Thirty-five years is a long time, three and a half decades of change and challenge. A woman would think that there would be some expensive trinket to commemorate this, but the gift for thirty-five doesn’t have the gleam of forty (ruby), fifty (gold) or 60 (diamond). Coral, admittedly, is warm and romantic but I didn’t get any. Someday I’ll get the shiny stuff but this year I settled for romance.
We wanted a romantic getaway. Going to Santa Barbara where we got married and have spent the last five anniversaries seemed dull and impractical. I miss walking on El Capitan beach but our new life demanded a new adventure. First we thought of going to Cape Cod. Or back to New York City. But we didn’t make plans. Our lives this year have been a series of crises and adjustments. Our expanded household in a new community has consumed more energy than we anticipated. Making plans has become difficult. But this entry isn’t about how we are such a great couple to survive all these years. Instead I am ready to declare my new love –Maine.
Maine—the land of lobster and moose—became our honeymoon destination because I wanted to walk on the beach. After our trip to the Connecticut coast, I longed for a long expanse of shoreline to meander along. Neither of us had ever been to Maine. Maine, we heard, was spectacular. One of my uncles had disappeared into the Maine wilderness sometime during the sixties (oddly enough we found him). One of my aunts had told me stories that made me want to live there. Acadia National Park, according to friends and co-workers, was beautiful. So we made reservations at a campground.
We planned to leave early on Friday, figuring the trip would take at least seven hours. As so often happens, my husband had to finish up a project at work. Happy that we were not missing a plane to Paris, I loaded the truck and trailer myself. We left around four thirty in the afternoon—just in time for Hartford traffic—not much by LA standards but enough to slow down a truck and travel trailer. And then we hit Boston traffic. It was dark by the time we crossed the Maine border. We should have looked at the possible routes Google maps offered a bit more closely because the one we chose sent us down a dark two lane highway. When we finally reached Mount Desert Island, we wandered down a narrow residential road with no street lights until one of us noticed that we had typed “Country Road” instead of “County Road” in the map search and we were heading to the wrong destination. It’s not easy to make a three point turn on a narrow road pulling a travel trailer, but my husband is fantastic.
We reached our destination, which was on the right, after midnight. We needed to stop by the camp office to pick up our site number but the camp office was not easily discernible in the dark. First we went to a large restroom/shower house. Then we ended up on the tent campers only road and had to back up. We did a tour of pull through sites before we found the office. And we still had to find our spot and back in.
Maine, in the late morning, was beautiful. At least our campsite was. Our trailer backed up to the shore so I was greeted by seagulls, low tide and sunshine through the dissipating fog. I had two cups of coffee, a walk along the tide line, and thirty-four photos before my husband joined me.
We started our Maine tour by driving to the Visitor’s Center in Acadia to buy a park pass so we could tour the park loop road. I was enchanted from the very beginning. As soon as we started up the trail from the parking lot, I spied a yellow golf ball of a mushroom. The dark Stephen King woods beckoned. A hint of fall was in the air. I could write a novel in a place like this.
Acadia is different from other National Parks in that most of the land for the park was donated by wealthy men like John D. Rockefeller, jr. The park is not contiguous; subsequently, pockets of private property can be found in some areas. The roads and trails are laid out in such a fashion that you cannot see the carriage roads from the park loop road and vice versa. We started on the park loop road, heading up to Cadillac Mountain. The fog rolled over the top so we stayed briefly before heading down to Jordan Pond House. We had been told that popovers at Jordan Pond House are a must. While many people have them with tea, I suggest the popovers with the lobster bisque or clam chowder. We sat indoors, but people waited for an outdoor table on the lawn. They do take reservations if you really want to sit outdoors. Afterwards meander around the pond—the trail took us down well designed paths, over some granite steps and along a boardwalk over a bog. Beaver gnawed trees lined the trail. We saw two different beaver lodges. Both of us were struck by the power of these creatures.
The next day we went to Bass Harbor Lighthouse. We had to go down some wooden stairs, a short path and then scramble down some rocks in order to see it. Much of the lighthouse was under scaffolding so our view was obscured. The view of the coast was breath-taking, making the trip worthwhile.
One of my husband’s co-workers had suggested the Bass Harbor Nature Trail. The loop was an easy walk, giving us yet another view of the Maine coast. The funniest sight was some ducks bodysurfing. We wandered out over some rocks, noting the piles of mussel and clam shells discarded by the gulls. For years, I scrambled over the sandstone rocks of the California shoreline. Those rocks are young compared to the granite here. I stopped to admire the lines of quartz that run through some rocks. My husband, once a geology major, reminded me that this is a submerging coastline.
After lunch, at Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bass Harbor, my husband wanted to hike up a mountain. I had already said that I didn’t want to hike the trail to Cadillac Mountain that had the ladders on it. Some other trail would be fine. Using our guidebook, he found a trail up Acadia Mountain that was rated strenuous (but no ladders). “Breathtaking view of the fjord,” claimed my husband. That’s not actually in the guidebook but that author, James Kaiser, does say “spectacular” (194). A mere 681 feet. How hard could it be? We have climbed higher mountains but not lately. Our hiking this summer has been mostly on easy trails. I hesitated. My husband doesn’t get to the gym as much as I would like. And although he could be considered a weekend warrior, usually he has just one day to anything recreational. On the trail map at the start of the trail, only part of the trail was considered difficult. We can handle this, I thought as we started up.
The rain the night before left some of the rocks slippery. Roots jutted out. The footholds were narrow in spots. We had to do some climbing, bu we had the dark Stephen King woods to ourselves as well as some terrific views. We saw just three other people on the trail. One, who lived in Maine in the summer and fall and Texas the rest of the year, told us he hiked this trail every day. The others, a young couple, may have come up the Man O War Brook fire road (which is how we got down). We reached the top of the mountain and boldly continued to the Man O’War Brook Waterfall. The brook cascades into a the sound, which is so deep that according to our guidebook, 18th and 19th century sailing vessels came up to the cliffs to refill their water supplies from the waterfall. At the beginning of the hike, I had some trepidations. What if I slipped? By the time we headed toward the waterfall, I had decided that I needed to do more challenging hikes. I wish we had started earlier in the day so we could have gone up the neighboring St. Sauveur mountain as well.
Our last day was our carriage ride, a trip to the shops in Bar Harbor (usual tourist stuff), and a drive along the rest of the park loop. (Oh! And we surprised an uncle I hadn’t seen in 48 years. His antique store was two miles from our campground. My husband bought some old skis to hang in the family room.) The list of things we didn’t do is long. I have already begun to mark the hikes for next year.
Connecticut is pretty but tame. The woods are reclaimed farmland. Once someone farmed where my house now sits. One of my neighbors insists that my driveway was part of an old carriage road, the rest of which was destroyed for a new housing development two years ago. It’s lovely but it’s not wild. Maine is wild. In the darkness of the woods, one could imagine witches, imps and werewolves. Along the rocky coast, star crossed lovers met, doomed in their romance. In the lighthouse, a woman watches for her fisherman husband. And I haven’t been out to the islands yet.
As we sped through Bangor, I spied a sign: “Sugarloaf Ski Area.” A ski resort? It’s supposed to be good my husband said, eyes straight ahead, concentrating on the drive. As we made our way out of Maine, I kept one eye on the road for moose while I searched the Sugarloaf website. Our new ski destination?