I’ll be honest, of all the states on the East Coast, Maine has the biggest shoes to fill. Somehow my expectations of her rugged beauty are elevated to a level that, in all honesty, is likely setting things up for failure.
I am coming off of a Connecticut crisis when we cross the border into The Pine Tree State. Still feeling a little jittery with the idea of all those Lyme tainted ticks roaming through the lush forests, we press northward.
Somewhere South of Portland, the pine trees start whispering to me. “Our cousins in the West told us you’d be coming. Welcome.” The monochromatic greens of deciduous and evergreen trees are carpeted by the lush, lavender lupins lining the roadside in a welcoming, woodsy hug. Breathing deeply, I settle in. “So far, so good,” I think.
On our first night we boondock at a Harvest Host location on the site of an alpaca farm. We level the RV, pull out the slides and giggle from our living room at the site of our long-necked neighbors peering over at us.
Later we sit outside in our camp chairs while the owners dutifully mow their fields. Trent wonders if they’d let him help out, while I simply enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass. In the morning we pack up and pull out. A little brown bag sits beside me holding a newly purchased pair of alpaca fiber winter gloves. I wonder briefly where I will be when I first use them.
That afternoon we arrive in Trenton, Maine. It is Memorial Day and the campground is empty. As long as no one else arrives over the next seven days, we will have a partial view of the bay from our living room. This bay proceeds to provide an enlightening education on tides as the waters slowly recede 10 feet over the next several hours, revealing an array of tidal pool activity. It is around this time that Ashlyn begins requesting that we settle down and make Maine our permanent home.
We are positioned just outside of Acadia National Park. Each morning we awake and cross-reference our planned activities with both the rain predictions (which are frequent) and the tide schedule (which provides a fascinating new way to mark the passage of time). More often than not, the weather holds and we seek out a new area to explore.
NATURE’S VERSION OF US
Along different areas of shoreline, I observe both powerfully crashing waves, placid yet active tide pools and silently moving tides. In this space of uniquely coexisting contradictions, I find a unifying beauty. Here the water and the land join and separate all day long. Their differences define them, yet they rely on each other for the perfect symbiotic relationship to unfold.
In an unexpected way I am looking at nature’s version of us: fluidly moving over the land advancing, sitting still and moving again. “Let us bring refreshment and reflect Your beauty across the land.” I pray.
In a moment of brilliance, Trent and I devise a plan that will allow us each to partake in a hike that is too challenging for our youngest two: divide and conquer. Trent and Ashlyn ascend the Beehive Hike first, while I watch the boys play on the beach nearby.
An hour and a half later father and daughter return with flushed faces and eyes dancing with the excitement of challenges met. “You are going to love it!” Ashlyn predicts enthusiastically.
The climb that ensues is equal parts challenging and rewarding. Hunter blazes the trail before me with aplomb (defined below)* and I marvel at this child who is rapidly becoming a man.
In the end Ashlyn’s prediction holds true: we do love the hike. After the summit we perambulate* down the trail and I whisper a breath of thanks for this one of many memorable moments.
TANNER TURNS SIX
Five days after our arrival, a countdown that began over a month prior concludes. Tanner turns 6 in Maine.
This boy was made to be celebrated. His axis of love spins strong whenever gifts are involved and this is his day. He radiates thankful exuberance throughout.
He is gifted a yo-yo, a pack of gum and a large box of lemon heads from Hunter and Ashlyn. Quinten gives his own toy drone (that he has tired of) and Trent and I provide the one requested gift item: a fidget spinner that is nearly too large for his hands to spin.
Later in the day a surprise outing funded by his California grandparents takes us out on the water in an unforgettable ocean encounter. Diver Ed, full of energy and boundless enthusiasm for things aquatic or under 4 feet tall, takes us on an expedition to the sea floor via his underwater video camera. His wife narrates the live feed that we see projected on the boat’s television screen.
When Diver Ed later surfaces, we all get to touch and hold the sea creatures before they are released back into the water. It is a memorable day for all.
As the birthday celebrations recede, other activities arrive–much like the local tidal shift which creates an ever-changing landscape. We are told that during low tide we can walk to a nearby uninhabited island. The lure of crossing an expanse on the backs of muscles and barnacles works its magic and we head to Bar Harbor to begin our island pilgrimage.
Humored by signage warning that a poorly timed crossing will result in a 9 hour wait or a $150 water taxi ride, we proceed boldly across the bar. The kids scatter like water droplets, peering into tide pools–portals to the recently hidden underwater world.
A mixture of discovery ensconced among the rocks is their reward: dog whelk eggs, sea anemones and a few dead sea urchins.
I pause to sit on a log of driftwood and I hear a young voice calling out over the expanse to my right, “Please don’t look at me! Please don’t look at me!” Naturally, I look. I am rewarded with the humorous sight of my now 6 year old son, pants down around his ankles, peeing into the wind. A moment later the clouds relieve themselves of their own burden and we rush to find shelter under the island’s trees. “At least the pee has been washed away,” I reason.
SHOES FILLED, HEART FULL
Later as we begin our westward trek, the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains arise from the horizon. From this angle I can almost convince myself that I am back in the Northwest.
For our farewell activity we hike to a place called Step Falls Preserve. From here I can sit atop granite boulders and drink in the beauty of the mountains before me or watch my children slide down the natural waterfalls. It’s a choice with no wrong answers and I spend the afternoon doing both. As I listen to the shrieks of laughter bubbling forth from my children, an involuntary smile crosses my lips and I am forced to admit that Maine is highly capable of filling my large shoes of expectation.
Where we stayed: While near Acadia, we stayed at the Narrows Too RV park. This park is an Encore park that is also part of the Thousand Trails system. Later, as we traveled on the western side of the state we stayed at the Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground in Bethel, Maine. This park is part of the Passport America discount campgrounds and was about 17 minutes away from Step Falls Preserve.
Where we ate: A visit to Maine would not feel complete without a lobster meal. Thankfully the price of lobster is much lower where it is fresh ($7.99/lb). We purchased ours from Down East Lobster Pound. They cooked it and even pre-cracked the shell for us since we didn’t have proper lobster crackers along with us.
*NEW VOCABULARY WORDS
Like a gardener cultivating budding plants, I tend a growing vocabulary. When I encounter a foreign word, I make note of it and challenge myself to use it in an upcoming post. It occurred to me that you might enjoy knowing when these words are first employed for my use. Todays new words are:
Aplomb: self-confidence or assurance, especially when in a demanding situation: Hunter blazes the trail before me with aplomb.
Perambulate: walk or travel through or around a place or area, especially for pleasure and in a leisurely way: After the summit we perambulate down the trail.
Have you been to Maine? If so, what was your experience? If not, how does my experience reflect what you might have envisioned?