To describe Chip's and my summer vacations, he
paraphrased Paul Revere: "One if by sea, and two if by land."
That's how we reached "the forest primeval," as it was described by
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in Acadia National Park.
On his solo sail up the coast of Maine, my partner, Chip Ford, stopped
at Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island. I had no desire to go to sea
in a 22-foot sailboat. But I did enjoy tracking his trip with a Maine
map, and as he landed near Acadia, I felt a twinge of envy: I had always
wanted to go there.
Then I learned that he was near Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East
Coast. I didn't know the United States even had a fjord, except in
As a child, reading something fanciful, I had longed to see a fjord. In
1988, while seeking my roots in Ireland, I found one mentioned in a
guidebook, though it doesn't appear in most.
I was already in Westport on Clew Bay, learning what I could about the
pirate queen Grace O'Malley, so I followed the narrow coast road south,
figuring I'd run into the fjord there. It was a misty, lonely road, with
waterfalls all around — the most magical place I'd ever seen. Years
later, I went back with Chip but couldn't find it; like Brigadoon, it
seemed to have disappeared.
By then I had visited Norway and taken a boat to the head of the
Sognefjord. So in the summer of '05, I figured I had seen my last long
finger of the sea.
Acadia is so close. I'd traveled as far as Australia in my foreign
travel days, saving the nearer places for when I was older. When I asked
Chip to find me a postcard of Somes Sound, he told me we could drive up
for a long weekend in the fall. Thus, the one sailor by sea became two
tourists by land.
With President Bush asking us to vacation close to home in order to save
fuel, you might want to consider this delightful trip yourself if you
haven't already done it. It's five hours if you don't stop in Portland
for lunch, and not too expensive off-season.
Last week, the foliage had not yet begun to turn there, either, so we
saw a lot of Maine green-ness. The forest in Acadia, near Bar Harbor,
isn't really primeval, since there was a terrible fire in 1947. But it
grew back exceedingly dense.
When Chip and I travel, he gets up before dawn to photograph the
sunrise. He has a collection of these pictures on his dining-room wall —
from the sun rising in eclipse on Grand Manan to the shot taken in the
Baja desert when he was surrounded by wild dogs. He thought it would be
great to see the earliest sunrise in the United States from the
top of Acadia's Cadillac Mountain and left our room at 4:30 a.m. for
what he thought would be a cold, solitary experience. Two hours later,
he was surrounded by a hundred chilly tourists with cameras, seeking the
same early view! The day dawned for them all, clear with just enough
clouds on the horizon to make for perfect photos.
We found the head of my fjord at a village called Somesville, where a
tiny, oft-photographed selectmen's building indicated government of just
about the right size. I always carry toy boats in the car to set afloat
in running water, so a small, red-and-blue tugboat is now drifting
around the only East Coast fjord, or perhaps is on its way to another
fjord in Ireland or Norway.
My son expresses concern that my plastic boats will hurt seabirds or
fish; I assume these creatures aren't colorblind so they won't be
attracted to red plastic. Maybe I'm rationalizing. But when taking my
water safety instructor course, I was told to wear bright colors so
sharks would know I wasn't part of their usual grayish diet.
Speaking of diets, the menu choices on Mount Desert were wonderful:
mango salmon at the Main Sail terrace in Northeast Harbor, overlooking
the dock where Chip stayed last month; blueberry pancakes at Two Cats,
where one of them slept on his lap during breakfast; and a bicultural
lobster quesadilla, with spinach and mushrooms, at Donahue's in Bar
Harbor. Those were my choices. Chip ate fried seafood and the "ho-hum
breakfast" of bacon and eggs, just as he does anywhere we go.
Maine, like Massachusetts, is a blue state, so we felt at home or as at
home as we feel here, which isn't very. Did see one "Kerry/Fonda" bumper
sticker left over from the last election.
We entered Acadia on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 24, during which
the park fee is waived for the day — a real treat for taxpayer
activists. I left a contribution anyhow. Voluntary is good, and I wanted
to pay our share to preserve the second-most-visited national park in
And that's Acadia, not Arcadia; and Mount Desert, with the accent on the
last syllable. So I not only enjoyed my vacation, but I learned
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.