As I sit down to write the second installment of our Eastern Escapade, Pat and I are holed up in the RV at the Houlton / Canadian Border KOA in Houlton, ME. She’s engrossed in one of her consulting projects, while I’m just uselessly twiddling my thumbs (or at least I was before I started writing.) The weather outside is miserable, with a steady rain that has persisted for more than 24 hours with nary a break, punctuated by extended periods of drenching downpours – apparently due to the presence of Hurricane Larry in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Our journey has ground to a halt as we wait. What are we waiting for, and what have we been up to until now? Read on, and all will be revealed.
Sep 5-7 (Sunday-Tuesday): On Sunday we departed from the Forest Ridge Campground in Ellsworth, ME, for our much-anticipated visit to the Acadia National Park. Before describing Acadia, I need to clarify something I wrote in Part 1 of this narrative. When we started looking into possible dates for this trip back in July, we were thinking of going in late September or early October, but we quickly learned that the demand for RV camping spots at Acadia is very high. They take reservations up to 2 months in advance (not 6 months), but were nearly fully booked for that entire window. While a few sites were open for a day or two, we could find only one site available for as much as three days and decided to reserve that one before it, too, was gone. We would have loved to stay longer, but there was simply nothing available.
In short, Acadia is AWESOME. We had a fantastic RV site at the Schoodic Woods Campground, located in a newer portion of the Park on the Schoodic Peninsula, across Frenchmen Bay from the main part of the Park located on Mount Desert Island. Here’s a rather poor photo of the park map indicating the various roads and trails we drove, biked, and hiked on during our stay.
The Schoodic Woods Campground is a recent addition to the Acadia National Park, opening in 2015. As such, it is the only campground in the park that offers electric sites for RVs. The main part of the park on Mount Desert Island was designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1913 and was soon upgraded to a National Park in 1916. The contrast between the two parts could not have been more stark. While both offer stunning views and ample opportunities for hiking and biking, the main park was teeming with people; most parking lots were overflowing, and the hiking trails were jammed with park visitors. The nearby town of Bar Harbor has lots of hotels and motels for visitors who don’t want to camp. We made a brief pass through the town for a grocery stop and the traffic was unnerving. Over on Schoodic, on the other hand, we encountered very few people, and the RV sites were so widely spaced we were barely aware of any other campers, even though the campground was filled to capacity. Any readers care to guess which part Mr. Introverted Finnlander preferred?
Shortly after arriving on Sunday, we headed off on our bikes to Schoodic Point, the southernmost tip of the peninsula. There we found a fascinating rock outcropping that reminded us a great deal of our beloved Lake Superior North Shore, although the colors of the rocks were generally much lighter. The bike route was a combination of wide, gravel trails and the park road itself. The gravel trails were not very well packed and felt quite treacherous when winding down steep hills, but the two-lane, one-way road was excellent for biking since cars could easily pass in the left lane without bothering the bikers. The complete biking round-trip was just over 10 miles, and it felt good to be riding again after the long drive from Minnesota (although my knees didn’t feel so grateful that evening.)
On Monday, we drove from Schoodic Woods to the main park sector, where we had reserved a 10 AM time slot to drive up to Cadillac Mountain. Even though all we were doing was going from one part of the park to the other, the drive was 42 miles around the bays and took well over an hour. We had reserved this time way back in July, and the NPS does not allow one to make a second reservation on the same day, so there was no opportunity to change the time – we just had to go. The reason I’m lamenting this inflexibility is that Monday morning came with pea-soup fog and intermittent drizzle. As I drove the Tesla up the winding road to Cadillac Mountain, there were places I could not see ahead more than 100 feet. So, when we got to the top, the expected spectacular views of the ocean and surroundings were, well, not exactly spectacular. All we could do was adopt a Zen-like attitude and imagine what we were missing. At least there were some nice signs with pictures of what we could have seen on a clear day.
Despite the weather, we did enjoy some nice hiking on the trails at the top of the mountain. The rock formations and vegetation were particularly interesting. Cadillac Mountain granite has a pinkish tint, and prolific lichen growth gives it a unique appearance. And, at the end of our visit, I did get a cool T-shirt at the gift shop.
After Cadillac Mountain, we drove around the perimeter road, stopping occasionally to admire the coastal views, and eventually made our way to a beautiful inland lake called Jordan Pond. We had another nice hike there, followed by a late outdoor lunch at a very good restaurant where we enjoyed enormous popovers, seafood chowder, and lobster stew.
As the afternoon wore on, and especially as we drove back toward our camp site, it was only to be expected that the sky cleared, leaving us sadly wishing we had scheduled Cadillac Mountain for the afternoon instead of the morning. C’est la vie!
On Tuesday morning, I took a quick bike ride to Frazer Point and back and then stowed the bikes on the RV’s bike rack once again. I then drove to the nearby town of Winter Harbor for an excellent takeout lunch from a place called Chase’s Restaurant (lobster roll for Pat, and something called a lobster BLT for me). Once properly fueled, we took a hike along the Lower Harbor Trail, just across the main access road from the campground. This was a great trail that passed through the woods and alongside the waters of Winter Harbor to the east of Schoodic Peninsula. However, in contrast to the easy, open trails we took at the Jordan Pond on Monday, this one was rough and rugged, with lots of small hills and many sections that were strewn with roots and rocks. The return leg of the hike followed the wide, gravel paths I mentioned above, but my knees were not in any way happy when we got back. While it was only a little over 5 miles, it felt like 25 to me. It’s no fun getting old, dear readers.
Once we had recovered from the hike, we took to the car again and drove to Schoodic point, where we enjoyed a lovely sunset, our last memory of a wonderful stay at Acadia.
Sep 8-10 (Wednesday-Friday): On Wednesday morning, we sadly departed Acadia, wishing we could have stayed several more days. Oh, well, we’ll just have to come back again someday. We proceeded to a KOA located in Houlton, ME, where we had scheduled Covid-19 tests at the local Walgreen’s for Thursday morning. Why do we need Covid tests, you may ask? Because we would like to go to Canada next, and in order to do so we need to show proof of vaccinations as well as a recent negative test. The test must be a molecular test (PCR or NAT or similar), not a rapid test such as one typically gets at Walgreen’s or CVS, and it must be done no more than 72 hours before crossing the border. Since it takes 48 or more of those hours to get the results, this poses a bit of a logistics problem. We spent a fair amount of time back at Acadia trying to find a test site and eventually determined that the regional hospital in Houlton would do the tests for us. But by the time I called them on Saturday, no one was available to schedule anything and I was told to call back Tuesday (after the Labor Day holiday). And then when I called on Tuesday, I was told we needed a referral from a doctor to get the test. So, no joy there. By then, we had booked the site at the Houlton KOA, so we were in a real dilemma. Pat eventually discovered that Walgreen’s now offers PCR tests as well as the rapid tests, so we were able to schedule those for Thursday morning. Thus feeling guardedly optimistic, we drove to Houlton.
During the night, it began to rain. In fact, it poured buckets before easing at dawn. But, as we drove to Walgreen’s Thursday morning, it began to rain again. The testing was quick and easy, only taking 10 minutes for both of us, after which we returned through the rain to the KOA, where we still sit this Friday morning, patiently waiting for our test results. Wait a minute, is that the sun I see? We seem to have a respite from the rain. How long will it last? And will we get our test results in time to enter Canada? I’ll let you know in the next installment.
One final note: Several readers have expressed dismay about the fact that I haven’t done any golfing. (Apparently my links exploits in past blog posts have been appreciated more than I would have thought.) Just to put your minds at ease, I wanted to mention that I did go golfing last Monday. I played 18 holes on a nice course with lush, green fairways and a spirited creek running through it. I had a good round, with 3 birdies, 7 pars, 6 bogeys, and 2 lousy double bogeys for an overall, fairly impressive, 7 over par. And Pat played well, too, with 14 over. Wait … what? Pat played golf, you gasp! Why yes, I had 42 and she had 49. Oh, did I mention that it was a pretty short course?
But seriously, though my clubs are back in the garage at the Cabin, I’m doing fine with no golf on this trip, so don’t look for any golf stories going forward. That’s our story of the Escapade so far. Here’s a map of the trip to this point:
All is well. Stay tuned as the Eastern Escapade continues.