Hudson Valley NY to Salem MA

I last checked in from Croton-On-Hudson NY, in the Hudson Valley north of New York City. I’m checking in this morning from Salem Massachusetts alongside a beautiful bay.

After my two nights at the Croton Point campground and the day trip by train visit to New York City to see Caroline, I continued up the Hudson Valley with stops in Newburgh NY, and a longer stop and New Paltz NY for lunch.

The Hudson Valley area of New York state is picturesque and beautiful. This is home to the Catskill Mountains, with many resorts and campgrounds. The Hudson river itself is a mammoth river, which stretches far north of New York City and is very wide in places.

I loved new Paltz NY. It has a fun, hip vibe, many cool places along its main business district, and tons of outdoor activities at its doorstep. It looks like a tourist/vacation destination, but there’s also a CUNY (City of New York University) campus there, so it has a “lived in” feel to it as well as a younger demographic.

If I were to ever retire and live somewhere outside of Texas, I would want it to be another college town area. I think us Boomers and GenXers need the fresh energy and insights of younger people so that we remain well-rounded as we age. Many of us get that from our young-adult kids, but I think Communities/Cities need that range of demographics to thrive.

As I travel the country, I see many smaller towns that seem “dead“, really struggling, and I think it’s because, at least partly, all the young people leave. There is nothing there for them. What’s left are old people in dying communities with population loss. I’m sure I will see even more of those if I ever travel through the rust belt. This is happening in Europe as well.

My Hudson River ramble north eventually led me to Mills-Norrie State Park near Hyde Park NY. I rolled in, backed into my spot, plugged in my electrical cord, and went for a hike along the Hudson.

When I had arrived, an older couple across from me were struggling to fit their big travel trailer into their tight spot. An hour later when I returned, they were still trying to back it in. I watched for yet another hour until they finally were able to get it in, hook up all their stuff, set their jacks, unhook the pickup, then set out quite a bit of outdoor items around the picnic table. I thought to myself “man, I’m glad I don’t have one of those big things and don’t need all that crap“.

The form factor, and nimble agility of a camper van is unmatched as a travel and exploration platform. Set up is nearly instantaneous, as is departure and roll out. Its exterior is almost as small as a car, and the interior almost as big as a regular RV. It hits the sweet spot as a “Class B” camper.

The downside is not having a separate vehicle to drive once I’m at a destination. Those with travel trailers can use them as base camp, then go exploring in their tow vehicle. So there are some trade-offs. For my “on the move“ style of travel on this trip, the van is perfect. If I wanted to stay put for multiple days or weeks at a time, I think a small travel trailer towed with my Jeep would be better.

I had planned to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum while in Hyde Park NY, but it is still closed due to Covid. I thought that would have been an interesting visit and was disappointed that it hasn’t yet reopened.

I next headed to Cape Cod and Sweetwater Forest Family Campground. This is one of those old 1950s rustic resort campgrounds like the ones I remember as a kid. Mini golf, playgrounds, a lake for canoeing, swimming beach, lots of hiking trails, arcade and camp store. Very unfinished and unrefined looking forested grounds, but perfect ambience in that way.

The next morning I explored Cape Cod beaches, and went into Provincetown at the tippy top end of the Cape. Provincetown is a vibrant and crowded seaside village, very touristy but with a fun vibe. It was so crowded I could not find a parking spot, so I did not get to stop and explore on foot, but it looks like a fun place to spend a day.

I next used my national parks pass to get into another area of the national seashore, and hiked along the beach, then ate clams at another small Seaside Village before continuing on toward Plymouth.

Downtown waterfront harbor in Plymouth has the Mayflower II, and Plymouth Rock, as well as other attractions related to its early colony. I don’t know why, but in my head, I imagined Plymouth Rock to be a large imposing rock of prominence. Perhaps jutting from a cliff with crashing waves below. I swear I’d seen pictures of that scene in story books from grade school. Instead, it is a smallish rock, cracked in 2 and patched with cement, housed in mausoleum-like outdoor structure where it is viewed from above. It has “1620” carved into it.

Apparently, it used to be a lot larger, but that may simply be a legend, as there was no written evidence that the Pilgrims set foot on it or even landed in Plymouth. They more likely landed in Cape Cod. But, as humans, we like stories and legends and, over time, those fables seem to persist even if based on facts known to be thin at best.

The nearby Mayflower II Is a replica of the original, and was actually sailed across the ocean by 35 men to its current location in the 1990s. It was closed so I did not get to go inside.

Next I headed toward Wampatuck State park and Campground, south of Boston. It was closed, and the sign said “no walk ups“, so I parked at a trail head parking lot that I had passed on the way into the park.

Shortly after dark, a pick up truck came speeding in to the empty parking lot, bright lights on, heading straight toward me like a swat assault vehicle. I was already in bed, blacked out with all the curtains drawn. I peeked out to see a female Ranger exit the vehicle, bang loudly on my driver door, then walk around the van shining her flashlight into the windows trying to see inside. Vanlifers refers to this as “the Knock“, and this was my first.

I exited and asked her what’s up, and she said I had to leave. I had examined the parking lot signage, read all of the info on the bulletin board at the trailhead before parking, and there was nothing stating park curfew or any parking restrictions. So I had thought I had been OK to stay there.

I always obey signage if it says no overnight parking. She told me there was a dawn to dusk curfew, and no overnight vehicles allowed, so I left without protest. I was cordial, polite and compliant. She was curt in her manner, unfriendly in every way, which left me wondering if she might be better suited to a career as a prison guard. She treated me like some sort of criminal, starting with the overly dramatic “rolling in hot”, banging on my door, and shining her flashlight in my face the while we talked.

Nevertheless, this was my fault, as I was someplace I should not have been, notwithstanding the absence of any signage communicating that fact, I know “the knock” is a possibility anytime I’m not staying in a designated campground or free public land.

After being rousted from that spot, I headed to a Walmart and camped the night there.

I could have gone straight back to the State Park next morning, but decided to head towards Salem MA instead, where I found an awesome harborside campground at Winter Park Island.

This is a funky city-owned campground on an old national guard and ship building site, with a storied history. It’s a combination public park, boat marina, picnic and day use area, with RV and tent spots scattered randomly about the property in a charmingly incoherent fashion. I’m currently in the “RV field“ with massive big rigs alongside me, but there are also other RV spots scattered about the concrete parking area right on the waterfront marina.

I walked into Salem on the first day, and explored around. One of the largest and oldest museums in the country, the Peabody, is in Salem. There is also a lot of “Witch“ themed shops, museums and attractions. A lot of local businesses incorporate “wicked” into their names or tag lines. They’re really working the witch angle.

The downtown walkable tourist area is very similar to that which I saw in Burlington Vermont, and which can be found all around the country. Like Pearl Street in Boulder CO, or the Domain area in Austin, these are concentrated walkable retail/entertainment districts where you can do and see a lot in one small area. It’s only about 1.5 miles from the campground, which I liked, so the total hike into and around the area and back was about 4 miles.

I do enjoy “urban hiking“ as much as I do the natural forested and beach areas. There is an energy and vibe that is a fun counter-experience to pure nature, NYC being the grandest example of that contrast.

I like this place so much I will be back for two more nights in a week. As my second day here was a complete rain out and I want to plan a trip into the museum and maybe have one of the Witches tell my fortune.

Next I’m heading back up and into coastal Maine again. Enjoying the cooler weather as I see on the weather map that my current location is one of the few in the country enjoying cooler temps. It’s in the 60s here as I type and will remain in the low 70s today and throughout the week, with some scattered rain.

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