When the temperatures recently climbed towards triple digits, Franklin did what patricians have often done – head to Maine. All the way north to Acadia National Park. Just like the Rockerfellers, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Morgans, DuPonts, Fords, had done.
Franklin had heard his dads talk about Angel Willy and Angel Morgan going there in the summer and he was eager to check it out. This vacation was a family affair as our nieces, along with their dog, Loki, were joining us on the six-hour trek.
We arrived at Smuggler’s Den Campgrounds before dusk and just before the rain began – sprinkles at first. Immediately, Franklin and his cousin, Loki, raced around the vast open spaces bordering the forest. Our nieces helped their old uncles (us) set up the tent. It’s still shocking to me that I’m now sixty-five. But I digress as I often do. We were all exhausted and a bit cranky after the long drive. The prediction of light rain and some thunderstorms throughout the night, worried us. No one wanted to cook that first meal. For dinner my brother’s family had pizza, we had soup. Food is a good healer of emotions.
There wasn’t much room in the tent for two air mattresses and a large golden retriever, but Franklin found a spot at the entrance to the tent and settled down. Even though I wasn’t too thrilled at the lack of room for him, things seemed to work. That is until the first bolt of lightning lit up the sky; the first boom of thunder echoed down the valley; the first deluge of rain pelted the roof of the tent.
Surprisingly, Franklin didn’t seem too upset by the inclement weather. But after an hour of this, I’m the one who was uncomfortable with the set up. “Franklin, come on up!” I patted the bed. This is one command Franklin obeyed immediately. It was tight quarters on my blow-up mattress, but knowing Franklin was safe and dry was more important. With him next to me, I could stop worrying about him. Throughout the night the wind howled and the tent shook. It was difficult to sleep. Both James and I thought the tent might rip apart or become too wet. We were afraid we might have to escape to the car.
We awoke the next morning to blue skies and a sense of relief that we had all survived a night of storms, unscathed. My brother scrambled some eggs and cheese for our first communal meal. While we went about unpacking and setting up our camp. This was our third time on a camping trip together. The first was in New Hampshire with Young Morgan, Young Casey, with MJ on her way. (Not yet born.) The second trip was five years ago in central Mass, with an older Morgan and now included Young Hannah. For that adventure we stayed in cabins. These family outings brought us closer together. It made us realize that we wanted to be with them year round. Not just for a few brief weeks on summer vacation.
We’re a family of bookworms, so after the breakfast dishes were cleaned and put away, we all grabbed a chair and a book and found a comfortable place to read for a while. In the afternoon, we took a casual walk on the trail leading around Echo Lake.
Franklin was thrilled about dinner on the grill that night where he got real beef burgers. James and I had plant-based, “Impossible Burgers.” While the dinner plates were cleared and cleaned, Steve got a campfire going. It was time for dessert. We had to be especially careful to keep our furry boy far away from the open flame and any cinders. We didn’t want any singed-fur on our hands. To avoid even a near miss, I grabbed the leash and kept him by my side.
Once it was dark, we all collected long thin branches and it was time for s’mores. Most of us had traditional ones with chocolate. But Courtney doesn’t eat chocolate, so she brings peanut butter, which she generously shared with Franklin. I don’t normally partake of this kind of treat. (James just shouted, “Oh sure!”) It’s only when we’re with our nieces that it happens. It’s quite delicious and decadent. Holding a marshmallow on a stick above the flame is fun watching it melt. Everyone believes they know the right amount of time to heat the marshmallow. Mr. Franklin devoured his peanut butter s’more which I made for him.
There was another special surprise that night – fireflies. Shimmering magically around the tent. What a delight. I hadn’t seen fireflies since at my parents’ place on Cape Cod ten years earlier.
As I stated earlier, the tent we had wasn’t big enough for the three of us. We decided to give one of the air mattresses to Franklin right from the get-go. James and I would share the other one. They’re pretty wide. As we settled in, Franklin started to bark. At first, I feared it was an animal outside our tent. Oh my God, I thought, what food did we leave out?! But then I saw flashlights and realized other campers were walking by chatting away. So much for quiet hour.
Day three started unexpectedly when we opened the zipper of the tent and Franklin darted out to visit our neighbors next to us. Luckily, their dogs were still in their kennels in their SUV and James got to Franklin before there was too much commotion. We have no idea what got into Franklin, perhaps he heard something that we didn’t. But as they say, boys will be boys. Even the best-behaved kids and dogs get into mischief on occasion. We made sure it didn’t happen again.
Acadia Park, is the eastern-most point in the United States, which means it’s the earliest sunrise. There’s a tradition for park-goers to climb Cadillac Mountain, where during the winter months, it is the first place to see the sunrise. Don’t ask me to explain the “earliest place” for the summer months, click the link and you can read it. https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-environment/where-in-the-united-states-does-the-sun-shine-first/
My brother’s family decided to hike the 1526 feet to the top of the mountain. Driving up requires reservations which they didn’t have. Yes, it’s that busy there. It was a warm day and James and I decided to forgo this activity. We weren’t sure how Franklin would handle the climb in the heat. I’d been to the top with my parents and Angel Willy back in the 90s and it is dramatic. James and I drove to the top with Angel Morgan in 2018 but it was fogged in.
Instead, we chose to revisit Seawall Campground, in the southwest, less crowded section of the park. We had stayed there on our trip to Maine with Morgan. The picnic area is right down by the rock-covered sea-level beach. Here’s a description from their website: Powerful ocean storms created a massive seawall. As waves break, they carry rocks from the base of the beach and carry them up to shore. As the tides come in and out, heavier stones get piled at the top and smaller, lighter stones remain down the slope.
Don’t miss the pictures of Franklin and his dads. This quieter part of the park is definitely worth a visit. And a second one, as in our case.
That night for dinner James prepared fish tacos over the flame for everyone. The girls were surprised that you could have tacos on a camping trip, but everyone gobbled their food down. Hannah especially loved her meal.
We were all too tired to stay up for more s’mores, but we did take time to lay in the grass in the field and stargaze. It takes a few moments to adjust to the darkness. But if you lay still the stars come to life. Clearly, the Big Dipper is “the Big Dipper” and can’t be missed. To our left was the Milky Way, in all its softer glory. Here, in Acadia National Park, the Milky Way shines bright in the largest expanse of naturally dark sky east of the Mississippi River. Neither Franklin, nor Loki were as enthused with stargazing as their humans were and started wrestling in the grass. They were even less impressed when we saw the International Space Station pass by.
Both James and I are advocates for protecting the night sky. We were pleased when we read about the Acadia Night Sky Festival, a four-day celebration in late September each year that promotes the protection and enjoyment of the star-filled night skies of Acadia National Park.
The threat of severe evening-hour thunderstorms returned on Thursday. Our spirits sank. The last thing we wanted to go through again was another rough night of sleep, before a long drive. It would be hard to say good-bye. As difficult of a decision that it was, we decided we had to head home after breakfast.