Family Vacation in Maine, Aug. 2003

In summary - everything started badly, thanks to the massive power blackout all over the Northeast, which occurred shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, August 14, the day before we were to leave on our family vacation to Maine. But we left only a day behind schedule and got lucky with the weather, which has been as dreadful in Maine as in New York, and which granted us its first beautiful week of the year. We did some fun things, although we saw everything through a dense fog of teenage hormones all week.

Thursday and Friday - the initial result of the blackout was positive - we had a light meal on the deck and then adjourned indoors where we rigged up candles, drank beer and played board games. At the end of the evening, we were heard to remark that it was really a shame that these blackouts came so seldom.

Spot the blackout (fake picture, though, it turns out)

Although it was clear that it was not just a local problem, we were initially confident that the power would return in time for us to leave as scheduled on Friday. This confidence was reinforced when the lights all came on at 1 a.m. in the morning, but they went out again and we were faced with the prospect of a continuing outage of unknown duration. When we got up in the morning, it seemed that Larchmont had been singled out for more severe treatment than the surrounding suburbs which had regained their power. Surely it can't be long, we argued, before Larchmont's additional burden of sin is finally expiated and we can join the enlightened ones all around us? As the day wore on, though, there was no sign of this happening - instead, sinister pools of water started collecting on the kitchen floor by the freezer. Finally we decided that the only thing to do was to give away or throw away the contents of our refrigerator and freezer and abandon the house in its powerless state. We called some friends who had power as well as some room in their freezer, packed away about half the contents of our freezer and drove it over to their house. Of course, by the time we got back to our house, the power had been restored to Larchmont (24 hours after the lights went out), so we called up our friends to give them the good news. By that time, they had realized that they only had room for about half our food in their freezer, so they had given the remainder to their cleaning lady just before she left. We did however manage to recover the rest. At this point, we concluded that it was too late to start for Maine, so we went early to bed.

Saturday - we arose early on Saturday. The weather was sunny and the traffic light. First stop, Freeport, Maine to show the girls one of the icons of American outdoorsmanship and canny merchandising, the original LL Bean store, open all day and all night.

Madeleine enthusiastically shopping at LL Bean

Freeport was very crowded and packed with tourists who seemed to be delighted to spend their vacation shopping. We tired of it quite soon and pushed on to Bangor, and thence to our hotel, the Atlantic Oakes in Bar Harbor. After settling in, we decided to Walk into Bar Harbor, which took about a half hour. As we walked around, we began to recognize places from earlier trips, including The Thirsty Whale, where we stopped for dinner. After eating, Madeleine & Peter set off for the Atlantic Climbing School which had provided a guide for us when we were here in 1999 and who were now happy to do the same for tomorrow.

Sunday - Madeleine and Peter arose early and headed into Bar Harbor for a half-day's climbing. We went to the climbing school where we met Chris, our guide. He was one of the founders of the school, a Maine boy who went to California but just had to come back East again. He also has climbed quite a bit in New Hampshire and knows Kurt Winkler and George Hurley. After chatting about old times, we got into the car and headed out for the Precipice, a large slab in the south east of the island. We did an easy but spectacular 3-pitch climb and then top-roped a more demanding 5.7, which got our juices flowing. The weather was gorgeous, the rocks were surprisingly uncrowded and a good time was had by all.

When the family reassembled after lunch, we decided to loaf around the pool for the rest of the day. Louise turned out to have got a case of poison ivy before we left which was now erupting all over her body. For dinner, we ate take-out in the hotel room.

Monday - We decided to assign each day to someone so that we could avoid lengthy squabbles over what how we were going to spend the day. Monday was Moma's day, so she got to call the shots. First, we headed for Southwest Harbor, where we shopped and had lunch. This was quite a bit smaller than Bar Harbor and the tourist shops were a little classier. In the afternoon, we took a ferry to the Cranberry Islands. We wandered around a bit - the Islands seemed to be populated by artists and lobstermen - we saw some marvellous beards on the men that ZZ-Top would have envied. We visited the Islesford pottery. After returning to Southwest Harbor, we headed back to Bar Harbor, stopping to admire the Bass lighthouse on the way. In Bar Harbor, we had our first lobster dinner, at Galyn's.

Isleford Pottery on Little Cranberrry

Bass light

Tuesday - was Toni's day. This meant a rather laid-back day, featuring window shopping in Bar Harbor, hanging out at the pool, and Miguel's for dinner.

Wednesday - was Madeleine's day. We headed for Southwest Harbor for breakfast, where we had good food, served by a lovely but clueless waitress. After that, we took a pleasant little hike down to Wonder Land beach.

Thursday - was Peter's day. After driving around, we headed for a hike, but went past the trailhead on the (one-way) park loop road and so we picked the next trailhead which turned out to be for the Precipice trail. This is actually not a hiking trail at all but a verrry steep, non-technical climbing trail. Madeleine was wearing a skirt, which was definitely not the clothing of choice, so Louise and she stopped while Peter and Toni and continued for a bit. Toni, although normally averse to hiking, actually got off on the scrambling and it was all Peter could do to persuade her to turn around. After that, we went to visit an antique car museum, which was truly lovely.

Early Mercedes

Friday - Peter and Madeleine planned to get up early on to go climbing, but were unable to get themselves out of bed. Louise and Toni decided to take a a 2-hour scenic tour of Frenchmans Bay on the four-masted Margaret Todd, which had orange sails and which Toni dubbed the wiener boat. Madeleine and Peter went for a hike up Mt. Champlain in the afternoon while Toni and Louise lazed by the pool. The trail was only a mile to the top and took about an 1 hour, but it was an interesting, slabby hike, with great views of the ocean. The top is near the top of the Precipice trail and some hardy folks had climbed that way to the top.

Saturday - we got on the road early so we could make Boston by lunch time. We did the freedom trail, which took us from the Commons, through the Irish quarter, into the Italian quarter and back again where we had dinner in a fine Irish pub. Then back on the road for Larchmont which we made by 9ish.

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