Biking in Acadia National Park

You’ll take a step back in time when you walk, hike or bike the carriage roads of Mount Desert Island. Go by horse and carriage, the way John D. Rockefeller, Jr. intended when he built the 45 miles of crushed stone roads between 1913 and 1940. Some would say a visit to Acadia isn’t complete without a visit to the trails.

Though sometimes called carriage trails, the word trail is truly a misnomer. The roads are 15 feet wide with generous crowns that keep them well drained. Considered the best example of broken stone roads in the United States, they are, indeed, an engineering wonder. They swoop up the Mountains of Acadia gradually in one direction, then swing down the hill fast in the other direction.

The well-marked roads wander through Acadia National Park, covering long, shady stretches of woodland, views of peaceful lakes and ponds, circling mountain elevations, and showcasing breathtaking views of the Atlantic and nearby islands.
It was more than 60 years ago that Rockefeller donated 11,000 acres to Acadia National Park, complete with the road system he planned, funded, and constructed. The roads are lined with large granite boulders quarried right from the island. Today both visitors and locals enjoy the quiet beauty of Acadia’s beautiful carriage roads.

You will have a choice of bringing your own bike (recommended) or renting a mountain bike at one of three island bicycle shops. There is a bike shop in Southwest Harbor and two shops in Bar Harbor itself. Bicycle rental range between $22- $30 per day. All types and sizes are available. You can even rent bike racks and other accessories. Here is a link to all the shops.

Acadia Bike 48 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor Maine. One block from the Island Explorer Bus Shuttle at the Village Green. Also rents kayaks.

Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. 141 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207-288-3886 At the far end of Cottage Street, closest to the bridge entrance to the carriage trails. Open all year, they have a variety of types of bikes to rent.

Southwest Cycle 370 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 Located on the west side of the Island. Open all year.

Groups with small children are encouraged to consider renting either trail-a-bike or a tag-along.  Both are  attached to the back of a bicycle for those ages 4-7 or  rent an actual bike trailer that attaches behind a bike for kids from 1 year to 4 or 5. Customize your solution for your particular child.

There are a variety of routes for beginners, families, moderately fit and the most fit bikers.     The carriage road have slow and fast climbs.   Study the topography to choose the fast side of hills (best to climb on bicycles)  as  you swing around the “mountains” of Mount Desert Island.    The highest elevation you will climb is about 1,000 foot and the average is about 500 foot.  Walking up hills is always an option.  Be sure to bring water as there is only one spot on all the trails with water (Jordan Pond House).   There are rest rooms in three places, Eagle lake parking lot, Parkman mountain lower  and upper parking lots and Jordon Pond house.     This map is from SouthwestCycle’s website:

Here is a lovely video of a bike ride around the island from hipeaks2.   I really do not recommend going hands free – this fellow was a very experienced rider who has done a lot of biking.

Watch this

For beginners  (and rides with multiple ages)  the Eagle Lake Loop is a great first ride.   There are two hills to climb on this loop and a 500 foot elevation change.   Go counter clockwise around eagle lake for the fast rise uphill, and slower downhill.   Clockwise for slow climb up and fast ride down.     The Island Explorer has a special bike shuttle to take you to the small parking lot at Eagle lake.   It leaves from the village green in the center of Bar Harbor.  Do not bike the paved road from Bar Harbor to Eagle Lake.  It is much too busy and has extra hills.    Ask for an alternative internal route either from your bike shop or ask your hotel/ rental for some better routes.

For intermediate bikers, start with the Parkman Mountain trail. The parking lot for this trail is located on the road to Northeast Harbor. Go clockwise for the best experience.

For experienced bikers, the whole carriage trail system can be done in one day, a lovely and tiring day though. Plan to stop for a food/water and restroom break mid-island at the Jordan Pond House. Situated right in the middle of the park.   There is a warning for bikers to not plan on getting their bicycles on the shuttle from the Jordan Pond Bus stop.   There is limited room for bicycles, and that is often filled up at the Northeast Harbor beginning of the bus route.

The Acadia bus system Island Explorer has a bicycle shuttle on every bus, and special bike shuttles to Eagle Lake Parking lot. Transportation is free on the bus system (Thanks to LL Bean). That way, if you have larger plans than your legs can manage, you can grab one of the buses for a ride back to your car.

For bike riders wanting a unique experience, come to the park in May for this ride: Mount Desert Island Westside Ride.  Competitive bike riders can come in August for the Mount Desert Island time trial sponsored by www.bikemaine.org.

From the Mountain Bike Trails in Maine website: The Acadia National Park Carriage Roads can be accessed at the following entrances:

Eagle Lake: This is one of the most popular starting points. The parking area, located east of Bar Harbor on the north side of Rt. 233 often overflows during peak season in July and August. Start your ride early, if possible. Eagle Lake, at 425 acres, is the largest fresh water lake in Acadia National Park. From the lot, there is easy access to the carriage roads that lead toward half Moon Pond, the Breakneck Ponds and Witch Hole Pond. You can also ride the carriage roads around Eagle Lake for a challenging 6.1 mile loop ride that includes a few steep ascents and descents. Expect some rough patches. There are incredible views overlooking the lake.

Paradise Hill: Enter at the northwest end of the Hills Cove Visitor Center parking lot. The 0.5 mile trail that connects to the Paradise Hill carriage road is narrow, step and surfaced with loose gravel. Slippery. Consider walking your bike up and down.

Upper Haddock Pond: The parking area is located just north of the Brown Mountain Gatehouse on the eastern side of Rt. 198.

Lower Haddock Pond: The parking area is located on the eastern side of Rt. 198 south of Upper Haddock. We like to park here as we usually find it quiet and uncrowded. It provides access to most of the major carriage trails, however the access requires some long climbs.

Parkman Mountain: Parking is 2.3 miles south from the intersection of Rt. 198 and Rt. 233 on the eastern side of 198.

Jordan Pond: Jordan Pond parking area (not the restaurant parking lot). The carriage road crosses the Park Loop Road south of the Jordan Pond Gatehouse. Do not park in front of the gates on the carriage road. Jordan Pond is a hub for several major carriage roads and hiking trails as well as the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. The carriage road follows along Jordan Pond’s western edge. There are several rocky sections.

Make reservations at the restaurant in advance (at least the day before your ride), and plan your bike tour of the carriage trails so you end up there just in time for a traditional cup of tea and crumpets on the lawn.

Bubble Pond: Parking is on the Park Loop Road. The carriage trail that travels along the west side of Bubble Pond is easily accessed from the parking area. Nestled between North and South Bubble mountains, just northeast of Jordan Pond is an easy ride with lots of places to stop and admire the views of the “bubble like” mountains.

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Mushroom Growing Update #1

Here’s a little update on the progress of the fungal network I have induced to grow in my mix of kitty litter and guinea pig food. I have this thing sitting in a cardboard box at room temperature (currently about 68 degrees). The box is to keep light out. It’s been 2 days and I want to see if the oyster mushroom spawn “blazes any substrate like pac man eating dots and ghosts” as one spawn seller has written. My evidence is photographic. Here’s the picture of the bag just after I began.

And here it is today:Note the vigorous growth of the white mycelium. This indicates a successful colonization by the oyster mushroom fungus, since the wrong fuzz would be gray or blue/green. Also, note the condensation of moisture on the top of the bag. This means the process is generating heat. The active breakdown of cellulose is happening, and the reaction is generating heat, moisture and eventually we hope, edible mushrooms! Stay tuned.

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Growing Mushrooms in Maine

Foraging for food is one of my passions. I take to it like others take to hunting or fishing, there’s just something about finding one’s own food that is deeply satisfying. So cultivating mushrooms is a little different; it involves taking found food to the next level. But it’s still fun to produce your own food, especially when that food is….a little strange.

from http://mushroomobserver.org

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.) are considered the “weeds” of the mycological world. They grow vigorously on a variety of media and are even used to mitigate pollution events. One company sells bags of oyster mushroom spawn for the sole purpose of soaking up and converting spilled oil. I don’t think I’d want to eat those mushrooms. The logical place to start then, is with a mushroom species which is super easy to grow and likely to compete with their prices at the grocery store, if you can find them.

The ubiquitous button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, and maybe the shiitake are often the only fresh mushrooms available at the grocery store. The Agaricus masquerades in several forms: white button, crimini and portabello, but they’re all the same species. Some other species are available dried, but they’re expensive and often come from eastern Europe, where they’re picked from the woods. We hope they don’t misidentify.  Oysters are just as good and I’m going to find out if I can easily and cheaply grow them at home.

About two years ago my daughter gave me an oyster growing kit and I decided to take the next step. I started out by ordering a bunch of growing bags. These are sterile plastic bags with breather patches to let air, but not other spores in. But I was put off by the methodology involving sterilizing a huge amount of straw. In the third world they do this by adding a chemical, which I didn’t want to do. The other option is to boil or steam the straw, which seemed daunting. I imagined dumping a bale of straw into an old drum and boiling it over a campfire. Then there was the preparation of agar petri dishes, building a sterile hood and all the other bother associated with sterile technique. I had better things to do.

This month my Fungi Magazine came to the rescue. In it was an article by Milton Tam describing in detail how to grow oyster mushrooms without sterile technique. At last I had an easy option! The key to this approach is to use easily available growing materials which are already (reasonably) sterile. The process takes advantage of the rapid growth of the Pleurotus mycelia (underground “roots”) to get ahead of any other colonizers. The growth medium is a combination of newspaper-based kitty litter (no, not used!) and vitamin-enriched alfalfa-based guinea pig food. Both these products, from the pet store, are packaged in sealed plastic bags and are, we assume, reasonably sterile. The kitty litter (the brand mentioned was Purina’s Yesterday’s News, but I got another brand) serves as the cellulose base and the guinea pig food provides a nitrogen source. The procedure is to mix up 4 cups of the newspaper-based kitty litter with 4 cups of dechlorinated tap water and let it sit for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed. Then add 1/3 cup of the guinea pig food and  1/2 to 3/4 cup of mushroom grain spawn and mix well. More on getting the spawn in a minute. The mixture is stuffed into a plastic bag. Cut some small (3/4″) slits in the bag for air and place in a dark, cool area (under 70 degrees if possible) and leave for two weeks. This time of year it’s too cold in the basement but as it warms up that will be the place to grow in.

left to right, growing bag, mixing pot, kitty litter, guinea pig food, grain spawn

After two weeks the mycelium should be visible as a network of fine fibers in the mix, sort of like tempeh. At this point the bag needs to come into the (indirect) light and warmth where it will soon pop out mushrooms from the slits you cut. Some sources say that fruiting is encouraged by placing the bag in the fridge for a day (a “cold shock”), so if I don’t see primordia–the tissue growth that precedes mushrooms–I’ll do that. The expected yield is 8-11 ounces. There will probably be a “second flush” of a few more ounces 10 days after the first. Keep the emerging ‘shrooms moist by spraying with water mist.

All the ingredients mixed up. Now the waiting!

Economics: This is of course a fun hobby, so we shouldn’t think of it as a way to avoid grocery bills, but let’s see the numbers anyway. I spent about $33 on kitty litter and guinea pig food. The grain spawn came from Northwest Mycological Consultants in Corvallis, OR (503.753.8198) and cost $35 delivered to Maine. I got 7 lbs, and if you check around, this is a very good price. They don’t have a website, so you have to call them, and they often don’t answer their phones, so you have to leave your name and hang around for them to call back. So that total so far is $68. The grow bags were about 60 cents each. Check back in a few weeks to see what kind of yield I get so I can translate that $68 into pounds of mushrooms. This first batch, which is a double recipe because my bag is so big, ended up costing $3.86 for the ingredients and the bag. A quick scan of fresh oyster prices on line returned from $7.67 to $20/lb, so if I can get a pound out of this batch I’ll be happy as a mushroom in the rain.

My spawn strain is #497, Pleurotus columbinus, a pearl blue-gray oyster. I plan on mixing up a batch once a week so the mushrooms will be in constant supply. Anyway, that’s the plan! I fear that my spawn supply will outlast my rate of use, i.e., spoil, so stay tuned for the exciting updates.

Beware that some spawn companies specialize in mushrooms which are…shall we say, consciousness altering, (usually sold as mushrooms for “microscopic study”) while others cater strictly to customers interested in edible varieties. Some sell both types, but I feel more comfortable ordering from the edible-only folks.


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Thoughts on Privacy

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World

With my modest vacation rental sideline, SeaCat’sRest, I am frequently confronted by privacy issues. I’ve already ranted about facebook.  The latest privacy news on the national scene is all about the NSA and how they read our emails and tap into our phone conversations. I’m honestly not that worried about NSA, since I know several federal employees, and they assure me by their example as well as directly, that the government is not capable of inflicting the kind of dystopia some are worried about. Call it incompetence, inefficiency, lack of resources or motivation, it is just not like the government to succeed at such a massive task. Need I mention the Affordable Care Act website?

What I find worrisome is the “surveillance economy”. This is a term I found in an article by Martin Hirst in Australia’s New Philosopher:

Surveillance is “big data” and big data is big business. The surveillance economy puts information transactions at its core and when the bottom is dropping out of the market for real goods and services, capitalism will adapt. The latest systemic adaptation is to embrace new ways of surveilling customers and then turning the collected data into something that someone else is willing to buy.

The value of big data has been compared to the oil boom or “panning for gold” in terms of potential profitability. The numbers are staggering: 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by the end of this decade; so much available data to be mined that it doesn’t yet have a number to describe it. So many connections are available to be tapped, correlated, combed, combined and sold that any attempt to visualise the connections would look like a spaghetti junction map of the universe with every planet, star and comet connected to every other object. The value of this market is currently estimated at over A$39 billion annually and growing at around 9% per year according to analysts IDC.

In other words, inject a little profit motive into the activity of eavesdropping, and it’s Brave New World.

I have become suspicious of anything on the internet I sign up for, since I know the site I want to access might sell my info. Even those mysterious cold calls from “Heather at credit card services” is using the fact that I answered my phone as a source of profit. Heather gets her number added to my list of screened numbers at my landline company. And then there’s the infuriating ads at the side of just about every website. They promise to reveal one weird trick or tell us the warning signs of dementia (no doubt targeting me, because of my age group), all for filling out a little info about ourselves.

So how about our affordableacadia.com and your privacy when you contact me about my spot on the coast of Maine? First of all, I use Homeaway/VRBO as a way to get most of my customers. My reason for starting this website was to make them unnecessary, but that hasn’t happened yet. One of the things I have opted out of is going through Homeaway/VRBO after you make your initial inquiry. I really don’t want their corporation looking over our shoulders while we negotiate, or handling the money at the end. Imagine how valuable your personal info is once you prove you have enough money for a stay. They can’t have it! I’m not suggesting that Homeaway sells your info, I just don’t want to take the time to find out. The info you do provide me goes onto a spreadsheet and stays on my computer. None of your info is ever released or sold to anyone.

I just read an article about how gmail is further attempting to monetize its service by making it possible for their new facebook clone, google+, members to send you an email. The article includes 5 steps to reclaim a modicum of anonymity in your gmail account, including opting out of google +. I recommend taking the steps.

I embrace new technology and realize the benefits of the information revolution. I am not a “prepper” or paranoid nutcase. But I hope the excesses of the surveillance economy will soon be remedied. In the meantime I am trying to not become part of it!

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Maine’s 2013 Ice Storm

In 1998 we had an epic ice storm. Our house was without power for 3 days. The storm was reported around the world: we got calls from Australia asking if we were OK.  Some parts of the electrical grid were so badly damaged that other Mainers were in the dark for weeks. On December 23, 2013 it was deja vu. Unlike 1998, it stayed cold this time and more snow followed. I expected a calamity. This time however, our outage lasted 2-1/2 days and power crews were able to get the grid up and running for everyone else at about the same time.

The drop in temperature as soon as the trees and wires were encased in ice made it necessary to seek ways to keep the house warm. Like many in Maine, we have three sources of heat: an oil fueled boiler, a wood stove and a propane (faux wood) stove. Only the boiler relies on electricity. The propane stove uses a blower but it’s optional. The office has a “ups” or uninterrupted power supply. This is a small unit consisting of a 24 volt battery and inverter, a device which converts the 24 volts to standard house current. Normally these units only allow about 15 minutes of power because their internal battery is so small, but I installed exterior batteries (two marine deep cycle) which increase the reserve to 12 hours or more. To this power source we connect, besides the big work computer, the modem and router, so our internet connection never goes out (theoretically!). We can also connect a few lights to this. The new LED bulbs run on practically nothing.

This leaves two power-hungry servants out of the loop: the well and the refrigerator. We can do without both for a while, but sooner or later the ice will melt in the freezer and the other side will become a pathogen lab, so in a few hours we faced the dreaded gasoline generator. This thing, with its noise, smoke, stinky fuel and snaking power cords is not a favorite. Nothing much compares to a dark, midnight, sub-zero refueling session. If it’s still running you have to get the fuel into a shaking tank opening (not officially encouraged) or restart with several pulls using your tennis-elbow degraded arm. Then you get to re-enter the nearly dark house with clothes reeking of gasoline. Two and a half days of no power doesn’t sound like much, but since a fill only lasts an hour and change, this can work out to maybe 30 or so refueling/restarting session, and trips into town for more gas.

With the generator running we can hook up the boiler and have hot water for showers and dishwashing. The batteries can get charged up and the fridge stays safe. We can tell when the well kicks on, the generator sounds like it’s struggling for a bit. Still, a modicum of normalcy is restored. But at about 8 PM on the 23rd, the internet went out. Since our cable supplies not only internet but also our land line and TV, we were cut off except for cell phones; remarkably they still worked. Our one smart phone was able to access weather reports and email. That was a welcome change from the 1998 ice storm.

Meanwhile, Bangor Hydro was continually postponing the return to power and the “total customers affected” kept climbing. Finally, on Christmas night they seemed to throw in the towel with “customers should seek alternative housing” and showing a repair date of Friday the 27th. I felt sorry for the line workers having to forgo holiday fun, but I could feel the burden of the last few days’ struggle, and I was warm, clean and well fed.

When the sun comes out the ice turns downright magical.

Surprisingly, at about midnight on the 25th, the power came back on for good. We made plans to upgrade to a more substantial propane-fueled standby generator. This plan is on hold while the local supplier is still scrambling to serve existing customers. The new system will feature remote starting, no refueling, quiet operation, no extension cords and distant exhaust. With our luck, it will be another 15 years before we really need it.




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Funny Maine Place Names

Here it is, just a few weeks before the darkest day of the year (and only six more months of winter) and not much is happening on the coast of Maine. I like to occupy my spare time with genealogical research when I can’t get outside for reasons of nasty weather.  I just discovered that one of my ancestral lines came from Butcombe, Somerset, UK and that had me in stitches for a while. There’s even a Butcombe brewery. No wonder people left England! Then I started thinking, are there places as funny in Maine?

from http://mainecrimewriters.com/kaitlyns-posts/you-pronounce-it-how

Most newcomers quickly catch onto the tendency of Maine towns to be named for someplace far away. Here’s a photo of one famous road sign. Missing from this photo are Calais (pronounced “callous”), Madrid (MAD-rid)  and Belfast. Does this tendency reflect Mainers’ need to escape to some exotic corner of the world, or is it a leftover from when Maine’s primary focus was shipbuilding and trade? Beats me!

But we were talking about funny place names, and for that we need a little help from Native Americans. Here are a few:

Passagassawakeag River
Piscataqua River
Chemquasabamticook Lake

Then there’s Garrison Keillor’s (A Prairie Home Companion) fictitious Maine town, Piscataquaddymoggin, not all that far from the realm of possibility. Mooselookmeguntic, in addition to being fun to say, has, at 17 letters, the distinction of being tied for first place with Kleinfeltersville, PA as the longest single-word, unhyphenated place name in the United States recognized by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Piscataquaddymoggin would be even longer as is Chemquasabamticook. Someone should inform the Board.

Still, it would seem that Mainers were fairly sober when concocting place names. There was probably no attempt at humor even with Meddybemps, though we giggle about it today. There are many place names which show lack of imagination. Someone would name a town Liberty, the next community over would be Freedom, then came Union, Unity and Hope. Crossroads in between would grow into communities named East Union, South Hope and so on. Boring!

Only when naming islands would Mainers allow their funny side out. You need a chart of the Gulf of Maine to find more lighthearted names: Bartender, Birthday, Blubber, Bombazine, Brown Cow, Bumpkin, Burnt Porcupine, Cat-Sized, Chain Link, Crotch (7 of them!), Crumple, Cubby Hole, Dog’s Head, Double Shot (5 of those!), Dumplings, Featherbed, French House, Gallows, Gay’s, Georges Head, Grog, Hamloaf, Hardhead, Hell’s Half Acre, Hen Cackle, High Sheriff, Hungry, Hypocrites Ledges, Ile D’amour, Irony, Junk Of Pork, Kemps Folly, Lazy Gut, Mistake, Nightcap, No Man’s Land, Old Soaker, Pollypod, Pound Of Tea, Powder Hole, Scabby, Scotch, Screeching Gull, Shivers, Smuttynose, Sow and Pigs, Suicide, Tea Kettle, The Downfall, Thomas Little Toes, Toothacher, Tumbledown Dick and Virgin’s Breast. These are all among the 3166 Maine coastal islands, and I only wish the fishermen who named them had had a chance to name some towns. I wouldn’t want to live in one though, it would make for some awkward high school fight songs.

The UK still takes the cake for funny and rude place names. Butcombe is a mild example and doesn’t even make the list. Just try to get a pizza delivered to Crapstone, Devonshire. Read about it here.

Old Soaker can be seen from Sand Beach in Acadia National Park


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A Trip to Celtic Colours

Where does someone who lives on the coast of Maine go on vacation? Sure, the tropics beckon in mid-winter and Boston offers a strong urban pull, but it’s hard to refuse the great big Atlantic playground to our north and east. I’m talking about the maritime provinces of Canada: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

A morning view from our place in Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, NS

Vasen, from Sweden

One long day’s drive away is beautiful Cape Breton Island at Nova Scotia’s eastern end, site of the annual Celtic Colours festival, now in its 17th year. The festival this year ran from October 11-19 and featured over 150 world class Celtic artists including Darol Anger, The Barra MacNeils, Liz Carroll, John Doyle, Tim Edey, Natalie Haas and Mary Jane Lamond. What makes this festival so unique is the variety of venues, from beautiful old churches to funky local community halls and sports arenas, all tucked away in not-so-far flung corners of the island. One memorable evening featured a 18th century experience at Fortress Louisbourg, where we were served dinner by re enactors in period dress and led around by lantern light to various music performances. If you visit, be sure to text your friends and tell them to go see you in the fort’s live webcam. This year was special because it was the 300th anniversary of the fort’s founding.


Just about all the venues were within an hour’s drive or so from central Baddeck, where we rented a house through homeaway.com. It’s hard to escape from the natural beauty of the area, since there is so much water; the North Atlantic on three sides, the Strait of Canso toward the mainland and many-lobed Bras d’Or (pronounced brah-dor) lake in the middle. Our place was on a part of the big lake and the views were stunning. Day trips offered the opportunity to see nearby Cape Breton Highlands National Park, but some of the museums we wanted to visit were closed for the season. With a typical attendance of 20,000 visitors for the festival, these places should have remained open. Fortunately, the Alexander Graham Bell Museum was open (he had a home near Baddeck) as was the Highland Heritage

Highland Heritage museum in Iona

Museum, a reconstructed early Scottish settlement. We missed visiting Glenora Distillery, which produces North America’s first single malt whiskey. These day trips are just distractions for die-hard music junkies, since there are workshops and informal performances happening at all hours around the island.

Gas is expensive, over $4/gallon. Food and beer are too, but we encountered zero trouble using US currency. Some of our credit cards without embedded chips didn’t work in gas pumps. Your US mobile phone probably won’t work, so be prepared. A cheap local phone wasn’t cheap at all, so we got along without. We had a big cooler and brought our own food and drink. You need to buy your festival tickets in advance, so you will know about that expense. The weather was phenomenal this year, but we’ve seen much worse in other years. The local climate is a little warmer than Downeast Maine this time of year even though it’s further north. While we didn’t eat out much we can recommend three great restaurants, Governor’s Pub and Eatery in Sydney, The Highwheeler Cafe in Baddeck and The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou. Be aware that Canadian Thanksgiving is on the second Monday in October, so expect stores to be closed.

The coast around Fortress Louisbourg

So consider a trip to Cape Breton Island next year, and use our SeaCat’s Rest as your launching point…if we’re not already on the way!



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Donnell Pond

It’s nice to  have a big, mostly empty recreation area equal in distance to SeaCat’s Rest when compared to wildly popular Acadia National Park. I’m talking about Donnell Pond Public Reserve Land. This is an area of over 14,000 acres of isolated ponds, crystal clear lakes and mountains with panoramic views and the trails to get there. This compares with the 49,600 acres of Acadia, but it’s a guarantee that during the summer at least, the density of visitors there will be a tiny fraction of its big national brother. All this and a mere 22-1/2 miles north and east of here, about the same distance as Acadia NP in the other direction.

The big nature reserve came together with the help of The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Land for Maine’s Future Program (which helped to fund more than half the acreage acquired), the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and private landowners deeply committed to conservation. In the early part of the last century Tunk Lake was a source for ice before refrigeration, and a large estate there belonged to famed Antarctic explore Admiral Richard E. Byrd. It was destroyed by fire in 1989. Now it all belongs to the people of Maine.

One thing which stands out when visitors take the obligatory trip to the top of Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain is a high mountain in the distance called Schoodic Mountain, visible over Bar Island, just to the left of Bar Harbor down below. Just to the right of it is a lesser peak called Black Mountain. Both these peaks are in the Donnell Pond Reserve and both have trails to the top, and as you might guess, both offer a view of Acadia. There are several campsites on Donnell Pond with fire spots, privies and picnic tables. These are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and you can stay up to 14 days. Donnell Pond is also open to fishing and motor boats. Access to the main camping beach is by a 1/2 mile long foot trail, so if you have heavy items, you may want to use the boat launch site, out of the park’s boundaries.

Looking back at Acadia from Black Mt. A ten mile view.

If we zoom in we can see a cruise ship….

I took the The Black Mountain Cliffs Loop (2.9 miles – allow 2 hours) from the Donnell Pond parking area on September 6 and took a few pictures. The trail is easy to follow but not easy. There are lots of twists and turns, wet stream beds, and an abrupt climb at the end, almost like a giant staircase. I was glad I brought water for the 900 foot climb, and comforted that I had my cell phone, since I encountered no one else. The trip back down was to the Donnell Pond’s (Schoodic) beach. Ironically, there was a busload of schoolkids making a constant racket there, which was a sound beacon guiding me back. I also had my car’s GPS with me which answered some direction questions when it seemed the trail markings were ambiguous. A compass would have worked just as well.

How to get there: Take US Rt. 1 east out of Ellsworth–follow the signs to Campobello Island. Drive about 10 miles to the bridge before Sullivan, then drive another 4-1/2 miles and take a left onto ME 183N. Drive for 4.3 miles and take a left on Schoodic Beach Road, bear left for another 2 miles and you will come to the parking lot.

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Moose in Lamoine!

I borrowed this from http://mypage.direct.ca/s/selliot/moose.html. It resembles what I saw from my boat

On September 26 I had just finished pulling my lobster traps for the last time for 2013. They were stacked and tied down in Eleccentricity, my solar electric lobster boat. I was cruising back to my mooring when I saw a huge beast lumbering across the field next door to SeaCat’s Rest. I instantly recognized the shape, but I still couldn’t believe it. A moose. A BIG moose. I altered my course to get closer to land but it soon disappeared behind the trees. It was 8:30 AM.

Moose are not at all uncommon in Maine, but they tend to stay away from the coast, preferring the more wild interior and mountains. I have only seen coastal moose in the Rockport area, over an hour’s drive away. This was a first for Lamoine in the 18 years I’ve lived here. A moose is a big deal. Unlike shy deer, it goes where it wants and doesn’t care much what you think.

I dropped off the two lobsters I caught in my floating crate and rowed ashore. By now it was after 9 AM but I wanted to see if I could find the beast; after all, something that big is hard to hide. I cut through the woods and reached the field. No moose. I couldn’t even see any footprints. I was starting to think maybe it was a horse, or maybe I had imagined it all. But on Saturday, which is dump day around here, I asked our transfer station attendant Bill if he had heard anything about a moose in Lamoine. Bill knows everybody in town and takes gossip seriously. If anyone would know about a moose, he would.

Here’s another image I borrowed, from http://www.illaheecommunity.com/category/deer/

Yes, he reported, there is a moose in town and furthermore, it was last sighted “out your way near the piebald deer area”. Now you are wondering what the heck a piebald deer is. It’s a rare color scheme on a deer, resulting in a mostly white coloration. I saw this creature too, in another bout of sanity-doubting. You never know what will turn up in Lamoine.

Filed under Acadia, Lamoine, Nature by on . 3 Comments.


Saying No to Facebook

I’m committing a marketing faux pas. I have this website to promote my oceanside apartment here in the Acadia region of Maine, but I can’t bring myself to set up an active facebook page. Why am I such a fuddy-duddy?  In a minute I’ll list the reasons. First, some history. When I first heard about facebook I set up a personal account. I had it up and running for a while, but people I knew started sending me requests for, I don’t know, virtual pets or some such nonsense. I ignored them and then felt bad, like I was letting them down. So I chose the easiest path and deleted the account, explaining to my friends via email that I didn’t have time for it. At that time, deleting was easy.

Later, my friend Captain Mike, who helped me set up this site 4 years ago, told me I had to have a facebook page for affordableacadia, so I could saturate cyberspace with links to this site. The goal was to get google to rank me higher on their search results, and that, apparently was the whole goal. He patiently explained that the content of this site was of secondary importance, and the more of certain keywords I used and links which led here were what I really needed.  The goal of the higher search engine ranking was to attract guests to SeaCat’s Rest, not to mention increasing the value of this site, making people want to advertise on it. (I’m afraid I did not follow this advice very well!). I reluctantly set up the facebook site and had to use my name too, so I was sort of back where I started. I completely ignored the page, but people I don’t know started trying to “friend” me. Also, facebook kept sending emails saying I had to do something to satisfy my social network obligations. I blocked them. I can’t remember what pushed me to delete my account the second time, perhaps a news story about privacy or how they own your content, but this accounts for gripe number one:

  1. It’s very hard to delete your facebook account. Go ahead, try. If you can, please tell me how. The only thing I was able to do was to change my name. Yup, now yours truly has a completely bogus, made up facebook identity. The name I chose was goofy, but believable. I hope this isn’t illegal.
  2. facebook owns your content. All those pictures you post on your wall. Think they’re yours? Think again. Did you hear about the Canadian teen who committed suicide last April? Her facebook photo ended up in an ad on a dating site after she died.
  3. facebook makes people act weird.  You already heard how I ignored people, but the fact is, people develop a sort of virtual chatterbox syndrome on facebook, inviting the ignoring.
  4. facebook uses your “likes” as advertising. Simple really, they keep track of which restaurants (or whatever) you like and sell that to advertisers who use it to tell your facebook friends. You become a spokesperson for your “likes”, like it or not. You can opt out if you don’t mind fine print.
  5. Your page is plastered with ads. Your face to the world is being used to advertise stuff you may not want associated with you. You’ll notice this site is no monument to corporate greed. If I ever accept advertising, it will be something I endorse.
  6. You are being watched. Your habits, words,  topics, buying habits are being sold to advertisers. We all know this is the model into which the internet has evolved. It keeps the internet (and your facebook page) “free” so you don’t have to fork over $5.99/month for a webpage with your grandkids’ pictures. Even your free email account does this. So why expose more of your private life than you have to?
  7. Facial recognition is coming. At least wear sunglasses! Before long facebook plans to incorporate member photos into a database so that it can find you in other users’ photos. No doubt there is a way to make money with this. Creepy.

A relative of mine told me how he hires people. He looks them up on facebook. If he can’t find them he assumes either 1) they’re too old or 2) they’re running from the law or have something to hide. Maybe if enough of us say no to facebook (or convert our identities into bogus ones) we can give Marc a third conclusion, that some of us are too smart.

Besides the highlighted links to other articles, material for this post comes from here.

Filed under Acadia, Uncategorized by on . 1 Comment.