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If you’ve ever seen the show “The Biggest Loser,” you have a little window into what my day was like yesterday. The show features overweight contestants who want to lose the most weight and win a monetary prize at the end of the competition. By way of entertainment for the viewing audience, a team of personal trainers do evil things to the participants to help them lose weight, pushing them to their physical limits to do more exercise in a day than these people have done in several years. The trainers run them up and down steps, accelerate tread mills, bark orders at them, and we, from the comfort of our sofas, chuckle at their suffering. In the privacy of a confessional and out of ear shot of the trainers, the contestants who want to lose weight, but are not enjoying the process, call the trainers a variety of names, all of them synonymous with “shepherd of the devil.”

This is essentially very similar to how I felt yesterday. Somehow I had the mistaken notion that a bike ride along the carriage ways in Acadia would be pleasant. I conjured up images of feet resting on pedals, coasting past the scenic lakes far below. I imagined a smile on my face. In reality, there was no coasting. No feet resting on pedals. What there was was a lot of huffing and puffing, panting, sighs, rests, changing gears, drifting ever so slowly to stops and leaning over handlebars whilst awaiting breath to return to lungs, and burning thighs. John D. Rockefeller was a genius. The man deserved his wealth. How anyone could construct a path that is uphill both ways defies imagination, but he did it. He may have also been a sadist in between those philanthropic impulses.

I fear my husband may be too (a sadist). Maybe he’s trying to return to his super secret former MI-5 or MI-7, or whatever it is, ability, or maybe he’s trying to cash in on a life insurance policy in my name. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the five hour bike ride, the burn and ache in my legs and occasional swooning feeling of dizziness, chest pains, and black spots. It was very beautiful and no one needs the exercise more than I. I’m just making sure to get a t-shirt that says, “Survivor of Stuart’s Vacation Bootcamp 2008.”

We finished the day watching a sunset through the most magnificent fog (the one time fog can be good) at the top of Cadillac Mountain. All suffering was forgotten as I creaked my way from the car to the rock top and we stood admiring the view together. I am so very lucky to be married to this wonderful man.

Today, it is raining (surprise, surprise), so it looks like the itinerary will be a slow one instead of the one “Bootcamp Stuart” planned, which was hiking up a rock face to the top of Cadillac Mountain. If, to make up for it, in the middle of shopping, he turns to me and barks, “GET DOWN AND GIVE ME TWENTY PRIVATE!” I swear I won’t be a bit surprised.

Here are some pictures from the bike ride, sunset, and the last couple of days of adventures.

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Fog is becoming a new “f” word for us. Each time we feel hopeful that we’ll have a day of sun, in comes the fog. It’s the only place I’ve been where the fog behaves in this bizarre manner. In most places that are subject to fog, the fog penetrates the morning sky and burns off by mid-morning or afternoon. Here, the fog is unpredictable and varies hour by hour. The morning may be sunny, but by noon, the island, or one part of the island is enshrouded in fog.

On this, our second attempt to hike to Sand Beach and continue to the Great Head Trail, once the fog rolled in, I thought, “What’s the point? We’ve done this hike once in the fog, why do it twice?” My husband had more faith, “Why don’t we sit down for a few minutes and see what happens?” So we did. And, out of nowhere, the wind shifted and blew away the fog, returning to us the gorgeous view of colorful cliffs against blue ocean.

What we learned was that fog does serve a purpose. I doubt we would have been nearly as appreciative of the view were it not such a rare gift given so whimsically. When the fog finally leaves and uncovers what was hidden in its grayness, it’s just like when the rainbow comes after the rain, a delicious treat that you want to savor while you have the chance. The fog reminds us of the gratitude we should feel every day for the beauty that surrounds us and the vision we have to see it. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, it is all a miracle. We are not only blessed to be a part of it, but we are changed by it. Maybe too briefly changed, because we forget too quickly, take for granted too easily. However, when we remember the gift, we are better for it, more peaceful and happier. Appreciating nature breeds gratitude, who we are at our best.

Here are some of the pictures from our perfect day.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. ~ Dolly Parton

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Today’s adventures summoned to mind all of the above quotes, but let me not get ahead of myself.

By the time we left the hotel, there was a break in the clouds. We greeted the blue skies and warming sunshine with cheer. At last, a chance for beautiful views and a pleasant hike! (Thank you to everyone who participated in our Sun Dance (and I apologize for writing the previous post before having at least one cup of coffee).

We stopped for a quick breakfast before setting off on a hike. I ordered a red snapper omelet, a combination I never considered making myself, but it was so good that it will become part of my breakfast repertoire. Paired with a homemade biscuit and sweet cinnamon butter, it was a delicious start to the day.

We arrived at the Acadia deciding to repeat our beach hike of the other day, since this time with blue skies, we hoped to have better photographs. The weather was just the perfect temperature, what the British might call “red hot.” (That was for my sweet mother-in-law’s benefit, a dear woman who actually keeps up with all my blogging.) Thinking we had all the time in the world to capture the scenery, we took our time meandering off the path, snapping photos at our whim.

Perhaps you have anticipated this next sentence. Twenty minutes into the hike, bright clear skies began ceding to fog, all encompassing, gray, depressing fog, rolling in faster than we could walk.

I’m being rushed out of the room, so I’ll for now, I’ll leave you with a cliff hanger: we learned that fog serves a purpose.

The adventures of Saturday and Sunday…

We arrived Saturday morning on the island of Mount Desert (pronounced oddly enough, “Dessert”), twenty minutes north of Bar Harbor at the motel my wonderful husband chose for the next four days. It’s not a fancy place, but it is clean, has a comfortable bed, Internet access (albeit spotty), and a hot, sometimes scalding shower. At $58 per night, it’s unbeatable.

Cost will be a recurring theme throughout the remainder of my posts during this vacation…as will be the cold, which, it being summer, is becoming rather a obstacle in enjoying oneself whilst outside.

For a brief few hours on Saturday, we had the pleasure of bright sunshine. After an overpriced and bad lunch, but good blueberry beer at a brewery, we proceeded to Acadia National Park (I am now one park closer to fulfilling the “Visit all national parks” item on my Life List). We intended to take the free park bus to get our first view of Acadia, but since we had just missed it and the next bus wouldn’t be for half an hour, we decided to tour the Visitor’s Center, where we watched a film about Mount Desert’s history. The film was very good. What I saw of it anyway, because I fell asleep, as I am prone to do when in any dark place for more than five minutes. When the film was over, we realized that we had just missed the last bus, so gave in, and toured the park by auto. One of the best things about Acadia is that it is not an auto-centric park. According to the film, the generous John D. Rockefeller financed and assisted in building “Carriage Ways.” He wanted to create specialized paths for touring the park that were to be used by carriage, bicycle, and foot, but most definitely not by “motor cars.” Rockefeller left a legacy of miles of extensive trails where pedestrians and cyclists can travel safely. Acadia is also unique in that it is the first park created entirely from donated land.

The film in the visitor’s center stated that Acadia is not a place that is described by superlatives. It is, instead, a place that gradually draws you into its beauty. But the statement misleads, because Acadia is beautiful. There is Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak at 1,532 feet on the North Atlantic seaboard, and the first place where the sun rises in the United States. Cadillac Mountain overlooks the town of Bar Harbor and provides a magnificent 360-degree view of all of Mount Desert and the ocean below. Then there is Sand Beach, one end of a hike that gradually ascends to Otter Point, a watch your footing, dramatic rocky precipice that stands dangerously high above the water. In between are beaches made of enormous boulders and “Thunder Hole” where waves crash into a hole carved out of the rock with a dramatic “thundering” sound.

Acadia is beautiful, and perhaps best compared to Big Sur, a Big Sur of the East.

Because we arrived late, Saturday’s blue skies only revealed a little bit of the gorgeous view of the scenery that Acadia affords. Yesterday was a different story. As we entered the park, we were gripped by the view of fog rolling over, bubbling over, the tops of the nearby islands. In no time, the fog had rolled in so thoroughly that instead of breathtaking photos capturing the scenic ocean and cliffs, I have photos with a scenic thick gray background. Even a hike to the top of Mount Gorham (I’ll grant it was only a height of 523 feet) wasn’t high enough to get us above the clouds and fog.

In addition to the fog, there is also cold. Cold, cold, cold. Yesterday, like a fool, I trusted that summer warmth would find its way here, and made an ill-informed choice to wear shorts. Even while hiking, I was cold. In fact, while hiking, I soon became consumed with the fantasy of sitting in front of the car air vents blowing heat on the highest fan setting. (That, and eating blueberry pie, which I still haven’t had.) Dinner was a quick sprint into a restaurant, and a quick sprint back to the car, limiting my time outside as much as possible.

The food here hasn’t been anything to brag about or really get your mouth watering. Everything seems expensive. Maybe it’s because we’re eating out so much and are obligated to order at least one local brew at every meal. Today, finally, we found our favorite restaurant, the Tan Turtle. The menu is four pages of options of fresh, locally grown food. For lunch we shared a delicious seafood chowder, along with an equally delicious and reasonably priced entrée. We plan to visit often. And we weren’t the only ones: our neighbors at the next table were having their second meal at the Tan Turtle and planned to eat there again.

In the next post, observations about the locals and a discussion on blueberries.

Until then, may your own daily travels be comfortably warm with flavorful meals.

Resources:
Our Pictures
Acadia Park website
Acadia on Wikipedia

I sit at the moment at a regular computer with a regular keyboard, and I’ve never appreciated it more!!

I’m in an Internet cafe and the charge is $3.75 for 15 minutes and 25 cents a minute after that, so I have no time for leisurely strolls through the Internet. If there’s one thing I never want to live without again in my life, it’s high speed Internet. This trip has shown me just how much I love regular keyboards and working monitors.

As we’ve had these days driving through so many indescribable natural sights, we can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for all the beautiful things we have. Here’s a short list I was thinking of on the drive yesterday, as we meandered slowly along the Desert View entrance of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon:

1) High-speed Internet
2) Pocket PC with Internet access with serves as a great backup when your computer decides to die on the first day of vacation.
3) ICE!
4) Camelbacks and clean water.
5) Eyes to behold all these natural wonders.
6) Vacation time to have these amazing trips.
7) Supermarkets.
8) Good coffee, when you can find it.
9) Electronic stores, chain or not.
10) The best husband anyone could ask for, who plans our vacations, finds us clean, safe and comfortable hotels and organizes so many details including finding the good restaurant to eat in for dinner.

Here’s just one example of why I’m the luckiest wife on the planet. When we arrived yesterday at our hotel in the Grand Canyon, he said to me, “Well it’s supposed to be a surprise…” I wondered what he meant. I knew we were going to the South Rim and we had just checked into the hotel. Then he finished his thought, “Tomorrow, if the weather holds up, we’re taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.” WHAT? What did he say? I was so stunned, I was speechless. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, unless of course, he’s planning to push me out mid-flight, and who would blame him?

Interestingly though, the forecast for the rest of the weekend is rain and today, Saturday, I sit in the Internet cafe because the weather has cancelled our appointed flight time. We rescheduled for later in the day, but we’re not sure if we’ll actually get to fly. I’d say this is part of our usual luck, but I really just feel so grateful for the thought, that my kind husband did so much planning and made the reservation in the first place (while preparing for a Java exam at the same time), that it’s hard to feel too disappointed. Of course, I hope we do fly and get to have that experience, but really, the thought counts just as much.

Now we’ll head off to the IMAX theatre and maybe if I have more Internet access again, I can finally talk about the fun people watching we’ve done.

I’m a bit behind in my posting. It’s been hard to get Internet access and typing on a Pocket PC is very tedious. Currently, I’m using our hotel computer – they actually have one for public use. What a treat!

After our adventure Sunday escaping Roads, we headed to Bryce Canyon. I don’t even know how to describe the rocks, except drippy. There are trails that go down into the Canyon that aren’t too strenuous and are short enough to fit a tight schedule, so we meandered down through the cliff walls to see what views we could find. As we wandered down in between the canyons, we were treated to the sounds of a flutist, who must be a native here, because I could barely get enough oxygen for hiking, let alone, hiking and playing a flute.

After Bryce, we headed to Zion where we stayed at the nicest Best Western I’ve ever seen. They had a big pool, the best jets of a hot tub I’ve ever been in, a spacious room and a view of the Zion cliffs. I wanted to never leave. We spent Monday hiking to the top of Observation Point, a 2100 foot elevation change over 4 miles (one way), to the very top of the Zion cliffs, with a gorgeous view overlooking the valley. It is spectacular! For some reason, even though it was the exact same distance and elevation as the Kaibab hike we did in the Grand Canyon, it was brutal. I have done the same hike eight years ago, but somehow blacked out everything past the first 1000 feet, which somehow made me think the hike was considerably easier than it actually was. Stuart and I huffed and puffed the entire way up. It’s good a few days have passed so that I can write this, because I wasn’t actually speaking to myself for a good day. The view at the top though is worth every bit of hard work to get there and if my computer were working, I could point you to some pictures, but that will have to wait until I get home or get my laptop fixed, a prospect that doesn’t seem promising…more on that later.

Anyway, Zion was magnificient. The way down from Observation Point seemed to be as long as the way up. With each switchback down, you can see the valley floor coming closer and closer, but simultaneously, it doesn’t seem as if you’ve made any progress. Somehow we managed to get back to the valley in time to also do a small portion of the Zion Narrows, a trail that is the Virgin river that winds in between the canyons at Zion. Years ago, the only way through the canyons was through the river, but now there is a mile long paved trail that one can walk to get to the good parts. Since I’m rushed for time, I’ll have to wait to tell more about that later, hopefully accompanied by pictures (damned computers!!).

Tuesday, we drove back to Willis Creek to see if we wanted to give that slot canyon one more go. Without question, we decided it wasn’t a good idea. There was a large dip now at the bottom of the hill, no doubt created by our tire tracks. Oh well, maybe another time, with a some honking off-roader.

On we went on our way to Moab, where I write from now. It was a six hour drive through Capitol Reef National Park and land that isn’t designated as park, but looks like the rest of the landscape here. I believe we’ve now seen every possible combination of rock. White rock with red rock, vertical rock with sloping rock, sloping rock on top, sloping rock on bottom, moon rock, sandy rock, lava looking rock, drippy rock, treed rock. Really, there’s every possible combination in Utah.

I would have enjoyed the drive more if my camera had been working. At some point changing lenses, I suppose, some dust or dirt got inside and I’m unsure how much of it is visible in the pictures. Many attempts to clean the camera have been unsuccessful and, that, combined with all the other troubles in my life in the last year, most particularly my laptop choosing to break now, put me in an unrecoverable funk. With every turn of the road, there was another different, gorgeous view and the thought that I couldn’t capture it put me in an increasingly surly mood. Perhaps I was a bit over-tired, as well. I had hopes that once we got to Moab, there might be a camera shop, and perhaps a computer store, but when I looked at the map and saw just how the little the town is, it became clear that my next best hope of getting anything fixed won’t be until Vegas. I’ve never hated rural America so much.

Of course, a good night’s sleep does wonders and yesterday I was back to normal, as long as I didn’t dwell for too long on my luck with electronics. We went to Arches to see yet another variation of rocks on the earth’s surface. Another beautiful park! Fortunately, there are primarily only short hikes there and we’re both worn out, so we settled for the easiest views. Then we returned to the hotel for laundry, pool, hot tub and then out for a pitcher of beer and a burger. Perfect day!

And I know you must be wondering if I’m going through withdraw without the Orioles, and the answer is “Yes.” Apart from my hatred of not having access to a single computer store that can fix my laptop for 250 miles, Moab is a great little town. It’s full of people who come here for their love of the outdoors. But there’s no MASN, and therefore, makes it unliveable in my eyes. I have noticed the Orioles continuing losing streak and admit to taking it a bit personally that they started winning the minute I left town. They’re losing again though, and in a strange way, that makes me happy that I’m not to blame. I’ve really missed the Camden Chat too, but nothing is better than a vacation, even the Orioles.

Stuart is back now from the second car wash and will be breathing down my neck to get going, so I have to wrap up. We’re off to Canyonlands…

We meet again Sir N. Kaibab. Today is the rematch. When last we met, I think we can both agree that you won soundly and definitively. But 40 years ago today, at 9 pm, my mother graciously brought me into the world (Thanks Mom!) and I’m filled with renewed vigor to teach you some manners. It’s true I’m 13 years older and have 10, okay 30 extra pounds, but’s 30 lbs of experience more than last time I endeavored to walk your sandy, winding, mule-dung covered trails. A few years ago, some hero of mine invented a device called a “Camelback.” You see you will no longer be able to drain my energy from dehydration. I’ve hiked Half Dome three times since you defeated me lo those many years ago, That’s right, Punk, three times. I know what you’re thinking, “Is she gonna cap my ass or isn’t she.” But I think you need to be asking yourself, do you feel lucky?

Well, do ya, Punk?

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