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
And Xander found rocks.
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.
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.
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:
And here’s one of me to prove I actually was there (I think it’s the only one of me we got…]
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.
In went the corn
Then it was time to take the lobster out of the paper bag.
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.
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.