The McGuires Take Maine

Two Saturdays ago, we embarked on our great Maine adventure. We flew from Philadelphia to Manchester, New Hampshire, the first flight ever for Sebastian and Gemma, and then rented a car and drove about four and half hours to Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park.

“FOUR AND A HALF HOURS!” cried my husband as we left Manchester. “I thought you said it was a two-hour drive!”

Dear reader, I never would have said that. This information put hubs in a bit of a funk, and I have to say it was indeed a long day of travel. It would have been better (but more expensive) to fly into Bangor, and simpler yet to just drive the whole way. In a way we got the worst of both worlds by flying and driving. But anyway.

However you get there, Acadia is worth the trip. It’s simply stunning, visually, and the clean, fresh, salt-tinged air was practically intoxicating. Our house was on the “quiet side” of the island, but it was still fairly busy, especially right in the downtown of Southwest Harbor. I was expecting a real fishing village — I definitely read a description of the town somewhere that said that. But it was more upscale and touristy. You have to travel a little further south, to Bass Harbor, for that authenticity. We ended up spending most of our time around those two towns, with just one foray over to the “busy” side of the island where Bar Harbor is.

We had gorgeous weather Saturday through Wednesday, and we spent those days hiking some of Acadia’s trails, swimming at Echo Lake, exploring the small beach near our house (Cable Crossing), and taking a boat ride out of Bass Harbor and up into Blue Hill Bay, where we saw seals and bald eagles and learned about the history of the area, life on the islands in the bay, and catching lobsters. We also went to Sand Beach, on the other side of the island, which is the only sandy oceanfront beach, and drove some of the road that loops through the park near there.

When the weather turned misty and cooler on Thursday, we were still able to go hiking. We only did one “moderate” trail; when I was alone with the kids, we stuck to the “easy” ones. Even then, they usually terminated at a rocky cliff, so I had to keep the kids from climbing too far out. I had visions of becoming the next “gorilla” mom. The mom who let her 4-year-old tumble down rocks into the frigid Atlantic in a remote location with no phone service.

And of course we spent a lot of time just chilling out: putting together a 550-piece puzzle showing lighthouses of Maine; playing Maine Monopoly (Sebastian loved this). The bookshelf had a great collection of hiking guides and fiction and nonfiction by local writers. I took some luxurious baths in the clawfoot tub. We had a fire nearly every night. We did have a TV, and our phones worked at the house, so we weren’t completely cut off — unfortunately.

The kids had a big backyard to play in, but a couple days in, the rental agency informed us that someone had complained about us being noisy. (The house next door was very close to us, although there was a hedge in between.) This was the same day the lifeguard at Echo Lake came into the water to reprimand us for being too rough (Aidan was picking Gemma up and tossing her around). And I ended up always shushing the kids on the trails in case someone nearby was, you know, trying to enjoy nature in peace. Even when we went out on the boat, the other small children sat there sucking their thumbs for two hours while mine changed their seats 6,000 times and were all “DADDY DID YOU SEE THAT SEAL?? SEE IT?? SEE IT????”

By the time we left, I had quite a complex about their noise level.

BTW, this was our ride for the week:

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I felt cool. Especially when I pumped my own gas.

The only bad thing I could say about the trip was that the food was not the greatest. I guess you need to really be into lobster. I did have a lobster roll, at Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound. It was OK. Not enough butter, I thought. The atmosphere was well worth the trip, though. The cook was boiling the lobsters outside, in a big pot on a stove. He also had a fireplace going, as it got cooler. All the seating was outside. There were Hula Hoops, some Matchbox cars and tracks, and a small baseball field cut into the grass. And the star attraction was… a goat on a tether. I’m sure Jersey with all its regulations would never allow it, but I could make a million dollars by opening a restaurant down here with a goat. Parents eat in peace while kids are endlessly entertained.

I think my favorite place to eat was the Quietside Café, in Southwest Harbor. I had some great clam chowder there our first night. They also had excellent pizza.

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Local produce seemed hard to come by. We had some meh corn one night, of unknown provenance, from the local IGA. Blueberry desserts were on the menu everywhere, but I have to wonder if they were really local blueberries — i.e,  were they actually in season yet. I could only find two farmstands on the island (plus a farmers’ market on Sundays in Bar Harbor). (Meanwhile, you could buy clams, fish, and crabs from trucks parked on the side of the road.) I was reading the blog of one of the farms and they talked about how massive amounts of snow crushed their hoop houses over the winter, affecting their production. Yikes. Maine, not so conducive to farming.

Back home, on the other hand… my garden exploded while I was gone. Many thanks to my parents for taking care of the garden (and the 3 cats and 2 guinea pigs). More on that later!

Sigh… Wish we could have stayed longer. Loved driving those roads, to go through forest and then past fields, and then to have the ocean suddenly come into view. And seeing the full majesty of the stars at night, the Milky Way. Someday…

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