All Green

Once again we spent a few days up north around John’s family reunion in July. My state park mania (thanks, National Geographic) took us to Connecticut and then we explored the Adirondacks with a book by Tim Starmer as our guide. Although we took a long walk or hiked every day, the trip was wonderfully relaxing and reviving.

Sunday

Housatonic Meadows
We had a hot and humid introduction to Housatonic Meadows State Park on the 3-mile Pine Knob Loop.
CT sunset
In the afternoon, we saw a covered bridge, explored historic Litchfield, and sampled artisanal ice cream at Arethusa Dairy. From our B&B we watched the sunset.

Monday

Talcott Mt
At Talcott Mountain State Park, west of Hartford, we followed an old road to views of the Farmington River Valley.
Heublein Tower
Atop the mountain is Heublein Tower, built in 1914. Afterwards we stopped at the Whole Donut and went back to the B&B to read and relax.
Kent Falls
Later we visited Sunset Meadows Vineyard and had sandwiches at Arethusa a Mano. My egg salad on challah bread was the best egg salad sandwich I’d ever had. To round out the afternoon, we explored Kent Falls and spent the rest of the day dodging the rain.

Tuesday

Hadley Mt
Knowing we had a climb in our future, we stocked up on calories at The Donut Station. The 1.80-mile hike up Hadley Mountain felt endless, but we made it to the flat top for a wonderful panorama and climb up the fire tower. Afterwards we had lunch in Lake George and checked in to our B&B in Warrensburg. Dinner at the Bullhouse in Chestertown was excellent. I had sweet potato-manchego gnocchi with green beans and John had an andouille and chicken pasta. However, we would have preferred to see a wine list instead a game of 20 questions.

Wednesday

Shelving Rock Falls
After a repressively filling and formal breakfast at the B&B, we tested the limits of our rental car on a long, winding unpaved road to the east side of Lake George. We luxuriated in the sun at Shelving Rock Falls and followed an easy trail to the shore of the lake.
Lake George
Here we watched boaters, swimmers, kayakers, all enjoying this peaceful corner of the lake.
Saratoga
Craving salads, cappuccinos, and chi-chi shops, we left behind Lake George and spent the afternoon in Saratoga Springs. I bought a small amount of expensive Japanese green tea that smells alluringly of seaweed and sampled Hungarian and Italian honeys. We found a cafe with a sufficient density of tattooed youths and then joined other couples basking in the sun in Saratoga’s park. Next to the track to watch people and horses! And finally dinner with a friend at Mouzon House.

Thursday

Little and Big Crow Mts
We drove north to Keene and the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. The day’s hike was a 3.3 mile loop to Little and Big Crow Mountains — a challenging, but delightful trail through different kinds of forest. We saw no one! The afternoon brought us an opportunity to read by Lake Champlain and another dinner with friends.

Friday

Lake Champlain
A morning canoe expedition reinforced that we are not very good at canoeing, but it was still a joy to be on the lake.
Auger Falls
Then for a long drive — Lake Champlain to Binghamton — which we broke up with a short walk through a primeval forest to Auger Falls near Lake Pleasant. At last, we reached Binghamton for the annual lasagna and s’mores dinner.

Signing off with a wish for a similar trip next summer.

As a crazy list person:

38/213 parks in Guide to the State Parks of the United States

6/46 hikes in Adirondacks: Your Guide to 46 Spectacular Hikes

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So Cal Ramble | Part 2

After San Diego and Los Angeles, we spent the next three nights in Palm Springs.

On our way east, we stopped at Aspen Mill Bread Company for sandwiches before an easy walk through the Coachella Valley Preserve.

Coachella Valley Preserve

Walking among the giant fan palms is a beautiful experience –their dried skirts whispering, the gentle perfume of honey mesquite. Such a gorgeous surprise to come upon a hospitable oasis in the midst of shifting sand and rock.

Coachella Valley Preserve

We rested our feet at the Coachella Valley Brewing Company, which had some excellent Belgian and sour styles. Then we checked into the Monkey Tree Hotel, a restored mid-century gem with a pool and a “Scandinavian spa” (hot tub, cold plunge, and sauna) that we made use of every day we were there.

In the evening, we walked around downtown Palm Springs with its mix of stores selling crystals, records, vintage clothes contrasted with new construction and an impossibly fancy Starbucks. It was Taco Tuesday at the Tonga Hut, so we looked no further and had Polynesian tacos with mai tais.

Monkey Tree

The next morning we watched the sunrise on the mountains and went for a desert drive before breakfast. Fortified by the best continental breakfast spread I’ve ever seen, we set out for Tahquitz Canyon, a sacred site for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. The Reservation was established in 1876, and according to the tribal website — “On a combined basis, the Tribe and its members currently represent the largest single land owner in Palm Springs.” — which I think is great and I hope the Tribe can continue to preserve the unusual and fragile landscape around Palm Springs.

Tahquitz Canyon

On that cool Wednesday morning in the shady canyon, I felt a strong sense of mystery and wonder as we stepped over rocks and worked our way along a small stream lined with deciduous trees. The air smelled sweet and we spotted a hummingbird. A short while later, we found ourselves on a muddy embankment and the gray rocks revealed a trickling waterfall.

Tahquitz Canyon

Energized by the meditative walk through the canyon, we decided to fit in another hike before lunch. We headed north to Whitewater Preserve, a hard, dry landscape that had me baffled as to where the trail was leading us.

Whitewater Preserve

Eventually the trail vered off and began winding up a mountainside. After a long ascent, we found the Pacific Crest Trail!

Whitewater Preserve

The hardest part of the 3.5 mile loop was over! Now we could enjoy spectacular views and cruise along the mountain tops.

Whitewater Preserve
Whitewater Preserve

Happily tired, we returned to the car and went to the tiny vegan eatery, Tonya’s Kitchen. The rest of the afternoon we spent basking in the sun at the Monkey Tree. When sunset came, we sat by the firepit and watched the sky changed behind the palm trees.

Palm Springs

We headed to the Draughtsman for an early dinner, followed by a drink a Blackbook, which to East Coasters like us sounded like a lush speakeasy, but turned out to be a bustling sleek bar with TVs and a digital fireplace. We wondered what everyone else was doing in Palm Springs. Visiting elderly relatives whose lucrative careers had rewarded them with a life of endless sunshine, golf, and gated communities? Hanging out at the casinos or clubbing at gay bars? Checking out the film festival? We never made it to Cathedral City, but Palm Springs had a sleepy, bougie vibe that I didn’t quite know what to make of. I suppose I’ll stick to tales of glorious hiking.

Joshua Tree NP

On Thursday, we woke up early and decided to ignore all of the horror stories about Joshua Tree NP during the government shutdown — the overflowing trash, the nasty bathrooms, the vandalism. The manager at Monkey Tree didn’t seem phased and knew people who had just been there and we figured this is might be our one chance to see these iconic, beloved trees. I’m so glad we did!

We found the park quiet and pristine. It turns out volunteers had courageously taken on the park’s upkeep. While some bathrooms were locked, others were in excellent condition. I’m so grateful to the anonymous volunteers for allowing me to have the wonderful experience I did that day!

In this massive national park, two desert systems meet: the Colorado (part of the Sonoran Desert) and the Mojave. We followed the park road and stopped a various moments, unable to control the urge to photograph every tree and rock. At Ryan Mountain, we parked to enjoy a proper hike.

Joshua Tree NP
Joshua Tree NP

The 1.5-mile trail (one-way) climbs up 1,000 feet and rewarded us with an unimpeded 360-degree view of the entire landscape. Though we saw people on the way up and the way down, we had the top of the windy mountain all to ourselves.

After the descent, we continued driving through the park and particularly enjoyed the Jumbo Rocks area:

Joshua Tree NP

When we had our fill of rocks, we sought out lunch. It required a surprising amount of online searching in the car to find a place with outdoor seating. We ended up at Cino’s, a classic Italian joint (complimentary bread and salad) with a few wobbly tables off its parking lot. John’s sub and my manicotti were cheap and truly hit the spot.

After lunch I got a date shake in downtown Palm Springs and we wandered into the quirky shops and sat for a time in the nice open area in front of the Kimpton listening to a guitarist. Later we headed to the southern end of town to the fabulously hip hotel, The Saguaro, for dinner at El Jefe. It’s a small bar with excellent food and karaoke Thursdays! The host was a drag queen, whom I’ll call Ursula — she sang “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and said she always wanted to be a sea hag! We should have stayed there longer instead of seeking out jazz at Melvyn’s at the Ingelside Inn. Although Frank Sinatra may have been a recurring patron back in the day and his laughing face graced the bar napkins, I don’t think his ghost would go near the place now. The singing piano man there that night was pathetic. He had a terrible voice and not in the loveable Dylan or Waits way. He used backing tracks, which I absolutely loathe, and honestly I don’t know why he resorted to such a tactic when his piano playing seemed decent. Just get a bassist, for goodness sakes! The whole experience made me and John irritable and we left without finishing our drinks.

On Friday, we drove by Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway, a pink mid-century beauty with bay windows, before heading south to Anza-Borrego State Park. An impossibly bare landscape surrounded us with call boxes every few thousand feet in case a person should breakdown in this unforgiving land. Of course the “check tires” light of our rental came on, despite the fact that we’d topped up the tires the day before. And this was the day when we’d be in a park with unpaved roads!

Anza-Borrego SP

Approaching Anza-Borrego from the east, we first explored the Elephant Trees trail. I’m always interested in checking out unusual flora, but I’m not sure that these scrawny trees offered much return on our investment in terms of getting ourselves far out into the middle of nowhere, driving on the deeply rutted, rocky dirt road, and then wandering about in the sand in search of this rare specimen.

Anza-Borrego SP

Then we did another short trail to explore the geological peculiarities of the park — hey, a fault line! I thought the rock biter from The Neverending Story would appear at any minute.

Anza-Borrego SP

Although we could have spent much more time in Anza-Borrego, we both had tired of rocks and wanted to seek out people. Maybe in another lifetime, I’ll get to see the park in spring when the wildflowers bloom. In Borrego Springs, we had lunch at Kesling’s Kitchen in the Borrego Art Institute. Sitting outside, we saw a hummingbird and butterflies, while we enjoyed sandwiches and cactus soup.

The drive from Borrego Springs to San Diego was a most spectacular journey. We headed through desert and jagged mountains, past Lake Cuyamaca, up to a higher elevation with evergreens. Then more mountains and, at last, the ocean!

Pacific Beach

After we parked and checked in at Ocean Park Inn, we went for a walk on the beach and joined the happy hour crowd at Baja Beach Cafe. We walked out on the pier and watched the after-work surfers and gazed at the sunset. Later we had dinner at the PB Ale House. Relaxed and happy, we went to bed early to be ready for a morning flight home.

Pacific Beach

I had such a wonderful time on this trip that it left me with a serious case of travel fever, itchy feet! I’m looking forward to future adventures filled with hikes, nature, good food, and a hot tub!

So Cal Ramble | Part 1

Whitewater Preserve

Expansive sky, crumbling rock, honey mesquite in the air, alien trees…after a conference in San Diego and a visit with a friend in Los Angeles, John and I had one of our best vacations while we explored the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts and luxuriated at the Monkey Tree Hotel in Palm Springs.

Here in part one, I recount our adventures in the two cities.

San Diego

San Diego

Although primarily confined to the conference hotel, I did make it out for a few good meals: a blueberry cornmeal waffle at Cafe 222, where the service is both efficient and friendly and you might hear Kansas blasting as they get set up for the morning; a delightful quinoa farro medley at Sally’s, right by the water; a hearty lentil soup at Cafe 21.

On Saturday night, John took me out for an early dinner at Kindred, a vegan cocktail bar with fantastic food and gorgeous decor, as though a Parisian bistro had been transported to San Diego’s South Park neighborhood. To counteract the elegant surroundings, heavy metal plays overhead and a sign in the bathroom entreats employees to carve the slayer sign into their arms before returning to the floor. The bathrooms also feature incredible artwork involving cats…you just have to go see for yourself. Since I was in the midst of a cold, I stuck to the enticing list of mocktails and chose “Miracle Cure” with pineapple and charcoal. John and I shared the palm tacos (a la fish tacos) and the BBQ jackfruit sandwich. So satisfying, so tasty. We loved this place and recommended it to our vegetarian friends who were also at the conference.

Except for the outing to Kindred, my explorations were all on foot. I walked along the water and dodged the endless scooters zooming around the Gaslamp Quarter. I bought crazy socks at Find Your Feet and tights at CVS. I felt so cold all the time — perhaps because I had a cold.

John saw much more by taking the light rail and bus to different parts of the city. Of course, he also checked out farmers’ markets, breweries, and donut shops like Devil’s Dozen (yes, he brought some back to share).

By Sunday at noon, we were all packed up and took a taxi back to the airport to pick up our rental car. About 30 minutes later, we pulled off the highway in Del Mar for lunch at Panini Kabob Grill in an attractive shopping center. Sitting in a wonderful sunroom, I had a fantastic tofu kabob and John had a steak panini. John had been in charge of picking out places for us to eat and he was killing it!

Los Angeles

LA Art

We arrived at Rena and Aaron’s, close to Koreatown, around 4pm, and left the car parked until Tuesday morning. Via Lyft, we made targeted stops for our sightseeing since parking is as elusive as stardom. It would a lifetime for me to get the slightest grasp on the geography of LA. It’s just s o B I G.

On Sunday evening, the four of us headed out to West Hollywood. We wandered into the amazing vintage shops on Melrose — Rena and I tried on matching sequin bodysuits. Not a good look, it turns out. From American Vintage, I bought a blue blazer with white piping. Then we had ramen at EAK, before Lyfting our way to the Sunset Strip. Rena had gotten us tickets for the Comedy Store and while she waited in line (seating is first-come, first-serve), Aaron took me and John up to Chauteau Marmont, but we couldn’t figure out how to get in, probably because we lacked the confidence to walk in what was the front (plus, it was the Golden Globes and camera people were stationed out front).

The show at the Comedy Store started at 9pm. We could have stayed until 2am for the full 5 hours — an endless conveyor belt of comics doing 15-20 minute sets. By 11pm, my face ached from laughing so hard, so long, and I was emotionally drained. In two hours we’d seen such an array, including Kevin Nealon and Joe Rogan. The night started to take a cruel, sardonic turn and a heckler came on strong, so we left with the comic shouting at the herd of people who all decided to make their exit at the same time. An impossible business. Who stays for the 5-hour show? How cringingly uncomfortable does it get? I hope never to find out.

Bradbury Building

On Monday, we fortified ourselves with Bob’s Donuts, which John picked up early that morning. Aaron and Rena both had the day off, so we took a Lyft downtown and began by touring Union Station, remarkable for its Mission Moderne architecture. Our building walk continued with a look inside the ornate Bradbury Building, notable for its ironwork and a cameo appearance in Blade Runner.

The donuts didn’t keep us full for long, so we walked to Grand Central Market and all picked out different things to eat. I had a pupusa and a turmeric latte, while John got a sausage. We wandered over to The Last Bookstore, an incredible shop–practically a warehouse–with a separate room for art books and a little vault for old books. Though my cold was improving, I felt a bit woozy and was glad to get back out into the crisp air. That’s when a woman ran up to Rena and handed her a New Year’s tiara!

We walked through a district of various wholesalers — you name, it’s there — eventually finding our way to Little Tokyo, which is like an outdoor mall with only Japanese shops. Aaron bought a bag of sweet potato rolls, which came in handy later, and I got a bottle of water with the idea that dehydration might be the source of my foggy head. In search of food and a good sit-down, we continued on to Angel City Brewery. It was closed, but we could still marvel at the artwork in the outdoor beer garden.

Luckily, a different brewery was open, and we took a Lyft to Modern Times with its brewpub, The Dankness Dojo. Filled with quirky art, the bathrooms covered in comic book pages, booths made from church pews, and a vegan menu, here was a place to rest one’s feet for a time.

We made a quick stop at Cecil Hotel — infamous for the number of suspicious deaths which happened here, all conveniently catalogued on Wikipedia — before taking a car up to Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset.

Griffith Observatory

Be still, my heart. From here, the city with its green hills and palm trees is stunning. We took our time looking around the observatory and then followed the dirt path down to the main road. I ate a pillowy sweet potato roll on the way.

Griffith Observatory

We all piled into a Lyft again and went back to the house to relax. Before too long, we decided to head out for dinner at 6th and La Brea Brewery. Rena and I shared the LA fav, cauliflower wings, which I haven’t seen on the East Coast at all! I had a rice bowl and John had a kimchi burger. So tasty! Next time we go to LA, we will just eat and hike — forget about touring studios and whatever else people do: the killer food scene and hiking all the canyons is enough to keep a tourist busy.

Hollywood Forever

On our last morning, John and I drove to Hollywood Forever and nearly went nuts looking for parking as the street cleaner was due to come through. Once in the cemetery, though, we found peace and — surprise — cats and peacocks! We looked for the graves of famous people and spotted Hattie McDaniel, Johnny Ramone, a memorial to Toto, and Mickey Rooney’s cinerary urn. (Is that right? I’m not up on my mortuary terms.)

It seemed late enough to hit the road and avoid the traffic. We made a U-turn on Santa Monica and headed east on 10, straight towards the sun, into the desert.

Part 2 coming soon.

More pictures on Flickr.

New England Coast

At the end of September, we took another trip up north. John’s mom couldn’t attend the reunion, so we decided we’d go to her. Throw in a stop at a donut shop, a few breweries, and a couple state parks — it’s a trip!

Honey Bee meets Frankie
Frankie stayed with my mom and Honey Bee, the poodle!
Bluff Point State Park, CT
As a break from the long, but smooth drive up I-95, we walked a few miles at Bluff Point State Park in CT.
Bluff Point State Park, CT
After our walk, we got back in the car to finish the drive. I checked my e-mail and saw that our hotel had been overbooked, so while John drove, I called hotels.com got a new booking elsewhere. 
Family Dinner

We dropped off our things at the Best Western and then picked up Hedy for dinner with the whole gang!  
Fuller Craft Museum, MA
On Tuesday morning, John and I visited the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA. We enjoyed the small collection and especially liked the exhibition of clever sculptures and visual allusions (e.g. ceramic pencils, a basket that is actually a 2D painting). 
Trillium Brewing, MA

We took Hedy out for lunch and to the grocery store. We hoped she might want to go to Trillium Brewery, but not this time (see 2016 trip), so we went after taking her back home. John and I loved “Escape Plan,” a sour ale with lactose, orange, lime, coconut, passionfruit, pineapple, almond and vanilla. 
Hudson, MA
We spent the afternoon and evening in wonderful Hudson, MA. Unfortunately it was raining, but we still had fun walking along the main street to check out the shops. We joined John’s sister Betsy for beer at Medusa Brewing Company and for dinner at Rail Trail Flatbread Company. The bahn mi pizza with tofu and bbq hoisin sauce was amazzingggg!! 
Allie's Donuts, RI
The next morning we drove to Rhode Island and stopped at Allie’s Donuts — a no-nonsense purveyor of classic donut styles. They are best eaten immediately while standing in the middle of the parking lot.
Beavertail State Park, RI
On the way to Newport, we explored Beavertail State Park, which features a historic lighthouse and amazing views of the ocean.
Beavertail State Park, RI
At the world’s edge!
Beavertail State Park, RI
We spotted about a dozen fishermen. They made for excellent photographic subjects! 
Beavertail State Park, RI
We couldn’t stop taking pictures, but finally, we got back in the car and continued on to Newport. We had lunch at the Stoneacre Brasserie (corned beef hash; croque forestier — like a fancy grilled cheese with local mushrooms) and walked around the touristy downtown — from Washington Square to the Newport Shipyard and back. 
Newport, RI
Back in the car, we followed the Ocean Drive tour and walked a short section of the Cliff Walk (see the Breakers above), but there’s something awkward about ogling giant mansions from behind big fences. Plus, the Cliff Walk couldn’t compare to dramatic coastline at Beavertail. At last, we headed back to Canton and then took Hedy for dinner. We had a lovely few days!

Catching Up — Vermont and New York State

Better late than never. As promised weeks ago…

John and I love road trips. The cramped hamstrings, grimy rest stops, burnt coffee, sticky protein bars. No seriously, we do! For our seven-day tour of the northeast back in July, we applied our patented travel method:  focus on state parks, breweries, and a food item (usually donuts, but here we spontaneously found ourselves on the North Country Taco Trail).

Instead of coaxing the 26-year-old Mercedes to ramble on, I rented a car from a very small Avis office. Despite having a reservation, the two men on duty didn’t have any vehicles in stock when I arrived, although it sounded like there was a suspicious amount of vacuuming going on in the adjoining garage. Perhaps they never have cars in stock and just wait for someone who was going to the airport to change their minds and drop off here instead. Well, I was in no hurry to go back out in the pouring rain, so I looked through the stack of car auction catalogs for an hour. Finally, two women returned a Chevy Malibu and I got in. John and I set out the next day, after cleaning up a minor overflow from our toilet. What fun!

The trip through photos:

Sunday

High Point State Park, NJ
Fueled by Gruyere croissants, we arrived at High Point State Park in New Jersey by early afternoon.

High Point State Park, NJ
Not entirely sure we were wanted to hike, we ended up driving to the top of the mountain and hiking the Monument Trail, which is a big loop — down to the cedar swamps and back up.

High Point State Park, NJ
A giant obelisk sits atop the highest point of the park (also the highest point of New Jersey), but I was more interested in the trees. After our hike, we checked in at our motel (a sign in the office read: Why call 911, when you’ve got guns?), checked ourselves for ticks, and had a late lunch/early dinner at El Patron, where John’s taco tour began, outside Port Jervis, NY.

Port Jervis, NY
The rest of the evening we spent in downtown Port Jervis, NY with its cute mainstreet.

Port Jervis, NY
We sat outside at the Fox and Hare Brewery and stared at this curious building with its empty second floor as though waiting to see some crime committed. Then we went for ice cream at the Riverside Creamery, which was packed with high schoolers sitting at vinyl booths and little tables with the usual ice cream parlor chairs, like we’d gone back in time or to some alternate version of Riverdale. Back in our wood-paneled motel room, we traversed the desolate landscape that is cable TV and found ourselves hypnotized by “Carnival Eats.” Our fascination with the featured grotesque concoctions was interrupted  only by a persistent knocking…a lost pizza delivery man who didn’t believe John when he said we hadn’t ordered anything.

Monday

Beacon Bread Co., NY
We checked out early and had an excellent breakfast (black bean toast; breakfast burrito) at the Beacon Bread Company. I drank coffee out of an obscure mug.

Mt. Greylock, MA
We had our sights on another high point: Massachusetts’ Mount Greylock. On the way, we hydroplaned on New York’s Taconic Parkway and the rain followed us to Massachusetts. Instead of hiking, we froliced in the mist.

Mt. Greylock, MA
The supposed view of five states.

Falls of Lana, VT
Though impressed by the long range hikers we saw, we had no interest in prolonging our time on the misty mountain and instead drove to North Adams for lunch at Public (marinated tofu sandwich; steak tacos). In the afternoon, we continued driving to Vermont and got in a short hike at the Falls of Lana/Silver Lake.

Works and Days Farm, VT
Around 5pm, we arrived at the Vermont farm where we would be spending the night. Greetings from a cat named Mouse!

Works and Days Farm, VT
Our dear friends — Mark and Caroline — fed us a delicious pasta featuring greens from their garden. Good conversation and company — including two men named Gawain!

Tuesday

Works and Days Farm, VT
John got up early to watch the sheep. We spent the morning in Middlebury and attended Gawain the Younger’s pop-up viola concert of Baroque and Classical pieces at the Otter Creek Bakery. So lovely!

Button Bay SP, VT
John and I then went for a walk at Button Bay State Park on Lake Champlain. No sight of Champ.

Button Bay SP, VT
After finishing our walk by the water, we drove to Vergennes for lunch at 3 Squares (salad with marinated tofu; shrimp-chorizo tacos), and relaxed at the farm for the afternoon.

Brook Farm
In the evening, John and I along with Mark and Caroline and the two Gawains headed across the lake into New York to our mutual friend Laura’s house. There were nine of us at dinner and Laura made a feast! Pasta salad, farro salad, sauteed chard, tuna steaks, veggie dogs. For dessert, rhumble crumble and blueberry pie. The prosecco never stopped flowing!

Wednesday

View of Lake Champlain
The next morning, John and I awoke early and headed to Split Rock Mountain for a hike. Unfortunately, we encountered a hissing rattlesnake and had to turn back. I convinced John to try a different trail to “Snake’s Den Harbor”, where our persistence was rewarded with this view.

Near Lake Champlain
We also explored a very short trail through a meadow before heading back to Laura’s for toast and coffee cake.

On the way to Lake Placid
In the afternoon, we took a beautiful drive up to Lake Placid and Mirror Lake. In congested Lake Placid, we saw our fill of Adirondack chairs and little sculptures of bears. There was a wonderful bookstore, however, so I bought a book of recommended hikes to help plan our next trip. We drove by the Olympic facilities and just past the big ski jump we pulled into Big Slide Brewery. We shared a pretzel and then a mushroom pizza — all delicious — and shared an excellent beer flight: Berliner Weisse, cream ale, sour red ale, dobbelbock, and a nitro porter.

Lake Champlain
We relaxed back at the house and then had a lovely dinner — big salads and fruit– with Laura and her sister.

Thursday

Lake Champlain
On Thursday, we stopped at the Dogwood Bread Company in Wadhams before leaving behind Lake Champlain and driving towards the Canadian border.

One of the 1000 Islands
After longer drive than expected (an oddly long line for the one bathroom at a gas station and a surprisingly amount of road work), we parked outside Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours in Alexandria Bay just in time to make the 12:30pm tour. We were the last to board!

Boldt Castle
The little cruise ship slid along the St. Lawrence River through US and Canadian waters to showcase the amazing 1000 islands region and Boldt Castle. Hungry after the tour, we ate lunch at a Tex-Mex spot with great views (rice bowl, pork tacos).

Watertown, NY
Finally, we checked into our hotel in historic Sacketts Harbor and then drove to meet John’s college friend Brent for a night out in Watertown.

Friday

Sacketts Harbor
After a morning walk around Sacketts Harbor, which supported a major shipyard during the War of 1812, John drove me around as he recounted his wayward college years in Watertown. The nostalgia tour continued through Sterling, just west of Oswego, where John lived in 4th and 5th grade.

Rudy's on Lake Ontario
He re-lived childhood memories…we drove to a farm stand he remembered and then ate at Rudy’s on Lake Ontario. He had both a fried fish sandwich AND a hamburger. I had a little cup of mac ‘n cheese.

Friday evening and Saturday we spent around Binghamton for the annual family reunion — catching up with everyone over lasagna and s’mores on Friday and at a cookout on Saturday at a local park. The perfect conclusion to relaxing week visiting beautiful places and wonderful friends.

Catching Up – New York City

In the past nine months, I’ve found myself in New York State three times for the best kind of getaway — easygoing, full of good food and drinks, time with friends and family. At last I’m taking the time to record our adventures.

Back in October, I went for two nights to meet up with a college roommate. She’s a busy mama, living in California, and we correspond only through handwritten letters so her presence was a special occasion. Over the course of the two day trip, I experienced the wonders of Zabar’s and drank my first turmeric latte. I stayed in an intentional living community (the modern commune) in Brooklyn for the first night, followed by a night at a work friend’s Upper East Side art-filled apartment. A tale of two cities!

Then in April, John and I drove to Brooklyn with Frankie, our cat. We prepared him by going for car rides about once a week. I can’t say he ever enjoyed the car, but he resigned himself and would alternately sleep on my lap and meow piteously. We stayed with  cousin Deanna and her rat terrier, who excels at ignoring cats. Everyone cohabitated remarkably harmoniously.

I managed to lose my notes about the trip, but I can reconstruct a fair amount from the pile of receipts I just found in a shopping bag from the Strand bookstore.

Tuesday – After the drive, we headed into lower Manhattan to revisit our favorite Irish bar, the Dead Rabbit. Their food is reliably excellent and their Irish coffees reliably delicious. Then to Le District for some shopping.

Wednesday – We began the day at the Brooklyn Art Museum for the thrilling David Bowie exhibit. I loved seeing his costumes and could have spent hours in the dark theater watching videos of his performances. John and I took a long ramble through Prospect Heights and loved our slices at Brooklyn Pizza Crew. We checked out vintage shops like Harold and Maude, and eventually made our way to Manhattan. I’m not sure what all we did other than go to the Strand (I have a receipt!) to buy a pair of novelty socks (Do-nut Stop Believing) and a book about painting landscapes in watercolor.

That evening, we explored Williamsburg: marvelous, tasty vegan comfort food at Modern Love (perfect as a follow up to the Bowie exhibit) and gypsy jazz at the atmospheric St. Mazie with its convincingly retro decor.

Thursday – We visited the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, a progressive museum in the elegant Carnegie Mansion. Almost every exhibit is interactive (design wallpaper! play a piano that produces images!) and visitors receive a big pen that allows them to save objects to an online account (here’s what I saved). I feel certain we stopped at one of our faves on the way downtown: Plaza Food Hall, for a snack and the bathroom. Later in the afternoon we had lunch at the very art deco-Miami-esque Lalito. We wandered through Canal Street Market, bought chocolate at Stick with Me, checked out one of the Housing Works Thrift Stores, and bought green tea at T-2. We met Deanna at Rosa Mexicano and went with her to a fabulous paper store. It’s possible this wasn’t all one day.

In the evening, John and I went to Barbes in Park Slope, where Daria Grace and the Pre-War Ponies serenaded us with ukulele, bass, drums…and vibes. The sound was so dreamy and I loved her repertoire of lost gems revived from thrift store sheet music.  At some point, John and I stopped by 7th Ave Donuts for classic cake donuts. I think our dinner was at Smiling Pizzeria.

Friday – We saw the Grant Wood exhibit at the Whitney. We loved how the show presented his development as an artist. What a stylist! The new Whitney is simply gorgeous. We walked on the High Line and were lucky to snatch up some lounge chairs and relax in the sun. Lunch at busy Gansevoort Market. In the afternoon we made our way uptown to the Ginger Man, the ultimate beer bar. Dinner with Deanna at Pondicheri for thalis, which are wonderful platters with all kinds of deliciousness. We moved on to Sid Gold’s Request Room for piano bar karaoke. What a fabulous time! Deanna is a seasoned karaoke enthusiast and the crowd here was dynamite — like a big singalong when I got up to do “Don’t Stop Me Now.” We’ll definitely be back. Unfortunately subway construction had started up, so it took a long long long long time to get back to Brooklyn.

Saturday – A gorgeous morning in Coney Island. Feel the air! Hear Russian! John had a breakfast hot dog at Nathan’s. For lunch, we went to Superiority Burger and ate our delicious veggie burgers in Tompkins Square Park while a saxophonist provided a lilting groove. Why not walk over the Brooklyn Bridge? It was so very crowded — a battle between pedestrians and bicyclists. Too impatient to wait in long lines for ice cream, we dropped in Mia’s  instead for coffee and peanut butter mousse pie. In the evening, Deanna and a friend took us to the House of Wax bar (like drinking in the Mütter Museum) before we went to see Isle of Dogs at the Alamo Drafthouse.

So there you have it. Manhattan…an isle of joy!

I’ll recap our recent trip through MD, PA, NJ, VT, and NY in an upcoming post.

Around Seneca Lake

After the annual family reunion, John and I took an extra day to explore the Finger Lakes region of New York State. We started Sunday morning at Watkins Glen, where a 3-mile round trip hike follows cascading waters through a narrow gorge. The paved trail even goes behind two waterfalls!

Watkins Glen

Driving north along Seneca Lake, we gazed at sloping hills covered with vineyards. We stopped at Rock Stream, where we tried wine produced with grape varietals unfamiliar to us, for example, dry Niagara (white) and DeChaunac (red), two delicious dry wines. The winery also makes grappa, brandy, and port. Next time!

A short drive took us to our lunch destination: the Wienery. Sausages galore and roasted carrot dogs for vegetarians.

At the Wienery

Inspired by a recent Food and Wine article, we spent the rest of our time in the small town of Geneva at the top of Seneca Lake. Here is the opera house:

Geneva Opera House

I got a scoop of gelato from a coffee shop and then we sidled up to Lake Drum Brewing for samples of their delicious beers and ciders: sour brett, sour red ale, ginger cider, and brown ale.

At 3pm, we checked into the bed and breakfast, which had originally been the home of William Smith, who founded the eponymous college in Geneva. Thunderstorms passed through and we had a chance to relax for a few hours before walking back to town for dinner.

William Smith House

Lake Drum was still the only thing open, so we went back for another round and listened to Creedence Clearwater Revival on their record player.

Up the street at Wicked Water, we sampled lovely wines produced by a Brazilian couple — well, the husband is an engineer who helps out his wife and we had a great time talking with him.

We ate dinner at Halsey’s, a place focused on well-prepared Italian food in a relaxed setting. We shared the house salad with goat cheese, nuts, and cranberries. Then, I had an awesome vegetable pizza covered in caramelized onions, cooked in Halsey’s wood-burning oven. John had the truffle burger with sweet potato fries and amazing crispy brussels sprouts petals. Stuffed and happy, we needed a walk.

Down by the lake, we sat to watch the lightning flash far off over the water. A view of the lake from earlier in the day:

Seneca Lake

Having explored most of the open establishments on that quiet Sunday night, we made one last stop before walking back to the B&B. At the Linden, karaoke night was just starting and though we considered each doing a number, the spirit didn’t move us.

The next morning after a tasty breakfast — eggs baked in bell pepper halves with cheese — in the high-ceiled dining room of the B&B, we drove to the Corning Museum of Glass, part art museum, part science center. We skipped the demos and hands-on sections to enjoy the historical glass and contemporary art collections. What an amazing place with so very much to see.

Corning Musuem of Glass

And then the long drive home! The new fan clutch in our 25-year-old car kept the old girl from overheating. Hurrah!