Laura and Lee's Maine Meanderings

July 16-20, 1998


Earlier this year we began planning a trip to Maine with our good friends Walt and Barb (who live near Cape Cod). Other than knowing we wanted to see Acadia National Park, the rest of the details were pretty sketchy. :-) Barb made all the arrangements and found a lovely bed and breakfast inn for us to stay at just outside Bar Harbor, Maine, and Lee and I made our airline reservations - we planned to fly into Boston where Walt and Barb would pick us up, and then we'd drive north from there.


Thursday, July 16 - Fly and Drive

We were able to get a direct *non-stop* flight from San Diego to Boston, so we actually *didn't* have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to the airport! Woo hoo! Our flight left at 8:45 and was pretty good - except that for some reason I seemed to be forgettable as far as the flight attendants were concerned - they forgot which breakfast I had chosen, and forgot what I had ordered to drink. Oh well, at least they *did* feed me. :-)

As we were walking up the jetway after we arrived in Boston, we could feel the heat and humidity - Lee looked at me and asked, "Why do we leave San Diego?" Good question. :-)

Barb was there to meet us, and Walt, who works in Boston, met us at the airport a little later, and we all got on the road again. :-)

We drove to Portsmouth New Hampshire and spent the night at the Sheraton - once we found it. We *did* ask a nice policeman for directions.

After we checked in we walked towards downtown - Portsmouth was originally called Strawberry Banke (because strawberries grew there, believe it or not!), and the old part of town is still known as "Strawberry Banke". There's lots of interesting shops and restaurants down there. We had a late dinner at a Japanese place called "Sakura" that was very good.

We walked around a bit more - even though it was about 10:00 by the time we finished dinner there was still a lot of activity and a lot of people around - and it was a lovely, pleasant evening.

We headed back to the hotel and went to bed - only to be awakened at 11:30 by a fire alarm! Lee and I got semi-dressed and went downstairs, though it was pretty obvious that there *wasn't* a fire. Walt and Barb never came down, though. It was sort of interesting to see people come out in various stages of undress - we saw everything from t-shirts and bare feet to men still wearing suit coats. I felt sorry for the families with kids, though.

After a few minutes the firetruck showed up, the firemen went inside briefly, then the alarm stopped and they told us we could go back inside. So we went back in and went to bed...and then the fire alarm went off *again* about 20 minutes later! This time we didn't even bother to get up, and after several minutes it turned off. Walt and Barb were next door to us, but they said from their room it just sounded like a faulty piece of equipment, and they didn't recognize that it was a fire alarm!


Friday, July 17 - Freeport Outlet Stores, Maine Coast

It was another beautiful day, though already getting a bit hot and sticky even in the morning. We walked back downtown to a bagel place we had seen the night before and had some breakfast. After breakfast we walked down to the river, and could see across it to the shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where Barb lived when her dad was in the Navy. There was a little park that had some lovely flower gardens, and a boat construction shop where some volunteers are building some small boats just like they would have back in the 1800s. We talked to the guy in there for a little while, and admired the boat he was working on.

After checking out of the hotel we got back on the road - and soon we were leaving the "Live Free or Die" state, and were in Maine - "The Way Life Should Be". We thought that Maine has the most helpful road signs that we have ever seen! Saying things like: "Low Flying Aircraft", "Concentrate on Your Driving", "Are your tires safe?", "Avoid sudden stops", etc. We got a kick out of it.

Our first stop was Freeport Maine - and the big L.L. Bean store there! (Stopping there was at the special request of Barb and me - the guys sort of groaned at the idea, though. ;-) ).

There must be *hundreds* of outlet stores in Freeport, and there were a lot of people around - even though we were told that it wasn't an especially busy day. None of us are really that much into shopping, but we went into the few stores that interested us - Vermont Teddy Bear, L.L. Bean, Big Dogs, and a couple of others.

The L.L. Bean store is pretty big - we went in and arranged a time to meet and then split up to go our separate ways. I got several sweaters and a t-shirt and some gifts for other people, and I was all done by the time we met back up. Lee got a couple of jackets, and Walt and Barb had fun looking but didn't find anything they really wanted.

We had lunch and hit a couple more stores and now that we'd "Bean there, done that" :-), we got back on the road again. Rather than taking the boring 95 interstate, Barb had suggested that we take route 1A which goes more along the coast and winds through a lot of the small towns. That was great - it was really a neat drive. Well, except for getting caught in the Bath Iron Works traffic jam - we hit it just as the shipyard folks were quitting for the day, and *everyone* was trying to get out at the same time. They had a guy directing traffic, but he was letting the shipyard people out, and not letting much of the through traffic get through, so we sat in traffic for about 15 minutes - it was a bit frustrating.

One thing we noticed driving through most of these small towns was that they *all* seemed to have a Subway, a McDonalds, and a cemetery right on the main road through town. We saw one McDonalds that looked like an old Victorian house - had to do a double-take before we were sure what it was.

The towns were very pretty and the architecture is so much different there than what we are used to in California - very picturesque.

We stopped in Camden about 6:00 and walked around a bit and had a snack of ice cream and cookies. We got a kick out of their crosswalk signs. :-) Barb called the B&B to let them know we would be arriving a little late, and they said sure, no problem.

The Inn is just a few miles outside of Bar Harbor, and we arrived just a little after 8:00 and got checked in. Both of our rooms had a view of the ocean, and ours had this enormous 3.5 foot high feather bed - you almost needed a ladder to climb on top of it! It was very comfortable, though.

We called the place we were staying the "Inn of Many Names"...the official name on the reservation confirmation (and, most importantly, on the shampoo bottles and soaps! ;-) ) was "Inn at Bay Ledge", but the road signs directing us there called it the "Bay Ledge Inn", or just "Bay Ledge", and the wooden sign right in front of it said "Bay Ledge by the Sea". :-)

Considering the lateness of the hour we asked one of the innkeepers if there would be any restaurants still open in Bar Harbor, and she said, "only about 60 of them". :-) She recommended the Parkside restaurant and gave us directions and we drove into town. She was right - there were still LOTS of people out and about. We had a very good meal, and I think we all had wild blueberry pie for dessert - it was great!

We walked around town for a while - since it was getting close to 11:00 most shops and restaurants were closing, but there were still a few night spots open.

We jokingly called the town "Bah Hahbuh" all weekend, but we never heard anyone actually pronounce it that way. Never heard anyone with much of a "downeast Maine" accent at all, now that I think about it.

The region we were in is called "Downeast", and we were wondering where that term came from - it didn't make much sense to us since the area is neither the furthest south nor the furthest east part of Maine. Barb found out that it's a sailing term - to get to that area from Boston, you sailed downwind and to the east - so the sailing tack was called "downeast".

It was another rather late night - no fire alarm this time, though - instead we were awakened by a crash of thunder at 12:30! An unexpected rain shower blew through and dumped some rain, but it was long gone by morning.


Saturday, July 18 - Acadia National Park

We awoke to a beautiful sunny day - not a cloud in the sky. We had a nice breakfast of juice, fruit, homemade granola and some sort of potato/egg/cheese hash which was quite good.

After breakfast we drove to the Acadia National Park Visitor Center and saw the film about the park and wandered around inside a little.

Most of Acadia National Park is located on Mt. Desert Island (usually pronounced dessert, as in chocolate mousse, rather than desert, as in sand and camels), though there are some other pieces of it on some neighboring islands and the mainland. It was established in 1919, and was the first national park east of the Mississippi. One very interesting thing about Acadia is that all the land was *donated* to the government by private citizens, rather than being established from land the government already owned. The area used to have a number of large summer "cottages" owned by the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Fords, Astors, etc., but a huge fire in 1947 destroyed many of them, and most were never rebuilt.

The Carriage Roads are a unique feature of Acadia National Park. They were built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., between 1913 and 1940, and presented as a gift to the park and its visitors. They were intended strictly for horses, carriages, and walkers, and were given with the understanding that motorized vehicles would *never* be allowed on them - and that is still the case, though they do allow bicycles now. They are lovely roads, built to fit into the landscape and visit places with many scenic views. Over the years they had fallen into disrepair, but now they are being restored, an effort that should be completed in 1999.

From the Visitor Center we proceeded to Cadillac Mountain - the highest point in the park (at 1532 feet it's the highest point on the entire Eastern seaboard!). You can drive right to the top - which didn't seem at all challenging. :-) Since we're from California we're pretty spoiled by having *real* mountains, but there certainly was a beautiful 360 degree view from the top of this one - ocean, islands, lakes, and forests.

We started down the trail to Bubble Pond, but decided we didn't want to go *down* and have to come back *up* so we contoured around the top of the mountain - and found ourselves in the midst of a huge patch of wild blueberries! They really *do* exist, and aren't just an invention of Betty Crocker and her wild blueberry muffin mix! :-)

I really wasn't expecting to find blueberries growing at the top of a dry mountain, I thought they would be more in a low-lying, perhaps boggy area. Anyway, we had fun picking and eating some of them.

From there we drove the 27 mile "Scenic Park Loop Road". This goes past some of the prettiest areas of the park, and also gives you a nice overview of the different areas of the park - from the rugged coastline and the beaches to the forests and lakes. We stopped at several points along the way to enjoy the views.

Sand Beach is a beautiful beach by any standards, but it was very strange to see a beach with lots of people on it, but hardly anyone in the water! Of course, an ocean temperature of 50 degrees has a lot to do with that... :-)

We stopped at the Jordan Pond House for a late lunch - Barb had heard about their famous popovers, and the innkeepers had told us about them, too. They serve them hot out of the oven with butter and strawberry jam. Yum. They only bring out one at a time, so that they are served hot - if you order more than one they bring you a hot one after you've finished the first. We all had a sandwich, soup, or salad in addition to the popovers - it was a very nice lunch.

We noticed that most of the bodies of water were called "ponds" rather than lakes - I don't know why that is, because they are certainly lakes by my standards - to me a pond is a rather small body of water, and most of these were at least a mile long.

There is a nature trail at Jordan Pond - though we were initially calling it the "Nature Trail from Hell" since it was not that easy to find - even though I'd read the directions! But we finally located it and picked up the brochure. Lee was our designated reader, and we learned about the various types of trees and forests, and how the landscape of Acadia was sculpted by glaciers. (Maybe Maine isn't so different from California after all! :-) )

It was really a pleasant walk - it was a beautiful day, and there was a nice breeze, and we hardly saw anyone else.

We were all ready to relax so we headed back to the Inn and swam or napped or read in the hammock for a while. On the advice of the Innkeepers we tried Galyn's for dinner - the food was very good, but our waiter left a bit to be desired. (We took advantage of the area we were in and had seafood every night - fresh fish, lobster, scallops, shrimp, crab, etc.) Barb had this incredible chocolate dessert, and I split a piece of wild blueberry pie with Walt. Lee tried the Indian pudding, which he enjoyed.

It was just about sunset as we left the restaurant, and there was a lovely sky to the west. We walked the Bar Harbor Shore Path which runs right along the ocean behind a number of old mansions. It's somewhat similar to the Cliff Walk in Newport, RI, but Walt and Barb said they liked this one a lot better. From the other end of the path we walked back to town and did some shopping - Bar Harbor has lots of interesting shops.

We were back at the Inn by 10:00 - an early night for us! :-) And we didn't get any midnight wake-up calls this time, either.


Sunday, July 19 - Acadia Mountain, Somes Sound, Canoeing

It was another beautiful sunny day. After breakfast we drove to the little town of Southwest Harbor (not to be confused with Northeast Harbor) and walked around and got some information on hiking and canoeing. From there we went to the Acadia Mountain parking area and got on the trail.

The trail information said the trail was "strenuous" and we thought "yeah, right", but it really was a fun and interesting hike, since there was some rock scrambling involved - several sections where you had to climb up or down an 8-10 foot stretch. The mountain is only 681 feet high, and as you can see in this photo, Lee and I were tired and in serious need of oxygen by the time we got to the top. ;-)

From the top we had a nice view of Echo Lake and Somes (rhymes with homes) Sound. Somes Sound is the only fjord in the eastern United States - we kept trying to figure out why *it* was a fjord, and so many other things in the area that look similar were not, but never found out for sure. The only thing I could find said that a fjord is "a narrow inlet bordered by steep cliffs" - but to me there were other things in the area that fit that description, too. Oh well. :-)

We had made the mistake of getting Walt a shark beanie (to keep Tigger and Pegasus company), and we experienced multiple land shark attacks during our hikes. :-) You never knew when a shark was going to fly at you out of no where. It certainly made life interesting. (And Barb reminded us that we had only ourselves to blame for buying it for him in the first place. :-) )

There were lots more blueberry patches at the top of the mountain so we had some more of those before we headed down the other side of Acadia Mountain. We passed some people who had a toy poodle with them - pretty impressive for him to climb that mountain, though he probably had a little bit of help on some of the steep parts. The trail went down to Somes Sound, and Walt and Barb soaked their feet in it for a little while - but that water is still pretty cold. :-)

From there we went into the town of Somesville and got some sandwiches and excellent homemade cookies from a deli, and then went to Long Pond and rented a couple of canoes for the afternoon. As we ate lunch along the shore we had fun watching people launching their motor boats and canoes - some were a lot better at it than others. :-)

The last time Lee and I had been canoeing was at Disneyland about 6 weeks before :-) - but before that I don't remember if/when I'd ever been - still we managed to get the hang of it ok. We canoed (against the wind and waves) for about an hour before stopping on an island to rest for a while. By then we'd all had about enough sun for the day so we went back - it was a lot easier paddling back! :-)

We attempted to drive back to the Inn but we missed one of the road turnoffs not once, but twice - from the one direction it wasn't very well marked, and from the other it looked different during the day. :-)

When we got back to the Inn we all changed into our swim suits. The Inn has its own beach accessible via a staircase that goes about 60 feet down the side of the cliff, and Walt, Barb and Lee went down there to see how high the tide was. We'd been told that when the tide isn't too high you can walk a long ways, but we were always there in the mornings and evenings when the tide was high, so we never got a chance to go very far.

Barb took a *very* brief dip in the 50 degree ocean (accompanied by much screaming, I am told), and guilted Lee and Walt into doing it, too. Lee actually swam a little bit, but none of them stayed in very long, and they came up to the pool where I was. The pool was only 76 degrees, so it was still a bit...uh...refreshing, but a lot warmer than the ocean water!

After showering we went back into town and had dinner at the Parkside again. I had (what else?) blueberry pie for dessert, as did Walt, but Lee and Barb had the chocolate truffle with raspberry sauce. It was deadly chocolate - Barb couldn't finish hers, but Lee managed all of his other than the one bite that I had.

Since it was our last night we did some power souvenir shopping and found t-shirts and other stuff to take home. Between that and all the stuff we got at L.L. Bean we were wondering how we were going to fit everything in our suitcases... :-) We found a beanie moose for Barb (she named him Ghiradelli :-) ) and now we all have our totem animal to carry around.


Monday, July 20 - Home

It was overcast when we got up - we seem to have timed our vacation about right as far as the weather went! We had breakfast and finished packing - Lee and I actually got all the stuff to fit in our suitcases and backpacks - and were on the road a little after 9:30 - we had to drive all the way back to Boston so that Lee and I could catch a 5:00 flight, and then Walt had an 8:30 flight to Orlando where he had business the next day.

We didn't take the scenic route this time - just plain old interstate 95. We had some rain off and on, but otherwise it was an uneventful drive. We were really glad that we had taken the much more interesting (and scenic) route on Friday. We dropped Walt off at his office in Cambridge so that he could get some work done rather than hanging out at the airport for hours, and then Barb dropped us off at the airport. We arrived with plenty of time to get checked in for our flight.

We had another non-stop flight to San Diego, but after sitting in the car for about 6 hours and then sitting in a plane for over 6 hours, we were pretty tired of sitting!

It was nice to get home - we heard that San Diego had had quite a thunderstorm that afternoon, but we missed out on it.


Some Final Thoughts...



Additional Photos...


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Text and photographs copyright © 1998, by Laura Gilbreath. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath, lgil@cts.com
Last updated 7/31/98