Traveling in the Time of COVID – Little Long Pond

We got up so early that we were downstairs before other guests and before breakfast was ready to start. I went out on the back porch of the inn and settled in one of the rocking chairs to enjoy the coolness of the morning and the beautiful view of Frenchman’s Bay across to Bar Island.

After enjoying yummy blueberry & cream cheese stuffed French Toast, we head out to Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor. Even though I had been on Seal Harbor on previous trips, I always turned left rather than right, never knowing how close I was to this wonderful place. We parked off the road near the main gate entrance across from Bracey Cove. Even though it is a gray day, it is perfect for a cool fall walk.

We chose to go clockwise (a tip given to me by a friend) while everyone else goes counter clockwise (straight ahead as one walks through the gate). It is a wise choice, leaving us to enjoy that side of the pond alone for most of our walk.

There are other trails branching off the main gravel trail. We detour for a bit on the David & Neva Trail which runs close to the edge of the pond and find ourselves in a meadow across from the boathouse.

Returning to the carriage road trail, we see some good foliage color remains. I spot a small evergreen tree with colorful autumn leaves that had fallen from surrounding trees and got caught in its branches as if nature had chosen to decorate it as a Christmas tree.

The carriage road is level and easy to walk, taking one through a still beautiful forest which provides great shade. We reach the intersection at Post 34. From here one can continue on either to the right which goes to Cobblestone Bridge and Jordan Pond. Choose to go left and the trail takes you The Richard Trail and Harbor Brook Trail. We decided to return the way we came to walk the other side of the pond. After 41 minutes alone, we encounter our first people and a happy dog carrying a stick in his mouth walking ahead of his owner. Slightly wet and muddy, he seems to be having the time of his life.

We stop to rest on a bench at the gate entrance. I notice an overgrown garden across the path with bare apple trees and a lovely half timbered house. How lucky that person is to live so close to this beautiful place. If I lived here, I’d walk here every day.

Lots of birds are flitting in and out of the trees feeding on some kind of berries. I work a bit with my new camera (Nikon Coolpix P950) at capturing photos of them. A lady is yakking in the parking lot and it’s disturbing the birds and me.

We walk up the path to the boathouse. There are kayaks & canoes inside. Would be fun to kayak on the pond. Swimming is allowed during the summer by both humans and dogs. Dogs are allowed off leash here as long as they respond to voice commands and we meet two happy dogs running around, owners following close behind.

After photographing the boathouse and scenery in the area, I notice across the pond there is a woman who is sitting cross legged on the grass in the meadow and meditating. What a perfect place to be at peace and shut out the world.

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Traveling in the Time of COVID – Another Great Day Exploring Acadia National Park, Part 2 – Duck Brook Bridge Carriage Road & Bubble Pond

After lunch at Jordan’s, I have to shop for a short sleeve shirt as the temperature had risen into the 60s; unusual for a late October day.

We drive to Duck Brook Bridge wanting to walk the carriage road since previously I had focused mainly on the bridge when we were here in 2018. Discovering that the latrine was closed and wrapped in plastic, a casualty if the pandemic as the park did not have enough stafft0 clean, we backtracked to Eagle Lake. When we returned, I sadly noted the brook is very low, due to a dry spring and summer. I try to photograph looking down at the brook as I had seen in other photos, only to discover I am too short to be able to aim my camera over the parapets. I am not crazy enough to climb onto the stone walls. (Note to self: Pack a folding stool for next time.)

There are still patches of bright fall color which is why I love this area and one of my favorite places to walk. The trees make for lovely shade in places and soft filtered light. It wasn’t crowded; a few folks whizzed by on bikes. I was still feeling sore from the Great Head hike so it was slow going. I had to stop and rest a couple times on Rockerfeller’s Teeth, so we only covered a little more than a mile before turning back. Two ladies felt the need to remark to me that I looked like I was in pain. I was. I am not in the best physical shape now that I am in my mid 60s, but I push on not wanting to miss the precious experience of enjoying the beauty in Acadia. I do wish people would keep their comments to themselves unless asking if I am injured and need help. Even a slightly decrypted old lady like me must have her pleasure.

We head to Bubble Pond to set up and wait for sunset and the blue hour when the whole pond will be bathed in a velvety blue. A woman who has been painting the pond kindly offers me her parking spot as there are only a few in the tiny lot. I photograph the bright orange leaves surrounding a carriage road sign and near the road.

I love this place. The reflections in the pond are amazing. I spot a canoe at the shore, a quintessentially Maine scene (see photo at top). Three fishermen return for their canoe and ask if I can take pictures of them with their cellphones of their catch of four beautiful brookies to prove to their friends back home that they caught them. They will enjoy a fine dinner tonight. The moon appears but I can’t focus on it properly. (I found out later that the new Nikon P950 I bought has a moon setting on it.)

When it seems like I might be waiting a long time for full blue hour and I hated to make my otherwise patient husband wait for dinner, we head to the car. I run into another photographer, Mike LeBlanc for the Boston area. We are kindred spirits and chat for quite a while as the light starts to dim. Mike says the blue light is best after the sun sets.

A lady with gorgeous silver hair comes by on a bike. We had seen her earlier on the Duck Brook Bridge carriage road. I marvel at her strength and shout “You’re Amazing! to which she shouts back “You’re amazing too.”

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9/11 Memories & How That Terrible Day That Affected Travel

All of us that were alive on 9/11/2001 have memories of that day that we will never forget.

Like the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, we can recall where we were and what we were doing when we heard the terrible news. I myself was sequestered in my home office all morning working on a client’s web site – not listening to the radio or getting news feeds on my computer as I like to work with no outside distractions. It wasn’t until I took a break for lunch that I turned on the television. At first, it didn’t seem real as I watched footage of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers and no sound or voiceover. I thought it was part of the soap opera I liked to watch. When a newscaster finally spoke, I knew it was not a show. My husband worked in the old Walter Industries building near the Tampa International Airport. It was several stories tall and had a walkway at the top that connected the two towers, an inviting target for a terrorist controlled plane. I called but there was no answer. He was thankfully on his way home as they thought it best to evacuate the building.

I had a side gig picking up a young ice skater from a local high school in the afternoon to take her to the ice skating rink near my home as her Mom worked at a hospital and the girl was not old enough to drive. Her Dad worked for American Airlines. Her Mom called and said he had been on a flight from Dallas that morning and she had been unable to get ahold of him. I was not to say anything to her daughter. As is the way with teenagers, her daughter already knew by the time I picked her up. Her Dad was safely on the ground in Dallas.

Before 9/11, I had been traveling every few weekends up to Washington, DC flying into Dulles. Dulles is one of my favorite airports with its modern design. I had remarked to my husband that the security at Dulles seemed lax, too easy to get through to airsides without much checking. On 9/11, I could only wonder was this a harbinger of events to come?

I continued to fly to Washington, DC, sometimes on planes that were only a third to half full. I got used to the increased airport security and arriving at airports extra early as well as excising patience waiting in long screening lines. A couple of times I have been patted down. Once I was allowed to skip the long line and go through a shorter security checkpoint. I enjoyed having Pre-Check status.

In March 2003, I flew to Washington, DC to attend the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships as a practice ice announcer. The U.S. had just declared war in Iraq and city was on heightened alert. I was flying into Reagan National instead of Dulles. Stricter rules included no passenger being allowed to get up during the last 30 minutes of the flight (as well as 30 minutes after take-off as the plane approached DC. There were some military personnel seated in the row behind me. We chatted about recent events and why I was coming to DC. One of the guys told me he was Special Ops and if I needed a body guard while there to contact him.

Security was very high at the competition venues with ID checks, metal detectors, bag inspections, lots of security, even explosives sniffing dogs. I remember one dog kept stopping in front of one of the volunteers. Poor woman just sitting on her stool at ice side and this dog kept stopping in front of her, freaking her and us out. On another day, someone left their breakfast too close to the edge of the table we were at and one of the dogs grabbed a croissant off a plate. The handler was nonplussed about what his highly trained dog had done and said something about his grandkids feeding the dog people food.

When I was done with my duties at the championships, I went to see some of the great sights Washington has to offer. I especially love that most of the Smithsonian museums have free admission. I selected the National Museum of American History. Just like at the airport, there were line security lines and metal detectors. Once inside, I was stopped in my tracks by a most stunning sight – the huge American flag that had been draped at the Pentagon where the jet had rammed into it. You could see the soot and tattered edges of it. I continued on to see a couple of exhibits. One of the things I wanted to see was the 9/11 exhibit. The room seemed dimly light to set a somber mood. Some things that stand out to me even today – a twisted hunk of metal, a single shoe covered in soot. The thing I will never forget is the telephone. It was an old fashioned black telephone with a handset. I picked up the handset to listen. As I started to listen, a guard came in to tell us the museum would be closing in a few minutes. I don’t remember how I did this, but I made it so what I was hearing could be heard by the whole room – the recordings of people who have left voicemail messages trying to reach their loved ones. Everyone stopped where they were and grew silent as we listened. Even the guard said nothing. The anguish and desperation in those voices haunts me. A person would have to be cold hearted not to have been affected by what we heard. When the recordings ended, we all silently filed out of the room forever touched, forever changed.

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Traveling In the Time of COVID – Havana – Because Sometimes Certain Cuisines are Better in Your Home Town

In several visits, I have avoided dining at Havana in Bar Harbor. Why? We live near Tampa where we can have authentic Cuban/Latin/Spanish food anytime at numerous restaurants, so it makes me really picky about this cuisine. I finally made reservations to please my husband, who loves Paella. Reservations were a must as we traveled during COVID fall which affected staffing and state of Maine had capacity requirements reducing how many patrons could be in the restaurant at a time. Had a little wait upon arrival, but not overly long.

The small front of the restaurant is deceiving. What was once a house, dining is spread out in several rooms including a garden area and what looked to have once been a garage or workshop. We walked through several rooms to get to our table in the garage area. Despite the separate rooms and required spacing of tables, the place was packed! Our table was in front of the glassed in wine storage room, but open to the room with some plexiglass separating us from a large table to our left which was filled with boisterous young people celebrating one of their birthdays, but no separation from the table to our right, which was probably a few feet away (but certainly not the recommended 6 feet.). Be sure to take a look at the wine storage area – the sight is mind blowing. (Wished I had remembered to take a photo of it.) My wine enthusiast husband was amazed at their selections. My husband ordered a 2017 Altos Hermigos Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, which I tasted and found to be full bodied and lush.

I love sangria and am a bit of a connoisseur, so I was hoping for some really good stuff. Believe me when I say I have had good and bad sangria. The best is made Spanish style – dry red wine, fresh cut up fruit (no fruit cocktail!), fresh squeezed fruit juice, a bit of grated cinnamon and absolutely no soda pop in it. The bonus is if it includes Spanish brandy in it. Imagine my shock to find that Havana’s sangria was non-alcoholic!!!! I opted for a traditional Cuban Mojito, another drink I am a snob about how they are made (mint properly muddled with sugar, fresh lime juice & slices, no scrimping on the rum and absolutely finish with club soda and not Sprite). It was an excellent choice, one of the best I have ever had!

Hubby’s starter was a beet and tomatillo soup followed by Paella entrée made with Maine seafood. My husband liked it but said it was more like a jambalaya.

Because I can’t eat very spicy food and I am allergic to mangoes and some other ingredients used in Latin dishes, it proved a challenge to find something on the menu. Our server was not accommodating to my dietary restrictions, wouldn’t ask if dishes could be modified and she didn’t offer any suggestions, except the Peruvian style roasted chicken without the jalapeno sauce.

I settled on a wedge salad. A tiny amount of cinnamon sprinkled on the tomatoes was a nice unexpected surprise. I let my husband eat the bread – herbed country style white & a blueberry cornbread, neither of which suggests Latin cuisine. They were served with a choice of dips, two of which were very spicy. I also ordered the Maine cheese platter – four different cheeses (2 of which were manchego and Bradbury Mountain Bleu), grapes (figs would have been more in keeping with the Latin theme), apricots and crostini. It was enough for 2 people so I could not eat it all and took some in a box.

I was not impressed by any of the desserts – No crème caramel or traditional flan on the menu that night. Husband was happy with good strong expresso.

Would I eat here again? Probably not. They do have an Argentine tapas outdoor dining area called Parrilla that is open during the warmer months so I might give that a try next time since I love tapas and grilled meats.

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Traveling in the Time of COVID – Another Great Day Exploring Acadia National Park, Part 1 – Bar Island

Sunshine and a clear blue sky greet us this morning bringing the promise of perfect weather for today’s activities. We breakfast on rolled omelets – eggs whipped with heavy cream then poured into a sheet pan and baked. The eggs are then filled with shredded cheese and rolled up. Light, fluffy and delicious.

During breakfast, we meet Peter and Betty, a lovely couple who live outside Augusta and suggest walking over to Bar Island for a hike. Twice a day, the tide recedes revealing a sand bar making for easy access to the island. It is a bit surreal to walk on something that most of the time is under water. It is short but must-do hike. TIP: Remember to dress in layers. Even though the water has receded, it can be cold and windy walking across. We urge Peter and Betty to go on ahead as I am still aching from the Great Head hike which is causing me to walk slowly. I don’t want to impede their progress.

My goal on this trip is to locate the stone ruins of the foundation of an old house on the island. I remember the unmarked path (that used to be marked with a private property sign) branches off to the right of the main trail. It is a bit further up than I remember but we do figure out where to turn off. We wait until there are no others on the trail so no one notices the path or us going off so we have it all to ourselves.

We walk through a small overgrown meadow with some old apple trees. As we enter a more wooded area, we find the stone ruins. You can imagine how the house must have looked with what remains of the walls, one with a window looking through the trees and out over the water back at Bar Harbor. There is a step down leading to what might have been a patio. It is rustic with no electricity or modern amenities. What must it have been like to live here cut off from the mainland twice a day? For the answer to that, read “Finding Moosewood. Finding God” by Jack Perkins who was a great champion and voice of Acadia National Park and lived on the island for several years. His house was close to these ruins, but he had it torn down when he moved to Florida to leave no trace.

Standing there in the shade of the woods surrounded by all this beauty, I understand why Perkins and his wife lived here. There is such a sense of peace. I imagine a quiet laid back life. Maybe one day, I could live this type of life – one that brings me closer to nature allowing for seeing and appreciating the beautiful details of it and capturing it, freezing moments in time in photographs and written observation. It would certainly be good for the soul, providing joy gained from experiences. I do admit though I still desire at least the conveniences of running water, indoor plumbing and lighting. I could find the outhouse in the dark with a flashlight. I just chose not to have to.

We push further into the woods surrounded by trees robed in their gold fall finery. While the original goal was to make it to the far side of the island, our late start forces us to start our return across the bar before the tide comes in or being cut off could be a real experience. (Based on the tide times that day, the next low tide would have occurred well after dark!)

While walking back down the main trail, some guy comes by whistling very loud, ruining the mood. Idiot!

Once back to where the bar meets the island, we realize we have a bit more time so we sit on an old driftwood log to take in our beautiful surroundings. On the way back across the bar, I observe shells in the sand, a seagull resting on a seaweed covered rock that will soon be covered with the tide forcing him to find another perch or float on the incoming tide, a washed up lobster trap. As we walk on the beach at the back of the inn, I look down and see evidence of a an earlier visitor – deer tracks in the sand. It really is about the little details.

We walk up the sloping lawn and I settle in a rocking chair on the back porch overlooking the bay, taking it all in. I can’t bear to go inside yet. The breeze off the blue water is cool but caresses and comforts. I want to keep this wonderful feeling of pure bliss forever. A phrase leaps to mind to describe it – #Saltairhappy – after the inn we are staying at that affords us the view and experience. Reluctantly, I gather my camera equipment and go inside.

#Saltairhappy view

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Traveling in the Tine of COVID – A Gloomy Gray Day Has Its Own Special Rewards

A lot of people freak whenever the weather isn’t perfect when they vacation in Maine and Acadia. From past experience, I know a gloomy day can have unexpected rewards for those who know how to find them. A proper attitude and raingear can make for an enjoyable day. Don’t have a plan; just let the day unfold and see where it takes you.

After a satisfyingly breakfast at the Saltair Inn of homemade waffles with cinnamon brown-sugar and fresh mixed berries (loving the sweet blackberries this year), we were off to explore.

The mist on a bog beckons me to stop and photograph. Another photographer is already working to I try to stay out of his way. (These images are as I shot them. Haven’t had a chance to work with them in Lightroom.)

Next we attempt to locate some hidden (abandoned?) trails off Schooner Head Road I stumbled across when doing research for this trip. Took a bit of searching but did find #4 on my map (hint: between High Seas and Low Seas). Most would not recognize the tiny pull off and the trail head hidden by trees. At the beginning of the trail almost buried in the fallen fall leaves are a stone foundation of a house long gone. The trail is not marked with blazes that I could see, was short and only lead deeper into the woods going towards but not terminating at the cliffs and ocean that could be glimpsed through the trees. Still it was a gift to be alone in the solitude and golden beauty of the fall foliage.

We stop at Schooner Head Overlook and walk down the trail to the rocky cliffs but don’t go far on the rocks due to the weather. Damp granite is not friendly.

Driving the Park Loop Road is always a good idea on a gloomy cloudy day. Pick your stops and be on the lookout for interesting views. I see that the wind is driving large waves at Western Point. I feel such a rush at watching and photographing hoping to catch the perfect crest. I realize I am now officially a Wave Junkie. I get such an adrenaline rush from watching crashing waves. I am even drawn to the interesting color of the water – sometimes pale green and other times gray. It begins to drizzle harder. Since I was using my recently acquired Nikon Coolpix P950 which is not weatherized, I retreat back to the car.

We return to Bar Harbor to have lunch at Blaze, arriving just as they open, so no problem finding close parking and no wait for a table. I have the wood oven roasted wings dusted with parmesan and truffle. BEST WINGS EVER!!!! This will ruin me for all other wings. Duckfat fries with aioli are the perfect side.

After lunch, we drive to Otter Point Road like we did back in 2013 when we visited during the government shutdown that closed national parks. Someone at a local hotel told us about this road. I want to see if I can get down close to Otter Cove as I saw a van there earlier in the day as well as locate a bridge I photographed with a Panasonic camera that produced disappointing photos. I fail to find the way to either, so we decide to walk on this portion of the Ocean Path. The crashing waves are putting on quite a show. We encounter very few people, but for the most part, we have stretches of the path to ourselves. In the direction we walk, there is a lot of uphill incline. The air is cool and fresh and filled with pine scent. As we walk, we realize fog is rolling in, feeling it was it wraps it’s misty tendrils around everything. We go as far as Otter Cliffs and climb up to the road to walk back to our car.

Next stop is Bubble Pond to scout it out for possible sunset or blue hour photoshoot planned for the next day. The fog has followed us, lending a shrouded mystic feel to the scene. I note that there is still a good amount of orange fall foliage in the area.

Next we do something completely wacky – drive up the road to Cadillac. The fog was now so dense that you could not see past the edge of the road. No expansive views of the harbor below. It was like the mountain was wrapped in thick cotton making one feel cut off from the rest of the world. It was eerie and a bit scary, but a unique experience at the same time. There were only a couple other cars at the top and no one at Blue Hill Overlook. Uncrowded Cadillac, who would have thought it!

I wanted to go to Sand Beach but my husband nixed the idea. I felt it was a missed opportunity as fog does interesting things to the landscape, especially near the ocean.

We went on to Thunder Hole, hoping for fog-shrouded cliffs, but it was more gray than foggy. We were also hoping for more wave action but since it was low tide, nothing was happening. (That’s what you get when you don’t check tide charts.)

A frightening thing happened while we were there. Most people are aware that people have been swept off the rocks by crashing waves. I have seen people climb to the every edge of the cliffs risking their lives to get that Instagram shot. This was a bit different but no less scary. A young couple was walking on the wet rocky cliffs with their infant daughter in a stroller. The father proceeded to take the baby out and toss her into the air several times as we all watched in horror. There were a fair amount of people who witnessed this and it like watching a car wreck, all of us were frozen, left speechless and powerless to stop this reckless act. I was thinking if he missed catching the baby this could easily have become a chapter in the next edition of the book “Death in Acadia.” The wife/mother never objected, just watched. (BTW, the baby was not laughing.) Makes you kind of wonder why people like this are allowed to pro-create. Eek!

As we climbed the stairs back to the parking lot, I got my biggest reward for the day – I saw a spider web bejeweled with raindrops. I have always wanted to photograph a dew drenched spider web’s beauty. How many people walked by it without seeing this natural treasure? A couple guys walked by asking “What is she trying to photograph?” as they didn’t see it at first. It took some analyzing to line the shot up as people were on the walk just below the web and yes, I did have to ask a couple that was staring at me and it to move out of the frame). The other problem is there was no solid color to frame behind the web to make it stand out – just asphalt path, gray sky, withering bushes and a few fall leaves. Still I captured it well enough to get a lot of good reactions from those who have seen the photos. Take a look and tell me what you think. Definitely made my day.

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Traveling In the Time of COVID – Marking a Milestone Wedding Anniversary

The dining area of the Veranda Bar during the day. (There were less tables in 2020 due to the pandemic.)

We had started planning this special trip to Maine to mark our 25th Wedding Anniversary back at the end of 2019. Then the pandemic happened. One of the difficulties was selecting restaurants for special dinners to mark the occasion. Many were short staffed, operating at 50% capacity or closing early after a tough season. This was especially pronounced in heavy tourist areas such as Bar Harbor. Our first choice was CIAO, Kyle Yarborough’s new undertaking after owning Mache for many years and where we had celebrated for our anniversaries on past visits. The demands placed on the restaurant industry due to the pandemic convinced Kyle to close up for the rest of the season and take a well earned rest.

When we stayed at the Balance Rock Inn in 2018, we ate dinner at The Verandah Bar and were familiar with the quality of the food and dining experience. I love that they often have game on the menu and their creative approach produces amazing flavors. More than a bar, Verandah is a intimate dining space on what was an old porch/veranda, hence the name. Now enclosed and warmed by dark wood and low lighting, it is cozy and romantic. It is not a place for children, but a retreat for adult diners with discerning palates. (I won’t apologize if this sounds snobby. It is what it is.) It was a great choice for our special dinner. One thing we did miss on this visit, was Harry the bartender, an affable guy who is always a pleasure to chat with. He is from Jamaica so travel restrictions prevented him from coming to the U.S. to work this season.

Upon being seated at our reserved table, I noticed the lovely detail that the printed menu referred to our anniversary and we were welcomed with two glasses of Prosecco. The Amuse Bouche was a hit with this pumpkin lover – grilled pumpkin & mashed pumpkin. I had never thought to grill pumpkin, but I will certainly be trying this at home.

Amuse Bouche of Grilled Pumpkin & Mashed Pumpkin

Appetizers consisted of Reindeer Blood Sausage “Bolognese” with endive and pear selected by my husband while I enjoyed Quail Cipollini with mustard sauce. So much flavor in this tiny bird.

We selected entrees of Roast Cod with little potatoes and kale with grain mustard and leek powder and Venison Chop with polenta and a tiny roasted crab apple. The venison was tender & perfectly cooked medium-rare. The polenta however was cubes which were a little disappointing creamy style or cake style (think crunchy edges) polenta has better texture and taste. The bread was a house made Clover roll that reminded me of the ones my mother made for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It made me think of my Mother who has passed away (not from COVID), a month before this trip. This roll went to another level with truffle dust & sea salt butter.

For dessert, I had Gingerbread with Vanilla Ice Cream made in house. I am a gingerbread fanatic but this was not as good as some I have had other restaurants – it had pears baked in it which I don’t care for & came as a slice from a loaf. The lush thick caramel sauce and creamy ice cream saved this desset. There were bits of roasted sorghum accent (like tiny pieces of popcorn) for interesting texture. Service as always was professional, yet friendly and well paced. One of our servers was from Machias where I had lived when I was growing up, so it was good to reminisce. It was a memorable meal to mark such a important occasion.

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Traveling In the Time of COVID – A Piece of Middle Earth on MDI

We woke to a cooler morning. Lots of people are out on the sand bar. We breakfasted on Pineapple “Cairns” topped with banana with broiled brown sugar topping and followed by Eggs Benedict, traditional for hubby and California style (with avocado) for me.

We set off for Hunter’s Beach. Not to be confused with the more well known Little Hunter’s Beach which is off the Park Loop Road, this cobblestone beach located is off Route 3 on Cooksey Drive. You have to be on the lookout for the turn-off as the street sign is small. Once on Cooksey Drive, be on the lookout for a very small pull-off parking area that holds up to 4 vehicles. As we pull in, another couple is leaving and there is only one other car. The couple tells us the other folks are 2 women and 2 children down on the beach at the moment.

I revel in the solitude of this trail that winds through lush green balsam forest. The twisted trees, roots and moss covered ground along with little wood bridges, make you think you have stumbled into a section of Middle Earth. At any minute, could one spy hobbits or fairies? Could there be trolls under the bridges? Having grown up and played in woods similar to this near Machias, the 9 – 11 year old in me knows the answer. You will have to come and see for yourself. I fill my lungs with the beautifully fragrant air.

Due to shade and moisture, mushrooms are abundant on live as well as fallen tress and nestled in the moss. Thanks to my 8th grade Science teacher at Union Street Junior High in Bangor, I fell in love with and am fascinated by mushrooms and fungi.

We continue on down the trail navigating tree roots, a tree tunnel, another wood bridge and wood plank walkways. To the left, Hunter’s Brook flows along the trail winding it’s way to the beach. I think this is were I want my ashes scattered when I leave this earthly life. I want to stay here forever.

The trail rises a little bit by means of some dirt and wood tie steps, then goes down to the beach of cobblestones of all sizes hemmed in on both side by pine covered rocky cliffs. There is a trail that leads up to the top of the cliffs to the right, but it looked like a workout we were not prepared for after yesterday’s hike. Two young boys proudly show their coastal finds. Their Mom says it’s time to go, leaving us alone in this beautiful place. There is lobster trap rests on the beach as well as an interesting curved piece of driftwood. Someone has propped a hat that was left behind on a small rock. We stay on the beach, carefully balancing and picking our way across the cobbles to reach the edge where waves lap at the rocks. I see some cobbles that have been stacked “cairn style”. As the tide comes in, it washes them apart. I photograph the incoming waves crashing on the rocky cliffs to the right and long to get closer. I am so intent on what I see, I don’t realize how fast the tide is coming in until one wave soaks my hiking boots.

We retreat back up the trail into the lovely woods, meeting a young couple with their young son in a pack and two black labs. As the man approaches the tree tunnel, I see an “Orvis moment” (For those who aren’t familiar, Orvis is a outdoor clothing catalog that holds a yearly contest featuring the winning dog photos on its catalog cover and pages. The man was willing to let me photograph them. Such a happy picture of what hiking with you beloved canines is all about. I didn’t get his name, but if he is reading this, thank you.

As we are getting back in the car, I notice a birch with markings on it that look like a puppy dog face. Unfortunately, at that moment the battery on my camera quit. I think of my iPhone, but know the memory is full. I forget I have another camera in the car trunk.

We decide to drive on and see whatever we come across. There is still some good fall color and we see spectacular expensive homes tucked in between trees. Who owns Eventide? We see a new home being constructed at 75 Cooksey Drive named Raven’s Cleft. Lucky people. I can only imagine what is must be like to have a home there.

We end up in Northeast Harbor. Unfortunately, Asticou Inn has closed early for the season due to the pandemic. We opt not to stop at Asticou Gardens today.

We return to Bar Harbor and have lunch at Galyn’s. There was no wait and we got a table at the window overlooking Agamont Park and the harbor. We enjoy a light lunch of salad with mixed greens, apple slices, nuts & goat cheese and hubby has the Haddock sandwich with chips and slaw. We try to think of an activity for the afternoon. I call La Rochelle to see if we can get tickets for a tour of this amazing mansion. Sadly, they have also decided to close early for the season as well due to the pandemic and are only open on Halloween night for a special event. As we walk back to our inn, we see a bride doing a photo shoot on the pier. We spend the afternoon relaxing in our room with a beautiful view of Frenchman Bay. Sometimes a little unplanned down time isn’t such a bad thing in such a beautiful place.

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Traveling in the Time of COVID – In Over My Head! – Hiking Great Head Trail

We awoke to the sight of distance sea fog across the bay. The weather had all the makings for perfect day for hiking – sunny with temps in the high 50’s. After a hearty breakfast of Maine wild blueberry pancakes, we were off to hike Great Head Trail. We had missed doing this hike when we were visiting Acadia back in October 2018 due to cold temps in the 30’s and high wind.

Salt Air’s version of Maine Wild Blueberry Pancakes

We took Schooner Head Road and stopped at the overlook to photograph Egg Rock Lighthouse just offshore. A lobster boat cruising by added to the scene.

Egg Rock as viewed from Schooner Head Overlook

We parked at the Satterlee parking lot rather than at Sand Beach to cut out walking across the beach to get to this trail. The parking lot is small but we arrived early enough to get a spot easily. I was concerned the number of cars would mean crowds on the trail, but that turned out not to be the case. This is another trail that is popular with locals so we witnessed people coming and going frequently. As we entered the trail, I admonished a teenager for breaking pine cones off a tree and told him about No Trace Left Behind. I will never understand why people feel they have to take a “souvenir” especially of a living thing.

I noticed something I had not seen on previous visits – clothes hanging from tree branches; first a visor, then a hoodie. I found it this is a thing(!) – lost clothing is hung where those passing can see it just in case the hiker returns looking for their lost item. It looks odd and disconcerting to me, but I get it.

Where the path splits, we see most people going left, so we chose to go right. There were spots of beautiful fall foliage and we are lucky enough to see 1) a chipmunk who pauses for a moment to allow for a photo and 2) watch a squirrel climb a tree by the trail where he precedes to peel bark off and shreds it, my guess is to add to his nest.

We continue to walk this portion, which is level and easy, blissfully unaware of what is to come. We take a side path which ends up down near the marsh and stream at Sand Beach. The tide is coming in but there is just enough dry area to allow walking to the beach and then to go to the trail head. We admire Beehive before starting up the granite steps. Being out of shape, I find climbing these steep stairs a bit strenuous. At the top is a round stone wheel – perhaps from an old mill.

Once we are back up on the trail, we take a right and walk a short distance were something stops us cold – a boulder scramble. No way was I going to be able to my fat 60+ year old body with bad knees up that thing! At this point, we decide to head back to the car as we are in need of a restroom break and lunch.

While we didn’t have trouble finding a parking space at Sand Beach, there were so many cars parked out on the loop road it looked almost like summer crowds, which was surprising.

We drove to Jordan Pond House, where again we had no trouble finding a parking space as the lot was only about 2/3 full. As we walked the path up from the lot, we saw more lost clothing.

Due to the pandemic, all table service was cancelled for the season and service reduced to standing in line to get to a window to place your order. We had heard horror stories about long waits, but the line was not long and moved quickly. Most people seemed to be settling for quick take times like muffins, yogurt and fruits. We ordered the lobster stew, a veggie wrap and a popover with strawberry jam and hot blueberry tea and water to drink. If the order required something cooked such as ours did, when the order is ready, it is placed on a table just inside the door of the restaurant and you are notified to pick it up, allowing for social distancing and ease of the reduced staff. We chose to sit at a table inside by the fireplace to eat. There were a few tables spaced very far apart making the place look closed. While we ate, I saw people come in looking very confused as to why there were so few diners. One family even sat down at a table and waited for a server (there were none). They finally got up and left.

The food quality this time was another victim of the pandemic – it was not as tasty as previous times we had eaten there. It lessened the experience due to eating off of paper plates and cups instead of real plates. The lobster stew was not as flavorful and the popover was underbaked and raw inside. I missed enjoying their fabulous ice cream in a sundae with wildflower honey.

We decided to return to Great Head and hike the other side of the trail. Again, we were in for quite an experience. At first, we missed the split and walked the same direction as we had in the morning (counter-clockwise). As luck would have it that was not a bad mistake. We ran into a Facebook friend of mine with her husband and dog Louie. Louie is a cocker spaniel who is an experienced hiker. Once we realized we were going the wrong way, as we doubled back, my husband walked on ahead as I stopped to photograph fungi growing on the trees. I happened to look down through the trees to what I thought was a meadow down below the trail. (I was later to realize this is the grassy meadow was just below Bee Hive.) I saw pointed ears! I was really hoping it was a deer. As I watched through my telephoto lens, the animal raised its head. It looked like a German Shepherd. It stood up and the fur was red but it was way too large to be a fox. It was an Eastern Red Coyote! Yikes! Glad it was far away. It did turn its head in my direction and I was pretty sure he could smell my scent. I did get off about four shots before he walked away. Wow! What an experience and how exciting that I was the only one who saw it at the moment.

We start to go clockwise on the trail (left side closest to ocean). This section starts out level and then there are boardwalks, granite steps and root steps with some incline but still easy to walk. This section goes through beautiful green forest with the water out to the left which can be seen through portions of the tree. So pleasant to hear the waves crashing. We watch a woodpecker pecking away at a fallen tree. Only a couple guys pass us on the trail so it is pure bliss.

The trail gets steeper. Right below the summit, we encounter a granite section that I am not sure I can climb up. I did not come all this way to quit now, so somehow I find foot holds and get up to the summit. Saw the ruins of the old teahouse. The view out over the water is gorgeous, but sadly I am too tired too really enjoy it.

As I sit on a good size boulder to rest and catch my breathe,. I wonder how did women in the olden days do this wearing dresses and heeled button up boots?!

A young guy and his girlfriend come up from the other direction. He has long legs and makes it look easy. At first he thinks we should go back down the way we came, but then thinks the way he came up is do-able, though he warns of boulder scrambles. Having never hiked this trail, I accept his advice and assistance down the first two boulder sections.

At this point I want to say if you are an inexperienced hiker, overweight and have bad knees – NEVER EVER ACCEPT THE UNKNOWN no matter what someone says. Trust your gut. I think what drove me to go down the way most people go up was wanting to see the view of Sand Beach from up here.

We come to a section that appeared to have no natural way down – no obvious foot holds. I cry as it looks high and no safe way to just jump down to flatter ground below. My husband goes down first and coaxing me, I climb down backwards figuring what you can’t see is less scary. We encounter more boulder scrambles, some of which are lateral (didn’t required climbing), but by this time it’s mid-afternoon and we’ve been out all day, I’m getting tired and my right Achilles tendon and calf are aching. I pick my way carefully through fields of granite and low plants. Hikers are coming up the other direction – families with kids including one Ugg wearing pre-teen on her phone looking totally disinterested in the spectacular beauty around her and a couple dogs – all who made it look so easy. I come to another boulder scramble to go down and I freak out as the fear of heights and falling gripe me, reducing me to panic and tears. Even two guys who look more overweight than I are climbing up with ease and one helps others up. There is a little tree growing out of a small crevice but I do not want to use it for grip should I damage it. I begin to think I am an idiot and that I might end up spending the night here on Great Head. I know it would be pretty cold when the sun goes down. I tell my husband he should just leave me up there. Finally an older lady comes along on her way up and says “Just slide on your rear!” which works. I was totally amazed that the tan hiking pants I was wearing were not torn or dirty from sliding. It is a pant I am glad to recommend (Baleaf, available on Amazon).

My husband keeps asking other hikers how far the parking lot is which annoys me. Despite the pain I am in, when I see the view of Sand Beach below, I stop and without getting too close to the edge of the cliff, get a couple of photos. This at least made it worth it. So much for a moderate hike!

I was so sore when we reached the car, I made hubby drive back to the inn where I shower and crawl into bed. I have even lost my appetite.

Looking back on this experience, I can say I do feel a sense of accomplishment at completing this hike. It made me realize I need to get more exercise, loss some weight and better know trail difficulty before undertaking it. Save the most difficult hike for near the end of your trip, so if you experience pain or worse, an injury, it doesn’t ruin the rest of your trip. Was all the pain worth it? Oh, yea!

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Traveling in the Time of COVID – Hiking the Old Pond Rail Trail

After a tasty lunch at the Pickled Wrinkled, we felt we had a short hike left in us for the day. I surprised my husband who loves anything related to trains, announcing we would be hiking the Old Pond Rail Trail in Hancock. The surprise turned out to be partly mine as we had some difficulty finding the trail head. We drove a ways down Point Road looking for it. It didn’t help that the sign marking the parking lot is turned to parallel the road rather than facing drivers as they approach. We were about to give up when it dawned us that it was across from the Hancock Town Hall. We parked there as the tiny lot at the trail head, which could hold maybe 5 – 6 cars, was full. We saw some locals walking their dogs and a family doing a photo shoot on this beautiful fall day and knew this was going to be a good trail. Following a section of the old Maine Shoreline Railroad bed, this trail winds through cool green forests with some deciduous trees. My husband was ecstatic to see remnants of the old concrete train platform and old rail tracks disappearing into the forest. It was a piece of forgotten history. Numerous old wood railroad ties are every few feet across the trail. These rails also act to keep the trail for walkers, making it too rugged for cycling. Most of our hike we were alone. We walked as far as the old trestle bridge. This area is supposed to be good for bird watching, but we only saw a couple of seagulls. Once a family left, we were alone to enjoy the peaceful beauty of our surroundings. Since the sun was starting to set, we headed back to our car. We figured we had done almost half the 3-mile length so we definitely plan to do the rest on a future visit. We might try the other access to the trail – a second parking lot at the western entrance to the trail, on Old Route 1, via Kilkenny Cove, a property acquired by Crabtree Neck Land Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and Frenchman Bay Conservancy.

Quiet shady trail with fall foliage.

We headed back to our inn in Bar Harbor and cleaned up for dinner at The Reading Room at the Bar Harbor Inn. We were lucky to be seated at a table by the window. Even though it was already dark, we could see the dock for the Margaret Todd. The gangplank was pulled up and the ship was already gone, an early ending as another casualty of the pandemic. We had hoped to take the sunset cruise, but that would have to wait for another visit.

Surprising the restaurant was packed and busier then on previous visits. My husband started out with Gazpacho topped with a scoop of lemon “gelato”. He followed with Bouillabaisse made with fresh Maine seafood while I had lamb chops. Unfortunately, the Duchesse potatoes served with the lamb were cold and absent of the cheese mentioned on the menu., The huge serving of grilled asparagus made up for it. We finished with yummy Bourbon Brown Sugar Pecan Pie and Blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I recommend trying their version of blueberry pie as the top crust is dusted with sugar making for a textural difference in taste.

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