Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Michigan, Hiking, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

This was the last National Park on our current route. The name of the park seems sweet, but it is a horribly sad tale. I read two different versions. A mother and her cubs are forced to flee from wildfire into the Lake and have to swim to the other side. The cubs do not make it. The mother bear lays down waiting for her cubs. The other version is that there was a food shortage, and to keep from starving they had to cross the lake. The cubs do not make it. The two small islands pop up as monuments for the cubs.

The main visitor center, Phillip A Hart Visitor Center, was located in Empire, Michigan. It was not in the park. The park boundaries are actually made of 3 sections of land with towns in between and 2 islands. We drove around the park in a few locations, but only saw a ticket/pass booth at the Dune Climb parking lot.

On our first visit, we drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Dr. I’m sure it had wonderful views, but all we could see was fog! (It hadn’t been foggy at our campground, about 30 minutes away). There was a small covered bridge that was fun to see.

There were several hiking and bike trails in the park, along with beach areas.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Ohio, Food, Sightseeing

Geneva On The Lake

Ben and I drove over to Geneva On-The-Lake for our anniversary dinner. We found a location on the lake that had an outside dining area.

We ate at the Old Firehouse Winery. There was live music playing and the views were great of Lake Erie. There were a lot of tiny birds around looking for crumbs.

The food was tasty, although a little slow coming out. Ben got a steak wrap and I got the burger on a pretzel bun.

The town must be very busy during peak tourist season. It reminded me of a smaller Gatlinburg/Myrtle Beach type of town.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Ohio, Hiking, Sightseeing

Deep Lock Quarry Trail

We found this trail on AllTrails app. The Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park was next to the National Park, so we only had to drive a couple of minutes to get to this trail.

The trail was about 1.4 miles, although we added a little bit on with a side trail. It had a few informational signs about things along the trail. There were remains of Quaker Oat millstones, the remains of sandstone blocks from a loading dock, bases of old derricks used to load boats/trains.

Quarry Trail Signs
click to enlarge

There was the old quarry as well. You could see the layers of cut out rocks.

We took a side trail to see Lock 28, which was the deepest lock of the Ohio Erie Canal and was nicknamed Deep Lock. The lock was a little overgrown, but still easily seen. It was really neat to see the remains of the canal system.

Lock 28 Signs
click to enlarge
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Campground Review, Exploring New York, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA: Campground Review

For our stay near Niagara Falls, we stayed on Grand Island at the Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA.

Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA Campground Map
Click to enlarge

The campground had a camp store, laundry room, paddle boat and banana bike rentals, two pools (1 cool, 1 heated), basketball hoop, pickleball, horseshoes, and fishing ponds. Garbage was placed at the end of your site and was collected.

The campground was located on Grand Island New York. There was a grocery store (Tom’s) close by, a dollar store, post office, and several restaurants on the island. It was about a 15 minute drive to Niagara Falls State Park and a 18-20 minute drive to Buffalo. The one thing to know is that every time you leave the island you will be charged a toll. There was a Tim Horton’s and Adrian’s down the street (just about walking distance). There was also a go-kart/arcade/batting cage/putt-putt within walking distance.

Laundry room and book exchange

There was a change machine in the laundry room/arcade area, which were located on the bottom side of the office building. It was a nice laundry room with plenty of machines. There was also a book exchange shelf in the laundry room.

Arcade and change machines in laundry room)

The smaller pool by the office was the “cool” (aka unheated) pool. There was a dog park, bike and boat/kayak rental, and playground located here as well. The larger pool towards the back of the campground was the heated pool. There was also the basketball hoop, pickleball court, jump pads, and rec building/planned activities were back here. The one thing I did not like was that there was no parking for the larger pool. All parking spots were parked “Cabin Parking”. It wasn’t a horrible walk from our campground, but would have been nice to have pool parking spots for guests who have mobility problems.

Top row: Front/cool pool and pond with boat rentals. Bottom Row: Rec building and heated pool.

You could fish in the pond as well, but you were not allowed to swim in it.

Sites were pretty nice. Each had a fire ring and picnic table. There was not a lot of shade though. This campground had two sewer connections per site! Both were on the same side, but were spread out. It made it nice for being able to choose how to place the RV in the site. The campground also backed up to an Amusement Park (Fantasy Island), but it had been closed. It looked like at one point the train ride stopped directly at the campground. There were tent camping spots, as well as several different types of cabins. There were a few geese and lots of killdeer birds around the campground.

The campground also teamed up with a local tour group to allow campers to see Niagara Falls, ride Maid of the Mist, and tour Cave of the Winds. The tour bus picked up at the campground. We found it to be more expensive than just paying for the Maid of the Mist tickets, Cave of the Winds, and parking at the State Park. However, it is a good option if you do not have a separate vehicle and want to tour the area.

VIDEO: Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA Walk Through

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 3.5/4 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (grass/gravel)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit/cable at site, playground, banana bike rentals, paddle boat rentals, planned activities, cool pool, heated pool, pickle ball, horseshoes, jump pad, arcade, laundry room

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 20/30/50

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No (some grocery items in store)

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Accepts Mail: Yes (will not forward)

Fishing: Yes

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

Niagara Power Vista

We saw a brochure for the New York’s Niagara Power Vista. The power plant offers free tours. On our last day in New York, we hurried over to the Vista when Ben was off of work. Unfortunately, the brochures were not updated with COVID restrictions and they now required reservations and were full for the day. The woman at the office did give us directions to a service road that led to a fishing pier at the base of the plant. She told us the views there were pretty good too.

click to enlarge

She was right! There was a small visitor parking lot at the base of a hill (before the gated employee entrance). We walked down a few flights of steps to the metal walkway. The waves from the river and plant occasionally splashed up onto the walkway. It was right on the river and we saw butterflies, a snail on the fence post, fighter jets, and some birds.

If you are in the area, I think this is worth a stop!

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Hiking, Sightseeing

Beaver Island State Park (Grand Island, NY)

We were out exploring the island and stopped at Beaver Island State Park. Normally there is an entrance fee, but there was a sign that said that since there was no attendant on duty, there was no fee. It was located on Grand Island, so it was just a short drive.

This park had a marina, a small beach area, a concessions area (only open on the weekends per the sign on the window), and a Frisbee golf course. The park also had a playground and picnic area by the beach.

It was a decent park, but there were a ton of flying bugs.

Bottom right: Bug swarm “cloud” in front of the trees
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Hiking, Sightseeing

Buckhorn Island State Park

Ben and I took a “date day” walk at Buckhorn Island State Park. It was located on Grand Island, so it wasn’t far from our campground.

We took the Buckhorn Island Trail on the AllTrails App. The trail was about 4 miles long and ran along the water. The trail was nice and flat, although a little muddy in some spots due to recent rain. We saw a few butterflies, lots of birds, a few bunnies, and even a snake along the trail.

Most of the trail was pretty boring, as you couldn’t see the water. There were a few spots where you could see waterways. The highlight of the trail is definitely the at the tip of the jetty. You end up standing in the middle of the Niagara River with Canada on your left and Niagara/USA straight ahead and on your right.

Top photo: Looking back from where we came

NOTE: There was not a fee to use the park while we were there, but there are not any restrooms either.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Maid Of The Mist

One of the things that had been on Ben’s bucket list, was to ride the Maid of the Mist. He has wanted to ride it since he saw then on a trip to Niagara Falls when he was a kid.

We bought our tickets online the night before and headed over the Niagara Falls State Park when Ben was done with work. The ride lasts about 20 minutes, so even though there was a line, we didn’t have to wait long.

It was a pretty warm out, so we didn’t wear the poncho (per the recommendation of the staff). We did get wet, but it felt nice in the sun. We saw a couple of rainbows in the mist. The American Falls were easy to see from the boat and to get some pictures. The Horseshoe Falls had a lot of mist! If you wear glasses/contacts, I would wear contacts if you go so you can see better. I had my glasses on and they quickly became hard to see out of.

The boat did have speakers, but we couldn’t hear any of the recorded message being played.

Canada still had its borders closed, so we didn’t get to walk over the bridge to see the Falls from their perspective. I bet they are pretty amazing from there, although they were still great from the US side.

After the boat ride, we walked over to Goat Island and and saw the Horseshoe Falls from the top.

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: $25.25/adults, $14.75/child. COVID Restrictions: masks required.
  • HOURS: Depends on the season. (6/19-8/8 9am-8pm, 8/9-8/28 9am-7:30pm, 8/29-9/5 9am-7:15pm, etc. Check here for times.)
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street, nearby lots, or Niagara Falls State Park ($10-15)
  • BATHROOM: Yes in the buildings, not on ship
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 20 minutes+ Reservations are not accepted, so there may be a line. The ride is 20 minutes long.
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Vermont, Hiking, Sightseeing

Quechee Gorge

This was a neat spot to find. The Gorge is part of the Quechee State Park. You can park at the Gorge Visitor Center and walk to see the Gorge for free. I believe there is a small fee to get into the rest of the state park.

The Quechee Gorge was amazing to walk over. The bridge had cut-outs in the fencing to allow for picture taking. There were a few trails near the Visitor Center, including the one we took to go down to the river.

Views from the bridge of the Gorge

There were a lot of people hanging out near the river. Some had chairs that they placed on the rocks, others had picnics. There were both dogs and people swimming. We saw a frog, lots of tadpoles, a couple of small fish and crabs. The boys had shorts on, so they went swimming in the river. It was a hot day, so I’m sure it felt good.

The River. We saw a lot of tadpoles and the boys swam in the shallows.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Vermont, Food, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Sugarbush Farm: Exploring Cheese and Maple Syrup

We only had a short stay in Vermont and the main goal was to see…MAPLE SYRUP! We found a nearby working farm called Sugarbush Farm. They make maple syrup and cheese and offer free tastings.

We got to try 3 of the 4 types of maple syrup. The farm did not have a lot of the Golden Maple Syrup. The color of the syrup depends on the weather, so the quicker the weather warms up, the less they may have of a certain color/grade of syrup. All of the syrups were tasty. Ben, Nick, and I really enjoyed the Amber. It had a little different taste than the other types. The Dark was the flavor we are used to having (we normally buy the Grade A Dark syrups at the store). Will really liked the Very Dark syrup.

There were also several cheese types we could try. Ben’s favorite was the Extra Sharp Cheddar (aged 4 years), while Nick and I enjoyed the Sage Cheese.

The farm has a walking trail, goats, cows, and horses to see. There are picnic tables in case you brought a picnic. There were also two photo stand opportunities and there were selfie stands set up for those as well.

The maple syrup production area was not running while we were there, but there was an informational video and lots of signs explaining the process.

There was a store located in the tasting building and we went a little crazy buying cheese and syrup. We got to talk to the owner, Betsy. Everyone was incredibly nice at the farm and we really enjoyed our experience there. If you are in the area near Woodstock, Vermont (or Quechee, where our campground was), I would make this a stop on your journey. It’s amazing how much work goes into getting enough sap to make a quart of maple syrup. (Hint: Look at the picture above. It takes 4 1/2 buckets to make 1 quart.) The farm also does mail orders!

VIDEO: Boys Walking Around Sugarbush Farm