Monday, June 25, 2012

The Family Goes to Maine

Last week was a bit crazy, which is why I didn’t get around to writing a post for the week. Fortunately (?), Joe has lots of work to do this weekend so I get to work on my own projects, which are all falling behind after a weeklong vacation in the Northeast.

The main reason for this vacation was my good friend Shelly’s wedding to her fiancé Jim in Maine. Shelly and I met while in graduate school and we hadn’t seen each other since we graduated back in 2010. Seeing Shelly was a treat in itself, but being a part of my friend’s wedding was simply fabulous!

Joe and I had never been to Maine before, so we decided to make a trip out of the wedding and to spend a few more days exploring the area. The wedding was going to take place in Boothbay Harbor, a seaside town 2 hours north of Portland, so we started looking around for nearby places to check out while out in that part of the country.  

As it turns out, Acadia National Park is right up there in Northern Maine, about 3 hours north of Boothbay Harbor, and it also happens to be the most dog-friendly national park in the country. After giving it some thought, we booked a campsite in Acadia and we called Virgin Airlines to let them know our puppy was going to be flying with us to Boston!

Bomber was coming to Maine with us!

We flew 5-and-a-half hours to Boston with some vet-prescribed sleeping pills for our dog.  But he never fell asleep as the drugs only served the purpose of disorienting him and making him whine for about 4 hours of our flight. Both the crew and the passengers were incredibly tolerant and sympathetic to our situation.

I will never again be grumpy or bothered by any crying or screaming baby on a flight!

Once we reached Boston, and after about 10 people came to check on Bomber and to see how he was doing now that he was back on solid ground, we started the 6-hour drive to Acadia.

Maine is quite the pretty place! I did not have any expectations about what it would look like. I guess that the only thing I expected to find was lots of old towns and historical sites. I don’t know how many historical sites we actually saw, but we sure saw seaside towns that had been founded back in the 1700s!

If you look at a map of coastal Maine, you’ll see it looks like a series of small islands lumped together, or a series of pieces of land interconnected in some way or another. The highlight: A dramatic rocky coast, lined with coniferous trees and dotted with short but scenic mountains.  In fact, Acadia National Park is located on an island called Mount Desert Island.

The Park, however, is not the only attraction in the island. In contrast with other national parks we’ve been to, Acadia is completely surrounded by lively towns and harbors.  Most national parks we’ve been to are a long ways to any development, and you are reliant on the general store in the park for any food and supplies. Acadia doesn’t even have a general store as it takes about 10 to 15 minutes from any part of the park to reach a town where the options for food are plenty.

We weren’t quite sure if the “convenience” was something positive or not. It’s easy to see why the island would be host to so many little towns. After all, people have been settling there for longer than any other region in the country. But, what this meant was that we got to see almost no wildlife, something very different from the other national parks we’ve been to.

Acadia was definitely different and we decided to embrace its singularity and enjoy the park in the way it is meant. During the 4 days we spent there, we visited most, if not all, of the small seaside towns on the island. Our favorite—and also a crowd’s favorite—was Bar Harbor with its cute harbor, green open spaces and plethora of small stores, bars and ice cream shops.

Maine is home to about 60 lighthouses and, of course, there was one on Mount Desert Island. Like most places in the park, we had to drive to the headlight and it was totally worth it. To enjoy the best views of the headlight you must walk on a dirt path, down some wooden steps and then on and over some rocks. The two of us (and Bomber) had no problem moving around the rocks and finding a good place to relax and have lunch. While hanging out there, we were amazed at people’s determination to get to a good rock from which they could see the headlight. We saw kids and adults in all different shapes scrambling over the rocks to get a good view of it.

The best thing about Acadia, actually, was the hiking. There are over 100 miles of trails and a lot of them offer fabulous views of the even more fabulous coastline. We hiked up Cadillac Mountain (the tallest mountain on the Eastern Coast), which was named after the man who founded Detroit and who gave the name to the car brand! The 3.5-mile hike was packed with climbing, rock skipping and stunning views of the blue Atlantic and the surrounding islands. Like Cadillac, there were many other short hikes up smaller mountains. All of them with panoramic views of the coast, something that really impressed me.

Yes, Acadia was not a park like Yellowstone, where you are stuck in traffic because dozens of buffalo are crossing the road, but it was still a great sample of this country’s beauty. Well, a good sample of our world’s beauty. In some ways, it is really impressive that a park was carved out in a place where so many people were settling.  Like the other national parks do, Acadia serves as a safe place in which the natural state of the land is preserved. A place that is as close as possible to being untouched by humans. At least as close as it can be in the East Coast.

National Parks, as well as State and Regional Parks, are such a good idea. In some ways it’s sad to know that unless protected, nature is highly vulnerable to people’s actions and lifestyle. In other ways, it’s so inspiring to know that, back in the day, people thought about protecting these areas to make them available “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Every national park is home to unique diversity of flora, fauna, geography, etc. that, if it weren’t for the park’s protected status, would have probably been directly affected by urban growth, industrial development and contamination, loose and/or illegal hunting practices, or abuse of resources.  As mentioned in the documentary produced by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, National Parks were this country’s best idea. For those of you who don’t know it, Yellowstone was the first national park to be created not only in the United States, but in the entire world. Now, this is something to be proud of!

For a list of National Parks, check out If you are lucky, you’ll have one near you and, if you do, make sure you check it out!

After the wedding and our camping trip, we started our drive back to Boston where we were going to be staying with Shelly—finally some time to catch up! On our way down we checked out Portland, Maine. Portland has cute cobblestone roads, bohemian stores, a great waterfront and, of course, a lighthouse, which we checked out!

After a night in Boston we flew back to San Francisco. This time Bomber slept for the entire duration of the flight without any drugs.

In other news, remember the photo I donated for the online auction help by Born Free USA? The one with the two elephants? Well, I’m happy to say that the photo sold for more than the estimated value! I love this kind of little accomplishment as it serves as a good reminder that it is always worth it to keep trying and to being true to what you love doing!

No more trips for now. The next few weekends I hope to get to explore a bit more of my city.  We have only been here for 8 months now, which might seem like a lot but in reality is not much time at all. We have a long list of places we want to see and we are really excited to go through it!

I’m sure fun and new situations, and exploring will lead to new and fun photos to share with you!

For more fun photos, don’t forget to check out my Etsy store.

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