Bethel, Maine

October 12, 2002

Our third week of this road trip began with us gobbling down blueberry pancakes on a Sunday morning in Camden, Maine. We packed up the tent after spending three nights here and continued our drive up the coast. In the evening we were in Bar Harbor on Mt. Desert Island — it’s not as tropical as it sounds, we’re still in Maine in October. It’s cold here! This is our first National Park of the trip and it just feels grander here. We found a nice campsite and set off to explore the island. It’s more mountainous here, Mt. Cadillac is the highest point on the New England coast at 1350 ft. It sounds wimpy compared to what we’re used to in California, but it’s a dramatic chunk of wind swept granite overlooking the steel-blue Atlantic to the south, islands to the east and pine forests to the north that stretch over the horizon. After driving to the top we watched the sunset over the lakes and inlets, then saw the stars come out in all their brilliance.

We had read that the top of this mountain is the first place in the U.S. that sees the sunrise. Hmmm … who could pass up such an opportunity?

In the morning we crawled out of our sleeping bags at 5:30 into the icy October darkness. The sky was clear and filled with stars. We drove again to the top of Mt. Cadillac and as the sky lightened in the east we played "Here Comes the Sun." A half-hour later we were standing on the rocky summit with a few other hardy souls as a chilling wind blew in off the gray Atlantic to our south. The islands off Bar Harbor shouldered the stiff wind far below us. In their shadows the sea was silver. Ever so slowly the clouds blushed pink, then orange. We waited and watched as the eastern horizon began to glow brighter and brighter orange looking like it was going to burst. The sky all around us was waking up in slow motion. It was a symphony warming up for the overture. Then on the razor-sharp horizon a chip of brilliant red blinked above the sea. It was like we were seeing the sunrise for the first time in our lives. The sun, a molten red ball climbed slowly out of the steel-blue sea and took flight. It was worthy of a standing ovation and tears. We both decided that words do not yet exist to describe this event — Sublimefull! Epiphanious!

The rest of the day was spent again exploring the island. We found yet another wonderful little bookstore — Port in the Storm, and found another lighthouse out on the rocky shore to the south. The Bar Harbor Head Light is red (four second on, one second off, for our sailing friends). In the evening we returned to the town of Bar Harbor and ate at Geddy’s with some live blues and more "chowdah" to warm our bones.

On the 8th we spent the morning at an internet café called the Opera House in order to update our stories and pictures. It’s easy to lose track of time in places like this when there’s so much to write about and so many pictures to help us re-live adventures that seem weeks in the past, but were only a few days ago. We did tear ourselves away to see more of the island though, and in the afternoon drove out to Thunder Hole. This is a rock formation on the coast that funnels the incoming waves into an enclosure. If the swells are just right the crash sounds like a cannon. We were there on a calm day and it was still impressive. We can only imagine what the sound and crash of the waves is like in a good storm.

We drove on form there as the sun once again set through the trees, and ended up back in Bar Harbor for some Tai food for a change. Our waitress, Tatiana was from Russia and was surprised to find that we are Americans. She said we seemed much more European. We tipped her generously for the compliment! After dinner we went into the North Face to look for a new sleeping bag for Tiffany. She’s been shivering away in Alex’s old bag left over from the Boy Scout days. There’s got to be a merit badge she can get for her endurance! The new bags in the store were just too good to pass up so out we came a few minutes later with a brand new cozy sleeping bag! Now, to those chilly nor’easters we say, bring it on! After this little side trip it was back again to the Opera Café for more internet joy.

Wednesday morning found us yet again in the Opera Café. We are now officially regulars. This is apparently a regular stop for the cruise ship contingent. The seniors just kept pouring in asking where the bathrooms are and remarking on how cute the Grandma’s cream cheese coffee cake looks. With this week’s web installment successfully uploaded we headed off for some blueberry ice cream and a walk down to the harbor.

We left Mt. Desert Island in the afternoon and continued east along the coast on hwy 1. After a short drive though Roque Bluffs State Park (we misread the map, thinking it was Rogue’s Bluff, which sounds much more interesting), we continued on. As almost everything else on this coast however, it was still impressive. A little further down the road we found Sunset Point Campground and decided to stop for the night. We were the only tent campers there as we pulled in. The sun was setting beneath the clouds on the horizon, and Kurt, the owner, checked us in and told us we were "hardy" for tenting this late in the year. We were pretty impressed with the compliment coming from a "down easter." Kurt sold us some firewood and we pitched our trusty tent by the waterside. Within a few minutes we were eating leftover Tai food by candlelight, and getting toasty by the fire. We strung up the tarp over the tent because the clouds looked threatening, but no rain came that night.

In the morning we rushed to take showers before Kurt and his future son-in-law turned the water off to work on the plumbing. We had been looking forward to a nice leisurely morning of some deep cleaning (they even had laundry facilities), but it was not to be L

On our way back to the main highway we saw our first moose. Unfortunately it was strung up in some hunter's front yard looking like a ritual sacrifice, eeew.

Once back on the road we drove out to the eastern most point in the US, ironically called West Quoddy Head (East Quoddy is across the way in Canada). There is, of course, a lighthouse, this one painted barber-pole red and white. We walked down a flight of wooden steps leading us to a rocky beach to look out at the Bay of Fundy and the islands Canada beyond. This was as far east as we could go and still be in the US. We’d spent the last year and half getting to and living on the east coast, now we could go no further. This was our turning point. From here everything else was going to be west. With our feet on this rocky shore and the tide lapping at our toes, we knew once we turned to walk back up those wooden steps, we would be heading west, moving back and on to LA. It was one of those moments when all the planets aligned. Mentally, physically and spiritually, we were at a turning. And it was in this moment that Alex chose to ask Tiffany to marry him! After a brief shock, it turns out she said yes! Hugs all round! Pictures! The ritual exchange of rocks from the shore! More hugs!

Within a few minutes we saw a bald eagle fly out of the forest, over our heads and on up the coast. We took it to be a good sign.

Once back in the car we drove north letting the shock, excitement, fear and giddiness sink in. An artist at the Camden arts festival told us we had to go to Cobscook Bay State Park. "It’ll blow your head off!" he had said. We pulled in to the near-deserted campground and it did not disappoint. The sites are spread out amongst the trees, each one with its own private waterfront cove. We were officially in paradise! That night we had dinner with the locals in Lubec, and returned to find a pay phone so Tiff could tell her family the news.

On Friday we decided to take it easy and not do much of anything. We’d been traveling pretty much every day, seeing and doing so much, so it was wonderful to just sit and watch the tide role out. What was a beautiful rocky shore the previous evening was now mud and seaweed as the water had receded. Alex ventured out into this muck, literally walking on the bottom of the sea! He felt like one of the five Chinese brothers. The tides here average 15 feet, and it’s amazing to see what was revealed minute-by-minute as the water drained away. We made some p, b & j sandwiches in the afternoon and drove to Eastport, the eastern most town in USA. Everything’s got to be the eastern most something-or-other out here. The day before we got post cards at the eastern most gift shop in America. We passed through Perry, half way between the equator and the North Pole (no wonder the big dipper is so high in the sky each night), and went on to find Reversing Falls.

Because the tides are so high here and the bays and inlets are so intricate, the huge volume of water rushing in and out every six hours creates amazing currents. At Reversing Falls the result is what looks like a wide rushing river. Rapids pour over boulders flowing one direction with the incoming tide, and six hours later are flowing the opposite direction.

As we hiked down to the water through the pine trees, the tide was at its high point. We were greeted by the splashes and snorts of at least 20 seals playing and fishing in the coves. They eyed us with curiosity as we settled in but continued their frolicking. Seagulls added to the playful atmosphere with their calls and dives into the water. As we watched, the tide started to turn and the churning of the waters began. The current in the channel slowly picked up speed and it wasn’t long before the rapids were forming before our eyes. The seals moved their play into the main current, diving into the rapids like dolphins running before the bow wake of a ship. Then as if this wasn’t magical enough, a couple of hikers walked by pointing out the eagles on the opposite shore. Eagles on the opposite shore!? Sure enough, just across from us were three bald eagles standing guard over a sheltered cove. They would swoop down occasionally to chase away the great blue herons that encroached on their territory, majestically soaring on their white-tipped wings. All this wildlife right before our eyes, it was like a dream. It was the greatest song you’ve ever heard, then the volume gets turned up and up and up! Epic!

In the evening we did the laundry.

As the Zen saying goes, after enlightenment, the laundry. Bald eagles, seals, clean undies! Life is good.

On Saturday morning we packed up camp as loons called to us from the glassy waters. We said goodbye to the Atlantic and began our westward drive. We finally put some miles on the car and made it to Bangor within a few hours where our car registration was waiting for us at the post office. Melissa had express mailed it to us, unfortunately we got there half-hour after they closed. We banged on the doors to no avail, but finally found a friendly security guard who saved the day. He found the one remaining postal employee before they closed up shop for good for the three-day weekend. With the registration sticker on the car we could relax. We checked e-mail from the grand and inviting Bangor library then drove on through miles of multi-colored forests.

We settled into a campground near Bethel, a few miles from the New Hampshire border. After spending an entire week inching our way up the coast of Maine, we had backtracked inland the same distance in one day! It feels good to be heading west after so long. Now it’s on to New Hampshire and Vermont for some serious Ben and Jerry’s gorging!

 

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