MDI, as it’s locally known, stands for Mount Desert Island in the state of Maine, U.S. With a population of approximately 10,000, its wonderful nothingness is fashionable enough for the likes of Martha Stewart and Rockefeller heirs to invest in summer cottages. When the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain’s gaze fell on the bare mountain summits devoid of trees, his first utterances were probably along the lines of “Ile de Monts Deserts” and the name stuck! Mount Desert Island, the 6th largest island in the contiguous U.S., is also home to the Cadillac Mountains. At an elevation of 466 m, the Cadillac Mountains is the first place to greet sunrise in the continental U.S. Most tourists will remember MDI for its famous Acadia National Park. Isn’t that a fascinating taster of MDI? Let’s go and explore MDI!
Having travelled from New Hampshire, all over New England, New York state and even Niagara Falls on our 2-week vacation, Maine in our eyes on the first week of November was a clear and definite change of scene, a ‘Winter Wonderland’. We certainly did not expect to experience so much snow?! Now, the complimentary Avis car hire upgrade to an SUV at Boston Logan International Airport, was very gratefully received. We grabbed a bite of a thoroughly enjoyable lunch at the iconic Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro before arriving at the cozy and homely Bar Harbor Grand Hotel by about dinnertime. My husband’s Timberland boat shoes, was certainly well-built to take on the snow but definitely not my dainty ballerina shoes. Naught chances for high-heeled shoes too! 😉 My feet sank right through the six inches deep snow. Alas, we had to wave goodbye to the romantic notion of a snow flurries fairy dustings stroll to the nearby restaurants for dinner. A word of caution : Not many restaurants are open in the off-peak season but there’s always a Hannaford supermarket and pharmacy should you wish to stock up on grocery.
Have you ever experienced an unexpected weather turn during your travels? What did you do? Pulling on the layers and stiffling the yawns, we’d decided to set off early and make the best of everything at hand. Thinking about it now, we were very brave to be so gungho about our Maine exploration even when the cell phone had naught percent coverage in Maine?! We waved hello to the Acadia National Park, admiring trees from the comforts of the car, the trees still proudly standing tall and wearing their late autumn colours. Winter had started to descend and from the looks of its clear firm grip on MDI, it was here to stay. We met a snow plough every couple of minutes. Snow was efficiently cleared from the major roads, but less evidently so as we drove a little deeper into the heart of MDI. By about lunchtime, it was clearly not a wise decision to continue the journey as the roads were heavily laden with deep snow and our visibility was being severely challenged by the ferocious snow storm.
We turned around for the hotel, stopping by the Bar Harbor’s waterfront to admire the boats battered by the snowstorm along the way. It was really cold that day! Bar Harbor was certainly a hive of sun and seafood activities in the summer but now a ghost town. Having returned to the hotel room, we immediately tucked into the warmth of a cup of piping hot coffee and chocolate chip cookies. Blissfully enjoying the comforts of the room, we peered out of the many windows and watched as the snowfall got heavier. The locals went about their daily activities, several children were snow sledding and the colourful snow ploughs were zipping past left, right and centre, proudly doing their jobs to ensure the safety of road users.
The next day, at about 9.30 am, we had arrived at Beal’s lobster pier, a working fishing and lobster pier since 1932. We’d missed out on the restaurant opening season (Jun – Oct 15) and could only imagine eating the fresh and juicy lobsters. However, it was most fascinating to see beautiful white fishing boats gracefully resting on the icy blue waters. What amazed me the most was the lobster traps, in the colours of traffic light.
How do you bait a lobster? The functional and basic design of the lobster trap has not changed much since the 1800s, the only difference being made of metal or plastic frame construction instead of mere wood. The lobster will swim into the trap to take the bait of fresh or salted fish, neatly packed into a pouch, from the ‘kitchen’. Once the lobster takes the bait, when it realise that something is wrong, it will try to exit by swimming to a presumedly safer opening and is welcomed into the ‘parlour’ within the lobster trap. The design of the funnel shaped doors ensures easy entry but a difficult exit for lobsters of the right size. Undersized lobsters can exit via small vents in the ‘parlour’ section. The baited lobster traps will ride on lobster boats and lowered into depths of 20 – 100 feet, marked by colourful floating buoys. The fishermen will check the lobster traps every 3 days in season. I’m sure you’d remember how these critters are caught the next time you taste a lobster. I love lobsters, do you love lobsters too? Don’t miss the Maine Lobster Festival, held each August in Rockland, Maine.
From the South West Harbor, we drove along the Maine Route 102A, stopping occasionally to take in the scenic beauty of nothingness. Even the wooded swamps dotted with an occasional red wooden house looked really lovely on a winter’s day.
Next up, we visited the majestic Bass Harbor Head Light House. The Bass Harbor Head Light House, constructed with bricks on a stone foundation in 1858, is located in the Acadia National Park, well-positioned at the entrance point of the Blue Hill Bay and Bass Harbor. It was a most magical moment, to catch a glimpse of this magnificent cliffside lighthouse. Do you love lighthouses?
From Bass Harbor Head Light House, we drove around to check out another fishing and lobster pier at Bass Harbor. Bass Harbor forms a large portion of the Acadia National Park. The grounds were an icy muddy slush, so we went sight-seeing from the comforts of the car. Again, there was only a handful of people at Bass Harbor.
Will we do this again? Most definitely a yes we will, but this time we will meet Maine in the summer! Mount Desert Island had been utterly amazing! If any travel hotspot can look so mesmerising in the winter, surely its shades of summer would have been literally out of this world. Until we meet again on another adventure, happy wanderlusting! Thank you so much for your time, hopefully you will love beautiful Maine as much as we do. Much love and warmest regards from enchanting Maine and I, your storyteller 😉