Monday, November 6, 2017

4th of July Weekend in Maine

I am so fortunate to be marrying a pilot. While he flies for a private company, there are some perks of his job. He gets a lot of hotel and airfare points. He gets to visit so many cities. But, my favorite by far are the opportunities I get to go along with him. After our engagement, we considered consolidating our travel and focus it on our honeymoon, so we decided to forgo the large fall vacation all together. Fortunately for us, there was an opening in his flight for me to travel with him to Maine. All I had to do was sit in the front seat beside him. Not. A. Problem.
Maine in July is absolutely wonderful. The weather is just perfect compared to the humidity we get in Virginia. Since we had plans last summer to Maine that fell through, when the opportunity to go again arose, we jumped for it. We landed in Portland, picked up our rental car and headed out for lunch. After a flight, it was a necessity. We stopped at Miller Brothers Seafood. I knew during this trip I was going to enjoy a few LOBSTAH rolls, so when we stopped, I knew what I was going to order. In comparison to all the lobster rolls we had, this was my least favorite, but it was filling!
Afterward it was back on the road. What I have learned about Maine is that you really need rental car for the state. So many major cities we wanted to visit were so far apart. We ended up driving to Booth Bay, Maine. We stopped into town to Stone Fox Farm Creamery for Maine Blueberry Ice Cream. On a hot summer day, this was a big treat. It gave us time to see this mini-festival they had going on for the weekend and gave us a bit of time to stretch our legs from being in the car.
We continued up the road to Ocean Point Nature Preserve (which also doubles as a local beach). With so many great walking paths along the oceanside along the rocks, it is a great stop! Limited parking makes this difficult to get to so if you cannot parallel park well, you might want to pass on this one. Our rental car was on the side of a mini cliff. I loved the seaside cliffs but the Maine-style homes were the sights to be seen! Back in the car we went to hit up our next stop!
If you have ever seen a US Quarter with Maine on the back of it, chances are you have seen this spot: Pemaquid Point Light. With the $3 admission fee, mostly to cover parking and upkeep of the grounds, this amazing little park is one of the best spots for families to visit in Maine. From the seaside cliffs to the picnic tables, this is a spot most will truly enjoy. Maine is known for their maritime trade industry, including fishing, lobstering and the like, the US Mint added this picturesque location. It is a must see in Maine!
As it was narrowing dinner time, we needed to started heading back to our hotel. We drove back through Damariscotta county and ended up at Damariscotta River Grill. Honestly, I was not sure of what to make of this little coastal gem but I was truly impressed. I ended up doing the Three Course Price Fix Menu: Mushroom Crepes, Roasted Beet Salad (with goat cheese), and creme brulee with a glass of red wine. It was utter perfection and one of my favorite meals during the trip. Matt ordered a cup of clam chowder and shredded pork - then split the creme brulee with me.  And laid our heads to rest back in Portland at DoubleTree by Hilton.
When we woke up for Day 2, it was still slightly dark out. We grabbed some water and granola bars and headed out to Acadia National Park. It was a bit tough to get to considering all the construction going on, but we finally made it. Entry fees are $25/car. We recommend parking in one of the larger lots and taking the FREE park buses (thanks to LL Bean) to your hiking site, as parking is VERY LIMITED. We decided to hike Beehive Mountain (Precipice Trail was closed due to birds nesting)- because we wanted to do the iron rungs. We took the bus to Sand Beach- and crossed the street to the starting spot for our hike. While this tends to be a popular hike, it is not easy for the novice of hiker and not user friendly compared to other hikes. However, if you are up to the challenge, it is one I would recommend doing. It is fun!
Since we weren't able to pack a meal, we grabbed our pack and took the transit bus into Bar Harbor for lunch. We grabbed drinks and sandwiches at Downeast Deli and took them to Agamont Park. Lunch is such a busy time of day, especially in the summer (and while we were there a cruise ship was docked) so expect lines and waits. We didn't have that much time so we opted for a grab-and-go option and a picnic worked for us. The deli was perfect- I was able to get a chicken salad sandwich on gluten-free bread and Matt had cold cuts. It was exactly what we needed after our hike. We took some chips, a banana and extra water back in our pack for our next hike and grabbed our bus back to Acadia! Note: always check transit times, they typically run every 15 minutes for most bus stops but beware they do stop running at certain times of the day so be prepared or you will walk back!

After grabbing our bus, we got off at our original stop at Sand Beach and walked the street side trail to see Thunder Hole. It was incredible. Be careful getting down to it, the steps are really slippery! It was amazing to hear it sound loud and howl, much like the sound of a storm. Every time a large wave would come in, it would growl and rumble loudly. Take video to show family back at home. It was really cool!
Instead of heading back on the bus, we opted to continue on the park loop trail up to Otter Cliff. We wanted to walk along the rocks and cliffside and it was well worth the walk. It was easy to do and quite novice for those truly inexperienced hikers. It was pretty flat and not muddy; it was well marked. Each section of cliffs made another vantage point even better than the last. It was one of those views you wouldn't soon forget. We took the most time walking along park loop trail to the Otter Cliff because the views were just that good and the trails were easy to follow. It was quite a long trek we decided to take but I am so glad we did.
Otter Cliff, seen from this photo, was just outstanding. Most rocks as you can see were quite wet and slippery so we did not venture out onto them, but the vantage point from the road above was nice. Go and park nearby if you can, but be careful as that is a blind bend and cars do not always see pedestrians crossing, and some do not stop as they should. After enjoying Otter Cliff, it was back to the car to drive to Cadillac, as the shuttles were about to stop for the evening. We grabbed our car and made off for the other side of the park. With limited daylight, we had to hurry.
Getting to Cadillac Mountain is no easy feat. The road up to Cadillac is very windy and offers a lot of turns around tight corners but the views up are amazing glimpses at other parts of Acadia. Once we got to the parking area, it was quite crowded, as many tend to come toward the evening hours to watch the sunset. We did not have too much trouble finding parking ourselves. While the car ride up is one for the books, the panoramic views make the drive worth it! It was stunning! It is the highest point in the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise (October-March). Take time to walk around and see every vantage point. You can hike Cadillac Mountain but I preferred to drive up. We took a lot of photos and videos to share back home with family and friends. It was the best view by far of the park!
We decided to not stay atop Cadillac Mountain til sunset so we left, venturing our way down back to the entrance. We did, however, decide to make a slight detour to see The Bubbles. Yes, that boob-like formation passed Jordan Pond is known as The Bubbles. While there is a trail that will take you to the bubbles from Jordan Pond entrance (it makes for a great day hike), we simply did not have enough time. At this time of day we found this part of the park to be peaceful, quiet and serene.
By the time we got back on the road, we totally had missed out on dinner time. Since our ride back put us back in town after most places had closed, we ended up at McDonalds for the McLobster Roll. I was not about to indulge in fast food seafood but Matt decided he wanted one. He said it was not too bad. I grabbed a salad to go and was content.
Day 3 of our trip was 4th of July so we got dressed, left our hotel and headed next door to Dunkin Donuts for coffee and breakfast. It was a really hot morning so an oversized iced coffee was in order as we made our way to downtown Rockland. Rockland is quite the small, quaint town in Maine but it is beaming with art and life. Thanks to their art walk, you do not even need to visit the museum to enjoy all the city has to offer. We took a stroll around town to see the LOVE sign and other art pieces before headed to the lighthouse. I has been excited to visit the Project Puffin Visitor Center, but they were closed for tours that day. If you have the opportunity, go visit!
Rockland Harbor Lights is one of those stops you have to go to if you are in Rockland. Its free to visit and a fairly easy walk. While the larger stones are uneven, and not easy for older or injured visitors, it is a great view of Rockland from the point.

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