On Saturday, July 10th, we went to the Native American Festival at the College of the Atlantic, a private liberal arts college located in Bar Harbor. Arts, music, dance, storytelling, craft and food demonstrations were among the many things offered at the festival by representatives of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot people of Maine and the Maritimes. Although there were wood and stone carvings, jewelry, beadwork and dolls and other hand crafted items, our favorites were the beautiful, exquisitely hand crafted Wabanaki ash and sweet grass baskets.
It was early when we arrived and there weren’t any demos scheduled until later in the day, but I was curious about how they make their baskets. According to a website about the craft and Jeremy Frey, an award winning basketmaker who was at the show, “making these exquisite works of art is an arduous process; only after weeks of preparation can the actual act of shaping the splints into baskets for everyday use or as objects d’art begin. The basketmaker ventures into dense, nearly-impassable Maine woods in search of a black ash tree. The tree is felled and stripped of branches and bark. Next, the trunk is sawed into sections and vigorously pounded to separate the rings. The rings are carefully sliced and shaved into basket-sized splints. This can be quite hazardous, as these tools, known as gauges, have razor-sharp cutting edges.”
Meandering from tent to tent, we would stop and watch the artists making the baskets. Wow, the attention to detail on the more intricate baskets was pretty impressive. Other items that caught our attention were the hand carved walking sticks. Neat, almost wanted to buy one but they were pretty expensive. Probably would have been very worthwhile to spend the day there but being our last day, we needed to get ready for our departure the next day.
So on Sunday, July 12th, sadly, despite pleas by Betsy and Nancy for us to stay longer, we reluctantly packed up, said goodbye to our friends and left Narrows Too, headed for our next stop, the KOA Campground in Durham, Maine, located about 8 miles north of Freeport.
Freeport is outlet heaven (too bad, I hate shopping!) and the home of the L. L. Bean corporate offices, not one but five L.L. Bean retail stores and every other outlet store known to mankind! Since we hadn’t been to Freeport for a number of years, we had made a reservation for two nights.
Leaving Narrows Too, we had intended to take the scenic route and head south on US-1, but decided traffic might be more intense on the weekend so elected to head west on US-1A and picked up I-95 south near Bangor. The ride down the interstate had minimal traffic but only moderately interesting scenery. At Exit 103 we picked up I-295 south then took Exit 22 in Freeport toward Durham.
Following the directions on the KOA website, taking “Exit 22, (125/136) toward Durham/Bradbury Mtn. State Park. Bear left onto Durham Rd., proceed 4.5 miles to stoplight. Turn right onto Hallowell Rd. (Rt 9), proceed 3.2 miles. Entrance on right.” This was eight miles on a mostly narrow, rutted and excessively crowned two lane road, very bumpy with frost heaves, cracks and potholes. I groaned hearing all our dishware rattling and clinking. Beware of falling stuff when opening the cupboards and fridge! Our advice if you ever go here, do NOT follow these directions or any directions that take you on Brown Road which is also in bad shape.
The best route in our opinion is shown in blue on the map to the right: take Exit 22 (125/136) towards Durham/Bradbury and continue straight on ME-136 north 6.1 miles (ignore the KOA sign that directs you to take Brown Rd.) and take a left on Rabbit Rd. Follow Rabbit Rd 1.4 miles and turn left onto SR 9 west. Follow SR-9 for 1.3 miles to the campground entrance on Big Skye Ln. This approach is 1 mile longer but you have 6.1 miles of smooth road and only 2.7 of bounce, compared to 8.1 miles of rattle and roll. The live Google map can be found here.
At the registration office, we were assigned site A-03, a full hookup (water, 30/50 amp electric and sewer) pull thru. We’re not big fans of KOA campgrounds, usually they are expensive and the sites are cramped, but in this case we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, this one was expensive at $51 for a full hookup pull thru site but every campground in the area was pricey and there wasn’t much choice, very few big rig friendly places.
Our premium site was a long, gravel pull thru site with a picnic table and fire ring and was surrounded by grass. Note that the Premium pull-thrus are sites A01 – A08 and their direction of entry alternates – so the living side of sites A02 & A03, A04 & A07 and A06 & A07 face each other similar to buddy sites. While the space on the drivers side was adequate, on the passenger side the distance between sites was huge and we did not feel any loss of privacy. And being situated in middle of a large field with no trees nearby, the good news was that there wouldn’t be any issues with satellite. The campground has back in (not all full hookup) and tent sites as well but those are in the heavily wooded section of the campground.
After unhitching the toad and getting set up, we took a ride into Freeport. We weren’t in the mood to tackle any of the stores or deal with any crowds so we just drove through town to see what had changed, then headed towards the water. Eventually our growling stomachs found their way to the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company located on the South Freeport waterfront.
Yep we couldn’t help ourselves – two Maine lobster rolls, please – one with fries ($16.25), one without ($15) with a side of onion rings ($4.95). After all, it would be our last Maine lobster roll! Boo hoo! Lots of other stuff on the menu – fish, clams, shrimp, scallops in either a roll or basket, burgers, hot dogs, etc. They also have a lobster pound where you can buy steamed lobster or uncooked live lobster to take home.
Unfortunately they only have a few stools and a small counter that overlooks the harbor and they were occupied. We grabbed a picnic table, after all, did we really need to look at more water and boats?? The Lobster rolls were good but oh, dear, I’m going to say it again – not as good Mt. Battie Take Out though. I think that place has ruined us for life – there will never be another lobster roll as good for the price (well, maybe Twin Oaks in RI – we’ll let you know!)
After we finished we walked around for a bit, then headed back towards Freeport where we stopped at the Bow Street Market, recommended to us by Nancy of RV-a-Go-Go, just to see what they had. Neat store, not your typical chain market – we picked up a few items before heading back to the campground.
The next morning, off to a late start, we were going to try a new breakfast joint but when we arrived there, it was closed. We had seen decent reviews (and heard from Rob’s Aunt & Uncle, Linda and Herb) about Isabella’s but that was closed as well. Hate these places that aren’t open on Monday so we headed back to a familiar place which used to be quite good, the Freeport Cafe at the Freeport Inn. I had my usual eggs, bacon and home fries ($6.79) and Rob his usual home made corned beef hash. Canned hash was $6.79 on the menu but they also offered homemade hash for an additional $1.70. How strange was that! Why don’t they just serve one or the other?? Both meals were okay, didn’t seem as good as we remembered it.
When Rob paid the check the cashier suggested that we might want to take a walk in Royal River Park in nearby Yarmouth, which is a 1-mile paved trail along the river with panels explaining the site’s historical significance.
During the 1700s and 1800s, the river was a source of great economic growth for the town as it provided the power for the many mills. One such mill was erected in 1872 by the Forest Paper Company. Expanding continually to meet demand, it eventually occupied 10 buildings, becoming the largest mill of its kind in the world at the time producing nearly 80 tons of pulp per day.
In 1923, after 51 years of operation, Forest Paper Co. closed due to new, more efficient paper production methods. The mill burned to the ground in 1931. As we walked along the path, remnants of the mill could be seen. Such a pretty trail, hard to believe that there used to be mills here.
Lovely day for a walk (heaven knows we needed it) along a trail surrounded by so much history. Educational and healthy at the same time.
After our walk, we headed towards Freeport along US-1, reminiscing about previous trips there. The 25 foot tall “Big F Indian” (the F standing for Freeport of course) was still standing at what used to be one of my favorite stores (they had “tall” jeans), Levinsky’s, now closed. Now it is in front of a ski shop!
We stopped along the way at the Cold River Distillery where they make craft vodka and gin. We had hoped to take a tour but they don’t give tours on Monday, however we did get to sample their award winning vodka, blueberry vodka and gin (not to worry it was after noon by then and 5 o’clock somewhere).
From the young man serving us we learned that their gluten free vodka and gin is made from locally grown Maine potatoes from Green Thumb Farms owned by one of the partners of the distillery. The interesting story here is how these potato farmers become distillers. Apparently the potato market dried up when the Atkins Diet become popular and they were looking for some way to save the family farm – brilliant!
Cold River triple distills their spirits in a copper pot using pure water from Maine’s Cold River. We’ve learned from visits to other distilleries that gin is simply pure alcohol (vodka basically) with aromatics added, most commonly juniper. Cold Water Gin is steeped with a blend of 7 traditional botanicals—juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, angelica root and cardamom.
It is then bottled and each batch is numbered by hand. Although not vodka enthusiasts, we both liked the sample we tried. The Blueberry Vodka tasted good but it was too sweet for us, even though it is their best seller. Really liked the Cold River Gin so we ended up buying a bottle.
I’m not a big beer drinker – Rob is occasionally but figured it would be fun to try an artisan crafted beer. To sample multiple beers, Rob ordered a Flight – a 5 oz sample of 4 beers of our choice. We opted for Pilot 7, Peeper American Ale, and A Tiny Beautiful Something (yes, that is the name of one of their beers) and Lunch, one of their IPAs. Way too much beer for my taste and to be honest I wasn’t crazy for any of them. Neither was Rob. Perhaps these artisan beers are not our cup of
tea, er, ale.
Having installed solar panels in the marine world for a few years, Rob was intrigued by the massive photovoltaics installed on the roof of the building, as well as two huge motorized mounts next to the building which tilted and moved to follow the sun. According to their website these solar panels were installed in June 2015.
OK, that was enough of those adult beverage activities, time to take in the town. Who hasn’t heard of L. L. Bean? I think most everyone has. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, an avid fisherman and hunter, it is an American privately held mail-order, online, and retail company, specializing in clothing and outdoor recreation equipment. According to Wikipedia, its annual sales were $1.52 billion in 2012. The store is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Yippee, if you need a new fishing pole you can browse and buy one at 3 a.m. Where else can you do that?
Last time we were in Freeport, there was only one L.L. Bean store. Now in addition to the flagship store, they have a home store, a bike, boat and ski store, a hunting and fishing store and an outlet store. I was exhausted just thinking about wandering around each one! Even if not interested in shopping, it’s always fun looking at the displays.
Besides shopping they offer courses, trips and tours, based out of this store plus free clinics, outings and fun events for your whole family and even free concerts. While we were there, an archery class was being held outside. And lest we forget, Bean gives back in many ways including the funding of those free Island Explorer buses that will take you all over Mt. Desert Island and Acadia.
Finally done with L. L. Bean, we walked over to Fiore’s Artisan Olive Oil store. When we were in Kennebunkport, we had visited Maine-ly Drizzle, buying a bottle of olive oil and an 18 year aged balsamic vineger which I really liked. Then with Linda & Herb in Bar Harbor, we visited Fiore’s so I knew they pretty much had the same products so I wanted to get another bottle of balsamic.
With that purchase in hand, it was back to the parking lot, then the campground. It was a quiet evening for us.
The next morning we prepared to depart for our final leg of our journey, back to RI. Although we had a fantastic time in Maine, it would be nice to get back “home” again. Once there, our focus will turn to the boat and the several projects we have planned, so don’t worry if things are quiet with us for the rest of the summer.