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Living for Maine

>> Friday, March 5, 2010

In the drear days of early March, I typically have a hard time dealing with the wintertime blues.  It's still snowy, but it's largely turned into ugly icy snert and is no longer a pretty pillowy whiteness.  The days are getting longer, but it's still dark when I get home.  Skies, at least in Syracuse, are gray, gray, gray.  And I'm mighty sick of being cold.

So what's the perfect remedy?  Planning one's summer vacation, of course! 

I love to travel, but have a very limited vacation budget.  Whatever we squirrel away for vacation budget always seems to get spent on, say, car repairs instead.  And really, most of the time I'm tired of chaos and people and electronic things that buzz and ding, so the idea of traveling to a foreign city or popular travel destination doesn't seem that relaxing to me anyway.

Last summer my husband and I took the first (yes, first) vacation we've ever taken together, with just the two of us and no other family members.  Up until last summer, the biggest trip we'd taken without family was one happy weekend in Toronto that was sponsored by my father quite a number of years ago, and another long weekend autumn camping trip that involved torrential rain and wind and nearly freezing to death. 

My husband and I?  Yeah.  We've been together for more than 10 years now.  No, we never had a honeymoon.  That's what happens when you get married as a broke law student and graduate with zillions of dollars in student loans and then opt for a job in Upstate New York instead of a big city where the pay is high enough to pay off those loans.  Oh well.  I wouldn't trade Syracuse for New York City for anything - certainly not for 5-star resort vacations.

My entire goal in planning our vacation last year was to go somewhere where we would not have any kind of cell phone signal.  Oh, and the dogs had to come too.  I went to college in Maine and love the rugged Maine coast, so ultimately opted for a quiet camping vacation in Downeast Maine (a.k.a. as far north and east as you can go in the U.S.), at Cobscook Bay State Park.

It was a blissful vacation.  We were only there for about 6 days, which was not long enough, but was magnificent nonetheless. 

On the surface, it's hard to understand why the trip was so wonderful.  We broke up our drive into two parts on the way there, since it's an 11 hour drive.  The first night we set up the tent in a campground near Freeport, Maine in pouring rain and sucking mosquitoes.  All my exposed flesh, which was thankfully just my face and hands, was completely covered in bites by the time we got in the tent.  We then slept - quite literally - in a puddle.  My old cheap tent that I had bought when I was in high school had called it quits in spectacular fashion.  The next morning we completely blew our vacation budget and purchased a new tent at L.L. Bean before continuing on our way north.

The weather stunk for most of the trip.  It was cool, rained a whole lot, and we endured an impressive Nor'easter on the second or third day.  Thankfully, the new L.L. Bean tent withstood the hurricane-force winds and torrential downpours with nary a drop inside.  Bless L.L. Bean!

The mosquitoes were truly awful.  Last summer it rained the entire month before our trip in Maine - every single day.  Our first evening in Cobscook Bay at dusk, I heard an ominous whine coming from the woods and told my husband we had about 5 minutes to get into the tent or be borne aloft by the mosquitoes.  He said no, there was no way on earth that weird whine was coming from mosquitoes.  Ha!  Five minutes later I laughed uproariously from behind the screen windows of the tent while my spouse swatted and danced his way around the site trying to brush his teeth.  I had met Maine mosquitoes before.

But honestly, weather and skeeters didn't really matter at all.  They just added a little color.

(Pardon the quality of these photos - they were taken with a very old crummy digital point and shoot.)

Our camp site was down a 1/8 mile path through the woods and over the bridge.

We couldn't see anyone from our site except for wildlife.  Our view:

We could sit on our little point of land for hours if we chose, and just watch the 20-some-odd foot tide changes.  Cobscook Bay is part of the Bay of Fundy, known for its huge tide changes.  This is the same spot at low tide and high tide:

We explored nearby parks, including Campobello Island where FDR spent many happy vacations, and the Quoddy Head State Park with its amazing bogs and tide pools.

The local villages were quaint, lovely and friendly, and filled with artists.

The best part, though, was that we did not have to see other humans unless we wanted to.  We spent time running with the dogs through the woods, and discovered that trail running is way more fun that other kinds of running.

Many of the trails were rugged and rocky, and completely enticing.  Once we started down one we had to keep going to see where it led.  We hiked until exhausted and starving, and then ate amazing seafood bought fresh from the docks. 

The dogs thought they had discovered Paradise.  See?  Lucy just hated it - can't you tell? 

I slept very well the whole time.  My husband slept less well because he - I make no exaggeration here - slept with both dogs inside his sleeping bag with him.  They had a nice comfy bed next to him in the tent, but would have none of it.  I'd wake up in the morning and laugh at Lucy sleeping with only her head showing, resting on my husband's neck, and Simon's tail peeking out next to his head.  Apparently they knew better than to try to crawl in with me.  I'd have plunked them right back on their own comfy bed in a heartbeat.

All we've been able to talk about since is going back to Maine.  We just did not get enough.  There were tons more trails we didn't get the chance to hike, and want to experience it all again anyhow.  So I just booked 9 nights in Cobscook Bay State Park for mid-July.  This time I shall take a better camera, better trail running shoes, and my Conte pencils and drawing paper aplenty.  I shall also spend some time thinking creatively about how to provide my poor long-suffering spouse with a sleeping bag that will better fit a full grown human and two lumpy ridiculous Basset hounds.

The countdown is on:  19 weeks to go.


Woodswalker March 6, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

Ooh, your campsite looks like Paradise! Even complete with dogs. No wonder you want to go back.

Carolyn H March 8, 2010 at 12:04 PM  

i think your photos are pretty darned good, especially for a point-and-shoot camera. i'm not at all surprised you want to go back. Funny, but my dogs want in the sleeping bag, too. when we go camping. one usually makes it. the other "settles" for sleeping on top of me.

Carolyn h

Andrew Mooers March 28, 2010 at 11:22 PM  

You live in the right state. Maine has lots of low cost...just the gas and food type vacation options right in our own backhyards!

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