Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trip to upstate New York and Vermont

On Monday morning (August 24) we left Cambridge and took I-90 all the way to Albany, NY. For the afternoon we headed up to Saratoga Springs and after eating a quick lunch at a random Mexican restaurant (El Mariachi, pretty good and cheap buffet), we stopped by the Saratoga Spa State Park. We were looking to do some hiking and site seeing. Before paying to enter the park we asked the attendant what we should do as we only had a couple hours to hike. She suggested we *not* pay, drive up to the next entrance, and take the nature trails from there. Great!

This is a pretty small park with short trails. What we weren't expecting, though, was the natural springs there. We saw Island Spouter and Geyser.

Island Spouter
After a quick session at the playground, we decided to head to our hotel in Albany to get checked in so we could head downtown to eat dinner. After checking in, Nolan and I went for a quick dip in the pool so he could splash around and use up some energy.

We then headed downtown Albany for site seeing and dinner. You would not guess that this was the capital except for that there are a couple tall buildings. We got downtown around 5:30 and it had already pretty much shut down. We searched for a place to eat dinner and happened across Katrinella's Bistro. It was decent (and priced far better than the other two Italian restaurants near by). We talked with the gal that owns the place with her husband; they opened the place earlier this year and have been doing ok so far. I got Ziti Genovese (pesto with marinara sauce added). It was different but good.

Tuesday morning we woke up to head up to Lake George in the Adirondacks. I had previously written down a couple possible hikes, but I wanted, as always, to stop at the Visitors Center and ask the locals. We were directed to drive up Prospect Mountain and then hike Buck Mountain. I also asked for a sandwich recommendation and was told to visit the Sandwich Works. Since Nolan was sleeping, we decided to drive up Prospect Mountain first. As we entered the area I noticed many signs "selling" this drive which I thought strange, we are already on the road to drive to the top. That is when I assumed "Oh, they are going to charge me to drive up". I was right. For $8/car, you drive up ~4 miles with three scenic overlooks along the way. Nolan woke up as we entered the first lookout, so we let him out to run around some. At the top parking lot they have a shuttle you can take to the very top or you can just walk up (not far at all). We walked up, not getting our $8 worth, but it was a nice, quick, steep climb. The weather was good Tuesday so we could see probably almost to Albany.

View from Prospect Mountain looking toward Lake George Village

We headed back in to the village to get sandwiches and get moving to our hike. The sandwiches were not too bad and the price was reasonable considering this is a little tourist town. We drove on to the Buck Mountain trail head near Pilot Knob, about 10-15 minutes north of the village on the east side of the lake. We drove up, ate in the parking lot, and then thought about the climb. We had 3.3 miles up, 2000' ascent, and it was about 1:30. We also realized we didn't fill up all the water bottles. We decided to drive back and stop at the first place that looked like we could get water. Kacey noticed the Post Office and she figured she could get water there, and it worked. So by 2pm, we started a climb up the mountain. The first mile of the trail was easy so I wanted to make good time as I assumed it would get harder. We did the first mile in about 20 minutes but then the grade picked up. This was not a difficult trail (except for maybe the last 5% at the top), but a steady, steep grade. As the forest thinned, I knew we were close. About 90 minutes in to the climb was the last push, a pretty daunting rock face; especially since I am carrying about 30 pounds on my back! My legs were burning on the rocks, but with the end in sight I forced my legs to lift us up. The best map I could find to show the summit is this. This is the Bing Bird's Eye View of the summit rock. There are almost two lookouts here. The first one we sat at for 10 minutes or so while Nolan ran around because it was a great view looking south, and it felt like the top. I knew it wasn't, and another couple on their way down told us it was not much farther to the summit. We decided to ascend and made it to a north and west looking view.

I couldn't resist using this photo of the summit!

It was around 4pm and I was not looking forward to the pain of using unused muscles climbing down with 30 pounds on my back, but I knew we had to get going. We rationed out some water and headed down. We stopped maybe half way to share an apple and that was the only food we really ate on the hike. It took us about 100 minutes to get up and about 80 minutes to get down. I thought this was a very successful hike! Luckily it is almost all shaded until the summit which made it much easier. There are a few creeks to cross so old shoes with good grip should be worn. There are two rock climbing sections toward the top, but they are definitely doable without any rock climbing experience if you take your time.

For dinner Kacey had found a restaurant online and we wanted to try it, but our appetites were off after the strenuous hike with probably not enough water. We walked around the village a bit and decided to go for it. The Taste of Poland restaurant is not to be missed if you enjoy this type of food ($4 off for mentioning the web site)! The homemade pierogies were fantastic (on par with the Fetcho Christmas celebration) and the homemade polish kielbasa was great! We asked the waitress what technique they use for making their pierogies. She said the family makes about 1000 per week on the weekends using the assembly line method the Fetchos use; and I thought 350 were a lot! They also sell frozen pierogies by the dozen to take home. We then walked around just a little more, long enough to find some ice cream at Nina's Sweet Shoppe‎. It was good!

Wednesday we woke up to start the hour drive to Bennington, VT. I had a couple ideas for trails in the Green Mountains National Forest, but we stopped at the Visitor's Center to ask for their opinion. We picked one hike I had found online - Harmon Hill. We decided to first check out the large war memorial seen driving in to town, get lunch, and then go hike.

Bennington Battle Monument
Bennington Battle Monument was neat. It is the second tallest monument in the country, is the tallest structure in Vermont, is only $2 to ride the elevator up, and has some great views! We then drove in to town to get sandwiches at Izabella's Eatery. I got the Figgie Sandwich; while good it just isn't a lot of food. Kacey's sandwich was so-so. I think other options in town may satisfy better than this place.

We then headed down the road a few miles to the trail head. The trail description indicated that the ascent is immediate, steep, and rocky.

Trying to show the severity of this climb
This is very true. This was daunting, especially with 30 pounds on my back and weak legs from the day before. Part of the way up we heard rain hitting the canopy (this trail is also heavily wooded) and decided to find a weather report before continuing on as rain was supposed to hit later in the day. After reaching Mr. Fetcho (thanks Eric!) for a weather report, we felt it was safe to resume as we had about 3 hours until storms. Once the ascent is finished, the trail is a nice winding and partially muddy walk through the forest.

We made it!
The lookout here is about 45° looking toward Bennington. It was still a nice hike and we got a move on to beat the rain getting out of the forest. Unfortunately along the way, our efforts to keep the Nikon dry resulted in the loss of my beloved lens cap. Luckily the Hoya UV filter is really the lens protector, not the cap. Any suggestions on good, cheap 72mm lens caps?

Once we returned to the car, we changed out of wet clothes and started our drive toward the interstate in Brattleboro. Kacey wanted to go ahead and eat here, so we drove around a bit and happened across the Flat Street Brew Pub and Tap Room. This place, along with several others in Vermont, includes all taxes in the price of items. I personally love this, which is why I mention it. The prices looked very fair and selection adequate. I got the Texas in Vermont burger which had chili and Vermont cheddar cheese; over cooked but good. They sell Berkshire Brewing Company beer at a pretty good rate so I enjoyed a BBC River Ale. I definitely recommend this place if you are passing through!

My last thoughts on this trip are simple. I am glad I got to spend some time in Vermont, and I have now been to every state east of the Mississippi. I still have 8 states left to do and 4-5 I hope to do all in one trip to the northwest some day. The Adirondacks are touristy due to the skiing aspect of the region, but a good time can definitely be had. The rest of the pictures should be up very soon on our web site. Pictures are here.


Maggie said...

very nice! love the pic of Nolan @ the summit!

seeree, phd said...

sounds like it was a great trip! the pictures look great! :)

Phillips said...

So did you ever get to rest and relax :)