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camping 2014: hiking, family and otherwise

Leah, Elijah in the ergo, holding Harvey's hand as they come up the foggy trail

family hiking

The weather forecast for our second full day of camping (way back a month ago—I'm recapping here) was poor, with predictions of rain and heavy wind, especially later in the day and overnight, so our friends—camping for the first time with kids—made a prudent decision to head home early. The Archibalds decided to go hiking. But first, of course, we had to get some breakfast.

Zion at the breakfast table with food and toys

attractions of the cafe

Zion was much happier than he had been the day before, and both boys were excited for hiking. Skipping our usual in-town stroll in order to get as much time out in the National Park before the rain started falling, we headed out to Sieur de Monts Nature Center, where the boys were quite interested in the range of dead animals on display.

Leah and the boys looking at taxidermy in the nature center

nature under glass

Then it was on to the mountain climbing. We started up the flanks of Dorr Mountain on the Emery Path, and Harvey went at it with considerable energy. I didn't tell him the trail was labeled as "strenuous" in the guide—mostly because I hadn't paid enough attention to know that myself.

Harvey climbing up the granite steps of the Emery Path

big steps for a little hiker

It was pretty much stairs like that all the way up, which was actually not too bad: Harvey certainly had a better chance on the steps than he would have on boulders or sloping granite. And even though our hopes for ocean views were stymied by the dense fog, there were a few nice visual distractions to liven the climbing.

a sculpturesque tangle of uprooted tree roots in the mist


Of course, the boys naturally got tired before too long; Harvey of all the climbing—carrying his own lunch and raincoat too!—and Zion of bumping around in the backpack. We paused for a snack and tried to get the camera to take a picture of us all by itself.

all of us posing for a picture, sitting along the trail

the timer didn't know Zion's face was behind that bush

Unfortunately, the combination of a slightly dented lens body and the hard-to-focus-on foggy conditions put my camera out of commission for the second half of the hike, so there's no photographic evidence of our trip down a separate set of granite steps, this time spiced up with roots and muddy puddles. There was some complaining, but on the whole everyone did great and we were proud of ourselves when we made it back to the bottom of the mountain (after, of course, getting nowhere near the actual top).

While I enjoyed the family time, I wanted just a bit more hiking, and Leah wanted some relaxing time with the boys, so we split up to do two things that were only possible on a Rascal-free camping trip: she to visit the shops in town, and me to take the bus to the Precipice trailhead and attempt that famous climb. (By the way, it had been years since I'd taken the free Island Explorer bus, and I rediscovered that it is totally the way to get around the park. How much time and effort we would have saved if we'd taken it to the beach instead of trying to drive!)

I don't know how Precipice is usually, but with the fog and threat of rain I had the trail pretty much to myself. I actually enjoyed the lack of distant views, since it made me pay more attention to the amazing immediate ones.

a wooden bridge and cliff face on the Precipice trail

looks positively tropical from this angle

For those of you who aren't familiar with the trail, it's pretty fun: it takes you up almost 1,000 feet in a little under a mile, which is pretty good for a "non-technical" hike. There are lots of ladders (mostly metal bars anchored into the rock), but what impressed me the most was the one spot where the trail takes you through an actual cave. But mostly ladders.

a series of ladders (metal staples in the cliff) rising into the mist

the trail goes that way

I made it to the top, and the self-timer was pressed into service again for documentary evidence. It was chilly up there, thus the raincoat; there wasn't any rain yet, thank goodness.

Dan sitting at the foggy top of Champlain mountain

I made it

The only disappointment of the climb was that, at the top, I still wasn't hungry enough to eat the lunch I'd prepared. After eating some snacks for form's sake I headed down the other side of the mountain, into even thicker fog.

a foggy trail along the side of the mountain

just the place for mountain goats

Or maybe it was cloud, because as I got lower things farther than a couple dozen feet away started to become visible.

a view of The Tarn through the fog from the lower slopes of Champlain

below the clouds

Back once again at Sieur de Monts station, I took a look at the bus schedule, and decided that I'd be better off walking all the way back into town. The beginning of this second, flatter, part of my hike was very pleasant.

a long straight boardwalk through the woods

much easier going

The hiking maps for the island have trails indicated all the way into town; it turns out those don't really exist. For a good stretch I was walking along a road, without so much as a sidewalk. But after a nice long wet stroll I made it into town to find my family... but what I found instead was pirates!

Harvey in full pirate gear and Zion with a sword, with the harbor behind them


In the course of shopping for a present for our neighbor's 5th birthday, Leah and the boys had happened upon some great pirate gear, and naturally they bought it and put it on right away. It was awesome. There are always lots of people walking around Bar Harbor, but if you're a five-year-old dressed as a pirate you'll be noticed by all of them, and most of them will smile. This is as true at restaurants as it is on the street.

pirate Harvey sitting at an outdoor restaurant table, with a cup of lemonade clutched in his hook

is it grog?

That was at a burrito place, where I finally got hungry again; thank goodness, since I got a big burrito.

my half-eaten food

food picture

The boys got hot-dog burritos, but they mostly ate the hot dog part, so in addition to my tremendous meal I finished off their tortillas; also their lemonade, since one of the after-effect of the sickness which had brought Zion low the day before (and Harvey before we left) was painful mouth sores. So eating wasn't always easy. But of course ice cream always goes down well, especially fancy flavors like callebaut chocolate and butter mint.

Harvey, still a pirate, and Zion eating ice cream on a park bench

sweet finish

If the day could have ended there all would have been perfection, but we still had to get ourselves back to the car—parked too far away for our tired pirate captain—and then to the distant campsite for bed. But we made it—and just in time too, since as we settled into bed the wind started picking up ominously.

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