Our first adventure was glorious, so much so we agreed to take at least one long road trip a year. Fast forward to summer ’14 for chapter 2, a 10 day road trip to Maine and back. The highlights were Acadia and Shenandoah National Parks but experiencing those big east coast cities was a huge bonus. We were still amateurs as this point but had pretty much everything planned and booked, cramming in as much as we could.
We had a little more room in the Goldsmobile after upgrading our tent but we were still without A/C. Regardless we woke up early that Friday, July 4th and started the trip at Rise Biscuits & Donuts in Durham, NC. After filling up with scrumptious dough our sights were set on our nation’s capital which is exactly where you want to be on the 4th of July! We were lucky to stay with a friend in town and once we parked the car we jumped on the Metro ready to celebrate America’s freedom. After a delicious free meal and some beers at the Fainting Goat we sat back and relaxed awaiting fireworks at the National Mall with thousands of people.
What a show it was! I’ve never seen that much money being blow up before. If fireworks are your thing add a trip to DC on the 4th of July to your bucket list. The rest of night was fun but we were eager to set off early the next morning towards Maine! Leaving the DC area was a nightmare but after stopping for the greatest crab cake ever at Faidley Seafood in Baltimore, MD we were blessed with smooth sailing. Lucky for us the New England area had storms on the 4th so fireworks were rescheduled conveniently during our drive. We had to pull over along the highway in Connecticut to witness a few shows that rivaled DC’s!
After a day of travel we spent the next 3 days in Acadia National Park! As soon as we arrived on Mount Desert Island we stopped in Bar Harbor for some lobsta. It’s kind of mandatory as it was so fresh, inexpensive and in absolutely everything! After that incredible meal at the Side Street Cafe we set up camp on the south side of the island at the Seawall Campground. It was wonderful but we had to drive 20-30 minutes to most points of interests. My next visit will be spent at the Blackwoods campground near the famous Park Loop Road. Once we were settled in we drove a few minutes to hike up Beech Mountain which gave us some great views of Echo Lake and beyond.
On the trail we ran it to a few people jumping off a short cliff into the lake so we had to try for ourselves. Luckily our bags were still in the car so we grabbed our trunks and took the leap. If was freezing cold but not as frigid as the Atlantic. After that jolt from the cool water we experienced another adrenaline rush when we got pulled over by a park ranger… We each had one beer when we were setting up camp and we didn’t see where the dump was so we brought the empty cans with us. The ranger must have seen them when we were hiking and was waiting for us but with our story matching up, finding only the 3 beers, he let us go with a warning. We found out he once worked for the Chattahoochee NRA so we ended up getting along nicely and learned to be a little smarter when disposing of anything. We took the rest of that night relaxing at the campsite.
Day 2 started with a hike on the Wonderland trail. That and the Ship Harbor trails are both short, easy hikes that lead to granite cliffs holding back the Atlantic. They’re both walking distance from the Seawall Campground and are perfect for getting the legs moving. After the hike we drove to Bar Harbor to take a sea kayaking trip with one of our buddies old workplaces, Coastal Kayaking Tours. We took the half day tour but they have a bunch of really cool trip options that can fit into anyone’s schedule. I certainly recommend paddling as one way to experience the beauty of the Maine Coast. Try the night tour!
After paddling in the Atlantic we stopped for beer and haddock at the Thirsty Whale. If you’re not eating fish every meal you’re doing something wrong. Maybe it was the beer but I can’t recall what we did the rest of the day. What I do know is we crashed early so we could catch sunrise from the peak of Cadillac Mountain. We set off at 4:30am that next morning for a dreadful but beautiful 30 minute drive which was well worth the effort of opening our eyes!
After enjoying the first Vitamin D on the east coast we went back to the site for a quick nap and breakfast. Shortly thereafter we were back on the trail. First up was Ship Harbor, a short hike I spoke about earlier. Then we took on a collection of hikes turning them into one. The Beehive (pictured below) is one of my all time favorite hikes. It is steep and treacherous and you’ll need the aid of iron rungs and ladders. Better hold on tight and bring a GoPro if you have one! From there we hiked the Bowl and the Great Head trails. The famous Precipice trail which is similar and apparently even tougher than the Beehive was closed due the eagle nesting so there’s one of many reasons to go back.
After getting our miles in it was time for one last bite in Bar Harbor. As you can guess we had more fish and it was delish. The West Side Cafe was great and if you’re not too filled up head over to Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium for a cold treat. You can even get lobster ice cream… As our time in Acadia was coming to an end we had one thing left to do and that was see sunset at MDI’s southern most spot, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. It did not disappoint!
Acadia National Park and its surroundings are a perfect getaway for nearly anyone. From the beautiful woodlands to the rocky beaches, glacier-scoured granite peaks and the bayside town of Bar Harbor, you just can’t go wrong. Leaving was tough but we had big plans ahead and before we got back on the road we washed up by taking another dip into Echo Lake. We still smelled but it sure helped.
Next up was Boston, MA. We drove like we were on a mission and it paid off as we arrived just in time for the last Sam Adams Brewery tour. It’s not much of a tour but the beer was fresh and cold. After the suds they dropped me off at Fenway Park to scalp tickets while they scalped for parking. I’d suggest sitting in the bleachers which really makes the experience just by listening to those Boston accents. The game itself was very entertaining and quite possibly the best game I’ve ever seen live. The Red Sox trailed the White Sox by 1 in the bottom of the 9th. They were able to score a quick run then rookie Brock Holt hit a walk off single and the place exploded. Until today I was telling people Big Papi hit a walk off homer but I just had to ruin it by looking it up.
It was incredible but we still weren’t done for the day. We jumped back in the car to stay with my sister who lived in New York City. We were very tired after that drive but before heading to bed we sat back on one of the Long Island City piers for an excellent view of Manhattan across the East River.
That next day was spent exploring NYC. We took the Subway everywhere, met with old friends, had lunch by my sister’s office (The Met), took the free Staten Island Ferry (highly suggest) and my sis took us to an invite only party at the Armory where we very much so looked out of place. There is just too much to do in Manhattan and it can all really drain the wallet so the following day we took off.
We were headed back to DC for the museums, monuments and memorials. We started in the National Air & Space Museum but I still don’t understand the dynamics of flight. Then we slowly walked through the Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans and World War II Memorials. Each highlighted a unique and meaningful event in American history. By the time we arrived at the WWII Memorial the sun had set which was a cool way to see DC. The last things we did were give the Washington Monument a hug and share a night cap with Obama at the White House.
The next morning we caught up with some ancient friends at the Natural History Museum then bolted back to the woods. It was our last full day so we decided to soak up as many views as possible by driving through Shenandoah National Park along the controversial 100 mile Skyline Drive which is one of the best drives in the country. It encompasses arguably the most scenic portion of the AT and hundreds of crazy beautiful overlooks and hikes that all spur off the Skyline Drive. We slowly rolled along stopping for each new view and it was magical.
We took a hike to Dark Hollow Falls and stayed at the Loft Mountain Campground right next to the AT. I wish we could have stayed here much much longer but there was work to get back to in Atlanta. When I next visit Shenandoah I’ll be hiking up Old Rag!
After a quick 10 days another successful trip was in books! Only missed the Precipice so we did pretty good I’d say.