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  1. Default Driving the Appalachian Trail

    On June 26 I am driving from Atlanta, GA to a lake a few hours north of Toronto, ON. I make this drive every summer, but this summer I've decided to make it interesting. I'm in my Acura RSX type S with my Dog Betsy, and I've decided to basically take the Appalachians all the way to Maine, where my aunt has a house in Eastport. I want to stay off interstates most of the way. I am bringing my tent and camping gear, and I want to avoid hotels if possible. I also want to plan as little as possible, because I really have no idea where I'll end up day to day. I don't know how far I will want to drive, I don't know when I will want to take a day off, and I frankly don't want to plan all of this out because it will sap alot of the fun out of the trip for me. My vague plan is drive north from ATL through Tenn, catch the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC and spend the first night somewhere in north North Carolina. Second day take Blue Ridge to Shenandoah, maybe spend a day there, third day take interstates to Vermont, maybe spend a day there, then drive to Maine, spend a night at Arcadia, drive to Eastport, spend a day there, then drive as far into Canada as I can, until I probably end up somewhere near Montreal, and drive the rest of the way to my cabin the next day.


    I really really don't want to have to make reservations. Do I need to? I just want to go to a national or state park, park, walk like a mile/ half mile into the woods, pitch my tent, walk around, go to sleep, get up in the morning and leave. I don't know if this is realistic, I don't have much experience with this kind of thing. I want to do some research into where are the best places to stay, but I don't actually want to know where I'm staying until I get there. Knowing where I'm staying takes all the fun out of it, at least for me. This is an enormous country, it seems like I shouldn't have any problems finding a place to pitch a tent.

    Anyone who can give me any advice for preparing for this trip, I would appreciate it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Well (Un)Planned

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    Your first two days require that you cover only about 275 miles each day which is a very relaxed pace and will let you and Betsy take time to get out of the car and explore some of the mountains, lakes and parks that you'll be driving by. The third day up to Vermont will be at least 500 miles, but that is eminently doable by Interstate if you're well rested, and even that will allow you time to get some exercise along the way as you journey through the Poconos and Catskills. Vermont to Acadia is another easy day of around 300 miles, while Eastport to Montréal is a shade over 400. That is all by way of saying that you've left yourself sufficient time to follow your instincts and have some fun most days. Such rational budgeting of time is sometimes overlooked even by those who are 'planning' out their trip. The other thing this timing lets you do is arrive in an area in the late afternoon/early evening, in time to (usually) find open campsites in federal or state parks or forests. Given the number of such parks and forests along the Appalachians and the open camping policy in most notional forests, I would not think that reservations will prove necessary. It might be possible on the odd night that you have to check out more than one possible location, but that sounds like part of the adventure you're seeking. The one bit of planning you should do, however, is to find out beforehand where all the possible parks, forests and commercial campgrounds are and carry a list with you. It will just make your search for overnight accommodations a little bit easier each evening.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Thanks AZ.My current goals are to stay at Pisgah NF the first night, and Shenandoah NP the second night. Then spend a day at Shenandoah, hopefully playing in a river or big creek. Fourth day is where I start losing sight of whats going on. From Shenandoah, my main goal is to get to Eastport. I want to spend maybe 3 days in between, seeing as much as new england as possible. Natural New England that is, another goal I have on this trip is to avoid all big cities. What do you think of this route?

    I-81 to Harrisburg
    I-78 to Easton
    North to East Stroudsburg
    North on 209 to Port Jervis, NY
    I-84 E to Taconic Parkway
    Taconic N until I feel like going E to VT
    Then in Vermont I really don't see an obvious route. I guess I'll just do wherever I feel like going.

    Do you know of any nice areas I can perhaps kind of look into? I don't even know where to start. From VT I'll head through NH into ME.

    Its all kind of overwhelming, I think its just too much to plan. All I can really do is get some destinations in mind and head for them.

    The destinations I really have so far are Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah, Taconic, Green Mountains, Acadia, Eastport, and Huntsville ON (near my lakehouse). If you're aware of anything in between with nice scenery, tranquility, small mountain river/ streams, trails, and places to camp let me know. Also if you know of any particuraly nice roads in NE. I just ask since you seem to be quite familiar with alot of nice areas around the continent. Thanks alot

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default What about the Kancamagus Highway?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denier
    Do you know of any nice areas I can perhaps kind of look into? I don't even know where to start.
    Normally, I recommend this route in the fall, but if don't mind those pesky black flies, early summer is an awesome time to drive through the largest forest east of the Mississippi. There are several USFS campgrounds ($12 per night). Since you mentioned wanting to frolick in a stream -- Hancock Campground is walking distance from the Pemigewasset River.

    On your drive to the coast, if you have a hankering for some famous Vermont cheese -- swing by the Brattleboro Food Co-Op. The last time we were there, the shop had hundreds of selections from family farms in Vermont -- most not sold anywhere else.

    Mark

  5. Default

    I'll look into all of this.

    As for blackflies, I absolutely hate blackflies. But by the end of June I am expecting them to be gone. They are probably out in full force right now but they should be gone by the end of the month. Right?

    I wouldn't call myself a cheese person but I'll definately put it on my map.

    Also, I would prefer not to be at a campground. I don't want to be anywhere near anyone else. I know you're not supposed to, but my dog is mature unless shes around other dogs, and I'd like to be secluded to the point where I can take her off her leash. Put it this way. If I can't run around naked its probably not where I want to be.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Middle Ground

    Somewhere between no planning and over planned is a reasonable middle ground. I think that you should have a look at a couple of possible routes just to see where there might be difficulties. One that I see is your plan to use the Taconic Parkway north until you feel like turning east into Vermont. The Taconic doesn't get that far north. It terminates at I-90, the Mass Pike/NY Thruway. What you'll want to do is to get off 1 exit before this and take NY-295 east to NY-22 north. Otherwise you might find yourself headed to/through the Albany/Troy area, a relatively modest sized metropolitan area. NY-22 is itself a lovely route and will serve your purposes well. But I'd suggest that you turn east for Vermont sooner rather than later and enjoy VT-100 up through the center of that state. Then US-2 would make a nice basic route across northern VT, NH and ME to Bangor where you can US-1A and ME-3 to Acadia. But that's just a basic route. There are many very scenic drives through northern New England. Perhaps the best known is the Kancamagus Highway, but US-2 or US-302 are not bad either. In fact, if you're crossing New Hampshire on a weekend, I'd recommend US-2 to avoid the more heavily travelled NH-112 and US-302. You'd have to work really hard in this neck of the woods to find an ugly road - explore! (One of my favorite 'undiscovered' roads in this area is ME-113 between Fryeburg and Gilead, but it's a north-south road where you'll be wanting to go east-west.)

    If you're looking for something a bit out of the norm and off the track, try Brookfield, VT and the "floating" bridge. Also, the area east of there and southeast of Montpelier has perhaps the highest concentration of wooden covered bridges in the world. Be sure to get an official state highway map - they're all marked. As for hiking in the White Mountains, I heartily recommend a stop at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Pinkham Notch Base Lodge where they can direct you to any number of hikes that will meet whatever level of exercise you're after. My personal favorite because of the high beauty/work ratio is the Flume Gorge in Franconia State Park. But that's enough details. As you say, you don't want to over plan this.

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default It has been awfully wet up there this year....

    Quote Originally Posted by Denier
    ...They are probably out in full force right now but they should be gone by the end of the month. Right?
    I wouldn't be able to confirm that -- I would suggest calling the forest service info lines in the area and see what the latest with black flies is...
    I wouldn't call myself a cheese person but I'll definately put it on my map.
    I don't know if you like museums, but on your way over to Acadia -- there is a very cool museum near Rockland (which also calls itself the Lobster Capital of the World) the Owls Head Transportation museum is chock-full of working engines, aircraft and vehicle exhibits prior to the 1920's. And if you like awesome views of crashing waves -- take the detour to Pemaquid Point and maybe even take the tour of the 1827 lighthouse there (if Betsy is cool enough).

    Mark

  8. Default

    "Black Fly season lasts, on average, from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. The season will start earlier in some parts of the state, especially southern Maine, and end later in northern Maine. Black flies are mostly found in wooded, wet areas with with large amounts of standing water. Summer breezes are your best insect repellent as the flies like hot calm days."


    Sounds like I'll probably be up there late in the season, depending on the weather. We have a cabin at a similar latitude over in Ontario, and the flies are usually not an issue past about the 20th of June. But I don't know in Maine. I'll bring long sleeves just in case.

    Also, I definately do not want to overplan. I am not really going to bother with a schedule or anything, but everything you guys are mentioning I am circling on the map. I'll do some planning the night before and see what happens. AZ had it right when he said there is a happy place between not planning and overplanning.

    I have a question, what do you guys know about tent camping? And NOT on a campground, I mean back in the woods, maybe a half mile off the road near a creek at a NF or NP? The questions I have mainly are where do I park my car and how do I not get in trouble? Everyone seems to like camping at these organized campgrounds, I just don't understand it at all. I want to hike down a trail and find a spot, pitch my tent and not have to deal with other people. This trip is just me, my dog, and nature. I want to see as few people in between as possible! Is that weird? I guess the issue is they're trying to keep the masses out of the forest to protect the environment, but I'll leave wherever I go looking better than it was when I got there.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Leave only footprints

    Quote Originally Posted by Denier
    I have a question, what do you guys know about tent camping? And NOT on a campground, I mean back in the woods, maybe a half mile off the road near a creek at a NF or NP? The questions I have mainly are where do I park my car and how do I not get in trouble?
    In most USFS and state parks you will need a wilderness permit/parking pass. The problem is Betsy... Most forest regulations tend to prohibit pets in off-established campground trails. In the west, I rarely, (read never) camp in the established camprgounds of the desert southwest. I prefer to camp where the only tracks I will see are made by my own boots (& Teva sandals) and 4-WD truck.
    I guess the issue is they're trying to keep the masses out of the forest to protect the environment, but I'll leave wherever I go looking better than it was when I got there.
    I understand the sentiment, but sometimes it can be hard to tell when human interaction doesn't alter the environment in ways we can't notice. What I have always found helpful -- drive the forest -- engage a local forester (they used to be called Rangers -- but these days "Ranger" means an armed cop -- and tell them what you are looking for -- they will often clue you in to locals-only places for camping.

    Mark

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Denier
    My vague plan is drive north from ATL through Tenn, catch the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC and spend the first night somewhere in north North Carolina. Second day take Blue Ridge to Shenandoah, maybe spend a day there, third day take interstates to Vermont, maybe spend a day there, then drive to Maine, spend a night at Arcadia, drive to Eastport, spend a day there, then drive as far into Canada as I can, until I probably end up somewhere near Montreal, and drive the rest of the way to my cabin the next day.
    I'm glad you've chosen the Blue Ridge Parkway! My mother grew up in Piper's Gap, Virginia and my father in Martinsville, VA. Me being born in Key West, we've taken every single family vacation we've ever been on to the Blue Ridge Parkway and it's my absolute favorite place on this earth!

    The only thing that concerns me is the time management for your trip. I can't comment on the rest of it, but I can help with the parkway.

    The maximum speed limit is 45 mph throughout the Blue Ridge Parkway, and depending on the fog or weater conditions, it's typically much less. Going through North Carolina north of Asheville, the mountains get VERY up-and-down. This does slow your travel time down quite a bit.

    The drive from Asheville to the VA state line is a very long one. Because of the altitude of the mountains (usually up to around 5,500 ft and down to 2,000, and then back up), the fog can get very bad; more so when the weather is cool. It's taken me an entire 10-hour day of driving to get from the VA state line to my hotel in Asheville, NC.

    My suggestion would be to allow yourself more time. The drive from Asheville to Roanoke is a very long one on the parkway. As much as I love the Blue Ridge mountains, it is a bit boring on that stint through North Carolina where there are no monuments, stops, etc. other than mountain overlooks.

    Also, plan ahead for gas. When you do go up and down, it takes a toll on your gas consumption. Because of the isolation in that part of the parkway, you can count on one hand the number of gas stops along the way. As a matter of fact, I would be confident in saying that after Asheville, you can probably drive for several hours without even a country store to stop at for a snack.

    If you want to spend your time seeing the sights and enjoying the mountains, don't count out the Interstates! I'll tell you that I-40 going through East Tennessee and the Smokey's all the way into Asheville is BEAUTIFUL! Of course, you can hop on the parkway in Asheville and catch the Biltmore, Cone Manor, Puckett Cabin, and a few others that are close by.

    Even taking I-77 up into VA has some beautiful views of the mountains. Right over the VA-line, you can catch the parkway in Piper's Gap. If you take that north to Roanoke, there's a whole slew of neat stops along the way. (My FAVORITE is Mabry Mill! You'll see me up there over the 4th of July weekend picking up their home-made apple butter)

    Take a look at http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/maps.htm. You'll be able to see all of the stops and get an idea of how long the parkway is!

    It's about 470 miles from TN to the Skyline Drive.

    I don't want to sound discouraging by any means! But it sounds like a great trip, and I know in the past if I overstayed my attention span in one place, it took away from the rest of the trip.

    Hope any bit of this helps.

    (PS - Sorry if there's no logic to the previous text at all. It's 3:00am and I obviously can't sleep. :) )

    - Guy

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