There is only one rational time to hike in Utah in July, and that is early. I slept in this morning until 6:30, made coffee, grabbed two Cliff bars and the cameras and took off. It’s an hour drive to the end of The Scenic Drive, where I had decided to walk the Pleasant Creek Road. Looking at all the other hikes in the park, I thought they might be crowded, but this one would probably be quiet.
You can’t drive The Scenic Drive without taking pictures. You see something different, or the light looks different. It is always pretty and amazing to think that millions of years ago, this just pushed out of the Earth, folding over the fault that created it. Imagine driving through here and these plates decide to slide again. Even a little rumble would send a lot of rocks rolling. “Civilization exists by geological consent,” wrote the American historian Will Durant, “subject to change without notice.”
By the time I got to Pleasant Creek and collected my stuff, it was 8:15. I figured I’d walk an hour out and an hour back on this dirt road perfectly suited for a Jeep Wrangler. A sign said no ATV’s allowed. I thought the road would follow Pleasant Creek, but it did not. I think there is a trail that follows the creek in both directions. I saw it going downstream, but I didn’t want to go that way. Besides, I was only going for an hour out and an hour back, and it looked pretty easy.
As I began to leave, I grabbed my big knife and put it on my belt. After all I was going by myself and there are cougars in the park. If I had had a backward-facing mask, I would have put it on. Cougars always attack from behind. As I crossed the creek and walked up the dusty road, the sun was on my left and the moon on my right.
There were bluffs close to the road, a perfect place for a cougar to wait. This place has tons of rabbits, so they could surely live off those, as well as the many deer, bighorn sheep, and occasional elk. Why eat a tough, old human? Nevertheless, I kept looking behind, scanning the bluffs and looking for tracks, but I never saw any. I planned my strategy though. If I had time, I would use my backpack as a shield, then pull the knife and get him while he was in the air.
It was a nice hike with pretty views and an interesting landscape. I walked a bit further than I anticipated – about an hour and half out before turning around. I thought there was a campground up here, but maybe I just didn’t get that far. When I turned around at 9:45, it was starting to get hot.
I thought I heard something behind me and stopped to listen. After a few minutes three ATV’s came down the road, waving as they passed. I was surprised how quiet they were. Most of the ones I’ve seen are terribly noisy. These made this road look easy.
About 20 minutes later I caught up with them resting in the shade. They hadn’t seen a campground and had come from the other side of the mountain, in Boulder, Utah. It was three couples, who were very nice. They talked about the places they had ridden in the last few days. Utah is a great place for this, and I could see how this would be a great way to explore a lot of tough roads.
As I walked back down the road, I was getting hot and tired, and I became lax about watching my back. I was easy pickings now. I was getting pretty tired when I finally came to Pleasant Creek. It is a perfect name in this hostile environment. I soaked my sweat towel in the cold water and wrapped it around my head. I’m pretty sure that water would be fine to drink, but I had plenty in the truck.
A car was parked on the other side of the lot. Now I could see there was a trail going up the creek, but not really marked or very definitive. Next time I will go that way.
Tomorrow I will leave, driving north to Twin Falls, Idaho. I wanted to go to Great Basin National Park on Rt. 50, but I enjoyed myself here too long. I really like this park. I like Sandcreek RV Park, where I can watch Grit TV at night. I love those old westerns, back when there were arguments about television being a bad influence. All of these westerns had a moral. I like Harry, who owns Sandcreek RV. The WIFI is as good as home. It’s nice to have the cute, little town of Torrey a few blocks down the street with everything I needed and more. There are a number of restaurants, motels and more. Capital Reef is a very cool park. I only saw parts of it, each day discovering something more. I could easily come back for another week.
I also enjoyed The Loneliest Road. It took me to some wonderful places, cute towns, beautiful countryside and a road to drive and relax, like days of the past. I will drive it again. But today will be more harried, driving north through Salt Lake City. I did not want to do that, but it would be 10 hours to go around, but 7 going through. One harried day, then on to Stanley where things are slower and absolutely gorgeous.
50 degrees in the morning. 92 degrees in afternoon, sunny all day
At 6:00 AM I drove The Scenic Drive to take pictures. I stopped for coffee at a place whose name I can’t remember not, but It’s east of the Phillips 66 station, and they have meat pies. I was too early for the meat pies, but the coffee was excellent.
At the end The Scenic Drive, there is a dirt and gravel road called Pleasant Creek Road, and I took it. There are some great views on this road. One road goes off to a farm, while another goes to an impressive-looking ranger station sitting on a bluff.
Around the turn was the remains of an old farm. Rabbits scattered everywhere. Driving further, I came to a parking area with a bathroom. High clearance vehicles were required to go further. Although my truck has 4-wheel drive, its clearance is 9”. I parked and walked across the creek with an appropriate name – Pleasant Creek. Yes, it is cold enough for trout. I didn’t walk far, but it would be an interesting drive. It was 10:30 and getting into the heat of the day, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake as my previous hike. The truck would have made it on this part of the road, but who knows what’s ahead.
From this spot, it’s about an hour drive back to the little town of Torrey. I stopped at what was now becoming my favorite store. I just needed bread, some fruit and coffee. It’s so nice and convenient to have this on the way to the campground. The Chuckwagon General Store. The people are very nice. There is a deli, where they make a variety of sandwiches. They bake breads, donuts, cookies and brownies every day. Yesterday’s go on sale every day. They have a small, but nice produce section, and pretty much everything you need in a small store. Yesterday, when I bought a whole list of things, Beth helped me carry them to the car. Now when does that happen?
My afternoon plan was to drive to Cathedral Valley in Capital Reef National Park. It’s an hour and a half drive from this side of the park to Cathedral Valley overlook, then a winding gravel road down the mountain to Cathedral Valley Road. I knew I needed to be prepared for a long afternoon in the high desert. Little did I know what an expedition it would be.
Sand Creek RV Resort has an ice freezer on the front porch that works on the honor system. I got two bags of block ice and put them in the cooler along with Gatorade, water and a couple of sandwiches. I saw Harry watering the grass and asked him for advice on the trip. He looked at my truck and said I should be OK. He said it’s 40 minutes to the gravel road, then 13 miles on a washboard, gravel road up the mountain. “Don’t miss the overlook at the top. There is a tiny sign that is easily missed, and you can’t turn around. There are two roads in the valley, and the only issue is how much water is in the stream, but you should be fine. I’ve not heard any reports of anyone getting stuck.” As he talked, Harry pointed to the mesa or mountain right behind us, and in fact, that’s right where it is. As Dan said, “In Virginia, you drive over mountains. In Utah, we drive around them.”
I waited until 3:00, setting the Garmin GPS to Cathedral Valley Overlook. One wrong turn and my day would be shot. I took Rt. 24 north to Lyman, then 72 to Fremont. It’s a pretty drive with beautiful hay fields on both sides of the road. In order to get hay, every field is watered with those huge, rolling pipes. One wonders how long the water will last. It is so dry here (16% humidity), the water will seep into the ground or quickly evaporate.
Then I took a right on Polk Creek Road, the gravel, washboard road going up the mountain. A sign recommended 4-wheel drive to help preserve the road. Pickup trucks are light in the back, and just using 2-wheel, rear drive the vehicle bumps up and down making ruts. Even in 4-wheel drive, I was doing plenty of bouncing. I passed Elkhorn Campground, which was very nice, but no one was there. I thought it would be a bad idea to pull the Airstream up this road, although I have done two roads similar to this, and they were both worth it. .
As the road finally leveled out, there were trees, birches, grass and cows. People with big campers were parked in designated areas of the National Forest. I won’t say they were everywhere, and they were very spread far apart, but there were a lot of them. I mean big campers with slide-outs. I think the attractions are to get away, into the mountains where it is cool and to ride 4-wheelers all over the place. Elevation was 9-10,000’. There were a few lakes; Fish Lake, Raft Lake and another, even a mountain called called Thousand Lake Mountain . There were some very pretty areas to camp, obviously well-managed. Rocks were expertly arranged for fires, and it looked like someone patrols and cleans up. Some were marked with numbers, but some were not. This is a narrow, winding gravel road. I was happy to not have passed anyone, but the landscape is very pretty with trees, grass and rolling hills on top of these big mountains.
The Garmin GPS put me right on the mark for South Desert Overlook, or South Cathedral Valley Overlook. A trail led over a hill and down to a picnic table on a flat area overlooking one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. Before me lay Cathedral Valley, and it is appropriately named. It was 4:45, and the sun was still high in the sky, not a great time to get the best pictures, but still impressive.
Driving back up the road, I came to the crest of the mountain before the road wound its way down. Calling it a pullover is a stretch. There was a wide spot in the one-lane gravel road. There were some big rocks defining the edge of the cliff. I pulled over and took more pictures before making the descent.
It’s amazing the gear I bring as it is…..just in case; the kayak and stuff that go with it, cook gear, tools, cooler, clothes for every possibility, stuff for the Middle Fork trip, camera gear and backpacks. I don’t suppose one or two night’s camping gear would add a lot more, but it’s amazing how full my truck is. I do think it is worth bringing camping gear though, and this is the perfect example. This is not an easy place to get to, and as you will see, not an easy place to get out of, so if you are going, prepare to stay a night or two in a tent.
Having read about this road descending the escarpment, I went very slowly. I stopped at a “pullover” on the edge of the cliff to take another picture of these cathedrals surrounded by green, grassy plains. I had seen two vehicles in front of me, but no one behind. You must go slowly, one because of the road and two, because of the views before you. One turn was so sharp, I had to back up to make it. with a sigh of relief, I made it to the bottom, where the road became sunken and feathery-light dust and sand. As the pictures, it isn’t so bad.
With the sun still very high and very hot, it is an unforgiving environment – not a place you want a flat tire or overheated radiator. I thought the trip across the valley might take an hour, then a half hour back to camp, but I was wrong. The sights are spectacular. Such features on such a forbidding landscape are unimaginable. One side valley looked like Petra in Jordan. I would need a horse to get there though, which begs the question; to journey into this valley on horseback years ago is beyond imagination.
One of the vehicles, a van, returned up the road, passing me as I was taking pictures. I had left the windows open, but too late, he passed with a wave and a cloud of dust. Why was he going back up that road? As I drove on, I got the answer – sand! Like driving on the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, places of deep sand took me by surprise. I thought the valley floor would be a nice, flat gravel road. Wrong. It gets windy here, and it can blow very hard. If it blew like that in Virginia, there would be a big storm coming, but here it can nearly blow you over and then just stop. Like snow blowing across the plains, very light sand blows here, piling up in the road. I put it in 4-wheel drive. Some areas were hidden though. I was too busy looking at the sights and I would be in the middle of deep sand. I was impressed with the torque of the diesel engine to push through the sand, but wondered if I would need to let air out.
At 7:30 I began to worry a little. How far is it? How long would it take to get back? Would I get stuck? The road kept crossing stream beds. Some were washes, but some were for a stream, which I think is the Fremont River, but there was no water on any of the crossings. That would be another problem. There was a crossroad with a sign pointing to “sinkhole”. I did not consider taking that one.
I could have taken thousands of pictures here. It is so varied: red rocks, cathedrals, fortresses, black mounds, the land littered with black boulders like someone sprinkled huge pepper grains on the landscape. There were white rocks, temple-shaped structures, domes, sentinels, parapets, just so much variety!
But I must get on. Now 8:00 and I was winding up and around huge structures of landscape. I stopped and entered the campground in the GPS. Thankfully, it showed my road, the valley and the route home; an hour and a half! With that I passed the road leading to The Sun and The Moon. I had heard of these, but I did not want to be driving this “road” in the dark. The sun was amazingly still high in the sky.
I drove on, trying to make some time, but the best I could do was 20 mph on this road, and then slow down for a deep sand area or a big dip or a stream bed. But then around the corner would be another dramatic change in the structures and I would have to stop and look. I would come back to see more, coming in the opposite direction. But would I?
They talk of Capital Reef as a 100 mile long barrier to travel. Like a reef in the ocean, it limits where you can go and the speed you go. There is no straight course to anything. I looked ahead of me and walls and mountains surrounded me. How does this road get through this? Thankfully, it did. I finally came out on Rt. 24 north of the park entrance.
I was tired as I drove back to camp. It was dark now at 9:30, and it had been a long day. Tomorrow I will rest, maybe do some laundry and sort through the hundreds of pictures I have taken today. The truck needs a wash and so did I.
I took a shower, poured a glass of wine and ate a salad. Now the campground was full, every spot taken. It’s Thursday, approaching the weekend, but I wondered if there was some event. Many of these had 4-wheelers, or ATV’s. One group of 10 sat around a fire laughing, but I was quickly asleep.
I woke up at 2:30, wide awake, got up, made coffee and caught up on the blog, thanks to my new favorite laundromat. I did a search for campgrounds near Capital Reef National Park, since theirs were full. I found Sand Creek RV Resort on the other side of Capital Reef, just past Torrey, Utah.
As it began to get light, I loaded the cameras to get pictures in better light at Window Rock. It was cool with a moderate breeze and perfect light. I only saw one person, a lady who walked the trail on the edge of the cliff. She was just grinning when she passed me.
Colorado National Monument is a great park. You can drive it in an hour, or you could explore it for a week. There are many canyons, all with different features, and they look different in different lights. What John Muir did for Yosemite, John Otto did for Colorado National Monument. Moving to Grand Junction in 1906, he began exploring the mesa. It became a lifetime obsession. He built and maintained trails when everyone else thought inaccessible. Then he fought to make it a national park. It’s an incredible story. I missed so much – hiking the trails, exploring the canyons below, taking pictures of the night sky and going to Glade Canyon where there are almost as many arches as Arches. But I must go. What I learned is that nights are wonderfully cool, and the mornings are great until about 11:00. Then retreat if you can and come back out at dusk. Now I head back to the Loneliest Road and then Capital Reef National Park.
I have 3 GPS’s: Google Maps, a Garmin and the GMC GPS, and the quality is in that order. The problem with Google Maps is I burn data while I drive. I cut it off, then back on when I approach a turn, but it quickly burns data. i have upgraded to a 10GB plan, but if I have to upload photographs of very diminished quality, I quickly run out of data.
So today, I went for #2 Garmin, which has some nice features. It will look ahead and note distance to a rest stop, which can be important at my age. It will tell you the next town and how far it is, or where the coffee houses are. Its critical role is telling me the speed limit and speed I am going, and it’s amazingly accurate. It also gives me the elevation. I’m often curious about that, but it makes a big difference in temperature. I love cursing at the GMC GPS. She is so polite, and well-spoken, but utterly useless!
As I drove west on 50, which merged with 70, I set the cruise to 69 mph, though the speed limit is 80!. I had it at 70 for a while, but it’s hot, and heat and speed are what gets your tires. Besides, I was enjoying the scenery and I am retired. Why hurry? It’s not a desert as we think of it, but it is very dry. I crossed the Green River, and it was in fact green and looked good. Crossing into Utah, I saw a sign welcoming me to the gateway to Utah’s five national parks!
Yes, it’s arid, but not quite desert, and there are these unusual mountains and mesas. When I have flown over this area, I marveled at how the mountains remind me of Peter K. Thomas’ molar occlusal anatomy with all the primary and secondary grooves and ridges. These sandy mountains look the same.
Leaving Rt. 50, I turned southwest on 24, heading for Capital Reef National Park. The landscape changed constantly. Then came all these huge rocks and strange outcroppings of all different colors and materials. Like castles, they grew all around me. There was s sign for Goblin State Park. What?! I put on the brakes, but it was too late. Later my neighbor, Dan, would tell me Goblin Valley State Park has rocks that look like Disney characters. I stopped to take pictures at a pullover with signs labeling the different, strange rock formations.
Soon enough I entered Capital Reef National Park as it follows the Freemont River. The Mormons followed this route and settled the area, but it wasn’t easy here. Once in the park, I passed a huge wall where ancient drawings hail life here thousands of years ago.
I stopped at the visitor’s center, but similar to Colorado National Monument, the exhibits were closed. It was crowded, so I quickly left. A bit down the road, I caught a picture of a mother deer with her baby.
The Garmin took me to within a mile of the designated campground. After driving in a circle several times, I knew the neighbors were saying, “\Ah, look, another Garmin user!”
I stopped, trailer in tow. and entered the address in Google Maps. neither of the other GPS’s recognizes the name of the campground. They just want an address, but Google immediately picks up the campground name and promptly takes me to the exact spot – amazing!
Pulling into Sand Creek RV Resort and Campground, I tried to find a place where I wouldn’t block others. Getting out of the truck, a voice hailed me from the upper deck. “You must be Greg”, he said. I had registered a 25’ Airstream, so it was a good bet. in perfect social distancing, Harry completed the transaction from the second floor porch. “Go ahead and pick #6 or 10. 10 is closer to the mountains.”
I chose this campground because it’s hot, very hot. It was 96, but I saw 100 earlier. Harry told me all the sites have all the hookups and TV. “What?”, I cried. “It’s true.” he said. I don’t need TV, unless it’s Grit TV, but I sure do need air conditioning! It’s that, or I am going to have to gain altitude, like in Stanley, Idaho.
I chose site 10. #12 would have been better, with an unobstructed view of the cliffs, but hey, I was happy. My truck has been alerting me all day I need DEF, the stuff that prevents diesel engines from polluting, so I unhooked, leveled the trailer and filled the DEF tank, which is not such an easy job. 5 gallons should take me 5,000 miles, which should be enough. I do need to change the oil though. The GMC has been working hard.
I deployed all the awnings, shook out the rugs, swept the floor and used a Mr. Swifter to dust the entire trailer. It’s nice to open windows, but then all sorts of things enter, like sand. The wind blows hard here, blowing a lot of dust and sand. I hooked up water, electric and, yes, sewer. I don’t normally like doing any of that, but I needed air conditioning, which meant power. Water was a nice bonus, since Harry bragged that it come from a spring. I didn’t really need sewer, and don’t like to mix the bunch, but my water tank’s water temperature is probably 80 degrees. I didn’t hook the TV….yet.
I said some pleasantries to my neighbor, Dan, and we got into a conversation. He was from Ohio, but has been in Utah for a long time. We talked about how to get around Salt Lake City. The geology of Utah prevents you from going too many ways without going through Salt Lake City. He talked about the growth of the city and how it has all merged together. i said I hated driving the trailer through that city, but he knew a special route. He told me a town, but I’ve already forgotten.
He talked about Brigham Young and how he wanted the railroad to come through Salt Lake City. He asked if I had seen any steam engines, as there was a celebration going on about the trains meeting near here when the tracks were laid from California and the east.
I began excusing myself to take a shower, when he said UVA stole his coach. Bronco Mendenhall had coached Brigham Young and done well, but he was underpaid and following a legend. I thanked him, because Mendenhall is improving our Cavaliers.
A shower felt good. I had been showering in the Airstream, trying to conserve water the best I could, but it was imperative in that heat. I came back and fixed some dinner. The sun was still beating on my back window. The air conditioner blew a circuit breaker three times. I remembered reading that there is a problem if the breaker keeps going off. Finally, I unplugged the surge protector and happily, it all worked well. The sun went down about 9:30 and the outside thermometer still said 86 degrees. I felt lucky to be comfortable in such heat.
There is a lot of media in this post, especially with the videos. Give me some feedback about how you like it, and how well it loads on your computer.
I wasn’t sure when Tom and Dickey were going to be able to patch my Airstream. Could be today, tomorrow or next week. I didn’t know whether to rebook campgrounds or cancel more, and I didn’t know where to stay tonight. I just knew it wasn’t here.
I was hungry and needed coffee. A google search took me to Little Miss Sophie’s in Rochester, NH. Like Magrilla’s, this is a happening. The parking lot was full, there are plenty of regulars who know everyone and the staff of ladies are classic waitresses, quick with the comments and very efficient. I sat at the bar and watched the ladies work. I had some excellent corned beef hash, eggs, grits and pancakes. I couldn’t eat it all. What a great place! I asked who Sophie is, and the lady pointed to the wall of pictures. I still don’t know.
There is a great carwash close to Profile, so I washed the truck. Then I looked to see if it was big enough to wash the trailer, but it wasn’t.
I talked to Martha, and she had found several acceptable hotels in the area. I drove over to Stateline and peeked in the workshop door. Someone had bashed the back window of their Airstream, and probably felt as bad as I did. They were just pulling it into the shop. It’s the busy season. Lots of people are on the road, and stuff happens. We all want to get back on the road. After staying a night in that miserable cabin, I really wanted to sleep in the Airstream tonight.
I went in and took a propane tank to be refilled, trying not to bother them. There wasn’t much else I could do, so I went into the showroom and went through all the new Airstreams. They had some pretty decent prices, and I think there was room for negotiating. I got some ideas for ours – little things like a little white board and a unique storage hammock that I couldn’t find the name for.
Then I walked around the parts department. I needed to replace an awning hook, but they didn’t have one. There were no white boards or storage hammocks. I’m sure there will be something I need later, but I couldn’t think of it. I went in the back door of the shop and fixed a sandwich. Tom walked by so I asked if I could fix him one. “No”, he said, “but we’re getting ready to start working on yours next.” I quickly finished up and got out of the way.
I snuck in an hour or so later. Tom was working on the roof while Dickey was working inside. These are all good people at Profile. A couple of hours later I peeked in again. Tom said they were finishing up. I climbed a ladder next to the trailer and took a look. “Wonderful”, I said. Very few shops want you in there. There are also regulations and insurance issues, so I felt very fortunate to be able to come and go. Besides, it is so much fun to see how skilled people work.
I went into Paul’s office to pay the bill, but he hadn’t gotten all the details. I offered to get out of the way, as I saw how busy he had been all day, but he said, “No, no. You can stay.” Then he told me they were trying to finish up by 3:00 today. One of their technicians of 17 years had died at 59 years old. The funeral was today. GEEZ! Suddenly it put things in perspective. I had a damaged Airstream while they had lost a valuable colleague.
I happily paid the bill, as I didn’t want to charge the insurance for this. I wanted to get on the road, but it was a long-day’s drive to Halifax. Maybe I could get in a couple of hours, but Paul recommended I stay here and get a good night’s sleep. They could put the trailer next to the shop where I could plug in and run the fans. He was right, so I took him up on the offer. Again, these are just really good people! I thanked them profusely.
Sitting next to the shop in the sun, it was hot. I took all the clean laundry out of the truck and put it away. I put the clean sheets on the beds, and sorted out things in the truck. It was hot, very hot, and the sun was pouring in through the skylight. After the accident, I had taken the shade off to push the plastic skylight back up, and put it in the truck. Now I needed it, so I retrieved it and tried it in, but it didn’t fit any more.
For an hour I sliced it, cut it and finally was able to refit it into its distorted space. Finally pulling it closed, the solar heater was damped. I took a cold shower in the trailer, fixed a vodka and orange juice, had dinner and went to my comfortable, clean bed.
Then the thunderstorm came. All this heat and humidity had to produce a storm. I guess it made a good leak test, so I kept looking for one. Wonderful, there was no leak. Tom said he was 95% sure it would be leak-free. In the middle of the night I heard a small stream of water fall onto the floor. I quickly got up to sop it up in a towel. There was a low area beside the skylight that apparently collected a pool of water. After sitting there for a couple of hours, it found a way through all the caulk. I would have to see to that at some point.
We got an early start for Boston, leaving a little before 6:00. An hour and a half trip without traffic, we made it in a little over two after stopping at McDonald’s for breakfast. Boston is a busy, hectic city. Kelly jumped out of the truck in front of the train station, grabbing his bags. We said a quick goodbye in heavy traffic. Yesterday Melanie Brittingham shared this video on Facebook, and it is just the way I felt driving in and out of Boston……well, except for the food court. In the video people were driving 115 miles an hour, and she is a country girl, who had never driven the New Jersey Turnpike. This may not play on the blog.
Thankfully, I didn’t miss any turns getting out of the city, and then traffic settled down. I began sorting out things I needed to do. I had left a note on the door of the Airstream saying I was worried about rain this afternoon, and could they cover it in some way? I told them I would be back about noon.
Now the whole Newfoundland trip for two months is dramatically changed. We would have to stay in B&B’s and eat every meal out. I’m sure Martha would like this, but it will make it tremendously more expensive. How would I get all these clothes in the truck? What would I do with the food in the referigerator? I needed a better cooler. The ice in my current one lasts about a day. At Walmart I bought several tote bags to put clothes in, as I don’t have a suitcase. I didn’t find a decent cooler, so I went to a marine supply and bought a soft one that you put ice substitute in. That may work out better, since I can put the ice substitutes in the freezer every night. I canceled the first two campgrounds.
Back at Profile, they had moved the Airstream inside their huge shop. I went in to see what was going on. Paul said to come in and sit down. Oh dear! He had a new estimate of the cost of repair. The entire roof would need to be replaced, as it is all one piece. In order to replace three ribs, all the cabinets would have to come out of the inside. I was devastated when he told me the price, which was almost what I paid for the trailer. That sick feeling came back. Dickey had come in to listen, and Lisa stood at the door. They all looked very concerned. All I could say was to submit the claim and see what happens.
I went to a laundry and did several loads of wash. I’ve done my share of laundromats, but I couldn’t figure out why my credit card didn’t work. I tried a second, turned it around all possible ways, but didn’t work. I asked a gentleman on my left, and he took me over to the pay machine where you put your credit card in and get a laundry credit card. Sheez! Now I have to guess how much I will spend. I had to get a second one for the dryer, but didn’t use all the money, so I gave it to a couple who were just starting.
I needed a place to stay. I have been in so many campgrounds with cute, little cabins, I thought I would try one. The first campground was full, as it is the peak of camping season. I went to a KOA, which was also very busy, but they had one. Whew, at least I could take a shower and sit and think.
I was very disappointed when I opened the door to the cabin. It wasn’t clean, no sheets on the bed, two bunk beds with nothing but pads on them. There were no pots, pans or utensils. Luckily, I had all the wash in the truck, which included sheets, and I had a stainless steel drinking bottle I could drink out of. How would I do coffee in the morning? Fortunately there was instant hot water that was hot enough for coffee, and I had one Starbucks straw left. I want my Airstream back!
I was hungry and Googled restaurants. I opted for Magrilla’s in Rochester, NH, which was rated well. Then I got a call from Paul. He said Tom and Dickey had seen how devastated I was, and wondered if I would just like to patch it up to get me back on the road? They could put a piece of aluminum over the hole, push the roof up as much as possible and seal everything. “What? Say that again. Yes, yes I would LOVE that. Thank you soooo much!” I texted Martha.
I found Magrilla’s and went in. Pat greeted me like I was an old friend, handed me a menu and asked if I would like a drink. “Yes I would!” I asked for his recommendation for dinner. Taking his advice, I ordered mushroom ravioli with grilled chicken. It was great and the wine helped. It was like I was in Cheers. Some regulars sat around a rectangular bar. The young lady bartender knew them all, and so did Pat. A group of runners came in one by one until there were 12 of them. Pat joined the group, talking in a circle by the front door. He came by my table and said they come every Thursday, go for a run and then have dinner.
There was a family of four by the front window, also regulars, probably grandparents taking the kids out for the evening. The two little girls, maybe 9 and 11, kneeled in their chairs to play some game between them. With good news Paul, I enjoyed the spirit of this place and the friendly atmosphere.
I was very tired when I got back to the cabin, so I had no trouble going to sleep at 8:00, but I woke up at 3:00. In the dark, I slowly made my way to the showers. Thankfully, they were nice. I fixed my one cup of coffee and tried to wrap my head around another change. “The cheese moves. Move with the cheese.” I have to read that book.
I didn’t sleep well and got up at 3:30 after being awake for a half hour. My head was spinning with the events. I tried not to let my mind go back to the accident. It was just too painful. I read an email from my friend, Ed, that helped put it in perspective, but it was still difficult. I tried to focus on what to do next. “The cheese had moved. Move with the cheese.”
We were staying at Lake Francis State Park in New Hampshire, right on the Canadian border. My phone said I was in Canada and charging me accordingly. I would later learn that’s where the nearest tower is. I went down to the very nice bath house and showered. As daylight came, I walked around to help clear my mind. It’s a gorgeous spot where the Connecticut River runs into Lake Francis. We were here to fish the river. All the write-ups described miles of river to fish, most of which are tailwaters from three lakes that keep the water cool. The people population isn’t so great, and it feels more like Canada.
The campground is very pretty and well-maintained. Several guys in their 20’s came down with rods in hand, two spinning and one fly rod. They had been catching fish, mostly Brook Trout 10-12 inches and one 16″ Rainbow. The guy with the fly rod had caught the most fish. I asked what fly he was using, and he said, “A brown wet fly with white wings.” Had I felt better, I might have smiled. I wished them luck.
At the top of the hill, a young man was rigging up his fly rod. His 5-year old girl asked, “Daddy can you….”, but he said, “Wait a minute dear. Daddy has to get his fishing rod ready.” His cute wife had just come back from a one-hour bike ride at 7:00.
I spent the morning talking and emailing Chris Burch, Airstream service advisor at Jackson Center in Ohio. I sent him all the pictures, including ones after Kelly and I had cleaned everything up. It took a long time because we are surely not the only ones that needed help. I have had service there before with our 2005 30’ Classic, and they did a great job. I think he would also go and talk with his service people and managers and ask what would need to be done.
It was about 11:00 when Chris said it would be a lot of work. The roof would have to be replaced, so everything on the roof has to come off. Then three of the ribs need to be replaced, which means they have to take the inside shell off and take the cabinets out. It would be expensive, but they couldn’t do it until the fall.
I was about to throw up when Sue(?) came up in her golf cart. She is the campground supervisor and had seen the air conditioner sitting by the dumpster. “Have you reported this to the police?” We thought a guy behind us had done that, but she gave me the number of the Pittsburg police chief. I called him while she watched. John, the chief, said he would go and look, then come and talk with us.
It was a long morning of waiting. Kelly was beginning to think how he might get back home, if he could cancel his flight out of Bangor, Maine and what towns or cities we might be passing. There was no sense in driving all the way to Jackson Center, so I called Paul at Profile State Line Superstore in Lebanon, Maine. He was very nice, and said they were happy to help get us back on the road. They couldn’t do the work for three weeks though. They were four hours away, so it just made more sense to go there, and leave it to be repaired. Martha and I would have to go to Newfoundland and stay in B&B’s or something.
Where was that sheriff? We hooked up the trailer and got ready to travel. Finally John came. Big and strong, in his 30’s, John introduced himself. I told him the story as he checked my driver’s license and registrations. He took some pictures and I gave him mine. I was liable for the bridge damage. Apparently that liability falls on the truck insurance while the trailer damage is covered by a different company, but that’s another story.
Then John said I needed to pay for hauling the air conditioner away and should go down to the office and settle with Sue. Sheez! I went down and told Sue (?) we were leaving, hoping to get two nights refund to pay for removing the air conditioner, but she said she didn’t know if it could be refunded on such short notice. I was about to lose it as John left. She said I needed to contact a recommended service to pick it up. “OK, can I use your phone to call them?” “No, you have to send them a letter.” Are you kidding me? John had suggested $40 to remove it, so I put it on the counter and left. I had really liked this campground, but now I was ready to get the hell out of there.
We set the truck GPS for Lebanon, Maine and started out. It told us to turn left on a gravel road and we did. In a short distance we saw it was not a good idea. It took 15 minutes to turn the trailer around. I tried to keep calming myself, afraid I might make another mistake and damage something else. Finally back on the road, we stopped at a Y. The GPS told us to go left, but that is where the covered bridge is. There was one in front of us, but it was just a decoration now. I began thinking about suing the state for keeping these cute, but outdated bridges.
An attractive lady drove up in a golf cart pulling a lawn tractor behind. She stopped and asked if we were lost. I told her we didn’t like where the GPS was sending us. “Oh, GPS doesn’t work up here. Go straight down this road and you will get to route 3. Thanking her, we drove down the gravel road to Rt 3, turned left and saw a gas station where we refueled yesterday. Are you kidding me?! All we had to do yesterday was drive a half mile from the station, turn right on a good gravel road and go 3/4 mile to the park. The GPS couldn’t have taken us on a more convoluted route! Now I wanted to sue the GPS. I understand phones not working, and I understand GPS not working, but this was crazy, like some demonic spirit in control just to have a little fun!
Driving New Hampshire roads while pulling a trailer is not fun. Someone told us Newfoundland roads are terrible. They can’t be worse than New Hampshire roads. The countryside is gorgeous though, and driving through the White Mountains is very pretty. The adrenaline was fading now, and I was getting tired, so I asked Kelly to drive. There are few people I would let drive and he is one of them. Still, it makes me nervous.
We arrived at Profile Stateline Superstore at 4:15. Tom came out to greet us. He is the technician and pulled out a ladder, climbing up to assess the damage. I waited for the “Oh my God” to come out, or the head shaking, but neither happened. He just looked, pointed and calculated. Then he went inside. Again, no muttering or comments, just calculating. Then we went inside to see Paul. They did some talking and quick calculations, and Paul thought it might cost $10,000. The parts are expensive. Shipping from Jackson Center is expensive. Big sheets and panels, packed and shipped carefully would surely be costly. “OK, go ahead” I said.
Kelly was eying this little 14.5′ Airstream for Rhonda
Kelly packing up
We had no place to stay and we hadn’t had lunch today. They said we could park beside the service building. There is even a power hookup there. Well, I wasn’t going to run the air conditioner. We stayed there. It was just easier. It was hot sitting in the sun, but we opened all the windows and turned the fans on high, and soon it cooled down. Kelly searched ways to get home by plane or train. We had just bought all this food. What were we going to do with it? How would I put all this stuff in the truck? There were things I didn’t need, and thought about renting a little storage unit. We cooked a steak in the frying pan, corn on the cob and some mixed vegetables.
Kelly finally found a train to Richmond leaving from Back Bay in Boston, an hour and a half away. I didn’t like it, but the plan was now to leave the trailer here, go to Newfoundland and come back to pick up the Airstream after the trip. We probably wouldn’t stay as long, as it would be a lot more expensive, staying in hotels and eating all our meals out, but that was it. It had been a very long day and we were tired. Martha was coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia Tuesday night. I made a list of things I needed to do.
While we were breaking camp, John Donovan came up to say goodbye. His group across the road had fished last night in the rain, but had little luck. They have a very nice group that rents a cabin here every year. John said he envied us – being able to travel and fish on a trip like this. We said you have to be old like us, but we do feel very fortunate.
It was a pretty, 3-hour drive north, past Tolland State Forrest, up I90 and Rt.7. Arriving at the campground early, we dropped the trailer at a nearby park and ran errands. We drove 12 miles south to the Bennington Walmart. It is a well-organized store, so we were pretty efficient getting what we needed. We filled up with gas, got a milkshake and went to the liquor store. By the time we had lunch and hooked up the trailer, it was time to check in.
We found our site, set up and drove north to check out the Orvis store and Outlet. This is the Orvis home, where it all got started. They have the corporate offices, their biggest store, a fly fishing school, complete with stocked ponds, and an outlet for older items. These are all beautiful buildings in the also beautiful town of Manchester, VT. Mostly they come for the cool summer air and the Battenkill River.
We entered the store with our mouths agape. It’s huge with hunting and fishing gear on the ground floor and home and pets on the second floor. We love Orvis stuff, all of it! There is a department for shotguns – beautiful shotguns.
Despite the distractions, we headed for the fishing department and met Sooner. No, he is not from Oklahoma. He gave us some great tips on fishing the Battenkill. He showed us places to go on Google Maps on his computer. Then he showed us what he likes to use and how he fishes them. Apparently, the average fisherman catches two trout a day on the Battenkill. The fish see a lot of fishermen. It is not stocked in Vermont, so they are wild and they are finicky. Of course we bought more flies, and I bought a braided leader. As we were heading out, Sarah also gave us some tips and a printed map. She suggested fishing Roaring Branch where native Brookies live. Maybe we would fish the Battenkill this evening in camp. Tomorrow we would fish it on the New York side, since they stock it. In the afternoon, we might try Roaring Branch. One day is not enough time!
We headed over to check out the outlet store. There were two floors of marked down items – rods, flies, clothes, home and pets. Tempting, very tempting, especially pants for $29 and half-priced fly rods. I could spend a half day here……and a lot of money.
Late in the afternoon, we went behind the trailer to the beautiful stream and fished for an hour. It was the end of 4th of July week. Between canoes, inner tubes and fishermen, these fish are laying low.
It was and hour drive over to the East Branch, plus a stop for ice and a breakfast sandwich at a gas station. We took a quick look at Chesterfield Gorge, a pretty spot on the river, but we were excited to get fishing. It was already 9:30 and warming up.
We drove down the bumpy, dirt road, passing a couple of cars a photography team and some dog-walkers. It would be a great place to walk or ride a bike. We drove down a mile or so and parked. Kelly is always geared up first and had to wait for me. I followed, waiting to put a fly on until I got a look at the river. He was fishing on top, so I put on a nymph. I hate fishing nymphs, but it was probably our best chance of catching fish. The river is gorgeous, with huge boulders, swift runs and big pools. It’s easy casting with little in the way. Big rocks make great platforms to stand on and cast.
The water was warm – no cooler than a good smallmouth stream. This is not a good thing for trout. The river is a bit treacherous to walk in with silt covering the rocks, making it very slippery. We changed flies a lot and fished hard for two hours. No hits, no runs, no errors, so we decided to go downstream a ways.
A nice fisherman was driving back up and stopped to chat. He hadn’t done anything either, starting where a gate blocks the road. He was going to try going upstream, so we went down. After parking, we walked down a half mile and started fishing. Nothing. I mean it’s July, and that’s not good for trout fishing. We were sitting on a big rock when I noticed a bike-rider with his shirt unzipped climbing down the bank toward us. We said hello as George approached us. “Did you lose a fishing rod? A walker found one in the road.” Kelly said it could be his. Did he set it on top of the truck toolbox and leave it there? “What color was it?” George asked. “What color line did it have on it?” Amazing how you can fish a rod for 30 years and not know what color it is. It was his father’s Orvis rod. We had noticed a group or groups of walkers along the road above us. George said the walker might leave it with the park attendant, but there was none today.
I scrambled up the bank as they were talking and walked quickly back to the truck to see if his rod was in the back. It wasn’t. By then Kelly was walking up. We got in the truck, hoping to catch this walker before he left the area. Backing up 300 yards, we found a place to turn around. A Jeep was coming down the road and had to back up to a spot we could pass each other. We passed several groups of walkers, but no fishing rod. Then a biker with two dogs stopped us. It was a bit hard to tell what he was talking about. As a dentist, I was focusing on the missing teeth. He was a fit-looking older guy with no shirt on. Apparently there was a car with a dead battery. We had only passed one parked car, a Jeep. “Was that it”, Kelly asked. “No, it’s up a side road. I remembered a road turning up the mountain. “We’ll come back, but first we need to look for a lost fishing rod.” we said. He was still talking as we hurried off. Hurried is a stretch. This road is rough, and 10mph is top speed with a lot of bouncing. We’ll probably break something in the back, we said.
One more group – no rod, but in the next group, a bearded man about our age had the rod. Kelly thanked him profusely. “Thank God”. We turned around and drove back down the road to find the car with a dead battery. Catching up to the bike-rider with two dogs. It was his truck, a new Toyota. He must have left something on, maybe a light or something. He said he would lead the way to where he was camped for several days. Shades of Deliverance went through our minds. The two of us could take him, but suppose he had a friend up there with a gun. He could ride the bike faster than we could drive the truck, but we followed him to theturnoff. He said it got a bit narrow at one point. Looking back, he said, “Boy, that’s a big truck!” We have driven much tougher roads, but a log narrowed it at one point. It was a bit of a struggle getting by, and his directions weren’t great.
Finally we saw the new, red Toyota truck. Of course it was pointed away from us. We quickly surveyed the area for others. Dogs are usually good indicators, and these were two very nice dogs. If they were pit bulls, as so many people seem to have, we wouldn’t have followed him.
We had to clear all his camping gear, coolers, stoves and bags out of the way. Then we pushed his truck backward so I could get my truck around a fire pit to his hood. “You want a beer?” he asked. He was constant chatter, and I wasn’t here for chatter. Steve was his name. He said, “Oh you don’t drink?” “No, we drink – just not beer”. The cute, little puppy kept jumping up my leg, looking for attention.
Fortunately I have long jumper cables, but they’re not so easy to clamp on my battery. First try, no effect. There was just clicking. May be the starter, I suggested. “No” Steve said “They really service this truck well. I’m sure it’s the battery. It has so many electrical gadgets and technology, I’m sure it was my mistake leaving something on.” Tightening the clamps, we tried again with no effect. “Let it run a while to charge it”, he said, and the chatter kept flowing. Noticing a hanging trash bag, I asked about bears. That led to a couple of bear stories. Steve likes to camp in remote places, not that this is really remote, but if you like to bike and walk, this is a good place. “Try it again”, I said while he was still talking. Still clicking. The starter, I thought.
I checked the connections and found the one on my battery had come loose. “Try it again” I said. He said, “Leave it a few minutes and let it charge some more. Are you guys in a hurry?” He was drinking a beer, and still talking. Thankfully, on the next try, his truck started. He thanked us profusely as we wrapped up the cables and put them back in the truck. It was a bit tricky turning around, but we finally made it. Heading down the mountain, he was still talking, thanking us. Now safe, we realized not many were going to come up this road to help Steve, and we were glad we did. Not many people were going to come down to the river and ask if we had lost a fishing rod either, so we had paid if forward. The fishing wasn’t much, but it was an adventure.
We started to drive to a fly shop in Deerfield, but the bridge was out. It was 45 minutes north and we were an hour from camp. That’s enough for one day, so we turned around and headed home. Charlie had called as we left the Beaverkill. What a nice guy! He said the Deerfield was great, and gave us the name of a great guide. Looks like we aren’t going to make that one this trip.
We tried to organize our flies and label them. The trouble is we buy these flies, put them our fly boxes and then never can remember what they are or where we are supposed to fish them. Some are works of art. Some are classics and some are specific to a stream.
It was our last full day here, and we wanted to devote it to the Beaverkill right in front of us. We walked out our door and went fishing, Kelly going up to the pool above, while I opted to fish faster water in front of us. Wading a third of the way across, I began casting. There was nothing rising, and I could see no hatch. I had my big rod, a 6-weight, 10’ Orvis Helios 2 with a 12 foot leader. It’s a beast that I bought for steelhead, small salmon and largemouth bass. My other rod is a 7’4” 4/5 weight that is too small for this stream. Well, maybe not for the majority of fish you might catch, but there are big ones here.
On the 5th cast, the end of my rod fell in the water. I’ve never had a rod come apart on a cast. It’s a 4-piece rod and half of it was in the water. As I retrieved it, I saw it was broken and had not just come apart. Orvis rods are expensive, but they will fix or replace a broken rod. I walked upstream to tell Kelly. Jeff was on the bank watching. I held up my broken rod, and he said, “I hope that’s not going to stop you from fishing!” I said, “Which end should I use?”
I went into Beaverkill Angler, and Orvis dealer. Matt smiled and examined the rod. He said they would send it to Orvis and they would rebuild it and send it to me. It’s the busy season so it would take three weeks. %#@*#. What is a stupid fisherman supposed to do? With two more weeks of fishing, I needed another rod. Matt showed me two 5-weight rods and took me across the street to try them. He also gave me some tips to improve my casting. Be stronger on the take up, drag it a bit going forward and release it higher. If I could just keep the vision of Matt’s easy casting stroke in my mind, maybe I would get better. I walked out with a new rod, reel and line and a lot lighter in the wallet, but I was back in the game.
We needed groceries, so while I was in town, I did some shopping. It was lunchtime by the time I got back. Kelly came up and we traded stories. He had hooked “a hog”, but after 10 minutes it got off. He said all the time he was thinking about how he would get a picture for the blog. I was gone and he doesn’t carry his phone while he is fishing.
After a trip downstream to a recommended pool, we returned to camp and fished out our door. With my new rod, I fished the same spot I was in this morning. As the sun went behind the mountain, fish started rising and splashing – not regularly, but there were plenty of them, and I had targets. I used everything I had bought and several others and only got one fish to splash at a caddis fly. I could see teeny flies in the air, but nothing on the water. They seemed to be feeding a bit on top and a bit underneath, but I just couldn’t get anything to work. Neither could Kelly.
We came back in, took off the gear and fixed a drink. We borrowed two chairs from our neighbor and took them to the edge of the stream to watch. Now we could see #12 size brown or tan flies floating on the water. There were plenty of those teeny flies flying around too. We watched the brown ones float down, and every now and then a fish would take one. It was a beautiful, cool evening. Kelly, a non-technology guy, said he wanted to FaceTime his son, Kelly, searching his phone for the app. Finally he got it to work and Kelly answered. He was probably at dinner when we called. He couldn’t see any video, but we could talk, describing the scene. After a while, he said, “Hey I can see it! I just saw a fish jump!” We had seen that fish rising with some regularity all evening, just 15 feet from shore.
It’s amazing how it cools off here at night. At some time during the night, with the windows open, I pull up the blanket. The only sound is the flow of the Beaverkill 15 feet away.
Charlie, who we met on the East Fork of the Delaware River, recommended fishing the top of Willowemoc Creek if we wanted to catch a lot of small Brook Trout. We stopped into Dette Flies in Livingston Manor. Of course we bought more flies. Most of the interest is in the lower Willowemoc, where the fish are bigger. A nice young lady told us where to go and what to fish with. A young man brought in a broken rod he had rented while others were asking about where to go and what to fish with. This is a nice store with everything you need. As Kelly talked to her, I looked at their rod collection.
We took a short drive to “The Power Lines Pool” and checked it out. It was Sunday and 5 cars were in the parking lot, one with a camper. We explored the pool and downstream. It’s a beautiful river, but the wind was blowing hard. The combination of a lot of fishermen and wind makes it pretty tough, so we opted to go way upstream.
It’s a pretty good drive to the upper Willowemoc. The river is beautiful in its entire length. We missed a turn and passed a sign for fishing Fir Brook. It’s a gorgeous, little creek that looks like a spring creek with crystal clear water with beautiful vegetation surrounding it. That wasn’t our destination, but why not give it a quick try. It was obviously fished and walked a lot. We had no immediate luck, so after 30 minutes we got back on track for Willowemoc Creek.
As Charlie suggested, we drove as far as we could and parked. He didn’t say whether to fish up or down. We fished a few nice pools down before deciding to fish up. It’s a small stream and a bit difficult to fish, but we did OK. We caught about 15 small Brook Trout and probably lost 15 more, several of which were nice ones. Finally we ran out of stream and got out.
We knew the road was on our right, so we started walking that way, but couldn’t find a road. Walking back down the stream would be difficult and time-consuming, so we plodded through the woods. Of course thoughts of being lost enters your mind, but we reminded ourselves we were between the stream and the road. Finding a woodland road, we followed it. It was probably a 4-wheeler road used for hunting, so who knows where it might go. Fortunately, it came out on our road. Then it was probably a 2-mile walk back to the truck. We were tired when we got there.
As we drove back, we thought about all the flies we have bought and haven’t even fished many of them. We keep falling back to what we know best – small streams.