Friday, October 15, 2004

The magic mountain

This past weekend we took our first overnight trip as a family to someplace other than our respective parents' homes. Our destination was Bar Harbor, a favorite haunt of my wife and myself before Andriana was born. I think we used to manage at least two trips Downeast every year (once in late Spring/early Summer and another in the Fall) - in fact, during our very last trip back in August of 2002, Maria was actually in the first few weeks of pregnancy! So when the baby came and the horizon of our world shrank to family visits, doctor's appointments, and the occasional day-trip, it was hard not to miss our travels farther afield to Maine and elsewhere.

Needless to say, we've been itching for the time when Andriana would be old enough both to weather a long weekend in the car and appreciate the destination when we got there. And at last that time has come! Although the weather reports had been threatening a soggy Columbus Day weekend for the entire week leading up to our trip, we kept the faith (and our reservations at the Ocean Drive Motor Court) and were rewarded with sunny skies and daytime temperatures that reached seventy degrees.

We took advantage of the pleasant weather and made our inaugural family hike up Day Mountain - one of the smaller hills in Acadia National Park, but which nevertheless proved a challenging task for our mostly-out-of-shape expedition. As we were ascending a ridge that was exposed to the open ocean, we quickly broke out of the scrub and above the treeline to view after stunning view. Normally the foliage in Midcoast Maine is already past peak by Columbus Day, but the leaves must have been turning a little late this year because the colors were absolutely extraordinary - flaming reds, brilliant oranges, sun-like yellows. We snapped a few pictures on the digital camera, but unfortunately since the laptop is out of commission we haven't had the chance to look at them yet!

The best part of the hike was that Andriana was clearly enjoying herself, even after being roused from a catnap in order to hit the trail. She pointed out various bits of flora and fauna - in her own language, naturally! - and was infinitely absorbed in the tiny pebbles along the carriage paths for horses which criss-crossed the mountain trail. We actually ran into a couple of horses at the top of the hill, which scared the bejeesus out of her, as animals are to her still something best appreciated from afar. Even though she was clearly flagging by the end of our descent, in truth we all were, so you can't fault her there...

We spent the rest of the day driving around Mount Desert Island and hanging out down on Sand Beach, where Andriana and I played in the bonechilling but achingly beautiful blue-green surf while Maria wisely remained dry and warm, watching Daddy and daughter from a comfortable distance on the sand. I fear I've already made a polar bear of my little girl, who fearlessly charges into New England water as if it were her evening bath; whereas my wife is still too Mediterranean to accept even wading in a body of water that turns your toes blue in less than five minutes.

I love Maine. And Acadia National Park has been a kind of Shangri-La to me ever since I gazed upon its cliffs and barren mountaintops as a kid travelling with my folks (we never really got out of the car on that trip, so I spent years afterwards imagining what it would be like to climb trails so steep that you needed iron rungs and ladders to make the ascent); and with each happy return that feeling is only magnified. I'm not sure why we don't just live there, though I suppose a winter that's even worse than what we get here in Boston is part of the reason. Maybe if we moved there permanently, it would lose its restorative capacity for the body and soul. Though somehow I doubt that...

Well, here's to a new family tradition. I hope we get back up there again soon.

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