I was excited to hear that my friends Rachel and Ben and their little cutie would be in Acadia to celebrate Ben’s 40th birthday, so luckily my plans were flexible enough to allow swinging back through Acadia park to overlap with them for a few days. Plus, another visit to one of the best parks! Made it across the border with little issue. The border guard did glance at my long list of dried and packages foods I had made, peeked into my cooler, and looked under my bed to be sure I wasn’t harboring any tiny contortionists, then I was off again and back in the USA.

Driving through northern Maine was the autumn color show to which I’ve become accustomed. The road I took was pretty sparsely populated and with few shops to stop at, so I had an adventure finding some gas but made it back by early afternoon to the park. Having a small child makes long adventures and routine changes a bit more difficult, so my window had closed at meeting up with my friends until dinner, which left me just enough time to go on a short hike up the Emery and down the Homans paths near the Sieur de Monts area. When I inquired at the visitor’s center about a trail near enough town for dinner in the amount of time I had, the ranger said, “well, I know a nice one for a little workout but… how do you feel about stairs?” She was not kidding. There were a lot of stairs going up, but it did the trick after all that driving. I wandered through the wild garden while there, too, and got to see just how many kinds of ferns I don’t know how to differentiate but love anyway.

After that loop, I met up with the friends for dinner at a cozy spot with good food and enjoyed catching up with them, and later I wandered around Bar Harbor for a bit after it was time for them to go do baby bed time. I didn’t spend any time in Bar Harbor my last stop in Acadia, so it was fun to window shop and pop in here and there. Watched a little of the baseball game at Atlantic Brewing, where I eavesdropped on other tourists comparing hikes, and the employees reusing the same banter with each new batch of customers.

The next day I got to hang out with birthday boy Ben, Rachel and Barrett for the day with great coffee and bagel sandwiches, a hike around Eagle Lake with a chilly picnic lunch, a drive up Cadillac Mountain (which was so windy one lady struggled to close her car door, and the wind scared the baby so it was a brief visit), and a visit to Thunder Hole (which was more active than last time I was there). Watched some Nats along with adorable Barrett cheers, read some Caillou, had great truffle cheese and some wine, had dinner, and was gifted the chance to shower. Thanks Ben and Rachel!

Got one last Acadia hike in the following day, which was up the Dorr Mountain ladder path and down the south face trail and back along the Kane path along the Tarn, which gave some amazing views of autumn colors by the water, some beaver dams, marsh, and just a gorgeous experience.

After Acadia, I went south and did a swing through Deer Isle where I caught Stonington at sunset which was just amazing, but the town itself didn’t seem too lively when I arrived and I was eager to get where I was going to sleep further south, so onward it was. This little visit was inspired by 3 things equally: 1) my friend Lee mentioned that Stonington was lovely, 2) Steinbeck went on about it as a special place in Travels with Charley which I’d just finished and had fresh in my mind, and 3) it was another place listed as possible inspiration for the vibe of Cabot Cove on Murder, She Wrote. My mind is a bizarre place sometimes.

My destination for the night and next day was Freeport, home of L.L. Bean and a huge outlet mall. While here, I did do some shopping (and later returning of 1 of the 2 items as I talked myself out of spending money I don’t have and needing to pack more stuff). The flagship Bean store being open 24/7 is a godsend for odd hour bathrooms. I may have gone to a McDonald’s to use their wifi mainly because it’s housed in an old house (think roadside attraction junior). While here I also spent a few hours in the beautiful weather at the Maine Beer Co. taproom doing some writing, reading, and having weird deja vu flashbacks realizing that I’d been here before a few years ago on a previous trip but didn’t put it together because they’ve expanded so much the tiny space we sat and played games in is now engulfed and is the event space. Plus the guy who works there gave me a free round of samples while chatting about my trip. Win!

After Freeport, off to South Portland where I made my 3rd trip stop at delicious Scratch Baking, went to a small lighthouse park with views of downtown and a memorial and exhibit about Portland’s WWII ship building, but cold, intense wind drove me away. Instead found a lovely park with a trail going around a few ponds so I gobbled yummy breakfast near some ducks while enjoying the walk. Later on I visited my friend Michelle who used to work at the school I did, and got to see the unique community based school she’s now with. Here I witnessed kids meditating, sharing aspects of their diverse family backgrounds, and embracing the ‘radical love’ on which the school is based. What a fun experience! Spent the rest of the day eating and drinking in the city. Yum.

My last day in Maine (at least for now) I got to visit a totally different program in which upper elementary-high schoolers visit a campus for several days to experience outdoor education. I remember doing this in 6th grade but in a different kind of setting. This program, which a cousin kindly coordinated for me, was great to see in action. One of the goals of my trip is to see what inspires me and the option of working with learners outside a traditional classroom and with other ages is an option. Comparing the types of learning, activities and connections the different ages make is a good reminder and a great organization to visit.

After my school visit, the remainder of the day was spent tracking down some roadside attractions on my route to New Hampshire. The world’s largest telephone! Babe the blue ox and Paul Bunyan (another one)! Mile markers to the international sounding towns of Maine (surrounded by Sasquatch and other cool sculptures)! Another covered bridge! What a day. What a state.

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