Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Camping In Maine

Hi Bill

You may remember that when Pat and I were living in Philadelphia back in the early to mid-1970s we were good friends with Terry and Walter. I don’t believe you ever met them, but I’m sure you’ve heard Pat and I talk about them. Terry and I worked as caseworkers for the Department of Public Assistance (welfare) and Walter was a librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. We were very good friends and had lots of good times together.

Both Terry and Walter liked to travel and one day in May 1973 Terry suggested that Walter, Pat and I join him on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. Terry had previously visited Acadia National Park and he loved it. Walter, Pat and I were not campers, but Terry eventually convinced us to make the almost 1,200-mile round-trip drive to experience Acadia.

In 1973 Pat and I had a 1967 Opel Kadett, which was very small and was not very reliable. Terry also had a small car, but I can’t remember the make and model. However, Walter had a fairly new large four-door Buick or Oldsmobile. Therefore his car won the privilege of transporting us to Maine and back.

We all got prepared for the trip and were pumped for it. Terry was especially pumped and he talked about it constantly describing how wonderful the trails and rock-climbing areas were as well as the Atlantic Ocean coastal area and the town of Bar Harbor, Maine. So we all got ourselves prepared for a wonderful trip. However, we later discovered that maybe we were not as well prepared as we thought.

Back then Pat and I had a large, and beautiful, Basset Hound named Jessie. She had that wonderful Basset Hound personality, and she loved people and loved to run and play. Pat and I loved her like the child she was for us back then and we were not going to stick her in a kennel while we played in Acadia National Park. Therefore Terry and Walter agreed that Jessie could play in Acadia with us.

Terry was a proud camper and he convinced us that his large tent would be very comfortable for all five of us, even though Pat, Walter and I (and Jessie) preferred to rent a cottage. Pat and I were not campers and we had no camping gear. We also didn’t want to spend much money on camping gear so we just made do with normal casual clothing and I believe Walter did also. However Terry had plenty of camping equipment, which frightened Pat and I because it seemed like we were preparing for a survival test of some kind.

On departure day, Pat and I (and Jessie) met Walter at Terry’s apartment before dawn with our pathetic camping gear and tried to pack everything into Walter’s car. That turned out to be quite a challenge, but we managed after what seemed to be hours of frustration. Then we packed ourselves into the car – Terry driving, Walter and me in the front seats. The trunk and the back seat were jammed with camping gear and there was only a small space for Pat and Jessie (who was almost as big as Pat) to squeeze into like a couple of sardines. Then, still before dawn, Terry fired up the engine and pointed the car toward Maine for the 9-hour+ drive.

It was a long very uncomfortable drive to Maine. Of course we switched drivers but I don’t remember stopping to get out of the vehicle very much, except when we had to potty (especially Jessie). We also had to take turns holding Jessie in the front seat to give Pat some relief. After what felt like a week of driving, we arrived in Bar Harbor Maine, a very charming tourist town on the Atlantic coast, at about 3 or 4pm.

Pat, Walter, Terry and Jessie - the intrepid campers

Terry drove us straight to Acadia National Park because we had to check in to the campsite that he had reserved for us in a somewhat rugged but pleasant wooded area. Terry was in a frenzy about getting the tent erected and all his gear organized. Unfortunately, Walter, Pat and I were not much help. We always camped in nice hotels and knew nothing about erecting a tent. So we all just stood around watching Terry, carrying things from the car, and holding things for him. The tent was actually very nice and large enough for all four of us and Jessie.

I think we ate supper at our campsite sitting on camp chairs pretending to enjoy the great outdoors. Some of us (all of us except Terry) wanted to eat at a nice restaurant in Bar Harbor, but Terry was eager to introduce us to dining in the wild. We also figured that Jessie did not want to be locked in the car anymore that day. We were all very tired and didn’t mind crashing in our sleeping bags on the floor of the tent fairly early.  

Clark freezing his toes

The next morning Terry rocketed out of his sleeping bag ready to scale the mountain peaks. The rest of us sort of crawled out of ours and staggered to the rustic outhouses and then wanted to go to town for a big breakfast. However, Terry had brought lots of “camping food” and he prepared some kind of crude camping breakfast that we ate instead.

I have to admit that Acadia National Park was indeed a beautiful and very scenic park. It provided many diverse environments for hiking and climbing, including gentle paths to stroll on, more rugged paths that got us breathing more heavily, climbing areas that provided wonderful views of the coast and extreme rock-climbing areas for those brave souls who enjoy more physically and emotionally-challenging (frightening) adventures. We mostly stuck with the walking paths where Jessie could walk with us and protect us from any wildlife if necessary. She really loved being in the wild.

Terry and Jessie with Pat and Walter

Terry (the Great Outdoorsman) wanted to try some rock climbing and we finally gave in to his wishes. We found a rock climbing area that didn’t look too treacherous. We locked Jessie in the car (in a shaded area with the windows slightly open) and proceeded climbing. Terry was gung ho about it. Walter, Pat and I were willing to try climbing over a few reasonably convenient rocks. It was mostly an interesting and enjoyable time for a while. However, Terry left us in his wake and we kept climbing without noticing that the path was disappearing and the rocks were getting more difficult to climb on. The vista was wonderful and just kept getting better the higher we climbed. I think we were mesmerized by the whole experience, especially by the view. However, we suddenly realized that we were climbing a very steep rock cliff and we didn’t have any idea how to climb safely on that cliff. Terry had disappeared above us and Walter had wisely given up below us. Pat had done very well and I was careful to stay with her, but we realized that we had gone rogue and needed to cease and find a way off those steep rocks. It took us a while, but we were able to find a fairly safe way down the rocks without any cliff diving or parachuting without the chute. It was invigorating and we were able to take some very nice photos, but we were also lucky that we didn’t get hurt or require rescue by the Park Rangers.

Pat, Walter, and Terry sitting on the rocks

Pat and Terry enjoying the view

Clark and Pat were we should not have gone
We camped in Acadia for about 4 or 5 days, which also gave us some time to visit Bar Harbor. It was (and probably still is) a very charming little tourist town that we enjoyed. We had a great dinner in a very nice restaurant one evening after we tired of camp dining. We also bought a few souvenirs in Bar Harbor. However, amazingly we spent most of our time relaxing and exploring in the park.

Pat and Jessie enjoying the view from the rocks

Unfortunately the weather decided to rain (pour) on us during our last afternoon and evening in the park. Terry was outside digging trenches around the tent to channel the water away. Proud camper that he was, he insisted that we stay with the tent. However, the rest of us were very cold, tired and hungry. Pat decided that she had had enough. Walter agreed and said he would drive her to some rental cottages outside the park. Pat was also taking the dog. Well, I didn’t want to stay in the rain with a wet Terry when I could be dry and cozy with Pat and Jessie. Terry argued for a while, but finally also agreed to join us. We rented two a very nice small cottages and one had a full kitchen. Terry went out and bought some live lobsters and some other food and we had a very enjoyable, warm and dry evening cooking and enjoying our lobsters.

Hanscomb's Cottages were we took refuge from the rain

The next morning we returned to our campsite, packed up our gear and drove toward home. It was a trip that Pat and I will never forget.

Amazingly, our camping trip did not damage our friendships with Terry and Walter. Also Jessie took the trip without complaining. We had to lock her in the car for short periods of time, but we were very careful to not leave her too long. Walter and Terry both helped take care of her and keep her safe.

It was pleasant to remember that trip and our good friends Terry and Walter while writing this letter.

Bill, you probably don’t remember much of our description of Acadia National Park after we made that trip. Therefore, I am inserting a brief description of the park from its website:

The First Eastern National Park - People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery.
Learn more about the park and see lots of photos at

I hope you and your family are well and happy. I wish we lived closer to each other.

Sincerely Clark

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