Mid Winter Fun

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

Be well and stay in touch!

Astrig & SteveUsValentineNatural (1)

Belfast Harbor Walk

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Belfast Harbor Walk in the morning mist.

When my wife and I have a spare hour or so, and we want to get a little exercise (but not a whole lot), one of our favorite things to do is to take the Belfast Harbor Walk. It’s a very simple and flat stroll, a little more than two miles in total length, starting and ending on the east end of The Footbridge across the Passagassawakeag River where it flows into Penobscot Bay. The Harbor Walk takes you through the Front Street Shipyard, one of Belfast’s newest and most fascinating businesses. FSS provides comprehensive services to both private yachts and commercial vessels.

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Front Street Shipyard’s 440 ton capacity lift in action, lifting a 96′ yacht.

They also build boats. On any given day, you might see – up on dry land! – a 120’ pleasure yacht registered in the Marshall Islands, or one of the huge red tug boats that helps to dock ships in Searsport, plus a wide variety of other sail and power boats of all sizes. They also have a Facebook page where they often post pictures of boats they’re working on.

After you pass through the shipyard you pass by a few great eateries, and also the Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, a local microbrewery. Then you come to Belfast’s Main Street, where you can choose to walk up and explore the retail shops and restaurants, or continue across following Harbor Walk. You’ll meander past City Landing, through Heritage Park and Steamboat Landing, to the trail’s end at the Belfast Boathouse, with a fine view of the outer harbor and Islesboro across the bay. After we’ve reached the Boathouse and had a brief rest on a bench, we always walk down on the floating docks at City Landing on our return to the Footbridge. You can often see large numbers of starfish clinging to the granite blocks of the pier.

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Directions from Searsport Shores: Turn left out of The Shores to head toward Belfast. Drive about 3.5 miles and take a left turn on Footbridge Rd. Drive to the bottom of the hill and park on the side of the road, at the east end of the Footbridge where you start your Harbor Walk. This entire walk is wheelchair accessible.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill

Things We Did This Week

April is a rough month for us because we’re rested and feeling cabin fever deep in our bones…we want to be outside taking care of projects but because it’s still pretty cold out AND we have plenty of indoor work still left to do, we start behaving like caged cats.

In my world, self discipline starts with list making…so this is what we accomplished this week:

  1. Fiber College Registration has launched…if you haven’t seen it already, visit the website now and then plan on camping here in September for the best week ever (for those who like to work with their hands that is)
  2. We had a wicked storm…lost electricity…lost trees…so this morning we had a big bonfire on the beach with some of the branches that came down over the gardens.
  3. Norma and Steve got the plant nursery going…countless flats of vegetables, dye plants, flowers and curiosities are all being cared for under Norma’s watchful eye.
  4. Did you notice the blog got a facelift?  What do you think?  By May 1st, we should be launching a new website too.  It’s a full time job to keep up with our social media.  If you haven’t already found us, we’re also posting to Instagram with more regularity I’m (Astrig) @campingwithart and Steve is @campingman
  5. Wayne and Mike got 25 new picnic tables made for the Lobsterbake area.  We’re trying a new model with unattached benches…we think it will make it easier for those with less flexible knees.
  6. It wasn’t a “to do” but we had a fantastic lunch with our friends Dan and Selika at Laan Xang in Belfast.  Dan’s going to plant a special mix of grass seeds this year to provide hay for our little spinner’s flock of goats and sheep…and he and Steve were making plans for growing Thai basil and heirloom tomatoes for the restaurant…can’t wait!

Now I feel a sense of accomplishment 🙂 I think I’ll go up to the studio and weave a bit after a cup of coffee.  In case you were wondering, the title of this post is from a favorite Robert Frost poem, Two Tramps in the Mud…this is the entire poem:

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
– Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926

First Days of Spring

My window by the computer is large and sunny in the afternoons.  It lets me keep an eye on the antics of the goats and sheep and watch how fast the water is running down the stream to the Bay.  In true New England fashion over the past week I’ve alternated between peeling off layers because the sun was so warm, to watching the snow fall in heavy flakes worthy of a snow globe.  I don’t know about you but I always feel that Spring snowstorms are like an unexpected gift after the party has been all cleaned up…special because it’s not anticipated.

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I guess yesterday’s storm was a bit anticipated because on Sunday we made a point of taking an afternoon hike on Sears Island.  For those who haven’t been here, the Island is about 10 minutes from the campground and accessible by paved causeway.  The only way to explore the island is by foot, horseback or bicycle so it’s always a pleasantly, unrushed experience.  There are a series of trails tended by the local Friends of Sears Island group and the only special requests are that we clean up after the dogs and pick up any random trash that may be left behind.  With 940 uninhabited acres, it truly is a jewel in our own backyard.  Here’s a video from pictures we took on Sunday:

Day Tripper: Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport

The Beech Hill Preserve, managed by the Coastal Mountain Land Trust, offers ready access to one of the most scenic and multi-faceted conservation properties in the western Penobscot Bay region.

As the only bald hilltop in the area, Beech Hill is an extraordinary hiking, picnicking and birding destination that offers panoramic views of Penobscot Bay, the Camden hills and the St. George peninsula. The Preserve has the honor of being one of the official stops on the Maine Birding Trail with over 125 species on it’s checklist. The conservation program of this Preserve protects nearly 300 acres of land managed for grassland bird habitat, organic blueberry production, and scenic and historic preservation values.

August 2 Beech Hill was open to the public inviting anyone to pick wild Blueberries! It was a warm sunny day just perfect for hiking the 3/4 mile trail to the top of the hill. The blueberries were perfectly ripe, warm and fragrant, and so abundant it was easy to fill our baskets!  BeechHill-12

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Day Tripper: Portland, Maine

The Maine Day Tripper Portland by

Tanya Mitchell

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photo by Tanya Mitchell

I think the two-hour drive from Searsport to Portland is much like the old advertising slogan for another New England favorite, Dunkin Donuts – it’s worth the trip! Corny, I know, but if you’re like me and you don’t mind rocking out to some of your favorite road trip songs during the drive, the ride to Portland can be a pretty good time, too. I really dig downtown Portland, so naturally when I arrive in the city that area tends to be my first destination. It can get a little challenging if you don’t know your way around, and in the summertime traffic can get quite heavy. But that’s OK, as long as you can find a parking spot, you’re golden. Exploring this part of Portland is a much better experience on foot because it’s easier to make frequent stops to check out the cool little shops along the way. I almost never create an itinerary for a trip like this because there are so many possibilities here, and it can be tough to choose. Besides, sometimes it’s just more fun to be spontaneous! If you start your excursion in Congress Street, you’ll have easy access to lots of small art galleries, shops and restaurants while you meander your way over to the cobblestone streets of The Old Port. The Old Port is home to tons of local pubs with lots of local character, unusual emporiums and unique stops.

If you happen to wander near the area of the Portland Lobster Co. near Long Wharf, take a look at the collection of locks attached to the chain link fence. The sight is pretty interesting, but when you look a little closer, each lock carries a message of love. It’s something that folks have been doing all over the world, and it’s a pretty neat thing to see gestures of love on display in this way, and stuff like this always makes me smile. If you’re into cycling, there are a few outfits around the area that rent bicycles for the day, and this method of transportation will allow you to see what’s happening around the city much quicker than you could on foot, or in a vehicle during the summertime, for that matter. And it’s great exercise, too, which you can look back on with pride as you’re ordering that second beer with dinner (more on that later).

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photos by Tanya Mitchell

If you’re into adventures on the water, you won’t be disappointed if you book an afternoon of sailing on one of the region’s historic schooners, like the Schooner Frances, or hop on the ferry and spend an afternoon at Peaks Island. I am always amazed at how easy it is to leave the fast-paced atmosphere of the city behind in the Portland area! The city also has about 70 miles of walking trails, so a peaceful stroll is never too far out of reach, either. And hey, what’s a trip to Portland without seeing a ballgame? Seeing a Sea Dogs game is a great alternative to the longer (and pricier) trip to a Boston Red Sox game. To me, the experience is just as fantastic due to the simple fact that it’s baseball. This sport has always been a summertime love of mine, even long after I traded my bat and glove for a writer’s notebook. Hadlock Field really captures the local spirit as it relates to New England sports. It has its own version of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, the Maine Monster, and a lighthouse emerges in center field each time the Sea Dogs win a game or every time a player hits a home run. If you think of it, bring along a baseball glove; if you’re even a little less clumsy than I am, you might be lucky enough to catch a game ball! If the rain clouds happen to come through the region during your trip, no problem.

You could always check out the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium for a laser light show. I have, and it’s something one has to see for themselves to truly appreciate it. It’s just pretty cool to enter a building and feel like you are at the center of the universe, even if it’s just for an hour or so. If you’re looking for a fun and funky place to dine, look no further than Silly’s.  Meals here have interesting names like The Imperial Thai Fighter, a dish featuring Portobello mushrooms or grilled chicken with sautéed vegetables and miso ginger sauce on a bed of brown rice. Aside from the Star Wars reference, which I thought was pretty sweet, I especially like the décor – comfy bench seats, tall tables and throw pillows everywhere you look. It would be a lot like eating a great meal at home, if I hired and interior decorator and if I was a decent cook (and anyone who knows me well knows I am not). They’ve got a nice selection of Maine brews, which is excellent for someone like me because I love to try new and different beers, and if I like what I try I’ll almost always order a second (it’s OK, remember? I did that hour of cycling earlier). Well, I think that’s going to do it for this lady, I’ve got a long drive filled with road trip songs and some great Portland memories ahead of me. Until next time, safe travels!

Tanya Mitchell

Maine Day Tripper: Bar Harbor

The Maine day tripper

Bar Harbor

There’s so much to do and see in the Bar Harbor region, which can be a little overwhelming for an indecisive yet adventurous personality type such as myself. Each time I visit this place I really do feel like that figurative kid in a candy store because the options for how one could spend a day here are quite vast.

The first must-see in this region is Acadia National Park; I could easily spend an entire day here just trudging around on all of the nature trails. I’m always amazed at how invigorating it is just to take a leisurely stroll through the woods, even for just an hour or so, and it’s especially welcome after a 50-mile drive through that heavy summertime traffic. I like to make a point of visiting the summit of Cadillac Mountain every time I’m there – the view is absolutely stunning, and if you enjoy photography like I do, you’ll get your fill of excellent scenics.Acadia-7

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While you’re in the park you’ve got to check out Thunder Hole. When the waters are calm it doesn’t appear to be much more than a low-positioned rock cavern inside a rocky inlet, but when the waves start to roll in it’s show time, and you’ll see how this natural attraction earned its name. When the waves crash onto the cave you’ll hear a sound similar to thunder rolling off in the distance, and the force of the water hitting the rocks creates this huge spout of water. It’s the kind of thing you must see and experience for yourself in order to fully appreciate it.

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Another one of my favorite spots in the park is Sand Beach, and even though it’s relatively small – it’s about 290 yards in length – the sandy shores offer a nice change from the rocky terrain you tend to see on many Maine beaches. I once spent several hours there lounging in my favorite beach chair with a best-loved summer read and it was wonderful, but it would have been more wonderful if I remembered to reapply my sunscreen after taking an afternoon dip. So if you go, make sure you bring your sunscreen. That way you’re less likely to go home with the outline of your book burned into your thighs.

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If you enjoy spending time on the water and you’ve never tried kayaking, you’re in for a real treat. I have always loved paddling around in a canoe, and a few years ago, I decided to give it a try myself. After I was done, I couldn’t believe it took me so long to get around to it! The feeling of gliding on top of the water’s surface is pure freedom, and it’s easier to get around if you have an instructor who can teach you the correct way to paddle a kayak (hint: it is nothing like the method used to propel a canoe forward, and I learned that the hard way). Luckily if you’re new to the activity, there are tons of outfits around that offer guided kayak tours on Frenchman Bay, and you can get the rundown on how to use them safely. Once you get comfortable with it, it’s a great way to see the bay, and you may catch a glimpse of a seal or a porpoise during your tour. I especially love seals because to me, they always appear to be smiling. I can’t help it, I always smile back. They’re just so darn cute!

As many who have visited this region will tell you, there’s more than one way to see Bar Harbor. I may be a bit of an oddity because even though I am terrified of heights, I’ll never pass up the chance to see the area in its entirety from the seat of a small plane. If you’re a bit of a heights wimp like me, you might try booking a tour on a Cessna, where they have closed cockpits. If you’re more of a daredevil, you might prefer to take a spin in a biplane or a glider. Either way, you’ll certainly get an eyeful of natural beauty.

Finding a good meal is never a problem in Bar Harbor. The problem for me is deciding where to go because there are so many great restaurants from which to choose. I think my favorite is Geddy’s, an establishment with lots of local character located right in the heart of the downtown. Geddy’s cooks up tons of awesome sandwiches, burgers and wraps as well as plenty of entrées  – no worries lobster-lovers, Maine’s most famous shellfish has a prominent place on the menu, too. Since I enjoy sampling all of the fine beers crafted right here in Maine, I like to order a nice frosty glass of Geddy’s in-house brew, Moose Breath (trust me, it tastes better than the name might imply).

Well, I think that’ll do it for this weary wanderer for now. Until next time, safe travels!

Tanya Mitchell