July 2015 – Bangor, Maine

Once again we left our campground on Monday with a wet RV and cloudy skies threatening more rain at any time.  Our destination was back towards Bangor, Maine, although this time we would be staying to the north of Bangor instead of along the coast.  Therefore, instead of traveling along US 1 along the coast, we took Maine Highway 9 which is a direct shot to Bangor.  For most of the trip the highway wound its way through the hills of central Maine where there were no towns to slow down for.  It is interesting to note that in most of the northeast there appears to be very little land outside town limits, except in this part of Maine they were known by the Township designation instead of incorporated towns.  For this reason, the trip was much faster than along the coast and we arrived in just over 2 hours.  The trip was uneventful except for a problem that developed with the truck.  Once we got the rpm over 2500 whether we were going up a hill or decelerating down a hill, which uses the motor to assist slowing down the truck when we are towing, we would hear loud noises, buzzes, and roars from the engine.  It did not appear to affect the power or handling of the truck, but it was disturbing.  It looks like we will once again be spending time and money on dealing with the truck.  Thankfully, there is a Ford dealership only a couple of miles from the campgrounds.  The Pumpkin Patch RV Resort is a very nice campground just a few miles from Bangor.  They do a great job to create a pleasant country atmosphere at the campgrounds with many nice touches to the landscaping and site maintenance. Most of the sites are very large pull-through sites so it was easy to park and set up the RV.  These are easily the longest sites I have seen.  We actually have enough room to park the truck either in front of or behind the RV.  While the atmosphere in the campground is friendly, it is obviously mostly transient guests.  There are very few seasonal campers (if any) and many of the sites open up each day.  While we are not unusual to be staying a week here, it is certainly not the norm.

Campsite

Before we left Calais, we received a phone call from Kal’s dad that her mom was back in the hospital in serious condition.  Not knowing if we would have to make a quick trip back to Birmingham, it was good to have phone coverage again.  In addition, the campground is only a couple of miles from the International Airport in Bangor and Kal started looking into plane tickets.  So on Tuesday, we decided to just stay in the campground waiting on word about her mother and Kal did laundry while I got caught up on this blog.  We did take the truck into the Ford dealership where we found out they operate a Ford Truck Center, which means they work on diesel trucks, mostly 16 wheelers.  In any case, if anyone can figure out what is wrong, they should be able to.  We described the symptoms and made an appointment for Thursday to have it checked out.

On Wednesday, we again wanted to stay close to the phone as Kal’s mother was still critical, although her condition had stabilized somewhat.  Therefore, we went just up US 2 a couple of miles to the Ecotat Gardens and Arboretum. This is a small garden of less than 100 acres that includes both a series of small formal gardens and a natural area they term their Tree Walk.  There were a couple of volunteers working there that told us a bit of the history of the place.  The former owner had passed away a few years ago and since then the gardens and trails had fallen into disrepair.  Over the last two years they have been working to restore the gardens and remove the downed trees on the Tree Walk.  They have restored about half of the small garden areas which are very lovely.  The Tree Walk is an easy trail down to the spring and back through a spruce-hemlock forest.  A very pleasant walk.  There should be labels for all the many plants and trees, however, most of these are either missing or have been removed by the volunteers so we did not learn much about what we were looking at.  We spent a pleasant hour wandering in the garden and enjoying the scenery.  Although the volunteers working there were disappointed that we were not there to volunteer ourselves!

KalOnTrail VolunteerWorking

For dinner we found a local sports bar, Seasons, in Bangor to watch the Gold Cup soccer game between the US and Jamaica.  It was a very good game and we had our choice of TVs to watch, even though the US was upset by Jamaica.  They certainly had enough opportunities, especially in the second half, to at least tie the game.  We had a great waiter who provided all the service we could want.  Since we were going to be there for two hours, we decided to start with an appetizer, their chilli nacho.  It was a HUGE plate of nachos covered in cheese and chilli and after munching on it for an hour, we did not need any dinner.  Since we split the appetizer, we spent two hours enjoying the soccer and spent very little for dinner.

Seasons

Thursday began with taking the truck back to the Whited Ford Truck Center to diagnose the problem.  While we waited on them to check it out we met a very nice gentleman from the area who had spent many years full timing in his RV all over the country.  He gave us some great insight into how to travel without spending any money on camping fees by staying in Walmart, Flying J, Cracker Barrel, and other parking lots.  I am still not comfortable with traveling this way and prefer to make reservations wherever we go.  They took only about an hour to check out the truck and found that the problem was a leak in the turbo system where exhaust is used to power up the turbo.  It certainly sounds like what we were experiencing so I am confident they have identified the problem.  There is no danger with driving the truck, except for occasional exhaust fumes in the cab, however, there would eventually be a power loss whenever we use the turbo at high RPM.  Since we cannot afford a power loss, especially since the next three weeks will be in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, and they are obviously experts on diesel engines, we quickly decided that we would have to get if fixed before moving on.  The repairs were going to cost over $1400 since they have to remove the transmission to get to it and would take a day to a day and a half to complete the repairs.  Unfortunately, they could not schedule us until Tuesday next week, which is after we were scheduled to be in Bethel, Maine which is over 2 hours to the west.  After thinking about it overnight we decided to extend our stay at Pumpkin Patch to get the truck fixed and delay our arrival in Bethel.

Since Kal’s mom’s condition continued to improve with her responding well to treatments, we decided to be more ambitious in the afternoon, although not much more ambitious.  We drove a few miles to the Bangor City Forest where they have some walking trails.  The East Trail also connects to the Orono Bog Boardwalk, which is actually in the city limits of Orono on land owned by the University of Maine. As the name implies, this boardwalk is over 300 feet of floating boardwalks through a peat bog.  The boardwalk begins in the surrounding mixed hardwood forest that is dominated by red maple, and quickly transitions to a mixed spruce-tamarack forest on the fringes of the bog.  Then the boardwalk takes you out over the peat bog itself with multi-colored spaghnum moss, sedges, and stunted spruce and tamarack trees.  These trees may only be two to three feet tall, but many are over 100 years old.  Not only is the peat bog under water most of the year, but the four feet of peat is highly acidic and very low fertility.  The University of Maine provides a number of very informative interpretive signs along the boardwalk that gives some very good information about each ecosystem and how the University monitors the water levels with floating tubes.  It was all very interesting and well worth the trip.  I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

KalOnBoardwalk MossField2

Friday was once again very cool and wet so we decided to visit the local casino in Bangor, the Hollywood Casino.  It is a full-fledged casino and hotel with an attached parking deck that was greatly appreciated in the weather.  The casino has nearly 1000 slot machines, many of which are penny slots that could be played for $0.30 or less so we had a lot to choose from.  They also have all the regular table games, roulette, crap tables, and even a poker room.  The afternoon did not start out very well with both of us quickly losing our first $20.  After taking a break to take a look at all the old movie posters and pictures in the hotel lobby, we started with our second $20.  For a change I was doing all right a half-hour later and was breaking even when Kal got VERY lucky on one machine and won $35.  We quickly cashed in and left only $25 down for the afternoon.  That is our idea of a successful and enjoyable afternoon in a casino.

Saturday began as an overcast and gloomy day, but it was suppose to break up by the afternoon, so we headed north into the Central Maine Highlands to Peaks-Kenney State Park.  This state park is along the shore of Sebec Lake, which is a glacial lake which means it is a linear lake with rounded hillsides and numerous boulders along the shore left from the glaciers.  We took a short 0.5 mile hike before lunch along a babbling brook that was very nice.  The weather was so cloudy that it was quite dark under the forest canopy and gave us a different view of the Maine forests.  We ate lunch in their large picnic area that includes a nice “sandy” beach, which was really more of a small rock beach than sand.  I was surprised to see a life guard at the beach as most state parks we have been to have had to cut this position.  In any case the weather was too cool and cloudy for most of the children to venture into the water, even though there were plenty of children at picnics and parties in the park. After lunch we went for a longer walk on their Birch Mountain Ridges Trail, which was supposed to be an “easy” trail.  Although I would not call it a strenuous trail, it was certainly not easy as it climbs 250 feet to the top of the ridge fairly quickly.  However, once we made the top (with only a few stops along the way to rest our knees) the walk along the ridge and down the other side back to the lake was very pleasant and easy.  I saw a lot more birch trees than I have seen previously and was surprised to see that most of the regeneration was birch as well.  While there were some paperbirch trees and some of them over 20″ in diameter, most of the trees were grey birch.  The ridge was dominated by spruce and hemlock trees that were getting to be over 16″ in diameter in places.  I know this forest was logged back in 1920-1940 so it is still a young forest.

KalInWoods SpruceForest

We still had time in the afternoon to take a side trip to Abbot Village, Maine where Kal’s great-aunt “Deed” Clukey and her husband had lived.  We never had the chance to visit her in Maine while she was alive, so we decided that a short side trip (only about 15 miles) to visit her grave would be nice.  After getting directions to the cemetery from some very nice people selling hand made furniture (VERY nice furniture, if we were not living in an RV …) we were able to locate her gravesite.  We took some pictures and sent them to Kal’s dad, Dennis.   Along the highway we stopped at an historical covered bridge crossing the river on a sideroad.  It turns out it is called Low’s Bridge and was originally built in the 1830.  It was destroyed twice in floods over the years, only to be replace each time.  The current bridge is actually quite recent replicating the original bridge when the latest replacement was washed away in the 1970s.  Consequently, the covered bridge is in good shape and quite impressive.

ClukeyGravesite LowsBridge

Sunday was once again very cool and drizzly so we decided to stay in the campground getting caught up on this blog and watching the Harry Potter weekend on the ABC Family channel.  It is interesting how nice it is to once again have cable TV instead of the limited reception of Canadian TV we had last week.

Monday was much the same as Sunday with Kal’s mom improving in the hospital and being moved out of ICU.  Since everyone had agreed that we would not take a flight to Birmingham so long as she continued to improve, we stayed by the phone all day, working on updating my GoggleEarth pins of campgrounds, and reading.

Tuesday began with us taking the truck into Whited Ford Truck Center by 8:30 in the morning and picking up a loner car.  Once back at the campsite, Kal gathered up the dirty clothes and I got busy cleaning the inside of the RV.  By mid afternoon, we received a phone call from Phil that her dad had now checked himself into the hospital as well.  Once again we thought seriously about catching a plane to Birmingham, but his condition was not as serious and he now had his own room at the hospital down the hall from his wife!  It would seem that he had been having symptoms during the week, probably due to the stress of the situation.  Still not knowing if we would have to make a quick trip to Alabama, we went to bed thinking of both of them, as well as, Phil and Shannon who are doing a great job dealing with the situation and keeping us and Kal’s brother, Mark, informed.

By Wednesday morning we had not heard from Whited Ford about the truck, so at 10:00 we called them and found out the truck was finished and they were doing the paperwork.  We got busy getting the RV ready to go and went to pick up our truck.  Thankfully, they did not have to drop the transmission to get to the “pipes” they needed to replace on the turbo system, which saved us about $400 in labor.  It still cost just over $1000 to get it fixed.  I sure hope we do not have to continue spending over $1000 a month in keeping this truck on the road.  In any case we got hooked up and pulled out by 12:00 heading for Bethel, Maine.  We are both wanting to continue with our plans, however, we will now be over 2 hours from an airport if we need to get to Birmingham and the place we are going to at Bethel does not have anyway to store the RV if we need to leave it for any period of time.

July 2015 – Calais, Maine

We really enjoyed our time near Acadia National Park, not only because of this magnificent location along the coast of Maine, but also because we stayed for two weeks allowing time to catch up on this blog and do the six month maintenance on the RV.  Originally this was going to be the farthest point north and east we were going this summer so we could get back to William’s by the end of August.  However, our plans to visit New York City with William were delayed until next spring, so we decided to extend our stay in Maine and I am glad we did.  Therefore, instead of heading west towards Vermont, we headed northeast along the Maine coast to a campground close to Calais, Maine which is on the boarder with New Brunswick and yes we plan on spending some time in Canada while we are here.  It won’t be but a day or two, but it will still make this trip international!  Unfortunately, I had come down with some type of “bug” that was doing a number on my bowels on Sunday, so I was not much help to Kal in getting us out on Monday.  Fortunately, our next location was only 3 hours down the road so we did not have to rush to get out.  I assume the drive along US 1 and the Maine coast was scenic, although I was not feeling good enough to enjoy it.  Three hours later we found Hilltop Campground in Robbinston, Maine by 2:00.  They had a nice pull-through site for us, which was a real blessing since Kal was able to park the RV with no problem.  This is a small to medium sized campground with nearly all of the sites taken with seasonal campers, which means you see wooden porches outside the RVs in every direction.  However, the campground is on the top of a hill (thus the name) which overlooks New Brunswick and Passamaquoddy Bay.  As we discovered, this also means there is no US cell phone coverage unless you want to pay the outrageous International roaming rate.  So we have turned our cell phones off and notified everyone through facebook that we are unhooked for the week since they thankfully have free WiFi in the campground which is actually pretty good and stable.

CampsiteViewOfCanada

By Tuesday I was beginning to feel better, but I was not interested in any long hikes or busy day, so we decided to put off Campobello Island and New Brunswick for later in the week.  Instead we drove north to Calais to find the Wabanaki Culture Center, which turns out to be the location of their Maine Visitor Center.  We met a very nice person who was also excited about hiking and oceanviews, giving us a lot of good ideas for other places to visit.  Kal is especially interested in MooseHorn National Wildlife Refuge where we might get the opportunity to see a moose!  That’s for another day, however.  Today we went downstairs to the Wabanaki Culture Center Museum to see some good exhibits about the Native Americans that have lived in this area for thousands of years.  They have some nice exhibits with life sized mannequins and a birch bark wigwam.  The best exhibit was the hand made birch bark canoe made by a local Wabanaki Native American along with a video about how he made it.  Very interesting.  There are also exhibits about the history of shipping, ship building, and the lumber industry in the 1800s.

After lunch on a park bench along the Saint Croix River, which has only a 26 foot tide (only because Funday Bay has over 50 foot tides!) we left Calais for Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.  This turned out to be perfect for me with the way I was feeling as it is only a couple of acres in size with only a 400 yard walk to the river.  This is the only Historic Site administered by the NPS that is International, since it is shared with Canada.  There is a corresponding Canadian site on the opposite side of the river.  Saint Croix Island is in the middle of the river and I believe just on the US side, although this is not clear.  In any case, the island is not inhabited and there is no access to it.  “Why”, you ask, “is it an Historic Site?”  It is the location of the first successful European settlement north of Florida.  In 1604, Pierre Dugua was granted exclusive rights to the trade in North American by King Henri IV of France, in exchange for creating a permanent settlement, bringing Christianity to the natives, and making money for the King, especially rare minerals, ie gold.  In June of 1604, Dugua examined locations along the coast of Nova Scotia, before finally deciding on the small island in the middle of Saint Croix River.  His major concern was defense against the Native Americans, if necessary, but more likely the English and Spanish.  They quickly built a stockade and began constructing houses.  With a source of freshwater on shore and plentiful game and fish, along with gardens, they were all set.  In September, Dugua sent the ships back to France for supplies and more manpower and Champlain, who was the cartographer and recorded for the mission, was sent south to explore more of the coast of Maine.  While on this trip Champlain discovered and named Mount Desert Island, which is now the centerpiece of Acadia National Park.  The winter turned out to be much harsher then they anticipated and the winter that year was worse then it had been in decades.  Once the river froze making it too dangerous to cross, they were stuck without a fresh water source or any fresh food.  They tried to survive on fried fish, dried vegetables, and wine.  Consequently, by February they had a serious problem with scurvy and over 30 of the 75 men died.  Once the supplies and men returned in June, 1605, they had learned their lesson, tore down their houses, and moved everything to a better location in Nova Scotia, Port Royal.  Even though this location for the settlement lasted only 1 year, it is still remembered by both nations as the first successful settlement in the New World north of Florida.  The short walk down to the river where you can see the island has a number of interpretive signs along with statues of the Passamaquoddy natives and Frenchmen doing a number of tasks.  It was nice, but since it is nothing more than a short walk, it took longer to write up this account and the accompanying page about the site, then it took to visit it in the first place.

KalTakingPicture  Statue2

Wednesday turned rainy and cool, so we used the day to do the laundry and clean the inside of the RV.  This campground is different then most we have stayed in as it is almost entirely seasonal campers with very few transients.  This means that during the week it is very quiet with just a few campers living in their RVs.  However, this made it easy to get the laundry done even with small washing machines.

Thursday the weather was beautiful and I was feeling good again, so we were off to New Brunswick.  This adventure has now gone international and Kal is working to convince me to return next summer and visit the Maritime Provinces in Canada.  Except for delaying our drift to the west, I am seriously considering it.  The weather during the summer is great and the forests and ocean shores are beautiful and I would love to return.  Our goal for the day was Campobello Island, which is the location of Roosevelt Campobello International Park, the summer cottage of FDR.  Our GPS showed the park to be only 16 miles from the campgrounds, but once it figured how to get there, it was over an hour and 40 miles by highway.  We had to go quite a distance to the west to get around a bay before heading back east to Lubec, Maine and the Roosevelt bridge onto the island.  Along the way we stopped as a roadside park that marked the 45th Parallel.  At this point we are only half way to the North Pole from the equator!

GregAtMarker KalAtMarker

As expected, customs was easy and took only a couple of minutes and we were in Canada.  After stopping at the New Brunswick Visitor Center at the border to get general information we headed the couple of miles to the Visitor Center for the International Park.  This is the only International Park as it is affiliated with both Parks Canada and the National Park Service.  The Park consists of two parts, first is the cottage owned by the Roosevelts and other cottages and the second is the 2800 acres of second-growth forests and coastline in Funday Bay.  Back in the 1880s, Campobello Island became a prime location for the wealthy American and Canadians to spend their summers, along with Bar Harbor and St. Andrews.  Three large exclusive hotels were built on the island along with a number of summer cottages.  In 1883 James and Sarah Roosevelt came for the summer and fell in love with the location.  The bought some land and built their own summer cottage.  Franklin D. Roosevelt spent every summer at this cottage while growing up learning to sail, fish, swim, and all the other activities for a growing boy.  This summer cottage no longer exists as it had fallen into serious disrepair and was removed.  The cottage that you visit began as the summer cottage of Mrs. Hartmann Kuhn who offered the cottage to Sarah Roosevelt in her will.  Sarah bought the property and gave it to Franklin and Eleanor for their family in 1909.  In 1915, Franklin expanded the cottage by adding a L shaped wing which created 34 rooms in the cottage, 18 of which are bedrooms and 6 are bathrooms.  There is a large parlor, dining room, and screened porch for entertaining.  Since the cottage was given to the government upon Sarah’s death, it still has all the original furnishings from the 1920s.  It was really interesting how they dealt with not having electricity at the cottage and still managed to have hot and cold running water throughout the cottage and a battery operated servant call system.  While the Roosevelt-Kuhn cottage was very interesting, the Hubbard cottage just a few hundred feet away was really impressive.  It was obviously designed for entertaining with a large billiard room, parlor with a full grand piano, and dining room with a picture window overlooking the bay to die for!

GregOnPorch

After lunch we went to explore the more natural features of the park, driving each of the 3 carriage roads and stopping at all the overlooks of the bay.  We also took a “short” walk along the bluff on the south side of the island looking for harbor seals and maybe even a whale off shore.  The hike was only 1.7 km long, but it was constantly going either up or down over rocks and roots.  We had both had enough hiking by the time we got to Liberty Point which had some great views of the bay and islands.  We did briefly see a harbor seal, but did not get a picture and also saw some fins of porpoises just off shore.  Unfortunately, we did not see any whales.  After the hike it was getting late enough to take advantage of low tide at the lighthouse on East Quoddy Head at the extreme southeast corner of the island.  Once a day during low tide you can walk out to the lighthouse and climb it to get a great view.  However, it cost money just to be allow to walk over to the lighthouse and climb it with a number of iron steps to descend the bluff and climb up the other side.  After our hike earlier, neither of us felt ready to climb up and down all the steps so we just took some pictures.  For dinner we went to the Fireside Restaurant, which is a part of the International Park that was originally another of the summer cottages.  It is a beautiful restaurant and we enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner.

KalOnRocks FiresideRestaurant StairwaytoLighthouse

For Friday, we decided to stay in the US and take in the nearby Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.  This refuge is the eastern most NWR in the US and lies on the Atlantic flyway for migratory birds.  There are two divisions to the refuge, the Baring Division north of our campground near Calais and the Edmunds Division, south of our campground near Pembroke.  For Friday we focused on the Baring Divison which has the Visitor Center and has 20,000 acres which includes a large wilderness area.  As we left US 1 to drive to the Headquarters, we noticed some bald eagle fledglings on their nest out in a meadow.  We had to stop and get some pictures and watch these fledgelings try to work up the courage to fly from the nest.  It won’t be long now.  I really thought we would be able to see one of them take their first flight.  The NWR Headquarters has a small Visitor Hut with trail maps and brochures about finding a moose, which for us was a big reason to visit.  As I expected, the best times are daybreak and sunset around the ponds and meadows, so we were not likely to have any luck in the middle of the day.  Before lunch we took a 1.5 mile hike on the Raven trail near the Headquarters.  This trail had some good interpretive signs and a great little brochure that described their management practices to create and manage a wide range of diverse habitats.  The hike was through the second growth forests that are common in the region which included white pine and red pine stands, a fresh water marsh, and aspen-birch openings they are making in 5-8 acre blocks across the landscape.

KalOnRoadDeer

After lunch we took on a longer hike of over 3.5 miles along access roads that are closed to traffic.  The hike was much easier along the dirt road then the trail in the morning, but there were no places to sit and rest.  We saw two nice beaver ponds on the hike (but no moose or otters) and some older red pine stands that are classified as “old-growth” since they are over 100 years old.

On Saturday, we decided to stay close since it was threatening rain and go back to the NWR, this time to the 8,000 acre Edmunds Division, which is nearly all protected as a wilderness area.  First, however, we went searching for the “Reversing Falls Park” near Pembroke that we had heard about from both the owners of the campgrounds, but also the people at the Maine Visitor Center.  It was suppose to be a beautiful spot with a fall that flows in both directions depending upon the tides, which are over 20 feet.  We found the park with no problem thanks to their directions and it was certainly beautiful.  However, I was disappointed, as I saw no waterfalls like I was expecting.  Rather the reversing falls are some “rapids” where the tides empty across during low tides and reverse to flow the other way as the tide comes in.  We were there in the morning during mid-tide.  You could tell the tide was coming in, however, the bay was still emptying out with some impressive rapids of the water still flowing out.  There is also a large rock island in the middle of the cove which diverted the water creating whirlpools that would travel out of the cove.  Often there were multiple whirlpools in a line.  We watched the water flowing out for over an hour and it was obvious the flow was slowing down.  Over the next couple of hours the flow should stop and reverse, however, we decided not to wait around for it.

FallOverview GregWatchingWhirlpools

We headed further south on US 1 to the Edmunds Division of the Moosehorn NWR which consists of a one-way drive around the edge of the wilderness area with a couple of trails along the extended roads into the wilderness area.  Before lunch we walked into the area along the South Trail for about a mile before it began to rain and we turned around to return to the truck.  After lunch we drove around to the North Trail and took another mile hike along this trail.  Once again we did not see any wildlife, even though it was obvious this area has a lot fewer visitors.  In fact, the only other visitors we saw was a couple of guys bird-watching that we had seen earlier at the Reversing Falls, as well.  They stated they had seen very little themselves, but again it was the middle of the day.  It was still an interesting hike through the forests, which in my opinion is a great way to spend an afternoon.  By then, however, the weather was looking dangerous so we returned to the campgrounds for an early afternoon.

KalOnTrail

Sunday was cool and foggy with rain predictions, so we decided to just stay in the campgrounds and catch up on this blog, do some cooking, and just relax.  New Brunswick will just have to wait until another time.

July 2015 – Bangor, Maine

Once we left the area around Portland we headed to our ultimate target for the summer, Bangor Maine and Acadia National Park.  In the last couple of weeks, we have decided to extend our trip on east to Calais on the Canadian border, but ever since we left the Everglades in Florida we have been aiming for Bangor and we would finally get there!  As we hoped the weather was everything we expected with cool temperatures and breezes.  Without a doubt we do not miss the summer all of you are having in Alabama, although I do kid Kal about not complaining this coming winter that we somehow missed summer.  It was also great that we finally left most of the traffic behind as we left I-95 for US 1 along the Maine coast.  Our destination is actually south of Bangor which is closer to the coast and Acadia National Park at Orland, Maine.  We knew as soon as we pulled into Shady Oaks Campground that we had come to the right spot for the next two weeks.  The staff are great and the campground is beautiful.  The only drawback was that all of the sites are back-in so I had another chance to practice my skills.  The owners came to give us a hand and we did have an open area that I could pull into to start the process.  In fact, I did a very good job of it looking almost like I knew what I was doing!  The site had a concrete porch, which is a great addition. that I had to miss and I managed to put the RV next to the porch (without hitting it) on the first try.  The only thing the owners had to do was help us decide how far back to place the RV and moving the picnic table out of the way of the slides.  We quickly got set up and settled in for a full two weeks of being in one place.  I should be able to get completely caught up on this blog and do our six month maintenance on the RV.

Campsite

We were anxious to finally get a good look at the rocky shores along Maine’s coast at the premier location for this at Acadia National Park, so we drove over there on Tuesday.  I was not aware that southern Maine is primarily forested hills that are between 400 and 700 feet in elevation, however, Acadia National Park is a about a dozen peaks at least 800 feet tall and Cadillac Mountain is over 1500 feet.  You can obviously see it from a long way off.  In addition, I was not aware that most of Acadia National Park is on Mount Desert Island, that’s right, an island!  It is the remnant of a 25 million year old volcano that had been eroded by glaciers and rain to the granite core of the volcano.  Since granite is very hard and does not make soil easily the tops of the mountains have only scraggly trees looking like you are at the treeline and thus the name, Mount Desert Island.  Finally, I was also not aware that Bar Harbor is nearly surrounded by Acadia National Park and is also tucked into a small harbor on Mount Desert Island.  This all comes down to the fact that there is only a single highway that crosses over to the island, which funnels an amazing amount of traffic even during the week.  You actually come to the turn off for the Hulls Cove Visitor Center before you reach Bar Harbor, so exploring Bar Harbor would have to wait.  Our first impression was that Acadia National Park is the busiest National Park we have visited on a Tuesday morning.  We learned that there are over 2 million visitors a year to Acadia and all in a three month period beginning at the end of June.  Over the next month it would get a lot busier. The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is essentially a huge parking lot with a small Visitor Center up over a hundred steps where you purchase your Park Pass.  Thankfully, our Interagency Pass covered the $25/car fee and we had unlimited access to the park for the next two weeks.  We also purchased my pin, trail map, and a booklet about the carriage road system in the park.  After standing in lines to get our pass and information about the hiking trails and shuttle bus system we had spent over 1.5 hours in the park and had not seen a thing!  We learned that although you could drive anywhere you wanted to in the park, parking spaces would be hard to come by without a substantial walk, especially for our huge truck, the best option was to take advantage of the shuttle bus system.  The Island Explorer shuttle buses have at least six different routes taking visitors to all points of interest in the park, except the summit of Cadillac Mountain, as well as, the major resorts and Bar Harbor.  The operation of these buses is largely from contributions made by L.L. Bean which I will always be thankful for.  We decided to eat a quick lunch in the truck before boarding the shuttle bus to take us around the Loop Road.

The Loop Road is a 27 mile loop around the most popular locations in the park.  Most of it is one-way and since it is a two lane road, you can park in the right lane.  This is a great idea and dramatically increases the parking available at the popular locations, although it would mean a half mile walk from your car!  Our first stop was Sieur de Monts, which was originally the center of the park.  It was designed by George Door to be a garden spot for outdoor parties and events before becoming the Sieur de Monts National Memorial, the beginning of the park in 1916.  Along with a small Nature Museum and beautiful grounds this is also the location of the Abbe Museum and the Wild Gardens of Acadia.  We decided not to visit the Abbe Museum since it is a private museum with a fee devoted to local Native American heritage and artifacts.  Instead we spent an hour wandering the Wild Gardens of Acadia.  They have created separate sections for all the ecosystems you will find in the park from the shore to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  Along with small signs identifying each plant and tree, it was a great way to expand my knowledge of the local species.

KalAtSieur

Again we caught the bus and went to Sand Beach.  This is probably the most popular location for tourists as you have access to a sand beach which is a rarity in Maine, which is known for its rocky shoreline.  There is an interpretive sign that attempts to explain why this beach is there, but it did not make a lot of sense.  It has something to do with the Gulf Stream being shunted north and east away from Maine by a huge glacial moraine that begins near Cape Cod which means the waters are cold circulating in from Canada.  Somehow this causes the shell fish to quickly decompose and along with the steep and rocky granite rocks inhibits the formation of sand.  However, a small rocky island just off shore of the beach deflects the currents away, so this small cove somehow collects the sand.  I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  In any case, there is a nice sandy beach that was full of sunbathers, kids, and swimmers even on a Tuesday afternoon.  However, we were not there for the beach, but rather the trailhead for the Great Head trail up on the bluffs.  Since the trailhead was on the other side of the beach, we had to make our way through all the people in the swimsuits and us in our hiking gear.  At the far end of the beach was a small stream that drained a small pond behind the beach with its water spreading out on that end of the beach.  It appeared like some kids had opened up a small channel in the sand holding back the pond and there was a fair amount of water we had to negotiate over.  The importance of this will become obvious later.  We knew that the Great Head trail headed up the rocky bluff to the top and then around the small neck into the ocean.  However, we did not realize that we would be climbing up a series of granite shelves that were nearly straight up.  Once we got to the top, the journey was worthwhile as the views of the ocean and rocks were spectacular from a height of around 150 feet.  This was a loop trail which ended up back at the Sand Beach and we found out that it would have been a lot easier to have gone the other way around the loop since the other trail was a gentle slope and we could have climbed down the granite ledges instead of up them.  We also found that the small pond behind the beach was nearly empty as the small opening in the dam had now widen to a torrent of water spilling onto the beach.  While the water on the beach was only a few inches deep, we did not want to get our boots soaked, so it was a challenge to find a way across the torrent on the larger rocks scattered about.  We talked with some other hikers in the same predicament and found out that in all the years they had been visiting Acadia, this was the first time they had encountered this!!  Once back on the bus, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we rode it back to the Visitor Center and returned to the campgrounds, leaving Acadia for another day.  We had two weeks here, so we would certainly be back.

KalOnSandBeachGregOnGreatHead  KalOnGreatHeadGregOnSandBeach

Wednesday threatened rain all day with predicted thunderstorms in the afternoon, so we decided to just stay in the campground and relax.  I got a chance to get a lot done on this blog and started to make real progress towards getting caught up.

Thursday was a beautiful day with cool temperatures and low humidity, so it was back to Acadia National Park.  Having learned our lesson to take the bus around Loop Road, we packed our lunch in a backpack and headed straight for the bus.  We got a bit of a late start that morning because it was our intention to do a couple of hikes, have dinner in Bar Harbor, and head up to Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunset and do some star gazing.  We got off of the bus at Otter Point to hike back along the Beach Trail that parallels the Loop Road to Thunder Hole.  If you like to watch ocean waves crashing into granite boulders, then Otter Point is the place.  While the trail does parallel the road, for the most part is separated from the road and gives multiple access to the shoreline.  We spent a great couple of hours picking our way on the rocky shelves, watching the ocean, and eating lunch.  The end of the hike was at Thunder Hole, which is another popular visitor location since at two hours before high tide the waves enter a small cave and bounces back out creating a loud boom.  It so happened that we were there at the best time for the day (through no planning on our part), however, the ocean was not cooperating.  All we got to hear was some low thumps and the water spray was not large enough to drench the many people watching it.  That was unfortunate, but we had more to do and see.

GregAtOtterPoint OtterPointView

We once again boarded the bus and rode it around the park to the Bubbles.  North and South Bubble are two rounded hills about 700 feet in elevation at the far end of Jordan Pond, a linear lake created by the retreating glaciers leaving a glacial moraine plugging the end of the U-shaped valley.  At the top of South Bubble is Bubble Rock, which is a “balancing” rock left by the glaciers that has been photographed many times since you can see if from the road.  Between North and South Bubble there is a pass that was our objective on the hike.  However, after a moderate climb to the top of the pass between the two hills we discovered that Bubble Rock was only 0.2 miles up at the top.  Feeling adventurous I convince Kal to make the climb and after three stops to catch our breath (and rest our old legs) we made it to the top.  The view from there was certainly worth the effort as you could look across to Cadillac Mountain or down to Jordan Pond and the ocean behind it.  Truly wonderful.  We did get some shots of Bubble Rock since we were there, but I was much more impressed with the view.  Once we got our fill of the view (and rested our old legs) we foolishly decided not to go back the way we came, but to continue on the path down the south side of the hill.  I knew from the trail map that the descent was steeper, but I did not realize how steep.  I guess I should have known when the trail immediately disappeared around the sheer side of the hill and nothing to break a fall for 30 feet.  If Kal had been in the lead I am certain we would have turned back at this point, but I had already negotiated the first segment and she had no choice.  Just about the entire 500 foot descent was sheer drops from one group of rocks to another and only the blue line that had put on some of the rocks to mark the path convinced me we would eventually get down.  At a couple of places we had to turn around in order to climb down the rocks.  If it was any steeper you would have needed climbing gear!  It was well worth the experience, but Kal was going to question the wisdom of it every time her knees hurt over the next couple of days.  We did make it to the bottom with no injuries other then wobbly knees and were thankful that we had not attempted to climb up that way as we saw a few hikers attempting.  We still had a bit over a mile to hike to Jordan Pond House to catch the bus, but at least the trail along Jordan Pond was level and well maintained, although it was heavily traveled.

KalAtBubbleSummitGregAtBubbles KalAtBubbles

While waiting for the bus we checked our Jordan Pond House as a place for dinner.  However, it was still a bit early, being only 3:30 in the afternoon and the prices for anything with lobster put us off.  For the past couple of months every time we talked with anyone that had been to Maine we were told to be sure to eat some Maine lobster.  We knew it was going to be an expensive meal, but $25 apiece minimum for dinner was difficult to agree on.  I was also concerned about getting a bus back to our truck at the Visitor Center even though there was a Jordan Pond bus that ran from Bar Harbor to the Visitor Center up until 7:00.  I was just nervous about relying on this and would feel better if we had our truck within walking distance.  So we caught the Loop Road bus back to the Visitor Center and drove into Bar Harbor.  With it being late in the afternoon, Bar Harbor was full of tourists.  We got lucky and found a parking spot in a small lot along the harbor that was free for 3 hour parking, which was plenty of time for dinner.  We were both exhausted so we decided on a small seafood restaurant with outside views of the harbor.  We could not have made a better decision.  The waitress was delightful and I got a local brown ale during happy hour.  we asked her about their lobster and she steered us to their boiled lobster dinner which was on special ($16 apiece) and a promise that she would teach us how to eat it.  The lobster came to the table in all its glory and was literally too hot to handle.  After following her directions to tear off the tail and claws and to discard the rest of the lobster, which I guess some people manage to find something to eat out of, I had a real mess on my hands.  Cracking the claws must be a skill you should learn as a child, as I made a total wreck of it! I will admit that it was good and worth the effort, although I was still not convinced it was worth the cost.  After the tail came the tail, which I thought would be the best part since there is finally enough meat to warrant the effort.  However, I found the tail to be tough enough to make it a challenge.

BarHarborHotel BarHarborSailingShip

After dinner and an hour watching the people at the harbor the sun was getting low enough that it was time to head up to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  As we had been told at the Visitor Center, the crowds at the top are much less this late in the day and we had no problem finding any number of parking spots.  The views from the top of Cadillac Mountain are impressive as you can see a long way from this vantage point.  However, with the sun going down and clouds building to the east, it was not as impressive as it could have been.  We had to wait over an hour before the sun went down, which at this time of the year is after 9:00.  While we did get some nice pictures of the sunset the sparse clouds to the west limited the colors you would have seen.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover was to the north and east, which was going to limit the stars we could see.  Our hopes was that we would be far enough away from the light pollution that we would be able to once again see the Milky Way.  So we set down to wait and wait and wait.  For the next hour as it slowly got darker, most of the people that had watched the sunset left, so we were one of about six cars left at the summit.  We did see a few stars at first, but the increasing cloud cover to the north and east, a full bright moon rising behind the clouds, and the persistent light from the setting sun to the west, not to mention the fact we were both exhausted from our hikes, finally convinced us around 10:30 to give up.  We were both disappointed, but at the same time elated about what we did see and experience throughout the day.  I hope to have many more as fulfilling.

CadillacView1CadillacSunset

Friday was another day to take a break in the campgrounds, so Kal went to the store and I stayed at the RV to clean and treat the roof.  This was the first time I did not just clean the roof, but applied the chemical to treat it at the same time.  It turned out to be very easy, so after lunch I cleaned the outside of the RV as well.

Saturday was the Fourth of July, so it was another day in the campground.  However, instead of having any chores to do we prepared to spend the day relaxing in the campground and take in the activities they had planned.  Kal made a cinnamon bread to take to the lunch and at 11:00 we grabbed our chairs and set up to listen to their country band they hired for the party.  They a very good band, although they did not sing very many songs I knew.  I guess this demonstrates I am not a big country music fan, but we enjoyed their music. At 12:30 they broke for lunch which was hamburgers provided by the campground and side dishes from everyone in attendance.  I should note that while the campground was less than half full during the week, it was packed for the weekend with kids everywhere.  It was a great time just watching all the juvenile energy.  After lunch Kal went to get the remains of our cinnamon bread which we figured we would be eating for a couple of days since we had not seen anyone eating any.  Come to find out it was totally gone, including the disposal aluminum pans she cooked them in.  All we got was a small taste from what was left on the serving tongs!!  We don’t now where it all went, but assume that at least someone really enjoyed it.  The band played until around 2:30 at which time we went back to our RV from which we watched their “parade” about an hour later.  This consisted of a small “train” pulling about six cars packed with kids being followed by four adults driving their carts.  It was cute and the kids seemed to really enjoy it as they looped around the campgrounds.  At 7:30 we went back to the recreation room for a banana split with all the other guests.

FourthLiveBand FourthParade

On Sunday, Kal grabbed all the dirty clothes and headed to the laundry room at the campground while I got a lot done on the blog.  I was able to post the last blog at Portland, so now I have only this campground to write up and will finally be caught up!!

After the past two days in the campgrounds, we were both ready to head back to Acadia National Park.  This time we intended to stay away from the growing crowds on the Loop Road and head to the less visited eastern part of the park.  Looping all over this part of the park are a system of Carriage Roads built back in the 1920s by John D. Rockefeller.  It was his vision to create these roads as an attraction for visitors to the park to leave their automobiles and experience the wonders of nature from the back of horse drawn carriages.  They were very popular in their time, but over time fell into disrepair.  Within the last 20 years the National Park System have revitalized these carriage roads for hiking, biking, and horseback riding and from what we saw they have done a great job.  The road conditions in addition to the spectacular granite bridges built by Rockefeller over 90 years ago, these roads are an excellent way to visit the park.  The parking lots along the highway at the trailheads are small, but we got lucky again and squeezed our big truck into an open spot where we wanted to be.  It only took Kal four tries to park it along with my directions in front of the truck.  We went ahead and ate lunch before leaving on a 4.2 mile hike along the carriage roads.  We choose a loop that began by climbing about 200 feet over the first two miles, so the grade was slight but constant.  At the apex of the road is the largest waterfall in the park and one of the greatest granite bridges I have ever seen.  Although the waterfall was the biggest in the park, it was not very impressive since there was only a small stream of water coming over the falls.  The two bridges at the area, though, were impressive structures.  Rockefeller certainly did not spare any expense in building massive bridges to span relatively small brooks that will likely stand forever.  The trip back down through the mixed hardwood/spruce forest to the parking lot was initially steeper then the ascent, but was much easier and enjoyable.  The last part was along the bank of Hadlock Pond where we heard a couple of loons for the first time.  At least Kal identified them as loons once we got back to the RV to check their calls out online.

GregOnBridge KalOnCarriageRoad

Tuesday was another day in the campgrounds.  I needed to spend some time working on the RV and Kal grabbed the sheets and blankets and headed back to the laundry facilities.  While she was doing that I treated all the rubber around the slides and doors, checked the tire pressure and lug nuts, lubricated the slides, and touched up the outside seals in the back corner of the RV.  This spot has been a continual problem as the screw had tried to come out and the seem continues to separate.  I have caulked it a couple of times in the past and it appears that it is finally settling down.  I resealed the gap and hope this will be the last time.  I had though I would spend all day, however, it took only a couple of hours to finish the RV so I got to work on the blog for a bit as well.

On Wednesday we picked out a State Park that sounded interesting that was only 15 miles away from the campground.  Fort Point State Park is a small park of only 120 acres and is the site of Fort Pownall, a French and Indian War fort constructed at the mouth of the Penobscot River to protect it from the French.  It was a small star shaped fort with a stone blockhouse in the center.  The British destroyed it 1775 at the beginning of the Revolutionary War when they occupied all of eastern Maine to protect their Naval base in Nova Scotia.  They have done some excavating at the site so you can easily see the outline of the fort, moat and foundations of the blockhouse.  This is also the site of the Fort Point Light Station, which is still active, and the old bell tower used during foggy weather.  This bell tower was interesting because the bell is not housed at the top of the tower, but rather on the “porch” in front of the tower.  It had a hammer that would strike the bell every 20 seconds that was controlled automatically by gears and a descending weight inside the tower.  The weight would have to be raised every 4 hours.  A neat idea that I had not seen before.  The rest of the park is devoted to picnic tables scattered all along the rocky beach that created a number of nice areas to enjoy to the shore of the river and bay.

GregCountingRings KalSkippingRocks

On Thursday, we went back to Acadia National Park for one more visit.  This time we headed east of Mount Desert Island to Schoodic Peninsula.  When it was added in 1929 to Lafayette National Park, the name was changed to Acadia National Park and it consists of a single granite hill surrounded by 7 miles of rocky shoreline.  Once again the Island Explorer shuttle bus can be used to access the shoreline, however, since less than 10% of the people visiting Acadia come to Schoodic, there is plenty of parking at the main locations during the week.  In addition, the road is again a one-way two-lane road so there is parking in the right lane anywhere you want to stop.  After our experience on Mount Desert Island, this was a nice change and the shoreline is just as impressive as that on the island.  We drove up the dirt road to the top of Schoodic, which was a fun drive, however, the trees at the top limit the view to a single one looking out over the ocean.  We spent a couple of hours at Schoodic Point eating lunch and enjoying the surf.  It was hazy and the breeze was a little cool, but it was nice and quiet just watching the waves hitting the granite shelf sticking out into the ocean.  In a couple of places the waves would periodically shoot up into the air as the hit the rocks and Kal and I both tried to capture the action with our cameras.  We also saw a few small groups of porpoises just off shore.  Finally we took about a mile hike into the mixed hardwood/spruce forest at the lower elevation along Elder Trail which made for an easy hike in the woods.  The best part of the day, however, was our visit to Schoodic Education and Research Center near Schoodic Point.  After swapping stories with the volunteers at the Welcome Center leading into the site, we continued on to the Center itself.  The main building of the Center is Roosevelt Hall, which was constructed by the National Park Service using the same architect that designed the rustic appearing entrance gates on Mount Desert Island.  The NPS built Roosevelt Hall to sweeten the deal they made with the US Navy to swap their base on Mount Desert Island for this location on Schoodic Point.  Roosevelt Hall was to be used as the barracks for the Navy personnel manning a radio communications center in the basement.  Since it was built by the NPS instead of the Navy, it certainly does not look like any barracks I have ever seen before.  It is a beautiful building.  The Navy built other structures for meeting halls, classrooms, kitchen and dining halls, and apartments and they look much more like you would expect of military structures.  The Navy closed the base and transferred the property back NPS in 2002 where today it is used to host programs for elementary through high school classes, professional workshops and conferences, and housing for visiting scientists with projects in Acadia.  It is a beautiful facility and likely the best the NPS has to offer.

GregAtSchoodic KalAtSchoodic

On Friday, we went back to the state parks to Fort Knox State Historic Site and Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, which are at the same location on the Penobscot River just five miles from the campgrounds.  In some ways, we saved the best to last, as this Third System Coastal Fort is the best preserved fort we have seen along the east coast.  Part of the reason is that is was built from granite quarried from Mt. Waldo just five miles upriver and partly because it never saw action.  However, before we visited the fort itself, we drove the short distance to the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory.  When we first pulled the RV two weeks ago and approached this bridge our jaws dropped to the floor.  It is an amazing structure when you see if for the first time.  There are two pylons built using the same granite from Mt. Waldo that closely resemble the Washington Monument, which it turns out was on purpose.  From each of these pylons are steel cables running down to each concrete and steel section of the bridge.  The road, which is surprisingly only two lanes, run on either side of the line of cables descending down from the pylons.  In addition to being 135 feet above the river it was an experience crossing over with the RV in tow.  Today however, we had been over the bridge a few times but it was still impressive.  Within one of the pylons they built an observatory at the top of the tower accessed by a fast elevator from the base.  In less than a minute you rise over 400 feet to the observatory where you get a 360 degree view of the surrounding land.  This is the only bridge observatory in the US and only one of four in the world.  It is also a relatively new bridge, replacing the 1930s suspension bridge in 2006.

BridgeFromBelow KalAtBridge

After lunch in their nice picnic area, we proceeded to explore Fort Knox.  You can see the fort from the other side of the river on the drive from the campground and even from there the granite structure is impressive.  However, up close the site is truly amazing.  The expert stonemasons did a wonderful job of incorporating a number of architectural features into this fort.  Due to limited funding allocations is took nearly 25 years to complete and was never actually done.  They never had their full complement of cannon and by the Civil War forts of this type were obsolete.  The original construction of Battery A and B along the river, which were the first to be completed, were designed for the 32 pound cannon along with hot-shot furnaces.  However, by the time they received any cannon the iron clad ships were immune to the hot-shots and the 10-inch and 15-inch Rodman cannon of the Civil War era meant the batteries had to be rebuilt.  In addition, the state of Maine has invested a lot of money into preserving the fort, even down to removing the dirt from the top to fix the problems with water leakage.  The architectural features include a fancy arched Sally Port,  two granite circular staircases to access the upper level of cannon (which never saw any cannons), and gracious arches in the casements and storage rooms.  Even the tunnel down through the hillside to Battery B is beautifully constructed.  Simply put, if you are ever in this part of Maine and like to see old forts, this is a must see location.  We spent over 3 hours exploring all parts of the fort which are all open to the public.  This includes the musket ports looking out into the dry moat on three sides of the fort from both the scarp and counter scarp which were a major deterrent to any land based attack.

GregInsideFort SecondTier

Saturday was spent with finally catching up on this blog.  In fact, it is Saturday afternoon while I am writing this now.  Tomorrow will also be spent in the campground so I should be able to add the pictures and post this before we leave on Monday.  It sure feels good to be all caught up.  Besides it was too hot on Sunday to do much, the temperature got all the way to 80 degrees!

June, 2015 – Portland, Maine

When we left the Boston Minuteman campground we were finally on our way to Maine.  Our original goal was to be in Maine by the first of June, but there were so many National Parks around the major cities along the east coast that it proved to be impossible to get to Maine until the end of June.  This turned out to be a good thing as we pushed spring pretty hard coming north with spring just now really taking hold.  Our long range plans were now to spend the entire month of July in Maine, starting back south towards William’s in August.  Our plans were to be back at William’s in Maryland by the end of August with the intention of all of us spending 3-4 days staying in New York City as we had yet to see the National Parks there.  However, William had a lot of plans over the summer which would limit his and Kristen’s vacation time and finances, so we decided to put this off until next spring.  Truth be told, I am not terribly excited about staying in New York City, but I do want to see the National Parks and take in a Broadway play.  Regardless this gave us another couple of weeks to stay in New England so I adjusted our reservations.  I have to admit that we were looking forward to getting away from the massive traffic congestion along the East Coast (except for the time we spent in Connecticut and New Jersey surprisingly enough) and slowing the pace a bit.  While better, the traffic was still pretty heavy on I-95 from Boston to Portland, but we found Cedar Haven Campground to be a quiet spot just a couple of miles from I-295 going around the south of Portland.  Cedar Haven is a small campground located within a residential neighborhood, in fact, there were houses directly behind our campsite and we could hear them cutting their lawns throughout the week.  Still it was a nice location and reasonably priced in comparison to most of the campgrounds close to the Maine coast.  It is also just across the Interstate from Freeport where the flagship L.L. Bean store is located, a fact that Kal was excited about.  Although the weather was very cool with periods of rain all day, we got set up early in the afternoon.

Campsite

Tuesday was nothing but blowing wind and heavy rain the entire day.  For this reason, we decided to head over to Freeport to check out L.L. Bean.  It turns out that Freeport is essentially nothing more than a huge outlet mall with numerous shops of all kinds in all directions.  Parking throughout Freeport is free, which is not surprising, and except for the weather it was a pretty spot.  The main focus is L.L. Bean, which is not an outlet store, although they do have a separate outlet store a few blocks from their main location.  This is the flagship location of the company and consists of three HUGE stores.  There is one entire store devoted to the home, another to hunting and fishing, and a third to bike, boat, and ski.  All of them were a joy to wander around in, especially the hunting and fishing which contained a huge area devoted to camping.  We waited until after 10 in the morning to arrive to make sure they were open, only to find out these stores never close!!  They are literally opened every day of the year for 24 hours!!  Even though we no longer own a house and have limited storage in the RV, we still could have spent some serious money at these stores.  In addition, to all the items on sale, the main store for fishing and hunting is also something of a museum.  There is one section that has a number of small displays of items they have sold over the years, as well as, the history of L.L. Bean himself.  There are a large selection of stuffed animals all over the store.  The main attraction are the two stuffed moose that have locked horns.  Actually it was only the locked horns that were found in the wild. The bodies are reconstructions of moose bodies in a pose that matched the locked horns.  They even have the two moose on a platform with wheels so they can load it up and take it to local schools for education purposes.  Finally, L.L. Bean offers outdoor classes in all kinds of sports from fly fishing to kayaking.  A really neat place and worth a visit if you ever get to Freeport, Maine.  We did buy a couple of items that we needed, Kal got a small fishing vest to hold her camera lens and I bought a pair of water shoes for the next time we go canoeing.  We waited out the rest of the day with intermittent rain at the campgrounds.

HomeStore HuntingFishingStore LockedMoose

While we were setting up the RV on Monday, we got to talking with our neighbor who was also living in his RV.  After swapping stories about our rigs (he was interested in our hydraulic levelers) we got around to where we have been and where we are going.  He was leaving on Tuesday, but not going very far.  He was moving to a campground near Boothbay Harbor for their Windjammer Days.  This is a week long celebration with music, crafts, and other events and is a big draw every summer.  On Wednesday the Windjammer sailing ships were suppose to visit the harbor, so we decided to drive to Boothbay Harbor to check it out.  As we pulled into Boothbay Harbor the traffic was backing up with all the people coming in for the day, even though it was not yet 10:00 in the morning.  So we pulled into a small lot that had a sign for a shuttlebus that had a couple of parking places still in it.  It was lucky that we did since we found out from others waiting for the shuttle that downtown was already packed even though we were still 1.5 miles outside of town.  Thankfully, a shuttle (pronounced “schoolbus” since that is what it was) runs about every half hour and drops you off in the center of the activities.  We walked around a bit and ate lunch at a nice seafood restaurant before the ships were scheduled to come in at 1:00.  We found a good spot to watch the ships along the wharf next to another local couple that come every year to watch the ships.  We could see a number of large sailing ships out in the bay but they were crossing back and forth.  Finally a couple of ships sailed into the harbor and docked or turned around, but most of them stayed out in the bay.  Obviously we did not have a good location to watch them from, so it was a disappointing afternoon.  It seems the other ships were concerned with that the harbor was too small and there were too many small ships to risk coming in.  After an hour of waiting to see if anymore would take the risk, we decided to walk around a bit more and just came back to the campground.  Neither of us get much of a thrill from shopping in a tourist trap and the crowd was huge all through the little town.  It was a pretty small harbor town that would be nice to visit when it was not so busy, but this was just not for us.

CityStreet Harbor Windjammer

For those of you that are tired of reading about our exploration of our National Parks, you will be happy to know that there are none in the vicinity of Portland.  So we were left with Maine State Parks, of which there are quite a few.  For Thursday, we went to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park which is just outside of Freeport, so it was a quick trip to the park.  This State Park is about 250 acres of forests on a peninsula or “neck” that extends out into the Gulf of Maine.  It is a relatively young forest since it was farmland for over 200 years before becoming a state park in 1973.  They have a number of trails up to 2 miles in length that go along the coast of Cosca Bay or across the neck to the Harraseeket River.  This was our first opportunity to see the rocky shores that Maine is known for so we really enjoyed the walk along the Cosca Bay.  They have a number of spots with steps to access the water and since it was near low tide we had some great opportunities to explore the many tidal pools amongst the rocks.  The tides are around 10 feet on average, so it was hard to imagine what it would look like at high tide.  There is also Goggins Island just off shore, which is restricted to protect a nesting pair of osprey.  You can easily see their nest on top of a pole on the island, although the parents must have been off feeding while we were there.

GregOnBeach KalOnBeach

After lunch at their nice picnic area, we took a hike along a hemlock ridge across the neck to the Harraseeket River.  The hemlock forest along the ridge was very interesting and the hike was very easy.  The banks on the river are very steep, so accessing the water was not possible, however, we did get some nice views from the banks.  Without a doubt the shoreline in Maine is a LOT different then the sandy beaches in Florida and up the East Coast.  I should also make a point that the coast of Maine is a huge number of peninsulas that run north and south, so you have to generally travel east on the mainland before making a turn to head south onto any of them.  There are also a HUGE number of forested islands dotting the shoreline, most of which are not inhabited, at least by people.  I should also state that the Gulf of Maine is relatively cold since the Gulf Stream is forced off shore by the Continental Shelf and begins its turn to the east for England.  This makes it the perfect habitat for cod fish, but the cold water inhibits the formation of sandy beaches.

KalInWoods

Friday was laundry day and a chance to work on this blog, so we just relaxed after our hectic previous month.  Frankly we were both ready to just sit for a while and not travel every day.

For Saturday, we decided to visit a Maine State Historic Site and headed east to Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site.  Pemaquid was the most northeastern of the English settlements during the Colonial period.  In fact, they claim that the original settlement predates Plymouth, however, this is still being debated.  During the early 1600s it was one of many sites used by English fishermen to dry and salt cod fish for sale in England, so the site was only temporary from year to year.  The first permanent settlement was sometime between 1625 and 1628, but since it was so close to the French at Acadia there was soon nothing but trouble.  In addition, the French were much friendlier with the local Native American tribes, which began to view the English settlement at Pemaquid as something to be gotten rid of.  In the late 1600s, the English and the French were constantly at war with each other and Pemaquid kept getting the brunt of it.  In 1676, the colonists abandoned the town, which was burned by the Native Americans.  In 1688 they returned and built a wooden stockade to protect the town.  This proved ineffective as it was burned in 1689 and the settlement was again abandoned.  Once again they returned in 1692 and built a massive stone fort, Fort William Henry, part of which has been reconstructed today.  However, it was poorly planned leaving the water source outside the fort and it had only a single bastion.  However, it became more of a trap for the English soldiers who surrendered the fort in 1696 to the French and their Indian allies, who dismantled the fort.  The English did not return until 1729 when they built a third fort on top of part of the previous fort, but his time included the fresh water source inside the fort.  Following the French and Indian War in 1759, the French were no longer a threat and the local Native American threat was greatly diminished.  This newest fort, Fort Frederick, was abandoned and demolished during the Revolutionary War to keep the British from occupying it.  Thus Colonial Pemaquid faded into history until the site was rediscovered in the 1920s.  The area had long been farmed which greatly disturbed the town site, but archeological digs in the 1920s and 1960s managed to find the foundations of many of the original homes, warehouses, and sites along with Fort William Henry and many artifacts.  We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the site and museum.  They have left the foundations exposed and along with well done interpretive panels, you get a good sense of the layout of the town and fort.  They have reconstructed a waddle and daub house which does a good job of showing the building techniques along with a small group of park staff in period clothes to talk about life at the time and its history.  They have also reconstructed the bastion of the fort, which is strange since the bottom floor of the bastion is taken up with a 30 foot tall rock that was encompassed by the fort to keep it from being used for cover during an attack.  The best part of the site for me was the museum.  Using a series of dioramas they do an excellent job of conveying the history of Pemaquid along with a small sample of the artifacts.  I especially liked the room where they showed a number of examples of how they use old Dutch paintings from the time period to identify the artifacts.  They show the original painting and a closeup of one section that shows some everyday object included in the painting.  Next to the closeup is an artifact found on the site and you can easily see that it matches the object shown in the painting.  I had just never thought of using old paintings for archeological research, but it makes a lot of sense.  This historic site was definitely a good find and a very interesting site.  Even then it took only a few hours to fully explore, so it was back early to the campgrounds.

FortWilliamHenry KalAtHouseFoundation

The weather on Sunday once again turned nasty with high winds and blowing rain all day.  Doing anything outside was out of the question, so we decided to spend a few hours at the Oxford Casino, just outside of Portland.  This casino does not have a hotel associated with it and sits all by itself on a state highway a few miles from Portland.  From the outside it looks to be about the size of the small casinos we visited in Florida, but this initial impression was deceptive.  Once you enter the casino you find a large open space with about 500 slot machines, all the table games you could ask for, craps, and roulette.  For us, the best feature was, of course, the slot machines.  Unlike many places we have been over the past year, this casino actually had true penny slot machines.  This means you can get full action on the machine for $0.25-$0.30 instead of having to spend a minimum of $0.50 for a penny slot.  Since we refuse to loose more the $40 apiece, but would like to play for a couple of hours first, we much prefer true penny slots.  Kal starting off doing well being up $40 at one point.  I played my first $20 for about an hour and had all but lost it before getting hot on a couple of machines and getting up about $1.  It actually took nearly 4 hours before we had each lost our initial $20, so we decided to call it quits and head back in the rain to the campground.  Once again we will have to hook up a wet RV on Monday to head further northeast to Bangor.

June 2015 – Boston, Massachusetts area

The journey around the Boston to Littleton was not too bad as the Interstate stayed west of the metropolitan mess of Boston.  Traffic was pretty heavy at times, but kept moving at speed and the trip was just over an hour.  So we pulled into the Boston Minuteman Campground early in the afternoon.  Our first impression of the campground was very positive as it looked like it was a well maintained campground in the midst of a mature red pine forest.  Our first impression was not wrong as they took us to our campsite and the entire campground is beautiful.  It is nestled within a forest and felt like we were in a state park instead of a campground.  The sites were all spacious with lots of trees and they have done a great job making it easy to get big rigs in and out of the sites.  We had a corner site with full hookups that was easy to get into, although getting out was a bit of problem since a tree kept us from backing the truck straight back to the hitch.  I have found that coming at the hitch at an angle is a challenge.  The best feature of our site was the firepit.  They used an old boulder for the backside of the pit and placed large rocks on both sides and in front.  It was a beautiful firepit and Kal took a bunch of pictures of it.  Once we got set up in the campsite we headed to the Ford dealership just up the road to see about getting the oil changed.  We were not yet due for an oil change, but the BG site did not show anyone dealing with their additives in Maine when we would need to get it changes.  However, it turned out this Ford dealership no longer provided the additives either and it was the only location within a reasonable distance that was suppose to carry it according to BG.  Not knowing what we were going to do, we headed to the store and back to the campsite to think it over.

Campsite Firepit

Once again we had a lot of National Parks in the area, so with the rainy weather on Tuesday we decided to go to Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site which is a small site north of Boston.  As expected Saugus is a small site of the first successful iron works in the New World in 1646.  There were other iron blast furnaces in the New World that was producing pig iron to send to England, but Saugus was a complete iron works.  Not only did they produce raw pig iron, but they also reheated the bars, pounded out the carbon to produce wrought iron merchant bars, and even rolled out the bars into sheets to be sliced into rods that could be used by local blacksmiths to make iron nails that were much in demand.  For raw material they used the surrounding woods to make huge quantities of charcoal, bog iron found in the bogs and ponds, and an igneous rock that was rich in calcium called gabbro.  This was the first time we have seen anyone use an igneous rock for their calcium instead of limestone or seashells.  The Park Ranger theorized that they discovered this calcium source by accident believing the rock was a low grade iron ore, however, I suspect they were much more knowledgeable about rocks and minerals.  In any case, the site had sufficient water power to run an efficient operation.  As was the case for many of the National Park sites we have visited there was a large crowd of grade school students on a field trip while we were there.  In one way, this was frustrating since it meant the Visitor Center was closed, although I was able to catch a Ranger to sell me a lapel pin, and the theater was being used as a crafts room instead of showing the movie.  On the other hand, we were able to follow along during the Ranger tour of the works which meant they demonstrated the operation of the different parts of the iron works.  As you expect the original site of the iron works was lost over time, except for the large slag heap that extended out into the river.  In 1943 the local community formed a society to locate the original mill based on the location of the slag heap.  In 1948 they brought in an archeologists that found the location of the original structures and from 1951-1954 they reconstructed the entire iron works.  It was really neat to see a complete working iron works from the 1600s.   Of course, they did not blast the furnace, but the reconstructed water wheels do run the bellows and other machines.  The most impressive was the 500 pound trip-hammer that was lifted by the water wheel and dropped onto the iron bar to flatten it out.  It made a lot of noise to be sure!!  After a quick walk along the river we ate lunch and returned to the campgrounds.

KalAtSaugusIronWorks

On Wednesday, we headed for Salem, Massachusetts to visit the Salem Maritime Historic Site.  We got about 10 miles down the highway before the Check Engine Light came on.  We turned around and returned to the campgrounds to look into the problem.  The Owner’s Manual was not much help as it could mean nearly anything.  So it was back to the Ford dealership.  I decided to go ahead and have them change the oil, even without the BG additive, while they checked out the problem.  After a couple of hours of waiting they had the answer.  It was a problem with the emission system and most likely would not get any worse it we waited to get it fixed until we had more time the following week in Maine.  The worst case would be a loss of power if it started to plug up.  We went to lunch to talk it over and decided we could not live with the possibility of loosing power when we are pulling the RV and dropped the truck off to get if fixed over the next couple of days, we hoped.  So it was a chance to work on the blog.

Thursday we were stuck at the campground without a truck while we waited on them to call us.  Kal got the laundry done and I cleaned the RV and worked on the blog.  At around 5, they called us saying they were done, so they picked up Kal to pick up the truck.  It turned out that the problem was nothing more than an update of the software.  Once they performed the update, the error went away!!  It was a relief, especially since it did not cost us anything.  However, this problem did mean we lost a day of sightseeing and would have to give up something.  Not really looking forward to dealing with Boston again, we decided to drop the trip into the city.

Not sure if we could trust the truck yet we decided to stay close and visit the Minute Man National Historical Park which was only 10 miles away.  I have to admit I did not know much about the beginning of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord, although we did learn part of the story the week before in Boston.  The ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes from Boston was to warn the militia in Lexington and especially Concord that the British were coming to confiscate and destroy the military supplies they had moved away from Boston to hid them from the British.  At the time the British had occupied Boston under martial law for the past two years and the militia had been training all around Boston to resist the occupation.  The British were not looking for a fight, sending 1700 soldiers to just capture the supplies and hopefully arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock who were staying in Lexington.  There were two ways to Concord from Boston, one crossed the Charles River to Charlestown and then overland and the other across the Boston Neck and then northwest to Concord, thus one by sea and another by land.  It took longer to come by land through the Boston Neck, so they needed to know the route.  Both Revere and Dawes made their way to Lexington once they received the lantern signal about the route from the Old North Church, alerting the militia along the way.  It should also be noted that these militia sent out additional riders to warn other militia in the area around Boston.  Both Revere and Dawes arrived at Lexington in the early morning to warn Adams and Hancock and then continued on towards Concord.  They were joined in Lexington by Samuel Prescott, who was actually the only one to reach Concord.  We learned at one of the stops on the driving tour of the Historic Park that their group ran into a British patrol that was attempting to keep work from reaching Concord.  Revere was captured, Dawes escaped back to Lexington, and Prescott was able to escape in the marsh to make it to Concord.  Once again our GPS system took us to the Park Headquarters, which in this case was the wrong Visitor Center at Concord.  You should begin your visit at the Visitor Center outside of Lexington since it has an amazing multi-media presentation of the day long battle and has a good set of exhibits about events preceding and the aftermath.  The Visitor Center at Concord does not have much information and only a short movie about the battle.  Chronologically, the fighting began in Lexington with a very short skirmish with the Lexington militia at daybreak where the British mistakenly shot into the milita on the green killing a couple of men before the militia scattered.  They proceeded on to Concord where they searched every house looking for military supplies.  They did not find much, since the supplies were hidden at Colonel Barrett’s farm outside of town.  While some of the British stayed in town to burn the supplies they did find, the rest went out to Barrett’s farm.  Leaving about 90 soldiers at the North Bridge they continued on to the farm.  Seeing the fires in town, the militia believed they were burning the town and Barrett ordered them to advance on the North Bridge but not to fire unless fired upon.  The British retreated to the other side of the bridge and once the militia approached the other side of the bridge they opened fire on them.  The militia returned fire killing a number of British, signifying the first time the militia fired upon the British which meant they were now in open treason against England.  Unable to find the supplies hidden away the British began their retreat back to Boston.  However, the militia was not done with them.  The day began with the militia severely outnumber, but by midday their numbers had grown to surpass the British and by the end of the day they outnumber them by 10 to 1.  The entire trip back to Lexington was a running battle along the road with the militia shooting at the column and then running through the fields and woods to take up new positions the entire distance.  I was absolutely amazed to learn about the response from all the other communities to the extent that it was eventually a force over 20,000 strong that encircled Boston and put the city under siege.  If it were not for a relief column of 1000 British soldiers showing up in Lexington to save the soldiers that by this time were literally running for their lives, it would have been a total disaster for the British.  By the end of the day they were able to retreat to Charlestown where the guns on the HMS Somerset convinced the militia to let them go.  We took a couple of hikes along the rode and had a great day learning all about this critical moment in our history when the entire countryside turned out to support liberty and freedom.

KalOnTrail MinutemanStatue

For Saturday, it was time to take another shot at Salem since the truck did not give us any problems with all the driving on Friday.  As you would expect, we thought we would find out a lot about the 1600s witch trials in Salem, but we did not count on the fact the Historic Site is named Salem Maritime.  As it turns out the Historic Site is totally devoted to the maritime history of Salem, which I knew nothing about.  During the colonial period Salem was just another New England port involved in the Triangle Trade with England and the West Indies.  At the time of the Revolutionary War, the colonies had no navy of its own, especially against the naval might of England.  Therefore, the Continental Congress authorized the use of privateers where ship owners could add cannon to their ships and attack unarmed English merchant ships.  They would capture the cargo and ships and sell them.  After paying a duty to the Continental Congress these ship captains and owners would make a huge profit.  The practice was dangerous but could be very lucrative.  While there were privateers from all the Eastern ports, Salem had the largest number and most successful.  Following the Revolutionary War, these owners and captains had an opportunity to turn their profits into a fortune and many did.  However, Salem had two problems.  First, England closed all the ports in the West Indies and other profitable ports around the world from the United States, which was a challenge for all American merchants.  Second, Salem had no major river to provide transport into and out of the in land region, so they could not capitalize on common American trade.  Therefore, they had to find other markets in order to make a living.  They opened markets in China, India, and Africa trading in luxury items.  They were VERY successful with at least three owners becoming America’s first millionaires, billionaires in today’s dollars.  In fact, there is a story about how merchants in India actually believed that Salem was a separate country of great wealth.  Unfortunately, this trade did not continue for long, since the 1807 Embargo that closed all US ports to trade with England or France and the subsequent War of 1812, effectively ended Salem’s profits.  Being too shallow for the larger steamships of the late 1800s the harbor continued to lose trade.  The Historic Site consists primarily of the harbor itself, although the Visitor Center is located in the downtown area.  Once again our GPS system did not lead us to the Visitor Center, but the harbor district where we had a terrible time finding anywhere to park our large truck.  After circling a couple of times we found a metered spot we could pull straight into without having to parallel park (which is out of the question) that was across the street from the wharves.  It was actually a great parking place and only cost $0.25 for 20 minutes.  We had to feed the meter once, but were able to see everything except the Visitor Center itself.  From this location we could explore the 1/2 mile long Derby Wharf which would have been crowded with warehouses and workshops at the time.  It even had a railroad on it for a while.  We found out that there was a tour of the Friendship II and US Custom House at 11, so we hung around until then.  It turned out you were supposed to have reservations for the tour that you make at the Visitor Center since they are restricted in size.  Fortunately, the 11:00 tour was not filled, so we were able to just join in.  The ship Friendship II is a reconstruction of a square rigged frigate from the time period and it was amazing to see it from the inside.  Without cargo there is appears to be plenty of room, but that is deceptive.  They had a wooden cannon that they would use to scare off pirates by trying to bluff them.  In the first place, carrying iron cannons would severely decrease the cargo they could carry and secondly it was better to run away than fight.  The US Custom House was also interesting since they have furnished it as it would have been during the time.  They had a huge walk in vault for the storing of documents, which were all important.  It is interesting when you realize that the main source of income for the new US government was custom duties collected on all trade goods that entered US ports.

FriendshipII  KalOnWharf

After lunch we drove closer to the Visitor Center where we were lucky again to find a metered parking spot, this time with two hours on the meter!  After we found out that the next movie at the Visitor Center was not for 1.5 hours we decided to walk a few blocks and explore the old Federal style homes in Salem that are the greatest collection of 1700 and early 1800 homes in the nation.  There are half a dozen blocks of old historic homes that are still being lived in today, all with plaques giving the date and original owners of the homes.  Kal got quite a few very good photographs of the homes.  We then went back to the Visitor Center and watched a good movie about the maritime history of Salem, both its rise and fall.

OldHouse2 GregAndBewitched

For our last day around Boston we drove the short distance up the Interstate to Lowell, Massachusetts.  We already knew that Lowell Historical Park is an urban national park devoted to the textile industry.  What we did not know was the sheer extent of the textile industry in Lowell.  Lowell was the first planned industrial city in the US and by 1850 was the second largest city in Massachusetts.  It began in 1822 with plans to build canals and factories along the Merrimack River which dropped 32 feet and provided an enormous amount of water power.  At it heights it consisted of 10 corporations with 40 mills producing 50,000 miles of cloth in a year.  Many of these factories are now gone, but they have managed to save, preserve, restore, and convert enough of them to give a good sense of what it would have been like.  At the beginning the workers were mostly young women recruited from New England farms and towns to work a few years at the mills, earning a steady wage, and either setting themselves up for a career or sending the money to their families.  To recruit this work force, the companies built boarding houses, churches, and city parks.  The women were held to a strict code of conduct that included attending church.  In addition, there were social societies available, for example horticulture clubs.  This system worked very well and was copied in other locations in New England.  For many years, Lowell was the center of industrial innovations and improvements, but eventually the competition proved to be too much.  Dropping wages and the harsh working conditions forced the women to strike, which were largely unsuccessful.  In order to stay competitive, especially with the low wages in the South, the companies turned to hiring unskilled immigrants.  Beginning with Irish immigrants brought in to build and maintain the canals, there were wave after wave of immigrants from Canada, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, and Sweden.  Each group of immigrants would create their own enclave in the city which made for a very interesting conglomeration of cultures, even today.  By the 1960s all of the companies were out of business or had moved and the city was in a serious decline.  I recall hearing about the decline in the textile industry in New England while I was in high school in the 1970s and the impact on the cities, so I was glad to see that Lowell is now recovering while embracing its history.  The National Historical Park includes the surviving factories and some commercial buildings that they are still in the process of reconstructing.  Of the huge number of boarding houses, the NPS has renovated one the few remaining and turned it into a museum that shows what life was like for the women in half of the building.  The other half has a number of great exhibits about each of the immigrant waves that have made Lowell their home.  Across the canal is the remains of the Boott Mill which is now primarily apartments and offices, but also contains a very good museum run by the NPS.  The first floor is filled with the power looms of the time from which they make cloth to sell in the museum and Visitor Center.  When we were there they had 16 looms operating out of all those on the floor and it was noisy enough that I don’t think I could have stood all of them running at once.  The second floor was a comprehensive museum of the history of Lowell with examples of all the machines they used to turn raw cotton into cloth, as well as, samples of the cloth produced over the years.

CanalAndMill KalAlongCanal

After lunch we joined the afternoon trolley tour which rides the electric trolley over to the the Suffolk Mill which the NPS has turned the first floor (the above floors are again offices and apartments) into a museum on the turbines.  They have opened up the floor so you can see the turbines and laid out one turbine on the floor so you can see how it works.  Our tour guide did an excellent job explaining how turbines were a vast improvement over water wheels capturing over 90% of the potential energy instead of less than 10%.  The turbines turn a very large flywheel that turns smaller wheels using a leather belt built of six layers of leather.  With the use of wheels, rods, and belts, all of the machines on all four floors of the mill were powered.  It was certainly worth the trip, even if it rained most of the day.  Since the weather was so bad we decided against walking along the canal systems, which is supposed to be very nice.  Too bad, but we really enjoyed our explorations.

TourGuide