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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

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