Camping in Acadia

I went camping with Di Yin in Acadia National Park in Maine for three days (two nights) over labor day weekend (Friday, August 29, 2008 through Sunday, August 31). It'd been a year and a half since the last time I went camping and I was anxious to go again.

Most things I want to say about this trip are in this blog entry. The pictures and videos I took add color to the commentary but should not be treated as a primary reference. Ditto with Di Yin's pictures. Note: she took many more pictures than I did, and many are substantially better. View them first. :)

Camping & Campsite
We were a tad worried as we drove to Acadia on Friday afternoon. It was labor day weekend, and all the campsites that allowed prior reservations were reserved. If Acadia was anything like Yosemite, then arriving on a Friday afternoon would be too late to get any first-come-first-served campsite.

We needn't have worried. Fewer than half the campsites at the campground we selected, Seawall Campground, were taken. We had our pick. Incidentally, despite the name, the water was a good half a mile away. We were camping in the woods.

I was disappointed to learn that the bathrooms, while being surprisingly clean for a campground bathroom, lacked showers. I'm sure I would hike/camp more if good showers were easily available.

As with all camping remote from cities, the stars were visible at night. However, we didn't see them from our tent: the first night, it was positioned wrong and only trees were visible; the second night, we moved the tent only to realize the fine mesh in the tent roof filtered out the stars.

As we soon learned, mosquitoes were out in force at the campground. Even with repellent and high-collared long-sleeve shirts, we both received many bites. Happily, the insects seemed to be localized near the campground and the trails by the seawall; the problem was much less severe the other places in the park where we went hiking.

We also learned neither of us was good at starting a fire. Our first night, we needed lots of advice and over an hour of patience to get one burning. The next night was a bit better. Di Yin is now good at making fires.

Our biggest mistake was forgetting to bring a camping lantern. We had a flashlight and made do, but a lantern would've been very handy.

Deciding what to bring and how to cook it is one of the most fun aspects of camping. On this trip, we made ham and cheese sandwiches on French bread for lunch, accompanied by plums or peaches. One breakfast, we grilled toast with cheese (and sometimes ham). For dinner, we went overboard. (We also ate dinner's leftovers at other meals.) The most complex item we made involved wrapping chopped sausage, potato, mushrooms, and tomato in aluminum foil and cooking them in the fire. But we also cooked many other things (all wrapped in aluminum foil) in the fire itself: onions (one sliced in half), corn on the cob (four ears), and portabella mushrooms (two). Finally, it can't be camping without smores, and I make some good ones. In fact, everything turned out well.

Getting There
On the way to Acadia, we drove past many forests. We stopped by a funky old car shop (with many cars decades older than me) and a roadside market, where I bought my parents blueberry jam made from Maine's tiny blueberries (in this case, grown on "Henson's farm"). As the first of a few funny coincidences on this trip, it turned out the owner's wife's brother lives in San Mateo.

We wondered if it would be obvious when we reached Acadia. It was: as we turned by Seawall, the road opened onto a majestic rock beach and water vista.

I imagine this section is rather boring if you don't look at the pictures at the same time.

The afternoon we arrived we hiked a short trail by Seawall. (I can't believe I didn't take any pictures there.) There, we met an older couple with a surprising number of commonalities with us. The husband was a Harvard-educated student of Chinese history. The wife was German or Polish (judging by the accent). They have a summer home nearby in Seal Harbor. Their son went to Stanford; he now lives in Chicago. The husband years ago thought about starting a factory in China, but his plans were foiled by the Sino-Japanese war. Later, he met the Chinese ambassador the U.S.--he's very proud of this--and tried out his Chinese, which he was told needs more study.

The next morning we stopped at a different place along Seawall before our main hike of the day. In the morning, Seawall lacked the afternoon's (low-tide) mosquitoes. Instead it had warm stones (!) and spiders.

We spent most of the day (five hours) hiking up and down and up and down around Acadia Mountain, St. Sauveur Mountain, and Valley Cove. A pretty, forested hike, it would contrast nicely with our seaside walking the following day. We almost missed one of the best views we had on the hike this day. It was behind us as we climbed; we only saw it because a young couple was there and asked us for a picture, thus making us turn around to see the background they wanted. Oddly, Mt. Acadia and Mt. St. Sauveur didn't have good views, but the hike between them (along the sound) did.

After hiking, Di Yin went wading in Echo Lake.

On our second day in Acadia, we drove Park Loop Road. Many of Acadia's best spots are along the road. We stopped near Sand Beach and hiked past Thunder Hole to Otter Cliffs and back, then waded by Sand Beach for a bit. Freakin' cold water! Later, we detoured to view Seal Harbor, which wasn't worth the trip. Finally, we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain for a windy, panoramic stroll around the summit.

We didn't get a chance to explore the carriage roads on the island (which where, incidentally, financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr.). They sound pretty. Next time.

Bar Harbor
First let me get out this out of the way: I like Bar Harbor (the largest town adjacent to Acadia). It's cute and interesting.

Now, some context regarding our visit to Acadia. Di Yin and I wanted to bring back some local beers. When at a market buying a second round of food for camping, we spotted some and almost bought them. A staff-person, however, kindly suggested that they're cheaper at the local liquor store. The second (and last) morning in Acadia, en route to hiking, we detoured to stop by the liquor store. It was closed. Since we didn't have time to return to the market then, we simply hoped (and expected) that when we spent the evening in Bar Harbor we'd be able to find someplace that sold alcohol.

That evening, we drove into Bar Harbor and found parking. Our spot happened to be two storefronts away from the Bar Harbor Brewing Company brewery. This was the beer we'd been eying. And not only that, they were having a free beer tasting at that moment!

We tried a bunch of beers, most quite good, as the brewer spoke, telling stories about how little room he has to brew and how quickly his beers sell out. I tasted four and liked the Thunderhole and Lighthouse the best. We bought an assortment as gifts.

After the tasting, we explored Bar Harbor. We spent a bunch of time in In The Woods, a wood shop whose products ranged from walking sticks and mini helicopters (those things you twirl and they fly up) to kitchen utensils and lots more. All good quality stuff. Also, we glanced at some real estate listings, noting that most houses included substantial lots. In addition, we spent a while gazing at the large ice cream selection at one local specialist. Finally, we ate a fairly good dinner (at Cafe This Way), had some ice cream, and began our trip to my parents and then Boston.

New England Vacation

I went to Massachusetts and Maine for an extended vacation (Thursday, August 28, to Sunday, September 7, 2008) over labor day weekend. I visited Di Yin and my parents. The focus of the trip was a three-day camping trip in Maine's Acadia national park, about which I'll write a separate post.

This post is more for my own benefit, to record for future reference what I did besides camping.

I arrived on Thursday night. Friday morning Di Yin and I drove up to Kittery (say hi to parents) and on to Acadia. We stayed there until Sunday. Sunday evening we returned to Kittery. On Monday we drove down to Boston. I stayed in Boston/Cambridge until Wednesday, then returned to Kittery. On Thursday, I drove down to Cambridge to pick up Di Yin and returned again to Kittery. We celebrated a birthday dinner (okay, it's not precisely the correct day) at a surprisingly, delightfully good prime rib joint. On Friday, Di Yin and I returned to Cambridge. On Sunday morning, bright and early, I flew back to California.

During my time in and around Kittery (Wednesday the 3rd to Friday the 5th), including my birthday dinner, I took these pictures and notes. Some pictures included my parents; I moved these into a separate collection (password protected).

I stayed in Boston/Cambridge on Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2nd, and Saturday the 6th. Whereas on Monday and Tuesday I didn't do anything worth reporting here, on Saturday I explored a bit of Boston and Cambridge.

In Boston, Di Yin and I explored the Boston Public Library. We systematically walked through the century-old building, seeing ornate rooms, marble staircases and tables, murals and paintings (some on the ceiling), and a fancy courtyard (where a couple was taking wedding photos). I spent time examining a special exhibit of WWI posters. The library also had an amazing exhibit of dioramas of scenes of famous painters as they painted famous scenes. The detail was striking. (I would go to the library just to see this, if it's still there in the Wiggin Gallery.) Also, we viewed an art exhibit by an artist who drew lots of birds and lots of waves. His pieces really showed the similarities in form (and, indirectly, meaning) between the two.

In Cambridge, we stopped by the neat Harvest Co-Op Market in Central Square. Although a small market, it was replete with unusual ingredients, many sold in bulk food bins, and rare foods--in short, the market where Cambridge gourmets shop.

I have some pictures and notes that record these events, especially the meals I ate, during those days in Boston and Cambridge.

Armenian Food Festival

On Sunday, September 21, 2008, I returned to San Francisco's Armenian Festival. I'd attended the previous year, partially inspired by my visit to an Armenian festival in Oakland in 2006.

The festival was like last year's festival--even its shabbiness remained constant.

I was sad to learn that, despite arriving by 1pm on a day that the festival was supposed to close around dinnertime, they were already out of kufta. Nevertheless, I managed to scrounge up some decent grub, as shown in these pictures.

While there, I also bought some dirt cheap Armenian pumpkin jam. (Ah, the joy of the last day of a festival!)

Glendi Ethnic Food Fair

On Saturday, September 20, 2008, after an uneventful morning at the San Mateo Farmers Markets (which I'm not going to bother blogging about), I headed north to Saint Seraphim Church in Santa Rosa for its Glendi Ethnic Food Fair. (Incidentally, why do Eastern European Orthodox churches always have food festivals and most other religious institutions do not?)

I felt a little guilty driving so far for a festival: by my calculation, I spent $20 on gas (plus a $5 bridge toll) and its correspondingly large carbon footprint. It, however, was a pleasant drive--because the day was clear and sunny, the views were nice, especially from the golden gate bridge.

The church is on the rural outskirts of Santa Rosa. The festival's parking lot, made of dried dirt scattered with hay, was across from a pasture with a sign: cattle for sale.

When I arrived, I joined a church tour already in progress. The church is under renovation: it is getting frescoes painted on the bare walls. The monk explained what would go where and showed us drafts of the frescoes. He also pointed out architectural facets. He went into such detail, I got bored and left to see what else there was.

Everything at the fair was either food or affiliated with the church. I spent much of the rest of the time eating, listening to music, reading a book I brought, and watching the dancers. Regarding eating, there were a variety of food booths: Russian, Macedonian, Eritrean, Greek (including gyros and kabobs), Middle Eastern, Balkan, and a huge (though ordinary) bakery indoors. The Balkan booth was staffed by cute old women who were probably people's grandmothers. The Eritrean booth was run by a family who thought about running a restaurant--they'd been repeatedly asked to by others--, but haven't and really prefer doing this festival every year. It's lower stress and lower expenses.

These photographs and videos display the entertainment and reveal what I ate at the festival.

Right before I left, I listened to some choral music in the church, though got bored after about twenty minutes and left for the long drive home.