The epic road trip is in full swing, and we are fulfilling our goal for the summer: see old friends, spend plenty of time with family, while taking lots of time to just be the two of us doing whatever we jolly well feel like doing. We wanted to see old friends so badly, and I have been homesick for my family for far too long. But we have also learned from several long summer roadtrips and shorter vacations that the two of us feel most rested after several days of hiking, reading, napping, exploring, talking, and avoiding people at all costs. So, we have done just that.
Oh, and Dekker. He has come along for the ride. He isn’t a people-dog, so he fits in perfectly. He loves camping, especially when all neighbors stay well away from our little camping territory. He wanders, digs, rolls, begs, and remains ever on the alert for those horrible “OTHER PEOPLE”. While the barking can get tiresome, it’s good to have a dog that matches our own personalities so well.
So, various activities? Well, I’m glad you asked.
First off, camping. Holy cow, guys! Did you know that you can sleep in these flimsy structures called tents, cook entire meals with only one frying pan, stay warm thanks to delightful blankets, and hike and explore all for only 10$-30$ a night?! I didn’t until this summer, and it has certainly changed how I view vacations. Firstly, showers and soft beds are pure delight after a week of “roughing” it. Secondly, I have learned that I can still be overwhelmed with all of our “stuff” even if that “stuff” covers just a little bit more than the bare essentials.
Here are some other lessons we have learned so far…
- If you are planning on reading books, bring at least one pure pleasure book. I brought all of my 5th grade lit books, and two large history books. What am I actually reading? Thomas’ copy of the first of the Jack Aubrey adventures, also knows as Master and Commander. I still plan on reading the heavier books, and I should read the literature books for next year, but I am thoroughly enjoying reading again just for the pleasure of it.
- Cook stoves are awesome! No matter how hard we try, Thomas and I just can’t get a true campfire going. This is mostly because Thomas refuses to use lighter fluid. Something about “cheating”. I think we are getting close to the breaking point, as we still haven’t cooked anything over a fire. Hence the first statement in this bullet point. My only regret is that I have only one cast-iron skillet. I’m keeping my eye out for a second one (8 inches would probably work), so that I can get our meals made even faster.
- Book your campsites early, unless you plan on arriving there before about 9:00 AM. This is especially true if you are camping around a holiday. We knew we would be in the Acadia area just before Independence Day. So, we booked a site for the last week in June, and another night spent at the beloved Acacia House in downtown Bar Harbor. I recommend calling ahead and asking the rangers for their advice. What is the weather like? How full is the campground? Do you have showers? Do you have a pet policy? How much does each night cost? When are quiet hours? These sorts of questions can get you heading in the right direction.
- GET A HARD SHELL COOLER!!! We thought we were being all clever-like by bringing two smaller soft shell coolers instead of one big, heavy, clunky hardshell cooler. We were wrong. Both of our soft shell coolers leaked, and thus reaked, while never keeping our food actually cold. So, we caved and got the hard shell cooler, and the soft-shell (read “wimpy”) coolers have been delegated to holding bedding and whatnot.
- Bring clothes and bedding appropriate for all weather conditions. I packed perfectly well for Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Indiana, etc. Maine, however, has done me in. Luckily, Thomas brought a mummy bag that I have been cocooning in for the past week or so whenever we camp. Unfortunately, I did not bring warm pants or shirts. So, I am doing a lot of layering, and I basically live in my plaid flannel shirt. (To anybody we might visit, please for give the smell. I promise, I do laundry every opportunity I get.) I also forgot to bring my tennis shoes. Thankfully, my wonderful mother lent me one of her older pairs so I could do basic hiking. Today I went and bought a pair of hiking sandals so that my feet aren’t sliding around when we traverse more difficult terrain. So, bring the right shoes, the right clothes, and not too many of each!
- Ham and Eggs will solve all of your problems! We eat eggs and fried ham every morning, and then put ham and cheese inside of tortillas for an easy on-the-go lunch. We can chop up the ham and cheese to put into the eggs, or use the eggs to make pancakes.
- PANCAKES ARE WONDERFUL!!! Need I say more?
- Beware of one-way loop roads inside of state or national parks. If they don’t have two lanes, don’t go on the loop. This is even more imperative if there is even the slightest chance that wild animals might be sighted somewhere along the trail. If there is a bear near a one-lane, one-way loop road, you won’t go anywhere until the bear is gone or until the park rangers show up on their bikes to move things along. We learned this the hard way in Great Smokey Mountains National Park…
- The stressful part of camping is getting from place to place. The relaxing part of camping is being at camp. So, spend as much time as possible being at camp, not getting to or leaving camp. If you have an excellent campsite (our criteria are secluded from people, close to the bathrooms, and away from standing water), make every excuse to stay just a little bit longer.
- On the same note, get to your campsite early. Before noon, preferably. That way, you have time to set up camp and enjoy the scenery without risking doing both in the dark.
- Don’t eat bad food. McDonalds, while filling, just makes everyone queesey. So don’t eat it! Instead, try bringing your own food. Or eat at places that serve tasty, filling, healthy food. Chipotle rocks. Just get plenty of guac, sour cream, and ships, and you are set.
Well, that is all for now. I’m sure there will be plenty of other things to talk about later. I promise to put up pictures whenever I have interwebs again.