Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Rain in Maine

Massachusetts was very nice, but it was time to continue north. We drove through a small segment of coastal New Hampshire and into Maine. The further north we went, the cooler and more comfortable it became. But it was also becoming dark and cloudy and, shortly after reaching Blueberry Pond RV Park near Freeport, it began to rain . . . with a vengeance. The sky crackled with lightning and heavy thunder rattled our RV. That was just the beginning. It continued to rain off and on for the next ten days. Fortunately, the storms swept through rapidly and were interspersed with sunny periods for sightseeing and photo taking.

Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean, a primary stop for tourists passing through. It's an interesting store with lots of unusual features, such as the "hunting lodge" lounge in the photo below. Bean has grown into a complex of stores that includes an “outlet” store with very reasonable prices. Freeport has many other upscale outlet stores. It's a fun place to browse.
After a couple days in Freeport, we continued north and set up camp in Ellsworth, about 30 miles from Bangor and 15 miles from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Mother Nature greeted us with one of the most violent thunder storms we have ever experienced. Buckets of rain fell while very loud crackling thunder shook the motor home. It felt like the sky was being ripped apart. Amazing.

After the storm drifted off to the east, we took a leisurely drive along Frenchman Bay to the village of Winter Harbor. From there, a shuttle bus took us through a remote portion of Acadia Nat’l. Park. It’s a bit difficult to get to, so it’s not crowded at all, as you can see in the photos. We had a good time playing on the massive rocks and watching the waves and sea birds.

We reserved the best sunny day for a trip to Bar Harbor. It’s a serious tourist destination and traffic is intense but not impossible. We arrived early and found a spot in a public parking lot near downtown. We got carried away and stayed about seven hours in our three-hour parking spot. Fortunately, we didn’t get a ticket.
Bonnie likes to be out on the water so a boat ride was a priority. Lots of boat tours were available. We had trouble deciding whether to go on a whale watching boat, a ferry to the Cranberry Islands, a lobster boat, a sailboat, etc. We finally decided to join Captain Ed for a sail around Frenchman Bay on his lobster sloop “Chrissy” (photo). A nice breeze was blowing and it was a perfect day for a relaxing sail on the bay.

Ed told us the history of his 1910 sloop and all about the local lobster industry. He had several lobster traps in the bay and stopped to check them. He caught one but it was a little fella and had to be tossed back.

The Royal Carribean cruise ship Explorer of the Seas was in port with its 3,100 passengers. They clogged the sidewalks, stores and restaurants and pumped a good amount of revenue into the local economy.
We spent parts of three days exploring Acadia Park. It’s a beautiful park with miles of rocky shoreline, vistas, wildlife, historic carriage roads and hiking trails. We climbed on more rocks and poked around the bookstore and lighthouse at Bass Harbor.

Jordan Pond is a very popular and scenic place. We found a patch of wild blueberries and were merrily picking when the sky opened up again and gave us a brief shower.

The highlight of Acadia Park was viewing Bar Harbor and the Maine coastline from the top of Cadillac Mountain. The mountain rises to a nosebleed elevation of 1,530 ft. That’s not very high by Northwest standards, but it’s the highest point along the entire east coast of North America. A roadway leads to a parking lot near the rocky top and we managed to struggle the final 100 feet or so to the summit (without oxygen). From the top, visitors can admire views in all directions from a series of easy trails and viewpoints.
Lobster (lobstah) is king in Maine. There are “lobster pounds” everywhere. These are places where one can buy fresh live lobsters to take home, or have one cooked on the spot for instant consumption. Luckily for us, the price of lobster is down this summer. Some places are selling lobster rolls and meals for around $12. We ate our share of seafood, including lobster, shrimp, crab rolls, fish & chips, bacon-wrapped scallops, fish and corn chowder and other local delicacies. On August 6 we celebrated Bonnie’s birthday with a non-seafood dinner of prime rib and pork. It was a nice change of pace.

Maine is a very nice quiet place. The people are nice and friendly and life seems to be a little more laid back. We love the rocky coastline and thick woods. The small towns with their old buildings are very picturesque and nearly all the towns have white church steeples poking up above the trees. Families live in houses built in the early 1800s and kids still attend 100 year old brick school houses. Things move a little more slowly here in Maine. It's a very nice change of pace.