Thursday, July 20, 2017

Epic Camping Trip 2017

With every PCS move we typically have made a vacation out of it. The last two were pretty easy, we were going across the county so we road tripped it for a week or so. This time our move is just a few hours away so a road trip didn't really fit. And since the movers will want to load and then immediately head to Philly to unpack, taking a trip during that "transition" period didn't seem to make sense. So we took our road trip early. 

my favorite photo from the trip 

Matt has been wanting to take the girls and I on an upstate NY tour of his childhood ever since we got the camper. So we planned it out, adding stops to see family and a few military friends as well as one of my life bucket list items: Niagara Falls. With so many stops we only had a day or two at each place, but we were super excited!

When Matt was little his family would go camping at Watkin's Glen almost every year. It is at the base of Seneca Lake, one of the finger lakes. The campsite was beautiful. We were surrounded by trees and around the corner from a playground. It was an easy walk to the bath house, which came in handy since we didn't have water hookups. There was also a pool in the park but it wasn't open for the season yet. That was a bit of a bummer, but the weather was actually really cool during our few days there so we weren't desperate for a swim. 

all set up

attempting to ride her bike

After setting up camp we decided to explore the town and grab some food. The downtown area was quaint. There were restaurants and shops just blocks from the water. We stopped for a while at a beautiful park, Clute park (yep!), where we took a few photos and the kids played. They had some vintage playground equipment. Anyone remember the metal slides?! I do! And they were HUGE!! It took Charlotte a while to get the courage to go down by herself....heck even I was scared! But it was also a lot of fun. 

a little windy


Matt had big plans for our first full day in Watkins Glen. As a kid they always went on the beautiful hike through the gorge. I had not seen pictures and wasn't exactly sure what to expect when we started out on the hike. It was much longer than I imagined, with lots of stairs and an overwhelming amount of beauty. Within 2 miles the glen's stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along the way. Small waterfalls, big waterfalls, ones just to see and some to touch. Even one to walk under! We got a little wet and had a lot of fun. Charlotte walked the entire trail all by herself, while Norah enjoyed it from the comfort of the pack. 
beautiful right? 
so many waterfalls!

LOVING all the waterfalls!

where's Daddy and C?

taking a break to check out the view

After some food we were off to explore the wineries nearby. There are about two dozen wineries (and a few breweries) lining both sides of the lake. We made a few stops, and really enjoyed sipping on our drinks overlooking the lake. The kids were (surprisingly) very well behaved and had a lot of fun running around the properties. 

chalkboard area at a brewery = genius! The girls loved it!
our family portrait

dancing girls 

Grist Iron Brewery... highly recommend it!

another jam session

We spent our last full day in Watkins Glen enjoying a big breakfast at the campsite, taking proper showers and playing on the playground. We also decided to hit up just a few more wineries. Today the wine was mediocre but the views were spectacular. And it was still a lot of fun. 
sleeping angels

Our drive to Niagara, NY was long and uneventful. We arrived before dark, set up camp, and had an early dinner at the camper. Norah was also able to squeeze in a nap while we did a load of laundry and Charlotte rode her bike all around. It was a great campground right on Lake Ontario, and completely flat for our girl and her bike. It wasn't too crowded so it was very quiet. After dinner we headed into town for a night view of the falls. 


As we approached the falls I was shocked at not only the sound, but also the height of the spray, you could see it from miles away. We stopped to view the American Falls first, then drove to Goat Island where we could get a better view of Horseshoe Falls. Wow. It is so hard to properly describe the beauty and wonder. I have always wanted to see Niagara Falls and I am so happy we were able to add this stop to our trip. My only regret is not bringing our passports. Canada definitely has to better view (from dry land) and if you get the chance to go, make sure you drive over and see it.  

For our one full day in Niagara we spent all day at the falls. First up was the Maid of the Mist, then a hike down closer to the falls, and of course the over look. Once we exhausted all the tourist stops we had lunch with a view of the falls then spent the afternoon and evening at the campsite. 

we made it! bucket list item complete!


Our next stop was to Saratoga Springs, NY. Our good friends, Jon and Tina, who we haven't seen in over 5 years, live there and we could not pass up the opportunity to stop in and catch up. We all lived in San Diego, way back in the day, and had quite the pre kid tastings, dinner out all the time, girls night. Ah the good ol days. Now we have 3 adorable kiddos between us, so much has changed! 

After arriving and getting the campsite set up we headed (seriously the SCARIEST campsite ever! AHH) to downtown Saratoga for dinner at a local restaurant. The town was adorable! Beautiful historic buildings, quiet streets, restaurants and shops nearby. It is now on our short list of places we would like to retire (although I hear the winter is a tad intense)! We ate dinner at Druthers.....good beer, good food and good friends, could not ask for anything better. Somehow we totally forgot to get a group photo! Fail! But the next day we managed to get a picture of the kiddos.
so cute!!

gift basket from Tina! We seriously have the best friends!
It was too short of a visit. Our next reunion better not have as big of a time gap. :)

Not far from Saratoga is where Matt went to college, The College of Saint Rose, in Albany. And a huge part of Matt's college experience was swimming. So it just made sense to meet up with his former swim coach. We went out to lunch with Keith and then got a really awesome tour of the campus....including the pool, houses that Matt lived in, and a few fun college stories. The girls loved it! Future knights?!

Matt's old diggs in Albany. 

Our next stop was also to visit some good friends who we haven't seen in a super long time. The military life kept us a little too far apart, so we were thrilled when we heard they were stationed in Newport, RI. Plus we have heard so many good things about Newport we were excited to finally be able to check it out. 

The campsite we stayed at was legit. It was super close to our friend's house, perfectly flat spots, neat and tidy, and a playground for the kiddos. After getting settled we headed into town to explore a bit and have dinner. It was beautiful, with a breeze from the ocean making it perfectly cool. It really reminded me of San Diego. Boardwalks full of restaurants, bars and shops. I can see why so many people vacation here every summer. After dinner we stopped by the Hamiltons so the kiddos could meet and play. A quick little stop before bed turned into lots of chatting over some wine. Oh yeah, the kids played too. haha!

For our one full day in Newport we checked out a few fun tourist spots. We started with a delicious breakfast across the street from our campsite. It was legit! Then we strolled as far as we could with the stroller on the cliff walk, oogling the homes as well as the sea. We also drove by a few of the enormous and more famous mansions. Wow. By then the kids were exhausted and hot so it only made sense to stop for some ice cream. 

After the sugar rush kicked in it was time for a quick stop at the beach to let the pups splash around. 

his happy place

Then it was more playing and a BBQ back at the Hamilton's house. Watching the kids run around on the playground, chase bugs, and roast s'mores together was the best! Brought back memories of my childhood and all the fun we had in the summer. We were sad to say goodbye but so glad we were able to meet up! We are all so busy these days!

Just 120 miles down the highway was our next stop, Hammonasset Beach State Park. This was just a hop skip and jump away from Matt's Aunt, who lives in Connecticut. This was one of our favorite spots! We had one of the best campsites. We were just a short walk to the beach and could actually see it from our camper! The Park was nice and flat perfect for the kids to ride bikes. 
my beauties

After arriving we immediately packed a bag and headed for the beach. The water was super cold but did not stop Charlotte from getting in and splashing around. That night we went out to dinner at a local spot that had amazing seafood. Super laid back, serving all their food on paper plates. Very family friendly. They had a carousal and ice cream shop on site too. The girls LOVED it! Charlotte still tells people about that carousal. And that was the first time Norah ride all by herself. My baby girl is growing up!

Our full day in CT was very relaxed. We went to the beach, the girls rode bikes, we hung out at the campsite, and then Aunt Karen and Jan came over and we grilled up some chicken and sides....and of course it wouldn't be a proper campsite dinner without s'mores. It was great to spend so much time with Karen and Jan. The girls loved it too!
chasing away some geese

Our last stop before heading home and back to reality was to Matt's hometown, Warwick, NY. Over the years I have heard a lot about Warwick. Stories about their childhood adventures, the house they grew up in, what the area looked like. I had a bit of an image in my head and I was really excited to finally see it in person. I really loved it and could see why people wanted to raise their families there. It is a very small quaint town. They have really restricted development so as to keep it small. There is an adorable downtown area with some restaurants and shops. And it is surrounded by beautiful trees and winding country roads. It also sits on one of the most fertile lands for producing onions! They call is black dirt. You can drive right next to it, this sprawling flat land covered in crops. It reminded me of growing up in the valley. 

Matt gave us the full tour while we were in town. First up was Waywayanda, the lake Matt lifeguarded at in High School/College. It was beyond perfect. The water was warm and the girls could swim by themselves. We stayed for a few hours, soaking up the sun. Then we drove by everything...all the schools they went to, the house they lived in, the church they attended, etc. We even stopped by their old house, knocked on the door, and the current owners let us in to take a look! That's the kind of small town it is. And of course we couldn't pass up the chance to eat some NY bagels. Twice. Plus a to-go bag of a dozen. 

Matt's childhood home

pool time at the campground

mmmm bagels!!!

We also met up with one of Matt's college roommates who we haven't seen in years! We went to dinner together, got ice cream, and tried to catch up. There is never enough time, but it sure is fun trying. 
Joe and Matt

Charlotte loved playing with Joe!
After two weeks on the road it was time to head home. It was a loonnnng drive back. We travelled over 1500 miles and enjoyed every minute. We had a blast on the trip but it was nice to be home. And a little sad too, only a few more weeks in our beautiful home.  
everyone passed out!
when you are tired AND cold. She totally slept like this for at least an hour!