It’s been thirteen years since I lived in Maine, and twenty one years since I lived there. (Can we take just a moment to appreciate that I can say, with a straight face, that something happened twenty years ago and I have clear memories of it).
We left Maryland early on Saturday morning, with the goal of making it to a Cracker Barrel outside of Albany, New York before nightfall. The drive went remarkably well and Alli was still feeling awake, so I looked through the Boondockers app and found a Cabella’s a couple hours further along our route. Alli was really happy about being back in The Mothership and from the moment we reached New York and started seeing bigger hills, Ellie was grinning. Walker… slept most of the drive. I’m a bit worried that the boy is going to grow again soon, given how much he’s been sleeping.
All seemed to be going great and it looked like the biggest issue that we’d have was a rock that put a tiny ding in the windshield before we had even reached New Jersey.
In the last fifteen miles before reaching Cabella’s, our GPSs took us along a local highway that included a low stone bridge. We stopped the Mothership in plenty of time, but while getting turned around a wild tree jumped out and attacked us. Fortunately, I’m enough of a hobbit that I was able to convince the ent to be satisfied with smashing one mirror and bloodying my face.
Either that, or Alli is actively trying to kill me with trees. I’ll just leave here this photo from two years ago when she asked me to help her do some gardening.
Still, we managed to fix the mirror enough to finish our trip, though the time spent at Lowes and Michaels did mean that we didn’t have time to browse in Cabella’s.
The next day’s drive was uneventful. We arrived in Maine with plenty of daylight to spare and were able to settle in and discover the wonders of…
Apparently I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me with refitting The Mothership.
Still, a good bit of duct tape later and the Mothership is safe and back to waterproof.
We even have become somewhat famous (infamous?) to our fellow RVers. Those who camp next to the Mothership never forget her. …we had folks stop by our site and ask if we had overnighted at Cabellas, and sure enough, they had been right next to us. “We recognized the tape on the nose!” Friends and family have started making jokes that we are the family from National Lampoon. I figure why not just own it!
As of Thursday, the camper is still holding together and nothing has gone spectacularly wrong. We even had rain all night and through. Most of the day, and nothing has leaked. So that makes me pretty sure the delamination is from sitting in the blistering heat at home base.
Day 1 – Monday
We set out on the Island Explorer bus, less concerned about getting to any particular place and more focused on learning how the busses run. We soon found ourselves exploring the rocky south-east shore of the island between Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs.
We hiked from Thunder Hole where the kids climbed rocks and explored tidal pools to Otter Cliffs, where we watched climbers scaling the rock face.
The bus schedule was a bit confusing, so we hiked back to Sand Beach where Walker couldn’t resist getting in the chill water. We tried to get Alli into the water, but it was a little too cold for her taste.
By the time we left, everyone was covered in sand and Walker was soaked head to toe.
Day 2 – Tuesday
This was the BIG DAY.
We started at the south end of Mount Desert Island and hiked up Eagles Crag and Dike Peak before making the final ascent up the south face of Cadillac Mountain.
The hike started off gentle. We walked silent paths through the forest. Even on the path, the loamy soil was so soft that our feet sank an inch or more with each step. We crossed streams on narrow board bridges, skirted enchanted ponds, and rounded large boulders by climbing stone steps built from the very rocks of that mountainside.
As we ascended, the environment changed. Moss gave way to lichen. Mixed forests gave way to scraggly stands of pitch pine and juniper. The soil thinned away until we were hiking across broad rock faces, worn smooth by countless years of wind and rain.
We paused at each summit to admire the view, which only became more stunning with each hill we crossed. On the north side of Dike Peak we encountered a rare rockwhale, swimming slowly along the mountain above The Featherbed pond. At one point we had to climb several large boulders and use a metal rung sunk into the rockface to continue our climb.
We arrived at the top of Cadillac, tired by the climb but thrilled at our achievement. Sure, we could have bought passage on one of the tour busses that ascends the winding road to the summit every hour, but the journey was the best part of our adventure.
Ironically, Alli twisted her ankle on an uneven step at the top of Cadillac. No way she would let that stop her though. She tightened up her boots and kept hiking, pushing through the discomfort as we hiked another two miles down steep mountain trails until we reached the bus stop at the bottom.
The second half of our hike was not quite as scenic. Being the shorter path, the North Face Trail is far steeper than the south. It also winds much closer to the road, so the silence of the forest is frequently interrupted by the roar and creak of automobiles wending along the mountainside. We came across several stunning views of Bar Harbor, braved narrow stone steps and steep rockfaces, and paused to cool our heads at a mountain spring.
In all, we hiked about eight miles that day and covered more than half the length of Mount Desert Island, ascending (and then descending) more than 1,500 feet in the process. We were tired and footsore by the end, but incredibly proud of our accomplishment.
Day 3 – Wednesday
Today was supposed to be a quiet day. A Day of recovering from Tuesday’s grueling hike.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned.
We took the bus in to Bar Harbor, where we wandered the town for a little while admiring the gardens and gas street lamps.
Our goal was to walk the town’s namesake bar across to Bar Island, but Walker had other plans.
When we reached the bar it was still mostly underwater. We spent almost an hour beach combing and watching the birds as we waited for the tide to recede. Ellie photographed the seagulls and barnacles.
And with each inch that the tide fell, Walker pressed forward. Finally he hiked up his jeans as far as they could go, tied his shoes to his backpack, and set off through the shallows.
We followed… stepping carefully to avoid slick rocks and jagged barnacles.
Arriving at the island, Walker shouted in victory, proclaiming himself the ruler of the island since he was the first person on it that day.
And then he started hiking.
Alli and I exchanged a look. We were both tired and her feet and ankles were wrecked from the Cadillac hike, but Walker seemed so excited to climb the mountain.
So we followed him. This time the hike to the summit was less than a mile and only the last bit required climbing steep rocks.
With our unexpected adventure completed, we headed back to camp.
Day 4 – Thursday
A day of rain as the remnants of Hurricane Ida rolled up the coast. The kids caught up on homework, Alli tried to stay off her damaged feet, and I edited a video about repairing the mirror.
Day 5 – Friday
We had hoped to visit seal cove, but the bus to that side of the island is not running this year and some research told us that we were about two months late for the best seal spotting. And so instead we visited the nature center at Seur de Monte.
The nature center itself features a large garden dedicated to showing off native plant in beds arranged by biome. Mountainside. Swamp. Roadside. Pine forest. And more.
We took a boardwalk through a mid-island swamp, litening to the animals and watching as the clear spring water gave way to pools stained red with tannins from fallen birch trees. We walked slowly, pausing frequently to listen to the creatures, smell the air, touch the bark.
Our home in Virginia is in a swamp and The Mothership’s home base in Maryland is right beside a swamp, but neither is like this. Here the air is cool. Here the water is almost clear. Here the pests are kept at bay by the cold weather.
We left the swamp and skirted the foot of Dorr Mountain, pausing to climb and take photos at a waterfall along Hemlock Path.
We returned to camp and had just got a nice campfire going for our final night when a sudden downpour blew in form the north. I piled on more wood and we waited, watching out the window of The Mothership, as the coals and raindrops battled for control of the campfire ring. Finally the rain stopped and we were able to pull out the folding chairs and have a final round of marshmallows around the fire.
We took three days to return to Maryland, stopping outside Augusta to visit old friends and let the kids swim in a clear, cold Maine lake. I supplemented the duck tape with multiple laters of maximum grip gorilla tape, said a few prayers, offered a few threats, and we headed on down the road.