For 27 years now, we’ve relied on help from others to open the campground…it’s not a concept we created but we certainly appreciate the assistance. If you think about a campground operation, there are the camp sites of course, but there are also the ancillary buildings, the landscaping and gardening, the store, the rec hall, the playground…and in our case the beach and the walking trails too. It’s the kind of business that requires us to be Jacks of all trades and masters of none…We’d never be the park that we are without the expertise and the mastery of others and so we welcome you again this coming weekend…here’s the schedule:
We’re wet. I know, April showers bring May flowers but enough is enough. Our critters are walking around flooded pastures, our driveway is slick with mud and potholes Wait, this doesn’t sound like a good promotional piece for visiting Maine does it? Let me start over…
The gods have given us ample reason to sit in front of our planning notebooks, big white boards and computers these last couple of weeks. We took advantage of the we weather to attend the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Augusta. Held in the Civic Center, about 500 of us looked around while we listened to statistics, best practices and lots of advice (OK, maybe we were looking more than actively listening). In our defense, these gatherings are about networking, right? After Steve and I got over the surprise that we’re no longer the “young ones” in the room, we enjoyed catching up with folks we’ve known for decades in the Office of Tourism, from the Arts Commission and so many of the lodging and experience providers we’ve come to love from all over the state. Because Maine is so geographically huge, we often only connect in realtime during these sanctioned gatherings before “the season” kicks into gear. My favorite takeaways were the Maine Wine Trail and Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections who gave bags of chocolate covered almonds as parting gifts…the very definition of sweeet!
While Steve attended a session on Search Engine Optimization, I went to the State Library and museum for an update on Maine’s Bicentennial plans for 2020. The packed room was full of eager participants but the majority of details still feel rather vague. If everything works out, there will be tall ships in Belfast and Bucksport (5 minutes and 12 minutes from the campground), a statewide beanhole bean suppah (every community in Maine will hold a public supper on the same night) and lots more that still exist in the “fingers’ crossed stage”. As I learn more, I’ll share but if you’re really interested, it would be a great idea to follow the progress on the official website and all the rest of the social media outlets. In the meantime, I dropped into a rabbit hole to give you more information about the importance of beans in Maine’s history…the hole was too deep so I climbed back out but you might want to click over to the Maine Folklife Center for a little more information and make it a point to listen to the Good Old State of Maine song recording .
I didn’t sit down today to give you a blow by blow report of our time in Augusta but it’s turning out that way. We left Searsport for the tourism conference early because of a snow storm and because of the extra half hour, I got a chance to indulge in a favorite practice: hunting through the racks at Goodwill. Although I’m pleased to say that the expedition led to a couple of great linen tunics, the real pleasure was waiting for me at the door. You know how it is when you’re standing in a line that doesn’t move quickly and you scan your environment with no particular attention? Well I noticed Leo standing by the exit and without really thinking about it, my mind slipped him into the box of “oh, he’s not quite right” and that was it. But after I checked out I found myself right in front of him and when I smiled and said hello, he returned my greeting with a spark of happiness that caused me to pause and chat. Leo spoke with charm and I could have easily spent the day with him. A native of Augusta, he was fluent in English, French, Greek and Italian because he grew up in the tenement housing of the textile mills. The necklace he wore was made of bear claws and seeds and hand carved wooden beads. He has since lost the majority of his eyesight but even without being able to see, he carved the wooden feather on his walking stick to the point that it’s almost transparent and wood burned it by heating a nail in the fireplace during the winter. In our short time together Leo told me about earning a living by guiding sportsmen in the Northern woods. He told of places where the lumber jacks had abandoned camp during the recession and left the cast iron pots still sitting on ancient ashes. He spoke of salmon and moose and bear with the same facility I talk of campsites and reservations. He and his wife have lived off the grid their entire lives and he showed me the horsetail brush he made to brush out the gunpowder from his rifle. I’m not making this up. Leo was the diamond of my day and that 15 minute chance encounter has enriched my life…I wish the same for you.
Well, it’s the second week of April and a foot of snow fell today…which normally would make me seriously happy but yesterday it was 60 degrees and I prioritized getting my wool sweaters packed in cedar ’cause I was channeling my Martha Stewart and feeling good about it…thank the Gods I kept my snow boots by the door!
We’ve been catching the sun when we can and doing things like tending the bees, repairing broken pipes and taking the plastic off the windows of the Art Studio. The little stream that runs through the campground (between the main side of the park and the walk in tenting area) is roaring, the surf is pounding and the sheep and goats are frolicking and butting heads as though they’ve just come out of a deep slumber. All in all, everything in our little world seems just a bit more extreme (thankfully not Nebraska and Kansas extreme).
On Thursday and Friday we attended the Artists and Makers Conference in Lincolnville (when you’re in the campground, ask us about Howe’s Point in Lincolnville…a hidden gem of a beach, but I digress.) We go to this gathering wearing both our Searsport Shores hats and our Makers Guild of Maine hats. We make time to attend because we love being surrounded by small businesses and artists who are inquisitive, fully engaged in their lives and looking for the same sorts of things we are…an authentic and balanced life with time for art, friends, staying healthy and a really good IPA. Of course, there’s a bit of Holy Grail in all of this because we learn from every consultant with a slide show that we could do a better job telling our story if only… tell me, do real people actually check their phones as soon as they wake up and just before they go to sleep? Me…I want a nice latte and a weaving magazine in the morning and a good book in the evening…doesn’t everybody? We saw many dear friends and heard lots of inspiring tales of people following their passion. If you like handmade, fun jewelry, check out our friend Willy Reddick ’cause she’s the real deal! She rows a boat in the winter, hikes and gardens all summer, married an phenomenal furniture maker and is a genuinely kind person. We learned of a younger adventurer and painter who lives just inland from us, Abe Goodale
After all the stimulation of the conference, it felt good to settle in and work on our projects. When we were traveling in Mexico last November, we stayed in a little village that was only accessible by boat and enjoyed the hospitality of a retired restauranteur who had the loveliest outdoor kitchen that he shared with guests. As soon as we enjoyed a lunch in the garden, we knew we needed to recreate a Maine version for ourselves and campers. Fast forward to yesterday…Steve and a crew started clearing the goat pen in the back of the garden and drew pictures for my kitchen. It won’t be as open to the elements as the one we enjoyed in Yelpas but the front doors will slide all the way open and there will be a deep porch where 30-50 people can gather for cooking classes, receptions and music. It’s far more exciting than this computer rendering portrays and if we’re lucky, it will be built in time to enhance our Wednesdays at the Shores in July…I’ll post more pictures as things progress.
And to close with a few links you might like to check out:
Fiber College launched on April 1st…we invite you to join 200+ spinners, weavers, woodworkers, painters and other happy sorts September 4-8 here in the campground.
Clean Up Weekend is when we exchange free camping for help with all the Spring Chores we haven’t finished before we open…this year it’s May 17-19.
psst…there’s not a link yet but we’re working on hosting the Quilters of Gee’s Bend September 9-14 in conjunction with the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Gathering…more to follow soon.
Leo Tolstoy said it. Do you feel it too? When the clocks spring ahead, it’s time to start gathering up the winter projects that have filled all the corners of the house, workshop and studio and start accessing them with a critical eye…can I get this done in a few hours? is it worth the stress of a deadline to leave it (knitting, carving, painting project) in full view so that I get it done soon? if I pack it away now, will I ever remember how to start next November? AND my very favorite, is it time to admit defeat and get rid of it all together?
We’re living in a landscape of ice, mud, yuck and more yuck. The beach is hard to walk right now because the sand and the seaweed are starting to thaw but when you try to hike along the shore, your boots get sucked into a goo that is unforgiving. Just trying to get down to the water is a trial and I haven’t successfully arrived there without soaking my boots all the way to my socks. In polite company we say “my, isn’t this a wet beginning to the season?” but what we’re really thinking is “March is a wicked pissah this year”.
The other day we went to Delvino’s in Belfast for lunch…we had gotten our chores done and decided that carbs, cream sauce and red wine were the right way to celebrate one of the last snow storms of the year. The mushroom sacchetti was wonderful…but then I pushed it a bit too far. Feeling heavy from the delicious meal, I suggested to Steve that we drive up to the top of the mountain across from the campground and go for a hike and watch the snow fall. Ever the prince, he agreed…up we went…into the ditch the truck slid. It’s safe to say that any buzz we had over lunch evaporated as Steve got out of the truck, trudged down to the campground for a tow rope and farm truck and then struggled back up the alternately icy and muddy road to haul me out.
In my defense, we needed the fresh air. We’re spending most of our time on computers getting Fiber College ready for its launch on April 1st, meeting with people who will be playing music and doing art this summer at the campground and trying to get ahead of all the paperwork the banks, state and insurance companies keep tossing our way. You know, I always thought that as the years go by, things would get easier simply because we had more practice…but they don’t…the software keeps changing, the paperwork gets more complicated and there are simply more layers to all of the bureaucracy. When it all gets frustrating, I comfort myself with the awareness that at least we enjoy a direct correlation between where we focus our energy and the results that follow. Another truly brilliant part of owning a campground in Searsport Maine is that we feel like part of our community. Saturday was town meeting day and Steve was asking for money to support the HOBBA map (you should ask for a copy…it lists all the businesses and hikes and land trusts right around us. HOBBA is the local business alliance that meets regularly to promote and foster the businesses on the 12 mile stretch between the Passagassawakeag Bridge in Belfast and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Bucksport. HOBBA asked for $1000, got it and then we adjourned for fish chowder from Angler’s restaurant…yes, life is good!
And a final note…we’re looking for a few great people to spend the summer immersed in our world. We pay, we teach and we share what we know…would you like to join us from May until October ISH?
When we took over the campground more than 28 years ago, reservations often came in envelopes through the mail and we wrote each one onto a huge grid of cardboard and mailed back confirmations. How I wish we had saved one of those monthly grids just for the curiosity factor! But those huge poster boards got so grimy by the end of the summer that it was sheer relief to watch them burn in a bonfire when we no longer needed them.
Now we’re often asked why we don’t succumb to the current trend of encouraging guests to make reservations on line, completely circumventing the need to talk with me or anyone else on the reservation desk. I like to think that we can make your vacation nicer by helping you choose just the right site.
Our campground was developed on a 19th century farm where we enjoy a lovely mix of old pines, towering oaks and sunny garden sites. We treat the reservation grid with as much attention to detail as any wedding planner would for a formal dinner…we make site choices with the intention of maximizing serenity and compatibility: not too many dogs in any one area, no toddlers on sites where they could bound toward the ocean in a blink of an eye or avoiding a site with great shade but shallow rooted pines for someone with a cane or wheel chair…that sort of thing.
As long as we’re able, we’ll continue to ask guests to give us a call or send an e-mail so that we can try and choose the perfect spot. But like everything else, there’s a real skill to making reservations and I wanted to share this e-mail from Kristen…she’s a genuine communications pro! Take a look:
The 3 girls (ages 18,15,14) may want to sleep in a tent on our site. Is that allowed? Is there an extra fee.
We like to face our pop-ups toward each other if possible. Is that allowed? I saw it was possible for pull through sites but I’m assuming that’s for big RVs. We both have the wheel on front which makes them pretty easy to swing in place by hand.
Would you possibly allow both campers on one site if we park both trucks on the other?
*Having an ocean view is more important than any of the above things, so even if there are sites elsewhere that we can do some or all of the above things we’d prefer to see the ocean.😊
From pictures I found on-line we really liked site 2 if it makes a good neighboring site with 1. We trust your judgement though if you think there is a better pair of sites for us.
I’ve “CC’d” Becky on this do she may have other questions I haven’t thought of.
When you’re looking for a reservation with us or anyone else, providing this level of detail saves so much guess work and a multitude of e-mails. When any of us are planning vacations, we all have a vision of perfection. Tell me all of that when you’re making the reservation so that I can be your ally. Sometimes we can give you exactly what you ask for, sometimes we need to modify a bit but I promise, we can work as a team to make the best possible arrangements AND then when you get here, ask if there are other options you can consider…we’re happy to give you a list.
The days are getting longer…we came out of the movies the other night at 5:00 and it was still daylight for the drive home. This is lovely news, mostly because the sunrises and the sunsets are still at very easy to accommodate times…roughly around 6:30AM and 5:30PM. It’s been a quiet week of computer work and regular chores. In this post I’ve purposefully included lots of links that will be useful if you’re looking for more to do while you visit…this would definitely qualify as “off the beaten path” travel.
This week we drove out to Unity and rode the Belfast & Moosehead Lake train to Thorndike. It was a lovely Valentine’s treat complete with handmade heart garlands, a lovely dinner of local foods & wines, shopping local crafts and a great group of people who came as much for the community as for the music and libations. The B&M Lake Railroad has celebrated 150 years in service and is now a completely volunteer driven organization. For our Valentine trip, they partnered with the Thorndike Mill and created a memorable evening for everyone…we even got to catch up with our friends Wendy and Robert Esposito from Unity Pottery Not only are the volunteers creating specialty themed train trips but they also offer railcycle rides in the summer…check it out and we’ll help you plan a day trip that includes the train, Unity pottery and if you’re lucky enough to coordinate all of this on a Wednesday, homemade raised doughnuts from the Amish Community store. Here are a few pictures and if you’d like to see more, check out our facebook post here.
On Sunday we went down the coast to Cushing to help a friend prepare her artwork for the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. We’ve been lucky enough to spend time with the incredible Katharine Cobey over the years…she guides our choices in Fiber College and life in general. To assign labels to this incredible woman is like trying to box the wind but the labels that apply to her work are poet, knitter, spinner and keen feminist. While Steven found all the necessary documents in her computer (like bios, descriptions, installation notes and images), I went to her studio and helped pack the artwork and armatures into crates to be picked up later this week. Boy, I had no idea it was all so complicated and I was glad for the experience. It helped that the day was a sparkling one and after a lovely stew and polenta lunch, we took our leave and found ourselves in Rockland just in time for the Stan & Ollie movie at the Strand.
We got a wonderful storm Tuesday night and all day Wednesday so I close with Valentine’s wishes of happy and cozy weeks ahead. For us that means snowshoeing, spinning, bread making and maybe more movies (Sunday’s movie reminded me of how much I love seeing the big screen) and we have four awesome, independent movie theaters close by. Let me end by giving you these websites to add to your list of things to do while visiting Searsport (just in case of fog, drizzle or need for a bucket of popcorn in a dark comfortable room): the Alamo in Bucksport, the Colonial in Belfast, the Strand in Rockland and Ellsworth Arts in Ellsworth.
We’ve been enjoying a bit of a thaw over the last 10 days. February is when we start feeling like Winter’s slipping away so there’s an interesting tug between celebrating the cold weather by reading books, making hygge meals and spending time in the studio…and yearning for Spring by planning the gardens, solidifying Summer plans and figuring out the details for some of our building projects that will be starting up as soon as the cold breaks.
When the sun is warmest, we try to spend a couple of hours outside each day. Usually that involves skiing and snowshoeing but because the mid-west has taken more than its fair share of snow this year, we’re reduced to hiking and slipping on ice. I’ll do a grander post on exploring by foot in the future but for now, if you’d like to do some virtual hiking, these three sites have some terrific maps and descriptions of walks in our area: try Coastal Mountain Landtrust, One Minute Hikes with Aislyn from the Bangor Daily News and AllTrails.com (type Belfast into the search bar).
Gardens are a serious part of our world here at the Campground…it seems that we talk, plan, plant and harvest them 12 months a year. In the Fall, Steve buries all of the beds in a thick layer of seaweed (it decomposes by Spring and gives us incredible soil). Now is when our mailbox is stuffed with catalogues and we start the surprisingly contentious conversations about what we’re going to plant…it’s always a tug between ordering what we know and already love and something new that sounds incredible. Our goals for the garden are always the same…beauty, food for humans, birds, animals and insects, a bit of novelty and a whisper of whimsy…my I’m feeling poetic.
February feels short because we’re on the road a lot…mostly within the boundaries of Maine and it seems as though every trip is the harbinger of a snow storm. Fiber College and the Music Weekends bring a lot of talent together from some pretty hidden corners of Maine. For us, connectivity is more often a hug and a bowl of soup with the artists who will be down to the Coast in September.
When the lines are offering slow speed or no internet and cell phones only work if you’re standing in the corner of a bedroom that faces East, it’s easier and certainly more fun to sit together and work out the details of all of our projects. By the end of this month we expect to have the entire summer’s Artist in Residence schedule in place (expanded and exciting I might add) and the September schedule well underway.
Thursday we head to Millinocket, Saturday we’re taking the Love Train from Unity to Thorndike (doesn’t that sound just too cool?) and next week we’ll be in Cushing, Friendship and Rockland…I’ll take pictures to share!