Saturday, August 24, 2013

2013 Family Vacation: Lake George, NY and Acadia, ME

This year our family vacation took us north and what a blessing it was to escape the heat and humidity of a Virginia Beach summer!

Our first waystation was Mom and Pop's house in NY.  Dana and I cooled our heels and watched the hummingbirds while Hailey and Mom went to see Les Miserables at the MacHayden Theater in Chatham.  They loved the production - especially when star-struck bats got into the act in the closing musical number!

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and shopped in our favorite stores in Chatham.  After more hummingbird watching and a nice lunch, we made our way north towards Lake George.  

We had time to burn before arriving at the Hague lakeside home of the Crabbs family so we took a spin around Lake George Village.  Never again!  Talk about honky tonk and disgusting!  I thought the Outer Banks had a lot of tacky t-shirts shops and the like, but they are beat hands down by LGV.  

Here I am trying to keep Dana away from the "grab a bag of polished rocks" booth.  It's like crack for her.

If you really want an Adirondack feel on the Lake George waterfront (which stretches ~ 40 miles long) head for one of the small towns that flank the lake.

On the way to Hague, we took a wrong turn on Route 9 instead of 9N, but misfortune turned into opportunity when we spotted a black bear crossing the road outside of Warrensburg, NY.  After that we doubled back on Route 87 and made our way on 9N to the Crabbs' residence.  What a lakeside beauty!

Of all the things we enjoyed during our stay, the best was basking in each others company - engaged in fascinating conversation.  The house had the perfect back porch to facilitate it.

Being a lakefront home, the house was graced by a lovely dock and boathouse.  It was the center of operations for all boating and swimming activities.

This was my first time visiting the Crabbs' summer house, so I was told before I could enter the water, I had to follow tradition and jump off the platform, which I willingly obliged! 

If the girls were to vote on their favorite activity, I think it would be tubing hands down!  Whether it was noodling around near the dock or racing around the lake being towed at breakneck speed, the girls were laughing nonstop!

Dana hogged the tube so we had to depose her of her thrown from time to time.

One day we boated into Hague and walked around the town for their art fair, peeked in all the local shops, got coffee, saw the village green where Tom and Leslie square-danced, and just had a nice lazy afternoon.  I saw the elephant rock and we also took a 3 mile hike to Deer Leap and back.  On the way, the girls were hamming it up!

Here's team Crabbs all together before Andrew went off to college at Florida State...

On our last morning before heading to Maine, Tom and Leslie made sure I was up early to enjoy a Lake George sunrise.  I'm sure glad they did!

From Lake George, we drove north to Fort Ticonderoga, and then pointed the Odyssey eastward towards Vermont.  We took the slow road on Route 2 and enjoyed the countryside.

You know you're in the Northcountry when you see these road signs...

Deja vu!

Crossing the bridge into Vermont...

Being DuBoises, we had to stop at the ice cream legend - Ben and Jerry's headquarters in Vermont.

We arrived at Mount Desert Campground in Maine right at dusk and made haste to set up camp before it became pitch black.  We made it just in time and settled in for the night.

The next morning, I made coffee and Kathi got breakfast started as we settled in and planned our day's events.  We did the formal check in at the campground office, bought ice and firewood (for Dana our pyro), and asked about the loop shuttle service.  To be a little more time efficient, we decided to drive ourselves (sorry LL Bean) and  thought we'd beat the crowd if we toured Southwest Harbor in the morning and hit the Acadia loop in the afternoon.

From Mount Desert Campground, we drove through Somesville and headed south on Route 102.  We parked in Southwest Harbor and toured the local shops.  The shopkeepers must know (and especially with Hailey along) we cannot pass up any store with a mermaid on it! 

The harbor was cute - so different from our Virginia Beach home.

We continued on route 102 A along the coast stopping to marvel at the beautiful countryside, verdant meadows, here, with Penobscot, Permetric, and Cadillac Mountains in the background.

We stopped near Seawall to poke around the tidepools - a favorite activity for Dana and Dad.

I remember rocky coast and attached algae like this from my college and graduate school daze...

We also pulled off the road to walk the trail and take a picture of the cove at Ship Harbor.  Where are all the coastal vegetated wetlands?

No trip to Mount Desert Island should be complete without a view of Bass Harbor Light. If you go, to get the quintessential photo, do not take the paved path at the entrance of the parking lot, but go to the far end of the parking lot, follow the trail to the steep wooden steps and scramble on the rocks to get this view.  Spectacular!

I guess it's a popular spot for painters too and they seemed to be getting it right.

Hailey finding the way back...

We continued on Tremont Road, past Seal Cove Pond (where's the moose????), looked at the picnic area at Pretty Marsh, and circled back to Somesville and then took Routes 198 and 233 to the Park Headquarters office.  We bought our park entrance pass so we could legally tour the Acadia loop road, bought some trinkets, and Dad got his NPS Passport stamped. 

We headed into Bar Harbor for some ice cream at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium.  

Dana got fudge instead and a big jaw breaker.  There were lots of cool shops in Ba Habah so we vowed to return.

It was about 3 pm by the time we made it to the Acadia Park Loop Road so we took a leisurely drive just to get the lay of the land for a more detailed invasion in the future.  Cars littered the road around Sand Beach so we passed.  We did make a stop along Otter Point to check out the shoreline and take some pictures.  Here's Otter Point looking sow'west with the Cranberry Islands, off the point, just visible in the the distance. 

My sweet girls on Otter Point.

Continuing inland, we made the horseshoe bend flanking Otter Cove and we had to stop to satisfy Dana's treasure hunting jones.  God knows how many pounds of shells she squirreled away in pockets, bags, and purses.  I'm sure the car stink will remind me.

Otter Cove

At low tide, it's amazing to see all the attached algae (Fucus vesiculosus) draped like a blanket on the rocky coastline - a reminder of the 16 foot tide range in the Bay of Fundy!  My Master's thesis work concentrated on algae (Laminaria saccharina), some from the coast of Maine.  It's an environment I had not visited in almost 30 years and had forgotten it wonders.  Good thing Dana encouraged me to come with her to explore Otter Cove and rekindle some treasured memories of my own.

The rocky coast of Maine is indeed a joy to behold!

We continued along the Park Loop Road and were hawkishly watching the side of the road for the small wooden stairway that marked the entrance to Little Hunter's Beach.  We were lucky to be there near low tide and after a steep descent to the beach below we had fun looking at all the cool cobbles and boulders - salt and pepper granite, pink granite, composite stones of every combination.  Reluctantly, we followed the strict signs and took pictures instead of stones. 

Everywhere we found cobble beaches, we found these stacks of stones like little cairns but not marking any trails to speak of.  I guess this is how frustrated rockhounds work out their angst.  Dana and I added our own to this temporary collection.  

We collected Mom and Hailey (throwing cobbles and making them go "CRACK" against other larger stones) and ascended up the staircase to our awaiting chariot. We had a long day next so we made a quick stop to recon the Jordan Pond House (hour wait for tea and popovers!), breezed past the Cadillac Mountain turnoff, but got a peek at the Bubbles before hooking a left on Route 233 back to our temporary home at Mount Desert Campgrounds.  

Kathi made a dinner of spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread and we went to bed early - dreaming of PUFFINS!

The iPhone's "nuclear accident alarm" sounded off at 4 am.  We quickly dressed, loaded into the van and began the 2 hour drive to Cutler Maine.  From 4:30 am to 5:30 am we chased the sunrise as we flew northeast. 

Just before getting to Cutler, the dawn brought us this image....

We like getting off the beaten track so when we planned a trip to Acadia National Park, we fell in love with the notion of going offshore for a puffin cruise.  Puffins breed circumpolarly around the fringes of the Arctic Ocean and are the ecological counterpoints of the penguins of the antarctic seas.  Maine is only state in the North Atlantic where breeding puffins can be found.  A few cruise operators take you out to see the birds on the wing and on the water, but we found one that, weather and sea conditions permitting, offers the chance to land on an island and view the birds up close.  

Cutler's Harbor - a small, working, fishing village.

We boarded the 40 ft. Barbara Frost (on the right with the two tenders) and Captain Andrew Patterson (Bold Coast Charters) ferried us to Machias Seal Island, an exposed, low-lying, rocky island located nine miles off Cutler, Maine.  

On the way, we passed the Little River Lighthouse (

It took about 45 minutes to get to Machias Seal Island.  Oh look!  Another lighthouse!

As we approached, there were puffins everywhere!

Machias Seal Island's ownership is disputed by the US and Canada, but here's what the island sign says...

We spent roughly 90 minutes in an approximate 

6’ X 9’ blind and laughed giddy in our excitement over the sights and sounds of the birds.  

In addition to the many rare puffins we saw, we were also blessed by the appearance of the even rarer Razorbill. 

As we sat in the blind, the whole time we could hear the pitter patter of little puffin feet on the roof.  For some reason, we found this hilarious.

Teacher and apprentice....

Who gets tired of more puffin pictures?

Puffin Video!

The puffins would swoop in and land with fish in their beaks and quickly hop into one of the underground burrows to feed their waiting chicks.  Of course I wanted to get a picture of a puffin with a fish in its beak.  Dana took much delight in the fact that she got two with her Point and shoot camera and I couldn't seem to get one with my fancy Nikon camera.  Those buggers were fast!  Finally I captured one.

Dana was quick to point out though that her picture was of a puffin with two fish in its beak, not one.  Is it legal to leave your child on an island in the Canadian maritime?

 On the way home Captain Patterson took us on a spin around the smaller of the two islands and lingered as we got our fill of harbor seals loafing on the rocks.  

Acadia - wonderful, puffins - priceless!   

We were back in the Harbor around 1 pm and we drove the 2 hours from Cutler back to Mount Desert Campground in Somesville.  Dad took a quick nap in anticipation of passing through the Bar Harbor shopping gauntlet.  We had an early dinner and then headed into town (parking is free and unlimited after 6 pm).  There were lots of cool shops and we ended up buying a bunch of puffin items. 

The next morning we woke up to rain.  Of course, this is the day we had to break camp. Kathi made pancakes and sausage and the girls ate in the car while Kathi and I packed all the dry stuff from inside the tent.  In between bands of rain, we packed all the gear, and last the wet tent fly and wet towels from the clothesline.  Yuck!  

Luckily, we were eventually headed to a rented house in Winter Harbor ME where hot showers, a washer and dryer, and a clothesline to air out the tent and fly awaited.  Mom and Pop 
Du Bois and brother David were meeting us in Winter Harbor later in the afternoon so we decided to check out Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island.  

This is Somes Sound on Route 3/198 on the way to Northeast Harbor.

Northeast Harbor was cute.  In between raindrops, we poked around the expensive shops, bakeries, and antique stores.  

We got coffee to force the damp away.  One of our favorite shops was the Naturalist's Notebook (not to be missed).  We spent a nice time at an art fair where we bought some wall hangers.

Kathi treated us all to lunch at the Docksider, a busy little seafood joint in town.  I had a flounder sandwich and fries.  Yum!

After lunch, we made our way to the Walmart in Ellsworth to buy groceries for dinner and then we headed to Winter Harbor.  

On the way, we couldn't help but stop in and check out Wild Blueberry Land.

Little did they know that their King had stopped in for a surprise inspection!

We got in around 3 pm and descended on the showers and laundry as Kathi started dinner. She made a lovely loin of pork with salsa, corn on the cob, and other sundries.  Dee-lish!

We were pooped so as David and Pop watched a Ken Burns special on the travels of Lewis and Clark, we hit the hay.

Saturday, August 10 = Lobster Festival in Winter Harbor!  This is the reason why we've come!  

The morning started with a blueberry pancake breakfast at the Masonic Lodge where we had seconds until we couldn't take it anymore!

There was a huge craft fair after breakfast and we perused the booths.

Sister love at the craft fair...

...but the girls fell in love with the Winter Harbor five and dime.

Couldn't resist a snap of this lobster buoy collection.  They had my number!

We had some time to kill before the lobster dinner was offered, so we took a quick spin around the Schoodic Peninsula - another part of Acadia National Park, just south of Winter Harbor.

We wee looking for moose in this pond at the entrance to Blueberry Hill Road.  We got no thrill :(

Continuing on, we made our way to Schoodic Point.  WOW.  This rocky promontory was beautiful and the waves crashing against the shore truly was awesome. 

Here's looking across Frenchman's Bay towards Mount Desert Island.

We were looking for lighthouses for David, and we found this one on the point between Inner Harbor and Sand Cove in Prospect Harbor.

Enough sightseeing, it was time to crack some lobsta tail at the firehouse!  Lobster, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and blueberries in cream.  Pop got a double, Kathi and I split a double, and David and Mom got singles.  Hailey and Dana were not interested in lobster so they got burgers and dogs.

It was a little disturbing that the distribution truck where all the lobsters emerged was from Massachusetts.  I'm hoping just the truck was home-ported in MA, not the lobsters!  We ate with gusto anyway.

Smile for the camera Uncle David...

After the lobster dinner, we returned to the rented house to drop off the girls and retrieve our camp chairs for the lobster festival parade in Winter Harbor.  We picked our spot and watched every fire truck in northern Maine go by.  We enjoyed the floats and band the best.

These guys were staying two doors down from our house and had a non-stop party going the whole weekend.  We should've strayed on over...

The festival theme this year was "rockin' lobster" and these kids were lip-syncing to the B-52's classic.

This dude was my favorite!

We yelled at all the parade folks to throw us candy which they willingly did.  We mused that Dana should go to a college town with a lot of parades since then she'll get all the candy she craves for free.

After the parade, we chilled at the house, had a nice dinner, and watched more about Lewis and Clark until closing lids forced us to bed.

The next day, Mom, Pop, and David all had to leave and head home.  They got an early start, and we decided to have another look around the Schoodic Peninsula and then over to Acadia to see what we missed because of our rain day.  Kathi made reservations for popovers at the Jordan Pond House at 4 pm and off we went 'round the Schoodic Peninsula loop.

Those aren't bullet holes; they're patches of moss growing on the sign.

We cruised down the Schoodic Peninsula Park Loop Road past Frazier Point, but had to stop at Big Moose Island (where's the moose?) for some pics.  This is what the coast of Maine looks like.

The mountains of Mount Desert Island are in the background...

Dana and Dad hunted a few more tidepools for treasure among the carpets of Fucus vesiculosus (aka bladder wrack algae).

Laminaria saccharina.... aka kelp or devil's apron!

We made another pilgrimage to Schoodic Point, and then moved on to Little Moose Island in the cove known as East Pond.  I was particularly attracted to the intertidal wetland vegetation as, what is so common along the Virginia shoreline, is rare along the rocky Maine Coast.

We were lucky it was low tide so we could cross from the mainland road out to Little Moose island (Where's the moose?).  The view from the ridge along Little Moose Island was spectacular!

Brother David instructed that this geologic feature (below) is called a dyke.  After the volcanic granite is originally formed, cracks in the granite fill with newer and more erodible stone types.  As erosion occurs, little trenches are formed and, over time, these trenches fill with organic debris and plants grow in the seams.  Cool!  They're found everywhere along the shoreline when you know what to look for.

Wet, shiny cobbles - mesmerizing!

Family picture at Schoodic Point.

Moving on down the road, we ended up on the part of the Park Loop Road that flanks Birch Harbor.  Classic Maine scenery...

We finally bid farewell to the Schoodic Peninsula and made our way towards Acadia NP.  Popovers were calling our names!  We were hungry for lunch so we stopped a Tracy's - a roadside joint that was recommended in one of the guide books.  In contrast to the trendy restaurants in Bar Harbor, it had 2 lobster rolls for 10 bucks!

Of course, the girls got grilled cheese and burgers  :(    Kathi also got a blueberry ice cream cone - yummy!

On the way from Schoodic to Acadia we came across this pretty scene...

Near the Bar Harbor Airport, before the Mt. Desert Island (MDI) Bridge, looking across Eastern Bay, are the mountains of MDI looming in the distance...

We had some time to kill before popover nirvana so we made our way to Seal Harbor to check out the larger of the two Naturalist's Notebook stores.  

Just before parking the car, heading uphill, the car started to sputter and buck.  I thought perhaps there was just a little water in the gas we had just filled up with.  To my chagrin, the "check engine" warning light began to flash followed shortly by the "traction control system" warning light. Uh oh!!!!!

Kathi rattled off some disturbing precautions from the owner's manual about immediately going to the dealer or risking permanent damage, but what the hell... We went into the Notebook for a (nervous) look see.  The window shopping was overshadowed with dread as we climbed back into the Odyssey (taking on new meaning!) and clunked our way to the Jordan Pond House (JPH).  There was nothing we could do and we were at least an hour's drive from our Schoodic rented house.

Forgetting it was Sunday, I tried to get in touch with a Honda dealer in Bangor Maine, but quickly came to my senses and resigned myself to fate.  We had a lovely repartee on the backyard green at the JPH with a beautiful view of Jordan Pond and the North and South Bubbles (mountains) in the background.

Hailey and Dana with the Jordan Pond and the "Bubbles" in the background...

Car on the fritz, ka clunk ka clunk, onward we pressed.  Heading up the Park Loop Road, we came to the entrance to Cadillac Mountain.  I reasoned, I'll be god-damned if I came to Acadia National Park and did not make it to the top of Cadillac Mountain!  We hung a sharp right turn and began the clunky climb.

And BOY, am I glad we did!  The sights were amazing - in all directions.  Bar Island and the Porcupine Islands in the background...

 Looking South towards Sutton and the Cranberry Islands...

Looking out across Eagle Lake towards Sargent Mountain...

Having fun on Cadillac Mountain...

Mom took this one...

Skyline views as the sun set...

Crossing the bridge at Mount Desert Narrows...

We limped home to the Schoodic house, took all the dry gear off the back porch, and packed our stuff as best we could for an early morning departure for Darlings Honda, Nissan, and Volvo of Bangor.

Anxiously, we woke up early and got the show on the rode.  We tried to leave early enough so we could be at the Honda dealer's door at 7:30 when they opened.  We weren't going to quite make it so Kathi called to see if we could get a service appointment.  BAD NEWS.  Darlings Honda had 31 service appointments that morning!  We arrived at 7:15 am, handed them the keys, begged for mercy, and reconnoitered to the waiting room.  We waited in panicked silence and the Benjamens began to add up in my head.

I had seen the car up on the lift (a good sign?), but by 11 am it was gone (good?  bad?), so I inquired at the service desk.  We were told the car was being washed and would be ready in 15 minutes!  Hooray.  Now for the damage.  The malady was only a bad ignition coil so we were in and out for $200 bucks.  Don't let anyone tell you that prayers are not answered!  Thank you Darlings Honda!!!!!

Skipping a stop at Freeport ME and the LL Bean headquarters, we blasted down I-95 and made it to Chatham NY by 6:30pm - not too shabby.  We had a nice dinner with Mom and Pop and then it was time for an early bedtime.

Got up the next morning relieved and made the rainy journey through NY & NJ.  The weather cleared in DE and we sailed through MD and VA to arrive safely home.  We ordered pizza and unpacked the car while I went to the Nixons' to pick up our disapproving "best friend".  When Bodie saw me in the Nixon's house the hair on his back flared and he barked at me!  Ungrateful mutt!  In short order he remember who I was (or accepted his fate), and hoped in the car for the ride home.

Like in Winter Harbor, we attacked the washing machine, aired out the sleeping bags, and put away clean clothes.  Work, work, work, but it was good to be home!

What a whirlwind vacation!  We got some great quality time with the Crabbs family before Andrew went off to college, made some new friends in Ed, Mary, John, and Kathleen, saw a bear, "tubed", camped in Acadia, saw puffins, seals, and a mola mola, reveled in beautiful sunrises and sunsets, ate lobster with Mom, Pop, and brother Dave, scored candy at the Winter Harbor rockin' lobster parade, explored the Schoodic Peninsula (where's the moose), survived car troubles, noshed on popovers at the JPH, and navigated up Cadillac mountain to get closer to God.  

I'd say that's one heck of a vacation!