Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gorham Mountain and the Ocean Path

Sunday morning we woke up to showers. Despite the rip I put through the rain fly with a tent pole (yes, I am that talented) and patched with packing tape (it was what we had), we were nice and dry in our tent. Thom through a tarp over the tent just to stay on the safe side, and we hung out in the tent for a couple hours. According to our weather apps on our phones, the sun was supposed to come out during the afternoon. After the showers stopped, we packed the hiking pack and headed over to the Park Loop Road. By the time we arrived, the sun was out, the sky was blue, and fog banks clung onto the islands in Frenchman's Bay. Perfect hiking weather. 

Thom does not have much experience with hiking mountains, so I opted for a moderate trail. My guide book suggested a hike up and over Gorham Mountain with a return on the Ocean Path trail. All in all, a 3.5 mile hike that started out moderate, and ended easy. 

We started at the Gorham Mountain parking lot, right off of the Park Loop Road and went up the south ridge of Gorham Mountain on the Gorham Mountain Trail. It is a moderate trail, but there are a couple steep points. In a couple of places the rocks are set up like stairs, in others you sort of have to fend for yourself. Thom and I jokingly called the trail the trail of lies, about 3/4 of the way up, you hit pink granite ridges with beautiful views that look like the summit, and just when you think you cannot go higher, the trail goes higher. Once we reached summit, a mighty 525', we sat and enjoyed the ocean and mountain views and the ocean breezes. 

Sand Beach and Great Head

In the distance is a lighthouse beneath the fog bank

Fog banks clinging to the Porcupine Islands

Thom and I at summit!

From left to right Cadillac Mountain, Dorr Mountain, and Champlain Mountain
I've stood on top of all three. 
After some time at the summit, it was time to head back down. We continued on the Gorham Mountain Trail up and over the summit. The decent was rather steep, but a quick hike, and I dare say a bit easier than the way up. Once we got more level ground, I stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle. It is not a true hike until I fall down, what can I say. From the Gorham Trail we went to the Bowl Trail on our way back down to the Park Loop Road. This brought us to the Sand Beach parking lot, where we were able to pick up the Ocean Path, a flat gravel path along the ocean. If you are looking for an easy hike, I recommend the Ocean Path, I have been around the Park Loop Road hundreds of times, and there are sites on the Ocean Path that I have never seen before; little coves, cobble stone beaches, and tons of areas that will be great to go tide pooling in. Once we got back to our car, we decided to head back to camp, Thom's knees were bothering him, and my ankle was sore from my earlier fall. We made dinner over the campfire and enjoyed our last night at camp.

One of the cliffs we passed on the way down Gorham Mountain

A little cove, from the Ocean Path Trail

Monument Cove, a cobblestone beach

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wild Gardens of Acadia, Otter Point, and Eagle Lake

After a busy Friday, we decided to enjoy a rather lazy Saturday. The sky was gloomy and there was a chance of showers throughout the day. We had breakfast, relaxed around the campsite, and went back to bed for a few hours. It is vacation, right?

We left camp a little after one in the afternoon, and enjoyed a low key day at the park. We visited Sieur de Monts spring, the spring where George Dorr used to enjoy the spring and surrounding mountains. He went on to work with local property owners and the government to create Acadia National Park. At Sieur de Monts, we visited the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which is a showcase of all the various plant species throughout the park. There were a lot of ferns, the lady slipper was not yet in bloom, neither were the lilies, but we were able find a lily pads, wild iris, and a pitcher plant. Thom also caught a picture of a huge dragonfly that landed on one of the stepping stones.
Lily Pads! No frogs in sight though

A wild blue iris

A pitcher plant

A dragonfly
After the Wild Gardens of Acadia, we headed back onto the Park Loop Road and headed over to Otter Point. Otter Point is a rocky outcrop that marks the entrance to Otter Cove, the point where Samual de Champlain had to moor his ship over the winter for repairs. I like Otter Point because there are some nice views and plenty of tide pools to explore. We ate lunch on one of the rocky ledges, and then I climbed down into the tide pools. Thom watched out for rouge waves.
The view from Otter Point

This is Lucy, the crab

There is a little sea urchin in this picture
After Otter Point, we decided to head back to camp to start making dinner. On the way home, we stopped by the Carriage Road entrance to Eagle Lake. The carriage roads and granite bridges were built by Rockefeller as a means of providing access to some of the quieter places within the park. Rockefeller had a strong distaste for automobiles, and purposely built the roads too narrow for a car to drive down. He believed that automobiles caused too much pollution and the noise distracted from the serenity within the park.The carriage roads were originally built for horses with carriages, which can still be seen today; however, the majority of traffic is now cyclists and hikers. There is a joke that the gravel carriage roads are the best roads in Maine. I am certainly not one to argue. Eagle Lake is a quiet place, between Cadillac and Pemetic Mountains. It is one of the deepest lakes in the park.
One of the many granite bridges

Every carriage road intersection has a numbered sign post

A mother and three baby mergansers

Eagle Lake

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Climbing South Bubble

My eighth grade class took a week long trip to Acadia National Park in order to get a hands on look at all the things we learned about in earth science that year. Part of that trip was climbing the South Bubble. I guess climbing is in the eye of the beholder, the Bubble is a little over 700' and the trail is steep, but a quick hike and nothing that you would need any special gear for. Climbing the South Bubble is a memory that I recall to this day. As a little kid, my family would visit Acadia National Park seemingly every year, we would see the sites on the Park Loop Road, but I never did any of the hikes. I remember reaching the summit as an eighth grader, walking across to the rocky ledge, and taking in the most beautiful view I could imagine. Needless to say, the view from South Bubble is one of my favorite places in the park, and despite the fact that Thom is not much of a hiker, I insisted that he joined me at the top.

As I mentioned before, the trail is steep, lots of stairs and climbing up rock piles. There are very few look outs until you are just about on summit. Normally, it would only be about a half an hour hike or less, but Thom jammed his knee while climbing around on the rocks at Schooner Head and I sprained my ankle. I'm telling you, it's all downhill after thirty. Regardless, this is a great trail for families. It is .5 of a mile from the parking lot to the summit, and there is a parking lot right off the Park Loop Road at the trail head.

Now for those pictures of the spectacular view.

Thom found this lookout just before reaching summit

Thom at summit!

The majority of the rock in Acadia National Park is pink granite!

The view from the summit, over looking Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Ocean

Photo Op!

Another view from the summit, this is Eagle Lake
Aside from admiring the view, we also checked out Bubble Rock, a glacial erratic that was left balanced on the side of the mountain by the Wisconsin glacier about 15,000 years. We also got some pictures of birds riding the air currents around the mountains.
A bald eagle

Bubble Rock

A pair of osprey

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Anemone Cave,Thunder Hole, South Bubble, and the drive up Cadillac Mountain

Otter Cliffs from Thunder Hole
We woke up Friday morning to cloudy skies. Normally, I would have been concerned, but I have been camping on Mt. Desert Island enough times to know the clouds should burn off. A weather app on my phone confirmed my theory. We had a nice leisurely morning, complete with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and English muffins. Thom packed us a lunch while I did the dishes, and by the time we were both showered and dressed for the day, the sun was out and the skies were clear. Today was going to be a good day.

Our first stop of the day was to the Acadia National Park visitor center, where we were delighted to find out that our seven day pass was only $10. This was because it was still considered off-season. The season actually started on June 23, at which point the rate jumps to $20 for a seven day pass. For those keeping count, we got the discount for arriving two days before the price increase. I was happy.

Once we had our pass, we headed down the Park Loop Road. There were a bunch of look outs over Frenchmen's Bay and the mountains on the island, so we took our time driving and enjoyed each other's company. We passed an active beaver pond, but unfortunately beavers are nocturnal so everyone was sleeping. Just before passing through the entry gates, we headed down to Schooner Head for lunch, and to explore Anemone Cave. The cave is not found on most maps of the park due to the fragility of the wild life within it. We had lunch over looking the cave, and then I very carefully climbed down into the cave to investigate. The rocks are slick, and I jammed my ankle hard on the climb back up, but the pictures are certainly worth it.

Anemone Cave
Thom sitting at the entrance to the cave

Sea Anemones
Sea anemones

Anemone Cave
Looking out to sea from inside the cave, note Thom's profile


After climbing out of Anemone Cave, we went through the park entrance and ventured over to Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole is a small cave in the rocky coast line. The cave fills with air, and when an ocean wave crashes into it, the result is a loud booming sound with a splash. The best effects are just before high tide; unfortunately, we arrived at low tide. We still got some booming and splashing!
Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole
After Thunder Hole, we decided it was time to explore the mountains. We climbed the South Bubble, which has some amazing views over Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Oceans. I will post more about that tomorrow. We also decided to drive up Cadillac Mountain. Thom and I honeymooned in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. While there, we drove up Mount Washington. Driving up Cadillac Mountain reminded us of our honeymoon, although the road was much shorter and Thom did not have a white-knuckled death grip on the steering wheel. We did not walk the extra .2 of a mile to the summit from the auto-road, I want to save that for the day I actually hike to the top of Cadillac. In the meantime, it was a perfectly clear day and the views from the "top" of Cadillac were amazing.

View from Cadillac Mountain
Bar Harbor and Frenchmen's Bay

View from Cadillac Mountain
Looking towards the mainland, in the distance you can see Mt Katahdin

View from Cadillac Mountain
Porcupine Islands, and a cruise ship
After driving down from Cadillac, we decided it was time to call it a day. We headed back to camp, built a fire, had dinner, and roasted a few marshmallows. Such a beautiful day in a beautiful location.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Acadia National Park, the Vacation that Almost Was Not

Our campsite
The good news, Thom and I are reluctantly back from an amazing vacation in Acadia National Park. The not so good news, the trip almost fell through at the absolute last minute. I spent last Wednesday at work counting down the minutes until vacation. Our good friends were going to pick up our dog and then we were going to head down to my mother's house to pick up our camping gear. Then I was going to straighten up the apartment and finish up packing so that we could have a nice relaxing morning before going to a couple of appointments and heading off to our camp site. 

That was what was supposed to happen. In reality, I got out of work to find a very distraught husband. Our bank had a MAJOR banking error that resulted in our vacation savings being completely exhausted to the point of overdrafts. Rather than a leisurely evening before vacation, we ended up arguing with the bank and trying to figure out how to finance our vacation. At the absolute last minute, my mom came through and let us borrow enough money for us to go on our trip. We then called our friends to pick up our dog, they were completely understanding and amazing, and then headed over to my mom's house to pick up our gear. I gave my mom a very teary hug, she saved our much needed vacation, and for that I am forever grateful.

Peonies, from CSA week 3
We got home well after 9 o'clock, and neither of us had eaten dinner. Thom pulled something together, and we both fell asleep out of sheer emotional exhaustion. Needless to say, the majority of my Wednesday night plans became Thursday morning plans. We resolved our banking issue, which unfortunately meant cancelling the layaway on some furniture we have ordered. Sometimes being a grown up can be difficult. We made it to both appointments on time, picked up our CSA, packed up the car and headed on our way. Until we hit a traffic jam, which turned a 3 hour drive into a 4 1/2 hour drive. We finally got to our campsite at 8:30, set up camp in the dark, and ate cold hot dogs for dinner because we could not get the fire to light. Despite all of our set backs, we went to bed with a smile. At the end of the day, despite everything working against us, we were on vacation in Acadia National Park.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Acadia National Park or Bust!

The world from on top of a Bubble
Thom and I have been watching the weather report for Mount Desert Island for the last week or so. The weather in Maine has been more or less touch and go since May, we will get a couple of days of rain followed by a couple of days of sunshine. At first the weather forecast looked clear, then it looked like rain for the majority of the weekend, as of Sunday the weekend is supposed to be warm and dry. Monday morning, I reserved our campsite. As of Thursday, we will be spending five days camping on Mount Desert Island and enjoying the scenery that is Acadia National Park.

Cadillac Mountain from the Otter Cliffs

I feel like such a horrible Maine tour guide to Thom. I grew up here, and I spent at least a weekend nearly every summer growing up going to Acadia. There are pictures of me there throughout my childhood. Here I am not, as an adult, and I have yet to bring Thom up to what is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the state. He has lived in the state for three years. It is time to fix this.

We found a nice campground on the quiet side of the island, away from the tourist destinations. Our plan is to enjoy some time on the ocean, and to climb a mountain or two. It is my goal to climb all the mountains on the island, and I have stood on the summit of a good several of them.

A sea cave at low tide
I promise that I will be back Monday with plenty of pictures, reviews of hikes, and maybe even a few camping tips. I insist on camping in a tent, but Thom picks on me for camping in comfort. There is nothing wrong with an air mattress and a camping kitchen, right?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CSA Week #2

Just as we had almost finished eating all of our veggies we got from week #1, it was time to pick up our vegetables for week #2. In just these two weeks, we have had to completely change the way that we make dinner. When I was a teenager, my mom taught me that dinner should consist of a meat, a vegetable, and some type of starch. When you have two shelves of the refrigerator plus the crisper full of vegetables, things start to change. Starches are more or less out of our diet. We will occasionally have pasta for dinner, or share a baguette, but fruits and vegetables have definitely taken center stage. Breakfasts have become fruit salads, lunches have become wraps filled with different types of greens, and dinner has become meat with a side or two of vegetables. We absolutely love it, and just two weeks in, pick up days have become something that we look forward to every week. Thom is already talking about renewing our investment for next year.

This week's share consisted of a head of Boston lettuce, a bunch of Japanese turnips, a bunch of chives, a baggie of mixed fresh herbs, a kohlrabi, 1.5 pounds of potatoes, a zucchini, and 1/3 pound of arugula! Again, this is early in the season, and our shares will get bigger as the growing season continues. So far, the lettuce has been used in lunches, some of the chives have made friends with the potatoes to create an amazing batch of mashed potatoes, the zucchini was sliced and sauteed with fresh lemon juice and garlic, and the arugula was transformed in to an amazing lemon arugula pasta dish that I found on Pinterest. I promise I will post the recipe in the future. I need to have a chance to take a picture of the finished product. We still have turnips and the kohlrabi to figure out. The turnips can easily be sauteed and are really tasty, but I have never had kohlrabi. We were told it can be shredded and turned into coleslaw. Does anyone have any experience with this? Or other recipes that involve kohrabi?

One of the things I love about participating in a CSA is discovering new vegetables that I have never tried before. At the same time, that can also be the most frustrating aspect.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Creamed Spinach

I have been craving creamed spinach for a while now, but I refuse to buy the frozen processed variety that is loaded with salt, preservatives, and... pardon my French, crap. When spinach turned out to be one of our picks at our CSA pick up, I knew exactly what I was going to make with it. I just had to find a recipe.

I was disappointed to find that so many recipes for creamed spinach call for frozen spinach. Fresh spinach has a beautiful green color, and I find that it is actually easier to work with than frozen spinach. This is because frozen spinach is sold in bricks that is often times freezer burned and once you thaw it out, it is water logged. No fun, and not very tasty. Emeril Lagasse has a recipe on the Food Network that uses fresh spinach. The man has never done me wrong with a recipe in the past, so I decided to give it a try. Needless to say, my craving has been fulfilled.

The original recipe can be found here. I opted against the nutmeg because that just did not sound right. I also cut the recipe in half because I only had a half a pound of spinach versus the two pounds the original recipe calls for.

What you need:
1/2 pound of fresh spinach
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped shallot (which turns out to be exactly one shallot)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (one clove)
a healthy pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream

What you do:
1. Bring a pot of water to boiling, cook spinach for two minutes, then immediately drain in a colander. Press the spinach with a spoon while in the colander to squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop the spinach. I just sort of dumped the pile of spinach onto my cutting board and made four cuts across the pile.

2. Melt the butter in a medium sized skillet over medium-medium high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic until soft and fragrant, about two minutes. At this point, your kitchen will smell amazing. Add the spinach in, and saute for another minute or so.

3. Add the heavy cream, pepper, and salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until the cream has reduced by half, approximately 4 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower

Years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to roasted asparagus. It was love at first bite. The tips got all crispy and it was just... love. Not to mention, crazy easy to make. In recent months, I have tried roasting other vegetables, both as an alternative to steaming, but also as a means of introducing olive oil into our diets. Olive oil is crazy healthy for you, it is an antioxidant, which means it helps clean toxins out of the blood. A recent study also found that olive oil helps reduce risk of heart disease when paired with a diet rich with vegetables, fruit, nuts, and whole grain cereals.

I have yet to find a vegetable that did not respond well to roasting, however, I definitely have my favorites. Cauliflower is certainly at the top of the list. Thom and I purchase a head or two of cauliflower whenever we go grocery shopping and frequently use it as a substitution for a starch, like potatoes or rice. Roasting cauliflower gives it a crispy outside with a nice soft interior, it kind of reminds me of tater tots.

What you need:
A head of cauliflower (you could use frozen, but fresh works best)
Olive oil

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop of cauliflower into florets. Place cauliflower into a single layer on a cookie sheet.

2. Drizzle cauliflower with olive oil, just enough to add a little moisture, don't go overboard, we want crispy not soggy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Roast at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring on occasion. You know it is done when it turns a nice golden brown color.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

When I was little, my cousins and I would sneak into my grandmother's rhubarb patch grab a few stalks, and then run into the woods to enjoy our prize. At the same time, one of my other cousins would sneak some sugar out of the kitchen. For years we thought this was a completely covert operation, only to find out that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles were onto us the entire time. They just didn't complain because we were eating something healthy. Rhubarb will always have a special place in my heart, it reminds me of careless summer afternoons as a kid.

My mom used to make strawberry rhubarb pie. Strawberries and rhubarb are the perfect combination, the sweetness of the strawberries pairs perfectly with the tartness of the rhubarb. They are also conveniently ripe at about the same time. My mom's recipe used fresh rhubarb and a packet of strawberry jello mix. Don't get me wrong, the recipe is amazing and crazy easy to make. Thom and I avoid processed foods, so I decided to find a recipe that utilized real strawberries, and I would say I was successful.

My recipe is based off of this recipe I found on, and can be found here. I made a couple of modifications.

What you need:

Your favorite recipe for a 9 inch pie crust.
3  1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, about one pound
3 1/2 cups sliced strawberries, about one pound
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter cut in pieces

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line 9 inch deep dish pie plate with pie crust.

2. Combine remaining filling ingredients, combine gently do that you do not crush the strawberries. I used a large fork and tossed everything like a salad. Fill the pie crust.

3. Combine the topping ingredients, and cut the butter in with a pastry fork or two forks. We are going for a mixture with the consistency of damp sand that will hold its shape when squeezed together. Sprinkle topping over filling. It may seem like a lot of topping, but some of it will be absorbed by the filling, so be sure to use all of it.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden. I strongly recommend placing the pie plate on a cookie sheet in the oven, my pie bubbled over a little.

5. Allow the pie to serve completely before cutting it to allow everything to set.

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