking a year to tour the Grand Loop on their boat, the Bella Luna. They started at their home port in Morehead City, NC, and they have come up the intercoastal waterway, sailed into New York harbor, come up the Hudson River, and if you can believe it, they were on the southern end of Lake Champlain docked for the night at the town of Vergennes, which is about 15 minutes from where we were staying! Coincidences like that don't just happen! We got off the ferry about 5:30 and miraculously found our way to Katy's brand new camp (that's Vermont talk for house on the lake) in North Ferrisburg. It was so AWESOME!! And she was kind enough to let us be her first house guests! She and her husband, Chal, had just gotten furniture moved in last weekend, and I am here to report that I did not see ONE BOX. Amazing! I was ready to spend the summer at camp! Except for one thing - Katy and Chal's oldest child is getting married up there at the end of next month, so they have lots to do between now and then. But we are so grateful to both of them for opening their brand new home to us! We talked Katy into going down to see Diane and Louis with us, which meant she had to drive, since we couldn't fit her in our car. We found the Bella Luna and her crew with no trouble. Aren't the falls at Vergennes pretty? The Bella Luna was docked
with a clear view of the falls! We met some of the other Loopers that Diane and Louis have been traveling with, and we shared a drink with them and got a tour of their wonderful boat. Their dog, Buddy, was happy to see us, too! It was such fun to have our paths cross and to hear about Diane and Louis's adventures. We got to see their route and realized they would be cruising through our hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, in a few months, so we are going to try and meet them there, too. I love the plaque Diane has hanging in the galley of the Bella Luna. It says, "Take time to explore, as every step of the journey IS the journey." Hear, hear!

We went back to Katy's to enjoy the sunset and have dinner and just catch up. Katy's dog, Boo, was enjoying the lake view, too!

We got a grand tour of the whole camp and the dock, and it was spectacular! Katy fixed a most delicious pasta dinner for us and we spent the remaining daylight hours on the back porch and then had a leisurely dinner, sharing stories and laughing into the night. It is moments like those that make trips like these so worthwhile! To have gotten to see three friends in the same day when we are hundreds of miles from home - how special is that? No wonder the sunset over the lake was the first one they've had for days!

Feeling particularly blessed today,


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