Northeast Anniversary Trip, August 2018
Dates: August 13-18, 2018
People: Mark, Sarah
- 8-13 (Mt. Washington, Littleton)
- 8-14 (Acadia N.P.)
- 8-15 (Acadia N.P.)
- 8-16 (Katahdin)
- 8-17 (Boston)
- 8-18 (Boston)
MONDAY, AUGUST 13
Our Northeastern trip began with a very early Monday morning. So often we travel on Sunday evenings to head out, but cheap airfares dictated a Monday morning this time around. We found fares around $100/person into Manchester, NH to start our trip.,
We left home at 5am with Dad dropping us off at the airport just after 5:30am. We had a '7am flight and were boarded early and all seemed to be on time. We were hoping for this since we only had a 45 minute layover in Chicago, until we headed to Manchester.
When our plane pushed back the delays began. We sat no the tarmac for minutes because of something about traffic in Chicago. Then in flight we went into a holding pattern over Indiana which lost us another 10 minutes at least. It was looking so bad I began looking at our other flight options to get to Manchester. In the end, we were fortunate to be only 25 minutes late into Chicago. We had sat up close on the plane, about 4th row, this meant that by the time we got off the plane we had just over 10 minutes before our next flight took off. We had to go from B25 to B11 at Midway and we made a quick walk of it. We got to the gate and the door was closed. We asked a few of the desk attendants and they said to just wait and the gate attendant would return, and he did. About 5 other people were also waiting with us from the same flight. We were all able to board and found the flight only 60% full so we had an easy time finding seating. We had some apprehension about our bags, but this new flight was a few minutes slow in leaving to ensure all bags made it. So all's well that end's well. We were about 15 minutes late in leaving Midway and arrived about 8 minutes late.
In Manchester we enjoyed a little walk through the airport searching for baggage claim. Thankfully our bags arrived. We had an easy time picking up our car with Dollar and got some model of KIA. We drove out of the airport and headed for the north side of Manchester where we hit a Walmart to get some groceries for the week. We also hit a Wendy's there to grab lunch.
The drive north through New Hampshire was typically beautiful. Great forests and the occasional views. We especially enjoyed the drive on I-93 through Franconia Notch State Park where the west end of the White Mountains rose up on both sides of the road. It seemed as though every mile had a new trailhead that we could have stopped at to explore.
We followed the GPS directions around the north end of the mountain range holding to the interstate as long as possible. This ended up putting us on the north side of the Presidential Range and then through Gorham, NH to come back south to the start of the Mt. Washington auto road. We paid our $30 for 2 people to head up the road. It was narrow 2-lane paved down in the treeline and a bit windy. But fascinating to see the terrain and vegetation change with every 1000 feet of gain we made on the drive up. Unfortunately above treeline we hit foggy white-out conditions and weren't granted any views. We parked in the first lot when we reached the summit area and began to walk around. It took about 25 minutes to drive up.
Driving down the Mt. Washington road was interesting. It is a fairly steep road with a mile long section of dirt road. Most of the upper road has steep drop offs and no guard rails. Couple all of that with the cloudy and moist conditions and so we drove very carefully. It is not a very wide road either. We could understand that even more fully a few days later when we drove the Cadillac Mountain road in Acadia which was a normal width roadway. Mt. Washington's road leaves no extra space when two vehicles meet. Nonetheless, we had a good ride down and used the 1st and 2nd gears of the KIA to control speed rather well.
At the bottom we followed Google Maps to get us back north and then west and heading towards Littleton. We had quite a few turns but we made our destination with little trouble. It was a blast from the past driving into Littleton for the first time in 15 years and it brought back fun familiarities. Particularly when we drove up to the Motel and it was just as we remembered it. We were put in a different room this time, #12, but it looked just like we remembered the other one. We got our things settled in the room and then walked over to the Diner for supper.
The Littleton Diner was the one thing on our Littleton return trip that kinda let us down. The Diner is well reviewed and well beloved by many who know of it but our experience this time just didn't impress us. The atmosphere and service were fine, but the food was fairly average at best. I ordered the fish-n-chips and it was just okay, with so very little flavor. We were also lucky to have had cash on hand as they don't take credit cards.
After supper we walked up and down the main street a bit before returning to our hotel. In the room we were pretty tired from the early morning but not quite ready to sleep yet. We ended up watching Maverick on my phone. This year I brought my Samsung DeX along which allowed us to use my phone through an HDMI cable with the DeX to watch whatever we wanted from my phone on the TV's. We used it in every hotel, it was great.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 14
We targeted an early departure from the hotel today as we had a 4 1/2 hour drive ahead of us and wanted to maximize our time at Acadia. For breakfast we had bananas, fruit bars and granola bars. We left Littleton at 7:07am. We drove the same section of road again towards Mt. Washington and made a gas stop in Gorham, NH. In the morning we drove through more fog and some rain showers as well. We hoped the afternoon at Acadia would hold better weather.
We made it to Bar Harbor just after 11:30am and stopped at C-Ray Lobster, which is just down from where our hotel would be, for lunch. We had decided we wanted to try fresh lobster at some point on our trip. I had researched on Google Maps and found these guys to be right up our alley. It was a small shop out behind what looked like a residence. We each tried lobster rolls. Mine was a wonderful toasted bun with fresh, cold lobster pieces on it. We spent about $23/each on the lobster rolls. Sarah's had some kind of mayo on it. Ultimately we didn't particularly care for it. We were surprised the lobster was served cold, not sure if that was normal. The bun was outstanding.
After lunch we drove into the Acadia Visitor Center, it was just before 12:30pm. We stopped inside for stamps and our vehicle pass. Because of Acadia's proximity to Bar Harbor, some of the northern parts of Acadia are accessible before you go through a park gate. We stopped in at the Sieur de Monts Wild Gardens area to walk around a bit. We toured the gardens and turned it into a nice little hike.
After our hike we drove on out to Schooner Head Overlook and found there to be no view whatsoever. Complete white-out. That would be mostly be the theme of the day once more. We dead down to Sand Beach where parking was hard to find, even on a day like this. We walked the beach a bit and could if not for the fog there would be beautiful views here. We decided on more walking and headed for the Ocean Path.
We drove on down to Otter Point and hopped out of the car again to take in a few minimal views. We then drove on to Jordan Pond. We checked out the gift shop and ended up heading upstairs to a beautiful observation deck. It had nice views of the lawn where they have seating for the restaurant. I made a walk down to the Pond itself to get some pictures. The Pond waters are crystal clear and very pure, they do not allow people in the water to try and keep it that way. They did have some paddling boats out there which are allowed.
We drove onwards and went up the Cadillac Mountain road which was a nice two-lane fully paved road. Lots of parking spaces available on top today as the views were all whited out. We walked around a few minutes up in the clouds. The skies just wouldn't clear for us. It was getting past 5pm now and we decided to head out for our hotel. We drove up north of Bar Harbor again to the High Seas Motel where we had reservations. They had a nice room for us there and we checked in. For supper we went next door to Mainely Meat BBQ and head a wonderful meal. I tried a Bar Harbor Ale to drink and enjoyed it and had "The Sampler" which included an amazing selection of pulled pork, ribs, chicken, and italian sausage. Wow, it was good and I was full. After filling up we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed the rest of the evening watching Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on my phone.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15
After a couple of early mornings today was finally our day to sleep in. We had a 10am boat tour with Acadian Boat Tours which would take us out nature watching and hopefully for some great views of the coastline, Frenchman Bay and the Atlantic. We had to be there getting ready by 9:40am and so we didn't have to be out of the hotel until after 9:20.
When we arrived at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel the weather looked decent over us, we even had sun for the first time. However, over the ocean it was still foggy. We figured out where to meet up with Acadian Tours and a gentleman at the dock informed us the boat tour had been cancelled due to the fog. He directed us to the ticket office where they made the refund process very easy and hassle-free and we suddenly had 2 free hours.
I had already been contemplating hikes of either the Precipice Trail or Beehive Trail (or both) today after the boat tour and so it made sense to simply dive right into that. We had brought some portable beach chairs along and so Sarah planned to head down to Sand Beach to enjoy the coast and read. She dropped me off at the Precipice Trailhead and was on her way. We had agreed that I would hike all the way down to Sand Beach and meet her there.
It was just after noon when I arrived at Sand Beach. Things were packed there. With much better weather today things looked more like one would expect. Parking was completely full and cars were lining up the right lane of the Park Loop Road to get near the beach. I was glad I was on foot approaching.
I met Sarah on the beach and enjoyed the views a bit and then we decided to head back to the car. We drove the coast road just a bit and then hit one of the roads that leaves the Loop Road and heads directly for Bar Harbor. When we got into Bar Harbor it seemed the town was full. Parking was packed along the streets and we didn't find anything on our first attempt through town. Sarah suggested we head to the north side of the island by our hotel and eat around there and that sounded great. I recalled a restaurant and simple pizza place across from Mainely Meat from being there last night and made that our target.
The Log Cabin Restaurant has more of a snack bar on its outside that we hit and I grabbed a 10-inch pizza while Sarah tried their chicken fingers. We found a picnic table to sit at and wait on our food. It was a great meal and definitely hit the spot. As we ate we eyed the Udder Heaven ice cream place that we had seen last night next door to Mainely Meat. We were too full from lunch to partake right away, so we noted it as an option on the drive out later.
We had complete freedom at this point. We had seen much of what we had wanted to see at Acadia and could conceivably start driving up north or do whatever we wanted. Given the greater weather of today we decided to drive back to the Acadian coastline one more time to take in the different views. This was absolutely worth it. While the road was very crowded today and the right line (with legal parking) was jam packed for most of the drive along the coast we enjoyed getting back down there. Sarah dropped me off at Monument Cove when I decided I wanted to walk the southern half of Ocean Path down to Otter Point. She wasn't feeling the best so she was more than happy to drive down and wait for me.
At Otter Point Sarah had hopped out of the car to sit on the rocks by the water and I joined her there. It was a great spot. We enjoyed this for awhile and then hit the car again. We drove on by Jordan Pond again and decided to stop briefly for bathrooms and a drink. After Jordan Pond we wanted to try Cadillac Mountain again so we drove the rental all the way up for a second time and this time found the summit area full. Big surprise. It was so full there were a number of people parking illegally wherever they could create a spot. The Park Ranger was up there dealing with this. We walked around a bunch and took in a number of nice views. This time we could see pretty much as far as we would want. It made a fitting way to cap off the Acadia portion of our trip.
We drove on down Cadillac Mountain and then headed north out of the park. We did stop on the north side of the island to partake of some wonderful ice cream at Udder Heaven. It was a bit pricey but well worth it. We fought some traffic heading north out of Acadia. In Bangor we stopped at a Best Buy to pick up a copy of Avengers: Infinity War on Blu-ray which had just released the day before. We had hopes of watching it tonight in the hotel. We also found a Chick-fil-A for supper. We comically watched in the drive thru as a vehicle with two bikes on top had pretty much forgotten about them and had a near accident with the overhang over the drive thru. Whoa.
We drove on up to Lincoln, ME with continued hopes of spotting our first moose but had no luck. With all of the moose crossing signs we held high hopes at some point it would work out. It was an otherwise beautiful drive. We checked in to the Whitetail Inn and had room #4. Several of the rooms here are in an old house and seem to be an almost Bed-n-Breakfast style setup with shared bathrooms even. Our room had more privacy in a wing connected to the house with our own bathroom. We had some issues with the sheets when we checked out the bed but the front desk lady was very helpful in fixing the situation right away.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 16
After an easier morning yesterday, today was the earliest morning of the trip. I was up at 4:30am targeting before out the door before 5am. I had at least an hour drive up to Baxter StatePark and I wanted to be there when they opened the gate at 6am. The goal for today was to hike Mt. Katahdin. Aside from seeking a typical alpine start, the rules of Baxter State Park affect this plan. The park gate opens at 6am. You have to reserve a parking spot at the two main trailheads Katahdin Stream or Roaring Brook. I was headed to Katahdin Stream for the classic Hunt Trail. You have to come in and use your reserved parking spot by 7am or they release it to the public. Thus the first part of the day was fairly dictated out timewise. In planning I had debated between doing this all solo or having Sarah drop me off. I had also looking at a traverse of the mountain, going up the Hunt Trail and down the Helon Taylor trail on the east side. That would have meant Sarah dropping me at one trailhead and grabbing me at another. I'm still not sure how the permitting would work on that one. Ultimately she was more comfortable with sleeping in and relaxing and that was the path we took.
I was out the door at 4:45am and headed up the foggy interstate towards Millinocket and Baxter State Park.
I was back to my car at noon and hit the dirt road out of the park shortly thereafter. As with most of the trip I harbored aspirations of spotting a moose, but no such luck. I also hoped to find a spot along the way to see Katahdin from the south but no such spot ever revealed itself. As I rolled into Millinocket I called Sarah and found she had already eaten lunch at the Crazy Moose in Lincoln. This left me free to grab my own lunch. I tried the Subway in Millinocket but the line was too long and so settled for Mcdonald's. I was back to Lincoln, after my brief lunch stop by 2pm.
I unpacked my gear and showered a bit and then talk with Sarah about our plans for the rest of the day. Part of me wanted to start the drive towards Boston, but we had reserved this room for the night already. Which worked out, by the way, giving Sarah a place to stay while I was out hiking. We had discussed returning to Baxter State Park or exploring the brand new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. We ended up opting for the latter.
I had heard and read just a bit about the new National Monument with the Katahdin name. It is still very much undeveloped at this time and for the most part simply consists of land set aside, a small amount of signage, and a loop road. There is certainly potential here, especially if more trails or water access potential is developed. To get there we drove up I95 to Sherman, ME and then took Hwy 11 west to Swift Brook Rd. This was then dirt road and we followed it in about 10 miles to the Katahdin Loop Road which was marked with signs.
We were intrigued to see a handful of signs along the way that said "National Park No". It seems the owner of this road as well as a bridge along the way is not in favor. While many are worried President Trump might rescind President Obama's designation of this National Monument, it seems there is another side to the story with local landowners. We found most of the loop road to be disappointing uninteresting. You're driving a dirt road through thick trees for most of it. The highlight of the loop was on the southwest corner at "The Overlook." This offered expansive views of the surrounding area and Katahdin. It also had a few sign boards with peaks labeled and picnic tables. The west side of the loop had 2 or 3 other areas with views towards Katahdin. The other highlights were actually off the loop. The mile or so of dirt road just before the loop passes a beautiful marsh area which we had hoped to see moose in, but we did not. The other was a picnic and parking area where Sandbank Stream pools into a pond and there were two very short hiking trails to access points around the pond with beautiful views.
On our drive out we opted to go more scenic and instead of the interstate drove on the "Maine Scenic Byway" down towards Millinocket and Medway. It offered a few further views of Katahdin. Back in Lincoln we found that the dinner options were fairly limited. And it was our anniversary still! We opted to try Gillmor's and they made for us a very nice meal. Itried their boneless wings which they appeared to be locally well know for. They were pretty good. We spent the rest of the evening watching the Cubs game as our kids and my parents were at the game in Pittsburgh.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 17
Today began much like Tuesday with a long drive ahead of us. We again targeted a fairly early start and were out the door of the hotel, in more fog, at 7:02am. We hit the interstate and quickly made the drive down to Bangor. We continued on I95 to Augusta where we had a decision before us. Pay the tolls on the Maine turnpike or not. We decided to try the "scenic" route and avoid the turnpike. The hope was to see more countryside and perhaps even ocean shores. This didn't quite work out. For a short while after Augusta things were a bit scenic but then it seemed to become a slog of sitting in traffic and stop lights from town to town and we could see on the map very little shore line. We made it as far as Biddeford, Me and decided to give up. We could see more horrendous traffic ahead as well. We hopped on the turnpike and paid the $6 or so in tolls to get us down to the Massachusetts line and eventually Boston on the interstate highways.
In planning out our travels in Boston, in particular getting to Fenway Park, I had researched a fair amount about the MBTA subways. I had hatched a plan to park at Oak Grove and be able to ride the trains all the way to the ballpark. This turns out to be very similar to our typical plan of attack in Chicago and Wrigley Field, places with which we have much more familiarity. We decided this plan would actually work best for the whole day of our sightseeing in Boston. We were getting into town just after noon and it would make sense to leave the car at Oak Grove and simpy go free the rest of the day until after the evening ballgame. At Oak Grove we used their PayByPhone Android app to pay the $5 for parking for the day and then hopped an Orange line train heading into the city. We got one of their MBTA cards which allowed us to use our credit card and put whatever amount we wanted onto it. It was $2.25 per ride and we knew we would each have 3 rides so we did the math and added it to the card. This would work perfectly for the day.
We got off at the Haymarket stop, headed up to street level and then made our way to a nearby Jimmy John's for lunch. As we sat there eating we saw a number of young gymnasts walking the streets and took notice. We would come to find out the USA Gymnastic Championships were in town at the TD Garden, an event which Simone Biles would win easily. After lunch we had about an hour to spare before our 3pm Boston Harbor Cruise. We walked over to the Old North Church where Paul Revere had put up the warning lights in the church steeple. We also saw a nearb Paul Revere statue. This area was under construction so we had only limited views. We walked through Little Italy and made our way out to the wharfs to take in the shoreline views. It was about 2:15p when we made it to Long Wharf and the line for our cruise. We were the first in line with people starting to join us about 5 minutes later. We were taking the Historic Sightseeing Cruise today.
They boarded us a few minutes before 3pm when our ship arrived. We would be on the BHC Martha Washington. We sat atop on the starboard side in the front row. The cruise would be in a counter-clockwise direction all through the harbor and one of the attendants had told us these would be the seats with the best views. I believe they were right.
The embedded map shows our route. Our guide did a wonderful job explaining things in sight along the way. He told numerous stories about development in Boston Harbor, and stories from the various islands we would pass. Too many stories to all capture here. It was very interesting to draw near to the USS Constitution towards the end of the tour and hear about the Charles Town Naval Yard. It was also interesting to see the Bunker Hill Monument and get bits and pieces of the history of the American Revolution here in Boston. We were back to Long Wharf at 4:44p making for about a 100 minute tour.
Leaving Long Wharf we walked back into the city. We walked through Quincy's Market grabbing a drink and peeking in a few of the shops there. We walked State St/Court St right by the Old State House as well as the site of the Boston Massacre. As we neared our subway station a brief rain shower hit leading us to seek cover for about 10 minutes. We hopped on the green line train at the Government Center stop and rode this out to Fenway. We were certainly the odd ones with Cubs gear on.
We got off the green line at the Kenmore stop which is where most all of the others departed. One branch of the green line also has a stop named Fenway and it also works, but is southwest of the ballpark and no closer to the park than Kenmore. It was around 5:30p and we had plenty of time so we entered the park and walked around a bit. We entered near the Green Monster and saw the stairs leading up to that seating but it was of course guarded. Our seating was near the left field foul pole which meant we would have to walk around the entirety of the park to get to our seats. This worked out because as we traversed the park it rained pretty heavily outside. When we got to our seats (Section G33, row 3, seats 11-12) we were most pleased to see they were covered under the upper deck and dry. They also were unobstructed views. The edge of the Green Monster was only 15 feet or so away and a number of people were coming into our section to grab pictures, as we did also. This was also a family section which meant no beer.
We grabbed a Fenway Frank and a refillable drink to start off our supper. The game itself would start only ten minutes late as all the rains stopped. The boys and my parents weren't as lucky in Pittsburgh for the Cubs game. Their game started over an hour late. The game was interesting and the Red Sox beat the Rays 7-3. We had one ball hit early in the game that just missed the foul pole and hit the green monster not far from us, but that was the only close ball we had. Fenway was a beautiful park with the undeniable historic atmosphere and fans, much like Wrigley, who were into the games. They sang Sweet Caroline after the 8th inning as was tradition. We left just as the top of the 9th was beginning as Accuweather was telling us fresh rain was only 20 minutes away. We also wanted to beat the mass crowds out to the subway.
It was 10:11p when we got back to the Green Line and hopped our train. We rode it back to Haymarket where we transferred over to the Orange Line for the ride out to Oak Grove. There we grabbed our car and drove up to Woburn, in the northern suburbs, where we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 18
Today was another early morning, but purely by personal choice. I wanted to get a run in for the first time this week and I had stumbled upon the perfect place to do it. The Middlesex Fells Reservation. Our hotel was only 10 minutes away and this place had perfect and easy (not to mention free) access to some great looking trails. I also wanted to be up and going early enough to get back, shower, and be ready to do things with Sarah today. I made it on the easy drive down to Middlesex at 7:05am and parked at the southeast corner in a basic parking lot.
Once I was all cleaned up from my room, and our room and luggage all packed up we hit the road for the south side of Boston. We were targeting a 10am tour at the Sam Adams Brewery. We weren't sure what parking would be like, or if we'd end up on city side streets. We arrived about 10 after 10 and found a few spots left in the parking right at the brewery. We went inside and got our "tickets" for the next free tour with about 25 other people. The tour lasted about an hour and we had a great tour guide. She was interesting, fun, and did a nice job of explaining things. She described how the Boston Brewery is their "lab" and where they craft new beers. They also brew for Boston itself. They also have a brewery in Cincinnati and one other city, I forget, where they mass produce their brews for everywhere else.
We made 4 basic stops. First was the intro where the guide explained what we would be doing. Second was in the ingredients room where the guide explained a bit of what they put into their beers. We got to hold some of the hops and crush them into our hands to smell some of the aroma. Third was the brewing room with their large basins and containers where all the major work happens. Fourth was the tap room. The best stop of course. We tried Boston Lager, Sam Adams 76 and a test beer called "Rose Belgian". We got double-size shot glasses to test all of these with and got to keep the glass.
After the brewery tour we drove up into South Boston proper, filled the rental up with gas and then parked at the Necco Street garage. It was only $5 being a Saturday. We walked up to Congress St and had lunch at The Smoke Shop. They specialize in BBQ and it was very tasty. Very nice looking place and the pulled pork sandwich with seasoned fries was top of the line. After lunch we hit our final target for Boston: The Tea Party Ships & Museum. They offer hour-long tours and we got into one with little wait. It was $29.95 a person. A bit pricey, but it was very professionally done. They seem to be following a very modern-style for a museum with plenty of actors and an attempt to bring you, the visitor, into the action. Things started with them drawing us into a town meeting led by our tour guide and an actor playing Sam Adams. They were firing us up about recent events and in particular the tea tax. They then led us out onto one of the ships which were replicas of the originals. And we play acted out the tea party. They took us below deck to see what the holds would look like. I hadn't realized this had all taken 3 1/2 hours in real time and how they had dumped hundreds of pounds of tea. The way they explained the history was very helpful in trying to get a better grasp of the bigger picture of that time in history.
We then went into the museum where they were using state-of-the-art tech to tell the story. Two actors who seemed to be like holograms acted out a scene explaining events. We then went into a room looking like a typical museum with the last known crate from the tea party on display. There were also picture frames of portraits of key players. Suddenly two of them began a discourse, one British, one American (I forget the names). I was impressed how this worked as they looked like regularly drawn portraits and then suddenly came to life. The final stop was in a video room where we watched a movie short depicting the attacks on Lexington and Concord and the ride of Paul Revere. Overall a very interesting experience sparking my interest in re-learning many of the basics of this time in history.
After the museum tour we sat outside grabbing some ice cream and then made our way back to the garage for the car. We had about 45 minutes to spare before we really needed to hit the airport but we decided to start making our way. We found out all the main bridges and tunnels leading directly to the airport were tolled and by electronic-only. We had no iPass or EzPass which meant we'd pay heavily to do this. So we used Google Maps to find a bridge on the north end to take the longer round-about way to the airport. It worked and still put us there ahead of our target time.
We dropped off the car, made it through security and out to our gate still 2 hours ahead of flight time, so all went well. Our flight out of Boston heading for Chicago but we sat at the gate for quite awhile waiting for another plane to clear so we could back out. Then sat on tarmac more waiting for our turn. It was over 20 minutes late that we left. On the plus side, we still arrived in Chicago on time. We sat at our crowded gate waiting for our next flight. We had a 90 minute layover. The Chicago to Detroit leg left only a few minutes late. Because of storms along the way they didn't allow the flight attendants to get up for drink service. We made it into Detroit on time and Dad was there to pick us up. It was 12:10am when we finally got home.