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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
We were driving to our first tourist destination and saw a flea market at the Quechee Gorge Village shops. We had to stop of course!
We bought a jar of zucchini relish, which ended up being a lot sweeter than we thought it would be. There were several neat pieces, including some old wooden chests, but nothing that would fit well in the RV.
There were a few permanent stores in the shopping area as well. We found a great gift/souvenir shop and Vermont Spirits. The gift shop had some really cute kid items. We bought a maple vodka to share with visitors.
We saw a fun looking 4-mast ship in Bar Harbor and booked a ride. Our schooner was called the Margaret Todd. We chose an afternoon booking and while it was a chilly day, it was rain free.
The ship did have a bathroom (aka head), but I would recommend you use one in town or before you board the boat.
Although the schooner had 4 sails, only 3 of them were raised on our sailing. Ben, Will, and Nick got to help hoist the sails. The captain gave some interesting information at the very beginning of the cruise. There are two high and low tides in Bar Harbor and they can vary by 15 feet! No wonder we could walk to Bar Island at low tide.
We were able to see a bald eagle on one of the islands with our binoculars, but no other animal sightings other than a few other birds. The cruise was 90 minutes long. We went out a little bit from the harbor, near Porcupine Island, and sat for a while. It was very quiet during that time, no fun facts or anything like that. We were able to walk around the boat though, so we could see the views on each side.