The words I dreaded hearing came less than one week into our yearlong journey. “I don’t want to go around the world," Stefan proclaimed, just hours after arriving on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, aka Acadia National Park. Then, just in time to catch my heart before it splattered to the ground, came “I want to stay right here!” With much relief, I told him that this would be the first of probably many times he would feel this way over the next year, and this was just the second of over 60 stops.
In retrospect, my eight-year-old seemed pretty intuitive. There’s a unique vibe that permeates this place, and it attracts Rockefellers and backpackers alike. With so much to offer besides its famous crustaceans—although there is a really cool lobster hatchery at the Bar Harbor Oceanarium—who could blame Stefan for not wanting to leave? In fact, it didn’t take us long to pull our first improv of the trip by adding a fifth night to our Acadia cottage rental in Southwest Harbor, at the expense of forgoing Montreal.
Being an avid hiker, biker, and photographer, I knew that I would feel right at home here and that Carol would love its scenic coastline, marine life, and fauna. But I wondered about the kids: Would they appreciate Acadia and all its splendor? This would be put to the test when we rented bikes and headed out to pedal a ten-mile loop around picturesque Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond. Although they were pretty wiped out when we finished up, the boys really enjoyed stopping along the way to skip rocks and look for tadpoles at the water’s edge. We went to Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the eastern seaboard, for its breathtaking views, and then hiked along Gorham Mountain and the Otter Cliffs. The boys found great pleasure in traversing the granite boulders and picking wild blueberries. So even though an eight-year-old and an 11-year-old boy may not appreciate beautiful sunsets or panoramic vistas quite the same way we adults do, they still manage to take complete advantage of nature. For Tyler in particular, however, the "Maine" attraction came of the man-made variety—lighthouses!
Having been bypassed by modern technology and GPS, there is still something worthwhile in these historical relics that symbolize strength and pride, and Tyler appreciates it in the same way other boys are fascinated with trains and planes. I’ve gotta admit that the whole family now shares our son’s interest, and we set out on a three-hour lighthouse tour from Bar Harbor. We left in 85-degree bright sunshine, but after a few hours at sea, we ended up in a pretty thick, bone-chilling fog just off the coast. Although this may have provided the points of interest with a romantic and authentic visual effect, it did prevent us from seeing all the lighthouses usually included on the tour and left us scrambling for hot chocolate. The guide’s artful storytelling, however, managed to make the experience enjoyable and the trip offered us the opportunity to see some pretty incredible homes dotted along the coastline.
Before leaving the island for Quebec City, we took one last hike up Beech Mountain for yet another panoramic view and the chance to stretch out before a seven-hour car ride. As usual, the boys found an activity that could have left them engrossed for hours, forcing us to utter those other dreaded words. “Come on boys, we gotta go!"
Photo: Rainer Jenss