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 > Trip Report: A Downeast New Years

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freeskier125

Bay Area, NH

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Posted: 01/16/13 05:12am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It was a long weekend of dodging snowplows and shovelers. New England was coated with 3-6" of fresh cold, squeeky snow and freezing temperatures, so I brushed off the rig and let 'er warm up before setting off towards Downeast Maine for a 3 day New Year's trip. I've been visiting Acadia NP for 16 years with my family, but never during winter. The real reason for heading to Maine was to watch the first sunrise of the New Year at Quoddy Head Light House (Eastern-most point of the U.S.) and test the whole camper setup before I leave for Tahoe at the end of the month. Needless to say, the Sun-Lite isn't a 4 season camper.

Setting off
[image]

My first destination was Bah Hahbah for some grub at Geddy's. I took RT3 + RT1 and stopped by the few open interesting points along the way.

Penobscot River...
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Drove around Fort Knox... [emoticon]
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I arrived at Mt. Desert Island just in time for sunset. I was surprised the 3-6" back home turned into 14"+ (which is very unusual) once I crossed over the bridge, they could barley keep up with it. Every road and every tree was basted with snow making it a winter wonderland. I kept taking right hand turns until I found a place to park on a western road where I'd watch the sun fall below the horizon, near the water of course, ending up at Bartlett Narrows.

[image]

[image]

Neat lil video of me pulling over for the sunset. It's more colorful then the pictures my Pentax adventure proof point-n-shoot camera takes.
Quick (:30 sec) video

After sunset, I rallied across island (avoiding deer whom were overwhelmed with the new snow and decided to walk down the road instead) to one of the only open restaurants, Geddy's. Between devouring my shredded bacon bbq chedder burger, I tried searching google maps for an open parking lot or something similar near the Park Loop Rd where I could spend the night. As usual, it ended up being a guessing game, driving around really fancy neighborhoods for 45 minutes without any luck. Finally, I ran into a plowed section of the Park Loop but was at the wrong end of the 1 way road. Switching between satellite images, I could see a few parking lots just north from where I was. Frig it. I went about a 1/4 mile the wrong way towards the first lot to find it was not plowed out. Kept on going to the second lot, not plowed either. Kept on going. The third lot was plowed so I pulled in to set up camp for the night around 9PM.

The storm was still hanging around making it quite cold and windy, especially being directly on the coast. The barometric pressure was getting near hurricane low's, with single digit temps, and a coastal wind advisory. I put 1 jack down to stabilize the camper, cranked the heat, and got myself organized for the night. Finding out I forgot my HDMI cord for the computer/TV, I pulled out my mast with the antenna attached to see what local channels I might pickup. No luck. After fiddling around and striking out I decided to call it a night, climbing up into bed... Within minutes I realized it was far too cold and I'd be sleeping with the roof down. So, I quickly re-orginised, set up the dinette sleeping area and dropped it down. Setting the thermostat as low as it could go I tried again to fade into sleep. Having the wind howl around the camper and the ocean waves crashing, occasionally rattling the camper like thunder, I knew I was in for a long night.

The only (and lousy) picture I have from that night. Can't really tell but it says it's cold out. (Single digits without the steady 15-20MPH breeze)
[image]

The camper didn't hold any heat and would drop from the high 40's down into the teen's every 35 minutes or so. I slept through the heat kicking on and off along with the other wild noises outside until 12:45AM when I rolled over, sweating in my 0* bag, to find no heat blowing from the furnace. [emoticon] I laid there debating what to do, knowing this is how horror stories probably begin. I could picture the local news headline "Idiot camping in winter storm freezes to death. Sub-zero temps" I tried the fridge and stove to confirm I was out of propane and not some other issue, I had come over prepared for just about anything else but didn't even consider how much propane I had left. So, I threw on my gear and packed up camp optimistically to find propane at 1AM. Miraculously, within an hour I was parked back at the same spot with a new tank I exchanged at an Irving gas station, sooo ready to get back in bed. Luckly the rest of the night was uneventful.

[image]

[image]

I awoke to a wonderful sunrise and the sound of waves crashing. I reluctantly squirmed out of my sleeping bag and prepared myself for another day. Pulling out of the lot in daylight I noticed a brown Park Sign next to the entrance. Thunder Hole Parking. How about that! I accidently spent the night at Thunder Hole! Explains all the ground shaking from the waves that night. Arriving in the dark, I knew I was on the coast but had no idea of all the beautiful scenery that was whizzing by.

[image]

I finished the Park Loop Rd, driving in the proper direction, to head back and restart the cruise down what little section was open and plowed. 20 minutes later I pulled up to find the first gate was locked!? ...with Park Rangers showing up only seconds later. After shooting the breeze they said come back in the afternoon and it might be open. I didn't tell them I snuck in or that it wasn't too windblown (occasionally hub deep) and they should totally let me get first tracks. I turned around and headed back to Bah Hahbaah for breakfast.

Park Loop Rd...
[image]

Park Loop Rd.
[image]

Downtown Bah Hahbah
[image]

After a stack of Maine's finest blueberry pancakes, I returned to the beginning of the Park Loop Rd to see the gate was still closed. I passed one of the Rangers I had chatted with on the way back, he even waved at me, but there was no way I or anybody else could legitimately drive down the road. I finally decided to leave and meandered clockwise around the Island checking out all the wonderful views.

Schooner Head Drive.
[image]

Sargeant Drive.
[image]

Sargeant Drive.
[image]

Town of Mt. Desert
[image]

Bass Harbor Head Light House
[image]

Turquoise ocean in Maine (remember; this is from my mediocre point-n-shoot, it was unbelievably vivid being there)
[image]

The Seawall is a special place to me. Back in '97 on one of our annual family camping excursions (our family of 3 boys and close family friends with 4 girls) we had lunch at the Seawall. By the end of the week the young girl's were tired, had enough, and wishing to be back home, so of course my older brother kept teasing them and saying "Seeeeeaawaaaaaalllll..." till the youngest one broke down and began to cry. It became a running joke between us and also became the name of my fathers little computer consulting business. www.seawall.com (network security, seawall.... we thought it was neat) I was going to drive out onto it but there was too much traffic.

[image]

I tanked up somewhere near Seal Cove at an old gas station. (found that the pumps didn't have an auto shutoff when I happen to look over and see dollar bills flowing out the fuel door and down my bed side, I casually kicked some fresh snow over to cover up the evidence) Afterwards I hit the road headed east toward Lubec, finding hardly any open attractions en-route to the east'est east coast in the U.S.. Again, I arrived just in time for sunset.

After checking out the lighthouse and preparing for the next day, I headed back towards town to see what New Year's Eve in Lubec is all about. Showing up at night I found it was a tiny fishing town with only a tavern and a bar open. I went to the "Eastern Most Tavern" for a drink with the locals to see what trouble I could stir up. Kicking open the door wearing my rubber Firefighter mucka boots (imagining having spurs and holding my belt buckle) I found no one but a Scottish bartender hanging around. After a couple drinks I discovered it was a Tavern/Inn with 3 bedrooms upstairs, and conveniently it had a cancellation on one of it's rooms. I chatted and bartered with him taking the empty room at a reasonable rate, plus he gave me my drinks for free. After the previous night, a king size bed, hot shower, and unlimited heat sounded delightful. Eventually the tavern started to fill up with maybe 15 people at the bar and having dinner (all more than twice my age) and everyone was getting poopy faced for New Year's Eve, you shoulda heard all the conjumbled French, Canadian, redneck Maine, and drunken scottish dialect I tried to interpret. I went upstairs to my room around 11PM so I could get a decent sleep before the 7:05AM sunrise. I'll tell ya, a bed has never felt so nice.

Well rested, the 6:15AM alarm wasn't an issue. I quietly geared up trying not to awake the "elderly" people sharing the adjoining rooms, only to hear footsteps going downstairs minutes before I was ready to leave myself. Driving over all bundled up I could see rays of light starting to peek around the horizon. Clouds were hovering miles out on the oceans edge, making me slightly worried it wouldn't be such a spectacular sunrise. They only delayed it by a couple minutes and once the sun crested over the clouds, everything burnt off.

[image]
East Quoddy Head Lighthouse
[image]

I figured this would be the hot spot to be on January 1st but was surprised to find no more than a dozen people joining me to watch it rise. Everyone stayed till 7:30 or so taking pictures of the colorful sky, standing next to the Eastern Most Point landmark, and the lighthouse. Traveling with no real agenda, I was happy to hang around until I was the last one there and able to soak it all in. (Unlike the Southern Most Point in Key West, there was almost always a line just to stand near the buoy landmark) Before leaving I opened the parking lot gate and snuck down to the caretakers house for a quick photo op. Without driving on their lawn, that's as far east as it gets.

[image]

I went back to my room for breakfast and slowly packed my bag debating where to go next. I chatted with my other roommates who were from various points along the Maine coast and they gave me a few suggestions for routes to take home. From here there is only one direction to head, west.

[image]

I motored back on the same roads I took to Lubec, I wanted to take a northern RT9, but after experiencing the emptiness of Washington County, it looked even more sparse then what I had already driven through. After an hour I started to see more evidence of a proper civilization and noticed an Acadia NP sign for Schoodic Point. I've seen pretty much all of Acadia on Mount Desert Island but somehow never visited Schoodic Pt. I kept driving debating turning around, imagining the wonderful view from a peninsula looking back at the island (it is part of the National Park, after all). 5 minutes later another sign popped up for a second entrance to the park, so I veered off on another detour to check it out.

Schoodic Peninsula is a small point in Winter Harbor (only 5% of Acadia NP) with a 7 mile loop road around its shoreline. It is only 4 miles, as the seagulls fly, from Bar Harbor but is 45 mile drive around the bay and back onto maine land. Now, being days after the storm everything had been plowed out and open to the public. It ended up being as beautiful as the Mt. Desert Island coast and the entire 7 miles of the loop rd was open. I pulled over to take a panoramic photo within the first mile, hoping I could try to capture some of its beauty. I quickly jumped out of the truck with no jacket, a camera and cellphone in each hand to take a few single shots, I kept stepping back to expose more and more of the coastline in the picture. With just one more step I suddenly sank and found myself, hands beside me, shoulder deep in a snow well.

Fortunately I have a little avalanche / recovery experience from living mid-mountain in Alta, UT during my first winter out of high school. It was a huge shock for the second I was falling through the snow but I immediately gathered myself and begun to work my way out. I carefully wiggled my camera and phone into my pockets knowing if they fell, it would be gone forever. Shimmying, making sure I wasn't digging myself any deeper, I slowly came out of the hole while kinda half laying down to disperse my weight. Once my feet came up, I spread out and rolled back to the pavement where I finally stood up covered head to toe in dirty plowed snow. I looked at crater I just made, turned around to the wonderful view I was trying to capture, and back to the hole. I had a quick laugh and said "Hole-y Hell!"

[image]

The picture I was trying to take
[image]

With the smirk still on my face I saw another car coming down the road and moved over by my truck. As it slowly approached I noticed the green U.S. Park Service stickers and light on the roof, my smirk quickly turned into a ghost faced scare and I jumped right into my driver seat, still covered in snow, like nothing happened. He drove on by with no idea of what just went down, probably would have given me a good ol' slap across the head if he had found it poking out of the snowbank on a untraveled coastal road, in January wearing only a long sleeve shirt.

I hopped back out to empty my boots and brush off before I carefully continued down the loop road, without anymore incidents. Again, this little nook of Acadia has all the beauty of Mt. Desert Island and the rest of the Maine cost in a 7 mile loop road.

[image]

[image]

[image]

I steered back onto RT1 and continued west to Ellsworth, which I found was the last town with any major chain store or service center. In the late afternoon I found myself sitting there again, looking for something to do, knowing the route ahead of me. I had the next day off from work and pondered continuing down the coast on RT1 checking out the other cool towns; Camden, Rockland, Boothbay Harbor... but I've been through them more then a few times and knew it wouldn't compare to what I had just done and seen. I slowly felt the trip was coming to an end and was fine with just sitting there until I was sure. It had been one heck of a weekend and I was more then content with the results of my 'test run', and the conclusions I came to about some of my life's big questions; like sacking up and moving to California.

I fueled up and drove around Augusta before hitting I-95 South by nightfall. I couldn't drive through Freeport with out stopping by Johnny Rockets (always has the cutest waitress) and getting lost in L.L.Bean's flagship store. I spent the rest of the evening throughly enjoying myself and my new perspective before finishing the drive back to the New Hampshire seacoast.

I can say it was probably the most challenging trip I've done, despite only being 3 days, but was also one of the most rewarding. I had no idea what joy and excitement traveling with my truck camper could bring over the near 50 nights I have in it during my first year of ownership. 365 days ago I came home from work, made a drink, and went out on a limb calling a craigslist ad for a camper I had little knowledge about. And the rest has been history...

My time is up and I thank you for yours, I'm suppose to be packing for an indefinite cross country journey, leaving in only two weeks.

Happy and Safe Travels,
Colin [emoticon]


Moderator's NOTE: Great photos. Please be advised the maximum allowable width=640.

Wayne
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* This post was edited 01/16/13 09:50am by an administrator/moderator *

Buzzcut1

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Posted: 01/16/13 06:30am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

very cool, literally lol. excellent pics


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NCWriter

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Posted: 01/16/13 07:08am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Fun report! Loved that lighthouse last Sept.

You may be interested to know it is the easternmost point on the continental US mainland.

But St. Croix, US Virgin Islands is the easternmost point of the US.
Point Udall there has a marker to that effect.

We lived there for years and celebrated the new Millennium on the island. No snow there, however.

Tiger4x4RV

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Posted: 01/16/13 09:34am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Colin,

Thanks for the finest kind of trip report. I think I've been at least twice to every spot you visited, but only in summer with green grass and flowers. You had way more adventures!


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Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli

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Posted: 01/16/13 09:51am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The winter perspective is a treat to see. Nice job on the pictures. Thanks for braving the cold and putting this report together.


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Crazy Creek

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Posted: 01/16/13 11:20am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I am sure you have heard this before but you have a talent for writing that compliments your skill with a camera.

Keep that in mind as you travel this great country chasing your dreams.

Mike

ticki2

NH

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Posted: 01/16/13 11:38am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great trip , even if you did give in and take a room for the night [emoticon]
In summer there is an observatory at the top of the new bridge in Bucksport ( Fort Knox ) you can go up for a great view . We spend lots of time in Washington County , but not winters .
Enjoy the West .


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colbert wa.

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Posted: 01/16/13 12:38pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

love to see the winter outings. thanks for sharing them with us.


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fatmanobx

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Posted: 01/16/13 05:16pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Damn that's some cold looking country...I love winter camping though..Leaving saturday and heading back to the east coast for a couple of months..hope to see you all on the road!!!


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kohldad

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Posted: 01/16/13 06:31pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the different perspective on such a wonderful place. Glad to see such things as single digits and a little bit of snow doesn't keep all the campers home.


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