Editor's note: Tim and Susan Viall will cover 9,000 miles in 69 days as they travel from California to Nova Scotia, Canada, via the Trans-Canada Highway and return through the United States' East Coast, Midwest and historic Route 66.
After spending a week in the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we re-entered the United States at Calais, Maine. A friendly Border Patrol officer marveled at the thought of our long trip in such a small teardrop trailer.
The northern reaches of Maine look to be suffering hard times; there are many shuttered businesses and more than a few once formidable but now abandoned Victorian homes. An Acadian couple at Quoddy Head State Park notes that the forest products industry is in steep decline, with once a dozen robust wood pulp mills now two — reflecting the steady decline of paper used in the publishing industry.
Quoddy Head State Park is home to the iconic West Quoddy Head Lighthouse; the first light in 1808 was the eastern-most lighthouse in the continental United States. It is also also on the easternmost point of land in the country. The red and white striped light was constructed in 1858 and still shines brightly through its original third-order Fresnell lens, serviced by the U.S. Coast Guard.
After a three-hour drive, we turn south on Highway 3 and crossed the short bridge to Mount Desert Island. through the ritzy Bar Harbor area and make our home for the next three nights in Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park. Acadia is celebrating its hundredth anniversary, the first national park established east of the Mississippi River.
We toured the park's Loop Road, settled into our campground and reserved space on the next day's 2½-hour cruise (just $29.95, $2 off for seniors) out of nearby Northeast Harbor on the Sea Princess. Cruise guide Patrick Clark, Acadia Park Ranger, pointed out the Bear Island Lighthouse, circa 1832 and Sutton Island, with a 10-foot tall Osprey nest and a fledgling soon to depart the nest proudly showing off.
We soon docked at Little Cranberry Island, where Clark led a short walk past working lobsterman to the Islesford Historical Museum and gave us time to stroll the streets of this beautiful but remote Atlantic Island.
Clark noted how the French and Indian War, won by Britain in 1763, finally settled ownership and Maine was added to the Massachusetts Colony. The Stanwoods settled on Cranberry Island in 1762 and slowly colonists established fishing, quarrying and lumbering livelihoods on Mount Desert Island.
Back on the boat, Clark noted that Maine licenses 12,000 lobsterman and the industry is working to slowly reduce their numbers to guarantee the industry's future sustainability. By license, each can own 800 traps; most work 200 to 400 traps. Largest lobster ever caught was 44 lbs. and well over 100 years old. Today, large lobsters and females with eggs are returned to the sea.
We sailed up Somes Sound, the only true fiord on the east coast. Carved by glaciers, its towering cliffs are home to rare peregrine falcons.
Acadia makes up about half of Mount Desert Island, the rest privately owned including charming harbors such as Bar, Northeast, Southwest and Bass Harbor. It was the first national park created by donations of private land from many individuals, notable in the way the park's boundaries interweave with local communities.
The park itself has been carved out of Ellsworth shist (sedimentary rock, 500 million years old), newer Cadillac Mountain granite, then shaped by glacial action and eroded by endless storms and the sea. The park contains three campgrounds (reservations recommended), a paved loop road intersected by 47 miles of historic carriage gravel roads (open to foot, bike and horseback travel), a free shuttle-bus system, towering Cadillac Mountain for dramatic views up and down the Maine coast and occasional foggy mornings.
Bar Harbor, ("Bahaba" in the vernacular of locals) boasts a bustling waterfront, a marvelous shore walk past palatial cottages, and stunning views, shops and restaurants (recommended: quaint Geddy's Restaurant offers a complete $19.95 lobster dinner before 6 p.m.). The next night, we bought two pounds of cherrystone clams from a local vendor, Susan steamed them in white wine, lemon juice and garlic, served over linguine it made for a gourmet campground meal.
Bar Harbor is exceptional for strolling and people-watching. Its harbor offers views of working lobstermen, impressive yachts, pleasure boats, ferries coming and going and huge cruise ships like the Aria disgorging hundreds of passengers from Italy. The downtown is a beehive of activity, with hundreds of locals and tourists strolling shops, restaurants and night-spots.
For more information: Acadia National Park, nps.gov/acad; Bar Harbor, Maine, barharborinfo.com.
— To reach Tim Viall, firstname.lastname@example.org; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world.