Camping in Acadia National Park

Sophie and the great big sea.

Sophie and the great big sea.

Have Van, Will Travel

At the campsite.

At the campsite.

This year we were able to purchase (with huge help from my Dad) a full size Ford Transit van to replace our poor, dying minivan. This has opened up a whole new world of possibilities (and created a few limitations for parking in garages in the city).

One of the most exciting possibilities that opened up with the purchase of a larger vehicle was the opportunity of taking the kids camping. Our minivan was just too small to hold all our clothing, camping gear, and big coolers for food. And even if we could have squished all the stuff in, the kids were on top of one another and long drives were miserable for everyone, especially Bella squeezed in the middle of the back seat between two booster seats.

Yes, we went camping once three years ago. We drove up to Maine in the minivan packed with stuff and then unloaded it all into my mother-in-law’s camper and that gave us enough room to make the logistics of camping work pretty well.

But now we have CARGO SPACE! And room for the kids to spread out so that no one needs to be right next to anyone else.

Getting lobster rolls at LL Bean in Freeport.

Getting lobster rolls at LL Bean in Freeport.

Acadia, New England’s National Park

Dom is in love with Acadia National Park, but I’ve never been. The closest I’d come before last week is an overnight in Bar Harbor on our honeymoon, but we hardly got to see any sights as we got in fairly late and had to catch the ferry early the next morning.

Acadia was beautiful and definitely lived up to the hype. I’ve camped and hiked in many of the great Western National Parks– Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Mesa Verde, Grand Teton, Olympic, Mount Rainier, etc– and Acadia has its own character which is unlike any of the others; a combination of mountains and ocean front, forests and beaches.

Tent Camping with Five Kids

Anthony toasts his toes by the fire.

Anthony toasts his toes by the fire.

We didn’t camp in the actual park, no free space at such short notice. But we stayed in a very nice private campground not too far from the park and that worked out really well.

Eating wild Maine blueberries with a spoon.

Eating wild Maine blueberries with a spoon.

Our campsite had wild raspberries and blackberries growing in the trees right next to us. The kids harvested a big bowlful on our first evening. Our site was among the trees for that real woodland feel with wind blowing in the branches all night, leaves dropping on our tent, and crows and woodpeckers and chickadees forming a morning wake-up chorus. But it was also on the edge of a great big field where you could stand to look up at the stars without trees to block the view. We saw the Milky Way! And Mars and Saturn and the Big Dipper and shooting stars.

Picking wild blackberries.

Picking wild blackberries.

A bounty of blackberries.

A bounty of blackberries.

Ben with blackberry.

Ben with blackberry.

We didn’t pack well with cooking equipment— this really was our camping trial run and I somehow couldn’t wrap my head around how to pack for it ahead of time, even though I’ve been camping before plenty of times. So we figured out a lot of what we should pack next time. We did cook breakfast every morning at the campsite, then we ate a picnic lunch in the park at various picnic spots, and then ate dinner out every night. Not the most economical and we were all tired of restaurant food by the end, but it was ok.

Dinner in Bar Harbor.

Dinner in Bar Harbor at the same restaurant we ate in on our honeymoon eleven years ago.

Dinner in Bar Harbor.

Dinner in Bar Harbor.

Ice cream parlor dessert, with a Lucy option!

Ice cream parlor dessert in Bar Harbor, with a Lucy-friendly, dairy-free option!

Five bugs in rugs.

Five bugs in rugs.

Drawing shells and twigs.

Drawing shells and twigs.

The Treasures of Acadia

The park really was as lovely as expected. There was the coast, great granite slabs to clamber over, dotted with tidepools filled with treasures. That was maybe the biggest hit.

Tide pool wonders.

Tide pool wonders.

Tide pool exploration.

Tide pool exploration.

Ben on the rocks.

Ben on the rocks.

Tide pool exploration.

Tide pool exploration.

Sophie and the great big sea.

Sophie and the great big sea.

Lucy on the rocks.

Lucy on the rocks.

Ben on the rocks.

Ben on the rocks.

Exploring tide pools. Just wait and watch and you'll see things moving.

Exploring tide pools. Just wait and watch and you’ll see things moving.

Exploring tide pools.

Exploring tide pools.

Bella in her glory among the tide pools.

Bella in her glory among the tide pools.

The biggest tide pools we've ever seen.

The biggest tide pools we’ve ever seen.

On the rocks.

On the rocks.

There was Cadillac Mountain with more granite slabs, making little caves and cubicles just perfect for playhouses. The kids were in love and wanted to go back to play some more in their special houses. And there was an amazing view that looked down to Frenchman’s Bay and the vast Gulf of Maine, dotted with islands, hazy with mist.

At the top of Cadillac Mountain.

At the top of Cadillac Mountain.

Selfie on Cadillac Mountain.

Selfie on Cadillac Mountain.

Bella on Cadillac Mountain.

Bella on Cadillac Mountain.

Anthony finds a niche on Cadillac Mountain.

Anthony finds a niche on Cadillac Mountain.

And there were also fearsome Otter Cliffs, which Dom nicknames the Cliffs of Insanity. (In truth, they were nothing as scary as the Cliffs of Moher, but on the other hand there were my children clambering about on the rocks and my heart threatening to stop at any moment.) We didn’t stay very long because, well, I didn’t think it prudent.

Kids on Otter Cliffs.

Kids on Otter Cliffs.

Looking out toward the submerged rocks from Otter Cliffs.

Looking out toward the submerged rocks from Otter Cliffs.

Sophie on Otter Cliffs.

Sophie on Otter Cliffs.

Kids at Otter Cliffs.

Kids at Otter Cliffs.

Lucy at Otter Cliffs.

Lucy at Otter Cliffs.

Sisters at Otter Cliffs.

Sisters at Otter Cliffs.

And there were deep mysterious forests and ponds and lakes and beautiful vistas. We spotted beaver lodges, deer, and red squirrels. The kids foraged for blueberries. We saw lovely sunsets. And of course there were campfires with toasted marshmallows and smores.

A beach full of treasures and icy water.

A beach full of treasures and icy water.

Bella found a crab

Bella found a crab

There were bug bites and cuts and a mysteriously swollen hand. There were children who threw rocks over cliffs before I noticed what they were doing and angered the rock climbers below to my extreme mortification. There were children who clambered onto tall rocks from which they did not know how to climb down. And there were treats at the gift shops, including chocolate-covered blueberries, blueberry soda, whoopie pies, and juice. And balsam-filled pillows and a yo-yo and a t-shirt for the child who was overdressed and didn’t have a short sleeved shirt in the car that day. Oops.

We listened to most of The Hobbit both on the way to and from Maine and as we drove around the loop road in the park. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever extricate images of Mont Desert Island from dwarves and goblins and Mirkwood Forest and the Lonely Mountain.

And none of these words have captured the glory of those stars, the blasts of those winds, the scent of the spruce and fir woods, and the joys and frustrations of a week spent living even more on top of each other than we usually are. It’s good to be back home as it was good to get away. And I’m looking forward already to our next camping trip when hopefully we will bring more useful pots and pans and have a real meal plan of things to cook while camping.

3 Responses to Camping in Acadia National Park

  1. Valerie, NZ September 3, 2016 at 1:50 am #

    What a marvellous holiday for you – the photos look really nice.
    The picture of the five children on the seat outside the lobster shop is delightful; I think they’ve all grown over the summer!
    The first rock-pool photo with the barnacles, seaweed and various molluscs is beautifully clear, and takes me back to my own childhood poking about on various shores.
    Fabulous to pick wild berries!
    I’m sure it was a memorable time for you all.

  2. scotch meg September 13, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

    Oh, how I love Maine! I wish I had known you were going – there’s a fantastic place to get lobster on the off-side of Mt. Desert. I think the town is called Bernard – I could show you on a map. Fresh, fresh, and eaten in a very Maine-ish place where they roll down plastic sides to the pier if the weather warrants (which it usually does in the evening).

    And did you know there’s a museum about Native Americans in Bar Harbor?

    Well, I envy you the trip. I’m so, so glad you had this experience with all the kids.

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 14, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

      I think we might have eaten there. It was a similar place, at any rate. In fact it was there that poor Lucy was injured while we were eating on the pier side. She was running and tripped and bashed her head against a bench and then Anthony, who was running right behind her, bowled right into her full tilt and bashed her head into the bench a second time. It was quite dramatic. I was trapped behind the table watching the whole train wreck happen and unable to leap to the rescue. But nice people found Lucy some ice. And we ran into one of them in Bar Harbor the next day and they asked how she was doing.

      Anyway, it was oh so lovely. We didn’t do museums this trip, but hopefully we’ll get back there again soon.

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