Cool n '22: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire & the Thousand Islands of NY.


The hot and muggy dog days of August in Northern Virginia had me dreaming of cooler areas up North. Time had come to do some vehicle based roaming & exploring and enjoy vast forested areas, logging roads, cool clear rivers and of course Lobster Rolls!

The basic plan would be a loop routing up to Maine, then mosey west staying near the Canadian border to the Thousand Islands area of NY, then homeward via I-81 over a period of 24 days:
  • Depart NOVA and do a transit overnight in the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area.
  • Two nights on Cape Cod.
  • Four nights in the southern coastal area near Freeport Maine.
  • Two nights middle coastal area near Desert Island/Acadia NP Maine.
  • Two nights interior of Maine near Millinocket Maine.
  • A week or so roaming the backcountry areas of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
  • A few days enjoying the Adirondack mountains and the Thousand Islands area of New York.
My son Ryan would be joining me for the first 5 nights, then he would fly home and my daughter Laura would fly in and enjoy the next 4 nights. We used the Portland Maine airport for the air logistics. The rest of the trip it would be just me and OZY, my rescue ACD.

The rig is a 2005 Ram 3500 4x4 with a Hillsborough aluminum flatbed, aluminum side boxes and a Four Wheel Camper Hawk. Buckstop front bumper with a 12K winch. Rear swingouts for spare BFG KO2 in 35x12.5 and a storage box. A solar panel fixed on the roof and a portable panel available with an extension cord. The combination of a slide in camper with secure weatherproof outside storage areas has proven to be a wonderful set up. Outside camping gear and tools/spares are stored outside and there is no set up/break down gear shuffle involving the truck cab or FWC living space.

Part 1: Up to Cape Cod.

We departed home and to avoid the crazy drive on I-95 instead used Route 15 into Pennsylvania, then angled east toward the Delaware Water Gap area for our initial overnight. We obtained a free online permit from the PA. DNR for a site within the Delaware State Forest. Site #6 Thunder Swamp may not sound like a good overnight spot but is very nice. A marked entry driveway to a level cleared area about 100' square off of Route 402/Resica Falls Road north of Marshalls Creek, PA. I’ll note that the DNR website and mapping of these campsites is not very good. That said if you work through it there are great sites in many locations and I’ve never had a poor experience at these PA. DNR sites.

In the morning we ran over to the Delaware River and spent some time wading and just goofing off. This area is a treasure for canoeing, fishing and just enjoying a beautiful river.

Back on the highway our destination was Nickerson SP on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We made it and set up on our site in Area 6 which put us in a shady area close to a nice beach area and swimming pond. Later we explored the area around the park and the town of Orleans. Made a plan to rent some bikes and explored the area from Brewster to Eastham over the next two days. A neat discovery for us was the many “ponds” in the area...crystal clear fresh water and warm enough to swim in comfortably. I found a nice park area at Kent's Point that was dog friendly that made OZY's day!

Nickerson State Park made a great base for us and using rented bikes from the very well set up and professional Orleans Cycle made getting around very easy. This was our first visit to Cape Cod and we both enjoyed it. Nickerson SP is "in the middle of the cape" and we found this to be a very enjoyable area. The town of Orleans had a wide range of services, shops, restaurants and public access areas to enjoy. Biking was the best way to get around without doubt in the high-density tourist areas and prime water access spots. There is an excellent bike trail system in the area.

Enjoying the Delaware River:

Local Cape Cod brew:

OZY getting into camping mode:

Cape Cod area sailboat:

Cape Cod “pond” beach area:

Rock Harbor:

Next up: Maine.
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Part 2: Coastal Maine Re-discovered.

Coming from Cape Cod we entered Maine on Rt95 and then sought a slower pace on Rt1 as we continued north. After cruising down memory lane a few miles and passing through Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunk we decided to grab our first official MAINE lobster roll. We hit up the Ocean Roll stand in Kennebunk which had quite a bit of business, room in the parking lot, and a big field for OZY to enjoy. Ahh...been too many years since I savored a fresh and hot lobster roll with a ice cold beer. After lunch we cruised further north and went through Old Orchard Beach...another memory lane drive by as this was a stop on a prior great memorable family trip in our old Wanderlodge motorhome when my kids were in grade school.

Memory lane photo of the Wanderlodge, DR200 and BW Montauk packed with bikes on the way to the Thousand Islands in 2012.

The destination for the next couple of days was Winslow Memorial Park, located just south of Freeport. This is a town facility that has wonderfully big shady sites, some are waterfront, and the entire park is very well maintained. There is also a swimming beach within the park. This was to be our homebase for a bit as Ryan finished up his part of the trip and flew home, and Laura would be arriving and joining the adventure a day later. Beyond the great campground and park is having the town of Freeport very close by. We ran up and found great rig parking in front of the LLBean Outlet where RV's can be parked for free (and stay overnight) and did the typical LLB shopping/looking tour. After that we found a Ben & Jerry's and had some ice cream before heading back to Winslow Park for the night.

We toured Portland on Ryan's fly away day and enjoyed the Waterfront/Old Port area, Fort Allen Park and the East End Beach areas. Grabbed some to go lobster rolls and found a shady parking spot along the Eastern Promenade roadway near Quebec Street and enjoyed the view, the breeze and the fine food.

With the arrival of my daughter Laura it was time to move north. Our destination was Lamoine SP across the Mt. Desert Narrows from Mt. Desert Island/Acadia NP/Bar Harbor. Another very nice campground with wonderful vistas of the coastline from the CG area and also the nearby Lamoine Beach Park. Using Lamoine SP as basecamp we explored Mt. Desert Island and timed or arrival just at 09:30 into Bar Harbor to beat the blasted tourist herd (which includes us). We found parking in the the nice center of town lot with public restrooms nearby. Timing was everything, because by 11:00 the lot was jammed as was the main shopping district of Bar Harbor. I found a discount tee-shirt shop and scored a couple of $5 shirts perfect for camping use...even had chest pockets! A fun walk around morning sampling the various shops and trying out a few light hot pastries from a bakery that you dip into provided blueberry preserves...WOW!

Departing the coastal area we headed away from the coast and aimed for the area around Millinocket. We did one night along a remote logging road where we enjoyed a beautiful evening and gathered a good load of wild blueberries. Our second night was at the Wilderness Edge CG. We got a good site and enjoyed the features of a well equipped rustic private campground. I awoke and had to do blueberry pancakes served with Canadian bacon and maple syrup. Along with some fresh OJ, no better way to start the day camping! Then it was time to head back to Portland and get Laura to the airport.

My next stop was Camden Hills SP where I set up for solo camping. A FWC Hawk is a comfortable camper and very pleasant with two adults and a dog...but now being a solo traveler, I was like staying at the Ritz! I found Camden Hills SP very pleasant, but the real treat was touring around Camden which was very enjoyable. Camden has a very neat town center, a cute harbor, and a nice park downtown for walking and taking it all in. While in this area I also explored Rockland which was also a wonderful town to visit, along with the Owls Head Lighthouse and general touring of the more quiet and less touristy area of coastal Maine. I stumbled upon the Lobster Buoy CG near South Thomaston and booked a quick night there. LBCG is a quaint, quiet, old style family CG that provided a nice quiet place to spend the night. The next day was spent further exploring the coast and checking out the Marshall Point Lighthouse.

The reality of coastal Maine up to and including Mt. Desert Island/Acadia NP is that simple camping or boondocking is rather limited. There are many fine RV resorts, hotels, and miles of access restricted private property and coast...but this is all a well-developed and busy area in the plan accordingly as this is not an “overlanding & boondocking” region. Simple camping is typically best found in state or town parks if you're near the coastal areas. Ioverlander and Campinduim are good website resources to use to find the smaller out of the way locations. Another fact of summer life in coastal Maine is the traffic on Rt1 is very heavy, especially from say Ogunquit through Wells up to Biddeford. Roam early in the morning or well after dinner.

Owls Head light, view from the bluff and the small cove below the parking area:

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Area sights near Lamoine SP

OZY checking out the coast vibe near Rockland:

Lobster Buoy CG:

Camden Harbor:

Part 3: Leaving coastal Maine and exploring westward...coming next.
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Part 3: Leaving coastal Maine and exploring westward.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the time spent along the coastal areas of southern and mid Maine it was time to head west and explore the more rural, forested and mountain areas that lie in the interior of Maine and stretch through northern Vermont and New Hampshire. My focus would be finding remote public access roads and lands that fit more in line with "overlanding" travel.

Having no essential destinations, only a desire to experience a range of remote terrain and scenery, I used a Maine Gazette Map, Maps.Me, Google Maps and iOverlander and generally just moseyed westward. If it looked good on the map or looked interesting “over in that direction” that is where I went. Ideally, I would hit a small town and grab lunch in a local spot and then in the late afternoon I would commit to finding a remote roadway and find a suitable and legal boondocking site and set up camp.

Sites were typically in National or State forests, WMA's, other public lands or on vast logging lands that allowed public access. I embrace “leave no trace”, often pickup old trash and I don’t do ground camp fires.

Exploring In this manner you are going to get turned around at times; you just need to expect it. Roads will end, gates will be closed, and Private Property or No Trespassing signs will appear along with bottomless pits/ruts of mud. I'm running solo now and even with a capable 4x4 rig with good rubber & ground clearance, winch and recovery judgment, some common sense, and sometimes just a little voice in my head on a couple of occasions turned me around. Here is where having a short wheel base and not towing is a real blessing.

Notable areas in Maine included Moosehead Lake, Jo-Mary Lake, Mahoosuc Public Lands and the White Mountain NF. In New Hampshire and Vermont I enjoyed Coleman SP, more of the White Mountain NF and the towns of Berlin, Gorham, and Newport. Crossing into New York I visited the Deer River SF and the Adirondack Park where I had a wonderful waterfront campsite on the Mountain Pond just off NY Rt 30 with good trout fishing just outside my doorway. Near Massena NY I visited the St. Lawrence River and the Eisenhower Lock and did a night at the Robert Moses SP.

I did add some of the remote spots I enjoyed to iOverlander and did some "check in's" at known sites to update status. The ability to explore and camp in remote places is the real treasure of an overlanding rig and I really appreciate the ability to roam off the main path and find some solitude "out there". I thoroughly enjoyed my discovery of all these memorable areas in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate NY. Beauty, wonder, and adventure is often found where you look for it.

Reaching Massena and the Robert Moses SP finished up the "deep northern woods overlanding” part of this journey. The next phase will be basically following the St. Lawrence River into the Thousand Islands and enjoying a couple of the many small, delightful NY State Parks and towns along “THE RIVER”.

Groveton Bridge, NH.:

Wheeler Pond, Brunswick, VT:

So near….

Coleman SP, NH:

Near Brasher Falls, NY:

Tucked in off Maine Rt26 near Grafton Notch:

Bunk view Adirondack Mountain Pond, NY:
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Screw Auger Falls, N. Oxford, ME.:

Humm...what am I missing? The essential kit will include some bug spray:

Stunning wildflowers in this area:

Success Pond Road, near Berlin NH:

2 day stops I deemed "fly worthy":


Fine eating; pan seared salmon with herbs and local sweet corn:

Coming next: The St. Lawrence & the Thousand Islands NY.
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Nice write up and pics
Thanks for taking the time to post….. looks like a fun trip and time with the kids is pretty awesome

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Part 4: Enjoying the Thousand Islands & “The River”.

For many years my family and I have enjoyed spending occasional summer season time in the Thousand Island area of upstate New York. The escape from the heat and humidity of Virginia is a treat, as is the wonderful scenery, the small towns and the fun amusements to be found here. I-81 brings you right into the region. This is also an excellent jump off point for touring Canada. Our favorite area runs from Association Island/Henderson Harbor to Sackets Harbor in the west to Cape Vincent, Clayton and the town of Alexandria Bay to the east.

Coming into the area from the east my first overnight stop was at Kring Point SP. A small waterfront park along the rocky shore of the St. Lawrence River a few miles east of Alexandria Bay. Many campsites here overlook the water, and there are numerous river access points for wading, swimming and fishing in these cool clear waters. KPSP offers the typical standard fair of these smaller NY State parks that are scattered along the river. Decent sized sites, some shaded, some flat, some rocky...a few sites usually have electric service. Bathrooms are decently maintained. Potable water and trash services are on site. These older smaller parks are ideal for small campers, pop-ups and the like. Larger units can fit some sites, but these parks were not designed for the big 5th wheels or 40'+ motorhomes. On arrival the campground was nearly fully occupied. Near the entrance there is a cluster of about 4 sites that are on top of a small rocky elevated area. The ground is rolling and uneven but there are some areas suitable for a small camping vehicle or tent. A perfect site for my rig. Later in the day a couple of folks in a nicely outfitted Jeep JK and another guy in a 4x4 truck camper also slid into this area.

After a restful night at KPSP we (OZY and I) hit the town of Alexandria Bay. We got parked and did the laundry and toured the town on foot. A touristy area of tee-shirt shops, restaurants and such. We enjoyed the walk and checking things out, and of course OZY got a lot of attention which he loves.

For the next two nights we camped at Grass Point SP. A favorite camping location as it is close to shopping, a drive-in theater, a go-cart track, a killer ice cream joint (Gals Place) and from many campsites you can watch the ships maneuver down the St. Lawrence River. A nice day trip diversion is to drive over the I-81 bridge (toll) to Wellesley Island and then down to Thousand Island Park (TIP) a village of very nice old style gingerbread cottages and big homes that surround a center village square. Just a beautiful little vacation spot for families. Worth a visit to lounge in the grass, walk around and grab some ice cream. Note that TIP is a small resort area with limited parking and small roads. I would not recommend visiting with a towed vehicle or vehicle larger than a Sprinter/truck camper.

On our second day we did a day trip west to Clayton, Cape Vincent and the nearby lighthouse. Clayton is my favorite St. Lawrence River town. A vibrant, quaint waterfront town with some great restored buildings and a very walkable/bike rideable area.

And then just like was time to head for home. After our two great nights at Grass Point SP we jumped on I-81 and headed south. A bit of a drone drive home on the interstate, but we had a lot of great memories made during this trip and there are places along our route I wish to explore more in the future.

Thanks for coming along and safe journeys!

Kring Point SP:

Grass Point SP:

Bridge to Wellesley Island:

Tibbetts Point Lighthouse:

Classic boat off of Clayton, NY :

Clayton images:

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Thank you for sharing this incredible trip. We are also in NOVA, plan to do this maybe next summer.


Trying to escape the city
These are some great pictures! I've only been to the area a couple of times and for only a few hours at a time. It is definitely on my list of places to explore more. Thanks for sharing!

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