Corn, Corn, Soybeans, More Corn, and Wilderness . . . Mosquitoes and Rain
Our Trip to the East
Over the last couple of months we have enjoyed touring the east both Southeast and Northeast. Our first trip in that direction in the RV. There have been so many experiences, beautiful sights, bits of history and some surprises. Now that we are back home, I wanted to share a few reminiscences.
We have seen at least a small part of most of the major ranges in the Appalachian Mountains.
- The Cumberland Mts. in Tennessee
- The Blue Ridge Mts. in Virginia
- The Alleghenies in Maryland & West Virginia
- The Catskills Mts. in New York
- The Pocono Mts. in Pennsylvania
- The White Mts. of New Hampshire
The Appalachians chain as a whole are scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and seemingly culturally booming lands. They are a barrier to east-west travel as they form a series of irregular ridge lines and valleys extending from central Alabama all the way into southeastern Canada. I would tend to categorize them as rolling hills, what with being a Rocky Mountain High kind of girl, it’s hard to really think of the Appalachians as mountains. The highest peak is just over 6,000 feet. We don’t really consider that we have reached the mountains in the Rockies until we have ascended over 8,000 feet. But for all of that they are imposing in their own way. The ups and downs can be steeper, and more compact. Everything is a lush green, the fields and open valleys are covered in either a verdant green or planted in corn or some other crop (looked like soybeans mostly). Then the heavily wooded wilderness with hemlocks, maples, and a variety of hard wood trees.
The historian in me revels in experiencing places of legend. In these mountains major events in the early formation of the United States played out. Here much of the French and Indian Wars took place as the colonist and British fought the French allied with the Indians for control of the land.
Louis & Clark Memorial
Then it was the colonist with the cry of Manifest Destiny who moved out into the mountain regions against the laws of the British, eventually becoming a contributing factor in the Revolutionary War. Again the British invaded this area in their attempt to retake their former colonies in the War of 1812. And yet again battle rang out as brother fought brother in the Civil War. Indians clashed, pioneers struggled, towns grew and a nation was forged. All said to state that there is a lot of history and adventure in these hills. A fun part of this walk through the past was visiting a piece of our family history in Pamplin City and Pamplin Civil War Historic Park in Virginia.
We first entered the Appalachians in the Smokes in Tennessee, they were beautiful with smoke like clouds rising up from the upper levels. There were hundreds of rafters enjoying the white water river that we passed along. It was cool and rainy
so I considered them both brave and fool hardy rafting a cold river in the rain.
Then we drove through the Blue Ridge area, seemingly steeper than the Smokey,
After our foray to Atlantic beach areas (very unwelcoming to RVing tourist with pet) it was on into the White range of New Hampshire and the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont, which we truly enjoyed. The terrain was rugged with rocky streams gurgling long the roads and places to pull off and enjoy the scenery.but since it poured rain, it’s hard to describe them. They do contain the highest peak of the range at 6,684 feet.
We drove through the southern edge of the Adirondacks in New York on our way to Niagara Falls. What an experience! The Great Lakes are amazing! Niagara Falls – the power, the overwhelming majesty of the Falls – no picture can do justice. Then as we made our way back to Connecticut we crossed through the Catskills. The Catskills are beautiful rolling hills with the same wilderness but more agricultural and ranch land than in the other areas. The Poconos of Pennsylvania with quaint villages along the road came next. Then the wild Alleghany’s of Maryland and West Virginia steeper and more challenging than any other than perhaps the Green Mountains. Out of the Appalachians across foothills and into the Ozarks, more beautiful green lush mountains, yet different. Then back to the plains of Central US and Texas.
The rivers were another marvel. The Hudson, Connecticut, Delaware, Tennessee, Cumberland, Susquehanna, Potomac, Ohio, and of course the granddaddy of them all the Mississippi.
So wide, so deep, with hills and trees rolling down to the water’s edge, just beckoning you out to glide across the water in a fast moving boat. Needless to say, we took the high trestled bridges, imposing in their own right. Just for good measure, the east is laced with canals. We followed the Erie and crossed several canals of the feeding off the Tennessee.
An observation, we never expected to see so much wilderness, so much undeveloped land in the crowed, heavily populated Northeast. The cities are crowed with narrow, winding streets, but just a stone’s throw away is lots of undeveloped land. Guess we grew up with songs like Schoolhouse Rock’s ‘Elbow Room’. Just like some Easterners expect us to all wear cowboy boots and ride horses, I did not expect so much wilderness. No horizon to be seen.
It’s nice when you’re kinda cozy, but
Not when you’re tangled nose to nosey, oh
Everybody needs some elbow, needs a little elbow room
That’s how it was in the early days of the U.S.A.
Oh, elbow room, elbow room
The people kept coming to settle though
The east was the only place there was to go
Got to, got to get us some elbow room
It’s the west or bust
In God we trust
The way was opened up for folks with bravery
There were plenty of fights
To win land rights
But the West was meant to be
It was our Manifest Destiny!
Second observation, the New England area does not seem to be oriented toward camping, particularly RV camping. Even with the internet, Woodall’s and other resources, we did not always find suitable campgrounds.
Many of what we did find were older, less well kept-up, few offered Wi-Fi and or cable. Most had only central dump stations. Even so they were more expensive than the sites we frequented in our western travels last summer. But the people were friendly and we were frequently accosted with, “Hey, are you really from Texas? Boy, you’re a long way from home!”, or “What are you doing up here?” Very friendly, but surprised to see someone from outside of the general area. It was not uncommon to be have someone walk up to us in a parking lot and start up a conversation with “ Really from Texas?”
Corn, Corn and more Corn
Third observation: Corn! I have never seen so much corn planted – Ethanol must be the answer to the universe’s problems. If tobacco ruined the soil for southern plantations, what must corn be doing, at least without modern soil enhancements? I know little of farming so I am no one to comment, it was just interesting to be traveling along on a state highway with corn growing so close that you could almost reach out and grab an ear as you drove by. Everywhere we looked from Mississippi to the Great Lakes and back corn has been the major crop. Seas of corn waving tall adding to the green with their yellow tassels atop.
Yet another observation: We evidently picked an extremely wet summer to explore the eastern US. There have been record breaking rainfall amounts. Several of the areas have been either recently flooded or so saturated as to be considered boggy. News relayed stories of a “constant trough of low pressure n across the eastern U.S. for several months providing the U.S. Southeast plenty of rain and unseasonably cool temperatures for the heart of the summer. . . . As soon as these systems push into the Southeast, they have literally stalled and provided a constant source of moisture, producing unusually high amounts of precipitation totals.” Of course this brings out the mosquitoes in droves. One place we stayed they were so bad that we could not stay outside, even with repellent on.
It has been a fascinating, enjoyable trip. The highlight was definitely spending time with our family in Connecticut.