Mainely Acadia

It’s a hump and a half to set up camp. A quarter ton of bedroom, living room, kitchen and bath come out of the truck to be assembled on site; staked for wind and shielded for rain. It’s a double hump to break down but it’s a formula where the puzzle pieces fit one way, and one way only. We each have our own jobs and share those that require four hands.

Not a Sure Stay but it’ll do.

A hotel, on the other hand, is a suitcase and a credit card, or 16,000 soon to expire American Airlines points, which will get you one night in a former Econolodge, recently remodeled into a SureStay by Best Western. Boss felt at home in a parking lot full of bucket trucks and diesel rigs where SureStay has cornered the market on budget accommodations for the working man trimming trees and laying asphalt in Maine’s one season of infrastructure bill execution. It’s also prime real estate for us long haul overlanders who want a clean room and well-lit, camera-monitored parking close to the highway.

A fire ring and a tent pad round out the site amenities at a hidden state park on the edge of Acadia.

Watching Adriana become an 11 day, $250k champion on Jeopardy, we gave thanks for a hot shower and king bed. In the morning, Eric used a plastic wrapped fork to pluck a Belgian waffle stuck in the we-don’t-have-this-at- home waffle rotisserie, while Sheri zapped a pre-cooked cheese omelette for 45 seconds the microwave. He didn’t take her advice and make an egg ‘n waffle sandwich dipped in a cup of syrup, but he did remember to pick up 2 oatmeal packets and a banana for later. With the big screen on the wall pumping the CBS Morning Team into the lobby at too high a volume, Eric wondered if perhaps the “budget lodging complimentary breakfast” had surpassed McDonalds as the most American budget dining experience.

Lobsters Rule in Maine.

The SureStay was a sure thing on a 700 mile day that crossed 5 major metropolitan areas. The transition to hump and a half went smoothly in Lamoine State Park, a no frills hidden campground with 4 days of walk up availability, perched on the coast and at the gateway to Acadia National Park. After pitching camp, Eric briefly lamented not making Acadia reservations 6 months in advance but six months ago we were readying for Big Bend, deep in the art of Texas, with no thought of summer. By the time it became apparent we would be passing through Maine, Acadia had the No Vacancy sign out.

Maine’s Crown Jewel needs a week to do it justice. We had to settle for a drive-by.

Lamoine is just 20 miles outside the NP, but all Maine woods with no Bar Harbor charm. Here, campsites are cut into thick forest, with just enough clearance to let the sun shine down on strategically positioned solar panels at times. The sound of wind whooshes through the trees while the ocean laps the rocky beach. Acadia NP, situated on Mount Desert Island, is visible across the water in the distance. Sites are far enough apart that you can’t really see your neighbors but you do get a peek-a-boo view of the coast. Like Wayfarers Campground on the banks of Flathead Lake outside of Glacier NP, or Eagle Creek Campground outside of Yellowstone NP, there are still hidden gems of parks with walk-up availability if you can eschew a utility hook-up. Shhh, just keep it between us overlanders.

I bet no one asked the lobsters to weigh in.

We don’t really have time to give Acadia NP the attention it deserves. The crown jewel of the U.S. North Atlantic coast, Acadia encompasses the enormous Mount Desert Island with highlights separated by town and water, slow ferries, and without bridges, so navigating takes time. The Hull Visitor Center was busy on a beautiful Friday, but not busy enough that we couldn’t walk up to the pay counter and get our new in 2024, free America The Beautiful Pass for active, retired, reserve and military veterans. Thank you, Department of the Interior!

Precious summer sun now, lots of rain later.

The 27 mile park loop promised an overview of the park with landmark hikes and connection to the Cadillac Mountain driving trail. The loop moved in and out of the park through cute Maine neighborhoods while parking lots overflowed with hikers and Cadillac Mountain required reservations that we didn’t have. As we wandered our way around, we started to hate on the crowds but the truth is, we were exhausted. It’s not Acadia’s fault that we’d logged a massive amount of miles and activities in the 17 days since we had left Florida. We have to unpack the fact that we are packers. We pack in as much as we can for fear of missing out. Acadia cannot be experienced in a day. The former RV version of us with two week reservations obtained 11 months in advance landed on Zion in 2018 and loved it. Acadia has that vibe.

Why is a Russian Mig-21 parked outside Acadia? Because this is Maine and we will do what we want.

Once we calmed down and forgave the people and processes in our way, Karma opened the very first parking spot in the lot at Sand Beach & the Beehive. As we made sandwiches on the tailgate and lunched by the sea, we decided people watching is our sport. Boys in matching lobster suits throwing sand at each other, women insta-posing on rocks, guys bodysurfing in 50 degree waves. Mom and daughter having a fight, Boston family scaling, slipping and scraping knees on wet boulders, fanny packs becoming the boob purse. We’re not sure about that trend. We decided we love our chairs in a bag, being able to make lunch out of a rolling refrigerator and watching humanity bask in their National Park experience.

Sand Beach in Acadia NP.

Sometime later that afternoon back at Lamoine, a strong cold breeze came in on a frontal change bringing a soaking rain all evening. The tent-friendly campground was the perfect place to throw some practice pitches before taking the mound in Newfoundland. While cinderbrick-like in appearance, the showers and restrooms have hot(ish) running water so it was still a JV practice at stayin’ alive in a cold rainy forest. The lack of water and electric at the sites kept the big rigs away. With the wind panels on the Clam creating a comfortable, dry(ish), and insect free living room, Sheri opened a book for the first time in weeks. A local screamed directions at his wife as she wedged the tow vehicle next to the 24 feet camper trailer next to the other giant truck next to the fishing boat into their small camp site adjacent to us. With their profanity laced thick Maine accent punctuating the parking commands, it was Better than Netflix!

If his Maine accent didn’t give it away, the license plate did. He’s a year-rounder and no tourist like us.

Mainely Acadia