In some ways – mainly the yearning to get out of town for a few days and explore someplace new – this trip reminded me of my Colorado ski town days. When the ski area there closed in April, and as the long winter lingered in deep snow and persistently chilly weather, it seemed like half the town hit the road for someplace else – to ride bikes in Moab or camp in the desert or surf in Mexico – depending on time and budget allowances.
My springtime escapes in those days generally consisted of a Subaru loaded with tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, and hiking boots – and a friend or two for company. Over the course of a few years, I visited the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands – all national parks within road-tripping distance – and many other wide open spaces.
This week’s excursion was notably different than those taken in my younger, single days. Into the minivan went three kids and their accoutrements: books, games, stuffed animals, and lots of snacks. But as we set off for Acadia National Park, the impetus was the same: new adventures, a change in scenery, and exploration of unfamiliar places.
Both by the simple geographic location of home and by upbringing, my children are mountain kids. But they love the ocean and being by the shore. So do I.
There is magic and mystery in the movement of tides, and in the vastness of the ocean and its wildness. During one of many forays from our Bar Harbor hotel to the Shore Path that meanders through town, I wondered if kids who live by the sea are as enthralled by it as mine are, if they look for sea glass and shells, if they relish the sound of waves lapping the beach on calm days or crashing against the rocks on stormy ones.
My guess is they take it for granted, as my children do the mountains we see from home. Often, wonder comes from the unfamiliar essence of a thing, the novelty of the unknown.
Mount Dessert Island was happily quiet so far in advance of the rollicking summer season. We passed few people on the Shore Path and had Acadia’s Loop Road practically to ourselves during our ventures into the park.
We spent one full morning wandering the Ocean Trail in Acadia, where the kids peered into tidal pools and joyfully scrambled up and over the myriad rock formations jutting in odd, multicolored angles from the sea. We drove along the edges of Mount Desert Island, taking in picture book-classic New England villages and seashore scenes along the way.
We made early morning and late afternoon visits to the Shore Path and the craggy places along it. While the kids bent to look for perfect shells and tiny pieces of colorful sea glass in the small patches of rocky sand, I sat on the rocks and watched eider ducks bobbing easily on the waves just beyond the shore, listened to bell buoys chiming in the harbor, and watched boats laden with lobster traps motor past the Porcupine Islands.
These are standard sights and sounds for coastal dwellers, but wonderfully different – and, therefore, enchanting – to us mountain folks.
We were all sad to leave after a few days and hope to return someday in the not-too-distant future. But there are other places we want to explore, too. If my kids are anything like me, they’ll have a perpetual case of wanderlust and a never-ending wish list of places to visit.
I hope we spend many April vacations – and other times, too – engaged in new adventures, changing scenery, and explorations of unfamiliar places.
Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog, Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the April 27, 2017 issue of the Littleton Record.