Route Planning / by Dave Hileman

There are different types of route planning depending on the type of trip. Going to the beach for a week, not much planning on how to get there. Going to Disney for a week, lots of planning for fast passes, food and where are the closest ATMs. We are not doing that kind of trip. Once we pick a furthest destination than we start planning. 

This fall Saint Croix Island NHP on the Canadian and Maine borders is the apogee of the trip. We also determined that we wanted to complete the NPS units in the New England states excepting NYC. Admittedly this is not everyones idea of a vacation. Traveling to one or more sites each day, rarely staying too long at any camp site and lots of driving. I like the driving so that is not an issue and once we chose to visit and photograph all 417 NPS units, the outline of multiple trips was set. 

So, how do we go about planning a route? The first stop is not usually too close to home because closer ones are easier to get to so, on this trip, stop one is Scranton, PA - home to a mythical paper company and our first new National Historic Park, Steamtown. We choose this because it is an easy alternate route to NE only slightly off our normal travel. Also, the bonus is that there is a NP scenic river not too far away in NY that we will stop at shortly after leaving Steamtown. The next stop is defined by the campground being central for three sites, one new and two we visited long ago but before photos. The super bonus is a meal at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. So, trips are structured by NPS units, available camping and FOOD. Often by food. Usually by food and or ice cream or bakeries.

We are then going to Weir Farm in Connecticut. Here is another issue not just for NP sites but lots of places. Weir Farm is only open Wednesday to Sunday so we had to adjust our schedule to arrive when they open on Wednesday and that was not the first iteration of this trip. This unit has very limited parking so when you are towing that becomes a part of planning. On Apple Maps I bring up the satellite images and look for close alternatives for parking if the lot is full when we arrive. 

Next stop is late afternoon in Providence RI and that brings up another factor, traffic. We need to leave the farm early enough to not be a part of rush hour on 95 headed out of NYC. 

Not going to go over the whole itinerary but that is a sample. So, how is the planning done? We use paper maps from AAA, online maps, and past experiences to chart the broader course. But this is general process at this point, a specific plan follows and that will be another post. The best part of planning is that it allows us flexibility without missing what we really want. Lots of things unexpected arise: traffic, road construction, places to see we did not know about or ice cream shops the must be tried. A plan allows you to stop and adjust often and we do.

Planning Lists On left list of NPS units, right, distance between major stops so I know how to plan a day and where to camp.

Planning Lists On left list of NPS units, right, distance between major stops so I know how to plan a day and where to camp.