To Camp and Back: A Perette Adventure
This travelogue follows a 2018 bike tour from Rochester, NY to Camp Ramblewood in Darlington, MD. After attending Camp Crucible, I cycled back home via Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, visiting the Delaware River, the old D&H canal route, the edges of the Catskills, the Hudson River, the Adirondacks and the Lake Ontario shores.
This is the second half of the adventure, returning from camp. Start with the first half, getting to camp.
- 1. On the road again: Lums Pond State Park, Bear, DE
- 2. Friends' house, Levittown, PA
- 3. Paul's house, Dayton, NJ
- 4. Mountainview Campground, Little York, NJ
- 5. Driftstone Campground, Mt Bethel, PA
- 6. River Beach Campsites, Milford, PA
- 7. Oakland Valley Campground, Cuddebackville, NY
- 8. Activities with Paul
- 9. SoHi Campground, Accord, NY
- 10. Brookside Campground, Catskill, NY
- 11. Thompson Lake Campground, East Berne, NY
- 12. Rustic Barn Campground, Corinth, NY
- 13. Minerva Beach Campground, Minerva, NY
- 14. Eaton Lake DEC Campground, Long Lake, NY
- 15. Golden Beach DEC Campground, Raquette Lake, NY
- 16. Ridge View Lodge, Lowville, NY
- 17. Selkirk Shores State Park, Pulaski, NY
- 18. Cherry Grove Campground, Wolcott, NY
- 19. Home, Rochester, NY
Camp ended today, so after repacking the bike, tasty brunch, and many good byes I was off again. I should have taken a picture of the Conowingo Dam, which was the only picture-worthy thing today, but I wanted to get in before the rain. I also crossed under I-95 and over the Northeast Corridor. I am now holed up in my tent at Lums Pond Campground, trying to stay warm and dry.
Tomorrow I'll be staying with new camp acquaintances who offered to host me in Levittown, PA.
After a rainy night, there were blue skies and sunshine today. Google did pretty well today, although it had some wonky distances and unnamed roads just after entering Pennsylvania. Correcting for these was made interesting by poor posting of route numbers by PA.
The route followed the Northeast Corridor for several miles south and north of Philadelphia, so I got to see various trains. The south section ran alongside I-495 and the Delaware river, the north I-95 in parts, the Delaware & Raritan canal in others. I find it interesting how we keep utilizing the same routes with each new form of transit.
On the north side of Philly, I stopped at the old Croydon train station which is now a bar and had a salad because I was craving roughage. On the way out, I got a picture of an Acela passing a SEPTIC train that had stopped at the modern station next door.
In total I went about 70 miles (112km), but as a bonus I had pretty steady head winds, although wind direction changed after Croydon Station. I'm tired and my knees were a bit sore later in the day, although they seem to be recovering.
My hosts have been very friendly and fed me a delicious chicken over rice dinner.
I made it to Paul's house today. After a 0715 start, I crossed into Trenton NJ about 0800. About a mile into New Jersey, I picked up the Delaware and Raritan canal, where I saw a bunny and a deer today. I also came across some fellow travelers, two walking the East Coast Greenway (which I've been on-and-off of for 2 days) to raise awareness about drug overdose, and a guy that collects signatures for kindness. They were friendly, if a bit strange--a lot like me, I suppose, to do such off-beat activities.
After that I stopped at a Wegmans south of Princeton to resupply on meds and food, then went to Hilltop Park in Princeton where I had lunch and played volleyball with Paul and a few coworkers.
At Paul's I ran some laundry and washed my bike. When Paul got off of work, we went shopping and I replaced my flip flops, which I duct taped last week when they started falling apart.
We had a delicious dinner of eat-in chicken, spinach, and tomato-basil soup.
Today was a good day. Overcast this morning, but gave way to mixed sun and clouds this afternoon. A little hilly, and they seemed harder (probably the extra weight from groceries yesterday).
I passed an interesting old train station in Hopewell, NJ where in the 1870s there was a "frog war".
I stopped for lunch at a park where I shared a picnic table with a friendly woman named Shannon who was hula hooping and we had a long conversation.
Afternoon had me in more rural areas of New Jersey, cycling past farms, meadows and fields. After the mostly-urban stuff the past few days it was nice.
Just before the campground I stopped for lupper (or is that linner?) at the restaurant in Little York. They supposedly have amazing pizza, but I had already ordered a chicken sandwich before I heard about that.
When I arrived at Mountain View Campground, their chicken came to check me out. He was cautious though--perhaps he's heard of the cyclist chick that's devouring every chicken she encounters.
I woke up late today, so I wasn't on the road until nearly 0900. After a few miles uphill, I had a big downhill, then a lot of gently rolling terrain.
About ⅔ of the way today, I joined my route from last year's adventure. The little town of Belvidere NJ, so sad last year, has a new diner and a couple of kitchy shops. It was nice to see.
I crossed the Delaware River, and managed to cycle all the way up the hill on Riverton Rd/River Rd, although I had to rest a few times. Last year I had to walk some of it, but then, last year I was a lot more worn out by hills by the time I got there.
I'm staying at the Driftstone Campground, a well-maintained place on the Pennsylvania side of the river. It's quiet, too, and cyclists pay only $9. Awesome!
Tomorrow I'll continue retracing my steps to Dingman's Ferry. There's rain coming Saturday, and forecasts suggest it'll be less severe if I can far enough north.
So for the statistics nerds: I did 42km today, now totaling just over 1000km. I've finished 10 pages/33 on my return cue sheets, 25/48 for the whole trip.
After a pretty good rest, I got up at 0630 and was on the road around 0800. The route through the water gap seemed easier than I remembered, and still very pretty.
In the village of Water Gap, I encountered something I missed last year: Farmer Market and Apple Pie Bakery. Their offer of true love (a hot dog and a slice of apple pie) for all of $2.95 was too good to pass up. And it is Friday, so it seemed an especially good Discordian thing to do, involving both hot dogs and apples. Kallisti!
This year, instead of US-209 the whole way, I was on River, Hollow, Hidden Lake and Community Roads. Somewhat hilly, but so is 209, and this was more scenic and quiet. Another score by this year's Google Maps algorithms, in my books.
I got to Dingman's Ferry Campground around 1130, so I checked availability at River Beach and decided to press on.
In Milford, I stopped at a grocery store for a few supplies, a bit of fresh fruit, and lunch. They had this cheap box of fried chicken that was incredibly salty that I demolished. I think I had more salt than the USRDA for a week. Hopefully the banana balances it out. Sometimes I feel like I'm single-handedly depleting the world of chicken, too, given how much of that I've been eating.
So I'm at River Beach Campsites (another campsite with wifi--yay, saves me on bandwidth), which is a little noisy but about $20 cheaper.
I'm going to go jump in the river!
Made it to Cuddebackville, Oakland Valley Campground.
Paul and I went to the Pochuck Boardwalk on Saturday, then went up to High Point State Park in New Jersey. Sunday we went into Port Jervis where there was a soap box derby going on, and we helped out when they asked for volunteers.
Since Paul came to visit for the weekend, we had a car. And given that the campground had a very weird vibe--we named it Camp Creepy--we spent as little time there as we could.
Saturday we went to the Pochuck Creek Boardwalk (after an adventure down a dirt road to the middle of the field, because that's what Waze thought we wanted for "Pochuck Creek" (no boardwalk).
After that we went to High Point State Park, NJ, and hiked from the lake up to the Veterans Monument and then to the Appalachian Trail platform.
We finished off with dinner at a place in Matamoras that Paul found. Food was good.
Sunday, again eager to get out of Dodge, we checked out the Port Jervis Soapbox Derby, then went to a movie. After that he had to get home, so he brought me back to the campground and we said our goodbyes. I survived the weird atmosphere of the camp, which I think fell in between Deliverance and a cabin-in-the-woods slasher film.
I got up early today, and after breakfast and striking camp, I put on my backpack and wheeled the bike up the washed-out dirt roads. I found that to be much easier than wheeling the bike when it's wearing the backpack.
I had tinkered with the route to add some hills and vistas when planning, thinking that I'd have been on flat since Delaware. I started with one huge, steady hill for about four kilometers, then had some up-and-down. There was pretty stuff, but nothing spectacular.
After crossing NY-17, I entered the region of Jewish summer camps--at least I think that's what they are. Little clusters of cottages, often with a playground, pool, and maybe tennis courts. They all have signs in Hebrew on their chain-link fences. I find the fences weird; they seem very uninviting, hostile--I suspect they are protection against antisemitism, and that I lack understanding of how strong it runs.
I had second breakfast in Woodridge, NY. The restaurant was lovely, the food delicious--but I wonder how it survives. The owner waited on me, cooked, and served--there seems to be so little going on he can't justify waitstaff. I had blintzes, one cheese and the other blueberry, and they were delicious.
I had my first Google Maps adventure of the year today. Cliff Road started paved, turned to dirt, and gradually deteriorated into an old forest road. All uphill. It met up with Stone Quarry Road, which was at least better defined and went down, but was uncyclably rocky for a ways.
I passed through the Town of Rochester, NY today, which is very different from the City of Rochester, NY. This confusion is the reason Apple Maps (and some of the others according to Paul) will sometimes try to take you to the middle of nowhere when trying to get to Rochester from Southern New England or downstate New York. Occasionally downstate politicians put their foot in their mouths by conflating the two, too.
Overall, though, it was a good day, and SoHi Campground is far less scary than yesterday's. There's no phone service, but there is wifi so I can text and I might be reachable for audio.
Sorry for the long update.
Today's highlight was the Ashokan Reservoir. It's one of several New York City water supplies located in the Catskills, built in the early 20th century. It was the world's largest dam, at the time.
Later in the day, I skirted the eastern edges of the Catskill Mountains while heading north. It was pretty, but hard to get a good picture that captures it all.
My route brought me through Palenville, where some friends formed a church, the Maetrium of Cybelle. They set up a sort of nunnery/worship center in a run-down but large old building in the center of Palenville, a hamlet with little to say for it except for a fire truck dealer.
Things seem up. There are some new sidewalks, a kitchy B&B, a tiny but upscale cafe/book store/trinket shop, and a handful of other businesses. The Green Cow (I think that was the name), a former convenience store/deli that was one of the first improvements years back, has been razed and replaced. I vaguely recall hearing it had burned down.
It's nice to see that a place can retain its small-town charm, while getting back on its feet. The temple is still there, and appears to have been fixed up a little, although more work is still needed.
I didn't stop in; years ago there was internal strife and I broke ties--the best way to get away from the drama and trouble the house mother and a few others created. Besides, my spirituality has evolved in other directions. Still, a part of me would have liked to visit to see how things have changed in the last decade.
It was a shorter day, and it's sunny and breezy, so I ran some laundry when I got in. Sadly, the restaurants I visit won't appreciate that I don't smell so bad in the next few days, although they would wish for it had I not done so. Funny, that.
Tonight I'm at Thompson Lake Campground in Thatcher State Park. It's currently overcast with a threatening feel of rain, but I managed to stay dry on the way here. I was in Cairo when the morning rains hit, so I stopped for second breakfast and waited out the shower.
The campground here is quite nice, with modern bathroom buildings and nice sites. But, like Stony Brook, it doesn't have electric, water, or sewer hook-ups. And like Stony Brook, there are mostly small campers and a few tents, instead of rows of semi-sized boxes on wheels with all the accouterments of home.
I'm up the end of a cul-de-sac. Snooty upper-class me.
I'm apparently in Albany County, and I had a brief vista to the north of the Mohawk Valley, which I'll be crossing tomorrow.
The trip is getting more challenging as I encounter hillier terrain. I hope I'm up for the next few days, which will be about 50 miles but will be hillier than earlier long days.
I made it to the Rustic Barn Campground in Corinth, NY. I got to come down a huge hill this morning, which was fun but used up all of yesterday's uphill in only a few minutes.
I passed through Rotterdam, Schenectady and Ballston Spa, some of the route on bike paths (which were all nicely paved).
I stopped at a grocery store in Milton, so I've now got food but I've also got more weight. I held off on extravagances (cheese) until Long Lake, when I'm on top of the ADK dome.
I'll be entering The Park properly tomorrow, so communications may be a challenge.
I have a reservation at Minerva Beach Campground tomorrow night. If I have energy to press on, I'm going to aim for Lake Eaton (near Long Lake) on Saturday.
It was a drizzly, cold start at about 0630 today. I crossed the Hudson in Corinth and pedaled 10km up the easy-going East River Road, then stopped at a Stewart's for a ham, sausage and egg sandwich. The next 15km were uphill, but not overbearingly so. The only bad spot was a construction Zone where they had milled, but riding on the wrong side of the road I got most of the way through on a remaining smooth lane.
Then it turned to dirt at the town line, as roads are wont to do.
The dirt road became a seasonal dirt road, and hill grades increased. I had to walk a bunch, both due to poor traction and not wanting to burn out my legs on a long day. At least there was a pretty lake at the top to make up for it a little.
Then I went down. Down, down I went, spending all the precious elevation I had banked, into the Schroon River valley.
I got to do another easy-going 25km on Schroon River Road, with a bonus 2km starting up a hill and back because of poorly signed roads.
Around 1100 I stopped at Crossroads, a sort of general store on Schroon Lake Road. They have everything you need, and few things you don't. I got some more freeze-dried dinners and a freshly made, delicious pastrami sandwich. I even ate the fake salad they gave me (not one leaf of lettuce, just eggs and potatoes and junk).
After passing Schroon Lake, I went through Pottersville and was on my way up hills again to Minerva.
I feel good. Last night, some neighbors shared their fire, and then other neighbors came and unloaded their leftover venison steaks. I had been craving protein, and been kind of emotionally off, jittery; it cleared right up after the meat. Thinking back, I've had that before on other trips. I'll have to be more attentive to protein intake.
The Minerva campground/town beach is quite nice. There's kids around playing, and a lifeguard on duty though with water that's 53F I don't see many folks swimming.
It seems I've crossed into the dead zone. There is neither wifi nor 3G here. That will probably be true for a few days.
I slept well last night, and woke early. I made freeze dried eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, because I figured there would be no restaurants along the way today.
There was a big hill coming out of Minerva (I walked much of it), then a big downhill. Then more rolling hills into Newcomb, where it was flat for a little bit. I crossed the Hudson again, now worthy of just a single-span bridge. After a little more rolling hills, there was a long, steady climb into Long Lake.
I stopped at the Long Lake Diner for a meat lover's omelet before jaunting up NY-30 to Lake Eaton. It's not far, but not close either. Despite not wanting to pedal anymore, there's meat in this town that won't be there the next two days. I should go in for some dinner.
Anyhow, I'm now in the Raquette River watershed, which drains to
the St. Lawrence instead of the Hudson. Tomorrow I'll pass through
which is back in the Hudson Watershed, on my
way to Raquette Lake. After that I think I'm in Great
Lakes/St Lawrence watersheds the rest of the trip.
Today my bike passed 4000km, the trip passed 1500km. I'm on cue sheet page 21/33 of the return trip (36/49 overall).
I'm tired, my knees are sore, but it's a nice day and I feel good.
This morning while making breakfast, my campsite was investigated by a duck and her ducklings. They did not attack, so I guess they approved.
It was a short ride (36km/22 miles) to Golden Beach Campground on the east side of Raquette Lake, although there is a good-size ascent between Long Lake and Blue Mountain.
It's a beautiful day here, blue skies, sunny and warm. I hope the easy day will let my legs rest and recover.
It's been interesting watching the reaction to bear bagging. Down at Thompson Lake, just south of Schenectady, a fellow camper asked about it--"an old Indian trick?" He seemed intrigued.
At the Rustic Barn, the owner came round after I had hug my food, asking if I had food squirrels would eat. I said my food was wrapped in plastic, but I didn't want to take chances. He let it go, but I think he still didn't like it.
At Minerva, the guy showed up in the evening to check me in. "Bear bag--nice," he said of the already-hanging food.
And the last two nights I've had to sign forms declaring I won't leave food lying out or feed bears.
I did walk into town for food last night, a place called The Cellar. Good food, nominal prices. I ate at the bar, sitting next to a local woman probably in her 60s. She looked tough, talked about chopping wood earlier in the day. I commented on it and she shrugged it off, "Wood's not going to chop itself." She mentioned working on her car and stuff too.
She reminded me of myself. Making the best of what life deals her, because that's the hand she's got. I felt respect for her character, doing what was necessary.
It struck me as a kind of functional but unintentional activism. Activists like to hold marches and rallies and pound people with propaganda, but that often turns people off. People don't like to be told what to think, and especially not harped on.
But here's this quiet, unassuming woman, doing her thing, demonstrating what women can do. I find it inspiring, and it seems hard to disregard. Talk is cheap, marketing is everywhere, but when proof is enjoying a pile of chicken wings and a Saranac Root Beer in front of you, it's hard to ignore.
Raquette Lake was pretty, but boy did the bugs come out toward dusk. Gnats took the open areas by the beach, and mosquito forces occupied the more forested areas like my campsite. The bug blouse and hood mitigated it some, but I still got bitten up.
The first 7km today were smooth riding, following around the lake, with my legs refreshed after the short day yesterday. I screwed up, though, after passing a deer standing on the shoulder that watched me cycle past, literally feet away. Somehow, I lost my lane position and slid off the tarmac, but managed to not wreck as I brought the bike to a halt.
The route took me into the hamlet of Raquette Lake, then onto a dirt, gated road. I considered, but figured it was a trail and bypassed the gate. That went okay except for one sandy spot that I saw coming, so I was prepared when the bike dug in and ground to a halt.
The dirt road downgraded to a forest road, but it was packed dirt and rolled well. 2km of that lead to a junction with a packed dirt road that rolled pretty well for another 10km.
I got to Eagle Bay at 7:45; the grocery in Inlet didn't open until 8:30, the bike shop (to top up my tires) 9:00. I considered going in and having breakfast to waste time, but it was up a hill and I still felt fine from first breakfast.
I skipped it and went on toward Big Moose. It was a nice paved highway, not a lot of traffic. There were some hills but I made good time; I was in Big Moose by 8:30, and up at the station by 8:45. Unfortunately, both restaurants there are only open weekends. I ate some trail mix.
And then suck happened. 200m up the road, the pavement ended. Nice, painted highway gave way to a dirt road with shit-tons of loose gravel.
I traversed 10km of that bullshit. It's f'ing treacherous: not only is it continuously bumpy, not only is the traction poor so I had to walk all but the slightest uphill grades. No, I could feel my back wheel spinning on the flats, the gravel continually pushing me around in the lanes, I had to be ever vigilant for the front tire digging in and coming to a sudden halt, while the rear tire attempted the gravel equivalent of hydro planing.
I nearly dumped it several times, during one of which the chain guide superficially gouged my right leg.
If there was any saving grace, it was a disproportionate amount of downhill. I think I was dropping altitude over time, although it's hard to judge the ascents vs descents so I don't know how much.
After 10km, the gravel went into remission; the remaining 15km of dirt were more of the packed dirt surface variety. And the downhill trend continued.
I finally got out of the Town of Webb and the road returned to pavement. Hallelujah! A little further along, I had a choice: turn right and go to the campground, or turn left and go directly to Lowville (pronounced like "cow" or "sow"). It was about 11:00, I still hadn't encountered an open restaurant, my food supplies were suboptimal. I had a vision of not fighting mosquitos for a night, sleeping in a real bed, being inside during the predicted rain, and air conditioning. I turned left.
Right after, I encountered a dog, who turned out to be friendly and curious instead of bicycle bitey, which was a relief. And his owner was out, so I begged some water off him since my supply was running low.
From there, I sailed. Other than the occasional knoll, I was on downhill mixed with some flats for the next 20km.
I almost went right past Rusty P's, the name and presence of a corrugated metal garage leading to the idea it was a metal shop or welder until a beer sign in a window caught my eye. Those mean bar, and thus pub food!
A root beer and a Philly steak sandwich later, I continued on my way down.
By that time it was after noon, so the heat of the day had arrived. And all the downhill meant I was losing the cooler mountain temperatures by the mile.
The last 10km were hot and into a hell of a headwind that I hadn't previously fought much. And after passing through Lowville, I had some uphill to get to Ridge View Lodge.
Still, I got here--and just in time. About 15 minutes after checking in, the first squall started, and it rained like crazy for a little while. It's back to sunny now, but there is supposed to be more coming. I'm glad I turned left.
So Paul, if I ever again try to downplay how much of a badass I am, remind me of this day. 95km total, about 30km of that on dirt and 10km on gravel.
I need to reconnoiter, but this may put me into Rochester on Thursday or Friday.
The trip must be around 1650km (so I've broken 1000 miles) so far. I'm off route, but I think near cue page 26/33 (41/48).
The views from Tug Hill Plateau today were amazing, even despite the overcast skies. I suspect the photos won't do it justice. It made it worth the 10km or so of varying degrees of uphill.
After that, though... Started well down a paved road, detoured down a dirt road, asked locals when I got to the conflicting detour signs further along.
That went down a paved road, to a dirt road, which was okay to the "no plowing ahead/minimal maintenance road" sign, where it became a single lane but was rideable, with a bunch of summer cottages and stuff; but it gradually deteriorated and became gravel after the "Posted" sign (despite being a recognized NY snowmobile route).
It's the dishonesty of the dirt roads that's so vexing. There's a "bike trail" out in Churchville that I was going to use one time, and about 100 feet down, I already called bollocks and went back to NY-33. That's honest. But sometimes, it's like a poker hand where it had possibilities, so you stayed in, but it's taken a turn for the worse but if you fold, you lose everything you already bet. Actually, it's worse than that; to get out you'd have to double back, essentially paying in all your bets over again. It's a frustrating situation.
I think when I get home, I may try communicating with the Google Maps team about bike routes. It's gotten so much better over the years, and it seems to understand some roads are better than others, but there's inadequate adjustment for trail condition. I think with some work, I can probably explain how it matters/how it affects cyclists (and I think there's different priorities for touring/road cyclists vs mountain bikers).
The rest of the day went okay, with pleasant temperatures, and much with downhill and/or tailwinds. I had lunch in a convenience store in the old Richmond Junction train station; I chose the State Fair Sausage melt because it had the most calories.
I restocked on food in Pulaski, and got an ice cream at the restaurant across the road from the park. I may go back for dinner--it seems like the kind of place that would have a fried chicken dinner, which sounds delicious right now.
The trip is at 1775km, I think it's going to total around 1925. If the headwinds are cooperative, I expect to make Rochester on Thursday.
There was a lovely sunset over Lake Ontario at Selkirk Shores yesterday. After sundown, however, the raccoons came out--apparently all the wildlife there is well-fed by amateur campers, because as soon as I got food out, the squirrels came begging and the seagulls came waiting for scavenging opportunities. Anyhow, after dark the raccoons came and rifled through my site. They knocked my camp fuel (denatured alcohol) to the ground, and when I got out of the tent were digging through my (empty) panniers. Thankfully, they just opened the lids to look in, and didn't ruin anything by chewing or slashing holes. Afraid they might return and do so, however, I hung the panniers with the bear bag, and hung the camp fuel on a nearby park structure. The rest of the night was quiet.
Today I got up a little late, and rode 73km to the Cherry Grove Campground in Wolcott, NY. It's more of an RV park, although it has a nice area for tenting. It has nice showers, too.
Tomorrow will be the last day, arriving at my house! I've enjoyed my adventure, but it will be nice to be home again after so long. A bed! Not having to unzip the door to pee at night! A proper keyboard to type on!
Today I made it home. It looks different: the tree in the back yard finished greening up, my raspberry bushes have grown a bunch. But it feels homey to be here. Entering my bathroom, I had a pleasant sense of happiness with it (I refurbished it last year).
Since then, I've been busy booting the house, eradicating some weeds, doing some laundry, and generally trying to put things back toward their normal order.
In total, I went just over 1900km (just shy of 1200 miles). I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, stories, and reflections.