With the boxes built, organization systems in place, and gear packed, tomorrow is beginning to feel like a much more reasonable departure date than any of MY previously fantasized dates. There was no way I was going to get everything done by August 23rd, let alone August 20th. And now, I get to depart on the anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. If that isn’t serendipitous I’m not sure what is.
But enough talk of fate and preparations, let’s focus on the future. Earlier this year I posted two maps that linked the major national parks together in a coherent route. I always knew that that route would be the framework around which I built my actual route. Now, with my departure in sight, I now have a more deliberate route laid out in front of me. Here it is…
What you may notice right away is that I have already bypassed a national park… WHAT?!? Isle Royale lies just south of Canada in the eye of Lake Superior. It’s secluded and isolated wilderness should have been my first stop, but it isn’t… The reason behind this logistical shift is that Isle Royale presents a specific set of problems for someone who has just started a car camping adventure. Most obviously, it is an island. For me, that would mean that I would have to abandon my car (and the majority of its contents) in a largely unprotected parking lot for the better part of the 2-3 days. After putting in all this work, I think I want to hold off on abandoning the Element until I really have to. Isle Royale is also pretty expensive to get to. Despite attempts at budgeting, I’m still not exactly sure what my expenses will look like on the road, so I would rather get a solid feel for that before I make any serious financial commitments. Finally, it is in Lake Superior. I know that I will be back here soon. And when I do, I can take advantage of the park fully without having to worry about a car loaded with gear for the next 10 months sitting unprotected on the mainland. For those reasons, I decided to skip Isle Royal National Park… for now.
In place of Isle Royale, I will be routing directly through two National Lakeshores. If experiencing protected wilderness is my goal, then Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes should clearly be on my list. They are some of the Midwest’s most well guarded treasures. From there, I will swing by the Detroit: a hub of the automobile industry that has fallen on hard times. Somewhere I should have gone long ago, but never made it to. The road from Detroit leads to the city Cleveland and Cuyahoga National Park. Although this famous river may not be on most people’s radar as a National Park, this protected river valley was set aside as a National Park in 2000, but had been federally protected since 1974. It will serve as my first National Park.
From there, I head north along Lake Erie to Niagra Falls before cutting east towards New York’s Finger Lakes. Once I am in New York, the Adirondack Mountains stretch out before me. Designated as a New York State Forest Preserve in 1892, Adirondack Park still holds the title of the largest publicly protected land in the United States. With over 6 million acres of rivers, lakes, and mountains, this is one of America’s greatest treasures. In fact, it is almost 3 times larger than Yellowstone National Park! It is also the stomping grounds of some of the greatest American nature writers. Many of our ideas about wilderness took root in the Adirondacks. I’d say that is worth at least a few days of exploration before I head off towards Burlington, VT. Seated on Lake Champlain with unfettered access to the Whites, Adirondacks, and Green Mountains, I fell in love with it in high school and have always considered it a place I may live some day. In fact, the White Mountains are my next stop. After a few successful Mount Washington expeditions during college, I am itching to get back on the Presidential Range. And from the top, at least on a clear day, I should be able to lay eyes on the great state of Maine, home of Bates College, the restaurant Sillys, and my next National Park: Acadia.
Obviously this is just a preview. I am visiting friends along the way and will be testing out the Element as a home each and every day. Noteworthy experiences will abound. Stay tuned for updates as I am actually experiencing all of these amazing places.