2011 Trip 5: Boondocking ... well, sort of.

Rollins Pond SP, New York - July 2011

Thursday, heading out.
Going to Rollins Pond State Park, in the Adirondacks area of New York.  We have heard lots about this park, and the one right beside it called Fish Creek Pond.  We booked Rollins as we have been told it is quieter and less busy, with no larger motorboats allowed on the lake, perfect for us and our kayaks.  Should be about a 3 1/2 hour drive, although we tend take our time and explore the towns along the way. Heading out on the Thursday, which combined with the July 1 holiday, gives us a nice 4 day break.

Took the 416 to Prescott, and crossed into the U.S. there. As odd as it may sound, we are planning to stop at a big Walmart in Potsdam, as we have a couple of trailer related items we are interested in, and we know they are a lot cheaper in the States.  Traffic was light, and very little delay at the border. Once again, the border guys were very interested in the Alto, they teased us about opening it up for them, then laughed and waved us through. Good guys.  Our route is pretty much all secondary roads, just the way we like it.  Found the big Walmart in Potsdam, they are pretty hard to miss, and pulled in beside some other RV's. As you can see, we are dwarfed by the huge rig beside us, even the Cadillac SUV they are towing seems larger than the Alto.
They stepped out as we arrived, and from the look on their faces, seem totally bemused at the size of our trailer.
 Found what we were looking for, a set of Lynx Levelers, at half the cost of those in Ottawa. Hard to resist that, given where our dollar is at the moment. Stopped at an RV place we saw, poked around a bit, then headed out again.

Really nice drive through these parts, rolling hills, lots of trees, quaint little towns. Roads are in good shape as well. Stopped in Tupper lake and picked up supplies at the local grocery store, an IGA. That name disappeared from Canada long ago. Love wandering the aisles of stores in the States, lots of different products to look at. As there are restrictions on what food can be brought into the States, and Canada for that matter, we are doing all our groceries here. No point taking the chance of running into a very diligent border guard.  Spied some very cute little bottles of Rolling Rock beer, which instantly became my weekend choice. Dropped into the local Party Store and picked up wine & some spirits, perhaps that's why they call them party stores?

Not far to the park from Tupper. Rollins is accessed through Fish Creek, so we get a look at both. Fish Creek looks nice, but very reminiscent of Algonquin, lots of pines trees and very wide open. Nice paved road, but although the sites are on the waterfront, they are shallow and pretty tightly packed, just as we had heard. As we are driving along, Dale spots a nice Airstream just being backed in.  Turns out it is the Ottawa couple who have created the website about Fish Creek Pond and Rollins. Their web site is excellent, and chock full of good info. They are owners of a little teardrop themselves, before they bought a 75th year Edition of the Airstream 'Bambi'. We stopped and had a quick chat with them. They are here for two weeks, we will drop by at some point for a visit. Made the turn towards Rollins, which is a little deeper into the bush. Picked up a map at the gatehouse, and made our way in. We like this area better, seems very quiet, lots of privacy between the sites, and almost all are on the water.  Found our site, and it is awesome. It may just be the best we have had during this continuing adventure of ours.  Private, sunny, pretty level, deep, and just a short little path to our own little bit of beach. Amazing. Got the Alto backed and found a good spot in the sun...important given our lack of services. We want as much of the solar panels generating electricity as possible.  This should be fine.

Used our new levelers, and got set up quick.

Great site. Walked down to the beach, which will be perfect for our kayaks. Right away we got a sense that we could easily book a week here.

A mother and daughter (Mary & Mason) walked by and stopped to chat. They were amazed at the Alto and wanted to have a closer look. Turns out they are from Montreal, and have been here for a week. Had a nice visit with them.  Dinner tonight was hot italian sausages, potato salad and slaw. Both the sausages and the sides were made in house at the IGA, and they were very tasty. Clouding over this evening, and a huge rain cloud passed over, rained for about an hour, but not heavy. A few campers rolled in after dark, and in the rain, not a great combination. The site next door was busy with a group of people setting up by the lights of their car. Done that before, not fun. Found a great classic rock station coming out of Tupper Lake, excellent tunes, and solid reception on the Tivoli. Turned in early.

Not too cool last night, only went down to 61F. We were snug under our duvet though. Being off the grid here with no electrical services, it will be an interesting test of how well the solar and battery work together. Naturally we are being a little extra careful to economize the power, but we are certainly not sitting around in the dark. I checked the battery voltage when we arrived and it was at 14.5 volts.  I'm going to check again when we leave, to see just how well the solar is able to keep the battery up to charge.  Took a drive up the the rangers booth to sign in, as their computers were down yesterday afternoon. They were back up, and had already checked us in. No problems there.  Had a shower on the way back. The showers are housed in a big central building, with 12 individual rooms on each side. The water was hot with great pressure.  How campsites handle the public facilities is a good indicator of how well a campground is managed, at least it is one of my indicators.  Generally, gov't funded campsites have the best facilities, not surprising given the depth of their pockets.

Coffee this morning is made using our little stovetop expresso maker, which we have had forever. It now stays in the back of the car for camping use, when we don't have power. Even with regular coffee, it works great, and when added to a little hot milk, we have enough for a couple of cups each. Perfect.  A little overcast this morning, but  the sky seems to look promising for some sun in the afternoon.

Put the kayaks into the water and headed out for a paddle.  Want to check out the sites from the water, to see which ones have good beaches. Came across a bunch of good sites and jotted down their numbers. Overall, the bay that we are in now really does have the best beaches.  Really good paddle, and the beauty of this lake is there are no big power boats racing up and down.  Lots of human power on this lake. Talked to a bunch of folks, everyone is enjoying the morning. The sun is peaking out from behind the clouds, warming everything up nicely.

Today is Canada Day?
THIS is Canada Day!
Got back to site and went for a walk, the second part of our search for site numbers. Got a pretty good list going. This is important because in the middle of February when you are sitting there at 7:00 am trying to reserve a site, you need to have a few numbers to fall back on if your favourites disappear.

Sat on the beach for a while, waiting for G&T time. Lots of people doing the same.  Many more people arriving today, not surprising, as this is a long weekend in America.

Croc on the beach...
Place is really filling up. Our new neighbours arrived...with a big diesel dually and a massive 32 foot 5th wheel. Their site is pretty tiny and unlevel, but he did a fine job squeezing it into a good spot.  Certainly dwarfs our little Alto, and a long time to set up. We would be already set up and into a couple of pops by the time he shut off the big diesel.  Their two little boys headed straight for the beach and into the water. Let the playing begin. Dale went for a quick dip while I started to rustle together dinner.

A couple of times in the afternoon you hear cow bells approaching along the road. This is the travelling ice cream shop... literally a little wooden shop on wheels, that makes the rounds of both parks, selling ice cream and other little goodies.  So now I hear it again, but it is not the ice cream shop, it is the firewood trailer. A couple of guys with a pickup and a trailer full of chopped wood, travel the parks and deliver the wood right to your firepit. How cool is that? For $6 bucks, we got a nice little pile of wood. Both the ice cream shop and this firewood delivery are great, real entrepreneurial ideas. Dinner this evening is salmon with Bone Dust and a little mayo, done on the Q, with a side of rice.  The mayo and Bone Dust not only adds a little flavour, but helps keep the salmon moist.

Pony Bottle...too cute.

Started a fire after diner, which took a while as the wood was a little damp and we really had no kindling. We have been wanting to get a little camp axe, so we will have to make a point of doing that. Would have come in handy to split up some of the pieces.  Turned out to be a nice little fire once it got going. Lots a big roaring ones around us as well, everyone laughing and having a good time. Really clear night and there are tons of stars out, something you don't see in the city. Unbelievably nice to be on the water and to walk down to the beach and see all the campfires around the bay. We now understand why this is such popular spot, being on the water adds something really special to the experience.

Great sleep, as the temperature dips a bit and makes it very comfortable. Another pot of coffee appears this morning, and breakfast is hash browns, leftover sausage and eggs.   
After breakfast, we drove over to Fish Creek to check it out. Went all the way to the end of the sites, and our overall impression is that it is very busy with tons of campers. There is not a lot of space between sites, and it is very open, caused by the abundance of tall pines that seems to be able to prevent any scrub from growing. As well, the lake allows powerboats, so there was the constant drone of water activity. I think we prefer Rollins. Made our way to the General store just outside the park, a classic spot, where everything a camper may need is available, as well as a couple of gas pump. Even at mid morning, they were pretty busy. A little gold mine with a captive audience. And that audience is pretty big. I discovered the perfect camping axe, just the right size and weight, something I have been keeping an eye open for.  Dale picked up a hammock and numerous bags of maple saltwater taffy. The store also has Saranac Root Beer, which is an excellent tasting root beer.

In the afternoon we went for a swim and floated on our noodles for easily an hour, the weather was perfect, and the water was for the most part, very warm.

views of the boats...

Dale had a visit from a Park Ranger, while I was out exploring. He had spied our outdoor showerand stopped to have a chat. Apparently they are frowned upon and not allowed, because of the concerns of phosphates getting into the lake. Dale showed him our phosphate free camp soap and he was very impressed. He said most people don't know or care about that sort of thing, and told her it was OK to keep using it.

BBQ + beer + tunes = awesome.
Chopped up our wood for tonight into more manageable pieces, the new axe doing its job just fine. Dinner tonight is rib eyes with grilled veggies, balsamic dressing, bone dust and goats cheese, one of our camping classics. Our fire started real easy tonight, a big improvement over last night when for the longest time we were just burning paper. Again, lots of fires and people outdoors this evening.
I had checked the voltage reading first thing this morning and it was 12.5. Pretty sunny today, and the monitor is indicating that the battery is being charged. Sure enough, when I checked it again in the afternoon, it had reached 13.5 volts. So the combo of solar and battery is doing what it needs to do...keep the battery topped up. We have been more aware of power consumption, in part because we are off the grid, and the Alto is not in full sun, which reduces the output of the panels.

Sunday... heading home.
Woke up to the sound of rain, just a drizzle, but there is the heavy rumble of thunderclouds in the distance and the sky is very low. Rain did not last long. We had hoped to get out for an early morning paddle, but it seems like a bit of a gamble. Decided it was best to load up the kayaks and get them squared away while it was not raining. Kinda disappointing, but what do you do?

Headed into the General store again, as Dale wanted to pick up a few extra bags of the taffy. On the way back we stopped and chatted with Dave and Kate, and had a tour of their Airstream. Very cool special edition. Back at the site, we got things squared away for leaving. Had another look at some other prime sites, as they were now vacant. took down some numbers. We now have a good list of sites to choose from. Discovered a pinhole in the sewer dump pipe while we were dumping the tanks, so a new tube is on the list for sure. Stopped to show Dave & Kate the Alto, and another couple who have a true teardrop, with the clamshell kitchen in the back, wandered over to have a look as well. Had a nice visit, we are going to plan on attending next year's Tear Up, sounds like a lot of fun!
a funky little trailer
Trip home took about 3hrs 15 mins. Not bad. Traffic was light and no delays at the border. Definitely heading back to Rollins, being on the water add a whole new dimension to the camping experience. Will probably aim to spendan entire week here next summer. Lots to do as well, with Saranac Lake and Lake Placid only short jaunts away, boredom will never settle in.


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