Maine – My Way

Greetings! I’m glad you found The Maine Diaries! If you want to experience the joys of New England, and specifically the coast of Maine, this is a good guide.

I started The Maine Diaries because I’ve love traveling the Maine coast and want to share my experiences with you.  They are based on my 25 road trips that started in 1994.  My traveling partner – and my partner in life – is my spouse, Joseph Eagle.

On my trips, I leave from West Chester PA (a western suburbs of Philadelphia). The destination is always the same: the area of coastal Maine known as Downeast, on Mt. Desert Island – the largest island off the coast of Maine – and home to Bar Harbor and the breathtaking Acadia National Park.

The road trip Downeast (from Philadelphia), is 10-13 hours, depending on how often you stop. I’ve done it in a one-day drive, and it’s doable. But it’s long with usually at least two traffic bottlenecks (usually in CT and MA). So if you can do an overnight along the way, do it. You’ll enjoy the ride – and the trip – more. However, if you do, don’t just stop at some no-tell-motel. Pick a place to explore and make it fun. Along the coast, there are unlimited places to have an adventure. Many of those places are mentioned, and some detailed, in The Maine Diaries.

The Drive

How I make the trip  is driving straight through PA, NJ, NY, and CT (all places close enough that I can explore another time in a weekend getaway).  Then I meander through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and once in Maine, along the coast through southern Maine, Portland/Casco Bay, and Mid-coast to get to my Downeast destination. You can easily follow the areas on a map.

After years of trying different routes north, Joseph and I found the best – and least stressful – way is the PA Turnpike to Garden State Parkway around NYC and over the TappanZee/Cuomo Bridge, to the Merritt Parkway and I84 in CT, to I90E (Mass Turnpike), 495N (around Boston) to I95N through NH into Maine.

Side Trips and Overnights

Massachusetts

  • Sturbridge/Walden Pond: This is where I typically stop for a meal. Old Sturbridge Village is a “living history museum” and worth seeing one time. Also along the way, as you drive east toward Boston, you could stop at Walden Pond. It’s a townie park now and, on a nice day, crowded with bathers. However, if you’re a fan of Henry David Thoreau there is a small area that would interest you. If not a fan, don’t bother.
  • Boston: You can do an overnight in Boston. but there’s so much history to see and cool things to do in the town, it’s worth a couple overnights, or a trip on its own. On my way to Maine, I like to go just a bit further north until I stop for the overnight.
  • Salem MA: This town is about 5 hours from Bar Harbor. I only stop here if I’m also doing a second overnight in Portland ME. I love a stop here, and have done it a few times. It’s a cute town – lots of witchy stuff to see. I’d pass on most of the touristy “witch trial” stuff. Three fabulous things do for an overnight, presuming you get there in mid-late afternoon:
    • The House of the Seven Gables tour. So interesting! It’s worth reading some – or all – of the book in which Hawthorne describes some of the historical buildings that still exist today.
    • Ghost Tour. There is also a ghost tour presented by a true warlock who is more focused on history than ghosts. He’s fabulous!
      • He took us past the old jail (now condos) and the Monopoly Houses (Parker Brothers games were born in Salem)
    • The Peabody Essex Museum is nice on its own, but the “don’t miss” thing to see at the PEM is the authentic Chinese house. Built in 1800 – bought in China, dismantled there and reassembled here. It’s fascinating to see and the videos of the moving process are something to see.
    • Hotels: I’ve stayed at the historic Hawthorne Hotel on a B&B deal. It was OK, pricey with tiny rooms – but worth taking a look and having a drink in the Tavern and breakfast was good. I loved the Salem Inn. When I was there it included wine and cheese at 5pm, which we enjoyed in the quaint and quiet courtyard, and breakfast. And a ghost…which Joseph and I named Catherine.
    • Marblehead: About 10″ from the town, this is a beautiful port with lots of American Revolution history
  • Cape Anne: Everybody knows Cape Cod in the south, but the northern Cape Anne is home to Rockport, with one of the most painted buildings in the country (“Motif#1”). If you go, enjoy the scenery and the seafood…but don’t miss The Paper House

New Hampshire – about 4-4.5 hours from Bar Harbor

  • Portsmouth is a cool little city. It has some history, a good nightlife, and is easy to walk. The town is very cute during the day, has some historical sections, and the couple bars are hopping – we especially like the Irish Bar.
  • The NH Liquor Store is a good stop for reasonably priced alcohol before going into Maine. It’s an easy on-off from 95. It’s much like Total Wine in DE.

Southern Maine – Lots of cute little beach towns, including…

  • Kittery. From Portsmouth or the liquor, you’re about 10 minutes from the bridge into ME – first town is Kittery. Lots of outlets but pretty much like what we have here. What is worth a stop is When Pigs Fly Bread. It’s a place to get food and drink and, attached to the bar, is the mothership for the best-ever breads. Lots to sample, sweet and savory. I usually bring many loaves home but – since covid – have ordered my favs. In 2020, when I couldn’t vacation in Maine, one of my friends (who owns property nearby) brought bread back for me. But I missed it so much that I had a bunch of loaves sent to me.
  • Ogunquit has awesome scenery. You can grab a bite to eat here during the day and then take the walking path, which meanders along a hill overlooking the ocean – and worth the walk. Also look for Perkins Cove because it is a romantic little place with stores and cafes – small but nice. I can recommend 2 good restaurants: Pizza Napoli, owned by my friends, Robert and Michael, and Roberto’s – where they hang out when not at their own place.
  • Kennebunkport is a quiet town which boasts the Bush compound – which you can only see from a distance
  • Old Orchard Beach may be the most popular family town for summer visitors. It reminded me of Ocean City NJ – and a bit too busy for me. However, if you want a lot of family-friendly activity, it could be your favorite place.

Portland/Casco Bay

  • About an hour north of Kittery and Ogunquit is Portland. This town is a great overnight and even worth a few days. Portland is a major city – but not like Philly and much smaller and very walkable. When I first went to Portland, much of the downtown (Old Port) was a burned-out place, and a little scary. Not anymore. By 2019 it was all small shops and cool bars – and The Holy Donut – another foody place not to be missed. Amazing potato donuts (I don’t much care for either donuts or potatoes, but these potato donuts are dream-worthy!)
    • Where to Stay
      • Uptown – Congress Street is the main drag for traditional stores and there’s lots of activity. I’ve stayed at the Westin and my favorite thing is watching the sunset and having drinks at the rooftop bar. I also loved the small eateries up, down, and around Congress Street.
      • Old Port – I’ve also stayed downtown by the waterfront, e.g. at a Marriott. Both the area and the hotel are just OK – and, I think, a lot more expensive; I like uptown better for its location.
      • Scarborough is just outside of the city and an easy drive into Portland. It has several chain hotels, and less expensive in cash/easier to  exchange points during high season. However, make your reservation early to get your best deal.
    • What To Do
      • There are many things to do in Portland and, during  the summer months, lots of events. So check local listings and the local Patch to find them. Here are some good standards that, if you are only doing an overnight or weekend, your best bets:
        • Portland Art Museum there – decent but not someplace I would visit again.
        • The Victoria Manson is a historical house that was slated for demolition and saved by a history-focused group. It’s been lovingly restored. I’ve seen a couple times – worth it if you like that kind of thing.
        • Portland Headlight is one big place not to be missed. It’s a beautiful lighthouse in a peaceful coastal setting – and the park is a good place to walk, see the sites, take pix, and suck in some of that good Main salt air.
        • Becky’s Diner on Commercial Street is THE place for breakfast. You’re likely to wait 30-60 minutes to get in, but it’s good diner food and real Maine atmosphere…and at an average price.
        • The Holy Donut has a couple locations and, even though I don’t care much for potatoes or donuts, I crave these!
        • The Portland Observatory is on the northern end of the peninsula. It’s a civil engineering feat and the the last historic maritime signal station. It’s a great stop if you have a couple hours. If you time is right, you can visit here and then get something to eat in Munjoy Hill.
        • Walk! During the day, consider walking around the city of Portland. It has several funky neighborhoods that are interesting to observe on foot. I like seeing very old buildings on Congress Street. Also, the intersection of Congress, Free, and High Streets is a bustling place – and, at night – is an amazingly cool visual treat.
        • Enjoy the vibrant Night Life. There are lots of cool places but they turn over fast, so check Yelp or Trip Advisor to see what’s
    • Most of the restaurants have average offerings, but good ones. There are some interesting upscale places in Munjoy Hill section on the northeast section of the peninsula.
    • The Trader Joe’s in Portland carries a large selection of locally brewed beers. Rising Tide is Joseph’s favorite (Portland-made) beer, but he likes to try others too.

Leaving Portland, going north – on the highway I295 – you can stop in Freeport, Home of LL Bean. If you’re a fan, you can get some discounts there. There are some cute shops and also a small When Pigs Fly bread store and a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. However, unless you have a purpose for going, it’s not a “must do” stop.

If you want to drive straight through from Portland to Bar Harbor, you can take I295 north toward Augusta and then pick up I95 at Gardiner into Bangor (where Stephen Kind lives) before going east to Bar Harbor. That drive is about 3 hours.

OR, if you want to meander up in coast, you can take I295 out of Portland and get onto scenic Rt. 1, which takes you through the small towns. I like doing that on the way to Bar Harbor, through tiny towns on Rts 1 and 3, in the way into Ellsworth – the county seat and the city closest to Bar Harbor (and where all the regular grocery stores, Walmart, etc. are). Personally I like doing it on the way up but, on the way back (and because I’m ready to get home) Joseph and I go the more direct route, driving west from Bar Harbor to Bangor and then south on I95 out of Maine.

IF YOU GO SCENIC RT 1: There are lots of little towns along the way – some more interesting than others – but each one having its own special charm. Here are some I’ve been to and visit from time to time:

  • Wiscasset: Off the beaten path, is Wiscasset – home of Red’s Eat – internationally lauded for its lobster rolls. It’s literally a shack in the center of town. Expect to wait in line about an hour to order at the window and another 20” from the time you order until you get your food. If you go between lunch and dinner (around 2-3pm) it’s faster – hardly a line. Either way, if you love lobster roll, it’s the best around. FYI: if you’re with someone who isn’t a fish person…Joseph doesn’t eat it and gets a sirloin steak sandwich.  Both are wicked good!
    • Don’t let the time in line stop you. If you’re friendly, you’re likely to meet some interesting people and have some cool conversations. However, it’s sunny – so wear your hat to guard from too much sun.
  • Boothbay Harbor – about 20 minutes from Wiscasset, this is a quaint coastal town of lighthouses and the longest wooden footbridge in the country. It’s also where the old-time musical Carousel was filmed
  • Monhegan Island: Between Freeport and Wiscasset, and off the coast, is Monhegan Island. This is a magical place where several of the Wyeth family own or have owned houses there. I believe Jaime still do and still paints there. You have to plan this trip in advance – and it makes sense to stay at a B&B overnight – because you can only get to the island by mail ferry, leaving from Port Clyde at 7am, and you return the same way in late afternoon.
    • It’s an adventure if you go, and worth the extra effort. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Port Clyde Lighthouse.
  • Damariscotta: Just past Wiscasset is Damariscotta. This little town is worth stopping in for a short stay…because it’s sooooo Maine. And it’s the home of the original RENY’s – the funky department store you see all over Maine.
  • If you are staying on the coastal road, you’ll practically run right into Rockland, Rockport, and Camden.
    • Rockland is a sweet little town and home to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse (which you can only get to by foot – 3/4 mile one way) and the Farnsworth Art Museum, which houses both local artists and many famous Wyeth family paintings.
    • Just north of Rockland is Rockport, a beautiful harbor town.
    • Same with Camden jut up the road – “jewel of the coast” – with lots of big boats and yachts. You could visit both of those in a day. And, while in Camden, you could go to Camden Hills State Park and take a hike up Mount Battie for some ama zing views of Penobscot Bay.
  • Continuing north you’ll pass through towns like Belfast, Stonington, Deer Isle, and Blue Hill.
    • Blue Hill is called the considered the gateway to Acadia. If you read Charlotte’s Web as a kid…Blue Hill was the home of EB white, who wrote Charlotte’s web. If you go there around Labor Day, you can go to the Blue Hill Fair – and don’t be surprised if you feel like you just walked into Charlotte’s Web…because you are! White fashioned the county fair in his book after the Blue Hill Fair. I didn’t know that when I went to the fair the first time. Still, I noticed how much it reminded me of the book. It was a year or two later that I learned it was White’s hometown – that’s how good his descriptive writing was!
      • If you go to the fair, you’re very likely to see Wilbur there – though Charlotte sees to stay out of site whenever I’ve gone.
  • As you get closer to Bar Harbor, you’ll pass through Bucksport.  This is the place that boasts (what I think) is the scariest bridge ever: The Penobscot Narrows Bridge – one of only 3 such bridges in the country. I don’t drive over it – I drove over the rickety old one, but this one is too much for me. Fortunately it doesn’t bother Joseph. However, there are two things you can enjoy around here:
    • Penobscot Narrows Observatory: This is the tallest bridge observatory in the world. Visitors can go inside the observatory and to the top – and it’s very cool to be there and see the river and adjoining town from almost (I think) a half-mile up.
    • On the same side of the river as the observatory is Fort Knox – and interesting military compound leftover from the Civil War. It’s worth seeing once – and it isn’t very expensive to visit.
    • Just over the bridge is Verona Island – a good place to stop and have a picnic by the Penobscot River.
  • About another half-hour drive and you are in the town of Ellsworth – the county seat and the town that serves Mt. Desert Island.
    • There’s a lot of history here, including the Woodlawn Museum, once owned by wealthy captain who created much of Ellsworth’s trade one hundred or more years ago, and the Ellsworth Bird Sanctuary.
    • Ellsworth features a lot of entrepreneurs, artists, and a few restaurants. My go-to is the Riverside Café but I’ve also enjoyed dinner at the Irish bar (Finn’s Irish Pub). Joseph loves visiting the British me-too pub (Airline Brewing Company). The first time we went they didn’t serve more that picky snacks, but now they have a menu – including bangers and mash and even pasties. Being there is like being in the UK.
    • Ellsworth is also where the main grocery shopping is with a few major grocery stores and Walmart are.

Bar Harbor is east of Ellsworth. BUT, if you go north from Ellsworth, you’ll pass the Schoodic Peninsula and be heading toward Canada – and how you travel if you want to hike Mount Katahdin. I’ve never done it, but I have explored the little towns along the way, including the Quoddy Lighthouse and Campobello, former summer home of FDR.

From Ellsworth, drive about 30” onto Mt. Desert Island. There are 3 main harbors on Mt. Desert:

  • Bar Harbor, touristy but quaint with the largest number of stores and restaurants
  • Southwest Harbor, small and with a slightly upper middle-class vibe
  • Northeast Harbor, where you’ll see the yachts and could even run into a Rockefeller, Dick Wolf, or Martha Stewart.
  • There are other, smaller places, like Pretty Marsh, but unless you know someone there or have something to do there, it’s not a good use of time – but it’s also where some of the best seasonal restaurants can be found. It’s hard to say which ones because those island restaurants can be gangbusters one summer and gone the next.

The primary thing on Mt. Desert is the spectacular Acadia National Park. It’s filled with breathtaking beauty, and more hikes than you can imagine, as well as carriage trails that go through the prettiest parts of the park.

  • Start at the Visitor center and get a park pass. You may have to make a reservation to get into the park – and the rangers will tell you.
  • Drive the Ocean Drive to get a feel for the park. You’ll drive through or past places like Thunder Hole.  You can get out and walk a little bit or a lot.
  • Plan to go up to Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak – and the first place the sun comes up on the east coast.
    • You can hike up the mountain and I’ve done it a couple times – and that’s fun. It’s more fun to hike up the mountain and walk back on the road (but be careful).
    • Drive up the mountain for either sunrise or sunset – two of the best things to do in Acadia.
      • When you go for sunset, go early. Lots of people go, so it gets crowded. One year there was someone who got freaked out by the height and drove about 5mph, and we missed the sunset
      • Once I took friends, who was visiting for the day, up to Cadillac and there was a man on the mountain playing bagpipes…it was amazing!
  • Many of the hikes start of the Jordan Pond House, so it’s hub and gets busy. Get there early for parking. Two good hikes from that hub are the
    • Jordan Pond Path (goes around the pond – takes about 2 hours). Half the path is a flat path and the other is through the woods and over boulders – dress with appropriate foot gear. From Jordan Pond House, I like starting on the left side because it’s the more challenging part. Halfway around, at the base of “The Bubbles” the path flattens out.
    • Jordan Stream Path
      • This is the opposite direction from the Pond and through the woods to Seal Harbor. The return in on a lovely carriage road
    • Popovers at Jordan Pond House are a must – out in the backyard looking at The Bubbles – a good way to end either hike
  • Two other favorite hike are:
    • Ocean Path, which starts  at Sand Beach and is relatively easy – no big boulders to climb over – with amazing views all along. I like doing this one in late afternoon because that’s when it’s the least crowded. I bring a snack to eat at the end of the way out while enjoying the lowering sun. The way back to Sand Beach is during sunset and the changing colors makes the trek even better.
    • Connors Nubble, not as easy one going up the mountain – but not real strenuous. Then, when you come down the mountain, you end up on a flat carriage trail.

Night Life: Don’t expect a lot of nightlife in Bar Harbor. But if you hike all day, that might not matter. If I finish a hike in the latter part of the day, I enjoy having a drink at happy hour in one of the many outdoor bars. The restaurants are good. I like Havana, Café This Way, Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast and the Black Friar.

Where to stay: I stay at Windward Cottages – and they are the best! They are housekeeping cottages overlooking Clarks Cove. Owner Ollie Wenger does everything to make sure you have a good stay. Also, I like that all the harbors are about 15” from the cottage. And some of the good eating places are outside of Bar harbor areas…like Mothers Kitchen for lunches (across the street from the cottage), Burning Tree, The Common Good (popovers) and Red Sky (Southwest), Beal’s Lobster Pound, and XYZ.

The Mile High Club?

Joseph on Eliot Mountain

When two people engage in sexual activity in a plane traveling a mile above the earth, they become members of the mile high club. I’m wondering if that same moniker applies if the “mile high” is a mountain.

That’s what I was thinking about as Joseph and I were hiking up Eliot Mountain, the new trail I discovered while at the Thuya Gardens.

The path wasn’t as well-marked as those in the heart of Acadia National Park, but following the cairns, we found it easily enough. Since it was later in the afternoon, we elected to take the shorter of the paths (vs the one that would take us to the beautiful – but much longer and more strenuous – Little Long Pond).

Me on the Summit of Eliot Mountain

Eliot Mountain was quiet and peaceful and sort of deserted. We only saw one other person on the path, a man with his dog. I found myself wondering if the mile-high club include mountains?

You see, I’m never likely to have sex on an airplane. I’m not a good flyer – I almost never fly. But a mountain? I climb mountains at least once a year. I could do that…

Does it count?

#Maine Diaries, #Annmarie Kelly

Where’s The Air??

Ellsworth Public Library

H-H-H – Hazy, Hot and Humid – that’s the weather we left in Philly…what’s it doing Downeast??

Here’s the thing: Downeast Maine, just before at Labor Day, is supposed to mean 75 degrees during the day, with a chill in the air in the early morning and evening. That’s weather that is perfect for hiking the awesome mountains of Acadia National Park, or walking it’s beautiful carriage trails. Doing both of those are two of my joyful reasons for traveling here.

But not today! At 92 degrees, with high humidity, and no air conditioning almost anyplace on the island and certainly not at the cottage, my goal is finding relief!

The last time we had a heat wave during a Downeast vacation, it was just for a few days. That year, H-H-H had us heading out on a trail at 7:30 or 8 o’clock in the morning and back at our cottage by 10am. Joseph and I would have gone to breakfast after hiking, but the restaurants were no cooler than our cottage.

I remember that year, and those days, as a search for air conditioning. As it turned out,  we found it mostly in the bars. One day we drove to the Bangor Mall, but that was over an hour away. The bars were closer, and we usually held off going until mid-afternoon. And, honestly, drinking at lunch wasn’t a burden…especially when a late lunch would roll into happy hour. It was fun! It was also very expensive.

This time was different. That’s mostly because Joseph and I needed to send evites to our September wedding and we’re still negotiating our agreements for our upcoming new marriage. So we thought about something else: libraries. Surely the libraries would have air conditioning because that would be important for the books, right?

Wrong! I called the beautiful Jessup Library in Bar Harbor. “Do you have A/C?” I asked. “I wish we did,” the librarian told me with a wistful laugh. “I’ll bet you do,” I replied, “And so do I!”

As it turned out, none of the three libraries on MDI have air. We found one library who had it, but it was off the island, in the historic town of Ellsworth. So that was our plan – finish our evites in air conditioned comfort. And, on the way, stop by the Riverside Café – one of our favorites – for brunch. This place is so Maine, complete with Downeast food served by always pleasant servers. Joseph had a spicy omelette, while I had hash and eggs. We split a pancake – all of which were up to the Riverside quality. So was the service.

After breakfast Joseph and I walked across the street and up the block to the Seven Arts Gallery to see photographer Gerry Monteux. I met Gerry a few years ago and, last year, had him as a guest on my radio show. Gerry’s work is beautiful and I was glad to see him.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we made our way to the library. It’s funny…for as many times as I’ve been to Ellsworth – where the center of town is smaller than my hometown of West Chester – I didn’t even know where the library was. Joseph punched the address into his phone. To our surprise, it was “on the banks of the Union River,” just around the corner from the Riverside Cafe.

When we first got there, I was just glad to be in air conditioning. But, once I cooled down, I could really appreciate this interesting library. It was just what Joseph and I needed for what we wanted to do. In addition, there was some historical significance of the Federalist style building. It’s been a library since 1897, but when it was built over 200 years ago, it was a private residence. Still, the interior of the building is as crisp and modern as any good library.

Joseph and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the library. It was one of two visits we made during the heat of our first week in Maine. We were there for a few hours – something that probably would have annoyed me normally. But not in the heat!

By the time we left, the sun had gone down and it was a little cooler. We returned to the cottage, had some dinner and began this year’s vacation binge-watch show: Stranger Things.

#Maine Diaries #AnnmarieKelly

Downeast Downies

Cottage View of Clarks Cove

Joseph and I call it “the Downeast Downies” – reading the paper, watching TV, taking a nap or two, and just having a lazy day.  It always reminds of that song from the musical Flower Drum Song (from one of my high school musicals – and now probably too politically incorrect for schools to do). It was called Sunday Sweet Sunday. 

Sunday, sweet Sunday,
With nothing to do,
Lazy and lovely,
My one day with you.

Hazy and happy,
We’ll drift through the day,
Dreaming the hours away.

That’s how today was. And, after 3 days of crazy getting ready to leave work for vacation, and two days on the road, it was definitely how I wanted it!

The highlight of the day was a visit from Ollie, who owns Windward Cottages. It’s always good to see him, but our first time of the season is especially happy. Joseph, Ollie and I sat at the table with some wine and cheese and caught up with what’s been going on in our lives over the past year.

Ollie’s spouse, Kelli, passed away in 2016. When she did, I wondered how Ollie would fare – especially since Mt. Desert changes when tourist season is over. I was happy to hear that Ollie was doing some traveling. In fact, quite a bit of traveling. He took a trip during each one of the out-of-season months. He traveled with the group called Road Scholar and found a traveling partner, Gayle. He also traveled – alone! – to Africa on safari – his “trip of a lifetime.”

When I told Ollie, who has been twice-widowed, how much I admired that he kept moving forward in spite of his grief over losing his spouse, he said something interesting. “When you’ve been through this a couple times, you realize that person isn’t coming back. Not in a couple weeks or a couple months. Not ever.”

Ollie’s words struck me. Of course it’s true. One spouse died but the surviving spouse is still here. And that spouse has a choice about how to live and how to honor the deceased spouse. I think living a full life is the greatest way to honor the relationship with a spouse that has passed.

2017 WAZE Maze to Maine

Loving my time in New England

Joseph and I did pretty good packing this morning. We left around 9am and stopped at WAWA for some tea and sandwiches. We figured we wouldn’t stop for breakfast so we could get to Salem early enough to tour Fenway Park.

Joseph didn’t map anything out and decided to use WAZE. I can never understand how anyone can plan a long trip and depend just on a computer. But I was too busy editing Five-Year Marriage™ to argue. I would have to trust Joseph and WAZE LADY.

We did OK until we got off the George Washington Bridge. That’s about when WAZE LADY must have started drinking. She took us through every possible traffic jam from NY to MA, including right through the heart of Boston and every single North Shore town between Boston and Salem.

I was ticked, because it was during my turn to drive. Joseph, so trusting of WAZE LADY,  thought there must have been an accident on the Merritt or someplace. But I checked and, at least by the interstate traffic reports, there wasn’t.

The 6.5 hour trip took us 8.5 hours. It cut out any chance of a Fenway tour. I was ticked off. But that wasn’t the worst of it…

When we made a stop for gas along the way, and thinking we were pretty close to the end of our trip, I got a very large tea. However, as it turned out, we weren’t at the end of the trip. It wasn’t long before I thought my bladder was going to burst!! And,  as we drove through each of those little shore towns, I wanted to scream because I couldn’t find a Starbucks or any place that might have a bathroom. You know how that is, right?

Finally, as we drove through the shore town of Swampscott, MA, I saw two port-a-pottys at the entrance to the waterfront park. “AH,” I thought, “Relief is only seconds away.” And every second counted…know what I mean? I didn’t care that everyone saw me scrambling up the sidewalk toward them. I knew that were thinking, “Wow! She must really have to go!” And they were right! My very full bladder was demanding, “Empty me!”

But I was in for a rude awakening. I got to the port-a-potty – and it was locked. LOCKED?!? Oh, no…

I scrambled back to the car, practically in tears. Joseph took over the wheel while I hunted for a place to go. I stopped looking for a store or something respectable. At that point, anyplace would do.

Finally I told Joseph to pull into a parking lot where the far side of the lot backed up to a forest or something. I didn’t care what it was because it seemed at least a little private. I shimmied myself out of the passenger’s seat and, well – ahhhhhh – relief…

What Victory Chick doesn’t know what I’m talking about??

Of course, I’m probably on some security camera someplace. Or worse, on someone’s twitter feed with the less-than-140 character tweet: “lady with big butt peeing in pubic.” If you see it, let me know…

And, as of today, WAZE LADY is on my list…and not the good one!

Rainy Last Day

Rainy Clarks Cove
Rainy Clarks Cove

The weather people were finally right…they said it was going to rain and it’s pouring down in buckets!

We started getting some packing done and the cottage looks a mess. Time to go home…

Joseph likes to “ease back” from vacation and likes to break the 13 hour trip home into two days. I’m mixed about it. I like two shorter drives, but also I like making the most of the last Friday here. So we usually wait until the end to decide. Last night, after listening to the weather report, I made a reservation at a hotel in Amesbury MA for tonight.CafeThisWAy

Since this is turning out to be the last day, this morning we drove to Bar Harbor and had a pretty hearty breakfast as Café This Way. Joseph and I split a jalapeno omelet and a breakfast burrito and took our time, enjoying the ambiance of the place and trying to get our heads around vacation being over. For some reason, and this is unusual, we are both just not ready to leave. We bought a few souvenir things and then headed back to the cottage.

As we passed the cottages office, I saw Kelli. So we stopped in to say goodbye. We really enjoy talking to her and Ollie, who came by with the 2016 book so we could get our cottage reserved, so it was easy to stay with them longer than we expected. In fact, Joseph and I were there so long that, but the time we said good-bye and started walked back to the cottage, we realized were at least a half hour past schedule.

Once back inside the cottage, we raced to finish packing and loaded up the car. We left Mt. Desert Island around 3:30pm.

We drove west to Bangor and then onto I95. We stopped at Trader Joe’s in Portland so Joseph could get a stash of the two locally brewed beers he liked so much. “Mo” and “Rising Tide” must be sooooo local that they aren’t sold outside of Portland. We couldn’t find them even as close as Mt. Desert!

Then it was on to Kittery and When Pigs Fly. I called ahead and asked them to reserve a few loaves of their low-carb bread. That’s because it’s so good and so popular that it goes fast. When I went last year they were out by the time I got there. I didn’t want that happening again. It’s way too expensive to ship and, most importantly, the quality is impacted during shipping. We also picked up a couple jars of dipping spices (Dip-Me-Daddio) and their special “hot honey” that we like on a lot of things…but they say to try it on pizza. PIZZA???

By the time we left there, it was 7:30 and dark. Extraordinaire was closed, so I couldn’t get any of the ceramic “bathing beauties” I love so much. BIG disappointment!!

Joseph and I didn’t even try to stop at Robert’s house…guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see the rest of the property.

Last Hike of 2015

Finishing the Hadlock pond Carriage Trail
Finishing the Upper Hadlock Pond Carriage Trail

Upper Hadlock Carriage Trail

This is probably our last full day. I feel so sad that this vacation went so fast.

We took the Hadlock Pond carriage trail today. It’s about 4 miles. The challenge of the trail is the beginning. It’s uphill and is very steep. I had to stop a few times, just for a few seconds each time, just to catch my breath. Also, it’s mostly through forest, so there’s nothing much to see on the way up. It’s better at the top because it passes two interesting bridges and there are some views. I’m always amazed by how stunningly beautiful the trees look from the top down.

Joseph and I talked about our favorite parts of vacation and going home. Also, because we worked on our joint vision board while we were here, we talked about some of our plans for the next year.

Early fall foliage
Early fall foliage

But the best part is, between being here later than usual and an early fall foliage, I been seeing a little of what Acadia looks like in the fall. I’m amazed at how brilliant the reds are and the oranges are so vibrant. I’ve seen pictures and thought they were “enhanced” but the photographer. But now I can believe that’s how it is.

Peak season here is around Columbus Day, which isn’t much past our anniversary.  Joseph and I decided that we’ll have to plan a trip up here…maybe next year.

We had dinner at Rogue in Southwest Harbor. Joseph and I both had the special, a something-something-fall-off-the-bone pork shank. I couldn’t decide on it or scallops, but I didn’t make a mistake. And the chocolate ginger cake with caramel topping was amazing. Joseph and I split it. Joseph didn’t think he’d like it, but it was so good that we could almost have fought over it. f I hadn’t already had two dark&stormys and was pretty full, I would have ordered a second piece. I should have, and taken it home. It would have made a “last day” treat.

Photo doesn’t do justice to the brilliant red of the leaves

Then it was on to Sand Beach in Acadia for the first night of the Acadia Night Sky Festival. I’m usually never here this late, so I miss it. But because Labor Day was so late, I get to see the first night of it. And the photos from previous years: Acadia Stars

Unfortunately, the sky is cloudy and there isn’t a star in the sky. But, still, there were about twenty-five people sitting on the beach in the dark. The park rangers did a great job telling us what we could see the stars were out, using a laser to show us where. They were funny and kept saying, “work with me…you know, you came here.”

Even though I couldn’t see the stars, being on Sand Beach at night was spectacular. Once my eyes adjusted to the night, I could see the ocean, the lighthouse on the coast, the path that we hike each year, Schooner Head…all well-known to me, except at night, each took on a different look and feel…safe and soft, like being wrapped in a blanket. It was even a little romantic…;-)

Once finished, Joseph and I got back on the one-way Park Loop Road. Somehow we missed the closest exit and had to drive about five miles to get to the road. I don’t know where all the other cars went (probably passed us while I was telling Joseph to slow down…) but all of a sudden, we were all alone in Acadia National Park. At 10:30 at night, it was a little scary.

Gorham Mountain

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Gorham Mountaintop

The weather says that we’re going to have rain on and off for the next few days. I don’t like to hike over wet boulders, so we decided to take a hike up Gorham Mountain. It’s a good upward climb, but one that we haven’t done since our earlier days here. It’s considered moderately challenging. After doing Connors Nubble yesterday, we felt like this would be a piece of cake! OK, more or less…

We started in mid-afternoon. I was dilly dallying all morning and, as we started the hike, was in a fairly unpleasant mood. I’m not sure why, but it’s likely because it was hot – 85°. It’s Maine, it’s September…we should have 60° hiking weather.2015-09-08 001 2015-09-08 002

We were barely on the trail for twenty minutes when I noticed I was sweating into my Tilley hat and the sweat was trickling down my face. In addition, the park people have been changing the names of the paths (back to the original names) and they don’t match the book we have (A Walk in the Park @2000). So, because we were following the book, we took a wrong path. When we ended up on Park Loop Road, we had to turn around, go back and start over. It added to my annoyance!

When we go on the actual path, I plugged in earbuds so I could listen to my success playlist. I didn’t want to interfere with the nature sounds, but I also needed a boost, so I tucked the buds into my hat and turned up the volume. I was able to hear the music as soft upbeat background, which put me in a better mood and I felt more energetic.

Joseph on Gorham
Joseph on Gorham

About half-way up the mountain, I started seeing ocean views and there was a breeze. The elevation got my heart pumping. I don’t know if there is anything as good as exercise to dispel a foul mood…mine gradually dissipated through each set of boulders I climbed.

Sand Beach from Gorham Mountain
Sand Beach from Gorham Mountain
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Can you see the “tiny houses” visible in the background?

Then Joseph and I got to the top. The views at the top were worth the climb. I was looking down at treetops on one side and the ocean on the other. The hillside houses looked like they were part of a model train display. In fact, from that elevation, everything looked like it could have been part of a toy display at Christmas.

We stayed on the mountain long enough to get our fill of the aesthetic as well as eat a couple cheese sticks and drink some water. The hike down wasn’t too bad and I’m glad I had my hiking stick with me.

Connors Nubble Challenge

At the top of the mountain!
At the top of the mountain!

My Favorite Acadia Hike

Joseph and I do this hike, Connors Nubble, almost every year. We didn’t last year because I hurt my shoulder on the first day of vacation and I didn’t want to put any stress on my arm. That was a good thought, because when I got home, I discovered that it was a torn rotator cuff. So, after not doing this pretty strenuous hike for two years, we weren’t sure we still could. You know how it is, when you miss something, you aren’t sure you can do it again. We wondered…and took the baby aspirin with us! EagleLake.ConnorsNubbleTrail

We started out around 12:30. From the base of the trail, Connors Nubble is a 3.3 mile hike around Eagle Lake and up the mountain. 3.3miles doesn’t sound too bad. Except it’s not a straight walk. The beginning is easy enough. It follows the lake (with great views) for about ¾ miles of forest. If it wasn’t for the beautiful scenery of Eagle Lake, it could almost be boring.

That easy trail is followed by ¾ miles of hiking over big boulders. There are parts of the boulder section that really challenge both of us (that section always does!). It’s a bit testier for me since I wear hiking shorts and don’t want to scratch my legs or knees. Yes, I know I could wear jeans, but they tend to get hot…and my hiking shorts have lots of pockets to put my phone, camera, food, etc.

Eagle Lake
Eagle Lake

The boulder section ends with another short forest walk. If hikers get this far and decide they’ve had enough, there’s a trail that enables hikers to turn away from the lake and head for the carriage road. It’s always a little tempting…except I know what’s at the top. I keep going.

Joseph taking a boulder break
Joseph taking a boulder break

Once the trail turns, I figure that it’s about a ½ mile up the mountain to 588′ the summit, a combination of forest path and boulders.  It was during the ascent to the summit that we felt seriously challenged. The higher we went, the steeper the trail got, and the stronger the winds. The latter felt good…we’d been walking long enough to work up a pretty good sweat. But it was dicier the higher we went.

As we got closer to the summit, and for the first time, I had a little height issue. That happens to me sometimes, especially on tall bridges, but I haven’t actually experienced it on a climb…until today. As soon as I realized it, my strategy was to stay focused on the path beneath my feet…and not on how high I was or the drop below (remember, the summit is almost 600 feet high).

This is a picture of Joseph doing something I would never do…stand on a precipice. He had no fear, but it was so windy that I got nervous for him. Still, I couldn’t resist taking this picture because it looked like Joseph on top of the world…and I loved that!

While Joseph stood on the top surveying all that was below, I sat on the bottom rocks of the cairn (with the summit-height sign). To my left was Cadillac Mountain. At first I wasn’t sure that was it, but then I could see looked like tiny shiny bugs inching along in a procession of purpose. They all had one goal: make it to the top and see the spectacular views.I’ve hike and driven up Cadillac. I like the drive because it’s faster and way-easier.  The hike up is no picnic, but the walk down, if it’s on the road and around the mountain, gives spectacular views of everything…the mountain, Bar Harbor, Frenchman’s Bay, the Porcupine Islands and more. It doesn’t cheat the hiker out of anything!

Eagle Lake atop Connors Nubble
Eagle Lake atop Connors Nubble

I’ve heard that Connors Nubble has views as good as Cadillac but without the people. The latter is definitely true. Unlike Cadillac, the only way to the Connors Nubble summit is on foot. But, as fabulous as the views are from Connors Nubble, Cadillac still offers a few more.

Viewing Cadillac Mountain from Connors Nubble
Viewing Cadillac Mountain from Connors Nubble

We stayed on the summit long enough to drink a bottle of water and eat a couple cheese sticks. Then we decided to start down, which is the scariest part of this hike.

Starting down at the summit means looking down at a 500 feet+ drops where all I can see are the treetops and drop-offs below me. The path down is steep and skinny. No stopping for pictures here! I don’t remember how I got down in the past, but this time I know I slithered down the first few legs of the downhill on my butt. I didn’t much care if I wore out my short…they’re designed for hiking, so I figured they’d be fine. It was a little dicey but I kept reminding myself that I’ve done this same hike at least a half-dozen times…and I could do it again. And I did!

Once that first downward trail was over, the rest of the descent was fairly easy. And it dumps onto a carry road, which is mostly a bicycle path. Joseph and I walked back to the car on that easy road.

The fitbit said it was over 12,000 steps and 50+ “stairs” and it took 3.5 hours to complete, including the 15 minutes we stayed at the summit.

Eagle Lake from the forest
Eagle Lake from the forest

Once on the carry road, Joseph and I  were so excited that we did it! So, once we left the park, we headed for a local pub to celebrate with a couple drinks and appetizers. Before heading back to the cottage, we stopped at the Hannaford in Bar Harbor to pick up a couple food things. While we were there, Joseph checked red box and found a movie I’ve been wanting to see for months: Big Eyes.

One last stop at Mt. Desert Ice Cream. Joseph got a maple something. I got a combo of 7 layer and salted caramel – the latter is a favorite but not as much as their ginger ice cream (which wasn’t on the menu). The ginger ice cream here is the best and most flavorful I’ve ever had anywhere!

Back to the cottage for a light dinner of leftovers, Mt. Desert Ice Cream and BIG EYES!

My Barr Treat!

On the Barr
On the Barr

I waited years. Even tried to grow one….thought it wouldn’t happen. But, finally! I saw one!!

Joseph and I were in Bar Harbor at 8am so we could get to Barr Island. It’s a small island across from the village of Bar Harbor, only accessible by foot twice a day. At low tide the water recedes to unveil a wide walking path across Frenchman’s Bay allowing hikers to explore the island’s charms. It’s one of those things that has to be timed pretty tightly. Once the tide starts rolling in, it quickly covers the path and the only way back is by boat or kayak…or waiting until the next low tide. There are stories of people being marooned on the island and Mainers joke about them.

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Bar Harbor from the Barr

Joseph and I didn’t want to be one of those and we thought we’d go with a ranger. But when we got to the town slip…no ranger. So, after checking low tide charts, we decided we had plenty of time walk over and back.

It was a decent stretch of the legs and I was glad for the early morning cardio. Joseph and I walked the bar and hiked to the summit where I took some pictures of the coastal village. It was OK, but nothing to write home about, until, on the way back…there is was…

The Last Lupine
The Last Lupine

Until today, I’ve only seen pictures of them and have yearned to see their beauty up close. They bloom in late spring and are long gone by the time I get to Maine. I’ve tried to grow them at home, but it’s just not the right weather.

But today…today

OK, I’ll admit it. It was only one lupine in a field of dead ones. And it wasn’t even fully bloomed. But it’s a purple one, and it stood out like a fabulous testament to persistence and resilience! I couldn’t have been more excited. I’ve waited years for this day!!

Joseph thought I was a little over-the-top, and yes, maybe I was. But this one little lupine made the frenzied early-morning scramble and the empty-stomach, no-water hike worth it. Now I’m even more excited than ever about being here some day and seeing a whole field of bloomin’ lupines!

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Cairn Field

As we walked off Barr Island and back to the mainland, I saw two fields of cairns. On the trails, they are purposeful as they provide direction. But here they were just for fun. I loved the!

Joseph and I topped the morning off with a trip to the Mexican latte lounge for a cup of spicy hot chocolate. A nice ending to our early morning excursion! And I think I’m going to start adding cocoa and cayenne to my morning cup of tea…

Still moonin’ over my first little lupine…