Sunday, August 24, 2014


  overheard on our recent visit...

Well, Junior Rangers, we are just winding up our study of the beautiful Carriage Roads here at Acadia National Park. We have been hiking and biking and seeing each of the beautiful stone bridges and Gatehouses. Remember there are well over 45 miles of roads… and what are those large rocks at the edge of the roads called? 

Mr. Rockefeller’s Teeth..Giggles
That’s right little Timmy, but I’m sure it was meant respectfully.  We are all very thankful to the Rockefellers for the gift of these roads to our park. 

Any other questions from you Junior Rangers?

What are those piles of sticks lying between the "teeth" way up on the high parts of the Roads?

You mean the bushy ones with the trimmed ends all piled neatly between the “teeth”?  Well, that’s going to take a little explaining…

You know, of course, that Mr. Rockefeller took an active interest in designing and building these roads.  He was out with his engineers and workmen picking just the right slopes for the horses and making sure that the passengers got a good view of all the mountains, the waterfalls and especially the lovely beaver ponds.  The roads pass close to the ponds at low altitudes and the vistas high up the roads nearly always look down on a pond or stream. 

Now as time went on and the Acadia NP was formed, what do you think happened to the trees in front of the scenic vista?

Chorus:  THEY GREW..

Yes, indeed they did grow.  How quickly you recognized that!  The trees and brush grew and might have obscured the vista.  This happened in other places managed by the Park Service …like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park and others. There they couldn’t just trim the bushes (now trees), they had to form an Intragovernmental Committee with representatives from all over, and take public comments and Study..
And what were the trees (now 80 years old) doing?

Chorus: GROWING! giggles,

Well, they did finally cut the brush and trees back.  They got out the original drawings and marked the lines of sight and prepared to cut the trees (which by now were huge and some quite attractive themselves.)   Contracts had to be let because this was now a job way too large for a few park employees with a brush hook.  Objections were raised by those who wanted the vistas to look “just like they always did” – a leafy green wall apparently. One suggestion by a well-meaning  “holistic environmentalist” to airlift the largest trees out to Wyoming to provide shade for the wild horses that were being “saved” was tabled for future study.

FORTUNATELY, we didn’t have that problem here in Acadia because we have BULL BEAVERS.

What are Bull Beavers you ask?  Bull Beavers are just regular beavers, but they are HUGE. 

 beaver clipart  

A beaver lodge. 

They live in those well-appointed lodges you see along the carriage roads in the lowlands. 

  They have no enemies here, so they grow large and somewhat indolent.  But in late summer, as the bike traffic on the carriage roads peaks, their summer work begins.  They must work at night to avoid the bikes, but you can often see the drag marks their tails make in the loose gravel as they climb the roads to the high places.  There they trim the likely brush, usually branches with a 1-2” diameter, about 6-12 feet long.  (You can tell the work of a Bull Beaver because this brush is cut in a single clean stroke, not those little baby nibbles of lesser beavers.) 
After a hard nights work, they hide out in the little streams during the heat if the day.  If you ever see a beaver high up in the hills, splashing in a pool, you’re a lucky ranger; few people ever sight them. 

When this summer work is complete and the brush neatly stacked, it’s easy to look down and see the ponds far below.  Then, all there is to do is wait.

  Come November the park is nearly empty, and the first big snow falls. It is also the time of the full winter moon. It is now that all the little baby beavers scamper up the carriage trails. (They may mess up the grooves that nice volunteers “groom” for the cross country skiers. And the Park Service folks will issue stern warnings to keep “horses and dogs” out of the grooves.)


Each baby beaver grasps a long brushy bough between its front paws, climbs astride it with its broad tail pressing down on the leaves and slides down the steep, clear vista to the icy pond below. The ride is far superior to anything the cross country skiers experience.  It is wonderful! And it provides both a break from midwinter “Lodge Fever” and a big load of tasty snacks (since the Park Service” frowns on cutting too much brush around the ponds).

 And, oh yes, the vistas from the high points on the carriage roads once again peek down on the ponds and streams below, just as Mr. Rockefeller intended

Dr. Narinder P. Bhalla. 
Cardiologist extraordinaire
Riverside Cardiology
Montgomery, Alabama

Hi Doc.

On the reverse is a map of the Carriage Trails at Acadia NP –- 45+ miles of glorious ups and downs with scenic views, fresh air with the scent of Balsam. 

We started out on the Parkman Mountain trails which may not have been a great idea.  

 No, put away your stethoscope, I’m fine.  I’m GREAT, just a little winded on the long climbs. (Some of these are much higher and 5x as long as the one I had my heart attack on.) Heck, I was winded on these when I was 65. We rode all week and finished again the last day in the hilly southern end.  We Almost did every mile. I was trying.

The views at the top are worth it.  Couldn’t get Al to take a picture of me leaning over the handlebars gasping ( the view).  He says ONE picture of me having a heart attack is enough for his portfolio.

Really, I didn’t overdo.  People of all ages and shapes ride here. One guy with an Alpe d’huez jersey has done the “Circle of Death” in the Pyrenees twice, and one little four year old on his own bike seems destined to be great on the downhills.   Most are just casual riders like us or they are friends that get dragged along. We passed one petulant young woman who was declaring "I will NOT climb another hill." Everybody finished their ride and, though they may not think so tomorrow, they are better for it.  I know I am.

Thanks for the great job on the stent, Doc.  See you soon.  I think I’ll bring Al in to see you too.  He says he won’t need the Stress Test.  He’s already had that.


This is me ordering another Lobster Roll at Thurston's Lobster Pound.  I insist.  
Beauty shot of the bikes.  Al insists...

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Public Service Message for THE COMMON GOOD

OK, I know.  We have been off the grid in Acadia NP for nearly two weeks and Al is a little behind, but you have to hear this NOW.  
For ten days camping at Seawall CG in the National Park we have been passing this sign just down the road.

Fine, it looks like an entrepreneur has decided to help those of us who are too hungry to wait in line at Jordan Pond House for a Popover fix. We delayed; we usually had somewhere to go in the mornings or we were babysitting the generator.  Finally, near the last day, we stopped by for Popovers, view and WiFi. Wow!  We got all that and more. 

Always read the fine print.

This is the Common Good Cafe operated by and for the soup kitchen of the same name. Explore the link; you will thank me.

The bright sunny dining room was alive with optimism and good spirits. Don't look for a menu; just line up and someone will explain. The fresh popovers, homemade blueberry jam and fresh butter is laid out near the fresh roasted coffee, slow simmered oatmeal and other drinks.  Take what you need. Leave a donation in the box. "Whatever you leave is enough."

 Eli (on the right) is a guiding spirit here. John, his lifelong friend, is in the area for a few weeks and, like so many here, is working for the pure joy of it.

Our Popover chef is volunteering his
first day here and handled the morning rush with aplomb.

The point here is good healthy food served to eager tourists in the summer with the profits going to feed hungry Mainers in the "off season" when many are struggling. The feature I love is "Cabin Fever Saturday Nights where families can have an evening meal out together with music and fun activities for very low cost."

We came for the popovers and the WiFi. We found friends and so much more.  If you are camping nearby, make this your spot.  Here is that link again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Maine Chance

Lamoine State Park was a lucky chance.  We were moving across Vermont at a spirited pace looking for a stopover town that could help us with our chores – groceries, prescriptions, headlight replacement, propane fill, haircuts, laundry, various hardware items.  We needed more than a village; we needed Super Wal-Mart.  (Who knew you could get a haircut at Wally World?) 
With most of that accomplished (and full of shame for shopping there…but where else can you fit an Airstream in the barber’s parking lot?), we pulled up our planning tools and found a State Park with ONE remaining spot for two weekend days. Sold. Thank you, Christine for working with us.
Lamoine SP is across Frenchman’s Bay from Bar Harbor Maine and the Acadia NP. Turning off busy route 3, we could feel the road tension slipping away. We passed the stone and wrought iron fencing and slipped up to the check in station just as the sun slipped below the trees. While lovely Christine completed our paperwork, a pair of BMW touring bikes pulled in, their riders clad in black and yellow leathers.  We agreed quickly that Steve and Helen could share our campsite for the customary fee – they had to tell us about their trip.
There was a dazzling display of camp making virtuosity as the ’Stream and their tent settled in just before the last glimpse of sunset.  Tonight was the “Super Moon” and it was climbing as we said good night.

These two are well into 6200 miles on this venture.  OK, he shows it a bit more , but Helen was pushing Harley’s back when Steve was riding 10 speeds.
They have a rich life together and a lot more miles to ride.

Of course, our tongue jack problems did not cure themselves overnight, so it was a day of wrangling parts, tools and a little colorful language before we had secured the three bolts and one butt splice required.
IMG_2477 The Airstream garnered an unusual amount of commentary here, so between times we conducted tours.  This bright spirit was hardly ten, but had Airstream dreams “after I hitchhike Europe my senior year.”
But I said Lamoine was a lucky chance.  Just when our allotted two nights were up, Christine found us a non-reservable waterfront site.  WOW, this is our view.

Our neighbors brought us a bucket of clams dug right before our eyes (and totally sent us to the Google to figure how to cook ‘em).
And yes, there is a new dump and, yes, it has flowers, lots of flowers.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Perhaps it is the dark brown-stained half log siding and the crisp newly painted shutters on the windows, or the crisp new shingles but Surely it is the window boxes with fresh blooms that marks this as the Best shower we have found among nearly a thousand campgrounds. There are two single showers, freshly painted by someone who cares, spotless, with neatly laminated instruction/suggestions and a breezy air of welcome -- little spa-like refuge in the North Woods.  

We are encamped in an open field “Horse Camp” at New Discovery State Park Vermont.  
 “The horsemen seldom come”, we  are told by the gracious park manager.

“You can swing your rig in there easy.”

We go through the usual – “Airstream? How Old?” dispelling concerns that Airstreamers are a snotty bunch with their “Airstream Only” parks.

 “Alabama? How Long?” dispelling who-knows-what stereotypes and, above all, trying not to be one of the over-torqued folks who arrive at a park anxious and short after a long day of driving.

We either One, pass muster as a pleasant couple and are given a careful selection of superior campsites to choose from or, Two, maybe we are down here in “quarantine” before being released to the general Vermont population.  After setup, we are enjoying our totally bug-free circle of surrounding evergreens, a long pleasant chat with our ranger hosts and we are wondering if it gets any better than this.  Oh yes, thanks for the kind donation of firewood.

Did I mention that the Dump has flowers?  

 Patty is just filling the water here.
 "Sewer stuff" is manly work.

We take a couple short hikes and consider staying the weekend.

  “HORSE WEDDING?”  No silly, the riders are getting married, but the whole of our little paradise is booked for the celebration. 

These ladies were just as surprised as we were about Horse Weddings, but their mounts were better behaved than most campers.

 So we hookup for departure, but not before the hitch jack fails and we have to use all our wiles and a couple tools borrowed from Ranger Don to get on our way.  Then we just high tail it for the Sea, stopping along the way to do some chores and book the last site at beautiful Lamoine State Park just across the Frenchman’s Bay from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.