A set of five posts from us about one state should be a pretty strong indicator of how much we love it. Maine, at least in the summer, is fantastic, and we just couldn’t tear ourselves away once our three days at Mt Desert Narrows Resort were up. The problem was that the impending July 4th weekend had a lot of places at full capacity, and those with openings were charging at peak season, holiday weekend rates. Mt Desert Narrows had one spot open up based on cancellation, but it was one of the premium waterfront sites, and even with the 15% discount they offered it would end up being abut $85 a night! No way were were going to spring for it, so what to do?
Cross referencing the options on All Stays with the information on RV Park Reviews I ran across an interesting bit of information about a local campground: they operate entirely on a first come first serve basis, no reservations accepted. It was located just a couple of miles up the road and their rates, considering the timing, were decent: $40 a night for power and water. So during one of our excursions we swung into Bar Harbor Campground to scope it out and get a feel for the availability come Friday, July 1st. The park is exactly the style of private campground we enjoy most: lots greenery, water access, and space between neighbors. The front desk staff made no promises, but suggested that if we arrived early in the day we should be able to secure a drycamping spot, and maybe a partial hook up one if we were lucky.
So Friday morning saw me up and driving the tracker around their 300+ site, maze-like park shortly after they opened. I dropped off a couple of our big plastic bins in one of the nicer available drycamping spots (which make up about 40% of the park) to claim it per their process, before continuing to scout the rest of the campground to see if one of the hook up sites opened up. Every one either had an RV or a “taken” sign on it until I got to the final “T” loop and stumbled onto the very last available power and water site. I left the tracker there to claim it, walked back to the office to make payment for four days (cash or check only), retrieved the bins from the now unneeded dry spot and drove back to Mt Desert Narrows to finish breaking camp and move Serenity to our new campground.
With four more days in Bar Harbor, we were able to enjoy more of Acadia National Park, this time in clear weather. We made the drive up to Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in the park. At 1,530 feet it’s not exactly challenging Everest, but it gave fantastic views in every direction.
We also had the time to find the local Moose Lodge, #2698 in nearby Ellsworth. Turns out we had driven by the nondescript building twice without realizing it was the lodge; even the moose statue out front struck me as just New England decoration since it seems like 10% of businesses around here incorporate a moose into either the name or decor. The existence of the Flying Moose Lodge, “a wilderness camp for boys” in the area had given us fits while trying to google the address and phone number of the (non-flying) Moose Lodge.
We made our first stop in on Sunday for the “meat raffle” which is pretty much what it sounds like: you purchase a number for $20 which gets you into 24 separate drawings for various cuts of meat. Aside from nickle/dime/quarter poker with family, we don’t do much gambling, but this sounded fun, so we sprung for the entry fee. We ended up winning two of the drawings, taking home more than five pounds of chicken breasts and six pounds of various pork chop cuts! Our grocery bills for the next few weeks should be a bit lighter.
While the meat raffle was a great event, what really stood out about this lodge was the incredibly warm reception we received from the members. We’ve been nicely welcomed in most of the 19 lodges we have visited, but this was a level beyond; it was like we were out of town family rather than strangers passing through. Everyone was open, gregarious, and ready with advice on how to best enjoy Maine, particularly the food. We got particularly good advice on lobster (best way to make your own lobster rolls) and clams (go for the cherry stones, the best.) And local member, current Jr Governor and former Governor Jack invited us to his big 4th of July bash the next day.
What a great party! There must have been a hundred lobster, mounds of clams, trays of shish kabobs, and plenty of side dishes. I got some hands on assistance in improving my lobster opening technique, sampled some local beer that had as of yet evaded my palate, and purchased 5 pounds of cherry stone clams from Scott per our previous arrangement at the moose. Though more than stuffed from the party food, on advice we steamed the lot that night before putting them back in the fridge for the next nights dinner.
Given that they were already cooked and seeing my obvious enthusiasm, the crew sent me off with a bag of three soft shelled, pound and half lobsters. During the next two days I put to use my recently gained knowledge on how to properly prepare a Maine lobster roll, supplementing the spaghetti and clams we prepped from our cherry stones.
Jack also gave us a tour of his house and property containing a truly unique collection of his own welding art. His house is one of the easiest to find: just look for the big metal dragon and other oddities out front. So we want to give a big thanks to Jack, Larry, Christy, Krissy, Scott, and everyone else that made or coastal Maine trip so fantastic. The Fourth of July party was like a big Moose Lodge anniversary gift for our 12th year. Rest assured, we have one of your fancy bar chips and metal moose car tags to take back to our home lodge in Venice to show them how it’s done.
Though we had only paid for four nights at the Bar Harbor Campground, we kept in mind the option of extending to a full week should we be having too much fun to leave, particularly since they offer the seventh day free. So Tuesday morning I scouted out the ocean front sites to see if anyone had departed following the big weekend. Sure enough, I found site K-10, with a nearly unobstructed view of the bay, recently unoccupied. Out came the plastic bins to secure the site before I stopped into the front office to pay for the additional time. We moved Serenity down to the new spot, leveling as best we could on the somewhat steep grade.
Our neighbors included a child of 8, Catherine, that gave us a whole new perspective on how to properly walk a cat. We still laugh remembering the commanding way in which she manhandled Pad Kee Meow, basically lifting her front half off the ground by the leash and harness when the cat thought it was time to stop, resulting in a half waddle forward on her back two legs while being constantly reprimanded. Though kitty was less than pleased, it taught us that we had perhaps been a bit too indulgent with the cat’s frequent reluctance to walk in the direction we intend.
We spent our last three days on the East Coast relaxing. One final trip to the Moose, a bit of wild blueberry picking right from our campground, a drive through Acadia, and beer tasting at Atlantic Brewing Company finished off our month in Maine.
We stayed in the state more than twice as long as planned, but have no regrets. Whatever short shrift this means for the rest of the states on this year’s route can be made up for during future trips. So long Maine, the rest of New England awaits us.