Saturday, November 2, 2013

September 2013: Maine and New Hampshire

September 13 was our last day in Canada. We packed up then retraced our route through the border crossing at Lubec where we were again asked to open up the RV for a quick search. No citrus to confiscate this time. Back in the U.S., we switched our phone back on after a several week hiatus. A stop for breakfast at Helen’s Cafe in Machias, ME then before we knew it, we pulled into the Bar Harbor Campground just outside of Bar Harbor.

Acadia National Park
Our reasons for choosing this campground were two-fold. One, it was one of the least expensive RV parks we could find, and, it put us within a reasonable distance of Acadia National Park, another of our long standing bucket list destinations.
President Woodrow Wilson had originally established what is now Acadia NP as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916. As the park expanded with more land donations, it was renamed Lafayette National Park in 1919, with the added distinction of being the oldest National Park east of the Mississippi. In 1929, the park was again renamed “Acadia” in honor of the former French colony of Acadia which once included the land mass now known as the state of Maine.

Acadia National Park
Sculpted by glaciers, Acadia, part of the Appalachian Mountains chain, presented a panorama of shore and sea against a backdrop of mountains rising in the west. Much of the park’s 47,000 acres are accessible on foot although there is no back country camping allowed. 45 miles of “carriage” roads, broken stone roads for cycling, or taking one of several carriage rides, provided several venues for exploration. Hiking was our preferred way to explore but given that our time was limited, we chose to drive the 20-mile park loop road in order to drink in as much of the park as possible.

Acadia National Park
For a National Park we have to say that signage along the predominantly one-way road tour was less than helpful. How about more timely and clear signage please? Even with a park map in hand, locations or intersections were not so obvious. The loop road was, however, double lane and for the most part allowed parking in the right-hand lane. Stopping at most points along the route made it easy to simply stop and hop out…but, hello -- common sense dictated to not park on a curve where there was a restricted view of the roadway ahead. Not all drivers had common sense.

Hawk Watch, Cadillac Mountain
It just so happened that there was a hawk watch scheduled on the weekend we were in the park. It took place atop Cadillac Mountain (named for the French explorer of the same name). A steep and curving paved road (popular with local cyclists) lead to the top. We arrived early and easily found a parking place, then hiked over to chat with hawk watchers who were just arriving. This was pretty much a citizen science affair with counters driving in from around the region. Overall, the numbers of hawks seen was no where near the numbers we’ve experienced at other hawk watch locations in Pennsylvania or Minnesota. But, folks were enthusiastic and having a grand time reconnecting with one another.
Much of the park’s interior consisted of spruce-fir forest still recovering from a massive forest fire that consumed much of the forests in Maine in 1947.
Following up our driving tour we made a pass through Bar Harbor which many of our friends had mentioned as a “must see.” Perhaps on a non-weekend day we might have spent more time in town. But one pass through a heavily congested town stuffed with tourists was more than enough. Lots of nice boats in the harbor, though. It reminded us of Door County.
Our second and last full day at Acadia was spent scouring web sites and maps plotting out a route south along the eastern seacoast. Our primary concern was to try and avoid much of the congested east coast cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. That evening we treated ourselves at the Mainly Meat Diner (within walking distance of our RV) where we bumped into a couple of volunteers from Acadia NP who were fueling up for their evening star gazing presentation.
While we might have spent a few more days at Acadia, we had our eye on moving further south and moved on. We avoided I-95 by sticking to coastal Hwy 1. Much more scenic although finding a place for breakfast involved a bit of a hunt. The Hideaway Diner, a roadside cafe near Northport, ME (I wonder if the Hardy Boys ever ate here?), filled the bill. Later in the day we pulled into Bayley’s Campground in Scarborough, ME, not too far from Portland.
While we were still in Canada we had contacted Jim and Naomi Honeth who had graciously agreed to accept our forwarded snail mail. We arranged to visit Jim at the Honeth home (Jim was in the last stages of finishing some exterior painting) but unfortunately we didn't connect with Naomi who was working downtown. Our stop in Portland, while brief, also allowed us to get caught up on laundry, grocery shopping, and take a short breather.
cooking up a storm with the Doles
Last winter, while we were volunteering in Bentsen-Rio Grande SP, a couple overheard Carol talking about birding in Arizona. The couple, Larry and Carol Dole, spent an evening at our RV as we filled them in on all the best birding options and places to stay on the way to, and in, Arizona. A few months later, we got a glowing email of their AZ trip, thanking us for our help. They knew of our plans to head to the northeast and invited us to visit them at their home in New Hampshire. Based on our travel route to avoid heavily congested areas on the east coast, and realizing we would have to head back into New Hampshire anyway, we took them up on their invitation and set off toward Alton Bay, NH, and the wooded hills surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee.

parked at Larry and Carol's home
Larry and Carol’s home was well off the beaten path, tucked into the woods near Alton Bay. A bit of a “thread the needle” to get parked in their yard but once settled in (they had electric and water hookups for us) they treated us like royalty. That first evening? A lobster dinner! The next morning it was breakfast in their home followed by a hike in and through the surrounding woods. Back for a late lunch and then dinner once more. Like we said, royalty!

hiking with the Doles
We had planned to stay at least one night but Larry and Carol said our stay was as open ended as we wished. We were having such a great time enjoying each other’s company, that we stayed three nights. More hikes on the property and more home cooked meals. We could easily see why they chose both the house and property they did having retired from a successful bicycle shop business in New Jersey. A little bit of heaven, for sure.
We wanted to in some way reciprocate their hospitality so on our last night at the Dole’s, we took them to a local pizzeria, the Wolfe City Brick Oven, in picturesque Wolfeboro.
While we were certainly welcome to stay longer, and as tempting as it was, we also knew we needed to be headed further south. We already faced a few long Interstate driving days which we could no longer put off. So, fortified with some excellent route suggestions from the Doles, we departed Alton Bay, pointed for Pennsylvania.

above pics Acadia National Park

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