Wednesday, 28 September 2011

USA Today (4) Camden, ME (Windjammers & fireworks)

Camping in Camden! There’s nothing like waking up with the dawn, in the middle of nowhere, to the sweet serenaded of chatting birds and a game of fart tennis with your husband. 

Like the canister we’d bought the previous day from LL Bean, this was also ‘the wrong kind of gas’ and neither could be harnessed to boil our kettle for a nice up of tea. Boo! Instead, for breakfast we embraced the full blueberry experience and had blueberry thins with extra blueberry jelly. I was turning into Violet Beauregarde. 

By now I was out of Frizz Ease and seemed to be the only person in the whole campsite wielding hair straighteners, but standards must be maintained and so I persevered.

We are sailing.

As we waited for our Windjammer, 'The Schooner Surprise' to arrive, the harbour started to fill up and in anticipation of the ‘Sea Dog’ competition, dogs in neckerchiefs and fancy jackets started to promenade. They came from all quarters – but for me, a Sea Dog should come from the sea (life vest optional).

A proper Sea Dog in a doggy live vest.

The trip on The Surprise was beautiful, the sun glinting off the calm, flat sea. Glistening waves lapping around the bow of the boat, the sails flapping in the breeze and Capt. Jack balanced on at the bow of the boat telling us tales of a sea faring nature. 

Capt. Jack.

Camden Harbour.

While our windjammer adventure was not as fast or rolling as I’d expected (I had visions of the Onedin Line), it was still wonderful. Once the sail’s went up, life went at a very gentle pace. So gentle that, powered by First Mate Barb’s ginger cookies, Tris and I were allowed to steer the boat, dodging a couple of porpoises along the way.

A pair of salty old sea dogs.

Boating Bonanza.

Before reluctantly returning to shore, Capt. Jack had one more surprise up his sleeve. In recognition of our newlywed status, we were presented with some commemorative wood – taken from the deck of The Surprise when she was refurbished. It came with a certificate of authenticity which stated it had been entered onto the National Register of Historic Places. 

Authentic wood.
‘I don’t know whether you’ll be able to get it through customs an all to take it back home’ said Capt. Jack, ‘but it’s from us, to you.’ It was a lovely surprise.

Lunch time view.

Catalogue shot - nice shorts.

Back on land we grabbed some lunch from the supermarket and headed back to the harbour. I was just about to feed a pickled gherkin to a duck (as an experiment) when a very different Capt. Jack turned up. Capt. Jack Sparrow. The pirates had arrived. At this point just the one, but I knew there would be more on the way.

After lunch, Tris decided that just like Julie Andrews, he needed to climb every mountain. I on the other hand decided that as they’d already built a road up Mt Battie, the mountain which dwarfs Camden, I would be driving up it in the car. Hurrah for American’s and their commitment to accessibility. 

I think it’s a very positive sign that we can respect each other’s differences! So while Tris was scrambling up what was described in the guidebook as a ‘strenuous climb’ I made leisurely progress in our trusty Hyundai, pausing briefly at a STOP sign where someone – either a fan of 80’s Rock band Journey, or of the TV show ‘Glee’ had written ‘Don’t’ ........ and ‘Believing’. After the couple of years I’ve had, it was very good advice.

As I sat writing my diary and waiting for Tris to arrive, the top of Mount Battie overlooking Camden harbour entered my list of favourite places in the world. I tried to go to the edge and sit enigmatically on a boulder, but I got scared and then I got wobbly knees so retreated back up to safer ground.

My view.

Toy boats.

Beautiful blue sky, vivid sapphire ocean, a harbour packed full of miniature schooners and lush green forest fronded coastline with emerald islands. Sea eagles soared overhead while clicking grasshoppers jumped through the undergrowth. It was absolutely magnificent. Interrupted only by an old man giving a pair of hikers a local history lesson - when they clearly didn’t want to engage – but he was very persistent. I was an amused onlooker.

I found this wonderful poem by Edna St Vincent Millay, which supposedly describes her wanderings in the Camden Hills. I think it’s lovely – it makes my heart smile. 

Afternoon on the Hill by Edna St Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
            Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
            And not pick one.

I will look at the cliffs and clouds
            With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass
            And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
            Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
            And then start down!

It was getting late, and I had just about given up hope of Tris arriving. I wandered over to the tower right at the very top of the mountain, and there he was, just about to give up on me. As we stood on the top of the tower we got chatting to a couple. He had proposed to her on that very spot 30 years earlier. She’d made him wait for a while but eventually said yes. We told them that we were on honeymoon and a bit about ourselves, and agreed to meet up there again in another 30 years time.

Taken by Tris on his short cut.


See you again in 30 years.

Tris and I stayed up the tower for ages, long after the other couple had left. We could just make Cadillac Mountain out in the distance, blue and hazy, further north in Acadia National Park. Acadia was where we were headed.

Eventually we peeled ourselves away and headed back down the hill.

<<Road kill Today>>
Porcupine and a raccoon!

Although we had our wooden gift from the crew of ‘The Surprise’, Tris got proper wood that evening – they were selling it at the campsite. Tris had aspirations of making fire and cooking dinner. It took a while, but with a bit of persuasion, swearing and the mother of all firelighters, fire was what Tris made. 

Cooking on gas (kinda).

I can see why the cowboys were so fond of cooking beans– as long as you’ve got a pan they are really easy to cook. Without a pan it’s a bit more tricky, but we were lucky, Tris had been a boy scout and had come prepared.

Sitting round our campfire, citronella candle burning to keep pesky mosquito’s at bay, supping on yet another bottle of blueberry beer, it was like a scene from Blazing Saddles

Beans - yummy (taken whilst having a rest).

With the Windjammer Festival well underway, that night we were promised fireworks, so we made our way once more back up to the top of Mt Battie. This time it was pitch black. As we sat at the top looking over the harbour, the darkness wrapped around us like a giant black cloth and in a sky full of twinkles, we saw shooting stars. Other than Vic and Bob on BBC2, I’d never seen shooting stars before.

The silence was shattered momentarily by an ice cream van which had driven up to the top of the mountain looking for custom. You have to admire that kind of work ethic.

The firework show was amazing. A full 20 minutes of exploding light launched from a barge far out at sea. It just got better and better, lighting up the whole bay and illuminating all the little boats. The crescendo went on forever, explosion after explosion, a  Jackson Pollock of colours and lights. It was so spectacular, by the time it finally finished I was exhausted – spent.


Boom Boom!

Boom Boom Boom!


Can you tell that we loved Camden? 

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