Scenic Vacation 2021

As some of you know, we took a “staycation” this month. It was the first meaningful vacation we’ve had – well… ever. Or, the second one if you count the cross-country trip we took when we moved from California to Maine in 2008. I don’t count that one as a real vacation though, as five days after we arrived in my home state, my step-father shot himself, dying just two weeks later. Maybe that memory has prevented me from truly enjoying vacations ever since. Associations are hard to separate once they are ingrained in your brain. It’s entirely possible that every time I’ve contemplated vacationing for pure pleasure, the little voice in the back of my head tells me that something tragic or punishing is awaiting the conclusion. It takes a lot now to convince myself to enjoy things, especially free time. I have to admit that it was really difficult to push myself to spend each day doing one thing that I’ve always wanted to, or at the very least, something out of the norm.

In the end, I’m glad I did. It put me horribly behind on commissions, but I think I needed the change in perspective and scenery, especially after what has turned out to be one of the worst summers imaginable (losing my job, having no bathroom, etc). I feel more fulfilled now than I ever have after one of our “vacations” (which typically begins with us being so exhausted that we do absolutely nothing). I went places I’ve only wished to go. I saw things previously only viewed through someone else’s camera lens. Here are the highlights in photographic form, not necessarily in order.

Coos Canyon

I’ve been begging my husband to take me to Height of Land for a few years now and he’s never been exactly excited to make the drive. I did guilt him into making the trip this year, however, and a little bit before we hit the scenic byway, I yarned over when I saw a sign advertising an outhouse. I jumped out of the car and went searching for a place to pee and ahead of me I saw the most beautiful scenery – Coos Canyon. It wasn’t even on the map of suggested places to visit. It was right off the main road. It was easily accessible without any sort of hike, or viewable from above, too. These are my favorite three snaps.

Mount Battie

Our first day trip was to Mount Battie. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. It is one of four mountains in Maine that you can summit while inside a vehicle. As much as I wanted to hike some mountains, this was definitely easier and more instantly gratifying. The view from the top is stunning, especially on a nice day. And you can overlook the harbor from the mountain top or climb to the top of the observation tower and see it from even higher up. I tripped going into the tower and smash my leg up. And… when I got to the top of the tower I got so sick feeling from the sense of height that I had to practically crawl down the steps, LOL. Definitely worth the drive to Camden.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

The picture I’m using in this post isn’t the one I took while at Pemaquid Point. I didn’t think it was fair to post pictures of my family members on a public forum like this. So I’m using another photo I took from a few years ago to illustrate the beauty of this scenic location. (PS: I also took the photo below from a boat so this is not the view you get when going to the actual park, LOL). Either way, it’s inexpensive, a nice country drive, and there are a few lovely scenic overlooks in this area.

Height of Land (Rangeley Region National Scenic Byway)

I’ve coveted visiting this overlook for years now and am really glad my husband felt guilty enough to drive up finally. Now that he’s made the trip, he’s agreed that it wasn’t a bad ride and has agreed to take me back for fall foliage pics! (Yay!) Although the view from Height of Land is the icing on the cake, there are several beautiful overlooks along this 35-mile-long National Scenic Byway. I was able to get a massive 8-shot panorama of the view and have this and one I took at Acadia being printed into 30″ and 43″ photos currently.

Smalls Falls

At what we thought was the end of the Rangeley Regional National Scenic Byway, I again had to pee and again hauled off the road at what I thought was a rest area. The toilets were an adventure in and of themselves. I won’t go into details but dayum… Anyways, after braving the outhouse, I saw a sign that called the area Smalls Falls. Thinking that I might see a small waterfall, I quickly walked to the end of the parking lot and down a set of stairs. Well, there was a waterfall, but it was way grander than I expected. My mother-in-law and I ended up hiking to the top of the 3-tiered falls, terminating in a grand “bathing” pool at the very top. It was stunning and one of the best experiences in my life.

Mount Cadillac, Acadia National Park

The day we drove to Acadia, the goal was actually to ride the Schoodic National Scenic Byway and THEN drive to the summit of Cadillac. That is not what actually happened. We had a hard time finding the entrance to Acadia (you’d think there would be clear signage for a national attraction). It took far longer than we’d anticipated, and we were forced to buy tickets to make the summit drive in advance and had to choose a specific time slot. This made things VERY difficult. We had no idea if we’d arrive on time. We didn’t dare ride the byway first. And, once we got there it was so crowded you couldn’t even begin to enjoy the scenery. I have never seen so many people. Our drive to the summit was spoiled because there were so many vehicles clogging the road and the bump-outs at scenic overlooks, that we were only able to make three stops out of maybe a dozen. It was really disappointing. At one bumpout, we finally got a slot to pull over, but a park ranger was yelling at people to move their vehicles and we didn’t know if he was yelling at us so we ran back to our car. It was uncomfortable. Many of the beautiful water flows were nowhere near a bumpout so you had to view them in motion. I would have loved to have photographed them all, but only one had a spot to pull over. Even then it was difficult to get a clear shot as there was a non-stop stream of vehicles obscuring the view. The biggest disappointment was at the summit. After a 3-hour drive to get there. Being unable to pull over to the majority of the bumpouts. And having to pay a park entrance fee plus a fee to drive to the top, we arrived at the summit and there were no parking spaces. We couldn’t just sit and clog the roadway and wait for one to open up and had to just keep driving back down. I was really pissed. Not only that but there were so many bodies at the summit you’d think we were in stadium for a concert and not on the top of a mountain. And, it’s not as though we could wait until it cleared out because they don’t allow you to drive up without buying a slot in advance. We ended up leaving and went to the gift shop. They double charged my MIL for her purchases. We had to walk all the way back from the parking lot to the shop which is quite a hike to say the least and all uphill. They refused to refund her the double charge and said she had to wait until the credit card company caught the error. Blah blah blah. Long story short, I had high hopes for this trip but there was very little I enjoyed about it in the end. And… it was the most expensive day trip to boot. Oh well. I got a great panorama so maybe that is my consolation prize.

Until Next Year

We did other things like boating and restauranting, but these were the highlights. I’m very excited to revisit Height of Land and will post fall photos in a few weeks. Thanks for stopping by!