There’s probably a fine line between writing a blog post that could be termed a ‘travelogue’ and one that’s as interesting as your Aunt Maude’s account of her latest European river cruise with her bridge friends. The one with endless photos, dull anecdotes and possibly even an old school slide show.
The best thing about a blog post is that if you get bored, you can leave. Aunt Maude would be devastated. So will we, but we’ll never know!
We wanted to share a slice of the PIE’s summer vacation because we love reading about where other folk travel to, and living a little vicariously through their photos and descriptions. It inspires us to consider new destinations and add to our ever growing list of must-visit places around the world.
We’ve just spent a fantastic two weeks split between our mountain home (11 nights) and Acadia National Park, Maine (3 nights). As we have mentioned before, our list of ‘must do’s’ for this type of vacation are pretty minimal. We had planned plenty of hiking, playing at the local rivers and ponds, ice cream eating and some summer ‘tourist’ type activities at the local ski mountain. Our other goals extend to having as many meals on the deck as possible, mooching around the local farmers market and generally living pretty slowly.
We can confidently say that we Exceeded Expectations (OMG, we are using “HR speak” to define our vacation) on all fronts. Onto the details – more a smattering of things we got up to during our 2016 Family PIE Summer Vacation. There’s no time to tell it all, so we picked out a few highlights.
Calling all Ice-cream Lovers
Despite Mr. PIE’s love for ice-cream extending as far as a vanilla coke float (his favorite – Whoa, steady on, don’t get too wild, don’t you!! Aunt Maude will be inviting you over for a game of bridge next), a gamut of different flavors were tested by Mrs. PIE and the small PIEs. The two final contenders were 18 Degrees in North Conway, NH (#piewholestuffer for the Twitter aficionado’s) and Mount Desert Island ice-cream in Bar Harbor, ME. If you visit Bar Harbor, you will be very glad to sample the wares at this lovely little spot on the quiet end of Main St. It should be said that we captured multiple data points at each of these fine establishments. The small PIEs particularly liked this aspect of the ice-cream experiment. Of course, this was simply in the spirit of ensuring we had a clear winner, which we failed to define. An honorable tie. Winner, winner ice-cream dinner. Literally.
Hiking in the Whites
The North East provides a selection of different hiking and climbing activities for all abilities. Despite the mountains being smaller than those out West, there is ample opportunity to get into deep trouble if you are not prepared. The sobering description of calamities on Mt. Washington and other mountains in the Presidential Range throughout all seasons serves as a reminder to take great care when setting out on even a day-hike. The unpredictable weather and rough terrain in the Presidential Range should be taken very seriously. Read “Not Without Peril” and you’ll know what we mean.
OK, enough of the drama – there is no need to emergency bivouac overnight when temperatures are in mid-eighties and the sky is clear blue, which it was for most of the first two weeks of July. The most drama we ever encountered over the last two weeks was worrying about application of enough sun-screen and bug spray to the small PIE’s before each hike. Since Mr. PIE is Scottish by descent, he also has to be slathered in Factor 100 sun-screen to prevent turning from his natural blue hue to the color of one of those yummy Maine Lobsters. That is NOT Mr. PIE below, by the way.
Plastered in sufficient sun-screen and bug-spray, loaded up with a plethora of sandwiches, bottled water, Trail-Mix and Trail-Candy (only for the small PIE’s of course, Mr. and Mrs. PIE NEVER EVER touch candy….honestly….) our favorite hike of the vacation was the Franconia Ridge Trail. This trail takes you on a 9-mile loop (28,000 steps, thanks for that reminder iPhone Health App) over three summits (Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette) with some of the finest views on any ridge trail you will see in the White Mountains. Mt. Lafayette is the peak at 5249 ft, with approximately 3,000ft of that gained from the starting point base. If you find yourself in the White Mountains with a day to spare, have an inclination for the great outdoors and are suitably fit, this hike is for you. It is a popular one, so hit the trail early to avoid the “crowds” – it is all relative though! If hiking is not your cup of tea, motor across the majestic Kancamagus highway to North Conway and stuff your face with a mountain of ice-cream in a waffle cone at 18 Degrees. This will make you feel very good also.
Pictures of the PIE’s on the ridge
With a good set of smaller hikes behind us and legs sufficiently warmed up, our smallest PIE (age 7) lead the expedition and acted as Energizer Bunny on this hike. Mrs. PIE and I frequently commented during the hike that we never undertook such a long hike at this young age. His core strength for scrambling and reserves of stamina was something to admire. Our eldest boy (age 9) also showed us what he was made of by completing the hike with energy to spare. Oh, to be that age again and build a huge portfolio of great hikes….
The Stunning Beauty of Acadia, Maine.
We first visited this beautiful National Park two years ago. We can’t believe it took us another two years to return. We stayed for three nights using the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel as our base. The coastal scenery is simply breath-taking and Mr. PIE’s iPhone pictures don’t do it justice.
Since this was our second trip to Acadia, we wanted to explore a new aspect of the park and decided to spend a day on one of the small islands that are dotted throughout the region. We woke up early, drove from Bar Harbor (1.5 hr) across to Stonington on Deer Island and took a trip over to Isle au Haut (pronunciation = Isle a Ho). Stonington is a stunning little village with a fantastic coffee house, a couple of great little restaurants and sea-views to die for. We can easily see us returning there for a slow paced week, perhaps using VRBO or AirBnB. After buying some lunch sandwiches at the local grocer for our trip, we traveled from Stonington on the Mailboat (it literally delivers mail and essential provisions to the ~70 inhabitants of this idyllic isle) and landed at Duck Harbor on the south-west of the Isle. The boat trip was a very pleasant hour long and we all wished it was longer.
View from the Mailboat as we headed out of Stonington harbor
From there we spent most of the day on Isle au Haut and hiked the Duck Harbor mountain trail over to Squeaker Cove. A cute and fun part of the hike is navigating “the puddings”, a series of large stony outcrops on Duck Mountain. How can you not like such a name if you are a PIE? Squeaker Cove at the end of the trail is a beautiful cove and probably named after the high pitched shrill you make when you dip your toes into the chill North Atlantic waters. At least that was the sound emanating from Mr. PIE when he attempted to cool his feet after the hike in the midday sun.
It is these off-the-beaten paths of Acadia that make this National Park so interesting and a place to build memories.
Odds and Ends
It would be remiss of us to not mention our fireworks extravaganza on the 4th – a real highlight for the small PIEs. Since Mr. and Mrs. PIE are card-carrying chemists, we have a knack for organized pyromania. Only kidding, our chemical laboratory habits adhere to all appropriate health and safety standards – although it has been so long since Mr. PIE actually wore a lab-coat, he wouldn’t know what a laboratory looked like these days. Mrs. PIE is so safety conscious she even has a bucket of water at the ready for dealing with a rogue sparkler. We did tell you in some former posts how much we like contingency plans and safety nets with respect to financial planning! Same goes for the much larger fireworks and the s’mores – can be a messy business dealing with a flaming marshmallow on a skewer held by an excited 7-year old! Safety first!
We have a great river nearby our Mountain Home where we kayak, go crazy with epic rope swings and swim in the local swimming hole. Very few folks know of the swimming hole, it is a bit of a local secret and high level clearance is required to have such privileged information.
Small PIE about to launch into the river from swing….
Phew – with all that activity, we gotta eat. In the spirit of a Slice of PIE vacation, we can’t leave you without sharing our favorite grill item for breakfast on vacation. The BACON sandwich or the BACON “butty” as it is affectionately known in United Kingdom.
Recipe: Grill as many slices of bacon as you can eat. Sandwich them between two pieces of buttered fresh bread (ideally made by Mrs. PIE) or toast, garnish with your favorite sauce (or just naked is fine also) and dig in. Yumm! Crikey, just noticed we have used the words “butty” and “naked” in the space of two paragraphs. This blog will either get a bad reputation or will increase our views exponentially.
On that note, we hope you are still with us and have enjoyed the light reading. Vacations are an important part of who we are as a PIE family. Our life would not nearly be as rich if we didn’t get excited planning for them, enjoying them and telling others about them. Vacation is one area of our budget we never make significant sacrifices in our journey towards FIRE.
Be prepared. Have a plan. But please enjoy the now also. There are a lot of roses out there in this great land. Go find them and smell them.
If Aunt Maude has nodded off, wake her up from her gin slumber and tell her all about the bacon butty.
What plans do you have for summer vacation? Any stories to tell from your recent travels? Do you even care to know about the Great British food classic that is the bacon butty? Please let us know in the comments section….and keep it clean!