Thursday, June 14, 2012

Goodbye New Hampshire, Hello Maine!

Maine State House - Augusta, Maine
June 9, 2012

We left Meredith, New Hampshire for our 225 mile drive to Southwest Harbor, Maine on a morning that couldn't have been more different than the day we had arrived one week earlier.   Saturday morning was picture perfect with sunny skies and a cool, calm breeze.   Our drive would be through countryside we'd never seen and had two perfectly built-in stopping places for breaks.  

The first stop came 80 miles later when we pulled into the parking lot of the DeLorme Headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine.   Only to a map/travel geek like me will this name mean much of anything!  DeLorme is one of the largest mapping, GPS and Digital Data Technology businesses in the world.  If you've ever seen those large Red Book State Atlas/Gazetters or used Earthmate GPS software, those are both DeLorme products.  They have a HUGE map store and I could not resist the chance to stop by.   Bill, being the patient soul that he is, agreed to wait and amused himself by sitting in the lobby being entertained by Eartha, the world's largest revolving and rotating globe.  Little by little, I've collected many of the Gazetteers for states we've visited and find there is no substitute for detailed mapping information if you choose to plan trips using backroads like we prefer.  We love Endora (our Garmin GPS), but I never travel anywhere (nor will I ever) without a paper map.  My Tennessee Gazetteer is falling apart at the seams, so I was tempted to replace it, but managed to escape with only a Maine Gazetteer which was a planned purchase.   Would've loved to have bought the comprehensive set including the entire US - it was only $649.50.  LOL!!  I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

Map Store Nirvana - DeLorme Corporate Headquarters
Yarmouth, Maine - June 9, 2012

Moving on, our next stop was Maine's capital city, Augusta.   Part of my trip planning included ordering an Augusta Visitor's Guide and it had seemed like a place we would've enjoyed spending a day or two, but the timing wasn't right.   We knew it would be a quick visit.   We also knew it would be on a Saturday, so we would not be able to tour the capitol building.  But as we had discovered when we visited Hartford (Connecticut), also on a Saturday, the advantage is easy access and the opportunity to park right in front of the building to get out, take pictures and walk around.   Augusta is a small capital city (pop. 18,560) and seemed very laid-back.   You would think these capitol buildings would be starting to all look alike (this is #9 on this trip), but that is not the case.  We both thought this one exceptionally beautiful from the outside and would've loved to have seen the interior. It is pictured above and here's a shot taken from the front.

Maine State House - Augusta, Maine
June 9, 2012

As we crossed the Kennebec River heading out of Augusta, we noticed a bike path that stretched along the river in both directions as far we could see!  Yes, we would have enjoyed spending a night in Augusta.  

The excitement about arriving on Mt Desert Island had been building all day.  When we visited this area 11 years ago, we only had three nights, it was hot as blazes (mid-July) and to top it off, Bill got sick.  But we remembered enough to know that it was a place to which we'd return and although we've enjoyed every single step of this trip, it was our two weeks here that we've so anticipated.  I've had this cottage bookmarked for years and we would have probably done this trip last year except that this cottage was already booked when I began trip planning.  So when we pulled into Harbor Daze and found it to be everything the website described, we knew our two weeks here was going to be great!

Harbor Daze - Our Maine "home" for two weeks.

 Southwest Harbor, Maine bay view from our den window.

Mount Desert Island is the third largest island in the continental US and is reached by only one road (US Highway 3).  Ironically, Mt. Desert Island is shaped somewhat like a lobster claw with Somes Sound dividing it in the middle.  On the west side of Somes Sound are quaint little harbor villages with names like Seal Cove, Bass Harbor, Somesville and Southwest Harbor (where we are staying).  Bar Harbor is the largest village on the east side and is known as the gateway to Acadia National Park, which actually encompasses the vast majority of the island.  We love being on what's called the "quiet side" of the island, yet we can be to Bar Harbor in 15 minutes.  It is still early in the season here and even Bar Harbor with its many shops, ice cream parlors and art galleries is pretty empty.   I think one of the main reasons I had resisted returning was that my memories recalled EXTREMELY crowded streets and really hot temperatures.  That certainly isn't the case right now although we are told it will be VERY soon.

The Great Fire of 1947 consumed more than 10,000 acres of Acadia and many of the mansions, grand hotels and private homes, but favorable winds spared the downtown section of Bar Harbor.  So there are lots of lovely old Victorian mansions which have been carefully restored and are now operating as inns, private homes and some restaurants.   We spent a good part of Monday in Bar Harbor and enjoyed every minute.  We walked the Shore Path and to Bar Island, a really cool place we remembered from our first visit.  Bar Island is only accessible during low tide, so one has to time their visit just right.  

In just a few hours, this low tide only access to Bar Island will be underwater!

We had left Bar Harbor long before high tide, but the picture below was taken from atop Cadillac Mountain looking back down on Bar Harbor.  Bar Island is the one in the foreground on the far left.  You can see the area near the left end where we had walked across earlier is now completely underwater.  Fun stuff!

Our days in Maine will be primarily filled with hiking and biking the trails and carriage roads of Acadia National Park.   There are 125 miles of maintained hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage trails.  The carriage trails were originally built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in response to his fear that the arrival of the automobile on Mt. Desert Island would threaten what he hoped would become "a real gem of the first order among national parks."  

We love Acadia because it has mountains (well, if you can call Cadillac's 1,500' a mountain) miles of ocean shoreline, gorgeous lakes and ponds along with some lovely waterfalls.  We can't wait to explore as much of it as we can over the next several days.  We have also learned that 85% of the world's wild blueberry crop is grown in Maine.   We are fortunate to be here when the blueberry bushes are flowering adding another unexpected dimension to the beauty.  We stopped at the Visitor Center, watched the excellent movie about the park, renewed our annual national park passes, picked up trail and carriage road maps, then drove the 27 mile park loop road culminating in a late afternoon drive to the top of Cadillac mountain. 

The only negative thing we have discovered about our little Harbor Daze cottage is that we have a less than optimal internet connection.   Normal surfing works o.k. (it's pretty slow when we are both using our laptops at the same time), but uploading pictures to the blog is almost impossible.  Bill is also finding it frustrating as he is trying to choose music for the new school year.  Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience, so there will be fewer pictures, but hopefully links and words will keep it interesting.  (I'm also not complaining - all our other connections have been better than what we have at home!  We've been lucky!)

Thought I'd try to pick out one or two pictures from each hike we have done so far.........................

Ship Harbor Trail - June 10, 2012

Beech Mountain Trail - June 12, 2012

This trail was a 1.4 mile loop that felt like 5 miles.  Seeing the fire tower and the the views made it well worth it, but in retrospect, we'd head to the left first instead of the right.  Climbing UP sheer rock faces is easier than getting down.

Hard to comprehend the vertical downslope of this.  We are standing at the bottom of a rock face we'd just come down one VERY careful sidestep at a time.  This would have been impossible had the rocks been even slightly wet.  

Beech Cliffs Trail - June 12, 2012

That's Cadillac Mountain in the far distance - highest mountain peak in Acadia at 1503' AND highest mountain peak on the US Eastern coastline.
 If he had told me to take one more step back, I'd have gotten suspicious!

Echo Lake and Echo Lake Beach - it's a LONG way down!

Canada Cliffs Trail - June 12, 2012

 See the firetower where we were earlier that day.

It isn't all rocks - there are some wonderfully tranquil trail sections of smooth pine straw!   NICE!
Wednesday, it rained ALL DAY LONG!  Sometime gentle, sometimes heavy, but always raining.  That's o.k.  We knew it was coming and planned for a rest day.   Bill did a good bit of work while I did some reading and believe it or not, future travel planning!!  I also caught myself gazing out this giant picture window watching the lobster boats move in and out of the harbor in the rain.  As dusk fell, in moved the fog!  The good news is that the 10-day forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temps around 70 every single day!
I'll end this post by showing you something else we've made plenty of time to do.   After all, we are in Maine - isn't this what you are SUPPOSED TO DO???



  1. I love how you guys travel somewhere and spend a good bit of time at each stop...whether a week or two in this case! I've done some of those trails in Acadia...did you have any trouble with mosquitos. I swear some of them tried to tote me off while there. Ha! I hope the lobster was good!!

  2. We are hoping to get to Maine next year - yay for lobsters!!

  3. You know what is so interesting to me? The pictures of the island looked eerily like scenes I saw when I was hiking on Whidbey Island--on the other side of the United States!

  4. We loved Acadia when we were there also and will definitely go back when we retire as it is just too far to drive there and back from Wisconsin. We were younger and suffered the long days better when we did it before! I've come to the point where I don't want to go anywhere outside of Wisconsin unless I have at least a full week to really explore it. If you haven't taken a lobster cruise yet you should look into it. They are reasonably priced and you get to experience lobster "fishing" as well as all the coastal scenery and other wildlife. We took one from Camden and loved it! I was also just reading about the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland which would be an easy drive for you guys. You keep inspiring me to write some "retro" posts...enjoy Maine, and get a shot of those blueberries in bloom for me, I've never seen that!

  5. I love Maine! My son lived there for many years when he was an eraly boat builder Brooklyn, Maine. We made every opportunity to visit as often as we could. Your trip and the easy, slow pace that you ramble through the states is something that I admire and value. Our next big road trip is in two years. I am planning a long trip, now because of you. Or as long as my hubby;s schedule will permit.

    I am sure Jordan's pond house is on your schedule. If you go, please enjoy a cup of tea and a popover for me. That is one of my favorite places in the world. Just lovely.

  6. I have never been there and it's been fun to see it through your blog.

  7. I got a little dizzy looking at Echo Lake. :) Pine straw is much more my thing.

    Maine is another state I hope to visit someday. Maybe if I win the lottery tonight I could come up and visit you & Mr B for a couple days? (I'll buy you that set of fancy maps!)

  8. Have a lobsta for me please! Great reading on my old stomping grounds.

  9. Gorgeous pictures --and I love your little home. Sorry about the internet connection. Do you have a verizon Mi-fi? We carry one with us and use it when we don't have good service... BUT--of course, you have to have a Verizon connection ---which you may not have there.... Oh Well!!!

    I'd love to visit all of New England ---and there are two things I would look for if I were there. One is the covered bridges and one is lighthouses. When we talked about visiting Maine last year (and didn't) ---we mapped out several lighthouses to visit. I could collect them just like I do waterfalls --if I had the time... (Maybe in another lifetime!!! ha)

    Have fun.. Love your gorgeous photos.

    Have a great weekend.


  11. Oh Sharon...I'm am so enjoying reading about your time at Acadia! You were smart to plan to spend two weeks there. So many wonderful places to see. Your photos are wonderful. I am fascinated by Bar Island. I love the idea of being able to walk to an island! By the way, I am a real map geek myself. I should tell you what I did a few days ago after reading about your trip to Acadia. We're members of AAA and have enjoyed being able to get "free" maps. So I ordered maps of both New England and of Acadia and the surrounding area and have been tracing your route! I know that might sound strange, but it makes me almost feel like I've taken a trip myself! Of course, I still hope to do the real thing someday. :-)