Those of you that have read my other trip reports know that a co-worker (Alan) and I try to take at least one nice motorcycle trip each year. We always have to try to out do the last trip, and this year we certainly did.
The ultimate destination for this trip was Mount Washington in the White Mountains of NH. Which is the highest peak on the east coast, at 6,288 ft. The trip was to be 9 days spending as many nights at camp grounds as possible to save money instead of staying at hotels. The areas we planned to see on our trip were all vast wilderness areas with plenty of camp grounds.
Here is the Planned Route for the ride, we didn’t follow this exactly by any means, but it gives you an idea.
Day 1 — Centralia PA – Orange County Choppers
The first day was mainly about putting in the miles and getting ourselves up north as far as possible so that we were close to Fort Ticonderoga, our main attraction for day 2.
Just over two hours into the trip we pulled off the highway for a short break. This is where I reached another milestone as a motorcycle rider. Dumping my bike for the first time. Alan didn’t even get to see this momentous occasion since he had already started out to get back on the highway. I realized that I had left my gloves laying on my rear top case. I was already on the bike, and turns around to try to grab them. Bad idea. Down the bike went. I was very surprised how well the bike handled the fall. It was a fairly slow fall, but still, I was amazed at the lack of damage. There was a mark on my hand guard and my side Pelican case. And an auxiliary LED light that I had on the front was bent a bit. My second surprise was the fact that I was able to get the fully loaded down bike back up by myself.
Picked my gloves back up, as well as my pride, and set off for the rest of the trip.
One place I have wanted to check out for a couple years now is Centralia PA. An abandoned town that was devastated by an underground coal fire burning for over 50 years. I saw photos online of streets that had caved in, smoke rising from the ground, homes and buildings left to rot. A proper place to film a horror flick. Sadly though, this turned out to be a huge disappointment. The town has been cleaned up, old homes have been torn down and removed, and the major stretch of road that runs through the center of the town has been repaved. We didn’t spend much time here, but we saw no signs of the old coal fires.
So we continued on to our second destination for the day, Orange County Choppers. I was a fairly big fan of their tv show when it was on Discovery years ago, and being a bike nut, I had to check the place out.
We didn’t have time to take the shop tour that they offer, but we did go into the showroom where they have some of their bikes on display. It was cool to recognize some of the bikes I had watched them build on tv. It seems that many of the bikes that they build for people to auction off, they end up buying back. Worth the stop if you are ever up that way, some rolling works of art there for sure.
The day ended with us staying at a hotel in Hyde Park, NY.
Day 2 — Fort Ticonderoga – The Breakdown
Todays main attraction was Fort Ticonderoga. Alan had shown me photos of the fort online during our planning stages and I thought it would be a great place to see. You donut really get a good appreciation for its design and shape when you are there walking around. It is designed to have a good vantage point on all the water fronts, with multiple canons facing every direction possible.
We left the fort that afternoon on our way toward the White Mountains. So far the trip had gone well and we were making decent time. That is, until Alan decided to break his bike. Pulling out of an intersection the bike made a loud clank. He stopped, made sure he was in gear, and went to start off again, and the bike made a horrid grinding chattering noise. We still parent sure what exactly happened, the bike is still in the shop, but it was not going anywhere on its own power. We pulled off to the side of the road, and spent a solid 10 minutes thinking…. ahhhh shit… what do we do now? We are in a very small town, 700 miles and almost 10 hours from home, on day 2 of a 9 day trip. On a Friday, at 5pm, before a 4th of July weekend. After a few calls to road side assistance, which was useless, we were trying to figure out what options we had. Renting a U haul truck to drive the bike straight home, was going to be $1200. Plus Alan did not want to trip to end just because his bike was broke down. Eventually a local cop stopped and said there was a local motorcycle dealer shop just down the road. He made a few calls and got them on their way to tow Alans bike to their shop.
Quite a sad sight seeing Alans bike being loaded onto the flatbed. The shop, Tony’s Ticonderoga Sports,,that towed the bike and stored it for us was very helpful. The 1.5 mile towing for $100 was a bit much, but they stored the bike for us for about a week before we made a return trip in Alans truck to bring the bike home. The shop even offered to sell Alan a used bike to use on the trip, and buy it back from him for $500 less once we were done. It was tempting, but Alan didn’t want to risk the responsibly of the loaner bike, and they didn’t really have anything that could haul all the gear we had. They were even nice enough to give Alan a ride to a nearby hotel.
Once at the hotel, we spent hours on the phone and online trying to figure out a game plan for the rest of the trip. Alan decided to try to get a rental car to finish the trip with. This proved very hard to do in a small town, at 10pm on a Friday night. Most car rental places are closed on Saturdays, except for ones located at airports. The closet airport was an hour away. We didn’t have much choice, so Alan arranged to pick up the car the next morning.
Day 3 — Rental Car Pickup – Lost River Gorge – White Mountains
Alan had to get to an airport an hour away to pick up the rental car. It would have been convenient for him to catch a cab there, but it was far too costly. So he ended up riding my bike to the airport, picking up the rental car, driving back to the hotel to pick me and all of our gear up, then back to the airport so I could get my bike.
This ended up eating up most of the morning. We figure we lost half the day, and half yesterday due to the breakdown. But we had planned a floating day into our trip, which made it so we still had the time required to complete the trip.
The main goal for the day was to make it to Jigger Johnson Campground in the White Mountains of NH. On our way there we passed a park called Lost River Gorge. We were due for a break anyway, so we decided to stop and check it out. There was a short trail that lead up the mountain side to an overlook. We decided what the heck, we needed to stretch our legs anyway. And stretch them we did. The trail, if you can even call it that, was basically a pile of huge boulders that you had to climb and crawl up. We were amazed they actually encouraged people to be on this trail.
This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trips hikes. Which we started referring to as death marches. The trail wasn’t all that long, but it was very rough terrain and worked part of your muscles you didn’t know you had. Plus the view from the top wasn’t really even worth it.
Heading back down the mountain wasn’t any easier. I recommend gloves for anyone that takes this trail, and rocks can be quite rough on your hands. The trail left us a bit sore the next day, which also ended up being the theme of this trip, only getting worse as the days went on.
We ended up making it to our campground in the White Mountains as planned by the end of the day. Quickly setting up the tent, planning a bit for the next day.
Day 4 — Mount Lafayette
We had planned to just ride scenic roads in the White Mountain this day, but with Alans bike out of commission we didn’t see much point in doing that. So we stopped by a ranger station to get some info on the surrounding attractions. We bought a map that showed all the local trails and indicated all areas that were above tree line. So naturally, we picked the location with the largest area above tree line, Mount Lafayette.
There was an information center at the parking lot at the base of the mountain where we looked at some maps and was told about the trails that make the loop up to the mountain ridge and back down around to the parking lot. The complete loop is just under 9 miles, and we were told it would take 8+ hours to complete. We got a bit of a late start this day, I think it was around 11am or after before we headed up the trail. We weren’t sure how far we would go or if we would complete the entire loop.
I cant stress enough how disappointed I am in myself how unprepared I was for this hike. I am the type of person that likes to prepare for things, has a ton of survival gear, borderline prepper. We set off up the mountain with our small packs, carrying a jacket, couple bottles of water, alittle bit of food and snacks, a headlamp, flashlight, and space blanket. Thats it. I carry more than that in my EDC back to work and back. I donut know what we were thinking, I guess we weren’t. I even had a first aid kit in my gear, which I didn’t think to grab and put in the pack.
So we set off up the mountain, whats the worst that can happen? Oh, thats right, die, like several others have on this mountain.
A few miles up the spine of the mountain you start to get a glimpse of the area above tree line. Which is spectacular.
Just below tree line is a “hut”, which is one of several built along the Appalachian Trail. It provides a place to rest, refill on water, food, and even offers some sleeping bunks. Still not knowing how far we wanted to go, or could physically make it, we decided the hut was our first goal. Several times during the planning of this trip we mentioned we should get back to hiking to get in shape, but life got in the way and neither of us had done any real hiking in over a year. Despite our lack of athletic ability, we made it to the hut, refilled our water bottles and got a bite to eat.
We sat looking out the window of the hut at the summit above us, it was calling our names. Probably to tell us to turn our out of shape asses back down the mountain, but we must not have heard that part.
Alan turns to me, and with a grumble, says we are idiots, and that he will push himself to make it to tree line. I knew at this point, just like me, if we made it to tree line, both of us would have to make the summit. And that is exactly what happened, we ended up pushing ourselves to reach the summit, and man, what a view, photos just don’t do it justice at all. Never have I hiked in a place where you can get such a sense of where you came from and how far you have left to go. On the right you can just make out the hut, the small white speck. Running along to its left is the spine of the mountain that we climbed from the parking lot to get to the hut.
Now that we had made it to the summit we had another decision to make. Turn back now, and go back the way we came, or continue out the entire ridge line, enjoying what we came here for, the breathtaking above tree line views, completing the entire 9 mile loop. By this point we are pretty exhausted, muscles aching, and worrying about actually having enough daylight to make it down off the mountain. So… we continue out the ridge line to complete the entire 9 mile loop. Why not, right? Oh yea, the whole dieing thing. But who could turn back now, with this scenery left to hike?
We continued out the ridge line taking in the view as much as we could in our rush to make it down off the mountain before dark. Only stopping for a bite to eat and small water breaks. Neither of us know how we kept up this kind of pace, especially without hurting ourselves. Guess a bit of adrenaline and amazing scenery is a great motivator.
We talked to a few hikers we passed along the way coming from the other direction. Several warned us about the rough terrain coming down and that we should be extremely careful if we end up having to do it in the dark. Not exactly encouraging words, but we had no choice now, we had to push on. Once we made it alittle past half way down the mountain we quickly realized what they were talking about. The sun had gone down by this point and it was almost dark enough that would have to start using our lights. The terrain was quite rocky, with several small stream crossings. Which wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but already being exhausted, with night falling, and most the rocks slippery and wet, we are amazed we never at least sprained an ankle.
Day 5 — Mount Washington
The next morning we crawled out of the tent, literally. Stiff, sore and exhausted from the death march hike the day before. But, the trip must go on, and todays destination, Mount Washington.
Alan was starting to be glad he had the rental car instead of his bike since it made the traveling so much easier now that we were so tired and sore from the previous hiking. I was tempted to just ride in the car with him again today, but riding my bike up the Mount Washington Auto Road was something I wanted to do. There is just something about experiencing a road and a place on your bike vs. a car. Just a different experience.
The road up to the top of the mountain is quite scenic. There are practically no guardrails, with huge steep drop offs along the way. Most of it is paved, but there is also about a mile of dirt road. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The newly built observatory has a few exhibits showing some of the research and weather the mountain experiences. There are also some gift shops and a food court.
You also have the option of riding the Cog Railroad up the top. Sure hope the have some killer emergency brakes!
After checking out the buildings and exhibits on the mountain, the original plan was to hike down a 1.5 mile trail to Lake of the Clouds. Alan said he was simply too sore to make the hike, but said that I should do it if I thought I could.
I stood staring down the mountain ridge line to the lake, thinking there is no way I should be doing that hike in my condition. So I grabbed one of the radios we had been using on the trip, and told Alan I would see him in a few hours.
I might have been in pain, and I might have taken a few years off my life, but it was worth it. The area down by the lake was absolutely breathtaking.
Day 6 — White Face Mountain
Todays destination was White Face Mountain. Similar to Mount Washington as far as having a road you can drive to the summit, but at just 4,867 ft. When we arrived at the gate at the bottom of the road we were told it was raining at the summit. Bit of a surprise since it was a nice 70F and sunny. It was a neat experience riding up the mountain road and seeing the weather change so quickly. It dropped over 20 degrees and yep, was raining pretty good at the top. You could even see that the mountain top was in a cloud on your way up the road.
Once you reach the parking lot at the top there are two ways to get to the summit. A walkway that runs along the ridge with a railing on each side, or an elevator. Yes, I said an elevator. The walkway was closed due to rain, apparently they didn’t want you slipping and falling off. Which we thought was really stupid, seeing how they let you go up the elevator and run around on the summit, where you could fall to your death.
To get to the elevator you first had to walk through a tunnel bored into the mountain that was 427 feet long. Then the elevator took you up 271 feet to the summit. Pretty impressive, considering the tunnel and elevator shaft were first dug in 1937.
Once at the top we were pretty disappointed in the view, which was about 50 feet. Pretty much all you could see was white. It was pretty obvious you were in a cloud and it blew up and over the summit. Quite a few people came and went while we waited it out, hoping the clouds would part long enough to catch a glimpse of the view.
We were glad we waited, the skies finally opened up just enough to get a decent view, including looking out over Lake Placid. Was a surreal feeling seeing the clouds roll in and out, blocking and revealing the view.
Day 7 — High Falls Gorge
Wednesday 7-8-15We noticed this park on our way to camp the night before and decided to stop and see it on our way out the next morning. It certainly wasn’t the best looking waterfalls we would see on this trip, but it wasn’t bad. The walkways made it interesting letting you get down in the gorge.
Day 8 — Taughannock Falls – Watkins Glen – Robert H. Therman – Lucifer Falls
Thursday 7-9-15The campground we stayed in for the last 2 nights in the Finger Lakes area was actually a park we planned on visiting just for its waterfalls. There were also several other waterfalls in the area, so it worked out quite well. We spent the entire day looking at waterfalls. It was overcast and rainy most of the day, but that didn’t stop us. It probably made the waterfalls even nicer with all the rain fall.
The first was Taughannock Falls. Not as pretty as the others, but it was the tallest at 215 feet.
Next was Watkins Glen State Park. This is a must see if you are in the area, you could have filmed part of Lord of the Rings here and at Robert H. Therman State Park. A ton or stone work has been put into these places. Making walkways and arched bridges across the gorge. It adds so much to the feel of the place and makes it very easy to traverse the terrain and see areas you would have no way of walking through otherwise.
We didn’t know it at the time, but our camp was at the lower parking area of the trail. We started at the upper parking area of the trail. Hiking about 1.2 miles till we saw a sign saying it was another 1.2 miles to the lower end.
We were still sore from the previous days death marches, so we decided to hike back to the car and drive down to the lower parking area. Once we were at the lower area it was raining pretty good. But we wanted to make sure that we had seen everything there was to see. So, once again, we start hiking, this time in the rain and mud.
The lower end of the trail is not very nice at all, with lots of mud and very little walkways. We finally make it to the point we turned around before, and ended up seeing nothing that made the hike worth it. Got back to the car soaking wet. I was amazed my camera was was still working from all the rain we were exposed to. Which motivated me to order a waterproof camera when I got home.
The park also has made part of the stream a swimming area, complete with on duty lifeguards.
Day 9 — Getting back Home
Friday 7-10-15 The last day was just putting in the miles to get back home from the Finger Lakes area.
It was really a shame that Alans bike broke down on day two, I feel bad for him with all the money he had to fork out to continue this trip. I hope it was as worth it to him as it was me. It was a great experience and some of the very best scenic areas I have ever seen in my life. The photos do none of it any justice, especially in the mountains. The trip total exhausted both of us and left us sore for days, but there is already talk of making it back that way soon.
The next weekend after getting back from the trip Alan and I left after work driving through the night back to Ticonderoga NY to pick up his bike and drop it off at the dealership in PA so have it looked at. Our guess is its something to do with the rear final drive shaft, or the clutch assembly. We hope it not tooo expensive to repair.
I am sure I have left alot out, this trip report would be hundreds of pages if I included everything.
Make sure to check out the full Photo Gallery of the trip to see more of the adventure.