Dan and Hannah Hike Chittenango Falls in central New York State

Following a recent trip to Virginia where our daughter Molly and son Will now live, this week we are off to central New York to support our daughter Robyn as she makes her push to rejoin the US Army.  Previously, for four years, including 15 months in Afghanistan, she served as an American soldier.  She’d like to take a crack at it again.

Cazenovia is to the southeast of Syracuse

Cazenovia is to the southeast of Syracuse

Central New York is in fact Hannah’s childhood home; she grew up in the Erie Canal town of Fairport, near Rochester, NY, some 100 miles to the west of Robyn’s place in Cazenovia (“Caz” to the locals and now Caz to us).

Fairport is a suburb of Rochester, NY

Fairport is a suburb of Rochester, NY

Finding the Trip Advisor ratings abysmal for the Cazenovia Motel, Hannah and I think B and B.  Mary’s Meadow’s Trip Advisor ratings (click on this hyperlink to read some of the reviews) catch our attention with its eye popping 25 of 25 excellent reviews.  Really?  25 of 25.  We haven’t seen such scores since the Mount St. Helen’s B and B.  We roll the dice that are loaded in our favor.

MM house

Prior to our leaving for New York and wanting to treat Robyn to a B and B breakfast, we email Ginny, the Innkeeper at Mary’s Meadow, if we can pay for Robyn to join us for breakfast.  Ginny’s reply.

Of course your daughter can come and eat breakfast with you.  Why don’t we plan on Wednesday morning?   There is no charge for an additional breakfast…we are honored to be able to thank Robyn for her service to our country.

Whoa!  Got to love New Yorkers!

In the very dark predawn (sunrise is nearly two hours away) of Columbus Day morning, we drive south on I-95 to I-495 through eastern Massachusetts and eventually to the Mass Pike (I-90) heading west to Caz.  To pass the time, while Hannah drives I read aloud from my iPhone the descriptive paragraphs of the key points to Margie Warrell’s column about Keeping Love Alive over the Long Haul.

The author

The author

Sitting side by side as we drive in the midmorning on the New York Thruway, we back and forth it on how we are doing with her seven points about keeping marriages successful…

  1. Invest time creating a vision that inspires you both.
  2. Respect your partner for who they are…and who they aren’t.
  3. Be brave in what you say…but kind too.
  4. Build on trust.  Work your ass off to keep it strong
  5. Support each other but always stand on your own two feet.
  6. Work on the “baggage” that can weigh you and your marriage down.
  7. Make time for talking.  The busier you are, the more important it is.

…and the time flies from Maine to central New York State.

Chittenango Creek above the Falls

Chittenango Creek above the Falls

Exiting the New York Thruway at Canastota, soon we are driving down the Gorge Road (Route 13) where we are surprised by these amazing waterfalls that we glimpse through the nearly barren trees of fall.

Chittenango Falls

Chittenango Falls

The Chittenango State Park is no longer charging admission at this time of year, so the gates are open for us to park just above the falls.

For even the most casual of hikers, this stone trail is a mere five minutes to the base of the 167 foot falls.  By comparison New York’s Niagara Falls is 173 feet.

Looking downstream

Looking downstream

Even on an overcast, misty afternoon, others have made their way to see these dramatic falls from the wooden bridge that spans the meandering Chittenango Creek.

The trail then rises above the Chittenango Creek and we hike alone.

Ch side view

It’s only twenty minutes of hiking but stunning nonetheless.

Fromm the top of the falls down Chittenango Creek

From the top of the falls down Chittenango Creek

After hiking on this sprinkling afternoon, we end up at Mary’s Meadow B & B on the West Lake Road out in the country, just five minutes from downtown Caz.  Having seen us drive in, the Innkeepers Ginny and Howard come out to the driveway to greet us and carry our suitcases in.   For $125+tax we are in the Taylor Room with its king size room, private shower, and sitting room off our bedroom.  But that’s only the beginning.

Slumberland at Mary's Meadow  in the Taylor Room

Slumberland at Mary’s Meadow in the Taylor Room

At Mary’s Meadow, the breakfast menu is placed on our bed to fill out before we go out for the evening.  I’ll try the Hearty Breakfast with the Hash Brown Casserole while Hannah has the Omelet Breakfast with every vegetable and cheese listed on the menu!

Nightlife with Dan and Hannah and Robyn

Nightlife with Dan and Hannah and Robyn

As we are known to do, Hannah and I small time it for dinner; tonight we opt for the local Owahgena Pizzeria recommended by our hosts.  Loving our mushroom pizza at the front room table of this take-out establishment, we relax with Robyn and are reminded how proud we are of her.

Hannah and Robyn with our deluxe mushroom pizza

Hannah and Robyn with our deluxe mushroom pizza

At this retirement stage of our lives when we can travel, we love to play the role our own parents played, and that is to treat our kids to dinner.  Generous to the core, Robyn leaves the tip.

She to her apartment and we to Mary’s Meadow, we linger as we hug.

Come Wednesday morning, Robyn joins us for a Mary Meadow’s breakfast extravaganza.

MM H at bfast

Attentive to the max, Howard serves our juices, then a basket of pumpkin bread while Ginny cooks our breakfasts; she could have her own cooking show on cable TV.  Living in Maine we are reassured that Robyn has a lighthouse with our B and B hosts.

We learn of another program Ginny and Howard support – David’s Refuge: Caring for the Caregiver.  David’s Refuge is a non-profit retreat offered free of charge to parents and guardians who care for children with special or life threatening medical conditions.  On average, four times per month they provide a B and B experience free of charge for these families.

At Mary’s Meadow, Ginny and Howard have created a “home” for travelers with their attention to detail and their scrumptious breakfast.  But that’s not why they are a five star B and B.

It’s Ginny and Howard themselves.

We feel like family, cared for and loved.  Their interest is genuine and they have taken us “away” for these few days in spectacular fashion.

Mary Meadow's Innkeepers Ginny and Howard with Robyn

Mary Meadow’s Innkeepers Ginny and Howard with Robyn

And even once Robyn successfully returns to the US Army and leaves Caz, we will be back to Mary Meadow’s again and again.  And again.

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Dan and Hannah Take an Evening Hike to Annie Creek in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

crater lake map

Among our extended family, Hannah and I have one relative who says they spend money like drunken sailors.  On the other hand, we can be frugal.  In fact, too frugal and edging toward becoming fool-gul.  There is a price for being too frugal when trying to save money on accommodations when visiting Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.   Crater Lake is in the middle of the county of Sofaraway, OR (Carole King sings about it.)  Medford is the nearest city, nearly two hours away to the south; there are some roadside motels that make up the high plateau town of Chemult nearly an hour away to the northeast.

Despite parsimonious tendencies, we do not blow it this time.  Of course, we don’t go Crater Lake Lodge crazy either.  A lakeside room at the Crater Lake Lodge goes for around $225 per night, and that is only if you reserve the room at least twelve months in advance.

Crater Lake Lodge viewed from Garfield Peak Trail

Crater Lake Lodge viewed from Garfield Peak Trail

We opt for the Mazama Village Cabins for $140 per night thanks to reservations made six months ahead of time.   After hiking Garfield Peak at Crater Lake, we have a simple eight miles to our cabin at Mazama Village in the Park and some quiet time (read: napping for me, writing postcards in the sun for Hannah) this first Sunday of August.

Annie Creek at Mazama Village

Annie Creek at Mazama Village

 

Our Mazama Village Cabin

Our Mazama Village Cabin

With two queen size beds and a private shower, our cabin is luxurious, though there is no refrigerator or television.  We sleep with the windows open as night time temperatures plummet to near 40F.  Thankfully there are bear screens on the window!

Another advantage of these cabins is that they lie adjacent to the campground that sits just above Annie Creek.   This is the same campground where Hannah and I camped in tents with our three kids back in 1993.  One of my strongest memories of that time is gray volcanic dust everywhere: in our tents, in our sleeping bags, and in our hiking boots.  I don’t remember bears being an issue then, but they are now.

Bear Warning

Bear Warning

But the park is well prepared for the ursine visitors.

With sunset after 825P in early August in this far western part of the Pacific Time Zone, we easily have an hour to hike the 1.7 mile Annie Creek loop trail in the evening.

Out for an evening hike

Out for an evening hike

Accessing the trail through the park amphitheater, we skirt the campground for a third of a mile as we see families cooking dinner on Coleman stoves and kids biking along the dirt roads of the campground.

Similar to the Garfield Peak Trail, the Annie Creek Trail is straight forward and easy to follow; it begins with a switchback descent from 6000′ to the river bottom.  Lodge pole pines dominate the mountain side and the afternoon smoke from the wildfires 50 miles to our south has begun to lift.  The switchbacks make the climb down easy as we descend 200 feet to the canyon floor, which is probably why it is rated a moderate hike.

Another gentle switchback to Annie Creek

Another gentle switchback to Annie Creek

In no time, we find we are next to the gurgling, happy stream of Annie Creek.  The creek was named in honor of Annie Gaines, the first European woman to descend into Crater Lake in 1865.

Hannah crossing Annie Creek

Hannah crossing Annie Creek

Hiking this pristine, National Geographic trail in the early evening is a Crater Lake gift to Dan and Hannah.  For suburban kids of the East, Hannah and I find nature’s quiet, time together, and exercise the ideal trifecta.

As with much of Crater Lake, the trail is often covered in snow from October to early July.

It’s a joyous pre-dinner mint of a hike.

AC 12 H BY CREEK

It turns out for Dan and Hannah that Sofaraway is just the place to be.

Dan and Hannah Hit the Road in Central Maine

It’s easy to stay in my cocoon here in York, Maine.  We’ve a home of 31 years that we have made our own.  I like the rhythm and flow to my day as one recently retired.  Be it the life with Hannah, time with friends, volunteering at York Hospital, or working out at Coastal Fitness.  But being lazy and complacent bay at the back door.  From time to time, I need to leave our homestead to see what else is out there. Focused on my day to day, I can lose sight of the big picture.

By venturing out, I can learn things about myself that I didn’t even know I would learn.

To emerge from the cocoon this first Saturday of October, Hannah and I will drive two hours north to another of America’s hometowns.  Fairfield, Maine.  Located in Somerset County, Fairfield is in the heart of the Kennebec Valley in mid-Maine.  A town of nearly 7000, it, like much of rural and suburban Maine, is 97% white.

fairfield map

What brings us specifically to Fairfield is the promise of a big time breakfast at the Purple Cow.  A couple weeks back our friend George mentioned how the Purple Cow serves huge portions at breakfast.  Ever-looking for a good deal and a good time, Hannah and I plan a road trip north.

Leaving at 5A, we drive northeast on I-95 past Portland, Augusta, and Waterville in the predawn dark.  Hannah shoots this morning sunrise just before Fairfield.

Sun rising in the East

Sun rising in the East

Leaving the Maine Turnpike (I-95) at exit 133, we easily find the Purple Cow on our left within a half mile on Route 201, a major route from the Maine coast to Quebec.

Purple Cow sign

Though 7A, we see twenty cars and trucks in the parking lot.  If this many people are up this early, the Purple Cow just might be the mother lode.  Entering the first of the two main dining areas, we find a plastic vinyl booth and settle in.  Elderly couples, a man with the morning paper, a table of ten men, and guys soon to be four-wheeling all make the Purple Cow a happening place.

First of two interior rooms at the Purple Cow

First of two interior rooms at the Purple Cow

Pictures on the wall include the classic Dogs playing Poker,

PC Dogs playing poker

and beneath them are the piles of Styrofoam containers for the inevitable Purple Cow leftovers.

PC styrofoam

Bringing decaf, our waitress is efficient, all business, and never cracks a smile.  When I try to engage her, When does it get busy? she turns away dismissively as if I am slowing her down.  Her big tip flies out the side window.

But then it’s time for the main event.

Our morning breakfast at the Purple Cow

Our morning breakfast at the Purple Cow

My pancakes fill the 12 inch plate; Hannah’s biscuits and gravy plus eggs and home fries are, in fact, two meals.  Smothered in gravy, the biscuits are worth the drive themselves.  Eggs over easy turns out to be three eggs and a mound of homemade home fries for just $6.99!

With twenty plus miles of country road biking ahead of us, we dig in.  Just being away today gives me a new frame of reference and the chance to be creative and resourceful to make the most of our day.

PC D by Cow

Once done, we park at the primary school in town, which was once Lawrence High School.  It is named for Edward J. Lawrence, a local entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist, who donated the money to build the town library and the high school.

Unloading our bikes to explore Fairfield, Maine

Unloading our bikes to explore Fairfield, Maine

Across the street is a town green and to the right the Lawrence Public Library.  It’s 50 degrees, overcast under threatening skies, but we decide to explore Fairfield by bike anyway.

Ready to Ride

Ready to Ride

Rarely a fan of yard sales, I warm to them when we are out investigating faraway towns.  Today happens to be the annual barn sale for the Fairfield Historical Society.  As we pull in, it begins to rain.

Fairfield History House

Fairfield History House

The rain picks up and Hannah knows all too well that her vest and wool gloves will not be enough to ward off the cold.   A bright blue/purple Columbia jacket speaks to her.  It says Five dollars and that seals the deal.   As we bike towards in town Lawrence High School, there is a fall chill to the rain.

Fair 1 Han with jacket and cold

The rain continues and we take refuge in the 1900 Lawrence Public Library.

Lawrence Public Library in Fairfield, Maine

Lawrence Public Library in Fairfield, Maine

I with my iPhone editing my Purple Cow pictures and Hannah reading the local paper, the Morning Sentinel, wait out the showery weather.

More than century old library on the Kennebec River

More than century old library on the Kennebec River

As the rain abates, we ask the librarian where she would recommend we bike today.  Immediately, she encourages us to cross the two bridges on the Kennebec River from Fairfield to Benton and bike north on the River Road.

Once across the Kennebec River, we find ourselves in gently rolling farm country.  The farm below lies between the river and the road.

RR 2 farmhouse on road

Wearing my yellow fluorescent vest, I feel safe enough biking on this wide open country road to ride side by side with Hannah; I have plenty of time to see any approaching vehicles in my rearview mirror so I can slip back in line behind Hannah to ride single file.

Biking along the Kennebec River

Biking along the Kennebec River

Does anything say farm country like free kittens?

RR 9C Free kittens

As a suburban north Jersey kid, I can only imagine how tough the farming life is.  I bet these farmers aren’t riding bikes for exercise two hours from home on this fall morning.

Nearly as high as an elephant's eye

Nearly as high as an elephant’s eye

In early October, we are in the midst of corn harvesting season.  Half the fields have corn still standing tall while other fields have cornstalks cut off at the knees.

Looking south on the Kennebec River near Pishon Ferry, Maine

Looking south on the Kennebec River near Pishon Ferry, Maine

Though we see some houses that might be vacation camps, most river houses seem to be filled with the daily lives of full time residents.  In the early 19th century, the Kennebec River once supplied ice for the southern United States and the West Indies.  The ice was harvested by farmers idled by winter weather.  The ice was cut by hand, floated to an ice house on the river bank, and stored until spring.  Then, packed in sawdust, it was loaded aboard ships and transported south.

RR  8 Pishon Ferry church

After ten miles of riverview biking, we turn back at the Pishon Ferry Baptist Church.  Along the way, we pass the tarpaper house below, only guessing the one time or even current meager existence of this family.

RR 9 tar paper house

Trailers are the affordable housing of choice up and down the river road in the Other Maine (i.e., contrasted with the often affluent coast of Maine where we live).  Leaving our cocoon, we are reminded how fortunate we are.

RR 9A trailer

No better way to spend a fall Saturday morning than exploring by bicycle with Hannah.

Biking back to Fairfield on the River Road

Biking back to Fairfield on the River Road

Farm folks have their fun as this farmer welcomes Halloween with a pastoral touch.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

Our day in Fairfield has indeed taken us away from our enjoyable routines and our satisfying daily habits.  By leaving our comfort zone, we again have added quality to our lives together.  Without day-to-day distractions, we have time to reflect on our choices and think about what’s next. Being away makes me more intentional and pro-active.   And that energizes me for the week ahead.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Mary’s Rock in the Shenandoah National Park

Farmstead panorama in Reva, VA

Our farmstead panorama in Reva, VA

Throughout the Saturday night of our weekend family reunion near Culpeper, VA, Owen does not want any of us to forget that he is here.  At 1A, 230A and 4A he emphatically reminds us.  At 7A Molly brings a smiling, who me? Owen downstairs, and his grandparents give it a shot.  It’s win/win.  We get Owen and Molly gets some much-needed shut eye.

Farm road from Holly Hill Farm

Farm road from Holly Hill Farm to the highway in the distance

Late morning we pack up three cars heading west for Shenandoah National Park looking for a shorter Sunday hike after six hours on the White Oak Canyon Loop trail (see blog for September 28, 2013).  We look for some togetherness, just not 6 hours of rocky trails togetherness.

Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia

Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia

Thornton Gap Entrance is 30 minutes from our overnight stay in Reva, VA.  We’ll hike today, then Hannah and I will head 125 miles southeast and spend some time with Will and Laurel in Richmond, VA while Molly, Tip, and Owen will drive 80 miles to the northeast to Arlington, VA with Robyn.

MR map

At the ranger station, we learn that within a quarter of a mile there is 3.6 mile round trip hike to Mary’s Rock which offers us full 360 degree views of the Shenandoah Valley.  An hour up and an hour back down.  No problemo.

With parking for fifty, again we have found a hike that is popular with others which matches my desire to engage, shoot the breeze with our fellow hikers.  In fact, today our hike is almost entirely on the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Appalachian Trail with Mount Kahtadin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia

Appalachian Trail from Mount Kahtadin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia

We have a chance to see thru-hikers heading south from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. (It’s unlikely that we will see northbound thru-hikers.  On this mid-September day they would still have more than 900 miles to hike over some of the toughest mountains in NH and ME.  Rangers close access to Mt. Katahdin on October 15 because of dangerous wintery weather.)

Robyn, Hannah, Laurel, Tip, Dan, Otter, Tip, Molly, Owen (from left to right)

Robyn, Hannah, Laurel, Tip, Dan, Tip, Molly, Owen (from left to right)

Our band of eight is ready to cap the weekend with a hike to Mary’s Rock at 3500 feet.  One story claims that Francis  Thornton had a daughter named Mary, who climbed up the mountain when she was young and came back with a bear cub under her arm.

Will and Laurel with their pooch, Otter

Will and Laurel with their pooch, Otter

Owen is raring to go!

Owen is raring to go!

Will and Laurel’s golden shepherd literally dragged whoever was holding him up the mountain yesterday.  He’s not quite so peppy today, but still all puppy and a handful.

The trail is 40% less rocky and less steep than Saturday’s White Oak Trail Loop and for that we are thankful.

Again our hike is under the forest canopy with only the top of Mary’s Rock being free of trees.

We hike single file forgetting our aches and pains in the company of our hiking brethren and sisteren.

The drop-offs on the Mary's Rock Trail

A drop-off on the Mary’s Rock Trail

The trail is not at all precarious but is as popular as we thought it would be with many fellow hikers to greet and shoot the breeze with me.

Stone stairway of Mary's Rock Trail

Stone stairway of Mary’s Rock Trail

Today it is Tip who totes Owen up and down the mountain on his back.

Mary's Rock Trail

Mary’s Rock Trail

Near the top, I hit pay dirt as I spot a thru-hiker.  His tell-tale backpack and scruffy beard give him away.

I open with Are you thru-hiking?  He nods and thankfully turns and pauses to talk rather than hurry on his way.  Having hiked some 1300 miles from Mt. Katahdin in four months, he is hoping to be in Georgia by Thanksgiving 2+ months away.

His trail name is Stinky Jesus: Jesus because he helped a fellow hiker with hypothermia and Stinky from the fact that all thru-hikers stink, and I mean that in an affectionate way.  They rarely get to bathe and a strong odor is part of being real on the AT.

I appreciate that he engages me in conversation for ten minutes.   As readers of this blog may have noted, I like the hikes where I meet others, hear their story, and share some of mine.  Since Hannah and I have been hiking the AT over the last four years, I have been looking for a trail name.  She is Two ply (from her humorous use of toilet paper stuck to her shoe).

I have come up empty.  But I am feeling Shooting for a trail name.  Shooting from shooting the breeze with all the hikers I meet.  I’ll wear it to see if it fits like size 34 jeans.

Ever wonder the kinds of hiking shoes thru-hikers wear?  Stinking Jesus is on his second pair and the duct tape is flapping with each step.  He’s hoping to get 100 miles more from this pair.  Good luck.

The hiking shoes of Stinky Jesus

The hiking shoes of Stinky Jesus

We summit!

Dan and Hannah on Mary's Rock

Dan and Hannah on Mary’s Rock

In a simple hour up the mountain we come to the Mary’s Rock landing that provides the wide open views of the Shenandoah Valley.

A family photo of the Rothermels of York with our grandson Owen tops off the occasion.

Christmas card picture?

Christmas card picture?

On the way down we hit gold again.   We meet Smiles, another southbounder, who beams with delight.  As another thru-hiker, she’s on her third pair of shoes and she too has been on the trail for four months.  Nothing amazing about her hiking shoes.

Thru-hiker Smiles' AT hiking shoes

Thru-hiker Smiles’ AT hiking shoes

I play my role as George Washington again which gives me time for pictures and thoughts of our next reunion.  The Mount St. Helens B and B in Cougar, WA (See blog for August 17, 2013) is my choice.  With this seed, I thee plant.

It’s been a magic two days.  They are all good kids.  I’m proud and happy to hang with them.  Hannah and I are the lucky ones.

Through it all, Owen has been a trooper, now nestled on his Unkie’s shoulder.

Weary Owen with his Unkie Will

Weary Owen with his Unkie Will