Weekend at Joshua Tree National Park

Be sure to check out more photos.

Joshua Tree at Sunset

Back in April, I had a work trip planned to San Diego. As a bonus, I was able to plan a weekend in Joshua Tree NP, a little ways from Palm Springs. This worked out very well as I ended up planning some work stuff the week before my original trip as well so would have had to fill up a weekend. I picked up a rental car Friday morning in Thousand Oaks (a little north of LA), spent Friday and Saturday night near JT (in a very so-so Super 8, there wasn’t much to select from), and then drove back to San Diego Sunday for my meeting that started Monday. I ended up not getting into the park until fairly late due to the drive, waiting for my room, and then some car issues. (My rental ended up needing 4 quarts of oil over two days!) I ended up doing the following:

  • Fri – Got into the park around 3:45, made some stops for photos along the road, drove down to Cholla Cactus Garden, did hike to Arch Rock and Heart Rock, back to hotel (some photos of sunset on way out), stop at Wal-Mart for Sat lunch, dinner at Las Palmas (decent)
  • Sat – Up early, sunrise at Quail Springs, hike to Barker Dam (which had water), hike to Wall Street Mill (kind of reminded me of Big Thunder Mountain in Disney World), drive up to Keys View, lunch at parking for Lost Horse Mine Trail, hike to Lost Horse Mine, continue to do all of Lost Horse Loop Trail, quick stop at Cap Rock, left park around 3 (glad I got there early as the line to get in now was massive), relax/photos at hotel, dinner at 2 Guys Pies pizza (good pizza and local beer)
  • Sun – Up early, pack up and check out, hike to Fortynine Palms, leave park around 9am and drive to San Diego (with a stop at In-and-Out burger on the way), at my hotel in SD around 2.
Sunrise at Quail Springs

Our Adventure to Alaska

Near Denali

Back in July, we had the fortune to spend a great two and a half weeks visit Alaska. We flew to Anchorage, met up with Suzanne’s parents, Jack and Mary Lou, spent a week driving around and then spent a week on a cruise down the inside passage. We ended with a few days in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It was an amazing trip of scenery and wildlife with some great experiences and cool towns/cities. Combining the time on land with the cruise along the southeast coast worked out perfectly. We had decent weather overall, though a day of rain kind of put a damper on our time in Talkeetna. I cannot recommend enough jumping at the chance to visit “The Last Frontier” should you ever get the chance. Of course, I put together a Trip Report (probably too long) and posted a ton of photos. (I took around 6000 but won’t subject everyone to all of them.)

Hubbard Glacier

Trip to Portland, OR

A much belated post, but back in April, we had an in person team summit in Portland, OR. I headed out a bit early to see some of the area. I had been in March 2019 but focused on the Columbia River Gorge that trip. For this one, I wanted to head out to the coast. I flew in late Friday night, spent Saturday and Sunday night in Cannon Beach, and then flew back home from Portland on the Friday night redeye. I was a great trip, both professionally and as a tourist on the coast.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR at Sunrise

Trip to Seattle

Recently, my boss asked myself and the other team lead for our group about having a leadership summit, where we could spend a few days seriously focused on team improvements. As she works from home in Seattle and it’s tricky for her to travel more than she already does, she also asked if we would be willing to come out to Washington state. As I had never been to Seattle, and barely to Washington, I immediately said yes. I decided to spend a few extra days to see the city and surroundings. It was a great visit, both as a tourist and for work.

Seattle and Mt. Rainier from Kerry Park

Our Baltic Sea Cruise

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

A few weeks back, we finally managed to go on what was supposed to be our first cruise after several cancellations and rebookings after our original booking in Feb 2020. This was on the Baltic Sea out of Copenhagen, Denmark onboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. We had a great time visiting Copenhagen before embarkation and visiting eight other ports, none of which we had ever been to before, over 11 days. We got to see a lot of new places, meet some nice people, and even had a couple of day to relax.

Of course, there’s a (too long) trip report and lots of photos.

Voyager of the Seas (blue) in Tallinn, Estonia

A Christmas Cruise

Anthem of the Seas

We had a great cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas over Christmas. We sailed from Bayonne, NJ (“Cape Liberty”, about 35 minutes from our house), down to Nassau, Bahamas and then Coco Cay, Bahamas (Royal Caribbean’s private island). We had a great time. It was wonderful to get away for a bit, especially into the warmth, visit a new country, and experience a cruise for the first time.

Of course, there’s a trip report and some photos.

Coca Cay, Bahamas

Summer 2021 Part 2 – The Adirondacks

Our cabin in Caroga

Be sure to check out Part 1 – Maine and the Maine photos. Of course, there’s Adirondacks photos as well.

After spending the week in Camden, Maine, we headed back sort of toward home to spend a week in the Adirondacks. We had spent a week there in 2020 as well, but it seemed like another good spot. This year, instead of heading toward the north end of the region (Long Lake), we stayed further south in Caroga. Once again, we found the wonderful Auskerada Lodge AirBnB. This was down the end of a road, nestled back in the woods. It was wonderfully decorated and had two great screened in porches. One proved perfect for breakfast. It would have been nice to be right on the water but it was a seven or so minute walk down to a dock. Another reason for staying in the area is that Mick, a very good friend from my time in Boston, has a summer home about 10 minute drive from where we stayed.

The drive from Maine didn’t take as long as we expected given the traffic we saw on the way up to Maine, which used some of the same route. We ended up getting there around 5pm, including a stop at the supermarket in Gloversville as there isn’t so much in Caroga itself. We lucked out that it was the last night of the Caroga Lake Music Festival. We ended meeting Mick down at the pavilion, had some great local beer, and heard some great local music. It was a very nice way to start the week.

View from Kane Mountain

On Sunday, we met Mick again late in the morning for a hike up Kane Mountain, one of the more popular hikes in the area. It’s only a couple of miles but it was great to be out in the woods. For lunch, we grabbed some sandwiches from the Canada Lake Store which was a small spot but had good sandwiches, a surprisingly good beer selection, and a great bakery next door. After our late lunch, we used the time to relax around the cabin before a dinner in.

On Monday, it was some more hiking, this time to Indian Lake. This was a 4.5 mile hike so a bit longer but it was quite wet in many places. Again, it great to be outdoors. After our hike, we did the loop drive up to Speculator, with a stop for some decent ice cream, and then back though Wells and Benson. All in all a nice way to spend an afternoon. Dinner was once again at the cabin.

On Tuesday we ventured a little further afield, heading down to Saratoga Springs, about an hour east. We spent some time walking around town, including getting some excellent tea, both some leaves for home and some brewed to drink, at Saratoga Tea & Honey Company. For lunch, we headed to Druthers Brewing for some good burgers and good beer. After some more wandering, we headed out of town and stopped at Artisanal Brew Works for some really good beer. While I’m not usually a huge fan of sours, I loved a couple of theirs enough to bring a four pack. After another stop at the supermarket, we headed back to the cabin for the evening, including having a very nice time sitting around the fire.

Erie Canal Lock 17

For Wednesday, it was another day afield. This time we headed down to Little Falls, about 45 minutes southwest of Caroga. Here is Lock 17, the largest lock on the Erie Canal at 40.5 feet. After wandering the area a bit, we had some very tasty pizza at Mangia Marcina’s in an old mill building. After lunch, we stopped for a short walk around the Herkimer Home State Historic Site before stopping at the Dolgeville Bread Basket on the way home. For dinner, Mick and Liz had invited us to their house for a cookout. It was great to hang out him them, have some burgers and beer, and just chat the evening away.

Paul along the Hudson River

Mick and I had made plans for a decent length hike on Thursday. We met up around 9:00, stopped at the store for some sandwiches and snacks, and then headed about an hour north to Indian Lake, not too far from where we stayed last year, to do the OK Slip Falls hike. It had been quite some time since I’ve done a real hike but given my regular running over the last 18 months or so, I’m up to around 30 miles per week, I was looking forward to it. The hike was quite good. We did all the way down to the Hudson River where we stopped for a lunch and beer break. Overall, the hike totaled 9.5 miles with a couple of good uphill sections. The view of the falls was also very nice. It was good, strenuous walk. On the way back, we stopped at Lemon Tree Brewery in Speculator for a quick fruited sour, perfect after the hike. (Lemon Tree isn’t really a brewery, at least not yet, but had a nice selection of local brews.) After Mick dropped me off at the cabin, we had some dinner and relaxed the rest of the evening.

Sunset on Canada Lake

Friday was yet another hike after a relaxing morning, this time the short 2 mile hike out to Nine Corner Lake. After hanging out at the lake for a bit, we hiked back to the car and ended up back at Mick and Liz’s. We had a nice time just hanging out for a while before Mick headed out to get some take out dinner a spot I can’t remember and then hanging out some more for the evening. I was a really nice way to spend our last evening on vacation.

Overall, both weeks were really nice. It was nice to see my Dad and to catch up with Mick and Liz. Camden was a great as was Caroga. Camden was a bit more active with lots to do while Caroga was more relaxing. It was nice to have the full two weeks away from work. Having two smaller, laid back vacations was nice but we’re really looking forward to our Christmas cruise in December and to our big Baltic Sea cruise next year for a “real” vacation.

Morning along Caroga Lake

Summer 2021 Part 1 – Maine

In Camden, ME

Be sure to check out Part 2 – The Adirondacks and the Adirondacks photos. Of course, there’s Maine photos as well.

We had used our credit from last year’s canceled cruise to book a cruise around the Baltic sea from Copenhagen, Denmark. Of course, this was canceled. (Moved to next summer now.) Paul’s company announced in February that they’d be having another R&R week in August like last year. We wanted to do something again but weren’t sure what the situation would be during the summer so we decided to stay within driving distance. After looking at a number of potential spots, we decided on a week on the coast of Maine followed by a week back in the Adirondacks. Early in the summer, we thought maybe we should have looked further afield as things seem to be improving. However, as summer went on and things seemed to be moving in the wrong direction, we were glad to have stayed kind of nearby.

For our first week, we looked at a number of places all along the coast. Eventually, we settled on a renting the great 3-bedroom Spruce Cottage in Camden, Maine through AirBnB. This worked out great as Paul’s dad flew out from Arizona for the week so having a little extra space was perfect. The cottage itself was an old house with lots of space and only a 10-minute walk to downtown Camden. This was great as we could easily head down there without having to worry about parking. We were also less than 10 minutes from a supermarket.

Camden waterfront

Saturday was our day to drive up to Camden. It was a long drive, taking a total of about 9 hours due to traffic. That did include a stop for some great fried clams and scallops at The Sea Basket in Wiscasset. After check in, we settled in. Paul’s dad arrived in Bangor around 8pm and then at the cottage around 10pm. It was great to see him again.

On Sunday, we had breakfast at the cottage before having a wander through town. It’s not a huge place but there are some nice shops and a really nice little harbor. After lunch we headed out to Rockport, about a 15 minute drive. Here we wandered around their very small harbor for a bit. For dinner, it was back to Camden and to Sea Dog Brewing for some good beer and good seafood and ice cream at River Ducks. It was a very nice first day.

Boothbay Harbor

Next up on Monday was a drive down to Boothbay Harbor, about an hour down the coast from Camden. We wandered through town, got some snacks, and did some shopping. For lunch, we headed down to Robinson’s Wharf in Southport. Paul got his lobster while others got some great seafood. After getting some ice cream as well, we headed back up to Rockland, not to be confused with Rockport just up the road, and walked the Rockland Breakwater out to the lighthouse. This is a great walk but is almost two miles roundtrip. For dinner, we just grilled up some chicken at the cottage.

Tuesday was our planned day for Acadia National Park as we had prebooked a reservation for the Cadillac Mountain drive. Kyle wasn’t feeling well though so we decided to move the trip to Wednesday. (In fact, we got a better time on Wednesday.) Instead we just hung around Camden for most of the day. Suzanne, Paul, and Peter took the drive up Mt. Battie for some great views of Camden and the surrounding area. In the afternoon, we had booked a harbor tour on the Windjammer Schooner Appledore. Unfortunately, as we were heading out, they started having engine problems. We did get at least a little tour of the harbor and got some excitement as they struggled to get back to the pier. The crew did manage it so that was good. For dinner, we had planned to go to a pizza place/brewery but it was a long wait. Instead, we ended up at Cuzzy’s pub, which was still a fairly long wait but not as bad. (Many places were short staffed so several restaurants were closed some evenings and others could only handle so many people.) We had some good pizza here. This evening, ice cream was from Camden Cone.

Paul in Acadia NP

Wednesday was now our day to make the two hour or so drive up to Acadia NP. We left Camden early and made it without problems. It was quite busy. Before our drive up Cadillac Mountain, we drove through the park but couldn’t find parking at the couple of places we tried. We did poke around Seal Harbor Beach before heading up the mountain. This was great with wonderful views of the Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, and the surrounding ocean. After spending a good 45-60 minutes at the summit, we drove back down. Parking was still tricky but we did find a (legal) spot on the loop road near Sand Beach. After grabbing lunch, which we had packed and this worked out great, on a rock, we headed down to Sand Beach. Then we did the roughly half-mile walk to Thunder Hole. While it was low tide, it was still cool to see. There were a ton of great spots for photos along the walk as well. Back at the car, we continued the loop drive, stopping next at Otter Cliff. We had thought they were further down the coast a bit so did an additional roughly 3/4-mile walk to Otter Point. This was still well worth it to see more of shore. After this, we finished out the loop road and headed into Bar Harbor for some wandering and shopping. Paul (with Peter) stopped for a quick flight at Atlantic Brewing Company. On the way back to Camden, we stopped at Union Lobster Pot in Ellsworth. More wonderful seafood was had including some yummy steamers and a great, and huge, lobster roll.

LL Bean Boot Truck

Thursday was our day to head to Freeport, about 90 minutes southwest from Camden. While we got a late start, we made it down there early afternoon. It did start to rain, fairly heavily, while we were there but it was great to wander through LL Bean. We even got a great deal on a rolling duffel bag which we had been looking for. For an early dinner, we got some great pizza and spectacular beer at Main Beer Company before Suzanne got to drive back in the steady rain.

Kyle at Fort Knox

Peter had a roughly noon-time flight on Friday. For a last thing, we had breakfast out at Marriner’s Restaurant. Afterward, Peter headed back to Bangor to fly home while we drove back up the coast. Our first stop was at the small but interesting Penobscot Maritime Museum in Searsport. After spending some time here, we continued up the coast to the historic Fort Knox and a visit to the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory. The latter is an elevator to the top of one of the bridge piers, 420 feet in the air. There were some great views of the area. On the way back, we stopped in Belfast for another wonderful lobster roll at Must Be Nice Lobster on the harbor walk, some ice cream at Wild Cow Creamery, and some great beer at Marshall Wharf Brewing. Back in Camden, dinner was pretty good Chinese at Camden Island before packing up to leave the next morning to head to the Adirondacks in New York.

Camden waterfront at sunrise

Trip to Hershey, PA

Photos

Kyle at Hersheypark

Kyle had both the Friday before and Tuesday after Memorial Day off so we wanted to take an extra long weekend. We were trying to find a place to go not too far. I happened to glance at our kitchen counter where there was a Hershey bar. We had talked about heading over there at some point so this seemed perfect. It’s about two hours from us. We headed over Thursday night, spending the weekend in the perfectly okay Hampton Inn and Suites Hershey. The plan was to do Hersheypark Friday figuring it wouldn’t be as busy. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be rainy all afternoon so we switched to Saturday.

We started Friday morning at Hershey’s Chocolate World, the massive store and attraction. We did the free dark ride which was cute and did some shopping. They had some unusual stuff which was nice. After a bit of time there, we headed down to Lancaster County, 30-45 minutes from Hershey. We visited a few shopping spots (Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market, Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, and Kaufmann’s in Bird in Hand), had lunch at Stoltzfus Deli in Intercourse (wonderful subs), and got ice cream at Oregon Dairy in Lititz. For dinner, we headed to Troegg’s Brewery (right in Hershey) as I’m a big fan of their excellent beer. While we had to wait a while, both the food and the beer were great. Later that evening, I headed right across the street from the hotel to visit Rotunda Brewing which was also pretty good.

Saturday we got going to head to Hersheypark before opening, which was 11am so not too early. I rushed right in to ride the newest coaster, Candymonoium. It had been a while since I had been on a really intense coaster (nothing at Disney except maybe Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster qualifies) and it was great. Crowds weren’t too bad to start as the weather was cool and damp. I did something like nine coasters in less than two hours, nearly all with no wait. Kyle even did a couple with me. We did lunch at the Overlook Cafe which was fine. Kyle was getting a bit tired and it’s not a huge park so we headed out around 5, after getting a King Size milkshake of course. This worked out as it started to rain not too long after. Dinner was more good food and beer at Rubber Soul Brewing in nearby Hummelstown.

Sunday was our second day at Hersheypark. We probably didn’t really need two days but we weren’t sure when we got tickets online. I was hoping to hit Candymonium right after opening but it was closed due to some light rain. Instead he headed back to the Wildcat wooden coaster where Kyle and I went twice followed by us both going on Lightning Racer. We had lunch at Gourmet Grille which worked out as it’s indoors and it was cool and raining at that time. After lunch and the rain, we did a few more rides, including me checking off the last couple of coasters (I did all but the kiddie one and the one closed for work – 12 in all), another milkshake, and me getting lucky with a short wait for one last ride on Candymonium, finishing up around 3:30. Dinner was at the Soda Jerk Diner, also in Hummelstown. On the way home I had Suzanne drop me at Iron Hill Brewery in downtown Hershey (about a 30 minute walk from the hotel). They were packed but in Hershey you can get beer to go, so ended up getting a couple of pints and sitting in the small courtyard next to the restaurant.

Gettysburg Battlefield

Kyle had asked about going to Gettysburg so that was our Monday plan. It’s about an hour from Hershey. It was nice to visit again. We did the main loop including the main sites (the Virginia Memorial, Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Pennsylvania Memorial, and the High Water Mark). We also walked around the Eisenhower NHS which was cool as we hadn’t visited there before. Lunch was at Tommy’s Pizza and dinner was back at Iron Hill.

Tucker at the AACA Museum

Tuesday morning we packed up and had a wonderful breakfast at the Hershey Pantry right next to the hotel. Kyle’s cinnamon bun was both massive and really tasty. After breakfast, we spent an hour or so at the AACA antique and historic car and truck museum (in Hershey). This was a great place to spend some time. Once done there, we made a quick detour to stop at CJ Pony Parts, a big Mustang mail order shop. There’s not much at the store but they do have a couple of Mustangs on display.

It was great weekend and we all had lots of fun. The weather could have been better but we managed. The extra break was nice as well. I do think one day at Hersheypark would have been enough but largely only because I was able just about walk on most coasters.

View of Gettysburg Battlefield from Longstreet Tower

Trip to the Adirondacks

Kyle hiking up Mt. Goodnow

We were supposed to go on a Caribbean cruise in late July/early August. Of course, that fell through. We hadn’t planned to go anywhere but early in the summer my company decided to give us all a week in August off for summer break. We looked into going to Tennessee/Great Smokey Mountains NP but things were still up in the air in terms of Covid. We ended up waiting until just a couple of weeks before our week off to make a decision and ended up choosing to head to the Adirondacks in upstate NY. We wanted to keep within driving distance and decided to stay in NY or NJ due to the potential for quarantine, which both states have declared wouldn’t happen between them. (It would a real mess given the number of people who commute to NY City from NJ even now.)

We ended up renting a great place through AirBnB in Long Lake, a small town right in the middle of the Adirondacks about a five hour drive. We spent a couple of days doing some hikes/walks, visited Old Forge and Lake Placid, each about an hour away, and spent time relaxing. We had great weather aside from Thursday when it rained all day. (I took the opportunity to visit Raquette River Brewing in Tupper Lake, about 30 minutes north of Long Lake. I visited four other breweries plus a taproom during the week.) While more laid back than we had planned and way more laid back than last year’s trips (Croatia for Suzanne and me in May and then Paris and Germany for all three of us in August), it ended up being really nice break from work and a great refresher heading into the fall. Of course, I posted some photos (though I took literally only 15% of the photos I did in Paris and Germany).

View from summit of Mt. Coney