Bird Watching on Mount Desert Island in Maine—Another Victory for the Nerds

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Bird Watching on Mount Desert Island in Maine—Another Victory for the Nerds
Nov 302013

Birdwatching Mount Desert Island Maine Rich MacDonaldConsider bird watching.  Once thought of as a hobby for elderly folks of the nerdier sort, in 2011 it was the subject of a comedy starring Owen Wilson.  Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney are both said to be fans of this pastime that originally gained popularity in Victorian England with the publication of such books as Birds through an Opera Glass (1889), but today counts one out of every five Americans as a participant.

My interest in bird watching emerged from my passion for hiking.  If I took a guided bird tour, I reasoned, I could add to my basic knowledge and get even more out of my day hikes in Acadia National Park in Maine.  So, we signed up with The Natural History Center in Bar Harbor.

We arrived early for our 8am appointment, and with more than a little excitement, sat waiting on the bench on Firefly Lane opposite the Bar Harbor Village Green gazebo.

A few minutes later the owner of the center, Rich MacDonald, pulled up and we were off to the first of six stops on the three-hour bird watching tour of Mount Desert Island.  As we drove, Rich introduced himself.

“I grew up in western New York, the oldest son in the family.  We had a dairy farm and cheese shop.  37 types.   But I was an academic, and although I was supposed to take over the farm, my father encouraged me to pursue my passion.”

That was biology and ornithology, in particular. After ten years as a field biologist with The Nature Conservancy and a stint in consulting, Rich met his wife, Natalie Springuel, also a naturalist, who was a Master Maine Guide for sea kayaking.  They moved to Mount Desert Island and opened The Natural History Center four years ago.

As Rich parked the van at Hadley’s Point, the northernmost point of the island, the wind picked up. The yellow leaves of the nearby poplars rustled, as chickadees chirped from somewhere within the grove.  Rich positioned his scope beside the van, which sheltered us on this breezy, but bright October morning.  Although we were novice bird watchers, we knew this was not the best time of year for birding.  Sure enough, the first birds Rich’s scope picked up bobbing around in Eastern Bay were herring gulls—common to every beach and, well, garbage lot.

Rich got excited.  “What do you see?”  We peered through the scope.  Then we saw it: a bright red spot on the bill.  Only when a chick pecks it, Rich explained, does the mother regurgitate food to feed it. “That red dot is key to survival.” It turns out a Dutch scientist won a Nobel Prize for these findings about “signal stimulti.”  I knew I’d never look at herring gulls the same.

We moved on, sighting yellow legs, red-necked grebes, Canadian geese, a bald eagle, several types of ducks, and mosquitoes of avian scale.  The anecdotes about bird behavior, habitat, and history accumulated even faster than the checkmarks on the birding list. 

We saw a mourning dove, which prompted Rich to tell us the story of its relation, the  passenger pigeon.  In the 19th century a pigeon migration, in flocks numbering in the billions, was such a spectacle that John James Audubon described it as “darkening the sky.”  These pigeons are extinct today.

“I see mourning doves pecking at the gravel on the carriage roads,” I said to Rich.

“Eating little stones helps them grind things in their stomachs,” he explained.

“What kind of spruce is this?” I asked.

“Black spruce.  It’s the most common in Maine.”

It was clear we were in the company of a passionate expert.  It’s no wonder that the hedge fund elite hire him to guide extended hiking and kayaking trips.  Even more, it fits that he would be the naturalist for Garrison Keillor on the cruises of National Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Yes, birding with Rich MacDonald was another victory for the nerds. 

And I was right.  A walk in the woods is great.  When you know what’s singing in the trees, it’s even better.

The Natural History Center is located at 6 Firefly Lane, Bar Harbor, Maine, (207) 801-2617.


Related Stories: 

Wildlife in Maine’s Acadia National Park: Bring Your Binoculars! 

Fall Photo Workshop in Acadia National Park 

How to Cook Lobster and More: A Three-Day Cooking Adventure in Maine



Mar 242013

Thinking of visiting Acadia National Park this summer?  It’s the star attraction of Mount Desert Island, an island about the same size as Martha’s Vineyard, but with 24 mountain peaks.  That alone expands the roster of great things to do there.

Acadia became a national park in 1919, but the first village on Mount Desert Island was founded in 1761.  Today Acadia’s boundaries are intermingled with the charming, postcard-perfect villages of this New England island, adding even more activities to engage park visitors.

So, what activities should you plan to include in your visit?  Here are some favorite things to do both in and around the park.

1.  Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. At some 1500 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States, and it is breathtaking. Make sure you wear a warm fleece even if it’s August.

Cadillac Sunrise

2.  Drive the Park Loop Road. You can get your best overview of Acadia by driving these 27 miles of unsurpassed beauty, created in part through the masterful collaboration of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. There are many lookouts so have your camera ready.

3.  Eat lobster. Whether you want a lobster roll, lobster stew, or a two-pounder steamed, you can find a wide range of topnotch restaurants, harbor side lobster pounds, and quaint cafes to serve you. Our favorite is Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.

4.  Go biking. Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Acadia offers 45 miles of car-free carriage roads that will lead you around mountains, alongside lakes, and into serene boreal forests.  Visit Hull’s Cove Visitor Center first, just outside of downtown Bar Harbor, where there is plentiful parking and good advice about the best bike routes for you and your family. I love their 3D map.

5.  Stroll, hike, or climb. The park boasts 125 miles of well-maintained hiking trails that appeal to all levels of fitness. The most exciting trails, such as the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs, feature rungs and ladders. A beautiful, moderately challenging hike is Acadia Mountain, overlooking Somes Sound, the only fiord in North America. If you’re looking for easier strolls, consider Asticou Trail and Wonderland – they’re lovely.

Hiking The Bubbles

6.  Have popovers at Jordan Pond House. Select a biking or hiking route that stems from behind Jordan Pond House so that you can conclude your afternoon with lemonade or tea – and, most certainly, popovers — on the lawn looking towards the Bubbles, a sight that has mesmerized visitors at teatime since 1896. It’s a favorite destination for everyone, but worth the wait.  What about popovers filled with blueberry ice cream?

Jordan Pond Popovers with Blueberry Ice Cream

7.  Go to the beach.  Sand Beach is a stunning crescent of white sand, with cliffs at each side and the Beehive Trail behind it. The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does. Another option for a swim is the beach at Echo Lake on the island’s “Quietside.”

Echo Lake swimming

8.  Visit a lighthouse.  Maine has over 60 lighthouses, and one of its most beautiful is on Mount Desert Island in Bass Harbor.  It’s a great spot for photographers.  Afterwards, visit the working harbor busy with lobster and sail boats.

Bass Harbor

9.  Take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  Carriages of Acadia offers a number of picturesque drives within Acadia National Park, starting at Wildwood Stables and encompassing destinations including Day Mountain and Jordan Pond.  Another option is to enjoy a tour of downtown Bar Harbor with Wild Iris Horse Farm.

Carriage Drives in Acadia

10.  Learn from a park ranger. The National Park Service offers very entertaining talks and walks on subjects ranging tidal pools to birds of prey to the stars over Sand Beach. Scan The Beaver Log to figure out how you can fit in more than one.

11.  Touch nature – literally. There are several enterprises, including Mount Desert Biological Laboratories, The Dive-In Theatre, and the Mount Desert Oceanarium, that feature touch tanks full of lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. I always end up liking this stuff just as much as the kids do.

12.  Visit the local wineries and micro-breweries.  On Mount Desert Island you can enjoy free tours and tastings of two award-winning micro-breweries, Bar Harbor Brewing Company and Atlantic Brewing Company.  Venture off the island to discover the acclaimed fruit vintages of Bartlett Winery.

13.  Get out on the water. This great national park is on an island so you must see it from the vantage point of the sea. Whether you’re powering yourself in a sea kayak or the wind is propelling you on a Downeast Friendship Sloop or the Margaret Todd, being on the water is a special part of a trip to Acadia National Park.

Sailing in Acadia

14.  Experience farm to table cuisine. Maine is known not only for its great fishermen, but also its farmers.  And nowhere in Maine has the renaissance of local and organic ingredients been as great as on Mount Desert Island.  A long list of top restaurants, including Burning Tree, Fathom, Red Sky, and Town Hill Bistro, awaits the discerning diner.  Make reservations!

15.  Take an art class.  If you’ve ever pictured yourself sketching or learning watercolors in an idyllic seaside location, make that fantasy a reality.  Among the many wonderful artists on Mount Desert Island is Judy Taylor, who offers workshops that include cruises to some of the most picturesque islands surrounding Mount Desert Island.

Judy Taylor Sketch Class

16.  Relax at a spa. Bar Harbor is home to a number of spas that run the gamut from sophisticated to funky.  If your idea of a great vacation is a day of outdoor activities topped off by a soothing massage, then you’ll find a vacation to Acadia perfect from the pine-scented trails to the aromas of the spa.

17.  Experience the “Way Life Should Be.”  That Maine slogan is your personal invitation to church suppers, local parades, blueberry festivals, farmers’ markets, crafts fairs, and terrific libraries.  If you pull off the road and depart from your schedule, you’ll be amply rewarded.  After all, those practical folks who invented ear muffs in 1873 just named Whoopie Pies as their “State Treat.”

Public Suppers in MaineRelated Stories:

5 Tips If You Want to Enjoy A Glorious Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Where to Stay on a Trip to Acadia National Park: A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages





Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Come This Way to Café This Way

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Come This Way to Café This Way
Oct 102012

Bar Harbor breakfast-goers fall into several categories.  The Fuel-Seekers, who want a hearty breakfast before they hit the trail in Acadia.  The Lingerers, who want to enjoy their vacation relaxing over breakfast, perhaps with a newspaper.   And, of course, the Foodies, who believe that the first meal of the day offers tantalizing taste options.

All three groups designate Café This Way as worthy of “Destination Breakfast” status.

But, first, let’s make sure we can get you there.  Café This Way’s address is listed as 14 Mount Desert Street in Bar Harbor.  Mount Desert Street, which intersects with Main Street, is one of the primary streets leading into Bar Harbor.  Café This Way, however, is located on a flag lot just a few steps off of Mount Desert Street.  A sign marks the way…café this way.  You might also be lucky enough to find a parking spot if you drive this way.

cafe this way bar harbor maine

The vine-covered cottage, which features dining on a porch for about eight tables, has a burgundy interior with colorful paintings throughout.  This color is accentuated by two dramatic yellow crescents on the ceiling, a signal that, although the food is serious here, no one seems to take themselves too seriously.

cafe this way interior




In the same vein, the wait staff here is both very professional and friendly at the same time.  You get the sense that in Bar Harbor breakfast is a very competitive business, and the “best of the best” in wait staff work hard to give their establishment the edge.

Starting at 7am on Monday through Saturday, Café This Way’s staff is there to efficiently serve the Fuel-Seekers pancakes (including blueberry, of course), French toast, granola, oatmeal or perhaps the Country Breakfast – two eggs, two pancakes, ham, home fries, and toast.

The Lingerers, who might want to borrow one of the seriously good reads from the many bookcases throughout Café This Way, can have their Bagel Plate with either smoked salmon or smoked trout, a great alternative.  By the way, one of my favorite omelets at Café This Way features smoked trout, red onions, fresh basil, tomatoes, and parmesan.   There are seven other omelets on the menu to peruse and, if none of those inspires, contemplate creating your own.  That’s an option, too.

Café This Way also serves dinner every night from 5:30 to 9:30, and that fact alone should excite the Foodies.  Believe me when I say that Kit’s Burrito – a tortilla filled scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, cheddar, and sausage and topped with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole – is delicious because it has such fresh, flavorful ingredients.

kits burrito cafe this way bar harbor maine

Creativity also appeals to the Foodies, and this is where the Café This Way is also sure to please.  Take the Café Monte Cristo, for example.  It’s a French toast sandwich filled with a fried egg, ham, and cheddar.  Smother it in maple syrup.

cafe monte cristo cafe this way bar harbor maine

Neither the Fuel-Seekers nor the Lingerers nor the Foodies want a watery cup of coffee.  Everyone endorses the robust flavor of Café This Way’s blend roasted by Carpe Diem.

That brings me to the subject of beverages.  Café This Way has everything from juice by Fresh Samantha to Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate to Iced Chai.  In fact, they have something that other top Bar Harbor breakfast spots do not, and that is a liquor license.

For the Brunch-Goer, what is breakfast without a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa?  Café This Way offers them by the glass or the pitcher.  Their Mimosas can be made with either orange or pomegranate juices or both, which I highly recommend.

Vacationers from around the world converge on Mount Desert Island to enjoy Acadia National Park, where the mountains meet the sea.  And, from mid-April through October,  at Café This Way they’ll find dining where heartiness, comfort, and flavor come together for a breakfast that’s worthy of the destination.

Related Stories:

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: 2 Cats Cafe

Vegetarians and Carnivores: Happy Together at Eden in Bar Harbor?

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on Vegetarians and Carnivores: Happy Together at Eden in Bar Harbor?
Oct 012012

dining room eden bar harbor

(Editor’s Note August 2014: Both Eden and Town Hill Bistro are now closed.)

I was about to have dinner at Eden, the vegan restaurant in Bar Harbor, with a carnivore, known for his New York brand of sarcasm, and a life-long vegetarian, ornery from being house-bound as she studied for the MCAT.

Why I put myself in this position I do not know.  After all, the Meat Eater had foreshadowed potential tension earlier in the day when he noted, “Rupert Murdoch said dining at Steve Jobs’ vegetarian household was an exceptional experience – as long as you left before the local restaurants closed.”

Why hadn’t I steered us to Town Hill Bistro, for example, which always features a creative, flavorful dish for the Vegetarian?

Well, it was actually the proprietors at Town Hill who had introduced me to Eden, which has been serving seasonal vegan cuisine since 2003.  Originally located on West Street, Eden moved in 2011 to their new home at 321 Main Street, just across from Havana.

This new setting suits them.  On the quiet side of town, it’s a 100-year-old farm-style house, in which the rooms have been reconfigured into bright, convivial dining spaces.  Shades of green, turquoise, and peach lift the mood, as does the spirit of the host/owner Lynn Rampacek, who will speak glowingly about the talents of her chef/husband Mark.  The Rampaceks have been pioneers not only in adopting robust global flavors, but partnering with local growers to capitalize on seasonal produce.  Their menu lists partnerships with some eight different farms, gardens, and cooperatives who “make dinner at Eden possible.”

Our dinner started off well with a list of creative specialty cocktails.  Even here what’s local rules.  We all loved the Ruralpolitan, a Down East take on the Cosmopolitan featuring local, organic cranberry juice, maple syrup, Cointreau, lime, and Maine’s own Cold River vodka.

But appetizers were more challenging – because there were so many great choices!  I wanted both the ruby watermelon gazpacho and porcini mushroom and tomato tartlet, but I opted for the Chesapeake-style vegetable cakes with sweet and sour slaw.  Are you surprised the Meat Eater chose the beer-battered pickled jalapenos and onion rings?  The Vegetarian selected vegetable-stuffed tofu pockets with a spicy pickled ginger dipping sauce.

For an entrée, the Meat Eater debated between Penne Pesto tossed with arugula, local pole beans and sundried tomatoes and the Thai summer noodles with a spicy coconut, lime, and lemongrass curry.  Despite the tofu thrown in for some good protein, he opted for the latter! The Vegetarian chose almond and panko crusted soy seitan cutlets with a chilled potato and leek salad.  I had tempeh roasted with garlic, herbs, and balsamic vinegar, with lentil salad and local greens.

Doesn’t this sound delicious?

And life is full of surprises.  The Meat Eater liked the tofu pockets the best, and the Vegetarian voted the Thai Summer Noodles #1.  They shared.

As an adventuresome eater, I myself realized that Eden’s intriguing flavors had seduced me into trying pseudo meat products.  Seitan is a vegetarian mock meat made from wheat.  Tempeh, served as a compressed patty, is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans.  For me, the texture of both the tempeh and seitan detracted from the culinary heights Eden otherwise achieves.  Since what’s on my plate lately has become less protein- preoccupied, I shouldn’t have succumbed to the temptation of this traditional structure – here of all places!

So, non-vegetarians, take note.  If you’re in the mood for pasta, tangines, and other less traditionally structured dishes and you’re in search of fabulous flavor, seek entrance back to Eden and call for a reservation.  You need not be accompanied by a vegetarian.

Delight awaits.


Related Stories:

Mount Desert Island’s Most Scenic Lobster Pound?  It’s Unanimous.

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: 2 Cats Cafe


Acadia National Park in Maine – A Dog-Friendly Destination for Your Vacation

 travel  Comments Off on Acadia National Park in Maine – A Dog-Friendly Destination for Your Vacation
Sep 232012

Acadia Bubbles

Go to Jordan Pond House for lemonade on the lawn, and you’ll wonder if you’re in Maine or some scenic setting for the Westminster Dog Show.  Breeds abound.  Some sport bandannas.  All are attached to proud owners.  The wait staff even pours water into dog bowls.

Such pet-friendly dynamics at a popular dining spot are just one reason you won’t have to leave your best friend behind if you choose Acadia National Park for your vacation.The National Park Service welcomes pets on 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, as well as in Blackwoods and Seawall Campgrounds.  Dogs are also allowed on the L.L. Bean Island Explorer buses.

The National Park Service does require that dogs stay on leashes no longer than six feet long. Even with this constraint, there is so much to explore.If you’re looking for an easy, flat walk, consider Jordan Pond Shore Path (3.3 miles), a trail around an impressive glacial pond, which will conclude at the aforementioned Jordan Pond House, one of Acadia’s most popular spots for picture-taking – and a great place to indulge in popovers, lobster stew, and strawberry ice cream.  Dogs can accompany their owners as they dine at tables on the lawn overlooking the pond.

An equally charming and less pup-ulated walk is along Lower Hadlock Pond.  At 1.7 miles, it’s shorter than Jordan Pond Shore Path, but similarly features some wonderful bridges crossing brooks.  That’s where we met this Australian Shepherd, who posed for us for a few minutes off-leash.

If you have your pet in tow, my recommendation is to opt for Jordan Pond Shore Path or Lower Hadlock Pond over Wonderland and Ship Harbor.  The latter are both great trails, but the former offer your dog fresh water to keep comfortable.

For a moderate hike of 2.8 miles, explore The Bowl, an alpine pond 25 feet deep, that you reach via a nice, steady climb through beech, birch, and maple.

A more ambitious hike with great panoramic views is the 3.1 mile trek to the top of Beech Mountain on the western side of Mount Desert Island.  You can ascend on the West Ridge Trail and descend on South Ridge.  This loop offers nice shade and fresh water for canine comfort — and good exercise for both of you .  Just remember that at the Pumping Station at the base of Long Pond, where this hike begins and ends, there is no swimming by man or dog.On these Acadia National Park trails, dogs must be leashed, but here’s a tip.  There’s a wonderful off-leash area along Little Long Pond, just off Route 3 in Seal Harbor.   Owned by the Rockefeller family and generously shared with the public, it has rolling meadows, shaded trails and a pond in which your dog can swim.  Charles Eliot, one of Acadia’s founding fathers, called the views here the most beautiful in all of Mount Desert Island.Wherever you choose to go hiking, be sure to bring enough water for both you and your dog.  Consider trails that offer both shade and options for fresh water.  Avoid the very steep trails in Acadia National Park that require use of rungs and ladders.  In fact, the National Park Service prohibits dogs on the Precipice, Beehive, Ladder Trail to Dorr, Beech Cliffs, Perpendicular, and Jordan Cliffs.

The NPS site for Acadia lists other trails to avoid with dogs.  When we were hiking Giant Slide and Grandgent to Sargent recently, we met a woman heading down shortly after she started her hike because she was forced to carry her energetic wire fox terrier across boulders and steep intervals. Take the park rangers’ advice to avoid disappointment.

It is also wise to heed the park rangers’ counsel about leashes.  They want to protect your pets from becoming lost and from hazards, such as sick, injured, or rabid animals and porcupines, which this unleashed fellow unfortunately encountered.Acadia Veterinary Hospital, located in downtown Bar Harbor, took care of 20 dogs injured by porcupines in June, July, and August.  Dr. Marc Fine’s procedure to remove quills, which can involve both the throat and gums, requires sedating your dog.  The office warns: Don’t cut the quills.  In the summer, Acadia Veterinary Hospital (207-288-5733) has Saturday morning hours and is available 24 hours for emergencies.

In case this fate befalls your pup, you can always soothe him afterwards at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor.  They offer a Yellow Dog Special, a baby scoop of vanilla ice cream with two dog bones.

Better still, keep him on the leash in Acadia, explore, and let him run free in the meadows along Little Long Pond.  Then comment and tell us your favorite trails.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this article with tips and ideas.  No one seemed too busy to pose for a photo.  As the writer Milan Kundera said, “To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”

(By the way, Bar Harbor’s original name was Eden.)

First Stop in Acadia National Park: Hulls Cove Visitor Center in Bar Harbor

 travel  Comments Off on First Stop in Acadia National Park: Hulls Cove Visitor Center in Bar Harbor
Aug 042012

Acadia National Park occupies 30,300 acres on Mount Desert Island.  There are 125 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads, and 24 mountains.

So, if you’re spending your vacation in Acadia, you may have a few questions: What are the best trails for kids?  Is it hard to park near Eagle Lake?  Where are the carriage drives in the park?

Hulls Cove Visitors Center Bar Harbor

That’s where Hulls Cove Visitor Center comes in.  Located on Route 3 north of Bar Harbor, it is staffed with park rangers who can answer questions like these and help plan your visit.  In addition, there are free publications, a free 15-minute audiovisual program about the park, and an audio tour of Acadia you can buy.

At Hulls Cove Visitor Center you can also pay your entrance fee, which is $20.  And, if you’re 62 or older, you can get a $10 lifetime entrance pass to access more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

Entrance fees for Acadia National Park

Hulls Cove Visitor Center also features several exhibits about park resources and activities.  The very best of these, in my opinion, is the huge three-dimensional map of Mount Desert Island.  It shows the relative heights of the mountains, which are all labeled.  You can see how Somes Sound, which is six miles long, divides the island in two.  Try to spot Bar Harbor, Echo Lake, and other points of interest.

3D Map Hulls Cove Visitors Center

The better you know the island, the more you’ll love this map and want to return again and again, as I do.

Hulls Cove Visitor Center is open April 15 through October 31st.

Also, be sure to take advantage of online planning tools before you depart for Maine.  OUR ACADIA, for example, has restaurant reviews, tips on what to do if it rains, and lists of activities for kids.  The National Park Service site has the current edition of the Beaver Log, which details ranger-led programs.

Planning in advance not only reduces stress during your vacation, but also enhances your happiness.  Seriously.

When researchers from the Netherlands measured the effect that vacations have on overall happiness, they found that the largest boost comes from the simple act of planning a vacation! The effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

Related Stories:

14 Ways to Save Money on a Trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park

We’re Planning a Vacation to Acadia National Park, But Where Is the Best Place to Stay on Mount Desert Island?

Great Itineraries for Three Days, One Week, and Two Weeks in Acadia National Park

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast
Jul 282012

Maine logging camp cooks

The standards for a great breakfast in Maine are high, hearkening back to the logging camps.

Lumbermen would refuse to work if they didn’t like the food.  The output of the cooks, whose reputations grew among workers in the Maine woods, was as much a factor as pay in selecting where to work.

Camp cook culinary renown grew with mastery of breads, pastries, pie, and, of course, baked beans – which hearken back even further to Maine’s Native Americans, the Wabanaki, who prepared them with maple syrup and bits of venison or other meat.

That tradition is alive and well today at Jeannie’s at 15 Cottage Street in Bar Harbor, which serves The Great Maine Breakfast.

It’s hard to resist the namesake breakfast on your first visit.  The delicious homemade baked beans come with three eggs, grilled ham, home fries, toast, and a buttermilk pancake.

Great Maine Breakfast

Of course, if your preference goes more toward black beans, you might opt for the three-egg Spanish omelet with provolone cheese. Topped with a very fresh and spicy salsa, it’s also served with home fries and homemade toast.

Jeannie's spicy Spanish omelet

No Bar Harbor breakfast spot is popular – and, believe me, Jeannie’s is – if it doesn’t offer some version of eggs with lobster.  Jeannie’s lobster specialty is an omelet filled with that iconic crustacean and topped with a creamy Mornay cheese sauce.

If you have a sweet tooth, you won’t be disappointed.  You can choose from blueberry pancakes or French toast stuffed with cream cheese and jam.  Jeannie’s is also known for its strawberry rhubarb fruit spread, which is packaged with pancake mixes, as a great gift to take to those who had to stay home.

Vegans can relax with vegan oatmeal and walnut pancakes topped with a warm, savory homemade applesauce.  If you’re a vegetarian who loves tofu, as my daughter does, go for the scrambled eggs with spiced tofu, peppers, and onions.  It’s also topped with that deliciously fresh homemade salsa.

Jeannie's Cottage Street Bar Harbor

There’s nothing fancy about Jeannie’s, which doesn’t take reservations.  But friendly and fast service will get you out early, as well fueled as any Maine woodsman, to tackle your hiking trail or carriage road in Acadia National Park.


Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: 2 Cats

Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor

Best Restaurants in Bar Harbor – From a New Yorker’s Point-of-View


When it rains in Acadia, take the kids to the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor

 travel  Comments Off on When it rains in Acadia, take the kids to the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor
Jul 212012

I’m a bona fide nerd and proud of it.  But, I realize that what appeals to me may not similarly captivate others, so, at least in my capacity as a blogger, I urge active use of the “Comment” function.  If something I found fascinating on Mount Desert Island was utterly boring to you, please let me – and our readers – know.  Comment.

With this strong sense of self-awareness, I visited the Abbe Museum in downtown Bar Harbor recently.  I know that high on everyone’s agenda for a visit to Acadia National Park are a trip to Cadillac Mountain, bike riding around Eagle Lake, tea at Jordan Pond House, and photographing the Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  But what are the alternatives on a rainy day in Bar Harbor?  Everyone wants to know.

It was chilly and drizzling rain, so we decided to visit The Abbe Museum.

Abbe Museum Downtown Bar Harbor

The museum actually has two sites – the original trailside museum at Sieur de Monts Spring and the newer home for the ever-expanding collection, which opened at 26 Mount Desert Street in downtown Bar Harbor in 2001.  The mission of both is to showcase the history and cultures of Maine’s native people, the Wabanaki, through changing exhibitions, special events, teacher workshops, and craft workshops for children and adults.

As we entered the renovated 1893 landmark, which has spacious, contemporary galleries, I was struck by a family with two young boys.  They had just finished an engaging conversation with the museum’s only docent and were enthusiastically referring to scavenger hunt master sheets as they pored over display cabinets of arrowheads, animal bones, and early tools.Mother and Son at Abbe MuseumAs directed by the docent, I proceeded to a timeline, which was the entry point for the current major exhibition, Indians & Rusticators: Wabanakis and Summer Visitors on Mount Desert Island 1840s-1920s, which will end its run in December.  It immediately captured my imagination, because I live in Somesville, the first settlement on Mount Desert Island, founded in 1791.

There was an amazing handwritten piece by the great granddaughter of Daniel Somes about the family’s generosity in allowing the Indians to camp on the perimeters of “their” land at no cost; yet she herself yearned to be an Indian.

A basket from that period of the first settlers was the first among many.  The Abbe Museum has the largest and best documented collection of Maine Indian basketry.Basket exhibit Abbe Museum Bar HarborThe exhibition’s timeline continued with the subsequent “discovery” of the island by artists starting with Thomas Cole and including Frederic Church and the other Hudson School painters.  The next period of Mount Desert history was the “development” of the island by rusticators, the wealthy who built massive cottages in Bar Harbor.

A while back I had learned that the first guide book to Mount Desert Island, which was very much a hiking guide, was written by a woman, Claire Barnes Martin, in 1877.  Since I’m an enthusiastic hiker, it was cool to see an original print of the book, along with a pair of women’s boots that would have been worn on these hikes.Lady's hiking boots Abbe MuseumMost fascinating was the demonstration of entrepreneurism of the Wabanakis throughout these periods.  The Indians came back to the island for the summer season and opened up “businesses” in Bar Harbor.  Here they offered summer rusticators fishing trips, paddling lessons, and activities for their children.  They even provided fortune telling.Abbe Museum Bar HarborAbbe Museum canoeI left the museum wishing I had more time to spend there, but we had made plans for an early dinner at Thurston’s (one of my favorite restaurants on Mount Desert Island) in Bass Harbor with friends.

Later at Thurston’s, I recognized the father of the two little boys I had seen in the museum and I greeted him, “I saw you at the Abbe Museum today.  Your boys were really well behaved.”  “No,” he said.  “They are usually a lot more active.  But they just loved that scavenger hunt.”

So, don’t take it from me.  Those are two strong recommendations for the Abbe Museum as a great thing to do when it rains during a visit to Acadia National Park.


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7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park

 Photography, travel  Comments Off on 7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park
Jul 162012

Before you go to Acadia National Park in Maine, you’ll research all of the best things to do on Mount Desert Island.  You’ll drive the Park Loop Road.  You’ll be sure to stop to see Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole.  You’ll stroll down the Main Street of Bar Harbor.

But I want to share with you seven stunning sights to see that may be off the beaten path or require a little extra effort.  And some of these are manmade!  Bring your camera.

1.  Start with Acadia’s most well-known site, Cadillac Mountain.

Porcupine Islands and Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

At 1,530 feet, it the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and the perfect place to survey the spectacular beauty of Mount Desert Island.  But, believe me, it’s worth it to get up to see the sunrise and view the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay at dawn.

2.  Visit the famous Stone Barn Farm in Bar Harbor.Stone Barn Farm Bar Harbor MaineBarns, bridges, and churches are as much a part of the Maine landscape as some of its natural wonders.  Add to your itinerary the cobblestone barn on Norway Drive, built in 1820, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3.  Walk, bike, or carriage-tour Acadia’s carriage roads.

Carriage Roads Rockefeller Acadia National ParkJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. oversaw construction of 45 miles of carriage roads available to you today that weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia.  They will bring you to some spectacular sites and sightings, which may include David Rockefeller himself taking a drive.

4.  Let Jordan Pond and The Bubbles take your breath away. Jordan Pond Bubble MountainsJordan Pond House visitors not only take in tea and popovers, but this iconic view.  I urge you to explore Jordan Pond’s shoreline and see if you prefer the views from a point slightly more west, as my husband does.  The 3.2-mile walk around the pond is delightful.

5.  Be charmed by the Somesville Bridge.

Somesville Bridge Mount Desert Island

The village of Somesville, founded in 1761, is Mount Desert Island’s oldest settlement.  The bridge, often cited as one of the most photographed spots in Maine, will get your attention first, but then you should focus on Somes Sound, the seven-mile-long fiord that divides Mount Desert Island.

6.  Behold the boats on Bass Harbor at dusk.

Bass Harbor Mount Desert Island Maine

A highlight of the so-called “Quiet Side” of Mount Desert Island is the working fishing village of Bass Harbor.  When you visit this quiet community, you’ll certainly also want to see the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, built in 1858, and to have dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound.

7.  Find inspiration at Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor.

Little Long Pond Seal Harbor Maine

Charles Eliot, the influential president of Harvard University, in 1901 founded an entity on Mount Desert Island to acquire lands for public use, setting the stage for the establishment of the national park eighteen years later.  His son and views like this one – which he felt to be the most beautiful on the island – were his inspiration.

It’s hard to limit this list of must-see scenes to just seven!  Comment below and share your favorites!


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Join the Fun: Walking across the Sand Bar from Bar Harbor to Bar Island

 travel  Comments Off on Join the Fun: Walking across the Sand Bar from Bar Harbor to Bar Island
Jul 082012

By Lynn Fantom

I’ll confess.  I had no interest in Bar Island.  It seemed like something for the tourists to do after they bought their T-shirts in Bar Harbor.

It was only because I was compulsively making my way through the 116 hikes in Tom St. Germain’s great trail guide to Acadia National Park, A Walk in the Park — with only a handful to check off, I might add — that I decided to take this “easy coastal hike to an island.”

Let me now tell you all the reasons why I was wrong.

Well, first of all, I was right about the crowds.  There’s something magnetic about the drama of getting stranded on Bar Island if you don’t pay careful attention to the tides.

Bar Harbor is connected to Bar Island via a sand bar that, during low tide, emerges to reveal an easily navigable passageway.  For about an hour and a half on each side of the low tide point, people can walk .8 mile to Bar Island’s high point of 120 feet above sea level.

Early this Sunday morning in May we drove along West Street in Bar Harbor looking for Bridge Street, which leads down to the sand bar.  Seeing groups walk with intention toward the coastline made us know we were in the right place.

Bridge Street toward Bar Island from Bar Harbor

Then we saw the giant sand bar.  The scene was marked with strolling families, couples looking for shells, 4WD’s motoring by, and kayakers practicing strokes before pushing off.  It was a wonderful, festive atmosphere.

Sand bar between Bar Harbor and Bar Island

Bar Harbor kayak group on sandbar to Bar IslandWhen we crossed the sand bar to arrive on Bar Island, there was a fire gate blocking vehicles from proceeding and warning walkers to remain vigilant regarding the tides.  Along with a small parade of others, we followed a trail maintained by the National Park Service.

Hikers Bar Island

Fields of lupines greeted us.

Lupines Bar Island

Beautiful meadows suggested bringing a picnic next time.

Meadow Bar Island Maine

Soon our fellow walkers thinned out, though, as the trail narrowed.

Trail to the top of Bar Island Maine

At the “top” we found a giant “cairn” of stones that had once been the base of a flag pole.

Summit Bar Island Maine

Past it we got a great view of the mountains of Acadia and downtown Bar Harbor, with its hotels and piers.

View of Bar Harbor from Bar Island

On our walk back, we roamed the mud flats and gazed at Bald Porcupine Island in the distance.

Bald Porcupine Island Frenchman Bay Maine

Although people see deer and other wildlife on Bar Island, our encounter was actually closer to the shoreline of Bar Harbor, where this seal was doing what most babies two or three weeks old do – napping.

Harbor seal pup

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