Sunday, September 29, 2013

Acadia/Bar Harbor, Days 3 & 4

Friday morning we got up early and headed into Bar Harbor to the laundromat--since we’re in a national park campground, there are no laundry facilities here.  We wanted to get into town early enough to get all that done before the Abbe Museum opened, since we figured we’d have just enough time to go there and have lunch before our nature cruise departed.  The museum was the idea and gift of a Dr. Abbe, who really felt strongly that there should be a museum telling the story of the Native American tribes who originally populated this area of Maine.  It is a fascinating place, with lots of artifacts uncovered through numerous archeologist digs, lots of examples of the carvings, baskets and other crafts still done by some of these tribe members, and a very interesting story board giving a time line of the tribal history.  There were four major tribes in the area and there are still descendants from all four tribes in this area.  Once again, it was difficult at times to read this history, showing how Europeans came into the lands that had been the tribes’ home for thousands of years and ultimately forced them to give it all up.  And how it took years and years before these tribal members were allowed to vote.  
Pretty sobering reminder of how this aspect of American history repeated itself time and again, and how unfairly these people have been treated.

Just as you walk into the museum there is an unbelievably beautiful birchbark canoe on display.  Just fascinating to read how they made this--not a nail in the whole cane, just wooden pegs where the thwarts are joined, otherwise the birchbark was sewn together with roots and the seams waterproofed with pitch from the trees.  Later in the exhibit there is a  room called the Four Directions of the Circle, just an empty room with gorgeous wood strips lining the walls that all slope up toward a domed ceiling of glass.  Looks to be used for ceremonial purposes, but it has a remarkable effect on you as you stand in the room.

In the afternoon we took a two hour nature cruise around a number of the harbors and islands and it was really a wonderful trip.  The day could not have been any prettier, warm and clear with the sun shining brightly.  The guide on the boat kept commenting on how this was the best day they’d had in weeks, so we were really fortunate to have this kind of day to take this cruise.  We got to see Eider ducks, seals, harbor porpoises, peregrine falcons, cormorants and two bald eagles!  It was also so neat to see the harbor just full of lobster trap buoy markers.  We learned that there are 7000 licensed lobster fishers in Maine, and each of them are allowed 800 traps--adding up to lots of lobster!  The buoys are all painted with the distinctive patterns of the respective lobster fisher, and the guide explained how there is a whole culture of how the various fishers decide where each can set out their traps, etc.  When someone asked how they could possible prevent someone from pulling the traps of another fisher, she laughed and said anyone who did that would be “taken down” by the local lobster gangs!  Apparently a very effective way of ensuring that no one messes with someone else’s traps!  We sat outside up on the third deck and were in the front row, right behind the guide who was narrating the trip.  She is a student at the College of the Atlantic, here in Bar Harbor, studying oceanography and was really knowledgeable about all the sea life, the wildlife on the islands and the history of the area.  We had never heard of this college before, but for one interested in oceanography, there hardly could be a better location.

After the cruise, we stopped by the local drugstore to pick up a prescription my doctor had called in.  I had sent her my most recent blood pressure log, and, after reviewing it, she once again cut back my dosage of meds.  When we started on this trip, I was taking three different bp meds; with each log I’ve sent in, she’s been cutting back on the dosage and eliminating them, one by one;  the last time she took me completely off the second of the three, and this time she cut back the dosage of the one remaining by half!  I’m really excited about this, and it’s tangible proof of the benefits of eating a plant based diet.  I’ll see her when we get back home in November, and hopefully she will be able take me off this one completely as well. 

One of the interesting things about being here is that when we drive from the campground into Bar Harbor, we pass the Jackson Labratories, a major research facility.  Not only do they do significant scientific and medical research, especially cancer research, but this was also the location of a National Science Foundation summer science camp for gifted students in 1960, where my older brother, Walt--who by any measure is an intellectual genius--spent that summer.  At that time, science was not exactly my forte--not that it ever has been!!--and I had a hard time understanding all that he was doing, which was a common phenomenon growing up, since he was always way, way beyond his chronological age in any academic pursuit.  What I do remember is that he had some big, involved research project going on that involved a lot of white lab mice; since it was an ongoing project, when it came time to leave Bar Harbor, he had crates of these little creatures shipped by Greyhound Bus back to our home in Ocala, Florida, and they arrived a week or so before he got back.  So we picked them up and took them home, and tried to follow all his instructions about feeding and watering the little buggers, and changing the shavings in the bottom of their cages.  One time, during this process, a couple of them got out inside the house and it nearly caused our mother cardiac arrest before we were able to chase them down!  I wrote Walt about this yesterday and he told me lots of things about that summer that I had not remembered at all, especially about how this was his first experience being with so many different people, of different ethnic and religious groups, far different that what any of us had been exposed to in our little home town in the South.  It was also one of his first personal experiences with discrimination and lead to his staging a protest demonstration when a local barber shop refused to give his African American roommate a haircut--no wonder he has devoted his life to working to end discrimination of all kinds.  He's been an amazing example and an inspiration to me all these years.  Really touching to be here and reconnect with all these things.

Saturday we decided to vary our exercise routine and do some hiking rather than hit the bike trails.  There is a trail out of our campground that ultimately connects with the South Ridge Trail, taking you up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest mountain on the Eastern seaboard, so that’s what we did.  All in all we hiked about 9 miles and it was just a fabulous hike!  The weather was brisk when we started out in the morning, but the sun was out and it warmed up rather quickly.  The hike had a number of good, heart pumping climbs and the path was tricky in most places, due to the rocks and roots.  But it was such a wonderful hike as we had incredible views for most of the hike.  Lots of hikes you take you don’t get really good views until you get to a summit, but on this one, just about every place we’d go there were different breathtaking views of the harbors, the little islands, the lobster boats out making their rounds, pulling their traps, and some just absolutely beautiful colors.  There were ponds along the way that had some reflections of the trees and they were just spectacular!  What was so interesting, too, was how different the views of the same place were going up and coming down, with the difference in the sunlight patterns from the morning and the afternoon.  

At the summit, when we sat down on some rocks to eat a snack and take a break, we were joined by a lovely young couple with a little 17 month old boy in a backpack carrier.  They were from Standish near Portland, Maine and were tent camping in the same campground.  Brought back so many memories of when we used to tent camp when our kids were little--so we compared notes about how we used to take a portacrib with us when they were really little, and the couple said this was the first time they had camped with little Harrison when he was not in a portacrib.  They said they just put down extra pads so he could roll all around the tent!  The guy works for a non profit company that works with inner city kids, taking them camping, kayaking, lots of outdoor ropes courses, etc., to build their self confidence.  Really interesting folks.  And, even though they’ve been camping a lot, they had never heard of doughboys, our traditional favorite with the kids.  So we had fun telling them how to make them and they were so excited to have something new to try!

By the time we got back to the campground, we were realizing just how long it has been since we’ve done much hiking!  For a while, when we were in Utah and Colorado we were doing a lot of hiking, but more recently we’ve been spending more time on the biking trails than the hiking trails--and you really do use some different muscle groups hiking and biking!  So we got cleaned up, had lunch, took a nap, and just spent the rest of the afternoon chillin’ around the campground.  Met another wonderful couple from Connecticut who also have a View, and we always enjoy talking to fellow View owners.  Built a campfire and enjoyed that until the evening chill set in, so we came on inside the carhouse and made some hot tea and just sat here, Trisha knitting, me drafting the blog, and just relishing in how wonderful this trip has been.  Today marked 6 months since we’ve been on the road, and turned over 20,000 miles--absolutely amazing!

Some shots from the Abbe Museum

 This room/exhibit was remarkably powerful, just in its simplicity, and the symbolism

Episcopal Church of St. Savior, a lovely old church in Bar Harbor

 For some reason, this just cracked us up--as we were waiting to board our nature cruise boat, this shuttle boat, like many similar boats, was coming in to shuttle passengers back from the dock to one of the 3 huge cruise ships that were in the harbor.  Just thought it was funny to see the captain pop up out of this little hole in the top!

 This is a German cruise ship, moored out in the harbor, with probably a thousand or more passengers
 This is the sandbar leading out to Bar Island, since the tide was low when we were leaving on our nature cruise, the sandbar is exposed

 Balance rock, along the shore

Some of the "cottages," like the "cottages" of Newport, RI, summer homes of the millionaires, some built in the early 1900's

 This one a bit more recent vintage

 Along the cliffs of Mt. Desert Island, on which Bar Harbor sits

 People gathered around Thunder Hole--where the waves crashing into a hollowed out cave create a very large boom, much like Thunder.  We stopped here 30 years ago, when our family rented an RV and came up here--Todd just loved this one!

 Coming into a place where many sea birds of different species come to nest and hatch their young . . .
 . . . and also a hangout for seals and harbor porpoises

 Lighthouse on Egg Rock
 Tried tio get a good shot of the tons and tons of lobster trap buoys all throughout the harbor, but there's no way to really show how vast these are
Beautiful cloud pattern on a gorgeous day!
 These are Eider ducks, of Eider down fame, hundreds of them swimming along until the boat got closer and then taking flight.  The second picture doesn't really capture the sight when all of these birds began taking flight, splashing as their feet helped them lift off

 Ironbound harbor, these beautiful cliffs
 A whole bunch of cormorants
 Majestic bald eagle!

 Cadillac Mountain in the distance, Porcupine Islands in the foreground
 4 masted schooner out on a sail
 Our wonderful guide, Rachel, in her spotter's seat

 Natural bridge, created by ice and erosion thousands of years ago

 Starting out on our hike up Cadillac Mountain--someone's excited, huh??!!

 Beautiful mosses of contrasting colors

 Looking back down on one of the harbors as we were climbing up

 Lighthouse on Egg Rock

 Is this a happy hiker??!!

 Just love the reflection in this pond we passed on the way up
 Lots of these little folds and crevices

 Pretty colors!

Cool shot through the opening of one of the cairns marking the trail

 Multicolored lochen on the rocks

 Looking down from the summit
 Heading back down

 On the way down, the lighting created by the different position of the sun was striking!