Nomadic Life – Week 11 – The Allegheny, Watkins Glen, the Adirondacks, and on to Vermont

Nomadic Life – Week 11

We woke up in the depths of the Allegheny National Forest at the Kelly Pine Campground located in Pennsylvania. It was still raining in sheets but we had survived the night. We had intended to get an early start on the day. However, due to the rain, we decided to take the opportunity to sleep in. The lazy start also allowed for a nice breakfast of sausage and eggs. This was a nice departure from our usual granola and yogurt. This was the slow start of our Nomadic Life – Week 11… it wouldn’t remain slow.

In the late morning the rain finally let up to a slow drizzle and we took the opportunity to keep moving. We set out on the road and we were at our next stop, the Kinzua Bridge, within a few hours.

Kinzua Bridge State Park

A model of the Kinzua Viaduct adjacent to the Statue of Liberty.

The Kinzua Bridge is a Pennsylvania State Park built around the Kinzua Viaduct. The viaduct was originally built in 1882 out of wrought iron and stood at an impressive 301’ tall and 2,052’ long. That is a similar height to the statue of liberty. When it was first constructed it was the tallest railroad bridge in the world and the park claims that many referred to it as the eighth wonder of the world. This iron superstructure was replaced with steelworks in 1900.

Destruction of the Kinzua Bridge

Jennifer and I stand at the edge of the Skywalk on what remains of the Kenzua Viaduct.

The Kinzua Bridge State Park is a rather odd place in that it was established in 1963 to maintain this marvel of human engineering. However today it is a monument to the destructive power of our natural world. In 2003 a F1 tornado struck the viaduct toppling the central 11 of 20 massive railroad trestles. The aftermath of the tornado left the park with tons of twisted steel strewn about on the valley floor and across the Kinzua Creek.

Kinzua Bridge Today

After the collapse, the park chose to maintain the state of destruction. They repaired and renovated what was left of the bridge turning the structure into a Skywalk. Visitors can stroll along the old railroad tracks to an observation deck complete with a glass floor. From the here, they can take in the devastation laid out on the valley floor below.

For those intrepid hikers like ourselves up for a bit of a longer and more strenuous stroll, there is a trail into the valley. It is here where we were able to walk alongside the twisted masses of steel. The path into the valley is steep but well laid out. It deteriorates as it climbs up the other side of the valley towards the remaining standing trestles. These don’t appear to have been repaired and a fence blocks hikers from walking out on to the remaining bridge. I found the twisted rails suspended in a kind of frozen state of being ripped from the bridge to be worth the effort up to this remote area.

This Skywalk is what remains of the Kinzua Viaduct today.

Onward to New York

After a late lunch in the park, Jennifer and I set back out on the open road. We left the forests of the Allegheny region behind and entered into steep old rolling farmland as we made our way northeast toward New York State. The landscape dotted with old grain silos and Amish buggies. Tonight’s accommodations were a well lit Walmart in Corning, New York.

Watkins Glen State Park

The next morning we ventured further north to Watkins Glen State Park. The weather forecast called for a lot more rain in the early afternoon so we decided to get an early start on the day. We arrived at the park to an empty lot with an $8 parking fee. The area looked to have plenty of parking but we paid the fee just the same. Honestly, we were a bit confused by the need for a fee because it seemed as if parking wasn’t an issue. We were wrong! By the time we returned to YOLOM the entire lot and the lot across the road were full and the park was jam-packed with people. It was a bit of serendipity that the forecast had called for bad weather and we had beaten the crowds to this amazing gorge.

The Gorge Trail

This is the stunning Rainbow Falls in the Watkins Glen Gorge. Click the picture to get this image for your home.

For those not familiar with the Watkins Glen Gorge as Jennifer and I weren’t really either prior to this visit, this is an amazingly magical place filled with rock and water. In a short mile and a half of hiking along the Gorge Trail, visitors are rewarded with 19 waterfalls and stunningly beautiful rocky terrain.

North to Lake Ontario

After taking in the gorge, Jennifer and I stopped at Hector Falls just off the road on the eastern edge of Seneca Lake. We then headed north towards the shores of Lake Ontario. The drive up was filled with wineries and breweries. I would have liked to spend some more time on this little strip of land, but alas we are trying to make it further north for some leaf peeping.

We didn’t stop again until we made it to Port Ontario, New York on the edge of the Salmon River. The salmon were running on the Salmon River and the fisherman lined the bridge over the river. I wish I had a fishing pole and a license! We took a short walk in a wildlife area but saw nothing more than flowers and frogs. The last stop along the lakeshore was at Westcott Beach State Park to watch the sunset. We then rolled into Watertown, New York to get ready for the work week.


The ornate entry of the Flower Memorial Library in Watertown, New York.

We awoke Monday morning to an ever-increasing amount of rain. We made our way to the Watertown library so we could stay dry while we worked. The Flower Memorial Library is an amazing and refined marble structure better suited for New York City than upstate. Jennifer and I set up in one of the echo chambers (hard surfaces everywhere) and went to work.

The last 3,000 miles have gone quickly on YOLOM and it is time to get the oil changed and a tire rotation. I called around town and explained our rig to several different shops and was given the bad news that they had no appointments available. I finally found an appointment for 2:00 pm and I thoroughly explained on the phone the weight and size of our rig. To which I was told that they could do what was needed. I tracked the half mile back to our parking spot in the rain to arrive on time and waited for about 15 minutes to be told their lift wouldn’t be capable of lifting our rig. I really am losing faith in mechanics.

An Oil Change and Tire Rotation Please

It was too late in the day to set up another appointment and we were headed into the Adirondacks tonight so I put off the maintenance for another time. As it turned out I spent several more hours calling mechanic shops all over upstate New York and the west side of Vermont. I didn’t think our rig was that heavy or large. I don’t know how large RVs get their tires rotated. After about 15 shops I finally found one in Burlington, Vermont who had an appointment available for Friday afternoon. This meant we had a set timetable. I hate traveling by a timetable.

Into the Adirondack Mountains

After work, we set off into the Adirondack mountains. We rolled into a campsite on Cranberry Lake well after dark. The ranger at the gate was nice enough to let us pick out a site and pay the next day so we could get set up and get some food going. Even though it was pitch black dark and still raining we attempted to find a spot on the lake shore though we couldn’t see it. We awoke the next morning to the surprise that it was a mere fifteen feet from our truck. We could hear the water lapping against the shore all night so we knew it was close.

A Camper’s Rant

Tuesday was overcast but it had at least stopped raining. We sipped our morning coffee while sitting in camping chairs right next to the lake. It was an enjoyable slow start to our day with our $27.75 spot on the lake. It bugs me how a site can be listed as $20 then they tack on $5 for a non-resident fee, but it really bugs me when they add on a $2.75 registration fee. Why not just put that in the initial price? There is no circumstance where I don’t have to pay that registration fee so it should be a part of the camping fee. Ridiculous!

Tupper Lake

As there was no T-Mobile cell service on Cranberry Lake and only spotty Verizon we decided to move up the road about 30 minutes to the nearby town of Tupper Lake. Unlike most of the small towns in the Adirondacks, this town had a substantial infrastructure. It isn’t a city by any stretch of the imagination, but they have a real grocery store, a McDonalds, and T-Mobile service.

As you might guess Tupper Lake sits on the edge of one of the many lakes in the Adirondack Mountains. We set up in the park only intending to work from the pavilion. We then saw that the park had what might have been RV power and water hook-ups. There were no signs posting anything about overnighting so we decided to stay for the evening. This decision was tested by a rather talkative local drunk who visited our site in the late afternoon. He was nice enough, but he did make us a little uneasy about staying.

Lake Placid

The 1932 Olympic Games ice arena.

On Wednesday morning we woke up early once again and pushed on to Lake Placid. Lake Placid is home to one of three Olympic Training Centers in the United States. Another of which is located in Colorado Springs which we called home for seven years. Unlike Colorado Springs, Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics not once, but twice before. It is hard to image this relatively small town had that privilege in 1932 and as recently as 1980.

We visited the arena where the 1932 games were held and then went to the adjacent arena where the “Miracle On Ice” took place in 1980. The two arenas are vastly different. The 1932 arena had very few rows of seating on three sides. It is hard to imagine how this could have been the world’s stage for winter sports 86 years ago. The 1980 arena is much larger, but I am sure would feel antiquated to the likes of the Sochi stadium. I very much enjoyed the experience of walking these hallways.

We also were able to see the outdoor speed oval where the Olympic speed skating took place and the opening ceremonies. Late in the day we also spotted the massive ski jump hills. How people get to a point where they can hurl their bodies straight down those inclines and launching themselves through the air is a mystery to me. I like to do small jumps when skiing but I am terrible at it.

The 1980 Olympic Games “Miracle On Ice” arena.

Mirror Lake

We set up for another work day on the shores of Mirror Lake, in the heart of the town of Lake Placid. The much larger lake known as Lake Placid seemed to be nearly inaccessible. Unless you were staying at one of the high-end resorts or at the very least renting a boat on the lake. Mirror Lake is very nice and I enjoyed the novelty of sitting in an Adirondack chair in the Adirondack Mountains. There is nearly nowhere in Lake Placid for a camper to stay and so after work, we decided to continue east.

The Lowes of the Walking Dead

This night we found ourselves in a Walmart parking lot adjacent to a creepy and completely dark Lowes. The building was obviously closed down and abandoned with weeds growing densely in the areas adjacent to the asphalt. Jennifer commented the next morning that this would be a great location to shoot a scene for The Walking Dead.


Ticonderoga, New York was a last minute and unexpected small detour, but we decided that we should swing by the fort and check it out before we started north. Unfortunately, the fort didn’t open until 9:30 am and on top of that was a bit too expensive for a quick visit. I was a little bummed, but look forward to coming back and checking out the fort in our future nomadic travels.

Ticonderoga sits at a choke point on Lake Champlain. This was the site of one of the United States early victories in the Revolutionary War.

Mount Defiance

As a consolation prize, we found out that the nearby Mount Defiance had great views over Fort Ticonderoga and that it could be driven up for a much smaller fee or hiked up for free. We made our way up the mountainside. The views of the fort in the distance were okay but the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape were amazing. Apparently, it was from this mountainside that the Americans overtook two British cannons during the Revolutionary War and then turned them on Fort Ticonderoga. This was one of the first victories of the colonists over the British.

Crown Point

The Champlain Bridge connects New York and Vermont over the waters of Lake Champlain.

Next, we headed north to Crown Point on the shores of Lake Champlain. The Champlain Bridge is here linking New York to Vermont. There is also a state park located on the point with the remains of an old British fort and the rubble of an even older French fort. This is where we set up to work today. No T-Mobile signal anywhere near here, but Verizon was strong. The clouds were finally starting to lift and by the end of the day, we had clear skies all around. We explored the remains of the two forts and enjoyed the setting sun on the lake before continuing north to Burlington, Vermont.

Oakledge Park

We found this large treehouse in Burlington, Vermont’s Oakledge Park.

Friday we set up in Oakledge Park. There was a treehouse here as well as a nice cove on the lakeshore. The park also has a nice little beach area. However, the park charges a $2/hour parking fee which piles up the cost of a stay quick. Add to this that the park was full of people smoking weed and this wasn’t our favorite working spot. During the day I took YOLOM in for the appointment to get the oil changed out and tires rotated. After work, we did a bit of shopping and got ready for the weekend.

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