Cloudy with a Chance of Bears

** Written by Sofia (8) and Brandon (11) **

Sofia – “Yesterday I went hiking and camping at Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks.  They are located in Upstate New York and it was 90 miles to drive there.  First we drove to the top of Bear Mountain and we hiked down a little to look at the valley and trees.”


Top of Bear Mountain

Top of Bear Mountain


Sofia – “At the Perkins Tower, we climbed up 4 stories to the top.  I saw an amazing view.  It had all these mountains and trees.

Brandon – “On every floor of the tower there was pictures of different times in the history of Bear Mountain and what it looked like.  People used to take steam ships to get to the bottom of Bear Mountain”.

Perkins Tower

Perkins Tower


Sofia – “After we came out of the tower we hiked on the Appalachian Trail and we

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Choose your own Adventure

So the ducklings’ Autumn migration has begun, your workload is getting out of control and the kids are back to school and their routine.  Lots of time management and re-organizing in progress, I bet.  Well, a bright spot on the horizon; the weather outlook is pretty mild for this weekend.  Not too hot, no cold front and lots of things to do to enjoy every minute of your time off!

Exploring the South side of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve – regularly access is only for fishing; learning how to live as a naturalist @ Bayard Cutting Arboretum on Sunday or dancing a jig at the Irish Festival hosted @ Hofstra University are just the beginning of the fun planned for our Long Island community.  It starts as soon as your last conference call ends and the kids get off the bus this afternoon!  Make lots of new memories this weekend!!

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Up around the bend in Watkins Glen (AKA who needs a cell phone anyway)

I had a few days of planned vacation end of last week and last minute was looking at Hither Hills for some camping by the beach. Of course I should have known that camping+Montauk+Beach+last minute was going to be unrealistic and they were booked. We took a risk and I drove up to Watkins Glen Thursday morning to do some fishing, camping, hiking and whatever trouble we could get in with Sofia and Brandon. A sort-of continuation of our trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks this summer; just with less Bears and Snakes (or so we thought!)

We packed up the car rather quickly as we knew there was a Walmart in the town we were headed to pick up a bigger tent, some food to BBQ and a 1-day fishing license – next Summer I’ll get the season license.

On the way up Sofia said she wants to be a butler. Brandon jumped on that and said she could be his butler. That little wise guy, I told Sofia she will never have to serve him and I thought she wanted to be a baby Dr. or a teacher. She said that’s true but being a butler would be ‘the last straw’ 🙂

We hit some traffic with an accident on the Throgs Neck Bridge and later with a disabled truck. As we reached the Delaware Water Gap area in New Jersey we pulled over at an entrance to part of the Appalachian Trail – which is 2186 miles from George to Maine (on the bucket list to complete with Brandon when he graduates high school).


We reached the village of Watkins Glen early afternoon and headed up to the WG State Park to check on walk-up availability for a campsite. I knew there were many State Parks with camping in the area so we had a backup plan. But we really wanted to be near the gorge and its 19 waterfalls.

At the park office Sofia questioned the rule of 1 free CLIF bar and the nice office manager said we could have 2 each. It’s the little things that matter to my eldest daughter!

We picked lot # 264 from a handful that were available. It was in the Tuscarora Village campground area which I had read along with Seneca Village was a great location. There would be a 2am train running pretty close to our site but we knew about it and made the choice.

From Sofia, 7: “We picked #264. We liked that it had more room. We were going to pick 267 but we like 264 better because there was no people camping either side”

All Sofia was talking about was the Olympic size swimming pool at the park and all the playgrounds, while I talked about how we could do those things anytime at home and we should get out on the lake to fish and do some hiking. Of course I gave in and we did everything. I can’t refuse that face 🙂

We got some hot dogs, some snacks and some candy at Walmart, as well as a 4 person tent (our other one is for 2) and it was easy to setup. We grilled dinner on our little Weber charcoal grill (shout out to ‘T’) and then made some Smores before queueing up “Grumpy Old Men” on the iPad in the tent. The kids loved the movie – especially when Jack Lemmon threw the fish in Walter Matthau’s car – and then we went to bed; or at least until the 2am train came by, but only I heard it.


From Brandon, 10: “The hot dogs tasted sooo good! Daddy dropped two of the cooked dogs on the way to the picnic table because it was completely dark outside. That was funny :-)”

We got up somewhat early on Friday and as a team decided to head to the gorge first, then fish.

The centerpiece of Watkins Glen State Park is a 400-foot-deep narrow gorge cut through rock by a stream – Glen Creek – that was left hanging when glaciers of the Ice age deepened the Seneca valley, increasing the tributary stream gradient to create rapids andwaterfalls wherever there were layers of hard rock. The rocks of the area aresedimentary of Devonian age that are part of a dissected plateau that was uplifted with little faulting or distortion. They consist mostly of soft shales, with some layers of harder sandstone and limestone. Oh, and thanks Wikipedia 🙂 Back to our quest!


The park features three trails – open mid-May to early November – by which one can climb or descend the gorge. The Southern Rim and Indian Trails run along the wooded rim of the gorge, while the Gorge Trail is closest to the stream and runs over, under and along the park’s 19 waterfalls by way of stone bridges and more than 800 stone steps.

Along the way the kids got to check out a natural heart-shaped pool at the base of Minnehaha Falls – only visible when the water line is low – and also walk behind and put their hand in the Falls just before reaching Cavern Cascade; a set of stairs leads up to and behind the 50-foot plume of falling water.

have a heart!

have a heart!

From Brandon: “I liked walking the gorge trail and seeing all the pretty waterfalls. It was cool walking through the waterfall and I put my hand in it. All of a sudden we saw a snake on the path – it was tan, grey and green”.


Along the path we saw several worms and Sofia asked if we can add them to the Nightcrawlers we were going to fish with 😉

The kids also noticed a snake just before the gorge trail met up with the Indian Trail. I was trying to zoom in with my iPhone until that snake’s tongue kept hissing and reaching closer to my leg and thought better of it! We stuck to the gorge trail for most of our hike, then hit the Indian Trail to cross a bridge to the other side of the stream and trek back to the start.

under the falls

Next up on our adventure was a few minute drive to the harbor at Seneca Lake; the largest of the Finger Lakes. We went to the end of a pier and climbed across these large rocks to a nice spot. We had some nibbles from perch and smallmouth bass. Brandon has fished with me before but this was Sofia’s first time casting and she did quite well. She was eager and just started casting her line with little more than me telling her where to put her hands and where to release the line. As I leaned over to help her at one point I heard sounds of something sliding down those large rocks and thought it was the other fishing rod or my Nikon; it was my iPhone and it was down in shallow water with no way to free it and bring it back up. We gave it a healthy try for 20 minutes. This really stunk as I try to take good care of the phone and had secured it pretty well (so I thought) but I wasn’t going to let it ruin our trip.

fishing pier

From Sofia: “I got to fish but we didn’t catch any but they were biting on the worms but they didn’t take the worms off all the way. So we climbed across these big rocks but there were spaces between them so we went slow. But I didn’t really go that slow, I wasn’t scared! Well, just a little scared. Well, Daddy’s phone was in his pocket and then it wasn’t. Oops”

I knew we were close by a raceway that Nascar uses for Nationwide and Spring Cup events annually. Actually just 2 weeks earlier Kyle Busch, who I love to hate, won the Sunday race at Watkins Glen. Don’t laugh – while NASCAR isn’t huge on Long Island, it wasn’t hard to learn about and become a somewhat fan of while living down in North Carolina – the birthplace and ‘home’ of NASCAR – for 6 years.

race cars

We got to the track in about 10 minutes and the attendance said that there were 50-100 Ferraris racing all afternoon. We got a spot at the top of the stands so we could see over the fence and watched the Ferrari’s race, as well as Porches, BMWs, lots of ‘Vettes and even a Smart Car. The kids had a blast and they even were able to climb in and mess around with the gears and knobs in an old race car!


From Brandon: “We got to sit in a Nascar show car and watch about 50 different Ferraris and also streetcars and a F1 race car. It would be about 5 minutes before each race car would come around the track again because the track was so big!”

race car

By the way, it wasn’t by design but with the hiking, fishing and race car watching this day it cost a total of 0 dollars (except the fish bait). We had the Empire Pass so didn’t have to pay to park at the gorge lot. After our trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks we knew this would have to be an inexpensive camping trip but I have to encourage anyone who wants to explore nature, camp and the rest of these outdoor activities to give Watkins Glen a try!

We had some time before dinner so next the kids played on a really large and complex set of playground sets in the center of our camp village. They had a lot of fun until Sofia banged her head, but it’s a hard head and her face lit up when I said ‘Let’s go swimming’.

The pool is really big and there were 3 lifeguards on duty. Brandon and Sofia had fun jumping in the water and a little while later I joined them.

Ok, dinner time! We grilled some burgers, followed that with more Smores 🙂 …and then watched Goonies – a family favorite – in our tent which eating a veggie platter (c’mon, to even out all the chocolate, marshmallows and candy). Brandon can’t believe that little kid ended up being ‘Sam’ in Lord of the Rings.


We slept better this 2nd night and Saturday morning we could tell there wasn’t great weather on the horizon. We headed home; which took a little longer since we had no phone (no gps), just a small compass we had purchased for Yellowstone so that helped until we reached Rte 80 East. Along the way we stopped at Cracker Barrell for an early lunch and then tried to find music on the radio (again, no phone) but had nothing until we reached Jersey and picked up 102.3, 104.3 and the Yankee game.

From Sofia: “I was glad that we went away on our camping trip. My favorite parts were the pool and the playground. Well, and fishing!”

All in all, a great spur-of-the-moment camping trip with kids I love to spend time with away from the ‘day to day’. We hope you like this post! Leave comments for us!!!


Fees for Watkins Glen State Park camping vary, check here:


3530 State Route 419 Watkins Glen, NY 14891
(607) 535-4511
For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Watkins Glen, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr. If you would like to use or purchase any of the photos on this site or on Flickr please click ‘Contact Us’ at the top of our site:

And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at Watkins Glen; my kids are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW on the website to get notified when we post new quests, or click on the links for Twitter, Facebook and more. Thanks!


Camping at Blydenburgh County Park

Hi, this is Brandon.  I’m 10 years old and this is the first post on 1Quest2theNext that I’m in the Primary Editor of.  I’ve been asking my dad to take me camping and fishing for awhile.  When we lived in North Carolina we used to go to Holly Point to go camping and would get a lot right on Falls Lake.  I caught a catfish there when I was younger (see below):

Caught my 1st fish at Falls Lake in NC years ago

Caught my 1st fish at Falls Lake in NC years ago

We decided to try camping at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown; only a few minutes from our house which is funny!  Blydenburgh is 627 acres total, of which 100 acres are Blydenburgh Lake; also known as New Mill, Weld’s or Stump Pond.  It is known for having really big dog runs for small and large dogs.  You wouldn’t even go more than a short while without seeing a dog.  Fed by the headwaters of the Nissequogue River, it is one of the least developed and most picturesque ponds on Long Island (I got this last sentence from the internet).

Right next to the greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge

Right next to the greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge


We filled a cooler with ice, milk, hot dogs, drinks and more.  We took our tent, a small charcoal grill, flip flops, hiking boots and regular sneakers, a bunch of clothes, some small battery operated fans, camping knives and tools, a hammer for our tent and lots of water.  We had lots of gear from our trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks this summer.  We picked a campsite without too many trees, but there was enough shade and the ground had level spots for our tent.  It had running water and 2 picnic tables.  We setup our tent, put on bug spray, hats, our hiking boots, filled our hydration backpacks and took off for a hike around the lake.


We hiked the blue trail; there was blue paint blazed on trees along the way.  To continue on that trail there were trees with an extra blue mark pointing in the direction of our trail.  They do this so you don’t get lost.  We saw lots of dogs on the trail; greyhounds, labrador retrievers, rottweilers, terriers and many other kinds.  There were also horses that use the trails so you have to watch where you step 🙂

There was a big mudpile and a thin log running across it but it was loose.  Both me and daddy slipped off the log a few times and got lots of mud on our boots.  It didn’t matter because we have good boots and our feet never got dirty or wet during our camping weekend.  We went off the blue trail for a little while without realizing it and came to the Greenbelt (white) trail and hiked that for awhile.


When we were at 3.3 miles completed on our hike, we reached an old mill, an old light-pink colored house.


Then we went up steps towards the Greenbelt Visitor Center, which includes the Weld House, a blacksmith shop and an old kitchen house.  We also met the caretaker of the house and he told us all about the tours that he gives on Saturdays and also around Thanksgiving where the blacksmith lets kids wear goggles and hammer the iron that is burning hot, you can cook things like Apple Turnovers and then eat them and you can take a tour of the visitor center.  It sounded cool and I want to go.  The caretaker was really nice and talked to us about hikes along the Long Island Greenbelt Trail.

Recharging at the Greenbelt visitor center

Recharging at the Greenbelt visitor center

We came back down near the mill and we met a fisherman named Igor who lives in Brooklyn but comes from Russia.  Daddy was talking to him about where he lived in Russia (in Minsk, the capital of the ‘state’ of Belarus) and daddy said his great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from Belarus (city of Babruysk) in Russia too.  Igor liked to take pictures too and told us cool things to take pictures of.  He showed us on the side of the mill house there is an old window with an American flag inside it that was cool.

American flag at the Mill

American flag at the Mill

Igor said he and his wife caught 4 bass fish already and he was wearing a fishing suit so he could go in the lake.  He told us he is going to Montana soon on a road trip and we told him that we just got back from Glacier National Park in Montana.  We told Igor about our website and he promised to keep in touch (the next day Igor wrote to us through the 1Quest2theNext site)!  We finished the hike finally and it was 6.5 miles long!

Our Blue and White (Greenbelt) Trail loop around Blydenburgh Lake

Our Blue and White (Greenbelt) Trail loop around Blydenburgh Lake

My longest hike before this was about 3 miles in Glacier National Park.  Blydenburgh Lake is only about 5+ miles around – daddy ran it last year – but our hike was extra because we did some of the Greenbelt Trail besides the Blue Trail.


We went camping Saturday, Sunday and Monday and hiked a total of about 12 miles!

We made Ballpark hot dogs for dinner on our little charcoal grill.  They were so delicious.  I had 2 and daddy had 3.  We were going to make Smores but all the chocolate melted really bad so we roasted marshmallows instead and that was fun.  We had sleeping pads and sleeping bags and we had brought a little DVD player.  We watched Percy Jackson but the battery didn’t last so we read a bit.  I read “The Magician’s Nephew” by C.W. Lewis and daddy read “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy.  Then we went to bed.


On Sunday we were going to have cereal but when we went for a ride to the fishing shop we stopped and had breakfast at the Candlelight Diner in Commack.  We go there a lot and I got chocolate chip pancakes.  Then we went to a fishing shop in Kings Park and had our lines re-spooled and got some new hooks and nightcrawler worms.  The worms are from Canada.  We went to Blydenburgh Lake and rented a rowboat and took it out for a few hours.

docks 3


On our boat trip we saw swans, ducks and a bunch of really cool birds that we have to find out what they are called.


There was a lot of seaweed or other kinds of weeds in the lake so it was hard to row for a little while until it cleared up.

What kind of bird am I? Send us a comment

What kind of bird am I? Send us a comment

Then we started fishing but we didn’t catch anything.  We went back to the campgrounds and played some basketball on the court and some nerf football.  Then we bought hamburgers and chocolate from the supermarket and then went back to the lake to fish from the shore.  We did better with the nightcrawlers from Terminal Tackle than the worms from Walmart and we caught a Pumpkinseed Sunfish.  It was so awesome!  We were yelling across the lake to another fisherman and talking about our catches.


We ate burgers and had so many Smores at night and then had a football catch in the dark.  Then we went to bed and got a lot more sleep than Saturday night.

On Monday we got up and went fishing at another sandy spot on the side of the lake less than a mile from where we rented our boat the day before.  We practices casting our lines because we wanted to get better.


We talked to another fisherman and then a lady came with her retriever and we watched him swimming and playing fetch.  The dogs name was ‘Mayes’ or something like it in Spanish.  Then two people on horses with a small dog came into the lake and walked around on their horses.  They were really nice and the dog was so hyper.



After fishing we went by the dog runs to check out the dogs.  At different times during our camping trip we saw at most 15 dogs in the large dog run and they were all playing nicely with each other.  It is almost more a dog park than a people park!  Then we packed up our stuff at the campsite and went home.

I thought it was a really fun camping trip at Blydenburgh Park and I like the lake and when we went fishing.  The other campers and fishermen were really nice – even though the people camping next to us played Christmas music Sunday night!  If you read this you should go there if you like the outdoors.  Thank you for reading my blog post!

– Brandon, 10, of Smithtown, NY


Please make sure your dog is trained to interact with dogs of all sizes and with human beings also!  Please clean up after your dog…

Fishing for pumpkinseed sunfish, large-mouth bass, perch and bluegill is permitted at Stump Pond between sunrise and sunset

Admission and Hours: Sign up for the Green Key Card.  It’s only $24 and your spouse can use it too.  Camping is $15/night.  Boating is a $10 deposit and are available daily from mid-May through Labor Day, 8am-3:30pm.  Check with the park for specific rental fees.

Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Smithtown
Park Office: (631) 854-3713
Camping: (631) 854-3712
Greenbelt Trails Conference Office: (631) 360-0753
Camping Reservations: (631) 244-7275

For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Blydenburgh County Park, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr.  If you would like to use or purchase any of the photos on this site or on Flickr please click ‘Contact Us’ at the top of our site:


And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at Blydenburgh Park; my dad and I are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW OUR BLOG on the website to get notified when we post new quests. Thanks!