We are currently up at our happy place in Highgate Springs, Vermont, but it will take a few posts to get you caught up to where we are now, the Tyler Place (which happens to be the greatest place on earth for families with kids, especially for those who are not into the plasticized and commercialized experience of a Disney-esque vacation — no snobbery here, I'm sure we will check out Disney and the other parks for a day or two at some point along this trip). This is the first time we've had WiFi since July 10, so at least there's some explanation for the delay.
Destination-wise, Mike has shared a couple of beer reviews, but really, we last wrote about our lovely day at Plimoth Plantation. From Plimoth, we headed up to Salem, Massachusetts for two nights. Elizabeth's classmates will be studying Arthur Miller's The Crucible this academic year, so we decided to have a witchy day with her to provide some context for her reading. I'm leaving it to her to write about Salem, I think. Then from Salem we spent a night in Bangor, Maine, where we checked out my old stomping grounds at the University of Maine (that's where I earned my Master of Arts in Teaching degree) on our way to three days of camping in Acadia National Park.
I did most of my student teaching at Old Town High School (a 3 day per week internship in the fall, plus 8 weeks of full-time student teaching in the spring), but I also did an 8 week full-time stint at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine (despite the name, it's a public high school, but we didn't get over there to take any pictures). Hampden Academy's claim to fame is that it's where Stephen King taught high school English while he was writing Carrie.
My awesome graduate school apartment — if I recall correctly, the rent was $480/month, which included all utilities (and which I split with an apartment-mate). I cannot really explain the random dog.
Old Town's paper mill — unfortunately, my kids didn't get the full experience, as no wall of rancid-cream-of-broccoli-soup smell hit us as we drove by.
The University of Maine, where I completed my master's degree, but more importantly, where I committed to myself — for the first time in my life — to be the kind of student I knew I could be.
We arrived at Acadia's Seawall Campground on the "Quietside" of the island Wednesday afternoon, and spent the next while pitching camp. Normally, we camp with a roomy Eureka tent, but for this trip we invested in two relatively inexpensive "instant" Coleman tents — a 6 person for Mike and me, and a 4 person for the girls (for those who don't tent camp, one of the first things you learn is to at least cut in half the manufacturer's estimate of capacity compared to the reality of actually sharing a tent with other humans, rather than sardines. The difference is that pitching the Eureka usually takes a significant amount of work, whereas the Coleman instant tent's advantage is that it literally goes up in about one minute. Considering that we plan to do a fair amount of tent camping on this trip, we wanted the time advantage of not spending all of our time pitching and breaking camp. I'm also a fan of not having to share a tent with the girls, who tend to be a little less careful about shoe removal and quick zippering of their tent flaps. Plus, privacy! (Visual privacy, at least — our tents were about 2 feet apart, so we could still hear whatever was said in the other tent.)
The two Coleman tents — as per the text below, I have mixed feelings about them. Our new ENO hammock, however, has been an unparalleled hit! I'm considering investing in a mosquito net and perhaps even a rain fly for it.
I set up both Coleman tents in our backyard before we left, and although I love the "instant" aspect of pitching the tents/breaking down the tents, I was disappointed that the tent bag for the six person tent had a shoddily-constructed zipper that popped off and self-destructed the first time I tried to zip the tent back into it, and that the four person tent had a manufacturing defect resulting in a small hole in the material of the tent itself.
The hole in the brand new Coleman four person tent — so much for quality control.
Coleman customer service was less than helpful about the tent bag (promised me up and down that I would get a replacement before we left, but then I got an email that it had shipped via ground with a 5-7 business day lag for delivery the Friday before our movers were showing up on Tuesday). Fortunately, it did come in Wednesday's mail before we left on our trip, but sadly the construction on the new bag is not significantly better than what it replaced. So far, it is working, but I'm babying it much more than should be required. I need those bags, however, as I need the consolidation they provide to fit the tents into our minivan's roof box.
As to the hole in the four person tent, I went to town with some seam sealer, as that tent didn't arrive until close enough to our departure date to make it possible to deal with returning it and obtaining a replacement. Quality-wise, however, I now completely understand why Campmor (my preferred camping store) doesn't carry Coleman tents.
I grew up tent camping, and we are all reasonably experienced campers. The last two summers, we've spent about a week of each summer renting a boat and camping on islands in Lake George over in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
Thursday we spent the morning hiding from the rain in our tents (thankfully the seam sealer worked), goofing around a bit, and taking a little time after lots of tourism and sightseeing to relax and do some reading.
Goofing around in the screen house (which, to be fair to Coleman, has worked great for three seasons now, with no manufacturing or other issues) with the yumminess of Salt and Vinegar Pringles.
Reading in the hammock during a break in the rain.
After lunch, it began to clear, and we headed over to the main portion of the park, as my kids were hot to get their Junior Ranger books from the visitor center (the ranger at our campground said that they'd run out of books at their office). For those not familiar with the Junior Ranger program, our National Parks-run sites (including National Historic Sites and National Monuments) provide activity books for kids that require them to complete a certain number of activities (depending on their ages) to collect Junior Ranger badges for each site. My kids love them, and Elizabeth is working on covering her jean jacket with them over the course of this trip.
The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is up a 52 step staircase, and could use a little TLC if our federal government would give any decent funding to our incredibly amazing National Park system. Sadly, I don't see that happening in the next few years.
Mount Desert Island, which is home to most of Acadia National Park, effectively looks like a two lobed island on a map. As you can see below, our campground — Seawall — is at the southern tip of the eastern "lobe" of the island, but the bulk of Acadia is located on the western "lobe" of the island. What that means in reality, is that it was about a 40 minute drive from our campground to pretty much anything we wanted to do in the park itself.
So Wednesday afternoon we headed up Cadillac Mountain, which for half of the year (but not the half that includes the summer time) gets the first light to hit the eastern seaboard of the United States. After the somewhat harrowing drive up the mountain, we spent some time exploring the summit. The cloud ceiling had lifted, and we checked out the topography from a bird's eye view. After that, we had dinner in Bar Harbor, and then saw one of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen in my life back by Seawall Campground. (Photos below)
I loved this photo of the sign explaining the view toward Bar Harbor, and providing idiot-proof island identification — I'm sure that's saved some families a few squabbles.
Looking out toward Mt. Katahdin, far off in the distance near the horizon.
Julianna was not such a fan of the cold weather and steep drops at the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Mike trying to either forcibly remove or cheer up Julianna by carrying her by her elbows — not sure which!
Mountaintop lichen — it was almost like looking at a granite countertop because…. oh wait… it is granite (although hopefully a granite countertop isn't covered with lichen).
Elizabeth loved the height and the view — she was much less grumpy at the top of Cadillac Mountain than Julie.
After checking out Cadillac Mountain, we headed to Bar Harbor for dinner. Generally speaking, it turns out that Elizabeth is a fan of bad New England puns, including this one.
We picked our dinner restaurant in Bar Harbor mostly because it had a bocce court, and Elizabeth has a random obsession with bocce ever since dinner at a bar-restaurant-cum-bocce-court with our friends Matt and Emily in D.C. a few years back.
After dinner and the 45-minute drive back to our campground, we decided to stop at the ocean just outside of the campground entrance to check out the rocks and tide pools.
The girls enjoyed climbing on rocks and checking out tide pools. Mike and I have to work on not saying "Be Careful, Don't Fall" every fifteen seconds, as that understandably drives them completely bonkers.
The girls intent on checking out more tide pools.
Julie is a natural-born collector. Since infancy, she has constantly wanted to collect and carry things in her hands, pockets, etc. So here, she expressed her dismay at the sign.
But then suddenly, the girls shouted, "Look, Mommy, turn around!"
A beautiful sunset cured all.
The remnants of the sunset spectacular reflected in the beaver pond across from the ocean.
The photos don't even begin to do the sunset justice. And that reality is why I'm thrilled to have any of you live vicariously through us — but I also urge you to take time to get out on your own, because pictures, for me, are proxies for triggering memories. For you, I hope they serve to whet your appetite for adventure.