It could’ve been a disaster, a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons. A trip to the northeast corner of the United States at the end of October could’ve been all about cold rain (or snow!), gray skies, closed shops and restaurants, and desolate landscapes.
But, through a combination of decent planning and excellent fortune, our trip to Maine turned out to be memorable for all the right reasons.
To me, the most important part of planning is to mine own self be true. We know ourselves well enough to know that crowds (too much people!) and shopping and go-go-go aren’t fun for us. So we planned a trip that matched our temperaments.
We went to Acadia National Park in Maine. The park, mostly situated on Mount Desert Island, is 47,000 acres of granite, mountains, pines and birches, and crashing waves. The park is wild and lovely, with scenic roads to drive but also trails and paths and carriage roads to walk. (You can click on any photo to savor the details!)
The island shore is mostly rocky—I love a rocky shore better than most anything.
And Acadia also provides a new candidate for world’s most perfect mountain.
Cadillac Mountain isn’t that high but it is the tallest mountain within 25 miles of the ocean anywhere in the eastern US. It has a bare peak, with views all around. A winding, thrill-inducing road means one can drive up the mountain but a number of trails also allow climbing.
One of Cadillac Mountain’s claims to fame is that it is the first spot in the US to be touched by the rising sun, and every morning throngs of people gather to watch that sunrise. With our good planning, we had every intention of being on the top of Cadillac for the signature moment but . . . planning isn’t everything. More on this in a moment.
When it comes to accommodations, my husband and I tend to be seat-of-the-pants travelers, trusting that we can find a place to sleep when we find an area that we like well enough to stay. This time we actually planned a little, though, and found ourselves a cottage to rent right on the ocean’s shore. We watched the tide go in and out, we saw the mist from the cold air drift over the warm water, and, each morning, I watched the full moon set, plop, into the water.
That full moon was part of our good fortune. We had no idea! The first night we were in Maine, we drove to the town of Bar Harbor for dinner. We came over a hill and saw the enormous almost-full moon rising over the ocean. We gasped out loud!
And therein changed our plans for watching sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. The full moon was the next night and, instead of going up for sunrise, we drove that twisty, turny road at dusk to watch the sun set on one side of the mountain. Then we turned our backs on the last bit of light from the sun, to see the pink cuticle of the moon beginning to rise on the other.
Beyond the magic of a full moon over the sea at twilight, we were lucky in other ways. We liked that the touristy town of Bar Harbor was less overrun with people than it is most of the year but it hadn’t occurred to us that this would also mean that most of the restaurants we had targeted wouldn’t be open. MUCH of the area simply closes for the winter! So, we counted ourselves lucky that we still managed to eat reasonably well.
The best of our luck came as a gift from Mother Nature, though. Except for one wicked day, we experienced the best that late autumn could offer. The days started with a crispness that only added to the beauty and drama of the setting and stayed clear and sunny throughout. Many of the trees still had their cloaks of radiant leaves, leaves that glowed against the foil of dark fir trees all around. The ocean and sky burned blue and dazzled. The hot, red foliage of the blueberry bushes contrasted with the cool gray of granite.
Is there a prettier place than the coast of Maine?
I guess you can see, we were pretty pleased with ourselves! We had the good sense to plan to go to a place we could love and the good fortune to find it at its most lovable when we got there!