Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bar Harbor, Baby!

We made it to our summer resting spot near beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine! Bar Harbor (well, technically the nearby town of Trenton) will be our home for the next three months or so as we delve into the Maine culture and relish in the many new adventures that await. We have vacationed here plenty of times before but never for this long in one stretch. There are plenty of activities to keep us busy in this extensive wilderness playground so when we arrived a week ago we let out a big “Yea!” and happy sigh as we know we will be here for an extended time.

Jordan Pond is a great place for a walk before indulging in the famous Jordan Pond House popovers.
This summer we will be work camping again but I expect it will be quite a change from last years experience in remote Idaho. We traded in last years Army Corps of Engineers red sweatshirts and the duties of a small campground for the corporate world of a large private RV park conglomeration. We are at an Encore property called Narrows Too and have already been informed we will start our gig with three days of training. But until that training starts and the work shirt goes on, it is time for us to play and get reacquainted with the hiking trails, fishing holes, local eateries and old friends.

We planned our arrival date to coincide with the Taste of Bar Harbor's Pub Crawl (and if there is something I consider myself pretty good at it is pub crawl). We love the energy of Bar Harbor and the endless calendar of events – whether it is birding festivals, art walks, or wine tastings – we are set to try it all.

We hit the ground running trying to make the most of our time before work starts. The days have been filled with hiking the trails and carriage roads in Acadia National Park and our nights having dinner with Mark and friends. Our busy schedules mean that we haven't been spending much time around our campsite but from the people we have met we are sure to have a fun summer.

One of the reasons we picked Bar Harbor for three months is to spend time with Betsy's brother, Mark, (who runs the Maples Inn in downtown Bar Harbor) and other friends we have made over the years. We've introduced you to Mark before but in case you forgot here is a link to a past post about the Inn and a reminder picture.

Getting settled in a town you're familiar with is very pleasant and comfortable. We already know the important things like where the grocery store is, when the farmers market opens, where to drop recyclables, and who has the best clam chowder. As a bonus, our RV park is located just a short drive from an L.L. Bean Outlet store and there are 3 lobster pounds within a quarter mile. That's right, I said “three” lobster pounds within walking distance. At $5.49/pound I think we can justify eating lobster a couple of nights a week. 

So stay tuned as we settle into a fun and familiar town where we can't wait to share our adventures as the summer pushes on. Some friends have already said they will stop by and see us and hopefully more of you will head this way so we can show you around a place we love. That is . . . on our days off.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

RV Park Review – Shore Hills Campground and RV Park (Boothbay, Maine)

Overall, we really liked this park and its location.  (Click here to read our previous post about the area.)  Within just a few miles are a host of amenities (restaurants, grocery store, gas station, brewery, etc.) and you are downtown Boothbay Harbor.  The park is large so it is a good place to exercise and walk dogs.  The owner, Jean, is extremely friendly and helpful.  One end of the park has spectacular water views and a short hiking trail that leads to an island perfect for walking a dog or bird watching.

The Boothbay area of Maine is a definite “must-see” destination if you are traveling along the Maine coast.  There are only two campgrounds in the immediate area and we have always chosen to stay at Shore Hills Campground because of the convenient location to Route 1 (the main route along the coast) and since it is just a few miles north of downtown Boothbay Harbor.

The campground is large and spread out with approximately 150 RV sites and a dozen tent sites.  An array of RV sites are offered with a wide range of hook-ups, the amount of shade, and campsite proximity to water.  Some sites are 50 amp full-hookup with cable and wifi while others are limited to 30 amp and water.  About half the sites are placed in the shaded woody section with ample space between them offering privacy.  The other sites are in an open area with little to no shade and closer together.

Our long pull-thru in the 50 amp full hook-up section.
Typical back-in located in the 50 amp full hook-up section
Back-in sites in the wooded 30 amp full hook-up section.
Roads are a mix of paved and gravel and easy to navigate with a big rig.  Campsites and patios are gravel and level.  Each site has a picnic table and fire pit.  There are 14 pull-thrus long enough to accommodate any size rig.  There is wifi in the park but since we arrived before the park was officially open, it was not turned on so we can't comment on how well it works.

There are two bathroom/shower/laundry facilities that are older but clean.  Amenities include a small playground, canoe/kayak launch and rental, activities hall, and short hiking trail.

Registration and camp store.
Bathrooms near the tent section have a dish washing area.

There is a camp store with RV supplies, souvenirs, food, ice, and information about the area. Propane is for sale on-site.  One great feature the park offers is a free shuttle that takes you to downtown Boothbay Harbor (in season)

What we really liked was how close the park was to Boothbay Harbor, Wiscasset, and East Boothbay.  There is a lot to do within a five-mile drive.   The park itself is clean and well cared for. Our site was perfect as there was nobody next to us and it was very quiet.  We love that portions of the park are on the water which makes for a beautiful setting.

Great site (#79) overlooking the water.
The owner of the park is extremely nice and while that usually doesn't matter to me, I feel she deserves a mention because of how accommodating she was.   We arrived a week before the park was due to open but she turned the water on to let us stay anyway.  Since the cable and wifi were not yet turned on, she gave us a 50 amp full hook-up site for $25 – a real steal.

The not so good things about this park is the cost in high season ($52/night for a 50 amp full hook-up site) and some of the sites (especially #100-113) can feel pretty cramped.  Space between sites is extremely close and you may not be able to use your fire pit if you have neighbors with slide-outs.  

Spirit's two cents: Spirit gives this park high marks for a couple of reasons.  First, there was water for her to swim in; second, it was large enough to get a good walk; and third, it was just a short drive to numerous hiking trails operated by the Boothbay Regional Land Trust.  There is a big field behind sites (#144-149) which was large enough to throw her tennis ball and get a good run.  Paws up!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Camden, Maine

Camden is another quintessential Maine town that we just can't seem to drive by without stopping for a visit. Oh sure, we have been here countless times but it's powerful charm lures us in every time we are heading up the Maine coast. The harbor is chocked full of boats (many of which are gorgeous old schooners), the downtown is lined with alluring boutiques, galleries, and the best wine and cheese shop in Maine, and the plethora of parks, preserves, lakes and scenic views makes this a dream city. At least an irresistible one for us.

This year, we booked four nights at Camden Hills State Park and absolutely loved it! We called to make sure they were open for the season and planned our visit according to their opening. In the past, we stayed at private parks but really wanted to stay here because of the peaceful setting, miles and miles of hiking trails, and the close proximity to downtown Camden. Hiking right from our campsite is a dream for us and Spirit. Needless to say, many hours were filled exploring the pine laden woods which offered some of the most fabulous views of the downtown harbor and surrounding islands.

Hiking Mt. Megunticook is not easy but well worth the soaring views.

The most prominent attraction in the park is Mt. Battie Auto Tour Road that ascends 800 feet providing breathtaking views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay. It is just a short drive to the top or you can choose to hike a trail to the top and experience gorgeous woods on the way up. I chose to do both.

The National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps created the park in the 1930s and the well-planned trails and public use areas are evidence of the thoughtfulness that went into the park's development. With everything this 5,700-acre park has to offer it is easy to see why it has been one of Maine’s most popular attractions.

Camden is a great location to explore some of Maine’s other beautiful coastal towns like Rockland, Rockport, Owl's Head, Lincolnville, and Belfast – all of which are just a short drive away. The nearby town of Rockport is home to one of our favorite restaurants – Shepherds Pie – which never disappoints. On our way to the restaurant I insisted we drive by Aldemere Farm to admire the Oreo-colored Belted Galloway cows that quietly mow the lush green pasture. While I was hoping to see some of the new born calves, it seemed they were already in the barn for the night.

Now that's a cute cow!
Rockland, the busier of the towns, is a working waterfront with some surprisingly great museums and attractions including the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Maine Lighthouse Museum, the Project Puffin Visitor Center and the Rockland Breakwater Light. One museum we had never been to before was the Sail, Power, and Steam Museum. This informative little museum provides a hands-on and informative way to learn about the areas maritime past and historically significant sailing, power and steam drivel vessels. Our visit started with a warm greeting from Jim Sharp the founder of the museum. He proudly introduced us to the museum and set us up with a portable DVD to guide us around the exhibits. The DVD was very well narrated and we loved that we could explore the museum at our own pace pausing at times to read or poke around the artifacts. The $5 suggested donation was worth it and we were enlightened about a subject we knew next to nothing about.

When our five days was up we wrestled with the idea of staying an extra few days. There was lots more to do, see and eat and the time flew by too fast. But alas, there is never a shortage of the previously mentioned trifecta anywhere along the Maine coast. So now we'll migrate up to Bar Harbor where we will chock the tires for three months. Our work camping stint begins on June 1st so we want some time to play in one of our other favorite towns before we become working girls again. Have you noticed that all the towns in Maine seem to be a “favorite?”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A "Must Stop"

There is one eating establishment in Maine that we always stop at – Red’s Eats.  This red shack which is no bigger than a minivan has the best lobster roll in the country.  Nope, not just Maine, but I said “the country.”  The building is painted red (of course) but the outside walls are papered with magazine write-ups, foodie accolades, and the ever important picture of Diner’s, Drive-in’s and Dive’s.  So if you don’t want to take my word for how good it is, just read what’s plastered to the side of the building.

This little gem is perched right alongside Route 1 in Wiscasset and you can’t miss it.  In fact, it is usually the line of people stretching three city blocks that draws your attention to the little hole in the wall.  They serve more than lobster rolls but then who wants anything else when you can have over a pound of fresh lobster meat piled high in a toasted bun and served with a cup of drawn butter?  Lobster rolls tend to have copious amounts of filler like celery, mayonnaise, lettuce, parsley, etc. but not this one . . . it is lobster roll perfection.

There is so much lobster in the sandwich you can't even see the bun.  
Disclaimer: sorry if you happen to be reading this while sitting at your desk at work eating a turkey on wheat sandwich. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Boothbay Harbor is a lovely town that we fall deeper in love with on each visit.  But, our recent visit was bittersweet.  Sadly, it was on our last trip here (three years ago) that we had to put our dog “Otter” to sleep.  We knew her terminal cancer would claim her, but where we would finally say goodbye was always a dreaded mystery.  If it was any consolation, she died in one of the most beautiful towns we know.
Me and Otter in Boothbay Harbor

On this past visit we turned off the famed Route 1 that hugs the coastline and headed south on Route 27 to Boothbay Harbor expecting to stay for a few days.  Maybe we could replace the sad memories of losing Otter with new, happy ones brought on by “Otter’s Spirit.”  (You see, Betsy named Spirit in memory of Otter.)  But upon arrival at our campground of choice (Shore Hills Campground) a blatant “Closed for the Season” sign looked to dampen our plan.  More like it was going to just plain ruin it!  Just when we thought it was o.k. to live on the edge and be spontaneous (which in RV terms means not making campground reservations) . . . beware!  It appeared our desire to avoid summer crowds was the least of our worries when it was clear we were too early in the season and most campgrounds hadn’t even opened yet.  Our luck had it that the campground owner (Jean Reny) saw our RV sitting on the side of the road in front of her campground.  She must have noticed the two wayward and confused women sitting inside desperately flipping through Maine Campground Guides and making frantic phone calls.  Jean came to our rescue.  She made her way to the campground office and waved us in. The computers weren’t up and running and most sections of the campground weren’t open but one was.  No cable, wifi, bathrooms, or laundry but she gave us a full-hookup site at a much reduced price.  Just one more reason we love Maine - friendly people.

As for the town of Boothbay Harbor . . . it is simply lovely.  There is something so luring about it that we come back every time we are in Maine.  The deep harbor is lined with colorful lobster boats and graceful schooners, the outlying islands stand proud with lighthouses (five in all), the historic buildings are remolded to their grandeur, and the majestic eiders gracefully bob in the surf.  Downtown is a bustle of tourists partaking in the many activities that celebrate all things great about the coast – whether it is shopping for nautical-themed home decor, venturing out to sea to watch sea lions and look at light houses, or diving into a lobster roll at a lobster pound overlooking the harbor.  If it is culture you want, Boothbay Harbor is home to many gifted artists where galleries beautifully display their talents.  Summer nights are filled with venues offering everything from Broadway Musicals to classical concerts and Grammy-Award winning artists. 

The town’s history is rooted in fishing when in the early to mid-1600’s the English settled in the area.  Over the years, industry grew to include boat building of naval vessels during the two World Wars and the Korean War.  That tradition was not lost and today many luxury yachts, tug boats, and lobster boats herald from this area.  Tourists began arriving in the 1860’s when regular steamer service brought visitors from as far away as Boston.  This influx spurred hotels, cottages, restaurants and other entertainment for city people seeking outdoor adventure.  It didn’t take long for industry to thrive in the Boothbay region and year-round resident’s to profit.  Today, residents still find income in the tourism, fishing, and shipbuilding industries.

Boothbay is very dog-friendly and we found many places to walk Spirit.  Downtown shopping was not her favorite activity (except when we were at Two Salty Dog Pet Outfitters where she liked trying out dog houses) so we made daily trips to some of the many nature preserves scattered around the area.  The Boothbay Regional Land Trust maintains 22 preserves in their quest to promote education on wildlife, ecology, conservation and local history.  

One of the newest additions to Boothbay is the Watershed Tavern and home to Boothbay Craft Brewery. Being ones who like to try new things, we decided this was a perfect place to settle into a flight of home brew after a day of hiking and sightseeing.  

Our planned short stop in Boothbay Harbor turned into a longer visit.  We were loving being back in the area and extended our visit a few more days, again thanks to Jean.  I’m sure we will always return to Boothbay Harbor as we embrace past memories and make new ones.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

RV Park Review – Recompence Shore Campground (Freeport, Maine)

Disclaimer: Sorry, I forgot to take more pictures of the individual campsites.

We decided to visit this campground on their “clean-up” weekend.  In return for volunteering we would get free food and a campsite for the weekend.  That sounded like a pretty good deal for us and turned out to be a great experience and we loved the campground.  The reasons we loved the campground so much was because it was on a gorgeous 630-acre working farm (Wolfe’s Neck Farm) nestled into Casco Bay.  The grounds are beautiful and just five miles from downtown Freeport (home to the L.L. Bean Flagship Store, assorted outlets shops, restaurants, grocery, etc.) and a couple of miles from Wolfe’s Neck State Park.  We would definitely come back to this campground if we were in the area.

Overall, this campground is located in an idyllic Maine setting and offers the feel you would expect to find in a state park – hiking trails, water for kayaking/fishing, and some sites with lots of space between them.  You have expansive water views of Casco Bay that provide a great backdrop for some of the campsites.  But best of all, the campground is located on a working farm so you are free to tour the barns, pet a goat, visit the community garden or buy fresh chicken eggs.   

The main barn with surrounding pasture.
One of many gorgeous sites overlooking the bay.

Roads and sites are gravel and the overwhelming majority are level.  Of the 150+ sites, only 20 have water and electric (50 amp).  All sites have picnic tables and fire pits.  There is no cable or wifi.  Reservations can be made on-line or by phone.  Our Verizon 4G phone and hotspot worked well and we got a half dozen antenna channels (including major stations).

The sites vary widely based on size, privacy, water views, and hook-ups.  They discourage RV’s larger than 35’ from coming but I am not sure how strict they are on that because they let our 40’ rig in.  There are a scattering of large sites (big enough to fit 40’) but the roads are narrow and the substrate can be soft depending on the amount of rainfall. 

Photo credit: Recompence Shore Campground Website
While no sites have sewer there is a dump station.  However, the dump station is ill-placed and would have been very hard for us to access.  Two shower houses (and a laundry) are located on the property and numerous pit toilets are scattered about.  Be aware that this campground is very spread out so in some instances sites are far from flush toilets and showers.  Water spigots are located throughout the campground.  For those without RV’s, there are great little cabins for rent that have gorgeous views, picnic tables, and fire pits. 
One of the cabins set right on Casco Bay with steps to the water.
One of the many great no hook-up sites.
Example of a water/electric site. (Photo credit: Recompence Shore Campground website)

There is lots to do without even leaving the campground such as taking a hike, visiting the farm animals, attending a lobster bake, there is a playground, you can rent kayaks/canoes/bikes, or fish in the bay.

What we really liked about this campground was being in the picturesque coastal farm setting.  We often visited the barn to watch the baby goats and lambs and Spirit was intrigued with the cows.  There is plenty of room to walk your dog and enjoy a stroll outdoors.

The proximity to L.L. Bean and downtown Freeport can’t be beat.  We especially loved hiking at Wolfe’s Neck State Park and there were plenty of places for Spirit to swim.

The not so good things about this park are the lack of sewer and that our patio was in a low, wet spot.  Also, some of the water/electric campsites are on very soft substrate which may pose a problem for large RV’s.  There are very few flush toilets for this size RV park and I’m sure they are quite crowded in the busy season. 

Spirit’s two cents indicates this is a very dog-friendly park.  Lots of room to run, play, and swim.  One good/bad aspect is that many locals walk their dogs through the park and have them off-leash.  That normally does not bother us and we like to have Spirit off-leash but we witnessed some dog fights so always had to be on-guard.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Volunteering at Wolfe’s Neck Farm

Betsy and I love the opportunity to volunteer while traveling.  There are so many diverse opportunities whether it is for a season or a one-day event.  (By the way, some of the highlighted links in this post relate to previous blog posts about the relevant experiences.)  A few years ago we signed up to volunteer at the 64th Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine.  Betsy had a life-long dream to attend the festival (maybe that is a slight exaggeration but she does love lobster) so we journeyed to the picturesque coastal town hosting the event eager to indulge in the fun, food, and festivities that surround Maine’s most popular festival.  We really immerse ourselves in the event by volunteering, plus we got free admission and t-shirts in exchange for our four hours of work.  We had a blast and were so glad we helped! 

Also that summer, I played the role of “sternman” for a day on a lobster boat with a friend’s son-in-law.  I spent a good eight hours stuffing dead herring in “bait bags,” hauling traps, banding lobsters, and relishing the chance to be on the water and partake in a truly Maine tradition. The reward for volunteering was appropriate as Dennis sent me home with a dozen or so lobsters – enough to feed everyone at the dinner party.  My clothes stunk of dead fish and my muscles ached but I loved it.

My dashing captain, Dennis.
What better way to see Maine than from a lobster boat (minus the smell).
Other fun and rewarding opportunities included assisting with a local food bank to sort and give away food over the holidays and last summer’s commitment to camp host at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park in Idaho.  Oh, and there was the week we volunteered to be Inn Keeper’s at the Maples Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Recently, we came upon another fun opportunity that placed us on a working farm in Freeport, Maine.  The Recompense Campground at Wolfe's Neck Farm was looking for volunteers to help with campground cleanup before the upcoming season.  What drew us to this opportunity was that the campground is located on a 630-acre working farm just five miles for downtown Freeport (otherwise known as home of L.L. Bean and their massive Flagship Store).

The mission of Wolfe's Neck Farm is to foster stewardship and promote an understanding of sustainable agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy living.

In return for raking leaves, spreading mulch, and refurbishing fire pits we received free camping and meals.  We arrived Friday afternoon in time to relax by the campfire before going to the pizza party to meet the staff and other volunteers.  The next day we started at 8 a.m. with a free continental breakfast before heading out to work.  The barbeque lunch they provided was a great respite as we were hungry after all the physical work and needed a picnic bench to rest our tired bodies.  Three years on the road with no yard to care for and we forgot how hard raking wet leaves was.  After lunch it was back to work for a few more hours.  The next morning, we were provided breakfast once again and it was back to work.  We were done around noon with plenty of time to hit L.L. Bean and the outlet stores.  The staff was super appreciative (even allowing us to stay two more nights for free) and we loved the experience.

The farm is in a picturesque location complete with pasture, woodlands, and miles of shoreline adjacent to Casco Bay and a great place to camp and work. 

The farm is open to the public for free and they encourage people to venture into the barns, pet the goats, listen to the chickens, and laugh at the cute baby lambs.  There are also beautiful gardens and grounds that are perfect for a picnic or afternoon hike.

We haven’t had a bad experience yet and will continue to seek more volunteer opportunities.  If you know of any, please share we are always looking for new adventures.