Seaside Camping and Dogs on a Bus
After a couple restful days in New Hampshire, we were headed off to Maine – a state known for its stunning coast, picturesque harbor towns and Acadia National Park. Anytime we chatted with people and mentioned we were headed to Maine, Acadia was listed as ‘a must-see’. Before hitting the coastal highway to make our way east, we stopped in Portland, Boothbay Harbor and Camden, getting a really great feel for some of the other things Maine had to offer, including amazing hiking, gorgeous vistas, pretty lighthouses and so many great dog-friendly towns. Plus, there’s really nothing better than falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and waking up to smell of sea air!
Cape Elizabeth and Portland, ME
Boothbay Harbor, ME
Acadia National Park, ME
On our way to Portland, we took a side trip to Cape Elizabeth to see the Portland Head Light, located on the gorgeous shores of Fort William Park. It was on a bit of whim to stop here and we just assumed it would be the lighthouse and maybe a small information center. We wish we had done a little research before we arrived - the park is huge and really beautiful! It has a ton of green space for picnics, playing soccer or Frisbee, flying kites and walking dogs. There are paved and dirt trails that wind through the entire area and take you along the shore to the lighthouse. If we were to go again, we would have planned at least a half day there and cooked up a meal on one of the grills available or grabbed a snack from one of the food trucks. This was definitely the place to be on a warm and sunny Sunday!
Portland has been the busiest and largest city we’ve had to maneuver Hrudy through so far. Thankfully, it’s pretty stretched out and fairly straightforward to navigate. We headed to a small industrial area that is (surprisingly) full of great little restaurants and craft brew pubs, and specifically our next stop, the Allagash Brewery. We were introduced to the Allagash’s amazing beers on one of our many trips to visit Graeme’s brother in Connecticut, and it’s been a favourite that has been hard to track down in Ontario. All of their tours for the day were fully booked when we arrived, but as a pretty great substitute they were giving out free tasting flights. We spent an hour or so enjoying four new brews on their very dog-friendly patio and after stocking up on a couple of other tasty selections to enjoy later we headed off to our Harvest Host stay for the night in Boothbay.
We were told that Boothbay Harbor is possibly the most dog-friendly town in Maine, so we definitely thought it was worth checking out. A cute little harbor town full of marine-themed shops and galleries and more seafood restaurants than you can count, we parked and set out in desperate need of coffee. We stopped at a little shop called Red Cup Coffeehouse for a couple of soy lattes and grabbed the dogs to explore the town. A great place to simply wander, they have a walking path with a long wooden bridge that leads you across the harbor. It offers really nice views of the entire town and was apparently soon to host a ‘tug-of-war’ contest between the opposite sides. After a nice stroll and a stop into the local pet store, Two Salty Dogs, for dog snacks, we made our way to the No. 1 Coastal Highway (US Route 1).
The Maine Coastal scenic drive along Route 1 takes you through some really pretty little towns like Rockland and Camden. We needed a way to expend some puppy energy after a couple of longer driving days, so we found a hike that we thought might do the trick. The Maiden Cliff trailhead is located just outside of Camden, on ME Route 52 North. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead, but when we arrived there was no space for our campervan, so we opted for parking on the side of the road just before the lot entrance. We had read the hike was considered moderate to strenuous, but it was only just shy of 2 miles, up and back. Emphasis on the ‘up’! Taking you to the Maiden Cliff (named after Elenora French who fell to her death here in 1862), this rugged trail is a good climb and fairly well-traveled. We stopped at the lookout to hydrate and to rest our quadriceps, and we were rewarded with an absolutely phenomenal view that on this perfectly clear day, let us see for miles.
With rubbery legs from the hike back down from Maiden Cliff and three sufficiently exhausted pupper-dogs we made our way to our campground for the next couple of nights. The KOA Bar Harbor is pricier than we would normally spend on campground, and we even splurged a bit more to get an oceanside campsite (Site 371), but it was worth it. We had an unobstructed view to watch the tides change and the sun set, giving us a beautiful display of pinks, oranges and purples, with the ocean only steps from the RV.
After being disappointed that Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire was not dog-friendly at all, Acadia National Park was such a treat. They go above and beyond for people traveling with pets. They offer a shuttle service (the Island Explorer) that offers nine different routes throughout the park. They stop at all the main sights and trailheads, and they allow dogs onboard! We were lucky that one of the shuttle routes picked up right at our KOA campground, so, bright and early we packed up our camera and the three dogs and waited for the first bus. If you’re traveling with pets, we recommend that you get the shuttle early. Talking with one of the drivers they said the first couple of buses can be a little busy because many locals use them to get to work, but the mid-day shuttles going to Acadia could be jammed packed full, especially during peak season. Our first bus was about half full so we had plenty of space for us and the dogs, who either have to ride on your lap or on the floor, they cannot sit on the seats. We planned a half day of activities so we wouldn’t overwhelm the dogs (especially PJ who is almost 12 and tires easily with the heat and a lot of hiking). Our first stop was Thunder Hole – a crevice in the cliffside that at certain times can create quite the rumbling when the waves crash against it. We were visiting at low tide and with fairly calm waters, so it was barely a gurgle when we were there, but the views from the lookout were incredible. We wandered the trail that stretched along the coast and explored the rocks, snapping pictures of Otter Cliffs off in the distance. We hopped back on the next Island Explorer bus, which was completely empty, and headed off to Jordan Pond and its namesake hiking trail. The Jordan Pond trail was pretty flat and well maintained, looping around the water and providing of the best views of ‘The Bubbles’, two rounded mountains with a name you can’t say without smiling. The restaurant, Jordan House, allows dogs on its patio and is famous for their homemade popovers and lemonade. It was lined up out the door as we made our way back to the shuttle. Since it was only mid-day and we were leaving the park, we were the only people on our last two shuttles that took us back to the campground, making it a really easy ride with the pups who actually seemed to be enjoying the bus by that point.
The shuttle was a great introduction to the park, but we wanted to see more. We got up early the next day and took Hrudy so we could drive ourselves and not worry about schedules. Photos we had seen made us want to get to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, but none of the shuttles go up that far and park attendant at the front gate recommended against taking the campervan up, so sadly we had to skip that on this go around. Instead we took our time driving the Park Loop Road and stopped to hike more of the coastal trail near Sand Beach and Bubbles Pond. If you decide to take your campervan or RV through Acadia, be sure to note the bridge heights. This isn’t well emphasized on the park map and we think signs are marked to the tunnels lowest points (we’re 12 feet tall and still managed under the 11’ 4” bridge) but that may not be the case for all of them.
Our original schedule had us staying in Maine until early July, but we were missing our Mother Land. We decided that we really wanted to be back in Canada a few days sooner, in time for July 1st (Canada’s 150th birthday), and decided to book a few nights at Herring Cove Provincial Park on Campobello Island in New Brunswick. From Maine, you can cross onto the island over the toll-free FDR Bridge which is at the eastern-most point of Maine (and the United States, for that matter), in a small town called Lubec. Originally, we were just going to drive through, cross the border and get settled at the campground, but as we were looking for a park to get the pets and our paperwork organized for border services, we saw a sign for the West Quoddy Light House. About 4 miles down a small dirt road, we reached a little park with a pretty red and white striped lighthouse. We thought a quick hike would be perfect to tire the dogs out before the border, and walked the short High Point trail. It led off along the cliff’s edge and up to a clearing that overlooked another stunning section of the rocky coast. This is why we’re learning the importance of leaving some flexibility in our travel plans – it’s helped us stumble across great sites we may never have found otherwise.
The Vegan-Friendly Grocery Selection
Oh how we wish we could get even half the food choices back home as we can get in the United States! We’ve been enjoying a wide selection of dairy-free yogurts, meat-alternatives like Field Roast, vegan coffee creamers and Hampton Creek products like ‘Just. Mayo’. It’s been a real treat to have so many more choices, even in the smaller towns where we weren’t expecting to find them.
The Speed Bumps
Before we left we invested in a RV specific GPS system from Garmin. It’s helpful because we can program in the dimensions and weight of the vehicle and it will warn us of unsuitable routes (like low bridges) and give us warnings about steep hills or sharp turns ahead. But is does have some annoying quirks that have led to some frustration. It takes a few seconds to orient to the vehicle’s direction when we start a trip or leave a parked position – so, for example, it will say “turn left” thinking we were oriented one way and then after a few seconds recalculate and tell us to “U-turn” since we were actually meant to go right. It’s also sent us down some incredibly precarious back roads that are almost too narrow for a car, let alone a campervan. It also has a tendency to take us on the shortest distance route (whether it’s on this setting or not), even when the slightly longer route would be faster due to fewer stops or better roads. It’s taken us off of a straight stretch of road only to put us right back on it two minutes later. If nothing else, we’re using it as a guide and trusting our instincts instead of its directions sometimes. At the end of the day, we’re still very glad to have it, but we’re hoping with more use we’ll figure out how to minimize its idiosyncrasies.
What we’re Enjoying:
Sigur Ros Agaetis Byrjun (1999)– Iceland’s famous post-rock band’s second album, the one that brought them to international prominence. Great to kick back to at the end of the day.
Pickle Pipes and Weights (Amazon) – Our fermenting crock met an untimely end shortly before we hit the road and we were looking for something to take its place. We’re big fans of cultured foods like Sauerkraut and Kimchi, but we didn’t have the space for a large crock with an airlock. Then we found the fun-named Pickle Pipes, and now we’re back in the fermentation game. These fit on top of mason jars (standard and wide mouth options are available), and function in a similar way to an airlock – allowing carbon dioxide to escape, without letting air in. We’ve been testing them on a batch of fermented carrot pickles, and they seem to be doing the trick, and fitting nicely in our cupboards!