Tag Archives: Acadia 2014

Heading home

Heading home

We were up at 7 and in the car by 7:45.  Pretty good, considering we had to break down all the cots, take down the tent and mount the bikes.  We stopped at McDonald’s in Ellsworth for breakfast (it would be a day of trying and failing to make good food choices for me), and after a little getting turned around, we were off by 9.  I decided this time to go straight out Route 3 to 95 and then south, thinking this would be faster, but it really wasn’t.  Even with snaking through all those little towns, I think Rout 1 is faster, just because you’re going south and west at the same time.  As it was, it took almost 2 1/2 hours to get to 95.

Once we did, though, we flew.  We almost got caught in traffic outside of Worcester, but we pulled over for gas and lunch, and by the time we got back on the road, the traffic had cleared.  The only real traffic we hit was between Waterbury and Danbury in Connecticut ::curse you, Connecticut::.  If we hadn’t made plans to stop by my brother’s in NY, we probably would have made it home by 8:30.

We went to Gabe’s instead, and I’m glad we did.  It’s always good to see him, even when it’s only briefly, and we got to take part in their Shabbat ritual, which was a little grounding in and of itself.  Plus we all got to Skype with Mom, which was fun.  We had dinner, and I was still feeling good enough that we headed out around 8.

No problems getting through the windy NY/NJ back roads.  287, however, had it in for us.  We got stuck in some godawful construction that took 4 lanes down to 1.  We were in that probably an hour and a half.  Finally walked in our front door at 11:45.  There would be NO unpacking that night.  There WOULD be showers, though.  It took a while to get everyone coordinated, so it was probably 1:30 by the time I finally go into bed.  Long day, but a good trip.

I think next time I would just plan to drive straight through both ways.  I’m not sure if it’s my weight loss or something else, but I really felt fine despite all that driving.  If going up we left around 4 a.m., we’d miss all the traffic in NY and CT and be in Acadia by 3-4.  Coming home, again if we left by 8-9, we could just fly through and be home for a late dinner.  Especially if I had a co-driver or two.

I’m kind of glad we ended up coming home a day early, though.  I had all day Saturday to get the car unpacked, do laundry and wash all the camping dishes to repack them for the next trip.  The tents are up and drying, and all the trash from the car is packed up.  I even did the grocery shopping that morning and put dinner in the crockpot.  Which left me the rest of the day to write this all up for you!  Not that I couldn’t have gotten all that done if we’d come home a day later, but still.  This was a bit more laid back.

And now onwards.  Morgan starts school next Wednesday, we’re going on one last camping trip Labor Day weekend, and then the kids start back.  So the next few weeks will be a lot of scrambling to get organized for school, order books, buy new clothes and all that.  At least all the camping gear is ready…

Day 5

Day 5

Nope, still raining.  Okay, another driving day.

I had kind of planned for it to be a driving day, anyway.  We’d gotten familiar with the island, but I wanted to look around off-island at some of the places I’d been finding houses for my farm fantasy.  Fortunately I’d had the forethought to have bought scones the day before to have for breakfast, so we had those and some hot chocolate and then hit the road to travel even further east.

Our first stop (sort of) was the College of the Atlantic.  We’d been passing by the campus every day, and I just wanted to see what it looked like.  Well, it looks like a summer camp for adults, which was fabulous.  When we got home, I looked up their programs, and they’re about the hippiest kind of school you could imagine, which, again, awesome.  Hero’s thinking about going there now.  Good thing she’s only 12, as it’s 40K a year…  I wish I’d known about it when I was younger.  My kind of school.

After that, we headed off-island.  We went out Route 1 towards Gouldsboro and Sullivan.  You could tell this area didn’t share in as much of the tourist trade as the towns west of the park did, but what in Michigan and Pennsylvania would have been pretty white trash looking, here it had a kind of run-down dignity.  And I was surprised by the occasional tourist spots we did see, a B&B here, an art studio there.  Winter Harbor was lovely.  Exposed to the sea but still grounded.  Since we were down there anyway, we checked out another part of the park, the Schoodic Peninsula.  I think this was my favorite part of the park.  It had all the rocks and waves we could have wanted, but it wasn’t as crowded.  I spent a lot of time playing with the burst function on my camera trying to get dramatic wave shots.

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Yeah, still not a photographer.

We had to treat today like it was the last day of the trip, so Hero had to finish her Junior Ranger challenges today.  The last thing she had to do was memorize the Junior Ranger Pledge, so we kept quizzing her on it the whole ride out and back, then stopped at the Visitor’s Center so she could turn in her book.  She was so proud of herself, especially when it turned out that she *hadn’t* needed to memorize it!  She got a big round of applause when the ranger announced it over the PA.

On the downside, we still had no luck getting our reservation extended, so today really was our last day.

That night was the last chance for stargazing.  We ate early and organized camp.  I had hoped to get everything but the tent packed up, but it was all still wet.  Nevertheless, after dinner we packed up the kitchen and took down the screen tent, just stuffing it in one of the empty clothes boxes until we could get it home to dry out.  I got the back of the car all organized so loading the next morning would be straightforward.  But as the sun started to set, the fog rolled in.  Gritting my teeth, I said we’d still make an attempt at going to the star show.  Hero, brilliant child that she is, suggested we go up on Cadillac instead.  My fear of heights screamed at me, but I put it to the vote and everyone agreed.  So I grit my teeth and we headed out.

Best. Decision.  Ever.

We were driving through fog and clouds the whole way, which was not making me feel better.  But about halfway up the mountain, all of a sudden we broke through and the road was perfectly clear, the clouds all beneath us in a way I’d only seen from airplanes.  We could see from horizon to horizon, the pale pink in the west, the darkening sky in the east as the stars started to come out.  And hey, we actually made it into the parking lot!  So did some other people who weren’t considerate with their headlights, but by 9:00 it didn’t matter.  Nothing was going to block out those stars.  Thousands of stars.  Millions of stars.  Billions and billions.  We watched satellites speed past.  Lingering meteors from the Perseids streaked by.  And finally, in a bright, glorious band, the Milky Way stretched across the whole arc of the sky, horizon to horizon, as we looked out across space and time into the universe.

(Not my picture. Crap photographer, remember?)

 

It was the perfect ending to the trip.

Day 4

Day 4

The weather didn’t hold.

It threatened rain all day.  So we decided to play tourist for the day.  Had breakfast (bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches on the stove) and headed into Bar Harbor around 9:30.  We were early enough that we actually got a parking space!  We spent a couple of hours walking the main drag.  It had a Provincetown-y feel to it without being quite as funky.  The kids all got tchatchkis and had fun with the kitsch.

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Then we drove the western half of the island.

Mt. Desert Island, on which are the National Park, Bar Harbor and half a dozen other towns, is much larger than I’d expected, and shaped rather like two lungs.  The eastern lung is where Bar Harbor and the Park are, while the western side is more the residential and working part of the island.  Which is not to say it doesn’t have it’s own tourism and charm.  We drove down to the Bass Harbor lighthouse (it was so wee!), checked out the other campground (more open than Blackwoods, which I didn’t like, although they had cool stone firepits), and then went into Southeast Harbor for lunch.  I got my fried clams finally, which made me very happy.  And didn’t make me sick!  Hooray!  No, they aren’t good for me, but I literally have them once a year.  My diet won’t be destroyed by indulging that often.  What I didn’t realize is that SEH is where one of my other cousins has her yoga studio!  (Told you we were all over)  I didn’t see the studio, though, so, sorry we missed you, Patricia!  We also stopped at a church outside of Somes that was having a pie sale fundraiser.  Everyone around Maine seems to sell pies to raise money.  Which, pie!  It smelled fabulous, too, as some of them were savory pies.  We went with a blueberry, that the kids liked because it had a heart on it.  They called it a Companion Pie, like the Companion Cubes in the Portal games.

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The sun was trying to come out when we got back to camp, so we rode our bikes down to the campground overlook into Otter Cove.  More rock hopping, which made Xander happy, until he got the the part that was about wide enough for his foot and then a straight cliff down 30 feet.  At that point my nerves couldn’t take anymore, so I made him come back.  He still found plenty of perches.

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We ate the pie that night while playing Catan, which was fun!  It wasn’t as sweet as they were used to, so they weren’t crazy about it, but it was still good.  But the weather that had been threatening all day finally made good and by 9:30 it was raining steadily.  The screen tent, which had done a great job against the bugs, was rubbish against the wet, so we had to drag in anything that shouldn’t get rained on and then we went to bed, hoping for a better day the next day.

Day 3

Day 3

Today would be beach day!

But first, another food experiment.  Today it was sausage stuffed pancakes.  Jiffy blueberry muffin mix, precooked sausage patties and pie irons.

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(I’ll post the full instructions for this later)

These were a definite thumbs up, once we got them to cook through.  I have challenges with keeping coals hot enough to cook on, apparently.  When we camp with Mom next, I need to have her edjumacate me.  Once we ate and tidied up, we changed into bathing suits and headed out.  By now it was about 9:30.

We were already too late.  The sign on the beach parking lot said “Full”, so we drove on and found a roadside spot about a quarter mile along.  Hero had a theory that the sign just always said that, whether the lot was full or not.  Possibly true, although it looked pretty full as we came down the stairs.  But it’s a nice beach with big changing rooms.  The beach itself is not very big, at least not to someone who is used to long ocean beaches.  This is at the back of an inlet, so is limited by the cliffs along either edge.  We claimed our spots and went to try the water.

Holy fuck, that’s cold!

It was about ten degrees colder than what we’re used to at the Cape, but my GOD what a difference those ten degrees make!  Both the younger kids made it all the way in, although for Xander it was more because he felt he had to, and he said it hurt until finally I made him get out of the water.  Hero was well and truly in, though.  Crazy child.  Morgan and I had another “Nope” consensus and walked the beach instead.  More rocks, found a crab that had lost half it’s legs and the first live jellyfish I’ve ever seen.  But after 45 minutes or so, we bagged it.

Instead we decided to go back up Cadillac Mountain for a ranger walk.  Again, couldn’t park at the top, so we parked at the overlook and walked up.  I won’t even bother trying to park in the main lot again.  It’s not a bad walk, and a lot less stressful.  Plus, blueberries.  We had to hurry out to make the talk on time, which was interesting.  Found out that while the park was commissioned in 1916, most of the infrastructure was built in the 30s by my beloved Civilian Conservation Corp.  After the talk, we went back to the car, had another picnic lunch, picked more berries, and then headed back to the campsite.

By now, I was loving the place so much that I didn’t want to go home.  But I had screwed up our reservation and had us leaving Friday instead of Saturday.  So we stopped in at the ranger station to see if we could get an extension.  No joy, but they said to keep trying.  I also found out where the nearest gas station was, so I dropped the kids off and drove back into Bar Harbor to tank up.

Right across the street from the gas station was another Hannafords.  ::headdesk::  Oh well, at least now I know for next time.

Dinner was much more low key, just beans and hot dogs, and we got everything cleaned up in plenty of time to go back to Sand Beach for the ranger led stargazing show.  Sure enough, the sign still read full, even though the lot was almost empty.  We got there early enough that I got our Hobbit chapter in while waiting for 9:00.  No grouchy neighbors tonight!  The show itself was disappointing, not because of the rangers, but because of Mother Nature.  Clouds started drifting in as they got started, and by 9:30 the remains of the supermoon was creeping up over the mountains and obscuring everything.  And we were COLD!  So no Milky Way, which was something I really wanted the kids to see.  Oh well.  They did the show again on Thursday.  Maybe we’d have better luck.  If the weather held.

Day 2

Day 2

Bacon and eggs for breakfast.  I could get really spoiled by the new propane stove.  It’s a lot easier than building a fire twice a day to eat! We also started to notice something interesting.  There were no bear warnings.  Camping in NY and PA, we’re constantly warned about not leaving food out or storing it in our tents and told to take our trash to the special dumpsters to keep away the bears.  But all the signs we were seeing were about raccoons.  Not even a hint of a bear warning.  (And we never did even see a raccoon, either).  Curious.  Once we’d eaten and done dishes (well, rinsed), we loaded into the car to hit the Visitor’s Center.

I’m a National Park girl from waaaaaay back.  I grew up in the Cape Cod National Seashore, and was present at the birth of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  So I know that the place to go to find out about any park is the Visitor’s Center.  I was a little surprised that the Acadia one didn’t have more of a museum component.  This was also the first park I’d been to that had an admission fee.  We had gotten ours when we checked in at the campground, so we avoided the looooooong line of people getting their passes.  (I did find out Xander will qualify for a free lifetime pass due to his ASD.  I just need to get him the right ID and a letter from his doctor and we can get him set up with that.)  We got our first souvenirs, the patches for the kids’ sweatshirts and a pin for my collection.  Then we watched the intro video, which twigged Hero to the Junior Park Ranger program.  So we ended up in line after all to talk to a ranger about that.  I got information about some of the trails I could manage (fear of heights is not a great thing in this park!) and Hero got her junior ranger project book.  We also asked about the bears.  Yup, no bears.  She said it was because it was an island, there really isn’t any way for them to get into the park.  So, bonus!

We decided to spend the day seeing the whole park before we decided what we were going to do.  This is actually kind of easy in Acadia, as it is ringed by a road, the Park Loop Road, that goes past all the major park sites.  It’s a closed one-way road, so you get on and go.  Which we did.  At first we stopped at every pull-out.  At the first couple, Hero began her obsession with blueberries

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And Xander found rocks.

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This would become a theme for the rest of the trip.

The other thing we started to find was traffic.  Acadia is one of the top ten most visited parks in the National Park System, which is great, but it’s not a very big park, and all those people had to cram into not very many parking spaces.  There were a lot of places where people just parked along the side of the road.  Hoping to see falcons, we did this ourselves near the Precipice trail.  The name is not misleading.  We couldn’t see any falcons (as we were leaving, a ranger told us the fledgelings were all flying and moving on, sadly), but we did get a good look at the trail from the ground.  This “trail” goes up a sheer cliff hundreds of feet up.

There are iron rung ladders along it so you don’t have to rope climb, but Morgan and I looked at each other and went “Nopenopenopenopenope!”  Back to the car and on we went.

The next major stop was Sand Beach.  It’s one of the few sandy beaches on the island, and it was MOBBED.  We drove almost another mile along before we finally found a spot along the road to park.  We decided not to bother walking back to the beach, but we found some amazing rock cliffs over the water on the other side of the road that we went to explore.

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I never could get decent scale shots, but these cliffs are probably 40-50 feet high.  We went out scrambling all over them, and to my surprise I only had a few twinges of height fear.  It was just so gorgeous, and as craggy as it was, it was easy to find footholds.  After a while, we decided to head on a little further, and actually got a parking spot in the lot at Thunder Hole.  Thunder Hole is an inlet into the rocks where, if the tide and waves are right, you can get huge plumes of surf crashing up over the rocks and path.  Unfortunately the tide was not in our favor, and it was getting on to lunch time.  So we moved on.

We skipped Jordan Pond (never did stop there) and headed straight for Cadillac Mountain.  Cadillac is the tallest point on the eastern seaboard (which surprised me, because I always thought that was Mount Washington, but maybe they meant near the shore), and has an amazing view of the whole island.

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Or it did once we finally got to it.

Yet again, the congestion worked against us.  There were no parking spots available, and the road all along was packed.  Finally we went back about 3/4 of a mile to an overlook point where, huzzah, parking!  We had lunch out of the back of the car (our bear training guaranteed that we had all our food with us) and then walked up to the summit.  All along the road were blueberry bushes just covered in ripe berries.  I thought Hero’s head was going to explode from it all!  She had the ziploc bag with her that we had started back at the beginning of the loop road, so she and I picked and walked and walked and picked while the boys went on ahead.  What should have been a ten minute walk took us about half an hour, but by the end of it we had a good cup and a half of berries.  Then we went up and crawled all over the top of the mountain.  LOTS of rock hopping happening there!  And my favorite picture of the kids:

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And here’s one of me to prove I actually was there (I think it’s the only one of me we got…]

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We were finally able to get into a bathroom, I got everyone drinks, and then we went out on an adventure of a different kind.

Since we were in Maine, I wanted the kids to have seafood of some kind.  But I wasn’t going to pay $25 a plate for food I didn’t know if they would even like.  I had foil dinners on the menu, but I decided instead to do our own clambake over the fire.  So we went looking for a grocery store for some ingredients and then a lobster pound for the shellfish.  We tried to find seafood on island, but apparently I didn’t know where to look, as we had no luck.  The only supermarket I’d seen was a Hannaford’s off-island in Ellsworth, so we headed up that way.  It was a nice store (good to know for someone thinking about moving up there), and the prices and brands were pretty comparable to home.  First time anyone ever asked me if I’d checked my eggs, though!  Then we went back towards Bar Harbor and a lobster place we’d passed on the way up.  Xander was the only one to go in with me this time, and I’m so glad he did.  The look of shock and horror when the girl pulled a lobster out of the tank and threw it on the scale for us was priceless!  This thing’s waving around going, “Put me back in the water, you miserable so-and-so or I swear I will cut you!” and Xander’s eyes and mouth are open about as far as they’ll go as she stuffs him into a paper bag.  He’s telling the others about it in the car and Morgan starts freaking out.  “The lobster’s in a paper bag?  A PAPER BAG?”  Brilliant.  Absolutely the best thing ever.

Until Hero got to put it in the pot.  That was really good, too.

See, we screwed up one of Hero’s DIY badges earlier this summer.  She needed to cook over a fire to complete her Camper badge, which she did when we went camping in July, but we got pictures of the whole process except her actually putting food in the fire.  So we decided this was easy, just a bunch of dumping.  I got everything prepped, the kids shucked the corn, we boiled the chicken broth, parboiled the potatoes and then off she went.

In went the mussels and littlenecks.

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In went the corn

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Then it was time to take the lobster out of the paper bag.

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She wasn’t about to just reach in and grab him sight unseen, so she tore the bag open.  Slowly.  The boys were all watching from a safe distance, Morgan on the other side of the picnic table, Xander in the tent.  Finally the lobster’s exposed enough that he can start waving his claw again, and she freaks out a little.  I show her how to grab him, and then get my camera ready.  Up she goes, drops him in, I grab the picture and we both slam the lid on him, squealing with fear and laughter the whole time.

I didn’t get the picture.

But here she is after the fact.

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Not so scary now, are you, buddy?

Of course, keep in mind that I HAVE NEVER COOKED OR EATEN A WHOLE LOBSTER IN MY LIFE, EITHER.  All my knowledge here was theoretical and what the girl at the lobster pound had told me.  So when I started cutting him apart to give everyone a taste, I didn’t expect all the greenish water that came gushing out of him!  Many paper towels later, everyone got their piece.  It was…okay.  Not sure if I didn’t do something right or I’m just not a lobster person.  Xander and Hero both liked the mussels, none of us were crazy about the littlenecks (I should have gotten cherrystones), and the corn and potatoes were yummy.  So it was a fun adventure.  By then it was almost time for the ranger show, so I sent the kids on while I kept the fire going to keep the dish water hot.  I’m sorry I missed it, because it was about the formation of the park, but the kids were inspired by it, so that worked out.  The only downer to the day was our new neighbor coming over to yell at me for reading aloud to my kids after quiet time.  How dare I.  Whatever, dude.  Your precious tykes weren’t all that quiet, either.

Starting Out

Starting Out

We were up around 7:30 and on the road by 9.  We were taking it easy going up, as it was all new to me.  Day 1 was actually well familiar.  We went up to New York and through Connecticut to northern Massachusetts to stay with my cousin over night.  Which should have been about 5-6 hours but ended up being almost 8 because Connecticut did not want us to go through her.  Pretty much from the New York border to the Mass Pike was one long traffic jam.  Grah.

We finally got to Pepperell around 4.  We stayed the night in my aunt Ginny’s house, which is a gorgeous old Victorian on the edge of town.  I love this house so very much.  All our family parties that I can remember were held there (I know some were at my aunt Rosie’s, but I don’t remember those well as I was very small), and that was the house I discovered Doctor Who in.  But Ginny died this past spring.  At her memorial service, my cousin Susie insisted that we stay there (I’d been planning to get a motel room in Nashua) as her mom had wanted us to, and I couldn’t really say no to that.  But it was…weird.  Houses hold memories, energy of the people who lived there, but this house was empty.  Ginny and Joe had lived there for more than 50 (60?) years, raised two kids and a bunch of grandkids there, but that energy was gone.  Which I guess is a good thing.  As my brother said, it means she’s with Joe now (he died of cancer 15? years ago) and they’ve both moved on, but it was still eerie.

The kids loved the place, though, with all the nooks and crannies and attic and back stairs (city kids.  They’ve never seen a house with more than one staircase!) and were ready to move right in.  Which I would have totally been behind if there was room for my sheep.  But no.  We went up to New Hampshire to visit my aunt Millie (my mom is one of 8 kids.  There are aunts and uncles and cousins all over New England), and her granddaughter Laura and her daughter Amy came over to visit while we were there.  Amy was a big hit with my younger two.  They haven’t been around babies before (Amy’s 1 1/2), and she had them completely wrapped around her tiny little finger.  I also got to see Millie’s latest quilting project, a gorgeous representation of the textile mill girls from the area that she’ll be showing in November.  Millie is a professional quilter and even has a quilt hanging in the National Liberty Museum here in Philadelphia!  So it was exciting for me to get to see this work in progress.

We hit the road early the next morning.  Susie left us a coffee cake, so that was breakfast handled, and by 7 we were back on the road.  From here on out, it was all new to me, which was kind of exciting!  Although, once we got on 95, it was all highway all the time.  Interstates all look pretty similar, although the trees were taller than I’d expected. Except this stretch of 95 had the new LEGAL 70 mph speed limit.

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I will admit that weirded me out just a little.  Not that I wasn’t doing 70 anyway…

We got off onto Route 1 near Brunswick and wound our way north along the coast road.  Although for being the coast, we didn’t see much water!  Little hints near Camden and Belfast, and then the most amazing bridge in Bucksport!

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That’s a lot of bridge for two lanes of traffic!  We tried to do a selfie with it.

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We’re really bad at selfies.

From there, I thought it would be no time at all until we were on the island.  But distance and time are misleading in Maine, apparently.  It was another hour before we got onto the island, and a half hour beyond that before we finally pulled into the campground at about 3:30.  The Blackwoods campground is like campgrounds from my memory, all deep woods and no electricity.  At least there were flush toilets instead of pit ones!

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We took about an hour getting set up, and then went out to find firewood.  You can’t scavenge wood in the park, so we had to buy it locally, but practically everyone is selling it, so we went out to explore.  A couple of miles down the road, we found Seal Harbor, and since it was low tide, we got out to poke around.  The beaches around here are almost all rocky, which was fine, as rocks make interesting things like beach glass, which we found a little of.  And LOTS of mussel shells.  As we’re walking around the edge of the cove, we start finding other things.  Like hermit crabs.

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And then I noticed a circle in the sand.  I brushed it off and picked up my first ever sand dollar.  It was a fawn brown color with fringy edges, and as I held it in the palm of my hand, I could swear I felt the faintest tickling.  I called the kids over, but they couldn’t feel it.  Just in case it was still alive, I put it back.  Then I noticed another circle.  And another.  And another and another and another.  There were HUNDREDS of sand dollars all over these beach, all of them alive!  It was incredible.  I couldn’t have imagined such a thing.  To me sand dollars were rare finds that washed up on beaches during storms.  To have so many of them just laying all over was astonishing.  Xander had the eye, though, and found us a couple that had died already (they turn white with black splotches as the color fades), so we were able to bring a couple home.

Finally we packed it in, found our firewood and went back to camp.  Dinner that night was an experiment, spaghetti sandwiches. [http://www.cleanandscentsible.com/2013/07/camping-tips-tricks-and-recipes-pie.html]  I had premade the spaghetti and made way too much.  We brought frozen garlic bread, and I hadn’t realized that the kind I got had cheese on one side.  And of course I put it in the pie iron wrong side down.  Fortunately I’d lined the irons with tinfoil, so at least the sticky mess was easy to throw away.  But the kids liked it in theory.  We needed better coals, as they hadn’t quite toasted, but they decided yes, they would try it again.  So we’re calling it a qualified success and will give it another shot.  By that point, even though it was only 8:30, we were all pooped, so off we went to bed.  Day 2 would be our first big Acadia adventure.