Friday, June 11, 2010

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Day 6 and 7

Day 6: Bar Harbor, ME
After our uneventful and rainy Sunday, we woke on Monday to clear skies and the promise of better weather for the rest of the week. We left the Robbins Motel for our campsite, the Mt. Desert Campground, and set up the tent on one of the lovely platforms. A little secret about camping is that if you get a platform, even when it rains, you don't get soaked. The campground, founded in 1958, was only $1 cheaper than the Robbins Motel at $31 a night (for a platform in off-season), but it's right on the ocean and is really a lovely spot.

We had a lovely breakfast at Jeannie's Breakfast, a little spot right in the middle of Bar Harbor. I ordered the blueberry pancakes, which were crisp and sweet, and tasted wonderful with the strawberry-rhubarb jam that was already on the table. One of my favorite things about breakfast in New England is the rate at which real maple syrup appears with it. My next door neighbor, Emily, always had real maple syrup in her very old house, and so it's always reminded me of breakfast at her house and also of a bygone era. Lovely.

After breakfast, we wandered around town for a while longer. It's mostly tourist shops and adorable restaurants, but it's much more pleasant to walk around when it isn't pouring. When the tide rolled out, around noon, we took the opportunity to walk across an exposed sandbar to Bar Island, part of Acadia National Park. As someone who loves the sea, but never paid much attention to tides, I was amazed at the concept of walking to an island. We strolled along the bar and took in the view of the town from a different perspective, which was lovely. Once we made it to Bar Island, we took up a trail to the summit of the island. The trail was very short, probably less than half a mile total, and it led to a great view of Bar Harbor. The experience was a ton of fun, and something really different from anything I'd ever tried. You can check out the tide schedule in the Acadia Weekly, and I'd definitely recommend trying it if you're ever in the area.
In the afternoon, we went for ice cream at Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium, which is a fabulous candy store with all sorts of treats. We sampled the lobster ice cream, which was an interesting mix of salty and sweet, but settled on blueberry (Roger) and Moose Droppings (me), both of which tasted great and were served in heaping helpings. We sat on a bench in Grant Park and watched the boats for a while, and took the Shore Walk, a flat little stroll along the ocean. I guess I've been less impressed by the shore in Maine than in other places. Because the coast line is so jagged, the waves are nearly nonexistant, and while that would make for nice swimming in a warmer area, in Maine, the water is so cold that it just seemed silly.

For dinner, we went to Poor Boy's Gourmet on the recommendation of the man who booked our kayaking tour. The recommendation felt suspect, since he had a menu and coupon in the shop, but we checked out the menus at a few other places, and it seemed to be nice enough. I had the lobster "poor boy," lobster in a cream sherry sauce over pasta, which was good, if a little rich, and Roger had the stuffed haddock, which was much lighter.

Day 7: Acadia National Park, ME
On Tuesday morning, we grabbed coffee at the Opera House, an internet cafe in town. The coffee was very expensive (and so was the internet, which we didn't use), but the vibe of the place was very cool, and it seemed like a nice place to grab a maple latte and sit for an evening. If you're just looking for coffee-to-go, there are better and cheaper options (like Cafe This Way or Our New England Country Store, which also has a great selection of jams and kitchenwares).

We spent the rest of the morning hiking in Acadia, which is a gorgeous national park. I'm really into our national parks, and I've only properly been to four of them (counting Acadia), so this was a nice experience for me. We took the trail around Jordan Pond, which is mostly flat (with some semi-rugged terrain) and at only 3.2 miles, makes a nice walk with some scenic vistas. The pond serves as a watersource, so no swimming is allowed, but you can boat on it, and it's quite beautiful.

We split a hamburger at the Thirsty Whale for a light lunch. We were incredibly impressed by this, because instead of being huffy about splitting a meal, the restaurant actually served us each half a hamburger and a portion of fries on two separate plates. If their low prices and good food weren't enough, this earned them my unending appreciation instantly. Then, we headed over to National Park Sea Kayak Tours to start our kayaking adventure.

Let me preface this by saying that the only other time I've ever been in a kayak was in Hawaii when I was ten-years-old. My seven-year-old sister was also in the kayak, and while I presume they gave us some direction, essentially they threw us into the Pacific Ocean and hoped for the best. We paddled our little hearts out and, not knowing how to steer, ended up in the middle of a malia race. After multiple warnings from my mother about deadly man-of-war jellyfish, we were already paranoid, when we saw a buoy covered in seaweed, my sister started crying, and eventually my father swam all the way out into the ocean and dragged us back to the shore.

Anyway, fourteen years later, Roger and I found ourselves in matching windbreakers on the Maine coast, with directions from Brian, our tourguide, on how to kayak. I, of course, stopped listening after learning how to paddle, and couldn't figure out how to steer (foot peddles, apparently) until we were well underway. It turned out great for the most part, and we paddled around Folly Island and John Island to Dogfish Cove. Along the way, we saw a few porpoises breaching, which was fantastic. Apparently a few seals were also popping their heads up, but Roger and I didn't catch any of those. After a brief break on Dogfish Cove, Roger took over steering, and did a much better job of it than me. We paddled back to Bartlett's Cove through some very choppy water and a rainstorm (rain seems to be the thematic tie-in for this trip).

We ended with some sun and a nice drive back before heading to the campground to roast hot dogs. For a moment, the wet wood seemed to have us bested, but we prevailed, and our fire stayed strong even through yet another rainstorm. Let's recap this very active day: hiking, kayaking, roasting hot dogs over an open fire. Very wilderness aesthetic, if I do say so myself.

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