Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 2: Powered by Pork

When in doubt, and when facing the glorious but strenuous climbs through Acadia National Park, always . . . always . . . finish your slow-cooked pig.

Day 2: Mt. Desert to Ellsworth's Patton Pond, via Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.

Another 50 miles today! 49.5 to be technical. We're now sitting in front of a fire at our hard-fought campsite, which finally appeared like a mirage about 10 miles outside of Ellsworth, almost all uphill. Painful, frustrating, and a little bit scary with the Route 1 traffic whizzing by. Advantage: trucks.

But we persevered.

Tonight's campground, Patton Pond, is a little more Beverly Hillbillies than last night. It's on a chucked-up gravel path nearly a mile from the main road, with signs posted in the shape of cartoon squirrels that read, "Patton Pond: The Good Life!" or "Keep Going: You're Almost There!" An Elvis impersonator ("the Elvis Guy") is scheduled at the lodge at 8pm. He's following an ice-cream social that will bring all the families out of their RVs to grab a chocolate sundae.

After our long trek and thwarted attempt to find a store that sold wine, I walked over to one of the RVs to see if I could buy a beer or two from their summer stash (most of the RV folks at these sites are "seasonals": they park their rigs for the duration of the summer and arrive heavily appointed). No beer, they said, but they handed me two individual bottles of tiny wine and two more of Smirnoff Ice and refused to take a penny. Good things will come to you for this, I said. They were our sweethearts of the campground.
Of course this might have been some kind of cosmic payback for John's good deed of earlier today, fixing the chain of a smart, charming retired couple from Michigan who we met at the top of the carriage roads of Acadia (car-free gravel roads created when the park was the Rockefeller family's personal playground). This lovely husband and wife had bought brand new bikes for the trip, but one of the first hills chewed up the chain of their gleaming Giant hybrid. John was able to break out his tools and get them back on their way. A good thing, too, because the paths were magnificent--all tree and brook and wildflower, sweet songbirds and wily chipmunks.

If I could transplant one small piece of Maine to Chicago, or one small aspect of this trip to every future vacation of my life, it'd be those gorgeous views, those breathlessly triumphant climbs, as we flanked the perimeter of Acadia's Eagle Lake. I've probably never seen a place so still.

We picnicked most of today, which kept our costs low. Bar Harbor, for all its tourist schlock, has a thriving grocery co-op, where the young son of one the cashiers was promoting an innovative free-water operation. He passed us a secret note with the words "Water: free!" written on it, then showed us the paper cups and plastic pitcher he'd set up on the side of the building. When we told him we had plenty of water and he should save his for the truly thirsty, he asked us to pass the note around to our friends so they'd know about this special offer. Umm, ok, we started to say, realizing the truth would be much more complicated, but he got distracted by some neighbors walking by and abandoned his post to follow them down the street.

We loaded up on Thai noodles, local greens, and fresh bread. Our nearly perfect lunch was taken at a small shelter at the entrance to Folly Farm, a family operation advertising strawberries and spring peas. We sat on the steps and looked out over the wide expanse of buttercups and honeysuckle. At least two cyclists rode by along Rt. 1. One grinned from ear to ear and the other, toting a kid carrier, gave us the kind of thumbs up that said, "Gosh I wish I'd thought of that" or "I'll be back tomorrow with a picnic of my own."

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