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, August 19, 2016

Exploring Downeast Maine's Schoodic Peninsula

Now that we are working girls, our days off are treasured.  Especially since our work schedules are crazy busy and some weeks our days off don’t coincide.  When Betsy is coming home from the campground office at 3 p.m. after an eight-hour shift, I am walking out the door off to a catering gig not too return until well after dark.

But, when our days off jive together you can bet we are out to make the best of it.  Recently, we took a drive over to Schoodic Peninsula where you will find the sleepy towns of Winter Harbor, Prospect Harbor, and Corea.  Here is also where you will find the less-populated and amazingly beautiful section of Acadia National Park


This area is part of the Schoodic National Scenic Byway and it doesn’t take long before you understand why there is no doubt it is crowned with that title.  The road meanders through quaint fishing towns with working harbors and an enjoyable 5.5 miles along the quintessential rocky Maine coastline.

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Our morning started with a beautiful hike in the park.  This section of Acadia is far less visited but that is changing.  The park has recently gone through a bit of a transformation by developing more recreational opportunities.   Last year, Schoodic Woods Campground opened with 94 tent and RV sites and added was a maze of newly created carriage roads and hiking trails ready for nature-lovers to explore. 

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We hopped back in the car and drove a short distance south to Frazier Point – a place we always stop for a sweeping view of Winter Harbor and out to the sea where islands rise up and Cadillac Mountain takes a prominent place on the horizon.  But mostly we stop here because it is a great place for Spirit to cool off in the water while we take in the views from a shady picnic table and rehydrate from our hike.  Frazier Point has picnic tables, fire pits, drinking water and restrooms.

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Much of the Schoodic Peninsula was once owned by John G. Moore, a Maine native and Wall Street financier.  In the 1920s, Moore’s heirs donated the land to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations with the stipulation that the land be used as a public park and for other uses, including the “promotion of biological and other scientific research.”  In 1929, Congress authorized the boundry expansion of Acadia National Park thus allowing them to accept land on the Schoodic Peninsula.  Shortly afterwards, the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations donated the former Moore property (2,050 acres) to the National Park Service “for the public good and for the extension or improvement of said park, forever.”  In the 1930s and 1940s, some of this land was transferred to the U.S. Navy for use as a radio communication station which was in operation until 2002 at which time the land was transferred back to the National Park Service.  The former base has become the Schoodic Education and Research Center – which happened to be our next stop.  The facility houses a wonderful welcome center that introduces people to the natural and historical wonders of this area.  The welcome center is housed in Rockefeller Hall dating back to the 1930’s.  In 2009, a park benefactor and long-time Winter Harbor resident Edith Robb Dixson gave a very generous monetary donation to the National Park Service to renovate the building.  The building now houses a Welcome Center, offices for Schoodic Institute, and six overnight guest suites for visiting researchers.

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Quickly lunch was upon us and there was a new place we were wanting to try – Warf Gallery and Grill – a lobster shack and gallery overlooking the busy little harbor of Corea.  They advertise, “Serving up great food and beautiful views since 2011.”  Betsy settled on the lobster roll and I opted for the grilled lobster and cheese sandwich.  Perfect Maine lunch!  And congrats to them for being the Downeast Magazine’s 2016 Best of Maine “Editors’ Choice” for a Lobster Shack.

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With lobster in our bellies we were off to continue our excursion.  Darthia Farm is a family-run organic farm we have stopped at before and love the rustic, natural vibe. They not only sell their local produce but feature hand-made items from their “friends.”  We like that!

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As Spirit was giving us some pretty big sighs from the back of the car, we decided to start heading for home but felt the urge to stop at Bartlett Maine Estate Winery and Distillery.  Bartlett is “Maine’s First Winery” and produces 7,000 cases a year offering more than twenty wine varieties, ranging from dry and semi-dry blueberry reds to refreshing pear-apple whites, sweet blackberry dessert wines, and refreshing honey meads.  Recently they started distilling rum, adding to their repertoire. 

One final stop was at Jordan’s Snack Bar for an ice cream cone to end our perfect day exploring parts of Maine.  Somebody didn’t seem to notice we were stopping for ice cream! 

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer in Maine

Summer always seems to fly by.  Whether it is back to your childhood when you rejoiced at being out of school or a hard-working adult enjoying a well-needed vacation from the office.  Our summer in Maine has certainly been moving at warp speed. 

We arrived in Trenton, Maine (just a few miles up the road from Bar Harbor) in mid-May, which happens to be a wonderful time to be here.  The trees are just starting to bust out of their long winter dormancy, the slew of tourists have not arrived, and the lobstermen (and women) have traps in the water and are pulling the sweet lobster from the cold ocean water.  We are back at Narrows Too Camping Resort where we have spent the last two summers.  There is something (actually, a lot) about the area that keeps pulling us back and it is hard to believe that we are already mid-way through the summer.

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Just seven miles down the road from the campground is Acadia National Park and a huge draw for us.  With over 40,000 acres to explore through hundreds of miles of hiking trails, ponds and lakes to kayak, and 47 miles of carriage roads to enjoy leisurely walks the park seems to be part of our daily life here.  Acadia NP consistently ranks as one of America’s Top 10 National Parks and with 2016 marking the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, crowds of eager onlookers and outdoor enthusiasts are sure to be flocking in. 

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Our secret for beating the crowds . . .  go early.  With sunrise just before 5 am we try and hit the park around 6 or 6:30 to enjoy it all to ourselves.  Which then leaves plenty of the afternoon to hang out on the deck of our favorite lobster pound or take Spirit for a swim in the ocean.

But, mind you we are working girls so not everyday is for leisure.  Betsy is working in the campground office and store handling reservations and day-to-day operations of the campground.  With over 200 RV sites, 10 cabins, three cottages, and an event line up that keeps the marque lit up, the office stays busy (and open to 7 pm).  One of Betsys’ ideas from last year was to offer a “Lobster Experience” event.  With two years working in the office under her belt she realized that a common theme of new campers to the area was lobster.  How to eat it, what is the best way to cook it, where should they buy it, what is the difference between hard and soft shells, etc.  So she stepped in and decided to offer a “Lobster Experience.”  She partnered with the Lulu Lobster Boat in Bar Harbor who offers famously entertaining and informative boat tours where you haul traps, talk about the lobster fishery, learn their life history, and coast around some amazing Maine scenery. 

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Afterwards, participants stop at Downeast Lobster Pound where they get to see how lobsters are housed and pick out their dinner.  In the evening, we all gather (lobsters too) in our activities building where we have pots of boiling water ready to show them how to cook them.  After quick pictures, in the pot they go.  The campground provides corn, potatoes, butter, and blueberry ice cream so all leave pretty happy and with the confidence of how to cook and eat lobster.  Something tells me Betsy is the largest advocate and promoter of the Maine Lobster Industry and should be on the marketing department’s payroll! 

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This summer, I headed in a different direction opting for an apron and knife with a catering company instead of lawn mower and weed wacker at the campground.  I work for Bar Harbor Catering Company as an Event Chef which is in full swing during the busy summer wedding season.  The job has been a wonderful opportunity to work with an amazingly talented culinary team, sharpen my kitchen skills, and has taken me to some beautiful scenic Maine locations.  Events range from a private chef lobster dinner for a dozen guests in a rental cottage to a pig roast for 50 in a back yard to a 250-person formal wedding overlooking the ocean. 

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Our plans are to stay in Maine until mid to late – September, but if this year is anything like the last two summers, we will be hanging around until mid – October.  We have a hard time leaving our Downeast paradise and love that that time of year brings cooler temperatures, post card fall scenery, less people, and, of course for Betsy, a continuous source of lobster!