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Monday, August 26, 2013

Acadia Adventures

We have now been home a couple weeks from our family vacation at Acadia National Park, and have had time to unpack and let all of the beautiful memories soak in. I am blessed to be feeling well, handling my treatments and able to enjoy the time with my husband and children and make the most of the summer between doctors appointments and chemotherapy (although I do get sick to my stomach just typing that word). We had such a great time we decided as a family, we would make every attempt to visit one new National Park a year, and I am already looking forward to finding next year's destination. For a short vacation, we managed to pack in a lot and see most of the big sites. The weather can make or break a vacation, especially one involving camping and hiking, but the perfect weather we experienced certainly paved the way for a most memorable trip .

Here's our itinerary from our whirlwind visit-
Day 1: We headed out bright and early, giving the kids breakfast on the way. The car was packed and ready the night before, so we loaded the coolers, got everyone dressed, stopped for a coffee and hit the road. It took about five hours to reach our destination, a campground situated on an inlet on Mt. Dessert Island where we promptly checked in and found our campsite- a private waterfront spot we had reserved just a few days ahead. The boys got busy assembling the tent (a Father's Day Gift which sleeps 8-10) while the girls poked around down on the rocks looking for crabs.
Once the tent was up, we did some exploring down by the water and in the surrounding woods.
From there we packed everyone into the car and headed to check out Bar Harbor. As this area of Maine is known for its blueberries, we hit an adorable bakery to try some blueberry muffins and blueberry pie, then wandered through some cute, albeit touristy shops. Having had our fill of savory blueberry treats, we headed to Acadia National Park, where we first stopped at the Visitor Center, got a great overview of the park, saw some neat exhibits, purchased our passes and talked with a Park Ranger to get info about appropriate hikes to do with the kids. We then set out on the Park Loop Road, touring through miles of reservation and stopping to admire some beautiful look-outs and vistas.
We then found ourselves at Sand Beach where the kids dipped their toes in the freezing water and played in this unusual sandy oasis of the rocky coast.
We then set off on our first hike along Ocean Path.
The kids loved playing along the rocks high above the water and collecting sea-life from the abundant tidal pools.
We hiked as far as Thunder Hole to see the ocean spraying high into the air from this famous natural attraction.
After the hike, we headed back to our campsite where we got a fire going for dinner.
The kids found sticks on which to cook hotdogs and we completed the meal with applesauce, pickles, chips and watermelon.
It was then time for s'mores, a real campfire treat.
I got the girls ready for bed while Jim and the boys tended to the fire. After such an active and adventurous day, they fell asleep almost immediately! We enjoyed some drinks by the fire, (beer from a local brewery for the hubs and some non-alcoholic cider brew for me) then spread a blanket on a large rock by the water's edge to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower which conveniently took place the weekend of our trip. It was a perfectly clear night for the display; the moon was small, the stars bright and we were far from the lights of civilization.  It was truly something to behold. My camera couldn't capture the glory of it so we took a mental picture. I joke about the mental picture because Jim gets annoyed with my frequent picture taking in my quest to capture every memory from my childrens childhood, and urges me to just take a mental.
We all slept surprisingly well for sharing a tent with five kids, sleeping in sleeping bags with nothing but nylon separating us from the hard ground below. Of course we traveled with a battery operated fan and my trusty noisemaker but the birds were still loud early in the morning. Everyone began to stir around 6:30, so Jim and the boys cooked some breakfast sausages over the fire and we all enjoyed some muffins and fruit. From there we set out back to Bar Harbor where we grabbed a coffee and a few treats before setting out on a walk to Bar Island, a small island only accessible by foot at low tide, when a sand bar forms allowing passage.
We walked over and wandered about until the tide started to come in and we needed to wade a good way of the way back.
The kids were then anxious to go swimming as the temperature began to climb. We returned to Sand Beach where everyone but me swam in the frigid waters and rode the tremendous waves.
Leaving from Sand Beach, we set out on another big hike, that around Great Bald Head.
This was more of a moderate hike which involved some climbing up boulders and rocks.
The girls were certainly up for the challenge and the higher we got, the more breathtaking the views.
Of course there were plenty of snack breaks (and potty breaks) along the hike and a picnic lunch at the top.

It was nearing sunset when we finished the hike so we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain; the highest peak on the Eastern coastline, to watch the sunset and it was well worth the acclaim.
By then every one was hungry so we went to a great Lobster Shack right on the water in Bar Harbor for dinner.
The girls were thoroughly exhausted and went straight to sleep back at the campsite. The boys sat around the fire briefly before retiring to their sleeping bags with the promise I would wake them at 2am to watch the most prominent display of the Meteor Shower. I woke Jim and the boys and we tiptoed outside the tent to watch the sparkling sky, but unfortunately cloud cover limited our view.  Next time maybe I'll check myself, before rousing everyone in the wee hours of the night.

Day 3: We went to a General Store in Bar Harbor for a lite breakfast then headed for a ride on Diver Ed's Dive In Theater Boat. I had read some reviews online that this was one attraction not to be missed and I have to admit it was very cool. We boarded a boat and were introduced to Diver Ed, who scuba dived off the boat as we watched along on a giant screen. He then surfaced bringing with him treasures and creatures from the deep. The kids held starfish, lobsters, crabs, fish and even kissed a sea-cucumber. Diver Ed was thoroughly entertaining and the kids are still laughing about some of his jokes. They enjoyed pushing him over board, helping to reel him in and his underwater antics. We also saw whales, porpoises and seals on the ride. It was fun and educational and so neat to see Acadia from the water. 

After our early morning adventures we wanted to check out Echo Lake, a glistening swimming hole nestled between the mountains. There the kids swam in the fresh water which was relatively warmer than the ocean and we picnicked on the shore.    
We had one final destination we wanted to visit before heading home; Jordan Pond House, internationally known for its delectable Pop-overs and blueberry lemonade. Tables were arranged out on the lawn over looking Jordan Pond and the Bubble Mountains.
We did one final hike, this one around the pond, while waiting for our reservation, then enjoyed a delicious meal before heading home.
We left with five exhausted kids who all fell asleep not too long into our drive home. It was a much more peaceful ride home after three fun-filled days exploring our first National Park as a family.


  1. As a kid, we went to Acadia every summer for a day trip from our camps in central Maine. This post was great to see the park from another view point. I can't wait to bring my kids up there and now may even consider camping! My parents used to offer $1 if we would go in and dunk our heads at sand beach. That water is frigid!! We caught a bit of the meteor shower one night while we were in Maine. It was amazing! Glad you are handling things well, we pray for your every night!

  2. I want to take the boys up to Acadia next summer - thanks for planning my trip, such a timesaver!

  3. Looks like so much fun! We hope to get there in the next few years!

  4. What an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing your beautiful Acadia vacation! What a fantastic idea to plan for an annual trip to a different national park. I am looking forward to starting this tradition with Lilly, with Acadia next summer. Much love and prayers to you. Maria