On Monday, August 11, we rented a Dodge Durango – an enormous SUV which was an upgrade because of limited remaining inventory – in Montreal and drove nearly 350 miles to Bar Harbor, Maine. This was our second time to Maine. The first was in August 2006 when Wayne and the kids and I drove from Castle Rock, Colorado to Mount Rushmore to Niagara Falls to Boston to Bar Harbor – about 5,000 miles round trip – where we met up with Wayne’s parents and sister Nancy and where we visited his extended family. This time the kids and I stopped for dinner at the home of Wayne’s cousin Margaret and her partner Nina who live near Bangor. We sent them our dog Oliver on a plane last year before we moved, and this is the first time we’d seen him since. He seems very happy in his new home with three other dogs and a large yard. Margaret and Nina continue to be amazed that we couldn’t find a home for him in Colorado because he’s so popular in Maine. Whenever they take him into town, people ask about him. “Are you going to breed him?” “Are you considering selling him?” When the five of us plus Oliver were hiking at Acadia National Park Tuesday, we passed a group of people who recognized him from seeing him in town and called him by name. Other hikers stopped to pet him and comment on his cuteness. Margaret and Nina said that Oliver developed a thyroid problem shortly after arriving in Maine and gained a lot of weight. Before the vet diagnosed him, Marg & Nina were having a Halloween party; and Margaret was making crime-scene outlines on the floor of their barn for the party. She traced Nina, and then she traced Oliver. She said Oliver’s outline looked like a fetal pig.
After our hike over granite rocks and boulders up Gorham Mountain, we met up with Margaret’s parents/Wayne’s aunt and uncle, Roberta & Ralph. Then my huge SUV came in handy since I was able to drive all of us into town. Bar Harbor is crazy crowded with tourists in the summer, and it’s hard to find a place to park. After a wonderful late lunch at the Terrace Grill – right next to the water – we walked around town and then ate dinner with Ralph, Roberta, Margaret, and Nina at Mainely Meat BBQ. But our day wasn’t finished yet! Margaret, Laurel, Charlie, and I drove back into Acadia – this time to Sandy Beach – where we and dozens of other visitors attended a ranger talk about stargazing at 9 pm. The lecture was very informative, but the sky was pretty cloudy and the moon was a Supermoon, drowning out the stars’ light.
The next day I drove to Ralph’s & Roberta’s summer cabin where the seven of us again piled into my rental SUV. Then I drove to Bass Harbor where Ralph & Roberta had arranged for us all to go on a boat ride to Frenchboro. There were a few dozen people sitting close together on padded-bench seats on this boat. Eli, a local lobster fisherman, was our tour guide and did a wonderful job. He said cod used to be so abundant in this area that ships could hardly get through. Now there are none there. Big commercial fishing boats came from all over the world in the 1940’s and ’50’s and fished all the cod. Lobsters are far more abundant than they were when cod were plentiful because cod were the lobsters’ only predators (besides people). The lobster fishermen are actually increasing the lobster population by feeding them herring in the traps. There are very specific guidelines for which lobsters can be kept and which thrown back. Eli brought up two of his traps during the boat tour and examined his catch. Everything he caught was either too small (Must be between 3 1/4″ and 5″. If it’s larger than 5″ it also has to be thrown back. Lobsters can live to be 100 years old, but most are caught long before that.) or female – have to protect the egg layers – or a crab which is priced so low that Eli said it wasn’t worth his time to keep and sell. He said the price of the herring bait has increased dramatically recently – from $1/bushel to $30/bushel. Although restaurants charge huge prices for lobster, they don’t pass along that “market price” to the fishermen who barely make a living when the lobster supply is plentiful and lots of people are selling. Each island or town can set its own regulations for who gets a lobster fishing license, and in areas with steep competition, the requirements are very restrictive. In some areas you have to be born there in order to be a lobster fisherman. So vital is the work to the livelihood of the area that any perceived misconduct by one fisherman towards another is paid back with a sunken boat, a burned-down house, or murder. Each fisherman’s buoy that bobs along the water attached to the rope and trap underneath must be uniquely colored/designed so that each person knows whose is whose. Some people live on islands that are only connected to the mainland by a three-days-per-week ferry service. In order to do their grocery shopping, they take the ferry (only one ferry on the days it comes) to the mainland, spend the night on the mainland and return to their island on the next day’s ferry. Other islands that are not on warmer bay water but on colder ocean water are for summer residents only. On one island, the high school students take a ferry to the mainland every day for school and return on the 5 pm ferry. Another community was in danger of losing its one-room schoolhouse because there was only one child left to attend. The school apparently meant a lot to the small community, so three families took in a total of 15 foster children who would attend the school and thus keep it open.
We got off at Frenchboro where we ate lunch, walked around a bit, and got back on the boat. Charlie and I split a lobster for lunch (and had some other things – lobster isn’t very filling!). I think that was my first time eating lobster, and it was good. Charlie loved it.
On Thursday Laurel, Charlie, and I drove to College of the Atlantic where Wayne’s cousin/Margaret’s brother, Gordon, works in the GIS lab. He gave us a tour of the campus and told us about the work he does in the lab. Then he joined us for lunch at a different branch of Mainely Meat. Luckily Mainely Meat offers tasty fare because there are few alternatives. Maine, including Mount Desert Island, is so rural; grocery stores and restaurants are few and far between, not counting downtown Bar Harbor.
After saying goodbye to Gordon, we drove to the visitor center at Acadia and took a free shuttle to Jordan Pond. We walked the serene 3.2-mile loop around that, got back on the bus to the visitor center and then drove back to our cottage.
This morning we packed, drove to Margaret’s and Nina’s house for lunch, and then drove back to Montreal. We already miss America and are feeling rather lonely.